Authors: Enid Blyton
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Fiction, #General, #Action & Adventure
Adventure - 07
Circus of Adventure
Home from School
The quiet house was quiet no longer! The four children were back from boarding-school, and were even now dragging in their trunks, shouting to one another. Kiki the parrot joined in the general excitement, of course, and screeched loudly.
‘Aunt Allie! We’re back!’ yelled Jack. ‘Be quiet, Kiki! I can’t hear myself shout!’
‘Mother! Where are you?’ called Dinah. ‘We’re home again!’
Her mother appeared in a hurry, smiles all over her face. ‘Dinah! Philip! I didn’t expect you quite so soon. Well, Lucy-Ann, you’ve grown! And Philip, you look bursting with health!’
‘I don’t know why,’ grinned Philip, giving Mrs. Cunningham a big hug. ‘The food at school is so frightful I never eat any of it!’
‘Same old story!’ said Mrs. Cunningham, laughing. ‘Hallo, Kiki! Say how do you do!’
‘How do you do?’ said the parrot, solemnly, and held out her left foot as if to shake hands.
‘New trick,’ said Jack. ‘But wrong foot, old thing. Don’t you know your left from your right yet?’
‘Left, right, left, right, left, right,’ said Kiki at once, and began marking time remarkably well. ‘Left, right, left . . .’
‘That’s enough,’ said Jack. He turned to Mrs. Cunningham. ‘How’s Bill? Is he here, too?’
‘He meant to be here to welcome you all,’ said Mrs. Cunningham, Bill’s wife. ‘But he had a sudden ‘phone call this morning, took the car, and went racing off to London all in a hurry.’
The four children groaned. ‘It isn’t some job that’s turned up just as we’re home for the Easter hols, is it?’ said Lucy-Ann. ‘Bill’s always got some secret work to do just at the wrong time!’
‘Well, I hope it isn’t,’ said Mrs. Cunningham. ‘I’m expecting him to telephone at any moment to say if he’s going to be back tonight or not.’
‘Mother! Shall we unpack down here and take our things up straight away?’ called Dinah. ‘Four trunks lying about the hall leave no room to move.’
‘Yes. But leave two of the trunks downstairs when they’re empty,’ said her mother. ‘We’re going off on a holiday tomorrow, all of us together!’
This was news to the children. They clustered round Mrs. Cunningham at once. ‘You never said a word in your letters! Where are we going? Why didn’t you tell us before?’
‘Well, it was really Bill’s idea, not mine,’ said Mrs. Cunningham. ‘He just thought it would make a nice change. I was surprised myself when he arranged it.’
‘Arranged it! And never said a word to us!’ said Philip. ‘I say—is anything up? It seems funny that Bill did it all of a sudden. Last time I saw him, when he came down to school to see us, he was talking about what we’d all do at home in the four weeks’ Easter hols.’
‘I don’t really think there’s anything peculiar about it,’ said his mother. ‘Bill gets these sudden ideas, you know.’
‘Well—where are we all going to, then?’ asked Jack, pushing Kiki off the sideboard, where she was trying to take the lid off the biscuit-jar.
‘It’s a place called Little Brockleton,’ said Mrs. Cunningham. ‘Very quiet. In the middle of the country. Just the kind of place you all like. You can mess about in old things all day long.’
‘Little Brockleton,’ said Philip. ‘Brock means badger. I wonder if there are badgers there. I’ve always wanted to study badgers. Queer little bear-like beasts.’
‘Well, you’ll be happy then,’ said Dinah. ‘I suppose that means you’ll be keeping a couple of badgers for pets before we know where we are! Ugh!’
‘Badgers are very nice animals,’ began Philip. ‘Clean and most particular in their habits, and . . .’
Lucy-Ann gave a little squeal of laughter. ‘Oh dear—they don’t sound a bit like you then, Philip!’
‘Don’t interrupt like that and don’t make silly remarks,’ said Philip. ‘I was saying, about badgers . . .’
But nobody wanted to listen. Jack had a question he wanted to ask. ‘Are there any decent birds round about Little Brockleton?’ he said. ‘Where is it? By the sea?’
Jack was as mad as ever about birds. So long as he could do bird-watching of some kind he was happy. Mrs. Cunningham laughed at him.
‘You and your birds, Jack, and Philip and his badgers! I can’t tell you anything about the birds there—the same ones as usual, I suppose. Now—what about these trunks? We’ll unpack the lot; take the boys’ trunks upstairs, and leave the girls’ to take with us to Little Brockleton—they are not quite so hard-used as yours!’
