Excerpt for The Two Jays Adventure by , available in its entirety at Smashwords




About the Book


James and Jessica, the Two Jays, are on holiday in the West Country in England where they set out to make some exciting discoveries. Have they found the true site of an ancient holy well? Is the water in it dangerous? Why does an angry man with a bicycle tell them to keep away from the deserted stone quarry? A serious accident on the hillside has unexpected consequences, and an old Latin document may contain a secret that's connected to the two strange stone heads in the local church -- if James and Jessica can solve the puzzle. An adventure awaits! (This is the first of the Two Jays adventures.)


The Two Jays Adventure

by

Chris Wright


© Chris Wright 2017


This e-Book ISBN: 978-0-9954549-8-9

Also available as a paperback

ISBN: 978-1-5203448-8-1


Published by

White Tree Publishing

Bristol

UNITED KINGDOM


Website: www.whitetreepublishing.com


More books by Chris Wright on

www.rocky-island.com


Email: wtpbristol@gmail.com


The Two Jays Adventure is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.


All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this abridged edition.


The Bible verse in this story is taken from "The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers." (No matter what version of the Bible you use, the verse has the same message and promise.)


(See also www.youversion.com for free downloads of over a thousand Bible translations in over a thousand languages on your phone, tablet, and computer.)




Table of Contents


Cover

About the Book

A Word from the Author

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

About White Tree Publishing

Chris Wright

More Books for Younger Readers



A Word from the Author


I first wrote this story some years ago, and things have now changed a lot, especially with electronics and digital communication. No mobile (cell) phones, digital cameras, tablets and computers back then. So although the main story is unchanged, some things have now been updated to let the adventure happen today. This has opened the way for me to write more stories about the Two Jays, which you will find at the back of this book.


Note that in America a mother is a mom, while over on the Two Jays' side of the Atlantic a mother is a mum. Fathers are usually known as dad on both sides. English trainers are what Americans call sneakers, a tap for water is called a faucet in America, a cupboard is called a closet, and pyjamas are pajamas or PJs. I'm sure you get the general idea. There are a few other differences, especially in the way some words are spelt. This book uses the British English words and spelling because this is where the adventure takes place.


The measurements in this book are in miles, yards and feet. Here is an approximate table of conversion to metric.

1 mile is 1.6km

1 yard is a little less than 1m

1 foot is 30cm


I hope this helps!


Chris Wright



Chapter One


THE FIRST DISCOVERY

"When I'm on holiday, I like adventures," Jessica Green said, with a long sigh.

Her cousin James stared at the peaceful Mendip hills rising high above them.

"We seem to be in the middle of nowhere," Jessica continued. "It's so quiet. I can't think much ever happens here."

She was mistaken. Very mistaken. A shout from the other side of the valley made them jump.

"What was that?" Jessica asked, standing astride two mounds of grass. As she turned to look, there came another shout followed by a laugh. "Can you see who it is, James?"

James shook his head. "I haven't the faintest idea. I can't see anyone. Yes I can. There, on that rock. Two of them. A boy ... and another one, older than us."

"Let's go over and see what they want," Jessica suggested.

James held back. "I'm not sure. The older one's holding a catapult."

"So what?"

James stared at the two boys. "I don't know, but----"

"Oh, come on!"

"Yes, all right."

Jessica, her long, blonde hair blowing in the gentle breeze, looked ahead. "We can't go this way in any case. There's a stream running everywhere. We'll have to go across."

Suddenly James felt silly. Of course there was nothing to be afraid of. The older boy, a youth really, wouldn't use the catapult on them ... would he?

As they crossed the valley, picking their way carefully through the marshy patches, James paused. They were now close enough to hear what was being shouted. Various insults such as, "Don't get your baby feet wet!" and "Where are your skipping ropes?" This one came as they jumped from one piece of dry ground to the next. The younger boy kept laughing all the time. There was no point in avoiding them now.

The older of the two had long, greasy hair. James decided there was something rather unpleasant about him.

"What are you doing here?" the owner of the catapult demanded.

James noticed the way the younger boy kept looking at his companion in admiration.

"Is this the way to Saint Cerig's well?" James asked.

"Might be," the older of the two muttered, taking a half-smoked cigarette from his pocket. "Might not be."

"In which case, thank you!" Jessica said in disgust.

The youth took the unlit cigarette from his mouth. "Now hold on a minute." He fingered his catapult. "Just don't be in a hurry. This is my patch here, see. Just for shooting. You'd be surprised at some of the things I shoot."

"And people," the younger boy added with a giggle. This was the first time he'd spoken to them. They both had strong West Country accents.

"You shut up, nipper. Who spoke to you? Now then, I wouldn't want to be using this." The youth pulled back the heavy elastic of his catapult. "I think you'd better both be off -- and don't come round here again." With this he put the cigarette back in his mouth, and lit it.

In silence they stared at each other. The youth half closed his eye in what was obviously meant to be a threatening manner, although the effect was probably not as startling as he hoped. He let his mouth turn up into a sneer. As he took a long draw on his cigarette, he gave a loud cough which blew the cigarette from between his fingers. With watering eyes he groped for it on the wet ground. When he found it, it was damp, rather muddy and had gone out.

James and Jessica resumed their walk down the valley. When they were at least a hundred yards away, Jessica said, "I think he's stupid."

James was sure he could feel the two of them staring at him. "I don't trust him. The young one's all right. He's just a hanger-on. The other one's----"

There was a twang of high-powered elastic. James and Jessica fell flat on their faces as a stone tore through the branches of a nearby tree. The laughter that followed made them realise that this had only been done to frighten them.

