A Second Chance
By Colin Marriott
"In memory of Bertie Boy"
FORWARDA middle aged bearded down and out man lies slumbering in the woods of
nearby "Danby Manor" stirring, haunted by memories and flashbacks,
waking up in a cold sweat and lapsing into a semi conscious sleep, once
Orphaned, given up as a baby between the wars, his younger life would
always be lost in the midst of time.
How did I get into such a mess, he thinks, my uncontrollable temper has
lost me what little family I had.
I can never go home, I have no home, I have nothing anymore, I must
discover my past to find a future, out of all I have destroyed I must
make something worthwhile, I must mean something to someone.
But little did he know that he did mean something to someone, someone
who would bring out the best in him, who had also the task of burying
the past, as he had done, together they would right all the wrongs and
forge a relationship, no one could destroy. In a story spanning over 70
years and five generations of a English aristocratic family.
Christened, James, apparently by my birth mother, abandoned and left on
the steps of, "Danby Roman Catholic Orphanage" with a note saying,
"This is James sorry, no other solution" whatever that meant, who knows.
Given the surname of Spiller, by the nuns, "S" being the next letter in
the orphaned child alphabet, as was the custom. My first recollection
would be as a young lad of five or six, scrubbing floors in the
"I want to see my face in those tiles James," Sister Maria, Teresa
"We would like to see your face in them as well", I said to my best
friend Danny, scrubbing next to me in a line of four.
Danny was a timid young boy, thin and drawn with a runny nose, a draft
would have blown him away and there were plenty of them.
"Too right Jim," he replied, I was known as Jim to my mates, as we
reached the end of a long corridor, leading from the front door to the
prayer hall, I peeked inside the Chapel and marvelled at the beautiful
stained glass windows, the light dancing through them across the faces
of the praying nuns, depicting stories of Saints, we had read about in
our bible classes.
Each day when our chores were finished, we would wash our hands and rush
down to the food hall for our dinner. As soon as the meagre meal had
been gobbled down, never more exciting than 'meat and two veg. We would
grab our pudding, normally comprising of an apple and rush out into the
garden, where vegetables were grown in neatly manicured rows, it was
surrounded on three sides by a high wall, with a gate just above our
head height, in the corner was a large tree, we would scale this and sit
in the uppermost branches which gave a fine view over the fields behind
the wall, you could see as far as Danby Manor, only visible by its
shiny grey tiled roof just beyond the top field, as we called it.
Danny and I, would make up stories and draw pictures of knight's in
shining armour and fair maidens whom we imagined lived in the building
below, what little we could see, we thought of it as another country,
little did I know, I would soon be drawn into a stranger story than I
could ever make up.
The Thirties was a great time for us kids, people had let the great war
blend into the history books and looked ahead to a great future, the
depression and strikes, of the twenties seemed a million miles away it
was a time of plenty, warm summers and bumper harvests.
As the years rolled by, we even enjoyed the work in the gardens, the
vegetable plots thrived from our efforts, the nuns worked hard and
expected us to do the same, and they got what they wanted, they were
hard yes, but they were fair.
Often we would glance round and see local people staring over the gate
at us, as if we were animals in the local zoo. One young lady in
particular, would stare a little bit longer than most, dressed in a high
collared white blouse and black coat under a wide brimed black hat, she
would try and catch our eye, when she did, she would shy away and
We were rewarded, for our toil, with a good meal, and a warm bed, with
clean sheets, so we were cleaned, "Clean bodies were the mirrors of our
souls" Mother Superior Ferrari, would lecture us in the food hall, so
off we trudged and were scrubbed from top to tail by enthusiastic
novices, their white wimples trembling with their vigour. Mind you after
the first half dozen, the water had a scummy skin on it and it would
have to be collected up with two small wooden paddles like those used to
make butter, before it started to leave with the next occupants.
Danby Roman Catholic Orphanage
The reason we were kept clean was not just to stop lice in our hair and
cut down on the laundry, but also to put us in the shop window, so to
speak If you were clean and tidy you had more chance of being the one
chosen to by eager childless couples who would come, usually on
Saturdays to offer a home to us unfortunate children, thinking they were
doing you some favour taking you from your familiar country environment
to smoke filled Industrial Cities.
I must have been shining like a new penny, the pride of the novices
efforts, short back and sides, hair oil the lot, when in early 1939, I
was called to Mother Superiors office, just after morning prayers,
nervously I was introduced to a Mr.and Mrs. Tilman.
The Tilmans were a middle aged couple who were clearly well known by the
staff, at the orphanage. Unable to have children of their own they
habitually adopted needy children like myself.
"Ah!, James in you come" called Mother Superior, "Now these nice people
have kindly agreed to take you into their home, look smart now and
remember, behave yourself"
A wave of previously unknown emotions washed over me I was glad to be
leaving but sad to say goodbye my friends and in a strange way, I would
even miss the nuns.
"Right" continued the Mother Superior, "That's all the necessary
paperwork out of the way it only remains for me to give you this"
Mother Superior handed Mrs Tilman a shoe box sized brown box, my name
was on it 'JAMES SPILLER D.O.B 10.02.1930' this made me now eight nearly
nine years old, Mrs. Tilman opened the box a crack, something glinted
in her eye and she quickly snapped it shut, looking at the label she
"Oh! Your Birthday is coming soon we must have a party" The Mother
Superior explained that the box contained all my worldly goods that had
been left by my birth Mother, as if I was not in the room, that was the
first I'd heard of any possessions, I was always told a short note was
all that came with me, I decided that I should keep my eye firmly on
Within minutes I found myself seated on the cold leather seats of Mr
Tilmans big black car, he fired up the engine and we left the orphanage
crunching down the shingle drive peppering the nuns, Danny and other
children who had gathered to wave me off, they disappeared in the
exhaust fumes as we sped away. The car soon filled with thick pungent
smoke as Mr. Tilman, also fired up his briar pipe at the third attempt.
After a three hours driving southward through the green leafy lanes, the
suburbs of a grey dingy looking city in the distance, loomed out of a
charcoal grey mist, swirling between ever decreasing gaps between the
"Where are we"? I enquired politely Mrs.Tilman explained that we were
approaching London. As we entered London, the roads seemed to narrow,
the houses, looked as if they had shuffled forward towards the road,
swallowing up the front gardens and spilling the inhabitants out onto
the streets. Hustle, bustle and noise took over from the calm country
sounds of birds and trees rustling in the wind, there seemed to be a
constant hum of noises, traffic, shouting, car horns and pounding feet.
We were now in the Boroughs of London. although it felt more like rabbit
burrows, gone were the sound of cockerels they had been replaced by
Rounding a corner we came across a noisy street market, this was "Leyton
Market" which I was informed by Mrs.Tilman traded three times a week,
she seemed to be giving me the guided tour. There were names on the
corner houses of every street with a code number, our street turned out
to be Dawlish Road, E10.
"Number 91, hear we are" said Mrs.Tilman. London was such a big place
everyone was frightened of getting lost in the metropolis undergrowth.
"If ever you get lost" she warned, "Tell a copper your address they'll
soon send you home" it all seemed much more complicated than The
Orphanage, Danby, Leicestershire.
Arriving in Leyton for the first time in the middle of the afternoon,
ment no time to cook so we headed straight to the centre of the Market.
"It's Pie and Mash for us" said Mr. Tilman, it sounded better than it
Mr.Tilman took me firmly by the hand and strode through the market
puffing at his pipe, it bellowed out smoke like a steam train as we
negociated the cluttered pavements full of smelly stallholders bellowing
out their wares fruit and not so fresh veg, old books and bric-a-brac.
Ending up in a small shop filled with marble tiled walls, and booths
with heavy wooden tables, separated with church pews. Large Rosy-cheeked
women were laughing away loudly behind the marble counter top, slopping
Mash and Steak or Mince pies onto green plates, which were then drowned
in a white yet irridescent green sauce, called Liquor which instantly
made the pie taste like soggy cardboard, and the mash flow through old
peoples teeth and moustaches, down their chins.
"What's the matter son"? said Mrs. Tilman, "Don't you know good food
when you taste it" and she laughed at my green colour, echoed by a fat
lady gorging in the booth opposite.
"He doesn’t know he's born" she spluttered, I felt queasy by now and
quickly left the shop, and much to my amazement I managed to keep down
what little they had forced into me.
Fighting for fresh air, I stood outside the shop leaning on the door
post, as I looked down I caught sight of the eels writhing in a large
tray of ice in the open shop window, a man was sitting chopping up the
live eels and throwing them into a big pot boiling on the stove, his
thumb bore a large blooded thimble to ensure no part of him was to join
the eels in the jelly, opposite the shop along-side the pavement was a
market stall full of trays of live eels writhing between large blocks of
ice, tempting the passers-bye to make their own jellied eels at home,
back in the shop people were constantly slurping and gorging on pies and
eels I could feel my stomach starting to churn once more.
Suddenly we were homeward bound stopping off at a local tobacconist for
Mr.Tilman to refill his pouch and buy a Newspaper, the headline
mentioned something about "Peace" and "Hitler" whatever that ment. As we
left the shop I was handed a comic called "Radio Fun" and a long black
piece of hard liquorice, which could break your teeth if care wasn't
It was getting dark now and the mist was getting thicker as everybody
seemed to stoke their front room fires for the evening at once. We
finally arrived back at no. 91 in the dark, its three floors towered
above us, disappearing into the smog, now I began to understand why the
cockney's called London, "The Smoke"
Mrs Tilman pushed her hand into letterbox and pulled out a thread of
wool, on the end of which was a key, which she turned in the lock and
flung the door open, revealing a dimly light hallway with shiny brown
walls, this gave way to a brightly lit front room, which was quarter
filled from the ceiling with pipe smoke eminating from an old man,
seated to one side of a coal fire in his tartan slippers, black
waistcoat and trousers, with a collarless white shirt, examining his
gold watch and albert chain, like a station master,
"You made good time, didn't they Mother"? he said,
As he gestures to an equally old woman in the opposite corner, rocking
to and fro in a creaky rocking chair, with a hairnet covering a head of
white hair and a small pair of glasses, mounted on a fat nose, yellow
with snuff stains, and a mouth caving in with hardly any teeth left in
"Yus! they did" she replied.
"There's Pea in the Tot" joked the old man pointing to a large brown
teapot under a quilted cosy.
As my eyes strayed around the room, I noted chairs over stuffed with
horse hair filling, which took up half of the space, their backs covered
with"'antimacassers" embroidered with wild flowers, to protect them
from Mr.Tilmans hair oil. Near the old man was a large walnut radio set,
the grill was shaped like a sunburst with the faint sound of Jazz
coming from within, over the fire was a mantlepiece covered with lace
doylies toasted brownish by the fire which made them wave slightly in
the heat, they were held on by rows of gilt framed pictures, of family I
supposed, flanked by two Victorian urns with flowers on, a large table
covered with a lace cloth filled the bay window,in the centre was a
silver plated eight bottle cruet filled with coloured liquids salt and
pepper, the table was set for seven people, Seven!?, I thought to myself
there are just five of us here who will fill the other places.
Suddenly the ceiling shook and the light fitting trembled, loud
footsteps bounded across the ceiling and down the stairs, the door flew
open and in fell two odd looking children, a tall thin boy about 11
years old, the other a girl short, fat, freckly, with red hair around
twelve years old.
"Hello Handsome" she sneered, "Are you married"?
"Don't listen to Sophie" said the boy, "She's ginger, I'm Tom how do you
Extending a grubby hand for me to shake, Sophie curtseyed still taking
the mick, even if in a friendly way.
"Come and see our room" said Tom, as he beckoned me up the steep
carpeted stairs, with their brass rods straining to do their job under
our six frantic feet.
There were three doors leading off of the landing, the first, at the
head of the stairs, led off to the old couples bedsit, the second, up a
flight of two steps, was Mr. and Mrs. Tilmans room, next to another a
small flight of stairs to the attic, which was used for storage, was the
third door which was kicked wide open by Tom embedding the door handle
into the plaster wall, for the umpteenth time,
"And this is it" he proudly said.
He stepped aside, revealing a large airy bay fronted bedroom with a "Art
Deco" marble tiled fire place at one end. The room was lined with bunk
beds and on first sight, looked like the dormitory at the orphanage,
suddenly I began to feel at home.
"How many of you are there"? I asked, trying to work out the unusual
surroundings I had been dropped into, I was soon assured that there were
just the three of us for now, Tom, Sophie and me. The others were said
to come and go, it all seemed very casual had they run away or gone back
to their real families I must have looked confused as Tom tried to
verify the situation.
"They can't stand the pace" he exclaimed, flinging himself on one of the
bottom bunks clasping his hands behind his head, proud that he had
Lasted the pace, as he put it.
"What is that"? I asked, pointing to a large wooden structure in the
"That's my Fort" Tom explained, "Mr.Tilman gave it to me"
It was surrounded by knights in armour, cowboys and indians and fuzzy
wuzzys, African warriors from the Sudan, all made of lead and brightly
painted, not to mention the spring loaded green field guns that fired
Into the evening we re-enacted "Athurian Legends" I drew experience from
the days spent imagining Danby Manor; with Danny , this continued until
we heard footsteps at the door,
We were soon told to stop playing and get ready for bed by Mrs.Tilman.
"I don't have any pyjamas" I said, "We always slept in the natural, so
"I've never heard anything like it" she said, "Tom, lend him a pair of
yours, now get to sleep you three, we've got a busy day ahead of us
And with that she disappeared with a whiff of smoke following her back
downstairs. A cold night was spent under a thin itchy blanket.
The next morning I was startled, awoken by a what sounded like a
thundering earthquake outside. I looked bleary eyed around the room, the
other beds were already empty. Lifting the net curtain, I looked
through the smoke stained window pane to see a large rounded chap,
covered in leather apron, leggings and cap, tipping half hundred weight
sacks of coal through a small round manhole into our cellar below, he
doffed his cap and bid.
"Good-day"! to Mrs. Tilman, with a big grin bisecting his blackened
face, he folded his sack accepting his payment and climbed aboard his
horse and cart, whistling loudly like the birds I missed.
"Giddy up there"! he shouted, and the horse ambled forward to his next
customer, all of 20 feet away.
I descended the stairs slowly as the treads creaked beneath me,
"You're up are you" shouted Mrs.Tilman from the kitchen, "Get in here
and get this breakfast down you, I'm not standing in front of this hot
range all morning"
One piece of bacon and a dried up egg lay stuck to a hot plate and a cup
of milk forming a skin were waiting for me on the table in the bay
"Get that ate"! she ordered,"We're off down the high street, you can
come with me and carry my basket"
While she fixed her hair and pinned on her hat I noticed the shoe sized
box with all my wordly goods laying opened on the side, I quickly downed
my small breakfast and tipped the warm milk into a large aspidistra
plant pot in the corner of the front room by Grannies chair. I felt even
more determined to get a look into that box before too much longer.
There was absoloutely no chance as before I could finish gathering my
thoughts she was back in the room hustling me to get my coat on
clutching the box firmly under her arm. In an instant we were on the
street, the sun shone through the London haze, as I blinked in the
morning light Mrs.Tilman handed me a walking stick, nice of her I
thought, until I tried to use it, for on the other end was attached a
large round wicker basket on wheels, and it seemed to have a mind of its
own, as I dodged people and other obstructions on the pavement on our
journey towards the high street. By the time I had finally mastered it,
we had reached our first port of call, a shop with three curious large
brass balls above the door, I was told to wait outside while my new
guardian disappeared inside with my box.
I pushed my nose hard against the dusty window and could just about make
out what was going on, an old man with an exceptionally large nose was
behind the glass counter he seemed to be examining items very closely
with an eye glass, then some money exchanged hands and Mrs.Tilman
reappeared clutching a small yellow ticket and some large white fivers. I
quickly realised that she had obtained the notes in exchange for what
was in my box, I wasn't sure exactly what had been in it, but, I was
more determind to find out what she had sold.
We walked on from there around the corner to the butchers, this was a
small shop with saw dust spread on the floor spewing from a under
counter cupboard, Mrs. Tilman brought generous amounts of steak and
sausages, also a rabbit which the butcher took down from its hook and
skinned there and then right in front of us.
"Enjoy your stew Mrs.Tilman" he said extending a large bloodied hand to
take possession of one of the well thumbed £5 notes, I was beginning to
realise that this was obviously the way she carried on and no wonder the
others had run away from her.
Our next stop was at the grocers then the greengrocers for both fruit
and vegetables and finally to the hardware shop, my basket weighed heavy
and became almost impossible to steer again.
We came to an abrupt halt outside a Pub where she disappeared, barking a
"Wait here"! and entered into a smoke filled Saloon Bar, I was just
wondering just how long I would be standing there waiting when the door
swung open, and there stood Mrs.Tilman holding a bottle of pop and a
large square biscuit hard as a rock, in the other hand slopped a half
pint of Guinness.
"See you in a mo" she said, And disappeared again. Then after what
seemed like an age she emerged out onto the pavement with her hat
half-cocked and somewhat unsteady and beckoned me onwards back home, her
walk mimicking my basket maneuvering skills.
Lunchtime came and went, but she was asleep in the chair by the fire,
stirring, twitching her nose and sniffing the air,
"What's that smell"? she croaked, as she started to come to. She looked
around sniffing trying to work out what the unrecognisable odour was,
then her attention turned to Grannies chair, I knew the blame rested
squarely on my shoulders, it was my milk in the aspidistra pot, but
hoped the sickly smell might be passed onto somebody else Mrs.Tilman
soon detected the smell but, added two and two together to make five and
aportioned the blame to Grannie, with a lot of mumbling and scowling in
the direction of the kitchen where Grannie was washing up, it looked as
though I had got away with that one.
Mr.Tilman and Grandad worked together in a furniture factory, just
around the corner, I was sent on an errand to take a flask of tea and a
sandwich for them both. When I arrived at the warehouse type building, I
entered a courtyard and found myself surrounded by about half a dozen
ladies all wearing head scarves, and giggling loudly around me one
started to ruffle my hair.
"There's a smart lad"! she said, as she pulled my shirt out of the back
of my shorts,
"Leave him alone Shirl" said another of the women,
"Our tea's not good enough eh Tilly"? said the one who was wearing
curlers in the front of her hair. In came Mr.Tilman who was the Manager
of the factory and Grandad was the under Manager,
"Is that for me? thanks lad" said Mr.Tilman rescuing me slightly
"That's enough mucking about, back to work you lot" he ordered.
Mr.Tilman put his arm across my shoulders and walked me along towards
"When you are old enough to leave school son, you can come and be an
apprentice here, you can learn the ropes and maybe, in 20 years, with a
lot of hard work and even more patience, you may be able to take over my
position and I'll be your under manager" He threw back his head and let
out a laugh which echoed around the factory walls, I had a feeling the
walls had heard that statement before and were laughing back.
"Off you go now", he said, and I scurried off home.
Later that day, two tired children arrived home, Tom had a bloody nose
and Sophies clothes were grubby, they had been fighting.
"Come on Sophie, that'll teach him to call us orphans" said Tom.
From that I gathered they had been bullied but, came out on top.
"Is this how it goes on"? I asked.
"Yes" said Tom,
"Hardly a day goes past without some Smart-Alec remark, and you've got
to stand up for yourself, you can't let them win like the others did"
meaning his temporary brothers and sisters.
"How many have left"? I asked,
"Not enough to worry yourself, Jim me old son"! he replied, perking up
and almost dismissing what had gone on in the past with a wave of his
"Now lets get Sophie cleaned up quickly before Mr. and Mrs. Tilman see
what has happened" said Tom.
"Mums the word" I said, in play on words kind of way. "That was another
thing" I continued, "Why does everyone call them Mr. and Mrs. Tilman not
Mum and Dad"?
"Because" explained Tom, "No one has ever been that close to them,
though they try their best, they will never be Mum and Dad to us, why we
don't even know their first names because they call each other Mr. and
Mrs. Tilman, so what chance have you got"
This was illustrated through dinner that night, it was, "Pass me the
salt Mrs.Tilman" "There you are Mr. Tilman" the old couple were no help
either, they just said,
"yes dear" or "thanks me ducks" and come to think of it they were
addressed as Grandad or Granny so we were none the wiser there either. I
looked at the other two children and we smirked at one another nearly
choking, spluttering and coughing in our efforts not to laugh, their
names did not really matter to us but we found it all a great source of
Two days later it was my time to start school.
"That's your holiday over" said Mrs. Tilman, "Now it's time to get you
educated" and with that I was frog marched to Newport Infant School,
just around the corner named that because it was on Newport Road.
Walking towards the smut covered grimey Dickensian building looming out
of the morning mist, the gargoyles on the front staring down at you as
if to say,
"You will not enjoy what goes on here"
"Here he is" said Mrs. Tilman to the caretaker placing my hand in his,
eager to leave me there in somebody elses care, "Try to keep this one
here until four o'clock if you can" and with that she turned on her
heels and was off down the street and soon out of sight.
"Don't worry son, it's not anything you have done, she was never one to
hang about at the best of times" With a quick squeeze of my hand the
kindly old gentleman lead me across the playground towards the school
entrance, his firm grip on my hand was reassuring and all my fears
"What's ya name laddie" he asked
"James er, Jim" I answered,
"I'm Harry" he replied, as he led me by the hand deep into the the
bowels of the school, down dimly lit passages, interspersed with light
coming from the classrooms either side, the sound of chalk screeching a
cross blackboards, and classes of children chanting numbers in unison
which I would later recognise to be multiplication tables. Suddenly a
classroom door flew open in front of us and out rushed a frightened
young boy, a voice bellowed after him.
"No need to run either, Walk"!
In the half light I could see a large black shiny door with with white
"What does that say"? I asked Harry.
"Can't you read? They'll soon fix that" said Harry, "it says, Mr.
