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The Enchanted Wood, Page 2

Enid Blyton

  Mother and Father set off to the town. The children waved goodbye from the gate. Then they tore indoors to get the bag in which their food had been put. They slammed the cottage door. Ah, adventures were in the air that morning!

  "Up the Faraway Tree,

  Jo, Bessie, and Me!"

  sang Fanny loudly.

  "Hush!" said Jo. "We are not far from the Enchanted Wood. We don't want anyone to know what we're going to do."

  They ran down the back garden and out of the little gate at the end. They stood still in the overgrown, narrow lane and looked at one another. It was the first big adventure of their lives! What were they going to see? What were they going to do?

  They jumped over the ditch into the wood. At once they felt different. Magic was round them. The birds' songs sounded different. The trees once again whispered secretly to one another: "Wisha-wisha-wisha-wisha!"

  "Ooooh!" said Fanny, shivering with delight.

  "Come on," said Jo, going down the green path. "Let's find the Faraway Tree."

  They followed him. He went on till he came to the oak tree under which they had sat before. There were the six toadstools too, on which the brownies had held their meeting, though the toadstools looked rather brown and old now.

  "Which is the way now?" said Bessie, stopping.

  None of them knew. They set off down a little path, but they soon stopped, for they came to a strange place where the trees stood so close together that they could go no farther. They went back to the oak tree.

  "Let's go this other way," said Bessie, so they set off in a different direction. But this time they came to a curious pond, whose waters were pale yellow, and shone like butter. Bessie didn't like the look of the pond at all, and they all three went back once more to the oak tree.

  "This is too bad," said Fanny, almost crying. "Just when we've got a whole day to ourselves we can't find the tree!"

  "I'll tell you what we'll do," said Jo suddenly. "We'll call those brownies. Don't you remember how they said they would help us whenever we wanted them?"

  "Of course!" said Fanny. "We had to stand under this oak tree and whistle seven times!"

  "Go on, Jo, whistle," said Bessie. So Jo stood beneath the thick green leaves of the old oak and whistled loudly, seven times—"Phooee, phooee, phooee, phooee, phooee, phooee, phooee!"

  The children waited. In about half a minute a rabbit popped its head out of a nearby rabbit-hole and stared at them.

  "Who do you want?' said the rabbit, in a furry sort of voice.

  The children stared in surprise. They had never heard an animal speak before. The rabbit put its ears up and down and spoke again, rather crossly.

  "Are you deaf? Who do you WANT? I said."

  "We want one of the brownies," said Jo, finding his tongue at last.

  The rabbit turned and called down his hole, "Mr. Whiskers! Mr. Whiskers! There's someone wanting you!"

  There came a voice shouting something in answer, and then one of the six brownies squeezed out of the rabbit-hole and stared at the children.

  "Sorry to be so long," he said. "One of the rabbit's children has the measles, and I was down seeing to it."

  "I didn't think rabbits got the measles," said Bessie, astonished.

  "They more often get the weasels," said Mr. Whiskers. "Weasels are even more catching than measles, as far as rabbits are concerned."

  He grinned as if he had made a huge joke, but as the children had no idea that weasels were savage little animals that caught rabbits, they didn't laugh.

  "We wanted to ask you the way to the Faraway Tree," said Bessie. "We've forgotten it."

  "I'll take you," said Mr. Whiskers, whose name was really a very good one, for his beard reached his toes. Sometimes he trod on it, and this jerked his head downwards suddenly. Bessie kept wanting to laugh but she thought she had better not. She wondered why he didn't tie it round his waist out of the way of his feet.

  Mr. Whiskers led the way between the dark trees. At last he reached the trunk of the enormous Faraway Tree. "Here you are!" he said. "Are you expecting someone down it today?"

  "Well, no," said Jo. "We rather wanted to go up it ourselves."

  "Go up it yourselves!" said Mr. Whiskers, in horror. "Don't be silly. It's dangerous. You don't know what might be at the top. There's a different place almost every day!"

  "Well, we're going," said Jo firmly, and he set his foot against the trunk of the tremendous tree and took hold of a branch above his head. "Come on, girls!"

