It was a strange feeling walking through the village and hardly seeing a soul.
The only sign of life was when the horse drawn milk cart came by, the driver stopped and waited for the occupants of the cottages to come and get their daily supply of fresh white milk ladled from the two large milk churns into their jugs. Kay was mesmerised, she had never seen the likes of this before. She was so used to visiting the supermarket and picking up a carton of milk at any time of day that the thought that it had ever been any different never crossed her mind.
‘Are you coming?’ James called to her, he was nearly at the end of the main street, he had only made one call to a Mrs Groves. Kay would loved to have seen the lady but James told her to wait outside, ‘we don’t want you getting sick now he had told her,’ but Kay felt it was more than that.’
‘What’s up with these people and where is everybody?’
James stopped and stared at her, ‘you have no idea what’s going on here have you?’ he said.
‘If you mean they’re all staying home so not to catch this sickness that I can understand but it’s more than that, I’ve never come across a more depressing place,’ she said.
‘I think you’d better go back to the house,’ and walked off leaving Kay stood in the middle of the street.
‘Why, what have I said?’ she asked trying to catch up with him.
‘Just do as I ask’ he said keeping ahead of her.
‘Not until you tell me what ‘s wrong, if you don’t tell me I’ll have to ask Mrs Brown, I’m sure she’ll fill me in on all the details.’
James stopped ‘Are you blackmailing me young woman.’
‘No I just want to know what’s going on here.’
‘Today.’ he started and then paused while he gathered his thoughts, ‘today is the execution day for a member of this village.’
‘What, who?’ she asked.
‘A man named Joshua Leigh.’
Kay’s jaw dropped, she had heard the two men talking about it when she was sat on the stairs back at the lodge but as she had been so wrapped up in her own thoughts it hadn’t registered what they were talking about.
‘Today you say when today?’ she asked urgently.
He took out his pocket watch, looked at it and said in about five minutes time, does it make a difference you knowing when a man is going to die.
She put her head down and looked at the ground; ‘I didn’t mean it like that,’ she said.
‘Now I am going to see his family and you young lady are going back to the Lodge.’
‘No, I’m coming with you,’ she insisted.
I promise I’ll keep out your way, I only want to help, give me something to do, dishes, washing anything,’ she said breathlessly trying to keep up with him.
‘All right.’ he said sensing that Kay would not take no for an answer and not wanting her to create a scene in public, ‘but I warn you not a word.’
They travelled the road out of the village and down past Worsley Brow, just a little further on was the cottage.
Kay stopped at the gate, nervous of what she might find inside.
James had gone up the path and knocked on the door.
There was no answer for a moment then the curtain in the parlour room moved and a face appeared at the window. It was that of young girl around sixteen years of age maybe younger. The girl acknowledged James and opened the door.
He turned to Kay and said.
‘Not a word do you understand.’
Kay nodded and followed in after him.
Once through the door and into the hall the sense of misery loomed in from every direction.
Only the sound of crying could be heard coming from the back room and a young voice saying ‘don’t cry mother, please don’t cry.’
James let the young girl who had opened the door go ahead of him, he gave a deep sigh and then followed her into the back room.
The sight was unbearable to watch, the woman was sat in the chair by the fire with a young boy kneeling at her feet holding her hand.
‘Please don’t cry.’ he said trying to get her attention but her eyes were blank staring at nothing not listening to anything.
James touched the boy on the shoulder and indicated for him to move away from his mother.
The boy was reluctant to move so James took the boys hand from his mothers and said ‘let me try.’ and with that the boy got up and walked over to his sister who stood behind their mother’s chair.
‘Eleanor.’ repeated James.
Eleanor turned to him her eyes red and puffy with crying. ‘Is it done yet?’
The doctor looked at the children standing behind their mother and nodded his head.
The girl dissolved into tears but the boy just stood there his expression pained, but no tears.
‘Don’t cry.’ he whispered to his sister ‘we have to be brave for mother.’
‘I’m going to give you something to help you rest.’ James said.
Eleanor shook her head.
‘She hasn’t slept properly for weeks.’ said her daughter.
‘I don’t want anything.’ she said and once more the tears began to flow.
‘Do you need anything?’ James asked ‘could I get you anything?’
‘We have no milk.’ said the boy. ‘The milkman won’t come and mother won’t let us go into the village because they shout at us.’
‘We’ll go.’ said James ‘we won’t be long.’
‘I’ll stay here.’ said Kay and before James could object Kay had started collecting dishes from the table and walked into the kitchen.
Once in the kitchen Kay took a deep breath she had hardly been able to take her eyes of the boy, that brave little boy- her granddad.
