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OCR English Language Unseen Fiction Reading Anthology | Time and Place Part 2

Paul Dodd | Monday December 04, 2017

Categories: KS4, OCR GCSE, OCR GCSE English Language 2015, J351 Component 02: Exploring Effects and Impact, J351 Component 02: Exploring Effects and Impact Assessment Pack, J351 Component 02: Exploring Effects and Impact Schemes

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OCR English Language Unseen Fiction Reading Anthology | Time and Place Part 1

Part 2


In this extract is from A Journey by Edith Wharton

In this extract the woman in the story is travelling by train through the night with her desperately ill husband.

Suddenly she thought she heard him call. She parted the curtains and listened. No, it was only a man snoring at the other end of the car. His snores had a greasy sound, as though they passed through tallow. She lay down and tried to sleep … Had she not heard him move? She started up trembling … The silence frightened her more than any sound. He might not be able to make her hear—he might be calling her now … What made her think of such things? It was merely the familiar tendency of an overtired mind to fasten itself on the most intolerable chance within the range of its forebodings … Putting her head out, she listened: but she could not distinguish his breathing from that of the other pairs of lungs about her. She longed to get up and look at him, but she knew the impulse was a mere vent for her restlessness, and the fear of disturbing him restrained her … The regular movement of his curtain reassured her, she knew not why; she remembered that he had wished her a cheerful good night; and the sheer inability to endure her fears a moment longer made her put them from her with an effort of her whole sound-tired body. She turned on her side and slept.

She sat up stiffly, staring out at the dawn. The train was rushing through a region of bare hill-ocks huddled against a lifeless sky. It looked like the first day of creation. The air of the car was close, and she pushed up her window to let in the keen wind. Then she looked at her watch: it was seven o’clock, and soon the people about her would be stirring. She slipped into her clothes, smoothed her disheveled hair and crept to the dressing-room. When she had washed her face and adjusted her dress she felt more hopeful. It was always a struggle for her not to be cheerful in the morning. Her cheeks burned deliciously under the coarse towel and the wet hair about her temples broke into strong upward tendrils. Every inch of her was full of life and elas-ticity. And in ten hours they would be at home!

She stepped to her husband’s berth: it was time for him to take his early glass of milk. The win-dow shade was down, and in the dusk of the curtained enclosure she could just see that he lay sideways, with his face away from her. She leaned over him and drew up the shade. As she did so she touched one of his hands. It felt cold …

She bent closer, laying her hand on his arm and calling him by name. He did not move. She spoke again more loudly; she grasped his shoulder and gently shook it. He lay motionless. She caught hold of his hand again: it slipped from her limply, like a dead thing. A dead thing?

Her breath caught. She must see his face. She leaned forward, and hurriedly, shrinkingly, with a sickening reluctance of the flesh, laid her hands on his shoulders and turned him over. His head fell back; his face looked small and smooth; he gazed at her with steady eyes.

She remained motionless for a long time, holding him thus; and they looked at each other. Suddenly she shrank back: the longing to scream, to call out, to fly from him, had almost over-powered her. But a strong hand arrested her. Good God! If it were known that he was dead they would be put off the train at the next station—

In a terrifying flash of remembrance there arose before her a scene she had once witnessed in traveling, when a husband and wife, whose child had died in the train, had been thrust out at some chance station. She saw them standing on the platform with the child’s body between them; she had never forgotten the dazed look with which they followed the receding train. And this was what would happen to her. Within the next hour she might find herself on the plat-form of some strange station, alone with her husband’s body … Anything but that! It was too horrible— She quivered like a creature at bay.

As she cowered there, she felt the train moving more slowly. It was coming then—they were approaching a station! She saw again the husband and wife standing on the lonely platform; and with a violent gesture she drew down the shade to hide her husband’s face.

Feeling dizzy, she sank down on the edge of the berth, keeping away from his outstretched body, and pulling the curtains close, so that he and she were shut into a kind of sepulchral twi-light. She tried to think. At all costs she must conceal the fact that he was dead. But how? Her mind refused to act: she could not plan, combine. She could think of no way but to sit there, clutching the curtains, all day long…


In this extract is from The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

In this extract the narrator is on the run from a gang of spies.

That was one of the hardest jobs I ever took on. My shoulder and arm ached like hell, and I was so sick and giddy that I was always on the verge of falling. But I managed it somehow. By the use of out-jutting stones and gaps in the masonry and a tough ivy root I got to the top in the end. There was a little parapet behind which I found space to lie down. Then I proceeded to go off into an old fashioned swoon.

I woke with a burning head and the sun glaring in my face. For a long time I lay motionless, for those horrible fumes seemed to have loosened my joints and dulled my brain. Sounds came to me from the house – men speaking throatily and the throbbing of a stationary car. There was a little gap in the parapet to which I wriggled, and from which I had some sort of prospect of the yard. I saw figures come out – a servant with his head bound up, and then a younger man in knickerbockers. They were looking for something, and moved towards the mill. Then one of them caught sight of the wisp of cloth on the nail, and cried out to the other. They both went back to the house, and brought two more to look at it. I saw the rotund figure of my late captor, and I thought I made out the man with the lisp. I noticed that all had pistols.

