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Authors: Val Wood

Little Girl Lost

BOOK: Little Girl Lost
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ABOUT THE BOOK

Margriet grew up as a lonely child in the old town of Hull. Her adored father often travelled by sea to the Netherlands, leaving her with an unaffectionate mother and only her imagination of a little Dutch girl, Annelise, to keep her company. But when tragedy strikes and devastation ravages her tiny family, Annelise becomes the comforting friend Margriet needs for a long time to come.

A few years later, Margriet is blossoming into a kind young lady. Keen to escape her mother and strike out on her own, she forms an unlikely friendship with some of the street children who roam the town. As Margriet acts upon her inspiration to help them, will the troubles of her past break her spirit, or will she be able to overcome them?

Contents

Cover

About the Book

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter Forty-Eight

Chapter Forty-Nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-One

Afterword

Author's Note

Sources

About the Author

Also by Val Wood

Copyright

For my family with love and for Peter as always

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

My grateful thanks are due to Mr Christopher Evans of Haller Evans, Parliament Street, Hull, who kindly gave me a tour of his building from cellar to top floor, where I could then ‘see the view' through my characters' eyes.

CHAPTER ONE
Parliament Street, Hull, May 1842

Margriet pressed her nose against the first-floor casement window and turned her head both ways, the better to see along Parliament Street towards Whitefriargate where her mother liked to shop, and then towards Quay Street and the dock from where she hoped her father would come if his ship had berthed.

‘Margriet! Come away from the window.' Her mother's voice was impatient. ‘You're smearing the glass.' She pressed her finger to the bell on the wall to summon the housekeeper.

‘Sorry.' Margriet rubbed the pane with the cuff of her sleeve. ‘I'm watching for Papa.'

‘He'll be here when he's here,' her mother told her. ‘No sooner and no later.' She rethreaded her needle with embroidery silk. ‘It might not even be today, or tomorrow either for that matter. It depends on business.'

Margriet knew that, but Papa was already two days later than he had said he would be. Papa was fun, whereas Mama was no fun at all and only became animated when trying on a new gown or running a fine piece of muslin or velvet through her fingers at the draper's. Margriet thought rebelliously that her mother didn't really mind how long Papa stayed away.

The housekeeper answered the bell and was asked to bring a cloth to clean the window. Margriet hung her head. ‘Sorry,' she said again, and dropped her voice to a whisper to explain to Mrs Simmonds that she had been looking out for her father. The housekeeper gave her a complicit smile and told her mistress that she would send Florrie up to deal with the dirty window.

Margriet's father Frederik Vandergroene was Dutch, which made her half Dutch, he had told her, and he ran an import-export business. She hadn't known what that meant when she was little, but now that she was six she thought she understood. It meant that his company bought and sold merchandise between England and Netherlands and other northern countries of Europe. They took lace from Nottingham, linen and wool from Yorkshire and cotton from Manchester across the German Sea, and brought back, amongst many other things, cheese, wine, and gin which he called
Genever
and was the finest spirit you could buy. He brought her mother gifts of trinket boxes in blue and white Delft ware and for Margriet pretty little dolls with porcelain faces and rag bodies that sat on a shelf in her bedroom. Her favourite dolly had a painted celluloid face with wide-open eyes and was dressed in an outdoor gown and bonnet; if she was tipped upside down there she was with another head and her eyes closed and dressed in her nightgown, with slippers on her soft little feet.

He didn't always bring presents, but Margriet didn't mind; she just liked him to come home. The house seemed happier when he was there, the air charged with a joy that disappeared when he went away. Even the servants – Mrs Simmonds, Florrie, Cook and Lily the young maid who was so nervous she rarely spoke to Margriet – seemed much merrier once he was home, and Cook especially made lovely biscuits and cake for him that Mama never ate.

Florrie brought up a cloth that smelled of vinegar and wiped the glass, then polished it with a clean duster. ‘I don't think your papa's ship will be here until tomorrow morning, Miss Margriet,' she whispered. ‘Tide's not right for it to come in now.'

‘Ah,' Margriet said softly. She'd forgotten about the tides. ‘Thank you.'

She was given a conspiratorial smile and Rosamund Vandergroene, who must have overheard, said, ‘That is all, Florence,' dismissing her, and to her daughter, ‘Go to the schoolroom, Margriet, and prepare for your lessons. Miss Ripley will be here shortly.'

Miss Ripley was tall and thin and sniffed constantly even when she didn't have a cold. She also twitched her nose, and when she first came to teach Margriet the child was so fascinated by this habit that she began to do it too. It wasn't until she was spoken to harshly by her mother and then more kindly by her father that she was able to stop, but only by avoiding looking at Miss Ripley. Someone, probably her mother, must have spoken to the governess, for she now kept a handkerchief permanently pressed to her nose.

