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Authors: Ann Turnbull

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BOOK: The Great Fire
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We Must Go!

“Where have you been?”

“We've been so worried…”

“Sam! What's happened to your arm?”

Everyone was staring at the boys. Sam and André stared back. Sam was horrified to see that Master Giraud had a cut below one eye and a great bruise on his cheekbone. His shirt was torn and, around him, the room was in a mess: a broken window, damage to the door, smashed plates, hangings pulled down.

Sam and André could only croak and cough in reply to all the questions. Sam's eyes smarted, his face felt sore and his arm hurt. And where was Budge?

André's mother poured weak beer and gave them a cup each. Sam sipped his gratefully. The beer tasted cool and soothed his parched throat.

He whispered, “Is Budge here?” but no one heard him because Mistress Giraud was fussing around André, mourning the state of his new doublet.

“Your good clothes, André! Where have you
been
, the two of you?”

André croaked, “Is Budge here?”

“I don't know!” cried his mother. “I don't care! You stand there in that condition and ask about a dog?”

“We haven't seen him,” said Marie.

The two boys looked at each other.

“Lost, then…” said Sam, his chin trembling. André nodded, and his eyes filled with tears.

“Never mind the dog. Where did you
go
?” demanded Paul Giraud angrily. “There is no fire in Lothbury. You went exploring, didn't you? After I told you to come straight home.”

They both lowered their eyes and nodded.

“You'll get a beating for this.”

“It was my fault,” said André. “Not Sam's. He said we shouldn't – “ He broke off and began coughing again.

Mistress Giraud intervened. “There is no time for punishment now. We must leave the city. But first I must look at Sam's arm.”

Sam flinched as she examined it, but she reassured him. “It's only a fracture. I'll make a splint and bind it, and it will soon heal.”

Later, with a new sling and a firm splint on his arm, Sam felt better, and would have enjoyed showing it off and telling the girls about their adventures, if it hadn't been for the loss of Budge.

“Budge saved us,” he said. “He found the window.”

“And he knew the way home,” said André.

“He may still come back,” Thérèse said. “He could be frightened and hiding somewhere.”

The boys clung to that hope.

But the Girauds were getting ready to leave. Many of the neighbours had already gone, and more were loading up their carts outside. Mistress Giraud had been busy packing belongings while her husband desperately searched Lothbury, Threadneedle Street and Cheapside for the boys.

Thérèse and the little girls told Sam and
André how terrifying it had been when the looters burst into their home.

“They stole gold and silver, and tools, and they attacked Papa and smashed up the workshop,” said Thérèse.

“Bijou hissed at the bad men!” said Anne.

“Yes, she did!” exclaimed Marie. “And the neighbours helped us chase them out, and then the soldiers came!”

“Papa hates having to leave,” said Thérèse. “He can't believe the fire will come this far. He says the Duke of York and his guards will have things under control soon.”

Sam thought of that great relentless beast of a fire, only streets away. But he didn't
want to leave either. He wanted to wait for Budge. Supposing Thérèse was right, and his beloved dog was hiding somewhere, frightened to come home?

We can't go without Budge,
he thought.

But by late afternoon many of the houses in Foster Lane were already empty, and all the northern gates had long queues of carts and people trailing back.

Sam and André stared out of the landing window.

The city was in flames. Even the clouds were red.

“Budge,” whispered Sam, “where are you?”

8
Into the Fields

It was time to go. Everything that could be carried was packed. Bijou was in a wicker basket, yowling. She would be travelling on one of the two hand-carts that stood outside, already piled high with household goods.

“Please, we
must
look for Budge once more before we go!” begged André.

“Why can't we go and find him?” sobbed Marie.

“There's no time.” Their mother was
busy directing Amy and Thérèse, who were carrying a large basket full of linen between them.

Sam could not beg – he was merely a servant – but Paul Giraud knew that of all of them he was the most desperate to find his dog.

“Sam,” he said gently, “I think if Budge was alive he would have found his way home by now.”

His kind voice made Sam's tears overflow. Sam remembered his last sight of Budge, at the top of that alley, looking back and waiting for them before the smoke engulfed him.

The thought of never seeing him again was unbearable.

“Come.” Paul Giraud laid a hand on his shoulder. “We must go now.”

Outside, the air was thick with ash. Master and Mistress Giraud took a cart each, Amy lifted a large pack, and everyone else carried what they could, even little Anne.

They had reached Aldersgate when news came that the fire had moved deep into the city.

“The merchants will be fleeing with their gold!” said Master Pryce, their neighbour.

“And we'll lose our homes!” cried Mistress Giraud. “Oh! There's so much
we left behind…” She looked sadly at the tottering piles on the carts.

“But we have our lives,” said her husband.

They passed through Aldersgate and headed north towards the fields of Islington. People began to flow into every inch of space until the fields were full of carts and makeshift shelters. Some families were simply sitting on the ground surrounded by the few possessions they had been able to carry. There were animals everywhere – chickens in crates, pigs, tethered goats, cows, cats miaowing in baskets and dogs running free.

“But not Budge,” murmured Sam.

André shook his head.

“He'll never find us here.”

Smoke and ash covered the camp site. Smouldering fragments settled on their hair and clothes and had to be quickly brushed off.

“Will we stay here tonight?” Marie asked.

“We will, my love,” said her mother. “Till God puts out the fire, since it seems the people can't.”

* * *

In the morning Master and Mistress Giraud improved their makeshift tent while the girls walked to the nearby farm to see if they could buy milk. Sam and André went around the hedgerows collecting blackberries. They worked together, Sam with a bag over his good arm, André doing most of the picking. As they walked back, eating berries, they stopped to stare at the
sky above the city walls – one mass of flame from end to end.

“Look at that!”

It was exciting, and when they turned away and saw the fields full of people, and heard the bursts of song and laughter and weeping, Sam knew what an adventure this was and how they'd always remember it, all their lives.

And then he realised something else: that he and André were friends now – or, at least, no longer enemies.

9
Out of the Ashes

All day on Tuesday the people in the fields watched London burn. The sun was blotted out and a constant rain of debris fell on the campsite.

“It feels like the end of the world,” said Thérèse.

But when they awoke next morning Master Giraud whispered, “The wind has dropped,” and everyone was filled with hope because it was the wind that had been
spreading the flames. A dense black cloud of smoke rose high in the air and hung over the city.

“Will we go home now?” asked Anne.

“No, no,
ma petite
! There are still fires to be put out,” explained her mother.

They stayed another two nights in the field, but on Friday people began to return to the city, the Girauds among them.

Soon after they passed through Aldersgate, Sam was startled to feel heat coming up through the soles of his shoes.

“My shoes are burning!” he exclaimed.

They came to Goldsmiths' Hall, which was now a burned-out shell, the roof gone,
only the walls still standing. And as they walked down Foster Lane, shuffling through hot ash, they saw the ruins of many homes. The street was full of rubble, and smoke was pouring skywards.

“Which house is ours?” cried Mistress Giraud.

It was difficult even to see where Foster Lane ended and Cheapside began, but at last they found the remains of their home and set down their burdens in the ash. Not a scrap of the furniture they had left behind remained whole. Mistress Giraud wept over the loss of almost everything they had owned.

“We will rebuild our home,” her husband promised. “Our business, too. And I'll have two young assistants up and coming, I think?” He glanced at Sam and André, who both nodded in agreement.

Master Pryce, who had been gazing at the ashes of his home, next door, said, “We'll work together, the whole street. We'll help each other.”

BOOK: The Great Fire
6.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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