Gail
Hamilton

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Excerpt from Gail's latest novel set in Victorian England

Tomorrow Country

Gail Hamilton

Chapter One

"God in heaven, the child's....alive!"

The curate stood to his toe tops in unspeakable London filth. His face turned gray. He would have fainted clean away save for rigid shock holding him upright.

He was only twenty-two, after all, and never before away from his sheep-raising village of Aylesham, Surrey. Sheep-like mildness informed his round blue eyes and the whiskers springing tenderly from his cheeks. Gusts jerked derisively at his coat, which was hopelessly old-fashioned, and tried to snatch his hat, a hand-down from the vicar. Only his cravat held firm, for Mrs. Warren had tied it herself in the predawn rush to catch his train for Victoria Station.

His business had taken only an hour to conclude; somewhat of an anti-climax. But then, how his innocent heart had bounded at finding himself footloose for a day at the very core of the

Empire. Widowed Queen Victoria owned a palace not a mile away. Soldiers with sunburnt, tropical faces talked jauntily of India and whistled through the streets on leave. The Thames was jammed with ships disgorging mahogany and nutmeg and aromatic chests of Ceylon tea.

Such crowds! Such a din!" he had cried as swaying hoop skirts scooped him from the kerb and the brass on a sea of hansom cabs dazzled his eyes. Vast stone porticoes yawned at him, guarded by doormen magnificent as pashas. Jewelled snuff boxes, ornate soup tureens, painted China mandarins winked gorgeously from windows and he had to tear his gaze from displays of sybaritic bonbons and lacy pantelettes. His pulse stopped altogether when a street conjurer stepped in front of him breathing a tongue of flame at the sky.

He had been afloat, bobbing and spinning on the glorious tide of London, it's heart-tide, the tide of the City, that ancient, unimaginably opulent square mile under the dome of St. Paul's where the spoils of an empire had been poured into white-fronted mansions, immense public buildings and the towering splendour of the Bridge.

Then Great Ben struck noon and the curate halted, cold inside. He'd been agog, credulous as a boy while Old Scratch laughed to see one more fool slide into the glittering trap. "Fatuous vainglory!" the young man whispered, shaken that temptation should display itself in such tangible, mesmerizing forms just as the vicar had warned.

He mustnít let the vicar find out how he'd squandered the morning!

God, in the form of the vicar, would grill him severely on his return. In the familiar, moss-grown church of Aylesham, farmers and good housewives heard that life was a constant skirmish with Satan in which they might jerk from any fireside nap to battle for their souls. The vicar lived on this drama, growing gaunt and beetle-browed. When he discovered his stumbling curate must go to London, he had reared up like a thundercloud from behind the vestry coat rack.

"Fleshpots jingling in golden harnesses! Pits of sin blacker than the Serpent's maw! You look and you take heed, my lad. Tis Babylon you're going to!"

With all Aylesham breathless for the tale, the curate could hardly say he'd gorged on treacle tarts and gaped at tumblers on the Strand. Reluctantly, he turned from the lacquered carriages, the flags streaming in the smoky golden sunshine and set out to see for himself the sores of foulness and misery gnawing the city's underbelly.

He hurried east past the Tower and, in his innocence, hired a half-crazed hag to guide him into districts tough where sailors dared not go. At once, she brought him down sweating alleys, past broken doors breathing excrement to this--a festering garbage heap oozing toward the Thames.

"Aye, it be!" she cackled contemptuously.

More........

© Copyright Gail Hamilton 2009


My Dog Pal

Adaptation of Wind at My Back Episode
Sullivan Entertainment 


CHAPTER ONE
Excerpt

In the Bailey house, in the small northern town of New Bedford, the lights were being put out for the night. Since the Baileys owned the silver mine upon which New Bedford depended, the house was large and grandly austere, reflecting its current owner and matriarch of the family, May Bailey.

