Saving Starbird

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Chapter 3

Staying with Archie

Archie was staring at the stone he was holding in disbelief. Had it really winked at him or was it a trick of the light?

“We must stop panicking,” sad Archie. “Let’s sit down and look at these wretched stones carefully to see if we can find out anything more about them.”

Together they examined both stones closely. Both had similar strange markings on them, but they did not have identical patterns. However, the one thing they did have in common was the eye shape in the centre and both were now closed.

Although still very frightened they sat down on the warm sand and examined the strange stones in detail. They tried to see if there was a hidden lid and if the stones were really hollow like small round flat boxes. As far as they could tell both stones were hard and very solid.

“Let’s see if we can get rid of them again. We could try and drop them into a deep pool and then run away,” said Sally.

They ran together across the beach to the rocks, which they then climbed over to reach the large rock pool. Here they were alone and hidden from view to anyone who happened to be walking on the beach.

They decided that this was an ideal pool to get rid of the stones once and for all. They clambered over the rocks around the edge of the pool. Sally went to one end of the pool, and Archie to the other.

Sally was now holding the second stone that Archie had found while he had the original one that Sally had first discovered, as they had swapped when they were examining them on the beach.

On a count of three they dropped the stones into the clear water of the pool and watched as the stones sank to the bottom where they rested on the bottom with the seaweed gently swaying beside them.

For several seconds nothing happened and they were just getting ready to run away, then suddenly the two stones flew up through the water into the air. They then flashed across the surface of the pool before flying up and landing back in the hands of the two terrified children.

When they looked closely, they found that the two stones had returned to their original finders, with Sally holding the first stone and Archie having the one he had found in the sand.

“It was not deep enough,” cried Archie. “Let’s throw them into the sea.”

Sally and Archie then clambered over the larger rocks surrounding the pool until they reached the outer rocks where the waves of the sea lapped against the stone far below them. The water here was very deep and again after counting three, they threw the stones as far as they could out to sea.

The stones disappeared beneath the wave making two splashes quite a distance apart. Once again for several seconds nothing happened, but as before, the stones suddenly shot up through the waves, and sped across the surface of the water, before flying up into the children’s open hands.

Sally and Archie were amazed and in panic sat down with their backs leaning against the warm rocks to discuss what had happened. They decided that, although they could not understand it, the stones had in some way picked either Archie or Sally to hold them. As they had not harmed them, they both decided that perhaps it would be best if they took them home and keep them safe.

As soon as they had made their minds to do this, the eyes in both stones slowly opened and winked at them.

“Gosh” said Archie, “I wish they would stop doing that.”

Sally replied, “I think it is when we have done exactly what the stones want us to do.”

They carefully put the stones into their pockets and scrambled back over the rocks onto the beach. As they ran back towards the harbour they agreed that they would never tell anyone about what had happened or show anyone else the strange stones.

As Archie said, “If we told my dad he would take me to the doctors to get me locked up, because he would think that I had gone completely mad!”

When they got back onto the harbour they found Sally’s uncle waiting for them. He told Archie, “Your dad has gone back to the guesthouse and you are to go back there straight away.”

“I’ll see you soon Sally. Don’t forget to keep the things you found safe,” Archie said as he turned and ran away up the hill towards his home.

Sally and her Uncle John rode back up the lane to the cottage and Sally went straight up to her bedroom and hid the stone under the clothes in her case.

As she started to leave the room she turned back, half expecting to see the stone fly out of the case, but was very relieved to find that it stayed safely hidden from view. Sally then went back down stairs to the kitchen to join her aunt and uncle.

Sally found it very difficult not to say anything about the strange and frightening time she had spent on the beach with Archie. She told herself that they would all be joining Archie’s dad in the doctor’s waiting room with her if she did say anything.

So she tried to act as normal as she could and not to think about the stones with their evil-eyes.

The rest of the day was spent in the garden of the cottage until they went in to enjoy the salad that Aunt Mary had prepared, using the wonderful crab they had purchased earlier from Mr Smith.

After they had eaten Sally helped her aunt wash-up the supper plates. They all then went outside to sit in the garden to enjoy the lovely warm evening sunshine. It was decided that the next day they would take a picnic lunch with them and ride their bicycles to the next village, so that her aunt and uncle could show Sally another small harbour and a much larger beach.

