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The Bugle App

Turner's Rage: Chapter Three

The Bugle App

James Seymour

23 March 2024, 10:00 PM

Turner's Rage: Chapter Three

Turner's Rage: List of Characters

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Chapter 3



The Turner Bakery, Guilford …


Jeb Hiscock and Thomas Turner stood at the front of the Turner bakery, looking towards the new mill almost complete beside the River Wey. Jeb understood how well-placed Guilford was on the canal for purchasing flour from the various local mills. Given this proximity, he was undecided if this mill was needed.  


“Thomas, why is your father building such a large mill?”


“You remember the Albion Flour Mills near Blackfriars Bridge in London?”


“No, never heard of it. Never been to London!”


“Yes, it was a bit before our time. It was the first steam-powered flour mill in England. There was an uprising against it because of its high productivity and excellent flour quality. Put all the other mills in London out of business. There were suggestions that the out-of-work mill workers were responsible for the fire that destroyed it in 1791.” Thomas lifted his eyebrows.   


“You mean the workers burnt it down?”


“The investigation found no evidence backing the suspicions. But all the closed mills reopened and employed their staff again as soon as the Albion mill was gone.”


“Well, should we expect that to happen here?”


“It’s been thirty-five years since that occurred, and steam engines have become far more refined. All the components are now made of iron and last far longer. Others are now experimenting with the concept, so if we ignore steam power, we may lose any advantage we presently have here in Guildford. Yes, it will eventually put the other mills out of business, but not straight away. We intend a gradual introduction, so there is no uprising here. But it will mean that we produce flour at half the cost we currently pay.”


“I see!”


“Jeb, we should know by October if it works. Do not worry; your job is safe. If anything, your role will become more important as our demand for grain will grow.”


Jeb was amazed at all the other innovations Jonathan Turner was implementing and the amount of change happening. 


“I’m glad I work here, Thomas. The new ovens your father is installing are amazing. They are far better than the old earthen ones, and the three levels allow far more products to be baked daily. I wonder what he will come up with next.”


“Not sure, Jeb, but we can discuss those new biscuits we produce while you have a minute. Let’s go down and look at that oven. They will be in high demand, and we may need a production line. Have you got time now? We should discuss the design.”


“Let me pick up the orders from the office first, and then we can start.”


Meeting at the back of the bakery, they spent an hour discussing a reorganisation for higher output.


Later in the morning, Jeb ensured the last of the day’s production was off on carts from the dispatch area, then made his way into the office area where Anne was working. The business was expanding, and Jeb always checked the next day’s orders before starting tomorrow’s preparations. 


The paperwork was becoming central to the business operations. One of the benefits of visiting the office for Jeb was spending time with Anne. He found her the most pleasant and sensible of all the girls in town. She respected him as an equal and always gave helpful suggestions – he was amazed at how smart she was for a girl! Jeb was a man of perception and realised that Anne’s role was growing in importance in the Turner businesses. He was careful in how he managed this relationship. 


As Jeb entered the office, he noticed Mr Turner was not in, and most of the staff were in the counting room concentrating on the banking.  


“Good morning, Anne. I have come for the dispatches and orders. Would you pass them over, please?”


Anne did not reply but sat there, pen in hand, looking out the window towards the river. 


“Miss Anne?”


Suddenly seeing Jeb there, she realised he must have said something, “Jeb, sorry, I was thinking of my mother; she is so unwell!”


Jeb saw the look of concern on her face and was troubled. “I thought something must be wrong – how is your mother?”


“Not well at all – I have never seen her so low. Father and the doctor are with her now. I will need to spend more time at home looking after her.”


“I’m sorry! I was not aware that she was that sick. Will she recover?”


“Thank you for your concern – yes – in time and given good care. Clementine and I will ensure she receives that. If you would excuse me, this letter for Bethany is quite urgent. I must advise her that mother is unwell.”


Jeb was disturbed that Anne would be away more in the future. He was eager not to waste this opportunity.  


“I hope your mother recovers soon, as I enjoy our conversations. I would miss talking with you, Miss Anne.”


“Jeb ….I enjoy talking with you too, but I must help my mother. There will be plenty of time ahead for discussion. I will still be working here. I’m glad you enjoy our conversations.”


Jeb was embarrassed. He blushed slightly and looked down at his feet. He was not as well educated as Anne and lacked the gift of easy conversation. 


