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Authors: Ken Roberts

Thumb on a Diamond

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THUMB ON A DIAMOND

THUMB ON A
DIAMOND

Ken Roberts

•

ILLUSTRATED BY

Leanne Franson

GROUNDWOOD BOOKS / HOUSE OF ANANSI PRESS
TORONTO BERKELEY

Text copyright © 2001 by Ken Roberts
Illustrations copyright © 2001 by Leanne Franson
Published in Canada and the USA in 2011 by Groundwood Books

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without
permission in writing from the publisher.

Distribution of this electronic edition via the Internet or any other means
without the permission of the publisher is illegal. Please do not participate in electronic
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your support of the author's rights.

This edition published in 2011 by
Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press Inc.
110 Spadina
Avenue, Suite 801
Toronto,
ON
,
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5
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Tel. 416-363-4343
Fax 416-363-1017
or c/o Publishers Group West
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www.groundwoodbooks.com

LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION
Roberts, Ken
Thumb on a diamond / Ken Roberts; illustrated by Leanne Franson.
eISBN: 978-1-55498-166-3
I. Franson, Leanne II. Title.
PS8585.O2968T485 2006      jC813'.54      C2005-907010-2

We acknowledge for their financial support of our publishing
program the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the
Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF).

To family.
I have been telling your stories
(only slightly fictionalized)
for many years and have been blessed
to know and learn from all of you.

1
A FOGGY DAY

THIS IS A BASEBALL STORY
, but it seems, when I remember it, to have started the day Mr. Entwhistle arrived.

Most sports stories begin with a game or a race, but this one is different. It starts with a foggy morning.

Susan and I were sitting on the dock, dangling our feet in the water. We heard a rowboat, looked at each other and giggled.

Susan and I had listened to thousands of fishermen row hundreds of dinghies from their anchored boats to our dock at New Auckland, British Columbia. We knew the rhythmic splash that oars make when they are working together.

That was not the sound we heard.

We couldn't see the rowboat or who was trying to guide it to our village. It was too foggy.

“Hello?” called out a man's voice. “Did I hear somebody?”

“Over here,” yelled Susan.

“Oh, thank the Lord above,” said the man calmly. “Are you on a boat?”

“We're on a dock,” I yelled.

“A dock? Land!” The man in the boat stopped rowing and let his dinghy glide forward. He began to laugh.

“Land,” he said again.

I could see the bow of the dinghy now, and I could see the misty shape of a man sitting in the middle. The dinghy was drifting closer to us. The rower had swiveled around and was facing us.

“Look,” I whispered to Susan, pointing. “Doesn't that man look like…”

“Sherlock Holmes,” said Susan slowly.

“Exactly, my dear Susan,” I replied, but Susan didn't laugh.

The man in the rowboat was wearing the kind of hat that Sherlock Holmes wears – a hat that looks like a baseball cap with two front ends and flaps that usually tie on the top. It was a damp, cool morning, and the flaps were pulled down over his ears.

The rowboat glided to a stop, gently bumping into the dock. I leaned over, grabbed the bowline and tied the dinghy to a mooring anchor. Susan pulled on the stern line, guiding the boat snug against the dock.

The man stood up, holding onto a gold-tipped cane. He wore a long Burberry coat and smoked a curved white pipe. He wobbled and then placed one hand on the dock and pulled himself up.

“My name is G. H. Entwhistle,” he announced. “I am, of course, at your service.” He didn't try to shake our hands, but he did bow.

Mr. Entwhistle was tall and thin. His nose was bigger and redder than any nose I had ever seen. His voice was loud, each word precise and accompanied by a broad gesture. He moved like an actor performing in front of thousands of people.

“My name is Susan,” said Susan. She bowed slightly, too, so I bowed and said that my name was Thumb.

“Thumb?” asked Mr. Entwhistle.

“My real name is Leon Mazzei but I am called Thumb because I lost the top half of my right thumb in an accident,” I said, raising my hand.

“But I can see your entire thumb, Thumb,” said Mr. Entwhistle.

“The end is a fake,” I said. “I can take it off. You have an accent, Mr. Entwhistle.”

“Young lad,” said Mr. Entwhistle with a chuckle, pausing as he pulled out a white handkerchief and wiped his forehead. “Everyone has an accent. I, in fact, would find your accent hard to understand if I hadn't been living in this country for seven years.”

