‘Well one day, Jennie and her boyfriend came to my home,’ Mr Coombes told Tom. `We had a terrible row and after that, I came out here for a walk – it was a day just like this. I thought about what to do. Then I went back to the house and had another row!’
`Really?’ asked his brother Tom.
`Yes. I threw Jennie’s boyfriend out the house and smashed things about.’
`What did Mrs Coombes do?’
`Well, she ran up the stairs and locked herself in the bedroom.’
`Well, I just told her. Now you know what I am like when I’m angry. And I never had to say one word more again.’
`And you have been happy ever after, eh?’
Mr Coombes thought for a second. `Yes,’ he said. ‘It has been better. If it hadn’t been for that afternoon…I’d be walking the roads right now. There’s nothing like putting your foot down. Now we’re alright and the business is doing well.’
`Good,’ said Tom. ‘I’m glad.’
They walked on together. But then Tom stopped. `What a lot of strange fungi there are here!’ he said, looking at the ground.
Mr Coombes looked down too. `I think they must be for some wise purpose,’ he said.
And that was the only thanks that the Purple Pileus ever got for waking up this absurd little man and changing his life forever.
Something fell over in the shop; it sounded like a chair. Then there was the noise of steps, careful and deliberate, outside in the hall. A moment later, the living room door opened, and Mr Coombes appeared. But he looked different. His usually neat collar was undone, his velvet hat was upside down and was filled with strange fungi, and his coat was inside out and marked with grass. But it was his face that had changed the most. It was white as a sheet, his eyes were wild, and he was grinning from ear to ear.
‘A merry hello!’ Mr Coombes said, danced three steps into the room, and bowed.
‘Jim!’ cried Mrs Coombes, her mouth open wide in surprise.
`Tea!’ said Mr Coombes, `and toadstools too. A jolly thing!’
‘He’s drunk,’ said Jennie.
Mr Coombes held out a handful of the fungi to Mr Clarence, `Have some,’ he said. ‘It’s jolly good stuff,’ Mr Coombes said, sounding happy and relaxed. But a moment later, when he saw their shocked faces, his mood changed completely. `It is my house!’ he yelled furiously, ‘I am master here and you will eat what I give you!’
He stood in the middle of the room and stared at them. In his outstretched hand, the red and yellow fungi lay.
Jenny had kept on playing. His wife sat behind the piano and watched him. `What’s wrong now?’ she asked. `Can’t people enjoy themselves?’
`I don’t mind people enjoying themselves,’ said an angry Mr Coombes, `but I am not going to accept such noise on a Sunday!’
`What is wrong with my playing now?’ asked Jenny, stopping and twirling around on the music stool.
Mr Coombes couldn’t stop himself; he was angry and he opened his mouth without thinking. `Be careful with that music stool,’ he said. ‘It isn’t made for heavy-weights.’
`Never you mind about my weight,’ said Jenny angrily. ‘What did you say about my playing?’
`Surely you don’t mind a bit of music on a Sunday, Mr Coombes?’ asked Jenny’s male guest, leaning back in Mr Coombes’s armchair and smiling.
‘Never mind him,’ said Mrs Coombes, addressing Jenny but staring at her husband. ‘Just you keep on playing.’
`I do mind,’ said Mr Coombes to Jenny’s guest.
`May I ask why?’ asked the guest. He was enjoying himself and Mr Coombes saw that he wanted an argument. He was a thin young man, dressed in a bright clothes and a white cravat with a silver pin.
`Because,’ began Mr Coombes, `it doesn’t suit me. I am a businessman; I have to consider my connections.’
`His connections,’ said Mrs Coombes with scorn. `He is always saying that.’
`Then why did you marry me?’ Mr Coombes asked.
Jenny started to play the piano. The same little tune over and over again.
‘STOP IT,’ cried Mr Coombes and stood up.
`No violence now,’ said the guest.
Mr Coombes was sick of life. He walked out his front door and away from his unhappy home. He did not want to see anyone, so he took a quiet path. The path led to a canal and a wooden bridge. He crossed the wooden bridge. Soon, he was alone in damp, pine woods. He was out of sight and sound of all humans. He stopped and thought about his wife. That made him angry. ‘I won’t stand it any longer,’ he repeated over and over.
