Milking the Milky Way

A strange tale…

Milking the Milky Way

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Adaption of H. G. Wells’s The Treasure in the Forest (Ch6) Final chapter

Hooker put the gold back onto the shirt. He was very afraid now. He did not want to be alone in the forest with his sick friend. He was far from help and nobody knew about his trip with Evans to the island. Hooker looked at his friend. He could not carry both the gold and Evans. He began to put gold on the shirt. The gold was heavy, so he did it slowly. He lifted the last piece of gold and something hurt his finger. He looked at his hand. There was a thorn in it and there was blood on his fingers. The thorn was two centimetres in length*. It was long and thin – like a tooth.

Suddenly, Evans cried loudly and fell onto the grass.

Hooker’s mouth dropped open. He looked at the thorn in his finger. He looked at Evans. Evans’s body shook and he cried out in pain. Hooker looked at all the trees, bushes and the big white flowers. He thought about the Chinaman’s body and looked again at Evans. He remembered the map, the marks at the bottom of it and the Chinese writing. At that time, he couldn’t understand the marks. But now he understood.

The marks were the shape* of the thorns.

‘Oh, help me!’ Hooker said quietly.

`Evans!’ cried Hooker. But Evans was quiet. His eyes were open, but they did not move.

Hooker put his finger into his mouth and sucked* his finger hard. But it was too late. He felt pain in his hands, arms and neck and he couldn’t move his fingers. He sat down. The forest was silent*. He thought about Chang Li’s smiling face. He looked at Evans’s body and then looked up. A little wind moved through the trees. From one of them, a big white flower fell down and landed* on the ground in front of him.

Pain shook his body.

His death was quick.

Adaption by


length – how long something is from end to end

shape – how something looks, its appearance

sucked – pulled something into the mouth

silent – without any sound, soundless, completely quiet

landed – fell, dropped, reached the ground

Treasure in the Forest (Ch5)

‘What are you afraid of?’ Evans asked. Suddenly, he was very angry with Hooker.

‘I am going to bury* the body,’ said Hooker.

‘Leave it!’ Evans said and he put more gold onto the shirt. ‘Help me carry this; forget about the body.’

Hooker still looked at the body. ‘He is so similar to*…’

‘Don’t be stupid,’ said Evans. ‘It is not him. Now, do you want the gold or not?’

Hooker didn’t hear Evans. The face of the dead Chinaman reminded* him of Chang-Li’s. ‘But his face and his mouth… is he smiling?’ Hooker looked around the forest and up at the trees. He looked at the big white flowers. He looked back at the body. He felt cold in the warm forest, and he felt very far away from home.

‘What’s the matter with you?’ Evans asked.

Suddenly, Hooker jumped into the hole. ‘Nothing! Let’s get the treasure out of this hole and then we can go home.’

‘Good!’ said Evans. He smiled. But then he put his hand on his forehead*. ‘I don’t feel well. My arms and neck hurt.’

‘Perhaps it’s the heat,’ said Hooker.

‘Perhaps,’ said Evans. After a minute, Hooker took his hand away from his forehead. Then together the two men pulled the shirt with the gold on it out of the hole.

When the gold was out of the hole, Hooker looked at Evans. ‘Do you want to go to the boat or bury the gold on the island?’ he asked.

‘To the boat,’ said Evans.

They picked up the gold and began to walk. But the gold was very heavy.

‘Stop!’ said Evans after a few minutes. ‘I must rest*.’

They put down the gold, and Evans sat down. His face was white and sweat* ran down it. ‘It is too warm in this forest,’ he said; and then suddenly with much anger: ‘Come on, Hooker, let’s go!’ He stood up quickly. ‘Come on!’ he said again, and they began carrying the shirt with the gold in it. They carried it for another minute. But then Evans stopped and dropped the shirt again. This time, some gold fell onto the ground.

‘What is the matter?’ Hooker asked.

Evans looked but said nothing. Rivers of sweat ran silently down his face.

‘Are you okay?’ Hooker asked and went towards his friend.

‘Don’t come near me!’ Evans cried and went and stood against a tree.

Again Hooker went to help his friend.

‘Don’t touch me,’ Evans said in a quiet voice. ‘Put the gold back on the shirt.’

‘What’s the matter?’ Hooker asked, afraid.

‘Put the gold back on the shirt and let’s go,’ said Evans.

 Adapted by


bury – put under the ground

similar to – alike, not different

reminded – made you think about again, helped remember

forehead – front part of the head above the eyes

rest – not work, not move, relax

sweat – liquid that helps cool our bodies


Our adaption of Robin Hood is coming soon…

Our adaption of Robin Hood, published by Helbling, is coming soon. Written for lower-level learners, it is an exciting reworking of Howard Pyle’s classic story. Here is one of the editors at Helbling, Fran Mariani, working on the final touches to the manuscript.


Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 09.55.37

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Treasure in the Forest (Ch4)

Evans and Hooker walked slowly forwards*. It was a body. It lay behind the bushes, face down in the grass. Evans bent down and looked closely at the dead man’s face. He turned him over.

‘Who is he?’ Hooker asked.

‘I don’t know….He was a Chinaman,’ Evans said.

‘How long ago did he die?’ Hooker asked.

Evans looked at the Chinaman. His face was black and purple. ‘Perhaps a month,’ said Evans. Beside the body, there was a shovel*. Evans looked to his left and saw lots of dirt* and a big hole in the ground. ‘Is the treasure near here?’ he asked himself. He looked up. ‘There are the three palm trees,’ he said quietly.

‘What?’ Hooker asked. He didn’t hear his friend. He came forward and looked at the Chinaman’s body. `Did he find the treasure?’ he wondered*. `Is it still here?’ Then he saw the hole and he ran to it. `Evans,’ he called, `come here! Come and see!’

Evans walked towards Hooker.

‘The treasure is all still here,’ said Hooker. ‘Look!’

Evans looked. Hooker was right; here was all the treasure. He jumped down into the bottom of the hole. In the dirt under his feet, he saw yellow gold bars*. He touched the pieces of gold with his fingers.

