Daring to lift her eyes, she glanced around. The kinder amongst those twelve good men would describe her glance as furtive, the less kind would say shifty. Had she been asked she would have said fearful; but no one did enquire. The judge asked his question a second time; this time with impatience.
‘Have you anything to say on your behalf?’
What should she say to a judge? It was beyond her experience, so she replied with the only words she could conjure.
‘Please sir, I am a housemaid and my family don’t know where I am.’
She shivered uncontrollably, although the afternoon warmth made her stained, woollen dress stick damply to her skin. The huge courtroom overawed her. It was a room bigger and grander than she had ever seen or imagined was possible. The jury to her right stared intently at her, but she avoided their stare as she would avoid the look of any man. Instead, she hung her head and stared unseeing at her tight, entwined hands, making her look both sullen and guilty. It was of no consequence to them that she was young and pretty for she was just another girl down on her luck. There were a thousand others, no ten thousand, others like her. Something must be done about it.
Nora felt unrehearsed for these legal proceedings. She had no money for a lawyer and found this whole experience terrifying. The stern appearance of the judge, in his scarlet robes and long horsehair wig, made her want to crawl into a hole somewhere. But here in this large courtroom, there was nowhere to hide, nowhere to escape. She was the main exhibit.
The horrors of the morning still tormented her. Chained to other prisoners at the ankle, she shuffled from Millbank to the Old Bailey. The journey took a good hour, as they tried to avoid the rotting fruit thrown by ragamuffins, gleeful that there were some worse off than themselves. The shame of it sickened her. She felt tired and sore where the iron had bruised her ankle and. longing for home and her sisters to comfort her, Nora’s mind began to wander again.
But now the judge was speaking and she forced herself to try and take in what he was saying.
‘Eleanora Nolan, you have been found guilty of grand larceny and will be transported beyond the seas for the term of seven years. Next case.’
A smirk of triumph appeared on Mrs Pocket’s face, satisfaction on the constable’s and boredom on the judge’s. Nora listened to the judge but without understanding because the words made no sense to her.
‘Please sir’ she tried again ‘when may I go back to my family?’
‘Take her down,’ was the terse instruction and the court official hastened to comply.
"There were moments when I was doing the literary equivalent of shouting at the TV. It moved me, I felt alarm, indignation, great sadness and elation." Ingenue Magazine Summer 2017
A moment's foolish mistake costs sixteen-year old Nora her freedom and her family. Sentenced to seven years transportation for larceny, she needs to grow up fast to survive prison, the long journey and then life as an assigned servant in Van Diemen's Land of the 1820s. She is sustained by
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The aid workers fed the children and were attending to the needs of the mothers when Frank noticed a group of small boys kicking a football. He commented to John, “No matter how grim things may be, kids will always find a way to play.” One of the mothers told him that they had found the ball in one of the deserted, burnt out villages they passed through.
During a break, Emile was able to share a coffee with some of the aid workers. He was told that the North Vietnamese had set up overnight camps close to the Ho Chi Minh trail, right through the border region. They were usually under heavy vegetation cover and usually near fresh water. This particular camp was not used as it didn't have enough cover. However, it was used a few times. It was common practice for their camp to be surrounded by several land mine fields. The fields are usually well defined with signs in Vietnamese, along with “skull and cross bone” signs. They were made because they figured that any enemy would attack under the protection of darkness, and if this happened, they would not see the signs.
While Emile talked to the aid workers, Frank and John looked around the camp.
A group of small boys was kicking the ball when suddenly a gust of wind blew the ball into the land mine area. One small boy ran after it. He grabbed the ball and turned to the other boys. The huge grin on his face showed how proud he was. He then heard the other boys shouting at “Stand Still!” He looked bewildered until he saw the skull and crossbones sign. His grin turned into a look of horror as he realised where he was standing.
John was the first who heard the commotion and ran to see what was going on. Frank followed him. When they saw the boy in the mine field, John shouted to the boy. “Vẫn bình tĩnh, và chúng tôi sẽ đưa bạn trở lại đây một cách an toàn, nhưng bạn phải ở lại vẫn rất yên tĩnh.” which meant “Stay still, and we will get you back here safely, but you must stay very still.”
The boy nodded. John ran back to the Land Rover and grabbed a long piece of rope. When he returned, he tied one end around a large tree and the other end around his waist. He then said to Frank, “Feed the rope out as I go towards the boy, but make sure you keep it taunt.” He then shouted to the boy in Vietnamese that he was coming for him.
John carefully and slowly edged towards the boy, at the same time he was looking for any signs of the boy’s footprints. There were very few as the ground was fairly well compacted over time. Finally, he reached the boy who at this time was clearly frightened and a stream of urine running down his leg was obvious.
In one movement he picked the boy up and turned around and faced Frank. By now the entire camp had gathered at the site, including Emile.
John then shouted to Frank to pull the rope tight and tighten it around the tree. No sooner had Frank tied it around the tree, he walked out to John and the boy, using the rope as his guide. When he reached John, he took the boy in one arm and the rope in the other and slowly edged back out of the mine field. As he reached the edge, the whole camp roared into applause. He handed the boy to Emile and turned back to John.
John called to him to untie the rope from the tree and to place it on the ground. John then undid the rope around his waist and placed it the ground. He then took a step towards Frank and then another. Everyone was quiet until he took the third step and the sound of a “click.” John froze, and everyone else gasped. John had stepped on a Jumping Jack land mine.
John had a little knowledge of how it worked. He remembered his father telling him years ago that when someone stepped on it, the fuse was dislodged. Then, as the target person stepped off it, the main fuse ignited the first charge and propelled the unit about 2 metres into the air, where it then exploded. This way one mine could injure everyone within range.
He also remembered his father once telling him that, if you lie flat on the ground and a grenade was set off next to you, you would be unlikely to be hurt. This was because of the angle of the explosion. Provided that both you and the grenade were on the ground.
With this in mind, he shouted to Emile, “move everyone away for at least fifty metres, no, make it a hundred metres.”
“I am going to jump down and lie flat on the ground, If I am lucky, the explosion will go above me, and I should be alright. You both move back a bit!”
As soon as they moved back, John jumped forward, but before he reached the ground, the device exploded in the air.
John was killed instantly!
Frank and Emile were also struck! Emile had several shrapnel wounds on his arm, chest and leg. Frank had his left leg severed. Several of the aid workers gave first aid while their leader had called over the radio for help!
Two souls, united for a brief moment in war-torn western Europe during World War II, is more than a coincidence. Major Daniel Humphrey, a former high school teacher, is injured while on a reconnaissance mission for General Patton’s Third Army at the start of winter in 1944. He is transported to a hospital in Nancy, France, where he meets a pretty American nurse named Cassandra Burns. For him, it is love at first sight, but it is only temporary. The next day she disappears, and he is told she never existed. However, the rose she left on his pillow tells him otherwise.
