Transported – a pioneer’s story

by

Terry Spring

 PROLOGUE

Transported by Terry Spring

Transported, a novel by Terry Spring

If he wasn’t to starve George knew he would have to go and steal something. He would just have to shut the door on the village teachings and guilt…he needed to eat. In truth, this would mean he’d failed to keep his oath—to stay honest. But isn’t God supposed to provide if you’re a good person? That’s what he’d been taught, but God had let him down. Nobody’s going to give me work…they treat me like vermin…what’s the point of tryin’… might as well do the same as the others. There’s only one way.

With the downpour dwindling to drizzle, George trudged the flowing footpaths, striding purposefully towards the streets where, last month his friend Will had pointed out, gold and silver were sold. He sauntered up and down the streets, gazing into the shop windows. He stopped at the shops without customers, checking whether the sales assistants looked vulnerable. George decided he wouldn’t use violence; he didn’t want to hurt anyone…couldn’t…not even these rich nobs.

In Silver Street, he cautiously surveyed two adjoining shops; alternating between the two, only one woman served. Pretending to shelter from the rain, he watched and patiently waited. A customer entered one of the shops and the saleswoman followed, leaving the other shop unattended. Breathlessly, George darted inside. Quick, grab something and get out, he thought. His outstretched hands were shaking. Hell, everything’s under glass.

His eyes were drawn to a glow of firelight coming from the owners’ parlour leading off the shop. George could hear his heart thumping loudly as he skulked into the well-furnished room. It was unoccupied.

He breathed a sigh of relief and looked round furtively. On a polished wooden side table stood a bowl. In it sat a gold watch and other small shiny gold items. Heart pounding, he darted forward. Scooping up the valuables he quickly thrust them into his pocket. In a panic, he turned to hurry away through the doorway; out through the shop into the street to freedom …except…the owner blocked the entrance. She stood in the doorway. Hands on hips, she guarded his way out. Petrified, his heart leap even higher till he felt it in his mouth. Unable to breathe, flustered at being caught, George fought to stay calm. The woman started to shout. Her voice boomed loud…accusatory…angry.

‘Wot d’yer wan’? Ooo are you? Wot you bin doin in there?’

A voice in his head screamed ‘say something…anything…ask a question.’ Try as he might, no coherent words came out of his dry mouth—just some garbled sounds. Even in the midst of his terror, an inner voice told him he wasn’t making sense and he couldn’t fool this woman. White-faced, eyes bulging, George shook with fright.

‘Nothing mistress. I haven’t touched nothing’ he managed to howl, shaking his head. He wanted to run but found he couldn’t move. His mind told him to push past but his legs wouldn’t move. The woman lunged forward, grabbed him round the waist and yelled, ‘’ELP…THIEF…SOMEONE ‘ELP!’

George struggled to free himself. The screaming woman hung on, a dead weight around his waist. Somehow George knew his struggle was impossible; a voice in his head told him he was done for…he couldn’t get away. Banging against the glass and wood, they thrashed about in the shop for a full minute—he striving to break free, she holding on for dear life, yelling and screaming at the top of her voice.

George heard the echo of many footsteps running towards them on the cobbles outside the shop. In a panic, he plunged his hand into his pocket, pulled out the watch on its chain and tossed it away. With a clang the missile landed on a wooden shelf in the window. At the same time people appeared from everywhere and two men came in to help prevent any escape. George soon found himself helpless, down on the wooden floor pinned under a strapping passer-by.

Nobody noticed, or cared, that he shouted: ‘I ‘AVEN’T TOUCHED NOTHIN…LET ME GO…I ‘AVEN’T DONE NOTHIN AT ALL!’

By now, the shop-owner had worked herself up into a rage. Face flushed bright red, she began tearing her hair and screaming, calling the squirming George ‘a thievin’ mongrel’. From the crowd now assembled outside, another woman came in and tried to calm her and, after some minutes, an officer of the law arrived. The Beadle towered over the tearful George who, still protesting his innocence, lay exhausted on the floor. The grim face of the official looked down. Above the yells of the shopkeeper, he shouted to George to keep quiet whilst he listened to her story.

The no-nonsense thief-taker hauled George to his feet, and clamped on the handcuffs. George didn’t try to resist. With a thumping head, he wished it would all go away. He yearned to turn back time—to hide somewhere, anywhere but standing here now with people staring disapprovingly at him…his mind in a whirl, aware he was in serious trouble. Ashamed, he wondered what his Ma would have said if she were alive.

Off they marched to the magistrate’s rooms where all parties were asked to make a statement about what had taken place. The official, Ruben Rice, wrote it down in a clear neat hand and the tight-lipped saleswoman signed her statement. Grave-faced, the official listened to George’s explanation then composed a statement, which denied any knowledge of the theft. George wanted it also to be known that other people had been in the shop at the same time as him and stated ‘it must have been one of them that dealt with the watch.’ Since he could neither read nor write, George made his mark, a cross, at the end of the document.

The officer formally charged George Smith with stealing and walked the scratched, bruised and dazed lad off to a cell where he unlocked the handcuffs, pushed George inside and, with a clank, locked the cell door on freedom.

Exhausted, George sat on a sack of hay on the worn stone trying not to cry. In the scuffle, he’d cut his lip, his ribs hurt and his wrists were bruised. He stared at the stone walls, his mind in disarray.

Why didn’t I stay in Harrold with its foxgloves, and hedgerows? What made me think I could just walk into a shop, steal a watch and get away? His mind filled with ‘why’s’. Why didn’t I shove the old girl aside and run like the wind, out onto the path? Another step and I would have been there. Over and over he replayed the scene in his mind.

He groaned and looked around. The tiny dark cell reeked of vomit, blood and urine. A thin shaft of light shone through the iron bars at the window, and a dim glow came through the bars of the cell door. George took the king’s medallion out of its hiding place in a fold of his coat, and placed it in his shoe. Again he moaned in anguish as the hours stretched in front of him. He tried to sit up and couldn’t, the effort draining him. He lay back tired and miserable, thinking of his lost family. His eyes became teary and he despaired of life. What will I do…why did God do this to me? He tried to forget it all, to remember his mother’s face and her warm voice…such a long time ago. In the quiet he slowly drifted off, recalling the agony…leaving his childhood behind and coming to London. His breathing slowed as he slipped into an exhausted sleep, to dream of his dead family and the village life he’d left behind.

 

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