Manchester, England, 1714
My name is William Kensington. I'm sure you know how my story began in Manchester. Living in poverty was not something to wish onto a person. I had just finished a short time in school, learning about common things in a makeshift school in the town. It was free, so the education wasn't as good as the paid schools in London. But it was the best that my family could do for me. Now, I had returned home, ready to work on the fields with my aging grandfather. Nobody knew where the man who made my mother pregnant was, and so, Timothy was the only father figure I had growing up. But that was alright, because my grandfather was a pretty great guy. He was strong from working on the farm his entire life. I respected him, and he did a good job of assisting my mother raise me in these tough times.
I ran into my family's farm and saw my grandfather raking leaves that had fallen recently. I was happy to see him after staying in town with my uncle while I was educated.
"Grandad!" I yelled.
"Willy! How was school my boy?"
"It was okay, but I missed you more."
"Ho ho! That's sweet. Your mother was looking for you earlier, might want to pay her a visit. Then you could come and I could teach you the ways of the field hand!" I liked the sound of that all the time. All I wanted was to work on the farm with grandfather. It's what kept me going in that bloody hell hole of school.
As I walked inside the small shack that my family lived in, I smelled a pie cooking. That was one of things I also missed, mom's grain pie. I saw her by the furnace, checking up on the baking goodness on the fire.
"Hello my darling! I guess the pie isn't so much of a secret anymore is it?"
"Don't worry. I had a feeling you would make something when I came back from school."
"So how was school? I hope it wasn't as bad as your uncle described it." I had to think of something to reply to this. As overly dramatic as my uncle was, he was right for once. That school was a bloody disaster, but at least I got something out of it.
"No, it was bad, but not horrible." I said, knowing that 'horrible' was just an understatement. "But I did learn there."
"Oh, I'm sorry William. You know how tough times are. And that was the best we could do." I spotted a tear running down her cheek. She always got choked up while talking about our poverty.
"Oh, mum. Don't cry. It's not that big of a deal. We have hope, and love for each other, and that's all that matters." She gave me a bear hug then. We were dirt poor, and just for my mother to get enough grain to make a whole pie was tough. We just didn't have enough from what we farmed. We gave almost all of our harvest to the merchants who stopped by every season to get a decent amount of money out of it. I wanted to help, but there really wasn't any help for where we were at. We were just a poor family, and we had to accept that.
After she got up and checked on her pie again, I went into my room and got a working outfit and went outside. On that field, my grandfather taught me everything I needed to know about running a farm. I worked half the hours that my grandfather worked. I would've stayed with him the entire time, but my mother didn't allow it. I didn't mind working at that time, it was the only thing I had to do and I liked the fact that I was outside all day.
After a few weeks, I was removing weeds from the wheat crops when I saw a horse carriage come down the long road to our house. It was a government carriage, I could tell from the color of the wood. I told my grandfather I had to use the loo, and I snuck off to the side of the shack. I overheard the entire conversation from and open window. The man speaking was Colonel Kenneth Welles, from the British navy.
"How many children do you have now Ms. Kensington?"
"That's none of your bloody business mister, and even if it was, I'm not at liberty to say."
"Please cooperate Ms. Kensington. We are just trying to help you. We know how poor you are and this opportunity only comes to some families. So consider yourselves lucky." My mother spit in his face. The Colonel smacked her shortly after. I cringed at the sight of this. Why did the government pick on us for? We had absolutely no food, very little money, and losing our house and our farm was like losing our lives. But the Colonel was not here to discuss taxation, he wanted to draft me into the Navy.
Just as I was about to run back into the fields to tell my grandfather, a soldier saw me by the window. He grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me inside the house.
"This little scoundrel was by the side of the house. Thought he might be of interest to you sir." The Colonel looked at me, still holding my mother by the shoulder. He let go of her, and walked towards me, kneeling down.
"What is your name boy?" He asked.
"He doesn't have to answer you!" My mother scowled.
"SHUT UP!" The Colonel yelled back. My mother looked alarmed, and she put her head down.
"What is your name?" He asked again.
"William, sir." I said quietly.
"How old are you?"
I hesitated to answer, but I did, because I didn't want him to hit me as well.
"I am ten, sir."
"Ten years old? And working on the farm?"
"I like working in the fields."
"Of course you do." He stood up, "Can you give me and you mother some time alone?"
"Thank you." The soldier came and put his hand on my shoulder, pushing me outside to the field.
"What the devil is this?" My grandfather said as the soldier brought me to him.
"No questions old man." The soldier scowled, and he walked back.
"Alright, what is going on Will?" My grandfather asked when the soldier was out of hearing range.
"There is a Naval Colonel talking with mum. He wanted to draft me."
"My god," He said, startled. He was eager to go to the house and confront the Colonel, but he knew how serious he was. So we just waited out in the field, watching the house to see when the soldiers would leave. Eventually they did, and we ran inside.
"Lucy! Are you alright?" My mother was weeping in the corner of the room, and my grandfather went to comfort her.
"He said he would be back," My mother whimpered, "He said he would be back when William grew up." My heart sank at the sound of this. Was I really going into the military?