Diana had a lovely talk with her mother on the phone. Mrs Lynton thought it was a lovely idea and was a lot more relieved than she let on to Diana. She had, of course, been looking forward to having all the children at home for the holidays, but she knew full well that Mr Lynton, as much as he loved all the children, would be driven mad by both Loony and Miranda, and the continual noise and laughter and running feet of all four lively children.
“Come home for a few days to pack and spend some time with Daddy and me,” she said to Diana. “At least then we’ll see something of you all for the holidays.”
“And then by that time Daddy will be driven mad and wanting some peace,” laughed Diana, who knew her father too well. “Alright Mummy, we’ll come home tomorrow and spend a week with you. Miss Pepper isn’t going to Rosewood til next week anyway.”
“Bye dear, see you tomorrow,” said Mrs Lynton. “I’ll ask Cook to bake some lovely cakes for you all!”
“It’s alright, it’s alright!” Diana ran back out into the garden. “Mummy says we can go!”
“Hoorah!” Snubby cheered, knocking over a cup of tea. “Ooh – sorry, Miss Pepper!”
They discussed their plans a little more before it was time for Miss Pepper to catch her train home. The children would go home the next day and spend some time with Mr and Mrs Lynton, and then a week later, Miss Pepper would come and fetch the children and they would spend the holidays with her at Rosewood Cottage. Everyone was very excited. Walks, boats, an old manor, trips to the seaside, it all sounded too good to be true!
Miss Pepper kissed them all goodbye and Mr Martin drove her to the station, leaving the four children sat in the garden.
“This is going to be an absolutely wizard holiday!” said Roger excitedly.
“It’s lovely of Miss Pepper to want us,” Barney said. “Especially as every holiday we go on with her, we seem to drag her into the most amazing adventure!”
“I doubt there’ll be any amazing adventures in Rosewood,” Diana said. “It sounds a most peaceful place.”
“You never know!” Snubby said. “We can hope, anyway!”
The next day, everyone piled into Mr Martin’s car and he drove them home. Mrs Lynton was waiting at the door for them.
“Mummy!” Diana shouted out of the car window as they pulled up. She flew out of the car and ran to her mother, flinging her arms round her. Snubby thought he had better do the same, to make a good impression, but as usual, it didn’t have the desired effect, and all he succeeded in doing was knocking Mrs Lynton against the wall with the force of his hug.
“Oh, Snubby, must you?” Mrs Lynton couldn’t help laughing at the boy.
Barney shook hands with Mrs Lynton and smiled. She thought to herself what a nice, well-mannered, handsome boy he was. Miranda leapt onto her shoulder and nuzzled against her ear. Mrs Lynton laughed.
“It’s nice to see you too, Miranda,” she said. “Come on in, children. Cook has got lunch ready for you. You’ll have some lunch, won’t you, Mr Martin?”
Mr Martin said that he would stay for some lunch before he set off home to pack and leave. It was a very jolly meal, and even Mr Lynton couldn’t help laughing at the antics of the children and their pets. Loony was very well behaved, sitting under the table quietly waiting for titbits, and it was Miranda that was the lively one, leaping from shoulder to shoulder, reaching into bowls for bits of food, and pulling Barney’s hair when he tapped her hand for taking too many strawberries.
Loony eventually got bored of sitting quietly, and, seeing the commotion that Miranda was making, didn’t see why he shouldn’t do something too. He snuck out from under the table and slipped unseen into the hall, where he promptly ran upstairs and amassed a nice little collection of mats from various rooms, which he then dragged downstairs one by one and left in the middle of the hall for Mr Lynton.
“Oh for goodness sakes!” Mr Lynton exclaimed as he went out of the dining room after lunch, to go to his study. “I see that dog is at it again!”
Snubby was most surprised and hurried out to see what Loony was ‘at’. He smothered a laugh when he saw the mats, and solemnly picked them all up and took them upstairs to their rightful places.
The children all waved goodbye to Mr Martin as he left.
“Have a good time at Rosewood!” he called as he drove away. “Leave the village in one piece!”
The four children had a lovely few days at home. The weather was beautiful and they spent all their time out of doors, either picnicking, playing in the garden, and going for walks. Mr Lynton was thankful for the nice weather because it meant that there wasn’t much uproar in the house. If it had been raining and the children had been kept indoors, he thought he would have gone mad.
Snubby managed, as usual, to get round Cook with a variety of smiles, compliments and hugs, and Mrs Lynton found the most delicious cakes and biscuits appearing on the table, much to her amusement.
