Knowl Park - Introduction Part 1

[CENTER]Introduction Part 1[/CENTER]

Philip’s parents were Albert and Sarah Marsden. Albert’s father had been a carpenter and very proud of his son who had won a scholarship when he was ten to become a day boarder at a prestigious school. Upon matriculation, Albert had secured a position as a junior clerk in a medium sized bank. Over several decades he had risen to become the manager of the now much larger bank.
Sarah was the daughter of a farmer called Thomas Stafford.
Albert and Sarah met when Thomas came to the bank to do business and brought his sixteen-year-old daughter along so that she could go shopping in the town afterwards. Albert, who was twenty-two by then, was assigned to “keep an eye on the country girl” whilst the Chief Clerk dealt with her father.
Thomas usually visited the bank once or twice a month with Sarah, and over the years love blossomed between her and Albert. They began courting and eventually married when Sarah was twenty. After the honeymoon they went to live with Albert’s parents in their small mid-terrace town house.

When their first child was born, they called him Kenneth.
A few months later they bought their first home; an end terraced house not far from the canal near the centre of town, with the help of both sets of parents and a loan arranged by the Chief Clerk at Albert’s bank
Five years after that, their second son was born and they called him Philip.

Albert moved his family to the country when Philip was three and his brother was eight, after unexpectedly inheriting the Knowl Park Estate upon the death of Albert’s widowed and childless Great Uncle Victor, whom he had not seen since he was ten years old.
The estate included a small number of tenant farms and several cottages with sitting tenants, as well as a moderately large manor house complete with staff.
Albert was a decent man and had been instilled with a sense of duty and fair play by his parents, so the first thing he did upon taking up residence at the manor was to visit all his newly acquired employees and tenants to assure them that they would be kept on and not evicted or made to find other work.
The family had moved from a modest terraced house near where Albert worked to this huge by comparison farm estate, next to a large village a mile or so from the outskirts of the town where they had previously lived. It was a major physical and social change for all the family, and the boys loved it.
As they grew up, they explored the manor, the estate, and the farms; they scaled trees, swam in the lake, made friends with children from the village, made friends with the animals, searched for secret tunnels that were rumoured to be in and around the manor house, and generally enjoyed their new found freedom.

A month after they moved in, the Marsden family were invited to visit their neighbours on the much larger Wardle Estate that bordered their property. There they met Lord and Lady Wardle and their only child Charlotte, who was a few months younger than Philip.
The two children hit it off straight away and over the years became firm friends. They would meet and play at Knowl Manor, or Wardle Mansion, but best of all was when the weather was fine and they were allowed to play outdoors.
Kenneth would join them occasionally, but mostly he preferred to play with his own friends and pursue his own interests.

Sir Charles Wardle was a domineering man and expected his daughter to be a lady, whereas she preferred to be a tomboy, even though she had never heard of the word. In the mansion, Charlotte was under the strict control of her governess, a very straight-laced-woman appropriately called Mrs Grimm.
Actually, Mrs Grimm wasn’t as bad as she seemed, but had to give the appearance of being strict and forcing Charlotte to conform to her employer’s wishes, lest she lose this well-paid position.
When Sir Charles wasn’t about, Mrs Grimm was much more relaxed and allowed Charlotte to do some of the things she preferred to do as long as she did her school studies first.
As the two children grew up, they explored their homes and played games amongst the fields and woods, both climbed trees and made a rope swing in one of them, skimmed stones across the water, and simply enjoyed themselves as children should.

© December 2020

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[CENTER]Introduction Part 2[/CENTER]

When they grew older, the two friends had less time to play together, especially after Sir Charles sent Charlotte away to a boarding school.
To the two friends it didn’t matter if they were apart for a day, a month, or half a year. When they met again, they just picked up their friendship wherever they had left off.

Albert provided financial support for the neighbouring village school enabling it to employ a second teacher. He would not allow any employee to work on his estate until they were at least fourteen save in exceptional circumstances, and insisted that all children on the estate attended the village school until they were at least fourteen, and preferably older, even though the school leaving age in England at that time was only thirteen. Albert even arranged for private tuition to teach any member of staff or tenants to read and write, although sadly most never bothered.

