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Vloekenville - Chapters 4 & 5.

by DerekH 

Posted: 03 October 2004
Word Count: 1962
Summary: If anyone has the time to read this I will be very grateful... and even more grateful for any feedback, criticism and advice. I hope you like it...

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Chapter 4 – No Turning Back

Partington had already settled into his cabin. He sat on his bunk with a smile on his face, almost tearful with happiness to be away on such an adventure. He always kept a case journal, never missing a day’s entry, and since they had a long journey ahead, he decided to start it early to help pass the time. He began -

October 27-
We are comfortably aboard the Sea Witch. A most impressive Clipper, many folks have assembled in the harbour just to see her splendour, I feel greatly honoured to be her cargo. She is due to sail in 30 minutes. Professor Foyste has already retired to his cabin, the great man wishes some time alone to contemplate the case, and seems to be a little shaken by an upset stomach; down to his evening meal I believe. I can’t wait to reach our destination and go on the hunt with him. I hope I won’t be too much of a hindrance.

I have of course allowed the Professor to take the larger of the cabins, my own is big enough and I will hopefully spend some time on deck once we are away. My first time abroad, and on such a case, I can hardly believe it. No doubt this is just another day to Professor Foyste, and I feel greatly reassured to have such a seasoned travelling companion.

I do not know what to make of this ancient Count, so far. It seems strange, maybe insane, to me that the locals refuse to go after their own children. I am sure I would give my life to save my own. This case smells of something more sinister than kidnapping, there is something more foul than I have met before… witchcraft perhaps? Voodoo? black magic? We shall see. I can feel the floor falling away from my feet now. I think we must be away.

The Inspector shut his diary in the drawer of the dressing table, and made his way to the professor’s cabin. He knocked lightly on the door.

“I’m going up on deck Professor; if you’d like to join me?”

No answer.

“Professor Foyste…”

Partington put his head to the door to listen for an answer. With the sounds of the schooner in motion it was hard to make out, but he thought he could hear a retching sound.

“Is everything alright professor?”

The door opened a little. A pallid professor appeared in the gap.

“Yes…hahum… yes fine Inspector. Just making some notes.”

“Oh yes of course, sorry Professor. I thought I heard some noises.”

“Oh, err… yes these old boats do tend to creak and groan on the waves…better get back to my … hrrmmph.”

The door shut.

“Damn shame. What a time to be getting a spot of food poisoning,” Partington said to himself.

He made his way on to the deck alone. Standing there in the moonlight, with the sound of the wind beating on the canvas, he felt completely awake, and sure that he would remain on deck for the full night ahead. The harbour rose into view and fell out of sight, becoming more faint and distant each time it appeared, until it was gone, lost in a black fog.

The whole environment felt very alien to Partington but he was surprised, and extremely pleased, to find that he had natural sea legs, although he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was floating on an unending blackness. The water in these parts was famous for its deep black colour, and the Sea Witch herself was painted black. To be onboard this ship, in this place, and sailing through a thick black fog at night, was a dreamlike experience, but it didn’t put any fear into the inspector. He stood on the deck, riding the waves and breathing the salty air deep into his barrel chest. Maybe some would have been afraid, or felt smothered by the darkness, but there was no darkness inside John Partington, not a drop.

After what seemed like hours the inspector returned to his cabin and made one more entry into his journal, before climbing into his bunk.

October 28 (the early hours of)-
If I had not dedicated my life to justice, I might have taken to the seas. This feels truly exhilarating to me. The Sea Witch is magnificent, and the air on deck may be thick, but tastes of true adventure. I must say that I admire her captain and crew for getting us safely out of harbour. I swear that I could not myself see a single thing from the deck in this blackness. Indeed, now that I think of it, I could not even see the crew, not a soul, though I think I could hear their calls to one and other. Never the less, we appear to be at sea with no bother, and after the sea air I shall sleep like a log.

