Roy Glashan's Library
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THOMAS CHARLES BRIDGES
(WRITING AS T.C. BRIDGES)

THE ROAD TO ROUNDELL

Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover
Based on a Dartmoor landscape by Frederick J. Widgery (1861-1942)

Ex Libris

First published in The Children's Newspaper, 20 December 1941

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2023
Version Date: 2023-01-12

Produced by Keith Emmett and Roy Glashan

All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.

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NARRACOTT newtake slopes to that famous trout stream, the Arrow, and a footpath runs from the gate at the top to the bridge leading to the Roundell House property opposite. The newtake belonged to the Haldons of Narracott.

At eight on a fine sunny morning the two young Haldons, Basil and Frank, came through the gate, each with a satchel of books over his shoulder and each wearing the blue cap with a black peak which is the badge of the boys of Taverton Grammar School. Basil was a sturdy youngster but Frank, though active enough, was small and rather delicate. Basil pulled up short and pointed.

"Look at those sheep, Frank, scared stiff and two of them lame. I reckon Rupert's dog has been chasing them again."

A Meeting With Rupert

FRANK, usually the best natured of boys, was angry.

"I've told Rupert about it twice already. Now we shall jolly well give him beans."

"And serve him right," growled Basil. "But we can't stop now or we'll be late for school."

The two ran down the path and reached the bridge. It was nothing but two stout planks stretched from bank to bank, stayed with strong wires and with a hand-rail on one side. There was a gate at each end laced with barbed wire, set between strong posts and locked with a padlock.

The bridge had been built by their neighbour, Squire Bernard of Roundell. He was a crotchety old chap who owned the fishing and allowed no one to cross his land without permission. But the boys had a key and could use the bridge to get to school. It gave them a short cut which saved nearly two miles, for the road bridge was a mile below, but this was on the understanding that they kept to the path.

Rupert Haines lived with his people at a house, called Crane Court, a mile down the river. He was much too grand to go to the Grammar School and had private lessons with the rector.

Coming home that evening Basil and Frank walked back by the road, intending to call at Crane Court and see Rupert. They met him coming from the Rectory and Basil tackled him at once.

"Rupert," he said curtly, "Bustle has been after our sheep again. I've told you about it twice and this is the last time."

Rupert was taller than Basil. He was a year older, and thought a lot of himself.

"What are you going to do about it?" he asked unpleasantly.

"This," answered Basil and, like a shot, he had Rupert by the collar of his coat. He ran him across the road and sent him flying into the ditch which, though dry, was deep.

Rupert lay in the bottom, not hurt but so breathless and astonished he couldn't even speak. Basil grinned as he looked at him.

"That's for this time. Now keep Bustle at home or next time I shall hurt you."

"That'll teach him," said Basil as he and his brother walked off. But Frank shook his head.

"He won't forgive you very easily, Basil," he said.

The Changed Lock


WHEN they got home Basil told his father about the sheep.

"I saw that two were lame," Mr. Haldon answered. "And I guessed it was young Haines's dog. I ought to shoot it, but, after all, it's not the dog's fault but Rupert's. I'll tell you what I am going to do. I shall put Warrior in the newtake with the sheep."

Basil chuckled.

"That's a good idea, Dad. The old ram is not afraid of any dog that ever lived. The only trouble is, he'll go for people, as well as dogs."

"He won't touch any of us and no one else has any right in the pasture," was the answer. "There's Mother calling us. Come along."

All this happened on Friday. The following Monday the two young Haldons started off to school as usual but, when they reached the Fisherman's bridge, Basil found he couldn't open the lock. He turned to Frank.

"It's a new padlock," he said. "This key doesn't fit."

"I told you Rupert would do something nasty," Frank said.

"Don't talk rubbish!" Basil answered sharply. "What could Rupert have to do with it?"

"I don't know how he managed it but I'm sure as sure that he is at the bottom of it."

Basil shrugged angrily.

"You're crazy, but what are we going to do now?"

"Go round by the road, I suppose."

"And be late for school and get kept in. You know Doodle won't take any excuse."

"We can't cross here," Frank retorted. "Hullo, here's Croker!"

Forbidden Waters

A TALL old man wearing rough clothes and a battered felt hat came up the opposite side of the river. He was the water bailiff.

"What's up, Croker?" Basil called. "Why is the bridge closed?"

"That be your own fault," Croker answered. "Squire seed 'ee afishing on his ground Saturday evening."

"Me fishing! He's crazy!" cried Basil. "I haven't been fishing for a week, and anyhow I've never fished on his water."

"He seed 'ee," Croker repeated.

"Told me, his own self. It were dusk but he knowed 'ee by that school cap o' yourn. Proper angry he was, and told me you shouldn't ever cross his bridge again."

Frank spoke. "It was Rupert. He could easily get a school cap. I told you he was at the bottom of it."

Basil had a hot temper.

"I'll go round this evening and give him the worst hammering he's ever had in his life," he declared.

"You can't," Frank told him.

"You've no proof, and of course he'll vow he never had anything to do with it."

Basil bit his lip. Angry as he was, he had to realise that Frank was right.

"Then I'll go to Mr Bernard and tell him," he said at last.

Frank shook his head.

"You won't get much change out of him. When he gets an idea in his head it would take dynamite to get it out."

Cornered!

CROCKER, who could hear every word from where he stood on the other side of the deep narrow stream, laughed suddenly.

"There be dynamite," he remarked, and pointed up the field.

The two boys spun round. Here came Rupert, running like a rabbit and, hard after him, the old ram, Warrior.

Frank sized up the situation in a flash.

"He came to crow over us. It looks as if we were going to do the crowing. My word! I never thought Rupert could run so fast."

Rupert's face was white, his eyes were bulging, he had lost his hat. He came down the hill with immense strides, but Warrior, head down, was gaining. There was no time to do anything. Rupert came past them like a flash. Just as he reached the bank of the river Warrior caught and butted him.

With a yell of despair Rupert flew through the air, landed in the river with a mighty splash, and vanished. Warrior, looking rather surprised at the sudden disappearance of his enemy, stood a moment, then turned away.

Rupert's head came up. The water reached to his neck. He groped his way to the bank. Basil stepped forward.

"No, you don't, Rupert. You're not coming out till you own up."

Rupert glanced up at the brothers. He couldn't do a thing and he knew it. Yet he tried to bluff.

"Own up—what to?"

"To fishing here on Saturday in a Taverton cap. We know it was you but we want to hear you say it."

Rupert was wet, cold, and miserable. He gave in.

"Yes, it was me," he said sulkily.

"You heard him, Croker?" Basil asked.

"I heard him," came a harsh voice which made them all start.

A burly man carrying a rod was standing on the far bank. It was Squire Bernard himself. "I heard and I'll see that Mr. Haines hears all about it before he's a day older. Here's the key." He pitched it across to Basil. "Come on through."

He strode on up the stream, and Basil and Frank hurried across the bridge while Rupert scrambled out of the water. Frank looked back.

"I wouldn't be in his shoes," he said quietly.

"Nor I," his brother agreed.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.