Jacqueline Wilson Story Writing & Illustration Competition
Inspired by the true story of the foundlings at the Foundling Hospital, Jacqueline Wilson has started a new story about two small children arriving at the Foundling Hospital with their foster mother. Why not join us to complete Jacqueline's new story - The Two New Foundlings - with lots of other children? Read the full instructions here.
The Two New Foundlings
‘Here we are at last,’ said Mother, approaching some large iron gates.
Tabitha and Toby had been arguing and poking each other on the long railway journey up to London – but now they reached out simultaneously and clasped hands.
Mother bobbed a curtsy to the Porter.
‘If you please, sir, I’m returning a little sister and brother to the Foundling Hospital. They’ve been in my care for the last six years. May we proceed?’
The Porter nodded and opened the great gates. Mother had to give the children a little push to make them step onto the long gravel path that led to the huge forbidding building beyond.
Tabitha and Toby weren’t a real sister and brother, but Mother had started fostering them on the same day, when they were babies. Mother wasn’t a real mother either, but she had been kind enough to the children. Tabitha started crying at the thought of saying goodbye to her. Toby screwed his face into a ferocious scowl to try to stop his own tears spilling.
‘Now now, my chicks. Don’t look so upset. I’m sure you’ll love it at the Foundling Hospital,’ said Mother. She didn’t sound sure though. She sounded just as upset as they were.
They walked as slowly as they could, but soon they reached the door. Mother rang the bell and a tall woman in a long dark dress and a white cap and apron opened the door. Tabitha and Toby held hands tightly. Who was this new lady? Was she going to be kind to them?
Lucy Naylor, age 14
Tabitha and Toby nervously looked up at the lady before them. She was wearing a pinafore dress, the colour of pig muck. It reminded Toby of the pigs on the farm he had just come from. He looked at the ground quickly to hide his tears - he knew he would never be going back to the farm again.
The lady gave Tabitha a hard look in the eye, unlike the one Mother used. Mother always said to smile when meeting new people, but this lady clearly hadn’t met mother before for she had a sour pout on her lips. She stared down at the children in disgust.
From behind a door, another lady appeared. She had a much warmer smile on her face. She reached out her hand to greet mother, Toby and Tabitha. 'Good morning' she said as she grasped Toby’s hand in a comforting way. 'I’m nurse Nightingale'. When Toby looked into her eyes, he could see a sparkle. He liked the name Nightingale, it reminded him of the birds he used to wake up to on the farm, the sing song of their chirpy voices talking to each other.
The stern lady introduced herself simply as Matron, and Tabitha wondered what her real name was. As she spoke, Toby’s grip on Tabitha’s hand tightened in fear. Matron declared that they must say goodbye to mother and each other. They knew this moment was coming - mother clasped them into one last brisk tearful hug.
'Toby you will be coming with me' Matron stated 'and Tabitha you will be going with Nurse Nightingale'. Tabitha felt a sigh of relief, she could not bear to stand a minute longer with Matron, but she felt awfully sorry for poor Toby. Matron broke their hands apart and grabbed Toby’s plump sweet wrist and began walking towards the corridor. Toby took one last sad, scared look behind him and Tabitha thought to herself 'when am I going to see him again?'.
Matilda Brain, age 10
Nurse Nightingale took Tabitha by the hand as they walked along the long corridors. There was silence except for the faint chatter of older girls. Tabitha heard a Matron’s stern voice, a sudden snap and then silence. Her stomach dropped like it did coming down the hill, away from the farm, sadness poured over her and she had to bite her lip to stop the tears from spilling out. Nurse Nightingale gave Tabitha a warm reassuring smile. Tabitha’s stomach settled and the sadness rippled away. She caught the sharp scent of vinegar and saw three girls in identical brown skirts and white aprons scrubbing hard at the red tiled floor. Tabitha slipped her hand into her pocket and felt the soft cotton handkerchief Mother had given her before she left the farm. It had Tabitha embroidered along the side and there was an intricate flower design in one corner. Again, Tabitha bit her lip, is Toby ok? she wondered.
Taylor Woolerson, age 10
At the end of the long corridor, Tabitha was led up a large staircase. As they climbed the stairs Tabitha couldn’t help wondering about poor Toby. She hoped she would never have to see moody Matron again but deep down she knew that wouldn’t happen. As they climbed the stairs, the sharp, scent of vinegar returned to make her eyes water, they passed some exhausted girls on their hands and knees scrubbing them until they were squeaky clean. 'Good work girls,' encouraged Nurse Nightingale with a warm smile.
As they reached the top of the stairs, Nurse Nightingale said 'let’s get you into the washroom and cleaned up.'Tabitha thought to herself 'I am clean, Mother bathed me last night, especially for the journey' but she didn’t dare say her thoughts out loud.