Manfred Zimmerman, Headmaster, he's the big boss around here, you have
to mind you P's and Q's with him" Of course I could read but I wasn't
quite sure of the pronunciation of it, on closer inspection I noticed
that the sign really read Mr. Manfred Zimmerman B.A.and after that
scratched into the paintwork it said NAZI, I didn't know what it really
ment but I was sure from what Harry had said that I would soon find out
just how nasty Zimmerman was. Opposite the Headmaster door stood a
mixed bunch of snivelling kids all different shapes and sizes,
struggling to hold back full blown tears,some shaking, some twitching
trying to contain themselves. Swish,Thwack! was the noise resounding
from within, the rogues gallery were shaking and blinking with every
sound, Swish,Thwack! went the sound again,
The large brass knob on the shiney door twisted and the door
creaked open, out trotted a greasy spotty youth with his hands crossed
under his armpits to nullify the pain of his throbbing palms and rejoined
the line, out behind him strolled a tall thin man in a black gown
covering a dark tweed suit, a full head of grey hair horn rimmed glasses
covering a pair of fiery eyes, holding what looked like a Charlie
Chaplin cane quivering in his tight grip.
"Now let that be a lesson to you, smoking is bad for you, as you can
see it causes throbbing hands and watery eyes, Don't let me catch you
again" he warned them, "Now get back to your lessons" the group scurried
away finally releasing their emotions when they were safely out of
earshot. His gaze then fell on the boy who had just crashed out of the
classroom in front of me,
"You boy" he boomed "Take this note to Mr. Elton and get back to your
classroom, go on, get a move and don't dawdle"! the boy looked at me
with a wry smile and shrugged his shoulders and scarpered happy with his
Mr. Zimmerman then turned his attention to Harry with his cane
protruding from under his arm like a sergeant major.
"Yes? what is it Harold"? he asked, the trembling caretaker.
"A new boy sir" he replied, producing me from behind him like a
"Ah! the new Tilman boy, dejuced Mr. Zimmerman, "Well come in and close
the door, there is a draft and my tea is getting cold" and with that
Harry gave me a push forward and ushered me into his office slamming the
door behind me. Inside his office there were as many books as a library, all well thumbed and squashed tightly onto shelves sagging under their weight, they
smelt musty and damp yet somehow pleasant. Hazy sunshine streamed
through the leaded windows coloured by the school motto in stained glass
back to front, and in latin, which I understood later to mean "Learn
and Serve" I added a few more words, like "Or Else"
In one corner of the room there was a large container full of a variety
of sticks into which he tossed the latest model from under his arm, on
closer inspection I saw that the stick holder was made from an elephants
foot, poor old thing I thought to myself, I wonder how he manages
without it. Mr. Zimmerman returned to his large oak desk and sat down, he
poured his steaming tea into his saucer, and after taking a big slurp,
he sat back in his leather chair and looked me up and down, after a
pause he said,
"I hope you last longer than the last one, because Tilmans, normally
they last one term and the voom they're gone" oh dear, I thought we
sounded like a lost tribe up the amazon, or somewhere.
"Where do they go to Sir"? I politely enquired,
"I don't know and frankly, I don't care," spluttered Mr. Zimmerman taking
another large gulp from an over filled saucer. "You see a Tilman is a
strange creature" he explained wiping his big moist lips on a white
handkerchief, "They come and they go and in between they cause havoc,
fighting, bullying, stealing, and smoking, and generally causing
trouble, then returning to whence they came, all except Thomas he is
made of sterner stuff and generally a good egg, you could do worse than
to follow his example. I must have worn out a cane or two on that boy
last year" leaning back in his chair smiling to himself at the
punishment he had inflicted, "But he's still here, right follow me" he
said beckoning, and he led me off at a Mr. Tilman, pace only pausing
briefly to cuff a passing boy who was running along the corridor
towards the lavatory "Walk Boy"! he bellowed. Finally we reached our
destination, a door marked Art Department Miss Rutherford, he gently
opened the door a crack and he sniffed the air which rushed out, you
could smell the strong scent of lavender water laid on a bit too
"Ah"! said Mr. Zimmerman pushing me into the classroom" Miss
Rutherford another Tilman for you, sit down erm, er,"
"James sir" I said helpfully.
"Oh yes, quite and what is todays project"? he asked her.
"Art Noveau" she replied "The power of the flower" pushing me towards
"How nice" he replied quickly losing all interest,"Must be going now"
and with a flick of his gown he was off down the corridor like a vampire
"Come and sit here" Miss Rutherford said softly wafting her stale scent
around me and ushering me over to an easel set up with plain white paper
"Draw your favourite flower, if you need any help there are charts on
the wall, go on don't be shy, oh and by the way, what is your name"? she asked, I
told her my name was Jim and began to draw, I was no stranger to drawing
and in fact I was a dab hand, as I glanced at the artists besides me I
realised I was talented, it may as well have been finger painting, and I
think I am being over generous when I say most of the others efforts
looked like someone had dropped a sticky lolly on a barbers shop floor, I
was not impressed with them at all. At the end of the lesson I was
singled out for praise, it felt good but I knew the Neanderathals at the
back of the class would not let that pass and at some point I would
have to pay for that attention, I was prepared for that, it was all in a
days work for a Tilman, we could easily take that in our stride. Before
long they were introducing themselves by cutting their knuckles on my
teeth, and I knew that later on I would repay there attentions with
interest and I did, some of them recieved such a beating that they were
not at school the next day.
Newport juniors Leyton 1940
I had learned from Tommy's example. Soon my first day faded into the
distance in what seemed like no time I had lasted both the first term,
and the first year. By that time the bullied had become the bully
of the school even Tom trod carefully around me, even though he had a
couple of years on me. I never did get that birthday party Mrs. Tilman had promised me, but as 1939 passed I settled in and stood the
pace, just like Tom.
WAR AND PEACE
The Headline I had read on the newspaper on my first morning in London,
mentioning a new name to me, "Hitler" came instantly hurtling back
into my mind, it certainly was not "Peace in our time" for at the
beginning of the 1940's Hitler's Armies were advancing rapidly across
Europe and he seemed to be heading straight our way. Dunkirk was a name I
heard banded about alot, and discussed in the evenings.
One evening June 4th. 1940, old Mr.Tilman, bade us to gather around the
radio and listen to a speech from Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister,
He said, sadly the battle for France was over and the battle for
Britain was just beginning, our brave boys were coming home by any means
possible, a floatiler of naval ships, merchant marine, and pleasure
boats were ferrying soldiers from the french beach at Dunkirk, The
British Expeditionary Force, was no longer a force but a beaten army in
retreat. All the soldiers left France with what they were carrying,
just a rifle, all other equipment was left behind, tanks, antitank
weapons, morters, the list was endless.
"Oh! my God"! exclaimed Mrs.Tilman, "Your brother Bert, dear"
Meaning Mr.Tilmans younger brother Albert, who left the factory in
search of adventure with the British Expedionary Force, telling them, he
would be back as soon as they had put heir Hitler, in his place.
Mr.Tilman looked alarmed and then a calm expression fell across his
face, and nodding to himself proudly said,
"Don't worry about Bertie Boy" as he used to call him, "He's
indestructable that one, he'll be back, even if he has to paddle his own
And as sure as eggs are powdered, the following week a dishevelled
figure appeared at the top of Dawlish road, carrying a large kitbag.
At sighting people and the neighbours the battle beaten
figure drew himself up to full height and marched down the pavement in
military fashion, his hobnail boots making such a racket that everyone
who heard, came out to see, excited it was their loved one's coming home
safe, including us, as we were all gathered in the front garden after hearing the noise, previously we had been having our tea inside the window.
Mr.Tilman shaded and fixed his eyes on the figure walking out of
the setting sun, and let out a cry,
"It's Bertie!, it's Bertie Boy"! then regained control of his emotions
as Bert came to a noisey halt, said,"Where the hell have you been,you
bugger, your tea's on the table going cold" and hugged his shorter
brother nearly squeezing what little life was left out of him.
Mrs.Tilman then had a go and after he survived that gave me a smile and a
wink and ruffled my hair.
"You must be James" he said.
"Call me Jim" I replied, and we led him into the front room for his tea,
which was still hot, stew and dumplings, as I remember, we watched as he
ate every morsal, wiping up the last bit of gravy with a doorstep of
bread. As he washed it down with a hot cup of tea, he told us of his
adventures, fighting through France and being driven back again to
"Did you kill any Germans"? we asked not knowing the right things to
"Thousands"! he boasted, really not knowing at all, he had certainly
fired off hundreds of rounds, but really only in the air, desperately
trying to frighten off the enemy. If they had all found a target he
would, in reality, still be there now with all the other returning
heros. All he had to show for his trouble was a pile of salt water
stained clothes and a 303 rifle in need of a bit of oil and TLC, which he set
about cleaning, while Mrs.Tilman, tended to his clothes which were blood
stained but, not his thankfully, the chap next to him caught a
bullet ment for him and slipped back into the English channel
unnoticed, by his comrades, maybe Bertie was indestructable after all.
One story he told, did sound true though.
"One night" said Bertie, "We were in our billet away from the front
line, in a French barn, we had already discovered the farms wine store,
which was soon exhausted, shared out among fifty of us.
Still feeling thirsty we decided to go on a midnight raid, nothing to
shorten the war but, we had passed through a German Kreig-marine base
not stopping as we cleared it but, we remembered a naval store, still
intact and padlocked, only about 2 miles away, so we decided to march
there, using available cover as we went. We arrived at 1am. and told the
guards what was probably in there and they lost no time in smashing the
lock off. Once inside our torches lit up a aladdin's cave of goodies,
German and French garlic sausages swung from hooks all manner of canned
goods from butter to corned beef, dried goods, tobacco and then our
target, cases and cases of German beer. We fell on them like a pack of
wolves cracking the tops open and greedyly guzzling down the golden
liquid. Then fearing being discovered, as it was looting really, and a
offence for which we could all be shot, we loaded up the nearest truck
and just for good measure, we nicked the German Nafi piano which was a
Steck and in fine tune. We rolled silently out of the harbour and sped
off with our booty, when we were at a safe distance, I decided a tune
was called for to celebrate, so I knocked out my rendition of, "Roll out
the Barrel" on the "Old Joanna" and fueled by the German pilsner it
were'nt bad. Then a loud voice shouted,
"HALT"! in an unmistakable German tone. The German trooper was as
surprised to see us, as we were to see him and ran into the bushes from
where he sprang from, alerting his mates, we were'nt about to wait for
their return, so we abandoned the truck and the contraband and returned
at speed to the barn after firing off a few shots. Imagine the look on
the Germans faces when they undid the tailgate of that truck, I
shouldn't think they reported the incident do you? I'm sure
as we left I could hear a German singing Lily Marlane"
We did laugh at his stories, but as he stared into the fires embers he revealed the
true horror of Dunkirk explaining that in all the confusion, many
families knew nothing of the fate of their brave lads and some are still
waiting for news that may never come, simply missing or feared lost in
action, he knew he was one of the lucky ones, which humbled him, many a young lad lay floating in the channel, just 20 miles or so from safety. Meanwhile with Britain at its weakest, the German army seemed to stop and take a breather before taking over our little island, and we were certainly there for the taking. The German army were all in favour of crossing the channel and finishing us off in an operation later named Sealion, but "Heir Hitler" had his own ideas and decided to hand our fate over to the Luftwaffe, the German airforce, he would not attack without air supremacy.That delay gave Britain a chance to organise again and regroup.
Britain had once again become an Island alone, we would have to
re-equipe totally, factories making day to day objects started making
aircraft components, railings were torn up from gardens and parks from
the fear of shortage of scrap iron for all manner of weapons, even
saucepans, pots and pans were collected for aircraft, although we were
wondering how a plane shaped like old Mrs.Tilmans stock pot would ever
be affective. Mr.Tilmans factory took to making, desks and filling
cabinets, for aircraft operations rooms and were commissioned by the war
office for all sorts of thrown together furniture.
We had to construct an Anderson shelter in the garden, a few sheets
of corrugated iron covered with earth with bunk beds paddling in water,
we were destined to spend many a night and day in that hell hole. The
next few weeks were taken up with road signs being painted out,
barbed-wire being laid on open land and beaches, concrete pillboxes covered every angle of attack, Britain was readying itself for invasion, there were posters everywhere, urging people to "Dig for Victory" plant your gardens and allotments with crops of fruit and vegetables, keep a rabbit or, pig for meat, "Walls have Ears" mind what you say in company, spys are everywhere.
At most road juctions gas street lights were shaded from view, people would light there cigarettes from the side of the lamp-post showing lit crossed shaped slits to people approaching a juction from either direction in the London fog.
A "LDV Home guard" was formed to keep watch over local affairs and they believed they were keeping Hitler at bay bless 'em, old soldiers from the 1914 -18 war, were all for fighting the "Hun" for a second time, although that was supposed to be the war to end all wars.
Mr.Tilman junior and senior would put on their arm bands with LDV (local defence volunteers) on and patrol the dark foggy streets, while the real army concentrated on getting back into the war. We were all just waiting for the invasion really.
But Hitler frustrated at not overcoming a small airforce, challenged Air Fieldmarshal Herman Georing of the Luftwaffe to destroy the R.A.F.our only defence, he held his invasion force in the french ports and the bombing raids began, targeting air bases along the south coast merchant shipping and the ports Dover was known as "Hellfire Corner" Mr. and Mrs. Tilman would come home from the Cinema and tell us of air battles they had seen on Pathe News the reporters would give running commentaries from the cliff tops as German dive bombers made run after run at merchant shipping convoys in the channel. Anti-aircraft guns pumped round after round at the Messerschmitz, the cinema audience cheered, booed and hissed like watching a panto, as the plane hit the sea with a splash a small white parachute floated down to be captured perhaps by the Home guard, the strangest sight the pilot would ever have seen, and the only enemy the old codgers would ever meet.
By now the RAF had developed radar which could, they say, look 100 miles over the continent and give an early warning of an attack, by day the RAF would have a field day knocking down aircraft left, right and centre, because of shortage of fuel german fighter escorts could only dogfight over the London outskirts for half an hour and left the bombers to the mercy of our air aces, but enough got through to do their damage, at first docks and factories then railways by night we the civilians were at the mercy of the German bombers inaccurate bombing led to early casualties. But bombing London switched their attention from the airfields and the RAF seized the upper hand.
By the 7th. of April 1941 bombing was relentless day and night, fire crews worked around the clock, to us kids London seemed
a heap of smoldering rubble, by the 15th. the Luftwaffe thought we had no defence and attacked at will, arriving in waves in broad daylight, but over the horizon came our cavalry the RAF, this was our Battle for Britain and heros were born that day and would become legends, we had model aircraft and would act out the battles with real sound effects, watching the dogfights, by the end of the battle the RAF had ended daylight bombing raids and we could lead a normal life by day again. What followed though was the real night terror, the "Blitz" short for the german speciality "Blitzkrieg" 76 consecutive nights of bombing, we dived for cover from dusk till dawn only coming out when the all clear signal was heard from the top of the police station.
Huddled in our shelters we used to count the bombs getting closer and closer dropping nearer and nearer to us the ground shuddered and shook we were next, but no, just aswell because we would never have survived a direct hit just 20 yards from our house although the shelter designers made us believe we would. The bombers were even less accurate at night and bombed anything and everythng trying to flatten London. The Tilmans took to fire watching with the ARP, the firemen controlled the fires but due to lack of water had to let them burn themselves out, there were so many incendurie bombs they could not cope. In that period we later heard over 20,000 Londoners lost their lives apart from others in Liverpool, Coventry and Birmingham.
By the beginning of May 1941 London had taken all it could.The phrase, "This place looks like a bomb has hit it"! came from the scenes of drama on the streets, now it is used to mean a room that is untidy, in the 1940's it would mean rooms that were turned completely inside out. Wall papered walls seemed to lay everywhere, window frames and doors stood alone, outdoor walls gone, with skeletal staircases leading to nowhere, and deep smouldering holes surrounded by red and white poles, there were wonky makeshift hand painted signs reading "DANGER, BEWARE and KEEP OUT"!
By night it became a flashing, thundering hell, by day it was our most exciting adventure playground, with no law apart from the odd policeman worried about our safety chasing us off bomb sites. We spent our days looking for shells, bullets and pieces of interesting shaped shrapnel, Sophie was getting plenty of attention from the American soldiers and they said she had turned into, "Quite a Gal" she was always chewing gum and wearing nylons, or other interesting garments scavenged from the bomb sites. I was now the Head of the best dressed gang in Leyton, we would find all manner of discarded clothing, we wore Top Hats and Tails, further adorned with walking canes, deerstalkers and monicles, we were prepared and could dress for any occasion.
On May 10th. very near to black out time I was going home past the Pawn Shop where Mrs.Tilman had sold my possessions and thought, if only I had the ticket I could get to see exactly what she had pawned, of mine, just out of interest, not for financial gain. On my return home I found myself searching in the bureau with Tom keeping an eye out for Mrs. Tilman, in a tabacco tin I found a huge amount of pawn tickets but luckily they were all clearly dated. I started to carefully sort through all of them, Tom spying what I had found left his lookout duties and rifled for his own ticket. Suddenly the air raid siren started up, warning us to take cover, Tom gathered up the tickets with me quickly ushered me under the reinforced table in the kitchen and pulled down a large table cloth to hide us from view. The old couple, Mr. and Mrs.Tilman and Sophie made a dash down the garden to the Anderson shelter, moaning as they went that it wasn't even dark yet not noticing that we were not in tow, until it was too late and they were firmly encamped in the shelter. As soon as they were safely out of view Me and Tom emerged from under the table and spread the tickets out on the table to continue the search, I found my pawn ticket quite quickly, No. 2005, Tom recollected a similar experience with Mrs. Tilman on his first day but could not rember the date.
Tom had been with the Tillmans so much longer than me, at least a couple of years and had no hope of remembering the exact date that his goodies had been pawned, so he decided the best idea would be to take the whole lot and defiantly stuffed all of the tickets from the tin into his trouser pocket. He intended to sort out his ticket on our arrival at the Pawn Shop, with that we decided it was time to head off along the High Street to our destination The Air Raid warning siren was starting to subside and in the far distance we could hear the muffled hum of the Nazi Bombers, on their way, and the Boom Boom! sound of anti-aircraft guns trying to halt their advance, we temporarily abandoned our mission and ducked into the underground station, the entrance was cushioned by sandbags and guarded by local police and ARP Wardens, ordering us to "look lively, move on quickly and take cover"
Inside the platforms were littered with many local families it looked like a disorganised Sunday school picnic people were sitting around in family groups eating sandwiches and drinking cups of tea, although the adults were trying to reassure the younger family members on closer inspection they were seen to flinch albeit, slightly at every new noise heard, they reminded me of the rogues gallery that I met on my first morning at school, only this time the enemy was not Mr. Zimmerman it was the infamous Luftwaffa this would turn out to be the longest most fierce night of the Blitz, trying to bomb Londoners into oblivion.
As the sounds grew louder one small group began to sing hymns, it seemed as if they were trying to show the Germans that us Londoners were made of tougher stuff than they had bargained on and would not be beaten that easily, although if the truth were known the singing was really just being used to make it harder to hear the bombing and make everyone feel less jittery. Tom and I huddled in between two families and a lady offered a blanket we wrapped it around ourselves and I soon drifted off to a nightmarish sleep.
As I drifted off to sleep I could see Tom searching for his ticket. It was not exactly a comfortable nights sleep, but better than you would imagine it would be spending the night wrapped in a blanket lying on a train station platform. The next thing we knew we knew we were rudely awakened by the all clear siren, as we were deep underground we could not tell that it was morning until we emerged out into the early dawn light, blinking our eyes trying to take in all the damage we were witnessing small fires were glowing in the half light the Home guard now all reduced to fire watchers looked shell shocked and shivered in the cool morning air.
That turned out to be the last sustained bombing raid on London, and Hitler decided to turn his attentions away from Britain towards Russia, a move he would later regret. It would take alot of coaxing to get old Mrs.Tilman out of the shelter back into the house over the next few nights.
As we proceeded along the High Street towards the pawn shop Tom turned to me grinning and proudly announced, "I've got mine, I found it in the pile last night, its even got my name on the back" he said. As we passed the butchers, or what was left of it we skirted a big hole in the road made by a 1000 lb. bomb and realised the hole encumbered the front of the pawn shop aswell, two policemen, a seargent who we recognised from chasing us off the bombsites, and a young constable were standing guard by the hole and two ambulancemen were struggling out of the rubble of the shop with a body on a stretcher, it was the pawnbroker.
unexploded bomb was guarded by two policemen
The seargent went in the ambulance telling the remaining young officer to guard against looters till he returned, when he had left the young copper decided to look in the butchers, the smell of fresh meat being too much to resist I suppose. This was our chance we rushed across the street jumped the barrier and dived into the ruins. Deep in the dusty bowels of the shop we came across allsorts of buried treasure, brass band instruments, ornaments, bric-a-brac, swords, then we came across a glass cabinet protected by a fallen beam laying against the wall, in it was all manner of costume jewelry with laundry tags tied to each, on these was the ticket numbers, frantically I searched the glittering mess, not finding what I wanted I adopted the Tom approach and took the lot.
"Time to leave Tom" I said, and dragged him by the sleeve through to the back of the shop, on our way out he made a grab for something from another cabinet,
"That'll do me" he said, and stuffed it in his inside jacket pocket. We legged it back home through the back alleys not realising we could have been shot for looting, not stopping to explain where we were to the folks, sipping tea in the front room, we rushed straight up the stairs to examine our contraband. Sophie was there getting ready to go and meet her boyfriend, we grabbed the wash bowl and half filled it from the jug and poured our dirty finds into the cold water, Sophie noticing what we had, pounced on a pair of earings and put them on after I had checked the number,
"'Ear hang on"! said Tom, "Thats our treasure"
"Yes" she replied,"Our Treasure"! Then suddenly, it was in my hand, No. 2005, a Locket, Gold and bejeweled with a crest on the front with a raised letter "D" on the back was an inscription "With Love Forever, Dearest Tavvie" What did that mean? I thought, then with my heart thumping and palms sweating I opened it, inside was a minature painting of a grand looking gentleman in a suit with a high collared shirt and tie, in the Edwardian style, he had long side-burns which met a moustache on each side without a beard, inside the lid was a sepia picture of a lady, she was strangely attractive and her eyes were mesmerising they gave me a warm, happy feeling, could this be my mother? and was he, my father? being a locket, a love token he must have cared alot about her, but who was Tavvie?
