The Daring Adventures of the Bold Weevil by Barrie Bussey by Barrie Bussey - Read Online

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The Daring Adventures of the Bold Weevil - Barrie Bussey

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The Daring Adventures of the Bold Weevil

Copyright

Copyright © 2016 by Barrie Bussey

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.

First Printing 2016

ISBN 978-1-326-88652-3

barrie.bussey@gmail.com

Part 1 – The Significance of Being Clumsy

This is a story about the Bold Weevil, said Granddad.  Then he paused.

Finn giggled and said weesil a few times.

What's a weevil, Luke asked wrinkling up his nose.  Is it a sort of wormy thing?

Before Granddad could answer Ben burst in with his usual enthusiasm.

No, he said with the derision reserved solely for younger brothers and even younger cousins, it's an insect.  Black.  It has a head a thorax and an … ambudum …

He paused and gave one of his frowns.

Abdomen, Granddad said gently. 

Ben nodded and then went on.

Six legs.  All insects have six legs …

Not spiders, Luke put in.  They have eight legs.

Ha!  Spiders aren't insects.

Ben stopped and looked over for reassurance and Granddad nodded

Arachnids, he said.

"But you must mean bole weevil Granddad" said Ben feeling very pleased with himself.  They had learned about various insects just recently and Ben was pretty sure he was right because some kid had asked the question and Mrs Fraser had smiled slightly ― as she did now and again ― when she put him right.

Granddad looked at him with a slight raising of one of his caterpillar eyebrows.

No.  I meant bold.  B O L D.  Bole weevils don’t have adventures and only really bold weevils have daring adventures.  Insects do have six legs Ben but the weevil I'm talking about isn't an insect at all.  It's not a spider either Luke.  No.  Weevil was a little boy.  He was younger than you Luke but older than Finn.  His real name was Henry Wyeville but because he was so very small everyone at school called him Weevil.

Finn said weesil again and giggled to himself.

Is this a real story? Luke asked

Granddad shrugged.

Well it's a story and I'm telling it so I suppose it's real enough.

No, said Ben.  "He means is it a true story?"

Now Granddad paused.

Ah, well now.  That's an interesting question.

He paused again and stroked his chin, making a rasping noise with his stubble.

There's all kinds of true, he began.  "Some things are just made up and they are certainly untrue.  And there are stories about things that really happened but sometimes they're just boring and some people tell them in ways that are not absolutely true but are sort of true and really true in all the things that matter.  There are also exaggerations."

So which is this story then?

Granada smiled mischievously.

Oh this story is true.  Well it's got true bits in it.

Are we in the story Granddad? Finn asked.

Granddad smiled.

Well, you'll have to wait and see.

This story is about Henry Wyeville – we shall call him Henry because his unfortunate nickname had only just been put on him at the time the story starts and I'm not fond of such things – so Henry it shall be.

oOo

Henry lived with his parents in the top half of a large house.  The bottom half was owned by an old man who lived on his own and rented out the top.  Except it was not exactly correct to call it the top half as the house had three floors and the very top was an attic where Henry slept.  His room was quite small and sort of triangular, his ceiling forming a point where both sides of the roof met.  It did not occupy the whole of the top floor, there was another door across the landing where the old man stored things.  That door was always locked.  When they first moved in Henry had suggested that he be allowed to sleep in this larger room and swap the stored items for his bedroom furniture.  His requests were met with a disappointing rejection.  This was but one of several rejections in his life that Henry was slowly getting used to.

The best feature of the house was the garden.  It was huge, and better still, Henry had the complete run of it; no one else set foot there.  At some time in the past someone had planted vegetables but by the time Henry lived there it was a bit of a wilderness, perfect for the sort of jungle games Henry loved to play.  If the best part of the house was the garden, the best part of the garden was the shed.

Again, no one went inside the shed apart from Henry and this was his den.  It was quite big and built from thick wooden planks.  A row of windows ran down one whole side and though they were filthy and covered in cobwebs they let in just enough light.  Amazingly they were fitted with lace curtains but they were so old that they served no useful purpose.  There was a row of gardening tools ― not used for a long time ― and a very old armchair.  Whilst this looked comfortable, the absence of any springs made it feel as though Henry was sitting with his bottom on the floor.  He rarely used it.

