Selected from The Time Traveler' Children, book 4, Out of Time Series
They got there after dark and went to a place near London Bridge; it was not far from the Tower of London, which is where they wanted to be. It appeared they were not detected, which was good. The air was fairly warm so they sought shelter near the bridge and curled up on the ground to sleep. They didn’t know where any of the places were that they could get a room, and they had to be very careful. Hope had asked to be given the speech of the people in this day, and so she was elected to talk for them. When it got daylight they bought some food from a street vendor. Hope presented the money they brought and the lady bit it to see if it was metal. She seemed satisfied and handed them their food with her none too clean hand. Darl flinched, but she ate the food anyhow. Hope said a little prayer that asked that the filth wouldn’t kill her.
After listening to the talk on the street, they walked to the London Bridge. What a fascinating bridge that was! They stopped, all of them at once and stared at it. There was everything on the bridge, how it could stand under that tremendous weight was a mystery to them. “Mom, is this bridge supposed to stand long enough for us to walk over it?”
“It will for some years yet. Remember the children’s song, London Bridge is falling down? Here it is.” They all stood in their tracks and stared at the bridge.
Following the 1136 destruction of London Bridge, the timber bridge was replaced with a permanent stone construction. A tax was levied to fund the new stone bridge, and construction of a new stone bridge was begun in the reign of Henry II, in 1176. The new bridge took 33 years to complete and was not finished until 1209.
King John had the idea to build houses on the bridge, and it was soon colonized by houses, shops and even a chapel built at the center of the bridge (dedicated to the recently martyred and canonized Thomas Becket. Contemporary pictures showed it crowded with buildings of up to seven stories in height. The population of the bridge was such that it was made a ward of the City with its own alderman, which it retained until the 18th century.
The medieval bridge had 19 small arches and a drawbridge with a gatehouse at each end. The narrowness of the arches meant that it acted as a partial barrage over the Thames, blocking an estimated 80% of the river flow. The current was further obstructed by the addition of water-wheels under the two north arches to drive water pumps, and under the two south arches to power grain mills. This produced ferocious rapids between the piers or "starlings" of the bridge, as the difference between the water levels on each side could be as much as six feet (two meters). Only the brave or foolhardy attempted to "shoot the bridge" – steer a boat between the starlings – and many were drowned trying to do so. As the saying went, the bridge was "for wise men to pass over; and for fools to pass under".
Various arches of the bridge collapsed at various points, and houses on the bridge were burnt during Wat Tyler’s Peasants’ Revolt in 1318 and Jack Cade’s rebellion in 1450, during which a pitched battle was fought on the bridge.
The bridge was demolished in 1831. The northern gate, the New Stone Gate, was replaced by Nonesuch House in 1577. The southern gatehouse, the Stone Gateway, became the scene of one of London's most notorious sights: a display of the severed heads of traitors, impaled on pikes and dipped in tar to preserve them against the elements. The head of William Wallace was the first to appear on the gate, in 1305, starting a tradition that was to continue for another 355 years. Other famous heads on pikes included those of Jack Cade in 1450; Sir Thomas More in 1535; Bishop John Fisher in 1535; and Thomas Cromwell in 1540. A German visitor to London in 1598 counted over thirty heads on the bridge. The practice was finally stopped in 1660, following the Restoration of King Charles II.
The buildings on London Bridge created a major fire hazard and served to increase the load on its arches, so it is not surprising that there were several disasters on the bridge. In 1212 or 1213, perhaps the greatest of the early fires of London broke out on both ends of the bridge simultaneously, trapping many in the middle and reportedly resulting in 3,000 people being killed. Another major fire broke out in 1633 with the northern third of the bridge being destroyed, although this prevented the bridge from being damaged by the Great Fire of London in 1666. By 1722, congestion was becoming so serious that the Lord Mayor decreed that "All carts, coaches and other carriages coming out of Southwark into this City do keep all along the west side of the said bridge: and all carts and coaches going out of the City do keep along the east side of the said bridge". This is possibly the origin of traffic in Britain driving on the left. Finally, in 1758-62, the houses were removed along with the two centre arches, replaced with a single wider span to improve navigation on the river.
