Mudlarks and Meadowlarks

(Excerpt)… Reaching the front door, Harry opened it just enough to peer up the street in Mummy’s direction.  He knew Mummy wouldn’t like this because of the danger on dark streets; but he was being ever so careful.  “There are bad people in The City, Harry, and you must be careful!  Never wander out without knowing that I’m watching for you.  If you aren’t bothered by bad people, you’ll be bothered by the fog. It brings sickness, Harry.  It’s what has made my lungs so bad.  Nothing must ever, ever harm you, dear Harry.”

Harry looked carefully up the street.

What was the commotion up there? It sounded like Mr. Givens’ voice yelling, “Arthur!  Arthur Westley!”  It was Mr. Givens!  The shadows were becoming people—three people.  Mr. Givens, still shouting for Daddy, and two other men Harry didn’t recognize.  What was Mr. Givens carrying?  A huge sack?

Harry screamed for Ernest, “Ernest—help!  Mr. Givens is yelling for Daddy and he’s carrying Mummy!  Ernest!”  Harry ran out onto the street.

“Harry—go back inside.  Get your father!  Now!”

And then now disappeared into never and forever.  For Harry saw his mother, and the world went mad.

Mummy’s white scarf was splashed with red, and there was red all over her coat and dress—wet, bright red.  And some women came near and tried to pull Harry away.  And Harry screamed and screamed and screamed.  And Ernest was there.  And then Daddy and Arthur were there.  And Daddy screamed, “Sarah”, until the name would never end.  And they were in the house, and a doctor clucked over Mummy on the mattress and packed white cloth around and around her neck, and Harry wondered if this was like swaddling clothes.  And Mrs. Givens brought a bottle of whiskey to the house and made everyone, including Harry, take a sip.

And then Harry looked.  And Mummy—his beautiful Mummy with red on her fair hair—took a sip, too, and it seemed that room itself took a deep breath.

And Mummy looked over at Harry, her face as white as the cloths around her neck, and she said, “Oh, my little Harry, I’m so sorry” and she fell asleep.

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