Short stories I have written over the past few years will be adorning this page. It
starts with a ghost story, entitled 'The Wave' , which is about a greedy governess,
who thinks that she has found a foolproof way to get rid of her charge.
The second, called 'Grevitts Wood' , is a story that just goes to show that
progress isn't always a good thing!
Press on a story title to take you there.
I had always been a sickly child, but this year, I had outdone myself by catching pneumonia. My doctor, an old fellow in tweeds, thought that most ailments could be cured by sea air. So, off I was packed to Carswell, a small fishing village in a wild and remote part of the Cornish coast. My governess, Miss Olsen, a rather austere looking lady, accompanied me, as my parents had both perished during a tragic accident at sea, some two years previously in 1952.
She thought little of me, and I, even less of her. I was just a job of work that paid rather handsomely, met by the trust that had been set up after my parents untimely deaths.
We arrived at 'Tremorna', an old house on the headland above Carswell village, at the end of the summer, just as the weather was starting to turn. The house having been rented for some two months.
Miss Olsen spent most evenings down at the local tavern, laughing and joking with the fishermen. In fact, she spent every minute that she could away from me. This suited me fine, because as my strength returned, I could wander the locality, exploring.
I bye the bye, am Tom Foreman, fourteen years old, and feeling pretty miserable about being dragged away from my chums in London. The Headland was a desolate, windy place, where the trees had been formed into all sorts of shapes by the relentless winds. As the sun was going down, they had the appearance of lost souls, reaching out with gnarled fingers, imploring an unknown saviour. The wind howling in their branches, was the ghostly cry of long forgotten sailors, who had foundered on the jagged rocks below. Or, that's how it seemed to me. But, I always did have a vivid imagination.
So it happened, that one afternoon, I was sitting near the old trees on the headland, looking out to sea. I suddenly had the eerie feeling that someone was sitting next to me. I turned to my right, and saw a girl of about eleven years old, sitting next to me.
"Hello Tom." She smiled.
Her hair was in golden ringlets, and it did not occur to me until afterwards, That her dress was very old fashioned. Victorian, I think.
"How did you know my name?" I blurted out, stunned.
"We know everything Tom Foreman." She threw her head back, and laughed again. It was like the tinkling of glasses .The ribbons on her bonnet seemed to float in the breeze.
"We....who's we?" I asked incredulously. "And.......who are you.....?"
"I am Seraphina Tom, and we...... are all around."
I spun round. There was no-one there.
"Not there....Here." She made a sweeping gesture with her hand. She became serious. "We have much work to do, in many places."
"Work?" I queried.
"Help....Help to many people that need it in crossing to this side"
"Side..."I mumbled." I do not know what ....I mean....."
"Never mind Tom. One day you will understand."
"I will?" I said stupidly.
"I cannot tarry long, as there is much to do. I have a message for you, from your parents." She looked at me intently.
"My parents are dead, and if that is a joke, it is in pretty poor taste ." I said feeling a flush of anger.
"A message from Thomas and Hettie." She said calmly.
I gasped. How could she have known? Then something started to dawn on me. "You are not a ....ghost....are you?" I said, and then felt rather foolish. She laughed that wonderful laugh again.
"What a silly word. But yes Tom, I am no longer of this world. A ghost....if you wish."
"Golly!" I exclaimed." But you look so...."
"So real?" She said. "We can. When needs be."
"What is the message from my parents, and how have you come to meet them?"
"I, like them, also drowned. We, amongst others, give help to those that perish, or are in peril at sea."
I shivered. "I hope that I am not going to perish at sea!"
"No Tom, it is not yet your time, and that is why I bring you this warning. Your parents tell you to watch out in the next days. The woman Olsen. She bears you malice, and more. Danger, in fact. She has manipulated your trust fund deeds, in order to benefit if anything were to happen to you."
"My God." I hissed. "I always knew that there was something odd about her. So, what should I do?"
But she was gone. And, on the wind I heard, "Trust us. Trust us. Be on your guard Tom, be on your guard." I was left with the wind, and creaking trees. Had I really seen her, talked with her? After all, I did have a vivid imagination.
Saturday morning, and Olsen had cooked me breakfast. Wonders will never cease! She was actually being nice to me. I had not been able to go the headland in the last few days, and had all but forgotten about my experience." Tom " She said, after I had eaten, "Would you like to go for a boat trip? Maybe a little fishing?" Her guttural accent grated on my nerves.
