================================================= The Information about Ireland Site Newsletter May 2006 The Newsletter for people interested in Ireland Now received by over 50,000 people worldwide http://www.ireland-information.com http://www.irishnation.com Copyright (C) 2006 ================================================= IN THIS ISSUE === Foreword === News Snaps from Ireland === New free resources at the site === Play the Irish Lotto === the War of the Elves by Joe Rogers === Douglas Hyde: First President of Ireland === Gaelic Phrases of the Month === Monthly free competition result ================================================= FOREWORD ======== Hello again from Ireland where the wettest May on record has just been recorded. We are still hopeful of some sunshine this Summer but blink and you might miss it! Many thanks to Joe Rogers for the story he sent in. Maybe YOU have a story, poem or article of Irish interest you can share with readers of this newsletter? until next month, Michael WE NEED YOUR HELP! PLEASE - send this newsletter on to your friends or relatives who you think are interested in Ireland. By doing this you are helping to keep us 'free'. Got something to say? Don't keep it to yourself! Why don't you submit an article for inclusion in the next edition? Go here for more information: http://www.ireland-information.com/newsletter.htm Do you have access to a website? You can help to keep this newsletter alive by adding a link to any of our websites below: http://www.irishnation.com http://www.irishsurnames.com http://www.ireland-information.com http://www.allfamilycrests.com http://www.irishpenpals.com If you have an AOL or HOTMAIL account then you will get much better results by viewing this newsletter online here: http://www.ireland-information.com/apr06.htm The only way that you could have been subscribed to this newsletter is by filling out a subscription form at the site whereupon a confirmation notice would have been issued. If you wish to unsubscribe then go here: http://www.ireland-information.com/newsletter.htm ================================================= NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND ======================= HEALTH SERVICE UNDER THE MICROSCOPE The focus of attention on the inadequacies of the Irish healthcare system has shifted from long queues at the Accident & Emergency wards to the problems with long-term care. The Health Service Executive has begun to authorise the building of more private hospitals in an attempt to provide relief to the thousands of patients on waiting lists for operations and care. The Health Minister has promised that up to 1000 new hospital places will be made available as a result of the new building program, which will greatly alleviate the current over-crowding problem. An independent report by a UK consultant on the problems in the Irish healthcare system has confirmed that the real problems that exist are largely due to administrative inefficiencies and problems with the relationships between private doctors, Hospital consultants, and the hospitals themselves. It has long been suspected that the 9 to 5 hours operated by private doctors (GPs) are one of the main reasons why so many people turn up at Accident and Emergency wards when, instead, they could be treated by their own GP, if only their own GP was available. Long term care for elderly people for whom no nursing home accommodation is available is also causing major backlogs in the system. Despite massive investment in recent years the availability of healthcare in Ireland continues to be seen as second-rate when compared to EU and world standards. POLLS PREDICT TOUGH ELECTION FOR GOVERNMENT Despite the continuing boom in the Irish economy it appears that fatigue has finally set in with respect to the public view of the current Fianna Fail and PD government. A recent opinion poll has put Fianna Fail support at 36%, down by 6%. The rival Labour/Fine Gael alternative claim 15% and 28% respectively, easily enough for the two opposition parties to woo either the Greens or various Independents in an attempt to form a new government. Taoiseach Bertie Ahearn has seen his personal satisfaction rating drop four points to 52%. PD leader and Health Minister Mary Harney has seen her rating drop to 34% which certainly reflects continued public discontent with the Irish healthcare system. The General election is likely to be held in May of 2007, just a short time after the government sponsored SSIA (saving scheme) program matures. It remains to be seen whether the 'feel-good' factor associated with the SSIAs transfers into more votes for the current Government. FEWER IRISH PEOPLE EMIGRATE TO USA Recent figures have shown a steep decline in the number of Irish people leaving to work in the US. Low unemployment and relatively high rates of pay in Ireland have contributed to the 'stay at home' attitude of the current generation of new school-leavers. In the 1980s as many as 60,000 young Irish people emigrated every year. This figure has now dropped to less than 20,000. IRISH FILM WINS TOP AWARD AT CANNES The civil war movie 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley' directed by Ken Loach has won the Palme d'Or prize at the world-famous Cannes Film Festival. The film is set in 1920s Ireland amid