In the washroom, there was an iron tub filled with water and next to it was a small bar of soap. Nurse Nightingale picked up a pair of large silver, shiny scissors. 'Sadly we have to cut all the new girls hair short to prevent the spread of lice' she told Tabitha. Tabitha could feel her eyes starting to water, she clenched them together to try and stop the tears from falling. 'My mother told me, my long brown hair is beautiful' murmured Tabitha. But in two quick snips, both of Tabitha’s long, brown plaits fell to the floor. 'Don’t worry, it will grow back but you do need to get in the tub' replied Nurse Nightingale softly. Tabitha did as she was told and stepped into the lukewarm tub.
After washing and drying, Nurse Nightingale handed her some new clothes. 'Where is my special handkerchief?' exclaimed Tabitha. 'It will be locked away, safely until you leave' replied Nurse Nightingale. So Tabitha slowly pulled on a long scratchy dress, the same pig muck colour as moody matron’s and nice Nurse Nightingale’s. Also a strange white cap and apron. 'Good girl, let’s take you to your room' said Nurse Nightingale. Tabitha thought to herself 'will my hair ever grow back? I miss mother so much and the handkerchief she gave me, will I ever see her again? And I wonder how Toby is, with that awful, moody Matron?'
May Webster, age 10
Toby was dragged harshly along the carefully scrubbed corridor. It was empty apart from the odd scrubbing brush abandoned by a younger girl. He wondered if he could run away when Matron's back was turned, but where would he go? The farm was not his home anymore. He had been told that the Foundling Hospital was his new home. He did not want it to be. Matron came to an abrupt halt every now and then, looking around as if she were missing something. It reminded Toby of mother's sharp glances at the village children whenever they jeered at Toby or Tabitha about the life that awaited them at the Foundling Hospital, the life he was about to begin. They had reached the end of the corridor and were now turning into a room full of chattering girls. Matron's feet snapped through the laughter and talking, creating a shudder of silence. Everyone was quiet apart from a small girl scrubbing at the floor, her face and eyes red from crying. She looked up; her tear stained cheeks growing even redder with humiliation as each girl turned their gaze on her. Matron put out her foot and rubbed the muddy sole of her shoe across the shimmering floor. As she did so, she smiled. Toby felt his stomach lurch, making him feel slightly sick. On the way out of the room, Toby turned to look at the girl once more. There was something strangely familiar about her large dark eyes like pools and her dotted freckles.
'Tabitha?' he whispered, edging towards the girl. Matron made no attempt to pull him back, she was too busy talking to a tall man wearing smart clothes and little glasses that made him look rather silly, Toby thought. He edged closer and the girl looked up. It was Tabitha. She smiled through her tears when she saw Toby but shook her head and looked anxiously around her. Toby understood he was not to talk and instead gazed at her. She looked different somehow. Her black hair was short and spiky and she seemed pale and unlike the Tabitha Toby had known on the farm. He gave her an awkward, nervous smile. Their eyes told each other they were not going to escape this place yet. Then he slipped back to Matron but was shoved into the hard grip of the man in the glasses and suit and was dragged off once more, leaving poor Tabitha alone with her thoughts. As he was pulled further and further away from his sister, 'she will be ok...won't she?' he whispered under his breath...
Cairo Weston, age 11
As the fierce man pulled Toby along the polished floor, all he could think about was Tabitha. What had that lady done to her? ‘Hurry up, boy!’. The man pulled on his sleeve even harder. Toby struggled to keep up. All he wanted to think about was Mother. He missed her already. The man in glasses and a suit stopped at a door. ‘This is your dormitory,’ he said. Without any instructions, he let go of Toby’s hand, pushed him inside, and walked off.
Toby looked around. Some of the boys looked up from unpacking and smiled at him. Then they got back to what they were doing. However, one boy, with a shock of red hair, didn’t smile or even look up. Toby thought nothing of it at first, but when the boy did look up, he smirked. Toby knew that the boy wasn’t very friendly. Some other boys saw Toby staring at the boy with red hair, and came up to Toby.
‘Hey,’ the first boy said. ‘Oh hi!’ Toby glanced up. Standing above him were three tall boys, who Toby thought looked very tough. ‘Ignore the ginger boy, he did the same to us when we first came,’ the second boy said. ‘Really?’ Toby asked. ‘Yeah, but don’t worry, nobody likes him,’ the last boy explained. Just as that was said, another boy, with a birthmark on his left cheek, walked up to the red-haired boy and punched his shoulder. ‘Hey Joe,’ said the boy with the birthmark. ‘Oh, except for him’ the last boy said. Toby smiled. He was going to have some fun with these three boys, and he knew it.
