The Island of Adventure, Page 2Enid Blyton
Jack, Philip and Lucy-Ann soon became firm friends. The love for all living things that both Jack and Philip had drew them together. Jack had never had a real friend before, and he enjoyed Philip’s jokes and teasing. Lucy-Ann liked Philip too, though she was sometimes jealous when Jack showed his liking for him. Kiki loved Philip, and made funny crooning noises when the boy scratched her head.
Kiki had been a great annoyance to Mr Roy at first. She had interrupted the mornings constantly with her remarks. It was unfortunate that the master had a sniff, because Kiki spoke about it whenever he sniffed.
‘Don’t sniff!’ the parrot would say in a reproving tone, and the five children would begin to giggle. So Mr Roy forbade Kiki to be brought into the classroom.
But matters only became worse, because Kiki, furious at being shut away outside in the garden, unable to sit on her beloved master’s shoulder, sat in a bush outside the half-open window, and made loud and piercing remarks that seemed to be directed at poor Mr Roy.
‘Don’t talk nonsense,’ said the parrot, when Mr Roy was in the middle of explaining some fact of history.
Mr Roy sniffed in exasperation. ‘Where’s your handkerchief?’ asked Kiki at once. Mr Roy went to the window and shouted and waved at Kiki to frighten her away.
‘Naughty boy,’ said Kiki, not budging an inch. ‘I’ll send you to bed. You’re a naughty boy.’
You couldn’t do anything with a bird like that. So Mr Roy gave it up and allowed the parrot to sit on Jack’s shoulder once more. Jack worked better with the bird near him, and Kiki was not so disturbing indoors as out-of-doors. All the same, Mr Roy felt he would be very glad when the little holiday school came to an end, and the four boys and one girl went home, together with the parrot and the various creatures owned by Philip.
Philip, Jack and Lucy-Ann left the big slow-witted Sam and the peevish little Oliver to be company for one another each day after tea, and went off on their own together. The boys talked of all the birds and animals they had known, and Lucy-Ann listened, stumbling to keep up with them as they walked. No matter how far they walked, or what steep hills they climbed, the little girl followed. She did not mean to let her beloved brother out of sight.
Philip felt impatient with Lucy-Ann sometimes. ‘Golly, I’m glad Dinah doesn’t tag after me like Lucy-Ann tags after Jack,’ he thought. ‘I wonder Jack puts up with it.’
But Jack did. Although he often did not appear to notice Lucy-Ann and did not even speak to her for some time, he was never impatient with her, never irritable or cross. Next to his birds, he cared for Lucy-Ann, thought Philip. Well, it was a good thing somebody cared for her. She didn’t seem to have much of a life.
The three children had exchanged news about themselves. ‘Our mother and father are both dead,’ Jack said, ‘We don’t remember them. They were killed in an aeroplane crash. We were sent to live with our only relation, Uncle Geoffrey. He’s old and cross, always nagging at us. His housekeeper, Mrs Miggles, hates us to go home for the holidays – and you can tell what our life is like by listening to old Kiki. Wipe your feet! Don’t sniff! Change your shoes at once! Where’s your handkerchief? How many times have I told you not to whistle? Can’t you shut the door, idiot?’
Philip laughed. ‘Well, if Kiki echoes what she hears in your home, you must have a pretty mouldy time,’ he said. ‘We don’t have too grand a time either – but it’s better than you and Lucy-Ann have.’
‘Are your father and mother dead too?’ asked Lucy-Ann, her green eyes staring at Philip as unblinkingly as a cat’s.
‘Our father’s dead – and he left no money,’ said Philip. ‘But we’ve got a mother. She doesn’t live with us, though.’
‘Why not?’ asked Lucy-Ann in surprise.
‘Well, she has a job,’ said Philip. ‘She makes enough money at her job for our schooling and our keep in the hols. She runs an art agency – you know, takes orders for posters and pictures and things, gets artists to do them for her, and then takes a commission on the sales. She’s a very good business woman – but we don’t see much of her.’
‘Is she nice?’ asked Jack. Never having had a mother that he could remember, he was always interested in other people’s. Philip nodded.
‘She’s fine,’ he said, thinking of his keen-eyed, pretty mother, feeling proud of her cleverness, but secretly sad when he remembered how tired she had seemed sometimes when she had paid them a flying visit. One day, thought Philip, one day he would be the clever one – earn the money, keep things going, and make things easy for his hard-working mother.
