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Camping in the Lonely Landby Aishwarya Kane
14-year-old Aishwarya Kane emailed me this wonderful FanFic story. It's around 21,000 words long, about the same as many of Enid Blyton's shorter books. Aishwarya says, "This story follows the Famous Five pattern – a group of cousins/siblings falling into an adventure without meaning to. I was nine years old when I wrote it (with fond hopes of seeing it published, which needless to say went down the drain), so please excuse the flaws in the story."
Five children were sitting under a tree, having a picnic. John, 14 years old, was the eldest of the children. Next was 12 year old Jimmy. Then was Elizabeth, Lizzie for short, who was 11. After her came 10 year old Sheila. Last of all was Susan, the tough little tomboy, who was only seven. John and Lizzie were cousins of Sheila, Jimmy and Susan, and had come over for the holidays. It was the summer break, and all of them felt exceptionally happy.
"I wonder where we'll go these holidays," said Jimmy.
"Let's ask Dad if we can go off somewhere on our own," said Susan eagerly." "We could take our tents and go and camp somewhere."
"I say!" said John. "That really is a wizard idea!"
The children stared at each other, speechless with excitement. They wondered if they would be allowed to go. What do you think?
The children finished their food quickly and raced home, eager to ask Uncle Richard about their proposed holiday. They ran through their front gate, and rushed to Uncle Richard's study.
"What do you want?" he asked crossly. "Making a noise like that! I've a good mind to lock you in your rooms for the rest of the day!"
"Sorry, Uncle," said John hurriedly.
"Dad, can we take our tents and go and camp somewhere? Huh? Can we? Can we?" shouted Susan.
"Stop shouting, Susan. I'll have to talk it over with your mother. Actually, I think it might fit in quite well, because your aunt, who is ill, is coming here next week. She wouldn't want a pack of noisy children in the house. You could stay on the first day she's here, wish her and talk to her, and go off the next day," said Uncle Richard.
"Thank you!" yelled the children.
"Wait, wait," he said. "Look, I know you're excited, but it isn't decided, so if you don't go after all, don't be disappointed."
"All right, we won't be disappointed if we can't go for some reason," said everyone, including Sheila, who hated any disappointment, big or small.
"Good," said Uncle Richard. "Now, will you go and help your mother to prepare tea?"
"Well, she told us that if we go into her kitchen more than three times a day and mess it up, she wouldn't give us any snacks at all, for the rest of the week," said the children.
"Oh well, I expect she just said that as an excuse to not let you come into the kitchen. It seems to me that every time you enter the kitchen, something disappears from there!" replied Uncle Richard, smiling. "Well, go out of doors, at least, and let me do my work in peace."
The children ran out into the garden, beaming. He hadn't said NO. He had even said it might fit in quite well. It was usually very hard to get him to say YES to anything. He was a computer programmer, and was always very busy. He shouted at the children at least thrice a day for making noise in the house!
All the children went to sit under their favorite oak tree.
"Can you believe that this time next week we might be in our tents, in the middle of nowhere, with perhaps only a farm or two nearby?" said Sheila, her eyes shining.
"Oh, I do hope Mom and Dad will let us go," said Jimmy.
"They're sure to," replied John. "Why shouldn't they? Your father himself said that it would fit in quite well."
"John, if we go, where will we camp?" asked Lizzie.
"Hmm," said John. "I hadn't thought of that. Let's go and look at the maps in the hall bookcase. We'll find some deserted place, perhaps by the sea, and find out what farms are near the place we choose."
"Why should we look for farms?" asked Susan.
"Because, silly, we need to have farms nearby to buy food from. We can't take all our food with us. It would be too heavy, for one thing." replied Lizzie."
"Let's go and look at the maps now, shall we?" interrupted Jimmy.
The children ran into the house, and bumped into Jenny, the cook.
"Goodness Gracious! Is this a hurricane? Oh, it's you. Well, watch where you're going, dears. What with bumping into you, cooking enormous meals for you, seeing to the house, and making sure that you don't take too many things from the larder, I'm so tired I'll soon be a flat tire!" said Jenny.
The children laughed. They liked Jenny, who was firm, but kind, and an excellent cook. They went to the hall bookcase, chuckling.
"Now, let's take out a map of the counties nearby, and see if we can find a good place to camp," said Jimmy.
All the children took out various maps and looked at them carefully.
"Look!" suddenly exclaimed Sheila. "Would this be a good place, do you think?"
Everyone ran to Sheila, who was poring over a map of the next county. Her finger was on a desolate stretch of land, with three streams and only one farmhouse. The children looked at the map and then back at each other excitedly.
"This just might be the place we're looking for!" said John, voicing everyone's thoughts.
"Let's show it to Mom!" said Sheila.
"No, I don't think we should. Uncle Richard mightn't have told Aunt Mary about it yet, and besides, they'll need to think about it. They might not let us go, if we keep badgering them. We'll ask them at breakfast tomorrow," said John.
"Oh," said Sheila. "Well, let's keep this map separately, at least. That way, we won't have to spend hours looking for it tomorrow, before breakfast."
The children folded up the map carefully and put it in a drawer below the bookcase, then went to the dining room for tea. When they reached the dining room, the thick pine table was almost sagging under the weight of fruits, scones, thickly buttered bread, fruitcake, and iced lemonade. If anyone didn't want the lemonade, there was a choice of milk, and orangeade. The children tucked in to the delicious meal, and ate every single thing on the table.
The next morning, just before breakfast, John took out the map and showed it to his Uncle and Aunt at the table.
"We've found a wonderful place to camp!" he said excitedly. "You will let us go, won't you? Oh, please do say yes!"
Uncle Richard and Aunt Mary looked at each other and laughed. "Well, last night, after you went to bed, we agreed that you could go," said Aunt Mary. Her next few words were drowned by the children's excited voices.
"Wait a minute, wait a minute," she said. "There're a few things we need to talk about, and also a few conditions."
"What are they, what are they?" yelled the children.
"To begin with, how are you going to get there in the first place?" she asked. The children looked at each other in dismay.
"Oh no! We were so busy planning our camping spot that we forgot to plan how we would get there!" said Jimmy.
Lizzie looked at him thoughtfully. "Well, that's true, but maybe we could do something about it," she said.
"Yes! Maybe we could bike there." suggested Susan. "Well, we could, I suppose," said John. "Only I don't think Susan would be able to cycle that far."
"That's not fair!" said Susan indignantly. "You know that I always keep up with you, even if I'm tired."
"Yes, I do know. Well, we will bike to the place, then." replied John.
His uncle and aunt looked at him hesitantly.
"Oh, please, please let us go." John pleaded.
"Well, if you want to go, you must promise to be very, very careful. And to take care of Susan. She's only a little girl. And not to do anything dangerous." his aunt replied.
Susan was so excited, and so badly wanted her parents to say yes, they could go, that she didn't even mind being called a 'little girl.'
"Of course, Aunt Mary!" said John. "You can trust me."
His aunt smiled at him. "I know I can, John. You're fourteen, quite old enough to take charge."
"Yay! We can go! We can go!" shouted the others, happily.
"Don't shout, don't shout, children," said Aunt Mary. "Otherwise I may well decide not to let you go!"
The children stared at her in dismay. Aunt Mary smiled at them. "Don't worry. I was only joking. Well, if you really are decided about the trip, and if you promise to be very careful, then I suppose you can go, if you behave yourselves until the day you leave." smiled Aunt Mary.
"Cool! Thanks, Aunt Mary! Thanks, Uncle Richard! We can go! We can go!" yelled the children.
"Now, now," said Uncle Richard. "We'll finish up our breakfast first, and then have a look at the place you've chosen.
No one took a long time over their breakfast that morning! As soon as breakfast was over, everyone gathered around the map.
"Why, I remember that place!" exclaimed Aunt Mary, when the children showed her the place they had thought would be ideal.
"I'd gone there a few times when I was John's age. It's called 'The Lonely Land'. But it's really lovely. No trippers, no rubbish, nothing. And the farmhouse is owned by Farmer Thomas. You'll like his wife. She's very kind, and she'll sell you all the food you'll need."
"Well, it looks as if that's where we'll be camping, then," said Jimmy. "When do we leave, Mum?"
"Well now, let me see," she considered. "Your aunt is coming on Thursday. You'd better go on Friday, I think. I would send you earlier, but your aunt is very fond of you, and she would be disappointed if she couldn't meet you.
"Don't worry, we'll go on Friday," Susan assured her.
"Good." smiled Aunt Mary. "Now, finish your chores quickly and then we'll take out the things you'll need for your trip. If you're leaving in three days, we should start packing."
Soon, after their morning chores, everyone set to work, looking for boots, rucksacks, packs of cards, jigsaws, and other items like their toothbrushes and toothpastes, and a big, foldable canvas bucket. After all these things had been put in the backpacks, they rummaged about for their tents, and at last found the two small tents. Then they took out the clothes which they would need, and also their pyjamas and bathing suits.
When Susan awoke on Thursday, she couldn't think why she felt so excited. Then she remembered. Her aunt would arrive that day, and they would leave tomorrow! Tomorrow! Susan dressed quickly and then went downstairs for breakfast.
"What time is Aunt Janet coming, Father?" asked Jimmy. "She's coming at 10:30. Oh, that reminds me, you'll have to go to the station to meet her." answered Uncle Richard.
"Right. We'll leave at 10:15, then," said John.
After breakfast was over, the children decided to go and play in the garden until 10:15.
While the children were playing outside, Aunt Mary glanced at her watch. It was 10:20!
"I'd better go and tell them to go to the station now, or they won't be able to meet their aunt at the station." she said to herself. She hurried down to the garden, but by the time she got there, the children had already realized the time and had rushed to the station.
They ran to the station, huffing and puffing, and reached the platform just as the train was pulling in. Lots of people got out of the train and the children looked for their Aunt. They caught sight of a slim, pleasant-faced woman waving to them. It was their Aunt Janet! All the children ran to her, and John took her suit case.
"Hallo, Aunt Janet!" said Susan.
"Hello, Susan!" she replied, smiling. "Why, you've grown! And John, since when did you become so tall? The last time I saw you, you were barely up to my shoulder, and now you're as tall as me!" she laughed.
Everyone went home, chattering. The children took her to Aunt Mary, and then went upstairs to talk about their trip.
"Oh, I'm so excited," said Jimmy. "I do hope tomorrow will come soon. It's a funny thing, but whenever you're waiting for something to happen, time goes so slowly, and when something is happening, time simply whizzes by."
Everyone laughed. They knew what Jimmy meant. "Okay, so now we've decided where we are going to camp," said Sheila.
"John, get out the map for a minute, would you? I'd like to look at the route we'll take if we go on bicycles," said Lizzie.
After chalking out their route, the children made sure that they had packed everything they would need for their trip, then went downstairs for lunch.
When the children awoke the next morning, they were really excited. After breakfast, they put on their backpacks. They had some sandwiches and chocolates given to them by Aunt Mary, and these were carefully wrapped in grease-proof paper, put in paper bags, and into their bicycle baskets. They put bottles of lemonade and orangeade onto their carriers, along with two folded-up tents. John made sure that the map was in his pocket, and after saying goodbye to Aunt Mary, Uncle Richard and Aunt Janet, they set off, waving, with the adults calling to them to be careful.
"This is such fun," said Sheila, as they rode down the country lanes. "There's no traffic at all, and there're such pretty flowers everywhere. And, of course, we're going to be all by ourselves for a whole week!"
After a while, when they had covered about three miles, Susan began to show signs of tiredness. "How many miles more now, John?" she asked. "I'm sure we've done about six miles by now. And you yourself used to say that when you've been doing any physical activity for a long time, it's always best to rest for a while. So isn't it about time for us to have a rest and something to eat now?"
The others grinned at each other. They knew that Susan was tired. "All right, we'll stop and rest very soon now," promised John. "We'll bike for only five more minutes, and then we'll have a rest and something to eat, maybe a snooze, too, before we start cycling again."
The children looked about for a good resting place, and very soon one was found by Lizzie. It was a little clearing, surrounded by trees. Everyone wheeled their bicycles into the clearing. After leaning their bikes against a tree, the children had a few sandwiches, some orangeade and some chocolate each. Then they lay down, and, being tired, soon fell into a doze.
Jimmy was the first to wake up, and he woke up only because a rabbit scampered over his tummy. It gave Jimmy such a shock that he sat up very fast, only to discover that he had sent the rabbit flying. He chuckled, and then glanced at his watch. It was 1:30!
"We'll never get to the 'Lonely Land' at this rate," he said to himself. "We'd planned on getting there by half past three, but if we don't start now, it'll be half past four by the time we reach! I'd better wake up the others now."
One by one he woke up the others, and one by one they were horrified at the time. As soon as everyone was awake, they mounted their bicycles and set off again.
It was four o' clock when the children reached the Lonely Land. They had some sandwiches and chocolate left, and the children had these for tea, along with the lemonade. Then John and Jimmy put up the two tents, while the girls unpacked. By the time the tents were up, with the sleeping bags and the children's belongings neatly inside them, it was nearly half past five. The children played for while, and then the boys and Susan set off to Farmer Thomas's farmhouse to buy some food, while the girls locked their bikes to a tree-trunk.