the struggle for Irish independence. The movie stars Cillian Murphy and was shot on location in Bandon, Mallow and Killarney. Voice your opinion on these news issues here: http://www.ireland-information.com/cgi-bin/newsletterboardindex.cgi ================================================= NEW FREE RESOURCES AT THE SITE ============================== NEW COATS OF ARMS ADDED TO THE GALLERY: The following 6 coats of arms images and family history details have been added to the Gallery: A: Atwood B: Brabazon M: Moriarty N: Nesbitt S: Sinnott T: Twomey View the Gallery here: http://www.irishsurnames.com/coatsofarms/gm.htm THE PERFECT WEDDING, ANNIVERSARY OR BIRTHDAY GIFT! We now have over 100,000 worldwide names available. Get the Coat of Arms Print, Claddagh Ring, Screensaver, Watch, T-Shirt Transfer or Clock for your name at: http://www.irishnation.com/familycrestgifts.htm ================================================= PLAY THE IRISH LOTTERY ====================== 34 M-illionaires were created by the Irish lottery in 2003! You could be next - especially if you use the service provided by http://www.irishlotto.net http://www.irishlotto.net has been in operation since 1988 and is one of the oldest online lottery sites in the world. With subscribers in 89 countries it is easy to see why so this site is considered as being among the most reliable lottery sites on the web. Their website is now totally revamped! The Irish lotto jackpot is never lower than US$1,500,000 and is frequently worth in excess of US$5,000,000. It can rise to $12,000,000 and more. You don't have to live in Ireland to play and all winnings are Tax Free! The draw takes place every Wednesday and Saturday night on national television (RTE). The jackpot is won by matching the first six numbers drawn (1 to 42). A seventh number is also drawn and is called the 'bonus' number. Money can also be won by matching five numbers, five numbers plus the bonus number, four numbers, four numbers plus the bonus number or three numbers plus the bonus number. Although people tend to pick their own lucky numbers, a 'quick pick' option is available which instructs the Lotto computer to select the entry numbers. Winnings are tax-free and are paid out in one lump sum. The service offered by irishlotto.net includes: * Entering your numbers in the Irish Lottery and immediately sending you official confirmation of your entry. * Double-checking your numbers after each draw. * Immediately notifying you, in confidence, of any winnings. Payment is made according to your instructions. * Sending you details of the winning numbers for the draws in which you participate. Total confidentiality is assured. No one will know that you have bought a ticket and no one will know that you have won - except you! The entry fees include all postage, handling and agent charges. Got a question? Email the friendly staff at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at: http://www.irishlotto.net ================================================= THE WAR OF THE ELVES by Joe Rogers ==================== Foreword: Hi Michael. With your kind permission and as a follow up to chapter one of my book THE CHANGELING, published in the Information about Ireland's newsletter July 2005, I now have pleasure in submitting Chapter One of my new book, The War of the Elves, about to be released later this year. The story which follows on from The Changeling, continues the magical adventures of Horatio, Leyla, Tundi, Shauna and Sierra in the company of the Fairy Princess Dylis on a visit to fairyland to warn the king of an impending attack by his old enemy the outlawed Elves. The story although written in English, in keeping with the ethnicities of its child characters and very much in line with modern developments in Ireland, contains a modicum of Gaeilge, Spanish,Turkish and the Kalabari dialect of the Ijaw people of Nigeria and I hope, Michael, you will find room in your excellent newsletter for the first chapter.Many thanks and sincere good wishes, Joe Rogers. THE WAR OF THE ELVES (C) Copyright Joe Rogers 2006 CHAPTER ONE: A Secret Passage and The Ghost of Red Ned 'I think we're nearly there!' Dylis called. 'Unless I'm very much mistaken, the entrance will be on the next bend.' The uncertainty in her directions - the fact that she wasn't 100% sure of their whereabouts caused Archie to wonder if they were anywhere near their destination. But then he - unlike Dylis - did not have to relate the dual-carriageway they were now on to an old byway of long ago, nor try to navigate through a suburban sprawl when only the green pastures of 1912 were remembered. 'Better slow down, dad - I'm almost certain we're nearly there.' Archie braked for the bend; Dylis, Leyla, Horatio, Tundi and Sierra, recognising the heavy iron gates, all shouted at once: 'THIS IS IT!' 