The Caxley Chronicles

The Caxley Chronicles
The Market Square
and
The Howards of Caxley
Miss Read

Drawings by Harry Grimley

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
Boston • New York

First Houghton Mifflin paperback edition 2007

THE MARKET SQUARE
Copyright © 1966 by Miss Read
Text copyright © renewed 1994 by Dora Jessie Saint
Illustrations copyright © renewed 1994 by Harry Grimley

THE HOWARDS OF CAXLEY
Copyright © 1967 by Miss Read
Copyright © renewed 1995 by Dora Jessie Saint

All rights reserved

For information about permission to reproduce
selections from this book, write to Permissions,
Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South,
New York, New York 10003.

Visit our Web site:
www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Read, Miss.
The Caxley chronicles / Miss Read ; drawings by Harry
Grimley.—1st Houghton Mifflin pbk. ed. 2007.
p. cm.
ISBN
-13: 978-0-618-88429-2
ISBN
-10: 0-618-88429-7
1. Country life—Fiction. 2. England—Fiction.
I. Title.
PR
6069.
A
42
C
39 2007
823'.914—dc22 2006103553

Printed in the United States of America

MP
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

THE MARKET SQUARE

To Olive and Philip with love

THE HOWARDS OF CAXLEY

To Pat and John with love

CONTENTS

The Market Square

PART ONE

1 A June Morning 11

2 The Norths at Home 22

3 Consternation in Caxley 31

4 First Encounter 42

5 Domestic Rebellion 53

6 Local Election 63

7 Love Affairs 76

8 A Trip to Beech Green 87

9 Thoughts in the Snow 95

10 Trouble at North's 108

PART TWO

11 Over by Christmas 125

12 An Unwelcome Marriage 136

13 Caxley at War 148

14 Caxley Greets the Armistice 158

15 Post-War Troubles 168

16 Bertie Finds a Home 179

17 Sep Makes a Decision 188

18 What of the Future? 199

19 Sep Loses a Friend 208

20 Hope Realized 216

The Howards of Caxley

PART ONE

1939–1945

1 Happy Independence 11

2 The Shadow of War 21

3 Evacuees in Caxley 29

4 War Breaks Out 40

5 Grim News 52

6 Edward in Love 63

7 The Market Square Again 73

8 The Invasion 84

9 Edward and Angela 95

10 Victory 106

PART TWO

1945–1950

11 Edward Starts Afresh 121

12 A Family Tragedy 132

13 New Horizons 146

14 Interlude in Ireland 155

15 Edward and Maisie 168

16 Harvest Loaves 179

17 Problems for Edward 189

18 Edward Meets His Father 200

19 Return to the Market Square 211

20 John Septimus Howard 220

PART ONE

1. A June Morning

I
T HAD
been raining in Caxley, but now the sun was out again. A sharp summer shower had sent the shoppers into doorways, and many of the stallholders, too, from the market square, had sought more shelter than their flimsy awnings could provide.

Only fat Mrs Petty remained by her fish stall, red-faced and beaming through the veils of rain that poured from the covers above the herring and hake, the mussels and mullet. She roared a few rude and derisory remarks to her more prudent neighbours sheltering across the road, but the rain made such a drumming on the canvas, such a gurgling in the gutters, that it was impossible to hear a word.

It spun on the stones of the market square like a million silver coins. Office windows were slammed shut, shop-keepers braved the downpour to snatch in the wares they had been displaying on the pavement, and even the pigeons took cover.

It ended as suddenly as it had begun, and people emerged again into the glistening streets. The pigeons flew down from the plinths of the Corn Exchange and strutted through the shining puddles, their coral feet splashing up tiny rainbows as iridescent as their own opal necks. There was a fresh sweetness in the air, and Bender North, struggling out of his ironmongery shop with a pile of doormats in his arms, took a great thankful breath.

'Ah!' he sighed, dropping his burden on the pavement from which he had so recently rescued it. He kicked the mats deftly into a neat pile, and, hands on hips, breathed in again deeply. He was a hefty, barrel-shaped man and had been feeling the heat badly these last few days, and his much-loved garden was getting parched. This refreshing shower was welcome. He surveyed the steaming awnings in the market with an approving eye.