Margriet's father had taught her to read, write and add up long before Miss Ripley came to teach her, which was just as well, Margriet thought, because the lessons were probably as boring to the governess as they were to her. However, she did bring Margriet some of her own books to read, which were much more interesting than the children's books that her mother had ordered for her.

When the governess joined her in the schoolroom Margriet asked, ‘Do you know about tides, Miss Ripley?'

‘Tides? What kinds of tides?'

Margriet gazed at her and wondered how many kinds there were. ‘Sea tides,' she said, ‘that bring ships into the harbour. It's just that Papa's ship should be coming in soon, but it will have to be on the tide.'

‘I see.' Miss Ripley sniffed. ‘I know there's a morning tide and an evening tide, so if your father's ship has missed the morning tide …' She pondered, and then shrugged. ‘I don't know. Perhaps it won't come in until tomorrow.'

Margriet's spirits slumped. Sighing, she wiped her slate clean with a cotton cloth and prepared to write answers to the questions that Miss Ripley was sure to ask about yesterday's lessons. Then she heard the bang of the front door and her face became wreathed in smiles. It was a joyous sound, triumphant. No one else slammed the door as her father did. No one else was allowed to. She slid off her chair and looked rebelliously at the governess.

‘It's Papa,' she said jubilantly. ‘He didn't miss the tide after all.'

Miss Ripley closed her book. There would be no lessons for a while; she had neither the energy nor the spirit to counter the child's devotion to her father, and why indeed should she? If she had had such a father, or indeed could have caught such a husband as Frederik Vandergroene, she too would have given him all her love and adoration. But she hadn't, and with her plain looks, long nose and melancholia she was unlikely to get the chance. She thought of Mrs Vandergroene, who would later question her on how much her daughter had learned that day. I'll just lie, she thought, following Margriet out of the nursery schoolroom and heading down the stairs to the kitchen, where Cook would be sure to offer her a cup of tea.

‘I thought you'd missed the tide, Papa!' Margriet flung herself into her father's arms as he bent to catch her.

He kissed her cheek. ‘No, little Daisy, I did not. We docked very early this morning and I didn't want to waken you or Mama, so I went to the office and caught up with some work.'

‘So have you finished now? Can I stay downstairs with you and not go back to lessons?'

Her mother was still seated in her chair with her embroidery on her knee. ‘No, you cannot, Margriet,' she said. ‘Otherwise why are we paying Miss Ripley?'

Margriet looked up at her father as he let her down to the floor. He gazed whimsically back at her. ‘Ten minutes only,' he said, giving a little wink. ‘Just whilst I have a little chat with your mama. Then I must go back to the office. You see? We all have to work.'

‘Mama doesn't,' Margriet pointed out.

‘Of course not,' her father said, a slight reprimand in his voice. ‘But she has other things to do.' Then he added, ‘I'll try to come home early; perhaps we'll have supper together?' He looked at his wife for confirmation.

‘I don't think so,' she said. ‘Seven o'clock is Margriet's bedtime.'

‘A story, Papa. Will you tell me a bedtime story?'

‘I will,' he agreed, ‘but hush now. I want to speak to your mama.'

Margriet's concentration drifted as she stood by her father's side. She knew by looking at her mother's face that she had not the slightest interest in anything he was saying, but she kept very quiet, otherwise she knew she would be sent upstairs again.

‘I had dinner with the Jansens when I was in Gouda. Do you recall meeting Nicolaas, Rosamund?' her father was saying. ‘I brought him here for drinks a few years ago. We've known each other since we were boys.' He looked pensive. ‘He doesn't look well. Not at all his usual self.' Then he smiled. ‘His son, Hans, is a fine boy. Very polite and very grown up for a ten-year-old.' He glanced at Margriet. ‘They have a daughter, Klara, a little older than you. About eight, I think.'

‘Is she taller than me? Is she fair or dark?'

‘She's taller than you, and fair,' he said, ‘like you, and Hans's hair is reddish brown, though he was blond when he was a child.'

‘Did you know them when they were little?'

‘I met them once or twice, but not often. I usually see their father in his office, but this time he invited me to supper at his house and they were allowed to stay up late to eat with us.'

‘I wish I could stay up late,' Margriet pleaded. ‘When can I, Mama?'

‘Not yet. Perhaps when you're older. The Dutch do things differently from us.' She gave a resigned huff of breath. ‘Off you go now, Margriet. Miss Ripley will be waiting for you.'

BOOK: Little Girl Lost
7.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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