|Rix Bettany was fifteen, but that wasn’t old enough not to be sent away to live with a stranger. He sat in the railway carriage trying to suppress the ever-present anger he had felt since the news had arrived from India of his parents’ deaths. Next to him, eleven year-old Jackie dozed. At least he wouldn’t be alone. |
He wished Peggy and Bride could come too, but apparently Great Uncle Tom didn’t like women, not even schoolgirls. Jackie didn’t remember their parents; he had only been a baby of eighteen months or so when they had sailed to India for the final time. He had only known the life they had had since, of school and being passed around relatives who didn’t really want the burden or expense of four unwanted children. Until Great Uncle Tom had written to summon the two of them to his large, isolated old house on the Devonshire coast.
Rix sighed and shifted slightly in his seat, dislodging his brother who woke and rubbed his eyes.
“Are we there yet?” he asked, fidgeting to see out of the window. Rix shook his head. “Not far though,” he said, moving to take down their shabby cases from the rack. They were alone in the compartment.
“I wonder what Peggy and Bride are doing? I wish they could have come with us, Rix.”
“Aunt Madge will keep them busy enough,” Rix said, bitterly. Their father’s twin sister had always found the hard-working Bettany girls useful around the house although she had no time whatsoever for her nephews. Her husband, the great Sir James Russell, resented them more. Even so, Rix would rather have been at the Round House now, no matter how bad it was, than being sent to live with someone they didn’t know at all.
“Do you think he’ll meet us?” Jackie asked for about the fifth time.
“I don’t know. Probably not. We’ll have to walk.”
“I hope he won’t be...” Jackie tailed off.
“Won’t be what?”
“Well, like Uncle Jem.” Jackie said. “What if he’s worse?” he finished, in a whisper.
“He can’t possibly be worse,” Rix said, with feeling. “Buck up, Jack. We’ll be all right. I’ll look after you.”
I was reading an old Mandy annual with stories of badly-done-to orphans and mean or greedy relatives and it prompted this *alternate universe* story where the Russells aren't quite so willing to take on the Bettany children.