When Philip was fourteen, a boy called William who was a year younger came to work on the estate. He had recently been orphaned so Albert made an exception and gave him a job as stable-boy and a home in a room above the stables when he heard of the boy’s plight. Despite their huge difference in social status, Philip and William quickly became close friends.

Philip and Charlotte had no secrets, so when Charlotte’s father employed a handsome young footman by the name of Jonathan Clarke, Philip got to know him intimately through Charlotte’s description.

When they were older, Philip got to meet Jonathan on the odd occasion and understood straight away why Charlotte was attracted to him. He was simply, a nice young man. He had no malice or improper ideas in his heart, so Philip was not surprised when later, his sixteen-year-old friend told him she was falling in love with her father’s footman, even though he never responded in kind.

Shortly after, Philip’s mother took on a new scullery maid by the name of Millicent Davis, or Millie as she was otherwise known. She was fourteen, exceptionally pretty, and very shy.
Having already made William welcome, the family and household staff set out to do the same for young Millie as well, but to start with it was a bit of an uphill task because she hardly ever spoke unless she was spoken to.
The first time Philip entered the kitchen after Millie began her employment, she turned to face the wall as she had been told by her mother was the correct way to behave around family members.
Upon seeing this, the cook gently took her by the arm and said in a kind voice “We don’t have to do that sort of thing here my dear.” Uncertainly Millie glanced towards Master Philip who smiled and confirmed what the cook had just said.

This is where the story begins.

© December 2020

[CENTER]Chapter 1 Part 1[/CENTER]

Philip Marsden was sixteen years old and enjoying the morning air as he walked along the track from his home to a freshwater spring on the side of a low hill overlooking the village below.

The area had suffered a long drought the year before and many of the wells and pumps nearby had dried up, but not this small spring. During the worst of the drought, Philip and his friend William had brought a horse and cart up the track early every morning and filled two large barrels with fresh, clear water.

Once the barrels were full, they drove the cart down to the village where they left it for the villagers to draw off water before walking the horse back home.
This was their daily routine for over two months until the rains eventually came. After the first downpour the two tired friends just left the cart and barrels in the village in case they were ever needed again.

On this particular day, Philip was on his way to the spring with a small satchel slung over his shoulder, containing a folding yardstick, paper, and pencils to take measurements and make a sketch for an idea he had about building a storage cistern in case of another drought.

As he walked up the gentle slope towards the spring, he heard an anguished cry from within the small wood next to the track.
The voice, that of a young girl, cried out again. “Get off me! Leave me alone!”

Philip started to run and moments later broke into a clearing where he saw Gwylett Teal, the Miller’s son on a horse circling and taunting a girl of around eleven. Two other young men he recognised were standing together and laughing.

“Stop this!” bellowed Philip. “Stop this at once!”
All three men started at Philip’s voice, then Gwylett sneered and rode towards him. “Oh, and who is going to stop us?” At the same time, Philip moved round to place himself between the three bullies and the unknown girl.

Dropping his satchel, Philip took three sudden strides and then, using a tree stump to launch himself, leaped up and grabbed Gwylett by the lapels of his jacket. Allowing himself to fall, he pulled the surprised rider with him, unhorsing him in the process. As soon as his feet hit the ground Philip twisted and heaved with all his might, using Gwylett’s weight and momentum to throw him at the other two young men a yard away, knocking all three to the ground in a tangled heap.

Philip turned to the girl, at that moment realising who she was, and asked, “Are you hurt Miss Prentice? Did they harm you at all?”
At the sound of the girl’s name, the men suddenly realised they were in serious trouble, and slowly got to their feet. She was Amanda Prentice, the stepdaughter of the recently married blacksmith, George Prentice. George was well liked, intelligent, and extremely strong. All three men began to have visions of pain and injury should the blacksmith decide to wreak vengeance upon them.

Having received no reply from the girl he continued in a concerned tone, “Miss Prentice, you’re shaking.” Pointing to the tree-stump he had just used he continued, “I think you should sit here before you collapse.”