"Don't turn round," James warned. "Just keep walking. They wouldn't dare try to hit us. All the same, I hope we don't keep bumping into them."

Jessica shook her head in bewilderment. "It's fantastic. We come to a lonely place like this, and when we do meet someone, it has to be them!"

"I'm going to call them the Ghastly Pair," James decided, taking an extra long jump, missing the next dry patch and getting a trainer full of water. "Don't worry, we may never see them again."

James Cooper and Jessica Green, the Two Jays for short, were just starting a family holiday at Sheppingford. Jessica was James's cousin, and they lived close to each other at home. A man who worked with James's father had recommended a very cheap holiday cottage at the foot of the Mendip hills in Somerset. His recommendations had been so glowing that soon after Christmas James's father had booked a fortnight for the second half of August.

There had been nearly eight months for looking forward to it, but the time had arrived at last. For James, a holiday like this would have been unthinkable without Jessica for company, so it had been taken for granted that Jessica would be coming.

"I'm always glad when Jessica's around," James's mother had said. "It keeps you both nicely out of the way." James would have been pleased with this observation if his mother hadn't added, "If not out of trouble!"

They began to climb to higher and drier ground, and came to an old track that led into a small quarry that looked deserted. A man was pushing his bicycle towards them. When he saw them he shouted angrily.

"I don't think he wants us to go any closer," James muttered. "Come on, it won't be here, anyway. My dad would have known if Saint Cerig's well was in a quarry."

Jessica Green nodded. "I can't see why an old quarry like this should be private, but...." She glanced back at the man again. "Yes, I think we'd better go. Of course, you could try asking him...."

James Cooper laughed. "No, we'll go on looking by ourselves. Saint Cerig's well. Dad said it would be hard to find. And he said it won't be like Jack and Jill's well, with a bucket on the end of a rope. It will be a small hole in the ground with flat stones around it to stand on. The water in it might be bubbling up, or it might be still."

"Don't be disappointed," Jessica warned. "I can't think there's going to be much of a mystery in Saint Cerig's well if it's just a small hole in the ground. I was hoping there might be treasure at the bottom!"

James stood in the lane below the quarry, the angry man with the bicycle temporarily forgotten. When they'd arrived earlier that day with his parents, he and Jessica had wanted to get straight out and explore. No, they didn't want to sit down and rest after the long car journey. They just wanted to see what was out there.

James's father had sent them to find the old holy well, known as Saint Cerig's well, which was supposed to have been a cure for all ills. Whether it had ever really worked, he said he had no idea, but he thought a search for it might work wonders for a pair of impatient holidaymakers.

James had a pocket compass combined with a magnifying glass. They'd used the compass part of it a couple of times to get their bearings. The last thing they wanted to do was to get lost -- in hostile territory!

The Mendips were high but hazy in the late afternoon light. Nearby they could see some much smaller hills. Then they spotted a few trees around what might once have been another, much smaller quarry. It was unlikely they would be chased away from this one. So, little suspecting what they were about to find, they crossed the lane and made their way through the undergrowth.

"I think we've found the well," Jessica called loudly, for James was a little way behind. "If you come here---- Oh!" She stepped back and her face went pale.

James pushed forward. "What's the matter? Is...? It's ... it's not dead, is it?"

The sheepdog was curled up on the wet earth, beside a deep pool near the rock face. James looked up at the rock. The lower part looked as though it had been smoothed away at some time, leaving a miniature cliff perhaps twice his own height. Not high enough, surely, to have killed this dog -- even if it had been careless enough to fall over.

It was still breathing, but panting as though in great distress. Maybe it had been shot -- with a catapult. Jessica tried to see if it had a nametag on its collar, but the dog growled unpleasantly as she put her hand near.

"Dad will know what to do," James said. "Let's go and tell him."

Somehow the sight of the dog had put an end to the expedition. The way back was easy to find, and when he saw the holiday cottage again, James started to feel much better. He pushed open the brown-painted front gate. Yes, it was going to be good at Sheppingford. The cottage was fantastic. The slate roof, the small windows, the ivy growing everywhere. This was his first chance to inspect the cottage properly. There were a few flowers growing in the garden, but he had no idea what they were. Perhaps Jessica would know.

The cottage was empty. His parents must have gone out for a bit of exploring on their own. The front room smelt slightly old and damp. There was a brass oil lamp on the table. It would be fun to try to get it working one night. He glanced up at the ceiling and saw a single low power bulb that looked almost as old as the cottage. In that case, they would probably need the oil lamp as well!

Jessica laughed when James told her what he was thinking. "It's a bit sort of olden-days," she agreed. "Come and see the kitchen!"

Jessica showed her cousin the old kitchen range. It was like something from a Victorian picture-book. A large closed-in fireplace with black cast-iron ovens at each side.

"That!" exclaimed James. "What does it burn? Lumps of peat?"

"I don't think we'll be needing to light it," Jessica said. "There's not much to cook with, though. Just a microwave. And it's a really ancient microwave. Oh look, there's a gas hob with just two small burners. Mum and Dad aren't going to like it."

By the time they'd inspected the outside sanitary arrangements, James was starting to wonder whether his parents hadn't gone for a walk, but had taken the car and gone for good!

Going to the front gate they could hear voices coming from further down the lane. They decided to investigate and found James's parents returning from a stroll to post a letter. The Two Jays told their story of the dog, but said nothing about the older boy with the catapult. James knew his mother would worry.

"You'd best report it to one of the farms," James's father advised. "I'll come with you if you like. We ought to go immediately. Was there a name on the collar?"