'Leave it to me - I'll open them.' Horatio was out of the car and running to open the gates almost before the car had come to a halt. Waving them through, he shut the gates again, just as he had in April 1912, which was really only a few days ago in the magic world they sometimes encountered since their sister, Shauna, had mended her naughty ways. Archie, surveying the scene inside the gates, waited for Horatio to rejoin them, then set off on the quarter-mile drive towards the house, delighted that the urban sprawl did not extend this far and hoping that the next few days here would be as peaceful as the surrounding countryside looked. Sheep and cattle grazed either side of the tree-lined avenue, and Sarah, contemplating the scene, was fascinated by the pretty picture it all made - the fields, the wild flowers, the sycamores, the footpaths. Was it all a dream or could this haven of tranquillity really belong to them? The children's garbled version of when and how they came to own it was completely incomprehensible to either Archie or herself, but as Archie pointed out, they loved and trusted their children sufficiently to reserve judgement for a few days to see how things developed. She would not think about that just now, but let her eyes take in the courtyard, the orchards, the woodland; the heron making ripp! les on the lake. Then, just as soon as they topped the rise, she saw it - the lovely old house! Blackberrie Manor itself caught in the shimmering rays of the sun. 'MY GOD!' she shouted. 'THE DREAMS I TOLD YOU ABOUT! THIS IS THE VERY HOUSE I WAS A SERVANT IN!' 'Nay, our lass, can't be.' Archie remarked, knowing his wife was sometimes prone to exaggerate. 'We've never been anywhere near here in our lives.' 'Maybe not you, but I have. I'm positive.' 'Go on. Sounds a bit weird to me.' Archie could have said more, but noticing rabbits running about, had to concentrate on his driving. Tundi and Sierra, startled by their mum's shouts and a little bit scared of what she was saying, moved closer for protection to Dylis, as she, putting her arms around the little ones, turned to Leyla and Horatio, saying: 'We'll have some great times here - mark my words.' This story can be read in the online edition and can be viewed here: http://www.ireland-information.com/aug05.htm#story
As the car came to a halt alongside the imposing front doors, none of its passengers observed the several faces peering down from the upstairs-mullioned windows of the supposedly empty house.|
'Why do you think we'll have great times, here, Shauna?' Horatio, inquisitive as always, asked. 'You can't really know, we've only been here once before and then only for an hour or so. Besides, it was a long time ago.'
'Oh, believe me, we'll have a good time all right .I'm not sure how I know - call it intuition or insight; or first, second or even third sight if you want to, but be warned: we'll have some hair-raising escapades here.' She thought for a moment, and then as they were getting out of the car, added, 'With emphasis on the word hair in hair-raising, if you see what I mean. Red hair actually and I'm not referring to mine.'
'But you're the only one with red hair,' Leyla reminded her.
'At the moment, perhaps, but that can alter, and very likely will.'
'Right, children. Many hands make light work.' Sarah was in her element again, giving instructions and supervising, now that she appeared to have mysteriously got rid of her angina. 'Everyone help to unload the car. Take the food inside please, as soon as your dad has found where he's put the house keys.'
'Nay, lass, not me. Keys were given thee by Mr Harwood.' Archie declared, taking a position by the front door where he waited for Sarah to open up. 'Try in that there handbag of yours - happen they've sunk to bottom under all brass.'
Dylis paused, and looking up at the mullioned windows, wondered. Something had distracted her from unloading the car. She looked at each window in turn, but,apart from a pigeon suddenly fluttering its wings and flying off the roof, there was nothing to hold her interest just then. She smiled to herself, full in the knowledge that she was not easily distracted.
'What are you looking up at, Shauna?' Horatio asked, noticing his sister examine the upstairs windows.
'I thought for a moment I'd seen someone ...or some thing,' she replied.
'I thought as much,' he said, aware that the hair on the back of his neck was beginning to stand on end. 'I didn't see anyone,' Leyla remarked in little more than a whisper, at the same time thinking how the ivy covering the house gave it such a haunted appearance.
'Nor I,' Tundi said, becoming scared and running to take hold of his dad's hand.
'Nor me neither,' Sierra declared, not altogether certain whether she had or not.
'I must have been mistaken then,' Dylis said, to reassure everybody, knowing that she definitely had seen something. 'I'll make a thorough search afterwards,' she promised in a cheerful, light-hearted manner, 'and if there is a ghost, I hope he's either in chains or wearing armour - just the thing for my ghost magnet!'
'I hope there are no ghosts here,' a terrified Tundi whispered, 'but most of all - if only the fairy shoemaker, Cronin, would hurry up with the three wishes he promised us. I'll bet he's still counting his old gold.'
'Lo siento mucho (I am very sorry),' Sierra said, 'I don't think we'll ever get any wishes - he lied to us.'
'No, Sierra - you mustn't say that - if he promised them then you will get them. Fairies never tell lies. That's why the whole of Fairyland was so upset with Sh-Sh...I mean with me.' Dylis corrected herself just in time as Horatio gave her a peculiar look.
'Bir dakika (just a moment), how do you know so much about fairies?' Leyla asked, 'and do you really think we'll get some wishes?'
