Seligor's Castle, fun for all the children of the world. Googlenoks JIC
Coconut Ice serving 20
PREP TIME 5 Min COOK TIME
30 Min READY IN
1 Hr 30 Min
400 g white sugar
155 ml water
5 ml vanilla extract
125 g flaked coconut 2 drops red food coloring
Line a 7 x 7 inch pan with parchment or waxed paper. In a medium,
heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat sugar and water gently, without boiling,
until sugar has dissolved. Then, bring to a boil and cook until it
reaches 240 degrees F/120 degrees C on a candy thermometer, or a little
syrup dropped in a glass of cold water forms a soft ball.
Remove from heat and immediately stir in vanilla and coconut. Continue
stirring until mixture begins to thicken, 5 to 10 minutes.
Pour half of the mixture into the prepared pan and level the surface
with a knife or spatula. Tint the other half of the mixture by stirring
in the food coloring. Pour the pink mixture on top of other layer, and
level the surface. Press all down firmly with the back of a spoon and
allow to harden. When firm, turn out of the pan, remove the paper and
cut into squares with a sharp knife.
You could also add a flavour to the pink, say strawberry or raspberry, say 1 drop of colouring and 1 drop of flavour. If you think you may be making more sweets with the children, why not invest in a candy thermometre, well worth it. Also a couple of the small candy type cake trays. These trays also make fabulous pop in the mouth Yorkshire puddings.
These are the five Googlenok friends who spend most of their time having adventures in
PEPPERCORN GREEN WITH PRINCESS CORNFLOWER
JOURNEY INTO CHRISTMAS Chapter One
Porridge and Tangerines
Princess Cornflower lay in her bed watching the snowflakes falling gently past her bedroom
window. She sat up in bed and pulled her dressing gown round her
shoulders. She smiled as she heard the sound of the Peppercorn Express
far away in the distance, it would just be entering the tunnel at Sleepy Hollow. She closed her eyes and pictured the frozen pond that lay at the other end of the tunnel it
was to early in the morning for anyone to be out skating, but it
wouldn’t be long until all the children came out with their skates and
sledges and began to enjoy themselves. Gosh, she was bored, five
days she had been stuck in bed with marsh flu. Five days of reading
books, running temperatures, drawing pictures and runny noses, but
today she felt really great, she had eaten all of her supper last
night, taken the last of the foul rhubarb tasting medicine that Dr. Cornel had prescribed for her, and done everything, well almost everything she had been told. She had to be allowed up today or she would go potty. Cornflower climbed out of bed, slipped on her slippers and dressing gown and walked over to the window. The
snow looked beautiful most of the footprints in the courtyard had been
covered by the new fall of snow, only Minnie's and Martha's could still
be seen. A few of the chickens were still trying to find the corn that had buried itself in the snow. " I wonder if their feet are cold" Cornflower thought, but she didn’t have time to find out for just at that moment the door of the bedroom opened and Minnie Speedwell came in carrying the coal bucket. " Oh Minnie you did give me a fright, I thought it was my mother" she said walking back over to the bed. "
Its a good job it wasn’t" Minnie said putting the coal bucket by the
fire place, " You might have ruin your chances of getting up today."
Minnie straightened the quilt and puffed up the Princesses pillows. " Come on get back in before the Queen does come up to see how you are." The
Princess climbed back into the bed and watched as Minnie put some coal
on the fire, Cornflower smiled as the flames began to shoot up the
chimney, " Do you know Minnie your hair is almost the same colour as
those flames, well the darker bits anyway."
Cornflower leaned back on the pillows. " Do you really think I’ll be allowed up today Minnie? I do hope so I’m so fed up, up here on my own". " I’m almost certain of it," Minnie replied as she stood up and dusted the top of the
fireplace, " I’ve a feeling something is about to happen, Cook has
given us a list a mile long to have finished as soon as we can, and
your Mum keeps going round re-arranging things and that’s a sure sign
something is up." "
Oh I wonder what it could be," Cornflower said jumping out of the bed
again " Have you got a clue, there’s only one more week to Christmas
maybe someone is coming to stay?" The door opened again and Martha came in carrying the Princesses breakfast on a tray, " Cathy is wondering where you’ve got to Minnie," Martha said as she put the breakfast tray on the bedside table. " On my way," Minnie said picking up the bucket and making a dash for the door. She went out then popped her head back in.
Now remember what I said, try and sit still till after your mother’s
been up, or you’ll get cold and out of breath and you’ll be staying
here another day " she closed the door and went down stairs. The
Princess sat on the bed and took the porridge off the tray, it looked
delicious all hot and creamy, there was a tangerine, two slices of
toast covered in peppercorn marmalade and a cup of tea. She began to eat her porridge. Martha went into the bathroom. " Do you fancy having a bath this morning, you will feel a lot better if you do?" Cornflower finished her porridge and picked up a slice of toast. " Do you think I should ask Mum first?" Cornflower answered. " I don’t think your Mum is that worried, she seems to be in one of her flaps over something or other." Martha said as she came back into the bedroom. " She put a big bowl of water on the dressing table " Maybe you had better just have a good wash, hurry with your breakfast and I’ll do your hair." "
Minnie seems to think someone might be coming to stay for Christmas,
have you any idea who it might be Martha?" Cornflower asked as she
peeled her tangerine Martha took a clean towel out of the cupboard and hung it over the end of the bed. "
I’m sure I don’t know Princess, you know how mad this castle is at the
best of times, it could be Father Christmas himself for all I know. " Does Daddy know Father Christmas?" Cornflower said laughing. "
I wouldn’t be surprised." Martha said as she sat down on the window
seat, "All I know is its like bedlam down there, Cathy has had us
cleaning the kitchen since we arrived, loads of extra food has been
ordered from the shops and your Mum is going round re-arranging things, and you know what that means." " Hmm, that's what Minnie said," Cornflower said as she took a drink of her tea. " Now who could it be?" Cornflower
picked up the stool and went and sat by Martha who began to brush her
hair. She loved the young Princess very much and everyone had been a
bit down in the dumps whilst she had been ill, she bought laughter into
the old castle and even grumpy old Barnaby had been worried about her
instead of his old backache. Martha had just about got the last knot
out of Cornflower's hair when the door burst open and a tiny pink and
white ball of fluff came prancing through the door. " Candy " Cornflower giggled as the ball of fluff jumped up on her knee knocking the brush clean out of Martha’s hand. " You'’ll get shot if Cathy finds you up here" Martha said as she picked up the brush and as if hearing her name Cathy Fern came bustling through the bedroom door. "
Where is that little terror?" she said smiling " Who gave you
permission to come up these stairs?" She caught hold of the puppy with
one hand and collected the tray with the other and bustled back towards
the door. " The Queen is on the way up little one, best jump back on
your bed," she said smiling. " You look more like your old self this
morning, are you feeling better?" Before Cornflower could answer
Queen Pepper came into the bedroom, she walked over to her daughter and
gave her a huge kiss on the forehead. " Well " she said taking a
step back and looking at her daughter, " You do look better, and it’s a
good job for I’ve planned a special surprise for you." " You have Mummy " Cornflower said sounding surprised; she didn’t want to spoil her mother’s fun. " Can I guess what it is?" " Of course you can darling, but you’ll never guess in a hundred years." Cornflower put her head on one side. " Are we having visitors for Christmas?" The Queen nodded her head. " But you don’t know who, try and guess?" Queen Pepper had on her favourite orange skirt, the one with the little acorns on it. " My skirt should give you a clue." She laughed " Your skirt, how on earth could that help me " Cornflower frowned. " No I give up, you’ll have to tell me." "
No I don’t think I will, I think I’ll make you wait till your Father
gets home, then he can tell you," the Queen smiled and turned to leave
the room. " Oh Mummy, don’t be so mean you know I hate secrets," Cornflower said jumping up and down on the bed. " And if you don’t sit quietly, I won’t let you come down stairs." Queen Pepper said as she walked out the door. " Does that mean I can come down then?" Cornflower shouted after her Mother " Yes, If you want to." came the answer from the landing. Cornflower was up and getting dressed before you could say " Peppercorn United." " Oh Martha I must be one of the luckiest Googlenok’s in the wholewide world, no one could have so much luck as me." " You deserve it my Princess," Martha said as she helped Cornflower with her jumper. "
There you look grand, you’ve even got a few roses in your cheeks,
though I dare say there there because of all the excitement and not
with your feeling better" " Oh they are Martha they are," Cornflower said as she pulled on her trainers and ran through the bedroom door.