He was a pale-faced little man, with dark eyes and a very fine, black moustache. He wore a very stiff upright collar. It gave him a double chin. He wore an untidy, grey overcoat. His gloves were brown with stripes and split at the finger ends. His appearance, his wife once said – in the days before they were married – was military. But now she called him her `little grub`. And it wasn’t the only thing she called him!
The row between Mr Coombes and his wife happened about an hour ago. It was about that horrible Jenny, again! Jenny was his wife’s friend and every Sunday she came to dinner. Of course, Mr Coombes did not invite her. She was a big, noisy girl. She liked bright colours and had a very loud laugh. This time, Jenny went too far. She brought a male friend to dinner. He was as loud and showy as her. All through Sunday dinner, Mr Coombes sat quiet and angry at his own table. But his wife and her guests talked foolishly and laughed loudly all afternoon. Then Jenny got up and sat at his piano. His piano! She played loudly and sang even louder! They would hear next door; they would hear out in the street!
Had great fun writing this. Enjoyed doing the research and learning how to spell our main
‘How did you work it out Holmes?’ I asked.
‘I’ll explain my dear Watson,’ he said. `I have spent the whole day over at Lloyds – the registers of old papers and files. I followed the sailing history of every ship that sailed into Pondicherry in January and February in 1883. In total, 36 ships reported there during those months. Of those ships, one, the “Lone Star”, instantly caught my attention. It is the name given to one of the states in America.’
`Texas, I think,’ I said.
`I was not sure, but I knew the ship must have American origins.’
`What then?’ I asked.
`I searched the Dundee records. When I found that the “Lone Star” was there in January `83, my suspicion became a certainty. I then asked for a list of ships now presently docked at London.’
‘And the “Lone Star” arrived here last week. I went to the Albert docks and found that the ship had sailed on the morning tide. She is homebound for Savannah. I called Gravesend and found that she had sailed past a while ago and the wind was easterly. I have no doubt that she will be past The Isle Of Wight by now.’
`What will you do?’
`Oh I have my hand upon him! I know that he was not on the ship last night. The stevedore that loaded his cargo told me so. By the time his boat reaches Savannah the mail boat will have carried this letter. That and my call to the Savannah police telling them that this man is badly wanted over here on the charge of murder!’
But there is a twist of fate in all of this. The murderer of John Openshaw was never to receive the letter with the five orange pips sent by the cunning and resolute Sherlock Holmes. Very long and very severe were the winds and storms that year. We waited a long time for news from the “Lone Star” but none ever reached us. At last we heard that – somewhere far out in the Atlantic sea – a shattered stern post was found floating on top of a wave. The letters “L.S” was carved into the wood and that is all we will ever know of the fate of the “Lone Star”.
‘It’s a joke,’ said my father. ‘I will have nothing to do with it.’
‘We should call the police,’ I said.
‘And be laughed at? No, I will do nothing,’ my father said.
‘I did not argue with him because he was a very stubborn man at times. But I went about with a very heavy heart after that.’ John Openshaw stopped talking and warmed his hands at the fire. Then he continued.
‘On the third day after the letter arrived, my father went to visit an old friend of his. A man called Major Freebody. I was glad that he went. To me, he seemed further from danger when he wasn’t at home. But I was wrong. On the second day that he was away, I got a telegram from the major. It told me to come at once. My father had fallen into a chalk pit. There are lots of them in that area. He was lying unconscious with a fractured skull. I hurried to him, but I was too late. My father died without ever regaining consciousness. I was told that he was coming home from Fareham just after dark. Because he didn’t know the countryside, he fell into the pit. There was no fence to stop him or warn him. It looked like an accident, and I could find nothing to suggest murder: no signs of violence, no robbery, no footmarks, and no stranger in the area. But I was not happy. I was sure something bad had happened to him. But I could not prove it.’
