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Mystery #03 — The Mystery of the Secret Room tff-3, Page 2

Enid Blyton

  “We’re not interfering or messing about,” said Bets, rather alarmed.

  “Well, you clear orf,” said Mr. Goon. “You’ve put a spoke in my wheel before now, and I’m not having it again!”

  “What wheel?” said Bets, puzzled. Mr. Goon did one of his snorts and walked off. He couldn’t bear any children, but he particularly detested the Five Find-Outers and Dog. Bets stared after him.

  “Well, I didn’t get much out of him,” she thought. “What did he mean about wheels?”

  It was lovely when Fatty came back again. He brought Buster with him, of course, and the little Scottie went mad with joy when he saw all his friends.

  “He didn’t have too good a time at my grandmother’s.” said Fatty. “There was an enormous ginger cat there that would keep chasing him, and my grandmother insisted on his having a bath every single day. He was awfully miserable really. He would have chased the cat, of course; but he was too much of a gentleman to go after a cat belonging to his hostess.”

  “Have you bought any disguises yet?” asked Bets excitedly.

  “Just waiting for my birthday,” said Fatty. “It’s tomorrow, as you know. Then, when I’ve got enough money, I’m going up to London to do a spot of shopping.”

  “By yourself?” said Larry.

  “You bet,” said Fatty. “What grown-up would let me spend my money on disguises? Although we’ve solved two frightfully difficult mysteries, no grown-up would think it was necessary to buy wigs and eyebrows - now would they? Even though at any moment we might have to solve a third mystery.”

  Put like that, it seemed a really urgent matter to buy disguises of all sorts. Fatty was so very serious about it. Bets felt that the third mystery might be just round the corner.

  “Fatty, can we try out the disguises when you buy them?” she said.

  “Of course,” said Fatty. “We’ll have to practise wearing them. It will be fun.”

  “Have you brought the invisible ink with you this afternoon?” asked Pip. “That’s what I want to see!”

  “Can you see invisible ink?” asked Bets. “I shouldn’t have thought you could.”

  The others laughed. “Silly! The ink isn’t invisible - it’s only the writing you do with it that is.”

  “I’ve got a bottle,” said Fatty. “It’s very expensive.”

  He took a bottle from his pocket. It was quite small, and contained a colourless liquid which, to Bets, looked like water.

  Fatty took out his note-book and a pen with a clean new nib. He put the bottle on the table, and undid the screw-top.

  “Now I’ll write a secret letter,” he said, “and my writing will be invisible.”

  Bets leaned over him to see. She lost her balance and jerked hard against the table. The bottle of invisible ink was jolted over, rolled to the edge of the table, and neatly emptied its contents on the floor in a small round puddle, near Buster.

  “Woof!” said Buster in surprise, and began to lick it up. But the taste was horrid. He stopped and looked up at the alarmed children, his pink tongue hanging out.

  “Oh, Buster! Buster, you’ve drunk invisible ink!” cried Bets, almost in tears. “Fatty, will he become invisible?”

  “No, idiot,” said Fatty. “Well, that’s the end of the ink. What a clumsy you are Bets!”

  “I’m terribly, terribly sorry,” said poor Bets. “I just sort of slipped. Oh, Fatty, now we can’t write in invisible writing.”

  Daisy mopped up the rest of the ink. All the children were disappointed. Buster still hung out his tongue, and had such a disgusted look on his face that Larry fetched him some water to take the nasty taste out of his mouth.

  “Well, I know one or two more ways of writing invisibly,” said Fatty, much to Bets’ relief. “Any one got an orange? Now, watch out for a little magic!”

  Two Thrilling Lessons

  There was a dish of oranges in the room. Bets fetched them. She watched with great interest as Fatty made a hole in one, and squeezed the yellow juice into a cup.

  “There!” he said, “orange or lemon juice makes quite good invisible ink, you know.”

  The others didn’t know. They thought Fatty was very clever immediately to think of some more invisible ink when Bets had upset his bottle.

