In the morning
The boys looked at each other in alarm. They backed out the room and shut the door with a click. So the men did have something to do with this. And it was more than fetching a glass of milk, for sure! Maybe it had something to do with Bill after all?
‘No, the men hardly knew Bill.’ Philip told himself over and over. Maybe, just maybe, Bill was onto something again and these men were mixed up in it all? The boys stumbled into Dinah and Lucy-Ann’s room. Kiki flew to Jack’s shoulder at once, delighted to see her master again.
“So?” Dinah asked expectantly. “The men aren’t in their room.” Jack confessed boldly. “Their beds haven’t even been made, in fact. I think there’s something going on here and that something, somehow involves Bill.” he went on. “I always thought there was something strange about those two men, but I didn’t know what. I think the men are something to do with Bill’s private message. This holiday is anyhow. Bill must be on a new case.”
Everyone looked very solemn and anyone looking in on them right then would be most surprised at the sight of the two girls sitting up in bed, Jack and Philip stood in their dressing gowns, Jack shining his torch at his face!
“Jack, will you stay with us tonight. I mean, we always somehow get mixed up in Bill’s work and I am worried the men will come in here, to look for us.” Lucy-Ann asked timidly.
Jack hesitated. He dearly wished he hadn’t blurted all that out now. His face was quite doubtful, but before he answered Dinah did. “If Lucy-Ann is so scared, she can share my bed and you two boys can have hers, they are quite big. As long as that dreadful mouse doesn’t come over here.”
“Oh, Dormy is quite alright now. Her leg has mended beautifully. I let her go this afternoon on Lowfell Hill. I hope she doesn’t get eaten by the owls. Kiki pecked her a few times!” he said, hopping into Lucy-Ann’s bed after Jack. Dinah was right, the beds were quite large.
Soon the girls were fast asleep dreaming of Bill bravely fighting bad men and returning to Lowfell to tell the tale!
The boys couldn’t get to sleep that easily though. There were three reasons to this. Kiki kept walking up and down the bed, falling over the boys legs, trying to find a comfortable place to rest. In the boys room, she always slept on a little piece of wood that jutted out from the wall. It was right next to Jack’s head, which Kiki liked. She always liked to hear Jack’s quiet breathing. Tonight, the only comfortable place she could find was the shelf, but she was too far away from her master up there!
Another reason was, it was rather squashed, the two of them sharing Lucy-Ann’s bed. And of course, Bill. Where was he? Why didn’t he come? Did the men have something to do with his disappearance?
“Jack!” Philip hissed. “You still awake?”
“Yes!” Jack replied. “Gracious, this is a squash, Kiki will you stop walking over me like that?”
“Where do you suppose old Bill is?” Philip asked in a whisper.
“I haven’t the faintest idea,” he replied, “But I do know one thing, we are thinking of the worst possible thing that could have happened. Your mother might have fallen ill again and Bill might have had to stay with her. Mrs Jordans might have some news for us tomorrow. Kiki will you sit down?”
“She can’t have any news, we’d have heard the telephone bell, that’s the only way Bill could give any news, for if he used the radio, everyone would hear the message!” Philip retorted.
“I never thought of that…” Jack said mournfully. “One thing’s for sure, it looks like we won’t be seeing Bill for a while.”
They talked for a little while, Kiki retiring to the shelf much to the boys’ relief. Finally they both drifted off to sleep.
Mrs Jordans was most surprised to see the children up so late the next morning. “Half past eight? Who ever heard of it? I’ve been up since six!” she said while rolling some pastry on the worktop in the kitchen.
The children had reported there once they had got up and asked for late breakfast in the kitchen again.
“Now, where’s Mr Big Bill? He was supposed to get back last night wasn’t he? He was meant to knock on my door and I would have got him a big mug of cocoa. Now, where is he?” It didn’t occur to the friendly Mrs Jordans that Bill might not have even arrived back that night. She was most astonished to see the miserable faces of the four children she was so fond of. “What’s the matter, dears? Anyone would think you weren’t glad about Mr Bill coming back to Lowfell, are you not?”
“Mrs Jordans!” Lucy-Ann wept, “he didn’t come!”
Mrs Jordans paused for a moment. It was plain she didn’t know quite what to say. Her plump, wrinkled face was worried and alarmed now and she stared at the children with wide eyes. Lucy-Ann was now crying bitterly and was being comforted by Jack. “Oh my goodness.” Mrs Jordan’s finally managed to stutter. “Dears, go and have your breakfast in the dining room. I’ve a few phone calls to make. Once you’ve had breakfast, go upstairs and wait for me in my sitting room. I will hopefully have good news. Mr Bill might have had to stay back another day for some reason or other. Don’t worry your little selves.”