They came back in half an hour, the boys managing a basket containing sausages, a loaf of bread, chocolate, some eggs, a huge fruitcake, sticky gingerbread, some lettuce, and some butter, while Susan carried a basket holding a box of plums, cocoa powder, supplies for lemonade and orangeade, and a packet of biscuits.
The girls stared in absolute astonishment as they put down the baskets. Laughing at their surprised faces, Susan told the girls that Mrs.Thomas had welcomed them warmly, and had wanted to give the children food for free, but the boys and Susan had, of course, refused politely and had paid her for the food.
"And she said that whenever we came to visit her, she would give us a small gift, like a packet of biscuits, or a tin of toffees, or something, which we would have to accept for free. Wasn't that nice of her?" yelled Susan, at the top of her voice.
The girls agreed that it was indeed nice of Mrs. Thomas. "But how in the world could she spare so many things for us?" wondered Sheila.
"She said that she knew what appetites us youngsters got, and also that her farm was a boarding house as well, and that she took in paying guests, so her larder had to be well-stocked at all times!" laughed Jimmy.
"And she said that all this was to last us for all our stay here!" John said.
"Oh, by the way, there's a boy at the farm. He's eleven, and he seemed quite nice. His name is Josh. We could visit him sometime," said Jimmy.
Lizzie and Sheila had found a cool place under a big rock, and they put all the food under this. Then the girls made supper, and after everyone had eaten it and agreed it was delicious, the boys washed up with water from a stream that ran about five metres from their tents. The girls had fetched water in a foldable canvas bucket.
Everyone talked for sometime, and when Susan started feeling sleepy, they all went inside their tents, too, after saying goodnight. It had been a long day, and everyone was asleep as soon their heads touched their pillows.
The twittering of birds woke up the children in the morning. They leapt out of their sleeping-bags, and went to wash their faces in the stream.
Susan cupped her hands, and tasted the crystal-clear, cold, sweet water before washing her face. It was delicious!
When she went back to the tents, Sheila and Lizzie were making breakfast, and the boys were tightening some tent ropes, which had come loose in the night.
Soon, breakfast was ready and Lizzie was handing around plates of sausages and bread. They had one sausage and two slices of bread each, but Jimmy wanted two sausages. However, the girls knew that the sausages would finish very soon indeed if they each had two sausages a day, so poor Jimmy didn't get a second sausage.
After breakfast, the girls washed up, and then the children decided to go and bathe in the stream.
They slipped into their bathing things and entered the stream just below the place where they had washed their faces. The water was cold and it made them squeal. All of them were excellent swimmers, and they had a wonderful time in the water, having races, ducking each other, and altogether enjoying themselves to the utmost.
When they got out of the stream at last, they ran up and down to warm themselves and then dressed quickly.
The girls rested for five minutes before making lunch. They had brought along a tiny portable oil-stove which had fit in their bicycle baskets, and it was on this that they had managed to cook the sausages. They made a big salad, and heated some cocoa on the stove, for it was only the beginning of April and they felt slightly cold still.
When they had finished lunch, the boys washed up, and then everyone wanted to have a snooze. So they lay down on the ground, basking in the sun. Within five minutes every one of them was fast asleep!
It was tea-time when they woke up, but they weren't feeling hungry yet, so they decided to go and visit the farm boy, Josh. They set off to the farm, on the next hill, and were soon in the farmyard.
They spotted a boy, and walked over to him. "Hello!" he yelled. "Aren't you the children who are camping down there?" pointing down the hill.
"Yes, we are!" yelled back John. "You're Josh, aren't you?"
"Yes," replied the boy. "I've seen the boys and this girl before, but not these other girls. What are your names?"
Lizzie and Sheila introduced themselves, and then Josh offered to show the children around the farm, who readily agreed.
When Josh had showed them the farmyard, he took them to a small shed, set in a corner of the big yard.
"What's that for?" asked Susan in surprise.
"You'll see," answered Josh with a grin.
He took them inside the shed. Almost all of it was piled full of sacks, which were full of corn, hay, straw and wheat. Josh pulled away two sacks in a corner to reveal a trapdoor!
"A trapdoor!" exclaimed Sheila in amazement.
"The farmhouse and this shed were built about fifty years ago," explained Josh. "Forty years after it was built, a Mr. Jenkins started living in it. He used the trapdoor to escape from the farmhouse into the farmyard without being seen by the man on guard at the farmhouse door."
"But... but... why did he need to escape? And from whom? And why did anyone have to be on guard at the farmhouse door?" asked Jimmy, bewildered.
Josh laughed. "I was coming to that." he said. "When Mr. Jenkins was living in it he had many enemies as he was kind to everybody, and fought against the rich people who wanted the poor to live separately and the rich separately, and who wanted to turn off the poor who lived near them. So all the rich people whom Mr. Jenkins had fought against became his enemies. Mr. Jenkins's family had always supported him in every way, and his enemies hated his family, too, as they had also fought against the cruel rich.
The enemies all plotted against the Jenkins family. They always came creeping silently to the farmhouse late on full moon nights, so they were sure that there wasn't anyone in the farmyard.
One man stood guard at the farmhouse door, while a few of the others surrounded it. Yet more men broke open one of the farmhouse windows and went to Mr.Jenkins's room. But he was never there!"
"Never there! Why?" asked Sheila, puzzled.
"It was because Mr.Jenkins was such a light sleeper, that he always heard them coming and woke up. He alerted his family immediately, and one by one they all came to his room, and used the entrance to the secret passage there to come inside this shed without being seen by the enemies. You see, the passage was underground!
Then they all stayed in the shed until they heard the enemies going away, and then used the secret passage again to go into Mr. Jenkins's room. So they were always safe from enemies!" said Josh.
"And there was another passage as well," he went on. "It forked off the main passage from Mr. Jenkins's room to this shed. No one has ever been in that passage. No one knows where the passage ends. People believe that there are ghosts there!"
John, who had been listening carefully, pooh-poohed this idea at once, as he didn't believe in ghosts. So did the others.
"But surely you don't believe in ghosts, Josh?" asked Sheila, seeing that Susan was looking scared. "Because there's no such thing as ghosts. You know that, don't you?"
"Of course I do," said Josh indignantly. "How old do you think I am?" "Anyway, Mr. Jenkins was just forty years old when he died of a disease."
After listening to Josh's exciting tale, the children were taken inside the farmhouse by Josh. There, they met his mother, hard at work in the dairy. The children liked her at once.
"Hello, children!" she smiled. "I suppose Josh has already shown you all around the farm! He doesn't get company very often, and now that he has got someone to play with, I suppose he's going to spend most of his time with them!" Josh went red.
"Well, its tea-time now, so if you want you can have tea here with Josh today." she said. "Oh, thank you, Mrs.Thomas," said Lizzie.
"Now, why don't you children go upstairs to wash? Your tea is almost ready," said Mrs. Thomas.
The children all scampered upstairs and washed their hands as quickly as possible. Then they ran downstairs again, and my, how surprised they were to see a fine spread waiting for them on the table!
There was a dish of stewed fruit, a plate of biscuits, slices of home-made bread, and jam, with glasses of creamy milk or lemonade to drink.
The children sat down at once and helped themselves to a bit of everything. There was silence for a while as the children tucked in to the delicious meal. Then Susan spoke.
"Isn't this scrumptious?" she asked. "Your mother is a marvellous cook, Josh."
"She is," said Josh proudly. "Everyone likes her food. Do you know, last year, there was a man lodging with us, and he was skin and bones, and hardly ate anything at all. But as soon as he tasted Mum's food, he took three helpings of each thing in each meal! And then he became so plump and round, you wouldn't believe it."
Just then, Josh's father, Mr.Thomas, came into the room. He was a tall, jolly-looking man, and the children warmed to him at once.
"Hello, children," he said. "Hello, Mr. Thomas." answered the children.
The farmer nodded to them and then sat down on a chair to read his newspaper. Suddenly, he gave an exclamation.
"What happened, Dad?" asked Josh, startled.
"Oh, nothing," replied his father, "Only that a prisoner who steals only valuable jewellery and stones, has escaped from a nearby prison. And it says here that it is possible that he is going to try and find some old precious stones that were lost about forty years ago, and take them. And what's more, those old precious stones are supposed to be somewhere in our district!
Anyone who has any information about the prisoner is asked to call the police. And there's a good description of the prisoner. Listen. It says that the prisoner has a heavily scarred face, and a thick moustache, but no beard. His hair is brown. He is tall, and has a slightly large nose."
The children were surprised, but didn't say anything. They quietly finished their meal, then went to thank Mrs. Thomas and say good-bye to her.
But just as they were saying good-bye to Josh, she came rushing towards them. "I nearly forgot your gift!" she said, holding out a tin of toffees towards them.
"Thank you, Mrs. Thomas," said Jimmy, surprised, taking the tin. The children thanked their hosts once more and bid them good-bye, and then set off towards their little camp.
When they reached it, they were all very tired indeed, so everyone dragged their sleeping bags out into the warmth and lay down on top of the bags to have a snooze.
When they awoke, it was supper time, and the girls prepared a light supper of fried bread and lettuce, with orangeade to drink.
Then the girls refilled their bucket with washing-up water. They didn't need to fetch drinking water as the stream was so near their tents. They all washed up, and Lizzie stacked their cups and plates and spoons neatly inside the girls' tent.
"What shall we do now?" asked Sheila.
"Let's have a game of Snap or something," answered John. "I'll get the cards. I'm sure I packed them."
He got up and went into the boys' tent, and was back in a few minutes. He spread out his jacket on the ground, and then sat down on it. The others did the same. John dealt out the cards, and the game began!
They had been playing for about twenty minutes, when Susan yelled 'Snap!' and got the last of the cards. Susan had won!
It was getting late, so John put the cards back and Lizzie gave everyone a cup of cocoa and two biscuits. Then they all said goodnight and went into their tents, where they crawled inside their warm sleeping-bags and fell asleep.
The sun was shining brightly when the children woke up the next day at a quarter to ten. Everyone tore down to the stream and splashed their faces, and drunk some water too. The girls hurried back to the camp, then went back to the stream.
"Why've you come back?" asked John, surprised.
"We've come back because Sheila just had an idea." replied Susan breathlessly.
"Well, I thought maybe we could have a bathe, and go for a short walk before having breakfast, and by the time we came back it would be about eleven thirty. Then we could have brunch, a mixture of breakfast and lunch, when we returned." suggested Sheila.
"It's a good idea!" said the boys. "Let's change into our bathing things now, shall we?"
The children went back to the tents to get their bathing suits, and then slipped behind a large rock to change their clothes. Everyone ran out from behind the rock in two seconds, and then slipped into the cool stream.
The water was so cold that they all squealed. The children all had races with each other, and floated on their backs. It was ten to eleven when they got out of the stream, and they all dried themselves thoroughly and slipped into their clothes, and Lizzie spread their bathing suits to dry on one of the bushes nearby.
Then they set off. They decided to follow the stream uphill, to see where it started from.
Everyone walked by the stream, chattering and laughing. Suddenly, Susan stopped dead. "What's the matter?" asked Jimmy.
"What's that?" replied Susan, pointing to a big lump of dirt next to her feet.
Jimmy looked at it. "I don't know," he said, puzzled. He bent down for a better look. "It looks like there's something inside this."
Sheila, who was looking around, said, "You know, while looking at that lump, we forgot about the stream. And I've just noticed that it starts here!"
And she pointed at a place next to her feet, from which the stream gushed out in bubbles.
"That's funny..." said John with a frown.
"What is?" asked Lizzie.
"Well, look in front, on top of that hill, Lizzie." replied John. Lizzie looked, and she saw the farm! Jimmy, who had been digging through the pile of dirt, suddenly let out an exclamation.
"Hey! Look at this! It's a pile of clothes. Prison clothes!"
Everyone looked at each other in bewilderment. Why should there be a pile of clothes in such a lonely place? That too prison clothes? It was certainly very odd.
Jimmy looked around him and suddenly noticed that next to the pile of dirt, there was a heap of brambles and blackberry sprays. He pushed them away, and to his astonishment found a hole! He switched on his torch and peered into it, but he could not make out an ending.
Suddenly, Sheila stood up straight and looked at the farm, then back at the hole.
"John..." she said slowly.
"What?" he asked.
"Do you remember how Josh had told us that from the main passage from Mr. Jenkins's room to the shed, another passage forked off?" she said.
"Yes, I do," he replied, puzzled. "But what has the passage got to do with this hole? We don't even know where the passage ends."
John's eyes widened slowly. "Unless... Sheila, you don't think that the passage ends here, do you?"
"Yes, I do!" Sheila replied excitedly. "There's the farmhouse, and you can just see the shed over there, look. The main passage would have been from there to there, and that is exactly parallel to us! Josh had said that the other passage forked off the main passage, hadn't he? Well, you can see that it would be quite easy to make a passage from anywhere on the main passage to here!"
