Authors: Jacqueline Harvey
Clementine Rose is counting down the days until her birthday party. But first there's the school sports carnival to attend and a very special race to run. There's also the all-important party theme to decide on!
Amid all the excitement, Lavender doesn't seem her usual self. A trip to the vet is in store, and now Clementine has butterflies in her tummy for all the wrong reasons. Will Lavender be able to attend the party? And why is Aunt Violet acting so mysteriously?
For Holly and Catriona,
who love Clementine too,
and for Ian, as always.
Clementine Rose tapped the pencil on the page in front of her. So far all she'd written was a heading. She frowned with concentration, then let out a small gasp. âMummy, what about superheroes?' she said.
âMmm, that sounds interesting,' Lady Clarissa replied, sprinkling some cloves into a saucepan of simmering apples.
Clementine carefully wrote down the first item on her list, sounding out the letters as she
did. She thought for a moment, then let out another gasp. âAnd pirates!'
âI thought you'd already decided on the theme last week?' her mother said, turning around to face her.
âI didn't think Uncle Digby would want to be a fairy,' Clementine explained, swinging her legs back and forth beneath the table. âI'm writing down other ideas so you and Aunt Violet and Uncle Digby can vote for the one you like best.'
âThat's very sweet of you, Clemmie, but I'm not sure how Aunt Violet will feel about dress-ups, either. I can't imagine her in a cape and tights.' Lady Clarissa grimaced at the thought.
Seconds later, the hallway door swung open and Aunt Violet strode into the room, huffing and blowing as if she were lugging a sack of potatoes instead of one small carry bag. She dumped her cargo onto the kitchen table. A tin of baked beans rolled out and Clementine caught it just before it fell onto the floor.
âGodfathers, that man is ridiculous,' the woman complained.
âWhat's Uncle Digby done now?' Clementine asked, setting the tin upright. âHe's always in trouble with you, Aunt Violet.'
âHe insisted we go to the shops in that clapped-out bomb of his and then the stupid thing wouldn't start. We waited
for the road-service man,' Aunt Violet said. âNow I'm cold and wet and could do with a â'
âCup of tea?' Clarissa placed a steaming cup in front of the old woman, as if by magic.
âYou're a mind-reader, Clarissa,' Aunt Violet sighed, and pulled out the chair beside Clementine.
âDid the man fix the car?' the child asked.
Aunt Violet let out a snort. âThe fellow used a coathanger to hold something together. A coathanger! Would you believe such a thing? Honestly, Pertwhistle needs to take that jalopy to the wrecking yard, although he'll probably have to pay them to take it off his hands.'
Lady Clarissa looked at the door. âSpeaking of which, where is Uncle Digby?'
âWho knows?' the old woman said. âHe's probably sticky-taping the transmission together.'
âI was doing no such thing,' Digby Pertwhistle scoffed while struggling through the door, laden with several grocery bags.
Lady Clarissa rushed over to help him. âUncle Digby! You mustn't carry all that on your own!' she scolded. The old man had given them all a dreadful scare a little while ago when a heart problem had landed him in hospital.
âI'm all right, dear,' he said. âMy helper disappeared.' Digby Pertwhistle threw Violet Appleby a look.
The old woman took a sip of her tea. âYou're lucky I didn't
in a taxi an hour ago. Honestly, you must get rid of that rattletrap.'
âThere's nothing wrong with her,' Uncle Digby said, placing the bags on the floor.
âWhat about the time we went to the seaside?'
Clementine reminded him. âYour car broke down and the tow-truck man had to pick us up.'
âMy point exactly,' Aunt Violet tutted.
Uncle Digby held up his hands in surrender. âAll right, I'll think about it.'
Satisfied, the old woman turned her attention to Clementine. âWhat are you doing there?' she asked.
âI'm writing down ideas for my birthday party theme,' the child replied.
Aunt Violet leaned over and pointed at the first word on the list. âWhat is that supposed to say?'
The girl looked at the word and frowned. She thought it was quite clear what it said. âSuperheroes,' she answered.
Aunt Violet shook her head. âI think you need to practise your spelling, Clementine. There is no “a” in “super”.'