The traffic on the London Bridge was incredible and so were the buildings and shops on it. They browsed in several shops and Darl was enchanted with one shop that sold bon-bons. She whispered, “They LOOK clean and I’m hungry.” So she bought some. Then they wandered to a shop with china and looked longingly at some things, but there was no room for something that bulky to be taken through the time slip. Next they looked at a shop that had some beautiful brocades.
Children were playing in the street on the bridge, carriages were going dangerously close to them, but everyone seemed to be able to manage. A little girl was begging; it was heart breaking to see. She had a twisted leg and was so thin. Neik reached into his pocket and gave her some coins. She rewarded them with a big smile and scampered off.
“She probably went to give them to the person who is making her beg. I would like to know she got some benefit from them.”
Their last stop was at the chapel on the bridge. The door was open but no cleric was in sight. Several were praying at the altar. “This has to be a protestant church, Church of England in this particular year. Then they stopped at a little shop to have some food. Hope talked for them and ordered.
When they left the shop, Darl looked up and screamed. There were some heads on display on the bridge. Neik turned her away from the offensive sight and walked her firmly off in the other direction. The faces were black from age and shriveled. Hope was fighting the urge to throw up. When people looked at them, she told them, “Stranger here”, and pointed to Darl. The onlookers nodded in understanding.
All told, they spent probably three or more hours on the bridge, it was a really interesting place; some places were more interesting than others.
The point in spending time on the bridge was to hear what people were saying about Anne Boleyn. It sounded like there were going to be some heads chopped off that day, and they started over towards the Tower of London. It was in sight and not much of a walk. The gates were open so visitors could come in. In fact, people were pouring in to see the spectacle. The Tower of London was of interest to them because they had viewed it in modern times and they all wanted to see what it looked like back in 1536. From where they stood, they could see the platform that had been built for the executions. They saw some men clearing a path and then a lady in a gray dress walked over to the platform. “That is Anne Boleyn. She will give a short speech and then they will behead her.” All three of them stood and started open mouthed at the scene. They were on a slight rise and could see very well even though they were at a distance. Anne’s mouth moved and then she put her head down and the sword was raised. None of them could look away even though they wanted to. The sword came down and her head rolled off. There was a lot of blood that spurted out. They still were rooted to the spot. Finally Hope said, “Ulp!” and then covered her mouth and ran. She leaned over a hedge and lost her lunch. “Come on, let’s go.” None of them looked very healthy. Even Neik had a green look to his face.
“Let’s go back over the bridge and see Westminster Abbey.” They all walked back over the bridge and to the abbey. It was quiet there; the excitement was at the execution. It was plain to see the cathedral was being renovated or being added to, but it was full of wonderful works of art. There were carvings and statues throughout and they spent time looking. By the time they left, everyone had color back in their faces.
“Where do you want to go next?”
“I would like to get out of here; that is what I would like. This place is barbaric.” Darl had quite enough and frankly so did Hope.
“We have to go to some secluded place first.” They walked around and looked for a place where they would not be observed.
“Why not go into another cathedral? They have private alcoves in all of them.” There was one on the next street and they entered the cathedral and looked for a little alcove. Sure enough, they were alone in the church. Neik and Hope put their arms around Darl and entered the time slip.
Without exception, they were all thrilled to be back in the 21st century.
“You have to admit, I keep things interesting!” They both laughed.
“I have almost two weeks left here, where do we go next Mom?”
“Get some sleep. I have the perfect place all lined up. We can talk tomorrow.”
Darl mumbled, “I can’t wait.”
With hearing that, Neik laughed. “You wanted to come!”
Just before eight, Neik went to get the team and the wagon. It was a cold crisp day, but no snow yet. They were all ready to leave for shopping when he returned. With a lot of laughter they all climbed on the wagon and settled on a few cushions for their ride. When they went past Lynn’s, Neik stopped. She was ready too and joined the little party going to buy supplies. The road was getting a little better each year, but it still was not a great one. There were ruts and muddy spots along with big stones sticking out of the ground and lots of bad bumps and deep ruts. You would think they were kids out on a hayride they had so much fun. Hope had gotten some of her money she had taken about a year ago, out from under the kitchen floor board where it was hidden and so had a lot of money to spend on supplies. Neik would help her bring in the heavy things, Betts too. From the constant smile on Betts’ face, it was easy to see she was having a very good time. Someone started to sing and the rest joined in. What a noisy bunch they were.