As she did so, Philip turned to the men and told them in no uncertain terms what was going to happen. They were to go home and tell their parents what they had done whilst he in turn would take the girl back to her parents and discuss with them what punishment they thought would be most appropriate.
Failure to do exactly as required would result in a visit to the Magistrate, and the unsaid but implied threat of prison.
“Leave Nellie!” he told Gwyllet. “You’ll have to walk home. Now all of you, get out of my sight!”
With that Philip turned his attention to the girl who was still visibly upset.
After the three men left, she hesitantly asked, “How … how do you know who I am?”
Instead of an answer he asked her, “Do you still have Mister Bunny?”
The girl’s eyes suddenly opened wide and she said in an astonished voice, “Pip?”
“Yes Miss ’Manda”, it’s me.”

© December 2020

[CENTER]Chapter 1 Part 2[/CENTER]

At the age of eight, Philip had been on his way home from the village school one day when he had come across a young girl of about three sitting on Mrs Randell’s doorstep, looking lost and forlorn.
“Hello, my name is Philip, what’s yours?
“Phi-ip?” queried the girl.
Philip smiled and said, “Just call me Pip.”

“I’m ’manda,” the child said. “Mummy got ill and I’ve had to come to Nanny’s so I don’t get ill as well.” Mrs Randell appeared and explained that her daughter, Rose Wheeler who lived on the other side of the nearby town had been taken ill with the influenza, so Mr and Mrs Randall decided to look after their granddaughter in the hope she wasn’t infected as well.
Mrs Randall also mentioned that Amanda was very lonely, and in the rush to fetch her, they had neglected to bring any of her toys.
As the church clock struck the hour, Philip apologised, saying that he had to go and thoughtfully headed home. During tea, he told his parents about the little girl, saying he had some old toys he didn’t play with any more that he thought she might like.
Afterwards, Philip walked back to the village and knocked on the cottage door which was opened by Mrs Randell herself. Holding her grandmother’s skirts and peeping round from behind was little Amanda.
“I thought you might like these” he said as he showed the girl a box of wooden toys that his father had carved and painted, and a stuffed rabbit his mother had made. He held the rabbit out to Amanda and said, “This is Mister Bunny. His Mummy is poorly and he needs someone to look after him. Can he come and live with you?”

The girl carefully took the rabbit, solemnly saying to it, “I’m going to look after you now, and you can sleep with me in my bed.”
Philip handed over the small box to Mrs Randell, who thanked him profusely before telling him she needed to get her granddaughter to bed.

Philip would often stop by on his way from school, or sometimes walk down from his home at weekends and join in with his little friend’s games. He taught her how to play hopscotch, and encouraged other children from the village to play with Amanda as well.
Eventually a message came to say that Amanda’s mother had recovered and would be coming to convalesce for a few weeks before she and her daughter returned home.
Then one day Philip called in at Mrs Randell’s on his way from school only to find that Amanda and her mother had already left.
Over the following years Philip would sometimes wonder what had happened to his little friend.

What he hadn’t known was that Mrs Wheeler, who was a widow, had begun a friendship with George Prentice, the village blacksmith. He was a bachelor and had called round with eggs and milk and butter that he explained would build up strength and were good for people recovering from illness.
Over the years this friendship had continued, initially by letter, then with occasional visits until Mr Prentice had eventually proposed.
A few months after Amanda turned eleven, her mother had brought her to stay at her grandparent’s cottage whilst the wedding arrangements were made. A month later Rose Wheeler married George Prentice in the village church, both mother and daughter taking the blacksmith’s name, before his new family moved into Forge Cottage with him.

Now, looking at the trembling girl sitting on the tree-stump, Philip asked, “Do you know how to ride a horse?”
“No,” replied Amanda, “I’ve never been on one.”
“Well in that case,” Philip said, “I had better teach you how because you are in no fit state to walk home.”
Matter-of-factly Philip began, “I’ll show you how to get up on her then sit behind you to make sure you don’t fall off. I’ve known Nellie for years, and she is as gentle as a lamb so you will be absolutely safe on her back.”
“In any case,” he continued, “if you do fall, I’ll jump down first so you have something soft to land on.”

