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Sunday 7 June 2020

๐Ÿ“š Segment 14: Mudlarks and the Silent Highwayman - Alan M. Clark

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

The story of our little Victorian mudlark is drawing to a close.

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 got to his feet. “Perhaps I do have someone waiting, but I haven’t any chink.”
      “A coin of any sort will do,” Alice said, “even a farthing.”
      Albert searched. His hip pockets held nothing but gullyfluff.
      Frustrated, he looked past Alice, saw George Hardly about twenty yards away. He’d come up quietly, possibly listening.
      “Perhaps the ferryman is here for him,” Albert said. His heart sank at the thought.
      Alice turned to look at Hardly. “Oh, yes, I’d forgot,” she said. “He awaits payment. Do you have coin, boy?”
      Hardly approached cautiously. “No,” he said. “To cross the river?”
      “Yes,” Albert said.
      “They put pennies on my grandfather’s eyes, someone said to pay…” the older boy began, fear growing in his eyes. “Are we…? Did I…?”
      No, Albert thought, don’t say the words. I cannot face it if I hear the words.
      Thankfully, Hardly didn’t finish. He shook as if he might shed his troubling thoughts.
      “There must be something,” Alice said. “He would not have come. I were with a girl when she found a memory of a coin. She let me touch it. The coin was the first earned by a man who became rich, a memory of how he’d built his fortune from humble beginnings. I believe he dropped it on the foreshore as he boarded the ferry. The ferryman came for the girl after she found it.”
      “Sir,” Hardly said, turning to the one in the boat. “Would you take me to Limehouse? I’ve suffered grievous harm, and must get home.”
      The stoney figure remained stock-still, his hand held out.
      Albert turned back to Alice.“Mere remembrance brought forth coin?”

"He Awaits Payment": click here to purchase the original drawings by Alan M. Clark
      “Yes,” she said. “The rich man’s coin were like the soldier’s ship, a memory.”
      The mudlark in Albert still sorted between things that should be taken up because they had worth and those to be ignored as worthless. He had been taught that fancies, hopes, and dreams had less value than what might be found in sooth. Yet, considering all that had happened that day, the boundary between actual experience and what occurred within his mind’s eye had become mirky. He wasn’t at all certain he’d awakened from his dream of the night before.
      In that dream he’d found gold sovereigns at the wreck of the wherry. He’d placed the coins in the hidden pocket of his breeches.
      “Gold has no worth but what the fancy of men give it,” his father had once said.
      Against all reason, Albert ran his hand along the waistband of his breeches, trying to make it look like he merely pulled them up in case he was wrong.
      He felt cold metal disks through the fabric.
      How? I didn’t wear my breeches to bed! The foolishness of the thought nearly brought on a laugh, but he held it back.
      Three coins, more than I need to pay the ferryman.
      He might give one to Alice. She was deserving. But Hardly?
      Albert considered the lesson he’d learned from dealing with Turvey, the one about hardening his heart.
      If Hardly sees the gold, will he try to rob me? I could board the boat, leave them both behind. I might need the chink where I’m going.
      Albert withdrew the coins, keeping them palmed and hidden. He looked warily at the older boy.
      A scared child, George Hardly stood with a forlorn look, holding the hole in his chest with his right hand. He wasn't frightening anymore.
      No, a hard heart will get me nothing but the same from others.
      Albert stepped up to him and held out a gold sovereign.
      Hardly’s scarred features twisted grotesquely, but not toward the cruelty they had so often displayed. His brows bunched upward, and his chin quaked. A tear slid from his left eye, as he said, “Thank you.”
      Albert offered Alice a coin. looking at the gold in his hand, glinting warmly in the gloom, she stood taller. Color returned to her face. Alice’s delighted features became youthful.
      “He did not come for you alone!” she said with a giggle.
      Boarding the boat, she dropped a dented oil can Albert had not seen in her possession. She seemed unaware that she’d done so. Similarly, Hardly left behind a blood-stained leather strap.
      Stepping into the boat, and paying his fare, Albert wondered briefly what he might have dropped. He didn’t turn to look back.
      Mere recollection of dream-stuff from the hope of his greatest find—the clinker-built wherry washed up on the foreshore of the Isle of Dogs—the gold had the worth Albert’s fancy gave it, enough to pay the fare for all three.
"Three Coins": click here to purchase the original drawings by Alan M. Clark
Mudlarks and the Silent Highwayman copyright © 2020 Alan M. Clark

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Alan M. Clark said...

So many thanks!!!

BooksChatter said...

Our pleasure, Alan!