Her heart was pounding with fear and excitement, ‘I don’t know what to say to him.’ she thought if only it was another day a normal day, but then she wondered how long it would be before this family could considered life as being normal again.
She shook her head in disgust at the milkman who wouldn’t come to them and the mud slung at the doctor’s window yesterday, now it made sense.
The more she thought on it the angrier she became how dared they take it out on his family, no- my family and the people trying to help them.
She was thinking of going down to the dairy and telling the owner and everyone else in the village just what she thought of them when the boy spoke, he was stood just inside the doorway, she hadn’t heard him come in and she jumped when he spoke.
‘It will be all right you know.’
‘Sorry what did you say.’ asked Kay trying to remember if she had been thinking out loud and been overheard.
‘I said we’ll be fine.’
‘I’m happy to hear that but aren’t you worried?’ she asked.
‘About the villagers not really, it won’t be too long before they find something else to talk about.
‘What about your mother?’
‘We’ll look after her.’ he said confidently.
‘I’m sure you will you’re a good son.’ She could see he was embarrassed so she asked what she could do to help.
‘Nothing really.’ he said ‘Beatty is very good at taking care of the house and I look after the animals.’
‘There must be something I could do, washing, ironing, dishes maybe.’
The boy smiled ‘your different.’ he said.
‘Am I.’ asked Kay worried that he had realised that she was not who she made out to be.
‘Oh yes, no one ever wants to do housework.’
‘Well I do so show me what wants doing.’
‘I’ll show her.’ said the girl who had come and stood behind her brother.
Beatty didn’t have the same disposition as her brother.
It was clear that she was hurt and she had no problem showing it
‘What do you want me to do?’ asked Kay.
I’m waiting for the water to get hot for the washing.
‘I’ll help,’ said Kay.
‘Thank you.’ said the boy ‘but we’ll manage.’
‘Let her help if she wants, let her see what its like to wash without soap because we can’t go to the village,’ she said to her brother ‘then she can go tell them all what they want to hear.’
‘What are you talking about we have soap.’ he said.
‘Yes but when that’s gone what then and where will we get money to pay for it, no one will trade with us now,’ said Beatty and she turned and left the room crying.
‘This isn’t right,’ said Kay.
‘What do you usually trade?’ asked Kay.
‘There are eggs, chickens, vegetables and mother bakes the best cakes and pies in the village but.’ his voice trailed off.
‘She’s not up to baking now, he said ‘besides we have no flour or.’
He didn’t finish his sentence as the doctor had just come back with the milk.
‘Thank you.’ said the boy and he went to get money out of a jar of the fireplace.
‘You can pay me some other time he said when you get back on your feet.’
Kay, are you ready now.’ James asked
Kay turned to the boy and said ‘get together what you have for selling and we will take them into the village.’
James looked stunned, ‘what are you doing.’ he asked.
‘They need provisions.’
I know I will send things over later.’ said James looking anxious.
‘If they can sell what they have they won’t need you too send things over.’ said Kay.
James was furious.
‘There is plenty of time to arrange matters,’ he said ‘now lets go.’
Kay turned to Beatty ‘get me what you have and give me a list of the things you need.’
James was now glaring hard at Kay his hands was gripping the back of the chair so hard that his knuckles had turned white.
‘I’m sorry about this.’ he said to Eleanor, but Eleanor had stopped crying and was suddenly absorbed in the conversation between James and the headstrong young woman stood in her back room.
‘You have been very kind.’ she said at last to James ‘but this young woman is right.’
‘If I don’t stand up for myself and my family in this village now I never will although I have to say I wish I were more determined like you.’
Kay blushed no one had ever described her as ‘determined’ before
And with that Eleanor got up from her chair threw a shawl around her shoulders and took a basket of the sideboard.
‘Eggs please Beatty and Edward.’ she turned to her son ‘can you bring any vegetables that are ready.’
Beatty took the basket from her mother and went to collect the eggs and Edward the vegetables
‘Are you sure about this?’ James said to Eleanor ‘I’m not sure you’re up to this and I can’t guarantee that you’ll get a good reception from the villagers.’
‘The villagers.’ she said, ‘he’s paid the price, what more can they want.’ She looked as if she was about to cry again but she stiffened her back and resolve and walked into the kitchen to see what the children had collected.
‘Now I want you both to stay here,’ she said to them.
‘But we want to come,’ said Edward.
‘I don’t,’ said Beatty ‘I never want to see those horrible people again.’
Edward was torn between going with his mother and staying with his sister.
‘What do you want me to do/’ he asked of his mother.
‘I would like you to stay with Beatty but if you’re ready to face them you can come.’