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Richard Clayton Harwick’s Story

Richard Clayton Harwick    

Richard seemed like an impulsive person, driven by emotions, rather then thinking or sound judgement.  When his mother remarried o a priest, Reverend Coldstone, after his father died, Richard and the Reverend could not get along.

Richard was not very tough as when he was sent away to Mordanger School, he could not prevent himself from being  ‘bullied and beaten’

He was also not tough enough to withstand the discipline of the school and talked about freezing in the cold and starving. He must have had a very easy life at Harwick Hall when his father was still alive.

Richard had a hobby which he engaged in when troubled. This was carving wooden cows which he would make for his sister Charlotte.

Richard’s solution to suffering and injustice was to run away. He ran away to sea and became a cabin boy on a ship. His action seemed immature because as the characters in the short stories pointed out in the end everyone lost. As Pixie commented, ‘… no one should make decisions that would change the lives of everyone around them without thinking about it for a long time.’

Richard also showed that he was stubborn and inflexible. Even knowing that his mother and sister were terribly unhappy over his disappearance and that they spent a lot of money in trying to look for him, Richard’s heart did not soften and he did not attempt to get in touch with his family. He chose to remain estranged from them.

However, Richard was hardworking and able and made a good career at sea rising to become a ship’s captain.  He often came back and would watch his house and its goings on, but did not go in.

Years later, when his mother had died and his sister Charlotte had married and gone to live with her husband, he came home to an empty house. He found his sister’s letter to him, and he realised he had to make a decision – whether to stay and undo the harm he had done and be united with his family and take over his family home, or run away again so that he did not have to face the consequences of his running away.

Unfortunately, like the irresponsible person that he was, he chose to run away again. But in so doing, he would forever be alone. He did not have a family. This was the price he paid for running away.

Richard’s character taught us not to make decisions that hurt other people. It also taught us to be more sacrificing and put up with hardship for the good of everyone and to keep the family united.


Charlotte was Richard Clayton Harwick’s sister. ‘Fond and loving’, she had a difficult time trying to please everyone. She was caught between her warring brother and the Reverend Coldstone, her stepfather. She was careful not to seem to be taking sides.

A sensible girl, she made the best of her situation and managed to get along with her stepfather. Richard thought that she betrayed their father by getting along with Coldstone and that she had betrayed their father’s memory ‘You have forgotten how things used to be. You have forgotten our father!’

But being the sensible person that’s sh was she explained to Richard, “Just because life has dealt us one hard blow, there is no reason for us to be unhappy forever.”

Unlike Richard, she could put other people’s happiness and welfare beore her own. For this reason, she entered into a loveless marriage because the man was rich. The man had promised that he would continue the search for her brother Richard.

She thought family was important and that was why she did not cease her efforts to find Richard. Indeed, Charlotte was an exemplary character and one that we readers can emulate, i.e. become a model to follow.

Lillith Harwick

She was Richard’s mother, Lily or Lillith, who married again after Richard’s father died.

Unfortunately, she did not have good judgement and married the wrong man. 

She was weak and allowed her new husband to treat her children badly and send Richard to boarding school.

She disappointed Richard who thought she should have put her foot down and not let him be ill-treated by her new husband. She should have defended them when the Reverend called him ‘wild’ and Charlotte ‘giddy’. Instead she all she did was to ‘lower her eyes and look away’ and plead a headache.

Richard told  us that ‘I believe she is a traitor to my father’s memory.’ He also thought that if he left she would ‘…learn to live without me as promptly and easily as has learned to live without our dear father.’

She did love Richard and when Richard ran away, she spent a lot of money trying to find him, but by then it was too late as he did not want to be found.  Perhaps like most women who lost their husbands and remarried, she did not realise how much her son was suffering.

Richard’s mother died of heartbreak when Richard could not be found inspite of all her efforts and the money spent.