CONTINUED AFTER THIS SHORT RECIPE
Queen Pepper loves it when Cornflower makes these Cornflake Macaroons PREP TIME
2 egg whites
200 g white sugar (can use low sugar)
95 g flaked coconut, (unsweetened)
55 g cornflakes cereal, crushed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
In a large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites to stiff peaks. Stir in
white sugar. Fold in coconut and cornflakes. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto
the prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for 18 minutes in the preheated oven, or until coconut is golden.
These little cakes can be a little sweet, so if you don't want the children to have to much sugar, use a unsweetened coconut, this will reduce the calories as will the sugar light.
Princess Cornflower sat patiently waiting for her father to come home. The clock on the kitchen wall seemed to be going backwards, would it never be half past ten. She watched as Cathy made some little roses out of pastry and put them on top of the rosehip tart, she had already made apples and plums for the other tarts. Minnie was peeling the vegetables and Martha was cleaning the entire silver cutlery. Barnaby Nettle and his wife Buttercup had been in for their cup of tea, they were both very pleased to see the Princess up, Barnaby teased her by saying she was up to early and would probably have a relapse and be back in bed for Christmas Day. Buttercup told him off and wouldn’t give him a second cup of tea; even old Daniel Burnett the butler had shuffled in from the dining room to give her a kiss on the cheek. " Oh will this clock tick faster?" she complained. " How much longer do I have to wait?" Then as if to answer her question the sound of the trains whistle came floating in through the kitchen window. " He’s here Mummy, he’s here," the Princess shouted out of the kitchen door. " Another five minutes I think." Cathy said as she put the last of her pies in the oven, " For goodness sake give him time to get in the cart and drive home," she laughed at the twelve year old's impatience. " I’m sorry Cathy but I’m so excited, I’ve been stuck in that old bedroom for days it was horrid. I know you were all wonderful and Jody, Ann and Heledd came to see me every day." " Not forgetting Candy Pup and half the cats in the castle," Martha added. Cornflower blushed at the trouble she had caused when she left the bedroom window open and seven of the cats crept in out of the cold to sleep on her bed, Buttercup had gone mad when she saw the state of the quilt cover, hundreds of little paw marks reaching from the open window to the bed. Her thoughts stopped as she heard the sound of her father’s laughter in the courtyard. She was up off the stool and through the kitchen door like a whippet, almost knocking her mother off her feet. " I guess that means King Pepper’s back," she said as she placed a vase of flowers on the draining board. " Better put the kettle on Cathy, he is going to need this cup of coffee by the time Cornflower’s finished questioning him." King Pepper had traces of snow in his hair as he walked in through the front door and catching his daughter in his arms as he did so.
" And what have I got here?" he said as he swung her round in his arms. " Could this be the same little invalid I tucked up in bed last night?" he sat her down on the stairs and sat down beside her. " Shall I help you off with your boots Daddy?" " Better had little one, or we’ll have old Daniel after us with the feather duster," they both laughed quietly. " Did I hear my name mentioned?" Daniel said, as he seemed to appear in the hall from nowhere. " Can I help you off with your boots, Your Majesty, we don’t want to get snow all over Mrs. Buttercups nice clean floor now do we." Cornflower and her Father tried not to laugh but it was impossible, when they were on their own they were somewhat normal but together, well you couldn’t expect a dull moment. " Thank you Daniel." King Pepper said trying not to start laughing again. Daniel took the boots and vanished back from where he came. " Well Daddy, I believe you have something to tell me?" Cornflower said her huge blue eyes sparkling like pools of water. " I have?" King Pepper said standing up and walking towards the closed kitchen door. Cornflower dashed past him and stood in front of the door. " Put it this way Dad, you don’t get a cup of coffee until you tell me whose coming for Christmas?" " Oh that," said her Father stopping and stroking his moustache. " Yes that," said Cornflower smiling as she stretched her arms out to bar the door. " Your Mother hasn’t told you then?" " No Daddy she hasn’t, she said I had to wait, and I have been for nearly one whole hour." " Goodness me, how did you manage that. I would have been at the station to meet the train." " I would have been but Mummy wouldn’t let me, and anyway Barny had already left to get the shopping and wait for you." King Pepper smiled at his daughter, " so you want to know whose coming for Christmas, what if I say Father Christmas?" " Oh don’t be silly Daddy he is much to busy at Christmas to take a holiday." " Oh yes I’d forgotten about that, then it must be someone else." he said stroking his moustache again. " In that case how about Uncle Basil and Auntie Lavender." Cornflower’s mouth dropped wide open. She turned round and opened the kitchen door. Queen Pepper looked at her daughters face and began to laugh. " I take it your Fathers told you whose coming for Christmas." she smiled " Coffee, Pepper?" " Did you have a good journey, not to much snow on the line?" Cornflower was still staring open mouthed at her Father. " Come on then Princess, are you going to tell me who I’ve been peeling all these vegetables for, or have I got to wait till the King’s finished his coffee?" Minnie asked putting a cup of tea in front of the Princess who immediately picked it up and started to gulp it all down in one. " I could do with a cup of Cathy’s Peppercorn cider I think," she said as she put the cup back on the table. " Now, now." Said Cathy, " Its not Christmas day yet." " Is someone going to tell me who is coming for Christmas?" Minnie said getting totally frustrated with the long wait. " Auntie Lavender and Uncle Basil." Cornflower said at last. " And Bluebell and Fern and the new baby," Queen Pepper added Cornflower closed her eyes and took a deep breath. " When are they coming Daddy?" " Oh didn't I tell you that?" her father said smiling, " Please Daddy, I don’t think I can take any more surprises," " Will tonight be soon enough for you young lady, I’m meeting them at the Oakland border when I take the train back on its return journey." Cornflower sat there not saying a word " I do believe you’ve managed to get her lost for words, Pepper," the Queen said looking astonished. But Cornflower wasn’t lost for words; she was already working on an idea that was running round her head. Cornflower closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths, she crossed her fingers and held them tight behind her back then turning to her father, and making sure she was looking directly into his eyes she asked the question. " Daddy you don’t suppose I could come to the border with you?" She smiled one of her most pleading smiles and she watched her mother out of the corner of her eye, her father would be easy, but her mother would be a different proposition altogether. King Pepper looked at his daughter and then at the Queen, she was shaking her head from side to side. " Oh please Daddy. Please say yes, I’ll wrap up warm, I’ll wear two vests and a liberty bodice, just say yes, please". Cornflower turned to her mother, the Queen was still shaking her head but she didn’t look to stern, there was hope yet. " Please Mummy, please say I can, I’ll do anything you want I swear?" Queen Pepper put her hand over her mouth, she stared into the beautiful blue eyes of her daughter, " how could she say no?" she thought to herself. "Look at those eyes, look at her happiness, how can I spoil her plans, for she was sure Cornflower had a plan." She took her hand away from her mouth and smiled. " Does that mean yes." Cornflower beamed. " Can I go really?" Queen Pepper held out her arms and a bouncing beautiful young lady ran into them and hugged her over and over again. " I guess there’s no need for me to say yes now is there." King Pepper said smiling. " But I can see this trip is going to take some arranging so I think I will go and have forty winks before dinner and let you all get on with it." And before anyone could think of something a king might be best doing he was through the kitchen door and up the stairs in a flash. Cathy made another cup of tea for everyone and Cornflower began to outline her plan. Queen Pepper smiled, " I knew she was up to something." she thought to herself. Little did she know just how eventful the journey was going to be?