'I've told you before; I'm the seventh child of a seventh child. And yes, I feel sure Cronin will keep his promise - if he ever succeeds in counting his big pot of gold. Always assuming none of it is missing, of course.' Sarah located the house keys in the bottom of her handbag, where Archie had told her they would most likely be, and carefully inserting one into the lock, slowly opened the door. Cringing a little from the eerie squeal of the un-oiled hinges, she stepped cautiously into the large hall, but to her great disappointment, had no awareness of ever having been there before. That is until she entered the drawing room, where, immediately inside the door, her gaze fell on a large portrait. 'My God!' she cried in alarm, and suddenly collapsed in a faint.
Dylis, hearing her cry, ran to her aid and quickly placing her in the recovery position, cried, 'Mum, Mum, wake up. What's happened to make you faint like this?' Of course, Sarah wasn't her real mum - she'd called her that because Horatio was close behind her, and it was important that she keep up the pretence already started. Dylis was, in fact, a changeling - a fairy princess whose parents had died during the Land War - she had been exchanged by the fairies one dark night for Sarah's naughty daughter, Shauna, and because she looked like Shauna, everyone believed her to be Shauna, a pretence she intended to keep up until she could discover where Shauna was being held prisoner and rescue her. She had learned from that mysterious gentleman, Mr Bradley Adam David Drayton-Yahya (whose initials seriously worried the children) that Shauna - the real Shauna - had escaped from the Fairy Torture Chamber. But escaped to where? Bradley Adam David Drayton-Yahya certainly seemed !
to know where she was being held and for what purpose, but had so far refused to confide in the changeling.* (*See book one THE CHANGELING in this series)
'She's in good hands,' had been his reply, when asked where Shauna had escaped to. 'That's all you need to know - for the present. But she still has a sentence to serve - make retribution for her wicked past.' That was when Dylis had finally decided that Drayton-Yahya would have to be very carefully investigated by her and the children at the very earliest opportunity, even if it meant they would have to secretly visit his bird sanctuary at Bridlington just as soon as ever they finished their present assignment. However, just now, Sarah was showing signs of recovering from her faint.
'What's to do, lass?' Archie came dashing in, really concerned at seeing his wife on the floor. 'I can't let thee out of me sight for a minute, but —'
'She's okay,' Dylis reassured him. 'She's coming round -had a bit of a shock, that's all - help me get her to a seat.'
'Shock?' Archie asked, helping Dylis get Sarah off the floor and to a chair. 'What kind of shock?'
'Look up there, dad.' Dylis said, pointing to a portrait on the wall to the left of the doorway.
'Eee, our Shauna. Yon picture looks just like th'mother! And dressed in maid's uniform ! Summit she's never been, I can tell thee. And look at style. Right auld fashioned is that. Must be 18 naught summit or thereabouts. Over hundred years ago - nay, can't be th'mother - she's nowhere near that old, i'n't lass!'
'Certainly looks like mum,' Horatio said. 'Maybe she has a double somewhere.'
'Maybe she had a double,' Leyla commented. 'That picture is very old.'
'Maybe I have a double and maybe I haven't.' Sarah had recovered enough to voice her opinion. 'Or maybe I lived here in another life! Or someone painted me when I was housemaid here. Like in my dream ...I told you I recognised the house.'
'Dream is one thing, but thee as housemaid is summit else. Bit of a mystery I'd say - but hardly worth worrying about so long as you're all right.'
'I'm okay now, thanks. And, mystery or no mystery, I'm not worried about it,' Sarah said, but still a little unsure of herself as she went through to the dining room to help lay the table, 'I'll figure it out later…probably connected with that dream I had ...but, for the moment, first things first - we've food to get ready.'
# # #
After their meal, as was usual in the Townson household, everyone helped with clearing away and washing up. A tour of the house followed, having been postponed until Sarah was her old self again. It truly was a delightful old house, beautifully furnished throughout, and with four-poster beds in four of its seven bedrooms. But having being unoccupied for some time, cleaning and dusting were long overdue, so with everyone helping, the shine was quickly restored, especially when Dylis - out of sight of the others - commanded the stars to sprinkle some of their sparkle along the upstairs and downstairs halls and corridors.
'It's such a big house,' Sarah declared, when the cleaning was at an end, 'you may each choose a bedroom, unless Tundi and Sierra don't want to be on their own.'
