Wolf Wood (Part One) (Chapter 2 - Baptism, page 1 of 4)


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William Gascoigne knew he shouldn't be there and was beginning to understand why. With an awful suddenness the solid stonework of the abbey tower ended in a sea of scaffolding. A maze of ladders stretched before him, filling the void beneath the bells and reaching down into the main body of the church. He looked up and saw patches of sky through holes in the roof. When he looked down he felt dizzy.

'Come on. You won't fall.'

He heard Geoffrey Hulle's voice and saw him on a ladder.

'My dad's checked it out … it's safe.'

Geoffrey disappeared onto a walkway and William followed. He'd climbed ladders before and got to the top without difficulty. Then his fears flooded back. He expected to see planks but found hurdles. They were woven from hazel and looked like those used for sheep pens on his father's estate. Geoffrey was in the middle, forty feet above the ground.

'Come on. It's fun.'

He grabbed the side rails and jumped up and down.

The hurdles flexed and William shut his eyes.

'I want to go back.'

'You're not scared … are you?'

The jibe struck William to the core. Being scared was something peasants did. Boys of his class were never scared. They rode horses and went to war as soon as they were old enough. He opened his eyes and climbed onto the walkway, determined to stride fearlessly across. Then he remembered something his father said about prudence being the better part of valour and sank to his knees and crawled across.

Geoffrey was waiting on the other side. It was his idea they should go up the tower and see the work his father was doing. The boy danced around and pointed to a rounded arch with dogtooth carving.

'This is some of the old stuff. We'll be leaving it because it can't be seen from the ground and it's still in good nick.'

The boys' clothes were tailor-made and smart: little different from those of a well-dressed adult. Felt hat with a narrow brim that turned up stylishly at the front. Short-sleeved jacket, tight about the chest and worn with a shirt of contrasting colour. Brightly coloured stockings fastened to linen underwear. Snug leather shoes. It was the dress of boys from prosperous families ... not that Geoffrey and William belonged to the same social class.

Geoffrey's father was a master mason. As such, he combined the roles of architect, engineer and building contractor. Master Mason Hulle was renowned for his work on Winchester Cathedral and Sherborne Abbey. His strength lay in his business competence and membership of the powerful Master Masons' Guild. Geoffrey was a sensitive lad with light brown hair and freckles.

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