Excerpt for The Cliff Edge Adventure by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Cliff Edge



Chris Wright

© Chris Wright 2017

e-Book ISBN: 978-0-9957594-4-2

also available as a paperback

ISBN: 978-1-5-211370-3-1

Published by

White Tree Publishing




More books by Chris Wright on


The Cliff Edge 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 book.

The English 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 for free downloads of over a thousand Bible translations in over a thousand languages on your phone, tablet, and computer.)

About the Book

James and Jessica’s Aunt Judy lives in a lonely guest house perched on top of a crumbling cliff on the west coast of Wales. She is moving out with her dog Jack for her own safety, because she has been warned that the waves from the next big storm could bring down a large part of the cliff -- and her house with it. Cousins James and Jessica, the Two Jays, are helping her sort through her possessions, and they find an old papyrus page they think could be from an ancient copy of one of the Gospels. Two people are extremely interested in having it, but can either of them be trusted? James and Jessica are alone in the house. It’s dark, the electricity is off, and the worst storm in living memory is already battering the coast. Is there someone downstairs?

Table of Contents


About the Book


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

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21


About White Tree Publishing

About the author

More books for young readers


This is the third Two Jay’s adventure. It takes place on the west coast of Wales, where many people speak Welsh. In most schools the Welsh language is used for lessons. Here are a few Welsh phrases, including the approximate pronunciation. You need to hear it spoken to understand the exact sounds.

Bore da (Pronounced: Boh-reh dah): Good morning

Prynhawn da (Prin-houn dah): Good afternoon

Nos da (nohs dah): Good night

Croeso i Gymru (Croesoh ee Gum-reeh): Welcome to Wales

Diolch (Dee-olch): Thanks

Da iawn (Dah ee-aw-n): Very good

In Bethel Chapel (Capel Bethel in Welsh) Annie Jones plays the harp and sings what is probably the most beautiful and moving Welsh hymn, Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean.

You can hear this hymn sung in Welsh and English to a harp on YouTube. Try this link:

If the link is broken, enter all these words without the quote marks: “YouTube Here is Love Vast as the Ocean in Welsh and English” in a search engine. You are looking for the recording made at The Event Without Walls, 1995. When you are with James and Jessica in Capel Bethel, remember this link!

A word of warning; If you try to print a sheet of modern papyrus in an inkjet printer, you do so at your own risk. Do get some adult supervision. It works for the Two Jays in the story without harming the printer, and it works for me in my printer, but maybe not in all printers. Genuine papyrus sheets are available on the internet.

This story takes place in the UK, so British English spelling is used. Also note that whereas in America a mother is a mom, where the Two Jays live a mother is a mum.

Chris Wright

Chapter 1

Is Great Aunt Judy’s house really going to fall crash bang into the sea?” James Cooper asked from the back seat of the car. They seemed to have been on the road for ages and must surely be close to Abergair on the west coast of Wales by now.

His father gave a long sigh. “Perhaps,” he said. “At first I thought Aunt Judy was in a panic about nothing, but the local council has stopped her taking guests in her guest house and told her to move out. So I guess it must be serious.”

His mother turned round with what looked like a reassuring smile. “I’d be surprised if it fell into the sea this year.”

Not as surprised as we’d be, if it fell down this week while we’re inside it,” James said.

I remember going to stay with Great Aunt Judy when I was small,” Jessica said. “I went with my mum and dad. She was ever so strict. It had to be, yes Aunt Judy, no Aunt Judy, please Aunt Judy, thank you Aunt Judy.”

James laughed, and Jessica said, “It wasn’t funny at the time. I was really scared of her.”

I think it would be best if you called her Aunt Judy, not Great Aunt Judy,” Mrs Cooper said. “I know she’s old, but she may not want to be reminded of her age. And she has some very old-fashioned ideas on the role of men and women, and girls and boys in the house, but don't you dare to try to correct her.”

James groaned. “And now you’re leaving us with her for a whole week to be her slaves. This is going to be the best spring half term ever, clearing all her stuff and taking it to the dump. And to the charity shops. And to her new place. And all the time she’s going to be fussing about our behaviour. Thanks, Mum. Thanks, Dad.”

It was the end of February. James Cooper and Jessica Green were cousins. James’s father and Jessica’s mother were brother and sister. James wasn’t quite sure where scary Great Aunt Judy fitted into the family tree.

Aunt Judy is Grandpa Robert’s sister,” his father said, as though reading James’s mind. “My father’s sister”

Grandpa Robert is fun. Always joking with us and messing around. I get the feeling Great Aunt Judy isn’t like that.” James gave a pretend shiver.

His father shook his head. “You’ve got that right. She’s five years older than Grandpa Robert, and he says she was a very bossy older sister. She never married, and has lived in her isolated guest house right on the top of a cliff on a remote part of the Welsh coast.”

I don’t ever remember seeing her,” James said.

Lucky you,” Jessica whispered to him.

I heard that,” Mrs Cooper said. “Please don’t speak about your elders in that way.” She thought for a moment. “I can’t say I’m looking that forward to meeting her myself,” she added. “And Dad and I are only staying for a couple of hours!”

James grunted. “But you’re leaving us alone with her for the whole week. Great move, Mum. Have you actually sold us both as slaves?”

James’s father laughed. “A spare bit of cash always comes in handy. Not that we got much for you.”

You won’t be slaving away the whole time,” Mrs Cooper said reassuringly. “There are narrow steps down to the beach and you’ll be able to take Aunt Judy’s dog for a run on the sand a couple of times a day. Poor thing probably never gets down there much.”

James gave a loud groan. “This is just so embarrassing. It’s going to be some ghastly little dog called Fluffy Puff Puff that wears a pink coat and has a pink bow on its head. It will be like taking a flea for a walk on the end of a lead. I think I’m going to die of shame. Can we turn round and go home, please?”