Sally went up to bed feeling very tired and very worried. Before she got into her bed, she took the stone from its hiding place in her case and held it in her hand looking at the strange patterns.

She took out her sketchbook and drew a picture of the stone with the strange eye markings. As she did so a strange thing happened, she stopped feeling frightened.

She got into bed and snuggled down still holding the stone, just as she was drifting off to sleep she felt something different. The stone had seemed to become quite warm and it began to throb almost like a heart beating in a small animal, strangely Sally did not feel frightened at all, in fact she went to sleep with a contented smile on her face.

The next morning Sally carefully returned the stone to the safety of her case and went down to the kitchen where she enjoyed a cheerful breakfast without worrying about the stones at all.

Over breakfast Sally discussed with her aunt and uncle the picnic trip they had planned the night before. However, while they were still sitting at the kitchen table there was a knock on the door.

When Uncle John opened it, there in the doorway stood a boy who was about sixteen years old in a dark blue uniform his bicycle leaning against the wall. It was a telegraph boy. He opened the leather pouch on his belt and gave Sally’s uncle the telegram he had brought for him.

Uncle John read the telegram with a worried look on his face and then passed it to Aunt Mary who also became very concerned as she read it.

“Sally go out and play in the garden in the sunshine,” her aunt said quietly.

Sally spent quite a long time alone sitting on the garden seat, and wondering what bad news the telegram had contained. Sally was sure it had been bad news by the worried looks on the faces of her aunt and uncle, and they did not look any happier when they called her back indoors.

When Sally got back into the kitchen the telegraph boy had gone and she sat down at the table with her aunt and uncle.

Then Uncle John explained that his elder brother who lived in Cornwall was very ill and that they had to go by train to see him that afternoon. They said they would both be away for several days.

Sally was very upset, not only because of the sad news from Cornwall, but also she assumed she would have to return to London alone, cutting short her first seaside holiday. Luckily however, her uncle had different plans for her.

He told her, “We should not be away too long”. Her uncle continued, “I don’t want to contact your mum and dad as it will frighten them to see the telegram boy arrive. They would think something had happened to you.”

Aunt Mary said, “Rather than putting you back on a train to London on your own, your uncle has had a good idea.”

“I will ride down to the village with you Sally,” her uncle explained. “We will see if you can stay at the guesthouse with Mr and Mrs Smith for a few days. There you will be safe and well looked after. As you seemed to get on so well with him, you will have Archie to play with while we are away.”

“When we get back from Cornwall you can return here to finish your holiday with us,” her aunt added.

Sally was delighted with her uncle’s plan, as it would give her more time to be with Archie, so she quickly agreed.

The next hour was a rush as Sally packed her case, carefully putting the stone into the pocket of her dress, and going down the lane with her uncle on their bicycles riding together to Mr Smith’s guesthouse.

Archie’s mother greeted them at the guesthouse door. “We will be delighted to have you stay with us. I am sure Archie will be very pleased to have you staying here. He has not stopped talking about you since you met yesterday.”

Uncle John kissed Sally and then he rushed off to the village to arrange for a taxi to take him and his wife to the station to catch the train to Cornwall.

Mrs Smith was a happy rosy faced lady and she made Sally feel very much at home as she showed her around the guesthouse.

She explained, “Archie and his dad are out in the boat fishing, but they should be back soon.”

Archie’s mum finally took Sally up to the third floor to a bedroom with a wonderful view out over the harbour to the sea that sparkled blue in the bright sunlight. Sally thought it was one of the nicest rooms she had ever seen and thanked Mrs Smith for allowing her to stay in it.

Left alone in the bedroom Sally unpacked her case, leaving some clothes in it under which she carefully concealed the stone that she took from her pocket. The room was bright and sunlit with cheerful wallpaper covered with a pattern of gulls and seashells. It also had a wash table with a black marble top with a pretty water jug and bowl covered with colourful flowers standing on it. The single bed was very soft and comfortable and Sally sat on it thinking how much had changed since she had woken up in the cottage earlier that morning.

Before long she heard Archie and his father arriving down stairs, so Sally ran down the stairs to join them.

Archie was very excited to discover that Sally was staying with them in the guesthouse for a few days. At once he asked his mum, “Can we go down to the beach to play.”

