When Did You Last See Your Father?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A boy is being questioned about the whereabouts of his father, set sometime during the English Civil War.

Submitted: April 02, 2011

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Submitted: April 02, 2011



“When did you last see your father, boy?” repeated the grouchy man with the wispy grey beard. He leaned forward; elbows on the table and head in his hands. His eyebrows were bristly like the hairy caterpillars Matthew had seen in the woods near his home. “Sir, I have not seen my Father since last month. My Mother says he has gone to fight for the king. I can tell you no more ,” replied Matthew, staring down at the ground, not wanting to look the man in the eyes. Despite being from one of the wealthiest families in the area, he preferred to spend his time with poorer children. He found the other rich boys and girls spoilt and greedy. He knew it was wrong that he, his sister Maria and younger brother James should have grand clothes, all the toys they could think of, a selection of exotic and delicious foods and a huge house and acres of land, where some children had nothing. He knew that it wasn’t fair. He knew that nothing would ever change. He hoped that someday everyone would be equal, but Matthew knew that that would never happen.
“You’re lying, boy,” said the man, glaring Matthew menacingly.
“I am not, sir, on my honour.”  Matthew looked up at the man, sadly. If Matthew listened closely he could hear  Maria sniffling in a nearby room. Mother and James  had been at the market when the soldiers came. Matthew and Maria were both 11, and Mother thought they were old enough to care for themselves, and the servants and cleaners were always there for them as well. There was nothing anyone could have done to prevent the children being imprisoned in their own house like animals. The men had hammered on the front door, and one of the servants had innocently let them in. They demanded to see the children and stormed up the stairs. Matthew had been looking out his bedroom window , and Maria had been helping to make the beds. The same man with the wispy grey beard had come into the bedroom and carried away the defenceless boy. He tried to struggle but knew there was nothing he could do. Although Matthew didn’t see anything, he heard his sister cry down the other end of the hallway. The servants and house workers were terrified, and watched in horror as the huge men carried away the young children.
“We need your father. Where is he?” the man said again. Matthew was tired of giving the same answer every time. The man wasn’t going to give up anytime soon. Matthew didn’t understand it. Why did the man want his father so much? Matthew thought the man could probably wait all night if he had to. The boy was trapped. What could he do? He recognised the room. It was the spare bedroom. The room was almost empty, except for a creaky wooden bench, which the other men lined like vultures, and a wobbly table with a moth-eaten tablecloth. The faded wallpaper peeled off the walls, and hung in strips around the room.  “Well?” demanded the man.  Matthew didn’t answer. There was nothing more he could say. “Come on, you stupid boy,” hissed the man quietly.
Matthew stared down at the ground, “I don’t know, sir,” he could feel himself getting frustrated. Why didn’t the man get it? Why did he want Matthew’s father so badly? Why had the men taken him to this room, and not just stayed in his bedroom? Downstairs he heard a faint knock on the door. “Mother!” Matthew thought. He didn’t know what to do. The men ignored the sound as the knocking on the door continued. Why weren’t the servants answering the door? Perhaps they were scared that there were more soldiers waiting outside. Matthew knew that he had to get away. He looked at the hard, tough faces of the men. They could easily catch him if he tried to run away. Matthew thought about his few options for a moment. He considered a risky plan, which could work wondrously, or could get his whole family in major trouble. Matthew took a deep breath and tried to sound as confident as he could, “You could ask Mother. She’s just come back from the market. She might know more than me. Can I let her in? She might help you,” The three men on the bench murmured amongst themselves. “Yes, boy, she might be more use than you ignorant little swine. “You go with him, Wilson; make sure he doesn’t try any silly tricks,” the man said, glaring at Matthew through the corner of his eye. The fattest of the three men wobbled upright. Matthew turned and started to walk out of the room slowly. He could see the large shape of the chubby man behind him. He walked down the hallway towards the staircase, slowly quickening his walk. “Slow down, boy!” puffed the man already. Instead, Matthew walked faster. He almost ran down the stairs, trying not to make any noise, which would alert the other men. He prayed in his head that the fat Wilson would stay quiet. He jumped the last couple of steps and raced to the door.
He pulled it open as fast as he could. Mother was standing in the doorway, carrying a sack in each of her hands. James stood beside her, carrying his favourite wooden toy sword. “Oh, hello, Matthew, I didn’t expect to see you. I thought-“
“Mother, quiet! There’s soldiers! In the house!” he tried to explain as quietly and quickly as he could, but he could hear the stairs creaking under the weight of the heavy soldier. “They want Father!” he whispered hurriedly.
“Father!?” she murmured, “Oh, no! Er... run,  Matthew. Take James. Where’s your sister?”
“Upstairs. The soldiers caught her,” he answered, “They-“
“Right then,” Matthew was interrupted by the rumbling voice of Wilson from behind him. Matthew froze. “Run!” whispered Mother, “Leave me. I’ll look after Maria, they won’t hurt her, I’m sure. It’ll all be fine son. Take your brother; look after him, Matthew,”
Matthew looked at the desperate, terrified face of his mother. Wilson waddled towards them slowly. “Go, son,” she whispered, wiping a tear from her eye.
“Bye, Mother,” he said, he took his brother’s hand, “Run James,” Matthew whispered.
“What, like in hide-and-seek?” asked the small, innocent child.
Matthew paused, “Like that, yes. Come on then,” Mother stepped inside as her two sons ran out of the open door. “Oi!” cried the fat soldier, pushing Mother to the side.
“Come on James!” called Matthew as the two boys ran down the long pathway to the door. He heard the soldier shouting in the distance. “Run boys!” called Mother. Matthew saw his Mother being led away by Wilson out of the corner of his eye. The heavy door slammed shut. Matthew guessed the soldiers might not pursue him any further. He couldn’t be sure though; they might come looking for him again another time. Matthew didn’t know where he was going, perhaps he should go to a friend’s house, or maybe some other safe place. It was about midday; Matthew looked up at the sun high in the sky. The two children raced down the long, dusty pathway. James’ wooden sword waved wildly as they fled across the stony ground, almost as if it was saying goodbye to their old life......

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