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Mystery #04 — The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters tff-4, Page 2

Enid Blyton

  ‘Fatty! It’s the most wonderful disguise!’ said Pip enviously. ‘But how do you manage to twist up your mouth to make it different and screw up your eyes to make them smaller and all that kind of thing?’

  ‘Oh, that’s just good acting,’ said Fatty, swelling a little with pride. ‘I’ve told you before, haven’t I, that I always take the chief part in our school plays, and this last term I...’

  But the children didn’t want to hear about Fatty’s wonderful doings at school. They had heard about those too often. Larry interrupted him.

  ‘Golly! Now I know why the telegraph-boy praised you up so! Idiot! Calling yourself Mr. Trotteville and waiting for your own autograph! Honestly, Fatty, you’re the limit!’

  They all went to Pip’s house and were soon settled in the playroom, examining Fatty’s cap and wig and everything.

  ‘It’s a new disguise I got,’ explained Fatty. ‘I wanted to try it out, of course. Fine wig, isn’t it? It cost an awful lot of money. I daren’t tell Mother. I could hardly wait to play that joke on you. I’m getting awfully good at disguises and acting.’

  ‘You are, Fatty,’ said Bets generously. ‘I would never have known it was you if I hadn’t noticed Buster sitting down looking up at you with that sort of adoring look he keeps for you, Fatty.’

  ‘So that’s how you guessed, you clever girl!’ said Fatty. ‘I call that pretty good, Bets. Honestly, I sometimes think you notice even more than the others!’

  Bets glowed, but Pip did not look too pleased. He always thought of Bets as his baby sister, and thought she ought to be kept under, and not made conceited about herself.

  ‘She’ll get swelled head,’ he growled. ‘Any of us could have spotted Buster’s goofy look at you.’

  ‘Ah, but you didn’t,’ said Fatty. ‘I say - isn’t it great that old Clear-Orf thinks I’ve gone to Tippylooloo! That was a bit of luck, his happening to be with you when I cycled up this morning. Didn’t he jump when I let my bike fall on his shin!’

  They all stared at Fatty in admiration. The things he did! The things he thought of! Bets giggled.

  ‘Won’t he be surprised when you turn up!’ she said. ‘He’ll think you’ve come back from Tippylooloo already!’

  ‘What a name!’ said Daisy. ‘How in the world did you think of it?’

  ‘Oh, things like that are easy,’ said Fatty, modestly. ‘Poor old Clear-Orf! He just swallowed that telegram whole!’

  ‘Are you going to use that disguise when we solve our next mystery?’ asked Bets, eagerly.

  ‘What’s our next mystery?’ said Pip. ‘We haven’t got one! It would be too much to expect one these hols.’

  ‘Well, you never know,’ said Fatty. ‘You simply never know! I bet a mystery will turn up again - and I jolly well hope we’ll be on to it before old Clear-Orf is. Do you remember how I locked him up in the coal-hole in our last mystery?’

  Everyone laughed. They remembered how poor old Mr. Goon had staggered up out of the coal-hole, black with coal-dust, his helmet lost, and with a most terrible sneezing cold.

  ‘And we sent him some carbolic soap and found his helmet for him,’ remembered Daisy. ‘And he wasn’t a bit grateful, and never even thanked us. And Pip’s mother said it was rather an insult to send him soap and was cross with us.’

  ‘I’d like another mystery to solve,’ said Pip. ‘We’ll all keep our ears and eyes open. The hols have begun well, with you in your new disguise, Fatty - taking old Goon in as well as us!’

  ‘I must go,’ said Fatty, getting up. ‘I’ve got to slip back and change out of this telegraph-boy’s suit. I’ll just put on my wig and eyebrows again in case I meet Clear-Orf. Well - so long!’


  A whole week went by. The weather was rather dull and rainy, and the children got tired of it. It wasn’t much fun going for walks and getting soaked. On the other hand they couldn’t stay indoors all day.

  The five of them and Buster met at Pip’s each day, because Pip had a fine big playroom. They made rather a noise sometimes, and then Mrs. Hilton would come in, looking cross.

  ‘There’s no need to behave as if you were a hurricane and an earthquake rolled into one!’ she said, one day. Then she looked in surprise at Pip. ‘Pip, what on earth are you doing?’

  ‘Nothing, Mother,’ said Pip, unwinding himself hurriedly from some weird purple garment. ‘Just being a Roman emperor, that’s all, and telling my slaves what I think of them.’