“Of course you can,” Archie’s mum agreed. She quickly made up a small picnic of sandwiches and rosy red apples that she packed into a wicker basket.

As the two children went together down the lane that led to the harbour and the beach Sally told Archie, “It was very strange when I went to bed last night. The frightening feeling I had disappeared and the stone started throbbing in my hand.”

Archie replied, “Gosh that’s strange. Exactly the same thing happened to me as well. Now I feel quite relaxed about having the stone to look after.”

“Me to,” said Sally. “You have not told anyone about the stones have you?”

“Course not,” snorted Archie.

Before they went down to the beach Archie showed Sally around the village. It was not very big and was built on two hills that both ran down to the harbour. The shops were very different to the London shops that Sally was used to seeing when she went shopping with her mother.

They were smaller but in many ways more exciting to Sally. The fishmonger’s shop was laid out with a display of local caught fish and crabs. Archie showed Sally a tank that had several live lobsters in it.

“We caught two of those” Archie said proudly.

“What large front claws they have. You must be very brave to pick up one of those,” said Sally. “I bet they could give you a very nasty bite.”

“They certainly can, but you have to know where to hold them so that they cannot use their claws.”

“I thought they were red not that dark blue colour” continued Sally.

Archie burst out laughing. “That is when they have been cooked and are ready to eat. Very tasty they are too!”

The bakers had a wonderful smell of freshly baked bread. It also had a stack of funny shaped pies that Archie pointed out.

“They are called pasties,” said Archie. They are filled with a mixture of meat, potato and mixed herbs.”

“Sounds wonderful,” said Sally.

“They certainly are,” Archie replied. “They are my favourite meal. I will ask my mum to get them for our supper one evening while you are staying with us.”

When they got to the butcher’s shop they were met at the door by butcher who was a large red-faced man with a loud laugh. He was dressed in a striped apron and a large straw hat.

“Archie, I have got a string of my best pork and apple sausages for your mum. Are you on your way home?”

“I’m sorry we are on our way down to the beach,” Archie replied.

“Don’t worry I’ll get Jack to deliver them as usual.”

Just then his son came into the shop looking as untidy as an unmade bed.

“Hello Archie” he said, “Who is this then?”

“Jack this is Sally who is staying with me for a few days. She comes from London” Archie replied.

“Good to meet you” said Jack. “We can meet up later when I have finished work.”

As they left the shop and walked down towards the harbour, Archie told Sally Jack was his best friend who was older than he was and had left school to work for his dad.

Jack rode a bicycle with a large wicker basket on the front to carry the meat and sausages. He often joked with Archie about the hard ride up the hill to the guesthouse, but said how he loved riding back down the hill afterwards.

Archie explained, “Jack always comes down the hills too fast, bouncing over the cobblestone with his feet off the peddles, sticking his legs out in front, ringing his bell wildly, with his apron blowing out in the wind. That’s why everyone in the village calls him Mad Jack” Archie laughed.

However, of them all, Sally’s favourite shop was the dairy. It had a window display with brightly decorated milk churns and in the centre was a large bowl of golden clotted cream. There were several enormous round golden cheeses, two of which had triangular slices cut out to show the rich creamy cheese inside. They were laid out in an eye-catching display on a bed of artificial grass.

However, what excited Sally the most about the dairy was in the small cobbled yard alongside of the shop. A milk float, with its horse still standing inside the shafts, was in the centre of the yard.

Archie told her, “That horse’s name is Sunbeam and he and Jane deliver the milk every morning around the village.”

Sunbeam and the milk float were the pride and joy of Jane. She was a tall girl with long dark hair who was two years older than Archie. Together with Archie and Jack the three of them spent a lot of time together whenever they could, when their various jobs were finished.

Sunbeam had his nosebag on and was enjoying his dinner after the early morning round, while Jane stood watching him. Archie stepped into the yard and Sally followed rather timidly.

Sunbeam seemed enormous to Sally as it stood so close, but she also patted the beautiful horse’s neck after Jane and then Archie had done so first. Sunbeam looked round and looked at Sally with its beautiful brown eyes, and she thought it was the most wonderful look she had ever had seen from any animal.

