The Valley of Secrets

The Valley of Secrets

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416900153
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 05/23/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 10 - 17 Years

About the Author

Charmian Hussey trained as an archaeologist at the University of London, through which she worked on excavations in Great Britain and the Middle East. This interest in the indigenous tribal peoples of the world led to a deep concern for their futures. The Valley of Secrets combines her understanding and passion for indigenous concerns with her love of the Cornish countryside in England, where she now lives and farms with her husband, John.

Christopher Crump abandoned his office job to pursue his dream of being an artist. He earned a B.A. degree in illustration at Falmouth College of Arts in Cornwall, England, and has just completed an M.A. in illustration: authorial practice. He lives in England.

Raquel Jaramillo is a designer and photographer. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 32: Thieves on the Beach

Pulling off his shoes and socks as quickly as he could, and clutching them in his hands, Stephen set off across the beach toward the shining pathway of water that ran down to join the sea.

The water felt wonderfully cool and soothing. He hopped and danced amongst the waves that ran to greet him on the beach, then wandered lazily through the water along the curving line of the shore. After all those years of town life, after all the flurry and all the grime, after all the times that he'd longed for freedom — to find himself on this tranquil beach was such a joy!

He stopped at the edge of the waves, looking out to sea, wriggling his toes and rocking his heels, sinking slowly down to his ankles in a granular soup of fluid sand. It was a satisfying feeling; yet he still looked longingly at the deep water.

"Why didn't I think of bringing my trunks and a towel?" he wondered. But the water was irresistible; he decided he would manage without them. Any spectators, who might be offended by the bright patterns of the Flintstones on his boxer shorts, would just have to put up with it; he glanced briefly across at the bracken.

There was a large patch of dry sand and several boulders at the rear of the beach, below the bracken-covered slopes. The biggest boulder had a flat, dry top. It was a perfect place for leaving his shoes and clothing.

Stephen enjoyed himself immensely. Filled with a great sense of pleasure and well-being, he swam and splashed happily in the sea, wallowing in the cold, clear water. And as he swam and splashed around, he completely forgot about the audience.

Back on the beach he spied and picked up a fine example of sea kelp — a wide, flat strip with crinkled edges attached to a long, thick, meaty stalk. Up and down he ran in the sunshine, joyfully holding the seaweed on high. The long, green ribbon flew out like a banner as Stephen sped across the sand.

When he stopped to get his breath, a new attraction caught his eye: a big, wide, curving bank of sand, freshly washed and superbly smooth, on the far side of the bay — an untouched virgin territory, which he knew he had to visit. Crossing the beach, he hunted for shells, collecting some very fine stones on the way: a beautiful and perfectly round, flat, black pebble and a number of chunks of a milky-white rock — probably quartz, he thought to himself, but inset with veins of a shiny mineral that glinted brightly in the sun.

On reaching the opposite far side of the bay and the smooth expanse of pristine sand, Stephen took the greatest delight in walking boldly straight across it, noting the satisfactory line of his own crisp footprints in the sand, feeling quite pleased at the thought of himself as some modern-day Man Friday. Then leaving his precious collection of stones in a little heap on the bank, and pushing the hair back from his face with a salty, sandy hand, he set off down the beach to the headland to explore the pools at the base of the cliff.

Very few things in life are as satisfying as the exploration of rock pools. Each indentation in the rocks and every sea-filled crevice is a unique and tiny kingdom, ruled, so it seems, by tyrannical crabs that hide in cavities under the rocks or lurk behind curtains of weed. Each pool is a prison for shrimps and fish, whose camouflaged colors may save their lives — captives until, with the turn of the tide, the waves rush back and set them free, stirring the sand and disturbing the calm, as the sea reclaims the pool as her own.

Stephen wandered slowly back along the rocky base of the cliff, trying to avoid the dangerous stretches: the barnacle-encrusted rocks; the slippery, squelching patches of weed. He investigated all the pools, crouching motionless on the rocks, gazing into the calm, clear water.

Some of the pools had intriguing sea anemones. Some had brightly colored weeds. Others appeared to be quite empty; it was only after patient waiting that tiny creatures emerged to be seen.

He was so absorbed in examining the pools that he hadn't noticed how late it was: how the sun was dipping down; how the headland opposite cast long shadows across the bay. He had quite forgotten about the tide.

When he finally stopped and stood up, stretching stiffly and looking around, he was very surprised to discover that the sea was covering most of the beach. There was no sign now of the sandy bank and his precious collection of stones.