ANOTHER LITTLE RECIPE, MORE OF THE JOURNEY AFTER THE FUDGE.
8 ready in:
of tweaking I have a fudge brownie recipe that is delicious! It's not
cakey and it's nice and chewy, and has a gentle sweetness that doesn't
over power. Fantastic hot with some cornish ice-cream! or cooled for a
nice chewy snack.
Ingredients 225g butter 100g 70% cocoa chocolate, broken 20g milk chocolate, broken 300g light brown sugar 2 medium eggs 100g plain flour 5ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Grease a 8 inch round baking tin. On a low heat, melt the butter and chocolate and stir continuously. Take off heat and add the sugar. Slowly stir in eggs, stir carefully, do not whisk. Add vanilla extract, then add flour and salt. Once mixture is combined, pour mixture into the tin. Cook for apx 35-40mins, or untill there in no mixture on the skewer when poked into the brownie. Apologies to Chloe for changing her name, a lttle bit of diddily's naughty trow mischief. also thanks to the new U. K. version of allrecipes, I am hoping all you children will pop there and look at some of the easy recipes.
Full Steam Ahead
King Pepper was in for a big surprise when he woke up, he went to bed knowing that he was taking his daughter to Oakland, what he didn’t know was that he was also taking some of her friends as well.
As soon as she had finished her cup of tea the Princess had rushed to the phone to call her best friends. She managed to get hold of Ann straight away, but Heledd and Jody Cornel where out with their father helping deliver a calf at Mr. Weaver’s farm, but Dr Cornel said she was going up to the farm to see Jade and Jasmine, she thought that they might be getting Marsh
Flu, she was a bit surprised that the Princess was being allowed to go out so soon but when Cornflower explained that they would be well wrapped up, she could see no reason why Heledd and Jody couldn’t go with her.
Sarah was at her dad’s store helping out but Mrs. Stonecrop said she would phone and ask her to come home straight away. Kayleigh was the only one of her friends to pose a problem she had gone to her sisters and wasn’t due back till later that afternoon, so it looked like there would only be the five of them.
She had just put down the phone when Queen Pepper came out of the kitchen.
" Do you think Aunt Lavender will be bringing Parsnip and Carrot top with them?" Cornflower asked, " I don’t think they would leave them at home do you Mum?"
" I never thought about the cats, its no good I’ll have to find Daniel and Nettle. Its almost half eleven already and there is still so much to do."
The Queen was just about to go through to the dining room when Daniel appeared inKayleigh Willowherb the doorway.
" I’m sure he’s psychic," Cornflower thought to herself, " when ever you think about Daniel he always seems to appear out of nowhere."
"Daniel just the man I need, as you know I’ve decided to let the Princess go with the King to pick her Aunt and Uncle up this afternoon. It’s quite a long journey and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind getting the blankets and that organized."
Jody Cornel" Does the Princess know how many of her friends will be going." Daniel smiled at the Princess, " Will it be the usual six."
" No I think there will only be the five of us today Daniel, Kayleigh has gone to visit her sister, and unless her mum can find someway of getting in touch with her before one o’clock she wont have time to get back and catch the train."
" Oh dear," said Daniel quite concerned for he knew how much the six friends meant to each other.
" May I ask where Miss Kayleigh has gone?" " To visit her sister Donna and the new baby in Sleepy Hollow, why?" Cornflower asked looking puzzled. " Well in that case," said Daniel, " Why don’t you phone up her sister in Sleepy Hollow, tell her your plans. Then phone up Mrs. Willowherb, she can collect together all what Miss Kayleigh will need for the journey, her father can take them to the station and you can stop and pick up Miss Kayleigh when the train stops at Sleepy Hollow later on."
" Oh Daniel, your wonderful." Cornflower said running over to the butler and planting him a big kiss on his cheek. " Why didn’t I think of that?"
She was down the hall and on the phone to Sleepy Hollow before you could say "Jack Frost" or
Daniel Butler. Sometime Daniel Burnet you amaze me," the Queen said shaking her head. Daniel turned and walked away his grey cheeks had almost gone the colour of his hair, he shuffled away into the parlour passing Cathy Fern who came bustling down the hall way from the kitchen.
" Have you seen the snow coming down Milady?" She said as she joined the Queen who had walked through into the dining room, Minnie was laying the table for dinner.
" Oh Cathy do you think I was a bit hasty telling the Princess she could go with her father," she gave a big sigh and watched as the snow slid down the windowpane.
" Quite possibly " said Cathy, " But I don’t think you had much choice did you," CathyCathy cook smiled at the Queen.
" That daughter of yours could wrap Mother Nature herself round her little finger with just one look of those big blue eyes, so what chance has a mere Googlenok got, I ask you.
But I do think it would be a good idea if an adult went with them," Cathy added seriously.
"That’s a very good idea Cathy, have you got anyone in mind?"
"Well she can’t be too young and she can’t be too old, not with six youngsters to look after, even if they do all think they are quite old enough to look after themselves."
"Oh dear," queen Pepper sighed, "I really don’t think Pepper knows what he was letting himself in for, how about Elizabeth Spurrey, she’s very good with girls?"
"Excellent idea but I’m afraid she is down with Marsh Flu. Buttercup took her some of her honey yesterday. But I think I know who will do it and be thankful for the ride." Cathy said slapping her hand on the table which Miliscent Meadowsweetalmost made poor queen Pepper fall ooff the window seat.
"Millicent Meadowsweet, why she come from Oakland and she always goes over there to take her Christmas presents and things."
"Brilliant idea, and the girls won’t suspect anything because they all know she’s from Oakland. I shall phone her straight away, lets hope she’s there and that Cornflower is off the phone to all her friends." Queen Pepper got up and went out into the hallway smiling for the first time in ages. "Whatever will this girl of mine do next?" she muttered as she went through the door.
The next half hour or so was complete chaos, bodies flying everywhere. The queen vanished upstairs with Buttercup to make sure ever was ready for her sisters arrival. Cathy continued sorting everything out in the kitchen, picnic baskets, and the stew was cooking gently on the range. They were definitely going to be running a bit late, but Minnie and Martha had finished all the sandwiches, then they sorted out all Cornflowers’ clothes. The queen managed to get on the phone to Millicent who was "delighted to help and would she mind if Marcus came along too." Cornflower managed to get through to Kayleigh and fill her in on the plans.
The queen came back into the kitchen, she was singing "I’m dreaming of a White Christmas," as she walked through the door, and all the time the snow kept falling softly and slowly outside the castle windows. Yet through all the chaos everything seemed to be going fine, "Just fine, just like one of Pepper’s special days." Queen Pepper said to everyone as they started to get the plates sorted for dinner.
The bell was rung and within minutes everybody was sitting around the big oak table eating Cathy’s special peppercorn stew and dumplings.
The logs on the fire where crackling and spluttering, the water in the kettle began to bubble gently as Cathy got up to make the cup of tea. It was all warm and cozy, unlike the weather outside, but still no one was panicking, not yet.
"Right Cornflower, the train will be leaving at two forty five precisely, what ever you do don’t be late or we shall have to leave without you. Cathy do you think I could have what’s left over from that stew put into a flask for my supper, it’s much to yummy to go to waste?"
Cathy smiled and nodded her head, as if anything ever went to waste in the castle, if the Googlenok’s didn’t have it, the pigs or hens did.
Queen Pepper poured another cup of tea and frowned as she looked out of the window. Pepper you do think everything will be all right, don’t you? I mean all this snow that is falling on the tracks, the engine wont have any trouble getting through, and I mean I’d hate to see you stuck in the marshes?" The queen said without stopping once.
"Goodness gracious me, Pepper." King Pepper said quite indignantly. "My little train not make it through the snow, come on my love we are talking about the Peppercorn Express here and not some ragamuffin engine from the south."
