He shouldn’t stay against his will
It was wiser, Matthew decided, not to risk the Southampton gangs. He thought of going north at first, until the better idea occurred to him of heading south-east, towards the coast. By following the line of the tide, he could keep his bearings even without the sun; and the morning had started cloudy.
Lawrence had pressed him to take food from their store, but he had refused. For his part, he had offered them the gun, with the same result. The atmosphere was strained. Their reactions, when they realized he was serious about leaving, had been a mixture of regret and resentment – all except April, who if she showed anything beyond her usual serenity, showed indifference. When Lawrence, at the beginning, started to remonstrate with Matthew, she cut him short.
‘He’s made up his mind, Lawrence.’
‘But the whole thing is lunatic.’
‘Leave it at that.’
After a pause, Lawrence said: ‘And Billy?’
Matthew said: ‘I think it would be better for him to stay with you, if you’re willing to have him.’
April said: ‘Of course we’ll have him.’
Billy said: ‘No. I want to go with you, Mr Cotter.’
Matthew said: ‘You should stay, Billy.’
He shook his head stubbornly. ‘I don’t want to.’
Lawrence said: ‘I thought you were going to let me teach you medicine, Billy? What I remember of it, at any rate.’
The boy looked agonized and embarrassed. He started to speak but stumbled over the words, and was silent. April said:
‘He will be as safe with Matthew as he will with us.’ There was a hint of tiredness in her voice. ‘Perhaps safer. There would be no point in his staying here against his will.’