After they had said goodbye to Jane and Sunbeam they walked down to the harbour where they saw a three-wheeled bicycle with a large box on the front. It had brightly coloured lettering saying Stop Me and Buy One. It was the local ice-cream seller. They stopped him and Archie brought two large ice-cream cones. The ice cream was yellow in colour, very rich in taste and Sally said it was the best she had ever tasted.

The two children sat on the harbour wall with their legs dangling over the edge eating their ice cream.

Archie pointed out all the different fishing boats and told Sally many stories about who owned them, also some of the funny things that had happened to them while out at sea.

He also told Sally several gripping stories about the local Lifeboat and once again told her how brave his dad and the other members of the crew were, explaining how they often risked their lives to save sailors who were in distress, despite terrible storms and enormous waves.

Sally could tell just how proud Archie was of his brave dad.

After a while they started to discuss the strange happenings from the day before.

“What are we going to do about the stones,” Archie asked.

“I don’t know,” Sally replied thoughtfully. “It seems as if the stones picked us out for a reason.”

“What reason could that be?”

“I am sure that we will find out. I have a strange feeling that something very weird is going to happen to us very soon.”

“Well it can’t be as weird as the stones flying back to us yesterday,” Archie replied. “If it is even weirder than that, I don’t think I will want to know.”

They decided that they would go back to the rocks and beach where they had found the stones to see if there were any more.

However, after they had hunted and hunted for a long time, they were unable to find any new stones or any clues about the strange power the stones seemed to have.

“Do you think they are evil-eyes?” Archie asked.

“I really don’t know,” Sally replied after a long pause

They walked slowly back up the hill to the guesthouse. On the way they agreed that the strange events of yesterday had become dream like, and perhaps it had not really happened.

When they got back to the guesthouse Archie had to help his mum by doing his daily chores. One of these was to feed the chickens and collect the eggs they had laid.

Sally went with him to help and all the hens rushed around her as she tipped the corn feed into the metal dishes in the hen-run. Archie had gone into the hen house. He called out to Sally, “Don’t just stand out there, come on inside. They won’t hurt you.”

“I’m not too sure,” Sally said. “Those beaks look pretty sharp to me.”

She came through the door and found it was rather dark inside after being in the sunlight. As her eyes became accustomed to the dim light that came through the small dusty window she could see all the perches where the hens slept at night, as well as the row of nesting boxes that ran along one wall of the hen house.

Archie showed Sally the eggs lying in the straw of the nest, and she helped pick them up carefully and put them into the basket that Archie was carrying. There was one hen still sitting in the end nesting box, but it suddenly flew off the nest clucking noisily, and ran outside to join the other hens happily pecking at the corn in their dishes. There was a lovely large brown egg in the nest that the hen had been sitting on, and when Sally picked it up it was still very warm to her touch.

“I think I could get to like chickens after all,” she said to Archie.

They took all the eggs back to the kitchen. Archie’s mum thanked them and told Archie she had a few more jobs for him to do before supper, so Sally went up to her third floor bedroom alone.

She lifted the stone out of her case and sat on the bed to look at it. Again, as she held it, the stone become quite warm and the markings slowly became clearer, then suddenly the eye started to open. This time it did not wink at her but stayed open, almost as if it was watching her. Sally did not feel frightened and she felt it was almost like the stone was welcoming her back home.

Soon Archie’s mum called Sally down to supper, so she returned the stone back to the case. However, she spoke to the stone for the first time. “I am just going to eat but I will not be long”.

Again the stone winked at her.

Sally went down stairs smiling to her-self, for it seemed the stone had now become her friend, and not just an object that she had found.

After they had finished supper, Archie and his mum and dad sat for a long time talking to Sally and she was able to tell them about her life in London. They found her stories very interesting as none of them had ever been away from their own neighbourhood and their life together beside the sea.

Later when it was beginning to get dark Sally said goodnight and climbed the stairs to her bedroom.

Before she got into bed she scribbled a few sketches in her book by the light of the lamp.

Sally suddenly had a strange feeling that something unusual was going to happen.

She looked around the room but every thing was in its normal place, but she knew that whatever it was, it must be outside the window. She crossed the room to look with a feeling of apprehension building inside her. This must be something to do with the stones she thought.

She quickly took the stone from its hiding place and stood looking at the window with considerable trepidation, almost dreading the thought that she should look outside.

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