‘Ouch!’ Evans looked at his hand. A little thorn* was in his finger. He pulled out the thorn and cleaned the dirt off the gold bar. ‘Only gold is so heavy,’ he thought.

Hooker frowned*.

`What is the matter?’ Evans asked.

`I don’t know,’ said Hooker. ‘I don’t like it.’

‘What do you not like?’

‘That dead Chinaman,’ said Hooker. `Why is he alone? Why is the treasure still in the hole?’

‘He was alone,’ said Evans angrily.

`Then, why is he dead?’

‘A snake bit him or he was ill or…’ Evans stopped. ‘Oh, I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. We are rich!’ He was sick of Hooker’s anxiety. He took off his shirt and put three gold bars on top of it. `Oh!’ he suddenly cried.

Another thorn was in his finger.

Adapted by



forwards – to move ahead, to move in the direction that you are facing

shovel – a spade, a tool for digging holes

dirt – earth, soil

wondered – considered, thought about, pondered

bars – blocks (of chocolate, gold, silver…)

frowned – make a face that shows you are angry or puzzled

anxiety – nervousness, worry, fear




Treasure in the Forest (Ch3)

‘There are three palm trees in the forest,’ said Hooker. ‘When we find the three trees, we can find the treasure.’

‘Is it far?’ Evans asked. He looked at the beach.

Do you see the river?’ Hooker said and pointed* a finger. Evans said yes. ‘Somewhere near the river, deep in the forest, there are three palm trees,’ said Hooker. ‘They are next to some bushes* and the treasure is not far from there.’

Evans’s mouth was dry. He looked at the river. ‘Hurry,’ he said. ‘I am very thirsty.’

Hooker paddled* their boat quickly and soon they were at the river. They went under the trees and up the river. After a few minutes, Evans put his hand into the river and took a drink of cold, clean water. ‘Ahhh,’ he said and closed his eyes. ‘This is good water.’

Hooker smiled and drank too.

When they finished drinking, they lay inside their boat and rested.

‘I don’t want to go in the sun again,’ Hooker said. ‘I could lie here all day.’

‘We must go look for the treasure,’ said Evans.

Hooker filled a bottle with water and they started paddling down the river. Soon they arrived at the sea again. Both men got out the small boat and pulled it onto the beach.

Evans pointed at the thick trees and bushes. ‘We must go in there.’

Hooker put his hand inside the boat and lifted up a big knife. ‘We can use this knife to cut a path.’

The two men started cutting at the thick bushes. It was dark under the thousands of trees. ‘It feels cold in here after the hot sun,’ said Evans.

‘We must push through these bushes and find the river again,’ said Hooker. ‘The palm trees are near the river.’

So the men cut a path through the forest. They cut down bushes and they cut down big, white flowers in front of them. The men did not know their names. `Perhaps, we are the first people to find these flowers,’ said Hooker.

‘Perhaps,’ said Evans. ‘Let’s move on – the river can’t be far.’ He was not interested in the flowers. He only wanted the treasure.

It was hot thirsty work, but after a while they heard the noise of water.

‘The river!’ Hooker said.

‘At last,’ said Evans.

The men hurried towards the river, but Hooker stopped suddenly.

‘What is that?’ he said.

Evans looked.

There was someone or something behind the bushes.

Adaption by 



pointed – directed someone’s attention to a particular area, make sure someone looks at something

bushes – a plant, a little like a small tree perhaps

paddled – moved through water using a paddle



Our new book – The Albatross

If you enjoyed some of our stories, you may like our new story, The Albatross, just published by Helbling.

Here is a short description of it:

Levy, an old Greek sailor, takes on his last job and discovers that the cargo on board is not what he expected. Molly, an American teenager, finds a body on the beach when she is walking her dog. What happens when Levy tells the captain about his discovery? Why does the body on the beach disappear? And how are Levy and Molly connected?

It is suitable for high-intermediate readers and you can buy it on Amazon and other on-line retailers.

We hope you will enjoy it.






Summer holidays

See you in August when we re-start our adaption of Treasure in the Forest.

Enjoy your summer.

Adaptation of H. G. Wells’s Treasure in the Forest (Ch2)

Evans sat in the boat with his eyes half closed. Slowly, the beach grew nearer and nearer. It was noon and the sun was at its hottest. They were near the treasure* but Evans was not excited: he was very tired. ‘I am so tired,’ he thought, `I did not sleep in this boat last night. I need to rest.’

He thought of the treasure and of all the gold. One night a Chinaman told them all about the island, the map and the treasure. He wanted to remember that terrible night but he couldn’t: all he could think about was his dry mouth, the river and a cold drink of water. The sea moved slowly up and down, forward and back. Evans moved in the boat with it. The sea and its noise sounded good. Soon, his eyes closed and he fell asleep.

Evans had a dream about the treasure and Chang-Li.

In the dream, it was night and he and Hooker were in the forest. They wanted to find someone or something. Just then, through the trees, they saw a little fire. Three Chinamen sat around it and talked in quiet voices. The light form the fire lit up the men’s faces. They spoke in English and Hooker heard their words first. He looked excited. He told Evans to go closer. Evans did. Some things Evans understood, some he did not. Chang-Li took the gold from the galleon and hid it carefully on the island. He worked alone and it was his secret, but now he wanted help to get the gold back and gave the Chinamen a map… a fine story for two poor Englishmen to hear. Now the dream changed and Evans saw Chang-Li’s face. At first, it was friendly but then it changed. He became afraid: very, very afraid. Evans saw his own hands around Chang-Li’s neck; Chang-Li cried ‘No!’ and ‘Please!’ over and over again. Then, there was silence. Now all Evans could see was the gold – great big mountains of it. Suddenly Chang Li’s eyes opened and he smiled. Evans’s hands were still around his neck. ‘Evans…’ said Chang-Li, ‘Evans, you fool*, you fool…’

‘Evans… Wake up you fool!’

It was Hooker.

Evans was asleep. He opened his eyes again. They were nearly at the beach.