“Where are you from?” asked Susan.

“England,” said Mr. Entwhistle, pointing out into the fog. “It is hard for me to say that I am actually from England, since I have not seen the sacred soil of my beloved country for too many years. It's my work. It brings me here, alas. If only I had chosen some lovable English creature such as the dormouse, I might not have faced near doom today on this almost uninhabited coast of British Columbia. Not that I was frightened for a moment, you understand. I am English and was taught from an early age that one should never show fear.”

“Why?” asked Susan.

“I don't know. I only know that I am more frightened by what might happen if I show fear than by any fearful thing I might face. My boat seems to have sunk. I barely had time to change clothes so that I could be dressed in the way I might want to be found if this were the end. Where am I, by the way?”

I had seen many frightened fishermen and women, mostly after they had found their way home after a sudden winter storm. The frightened people I had seen were shaking and mumbling. Mr. Entwhistle was the first person I had ever seen whose boat had actually sunk during a storm. Mr. Entwhistle looked crisp and elegant.

“You are in New Auckland,” I said.

“I thought I knew all the fishing villages along the coast,” he said, frowning.

“We're small,” said Susan. “Only 138 people live here, unless Mrs. Hartog had her baby last night. We have forty-two buildings, including the school, the garage and the basketball arena.”

“A garage! So there is a road. I can perhaps pay someone to give me a ride to Prince Rupert so that I might quickly fly away.”

“No,” said Susan. “There's no road. We're surrounded by mountains. And the ocean, of course.”

“But you have a garage,” he said, as if he was trying to convince us that there was a road and we had just forgotten.

“It's not really a garage,” I said. “We use it to store things.”

“You have boats, though? And a telephone?”

“We have lots of boats and several phones.”

“Ah, splendid. I need to make a call. I hit some rocks in the fog and was lucky enough to find your village. I still have to call the Coast Guard. There is a bright side to this ordeal. I was the only occupant and I am safe.”

“You can come up to my house,” I said. “My dad's the school principal. We have a phone.”

Susan and I led Mr. Entwhistle down the dock and onto the sand. Susan and I walked slowly at first, figuring that anyone with a cane might need a little more time, but Mr. Entwhistle didn't use his cane to help him walk. He swung it casually over his shoulder and then swung it back and tapped it on the ground like Fred Astaire in one of those old dance movies.

We crossed the sand to the cedar sidewalk that runs along the first row of houses. The houses are clumped close together, like they're protecting each other from the damp. A few houses actually seem to lean toward each other to stay warm. All the houses have windows facing the sidewalk.

As we passed each house, people glanced up from doing dishes or reading books or fixing fishing gear. Nobody was surprised to see Susan or me, but they were surprised to see Mr. Entwhistle. No boat or plane had landed, but here we were, leading a stranger down the boardwalk — a stranger who looked like a famous storybook detective seen on the foggy streets of London, England.

“You look like a detective,” I said. “Are you?”

“No. I am a writer and an artist. I am Gerald Entwhistle. Perhaps you've heard of me?”

“I don't think so,” said Susan.

“Me, either,” I said. “But we're only twelve.”

“Ah, but it is children for whom I write and paint. I am the author and illustrator of the Bobby and Bernice Beaver books.”

“I read one of those,” I said excitedly. “Bobby and his wife Bernice are beavers who build dams that look like famous buildings.”

“You have it, my lad,” said Mr. Entwhistle, patting my head, which is something I usually hate. “And for my art I must travel this beaver-laden country and draw the little beasts in their habitat.”

“Couldn't you just go to the zoo in London or something?” asked Susan. “They've got beavers there, right?”

“Yes, but I pride myself in the accuracy of my drawings. I need the natural flowers and trees where beaver live. I need the proper hue of the water and the texture of the rocks. I am a perfectionist, you see. Animals must be drawn in their proper environment.”

A loud, deep roar seemed to make the fog swirl in front of us. The sound echoed off the mountains.

Mr. Entwhistle stopped.

“What was that?” he asked, his voice quiet for the first time. He didn't sound afraid, just curious.

“A lion,” I said casually.

BOOK: Thumb on a Diamond
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