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Authors: Ann Turnbull

The Great Fire

BOOK: The Great Fire
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For my mother


1 Gold and Diamonds

2 Fire!

3 Come Straight Home

4 Firefighters

5 Escape

6 Trapped

7 We Must Go!

8 Into the Fields

9 Out of the Ashes

Gold and Diamonds

“Sam!” his master called. “Come – look at this!”

Sam was sweeping the passage. He put down his broom and went into Paul Giraud's workshop.

André was already there. He gave Sam an unfriendly look – a look that said:
I'm your master's
son. Don't you come pushing in here.

But Master Giraud encouraged Sam to come in. “See! It's finished.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Sam in delight.

On the table lay a necklace of gold, inlaid with blue enamel. From the chain, which sparkled with diamonds, hung a pendant in the shape of a ribbon bow, entwined with flowers. The folds of the blue ribbon were so lifelike that Sam almost believed it would drape across his hand if he picked it up. Tiny diamonds were set all along the ribbon edges and a larger one was set in the centre of each of the flowers. Sparks of light sprang from the diamonds and made everything glitter.

Sam had watched Master Giraud making the enamel, grinding granules of blue glass till they were a fine powder. Occasionally he
would let Sam have a go. Sam liked feeling the glass crush and break and seeing the pure colour appear. And he enjoyed being in the workshop while André was out, at school.

“It's perfect,” declared André.

“And it's important,” said his father. “This is the most beautiful and expensive piece I have ever been asked to make. And Master Harrington's friends will see it, and so more customers will want my work.”

Sam knew the necklace was for the new young wife of a wealthy merchant.

“Tonight I will finish and polish it, and place it in its casket,” said Paul Giraud.
“Then tomorrow we will go to church and give thanks. And on Monday morning I will deliver it to Thomas Harrington. You shall come with me, André, before you go to school.”

André smiled.

Sam, of course, would not go to the merchant's house. That honour was only for André, who was to follow his father into the family jewellery business.

Sam was a servant. His former master, William Kemp, had died of plague a year ago, and Sam, along with his dog, Budge, had been taken in by the Girauds.

The Girauds had four children: thirteen-year-old Thérèse; two much younger girls, Marie and Anne; and André, who was eleven – a year older than Sam.

What Master and Mistress Giraud hadn't known was that Sam and André already knew each other and that they were enemies. Sam and his friends used to bully André because he was scrawny, and French, and lame. Sam had pushed André over in the street and made him look a fool. Now André had Sam as a servant in his home and he took every opportunity to get his own back.

They left the workshop, and Sam returned to his sweeping. But soon he heard
André call from upstairs: “Sam!
Venez ici! Vite!”

André was London-born and had never been to France, but he spoke both English and French. He deliberately gave orders to Sam in French so that he could call Sam an idiot when he didn't understand.

But Sam was learning. He'd been there long enough now to recognise some words, although he couldn't read or write – even in English. He ran upstairs, to André's bedchamber.

André rattled off another stream of French. Sam wanted to shout, “Speak English!” but he was only a servant, so he simply gave André a blank look and kept his mouth shut. It would do no good to get into trouble with the Girauds. Where would he go if they threw him out?

“My prayer-book, stupid!” exclaimed André. “I can't find it.”

Sam rummaged around. The small room had little enough in it, so the prayer-book should have been easy to find. He suspected that André had hidden it. “It's not here,” he said.

“Oh! No, I remember now,” said André – and Sam knew he was doing this on purpose – “I left it in the kitchen. Go down and get it for me.”

Sam's patience snapped. “Of course!” he said, glancing at André's left leg, the one with the built-up shoe. “
can run down in no time.”

He was rewarded by a look of fury on André's face, and scampered downstairs, grinning.

The kitchen was full of busy women – Mistress Giraud, Thérèse and the maid, Amy – preparing food for supper.

Budge was there, too, involved in a spat with Bijou, the cat. Bijou stood in front of the fire. There was a ridge of fur along her back and her round yellow eyes were fixed on Budge, who had slunk into a corner.

“Poor Budge,” muttered Sam, reaching to stroke his dog. “We both have enemies, don't we?”

“Sam!” said Mistress Giraud. “Don't waste time. Here – take out these scraps. And when you come back there are shoes to be cleaned.”

“I was looking for André's prayer-book,” said Sam.

Mistress Giraud huffed with impatience. “Well, it's not here!”

Sam took the peelings out, then went back upstairs.

André lay on the bed, reading his prayer-book.

“It was under the coverlet,” he said, with a malicious glint in his eyes.

This is stupid,
Sam thought.
I've said sorry – sort of. But he never leaves me alone.

* * *

Later that evening Sam went to bed in his little curtained alcove on the first-floor landing. It was a tiny space, but he liked it. Budge was allowed to sleep there too. And there was a window on the landing that was left open in hot weather.

The window faced east, and a strong wind was blowing in – as warm as the blast
from an oven. All over the house, doors rattled and banged, and the curtain across Sam's alcove billowed like a ship's sail. Despite all this, he slept.

He woke in the dead of night. Budge was whimpering, and Sam could hear, in the distance, the discordant sound of church bells ringing the chimes backwards. He knew this was the alarm signal.

Sam got up and went to the window. He stared out over the yard and rooftops.

It was probably a fire. There were always fires, especially in this hot summer when the old wooden houses were as dry as tinder.
But he couldn't see anything. It must be a long way off.

He went back to bed, and fell asleep.

BOOK: The Great Fire
5.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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