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Authors: Yelena Kopylova

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wardrobe his working clothes, then from a drawer he took underwear and socks and two working

shirts, and from under the bed he pulled out a rucksack, and after stuffing the clothes into it he

gripped it by the straps and went out on to the landing and into the tiny boxroom that served as a

bedroom for his son, and without a word he grabbed up the two sets of underclothes, the two

pullovers, socks and shirts that were in neat array on the bed and, stuffing them unceremoniously

into the top of the rucksack, he said harshly now, ”Don’t waste time, come on.”

Dick paused and looked towards the narrow window-sill on which was standing an array of clay

birds and animals. Swiftly now his hand went out and grabbed up two ducks, one which was

standing on one leg while its other webbed foot scratched its wing, and the second one a smaller

model of the same bird, its legs out behind it, its neck craned forward, caught for ever as it would appear while swimming. As he stuffed these one into each pocket of his breeches his father said

nothing, but he whipped from the back of the door a small topcoat. Then they were going

downstairs again.

”What you up to ? What do you think you’re up to ? You’re not goin’ anywhere, an’ you’re not

takin’ him with you.”

”No? And who’s gona stop me?”

”I’ll have the polis on you.”

”You do that.”

”You can’t leave me, not out here on me own.” She was moving sideways towards the door now,

blocking his way. ”You know I can’t work.”


”You can’t work because you’re lazy.”

”I’m not lazy. Look how clean I keep this place.”

”A child of five could do the work of this place in half an hour. Lady Parker’s been wanting help

in the house for years. The kitchen maid’s post is open, she’ll take you on. When you go after the

job tell her I’ve left; she owes me three days’ pay.” ’

”Damn and blast you! I’ll be no kitchen maid.”

”Then you’ll have to starve.”

”I won’t starve. By God ! I won’t starve. You’re me husband, you’ve got to support me.”

”I’ve done supporting you.” His voice was coming from the scullery now amidst the rattle of


”I’ll get you for abducting him.”

”I can counter that with the fact that I’m savin’ him from being knocked stone deaf by you.

You’ve never wanted him and you’ve showed it from the day he was born.”

He was in the kitchen again staring at her where she was standing in the doorway, and as he

looked at her he was seeing her as she had looked ten years ago when at twenty-four she had

appeared years younger. She had always managed to look pathetic.

As a boy he had warned himself not to be taken in by his overwhelming feeling of compassion.

He had warned himself that compassion was only safe to be bestowed on animals ; yet the

devious Lena had recognized his weakness and used it. By God! how she had used it. She had

aligned herself with his principles of nonaggression, she had made him feel the big man, the wise

man. His disillusion had come so quickly it had been sickening, so much so that for a time he had

lost his self-respect and seen himself as a big, gullible fool. Even now the cock in the yard was

likely to find itself knocked flying when in the process of treading the hens. All she ever wanted

from life was ease, someone to work for her; respectability, oh yes, the respectability of being

called missis, this desire having grown in her as the result of her having been born on the wrong

side of the blanket.

And because of her birth and her early environment, at the beginning he had made allowances for

her peculiarities, but no amount of talking or reasoning could get it into her head that the sex act was anything but dirty. How he had ever managed to give her a child he didn’t know.

”Get out of me way !”


”I’ll follow you. I’ll find you. I know where you’re goin’; you’re heading North, back to the

scum there.”

”That’s the last place I’ll go. Try Canada or Australia or America. . . . Out of me way!”

When she didn’t move his hand came out like an uncoiling whip and, catching her round the

neck, flung her to the side, where she fell into a heap on the floor.

He stood looking at her for a moment; and now his voice trembling, he said with deep bitterness,

”When you’re lying alone up there at nights think of what it would be like to have your body

sprayed with buckshot until you died, just think on’t and know that it wasn’t him who did it, but

you. You killed them both. . . .”