After the war ends the following spring, Daniel confirms Cassie’s existence but she did not return to the states. Fearing she died or is missing, he visits the place where they first met and unknowingly opens a Pandora box of intrigue that changes his life forever.
Cassie is an American spy and married to one of Hitler’s most notorious spymasters for the Eastern Front — Oberfuhrer Erik Bauer. Now, armed with information about Bauer’s plans to destroy the West’s restructuring efforts, Cassie is on the run.
Cassie wants out of the espionage game, but what price will she pay for leaving? Can Daniel find Cassie before Bauer and his band of Hitler loyalists find her first? Is Bauer the only threat to Cassie's safety, or is someone more sinister hiding in the shadows?
WINNER! MILITARY HISTORY BOOK OF THE YEAR. Book 3 of the Historical Documentary Series on the Cold War. Order Now!
The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separates North and South Korea and is the most defended border in the world.
Both sides have dug their heels in and fortified the DMZ with defensive positions, mines and booby traps, missiles, and soldiers as they remain vigilant for the recommencement of a war that never ended.
˃˃˃ READ ABOUT THE DANGEROUS JOB OF OUR SOLDIERS IN KOREA ON THE DMZ!
The soldiers were responsible for enforcing the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War. The North Koreans violated it almost daily sending spies, marauders, hit squads, and ambush patrols into the southern controlled portion of the DMZ in their never-ending effort to destabilize South Korea and cause its collapse. Their blatant violations of the agreement has left a bloody trail of dead bodies that includes many American soldiers. This book takes the reader on a journey through the history of the Cold War and the defense of the DMZ from the perspective of nine American veterans, and eleven tours, who served in different capacities in South Korea from 1962 through 1991.
A few months before Bess had been hanged, times had been happier for the Shoreman family, still far from easy but certainly a lot happier than this.
As a slave Marcus Shoreman had been a clever stud manager on a horse breeding farm and his owner had seen to it that his slave learned all the skills necessary to help him run a successful business. Since being able to read, write and work with numbers had served him so well in the past Marcus had every reason to believe it would serve him well in the future.
With freedom had come the risky chance to go into business for himself but he grabbed the chance and took the risk. He was one of the few who, in these early years, got lucky enough to find an investor, move away from the sharecropper settlement and into a rented place of his own. There he started a business as a horse breeder and livestock trader.
The Shoreman Holdings had a well-built but modest-sized horse barn which opened onto a corral with a fence strong enough for people to climb and sit on. There were a couple of paddocks and an area of pastureland fed by a small stream that was used to grow grass rich enough to make hay for winter fodder. The small but comfortable farm house completed the holding with its yard and cheerful vegetable garden. Even though Marcus hadn’t been able to find the money to buy a property for himself he thought that, all in all, he had made a good start on the road to real freedom, financial security for him and his family. But that road was proving to be bumpier than he’d expected.
As a free-man Marcus had married his wife Milly. She had been a house slave working in the plantation mansion and her life’s training had been mostly in the trivial concerns of a large southern house but she had learned some other important lessons too. Most of this education had left her skeptical but she had been smart enough to learn how to survive relatively unscathed in the petty world of rich, white landowners. By the time freedom had come around and she had met Marcus short and roundish Milly had grown into a strong, no nonsense sort of a woman, maybe a bit short on romantic notions but with a clear idea of what-was-what and how to get things done . That was especially true when it came to the business of her two daughters Leona and Bess.
Leona was their twenty three year old first born. She was bright enough like her mother but lacked imagination and, like her mother again, was a bit on the plain side and roundish. But unlike her mother Leona sometimes let her looks get in the way of her own self-confidence especially when she found herself around prettier, ‘more interesting’ girls. And there were plenty of those to be found – one of them was her own younger sister Bess.
Bess was a couple of years Leona’s junior and if Leona took after her mother then plainly Bess looked like her father. Her face was fine-featured with big, grey, oval eyes and her long-limbed and slender body got the attention of plenty of men who would have found her beautiful if only she didn’t choose to behave so much like a teenaged boy at least some of the time. Ever since she had been a small child she had been the one with an energetic intelligence as well as the looks but it was her unending search for answers that had stolen her father’s heart.
Bess’s open- minded approach to life had allowed her to find happiness in a whole variety of different ways in unlikely places and tonight, as she had many times before, she would find it here in a hidden corner of the old slave compound.
Close to the spot where the gallows would later be built freedmen celebrated an ancient religion whenever they got a chance. The tribal religion of Vodun had come from West Africa along with the slaves themselves but the practice of this ‘evil and pagan’ belief was illegal in the deep south at the time. None the less it was growing in popularity among the younger freedmen who were eager to blot out all memories of their enslaved past by re-finding their tribal roots. Out of fear of being found out and punished then these devotees held their ‘services’ where white people wouldn’t see them.
It was a joke among some of the younger, more cynical celebrants of the ‘old religion’ that the real reason they hid their activities from white people was because if they saw what went on the ‘crackers’ would want to join the party – and nobody wanted that.
Either way praying Vodun style certainly could be a lot of fun. Typically a rite involved drummers sitting in a circle around a fire while the ‘congregation’ danced around them giving themselves over to the complicated beat - and sometimes, depending on the minor god or ‘orisha’ being honored, to each other too. For some devotees the aim was to give themselves over so completely that there was room for an orisha to temporarily possess their body – then look out, anything could happen next. Usually, as bodies heated up from their exertions, unneeded clothing would get peeled away to reveal glistening skin, some with strange, decorative markings called ‘tas’ that adorned some body parts not normally on display in public.
On this particular night and wearing not much at all Bess danced right at the center of the devotions. She was in the middle of all those hearts happily at one with their roots but paying special attention to a good-looking young man called Robert. To be honest she had never been really sure about the sincerity of those that followed vodun but from the way she was grinding her hips and pressing the bottom of her belly against Robert’s thigh she appeared to be more than happy to give the ‘old religion’ another good try.
One early morning the hired hands were working horses in the corral while a couple of would-be horse-buyers hung on the corral fence and looked on unimpressed by what they saw. In the near-by yard Milly was taking dry laundry off the clothes-line while Leona sat on the front steps of the house reading a thick book. The light grey dress uniforms of the house slaves were still good enough for Milly but Leona liked to wear something brighter than she had been allowed to wear in the darker days of bondage.
Leona also liked to read but she had always found it impossible to stop talking for more than a few seconds at a time. Her way out of that was to share whatever she was reading about with anybody that would listen and that’s what she did now.