Tundi Afolabi Townson, aged 6, and Sierra Lopez Townson, aged 5, were the youngest of the five adopted children of Mr Archibald (Archi) and Mrs Sarah Townson. Back home at 31 Victoria Mount, Greenpark, Yorkshire, Tundi shared a bedroom with his brother, Horatio Thomas Townson, aged 9; Sierra shared with her sister, Leyla Kozan Townson, aged 10; and Shauna Sinead Townson, aged 13, had had her own separate bedroom until she misbehaved to such a degree that she was taken away by the fairies and the changeling, Dylis, left in her place. None of the family was aware of this changeover, but they had all noticed the vast improvement in the conduct of the young lady whom they believed to be Shauna. They simply had no idea of what had happened because Dylis resembled Shauna in almost every detail, the one big difference being in the way she talked - but because she was being so nice to everyone, this merely suggested to them - particularly the parents - that following on from !
all the bad things she had done, she was now making a determined effort to amend her previously naughty ways. The children - Leyla, Horatio, Tundi and Sierra - were somewhat more suspicious and altogether at a loss to understand how Shauna had suddenly learned to perform so much magic. They had been allowed to share several adventures with her, and having taken an oath of secrecy, had enjoyed flying lessons and travels back in time. Having been made members of Shauna's Very Special Secret Service - S.V.S.S.S. for short - they were forbidden to divulge any of their adventures or secrets to mum, dad, or anyone else. Apart from being bound by their S.V.S.S.S. oath, they were having so much fun of late, they had no desire to place in jeopardy such marvellous ventures by asking awkward questions which they knew the teenager whom they believed to be their sister was reluctant to answer.
'If I can have the blue room,' Horatio said, referring to the colour of wallpaper in one of the bedrooms, 'and Tundi can have the green room next door ...we could keep an eye on each other through the connecting doorway.' 'Good idea, Horatio,' his mum agreed, patting him fondly on the back. 'That's if Tundi has no objections, of course.' She turned to Tundi and enquired, 'Have you any objections Tundi?'
'I not know what that means,' an anxious-looking Tundi answered.
'It means do you mind having the room next to Horatio.'
'No, I not mind,' Tundi said, 'I agree.' His English was slowly but steadily showing signs of improvement as was Sierra's and Leyla's too, thanks to their friend Miss Walker, a retired teacher, who had kindly volunteered to give them some lessons.
'Okay. Let's go have a look,' Sarah suggested, leading the way upstairs, 'I intend giving each room a number - for ease of reference - might as well do it now.'
They all trooped upstairs where the master bedroom - mum and dad's became number 1; Tundi's became number 2, and Horatio's room which adjoined it was allotted number 3, each of these three rooms being situated on the main landing.
'That leaves Shauna, Leyla and Sierra,' their mother remarked, beckoning the three girls to follow her along the corridor that led off from the main landing. 'You three come with me,' she urged, taking them to inspect two adjacent rooms. 'What about this room for you, Leyla? As you can see there's a four-poster bed and a door leading into what could be Sierra's room.'
'Evet, tamamdir, mum.' Leyla answered in Turkish, then followed up by translating what she had just said into English: 'Yes, it's fine, mum.' In common with Sierra and Tundi, Leyla was settling in well to her new life in England and with them was encouraged to practice not only her new language but her native one as well.
'Is that okay with you, Sierra, your own bedroom next to Leyla?'
'Sí, muchas gracias,' Sierra replied, running through to jump on the bed and calling, 'yes, thank you very much.'
'Right, that's settled then.' Sarah confirmed. 'Sierra's room can be number 4, and Leyla's number 5, which leaves the two rooms on the northeast landing for you to choose from, Shauna. Number 6 or number 7; which would you prefer? Don't forget number 6 has a four-poster bed.'
'Number 6 then, please,' Dylis said, going to inspect the room which was actually situated in the centre of the house and contained two entrances, one from the northeast landing and another less obvious one directly opposite Sierra's room on the corridor that led from the main landing.
'Excellent.' Mum Sarah showed her satisfaction with how easy the allocation of bedrooms had gone, by giving a beaming smile to all her children 'Now might be a good time to collect your travel bags from the car, take them to your rooms and perhaps spend half an hour settling in before we all go to explore the grounds. Except Tundi and Sierra - your things are in my suitcase - you just have a little play while the others get sorted out.' # # #
'...Forty six, forty seven, forty eight, forty nine, fifty. Coming, ready or not,' Sierra's voice rang out as she set off in search of Tundi. Hide and seek was one of their favourite games and an excellent way to explore the house while the rest of the family brought in the luggage and generally got sorted. And what better place for a game of hide and seek than Blackberrie Manor with its many rooms, cloaks and glory holes, extending from the cellars in the basement to the attic in the roof with three good-sized floors between? The ground floor, where the kitchen, pantries, reception, dining and drawing rooms were located; the first floor with bedrooms and bathrooms, and the second floor, containing a further nine rooms presently closed off and not in use. The cellar - also not having been used in ages - was a rather dusty collection of smallish rooms once used by servants and connected by a dark hopscotch of passageways. Some of the rooms were filled with, not so!
much junk, as old discarded furniture and household items that had seen better days. Altogether an absolute mecca for hide and seekers with a veritable treasure trove of paraphernalia in which to hide.