Inspector Partigton fell soundly asleep the moment his head hit the pillow.

No such luck for Professor Hugo Foyste, he lay awake for hours, this had all happened so fast. He felt very alone in his cabin, his mind raced; how did he get himself in so deep? How could he be the man he claimed to be? Why couldn’t the letter have arrived sooner? Allowed him time to prepare… He felt as though he had been thrown over board from his comfortable life at home, set afloat into the unknown, lost on a mass of driftwood; and with the thought of driftwood, he too drifted into sleep.

Chapter 5 - The Runaway Witch

The Professor awoke with a jolt.

"Professor Foyste, Professor Foyste!" followed by an urgent hammering on the cabin door.

Partington was outside the door. He had been there for thirty minutes, banging and banging.

Now, John Partington was not normally the kind of man who would even think of waking his superior so abruptly, but John Partington had just discovered something that caused him more than a little concern.

"What is it Partington?" Hugo asked, tying his robe and shuffling over to the cabin door.

He opened the door to a very pale Inspector.

"There's no one else here," whispered John.

The Professor looked from side to side.

"No Partington, only you and I… What did you want to tell me?"

"You don't understand Professor...there really is NO ONE else here! Above or below deck. No one!"

At first Hugo looked vacant. Then a little confused. Then his bottom lip began to quiver. He lifted his handkerchief from his pocket to his mouth, and feigned a cough.

"Hahum…I think you must be mistaken John. You're not a sailing man are you?"

The Inspector looked embarrassed.

"Sorry Professor Foyste. Maybe I panicked. I went to breakfast and found no one there, so I went up on deck and again… no one. I've wandered around the ship, looking everywhere but I can't find a single man," Partington now looked slightly baffled rather than afraid, "Shall we have another look, together? I gather you will know where to look Professor?"

Hugo tied and straightened a cravat around his neck, and gave an extra tightening tug on the cord around his robe.

"No doubt, John. No doubt."

"Oh there is ... one ... other thing Professor," John seemed unusually uncertain about his words, "My watch tells me that it is now 10.00 in the morning...but it is still pitch-black outside."

The professor bit his lip, put one hand in his robe pocket, and gave his leg a hard pinch. He hoped he would wake up in bed at home, he really did. A sharp pain shot up his leg and he screwed his eyelids tight shut; when he opened them Partington was still there, and so was the ship.

"Follow me," he said stepping behind the Inspector, "Ah, maybe we had better go the other way up the corridor. Alright John...lead the way man."

The two men walked stealthily down the narrow corridor. Faint lanterns hung from the walls. They flickered and swayed, one between every other door, first this side, then the other, and so on to the end. Partington tried each door they passed; four now, and all locked from the inside. He called clearly, but politely, at each...no answer. By the fifth he was determined to get in.

"Something is very wrong here. I'm going to force this one open. Stay behind me please, Professor."

One firm but careful push from John's shoulder opened the door; the broken bolt fell with a clang on the other side. The inspector didn't burst into the cabin, but held the door ajar. No light escaped from the opening. He pushed the door a little further, slowly, just enough to fit his head through the gap.

"Nothing in there eh John?" said Hugo with a tight throat. He turned away from the door, "let's move on then."

"One moment Professor, I can't see a…"

Hugo turned around.

"Nothing to see Partington… Partington?"

The inspector had disappeared, and the cabin door had shut again. Hugo pushed the door but something was blocking it shut; not something solid, there was a little give, but he couldn't shift it.

"Inspector! Are you alright?"

No answer.

Hugo leaned with his back to the corridor wall, "No need to panic," he told himself, "Let’s try again"

As he turned back to the door for another effort, the light in the corridor began to sway more quickly, his shadow danced in front of him. He looked up at the lanterns. They were all rocking, and jerking frantically now. Suddenly it seemed as though the floor fell away from him. He felt weightless for a moment. The ship groaned as though ready to lie down, but then lifted again, so violently that Hugo was thrown to the opposite wall. He slumped to the floor like a discarded toy. The corridor was black now; the lanterns all extinguished.