James’s mother laughed. “You’re in for a shock there, my lad. The dog is called Jack, and it’s mostly Doberman. Aunt Judy used to let her guests take Jack for a run on the beach most days, and sometimes she lets him go down the steps to the beach on his own. I don’t think it’s been getting much exercise since the guest house business was closed. Even so, Jack will be able to outrun the two of you, that’s for sure.”

Jack and Judy,” Jessica said thoughtfully. “We’ll be the Four Jays, not the Two Jays.”

Mrs Cooper gave a long sigh. “I hope the two of you are going to be sensible as well as helpful when you’re there. No, the house isn’t about to fall down the cliff, to answer your earlier question. But it might at some time in the next year or two. Some of the garden fell away a few weeks ago, and the house is now a bit too close to the edge for comfort.”

I’ve been thinking,” James said. “The forecast is for storms this week. If it fell down now, it would save us the bother of having to pack everything up ready for the move.”

You’re terrible, you are,” Jessica said. “I can’t say I have very good memories of Aunt Judy, but I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Not even on her.”

Besides,” Mrs Cooper added, “you’d be even more busy if it fell. You’d have to fetch everything up from the beach, and the steps are very steep.”

Since entering Wales, what had been hills were now getting higher and higher, and one or two of them could even be called mountains, with snow left on their tops.

They were driving along the edge of a large lake when Jessica noticed the road signs for the first time. “Everything’s in Welsh,” she protested. “Does everyone here speak Welsh?”

The further west we go,” Mrs Cooper explained, “the more Welsh speakers there will be.”

James was now taking notice of the Welsh signs. On a road junction, written in large white letters were the words Araf and Slow. “Will people be able to understand us?”

His mother turned round to where he and Jessica were sitting comfortably in the back of the car. “Araf is Welsh for slow,” she explained. “A letter f on its own sounds like a letter v. Ff together sound like our f. But you don’t have to worry about that. Everyone uses English when they’re talking to visitors. Aunt Judy is as English as they come, although she’s probably picked up some Welsh phrases by now. She’s been living in Abergair for nearly forty years. So you don’t have to worry at all about learning a new language.”

Ah,” James said, “there’s something we meant to tell you, Jessica. Wales is a land of music, and Aunt Judy has a Welsh harp. She’s put you down to give a recital on the harp to the whole village on Wednesday evening. It’s only Saturday today, so you’ve got plenty of time to learn some Welsh tunes. And to learn to play the harp.”

And what will you be doing, James?”

Me? I’ll be taking Aunt Judy’s dog for a run on the beach -- even if Mum is tricking us, and it really is called Fluffy Puff Puff. It would be much more embarrassing to be in the village hall listening to you!”

Chapter 2

Conversation in the car stopped for a while as everyone took in the exciting Welsh scenery. But James felt unable to relax. It had seemed a bit of an adventure setting out to spend the spring half term helping Aunt Judy. Now, she sounded like the ultimate nightmare stepmother from terrifying fairytales -- except she sounded like the ultimate nightmare aunt.

Tell us about Great Grandpa Stanley,” James said suddenly. “Jessica and I never knew him. Nobody talks about him.”

His parents stayed silent for quite some time.

Is this some dreadful family secret?” James asked. He was starting to think he should have taken more interest in who was who in the family.

Great Grandpa Stanley died when I was small,” James’s father said. “I can hardly remember him. He was in the war in North Africa, and never really recovered from his injuries.”

Tell them about the treasure he brought back from Cairo at the end of the war,” James’s mother said. “They might be able to find it while they’re clearing the loft.” And she laughed.

Treasure?” James said, sitting up straight in the car. “Real treasure?”

James’s father laughed this time. “That’s what Great Grandpa Stanley thought he was buying. I can picture it now. The war had just ended, and his regiment was posted outside Cairo in North Egypt. He and some of his mates were in the local market looking for souvenirs to take home.”

It was Jessica’s turn to look interested now. “The market was selling treasure?”

Mr Cooper shook his head. “I want you to picture Great Grandpa Stanley in his sergeant’s uniform, going to a market stall that seemed to have lots of Ancient Egyptian objects for sale. And I did say seemed to have lots of Ancient Egyptian objects. One of the things that caught his eye was a beautiful papyrus sheet showing one of the pharaohs in full colour, surrounded by lots of hieroglyphics. It looked old and of course the price was very high.”

Did he buy it?” Jessica asked in excitement.

Hush, Jessica, and let Uncle Clive tell the story,” James’s mother said.

James’s father, who was Uncle Clive to Jessica, said, “Yes, he did.”

Wow,” James said, “and it’s somewhere in Aunt Judy’s loft. Can we have it if we find it?”

We’re still in Cairo in the story,” James’s father said. “In an Arab market you don’t just ask how much something is and pay the price. The seller asks a ridiculously high price, and the buyer offers a ridiculously low one. Getting the right price is an art, and Great Grandpa Stanley knew this. So although he thought he was buying something really ancient, he was hoping to get it cheaply.”

Did he?” James asked.

Listen to your father,” Mrs Cooper said, “and don’t keep interrupting.”

His father shook his head. “The stall holder wouldn’t drop the price low enough for Great Grandpa Stanley. He was about to walk away and look for something else, when the Arab on the stall said he had something special. He didn’t know what it was, but thought it might be a page from a very old Bible.”

And was it?” James asked.

Again his mother had to tell him to be patient and listen to the story.

It certainly looked old,” his father said. “Like the Ancient Egyptian page, it was on what seemed to be very old papyrus, written in slightly faded ink. The long and the short of it is that a deal was done, and Great Grandpa Stanley proudly brought both pages home with him.”