© December 2020

[CENTER]Chapter 1 Part 3

As Philip walked away to fetch the horse, he thought he saw a ghost of a smile on the girl’s face. He brought Nellie to the tree-stump, telling Amanda to stand up, then showed her how to put one foot in the stirrup before grasping the saddle, pulling herself up, then sliding her other leg over the horse’s flank whilst Philip held its bridle.
Not only had Amanda never been on a horse before, but had never heard of side-saddle either. Consequently, she thought it perfectly normal to sit with a leg each side of the horse even if she had to rearrange her skirts several time before she was comfortable.

Philip got her to take her feet out of the stirrups and climbed up behind before reaching round to take the reins. Giving them a quick flick, he tapped the horse’s flanks with his feet at the same time and commanded Nellie to walk on.

Nellie started forward slowly and steadily, but the horse’s swaying caused Amanda a moment of panic. Feeling the girl suddenly tense, Philip pulled on the reins and told the animal to, “Whoa.” He then instructed Amanda to hold the reins and pull gently until she could just feel a little resistance, whilst at the same time lightly placed his arms around her waist.
“Now you’re in charge. You know how to start her walking, and how to make her stop. She’ll follow the path on her own, but when we need to turn, you just pull steadily and firmly on one side and she will head in the direction you want to go.”
“When you are ready to move off, flick the reins and tell Nellie to move. Whilst you are doing that, I’m going to sit back here and enjoy watching someone else do all the work,” sensing rather than seeing the girl smile as he spoke.

After a moment’s hesitation, Amanda did as she had been told. This time she felt more secure, partly because she was holding the reins, and partly because Philip was holding her steady.
Considering what had just happened to her, she had surprised herself by immediately trusting this young man whom she hadn’t seen for eight years. He had been kind to her then, and had just now rescued her from who knows what. He had been a complete gentleman as well. As she had swung her leg over the old horse’s back revealing bare flesh for a moment, Philip had held her hand to steady her, but deliberately averted his gaze at the same time until she had finished arranging her skirts and petticoats.

It was only a short ride back to Forge Cottage, but after a few moments the girl asked in a worried voice, “How are we going to get down?”
Philip briefly explained about the water cart and how they would use it as a mounting block to get back to ground level.

As they approached the Smithy, they saw the Blacksmith look up in astonishment, put down his hammer, and then heard him call to his wife who in turned called for the girl’s grandparents to come out and look. Several of the villagers also stopped and stared in amazement at the mismatched pair.

Philip steered the horse to the side of the wagon then threw the reins over one of the end-posts before nimbly slipping off the horse onto the cart. He told Amanda to put her hands behind his neck and hold tight whilst he lifted her down from Nellie before repeating the process and placed the girl’s feet firmly on the ground. “While you tell your family what happened, I’m going to take Nellie over to the trough for a drink. I’ll come and talk to you all in a moment.”

As the horse drank, Philip studied the reactions of the girl’s family whilst Amanda told her tale and waved her arms about in an animated fashion.
When she finished, Philip left the horse and walked over to talk to the girl’s parents.
The Blacksmith and his wife both started to thank him profusely but he put his hands up and shook his head. “I’m so dreadfully sorry this has happened,” he began. “It’s unacceptable that such a thing should occur on my father’s land. I dislike violence and would rather not see those three young men beaten, but they need to be severely punished. If you wish I will call on the Magistrate and have him deal with it, but that would mean your daughter might have to answer questions about her ordeal. If you would rather that she didn’t have to go through that, I have another idea.”

© December 2020

[CENTER]Chapter 1 Part 4[/CENTER]

Mrs Prentice suggested they all go inside the cottage, and then with a fresh pot of tea being poured, Philip explained about his idea to build a cistern to collect spring water. One of the young men was Davey Stanmore, the Stonemason’s son, who would be ideal for such a venture. The other man was John Moorehouse whose mother was a widowed seamstress.
Gwylett was a local troublemaker but the other two were not known for causing problems. The Blacksmith nodded and ventured that they were being led astray by Gwylett, who was nineteen and a year older than the other two.
Philip agreed, which was another reason why he didn’t want to involve the Magistrate unless absolutely necessary, but all three needed to be punished nonetheless.
Making the cistern would be hard work. Chiselling into the bare rock, carting stone and mortar, building the retaining walls and a sluice, and covering it all over to prevent flora and fauna from contaminating the water would take some while, and the men would not be paid. They would have to provide their own food, tools, and materials as well.
Philip also said he intended to have a word with the landlord of the village tavern to make sure the young men would not be served there until the job was finished.