"Oh I’m sorry Pepper but I do worry about Cornflower especially when the two of you are involved in something together you do seem to get into terrible jams."
Barnaby Nettle with hamper"Oh Mummy how sweet," Cornflower said coming back into the room, "we’ll be fine, honest we will. I mean what could go wrong on a train journey?"
"That’s just what worries me," Queen Pepper said quietly under her breath.
"Here you go then your majesty, stew for your supper and lots of goodies for you and your friends Princess." Cathy said placing a huge picnic hamper on the table. "I’ve spoken to Barnaby and he is going to put them in the cart, best for them to have too much rather than too little just incase"
"Just in case, just incase." Stammered the queen, "just incase of what Cathy?
"Goodness me your highness do stop your worrying, nothing is going to happen, but it is always best to be safe than sorry what with six growing girls on the train, not forgetting any passengers and Thomas, not to mention King Basil ……." …… "Oh I’m so sorry Cathy, it’s just I’ve got this strange feeling in my tummy. Meanwhile the King had reached the little station, the Peppercorn Express was King Peppers pride and joy, next to the queen and his princess of course!
He had been sitting in the engine for as long as he could remember.
His father used to take him everywhere; he smiled as he remembered when his dad let him pull the whistle when they were entering the tunnel at Sleepy Hollow.
Cornflower loved the train too but she was really into ponies and dancing, trains came near to the bottom of her list of things to do in the Shire.
King Pepper smiled as he walked along the platform. "Maybe we should have a little Prince Pepper to carry on after I get to old to drive." He said quietly, but his huge smile did sort of say he was thinking of something really super."
Thomas Comfrey was already at the station; he had filled the coalbunkers and the water tanks and was busy polishing the train’s nameplate.
"I don’t think we’ll be having many passengers today, your Majesty."
"Hm m that’s what I thought at ten o’clock this morning but it seems that we are going to have quite a few passengers this afternoon, including Mrs. Meadowsweet and Marcus Plantain." Smiled the king as he breathed on the brass plate and wiped it with his yellow duster.
"You must be joking! Thomas exclaimed, who in the Shire would be daft enough to venture out in this weather?"
"Oh just my daughter and a few, say five friends," the king grinned. "Oh dear I’m sorry your majesty, but is it a good idea?"Nick Comfrey
"Think nothing of it Thomas they were my words precisely when I was told of the plans after dinner. Do you know what Thomas, I left you this morning and went home, and within minutes I had somehow agreed to let the young princess come with me.
Hm m, then I go to bed and between going to bed and getting up an hour later I find I'm taking the princess and five of her friends, plus Millicent and Marcus as well."
He screwed up his nose as a snowflake landed on it and melted making his nose all wet. " I am just hoping Uncle Tom Cobbley doesn’t come riding around the corner on his old mare!"
Thomas wasn’t quite sure who Uncle Tom Cobbley was, so he just nodded his head in agreement."
"I think it might be a good idea if I ask my brother Nick if he fancies a trip to Oakland, might be helpful with six youngsters on board, don’t you think?"
"A good idea, Thomas, a jolly good idea." King Pepper smiled and nodded his head. Thomas went to fetch Nick, who was putting his boots on before he’d finished speaking. King Pepper stood by the engine; she was nearly all black apart from some gold trimming around the engine boiler and fenders. The initials P. E were painted in green on the front, the same as the four coaches, each of these were trimmed with black.
The first coach was used as a dining car some of the time, but usually in acted as a meeting place for the travelers, then the second and third coaches were for the Googlenok’s though this third one was also used as a Royal Carriage when there was royalty on board.
Thomas and Nick had spent an hour at dinner time getting it all ready for King Basil and Queen Lavender’s journey back from Oakland.
The back coach was really a guards van it was used mainly to keep tools and spare seats in, some lamps and a few odds and ends, it very rarely held a guard.
Pepper jumped onto the footplate and began to adjust the levers and dials, Thomas returned with Nick and together they began to stoke up the engine. "I’ve told the girls to be here at two forty-five, so we should be able to get away by three and if there are no hiccups we should be at the Oakland Boarder between half past five and six." He looked up at the darkening sky, "and I’m not sure I like the look of those snow clouds. We had better check the dining car to make sure there is plenty of tea and coffee on board, just in case!" He stroked his beard thoughtfully.
It was just gone two o’clock in the castle, Cornflower was wrapped up like a bungle of furs, and she had been waiting outside by the cart for ages.
Inside the Queen had been crying and was busy drying her eyes on her handkerchief, "oh you are sure they will be alright Cathy? I wish I’d never agreed to them going now."
"Come, come now your majesty, it is too late for you to go back on your word now, they will be fine and I haven’t seen the young Princess look so happy in weeks." Cathy smiled.
The Queen smiled and tucked her handkerchief up her sleeve.
"Your right Cathy, you always are. Come on lets go and say goodbye." They walked through the door and taking Cornflower in her arms the queen gave her a big kiss and then helped her into the cart.
"Now Barny, make sure she keeps her quilt over her." Cornflower almost choked, "what all of them, you’ve got to be joking there is enough quilts in here to cover every bed in the hospital. I’ll be suffocated before we get to Heledd’s and Jody’s, I think Daniel must have taken every spare quilt and pillow in the whole castle, not to mention blankets."
"Now, now little lady you never can tell what can go wrong on these trips." Daniel said tucking another bit of quilt around Cornflower.
The queen gasped and Cathy grabbed her arm, "Daniel would you go and fetch the baskets for the cats" she frowned at Daniel as she pushed him towards the door.
Barny took the hint and steered the cart and headed out towards the home of Dr Cornels house.
The Journey Begins
"Phew at last!" Cornflower exclaimed throwing herself backwards into the covers. "Are we almost there Barny?" Heledd asked as they struggled with the pile of quilts. "Not yet miss," Barney smiled. "Trust my mother to insist on giving us all a dose of that disgusting rhubarb medicine before we left, why my mother decide to be a doctor I'll never know." Jody said, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, "it has to be the worst tasting medicine in the entire Shire." "Heledd began to laugh, "Hey just be glad it was mother and not father who tucked us all in otherwise he would have rubbed us down with horse linement before we left." The girls fell about laughing in the back of the cart. Barny had to ask them to "Quieten down Ladies, or you will have the cart over and you won't be going anywhere." The girls stifled their laughter with the covers. Barny smiled and guided the cart onward towards the railway station. But it wasn't long before he arrived at the small station. "Yippee!!" the girls shouted at the top of their voices, "Barnaby you are wonderful," Cornflower said and planted a huge kiss on his spikey hair as he bent forward to lower the tail gate. "Less of the cheek you young scallywags, or I'll bungle you all up and have you back at the castle." he unhooked the pin and winked at Cornflower, "and stay right where you are until I make sure the train is ready for you to pile into. I don't want you coming down with another cold and you being upstairs all Christmas." "Oh Barny, you are such a big softy," Heledd said. "Look there is the train now!" she shouted. To late, the girls were gone, "Mind the ice, it might be slippy." He shouted after them but he might as well have held his breath they were away and into the station. Ann Carline and Sarah Stonecrop were already waiting in the little waiting room. Cornflower had definitely did her arranging right for the girls were all dressed the same, different colours but the same jeans, jumpers and boots. Plus the anorak which all five had tried to leave behind but couldn't, and of course they all had their wooly hats and mittens. "Has Mrs Willowherb been with Kayleigh's clothes?" Cornflower asked Thomas as he came into the waiting room.