What an amazing souvenir,” Jessica said. “I love souvenirs. Where are they both now?”

When he got back, he had them framed and for a time everyone in the family thought they were something special.”

But I’m guessing they weren’t,” James said. “Am I right?”

Just listen and don’t try to spoil the story,” his mother said.

Sorry, Dad.”

Nobody was at all interested in the papyrus page with the writing on it. It was the Ancient Egyptian painting of the pharaoh with the hieroglyphics that looked special. Great Grandpa Stanley was too ill to work, so one day Grandpa Robert decided to go up to London to get it valued. And what do you think?”

It was worth ten million pounds,” James said. “And that’s why we’re such a wealthy family.”

Are we?” Jessica said. “I didn’t realise.” And then she laughed to make sure everyone knew she was joking.

He took it to one of the main London dealers selling antiquities,” Mr Cooper continued, ignoring the interruptions. “They took one look at it and shook their heads sadly. They explained that it wasn’t old, but he protested that it looked old. They said it was a modern piece of papyrus that had been dipped in brown stain in places to make it look old, and rubbed away with sandpaper. They said they would buy it, but only as a curiosity, and offered hardly anything for it.”

Was it a trick?” Jessica asked.

Good thought, Jessica,” her uncle said. “Anyway, he didn’t sell it to them, because he was suspicious, like you. So we told him to take it to the museum.”

And?” James interrupted impatiently.

And they said exactly the same thing. They even got out a special ultraviolet light which made some of the colours shine brightly. That would never have happened if they’d been old pigments. They explained that Great Grandpa Stanley was by no means the first person to be tricked like that. Lots of soldiers came back from Egypt with what they believed were great treasures of Ancient Egypt. Little carved figures and things like that are easy to fake, and difficult to date accurately.”

And you think it’s up in Aunt Judy’s loft and worth another opinion,” James said, rather hopefully.

His father shook his head. “He gave it to a friend who was interested in Ancient Egypt and the pharaohs. Sorry, but there can be no doubt about it, it was definitely a fake.”

Jessica was jigging around in excitement. “So what’s up in Aunt Judy’s loft?”

Lots of big spiders’ webs to get tangled in your hair,” James told her.

She ignored him. “Do you think there’s treasure up there, Uncle Clive?”

Mr Cooper remained silent for a moment, waiting for a stretch of clear road so he could overtake a farm tractor and trailer.

I know,” James shouted out. “The other page. The one the man in the market said might be from an old Bible!”

Is that it?” Jessica asked.

The overtaking manoeuvre complete, James’s father nodded. “Exactly.”

Didn’t anyone think to get it examined?” Jessica asked. “Surely the museum would have been able to help.”

Ah, that’s the problem. Everyone had been expecting the amazing looking Egyptian papyrus with the pharaoh and hieroglyphics to be valuable. When they knew it was a fake, everybody thought the boring looking papyrus with writing on it would be rubbish.”

Wow,” James said, “where is it now?”

Is it in Aunt Judy’s loft?” Jessica asked.

It might be, and it might not be,” Mr Cooper said.

What does that mean, Dad?” James demanded.

It means exactly what I said,” his father told him. “I know Aunt Judy was the last person in the family to have it. I’ve asked her about it several times, and she always says it’s up in the loft, but she’s always too busy to go and look for it. It’s possible she’s thrown it out and doesn’t want to admit it.”

And you think it’s valuable, Dad?”

I’ve no idea, James. Even if it is old, it doesn’t mean it’s valuable. But I really would like to get it examined by an expert. To tell you the truth, I’ve been worried that if Aunt Judy got in a house clearance company, it would simply disappear.”

James closed his eyes for a moment in thought, then opened them suddenly. “Is that why you’ve sold Jessica and me as slaves? You want us to be the ones to find it!”

I want you to help Aunt Judy sort out everything in her house. It’s better if the family does it, and it will be good for her to see what a wonderful great nephew and niece she has.”

Dad,” James said, “what a wonderful excuse to find the treasure. You’re tricky enough to be selling things in a market in Cairo!”

It’s not a trick, James. Yes, I want you to be on the lookout for this papyrus page before it gets thrown out. If you find it, you’re to show it to Aunt Judy. I’m going to let her know I’ve asked you to keep an eye open for it. She will probably say you can keep it. The important thing is to make sure she doesn’t put it in one of the rubbish sacks for the dump.”

James broke into a smile. Being a slave suddenly seemed attractive. He turned to Jessica and noticed that the car was stopping outside the Abergair Guest House. “Come on, girl, let’s go and hunt for it. I’ll find it first, you see. First one to find it keeps it.”

We’ll see about that,” Jessica said. “Don’t forget, we have to give Aunt Judy a kiss. A big, wet kiss. You can go in first.”

Chapter 3

Aunt Judy wasn’t quite the dragon they were expecting, although Jack, the dog, gave them a bigger welcome, and he didn’t even demand a kiss. Much to James’s relief, his mum was right about the breed of dog. So no Fluffy Puff Puff after all!

James looked at his aunt and was surprised by her height. He’d been expecting a frail woman, bent over with age. Instead, Aunt Judy was tall, although slightly bent, and she was wearing a dark brown full length knitted dress. She had a square jaw with small bristles on it. Her gray hair was pulled back in a bunch. She stared at him and Jessica through large, black framed glasses, as though inspecting something unpleasant the cat had brought in.

Now you two,” James’s mother said, “take Jack on the beach for a run, while we grown-ups have a chat and a cup of tea together. You’ll see the way down to the beach. It’s in the road just outside the entrance to the house. Keep away from the bottom of the cliff in case of anymore rock falls.”

The steps had a white wooden gate at the top, which was easy to find. A warning on the gate said the steps were dangerous, and persons using them did so at their own risk. From here, at the top of the cliff, they could look back up the valley that led to the beach. Abergair was at the mouth of a small river, but everywhere looked wet and marshy. The village must be inland, so this wasn’t really a holiday resort.