“Will you be at Church on Sunday?”


“Why Jeb – anyone would think you were seeking opportunities for us to meet. You best not let my father know about this – he may not understand. But yes, I will be at church and shall see you there!” She smiled at him and then continued her writing. 


Jeb was pleased knowing that Anne thought well of him. Her kind words were a step forward - she was not against their acquaintance growing, giving him some hope. He remembered the documents were still not checked. 


“Miss Anne. Would you pass me those documents, please?”


“What documents, Jeb?”


“The dispatch notices for today and the orders for tomorrow. Thank you.”



At the Turner Household …


 Jonathan Turner entered the kitchen and glared at the head chimney sweeper, Jack Slope. 


“What’s this about, Sweep? We set the terms at the bakery, and I want no more of this disturbing my household with your loud arguments.”


“Ah, Mr Turner, it’s just that these chimneys are far smaller than at the bakery, around 9 inches by 12 inches, and it will be difficult for my boys without getting stuck. They must strip right off and move very carefully and slowly. I paid dearly for them, so I want ’em surviving! The bakery has far wider chimneys, 12 inches by 14 inches, allowing ample room. I will need an extra shilling here per chimney. That is five shillings for the five chimneys, Sir.”


“You’re a thief, Slope, but you’re right. The chimneys are narrower, but not by that much! Three shillings for the five chimneys, and now get on with it.” 


“Thank you, Sir – we can do the job for that!”


With the issue settled and breakfast finished, Jonathan Turner left for the bakery. It was a freezing morning for July, but now, the clouds glided with the southerly wind to the north, and the mid-summer temperature was rising. He enjoyed a quick moment of warm sunlight as he walked down the familiar path towards the bakery, unaware of the beauty around him.


Jonathan could not shift his focus from the issues with William. After hearing the advice Anne gave William, he was sure the boy would remain quiet. Recalling the work still waiting for him today, Jonathan took a deep breath and picked up his pace. Meeting with the builders of the new mill was now a priority before leaving on his Ewell and London trip. The next few months should be problem-free and the weather fine. Also, Thomas and Jeb must brief him on the production and store situation. He would determine which customers they needed to visit, ensuring their orders grew. Overcome by his business demands, Jonathan soon lost his focus on the home situation.


William saw his father striding down the street towards the bakery from a hallway window. He let out a sigh of relief. The coast was clear for venturing downstairs and watching the chimney sweeps. He threw off the blanket, jolted down the four stairs, and burst into the kitchen. Mrs Jennings turned and frowned but said nothing. 


William immediately saw the Master Chimney Sweep, Mr Jack Slope, a thin and dirty-looking man, peering up the chimney on his knees in the fireplace. He had a long stick and poked it around the inside of the chimney. Standing in the kitchen corner were three children, all about William’s age but shorter in height. 


Slope shouted at the children, “Stay here while I check the other chimneys! Don’t you move or touch anything, or there will be trouble! You see? You see?” 


The children dutifully answered, “Yes, Mr Slope.”


“That’s better. Now, Mrs Jennings, would you please show me the other chimneys?”


Mrs Jennings breathed deeply and led Jack Slope into the hallway and across to the drawing room, saying, “Tell me when you are doing Mrs Turner’s room as I must be present.”


William noticed that the children were small and thin. One of them was a girl. Their clothes were black with soot, and their faces were grey as if they were dry wiped. They stood quite still with no interest in anything except the fireplace, which was out and cooling. 


William approached the girl and asked her name. She gazed up at him and then said her name was Olivia. There was no life in her voice, just a kind of croaking. He noticed that she was a good six inches shorter than him. Her hair was black and cut short and smelt foul. He took a step backwards.


“How old are you, Olivia?”


“Who’s asking?” said one of the other boys, looking William up and down. 


“Sorry!”


Olivia very quietly murmured out of the side of her mouth, “I’m five – I think!”


The boy who spoke previously turned and cracked her across the face. “Don’t you talk, or you’ll get us all belted by Jack!” He then turned and glared at William, warning him off. 


William moved away. He noticed white streaks running down Olivia’s cheeks and felt guilty for causing her trouble.


Suddenly, Jack Slope was back with Mrs Jennings. “Right, Reuben, up this one as it is a bit bigger than the others and clean it out. Olivia and Tom with me! The drawing room is next.” 