*treasure – a collection of valuable items (often hidden)

*galleon – an old type of ship

*crew – people on a ship

*fool – idiot



New Story: Adaptation of H.G. Wells’s The Treasure in the Forest (Ch 1)

The island in front of the two men was green with trees and mountains climbed high into the sky. The men in the boat paddled* closer. They could see a beach. It was empty. The sun was hot and the men were thirsty. They wanted to find a river. They needed fresh* water to drink.

One of the men, Evans, said: ‘It is somewhere in there, in the forest*.’

The other man at the front of the boat, Hooker, looked at the beach, the forest and the island closely. A yellow piece of paper sat on his legs.

‘Come and look at this,’ Hooker said.

Evans came along the boat until he could see the paper. The paper looked like a map*. It was old and yellow. There was a drawing of an island on it, but the pencil lines were faint*.

Both men spoke quietly: their mouths were dry with thirst.

‘Look,’ said Evans, ‘here is the beach and the forest and here are the mountains.’ He ran his finger over the paper. It followed the river across the island. ‘I could do with a drink now,’ he said and ran the back of his hand over his mouth. ‘We can get a drink of cold water from the river.’

‘And look at this,’ said Hooker. ‘The blue star on the map is the place. We can follow the river. It goes into the forest; then it goes to the blue star. That is the place! We must be careful. We mustn’t get lost.’

‘Strange,’ said Evans, ‘but those marks* down at the bottom of the map are unusual. They look like glass or teeth. They point this way and that. What are they? And what is that writing? ‘

‘I don’t know about the marks – but the writing is Chinese,’ said Hooker.

‘Of course – he was Chinese,’ said Evans.

‘They all were,’ said Hooker.

Both men sat quietly and looked at the island. The boat moved slowly towards the beach. Evans looked at his paddle. ‘Your turn to paddle now Hooker,’ he said.

Hooker quietly put the map away in his pocket and took the paddle from Evans. He was tired but he kept going. He needed water badly.



*paddled – used an oar to move a boat forward

*fresh – not old, not seawater

*forest – many trees

*map – a diagram that shows where places are

*faint – not strong, difficult to see or hear

*marks – lines, figures or symbols


Adaption of H. G. Wells’s The Red Room (Chapter 5)

Darkness; everything was black. I tried to see. There was nothing but cold, black shadows. Something moved. What was it? Did the shadows move? I let out a scream*. I tried to stand up. I waved* my arms around me. Again I saw something move and I screamed again. Was that a whisper*? I gave out a cry and ran to the door. I had to get away.

In the dark, I hit the bed. I ran around in the dark. I hit the table and the chair. I cried out again and again. Then I hit my head…

I opened my eyes. It was day and I could see the sun through the window. The old man from downstairs sat by my bed. He watched me closely. The old lady with the yellow teeth was there too.

`What happened?’ I asked. ‘I remember you but that is all.’

`We found you in the morning,’ said the old man. ‘There was blood* on your head.’

Very slowly, I remembered my night in the red room of Lorraine Castle.

`Now do you think there is a ghost in the room?’ asked the old man.

`Yes, ` I said, `the room is haunted*.’

`Did you see it?’ the old man asked. ‘Tell us… who was it? Who is the ghost? Is it the young Duke?’

`No,’ I said, `it is not.’

`Ha!’ said the old woman, `it is the wife, she died in her bed… `

`No, ` I said, `it is not her. There is no ghost of the wife or the Duke in the room. It is not a ghost. It is worse, much worse, than that.’

`What is it then?’ the old woman and man asked.

`It is the worst thing, ` I said. `I could not see it but it was with me in the corridor upstairs and it was with me in the room. ` I looked out the window. `It was darkness and fear.’

`Yes,’ said the old man with the yellow teeth. `I knew it. The dark… it is always there. In the day time it is there. It waits and watches. On a summer’s day in the room, it is there: you can feel it behind you. It has no face or body but you do not want to turn around and see it. It is in the corners at night and behind the curtains*. It lives in this house. It is haunted and that is the room of death.’

I listened to the old man. He was right: I was lucky*. I was lucky to be alive*.



*a scream – a loud, frightened shout

*waved – moved arms (to attract attention or ‘say’ goodbye)

*a whisper – a very quite voice

*blood – the red fluid in our body

*haunted – frequented by a ghost or evil spirit

*curtains – fabric used at windows to block sunlight

*lucky – fortunate

*alive – not dead




Adaption of H. G. Wells’s The Red Room (Ch4)

At midnight, the candle in the corner went out*. I did not see this: I just* turned around and saw the dark corner.

Was it the wind from out in the corridor? I knew it wasn’t. I walked over and lit the candle again with a match*. Just then, I saw something move on the wall, quick and sudden. I turned my head. The two candles on the table were out.

‘Did I do that?’ I thought. ‘Did I move quickly and the candles went out with my movement*?’ I walked back to light them again. When I did, the candle on my right went out and then the one next to it. No smoke came from the candles. At first, I didn’t understand. I stood and looked at them for a minute. Then the candle next to the bed went out.

‘What’s happening?’ I said. Then the candle in the corner went out again and then another*. One by one candles went out and the dark shadows came in.

‘I need these candles,’ I said. Who was I talking to? There was no one in the room. I took out my matches again. I began to light the candles again. I lit the candle in the corner again, but one candle at the window went out. I lit a candle next to the door and the one by the bed. But then four candles all went out at once in all the corners of the room. I lit another match and stood and watched.

Another two candles went out. I let out a cry. I dropped the matches and picked up* a candle. The candle in my hand burned* brightly. This was better: matches were too slow. I ran around and lit the candles in the room with the candle in my hand, but they all went out seconds later. I lit one and another two went out. I ran from candle to candle, corner to corner; and all the time, the darkness and shadows closed in on me. Now I was afraid.

I could not see. I ran and hit my leg on the table and fell. I let go of my candle and it went out. I stood up and got another. I turned around quickly and the candle went out again. Just then, the last two candles in the room went out. Now the only light in the room came from the fire. I moved towards the fire with my candle ready – and the fire went out too.