The ship continued to roll, and rise, and dive. Hugo had no choice but to stay on the floor and hold on for the ride. The corridor felt so much more narrow in the dark, squeezing his chest so that it was hard to breathe. He put one hand on the wall and fumbled for something to grip, to pull himself onto his feet. His shaking fingers found a hold, cold and lumpy, he grabbed it tightly. He began to pull his weight up but something felt wrong, he groped around the hold with his thumb... it felt so icy; firm but a little bit fleshy. It grabbed him back! Hugo pulled his hand free and threw him self forward, and as he did, the ship rolled again. He flew across the corridor and felt his body crash through something hard; he tumbled and landed on something a little more soft. He tried to scramble to his feet but again something gripped him.

"Professor?" asked a stifled voice, "Is that you?"

This was no monster. It sounded a little like the Inspector...only quieter than usual.

"Partington? Where are you?"

"Underneath... you…you're on my… head"

Hugo rolled himself to one side, and gripped a gap in the floor planks. The ship continued its dance.

"Why did you grab me out there man? I thought...well I don't know what I thought."

"Out where?"

"In the corridor…"

"I haven't moved. I think I was unconscious, until you landed on me."


Partington got up on one elbow and fumbled in his pocket. A quick scraping sound. A spark. And then there was light. Partington turned to Hugo, his face lit by the match.

"I think we may be in trouble, Professor."

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Comments by other Members

Anj at 20:46 on 03 October 2004  Report this post

I was already hooked, so it was a pleasure to discover this.

I love this, something about the period, the characters, the situation really appeals to me.

A few minor points:

"I hope I won’t be too much of a hindrance." - a bit too self-deprecating - you've already done that great with "honoured to be her cargo" etc - felt this was one too many.

"maybe insane" - leapt out as a modern phrase.

"to find that he had natural sea legs" - great touch that it's partington with the sea legs

"Maybe some would have been afraid, or felt smothered by the darkness, but there was no darkness inside John Partington, not a drop." ooh, this was gorgeous (although too many "black"s in this paragraph).

I thought Chapter 4 would have ended better at the point where Partington's head hit the pillow; then "No such luck for Professor Hugo Foyste ... with the thought of driftwood, he too drifted into sleep." would have been better beginning Chapter 5, as his recollection of the night before.

"One firm but careful push from John's shoulder opened the door; the broken bolt fell with a clang on the other side" - didn't seem enough gusto to break through a door.

At the moment you related it was 10am but still pitch black outside, the tension rose a pitch. Felt genuinely sinister.

I felt what followed though was written a little matter-of-factly; I could have done with a little more tension lacing the prose.

But hungrily await our next instalment ...

Take care

DerekH at 22:09 on 03 October 2004  Report this post
Andrea, thank you for the feedback, I'm so glad you enjoyed it...

It's great to get these pointers...Is it the part where Partington disappears, or where the ship throws Hugo around, that you felt needed more tension?or both? Be honest, I need to know because I struggled a bit around this part when writing.

Cheers for taking the time to read...it really helps.



I see what you mean about the end of chapter 4. This is a real problem for me...it seems right to end when Partington falls asleep (and wrong to continue to Hugo's sleepy bit) but seems very wrong to start chapter 5 with Hugo falling asleep then immediatly waking up. I could easily scrap Hugo's bit at the end of Chap4, but I like the drfitwood line... Hmmm...I'll figure something out...

Anj at 18:30 on 04 October 2004  Report this post
Oops, sorry Derek, this could be the wrong answer but "both".

Not that it needs masses doing, just a few touches here and there.

