Now finish reading the story. Do you find the ending slightly disappointing ?

  1. Additional reading
  6. As you can see it varies very much in spelling and structure from the English you are reading, but you certainly recognize it as English of Caxton to whom we owe so much.
  7. Attending a job interview
  8. Do you think the narrator is going to commit a crime ? Go on reading and you will find out.
  9. Finish reading the first half of the story. Prepare to explain what exactly is happening to the teacher.
  10. Finish reading the story. Decide how you find the ending unexpected or quite predictable.
  11. Finish the sentences explaining why this or that device is useful.
  12. Go on reading. In your opinion, is there anything that makes Needle a peculiar ghost ? What is it ?


When she got home, Galaad was waiting for her. He was giving the neighbourhood children rides on Grizzels back, up and down the street.

Im glad youre here, she said. Ive got some cases that need moving. She showed him up to the boxroom in the top of the house. He moved all the old suitcases for her, so she could get to the cupboard at the back. It was very dusty up there. She kept him up there most of the afternoon, moving things around while she dusted. Galaad had a cut on his cheek, and he-held one arm a little stiffly. They talked a little while she dusted and tidied. Mrs. Whitaker told him about her late husband, Henry; and how the life insurance had paid the house off; and how she had all these things, but no one really to leave them to, no one but Ronald really and his wife only liked modern things. She told him how she had met Henry during the war, when he was in the ARP and she hadnt closed the kitchen blackout curtains all the way; and about the sixpenny dances they went to in the town; and how theyd gone to London when the war had ended, and shed had her first drink of wine.

Galaad told Mrs. Whitaker about his mother Elaine, who was flighty and no better than she should have been and something of a witch to boot; and his grandfather, King Pelles, who was well-meaning although at best a little vague; and of his youth in the Castle of Bliant on the Joyous Isle; and his father, whom he knew as Le Chevalier Mai Fet, who was more or less completely mad, and was in reality Lancelot du Lac, greatest of knights, in disguise and bereft of his wits; and of Galaads days as a young squire in Camelot.

At five oclock Mrs. Whitaker surveyed the boxroom and decided that it met with her approval; then she opened the window so the room could air, and they went downstairs to the kitchen, where she put on the kettle. Galaad sat down at the kitchen table. He opened the leather purse at his waist and took out a round white stone. It was about the size of a cricket ball.

My lady, he said, this is for you, and you give me the Sangrail.

Mrs. Whitaker picked up the stone, which was heavier than it looked, and held it up to the light. It was milkily translucent, and deep inside it flecks of silver glittered and glinted in the late-afternoon sunlight. It was warm to the touch. Then, as she held it, a strange feeling crept over her: Deep inside she felt stillness and a sort of peace. Serenity, that was the word for it; she felt serene. Reluctantly she put the stone back on the table. Its very nice, she said.

That is the Philosophers Stone, which our forefather Noah hung in the Ark to give light when there was no light; it can transform base metals into gold; and it has certain other properties, Galaad told her proudly. And that isnt all. Theres more. Here. From the leather bag he took an egg and handed it to her. It was the size of a goose egg and was a shiny black colour, mottled with scarlet and white. When Mrs Whitaker touched it, the hairs on the back of her neck prickled. Her immediate impression was one of incredible heat and freedom. She heard the crackling of distant fires, and for a fraction of a second she seemed to feel herself far above the world, swooping and diving on wings of flame. She put the egg down on the table, next to the Philosophers Stone.

That is the Egg of the Phoenix, said Galaad. From far Araby it comes. One day it will hatch out into the Phoenix Bird itself; and when its time comes, the bird will build a nest of flame, lay its egg, and die, to be reborn in flame in a later age of the world. I thought that was what it was, said Mrs. Whitaker. And, last of all, lady, said Galaad, I have brought you this. He drew it from his pouch, and gave it to her. It was an apple, apparently carved from a single ruby, on an amber stem. A little nervously, she picked it up. It was soft to the touch deceptively so: Her fingers bruised it, and ruby-coloured juice from the apple ran down Mrs. Whitakers hand. The kitchen filled - almost imperceptibly, magically with the smell of summer fruit, of raspberries and peaches and strawberries and red currants. As if from a great way away she heard distant voices raised in song and far music on the air.

It is one of the apples of the Hesperides, said Galaad, quietly. One bite from it will heal any illness or wound, no matter how deep; a second bite restores youth and beauty; and a third bite is said to grant eternal life.

