Garrison Fields

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Chapter 41 - Moving on

The day was still new when Jane stirred that morning. Even after the long day yesterday, she was wide awake and lay there turning the events of the last few days over in her mind. It had been a whirlwind, but she felt that it was the right thing she had done, she turned her head to face the window, though still dark, the noise of the start of the new day was breaking through from outside. There was no fire burning and the room was cool, her eyes scanned the room. It was a nice airy room and could do with a little freshening up, but not for a time yet, all in its own good time.

Her thoughts went back to the boys escorting her in and standing by her as she was married. How they had all shook Derek’s hand and congratulated them both, up until this point she had, had some apprehension, but it had vanished. Her mind now thought of the reception on the evening. On purpose she had stayed close to Matt and Luke for a lot of the time and talked to them. It was good to know that they had no resentment for the match that she had made, they had talked to her at length. About how it was good for both her and Ted, as they had been worried constantly about her since they had been sent to the Seaman’s Mission. They knew she wasn’t as strong as she pretended to be, they had always been so proud of her. They were right she did try to put a brave face on things.

It was Matt who told her his joining the army, was nothing to do with her and Derek’s marriage. While his father had been alive, he had an obligation to him, to follow in his footsteps, he would never have disappointed him no matter the personal cost to his own life. Both Luke and he, had gone out with their father in all weathers, from the time when they could barely walk. He knew it was not the life he wanted. And the opportunity to see something of the world had presented itself. His home would always be here, but for now, he wanted at least to try something different. He knew he could come back if things did not work out.

As for Luke, well she got the feeling that he had fell into Matt’s shadow, he had relied a lot on Matt’s stronger nature. Matt had suggested to him, that he should go home and live with Jane and Derek. If he felt the same way on his birthday in several months, then he should join him.

She had appreciated Matt’s honesty in doing this for her. It would give her time to let Luke stand for himself and decide his own future.

Her thoughts now retreated to the background, she looked at the curtain the moon was going, it was time to get up. There would be plenty to do today, Derek and Ted would be wanting their breakfast. The house would need tidying and up to the General before that to get yesterday’s festivities tidied away. When they had left, the party was in full swing. It would be ungrateful of her not to go and help, to expect Mrs Dunbar, at her age to tidy it all away.

She slid out of bed quietly, so as not to disturb Derek, and picked up her working dress, coat and shoes. Lifting the black metal latch quietly on the bedroom door, she crept her way out, along the hall and down the stairs into the kitchen, walking across the flagstone floor, it was cold and she felt the chill run up her. Pulling out one of the kitchen chairs from the table she laid her clothes on it, then dressed, the material was cold to the touch and made her skin prickle. Sitting down she slipped her black brogue shoes on and laced them up. They had a reasonable sized heel and served the dual purpose of something practical to walk in, and formal enough to wear at work. She shivered for a second whilst thinking to herself, get a move on you’ll soon warm up. She knew her apparel was not as elegant as she would have wished for welcoming her new husband to the breakfast table, but there would be other days.

She lifted the lid on the range in the kitchen, the fire had already been laid and done very professionally. She knew that Derek had been using the services of a retired woman for some time, it was good of her to do this. It would save a lot of time, not having to clean the grate out first. Reaching up to the mantle shelf above, her hand located a large box of matches, there were also a number of pieces of ripped newspaper, twisted to be used as tapers to light the kindling in the fire.

She bent down to the front of the cooking range, which had an open grill effect and lighting one of the tapers, she poked it through the grill several times to begin lighting the paper and kindling. The kindling began to catch fire almost instantaneously, but the coal was damp and smoked. A search began of the draws, until she found some old newspaper. Taking a sheet of it, she held it over the front grill, within seconds a vacuum was formed and the air was now being sucked up through the ashpan at the bottom of the range. She removed the paper every minute or so, as it began to scorch, to prevent it bursting into flames. The coal was beginning to glow nicely and crackled and spat, not as much as the cheap sea coal she had become used to.

She looked around the kitchen, you could tell it was a bachelor’s house, nothing was in a logical place, well at least the place a woman would put it in and that usually meant the same thing. Having hunted through draw after draw that morning, she knew where everything currently was. She wouldn’t mention it but would gradually put everything in the place she wanted it.

The coal had caught well now, a full coal scuttle was next to the range, she picked up the poker and opened the stove top and rather than make a noise with the coal shovel, she used the tongs to take several pieces and she carefully placed them in and slid the cover back with the poker, now it was time to get a kettle boiling. This she found readily and filled up from the tap in the kitchen.

Surprisingly she found everything she needed in the larder, plus there was also a meat locker fitted in the larder. On opening the wire door, she found a quantity of fresh bacon, sausages and black pudding enough for a very good breakfast for all, in addition a cup of meat dripping. Picking up each item in turn, she lifted it to her nose, before taking them out to the table, she was surprised, not even green bacon, could this really be the house of a bachelor!

