The Star Stone
Alan L. Marshall
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Jed Armstrong first saw the star stone at the end of a hard day's work in the fields, clearing blocked ditches. The evening was summer hot, and he was looking forward to a long, cool drink and something to eat. About half way across the dusty yard, heading for the farmhouse, he happened to glance up at the sky. What he saw stopped him dead in his tracks. A white ball of light was heading straight for him.
   Before he could move, it had rushed over his head with a noise like an express train and disappeared in the direction of the wood. After five weeks of hot, dry weather, Jed was well aware of the dangers of fire. Pausing only to dip an old sack in the water trough, he ran towards the wood. He was joined by his dog, Bramble, who thought that this was a new game, and ran around him in wide circles, barking excitedly.
   Finding the shooting star proved to be very easy, for the white-hot stone had, indeed, started a small fire in the parched undergrowth.
   "Good job we got here quick, Bramble," muttered Jed, beating at burning grass and twigs with the wet sack. The dog remained at a safe distance, prowling back and forth upwind of the smoke and barking encouragement.
   The sun had set by the time the fire was out and Jed had damped down the charred area with water from the nearby Padborn Brook. He tried to pick up the blackened, melted, fragment of stone from the skies, but found that it was much too hot to touch. Using a convenient stick, he pushed it into his bucket, where it sizzled gently as it boiled away a small puddle of water.
   "Come on, Bramble, home," called Jed.
   The dog approached, sniffed cautiously at the bucket, then ran on ahead to investigate a nearby rabbit burrow.

After supper, Jed found that the meteorite fragment had cooled enough for him to be able to handle it. He lifted it out of the bucket and carried it into the farmhouse. After spreading an old newspaper on the table, he set his prize down and took a close look at it.
   The object was dark, about twice the size of a man's fist, and melted smooth. As he turned it over and over, specks of glass-like material caught the lamp light giving the impression that he was holding an orb studded with precious gems. Amused by his fancy, he moved it to the dresser and settled down with his accounts.

The next day, Jed's younger brother, Nathaniel, arrived from the village to help him with some repairs to the big barn. Nat had seen the shooting star himself, and he was very keen to hear his brother's story and view the piece of stone that Jed had recovered from the scene of the fire. With mixed feelings, Jed took Nat into the farmhouse.
   Earlier in the day, Jed had shown his trophy to the postman and the man from the village, who sharpened knives. Both visitors had enjoyed his story, but they had seemed unimpressed by the main exhibit. Perhaps they had found it hard to believe that what looked like a very ordinary piece of rock could have been the true source of fire from the skies.
   "Don't look much, do it?" the postman had said.
   "What you going t'do with a thing like that, anyway?" the knife-grinder had asked with a loud sniff.
   Nat, on the other hand, was fascinated by the meteorite. "You know what it is, don't you?" he asked, turning it over and over in his strong hands.
   "Surprise me," invited Jed.
   "It's a Star Stone."
   "A what?" Jed looked puzzled.
   "It's a Star Stone," Nat repeated with a grin. "A star that's fallen from the sky and lost its shine. Did you remember you've got to make a wish when you see one coming down?"
   "But the stars weren't out when this hit the ground. How do you explain that, smartie?" Jed's grin was even broader than his brother's.
   "Look at these lines on it." Nat changed the subject quickly. "You could almost say this is a primitive work of art. This bit could be a duck, and there's a bloke doing something peculiar, and this bit here..."
   "Is an idiot called Nat!" finished Jed, taking the stone from his brother and putting it back on the dresser. "Work of art!"
   Grinning, the brothers left the farmhouse with the toolkit, heading for the barn.

That evening, Jed was showered with questions about the star stone. He had gone down to the village for a quiet pint and a game of darts, but he had found himself the centre of attention. Nat, he learned, had told his wife about the star stone. His two children had overheard and they had told their friends. Nat's wife had told her neighbour, who had told the baker, who had told all his customers.
   The story was all round the village before evening. Interest in the star stone was so great that old Mendells, the landlord of The Plough, lent Jed his car so that he could pop back to the farm to fetch his trophy.
   Jed propped himself against the bar and allowed his brother to ramble on about the shapes that he said he could see among the flow-marks on the stone, and how a museum would pay a fortune for a similar object if it had been discovered by someone famous.
   The stone was passed from hand to hand, and, as the evening wore on, more and more fanciful shapes were discovered as imaginations were liberated in direct proportion to the amount of beer consumed.
   Ted Mendells looked more and more cheerful as the pub filled up. When Jed left at closing time, the landlord positively beamed at him as he wished Jed a very good night, the while offering up a prayer for more such discoveries. Mendells was sure that this was the first time that a Wednesday night's takings had ever exceeded those of a good Saturday night.

