Charlie Jones by Kath Egar

Charlie Jones

Charlie Jones rose early every day of the year. Today however was special, today he would be going to the “big house” at Temple Newsam
Charlie was the local milkman and his customers were usually his neighbours and the small businesses in the area.
He was proud of his dairy, small but kept in good order with the help of his industrious wife Molly.
He could hear his wife busy in the dairy already, even though dawn had hardly broken. The extra milk needed at Temple Newsam House was a godsend, times were hard and any extra business would be a real help.
Charlie himself was busy in the stable sorting out the harness of his old pal Mercury, his old but still strong horse, he talked gently to him as usual.
Mercury was his faithful companion, Charlie considered him a friend as the old horse seemed to listen carefully as he spoke of his problems and whinnying softly in response to the spoken words from Charlie.
At last Mercury was harnessed, the milk cart spotless for the great occasion and with all the milk churns carefully loaded.
Charlie gently set the cart in motion, Mercury pulling slowly and surely at the extra heavy cart, his hooves clapping over the cobbles until they reached the road.
“Well lad we’re off” Charlie felt nervous but proud “A funny mixture” he thought as he manoeuvred the cart.
According to his instructions he had to deliver at the rear of the “big house” where the kitchens were situated.
He reckoned he would arrive at the arranged time and settled back into his seat, gently encouraging Mercury in his labours.
Temple Newsam House was being used as a convalescent home for English and Belgian soldiers injured in the war.
“Those poor lads”, Charlie thought, “what had they gone through, but at least they’ve got a chance for a recovery, yet those poor beggars that were lost on the battlefields, they are gone forever.”
The wind was sighing through the trees that bordered the road up to Temple Newsam House, as he neared the house he could see army ambulances on the large forecourt, the lights from the house lit the area and Charlie could see stretchered wounded being carried into the house.
Lady Wood insisted that the house be used as a convalescent home and worked alongside the nurses and volunteers.
Charlie steered Mercury and cart round to the rear of the house, he climbed down and one ring on the bell brought the door open, a man in a baize apron stood there, it was Sam Johnson, a volunteer and an old friend of Charlie’s.
“Morning Charlie”, said Sam, “Bang on time as arranged, the lasses in the kitchen are already on with breakfast, I’ll give you a hand.”
“Thanks”, said Charlie and went quickly round to the back of the cart undoing the rear panel. Climbing up he started manoeuvring the churns in a row ready to be manhandled in to the cold storeroom and working quickly the churns were soon safely stored.
Charlie thanked Sam, called “Cheerio” and climbed back on his cart, settled on his seat and smiled to himself.
“Well”, he thought, “as old as we are, me, Molly and Mercury, we can still do our bit for the lads and the war effort.”
With a gentle slap of the reins Mercury started the milk cart back on its homeward journey.

Kath Egar (Osmondthorpe Creative Writing Group)