His father had already lifted him over the stile when they heard her voice again and Dick knew

that if they were to continue straight on towards the road she would catch up with them. The

same thought must have been in his father’s mind because, gripping his hand now, he pulled him

to the right and so across a stubbled field, then into the hazel wood and on into the big wood; but

not straight through it. Twisting and turning and out of breath, they came to a by-road, and here

Abel paused a moment and, sitting down on the grass verge, he said, ”I’ll have to spread this load


When he opened the rucksack the boy saw the pan and kettle and the two tin mugs that had been

kept under the sink in the scullery. Presently his father paused in his arranging and looked at him

and asked quietly, ”You wanted to come, didn’t you?”

”Oh yes, Dad, yes. Oh yes, I want to be with you.”

”Good.” He nodded at him, then added, ”I’ll get you a smaller rucksack somewhere along the

road and then we’ll be fitted up for tramping, eh?”

”Yes, Dad Where we goin’, Dad?”

Abel rose to his feet, swung the rucksack up and thrust his arms into the straps before saying, ”At

the present minute you know as much as I do about that, lad, but wherever we’re going we’ll

arrive safe, you’ll see.”



«ys later they took the ferry from Gravesend to Tilbury.

walked through Sussex into Kent and were now about

They j Essex. Dick was so fascinated by the docks, the ships, the

to entf
momentariiy he forgot about his skinned heels, his

to entf
momentariiy he forgot about his skinned heels, his ”anf sj toes, and his tired legs.

Three nights they had slept out. It was, June and the weather

r_jtn. His father had told him last night that they were, after

^ ,(ig to make for the North because
wouldn’t believe they

^ >!° t’iere now’ ^ut ^y weren’t g°in.g to° far nortn> not to ^yOUi ,]£, which was a river and the place where his grandfather r^TV born. Somewhere in the country, his father had said, had

ffiey’d find a farm. He would like that wouldn’t he ? He had whe«;would.

hoped it wasn’t a long way to walls because his feet were , He hadn’t told his father

about thtf blisters, not the first

SCv^ause ne was a^ra^ t^1 ^ne di^
^ght go back. Then

•^ ,.; realized that was silly, his father would never go back. aea/”’/ getting off the ferry, Tilbury proT ed disappointing, flat,

’ytiere were a few shops.

I^’,, went into a café and had a cup of tea and Abel bought

’,od, sausages, bacon, lard, potatoes, sugar, tea, and a big

^ome, bread. Once clear of the town, Abe] picked a place where

oa l”
make a fire and brew up, and then fry sausages and bacon.

their fill. And when the meal was finished and the uten-

•1H;’ keen cleaned witn newspaper and stowed away in the

s jis Abel sat down on the grass and, taking his son’s hands

f11^; -e said, ”We’ve crossed the river, w.e’re never going back.

I”, ^.fig to be a new life for you and
Dickie. You underit

S t-

Sta£f,:’0y nodded at him, then asked a question that had been in


,j y


his mind for the last day or two. ”Will I ever go to school again, Dad?”

”Why, of course you will. Once we get settled you’ll go to school, boy; and you’ll learn. You’ll

learn quick; you’ll make up for lost time because you’ve got it up top, not like me, my brains are

in my hands.” He unloosened his grasp and looked at his hands, turning them first one way and

then another. Then as if to himself, he said, ”I could have done things with them, with training I

could, carved things, got somewhere.”

”You make lovely animals, Dad. Look at me ducks.” He now reached over into his rucksack and,

unfolding a small cotton vest, he revealed the two ducks lying as if in a nest, and his father,

lifting the tiny model of the scratching duck on to his palm, nodded at it as he said, ”It’s got life but it’s only in clay, ordinary river clay. It was never fired; it’s a wonder it’s stood up to your

handling all this time.” He smiled at his son, then handed him back the model and, getting to his

feet, said, ”Well, let’s see this fire is well and truly out, and then on our way again. Your feet feel any better?”

”Yes, Dad, a bit.”

