Gideon the cutpurse, p.1
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       Gideon the Cutpurse, p.1

           Linda Buckley-Archer
 
Gideon the Cutpurse


  Praise for Gideon the Cutpurse:

  ‘so convincing a picture of the 18th century that we feel transported ourselves, this first book of a planned trilogy of time-travel adventures is skilled, engrossing and irresistible. The reader, like the protagonists, will find it hard to return to the present’ Nicolette Jones, The Sunday Times, Children’s Book of the Week

  ‘A time-slip novel, deftly handled. The year 1763 is beautifully evoked, as is the present day . . . Hard to imagine it being done better. A real find, leaving you hungry for more’ Philip Ardagh, The Guardian

  ‘the novel abounds with period detail, effortlessly woven into the plot . . . Tanglewreck, like Gideon the Cutpurse . . . is partly a satire on our current perception that we all have too little time to change the nature of reality, rather than our own greed and impatience. Neither should be missed’ Amanda Craig, The Times

  ‘The cliff-hanger ending leaves you longing for the next book’ The Independent, 10 Best Books for ages 8-12

  ‘great fun and a really good adventure . . .’ Kate Scarborough, The Guardian

  ‘a thrilling time-slip story’ Funday Times

  ‘. . . a wonderful time-travelling tale . . . a brilliant introduction to this period of history, evoked with gorgeous attention to detail and language’ The Book Magazine

  ‘. . . a thrilling tale of dashing highwaymen and sinister villains. Full of flavour and witty flourishes, this should be a huge summer favourite’ The Bookseller, Bookseller’s Choice

  ‘There is much to recommend in this book. The 18th century is vividly and lovingly brought to life . . . There are many excellent characters (among them a truly repellent villain called The Tar Man), a swift pace and an absorbing plot. It’s convincing and exciting and I loved it’ Publishing News, Bookseller’s Choice

  ‘Buckley-Archer may very well give J. K. Rowling a run for her money. This wonderfully rich and complex novel, written in lyrical and vivid language, is destined to be a classic. History interweaves with science, social issues in both centuries are thrown in; yet what readers will remember most is a fast-paced plot with a cliff-hanger ending and multidimensional characters who continue to inhabit their thoughts long after the book is closed. With appeal for reluctant and advanced readers, this novel is a rare gem’ School Library Journal, Starred Choice

  ‘Buckley-Archer spins a rip-roaring tale replete with the raw details of life in the 18th century, including those of highwaymen, chamber pots and ghastly food like tripe . . . non-stop action, appealing secondary characters and healthy dollops of humour, all of which will have readers panting for the sequel’ Kirkus Reviews

  ‘Historical detail here is both excellent and engagingly intertwined with what would be adventure in any era: highwaymen, royalty, prison, and a corrupt judiciary. As the first in The Gideon Trilogy, this tale ends on just the right note of suspense-if you’re not Peter, who finds himself still suspended in the long-gone past’ Voya

  ‘don’t miss: Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer’ USA Today

  ‘a time-travel story of epic proportions and exquisite quality . . . Chock full of historical events and figures, and told in an elucidating manner that steers well clear of being pedantic, Gideon the Cutpurse is a rip-roaring adventure as well as an educational look at life in the middle 18th century. An intriguing plot, sympathetic characters, and a fluid style that makes the words fly right by all work in the right combination to give Linda Buckley-Archer a well-deserved place on the fantasy-adventure booklists’ The Trades (www.the-trades.com)

  For R., L., and I.

  SIMON AND SCHUSTER

  First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2006

  This paperback edition first published in 2007

  A CBS COMPANY

  Copyright © Linda Buckley-Archer, 2006

  Cover illustration by www.blacksheep-uk.com

  This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.

  No reproduction without permission.

  All rights reserved.

  The right of Linda Buckley-Archer to be identified as the

  author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with

  sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

  1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

  Simon & Schuster UK Ltd

  1st Floor

  222 Gray's Inn Road

  London

  WC1X 8HB

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available

  from the British Library

  ISBN-10: 1416916571

  ISBN-13: 9781416916574

  eBook ISBN: 9781847388940

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and

  incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used

  fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead,

  events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Typeset in Caslon OldFace by M Rules

