It was a hot night; too hot for sleep. For the twentieth time, Emma kicked
off the duvet and then she got up and opened the French window of her bedroom
and stepped outside into the garden, her bare toes curling away against the heat
of the concrete path outside the new extension to the ancient stone cottage of
Drumshee. She could hear the drone of a 'plane coming in towards Shannon Airport
and the gurgle of the river Fergus at the bottom of the hill. She leant against
the wall and closed her eyes. For a moment, she almost dozed and then her eyes
jerked open as she heard her own name. They were talking about her again. Did
they ever stop?
'The trouble with Emma is that she is spoilt,' came her father's voice,
irritable as usual. 'I suppose it is because she is an only child. She has
everything in the world that we can give her. There's not a child in the place
has what she has: her own computer, her own television, everything, and she can
do nothing but moan and sulk.'
Emma bit her thumbnail, savagely trying to tear it into a smooth oval, while
she strained her ears to hear what her mother would reply. It must have been
some sort of defence because her father sounded even more exasperated than ever.
'It's no good you trying to excuse her, Linda. I know she misses her friends
in England, but why can't she make new friends here in Ireland? She's only
twelve years old. There are lovely children here; far nicer than that gang she
used to hang about with back in England. They're great children, well-mannered,
hard-working. I bet that you'd never hear them say they are bored; they're too
busy helping on the farm all the time. She does nothing; she doesn't even help
you much. She's just plain spoilt. We got her that dog because she wanted a
German Shepherd and now she doesn't even train it. It's getting to be a
Cautiously Emma closed the door and got back into bed. She didn't want to
hear any more. She had heard it all already. All her life, she had known that it
had been her father's dream to come back to Ireland, to Drumshee, near Ennis, in
County Clare the home of his great-great grandmother, Deirdre, and when he had
heard that Ennis had been declared to be the Technology Town of the future, he
had made the decision to move his computer business from London to Ireland. Now
that he had realised that dream, he wanted no one to interfere with his
happiness. It's all very well for him, she thought, kicking her duvet to the
bottom of the bed. He was happy working away at his computer business. In his
work, it didn't matter whether he was in London or buried in the west of
Ireland, but he wasn't going to force her to pretend that she liked this place.
She reached down to the basket beside her bed and touched Heidi's golden head.
That had been the bribe to her; the chance to own a dog of her own. For ages,
Emma had wanted a dog, above all she had wanted a noble, intelligent and devoted
German Shepherd, but she had always known that it would be impossible - you
could not keep a big dog in a London flat - so when the little farm of twenty
acres in the west of Ireland had been bought, she had asked for a puppy. Her
parents had agreed, hoping to cheer her up.
In spite of her gloom Emma smiled to herself as she thought how gorgeous
Heidi had been that first day when they had gone to choose her at the dog
kennels in East Sussex. There had been a very bossy lady there who had been
trying to convince them that a small, quiet, timid puppy was the one they should
choose, but from the first moment that Emma had seen Heidi she knew that this
funny, excitable, adorable, fluffy, black puppy had been the one that she
'You might find her a bit of a handful,' observed the dog breeder,
thoughtfully, watching Heidi clambering on top of all her brothers and sisters
and still trying to get into Emma's arms as the puppies were being shut away.
'What do you think, Linda? Should we go for the small one, instead?'
'Well I am not sure, but I do think that Emma should decide. After all, it
will be her dog.'
'Well, you have a couple of weeks to think about it,' said the dog breeder.
'They won't be ready to leave their mother for another two weeks. I must say my
advice would be to choose the quiet one, especially since it is your first dog.'
But Emma did not want to even think about it. She christened the puppy, Heidi
and dreamt about her all the time for the last two weeks of term. Thinking about
her even made the 'good-byes' bearable.
Heidi turned in her basket and twitched in a dream, her little legs making
running movements as if she were hunting rabbits in her dream. Emma got out of
bed again, and knelt on the floor beside her and laid her cheek against the
silky softness of the fur. She was so beautiful, Heidi. She was the most
beautiful dog in the world. As she had grown, her back had stayed black, no
longer fluffy, but a sleek shining black, while her underneath and her legs had
turned the palest gold. Her face was gold also, except for a delicate pencilling
of black around her glowing amber eyes. She was perfect in looks; if only her
behaviour was perfect as well!
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1798 (book 4)