“Did you know Queen Elizabeth could speak six languages, play four different musical instruments and she died a virgin.” She gave that last part some extra thought then went on, “what do you suppose would make such an educated person want to rush to war all the time instead of having babies?”
She didn’t get a chance to hear an answer because she caught wind of what Bess was up to and was forced to duck, pull her skirt over her head to hide her face and yell at her sister.
“I’ve told you before, get that creepy thing away from me.”
But she was managing to complain and giggle both at the same time. Milly had a way of pretending to be irritated with the girls when she wanted to make a point – maybe she thought it would make them take what she said more seriously. But they could always tell the difference between a pretend telling off and the real thing – Milly had always made sure of that too. On this occasion she let her daughters see easily through her act.
“These chores would be going a lot quicker if you girls stopped your silly games and came over here to help,” she complained but she didn’t miss the opportunity to make them giggle by adding, “and you Leona could do with not showing your drawers to the whole world.”
Bess grinned but did as her mother asked and went to help her leaving the plate camera she had been focusing to go on staring blindly at Leona.
Bess’s clothes were different again from both her mother’s and her sister’s. She favored the same brighter colors as Leona but her dress was more form-fighting, more European in style. She had made it herself the way most of the sharecropper girls did but she’d copied the design from the latest Sears Roebuck catalogue. She was laughing but still remembered to answer Leona’s question.
“I can’t say for sure what would have made ‘Good Queen Bess’ into such an aggressive soldier but I’d guess staying a virgin your whole life could make you kinda’ uppity.”
Keeping up the act her mother pretended to add shock to her irritation.
“I’ve told you before Bess, watch that loose tongue of yours. What would other people think if they could hear you?”
That was when Marcus came out of the house – he had heard the women’s chitchat and as usual found at least some of it interesting so he added his own thoughts to the mix.
“Maybe not having a man does explain her life or maybe trying to be one, trying to be the strong son her father wanted so bad explains it better.”
Before Bess could answer she noticed the smile on his smooth, unlined face sag when he saw his customers walking away from the corral. He chased after them trying not to look like he was running and called out, “gentlemen, what else can I show you?” They didn’t even slowdown in their rush to get away. The women watched Marcus. None of them liked seeing the man they all loved struggling so hard to make a living for them all.
As soon as he was out of ear-shot Milly launched into her daughters. It happened this way sometimes, she didn’t mean to give them a bad time but it was, in her mind, a good way to take their attention away from some of the hardships in their lives, in this case from their father’s business troubles.
It was nearing dark, and the servants were lighting the torches while Godwine played chess with the King. They sat in Canute's favorite room—perfect for entertaining the early arrivals of the Yuletide celebration. Already, Earl Eric of Northumbria was present, tasting some of the breads at the sideboard. Tovi was in his usual place behind the King speaking quietly with two other Danes, and a musician was in the corner, plucking on a harp.
The door opened and Godwine, whose back was to the newcomer, concluded who it was from Canute's grimace. The sleek voice of Eadric Streona confirmed his guess. "Good even’, your grace. I hope you are well." All other voices in the room stopped.
Canute moved a piece, nodding an answer.
Two servants followed Eadric into the room, carrying a batch of firewood. For a moment, the sound of wood being stacked filled the silence. Then the servants left the room, bowing.
"And yourself, my Lord Eric?"
The Northumbrian Earl moved closer to the King, bending over the chess-board. "Considering the rare quiet within my earldom, I am content. And yourself, Eadric?"
Godwine heard the newcomer striding back and forth behind him. His concentration broken, the Saxon quickly turned around, watching Eadric rub his arms as though he needed more warmth. Godwine turned back to the board, but not before he noticed Eadric's mouth twitch.
"I could be better." Eadric’s tone brought Canute's head up questioningly. Godwine straightened in his seat but Canute caught his eye, nodding at the board. Eadric took a stick and poked the fire.
Taking a closer look at the Earl, Godwine noticed that his hair was unbrushed, his fingernails were cracked, his clothing wrinkled. He began pacing again, adjusting his belt.
“How is that Christmas pie?” Canute asked Eric, holding out a hand for a taste. The Dane cut a piece for him, holding it out on the edge of his knife. Taking a long time to sample it, Canute leaned back, evidently enjoying the taste. He licked all five fingers and wiped his hand on his tunic, then reached for another chess piece. Eadric stopped pacing and faced Canute, his arms crossed over his chest.
"And what might be the problem?" The King's voice sounded appropriately concerned.
"My earldom is restive,” he started slowly. "The populace has not yet recovered, the revenues are poor, and the people are hungry."
"That is a pity."
"More the pity that the King does not concern himself with their troubles."
"I see," said Canute, interested. "And what of the exemption I gave them from this year's taxes?"
Closing his eyes, the other gestured as if it were nothing.
"Eadric, this is not what is bothering you."
Stopping, the Earl glared at the King, unable to hide his antipathy. He came to the table, leaned over it. Godwine could smell alcohol on his breath.
"All right. I believe that I deserve better than this. You have given me the most devastated, the poorest earldom in the kingdom. You exclude me from your council. You treat me like a stranger. After all I have done for you."
"And what is it that you have done for me?"
Eadric straightened up, crossing his arms again. He took a deep breath. "You know damned well.”
Intrigued, Canute gave Eadric his full attention. "I know damned well,” he repeated softly.
The tension between them was so strong it felt as though there were only two people in the room. Everyone knew Canute was at his most dangerous when he was totally quiet. But Eadric seemed beyond caring.
“Ask Edmund Ironside, if you could."
Godwine gasped aloud, more in amazement at the man's blatant admission of the deed than its actuality. Even Canute had paled. Getting slowly to his feet, he faced Eadric so fiercely that the other stepped back.
"Then you shall get everything you deserve. You killed your own lord! My sworn brother! Your own mouth has pronounced you a traitor; let the blood be on your head.
"Eric, dispatch this man, lest he live to betray me as well."
The Earl of Northumbria was not loth to obey. Pulling an axe from his belt, the man moved purposefully toward his enemy, narrowed eyes reflecting his satisfaction with Canute's command.
For a moment, Eadric froze, unbelieving. Then his instinct for survival gained sway, and he pushed the table over, making a dash for the door.
But Godwine blocked the way—Godwine, this nonentity, who had barely rated his acknowledgment. The Saxon was standing with legs apart and drawn sword, opposing his exit.
Preferring to die under the blade of an equal, Eadric whirled, pulling his sword. But he was already too late. Eric's axe head was making its deadly arc, and Eadric's blade came up uncertainly, not even delaying the impact of the edge as it cleanly severed his head from his body.
Canute had been watching from the fireplace. "Throw the wretch's carcass from the window, into the Thames."
