It was just another Yorkshire afternoon in high summer with nothing to mark it out as a day that would change their lives forever. The young Bartley brood had done their Saturday chores in the morning heat, watered the horses waiting to be shod under the shade of a clump of elderberry trees in the paddock behind the forge. Newton and Frankland, their broad shoulders tanned like leather, were pumping water from the well into the slate tank at the back of the yard for Father’s wash in the zinc tub. It was time for his Bible class preparation. Asa Bartley never liked to touch the Holy Book with his blacksmith’s rusty fingers.
Selma, his young daughter, made her usual rounds of the village shops with her mother’s wicker basket: off-cuts for stew from Stan, the butcher, soda crystal for Monday’s wash tub from Mrs. Marchbank at the C0-op, stopping to chat with neighbours taking advantage of the end of their shift at the cotton mill, and picking up a second-hand copy of the local Gazette. It was one of the hottest afternoons in the whole summer. Doors were open wide onto the street with strips of beaded rope pinned over the lintels, waving in the breeze to discourage the flies, windows propped up with bedding hanging out to bleach in the sunshine, stools set outside in the shade to catch passers-by for crumbs of gossip. Dogs panted in the shade and the forge cat, Jezebel, was curled up under a hedge.
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