*went out – stopped shining, extinguished

*just – only, simply

*a match – a short, thin piece of wood for lighting fires

*movement – action

*another – one more

*picked up – held in one’s hand and raised

*burned – was aflame




Adaptation of H. G. Wells’s The Red Room (Ch3)

After I went inside, I turned* and quickly closed the door behind me. There was a key* in the door so I locked* it. I held my candle up and looked around the room. I wanted to see it; the great red room of Lorraine Castle. In this room, a young duke died a long time ago. A young wife died too. She slept in the room and for some fun her husband scared* her in the room. Her fear* was terrible and she died suddenly in bed. I looked around the big dark room with all its shadows and dark windows… Was it all true? Might I get a ghostly visit tonight?

I walked around the room and took my little light into all the corners of the room. There was an old chair and a bed of course. I sat down on it. It was cold. I got up and went to the big windows. I wanted to see out but all I saw was the black of night. I took off my coat and put it on the chair. There was a mirror and a table. On top of this table were lots of candles. I lit all of these and put them all around the room. `Thank you, some light,’ I said to no one. There was a fire and the room was cold so I lit it and watched the smoke. I wanted the fire on all night. It gave light too. In a dark room you can never have too much light. I turned my back to the fire. It felt warm. I went to my coat and got my gun out from the pocket. I put the gun on the table. I wanted it close to me.

I stood for five minutes and warmedy legs and watchede room. In one corner* of the room it was very dark. I looked into the dark corner and after some time I began to see something there. My eyes began to water*. I moved forward with a candle. There was nothing there. I sat the candle on the floor to light up the corner. I then went back to stand in front of the fire.

Time moved slowly in the room. I got more afraid the longer I stayed in the room. `There are no ghosts,’ I said to the shadows. The shadows didn’t answer. They moved in the candlelight. My eyes moved from left to right and tried to see through the dark. Everywhere I looked I thought I saw something or someone move. `There are no ghosts,’ I said. I thought about the three old people downstairs. I tried to think of them. I could call on them. For what? I did not know. What was there to be afraid of? It was a room and that was all it was.

Just then I remembered. saw candles out in the corridor. I unlocked the door and went out the room. I left the door open and got the candles. There were ten of them. I went back in and put them around the room. `More candles,’ I thought,’ that is better.’ I turned and locked the door again. I now had seventeen candles and I could now see all of the room. ‘No ghost can visit this room. It has nowhere to hide.’



*turned – moved his body around

*key – an object for opening or locking doors

*locked – a door that has been closed with a key

*scared – afraid

*fear – nervousness caused by something that is frightening

*corner – a place where two sides (or walls) meet

*water – to run with tears (perhaps because the person isn’t blinking)

Adaptation of H.G. Wells’s The Red Room (Ch2)

I took a candle* with me into the corridor. It was very dark. The light* from the candle was weak*. I was not happy. I was alone, tired and cold. I could not stop feeling afraid. The old people’s words worried me. I didn’t think it was true. I was not a child. But here – alone in the corridor – the thought of a ghost was very real. I walked up the dark corridor and held the candle in front of me.

The dark was all around me. I could not see the doors to the other rooms. I wanted to get upstairs. Slowly, I put one foot out and took one step at a time. I took my time. The steps up were wooden and made noises when I went up them. There was another corridor upstairs. I knew the red room was on my left – but where?

‘Not far now,’ I thought. I stopped and listened. Did I hear a noise? The dark moved closer to me and the light from the candle nearly went out. I put a hand around it. I could not let it go out. Shadows* moved around in the dark. A noise. I stopped again and listened but there was nothing. I moved on. I was a little afraid now. The dark did it to me. I wanted to sing or talk, to do something to break the quiet. I tried this and very quietly sang a little song. My voice sounded very loud in the dark, quiet corridor. It made me feel more alone and afraid, so I stopped. I moved slowly forward and looked at all the doors. I held my candle up to the doors. I needed to find the door to the red room quickly. Just then, in the dark, a white face looked out at me from the black shadow. I stopped. Was it a ghost? I took out my gun.

‘Who is there?’ I said.

No answer.

Again, I slowly moved forward with my candle. The face came out the shadows but had no body. It was a picture – a picture of an old man’s face on the wall! I nearly laughed and put my gun back in my pocket.

After about a minute, I found the correct door. I stood in the shadows and waited before I opened the door. Why? I do not know the answer. Was I afraid? Perhaps. I stood and looked at the wooden door and did not move. It was a long time before I was ready. Then I opened the door. Here it was: the room of ghosts. Was this true? I was about to find out.

I went into the red room.



*candle – a wax object that we burn in order to get light

*light – brightness, the opposite of dark

*weak – not strong

*shadow – a dark area behind or below an object when the object stands in front of a light




Listening task – what are the missing words? (The Red Room, Ch1)

Listen to this recording of The Red Room (Chapter 1). Some words are missing. Which ones?

Reconstituting the text: The Red Room (Ch1)

Can you fill in the missing words in bold?

‘I tell you,’ I said angrily, ‘there are no ghosts. I do not b. i. them.’ I sat i. f. o. the fire with a glass in my hand. I l. a. the old man and woman. They sat i. f. o. the fire with me and warmed their hands.

‘It is your choice,’ said the old man.

‘I am twenty-eight years old,’ I said, ‘and only children b. i. ghosts.’

The old woman l. i. the fire. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘you are twenty-eight years old but you don’t know anything.’

‘You are trying to make me afraid,’ I said and put my glass down on the table. I s. u. There was a big mirror i. f. o. me. I l. a. the mirror and saw my face. ‘I say again, there are no ghosts.’

The old man l. a. me and I saw the fire in his eyes. ‘That is your choice.’

Just then, the door opened and another old man came in. He walked very slowly and he looked a lot older than his friends. He had no hair and his teeth were yellow. He did not l. a. me. He went and sat in one of the chairs. I watched him s. d. slowly.

‘My husband is right: this has nothing to do with us. It is your choice,’ said the old woman.

‘I know,’ I said. ‘I heard you and I choose to stay. Now please take me to the room, I am tired and I want to sleep.’

‘You can go alone,’ said the old woman. ‘I am not taking you to that room.’