William watched as the boy who warned him off quickly put a mat over the fireplace, put on his cap and, holding his brush above his head, promptly scaled up the chimney and out of sight. A steady flow of soot started coming down the chimney onto the mat covering the hearth. Seeing that this chimney sweeper was out of sight, he followed the others into the drawing room. Not noticing William at the rear near the doorway, Jack talked sternly with Olivia. 


“You’re the only one who can get up this chimney. So up you go, my girl.”


The fireplace in the drawing room seemed a reasonable size, but when William looked hard, he could see that Jack Slope was right. The chimney vent was much smaller than the one in the kitchen. Olivia was peering up the chimney but hesitating. The head Chimney Sweep could see she was afraid. 


He quietly demanded her, “Get up that chimney, or I’ll push you up there, you little brat.”


She began whimpering, saying it was too narrow. Jack Slope grabbed her and pushed her head and shoulders up the chimney. She stood there, shaking. 


“Tom! Light the fire.” William felt a chill over his body as he imagined being up that chimney. He was horrified as Tom lit the fire with Olivia’s feet still in the fireplace.


Tom edged back past Jack Slope. Sparks surrounded the girl’s feet, and she screamed and quickly moved up the chimney. Tom covered the fire and put it out. As in the kitchen, a flow of soot fell onto the mat that now covered the fireplace. 


“Stupid little brat, she should have finished by now!”


The soot flow continued for a minute or two and then stopped. 


Jack Slope cautiously looked up the chimney but could see nothing as it was pitch black. He knew there was no bend in the flue, so either Olivia was refusing, or she was stuck. He called up the chimney, “Olivia, get to work! No soot is coming down. Get a move on, girl! What’s holding you up?” 


There was no reply. 


Reuben came into the room and stood beside Jack. 


“Ah, good boy! Tom, you keep calling Olivia and get her going. If she don’t answer, light the fire again, that’ll get her going. Reuben, come with me upstairs.”


Jack Slope left the room, and Tom moved towards the fire. Horrified, William said, “Hey, don’t light that. Olivia’s up there!”.


Tom shrugged and yelled up the chimney, “Olivia - what’s happening up there? Are you stuck or something? Olivia, what’s happening?”


There was no answer.


Jack came back into the room and confronted Tom. He belted him twice around the head. “Why ain’t that fire going? We gotta get her moving!”


He removed the mat and lit the fire, which crackled into life but subsided as no draft was in the chimney. It appeared solidly blocked as a small cloud of smoke filled the room. Slope quickly opened a window, hoping the smoke would clear. He was becoming worried - this was all taking too long – he needed Olivia finished and in the next chimney.


“Tom, up you go and put pins in her feet. “


Tom reluctantly moved onto the fireplace, which was still partially alight. He squeezed into the narrow chimney. Being a slightly larger boy than Reuben or Olivia, he was not more than three feet up the chimney before he became stuck. His feet were still showing in the fireplace. 


Jack Slope belted the boy’s feet until they bled in a final effort at moving Tom. William watched this whole episode with horror, imagining Olivia’s plight. Tom cried out that he was stuck. Slope pulled Tom down and belted him again. 


The young lad hid his face in his arms as he suffered his master’s anger. Mrs Jennings entered the room and, seeing the mess, hurled abuse at Slope with no mercy. Soot was all over the parlour floor, walked in by the chimney sweeps in their chaos to solve the situation. The smoke continued building up in the room, adding to the melee.


Slope gestured at the chimney and said, “One of me chimney sweeps is stuck up there - it is a very narrow chimney and….” His voice trailed off as the smoke thickened. “Stop that fire, Tom!”


There was still no response from Olivia. 


William moved slowly back towards the hallway door – he stood behind a chair and watched the panic unfolding in the room. He thought in terror about the little girl. Was she stuck in the chimney? How would they get her out? William heard Mrs Jennings calling Clementine. 


“Quick, get your father from the Bakery – we need the builders! A chimney sweep is stuck.” 


William panicked – he knew calling his father home a second time would be a disaster. There would be fireworks; he must remain hidden in case of repercussions. William backed out of the room, through the kitchen, along the hall and up the stairs. He would have a good view from the top step of what was happening when the builders came.   