"Strange name TAVVIE sounds welsh" I said.
"No thats TAFFY stupid" said Tom.
My head was spinning, this was too much for a boy of 11yrs. to be concerned with.
"Look what I got" Tom said, and pulled out from his coat a stilletto knife with a carved handle,
"This must have belonged to an arabian prince" he said, and danced around the fuzzy-wuzzies on the floor in the middle of the room, their leaden spears now bent and rubbed back to the shiney metal, I laughed and forgot for now about my treasure, we packed up the objects and placed them under my bed, then we crept downstairs, the Tilmans were already settling down into the shelter and it was only early evening, so we placed the remaining tickets back in the tobacco tin and got under the table.The next morning we were awaken by Mrs.Tilman moaning,
"I'm never going to spend another night in that damp hole for no reason" she said, "Why, there wasn't even a raid last night, not even a siren, If I'm going to die, then I'll die in the comfort of me own bed" she vowed, and she would never set foot in the shelter again.
"Oh my god" cried Mr.Tilman reading the newspaper over breakfast, "You know that Soloman chap who runs the pawn shop in the high street"
"Oh yes, I know the one" Mrs.Tilman replied, too right she did, I thought.
"Well he was killed in that raid the other night, also a young policeman was stabbed, by a looter in the butchers next door" he announced, me and Tom looked at each other and held our breath,
"Not fately though" he continued, "The looter was caught, they'll hang him" he summised.
Me and Tom exploded with relief and a huge intake of air, as we wiped our brows, that could have been us I'm sure we both thought. Mrs.Tilman deep in thought, got up walked over to the bureau and opened the tobacco tin and surveyed it's contents, then she shrugged her shoulders and calmly tipped the contents on the open fire, then she got a whiff of the aspidistra pot and looked in disgust at old Mrs.Tilman in the corner and left the room. Tom and me agreed that our looting days were over and the objects remained hidden away.
I was now 14 yrs. old and the Germans were on the run, bombing on London was reduced to V1 and V2 rockets, the V1 buzz bomb looked like a small plane with a rocket engine, launched from across the channel, they would just have enough fuel to reach London then the engine would cut out and it would dive-bomb anyone unlucky enough to be underneath there path. V2 rockets were the for runners to later ballistic missles, they would take off vertically and travel at high altitude landing and blowing a crater about 50yds.across we were glad to see the back of them when the allied forces now back on mainland europe over-run there bases. Another person was back on the mainland, yes you guessed it, indestructable Bertie Boy, fighting and drinking his way to Berlin.
Mr.Tilmans factory survived the bombing and set about making cheap replacement utility furniture for the bombed out homes, shoddy looking stuff, thinly veneered with sharp angled simple lines "Art Deco" it was later be known as, and became a symbol of the 30's and 40's just like the much hated Swastika' of the German Nazi party, how could anyone wax lyrical about Art Deco, but then there was always "Art Nouveau" now your talking, flowing organic lines from the Edwardian era 1900's through to the 1930's, flamboyant decoration and carvings you could almost smell the flowers in the stained glass of suburbian Edwardian villa's.
I was now employed at the factory as a 15yr.old apprentice, glueing the dowels in the holes of that hated furniture designed to just about make it to the next decade, they would later linger on changing hands for more than double they were originally at auction houses. I worked my way up though the machine shop, upholstery and delivering,
By 16yrs.I had completed my apprenticeship early, what little there was to learn and entered the new design shop, this I hoped was a major break-through as our furniture had lacked any design at all. But my hopes were short lived because all my designs were deemed old fashioned and elaborate and never made it into production Mr.Tilman saw to that and I became increasingly frustrated and disolutioned.
Even after VE day, VJ day and the troops along with Bertie, arriving home Mr.Tilman was still influenced by the Jazzy Americans designs and their music, fast toe-tapping tunes, peace was just over the horizon, and so was the yank who had left Sophie pregnant, 18 yrs.old and a two year old child in tow, people would point and gossip, but she wasn't the only one left behind the yanks were over paid, over sexed and back over there. Tom had had enough and struck out on his own, as he left, not knowing where he was going, he handed me the stolen knife and hoped I would remember him, I never saw him again. For the next 5 years I bit my tonge, but it was the early-fifties now and Mr.Tilman had discovered the wonders of Formica, plastic stick on coloured rubbish, I decided enough was enough and stormed into Mr.Tilmans office I told him what I thought of his naff furniture, he flew into a rage, and flew at me, I stopped him in his tracks and pinned him up against the wall, my temper had got the better of me and my hand strayed to my inside pocket where I kept Tom's knife, I resisted pulling it out and released my grip on Mr.Tilmans lapels and he promptly sacked me, I wasn't surprised but, he did me a favour.
I had saved a bit of money and decided to move away from the east end and took out a lease on an antiques shop, with a flat above in the leafy suburb of Enfield, then I trawled the auction houses for furniture and decorative items of the Art nouveau period, comfortable chairs, small decorative sutherland tables, lalique glassware and drapes. A joinery shop around the corner would repair and renovate any old pieces, which needed a bit of TLC.
For the first time ever life was sweet and I was doing what I always wanted to do, as the years past I became an expert on all aspects of the antiques trade and I was well respected even though I was only 22 years of age. I grew a beard, as you do, I thought it made me look a bit more distinguished and I could stroke it as I bargained with customers in the shop.
One day just before closing time in early 1952, a storm blew up and rain lashed against the shop front, I decided to shut up shop early and slipped the bolts on the door and turned the sign around to closed, then as I turned to go there came a tap-tapping on the window, there was a figure under an umbrella desperately jesturing for me to open up the door again which I did, in flew the figure and shook off the water like a dog after a paddle.
"Thank god" said a dark haired vision, ripping off a plastic rain-hat and throwing back her long locks over her head, sending them bouncing down her back, "I thought I'd missed you for a moment" she said, through heavily lipsticked red lips.
"And what can I do for you"? I asked, giving her the once over and instantly stripping her to her undies with ex-ray vision, like most young men she met, before me.
"The small carved table in the window, can you deliver it" she asked.
"Of course I can" I replied, glancing out the window at my old morris traveller, "All part of the service! can I take your name and address please"
"Yes, it's Mrs.Sarah Thompson, High Elms, The Ridgeway, Cuffley" and proceeded to write out a cheque plus a 10 shilling tip for opening up for her, as she bent over the table her dress clung to her back-side showing every curve off, her heavy scent washed over me as she pressed the payment into my hand.
"I'll see you later then" she said, and with a flick of the wrist, and a waggle of her hips, her umbrella was up and she was gone into the damp evening air.
I loaded the table into the car eagerly and again locked up, then I was off, Cuffley was only 15 minutes away, and The Ridgeway was like Knob Hill, not a house under £11,000, a million by todays standards, well manicured gardens, with well manicured gardeners, ponds and swimming pools were the norm. lovely stained glass windows everywhere, these people had taste.Then through the haze I spyed the name plate High Elms, and entered the gravel drive, as the car crunched across the gravel two dogs were set off barking then a familiar figure appeared at the door flanked by two German shepard dogs,
"You found us then" said Sarah, and showed me and the table through a large entrance hall into the back lounge, banishing the dogs into the kitchen.
"Cup of tea or, something stronger"? she asked.
"Tea's fine thanks, Mrs.Thompson" I replied, "Nice place you have here, you have good taste in decoration" spying all the glorious objects adorning most surfaces in the room, there were cold painted bronzes of 1920's ladies, a lovely clock garneture on the mantlepiece, classical busts and huge heavy gilt mirrors, I felt right at home as I sunk into a deep leather chesterfield sofa and sipped my tea.
"Yes, I have good taste in everything" she said, "And do call me Sarah, as she eased herself next to me on the sofa now dressed in a flimsey dressing gown. Just then there was the sound of a key in the front door and it was heard to be flung open against a hallstand full of coats, walking sticks and umbrellas sending a vase of flowers delicately placed upon its shelve crashing to the floor, heavy footsteps were heard on the oak floor boards crunching on the remnants of the vase.
"Oh dear" said Sarah, "There goes another one" dismissing the incident as a normal occurance, then she suddenly laughed loudly and slid close up against me as if I had just told her a funny joke.The heavy foot steps grew louder and quickened, then the door burst open half embedding it's handle in the wall. Tom style.
"Ah ha! there you are my love" slurred a tall heavy set man with a pencil thin moustache, like a "Spiv" from the forties, probably how they made there money in the first place, I thought, dressed in a collar and tie, tweed jacket and trousers mudded down one side, obviously from an eventful journey from the Plough Inn, on the corner of the road.
"And what's, going on here then"? he asked.
"Why nothing Bill" she replied, "This kind gentleman just delivered a table I purchased from his shop today"
"Hi, I'm James Spiller" I said, extending a hand to shake, slightly bemused by his wife's actions.
"And what else was he delivering aye"? said Bill looking straight through me at Sarah's scantily clad body.
"Now come on Bill" she said, "You always think the worst, nothing happened between us, honestly" Although if I had arrived home, I thought, I would have been suspicious aswell, I decided to defuse the situation and show him the table.
"This is an Edwardian Sutherland table, ideal for afternoon tea or, as a sofa table" I explained expertly.
"You really think I'm interested, do you, in your silly little table"? and aimed a muddy brogue at it, sending it flying along with Sarah's best china tea service.
"There's no need for that" I said, concerned about the table, "After all Sarah, er, Mrs.Thompson, has paid for it"
"Oh! Sarah, is it now, first name terms and everthing" he said sarcasticly, "Well she doesn't want your grubby little table and she doesn't want you" and shoved me up the hallway flinging the table after me, it crashed against the wall smashing the legs off of the top. Then he turned on his wife grabbing her by the throat and pushing her back onto the sofa, I had to do something and grabbed him from behind with my arm around his powerful neck, he jabbed me in the midrift with his elbow and I fell to the floor winded, he booted me again for good measure and renewed his grip on Sarah again, who was by now frantically hitting him with both her fists. I had to do something and in a daze my hand strayed to my jacket pocket, where I kept Tom's trusty stiletto knife, instinctly I knew it was there, it had gotten him out of many a sticky situation, perhaps if I threatened him with it he might calm down.
Bill heard me get up and swung round in fury as I lunged forward, then a puzzled look came over his face, he stopped in his tracks and slowly looked down, the knife had found it's unintentional target just below his heart, a warm sensation began to engulf my hand, his face went white with horror, I withdrew the knife and Bill fell to the floor in a rapidly growing pool of his blood, Sarah could now see what I had done and began to shake as she drew in breath to finally let out a scream louder than a steam whistle.
"You've killed him" she shouted, Kneeling next to and cradling him, rocking gently to and fro, "You Murderer! he never deserved this"
"But he was choking you" I said, puzzled by her reaction, I had just killed her husband in her defence.
"He would never have hurt me" she said, "He never does, he always forgives me"
"You mean you've done this before"? iI said.
"Yes" she said, "It was always a game, a test of his love for me, it was never ment to end like this, he always threw the other man out and I would make it up to him"
"Well your stupid game has lost a man his life" I said, "you will have to explain to the cops, about your little game"
"On the contrary" said Sarah, "You will have to explaine your breaking in here, to steal our things, for your shop, and being caught in the act by my husband, and murdering him"!
"But you caused this" I said, "You lured me here to make your husband jealous I was a pawn in your sick game. Now I have his blood on my hands you rest the blame on my shoulders"
I wiped the knife calmly on his tweed sleeve and placed it back in it's hiding place, then walked from the room, with her screams of murderer ringing in my ears, I tripped over the broken table, as I was picking my self up I looked up, on the stairs was a young girl looking through the bannisters fixing her gaze on my features, it was Lizzie, Sarah's 6 year old daugther, she too let out a blood curdling scream when she glanced down the hall at the scene of the crime, and it was a crime, I admit that, murder it was, although carrying a knife would make it pre-meditated but not my intention, the other times I had drawn it were to wave about to frighten off an attacker, but I wasn't going to hang about and test the laws of this country it was time to beat a hasty retreat, so with their screams still ringing in my ears, I sped away as fast as an old car would go, the screams faded away as I drove out of the drive.I was in a shocked trance nearly causing several accidents, as I headed home, luckily Sarah had not recovered her senses enough to ring the police immediately, and I had just enough time to get to the flat and grab some cash and pack a case, It was getting late now and I had realised I had left my passport I had recently obtained for my annual holiday in Paris, studying the architecture, and styles I Ioved so well, all that was destroyed now by my stupidity.
Self preservation was my only thought now before the police could arrive as I sped off in the car. I had to get out of Enfield and headed north, up the great north road following my instincts, back towards my roots.
Into view came a lit sign "The Black Cat Cafe" a transport cafe near Hatfield, I decided to pull in and gather my thoughts, I was too tired to drive any further anyway. Entering the car park, I drove to a dark corner and parked up, then I got out a dog eared old map and tried to work out where the hell I was and where the hell I was going. I decided a cup of tea would make things alot clearer and walk gingerly to the cafe, first I visited the outside toilet to check for signs of blood, my shirt had plenty on it, but my coat would cover that up, after washing my hands I would have to get a change of clothes from the car. On opening the door I was surprised to see the car park packed with lorries and music was coming from within the cafe, I walked towards my car, as I reached the first lorry I noticed a police motorcycle ride into veiw, looking around the vehicles, I decided to button up my coat and head for the noisey cafe.
In the cafe were a mixture of leather clad bikers, lorry drivers and down trodden types on their way north, in my present state I would fit in well, making my way to the counter it dawned on me all my cash was in the car so I searched my pockets and scraped together a shilling enough for a tea and a bacon sandwich according to the hand written menu on the wall. I sat by the window and munched on the greasy meal whilst keeping an eye on the policeman, who had by now found my car and was scribbling in his notepad excitedly. Then he made his way to the cafe and stood in the doorway surveying the clientel, I kept my head down and listened to the lorry drivers chatting about their loads and destinations, the policeman went to the payphone to report in about my car so I cadged a lift from a driver called Ken going north, telling him I'd broken down, he was glad of the company and I quickly climbed into the passenger side and sank down low in the seat, before we left two police cars and a van from Hatfield nick pulled up and several down and outs were bundled in, looks like the heat was off for now. Ken checked his lorry straps, dressed in his flat cap and donkey jacket hauled himself into the drivers seat and pulled away out of the cafe, as we disappeared in the mist the down and outs were protesting at their treatment at least they would get a warm bed for the night.
"Where you heading for" said Ken,
"Danby," I said, without thinking, although my brain had decided on its own, that was my destiny, and I settled back into a thankful slumber.
"Danby aye!, well sleep well mate, it will take a while at this speed" said Ken. Two hours later I was woken by a big hairy hand shaking me back to my senses.
"This is where I turn off" Ken annouced, "Danby is up there a couple of miles" and he gestured towards a lane on the left in the inky black mist, I descended the steps backwards gingerly, as the lorry roared off into the night, I looked up at the road sign in the head lights, DANBY 5 MILES, it read, yes it was Danby my childhood beginnings.
I drew myself upright and shuffled off towards the village. It was getting light when I came across a familiar facard looming out of the mist. A long stoney driveway led to a victorian looking building and a large green and gold enamel sign which said, "Danby School For Girls" I recognised it as the orphanage from my past, I walked to the rear of the building and found the garden where I used to toil as a boy, but rows of veg. and fruit bushes were replaced by lush lawns, in one corner stood a large hornbeam tree I recognised, I decided to climb it as I did all those years ago. From the top of the tree I could see the roof and now alot more of Danby Manor as the tree had grown considerably since I last sat in it, I must get a closer look, I thought and slid down the trunk.
I opened the gate in the wall and walked towards the Manor, as I trudged across the open fields I was feeling tired and exausted from my journey, I had just managed to get a full view of the Manor as it lights came on inside illumating the surrounding lawns through the large french windows, I ducked down out of sight, as I sank to my knees I felt unable to regain my stance and sank down in the undergrowth, into a deep needed sleep.
"I was born on the 2nd. October 1901, into service, as it was known then, and christened Beatrice, Anne Tavistock, my mother was cook at Danby Manor, father who I never saw alot of in my early years, was a labourer on the Manor estate, he often left home at the crack of dawn and never arrived home until dark, he had served in the first world war and arrived back safely with other members of the staff who were in what was called a 'Pals' regiment, made up of volunteers in the same county, we were all in the service of Lord Roderick Peter and Lady Janice Ethal Danby. Lord Roderick was a typical aristocrat of his day, hunting, shooting, fishing and debating in Parliment or at his London club, whilst running a busy estate, his family could be traced back to Norman times he was offically the 13th. Earl of Danby. Lord Roderick had led his own troop, The Danby comrades Volunteers, Pals regiment formed near the end of the war but never got to see any heavy action, he retired with the rank of Major, Lady Jan as my mother new her, was former Lady in waitng to the late Queen Victoria, now content to concentrate on running Danby Manor a vast country pile, renovated and rebuilt in the last century in the victorian style, with money earned from land deals and being an estate, farm rents and game shooting
The Danby Pals 1918
We had a tied cottage on the outskirts of Danby village, a path from the gate in the back garden led to the Manor, here I was born, mother had worked in the Manor kitchens until full term when she had felt faint and was brought home by father on his hand cart a little bit undignified but she was a large woman even when she wasn't pregnant with me, I had hardly showed inside her large belly under a black dress and white apron, as big and as powerful as my father was, he could never had carried her. The doctor was summoned and I was delivered into the world, within days mother was back at work organising breakfasts and dinners. Her other duties included estate midwife as the doctor was too far away to be of use, she was generally reveered and well thought of among all empoyee's of the Manor.
On my 10th. birthday it was my turn to start work in the manor house, we entered through a large creaking black door into the servants hall at 5.30 am. the ceiling was yellowing plaster from gas lamps hissing on the walls, turned up on our arrival by Tilly the kitchen maid a young girl of 16 yrs., who was always first up to light the large black leaded range and make the servants tea, she would wake the footmen Josh a young man of 22 yrs. and Jacob slightly younger at 20 yrs., the chamber maids Lorna and Carol, both 18 yrs. and Mr.Tiptree His lordships butler, 45 yrs. old and head of our household, Miss Denton, the housekeeper, a 50 year old spinster, had a separate appartment along the hall, but was awoken by the noise in the kitchen as they all rose as one to greet me into their world, I would have to accompany my mother every day why, I was learning my duties, the kitchen was already a warm place as Tilly had done her jobs early knowing I would be there today. By 6am. they were all sitting down for breakfast, sausage and egg, whatever they were having upstairs but in smaller quantities Lady Jan did not want anybody malnurished, they were good to their servants and commanded great loyalty in return. Breakfast was also the staff meeting and Mr.Tiptree would tell them all their daily chores, and they listened politely raising their eyebrows at each other, as they knew them already, but Mr.Tiptree did like to tick all his boxes on the daily rota, which started straight after breakfast Lorna laid fires in the breakfast room and drawing room, while Carol took a large shallow cup of piping hot tea to Lady Jan, knocking on the door lightly and entering, to place her tea on the bedside table, then opening the curtains just a crack to let a little light in, and lay out her dressing gown, in colder months she would stoke up the fire, or bring some hot coals on a shovel from the kitchen, to make the atmosphere a little warmer, then she would leave and lady Jan would wake at her leisure.
While that was happening, Josh would be performing a similar task for Lord Roderick, along with a jug of hot water from the kitchen range for a wash and shave, his lordship was always up smartly and telling Josh which suit he would want this morning.
Her ladyship would ring for Carol to come and brush her hair and arrange it up into a typical victorian bun although Carol would try to persuade her to try up to date styles, between them they made sure she was always looking her best. Then Lady Jan would arrive in the breakfast room first to open the mail left on the table for her by Miss Denton. Meanwhile Jacob would be trying to raise the youngest member of the family Master William by simply entering the room without knocking and flinging open the drapes flooding the room with sunlight, for master William was 10 years old, the same age as me, but needed a prod or two to get up, although he was the same age as me we never met till much later"
"Come on sleepy head" said Jacob, more like a bigger brother than a servant, "And what would you like to wear today?, no don't tell me, let me guess your best shooting suit"
"Got it in one, Jake" said William, "Todays a big day for me, my first shoot, well offically anyway"
"But you shoot everyday" replied Jacob.
"This is different" said Thomas, "Instead of crows, magpies and pigeons, it'll be pheasants, partridges, foxes and deer, with my trusty gun dog Miller, we'll save the day"
"Well I think the Danby hunt take care of the foxes" laughed Jacob, "And we haven't got any deer, still enough of this lets get you downstairs for breakfast, or I'll be shot by Mr.Tiptree for sure"
Meanwhile my mother in the kitchen had cooked and delivered the breakfast fare to the serpentine server, in the breakfast room just before Lady Jan and Lord Roderick arrived. His Lordship made straight for the silver dome covered platters and lifting them described the contents to himself.
"Bacon, sausages, eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms, I'll have the lot I think" he said eagerly.
"Hungry dear"? asked her ladyship.
"It's not that" he said, "By the time that lot get here and start scoffing, you won't get a look-in" meaning the guests for the shoot, as his lordship reached the table a fresh rack of toast was placed next to him and her ladyship, as his backside hit his seat, another box ticked off mentally by Mr.Tiptree who poured out the tea with a satisfied smile, which turned to a frown when in breezed young master William, Mr.Tiptree didn't really approve of William as he was over familiar with his staff, but put it down to his age, he would have to learn to put his servants in their place and keep them at arms length, after all he would be lord and master one day and discipline was the key to the divide between upstairs and below stairs and respect would be gained from that. He was also anoyed that he had reached his chair without his fresh toast, so it was a mini disaster, showing as a hard stare aimed at Lorna, not that William cared as he never ate it anyway and gnawed at a sausage on his fork.