He stood on the ridge of rocks that ran along the side of the beach, feeling suddenly very cold. He didn't like the idea of stepping off the edge of the rocks into the deep water; he was much too chilled to want to get wet again. So he worked his way along the ledge and up onto the beach that way.

The rocks, where Stephen had left all his clothing, stood in a shadowy huddle below the headland opposite. He trotted across the back of the beach toward them. The sooner he could get some clothing on the better; then back to the house as quickly as possible for something good to eat.

When he came to the place where he'd left his things, he stopped and stared in sheer disbelief. Two scruffy sneakers still sat on the rock. But all his clothing had disappeared.

Text copyright © 2003 by Charmian Hussey

Chapter 33: The Secret of the Woodland Glade

Stephen stood miserably on the beach beside the rock, considering his old sneakers. He was cold and covered with goose pimples. He hugged his arms around his body and shivered.

Even the Flintstones looked cold now. In the deep shadows of the rocky slopes, their colors seemed drab and faded. Suddenly, for Stephen too, all of the color and the pleasure had sadly faded from the day.

It really was too bad! He needed warm clothing and food. Funny that he hadn't noticed, whilst examining the rock pools, how cold and empty he'd become. Nor had he noticed the tide. If he'd gone on any longer, he might have got into real danger — without even noticing it.

The thought of that made him shiver more. He could, he supposed, put on his shoes and jog back through the woods as he was; but it was all very annoying. He had so little clothing to his name, he couldn't afford to lose any of it.

He looked at the bracken-covered slopes — silent now and seemingly innocent; then he studied the ground round his feet. An indistinct and blurry trail led off across the sand, then disappeared between the boulders. Stephen followed it warily, letting out a shout of triumph when he finally spotted his clothing. Someone or something had apparently dragged everything across the sand, and had dumped it in between two rocks.

Stephen approached cautiously. The clothing had been arranged to form a kind of nest. In the middle of the nest there was a group of stones — stones similar to those that he'd been collecting himself — the attractive, white ones with the bright and shining, silver streaks.

It was such an extraordinary thing to find. He simply stood there staring and shivering. Then he crouched down beside the nest and examined it very carefully. It looked as if some creature or creatures had been curled up in the nest, on top of the pile of stones: furry creatures, with golden-yellow and black hair. A number of hairs still stuck to the clothing.

Stephen quite forgot his discomfort. He collected the hairs and looked at them closely. With his interest in zoology, he ought to be able to identify them.

But the more closely he looked at the hairs, the more mystified he became, for they didn't seem right for any creature that he'd expect to find in Cornwall. In fact, he couldn't think of any animal — anywhere in the world — that made nests out of people's clothing and indulged in collecting glittering stones. It was certainly quite a puzzle!

He grunted loudly to himself, a helpless, frustrated kind of grunt, then he looked around for more clues. But there was little else to be seen: only a line of blurry tracks leading up away from the rocks and disappearing in the bracken — unrecognizable tracks.

Stephen felt quite mystified. It was yet another peculiar clue, a piece of the very strange jigsaw puzzle, that he was struggling to fit together to make up the picture of Lansbury Hall. A slowly emerging, intriguing picture, but also a very uncomfortable picture, that worried Stephen quite a lot.

Cold and discomfort took over again. Putting the glittering stones aside, he shook his clothing thoroughly and dressed himself as quickly as possible. Then, with the stones stuffed into his pockets, he started back across the beach, carrying his shoes and socks, making a detour up through the river water and along the beach bar, in order to avoid the sickening seaweed.

Instead of working his way back toward the woods along the side of the silted lake, he cut up across the grassy slopes to the right, soon finding himself on an overgrown path, which ran along the side of the slope, disappearing into the woodland.

Stephen had lost all track of time, but he knew it must be getting late; he was ravenously hungry, and the sun was getting low. Once he was up on the grassy slopes and able to move along more briskly, he soon warmed up and, despite his hunger, he started to feel considerably better. From time to time, he stopped on the slope and stood looking thoughtfully back at the beach.

The woodland seemed very quiet and peaceful; only occasional chirps of birds broke the heavy, sylvan silence. The early-evening sun shone down through widely spaced, mature trees, falling on spreading banks of ferns and beds of lush, green, bluebell leaves. The flowers, it seemed, were now all spent, but the stalks bore healthy, fat, green seedpods.

The path was very overgrown. Stephen walked as quickly and quietly as he could, between the banks of arching bracken. He was anxious not to disturb his surroundings — the tranquil evening hush of the woodland — and any creatures lurking there.

