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Little Gems - Earthfasts by William Mayne

Earthfasts by William Mayne Earthfasts by William Mayne

Earthfasts by William Mayne Earthfasts by William Mayne

Earthfasts by William Mayne Earthfasts by William Mayne

Click here to listen to the end music (600Kb mp3)

Earthfasts adapted for television by Marilyn Fox

Episode One

The story begins at the end of the Summer with two teenage boys walking in the countryside. Keith Heseltine and David Wix are best mates and are out near a circle of standing stones - large singular rocks that had been put their for a purpose long forgotten a great deal of time ago. They do not notice but some of the rocks are moving towards them (always spooky as Marianne Dreams, Escape Into Night - Paperhouse themes). Keith tries to explain that he heard a rumbling, a beating of some kind. The boys run up towards part of a hills side formation as Keith thinks he hears a regular banging, drumming coming from within the hill. Keith and David are bright lads and try to determine what may be the cause of the sounds. They try using logic and science as to what may be causing the sound and so start bouncing ideas off each other. David thinks it may be down to water movement but Keith is not convinced. The boys find what they think is the source of the drumming and put their ears to the ground.

Keith shows David the rock formation but explains that it is much bigger than when he last saw it. David is not immediately impressed. Keith puts his head to the rocks but David can only hear the village church bell in the distance. David puts his hands on the rock and can feel a regular beating. He desperately tries to come up with explanations. It must be water, it has to be. Suddenly, the rock formation just above starts to swell and move and then suddenly it opens to the amazement of David and Keith. They are even more astounded when an army drummer boy carrying his drum and a candle appears from the opening created by the rocks on either side. At first the boys think he is a ghost but he turns out to be as real as they are. His name is Nellie Jack John. He tells Keith and David that he was not alone and that he had two friends helping him. They were walking on the surface though as he drummed out a beat underground.

The drummer boy is not impressed with David especially when David pokes him to prove he is not a ghost. He puts down his drum and candle and starts a fight. Keith intervenes and tells them to stop being stupid. They ask Nellie Jack John how he came to come out of the hill and he tells them that he went in just under the castle. He also tells them that he took a small candle in with him to light the way but that it did not last very long and that he had found another one, the one he eventually came out with. Nellie Jack John is keen to return to the castle just in case he is put on a charge was being late. The boys try to explain what time he is in. Nellie Jack John is in the infantry and lives within the castle. David now believes the stories he was told as a child as some of the things that Nellie Jack John said seem to back his story up. Keith did not understand what was going on but notices that the candle Nellie Jack John had come out with has now been dropped. As the trio walk to the castle wall, the church bell strikes nine and Nellie Jack John realises that he was in the passage tunnel for over an hour. There is no sentry on duty and the castle has no lights. Nellie Jack John cannot understand as it takes three days to move the regiment out of the castle and yet there is not a single soldier to be found. Nellie Jack John beats to quarters in an attempt to get the soldiers to appear on duty. The castle looks neglected and nothing like it was before he entered the underground passage. You cannot help but feel sorry for the young soldier as he desperately tries to find his comrades in arms. He stands alone and beats his drum continually. No one appears even after several attempts. Nellie Jack John calls out in the dark thinking that it may be witchcraft. He turns on David and Keith and blames them. He storms off in search of his regiment. David decides to follow Nellie Jack John and tell him what has happened. Nellie Jack John thinks he will be whipped for being late and for leaving his post. David catches up with him and asks him the year in which he lived and we learn it to be 1742. Nellie Jack John does not believe David when he is told that it is now 1993.

David asks Nellie Jack John about why he went into the passage. David already knows the answer and that it had to do with looking for treasure. Nellie Jack John tells David that he will not tell him the spot. David recounts the story that there is treasure buried under the hill along with King Arthur who is sleeping, waiting along with all his knights and army. But waiting for what Keith asks. David continues that Nellie Jack John did indeed enter the passage way beating his drum so his friends would hear above and then start digging, but that the walk through the passage had in fact taken 200 years. Nellie Jack John runs away not believing David and Keith. Nellie Jack John goes off in search of Cath who will see him right. Nellie Jack John vanishes into the darkness. Keith and David look for him but do not see him anywhere, they decided to look again in the morning.

Next morning they find some of Nellie Jack John's clothing. He has survived the night but is cold and hungry. They give him some breakfast and he comes around. Nellie Jack John had gone to his Cath's house but that they had set the dog on him. Nellie Jack John decides to go to another nearby village where his mother and father live. The boys try to explain that he has been missing for over 200 years but Nellie Jack John will not listen and he marches off. Before he goes, he tells the boys that his surname is "Cherry."

David thinks that Nellie Jack John will be unable to get back home and that if the scientists get hold him, he will be treated as nothing more than a lab rat. The boys follow him as he approaches the hamlet where he believes his mother and father live. Nellie Jack John enters the house only to be beaten back by an angry old woman. He then tries another house and enters inside. He soon leaves though and David and Keith go to speak to the occupants. The angry woman tells the boys that she has never seen him or anyone like him living there in 30 years but that he did have a look of an old family called the "Cherrys" who used to live there. Keith and David go to the next house after seeing Nellie Jack John leave. The old man inside tells the boys that he was kin to his grandfather's father. He was the boy who got himself trapped in the castle rock whilst looking for treasure and that they had never found him. Nellie Jack John was the name of the lad that was lost all those centuries ago. There was never a funeral for him, nor a priest or out. The old man then settles back in his chair and the boys leave. Outside Nellie Jack John is sat alone on a bench obviously having been told the same by the old man.

Nellie Jack John thinks that he can go back to where he came from by reversing the walk down the passage. David does not think he can since Nellie Jack John returning was not in the stories. Nellie Jack John intends to give it a try to get back to his Cath. He does not like it where he is and does not really understand what is going on. Keith gives him a little torch to see with as Nellie Jack John starts to beat his drum. The boys watch as the great stones open up again and swallow Nellie Jack John inside the hill. The go up to the stone formation and listen but cannot hear the beating of the drum.

Keith and David return to David's house. David's dad (local doctor) comes in for a cup of tea but has to answer the telephone. The boys think about telling him but he has to leave. As they sit drinking their tea they think about the stories and suddenly Keith remembers the candle as it is vital evidence. The pair go looking for it and are amazed to find it still alight. David touches the flame and finds that it is cold as ice and it is still the same size. It has not changed even though it had been found by Nellie Jack John burning inside the hill.

The Story (click on the images below to follow the drama as it unfolds)

Earthfasts - Main Page
Earthfasts - Episode One
Earthfasts - Episode Two
Earthfasts - Episode Three
Earthfasts - Episode Four
Earthfasts - Episode Five
Earthfasts - Main Page
Episode One
Episode Two
Episode Three
Episode Four
Episode Five


Earthfasts by William Mayne