The Marsh of Adventure by Poppy, chapter 9

Chapter nine:

Setting up the camp

The children decided, that before they had lunch, they would set up the camp. The boys were determined it would be a proper camp, with campfires, a washing line made out of string, little seats made out of wood. The girls were thrilled with these ideas and couldn’t wait to see what it would all look like.

“We’ll start with the tents, I think.” Philip said, looking at the untidy bundle Mr Jordans had left them in.

“We’ll have them opposite each other, and the little seats in between. Then we can have the campfires in the middle, and the washing line can be attached to each tent,” Jack suggested.

The children began putting up the tents, opposite each other, like they agreed. It was harder than they thought but they soon had them up. “Now,” Philip said. “Jack, you go to that little stump of a tree and try and cut out little flat seats with your pocket knife. It’s a sharp one. I’ll rig the washing line up and collect some dry wood for our camp fire, and you girls get some us some lunch ready.”

Everyone got on with their jobs. Jack cut some lovely neat seats out of the little stump of a tree. He even managed to make a little table. They were all small and circular, but they looked lovely and it would do for camp! There was one each. The girls made sandwiches, plenty of them! And cut big slices of fruit cake. Philip rigged up a good washing line and even threaded the oil lamp’s handle through the thick string so it would hang over the camp and light everything at night! He managed to get lots of dry wood too.

Finally, four exhausted children sunk down into their small tree trunk seats around their tree trunk table and ate a delicious lunch of egg sandwiches, fruit cake, ginger beer, and biscuits. The girls had been delighted when Jack had returned with the dear little table and chairs. The camp looked very homely, and the children could hardly wait till the night when they would light the camp fire! The little stove had been placed beside the tents, so the little camp was in the shape of a circle.

For the rest of the day, the children put away the other little things. Lucy-Ann found a nice place to keep the food stores they had brought, quite by chance. She had been strolling along, looking for a place to keep the food, when her foot suddenly slipped. It had slipped down a little hole, which had evidently been a rabbit burrow, but was now obviously not being used as lots of leaves and twigs had been stuffed down it. She sat down and pulled out all the leaves. When they were all out, she discovered quite a large hole with a ledge going all around it. In the centre of the hole, between the ledge, there was another hole, but a little bit shallower. It was very cool inside the hole.

“Just right for all our stores!” Lucy-Ann exclaimed in delight, as it was not far away from the camp. She brought all the food stores over to the hole and placed them all neatly round the little ledge. There was just enough room. She had also brought a big jug of water the children had filled from the spring, but had been afraid of it getting warm in the sun. She placed it in the hole in the centre. It fitted nicely. Well there was their food stores sorted!

Soon everything was in place. Alas! It was half past six! “Gosh, it’s half past six!” Jack exclaimed, looking at the little clock they had brought with them.

“Girls, would you make us a meal? It’s almost time to light the campfire!” The girls hurried to the little rabbit hole and picked out a few tins. Sardine sandwiches, tinned milk to drink, and biscuits. It somehow seemed a strange meal to have, but it sounded delicious to the four hungry children!

The others had marvelled Lucy-Ann’s neat little cubby hole for their food stores and Philip had suggested pulling a thin slab of stone over it to keep it from the sunlight. Jack had been puzzled at first about why the hole was so cold, but they soon saw why that was, because the hole was set so near the stream. The children had made sure that the stream wasn’t too far away, for they would need water quite often, especially in this heat!

By the time the children had finished their dinner, it was almost dark. Jack arranged the little campfire in the middle of the camp. He had moved the little tree trunk table but it still stood proudly, surrounded by the children’s little seats. Jack took a match and struck it. He asked the girls if they had brought any paper.

“We brought the food in paper bags. Wait a moment, I’ll just go and get them,” Dinah said, jumping up. Soon she was back with three brown paper bags. Jack took one and held it to the match. He pushed it under the neatly arranged sticks, and flames began to take up a dance.

Jack threw the matches onto the table and grinned at the girls. “Proper little camp now, isn’t it?” Kiki was rather alarmed by the fire and stayed close to Jack. The children brought their little chairs round and arranged them round the fire. Philip had lit the lantern that swung over the camp fire, swinging gaily. The little table was kept away from the fire and put behind the chairs. The children had arranged it with the little clock on it and a few other little bits and pieces. There was plenty of room on it though, to eat round. But for now, the children were quite content in sitting round the fire watching the flames dance.