Eric was glad to do so. He had hated the Earl, and saw this as a fitting end to a despicable career. Seizing one of the convulsing legs, he dragged the body across the floor, oblivious to the gushing blood. Stooping, he hoisted the corpse onto the sill and dumped it unceremoniously into the river.
Godwine stared at the disembodied face, as it gawked back at him. Then he grabbed the hair and came up behind Eric, flinging the head through the window and far out over the water.
As he listened for the inevitable splash, Godwine felt an eerie satisfaction; at least this once, he had done his part in wreaking revenge on the betrayer of Edmund Ironside, and possibly his own father way back in 1009.
Both bloodied Earls turned to Canute, who had observed the scene dispassionately. "Thank you. You have done me a great service."
Godwine controlled his trembling with an effort. "You drove him to it, didn't you?"
"You might say that. Although I was expecting his demands in a more rational form...and at a better time." He glanced at the horrified servants, who were huddled at the newly opened door. "Yes, come in, come in. As you can see, it is time we met the queen in the great hall and started our celebrations in earnest. Send for some water and buckets and take care of this mess.
"Oh, and come, my friends. Let me arrange for some clean tunics before you present yourselves."
Fate has dealt me a mortal blow. I know it. Never in my life have I done anything I am destined to regret more. William the Bastard has gotten the better of me, and has forced me to give an oath to support his claim to the throne. He trapped me in a golden cage of my own making.
It seemed a hundred years ago when I left Bosham with my hunting dogs and my falcon. I may have pretended I was going on a hunt, but my real aim was to ransom my little brother Wulfnoth and my nephew Hakon. They had been hostages in Normandy long enough. I was so proud of myself back then—so sure I was ready for anything. And just as soon as I set foot on land, my world went to pieces. I could still be languishing in Count Guy's dungeon if it weren't for Duke William's timely intervention. And so, like Scylla and Charybdis, I was caught between the rocky shoal and the whirlpool.
For a while I became William's hostage, as sure as Wulfnoth was. How was I to know that the duke thought himself King Edward's heir, duped by that wily Robert of Jumièges? Who would have thought the archbishop would take such a far-sighted revenge on my family—no, on our whole country—because of his feud with father? I never would have ventured to Normandy if I had known about William's expectations. And once I was caught in his power, I had no choice but to do his bidding. I would have done anything to get away from there.
As soon as William got what he wanted, he let me fly away. But not Wulfnoth. Poor Wulfnoth. The duke of Normandy kept my brother as surety for my wretched oath. Sick at heart for leaving Wulfnoth behind—wondering if I was doing the right thing—I watched the Norman coast recede along with my brother's hopes. What else could I have done? I listened to the boat creak and the water splash in that comforting way which tells us all is well; though in my case this was an illusion. I put my arm around my nephew Hakon's shoulders, chiding myself for wishing it was Wulfnoth standing beside me and not him. But I never had any feelings for Swegn's son and it was too late to change that now. It wasn't Hakon's fault Duke William saw fit to retain my little brother as hostage. Ironically, it was Hakon's good fortune that he had no particular value to anybody.
I should have felt some relief that my mission wasn't a total failure. But I didn't. I may have gained freedom for my nephew, but I may have lost my soul in the process. And my self-respect. How could things have gone so wrong?
No matter whom the witan elects as next king, Edward's successor will have to face Duke William and his remorseless claim. But there was something more that bothered me. Archbishop Robert was friends with King Edward. He had served the king for years, and only left the country because he was forced out of power—by my father, of course. His first act of revenge was to snatch away poor Wulfnoth and Hakon as hostages. His second act was to promise the throne to William. It's possible that he and Edward planned my family's outlawry all along; could it also be that the king really did offer the crown to Duke William? I shuddered to think on it.
And how was I going to ask him? I would have enough trouble explaining myself when I got back to England without seeming to accuse him. What would be the point? As king, Edward could do whatever he pleased. But to give away his country to a foreign ruler? I just didn't see how that was possible. Even Edward had some loyalty toward his subjects. I hope.
Looking back, I would say my troubles with Harold started after he returned from Normandy, back in the late summer of 1064. While Harold was gone, things were so much better. King Edward and I spent a lot of time together, and I'm proud to say he treated me like a close companion. Without my brother's presence, Edward was quite another man; he was more relaxed, he would laugh more and even jest on occasion. Anyway, when Harold returned—already stinging from the trouble his pride had brought him—he made a quiet entrance into the great hall. He took one look at the king and I, drinking together and laughing, and his face turned three shades of red. My sister the queen told me about it later, because at the time I was turned away from him. What I would have given to see my brother's face!
The king looked up and saw Harold, and the change that came over him was immediate. His smile faded, his eyes took on that old guarded expression; his manner turned formal as he stood with a hand out for Harold to kiss. "Welcome back to court," the king said sadly. "You have been sorely missed."
Everyone except Harold could tell that Edward said the exact opposite of what he meant. But of course my brother chose to take him literally. "I am relieved to be back, Sire," he said. "Although I'm sorry to say my mission was only half-accomplished."
Harold had gone to Normandy to retrieve my brother Wulfnoth and our nephew Hakon, held there as hostages for the last twelve years. Edward had advised him against going, but my brother had to play hero, no matter what the cost.
I sat up at his admission. "What happened?" I exclaimed. "Where is our brother?"
I expected some sort of retort from Harold, but he actually hung his head. "Duke William allowed me to bring back Hakon, though he insisted on keeping Wulfnoth. He wanted security against certain promises he extorted from me..."
He trailed off. I jumped to my feet, angrily. "What's that! You left Wulfnoth behind in Normandy?"
That got a reaction from him. "You weren't there, Tostig. I tried my best." He was angry, but something was holding him back.
"And your best wasn't good enough. Poor Wulfnoth! We'll never get him back now."
King Edward put a hand on my arm, nodding for me to contain myself. I turned away.
"Was it such a difficulty, then," he asked Harold, "getting my cousin William to cooperate?" William was more of a second or third cousin to Edward, but our king spoke of the duke with great regard.
"Sire," Harold blurted, rushing his words together, "I must speak to you alone on this matter."
My brother's manner radiated desperation. Despite myself, I watched curiously as he followed the king from the room. My sister and I exchanged glances, and she slipped out after them. Edward never excluded her from his presence—nor indeed, do I think he could have.
Tostig was right. My husband never forgave himself for exiling me to a nunnery when he banished my father back in 1051, even though I think he was glad when father died two years later. Still, there was no denying the injustice of my imprisonment, and ever since then, Edward attempted to atone by admitting me to his presence on any occasion I desired. That is how I was able to witness the emotional scene between Harold and the king, when he confessed to his foul oath to support William's claim to the English throne... Editha
My sister was gone a long time, and the great hall gradually emptied out. When Editha came back she was very pale. She sat down on the throne and I moved to her side, taking her usual chair. She put a hand to her forehead.