"We ... we didn't like to touch it," James confessed. "The dog didn't like us."

His father nodded. "Best not to risk it in the circumstances."

Mrs. Cooper said she was going to stay behind to pick flowers, and then have a go at putting everything away tidily in the cottage. From the way she was talking, James wasn't sure whether his mother was happy about the place, or not.

"The, er ... cottage," his father said quietly. "I heard about it through a friend at work. Don't tell your mother this, James, but it's much more primitive than I was led to believe."

"It's fun though," Jessica said.

"What's fun?" Mrs. Cooper called, reaching for some red flowers high up in the hedge that surrounded the cottage.

"The cottage, Mum," James said, surprised that his mother had been able to hear.

"Oh yes, I'm sure you two are going to find it fun. I'm not so sure what to think of it myself. I think it's much more primitive than your father was led to believe!"

"Honestly, Mum. Fancy you hearing what Dad said!"

Mrs. Cooper merely raised her eyebrows and gave a small shrug, pretending not to understand. James smiled to himself. He knew his parents loved each other, and he loved them.

It wasn't far to the nearest farm. The farmer looked serious and went with the three of them to see the dog. Yes, it was his. He bent down to examine it closely. The dog gave a whimper and wagged its tail slightly.

"Been poisoned," the farmer grunted.

"Poisoned?" James asked, glancing over his shoulder for the youth with the catapult. "Do you think it could've been sort of ... shot?"

The farmer picked the large sheepdog up in his arms. James thought he could see anger as well as sadness in the man's eyes. "No, not shot. Definitely poisoned. Like my sheep."


Chapter Two


TWO STONE HEADS

"Come on, you lazy lumps," James's father called out the next morning. "Don't forget it's Sunday today. The service starts at ten o'clock here, not eleven."

The Two Jays had seen the small country church the day before, and were interested in going to the service in what was a much older building than their church back home. At ten to ten the family made their way up the uneven, well-worn steps of the ancient building. The dark blue notice board announcing the times of the services had recently been repainted with gold lettering.

Inside, a young woman was playing hymn tunes on the small organ. There were only a handful of people there. Quietly the family leaned forward to pray. Until recently, James had often wondered what people prayed about before the service. He'd heard of people who knelt down and counted slowly to a hundred before getting up, in order to appear to be holy. But for eight weeks now he'd felt this was unlikely to be the right thing to do.

Jessica knew. There were so many things to pray about. She prayed for the Holy Spirit to come, and for the minister, that God would speak through him. For everyone who was going to be at the service -- and there weren't very many yet, she noticed. And then for herself, that she might not only learn something, but be able to praise God well.

She sat back in the ancient pew. James sat back too, and smiled at her. It had taken him slightly longer than counting to a hundred, but he'd also made good use of the time.

As ten o'clock drew near, people arrived in a rush, and soon most of the pews were occupied. Perhaps the country people were busy, and not able to get there any earlier. Whatever the reason, they seemed to be a happy lot. They smiled and nodded to their visitors, and James felt quite embarrassed to be the centre of so much attention.

The minister was a young man. James decided he'd like to meet him afterwards. He seemed such a normal sort of person. Which of course, James reflected, is what a minister should be. All those Bible people the minister was talking about, like Ezekiel and Isaiah, might have been quite normal as well, but sometimes it was difficult to think so when you saw them on stained glass windows or in old engravings. But the way this minister talked about them made you think you'd really met them.

James listened hard, but occasionally his eyes wanted to look around the church.

Embedded in the high pulpit he noticed two very small human heads, carved from stone. They stared down at the congregation in a rather disturbing way. One looked down to the left, and the other down to the right. Indeed, a small, mediaeval painting on the plaster of the wall showed a strange, bearded figure standing with a book in his hands. The painting looked as old as the church. Who could it be?

A final hymn and the service was over, with the villagers greeting each other as they began to shuffle out. James and Jessica decided to give the building a closer inspection.

Suddenly Jessica grabbed hold of James's arm. "That man, just going out! He's the one who wouldn't let us near that old quarry!"

James turned round to see the man leaving the church. He must have been sitting at the back. The minister shook hands with him as though he came every week. The man caught sight of the Two Jays, smiled at them, and then walked down the church steps. He seemed friendly enough, so why had he shouted at them so angrily to keep away from the quarry?

"I've heard about you," the minister said, walking over to the Two Jays. "We like to get to know our visitors. You're staying at the old cottage, aren't you?"

Jessica laughed. "Old? It must be the oldest thing around. Have you ever been inside?"

"Ah well," the minister replied, "I dare say it is a bit old — and a bit damp at times — but most people seem to enjoy staying in it, after a few days."

"I think it's great," James put in quickly. "It's the best place I've ever stayed in. Except there's no telly and no internet, so we can't watch anything. There's no phone signal indoors either, but we can go in the garden and go online okay. So yes, I really like it here."

The minister laughed at James's enthusiasm. "Now then, I don't know your names yet."

"I'm James Cooper."

"And I'm Jessica Green. I'm James's cousin."

"My name's Peterson. John Peterson."

"We guessed that was you," James said. He pointed to the notice board. "We saw your name there."

"It's ever such an interesting church," Jessica added.

James's father came over and introduced himself to the minister. Then he turned to James. "You and Jessica can stay and have a look round here, if you like. I'll walk back with your mother. She's rather anxious to see how to cook Sunday lunch with just a microwave and two gas rings. So don't expect anything too special!"

James wanted a closer look at the old wall painting he'd noticed during the service.