Take care

DerekH at 20:15 on 04 October 2004  Report this post
Andrea, I think I know what you mean. If I'm being really really 100% honest...I rushed the last chapter because I want them to get to Vloekenville sooner :) (that's a bad thing to do isn't it? especially since they're nowhere near there yet). I've been through chapters 1 - 3 so many times, but these two are a first draft...so I'm going to go over them again. I guess I could skip ahead to Vloekenville but I don't feel too happy doing it that way.

Cheers for the feedback...helps a lot.


scottwil at 14:03 on 05 October 2004  Report this post
Derek, I love naval yarns so for me this section has a definite place in the story - no need to rush the trip when it's so much fun. There are no deck hands but I wondered whether it couldn't include a few more yardarms, sheets, mizzens, tompions and poops though.

I especially enjoyed: 'Hahum…I think you must be mistaken John. You're not a sailing man are you?" which gives a further lovely insight into Hugo's blustering character with subtlety and wit.

As far as building tension is concerned, it's a fine balance between that and the slightly slapstick elements of the two characters flying about in the hold. I think you're able to retain the reader's attention with both here.

There's an unecessary apostrophe in this line: '...was famous for it’s deep black colour'

Look forward to the next.


DerekH at 14:17 on 05 October 2004  Report this post
Sion, thanks for reading. I think I need to do some more research into ships and naval terms. I'm glad you are enjoying it. This is the most difficult section for me...I always knew it would be.

So glad you picked up on Hugo's character...

Thank you for pointing out the apostrophe.

May be a while before the next installment...this one needs a good polish. I hope you'll have a look in when I do post it though.

Thanks again,


scottwil at 14:27 on 05 October 2004  Report this post
As I say, I love all that stuff and have the entire collections of Pope, Marryat, Kent and O'Brian. If you want to pick my brains,(or more likely, my books) drop me an e mail and describe an item and I can probably find the right word by checking my glossaries (glossarys? What is the plural of glossary?).


DerekH at 14:40 on 05 October 2004  Report this post
Thanks for that, Sion, I may just do that. Very kind of you to offer.

Here's a quick one though...I refer to the corridor, and cabins...living quarters etc...Not only am I unsure of the terminology, but on a clipper ship, would there even be such an area? I know this is fiction, so I can invent some of it, but I think the whole effect would be better if at least nearly correct.

Can you recommend a good book to guide me around the interior of one of these ships?



scottwil at 15:00 on 05 October 2004  Report this post
Fundamentally the terminology of the body of a ship of this period (I'm assuming 18th-19th Century?) did not really change much according to size. There are still quarter decks foredecks, holds, wardrooms etc. What does change a great deal is the rigging and its nomenclature, blah, blah (sorry Nelsonic-navy bore. My wife talkes the piss, but it gives me pleasure) Your best bet is an excellent book which explains all the technical terms in the O'Brian novels. Needless to say I don't have it and I've forgotten author and title. But I'll try to track it down.

I'll get back to you.
Please remind me if you don't hear.


scottwil at 10:58 on 06 October 2004  Report this post
Got it. Patrick O'Brian's Navy by Richard O'Neill and you could try, A sea of words by Dean King- but this seems to be out of print (may be available on Amazon or B&N.)


DerekH at 11:13 on 06 October 2004  Report this post
Fantastic. Thank you very much for that, Sion.



Terry Edge at 20:42 on 08 October 2004  Report this post

This story reads very fresh, which I think is down to your obvious enthusiasm in writing it. Speaking as someone who sees a lot of children's manuscripts, it's refreshing to read one that is so adventure-based. It has a real Boy's Own pace to it - no namby-pamby interior monologues or time wasted on what people are feeling (apart from being sea sick). For this reason, I'd advise you to simply get on with it, and probably not bother trying to edit it until you've finished. There are a lot of little things that could be put right but with a big story like this, the important thing is to tell it first.