First taking a sip of tea, he then turned to the girl and asked, “Do you think that would be sufficient punishment for what those men did to you, or can you think of something else instead or as well?”

Amanda looked at her parents for reassurance, and then after a moment her mother spoke. “I think it will certainly teach them a lesson, what do you think dear?”
George thought for a moment before speaking, “It will benefit the village, and it will mean a lot of hard work I’ll give you that. It will give those men plenty of time to think about what they did to our girl, and also John and Davey might decide that being friends with Gwylett is not such a good idea.”
Turning to his daughter he continued, “I think it’s a suitable punishment, but it is up to you Amanda.”

Looking at Philip she began in a somewhat hesitant voice, “Y-yes I, yes, please will you make them do that?”

“Very well, I’ll go and tell them and their parents the good news” he said dryly. “I’ll also make sure they don’t come near you or the forge without your parent’s permission.”

Standing up he thanked Mrs Prentice for the tea before shaking everyone’s hand. George held his for a moment longer before saying, “Thank you. I’m glad it was you who found our girl when you did.”

“What a nice young man” Mrs Prentice declared as Philip rode away.
“Aye, that he is” agreed her husband.

As Philip reached the lane at the end of the village he turned and waved at the trio standing by the forge. “I think he’s lovely” George heard his daughter say.

Gently pulling her to him he warned the girl, “Don’t go getting any romantic ideas about him lass.”
“He lives up at the Manor House with his father who owns much of the land to the East of the village. Philip will be destined to marry someone of his own status; the daughter of some titled landowner, or rich merchant, or politician, not some poor Blacksmith’s daughter.

That night Amanda had trouble sleeping, the events of the day churning over in her head and her stomach before falling into a troubled slumber.
Just before dawn she had a waking dream that she was living in the manor house, with Philip, surrounded by servants, but then as she drifted into wakefulness her father’s words of warning echoed through her head as she opened her eyes to finally meet the new day.

What she did not know; what she could not know, was that one day she would indeed be living in the manor house, with Philip, surrounded by servants, for she was destined to become … one of those very servants.

© December 2020

Excellent, Fruitcake, more please!

Thank you for the encouragement.

There is more. Unfortunately a lot of it is still in my head so I need to spend more time getting it writ.

I know that feeling well!:smiley:

That is a good story, more please, when you can get it out of your head & onto paper, Fruitcake.

[CENTER]Chapter 2 Part 1[/CENTER]

“Here come the womenfolk.”

At fifty-six, Ged Morris was the oldest tenant farmer on the Knowl Park estate, and the oldest of the seven men who had just stopped for lunch as the fading sounds of the church clock striking twelve drifted across to them in the fields.

Pointing with his chin at three women who were making their way towards them across the next field, Ged took a swig of cider from a communal jug then passed it to his friend and neighbour Arthur Presbury.

Two of the women were walking together bringing lunch to their respective husbands, and the third who was walking on a converging path was Gemma, Ged’s twenty-two-year-old daughter, carrying her father’s lunch in a small basket.
Gemma had suffered terrible burns when she was two, having fallen from her exhausted mother’s arms into the fireplace, leaving damaged tissue and severe scarring all up her left side from calf to her face and ear.
The two slightly older women stopped briefly so the younger woman could catch up, her strange gait and awkward limp caused by her injuries making her easily identifiable from a distance.
She never complained, and never blamed her parents, both of whom carried enough of it themselves to last the family several lifetimes.
Gemma’s mother blamed herself for falling asleep, and Ged blamed himself for not being there to help his wife look after their child who was very sickly at the time.