"With you?" I asked warily.
"Yes, and Mr. Froggett, in his boat."
"Yes, I would love to." My relief at not being alone with her on a boat, was overwhelming. If old "Froggy" Froggett was to take us, then I had nothing to fear.
Sunday dawned, bright and cold, and there was a good souwesterly blowing. I was looking forward to this trip, as I had always had a passion for the sea, despite what had happened to my parents. I was still not sure what to make of my new found friend, Olsen. But I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. Although, there was something that I could not quite put my finger on. I put my misgivings to one side, as Froggett drew up in his battered old van to drive us to Climpton harbour. He was a ruddy faced large man, perpetually smelling of liquor. Most of his teeth were missing, and what was left of his hair poked out, in greasy wisps, from under his tarred hat. it was said in the village, that he drank and gambled all his money away, along with his family's too. He could no longer get credit, or borrow, as people from the village were wise to him. I for one though, had never thought him a bad fellow, and would sit and listen to his sea stories for hours on end. Some five miles off the coast, we anchored, and the old man set us up rod and line. After an hour of fruitless fishing, I was getting a bit cold and hungry. Olsen brought me out a sandwich and passed me a beaker of brandy.
"Warm you up." She said, and lurched off back to the cabin, where she and Froggett had been drinking a bottle of brandy. By now it was about two thirty, and a squall was blowing up. I went to the cabin door, and mentioned it to Froggett.
"Oh! we'll be orright." he slurred. His nose was red, and his eyes were glazed..
I went back to my seat on an upturned box. I actually had a bite. I struck, and started to reel in. The boat was rocking to and fro now, and I was having a j ob landing this very reasonable catch. I was so engrossed in what I was doing, that I failed to hear the two of them rushing across the deck at me, until it was too late. I looked up to see Froggett's great hand bearing down on me, holding a huge gaff. But, what with the rocking boat, and his drunken state, it made it impossible for him to aim properly. The blow glanced along my head, and I fell, stunned, but not out cold. As I lay there in a semi-conscious state, I heard voices. Olsen was screaming.
"Go on then. get him over the side, you idiot!"
"I don't like the idea of murdering kids."
"Do you want this money, or not!" She screamed even louder." I shall be rich after this, and no-one can say that we did try our best to save the poor boy. After, he had been drinking brandy, hadn't he? Now get on with it you oaf, or I will say that this was all your idea."
'Yor evil, that's what you are!" He growled.
It had by now started to pour down, which made the deck very slippery. The boat rocked as though an unseen hand were shaking it. Just as Froggett was trying to pick me up under his arm to toss me overboard, a huge wave came up over the stern of the boat. And, on the crest of that wave, I fancied I saw....No....It could not be....My mother, my father atop a huge white breaker, their arms outstretched.
"My God," I thought," They have come for me!"
But no, the wave sailed above my head with them still reaching out! Seraphina had appeared, and was holding my hand, tightly. Onward along the deck of the fishing boat, the wave rolled, and I was apparently sitting in a bubble, with Seraphina. Olsen and Froggett were slipping and sliding along the deck in absolute terror. My parent's arms were reaching out of the wave to carry my two would be assassins high into the air. They disappeared over the side of the boat with hideous screams, and were gone forever. The grip on my hand was loosened, and I was alone. The storm stopped abruptly, and the sun began to shine.
At the inquest every-one was kind to me. All thought that it was a miracle that I had not been drowned. As I came to give my evidence, I saw at the back of the Coroner's Court........my mother, father, and Seraphina, all with their fingers to their lips....smiling. So, I told the Court how Olsen and Froggett had been washed overboard by a giant wave.
Who would believe anything different?.................
After all............ I always did have a vivid imagination!
Click the skull to return to the top.
It was eight thirty on a warm July evening, and the locals in the only bar of the Siddlecombe Arms were debating farming matters. The air was thick with tobacco smoke. Albert Portman, an elderly, respected member of the community, walked into the small bar, and ordered a rum. Downing it in one, he turned to the assembled company.
"New people up at Manor wants to do away with Grevitts wood." All eyes were on him. He grinned. "They wants to.." But before he could finish, the bar door opened to admit a man and woman. Both about forty, dressed like townies trying to blend into the countryside. Walking up to the bar made them feel uneasy, with ten pairs of eyes on them.
"Evening Sir, Madam" Oiled George Smethwick , landlord of the establishment, in his best landlord of the establishment voice. The one he always used for the few townies that came Siddlecombe way, in order to double his bar prices, without people realising that he had! "What'll it be?"
