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: 8 - The Drummer Boy

After Will has placed two marbles to his eyes and magically been able to “see’’ and explore a a large house and country estate, he suddenly finds himself in the midst of a battle.

…The noise became terrifying. A cannon fired right next to him, and he thought the noise would take his head off. Cavalry suddenly galloped all around him. Would he be trampled into the mud by the horses’ pounding hooves?…

To read Mary and Brian Tattersfield’s wonderful children’s story from the beginning, click on The Whitley Marble in the menu on this page. A further episode will appear in tomorrow’s Open Writing.

The well-illustrated book is published by Sarisberie Publishing, The Street, West Clandon, Surrey, GU4 2ST, England

The fire was now being stoked by workmen in dungarees, and a wind was blowing round them. Where was everything? The kitchen, the house itself – all had gone. He was standing on a pile of bricks and stone.

Bits of partially fallen wall stood round, and to Will’s dismay he recognised some of the decoration on them. It was from the room where he had eaten the feast with Matty and Jack – yes, there was a plaster figure that had stood by the fireplace. It was all dirty now, and its sweet rosy face was chipped and battered.

At the sight of it Will felt suddenly so sad that tears came. Where was his beautiful house, his special place? And Matty and Jack? What had happened to them? Surely the fire hadn’t destroyed it all.

At this thought panic overtook him, and he ran towards the men shouting and waving his arms as though he meant to attack them. But great clouds of smoke burst from the fire as they threw more timbers on to it. He was blinded by it.

As he stumbled about, the smoke became thick and billowing, and Will noticed it no longer smelled of wood smoke, but was acrid like the firework smoke on bonfire night. And indeed he could hear a distant banging, which at first he thought was fireworks. But as the banging got louder and deeper, he realised it was more than that.

A great gust of wind cleared the smoke in front of him for a moment, and in that moment he caught sight of a group of men, men dressed in red coats kneeling in orderly rows, with one knee on the ground, and aiming muskets into the swirling grey smoke. They were soldiers in battle, and he was actually standing in the middle of a battlefield.

The noise became terrifying. A cannon fired right next to him, and he thought the noise would take his head off. Cavalry suddenly galloped all around him. Would he be trampled into the mud by the horses’ pounding hooves? He tried to throw himself out of their path.

Then through the wind and black smoke he saw a boy beating a drum in a bright red coat, just like the one Jack had worn.

The drummer boy had his back to Will, and was marching in a very determined way towards the heart of the battle. He beat on his drum, ta-rat-tat-ta-ta – ta-rat-tat-ta-ta. Was it Jack?

Will ran after him as hard as he could, but for some strange reason he couldn’t get near him, no matter how hard he tried. It was like running in a dream – somehow his legs wouldn’t move properly. Again and again the boy beat his drum.

Suddenly Will saw a blinding flash of light. It exploded just above the boy and he fell forward, his arms out-flung, his drum jarring awkwardly beneath him.

“Jack, Jack!” screamed Will into the din, but he too fell, for the ground was pitted with deep holes made by the cannon balls, and darkness swam around him.

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