Under the window was a bench that also ran along the whole side and there were hand tools here.  There was also a pipe-rack with pipes of various shapes and sizes.  For a while Henry experimented with these.  He had no real tobacco so he set to burning things that looked like tobacco, even experimenting with the lace curtains which had turned a sort of brown shade.  In the end he concluded that smoking was not for him.  It only made him cough.

The most prized item though was a large oblong box made out of a material that Henry had never seen before.  It was smooth and shiny like polished wood but sort of soapy to the touch.  You boys would think it was plastic but in those days plastic hadn't really been invented.  You see this all took place a long time ago, less than ten years after the end of the Second World War when things were very different.  So the box wasn't plastic it was made out of stuff called Bakelite and the box was an old fashioned wireless ― what they used to call a wireless; this one was old fashioned even then. These days it would be an antique.  Henry prized it as soon as he saw it but if he had known then what it would lead him to he would have prized it doubly.  This wireless ― or rather, wireless as they were called then ― was the start of his adventures.

oOo

But before I start on the adventures let me tell you something about Henry himself.  When I said he was a little boy what I really meant was that he was small … very small.  He was by far the smallest in his class and even the smallest of the girls could easily look down on him.  This had been so all of his life and though he had grown used to being the smallest I think it is fair to say that he still did not like it.  The simple truth was that he always felt threatened.  It would be wrong to say that he was bullied at school but he was certainly an outsider.  He had joined the class a whole term after all the others and friendships had already been formed without him.  Another thing that made him different was that he spoke with a completely different accent and even used different words.  All of this, together with Henry's natural self-resilience, made him keep away from the others.  It wasn't that he was shy or threatened, he just did not need the company of others and hardly ever joined in with their games.

Henry was also clumsy.  If he walked past something, he would inevitably bump into it; if there was a crack in the pavement he would trip over it and if there was a low hanging branch or a narrow doorway he would usually walk into it.  His small body bore witness to his clumsiness in the form of scars and bruises and he hardly ever had a knee that wasn't either bleeding or scabbed over.  Partly this was due to the fact that he just did not look where he was going.  If something caught his attention he would turn his head to look at it but let his body carry on walking just the same.  Sometimes he would be lucky and nothing would be in the way but more often than not he would crash into something and every time he did, he would be surprised.  Let me give you a good example of his clumsiness.  This happened when he was The Ink Monitor.

It happened a little earlier than the time of the story and was in a different school.  But it demonstrates the point.  I expect you're wondering what an ink monitor is, so let me explain.

In those days, when you'd proved that your writing was nice and neat, you were allowed to use a pen.  But the pens weren't the sort of things we have today: no biros or felt tips.  A pen then was not much more than a stick with a bit of metal called a nib stuck in the end.  You wrote by dipping it in a little pot of ink called on ink well and scratching the ink onto paper.  It was quite hard so when you first started there were all kinds of problems: smudges, blots and holes in the paper.  Yes it wasn't easy to write with a pen in those days.

The job of the ink monitor was to make sure that everybody's ink well was full ― each desk had one made out of a kind of stone and it was sunk into a hole in the lid.  The ink monitor had to check each one and fill it up as necessary.  If you were given the job it was quite an honour so Henry was surprised when the teacher, Miss Featherstone, called him out and said he was to help her with the ink during lunch break.

The ink was mixed in a large metal jug but Miss Featherstone did this part, measuring out just the right amount of dye powder and water.  Henry was allowed to stir it which he did with extreme care until it was just the right consistency.  A few drops spilled over the edge when he became a little too enthusiastic but he thought he had got away with this.  If Miss Featherstone had spotted it, she did not say.

At this point Henry became worried.  The jug was now extremely heavy and the holes of the ink wells looked very small indeed.  He was unsure whether he would be able to hold the jug tightly enough to pour the ink with enough accuracy.  He tried to lift it and could barely get it off the little table they had been using.  A few more slops spilled over the rim when he put it down and this time Miss Featherstone did notice.