As the three women approached, the other four men unwrapped their own lunches. Poor Clem who was in his late twenties never seemed to have very much in his lunch bag, and his skinny frame showed that he didn’t seem to get that much to eat at home either. His father had been killed years before in some forgotten battle in some pointless war, leaving a young widow and her three-year old son to fend for themselves.
Clem had a stutter and didn’t like talking unless he had to, but he was really good with animals, especially horses, and acted as a sort of vet for the locals by treating their livestock for minor ailments. As a result, he was well liked in the farming community and beyond, and it would be unusual for anyone who knew him to make fun of his speech impediment.

Master Philip was the son of the local landowner, but was always willing to help out around the estate. This was a farming community where everyone helped their neighbours at harvest time, or at any other time for that matter.
Today he was helping with hay-making, cutting and stacking sheaves. Tomorrow they would load it on a cart then stack it, raised up on straddle-stones, to let it dry.

Just after he had turned eighteen, Philip’s father had told him that because Jacob Stillman, the Knowl estate manager, was due to retire in the next few years, he wanted his youngest son to take over, but not until he had been to college first. Albert Marsden was a social reformer and needed his son to learn about all different aspects of farming, woodland management, water provision, farm mechanisation, and the financial complexities of collecting rents proportional to a farmer’s income, outgoings, and profits, as well as the welfare and medical needs of the hundred or so people who lived or worked on the estate.
Helping out today around the farms and in the fields was part of Philip’s education; the part he enjoyed the most.
The day before he had received a letter from a college forty miles and two train journeys away, confirming that he had been given a place, and would be expected to start a three-year course there the following month. He had yet to break the news to his four closest friends that he would soon be leaving home, although he had told them earlier in the year about his father’s plans.

Two of the workers got up and walked over to meet their ladies. Even though all four were close friends, the two couples would sit slightly apart from each other and apart from the rest of other men until it was time to start work again.
Ged fidgeted as he always did when his daughter walked across the fields. He wanted desperately to run to her, to hold her, to tell her yet again how crushingly sorry he was for what had happened, but he knew it would be pointless.
She had told him and scolded him many times until she got her way, explaining that walking helped to stretch her scar tissue and actually eased the pain she constantly felt.
She wore her hair long to ensure the ravaged left side of her face was covered as much as possible, and always wore a hat to hold her hair in place lest someone see the damage caused to her when she was a child. Occasionally her scars would be briefly exposed if the wind caught her hair, or if it swirled away as she turned her head, but just like Clem’s stammer, it would elicit no comment from anyone who knew her, and knew her story.

© December 2020

[CENTER]Chapter 2 Part 2[/CENTER]

“Who’s that?” The men looked across at Arthur who gestured towards the village, throwing crumbs from the crust in his hand as he did so.

“Oh,” said Ged who had good eyesight for a man his age, “’Tis yur friend the Blacksmith’s daughter, Mastur Philup.”

Despite being the son of the local landowner, Philip was unconventional in many ways. Anyone from outside the area would assume he would only mix with people of his own status, but that wasn’t the case.
He’d been brought up initially in an industrial town and as a child he had played along the muddy banks of a canal and in the streets and alleyways round his parent’s small home.
He cared little for convention and saw no reason to abuse his position.
It was not unusual for the household staff up at the manor house to find Philip in the kitchen having a chat over a cup of tea. He was always willing to help out; carrying in coal or sacks of vegetables, raking out the fires to help the maids, or up to his knees in compost helping the gardener, especially if there was the chance that he could persuade the cook, Mrs Pearson, to part with a slice of her excellent fruitcake as a reward.

His oldest friend was Lady Charlotte who lived on the massive neighbouring estate and deer park. Comments about a “suitable marriage” between the two would result in a humourless laugh or snort of derision from the two friends. As far as Philip was concerned, Charlotte was the sister he never had, and as for Charlotte, she was in love with her father’s handsome footman, a secret only known to her and Philip.
Philip’s three other close friends were William who worked for his father, Millie who worked for his mother, and Amanda Prentice, now thirteen, who was steadily making her way across the field with something wrapped in a cloth.
She always called him Pip, having initially had trouble saying Philip when they first met, and he always called her Miss ‘Manda since that day as well because that was how she had pronounced her own name at the age of three.
The first time Amanda had called him Master Philip, he had chided her and told her in no uncertain terms. “I am nobody’s master, and certainly not yours. You can call me Philip, but I would prefer it if you called me Pip since that is the name you used to call me when we first met.”
She in turn had complained when he called her Miss Manda instead of just Amanda. His reply was to ask her how many people called her by that name.