‘So this is how I came to inherit the estate. Why did I not give it away? Because I believed that it was bad and I would pass this bad thing on to another person. So I kept it. ‘
‘My dad died in January 1885. That was two years and eight months ago. I have lived happily at Horsham since then. I thought that this curse had ended. And then yesterday morning this came…’
John Openshaw stopped talking and took out a letter from his pocket. From the letter he shook out five little orange pips.
Walter and Scott wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year. Their adaptation of The Five Orange Pips will continue in early January.
`To tell my story,’ said John Openshaw, `I must start at the beginning…
My grandfather had two sons – my uncle Elias and my father, Joseph. My father had a small business in Coventry. He invented a tyre that didn’t puncture. It was very successful. Eventually, he sold the business and retired.
When he was a young man, my uncle Elias went to Florida and bought a plantation. He did very well. Then war broke out between the North and the South. He fought for Jackson’s army and later for Hood. He became a colonel. When General Lee stopped fighting, my uncle went back to his plantation and worked there for another three or four years. He grew rich. Around 1867 or 1868, he came back to Europe and bought a small piece of land in Sussex, near Horsham. He was a single man, fierce and quick-tempered. But he mostly kept himself to himself. I don’t think he ever visited Horsham. He had a garden with two or three fields around his house. Sometimes, he stayed in his room, smoked heavily, and refused see anyone. Even his own brother.
But he liked me. When he first met me, I was twelve years old. This was in 1878. When I stayed at his house, we played backgammon and chess. He was very kind to me. He gave me the keys to his house, and I was allowed to go anywhere. But there was one room that I wasn’t allowed to go into. No one was. It was always locked. One day, I looked through the keyhole, but I couldn’t see much. Just some old trunks and suitcases…’
John Openshaw stopped talking and looked into the fire.
‘Come in,’ said Holmes.
A man entered. He was young and well-dressed. But his raincoat was wet, and the umbrella in his hand dripped water. He looked nervous: his face was pale and his eyes were heavy and tired.
`I am very sorry,’ the man said. `I hope I am not troubling you tonight. I am afraid I have brought some of the storm with me into your warm home.’
`Give me your coat and umbrella,’ said Holmes, standing. `I will hang them up on this hook; they will dry quickly. You have come from the South West, I see.’
`Yes, from Horsham. But how did you know?’
`There is clay and chalk on your shoes. It is quite distinctive,’ said Holmes.
`I have come for advice,’ said the man.
`I can give that easily,’ said Holmes.
`And your help.’
`That is not so easy.’
`I have heard about you, Mr Holmes. I heard from Major Prendergast. He told me that you helped him in the Tankerville Club scandal.’
`I remember him,’ said Holmes. `He was wrongly accused of cheating at cards.’
`He said that you can solve anything.’
`He said too much.’
`He also said that you are never beaten.’
`Not quite true. Three men and one woman have beaten me. But generally, I am quite successful.’
`Then you might be successful with me.’
`Sit down,’ Holmes told the man, `and give me some details about your case.’
The man sat. `This is such a strange and mysterious case, and it happened to my own family.’
Holmes pulled his chair closer towards the fire and sat too. `Please start your story from the beginning. After you finish, I will ask questions about the most important details.’
The young man stretched his wet feet towards the hot fire. Then he began his story. ‘My name,’ he said, `is John Openshaw… ‘
Starting next week, we will serialise A Sherlock Holmes adventured called The Five Orange Pips. It will be for intermediate students. Happy reading!
Today is a longer walk: 23km. We are still walking beside Loch Ness. Again, we decide to take the new, higher level path. We are soon on the hills.
After some time, we come to a forestry plantation. The owners of the land have cut down the trees. All around us are dead branches and tree stumps. But someone has made an art work. It is a strange sight.
We continue to climb. We talk about trees. There are so many dead ones. Storms have washed away the soil and blown the trees over. I have never seen so many dead trees. Because of global warming, storms are becoming stronger and stronger and more and more frequent.
When we descend again, I take a photograph of Scotland’s national flower, the thistle.
A little later, when we are walking through another forest, we find a large ants’ nest.
When we finally see Drumnadrochit, the sun is shining brightly.
