The Castle of Adventure, Page 2Enid Blyton
With a screech Kiki flew off Jack’s shoulder and landed on Lucy-Ann’s. She rubbed her beak against the little girl’s cheek and made a curious cracking noise. She was delighted to see her.
The boys jumped out of the carriage. Jack rushed to Lucy-Ann and gave her a hug, which the little girl returned, her eyes shining. Kiki gave another screech and flew back on to Jack’s shoulder.
‘Wipe your feet,’ she said sternly to the startled porter. And where is your handkerchief?’
Philip grinned at his sister Dinah. ‘Hallo, old thing,’ he said. ‘You’ve grown! Good thing I have too, or you’d be as tall as I am! Hallo, Lucy-Ann – you haven’t grown! Been a good girl at school?’
‘Don’t talk like a grown-up!’ said Dinah. ‘Mother’s outside in the car. Come and see her.’
The porter took their trunks on his barrow and followed the four excited children. Kiki flew down to the barrow and looked at him with bright eyes.
‘How many times have I told you to shut the door?’ she said. The porter dropped the handles of the barrow in surprise. He didn’t know whether to answer this extraordinary bird or not.
Kiki gave a laugh just like Jack’s and flew out to the car. She joined the others, and tried to get on to Mrs Mannering’s shoulder. She liked Dinah’s mother very much.
‘Attention, please,’ said Kiki sternly. ‘Open your books at page six.’
Everyone laughed. ‘She got that from one of the masters,’ said Jack. ‘Oh, Aunt Allie, she was so funny in the train. She put her head out of the window at every station and said “Right away, there!” just as she had heard a guard say, and you should have seen the engine-driver’s face!’
‘It’s lovely to have you back,’ said Lucy-Ann, keeping close to Jack. She adored her brother though he didn’t really take a great deal of notice of her. They all got into the car, and the porter shoved the luggage in somehow, keeping a sharp eye on Kiki.
‘Please shut the door,’ she said, and went off into one of her never-ending giggles.
‘Shut up, Kiki,’ said Jack, seeing the porter’s startled face. ‘Behave yourself, or I’ll send you back to school.’
‘Oh, you naughty boy!’ said Kiki, ‘oh, you naughty, naughty, naughty . . .’
‘I’ll put an elastic band round your beak if you dare to say another word!’ said Jack. ‘Can’t you see I want to talk to Aunt Allie?’
Jack and Lucy-Ann called Mrs Mannering Aunt Allie, because ‘Mrs Mannering’ seemed too stiff and standoffish. She liked both children very much, but especially Lucy-Ann, who was far more gentle and affectionate than Dinah had ever been.
‘I say – this looks exciting country!’ said Philip, looking out of the car windows. ‘Plenty of birds here for you, Freckles – and plenty of animals for me!’
‘Where’s that brown rat you had this term?’ said Jack, with a mischievous glance at Dinah. She gave a squeal at once.
Philip began to feel about in his pockets, diving into first one and then the other, whilst Dinah watched him in horror, expecting to see a brown rat appear at any moment.
‘Mother! Stop the car and let me walk!’ begged Dinah. ‘Philip’s got a rat somewhere on him.’
‘Here he is – no, it’s my hanky,’ said Philip. ‘Ah – what’s this? – no, that’s not him. Now – here we are . . .’
He pretended to be trying to get something out of his pocket with great difficulty. ‘Ah, you’d bite, would you?’
Dinah squealed again, and her mother stopped the car. Dinah fumbled at the door-handle.
‘No, you stay in, Dinah,’ said her mother. ‘Philip, you get out and the rat too. I quite agree with Dinah – there are to be no rats running all over us. So you can get out and walk, Philip.’
‘Well, Mother – as a matter of fact – I’ve left the rat behind at school,’ said Philip, with a grin. ‘I was just teasing Dinah, that’s all.’
‘Beast!’ said Dinah.
‘I thought you were,’ said his mother, driving on again. ‘Well, you nearly had to walk home, so just be careful! I don’t mind any of your creatures myself, except rats or snakes. Now, what do you think of Spring Cottage?’
The boys liked it just as much as the girls did – but it was the strange old castle that really took their fancy. Dinah forgot to sulk as she pointed it out to the boys.
‘We’ll go up there,’ said Jack, at once.
