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Authors: Irene Carr

Lovers Meeting

BOOK: Lovers Meeting
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Also by Irene Carr

Mary’s Child

Chrissie’s Children

Love Child

Katy’s Men

Emily

Fancy Woman

Liza

Rachel

Jailbird’s Daughter

Lovers Meeting

Irene Carr

www.hodder.co.uk

First published in Great Britain in 1998 by Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK company

Copyright © 1998 by Irene Carr

The right of Irene Carr to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library

Ebook ISBN 978 1 444 76526 7
Paperback ISBN 978 0 340 84093 1

Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
338 Euston Road
London NW1 3BH

www.hodder.co.uk

Contents

Cover

Also by Irene Carr

Title Page

Copyright

Praise

About the Author

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Praise for LOVERS MEETING

‘It’s tough, it’s gutsy, brimming with emotion and a cracking yarn – all that a good North East saga should be’

Sunderland Echo

Praise for CHRISSIE’S CHILDREN

‘Catherine Cookson-readalike … a delight’

Colchester Evening Gazette

‘This novel has the clear ring of authenticity … the depth of the setting gives it its richness’

Northern Echo

Praise for MARY’S CHILD

‘Cookson fans will lap up this enthralling turn-of-the-century saga’

Hartlepool Mail

‘Colourful … authentic … in the bestselling tradition of Catherine Cookson’

Middlesbrough Evening Gazette

About the author

IRENE CARR was born and brought up on the river in Monkwearmouth, Sunderland, in the 1930s. Her father and brother worked in shipyards in County Durham and her mother was a Sunderland barmaid. Her previous novels,
Mary’s Child
, and its standalone sequel,
Chrissie’s Children
, are both available as Coronet paperbacks.

‘Journeys end in lovers meeting.’
Twelfth Night

1

Monkwearmouth in Sunderland, January 1888

Josie’s memory of the giant came back to haunt her all through her childhood and on into her adult years. On that awful night when he came raging through the big old house down by the river, four-year-old Josie trembled in the huge kitchen with its broad black stove and its smell of baking bread. Her mother, Peggy Langley, blonde, gentle and pretty in her long, dark blue dress with its high collar, had insisted they enter by the kitchen door. Josie’s father, David, dark and handsome in his best suit with its high lapels and narrow trousers, had bristled. ‘What! Go into the house I grew up in by the back door?’ But he had given in to his wife’s fears that old William Langley would slam the front door in her face.

Peggy had pleaded, ‘I just want you to make your peace with him before we go.’

Josie did not understand any of that. Her father had gone on into the house to seek his own father, William. Josie, her thin face framed by the bonnet that let a few strands of shining, coppery hair escape, watched him go out of wide grey eyes. She waited in the kitchen with her mother and she heard the bellowing, at first distant but rapidly approaching.

That first memory was burned into her brain by the threatened violence and her terror. The snow that had turned to hail drummed on the windows as the wind drove it. Darkness had come early on this winter day, so the windows were black glass that reflected the picture of her small face. The kitchen was lit yellow by the hissing gas lamp. A door in one corner stood open and showed the head of a flight of stairs leading down into a dark cavern of a cellar. Josie saw it as just a black hole that could hide monsters. But the monster came in through the other door that led into the house.

Her father came first, tight-lipped with anger. Behind him came the giant. Josie stood at her mother’s knee and clutched Peggy’s skirts, her eyes big with fright as she peered up at the black-bearded figure filling the doorway. He went on bellowing, ‘Make it up? Be damned to that! Because you’re going to America? You can go where the hell you like – but you won’t stay in this house.’ He glared at Peggy. ‘I thought you would be behind this.’

David Langley, a slighter, shorter, clean-shaven copy of his father, stepped in front of William. Josie could see his fists clenched at his sides. He said, ‘Father, I just wanted to—’

William did not let him finish: ‘I thought you’d be wanting something, but don’t call me Father! You lost the right to do that, along with a lot more, when you defied me five years ago. You married that woman and I turned you out. Or have you got her with a bairn again? Is that the reason you’ve come crawling back?’

‘I’m not crawling! I want nothing from you!’ Now David was shouting. Josie pressed one small fist against her mouth, her lips quivering. David went on, ‘Aye! It was Peggy’s idea to come here. She said, “Don’t go across the sea without making it up with your father. And he’ll want to see Josie.”’

The giant’s glare shifted to rest briefly on the small girl and she stepped back behind her mother to hide from those black eyes that bored into her. But then the glare shifted again, back to rest on her father, and William growled, ‘You’ll not get around me by using the bairn. I told you five years ago, that woman got you into her bed and with that child to wangle your ring on to her finger and her hands on to your money.’


That’s enough
!’ David Langley stepped forward and now he raised his clenched fists.

But Peggy seized his arm and held him back. ‘No, David, please! Now come away. I want no more trouble.’

David retreated a pace at her urging, but reluctantly, and he said, ‘I haven’t seen James.’