The only point I'd raise at this stage for your to consider is the lack of a main child character. If you have one lined up for later, you should probably think about introducing him/her much nearer the beginning. In a children's book, it's very important that there is at least one child around the age of or a little older than the intended readership. I'm struggling to recall, off the top of my head, a single children's book that doesn't have at least one child as a main character. I don't know if you've read Philip Pullman's Victorian detective novels - they're Young Adult and most of the characters in it are adult. But the main character, Sally Lockhart, is 16 in the first book. After that, with the series established, he lets her age until the later books are really mostly full of adult characters. But he couldn't have started with her much older than that.

The important thing is that this story is great fun and so far keeps us guessing about what's going to happen next. What more could we want from a ripping yarn?



One suggestion: since the story starts with the children being stolen, you could have a main character as one of them. Then the reader has an emotional investment in their fate - and will want the professor and inspector to succeed. You could occasionally cut back to the children, just short scenes to tighten the tension. Or have a child who for whatever reason wasn't taken - perhaps the only child left in town and who sets about his or her own rescue mission.

DerekH at 23:17 on 08 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Terry. Thank you for reading. Could I beg a little more of your time please? I really am at a crossroads with this book now. I steamed into writing it...but feel I've learned a few things since joining WW, and now wonder if my initial plan was the right one.

You've given me some difficult things to consider here. I do have two very important child characters in the book...but not on the side of the good guys. To mention those characters early on, would give the game away. I could try to think of a clever way of introducing them...possibly even as an extra bluff. But it wasn't in my plan...so will take some serious thinking. That said, I think it might possibly be a major improvement. So thank you.

After this ocean-going section, I'm going to leave them lost at sea for a while, and cut to the stolen children. I thought this would be the best time. Since you suggested picking out a child earlier though, maybe I should slot something in near the beginning as you say.

One thing I did not intend was to have any child hero. Maybe that is a major flaw? This is partly because I see all the characters as slightly cartoon-like. Not 'real' grown-ups, especially Hugo, if you see what I mean. And also because I really wanted that, Sherlock, Dracula, Frankenstein kind of feel, without resorting to "Young Sherlock" type stuff. Another reason is that I didn't start writing this for children. I wanted to do it for me. The story was in my head...I had to get it out. It just so happens that it leans more towards children because of the slightly cartoon style I visualise. I know...that's not what a publisher wants to hear. I can change it to try to please a publisher, but then it becomes another story.

So much to think about. It's early days for this book, and I envisage some major re-working. In truth, I have to do a bit of soul searching and answer my own questions...but any more help you can give me will be hugely appreciated.

Thanks again,



Terry, in the spirit of WW, I'd love to return the favour. If you add a piece to the group list ( so I know what you're currently looking for feedback on). I can't offer expert advice but will gladly give a personal opinion.

Terry Edge at 20:29 on 10 October 2004  Report this post

I feel a bit of a spoil-sport, and wouldn't dream of trying to stop anyone writing something they just want to do and have fun doing. The first novel I had published (Flymo and Shedbuilder) had a lot of the adventure-based feel that your book has. And I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. But it also had a thirteen year old boy as the main character. It was only taken on (after many rejections) by the skin of its teeth, and I'm sure that if it did not have a child in the lead it would probably never have been accepted.

It sounds obvious but if you want to get a children's book published these days, you have to consider what publishers are publishing. And, as I said before, I doubt you'll find anything on the shelves that doesn't have children as the main characters. I may be wrong - check out the bookshops (which is a good idea anyway) and see. If you find something without a child lead, then you can always quote it in your cover letter.

On the plus side, it can often help to focus a book when you re-write with a completely new lead character - all the others fall into line around them. The same thing can happen sometimes when you splice two plots together. I did that for my second novel - I was writing two books but neither was working. So I stuck the two together and suddenly there were contrasting elements to strike off against each other.

One thing you say that sounds a warning bell, is about seeing your characters as cartoon-like. I honestly don't think that you can sustain a whole novel with cartoon characters - you must give them depth too, and unpredictable aspects. Also, children today are more sophisticated than they used to be, at least in terms of quickly using up ideas and stereotypes. By the time they hit their teens, they've seen or read hundreds if not thousands of stories and they're often tired of typical black and white, good and evil, stuff.