The others stared silently at the farmhouse and the shed. Yes, Sheila was right. It would be easy to tunnel from the main passage to where they were standing.
"You're right, Sheila," said John, voicing their thoughts.
"Let's go into the passage now!" said Sheila in excitement. But here, John shook his head.
"No. It's already eleven thirty. We're so late, that even if we start now, it'll take us at least fifteen minutes to get back to our tents. I'm hungry, and I bet all of you are too."
Everyone was feeling rather hungry, so they turned around and went back to their tents.
When they got back, Sheila made five glasses of cool, sweet lemonade and gave everyone a glass. After drinking it, she felt refreshed and she and Lizzie made a delicious brunch of two hard-boiled eggs, two slices of bread and some raw lettuce. Later, everyone ate two plums each. The meal was absolutely marvelous, and after eating it, all the children felt very full and sleepy indeed, and thought they wouldn't be able to eat anything till the next day.
Lizzie just piled their dirty cups and plates in a corner, planning to wash them later. She gave everyone a chocolate bar (including herself!) and told everyone to drag out their sleeping-bags again and sleep in the sun. Within minutes they were all fast asleep!
It was two thirty when they woke up. The children all went down to the stream to wash their faces, and then the girls filled the canvas bucket with washing-up water, and carried it back to the tents, while the boys put everyone's sleeping bags inside the tents. After that, the girls started washing their cups and plates. They finished washing in five minutes, as they really hadn't used very many utensils.
Then they spread out their jackets on the ground and sat on them to talk about the passage and the prison clothes.
"It's very strange, isn't it, that one day after Josh told us about the passage, we discover where it ends?" began Jimmy.
"Yes. It certainly is strange." replied John. "Now, let's all think for a minute and see if we can figure out how the passage and the prison clothes are connected, and why the prison clothes have been hidden there."
The children had been thinking for about ten minutes, before Sheila finally came out with an explanation of the prison clothes. "I've got it!" she exclaimed excitedly.
"What?" asked the others eagerly.
"Listen. You know that pile of prison clothes we found? Well, who could they belong to? An escaped prisoner! And you remember that escaped prisoner which Mr. Thomas told us about? Well, the first thing he would have to do after he escaped would be to dispose of his clothes, wouldn't he? So I suppose he went to the loneliest place he could find, and buried his prison clothes." she answered.
Everyone looked at each other, excited. What Sheila had said not only made sense, it also seemed extremely likely.
"Come on, Sheila, let's make tea now," said Lizzie, jumping up. "It's already half-past three, and it'll take us about an hour to make a tea that will satisfy the boys."
Sheila got up too, grinning, and avoiding the boys' punches. "It's all right. I'm only joking," said Lizzie.
The two girls went off. The boys and Susan played a game of snap while the girls were preparing tea.
The girls were back in fifteen minutes with something most mouth-watering. There was a thick slice of fruitcake, bread and butter, and two biscuits for everyone. They had made some lovely orangeade to drink.
"Wow!" said Susan. "This looks excellent. Thanks, Sheila. Thanks, Lizzie."
"You're welcome," replied the two girls. They set down the plates of food and the jug of orangeade, and everyone began to eat. They had soon finished all the food. This time, the boys washed up, and Sheila handed out the last of the chocolate to everyone. The children had decided to visit the farm again and tell Josh about the passage entrance they had found, and the prison clothes, so they set off down the hill.
Soon, they arrived at the farm, and looked about for Josh. They saw him in the hen-house, feeding the hens. "Hey, Josh!" called the children.
"Hi!" he called back. "How are you?"
"We're just fine," replied John.
"Josh, come over here a minute, will you? We've got something interesting to tell you," said Jimmy.
Josh hurried over to them, looking puzzled. "What is it?" he asked.
"Listen," said John. "You know that passage you told us about, the one that forks off the main passage? Well, we've found out where it ends! And guess what? Right next to the passage exit, we found a pile of buried prison clothes!"
Josh's eyes almost fell out of his head. "Prison clothes!" he gasped.
"Yes. And we thought that the clothes belonged to an escaped prisoner, as the first thing he would have to do after escaping from prison would be to get rid of his prison clothes." continued John, thoroughly enjoying Josh's surprise.
"What! Do you think that an escaped prisoner took off his clothes and buried them here?" he asked.
"Yes, we do." replied John. "Now, Josh, do you know anything else at all about the main passage, or the other passage, anything at all?"
"No. I don't think so," answered the boy.
"Think hard," John urged.
"Well, there was something. Let me see now... what was it? Oh yes! I remember now!" cried Josh.
"My mother had told me that when the farmhouse was built, it was built for a very rich man. That time, the man had many enemies who were after his gold and riches. To keep the gold and other things safe, he had a secret passage made specially for them. That is the passage from the trapdoor to one of the rooms in the house, which later became Mr. Jenkins's room. He put the riches safely in the passage, and hired guards to stand at both ends of the passage. No one except himself could go into the passage. He thought that his riches were safe.
But he didn't know that his enemies had found out about the passage. He didn't know that his enemies were making another passage that led to the middle of his passage. He didn't know that they were taking all his riches, one by one. And so, when he went into the tunnel one day to inspect it, he was horrified to find it empty, except for some small boxes which contained expensive jewelry.
He became so ill with shock that he died in about a week. After that no one went into the passage until Mr. Jenkins got the farmhouse a few years later. Even then, the other passage was believed to be haunted, and no one ever went into it."
"And," he said, dropping his voice to a whisper, "My mother had also told me that one of the rich man's enemies was also Mr. Jenkins's enemy!"
"You know, Josh, you'd said that the rich man's enemies had taken the riches that he had hidden in the passage, except for some boxes of expensive jewelry. But what if the enemies had been planning to take them later, but had forgotten?" said Susan.
"Then if the escaped prisoner was the enemy of both the rich man and Mr. Jenkins, and remembered about the left riches by any chance, I suppose he would try to get them. The first time he could have used the passage, which he supposedly knew about, to find Mr. Jenkins. But what if, after discovering that Mr. Jenkins was dead, and remembering about the forgotten riches, he went into the passage again to find them?" said Susan.
The others looked at each other. It certainly was a possibility, but it did seem a bit far-fetched.
"Well, the only way to make sure of that is to go into the passage," said Josh suddenly. "Will you all come with me?"
"Of course," replied John. "Let's go tomorrow morning, shall we? You'll be free then, won't you, Josh?"
"Yes," answered Josh. "I'll do all my work at top speed tomorrow! I'll come to your camp, too."
"All right," answered John. "Well, we'd better go now, Josh. Goodbye!"
Just as the children were leaving the farm, they heard a yell behind them. "Wait!" shouted Josh. "I just remembered that you hadn't got your gift! Stay right there while I get it for you from Mum."
He turned and raced into the farmhouse, just as Jimmy was saying, "You don't need to..." The children waited whilst Josh asked his mother for the gift. He was back in two seconds with a box of delecious looking strawberries.
"Mum said that these should last you for a long time," he grinned. "Well, goodbye, and see you tomorrow!"
Before they could even thank him for the strawberries, he turned and went into the farmhouse.
The children turned around and went down the hill, and up the next. By the time they got back, it was already seven thirty, so the girls started preparing a supper of thick fruitcake, delicious egg sandwiches, and the last of the sausages, and gingerbread, with hot cocoa to drink. For dessert there were the sweet strawberries.
Supper was ready in half an hour, and the children decided to discuss the day's happenings while eating it. Susan, Lizzie and Sheila set the food down on a spare jacket, which had been spread on the ground. Everyone helped themselves, and then started to talk about the day.
"It's so queer, what we've found out today," started Susan.
"Yes, it is. But tomorrow, when we go into the passage, perhaps we'll be able to solve this mystery once and for all!" answered John.
There was silence for a while as the children tucked in. They had soon finished their share of the main food, and had begun on the strawberries. The children finished that in about two minutes!
Then the boys washed up, and the girls dried the plates. After that, everyone had two toffees out of the tin which Mrs. Thomas had given them, and finished about half the tin! Lizzie put the tin back in its place, and then everyone went into their tents to sleep after saying goodnight.
When they woke up the next day, they were feeling extremely excited. By the time they had eaten a breakfast of bread and butter, with milk to drink, washed up, and got some food and lemonade ready in a satchel, it was already ten o' clock.
"Josh didn't say what time he would be here," said Susan. "I wonder when he'll come."
And lo and behold, just as she finished saying this, Josh came up the hill, panting.
"Oh, hello, Josh," said the children. "We've got our torches ready. Come on!"
And everyone went a bit further up the hill. Very soon, they came to the pile of prison clothes and the entrance to the passage. They showed Josh the prison clothes first, enjoying his surprise. Then they pushed aside the blackberry sprays, and brambles, to reveal a big hole, which was really the passage entrance.
Josh had brought a rope-ladder with him, so they tied one end of it firmly to a tree-trunk, and let the other end down into the hole. No one particularly wanted to jump down!
Josh then swung himself into the hole and caught hold of the rope-ladder. He somehow managed to put his feet on one of its rungs, and then he went down the ladder carefully, with his torch safely in his pocket. He soon reached the ground.
"I've reached!" he called up. He shone his torch around, but all he could make out was a long, dark, rocky passage.
Then Jimmy went down the ladder. After that, John sent Susan down. She was glad to climb off the wobbly rope-ladder when she reached the ground! Sheila climbed down next, and then Lizzie.
When everyone except John had gone down, he untied the ladder-end from the tree-trunk, and put it under a heavy stone instead.
He then found a strong branch on the ground, which he stuck firmly into the dirt next to the opening, so as to be able to lasso the rope-ladder around it when they got back. He didn't want anyone seeing their rope-ladder!
After that, he swung himself into the hole, and hurriedly covered most of it with the brambles, leaving a small space for the rope to slide through.
He climbed down the ladder quickly, and when he reached the ground, he gave the rope-ladder a strong pull. It slid out from under the stone, and slithered down the hole.
John picked it up, and wound it around his waist. Then the little party set off down the passage, with John leading the way, wondering what they would find.
"It smells kind of musty in here, doesn't it?" remarked Susan.
"Yes." agreed John. "If I stayed here for more than an hour at a stretch, I don't think I would feel very good."
After about fifteen minutes, they came to a forking. Everyone guessed that they had reached the main passage. They turned into it, and had been in the main passage for barely two minutes, when something glittering caught Susan's eye.
"Wait a minute, John!" she called.
"What is it, Sue?" he called back.
"I've just seen something glittering!" she said.
John at once came to her, and looked at where she was pointing. He reached out, and took the jewel from the two rocks between which it had been wedged.
"I think this is a diamond," he said, examining it carefully before putting it in the palm of his hand for everyone to see.
"A diamond!" exclaimed everyone.
"Yes," replied John, "A diamond. That too a very expensive diamond."
John put it into his pocket, and the children set off again. Some time later, they found an old piece of paper lying on the ground.
Josh picked it up, and read it aloud to the others. "I, a very rich man, am writing this note while hiding the most precious of my treasures here. I hope that some good person will find it, and not my horrible enemies. Let me give you a clue as to where the most precious treasures are hidden." Underneath was written:
The children stared at Josh. "Well, all of that makes sense except the end part, the clue," said Jimmy at last.
"Yes, I know," agreed John. "But then we're supposed to solve the clue, aren't we? Let's try to solve it now!"
The children found a large ledge, and sat on it, looking at the paper in Josh's hand.
"Well, let's try to separate the words," said Josh at last. "Let's see... the first word is... passage... then this... after that it's of... then middle. The next one is... the, then in, then... er... exactly. Then its rock, a, behind, up and high," he continued, writing it down.
The children were absolutely mystified. What could such an odd string of words possibly mean?
"I wonder what would happen if we reversed that string of words," said Lizzie suddenly. "Where have you written it down, Josh?"
Josh gave her the piece of paper on which he had written the separated words in the correct order. Lizzie looked at it, and then took out a pencil and started writing something on the paper. "I was right!" she exclaimed in a minute.
"What happened?" asked the others eagerly.
"I reversed the words," said Lizzie excitedly, "and look what I came up with!"
She showed them Josh's paper, on which she had reversed the string of words. Here is what it now said:
High up behind a rock exactly in the middle of this passage.
"That means that the precious jewelry is hidden in this passage!" cried John, beginning to get excited.
"Yes," answered Lizzie.
"Let's look for a high rock, shall we?" interrupted Sheila. "Yes, let's. Come on, everybody!" said John. They all set off, keeping a lookout for a high rock.
Jimmy suddenly stopped in his tracks. "Look up there!" he cried, pointing above their heads. Everyone looked. There was a small rock, about fifteen feet high up. "But the rope ladder is only ten feet long, and I'm sure that it won't reach the rock," said Lizzie thoughtfully. "Now what do we do?" asked Susan in dismay. "Let's... let's all sit down and eat before we do anything." answered John.
The children found a large rock, and sat down on it to share the food in Jimmy's satchel. Jimmy passed the food to Lizzie, who gave everyone some fruit, two toffees, and two biscuits. She also gave everyone some lemonade. The children munched their way contentedly through the fruit and biscuits. They drank the cool, sweet lemonade in delight. Then, sucking their toffees, they sat and thought about how they could reach the rock.