His father said, ‘Your brother’s working at the yard. I sacked Elisha Garbutt a year back—’

David broke in, ‘So I heard. After him being your manager for all of ten years, you walked into the yard one morning and told him he was finished. That’s no way to treat a man who served you—’

But now his father cut short the reproach: ‘Aye! And he was swindling me for most of those ten years!’

David protested, ‘He had a wife and children. How are they living?’

William was unbending: ‘Damned if I know because they left the town, but he had a lot of my money. They’ll not starve and I’ll not lose any sleep. I have proof of how he robbed me and he’s lucky I didn’t have him sent to jail. He knows it. I gave his job to Alfred Bagley and your brother is helping him.’

David was concerned. ‘Don’t push him too hard. James isn’t fourteen yet.’

‘He will be in a couple of months and I’m keeping my eye on the pair of them. He’ll be ready to do the manager’s job himself when he’s a grown man and Bagley retires. James is a good boy.’ And he warned, ‘You stay away from him.’

David brushed that warning aside with a contemptuous wave of one hand. ‘You don’t frighten me. I’ll not make trouble for James. I wish him all the best in life.’

He turned his back on his father and ushered his wife and child out of the house. Little Josie hurriedly led the way. The hail had turned to snow again, flying in their faces on the wind driving in from the sea. Josie felt the cold nipping at her nose and ears. Holding the hand of her mother, she walked away from the big house, separated from the terraced streets that surrounded it only by a high wall. But first they crossed the yard to the back gate. The surrounding walls, and the washhouse in one corner of the yard, stood black in the night, but the snow outlined the tops of the walls and painted the roofs white.

Josie looked back once as she came to the back gate and caught one last glimpse of her grandfather. The giant stood in the doorway, etched black against the light of the kitchen, menacing. Then Josie passed through the gate into the lane beyond and he was lost to sight. But he still loomed in her mind, terrifying.

‘He frightened me, Mam.’ Josie, eager to talk now, looked up at her mother.

But Peggy Langley whispered, ‘Ssh!’ Her eyes were on her husband. David Langley strode with face set and brows in a thick, dark line. His mouth was drawn down at the corners, bitter.

They came to the road that ran up from the river and James turned to walk down it. Peggy asked, ‘Aren’t we going to the station?’

David answered, ‘No. I’m going to look in at the yard and have a word with James.’

‘Your father said—’

‘He can say what he likes. I’m not leaving without seeing James.’ Then he added, ‘I’m sorry you had to listen to him back there. He’s a good man really but this time he’s wrong and I can’t get him to see it.’

Peggy squeezed his hand. ‘I don’t care. I want nothing from him. It’s just – I know it hurts you.’

David smiled wryly. ‘I’ll get over it.’

Josie did not understand any of this but was simply glad to be free of the giant and his baleful glare.

They came to the gates of the shipyard, the name painted in bold letters: William Langley and Sons. David nodded at it grimly. ‘He’ll soon be changing that. I’m surprised he didn’t do it long ago.’ They passed the timekeeper’s office and then they were walking down the yard. Ahead of them the hull of the ship being built rose like a steel cliff. Tall cranes towered above it and workmen swarmed over it. The din of the riveting hammers set Josie’s hands to her ears. More workmen, grimy and with their faces sweat-streaked, hurried back and forth across their path. Then one turned towards them as David called, ‘Sammy!’

The man he hailed was in his forties, broad, stocky, and he walked with a sailor’s roll. His shirt-sleeves were rolled to the elbows showing tattooed forearms. He grinned at Josie but addressed David. ‘Now then, Mr Langley.’

David introduced him: ‘This is my wife, Peggy. Sammy Allnutt taught me a lot when I was a boy just new in the yard.’ Then to Sammy: ‘I’m looking for our James. I hear he works with Bagley, the manager here now.’

‘Aye, and he’s coming on fine.’ Sammy nodded approvingly. ‘He’s just down the yard.’ He gave a jerk of his thumb as indication.

David asked, ‘How do you like Bagley?’

‘All reet. He only has to do what your father tells him, but he’s a canny feller. Not like that Garbutt. He was a wrong ’un. It was a good day’s work when your father sacked him. And his boy, Reuben, was just fifteen years old when I last saw him and he looked set to be a sight worse. He used to walk round this yard wi’ his father and looking down his nose at the rest of us like we were dirt. And he had an evil look to him.’

Peggy said disbelievingly, ‘At only fifteen?’

‘Aye, Mrs Langley,’ Sammy insisted. ‘I’ve seen a few bad ’uns in my time and fifteen or fifty, that’s the word for him: evil.’ Then he pointed. ‘There’s James coming up now.’

Sammy stepped aside and went on his way, with a nod to David and a muttered ‘All the best to you.’

A youth came running up the slope from the river and the ship on the stocks. The frown cleared from David’s face and he was smiling when his brother came panting up to them. Josie liked the look of this boy and did not hide this time.

BOOK: Lovers Meeting
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