"That she has young ladies, but I think you had better go and help old Barnaby with all that bedding. He has got it as far as the coaches but is not quite sure what to do with it now." "Great come on girls," Cornflower dived for the open door leaving a stunned Thomas staring into an empty waiting room. "I'm sure Barnaby said that she wasn't very well...." He muttered as he closed the door to keep it warm for when they returned. "Where do you want these hampers putting Thom?" Barnaby said handing them over to Nick. Nick peeped from the behind two giant hampers. "It looks like Cathy Fern is making sure the girls don't go hungry anyway," he laughed as he made his way down to the dining car. "I guess this is the best place for them," he added bungling them into the car. "I see what you mean it's lovely and warm inside Penelope and that's for sure." He chuckled as he patted the dining car door and walked back down to the waiting room. The girls helped Barnaby put the quilts away tidy in the rack of the compartment, they didn't have any belongings, there was no where for them to buy anything, except the little shop at Sleepy Hollow, and Kayleigh had already been given a list of what sweets they wanted. "Oh my goodness, come on Daddy, let's get going." Cornflower said jumping up and down like a baby, "I tell you weeks of lying in bed with nothing to do, no excitement has sent me round the bend. Come on Dad." she wailed. "Are you alright my dear?" Mrs Meadowsweet said as she hauled herself into the carriage. "I hope you youngsters don't mind having an old one with you, but it doesn't look like this snow is going to lift and I won't get another chance to get to Oakland before Christmas." "Don't be silly Mrs Meadowsweet," Jody said helping her put her bag up on the rack. "I'm afraid there isnt much room with all these quilts and things!" She exclaimed as a pillow fell down and bashed Sarah on top of her green curls. "Sorry Sarah, not my fault, blame it all on the Queen and Daniel," Cornflower laughed and threw the pillow at Heledd, who threw it at the door catching Marcus Meadowsweet slap bang on the nose. "Oh my goodness, I'm sorry, I didn't know you were coming as well." Heledd said grabbing the pillow and giving it to Jody to put back on the rack. "If I had known you were going to beat me up as soon as I arrived I wouldn't have come." He laughed and looked up at the rack. "Well I don't think there is any more room up up there for these, do you?" he muttered. "I had better take them into the dining car, it is only the presents mum has brought for the family." He climbed down out of the coach and after the girls had passed him the parcels he walked up the platform to the dining car. "You don't mind Marcus coming do you girls?" Mrs Meadowsweet said, fussing with her coat. "It is a bit warm in here don't you think?" "No it's fine, there is plenty of room, Penelope might be small in length but she has loads of room inside her. Cornflower said, hugging a pillow to her chest. "This is so exciting, I wonder if we shall have an adventure." she smiled her eyes as big as organ stops.
"Why what kind of adventure can you possibly have between here and the Oakland Border, girls?" Millicent Meadowsweet said as she took a book out of her handbag. "Myself, I think I shall relax and have a jolly good read without having to worry about the bus stop coming up." Nobody said a word, the girls just did that girlish eye thing and giggled. The door opened and Marcus came back into the carriage, he was covered in snow. "Is it still snowing?" Kayleigh asked. "Em, well yes, this could be snow being as it's winter and all that," he laughed. "Oh you know what I mean," Kayleigh said smacking his leg, "Honestly! Are they ready yet we're dying to get started?" "Are you spending Christmas in Oakland with your family Marcus?" Jody asked. "No, no I'm coming back here." he replied. "Wouldn't have something to do with a certain Miss Hop, would it Marcus?" the twins said together. Marcus blushed and looked out the window, just as Thomas walked up to it. But before anyone could speak a loud whistle and a jet of steam filled the little station. "All aboard who's going aboard," The Kings voice boomed through the enclosed space. "You ready Thomas? It's time we was on our way if we want to get back before nightfall." "Nick you stoke up the urn in the dining car, we can't go anywhere with out a cup of coffee in our hands." "On my way. Your Kingship," Thomas shouted back and walked off down the platform and climbed up onto the footplate. "First stop Sleepy Hollow I believe to pick up one Kayleigh Willowherb." shouted Thomas back down the platform. "Yes!" Shouted all the girls together. "Then it's away to the Border and Basil and Lavender." King Pepper shouted. "Basil and Lavender," echoed the girls, "not forgetting Bluebell, Fern and Bracken and, and Parsnip and Carrtot-top." "Who in the Shire are Parsnip and Carrot-top?" Mrs Meadowsweet said dropping her book onto her knee. "Why they are Bluebells and Ferns cats Mrs M." Cornflower laughed. "Oh I am so, so excited!" Cornflower screamed. Down in the engine King Pepper looked at Thomas and Thomas looked at Pepper. "Oh dear Thomas, what have we let ourselves in for?"
King Pepper pulled back the lever and set the Peppercorn Expresson her way to Sleepy Hollow and Kayleigh Willowherb.
Time for a story
The steam from the little engine puffed out of the tunnel as the train passed through on its way to Sleepy Hollow. Kayleigh
was waiting on the plateform with here sister Donna. She quickly kissed
her goodbye as the train came to a stop and opening the carriage door
jumped into the arms of her friends, lots of screams and cuddles
followed until Donna yelled at Kayleigh not to forget to tell there
mother that they would be here for Christmas. "I won't, I won't" she yelled back and carried on jumping up and down as though it had been months since she last saw her friends. "Oh thank goodness you didn't go without me, I should have died for an eternity." She hugged each of her friends again in turn. "Right, what's the plan?" "Nobody spoke. "Oh come on there must be a plan, there is always a plan." She shook her head. "No plan!" she exclaimed. "Nope, this is it, a train journey to the border to pick up my aunt and uncle and the girls for Christmas." Cornflower said quite quietly. "Oh"
said Kayleigh, "Well it mightn't be a crazy plan but it is a fantastic
plan. That means Fern and Bluebell will be here for Christmas. Plenty
of time to find something extra special to entertain them with." She
said throwing herself down on the quilts. "Hello Mrs Meadowsweet, are you off to visit your sister in Oakland?" Kayleigh
was without doubt the chatterbox of the group of girls, Cornflower was
a close second, and were as Heledd and Jody were usually the crazy
makers, Sarah and Ann were the ones that tended to keep them all in check. Mrs
Meadowsweet's reply was drowned by the sound of the the Peppercorn
Expresses whistle as King Pepper pulled the small gold chain as the
engine entered the Echo Mountain Tunnel. The
girls jumped then laughed, Marcus smiled one of them knowing siles that
Milliscent had scene a few times before. She through him a dirty look
and picked up her book off the floor where it fell. "Oh come on now
girls," Marcus said, "surely you're not frightened of a tiny little
whistle, even if it did sound a bit like a scream. Think what it will
be like by the time we reach the Marshlands and the darkness has set
in. Even worse when were coming home." "And what's wrong with the Marshlands?" said Jody, an inquisitive look crossing her face. "Marcus!" Milliscent Meadowsweet said quietly but sternly, Marcus grinned at his sister and then shaking his head he smiled at Jody and the other girls. "There
you go, I can't tell you," he said running his fingers through his
hair. "My sister thinks you are all much to young to be told about the Beast of the Marsh." He
picked up his book and pretended to read it. Nobody said a word, some
frowned looks were cast in the direction of Mrs Meadowsweet and
Cornflower wrote the words Beast of the Marsh on the steamed up glass of the window. It immediately started to fall apart and the misty writing turned into teardrops and ran down the window glass. "What Beast of the Marsh," she asked letting her finger trace the drops down the window. Marcus just smiled at her and continued reading.