‘And you live with an uncle, like we do?’ said Lucy-Ann, stroking a tiny grey squirrel that had suddenly popped its head out of one of Philip’s pockets.
‘Yes. Dinah and I spend all our hols with Uncle Jocelyn and Aunt Polly,’ said Philip. ‘Uncle Jocelyn is quite impossible. He’s always buying old papers and books and documents, studying them and filing them. He’s making it his life-work to work out the history of the part of the coast where we live – there were battles there in the old days, and burnings and killings – all most exciting. He’s writing a whole history – but as it seems to take him a year to make certain of a fact or two, he’ll have to live to be four or five hundred years old before he gets a quarter of the book done, it seems to me.’
The others laughed. They pictured a cross and learned old man poring over yellow, musty papers. What a waste of time, thought Lucy-Ann. She wondered what Aunt Polly was like.
‘What’s your aunt like?’ she said. Philip screwed up his nose.
‘A bit sour,’ he said. ‘Not too bad, really. Too hard-worked, no money, no help in the old house except for old Joe, the sort of handyman helper we’ve got. She makes poor Dinah slave – I won’t, so she’s given me up, but Dinah’s afraid of her and does what she is told more than I do.’
‘What’s your home like?’ asked Lucy-Ann.
‘A funny old place, hundreds of years old, half in ruins, awfully big and draughty, set half-way up a steep cliff, and almost drowned in spray in a storm,’ said Philip. ‘But I love it. It’s wild and lonely and strange, and there’s the cry of the sea-birds always round it. You’d love it, Freckles.’
Jack thought he would. It sounded exciting to him. His home was ordinary, a house in a row in a small-sized town. But Philip’s house sounded really exciting. The wind and the waves and the sea-birds – he felt as if he could almost hear them clamouring together, when he shut his eyes.
‘Wake up, wake up, sleepy-head,’ said Kiki, pecking gently at Jack’s ear. He opened his eyes and laughed. The parrot had an extraordinary way of saying the right thing sometimes.
‘I wish I could see that home of yours – Craggy-Tops,’ he said to Philip. ‘It sounds as if things could happen there – real, live, exciting things, thrilling adventures. Nothing ever happens in Lippinton, where we live.’
‘Well, nothing much happens at Craggy-Tops either,’ said Philip, putting the little squirrel back into his pocket, and taking a hedgehog out of another pocket. It was a baby one, whose prickles were not yet hardened and set. It seemed quite happy to live in Philip’s pocket, along with a very large snail, who was careful to keep inside his shell.
‘I wish we were all going home together,’ said Jack. ‘I’d like to see your sister Dinah, though she does sound a bit of a wild-cat to me. And I’d love to see all those rare birds on the coast. I’d like to see your old half-ruined house too. Fancy living in a house so old that it’s almost a ruin. You don’t know how lucky you are.’
‘Not so lucky when you have to carry hot water for miles to the only bath in the house,’ said Philip, getting up from the grass where he had been sitting with the others. ‘Come on – it’s time to get back. You’re never likely to see Craggy-Tops, and you wouldn’t like it if you did – so what’s the good of talking about it?’
Two letters – and a plan
The next day Philip had a letter from Dinah. He showed it to the others.
br /> ‘Old Dinah’s having a rough time,’ he said. ‘It’s a good thing I leave here soon. It’s better for her when I’m there.’
Dear Phil [said Dinah in her letter],
Aren’t you ever coming back? Not that you’re much good for anything except quarrelling with, but still it’s pretty lonely here with nobody but Uncle and Aunt and Joe, who’s even more strange than before. He told me yesterday not to go out at night down the cliff, because there are ‘things’ wandering about. He’s quite mad. The only ‘things’ wandering about besides me are the sea-birds. There are thousands of them here this year.
Don’t, for goodness’ sake, bring any creatures home these holidays. You know how I hate them. I shall die if you bring a bat again, and if you dare to try and train earwigs like you did last year, I’ll throw a chair at your head!
Aunt Polly is making me work awfully hard. We wash and scrub and clean all day, goodness knows what for, because nobody ever comes. I shall be glad when it’s time to go off to school again. When do you come back? I wish we could earn some money somehow. Aunt Polly is worrying herself to death because she can’t pay some bill or other, and Uncle swears he hasn’t got the money, and wouldn’t give it to her if he had. I suppose Mother would send more money if we asked her, but it’s pretty awful to have her slaving away as she does, anyhow. Tell me more about Freckles and Lucy-Ann. I like the sound of them.
