Is there a cathedral where you live? If so, chances are it will be an old one … just how old, would you say? And when you crane your head up to look at the ceiling, its arches lost in shadows, what else do you see? You might need binoculars, though – but the older the cathedral, the more likely you are to find, nestling atop of corbels and capitals, a singular face with leaves and branches climbing out of its mouth; sometimes fierce, sometimes cheerful, mostly a trifle wild … this sculpted entity has been with us far longer than the cathedrals, and long before the Normans who built them, with a name that has only regained resonance in quite recent times: The Green Man.
Theories abound concerning his origins, both etymological and geographical; he turns up in a variety of guises, from Rome(Bacchus and Dionysius) to Mesopotamia…
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…continuing the mystery of Captain Redheart’s Treasure (catch up on the first episode here: Mystery Tour ) :
Ezrard Bagshott fairly bounded into the dining room at breakfast, rubbing his hands in glee. Something was entertaining him to the utmost, and his house guests, made up of impecunious friends and relatives, looked up apprehensively. Was he any closer to finding the lost treasure after all – and, most importantly, would he share it with any of them?
He sat down at the head of the table and took in his audience: James Derelict, one of his many nephews, also his secretary and all round factotum; William Nunctious, another nephew, keen on wine and women, often in ‘a bit of a scrape’ as he would put it; Abigail, Ezrard’s niece, a total flapper, constantly making herself up; Horatio Hubble, art historian and antiquarian, with a beady eye on some of Ezrard’s choicer possessions; Roderick Upton, a third nephew, clubber, lounger, amusing if indolent; Eugene Orb, man about town and at present demolishing a tidy plateful of sausages; and at the opposite end of the table, Ezrard’s widowed sister, Laetitia Wellbegone, poking dubiously at her scrambled egg.
Ezrard nodded and chuckled, and demanded fresh toast.
He took marmalade, he took butter, he gloated over it melting on the toast, the soft yellow and the golden orange chunks of marmalade; those watching closely could not help but imagine he was gloating over piles of gold coins and rubies…
‘You are particularly cheerful this morning, Ezrard,’ remarked his sister, finally echoing everyone’s thoughts.
‘Indeed, indeed I am,’ he replied, pouring himself tea. He gazed around the table, mischievously.
‘Well I’ve done it !’ he said, and nearly choked on his own laughter. ‘I’ve solved it !’ Everyone knew what he meant. Everyone save for Laetitia who merely shrugged and nibbled at her bacon.
‘Now then, toast and marmalade is all very well – but where are my devilled kidneys?!’
He leapt to his feet and helped himself from the sideboard.
‘So, uncle,’ began Abigail, when Ezrard had re-seated himself, ‘are you going to tell us how you did it ?
‘Did what? Eh?’
‘Oh, don’t tease, uncle, – how did you find the treasure?’ Abigail pouted. Ezrard gave her a look in which secrecy and mischief were equally divided. ‘All in good time, m’dear, all in good time…Or one of you might like to get there before me…’
So he had solved the puzzle – but not yet taken the treasure ? There were not a few at table who did not make a secret plan to watch his every move from then on in…However, they did not watch carefully enough, for a few hours later there was a rushing of feet, a pounding on doors and frantic calls made on the telephone, while Ezrard lay in his library, groaning in exquisite agony…
Ezrard was kept to his bed for several days afterwards, the doctor suggested a diet of water, bread, a little porridge and occasional mouthful of chicken.
‘A nasty attack of bile, I would suggest he keep off the rich food and so on for a while yet – vegetables, soups, a little walk each day,’ prescribed the doctor to Laetitia. ‘Well, I wish you’d tell him that yourself – you know what foolish notions he has in his head now, I suppose?’ she replied.
The doctor raised an eyebrow.’Notions?’
‘Yes, notions. He is convinced he was poisoned !’
The doctor did his best to reassure her and his patient, but left them a little thoughtfully and asked downstairs whether anything had been left over from breakfast. Of course, everything had by then been cleared away and disposed of; ’But we could rustle you up some eggs and toast if you’re peckish,’ said the maid, quite mistaking his intent.
Here’s one of my favourite quotes from B.Lloyd’s Greenwood Tree:
‘It may well be that being unused to country living my temper has in some way been affected; I almost hesitate to describe the feelings of horror I have experienced since my arrival in this place, which have grown upon me increasingly over the last few days – this feeling was hardly alleviated by our visit to the clearing, and might explain the distinct impression I had of being observed by some person or persons unseen. This impression grew so strong that I was almost convinced I saw the figure of a man in green slipping away between the trees on the opposite side of the glade …’