After about ten minutes, Susan had a plan.
"Look, I've got an idea." she began. "Now, about how tall are you, John?"
"Five feet two inches." he replied, startled.
"Oh. What about you then, Josh?" she asked him, looking thoughtful.
"I'm about five feet tall." he answered.
"Excellent! Now, listen," said Susan. "The rope ladder is ten feet long. The rock is about fifteen feet high. And to reach the rock, the ladder needs to be five feet longer. Do you agree?"
The others nodded, puzzled. "Right. If Josh stood on John's shoulders, and then climbed up the rope ladder, he would be able to reach the rock!" cried Susan.
The others looked at each other. It certainly seemed a good plan.
"Wait a minute," said Sheila slowly.
"What's the matter?" asked Lizzie.
"Well, how are the boys going to lasso the top of the rope ladder on to the rock?" said Sheila.
The boys looked at the rock in dismay. Then suddenly, Jimmy's face lit up. "Maybe..."
"Maybe what?" asked the other children.
"Maybe we don't need to use the rope ladder." he said.
"What do you mean?" asked John nervously.
"Well, do you see those little holes up the wall? I think I could use them to climb up the wall and reach the rock!" answered Jimmy triumphantly.
John looked at him. "Are you sure?" he asked doubtfully.
"Yes, I'm sure," answered Jimmy.
"All right," replied John. "But be careful, won't you?"
Jimmy made a face at him. Then he put his hands into two holes on the wall, and his feet into two holes below them. Then up he went, using the holes in the wall for handholds and footholds. The wall seemed to be made for climbing!
The rest of the children looked on anxiously as Jimmy reached the rock. They watched, breathless, as he felt with one hand on top of the rock. Then, to their surprise and delight, he withdrew his hand from the rock, a small box clutched in his hand!
All the children below clapped in delight. Jimmy grinned and climbed down the wall carefully. As soon as he reached the bottom, he was rewarded with claps and thumps on the back.
All the children sat down on the large rock again. John tried to open the clasp of the box, which was rusted because it was so old. But no matter how hard he tried, Josh couldn't open the box!
All the children tried, even Susan, but with no luck. Jimmy banged the box on the ground in anger.
"Don't do that!" yelled John, picking up the box, and looking at it carefully.
Then his face suddenly lit up, because the sudden shock that the box had received when Jimmy had banged it on the ground, had loosened the clasp! He told the others and then set to work to try and pry open the clasp with his pocket-knife. And lo and behold, within five minutes the box was open!
John looked at his watch, and gave a sudden exclamation.
"I say! It's already two o' clock! We'd better be getting back for lunch!" he yelled, shutting the lid of the box.
"Two o' clock! We have lunch at one! Mum's going to explode!" moaned Josh. "Yes, we should certainly get back now. What a good thing you looked at your watch, John!"
Everyone got up, Jimmy shouldered the empty satchel, John tucked the box carefully under his arm, handed everyone their torches, and then they all back up towards the place where the other passage joined the main passage.
From there, they turned into the other passage, and back up towards the hole. Once they had reached it, Jimmy lassoed the end of the rope-ladder onto the stick which John had stuck into the dirt. Then they all climbed up one by one.
Once everyone was safely up, Josh undid the rope ladder and coiled it around his waist and Jimmy covered the hole with the pile of brambles once again.
"You know, it's already two fifteen," said Josh thoughtfully. "Mum will have a meal ready, but you won't. How about if you all came to the farmhouse for lunch, and spent the day there?"
"Good idea!" answered John immediately. "And we'll be able to look at the box too! Come on!"
Everyone set off to the farmhouse, talking and laughing. After a few minutes, Susan bent down and cupped some water from the stream into her hands, for she was feeling very thirsty. This made the others thirsty too, and there was a pause for quite a few minutes as everyone drank water!
When the children reached the farmhouse at last, at two thirty, they found Mrs. Thomas in a very worried state indeed. She was waiting for them at the farmhouse gate. She ran to them as soon as she saw them.
"Josh! Where have you been! I've been worried sick about you!"
"I'm very sorry, Mum," mumbled Josh. "It won't happen again. I promise!"
"Well, that's no excuse!" said his mother. "Now go inside, wash your hands, and then eat your lunch. I've been keeping it hot for you for the past hour!
And you children can have your lunch here, too, if you want." she added, as Josh went into the farmhouse.
"Thank you, Mrs. Thomas, that would be lovely." replied the children.
They went into the farmhouse after Josh, to wash their hands. When they went into the dining room, they found a delicious, hot lunch waiting for them.
Hot tomato soup to begin with, then sausages, a wonderful-smelling stew, and heaps of tomatoes.
Mrs. Thomas came in, and told them to sit down and help themselves. The children did as they were told, and ate their way through the meal. The children carried their plates to the kitchen, and then sat down to a big steamed pudding.
After everyone had finished the pudding, they all helped in the washing up. Then, they went out into the sunshine, with a toffee each, planning to open the box.
The children sat down on a bench, and then John opened the box. And inside the box was valuable jewellery!
There was a lovely diamond-studded tiara, a double pearl necklace, priceless rings with precious stones like emeralds, rubies, sapphires and diamonds set into them, about fifty gold coins, lots of lovely brooches, a pair of large earrings with emeralds almost as large as eggs in them, and even a small dagger with three rubies set into the hilt!
The children were awed by the absolute beauty of the jewellry. Even they could see how valuable it was.
"This stuff must be more than two hundred years old!" whispered Sheila, gently fingering the pearl necklace.
"It might be," said Josh, puzzled, "But then, how could it belong to the rich man? He lived only about fifty years ago!"
"Easy!" answered John. "The rich man must have inherited it from his ancestors!"
"Oh." Josh was silent for a moment. "But John, I don't understand something. This man was supposed to be very, very rich. And he was supposed to have lots of precious riches. But this box only has a few things!"
All the other children looked at Josh, his words sinking in.
"Josh..." said Susan slowly, "You don't think that someone went into the passage before us, do you?"
"I do," sighed Josh. "I think that the escaped prisoner must have gone into the passage, and found that paper which says 'high up behind a rock in the middle of this passage'. I suppose he tossed it onto the ground after reading it! After all, that's where we found it. Then he must have found the rock, just like we did, and when he felt a box on the rock, he must have taken it, without thinking that there might be another box behind it!"
"And then we came along, and found this box, I suppose," said Lizzie soberly.
"Yes," said John, "That could have happened, I suppose. Now what are we going to do?"
Jimmy looked at his watch. It was four o' clock. "Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going to go back and have tea." he said firmly.
Everyone else looked at their watches, too. "Yes, you'd better get going. It's already four o' clock." agreed Josh.
All the children, excepting Josh, of course, prepared to leave. They had just finished thanking and saying good-bye to Mrs. Thomas, when Josh grabbed John's arm and whispered, "Take the box with you! After all, Mum might discover it here, and that would spoil everything. But no-one will discover it if you keep it!"
John nodded and slipped the box into his pocket. The children waved good-bye to Josh once more and then set off down the hill.
It was tired set of children who arrived at their little camp at a quarter past four! Everyone flung themselves down on the grass, and Susan said, "You know, I'm very tired. I don't want to make tea. Why don't the boys try their hand at cooking?"
The boys grinned, and then nodded. So they got up, and disappeared into the girls' tent. Meanwhile, the girls sat and giggled, wondering what sort of a meal the boys would present.
Soon, the boys came out holding a dish of fruits and a raw salad. They had also got glasses of orangeade. They had just set down the food, when it started to rain lightly.
"Oh, blow!" said Susan. "Now we can't eat outside!"
"Oh yes we can," said John with a grin. "Let's eat sitting with our legs in the stream, and let the rain do whatever it wants!"
Everyone stared at him. "Really, it'll be fun!" he protested.
"All right." agreed the others. So they took their food and went to the stream. They dangled their legs in the cool water, and sat munching the food.
"You were right, John. This is great!" said Susan happily. John grinned at his little sister.
When they had finished eating, the children got up, and took their plates behind the tents. Then, using the rainwater, they washed their plates. After carrying their plates to the girls' tent, the children changed out of their wet clothes and into some dry ones.
Then they went into the boys' tent, and played a game of 'Dumb charades'. Just as John was acting out a movie, Jimmy exclaimed, "Hey, look! It's stopped raining!"
Everybody looked. It was true. The rain was no longer pelting down. At once, all of them tore out of the tent.
"Let's sit down for a while and talk about the prisoner." suggested Susan.
Everyone agreed, and so they sat in a circle on their jackets on the dirt ground, opened the box, and placed in the centre.
"John," said Sheila, frowning slightly, "I've just thought of something. "The rock, the one on which we found this box, I mean, was quite small, just about big enough to hold two of these boxes. And we think that the prisoner found the other box, and took it. Well, don't you think it's possible that he would have realised, just like us, that there was probably another box on the rock, if he knew that rich man had lots of precious things, as he probably does? Don't you think that he will go into the passage again to get the other box, which he doesn't know we have?"
"Yes," answered John. "You're right, Sheila."
Everyone stared at Sheila for a minute, wondering what they could do about it. Then suddenly Lizzie yelled, "I know! All of us can keep watch at the passage entrance. Then, if the escaped prisoner comes along, we can somehow trap him, and take the box which he has, and then turn it all to the police!"
"Yes!" shouted Jimmy, dancing about. "After all, the prisoner doesn't know about us. He won't try to trap us!"
"All right, all right," said John. "It's decided then. We'll go into the passage tomorrow, and see if the prisoner comes along. And if he does, we'll trap him!" he said. "Now," he checked his watch, "It's five o' clock. Who fancies a bathe?"
"Me!" yelled everyone, and then laughed.
They all took their bathing things and scrambled behind a big rock. They changed into their bathing suits and jumped into the stream. Everyone swam about, or floated on their own, for a while. Then all the children had an underwater swimming race.
John won, of course. He was by far the best swimmer among them. After a while, everyone got out of the stream. They rubbed themselves dry with a towel, and then changed into their normal clothes. Then they sat down to discuss how they could trap the prisoner.
"Now, first of all," began Sheila, "How do we trap the prisoner?"
"Well," replied John, "I think that we should make booby traps to somehow lure the prisoner into a certain place in the passage, and then, some of us, waiting there, could perhaps capture the man."
"Yes!" shouted Susan. "That's an excellent idea!"
All the children agreed. "Now," said John, "The next thing to think about is what booby traps we'll make. Any ideas?"
Everyone thought hard for a while. Finally, Lizzie had an idea.
"Listen," she said, "First of all, we need to think of a place which we can lure the prisoner into. How about the place where the main passage meets the other passage?"
Everyone agreed to this, and Lizzie continued. "Right. Now, I think that we could perhaps pour some oil at the place where the two passages meet. The prisoner will slip on the oil and fall down. Then, we could bind his wrists and ankles, and then turn him to the police! And then the police will make him tell them where he has hidden the box of riches!"
"Well, that's decided then," broke in Jimmy. "Now, what's the time?"
"It's a quarter past six." answered Susan.
"Oh. Well, what do you want to do now?" he asked.
"We could go for a walk," suggested Sheila.
"Yes!" everyone agreed.
So they all set off for a walk. This time the children followed the stream downhill. After about twenty minutes, they sat down on the grass, beside the stream, for a minute.
Then, they set off again. Soon, they came to the place where the stream ended, disappearing into the hill. The children turned to go back to their tents.
They reached their tents at about seven, but by then they were all tired, so they went into their tents, snuggled down into their sleeping bags, and were soon fast asleep.
The children woke up in about an hour, and went to wash their faces in the stream. Then, as no one was feeling that hungry for supper, the girls decided just to have a light meal.
They brought out some bread and butter, and handed it out to everyone.
"We thought it would be nice to have spring water instead of lemonade," explained Sheila, seeing the boys' surprised faces when she gave them plain stream water instead of lemonade. The water was delicious – sweet, cool, and crystal-clear. The bread-and-butter was good too.
"Mmm," said Susan, drinking deeply out of her glass. "This water is lovely."
When the children finished their meal, they all washed up, and then decided to have a game of Snap. Lizzie dealt the cards, and soon they were all yelling 'Snap'! Jimmy won the game, and after that, they all said Goodnight and went into their tents.
The next morning, when the children woke up, it was a bright, sunny day. They jumped out of their sleeping-bags, and rushed to the stream to rinse their faces.
Then, the girls gave everyone the leftover pieces of gingerbread, and a glass of lemonade for breakfast. When the children finished eating, they were feeling too lazy to wash up, so they just stacked their plates neatly beside their tents, and covered them with a cloth.
Just as they were putting the leftover plums, a bottle of orangeade and their torches into Jimmy's satchel, Jimmy looked up at the sky.
"It's such a lovely warm day," he said. "Maybe we can sleep outside, in our sleeping bags, today, if it's still so warm at night."
John nodded, and then said, "We should set off to pick up Josh now, if we don't want to be late."