‘I think not,’ said Mrs Mannering. ‘I’ve just explained to the girls that it’s dangerous up there.’
‘Oh – but why?’ asked Jack, disappointed.
‘Well, there has been a landslide on the road, and no one dares to set foot on it now,’ said Mrs Mannering. ‘I did hear that the whole castle is slipping a bit, and might collapse if the road crumbles much more.’
‘It sounds very exciting,’ said Philip, his eyes gleaming.
They went indoors and the girls showed them their room up in the roof. Lucy-Ann was so delighted to be with Jack that she could hardly leave him for a minute. He was very like her, with deep-red hair, green eyes and hundreds of freckles. He was a very natural, kindly boy, and most people liked him at once.
Philip, whom Jack often called Tufty, was very like his sister too, but much more even-tempered. He had the same unruly lock of hair in front, and even their mother had this, so that Jack often referred to them as ‘The Three Tufties’. The boys were older than the two girls, and very good friends indeed.
‘Holidays at last!’ said Philip, undoing his trunk. Dinah watched him from a safe distance.
‘Got any creatures in there?’ she asked.
‘Only a baby hedgehog; and you needn’t worry, he’s got no fleas,’ said Philip.
‘I bet he has,’ said Dinah, moving a few steps back. ‘I shan’t forget that hedgehog you found last summer.’
‘I tell you, this baby one hasn’t got any fleas at all,’ said Philip. ‘I got some stuff from the chemist and powdered him well, and he’s as clean as can be. His spines haven’t turned brown yet!’
The girls looked with interest as Philip showed them a tiny prickly ball rolled up in his jerseys in the trunk. It uncurled a little and showed a tiny snout.
‘He’s sweet,’ said Lucy-Ann, and even Dinah didn’t mind him.
‘The only snag about him is – he’s going to be awfully prickly to carry about with me,’ said Philip, putting the tiny thing into his shorts pocket.
‘You’ll probably stop carrying him about when you’ve sat on him once or twice,’ said Dinah.
‘I probably shall,’ said Philip. ‘And just see you don’t annoy me too much, Di – for he’d be a marvellous thing to put into your bed!’
‘Shut up bickering, you two, and let’s go out and explore,’ said Jack. ‘Lucy-Ann says there’s a spring in the garden that comes all the way down from the castle.’
‘I’m king of the castle,’ said Kiki, swaying gently to and fro on top of the dressing-table. ‘Pop goes the weasel.’
‘You’re getting a bit mixed,’ said Jack. ‘Come on – out we all go!’
Settling in at Spring Cottage
The first day or two were very happy days indeed. The four children and Kiki wandered about as they pleased, and Jack found so many hundreds of nests that he marvelled to see them. He was mad on birds, and would spend hours watching them, if the others let him.
He got very excited one day because he said he saw an eagle. ‘An eagle!’ said Dinah disbelievingly. ‘Why, I thought eagles were extinct, and couldn’t be found any more – like that Great Auk you always used to be talking about.’
‘Well, eagles aren’t extinct,’ said Jack scornfully. ‘That just shows how little you know. I’m sure this was an eagle. It soared up and up and up into the air just as eagles are said to do. I believe it was a Golden Eagle.’
‘Is it dangerous?’ said Dinah.
‘Well, I suppose it might attack you if you went too near its nest,’ said Jack, ‘Golly – I wonder if it is nesting anywhere
‘Well, I’m not going eagle-nesting,’ said Dinah firmly. ‘Anyway, Jack, you’ve found about a hundred nests already – surely that’s enough for you without wanting to see an eagle’s nest as well.’
Jack never took birds’ eggs, nor did he disturb the sitting birds at all. No bird was ever afraid of him, any more than any animal was ever afraid of Philip. If Lucy or Dinah so much as looked at a nest, the sitting bird seemed frightened and flew off – but she would allow Jack to stroke her, without moving a feather! It was very odd.
Kiki always came with them on their excursions, sitting on Jack’s shoulder. He had taught her not to make a sound when he wanted to watch any bird, but Kiki seemed to object to the rooks that lived around. There was a large rookery in one clump of trees not far off, and Kiki would often go to sit on a nearby branch and address rude remarks to the astonished rooks.
‘It’s a pity they can’t answer her back,’ said Philip. ‘But all they say is “Caw-caw-caw.”’
