Saltaire Village, World Heritage Site
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Back button | Home | Interactive | Story Time | Sally and the Wardrobe Children, Part 2
Added to website: 14 July 2008

SALLY AND THE WARDROBE CHILDREN

by Peter J. Bottomley

(Follow this link to read Part 1)

“Father, will you please ask Sarah to be quiet?” William asked as his Father was bringing in some coal for the fire. “I am trying to read this new school book, and she keeps on shouting from her room.”
“Just a minute, son. This fire needs building up for the night. It’s going to be a cold one according to the night overlooker at the mill,” his Father answered.
“Will you go and fetch the fireguard from the cellar please, son?” Father called from the front room. “We don’t want any thing falling out of the grate and burning the new tab rug your mother has just made, do we now?”
“No, they are her pride and joy. She’s made me a nice one for the side of my bed. It’s that big I can use it as a bed-spread if it’s too cold at night,” William answered as he came up the cellar steps.
“I will go and see what is up with her, and why she is making such a racket,” William’s mother, Laura, called out from the scullery.
“Good! Then William can chop some more wood kindling for the fire in case it goes low in the night,” Albert, William’s father, said.
“So what’s wrong, Sarah?” Mother asked her daughter. “All this shouting is upsetting William and his reading, as well as getting your father in a bad mood – and we do not want that, do we, my girl?”
“No. Sorry, Mother, but…but…I am doing my school home work as well, I have to learn to write the alphabet in formal and foundation hand writing, the governess says.”
“Well, what is the problem then, daughter?” Laura asked in an angry tone.
“We have lived in this new foreman’s house for three months, since father was promoted at Mr Salt’s mill, and I can still smell paint and some times I hear knocking,” Sarah answered in a worried voice.
“Nobody else can smell or hear anything out of the ordinary. Your father has a lot on his plate at the moment, so be quiet, young lady. What with his new job and the new looms that have been put in, he is under a lot of pressure now, as foreman, to learn to use them properly. He did not go to school to learn to read and write as you have. He had to teach himself, and a fine job he has done! Just look at where you live, the clothes you wear and the food you eat – it is all down to him. So learn your alphabet and be grateful, Sarah. Do you know how much it cost Father to send you to the mill school? Well, do you?” Mother asked her.
Sarah knew when to be quiet, but she could not settle in the new house. She also knew that the house came with the job, and it was a very nice house compared with the smaller ones that the weavers, spinners and mill labourers lived in. Many of them only had a small backyard and an outside toilet. Sarah’s end corner terrace had an inside toilet and wash area. There was a nice garden with grass, and father was building a swing for the children to play on.
No 4a Victoria Terrace sounded very posh. On one side it looked out over the canal, the Rose Garden, and then the River Aire, where the open fields sloped away up to Baildon Moors, and on the other to the new magnificent Roman-style church that had only just been built, and up Victoria Road towards where the other new houses and grand buildings were being built. The landscape gardeners were also planting two new redwood fern trees in the church grounds. These trees were about ten feet tall and would grow to one hundred feet, the head gardener had told Sarah.
As William came to wash his hands before supper, Sarah said to him “I am sorry about the shouting, but nobody will listen to me. I can hear things in my bedroom.”
“It is probably the builders who are putting up the new houses further up Victoria Road. There are going to be 850 or so houses, a town hall, library, hospital, church and a proper school with lots of pupils, not just twelve in two rooms, like the mill school we go to, plus many other places when the village is finally built. It will take another ten years, so there are going to be smells and noises till 1868,” William informed his sister.
“The builders do not work at this time of night. Please come up after supper, when your chores are done, and listen for yourself, William,” Sarah pleaded.
“All right, I will, after I have read Father a manual on the looms being fitted in the west wing of the mill. He cannot read as well as me. The mill is said to be the largest in England, if not the largest in Europe, with over a thousand looms. So if I do well at mill school with reading and arithmetic, I might get a good job there like Father,” William told his sister.