The moon was high in a cloudless sky when Jed arrived home. Bramble was lying in front of the kitchen door, waiting for him. The dog looked up as if to say: Where have you been all night? before curling up in the basket in his personal corner of the kitchen and going to sleep.
   Jed lit the lamp and dumped the stone on the table. An oil lamp's yellow glow seemed to suit the big, old kitchen more than the harsh, brightness of electricity. As he lit a last cigarette, a flash of light attracted his eye.
   "Nat and his shapes!" Jed drew a chair up to the table, captivated by the shifting glitter as the lamp flame danced across the stone. "Wait a minute, though..."
   His eyes started to follow a pattern of lines. But the lamp flickered suddenly and he lost it.
   "You're as daft as Nat," he told himself in disgust. "Time you were in bed, me lad."

Every household in the village had run out of eggs on Thursday. All day, Jed was on the receiving end of a steady stream of women and children; all wanting to buy eggs and other farm produce, and, just by the way, to take a look at the famous star stone. In Jed's opinion, a rather ordinary-looking piece of rock had acquired a renown out of all reasonable proportion.
   It was not Jed's nature to be rude to people, and so he suffered the invasion in silence. His final visitor arrived just as he was clearing the table after his supper. He opened the kitchen door to find the diminutive figure of the Reverend Percival Lolpratt on his doorstep. Jed's heart sank.
   To say that the Reverend Lolpratt was not well liked in the village would be to understate matters severely. In common with many small men, he had the large fault of wanting to dominate all those around him. Unfortunately, he was in a position to do so.
   Few of the village folk were able to stand up to his expressions of pious horror at the fate of the soul of someone who was reluctant to carry out The Church's Bidding. Those who dared to defy him became the subject of thinly disguised threats of damnation, delivered from the pulpit in Lolpratt's peculiarly deep voice.
   That voice was a source of wonder to the villagers, especially in the pub on a Friday night, when there would be a great deal of speculation as to why the Almighty had given to somebody so small the voice of a man twice his size. The discussion generally came to an end when someone put on a deep voice and ordered the assembled company not to question the ways of the Almighty, Lolpratt's favourite phrase.
   "Evening, vicar," said Jed, looking down at his visitor without enthusiasm. "Bit late to be calling on people, isn't it?"
   "My duties to my parishioners occupy most of my day, Jedidiah," rebuked the vicar, advancing into the kitchen. "Thus I must confine social calls to the evening."
   "And what do I owe the pleasure of this social visit to?" asked Jed.
   The Reverend Lolpratt looked at him sharply, but he was unable to detect signs of either mirth or sarcasm on Jed's round, tanned face. "I have come to see this object that came to earth in the parish. I believe people are calling it the Star Stone."
   Put on his guard by the vicar's peculiar turn of phrase, Jed passed him the meteorite. Lolpratt pulled his pince-nez from his breast pocket to squint through them.
   "A truly remarkable object," he said at last, tapping the stone gently with his pince-nez. "We must give thanks to Our Lord that he blesses us with such wonders."
   "Amen to that," muttered Jed.
   "Yes," continued the vicar, "I think the best thing to do is let me look after this for you. I could, perhaps, put it on display at the vicarage. In a suitable cabinet, perhaps."
   "No, thanks, vicar."
   Lolpratt's chain of thought was interrupted by Jed plucking the stone from his grasp. "I say!" he spluttered indignantly, colour flooding to his cheeks.
   "Sorry, vicar, thought you'd finished with it," remarked Jed, quite unabashed. He turned and replaced the stone on the dresser shelf, which, by some strange coincidence, lay above the vicar's reach.
   "Well, really, Jedidiah!" protested the Reverend Lolpratt. "That object belongs to the whole parish and it should be kept at the vicarage."
   "I found it on my land and it belongs to me," said Jed stubbornly. "And besides, everyone in the parish must have seen it by now. And those that haven't know where to come for a look."
   "Very well, Jedidiah," conceded the vicar. "If this is what your conscience tells you, I shall not argue. I ask only that you reflect on the matter. I shall call on you again in the morning, when I hope your attitude will be more reasonable. I expect to see you in church on Sunday. My text will concern the evils of cupidity."
   "I'm sure you'll be able to tell us all about that, vicar," returned Jed evenly. "Good evening to you."
   The Reverend Lolpratt struggled onto his horse and galloped away. He imagined that he cut quite a dashing figure mounted. It was, perhaps, for the best that he was unaware of acquiring the nickname Jesus's Jockey in certain quarters.
   Jed reached the star stone down from the dresser and eased himself into the armchair beside the fireplace. Bramble padded over to him and placed his chin on his master's thigh, making himself available for stroking before he curled up at Jed's feet.
   "Looks like Pint-Size Percy is going to be after me on Sunday, Bramble," remarked Jed as he imagined the Reverend Lolpratt's voice booming through the church, and many a significant glance being directed at Jed's pew.
   'What was that?' he asked himself, peering more closely at the stone.
   Wish the vicar would forget about this thing.
   His mind seemed to be running along two parallel tracks. 'Yes, if I turn it this way a bit...'
   A nice little lapse of memory, that's what he needs.
   'Yes, right, now a bit this way...'
   Keep his mind off pinching other people's property.
   'Looks like a tunnel, but it seems to be going round and round and...'