Your loving sister,
Dinah sounded rather fun, Jack thought, as he read the letter and gave it back to Philip. ‘Here you are, Tufty,’ he said. ‘Dinah sounds lonely. Hallo – there’s Mr Roy beckoning me. I’ll see what he wants. More work, I suppose.’
By the same post had come a letter for Mr Roy, from the housekeeper who looked after Jack’s Uncle Geoffrey. It was short and to the point.
Mr Roy had read it with dismay, and then called Jack in to show him the letter. Jack read it, also filled with dismay.
Dear Mr Roy [said the letter],
Mr Trent has broken his leg, and he doesn’t want the children back these holidays. He wants to know if you will keep them with you, and he sends a cheque to cover the rest of the time. They can come back two days before school begins, to help me to sort out their clothes.
‘Oh, Mr Roy!’ groaned Jack who, much as he disliked his home, disliked the thought of staying on with Mr Roy, and with the peevish Oliver, who was also staying on, even more than the thought of returning to his irritable uncle. ‘I don’t see why Lucy-Ann and I can’t go back – we shan’t go near Uncle.’
Mr Roy did not want Jack to stay on any more than the boy himself did. The thought of having that parrot for one day longer than he needed to filled him with horror. He had never in his life disliked anything so much as he disliked Kiki. Rude boys he could deal with, and did – but rude parrots were beyond him.
‘Well,’ said Mr Roy, pursing up his lips and looking at Kiki with dislike, ‘well – I’m sure I don’t want to keep you any longer, because it’s a pure waste of your time to be here – you haven’t learnt a thing – but I don’t see what else to do. It’s quite plain that your uncle doesn’t want you back – you can see he has sent quite a generous cheque to cover the rest of your stay here – but I had other plans. With only Oliver here, I intended to do a little visiting. I wish we could find some place for you to go to, you and Lucy-Ann.’
Jack went back to his sister and to Philip, looking so dismayed that Lucy-Ann slipped her arm into his at once.
‘What is it? What’s the matter?’
‘Uncle doesn’t want us back,’ said Jack, and explained about the letter. And Mr Roy doesn’t want us here – so it looks as if nobody loves us at the moment, Lucy-Ann.’
The three children looked at one another. And then Philip had his brain-wave. He clutched at Jack, almost knocking Kiki off her balance.
‘Jack! Come back home with me! You and Lucy-Ann can come to Craggy-Tops! Dinah would be thrilled. You could have a fine time with the sea-birds. What about it?’
Jack and Lucy-Ann stared in excitement and delight. Go to Craggy-Tops? Live in an old half-ruined house, with a learned uncle, an impatient aunt, a strange handyman and the sound of the sea all the time? Now that really would be thrilling!
Jack sighed and shook his head. He knew that the plans of children seldom came to anything when grownups had to be consulted about them.
‘It’s no good,’ he said. ‘Uncle Geoffrey would probably say no – and Mr Roy would anyway – and your uncle and aunt would just hate to have extra children on their hands.’
They wouldn’t,’ said Philip. ‘You could give them the cheque that your Uncle Geoffrey sent to Mr Roy, and I bet my aunt would be thrilled. It would pay that bill Dinah talked about in her letter.’
‘Oh, Philip – oh, Jack – do let’s go to Craggy-Tops!’ begged Lucy-Ann, her green eyes shining. ‘I’d like it more than anything in the world. We’ll be in the way here, Jack, if we stay on, you know we will – and I’m sure Mr Roy will kill Kiki one day if she says any more rude things to him.’
Kiki gave a hideous screech and stuck her head hard into Jack’s neck. ‘It’s all right, Kiki,’ said Jack. ‘I won’t let anyone hurt you. Lucy-Ann, honestly it’s no good asking Mr Roy to see if we can go to Craggy-Tops. He thinks it’s his duty to have us here, and we’ll have to stay.’
‘Well, let’s go without asking him, then,’ said Lucy-Ann recklessly. The boys stared at her without speaking. That was an idea. Go without asking! Well – why not?