  "I shall fetch my brothers and get you down," said Mr. Whiskers, in a fright, and he scuttled off, crying, "It's so dangerous! It's so dangerous!"

  "Do you suppose it is all right to go?" asked Bessie, who was usually the sensible one.

  "Come on, Bessie!" said Jo impatiently. "We're only going to see what's at the top! Don't be a baby!"

  "I'm not," said Bessie, and she and Fanny hauled themselves up beside Jo. "It doesn't look very difficult to climb. We'll soon be at the top."

  But it wasn't as easy as they thought, as you will see!



  Before very long the children were hidden in the branches as they climbed upwards. When Mr. Whiskers came back with five other brownies, not a child could be seen!

  "Hie, come down!" yelled the brownies, dancing round the tree. "You'll be captured or lost. This tree is dangerous!"

  Jo laughed and peered down. The Faraway Tree seemed to be growing acorns just where he was, so he picked one and threw it down. It hit Mr. Whiskers on the hat and he rushed away, shouting, "Oh, someone's shot me! Someone's shot me!"

  Then there was silence. "They've gone," said Jo, laughing again. "I expect they're afraid of being shot by acorn bullets, funny little things! Come on, girls!"

  "This must be an oak tree if it grows acorns," said Bessie, as she climbed. But just as he said that she stared in surprise at something nearby. It was a prickly chestnut case, with conkers inside!

  "Good gracious!" she said. "It's growing horse chestnuts just here! What a very peculiar tree!"

  "Well, let's hope it will grow apples and pears higher up," said Fanny, with a giggle. "It's a most extraordinary tree!"

  Soon they were quite high up. When Jo parted the leaves and tried to see out of the tree he was amazed to find that he was far higher than the tallest trees in the wood. He and the girls looked down on the top of all the other trees, which looked like a broad green carpet below.

  Jo was higher up than the girls. Suddenly he gave a shout. "I say, girls! Come up here by me, quickly! I've found something queer!"

  Bessie and Fanny climbed quickly up.

  "Why, it's a window in the tree!" said Bessie, in astonishment. They all peered inside, and suddenly the window was flung open and an angry little face looked out, with a nightcap on.

  "Rude creatures!" shouted the angry little man, who looked like a pixie. "Everybody that climbs the tree peeps in at me! It doesn't matter what I'm doing, there's always someone peeping!"

  The children were too astonished to do anything but stare. The pixie disappeared and came back with a jug of water. He flung it at Bessie and wetted her. She gave a scream.

  "Perhaps you won't peep into people's houses next time," said the pixie with a grin, and he slammed his window shut again and drew the curtain.

  "Well!" said Bessie, trying to wipe herself dry with her handkerchief. "What a rude little man!"

  "We'd better not look in at any windows we pass," said Jo. "But I was so surprised to see a window in the tree!"

  Bessie soon got dry. They climbed up again, and soon had another surprise. They came to a broad branch that led to a yellow door set neatly in the big trunk of the Faraway Tree. It had a little knocker and a brightly polished bell. The children stared at the door.

  "I wonder who lives there?" said Fanny.

  "Shall we knock and see?" said Jo.

  "Well, I don't want water all over me again," said Bessie.

p; "We'll ring the bell and then hide behind this branch," said Jo. "If anyone thinks he is going to throw water at us he won't find us."

  So Jo rang the bell and then they all hid carefully behind a big branch. A voice came from the inside of the door.

  "I'm washing my hair! If that's the butcher, please leave a pound of sausages!"

  The children stared at one another and laughed. It was odd to hear of butchers coming up the Faraway Tree. The voice shouted again:

  "If it's the oil man, I don't want anything. If it's the red dragon, he must call again next week!"

  "Good gracious!" said Bessie, looking rather frightened. "The red dragon! I don't like the sound of that!"

  At that moment the yellow door opened and a small elf looked out. Her hair was fluffed out round her shoulders, drying, and she was rubbing it with a towel. She stared at the peeping children.

  "Did you ring my bell?" she asked. "What do you want?"

  "We just wanted to see who lived in the funny little tree-house," said Jo, peering in at the dark room inside the tree. The elf smiled. She had a very sweet face.