‘Can we have something to eat after we’ve unpacked?’ asked Philip. ‘I’m famished. The school food, you know, is so . . .’
‘Yes—I’ve heard all that before, Philip,’ said his mother. ‘You’ll have a fine lunch in half an hour—yes, your favourite—cold meat, salad, baked beans in tomato sauce, potatoes in their jackets, heaps of tomatoes. . . .’
‘Oh, good!’ said everyone at once, and Kiki hopped solemnly from one leg to another.
‘Good!’ she said. ‘Good! Good morning, good night, good!’
The unpacking began. ‘Kiki was dreadful in the train home,’ said Jack, struggling with an armful of clothes, and dropping half of them. ‘She got under the carriage seat to pick over some old toffee papers there, and such a nice old man got in. Kiki stuffed the toffee papers into the turn-up of his trousers—you should just have seen his face when he bent down and saw them!’
‘And then she began to bark like a dog,’ said Lucy-Ann, with a giggle, ‘and the poor old man leapt off his seat as if he’d been shot.’
‘Bang-bang,’ put in Kiki. ‘Pop-pop. Pop goes the weasel. Wipe your feet and shut the door.’
‘Oh, Kiki! It’s nice to have you again with your silly talk,’ said Mrs. Cunningham, laughing. Kiki put up her crest and sidled over to her. She rubbed her head against Mrs. Cunningham’s hand like a cat.
‘I always expect you to purr, Kiki, when you do that,’ said Mrs. Cunningham, scratching the parrot’s head.
The unpacking was soon done. It was very simple really. Dirty clothes were pitched into the enormous linen-basket, the rest were pitched into drawers.
‘Can’t think why people ever make a fuss about packing or unpacking,’ said Jack. ‘Kiki, take your head out of my pocket. What’s this sudden craze for toffees? Do you want to get your beak stuck so that you can’t talk?’
Kiki took her head out of Jack’s pocket, and screeched triumphantly. She had found a toffee. Now she would have a perfectly lovely time unwrapping the paper, talking to herself all the while.
‘Well, that’ll keep her quiet for a bit,’ said Dinah, thankfully. ‘Kiki’s always so noisy when she’s excited.’
‘So are you,’ said Philip at once. Dinah glared at him.
‘Shut up, you two,’ said Jack. ‘No sparring on the first day of hols. Gosh, look at Lucy-Ann going up the stairs dropping a pair of socks on every step!’
The telephone bell rang. Mrs. Cunningham ran to answer it. ‘That will be Bill!’ she said.
It was. There was a short conversation which consisted mostly of ‘Yes. No. I see. I suppose so. No, of course not. Yes. Yes. No, Bill. Right. Yes, I’ll explain. See you tonight then. Goodbye.’
‘What’s he say?’ asked Lucy-Ann. ‘Is he coming soon? I do ‘want to see him.’
‘Yes, he’s coming this evening, about half-past five,’ said Mrs. Cunningham. The four children didn’t think she looked very pleased. She opened her mouth to say something, hesitated, and then closed it again.
‘Mother, what was it you said you’d explain?’ said Philip at once. ‘We heard you say, “Yes, I’ll explain”. Was it something you had to tell us? What is it?’
‘Don’t say it’s anything horrid,’ said Lucy-Ann. ‘Bill is coming away with us, isn’t he?’
‘Oh yes,’ said Mrs. Cunningham. ‘Well—I hope you won’t mind, my dears—but he badly wants us to take someone else with us.’
‘Who?’ asked everyone at once, and they all looked so fierce that Mrs. Cunningham was quite surprised.
‘Not his old aunt?’ said Dinah. ‘Oh, Mother, don’t say it’s someone we’ve got to be on our best behaviour with all the time.’
‘No, of course not,’ said her mother. ‘It’s a small boy—the nephew of a friend of Bill’s.’
‘Do we know him? What’s his name?’ asked Jack.
‘Bill didn’t tell me his name,’ said Mrs. Cunningham.
‘Why can’t he go to his own home for the holidays?’ asked Dinah in disgust. ‘I don’t like small boys. Why should we have to have him? He’ll probably spoil everything for us!’
‘Oh no he won’t,’ said Philip, at once. ‘Small boys have to toe the line with us, don’t they, Jack? We get enough of them and their fatheadedness at school—we know how to deal with them all right.’
‘Yes, but why has he got to come to us?’ persisted Dinah. ‘Hasn’t he got a home?’