No one—not even Bender himself—could quite remember how he had come by his odd name. He had been christened Bertram Lewis thirty-five years earlier at the parish church across the market square. Some said that as a youth he had liked to show off his outstanding muscular strength by twisting pieces of metal in his great hands. Others, who had shared his schooldays at the old National School in Caxley High Street, maintained that he was so often called upon to 'bend over for six' that some wag had decided that 'Bender' was the perfect name for this boisterous, lusty rebel against authority. "Whatever the reason, now long forgotten, for dubbing him thus, the name stuck, and if any stranger had asked in Caxley for Bertram North, rather than Bender North, he would have been met with blank countenances.

Bender watched the stallholders resuming their activities. The man who sold glue was busy smashing saucers deftly, and putting them together again with equal dexterity, while a crowd of gaping country folk watched him with wonder and amusement. Fat Mrs Petty shook a shower of silver sprats from the scale-pan into a newspaper. Tom and Fred Lawrence, who ran a market garden on the outskirts of the town, handed over bunches of young carrots and turnips, stuffed lettuces into
already overcrowded baskets, weighed mounds of spring greens, broccoli, turnip tops and potatoes, bawling with lungs of brass the while. This was Caxley at its best, thought Bender! Plenty of life, plenty of people, and plenty of money changing hands!

'A mouse trap, North,' said a voice behind him, and the ironmonger returned hastily to his own duties. He knew, before he turned to face his customer, who she was. That clipped authoritative boom could only belong to Miss Violet Hurley, and it was a voice that commanded, and unfailingly received, immediate attention.

'This way, ma'am,' said Bender, standing back to allow Miss Hurley to enter. He inclined his broad back at a respectful angle, for though the lady might buy nothing more than a mouse trap, she was a sister of Sir Edmund Hurley at Springbourne, and gentry needed careful handling.

'Sharp shower, ma'am,' he added conversationally when he was again behind the broad counter confronting his customer. She stood there, gaunt and shabby, her scrawny neck ringed with a rope of beautiful pearls, her sparse grey locks sticking out from under her dusty feathered hat like straw from beneath a ruffled hen.

'Hm!' grunted Miss Hurley shortly. Her foot tapped ominously on Bender's bare boards. This was not the day for airy nothings, Bender realized. Miss Hurley was in one of her moods. She should have found him in the shop, not dallying outside on the pavement. He reached down a large box from the shelf behind him, blew off the dust delicately, and began to display his wares.

'"The Break-back", "The Sterling", "The Invincible",
"The Elite",' chanted Bender, pushing them forward in turn. He took a breath and was about to extract more models from the bottom of the box but was cut short.

'Two "Sterling",' snapped Miss Hurley. 'Send them up. Immediately, mind. Book 'em as usual.'

She wheeled off to the door, her back like a ramrod, her bony legs, in their speckled woollen stockings, bearing her swiftly out into the sunshine.

'Thank you, ma'am,' murmured Bender, bowing gracefully. 'You ol' faggot!' he added softly as he straightened up again.

He wrapped up the two jangling mouse traps, tied the parcel neatly with string, and wrote: 'Miss V. Hurley, By Hand' with a stub of flat carpenter's pencil.

'Bob!' he shouted, without looking up from his work. 'Bob! Here a minute!'

Above his head the kettles, saucepans, fly swats and hob-nail boots which hung from the varnished ceiling, shuddered in the uproar. A door burst open at the far end of the shop, and a black-haired urchin with steel spectacles fell in.

'Sir?' gasped the boy.

'Miss Hurley's. At the double,' said Bender, tossing the parcel to him. The boy caught it and vanished through the open door into the market square.

'And wipe your nose!' shouted Bender after him. Duty done, he dusted the counter with a massive hand, and followed the boy into the bustle and sunshine of the market square.

The first thing that Bender saw was Miss Violet Hurley emerging from Sep Howard's bakery at the corner of the
square. Sep himself, a small taut figure in his white overall, was showing his customer out with much the same deference as the ironmonger had displayed a few minutes earlier. He held a square white box in his hands, and followed the lady round the corner.

'Taking a pork pie home, I'll be bound,' thought Bender. Howard's raised pork pies were becoming as famous as his lardy cakes. There was something particularly succulent about the glazed golden pastry that brought the customers back for more, time and time again. Pondering on the pies, watching the pigeons paddling in the wet gutter, Bender decided to stroll over and buy one for the family supper.

He met Sep at the doorway of the baker's shop. The little man was breathless and for once his pale face was pink.

'Been running, Sep?' asked Bender jocularly, looking down from his great height.

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