She lifted from its hook a large iron frying pan, and placed it on the range, scooping out a good lump of the yellowy white dripping with a knife, as it fell it began to melt immediately. She would have to be careful, this range was a good one, it heated up pretty quick, she would have to watch things didn’t burn as she got used to it. The sausages were forked to stop them exploding and dropped into the sizzling fat. Returning to the table, and having found a loaf in the larder, she took up a bread knife and cut several slices. Finally, she laid the kitchen table with the breakfast paraphernalia required.

She could here Derek stirring, he was using the washstand in the bedroom, the sound of the water being poured from the jug into the bowl. She thought how odd it was that this silly sound gave her such pleasure to hear. Another noise now caught her attention, it was of small legs banging down the stairs and the door swinging open as Ted entered. He had not quite managed his ablutions yet and seemed slightly disorientated in his new surroundings.

‘I smelt breakfast and thought I should come down.’ she looked at him.

‘That may be, but there’ll be none for you until you wash your hands, and what do you think Uncle Derek will say when he sees you down here with sleep still in your eyes.’ He looked at her sheepishly.

‘I dunno, but Uncle Derek likes me!’ It was true, seeing how Derek had carried him and talked to him last night, she would have believed him to be the boy’s father.

’That might be my lad, but you’ll pull that chair over to the sink and get those hands washed and put some water on that face, you’ll see the carbolic and towel next to it.

’He did so, standing on the chair so he could reach the tap, within a short period of time his task was completed. He looked cautiously at her, before dismounting the chair and pulling it back to its place at the table. He knew from past experience, that even though she was not looking, she could see everything!

‘Well sit yourself down, and not at the top, that’ll be where your Uncle Derek sits in his own home.’

He sat down as instructed and watched quietly every movement which was being made. Especially what was happening with the frying pan. He watched as each item in turn was placed in, as the bacon went in and then the bread dropped into fry.

Now a new noise attracted his attention, it was a heavier foot fall on the stairs as his Uncle Derek came down. The door opened and he stood there, dressed for sea, wearing his dark blue reefer coat and his hat with the leather peak crusted with years of being at sea, pushed to the back of his head. In his hands, was nothing nautical, but the wash bowl from the washstand. Jane seeing this, went over to him straight away.

‘You’ve no need to be bringing that down, I can see to that.’ She took it to the sink and emptied it out.

‘Now you sit down and pop your jacket on the back of the chair. You’ll get no benefit of it when you go out.’ He had come in dressed for the sea and Ted was in awe. Derek winked at Ted, as he dropped his coat on the back of the chair and remembering where he had left his hat, he picked it off his head and dropped it on Ted’s head.

‘It’s about time you come and learned the ropes, if you’re to be a sailor!’ Well Ted could hardly believe his ears.

‘Today... Now?’ he exclaimed in wild disbelief.

‘Aye today, if your mother will let you, no better time than to start young. Are you joining my crew?’ Ted looked at his mother, with that pleading face that only he could manage.

‘Can I go with Uncle Derek?’ She looked at him, knowing that Derek wouldn’t be going out further than the river mouth today, if he had invited the boy.

‘Ay, if you want to go you can, your brothers started going out with your...’ For a moment she hesitated, ‘with you da’, and your Uncle Derek when they were just about your age.’

They both looked at each other for a moment, there would be difficult times like this, she as Derek knew, had a life before they met. Well Matt, Luke and Ted were testimony to that. He smiled at her.

‘I’ve a couple of roll-neck sweaters in the draw, they shrunk to nought, in the wash. They’ll still swamp him, but I’ll take him up town after and get him some working clothes.’

She smiled at him. ‘Ay he’ll like that. When he gets his working clothes, I’ll pull those shrunk sweaters out, and make you a new one.’ Breakfast could not wait any longer, and she served it from the pan, piping hot. While Derek was eating, she prepared his bait for going out and produced a small one for Ted. She talked as they ate, Ted watching everything Derek did like a hawk.

The talk from Derek was light, about the good things they were going to look forward to and today’s work. They were not, what you would call really going to work today. Instead, he would be tacking on some new sails and then, they would go for a little trip down the river, just to ensure they filled out right; they would be back for tea.

Breakfast finished, a few warmer things were found for Ted and then both him and his new boss set out from the back door. Ted looking so grown up at his new importance, Jane went down the yard to the back gate and waved them on their way. When they were out of eye shot, she closed the door and hurried back into the house, she would have to get the breakfast things away and a quick look in the cupboards to see what they needed. After a quick wash, it would be time to get up to the General. There would be a great deal of work requiring her attention this morning and she couldn’t expect the Dunbar’s to clean it up, they had done so much for her already, she would always be in their debt.

She buttoned her coat and made her way out into the street through the front door slamming it behind her and hurried down the street. There were one or two of the women on their doorsteps, standing as they did with their arms folded. Two were knelt down scrubbing them, as she passed, they were courteous and gave a civil good morning and no more. She glanced backwards as she turned the corner, the three of them had congregated and were staring at her, knowing that she was the topic of conversation, and would be for some time. The new one in the street, the widow woman that had married her husband’s partner. They would be watching her for some time to come, watching for her to put that first foot wrong. So, they could say, they had all known all along, no good would come of it.

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