‘It would be all right if we all turned up at Craggy-Tops together, really it would,’ said Philip, though he was by no means certain that it would be all right at all. ‘You see, once you were there, my uncle and aunt couldn’t very well turn you out, and I could get Aunt Polly to telephone to Mr Roy and explain things to him, and get him to send her the cheque your Uncle Geoffrey sent for you.’
‘Mr Roy would be glad to think we had gone,’ said Lucy-Ann, thinking what fun it would be to know Dinah. ‘Uncle Geoff wouldn’t care anyhow. So let’s, Jack, do let’s.’
‘All right,’ said Jack, giving way suddenly. ‘We’ll all go off together. When is your train, Tufty? We’ll go down to the station saying that we’ll see you off – and we’ll hop into the carriage at the last minute and go with you.’
‘Oooh!’ said Lucy-Ann, thrilled.
‘Where’s your handkerchief? said Kiki sensing the excitement, and rocking herself to and fro on Jack’s shoulder. Nobody took any notice of her. ‘Poor old Kiki,’ said the parrot sorrowfully. ‘Poor old Kiki.’
Jack put up a hand and fondled the parrot, thinking out ways and means of escape. ‘We could wheel my trunk and Lucy-Ann’s down to the station the night before, when we take yours,’ he said. ‘Nobody would notice ours were gone out of the loft. We could buy our tickets then too. Has anyone any money?’
The three of them put their money together. It would probably just buy the tickets. They simply must go off together! Now that they had made up their minds, it was quite unthinkable that anything should be allowed to prevent it.
So they made their plans. The day before Philip was due to leave, his trunk was taken from the loft, and Jack managed to get his down unobserved too. He pushed it into a big cupboard in his room, and Lucy-Ann helped him pack it when no one was about.
‘I’ll wheel my trunk down to the station on the barrow, sir,’ said Philip to Mr Roy. It was the custom to do this, and the master nodded, not taking much notice. He wished Jack and that parrot were going too.
The boys managed to get both trunks on to the barrow without being seen, and set off to the station in great spirits. Escape seemed quite easy, after all. Sam and Oliver did not seem to notice anything. Sam was too excited at leaving for home himself, and Oliver too miserable at the idea of being left behind to bother about anyone else.
The next morning Philip said a polite goodbye to Mr Roy. ‘Thank you for
all your help and coaching, sir,’ he said. ‘I think I shall get on well next term now. Goodbye, sir.’
‘Goodbye, Philip. You’ve not done badly,’ said Mr Roy.
Philip shook hands with Mr Roy, who drew back a little as a mouse ran out of the boy’s sleeve. Philip tucked it back again.
‘How can you have those creatures running about you like that?’ said Mr Roy, and sniffed loudly.
‘Where’s your handkerchief?’ said the parrot at once, and Mr Roy glared at it. As usual it was on Jack’s shoulder.
‘Could I go down to the station with Lucy-Ann and see Philip off?’ asked Jack. Kiki gave a squawk of laughter, and Jack gave her a little slap. ‘Be quiet! There’s nothing to laugh at.’
‘Naughty boy!’ said Kiki, just as if she knew what mischief was in Jack’s mind.
‘Yes, you can go down and see Philip off,’ said Mr Roy, thinking that it would be nice to get rid of the parrot for a little while. So the children went off together, grinning secretly at each other. Kiki had the last word with Mr Roy.
‘Can’t you shut the door?’ she bawled. Mr Roy gave an exasperated click, and banged the door. He heard the parrot’s cackle of laughter as the children went down the road.
‘If only I need never see that bird again,’ he thought to himself, little knowing that his wish was about to come true.
Jack, Lucy-Ann and Philip arrived at the station in plenty of time. They found their luggage and gave it to the porter to put on the train. When the engine steamed in they found an empty carriage and got in. No one stopped them. No one guessed that two of the children were running away. They all felt thrilled and rather nervous.
‘I do hope your uncle and aunt won’t send us back,’ said Jack, stroking Kiki to quieten her. She did not like the noise of the trains, and had already told one to stop whistling. An old lady looked as if she were about to get into their carriage, but when Kiki gave one of her appalling screeches, she thought again and hurried a good way up the train.
At last the train moved off, with many snorts that caused the excited parrot to tell it to use its handkerchief, much to the children’s amusement. It steamed out of the station, and, in the distance, the children saw the house where they had lived for the past few weeks, sitting at the bottom of the hill.