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Salient: An organ of student opinion at Victoria University, Wellington. Vol. 23, No. 5. Wednesday, June 15, 1960

Old Mother Hubbard

Old Mother Hubbard

The Dowager Mrs Vanda Hubbard was tall and honorific, gracious in the way, old Middle-European New England, that you find as rarely in Central Europe as in the New England States. Now, as she padded with pictured zeal by the labyrinth (Mishimoto's best work), which was that part of her house or houses where most of her life was enjoyed, she was accompanied with quadruped self-effacing by Ottalie.

The great borzoi was aware, from various readings of her own gastric juices checked by a more reliable observation of the sun which was corrected for early autumn in Virginia, that dinner was indeed due.

Dinner was indeed due. Beside the complicated and novel arrangement of living areas that was the biggest single-storied mansion in Massachusetts, Vance and Tansy were talking with Lansing. Fiaence was dancing with Manson to the clock-work phonograph:

Come with me where moonbeams

Light Tahitian skies

And the sunlit waters

Linger in your …

Her silver sandals were plunging forgotten and delicately Into the lawns that sprang out around the front swimming pool. She and Manson would marry in the spring, when they were going to the Canaries with Lansing. Tomorrow they were leaving tor St. Malo with Hans and Tansy. Connecticut would be lonely without them.

Vanda Hubbard considered her wolfhound, lonely great eyes in a splendour of furry trappings. The end of the sun was transmitting through the great windows of the main kitchen ripening the olives where they lay in the used martini glasses.

Faience and Manson stopped with the music, and the belle of Vermont and her knight of newround causes retired to their martinis on the petit-point deck chairs. They were young and gay, and the world was theirs.

"Darling," said Faience lighting his cigarette for Manson and scraping with a coral fingernail a shred of tobacco from her sheer While tooth. "Tell me it will always be like this. We'll always be young and beautiful, and all this will always be ours."

Tansy gave her hard little laugh, as when she aced in her passionate tennis games. "All this isn't ours, my dear. It's old Mother Hubbard's."

Vanda Hubbard winced. She stroked Ottalie's fine silvered ear "Bitch," she said softly.

Through the great windows of the main kitchen, the highway attracted her attention, Tansy, too, in her time would become old across a silver lawn.

Across the highway was the huge pets' food ad., "Puppy-Nickel. It Sets Up Your Pet!" Faded and forgotten now, the brand and the product. Only the eyes of a giant bloodhound remained significantly clear among the tired colours, as if the god of dogs had stayed to watch over the carelessness of men and women. Vanda Hubbard felt accused by their gaze.

She pressed a perfectly lacquered hand to the nickel of the refrigerator's door handle. "Sweet Jesus." she whispered, "Let there be plenty."

In that colossus of a refrigerator there was room to store the heroes of Verdun, Tut. Ankh. Amen would have given the breath from his nostrils, and a horde of painted ladies for the privilege of resting there. The Puppy Nickel sign could have been hung in it. It contained only cheese straws.

When I think of Vanda Hubbard she is as she was then, in the State of Maine, with, in the loneliness of her great eyes, enough room for all the Packards and Duesenbergs in America to pass through, speeding past the pets' food hoardings.

As Tansy's laugh died across the darkening lawn, Ottalie whined low, her hollow flanks and bowed ribs showing sketchlly through the gentle fur. The sun was burning them gold.