The Panama Hat Series - Volume 1: Tezzie and the Villainous Victorians

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Chapter 4

Tezzie and Nico crept quietly away from the two men as quickly as they dared. When they came out at the front of the house they found themselves on a street – a street full of very grand cream coloured houses with stone steps leading up to each of the doors.

“I think, I think this must be London – but not London today” said Nico.

“What do you mean ‘not London today’?” asked Tezzie.

“Well, it makes sense doesn’t it? I mean on the way here, over those walls we saw horse-drawn carriages – and all the people we’ve seen so far are wearing really old-fashioned clothes – like from films – and Billy working, at only six years old… We must have gone back in time!”

Tezzie gazed around again in wonder. He noticed that the roads were cobbled rather than tarmac and in the distance he could see a carriage and horses, with a very straight-backed man, a coachman sitting on its roof, outside one of the houses. Just then a lady in a long dress, which seemed to stick out unnaturally at the back below the waist, emerged from the same house. She wore a large hat embellished with flowers and feathers and she had a pair of delicate lace gloves in her hand. The coachman and another servant bustled around her, opening the carriage door, pulling down a little step and then holding out their hands obligingly to help her into the carriage.

(Illustration: front of posh man’s house)

“Tezzie. Tezzie! Did you hear me?”

“Hmmm?” murmured Tezzie, starting to rouse from his reverie. He blinked.

“Weird,” said Tezzie, “I think you must be right. We are in the past. It all points that way, doesn’t it? All the more reason to find Billy as soon as possible and solve this mystery, it may be our only hope to get home!”

The boys started a brisk walk down the street, trying to not look conspicuous (which was difficult as they were still wearing the costumes from the cowboys and Indians game they had been playing). At the end of the street they came to what looked like a market place. It was teeming with people, some milling around looking in the shop windows, some children playing football with an old shoe. There were girls selling flowers and little boys selling all kinds of knick-knacks; they saw horses resting and having a drink of water outside shops, and men in dirty worn clothes stumbling out of taverns with tankards of beer in their hands.

As they were taking in all of this, they spotted Billy peering out from a side street. He jumped as he saw them and turned to make a run for it, but Tezzie shouted,

“Billy, no, please, we want to help you! Please don’t run away!”

He saw Billy pause, so he took advantage of his momentary hesitation, holding up his hands to try to calm the situation.

“Please Billy, we honestly want to help you! We just heard your boss talking to the posh man at the house – we don’t believe you took the jewels.”

“Why would you want to help me?” said Billy, his eyes still wide with fear, he was still backing away from the boys, “I heard what you were saying back there, about the wall and some steps and a magic hat – you two are crazy!”

“I know this all seems crazy, Billy, we’re just as confused as you are – but you need to listen!” Tezzie took a deep breath, swallowed and began, “Look – I know it sounds weird, and it is weird, but I - well we – think that we have somehow travelled back into the past. We’re from the future Billy!”

Billy’s eyes widened further in amazement and disbelief,

“You two are crazy…” he said again, backing away.

Tezzie tried a different approach.

“Ok so you might think we’re crazy, but let’s be honest, you are in deep trouble right now, and we are the only ones who believe you AND the only ones who are willing to help you! We just heard your boss telling the owner of the house that it was you who stole the jewels. Your boss is still looking for you and we don’t have much time. You need to trust us so we can start to find out who did steal those jewels, before your boss finds you and hands you over to the police! So what’s it to be, Billy? Do you think you can trust us?”

Billy’s face gradually softened. He was now looking less scared and more intrigued.

“But why would you want to help me?” Billy asked again, his eyes narrowing. “What’s in it for you?”

Tezzie and Nico looked at each other knowingly.

“We know it sounds impossible and strange and crazy,” began Tezzie, “but we think that the reason we are here at all is something to do with you, something to do with the fact that we’re supposed to help you. And besides all of that - it’s the right thing to do.”

“Yeah, we think that if we help you out of this situation – solve the mystery - then it might somehow open the way back – you know – the steps on the wall – and then we can get back home again,” added Nico.

“Do you know how crazy that sounds? Wait a minute, but what about…” Billy’s voice drifted mid-sentence. The boys saw the colour drain from Billy’s face as he pointed at something behind them.

(Illustration: Mr Dallevill walking into pub)

Tezzie and Nico slowly turned on the spot; they saw Billy’s boss, Mr Dallevill, walking quickly into the tavern across the way. Despite the good weather for October, Billy’s boss was wearing a big thick overcoat, the kind you would only wear in really cold winter weather, his collar turned up almost hiding his face, and his shoulders were hunched over. He clearly didn’t want to be noticed. But Billy could spot him any where. The boys watched, holding their breath, until Billy’s boss had entered the tavern and the door had swung closed.

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