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Who's Who in London Hooligans - Hannah Wood

Hannah's Journal

Never before have I given much thought to my past - until now. So many things have happened lately that make me question everything... My family; good and bad, right and wrong; love and loyalty. Obedience to authority versus doing what my conscience... and my heart... tell me to do.

Not even in my wildest dreams - or nightmares - could I have imagined what would happen, when we came to London for this Season. I had given up all hope of seeing my darling brother again, thinking him surely dead... Oh Elijah!

Maisie always liked to tell us how from my birth, Elijah and I had a special bond. Zach loved us both, no doubt, but he was the oldest son, the Viscount, seven years Elijah's senior, and thus he didn't have much time to spend with us. Nor would father have approved if he had - the children were the responisbility of mother and our female staff. But Elijah did not let that disapproval stop him from spending time with me. My earliest memories are of him playing with me, telling me stories and rocking me to sleep. Sometimes Elijah would curl up in a window seat with me and read me stories, acting out the parts in the book while I watched, utterly captivated. Not even mother spent as much time with me as Elijah did.

Twins couldn't have been more inseparable. I can't count the times we got into mischief together, and I was the instigator at least as often as my darling brother. For some reason they would usually believe me over him when we got caught - I guess being a girl does have its advantages sometimes. Being a boy and doing things that father considered 'girlish', however...

To this day, I shudder at the memories. The first time it happened I was five years old, and I still remember as if it was yesterday. Father came home early from an appointment, and found Elijah and me playing with my dolls. Without preamble, he pulled Elijah up by his ear, and dragged him into his office. I heard father beat Elijah from where I stood outside the locked door, tears streaming down my face, but not one cry escaped Elijah's lips. When father emerged again, still dragging a white-faced Elijah with him, he talked of teaching him to show remorse. Mother silently watched, her face etched with worry, as he took him down to the cellar, and... oh Dear Lord... I begged my father to let him go, from within the restraining embrace of Maisie's arms, but he locked Elijah in a cupboard down there, and threatened to do the same with me if I wouldn't be silent. Maisie took me to my room, but only after she promised to sneak down there with me and bring Elijah food and water later did I calm down.

I still see before me my brother's wide-eyed panicked look, his shaking form and his bleeding fingertips and broken nails from where he'd scratched at the cupboard door, trying to claw his way out. Elijah begged us not to lock him into the cupboard again, but when he realised Maisie and I would have to face father's wrath if he found out about us sneaking down there, he steeled himself and went back in. I was so torn between shame for not being brave enough to help him, and gratitude for his sacrifice. When father let him out the next day, I was weak with relief. But for weeks afterwards, I would hear Elijah cry out in the night during nightmares filled with tight spaces and spiders. Every time I sneaked into his room next to mine and climbed onto his bed, whispering reassurances and rocking Elijah in my arms best as I could, until he calmed down.

But even though this remained not the only time our father would torture Elijah so, not all our childhood was overshadowed by such dark episodes. Summers at Woodburne, our country estate, were wonderful. As we got older, Elijah and I would often go explore the vast estate. Usually we'd take books with us, and read them either up in our favourite tree - more than once I was scolded by mother for ruining my skirts and petticoats - or by the lovely pond where we liked to dip our feet to cool down on hot summer days. Sometimes we'd catch the little fish, tadpoles and frogs and put them in an old bucket Maisie had given us, filled with water, but we always set them free again before going home.

How I missed Elijah when he went to Eton. We wrote each other often, and I wished it was possible for me to join him there. But I knew well enough not to utter such thoughts, especially not within hearing of our father. He had made sure from early on that I knew my place in our family and in society. So I had no choice but to conform to his wishes, and learn everything a proper Lady needs to know. I did enjoy some of it, and yet when Elijah visited home, all I wanted to do was leave with him and go study.

And then... everything changed. Father's slap for daring to question him didn't hurt as much as his announcement that Elijah didn't exist anymore. I could not believe father's words, for I could not imagine anything Elijah possibly could have done to deserve so cruel a punishment. Yet deep within I still clung to the belief that father has a tiny spark of affection for us inside him. I now have proof beyond doubt that I was mistaken... and I find myself wondering how mother can stand to live with him. It seems that doing his every bidding is the only way for her, for never once did I hear her disagree with him. Not even when her son was declared an outcast.

I could not live like that. Without respect, without love... No doubt the Governor would say that Elijah was a bad influence on me, since I harbour the same 'ridiculous' ideas about love as my brother. I tried to listen to my head, to do the sensible thing. But I found that I could not. I have made my choice, though I don't know what lies ahead of me. I only know that I cannot ignore the calling of my heart any longer.