Here’s the first couple of pages of my historical novel, A Weaver’s Web. It’s available at Amazon and elsewhere …
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H52SEEK
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00H52SEEK
Amazon Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00H52SEEK
A weaver sat in his workshop weaving yarn into cloth on a handloom when he heard hoofs clip-clopping in the distance. He looked up and saw a buggy approaching from Manchester way. At first he took little notice, hunching his shoulders against the cold and moving his fingers back and forth hurriedly across the loom to stop them going numb. Attached to the breast beam was a book he struggled to read in the poor light, the window behind him being small and dirty and facing north. Sometimes he had a candle to work by, but this week he couldn’t afford one.
Every so often he rested his eyes and refocused them by looking out the doorway. He watched the autumn leaves fall on the lush green grass, still wet from dew and now shimmering under a weak sun. Through mist and between low trees and bushes across the laneway, he could see the dim outlines of scores of drab cottages dotted over the valley, most of them home to other weavers and their families. Smoke poured from chimneys and hung in the air, above the mist. He listened to the birds and the cows and pigs. And he heard the faint clanking of metal from workshops in nearby Middleton.
As the buggy got closer, the sound of the hoofs overpowered other noises. The weaver strained his eyes but didn’t recognise the driver, a large man in a top hat, or the passenger, a young boy.
They pulled up right outside his cottage. He stopped weaving and watched, wondering who they were and what they wanted. He had paid his taxes and was almost up to date with his rent. If it was one of those vendors of newfangled medicines, he had no money anyway. Was it a merchant, wanting to sell him yarn or buy his cloth? Or perhaps they were travellers in need of directions. Whoever they were, they were strangers, not to be trusted. He knew that much.
He got off his stool, stretched his limbs after hours of sitting and went to the doorway for a better look. The weaver stared at the man, in a smart suit, as he rummaged through a bag and took out some papers and perused them before putting them back. He nodded to his offsider, a slip of a lad, who leapt from the buggy and tied the horse to a tree. The man got out and straightened his clothing and brushed himself down as if preparing for an important appointment. Leaving the boy to tend the horse, he took his bag and headed towards the weaver’s cottage and workshop, picking his way along a rough path through the grass. Children playing on the banks of a nearby stream stopped and gazed at him.
The weaver emerged from his workshop and stood in front of it. Thin and of average height, he held his mouth firm. His hazel eyes darkened. A deep furrow extending from the top of his nose to midway up his forehead belied his thirty-seven years. His thick crop of brown wavy hair stuck out at the sides, and fell down over the back of the upturned collar of his jacket. He hitched up his threadbare trousers to reveal well-worn boots. He dug his heels into the ground and put hands on hips, not taking his eyes off the man for a moment. As a child, he would go a week or more without seeing anyone he didn’t know. Lately though, many strangers were infiltrating the area. He didn’t think much of the new arrivals with their funny accents who came from all over the country, and from Ireland, seeking work in the cotton factories.
“Hey, just a minute,” the weaver called out when the man was some twenty paces away. “Who are you? What do you want?” Each word rode on a cloud of carbon dioxide.
“Hello, my good man. No need to be afraid,” the stranger said, puffing from his walk up the hill. “The name’s Crowther, Daniel Crowther.”
“Never heard of you. What’s in your bag? Pills and powders?”
“No, nothing like that.”
“Are you a merchant? Have you got work for me?”
“I have, in a sense. But no, I’m not a merchant.”
“Then why are you here?”
“To make you an offer,” the man said with a sly smile. He edged closer.