The Circus of Adventure, Page 2Enid Blyton
‘I’m going to watch at the gate for Bill,’ announced Lucy-Ann after tea.
‘We all will,’ said Philip. ‘Good old Bill! What luck for us that he’s not on one of his hush-hush jobs just now, and can come away with us!’
They went to hang over the front gate together. Kiki kept putting her crest up and down excitedly. She knew quite well that Bill was coming.
‘Bill! Pay the bill!’ she kept saying. ‘Where’s Bill? Pop goes Bill!’
‘You’re a silly-billy,’ said Lucy-Ann, stroking the parrot’s soft neck. ‘That’s what you are!’
‘That’s an idiotic thing to call her,’ said Dinah. ‘Just as we’re expecting Bill! She’ll screech out “Silly-Billy” to him now, I bet you she will!’
‘Silly-Billy, Billy-Silly!’ shouted Kiki. She always loved words that sounded the same. Jack tapped her on the head.
‘No, Kiki, stop it. Look, here’s a car coming. Perhaps it’s Bill’s.’
But it wasn’t. As it went by, Kiki hooted loudly – parp-parp-parp – exactly like a car.
The driver was astonished. He could see no car in sight. He sounded his horn, thinking there must be a hidden corner somewhere.
And then Lucy-Ann gave a squeal. ‘Here’s Bill!’ she said. ‘A big black car, very sleek and shiny! Bill, Bill!’
She was right. It was Bill’s car. It drew up at the front gate, and Bill’s jolly face grinned at them as he looked out of the window. Somebody sat beside him. Was it the boy?
Bill opened the door and leapt out. The four children pounced on him. ‘Bill! Good old Bill! How are you, Bill?’
‘Silly-Billy!’ screeched a voice.
‘Ah – good evening, Kiki,’ said Bill, as the parrot landed full on his shoulder. ‘Still the same rude old bird. Aha! You want me at home to teach you a few manners!’
Kiki cackled like an excited hen. ‘Now then – don’t you lay eggs down my neck!’ said Bill. ‘What are you cackling about? Where’s your mother, Dinah?’
‘There she is,’ said Dinah, as Mrs Cunningham came running to the gate. Bill was about to call to her when an extremely loud cough came from the car – a cough that was meant to be noticed.
‘Oh – I completely forgot for the moment,’ said Bill. ‘I’ve brought a visitor. Did you tell them, Allie?’
‘Yes, I did,’ said Mrs Cunningham. ‘Where is he? Oh, in the car. Bring him out, Bill.’
‘Come on out,’ said Bill, and in the midst of a dead silence the owner of the loud cough slid out of the car in as dignified a manner as he could.
Everyone stared at him. He was about eleven, and certainly very foreign-looking. His blue-black hair was curly and rather longer than usual. His eyes were as black as his hair, and he had thicker lashes than either of the girls. And he certainly had magnificent manners.
He went to Mrs Cunningham, and took the hand she held out to him. But instead of shaking it he bowed over it and touched it with his lips. Mrs Cunningham couldn’t help smiling. The four children stared in amusement.
‘My thanks to you, dear lady,’ he said, in a very foreign accent.
‘That’s all right,’ said Mrs Cunningham. ‘Have you had any tea?’
But before the boy chose to answer this question he had to make a further display of manners. He went to Dinah, and before she knew what he meant to do, he took her hand and bent over it. She gave a squeal and snatched it away.
‘Don’t!’ she said. Lucy-Ann put her hands firmly behind her back. She didn’t want them kissed either. What an extraordinary boy!
‘Gus, old fellow – we just shake hands, you know,’ said Bill, trying to hide his amusement at the sight of the two girls’ indignant faces. ‘Er – this is Gustavus Barmilevo, Allie. He will be with us for the next few weeks, as his uncle has asked me to keep an eye on him.’
Gustavus Barmilevo bowed very low, but did not attempt any more hand-kissing. Bill introduced the rest.
‘Dinah – Lucy-Ann – Jack – and Philip. I – er – hope you’ll soon all be good friends.’
The two boys shook hands with Gus, eyeing him with much disfavour. Goodness! Were they to put up with this little foreigner all the holidays?
Gus did a funny little bow each time he shook hands. ‘Plizzed to mit you,’ he said. ‘What is zis bird? How you call it?’
‘It’s a Kiki-bird,’ said Jack, solemnly. ‘Gus, meet Kiki. Kiki, meet Gus!’
