Some people are lucky enough to have a childhood that is happy and carefree, every detail of which they clearly recall with affection and nostalgia. But there are others who have such a bad start in life that the early years are divided from the rest of their existence by a grey, metallic curtain of pain. Some can block this off so that it does not touch the rest of their lives. Luckily, Giles and Sarah no longer remember those dradful beginnings, which is fortunate, since they involved being brought up in a slate-grey monolith of a children’s home, tucked away in the wilds of some forgotten land, with drab moorland for a neighbour. At that time, the children wore a constant look of misery, as though the stern regime of the building had worn them down like water torture.
Yet all this is commensurately buried under a blanket of forgiving time, for their lives began anew when a mysterious directive from the governor of the home caused them to be collected in a dilapidated horse and cart one day in November by a ruddy-faced man who never spoke until they disembarked one and a half hours later. Hehad een announced by one of the matrons as “Mr. Asher”, though they were to know him during their short acquaintance as “Growler”, due to his terse instructions or equally terse forays into conversation being uttered in a low mutter. On this particular day, he turned to them, and fixed them with what Sarah later described as a “glass-eyed stare”: she remembered him somehow being able to fix both of them with this stare at the same time.
“I ‘opes yer’ll be be’avin’ yersels now for me an’ the missus ain’t used ter kids, an’ we won’ be too pleased if yer upsets us. Know wot oi means?” The children nodded dumbly, too scared to do anything else. As he swept them moodily from the seat at the back of the cart, Giles gave Sarah a kind of ‘out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire’ look, which she coukd not return, for her eyes were swimming with tears. Instead, she turned to look at what would pass for their new home, being totally unaware of what lay in store for them both.