Further up the valley they could see houses and what looked like a small chapel. James decided the village could be somewhere to escape to if things got too difficult with Aunt Judy!

Following Aunt Judy’s strict instructions, they had put Jack on his lead until they were through the gate. James was glad they were allowed to let him off it at this point, because the dog would surely drag them down the steep steps to the beach in its excitement.

A brisk cold wind blew in their faces as they stood at the top of the cliff looking out over the large, dark blue waves with white tops. The cloudless sky was a pale blue colour. Rain was forecast for later in the week. Seagulls circled around the rocks, their cries even louder than the sound of the wind and waves.

James took a deep breath of fresh, salty air. “This is just fantastic,” he said. “I wonder what’s over the horizon.”

Ireland,” Jessica told him. “I’m sure it’s too far away to see. Come on, let’s get down on the beach. It won’t be so windy down there. Look at the way my hair is flying about. I should have worn a hat.”

James looked at Jessica’s long blonde hair being whipped all over her face. The wind was cold as well as strong. Even his thick, dark brown hair wasn’t doing any good at keeping his ears warm.

The steps went down in a zigzag, cut into the cliff, and they didn’t look particularly safe. There was a rope to hold onto as a handrail, and James made sure he had his hand round it the whole time. Jack was already a black dot racing across the small sandy bay.

This brings back memories of standing here when I was six,” Jessica said, clinging tightly to the rope to steady herself. “Just be careful, James. It’s not a race to the bottom.”

James, who was a little way ahead, had no intention of hurrying. “Let’s hope we can get Jack onto his lead when we come up. Just imagine the fuss there would be if we had to leave him down here.”

The small bay had a steep beach of golden sand, with a long row of dark seaweed at the top. Large waves crashed around the rocks out to sea. The forecast had been for unsettled weather, but the size of the waves surprised James. He guessed it would be really exciting here during a gale.

The seagulls had obviously spotted the visitors, and came to see if there would be any food. “I hope they keep away from us,” Jessica said. “The last thing I want is a seagull getting tangled in my hair.”

James laughed. “You wait until we are up in Aunt Judy’s loft. The spiders up there are even bigger than the seagulls. They really will get caught up in your hair.”

Jessica ignored him, but did sort of wonder if there would be spiders up there, although obviously not as big as the gulls that circled overhead. Even so, she wished James hadn’t mentioned spiders.

James turned round to look at the cliff. “Wow,” he said, pointing to the bottom. “All that stuff must be part of Aunt Judy’s garden. Let’s go and look at it.”

Jessica pulled him back. “Remember what your mum said. We have to stay well away from it.”

Even as she spoke, some soil and stones came free at the top, and rattled their way down the cliff face.

Don’t worry,” James said. “I’m keeping well clear. I don’t want the whole house landing on top of me.”

James could see that the beach was quite short, with a headland on each side. The headland to the left went far out to sea, ending with huge broken rocks, and it would not be possible to get round to the far bay, even at the lowest tide. The headland to the right could easily be passed, unless the tide was well in.

The headlands seemed to be made of solid rock, but the part in between was quite crumbly. “Why would someone build a house over a loose part of the cliff, when there’s a rocky headland each side? Jesus knew not to build a house on the sand, but on the rock. Don’t you remember the story of the wise man who built his house on the rock, and the foolish man who built his house on the sand and it came tumbling down? It doesn’t make sense to build a house up there.”

You can ask Aunt Judy,” Jessica said, laughing. “If you’re brave enough.”

I’ll leave that to you. I'm sure Aunt Judy didn't buy it new, so we can’t blame her for where it’s built. I can see why she wants to get out quickly. That’s a huge amount of garden that’s fallen onto the beach. Look how close the house is now to the edge. It’s really scary. Let’s hope there isn’t a big storm this week.”

Jack came up to them carrying a large, wet stick in his mouth, obviously waiting for them to throw it so he could chase after it.

Don’t throw it into the sea,” Jessica warned, as James bent down to pick it up. “We don’t even know if Jack can swim.”

All dogs can swim, Jessica. That’s why it’s called the doggy paddle. But, yes, perhaps Jack is an exception. Let’s go round the headland and explore a bit.” He looked at the time on his phone. “We have to be out for an hour, to give Mum and Dad time to say whatever they have to say to Aunt Judy. I think the tide is well out now, but we don’t want to get cut off if we can’t get out the other side of the headland.”

Jessica was looking thoughtful. “I was only young when I came here, but I can clearly remember walking along this beach. It was summer, and I was allowed to paddle in the sea, but not go in deep enough to swim. Anyway, the water felt freezing.”

I’m certainly not going to try swimming now,” James said, throwing the stick as far as he could along the beach for Jack to fetch. “You can go in if you want to.”

Not likely. If we go round the headland I think there’s another way up. I can sort of remember it. At the top there’s a track that takes us back to Aunt Judy’s house. At least, I think there is.”

James broke into a trot. “Let’s go and see. Last one round the headland is a ninny. Come on, Jack!”

As he reached the headland James looked back. Jack was beside him, still carrying the wet stick in his mouth, but Jessica had stayed where she was. Some race that turned out to be!

I’m coming,” Jessica called. “Wait for me.” She arrived breathless, and pointed back to the house at the top of the cliff. “From here, it looks horribly close to the edge,” she said. “Do you think it’s safe to stay here?”

Bound to be,” James said confidently. “My parents wouldn’t let us stay there if it wasn’t safe. Dad said it’s fine unless there’s heavy rain and a big storm battering the cliff.”

And suppose there is heavy rain washing away the soil, and huge waves battering the cliff? What happens then?”