"Prepare yourself," she said to me. "I have some very disturbing news."
"He's gone. There is nothing more for him to say right now."
I took her hand. "Tell me."
Editha gave a great sigh. "Edward had warned him not to go. But mayhap it is better this way. At least we know."
She was trying my patience. I forced myself to stay calm.
"About William's designs on the throne. He sees himself as Edward's heir."
I gasped. What was she talking about?
"From what Harold just admitted, Archbishop Robert of Jumièges told him Edward promised the throne, way back after our father's exile. Robert delivered Wulfnoth and Hakon into William's hands as hostages for this promise. All this time, William has schemed for the throne of England."
I was shocked. But then I was puzzled.
"What has this to do with Harold?"
"Our brother fell into William's trap. The duke would not let him leave until he swore an oath to support William's claim. A frightful oath. An oath on the relics of Normandy's saints."
I crossed myself, twice. This was indeed dreadful news. For all of us.
"Harold was lucky to get away," she added. "Hakon was lucky to get away. William kept Wulfnoth as hostage against Harold's promise. Now our brother needs to expiate his sin, for we all know he made that oath in vain. What will happen to poor Wulfnoth?"
No wonder he couldn't face me. We could only hope that Edward would outlive William, which would make Harold's oath moot. Otherwise...well, there was nothing to be done now.
My meeting with the king was just as distressing as I expected it to be. At least he let me tell him alone, with just my sister in tow. I wasn't strong enough to confront Tostig just yet; the few words that passed between us were almost more than I could bear. He has a way of making me uneasy; ever since we were boys, he has always been on the verge of fighting with me, and his sarcasm can be biting.
Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling much better around Edward, but for different reasons. We both remembered his warning when I originally announced my plans. And now I couldn't shake the uncomfortable feeling that even back then, he knew much more than I did about William's secret ambition.
The king offered me a seat; I was glad of it, for my emotions were exhausting me. I looked at the floor, waiting for him to speak. But of course, I was the supplicant here.
"Tell me, Harold," he said finally. His voice was not friendly.
I raised my head.
"Sire, had I known William desired the throne, I never would have crossed the Channel."
That was as close as I dared to make an accusation. I waited for a reaction.
Edward was much better at hiding his feelings since our outlawry. He rubbed his cheek, looking into the distance.
"The throne," he said quietly. "What about the throne?"
Could it be possible he didn't know? I looked at my sister but she shrugged her shoulders.
"Wulfnoth told me," I went on, "that Archbishop Robert made the announcement directly after he left England. With my brother." This was shaky ground, for I don't think Edward ever forgave our victorious return from exile. Many of his Norman friends left the country and never came back. Including Robert, who died a couple of years later. I'm sure Edward was thinking about this as well, but his face betrayed no emotion. I took a deep breath.
"The archbishop told William you wanted him to be your heir. That you sent Wulfnoth and Hakon as hostages to secure your promise."
I stared at the king. He blinked back.
"Do you believe that?" he said finally.
I didn't know. I took a deep breath. "Wulfnoth said Robert told the duke that my father and the other great earls agreed. I certainly don’t believe that!" His question was only half answered. I waited. He didn’t move a muscle. "He said Robert made it all up to wreak revenge on us," I added.
After a moment, Edward nodded as if in agreement. "I will tell you this, Harold. When your father was in exile, Archbishop Robert and I spent a lot of time together, much of it in idle conversation."
He paused so long I thought he was finished. Editha bent over his shoulder.
"No, my dear, Harold deserves to know. You deserve to know. There was a time I mentioned William's name, more as wistful musing than any desire to act on it. I know the witan. William would not be popular in this country. He would understand your customs less than I did."
I didn't know what to say. Where was the truth in this?
"And the hostages?"
He looked away. "They were in Archbishop Robert's charge. I was not involved."
I frowned despite myself. As I suspected, Edward took no responsibility for my brother at all.
"He was so brave." My voice shook. "I hated to leave him behind."
"What exactly happened?"
It was hard to look back at those months. "William treated me well, but I was never left alone. He set guards outside my door at night. He kept me at his side nearly every day. He took me on campaign with him. He even knighted me..." Those words were hard to say and I had to swallow. "When I finally tried to take my leave, he insisted that I do so in front of a grand assembly of nobles and ecclesiastics."
The king pursed his lips but said nothing.
"Sire, he made me swear an oath that I would be his man in England and support his claim to the throne." I put my hands over my face. "He made me swear that I would give him Dover castle so he could garrison it with his own men." Edward gasped.
"There was no other way." My voice was almost pleading with him to understand. "I swore that oath on the bones of his saints, though I did not know it until too late. And I don't even know which saints!"
Edward probably crossed himself, for I heard the swish of his sleeves though I could not bear to uncover my face.
"I forswore myself to gain my freedom," I said, still trying to control my voice. "I took that oath under duress."
Those last words served to calm me, for I truly believed I could stand behind this defense. But when I finally looked at Edward, I was not reassured.
"Your actions will have grave consequences, Harold. I fear for you."
I gasped. He sounded like a reproachful prophet. Or was it my own guilt ringing in my ears?
“..... And do you, Iris Anne Evelyn Wright, take Charles Power, as your lawful wedded husband, for better or worse, in sickness and health and for richer or poorer............”
In the country town of Murrumburrah, Charles and Georgina Power from Cootamundra were seated in the front pew of Saint Paul’s Church of England. This was for the marriage of their son Charles to Iris Anne Evelyn Wright. (Iris’s mother had passed away several years before)
The Prominent stories on page one, of the Cootamundra Herald that morning had read; -
“Mr. Fisher says it will probably be arranged that federal Parliament shall sit in the daytime only, leaving the evenings free.”
“Coadjutor -Archbishop Kelly succeeded Cardinal Moran by right of succession and is now Archbishop of Sydney.”
“The police force in Perth is asking for an increase in pay of Is 6d per 'day on account of the increased cost of living.”
As the sun rose on that beautiful, crisp Saturday morning, no one realised that such a day of joy and hope would be marred in only three more years by sadness and loss. Events developing in Europe would have such a devastating effect on the newlyweds. As the wedding party gathered at the little church, all these other matters were far away from everyone’s thoughts. Today was a day of hope and joy!
The church, on the top of the hill at Murrumburrah, was bursting at the seams. The family had gathered in this picturesque town from throughout the Cootamundra District, and far away. Uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters, they were all there.