James pointed up. "That man? Is he Saint Cerig? He's supposed to have a holy well near here somewhere, isn't he?"

John Peterson nodded. "Not only a well, but a small house. Some think it might have been a chapel. That's part of it in the picture. The painting was hidden behind white paint, and it was uncovered twenty years ago when the church was being redecorated. Saint Cerig lived here nearly seven hundred years ago. There's not a trace of any building now. All we have left is his well in the middle of a field."

"Middle of a field}" James asked in surprise. "Surely——"

But the minister had gone for a moment, to collect his books.

The Two Jays examined the painting again. The colours were mostly brown and it was obviously ancient. There was certainly a stone wall by the side of the saint. Saint? He was a funny-looking man. A limerick ran through James's head.


There was an old man with a beard,

Who said, "It is just as I feared.

"Two owls and a hen,

"Four larks and a wren,

"Have all built their nests in my beard."


The minister came out of the vestry.

"It's a great painting," James said. "Is it ever so old?"

"It's believed to be late fifteenth century."

James looked up again and thought hard. "Over five hundred years old!" Then, "That's really old," he added in the quiet tone he usually used in churches, empty or full. "I think it's ever so interesting."

"My wife will be here soon. She might be able to tell you more," Mr. Peterson said. "She runs a Discoverers group for the younger children during the prayers and talk."

James had noticed several children go out during the second hymn, and the mystery was solved. But not the mystery of Saint Cerig's well. The small well they'd found was definitely not in the middle of a field!

At that moment the door of the church hall burst open, and a dozen children ran out. A woman followed them, and the minister introduced her to James and Jessica as his wife. No, she knew very little about the wall painting — or Saint Cerig. His well was the only thing anyone knew about him. Apart from that — perhaps they could try and find out something for themselves.

As they moved off, the Two Jays noticed that most of the children from Discoverers were being met by their parents who'd been at church themselves. One member was being met by someone the Two Jays had encountered before. Together, they were known to James and Jessica as the Ghastly Pair!

So far they hadn't noticed the Two Jays. "When are you going to give it up, little 'un?" the older boy asked. His hair was slightly less greasy today. Perhaps it had been cleaned in preparation for Sunday. Not that it looked as though Sunday meant much to him. Even so, perhaps he regarded it as an opportunity for a clean-up.

"My mum says I shan't be going much more," the younger boy told him.

"That's right, little 'un. No point in being indoors today. Coming out now?"

The boy said he had to have his lunch first, but he could go out in the afternoon.

"Right then, see you at two!" the older one said. Then he noticed James and Jessica. "Why, it's you!" he said scornfully in his strong Somerset accent. "I suppose you've been to church! Huh!"

"Huh! yourself," Jessica retorted, sticking out her tongue in as rude a way as she could manage.

The youth looked a bit taken aback by this. Unable to think of anything further to say, he went "Huh!" once more and walked quickly down the road, his hands thrust deep into the pockets of his jeans.

"I'm not sure sticking your tongue out was a good witness to your faith," James said, "but he definitely deserved it. I expect Mr. Peterson would know who he is. Ministers seem to know that sort of thing."

<><><>

They got the chance to ask later in the day. After an early tea James and Jessica set off for a walk on their own. In the village they met the minister and his wife, also having a stroll before the evening service. They talked for a while, and then James mentioned the two boys they'd met.

"They're horrible," Jessica said. "Who are they?"

The minister frowned. "The older one is Greg Hawker. I'm concerned about him. He's a bad influence on young Brian Tucker."

"Is Brian Tucker the young one who hangs around with Greg?" James asked.

"That's right. They live next door to each other down near the main road."

Mrs. Peterson was picking tall grasses. "I feel sorry for Brian," she said thoughtfully. "That Hawker boy is a bit of a bully. I'm afraid he's going to get into trouble with that catapult of his."

"Oh come, now," Mr. Peterson reproved. "He's hardly a gangster. A bit inclined to show off, but not the violent type."

"Can't anyone stop him?" Jessica asked. "Somehow I can't imagine James being allowed to go around like that!"

Mr. Peterson thought for a moment, then he said, "Greg's father thinks his boy is big and tough, which of course he is -- in a way. Brian's father left home a few years ago. His mother thinks he needs a man for company, and Greg is the next best thing."

James said nothing. He couldn't understand anyone wanting Greg Hawker for company.

"Brian's a nice enough boy," Mrs. Peterson said. "He's in our Discoverers."

"That's why my wife's got a soft spot for him," Mr. Peterson explained, with a wink.

Mrs. Peterson smiled and gathered her grasses into a neat bundle. "Take no notice of my husband," she said. "He's just as concerned as I am about Brian -- and about Greg. I'm afraid Brian may soon leave our Discoverers. Greg keeps trying to get him to stop coming."

James was helping Jessica pick some of the long grasses now. A large bunch of grasses would look good in the cottage. "I don't like Greg," he said, from the top of a high bank. "I can't imagine he ever went to Discoverers."

Mrs. Peterson helped James climb down. "You'd be surprised. Greg came every week until a couple of years ago. Then all of a sudden he stopped, and now he seems to be against our church and all it stands for."

James climbed the opposite bank, grabbed at some more grasses, and raced down into the road. Fortunately no traffic was coming. "There was a man in church," he said suddenly.

"Oh yes," Jessica explained. "The man who works at that old quarry up the hill."

"I know who you mean," Mr. Peterson said. "Mr. Slade. He comes along to church most Sundays."

"It's just that.... Oh well, never mind," James said.

The minister raised his eyebrows, obviously expecting to hear more.

