Search this blog

Tuesday 26 May 2020

๐Ÿ“š Segment 2: Mudlarks and the Silent Highwayman - Alan M. Clark

Welcome to the second segment in the serialisation of Mudlarks and the Silent Highwayman, an Illustrated Novelette by (, IFD Publishing, 69 pages). A story of hope enduring in the midst of illness and death.

If you missed the first segment, you can catch up, find out more about the story, its serialisation and Alan M. Clark here.

|| Synopsis || Segments: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 || About the Author ||

      “Since we both spotted the cloth about the same time,” Albert said, “it’s only fair we share what it earns.”
      “You did your best, I suppose,” Turvey said with a smirk.
      Despite the loss of the canvas sack, Albert had enjoyed having the help and the companionship, something he rarely had in scavenging. “What if we got the others—all of us scavengers—to search the river together, then shared the profits of what we found? We’d do better than we each do alone, guarding our secrets.”
      Turvey screwed up his face, glared at Albert with his one good eye. “Start with that and you’ll see Hardly’s family taking charge,” he said. “Our freedom will be gone. There’ll be those seeking favor and we’ll end up with quotas hard to meet. That’s what the guttersnipes as run with kidsmen suffer. You want to go up against George Hardly, or worse, each day?”

"No End of Trouble": click here to purchase the original drawings by Alan M. Clark
      George Hardly caused no end of trouble along the north bank near Limehouse. He was tall for his thirteen years, skeletally thin, yet strong; a cruel boy with a burn scar making a knotty burl out of the cheek on the right side of his face. Stories went about that his father, a tosher and bone grubber, regularly beat him with a leather strap, and had disfigured the boy’s face while in a drunken rage.
      A week earlier, Hardly had snuck up on Albert, swept his legs out from under him, kicked him in the gut, and taken a modest find: the half-rotten remains of a mongrel. Unable to get up, Albert had writhed in pain in the sand and gravel. Hardly leaned over him, put his scowling, scarred face too close to Albert’s. “Won’t be long,” he growled, “you want to search this part of the river, you’ll all be working for me. I’ll get a piece of everything you and the others find.”
      Albert kept a wary eye out to avoid further contact with the bully boy. Just the day before, he’d experienced a withering feeling in his gut—an echo of the pain the older boy had inflicted—as Hardly’s eyes found him from some distance away along the foreshore. Engaged in threatening another boy at the time, the bully hadn’t followed as Albert fled, climbing the bank toward the street.
      Hardly did not own that part of the river yet, but it seemed only a matter of time before he did. He had older brothers who plundered barges in the night and sold the stolen goods through local family people.
      “No,” Turvey continued, “we’re better off going our separate ways so the Hardly’s can’t keep up.” He pulled the blue linen cloth from his leather bucket, spread it out, and folded it in half more carefully.
      Albert could see what he meant, and nodded his agreement, yet that must not have been enough.
      “You have some foolish notions,” Turvey said, pulling out a clasp knife.
      Albert stepped back, thinking he’d lost his share of the cloth and his new friend.
      “Goodwill is fine for the well-to-do,” Turvey said. “I need a mate what’s hard enough to defend his own.” He cut the cloth with the knife along the fold, handed one half to Albert, then turned and walked off with the other.
      Dumbfounded, yet relieved their disagreement hadn’t come to blows or worse, Albert watched him go. Then outrage made him call out, “We’d’ve got more selling it in one piece.”
      Turvey didn’t respond.
      I’d have done better to insult him more.
      Friends and loyalties were difficult on the banks of the Thames. Mostly boys between the ages of seven and fifteen, the Mudlarks were secretive creatures protecting territories, each a solitary sort of child. Like Albert, they were from families one step away from destitution. All the children he knew did some sort of work to contribute income to their family households. Even the children fortunate enough to go to the Ragged Schools did some sort of piecework at night. Among such poor children on the river banks, the competition, good-natured or otherwise, was to be expected.
      I should harden my heart if I want more friends, he thought. The idea seemed to go against an effort to find and keep companions, but he decided he’d have to consider it even so.
      Albert expected he wouldn’t be speaking or spending time with Turvey again for a long while. Already within the year, he’d lost two good friends to fever. A familiar loneliness grew in his breast.

Mudlarks and the Silent Highwayman copyright © 2020 Alan M. Clark

Come back tomorrow for the third segment of Mudlarks and The Silent Highwayman, or purchase your electronic or paperback copy from...

purchase from purchase from purchase from Barnes & Noble purchase from Kobo UK purchase from iTunes UK purchase from Smashwords find on Goodreads

(The price for the paperback will be reduced to $7.95 on starting on the 29th of May)

No comments: