While the Gentlemen go by

I am so near the end of Winterdyke, my next Radwinter novel… I think it should end tonight and then a fury of editing, chopping, changing slashing revising and then at last, I hope – it will be launched into the big world. Here is a tiny snippet which I wrote today… Thomas has escaped from danger through a series of tunnels:

Of course I did know where I was – well, roughly… this was the broken harbour I’d noticed but paid no attention to, thinking it just a broken harbour. This was where the smugglers would either have drawn up in their sloops or whatever their ships were called, or the smugglers would have rowed out in their rowing boats to foreign ships loaded with contraband, ‘five and twenty ponies, trotting through the dark – brandy for the parson, ‘baccy for the clerk…’ Where did that verse come from… something John had read or told me when I was little, John who in many ways had brought me up… Unexpectedly my eyes filled with tears and I had a desperate longing for my big bro…
Get a grip… I was thinking this as I scrambled over the rough and rocky boulders to clearly see where I was. There must have been rock falls and erosion over the year and there was little left of the two hundred year old harbour. There were jagged rocks at sea, grey waves breaking in whiteness over them – this would have been a perilous place for men rowing small boats, but maybe that was what made it safer… it was virtually inaccessible as far as I could tell, from the cliff top above, no little smugglers’ ponies trotting through the dark here.

Here’s Kipling’s great poem about smugglers:

A Smuggler’s Song

If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet,
Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street;
Them that ask no questions isn’t told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark —
Brandy for the Parson,
Baccy for the Clerk;
Laces for a lady, letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling,
While the Gentlemen go by!

Running round the woodlump if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine,
Don’t you shout to come and look, nor use ’em for your play.
Put the brishwood back again — and they’ll be gone next day!

If you see the stable-door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside;
If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining’s wet and warm — don’t you ask no more!

If you meet King George’s men, dressed in blue and red,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you “pretty maid,” and chuck you ‘neath the chin,
Don’t you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one’s been!

Knocks and footsteps round the house — whistles after dark —
You’ve no call for running out till the house-dogs bark.
Trusty’s here, and Pincher’s here, and see how dumb they lie —
They don’t fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by!

If you do as you’ve been told, ‘likely there’s a chance,
You’ll be given a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood —
A present from the Gentlemen, along o’ being good!

Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark —
Brandy for the Parson,
‘Baccy for the Clerk;
Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie —
Watch the wall, my darling,
While the Gentlemen go by!

…and here is a link to my Radwinter books if you haven’t yet read them:

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