"I say – I think we might have forgotten something," piped up Susan, as they walked down the hill.
"What?" asked the others.
"Well," she replied, "We realized that there might be another box which the prisoner could have taken. But what if the prisoner hasn't realized that there may be another box on the rock which he hadn't seen? What if he never realizes it? And what if he has realized this before us and has already been to the rock? Or, what if he realizes it much later?"
"Hmm..." answered Sheila. "That is a problem. But we'll worry about that later. Right now, let's just think about picking up Josh and getting some oil from the farm-house."
"All right, all right." muttered Susan.
They had reached the farmhouse by this time, and soon spotted Josh coming out of the house. They hailed him loudly. "Josh! Hey, Josh!"
He turned around, and then, on seeing who it was, smiled and ran over to them.
"Hello!" he said.
"Listen, Josh," began John. "We think that the prisoner might realize that there could be another box besides the one he has, and go into the passage again to take the box which he thinks he hadn't noticed, the one which we have. And we're going to try and trap him. Will you help us?"
"Of course I will!" said Josh.
"Excellent!" said John, in relief. "Now, can you go and get a rope-ladder and a small tin of oil?"
"Whatever for?" asked Josh curiously.
"We'll tell you on the way. Hurry!"
"All right," nodded Josh, and slipped into the farmhouse. He came rushing out in a minute, clutching a can of oil, with a rope-ladder wound around his waist, and his torch safely in his pocket. He held out an extra rope to Jimmy.
"Here," he said. "Put this in your satchel. We might need it."
As they all hurried along to the passage entrance, John explained to Josh what they were going to do. As soon as they came to it, they removed the brambles that covered the holes, and once again the boys tied the rope-ladder end to a tree-trunk, and let the other end down the hole.
"I'll go first," volunteered Josh.
"Right," replied John. So Josh put down the can of oil, and then climbed on to the rope-ladder. He slithered down the hole and yelled to the others. "Use that extra rope in Jimmy's satchel to lower the can of oil!"
Now Jimmy understood why Josh had said they might need the extra rope. He grinned and took it out of his satchel. Then he tied it firmly around the can of oil and lowered it down the hole. When it reached him, Josh untied the can and pulled down the rope.
Then Sheila climbed down the rope-ladder, and Lizzie went down after her. Susan and Jimmy followed.
John looked around for a long stick. He soon found one among some brambles which lay nearby. He stuck it firmly into the dirt in front of the hole, and then untied the end of the rope ladder from the tree, and put it down under a stone. He climbed onto the ladder, pulled the brambles over the hole, and went quickly down to the others.
As soon as he came down and got off the ladder, Jimmy pulled hard on the rope, and tugged it out from below the stone. It slithered down, making a tiny hole between the brambles. He popped it into his satchel, and then the children sat down to discuss their plan.
"Now," said Josh. "I think that we three boys should hide near the place where the two passages meet. Then, as soon as the prisoner falls down, we could come and tie his arms and legs together. I don't think that the girls should get involved in this. It's too dangerous."
"That's not fair!" said Susan indignantly. "I know it isn't, Susan, but Josh is right, you know. It probably is a little too dangerous for you. But maybe..." he continued, seeing Susan's venomous look, "Maybe... you could pour the oil, and then keep a watch for the prisoner and tell us when he's coming?"
"Fine!" agreed Susan happily.
The children then went to the point where the passages met, and then Susan poured some oil from Josh's tin on the rocky floor. The girls then hid behind rocks, to keep a watch for the prisoner. Meanwhile, the boys got out the rope from Jimmy's satchel, and practised catching the thief.
"This is boring," sighed Susan, after about an hour. "We've been here for ages, and I haven't even got a sniff of the prisoner."
John laughed. "Be patient, Susan," he said. "Maybe the prisoner will come tomorrow. But anyway, let's forget about that now, and eat something. I'm famished."
"All right," replied the others.
So the girls took out the plums and the orangeade, and some tin glasses and lots of paper napkins. Lizzie put two plums on each napkin and gave a napkin to everyone, while Sheila poured the orangeade into the glasses and handed those around.
Soon, the children had finished their snack, and were discussing whether or not to leave the passage.
"I think we should wait for a while," said John.
"I don't," announced Susan. "I mean, look at the time, John. It's already two thirty! If the prisoner had wanted to come and get the box, he would have come before now, surely! Let's go back and come tomorrow."
"But, Susan," began John. "Maybe the prisoner will come in a while. We really should wait for some time."
"All right," sighed Susan. "But only for another half hour, okay?"
"All right," agreed John. So they waited, but no prisoner came within half an hour.
"See?" said Susan triumphantly. "I told you that the prisoner won't come today. He'll probably come within a few days. Let's go back."
"All right." agreed a dispirited John. So, the children went back to the opening, John lassoed the end of the rope-ladder onto the stick, and then all of them climbed out of the hole, one by one. As soon as all of them were out, Jimmy pulled out the rope-ladder from the hole, unwound the top of it from the stick, and coiled it and put it away in his satchel.
Then, Josh covered the hole with the brambles again, and then wrenched out the stick from the ground, and threw it on top of the other brambles.
The children waved goodbye to Josh, and turned to walk back to their tents. But just as they turned, Josh yelled to them.
"Hey, wait a minute! I've just remembered that Mother told me to ask you all to tea. Will you come?"
"Of course," answered John, pleased.
So everyone walked to the farmhouse. When they had reached it, they found Mrs. Thomas hard at work in the kitchen, preparing the tea with someone who was in a dark corner, so they couldn't see her.
The children's mouths watered when they saw the plates of pasta, the dishes of fruits, the big jug of cream, and the glasses of ginger ale being got ready for them.
"Why, hello, children," smiled Mrs. Thomas, as she saw them.
"Hello, Mrs. Thomas," the children replied. Josh's mother smiled at them, and then went on with her work. She laughed as she saw Susan look longingly at the plates of pasta. "Tea will be ready at four o' clock. That's in about half an hour. Why don't you children play for some time, and then come and wash for tea?"
"Yes, Mum," answered Josh. "We'd love that. Bye!"
Josh took the children out into the garden, where they sat down on the swings suspended from the trees.
"These swings are lovely, Josh." remarked Susan. "Why do have them? I mean, surely you don't need more than one swing for yourself?"
"No." replied Josh. "But the other swings are here so that unexpected guests like you can have swings in the garden!" Susan let out a peal of laughter. Josh couldn't help grinning, too.
"No, actually, there're here for the guests who stay in the farmhouse. You know that my mother takes paying guests, don't you?" he said.
"Oh, yes," said Susan, remembering. "But Josh, I haven't seen any guests at the farmhouse at all. Where are they?"
"Oh, they sleep in separate rooms. Separate from the other rooms, I mean. The guests have their own wing in the house, and my mother, my father, and I sleep in the other wing. The main rooms, like the living room and the lounge are in the middle, though. But there are two dining rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms. One for the guests, and one for us. Oh, by the way, the guests have two bathrooms, not one."
"Oh," said Susan. "But Josh, who makes the guests' meals then? I mean, whenever I've seen your mother, she's always been cooking meals for your family, not the guests. How come?"
"Well, we have two cooks. One is Lucy, whom you saw, helping my mother in the kitchen. She helps a little in our kitchen, and also sees to the housework. Our other cook is Greta, who handles the guests' kitchen. She's really nice, and cooks as well as my mother. And she arranges the meals really elegantly, too, so the guests always compliment her meals." explained Josh.
"Let's have a game now," suggested Jimmy, who was getting bored.
"All right, what game do you want to play?" asked John.
"Ummm... how about 'hide and seek'?" suggested Jimmy.
"Yes, that would be fun," agreed Susan.
"Okay. Who'll be the seeker?" asked John.
"I will," said Josh. "I'm going to start counting now! One, two, three..."
The children scampered away to hide.
"Ninety-eight, ninety-nine, hundred! I'm coming!" yelled Josh.
He wandered around the garden and peeked behind bushes, trees, and benches. Soon, he had found Sheila, who had crawled under a bench. Then he found John and Jimmy together, hiding behind a strawberry bush, helping themselves to strawberries.
"There you are," cried Josh, rushing up to them. The boys grinned, and came out from behind the bush.
"Now, I've only got to find Susan and Lizzie," said Josh.
He went all around the garden, looking here and there, but he couldn't find the two girls, until he heard a stifled giggle, and looked around in surprise. The sound had seemed to come from the gooseberry bush right behind him.
He turned around and looked behind the bush, but he could not see anyone. Then the giggle came again. Josh stared in surprise, and then had a sudden thought. Bending down, he put his hands into the bush, and then felt around, until he caught hold of a pair of hands.
Laughing, he pulled out the person, who turned out to be Lizzie. The girl was covered in dirt, and she grinned rather sheepishly.
"I'd never have thought of such a place," said Josh admiringly. "Now, wherever can Susan be? I've gone around the garden twice, but I haven't found her yet."
He went around the garden another time, but he couldn't find Susan.
"I say, we should go and wash now, otherwise we'll be awfully late for tea. Wherever is she?" he said.
"She can't be lost, can she?" said John, worriedly. "I mean, this is a pretty big garden, and she isn't very familiar with it."
"Oh, I never thought of that," replied Josh. "Let's spread out, and yell her name, shall we? Then, if she hears us, she'll surely come out of her hiding place, or from wherever she is, if she's lost. And we could all meet back here in ten minutes."
Everyone agreed to this plan, so all the children spread out, and began to call Susan. "SUUUUUSAAN! Come back!" "Where are you, Susan? Come back!"
Suddenly, Susan, hearing the shouts, slipped down from a tree, and crept up behind Josh.
"AHHH!" she yelled. Josh almost jumped out of his skin. He turned around, and to his great surprise and relief, found Susan standing behind him. She was doubled up with laughter.
"Oh, you looked so surprised when I yelled right behind you!" she chuckled.
He stared at her, and then began to smile. "I can't believe this." he said. "While we were all worried about you, you were planning how to scare us?"
"I wasn't going to scare you!" said Susan indignantly. "I was just hiding and hoping that you wouldn't catch me. And then, after a while, I heard you shouting, so I came down, and then I just saw you, so I couldn't help wanting to scare you."
"Oh," said Josh. "By the way, where were you hiding? I went round the garden thrice, but I couldn't find you."
"I was up in a tree," answered Susan. "Don't say that you didn't think of looking up, Josh!"
"Well, actually, I didn't," admitted Josh. "Anyway, let's go back now. The others are probably waiting for us."
The two children ran back to the meeting place, where they found the others waiting for them.
"Look! There she is!" cried Sheila, rushing forward to meet her sister.
"Hi, Sheila! Hi, everyone," cried Susan.
"Oh, Susan!" said Sheila, hugging her. "We thought you were lost! We were so worried about you! Where were you?"
"Oh, I was hiding in a tree. And then, when I heard Josh shouting, I slipped down from the tree, crept up behind him, and yelled. And you should have seen his face when he heard my yell! It was too funny."
The others stared at her, drinking in all this.
"We'd better go and wash for tea now," broke in Josh. "We're awfully late as it is."
So all the children hurried to the farmhouse to wash for tea. They hurriedly ran to the bathroom, and washed their hands thoroughly.
"We're only ten minutes late, thank goodness," said Josh, drying his hands on the bathroom towel.
Then all the children rushed downstairs. There they found Mrs. Thomas waiting for them, not looking very pleased.
"Hurry up, children," she said. The children sat down quietly, and started eating the delecious pasta set in front of them.
"This is lovely, Mrs. Thomas," said Susan, wiping her mouth with a napkin, and reaching out for her glass of ginger ale.
Josh's mother smiled at her and disappeared into the kitchen.
"Here you are, children," she said, coming out of the kitchen holding a jug of cream and a dish of fruits.
She set down the food and started pouring the cream into little bowls, which she put in front of everyone. Then she put the plate of sliced fruits in the middle of the table, and sat down for her own meal.
The children tucked into the wonderful meal, enjoying themselves.
"Finished?" asked Mrs. Thomas, a little while later.
"Yes, Mrs. Thomas, that was an excellent meal, thank you," said the children.
"And we'll help with the washing, Mrs. Thomas," added Lizzie.
"Oh, you really don't need to..." began Mrs. Thomas.
"Oh yes, we do," said Lizzie firmly.
"Surely you don't think that we're going to let you do so many kind things for us without us doing something for you, Mrs. Thomas!" added Sheila.
"Well, thank you very much. I'll really be grateful if you'll do that. Just be careful with the glass dishes, please." smiled Mrs. Thomas.
She took her own plate, and then showed the children into the kitchen. There, Lizzie and Sheila scraped the dishes, and then Susan rinsed them thoroughly, and handed them to the boys, who dried them well, and put them onto the dish-rack.
"What's the time?" asked Susan after some time, up to her elbows in soapy water.
"It's five-fifteen." answered Jimmy, glancing at his watch.
Just then, someone came entered the kitchen, smiling. This someone was a short, plump woman, with her long dark hair tied back in a ponytail.
"Hello, children," she said. "I've come to see if you need any help with the washing-up. Do you?"