  ‘Where did you get that purple thing,’ asked his mother. ‘Oh, Pip - surely you haven’t taken Mrs. Moon’s bed-spread to act about in?’

  ‘Well, she’s out,’ said Pip. ‘I didn’t tlunk it would matter, Mother.’

  Mrs. Moon was the cook-housekeeper, and had been with the Hiltons only a few months. The last cook was in hospital ill. Mrs. Moon was a really wonderful cook, but she had a very bad temper. Mrs. Hilton was tired of hearing her grumble about the children.

  ‘You just put that bed-spread back at once!’ she said. ‘Mrs. Moon will be most annoyed if she thinks you’ve been into her bedroom and taken her bed-covering. That was wrong of you, Pip. And will you all please remember to wipe your feet when you come in at the garden-door this wet weather? Mrs. Moon says she is always washing your muddy foot-marks away.’

  ‘She’s a spiteful old tell-tale,’ said Pip sulkily.

  ‘I won’t have you talking like that, Pip,’ said Mrs. Hilton. ‘She’s a very good cook and does her work extremely well. It’s no wonder she complains when you make her so much extra cleaning - and, by the way, she says things sometimes disappear from the larder and she feels sure it’s you children taking them. I hope that’s not so.’

  Pip looked uncomfortable. ‘Well, Mother,’ he began, ‘it’s only that we’re most awfully hungry sometimes, and you see...’

  ‘No, I don’t see at all,’ said Mrs. Hilton. ‘Mrs. Moon is in charge of the larder, and you are not to take things without either my permission or hers. Now take back that bed-spread, for goodness sake, and spread it out neatly. Daisy, go with Pip and see that he puts it back properly.’

  Daisy went off meekly with Pip. Mrs. Hilton could be very strict, and all five children were in awe of her, and of Mr. Hilton too. They would not stand any nonsense at all, either from their own children or from other people’s! Yet they all liked Mrs. Hilton very much, and Pip and Bets thought the world of her.

  Daisy and Pip returned to the playroom. Mrs. Hilton had gone. Pip looked at the others and grinned.

  ‘We put it back,’ he said. ‘We pulled it this way and that, we patted it down, we draped it just right, we...’

  ‘Oh, shut up!’ said Larry. ‘I don’t like Mrs. Moon. She may be a good cook - and must say she makes marvellous cakes - but she’s a tell-tale.’

  ‘I bet poor old Gladys is scared of her,’ said Daisy. Gladys was the housemaid, a timid, quiet little thing, ready with shy smiles, and very willing to do anything for the children.

  ‘I like Mrs. Cockles the best,’ said Bets. ‘She’s got a lovely name, I think. She’s the char-woman. She comes to help Mrs. Moon and Gladys twice a week. She tells me all kinds of things.’

  ‘Good old Cockles!’ said Pip. ‘She always hands us out some of Mrs. Moon’s jam-tarts on baking day, if we slip down to the kitchen.’

  Larry yawned and looked out of the window. ‘This disgusting weather! ’ he said. ‘Raining again! It’s jolly boring. I wish to goodness we’d got something to do - a mystery to solve, for instance.’

  ‘There doesn’t seem to be a single thing,’ said Daisy. ‘No robberies - not even a bicycle stolen, in the village. Nothing.’

  ‘I bet old Clear-Orf will be pleased if we don’t get a mystery this time,’ said Fatty.

  ‘Has he seen you yet?’ asked Bets. Fatty shook his head.

  ‘No. I expect he still thinks I’m away at Tippylooloo,’ he said, with a grin. ‘He’ll be surprised when I turn up.’

  ‘Let’s go out, even if it is raining
,’ said Pip. ‘Let’s go and snoop about. Don’t you remember how last hols I snooped round an empty house and found that secret room at the top of it? Well, let’s go and snoop again. We might hit on something!’

  So they all put on macks and sou’-westers and went for a snoop. ‘We might find some clues,’ said Bets hopefully.

  ‘Clues to what!’ said Pip scornfully. ‘You have to have a mystery before you can find clues, silly!’

  They snooped round a few empty houses, but there didn’t seem anything extraordinary about them at all. They peered into an empty shed, and were scared almost out of their wits when a tall tramp rose up from the dark corners and yelled at them.

  They tramped over a deserted allotment and examined a tumble-down cottage at one end very thoroughly. But there was absolutely nothing queer or strange or mysterious to find.

  ‘It’s tea-time,’ said Fatty. ‘We’d better go home. I’ve got an aunt coming. See you tomorrow!’

  Larry and Daisy drifted off home too. Pip and Bets splashed their way down their wet lane and went gloomily indoors.