It was early afternoon before Jonathan Turner arrived. The Master Chimney Sweep was out of ideas, and there was still no response from the girl. Jonathan Turner was infuriated as this was the second time his work arrangements had been disturbed today; he was running out of time before his trip. Although he knew he had started the mess, the day was becoming a disaster. A pink shade formed on his brow as the rage inside him verged on erupting.


“What has happened, Slope?”


“Ah! It seems one of my Sweeps has become stuck in your chimney, Mr Turner, and we can’t get her down.”


“Her? You told me you had boys!”


“Yes, the girl was the right size for the chimney, and we sent her up.”


“Why use a girl? She would not be strong enough!”


Jack Slope shrugged his shoulders and looked away. Jonathan Turner got down on his knees and peered up the chimney. It was pitch black – he usually could see the light at the top. 


“It appears your chimney sweep has completely blocked the flue. There may be a large amount of soot around her. What are you doing to rescue her?”


Jonathan didn’t wait for an answer. He knew time was critical. 


“Where are the builders? Clementine. Find Clementine and see where the builders are. Damn you, Slope. Now, I must take apart my chimney! I doubt the chimney sweep girl will survive this.”


Slope grunted, “It ain’t no matter, Mr Turner, they are queuing up from the poor house for indentures. They are cheap, and plenty of em!” 


Recalling his wife’s suffering from his treatment and the guilt he now blocked out caused his reflection on the fragility of life during the day. He was thankful that his wife was recovering and for his daughters, who now looked after her. This little chimney sweep was someone’s daughter – a child who either was orphaned or sold into an indenture for a life of misery. He was startled by Slope’s complete ignorance of the value of human life. He stared at him as his inner trembling took over his self-control. The rage that was growing erupted. He lost perception and could focus only on this man who treated human life with disdain.


Jonathan grabbed the scruff of his neck and dragged him through the house, across the rear veranda, and into the backyard. Slope’s protests had no effect. In the backyard, out of sight of the neighbours, his rage, which grew in intensity, overcame him. He threw Slope on the ground with one foot on either side of the sweep. Jonathan was a well-built, medium-height man, strong from a life of manual labour. With fists of iron clenched and the strength of an ox, Jonathan glared down at this protesting, ignorant fellow. His rage drove him – he lost perspective; his anger took over, and the world around him disappeared as he punished this sinner. The belting was savage. 


He stood above Jack Slope’s chest and yelled down at him, “You sent a little girl up my chimney. God damn you, man! Have you no sense?” The Chimney Sweep was beyond answering.


If it were not for Doctor Jeremy Stephens arriving in the next few moments, Jonathan might have beaten the man senseless. Jeremy Stephens stopped him. 


“Jonathan. Jonathan stop. Stop, Jonathan!”


Suddenly aware of his surroundings, Jonathan Turner stopped and noticed Jeremy’s presence. It was as if he was surfacing from a deep dive in the ocean. He took a great breath.


“There is a chimney sweep stuck in my drawing room chimney. A little girl! This idiot sent a little girl up the chimney to clean it!”


Jeremy put his arm around Jonathan’s shoulders and led him away. “Some chimney sweeps use girls now, as they are smaller and can scale the smaller chimney vents. But I agree they would not have the strength of a boy.”


Jonathan’s fist started relaxing and unclenched. His perception returned, and he realised he was in the back garden. He glanced over his shoulder.


Jack Slope lay groaning on the ground. His face was a bloodied mess. He cringed as he saw Turner looking at him. 


Soon, the builders arrived with Jeb, who pointed out the critical chimney. Thomas and Anne joined the growing crowd of concerned onlookers.  


Jeremy sat Jonathan down, requesting a cup of water. Sipping the water, Jonathan now appeared under control. Jeremy then attended Slope. The chimney sweep would not work again that day.


Mr Robinson, the head builder, asked Jeb, “Have you got a long rope, Jeb?”


Jeb nodded, darted off to the garden shed, grabbed a rope, and returned to the builder in a minute. 


“Climb up on the roof and drop the rope down the chimney until it reaches the girl. Before taking out the bricks, we must find out how far down she is.” Jeb darted back into the back shed and tied a weight onto the rope’s end. He also took a ladder and scaled the roof at the back of the house. Carefully traversing the roof ridges, he reached the drawing-room chimney. 


There was a large crowd of bystanders on the footpath by this time.


