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Monday 1 June 2020

๐Ÿ“š Segment 8: Mudlarks and the Silent Highwayman - Alan M. Clark

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

It's 1884 Victorian London on the busy and sewage-ridden Thames, which is also the source of small treasures for the poorest children in the City, the mudlarks.' Mudlarks and the Silent Highwayman is a story of hope enduring in the midst of illness and death.

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.

Trivia: the mud of the river Thames is anaerobic (de-oxygenated) which means that objects thrown or lost in the river are well preserved. Over 90% of the Museum Of London's medieval metals collection comes from modern mudlarks, and, over the last 30 years, the museum has acquired over 90,000 objects recovered from the River Thames foreshore which is the longest archaeological site in Britain.

Enjoy the continuation of Mudlarks and the Silent Highwayman!

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

      The Thames had made Albert ill again. Even as he struggle to return to the water’s edge, he bore the shame of having brought the sickness from the river to Mum as well.
      Common wisdom said that illness came from bad smells, those of the river and the night air of privies and the countless other places of rot and decay. Some said that illnesses didn’t come from bad odors and instead from creatures in the water so small they couldn’t be seen. Albert’s few attempts to imagine such beings, were not frightening enough to be believable.

"Aquatykes": click here to purchase the original drawings by Alan M. Clark
      He might have blamed the grundylows, but had somehow decided they were pure make-believe.
      No, the sickness is the Silent Highwayman’s doings, he thought, trying unsuccessfully to cast aside his feeling of guilt.
      A few who saw him struggling along the street gave concerned looks, yet nobody stopped to ask after his welfare. He didn’t expect any attention or help. So many children wandered the streets, ragged, ill, neglected, and unwanted. At least he had his Mum.
      Albert passed the Limehouse Basin, crossed over two locks, took a right into Cuba Street, headed for the West India Docks Pier.
      With little distance to go before reaching the path that led down to the water’s edge, he heard, “Little boy!”
      The voice came from behind him. He twisted his stiff neck around to see George Hardly emerging from between two warehouses about a hundred yards away.
      Albert hurried forward, his throat clenching on dryness as he tried to swallow, the pulse in his throat suddenly rapid, his head clearing even as he felt a separation from his body.
      “Where are you going?” Hardly shouted. “Stop, or you’ll be sorry.”
      The sound of rapid footsteps came from behind.
      Having taken that trek so many times in recent days, Albert was able to move in an unthinking manner, somehow keeping his frantic feet under him. He dreaded the twenty-foot climb down the steep embankment beside the pier almost as much as he feared George Hardly catching up. If he got to the water, he might hide among the stumps of old pilings beneath the pier.
      A group of laborers parted to allow Albert to stumble past on the footway. Shortly after, Hardly’s rapid steps ended abruptly and with a short outburst, as if bodies had collided.
      “You want to take more care,” someone said in anger.
      “Out of my way,” came Hardly’s voice.
      “He’s got a knife!” came another voice.
      “Yeah, but it’s such a little one,” came a third, with a scoffing chuckle.
      Albert didn’t look back. Where the cobblestones of Cuba Street ran out, he dodged to the left around the iron pier, slowed, and started down the eroded bank seam.
      “Let me by,” Hardly shouted, then came the sounds of a scuffle and a sharp cry.
      Albert tried to take more care with his steps. Some of the loose granite cobbles of the road had tumbled partway down the steep incline and become wedged in the seam long ago, providing footholds. Albert put his weight on one and it gave way. He rolled sideways, hit the rough dirt to his left, and tumbled forward ten feet through the air.
      Landing headfirst on the dense sand at the river’s edge, he heard a loud crack in his neck and shoulder, and the world around him lost some of its color, everything going gray as he became still.

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

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