"No, thank you, we're managing fine," replied Josh. "Oh, by the way, everyone, this is Lucy. Lucy, these are my friends, John, Jimmy, Lizzie, Sheila, and Susan." he continued, pulling the children forward one by one.
Lucy smiled, and nodded to the children.
"Hello, Lucy," said everyone.
"Hello," she replied. "Well, is there anything you want, Josh? If there isn't, I can go and do my work."
"Oh, no, I'm all right," said Josh, hastily. He did not want the children to think that he needed Lucy for this and that, even though she had been his nurse when he was small, and he thought of her as if she still was.
"All right then," she said briskly. "I'll be dusting the lounge, if you need me."
"All right," said Josh.
Lucy disappeared out of the kitchen, and the children went on with their work.
"Finished!" cried Susan happily after ten minutes.
John smiled at his little sister and said, "Why don't we go outside and talk for a while?"
"All right," agreed the others. So they all went out of the farmhouse into the back garden after informing Mrs. Thomas. Just as they sat down on the swings, Lizzie let out a yell. Everyone looked up, startled.
"What happened?" asked Josh.
"I've had a very, very good idea," she gabbled excitedly.
"Well, what is it?" asked Jimmy, rather impatiently.
"Well, I thought that perhaps Josh could come back with us, and stay for the night. He could sleep in your tent with you and John, Jimmy. There's enough space for him, surely. I mean, all us three girls manage to sleep in one tent, and we're quite comfortable. But only two of you sleep in your tent, and after all, the tents are about the same size."
Everyone stared at her. Then John beamed. "That's an excellent idea, Lizzie," he said. "There's definitely enough space for Josh in our tent. Wait a minute! I've just thought – we were going to sleep outside, in our sleeping-bags, weren't we?"
"Oh, yes!" replied Jimmy, smiling. "Now there won't even be a slight problem of space!" he continued.
Josh grinned. "I'd love to come," he said. "I'll just go and ask my mother if I can."
He ran into the farmhouse, and then, not seeing her there, into the front garden, where he saw her thinning the lettuce leaves. This garden was the place where she grew her herbs and spices, and things like lettuces and radishes and turnips, and flowers. She looked up as Josh came running towards her.
"Mum, I've got something to ask you," he panted.
"What is it, dear?" she said. "Do you want to help me with these lettuces?"
"Mum!" he groaned. Although Josh did all his jobs on the farm willingly and well, he did not like tending to the garden.
"All right, all right," said his mother with a laugh. "I didn't really expect you to agree, and anyway, you work hard enough on the farm. So, what is it you want to ask me?"
"Well..." said Josh hesitantly. He was wondering how to ask his mother, so that she would agree. "Well, the others have asked me to spend the night with them, Mum. I really want to. It'll be fun, sleeping in tents as if I'm really camping out. Can I, Mum? Please?"
"Well..." said his mother.
"Oh, please, Mum." he begged. "I'll come back right after breakfast. I promise!"
"Well... all right," said his mother, at last. "But be back immediately after breakfast! And take some food with you. The children might be running low on food."
"Thank you, Mum!" said the boy, joyfully.
His mother smiled at him and said, "Ask Lucy to give you the food in the right-hand corner of the larder. She'll wrap up the food and give it to you in a basket. Oh, and don't forget to ask her for some cocoa powder and a bottle of lemonade if you want."
"All right, Mum," answered Josh happily. He went to the kitchen, but he couldn't see Lucy. Then he remembered that she was in the lounge. He ran to the lounge, and found her dusting the sofa. "Hello, Lucy," he said.
"Yes, Josh?" she said, turning around and smiling. "What is it?"
"Mum asked me to tell you to give me the food in the right-hand corner of the larder, and some cocoa powder and a bottle of orangeade, in a basket. I'm spending the night with my friends, in their tents, and Mum thought that the others might be running short on food, so she told me to take some."
"All right," replied Lucy. "When are you leaving, Josh?"
"I don't know," he said, surprised. "Maybe in half an hour."
"Well then," she replied briskly, "I'll give you the food in fifteen minutes, after I finish my work. Where will you be?"
"Oh, I'll probably be in the back garden with the others. Or in my bedroom, getting my toothbrush and everything ready."
"All right," she answered. "Well, I'll find you and give you the food in fifteen minutes, then. Bye!"
"Bye," Josh replied, going out of the room and into the back garden, where he found the others waiting impatiently for him, wondering what on earth had happened.
"Here he is!" cried John. "What happened, Josh? Did your mother allow you to come?"
"Yes," said Josh. "She did. And she thought that you might be running low on food, so Lucy will give us some more food in fifteen minutes."
"Oh, good!" said Jimmy, beaming. "I'm so glad that your mother allowed you to come."
"So am I!" laughed Josh. "Well, I'd better go to my bedroom, and take my toothbrush and pyjamas and things. Why don't all of you come with me? You haven't seen my bedroom yet, have you?"
"No, we haven't," agreed Lizzie.
"Yes, it'll be nice to see it," said John. "Come on, you others."
Josh led the way into the farmhouse, and then up the stairs on the right hand side. When they reached the landing, they saw that there were three doors. Josh opened the second door, and entered the room. He beckoned to the others to come inside too.
"The first door leads into my parents' bedroom, and the third one is a bathroom." he explained.
But no one heard him. They were too busy admiring his room.
"Wow, Josh!" exclaimed Susan, looking around. "You've got a wonderful bedroom!"
The room was painted a bright yellow, and the white ceiling had been painted with fluorescent stars and planets. Some bight pieces of cloth had been tacked to the walls, and the walls also had lots of lovely paintings hung up on it. In addition to all this, there was a wide comfy window seat beside the window, which was a big one, stretching right from the ceiling to the floor, with a brown-red curtain pulled back in front of it. A small door led onto a big balcony, which had some small wooden stools.
"I carved those stools myself," said Josh proudly, gesturing toward them.
"Really?" said Susan admiringly.
"Yeah," he said, trying to be modest.
"What about the pictures, Josh? Have you painted them, too?"
"Well, yeah, kind of," he replied. "They..."
"They're really good," interrupted John. "Do you take painting classes or something?"
"Well, no, not exactly," said Josh with a laugh. "Painting is one of my hobbies. I do it just for fun."
"Oh," said John, in wonder. "You know, you could sell some of these, and make a lot of money. I bet you'll become a painter!"
"Nah, I can't," said Josh.
"Why not?" asked Jimmy.
"I'm going to be a farmer, of course," he answered, smiling.
Then he winked at them. "I've got something to show you."
He walked to a corner of the room, and turned back the carpet to reveal a hole!
"I think I know what that is..." said John slowly. "It's the other end of the main passage! Isn't it, Josh?"
Josh nodded, grinning. He put the carpet down again, and then went to a chest, with five drawers, standing beside his bed. He opened the top drawer and took out his pyjamas, his dressing gown, his bathing suit and his towel. Then he opened his bottom drawer, which contained his riding boots, his sandals, and his slippers.
He took out his slippers, and then said, "I'll just go into the bathroom and get my toothbrush and everything. I'll be back in a minute!"
He went out of the room, and opened the third door on the landing, which led into the bathroom. He took his toothbrush and toothpaste from the stand. Then he came out of the bathroom and entered his own room again. He smiled happily at everyone, and then went to his chest again.
He looked in the fourth drawer, and found a backpack. He put this on his bed, and then began putting all his things, excepting his slippers, into the backpack. Then, he found an old newspaper, wrapped up his slippers in this, and then stuffed those into the pack also. Just then, there was a knock at the door.
"That must be Lucy," said Josh to the others. "Come in!" he called.
The door opened, and, as Josh had guessed, it was Lucy who entered the room. She was holding a basket containing packets of sandwiches, a small tin of cocoa powder, bars of chocolate, and a bottle of orangeade.
"Thanks, Lucy!" said Josh in delight.
She nodded, put down the basket on his bed and left the room. Josh got up and shut his bedroom door. He looked around at the others, his eyes shining.
"I'm so excited!" he said. "I'll just get my torch and a bottle of water, and then we'll leave after telling Mum."
He went to a small desk in the corner, and picked up a torch lying on it. He flashed it onto the ceiling, to make sure that it worked. Yes, it gave out a bright, clear light. Josh switched it off, and then put it into the side pocket of his backpack. He hoisted his pack onto his back, John picked up the basket of food, and then all the children left the room, closing the door behind them.
They followed Josh down the stairs and into the kitchen, where he opened the refrigerator and took out a small bottle of water, which he popped into the backpack.
After this, when everyone was on their way to the front garden, they met Lucy.
"Bye, Lucy!" said Josh. She smiled at him, and then went on her way. The children walked on, and when they reached the front garden, they found Mrs. Thomas watering the flowers.
"Bye, Mum!" yelled Josh. "I'm going! I'll be back after breakfast!"
"Bye, dear!" said his mother, waving. "Oh, wait a minute, Josh! I forgot – you'll need a rug to sleep on, even inside the tent. I'll just get you one. Oh, and you haven't got your gift yet, have you, children? No? Well then, just wait for two minutes and I'll get you the rug, and a snack."
She rose and went inside the farmhouse. She was back in a jiffy, carrying a thick rug and a packet of potato chips. She handed Lizzie the packet of chips, and gave Josh the rug, who draped it over the food basket.
"I think you'll like these, dear." she said to Lizzie, pointing to the packet of chips.
"Of, course we will! Thanks, Mrs. Thomas! Bye!" said Lizzie.
"Oh, by the way, Mrs. Thomas, Josh paints wonderful pictures, doesn't he?" said Jimmy.
A surprised look came over Mrs. Thomas's face. "Paint?" she asked.
"Oh, yes," answered Jimmy, "He's shown us his pictures. They're absolutely breathtaking, aren't they?"
Josh nudged him. "Shut up, idiot!" he hissed.
"Why? What's the matter?" asked Jimmy, astonished.
Mrs. Thomas laughed. "You must be joking, dears," she said. "Josh can't paint at all! Why, you should have seen some of his pictures which he tried to paint recently! We could hardly make out what they were!" she continued, smiling.
"But what about..." began Jimmy. Josh frowned at him and said, "Oh, nothing, Mum. We were just joking. Bye! I'll be back after breakfast!"
"Bye, dear," replied his mother, looking a little confused. The children set off, waving.
"What was all that about, Josh?" asked Jimmy, somewhat angrily, when the farmhouse was out of sight.
"Nothing. It's just that... um... well... I was planning to give the paintings to her on her birthday. I just put them up in my room yesterday. Her birthday is tomorrow, you know. She doesn't know about them yet." explained Josh.
"Oh," said Jimmy, seeing light. "I'm sorry I got so angry, Josh. It's just that I thought that you were lying to us when you said those paintings were yours. Sorry."
"It's all right," smiled Josh. "It's not your fault, really. Come on, we should hurry up, or we'll never get there. It's already six o' clock!"
So the children stopped talking, and hurried towards their camp. Soon, they spotted their tents, and ran to them. John put down the basket of food in the girls' tent, and told Josh to keep his knapsack with the boys' backpacks.
Then they showed Josh everything, including the sleeping bags. The girls started making a drink for everyone, while the boys dragged the sleeping-bags out into the sunshine, and then got out some jigsaw puzzles. Soon, the girls were back with glasses of sweet, tart lemonade, which they served with the potato chips.
"Wow!" gasped John, when he saw the snack. "You do think of delecious things, girls. That looks lovely!"
The girls smiled and set the tray down on a sleeping bag, and then sat down themselves. Sheila gave everyone a glass of lemonade, while Susan put the bowl of chips in the centre.
Then, the children organised some jigsaw competitions, and when John said 'Go!' everyone started doing their jigsaws as fast as possible.
"Done!" shouted Josh after a minute. "I've finished!"
"How did you finish it so quickly?" asked John, surprised. Josh shrugged. Everyone stared at him.
Then Susan broke the silence by saying, "Come on, everybody. Let's have the lemonade and chips."
Everyone was feeling slightly hungry, so they agreed and picked up their glasses.
"I say, I think we might have forgotten something," said Lizzie, reaching for some chips.
"What?" asked Jimmy.
"What do you mean?" asked Jimmy in surprise.
"Well, you know, it's possible that the prisoner might go into the tunnel at night. He doesn't need to come out only in the daytime!"
The others stared at her.
"You're right, Lizzie," said Josh slowly. "You're absolutely right! And now that you've said it, I think that the prisoner is much more likely to come in the night than in the daytime anyway."
"Yes," said John, thoughtfully. "Yes. Well, our aim was to catch the prisoner, wasn't it?"
"Yeah." replied everyone.
"So that means... that means..."
"What does it mean?" asked the others impatiently.
"That means that if the prisoner could come out at night, we've got to come out at night too!" John answered, excitedly.
Everyone stared at him. And then...
"You're right!" exclaimed Jimmy suddenly. "We'll go! We'll certainly go!"
"It's six thirty." broke in Sheila. "What do you want to do now?"
"Hey! How about if we go for a bike-ride?" suggested Jimmy.
"That'll be fun," agreed everyone, pleased.