Kiki held out her left foot as usual, to shake hands. Gus looked extremely surprised, but his manners remained perfect. He held out his hand to Kiki’s foot. Unfortunately Kiki dug her talons into his fingers, and he gave a loud yell.
‘What a noise, what a noise!’ said Kiki, severely. ‘Wipe your feet and blow your nose. Fetch the doctor!’
‘My finger’s blidding,’ said the boy with tears in his voice. ‘It blids, look.’
‘Fetch the doctor, Polly’s got a cold, fetch the doctor,’ chanted Kiki, enjoying herself. The boy suddenly realized that it was the parrot who was talking. He forgot his ‘blidding’ and stared at Kiki in amazement.
‘It spiks!’ he announced in awe. ‘It spiks. It spiks words. It sees my blidding finger, and spiks to fetch the doctor. I never haf seen a Kiki-bird before.’
‘Come along in, and I’ll put a bit of bandage on your finger,’ said Mrs Cunningham, getting tired of all this.
‘Yes. It blids,’ said Gus, mournfully, watching a minute drop of blood fall to the ground. He looked as if he was going to cry. Then he said a most extraordinary thing.
‘This bird,’ he said, looking at Kiki suddenly, ‘the bird – it must be in a cage. I order it.’
‘Don’t be a fathead,’ said Jack, after a moment’s silence of astonishment. ‘Come on, Aunt Allie – let’s go indoors. Gus might “blid” to death!’
This was a most alarming thought, and Gus rushed into the house at once. The others followed slowly. What an extraordinary boy!
‘Bit dippy,’ said Dinah in a low voice, and they all nodded. Bill’s voice hailed them.
‘Hey! What about a spot of help with the luggage?’
‘Oh, Bill. Sorry, we weren’t thinking,’ said Jack, and ran back at once. ‘Gus rather took our breath away. What nationality is he?’
‘Oh, he’s a bit of a mixture, I think,’ said Bill. ‘Don’t bother him about his family or his home, or he’ll probably burst into tears. Sorry to inflict him on you like this. He’ll be better when he’s shaken down a bit. I believe he got on quite all right at the English school he was at. Anyway – I’ll take him off your hands as much as I can, I promise you, as it’s my friend who asked me to keep an eye on him!’
‘We’ll help, Bill,’ said Lucy-Ann. ‘I expect he’s shy. Oh dear – I was so afraid he’d kiss my hand! What would the girls at school say?’
‘Well, I should hardly think they’d know anything about it,’ said Bill. ‘You take that bag, Jack – and you that box, Philip. Well – it’s nice to see you all home again! And Kiki, too, you old rascal. How dare you call me Silly-Billy?’
‘Pop goes Billy, pop goes Billy!’ screeched Kiki in delight, and flew down to his shoulder to nibble his ear. ‘Pop-pop-pop!’
Gussy and Kiki
There really wasn’t very much time that evening to get to know Gustavus Barmilevo. As they were all going off again the next day there was packing to do, and all kinds of arguments arose as to what was or was not to be taken.
Gustavus was bewildered by the noise of so many people talking at once. He sat staring at them all, nursing his bandaged finger. Kiki absolutely fascinated him. He watched her continually, but would not allow her near him.
As soon as she came near, he flapped his hands at her as if she was a hen. ‘Go off!’ he cried. ‘Clear away!’
‘He’s as muddled as Kiki sometimes gets,’ said Jack, with a grin. ‘Kiki can’t make him out. Now, where did I put that book? Aunt Allie, did I pack that big book?’
‘You did,’ said Aunt Allie. ‘And I ha
ve unpacked it. For the third time, Jack, you are NOT going to take a score of books about birds. Two is more than enough, so make your choice.’
‘You’re so hardhearted,’ groaned Jack. ‘Well, I suppose you will allow me to take my field glasses? In fact, if they don’t go, I shan’t go either.’
‘You can carry those round your neck,’ said Mrs Cunningham. ‘Do try and remember that there will be seven of us in the car and all the luggage, too. We really must take the least luggage possible. Kiki, bring that string back. KIKI! Jack, if you don’t stop Kiki running off with absolutely everything I put down for a moment, I shall go mad.’
‘Where is the cage?’ suddenly demanded Gustavus, in a commanding voice. ‘Put him in the cage.’
‘She’s a her, not a him,’ said Jack, ‘and stop talking about cages. No ordering about, please!’
Gustavus apparently did not follow this, but he resented Jack’s firm voice. He sat up stiffly.