"And what's your plan for today, William"? asked his lordship, "Shooting something, perhaps"?
"Well father, I was thinking actually of joining in the shoot today" William announced, "It's about time I learnt the family trade so to speak"
"Well we'll have to see" his lordship said, "I was relying on you to be my loader today really, mind you if people don't turn up and there's a spare peg, then you might be lucky"
Williams look of dread turned to a wide smile when lady Jan read out a telegram from Lord Carnarvon, sayng he was unable to attend today due to a previous arrangement, but his wife Lady Cynthia and daugther Clare, would still be joining us.
"A likely story, aye! Tiptree" joked his lordship, "We know different don't we"?
"Well, his aim was some-what off, you might say last time your lordship" said Mr.Tiptree, refering to a incident when a cow was shot accidently, obviously by Carnarvon.
"I don't think the dairy herd could stand any more losses" laughed his lordship, "In fact I heard we own the only rare breed freisians in the country, since he started coming here" and broke into an infectious belly laugh which had every body going, even her ladyship.
"Well, Clare will take your mind of shooting William, at least for a few hours" said Lady Jan.
"Girl's!, what good are they"? said William, "Just get in the way, as far as I'm concerned" then excused himself and left the table, embarrased by Lady Jan's comment.
Meanwhile in the kitchen I had been put to work peeling potatoes, and mother was awaiting the menu for dinner that evening, the only thing she knew for sure was there was always potatoes on it. For lunch there woud be a buffet picnic type meal, served out in the open from large hampers by Josh and Jacob. Cold meats, preserves and drinks were carefully packed in large wicker baskets and strapped to the back of his lordships car, while Miss Denton discussed the contents of the larder with Lady Jan, game was always the theme of these occasions and the menu included things available from the estate, the soup would be a beef broth, enabling Lord Roderick to make humourous comments on Lord Carnarvons shooting ability. The fish would be carp or pike from the lake kept in a fresh water larder behind the house to wash out the muddy taste, butchered fresh meats from trunks filled with ice made in the estates ice house, duck pate, pheasant, game pie, with master William's pigeon and carion being put to good use, followed by all manner of sweets, homemade fruit pies with custard, mince tart and fresh Ice cream, and cheeses from the dairy, Josh would also be making a centre piece for the table, traditionally a large swan carved from a block of solid ice from the ice house.
At about 9am. guests started arriving, up the gravel drive into the car park, and were busy unpacking guns and cases from shiney Rolls Royce's and sporty large open top cars, ladies were greeting each other,air kissing on both cheeks friends they had not seen for, at least a week. They also brought with them their own servants and batmen to carry their cases and meet their every need. Josh and Jacob would show them to their masters rooms in the guest wing and they woud return after laying out their evening dress suits. Last to arrive was a large open top, white Rolls Royce, in the back was a elegant lady with a parasol and dark glasses wearing a silky flower print dress edged with frills, totally different to all the other ladies in their tweeds, no doubt about it, it was Lady Carnarvon, as she got out a equally flamboyantly dressed lady in minature was seen behind her, it was Clare. William took a step back shyly but, was prevented from escaping by Jacob who stood behind him urging him forward to greet Clare.
"Nice to see you again, Miss Clare" said Jacob, "Is it not, Master William"
"Oh, yes indeed, It is" replied William, admiring her from afar, in a sort of trance, Clare was two years older then him but, he regarded himself as older and maturer than his ten years, which made her in his eye's about eighteen and a vision of beauty, then he was woken from his trance by her voice.
"Hello, William" said Clare, in a startling high pitched squeal, "Are you going to show me to my room" he took her bag from Jacob and led her to the guest wing,
"Are you shooting today"? she asked.
"Er, yes, I will take your fathers place" replied William, "Busy today was he"?
"No, not today, actually I think he was embarrassed about last time, between you and me" replied Clare.
"Here we are" said William, opening the door to her room, "Would you like come and watch me shoot"?
"I thought you might like to show me round, instead" replied Clare, suggesting he put her before shooting.
"Plenty of time for that, You've got all day tomorrow" said William, putting her bag down and exiting backwards.
As he arrived back in the car park the shooting party had started drifting off towards the nearby fields in one's and two's, carrying their guns, followed by their servants with the ammunition,
Lord Roderick walked arm in arm with Lady Jan, chatting with Lady Carnarvon, bringing up the rear slowly was Lord Rodericks car with the picnic, driven by Josh, William quickly caught up with Jacob and relieved him of the weight of his gun, and proudly marched on ahead, Jacob smiled and shook his head in amusement. Meanwhile Clare decided to look round the Manor house alone, walking along the corridors admiring all the oil paintings of previous lords and ladies of Danby and imagined herself up there one day. She came across the dining room with its long polished table and carved chairs being laid for dinner by Carol and Lorna, overseen by Miss Denton, with all the best polished silver cutlery neatly arranged in order of use.
Back at the shoot Lord Roderick was knocking down birds by the dozen, looked on jealously by William who was trying to claim other peoples hits, then he got one of his own and tried to hide his excitement carmly saying,
"That's another one Jake, we're shooting well today, keep the ammo coming"
Jacob shook his head and carried on expelling hot used cartridges and loading fresh one's into the smoking barrels. Lord Roderick looked across at him and winked and smiled a knowing smile,Miller the truste gun dog was well employed retrieving all Lord Rodedricks targets, in the distance Mr.Tiptree was over-seeing the laying out of the picnic by Josh on trestle tables covered with white linen table clothes, while serving Ladies Danby and Carnarvon, red wine, who having given up their stands after the first kill, Lady Jan decided to keep Lady Carnarvon amused by commenting on the antic's of the others. Finally the whistle was blown by the gamekeper signaling time for lunch, dogs and beaters walked in collecting the victims of the mornings sport, 85 cock and hen pheasants, one snipe and a fox bagged from the last stand by the woods, as it tried to make a break for the meadow, William arrived at the table carrying his first brace of pheasants and recieved a round of applause from the ladies.
"There you are ladies and gentlemen" he said proudly, "We'll eat well tonight" and handed his quarry to Jacob, as if to suggest they'll be eating them within hours, when in reality tonight they would be eating a selection of well hung birds from last week, a source of amusement to the seated guests, but there laughter was cut short by Lord Roderick.
"Well done my boy"! he boomed, saving his son from ridicule, "A toast, ladies and gentlemen, to my son William, a first class shot"! and downed a glass of port while William sipped some of my mothers homemade lemonade.
"Here, here" said a male voice and tapped the table in agreement, followed by everyone else, as the noise abated everyone got stuck into the cold meat and preserves laid out before them by Josh in a tried and tested fashion, looked on proudly by Mr.Tiptree. A duck shoot followed lunch, so wellingtons were put on signalling time for well dressed ladies to return to the manor for afternoon tea served on the terrace by Lorna and Carole with mothers homemade biscuits. The afternoon light was fading when the men folk finally trudged back into the gravel courtyard and climbed the stone stairs to the terrace, weary sportsmen made their way to their rooms to dress for dinner. Hot water was already placed in jugs on their wash stands by Josh who had arrived back earlier after the alfresco meal. Within the hour Mr.Tiptree was ringing the dinner gong which five smart raps of the felt headed drumstick. As the gong still resinated the long dinning room filled with guests looking for their place names and began the process of swapping about places to chat to their friends much to the dismay of Miss Denton who placed people where Lady Jan had requested, so when Lady Jan finally sat down she was surprised at here neighbours, but that was a minor misdomeaner as everyone was soon chatting away through the first course of the beef broth which Lord Roderick remarked was curtosy of Lord Carnarvons local black and white buffalo shoot last week, which got a laugh even from Lady Carnarvon.
The Ice sculpture of a swan Josh had fashioned slowly melted as the courses went on, ending up with cheeses and port as the ladies retired to the drawing room and the gentlemen smoked cuban cigars and swapped hunting stories in front of one of Carols well made up log fires. The servants were all given the rest of the evening off and returned to the servants hall, where Mr.Tiptree remarked on his ticked boxes satisfyingly, Miss Denton moaned about the place names but she had got away with that as Lady Jan had enjoyed her neighbours company, so all in all it was a pretty successful day, Mr.Tiptree afforded himself a small brandy he kept locked away for such an occason and retired to his bed, he would have to get up early the next day to see off most of the guests before breakfast who had to return to London and elsewhere attended to by their own servants serving them breakfast in their rooms, my mother put by provisions for this purpose and a pretty set menu of toast and preserves or porridge was about all they got, anyone wanting more would have to attend in the breakfast room later. Lady Carnarvon left early with Clare, and were unable to say goodbye, which William secretly felt peeved at.
After our labours we would finally arrive home at 12.30am. and fall into bed ready to rise early the next morning. Saturday was a day off and we would take a picnic into the estate and visit my father mending fences or, ditch clearing. The Manor house made do with cold meats and Mr.Tiptree would make them tea, he in turn would have an afternoon off during the week, we lost our Saturdays off if there was weekend guests for shoots we would serve meals on the terrace in fine weather and watch the shooting. Geese, ducks, pheasants, partridges and rabbits all for the larder, excess were sold off to dealers, the demand for game was insatiable.
And daily life went on for the next 19 years, Tilly showed me how to lay a fire and so I took on her duties, first up and last out. But she did give me one word of advice,
"Look out for master William, his hands are everywhere" when I asked her what that ment, she said,
"Just you wait and see, all I can suggest is don't be caught alone with him"
Master William Roderick Danby now 29 years, as was I, was quite the gentleman, he had married Clare, his childhood sweetheart, in a lavish ceremony held at the Family chapel in the grounds, and was now a successful businessman, having survived the Wallstreet crash and general strike, Britain was on the rise again and shrude investments made the family enormusely wealthy and Royalty were now regular visitors to the shoots, although at home things were not so happy, Clare had lost three babies by miscarriage and the marriage was a bit stressed for that, as William had no son and heir.Lord Roderick and Lady Jan were ageing gracefully and still commanded the love and respect from staff to royalty.
Then one evening, I found William staring into the embers of the drawing room fire, Clare had retired for the night after yet another drunken mawling from her husband and I was about to depart for home.
"Shall I stoke up the fire for you Master William" I asked, their was no reply, so thinking he was sleeping or, drunk, as there was a near empty decantor by his side, I began to creep out, as I turned to go I felt two strong arms around my waist, William had woken from his slumber and grabbed me perhaps thinking I was Clare. He pushed me face down onto the chesterfield and lifted my dress and pettycoat and ripped away my under garments, muttering as he did, something about stoking another sort of fire, then with a sharp pain he stole what was to be saved for a future husband, my virginity. I was in shock it seemed to go on forever. When he had finished he fell back into his chair into a deep sleep, I was still bent over frozen with fear, not daring to move cursing myself for not heeding Tilly's advice. Then seeing him asleep I gathered up my things and ran home, should I tell mother? definately not father, the shame of it, I decided to keep it a secret.
The next morning Master William slept in, so I avoided confrontation, when our paths did cross the next morning he never even made eye contact, if I thought he felt something for me, it would have been not so bad but, there was no aknowlegment what so ever, it was as if nothing had happened.
In his mind he inpregnated Clare, in a drunken effort to continue the family line, but in my mind I relived the moment in nightmares over and over, waking up screaming till my mother made me tell her the cause of it all. She sat back and with her head in her hands she wept and vowed to get even with Master William one day.
The pivotal part of my life came approximately nine months later, the weirdest and worst night of my thirty years, Mistress Clare was unusually at full term and deep in labour, but so was I, my waters had not yet broken but I was in alot of pain, mother had been summoned away to be with Clare, as the midwife, it was a filthy night dark and rain swept, mother arrived under a heavy cloak and rushed to Clare's side, William was ordered from the room and Lorna and Carole attended with hot water and towels, mopping her sweating brow, she was certainly in alot of stress, mother set to work and encouraged Clare to push down hard, she had been in labour for four hours when she gave out a blood curdling scream and fainted.
The baby, a boy lay on the bed motionless, after a slap and a soft rub there was no response, it appeared to be the same old story, then my mother thought for a moment and told Lorna and Carole to summon the doctor at once not reveiling to them the fate of the baby, they left immediately with orders to phone the doctor and not to return to the room without him and not to worry William, none the wiser they obeyed, this was an opportunity to right a wrong my mother thought, she quickly gathered up the baby wrapped in a towel and decended the back stairs passing Mr.Tiptree's room who was by now ageing and a little hard of hearing, out through the kitchen and servants entrance, away down the path home to wear I was in the middle of giving birth with a panicing father trying to fathom out the whole situation, and how I got that way in the first place.
Ever practical mother kept her cool and sent him out for a smoke, and ordered not to return, as I gave birth she kept saying it's alright my dear all your problems are over your mother knows best, she relaxed me so much, I hardly felt any pain as the baby popped out, but then the pain seemed to increase and as she held up the baby, a boy to show me, I screamed and felt the need to bear down a second time, my mother was horrified as was I when I gave birth to a second baby, all the pain I missed from the first birth now hit me and I too passed out, but the second baby, also a boy lived and my mother sat on the bed with her head in her hands, two wriggling babies lay beside her and one motionless bundle her hands slid down her face and she pondered the fate of the babies, there was only one thing for it, so after wrapping the wriggling first born up and laying the second in bed beside me, she was off again with the bundle back out into the night and by-passing Mr.Tiptree, retracing her steps up the back stairs to Clare's bedside, who was by now stirring from a pain filled sleep.
One hour later a tap at the door brought the doctor met by a gleeming midwife and a glowing mother cradling her new son, my mother left the now happy scene smiling to Lorna and Carole and to herself as she left them to tend to their mistress, she went to tell to the father. As she descended the stairs her intention was to tell William a few home truth's but, after telling him he was the father of a new son, his happiness outweighed her anger and he rushed away to see his newborn, mother arrived home exausted and fell asleep in the armchair by the fire her head spinning with the events of the past evening.
The next day father went on the warpath and wanted to kill all the young men in the village we calmed him down but he said I had brought shame on the family and made me feel like a prostitute, he left to work on the estate, my mother told the staff I had gone to visit relatives and I kept my head low for a week or so. When I arrived back at the Manor for work I learned that William and Clare wanted a nanny to look after their new son, now named, Robert Roderick Danby. I decided to apply not knowing the true identity of the boy, after all I thought my first born had died as it was wrapped up and lay on my bed that night. from the first time I held Robert I had a calming affect on him not knowing why.To keep it in house so to speak I was given the job and became the nanny and later governess to Robert and later Thomas a cousin to came to stay after a death in the family, as Clare could not have anymore children, and Thomas was only a couple of months younger than Robert, he was a welcome addition to the family.
For becoming a member of the closer knit family I was given a present of a locket by William a old family piece with the Danby crest on the bottom and inscribed to Tavvy with love, he told me, I should not wear it as his family would not understand, being a family heirloom.
I decided to show it to my mother who opened it inside was a photo of William but not Clare I asked mother why that would be and she decided to tell me the story of that fate filled night, she also revealed she had indeed told him of his shortcomings that night and could not abandon his responsibilities, he had agreed and apologised for his behaviour he had not known and promised to mend his ways. I was taken aback but I realised the logic of the situation, that is why I decided to give up the other twin brother I had named James and set about making plans to give him up for adoption but my mother was quick to stop me in my tracks.
"How are you going to explain his existence"? she asked, "No birth certificate no father you can mention, your reputation at the Manor, you can forget that idea"
So I decided to leave him on the local orphanage steps, but he will have a picture of his father and mother, I proceeded to cut out a picture of my face from a newspaper article about Lord Danby showing all his staff on the steps of the Manor and placed it in the other side of the locket. That night mother and I sneaked in the back gate of the orphanage and left James clutching the locket in a basket on the steps, rang the bell and hid in the bushes, out came two nun's through the heavy creaking door, looking out into the gloom they saw no one and took the basket inside, that was the last I saw of him, March 1930, later on, I would sometimes look through the gate at the boys working in the gardens wondering was he still there or not.
I carried on at the Manor knowing I was close to my first born Robert, I was treated like a member of the family the children loved their nanny known to them as Tavvy, William doted on Robert and he grew up as William had done, training as the future Lord Danby.
The second world war was looming and Lord Roderick was campaigning to teach Hitler a lesson, but Neville Chamberlain decided a softly, softly, approach would be better, as it played out this was a mistake and we were left with no option but to declare war on Germany after betrayal by Heir Hitler in Poland.
William with the blessing of his father joined up and was commissioned Captain William Danby in the Derbyshire regiment, I wept inside as he left in January 1940, but he wasn't gone for long and returned from the disaster of Dunkirk shellshocked a shadow of his former self, thinking it was going to be like a pheasant shoot he withdrew into himself retiring on medical grounds feeling he had let down his family and his country, he lost touch with reality even I could not bring him to his senses, he went out early one morning into the mist and shot himself near where he had shot his first brace all those years ago. At the reading of the will I stood at the side just as an interested observer, but things took a turn when near the end of the reading my name came up, and read as follows "To Tavvy, I leave her tied cottage and £10,000, and this" And I was handed a letter sealed with the family crest in wax. I put it in my apron intending to read it later. Another of William's wishes was the old orphanage to be converted to a girls school, as it lay on estate land nobody thought it out of the ordinary and brought William praise from the locals.
Clare was beside herself with grief and wore black from that day forth, teenager Robert buried himself in his studies, he won school prizes for speaking and debating, was head boy where ever he learnt, he passed all his degrees in law literature, the arts and languages, he embarked on a redesigning, and remodeling of Danby. I was now housekeeper my mother had died at the end of the war and I ran the house with all new staff old Tiptree was pensioned of and I ran a slick organised household the envy of the young Queen Elizabeth and new husband the Duke who was a keen shoot a never missed a date. Clare was frail and made offical appearances only the old Lord Roderick and Lady Jan were just about bedridden. Me and Robert made a good team with cousin Thomas, who ran the estate office and the shoots, Robert like his father did have a bit of a ruthless streak no one stood in his way I kept his feet on the ground, but he made all the decisions, he was his own man, and a law unto his self. By the time Robert had finished redecorating, landscaping and re-organising, It was 1952, the old couple had died, and were laid to rest in a niche, in the chapel family crypt beside Williams, rather grand stone sarcophagus. At the service was the school headmistress Julia Thompson, Lord Roderick was a patron of the newly converted local orphanage, now called "Danby School for Giirls" and she wanted to pay her respects, she caught the eye of Robert and he caught his head, on the stone lintel of the crypt,as he craned his neck to get a better look at her as he headed through the door. He soon got to know her and she,was invited to stay for the weekend. I approved of this and thought it quite ironic but, the thought was in the back of my mind I might find out about what happened to little James. But Robert was now lord and master of Danby, he took up his fathers place in office and if anything was more successful, he had all the social attributes, he could talk and lecture on any subject, I was so proud of him, but he would always ask my opinion on a variety of subjects from estate problems to private thoughts, not even Clare knew about, I still had that carming affect on him.
Lord Robert was now a cracking shot and envyed buy most of the aristocracy, crowned heads of Europe were regular guests and he was instantly recognised and never out of the press for his good deeds, although he was a lord by birth right he would have certainly been knighted by now, he and his wife of two years Lady Julia the former local headmistress who quickly bore him two young children Shirley and Jayne. But a dark cloud was on the horizon it was the time of the Suez crisis national service was the norm. and Robert joined up to help he was knowledgeable about the area in the middle east, he had discussed the situation with the P.M Antony Eden at a recent shoot, and knew many goverment leaders and his foriegn languages would come in very useful.
As he spoke fluent arabic, he volunteered as a interperator being a lord he thought, he might have some influence and command a bit of respect, but this was the 1950's, we had a new Queen and British Colonialism was on the ebb, he might find he was stuck in the past. As the days went by we heard from Robert by telegram, he had settled into his work as interperator and interveiwed local arab leaders reporting back to the British Embassy.
As hostilities increased we heard less from him and put this down to his work load being secret most of the time, he could not divulge any information, in the evenings we would sit around the flickering television, hoping to catch a glimpse of him, but tele-journalism in those days was very basic any they relied on reading out offical hand outs from the military or foreign office sources, we were kept in the dark as to the real situation in Suez area, so we were quite entertained by Clares antics as she figited about in her chair pointing at every politician claiming it was Robert, but such grainy pictures could never prove anything, once she even pointed at a camel, Lady Julia had to restrain Shirley and Jayne from laughing at Clare, she was so proud of him and, we all just wanted he home safely. Less and less information came back to us and inquiries were made as to his where-abouts, In an operation called "Eagle" the British forces attacked a police station in a town called Ismalia on the west bank of the Suez Canal, Egyptian police under King Farouk, were feeding information to to the resistance movement, "Operation Eagle" was an attempt to crack down on the corrupt police force and impose martial law, then one day a telegram arrived.
"It's from the War Office" I said, as I handed it to Lady Julia, at the breakfast table, the colour drained from her face as she read to herself the contents.
"Well" said Clare "Is it Robert"? as Shirley and Jayne started biting there nails furiously.
"We are sorry to inform you" Lady Julia read aloud, "That a police station and military headquarters in the arab quarter of Ismalia, Egypt, were destroyed by a co-ordinated morter and tank attack, military attache Robert Danby was known to be in the building, on orders of his commanding officer Brigadier Marriott, believed to be working as an interogator, Robert was placed on the missing in action list feared dead, as the Brigadier had been killed and no body was found for Robert. We must also inform you that the attack on the police station has been deemed friendly fire, and any deaths in such situations are regretable but unavoidable"
"Missing"? screamed Clare, "Missing? but I saw him on the news just last night, there must be some mistake"
"The ensuing fire and looting had destoyed most of the station and chard bodies lay everywhere" it said on the news later, was one of them Robert only dental records would show that, and a long wait lay ahead.
Clare was helped to her room still claiming he was alive and well, but Lady Julia half accepting his death went into semi-mourning and started wearing black again, but Shirley and Jayne would not give up on him, and along with Clare veiwed all the latest news, and kept their spirits up, hoping for the best. Sometimes they would even rise early to beat me to the postman, only to hand it to me dejected. All activity ceased at the Manor for now and the estate manager Thomas just mantained the status quo, in readiness for Roberts hopeful return.