Thanks for offering to critique what I put on this group. I'm working on two Young Adult books at the moment, but they both need re-writing quite differently to how they are now, so it may be some time yet before I can submit anything.



On reflection, I think the main problem you're facing is how to maintain your enthusiastic style while filling out a whole novel? A short story that's pacy and full of action-based characters will work, but a novel also has to have character development in it, and sub-plots ... look at 'Peter Pan': it's full of pirates and fairies and crocodiles but it also has one of the most heart-breaking endings, because Wendy has to grow up, to develop, to change.

There are structures that can be learned, and patterns to follow, when writing a novel. I'm not sure how we can explore some of these in this group, but I'm open to suggestions.

DerekH at 22:23 on 10 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Terry, thanks again. Lots to think about here. When I started writing this (I've been inventing it in my head for a long time before hitting the keyboard), I didn't even consider looking for a publisher.

I need to get a reaction from readers of the target age. I enjoy writing this, but in truth I need to know it will be worthwhile. If I could be sure that kids would like it...I'd finish it, and publish it myself.

Cheers Terry,


Colin-M at 09:57 on 11 October 2004  Report this post
Wow, now it's all gone "Dracula". That isn't a criticism. When I read chapters two and three I was much in agreement with Terry's comments above, and nearly put something there, that there is a clear lack of a child character. But, now that I've read on, I think you pull it off. I'm not sure why, perhaps it's because there is a pantomime feel to the characters, and therefore a comic, childishness to them. This could work. The world always needs a good horror yarn. Keep with it. And here, I really do agree with Terry - bang the thing out, don't edit and don't redraft until the thing is finished. Then you'll know what works and what doesn't - it will also keep the momentum you have sustained so far.

Great stuff!!

Colin M

DerekH at 10:22 on 11 October 2004  Report this post
Hi again, Colin. You don't muck about do you... I really owe you one for all this reading and commenting.

'Pantomime', that's maybe the word I was looking for. I tried to explain to Terry that I didn't see the characters as real, or real adults. I said cartoon to Terry...but Pantomime maybe a better description. It's that enchanted, eyes of a child, half real, half puppet show kind of feel...that's how it looks in my mind, and to me that's scarier than reality ;).

Thanks once again.


I still want to know what kids make of it...but if adults enjoy it more...I can always throw some twisted stuff in there. Now there's an idea!

Anj at 19:34 on 11 October 2004  Report this post

I think you do yourself a disservice calling your characters "cartoonish", so I'm glad you've retracted; pantomimish is closer, but I still don't find them pantomimish, because I don't find them one-dimensional. I feel like you're playing with characters we've seen before and slightly twisting them, which to me makes it great fun.

Incidentally, I agree with Terry that it's refreshing to see a rip-roaring adventure set sail.

Take care

DerekH at 19:51 on 11 October 2004  Report this post
Andrea, sometimes I say too much, and use the wrong words (not a good trait in a writer ;). I was only trying to describe the pictures in my mind...and struggling to do it.

I don't find them one dimensional either. But they're not real, they're enchanted ;).

Thank you for those kind words,



And yes I'm playing with characters we've all seen before. I'm glad that's the impression you get. That was, more than anything else, the intention. I'm happy again :)

Sue H at 16:35 on 13 October 2004  Report this post
Foyste just gets better and better. He's such a great character. Did you ever see Basil the Mouse Detective? We watched it constantly when Laura was 5 or 6. It's a Sherlock Holmes type cartoon - maybe it was Disney - but Basil really is Foyste in mouse form!!

I'm enjoying this story as an adult who almost exclusively reads children's books but I'm not sure if a child would stick with it. I agree with Terry that you need a child "lead" and earlier on too.

Good rip-roaring stuff though!


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