Dawn was breaking when Jed woke with the star stone still in his hands. He pushed out of the chair cautiously. Although his arms and legs felt stiff, he was not in the least bit tired. In fact, he felt as refreshed as if he had enjoyed a full night's sleep in his bed.

Towards midday, Jed was sitting in the yard, perched on an up-turned orange box by the barn, repairing burst stitching on a leather belt, when he heard a horse approaching. He looked across the road. His heart sank, as usual, when he observed the vicar's hat bobbing up and down behind the hedge. Jed dumped the belt on his box and moved across the yard to open the gate. The Reverend Lolpratt rode past him to the mounting block by the farmhouse door.
   "Morning, vicar. What brings you here?" Jed called after him in what he hoped was a neutral tone.
   "Good morning, Jedidiah," replied Lolpratt as he struggled off the horse. Then he actually gave Jed a warm, friendly smile. "We have something to discuss, do we not?"
   "Do we, vicar?" Jed refused to give an inch.
   "Well, I thought we did. In fact, I'm sure I had some reason for coming here, but I can't quite remember what it is."
   Jed breathed a silent sigh of relief. "You sure it was me you wanted to see?"
   "Well, I certainly thought so." The Reverend Lolpratt sounded uncharacteristically unsure of himself, which made a pleasant change from his usual aggressive assertiveness. "This is most annoying. Never mind, I'm sure I shall remember presently." He scrambled back into the saddle.
   Jed moved over to the gate to open it again. "Sorry you had a wasted journey, vicar," he remarked, suppressing a grin.
   "A journey to see one of my flock is never a wasted one, Jedidiah," pronounced the Reverend Lolpratt. "Good morning."
   "Morning, vicar." Jed closed the gate and watched him ride away down the lane. "What's happened to Pint-Size Percy?" he added to Bramble when his visitor was out of earshot.
   The same question found its way to the lips of most of the people in the nearby village that morning. The vicar was uncharacteristically polite to everybody, and seemed to be in a daze. Most surprised of all was Mrs. Mayberry.
   A month earlier, she had been coerced into making a set of loose covers for the vicar's three-piece suite. The vicar had thanked her and praised her work, but he had made no mention of payment.
   Mrs. Mayberry had been afraid to mention the subject in case the vicar gave her one of his lectures on how those who did good works for the church received their reward in heaven.
   On that particular morning, however, with her daughter's birthday coming up, she had nerved herself to ask about the covers. She was almost sure that he would offer no payment, but an end to the uncertainty would be a relief, and she would know for certain that she would have to find the money for a present elsewhere.
   "You could have knocked me down with a feather," she told her neighbour afterwards. "He actually took out his wallet and gave me a fair price for the covers! What do you think of that?"
   Her neighbour, who had also suffered in the name of good works for the church, was amazed. She was prepared to believe the story only because Mrs. Mayberry was still clutching the money in her hand.
   The miracle, however, was short-lived. By the weekend, the Reverend Lolpratt was back to his normal, obnoxious self. All that remained of his sudden burst of goodwill was a few happy memories of bills unexpectedly paid. And, of course, the continuing residence of the star stone at Jed's farmhouse.