‘What’s your name?’ the first boy asked. ‘Toby, Toby Joans,’ Toby said, proudly. ‘Hi, I’m Jack, this is Tom,’ he said, pointing to the second boy, ‘and this is Johnny,’ he pointed to the last boy. ‘And who’s he?’ asked Toby, signalling to the ginger boy. ‘His name is Hugh,’ said Jack. ‘I don’t like the look of him,’ laughed Toby. ‘Hah! You shouldn’t,’ said Johnny. ‘Anyway, thanks for making me feel more at home,’ Toby smiled at Jack, Tom and Johnny. ‘No problem,’ Jack replied, ‘Friends?’ ‘Friends,’ Toby confirmed. Toby threw everything he was carrying, and himself, on the bed and sighed. Johnny’s bed was next to his, so they started talking again. ‘You alright?’ Johnny could see that Toby was upset, but Toby knew that these guys were tough, and they would never cry, so he pulled himself together. ‘Yeah, I’m fine, I just miss the farm,’ Toby said. ‘I know how you feel’ comforted Johnny, ‘I didn’t want to leave my family either, I was really upset,’ ‘Did you cry?’ Toby asked. Johnny nodded his head slowly, ‘Everyone does, even me,’ Toby smiled, ‘I knew you were softer than you looked!’ They both laughed. ‘Better leave you to unpack in peace,’ Johnny said and left.
‘This isn’t going to be so bad after all,’ Toby thought.
Sofia Fraser, age 8
Finally, Tabitha finished scrubbing the muddy smear that Matron had cruelly left for her to clean. Where was she to go now? She did not know anybody here except Toby, and he had been taken away to the boy’s wing. At that moment, a small, skinny girl with red hair and freckles walked past. 'Excuse me…', Tabitha squeaked in a frightened voice, 'please can you tell me what to do now?'. The girl looked at Tabitha’s teary face and felt deeply sorry for her. She remembered how lost and terrified she had felt on her first day at the Foundling Hospital. She looked at the clock. 'It’s almost time for lunch,' she said in a kind voice. 'Why don’t I show you where we go to eat?'
At lunch, the girl with red hair and freckles introduced Tabitha to her friends. The oldest one was called Beth. She was tall with black plaits. The second oldest with blonde hair was called Amy. The youngest one, who was just about the same age as Tabitha, was called Mary. They gave her lots of tips on how to survive in the foundling hospital. The most important tip was… STAY OUT OF MATRON’S WAY!!
A loud clang signalled the end of lunch. As Tabitha walked out, she wondered who the girl with red hair was…
Alice Goldstein, age 8
The small, red haired girl stumbled out of the dinner hall with Tabitha by her side. There were murmurings and giggles coming from behind them. Tabitha swiftly turned her head to uncover the identities of the snickering girls. 'Look at that pathetic new girl sucking up to Hetty, such a surprise!', sneered one. 'My, she is just as bad as Hetty was when she first came here. She was always hanging onto the seniors!', sniggered another girl. Hetty heard this, winked companionably at Tabitha and answered, her temper firing up, 'Well, I think she doesn’t want to be teased. I remember what it was like when I first came here and I don’t want it to be like that for Tabitha!' she paused and rudely stuck her tongue out at them.
Matron appeared in front of them, announcing sharply, 'to the classroom and no more dawdling!' 'Yes, Matron Peters', chorused the girls, solemnly. As they trudged past her, she muttered in Hetty’s ear, 'No more rudeness from you. I’ll tell your teacher to keep an eye on your temper!' and with that she marched off. As they were approaching the classroom, the girl with red hair introduced herself to Tabitha as Hetty Feather, and told her the names of the two malicious girls: Sheila and Monica. Hetty told Tabitha to ignore them. Tabitha thought this slightly rude but did not say for fear of upsetting Hetty.
When they eventually reached the classroom, everybody filed in on rows of hard, wooden desks and benches. Yet another stern looking Matron was eyeing them from the front of the room. On her desk lay a forbidding strap. Tabitha shuddered. Then Tabitha remembered Toby. Where was he? How could she find out? Was he okay?...
Milo Dawes, age 7
Toby heard a loud clang and quickly finished his delicious lunch. He had sat with Jack to eat his beef stew with some bread. They talked about the beautiful countryside and the farmlands, and how they wanted to go back to their farms. Nurse Nightingale came over and asked each of them how the lunch was. Most of them said ‘it was good’, but the boy with red hair said that he hated it. The nurse was very disappointed.
He saw a door at the back of the room and through a window he could see the girls. After he had finished telling the nurse how good his stew was, he quietly ran to the door and checked though the window to see if the girls were still sitting in their classroom with a very cross looking Matron...
Edie Springett, age 9
'How dare you not answer me, Tabitha Tanglefoot,' screamed Matron, her face a dark shade of crimson.
Tabitha's arm was as red as a tomato and tears were streaming down her face. Toby couldn’t bear to his sister like this. He had to do something, but one of the nurses had spotted him and was slowly walking over. Quickly, Toby ran into the room.
'How dare you hit my sister. She hasn’t done anything, you horrid old matron'. Toby pulled the ruler out of Matron's hand and threw it to the other side of the room. Then he stood in front of Matron trying to look brave even though he felt tiny in comparison to this monster.
Matron grabbed Toby by the arm, her face all scrunched up and angry. 'How dare you do such a horrid thing. You are a thoroughly naughty boy. I think you deserve a night or two in the Tench.'
'Nooooooo' Tabitha shouted, but Nurse Nightingale put her hand over Tabitha’s mouth. 'Be quiet, or you will get thrown in the Tench too'. Matron pulled Toby down an endless corridor. Toby's wrist was aching. It felt like she was squeezing the last bit of juice out of a lemon. Matron just ignored his desperate pleas and opened the huge imposing door...