I think we'll use this Henry.

She took out a small metal pan from her cupboard and handed it to him.

You hold it and I'll pour, she added.

When he took it up the pan looked more like a kettle, a very small kettle.  It was round and had a spout that fed from the bottom and curved very gently at the end.  It also had a handle like the kettle at home but it had no lid; the top was open.  Even when Miss Featherstone had filled it to the brim it wasn't too heavy and Henry's confidence suddenly grew.

Right Henry, she said.  Give it to me and I'll show you how to do it.

Henry put on his serious expression, the one he used to show people that he was really concentrating.  It did not help him concentrate but it seemed to reassure people when they were telling him something important.  He very often used it when he was bored and wanted to think of something completely different.  On this occasion though, he really did concentrate.  He watched carefully as Miss Featherstone gently poured a thin stream of blue into the ink well on her own desk.  When it was full she carefully brought the little kettle level and wiped a drip from the spout with an orange cloth.

There, she said, easy as blinking.  Now you.

Henry walked over to the front row of desks and took a deep breath.  The children's desks were lower than the teacher's so he bent over, his nose almost touching the desk, and positioned the spout as close to the ink well as he could.  Then, very very slowly, he tipped the kettle until he could just see the ink as it emerged.  Breathing heavily he tipped a little further and a dribble of ink fell from the spout into the hole of the ink well.  A few spots hit the side but they did no damage, collecting in a ring around the hole.  He looked up at Miss Featherstone for approval and as he did so a few more spots missed the well.  He quickly brought the kettle level and wiped the spots from the desk as well as the spout.  Luckily Miss Featherstone did not seem to notice.

That's very good Henry, she said.  Now do the rest just like that.  I'll be in the staff room if you need me.  Leave everything on my desk when you have finished.

Henry was rather glad he was now to be left alone to the task.  He felt he had been doing fine until Miss Featherstone had made him look up and he was sure he would be much better on his own.

When his teacher left, Henry continued very slowly along the front row of desks.  He thought he was doing well until he came to the end of the row and looked behind him.  Whilst he had worked extremely carefully during the pouring and had left only a few small spots around the inkwells, he had obviously not been so careful while walking from desk to desk.  There were several large blobs of ink on the floor where the kettle had slopped and a few blue footprints too.  When he looked down he saw that he had blue streaks on his short trousers as well.  Quickly he put down the kettle ― leaving another small puddle ― and on hands and knees started scrubbing the floor with the orange cloth.  This made the blobs a lighter shade of blue and they sort of merged together but when he stood back he had to admit that he had made it worse, the stains now spread like an oil slick right across the front of the desks.  He also now had very bright blue knees.  The cloth was a little worse for wear too.  It was quite damp and no longer bright orange, more of a dull brown colour and there were hairs and bits of fluff stuck to it.

He paused, not quite sure what to do next.  Should he go and ask for help?  Or try something else?  In the end he decided to carry on with the filling, after all, that was the job he had been given.

The kettle left a bright blue ring behind when he picked it up and his eye was immediately drawn to it.  He was distracted but he carried on lifting and knocked the kettle against the leg of the desk adding yet more colour to the floor.  He was now wishing that Miss Featherstone had not called him out for this honour, if she hadn't he would now be out in the fresh air away from all this mess.

The second row of desks went well until he came to the very last one.  He had been extremely careful this time, walking ever more slowly between the desks and carrying the kettle in front of him with his eyes glued to the rim.  He did not spill a single drop, helped by the fact that the level of ink in the kettle was now much lower and less prone to slop about.  At the last desk in that row he went into his usual routine being just as careful but to his horror, when the ink started to trickle from the spout it just bubbled back out of the ink well and spilled over the desk lid; obviously this desk had not been used and the well was still full.  For a moment he was paralysed and he could only watch as the ink ran like a river down the desk lid where it cascaded onto the seat of the chair.  When he had gathered his wits he stopped pouring but by that time there was already a sizeable puddle on the seat and it was beginning to drip onto the floor.  He put the kettle down onto the desk and ran round with the cloth trying to stop the flow.  As he did so his knee knocked the desk and to his horror the kettle began to slide.  He watched open-mouthed as it moved slowly down the slope of the desk lid.  It was like a slow motion film or a nightmare; things happening around him but he being powerless to stop them.  He did move, flinging out a hand in the direction of the kettle but his fingers only grazed the side and this made matters worse.  The kettle tipped onto its side and rolled sending all of the remaining ink flooding over the desk in a tidal wave.  When it reached the end of the desk it clattered to the floor and went on rolling sending dollops of ink everywhere.