Then the cliff falls down and the house falls with it. But we won’t be in there. We’ll be sheltering down in the village of Abergair if it happens this week. There’s sure to be plenty of warning, so don’t worry about it.”

The headland was made up of dark rocks lying at a steep angle. At some time in the distant past, massive movement underground had brought the rocks to the surface, tilting them up and forming the cliffs.

Why is there that crumbly stuff in the bay?” James asked. “Why isn’t the whole cliff made of solid rock?”

I think it’s the Ice Age,” Jessica said. “We did something about it in my school last term. The big glaciers carried lots of rubble along with them as they gouged out the land on their way to the sea, and dumped it when they melted. And that’s the rubble they left here in the valley they carved. Now where’s Jack?”

Jack had made his way along the stretch of beach beyond the headland. There wasn’t any sand there, but broken rocks covered the shore instead. The cliff was similar to that below Aunt Judy’s house, dark brown and crumbly.

I was right,” Jessica said. “There are steps up to the top that we used when I was six.”

It looks even more dangerous than the one we came down,” James said. “I’m glad we don’t have to go up there.”

He turned round anxiously to make sure the tide hadn’t risen suddenly and trapped them this side of the headland. The tide didn’t seem to be any further in than it was a few minutes before, although with the large waves it was difficult to tell. “I think we ought to get back to our bay, just in case.”

Jessica didn’t seem to be worried. She picked up Jack’s stick and flung it further along the shore. It bounced off a large rock and disappeared behind it. Within seconds Jack had found it and brought it back, dropping it hopefully at Jessica’s feet.

Jessica flung it again, as far as she could. “I seem to remember a cave here.” She pointed to the side of the headland. “Yes, there it is. I remember going quite far into it. It ponged of old seaweed. I was looking for pirates’ treasure.”

Did you find any?”

A chest full of gold and jewels. But it was too heavy to drag out, so I left it there. You want to go and look for it?”

No thank you. You know what happens to me in caves. I get stuck.”

Jessica rolled her eyes. “Then it will have to stay there. I’m not too keen on caves myself anymore, after what happened in Dakedale.” [See The Dark Tunnel Adventure.]

I think we should make our way back,” James said, looking at the time on his phone again. “There’s not much of a signal here, and I wouldn’t want to be trapped by the tide.” He looked again at the dangerous steps up the cliff. “There’s another headland further on, and I don’t fancy being trapped in this cove, and having to climb up those rickety steps. You can tell by the piles of seaweed, the tide comes right up to the bottom of the cliff.”

Chapter 4

By the time the Two Jays had made their way back to the Abergair Guest House, James’s parents had finished their confidential chat with Aunt Judy. What they’d been saying, James had no idea. But it can’t have been all bad because Aunt Judy gave them a welcoming smile. Unless of course it was because his parents were still there and watching.

Now then,” Mr Cooper said, “it’s been agreed what you’re to do this week. It’s not going to take the whole time you’re here, so you’ll be able to get out and explore the area. Aunt Judy wants you to help sort through a lot of stuff up in the loft. I’ve explained that I want you to look for the papyrus page that came back from Egypt at the end of the war.”

He looked across at Aunt Judy who was sitting rather stiffly in an armchair by the electric fire that was glowing in the hearth. “She’s happy to let you keep it if you find it, as a reward for what you’re doing to help her.”

It’s only rubbish,” Aunt Judy added.

James looked at her in interest. This came as quite a surprise. “So we really can keep it?”

Aunt Judy looked at him rather sharply. “Yes, that’s what your father said, young man. In my day we never questioned anything our elders said.” She sounded rather cross.

Right then, you two,” Mr Cooper said, obviously trying to take the heat off a developing situation, “here’s the plan of action. As you know, Aunt Judy is going into a new apartment in town. She won’t have room for much of the furniture, so she’s already selected some special pieces she wants to keep. The rest of the furniture is being collected later for an auction sale.”

So you’re not to touch any of that,” Aunt Judy snapped.

James realised the crocodile was already showing its teeth. “Of course not,” he said politely. “So what do we do?”

Aunt Judy took a deep breath. “You listen to what your father is telling you, James. I don’t want any misunderstandings.”

James thought his father winked at him, but it might have been nerves. “This is the plan,” he said. “Downstairs there are some precious ornaments. Aunt Judy is responsible for those. She’s going to wrap each one carefully in newspaper and put everything in some secure boxes.”

What about the loft?” Jessica asked.

That comes first,” Mr Cooper explained. “Aunt Judy wants you to bring all the boxes down from there. There’s a folding ladder like a staircase, so you can safely pass the boxes and bags down to each other. I gather there’s quite a bit of stuff up there.”

Is that it?” James asked.

It certainly isn’t, young man,” Aunt Judy retorted. “That’s only the start of the work. Don’t think you’re getting off that lightly.”

I was only asking,” James said quietly. This half term really was going to be fun!

That’s all right,” his father said. Again James thought he detected a wink, but the atmosphere was such that anybody could easily develop a nervous twitch. “A few of the boxes will contain things that Aunt Judy wants to take to her new accommodation, but most of them have a mix of things. Some items will go into boxes for her to take, some will go into other boxes to go to one of the charity shops in town, and other stuff will go into boxes and sacks to take to the rubbish dump.”

Aunt Judy said, “We have recycling here, so you won’t be putting everything into one skip when we get there. Don’t worry, I’ll be watching, to make sure you sort everything correctly.”

James was sure that she would. “Can we start now?” he asked.

My, my, you are keen,” Aunt Judy said. “I’m feeling rather tired this evening, but it would be a good idea if you and your cousin started to bring everything down. You can put it in one of the empty bedrooms. Your father will show you how to get the loft ladder down and where the light is in the loft.”

