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Poppy The Story of a South African Girl   By: (1883-1936)

Poppy The Story of a South African Girl by Cynthia Stockley

First Page:


From the painting by G. F. Watts, R.A.

( See p. 336 )]





G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS NEW YORK AND LONDON The Knickerbocker Press 1910

Published, March, 1910 Reprinted, March, 1910; May, 1910 July, 1910 (twice); August, 1910 September, 1910; October, 1910

The Knickerbocker Press, New York

To Em


"... and some do say of poppies that they be the tears of the moon shed in a land beyond the seas: and that they do bring forgetfulness and freedom from pain."

( From an old Irish Legend .)


Nothing more unlike a gladsome poppy of the field was ever seen than Poppy Destin, aged nine, washing a pile of dirty plates at the kitchen table.

Pale as a witch, the only red about her was where she dug her teeth into her lips. Her light lilac coloured eyes were fierce with anger and disgust. Her hair hung in long black streaks over her shoulders, and her dark hands, thin and bony as bird's claws, were each decorated with a bracelet of greeny yellowy grease.

There had been curry for dinner. Horrible yellow rings floated on the top of the water in the skottel and Poppy hated to put her hands into it.

She was hating her work more than usual that day because she was hungry as well as angry. She had slapped her little cousin Georgie for throwing a heavy hammer at her which had cut a gash in her leg; and her punishment for this crime had been two stinging boxes on the ear and sentence to go without food all day. Fortunately the incident had occurred after breakfast.

Once or twice she looked longingly at the scraps on the plates, but she did not touch them, because her aunt had eaten from one and she was not sure which, and she knew that to eat from anything her aunt had touched would choke her.

So she threw the scraps to Nick the black cat, under the kitchen table, and went on hating her aunt, and washing up the plates. She would have liked to smash each plate on the floor as she took it out of the water, and to have thrown all the greasy water over the freshly scrubbed white shelves and dresser. And she would have done it too, only that she did not like boxes on the ear.

Presently she tried to fill her bitter little heart and her empty little stomach by going on with the story inside her head. She always had a story going on inside her head, and it was always about just two people a beautiful lady and a man with a face like Lancelot. She used to begin at the end to make sure they should be quite happy, and when she had married them and they were living happily "ever after," she would go back to the beginning how they met and all the sad things they had to go through before they could be married. Afterwards she would make a little song about them.

That day she had a heroine with red gold hair for the first time, because she had seen such a beautiful red gold haired lady in the street the day before, dressed in brown holland with a brown hat trimmed with pale green leaves. Poppy dressed her heroine in the same fashion, instead of the usual white velvet with a long train and a wreath of white roses resting on her hair. Just as Lancelot was telling the heroine that her eyes were as beautiful as brown wine, a harsh voice called out from the dining room:

"Porpie! Haven't you done that washing up yet? Make haste there! You know you got to smear the kitchen before you clean yourself and take the children up to the Kopje."

Poppy gritted her teeth and furious tears came into her eyes; her aunt's voice always seemed to scrape something inside her head and make it ache; also, she detested taking the children up to the Kopje. It was such a long way to carry Bobby all up Fountain Street in the broiling sun and she had to carry him, because if she put him into the pram with his twin, Tommy, they kicked each other and screamed, and when the children screamed, Aunt Lena always got to hear of it and boxed Poppy's ears for ill treating them... Continue reading book >>

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