On the ground floor, she searched the cloakroom under the stairs: plenty of coats and anoraks but no sign of Tundi. She looked in the scullery, the back pantry, the kitchen, the butler's pantry, the hallways; the dining room, the library, the drawing room, the play room, the box room, behind the grandfather clock where she had hid earlier, but throughout all of the ground floor there was neither sight nor sound of him.As they were forbidden to leave the house, Sierra reckoned that if Tundi wasn't on the ground floor, he must either be on the first floor where all the others were sorting their bedrooms or on the floor above that - the second floor - which was sort of closed off without actually being locked. Or maybe, being adventurous, he had climbed the narrow staircase that led to the attics - those ghostly, cobwebby spaces in the roof crammed with all sorts of clutter. Sierra had gone there on one of her turns to hide, but had been so scared she had come right !
down again. Her main recollection of the place - apart from the dust and cobwebs - was of a huge trunk full of children's clothes resembling those worn by the street urchins she had met in Southampton, when, thanks to Shauna's magic, all the brothers and sisters had travelled back in time to the year 1912. Not wanting to visit the attics again, she turned her attention to the stone steps under the stairs at the front of the house.
'Coming, ready or not,' she shouted, in an effort to gain courage from the sound of her voice rather than to warn Tundi of her approach. She opened the creaking door that led down to what had been the servants' quarters and now formed part of the cellar. Bravely descending the grey-stone steps towards the darkness below, she began to feel along the wall for a light switch, wondering, if indeed, Tundi would have been brave enough to have gone down to hide in such darkness. Maybe, she thought, having found a hiding place here in the cellar, he then put the lights out.
'Dónde está el interruptor?' she asked aloud in Spanish, and then repeated the question in English:
'Where is the switch?' remembering the advice of Miss Walker - her English teacher - that to learn English without neglecting her native tongue, she should think and speak in both languages. She didn't always adhere to this advice but occasionally found it useful.
She was proceeding very slowly now, being very brave indeed, 'Two steps more,' she whispered, 'if no switch...I go back ...look upstairs.'
It was at that very moment a light came on, as if someone or some thing listening in the cellar, not wanting her to go back upstairs, decided to craftily coax her down the last remaining few steps. Her fingers still hadn't found the light switch so she paused a moment wondering how the light had come on.
'Is that you, Tundi?' she called, but there was no answer. Which was not altogether surprising because an answer from Tundi would surely disclose his hiding place. Sierra, realising this, said in Spanish, 'Ah sí, lo siento,' and then in English, 'Ah yes, I'm sorry,' then she called, 'Tundi, if you're there, knock once.' She listened carefully and was very much relieved to hear a single knock from somewhere towards the centre of the cellar. Her anxiety dispelled, she smiled broadly and ran forward to search for her brother. It was then that the light lost some of its lustre and began to go dim, before suddenly flashing bright again only to flicker and fizzle, then fail completely leaving Sierra stranded in the blackest, scariest dark she had ever had the misfortune to experience.
# # # Tundi, having climbed the stairs to the loft, looked around for somewhere to hide. His gaze fell on a large trunk and climbing in, he buried himself beneath a pile of old clothes. No sooner had he closed the lid of the trunk than he heard someone, he thought to be Sierra, approaching. Scarcely daring to breathe he trembled a little as the footsteps came ever nearer. Of course, he didn't know that it couldn't possibly be Sierra who at that very moment was five floors away in the basement, happy that the knock she had heard was from Tundi. However, what she didn't know was that there was a distance of five floors separating them and therefore the knock she had heard had certainly not been made by Tundi, no more than the footsteps he thought he had heard had been made by Sierra. In fact those footsteps were not footsteps at all, but a muffled distortion of something else entirely which reached his ears as he lay face down under a pile of clothes in the trunk. By movin!
g some of the clutter near his head, he managed to lessen the distortion to such an extent as to hear what he now thought was a chain being dragged, accompanied by a high-pitched, scary cackle, weeping and crying aloud: 'Woe-e-e is me! Where are you Tundi, my boy? I want you to come in my cobwebby coach that's drawn by headless horses! You'll like it, Tundi, my boy. There's plenty of room for you inside...for you inside...for you inside my cosy, cockroachy, cobwebby coach. Come with me and my headless horses to the bogeymen's banquet at Bloodthirsty Castle...Bloodthirsty Castle...Bloodthirsty Castle - your blood will be blended and brought to the boil and bubbled and bundled and blanched and bottled by bloodsucking, bleary-eyed, brain-dead vampires! Woe-e-e is me! Where are you Tundi, my boy? I want you to come in my cobwebby coach that's drawn by headless horses!'