Alan Richardson was tall, thin, and one could tell by the colour of his skin, and the smoothness of his hands, that he rarely went into the countryside, let alone do any manual work. "Pint of bitter please, and Mary..?" he said looking at his wife. It was plain to see that when younger, she had indeed been very pretty, but was now a little on the plump side. The blonde curly hair that poked out from under her head scarf was probably from a bottle. Although, it was hard to tell for sure in the light of the Siddlecombe Arms. "G and T, please darling" she said in an accent that was more cultivated than cultured.
Alan felt awkward, out of place, and trying to smooth the edges of his Public School accent , he ordered drinks all round. " And have one yourself barman." he added. George did not take kindly to being called barman, as the Siddlecombe Arms had been in his family for nigh on two hundred years. But, he made himself feel better by adding a fair bit onto the bill. The drinks having been passed around, Alan's tension eased a little.
"Well" He remarked , clearing his throat, "As you all know by now, we are the new owners of the Grevitt estate." He paused, and a few heads nodded. "I believe that most of you chaps work on the estate." Nearly all heads nodded this time. "I'm afraid that there are going to be a few changes made. All for the good of the estate, you understand."
"And just what will them changes be?... Mister......." said an old boy in a tweed suit. The bright blue eyes in his weather-beaten face, twinkled at Alan.
"Richardson, Alan Richardson....ummm...firstly, most of you men will be retired. We need some young blood on the estate, and most of you seem far too old to be.....errr..... working. I assure you, you will be looked after."
"We don't mind a bit of young blood on the estate sir" Someone sniggered." 'Bout your age eh! Sir?"
" Yes , something like that" Alan replied. But, he felt a shiver run down his spine. He had expected protest, but none came. "Strange" He thought. "Expected a bit of trouble there." he hurried on to the next point. "You will all receive a good pension, so no one will starve." Still no complaint. "Well they'll never stand for the next revelation" He told himself. "We are going to clear Grevitts wood and build a holiday camp."......... Total silence. 'Any questions?" enquired Alan, thinking that this had all been far too easy.
"Begging your pardon Sir," smiled Portman." But I think that you'll have a bit of trouble when it comes to Grevitts, like." He scratched a large red nose, with gnarled fingers, and downed another rum.
"And what makes you think that?" Replied Alan, who could see now, that maybe this wasn't going to be so easy, after all."
'Thars strange things in thar." Blurted out young Tommy Morgan." I done seen..."
"That's enough now boy." Admonished old Gaffer Morgan. "E's never been the same since 'e were kicked in the 'ed, when 'e were a lad. 'Twas Betsy, my ol' cart 'orse that done it. So's you mus' forgive 'es mine for ramblin' apiece." Tommy reddened, and looked down at the floor.
After a pause, Alan said " What sort of strange things?"
"The railways once tried to build a branch line through here, but there was so many accidents and things that they 'ad to abandon the idea." George replied, not looking up from polishing a pewter tankard.
"And the road they was going to build too." Interjected Bridges, the local butcher.
"Nonsense," Said Mary, who had been quietly sipping her drink, listening to the conversation." Lot of local superstition."
"Well, I don't think it's superst........." George had started to say.
"We have the best machinery, and some highly skilled men." Interrupted Mary." We are going to inform our investors of our plan tomorrow!"
" You mean," Said Albert thoughtfully, "That you've told no one of your ideas yet?"
"As yet, no." replied Alan.
"Well, I suggest that you takes a look at the wood first Sir. You can get the lie of the land, and see what equipment you needs."
"We thought that you people might be against all this." Exclaimed Alan. Greatly relieved.
"No," Said Albert. "We can see that when someone is as determined as yourselves, to go ahead with a plan, well, there's no goin' against it. What I say is, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. If you know what I mean, Sir?"
"Good man, good man" grinned Alan, with a sigh of relief.
"If you like Sir, Madam, we can take a look at it on the way home. It's part on the way to my place any road."
The church clock struck nine, and everyone waited for Alan's answer, as the rays from the setting sun caught the smoke wreathed room. It seemed, just for one second, that time had stopped.
"Yes, why not!" He replied." Strike while the iron's hot, and all that." he was feeling a lot better. He thought that he would have met a lot of opposition, and even some hostility. He had heard what the people of Siddlecombe thought about change, when he bought the manor. The two pints of strong country ale, and the two whiskies, had made him feel a lot better, and he cast any doubts aside. He ordered another round for the locals, and said goodnight to all. Alan, Mary and Albert Portman left the Siddlecombe Arms.
