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Friday 5 June 2020

๐Ÿ“š Segment 12: Mudlarks and the Silent Highwayman - Alan M. Clark

Thank you for joining us for the twelfth 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.

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.

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

      Albert made it to firmer ground, picked up speed, only to stumble on something in his path. Falling, he rolled and lifted himself quickly to his feet.
      Albert saw what had tripped him—Papa’s winning smile, half-submerged in the muck. Mud had oozed into the open mouth, slid in a smear across the uneven teeth, but Albert would recognize that grin anywhere.
      He reached—he had to help if his father were somehow trapped alive under the mud.

"DrawingTitle": click here to purchase the original drawings by Alan M. Clark
      Upon touching his father’s lips, he knew his mother’s feelings for the man, their history together.
      She’d become pregnant while unwed. Her family, too poor to feed another hungry child, turned her out in the street. Mum had a meager income working as a cardroomer at a fearnought mill. She could barely afford lodgings of her own. Soon to be a mother needing an income more than ever, she’d fallen under the thumb of the mill’s overlooker, a cruel man named Ganloff.
      Papa competed for fares at the Kidney Stairs in Limehouse, very near the fearnought mill. At midday, he’d take a break, purchase food from a street vendor, and have a stroll while eating. On one of those walks, he found Mum in the alley that ran beside the fearnought mill, hiding behind a stack of crates, her hands covering her face.
      “Come, share my bread and cheese,” he’d said. “You appear to be eating for two, though you’re very thin.”
      He coaxed her out of her hiding place, took care to gain her trust, and asked for her story.
      “I’m too ashamed to tell it,” she said, her red-rimmed eyes downcast.
      Papa gave her a gentle smile, said, “There’s nothing that unburdens one so much as telling the worst to a willing stranger. Should you trust me, whatever it is, I shan’t think the less of you for it.”
      She did not confide in him on that day.
      With his smile and good humor, he lifted her heart and she laughed many times during their first meal together. They met in the alley at midday many times over the following month.
      One day, she placed her hands on her swollen belly and said, “When the father found out I were knapped, he left me and went to sea. Mr. Ganloff found out, said should I want to keep my position, I’d please him and his three brothers. All are scurfs here at the mill. No one disobeys them. Some of the women they command are pimped on the street. Once the baby comes, that’s where they’ll send me.”
      Papa courted Mum briefly. Already friends, true affection drew them even closer. He asked for Mum’s hand. She quit the mill and married him before young Albert was born. Mum had asked Albert Gladwick senior if she could give his name to her boy.
      He loved me and raised me as his own.
      He saved Mum from the street! No wonder she’d forgive him anything.
      Along with the revelations of Mum’s past came the understanding that she had died in the night. Passing on, she’d dropped his father’s smile on the foreshore. Though the flesh felt real, somehow Albert knew the grin to be mere memory.
      Distracted by the experience, consumed by his feelings of loss, Albert had forgot briefly about the one approaching in the boat. Sudden realization of the need to flee forced a gulping breath that brought back the panic.
      He wiped away his tears, looked out over the water, and saw that the Silent Highwayman had drawn closer, not a hundred yards away.
      Albert got up ran again. Deeper mud confounded his steps and sucked away his energy. Still, he plodded on, moving away from the water. Periodically looking back, he saw that the river remained beside him—he could not put distance between himself and the water, nor between himself and the one in the boat.

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

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