‘Yes, and Kiki says it too, now,’ said Jack. ‘She goes on cawing for ages unless I stop her. Don’t you, Kiki?’
Kiki took Jack’s ear into her sharp curved beak and fondled it gently. She loved Jack to talk to her. She made a cracking noise with her beak, and said lovingly, ‘Caw-caw-caw-caw-caw . . .’
‘All right, that’s enough,’ said Jack. ‘Go and listen to a nightingale or something and imitate that! A rooks caw isn’t anything to marvel at. Stop, Kiki!’
Kiki stopped, and gave a realistic sneeze. ‘Where’s your hanky, where’s your hanky?’ she said.
To Lucy-Ann’s delight, Jack gave her a hanky, and Kiki spent the next minute or two holding it in her clawed foot and dabbing her beak with it, sniffing all the time.
‘New trick,’ explained Jack, with a grin. ‘Good, isn’t it?’
There were gorgeous walks around the cottage. It was about three miles to the little village, and except for the few houses and the one general shop there, there were no other houses save for a farm or two, and a lonely farm cottage here and there in the hills.
‘We’re not likely to have any adventures here,’ said Philip. ‘It’s all so quiet and peaceful. The village folk have hardly a word to say, have they? They say “Ah, that’s right” to everything.’
‘They’re amazed by Kiki,’ said Dinah.
Ah, that’s right,’ said Jack, imitating the speech of the villagers.
Kiki immediately did the same. ‘Do you remember when Kiki got locked up in a cave underground, and the man who locked her up heard her talking to herself, and thought she was me?’ said Jack, remembering the adventure of the summer before. ‘My word, that was an adventure!’
‘I’d like another adventure, really,’ said Philip. ‘But I don’t expect we’ll have another all our lives long.’
‘Well, they say adventures come to the adventurous,’ said Jack. ‘And we’re pretty adventurous, I think. I don’t see why we shouldn’t have plenty more.’
‘I wish we could go up and explore that strange castle,’ said Dinah longingly, looking up to where it towered on the summit of the hill. ‘It looks such an odd place, so deserted and lonely, standing up there, frowning over the valley. Mother says something horrid once happened there, but she doesn’t know what.’
‘We’ll try and find out,’ said Jack promptly. He always liked hair-raising tales. ‘I expect people were killed there, or something.’
‘Oooh, how horrid – I don’t want to go up there,’ said Lucy-Ann at once.
‘Well, Mother said we weren’t to, anyhow,’ said Dinah.
‘She might let us go eagle-nesting,’ said Philip. And if our search took us near the castle, we couldn’t very well help it, could we?’
‘We’d better tell her, if we do go anywhere near,’ said Jack, who didn’t like the idea of deceiving Philip’s kindly mother in any way. ‘I’ll ask her if she minds.’
So he asked her that evening. Aunt Allie, I believe there may be an eagle’s nest somewhere on the top of this hill,’ he said. ‘It’s so high it’s almost a mountain – and that’s where eagles nest, you know. You wouldn’t mind if I tried to find the nest, would you?’
‘No, not if you are careful,’ said Mrs Mannering. ‘But would your hunt take you anywhere near the old castle?’
‘Well, it might,’ said Jack honestly. ‘But you can trust us not to fool about on any landslides, Aunt Allie. We shouldn’t dream of getting the girls into danger.’
Apparently there was a cloudburst on the top of this hill some years back,’ said Mrs Mannering, ‘and such a deluge of water fell that it undermined the foundations of the castle, and most of the road up to it slid away down the hillside. So, you see, it really might be very dangerous to explore up there.’
‘We’ll be very careful,’ promised Jack, delighted that Mrs Mannering hadn’t forbidden outright their going up the hill to the castle.
He told the others, and they were thrilled. ‘We’ll go up tomorrow, shall we?’ said Jack. ‘I really do want to hunt about to see if there is any sign of an eagle’s nest.’
That afternoon, in their wanderings, they had a curious feeling of being followed. Once or twice Jack turned round, sure that someone was behind them. But there was never anyone there.
‘Funny,’ he said to Philip in a low voice. ‘I felt certain there was someone behind us then – I heard the crack of a twig – as if someone had trodden on it and broken it.’
