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Meeting With Miss Smith

Meeting With Miss Smith

4 mins 619 4 mins 619

Eight year old Elizabeth Daykin was in turmoil. On one hand she was happy that she was leaving her orphanage- her cage. At the same time, she would miss all her fellow mates. This was the first time she was going out of the building and she looked at everything with great interest and keenness.

It was around five o’clock in the evening when they reached Mile End station of London Underground. “These are tubes.” Miss Cuthbert told Beth (practically everyone called Elizabeth that). She looked at them in wonder as they raced past. Finally one of them stopped but it was not theirs according to Miss Cuthbert. The doors, to her surprise opened automatically.

The whole time they were waiting at the platform (ten whole minutes!) Miss Cuthbert told her to behave, remember the manners she had been taught and not bring shame to her and the orphanage’s name. Elizabeth listened respectfully but inside she was too excited about having a home and parents to care about anything else. “Here,” she added thrusting five pennies in Beth’s hand, “keep this for emergencies.”

And then, their tube came. Elizabeth forgot about everything else and ran into the tube. She looked around in glee and swung around holding a pole which had been placed there for support. Miss Cuthbert walked briskly up to her and glaring at her vegan to tick her off. She gave Elizabeth her life’s worst three minutes. Beth was extremely ashamed but she didn’t feel she deserved this kind of a scolding. Suddenly, her mischievous eyes caught her small backpack containing handful of her belongings lying on the platform and she pointed at it. With a look of panic, she hurried out of the tube to collect the backpack. Unfortunately, she had spent too much time berating the orphan’s wild spirit. The automatic gates closed leaving Miss Cuthbert on the platform and Elizabeth on the train.

Beth felt it was all her fault. Scolding herself, she knelt on the tube’s floor and began crying. She cried till she could cry no more. Suddenly she realised that someone’s hand was on her shoulder. She looked up to find a young woman, her only companion on the train. The woman had one black bag and a very strange looking instrument which, being new to her, piques Beth’s interest immediately.

“What happened dear” the woman asked kindly. Elizabeth recounted her story. The woman was most sympathetic and made her feel much better. She went to her bag and took out two packaged hamburgers, gave one to the girl and asked the girl more about her life.

Trusting Beth told her a lot; happy that someone wanted to listen to her. Suddenly she realised that she knew nothing of her companion. “Umm…what shall I call you?” she asked shyly.

The woman raised her eyebrows slightly, “I am Johanna Smith.” She looked at Beth as though she was assessing her. “I say, have you ever seen this before?” asked Jane. Beth shook her head. “This is called an accordion,” said Johanna and putting the strap around her shoulder and continued, “and it is one of the most melodious instruments ever.”

For the next twenty minutes, Johanna taught Elizabeth the basics of playing an accordion and also told her that she had a great capability to become an accordionist.

Then came Paddington station. Johanna had to get down here. With sad faces the two bade each other goodbye. Sitting alone in the train thinking about all she had learnt and about the bag she had lost, she suddenly remembered that five pence coin that Miss Cuthbert had given her. She felt for it in her front pocket. She let out a gasp. It was gone!

All her affection for Johanna evaporated. That nasty thief!

Two years later, while bringing in the newspaper to her foster father, she saw on the first page of the paper a picture of Johanna Smith. She was getting married. She asked her father why it was such a big deal. Her orphanage had caused her to be extremely ignorant for her father told her two things Ms. Smith was known for: A) Being the best accordionist of the century

B) Being a kleptomaniac

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More english story from Durga Sreenivasan