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: 9 - In The Playroom

The sounds of battle have ceased – and in the silence Will finds himself clutching a small, toy drumstick.

Mary and Brian Tattersfield’s magical children’s tale continues.

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

A further episode of the story will appear in tomorrow’s Open Writing.

Will was listening. And he realised he was listening to silence. The terrible noise of the battlefield had ceased completely. Then surely it would be safe to open his eyes. He did so, very slowly, peering between his lashes, until he could be quite sure that he was a very long way from all that had been raging around him just a minute ago.

He was clasping something very hard. He opened his eyes properly at last and found it was a drumstick – a small, toy drumstick.

In fact he found himself surrounded by toys of every kind. The room looked like a playroom. There was a large wooden rocking horse in one corner, tin train sets were laid out, and a large doll’s house had the front open with all the little rooms displayed. It was all in such contrast to what he had just seen that he burst out laughing with relief.

But he looked back at the drumstick in his hand, and the same sad feeling that had overwhelmed him when he had seen the demolition of the house came over him again. The little drummer boy who had fallen in the battle couldn’t have been Jack. That would be too dreadful to think of. He hadn’t seen his face so perhaps it was some other boy. But that thought didn’t make him feel any better either.

On a table nearby stood a set of toy soldiers, and Will could see they were set out in a battle formation. Groups of cavalry stood in a frozen canter, and the infantry in red coats were kneeling and aiming in exactly the same way he had just seen. But however hard he searched, no toy drummer boy stood in their midst.

An old and faded photograph in a silver frame stood next to the soldiers with a row of marbles placed carefully round it. Out of habit Will admired the marbles first, and then looked at the photograph. There were six children in it, all of different ages, smiling nicely at the camera. Two smiles were familiar.

“Jack and Matty,” breathed Will. Did their smiles broaden just a little? Will was sure they did. The other children looked very like them – were they all brothers and sisters?

Will could identify this time, by the clothes they wore, when the photographs must have been taken. He had seen frocks and sailor suits like that in an old photo his Granny had once shown him of when she was a little girl in about 1900.

Matty and Jack certainly seemed to go leaping about in history! Or was it, Will suddenly realised, that all the Mattys and Jacks he had met were different pairs of brothers and sisters. All of them descended from a Matty or Jack grown up and married.

His family had always passed on the same nose, his mother said. Maybe there were other Wills in his own family. He knew his grandfather had been called Will. Perhaps boys looking just like him had been walking around in Tudor times or when Queen Victoria reigned.

For some reason the idea of that gave Will a very nice, warm feeling inside, and he smiled back at the Matty and Jack in the brown photograph. He felt he had shared so much with them now.

He noticed that Jack was holding up a marble in the picture. Perhaps it was his best one, thought Will, and he had wanted it to be recorded in the photograph. It was rather a wasted gesture, because you couldn’t see what it was like at all.


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