  "Come in for a moment," she said. "My name is Silky, because of my silky hair. Where are you off to?"

  "We are climbing up the Faraway Tree to see what is at the top," said Jo.

  "Be careful you don't find something horrid," said Silky, giving them each a chair in her dark little tree-room. "Sometimes there are delightful places at the top of the tree—sometimes there are queer lands too. Last week there was the land of Hippetty-Hop, which was dreadful. As soon as you got there, you had to hop on one leg, and everything went hippetty-hop, even the trees. Nothing ever kept still. It was most tiring."

  "It does sound exciting," said Bessie. "Where's our food, Jo? Let's ask Silky to have some."

  Silky was pleased. She sat there brushing her beautiful golden hair and ate sandwiches with them. She brought out a tin of Pop Biscuits, which were lovely. As soon as you bit them they went pop! And you suddenly found your moth filled with new honey from the middle of the biscuits. Fanny took seven, one after another, for she was rather greedy. Bessie stopped her.

  "You'll go pop if you eat any more!" she said.

  "Do a lot of people live in this tree?" asked Jo.

  "Yes, heaps," said Silky. "They move in and out, you know. But I'm always here, and so is the Angry Pixie, down below."

  "Yes, we've seen him!" said Bessie. "Who else is there?"

  "There's Mister Watzisname above me," said Silky. "Nobody knows his name, and he doesn't know it himself, so he's called Mister Watzisname. Don't wake him if he's asleep. He might chase you. Then there's Dame Washalot. She's always washing, and as she pours her water away down the tree you've got to look out for waterfalls!"

  "This is a most interesting and exciting tree," said Bessie, finishing her cake. "Jo, I think we ought to go now, or we'll never get to the top. Goodbye, Silky. We'll come and see you again one day."

  "Do," said Silky. "I'd like to be friends."

  They all left the dear little round room in the tree and began to climb once more. Not long after they heard a peculiar noise. It sounded like an aeroplane throbbing and roaring.

  "But there can't be an aeroplane in this tree!" said Jo. He peered all round—and then he saw what was making the noise. A funny old gnome sat in a deck-chair on a broad branch, his mouth wide open, his eyes fast shut—snoring hard!

  "It's Mister Watzisname!" said Bessie. "What a noise he makes! Mind we don't waken him!"

  "Shall I put a cherry in his mouth and see what happens?" asked Jo, who was always ready for a bit of mischief. The Faraway Tree was growing cherries all around for a change, and there were plenty to pick.

  "No, Jo, no!" said Bessie. "You know what Silky said—he might chase us. I don't want to fall out of the Faraway Tree and bump down from bough to bough, if you do!"

  So they all crept past old Mister Watzisname, and went on climbing up and up. For a long time nothing happened except that the wind blew in the tree. The children did not pass any more houses or windows in the tree—and then they heard another noise—rather a peculiar one.

  They listened. It sounded like a waterfall—and suddenly Jo guessed what it was.

  "It's Dame Washalot throwing out her dirty water!" he yelled. "Look out, Bessie! Look out, Fanny!"

  Down the trunk of the tree poured a lot of blue, soapy water. Jo dodged it. Fanny slipped under a broad branch. But poor old Bessie got well splashed from head to foot. How she shouted!

  Jo and Fanny had to lend her their hankies. "I am most unlucky!" sighed Bessie. "That's twice I've been wetted today."

  Up they went again, passing more little doors and windows, but seeing no one else—and at last they saw above them a vast white cloud.

  "Look!" said Jo, in amazement. "This cloud has a hole in it—and the branches go up—and I believe we're at the very top of the tree! Shall we creep through the cloud-hole and see what land is above?"

  "Let's" cried Bessie and Fanny—so up they went.



  One big broad branch slanted upwards at the top of the Faraway Tree. Jo climbed on to it and looked down—but he could see nothing, for a white mist swirled around and about. Above him the enormous thick white cloud stretched, with a purple hole in it through which the topmost branch of the Faraway Tree disappeared.

  The children felt tremendously excited. At least they were at the very top. Jo carefully pulled himself up the last branch. He disappeared into the purple hole. Bessie and Fanny followed him.

