The two girls Grace and Charlotte stood watching, fascinated by what they were seeing. Grace put her hand over her mouth to stop herself crying out. She knew as young as she was that she needed to keep quiet for both their sakes. They were hiding in a small alcove. If necessary, they could move further in, if one of the two men were to turn round.
The men had their backs to the two girls. They didn't want to be seen or it could get reported to the Peelers.
The fight that was taking place was quite common at this time. This particular fight was because one man thought the other was stealing his job. They both worked in shipping but that morning at the docks, one of the men was not given any work, the boss having preferred the other.
They were struggling as the fight became more serious, "Get off me mate, you're strangling me." He struggled, trying to loosen the man's grip around his throat, but to no avail. The more he struggled the tighter it got.
"What makes you think I'm gonna loosen my hands? Why would I even want to? It's your fault. You shouldn't have taken my job off me."
"It wasn't my fault, the gaffer chose me over you."
"Oh yeah? Everyone knows the bribery that goes on. How much did you pay to get the work?"
The hands around his neck tightened, "Lying isn't going to help, you know. You won't get away with it. You chose to mess with the wrong person."
"I told you they called me fair and square."
Grace managed to stifle a cry as one of the men turned sideways and she identified the man as their father. It wasn't unusual for their dad to get into fights. He was known for being a bully and troublemaker and if he made up his mind about something, he didn't give up easily. It was perfectly normal for his wife and children to be covered in bruises due to being handy with his fists.
On this occasion, it appeared he hadn't been given work and he was blaming one of the other labourers.
"I don't like this," whispered Grace.
"Shh, you don't want them to see us."
There was quite a gang of men gathered around them now making it difficult for the girls to see. The men were trying to break up the fight but to no avail. It continued with the victim starting to squeak but couldn't any long get the words out. His eyes were starting to bulge out of his head and his arms flailing.
Grace could bear it no longer and rushed forward, crying, "Stop it, daddy, stop it."
He stopped for a moment, loosening his grip slightly. "What are you doing here?" he snarled.
Charlotte pulled Grace backwards saying, "What do you think you are up to? Do you want him to give us a hiding when he gets home?"
"He doesn't need an excuse," said Grace. The tears were now running down her face. She was highly sensitive and hated violence of any sort. It only made things worse for her at home, though. If she cried, it made their father worse.
Part of Charlotte hoped their father would kill the other man, it might get him locked away or even better hanged. Anything to keep them safe.
It was at that moment they heard the whistles. The Peelers were on their way alerted by the nearby public house.
"What have we here then," said one of them as they took hold of the fighting men to pull them apart.
"Glen, it's you! Now why doesn't that surprise me? Have you beaten your wife and kids up recently?"
Glen said nothing. He just glared at the flaming Peeler who was holding him firmly.
"I think the best thing is if we take you down the station. It will do you good to cool off in the jail for a while."
Charlotte and Grace breathed a sigh of relief. They and their mother would be safe for a while at least.
Their mother on hearing the news knew better, it would only make things worse when he did return home. It always did.