Poor Tundi! The hair on his little head stood upright in horror - hair normally brushed neatly sideways, shocked into standing stiff like thousands of exclamation marks transformed from hyphens and dashes! The high-pitched moaning voice terrified him, and yet despite his terror, the thought came to him that whoever or whatever it might be out there, at least it knew his name. In which case it might be a friend with a nice friendly voice - it possibly only sounded peculiar because of Tundi's position inside the trunk. There was only one way to be sure - he decided to open the lid and find out.
# # # Meanwhile, down in the dark basement, Sierra quickly decided to go back towards the concrete steps and rejoin her older sisters upstairs. The trouble was that in the dark she took a wrong turning and walked into a cupboard, where she had the good sense to close the door and remain perfectly still, waiting for the lights to come back on. She was just on the verge of shouting advice to Tundi, whom she wrongly thought to be close by, when a voice so hoarse that the throat through which it was passing must have been choked with dust mites and spiders, called from the darkness:
'In life my fortune was poorly read - I'd be rich and famous was what they said!But then, I suppose, I was easily led - never a worry would enter my head.Rich food and drink of the best I was fed and played all day with soldiers of lead. The loveliest girl in the world I'd wed - her hair so fair where mine was red. I'd be made a king - me - King Red Ned - bold and fearless with nothing to dread.These were the kind of things that were said! But tragic misfortune was mine instead! Early in life I finished up dead ...and now I'm the ghost of legless Red Ned! Red Ned! Red Ned! Red Ned! Red Ned! Now I'm the ghost of legless Red Ned! My only hope for to put things right, is to get your legs when you die of fright!'
Sierra, shaking with fear of the legless ghost, decided that if he were truly legless, she would make a run for the stairs: surely she could outrun a legless ghost.But, on the other hand, all the ghosts in story books and on television seemed to just glide along without making use of legs. Ghosts with legs? - she'd never seen any!
'In life my fortune was poorly read - I'd be rich and famous was what they'd said!' The ghost had started his lament again.
Sierra tried desperately not to listen to him.'I wonder if ghosts have legs?' she asked herself, being careful not to let her voice rise above a whisper 'Maybe ...ghosts ...do ...not ...have ...legs ...at ...all!' She spoke slowly making an extra effort to get her English grammar correct and succeeding to such an extent that Miss Walker would have been proud of her. Her concentration helped her to overcome her fear, and feeling around inside the cupboard she touched a coat hook and was amazed when the end panels of the cupboard opened sufficiently to reveal a secret passage beyond.
'Wow!' she exclaimed under her breath. 'Me gusta muchissimo! I like very much! And it's only small dark in here,' she whispered in surprise, squeezing through the opening to gain access into the secret passage. 'Not big black dark like in cupboard.'
In fact, the passage was nowhere near as dark as the cupboard or cellar had been,due partly to a luminous glow from an iridescent robe hanging on the reverse side of the open panels, and partly because of daylight filtering in from what appeared to be the mouth of a tunnel some way off to the left.
'Hmm, quiero esa toga(I want that robe),' she whispered. 'It lights up - like magic lantern. Me encanta!(I love it!).'
Taking the robe with her, she set off towards the daylight but had only gone a very short distance when she heard the ghostly lament again - getting louder and louder which meant the horrible spectre must be gaining on her from behind! 'MUM ...HELP!' She shouted, trying but failing to run. She turned her head in time to see the ghost of legless Red Ned float into the secret passage - he was wearing an iridescent robe similar to the one she had. An idea came to her. 'Hmm, worth a try,' she mused. With no place to hide and unable to run Sierra did the only sensible thing she could - she got under the ghost-like robe she was carrying, in the rather forlorn hope that it would conceal her from the ghost of Red Ned, fast gaining on her.
In fact, it didn't actually hide her from him at all - but being a real ghost's robe, which it was - it gave her the appearance of being a real ghost too. Of course she had no knowledge of it being a ghost's robe - if she had, it would have been too scary to wear - but it fitted perfectly: went on over the head and covered her completely from the top of her curls to the tips of her toes. Had it been manufactured as a bespoke garment to her own measures and specifications, it could not have given a better fit or appearance, and in fact, so authentic did it seem, that Red Ned, and later, several other ghosts whom she met in the secret passage, sailed right past believing her to be one of them.