  The branch came to an end and a little ladder ran through the cloud. Up the children went—and before they knew what had happened, there they were out in the sunshine, in a new and very strange land.

  They stood on green grass. Above them was a blue sky. A tune was playing somewhere, going on and on and on.

  "It's the sort of tune a roundabout plays, Jo" said Bessie. "Isn't it."

  It was—and then, suddenly, without any warning at all, the whole land began to swing round! The children almost fell over, so suddenly did the swing-round begin.

  "What's happening?" said Bessie, frightened.

  The children felt terribly giddy, for trees, distant houses, hills, and bushes began to move round. They too felt themselves moving, for the grass was going round as well. They looked for the hole in the cloud—but it had disappeared.

  "The whole land is going round and round like a roundabout!" cried Jo, shutting his eyes with giddiness. "We've passed over the hole in the clouds—we don't know where the topmost branch of the Faraway Tree is now—it's somewhere beneath this land, but goodness knows where!"

  "Jo! But how can we get back home again?" cried Fanny, in a fright.

  "We'll have to ask someone for help," said Jo.

  The three began to walk away from the patch of green field in which they were standing. Bessie noticed that they had been standing on a ring of grass that seemed darker than the grass around. She wondered why it was. But she had no time to say anything, for really it was dreadfully difficult to walk properly in a land that was going round and round like a proper roundabout all the time!

  The music went on and on too, hurdy-gurdy, hurdy-gurdy. Jo wondered where it came from, and where the machinery was that worked the strange Roundabout Land.

  Soon they met a tall man singing loudly from a book. Jo stopped him, but he went on singing. It was annoying.

  "Hie-diddle-ho-diddle, derry-derry down!" shouted the man, whilst Jo tried to make himself heard.

  "How can we get away from this land?" Jo shouted.

  "Don’t interrupt me, hie-diddle, ho-diddle!" sang the man, and he beat time with his finger. Jo caught hold of the bony finger and shouted again.

  "Which is the way out of this land, and what land is it?"

  "Now you’ve made me lose my time," said the tall man crossly. "I shall have to begin my song again."

  "What is this land, please?" asked Fanny.

  "It’s R
oundabout Land," said the tall man. "I should have thought anyone would have guessed that. You can’t get away from it. It goes round and round always, and only stops once in a blue moon."

  "There must have been a blue moon when we climbed into it!" groaned Jo. "It had certainly stopped then."

  The man went off, singing loudly. "Hie-diddle, ho-diddle, derry-derry down!"

  "Silly old diddle-derry!" said Fanny. "Really, we do seem to meet the most peculiar people!"

  "What I’m worried about is getting home," said Bessie. "Mother will be anxious if we are not back when she is. What shall we do, Jo?”

  "Let’ s sit down under this tree and have a bit more to eat," said Jo. So they sat down, and munched solemnly, hearing the roundabout music going on all the time, and watching the distant hills and trees swinging round against the sky. It was all very strange.

  Presently a pair of rabbits lolloped up and looked at the children. Fanny loved animals and she threw a bit of cake to them. To her surprise one of the rabbits picked up the cake in its paw and nibbled it like a monkey!

  "Thanks!" said the rabbit. "It’s a change from grass! Where do you come from? We haven’t seen you before, and we thought we knew everyone here. Nobody new ever comes to Roundabout Land."

  "And nobody ever gets away," said the other rabbit, smiling at Fanny, and holding out its paw for a bit of cake too.

  "Really?" said Bessie, in alarm. "Well, we are new to it, for we only came about an hour ago. We came up the Faraway Tree."

  "What!" cried both rabbits at once, flipping up their long ears in amazement. "Up the Faraway Tree, did you say? Goodness, you don’t mean to say that’s touching this land?"

  "Yes, it is," said Bessie. "But I expect, as this land is swinging round and round, that the topmost branch might be almost anywhere underneath it—there’s no way of finding out."

  "Oh yes, there is!" said the first rabbit excitedly. "If we burrow down a little way, and make a hole, we can see whereabouts the Faraway Tree is underneath, and we can wait for it to come round again, when the Land swings above it."