She replied, “Well, nobody except you”.

“And how many people call me Pip?” he asked.

“Um, just me?”

“So, what is wrong with me calling you by a name that nobody else uses, and you calling me a name that nobody else does either?”

“Um, well … nothing really.” She eventually replied.

“Good. Then so be it.”

He was fiercely protective of all his friends, especially the women, but despite what many people thought, he was not romantically involved with any of them.

Standing to greet his youngest friend Philip said, “Hello Miss ‘Manda. This is a pleasant surprise”
“Hello Pip” his friend replied. “I thought you might like this,” she continued, handing over something warm and heavy in a patterned cloth.

Philip sat, gesturing to the girl that she should do the same. Carefully unwrapping the soft parcel, he found inside a freshly cooked but rather ugly looking pasty, leaking juices where the seam had partially split open at one end.
Taking a bite, he suddenly stopped, looked at his friend, then chewed and swallowed. “It’s delicious. Did you make this?”
She nodded and opened her mouth to speak only to find to her surprise that it was stuffed full of pasty. Philip laughed as she was forced to take a bite of her own before saying, “See, it really is good … even if it looks hideous.”
Now it was his friend’s turn to laugh.

© December 2020

[CENTER]Chapter 2 Part 3[/CENTER]

“Hey Clem,” Philip called out. Miss Prentice has brought me a lovely pasty for lunch and I’m not going to be able to manage the food I already brought with me. It would be a shame to waste it so would you do me a favour and add it to yours?”

Clem got up from his sitting position and walked over to collect the packet being proffered. As he reached to take it, Philip asked, “Are you worried about Gemma’s leg?”
Puzzled, Clem nodded, wondering why he was being asked.
“Do you think it would be a good idea for someone to walk her home? Philip continued, puzzling Clem even more.

Everyone knew Clem was sweet on Gemma, despite her disfigured features, and many were sure she liked Clem, but she never had the courage to say anything.

In a stumbling voice, Clem replied that yes, he thought it would be a good idea.

Speaking quietly so he couldn’t be overheard, Philip said, “I’m going to ask Ged to let you walk Gemma home. I’m sure he will say yes.”
Quickly shuffling round until he was sitting next to Amanda, Philip crooked an elbow towards her saying, “This is how a gentleman offers to escort a lady.”
Nodding to his friend, she took the hint, and his arm, responding with, “And this is how a lady accepts”.
Philip continued, “When you get to the stile, let go of her arm …”
Doing exactly that as he spoke, Philip then held out his hand, palm upwards, “… and offer your hand like this so you can then help her over,” nodding to the girl again, who this time delicately placed her hand in his.

“Now Clem, remember what I have just shown you, then go and finish your lunch”

Turning his attention to the pasty, Philip realised he was still holding his friend’s hand.
“Oh,” he said. “I’m going to need this if you don’t mind” Breaking the pasty in half he offered some to his friend without looking at her. If he had done so, he would have seen the look of disappointment on her face when he released her hand.

“Gemma,” Philip called out. “Clem is worried about your leg and about you getting home. He thinks it would be a good idea if someone were to escort you in case you have any problems walking.”
“Would you mind if he walked home with you to make sure you get there safely?”

Gemma’s face lit up briefly for a moment before asking her father if he would mind.
“Oh, I think it’s a kind offer, and it would be a good idea if someone went with you.” Looking across to Clem he said, “That’s very thoughtful of you and I would be grateful if you could see Gemma home safely. We’ll just have to manage without you until you return, but don’t rush a-cause I wouldn’t want Gemma to trip and fall for undue haste.”

Everyone surreptitiously watched as Clem made his way over to Ged and his daughter, awkwardly offered a gentlemanly arm, and then began to walk Gemma back home.

“Tell Gemma about your new foal,” Philip called out. “In fact,” he continued whilst looking to Ged for approval, “why don’t you show Gemma the baby if she feels up to it when you pass your place?”