‘Yes – I thought so too,’ said Philip. He looked puzzled. ‘I tell you what, Jack. When we get into that patch of trees, I’ll crouch down behind a bush and stop, whilst you others go on. Then, if there’s anyone following behind us for some reason, I’ll see them.’
The girls were told what Philip was going to do. They too had felt that there was someone behind them. They all walked into the patch of trees, and then, when he came to a conveniently thick bush, Philip dropped down suddenly behind it and hid, whilst the others walked on, talking loudly.
Philip lay there and listened. He could hear nothing at first. Then he heard a rustle and his heart beat fast. Who was it tracking them, and why? There didn’t seem any sense in it.
Someone came up to his bush. Someone crept past without seeing him. Philip gazed at the Someone and was so astonished that he let out an exclamation.
A girl with ragged clothes, bare feet and wild, curling hair jumped violently and turned round. In a trice Philip had jumped up and had hold of her wrists. He did not hold her roughly, but he held her too firmly for her to get away. She tried to bite him, and kicked out with her bare feet.
‘Now don’t be silly,’ said Philip. ‘I’ll let you go when you tell me who you are and why you are following us.’
The girl said nothing, but glared at Philip out of black eyes. The others, hearing Philip’s voice, came running back.
‘This is the person who was following us, but I can’t get a word out of her,’ said Philip.
‘She’s a wild girl,’ said Dinah. The girl scowled at her. Then she glanced at Kiki, on Jack’s shoulder, and stared as if she couldn’t take her eyes off her.
‘I believe she was only following us to get a glimpse of the parrot!’ said Philip, with a laugh. ‘Is that right, wild girl?’
The girl nodded, ‘Ah, that’s right,’ she said.
‘Ah, that’s right,’ said Kiki. The girl stared and gave a laugh of surprise. It altered her face at once, and gave her a merry, mischievous look.
‘What’s your name?’ asked Philip, letting go her wrists.
‘Tassie,’ said the girl. ‘I saw that bird, and I came after you. I didn’t mean no harm. I live round the hill with my mother. I know where you live. I know all you do.’
‘Oh – been spying round a bit, and following us, I suppose!’ said Jack. ‘Do you know this hillside well?’
Tassie nodded. Her bright black eyes hardly left Kiki. She seemed fascinated by the parrot.
‘Pop goes the weasel,�
�� said Kiki to her, in a solemn voice. ‘Open your book at page six.’
‘I say – do you know if the eagles nest on this hill?’ asked Jack suddenly. He thought it quite likely that this wild little girl might know things like that.
‘What’s an eagle?’ said Tassie.
‘A big bird,’ said Jack. ‘A very big bird with a curved beak, and . . .’
‘Like your bird there?’ said Tassie, pointing to Kiki.
‘Oh no,’ said Jack. ‘Well – never mind. If you don’t know what an eagle is like, you won’t know where it nests either.’
‘It’s time to go back home,’ said Philip. ‘I’m hungry. Tassie, take us the shortest way home!’
To Philip’s surprise Tassie turned round and plunged down the hillside, as sure-footed as a goat. The others followed. She took them such a short cut that all of them were amazed when they saw Spring Cottage in front of them.
‘Thanks, Tassie,’ said Philip, and Kiki echoed his words. ‘Thanks, Tassie.’
Tassie smiled, and her usual, rather sulky look fled. ‘I’ll see you again,’ she said, and turned to go.
‘Did you say you lived at that old cottage round the hill?’ yelled Jack after her.
‘Ah, that’s right!’ she shouted back, and disappeared into the bushes.
Tassie and Button
Certainly Castle Hill was a very lonely place, for, after they had explored it, there seemed to be only their cottage on it, Tassie’s tumble-down home, and a farm some way off, where they got their eggs and milk. The village lay in the valley below.
But although the great hill was almost empty of people, it was full of wildlife: birds for Jack, and animals of all kinds for Philip. Squirrels ran everywhere, rabbits popped up wherever they walked, and red foxes slunk by, not seeming at all scared.
‘Golly! I wish I could get a baby fox, a little cub!’ said Philip. ‘I’ve always wanted one. They’re like small and lively puppies, you know.’
Tassie was with them when he said this. She often joined up with them now, and was quite invaluable because she always knew the way home. It seemed very easy to get lost on the vast hill, but Tassie could always show them a short cut.