"Well," James went on, "we were exploring yesterday and he started shouting and yelling at us."

Mr. Peterson laughed. "I expect you went near the quarry."

"Only a bit," James said. "Anyway, what's so special about the place?"

"It doesn't do to go upsetting our Mr. Slade." Once again the minister laughed. "He's a nice enough person really."

"Nice?" Jessica asked. "Are you sure?"

"Yes, quite sure. He's the local stonemason. Cuts his own stone there, and is afraid other people will take it. Most people keep away, although it isn't his quarry anyway. Anyone in the village is entitled to use it if they need stone, but no one bothers. Mr. Slade makes all sorts of shaped stone for building. That quarry was part of an old lead mine once."

"Mine?" James asked. "That sounds exciting."

"Old mines can be very dangerous," Mr. Peterson warned.

As James and Jessica assured him they'd be careful, Mr. Peterson stopped by a high stone wall outside an old house. "There's only the one mineshaft, and it's nearly filled in, right up to the top. By the way, did you hear about the poisoned animals?"

James suddenly felt frightened. "We found a sick sheepdog yesterday. The farmer said something about his sheep being poisoned. Is that right?"

Mr. Peterson nodded. "I'm afraid so. Two weeks ago there were two dead sheep by the pond in a lower field. There's a little well in the field. It looks to me as though they're getting poisoned through the water, but the Environment Agency is blaming Mr. Osborne, the farmer."

James had felt upset by the sheepdog. He couldn't bear the thought of any animals dying in that field. If the dog had been poisoned through the water, he might be in danger himself -- and Jessica, and his parents. "How do you mean, through the water?" he asked, dreading the answer.

Mrs. Peterson set his mind at rest. "Not the tap water. That comes from a reservoir near Cheddar. The water at these springs comes from the ditches and streams on the hills around here."

The minister looked up at the Two Jays. "You must be very careful if you go near the wells and streams. Don't drink any water unless it's from a proper tap." He looked at his watch. "Oh dear, we've been talking too long. I like to be indoors and have some peace and quiet before the service. It starts at six. See you there."

At his home church, James often went to both the morning and evening services. Once a month there was a special get-together at someone's house for all the young people who'd been at the evening service. He doubted whether anything like that ever happened at Sheppingford, but he was looking forward to hearing Mr. Peterson again.

James's parents, who went along to church with him at home, met the Two Jays at the church door. The service was bright and lively. It must have been interesting, because James thought no more about Saint Cerig -- or his well.

Outside, they said goodbye to the minister and his wife. James's parents were going straight back to the cottage, but the James and Jessica decided to do a bit of exploring while it was still light. There were so many places to see, interesting things to discover, and only two weeks for doing it!

They took their time and added more grasses to Jessica's collection. About halfway back, the lane ran through a small wood with high banks on either side. As they rounded the corner, there, standing in the middle of the road, was the older of the Ghastly Pair -- complete with catapult.

"Been to church I suppose," he said, flicking his hair back with a nod of his head.

James and Jessica stood firm.

The youth, now known as Greg Hawker, started walking towards them slowly. "You keep away from that church," he threatened.

"We won't be going much more," Jessica said mischievously. Greg looked pleased, until she added, "We're only here for one more Sunday!"

"What's wrong with church?" James asked.

Greg was now close. Had he really been going to church until two years ago? It was difficult to believe it.

"Wrong with church? Huh! You keep away from it. Religion!" Greg spat on the ground, but it wasn't a very good spit, so he tried again. This time with even less success. "Religion? It's soft! And they're trying to make everyone else go soft, too. I had enough of it when I was younger."

James decided it was no good trying to explain that some of the people in the Bible were amongst the bravest and toughest in history. Although Greg Hawker probably wouldn't be able to see it, it was possible to mix bravery with being a Christian. In fact, it was often necessary!

Wham! A flying lump of earth caught James on the back of his neck. Brian Tucker had crept up behind them, and was now preparing to throw another lump. Really, he thought, the Ghastly Pair were absolutely, absolutely ... ghastly!

James could feel the earth trickling slowly down the inside of his shirt. He wouldn't fight back. Jessica wouldn't welcome a fight. In any case it was Sunday -- not a day for fighting. A surprised Greg Hawker let them pass unharmed.


Chapter Three


THE KITE

That evening, with the yellow light from the brass oil lamp adding to the feeble glow from the single bulb in the middle of the ceiling, the family was reading. James had a magazine with a section on early flying.

"This is fantastic!" he said suddenly, making everyone jump.

Jessica pushed her book away. "This isn't very good. What's fantastic?"

"It says here that during the First World War the soldiers used to spy on the enemy lines by sending up a man in a basket hanging from a balloon."

"How did he get back?"

"They pulled him down again."

"Oh, the balloon was tied to the ground?"

"Yes, of course. You didn't think.... Oh, Jessica!"

"Well, what's fantastic about that, then?" Jessica demanded.

"That bit isn't, but just listen to this. They also sent men up hanging from a kite."

"A kite?" Much to James's relief, Jessica was sounding quite interested, but his parents had gone back to their reading.

"There's a picture here. It's a sort of box kite. The man under it has an old fashioned camera, probably to photograph the enemy lines. Let's make a kite."

"Have we got enough stuff? We'd need cloth and sticks, and some strong cord. The wind can be ever so strong. Do you know what to do?"

"Do?" James now wondered if he'd been just a bit too sure of himself. "I've not made one since ages ago," he admitted, "but I 'spect it's like swimming and riding a bike. You sort of never forget."

Jessica closed her book firmly. "A box kite. They're supposed to fly well, aren't they?"