Jemima Rendle, age 9
Toby was dragged down a muddy hallway and led into a cobwebby room with spiders and jail bar windows. It was so small and squashy. 'Here is a bed and bucket this will be your new home' said Matron smirking.
Tabitha sat on her bed thinking about poor Toby. 'Tabitha? What’s wrong?' asked Hetty. 'It’s my brother' Tabitha went on, 'he is in trouble and I…' 'It’s ok, Tabitha. I have a brother too but I can never see him either,' comforted Hetty. 'But he has gone with that horrible Matron.' Tabitha said. 'I know where he is' Hetty whispered. 'Where?' asked Tabitha…
Annabel Borushek, age 9
'He’s in the Tench,' Hetty whispered, a note of panic in her voice, the complete opposite of her usual giggly lilt. 'I’ve been there before'.
'What’s it like?' Tabitha queried, shaking in her seat. If she thought Hetty’s reply would soothe her, it did the opposite.
'It’s tiny and dark with no candles and it’s full of spiders and their webs. When I went in, I dusted it with my dress but it will have gone back to its horrible state by now. The tiny bed always creaks and you only get one stale piece of bread and a glass of water the whole time you’re in there', Hetty shuddered. 'Toby must be having a hard time in there. Some people die!'
'How long will he be in it?' Tabitha squeaked.
'They say a week, but I was there for a month. I caught influenza and nearly died' said Hetty nonchalantly.
'We need to rescue him!' Tabitha was worried. She didn’t want Toby to die!
'Alright, but we will have to do it tomorrow night. Matron will be suspicious tonight' said Hetty.
'And Toby’s scared of spiders!' Tabitha squeaked.
Mariella Dye Wain, age 11
Toby was cold and frightened and alone. He pulled a thin blanket over his shoulders, trying to get warm. The room was small and grey. It was bare apart from the blanket he was wrapped in and a bucket in the corner. Eerie, pale moonlight filtered from the barred window. A tear trickled down his cheek as he thought of Tabitha, Mother and the farm he loved so much. He remembered his soft bed and warm cosy room. Forcing those thoughts out of his head, he tried to get comfortable on the hard floor, willing himself to sleep without being chased by nightmares.
Sophie Byrne, age 11
Hetty waited until darkness conquered the room. The gentle breathing of the other girls reassured her. Across the vast space, Tabitha rocked to and fro, her knees drawn close to her chest. Her innocent blood had been poisoned with worry and her body was now a cavern of fear. She fiddled with the hem of her greying nightdress as thoughts of her brother swarmed her mind. Hetty tiptoed over to Tabitha’s bed, her feet not making a sound on the cold floor. Her fiery plaits dangled in Tabitha’s face as she whispered, 'Ready?'. 'Ready.' was the shaky, hesitant reply.
Hands clasped, the girls padded down a seemingly endless corridor. Every rattle of a window, every creak of a door, sent Tabitha plunging into a state of terror. Her eyes glinted with anxiety. Hetty squeezed her hand reassuringly. 'We’ll be fine' she comforted. Up a winding staircase they climbed. Tabitha willed herself to stay brave. She was doing it for Toby. Toby was all that mattered. The moon shone through a miniature window the reflection of light in a pool of ebony ink. An intimidating, iron door loomed over them. 'This…this is it?' Tabitha stuttered. Hetty looked at her and nodded. 'Ye…' She stopped abruptly. She raised her finger to her lips, signalling for silence.
Footsteps. Loud, resounding footsteps advancing towards them. Tabitha’s jaw dropped. She was paralysed in horror. A shadow emerged from the darkness. Hetty dragged her back down the corridor. 'In here!' she whisper-shouted. They flew into the room and shut the door behind them. Each breath they took was deep and ragged. A rustling sound came from inside the room. The rustling of bed covers. The girls’ gaze fell upon an enormous bed in the room. A figure lay there peacefully until it rolled over and their eyes flickered open. The burning, flaming eyes of Matron.
Aryana Papadakis, age 9
Tabitha’s eyes grew wide in fear. A swirling ball of dread was rising from the depths of her stomach and a burning desire to run from the room seized her, however her paralysed legs gave her complete inability to move. Both girls stood frozen. Hetty’s breathing was jagged and uneven with her fiery ginger braids hanging limply from her shoulders. Tabitha’s own heart filled with worry, whilst she could feel Hetty’s drumming pulse against her sweaty palm. After a few tense seconds, the bedsheets began to rustle.
Tilly Sim, age 9
Matron’s eyelashes flickered. Her pursing lips twitched and her crumbled up nose looked cross. Her tight thin face was ghostly white as the cool moonlight flickered across it. Her normally perfect jet-black hair stuck up, and she yawned, showing her yellowing teeth.
Aryana Papadakis, age 9
The figure began to stir and sit up. Those terrifying, amber eyes slowly but surely started to adjust to the darkness and look around.