Philip and Amanda got up and slowly walked over to where Ged was sitting open mouthed. Ged was about to say something when Philip quieted him with a gesture of his hand, and told him to, “See what they do when they get to the stile.”.
As if on cue, Clem let go of Gemma’s arm, climbed over the stile, then offered his hand exactly as Philip had shown him.
Everyone could see the sudden change in Gemma’s posture as she first straightened, then placed her hand in Clem’s.
Once she was safely over the stile, the two continued walking, still hand in hand.

Philip turned to Ged saying, “He doesn’t see her scars, and she doesn’t hear his stammer. I truly think your daughter is going to be alright.”

Ged couldn’t speak at first. Wiping tears from his eyes with a rather grubby hand-kerchief, he looked at Philip and simply mouthed “Thank-you”.

The young man clapped Ged on the shoulder then said to those in earshot, “I hope you will excuse my absence for a short while, but I need to escort Miss Prentice home. I shall return as soon as I can.”

With that he offered his young friend a gentlemanly arm just as Clem had done, and the pair set off to towards the girl’s home in the village.

© December 2020

[CENTER]Chapter 2 Part 4[/CENTER]

Helping her over the stile exactly as he had coached Clem, the two continued again hand in hand. After a few strides Philip stopped and told Amanda to sit down as he had something to tell her.
Looking her straight in the eyes he told her about college, and then showed her the acceptance letter.
She was speechless to start with, and then in distressed tones began saying, “Three years? You’ll be gone for three years?” I … I … but you’ll …”
Looking away she took a deep breath before continuing. “I’ll … I don’t, oh Philip.”
“You’ll be gone for so long, and, and I won’t see you, you’ll forget about me, and you’ll be twenty-one when you come back. You’ll meet someone and you’ll be betrothed or married, and, and what am I to do then?”

“I’m going away to college. I’ll be busy studying, not looking for a wife, but even if I did find a sweetheart, wouldn’t you be happy for me?

Even as he spoke, a dim candle in the back of his head began to burn ever brighter as a thought he never thought before started to spread its light through his mind.

“No,” she said miserably, “I wouldn’t be happy. I don’t want you coming back home with a sweetheart on your arm or betrothed, or married. I want you to come back to me just as you are now. I want to be your sweetheart.”

Philip was stunned. It had never occurred to him that she thought of him as anything other than a platonic friend, which was exactly how he thought of her.
She was too young. It was impossible, not because of their difference in status; just simply because she was still a child.

“This time it was Philip’s turn to falter. “I … I didn’t know, but I can’t control what will happen whilst I am away.”
“I won’t be gone for three years. I’ll be back every few months for the odd weekend when I can afford the train fare, and for holidays during terms and end of terms, and for eight weeks each summer, and for Easter and Christmas each year.”

“I’m not looking for a wife just yet, and don’t plan to until after I have taken up my position as estate manager. In any case, you will be fourteen next year; a woman in the eyes of the law.”
“You’ll be turning heads by then I’m sure, and one of the young men around here is just as likely to turn your head. I’ll warrant I’ll come back to find you have forgotten me and have a sweetheart of your own on your arm”

Philip stood, helping the young girl up as well, then offered her his arm again before walking her the rest of the way home, each of them deep in their own thoughts.

Five weeks later, Philip’s four friends waved him off as his train steamed out of the station in the next town, heading for the big city where he would change trains to for a town a third of the way to London.

He would miss them, and his family, but it was something he needed to do. He had spent five busy weeks organising lodgings, buying books, and getting ready for this huge adventure, but he couldn’t shake off the feeling that he was leaving something behind more important than the home he loved.

© December 2020

What do you think?
Is it too long?
Shall I stop now?
Or should I carry on?

I think you should carry on, Fruitcake :smiley:

Thank you. I am much obliged. I intend to finish the story no matter what, but I have been wavering for a while whether I should post the rest on here lest I bore everyone.

The chapters broken down into parts as you have been doing, make easier reading Fruitcake.

I agree, more please, Fruitcake.

Thanks for the encouragement. It’s a bit difficult to know whether a story is worth progressing from a hundred and twenty odd views, but very few comments.

Chapter 3 is about 3/4 writ.