The summer continued hot and dry, and the chief topic of conversation among the local farmers was the lack of rain. Everyone else sympathized with the farmers publicly, but their neighbours were glad of the fine weather in private.
   One night, Jed strolled into the pub to find Max Fortnell holding court. Max owned the largest farm in the district, and considered himself the unofficial leader of the local farmers. He claimed to be an expert on most matters. Jed joined the group to find that Max was lecturing on one of his favourite topics: the weather.
   Max's technique was to try to blind his audience with science. He attempted to start his lecture using as many technical terms as possible in the shortest space of time. Although he didn't understand properly the meaning of many of the words, he was a natural orator. If challenged, he soon managed to confuse the issue so that he appeared to be the only one who knew what he was talking about.
   Max was of the opinion that the drought would continue for at least another month. In fact, he was so sure of himself that he was offering free beer for everyone if it rained the next day. His offer drew loud laughter and ribald comments to the effect that Max knew when to bet on a sure thing.

Jed's dearest wish was that Max would be proved wrong in some spectacular way. Something that would show everyone that the know-all wasn't quite as clever as he thought he was. Back at the farm, he sat down in the armchair beside the fire to have a last smoke before going to bed. A mug of cocoa steamed on the ledge beside him. Bramble was asleep in his basket. Without being aware of having picked it up, Jed found the star stone in his work-hardened hands.
   'Wouldn't it be something if it rained tomorrow,' he mused as he traced melted and frozen ridges with a finger. 'That'd show Maxie where he gets off.'
   The lamplight caught a cluster of crystals, drawing his eyes to them. Jed settled himself more comfortably in the chair, thinking about know-all Max and the pattern that seemed to be forming as his brain connected parts of the star stone, joining up cosmic dots. His cigarette burned away in the ashtray, forgotten, as his eyes drifted shut.

A clap of thunder dragged Jed from his doze. Bramble moved out of his basket and stood beside the chair, whining softly. Half asleep, Jed reached out to pat the dog. He told him, "It's only thunder, boy. We might be in for a drop of rain, that's all."
   Rain! The star stone rolled from his lap as Jed stumbled to the window. A half moon was fighting its way in and out of heavy clouds. Streamers of lighting were joining earth and sky in the east. Jed opened the kitchen door as the first heavy drops bounced into the dust of the farmyard. He shook a joyful fist in the direction of the Fortnell farm and shouted into the night: "See you in the pub, Maxie!"
   Then he went to bed a happy man.

The expert, of course, had an explanation. When Jed reached The Plough the following evening, Max Fortnell was lecturing to a large audience on freak weather conditions. His happy audience was agreeing with him and drinking beer at Max's expense.
   Ted Mendells, the landlord, was also in a good mood. He and his wife were serving beer as fast as humanly possible. It would be another good night for them.

Max was a little subdued for a week or so, but, as in the case of the Reverend Lolpratt, he soon returned to his normal self. Life in and around the village continued at its usual easy pace. A good harvest raised everyone's spirits, even when the vicar went round claiming his share for the harvest festival.
   Jed saw little of his brother, as prosperous times meant that many people decided that they could afford to have all sorts of jobs done. Local tradesmen, like carpenters, were in great demand. Thus Jed was pleasantly surprised when Nat paid him a visit one morning.
   "Hello! Run out of wood, or something?" grinned Jed.
   "No, I just came to tell you to keep an eye open for the Squire's dog," said Nat.
   "I always do! If you don't watch out, the Black Beast'll have you."
   "No, it's disappeared. The Squire's going mad looking for it. He's offering fifty pounds reward for anyone that finds it."
   "That's worth having," nodded Jed. "But I hope it stays lost. It's a nasty brute."
   The dog in question was a large, black animal of indeterminate ancestry. Only the Squire, who clung to an honourary title, could approach it without running a serious risk of being bitten. Indeed, only a series of generous payments of compensation to the animal's victims had prevented it from being destroyed years earlier.
   After delivering the news, Nat continued on his way. Jed looked down at Bramble, who was scratching at the door to show that he wanted to go out.
   "Reckon you're worth fifty pounds, me old mate?" asked Jed.
   Bramble barked agreement and reached up to the latch.
   Jed was feeling less than his best that day. He had gone to sleep in his chair the previous evening, and he had wakened stiff and sore with the star stone wedged down the side of the chair. He had felt a vague uneasiness when putting it back on its shelf. There was nothing that he could put his finger on, but it seemed to have something to do with the events of the previous evening. The trouble was, his recollections were so tangled up with half-remembered fragments of a vivid dream that he couldn't be sure what had or had not really happened.
   He could remember Sam Miller's complaints about dogs chasing and even killing his sheep. And Miller's threat to shoot the next dog that he saw on his land. That had not been part of the dream. But what about his offer to help using the star stone? That had to have been in his dream. How could a piece of stone be of any help? Perhaps his dream self had meant that he would throw it at the troublesome dogs!
   'Oh, well,' thought Jed in the end. 'Why waste time worrying about a dream? I'd better get going again. Otherwise, I'll get nothing done today.'