A sudden warning call rang out — a single, raucous, giggling that shattered the silence of the woods. Stephen jumped and stopped abruptly. The noise had come from the undergrowth, just a few feet from where he stood. It was answered from somewhere up ahead. He started forward, quickening his pace, thrusting the ferns aside with his arms, emerging unexpectedly into a large and sunlit clearing.

A flash of movement on the opposite side of the clearing caught his eye — a speedy flash of yellow and black, a vague impression of bold stripes, as something scurried quickly away. Stephen fixed his eye on the spot where the creature had disappeared. He watched and he waited. But nothing happened. Whatever it was had vanished now. It had gone and left him standing there, feeling reluctant to move and investigate.

Tall trees surrounded the clearing, and around the edges beneath the trees were big banks of brambles and bracken; they lined and enclosed the open space, which was covered with grass and wildflowers. Along to Stephen's right, a well-worn pathway could be seen leading off amongst the trees. The woodland glade was dominated by the most magnificent tree — a mighty beech that grew at the edge of the clearing, its giant trunk supporting a huge head of spreading foliage.

The silence of the hushed woods and the golden light of the evening sun seemed to be enveloping Stephen, soothing and lulling his worried senses. He walked forward into the glade, his feet reluctantly crushing campion and sweeping aside the buttercups. Pink and yellow petals scattering all around him in the grass.

Something seemed to be leading him on; he moved in a dazed and dreamlike state. Suddenly he caught his breath. Directly opposite him, close to the edge of the clearing, slanting shafts of mellow sunlight fell upon a wooden cross: a simple but strangely carved cross that stood at the head of a long, low mound — the mound being just about two yards long and about a yard wide.

In an instant, Stephen knew what it was. It was his Great-Uncle Theodore's grave. He didn't know how or why he knew. Some instinct must have told him, for he didn't have to stop and think, but went straight over and said out aloud, "So that's where they've buried you, Theodore." Although he couldn't for the life of him imagine who or what he meant by "they."

Stephen stood for several minutes, smiling happily down at the grave. Then he looked around the clearing. What a wonderfully peaceful location to choose for a final resting place!

There were several odd features about the grave; the more Stephen looked at it the more puzzled he became. At the foot of the mound, there was a smooth bare patch of earth — a flattened area where the grass seemed to have been worn away. Judging by marks in the grass to one side of the mound, someone or something was in the habit of coming and going regularly from the bare, earthen patch. A trail led away from the grave, crossing to the very place where Stephen had seen the creature disappear.

That in itself seemed strange enough; but there was something far more unusual about the grave. Someone had built a weird structure over it. Four tall uprights had been set in the ground — probably alder, Stephen thought, judging by the long straight lengths and the smooth bark of the unprepared wood. At about his shoulder height, the uprights supported the framework for a small, pitched roof, which had been carefully thatched with reeds. The grave was sheltered by the roof, which overlapped it well on all sides.

It seemed such a funny thing to find. It added a curious, exotic quality to Great-Uncle Theodore's simple grave. Stephen was putting out his hand to touch the wooden framework, when something stopped him. He didn't know why it was, but the idea came into his head that the little "house" was sacred. Perhaps he shouldn't touch it at all.

Stepping back away from the grave, Stephen felt suddenly tired and empty — not just empty of stomach from hunger, but empty of heart from being alone. Long shadows were reaching out across the floor of the woodland glade. They seemed to be reaching out toward him, threatening to catch him and then to hold him in their all-enveloping gloom. He knew he must get away and get home.

With the great love that he felt for trees, Stephen couldn't possibly leave without crossing to talk to the beech. Delicately veined, pale leaves whispered in the spreading branches. As he moved through the greening shade, his feet rustled softly through leaf mold, across a deep bed of beech mast.

He could sense the powerful presence — the mighty being that towered above him. His eyes followed the line of the trunk: massive and silver, up and up, dividing and twisting, on and on, the thick, gray branches reaching and curving — rising with cathedral-like splendor to the leafy roof above.

Shyly Stephen put out his hand, searching and feeling for the force of life that must pulse through this giant tree. The saddest of thoughts came into his mind — thoughts of the great destruction of trees — the daily devastation of forests.

"How could they bear to do it?" he wondered. "How could they bear to chop down and to kill a wonderful, great, living being like this?"

Some lines of a poem came into his mind.

Oh please God stay the hands that wield the axes and the fire,

Oh please God stay those killing hands...