"My name is Lord Robert Danby the 14th. Earl of Danby, I ran a successful estate in the county of Derbyshire, with my wife Lady Julia and two lovely children, Shirley and Jayne.
Danby Manor, the family seat, boosts thousands of acres of forests and arable land, where we run a very successful world renowned shooting, fly fishing and equine estate, but it wasn't always like that my father, the tragic William Roderick the 13th. Earl, ran it as a rather amateur affair with people free loading off him shooting valuable stock with little return, in my day we had paying guests, including Royalty, and they were happy to pay for quality and service, my cousin Thomas ran the day to day business and I brought in the best shots, because we had to sell on the proceeds of the shoots to game dealers, and we had to shoot our quota, to be as sucessful as we were.
My wife reduced the staff down after the death of our old cook Mrs.Tavistock, her daughter Tavvie now in her fifties, and our former nanny stayed on as housekeeper, as she was more like one of the family beloved by my grandparents and father she had been there it seemed like forever, she knew us and our business inside out, our own children were schooled by her in the ways of aristocratic life, and they loved her also. I had enjoyed all the best of the education those days could provide and spoke four foreign languages, I read law at Oxford and passed all my degree's with honours, I was expert on many subjects and read most of the books in our extensive library. I was extremely proud of my grandfathers military background, in the local regiment, though my father had let himself down after disappointment in the second world war prefering to shoot himself rather then the Germans. So when the chance to serve my country came up I was please to take up yet another challenge and my family supported my decision to join the B.E.F in Cairo during the Suez crisis early in the 1950's. As military attache to the British Embassy, I liasoned with local officals and interperated for the military.
Early 1950's Cairo was a culture shock to say the least, I was given the rank of Major and as one of my duties was the daily inspecting of my local guard. One morning as I dusted myself down in the hot sun, for the umpteenth time the Sergeant shouts"
"Dismissed"! and the soldiers wearyly return to the shade of the barracks, as I get a phone call from the local Police headquarters in the Ismalia way over next to the Canal, where we maintained a presence, gathering intelligence for the military along side a not too helpful local police. They had captured an Egyptian working for the resistance, during a house to house search and needed an interpreteur for the interogation. When I arrived with my small guard there was a demonsration outside and we struggled to enter the building. The building was a contrast to the peaceful haven of our barracks, I was led down a corridor heaving with shouting police officers, waving their fists at defiant turban topped locals. Inside a dimly lit office with it's blue shuttered windows, was a destinguished looking man sat on a chair beneath a large ceiling fan, he wore a dark pin stripped suit, ripped a bit from being dragged about on his journey to the station, his bearded face and piercing dark eye's looked out over a long moustache, tied neatly under his chin and topped off with a tall red fez hat. I sat down at the desk and looked at his defiant face, arms folded perhaps protecting the wealth of gold on his fingers, he wasn't giving anything away he had already exhausted his police interogators, and they sat down to witness my efforts.
"Hold out your hands" I said calmly, in a Arab dialect, gesturing with my own for him to copy. He sensed a change in his treatment and copyed me, I gazed at his fingers and noticed a ring bearing the Saudi Royal family insignia, I had seen this before when the Crowned Prince had visited my estate in a historic first visit to the UK. So I spoke to him in a dialect used by the Saudi's to talk between themselves they never used telephones and would meet and disguss daily to pass on private information, but why was he here?
Obviously up to no good, I tried to befriend him, telling him I was a good friend of his lord and master with that he paniced and sprang up and produced what I thought was a knife from god knows where, and flew at me.
He took the guards by surprise and were slow to react dumb founded perhaps, not believing they had missed the knife in the body search, I reached for my revolver in my leather holster and before he reached me shot him expertly between the eyes the guards then rolled him over to reveal to my horror and theirs a hand clutching a small scroll bound by gold thread, in it was a letter of passage from Nassar not the Saudi's, his credentials, and he was only excitedly trying to show it to me. The police recognised it having seen many before, now looked at me with a puzzled expression on their faces.
Two hours later, I was the one sat below the fan waiting for my commanding officer, summoned from his bed in the middle of a hot sticky night, to a stinking steaming police station, he too fought his way through a angry crowd who were now hearing of my exploits inside, a lynch mob was ready for me. The door was opened by a flustered sergeant major loudly ordering me to my feet for I my superior officer, followed quickly by a hot under the collar, Brigadier Marriott. Removing his cap and wiping the inside with his handkerchief, he looked me up and down, and smiled to himself as he placed his cap neatly on the desk with the regimental badge shining at me.
"Well, well, well, and who do we have here, sergeant major"? he said, fixing his gaze on me.
"Major Robert Danby sir"! barked the S.M.
"And why am I here," sergeant major"? he asked.
"Sudden death sir"! the S.M. replied, "Possible neglegence charges, possible regimental courtmartial, probable regimental disgrace, sir"!
"Regimental disgrace? we don't do regimental disgrace, do we sergeant major?, said the Brigadier.
"Not on my watch, sir"! replied the S.M.
"Well that just leaves negledgence and personal disgrace, with possible, murder charges for good measure, what do you say to that Lord Major Danby"? asked the Brigadier smiling, and showing his obvious dislike for me as a member of the upper classes, he was a self-made man who had worked his way up through the ranks and seen action in W.W. 2 and Korea.
"It was self defence, sir" I replied, "He had a knife, or so I thought"
"You thought? you thought you would blow his brains out you ment" he mocked, "That man in the next room, with his brains on the floor, is a member of the Nassers inner circle, like family to him, and you shot him like one of your damn pheasants! there will be hell to pay when this gets out, and it will get out trust me on that, we will not carry the can for your war crimes! yes war crimes! haven't you read the Geneva Convention, you will have the book thrown at you for this, take him to the cells sergeant major" ordered the Brigadier.
"Okay major on your feet"! barked the S.M. "About turn and double down the corridor, move yourself"
I was locked in a small cell crammed with the turban tops, it stank, I sank to my knees and prayed for forgiveness.
After about half an hour a dull thud was heard followed by a high pitched whistle, only one thought entered my head "Morters
and I dived to the floor, a terrific explosion took out the roof above and bodies landed on top of me, two or three more explosions followed by alot of screaming and gun fire, seems like the lynch mob had made their move, so in all the confusion I made a move out through a gapping hole in the back wall, fire engulfed the building behind me, and the locals were making off with the contents of the station and what seemed to be the rest of the street, as there was no opposition, there seemed to be tanks now destroying many of the buildings, I ran to the banks of the nearby river Nile, sat down and gathered my thoughts. Was I now in the clear as everyone accusing me lay dead? or, had they had time to report to the embassy? a bullet whizzed past my ear as the angry mob rushed towards me.
I had to get away so I dived into the fast flowing waters of the Nile the current carried me along until I hit a sandbank mid stream alerting a few big croc's, I swam for the far bank leaving my persuers thinking I had been eaten, and just about made it, I had been captain of the oxford swimming team in my youth, but with crocodiles chasing me I could have won an olympic medal. Safely on the bank I was now on the run, A.W.O.L. to add to murder, not knowing who knew what or where I was I headed north formulating a plan as I went.
I woke the next morning cleared my head and decided to dodge everyone and make my way to Alexandria, then stowaway on a ship out of here, then some way or some day make it back to England, back to Danby, to see Julia and the children, Tavvie would know what to do.
Three weeks later, and sporting a good beard, I was aboard a cargo ship heading for Marseille, France. I was not alone there were several African refugees and a couple of ton of canabis, in large hesian bales, guess I picked the wrong ship to be inconspicuos in, sure enough three days later we were boarded by French coastguard and escorted into port. The cargo waas seized and all the stowaways were frog marched excuse the pun to police headquarters, where we were processed, photographed and finger printed. As I was obviously a white man, with no passport or I.D. my photo was also checked against wanted posters circulated by a new service Interpol, as they did this it became apparent that I had been recognised from one of these, they even brought it in to show me, laughing to each other and patting each other on the back, the picture was of a bearded man who did I must admit look unerringly like me, it must have been taken from a passport photo, but it can't be mine I Ieft my passport at home in Danby, and I had only grown the beard, for the first time ever, over these last three or so weeks, it cannot be me, so I laughed along with them.
"Yes" I said, "Very good likeness" happy in the thought they had not learn't of my real exploits back in Egypt, they on the other hand were convinced they had their man and telephoned interpol with the news.
The next day a file was dropped on the desk of the keen eyed Detective Inspector Chris Hyde of the murder squad, by his assistant Detective Constable Richard Fairfax. Hyde had been involved in many highbrow cases, and was known to be, "like a dog with a bone" he never let go or gave up, he had a photographic memory, and could easily match faces to crimes, so when he opened a file from interpol with my photo in it he sat back in his chair twiddling his fingers and smiling to himself. He reached forward and picked out the photo.
"Ring any bells Dick"? he said, as he passed the photo to the young D.C..not long out of uniform.
"None that I know, sir" replied Dick, enjoying the familiarity his name shortening brought.
"Didn't expect you would" said the pleased with himself D.I. about to show off his skills. "That my young friend, is one James Spiller, an antiques salesman from Enfield North London, six months ago he ran off having knifed the husband of one of his customers, after being caught at it with his wife, she claimed he had forced himself on her after being caught in the act of burglery and her husband arrived home in the nick of time to save her"
"I bet he wished he hadn't aye, Inspector" smirked Dick.
"Yes Dick" answered the D.I. "Because he later died, losing 90% of his blood in the process, which brought him into my world, Murder! my lad, my bread and butter, a chance to solve a case. Pack a bag my boy, we are going on a little trip"
"Where to sir"? asked Dick.
"La' Belle France" Said the D.I. and pointed at the map on the wall, which was of Greater London, but it didn't spoil the moment.
Two days later sat alone in my sweltering cell in the same french nick, I heard footsteps on the stone steps, and got ready for yet another meal of french stick and fish stew, but it wasn't food being served to me but, two smart overdressed, for this heat, men. as they spoke I couldn't contain my joy.
"Your English"! I exclaimed, "Thank god! I can't get a bit of sense from this lot"
They were taken aback, no one had ever in my circumstances, been please to see them before.
"Your name is" asked D.I. Hyde.
"Lord Robert Danby" I said, and held out a hand for a shake, but I was rebuffed. Dick smirked and nudged his superior, like a schoolboy, then quickly apologised for his indescretion.
"He thinks he's a war hero" said Dick, "You know, that english lord who held off an attack on an army post, single handed in Egypt, then disappeared feared dead, just like Rourke's Drift it was, not so many Zulu's this time, this one here don't look the hero type to me sir" pointing out my desheveled appearance. I pricked up when I heard this.
"That's not what I've got written on my warrant" explained the D.I. "It says this is a warrant for the arrest of James Spiller and theres your photo attached my old son"
"But, that's not me" I said, worriedly, veiwing the same picture again, "I have only had a beard for a few days, I'm a major in the British Army, that can't be me they were looking for" I said confidently.
"Oh! I thought you just said you were a Lord" argued the D.I. tongue in cheek, "No i'm sorry to disappoint you that major Danby, you know, the real one, well he turned up like a bad penny and is being awarded a medal for his heroics, next week by the Queen no less." I was dumb founded, by these stories, someone was obviously impersonating me.
"That man is an imposter" I shouted, "Its me who should be getting a medal" believing my own press.
"And I suppose you didn't murder in cold blood a Mr. Bill Thompson in Enfield, 6 months go either"? asked the Dick.
"No of course not" I said, not really sounding innocent, as I was still guilty of the death of another.
"He doesn't sound very convincing sir" said Dick, "And he probably read Danby's story in the paper just as I had done, last week, shall I cuff him now sir" and proceeded to handcuff me from the front, grinning away as the D.I. read me my rights.
"James Spiller, I arrest you for the murder of William Thompson on the 3rd of april 1952," said the D.I.
"No"! I shouted, "I'm Lord Danby, this can't be happening"
"You do not have say anything" the D.I. continued,"But anything you do say will be taken down and may be used against you in a court of law, do you understand"? asked the D.I.
"No" I answered, "Not really" and I was led in a daze, to a waiting police car, and whisked straight to the airport.
Back in England 6 months earlier, Tavvie left Danby Manor by the back door as usual, making her way down the path towards her cottage, admiring the sunset, but she was stopped in her tracks by a tramp like person shuffling half frozen from his cold slumber in the bushes.
"Who's that" she whispered,"Come out from there" James edged forward hunched over with cold and hunger.
"Why are you here"? she asked.
"I don't know" said James, "I came from round here originally,I know where I am, but I still feel lost, if you know what I mean"
"No, not quite" said Tavvie, "Come with me" and led him to her cottage, as they walked James felt better and drew himself up to full hieght and stretched. Tavvie reached the cottage and beckoned James in, she stoked up the fire and soon had it roaring and spitting, it reminded James of the Tilmans front room, but this cottage had low beams and James found out as he struck his head.
"Maybe your earlier posture suited my cottage" joked Tavvie."Sit here, by the fire my dear and warm yourself, give me your jacket and i'll dry it for you" and James agreed slumping into the winged over stuffed comfey chair, everything she said seem to calm him down and he felt at home.
"A cup of tea will sort you out," she said, reappearing from the kitchen, but James had fell into a deep sleep he felt safe enough to do this.Tavvie put his tea on the trivot by the fire to keep warm, and put a blanket over him, as he snored contently, She sat opposite him studying his features, guessing his age and wondering who he was, then she noticed the shape of his jaw line, and the eye brows, the lips, oh my god she thought, could he be related to the Danby's. She decided to look through his belongings first his case, not much to talk about no I.D. crumpled unfolded clothes, packed in a hurry it seemed, she turned her attentions to James jacket in need of a clean, in the pockets was a swiss army knife one of those with all the tools and useful things like a saw, fish descaler, screw driver, etc, a leather wallet full of cheques made out to James Spiller, they totaled £250, certainly he was'nt short of a bob or two, a library card from Enfield, showed he had books due back next week, so he was not local as he claimed, then her hand delved deep into his inside pocket and pulled out a narrow bladed knife like a letter opener but sharpened, there were all manner of fake jewels encrusting the handle, and the blade had staining on it just like blood. Tavvie dropped it out of surprise, then glanced at James still sleeping soundly, she decided to replace it where it came from, and not mention it, that was it she thought till she pulled out his handkerchief, from his top pocket and something flashed as it fell to the floor.
She sank to the floor feeling around in the dust, on the flagstones, till her fingers felt the chain of a piece of jewelry, a necklace perhaps, as she picked up the object and gazed upon it, she flashed back thirty years to that fateful day when she left James on the orphanage steps, coming to her senses she began to shake with, not fear but curiousity, now she opened the jeweled locket in her trembling hand and looked at the two fading pictures within, yes it was William and herself, so he must be, yes, undoubtable her James.
"I Wondered why he looked familiar, those unmistakable features, he is the identical twin of Robert," she said softly. Then her thoughts shifted to the letter, given to her from William at the reading of his will, she had puit it on the mantlepiece and forgotten about it, 10 years ago, now she flicked frantically through the pile of bills on the mantal under a glass paper weight, not finding it she felt along the cluttered space till she found it sticking out from behind the clock, still sealed with wax with the Danby seal impressed in it. nervously she sat down opposite James again and broke the seal, inside was a copy of the cheque she had already been paid by the estate, and she crossed herself and mouthed god blessed you William, it was enough to leave her comfortable for the rest of her life, she could not even spend the interest it accured, and it had grown over the last few years. next came a letter and Tavvie drew a large breath before reading it,
"Dearest Tavvie," that was a remarkable two words strung together for a start she thought, he had never acknowledged her in that way ever, well it wasn't the done thing was it, above and below stairs were separated and never the twain shall meet, well not offically anyway, she carried on reading.
~~~ Danby Manor ~~~
13th. March 1939,
It may come as a bit of a suprise to you but, I knew everything from the beginning, now I am going away to war, and probably destined to die for my country, I can confess to you in this letter.
On the night of Roberts birth, your mother came to me and told me of the death of our son mine, and Clare's baby, and told me what I had done to you, and I was totally ashamed but, even if I had known at the time I could never have disclosed it to my family, you would have been sent packing and I would have been disowned, so your mother devised a plan to substitute Robert, your baby, or rather our baby, for Clares and mine and we gave the unnamed infant a christian burial privately, under another name, Clare knows nothing of this, and must never find out. I was also sorry to find out later on, that we had twins, and your heartbreak at leaving the twin at the orphanage, and I learned he had been named James and adopted by a couple in London, in 1939. When the orphanage closed I made sure provision was left for the building to be converted to a girls school as a lasting memory for you, please don't turn your back on Danby, forgive me and watch over our son Robert.
all my love, forever,
William Danby x
Tavvie put the letter back in the envelope and with a tear in her eye placed it back on the mantlepiece. A while later James stirred and opened his eyes to see Tavvie staring at him in wonder.
"Good sleep"? she asked, as he reached forward for the tepid tea on the trivot.
"How would you like a nice bath and perhaps, a shave"? she suggested. James smiled and nodded in agreement totally at ease in her company.
"This way" said Tavvie, and showed him through the kitchen to a small newly refurbished back bathroom, behind the kitchen, in the middle stood a victorian rolltop bath deep enough for a long hot soak, around the half timber clad walls hung bathrobes, coats, hats and all manner of outdoor pursuit apparel, under a stone sink stood a muddied pair of wellington boots, next to the sink was an old copper used in the past for washing clothes, clearly this was a converted wash house but, was cosy for all that. It reminded James of the novice nuns,and the bathhouse at the orphanage.
"Theres a fresh towel there on the hook" said Tavvie, "And a freshly stroped razor and shaving brush, on the sink" and withdrew back into kitchen, listening at the closed door until she heard the bath filling, then she smiled and made sure the fire was made up to keep the water, and the room warm. What seemed like an age passed and then, a creak of the floor boards annouced the entrance of Tavvies new house guest, now unrecognisable as the shambling figure she met earlier, now the very spit of Robert, it was uncanny, from the way his right eyebrow grew parted like a fringe in the middle, where it grew in two different directions, even the way he stood, up straight and proud with his chin out, shinning in the light of the flickering fire.
"How's that" said James, proudly showing off his neatly manicured appearance, and wearing one of her fathers old robes. Tavvie gasped and let out a cry, as if she had seen a ghost.
"My God! James, it is you" she annouced.
"But how do you know my name"? said James, with a puzzled expression, "Have you been through my things?" he asked, now anoyed at her prying.
"Yes, I'm sorry, but not too sorry" she said, "I have learnt something you could not have told me, as you were unaware at the time we met"
"What do you mean"? ask James.
"Do you remember, anything of your early life"? she asked.
"Well" James began and related the story of his early years leading up to the present day, being careful to leave out the bits about his temper, knifes, and manslaughter,
"But what of your mother"? asked Tavvie, "have you ever thought about her"?
"Why yes, I have thought of nothing else these passed few days" said James,"Maybe thats really why I'm here, looking for answers" and he reached into the top pocket of his jacket and pulled out the locket, "You see I have this, all I have from her left at, the orphanage and nearly lost to the Pawnbroker" he read the inscription out, "To Tavvie, with Love" and opened it, stared at the picture of the lady, "I mean who's Tavvie"? he asked. his eyes now focused on Tavvie in the flesh.
"Why thats me James" she said, fidgiting in excitement, "Tavvie, is my nickname so to speak, my name is Beatrice Tavistock, and I'm your mother.
"But, who and, why" said James, eager to ask as many questions as possible, before he ran out of breath. Tavvie hugged him and sat him down again and related her own life story, intertwined with his own and made him see clear she had no other option than to give him up.
"So I am a Danby"! James exclaimed, gripping Tavvies hands,"I am in my rightful place, Danby Manor, is my birthright, but we have been cheated by the aristocracy, made to scrape a living, while they live off the fat of the land.
"No not really" said Tavvie, and showed him Williams letter, he then realised that she had been treated well and kept close by and safe, by the Danby's.
There was a solution to all this, and it could not have come at a more convenient time. The cogs in Tavvies brain started to turn churning out a plan, of action, so audacious that she could hardly believe what she was about to suggest.
"You know I just told you about the tragic disappearance of Robert"? asked Tavvie.,
"Yes," said James, "Julia must be heart broken"
"Well" said Tavvie, "Me and Lady Julia are already convinced of his death, and the only one who thinks he isn't is his mother Clare, and perhaps the young ones not wanting to let go"
"Yes" said James, "What of it"?
"Well I know where his passport is" said Tavvie.
"And?" asked James.
"Well, don't you see?" she asked, "You take his place"
"But I just can't turn up out of the blue, and carry on where Robert left off, can I"? asked James.
"Yes you can" said Tavvie, with her hand on her heart,"With me there to guide you, we can pull it off, I was fooled the moment you stepped from that bathroom, and I knew Robert better than he knew himself. Clare won't need any convincing and any short comings we can put down to battle fatigue, after all his father suffered from that and the only difference will be you're a hero and won't be shooting yourself"
"Yes, it could work" said James.
"Could? will, you mean" she said, filling him with the same excitement.
"So how do we do this"? asked James,"eager for the solution"
"First things, first" said Tavvie, calming him once more,"I must get my hands on Roberts passport. and she left for the Manor, bidding him not to answer the door. Back down the path she went with a skip in her step, quite spritely for a women in her fifties, then she was almost floating with joy anyway. Entering the back way as usual, she made her way up the back stairs to Roberts dressing room, Lady Julia was still up enjoying the embers of her dying fire in the drawing room, looking up as she heard the creak of a floorboard,under Tavvies feet, she shrugged it off, putting it down to the young ones, in their room next to hers.
Tavvie found the passport quite quickly and in the same box, a gold cigarette case inscribed from Lady Julia, as a birthday gift once. all helps to prove who he was, she thought and took it with her.