May ruled with an iron hand. She had no use for "foolishness" of any sort, which was why the two boys in the corner bedroom, Mayís grandsons, resorted to stealth as they got ready for bed. Hubert and Henry Bailey, known familiarly as Hub and Fat, were in their pyjamas but not ready to sleep. Fat, who was about ten, padded to the door, listened for sounds, then creaked it open. At his low chirp, a lithe brown body slipped in before Fat shut the door again. This illicit third party was Pal, the dog the two boys were taking care of while the owner was on holiday.

As will happen when kids and dogs are put together, both boys were already in love with Pal and Pal was in love with the boys. Hub and Fat were certainly a great deal livelier and lots more fun that Palís real owner, Mr. Murphy. Mr. Murphy supervised the Bailey silver mine and left Pal shut up by himself in a lonely yard day after day.

As for Pal, he was exactly the sort of dog any boy would adore. Of mostly collie ancestry, he was a handsome fellow with a long, inquiring nose, silky perked ears and a character that was raffish through and through. Pal immediately hopped up onto Fatís bed and lay down, taking up most the available space.

"Pal, youíre hogging the whole bed. Move over...yeah...yeah."

Fat had to whisper lest his grandmother realize that the dog had slipped in. Among the vast amount of other things Mrs. Bailey did not approve of, dogs in boysí beds certainly ranked high on the list. Pal gazed up at Fat but didnít move. Instead, he put his head down on his paws with a quizzical look, as though he knew very well he would be completely indulged. Fat got in and nudged Pal with his knee. Pal wiggled over, giving Fat room as Fat stroked the honey brown fur of Palís head.

"Good dog."

In response, Pal gave Fat a big, slurpy kiss that made Fat grin. When the door creaked softly open again, Fat quickly hid the dog under the covers. It was only Hub who had been down the hall to the bathroom. Hub was twelve and wise to the ways of younger brothers. Fat smiled trying his best to look casual, but he didnít fool Hub for one minute.

"Fat...is Pal in bed with you again?"

"Shssssh!" whispered Fat in alarm about the excellent hearing of their grandmother. Sheepishly, he peeled back the covers, revealing Pal, or half of him, at least. Palís head popped up in a doggy grin, his tail wagging furiously and comically underneath the covers. Hub shook his head, pushing aside the shock of brown hair from his forehead.

"You know Grandmother doesnít want him under the covers with you." Then, unable to help himself, he wagged a finger. "Itís unsanitary, Henry," he squeaked in a parody of May Baileyís authoritative tone.

Fat smothered a guffaw and threw his arms around Palís neck. "Youíre sanitary, arentcha, Pal? Yeah!"

Pat put his head in Fatís lap and snuggled up. Hub shrugged, secretly pleased to have the dog in the room too. "Itís your funeral if she catches you."

Being caught by Grandmother May would not be a pleasant experience. In the few weeks the boys had lived with her since their fatherís funeral, they had they had come nose to nose more than once with May Baileyís commanding ways. However, in those tough times, the Depression of the nineteen thirties, the boys had to stay put there until their mother could find a job and some way of supporting them. Hub sat down on Fatís bed and patted Pal too. Pal rewarded him with enthusiastic licks under Hubís chin. Fat regarded Pal both with pleasure and longing as he pulled his knees up under his chin.

"Hey, Hub....."

"What?"

"You think we could ask Mr. Murphy to let us keep Pal when he comes back?"

This had been on the boysí minds almost since the first moment they had been given charge of the animal. The combination of boys and dogs was age-old, natural and made for each other. However, Hub did not have much hope for the possibility.

"I dunno. Even if he said yes, Grandmother would never agree to it."

May Baileyís house was full of expensive oriental rugs, brocade upholstered sofas and polished hardwood floors. None of these would look at all nice festooned with hair from Pal's long thick coat.

"I bet mom would let us keep Pal. I wish things were the way they used to be," Fat burst out rebelliously, remembering a different, happier life before it had all been blown apart by their fatherís sudden and totally unexpected death. "I wish you, me, Violet and Pal could live with Mom in North Bridge."

* * * *

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