“I hope to become a teacher or a nurse,” Sarah said. “But…but…I want to sleep in your bedroom tonight because it is quiet down there.”
“See you later. But you are not sleeping in my room again. I love my room and do not want silly girls in it any more. You have your own room now, Sarah,” William said to his sister as he came out of the washroom drying his hands.
“Come down here you two children. There is hot cocoa and my freshly baked ginger biscuits for supper,” shouted Mum from the kitchen.
“Yummy! Ginger biscuits just out of the oven range and still warm. Come on, Sarah, first down gets the warmest,” said William as he ran down the stairs two at a time.
“The fire is set for the night and the fireguard is round for safety. All the other jobs are done as well. If they ask me to work nights in the mill, I do not know who will do all the work then, and there are rumours that a new mill may be built in between the river and the canal. There will be work for man and boy if Mr Salt gets his way,” Father said, looking at the family sitting round the table ready to say prayers before supper, then bed.
Silence.
“Just listen to that – not a sound! After all the noise of the looms and shuttles flying about at work, it is good to have some quiet time,” he added.
Sarah did not say any more about her bedroom troubles. Father always had the last word, and the look in his eyes right now said so.         
“Right, drink up and then go to bed. And Sarah, there will be less of the talk about what you hear or smell in your room, do you hear me, young lady?” Father said, giving her one of his looks.
“Yes Father. Sorry,” Sarah answered, but she still hoped that William would come and listen later on that night. Then he would believe her, even if her parents did not.
“I think you are just dreaming, sweetheart. Try to have a good sleep and I will see you in the morning,” Mother said.
“When you go to bed, Sarah, take your dress and pinafore to put under your mattress to press them when you lay on it to go to sleep, so it will look nice at school in the morning,” Mother added.
Sarah’s bed was by the chimney breast so the heat from the fire would keep it warm all night. Also, it was in the opposite corner to the smell and to the knocking noises she could hear. She did as her mother had said with her clothes and then lay down to wait for her brother to come and listen.
“I am here,” William said when he entered Sarah’s bedroom, but she was asleep. So he listened and sniffed.
“I can hear and smell nothing,” he said to himself.
“Silly girls! They should be seen and not heard” he said to Sarah, but she did not hear him. So he covered her up with a blanket and left her to dream of becoming a teacher or a nurse.
In the classroom the next day William, Sarah and the other seven boys and three girls whose parents could afford to pay for tuition were looking at a plan of how the village was going to look eventually.
“Mr Salt has names for all the roads and streets,” the governess told the children. “They are names of his family such as Caroline, Catherine, Albert and, of course, one named Titus after himself.”
“Boys, this very afternoon an architect is coming to tell you more about the building of the village. So be on your best behaviour and show what a good little mill school this is,” the governess added sternly.
“What are us four girls going to do, Miss?” asked Sarah.
“Needlework, that’s what young ladies should be good at. So embroidery is this afternoon’s lesson for you four,” the governess said proudly.
“Hello, Sarah,” said Helen, one of the girls in her class. “How is your new house? It looks a lot bigger than mine on Titus Street near the bakers shop.”
“It’s very nice and comfortable and there is a lot of room. I have my own bedroom now up in the attic. But listen…” Sarah said as the other two girls came closer.
“Everything comes with a price, and in my room I can hear two children talking and can smell paint, not like the distemper paint Dad has put on my walls but a very funny smell.”
“Who lives next door to you? Is it them you can hear?” asked one of the other girls.
“No, that side of the house is a gable end, and no other houses are near. It’s just a big garden, then the church at the top, but the talking is at times when the church is closed, so it’s nobody saying their prayers or singing hymns,” Sarah told her school friends.
“Well, if that’s what happens in big houses, I am glad my father is only a foreman stoker on the boilers that keep the mill warm and supply hot water to the dye house,” said one girl seriously.
“Yes, but what about my family? My father is a wool sorter and my mother works in the spinning shed, so we might get a bigger house and have ghosts living in the attic as well,” said another, laughing at Sarah.