Philip produced a rather large chocolate bar, and passed it round. The children nibbled at it for a while, and then Dinah suggested a game of cards before bed. Philip unhooked the lantern, and they all brought their chairs and arranged them round the table. Philip placed the lantern in the middle of the table, so they could see quite well. After a few games of cards, the children decided they would retire to bed.

The children had made beds of heather inside their tents and had thrown rugs over them, and another rug to put over themselves, though it was quite warm. The girls were to have one tent and the boys, the other. The fire was still roaring and the lantern was hung back up on the washing line. The children crept into their tents and got changed. Soon they were snuggled up in the heather and rugs, shouting goodnight to each other. The camp grew silent. Only the fire crackling, and the children’s breathing could be heard. Kiki was perched on Jack’s seat, which Jack had placed purposely outside the tent opening, for Kiki to perch on. She could see her master quite clearly from here, and talked quietly to herself as she drifted off to sleep. “Pop goes the weasel!” she said in a low voice.“Pop! Pop! POP!”

And then, she was asleep, and so was everyone else, dreaming of spending many happy days in their camp! Only Philip’s pet mouse moved. He had lied about letting poor old Dormy go, just to please Dinah. Little Dormy the mouse still needed time to recover. Now, he scampered round in Philip’s sleeve, quite restless. Philip felt him there, and sat up.
“Dormy, you silly fellow! Go on, get in my pocket if you like!” The little white mouse slipped into Philip’s pocket, thankfully.

Kiki heard Philip talking softly to his mouse, and also began to talk softly to the mouse.
“Hickory Dickory Dock!”

“Shut up Kiki, old thing. You’ll wake Jack.” He was just about to settle down again, when he heard a noise. It wasn’t Kiki, it was something outside the tent. It sounded like the striking of a match. He closed his eyes again, after hearing no more noise. And then, something else made him sit up. Surely it was the sound of voices. He decided to have a quick peep out of the tent opening.

Kiki watched him unbutton the tent carefully, and peep slowly out, and suddenly gasp. Kiki was startled at Philip’s gasp and flew onto his shoulder to comfort him. Philip crawled back to his place and shook Jack awake, quietly. Jack looked at Philip in surprise. He put his finger to his lips quickly.

“Jack, Mr Ferton, and Mr Kennedy are outside, talking. Take a look.” He lifted the tent flap, slowly. Jack took a glance. Sure enough, there stood the two men, both of them with pipes sticking out their mouths. There staring round the camp, suspiciously, talking in low voices. Jack pulled back the tent flap hurriedly.

“What shall we do?” he asked in panic. “They might be wanting to steal or something.”

“I’ll go and turn them off,” Philip said firmly, through gritted teeth. Kiki flew to her master’s shoulder as the two boys clambered clumsily out of their tent.

Philip crawled out, his face scarlet. The two men watched in surprise. “Excuse me, could you please leave our camp?” he asked calmly.

The two men were quite taken aback by this, but they tried not to show it in their reply. “You have no right to be ‘ere you young-uns. We want you to leave, ‘ere tomorrow morn’n.” Mr Ferton said in a cold voice.

“And you have no right to tell us to leave our camp.” Philip replied boldly. “Now would you please let us sleep.”

But the men had no intention of doing this, and stood there obstinately. “Are you going to leave tomorrow?” Mr Ferton asked gruffly.

“No, we are not, but you are certainly to leave right this minute.” Jack said. By this time, the girls had joined the little party that stood quarrelling in the middle of the children’s camp. Lucy-Ann listened in admiration as her brother stood up to Mr Ferton so bravely.

“Well then, we shall not. We shall stay here, until you agree to leave tomorrow morning.”

“Then we shall fetch the police,” Philip replied coldly.

The men appeared quite alarmed by this threat and retreated at once. “Now, now, there’s no need to get like that.” Mr Ferton said hurriedly. “We’ll leave right this minute, if you like. Just remember though, there’s strange happenings ‘ere. Don’t want you to get mixed up in ‘em.”

The men walked off hurried off down the hill, the children watching after them, puzzled and tired. Too tired to even discuss the happening of that strange night. They all retired to bed at once. What a strange night!

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