  He took a clean sheet of paper, dipped his pen in the orange juice, and wrote what looked like a letter. He said out loud what he was writing, and it made the children giggle:

  “DEAR CLEAR-ORF, - I suppose you think you will solve the next mystery first. Well, you won’t. Your brains want oiling a bit. They creak too much. Hugs and kisses from


  The children giggled, especially at the last bit. “You are an idiot, Fatty,” said Pip. “It’s a good thing old Clear-Orf won’t get the letter.”

  “Oh, we’ll send it all right,” said Fatty, “but as it’s written in invisible ink he won’t be able to read it, poor mutt!”

  There was nothing to be seen on the sheet of notepaper. The orange-juice ink was certainly invisible!

  “But, Fatty, how can any one read invisible writing?” said Daisy.

  “Easy,” said Fatty. “I’ll show you how to read this kind. Got an electric iron anywhere?”

  “Yes,” said Pip. “But I don’t expect Mother would let us have it. She seems to think that anything she lends us is bound to get broken. Anyway, whatever do yo want an iron for?”

  “Wait and see,” said Fatty. “Haven’t you got an ordinary flat-iron, Pip, if we can’t borrow the electric one? There must be one in the kitchen.”

  There was. The cook said Pip might have it. “If you break that, I’d be surprised!” she said, and Pip sped upstairs carrying the heavy old iron.

  “Heat it on the fire,” said Fatty. So it was put on the fire, and well heated. When Fatty judged that it was warm enough, he took it off the fire, being careful to hold it with an iron-holder.

  “Now watch,” he said, and in excitement they all watched. Fatty ran the iron lightly over the sheet on which he had written his invisible letter.

  “There it is! It’s all coming up in faint brown letters!” cried Bets, thrilled. “Look! ‘My dear Clear-Orf -’ ”

  “ ‘I suppose you will think...’ ” read Pip, in delight.

  “Yes, it’s visible now. Golly, that’s clever, Fatty. I would never have thought that ordinary orange juice could be used as invisible ink!”

  “It’s better to know that than to know about the proper invisible ink,” said Larry. “That’s expensive, but you only want an orange for this. It’s marvellous, Fatty. Let’s all write letters.”

  So they all took sheets of notepaper and wrote letters in orange-juice ink. They wrote rather cheeky letters to people they didn’t like, and squealed with joy when the iron made the writing visible and they each read what the others had written.

  “Did you really mean to send old Clear-Orf a letter in invisible ink?” asked Daisy, remembering what Fatty had said. “But what’s the point if he can’t read it?”

  “Just the fun of the thing,” said Fatty. “He’ll be so wild to get a letter with no writing on it, and he won’t know how to read it. We shan’t tell him either!”

  Fatty wrote out his first letter to Clear-Orf again, sealed up the apparently blank sheet of paper in an envelope and printed Clear-Orf’s name on it.

  “It’s rather a silly thing to do, I suppose, but it’ll puzzle old Clear-Orf,” said Fatty, blotting the envelope. “Well, now I’ve taught you to write in invisible ink. Simple, isn’t it?”

  “Awfully,” agreed Pip. “But I don’t quite see what use it will be to us, Fatty.”

  “You never know,” said Fatty. “One of us might be captured in one mystery we solve, and we might want to get a message to the others. If we wrote it in invisible ink our enemies wouldn’t be able to read the message.”

  Bets thought this sounded rather thrilling, though she didn’t very much want to be captured. Then a thought struck her.

/>   “We’ll all have to carry an orange about with us, if ever we have enemies,” she said. “Won’t we? We’d better not take very juicy ones, or they’ll get squashed.”

  “And we’d have to take a pen,” said Pip. “Well, I shan’t bother till we have enemies.”

  “I shall,” said Fatty seriously. “You never know when you might need to write an invisible message. I take tons of things about with me in my pockets, just in case I might need them.”

  This was quite true. The others were often amazed at the things Fatty carried about with him. As a rule he had practically anything needed in an emergency from a lemonade-bottle opener to a pocket-knife that contained twelve different kinds of tools.

  “My mother goes through my pockets each night and won’t let me keep half what I want to,” said Pip.

  “My mother never does things like that,” said Fatty. “She never bothers about my pockets.”