‘Oh yes—but he’s a foreigner,’ said her mother. ‘He’s been sent to school in England to have a good English education. I should imagine his family want him to have a few weeks in a British family now, and experience a little of our home-life. Also, I gather, there is some difficulty at his home at the moment—illness, I should think.’
‘Oh well—we’ll have to make the best of it,’ said Lucy-Ann, picturing a very little, homesick boy, and thinking that she would comfort him and make a fuss of him.
‘We’ll park him with you, then, Lucy-Ann,’ said Dinah, who didn’t like small boys at all, or small girls either. ‘You can wheel him about in a pram and put him to bed at night!’
‘Don’t be silly, Dinah. He won’t be as small as that!’ said her mother. ‘Now—have you finished? It’s almost lunch-time, so go and wash your hands, and brush your hair.’
‘Wash your hands, brush your hair, wipe your feet, blow your nose,’ shouted Kiki. ‘Brush your hands, blow your feet, wipe your—your—your . . .’
‘Yes—you’ve got a bit muddled, old thing,’ said Jack, with a laugh. Kiki flew to his shoulder, and began to pull at Jack’s ear lovingly. Then, as she heard the sound of the gong suddenly booming out, she gave a loud screech and flew into the dining-room. She knew what that sound meant!
‘Jack! Kiki will peck all the tomatoes if you don’t keep an eye on her,’ called Mrs. Cunningham. ‘Go after her, quickly!’
But there was no need to say that—everyone had rushed to the dining-room at the first sound of the gong!
ARRIVAL OF GUSTAVUS
The afternoon was spent in looking all over the house to see if any changes had been made, and in exploring the garden from end to end to see what flowers were out, what edible things there were (only lettuces, alas!) and to introduce Kiki to six new hens.
‘There’s a new carpet in the guest-room,’ said Lucy-Ann. ‘But that’s all the changes there are. I’m glad. I don’t like to come home and find anything changed. I suppose this small boy will sleep in the guest-room, Aunt Allie?’
‘Yes,’ said Mrs. Cunningham. ‘I’m getting it ready in a minute or two. Go and join the others in the garden. You can pick a few daffodils, if you like—we want some in the hall.’
Lucy-Ann wandered off happily. The very first day of the holidays was always heavenly. All the first few days went slowly, and the thought of days and days ‘of holiday ahead was one to dwell on contentedly almost every minute.
‘Lucy-Ann! Come here! Kiki’s having the time of her life!’ called Jack. ‘Look at her showing off in front of the new hens!’
Kiki was sitting on a post in the hen-run. The six hens were gathered admiringly round her.
‘Cluck-cluck-cluck,’ they said to one another, and one stretched herself on tiptoe and flapped her wings as if trying to fly. Kiki put her head on one side, stretched herself on tiptoe too, spread her wings wide and took off. She sailed down to the surprised hens.
‘Cluck-luck-luck, urrrrrrk!’ she said, earnestly. ‘Cluck-luck-luck, urrrrrrk!’
‘Cluck-uck-uck, cluck!’ said the hens, in admiration, and went nearer. One hen daringly pecked at one of the parrot’s tail-feathers.
This was insolence! Kiki danced round the alarmed hens, making a noise like an aeroplane in trouble. The hens took to their heels and fled into the hen-house, almost tumbling over one another as they tried to squeeze in at the narrow doorway two at a time.
Kiki waddled after them, clucking again. Mrs. Cunningham called from a window.
‘Children! The hens will never lay us eggs if you let Kiki scare them.’
‘Kiki’s gone into the hen-house—she’ll probably sit in a nesting-box and try to lay an egg like the hens!’ called Jack. ‘Come out, Kiki.’
Kiki came back and looked inquiringly out of the little doorway. ‘Polly put the kettle on,’ she said, peaceably. ‘Cluck-luck-luck, urrrrrrk!’
She flew to Jack’s shoulder, and the hens looked at one another in relief. Was it safe to go out and wander round yet?
‘There’s the next-door cat,’ said Dinah. ‘Come to see what all the fuss is about, I expect! Hang on to Kiki, Jack.’
‘Oh, she’ll bark like a dog if the cat comes any nearer,’ said Jack. ‘Come on—let’s see what the gardener has got in the greenhouse.’
It was a pleasant sunny afternoon, and the four really enjoyed themselves ‘mooching about’ as Jack called it. They all longed for Bill to arrive. Then the family would be complete—except, of course, that it would have one too many, if he really brought the unexpected boy with him!
‘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.’