To make sense of this you will need to read
Waving Flags – Part 3
The Iron Duke, Wellington, arrived with a haughty demeanour one would naturally associate with the greatest living Englishman. He inspected the Rocket, prodded wheels and tubes with his riding crop and asked questions of its construction, nature and performance to the nervous pairing of Locke and Stephenson.
After satisfying his curiosity and perhaps allaying some of his nerves, The Duke and his retinue retired down the platform to their specially prepared carriage. The crowds of people cheered such a grand presence, Napoleon’s conqueror no less, in their shabby town of Manchester, although one or two expressed regret that the Prime Minister was not wearing his medals. For his part Wellington graciously raised his riding crop to his hat to accept the adoration.
Locke signaled to William. Now was the time.
“All Clear. All Clear! Those journeying to Liverpool should all board now!” he shouted. He and Arnold, the would be assassin, pushed the crowds away from the train and carriages to allow Wellington to make safe passage.
Once the Duke was safely aboard, William unfurled his flag and waved it energetically in the manner he had hoped. Stephenson standing on the footplate with the suddenly energetic Edmonds, gave him the thumbs up. The Rocket’s whistle produced a shrill blast, causing the crowds to draw breath. Once more steamed spewed from all the machine’s orifices as she began to slowly peel away from the platform.
William realized that he had waved them off with his Red Flag, when he had intended to use Green. In the excitement he had got mixed up. A small point to most, but to a man as fastidious as William something for him to brood upon at home that night.
Locke had noticed to. He shook his head at William. There would be a reckoning.
Slowly the carriages passed by. Wellington and William caught each other’s eye. There was a look of palpable fear on the great man’s face, not even the threat of defeat at Waterloo had caused such a base fear in him as the fear of being hauled hauled by this ghastly traction contraption, conceived, designed and built by Northerners.
On iron rails!
William had intended to doff his stove pipe to the Duke, but time, circumstances and the paper lining now made that impossible.
The train was now free of the platform, puffs of steam arose from the Rocket as it chattered and cursed in its mechanical tongue and busied itself with its journey to Liverpool.
The silence of the crowd soon gave way to cheers and roars. Even Ezekiel Pardew, who endlessly preached of the ungodliness to be found in joy let alone happiness cheered to the rafters as the world changed irrevocably in that moment. The moment a train passed from view.
William walked back to the Storeroom, his boots squeaking in accompaniment. This time he remembered to remove his hat before entering.
He was pleased. He had set the first ever passenger train on its way and his flag waving had proved a vital feature of the proceedings. Even if the flag was the wrong colour and the Duke of Wellington looked decidedly off with the whole venture.
Quilley was once again brewing tea.
“Could have bagged him with a single shot. I could have set Ireland free. Tea?”
“Aye,” replied William. He sat, brushed a piece of stray cotton from his hat and flicked the piece of bacon still stuck between his teeth.
It had been a special day.
I hope you enjoyed the story. Here is a song called…..Waving Flags – by British Sea Power – who are brilliant!