”Don’t worry, they’ll harden; the more you walk the easier it’ll be. And we won’t be walking all

the time; I’ll get work on the way and you’ll be able to take it easy.”

”How long will it take us to get there, to the North, Dad ?”

”Oh, it all depends on what jobs I get on the way. A month, two; but we’ll be settled before the

winter sets in, don’t worry. Come on.”

As they entered Brentwood it began to drizzle and they took shelter in a church porch. There

Abel took out a tattered map and having studied it, looked down at Dick and said, ”We’ll make

for Cambridge.”

”How far is that, Dad? How many days? It was important to know the number of days it would

take from place to place for then he knew how long his feet would pain.

”Oh, between forty-five and fifty miles. If the weather holds



I /~>AT-I- ^ .


we’ll do it in three days or so. But don’t worry” - he patted his
son’s head - ”it’ll be all right; I’m going to buy some cotton wool I ’ and bandages and when we settle in for the night I’ll fix

your 1 feet.” I

”Will we ever be able to sleep in a boarding-house, like the holidaymakers did in Hastings,

Dad ?”

Abel’s lips moved into a wry smile as he said, ”Not as I stand at present. Once I get fixed up with

a job then we’ll see. But we’ve been lucky so far, haven’t we ?”

”Yes, Dad.”

”Well, let’s brave the elements and see if we can be lucky again.”

And they were lucky. Two miles out of Brentwood they came to open pasture land and having

espied what looked like an old barn in the corner of a field some distance from the road, Abel

made for it. On entering, he found it wasn’t as dilapidated as it * • looked; more than half of it

was dry and there was evidence of a :!•’* fire having been recently lit in one corner.

”Good . . . good. Aren’t we lucky? Rake round for some twigs, we’ll soon have a fire going and

I’ll see to your feet.”

The fire going, the tin can of water bubbling on the sticks - he made sure always to carry a bottle

of water with him - he was about to unwrap the bacon left over from their breakfast when a

shadow appeared in the doorway of the barn and a voice said, ”Don’t you know you’re on private

land ?”

Abel rose from his hunkers and faced the squat tweed-coated, brown-breeched man and his voice

was civil as he said, ”No, sir. Well, I knew it would belong to somebody, but we’re doing no


”Doing no harm ? Tramping my fields, stealing the beet or anything else you can get your hands


Abel’s face was grim and his voice equally so as he said, ”I’m not in the habit of stealing, sir.”

”Oh; then you’re an exception.” The man stepped further into the barn and, looking towards

Dick, said, ”You’re on the road with that child?”

There was a pause before Abel replied, ”We’re on our way North.”

”Evidently you’re on your way somewhere, but I should have thought.. .”


”He’s my son and it’s my business.”

”Yes, yes, it is your business; and it’s my business to see you don’t destroy my property, so get


Before his father turned towards the fire, Dick was already packing up their belongings.

A few minutes later they were outside the barn where the man was standing with one hand in his

breeches pocket while with the other he was swiping the fairy clocks from the tops of the

dandelion stalks.

”I hope you’re never in want, sir,” Abel said as he passed the farmer; then glancing down to

where the seed heads of the dandelions were spraying into the wind, he added, ”And your weeds

grow plentiful.”

The stick stopped flaying and the man, now red in the face, said, ”You’d better get a move on

before I put this stick to a different use.”

”Yes . . . well, I’d get rid of that idea, sir.” They stared at each other for a moment before Abel, hitching the pack up on to his back, turned away, pushing Dick before him.

They had almost skirted the field when a voice coming from out of a ditch startled them. ”He

havin’ a go at you ?”

Abel looked down on to what appeared to be a bundle of rags with a face in the middle of it.

”Don’t want to take no notice of him; wait till’s dark. Bloody upstart him. You’re new on this

game, eh ? Never seen you afore. Where you bound for ?” Abel answered the last question

BOOK: A man who cried
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