As he was waiting at the altar with his elder brother, Edward (who was his best man) for his bride to arrive, Charles looked around at the seated congregation. In the right front row could see his father Charles senior and mother Georgina at either end of the front right pew. Between them were his younger siblings Wallace, Leslie, Austin, Phyllis, and Thomas. Immediately behind them were his other siblings William, James, Thomas, and Georgina.
The next two pews were occupied by Aunt Eliza and Uncle Randal Schofield along with the cousins Ethel, James, Austin, Randall, Herbert Charles, Henry, and Frederick.
The other side of the church was for mainly Iris’s family, – Arthur, Leslie, Thomas, and Dorothy. There was a space left for Albert, who was standing in for Iris’s mother who had passed away twelve years prior.
Iris’s uncles and aunts and a couple of cousins were in the next few pews but, in the excitement, he couldn’t remember their names. He did, however, see Aunt Mary and Uncle Paul Kingston along with their children, James, Thomas, Alice and William, who arrived at the last minute.
His thoughts returned with the arrival of the bridal party. The bride looked radiant! She was followed by the bridal party, comprising Albert Wright, 26 (standing in for Iris’s father) Mary Anne Kingston (Matron of Honor), and Alice Power (bridesmaid). The wedding must have had some effect on Albert because; within two years, the young police constable himself would marry his sweetheart, Ellen O’Brien.
The wedding breakfast was a jovial affair with the younger children playing and getting into all sorts of mischief. Most of the younger cousins enjoyed the time together while; the older boys gathered around and seem to see who could drink the most. The older girls had all helped with the food, and it would be true to say that the feast was one that will be remembered for some time.
No doubt the refreshments for the wedding came from Tooth & Company Limited. And being the brewers of White Horse Ale, they were also wine & spirit merchants and being cordial manufacturers.
Charles and Iris made the perfect couple and in so many of their laid back ways they signified the hope of a new nation. Australia was only eleven years old as a nation. Earlier that year, the site procured for the new Australian Federal House of Parliament a few short miles away to the east in a paddock called, Canberra.
The Power family were genuine pioneers of the district. Private Thomas Power (son of William Power and Honor O’Donnell) was born about 1805 in Ireland. He married Isabella Hastie on the 19th of Sep 1828 in Manchester, England.
He was a member of the 1st /50th (West Kent) Regiment, Queens own of foot. Along with his wife (Isabella) and infant daughter (Jane), he sailed to Sydney aboard the convict ship Hooghly. Shortly after arrival (the 18th of November) at Port Jackson they departed (the 5th of December) for Norfolk Island to take up his new post.
They returned to Sydney on completion of the posting and raised their family before eventually settling in the Cooma area. Their son Edward John Power was born in 1837 in Sydney. He married Mary Ann Chalker (daughter of Joseph Henry Chalker and Eleanor "Ellen" Kelly) in 1858 in Queanbeyan. He died in 1876 in Adaminaby.
Charles Power (son of Edward John Power and Mary Ann Chalker) was born in 1859 in Cooma; He married Georgiana Belcher (daughter of John George Belcher and Frances Fanny Nancarrow) in 1883 in Cooma. She was born on 18th Sep 1864 in Cooma.
Robert Coleman-Wright was born on 2nd January 1824 in Bristall, Leicestershire, England. He married Elizabeth Bennett on 17th June 1850 in Adelaide. Elizabeth had been born on 1st February 1830 in Uxbridge, Middlesex England. She died on 20th September 1916 at Essendon. Victoria; He died in 1893 at Talbot Victoria.
Gilbert Wright was born in 1857 in Amherst Victoria. He married Annie Case (daughter of Henry James Case and Helen Abdy) in 1886 in Junee. She was born on 10th Mar 1869 in Queanbeyan. She died on the 11th of November 1899 in Junee. Gilbert died at Lake Cargellico, on the 30th October 1933.
Iris’s grandmother (Helen Abdy) was the first non-aboriginal child born in Armadale. Helen was descended from Sir Anthony 1st Baronet Abdy.
The newlyweds settled at Cootamundra. By October next year, their family began to grow.
Charles Gilbert Roy Power was the first son and two years later Edward Charles Power arrived. Eight other children followed on in due course.
The new responsibility settled Charles and he was no longer seen drinking as often at the Cootamundra Star hotel and he had steady work with Jack Clarkson. There was one occasion when Charles ran afoul of the law.
The Cootamundra Herald 16th March 1915 reported;-
“Charles Power, jun., was charged with being drunk in Parker. St. on February 6th, 1916, in Cootamundra Court. He was also charged with assaulting Constable Burgess while in the execution of his duty. Mr. McMahon appeared for defendant.
Constable Burgess stated: “At about 10.15 on date, in question I arrested Power rears the Star hotel for being drunk; on the way to the police station the accused struck me on the jaw with his fist; I threw him to the ground and tried to hand cuff him; while on the ground the defendant kicked me on the 'wrist and leg; Constable Cusack came to my assistance, and we handcuffed him”. He then addressed Mr. McMahon, “It was after 10 o'clock; there were a lot of people about at the time; he never denied that he was drunk; he never complained of me twisting his arm, and never tried to pull away; I fell on the ground with accused: Defendant called out to several people in the street to bring a doctor to the station to see if he was drunk.”
Constable Cusack deposed “I saw the defendant at the Star hotel about 10 o’clock on 6th Defendant was drunk; while I was coming down to the lock-up with a man named Glanville I saw defendant hit Constable Burgess; I let Grenville go, and assisted Constable Burgess to put the handcuffs on him.”
To Mr. McMahon: “I was arresting Glanville at the time; I was coming down behind when defendant struck, Constable Burgess; while the constable and accused were in hotel a crowd of people came around the corner; I never heard defendant call out, 'bring a doctor.!”
Constable Stuart deposed: “Accused was very drunk when brought ' to the lock-up; I had previously cautioned him that evening.”
William James Clear deposed: “I remember seeing defendant on the date in question; he was drunk,”
Charles Power, jun., deposed: “I was in town on 6th inst. Constable Stuart did not speak to me that evening before I was arrested; I saw ' Constable Cusack arresting a man;'' I was standing at the hotel door when Constable Burgess caught hold of my hand, and -said, -'You come along with me too'; I asked why? And he said, 'You, are drunk'; while coming along he twisted my arm behind my back; I tried to pull away; 1 did not strike Constable Burgess; his head bumped my hand; I did not kick at the' constable while we were on the ground; Constable Cusack came and cuffed me; I had been talking business to Jack Clarkson for some time, and after that to two ladies.”
To Senior-Sargent Suprex : “I was at the Star hotel from 10.30; Constable Stuart did not caution me; I was perfectly sober all the time; I wanted the doctor to prove that 1 was not drunk; I have been locked up before for drunkenness.”
