Below is the transcribed text of the only surviving chapter, Chapter X, of T. P. James’ The Life and Adventures of Bockley Wickleheap. The existence of the digital copy of the serial was discovered by Jeanne Walsh of Brooks Memorial Library, and the existence of this chapter was discovered by Rolf Parker-Houghton. I have not corrected any errors in grammar or punctuation, except for one insertion of a quotation mark that was clearly missing from one end of a quote. I have also set one crucial passage in bold. Please see footnote for the explanation of the importance of this passage. This footnote is both an interpretation of the passage’s importance, and of special interest to contestants in the writing contest.
The original image of this text is only available to those who have access to the EBSCO digital holdings. It can be found by searching for The Summerland Messenger in that database. The original copy was digitized by the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts.
[March 1875] THE SUMMERLAND MESSENGER. (page) 7
Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1874 by T. P. James, in the office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.
THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF BOCKLEY WICKLEHEAP
( BY THE SPIRIT-PEN OF CHARLES DICKENS )
“Well, Joe, I am sorry to have put you to so much trouble,” answered Jacob, and smiling at the others remarks, “but the truth is I was so engrossed with a matter which occurred at old Poddlegreed’s a half-hour since, that I should not have heard any one who did not cry out as loud as you. Walk along with me, and I’ll tell you about it.”
As he finished speaking, he took the arm of Mr. Muffels and, resuming their walk, related to him all that had occurred while he was in the house of Lot Poddlegreed.
“Now there is a mystery about this,” he added, when the recital was finished, “which I cannot solve, and the strangest part of all is the conduct of the servant. If she spoke the truth, some danger threatens me, or why else should I need a friend at this particular time, as she says I will?”
“Why didn’t you ask her?”, was the laconic reply of Mr. Muffels.
“Because I was so astounded that I did not know what to say”, and before I could recover from the surprise, she had disappeared. One thing, however, I am confident of – that the old woman Strouns, notwithstanding her assurances to the contrary, is no friend of mine, though why, I am at a loss to conjecture.”
They walked in silence for a few moments, when Joe suddenly slapped his companion on the shoulder, exclaiming, “I’ve got it.”
“Got what?” enquired Jacob, in a tone of surprise.
“I’ve solved the mystery,” returned Joe.
“Have you,” responded Jacob, “Well I am glad to hear it. Please let me have the solution.”
“The old woman Smilewell has told Mag Strouns, if she did not already know it, that you are an adopted son, with no knowledge of your relatives, even if you have any living, and for some reason she has decided to use you as an instrument to aid in some devil’s scheme which she is concocting. I know her for a wicked, plotting old crone; and it’s a pity old Poddlegreed don’t know her as well as his neighbors do. I’ve pretty good reason for knowing her, for, as you are aware, I was a clerk with old Lot nearly a twelve-month, and most likely should have been his clerk yet, only for Mag Strouns, and be d—d to her.”
“I can hardly agree with you, Joe,” answered Jacob, who had listened to what his companion had said. “I fear your prejudices lead you to surmise that which is hardly probable. Even taking for granted that Mag Strouns is the unprincipled woman you affirm her to be, she could have no object in doing me, an injury. It must be selfish motive which would induce one person to cause another trouble; but as it is hardly probable that such a motive exists, in this case, the desire would have to arise from sheer caprice, which I can hardly credit.”
“I hope your right, and I am wrong,” rejoined the other, ”but there’s no harm in keeping a sharp look-about in this matter, and I believe if that servant should tell all she knows, you’d be of my way of thinking.”
By this time they had reached the home of Jacob Smilewell, an old, and rather dismal looking house, the windows black with grime, with here and there broken panes which had rags stuffed through the holes or dingy pieces of paper pasted over them.
Bidding his companion, who had declined an invitation to enter, goodnight, Jacob entered the house, and ascending a flight of stairs, opened the door of a room in which were assembled three persons.
To be continued.
EDITORS NOTE AND ADVICE TO CONTESTANTS: The section in bold is the most important one in the scene, and in fact, forms the one of the central themes of the novel. I state this as the spirit-pen of T. P. James., who, fortuitously, is a non-malevolent spirit. As a tip for submitters hopefully demonstrating their powers of channeling T. P. James, and increasing their chances of winning, it would be wise to at least consider this theme.
Some QUESTIONS THAT WRITERS IN 2014 MUST ANSWER;
1.) What words did the servant girl use to warn Jacob of the danger he is in from Meg Strouns ? Is there any clue as to why he finds it so unbelievable that Meg Strouns wishes him ill?
2.) What was Joe crying so loudly about ? Was he merely calling out loudly to get Jacob’s attention? Who is Joe Muffles? Is he a friend of Jacob ? How did Jacob, “put Joe in so much trouble”?
3) Describe how Jacob leaves Lot Poddlegreed’s house and then comes to be accosted by Joe Muffles.
Is selfish motive really the only thing that “induces a person to cause another trouble?” Is it truly non-creditable that a person could do another intentional harm capriciously ?