She left as she came, along with some of Lord Roberts Civilian clothes and handmade brogues, avoiding the creaky boards and arrived back at the cottage. James was nowhere to be seen, and as she started to panic as he appeared from under the table, from where he had dived when he heard the latch on the door, just like in the air raids, at the Tilmans house.
"Sorry did I startle you" said Tavvie,"Put these on" and handed James the pile of taylored clothes.
"Lovely quality" said James, feeling the softness of the shirt, he just about fit into.
"Get used to it" said Tavvie, "Theres no going back now its quality all the way, Lord Robert would never settle for second best, and nor shall you, forget your passed, this is your second chance at life, from now on you are, Lord Robert Danby, 14th. Earl of Danby" and she straightened his tie like the loving mother she was. "Now, how are we going to unveil you as the reborn Lord Danby" thought Tavvie aloud. "I've got it" she snapped her fingers and pointed in the air,"I've just been reading about a Nazi war criminal being unearthed by a jewish investigator" she explained,"He took his information to Reuters, the international news agency in Paris, and they spread the news world wide, if you told them you had been held captive after the confusion of battle in Ismalia, you could arrive in Paris on the Orient express or other such transport, to a heros welcome, to be met by government officals, its the human interest story of the decade, it would make the country feel better, after the disaster of the friendly fire incident, sparking such a revolt, apart from the good it would do to the estate and Danby Manor which was in limbo after Roberts disapperance. Tomorrow I will order a taxi to take you all the way down to Waterloo station, then you must board a train for Paris, you must then decide from where you must return from after fleeing Egypt" she said, completing her part of the plan. The next morning the taxi arrived early and Tavvie gave James a scarf to hide his face and a roll of cash, then she bid him fairwell and kiss him on the forehead, before slamming the car door, James looked out of the rear window until she was out of site. The taxi sped off out of the long driveway and headed to London.
On the long train journey to Paris in his 1st.class compartment James ,now Robert practiced his greetings as Lord Robert Danby.
"How do you do" he said in the mirror, "My name is Robert Danby, Lord Robert Danby, Hello, Major Danby, at your service" as he admired his picture in his passport, and practiced his new signature. James alighted from the train in Paris and decided to look up Reuters in the phone directory, then he looked at the next arrival, from the near east, and phoned Reuters, telling them he was Major Robert Danby and was alive and well and will arrive in Paris on the train from Rome, in an hour or so, and sat back in the station buffet to watch Within 15 minutes distant sirens approched the station and Police arrived to start putting up barriers, as time approached for the Rome train to arrive the gentlman of the press including Reuters started forming a orderly line by the barrier later arrivals would have to barge for a better position.
Then the moment arrived, the Rome to Paris train pulled into the station, by that time James was on the track the other side, scrambling up the steps, and into a empty carriage, He had just enough time to look out of the window when the barriers fell over and the press were on him, like a pack of hounds. A representative of Reuters was first to him and whisked him away to a waiting car, they were determined to get his exclusive story before everyone else, and the rep. had photos of Lord Robert from their archives to prove who he was, James was taken to their headquarters to be questioned before the military could get hold of him for a debrief. although he didn't know what he was going to tell them, Tavvie told James of Roberts job as military attache and the circumstances of his disappearance, if they pushed him he could always say it was top secret, but other than that he was on his own.
And so the questioning begun, conducted mainly by a British journalist Alan Whicker, who had interveiwed Roberts father on his estate before his death, and had been a war reporter during the Suez crisis.
"Hello Robert" said Alan, "For the record, can you tell us your full name"
"Hello Alan" said James, "Yes its Lord Robert Roderick Danby, 14th. Earl of Danby, and Major in Her Majestys forces attached to the British Embassy" and he showed his passport as proof.
"Ah yes, your passport, you have no exit or entry stamps in it how did you get out of Egypt and enter Italy"? asked Alan. Here we go, thought James its time to pile up the Bullshit and hope nobody smells a rat.
"Well, let me take you back to a place called, Ismalia near the canal on the west bank of the Nile, a few weeks back" said James, "Some stupid bastards in tanks, were ordered by some other stupid bastards, to attack and destroy the police station, where I was interogating a high ranking prisoner, who was passing on information to the Egyptian resistance, the result of my investigation could have had serious consequences for a certain Brigadier in the British forces, only he was killed in the attack" that should get him going, thought James.
"Oh really" said Alan, breaking his pencil on his pad, at the sound of a juicey revalation, "That sounds interesting, anyone I know"? he asked.
"I'm afraid thats classified" said James, "Offical secrets act and all that, you know how it is, as for my escape, I killed about twelve of the mob and swam the Nile, I feared for my life from both sides, if it wasn't the resistance trying to kill you, it was your own bloody side. We invented the phrase friendly fire, back in the Somme in 1914 ,I thought they might have inproved their aim by now. when I reached the mediteranean I walked straight onto a ferry bound for Sicily in the middle of a crowd, and sat in the shadows of some cargo on the deck, as I had no money, as we reached the coast I slipped over the side and swam ashore, after drying my clothes in the hot sun, I visited a bank and transfered some money from my private account, then I took the next ferry to Naples, and a train to Rome as this was internal travel I did not recieve a stamp on my passport, on reaching Rome I visited my Taylor who is very discreet, I checked into a hotel and pondered my problem on one hand I'm AWOL and should have been killed by my own side, on the other hand I'm a bloody hero but, an embarassment for pointing a finger at a high ranking official, Then I rang your agency and here we are" What a load of old bollocks, thought James, but he would not mention the Brigadiers name as he was innocent anyway and Tavvie had only told him his name as he was killed along side Robert. Of course none of this information was checkable and Alan decided to play down the AWOL part and wrote his story about Roberts heroic escape. In the hope of a further story about the Brigadier.
By this time James had been picked up by the radar of the British Embassy and they sent a car to collect him. The ambassador was a friend of Roberts late father and wanted to introduce him to some local dignatories, and he was told he could stay at the Embassy aswell. James could not resist the chance to live it up, and he charmed all the ladies and practised being a Lord, ordering the poor servants about, they were glad to see the back of him when the army sent a car to take him to the air base for transport to England. When he touched down on British soil, he had one more test to get through the military debrief, at the war office in London. In a oak paneled room sat a collection of Generals and foreign office officials, behind a long table all reading my newspaper report sold to all the major publications by Reuters, At the same time at Danby Manor a smiling Tavvie was about to hand the Morning papers to Lady Julia, she could hardly contain her excitement when she read out the headline.
Lord Knows How He Survived!
Lord Robert Danby is safe and well in Paris
Hero tells of his escape from his captors
"He will rejoin his family soon" she said shaking, then the phone rang and Tavvie took the call, it was a reporter asking for a comment on the news of Lady Julia's husbands return, she decided to give them an account of his exploits to get the story straight, they seemed to be happy with that and promised not to intrude on Lady Julia's privacee. Julia was in a state of shock.
"What shall I do"? she said, "What shall I wear? not black thats for sure" and started rumaging in the closet, bright colours and a nice hat, she decided.
"What are you doing Lady Julia," asked Tavvie.
"I'm going to fetch Robert ,I'm going to bring him home," she annouced.
"I shall come with you" said Tavvie, worried about what James will tell her, "He will be glad to see some familiar faces. A ring at the door bell brought a telegram the official news of Roberts return, hours after the news papers, a return message was sent telling of our intentions,
The Rolls Royce was called round to the front of the house and Lady Julia and Tavvie quickly got in after finding out where he was exactly from the telegram.
"Where to Mam" asked the driver, still half asleep.
"The war office, London" replied Julia,"With hast, we are going to pick up your Lord and master, Robert is coming home" She squeeled, The driver quickly came to his senses hardly believing his ears and slid off to London, a four hour journey lay ahead.
Back in the war office James entered the court like room, and sat infront of the assembled inquisition, in a tall leather clad chair with a Royal coat of arms on its back, James was in no doubt that his future depended on what happened in that room. The same questions were asked about his journey from Egypt and then they got down to the actual incident.
"Major Danby, have you heard the words, Operation Eagle, before"? asked General no.1 plastered in medal ribbons he probably never knew he had won, James thought, and said quite honestly.
"No Sir, was it something I missed"? James asked.
"Missed? hardly, you were in it man" replied no.1, "In fact you were in the middle of it"
"Operation Eagle, was a controled military operation, planned to teach the disloyal, corrupt local police in Ismalia a lesson" informed a equally impressive General no.2,"But events took a turn for the worst when one of the local resistance leaders, was killed by an officer of our regiment, and in the battle that followed most of the town as much as 700 biuldings was destroyed by tanks, and looted by its inhabitants, it was a Bloody Disaster"!
"I did wonder, how it started" said James,"After that, I picked myself up from the rubble grabbed a rifle, and fought my way to the banks of the Nile with the locals hot on my heels wearlding macheti's, thats how it ended for me, I wasn't going to stand around and ask questions, with no help that I could see" hoping that would satisfy them.
"Forgive us, but we are mistified, as to why you were in that police station anyway, as the attack began"? asked General no.3, mentally crossing his fingers James revealed for the first time the name of the Brigadier he had gone to interview.
"Off my own back" annouced James,"As part of a on going undercover investigation, by me and my team who were killed in the attack, I was about to interview Brigadier Marriott who was known to be anti-establishment" and the Generals in the room nodded in agreement to James surprise, so he continued, "Information had been passed to me indicating the involvement of a high ranking official in our regiment," James looked at the Generals as one by one their jaws dropped.
"You mean to say" said General no.1,"That you can give evidence supporting a accusation against one of the most celebrated commanders of this regiment"?
"No sir," James replied, "Not now, not ever as all evidence was destroyed in the fire during the attack, and the regiments reputation is safe, in here" and he tapped to his temple, meaning he would not tell them or anyone ever "As I am bound by the official secrets act" he continued "I Cannot tell you anymore, and there would not be any point in disgracing a mans family, with all this" he concluded, meaning Brigadier Marriotts family.
"Here, here" agreed General no.2.
"And what about the AWOL charge" whispered no.3 to the others.
"Oh, I think in the circumstances, we can overlook that" whispered back no.1, "After all he turned out to be a Bloody Hero and preserved the honour of his regiment, I would say a medal would not be out of place, and a honourable discharge.would be a fitting end to these proceedings" The others agreed and James was discharged, his own, and Roberts familys reputation untarnished. So James had pulled it off, he came out of the debrief smelling of roses, and a Hero to boot.
Down below in the street the Rolls Royce containing Julia and Tavvie slowly moved towards the front of the war office, James was reading the telegram he had been handed and nervously looked out the window at the approaching car. He began to smile when he saw Tavvie getting out of the back seat, he hurried into the lift, and pushed the ground floor button. As the lift shuddered to a halt, the sound of reporters shouting could be heard, coming from the other side of the doors as there was a pause before they slid open, to reveal Tavvie and a good looking Lady, staring back at him from the throng. Tavvie rushed forward grabbing her frightened companion and hauling her into the lift along side James, who quickly pushed the button for the top floor and barred the way of the reporters.
"Tavvie" He shouted, and hugged her, "Good to see you" embarassing Tavvie, she looked quite red as he turned to Julia, "My Lady" he said, softly, then kissed her hand.
"Oh Robert"said Julia, also embarassed by his actions, and even more so when he lunged, for a full on snog. Tavvie laughed and encouraged him to continue. Then she got out of the lift and said she would bring the car to the rear of the building, James continued his amorous attack on Julia and she wasn't complaining either, although he seemed a bit rougher than she remembered, he was still as handsome.The lift opened again and beckoned by Tavvie they made their escape from the building down the back passages into the waiting Rolls. They were away back to Danby, arriving slightly the worse for wear after sampling the cars cocktail cabinet. Climbing the steps of the Manor he was greeted by Roberts children, Shirley and Jayne, instantly accepted with a hug, but a even bigger test waited at the top of the stairs. Clare, Roberts mother stood there trembling, she looked deep into James eyes.
"Your late for your tea again" Clare said, as she was also fooled, but they were all so please to see him back, that I'm sure he could have kept the beard, Tavvie thought, as Clare gave him a kiss on the cheek and a long hug.
"You see everyone I told you, I told you he was alive and would return to us" Clare said yet again. Thomas was the last one to greet James.
"We missed you Robert and shook his hand" noticing a stronger grip to it, "The old place can get back to normal now" and they all settled down to a nice meal.
And over the next few weeks the business of the estate got back to normal, The guest wing was opened up again and people paid once more for the Manors hospitality, and a chance to meet Lord Robert Danby war hero. James learnt to shoot privately with Tavvie once again guiding him, but not up to Roberts usual standards more like Old Lord Carnarvon, long since gone.Then came the letter, he was going to be awarded DSO The Distinguished Service Order, along side his campaign medal which didn't mean much to James, but they could all get a day out and meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace, he would then be called, Lord Robert Danby DSO the 14th. Earl of Danby, a mouthful for any cheif toast master at the celebration dinner.
Meanwhile at Paddington Green police station a bearded Robert Danby was being, processed once again, into the British criminal records, Finger prints, photo, and number, will all identify him as James Spiller, criminal, murderer, fugative, and enemy no.1 according to the custody sergeant.
You didn't get far did you"? he joked,"South of France, what did you stop for a sun tan"?
D.C. Dick Fairfax smirked and led Robert to the cells and removed the cuffs.
"Good luck" he said,"By the way I wouldn't start all that Lordship stuff again if I was you the Judge knows Lord Danby personally" Robert held out his hand to shake like the gentlman he was, Dick just grinned.
"Don't be shaking my hand" Dick said,"Your scum and just another notch on my C.V."
The next morning Robert was woken early by the sergeant with a strong cup of tea, and sausage and egg, not quite Earl Grey but it livened him up, and egg and bacon was his favorite, then D.I. Chris Hyde arrived to cuff him and take him to court, by way of a black van, surrounded by reporters, but D.I. hyde wasn't having none of it and threw a blanket over Roberts head. The same happened at Tottenham Road Magistrates court where, he was shoved into a box behind thick glass opposite the Judge, who he recognised as a visitor to the Manor shoots.
"What are the charges" asked the Judge Chawner.
"Murder in the first degree" said the clerk,"Bail is not recommended, as he was apprehended in Southern France" Robert began banging on the glass.
"Its me" he shouted,"Robert Danby, you have been to my house.
"I would just like to say" said Judge Chawner, "Before you are taken away that you are not Lord Danby, I shot with him two weeks ago while you were sunning yourself, my lad, you will be remanded in custody until your crown court trial can be arranged, take him down" and he was removed, and taken back to the van for delivery to Pentonville prison to remain on remand until witnesses could be gathered and brought to his trial.
The day a group of vultures would pick over his bones.
Pentonville prison on the Caledonian Road in the London Borough of Islington, would not have been a unfamiliar place to James, as the Tilmans supplied all the offices with new furniture in the late forties, It was the prison men were held for execution after the closing of Newgate in 1902, an execution room was built to house the Newgate Gallows and Pierpoint the Nazi executioner was a regular visitor. A most reluctent visitor was Robert Danby AKA the murderer James Spiller, pushed from piller to post he was introduced to the regime harshly by a screws batton in his stomach which brought up his small breakfast.
"You dirty little bastard, Spiller" said the screw surveying his splashed boots,"You'll pay for that" and he and two others, gave him a good pasting till he was unconcious, they dragged him to his cell and threw him on the stone floor between two bunk beds.Robert awoke surrounded by three scruffy cell mates, all about three years younger than him. They introduced themselves one at a time, with name, sentence and offence in that order,
"Nick Toomey," said the first, in an Irish accent,"25 years, Manslaughter"
Steve Banks," said the second,"10 years, Larceny, thats nicking stuff I didn't own"
"David Hunt," said the third, "15 years, Manditory Rape, a young woman of far eastern origin"
"He's a sex pest" said Nick.
"Well she didn't look sixteen" protested Pete.
"What are you in for"? asked Steve.
"He's talking to you" said Nick, poking Robert in the chest.
"ouch"! shouted Robert, and then nursing a sore head said,"Mistaken identity"
"They all laughed, loudly" and almost in unisum said."Not a another one"!
"Yeah you and me both" said David.
"Shut up! you Nonce" said Nick, "Let him have a kip" and pushed Robert back onto one of the lower bunks,"Remember what it was like for us on our first day"
And they left Robert in the cell to sleep, he was rudely awaken by a screw shaking him from his slumber.
"Come on you idiot don't get caught sitting on your bunk during the day" said the prison officer named Colin, in a kinder voice then he had heard before, "Get out in the exercise yard with the others, it will be, dinner soon, not that its worth looking forward to" Robert shuffled of to the yard, just in time to witness a fight over a game of cards, they were using tobacco rolled into thin cigarettes they called snout to bet with, the inmates workshop toil was paid for in tobacco, usually sewing mail bags, or working the huge laundry, It was now time for dinner and we took a flat tray with depressions in it to hold food, from one large copper pot then the other, at each a different ladle of slop was dropped into each depression, meat and two veg. and some form of sweet with custard which done its best to mix with the gravy like the "ying and yang" symbol. along came Colin and looked down at Roberts platter.
"I told you it wasn't worth waiting for didn't I" he said.
"Er, excuse me sir" said David pulling at the screws trouser leg,"Whats the new bloke in for"?
"What Lord Jim" said Colin,"Why, Murder, didn't he tell you"
"Why did you call him, Lord Jim"? asked Steve.
"Well thats what he told the judge" said Colin,"Let me go I'm a Lord he screamed as they dragged him from the court"
"Well thats your name sorted then" said Nick to Robert,
"What names that then"? asked Robert.
"Why, Lord Jim" said Nick, and they all laughed and chanted "Lord Jim, Lord Jim, Lord JIm." as it echoed through the corridors.
It was time for time for lock up, and they were ushered back to their cells and, at last, aloud to sit on their beds, Robert decided to get some sleep, as advised by the others, because they could never sleep through the night for the first few weeks, and they were right for at 10pm. lights were put out and then, the dawn chorus started, or rather the dusk chorus, one person coughed way down the hall, then another, and another, and another, till what seemed like the whole prison, were clearing their throat, it was quite funny the first time but it happened night after night until it was like the tick of a clock, and blended into the background of other sounds, creaking beds, night terrors, crying, praying, shouting and sometimes singing which weren't as bad, at least you could join in, until the screws grew tired of it and gave you a knock, with their batton on the door.
"Nick" said Robert, in the dark of the cell, after being rudely awaken again,"Why do you call the prison officers Screws"?
"Its a slang word" he anwered,"The name Screw, originated in the Victorian era when a prison officer would give a you, a pointless task as a punishment. One of these punishments was a crank machine used as hard labour. This crank machine would involve you the prisoner having to turn a handle on a drum, like one of those, the door to door knife sharpeners your mammy used, which would be filled with sand or water to make it heavier. The prison officer, could tighten a screw in the drum to make turning the handle harder. you would have to turn the handle a number of times as your punishment. So began the slang word Screw, to mean one of those bastards the other side of the door, a prison officer, there not all like Colin you know, his a bit soft for a screw, there more like your welcoming commitee this morning just remember that, now go to sleep" I felt my face and ribs and remembered.
The next morning, after a loud rapping on the door by Colin, the cell doors were unlocked, and in the half light Robert got his first good look at his cell, the bunk beds took up three quarters of the room, a small barred window high up gave a little fresh air, in the two spare corners of the cell was a small sink with a mirror above with much of its silvering missing, below that was a white enamel slop pale with a lid, half full by now with the occupiers waste, you removed the lid at your peril. This had to be emptied and the new boy, Robert, got the job. The Head Screw, stood in the hall below and bellowed.
"Slop out"! which echoed down the corridors just like the coughing.
I grabbed the handle of the pale, and stood in line outside, with all the other pales some fuller than others, some you might say over full, one young lad struggling with his payload stumbled slightly, and some of the contents of his pale dripped to the floor, immediately detected by Colin, whe tried to cover for the youngster, but he caught the eye of the head screw.
"Whats happening there"? he shouted
"One of the lads, seems to have spilt a bit" Colin reluctantly informed him.
"What"! the head bellowed,"Send him and his bucket to me, Now"!
"Colin shrugged his shoulders and pointed the way down to the unfortunate boy, as he reached his destination, the head screw aimed a kick at his pale knocking of its lid and spewing its contents, on the flagstones.
"You slovenly wretch"! he shouted, and another kick sent the boy sprawling into the spreading mess."Arrr! he's fallen down, I hope you have'nt injured yourself" he mocked, "Because you have to clean up all this mess you've made, now jump to it" and threw a mop and bucket at him Colin had arrived with on the scene, The slop line continued, joined by Nick.
"You see what I ment now, Lord Jim" whispered Nick,"Last night, about the screws punishments" we took the pales and emptied them in the toilets, and rinsed them out, in a large stone sink. After slop out, you could shower and shave, Robert was still banned from shaving until the identity parade, he was informed by Colin was tomorrow, then it was breakfast a bowl of porridge, washed down with a mug of tea, dowsing the bowl and mug afterwards in a large washing up bowl, by the kitchen, full of what looked like, by now, slop, then we piled them on a tressle table. A whistle from the head screw, signalled it was time for work, Robert was put to work in the kitchen by Colin, scrubbing out all the copper pots, bowls and plates, from breakfast, as he would be eating off them again he set about scrubbing off every baked on bit of filth he could they the copper shone in the sun coming through the slit of a window they had aloud the sweating kitchen porters. they prepared a lunch comprising of a thin vegetable soup poured into the, now gleaming, large copper pots, and a doorstep of bread for garnish. As Nick moved along in the queue for lunch he smiled, as I stood admiring my pots, as I sat down beside him to eat, I passed him, under the table a extra doorstep for good measure.
"Well done your Lordship" said Nick,"First soup I've tasted, in ages without porridge in it" Dinner was the same story and slowly the kitchen began to resemble Danby's.even the porters were smiling.
The next morning Robert was handed his normal clothes in the custody office, where he changed.
"Pile your uniform on the chair and it will be there for you later when you return" said the officer, who had beaten me on my arrival"
"How do you know I'll be back"? said Robert,"Nobody could possably pick me out of a line-up as I'm innocent"
"You'll be back" said the officer,"And I'll be hear to welcome you, personally, thats a promise" The door opened and in came D.I. Hyde.