Stephen leaned against the tree, his forehead pressed against the bark, his eyes closed tight in pain. He could see in his mind the chop of the axe, the sweating trunks of the dying trees, the horrible, acrid, smoke-filled air.

Even a mighty being like this was powerless and completely helpless when faced by ruthless Man. He pushed himself back, away from the tree, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, patting the trunk in a kindly way.

"Don't you worry, old fellow," he said. "You'll be alright. I promise you. No one shall harm a leaf of your head. There'll be no axes and no fire here."

He smiled across at his great-uncle's grave.

"You can rest easy, Great-Uncle Theodore. I promise you that I'll do my best to protect and look after Lansbury Hall. I shall care for the trees. I shall care for the plants. And I'll care for all the creatures too — whatever they may be," he added, somewhat as an afterthought.

Then he turned and left the woodland glade.

Text copyright © 2003 by Charmian Hussey

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The Valley of Secrets 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I truly loved this book! It was even better than I had expected and I got all of my friends to read it too, and they loved it also! There are animals involved in this story and that is something that I love to read in books and it is used very well in this one! I recommend this to anyone and everyone at any time!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to say i actually liked this book. yes i have to say that this book could of had a little more mystery to it but it was well written and inspiring. It has to do with animals which is somthing i dont really care for but it was a good well written book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book takes you into a beautiful, colourful world. It does a brilliant job of making the reader feel the right emotions with Stephen: you smile at the bugwomps and the macaws and shudder at the nastier creatures that creep in in places. If you've an interest in all the plants and animals it will delight you. If you haven't, you may find it incredibly boring. Stephen is not the brightest and most inspiring of heroes, and people who like a little more action in stories could well be putting it down after a few chapters. However, if you go along with the old-fashioned language and enjoy the quirkiness of the other characters, you will find it a thoroughly inspiring read.
JLShunk on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I actually "read" this as an audio book while we were traveling. The voice was perfect. The book has many wonderful descriptions. So you really got a feel for that the main character was feeling/seeing and sensing at the time. A great children's novel and once I started I couldn't put it down. The book is a tad predictable, however not in a bad way.I would highly reccomend. :)
midnighttwilight101 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This book was great. It's about an orphan who goes and trys to meet a relative, but only finds an empty house. Then these bugs start showing up and the house starts to feel really creepy. This was a nice light summer read.
DF1A_ChristieR on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Stephen Lansbury, an English orphan who has never known his relatives, receives an amazing inheritance from his great-uncle. Now he owns an estate called Lansbury Hall in Cornwall. He must meet the conditions of the will in order to inherit the property: leave the grounds and house as they are, never invite anyone to visit, and never share the results of his Great-Uncle Theodore's research. Great.
PatriciaUttaro on LibraryThing 10 months ago
The Valley of Secrets by Charmian Hussey - I wasn't sure about this one because the blurb on the back didn't say much about the story other than that it involved an orphaned boy who suddenly finds out that he's the only beneficiary in a never-before-seen great-uncle's will. But it takes place in Cornwall, which is, as any folklore lover knows, one of the most mysterious places on earth. We first meet Stephen Lansbury as he's just finished a course in botany and is fretting over whether to return to the children's home where he grew up or set off on his own. An elegant letter from Postlethwaite and Postlethwaite arrives, which brings Stephen to an odd interview with an ancient lawyer nestled comfortably in an office overrun by a jungle of plants. Bertie Postlethwaite informs Stephen that his great-uncle Theodore Lansbury has left him an estate in Cornwall, and Stephen should be getting on there right away to "take care of things."With a train ticket and 100 pounds from Mr. Postlethwaite in his pocket, Stephen heads to the wilds of Cornwall. There he finds gates that mysteriously open, overgrown grounds, and an empty but spotless manor house. As he explores, Stephen begins to notice things. Like the strange "woomp, woomp" calls in the forest, the fact that the house has no electricity, that some of the rooms have thick layers of dust all over everything while others are spotless, the odd hammocks hung in the library and in a room upstairs, and the creepy feeling that he's being watched. Eventually, Stephen finds his great-uncle's journals and becomes privy to a grand adventure had by his uncle and his friend B. As the days and weeks pass, Stephen comes to realize that his uncle brought part of his adventure home with him, a revelation that solidifies when Stephen finds an injured animal of a type he's never seen before. He nurses the animal back to health, and is eventually led by the animal to find the greatest secret of all.I confess that I am a sucker for stories that involve mysterious houses, unexpected inheritances and great secrets, so this book captivated me immediately. As I read, I felt like I was gently being led down a path and at the end I would find a fabulous gift. And that's just what I found at the end of this story. The events unfolded at exactly the right pace, and the characters were all wonderfully drawn. The only thing I didn't appreciate was the author's occasional tendency to preach about the destruction of the rainforest. Although the topic was certainly pertinent to the story, the facts were presented awkwardly and didn't really fit into the narration. All in all, though, this was a lovely, gentle story...give it a try.