‘All right,’ I said. ‘Where do I go?’

‘The room is upstairs. Go along the corridor and through a door. The red room is o. y. l.,’ said the old man.

‘Goodnight to you all,’ I said but I did not move.

The three of them l. a. me and I did not like the look on their faces. I laughed. ‘I am not going to die tonight. There is no ghost.’

They said nothing.

‘Goodnight,’ I said again and this time I left the room. When I closed the door, I heard the oldest man say something.

I heard him say: ‘Goodbye.’


This task is an adaption of an idea by Leo Selivan. The original article can be found at the British Council website (



The Red Room (Ch1) Prepositions and referents

A. Look at this extract from The Red Room (Chapter 1). Can you complete it the correct prepositions (for example: in, at, on…)


 ‘I tell you,’ I said angrily, ‘there are no ghosts*. I do not believe* _____ them.’ I sat _____ front of the fire with a glass _____ my hand. I looked _____ the old man and woman. They sat in front of the fire with me and warmed their hands.


B. Look at this extract from The Red Room (Chapter 1) and answer these questions

1. Who?

2. What?

3. Who?

4. Whose?

5. Whose?

6. Who?

7. Who?

 ‘I tell you (1),’ I said angrily, ‘there is no ghost*. I do not believe* in them (2).’ I sat in front of the fire with a glass in my hand. I looked at the old man and woman. They (3) sat in front of the fire with me and warmed their (4) hands.

‘It is your (5) choice,*’ said the old man.

‘I am twenty-eight years old,’ I said, ‘and only children believe in ghosts.’

The old woman looked into the fire. ‘Yes,’ she (6) said, ‘you are twenty-eight years old but you (7) don’t know anything.’

Adaption of H.G. Wells’s The Red Room (Chapter 1)

The Red Room by H.G. Wells

Chapter 1

Adapted by


‘I tell you,’ I said angrily, ‘there are no ghosts*. I do not believe* in them.’ I sat in front of the fire with a glass in my hand. I looked at the old man and woman. They sat in front of the fire with me and warmed their hands.

‘It is your choice,*’ said the old man.

‘I am twenty-eight years old,’ I said, ‘and only children believe in ghosts.’

The old woman looked into the fire. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘you are twenty-eight years old but you don’t know anything.’

‘You are trying to make me afraid,’ I said and put my glass down on the table. I stood up. There was a big mirror* in front of me. I looked at the mirror and saw my face. ‘I say again, there are no ghosts.’

The old man looked at me and I saw the fire in his eyes. ‘That is your choice.’

Just then, the door opened and another* old man came in. He walked very slowly and he looked a lot older than his friends. He had no hair and his teeth were yellow. He did not look at me. He went and sat in one of the chairs. I watched him sit down slowly.

‘My husband is right*: this has nothing to do with us. It is your choice,’ said the old woman.

‘I know,’ I said. ‘I heard you and I choose to stay. Now please take me to the room, I am tired and I want to sleep.’

‘You can go alone,’ said the old woman. ‘I am not taking you to that room.’

‘All right,’ I said. ‘Where do I go?’

‘The room is upstairs. Go along the corridor* and through a door. The red room is on your left,’ said the old man.

‘Goodnight to you all,’ I said but I did not move.

The three of them looked at me and I did not like the look on their faces. I laughed. ‘I am not going to die tonight. There is no ghost.’

They said nothing.

‘Goodnight,’ I said again and this time I left the room. When I closed the door, I heard the oldest man say something.

I heard him say: ‘Goodbye.’



*ghost (n) – a dead person’s image

*believe (v) – think that something is true

*choice (n) – make a decision (between alternatives)

*mirror (n) – glass that shows our face

*another (det) – one more

*right (adj) – not wrong

*corridor (n) – part of a house whose doors lead to other rooms


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Halloween is here…

Halloween – the complete story by


Chapter 1

Betty Ramage turned up the volume on her radio. The four o’clock news was about to start and she wanted to hear it. She didn’t have hearing problems, though many people her age did. Instead, the reason for turning up the radio was the noise of the rain. The sky outside the shop’s window had turned dark and ominous* about fifteen minutes ago and now sheets of rain* were hammering against the glass. The sight made her feel cold. She shivered and pulled her cardigan* more tightly to her body. The window rattled*. She doubted that she would see another customer between now and five o’clock, but that didn’t matter. In this small community* in the north of Scotland, it wasn’t unusual for the shop to be empty for hours. All the same, she didn’t like to close early. Betty felt a duty to follow the advertised hours: the sign on the shop door said ‘9-5 Mon-Sat’, so the shop stayed open from 9 till 5, Monday to Saturday.



*ominous – threatening

*sheets of rain – heavy rain

*cardigan – a piece of clothing, like a sweater but with buttons

*rattled – shook noisily

*community – populace, group of people


Chapter 2

The window rattled again. ‘A snell wind,’ thought Betty, enjoying the word. ‘Snell’: severe, grievous, bitter. The word certainly suited: today was not a day for being outside. Outside was cold and wet and miserable*; but inside the shop, the neon lights were shining and a gas heater that sat near Betty’s feet was doing its best to warm the air. She also had a comfy* chair and a supply of tea and biscuits in her little kitchen at the back of the shop. Later, after she had locked the shop’s front door and gone to her apartment upstairs, she would watch ‘Countdown’ on the VCR that her nephew – a lawyer in Inverness – had set up for her. Then, after something light – she didn’t like big meals in the evening – she would settle down and read Poirot again, starting with ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles.’ She liked that sort of thing – puzzles, detective fiction, mysteries – and Christie was the master*. No one could write a mystery like she could.