Mrs. Whitaker licked the sticky juice from her hand. It tasted like fine wine. There was a moment, then, when it all came back to her how it was to be young: to have a firm, slim body that would do whatever she wanted it to do; to run down a country lane for the simple unladylike joy of running; to have men smile at her just because she was herself and happy about it. Mrs. Whitaker looked at Sir Galaad, most comely of all knights, sitting fair and noble in her small kitchen. She caught her breath.

And thats all I have brought for you, said Galaad. They werent easy to get, either.

Mrs. Whitaker put the ruby fruit down on her kitchen table. She looked at the Philosophers Stone, and the Egg of the Phoenix, and the Apple of Life. Then she walked into her parlour and looked at the mantelpiece: at the little china basset hound, and the Holy Grail, and the photograph of her late husband Henry, shirtless, smiling and eating an ice cream in black and white, almost forty years away. She went back into the kitchen. The kettle had begun to whistle. She poured a little steaming water into the teapot, swirled it around, and poured it out. Then she added two spoonfuls of tea and one for the pot and poured in the rest of the water. All this she did in silence. She turned to Galaad then, and she looked at him. Put that apple away, she told Galaad, firmly. You shouldnt offer things like that to old ladies. It isnt proper.

She paused, then. But Ill take the other two, she continued, after a moments thought. Theyll look nice on the mantelpiece. And two for ones fair, or I dont know what is. Galaad beamed. He put the ruby apple into his leather pouch. Then he went down on one knee, and kissed Mrs. Whitakers hand.

Stop that, said Mrs. Whitaker. She poured them both cups of tea, after getting out the very best china, which was only for special occasions. They sat in silence, drinking their tea. When they had finished their tea they went into the parlour. Galaad crossed himself, and picked up the Grail. Mrs. Whitaker arranged the Egg and the Stone where the Grail had been. The Egg kept tipping on one side, and she propped it up against the little china dog.

They do look very nice, said Mrs. Whitaker. Yes, agreed Galaad. They look very nice.

Can I give you anything to eat before you go back? she asked. He shook his head.

Some fruitcake, she said. You may not think you want any now, but youll be glad of it in a few hours time. And you should probably use the facilities. Now, give me that, and Ill wrap it up for you. She directed him to the small toilet at the end of the hall, and went into the kitchen, holding the Grail. She had some old Christmas wrapping paper in the pantry, and she wrapped the Grail in it, and tied the package with twine. Then she cut a large slice of fruitcake and put it in a brown paper bag, along with a banana and a slice of processed cheese in silver foil. Galaad came back from the toilet. She gave him the paper bag, and the Holy Grail. Then she went up on tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek.

Youre a nice boy, she said. You take care of yourself. He hugged her, and she shooed him out of the kitchen, and out of the back door, and she shut the door behind him. She poured herself another cup of tea, and cried quietly into a Kleenex, while the sound of hoofbeats echoed down Hawthorne Crescent.

On Wednesday Mrs. Whitaker stayed in all day. On Thursday she went down to the post office to collect her pension. Then she stopped in at the Oxfam Shop. The woman on the till was new to her. Wheres Marie? asked Mrs. Whitaker. The woman on the till, who had blue-rinsed gray hair and blue spectacles that went up into diamante points, shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. She went off with a young man, she said. On a horse. Teh. I ask you. Im meant to be down in the Heathfield shop this afternoon. I had to get my Johnny to run me up here, while we find someone else.

Oh, said Mrs Whitaker. Well, its nice that shes found herself
a young man.

Nice for her, maybe, said the lady on the till, But some of us were meant to be in Heathfield this afternoon.

On a shelf near the back of the shop Mrs. Whitaker found a tarnished old silver container with a long spout. It had been priced at sixty pence, according to the little paper label stuck to the side. It looked
a little like a flattened, elongated teapot. She picked out a Mills & Boon novel she hadnt read before. It was called Her Singular Love. She took the book and the silver container up to the woman on the till.

Sixty-five pee, dear, said the woman, picking up the silver object, staring at it. Funny old thing, isnt it? Came in this morning. It had writing carved along the side in blocky old Chinese characters and an elegant arching handle. Some kind of oil can, I suppose.

No, its not an oil can, said Mrs. Whitaker, who knew exactly what it was. Its a lamp.

There was a small metal finger ring, unornamented, tied to the handle of the lamp with brown twine.

Actually said Mrs. Whitaker, on second thoughts, I think Ill just have the book. She paid her five pence for the novel, and put the lamp back where she had found it, in the back of the shop. After all, Mrs. Whitaker reflected, as she walked home, it wasnt as if she had anywhere to put it.



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