"The moment of truth" said the D.I."Today you will face, your accusers, and say nothing, you will get your day in court but for now button it, and by the way thanks for not shaving, only we would have had to wait another three weeks, for you to grow it again"
Robert bit his tongue, for now, and got into the waiting police car. They traveled back to Paddington Green police station, where Robert was placed in a cell, local constables gathered volunteers with beards for the line-up, and Robert was told to take his place anywhere in the line as he did, a constable helped in a shaking Sarah Thompson, the victims wife,
"Walk down the line Mrs.Thompson" instructed the D.I."And tap on the shoulder of the man you recognise, as James Spiller, the man you saw in you house, the night of your husbands death" All the volunteers gulped, and held their breath, along with Robert, as Sarah slowly made her way down the line, pausing at every person and looking them in the eye, shaking her head as she did not recognise him, number one, no, you could hear him exhale, with relief. Number two, no, he let out a small moan, as he too, realised his innocence, but they did'nt need to worry, fore her gaze fell on Robert, and she smiled and placed a hand on his shoulder, and squeezed slightly, like when you meet an old friend, and said.
"Number three, its him Inspector, this is James Spiller" she confirmed. And she sauntered off, winking at number four, as she went, Robert looked in distress at the D.I. and he nodded back at him, pleased with the result. The others were dismissed and Robert sat with his head in his hands.
"This can't be happening" said Robert,"I've never seen that women before, in my life"
"Thats got nothing to do with it" said the D.I."The ID parade was for her, not you"
"So what happens now"? asked Robert.
"Oh, now we wait for a court date" answered the D.I. "And in the mean time,you go back and reaquaint youself with your new friends, in Pentonville, and by the way you can have a shave now" Robert knew what that ment, and an hour later he was again pushed into his cell, collapsing on the flags,after running the guantlet passed the screws, but this time, showing signs of fighting back, in self defence, on his knuckles.
"Cor! they gave you a pasting, this time" said Nick,"You must learn to take it, roll up into a ball and protect the wedding tackle"
"What happened at the police station"? said David, as he dabbed Roberts wounds with a bit of damp toilet paper.
"I was picked out of a line up" said Robert,"By a complete stranger, who claimed she saw me kill her husband, I was aghast and before I could deny it she left, smiling as she went, she knew she had just sentenced me to prision"
"And worse" said Nick,"Don't forget Murder is a hanging offence still"
"Hanging"? said Robert,"But, I'm innocent, surely they will see who I really am"
"And who's going to recognise you, Lord Jim"? asked Nick,"The judge said he knew, your alto- ego, his Lordship"
"My Lawyer" declared Robert,"He will make them see"
"But his Lord Danby's brief, not yours, and he will cost thousands" argued Nick,"You are Lord Jim, and this is Pentonville, you are fifty yards from death row, not Saville Row, Lord Danbys brief is hardly going to waste his time on you, when he knows the "Real" so to speak Lord, sits in his Manor up north, get real and listen to me, I know a very good brief"
"He can't be that good" said Robert,"Your sitting hear next to me, aren't you"?
"Very true" said Nick, recalling his own experiences "I was also in your shoes, a few months back, accused of murder, only with a difference, I knew I was guilty, I beat a man to death with my bare fists, and I wanted to, he deserved it, every punch, every blow, to his head I knew was turning his brain to mush, when they finally dragged me off the fella, his own mother wouldn't have recognised him"
"What had he done"? asked Robert, his hands sweating in anticipation of his answer.
"Raped my daughter"! said Nick, glancing at David, who was now trying not to be noticed, facing the wall shaking."Yes I was fifty yards along that corridor, being sized up by Mr.Albert Pierrepoint no less, the hangman of Nuremberg, he used to hang Nazi's in rows, so I posed little problem"
"So why did'nt he carry out the sentence" asked Robert.
"Well my brief" explained Nick,"Got the sentence reduced to manslaughter, due to my diminished responsability, meaning I didn't realise what I was doing, due to the fact the man had raped my daughter, and my state of mind during the attack, which is Bollocks, as I would happily do the same again, to any "Nonce" who laid their hands on me daughter" again glancing across at the cowering David.
"So why do you think he would be good for me" asked Robert.
"Well" said Nick,"If push comes to shove, he could just save your neck" Robert feeling his 17" neck took Nick's advice and the name of his lawyer.The British courts took their time and Robert, returned to his kitchen duties and bided his time, for six months, by that time he was embedded into his prison roll as Lord Jim, Pentonvilles own aristocrat, and had seen Nicks brief several times, setting up his defence. Then Colin the screw, came with the news of his trial appearance, the next day. He would be seeing his brief this afternoon.
That afternoon Robert sat in the prision interview room, awaiting the appearance of his lawyer, Trevor Fish, or "Slippery Fish" as is clients liked to call him, due to the fact that he used to get so many off the hook.
"Good, morning my Lordship" said Trevor, slightly tongue in cheek, Are you ready for battle"?
"Yes, of course" said Robert, warming to his enthusiasm,"Are you ready with my defence"?
"Well" said Trevor, "All in all the evidence for the prosecution is pretty overwelming, they have you bag to rights on the positive I.D. and your repeated claim of being Lord Danby is going down like a Ham sandwich at a Barmitzvah the Judges, coupled with the fact that I actually met Lord Danby myself last week, at a shoot on his estate, you must admit its quite a good case against you"
"You've been to Danby"? said Robert "How was my wife taking the news"?
"What news"? said Trevor, "Oh the news Lady Julia's husband was in Pentonville you mean welI I didn't think it was a subject to bring up at the dinner table seeing as her husband Lord Robert Danby was sitting opposite me in all his glory and as you are undoubtably a dead ringer for his lordship, the fact is you are here and he is there, and never the twain shall meet. If our only defence is your claim that you are him, then all is lost and you will swing. On the other hand, If I can prove it was self defence, and you were in fear of losing your life, in a savage unprovoked attack, coupled with the fact they have no murder weapon. Then I could get you off with Life!"
"LIFE"shouted Robert,"Get me off with life? but I'm innocent"
"Not in the eyes of the law" said Trevor, "All you have to do is plead guilty and i'll do the rest"
"PLEAD GUILTY" shouted Robert again.
"Yes" said Trevor,"Unless you have a witness in your favour, or an alibi, I'm afraid your up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Up the Nile, Robert thought, and there were no witnesses left alive there either, all was lost, so Robert resigned to defeat left for the court to go through his ordeal knowing he was powerless, If he called a high ranking offical as a witness, he would only claim he had seen Lord Danby recently. Robert took his place in the court and then watched as one witness after another, came through and told of their relationships with James Spiller. One of them an older, greying couple shaking with nerves took the stand, called Mr. and Mrs.Tilman, they told of their one time love for James, but he was told to leave, when he threatened Mr.Tilman with his hands around his throat pinning him against a wall. The jury looked at Robert and shook their heads in disgust. Their foster son Tom was next who had recently returned from his travels, and admitted giving James a stilletto knife like the one described by Sarah Thompson. And the final damning evidence came from Sarah herself smiling at Robert, describing the same knife used on her husband, both witnesses bringing the same reaction from the jury. Trevor watched her actions and thought for a moment.
Then it was Trevors chance to plead Roberts defence case, and he called Sarah back to the stand, she arrived with a swing of her hips, and perched on the edge of her chair with heavy red lipstick glistening and heavy perfume wafting around the court.
"Mrs.Thompson, or can I call you Sarah"? asked Trevor.
"Yes, you may" said Sarah, smiling at rather, a handsome lawyer before her.
"Did you ask, Mr.Spiller, to call you Sarah, that evening"? said Trevor.
"I can't recall" said Sarah, still smiling.
"Okay" said Trevor, "Would you have described your husband as, a small weak man"?
"No" said Sarah,"He was a large powerful man" she recalled.
"Well he was more than that, wasn't he" quized Trevor,"A ex-boxing champion I'm led to believe, a member and star, of the local rugby team, who frequented the local public houses usually leaving the worst for wear and scuffling with the bouncers on ocassions" he had done his home work well.
"Yes he knew how to handle himself" Sarah confirmed.
"Wasn't it in fact your amorous advances towards customers of these public houses that provoked your husband to, beating one of those customers into a coma" said Trevor handing a medical report from a hospital confirming her husbands handywork.
"He always got the wrong end of the stick" said Sarah,"And most times I managed to calm him down after the first blow, and we left by mutual consent. Anyway that man made a full recovery. The jury now turned to her and shook their heads in disapproval. Robert sensed a change in atmosphere and attention away from him.
"Well I put it to you" said Trevor,"That your husband, fed up with your habitual man baiting caught you for the umpteenth time with a man, who this time happened to be James Spiller, the wrong man, in the wrong place at the wrong time, and decided enough was enough and would really do him some damage, we have talked about his strength and temper, and he would have surely killed or come close to it, for you. They were just porns in your sick game, which this time you lost, you lost your husband. Yes my client killed your husband but if he had not defended himself then your husband would surely have stood in James Spillers place today. Gentlemen of the jury this was not a premeditated murder but a unfortunate end to a sick game. The judge told the jury to retire and consider the verdict,with instructions.
"You have heard the evidence put before you" he said,"If in doubt you must return the verdict of not guilty, to murder but you may consider the option of manslaughter, murder of the second degree. But if you feel the defendant had intended to kill Mr.Thompson you must declare the defendant, guilty as charged, and I will consider his semtence" The jury trooped out and in about four hours they trooped back in again.
"Forman of the jury, have you reached a verdict"? asked the Judge. The foreman rose.
"Yes my Lord" said the foreman.
"On the charge of murder in the first degree, do you find the defendant guilty or, not guilty"? asked the judge.
"Not guilty" said the foreman, pleased with the outcome.
"On the charge of murder in the second degree, do you find the defendant guilty or, not guilty"? asked the judge.
"Guilty" said the foreman, proud of their part in the drama.
"The defendant will rise" said the clerk of the court. Robert got to his feet shaking, hardly believing his ears, and faced the judge for his conclusion, and sentence.
"Having heard all the evidence, put before this court, you have been found guilty of murder in the second degree, which means manslaughter, and does not carry the death sentence, do you have anything to say before I pass sentence" said the judge.
"Only to say that, though I be of noble birth I do not blame my accusers, but I will retain my dignity and reclaim what is mine when I am released" said Robert resigned to his fate once more.
"I am bound by law, and I will award the strongest sentence I can which is a life sentence, you have not been without blame in your passed as you too have threatened, your adopted father. A Life sentence for manslaughter is of an undeterminate length but you will not be considered for parole before you have served twenty years" Twenty years, thought Robert, maybe I could have been shot in Egypt, if truth be known, and he took it on the chin and was led away to begin his sentence.
This time he entered the prison with more assurance and the way he looked at the screws made them think twice about further punishment and gave him his uniform without harassment, but in his cell he was welcomed back like a member of the family and they decided, from that day forward they would command a bit of respect, and Lord Jim would orchestrate, what went on,as lifers, Nick and Lord Jim, were top dogs and would cover each others backs. They proved to be an unbeatable team and ran everything,with military precision smuggling, booze, pills, and luxury items, with the unsuspecting screw Colin in their pocket, taking out uncensored mail, ordering goods smuggled in with the fresh vegetables, Lord Jim had managed to get added to the menu by a new reforming governor, wanting to keep the prisoners upbeat and onside. as the years passed and inmates came and went, they did keep the status quo and the governer was commended for running an efficient prison. The atmosphere improved even more when, the final execution at Pentonville took place on 6 July 1961, when Edwin Bush was hanged, aged 21. Hanging was later abolished in 1965 which ment more hardened criminals and murders were far more likely to come into contact with Robert and Nick and their reign was coming to an end.
About that time around 1965, Robert met up with an official prison visitor called Jean, An Official Prison Visitor is someone who visits prisoners regardless of whether they have visits from family and friends or not. Someone who has time to listen in confidence and show respect to a prisoner. They would commit themselves to visit a prisoner on a regular basis, usually around two hours a month. Robert was half way through his sentence and attended the sessions out of boredham really. Robert entered the visitors room, that first session and was drawn to a blond lady in her thirties, he caught her eye and she beckoned him over.
"How do you do" said Jean, a small framed blond spinster of thirty five years, Jean Sprowston, was a well educated, mature student at a crossroads in her life, she was looking for a outlet for her passion crime novels, and secretly wanted to write her own, The National Association of Official Prison Visitors (NAOPV) co-ordinated the activities of Official Prison Visitors and provided training and support for volunteers. Jean was their newest recruit and was as nervious as Robert as she shook his hand.
"Tea"? she asked, Robert,"We've been told we can help ourselves" and Jean pointed to an urn surrounded by white cups and saucers."My names Jean" she said.
"I'll get them" said Robert,still holding her hand,"I'm Robert" and he went to the table and surveyed the set out cups with card tags on strings, hanging from the side, he poured hot water from the urn in two cups and added a splash of milk from a white jug, and not seeing any sugar he returned to the table, with the brews now colouring up like they should, and bringing a smile to Roberts face. He placed the cups on the table and sat opposite Jean who was waiting with some small sachets from a small cup on the table. Then he watched in amusement, as Jean held the tag up, and dunked the bag on the other end, up and down in her brew.
"Oh, of course" said Jean, noticing his stare,"You wouldn't have seen teabags before"
"Tea bags"? questioned Robert.
"Yes, we've had them for about four years now" said Jean,"Nobody uses loose tea anymore"
"We do" said Robert, who spooned endless amonts into urns daily, only to chuck them down the sink blocking it up. "Looks like the officers had discovered the delights of teabags though" he said, spying a screw slurping at a fresh cup.
"I suppose you just missed out on these aswell" said Jean, as she ripped apart a sugar sachet and let the one spoon portion fall into her cup, "Sugar sachets arrived from america, in the early fifties"
"In my day" said Robert,"A good cup of tea was brewed from the finest Ceylon leaves in a ceramic pot. It was served up with the best china cups and saucers, a small jug of fresh-from-the-udder milk and some delightful cubes of white sugar, which you delicately placed in your tea with a pair of hall marked silver serving tongs, but it still tastes the same" he said sipping his welcome cuppa and smiling across at his new friend.
"How long, have you been here"? asked Jean,"All we were told was, we were visiting lifers"
"I was sent here in 1953" said Robert,"I know nothing of the outside world as it is today, except when they change Prime Ministers and Governments, and they make their reforms, perhaps we will get tea bags now, although the tea urn cleaning just gives the screws a bit of satisfaction watching someone having to do it" Jean mentally took in, all Robert had to say, as research for her future novel.
Robert studied her features, she reminded him of Tavvie his housekeeper and former nannie, and her voice had a soothing affect on him, it was like a therapy for him as she instructed him on the ways of the swinging sixties, as she called them. Elvis Presley, Pop music, Cliff Richard, The Beatles, the football World Cup was coming to London, next year, and they had high hopes for the hosts England.
"I have no knowledge of football" said Robert,"And my last experience was watching a regiment match in Cairo, when the players just ran around exuasted in the hot sun, as the song goes, "Mad Dogs an Englishman, go out in the Midday Sun" his rendition making Jean smile.
"Tell me about Cairo" said Jean,"I thought you, were an antiques dealer, I did'nt know you were in the army" she had been given a short history of James Spiller on a card, as he was getting their tea by an officer, and was also intrigued why he called himself Robert.
"Who told you that"? asked Robert.
"Its on your card here" she said, placing the information on the table.
"Thats all rubbish on there" said Robert, turning the card over and smirking."My name is Robert Danby, I am in here under false pretences, innocent of a crime someone else committed. She was expecting that, as his card also informed her of his claims in the passed of being someone else, maybe a alto-ego, she thought or maybe something else. still intrigued she decided to ask him.
"Who are you really"? she asked,"And why are you hear"? Robert decided to tell her what he had tried to tell police twelve years before, about Ismalia, Brigadier Marriott, and his reason for shooting the prisoner, that night, which left him with a sense of guilt, that he deserved his treatment anyway, a trait that he had inherited from his father William, causing him to commit suicide back in the war years.
"No one will believe me because an imposter sits in Danby Manor as we, speak living my life, decorated as a hero, for something that wasn't the truth, who he is I know not, but he must be a dead spit of me and unbelievably clever" Jean was absorbed in his story, though she felt it was pretty far fetched. She ended their first meeting with a shake of his hand and they decided to make it a regular date, and met every third week, in between meetings they sent each other letters, England went on to win the world cup, and all the inmates were proud of there country, over the next few years Jean came to know him well, and wrote her thesis, based on him and criminal behaviour, gaining a PhD in criminal psychology. Robert was pleased for her, and the fact he had someone to off load all his troubles and thoughts onto, kept him calm and sane.
So it was a relief when Robert was finally put up for parole and was not surprised to get it, with glowing reports from the Governor and reports from the prison visitors. So in 1973 twenty years after, losing his liberty he walked out of the gates of Pentonville, a free man, he was no longer Lord Jim a title he left behind eight years before, and now he could exorcise the memory of James Spiller, the murderer, and plan his return.
Robert could now start afresh he thought, as he stepped out of the safety of Pentonville, he opened a small brown envelope to reveal a handful of foreign looking coins, they had the queens head on but he did not recognise anything else.
"Thats decimal coinage" said a familiar voice, coming towards him,"We have adopted the continental system" it was Jean.
"What would I do without you" said Robert,"I can't even recognise my own countries currancy, how am I going to regain my title"
"Your title, when will you stop talking about your title"? said Jean."Its not as if its real, you don't have to pretend now"
"Who said I was pretending"? said Robert now annoyed,"Have you not understood me, these last eight years, I have been trapped in someone elses nightmare for twenty years, James Spiller has alot to answer for, I have taken beatings he should have took, I've scrubbed floors he should have, and bit my tongue when he would have not, to regain my freedom and now I have it, I would gladly kill to keep it, I would not lie about my Identity, it is the only thing I possess no one in that place could take from me" and he gazed for the last time at the towering facade of the prison.
The towering facade of Pentonville
"I'm sorry Robert" said Jean,"It always seemed like a dream life the way you described it, Danby Manor, the servants and your family, it was so similar to some of my clients, I treat at my clinic, an imagined life was created to blot out their own failures, please forgive me" still humouring him.
"Okay" said Robert,"But never doubt me again" Jean agreed but she had checked his story about Danby, it all existed only it didn't involve the Robert she knew.
"I have a car waiting" annouced Jean,"Come to my house and we will talk further, my family would love to meet you"
"Family"? said Robert,"Since when"? he asked.
"Since five years ago" said Jean,"He's name is Kevin, he's a teacher, and we have a daughter, Karen aged four, I'm sorry but we were not allowed to give any personal information to the prisoners we visited, for security reasons you understand" she took him to a weird shaped car, called a Cortina unlike any he had seen before, as she sat him in the front seat and straped the seat belt on him, he looked around and laughed, "Clunk, Click," she said, to his further amusement, and they drove off towards her home in Highgate.
"The sun looks so much brighter than I remember" said Robert,"It used to be so gloomey in the London fog. I remember one in London in 1951 a real pea souper, you could hardly see ten yards even in daylight"
"Thats the Clean Air Act" said Jean,"No more smog, for London. since 1968, you could be put away for the wrong kind of coal now days" Within the hour they were entering Jeans short driveway in Highgate, and climbing the steps to her front door, before she could put her key in the lock it was opened by a small, excited, round faced child, it was Karen, her daughter, followed up quickly by her husband Kevin, holding a beer half consumed.
"Hello" said Kevin,"You must be Robert, or should I say Lord Robert" Jean gave him a dig in the ribs with her elbow, shutting him up, and pushed past him. She led Robert to the front room and cleared away Kevins school books.
"Sorry about the mess" said Kevin,"Just doing a bit of marking, would you like a beer Robert"? he asked, noticing him staring at his can"
"Why yes that would be nice" said Robert,"I have'nt tasted beer in over twenty years, although the last alcohol I had was some moonshine made out of potato peelings during the world cup celebrations in 1966. It nearly took the enamel off your teeth"
"You rest here while we make lunch" said Kevin as he handed Robert a can of lager. Robert looked at the can for a moment and asked Kevin for an opener, then Kevin pulled the ring on top opening the cold can and it fizzed into life, forcing Robert to put his mouth over the hole ouzing the golden liquid.
"Of course, you haven't seen one of those before have you" said Jean, coming back to find Kevin, "Ring-pulls another present from the Yanks i'm afraid, there all over the floor in the park around the tramps benches" Back to the kitchen she went dragging Kevin behind her.
The front room was about twice as big as his cell and lined with book shelves down one side, over the mantal was an oversized mirror giving the illusion of the room being larger than it was. Robert walked passed the books scanning the titles, many were reference books, till he noticed one in particular, "Who's Who" he said, "And a recent edition" he couldn't resist it, and pulled it from its shelf, laying it on the table, It fell open at names starting with D, mainly because it was being held by a page marker in the form of a silver wise owl with jeweled eyes, like amber, without much effort he found Danby, Lord Robert 14th. Earl of Danby DSO, CBE, Order of the Garter, and Lady Julia was lady in waiting to the Queen, they had the lot, and were Royal favorites, even Robert himself was impressed. The next piece of information sent shivers down his spine, they had five children, not two. Shirley and Jayne his children now in their late teens when this was printed, and Nicholas, Christopher and Sophia, his imposters children, all in their early teens. James hadn't let the grass grow under his feet. Robert sat down slowly and cried, he was as crushed as the can in his hand under his grip, as he took in the seriousness of the situation, his wife had been duped by an imposter, you might aswell face it he thought she was raped, from day one, in his eyes. He didn't need any more information, and he calmly took a piece of paper from the desk drawer and made a list.
Club / Tailor / Bank / Car / Danby. In came jean with his lunch, and noticed the open book and owl marker, she put his plate down carefully, a cold meat salad, and placed a hand on Roberts back, he was trembling with rage but she put her arm around him, and he calmed down, then she sat next to him, held his hands and looked him in the face, as she had done, hundreds of times before. She looked at the desk and read his list.