Jack Clarkson deposed: “Charles has been working for me lately; I met defendant at the Star hotel, and paid him his wages; he was sober: it was between 9.30 and 10 p.m.”
Leo Clarkson deposed: “I saw defendant at the Star Hotel 'about 10 p.m.; he was sober then; I was in there when the defendant was arrested.”
Charles was convicted on both charges for drunkenness he was fined 20/, and for assault, he was fined £3. Fourteen days was allowed to pay.
Iris was not impressed!
As Iris’s mother had passed on, she also had taken on the responsibility of caring and guiding her sister and brothers who had also moved close by.
Charles’s parents were alive, and all of his siblings lived in the surrounding district. Charles Snr. was away droving a fair amount of the time but his wife Georgina, was a beacon for the family and was always on hand to assist Iris, whenever help was needed
In the Riverina the years of 1911 – 1914 were idyllic. The weather was great, and no one had a care in the world.
Arthur Wright thought he was the head of the family (at least he told his younger siblings and cousins such. He did concede that Albert was older, but as he was in the police force in Sydney, Arthur was the man in charge.)
As the younger boys grew into manhood, they chose their profession with gusto and hope.
By 1914 the world was changing!
1914 - War Clouds gather over Europe
Britain was still regarded as the mother country, as the majority of the Australians at the time were descended from British and Irish convicts. There was nothing more important as the British Commonwealth in the psychic of most Australians of the time, although there seemed to be a distrust of the British hierarchy.
The immediate trigger for war was the 28th of June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. This set off a diplomatic crisis when Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia, and international alliances formed over the previous decades were invoked. Within weeks, the major powers were at war and the conflict soon spread around the world.
On the 28th of July, the Austro-Hungarians declared war on Serbia and subsequently invaded as Russia mobilised in support of Serbia, Germany invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg before moving towards France, leading Britain to declare war on Germany.
On the 30th of July, 1914, a cablegram in secret cipher from the British Government to the Government of Australia informed it that there was imminent danger of war.
On the 4th August, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Australia pledged a force of twenty thousand to be placed at Britain's disposal. Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, declared that Australia would support Great Britain in the war against Germany'... .to the last man and the last shilling.
The nation awoke on the 6th August 1914 to read in the Sydney Morning Herald;
“A state of war exists between Great Britain and Germany.”
“The Austrians attacked the Servians at Semendria, and were repulsed with heavy losses.”
“The churches are packed with people praying for the success of the army.”
“The Prime Minister officially announced yesterday that war had broken out between Great Britain and Germany.”
“With a view to establishing a mobile reserve, it has been decided to mobilise the 8th Infantry Brigade.”
“The 16th Infantry Battalion will furnish a reserve for the defence of Newcastle.”
“Three thousand professional unionist musicians have offered for active service in Australia. “
“The Governor-General has received a message from the King, expressing his appreciation of the messages from the Dominions.”
There was no doubt that life in Australia was going to change!
Australia goes to War
By August 1914 Voluntary recruitment for the Australian Imperial Force (A.I.F.) commenced and the Australian Red Cross was established to raise funds to purchase comfort supplies for Australian service personnel overseas.
The formation of variously named 'patriotic funds' in all States to raise money to send extra food and clothing to service personnel overseas were established
In September the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) seized German New Guinea and nearby German-ruled island territories.
C.E.W. Bean was appointed as Australia's official war correspondent in October 1914.
So much happened so quickly and November saw the first division of the Australian Imperial Force (A.I.F.) sailed from Albany, Western Australia, for Egypt. HMAS Sydney sank the German cruiser, Emden, at the Cocos Islands, Indian Ocean.
For Australia, the war had commenced!
A Family Goes to War
At the outbreak of war the family boys were:
• Edward Power, 30, was married to Adele and worked as a general labourer.
• Charles (often referred to as Jerry) Power, 29, was married to Iris, had 2 children and worked as a labourer
• Albert Wright, 27, was a police constable in Sydney
• Leslie Wright, 24, was a grazier and was married to Myrtle
• Austin Schofield, 22, was a labourer
• William Henry Power, 21, worked as a labourer with his father
• Thomas Kingston, 20, was a Tailor’s Apprentice
• Arthur Wright, 19, was an Engineer
• Austin Power, 16, just started work as a Compositor with the local printer.
• Thomas Wright, 16, was a Jockey
• James Power, 15, was still at school
• Thomas Power, 13, was still at school
• Wallace Power, 9, was still at school
Austin Schofield was the first family member to answer the call. On Thursday the 17th of June 1915, Austin made his way to Liverpool to enlist (at this stage there were no facilities to join the forces outside the capital cities). He was assigned to the 8th reinforcement company of the 2nd Battalion A.I.F.
Seven days later on the 24th of June William Power was to enlist with the 8th reinforcement company of the 1st Battalion A.I.F. He was given the regimental number of 2893.
Arthur Wright was the next to enlist. On the 9th of August, he joined the 11th reinforcement Company of the 1st field engineers.
The following day Austin Schofield embarked on the troopship, HMAT Runic A54 for Gallipoli.
Ten days later (on the 18th of August 1915) young Austin Power was down at the newly opened recruitment office at Cootamundra. With his brother and two cousins already enlisted and with the opening of a recruitment office at Cootamundra, Austin decided to quit his job as a compositor with a local printer and enlisted.
He was sent to the 12th reinforcement company of the 4th Battalion A.I.F., outside of Liverpool where he was to commence his training.
Austin was only 17½ when he enlisted, and it took his mother (Georgiana) by shock when she found out a couple of weeks later what had happened.
She drew her breath and drafted this letter on the 28th of September requesting that the Army releases him from military duties due to him being underage.
Dear Sir, I am sorry, but I must object about my son Austin Power being in camp on active service as he is under the age of eighteen. He was seventeen last August, and I don’t see how the doctor passed him as he is a cripal(sic) in one foot – through burns when a child and has been treated for a ?????? and has been under a doctor for the last two years for a weak heart. I know that every boy should go that is of age and I have one son gone and a son-in-law, a brother and two nephews so I want you to give Austin his discharge and if you would oblige and don’t tell him that I objected as he would be very much upset. Just tell him that he is not fit for the army as I am sure he is not and I must object to him going until he is eighteen. You will oblige.
Mrs. C Power Cooper St.
It is interesting to note that during that period; the army did not ask for date of birth. Instead, all they asked was his age and where he was born. By 1917 this had changed and on the enlistment papers a new line, asking for date of birth, was added.
On the 7th of October, the army discharged him, and he returned to Cootamundra. As he had left his job, he had to find new employment. His family left Cootamundra in 1917 and moved to Marrickville and Austin became a glassworker in the local area.