*miserable – sad, dreary, unpleasant, stormy

*comfy – comfortable

*the master – the expert, the genius


Chapter 3

The sound of Keith Dunlop’s familiar* voice on the radio told Betty that the news was starting. A thought crossed her mind: she hadn’t yet tied all of today’s unsold newspapers into a bundle*. She’d do it after the news. Although it was a small shop, there was always something more to do. Four o’clock already! Today had been a quiet day. The nearest big supermarket was forty miles away, so when people in Craiginver needed milk, bread, rolls, canned food, or newspapers – the basics – they first came to Betty’s shop. Mornings were the busiest time. By the late afternoon, hardly anyone came, though sometimes Mrs Murdoch would pop in* – not to buy anything, but just to have a chat. Betty was glad to have some company. Her husband, Bill, had passed away many years ago – a heart attack. One minute, he was fine and healthy; the next, he was as cold as stone. She missed him. The winter nights were long in northern Scotland…



*familiar – well-known, usual

*a bundle – a group of objects gathered together, often tied together

*pop in – visit someone unannounced, an unplanned visit


Chapter 4

The words of the news report interrupted* Betty’s thoughts.

‘…escaped from police custody* earlier today when the police vehicle that was carrying him was involved in an accident on the B764. The man, John McGovern, is considered* dangerous and the public are warned not to approach* him.’

Betty leaned forward and turned up the radio.

‘McGovern, 47, was arrested last week in connection with the disappearance of Gillian McGovern, his estranged* wife.’

Betty leaned back as the topic of the news report changed. A murderer on the loose* – and so close! The B764 was only thirty miles away. Betty shivered* just as a sudden gust of wind struck the shop. The front door flew open, someone stepped inside and the door closed again.



*interrupted – broke into, brought to an end

*police custody – under arrest

*considered – thought to be

*approach – go near, go towards

*estranged – no longer together, separated from

*on the loose – free

*shivered – shook


Chapter 5

Because she was seated, Betty couldn’t actually see the front door: between her and it stood a row of shelving* that blocked* her view. She rose to her feet, pushed a hair from her face and watched. She could see the top of someone’s head – a man’s – moving down the other side of the shelves towards her. It bobbed* slightly, rising and falling with every step. Shiny and bald, it wasn’t one that she recognized. A moment later, the stranger appeared and stepped towards her. And that’s when the little alarm in Betty’s head began to ring. Something wasn’t right. Something didn’t add up*. It wasn’t his face. No, that wasn’t it. That was bland*, almost expressionless*. It wasn’t the clothes either – though she didn’t get many customers in a three-piece suit*, shirt and tie these days; there was even a handkerchief in his suit pocket, for goodness sake. No, it was something else, something she couldn’t put her finger on*. The little alarm bell was ringing away and she couldn’t think why.



*shelving – shop furniture on which goods are displayed

*blocked – stopped, got in the way, prevented

*bobbed – moved up and down (e.g. like a boat)

*add up – make sense, become understandable

*bland – ordinary, unexceptional, boring

*expressionless – without emotions

*three-piece suit – matching trousers, jacket and waistcoat

*put her finger on – specify, identify (as the cause)


Chapter 6

Good afternoon, can I help you?’ Betty asked. Her voice, she thought, sounded a little frail*. Perhaps she was about to get a cold. No response. Suddenly, it seemed to Betty that she hadn’t spoken, that the sounds – the vowels and consonants she had given birth to – had never existed*. The man was staring at her because she hadn’t spoken. No, that wasn’t right: she had spoken: she had asked a question and he hadn’t answered. What was he waiting for? Betty stared back. The silence endured*. His eyes – pale* and blue, and magnified* by thick lenses – didn’t move from her face; and an image of an insect, a beetle pinned to a specimen board, ran through Betty’s mind. He was still staring, not coldly, just dumbly, when Betty frowned*. She didn’t like it. She didn’t like the little alarm bell that was still ringing in her head; she didn’t like his lack of a return greeting; but most of all, she didn’t like his silent stare. She could feel her heart begin to quicken and it made her resentful*. Who did he think he was? This was her territory: she was the one who woke up at five; she was the one who greeted everyone with a cheery* smile; she was the one who kept the shelves well-stocked with everything that the local community needed. Nobody had the right to frighten her in her own shop. Nobody. She narrowed her eyes. ‘What do you want?’ she asked. That was better. That was a voice that didn’t make her sound like some poor old dear one step away from the grave*.



*frail – fragile, easily damaged

*existed – to have lived, been a part of this world

*endured – continued

*pale – not brightly coloured

*magnified – made larger

*frowned – made a facial expression that shows puzzlement or anger

*resentful – angry because of someone’s thoughtless behaviour

*cheery – cheerful

*a grave – a place of burial


Chapter 7

When he said the word, it made Betty shiver*. Silly, but it did.

‘A shovel.’

‘A shovel?’

‘A shovel.’

Some of the locals still cut peat* from the moor, but they used shovels that had narrow blades. The shovels in Betty’s shop had broad blades – the sort that people bought to clear snow from their paths or dig up their onions and potatoes. ‘You’ll find one there,’ said Betty, nodding* in the direction of a single shovel leaning against the wall, its shaft and blade partially* hidden by the corner of the counter. The man reached over, clamped a hand on the grip and weighed the shovel in his hands. He peered* at the sun-faded price tag. ‘How much?’

‘Forty pounds,’ replied Betty. It wasn’t – twenty was the usual price – but that wasn’t the point. She had increased the price without planning to and she was glad. She didn’t know exactly why, but she wanted him to go, to get out of her shop, to leave. Would the ridiculous* price have the desired* effect? She hoped so. She was waiting for him to put the shovel down when another blast of wind hit the shop front. She glanced outside. For the first time, she noticed a car’s bonnet protruding* past the edge of the shop’s window. A headlight was hanging loose.

‘That’s expensive,’ the man said. His voice was neutral*.

Betty turned and faced him. She wanted to say ‘take it or leave it,’ but that was going too far. Instead, holding his eyes, she settled for a shrug*.

‘It’s a good shovel,’ he said; and holding its neck, he ran a finger along its blade. ‘Must be tidy,’ he whispered. ‘Must be clean.’

What Betty thought next was not the result of a conscious process: he was simply a strange man acting strangely. But as she watched him, as she listened to his hushed, urgent* words, as she stared at his intense, preoccupied* face, the epiphany*, when it came, was sudden and wholly explanatory*. There was no doubt in Betty’s mind.

The man in front of her was George McGovern.