"Wait a minute," said Sheila. "There isn't a bicycle for Josh, is there?"
"Oh, blow!" said Susan, feeling disappointed. "Now we won't be able to go for a ride!"
"Oh yes we will," spoke up John. "Josh could sit behind me on my bike, on my carrier. Then he could sit behind someone else!"
"Thanks," said Josh, pleased. "That's really nice of you."
So everyone mounted their bikes, and Josh climbed up behind John. Then the happy little group of children set off. They rode downhill for some time, and then found a little wood near the hill. They entered it, and then left their bicycles stacked against a tree.
John drew a big chain from his pocket, which had a big lock and a small key attached to it. He put the chain around all the bikes, and also around the fat tree-trunk. Then he locked it, and put the key back in his pocket.
"What do you want to do now?" he asked.
"Let's climb trees!" suggested Susan.
"Yeah, that would be fun," said Jimmy.
So they looked around for trees that looked easy to climb, and soon Lizzie had found one. She put her hands on a low branch, and then put her feet into two little holes in the tree-trunk. She pulled herself up, and was very soon standing on the low branch. And in this way she kept on climbing, until she reached the top of the tree, where she sat and waved, grinning.
Then she climbed down the tree quickly, and once she had gotten onto the low branch, she jumped down, smiling.
"That was easy!" she exclaimed. "Now you try, Sheila."
So Sheila also climbed up the tree, but she found it harder than Lizzie had, perhaps because she was younger than her and so had shorter legs.
Once she had reached the ground, Susan started climbing like a monkey. She was an excellent climber, and reached the top of the tree very soon.
She grinned and waved, like Lizzie had, and then came down the tree, beaming.
"Wow, Susan!" said Sheila admiringly. "You reached the top of the tree much more quickly than I did."
"Thanks." answered Susan with a smile. "Now let's see how the boys fare on this one. Come on, Josh!" she said. "It's your turn. Up you go!"
Now Josh was frightened of heights, and was very scared of climbing trees. But even so, he didn't want the others to think that he was a ninny. So he started climbing the tree, slowly, and trying not to show that he was scared.
"You climb really slowly, Josh!" yelled Susan. "I climb much faster than you!"
Poor Josh, up in the tree, trying with all his might to climb higher, felt awful at Susan's yell. He had always known that he was a poor climber, but to hear it shouted out like that, made it even worse. But still, he tried valiantly, and slowly reached the top.
There he smiled a kind of watery smile, and then slowly came down the tree, feeling horrible.
"I didn't know you can't climb, Josh," said Susan, in surprise.
"Don't rub it in, will you," he answered, somehow managing to grin.
The others stared at him for a second, and then John, sensing his embarrassment, said, "Come on, everyone. It's almost seven. We should leave now."
So everybody walked back to their bikes, and John unlocked them. He pocketed the key, lock and chain, and after that, everyone mounted their bicycles, with Josh sitting behind Jimmy on his carrier.
The whole party set off, riding through the dark woods. They came to the end of the little wood, and were somewhat dazzled by the sunlight that greeted them.
However, they rode quickly, and soon reached their tents. They got off their bikes, and locked them to a nearby tree. Everyone was tired now, so the girls got out the tin of toffees, and handed two to everyone.
The children's sleeping bags were still outside, so they lay down on top of them to have a short snooze.
Josh put down his rug beside John's sleeping bag, and lay down too. In a few minutes all the children were fast asleep! Lizzie was the first to wake up. She opened her eyes and sat up. It was already getting dark.
She looked at her watch and was surprised at the time. It was past eight! She unzipped her sleeping-bag and stood up and stretched. Then she woke everyone up.
All the children were horrified to find that they had slept for over an hour, so they quickly washed their faces, and then sat down to eat supper, which the girls were making.
"Ah!" said Jimmy, eyeing the food that the girls were setting down on the sleeping bags. "This looks wonderful."
And that wasn't a joke, for the tray was laden with slices of cherry cake, glasses of orangeade, and a big potato salad. Sheila handed everyone the cake slices, while Susan passed out the glasses of orangeade. Lizzie emptied the remaining chips from the bowl into a clean packet.
"Yum!" said Susan, after the meal had been eaten. Everyone agreed with her that it had indeed been an excellent meal.
"Now it's your turn to wash up, boys," said Lizzie with a grin. Jimmy sighed, but nodded. He hated washing-up, but he knew that it was only fair since the girls had done it before.
So the boys got up, filled the big canvas bucket with water from the stream, took everyone's plates and glasses to the bucket, and started washing them.
Meanwhile the girls got ready some food to take inside the passage, for John had told them that they might feel hungry. By the time they had put a packet of sandwiches, bars of chocolate, a thermos flask of hot cocoa, and a tin of toffees into Jimmy satchel, along with napkins and paper cups, the boys had finished washing and drying the plates and glasses, and had put them inside the tents.
"It's just past eight," said John. "We should leave now. Come on, let's get everything ready."
So everyone took their torches, Jimmy found the ropes, Josh found the tin of oil, and John reminded everyone to take a sweater, since it would be cold in the passage.
"Listen, John," said Josh suddenly. "I don't have a sweater with me."
"Never mind," answered John. "Jimmy's got an extra one. You're about his size, aren't you? You can borrow his sweater. Okay?"
"Thanks." smiled Josh. "Hey, is that fine with you?" he yelled to Jimmy.
"Of course," replied Jimmy. "I'll get the sweater for you right now."
He ran into the boys' tent, and came out holding a green sweater. "Here you are." he said. Josh thanked him and wound the sweater around his waist, like everyone else had done.
John made sure that they had everything they needed, and then they set off into the dark.
"Keep in pairs, everyone." whispered John. "We don't want to lose each other, do we? But if we all walk together, we might be spotted. Susan, you come with me. Sheila, you go with Jimmy. And Josh, you walk with Lizzie."
Once everyone had got into their assigned pairs, they hurried toward the passage, with John flashing his torch in front to show the way. They followed the stream uphill, until they reached the pile of brambles.
But when John flashed his torch on it, he found that they had been pushed aside and now covered only half the hole!
"This means..." whispered John, bending down, "This means that the prisoner has already entered the passage. And probably he is still inside; otherwise he would have covered the hole completely with the brambles."
The children stared at each other. "But John..." said Sheila, shaking with fright. "What do we do now?"
John put an arm around his younger sister. "Now we go into the passage." he replied grimly. "But wait a minute. Someone will need to alert the police. Josh, will you go?" he continued.
"Of course!" answered Josh.
Sheila looked up at John. "Don't worry, Sheila." he said, guessing what she was thinking. "Why don't you go with Josh?"
"Okay!" smiled Sheila happily. She was relieved, because she really felt scared at the thought of going into the passage at night, especially when the prisoner was there.
"Don't worry," said Josh. "Sheila'll be safe with me."
"Great," said John. Then he looked at Lizzie and the others.
"Well, are you ready?" he asked them.
"Yes." replied everyone. It was as if a whip had just cracked. Everyone's faces suddenly became grim and determined, as the seriousness of the situation suddenly dawned on them.
"Good," said John. "If everything goes well, we should be back in about an hour, with the prisoner safely tied up. If there is some problem, then the police will take care of it."
Everyone nodded. John looked at Josh and Sheila. "The police station is a few miles away. You won't be able to reach it on foot. So, you'll have to call them on your telephone." he said.
Josh nodded. "Run down to your house. Then call the police. Don't tell your story in a hurry, but be quick. Tell them the location of the farmhouse. Then tell your parents what's happened. When the police arrive, show them the way to this passage entrance. After that, the police will probably tell you to go back to your house. Do whatever they say. Okay?"
"Got it," said Josh confidently. "Well, we'd better leave now, I guess. And all of you be careful. Bye!"
"Bye, Josh," replied the others.
"Bye," said Sheila.
"Bye, Sheila," answered everyone. Then Josh and Sheila went off.
The others took out the ropes, and tied one to the stout tree-trunk. Meanwhile, Jimmy tied the end of the other rope to the oil-can.
"Ready?" asked John.
"Yes," said everyone in reply.
"Who'll go first?" asked Jimmy, looking around.
"I will," said John. So, with his torch safely in his pocket, and Jimmy's satchel on his back, he slid down the length of the rope.
When he reached down he yelled, "I've reached! Lower down the oil-can to me on the other rope."
The others did so, and then John caught the tin. He untied it from the rope, and put the rope into Jimmy's satchel. Then Lizzie slid down on the rope. After her came Susan.
Jimmy went down last of all, but he did not put the rope under a heavy stone this time.
Once everyone had come down, John said, "We'll form into pairs again. Susan can come with me, and Lizzie can stay with Jimmy. This way, if any one of us needs to send a message to the other pair, one person of the pair which has to give the message, can go and give it. But there will still be another person of the pair, watching for the prisoner."
So they got into pairs, after which John continued, "When we reach the main passage, Susan and I will go one way, and Jimmy, you and Lizzie can go the other. All right?"
The others nodded, so they set off quietly. John flashed his torch now and then, but every time he switched it on, he shaded the beam with his hand, since he didn't want the prisoner to see the beam and guess that someone was in the passage, besides him.
They soon came to the forking, and here, the children looked at each other seriously.
"Well, now we'll separate," whispered John. "Good luck, Lizzie. Good luck, Jimmy. Be careful."
"Right," nodded Susan.
"And both of you be careful, too."
Everyone nodded, and then John and Susan turned right, and Jimmy and Lizzie turned left.
"I hope that the police come soon," whispered Lizzie to Jimmy, as they walked quietly along the passage, keeping their eyes and ears alert for any sound. "I don't exactly feel very brave about trying to catch an escaped prisoner."
"I think I heard someone coughing," said Susan to John, as they walked.
"Are you sure?" asked John, who had not heard anything.
"Yes." answered Susan. "Listen... there it is again. Can't you hear it?"
They both listened. "Yes," whispered John at last. "I think that someone is coughing, too."
The two children stared at each other.
"I'll see who it is," said John bravely.
He peered around a big rock that was just in front of the children, and what he saw surprised him very much. There was a man sitting on a small, jutting out rock, and he was bent double, holding his chest tightly, and coughing again and again.
"He looks very sick," muttered John to himself.
But what surprised the boy the most was the man's appearance! He wore old, dirty clothes, and his face was quite dirty. His hands were smudged with dirt. His hair was filthy. He did not look like the escaped prisoner at all! But there was something honest and kind in the man's eyes that made John feel that he was a good person. He stayed there for a minute or two, staring at the man. Then he went back to Susan.
"What did you see?" she asked in a whisper.
John told her, and then led her to the rock to see for herself. Like John, she felt that the man was trustworthy when she saw him. There was something so honest, something so kind in his face that she could not help but think that he had nothing to do with the prisoner at all. She looked at her brother.
"What should we do now?" she asked him quietly. "Should we go to the man?"
John nodded, so the two children walked forward cautiously.
"Um, excuse me," said John, as they approached the man.
He looked up at once. "Who're you?" he said, sounding alarmed. "Go! If he finds you here, you'll be in danger!" he continued in a raspy voice.
"We're – we're just two children, sir," said John. "Yes. But – but whom do you mean by 'he'? The escaped prisoner?"
The man stared at them in panic. "How do you know?"
"Well, we've had a bit of an adventure. But there isn't time to tell you about it now. We've got to catch the escaped prisoner, and we've got to get you out of here, since you seem to be a prisoner here. Are you?"
The man stared at them, and nodded. "My name's Tom. I was blackmailed by Walter – that's the prisoner. I had found out about his plan, and somehow he got to know that I knew about his wicked plans. So he kidnapped my little girl and forced me down here. He threatened to kill her unless I stayed here. And I'm sick, because it's so musty."
The children stared at the man, feeling sorry for him.
"Don't worry. We'll get you out of here, and we'll save your daughter, too," said John.
He turned to Susan. "Will you stay here while I go and call Jimmy and Lizzie?"
His sister nodded, so he set off. He ran quietly along the passage, until he heard footsteps. He listened carefully, and heard Jimmy's voice. He ran forward, and tapped Jimmy on the shoulder.
"It's me!" he whispered. Jimmy almost jumped out of his skin.
"John!" he said, turning around. "What's the matter?"
John quickly explained the matter to him and Lizzie, and then the three of them went quickly to Susan and Tom.
"I'm Lizzie, and this is Jimmy," said Lizzie.
Tom nodded to them. "We've got to trap the prisoner somehow," said John to everyone.
"He comes to visit me every hour or so," said Tom. "He should be coming in about five minutes."
John stared at him. "I've got a plan..." he said slowly. "Now listen... here's what we'll do."
He carefully explained his plan, and then the children hid behind a big rock accordingly. Very soon, the escaped prisoner, Walter, came along. He looked just like the picture in the newspaper.
"Well, well," he leered, looking at Tom. "Worrying about his silly little girl?"
Just as he finished speaking, his foot slipped on the oil which the children had poured. His other foot slipped too, and he fell -THUD – onto the rocky floor.
The children ran out from behind the rock, and, while Tom pinned Walter down, bound his hands and feet tightly together. Then they looked at each other and cheered.