Reverend Coldstone    

He was Richard’s wicked stepfather, a disciplinarian, strict and cold-hearted. His name reflected the type of peson he was – hard, and unloving, with a heart of stone.

He wore black clothes. Black usually denote an evil person.

He tended o get angry fast and these ‘flashes of anger’ could be seen in his ‘ice-blue eyes’.

He had a sharp voice.

He was unscrupulous and cunning. He took advantage of Mrs Harwick’s vulnerable state when her husband died and got her to marry him. His role was after all to mister to the sick and to comfort those who had lost a loved one. But he married Mrs Harwick - most probably for her status and wealth.

The Reverend quickly got rid of Richard by sending him away to a terrible school. There Richard was treated badly by the teachers and bullied by the other pupils. This showed that he was really heartless and cold.

When Richard ran away, Coldstone was very angry when his mother spent a lot of money to find him and he was always protesting to her. When she died, he stopped all searches as he did not want money to be spent on the search for him.

Reverend Coldstone was an evil character in the novel as he was cruel to Richard and caused everyone a lot of unhappiness.

Mr. Digby   

Gardener at the Harwick Hall.


Maid at the Harwick Hall. She was sympathetic to Richard and would often give him food to make him feel better.


The characters of Claudia, Colin, Ralph and Pixie will be described under the respective short stories below.

Mr. Plumley    
A staff of the school who accompanied the children to Old Harwick Hall

Miss O‟ Dell    
The school teacher who selected the five children to spend the night at Harwick Hall because their forms were the only ones with a tick in one column.


Claudia’s Story: Green Pyjamas



Claudia was described as steady and sensible.  She did not get along well with her stepmother at the beginning and made life difficult for her stepmother Stella in a way out of a sense of loyalty for her mother. This tells us how difficult it was for children of divorced families to behave in way so as not offend either of their parents.

Later on Claudia saw how Stella was suffering from the cold treatment of her father’s friends, and she felt sorry for her. She stepped in to help Stella and from that time on they became friends. This shows us that Claudia had a kind heart. She perhaps behaved badly because she found her situation difficult. She also found herself having to adapt to the changes around her that was not of her choosing.

She was a courageous,often angry girl who could stand up to her father. She could be mean to her stepmother.  To be fair to her, she was probably angry at her situation and angry that her father could have a girlfriend.

She was quite open-minded and flexible and open to change and to admit her mistake. This was when she decided to be friendly towards Stella when she saw her father’s friends ignoring her.

She was willing humble enough to learn a few thing from her stepmother such as how to quilt a bedcover, read maps, change an electric plug and skate.

In the course of the story we could see Claudia maturing and coming to terms with the way things were now. Indeed, she was a sensible girl.


Colin’s Story: The Bluebird of Happiness



He was described as dreamy and inattentive to his lessons which ‘drove all his teachers to despair’. 

A sensitive boy, he took the separation from his stepfafther (whom he looked upon as his own father) very badly. He longed to be reunited with his stepdad and was saving every cent he got so he could go and find him.

His father’s absence affected him so much that he did not pay attention in class. He was always half-asleep in class and this lead into trouble.

He had shared a song with his stepdad called ‘The Bluebird of Happiness’ so much so that he would frequent a skating rink that played that song repeatedly (every forty-five minutes) every day.

Unlike most of the other children, Colin hadn’t come to terms with life without his dad. The reader feels sorry for him and want him to be reunited with his dad, but at the same time we feel that perhaps he should put the past behind him and go forward in his life and enjoy what he had and be happy.

Ralph’s Story: A Tale of Three Stepmothers




He was described as quick-witted and hardworking, easy-going and adaptable. Of his stepmothers, he said, “… none of my stepmothers have even been wicked.”

He had managed to get along with his stepmothers although his brothers George and Edward didn’t which showed that he must have a tolerant, easy-going nature. This could not have been easy for him as all his stepmothers were rather eccentric and had unusual habits and lifestyles which he had to adapt to.