For half an hour they ransacked the mill. I could hear them kicking over the barrels and pulling up the rotten planking. Then they came outside, and stood just below the dovecot, arguing fiercely. The servant with the bandage was being soundly rated. I heard them fiddling with the door of the dovecot, and for one horrid moment I fancied they were coming up. Then they thought better of it, and went back to the house.

All that long blistering afternoon I lay baking on the roof-top. Thirst was my chief torment. My tongue was like a stick, and to make it worse I could hear the cool drip of water from the milllade.

I watched the course of the little stream as it came in from the moor, and my fancy followed it to the top of the glen, where it must issue from an icy fountain fringed with cool ferns and mosses. I would have given a thousand pounds to plunge my face into that. I had a fine pro-spect of the whole ring of moorland. I saw the car speed away with two occupants, and a man on a hill pony riding east. I judged they were looking for me, and I wished them joy of their quest.

But I saw something else more interesting. The house stood almost on the summit of a swell of moorland which crowned a sort of plateau, and there was no higher point nearer than the big hills six miles off. The actual summit, as I have mentioned, was a biggish clump of trees – firs mostly, with a few ashes and beeches. On the dovecot I was almost on a level with the treetops, and could see what lay beyond. The wood was not solid, but only a ring, and inside was an oval of green turf, for all the world like a big cricket-field.

I didn’t take long to guess what it was. It was an aerodrome, and a secret one. The place had been most cunningly chosen. For suppose anyone were watching an aeroplane descending here, he would think it had gone over the hill beyond the trees. As the place was on the top of a rise in the midst of a big amphitheatre, any observer from any direction would conclude it had passed out of view behind the hill.

Only a man very close at hand would realise that the aeroplane had not gone over but de-scended in the midst of the wood. An observer with a telescope on one of the higher hills might have discovered the truth, but only herds went there, and herds do not carry spy-glasses. When I looked from the dovecot I could see far away a blue line which I knew was the sea, and I grew furious to think that our enemies had this secret conning-tower to rake our waterways.


This extract is from Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton

This extract is set in Africa.

The cemetery is a rocky field on the outskirts of town. It only opened last year but already it’s almost full. Sara’s being buried in the northeast corner, about a ten-minute walk from Esther’s parents. We drive through a gate in the barbed-wire fence, past a metal sign announcing town-ship bylaws for behaviour: no screaming, shouting, or other indecent behaviour; no defacing or stealing memorials; no grazing of livestock. The winding dirt roads are filled with potholes. Last rainy season, hearses got stuck in them. So did the tow trucks that came to pull them out.

Today, as the Chevy bounces along, I’m more afraid the bouncing may break Sara’s coffin. We pull up to the site. We’re not alone. There’s a row of eight fresh graves, the earth piled high at the head of each hole. Mr Bateman says we’re the third one down. Funerals are already in pro-gress on either side. In the distance I see the dust of other processions driving through the gates. Mourners hop off pickup trucks and search for their dead. A fight breaks out over who’s supposed to be in holes five and six. Meanwhile, our priest climbs to the top of Sara’s mound and delivers a scripture reading about eternal life. I want to believe in God and Sara being with the ancestors. But suddenly I’m scared it’s just something priests make up to take away the nightmares. (I’m sorry God, forgive me. I’m sorry God, forgive me. I’m sorry God, forgive me.)

The priest starts the Lord’s prayer. ‘Raetsho yoo ko le godimong.’ Everyone bows their heads except for me. As we join the priest in chanting the prayer, I stare at this field covered with bricks. Each brick marks a grave. A date’s scrawled in black paint. There’s not even room for a name. The dead have disappeared as if they never lived. This is what Sara will have. ‘Sara,’ I whisper, ‘forgive us.’

I know we can never afford to buy her a headstone, but I want to save for a memorial; I want her to have a grave marked with its own little fence and canvas top, her name soldered in wire at the front. I want there to be a gate and a lock, too, so I can leave toys for her without them disappearing. Mama says memorials are just another way to make the undertakers rich. Papa’s and my brothers’ lost their canvas tops years ago, and the fences bent out of shape the mo-ment the graves collapsed in the rainy season. But I don’t care.


This extract from Riding the Black Cockatoo by John Danalis

This extract is set in Australia.
Two days after the handover my parents phoned again; they needed to talk about the experi-ence.

‘You know, son,’ said my father, his voice breaking with emotion, ‘I’ve had to rethink sixty years of attitude. Those people yesterday, every one of them was such a pleasure to talk to. They were all just so friendly, so well presented, so clean.’ I almost choked as he said the word ‘clean’. I was about to say something, but smiled instead at the realisation of how far my father had journeyed in the last two days; all from just one interaction, one real contact which had lasted less than three hours.

A week later Dad phoned again. He’d had an idea and he was excited.

‘Listen, son, I’ve been thinking, you know that big old grindstone in the back yard?’

He was referring to the wheelbarrow-sized grindstone that he’d dragged from a dry...

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