Roger goes to Summer Camp

Roger was feeling very excited and just a tiny bit nervous as the car sped along the highway. He was off to Summer Camp for the very first time.

As they drove along Mom and Dad told him all about the wonderful times they had at summer camp many years ago and Roger dreamed of the fantastic adventures awaiting him.

Roger was going to Camp Manorwood. It was a very special camp because it was based in an old manor house surrounded by a huge woods.

Roger arrived about the same time as some other new entrants. They were greeted by a bunch of counselors who wore yellow t-shirts with their names printed on the front. All the counselors were laughing and smiling - all but one. Roger noticed a tall, skinny guy who stood at the back, his t-shirt said Tony, and he wore a serious, almost scared, expression.

"Welcome to Camp Manorwood", said Billy, the head counselor.

He had a round smiling face and managed to sound enthusiastic about everything as he told the campers all abut Manorwood and all the exciting things to look forward to during their time there.

Or rather, he managed to sound enthusiastic about everything except when he warned everyone not to go near the old cottage that stood next to the manor house, the he spoke quietly and slowly. When someone asked why Billy hesitated for a moment then said it was being renovated and was very dangerous because of the work in progress. Roger glanced across at the cottage, but there didn't seem to be much work going on.

Billy's high spirits soon returned as he split the newcomers into groups and assigned them to counselors to take them to the dorms. Roger was taken to a room with five other boys, three were newcomers and the other three had already been there for two weeks. Roger got to share a bunk with a slightly overweight boy called Jimmy.

Over the next few days Roger and his new friends had a great time rock-climbing, canoeing, flying through the trees on the zip-line, swimming, taking nature walks, and - best of all - telling each other ghost stories around the campfire after dark.

Every night Jimmy would sneak out of the dorm and go down to the kitchen for a midnight feast. He asked Roger if he'd like to go, but Roger was so tired after the day's activities he usually fell asleep before Jimmy came back.

Then on the morning of the fifth day Roger awoke to find Jimmy missing, and all of his things gone. No one in the dorm seemed to know, and they joked that because of his love of food he was probably first down for breakfast. But he wasn't in the dining hall.

Roger asked Sandra, one of the counselors, who told him Jimmy was homesick so his parents had come and taken him home during the night.

Roger was confused. Jimmy seemed to be having a great time, he didn't seem at all homesick. And why hadn't he heard anything during the night.

That day didn't seem quite so much fun. Roger couldn't stop thinking about Jimmy and what might have happened to him.

At night he couldn't get to sleep and decided to get up to get a glass of water. As he did so he caught a glimpse of the cottage through the dorm window. There was a light in one of the windows, and it seemed to be moving. Roger decided to investigate.

As he approached the cottage he heard a shout: "hey, get away from here!"

It was Tony. But Roger didn't get away, he demanded to know what Tony was doing by the cottage in the middle of the night.

Tony told Roger about the manor house and the cottage. "The house used to be owned by a rich man, but he had a son who lost the entire family fortune on gambling and bad business deals. After that, the no-longer rich man had to sell the manor and live out his life in this tiny cottage that used to be where his servants lived. He was so angry at what his son had done he swore to punish any boys who ever came near the cottage."

"Since he passed away, many years ago, the cottage has stood empty. The local people are afraid to go near it. The old manor house had many different owners, but no one seemed to be very happy there, and it too stood empty for many years until Camp Manorwood opened this summer.

All the other counselors think the story about the cottage is a joke, but I've lived around here all my life and I know it isn't. After Jimmy disappeared I thought I'd better stand guard to warn any other curious boys, like you."

Tony asked Roger not to tell anyone what he said as he would surely get fired.

Roger told Tony about the light. At this Tony looked really scared and wanted to return to the house. But Roger insisted they look around in case Jimmy was somehow trapped inside.

The cottage had rusty chains and padlocks securing all of its doors that looked like they hadn't been touched in years. But then Roger noticed the light again in a side window. This time Tony saw it too. And the window was slightly ajar.

"Wait here," said Roger. "I'm going inside. If I'm not back in ten minutes, get help."

As he climbed through the window Roger was surprised to find the whole cottage lit with candles. An fierce looking old man was seated in a huge wooden chair. The rest of the cottage was very shabbily furnished. The old man was yelling orders to someone in the next room. Roger heard some movement, and in walked Jimmy.

"Jimmy," said Roger.

At this the old man turned to Roger and gave an evil laugh.

"Now I have two slaves," he snarled.

"No." said Roger. "You don't have any slaves. We're just about to leave."

"You can't leave." said the old man. "My son lost everything I had. And now you have to pay by being my slaves for ever."

"We can't stay here for ever," said Roger, "and you can't stay angry for ever."

"So what if your son lost your money. Money doesn't matter. Most people never have a lot of money. It doesn't mean they can't be happy. This could be a lovely cottage, and you can still enjoy all the nature that surrounds it. You just have to decide to be happy."

The old man's face appeared to grow a little kinder, and as it did so he slowly began to fade from their sight. The cottage also seemed to change. The candles and the furniture disappeared until Roger and Jimmy were left standing in an empty shell of a dusty old room lit only by the full moon.

"Come on," said Roger as he helped Jimmy climb through the window, "let's see what's left in the kitchen."

Next The Apple Seller