A week later Mother declared that I was to be sent back to school. Naturally the way she put it I was to blame for everything being a wicked boy. The costs of the school to reform my wicked character would cost so much the entire family would have to scrimp and save, the whole family sacrificing nobly to save my soul. Thus deftly, Mother turned the rest of the family against me. I was told to pack my little suitcase and be ready to leave the very next morning. That night, the last night in the nursery, I felt everyone pull away from me. “Why are you all blaming me?” I hissed.
“Because it is all your fault!” Mary hissed back. “It is always your fault. You always start the trouble!”
“But when Weasel was here we all pulled together and almost loved each other!”
“Weasel isn’t here now and Mother is going to use your schooling expenses to torture us!”
“But Mary” I whispered. “When Weasel was here we were almost close. At least allies. Don’t do this Mary. Don’t cut me off.” But Mary just pulled the cheap covers over her head and turned away. Alex and Willie and Charlie sniffled under the covers. The next morning I dressed in my still required funeral black even though during the last two years I had grown so now I looked ridiculous, my ankles and wrists showing, the jacket tight across my hunched shoulders. “I suppose it is my fault I grew!” I snarled.
Everyone stood in the hallway. Maeve was in the shadows but she fugitively hugged me. Then I formally shook hands dutifully with first Charlie, then Willie, then Alex, then Mary who dropped my hand like a cold fish, then Mother who thrust a bible into my hand instead of a hand to shake. “Read the bible every single day John and perhaps your soul might still be saved.”
I stood before my mother and whispered “Why don’t you love me any more Mother?” and she bristled indignantly.
“Don’t be silly you bad boy!” she shot back. “Mothers always love their sons and good sons should always love their mothers! That is why I spent good money to give you this bible! To save your soul! And you accuse me of not loving you! That is the hallmark of the Spawn of Satan and the Scion of Hogg!” Then Mother turned away and wept into her black handkerchief.
I marched to the cab and got in, producing the required money and showing him the first of three cardboard labels pinned to my jacket. He dutifully drove me to the train station. I then showed my second label pinned to my jacket to a train porter and he led me to the counter to buy my ticket from a window too high for me to reach. The ticket was handed down to me. Then he escorted me to the train and helped me into the second class carriage. “What a plucky boy you are to go alone to your school!” he said. I only nodded. When the conductor came to claim my ticket I showed him my third label pinned to my jacket so he would hopefully know when to escort me off. I showed the label to the other people crowded into the second class carriage. If I was not to get lost I needed allies or at the very least information. Everyone started talking about me as they patted my head.
“Back to school then laddie?”
“A little old to be still in need of help isn’t he? Look how tall he is? How old are you boy?”
“Eleven Sir. First time on the train. My old school was in town Sir.”
“Only eleven? Why then he is still a wee laddie to be traveling alone then!”
“Oh you wee laddie!”
“Looks older. Looks thirteen. When I was thirteen I was living alone working full time.”
“Dear boy. In mourning I see.”
“My father died two years ago.”
“Oh yea poor wee laddie!”
“So? My father died when I was thirteen and I was left alone. No one helped me.”
“What a muffin dearie?”
“No one gave me a muffin when my father died.”
“Please Sir. I only need help to know when I reach Gallstone Station please.”
“Plucky boy! New school? I remember my first day at a new school….”
At Gallstone Station I was dutifully shoved out onto the platform. There was no one to met me so I showed my label with the words ‘Gallstone School’ printed on it to the porter and he gestured.
“Just follow that there road for a mile laddie. So I marched up the road and alas, I found the school.