Our adaptation of H. G. Wells’s Purple Pileus (Ch5)

The odour was strong – but not disgusting. He broke off a piece of the fungus. The smooth surface was creamy white. It changed like magic in about ten seconds to a yellowish–green colour. He broke off another two pieces and the same thing happened. They were wonderful things these fungi, thought Mr Coombes and all of them the deadliest of poisons. His father had told him this often. Deadly poison!

Why not try a little, here and now? thought Mr Coombes. He put a little piece, a very little piece – a crumb – in his mouth. It tasted so strong that he nearly spat it out. It tasted hot and full-flavoured, like hot mustard with a touch of horseradish and…mushroom. In the excitement of the moment, he swallowed it. Did he like it, or did he not? He tried another bit. It really wasn’t bad. In that moment, he forgot all his troubles. He was playing with death. He took another bite, deliberately taking a mouthful. A strange feeling, a tingling, started in his finger tips and his toes. His pulse began to beat faster. The blood in his ears pounded. He turned around and looked about himself. He struggled towards a little patch of purple fungi about twelve feet away. “Jolly good stuff,” he said out loud and fell on his face, his hands outstretched towards the fungi. But he did not eat any more of it. He just lay there, in the grass.

After a while, he sat up with a look of astonishment. He brushed off his silk hat. He put his hand to his forehead. Something had happened. He was no longer feeling dull – quite the opposite. Now, he was feeling bright and cheerful!


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