  ‘Dull and boring!’ said Pip, flinging his mack down on the hall-cupboard floor. ‘Nothing but rain! Nothing to do!’

  ‘You’ll get into a row if you leave your wet mack on the ground,’ said Bets, hanging hers up.

  ‘Pick it up then,’ said Pip, in a bad temper. He hadn’t even an exciting book to read. His mother had gone out to tea. He and Bets were alone in the house with Gladys.

  ‘Let’s ask Gladys to come up to the playroom and play cards,’ said Pip. ‘She loves a game. Mrs. Moon isn’t in to say No.’

  Gladys was only too delighted tp come and play. She was about nineteen, a pretty, dark-haired girl, timid in her ways, and easily pleased. She enjoyed the game of Happy Families as much as the two children did. She laughed at all their jokes, and they had a very happy time together.

  ‘It’s your bed-time now, Miss Bets,’ she said at last. ‘And I’ve got to go and see to the dinner. Do you want me to run your bath-water for you, Miss?’

  ‘No, thank you. I like doing it myself,’ said Bets. ‘Goodbye, Gladys. I like you!’

  Gladys went downstairs. Bets went to run the bath-water. Pip went off whistling to change into a clean suit. His parents would not let him sit up to dinner unless he was clean and tidy.

  ‘Perhaps it will be fine and sunny tomorrow,’ thought Pip, looking out of the window at the darkening western sky. ‘It doesn’t look so bad tonight. We might be able to get a few bike-rides and picnics in if only the weather clears.’

  It was fine and sunny the next day. Larry, Daisy, Fatty and Buster arrived at Pip’s early, full of a good plan.

  ‘Let’s take our lunch with us and go to Burnham Beeches,’ said Larry. ‘We’ll have grand fun there. You should just see some of the beeches, Bets - enormous old giants all gnarled and knotted, and some of them really seem to have faces in their knotted old trunks!’

  ‘Oooh - I’d like to go,’ said Bets. ‘I’m big enough to ride all the way with you this year. Mummy wouldn’t let me last year.’

  ‘What’s up with your Gladys?’ said Fatty, scratching Buster on the tummy, as he lay upside down by his chair.

  ‘Gladys? Nothing!’ said Pip. ‘Why?’

  ‘Well, she looked as if she’d been crying when I saw her in the hall this morning,’ said Fatty. ‘I came in at the garden door as usual, and bumped into her in the hall. Her eyes looked as red as anything.’

  ‘Well, she was quite all right last night,’ said Pip, remembering the lively game they had had. ‘Perhaps she got into a row with Mrs. Moon.’

  ‘Shouldn’t think so,’ said Fatty. ‘Mrs. Moon called out something to her quite friendly as I passed. Perhaps she’s had bad news.’

  Bets felt upset. She went to find Gladys. The girl was sweeping the bedroom floors. Yes, her eyes were very red!

  ‘Gladys, have you been crying?’ asked Bets. ‘What’s the matter? Has somebody been scolding you?’

  ‘No,’ said Gladys, trying to smile. ‘Nothing’s the matter, Miss Bets. I’m all right. Right as rain.’

  Bets looked at her doubtfully. She didn’t look at all happy. What could have happened between last night and now?

  ‘Have you had bad news!’ said Bets, looking very sympathetic.

  ‘Now just you heed what I say,’ said Gladys. ‘There’s nothing the matter. You run off to the others.’

  There was nothing to do but go back. ‘She has been crying,’ said Bets, ‘but she won’t tell me why.’

  ‘Well, leave her alone,’ said Larry, who didn’t like crying females. ‘Why should we pry into her private affairs? Come on, let’s go and ask about this picnic.’

  Mrs. Hilton was only too glad to say that the children could go off for the day. It was tiring having them in the house all day long, especially as Pip’s playroom was the general meeting-room.

  ‘I was going to suggest that you went off for the day myself,’ she said. ‘You can take your lunch and your tea, if you like! I’ll get it ready for you, whilst Fatty and the others go back to get theirs.’

  It was soon ready. Mrs. Hilton gave them the packets of sandwiches and cake. ‘Now just keep out for the whole day and don’t come tearing back because you’re bored,’ she said firmly. ‘I don’t want to see any of you till after tea. I’ve got important things to do today.’

  ‘What are they, Mother?’ asked Pip, hoping he was not going to miss anything exciting.

  ‘Never you mind,’ said his mother. ‘Now, off you go and have a lovely day!’