Now, Henry could do nothing but stand and gawp.  He was completely transfixed.  Even when the ink started to drip onto the floor and pool around his feet he still could not move.  A noise from the corridor broke the spell and sent him hurrying to stop the flood with the now sodden cloth.  It was hopeless and he soon gave up in despair.  He looked around for inspiration but there was nothing.  Then his eye caught the cupboard next to Miss Featherstone's desk.  This was where the ink stuff was kept but he knew that there were other things.  Amongst them he was sure there were large sheets of blotting paper.  He had seen Miss Featherstone cutting the sheets up into small squares to hand out.  Surely one of the big sheets would be ideal to mop up the mess.

There was a mirror behind the cupboard door and Henry caught his reflection.  There was a large blue smear on his cheek another on his forehead and smaller streaks of blue in his hair.  He looked down at his hands which were now the deepest blue and when he looked down and behind him he saw that he had left a trail of blue spots behind him.  He also saw fully for the first time the carnage he had brought to the once tidy classroom.  He gulped.  He was going to need a very big piece of blotting paper to clear this up.

He almost faltered but recovered after a little moment of panic.  There was a bundle of large sheets of blotting paper on the middle shelf and he grasped it. His thumb seemed to bore through the bundle leaving an expanding blue fingerprint.  Quickly he unfolded two sheets and put the rest back.  As he did so he dislodged something and it fell with a clatter but he was too absorbed to do anything about it.  He turned quickly and made his way back to the second row.  As he did so his world almost came to an end.

His knee caught the leg of the small table where the large jug of ink still stood.  With horror he watched as the table and then the jug wobbled.  Ink spilled down the side of the jug and it teetered on the very edge of falling over.  He held his breath and with relief the jug regained its balance.  A few spots of ink reached the floor but this was nothing compared to the rest of the floor which he now walked over to address.

For a moment it seemed that the blotting paper would do the trick.  When he spread the first sheet on the floor it immediately stopped the puddle from spreading.  But after that brief moment of hope, despair flooded through him.  The blotting paper went from pristine white to deep blue and then a soggy mess in the space of two heartbeats.  The second sheet fared little better and he was now faced with an additional problem of what to do with the blotting paper which had quickly assumed the consistency of blue porridge.

It was while he was contemplating yet more blotting paper that there was a rattle behind him and he felt the draft of the door opening.  He wheeled and found himself staring into the incredulous gaze of Miss Featherstone.  He swallowed nervously as her eyes roved over his blue body and then the floor taking in the full extent of the mess.  He waited for the storm which must surely follow and was amazed when her voice was calm and gentle.

Well Henry, seems as though you've had something of an accident.

Henry gulped again, tried to explain what had happened but the words would not come.  Instead he could only nod.

All right.  We'd better get it cleaned up.  Run along and find Mr Wilson, he'll be in the caretaker's room I expect.  If not try the storeroom.

Henry could not get out of the room fast enough and his feet slipped on the ink puddle as he started into a run.

Walk, Henry, said Miss Featherstone with the same calm voice.  And make sure Mr Wilson brings a mop and bucket.

