The seagulls shrieked. The waves crashed against the dock. The bells tolled. A cold wind whipped my hair. I rocked little Susan, as she laughed playfully at the birds flying overhead. We had finally reached Lyon Quay. I looked over where Catherine was talking to the owner of a barge, trying to get him to take us to Leigh, a small town at the mouth of the Thames River.
“It’s not that far,” I could hear her say.
“But it’s so foggy,” the man said. “And that’s not enough money.”
“Will you take this instead of more money?” Catherine reached and unclasped a gold chain that hung around her neck.
“Oh no, not your necklace!” I rushed over to her.
“Helen, I must,” she said, dropping it in the man’s rough hands.
“But it was your mother’s,” I sighed.
“I know. But we must get to Leigh,” she said, taking Susan from my arms.
We walked cautiously aboard the barge. There were boxes, and bags, and crates. Large pieces of furniture sat tied to the floor of the flat boat. We zigzagged around the huge load cargo and into the tiny cabin. Agnes plopped down on the floor, exhausted. Edith took Susan, while Catherine rested on the cot. The boat started to move, and I laid down on a soft blanket on the floor. I took my bag, and out of it, I pulled my diary. It was small and red. Inside the booklet, the pages were crinkled and torn. I didn’t mind. I took a small ink pen from the desk in the room and began to write.
January 1st, 1555
I am writing here on a barge. You might be wondering what I am doing on such a boat. Catherine is escaping from England, and I am going with her. It’s been a frightening experience so far. We barely made it out of her house without the guards spotting us. Then, we wandered around London for a whole day, without any food. A kind lady gave us some bread, however, and I’m quite full. Right now, we are on the Thames River, heading towards Leigh. I’m very tired, so I guess I should stop writing. Hopefully I can get in some sleep before we reach the small town.
I put the pen down and closed my diary. I looked around. Catherine slept, and Edith gently sang to Susan. Agnes was at Edith’s feet, slowly drifting off as she sang the lullaby. I laid down on my blanket. I listened as Edith’s sweet voice carried throughout the room. My eyelids grew heavy, and soon, I was fast asleep.
“Helen, wake up! Helen!” I opened my eyes. Edith was in my face.
“We’re here! We’re at Leigh!” she exclaimed. I sat up. Catherine was gathering her blankets, and Agnes held Susan.
“Oh!” I stood up. We followed Catherine out the cabin door and across the long, flat boat. She thanked the man who owned the barge, and we disembarked. We walked down the dock and onto the street. When we reached the center of town, we realized how much smaller Leigh was than London. A few people strolled down the cobblestone street, unlike the large crowds in London. Catherine spotted a sign that read:
Rooms and food
We walked in and an older gentleman greeted us.
“Welcome to Blackstone Inn,” he smiled. Catherine handed him the last of our money.
“I’d like a room please,” she said. The man led us up a stairwell and down a hallway. He stopped at a door, and gave us the key.
“Here’s your room,” he said. Agnes opened the door and we walked in. It was tiny, but cozy. There was a large bed and a window that looked out into the street.
“Oh, how pretty!” Edith exclaimed.
“Yes,” Catherine agreed. She took off her blue cloak and laid it on the bed.
“Helen, would you run downstairs and ask the man if he has any milk for Susan?” Catherine asked. I nodded my head and walked out the door. The stairs creaked loudly as I walked down. When I reached the bottom, I stopped. The owner was whispering to another man.
“Did you hear about the Duchess of Suffolk? She and some of her servants escaped yesterday,” the innkeeper said. The other man let out a low whistle.
“She could be anywhere,” he said. My heart pounded in my chest. They had already heard about Catherine! I turned and bounded up the steps. They creaked loudly.
“Who’s there?” the innkeeper yelled. I kept on running. I raced down the hall and into our room.
“Helen! What’s the matter?” Agnes asked.
“They know about the escape! News has already traveled this far!” I cried. Catherine’s eyes grew big.
“We need to leave,” she exclaimed, grabbing Susan. “And fast.” Edith slowly opened the door. I hoped the innkeeper hadn’t followed me up here.
“I wonder if there are any other exits,” Catherine whispered. We slowly made our way down the hall. Downstairs, I could hear voices. We could never get out that way!
“Maybe there’s a back staircase,” I suggested.
“Good idea,” Catherine said. We went past our door and down to the end of the hallway. A small door led down the kitchen staircase. We opened it and heard the busy cooks talking and laughing.
“How will we get past them?” Agnes asked. Catherine took a deep breath.
“One at a time,” she whispered. So, one by one, we sneaked past the busy cooks and out the back door.
To Be Continued!