Christinewannabe47 More than 1 year ago
I believe the author should another book since I did not fell this one was complete. I hope other people think the same thing.
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Striped More than 1 year ago
Great book for aspiring naturalists, the main character wants to save the rainforest. It is also a little bit of a mystery because the main character is searching for the hidden secrets in his old house.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While this book started off fairly well, it left about 300 pages full of nothing but a boy wandering around a bunch of trees. Call it Castaway in the middle of a forest, without the brilliance of Tom Hanks. I do feel like the concept was good, just poorly executed. I like the idea of introducing youth to different species of plants and animals, however doing so in such a boring way doesn't help to make plants seem more interesting. The start of the book was unrealistic, but fairly captivating. The middle was a very, very, very long boring read with no suspense, climax, or point. And the ending left a lot of questions. I would not recommend this book.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I was engrossed in this book from the start. The mystery surrounding Stephen's arrival and first few days at Lansbury Estate was easy to get caught up in. The writing was very descriptive and imaginative. However, about halfway through the book, while trying to read through the journal entries about all of the different plants and Amazon adventures, I found that I was just skimming to see what would happen next. Overall, it was a great story and would make a fabulous adventure movie. The child really interested in rainforests or the Amazon probably would like it very well but I don't think my readers between 8-16 would be able to get into it after the mystery is discovered. I basically finish almost every book I start but I'm afraid they wouldn't finish this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm surprised that anyone under 20yrs old had the patience to 'slog' through this entire book, like I did. I waited during the long explanations about the swamp for something to happen, but they read like a medical journal, Especially if you'd ever slogged through your own swamp. The Amazon is not the only place on earth where people experience and respect the wildlife found around them! I find it offensive the way the author talks down to her audience in such a fashion. Also, mixing fact with the fictitious and multi-species 'Bugwhomps' although very cute, does not really work- from the description, they wouldn't move as gracefully, and it's hard to imagine a 'maggot' anything as Clever. They do make the entire story more weird and the readers more confused. Perhaps there were two books here, and they would have Each been very interesting if they had not been combined into one book. With so many books out now, a reader can be very choosy, and an author Must be clever and interesting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the best I have ever read! It most likely always will be too. Theres obviously no words that I can say to describe it but know that it is not as confusing as people think, if you really 'think' about it all. This book is the best book ever in my opinion, so read it! I LOVED IT. I read it in only a week or less because I just couldnt put it down. I'd give it 10 stars
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought it was preety good, but it was a little confusing at times. The bugwomps sound so cute!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to say I initially enjoyed 'The Valley of Secrets', spending a lazy weekend uncovering the timid adventures of Stephen¿s new secret world. But three quarters the way through the story I was increasingly frustrated by the author¿s colorful description of authentic flora along side her own made-up species ¿ an oversized segmented fury caterpillar-like creature with the personality of a ferret. This, what ever it is, has no legs, spins silk, playfully pilfers shiny objects, and lopes along the various paths and trails while chattering a giggling call. This `animal¿ is supposedly a rare species of the Amazonian Forests whose homeland is in peril of annihilation at the hands of greedy humans. So several of them were saved from sure extinction by `Theo¿ who smuggled them back to England to live and breed in his secret forest. The author¿s list of species at the end of the book listed everything from ¿Ants¿ to a ¿Willow Tree¿ (I¿ve always wanted more information on a potato), but not a word of a ¿Bugwomp¿. Searching for evidence of a ¿Bugwomp¿, ¿Tigerwomp¿, ¿Swampwomp¿, or worse, a ¿Maggotwomp¿ was futile. There is no such thing. The author¿s message and plea to save the rain forests was lost on me, as if we really needed a cute little made-up creature to stir our hearts to the hopeless situation in South America. Are there no `real¿ creatures worthy of description along side the astonishingly exotic flora of the author¿s fantasy? But that is all it is, the author¿s fantasy. For a fictional read, it¿s pretty good. But don¿t take it too seriously.