‘This bird iss – iss – wicket!’ he said. ‘Not good. Wicket. I will not haf him wizzout a cage.’
‘Now, Jack, now!’ said Mrs Cunningham warningly, as she saw Jack’s furious face. ‘He’s not used to Kiki yet. Or to our ways. Give him a chance to settle down. Don’t take any notice of him. Gustavus, the bird is not wicked. She is good. Sit still and be quiet.’
‘Where is the cage?’ repeated Gustavus, in a most maddening manner. ‘A beeg, BEEG cage. For a wicket bird.’
Jack went over to him and spoke slowly and loudly with his face close to the surprised boy’s.
‘I have a beeg, BEEG cage,’ he said, most dramatically. ‘But I keep it for small, annoying boys. I will bring it for you, Gus. If you want a beeg, beeg cage you shall have it for yourself. You shall sit in it and be safe from that wicket, wicket bird.’
To Jack’s enormous surprise Gustavus burst into tears! All four children looked at him aghast. How could a boy of eleven be so incredibly upset? Even Lucy-Ann was shocked. Mrs Cunningham hurried over to him.
‘He’s tired out,’ she said to the others. ‘It’s all strange to him here, and he’s never seen a parrot like Kiki before. Nor have any of us, come to that! Cheer up, Gustavus. Jack didn’t mean what he said, of course.’
‘I jolly well did,’ began Jack. ‘Kiki’s old cage is enormous and …’
Mrs Cunningham firmly led the weeping Gus from the room. The others stared at one another in complete disgust.
‘Well! To think we’ve got to put up with that these hols!’ began Jack. ‘All I can say is that I’m going to take him firmly in hand – and he won’t enjoy it one bit!’
‘I’ll take him in hand, too,’ said Dinah, quite fiercely. ‘Who does he think he is – laying down the law about Kiki and a cage! Oh, Jack – I do wish you’d got that old cage and brought it in. I’d have loved to see Gustavus’s face.’
‘Poor old Gussy!’ said Lucy-Ann. ‘Wouldn’t he have howled! Poor Gussy!’
‘Gussy!’ said Kiki, at once. ‘Fussy-Gussy! Fussy-Gussy!’
Everyone laughed. ‘You’ve hit it off again,’ said Philip to Kiki. ‘Fussy – that’s exactly what we’ll have to put up with – fuss and grumbles and silliness all the time. Why didn’t his parents bring up their kid properly? Fussy-Gussy! We shall get jolly tired of him.’
‘Fussy-Gussy!’ screamed Kiki, dancing to and fro, to and fro on her big feet. ‘Wipe your feet, Gussy!’
‘Dry your eye, you mean,’ said Philip. ‘I hope Gussy’s not going to burst into tears too often. I think I’ll borrow one of Mother’s afternoon teacloths and take it with me to offer him every time he looks like bursting into tears.’
Mrs Cunningham came back, and overheard this. ‘I think you’re being a bit unkind,’ she said. ‘He may seem a bit of a nuisance, I admit – but it must be rather nerve-racking for him to be plunged into the midst of a company like this when he doesn’t speak the language properly, and everyone laughs at him. I think you should play fair and give him a chance.’
‘All right, Mother,’ said Philip. ‘All the same – it isn’t like Bill to thrust someone like Gussy on us at a moment’s notice, just at the beginning of the hols.’
‘Well, you see,’ said his mother, ‘it’s like this. Bill was saddled with this youngster – and he knew you wouldn’t like having him. So he suggested to me that he should go off with him alone somewhere. I couldn’t bear that, because a holiday without Bill would be horrid – and so we thought it would be best if Gustavus came with us all, and we tried to put up with him. It’s either that or going without both Gussy and Bill.’
‘I see,’ said Philip. ‘Well, I’d rather put up with Gussy than have no Bill.’
‘That’s what I thought,’ said his mother. ‘So don’t make Bill feel too bad about it, will you? He’s quite likely to vanish with Gussy for the rest of the holidays if you make too much fuss. All the same – I think you can quite safely help young Gustavus to join in. That won’t do him any harm at all. He seems frightened and shy to me.’
‘We’ll soon show him exactly where he stands,’ said Jack. ‘But I really can’t think how Bill was soft enough to take him on. Where’s Gustavus now?’
‘I’ve popped him into bed with a book,’ said Mrs Cunningham. ‘There’s such a lot of things to do this evening and I really felt I couldn’t cope with upsets and bickerings the very first day you were home – so I thought everyone would be happier if he was in bed.’