His father stood up. “Mum and I have to be leaving soon, James,” he explained. “But come on, I’ll show you what’s what if we go upstairs now.”

In the hallway he put his finger to his lips and shook his head, as though warning them not to say anything about Aunt Judy.

On the landing he pointed to a large hatch on the ceiling. Hanging on the wall was a long stick with a hook on the end. He caught hold of the stick, and held it high. Then he slipped the hook through a ring on the hatch and pulled. To James and Jessica’s amazement, as the hatch swung down on hinges, a long wooden stairway unfolded from inside the loft.

Before he could be stopped, James was up the stairway, poking his head into the chilly darkness. “Where’s the light?” he asked.

Aunt Judy said there’s a cord straight above your head. Can you see it?”

Got it, Dad. I can see.... No, no, no! It can’t be true.”

Jessica already had her foot on the bottom tread. She jumped down quickly. “What is it? Spiders?”

Worse than spiders,” James called down from the hatch. “Just come up here and look at this.”

Jessica shook her head. “I’m not coming up until you tell me what it is.”

Yes, James, just tell us what you’ve found up there.”

It’s nothing scary. Well, yes, it is in a way. Come up and see.”

His father went first, and stood looking through the open hatch. “That’s terrible,” he said.

What is it?” Jessica demanded from the landing. “Is it alive?”

You’d better come up and see, Jessica,” her uncle said.

Feeling braver now, Jessica made her way slowly up the wooden steps and peeped into the loft. “You’re right, it is terrible. I didn’t expect it to be this bad.”

Boxes and plastic bags seemed to cover the whole loft area. James was amazed the ceilings below hadn’t collapsed under the weight of it all.

His father was examining some of the bags and boxes. “I think you’ve got your work cut out for the week, kids,” he said. “I’m sorry. Really sorry. I had no idea what I’d let you both in for. I’ll tell you what. Your mum and I will stay here for the night instead of setting off for home. All the guest rooms are empty. We were planning to stay somewhere on the way back, anyway, as it’s too late to get home tonight. I need to be at work on Monday, and we’ll be home tomorrow in plenty of time if we leave early in the morning.”

If you’re sure, Uncle Clive,” Jessica said. “That’s a really, really good offer. Thank you so much.”

Mr Cooper clapped his hands together to knock off the dust. “I’ll pop down and explain the change of plans. Just leave everything alone while I’m gone. No looking for papyrus pages. All right?”

James had already been poking about. “Some of these boxes feel a bit heavy.”

I don’t think that will be a problem, James. You and Jessica can stand below and I’ll pass everything down to you. You can carry the heavy stuff into one of the bedrooms together. Then you and Aunt Judy can start going through things tomorrow.”

It’s Sunday tomorrow, Uncle Clive. I know it’s all right to help people on Sunday, but we’d like to go to church together. When we were out with Jack we could see a chapel in Abergair village about a mile up the valley.”

I’m sure that will be all right, Jessica. I’ll have a word with Aunt Judy so she understands what’s happening. I wouldn’t want her to think you’re ducking out of helping her.”

The Two Jays could hear some discussion going on downstairs, but James’s father was quickly back up, a smile on his face. “That was surprisingly easy, James. Mum and I will stay the night, and you and Jessica are going to spend the evening up here with me taking everything down from the loft. If we get stuck into it, it probably won’t take long.”

James gave a loud groan. “Probably?”

His father laughed. “Perhaps I should have said hopefully won’t take long. And it’s okay about chapel in the morning. It’s Independent Methodist, and it’s called Capel Bethel, which of course means Bethel Chapel in English. Aunt Judy says the service is at ten o’clock, but she doesn’t go, so you’ll have to walk down there yourselves.” He frowned. Then he shook his head, but said nothing.

What is it, Dad? I know that look. Something isn’t right, is it?”

It’s... it’s the way Aunt Judy agreed so quickly. It’s as though she....”

Yes, Dad?”

Nothing, James. Forget I said anything. Come on, let’s get started on this loft.” He sighed. “I was hoping for a peaceful evening with your mum.”

James watched his father climb the wooden steps to the loft. Something wasn’t right. Perhaps they’d find out in the morning.

Chapter 5

James was woken in the morning by Jessica banging loudly on his bedroom door. “Get up, sleepy. Your mum and dad are about to leave.”

James turned over in bed and realised just how sore the muscles were in his arms. “I can’t possibly get up yet. Moving all that stuff last night has wrecked me. Completely wrecked me. What time is it, anyway?”

It’s Sunday, its seven o’clock, and the sun is shining. As soon as we’ve had breakfast, we’ll take Jack for another run on the beach. He seemed so excited about it yesterday. I can’t think he gets out much. And then we’ll walk down to Bethel Chapel to be in plenty of time for the service at ten. Aunt Judy says it’s nearly a mile away.”

James had taken a shower last night, after handing all the dusty bags and boxes his father had passed down through the hatch. So it didn’t take him long to join everyone downstairs.

Jessica had exaggerated a bit about his parents being ready to leave. They were still eating breakfast. He’d imagined that this being a guest house, there would have been a full cooked breakfast with orange juice.

He looked at the small toast rack that held two thin slices of white toast. “Is this all I’m getting?” he whispered. Aunt Judy was out in the kitchen, so she was unlikely to overhear.

There’s a bowl on the sideboard, and a box of cornflakes,” his mother said. “Help yourself to as much as you want. And there’s a carton of orange juice.”

James looked at it. A carton of juice! Not even the fresh “Never from Concentrate” he was used to at home. Perhaps the milk was old, too. He sniffed the small jug cautiously. It seemed okay.

Cornflakes and toast would probably keep him going until lunchtime, he decided. He hoped Aunt Judy was going to give her two slaves something decent for lunch.

He was reaching for the marmalade, when his mother said quietly but firmly, “Remember, use the spoon, not your knife.”