Tilly Sim, age 9
Tabitha and Hetty glanced quickly at each other in shock and confusion, and reading each other minds looked for a hiding place around the echoing room. Hetty pointed silently towards a nearby dusty cupboard as Matron stretched her wobbly arms. They cautiously tiptoed to the old, imposing cupboard. Hetty slowly turned the worn bronze door-knob and they stepped inside. A spotlight of moonlight revealed the emptiness of the damp, mouldy space. As they shut the squeaky cupboard, Matron sat bolt upright and her eyes focused. Inside the cupboard, a musty mass of cobwebs covered the corners and dust flickered in the cracks. In all this commotion, a large, hairy-legged spider slowly crept down its web and onto Tabitha's terrified shoulder. She shrieked. The petrified girls froze in horror as they heard the reverberating footsteps heading towards them. Opening the door, a furious Matron revealed the two shivering girls, as the bright moon shone into Matron’s eyes causing them to blaze like fire. She grabbed their spindle-like arms, squeezing so hard; Tabitha was convinced they would crack.
Olive Southall, age 10
'Well, well. Who do we have here?' said Matron cruelly. 'I should have guessed, Hetty and Tabitha. I presume that you two have come looking for your dear friend Toby?' spat Matron.
'Well, you are not as clever as you thought you were, Feather and Tanglefoot' jeered Matron.
'We only wanted to help him' staggered Tabitha.
'At least she has a heart. You don’t even have a fraction of a heart' said Hetty.
'How dare you confront me like that Feather', said Matron, her voice as sharp as knife!
'You said you want to rescue your brother, well slight change of plan. Why don’t you join him?' cackled Matron, pushing the two helpless girls into the courtyard and down into the locked room where Toby lay.
Mariella Dye Wain, age 11
Tabitha felt her arm burn painfully as Matron clenched her fist tighter around her wrist. She could see Hetty trying to tug her arm away from Matron and screaming furiously. Tabitha admired Hetty’s fierce bravery, but she knew it couldn’t help them now. She stumbled as Matron dragged them across the grass, and suddenly the huge, iron door was looming before them. Tabitha whimpered and reached across to clasp Hetty’s hand, but Matron wrenched them apart and pulled open the door with her strong fists.
A figure was sitting hunched over in the shadows. Seeing Matron, he staggered to his feet and stepped forward into the pale moonlight. 'Please let me out Matron', he began shakily. 'I can’t stay in here any longer: it’s so horrible. And I need to see Tabitha, I miss her so much…'
'Tabitha is right here, Toby!' Matron said cruelly, pushing Tabitha forward with her rough hands into the dark, cramped room.
'Tabitha!' Toby cried in amazement and hugged her tightly. Tabitha didn’t say anything. She felt too astonished and scared to speak.
'In fact', Matron continued, a malicious smile spreading across her face, 'Tabitha and Hetty will be keeping you company'. Matron flashed a last triumphant grin at the horrified children and slammed the door. The tench was pitch black and freezing cold.
Isabel Ostler, age 10
As a pale shaft of moonlight drifted between the bars on the tiny window, Tabitha spotted her brother laying in shock, and grabbed his hand. 'Toby, don’t worry, I’ve got you', Tabitha mumbled in a soothing voice, 'what did she do to you?'
The two new foundlings lay together for a while in a heap, wishing that mother had never taken them to this horrible place.
Hetty broke the silence. 'There must be some way out of here', she said, with a determined look on her face, 'let’s search, come on you two.'
Mariella Dye Wain, age 11
'It’s freezing in here', Hetty complained, voicing Tabitha’s thoughts.
'I know' Toby nodded. 'There’s a blanket over here somewhere'.
Tabitha reached forward and felt something thin and soft under her hand. 'I found it!' she called and picked up the blanket, but it slipped through her fingers. Frustrated, Tabitha groped forward in the darkness again. Her hands met the wooden floor and suddenly she felt herself tilting forwards. Tabitha screamed as the ground collapsed beneath her and she tumbled down a steep slope into the darkness. 'Tabitha? Tabitha?!'. Someone was frantically calling her name. Tabitha sat up with a groan. The room was even darker than the Tench, so dark she couldn’t see her fingers if she put them right in front of her face.
'Toby? Hetty?' Tabitha cried. Fear clutched her in an icy grip.
'We’re here,' came a relieved reply from above. 'Are you alright?'.
'I think so'. Tabitha’s shoulder throbbed where her sleeve had been ripped, but she didn’t think she was seriously hurt. 'Where am I?'.
Toby sounded awestruck and excited when he replied: 'I think you fell through a trapdoor'.
Tegan Sterling, age 11
Tabitha fell silent. She knew there was no way she could get back up to them. It left only one option. They had to come and join her. 'Toby, Hetty, I can't see you but I need you to listen carefully,' exclaimed Tabitha, at the top of her voice, 'It won't be that safe, but you're going to have to jump down. It's just too hard for me to get back up!' Hetty and Toby both exchanged looks. Looks of worry. 'How?' whispered Toby, shivering in fear.