The trading post recently changed the name to General Store and it carried a bigger variety of things for sale. Hope shopped and bought a lot, Lynn too. Suddenly the shop keeper said, “There is a letter here for you Hope, I don’t know how it got here, but I found it the other day. It was in a metal box and it was labeled, ‘Open after November 1807’.” He went and got it. From the handwriting she knew it was from TJ. She went over to the corner of the room and tore off the seal and began to read.
I gave this letter to someone I know from this time who will be alive after the war. He promised to deliver it to the trading post for me.
You are angry with me, I understand it. The alcohol was doing it. Catharine got tired of my drunkenness too and left me too. Now I am alone. I wanted you to know that I am sorry for what I did to you and I don’t blame you.
I pray you will find happiness again. Please forgive me. I would like to see you again.
Timothy John Feeder”
“What’s the matter mom?” Neik came over to stand by her.
Without talking, she handed the letter to Neik to read.
“Too little, too late in my opinion.”
“Look at the date he wrote it. February 21, 1742. He died on February 22, 1742. It looks like his death was not accidental. I hear him calling to me in my sleep. Night after night I hear him calling to me.”
“Don’t fall for it. I know you have a tender heart.”
“I won’t fall for it as you put it, but maybe if I see him I would not hear him calling to me in my sleep all the time. He needs to let me go. I can’t have a normal life with him calling to me all the time. I want to be left alone for now and in the future. It’s the only way to be able to do so.”
“You’re acting better, Mom.”
“I’m still very sad inside, lonely too. Though my children have been very attentive, they have their own lives to live. I am tired of living alone.” Then she walked away and went outside to sit in the wagon. Everything was loaded and paid for so they started back up the hill once more.
There was more happy chatter as they traveled. Neik helped Lynn unload her supplies and then went to Hope’s house. There was a lot of food to unload. She had him put most of it in the storeroom/shed attached to the back of the house. The carpenter had done a good job of making it as varmint proof as possible and she had to put it all someplace. This would have to keep her until in the spring when the roads improved.
Once the wagon and team were returned, Neik and Darl said their farewells and left for their home. The two of them settled into the two rocking chairs, Hope had purchased another just that morning so Betts could sit in one too. They sat and rocked and talked.
“This has been very interesting to see. Now I know why everyone likes coming here, it is something we don’t see where we live.”
“The problem is that I’m missing half of my family here and half of my family when I’m there. The big question is; where am I less lonely?” As if she was considering the answer, she didn’t talk for some time. Betts finally asked, “What did you decide?”
“I’m not sure about the answer.”
“This is a nice setting, rocking chair by the fireplace. No phones or TV, just peace and quiet.”
“You may come anytime for as long as you like. You do know that by now, don’t you?”
“I do, and I will. I really enjoyed my time here.”
“During the winter, when I can’t stand the cold any longer, I’ll come to the 21st century to visit. You’re lonely now too?”
“You could come here permanently you know.”
“I could but I won’t. Just visit. I have a life back there too and I don’t want to lose touch with it. Someone needs to keep the home fires burning back there.”
“I’m sure something could be arranged if you want to come here to live. Think it over. There are management companies that would take care of it for me.”
“My children are in the 21st century, I want to be able to at least talk to them a lot.”
“Yes, that’s important. Don’t take this as an invitation to leave, but when do you want to go back?”
“Would Sunday be good? I thought I would like to see St. John’s in the morning and then leave in the afternoon.”
“The problem would be getting there. I don’t have horses now, and it’s a cold walk. Even that wouldn’t bother me but I got caught out in a storm about this time of year and nearly froze to death. It is not an experience I want to repeat.”
“Then we won’t go to church this time.”
“Come when it is warmer outside and I will be glad to go with you. Maybe by then I will have worked out the logistics of some of these problems.”
The next two days were spent very pleasantly with visiting the family and with each other. Sunday afternoon, Hope and Betts entered the time slip together and went to the 21st century.
“You need a ride home now, don’t you?”
“I do, Neik came to my house to take me.”
“Let me change, then I’ll take you home and you can change. Why don’t we go out for supper? I would appreciate the company. I’m feeling low.”