'Fooled you,' she laughed to herself, as the ghost of Red Ned hurried past her. 'I wonder if no legs you really have ...or have not?' she whispered, struggling a little with her English. 'Only way to find out is ...trip you up!' She giggled to herself then became very quiet as an old lady ghost with a hump on her back glided past,a hidden chain rattling as she spewed out spiders and hoarsely cackled:
'Woe-e-e is me-e-e! Woe is me - my eyes cast down, I can hardly see.'
'Oh! ˇPobre!' Sierra sighed, in Spanish, then again in English, 'Oh, poor thing!'observing that the hump compelled the old lady to look downwards all the time so that she went past without even seeing Sierra. But despite the hump, the old lady ghost's iridescent cloak or robe fitted all the way to the floor, so that Sierra couldn't determine whether or not she had legs Then another ghost went past, this time going in the opposite direction, again wearing a garment that trailed to the floor - a garment similar in every way except size to that which Sierra wore.
'My robe must belong ...to ...a ...child ...ghost!' Sierra said to herself, speaking slowly in an attempt to improve her English. 'I hope ...he or she ...not look for it ...tomorrow! No, no, no ...I mean today!'
Actually, the robe had once belonged to a little person ghost from the Spectre Isles far away, who, like a cat with nine lives, and because of a very good deed done in his early earth-days, had earned another chance in life. The robe had been left hanging where Sierra had found it, when he received the glad tidings to return to the world.
However, there was a problem to contend with. Whereas Sierra wanted to go towards the end of the tunnel, the robe kept pulling her into an adjoining passage. She considered taking it off, but dare not for fear of meeting another ghost - their comings and goings having increased to a point of almost indecent promptitude. Tired as she was, she allowed the robe to take her on what was virtually a sight-seeing tour of the house - as seen from inside the secret passage. She was flabbergasted to discover that from inside the old walls, the passage extended throughout the entire building, twisting and turning from deep in the cellar, through most of the rooms on each floor, all the way up to the attic. Peep holes, located at various vantage points - in the panels, behind pictures, near light fittings, behind fireplaces, even situated deep in the eyes of portraits on the room walls - gave the ghosts excellent opportunities to spy on the people in the house.
'LEYLA ...SHAUNA...I'M HERE!' Sierra shouted, gazing in with amazement through a secret-passage spy hole; in a room on the other side of the wall,her sisters were urgently discussing something. 'HELP! OVER HERE! NEAR THE ...' She shouted, but suddenly fell silent as a big old ghost floating past, began to stare at her. # # #
Earlier, in the attic, Tundi carefully opened the lid of the trunk and almost died of fright when an old lady ghost seized him violently and tied his hands with a chain.
'Woe-e-e is me!' she gabbled hoarsely, spewing live spiders out of her mouth.'There you are, Tundi, my boy!' she cackled, throwing him over her shoulders, inside her robe, a position which forced her to walk with her head bent forward as if she were deformed by a hump on her back. 'I want you to come in my cobwebby coach that's drawn by headless horses! There's room for one inside! Come with me to Bloodthirsty Castle - your blood will be blended and brought to the boil and bubbled and bundled and blanched and bottled by bloodsucking bleary-eyed vampires! Woe-e-e is me!'
She departed, head down and hump on her back into the secret passage, but not before the terrified Tundi had managed to kick off one of his trainers: it fell near to the secret door showing the direction in which the ghost was taking him.
Poor Tundi - shaking and shivering with shock - was more frightened than he had ever imagined anyone could possibly be! And then he remembered the three wishes promised to him by Cronin, that night in Sleepy Hollow, in return for the children bringing back the fairy shoemaker's gold, stolen by naughty Shauna. Cronin said he would grant three wishes to Horatio, Leyla, Tundi and Sierra if all of the gold was intact, but having so many shoes to mend, it might be ages before he could count it.
Perhaps he's counted it now, Tundi thought, and maybe he'll grant me a wish. 'I WISH TO ...ESCAPE FROM GHOST' he cried, half expecting the ghost to disappear. But nothing happened. Either Cronin - the fairy shoemaker had not yet counted his gold, or having counted it, had discovered some of it missing! And if some of the gold was missing then the wishes would not be granted, at least until the missing gold pieces were found again. Then poor scared-out-of-his-wits Tundi made more wishes which he shouted aloud: 'I WISH CRONIN ...HURRY UP AND COUNT SILLY GOLD ... I WISH HE GIVE THE THREE WISHES . HE PROMISE THREE WISHES. SHOULDN'T PROMISE WISHES IF NO WISHES TO GIVE!'
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