Jeb could see pitch dark about ten feet down as he peered down the chimney. He dropped the rope until it stopped, further down than the darkness indicated. Quickly knotting the rope, he pulled it out and lowered it down the outside of the chimney by the same length. Robinson and his men rapidly positioned ladders, climbed up and slowly started removing the bricks, shoring up the chimney and avoiding any possibility of a collapse. 


It took about half an hour before the hole was large enough to extract the chimney sweep. Robinson lifted the limp little body out. Gently carrying her down, he placed Olivia on the ground on some linen Anne thoughtfully brought from the house. Robinson’s eyes filled with tears as he put the lifeless, warm body on the sheet. Jeremy Stephens examined her and found no pulse. Her eyes were open, with a look of horror on her face. He checked her mouth, which was full of soot. The falling mass encasing her resulted in suffocation. The sight sadly moved the Doctor as he noticed each of the soles of Olivia’s feet showed signs of burns. 


William crept down from his bedroom and, peeping out the drawing-room window, saw the helpless body on the linen sheet. He was horrified at what he saw and the events of that afternoon. Tears rushed down his cheeks. 


“Olivia!” he thought.


Jeremy Stephens knelt and gently closed the dead girl’s eyes. “Sleep peacefully, little one. You are safe now. God will keep you in his care.”


Standing, he shared with the group around the body, “It’s a real pity, but I often see it. It will be called accidental death. Nothing you could have done, Jonathan. Do we know where her family is?”


Jonathan Turner, overcome by emotion, could not speak. Regaining his thoughts, `There should be a law against idiots like Jack Slope. There must be a better way than this.’ 


Jeb was standing beside the girl’s body. He looked up at Doctor Stephens. Quietly, in his deep voice, he said, “I know her family – Stepton! Her father was a labourer up at Batton Place until he became sick. They have a cottage on the estate, but they let go some of the children. Couldn’t afford to keep them! Mark Stepton and his wife, Alison.”

   

Thomas moved up beside his father. “Mother must be disturbed by all this noise. It would be best if you were with her. I will take care of this accident now. Constable Rawlings has been informed and will be here soon. We shall discuss it all at dinner.”


Jonathan Turner looked at Thomas and felt some relief. His first-born son was becoming a good manager, a person he was proud of, “Thank you, Thomas. I will visit your mother directly. No, no. Jeremy, you go first and complete your check on her. Ah, Thomas, this little one shall have a good funeral, poor thing. Someone must tell her family what has happened. It is a sad business.”


Jeb moved closer. “Mr Turner, if I may please, may I tell them? There will be others in the community who will want to know, as well as my family. My mother will come and comfort Mrs Stepton.”


“Yes. Yes, Jeb, good fellow. Thank you, and take one of the bakery carts, please. Tell them we will arrange the return home of the body as soon as the Constable finishes. Please tell Mr Stepton that we will pay for all the funeral costs and attend. Thomas will make the arrangements. And Jeb, would you call at the Manor House and advise Squire Easton of what has happened.”


Thomas quietly said, “Father, you know the Eastons are recusant¹. Is this wise?”



¹ In  the early 1800s dealing with Roman Catholics was socially unacceptable until the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829 which removed most of the barriers for catholic emancipation. Even so the stigma remained and was slow to change.



“No time for these views now, Thomas – we have no quarrel with them!”


Jonathan stared at the dead child for a further few minutes. He knew well the desperation from poverty that many parents faced. Without an income and many mouths to feed, they would sell their children into an indenture with the chimney sweeps. Jonathan Turner was a tough businessman, but he also had empathy for the people around him. A family losing a child was a tragedy, but it should not be allowed in such circumstances as this. He muttered that he would never see his children in such a state. There must be a better way – he knew a man using a mechanical sweep. He must find him and never let this happen again. He turned and went into the house.  


Sleep for William that night did not come easily. Visions of Olivia’s body being taken away on a cart kept flashing in his mind. He continually imagined soot filling his mouth, and his body wedged up a chimney with a fire coming from underneath. What Reverend Taggart said about hell was true. Chimney sweeping was like visiting hell. 


The room was pitch dark and cold. William feared the dark. He could hear Thomas and Simeon softly breathing as they slept. Getting out of bed, he knelt beside Simeon’s bed and shook him. There was no response. William shook him again. Simeon opened one eye.


“What?” he said. 


Thomas rolled over in his sleep. William froze until the soft breathing started again. He very quietly said,


“I’m scared of death!” 