The Squire's dog was found four days later by a group of hikers; at the bottom of a thirty-foot drop at the old quarry. Although the animal had died of a broken neck, it was covered in blood. This puzzled the hikers until one of their number found the remains of two sheep near the edge of the quarry.
   Nobody was sorry that the Black Beast had come to a sticky end. Sam Miller and the other sheep farmers were particularly glad that a killer dog would trouble them no more. The Squire, on the other hand, was so grief-stricken that he paid up without protest when asked for compensation for the sheep that his pet had killed. The habit had been deeply ingrained.
   The weather grew colder as winter took over from autumn. The star stone remained on its shelf, untouched and half forgotten, as if in hibernation. Its novelty had worn off. Jed had even told himself on several occasions that he should get rid of it, but he had never got round to throwing it away.
   The events surrounding the death of the Squire's dog gradually faded from his memory as time went by, but he never lost a vague feeling of unease whenever he looked at the star stone.

Nat's visits to the farm suddenly became more frequent. When Jed remarked on this, Nat confessed, rather reluctantly, that he was avoiding the vicar.
   "Aren't we all?" said Jed with a grin.
   "It's no laughing matter,' his brother replied. "The vicar's after me to do one of his little jobs. And I know for a fact it'll take me a week or so, and I'll be lucky to see any money this side of Christmas, if at all."
   Jed's grin vanished. "How long do you reckon you can avoid him?"
   "I don't know," shrugged Nat. "The trouble is, I reckon he's been talking to the wife. And you know what it's like when she starts dropping hints all the time."
   Jed nodded in sympathy. Nat's wife usually got her way, and she was a strong supporter of the local church.

Soon afterwards, Nat surrendered to the inevitable and started the vicar's little job, accepting that doing a week's work for nothing was the price of domestic peace. Not the least of his miseries was the continual presence of the Reverend Lolpratt, who seemed to think that Nat was incapable of doing anything without his constant supervision.
   As Nat had feared, the job did take a week to complete; a week that seemed to last forever. Nat felt as though a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders when he presented the vicar with his bill and beat a hasty retreat from the vicarage. Then he tried to start his van.
   Fortunately, the garage was just round the corner. Fred, the mechanic, had the time to come and help Nat push the van into the repair shop. Both men knew that the vehicle was on its last legs. It came as no surprise to Nat when Fred told him that it would be wiser to buy another van rather than waste money trying to patch up his old wreck.
   Nat discussed the matter with his wife. She agreed that they did need a new van, and they could just about afford one if Nat could manage to obtain prompt payment for all the work that he had done recently. When he explained his predicament to his clients, they settled up with him promptly; with one exception.
   The Reverend Lolpratt seemed quite annoyed that Nat had dared to mention payment so soon after completing the job. Nat left the vicarage gloomily. He had been assured, haughtily, that he would get his money. He was not sure when.
   He knew, of course, that he could always ask for a loan at the bank if the vicar took his time about paying. But Nat was slightly afraid of the bank manager, even though they had been at school together, and both he and his brother had been brought up to pay their own way in cash, and to do without if they didn't have the money.