*peat – a kind of fuel

*nodding – moving one’s head up and down to show agreement

*partially – not completely, somewhat

*peered – looked at carefully (because of puzzlement?)

*ridiculous – not realistic, stupid

*desired – wanted

*protruding – sticking out, extending beyond

*neutral – without any particular emotion

*a shrug – a movement of the shoulders to show apathy/uncertainty

*urgent – agitated, emotional

*epiphany – a moment of sudden understanding

*explanatory – helps to explain


Chapter 8

‘Do you take credit cards?’

The question made Betty jump. A murderer was standing in front of her – less than a meter away with a heavy spade in his hand – and he was asking her if she took credit cards! Her mind flew to the little kitchen at the back of the shop. The shop’s phone was in there, sitting quietly next to a tin of digestive biscuits. It might as well be Alaska. And of course she didn’t have a mobile. She couldn’t see the point. ‘If someone wants to speak to me, a phone is good enough.’ How many times had she said that? She could hear herself saying it even now. Silly old woman! But there was no time for all of that. What was she going to do?

‘Yes! Credit cards? Of course, of course.’

She watched him reach inside his jacket pockets: first the right; then the left. He fished out* a wallet.

She was breathing hard but her brain was still working. The key! The key on the inside of the kitchen door. If she could get to the kitchen and close the door quickly, she could lock herself inside while she called the police. She glimpsed* behind her. The door was three meters away at most. The key was definitely in the lock, wasn’t it? She couldn’t see it but it was there, wasn’t it? She hadn’t moved it, had she?

‘Is there something wrong?’

She turned. He, McGovern, was looking at her intently*, his miniscule*, minimized* eyes holding her in their gaze*. He pushed the credit card towards her. She glanced* down at it. She glanced again. The third time, she reached forward and picked it up.



*fished out – pulled out (as one might do with a fish!)

*glimpsed – to see something partially, not completely

*intently – with a great deal of focus/attention

*miniscule – very small

*minimized – made small

*gaze – steady stare

*glanced – a brief or hurried look


Chapter 9

‘Mr Nairn?’


‘Your name is Nairn.’

‘Yes? Is there a problem?’

Betty shook her head. For a moment, no one spoke and Betty felt embarrassed. She brushed a non-existent* hair from her face. It was a nervous habit* of hers.

‘You seem surprised.’

Betty gave a little grunt*. It was true. She couldn’t argue. She had been sure that the strange man in front of her was McGovern; that she was staring into the face of a murderer. ‘I just feel a little…silly. I’m a silly old woman. I really am.’

She smiled but the man did not return it. Instead, his face remained impassive*.

‘Silly? Why?’ he asked.

Betty laughed. ‘Too many Poirot books,’ replied Betty.

The man frowned*.

‘I mean,’ she continued, noticing his puzzlement, ‘I have an over-active imagination.’ She took a deep breath, preparing for the explanation. ‘Before you came in here, there was a report on the radio about someone called George McGovern. He escaped from police custody earlier. They say he murdered his wife – or at least, that’s what I think. She tapped* her temple*. ‘See what I mean? Over-active!’

‘And you thought I was this person?’

Betty nodded. ‘Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?’ She was laughing now. She put the credit card in the machine and made the transaction* request.

‘What made you think that?’

‘Think that you were McGovern?’

The man nodded.

Betty was still smiling. ‘Really, there was no good reason. None at all.’ She had her eyes on the credit card machine. Any second now the authorization* would come through. Any second now, the machine would spit out* the receipt and he would take the pen on the counter and sign it. Any second now.

‘There must have been a reason,’ he said.



*non-existent – not real, having no reality

*habit – an action performed regularly, sometimes without conscious control

*grunt – a form of phatic communication, a sound we can make to show agreement

*impassive – without any emotion (such as fear, anger…)

*frowned – move your eyebrows together to show anger or puzzlement

*tapped – hit gently

*temple – the side of our forehead

*transaction – an example of buying or selling

*authorization – permission

*spit out – eject from one’s mouth


Chapter 10

Betty’s smile began to fade*. The shop’s overhead lights shone in the lenses of the man’s glasses, hiding his eyes. She couldn’t read his thoughts, but the alarm bell in her head was now a siren*. What he had said was not threatening, not the words at least. It was the tone*. It was the unblinking stare. It was the feeling he gave of being absolutely motionless and yet coiled*.

‘Oh!’ cried Betty when the credit card machine spat out its receipt. Betty tore it off. ‘Just sign that,’ she said, sliding the little piece of paper towards him with the tips of her fingers. He reached for the old Bic* and Betty had a brief view of the top of his bald, shining head and the dirty fingernails that gripped the pen. When he straightened and pushed the piece of paper back towards her, Betty glanced at the signatures on the credit card and on the receipt – and wiped an imaginary* hair away from her face. It was just a glance, but that was all it took.

They did not match*.

She looked up. A voice in her head was screaming, telling her not to show it, not to allow the fear that was swelling* up in her brain to seep* through her eyes: but she was already running helter-skelter* through options, she was already in flight from* this murderer. The kitchen? Yes, the kitchen…

‘I have a favour to ask.’

Betty was taken aback. His words seemed to come from another place – one from which she had already mentally escaped. She gawped*. There was no other word for it, and she knew she was doing it. Her mouth fell open and she gawped.



*fade – become less strong, less apparent

*a siren – a very loud danger signal

*the tone – the sound quality

*coiled – twisted (like a snake)

*an arc – part of a circle, a curve

*a Bic – a manufacturer of ballpoint pens

*imaginary – from one’s imagination, not real, illusionary

*match – look the same

*swelling – becoming bigger, heavier, thicker

*seep – escape, leak (like water through a small hole)

*helter-skelter – disorganised, unruly, confused

*in flight from – escaping, running away from

*gawp – (British English, informal) stare openly in a stupid way


Chapter 11

It felt like her lungs had shrunk, that they were two, dried dates* in her chest. Her nose was flaring*; she was struggling for breath. She knew that; and she knew that he was watching her, knew that he could see every fluttering*, shallow breath that she was taking.