  The others thought that it wasn’t only Fatty’s pockets his mother didn’t bother about - it was Fatty himself! He seemed to come and go as he pleased, missed his meals if he didn’t want them, went to bed what time he liked, and did more or less as he wanted to.

  “Fatty, you said you’d show us how to get out of a locked room if the key wasn’t on your side,” said Bets, suddenly remembering. “There’s time to do that, too. Will you?”

  “All right,” said Fatty. “Take me up to one of your box-rooms, where I shall be out of the way. Lock me up, and leave me there. Come down here, and I’ll join you in a few minutes.”

  “Fibber,” said Larry and Pip together. It really did sound quite impossible.

  “Well, try me and see,” said Fatty. “I don’t usually say I can do things if I can’t, do I?”

  In excitement the children took Fatty upstairs to a big boxroom, with bare boards inside it, and on the landing as well. They put him inside, then turned the key in the lock. Larry tried the door. Yes, it was well and truly locked.

  “You’re locked in, Fatty,” said Pip. “We’re going down now. If you can get out of here, you’re clever! You can’t get out of the window. There’s a sheer drop to the ground.”

  “I’m not going to try the window,” said Fatty. “I shall walk out of the door.”

  The others went down, feeling rather disbelieving. Fatty surely couldn’t be as clever as all that! Why, it would be like magic if he could go through a locked door!

  Only Bets really believed he could. She sat with her eyes on the playroom door, waiting for him to come. Pip got out the ludo board.

  “Let’s have a game,” he said. “Old Fatty won’t be down for ages, I expect. We shall hear him yelling to be let out in about ten minutes’ time!”

  They set the counters in their places. They found the die, and put it in the thrower. Daisy threw first - but before she could move her counter, the door opened and in walked Fatty, grinning all over his plump face.

  “Golly! How did you do it?” asked Larry, in the greatest surprise.

  “I knew you would!” squealed Bets.

  “How did you do it?” asked Pip and Daisy, burning with curiosity. “Go on - tell us.”

  “It’s easy,” said Fatty, smoothing back his tidy hair. “Too easy for words.”

  “Don’t keep on saying that! Tell us how you did it!” said Larry. “It’s extraordinary.”

  “Well, come up and I’ll show you,” said Fatty. “As a matter of fact, it’s a thing all detectives ought to jolly well know. Elementary.”

  “What’s elementary?” asked Bets, climbing the stairs behind Fatty.

  “What I’ve just said - too easy for words,” said Fatty. “Well, here we are. Now, Larry, you lock us all four into the room - Buster too, if you like, or he’ll scratch the door down - and then you can all watch what I do. I tell you, it’s elementary!”

  The three who were locked in with Fatty watched in excitement. They saw the door shut. They heard Larry turn the key in the lock. They each tried the door. Yes, it was locked all right.

  “Now watch,” said Fatty. He took a folded newspaper from his pocket and unfolded it. He flattened the big, wide double-sheet. Then, to the children’s surprise, he slid the newspaper under the bottom of the door until only a small piece was left his side.

  “What have you done that for? That won’t open the door!” said Bets. Fatty didn’t answer.

  He took a piece of wire from his pocket and inserted it into the keyhole. The key was in the other side, where Larry had left it. Fatty jiggled about with the piece of wire, and then suddenly gave a slight push.

  There was a thud on the other side of the door. “I’ve pushed the key out,” said Fatty. “Did you hear it fall? Well, the rest is easy! It’s fallen on to the newspaper outside - and all I have to do is to pull the paper carefully back - oh, very carefully, - and the key will come with it!”

  Holding their breath, the children watched the newspaper being pulled under the door. There was a fair space between door and boards, and the key slid easily under the bottom of the door, appearing inside the room!

  Fatty took it, slid it into the lock, turned it - and opened the door!

  “There you are!” he said. “Very simple. Too easy for words! How to get out of a locked room in one minute!”

  “Fatty! It’s marvellous! I’d never, never have thought of that!” cried Daisy. “Did you make up the trick yourself?”