A week passed, and Nat became increasingly desperate. Even with his brother's help, he was still forty pounds short of the price of the good second-hand van that he had seen in the garage, and his wife flatly refused to allow him to annoy the vicar, as she put it.
   Feeling very embarrassed, Nat went to the bank and asked to see the manager. Much to his surprise, the interview was not the ordeal that he had been expecting. The manager listened to his story sympathetically, more so when Nat let slip that the vicar owed him more than he needed to buy the van. Nat walked out of the bank smiling, having obtained his loan, and headed straight for the garage.
   That evening, he drove his new van to the farm to show it off to his brother. Jed joked about the condition of the van at first, but he agreed in the end that his brother had got a bargain. Over a cup of coffee, Nat poured out the story behind the purchase of the van.
   Both brothers had harsh words to say about the vicar's way of doing business. What really annoyed Nat was not so much the delay in payment as the inconvenience that he had suffered.
   It was dark when Nat left the farm. Jed told him that it would give Nat a chance to find out if his headlights worked. Jed banked up the kitchen fire and, on impulse, he took the star stone down from its shelf. After blowing the dust off it, he sat in front of the fire to look at its smooth, striated shape.
   Firelight flashed from the crystals that dotted its surface. Jed slumped deeper in his chair.
   'The vicar again,' he thought. 'It's funny how whenever anyone's in trouble, it's usually someone like Pint-Size Percy at the bottom of it.'
   I wonder why I never got rid of this thing?
   'A vicar's supposed to help people. I wonder what we did to get stuck with Percy?'
   I suppose it's quite pretty, in an odd sort of way, but it's not really the sort of thing I like.
   'The trouble is, there's nothing we can do to get rid of him. Pity we don't elect the vicar, like the local council. He'd soon be out of a job!'
   It's got a certain novelty value. There can't be many people who've got their own, private shooting star. I could have got a good price for it if I'd sold it. I suppose the only reason I've still got it is Percy wanted it.
   'Percy again!' His two trains of thought collided and merged. 'We'd all be well rid of him.' This was his last thought before he dozed off.

Jed felt terrible when he woke up. He was so stiff that he could hardly move, and his head was throbbing with the worst headache of his life. After forcing down a couple of aspirins, he crawled off to bed and spent the rest of the morning there, dozing fitfully.
   He was feeling slightly better when he got up in the early afternoon; mainly because Bramble had come upstairs to find out why he had not been fed. Jed had just put the kettle on to make a cup of tea when Nat's van pulled up in front of the farmhouse. Nat burst through the door and asked:
   "Heard the news, Jed? The vicar's dead!"
   Jed's mouth fell open. "What happened?" he gasped.
   "Gas explosion. Happened about half an hour ago. Wrecked the vicarage and broke half the windows in the village. They're still sweeping up broken glass."
   "I know everyone hated him, but I wouldn't have wished that on anyone." Jed dropped onto a chair. "Who'd have thought it possible?"
   Nat glanced at his watch. "Well, I'd better be getting back. I just came over to give you the news."
   Jed followed his brother out into the yard and closed the gate after his van. Nat waved and sped off down the road towards the village. Jed went back into the farmhouse in a daze. He moved the boiling kettle off the flame. But as he crossed the kitchen to fetch the teapot, he tripped and almost fell over the star stone, which was lying in the middle of the floor.
   "This damn thing," he growled.
   He picked up the star stone, opened the back door, and threw it as far as he could. The star stone sailed through the air on its last flight and splashed into a ditch.
   "Good riddance!" Jed called after it.

The whole village attended the Reverend Lolpratt's funeral service, which was conducted by no less a person than the Bishop. In due course, the vicarage was rebuilt and a new vicar took up residence. He was a young man, just out of college and full of enthusiasm, but still slightly unsure of himself. He was a complete contrast to the late and largely unlamented Percival Lolpratt.
   Pint-Size Percy had left his affairs in something of a mess, through no fault of his own, and it looked as though it would take a long time to sort out his estate. As Nat remarked to Jed one evening:
   "Looks like I''ll still have to wait for what he owed me. Just when I needed it, as well, with Christmas coming."
   "All you have to do is put the right crosses on your football pools coupon," remarked Jed.
   "I always do," complained Nat. "It's not my fault if the wrong teams draw, is it?"
   Later, when Nat had gone, Jed switched the wireless on and sat down in front of the fire with Bramble at his feet. A sudden gust of wind under the kitchen door sent a flurry of sparks racing up the chimney as a log collapsed.
   'Just like a bunch of little shooting stars,' thought Jed.
   A flame licked up and set fire to a patch of soot on the throat of the chimney. An army of glowing specks ate their way upwards. Watching the patch of burning soot, thinking about Nat's money problems, and lulled by the music from the wireless, Jed Armstrong drifted off to sleep. ■

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to top of pageCreated for Romiley Literary Circle by HTSP Web Division, 10 SK6 4EG, Romiley, G.B.
The original story Alan Marshall, 1975. This version Alan Marshall, 2007