"They must do, if people flew hanging underneath them with a camera. We'll make one and you can be first up!"

"Thanks," Jessica said with a shudder. "It was your idea."

"Was it? That's okay, I'll be need on the ground to control it. Let's start on it first thing in the morning."

Jessica was impatient. "No, now. There's probably enough stuff around here to get started. Let's look."

They did look but there was nothing. James said they might have to buy what they needed.

"We'll get it in Wells or Glastonbury first thing tomorrow," he said, sitting down again. "Dad can take us there in the car. Let's make a list of the things we need. Cloth. String. Some bamboos for the frame."

Mrs. Cooper looked up from her book. "Did you say you're going to make a kite?"

The Two Jays nodded.

"I might be able to help. I'll see, when you've gone up to bed. I brought one or two extra sheets. One of them is torn down one side. I was going to mend it over the holidays, but I don't suppose I'll ever get round to it."

Jessica smiled. She liked James's mum, her Aunty Amy. That sheet would never be mended! The Cooper family had hundreds of things that were going to be fixed when they got round to them. But they were all so happy that it would surely be a sad day if all the jobs were done.

Ever since she could remember, life had been like that in the Cooper household. Aunty Amy, Uncle Clive and James were all the same. Her mum and Aunty Amy were sisters, but they were so different. Her own mum was part of the "Let's do it now" brigade, and Aunty Amy was part of the "Let's leave it till tomorrow" set.

Jessica knew she was always impatient. Always wanting to get on with things. She liked to think she was having a good influence on James, because there were times when he also wanted to get on with things.

James clapped his hands with joy. "A sheet, Mum? Can you look for it now?"

"When you've gone to bed. The morning will be quite soon enough. And by the way, talking about bed...."

James groaned and knew what was coming next. There were only two proper bedrooms. His parents had one and Jessica had the other. James had a folding bed in what was really little more than a cupboard on the landing. All the same, James thought it was just about okay, as long as the door onto the landing was left slightly open.

James thought back to what had happened eight weeks ago. He'd been given a modern translation of the Bible for his birthday. An uncle he hardly knew had sent it to him. James had read bits of it, and somehow hadn't been able to put it down.

It was while reading it one evening he had made his great discovery. He still read from it every day. After eight weeks it was becoming quite a habit. He knew Jessica read regularly from her own Bible before getting up in the morning. It was always by the side of her bed, even on holiday.

After reading a few verses, James leaned forward and prayed to God, his heavenly Father. Some people would have called it "saying prayers," but James knew there was a big difference between praying and "saying prayers."

And so their first complete day came to an end. James, feeing excited about the kite, stayed awake in his "cupboard" and planned exactly how they would make it from the old sheet.

<><><>

Jessica was dragging him out of bed early the next morning -- before he'd finished his planning, it seemed.

"I'm going for a walk up the hill," Jessica announced. Then as James tried to climb back under the blanket, she added. "And you're coming too."

It was no good protesting. Jessica always meant what she said. Anyway, it looked a nice sunny morning. Yes, he would go. It was a great idea. Why hadn't he thought of it? Because he'd been asleep. Yes.... Oh well, better get dressed.

The grass was wet underfoot. Some of the water came from tiny springs deep under the ground. There had been a heavy dew. It was a morning to be prepared with wellington boots. Silvery drops of water stood out on every blade of grass. The sun, hidden by their own hill, shone golden yellow on the high Mendips.

They climbed to the top of a small hill with a wide view of the surrounding countryside. On their way back to the cottage for breakfast they met the farmer who'd gone with them to the well. Mr. Osborne -- or Farmer Osborne -- James remembered he was called.

"How's the dog?" Jessica asked. "He looked ever so poorly on Saturday."

"Fair to middling," Farmer Osborne said. "It's a real mystery how they's getting the poison. Did you hear about them other animals?"

"Two of your sheep died a couple of weeks ago, didn't they?" Jessica asked.

The farmer nodded glumly. "It were worse two months ago. I near lost a horse through it. The vet said it had been poisoned by brushwood killer. The Environment Agency sent an inspector along, and took a sample from the well where you found my dog, and all the other springs and wells roundabouts. The report came back that everything were clear. He searched around my farm and found some sealed containers of brushwood killer. I were going to use it to clear the end of the bottom field, but I never got round to it."

"Then how could it have been you?" James asked in surprise. "Not if you haven't used it."

"Well," Farmer Osborne said, "he didn't say it in so many words, but he reckoned I'd tipped an outdated container into the well. The water is often almost stagnant there, and takes a long time to clear, unless we've had heavy rain. No other animals have access to my land, so he said it must have been my fault anyhow."

James looked up at the sturdy Somerset farmer. It was strange that it had all happened before, and in the field where they'd found the dog by the well. Perhaps they could do something, on their own of course. Yes, it would be worth having a good look at the wells and springs all around here and come up with some clues.

James decided not to say anything. They would have to make another visit to the well where they found the dog. Perhaps it wasn't Saint Cerig's well anyway!

<><><>

The kite-making came to nothing. Mrs. Cooper had "forgotten" to bring a needle and thread, and as it turned out she'd even forgotten to bring the torn sheet. Jessica thought it was just too convenient, and typical of James's family.

So a trip into nearby Wells was called for. James's mother wanted to do some shopping anyway, and Jessica hoped to get a couple of books she'd been wanting to read for some time.

