Bettermost Chavee (Teaser Forgotten Road)
This scene takes place towards the end of the book. A lot of quite extraordinary things have happened already. Maisy has already encountered "Castle ghosts, faeries, bogeymen and Red Indian warriors" in the Wyrde Woods and after this chapter there are a lot of issues that need to be resolved.
As such, the scene below doesn't really reflect all of the weirder adventures and is a poor promotional choice. However, it's one of my favourite scenes in the book and I'd like to share it.
“Me stockings itch!” Maisy complained.
Her protest was ignored by both her grandparents. Fred and Betty Maskall were seated on the box of the large waggon. Maisy had been relegated to the cargo bed. There was space enough for it was only half-laden. Maisy fretted and fidgeted as she watched the southern Wyrde Woods pass by. She had hoped to catch a glimpse of the three prominent hills she’d seen now and then from locations along the Forgotten Road but the treeline blocked any wider view of the Wyrde Woods along this stretch of the North Woods Lane.
“I don’t know why I have to wear my hair in a braid and a ribbon on me head,” Maisy frowned. Gran had braided her hair and she could feel it tug at her scalp when she moved too fast. “I think I have problems breathing cause of it, innit?…oh!”
Maisy swooned dramatically. “No air! I can’t breathe, can I? Help me!”
“That’ll be enow of your antics, lass,” Gramps said in a friendly tone.
Maisy screwed up her face, it was one of her best performances of Vivien Leigh’s interpretation of Scarlett O’Hara ever. If they were going to dress her up like a girl she knew how to play the part. It was a shame nobody around here went to the pictures often enough to appreciate such feats.
Maisy looked at the huddle of houses around a church as they passed. This was the village of Nickleby where the North Woods Lane ended as it met the main road leading east to the town of Odesby. They were bound for the market and Maisy was looking forwards to seeing Odesby as it was her first visit.
“But this is plain torture, innit?” Maisy decided to resume her protest. The stockings did itch and the braid did pull at her scalp and the starched Sunday dress was uncomfortable and the ribbon was just plain awkward. She would have preferred to ride into Odesby on Sparky in her day dress, with bare legs and her Royal Sussex Regiment blazer and hat on. She was Captain Robbins, defender of the Wyrde Woods, not a prettified doll. She plucked at her braid, gave the ribbon a tug, scratched her itchy legs and picked at the stiff fabric of the dress.
“Enow,” Gramps growled. “You’re free to get off the waggon and walk back to the farm, Maisy. It’s just as far from here as your school walk, surelye.”
“I’m sorry.” Maisy bowed her head. “I’d like to see Odesby, innit?”
“Townsfolk look down upon us,” Betty explained. “They think we’re little better than savages.”
“Zackly,” Gramps nodded. “Just because we’re lamentably tolerant to you swanning about the Wyrde Woods looking like a Wodewose, don’t mean you can’t look like a little lady every now and then.”
“Little?” Maisy huffed indignantly.
Gramps brought his team to a halt, with a firm hold on the reins he turned around and looked Maisy straight in the eye. She shrunk and felt guilty before he even opened his mouth.
“You ken middling well what I meant,” he frowned. “If you want to be taken seriously, then you must take others seriously, surelye.”
Maisy nodded, feeling miserable. She’d mouthed herself into trouble again. This time she’d done a proper job of it though, risking her grandparents’ esteem. She recognized she had been unfair in this and resolved instantly to never speak again; instead she would nod and shake her head and get by with non-verbal communication. It would be dead easy if she focused on it and help her avoid all kinds of moil, the word Gramps always used for ‘trouble’.
“Do you understand?” Gramps looked at her with the sharp eyes of a hunter.
Maisy nodded to show she fully understood.
“No more moil from you?”
Maisy shook her head. No more moil.
“Well that is a good thing, surelye,” Gramps turned around and clucked at his team.
Maisy nodded her agreement. She thought the vow of silence was working rather well so far.
“Should we tell her?” Gran asked Fred Maskall as the waggon rumbled back into movement.
Maisy rubbed her forehead. Tell her what?
“Twould be akin to bribery,” he answered. “Maisy is old enough to know how to behave proper when needs be. Without us having to middling bribe her, surelye.”
Bribe? Maisy’s eyes grew wide. She nodded. Bribery sounded good.
“By Gemeny, you maun start suggesting I am the lenient one, Mus Maskall,” Gran declared. “You’re the one who lets the chavee get away with murder dunnamy times a day.”
Maisy nodded sagely, Gran was quite right.
“Jes-so,” Gramps said. “Howsumdever, I am about to start mending my ways.”
Maisy shook her head. She didn’t think that was a good idea at all.
Gran turned her head to throw an apologetic glance at Maisy.
“I’m sorry, lass,” she said regretfully. “Your gaffer can be as stubborn as a mule. Unaccountably stolid in his convictions, refusing to see the error of his ways.”
“Like a proper angel,” Gran beamed approvingly and then turned her eyes front again.
“Angel?” Gramps grunted. “She’s as mischievous as a Pook making folk afeared in Shim’s Copses. Tis unaccountable. There’s far too much of her gammer in the lass.”
Maisy narrowed her eyes. Was he referring to the Home Guard patrol? What did he know?
“True,” Gran nodded. “And as fond of dirt as the Dobie called Brownie-clod, I do reckon. She’s like as not to start pelting innocent Edgelanders with handfuls of mud just like that Pook does, surelye. She’s turning into a middling scaddle just like her gaffer.”
The urge to steer the conversation into a rewarding direction overcame Maisy’s solemn vow.
“I can behave, innit? Honest, Gramps. Honest, Gran. I’ll be a good girl. A bettermost chavee, innit? I’ll scratch along looking proper for a day. Cross me heart and hope to die.”
50% PRE-ORDER DISCOUNT
Secrets of the Wyrde Woods: FORGOTTEN ROAD will be published on 10 October 2015. The Kindle can be pre-ordered from Amazon with a 50% discount until the 30th of September.