Simeon looked at him and grunted, “You won’t be scared for long if you don’t stop shaking me!”


William whimpered, “I’m cold!”


Simeon sighed and rolled over in his bed. William slid in and put his back against his brother. He was quickly asleep, feeling warm and safe.   



The Church School, Guildford …


At Reverend Andrew Taggart’s church school, the next day, the big topic of conversation amongst the children was the death of the chimney sweep at the Turner’s house. Reverend Taggart could see that the children needed an understanding of the events. He explained that as chimneys filled with soot, they must be cleaned. A consequence of not cleaning chimney flues was house fires – William shuddered at the thought of family members burning. 


This description was a new thought of terror for William – yes, chimneys must fill up with soot, so that is why they needed cleaning. But why would parents let their children become chimney sweeps?


The good Reverend explained that the Master Chimney Sweeps would find young children from the Poor House or low-income families, who would indenture their children as chimney sweeps. The money was essential for the family’s survival. He said that the chimney sweep who accidentally died was from the Poor House without relatives. William thought about this as Jeb said she was from a family at Batton Place.


William opened his mouth but thought better of it and stayed quiet. She had a mother and father, but he was unsure about brothers and sisters. She was part of a family but sold into chimney sweeping. How could any family do this to a little girl? Then he thought about how his father often found fault with him. Would his father sell him to a Master Chimney Sweep? He shuddered. Olivia was dead. What would become of him? Reverend Taggart said that she was in heaven and safe with the Lord. William was not so sure!


During lunch, Richard Smith and Caleb Elliot, five years older than William, suggested who cares anyway, as it was just a chimney sweep. They were the poorest and lowest parts of the community, and who cared? William felt slight anger rising in his heart. 


“They are dirty, grubby little moles and should be kept in the chimneys.” Caleb laughed.


“Yes, up the chimneys and on fire!” They both laughed. 


William was incensed that these boys, older than himself, would be laughing about a little girl who was dead. William inherited two things from his father: a sense of justice and Jonathan’s rage. He took a deep breath and fronted Richard and Caleb. 


“Hey. Olivia was a nice girl and from a family. You shouldn’t laugh at her!”


Caleb smirked and nudged Richard, “I think young Will here had feelings for little Olivia? Eh Will? You liked the smelly little brat!”


The rage inside William was now heating up.


Sitting close by with friends, Simeon saw the frown come over his brother’s face. He quietly kept an eye on William, standing near Richard and Caleb. Simeon knew how Will was deeply affected by the little girl’s death and bothered in his sleep last night.   


Richard continued degrading the chimney sweeps, and the boys started baiting William. “Will loved Olivia! Ha, Ha Ha.” 


William clenched his fists, his rage boiling when Simeon grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and dragged him away. 


“Ignore it, Will. They are fools.”


William could not ignore it but understood he must calm down so his brother would release his grip. 


Simeon felt William relaxing, “OK, then. You will leave them alone?” 


William nodded. 


Simeon let him go. “We can talk about this after school on the way home. Just stay away from them. “ 


Mrs Taggart rang the bell, calling the children into class. Some of the children started moving back into the church.


William walked in the other direction, not saying a word. Unlike Jonathan Turner, William masked his rage far better than his father. He found an old axe handle without the head in the church shed near the vegetable garden. William smiled. Reinforcements!


Richard and Caleb remained outside, sitting after all the other students were in class.


Caleb laughed so hard he did not see Richard tumble off the seat. As he turned, he found Richard on the ground, shaking. The smile vanished from his lips as the axe handle crashed into his mouth, knocking out both front teeth with a gush of blood. Caleb went white for a moment, seeing stars. 


On that day, all three boys learnt some profound lessons. Fortunately, at six years old, William was without the strength to hurt Richard seriously, but Caleb’s injuries were severe. The Reverend Taggart, who found the boys, looked in disbelief at the screaming eleven-year-olds lying on the ground and the fierce six-year-old standing behind them with an axe handle in his hand. For Reverend Taggart, this was a first.  