"Pity 'bout that," murmured Bridges.
"Pity 'bout what?" Said Gaffer. "They's a lot easier to be rid of than all the others."
"No, I was thinkin' how he was just getting into the habit of bein' a true country gentleman, and payin' his round like, an' all. It always tastes better when it's freemans."
They all laughed. "Gorn you ole' skinflint." A voice piped up, good naturedly.
"In that case," Grinned Bridges. "I'll have another pint, Jim Turner, just to shows you I bears no malice."
"Mister Portman?" Said Mary.
"Yes maam." Replied Albert, as they walked up the lane from the inn. The night sky was deep red, and the sun was going down behind the hills. There was a strong smell of lilac in the warm summer air, and the privet rustled in the slight breeze.
"What's all this about this old wood. Do you know any of its history?" She said, idly wondering if they could make any money out of the fact that strange things were supposed to happen there.
" Not a lot" He replied." I wouldn't take to much notice of us village folk. We've heard too many tale from our grand parents."
"Oh!" She exclaimed, rather disappointedly." So there's no ghosts there then?"
" No miss, no ghosts." He tried to hide his smile by relighting his foul smelling old pipe." Ah! Here we are" He said, pointing to a style in the hedge.
They climbed the style, and entered the wood. The smell of pine was all about them, and the last rays of sunlight came through the tall trees. The noises of the wood were thick and heavy about them.
If you would like to hear what the wood sounded like, click on the bat
"It doesn't look too spooky to me. It's only a pine wood. I thought that there were some very old trees here?"
"There are Sir" replied Albert, almost proudly, Mary thought." But, they are further into the wood."
"Righto," Alan laughed, rubbing his hands together," Let's take a look then, before it gets too dark."
"This way then Sir, Madam. Watch your clothes, there's a few brambles along here. This path isn't used much, now."
After ten minutes walk, the trees started to get darker, and thicker, and there was virtually no light at all. These were certainly not pine trees, even Mary could see that.
"Mister Alan Sir, I hope you don't mind if I nip off now, as I don't want to be late for my dinner, an' my missus will give me a thick ear, if it's late I am."
" Righto then Portman, you pop off. I think that we can most likely find our way from here."
"Goodbye then Sir, Madam."
"Goodnight Portman." Said Mary.
Portman stuck his pipe firmly in his mouth to stop himself from sniggering, and walked off in the direction of home, softly whistling between his teeth.
"Funny fellow that." Said Mary, gazing after Albert as he walked off into the gathering gloom." He gives me the creeps a bit." They ventured further into the wood, the woodland noises giving way to silence.
"How do you mean darling?" asked Alan.
"I don't know really." She said slowly. "He seemed to be laughing at us, and it was the way he said goodbye instead of goodnight."
"Oh, you know these country people Mary. They are all of them a bit strange. We'll soon put a bit of life into this place." They walked on, making plans, and talked of how much money they were going to make, once the holiday camp was built. " But darling," Said Mary, "We have to do something about that ghastly pub. All that sawdust on the floor. It's as though nothing has changed for hundreds of years."
" I thought that was quite quaint , but, I know what you mean."
As they walked further into the wood, their conversation became less, and less, and the silence grew heavier, and more intense. The path went down, and down, and it got darker and darker, as if the very trees were closing in on them.
"Alan, could you walk a little closer to me?" Mary was definitely sounding worried. Although, she tried to tell herself it was only her imagination. " Don't you think......."
But Alan did not think. He would never think again. He was just disappearing under a tree root, being pulled down, down into the ground. His Cavalry twill trousers and brogue shoes were the last to disappear. But wait. His hat was still there. His checked hat. No. Only for a second. A long thin leafy arm slithered out, grabbed the hat, and that was also sucked under the earth in an instant.
Mary ran forward. " Alan" She screamed "Al............." But, there was nothing more that she could say, for a long thin leafy tendril had reached out, and was coiled about her neck, pulling her slowly but surely into the soft leafy ground.
Alan was right....they certainly did put a bit of life into the place..................
Click the skull to return to the top.
The next story to appear here will be called 'Stranger things happen at sea'.
It's about a man who is obsessed with a boat. He becomes so obsessed
that he.....well you'll have to read it, and see for yourselves!