The train began to slow down as they approached Pepper Springs. Nick walked through from the dining car. "Come on then grubs up, it's all laid out in the dining car" "Grubs up." Spluttered Milliscent casting a disearning glance towards the princess. "Oh
don't you bother about me, Mrs M. Grub's up sounds fine to me, being a
princess can be a bit of a bore most of the time but when we're all out
together." She turned to her friends they all smacked the air. "Well
it's just great to be normal, and whats more Dad hates pomp and
circumstance." "What do I hate?" King Pepper said as he came through
the door and did I hear Pomp and Circumstance mentioned. A good piece
of music that, got it on compact disc you know Marcus." The girls giggled, Milliscent blushed and Marcus couldn't hold his book steady for laughing so much. "Come
along then, let's all retire to the dining car for a fifteen minute
rest, I'm not sure I like the look of this weather. The snow seems to
be getting heavier the closer we get to the Marshlands." He pulled on
his moustache. "I just hope that Old Beast isn't on the prowl this evening." The girls halted in their tracks and looked at one another but they never said a word. They
slowly made their way through to the dining car, Wow! Cathy Fern had
gone over-board with the food, there was enough to feed an army of
Googlenok's let alone eleven or was it ten. There was chicken
drumsticks, salad, rolls, crisps, hot soup, cheese, chutney, rounds and
rounds of sandwiches. Another flask full of beef stew with a note
attached that read "for the consumption of King Pepper only." "Hm," Cornflower
said picking up the flask and passing it over to her dad. "I see you're
still getting special treatment from Cathy," she smiled. Sarah
watched as Mrs Meadowsweet took even more bits of food out of the
second hamper. It reminded her of Mary Poppins and her carpet bag. "Well if we do meet that beast
of your Marcus, there will be plenty of food here for him to eat
without him bothering about our puny bodies." She said laughing. Marcus
just smiled then whispered in her ear. "Don't make idle talk young
lady, he might hear you and come looking for his supper." Nick came
in with the biggest teapot Jody had ever seen, full of lovely hot
Peppercorn tea. In his other hand he had a smaller pot full of
Cornpepper Coffee for Marcus and the King. The cherry pie which
Cathy had so lovingly made was being devoured by the Cornel twins and
Sarah, Heledd had so much cherry filling around her mouth it looked
like she was wearing lipstick, bright red lip stick clashing with her
bright pink hair. Nick and Thomas made very short work of the apple pie, no one else had a look in. "If
you are sick in our carriage Heledd Cornel I will feed you to the beast
myself." Ann remarked as she handed her friend a huge packet of wet
wipes. "It was a good job Cathy didn't forget these," She put the
tissues on the table. "You girls are pushing your luck mentioning the Beast all the time, they say he can smell the sweetness of a Googlenok from as far away as Oakland." "Marcus! What have I told you, stop making the girls frightened." "Oh
we're not frightened Mrs Meadowsweet, are we girls?" Kayleigh said
creeping up to Marcus and snatching the cracker he was holding from his
hand. "In fact we would love to hear more about the" she walked her fingers towards Marcus's plate again.... "this fearsome, hungry, Beast of the Marshlands." She grabbed another cracker off his plate and stuffed it in her mouth. "Now
stop it children, I don't want to hear another word about this dreadful
beast. I'll be having nightmares, and that's a fact," she added before
popping a pickled onion in her mouth and crunching it. The
girls smiled at one another. "There you go, that sounds like the Beast
crunching on Googlnok bones, don't you think?" Kayleigh whispered to
Marcus. Marcus winked at the girls as they giggled behind their hands. King Pepper smiled a rather wicked smile and walked out of the door of the dining car. "Come on Thomas, it's time to get rolling again, I want to be through the Marshes before the mist and darkness falls." Nobody saw him wink at Marcus as he passed him by. The
girls, Mrs Meadowsweet and Marcus followed shortly after, and it was
only about ten minutes later that they saw the signal box saying. "The Marshlands, Two Miles." It
was about then that Milliscent dropped off to sleep. Her hat was tipped
forward onto her face a little and the feather in her hat had fallen
across her face. It bobbed up and down each time she breathed in and
out. Marcus laid the book down on the seat beside him. "You've all gone very quiet, are you all needing to take a nap." Ignoring
him Ann took a pack of cards out of her bag and they began to play
rummy. There was a clatter from the dining car, Marcus got up and
walked out returning after a few minutes. "It's alright girls it
wasn't the beast, it's Nick clearing away all the dishes and carefully
saving the left over food, just in case!" Marcus sat down and picked up his book again. "I take it you don't want to hear about the beast then?" The
girls laid the cards on the small playing board, took a quick look at
the sleeping Meadowsweet and in chorus said. "Yes Please."
"What I'd like to know is after living for twelve years in the Shire, how come we've never heard of this Beast before?" Sarah cocked her head on one side as she spoke. "Ok if you you don't want to know, that's ok by me." Marcus said quiet huffy and picked up his book again. "Oh we do Marcus we do, shut up Sarah!" Sarah pulled a face and shrugged her shoulders. "Go on then let's hear it, but I don't think it will frighten me."
"Ok then, the first time the beast was even seen was way back in your
grandfathers time Princess, when he was king. It was a cold winters
evening not unlike this one. It had been snowing all day and the train
was already nearly an hour late." He looked past the girls and out of
the window. The girls turned and looked also. It was still snowing and
it looked like the eerie mist was still rolling in from the Marsh. "Now
if I remember right there was the old King Pepper, your father,
Princess, the young Basil and my father Peter, oh yes and Daniel
Burnett. Of course apart from the old King Pepper all the others were
young lads about Tom and Nicks age." "Daniel Burnett," they all spluttered together. "Our Daniel," Cornflower added. "A young man!!" "Yes
that's right," Marcus said, "I'm certain of that because if it's true,
and according to my father it was, it was Daniel who was the hero of
the whole day." "Daniel!!!" the girls exclaimed again. "Yes Daniel." Marcus answered, "Now can I get on with the story please?" "Well
by the time the train eventually made it to the station at the
Marshlands the line was already blocked. So it was decided that the
young Pepper and Basil should go and clear as much of the line as they
could. They had to get to the Oaklands border for it was there that the
train was turned." He took a sweetie out of the packet Jody had put on
the table. "Well they started the clearing but it was useless the
snow was falling faster than they could shovel." Marcus stopped again
and opened a bottle of pop." "Oh do come on Marcus, what happened
next." Heledd and Jody said together." Sarah grabbed a cushion and
knelt in front of Marcus's feet. The other girls did the same. "Well
it was decided that they would make it to the waiting room and phone
the castle and the Oakland Border signal box. No point in letting
everyone get upset. They would stay in the Marshlands waiting room over
night and then proceed in the light of day." Marcus drank. "Well
they made it to the waiting room and the old king immediately phoned,
which was the best thing he ever did, for no sooner had your grand
father put the hook back on the wall, that it happened!" "The Beast." Sarah said. "No
the sound was a creaking and a groaning of timber as the pole
supporting the telegraph wires collapsed under the weight of the snow
and the whole lot collapsed, just missing the waiting room and the line
by inches." Marcus took out his handkerchief and wiped the window. "And from that moment they were cut off from the rest of the Shire." Ann
who had remained sitting on the seat climbed onto the quilts with the
others, Milliscent stayed sleeping, and the snow continued to fall.
Marcus continued. "Well after that there was nothing else they could
do, so they put the shovels back on the train and returned to the
waiting room. It was on their return that they realised that the pole
had also carried the electric lines and the place was now in darkness.
It was very cold and very dark, the only heat was in the boiler of the
little engine. It was then that my father remembered leaving a couple of tilly lamps back down the track in the signal box." "But
that was two miles away, he'd never have made it!" Cornflower gasped,
remembering the signal box they had passed down the track. "Be that as it may, my dad pulled on an oilskin that was hanging up on the
door and away he went up the track, only the moon shining through the
clouds gave him light. They all settled down to wait in the dark for
his return.... and it was then that they heard it..." "Heard what" "What they later found out to be the Beast..
Long and low it howled into the night, the sound echoing through the
thick mist that had surrounded the the small waiting room." Marcus
took another drink and offered it around. the girls shook their heads
in turn eager for him to get on with the story."What happened next?"
Jody said edging closer to Marcus. "Well at first they just sat
there, Daniel had found a little bit of a candle in one of the draws
and in the eerie shaking candle light they just sat there waiting. My
father still hadn't returned and so Daniel decided he should go out an look for him." "He donned the other oilskin and opened the door, the candle immediately blew out in the wind and it was just as he opened the door that they heard it." He paused, "Heard what, heard what Marcus?" All six girls staring into his face. "It was a long, loud scream, it sounded just like a wounded....."
