The Black Book of Secrets by F. E. Higgins

The Black Book of Secrets by F. E. Higgins

Author:F. E. Higgins [Higgins, F. E.]
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi
ISBN: 9780330471534
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books

Jeremiah set aside his plate, the meal only half eaten, and slouched back into his chair. He had no appetite. He was too depressed to look at his books; not even The Loneliness of the High Mountain Shepherd – his all-time favourite, on account of the fact that shepherds tended to have a limited vocabulary and to tell a simple story.

If Joe stayed in the village and continued as he had done up until now, Jeremiah knew that it could only mean more trouble for him. He was going to have to take matters into his own hands.

‘Pagus Parvus is not big enough for the two of us,’ he declared to the shadows. ‘One of us will have to go.’

Feeling very sorry for himself he trudged upstairs and prepared for bed. He couldn’t resist looking out of the window. By now it was an obsession. He could see the pawnbroker’s shop at the top of the hill and the smoke that curled out of the chimney every night into the early hours.

‘What is he doing up there?’ he asked himself for the hundredth time.

Jeremiah was still no nearer to finding out why the pawnbroker received visitors well into the night, and he lacked the imagination to come up with an explanation on his own. He had heard someone say that Joe was giving advice but he could discover no more. He asked Polly many times if she knew what it was all about, but she just looked at him blankly.

If only I could find out, thought Jeremiah, then perhaps I might be able to do something. But whatever night-time trade was going on at the pawnbroker’s, no one would talk about it. So Jeremiah drew his own conclusions and decided that it was all part of Joe’s plot against him. Having concluded thus, he was even more desperate to know the truth. One morning, therefore, when the oldest Sourdough dropped off the bread, he was waiting for him outside the kitchen door and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck.

‘I want you to do a little job for me,’ he muttered.

‘Does it pay?’ asked the boy.

Jeremiah laughed and the poor lad was treated to a panoramic view of the inside of his mouth. That mottled tongue, the fleshy uvula, those stained teeth, the meat and piecrust from the previous night still wedged firmly between them.

‘I’ll tell you what you’ll get if you don’t do it,’ he hissed. ‘I’ll tell your father that I found you sneaking around my kitchen looking for something to steal. Something like this,’ and with a sleight of hand that would have surprised even Joe, Jeremiah somehow managed to take a silver candlestick out of the boy’s pocket, upon which trick the poor chap burst into tears.

Jeremiah released his hold. ‘Just do what I say,’ he growled, ‘and you’ll be no worse off. You must find out what’s going on at the pawnbroker’s.’

The lad hesitated, but the threat of his father was enough. He really had no choice.


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