“If you don’t believe me I will ask my mother if you can come to tea. Then you can listen for yourselves,” Sarah called out as she walked away crying because no one believed her about the voices.
That night at home Sarah went to bed early. All the things that her friends at school had said had upset her.
“I am going to play with my dolls in my bedroom,” she called out to her Mother as she entered her room.
“That’s funny,” she thought to herself. “One of my dolls is missing.” She had three dolls and now only two were there. After looking around her room, just in case she had put the doll somewhere else, she realised she couldn’t find it. She called out “Mother, Mother, have you moved my dolls about?”
“No, I have not been in your room today, so have a good look around for it. It cannot have walked out by itself,” was the reply.
“Well, it’s not here now and I have looked everywhere,” Sarah answered.
“Yes, and two of my toffee sweets are missing,” shouted William. “I counted seven that I got for sweeping Mrs Steven’s backyard out, and now there are only five here. And I think my books have been moved.”
“Now do you believe me, William?” Sarah asked her brother. “Somebody else is living in this house.”
“I do not believe in ghosts,” he answered.
“Something is going on,” Sarah said.
“Wait till Father gets home. He will get to the bottom of this carry-on,” their Mother said from the kitchen, where she was baking some buns for tea. “I have no time to sort it out.”
“Father will go mad, Sarah,” William said to sister.
“Something has to be done,” Sarah answered. “I hear them talking at night and now things are moved or missing. Father will sort it out, I hope.”
William thought that Sarah had taken the sweets, but said to himself, “Sarah does not like sweets, so who really took them?”
When Father came home from work at seven o’clock, he was in a good mood as he was whistling as he came up the garden path.
“That’s always a good sign, Father whistling,” Sarah told her mother, hoping her father would now sort the problem out once and for all.
“The new looms are working beautifully. The overlooker is happy, and so am I!” Father stated when he came into the kitchen.
“What’s for tea, Laura?” he asked, smelling the baking buns.
“Mutton stew and two cobs of brown bread for starters, Albert, your favourite meal,” his wife answered. “Then currant buns and custard.”
“This Saltaire place is the place to live – lots of work and no problems, just do your job and be a good Christian, what more could a man ask for?”
Silence.
Laura, William and Sarah just looked at him with hopeful eyes.
“All right, what is it? You know I do not like silence,” Albert said to his family.
The three of them looked at each other, rolled their eyes then giggled.
Then Laura said, “We need your help, Albert. This bedroom thing has got worse. Now dolls and sweets have gone missing. The children have looked high and low, but not found them.”
“Right, this is a job for Father. Let me have a look and sort it out once and for all,” he said in a stern manner.
“I want us all to be happy in this new house, but ghosts are not welcome,” he laughed as he went upstairs to Sarah’s bedroom.
After a lot of banging and clanging sounds come down from Sarah’s room, Albert shouted, “Laura, come up here will you for a minute.”
“Goodness me, I hope he is still in a good mood, children!” Mother said.
“I am coming, love,” she called as she climbed the stairs up to the attic.
The two children just sat there saying nothing. They were hoping that Father had sorted something out in the attic, because if he did not, he would sort the children out, and they knew what that meant, and the thought was not nice.
When mother got upstairs, Father was pulling up some loose floor boards in the corner.
“Just look at this,” he said.
“Well I never, who put that lot there?” she asked her husband when whe saw what was there.
“Not me,” said Albert.
“Nor me,” said Laura.
“The Children then. Is either of them sleep-walking?” asked Albert.
“I don’t think so. I have never heard any goings on in the night,” said Laura, shaking her head.
“Then who?” asked Albert.
“Just put the doll on Sarah’s bed and say that it fell down the back of her bed,” Albert told Laura.
“But what about the sweets and the book?” she asked.
Albert thought for a few minutes, shaking his head and rubbing his chin. Then he said, “I will slip the book back into William’s room and eat the sweets. Then I will tell him to learn to count better if he wants a good job at Mr Salt’s mill, or just end up a bobbin boy.”
“Then what?” asked Laura.
“Let’s hope and pray that it stops,” said Albert.

© Peter J. Bottomely, 2008

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