............. Just at that moment there was an awful scream and the
train came to an abrupt halt sending the six girls, Mrs Meadowsweet and
Marcus into a huge pile on the carriage floor. The lights went out and
silence filled the air. "Oh my goodness, what in the Shire is going on?" Milliscent said in a high pitched whisper. The lights flickered back on but they were very dim. The train began to move again, very slowly then came to a juddering halt. The girls looked from one to another. "Did you hear the scream?" Kayleigh asked. Did any of you hear that scream?" she repeated. Marcus
stood up."Well I did warn you, didn't I" He opened the door. A cold
blast of frozen mist filled the carriage, it felt as though it was
travelling through the quilts. "Just stay here where you are girls. You too Sis, dont want you getting lost in this mist." Mrs
Meadowsweet stayed sitting but in a voice that sounded sort of odd, she
asked Marcus to "either get back in or go out and shut the carriage
door brhind him." Marcus turned, winked at the girls then climbed down onto the platform closing the door behind him. Thomas,
Nick and the king where already standing on the platform. Thomas went
straight to the waiting room to check that it was empty. "Are the girls alright in there Marcus, have you been entertaining them?" King Pepper asked smiling. Marcus smiled and nodded. Thomas came back from the waiting room. "Well there is no one waiting for the train, so shall we be on our way again?" "Not
just yet." King Pepper said smiling. I've a little surprise for the
girls first." He turned to Marcus again. "Now you are sure that your
Sister will be alright, aren't you. We don't want the little ones
worrying." "No they'll be fine, honest. Ernest is at home with the
children and with him there, I can't see there being an emergency he
can't handle on his own. If there is a fire the rest of the crew will
handle it, I'm sure." "Come on you two, what are you up to now?" Thomas said whilst shaking his head. "Hm I though we were going to have a journey without any excitement for once." "Oh don't worry Thomas, it's just a little something to make it a trip they won't forget." King Pepper said laughing. "Oh
no, not a Pepper Special, well just make sure that the Queen knows I
had nothing to do with it. Ok. Though I am suprised at you Marcus,
surely your father has told you what happened the last time the train
stopped at this station, in winter and just before Christmas as well?" The king looked at Marcus and Marcus looked at the king. They both shook their heads. "Do you mean something has happened here before?" Marcus said trying not to smile. "Well yes, so I was told when I was small by my father, something about the Beast of the Marshlands. I believe." "No-o." the king and Marcus said together, crossing their fingers behind their backs. "But of course if there is a Beast around then we had best be on our way Marcus, don't you think?" The king sort of half smiled. "Definitely." Marcus said and began to walk back towards the carriage. "Come
on then Tom, you'd better get that boiler stoked up, we don't want to
stop again until we reach the Oakland Border." King pepper said as he
climbed up onto the plate and looked up the track. "Do you know what
though Thomas, I'm not happy about the amount of snow that's falling on
that track. I think it might be a good idea if you and Nick go to get
the spare shovels from the station shed back up the track. Just in
case" he added. Thomas nodded his head, climbed down off the engine
and went back to the guards van to fetch Nick. Together they started to
walk back down the track towards the station shed. King Pepper watched them as they vanished round the bend, then he did a little twiddle here, and a little twiddle there and followed Thomas off the train but he went into the Waiting room, not up the track. After a few minutes he came back out again a huge grin on his face. "Beast of the Marshland," he murmured under his breath. Then he grabbed his coat from the engine and started to walk up the track and into the mist...
.... Inside the carriage the six girls and Mrs Milliscent Meadowsweet waited patiently for Marcus to return.
Chapter Six The Beast of the Marshlands
Marcus closed the door behind him and sat down opposite his sister. "Is everything alright Marcus?" she asked leaning forward in the seat. "Why have we stopped surely we won't be picking anyone up here, not in this weather?" "I think the King is just making sure that the track up ahead is clear, we don't want to have to stop again further up the track do we now?" He looked at the girls and frowned, this time there was no frown on his face and the girls looked very concerned. "Now stop that at once Marcus, I really will ot have you frightening these girls like this." "Oh it's ok Mrs Meadowsweet we are fine really, it would take more than a spooky story by Marcus to frighten us , wouldn't it girls?" Sarah said her eyes quite shiney and yet nervous looking. The other girls shook their heads and agreed with Sarah that they were quite fine, yet Cornflower couldn't help feeling a bit scared in her stomach and Heledd crept closer to he twin. She had been reading a book when she was ill in bed about a boat that went to sea and then it vanished and all the people on board vanished as well. What if... nah don't be daft she said to herself. "Marcus what happened after the train stopped?" she asked tilting her head to one side just like her mother. "Nothing really, your dad got out and checked the train. Thomas checked th...." "No, not this train, that train, the train your dad and Daniel were on?" "Oh that train," Marcus said looking across at his sister who frowned but didn't say anything. Then he glanced out the window, Nick and Thomas had just walked past the window they looked more like snowmen, the snow was still coming down that heavy. "Well as I was saying, Daniel had just opened the door of the waiting room when a piercing scream filled the evening sky." "What was it, could they see what it was?" the girls began to ask questions all at once. "That was the question, what was it? No one knew. My father was missing. Something was roaming around loose on the marsh. So Daniel ran through the door.... " He was cut short for just at that minute the door of the carriage door opened and a monster covered in snow appeared in the doorway. The six girls screamed and dived under the quilts. Milliscent let out a small screamand went quite white. "Why girls what ever is the matter, it's only Nick pretending to be an abominable snowman." Marcus said standing up laughing. The girls emerged one by one from under the quilts, Nick shook his head and the snow crystals showered the girls. "Nick, you pain! we're getting soaked." Jody said wiping the snow off her arms, "what in the Shire are you doing out in the snow anyway, shouldn't we be going?" "Yes Nick, why aren't we moving, I thought there was nothing wrong?" Kayleigh butt in. "And where is my father?" Cornflower asked. "Well I'm sorry Miss Cornflower, but that is why I 've been out in the snow. Looking for you're Dad." He turned to Marcus. "Have you seen him Marcus?" "What do you mean, have I seen him. I've been in here with the girls and Milly. He was on his way to the engine last time I saw him." Nick frowned and turned back towards the door. "Yes that's what Thomas said as well." "Oh my goodness!" screamed Cornflower jumping up from the floor. "You mean you've lost my Dad." Just at that moment a long, low howling sound could be heard in the direction of the Marsh. The girls looked at one another and for the first time none of them looked eager to have Marcus to finish the story. This time the girls were really frightened. "I really think you have said enough now Marcus." Milliscent said looking at the girls faces and then at her brother. "I really do think you have gone to far this time." Marcus just sat there, not speaking. The girls jumped again when the door opened once more and Thomas walked in. "Has my Dad come back yet Thomas, have you found him?" Thomas banged his feet against the carriage door, he too was covered in snow. "Not yet I'm afraid miss, and I really do think if we stay here much longer we won't be going anywhere. The track ahead is almost impassable." Cornflower jumped up startled once more and reached up and grabbing her coat made for the door. Within seconds the other girls did the same. Anoraks were on and zips being fastened at the speed of light. They scrambled over each other to get off the little train. "Come on Milliscent, we had better keep an eye on them before they get themselves lost on the Marsh." he grabbed his coat and handed Mrs M hers. "Really Marcus, this whole thing, whatever it is you were trying to do has gone dreadfully wrong. I just hope we don't lose the girls otherwise I know one brother who will be spending his Christmas in the castle dungeons." Marcus laughed a weird little laugh and followed the girls onto the platform. Slowly they all made their way along the platform to the front of the engine. The howling noise sounded again, but this time it sounded much closer. Thomas passed his lamp to Nick and jumped up on the plate. "Give me a moment I will