Jessica was amazed to hear Wells being called a city, and not only a city, but the smallest city in England. James's father explained it was a city because it had a cathedral. Not only did it have a cathedral, but it had a shop that sold a variety of kites. James insisted that the large red, green and blue model was exactly what he wanted, Jessica found one of the books she wanted, and his mother also found things she wanted. James's father seemed quite happy to go and have a cup of coffee and read the paper.

<><><>

"Is it ready?" Jessica asked impatiently, as James insisted he knew exactly how to assemble the kite as soon as they returned to the cottage.

"Let's find out," James said. "If we can't get it to fly, then it isn't! Come on, we'll try it right now."

They chose the hill behind the cottage for the first flight. Fern Hill, it was known as locally. Below the trees at the top was a fairly clear patch. Jessica laid the kite on the ground, and James walked into the gusty wind, unrolling the twin lines until he was more than thirty yards away. Jessica held the kite in the air, and James began to run with the lines.

To their relief the kite became airborne at once. James let some of the twin lines run out and the kite climbed rapidly. It looked impressive. He began to let out some more line. Suddenly the kite swooped alarmingly towards Jessica. Then it climbed steeply and swooped down again. Jessica hurried to join her cousin.

"I don't think it likes me!" she said breathlessly.

"Well don't come here," James protested. "It might attack me by mistake! Something does seem a bit wrong. I think I let the lines out too fast. Here, you take over."

Jessica tried, and by letting the twin lines out slowly and evenly, the kite climbed majestically overhead.

The late afternoon sun shone brightly on the fields below. The drainage ditches running round the flat fields in the valley shone like silver pathways. On lower ground, and close to them, was the small rock face where they'd found Farmer Osborne's sheepdog. And there yes, it must be -- the little pool of water they thought was Saint Cerig's well. Or was it? Hadn't Mr. Peterson, the minister, said the well was in the middle of a field?

As they looked, James had a horrible feeling they were being watched. Slowly he turned to look behind. Greg Hawker and his admiring companion were creeping up the hill towards them.

James wasn't sure what to do now. They'd probably seen the kite flying and were coming to make trouble. It was unlikely they'd come to watch. Greg Hawker held out his catapult, took aim at the kite, and let fly with a small stone.

"He's missed," Jessica said.

"I don't think it will do any harm if he hits it," James said quietly. "The fabric's too soft to be damaged." Then he added, "I hope!"

The Ghastly Pair were closer now. Greg Hawker fired several more stones but they all either missed or had no effect. The Two Jays stood their ground.

"Don't pull it in," Jessica warned, "or they'll think they've won."

"You're right," James agreed. "But I know what we can do."

The opposition were now directly under the kite. James pulled on one of the lines. It was supposed to be a stunt kite, but he'd not yet got used to doing anything more than trying to keep it in the air. Down and down it swooped, straight for the ground and the Ghastly Pair! Greg Hawker ran to one side, and Brian Tucker fell flat on his face shouting, "You've hit 'im! You've shot 'im down!"

James pulled on the other line and the kite began climbing steadily again.

Brian Tucker picked himself up and seemed to be looking on the ground for the wreckage, while the kite soared high above him. Greg Hawker took another shot with his catapult. Once again James made the kite dive at the ground.

"Let's not waste time here," Greg Hawker said very loudly to Brian, and taking one further shot at the kite he continued on his way.

"Just you wait," Greg shouted from a safe distance. "One day I'll smash it to bits for you!"


Chapter Four


THOSE HEADS AGAIN!

James's father was looking extremely pleased with himself when Jessica and James got back to the old cottage.

"We'll not be short of light tonight," he told them. "I found two gas lanterns under the stairs. I've been down to the local garage and bought a couple of gas cartridges. I can hardly wait until dark to try them out!"

"I thought you bought a really bright light bulb in Wells, Uncle Clive," Jessica said. "Why aren't you using that?"

Mr. Cooper shook his head. "It's a strange fitting I've never seen before," he explained. "It's more like a nightlight than a room light. I should have taken the bulb from the ceiling to make sure. Oh well, this cottage is full of surprises, and I'm starting to think it's rather fun here. Anyway, I guess we're lucky to have electricity here at all!"

James was glad to see his father in such a good mood. Probably his mother was settling in as well. He'd been feeling a bit sorry for his parents. They'd come to Sheppingford obviously expecting to have a good holiday themselves. Certainly he and Jessica were having a good time. The cottage was fun, but clearly not what his mother had been expecting. Anyway, now that his father was making the most of it, his mother was hopefully being caught up with his enthusiasm.

James's thoughts suddenly leapt ahead to another subject. "Dad," he said eagerly, "do you think the church will still be open?"

His father frowned and put the unlit lanterns down. "Aren't you going to stay and see how well they work? No, perhaps you're not. The church? You'll have to hurry. It's sure to be locked up soon."

"What's up with you?" Jessica asked. "It's not Sunday, you know!"

"It doesn't have to be Sunday to go into a church," James replied in a very superior way. Then he smiled at Jessica's hurt expression. "I wouldn't mind another look at that old wall painting," he explained. "If it really does show Saint Cerig by his well, then the well in the middle of the field can't be the real one. There's a sort of wall in the painting, I'm sure of it. There's no wall in the middle of that field. Surely something would be left there for us to see. I think the well where we found the dog must be the real one. The bottom of a rock face like that would be a good place for a building ... wouldn't it?" His voice faded away, because he didn't really know at all. It was just that his idea seemed more likely. There was no notice board up at any of the wells to say which was the right one.

"We'll need my flashlight," Jessica said. "It's nearly dark outside, and we won't know where the light switches are."

The church seemed strangely quiet. The large iron handle on the ancient oak door turned with a sharp crack! James crept in first. Jessica came and stood with him. The church felt friendly, but so different from Sunday evening when it had been full and brightly lit.