‘Could you come out to my car for a moment?’ he asked. When he said it, he turned away slightly, indicating, with a nod of the head, the edge of the car that she had seen earlier and which was now almost invisible on the darkened street.


His glasses swung back to her: no eyes, only neon glare. He smiled.

‘I..I,’ she was stammering*.

‘It won’t take long,’ he said, and swung the shovel onto his shoulder. She followed its arc; and as she did, her mind started to clear. This was her chance, she told herself. This was how to get rid of him. She couldn’t be sure about the key in the kitchen door. If it wasn’t there – and there was a chance that it wasn’t, she would have to get him out the front door. ‘As soon as he steps out, I’ll lock it; then I’ll call the police.’

‘You see, my wife’s sure that she knows you. She said that just before I parked outside.’

Even to Betty, desperate as she was to get him to the front door, that explanation sounded weak. She wasn’t going to ask, but the question must have shown on her face.

‘She’s hurt her leg – that’s why she didn’t come in. It’s easier if you go to her.’

Betty nodded.

He extended his hand in the direction of the door. ‘Shall we?’ he asked.

Betty nodded again and stepped around the edge of the counter. Her eyes were on the door. Three more meters and she would be safe. Three more meters, then she could slam the door behind him and the nightmare would end. But she needed him to go first. She hung back*. ‘Go ahead,’ she said, her eyes on his face.

He hesitated; and for a second, she thought he was going to refuse. Then he stepped forward. A single step, but it told her everything. It told her why the little alarm bell in her head had rung. It told her she wasn’t just a silly old woman. It told her she didn’t even need to look down at his feet, that she had known it all along. But she did look. It almost made her feel glad: no nice, solid brogues*; no slender Italian slip-ons*. Nothing like that. In fact, nothing at all. The sound she had heard, the one that had raised her suspicions, that had set the alarm bell ringing, was the sound of skin slapping the cold concrete floor.

He was in his bare* feet.



*dates – the fruit from a palm tree

*flaring – growing larger (especially a fire)

*fluttering – moving up and down/side to side gently (e.g., a flag)

*stammering – speaking unclearly, repeating words

*hung back – waited

*brogues – heavy leather shoes

*slip-ons – light leather shoes without laces

*bare – naked, without clothing


Chapter 12

His eyes followed her gaze*.

‘Mmmm…’ he said, his eyes on the mottled*, darkly hairy toes that were peeking out from the hems* of his trousers. ‘You’re probably wondering why I’m not wearing any shoes, I suppose.’

‘Yes. I am.’ What else could she say?

‘The car broke down earlier. I stepped into a puddle*. My shoes and socks are drying in the car.’

‘Right. I see.’

‘They should be dry by now.’


He wiggled* his toes and looked sheepish*. ‘Toenails need cut,’ he said.

For a moment, she wanted to laugh. This was too ridiculous. A murderer in bare feet in her little shop looking embarrassed because his toenails needed clipping*. It was beginning to feel…what was the word? Surreal*. Yes, surreal.

‘Well, shall we?’ he said, indicating the door with a tilt of the shovel.

‘After you.’

He nodded, reached for the door and pulled it open. The night’s cold wind hit them, rain mixed with it. For a moment, darkness framed him in the doorway, a well-dressed, balding man and an empty street. She was watching, waiting for him to step out; she was waiting to reach up, grab the door, slam it shut. Just two more steps and he would be out. She was ready. But in the sliver* of space between him and the doorframe, she saw the car and – ill-lit, just the suggestion of long-hair and a bored expression – a woman in the passenger seat.

‘My wife,’ he said, turning back towards her. Turning back! She wanted to lunge* forward, shove him hard in the stomach, slam the door shut.

‘Would you mind? I think she really would like a word.’

She stared at him. This was crazy. For the sake of politeness, was she actually going to go and speak to this person?

‘Oh, please. Just for a second,’ he said.



*gaze – fixed look

*mottled – spotted, differently coloured

*hems – bottom edge of a garment

*a puddle – water that collects after rain

*sheepish – embarrassed, self-conscious

*wiggled – moved (especially toes, ears and fingers)

*surreal – dream-like, bizarre

*sliver – thin slice

*lunge – move forward (aggressively)


Chapter 13

He turned, stepped towards the car; and, unbelievably, she felt impelled* to follow.

‘Look,’ she was saying, ‘I really must shut the shop. It’s after 5 and there really is so much to do.’

‘I know,’ he was saying, back still turned. ‘I appreciate* that. But she’ll never forgive me if I don’t bring you over to say hello. Gillian? Gillian?’ Shovel in one hand, his knuckle* tap, tap, tapping the passenger side window. ‘Gillian,’ he was saying, his eyes on Betty. ‘Gillian? Your friend wants a word.’ Still his eyes were on her, but now his expression was changing. Now there was a smile on his face. Something wasn’t right. A sudden wave of fear drove Betty back: a primal* response to a predator*. He snarled*. An arm flashed out; a hand tightened around her throat. Betty felt weightless. She heaved towards him, nothing against his strength, and crashed into him.

‘No,’ she bleated*.

Betty’s head was hard against his shoulder, her face pushed against the passenger side window. The impact of their collision, their dark dance, had rocked the car and now Betty couldn’t avoid looking. She was staring into the car, staring at the body in the front seat. She was watching as it gave a final judder*. She was watching as the woman’s spinal chord and brain stem separated, as the head toppled against the glass, as it tumbled to the cabin floor. And before the spade swung down, there was time for one last thought from Betty. And what was it? What was Betty’s last, grandiloquent* thought? The one that would bring light where no light had shone before? The one that would echo for all eternity*?

‘Like a pumpkin*.’ Betty thought. ‘Like a Halloween pumpkin.’



*impelled – forced

*appreciate – understand

*knuckle – the bony part of a fist

*primal – ancient, instinctual

*predator – hunter, animal that hunts and kills other animals

*snarled – an aggressive sound, like an animal

*bleated – a sound like a sheep

*grandiloquent – high-sounding, grandiose, pretentious

*eternity – everlasting life

*pumpkin – a large orange fruit

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