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Sunday 31 May 2020

๐Ÿ“š Segment 7: Mudlarks and the Silent Highwayman - Alan M. Clark

Welcome to the seventh segment in the serialisation of Mudlarks and the Silent Highwayman, an Historical Supernatural Illustrated Novelette by (, IFD Publishing, 69 pages).

A story of hope enduring in the midst of illness and death in 1884 Victorian London, by the filthy river Thames, through the eyes of a young mudlark who is trying to do his best for himself and his sick mother.

We are half-way!

If you missed the previous segments, you can catch up, find out more about the story, its serialisation and Alan M. Clark here, or jump to the segment you missed by using the links below.

I hope you are enjoing the story as much as we did! Here is segment 7.

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

      Albert found a fitful slumber. He tossed and turned through much of the night. During a dream of scavenging the wreck of the wherry, he knew himself to be partly awake. In that half-dream, he found beautiful porcelain, and a shilling amidst the silt near the boat’s prow. He seized upon that vision of discovery, reliving it several times in an effort to give substance to the hope it seemed represent. Each time the discovery was a little different; the porcelain became table silver; the single shilling became two, then the coins became gold sovereigns.
      A rumbling gut and a memory of something Papa had said about gold brought him fully awake for a moment. Albert turned to face the wall as he remembered. His father had been drunk and ranting angrily. “Gold has no worth but what the fancy of men give it. Those in the upper classes, though they have the advantage, they are not truly our betters.”
      What an odd notion, Albert had thought at the time. Must be the drink—everyone knows gold is valuable.
      Returning to his half-dream, he saw George Hardly approaching the wreck. Albert crouched down among the rushes, fearing he might have been seen. He scooped up a handful of mud to throw at Hardly if necessary, and held his breath, watching silently. The older boy seemed unwilling to look directly toward the area of the white lead works drain. He gave it a wide berth and moved on along the curve of the muddy foreshore.
      Albert plucked the coins— now three gold sovereigns—out of the silt near the prow of the wherry, placed them in the hidden pocket inside the buttoned waistband of his breeches, and hurried away.

"The Hope of the Salvage": click here to purchase the original drawings by Alan M. Clark
      Half awake, he knew the vision to be pure fancy. Still, the sense of hope it gave allowed him to ignore the misery of his situation.
      Since his mother no longer made an effort to keep from fouling the bed, Albert also allowed himself to let go his bowels as he lay there. He would help Mum clean the mattress ticking and stuff it with fresh straw later. For a short time, he found deeper slumber.

The Silent Highwayman’s Doings

      Fully awake at last as morning light entered the sooty window of their lodgings, Albert rocked in the damp, chilly bedclothes, unable to gather the will to rise. Finally, the wetness beneath him and the malodorous night air in the bed drove him to his feet. Although he felt worse than he had the night before—truly wrung out—Albert had to find his strength. With Mum down with illness, providing the daily victuals fell to him.
      Again, he thought resentfully of his father.
      Even if he were about, he’d be no help. Good riddance.
      Mum remained asleep, lying on her back. She slept so peacefully, even her usual soft snoring had ceased. Her lower left leg hung over the edge of the mattress. Albert lifted the stiff gray limb and placed it back in the bed. Her skin felt cold to his touch. Trying not to disturb her for fear that she’d keep him from leaving, he pulled the untidy bed clothes over her, tucking them up around her shoulders and down around her dry feet.
      A hollow ache in his gut told him to eat, but they had nothing left. Just as well—he had to make his salvage, sell what he could, hopefully earn enough to buy some meat or fish. He would eat later.
      His muscles moving with reluctance, Albert removed his sodden nightshirt and dressed himself for the day. Fluid ran down his legs and into his shoes as he opened the door. Thinking of the embarrassment he would experience if anyone saw he’d wet his breeches gave him little pause. He stepped from the lodgings and staggered along Narrow Street, then south on Bridge Road.

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

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