James quickly put his knife down and picked up the small spoon from where it was resting on a saucer. “Of course I will, Mum.” And he grinned. “But thanks for the warning!”

The large windows of the dining room and the kitchen looked directly out to sea. There must be a lot less garden than when the house was built. A small, red and green plastic windmill spun round crazily in the strong wind. It seemed oddly out of place, but it must be there to scare birds away from the vegetable beds, but the vegetable beds were now down on the beach. The windmill must just be a memorial to what had once been there.

His parents left soon after eight, much too early to get a lift down to Bethel Chapel. Anyway, the walk down the lane to the village of Abergair would be interesting.

Jessica reckoned they ought to leave just before 9:30, as she had no intention of arriving late and being noticed. Aunt Judy saw them off with a strange smile, and told them not to dawdle on the way back, because there was plenty of work to do in the afternoon.

The hedgerows lining the lane were bare, and there was no sign of the wild flowers Jessica had hoped to see. Another month and everything would be springing into life. The sky was clouding over, hiding the sun.

The chapel was easy to find. In Abergair everything was easy to find because there only seemed to be a few houses, and only one road. Capel Bethel, as it was called, was set back from the road with steps leading up to a pair of double doors that stood wide.

At the bottom of the steps James came to a halt. Jessica gave him a gentle push in the back. “Go on, James. I want you to go first.”

James turned round. “Why is the notice board all in Welsh?” he asked.

It doesn’t matter,” Jessica said quietly, hoping not to be overheard by the two ladies who had followed them down the road, and were now waiting to get past.

A man stood at the door wearing a dark suit. The two ladies who had now come past were also smartly dressed. James looked at his own jeans and zip jacket, and wondered if he’d be allowed in. But surely everyone was welcome.

Bore da. Croeso i'r ddau ohonoch i' r capel,” the man at the door said.

James stood still. He recognised the word capel, but nothing else. It must be Welsh. Whatever the man had said, it sounded friendly enough, so it probably wasn’t a comment on his clothing.

Good morning,” Jessica said confidently.

The man said, Ydych chi'ch dau yn siarad Cymraeg?” He smiled a friendly, welcoming smile. “I was welcoming you to the chapel,” he said, putting out his hand to shake hands with James.

Jessica wondered if she ought to curtsy, but decided to smile instead. “We don’t speak Welsh,” she said. “Is that what you just asked us?”

The man nodded.Ydych chi'ch dau yn siarad Cymraeg? Yes, that means, Do you speak Welsh? So you do know a few words,” he said.

Jessica shook her head. “Just a guess.”

Let me say something else to you in Welsh, and see how good you are guessing this,” the man said, smiling. “Rwy'n gobeithio eich bod yn gwybod bod y gwasanaeth yn y Gymraeg?

Sorry, no idea. Is it important?” Jessica asked.

The man nodded. “Yes, it is, in a way. I was asking if you know the service is all in Welsh.”

James gave a gasp. No wonder Aunt Judy had smiled when she saw them off. She must have known this. Well, they were here now, and there was no other chapel or church in the village, so they might as well stay. And they would tell Aunt Judy it had been a wonderful service, and thank her for saying they could go. That would teach her!

A young lady inside handed them each a hymn book. She smiled at the Two Jays and said, “Eisteddwch ble bynnag hoffech chi.

James returned the smile, but said quietly, “I’m sorry, but we don’t speak Welsh.” He hoped the lady would understand English, and he certainly didn’t want to attract attention from the people sitting in the back seats.

I was saying you can sit wherever you like,” the lady said. “I suppose you do realise the service will be all in Welsh, including the sermon.” She laughed gently. “Fortunately the minister only preaches short sermons. Never more than two hours.”

James stared in horror, and the lady must have seen the expression on his face. “Twenty minutes at the most,” she said, laughing. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Everybody seemed so pleasant, and James was quite looking forward to hearing a whole service in another language. He’d done it before in France.

Jessica wanted to sit near the back, and went to the far end of the row to be next to the wall. She opened the hymn book, and discovered all the hymns were in Welsh.

James prayed a short prayer for the Holy Spirit to be present in the whole chapel and in his own heart, and that God would speak to him even if he couldn’t understand the words that were being spoken.

The chapel walls were plain white, with a high platform at the front with a pulpit in the centre. There was a large harp as well as a small organ.

There’s the harp you’re going to play on Wednesday,” James whispered to Jessica, but she ignored him.

A young couple with a small child sat immediately in front of them. They turned round and the lady said, “Bore da.

Jessica said, “Bore da,” in return, hoping it meant good morning or hello or something like that. Presumably it did, because the lady smiled and introduced herself in English as Annie Jones, and said her husband was Glyn, and the small girl was Rhianwen. Jessica and James told her their names, and explained they were on holiday in Abergair for the half term.

An elderly man in a plain white shirt started playing the small organ at the front, and the minister and everyone stood up. The hymn number was on the board, and because everyone had their hymn books open, James opened his and found the place.

He knew the tune, but the words were a mystery. As they sang, no one was pronouncing the words as they were written. Welsh was obviously a tricky language to learn.

Jessica seemed to be getting on all right, although she was humming the tune more than actually singing the words. James paused to take stock of the whole atmosphere of the chapel. Never mind the words, he was starting to feel very close to Jesus. These were godly people, worshipping God loudly and enthusiastically. He made up his mind to enjoy the whole service, including the sermon.

There were prayers, a Bible reading, and then something that James knew as a modern worship song. It wasn’t in the hymn book, but everyone seemed to know it. It was in Welsh, of course, but James knew the English words well. All right, so he was going to sing the English quietly, because these words meant so much to him.