  Printed and bound in Great Britain by

  Cox & Wyman Ltd, Reading, Berks

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  TO THE READER

  CHAPTER ONE

  THE BIRTHDAY TREAT

  In which Peter looks forward to his birthday

  treat and subsequently argues with his father

  CHAPTER TWO

  PETER MISSES AN IMPORTANT TELEPHONE CALL

  In which Peter makes the acquaintance of

  the Dyer family and a hair-raising encounter

  with a Van der Graaf generator triggers

  an extraordinary chain of events

  CHAPTER THREE

  THE THREE-CORNERED HAT

  In which Peter finds himself in a

  puzzling and precarious predicament

  CHAPTER FOUR

  THE HOWL OF A WOLF

  In which the police and Kate come to some

  conclusions about their predicament and

  the children spend the night in a birch wood

  CHAPTER FIVE

  A BREAKFAST OF GRILLED TROUT

  In which Peter goes fishing and

  Kate gives her companion a fright

  CHAPTER SIX

  LOST IN TIME

  In which Peter and Kate discover that

  their troubles have only just begun

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  THE HOSPITALITY OF THE HONOURABLE MRS BYNG

  In which Peter and Kate make the acquaintance of

  the Byng family and Peter demonstrates his soccer skills

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  THE TAR MAN’S TALE

  In which Peter and Kate plant a Cedar of Lebanon

  and Gideon tells the story of the Tar Man

  CHAPTER NINE

  THE JOURNEY BEGINS

  In which the redoubtable Parson Ledbury insults

  Gideon and the company set off for London

  CHAPTER TEN

  ATTACK!

  In which Dr Dyer meets the NASA scientists

  and the travellers make an unwelcome acquaintance

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  LORD LUXON’S TRAGEDY

  In which Detective Inspector Wheeler’s suspicions

  are aroused and Gideon recounts how he met Lord Luxon

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  A PARLIAMENT OF ROOKS

  In which Detective Inspector Wheeler is perturbed

  by a photograph, Kate talks to a famous scientist

  and Peter sees something very shocking

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  PANDORA’S BOX

  In which Dr Pirretti shows her true colours

  and Gideon tells the story of his namesake

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  GIDEON’S STRATEGEM

  In which
the Parson preaches a curious sermon

  and the party show their bottom

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  A PACT MADE IN BLOOD

  In which Inspector Wheeler goes on the warpath,

  Peter and Kate make a solemn promise and London

  uncovers some of its attractions and its dangers

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  TWO COVENT GARDENS

  In which the children finally make the acquaintance

  of The Tar Man at the Black Lion Tavern

  and then disrupt a juggler’s street show

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  QUEEN CHARLOTTE’S PROMISE

  In which Inspector Wheeler’s exchange with Dr Pirretti

  takes an unexpected turn, George III lays his hands on Jack

  and Kate resorts to desperate measures

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  INTO THE NET

  In which the children answer some difficult questions

  and Gideon walks into Lord Luxon’s net

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  A RACE AGAINST TIME

  In which the Parson insults some macaronies

  and displays his knowledge of horse flesh

  and Gideon rides against the Tar Man

  CHAPTER TWENTY

  NEWGATE

  In which Gideon languishes in Newgate Prison,

  the children meet a famous author

  and a chance meeting leaves Kate overjoyed

  CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

  THE STRAW MEN

  In which Dr Dyer explains the

  disappearance of the anti-gravity machine

  and Gideon’s situation goes from bad to worse

  CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

  TYBURN

  In which the party gather at Tyburn,

  the Tar Man makes an unexpected appearance

  and this story comes to an end

  TO THE READER

  TO THE READER

  When I talked to Peter Schock about the part he played in all these events, he asked me to include some passages from the book which Peter himself found at Hawthorn Cottage in Derbyshire. Its title is The Life and Times of Gideon Seymour. It was written, but never published, at least as far as I can tell, between 1790 and 1792.

  Peter grew to love Gideon’s stories. Lying on the grass under the shade of the oak tree at Hawthorn Cottage Peter would let Gideon’s soft voice take him to places and times he would never see for himself – and some of them he would not wish to. Peter told me that as there would not have been a story without Gideon, it was only fair that he be allowed to speak from time to time. I have therefore added some passages from Gideon’s book to show his side of the story.

  As for the writer of these volumes – the witness to whom the narration of these events, of such great consequence for so many, has been entrusted – until you have heard the entire story, it will be impossible for you to understand either my part in it or why this painstaking task fell to me. I have pieced together its many interweaving strands in the hope that its telling will serve not only as a grave warning, but also as a celebration of mankind’s infinite curiosity about his universe and the greatness of the human heart.

  Peter asked if these books could be dedicated to Gideon’s memory and this I am very happy to do for his part in all of this must not be underestimated.

  In memory of a good and brave man

  who shall be remembered beyond his time:

  Gideon Seymour, Cutpurse and Gentleman

  During those first days at Hawthorn Cottage Peter felt abandoned by his father. It grieved me to see it for I could understand the pain he felt. The rage he sometimes kept locked inside him was slow to lift and he refused to give himself the comfort of speaking of it.

  Once he said he wished that I had been his father. Then it was my turn to be angry. ‘What madness is this?’ I cried. ‘What crime has your father committed that you would trade him for a cutpurse?’

  ‘He has committed no crime,’ Peter replied, ‘unless a father can be punished for not loving his son.’

  The Life and Times of Gideon Seymour,

  Cutpurse and Gentleman, 1792

  CHAPTER ONE

  The Birthday Treat

  In which Peter looks forward to his birthday

  treat and subsequently argues with his father

  It was early morning on Saturday, the sixteenth of December, the first day of the Christmas holidays. In a large house on the edge of London it was beginning to get light. Peter jumped out of bed and stuck his head underneath the curtains to look outside. The sun glowed behind the houses on the other side of Richmond Green and the cloudless sky was palest blue – not even a wisp of a cloud. ‘Yes!’ exclaimed Peter out loud and flung himself as hard as he could onto the mattress to get a good bounce.