William Power completed his basic training at Liverpool before he joined His Majesties Troop Ship A8 Argyllshire. It set sail for Egypt on the last day of September. Arthur Schofield had already left eight weeks prior on the HMAT A54 Runic.
Whenever a troopship, with any member of the family, departed, Constable Albert Wright always attempted to see his brothers or cousins sail off to war. Iris often joined him and where possible, spent time with them before their sailing.
Troopships travelled in a convoy with battleships for protection. Submarines were now an added threat, so convoys had to adopt new formations and changing patterns to elude the enemy.
The ships that were used for transport were owned by steamship companies (they were requisitioned by the government who paid a daily rate for them). Others were former German cargo ships, seized at the beginning of hostilities.
They were specially outfitted by the government to meet their new wartime role. This included increased numbers of berths; often in cargo holds. Conditions on board were cramped, to say the least. The lower decks were hurriedly fitted out with mess tables and hammocks and resembled large overcrowded barrack rooms.
Their quarters were all the way forward in the first hold. Having to sleep in hammocks William was pleasantly surprised to find they were very comfortable. It was his first experience of a hammock as it was with most of his comrades.
Shipboard life comprised drills, exercise sessions, games and sports that were all taken in shifts along with guard duties, and even mealtimes.
Weekly Sunday services were held on the deck. It was during one of these services they were told the on board death of one of the soldiers from illness.
A funeral service was held aboard the Shropshire, and the whole convoy of ships stopped out of respect.
It occurred to him how a vastly different experience of death in wartime was. They knew nothing about visions of death that most of them would face in the coming months.
John Arnold and Lily Smoot sat on a bench in the Santa Fe Plaza early that evening....
He looked at her in the dim light. “What are you doing running around with guys like Cummings and Damours, Lily?”
“Cummings is a U.S. Marshal, John. And I wasn’t running around with Damours. We were chasing him. What’s your point?”
“Cummings is not much of a Marshal and you know it, Lil. Is it true you worked in the Nevada brothels?”
She looked up at his face. Clearly his feelings had been hurt.
“Yes, John. When I left Utah, I looked into all the political and military and business management jobs open to teenage girls, but they were all filled. I didn’t meet any guys like you who were single and sitting around that I could safely live off, so I got a job where I could save some money.”
She looked closely and caught his scowl. “John, you're married, and unless you’re offering to adopt me or to start taking care of me, I have to look out for myself. And for my ranch.”
He looked down at her. For the first time ever, he hugged her. “I’m sorry, Lil. You’re right. It might not be appropriate, but I care about you and want to see you succeed.”
She stood up. Bent down to him and kissed him gently.
“Appropriate,” she said, “Is overrated.”
Bruno runs to the platform between the train cars chasing Jack and smashes him across his face with the big pistol. Jack falls back against the rail separating the cars and slumps to the steel floor. The train lurches and Bruno stumbles backward against the door trying to keep his balance. He grabs the door to steady himself and charges back toward Jack. The train slows and then speeds up as it crests a hill. Bruno stumbles on the uneven steel plates of the platform. He is off balance again and comes toward Jack with his head down and his arms outstretched to catch his fall. Jack pulls his knees to his chest, his feet catch Bruno in the stomach. Using Bruno’s own momentum, Jack pushes his legs up and vaults Bruno’s helpless bulk over the rail. The scream abruptly stops as he plummets under the thundering steel wheels.
Maddy bursts through the door and helps Jack to his feet.
“I was sure he was going to shoot you Jack, he seemed to go over the railing in slow motion and then get sucked under the train. That was awful but I could not take my eyes away.”
Jack puts his arms around Maddy and hugs her to him tightly. “It’s ok now baby, we need to think about getting off this thing before we get to the next station. We can’t be far from the border now. We’re coming into another turn let me see if I can see what’s up ahead.”
As the train goes around the turn, Jack can see past the line of cars.
“We are going up another hill with a turn at the top of it. The train will be going pretty slow as it makes the turn. It looks like a hay field on the outside of the turn. That should make for a pretty soft landing. Make sure you clear the road bed.”
Maddy looks down as the countryside flashes by at what seems to her to be an impossible speed. She looks back at Jack with her eyes wide. “What, Jack? Do you think I am going to jump from this train?”
“We’re gonna have to jump off this thing. Don’t think about it, just jump when I tell you. Let’s go, Maddy. Roll when you hit the ground. Come on, get ready it’s slowing down. Jump!”
“Everybody came to the stable not only to celebrate our marriage, but the end of the terrible years of war. In my excitement I wasn’t hungry enough to do the meal justice but my eyes feasted on the spread. I couldn’t remember when I had last seen such an amount of dishes: plates of ham, preserves of walnuts, zucchini, aubergines and mushrooms, wild salad leaves from the meadows, sprinkled with grated truffles, roasted pigeons, pork, chickens and a whole boar. The wine flowed, faces grew redder, jokes became bawdier and then the music started. My father lifted his accordion onto his shoulder and after a rusty start, the music sang into the air. The planks that had served as tables were cleared from their supports, the leftovers tidied away into baskets to be carried home by our guests and the dancing started.
‘You’ll have to show me the steps,’ my husband whispered to me as we moved into the empty circle of smiling faces. ‘The dances are different from the ones I know.’
He clutched onto me as if he was about to fall and our first waltz wasn’t as smooth as it could have been, but it didn’t matter as the floor soon filled up with other dancers and we were swept round the room.
‘Thirsty work, this dancing,’ Norman stopped and a couple bumped into us. ‘And my leg is hurting.’ He led me from the dance floor to the corner of the stable where most of the men were congregated round barrels of wine. Some of them were already unsteady on their feet and they clapped him on the shoulders, congratulating him and pumping his hand up and down again. I watched him knock back a couple of beakers and then I joined Mamma. Just for today she had changed out of her black mourning clothes, worn since Davide’s death, but her best Sunday frock of blue polka dot hung off her and her face was sad. As I went over, she patted the empty chair beside her and I took her hand in mine. The music was too loud for talk but we both understood what lay in our hearts.”
Norman and I were escorted to our bedroom with songs and laughter. The bed was strewn with flowers and my mother had laid out her best nightdress for me on the pillow.
‘Carry her in, Norman, carry her in,’ our guests shouted.
Norman was embarrassed too and whispered that he couldn’t wait for them to leave, to be alone with me. But when we were on our own, I was suddenly afraid, remembering my mother’s words by the river.
‘I’ll leave you for a few minutes, Ines,’ Norman said.
He closed the door and I undressed, shivering a little in the cooler night air. I lowered the flame on the lamp and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. There had been no mirror in the bedroom I had shared with Nonna and I had never seen my naked reflection. My breast were full and the triangle of hair between my legs was obvious in the gloomy light.”
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