He noticed that Jessica was doing the same. Some people raised a hand in praise, and James felt moved to do the same. Jessica even raised both hands. It was such a wonderful experience to be praising the Lord in Bethel Chapel. He had been to many services in England where he’d not felt the presence of the Holy Spirit as he did here.

Jessica seemed dazed by the experience. She turned to him and whispered, “Praise the Lord!”

Amen,” James replied.

James felt gripped as the minister stood up to preach. The man seemed to be about the same age as his father. He preached loudly and confidently. James loved the sound of the Welsh language, even though he couldn’t understand a single word.

At times, he was unable to tell if the minister was telling the people off, or giving them great words of encouragement. The words went from quiet to loud, then to quiet again, and then to loud. The whole sermon sounded so passionate. Whatever the minister was saying, the people were clearly in agreement as they nodded their heads.

James knew he’d prayed for the Holy Spirit to be present, and that prayer was certainly being answered!

After the sermon, Annie Jones who was sitting in front of them with her husband and small child, got up and made her way to the harp on the platform. She started to play, and James immediately recognised the hymn. It was one of his favourites. “Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean.”

Everyone had their hymn books open by this time, so he guessed it must be the last hymn number on the board at the front.

Annie Jones started to sing the first verse as a solo, while paying the harp. James followed the words in his hymn book. The harp and Annie’s solo sounded amazing. Moving. Deeply moving.

“Dyma gariad fel y moroedd,

Tosturiaethau fel y lli:

Twysog Bywyd pur yn marw—

Marw i brynu’n bywyd ni.

Pwy all beidio â chofio amdano?

Pwy all beidio â thraethu’I glod?

Dyma gariad nad â’n angof

Tra fo nefoedd wen yn bod.”

Annie Jones paused at the end of the verse. “We have some visitors from England called James and Jessica here this morning,” she said in English, making Jessica jump. She hadn’t realised anyone knew their names. Oh, of course, she’d already told Annie Jones who they were, and now everyone knew!

Annie Jones stood up from her harp. She still spoke in English. “This hymn from 1870 was a great favourite in the wonderful Welsh Revival of 1904 to 1906,” she said. “It was translated into English at that time, and now it’s sung all over the world. How many of you know the words of the English version?”

A few hands went up. James and Jessica put their hands up too.

“It seems that our young English visitors do,” she said. She pointed to the Two Jays. “Jessica, James, would you like to come to the front and sing the English words with those of us who know them?”

James expected Jessica to dive under the seat as everyone turned to look. But she caught hold of his sleeve and dragged him up the aisle and onto the platform before he could protest.

“You’re not expecting us to sing a duet, are you,” James said quietly to Annie Jones. “Jessica sings okay, but I don’t.”

Most of the chapel members understood English, judging by the laughter. How had they heard him so well? Then he saw the small microphone. “Oh.”

“I want everyone who knows the English words to stand,” Annie said.

About a third of the people stood up.

She made sure the three of them were in front of the microphone, then turned to the organist. “Just the first verse, please.”

Looking back on it afterwards, James had no idea how he and Jessica got through it. He even found himself singing loudly, which with his voice might not have been such a good move. As Annie Jones and the English singers joined in with them, he felt a lump in his throat and could sense his eyes were wet. He didn’t dare look at Jessica. He knew the words well.

“Here is love, vast as the ocean,

Loving kindness as the flood,

When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,

Shed for us His precious blood.

Who His love will not remember?

Who can cease to sing His praise?

He can never be forgotten,

Throughout Heaven’s eternal days.”

“That was simply wonderful,” Annie Jones said.

James noticed that she too had tears in her eyes. Jessica was wiping her eyes with her sleeve. Annie turned to the organist. “I think we’ll sing the second verse in English now.” She nodded to James and Jessica. “Is that all right?”

James decided it was a bit late to ask, because the organist was already playing the introductory bars. But he knew the words, and Jessica obviously did as well

“On the mount of crucifixion

Fountains opened deep and wide;

Through the floodgates of God’s mercy

Flowed a vast and gracious tide.

Grace and love, like mighty rivers,

Poured incessant from above,

And Heaven’s peace and perfect justice

Kissed a guilty world in love.”

At the end of the hymn, James could see there was hardly a dry eye in the chapel. He hoped they weren’t crying because of his not-very-good singing voice, but because of the words and the meaning in them. Jessica was still wiping her eyes as they returned to their seats near the back.

The minister gave a blessing, and James expected everyone to get up from their seats to leave. But it seemed the people were so moved by the Holy Spirit that they were unable to stand. A few men called out some words in Welsh, which he presumed were words of praise. There was a sense of the presence of God in Bethel Chapel that James had rarely experienced before.

Chapter 6

Back at the Abergair Guest House, Aunt Judy opened the door to let them in when they rang the bell. She had not yet trusted them with a key. “Well?” she asked, not doing a very good job of hiding a smile.

It was wonderful,” Jessica said. “I’m ever so glad we went.”

Aunt Judy frowned. “Wasn’t the service all in Welsh?”

It was,” Jessica said brightly, “and it didn’t matter at all. It was like the language of Heaven.”

And Jessica and I even sang to them in English,” James added. “I didn’t understand a word of the sermon, but all the time I felt God was speaking to me, telling me how much he loves me.”

I’ve never heard such a thing in all my life,” Aunt Judy said. “I wouldn’t have let you go if I’d known you were going to get up to that sort of nonsense. Fancy singing in English when everyone else was singing Welsh.”

They asked us to sing in English,” Jessica said.

That’s as may be,” Aunt Judy said. “And I suppose they know we’re related.”

You ought to go to Capel Bethel,” James said. He couldn’t member whether they’d mentioned Aunt Judy to anyone there or not. Was Aunt Judy so ashamed of them that she didn’t want anyone to know they were related?

Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Download this book for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-60 show above.)