  Even torrential rain could not have spoiled a day like this, but crisp sunshine was better. When it was actually Peter’s twelfth birthday, back in September, his father had been delayed in Venice on business and could not get back home in time. He postponed the birthday treat again at half-term because of a business trip to New York and had inked it in his diary for the first day of the Christmas holidays. Nowadays it was mostly like this with his father’s promises. They hung, like mirages, shimmering in the future, and the closer you got to them the more you expected them to disappear. When his mother had gone over to work in the States for the first time and his father was supposed to be making a special effort, he still managed to turn up at Sports Day after Peter’s big race. There was always another meeting, another client, another urgent matter demanding his attention.

  But today was the day: sledging on the dry ski slope, followed by lunch up in town, followed by a Premiership football match – a whole day with his dad, doing his favourite things! And nothing could stop it happening now. The smell of frying bacon and sausages which was drifting up the stairs confirmed it. You never got cooked breakfasts on ordinary days in the Schock household. Peter snuggled back under his stripy duvet, relishing the moment, and pretended to be asleep when the door opened.

  ‘Wake up, Peter, time to wake up.’ Margrit was definitely the best in the long line of au pairs his father had employed since his mother had gone to work in Los Angeles. She was German and made brilliant meatballs. Her w’s sounded like v’s. ‘Peter,’ Margrit whispered into his ear. ‘I know that you are awake. We go on a journey this morning. You must get up now. Your father must speak to you.’

  She tickled Peter until he wriggled and his face cracked into a grin. But when his eyes met hers she was not smiling. She looked uncomfortable.

  ‘What journey?’ he demanded. ‘What do you mean?’

  When Margrit did not answer straight away, he shot out of bed and flew down two flights of stairs to confront his father who was cooking eggs in the kitchen. His father was already dressed in smart clothes chosen to impress. One look at his expression and Peter knew.

  ‘It’s not happening, is it?’

  ‘I’m sorry, Peter, I really am. I’ll make it up to you, I promise. I’ve just had a phone call. I have to meet the head of the studios who is flying back to the States this afternoon.’

  Peter felt numb. This was not possible. Even his father could not do this to him a third time.

  ‘But the good thing is that Margrit can take you up to spend the weekend on her friends’ farm in Derbyshire. We’ll do this when you get back. I know how disappointed you must be but you’ve got to understand … A lot of people’s livelihoods depend on this meeting.’

  Father and son stood looking at each other over opposite sides of the kitchen table. All the morning’s happiness started to seep out of Peter like a puddle onto the kitchen floor. But when his father walked around the table to put a hand on his shoulder, Peter quickly stepped backwards out of reach. The adrenalin rush of sudden fury made his fingers clench and his heart pound. He did not want to be understanding. He did not want to go and visit some strangers with Margrit. He wanted his father to cancel the meeting. He wan
ted to hammer his fists against his father’s chest and tell him never, ever, ever again to break a promise he had made to him.

  ‘I don’t know why you bothered having a kid,’ he shouted. ‘You never want to do anything with me – I just get in the way!’

  ‘If you’re going to be like that, there’s nothing I can say,’ snapped his father. ‘You know I’m here for you as much as I can but someone’s got to earn the money to pay for all this …’ He gestured vaguely at the gleaming stainless steel kitchen and Margrit who was polishing Peter’s shoes. Margrit looked as if she wished she were somewhere else.

  ‘Wait ’til you’re a grown-up with responsibilities. You’d do exactly the same if you were in my place.’

  ‘No, I wouldn’t! If Mum were here she wouldn’t let you do this to me.’

  This was a bad move and Peter knew it. But the words slipped out before he could stop them.

  ‘Don’t you dare take that tone with me.’ His father’s voice had become steely with barely controlled rage. ‘How dare you say that when it’s your mother who’s chosen to work on the other side of the planet.’ He picked up the frying pan and shovelled the now overcooked eggs angrily into the bin. ‘You’ll go with Margrit. End of story. And I’ll think about rescheduling your birthday treat when and if you stop acting like a spoilt brat.’

  Peter hurtled upstairs, unable to cope with the feeling of helplessness, the sense of injustice that surged up inside him. When he reached the first-floor landing he turned round and leaned over the banisters.

  ‘I hate you!’

  And those were the last words that passed between them.

  Peter did not notice his father turning on his heels, wincing visibly. He fled into his bedroom, slamming the door so hard that fragments of gloss paint fell onto the carpet. Peter stood at the foot of his bed, kicking and kicking at the wooden leg until it hurt, holding back the tears, listening to the sound of crunching gravel as his father drove his car up the drive. He refused to give in to his impulse to rush to the window and cry: ‘Dad! Come back!’

  CHAPTER TWO

  Peter Misses an Important Telephone Call

 
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