âWill you teach me?' Clementine asked. She was glad Aunt Violet had spotted the mistake, because she wanted her birthday invitations to be absolutely perfect.
âI don't have time,' Aunt Violet replied quickly. âWhat else have you got on that list?'
âPirates,' Clementine said.
âIt's not a very long list, is it?'
The girl bit her lip. âThat's because I'm still thinking.'
âWhat about princesses?' her great-aunt suggested.
âI'm inviting boys too, silly,' Clementine said with a chuckle. âThey won't want to dress up as princesses.'
âI think I'd look rather fetching in a tiara,' Uncle Digby said with a wink before disappearing into the pantry.
Violet Appleby rolled her eyes. âYou could have pirates
princesses,' she said. âThen the boys and girls could choose.'
âThat's a great idea!' Clementine grinned. âWill you come as a princess, Aunt Violet?'
âWhat about a pirate?' Clementine asked.
âEven worse,' Aunt Violet retorted.
âBut it won't be as good if you don't.' Clementine looked at the woman, her blue eyes pleading. âIt will be fun. You can remember what it's like to be a little girl again.'
Aunt Violet shuddered. âUgh, what a horrible thought.'
âI'll dress up, Clemmie,' Uncle Digby said. He picked up a wooden spoon from the bench and brandished it like a sword. âAhoy there, me hearties. The name's Dastardly Digby and I've come to make ye walk the plank!' He thrust the wooden spoon at Lady Clarissa, who giggled and in turn took up a spatula.
Clementine laughed loudly, and even Aunt Violet couldn't help but smile. âMore like Dunderhead Digby,' the woman said. âYou look utterly ridiculous.'
âIndeed,' Uncle Digby replied, âand I look forward to channelling my inner Blackbeard at your party, Clementine. Anyway, don't be such a stick-in-the-mud, Miss Appleby.'
Clementine gave a firm nod in agreement, while Aunt Violet just pursed her lips.
âWe'd better get the invitations done by tomorrow so you can give them out at school on Monday,' Lady Clarissa said. âYour birthday is only a week away.'
Clementine took up her pencil. âI'll draw a princess and a pirate. Can you help me with the words, Mummy?'
âOf course, sweetheart,' Lady Clarissa said. âUnless Aunt Violet would like to give you a hand?'
âI'm busy,' the old woman said as she opened a magazine.
Over by the stove, the family pets, Lavender and Pharaoh, had just woken up. Clementine's teacup pig hopped out of the basket and trotted over to her mistress.
âHello Lavender.' The child dangled her hand so the little pig could nuzzle her fingers. âI think I've got a better idea for my poster. I'll draw you as a princess, and Pharaoh can be a pirate.'
Aunt Violet looked up with a start. âMy boy is much too handsome to be a pirate. Aren't
you?' she cooed at the sphynx cat, who was busy licking his paws and cleaning behind his big ears.
Clementine pulled a face. Pharaoh was a lot of things but handsome wasn't one of them.
Lady Clarissa placed a plate of brownies on the kitchen table and Uncle Digby finished putting the groceries away. The two of them sat down opposite Clementine and Aunt Violet.
Clementine looked up from where she had already drawn the outline of Pharaoh, complete with a scarf emblazoned with a skull and crossbones around his head and a giant gold hoop in his ear. She was just about to give him an eye patch when a thought occurred to her. âMummy, can Will and Drew come too?' she asked.
They had been on two picnics with Drew and his son since the pair had stayed at Penberthy House to assist in the filming of Basil's documentary. Will was a little older than Clementine, but the two of them had quickly become firm friends.
âI don't know, darling. It's a long way up here,' Lady Clarissa said before taking a sip of her tea.
Clementine frowned. âBut I love them.'
âYou love them?' her mother repeated.
Clementine nodded. âI think Drew loves you too, Mummy. At the picnic he said that you looked beautiful.'
Aunt Violet and Uncle Digby raised their eyebrows and grinned at one another as Lady Clarissa's cheeks flushed a fiery red.
âWhy don't we give them a call this evening so you can ask Will?' Clarissa suggested. She hopped up from her chair and began to tidy the spotless countertop.
Clementine clapped her hands and shivered with excitement. âThis is going to be the best party ever!' she declared.