Series: 6 Chelsea Walk
By Linda Newbery
The swing tree had always been Polly’s favourite part of the garden. She came here to sit, or to read, or to watch the birds squabbling over thrown bread; or she came to swing. She liked to push herself as high as she could, her stretched-out feet pointing at Lily’s bedroom on the second floor, till she almost felt she could launch herself from the swing seat and land neatly on the mat beside Lily’s bed.
But now it wasn’t Lily’s bedroom, not any more, and today Polly couldn’t find the energy for proper swinging.
Until last week, she and Lily had come here together – to be by themselves, to talk and giggle and share secrets. Now there was no Lily, no one to share anything, and Polly didn’t even want to look up at the top-floor flat. For nearly a week, the windows had been blank and empty. Today the new people were moving in, and they were going to be duller than dull, she just knew it. It was so unfair!
Polly sat glumly, twisting the swing seat one way, then the other. She dragged her feet on the scuffed bare earth underneath.
She and Lily had been best friends for seven years, ever since Polly and her parents had moved into Number Six, Chelsea Walk. As their mothers were good friends too, Polly and Lily had shared a nanny and attended the same school; they had walked along the Thames Embankment and picnicked in Ranelagh Gardens; they both had piano lessons with Lily’s Aunt Dorothy, who lived nearby. Now Lily’s mother was ill, and the family had moved to Tunbridge Wells, where the healthy air would do her good, Dr. Mayes said. All Lily’s family’s possessions and furniture had been carried out, less than a week ago.
This afternoon, Polly had arrived home from school to find a van parked outside, and boxes and crates being carried in by the very same men, three of them, in flat caps. What a strange job it must be, Polly thought – carting people’s whole lives from one place to the next, swapping people around like books on shelves! She felt resentful of the newcomers. There hadn’t been time to get used to Lily being gone, let alone to face the thought of new people moving in, putting their own pictures and ornaments where Lily’s had been, making it all different.
“Lily can come to stay, sometimes,” Polly’s mother had said yesterday, seeing her gloomy face. “Tunbridge Wells isn’t that far away. You haven’t said goodbye to her for ever and ever. And there’s still Maurice!”
Maurice! Grown-ups simply didn’t understand. As if Maurice could even begin to replace Lily! Polly glowered at the windows of the Dalbys’ ground-floor flat. Polly’s mother and Mrs. Dalby often had afternoon tea together or sat chatting while they sewed, but that didn’t mean Polly was going to be friends with Horrid Maurice. He was the worst boy she knew. As she knew very few boys, this was less of an insult than she’d have liked; but she felt sure that even if she knew hundreds and hundreds, Maurice would still be the one she detested most.
If ever he saw Polly and Lily playing in the garden, he used to come out purely to pester them. He was the same age as them, twelve; but as Lily remarked loftily, “He’s only a boy. They always seem younger than girls for their age.” Once, he’d sneaked up behind Polly with a toad he’d found at the end of the garden, holding it so close that she came face to face with it when she turned round, and couldn’t help shrieking with horror. That piercing shriek – she hadn’t known she could make such a sound – had annoyed her as much as it had amused Maurice; she never usually made a fuss about mice, spiders or other crawly creatures. Another time, he had thrown Eugenie, Lily’s doll, high into the branches of the walnut tree, where her long hair had become so firmly snagged on twigs that Polly had to call the gardener to bring a ladder and climb to the rescue.
Why couldn’t it have been Maurice’s mother who was ill and needed the Tunbridge Wells air?
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Polly longs to become an explorer. But in 1914, women's rights and choices are limited – something twelve-year-old Polly learns when she befriends her new neighbours: two suffragettes, fighting for women's rights to vote.
Polly's parents are appalled, but Polly is intrigued. And the more she thinks about their cause, the more determined she becomes to join the suffragettes' protest march. But will Polly dare to defy her parents and do what she thinks is right?
A gripping story of courage, friendship and speaking up during a time of change, from Carnegie-shortlisted author, Linda Newberry.
This book was previously published as "Historical House: Polly's March".
Linda Newbery wrote her first novel during the summer holidays from her job as English teacher in a comprehensive school. Now a critically acclaimed full-time author, Linda has written over twenty novels, been shortlisted twice for the Carnegie Medal, and is the winner of a Silver Medal Nestle Children’s Book Prize and the Costa Children’s Book Award. Linda does much of her work in a writing hut in her garden but is often distracted by her own four cats ...
Visit www.lindanewbery.co.uk to find out more.
Visit Usborne Quicklinks for links to websites about the suffragettes and women's fight for the right to vote, with video clips, newsreels and photo galleries.