After a good night’s sleep at Nevis Bank Inn, Walter and I buy some sandwiches and water at a petrol station, walk from the centre of Fort William to Banavie and get on the path to Gairlochy. Today, we plan to walk 23km.
We are walking next to the Caledonian Canal. Our route is clear. We follow the canal and climb gently up hill. There are eight locks here, places for raising or lowering boats. This section is called Neptune’s Staircase.
At Moy Bridge, we stop and rest. Farmers use this bridge to cross from one side of the canal to the other. It isn’t mechanised, so a gate keeper must open and close it manually. Around us, there are many beautiful tress: Scot’s pine, birch, alder and beech to name a few. Walter boils some tea on his gas stove. Although it is summer, it is surprisingly cold.
Our accommodation is in Spean Bridge, six kilometres from Gairlochy. We leave the Caledonian Canal and begin walking along a quiet road, the B8004. On the way, we pass Mucomir power station and the Commando Memorial. Many soldiers trained in this area of Scotland during World War Two.
The main road to Spean Bridge is noisy. We decide not to follow it. Instead, we choose a forest path. It leads us to our next stop for the night, Riverside Lodge in Spean Bridge. When we arrive, we are tired. But the first walking day is over, and we don’t have blisters.
We are grateful for that.
That night, we treat ourselves to a three-course meal at The Old Pines restaurant, which was very good. Colin, a retired fire officer who owns the Riverside Lodge, drops us there in his car and we walk back with dark rain clouds above us. We make it back to Riverside lodge just in time. A short while later, the rain comes pouring down.
Nunez was ill for several days after that. The people of the village nursed him kindly. But he had to lie quietly in a dark hut. There, day after day, blind men came to him, telling him about his mistakes.
Slowly, the people of the Country of the Blind became individuals. There was Yacob, Nunez’s new master; Pedro, Yacob’s nephew; and Medina-saroté, the youngest daughter of Yacob. Others didn’t think she was beautiful, but Nunez did.
Slowly, Nunez found ways to help Medina-saroté; and slowly, Medina-saroté began to notice Nunez. Then one evening, while they sat side by side in the dim starlight and listened to music at a gathering, their fingers touched. Tenderly, they held hands. A few days later, while they were eating, Nunez felt her hand softly seeking his…
‘I must speak to her,’ thought Nunez. ‘I must tell her my feelings.’
Then one evening while Medina-saroté was sitting and spinning wool in the summer moonlight, Nunez went to her. He sat at her feet, told her that she was beautiful, that he loved her. She did not reply, but Nunez was content. He could see that his words pleased her.
After that, Nunez spoke to Medina-saroté as often as he could. Soon, the valley was the world, and the land beyond the mountains, the land without Medina-saroté in it, was no more than a fairy tale.
This weekend, we will begin posting something different. During August, Walter and I completed a long-distance trail called The Great Glen Way. It is 79 miles from start to finish. We took lots of photographs and we want to tell you about our walk and show you some of Scotland’s lovely countryside.
In addition to these posts, we’ll continue with our adaptation of H. G. Wells’s classic story, The Country of the Blind.
Look out for both!
It’s been a busy few months for Walter and I – and now it’s time for HOLIDAYS! Walter is off to Cyprus for a few weeks and I am off to Scotland. Can’t wait. Although I will be on holiday until the beginning of September (and hence, not posting on this site), Walter and I will still be writing. We are about to start the third story in our ‘Morrow trilogy’ for Helbling publishers (the first has been published and the second is in pre-production). In addition, we are also writing a Factfile for Oxford University Press called ‘Amazing Teens.’ Talking of OUP, the art work for the Bookworm we recently wrote, called Tutankhamun, is being finalised so hopefully we will get to see the first finished pages of that soon. The proposed publication date for Tutankhamun is January 2016. Finally, Walter and I would like to thank everyone who has read our blog. Have a great summer!
Tomorrow, we begin a new short story adaptation for intermediate learners. The original story is by Guy de Maupassant and its title is The Blind Man. We hope you enjoy it.
Recently, Walter and Scott did an interview for Helbling Languages. They spoke about their new story, The Right Thing, which will be published in March 2015, and the way that they write. Here is the link: http://blog.helblingreaders.com