Isabel James, age 12
Pushing the old, dusty wooden floorboards downwards with her grubby hands, Hetty cautiously jumped through the gap down onto something made of stone. Toby scrambled after her. Hetty could just about make out several steps leading down to somewhere darker than the tench.
'Right Tabitha, we’re going to come and get you', she said determinedly
'Ok, Hetty', Tabitha whimpered.
Hetty held Toby by the sleeve and pulled him close behind her as they made their way carefully down the stone steps. As the outline of Tabitha came into view, Hetty knelt down and threw out her arms to hug her, but as she did so her head brushed against something sharp on the wall. She pulled her hand back to investigate more.
'Yes!' Beneath her fingertips, Hetty could feel what she thought was a pair of old lamps hanging on the wall.
Tabitha scrambled to her feet, 'Hetty?' she enquired, 'what is it?'.
'Lamps!' exclaimed Hetty, 'now all we need is a match'.
'I have one!' said Toby excitedly. Groping in his sock he pulled out a single match and held it up triumphantly. 'I found it in the dormitory, under one of the boy’s beds', he grinned.
Hetty snatched the match and struck it on a stone. Success! She put the flame to both candles and could now see Tabitha clearly in the flickering light.
'Are you alright?' Hetty asked, bending down to help Tabitha up.
'Yes, no major injuries anyway', said Tabitha.
Toby ran into his sister’s arms and held her tightly. He didn’t want to let go but Hetty’s sudden gasp made him swing round in surprise.
'Look, a passageway!' she announced excitedly, 'change of plan, we’re going to see where this leads to'.
Hetty bravely led the way through the narrow stone passage. Tabitha and Toby followed close behind feeling scared but trusting that Hetty knew what she was doing. Water was dripping from the walls, a stench of dampness hung in the air. Toby thought he saw a bat hanging from the low ceiling but didn’t want the girls to know he was afraid.
They carried on in silence for some time before they the passage got narrower, until it ended at a set of steps leading up to a small wooden hatch.
'I think we’re here!' Hetty smiled triumphantly.
Hetty gingerly pushed the hatch open just enough to peek through the tiny gap. He heart racing, she could see what she thought was the tiled floor of the Hospital's kitchen. As her eyes wandered further she caught a glimpse of a familiar figure standing by the sink. Quickly checking if there was anyone else about she flung the hatch right open and cried, 'Ida!'.
'Hetty?!' came the bewildered but joyful response.
Gracie-Starr Guest, age 9
Hetty jumped down, running to Ida. She grasped her in a tight hug, looking at her lovingly and with relief. Tabitha and Toby exchanged uncertain glances. Tabitha scrambled down, her arm throbbing, Toby followed her lead. The kitchen had some old wooden counters, a rickety iron stove and a staircase leading to what Tabitha assumed was a pantry.
‘Hello! Did matron put you in the tench?’ said a concerned Ida.
‘Yes, and it was horrible! Tabitha found a trapdoor!’ said Hetty excitedly, ‘but it led to the kitchen’.
‘Ah, well you better get going, matron should be here any minute now’ said Ida, looking over her shoulder worriedly.
‘Okay’ answered Hetty after a moment’s hesitation.
‘Here, follow me’ Ida said shuffling them down the steps, 'in here’. Ida had taken them down to a pantry, filled with baking ingredients and utensils.
‘So, what do we do now?’ wondered Toby looking around the pantry.
‘We eat!’ replied Hetty, taking a cube of sugar from a jar. ‘Want one?’ asked Hetty, offering the jar.
Coralie Spencer, age 11
Checking Matron was not around, Ida lead the shivering children through the kitchen. She took Toby and Tabitha’s ice-cold fingers and shooed the pair into her own bedroom.
Like the rest of the building, the room was quite bleak and bare. It had a few ornaments and a pretty cushion. Bustling back into the room, Ida returned with some broken biscuits.
'Broken biscuits are exactly the same as all the rest', Ida trilled cheerfully. Tabitha would have agreed if she had not had her mouth full of shortbread. There was a silent pause as they all munched the buttery biscuit. At last Hetty broke the silence with her eyes glittering happily.
'I’ve got an idea, why don’t we sneak back to the dormitory without old meanie Matron noticing. She will get a shock!' squealed Hetty as she jumped up and down.
'There is a way, but be careful, it is infested with spiders', warned Ida but Hetty was already jumping up and down on the bed. Quietly, Ida opened a latch in her wardrobe and all the children peered through to see a pale face poking out.
Isabel Ostler, age 10
The room was dark, and they couldn’t see the figure until the wardrobe door opened fully and the figure crouched down to make himself smaller. Hetty couldn’t believe it, it couldn’t be…
‘Gideon?!’ said Hetty, ‘Gideon, is that you?’. The figure nodded and stepped out of the wardrobe. Hetty stroked his face.
‘Who’s Gideon?’ asked Tabitha, ‘and how do you know him?’.
‘He’s my foster brother’, Hetty replied, smiling from ear to ear, ‘we’re the same age, like you two.’