  They rode off on their bicycles. ‘Mother seemed to want to get rid of us today, didn’t she?’ said Pip. ‘I mean - she almost pushed us out. I wonder why? And what’s so important today? She didn’t tell us about any Meeting or anything.’

  ‘You’re trying to make it out to be quite a mystery!’ said Bets. ‘I expect she’s going to turn out cupboards or something. Mothers always seem to think things like that are very important. Hurrah, Pip - there are the others! Come on!’

  With a jangling of bicycle bells the little party rode off. Buster sat solemnly in Fatty’s basket. He loved a picnic. A picnic meant woods or fields, and woods or fields meant one thing and one thing only to Buster - rabbits!


  The children had a lovely day. It was warm and sunny, there were primroses everywhere, and the little bright mauve dog-violets made a carpet with the wind-flowers.

  ‘This is glorious,’ said Daisy. ‘Thank goodness the weather’s changed at last. Let’s lay out our macks and sit on them.’

  Buster went off happily. The children watched him go. ‘Off to solve the great Rabbit Mystery!’ said Fatty. ‘Where is the rabbit-hole that is big enough to take a dog like Buster? That is the great problem Buster’s always hoping to solve.’

  Everyone laughed. ‘I wish we had a great problem to solve,’ said Daisy. ‘I’ve sort of got used to having something for my brains to chew on each hols. It seems odd not to have anything really to think about.’

  The day passed quickly. It was soon time to go home again, and the five mounted their bicycles. Buster had with difficulty been removed from halfway down a rather big rabbit-hole. He had been very angry at being hauled out, and now sat sulkily in Fatty’s basket, his ears down. Just as he had almost reached that rabbit! Another minute and he’d have got him!

  ‘Buster’s sulking,’ said Pip, and laughed. ‘Oy, Buster! Cheer up!’

  ‘I wonder if Mother’s done all the important things she said she had to do,’ said Bets to Pip. ‘Anyway she can’t say she’s been much bothered with us today!’

  They all parted at the church corner to go their different ways. ‘We’ll meet at Larry’s tomorrow!’ said Fatty. ‘In the garden if it’s fine. Cheerio!’

  Pip and Bets biked down their lane and into their drive. ‘I’m jolly thirsty,’ said Pip. ‘I wonder if Gladys would give us some ice out of the frig to put into a jug of water. I feel like a drink of iced wa
ter, I’m so hot.’

  ‘Well, don’t ask Mrs. Moon,’ said Bets. ‘She’s sure to say no!’

  They went to find Gladys. She wasn’t in the kitchen, for they peeped in at the window to see. She wasn’t upstairs either, for they went up and called her. Their mother heard them and came out of the study to greet them as they ran downstairs again.

  ‘Did you have a lovely day?’ she said. ‘I was pleased it was so fine for you.’

  ‘Yes, a super day,’ said Pip. ‘Mother, can we have a drink of iced water? We’re melting!’

  ‘Yes, if you like,’ Mrs. Hilton said. They shot off to the kitchen. They peeped in. Mrs. Moon was there, knitting.

  ‘What do you want?’ she said, looking unexpectedly amiable.

  ‘Just some iced water, please,’ said Pip. ‘But we weren’t going to ask you for it, Mrs. Moon. We were going to ask Gladys. We didn’t want to bother you.’

  ‘No bother,’ said Mrs. Moon, getting up. ‘I’ll get it.’

  ‘Is Gladys out?’ asked Bets.

  ‘Yes,’ said Mrs. Moon shortly. ‘Now, take these ice-cubes quick, and slip them into a jug. That’s right.’

  ‘But it isn’t Gladys’s day out, is it?’ said Pip, surprised. ‘She went the day before yesterday.’

  ‘There now - you’ve dropped an ice-cube!’ said Mrs. Moon. ‘Well, I’m no good at chasing ice-cubes round the kitchen floor, so you must get it yourselves.’

  Bets giggled as Pip tried to get the cold slippery ice-cube off the floor. He rinsed it under the tap and popped it into the jug.

  ‘Thanks, Mrs. Moon,’ he said and carried the jug and two glasses up to the playroom.

  ‘Mrs. Moon didn’t seem to want to talk about Gladys, did she?’ said Pip. ‘Funny.’

  ‘Pip - you don’t think Gladys has left, do you?’ suddenly said Bets. ‘I do hope she hasn’t. I did like her.’

  ‘Well - we can easily find out,’ said Pip. ‘Let’s go and peep in her bedroom. If her things are there we’ll know she’s just out for a while and is coming back.’