There it was. Freedom. Right in front of him. The very thing that Jarvit had long yearned for and now that he could just have it he was too afraid to take it. Used to being ordered about and cowed by numerous beatings Jarvit was intimidated. Although he now stood on the very lip of Ludhigh’s huge open mouthed west gate he could not take one step through it. Fear of being caught and the retribution that would follow held him. The sight of the open expanse and dazzling light amazed him. The view of the wide valley outside that he had just glimpsed before had brought him to a complete stop on entering Tribute Plaza. He was like a young deer that had wandered out into open parkland and frozen at the sight of people. Jarvit was stupefied at the sight of the huge gateway. All the flowing hubbub around him was muffled and forgotten as he stood gazing at the people who stepped out, fearless, from the grey walled shadowed town into light and colour. He had been in the square before but never alone and never when the gates were open.
Jarvit had woken that day to the normal routine of the kitchen, it started with a kick from stout arthritic Mrs Rawfish, the cook, as she stumped by the kitchen table under which he huddled in his blankets each night. This at once snapped Jarvit out of his sleep into full consciousness, he had slept on one or twice before and the punishment, making glue from cow hides in the slaughter man’s yard was the worst thing Jarvit had ever done. So he had stoked the fire with vigour and then brought water and more fuel while Mrs Rawfish prepared breakfast for the master, Magistrate Hep.
Jarvit’s domain consisted of the kitchen, the scullery and the large courtyard beyond. He had been out into the streets of Ludhigh, but never alone. He knew the town was enclosed with high massive stone walls, as he was enclosed in the stone flagged kitchen, but he had never roamed and played in the streets as most children did. His duties and Mrs Rawfish saw to that. It was at midmorning that the routine had changed to lead Jarvit to stand in Tribute Plaza. It started with a summons to Magistrate Hep’s office.
‘Jarvit! Jarvit! Get yourself up here boy and in my office at once,’ the master’s bellow had echoed down the stairs. Where upon Mrs Rawfish tapped him smartly on the head with her soup ladle, making his eyes water.
‘What have you been up to now, you young limb? I swear I never knowed a boy for being such a nuisance and causing them, as he should be grateful to, more trouble than he’s worth. No respect for anyone or anything you. If I didn’t have to larrup you so much I swear my arthritis wouldn’t be half so bad. Well, get along up there, don’t dawdle!’
Knowing with a sinking certainty that he was once more to be berated for some misdemeanour Jarvit paused outside the office rubbing his sore head and aware of his grubbiness compared to the carpeted luxury around him. He tapped and pushed open the door, to see the magistrate, head bent, scratching away at a parchment with a quill. While he disliked Magistrate Hep, who had never been kind to him in any way, he was in awe of the man’s learning and ability to read. Magistrate Hep had once said that reading was beyond Jarvit as he was too stupid to learn anything.
Hep looked up and replaced his quill into the inkwell as he observed Jarvit cringing by the door twisting his hands.
‘Shut the door boy and come over here. Now Jarvit I’ve taken you with me to visit Notary Sudlow in Tribute Plaza quite often haven’t I? Yes, well you are to go along there now and carry these parchments with you. They’re very important, so pay attention to what you are doing. Wait with the Notary until he’s ready to send you on your way. Understand?’ Jarvit nodded, he could hardly believe it. He was being sent out alone, in the daylight. All the other times he had accompanied the magistrate, carrying documents to the notary, were in the evening when the city gates were closed and it was already dark within the walls.