  Much as Fatty liked the others to think he was marvellous, he was too honest not to admit it wasn’t really his brain-wave. “Well, I read it in one of my spy books,” he said, “and I tried it out when I got locked in for a punishment one afternoon last term. It gave the master a turn, I can tell you, seeing me walk past him after he’d locked me up.”

  “It’s wonderful,” said Bets. “So easy, too. There’s only one thing, Fatty, though - it wouldn’t work if you were locked up in a room that had a carpet going under the door, because there wouldn’t be room to pull in the key.”

  “You’re right, Bets. That’s a good point,” said Fatty. “That’s why I wanted to be locked into a boxroom, and not in the playroom downstairs.”

  The others were so thrilled with this new trick that they wanted to try it themselves.

  “All right,” said Fatty. “It will be good practice. You simply never know when you might be locked up somewhere. Each of you do it in turn.”

  So, much to Mrs. Hilton’s surprise, the five children and Buster spent the whole afternoon apparently doing nothing but walk in and out of the cold boxroom, to the accompaniment of squeals and giggles.

  “Jolly good, Find-Outers,” said Fatty, when even Bets could escape from the locked room quite easily. “Jolly good. Now tomorrow I’ll go up to London and get some disguises. Look out for some fun the day after!”

  A Very Queer Boy

  Next day was Fatty’s birthday. He was always sorry it came so near Christmas, because it meant that many people gave him a Christmas and birthday present in one.

  “It’s bad luck, Fatty,” said Daisy. “But never mind, we won’t do that. We’ll give you proper birthday presents as well as Christmas presents.”

  So, early after breakfast, Pip, Bets, Daisy, and Larry walked up to Fatty’s house to give him the presents they had got for him.

  “We’d better go early, because Fatty said he was going up to London to buy those disguises,” said Daisy.

  “Yes, by himself,” said Bets. “He’s awfully grown-up, isn’t he?”

  “I bet he won’t be allowed to go up by himself,” said Pip.

  Fatty and Buster were delighted to see them. “I’m so glad you’ve come,” said Fatty, “because I wanted to ask you if you’d mind looking after Buster for me whilst I go to London. I’m catching the eleven forty-three.”

  “Are you really?” said Pip. “All alone?”

  “Well, as a matter of fact, Mother is coming with me,” said Fatty. “She’s got it into her head that as I don’t want a party I’d better have some sort of treat. So we’re going to some
show or other. But I shall slip off and buy the things I want all right!”

  “I’m sorry you won’t be with us on your birthday, Fatty,” said Bets. “But I hope you’ll have a lovely time. Will you come and see us tomorrow and show us all you’ve got?”

  “I may not be able to come down tomorrow,” said Fatty. “I may have two or three friends here - people you don’t know. But I’ll come as soon as I can.”

  He was very pleased with his presents, especially with Bets’ gift. She had actually managed to knit him a brown and red tie, and Fatty at once put it on. Bets felt proud to think he was going up to London wearing her tie.

  “Freddie! Are you ready?” called his mother. “We mustn’t miss the train!”

  “Coming, Mother!” sang out Fatty. He took down his money-box and hurriedly emptied all his money into his pockets. The others gaped to see so much - there seemed to be sheaves of ten-shilling and pound notes.

  “My aunts and uncles were only too glad to give me money instead of having the bother of buying me presents,” said Fatty, with a grin. “Don’t tell Mother I’ve got so much on me. She’d have a blue fit.”

  “Would she really?” said Bets, wishing she could see Mrs. Trotteville in a blue fit. “Oh, Fatty - don’t get your money stolen, will you?”

  “No detective would be such an idiot as that,” said Fatty scornfully. “Don’t you worry - the only person to take money out of my pocket is myself! Now, Buster, do be a good dog today. Come home tonight by yourself.”

  “Woof!” said Buster politely. He always seemed to understand what was said to him.

  “Have you left that invisibly written letter at Mr. Goon’s house yet?” asked Bets, with a giggle.

  “No. I thought I’d send one of my friends down tomorrow with it,” said Fatty, grinning. “I didn’t want old Goon to see me. All right, all right, Mother. I’m just coming. I don’t mind if I do have to run all the way! Good-bye, Buster. Hold him, Bets, or he’ll tear after me all down the road to the station.”