In which Ettie inadvertently causes the death of her father and several others when the charabanc he drives crashes out of control.
How invisible can a fourteen year old girl be?
“I’m sorry,” she mutters, not wanting her chauffeur father to hear.
‘I’m sorry for being a girl,’ she thinks, repeating the complaints her brothers so often make about her “Your just a girl. That’s just a like a girl.’
A badly twisted ankle and knee, on a visit to Dr Renton in Snow’s Green, her father took her up in the car … Mr Murray’s car.
‘I’m sorry for being the only girl,’ she continues to think, knowing that being a girl makes her the most precious person in her father’s life.
A party of five young men followed by Station porters pushing school trunks and tuck boxes approach the vehicle. Twentyman had been expecting fewer of them; he senses a difficulty of his own doing. It becomes apparent to the leader of the party quite soon – they’ll be pushed for space. Twentyman does his utmost to order the packing of the vehicle so that none of the party will notice the girl sitting in the back.
Ettie sits up with a jolt; her attempts to vanish into the leather upholstery of the seats, to become part of the stretched tarpuline roof have failed.
“Get it out of here, Wilson!” Comes the cry from the the stiff stick Richard Murray.
Twentyman Wilson, the girl’s father, climbs down from his cab seat, ducks his head down in a nod that says he will comply with this order and with difficulty goes to the rear of the vehicle to tell his daughter that she will have to make the two mile walk down the steep bank from Consett to Shotley Bridge on foot. Twentyman isn’t about to question Richard Murray’s request – his father mmay have given him permission to run Henrietta up to the Doctor’s Surgery, but Twentyman wasn’t the one to put this fact to his master’s son, to the Guv’nor’s son.
“Twentyman.” Says Richard. “My father may let you give your children rides into town – I do not, especially when I have to look to the comfort of my guests.”
“It’s on account of her bad leg, Master Richard.”
“You will put her off.” Says Richard emphatically as if a term of bullying junior boys at school has reinforced his confidence.
“Do your family run a taxi carriage service for the children of the our servants?” Asks Richard putting on a sarchastic tone designed to raise a laugh from his chums. “Next thing they’ll want cars of their own, Twentyman. I’m sure the female can make other arrangements.”
Twentyman steps down. He is an obedient member of Mr Murray’s domestic entourage. Twentyman goes to the back of the motor vehicle to talk to Ettie who clambers down. Anandale disapproves of Richard’s behaviour.
“Sorry Pet, you’ll be getting down. I’ll fetch you back in a hour … less than that.”
Ettie, as her father and brothers have always called her knows when and where to make a fuss – now is not the time, though she’s inclined to find her way to get her back on Richard Murray and his cronies as soon as the opportunity arises. As she stands beside the rear passager side wheel of the vehicle she pulls a knife from her ankle boot and uses it to jab at the tyre.
‘Let them all walk,’ she hopes as she withdraws her knife and slips it back into her boot. She is pulling herself up straight as a young man, one of Murray’s group joins her. Ettie knows the young man.
He takes her elbow in his. Her comfort with this suggests a previous familiarity.
Unseen by the others Anandale steps down. As the charabanc pulls away Anandale and Ettie stand facing each other. Anandale steps forward with an umbrella and the two shelter. Ettie is embarrassed by the attention she is getting from such a grand fellow.
“Your leg still bothering you?” Anandale asks.
John Anandale cares for Ettie and not a jot for Richard’s crowd.
“It’s not just the leg.” Says Ettie.
Anandale doesn’t understand and he doesn’t press her. It’s too busy around the station for anyone to notice as he takes her to one side. Twentyman will have his duty in the front of this mind; Ettie can look after herself.
‘She’s good at that,’ he thinks. Always able to step aside when he’s had to put himself at the x & Y of the Murrays.
Richard hasn’t noticed that Anandale has got down. He has louder and more appreciative friends in the group. In front of them lies a long leave of riding and shooting.
The conversation between John Anandale and Ettie Wilson is relaxed and familiar – like old friends who haven’t seen each other for a while.
“I’m home for the holidays.” He says. “What about you?”
“I’ve finished with school.” Says Ettie.
“Finished?” Asks Anandale with surprise.
“I’ll be fourteen next month. I’ve the family to look after. Money to bring in. We’re not all born into it.”
“I can’t help that.”
Here the two characters look at eachother; perhaps its been a bone of contention in the past.
“You’ll find I have to.” Anandale says.
Anandale doesn’t understand her meaning.
“I’ll be working for your family. From Tuesday week.”
“You don’t need to be.”
“It doesn’t have to be.”
Anandale calls a taxi.
“Come on. Miss Wilson. Ettie? Henrietta?
“Miss Wilson for now.”
Richard and his mates become rowdy. They have some black and white pictures of a semi nude that gets their juices going. Having had a laugh with it one is convinced a) that the shots are taken by Lubbock and that b) they feature Ettie Wilson.
Twentyman tries not to be distracted. Richard has a black and white photograph, Edwardian pornography, it shows a ‘watersprite’ by the river. Wings have been drawn in. The picture is of Ettie. Her breasts are visible. Richard thrusts the picture under Twentyman’s nose.
“Any idea when the watersprites come out, Wilson? This is the one we’re hoping to spot.” Richard taunts.
Twentyman tries to keep his eyes on the road. Carts, pedestrians, someone on a bike … the road is narrow and steep. Richardson tries again.
“They say this one was last spotted on the River Derwent.”Richard says.
Twentyman tries not to look at the picture. He recognises Ettie. He is angered by it. He snatches at it and in doing so loses control of the vehicle it crashes into a stone wall.
The vehicle rolls over. Richard and Twentyman are seriously injured, three are dead. A couple in a horse and trap pull over. Pedestrians come to see if they can help.
The cab carrying Ettie and Anandale arrives on the scene. Ettie runs over to her father.
“I’ll go fetch Dr Renton.” Says the Horseman.
Anandale realises the seriousness of what has happened. Two are dead. A female passerby tends to Richard. Anandale spots the photograph blown against the wall. He picks it up. He recognises the person it features and puts it in his top jacket pocket.