‘Oh,’ said Toby and Tabitha in unison, understanding.
‘Ida, how did he get here?’ Hetty questioned.
‘Well,’ said Ida, looking at Gideon, ‘he won’t talk to me, so all I know is that this morning, I woke up to find him sitting on the floor crying.’
‘Oh Gid, please tell us what happened’, Hetty pleaded.
Gideon sighed and hid in the corner but eventually told the story, ‘I was getting teased so much and I got fed up, I was going to run away but I heard someone coming and ran into the nearest room’. There was a silence whilst Hetty hugged and hugged Gideon.
But before they had time to plan their escape, quiet footsteps approached Ida’s door. Ida's eyes grew wide, before quickly pushing them all into the big old cobwebby wardrobe, which opened up into a dark spidery passageway.
Jessica James, age 13
The passageway was so narrow they felt like they would get squished at any moment. The ceiling was so low they had to go on their hands and knees. The smell of dampness hung in the air. They kept going and soon they started to feel blisters developing on their hands and knees, and their necks became stiff. They were longing to see the door in front of them. It was so dark Toby couldn’t see Tabitha who was only just ahead of him.
'Everyone, I think I can just about see a door!' exclaimed Hetty, scrambling as fast as she could towards it.
The others were in such a hurry to get to the door they bumped into each other and landed in a heap. Hetty could see the door clearer now and reached out to open it. She jumped through hurriedly,
'Come on', she whispered to the others.
They picked themselves up and peeked out of the door to make sure nobody could see them, then quickly climbed out.
They ended up in the corridor near the dormitory. They were just about to walk down the corridor when they heard footsteps. They dived into a corner.
'Matron, when are you going to let the children out of the tench? Haven’t they had enough punishment?' asked Nurse Winterson.
'That was what I was just about to do', replied Matron sounding annoyed.
Tabitha, Toby and Hetty gasped with fear and stared at each other in shock.
Alissa Law, age 10
'B-but why? Why would she do this for us? She hates us, I’m sure of it. It must be a trick, it has to be' Hetty whispered in disbelief. Gideon shushed her and kept on listening intently to the conversation.
'Why are you shocked, Winnie? They can’t stay in there forever, you know. As if I would let them!' Matron demanded, eyebrows raised, more than slightly offended.
Liar! Hetty mouthed to Ida, who nodded.
Nurse Winterson quickly tried to conceal her bewilderment and blushed, looking rather embarrassed.
'I am so, so sorry if you took offence, Matron. I am not surprised; I am in fact delighted. Do let them out now so they can be ready for breakfast in a few hours. Well then, goodbye!'.
And with that, Nurse Winnie hurried across the creaking floorboards, re-adjusting her snow-white cap and smoothing out the creases in her matching pinafore and apron. She clearly wanted to be out of Matron’s company as soon as possible. Tabitha and Toby stared at each other as if their eyes were saying: ‘What now?’ Ida peered at the four children that were temporarily in her care anxiously. The only option they had was to watch Matron and what she would do. She marched through the hallway furiously.
Jenny England, age 10
Questions flooded Hetty’s head: should they go back, is another of her adventures worth an angry matron. Despite her thoughts, Hetty, as always, chose the most daring option, which was a chance to get back at Matron, her enemy.
She immediately sprang into action, calling the others after her. Before they reached their dormitory, they were once again interrupted by a faint whimpering. The children searched the corridor curiously. All was forgotten of their little plan and they each were in their own worlds. What was it? That sound. Having covered a large distance, it was Tabitha who first saw her. A small fur ball, pure white, cowering on the other side of the window.
‘Guys, come over here!’ Tabitha said.
Hetty was the first to get there and using a solitary hair pin from her pocket, she attempted to pick the window lock. Eventually, it swung open and the dog leapt into Hetty’s arms. It was a cute, little westie. And to the children’s delight, the dog seemed very fond of them. They soon figured it was puppy. The pup had no collar and was obviously abandoned. They huddled together and resolved it was to be checked for an owner anyway, but for the time being they had to keep it; just HAD to. They had already formed such a relationship with the animal that they certainly could not let it go back onto the streets nor give it to any stranger. It had to be kept a secret because it was against the Foundling Hospital rules to keep a pet.
What happened next was quick to do so. They were drowned by darkness. Or at least Hetty thought they all were, but little did she know, it was only her. Her alone. The last thing she saw was Tabitha and Toby’s faces, eyes glistening at their creature that was secretly under their ownership. Then a pain came. It felt like it would go on forever…
Then Hetty woke up. She felt drowsy at first, then after a few moments she opened her eyes as quick as she could muster. Where was she? She could see around her a familiar place. The infirmary. But why? What had happened? She suddenly realised there was something soft and fluffy in her arms providing her with warmth. The little puppy that she had seen not so long ago was there, still there with her. They were both clutching onto each other, thoroughly enjoying the long, long hug.
Then Nurse Winterson entered the room and immediately approached Hetty. ‘Don’t worry, I’m in on your secret', she said, staring down at the puppy.