Being a man of peace, the Reverend knew that if the details of this incident reached the parents, three of his most worthwhile families might take punitive action. But what could be done? Rather than taking the axe handle off William, he asked politely, “William, return the axe handle to where it came from, please.” Best to keep William away from the scene altogether. Once he was satisfied, all the other children were in the classroom. Mrs Glossip was called and assisted Caleb. The Reverend Taggart saw a large bump on Richard’s head and checked if the lad was steady. Richard was unaware of what had happened, except for an immense pain in the back of the head. He slowly walked back into class, feeling a little giddy and rubbing the rear of his head. 


Caleb was also unsteady and could not remember what had happened. Reverend Taggart explained, “Somehow, Richard lost his footing and fell over. He must have bumped you, and you hit your head on the seat and out came your front teeth. We think that’s what happened, as nobody saw it. Hold that cloth against your mouth while we send for your mother.”


Coming back from the shed, William was interested in why Reverend Taggart would tell Caleb this story of the events. Without being noticed, he took his seat in the class. 


The Reverend Taggart sent Caleb off with his mother, who was stuttering, “You stupid boy, now look what you’ve done”. Andrew Taggart thought this was working out well but then remembered William. Before he spoke with the boy, he must consult Simeon, who he believed might know how this all came about. This line of enquiry proved most helpful. 


When it was William’s turn, Reverend Taggart sat the nervous boy down and gave him a stern look. 


William said, “Please don’t tell my parents, Reverend Taggart. My father will beat me as he does, mother! He may even sell me to a chimney sweep!”


The good Reverend was shocked when he heard these comments but quickly focused on the present situation.


“Ah. And, so your father might if he finds out, young William. However, only Simeon knows what happened, and he tells me that someone provoked you. So, I think that we can make a pact.”


William said, “What is a pact?”


“It means that we both agree this will remain a secret and as long as it does, the pact remains in place.”


William said, “I don’t understand.”


“William, I encourage your good behaviour and hard work at school. This way, you will become a good reader and writer. I would most appreciate it if you would do this for me, and in return, we will not mention Caleb and Richard’s injuries. This way, you will not be beaten or sold as a chimney sweep! What do you say? Do we have a Pact?”


William looked in amazement at the good Reverend. He was not expecting this. 


William gave a slight grin. He looked up thankfully at the Reverend Taggart. “I like you, Reverend Taggart. I agree to a pact!” This agreement gave reading and writing a new meaning for William. 


“Good boy William - now back into class and remember, no more of this.”


The Reverend Taggart was astounded. This child of six, going on seven, displayed street smartness well beyond his years. He now wondered if his approach might be slightly misguided. However, he would not jeopardise the future of the school. Richard was the son of the mayor, who was a member of the parish council. Caleb’s father was the local blacksmith and a strong church supporter, and William’s father was a prominent businessman and the Chairman of the Parish Council. There was no need for disagreement between these men. Tonight, he would visit Richard and Caleb’s families, reinforce the story, and check the boys’ welfare. He might miss the Turner house - better left alone at this stage. ‘It is like being a politician being a clergyman. What was it that his wife said? Ah, yes! Just keep smiling, Andrew, keep smiling?’ It was now late morning, and Reverend Taggart already longed for his afternoon glass of sherry.             


After school, William pestered Simeon about playing pirates by the river. While not opposed, Simeon said they should return home and invite the girls along as well. 


“Who knows, Mother may be recovered and wanting a walk!”  


William agreed with this readily, as he missed seeing his mother. Having the girls there would be super for a pirate game. William began striding out for home, and Simeon scampered behind him. Bursting into the kitchen, William spied Clementine and asked if she, Anne, and her mother would enjoy a pirate game at the river. 


“I will come, but I’m unsure if Anne and Mother will agree. I would like a game of hide-and-seek, and mother needs some fresh air. How about you go and ask them?”


William looked at Clementine with a question on his face. Having been banned from seeing his mother for the last two days, he questioned Clementine’s suggestion. 


Noticing the confusion on William’s face, Clementine smiled. “Go on then. They are in the drawing room!”


William, finally understanding, just bolted. Simeon, entering the kitchen, said, “Me too?”


Clementine smiled. “Yes – Go on!”


William burst into the drawing room and saw his mother sitting with Marcia at her feet and Anne pouring tea. Eleanora looked up and smiled when she saw William.


“How’s my big boy, William?” she said. 


Not waiting for any further invitation, William threw himself into his mother’s arms and buried his head against her chest. For William, his mother was the symbol of security and happiness. She was his confessor and his mentor. William found himself lost without her, and now they were together again. 