"Yay! We caught him, we caught him!" yelled everyone.
Tom smiled at them. "Thanks." he said. "Thanks a lot."
"You're welcome," said the children. Walter could do nothing except stare at them angrily. Just then, they heard the sound of voices.
"That must be the police!" said John. "Josh must have got them here."
As he had guessed, the police soon came to the spot, followed by Josh, Sheila and to their surprise, Mr. Thomas. They stared in surprise at John, Susan, Jimmy, Lizzie, Tom, and Walter. The children grinned at Josh and Sheila, who were staring at them, openmouthed.
"My goodness! There's Walter!" said the Chief Inspector.
He gave an order to his constable, who walked over to Walter and snapped a pair of handcuffs on his hands.
"Well, you've got a few more years to look forward to in jail," said the Inspector to Walter.
Then he told his constable and a few other policemen to take Walter out of the passage and into the van waiting outside. They did so, and in a few minutes the prisoner was out of sight. Then the Inspector turned to the children.
"Well, you children seem to have done very good work." he said, giving them a broad smile. "But I need to know exactly what happened. Tell me everything."
So the children told him everything, giving all the details, and missing out nothing.
The Inspector listened in silence. "Hmm..." he said when they were finished. "Very good work on your part, I must say, if a tad dangerous."
He winked at them. Then he turned to Tom.
"And how are you involved in this matter?" he asked him.
Tom told him everything, including the bit about his daughter being kidnapped. The Inspector heard him till the end, and then called the police headquarters on his transmitter radio. He said something, and then gave a sharp order. Very soon, he got an answer, and then he switched off the transmitter and looked at Tom.
"Well, I'm happy to say that we've found your daughter. Walter has told my men everything, including the place where your girl was being held hostage. She has now been rescued, and is perfectly all right. She is currently at the police station, and is waiting for you. You are free to go to her; however, you must stay at the police station, for your statement will be needed as a witness."
"Thank you," said Tom, relieved that his daughter was all right. "Thank you so much. I'll stay at the station, of course. Can I leave?"
The Inspector nodded to him, so he stood up, thanked the children profusely and walked away.
"Well, you children will be needed as witnesses, too," said the Inspector to the children. "So I suggest that you don't leave here for a few days. Josh has told me that you are on a camping trip, but you have to stay here for two more days at least."
The children nodded.
"Well, I'll leave you to yourselves." continued the Inspector. "But before that, I need the box which you have, which I believe contains valuable articles."
"Oh, it's in our tents right now, sir," said John.
"Well, let's go to your tents, then," said the Inspector. "After that I'll go to the police station, and leave you to enjoy the rest of your holiday."
So everyone got up, and followed the Inspector out of the passage. Mr.Thomas brought up the rear, with the children in the middle. They soon reached the opening of the passage, and climbed out with the help of the strong police ladder.
They went down to the children's tents, and John went inside, got the box, and handed it to the Inspector, who opened it and whistled.
"My, my! This is... incredible. All this, plus the box which we have found with Walter, is worth more than 500 thousand pounds!" Everyone stared at him.
"Well, I must go to the police-station now," he said. "Goodbye! Very good work you've done. And remember, you children have to stay here for two days at least. All right?"
They nodded, so the Inspector waved and walked away. The children looked at each other.
"Well, that was the most exciting night of my life," said Susan. "Yes, it was." agreed everyone.
"It certainly was!" remarked Mr.Thomas, who had not said a word until now. "Much too exciting! Secret passages, prisoners, jewellry boxes, and goodness knows what else you children got mixed up in! Too dangerous for my liking! But even so, you do seem to have been of use to the police!" he twinkled at them.
The children smiled back.
"I say, aren't you hungry?" broke in Jimmy.
"Oh! We never did eat the food that we had brought with us!" said John. "Let's eat that now, shall we?"
Everyone was feeling hungry, so Lizzie took the food out of Jimmy's satchel, and handed everyone some sandwiches, a bar of chocolate, and a cup of hot cocoa. Then she turned to Mr.Thomas.
"Would you like something to eat or drink?" she asked.
"Well, I can't say that I'm not hungry." he answered.
So she handed him a cup of cocoa too, and a few sandwiches. Then she gave everyone a toffee, and then ate her own sandwiches and chocolate. Everyone soon finished their cocoa, and then sucked their toffees. "Well, I must go now," said Mr.Thomas. "Thanks for those lovely sandwiches and cocoa, Lizzie. Bye, everyone! Oh, and come home immediately after your breakfast, Josh."
He waved to everyone, and then set off to the farm.
"Well, I'm very sleepy," said John. "It's one o' clock! Aren't you sleepy, too?" he asked the others.
"Well, yes. I am, rather," admitted Jimmy.
"Yes. So am I," agreed Sheila.
"Me too," said Lizzie.
"Yeah, even I am quite sleepy," announced Susan.
"Well, let's go to sleep, then," suggested John. "Let's get our sleeping bags out. It's warm enough, surely."
So everyone pulled their sleeping bags outside, and laid them down side by side. Josh put his rug next to Jimmy's bag. Then all the children lay down, and within a minute they were all fast asleep.
Josh woke up first the next morning, at about nine o' clock. He sat up, and then looked at his watch. He was surprised to find that it was already nine o' clock. He stood up and stretched, remembering last night's exciting happenings.
Then he woke up the others, and then all the children went down to the stream together to wash their faces. When they came back, Lizzie and Sheila set about making breakfast. Soon, everyone was munching strawberry shortcake and raw tomatoes. They had been washed in stream water, and were delicious – cold, yummy and altogether most tempting.
Then all the children drank the clear, cool stream water, after which they all helped in the washing up. Then Josh gathered his belongings together, and bid the children good bye.
"Hey, Josh, isn't it your mother's birthday today?" said Susan as he was about to leave. "Should we come with you and wish her, do you think?"
Josh gave her a funny look, almost one of anger, and then turned around and went off, leaving all the children mystified as to how could it be that Josh, their nice friend Josh, could give them such a dirty look?
"Well, wasn't that odd?" said Susan, astonished.
"It sure was," agreed everyone. "Wait a second..." said John slowly. Everyone waited, as John thought, with his face getting all wrinkled up.
"Could it be..." he said. "Could it possibly be that...?"
"That what?" asked Susan, getting impatient.
"Well, could it be that Josh lied to us about the paintings after all?" John said.
"What do you mean?" asked everyone, confused.
"Well, you know that Mrs. Thomas looked surprised when we told her that Josh could paint. Well, wouldn't you think that if a boy paints so well, his mother would know about it? Josh told us that he had been planning to give his mother the paintings today, as a birthday gift. How can it be that a person doesn't know how to paint at all, as Mrs. Thomas told us about Josh, and then that person suddenly learns to paint wonderful pictures for his mother's birthday?"
As everyone stared, John went on: "The paintings were hung up in Josh's room. What if Mrs. Thomas entered his room, and saw the paintings? Wouldn't that ruin the birthday surprise? And then, today when Susan asked if we should visit the farm and wish Mrs. Thomas a happy birthday, why did Josh give her such a horrible look? Maybe because he didn't want us coming to the farm, and wishing his mother a happy birthday. Because if we did, his mother would tell us that it wasn't her birthday, and we would say how could that be, since Josh had shown us the lovely pictures which he had painted for your birthday, which he had himself told us was today. And then we would show her the pictures, and then she would tell us that Josh hadn't painted the pictures at all!
"And then," John continued, "then Josh would have been in big trouble, because he lied to us that he could paint wonderfully. Josh didn't want us coming to the farm because that would get him into trouble!"
The others stared at him. It certainly explained everything – Mrs. Thomas's surprise, Josh's dirty look.
"Do you think so?" Jimmy asked the others.
"Well, it could be," said Lizzie hesitantly.
"Yeah, maybe," agreed Sheila a little doubtfully.
"It's possible, I suppose," said Susan.
"Well, I think that we should go to the farmhouse, just to make certain," said John firmly.
Everyone else thought so too, so the children set off to the farmhouse. When they reached, they found Mrs. Thomas in the hen-house, feeding the hens.
"Happy birthday, Mrs. Thomas," said Susan as they approached.
"But it's not my birthday!" she answered, looking surprised. The children glanced at each other. Then John explained everything, how Josh had lied about being able to paint, how he had let them believe that he had painted the pictures himself, everything.
"The pictures in Josh's room?" asked Mrs. Thomas. "We bought those from a store! Josh hasn't painted them!"
"Well, he lied to us," said John.
"Did he?" said Mrs. Thomas, sounding very angry. "Well, he won't do any such thing ever again! Where is he?"
And with that she stormed up to Josh's room, where he was sitting in the balcony, whittling away at the wooden stools.
"Josh! Did you really lie to these children about those paintings! Josh's face turned bright red.
"Um... well... uh..." he stammered. His mother looked at him angrily.
"I'm ashamed of you!" she yelled. "I don't know why you did something like that, but I do know that you won't be doing any such thing ever again! You have to stay up here in your room for a week, and you won't get any supper tonight! If the only thing you can think of is lying, well then, you'll have to bear the consequences! Stay in your room for a week, go without your supper today, and then we'll see if you ever lie again! And what are you doing playing with those expensive stools?!" she stormed.
The children looked at each other.
Mrs. Thomas closed her eyes, then reopened them. She looked at Josh. "I have nothing more to say to you," she said quietly. "You lied, and that's one thing I hate. You've made me ashamed of you," she continued, looking at him sadly.
Then she left the room. Josh looked at the children. "I'm really sorry," he said haltingly. "I lied to you because all of you seemed so great, and you knew so much. I felt really awful, especially after we climbed those trees. I wanted to show you that I had some talent too."
"What?" exclaimed everyone.
"But Josh, we already knew you were talented!" said John. "You didn't need to lie to show us that you did!" Josh looked down at his feet.
"Well, I'm sorry that you have to stay in your room for a week, and go without your supper today. But you deserved it, you know," John continued.
"Yes, I know," said Josh in a small voice.
"Well, bye. We must go now," said John.
"Bye," answered Josh. The children waved goodbye, and went to find Mrs. Thomas. She was in the kitchen, making lunch.
"Hello, children." she said. "Look, I know you're upset about Josh, but he deserves it."
"Yes," agreed the children. "Well, we're going now," said John. "Goodbye!"
"Goodbye!" she replied, and went back to her cooking.
The children went out of the house, and then walked up to their tents. "Well, let's forget about Josh now," said Lizzie. "Let's have a bathe in the stream."
Everyone was feeling hot, so the idea of bathing in the cool stream brought smiles on their faces. So they took their bathing suits, and ran behind some rocks to change. They slipped into their suits, and jumped into the stream. They all had lots of fun, paddling, having races. They got out of the stream at last, and lay down on the hot ground. The girls made glasses of lemonade, and after drinking some, the children slipped into the stream again. They finally got out, and changed back into their normal clothes.
Susan spread their bathing suits out to dry, on a nearby bush, while Sheila and Lizzie got a meal ready. Soon, everyone was sitting outside in the sun, eating the leftover cherry cake.
Then they drank a glass of orangeade each, and were just about to go for a walk when they saw the Inspector walking up towards them. He smiled at everyone, and then sat down on one of the sleeping bags.
"Well." he began. "Well, I've come to tell you some good news. It turns out that all of you are going to receive fifty pounds each!"
The children stared at the Inspector, tongue-tied. Fifty pounds seemed to them to be a tremendous amount. The Inspector grinned at them.
"Well, I must be off." he said. "Goodbye!"
"Goodbye, sir." answered the children. He rose, waved, and then went away.
"Fifty pounds!" exclaimed Jimmy.
"Yes. Fifty pounds." repeated Sheila.
The children looked at each other. "Well, let's go for a walk," said Susan at last. "We can talk about this while we're walking."
The next day, the children went to the farmhouse again. When they entered the door, Mr. Thomas grinned at them.
"Hello, O famous ones!" he joked.
"What do you mean?" asked the children, confused. Mr.Thomas held up his morning's newspaper. There, on the front page, were the headlines 'YOUNGSTERS BECOME SLEUTHS'.
Below that, there was an article that explained how the children had caught the thief, the value of the boxes they had found, and most importantly, the children's names had been mentioned too!
The children looked at each other proudly. Just then, Josh came bounding down the stairs.
"I've been allowed to come out of my room just for half an hour!" he said, beaming. "Oh, by the way, seen the article?" he said, grinning from ear to ear.
The children nodded happily. Then Mrs. Thomas came into the room, carrying a cake, which had icing on it. The icing read – 'CONGRATULATIONS FAMOUS ONES!' in big white letters.
The children looked at each other, then back at the cake. "Wow!" exclaimed Josh, when he saw the cake. "This looks delicious! I'm not lying this time!"
Everyone laughed, and the children smiled at each other.
"Well, it's been very exciting," said Susan. "But I think that one adventure is quite enough for me. I hope that we don't have an adventure on our next holiday too!"
"Oh, we won't," John assured her. "Adventures don't happen everyday. All the same, it's been fun. I hope we do have an adventure on our next holiday!"
I hope so too!
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