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I ,  C a r o l i n e

by Nuala Ní Chonchúir

‘Good Day, King Number Four,’ I said, in a posh voice. All the people stared at me, the ladies waggled their heads at each other and some of them looked away.

‘King Number Four!’ The King hootled and let out a big roaring laugh and then everyone else did the same. I curtsied again and Dr Gilligan lifted me up and said, ‘Well done, my girl’, close into my ear. He sat me up on The King’s lap and it was funny, because King George was fat and he had lovely soft curly hair, but no crown.

‘Caroline was the name of my second wife,’ The King said, ‘but, Miss Crachami, you are more queenly than she could ever have hoped to be.’

Everyone laughed again and nodded to each other and he tickled my chin. Then I started to cough and cough and my eyes felt hot and choky; they got full of tears and I swiped them away with my handkerchief. The King handed me back to Dr Gilligan who said, ‘There, there, Caroline, breathe deeply, my dear’, and I tried to get breaths, but I only coughed more.

Little people are better than big people: they take up less room. Small hands and feet are nicer than big ones. They are dainty, Dr Gilligan said. Men like small ladies better than big ones, even when they only have a tiny bosom. Small ladies like big men, except when they hurt them with their fingers and hands. Big ladies don’t like little ladies and they don’t think men should be so fond of them. They are jealous of their daintiness and their tinkly laughs and how they fit in small spaces. Big ladies have loud laughs – they go ha-ha-ha – that shake all their bodies and make their faces red like turkeys.

The day after visiting The King I felt tired and every day after that again I felt more and more sleepy. I cried for my Mama and Dada in the night time and in the day time. Dr Gilligan told me to stop all my nonsense because I was giving myself puffy eyes and a bedraggled air. My throat felt raggy and blood came onto my hanky every time I coughed. I just wanted to lie down, but Dr Gilligan said, ‘No, no, you have important business to attend to, young lady’. He helped me to get dressed.

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