Authors: Carol Rivers
Carol Rivers, whose family comes from the Isle of Dogs, East London, now lives in Dorset.
Visit www.carolrivers.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @carol_rivers
Also By Carol Rivers
Bella of Bow Street
Lily of Love Lane
Eve of the Isle
East End Angel
In the Bleak Midwinter
East End Jubilee
Rose of Ruby Street)
A Sister’s Shame
Connie of Kettle Street)
A Wartime Christmas
Together for Christmas
The Fight for Lizzie Flowers
First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2005
A CBS COMPANY
This paperback edition, 2015
Copyright © Carol Rivers, 2005
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
® and © 1997 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
The right of Carol Rivers to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
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London WC1X 8HB
Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney
Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4711-5042-5
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4711-5043-2
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd are committed to sourcing paper that is made from wood grown in sustainable forests and supports the Forest Stewardship Council, the leading
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This book is dedicated to May and Bill Skeels
Isle of Dogs
izzie sat up in bed, her heart pounding.
The crash had brought her awake with a start. Taking care not to disturb her sisters, she slipped from their large double bed, glancing back at the two small forms snuggled together under the
worn blankets. Nothing ever woke Babs or Flo. They managed to sleep their way through every disruption in the house, of which there were many. Lizzie pushed her tangled hair from her face and
shivered in her thin nightdress. The temptation to climb back in beside them was enormous. Resisting it, she opened the bedroom door. Once her eyes adjusted to the dark she saw the shapes of her
two brothers on the half-landing. Bert’s huge bulk was unmistakable as he bent over Vinnie, who, on all fours, appeared to be trying to crawl up the stairs.
When light from the gas-mantle flickered on in the passage downstairs, Lizzie’s heart sank. She waited for the inevitable, a full-scale row in the middle of the night. As she had feared,
Kate Allen came belting up the stairs just as Bert and Vinnie staggered on to the landing.
Vinnie was promptly sick.
‘You filthy sod!’ Kate gasped breathlessly as she arrived beside her younger son. The stench was overpowering. But Vinnie didn’t hear. He had fallen flat on his face in his own
‘What have you two buggers been up to?’ Kate demanded of Bert, who was still on his feet. ‘This is the second night running you’ve come in late!’
At only thirty-nine years of age, Kate Allen looked a haggard old woman. A darned woollen shawl was pulled around her nightdress, covering the straggly grey plait that hung down her back; her
face was the colour of parchment and prematurely aged by deep lines of worry.
Lizzie watched Bert’s jaw fall open. His eyes were red and unfocused. She was well aware that Bert, at eighteen, was known throughout the Isle of Dogs as the gentle giant. His great
shoulders, tree trunks of legs and barrel chest set him apart from other people. But despite his abnormal physique, he was not to be feared. Bert possessed a heart of gold, but unfortunately lacked
any brains to go with it.
Lizzie had watched Vinnie capitalize on this. Though small and wiry in stature and a year younger than Bert, he was quick-witted with a sly, mean spirit. What she disliked most was the way he
used Bert for his own ends, whilst Bert’s loyalty to Vinnie was unquestionable.
‘Well?’ demanded Kate, her face puffed and blotchy with anger. ‘What have you got to say for yerself, you dopey great lump?’
As usual when flummoxed, Bert fiddled with his cap, turning it round and round in his big, gnarled hands. ‘We just come from the pub, Ma,’ he mumbled, unable to meet Kate’s
blazing eyes. ‘Got a bit ’eld up on the way ’cos Vinnie took ill, like. Something upset him, he said – them eels, he thinks it was.’
Lizzie knew Bert was carrying the can for Vinnie, who would have primed Bert earlier in the evening with the story of the eels, no doubt having a laugh at Bert’s expense.
‘I’ll give you eels. He ain’t poisoned, he’s pissed!’ Kate bellowed as she glared at the prostrate body on the landing. Vinnie’s mouth gaped open, a gurgle
coming from the back of his throat. ‘Look at his face! It ain’t turned that colour from eating eels. He’s had another bashing by the looks of it.’
‘Yeah, he looks a bit peaky, don’t he?’ Bert agreed vaguely.
!’ spluttered Kate. ‘He’s bleedin’ unconscious!’
‘You go back to bed,’ Lizzie told her mother gently, trying to avert disaster. ‘Me and Bert’ll clean up the landing and put Vin to bed.’ At fifteen and the eldest
girl of the family, Lizzie was accused by Babs of being a bossy cow. Babs, at fourteen, was strong willed and already a beauty, with waist-length auburn hair and innocent brown eyes that attracted
the boys. She refused to be dominated by anyone, whilst Lizzie took her role of Kate’s helper seriously, even if Babs hated her for it.
Kate shook her head miserably. ‘God in heaven, help me. What have I brought into this world?’
‘Aw, don’t take it to ’eart, Ma,’ Bert said, adding fuel to the fire. ‘You know what our Vin’s like. A bit ’igh spirited when he’s had a few,
‘High spirits? Is that what you call it—’ Kate stopped, slapping her hand on her heart. What colour there was in her cheeks drained away. She reached out to grip the
‘What’s the matter, Ma?’ Lizzie stepped over Vinnie and took her mother’s arm.
‘It was running up those stairs like that,’ Kate croaked. ‘I’ll be all right when I get back to bed.’
Bert helped to take his mother’s weight, and slowly the three of them descended the stairs, turning into the gloomy passage below.
‘What’s going on out there?’ roared a voice from the front room. Lizzie’s heart sank to her boots. Their father was awake.
Bert pushed open the door of the parlour, which had been converted to a bedroom. Tom Allen lay on a large iron bedstead, his bristly grey hair standing on end, his small eyes narrowed under
gauzy cataracts, the result of mustard gas poisoning during the war. Lizzie had never quite got used to the sight of her father as a cripple. She remembered him as tall and handsome, with two
strong legs. Now he had only stumps where his legs had been. Blown up in the trenches of Flanders, Tom Allen was one of the few men to return alive.
‘It’s only us, Pa,’ Lizzie answered, fully aware she would now receive the force of his temper. The real culprit was lying unconscious upstairs on the landing, and, what was
worse, Lizzie wouldn’t put it past Vinnie to remember nothing of the trouble he caused in the morning.
‘I know it ain’t Father sodding Christmas,’ Tom Allen yelled, clad in a pair of long johns, the loose ends drawn up and pinned to his waist. He supported the weight of his
torso by his muscular forearms, lifting the two small stumps in front of him in an agitated jerk. ‘Well? I asked yer a question, gel!’
‘Ma had one of her faintin’ spells,’ Lizzie answered swiftly, giving Bert the eye to keep quiet. ‘We’re just helping her back to bed.’
‘And in the morning I’ll ’elp you lot to me belt,’ Tom Allen growled, an empty threat, as everyone knew, in his condition. Despite his anger, Lizzie felt a pang of
compassion for him. She knew he had become more aggressive to compensate for his legs. But he was still her father and she loved him.
‘Leave the kids be for now, Tom. They mean no harm,’ Kate pleaded wearily, sinking down on the bed. She looked deathly white, and Lizzie anxiously pulled the bedclothes round