Saturday, January 21, 2006

Chapter the Third

Splootching through the waters, Jonathan was having a jolly good time. Who knows what lay beyond this newly formed lake? Hadn’t old Columbus found a new world when he crossed the unknown waters? Or did Saint Brendan get there first? Or was it the Vikings? Well, it didn’t matter. Something was waiting to be discovered.

With thoughts so brave for a boy his age he trudged on through the ripply waters. Never had the back lawn seemed so broad, so vast, so utterly huge (nor half so fun) as it did when flooded. As he crossed the Great Inland Sea, our dripping and head-drenched mariner—well, he had forgotten his hat—set his course for the fruit orchard which was wont to find itself across the lawn at the end of the gravel path.

As he reached the first apple trees the ground rose slightly and Jonathan ascended from the sea to the “dry land.” He then shook the water from his legs before replanting them in the orchard mud and straightened his raincoat with an air of satisfied accomplishment. With the wide eyes of a boy Jonathan surveyed his surroundings as though he had just discovered a new world.

Indeed, Master Jonathan Grubbley did face a new world, for the old familiar orchard had somehow acquired a new aspect on this pluvious day. All the usual trees were there: the dozen or so apples, the pears, and two French prunes. Even the clearing where Grandfather Crutchett had tried in vain to raise an orange tree was in its customary spot. And yet, and yet…the trees looked somehow different. A touch more leafless, more gaunt, more grey, perhaps. Sinister? Not really. Jonathan rebuked himself for such silly thoughts and proceeded further into the orchard. When he came to the venerable walnut trees, however, he noticed a small hand-lettered sign which read:
Wolmsley Wood:
Enter at your own peril!

Now this was ridiculous. Jonathan had never heard of any Wolmsley Wood. This was the Grubbley fruit orchard and he had visited every furlong of it many times. He had never seen this sign before but was certain that it did not belong among his family’s walnut trees. Had he been older and more indignant, Jonathan would undoubtedly suspected the work of vandals and immediately turn the offending sign from the tree. As it was, however, he shrugged his shoulders, continued on his journey around and beyond that particular walnut tree, and merely thought to himself, “Most irregular!”

Hardly twenty paces beyond the queer sign, Jonathan had already made a rhyme of the whole matter and began singing to himself:

Wolmsley Wood, the Wolmsley Wood;
Don’t get caught in Wolmsley Wood.
No man ought and no one should
Dare to enter Wolmsley Wood.
Of course, making a rhyme of things always puts them in a better light, so Jonathan’s heart was already brighter and braver. For a minute of two anyway. Even a song cannot shake a goodly shadow and Jonathan was sure that the Wood—he was already wondering whether it was only a fruit orchard—was growing dark. He looked up, like a sensible lad, to see whether a passing rain cloud happened to be thicker and blacker than most. It wasn’t. In fact, he could see very little of the clouds. It was the trees which were growing thicker and blacker and altogether most unfamiliar. A less brave person than Jonathan might even have supposed himself lost.


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