Suddenly from beside the last hut appeared the most terrifyingly ugly man I had
ever seen. He stood in the middle of the path brandishing a spade over his head and
crying, ‘Gerroff wi' 'ee― gerrout!’ My heart rate immediately leaped to maximum.
Indeed, my fright was such, that had I been half-a-step nearer to this horrifying
apparition, I would have turned tail and fled in terror.
But that half-a-step made all the difference: the monster was at a distance that
enabled me to collect my wits a little before taking panic action. There was also
something about his threatening attitude that seemed not so much aggressive as
defensive. He also stood between me and my dinner and I was hungry! I decided to
parley instead of taking to my heels.
‘Good morning sir,’ I said politely. ‘Could you kindly help me?’
‘None o' ya lip,’ he replied sharply. ‘Git yeesel out o' 'ere, ye little Street varmint.’ He
glared at me wildly with staring eyes. A large, purplish bag of skin, that hung
ominously out of his filthy tattered shirt, shook furiously at me barely ten paces away.
This wasn't a promising beginning.
We hauled the barrel out of the weeds and knocked away the two wooden supports that held it off the ground. They
were only nailed on. We rolled it up to the door. Dismal gave the all clear, and Roy, Brian and Winnie manoeuvred it
through the door while I fetched Lightning from under the hedge.
‘Okay Dismal— you run down to the Mill and warn us if you see anybody coming. Brian,
you stay here and warn of anybody coming from the other direction. Rejoin us on Mill Island
once we get the barrel across the bridge. The rest of you load the barrel on to Lightning.
Dismal ran off. We loaded the barrel lengthwise on to my cart. Roy, Winnie and I then
followed Dismal at a trot. All went without a hitch until we arrived at the narrow bridge to the
island. There we discovered that the barrel was several inches too wide to cross the bridge.
Dismal came running up.
‘I knew it— I knew it,’ he wailed.
‘Shut up Dismal and grab one end. Winnie— you help him. We'll take the other end.
Now—get ready to hoist the barrel on to the guard-rail. Two— six— hoist.’
Dummy at the allotments
Mill Island Barrel