Kate Rowsell Ryan, age 10
'What happened?' Hetty gasped. 'Where’s Tabitha?'
'Don’t worry, Hetty,' Nurse Winterson answered in a warm tone. 'Tabitha is in with the rest of the girls having her breakfast.'
'Oww! Oww! Oww!' Hetty screamed frantically. As she held her chest. 'I can hardly breath. What’s happening? Oww!'
The tiny puppy seated on Hetty’s chest started to whine at the sight of Hetty’s pain.
'Oh dear, oh dear,' Nurse Winterson cried wringing her pale, worn hands. 'I shall call for the doctor. Oh, and I will fetch Tabitha to come and get your dog.'
Tilly Simm, age 9
While she was gone, Hetty brought the puppy closer. Its chocolate brown fur brushed against her face giving her a warm tingle. The puppy’s cute soft ears pricked up making Hetty and the nurse smile and gently giggle. The dogs warm chocolate eyes widened as she heard the distant rattle of children eating their food in the refectory. Their eyes lit up. Hetty’s clear turquoise eyes met the dogs warm chocolate brown eyes and that’s when it clicked, the dogs name should be ‘Chocolate’.
Kate Rowsell Ryan, age 10
As quick as a shot a flustered looking Tabitha rushed into the room, still fixing her faded, mustard, ugly cap, and scooped up the worried little puppy and found a neglected and worn potato sack to hide it in. A few minutes later a stout, plump man waddled into the flickering light of the room. He was wearing a blue velvet suit, had a blue bowler hat perched on top of his head, an expensive looking pair of half moon spectacles, and was carrying a smooth willow cane. The man’s eyes were warm and welcoming, yet his smile was not, it seemed he had forgotten to smile, like someone might forget to wash their hands. Matron was following. Her grey bun pulling her back into a pinched twist, but she looked sincerely worried, her strict act was as clear as glass to Hetty. Hetty smiled at the thought of Matron being worried about her. Did she secretly like all of the children? Matron cleared her throat in such an imperious manner it snapped Hetty out of her suspicions. The smartly dressed man sat himself on the end of the springy but uncomfortable bed and took a marvellous, golden pocket-watch out of his waistcoat. He peered at it before tucking it back in his pocket as though he was running out of time.
'Thirty minutes,' he muttered in a surprisingly low voice. There was a thunderous slam as Matron closed the large, heavy oak door.
'Well. Hello. My name is Doctor Wellston. What’s your name?' the doctor asked in a kindly tone 'I’m Hetty Feather,' Hetty said in a sad peepy voice, which is not how she would normally speak. After quarter of an hour or so of trying tests, the doctor went out for a chat looking as worried as a rat being chased by cats. A few minutes later he came back with Matron, both looking upset. 'Hetty,' the young Doctor said in a painful way. 'You have… you have…' 'What?' interrupted Hetty anxiously. 'You have asthma. You’re going to have to go to the countryside for treatment.'
Amy Lee Jefferis, age 11
'Asthma?' Hetty whispered more to herself than to anyone else, but she still got a reply. 'Yes, we’re very sorry,' said Doctor Wellston, 'We will pack your bags for your journey, on Thursday, in two days time, okay?'
Hetty nodded, not knowing if she was excited or terrified. She had always loved adventures, always been daring, ready to try new things.
'What about my friends and the dog?' Hetty snapped her mouth shut, realising what she just said.
'Dog?' Matron’s expression hardened.
Nurse Winterson stepped in. 'She must be speaking nonsense, right Doctor? Maybe she’s confused with a dream she had while resting.'
'Yes Winterson,' replied Doctor Wellston, who didn’t seem to be listening, who was looking at his pocket watch.
Delilah Kane, age 8
'Surely there is somewhere closer that has available treatment?' asked Matron.
Hetty squeezed Tabitha’s hand so tightly that both the girls’ fingers went white. 'I’m afraid there isn’t.' replied Doctor Wellston. 'And country air is much better for asthma.' He added slowly.
'So I won’t be able to see Hetty again?' asked Tabitha nearly in tears.
'Hetty will be coming back to the Hospital, when her asthma settles down a bit.' Doctor Wellston answered.
Tabitha was not a successful needlewoman but, even so, she tried very hard to stitch a parting gift for Hetty. She eventually managed to sew a lumpy heart with a wobbly ‘Hetty’ embroidered in the middle. Finally, it was the night before Hetty was leaving for the country and Tabitha was sobbing bitterly into her pillow. Hetty had been kept in the infirmary for the past few days. Tabitha barely slept that night and when she did sleep she dreamed that she never saw Hetty again…
'Hetty, wake up Tabitha wants to see you.' Nurse Winterson murmured softly. When Hetty properly woke up, Tabitha shyly handed her the shabby heart.
'I love it so much!' exclaimed Hetty 'Look after Chocolate while I’m away.'
'Come on, Hetty dear there is a cab waiting outside; I shall come with you. said Nurse Winterson wrapping Hetty up in an old, brown blanket over her thin nightie.