Gradually they became aware of sounds all around them. Something was clicking in the roof. Various things were creaking, and there was a muffled thud from the direction of the tower. Jessica shone her flashlight on the painting.

The latch cracked, the door creaked. Jessica switched off her flashlight as James turned quickly to see who was coming in. A dark figure stood in the doorway. Without further thought James and Jessica slipped behind the cover of a pillar. The figure paused, then slid noiselessly across the flagstones of the church floor.

It made its way past the James and Jessica and suddenly disappeared. James's heart seemed to stop, and then come back to life with great pounding beats. His eyes searched the gloom but -- no one. He could only see Jessica standing next to him.

They waited for some time. Still no noise. James tugged at Jessica's jumper and they left their hiding place. It was very difficult to creep across the uneven stone floor without making even the slightest noise, even in trainers.

They nearly walked into a pillar. This was just where the figure had disappeared. Obviously the "disappearing" figure had walked behind it. So where was it now?

Just as James was wishing he'd stayed in the cottage, the figure turned on a bright flashlight. A hand moved from one part of the old stone pulpit to the next, touching the carved stone heads -- the heads that had interested James.

Spellbound, they crept closer until they were only a few feet away. James was sure he could hear the figure breathing. The church door slammed shut.

The figure turned and let out a gasp. Jessica grabbed hold of James's arm in fright. For a moment they stood and stared. Then the flashlight shone brightly into James's eyes and the figure spoke.

"I thought I told you two to keep away! If I thought you were spying on me----"

Jessica stood firm. "Well, we weren't. We just came in here to have a look at the painting. So there! I'd like to know what you're up to."

James now felt quite brave himself. What was Greg Hawker doing in a church he didn't want to come to anyway? "Yes, what are you up to?"

Greg Hawker stumbled on his way out of the church in a hurry, not saying anything, leaving James and Jessica none the wiser.

<><><>

After an early breakfast, the Two Jays were out on Fern Hill again. James was holding the kite above his head, and every time the wind tugged at it and pulled his arms out straight, he imagined he was flying high above the Mendips. He'd seen people on paragliders, and promised himself a flight on one when he was old enough. The wind whistled past his ears, blowing his hair this way and that.

"Jessica," he called. "This is a paraglider. I'm going to fly right over the Mendips. I'll see the ground getting smaller until you're just a tiny speck!" He'd flown in planes going on holiday a couple of times, but to be in control would be fantastic. "Well, in my dreams, anyway."

He told Jessica how he could never forget the thrill the first time he'd looked down from the plane and seen the ground like a map. Flying a paraglider was some time in the future, he explained, but flying beneath a massive kite just might be possible -- if he only knew how to build one large enough to take his weight!

Jessica's thoughts were more down to earth. Or maybe, she realised, more up to heaven. Before setting out, she'd been reading from her Bible. There was a booklet she used, that set out just a few verses for each day, and helped explain what she read. This morning it had been Isaiah chapter forty. She smiled as she thought of what James had just told her about flying. They both had plenty of energy, but it was good to remember that God wanted to lift her up when things got bad. She could recall the whole verse -- for once!


They who wait for the Lord

shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up

with wings like eagles;

They shall run and not be weary;

They shall walk and not faint.


There was a time when she always expected to find something helpful for what she was just about to do -- almost like sticking a pin in a page, and finding exactly the verse she needed. She knew she sometimes got real help just when she needed it, but more often help came from remembering something she'd read days, or even weeks earlier. The main thing, she told herself, was to read a bit of her Bible every day, and stay in touch with God.

She was glad to know James felt the same way. He'd told her what had happened eight weeks ago, and quite often they talked about their new life in God's family. She knew that when you know someone you want to be close to them, and both she and James knew Jesus.

She joined James who was running up the hill. "Stop," she pleaded, for she felt very out of breath now. "I'm going to take a picture of you and the kite with my phone. Stay there, and hold the kite above your head. And it's okay to smile if you want to."

"Thanks," he said, breaking into a grin. "I think I'll take one of you with my phone. Okay?"

James knew Jessica was sometimes rude about his results. Even though the picture was there on the screen, somehow the horizon or buildings were often crooked, or feet were mysteriously missing from the bottom of the picture. If she'd been his sister she could hardly have been any ruder! Perhaps, he thought, perhaps it was a good thing. It made him really careful before taking a picture. But, then, he reflected, that didn't always seem to do much good!

Jessica took her turn holding the kite for the photograph. James told her to pretend she was having a job to hold it down. A sudden gust of wind made Jessica react quickly, and as she fought with the kite, "click", James was convinced he had a prizewinning photograph on his phone. If it was as fantastic as he expected it to be, he'd enter it in the school handicrafts exhibition in the autumn.

"Come here and look at the screen," he called. "I've just taken the best one ever!"

"Oh yes?" Jessica asked. "What of? Your thumb?"

James knew she was joking and just snarled at her. "No," he said, "the end of my nose. I had the phone the wrong way round!"

Jessica laughed. "That wouldn't surprise me!"

James was excited about the photograph he'd taken. "I want to get it printed," he said. If he could find a photo shop while on holiday, the result would be sure to leave Jessica speechless.

The wind seemed stronger now. The kite flew well, but there was too much pull on the twin lines. The wind whistled through them, setting up a humming sound. Suddenly the strong pull was gone, and the broken lines drifted in a gentle curve down to the ground. The kite with a short length of line still attached, tossed and turned in the wind until it landed far away in the branches of a large oak tree.


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