Title: The Five Shilling Children
Author: Lindsey Hutchinson
Genre: Historical British Fiction
Pub. Date: September 19, 2019
Publisher: Aria Fiction
Hosted: Head of Zeus Books
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Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2mQYZPU
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2OOyhVz
Google Play: https://bit.ly/2YLdjM7
Tears and tribulations, laughs and heartbreak, from the queen of Black Country sagas.
Adam and Polly Fitch face a bleak future after being sold for just five shillings to Miss Reed's orphanage by their bullying father. Missing their mother Minnie, and their three brothers still at home, they know they must stick together to survive.
But the orphanage does have one advantage – a merry band of children who soon form their own kind of family – and they're all determined to escape the clutches of the wicked Miss Reed.
Adam decides to survive he'll need to fight, so he sneaks out to have boxing lessons with the famous pugilist Billy Marshall. Lessons he needs sooner than he expects when his beloved sister Polly is sold to the rich Bellamy family, and Adam decides to go to her rescue.
Can Adam, Polly and their band of friends survive life with only each other to rely on, and will they ever have the happily ever after they so long for...
Polly and Adam were constantly chastised by their father and so had become very close. Both sharing the same dark eyes and darker hair, they had, even at this early age, noticed the difference. Their brothers and parents were all fair haired with blue eyes. Polly remembered Adam asking why that was and he had received a thrashing from their father in reply. Gerald Fitch was a bully.
She heard her mother bring in the screaming baby once more and then a noise from the kitchen had Polly listening carefully. Realising it was Adam’s voice, she jumped to her feet and raced through the door throwing herself into his arms. Everything would be all right now – Adam was home.
However, all was not well, for James was arguing with her beloved Adam.
‘You’m a bleedin’ liar Adam!’ James yelled.
‘I’m not! I begged those sausages and well you know it!’ Adam returned.
‘Mum, he didn’t. It was our Peter – he told me so!’
Adam was furious at the lie and kicked out at his big brother.
Minnie thrust the wailing baby into Polly’s arms and went to separate her sons who were now brawling on the kitchen floor.
‘You two, get off to the slag heaps and find summat for us to burn. I can’t cook these sausages with no fire!’ she said to her eldest boys. ‘And you, yer lying little bugger, I’ll teach you to tell me an untruth!’ Minnie gave Adam a good hiding where he stood.
Dropping back onto her chair she took back the baby and looked at the boy she had just thrashed. He was staring back at her defiantly, breathing heavily through flared nostrils. Suddenly Minnie knew he had been telling the truth but it was too late now, Adam had taken a punishment he didn’t deserve without making a sound. She loved these two children who were so different from the others, but she was so very, very tired and her heart ached as she watched them now.
Turning towards a sobbing Polly, Adam took her hand in his and led her upstairs. ‘Shh, it’s all right now. You get into bed and you can have my blanket over your own. You’ll soon get warm.’ Adam sat on the bed with his little sister. He was shivering but it was not the cold – it was anger. His brothers had got him into trouble again. He had fought valiantly but James was bigger and stronger than him.
At almost five feet tall even at his young age, Adam was as thin as a lath. Having had no schooling didn’t mean he was stupid – he was far from it. Adam was street-wise with common sense in abundance.
Polly slipped her tiny hand into his and smiled. Adam’s heart melted and his anger dissipated in an instant. No words were needed for they were of an accord. In this harsh household they only had each other, and Adam vowed then and there he would always take care of Polly.
Neither of the two children had supper that night; there was not enough to go around, so Minnie wasn’t allowed to call them down from the bedroom. The two older boys ate and retired to bed in the same room as Adam and Polly.
It was late when Adam was woken by his father shouting. Creeping to the top of the stairs in the darkness he listened.
‘James and Peter have to eat Minnie, they do all the scavenging and coal picking!’ Gerald yelled.
‘I bloody know that – I ain’t stupid!’ Minnie rasped, ‘but them two little ’uns ain’t had a bite for two days now.’
‘Look, I can’t bring in any more money than I am already. I asked for a raise and the gaffer told me to bugger off!’ Gerald was exasperated. ‘I don’t know what you do with your money!’
‘Oh that’s bleedin’ rich coming from you! You spend yer coin on beer every damn night afore you come ’ome.’ Minnie railed back at him.
‘I deserve that ale! I work hard for it!’
‘I don’t care. I have to feed them kids tomorrer.’ Minnie sighed as John let out a lusty cry. ‘Now that one wants a feed and I’ve dried up,’ she muttered quietly. Then turning to her husband, she raised her voice, ‘So, you’ll have to do without milk in your tea so the babby can have it.’ Grabbing the already prepared bottle then the child from the packing crate that Gerald had stolen from a local factory, she shoved the bottle teat roughly into his mouth. Instantly John was quiet, happily drinking his watered-down milk.
‘Blimey, Minnie, we have to do something otherwise somebody is going to starve!’ Gerald was pacing the room by the light of the single candle.
‘Well I can’t do any more than I am. These children keep me busy from morn’ til night – I’m bloody exhausted.’ Minnie sat John up and patted his back. After a huge burp, the baby settled to the bottle once more.
‘There’s only one answer to this,’ Gerald said.
‘Oh ar, and what would that be?’ his wife asked.
‘The two little ’uns will have to go to Reed’s.’
‘I won’t take ’em!’ Minnie railed. ‘They’re my babies!’
‘You bloody will if I tell you to, and you make sure you get a good price for ’em an’ all!’ Gerald boomed.
‘There has to be another way!’ Minnie yelled back.
‘There ain’t. Now unless you want a thrashin’, you’ll do as ye’re told!’ Gerald was in no mood to argue further. He’d stopped off at the boozer on the way back from his job at the brickworks and sunk a few pints of porter. He knew he got nasty when in his cups but Minnie’s arguing was driving him to distraction.
I was born and raised in Wednesbury, West Midlands. I am married with two children and three grandchildren. I now live in the Shropshire countryside with my husband and Labrador. Typing up the manuscripts for my mother (Meg Hutchinson) rekindled my love of story telling and it seems I am destined to follow in her footsteps. Retired now, I continue to teach an evening dance class. I love to read, I enjoy photography, as well as socialising with friends. I also love to holiday in exotic places.
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