The children retired to the dining room, rather doleful and lost. They sat themselves down at their usual table beside the window and ate their porridge and toast. Everyone looked unhappy and distressed. Even Kiki was silent. Breakfast was eaten in silence.
Philip looked round and noticed the two men were not at breakfast that day, and neither was the man that always sat straining over his sums. There were others that filled the tables, however. Philip pointed out that the two men were not there and the children felt all the more sure they were at the bottom of all the trouble going on at the inn the last few days.
After everything had been eaten, the children stumbled back up the winding wooden stairs, past the level of the guest rooms up to the staff floors. There were only a few staff that worked in Lowfell Inn; Mrs Jordans, her husband who worked as the handy man, their children, who helped in the kitchens and the two cooks. There was Shirley who helped Mrs Jordan’s with the cleaning. She was only sixteen and she went home each night for her parents lived in the village.
The children knew which room was Mrs Jordans, she thought they ought to know because of her being in charge of them while ‘Mr Bill’ was away. The children made their way into her room admiring the strong scent of perfume. There was a big double bed in which both Mr and Mrs Jordans slept, below the window. It had a gay floral bed spread on and curtains of the same pattern hung in the window. There was a big sofa and an armchair set around the fireplace in front of this where the children sunk down heavily. Mrs Jordans wasn’t there yet.
Two other bedrooms led off from the main room, where the Jordans’ children slept. It was a lovely room and had a tremendous view of the tiny village below.
Mrs Jordans appeared a few moments later looking quite harassed. “Hallo, my dears,” she said shutting the door behind herself. “I’ve made quite a few telephone calls, but I’m afraid I haven’t found much out. First of all, I telephoned Mr Bill’s base to ask them if he had stayed behind, but no, apparently he set off last night at 9:00 sharp. He had timed it exactly so he should arrive at 11:00. He even informed the two men there that he would be returning to Lowfell, that instant. So, he should be here now, that’s certain. Anyway, perhaps he had to go back to Mrs Cunningham, maybe she took a wrong turn and Mr Bill had to turn back from the road to Lowfell and go back and see his dear wife? No, I telephoned Mrs Cunningham’s sister who she is staying with and there is no Mr Bill there now. So you see children, I don’t know quite what else to do. You are meant to be leaving in a few days and there are a lot more rooms booked over the next few days. Oh what shall I do?” Poor Mrs Jordans looked quite desperate and harassed as she sat in her little armchair, with big wide eyes. Lucy-Ann went and squeezed beside her and comforted the poor woman.
“We could always take tents and go up to Lowfell Hill and Camp there.” Jack said suddenly. Mrs Jordans smiled.
“I could never let you do a thing like that, just to make room for guests.” she said.
“Oh, but we’d love to!” Philip cried. “It’s something we’ve always wanted to do. Can’t we, Mrs Jordans. Please!”
Mrs Jordans was amused at the children so badly wanting to camp up in the hills to make room for guests and thought it was quite a good idea. ‘I could ask that shepherd, Alf to keep an eye on them, for me,’ she thought. ‘It would be fine!’
“Well, I suppose you could,” Mrs Jordans said looking round at the children’s excited faces. “If only we could get you all that you would need, you should be fine.”
The children could have whooped for joy! They all hugged Mrs Jordans and began making their plans at once. “We can sleep outside and look up at the stars!” Dinah said.
“And the owls!” Of course that was Jack.
“We can eat our meals in the sunshine, and I shall cook them!” Lucy-Ann exclaimed, imagining all sorts of scrumptious food she had made all by herself.
“There are a few tents downstairs in the dining room. They are tucked away in a little cupboard in case anything happens like this.” Mrs Jordans chimed in. “And you can ask, that old grumpy Mr Alf to cook anything you want.”
The children almost forgot their troubles as they neatly planned what they were to do! Kiki did her bit too and made the din twice as loud as was necessary, making Mrs Jordans laugh at her with the greatest of respect. Kiki was encouraged by this admiration and went on screeching at the top of her voice until she received a sharp tap on the beak from Jack. After sending Jack a hurt look, she sailed up to a high beam at the top of Mrs Jordans room. There she stayed, murmuring quite a few rude remarks about Jack, until the children and Mrs Jordans trundled out the room, to look out the tents Mrs Jordans talked of.
Kiki then nestled down on Jack’s shoulder, pecking his ear gently. He looked at her in amusement and gave her a grape. Down the little winding steps they all went, into the dining room. Mrs Jordans had a torch and shone it into the little cupboard. It was like a small room! It was built into the wall, and because the house was made of stone, it was like a little cave. Quite a few things were stored in this little place and the children looked around curiously. There were pieces of rotting wood, ropes, saucepans, cardboard boxes, old pictures, and the tents! They were rolled up neatly at the back, in kit bags. Next to them, there were other camping odds and ends too, like torches, sleeping bags that laced up at the neck, cutlery and other things. What a grand time they would have!