turn on the engine's light," he vanished inside the cab and flicked the switch, nothing happened. He bent down and shoveled some more coal into the fire box. Sparks flew everywhere, lighting up the figures as they stood waiting for who knows what. "Never mind." Thomas said, putting the shovel down and jumping back on to the platform. "There's a couple of tilly lamps in the shed down the track, I'll go and get them." "NO, NO, you can't, I mean you mustn't go." Cornflower screamed. "Where's my Dad, I want my dad now." "Yes come on Marcus what have you two been up to," Thomas added. "Now I'm going to get the lamp, don't worry I'll take Nick with me and when we return Marcus. I hope you will have a good explanation." Nobody spoke as Thomas and Nick started back down the track. Milliscent leaned over and whispered in Marcus's ear."Are you going to tell us what been going on Marcus?" "Yes tell us what is going on?" Nick said as he walked up behind Marcus, Thomas behind him with the lamp. "I really have no idea." Marcus replied. "But I don't know this part of the story." Marcus was no longer laughing, in fact he was looking decidedly scared. Thomas and Nick moved a little up the platform, the lights became barely visible as they moved . Milliscent pulled her coat tighter around her body, the wind was getting up and the snow was beginning to swirl about them. "This better be funny Marcus, for if these girls come down with flu again just before Christmas, you will have five angry mothers on your tail." They all moved slowly up the track catching up with Thomas and Nick who had stopped dead in there tracks. Thomas covered the lamp with his hand and strained his eyes to look ahead. There in the distance was a feint glow that seemed to be coming closer and closer. "What do you think it is?" Heledd said linking her arms with those of Ann and Jody. "I don't know but it's coming closer and thats a fact." Cornflower said grabbing hold of Sarah and Kayleigh. The girls jumped as a piercing whistle filled the air, followed by a long, low rumble and a squeal of metal on metal. In the thick mist ahead of them a huge yellow eye appeared, it hung there, suspended in the dark. The girls could only stand there and stare as with a mighty shake... IT, whatever... IT was came to a shuddering stop. A small scream came from Kayleigh's mouth as a dark figure loomed up before them out of the mist. The girls closed their eyes. "Is there anything wrong girls?" The Kings voice came from the dark shape. "Daddy, Daddy it's you, why you horrible thing where have you been we we all so frightened?" She left her friends and ran into her fathers arms. "Oh daddy how could you be so cruel?" "Hey, hey." King Pepper said picking her up and swinging her around, "were you worried about your old dad?" He was grinning impishly. "Oh Daddy, you are awful, we thought you'd been gobbled up by the Beast of the Marshlands." She stopped abruptly for walking out through the mist were four figures. One of the figures spoke. "Come on Pepper you old rascal, you've had your fun now it's time to get on that train of yours and get back to Peppercorn Green before we really do get gobbled up by the beast." Cornflower let out a scream. " Uncle Basil, Aunt Lavender..." She began to splutter, "how in the Shire did you get here?" "Well by train of course!" Basil said laughing, "come on Pepper show us the inside of that engine of yours before we all end up spending Christmas in bed." But poor King Pepper couldn't move, He was leaning against the engine laughing so much his side were splitting, Marcus stood next to him holding his stomach, he also had a stitch through laughing so much. Mrs Meadowsweet stood shaking her head and tutting. "I'm afraid neither of you will be going through to Oakland tonight." King Basil said as he guided Milliscent back to the carriage. And I think you had better travel back in here with Lavender and myself, you've had enough excitement for one day." Hey Pepper, we'll have to leave the Oakland Express here overnight I'll phone up from the Green and get old Sycamore to come and collect her tomorrow." "But, but , but..." Cornflower kept saying. "Come on, get on board lass," King Pepper said smiling and pushing the girls towards tha carriage. "But, but..." "For goodness sake Cornflower you sound like an old steam boat, your Aunt Lavender will explain everything later." He opened the door.. "And I don't believe you've siad hello to your cousins yet have you?" There was a few screams, followed by more girlish screams as the six mates piled into the carriage which now contained Bluebell and Fern. Loads of hugs and loads of kisses for everyone. "Hey were is the baby?" Heledd shouted. "Don't say you didn't bring him." Bluebell laughed, "No you daft thing, he's with Mum in the other carriage, Uncle Pepper made us sneak in the other side so you wouldn't see us." "You wait till we get him home, he will pay dearly some how or other. What do you say girls.. A Christmas surprise for my dear father?" "Yea, yea, yea." rung out the cheer from the carriage. King Pepper shook his head and wondered what it was all about as he made his way back to the engine with King Basil. "This is more like it Basil, a real steam engine not an electric thing." Basil smiled. "Yea agreed it's not as much fun as this but it sure cuts through the snow a lot better than this old bone shaker. "Bone shaker, the cheek of it, if you're not careful I shall leave you here for the Beasts supper." Pepper laughed heartily. "The Beast, that's twice you've mentioned this beast. Do I know who this beast is Pepper?" "No I shouldn't think so, but remind me to tell you about it when were all safe and warm in Peppercorn Castle. Right now I think it's time we got under steam before your sister in law thinks we've all got lost." "Or eaten by the Beast!" Thomas said laughing. "Come along girls, make room for a small one," Marcus said as he put his foot onto the carriage step. "Oh no, Marcus Plantain. We don't mind if you travel with us, do we girls?" Cornflower said whilst smiling the wicked of smiles. "You really do want to travel back with us, don't you Marcus?" The girls stood to one side to let him into the carriage. "You don't mind traveling back with Marcus do you?" "Bluebelll and Fern both laughed. Nick came past and peeped in before closing the door, which was the signal for the girls to pounce on Marcus. Back in the engine the king Pepper pulled hard on the chain. The whistle echoed through the mist and on into the Marshes. Thomas shoveled some more coal onto the fire, the flames licked up the sides of the box cracking and spitting like an old goat. In the carriage the girls chatted away, telling Bluebell and Fern all about their adventure. Jody pulled the quilt up to her chin, "I tell you what Cornflower, that father of yours is worse than you for making plans." "Never a dull moment, that's for sure." Sarah said. "I wonder what he's got planned for Christmas?" Ann said as she laid her head on one of the pillows. "I don't know," said Cornflower yawning. "But I bet it won't be no ordinary Christmas." "I am so glad we are spending Christmas at Peppercorn Green, aren't you Bluebell?" "Yes it's going to be wonderful, isn't it Cornflower?" But nobody answered, for everybody apart from the twins had fallen fast asleep. Oh well we might as well join them bluebell, we have a long two weeks ahead of us." And together they curled up with the girls and were asleep in minutes.
Marcus on the other hand spent half the journey back trying to get out of the luggage rack, where he had been buried under a pile of damp, anorak's "I guess that will teach me to go along with one of King Peppers crazy plans, one day I'll learn to keep my mouth shut." He dug his book out from underneath Cornflowers hand and began to read. But he too was asleep before the train reached Sleepy Hollow. Back in the Royal Carriage Milliscent was telling Lavender all about the journey and the part her naughty brother had played in the trick. Then all of a sudden both ladies went very quiet. "Did you hear that?" Milliscent said quietly the colour draining from her face. For as the little train steamed out of the Marshlands, on the wind they both heard a long, low, scream. On the footplate King Pepper put down his coffee and stared at Basil. Nick put down his tea and stared at Thomas. "Put some more coal on that fire lad, I think the sooner we're back home and tucked up in bed the better." Smoke and steam puffed from the little engine as the train mved quickly down the track and back towards the Shire. Till the only sound that broke the silence was the purring of Parsnip and Carrotop as they lay curled up in their basket, oblivious to all that had gone on around them.
Share And now that you've read the story of the Googlenok's of Peppercorn Green and their "Journey Into Christmas." Why don't we take a little trip down memory lane to when Seligor's children used to watch the childrens programmes on the television. Here is a small selection of "Memorable Childrens Video's" which after all is what you are doing now. Don't be surprised if you recognise some of them. Shall I write you out an index or shall I let you have a surprise?