"What are you planning to do Robert"? she asked,"Nothing rash I hope"
"No, not rash" replied Robert,"Well thought out and planned, but final" He turned, back to the desk and ate his lunch, still thinking as he chewed every mouth full slowly. Jean was worried, she had calmed him down but now he was too calm, and he finished his small meal. "Everything looks better on a full stomach" he said,,"Now show me this new money" and he spread his small packet out on the table, pushing the plate aside. Jean explained the simple system.
"For a while" Jean said,"The old and the new currencies ran hand in hand. People could pay in pounds, shillings and pence and get new pence in their change. There was an original intention to keep the old money in circulation for eighteen months, but in the end, the old penny, halfpenny and threepenny bits were no longer legal tender by August 1971. There were also a handful of shops that refused to switch, resolutely clinging onto the past, but eventually even they had to change. The farthing was dropped, being deemed valueless, as was the ha'penny, the old penny became, half a new pence, the old three penny piece was dropped and in came, one pence and two pence pieces, last to go will be the sixpence, being worth two and a half pence, and pointless. It did'nt stop their though, every childs favorite pocket money coin the half a crown, was discarded, twenty five pence did'nt sound as good some how, where as the half crown had the Royal Standard impressed on it, and you got a handful of heavy change when you spent one, even a student could dine out with one, fish and chips and a pint, those were the days"
"One shilling pieces were now five pence" she continued, "And florin's, two shilling pieces, were now ten pence. Paper money hasn't escaped the cull either, and we have lost the lovely old ten bob note in 1969, replaced by a metal nut shaped, pocket ruiner called a fifty pence piece, and I bet it doesn't stop there. but we still have the pound notes and the fivers thank god. The biggest controversy with decimal currency was that people thought the shops used it as an excuse to put up prices. This may have been true, as many changed their prices when the new money came in, but inflation was quite high at the time and no doubt prices would have risen anyway. They can never kill the memory though of counting out your piggy bank savings, two hundred and forty lovely big pennies, to one pound, brilliant"
"So its ther same system as America" said Robert, simplifing her explanation, "Pounds and New pence replaced LSD"
"Don't mention, LSD in public nowdays" warned Jean, "You would probably be offered drugs by some ageing hippy"
"What's LSD then"? asked Robert.
"Don't ask" said Jean.
"Yeah man" joked Kevin as he overheard their conversation, whilst handing Robert another beer, and recollecting his own, student experiences, as he was now well under the influence of a few more cans.
"Yeah man," mimicked little Karen, as her father clumsily fell into a big armchair against a dresser, sending cheap holiday souveniers crashing down on his head, which prompted Jean to put her to bed. Kevin carried on marking his books, but now just ticked every one with a large stoke of his red biro, without reading them.
"Thats that" he slurred, "I'm off" and he pulled himself out of the chair, laying waste to a few more well travelled items. "Good night my dear" he said as he attempted to plant a kiss on Jeans cheek, as she came back into the room, missing by a good six inches and bouncing off the door frame.
"Good night, darling" said Jean, raising her eyebrows and shrugging her shoulders at Robert. "He'll be okay" she said, dropping a armful of bed clothes on the settee infront of the fireplace. "You'll be alright on hear won't you"
"Well I hadn't planned to stay" said Robert.
"Well, I'd prefer it if you did" said Jean, "You have nowhere to go tonight, sleep on it, and get your mind right, things will look different in the morning" and she left Robert to retire. Robert glanced at the clock on the mantal it was ten o'clock, lights out he thought, and bedded down for the night. Jeans house had its own dusk chorus, apart from the odd creaking floor board, the sound of Kevin throwing up, after one too many beers. The next morning Robert was up with the lark, while it was just the light outside, in his brain it was burning bright, he wrote a quick note to Jean and gathering up his prison bus fare, he set off, in the half light towards the underground, Highgate station was on the Northern line and he would soon be back in his realm, the tube map hadn't changed much though there was a few additions. The new Victoria line first proposed and voted for by Lord Robert in 1948 was completed in 1968, it snaked across central london west to east and made Roberts passage alot easier, an improvement on the ageing Piccadilly line.
Jean rose to find Robert gone, and wished him luck after reading his farewell note, thanking her, for her kindness and friendship. Meanwhile Robert was bearing down on his first target his club, Situated in relaxed refinement in the heart of St James's, the Army and Navy Club, often known by its nickname, "The Rag" prided itself on offering a unique combination of the ambience traditionally found in an officers' mess, with the comfort and facilities of an exclusive hotel. Catering primarily for serving and former officers of the British and Commonwealth Armed Services, as well as their immediate relatives, the Club had approximately 5,000 Members comprising both ladies and gentlemen.
Robert would often enjoy the extensive amenities the Club has to offer, from relaxing with a drink in one of the bars, or fine dining in one of the restaurants, to holding private business meetings or attending a presentation in their conference and business facilities. The Club’s comfortable, distinguished and beautiful environment also welcomed private events such as weddings and parties, and with over 80 attentive staff, an excellent standard of service was provided. Within easy reach of the west end shops Lady Julia would often leave the club, to stroll in St.James's Park or meet friends at a restaurant. The Club also had established connections with many local businesses, who helped to add value to Club membership by offering discounts and exclusive arrangements specifically to Club Members. One such business was his tailor round the corner.
"Good morning, your Lordship" said the doorman called Albert a ex Royal Marine, now in his sixties, who had seen it all and more since being demobed in Australia in 1946, he arrived back at the club in 1950 and never left it again. he never forgot a face but Robert was taken aback when he said.
"Back so soon,Sir? you look like you've had a night on the tiles, don't let her ladyship see you like that she'll have you up on a charge" Albert gave him a wink and a thumbs up, "Don't worry the coast is clear, she left on the early train"
"You mean my wife was here"? said Robert.
"Well you should know, your Lordship" said Albert, smiling, "You've spent the last two days here after all, I could have sworn you were in the back though, when I slammed the door on your taxi" Robert passed through the revolving door, and approached the receptionist at her desk.
"Hello, Lord Robert" said Kirsty, the receptionist, puzzled to see him, she was a new face to him, but not it seemed to Lord Danby,"Your tailor dropped off your new suit this morning, he said it took less time than he thought, we've placed it in your locker as we thought you had checked out" and she handed him his key. Locker 14 was handed down to him by his father William, and by his father Roderick to him. It was a depository of family memories, and a life saver at times. Robert placed the key in the lock and turned it clockwise swinging the door back he saw his newly tailored suit, in his favourite black cloth as he always remembered it. along with a lily white shirt and a black silk tie and below sat a pair of shiney black brogues, on a shelf lay a gold cigarette case, he hadn't seen since he left for Cairo. he also picked up a small set of keys. He decided to have a complete makeover, and took a turkish bath, then a manicure and lastly a hot close shave and a haircut. Then he dressed in his new suit and accessories and went to his second port of call the bank, here again his family kept a deposit box.
"Good day, Lord Danby," said the clerk, and Robert handed him his keys, the clerk found his box and placed it in a booth, Robert entered the booth and drew the curtain behind him. his eyes fell upon an array of family objects when he opened the lid of the box. Gold and Silver, Jewels one in particular he'd never seen before a locket, with chased floral designs with jewels set on one side the Danby crest lay in the centre, on the other side was an inscription reading, With love forever dearest Tavvie, but why would Tavvies locket be in my family box, and another question was why was his fathers picture in it, then he thought, for a minute.
"That dirty old sod was knocking off Tavvie, all those years" said Robert, "You wait till I see her" and he smiled to himself. Also in the box was his fathers signet ring with the Danby crest he used for sealing letters, and a set of gold cuff links also with the crest, "They'll be handy" he said, "All helps to prove who I am" He grabbed a roll of cash and then handed the box back to the clerk, who returned his keys.
Next on Roberts list was transport, he had written down car on his list but the idea of his wife's train Journey, appealed to him and he took a taxi to Kings Cross St.Pancras Station. At the station Robert scanned the electronic timetable, the next train to Danby departed at 21.44 hrs.that evening, on the East Coast line and arrived at Danby station at 07.58 hrs. the next day, it must be the milk train he thought, 10 hours it certainly wasn't an express. Robert thought, he had waited twenty years, whats a few more hours and he brought a ticket, found his train, and settled down in his first class carriage and tried to sleep.
At Danby, a dark cloud had settled on the Manor, two weeks earlier, Tavvie had been enjoying her 72nd. birthday party, the whole family had gathered at Danby, from all over the country, four present generations of the family were seated in the dining room, There was the matriarc of the family, Clare, in her late 70's herself, and now in a wheelchair, Lord Robert Danby and Lady Julia, Shirley, now 25 years. and her two year old son, Roderick, she was now divorced and had returned to live at the Manor in Tavvies old cottage, Jayne, now 24 years. and her new partner Megan, the family had accepted her like another daughter, and Tavvie enjoyed filling her in, on the family, showing her all the portraits hanging in the hall, she was the keeper of archives, all the family history aswell as its secrets, She and Clare had been working on a family tree for James 45th. birthday and Tavvie used reduced family photos supplied by Clare, on every branch. next to them was Nicholas, 22 years. a law graduate following in the family footsteps, Christopher a 21yr. old, fan of outdoor pursuits, keen to bring in his own changes to the family business still overseen by his uncle, Thomas now 41, and not yet ready to give Christopher his head in the business, and sat their nodding to his wild idea's. Last was Sophie a 20 year. old debutant, as she was called when they put her picture in Country Life magazine, and the apple of James's eye, but there would be no boyfriends sniffing around her like another Sophie, he remembered from a former life, she would marry, into Society. Last at the head of the table was the guest of honour, Tavvie dressed in one of her original Edwardian black high neck dresses, for the occasion it still fitted her perfectly, but the corset, pinched a bit, as they enjoyed a severn course dinner, just like the old days, a top London chef had been drafted in to recreate the feast, guided by Tavvies expertise. But as the meal continued Tavvies appetite began to disappear, and more and more food was left on her plate, as the courses came,and went, Tavvie made her excuses to the waitress.
The waitress concerned at this, could not hold her tongue any longer, when Tavvie refused the sweet course, and informed James at the opposite end of the table. He looked straight at Tavvie and knew instinctively something was wrong, within seconds he was at Tavvies side holding her hand.
"Ring for an ambulance"! he screamed, and started to loosen the grip of her collar on her throat,"Tavvie" he called, as he rubbed her cool liver spotted hands, "Has someone called an ambulance"! he shouted again.
"Yes Sir" answered the waitress,"Their on their way" Tavvie gazed up at him, through clouded vision, her face had slumped down on one side, and her arms were limp, she looked at James, for a second, then her head fell forward onto her chest, Robert was inconsolable, he had lost his secret mother and mentor, she had left him, her lifes work completed. The ambulance arrived within minutes but they were too late she was pronouced dead, by the accompanying family doctor, who told James, after examining her that she had a massive stroke, and would not have survived the journey to the hospital.
"She died surrounded by the most important people in her life" said James, "She would have liked it that way" and he thanked the doctor. James sat looking out the window with a tear in his eye, as they took Tavvies body away to the hospital, minus her restrictive clothes, cut off by the ambulancemen, which James now held in his hands. He had a loving wife, five children, and loyal friends, but at that moment he felt alone.
"Come on Robert" said Julia, putting her arm around him, lets go to bed, we're all tired, we will have to contact Tavvies relatives in the morning"
"She had no relatives" said James,"Not anymore, just us, we were her family" Julia smiled and thought she knew what he ment, but he alone knew what he ment.
The next day they made arrangements for Tavvies funeral, which would take place in the family chapel, it was also the village church and people who knew her in the village could attend the service.
"She could be buried in the church yard under that lovely oak tree in the corner," said Julia, referring to the corner where in the past, servants who died in service at the Manor were buried, Tavvies mother lay there.
"I will not here of it" James exclaimed,"Dear old Tavvie will be laid to rest in the family crypt, as she was more like a member of the family anyway" Julia looked at him puzzled.
"Its a bit of a break with tradition" said Julia, "And you knew what she felt about that"
"Never the less, thats what will happen" said James, and as his wished it was arranged for two weeks time. A week later he rung his tailor to book a fitting for a new suit, they knew his sizes and a final fitting was all he would need, an arrangement that had worked in the past, James although he ate well, his size never seemed to vary much, a trait inherited from his father William.
"We will stay at the club" he told Julia, and booked a room, for a weeks time, "Yes just an over night stay" he told Kirsty, the Army and Navy club receptionist, as he replaced the phone reciever, he swigged at his glass of scotch, and smiled, happy that he would look the part for Tavvie. The day came for their flying visit to London and they were dropped at a main line station to take the express to Kings Cross, the local station was nowdays a bit off the beaten track, so to speak, and speed was the essence.
While James had his fitting Julia whizzed around the shops in Bond Street, for accessories. She already had a black dress and she wasn't going to go overboard for somebody, who she wasn't even related to, but she thought she might make the effort, with a new hat and shoes, she brought her Robert a set of 14 carat gold cuff links, set with Jet, which is pieces of black fossilised Monkey Puzzle Tree, from the Whitby cliffs not far from home, a nice bit of mourning jewellery she thought. On arrival back at the club she found James wringing his hands angrily.
"They can't do it" said James.
"Do what"? asked Julia.
"Finish my suit in time" said James in a fluster,"We'll have to go"
"Go where"? said Julia.
"Home, of course" said James,"We haven't time to wait"
"But I was looking forward to dinner" said Julia.
"No time" said James,"We're booked on the "Scottish Flyer" in half an hour, a taxi is being summoned by Albert, as we speak" and he led her down through reception, dropping his keys on Kirsty's desk. Albert opened the taxi door and helped Julia in with her shopping covering up James in the back.
"Have a safe journey, your ladyship" said Albert, and slammed the taxi door. James pushed her shopping down onto the floor of the taxi, as they pulled away. They arrived at the station just in time, to board the Flyer and Julia and James bundled her boxes into the first class carriage.
"What am I going to do now" said James.
"What you should have done in the first place" said Julia,"There's a perfectly serviceable black suit in your closet, I had it cleaned in case you spilt something down yourself, you have a new white shirt and comfortable black brogues, and of course you can where these" and she handed James a box, containing his cuff links, James cuddled Julia and thanked her.
"What would I do without you" he said.
"Well you obviously miss her" explained Julia, "So I thought it would be a little reminder of her for you" James welling up, nodded and they sat hand in hand for the journey. They were home in just over four hours and were met at the station by Nicholas in the Rolls.
"We will have a early night tonight said James it will be a hectic day tomorrow, Tavvie will have a good send off" and the whole family retired.
The next morning there was a buzz about the Manor, flowers were arriving from the florists and Julia sent Jayne and Megan down to the chapel to decorate it with the cut bunches, wreaths, kept arriving and were laid out on the sun terrace, so people could read the cards at there leisure, a buffet lunch was laid out in the dining room so the servants could attend the service. Then it was time the coffin arrived, in a horse drawn hearse, and there wasn't a dry eye, even Lady Julia had to use her black handkerchief when James literally, burst into tears, the whole family could'nt believe it but they joined in, as they followed the procession down the path, over a stone bridge, Robert had built some years before he disappeared, during the remodeling of Danby, from the bridge over the feeder stream for the lake, you could see down to the chapel 200 yards ahead. and was a halfway resting point on the way to the chapel. The metal tyres of the hearse rattled over the bridge, preceded by a mute dressed in a early 19th century black frock coat and tall black silk hat with a long black hat band trailing down his back, but there was no resting today, and they carried on to the chapel. The coffin was already unloaded and at rest infront of the alter, when the mourners finally reached their pews in the chapel.
A small local train finally pulled into the Danby branch line station, it had only just survived Dr.Beechings axe in the mid 1960's and was antiquated by the standards of the day. A black pair of polished brogues, stepped from a first class compartment filled by Lord Robert Danby, he was greeted by the a sweaty red faced man in a cap a band around it saying friends of Danby railway.
"Your running late, your lordship" said the railway enthusiast acting as the station master, who blew his whistle, telling the train to leave.
"Late"? said Robert, thinking he ment the train, "Well I did'nt have much choice, last night"
"Well you better make tracks" said the amateur offical, "My misses went half an hour ago" and he diappeared again back into his office.
Robert walked from the station through the deserted village and took a shortcut through the old girls school, and out through the back gate, crossing a field he stood at last facing Danby Manor. he couldn't see any movement not even a gardener, who were always tidying the lawns and borders, he came upon the sun terrace and his gaze fell on a sea of flowers, but they were wreaths, perhaps his rival had departed, Robert bent down and picked up a tribute card. To his horror he read the two lines out.
" IN MEMORY OF BEATRICE,
FROM HER FRIENDS AT THE W.I."
"My God" said Robert, "Tavvie, she's gone" and he confirmed it with the next card which said Tavvie, "How sad, she will miss my return, I will pay my respects, I hope I'm not too late" And he made his way down the path over the bridge where he paused to survey his estate.
"Umm, still in pretty good nick" he said, and carried on his way, as he neared the chapel, mourners were coming out, so he decided to stand in the shade of the bushes to watch for a few moments. Then the coffin came out followed by the rest of the mourners, they seemed to be heading for the family crypt not the chuch yard, as he expected, the majority of the mouners were sent back to the Manor up the hill while the Danby family members trooped into the crypt. Robert decided to break cover and quickly got to the chapel side, unnoticed by the retreating crowd. After a few moments the young adults of the family and pall bearers came out, followed by the vicar being thanked by Julia, Robert was about to jump out and surprise his family, when he heard her say.
"Leave Robert for a few moments everyone" she said, "He will meet us on the bridge, he just wants a little time to say goodbye alone" and they climbed the path towards the bridge, as they turned to look back, down the hill, Julia squinted and held her hand above her eyes to shade them from the sun, a male figure emerged from the crypt and made its way towards them, as he reached the bridge Julia said.
"Come on Robert lets go home" And they walked arm in arm back to the Manor. "They really did a good job of cleaning that suit you know" said Julia,"By the way what happened to your new cuff links"
OR IS IT, READ ON.........,
Lady Julia emerged from the crypt with the vicar, as Robert held back his surprise.
"Thank you Reverend, for your kind words" she said.
"Your husband seems very upset" said the vicar.
"Yes, I haven't seen him so unhappy since the death of his father" said Julia.
"Yes the 13th.Earl, a very tragic figure" said the vicar, "So I was led to believe, by my predecessor, and bit unusual today, to have a member of your staff, interred with your family"
"Well, we looked on her as a member of the family, but I do agree with you, It is a break with tradition" said Julia. "We will leave him for a minute, or two to compose himself, please feel free to come up to the Manor for a cup of tea later" The vicar thanked her and said he would lock the crypt later, and Julia walked on, following the family up the path, towards the bridge.
Robert realising James was still in the crypt, alone, slipped along to the entrance, and tiptoed inside, hugging the walls, he stood for a moment in a dark corner, till his eyes grew acustom to the light, through the gloom he could see, niches in the walls built for two, holding his ancestors remains and their wifes, generations of the Danbys, his family, only one was missing the 2nd. Earl lost in the crusades, much like Robert himself in fact, but Robert was back and he had to get rid of this pretender to his title. As Robert edged forward, he saw James bent over Lord Williams stone sarcophagus, the lid swung 180 degrees and slid to one end, to reveal the coffins within.
"Oh, Tavvie" sobbed James,"Why you"? then he sensed a presence in the chamber" Julia is that you"? he asked, as he turned, and recieved a blow to his temple, sending him to the floor groggy.
"You Bastard"! said Robert, standing over James, "What gives you the right, to stand here, in the middle of my families historic remains, living my life, with my wife, while I rotted in a prison for twenty years for something you did"
"Wait" said James, coming to his senses,"Did you say, your wife"?
"Yes, and when I've given you a pasting" said Robert,"You can confess to Julia and the rest of the family, who you really are" and he grabbed at James, hauling him to his feet, much the more powerful sibling of the two.
"But who are you"? asked James, as Robert prepared to release his fury on him"
"I am Robert Danby, the real Robert Danby" he replied."Who the hell are you"? and James, while reaching into his inside pocket said.
"Why I'm your twin brother James, James Tavistock, but I was christened Spiller in the orphanage across the way there" said James, stopping Robert in his tracks, for a moment,"Yes, thats right, Tavvie was our mother"
Robert had a nightmarish flashback, over the events of the last twenty two years, and murder was now the only thing on his mind, he looked down and grabbed a large crowbar leaning against the sarcophagus, as he raised the bar above his head, James pleaded
"But we can work this out" cried James, but it was too late, Robert had done time for him, and nothing would repair James's treachery. As Robert welded his his heavy weapon, something flashed in James's hand reflecting the crack of light from the crypt door.
James trusty stiletto knife struck its target, reluctantly, and James withdrew his hand quickly making Robert buckle and drop the crowbar. Blood poured out from the wound in his chest and soaked onto the thick dust on the floor, within seconds Robert was dead, James left his weapon still embedded in his brothers chest, and bundled the body into the sarcophagus, some how managing to keep the blood within Roberts suit jacket, and not on his. Then he slid the lid of the sarcophagus 180 dregrees back into position with a rumble and a clonk.
Outside Julia had reached the bridge, she turned to look back down the hill, as she squinted and held her hand above her eyes to shield them from the sun a male figure emerged from the crypt and made its way towards them, as he reached the bridge, Julia noticed a mark on his his temple.
"Robert, whats that on your forehead"? she asked. James felt his introductory bump from Robert, and whinced, "What have I told you about that low door lintel" and she gave him a mother type spit wash "And look at you clothes"
"Yes its certainly dusty in there" said James, dusting himself down, and adjusting his new cufflinks, "Only fit for the dead, not the living" and he turned and walked arm in arm with Julia back to the Manor. Where they really did live happy ever after!
ONLY ONE CAN LIVE YOU DECIDE WHO DESERVES TO !
Write a Review and send it to
or, message me on twitter,
and RT Below
I will Blog all reviews thanks