‘How right you were!’ said Jack. ‘Well, now dear Gussy is safely out of the way, let’s get on with things. I suppose you don’t want any help with the supper, Aunt Allie?’
‘I imagine that’s a roundabout way of saying you are hungry again?’ said Aunt Allie. ‘All right – the girls can see to supper. You boys come and help me finish packing the greatest number of things into the smallest possible bags! I’m leaving behind practically everything belonging to Gustavus – he’s got the most ridiculous things – pyjamas made of real silk, for instance! And monograms on everything.’
‘He must have gone through an awful lot of teasing at school then,’ said Philip. ‘I’m surprised they didn’t have his hair cut. Most girls would envy him all that long curly hair. Couldn’t we get his hair cut, Mother?’
‘Possibly,’ said his mother. ‘Let’s not talk about him any more.’
The packing was finished by supper time. Mrs Cunningham was determined not to take more than a change of clothes for everyone: shirts, jerseys, blazers and macs. Once more she had to take Jack’s enormous book on birds from where he had hidden it yet again under some shirts in a suitcase. She looked at him in exasperation.
He grinned back amiably. ‘Oh, sorry, Aunt Allie! You don’t mean to say it’s got itself packed again!’
‘I’m locking the cases now,’ said Aunt Allie, with determination. ‘Really, Jack, I sometimes feel you want a good spanking!’
Supper was a hilarious meal. Gustavus, having a tray of food in bed, listened rather enviously. He was tired, and glad to be in bed – but it did sound very jolly down-stairs. He didn’t somehow feel that he had made a very good impression, though. That bird – it was that ‘wicket bird who had made things go wrong. When he got Kiki alone he would slap her hard – biff!
Gustavus brought his hand down smartly as he pictured himself slapping Kiki. The tray jerked and his lemonade spilt over the traycloth. There – that was thinking of Kiki again. He was so engrossed in trying to mop up the mess he had made that he didn’t notice someone rather small sidling in at the door.
It was the parrot, come to find out where Gustavus was. Kiki’s sharp eyes had missed him at supper time. Then where was he? Upstairs?
Kiki went under the bed and explored the slippers and boxes there. She pecked at one of the boxes, trying to get off the lid. She loved taking off lids.
Gustavus heard the noise. What was it? He looked round the room.
Peck-peck-peck! The lid wouldn’t come off. ‘Who’s there? Who iss it?’ said Gustavus, in an anxious voice.
bsp; Kiki debated what noise to make. She had a grand store of noises of all kinds. There was the screech of a railway train going through a tunnel. No – that would bring Mrs Cunningham upstairs, and she would be angry. There was the lawn mower – a most successful noise, but also not very popular indoors.
And there was quite a variety of coughs – little short hacking coughs – deep hollow ones – and sneezes. What about a sneeze?
Kiki gave one of her most realistic sneezes. ‘A – WOOOOOSH-OO!’ It sounded very peculiar indeed, coming from under the bed.
Gussy was petrified. A sneeze – and such an enormous one – and under the bed! WHO was under the bed? Someone lying in wait for him? He began to tremble, and the lemonade spilt again.
Kiki began to cough – a deep, hollow cough, mournful and slow. Gustavus moaned. Who was it coughing under his bed now? He didn’t dare to get out and see. He was sure that whoever was there would catch hold of his ankles as soon as his feet appeared on the floor.
Kiki next did a very fine growl, and poor Gussy shivered so much in fright that his tray nearly slid off the bed altogether. He just clutched it in time. But a plate fell off, hit one of his shoes standing nearby and rolled slowly under the bed.
Now it was Kiki’s turn to be surprised. She hopped out of the way and glared at the plate, which flattened itself and lay still.
‘Help! Help!’ suddenly yelled Gussy, finding his voice at last. ‘Someone’s under my bed. Help! Help!’
Bill was up in a trice, striding over to Gustavus. ‘What is it? Quick, tell me.’
‘Under the bed,’ said Gussy, weakly, and Bill bent down to look. There was nobody there. Kiki had decided that the joke was over, and was now safely inside the nearby wardrobe, her head on one side, listening.
‘You mustn’t imagine things, old chap,’ Bill was saying kindly. ‘There’s nobody under the bed – and never was. Nobody at all! I’ll take your tray and you can settle down to sleep!’
Off to Little Brockleton
Next day was bright and sunny, with big piled up clouds racing over the April sky.