Later, full and sleepy, Hope drove home and settled down to watch the TV for a spell. She had on slacks and a sweater, modern clothing. It was in a semi-sleep stage she entered the time slip and asked to be taken to TJ on February 21, 1742. It was just recently that she discovered she could request to be taken to a particular person at a particular time and go there. This was handy; she didn’t have to look for someone blindly that way. She found him. TJ was sitting beside a stove, just sitting there alone with his back to her. He didn’t look like the TJ she had known, not even the older TJ from the 21st century looked like this man. His hair was white, his face was heavily lined, his teeth were gone; he was very thin and stooped. By the look of his hands and back, he had arthritis and osteoporosis, probably from the years of heavy drinking. A once proud and handsome man looked old and beaten. Did she do this to him? After a moment of thought, she decided TJ did it to TJ. He was in charge of his own destiny. But still her heart gave a lurch. She didn’t know how she would feel about him once she saw him. This was not going to be easy. TJ, this one, and she had problems all through their history together, with several serious times of trouble. Usually she was the one to make it work and give in to keep it peaceful. She decided she was tired of him and he brought no lurching of her heart. It was truly over for her.
The shock on TJ’s face was pleasing to her. There, that will give him something to think over. Then she left for her own time. It was her prayer that this would release her and she would feel the heavy weight on her chest lifting. She went to bed and didn’t hear TJ calling to her any longer. The next step would be to feel like she wanted to go on living. She looked at herself as Hope number TWO and it was her plan to say she was Hope’s niece if anyone questioned her age in this time.
“TJ? You wanted to talk to me?” She said it softly and he jumped.
“Hope!” He arose and started toward her.
“Back up TJ, I don’t want you near me.” She showed him her knife. “If you don’t back up I will leave right now.”
He did as she requested.
“What is it you wanted to talk to me about?”
“I wanted to see you again mostly. You knew I was calling to you?”
“I heard you, then your letter came to me. What do you want?”
“To tell you I was stupid and sorry for the way things turned out. I haven’t had a drink in about five years now. It was the alcohol. I have been thinking about you steadily for the past few years. I was happy with you and didn’t need to upset things.”
“Whatever, even if you blame the alcohol, you were responsible for your words and actions whether you were drunk or sober. I’m not a possession to order around; that never made me happy when you treated me like that. I want you to let me go. If you ever loved me, let me go. It’s over.”
“I will. Tomorrow. It’s planned.”
“How did you know?”
“I read it and also about Catharine’s death. It’s not necessary to kill yourself TJ, but living or dying is ultimately your choice.”
“I have nothing I care to live for. Whatever happened to the forever part, Hope? That question has been bothering me. I never stopped loving you.”
“Good question, TJ. You had a strange way of showing you loved me. What happened to the forever part from your end? I didn’t take up with another man. You took up with another woman and then said some cutting things to me. It was a strange way of showing your love. What happened to the partnership we had? The sharing? On my end, I would have to say the most patient of loves can wear out if the other person does nothing to nourish the love. I probably will always love you, but in a different way. That doesn’t mean that I want to have anything to do with you. I forgive your actions and the hurt you caused me. In other words you are forgiven, but it doesn’t mean there will be no grave consequences. Mostly what I feel toward you is pity. I guess the best that can be said is that I miss the relationship even if I don’t miss you. That’s probably your situation, you don’t miss me, but you miss what I used to do for you.”
“It is truly over, for good? You won’t take me back and restore my life the way it used to be?”
“Exactly. It’s truly over, for good. Even into eternity. After what we had, it’s too bad. I’m still hurting, but I’m healing. Do you know you caused Elizabeth to miscarry when you kidnapped Winter at knife point?”
“No I didn’t know that, it was not intentional.”
“We had some great years together, but it ended. I bid you farewell. As always your destiny is in your hands and yours alone.”
The expression on his face changed to anger. “You hard hearted bitch!”
“Some things never change, do they?” She smiled at him. She was truly cured of TJ, the boulder on her heart rolled off. He made as if to lunge at her and she put her knife up as a warning. Well, she would give him something to think about. After all, she changed her appearance and she was much younger.
“You never realized did you? I am Hope number TWO. When you asked if I was Hope I said sort of. I will tell Aunt Hope what you called her. You will get no peace in the hereafter.”