The rest of this episode passed in a blur and over the years Henry was left with a residual feeling of puzzlement.  Most of his life had brought instant punishment for his various acts of clumsiness but on that occasion there had been nothing.  He had not even had to help in the clearing up.  Mr Wilson had given him a very hard stare but Miss Featherstone had very calmly told him to go and get himself cleaned up.  This he did as soon as he could get out of the room.  He was not completely successful in the boys toilets.  The ink just would not come off his hands and knees and his face, though a bit more successful, was left with a ghostly pallor.  The sink and soap however were absolutely covered in blue and the towel was even worse.  In the end he made the best of it and slunk off to the playground where his blueness became the cause of much merriment.

oOo

Now, you might be asking why I've told you about Henry's clumsiness.  Well, it's quite important to the tale.  You see, if Henry had been normal and he hadn't tripped at a certain time and he hadn't had an accident with a wire and he hadn't dropped something and broke it … well this story would be very different indeed.

oOo

The wireless was a very old thing and no matter what Henry did he couldn't get it to work.  There were several knobs on the front, big round brown things that were made out of the same shiny stuff as the main body.  One, he knew, turned the set off and on but no matter which way he switched it there was no sign of life.  He knew he had to wait while it warmed up, all wirelesses were like that, but no matter how long he waited there was no light and definitely no sound, not even a crackle.  He checked that it was plugged in ― surprisingly there was a socket just behind the wireless ― and he traced the cable right up to the plug.  It was definitely plugged in.  He tried fiddling with the push-in knobs on the front.  These were labelled LW, MW and SW but they did not seem to do anything.  There was writing on the front glass that had these same letters down one side so that was probably a clue.  There were other letters too, going right across the glass.  They were names of places mostly, and lots of numbers but they meant nothing to Henry.  One of the knobs moved a white vertical pointer across the glass but there was no difference no matter where it pointed.  The thing was dead.

He was quite disappointed because he quite liked music and thought it would be fun to have his own wireless while he was playing in the shed.  He knew that it wasn't really his wireless but it didn't seem to belong to anyone else and he had been told that he could go anywhere and use anything in the garden.  And the shed was in the garden and the wireless was in the shed so he felt he couldn't possibly get into trouble.  But the thing just didn't work so he couldn't use it anyway.

He gave it a little thump.  He had seen Granda do this to his wireless when they had all lived in the same house.  That had been similar to this one but much bigger and the glass thing on the front of his had not had quite as much writing on it.  Granda had said that wirelesses needed a thump now and again to get them going.  Henry wasn't sure about this but in desperation he did it anyway.  All he got for his troubles was a sore hand.  Even so, he thumped it again as he made his way out of the shed but that was more from frustration than any belief that it would do any good.

He was making for the end of the garden where he had made a sort of den when a voice brought him up short.

Hey!  You!

The tone was old and crackly and was accompanied by a gravelly cough.  When the cough was over the voice came again.

Yes you!  Young man.

Henry turned, his heart suddenly beating fast.  That was another thing about him, he was always feeling guilty even when he had not done anything.  He felt guilty now and he couldn't remember doing anything at all.

The old man stood by the single story extension that ran out from the back of the house into the garden.  He was dressed in a dark suit complete with waistcoat and he leaned heavily on a black cane.  He was squinting in Henry's direction obviously finding it hard to see him.  When Henry edged closer, the old man seemed to relax.

Oh it's you, he said in a less aggressive tone.  The lodger's boy.  I thought it was one of those ruffians from the end of the road.

Henry felt a little less concerned.  He still felt wary but it seemed he was not going to be blamed for anything after all.

How are you finding things? the old man asked, his tone now positively friendly.  You like the garden?

Henry nodded.

Yes, I've seen you playing.  He swung his cane round to take in the complete length.  Plenty of room here.

Yes.  I like playing here.

The old man nodded.

We used to grow things.  Veggies mostly, a few flowers.  Nothing now.  You can grow things if you like.

Henry nodded but he didn't think he would try and grow anything.  He didn't know how.  Besides, he liked the rough landscape.  More fun for playing games.

Yes, well.  Anything you want.  You can't really hurt anything.

A silence developed and after a while the old man turned to go.  Before Henry could breath a sigh of relief though he turned back.

Don't suppose you know anything about that.  He pointed with his cane to a coil lying at the foot of the end wall of the extension.  Now Henry's heart started to beat again.  He did know