He showed himself to be a responsible and thoughtful boy. Since Flora, his third stepmother who was a bit of a free spirit, was expecting a baby, he was worried that Flora would not make a good mother and his baby half brother might be neglected. Hence, he had arranged to be around a lot more to make sure everything was okay. As he told the other children: “… I’m afraid it’s up to me.”

He showed a hopeful, optimistic outlook as he was looking forward to the future and the new baby.

Ralph was a sensible boy who managed to adapt to his situation and find the good things in it. He had come out of the experience as a more mature and happier person.

Pixie’s Story: The Pains in my Life



She was described as a ‘little firebrand’ as she was fiery and rather fearless and perhaps a bit selfish and self-centred.

She was poor at maths but was said to be a good reader, She was very imaginative as can be seen from the ghost stories she created to frighten her stepsister Hetty Payne.

She did not try to get along with her father’s new family and she would just escape to her room and only come down at mealtimes.

Her troubles began when Hetty decided she did not want to share rooms with her sister Sophie and moved in with her since her room was free most times apart from the two times a month she visited her father. This was the reason the Paynes  for moving Hetty there.

Unlike Ralph, she was not very tolerant. She hated Hetty’s mannerisms which she stated in very strong ways and she especially hated it when Hetty called her Priscilla: ‘… it  … made me want to creep out of my room and drop a heavy pot plant on her head.’

She hated it when her father took her stepmother’s side when she protested about sharing rooms with Hetty., especially as her father acted as if everything about his new family ‘mattered more’. This was a common grouse we find among these children that their family did not take their feelings and well-being seriously.

Not only did she try to frighten Hetty with ghost stories, she was also  full of tricks like opening the window so that the room was cold so Hetty would think the cold was because of the ghost.

When she tried to drive Hetty out by asking her to help with her maths, Hetty rose to the occasion, did not mind spending time on Pixie, and did actually manage to teach her something so much so she began to do well on her maths. When Pixie tried the semi-silent treatment, it backfired on her as Hetty told her mother which led to a big fight between Pixie and her stepmother. We could see that Pixie was rather spoilt and imature the way she acted with her father’s new family. However, we cannot really blame her as she had found herself in a situation not of her own choosing.

Pixie revealed a soft, vulnerable side inspite of her tough exterior as she burst out crying when she had the showdown with her stepmother Lucy. So she was not really as tough as she made herself out to be. Perhaps the toughness was to hide her inner insecurities. Whatever it was, she showed guts making the reader quite admire her.

Pixie was also flexible and she did change the way she acted around the Paynes so much so that at the end of her story she said, ‘…we’re managing better.’ Hetty went back to sleeping with Sophie and didn’t get on her nerves as much and she in return came down ‘a lot more often’ than she did and ‘try to be sociable’. Her maths had improved so much with Hetty’s coaching that she was to move up a set in her maths class.

Fiery Pixie did also mature with her experience and she was open changing her behavior which showed she was a sensible, rational girl.

Robbo’s Story: Dumpa’s the Problem




Described as soccer-mad and sports-crazy, he was a tolerant boy and quite easy-going as well as mature and responsible. he was determined to make her mother’s relationship with his stepfather Roy work, as he adored his half brother Dumpa and he knew that Dumpa needed his father.

It was not Robbo, but his sister Callie who could not get along with Roy. Roy would tell them what to do and this angered Callie a lot although Robbo was able to take it. Ralph did point out: ‘It was your sister’s story, really’.

Finally, when things reached a boiling point in the household, it was Robbo who suggested that Callie should live with their father. This remedied the situation for everyone concerned. This really showed how mature Robbo was and how sensitive he was to other people’s needs.

Robbo was mature and was determined to find a solution to the tense situation in the house. In a sense, he was the adult in the household as he could think clearly and rationally and was able to weigh the solutions open to them.

The other characters pointed out that Robbo was very  much like Charlotte in Richard Harwick’s story.

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