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Read the first part of the story. Who is Needle, in your opinion ?
One day in my young youth at high summer, lolling with my lovely companions upon a haystack I found a needle. Already and privately for some years I have been guessing that I was set apart from the common run, but this of the needle attested the fact to my whole public, George, Kathleen, and Skinny. I sucked my thumb, for when I had thrust my idle hand deep into the hay, the thumb was where the needle had stuck.
When everyone had recovered George said, “She put in her thumb and pulled out a plum.” Then away we were into our merciless hacking-hecking laughter again.
The needle had gone fairly deep into the thumby cushion and a small red river flowed and spread from this tiny puncture. So that nothing of our joy should lag, George put in quickly,
“Mind your bloody thumb on my shirt.” Then hee-hee-hoo, we shrieked into the hot Borderland afternoon. Really I should not care to be so young of heart again. That is my thought every time I turn over my old papers and come across the photograph. Skinny, Kathleen, and myself are in the photo atop the haystack. Skinny had just finished analyzing the inwards of my find.
“It couldn’t have been done by brains. You haven’t much brains but you’re a lucky wee thing.”
Everyone agreed that the needle betokened extraordinary luck. As it was becoming a serious conversation, George said,
“I’ll take a photo.”
I wrapped my hanky round my thumb and got myself organized. George pointed up from his camera and shouted. “Look, there’s a mouse !”
Kathleen screamed and I screamed although I think we knew there was no mouse. But this gave us an extra session of squalling hee-hoo’s. Finally we three composed ourselves for George’s picture. We look lovely and it was a great day at the time, but I would not care for it all over again. From that day I was known as Needle.
One Saturday in recent years I was mooching down the Portobello Road, threading among the crowds of marketers on the narrow pavement when I saw a woman. She had a haggard careworn wealthy look, thin but for the breasts forced-up high like a pigeon’s. I had not seen her for nearly five years. How changed she was ! But I recognized Kathleen, my friend ; her features had already begun to sink and protrude in the way that mouths and noses do in people destined always to be old for their years. When I had last seen her, nearly five years ago, Kathleen barely thirty, had said.
“I’ve lost all my looks, it’s in the family. All the women are handsome as girls, but we go off early, we go brown and nosey.”
I stood silently among the people, watching. As you will see, I wasn’t in a position to speak to Kathleen. I saw her shoving in her avid manner from stall to stall. She was always fond of antique jewellery and of bargains. I wondered that I had not seen her before in the Portobello Road on my Saturday-morning ambles. Her long stiff-crooked fingers pounced to select a jade ring from amongst the jumble of brooches and pendants, onyx, moonstone, and gold, set out on the stall.
“What d’you think of this ?” she said.
I saw then who was with her. I had been half-conscious of the huge man following several paces behind her, and now I noticed him.
“It looks all right,” he said. “How much is it ?”
“How much is it ?” Kathleen asked the vendor.
I took a good look at this man accompanying Kathleen. It was her husband. The beard was unfamiliar, but I recognized beneath it his enormous mouth, the bright sensuous lips, the large brown eyes forever brimming with pathos.
It was not for me to speak to Kathleen, but I had a sudden inspiration which caused me to say quietly,
The giant of a man turned round to face the direction of my voice. There were so many people — but at length he saw me.
“Hallo, George,” I said again.
Kathleen had started to haggle with the stall-owner, in her old way, over the price of the jade ring. George continued to stare at me, his big mouth slightly parted so that I could see a wide slit of red lips and white teeth between the fair grassy growths of beard and moustache.
“My God !” he said. “What’s the matter ?” said Kathleen.
“Hallo, George !” I said again, quite loud this time, and cheerfully.
“Look !” said George. “Look who’s there, over beside the fruit stall.”
Kathleen looked but didn’t see.
“Who is it ?” she said impatiently.
“It’s Needle,” he said. “She said ‘Hallo, George’.”
“Needle,” said Kathleen. “Who do you mean ? You don’t mean our old friend Needle who…”
“Yes. There she is. My God !”
He looked very ill, although when I had said “Hallo, George” I had spoken friendly enough.
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