“Mother, please come and play pirates with us at the river today?”


Eleanora hugged him tightly. She saw Simeon come into the room and beckoned him over – he, too, ran and hugged her. Anne moved the tea table back a bit, given these awkward males were disturbing the balance of the teacups. 


“Hey, Boys! William and Simeon, watch your feet. I have Mother’s tea here!”


The boys sat either side of Marcia, who continued gabbling at everyone – she was excited that they were all together again. William quickly lifted a biscuit into his mouth and chomped it down. Anne gently kicked him, saying, “The biscuits are for Mother!”


Eleanora looked at the children, glowing in her matronly pride. What a blessing these wonderful little people were. She contrasted the position she found herself in with a husband, whose carnal needs dictated his behaviour, and these beautiful children so full of life and attentiveness. 


“I’m not sure your father would like me outside yet. Doctor Stephens wants me inside for at least a week before I venture out, but this does not mean you children should stay inside. It is a perfect summer’s day for some fun, and I will be happy here with Mrs Jennings and this lovely afternoon tea that Anne made.”


The children cheered for joy at the prospect of a pirate game at the riverbank. William stayed hugging his mother. “I thought you wanted a pirate game, William?”


William released his grip on her and sat back down. Looking at her face, he noticed the bruises on her cheeks under the makeup. 


“Mother, I missed you so much. Why are you sick? Will it last long?”


Eleanora flinched, remembering the beating she took from Jonathan. She also remembered seeing, out of the corner of her eye, a little head peering around the corner of her bedroom door. 


“I fell over William and hit my head – I will be better soon, and then I will be at the river with you.”


William heard the excited talk in the kitchen with Clementine bawling out pirate commands as if she were Captain Blood, and much laughter followed. Seeing that they were alone and out of earshot, William took the opportunity.


“I have bad dreams, Mother. I told Anne, and she said they would go away.”


“What have you been dreaming, William?”


“I dreamed I woke up at night, walked downstairs, and called you. But when I peeped into your bedroom, father was beating you. Father turned and saw me, so I ran back upstairs and hid. Anne said it was a nightmare and I should forget about it.”


Eleanora could see that the child was asking for either confirmation of the story or acceptance that it was a nightmare. She was not sure she wanted the truth known, and she resisted placing her woes on this six-year-old boy. She was unsure whether to smile or cry – she became overwhelmed for a moment by her anxiety, and then she hugged him again.


Holding him close she whispered, “It was just a nightmare, William. Your father loves me very much, and he would never hurt me. It was just a nightmare!”


William stepped back and saw that tears ran down his mother’s cheeks. The makeup was running, and the bruises on her cheeks were obvious.


Anne came in and stood beside William, gently nudging him.


William held Anne’s hand, “I will think of it as a nightmare, Mother!”  


In his mind, he understood what she wanted. She told him to disregard what he saw and believe something more fitting. William could not understand why she wanted this, but he would do this for her as he loved his mother more than anyone else. 


“Come on, Mr Pirate; Captain Blackbeard is waiting down at the river.” 


William continued looking at his mother as Anne led him out, holding his hand, which gripped hers tightly. 


Eleanora smiled at him as he left. She realised now that William was at the door on that terrible night and witnessed her beating. She shivered, knowing the terror it must have planted in the child. Yet William seemed to cope with her suggestion that it was a nightmare.


That day, her intuition told her there was something different about William. As well as all his gifted abilities, he was a thinker. It was as if the child understood her predicament; his thinking seemed unrestricted by his age. He was still young and innocent, but this would not last long as he grew. Jonathan’s rage was present in him but different from his father’s. It appeared well under control, but would it stay that way? 


Some said that mothers sometimes had visions of their children’s future. Feeling a cold chill, she wrapped a shawl around her. In her dream, she saw him crossing vast oceans, far away and in danger. Then the skies cleared, and the sun came out over another land where he built a new life and his own family. Eleanora saw him with a swarm of children around him, his gentle hand quietly slipping out of her grip. She shuddered. The room was quiet – the children were gone.


Her memory recalled that night. Jonathan must have seen the lad. What would he be thinking? Eleanora knew she must protect William. What had Anne and William shared? She must talk with Anne soon. Anne was aware of Jonathan’s beating her, but Anne was an adult and would maintain secrecy. With William, this would prove more difficult. She sighed and took a sip of warm tea.