Barney and Miranda were very well-behaved, and Barney needn’t have worried about making a good impression on Diana and Roger’s parents – Mr Lynton commented to his wife that Barney was the quietest and most well-behaved one of the lot!
“Well honestly,” Snubby said one evening, as they all sat out on the grass after tea. “Uncle Richard gave me his fiercest scowl this afternoon because Loony took a brush from the fire, and yet Miranda was sitting up on the light-shade making a racket!”
“It wouldn’t have been so bad if all Loony had done was take the brush,” giggled Diana. “It was the fact that he dropped it into the hearth and made clouds of ash and soot rise up and cover everything!”
“Well…” began Snubby. But he was interrupted by Mrs Lynton calling them.
“Children! That was Miss Pepper on the phone! Come in for a minute!”
The four children raced indoors.
“Miss Pepper phoned to say that she will come and pick you all up in two days’ time.” Mrs Lynton smiled round at the four expectant faces. “She says she has got the cottage ready and a good supply of food, and that it’s a beautiful place.”
“Oh, wizard!” Diana beamed. “Should we pack tonight, Mummy?”
“No, we’ll leave it til tomorrow I think,” Mrs Lynton said. “Daddy has a bit of a headache and is sitting quietly in the sitting room. I think the uproar of packing would be too much tonight.”
So the children were very quiet that evening, and played some nice relaxed games of cards before they went to bed. They all dreamt about going to Rosewood, with the exception of Snubby, who had eaten far too much pudding and dreamt that he was being chased by an enormous cake, with Cook sending an army of biscuits after him.
The next day, chaos descended on the house. Trunks and cases lay everywhere, piles of clothes, socks and shoes covered every available flat surface, and poor Cook, who had offered to help Mrs Lynton, wished she hadn’t said anything!
The weather was supposed to be lovely, so the children were insisting on taking shorts, vests, bathing suits, and very little else, but Mrs Lynton insisted that they take at least a few jumpers and macs in case the weather turned suddenly. Barney already had his suitcase packed and ready, from his own home before they had left for the Lyntons’, so he was given charge of both Miranda and Loony, and tried his best to keep them both amused out in the garden while the other children packed.
“Roger, that’s the third time you’ve taken those sweaters out of your trunk,” Diana said, seeing the pile of woolly sweaters back in Roger’s chest of drawers. “If Mummy sees them she’ll be cross!”
“Yes Mummy will!” Mrs Lynton happened to be passing with a pile of socks. “Put them back in Roger. What happens if it rains or gets colder?”
“It’s July, Mummy, it won’t get colder,” Roger insisted.
“But what if we have to explore a cold secret passage or something?” Snubby artfully put in, as he crossed the landing and neatly dodged Snoek, who was lurking by the cupboard.
“Roger, for the last time pack those sweaters or you won’t go at all!” said his mother, getting tired of all the commotion. “Oh – and here’s Loony, come to interfere – oh!”
Loony, who had escaped from Barney in the garden, tore up the stairs, collided with Mrs Lynton, leapt up and grabbed a pair of socks from her arms, then promptly raced back downstairs with the socks and took them outside to Miranda. Miranda took a sock from Loony and tied it round her neck like a scarf, then snatched the other sock and tried to put it over Loony’s head. Loony yelped and tore the sock from her hands, and ran back into the house with it, almost colliding with Mrs Lynton a second time as she came down the stairs to see where he had gone with the socks.
Barney roared with laughter and chased Loony indoors to rescue the socks.
“Oh dear – I’m so sorry, Mrs Lynton!” he laughed, snatching the sock from Loony and untying the other one from Miranda’s neck.
“It’s alright.” Mrs Lynton couldn’t help smiling, and she tickled Miranda under the chin. “These animals do make me laugh.”
Eventually all the packing was done. Mrs Lynton and Cook heaved a sigh of relief and sat down to have a cup of tea. Mr Lynton poked his head out of his study to see if the hullabaloo had stopped, and was most relieved to find peace and quiet. He went to join his wife for a cup of tea.
The four children enjoyed their last two days at home. They tried to spend some time with Mrs Lynton, who played a few games with them, and came out into the garden to sit with them in the evening. Mr Lynton joined them for a short while, but eventually Loony irritated him to such an extent that he retired back to his study.
“He’s been working so hard lately,” Mrs Lynton said. “And these animals never seem to stop.”
“I’m really sorry, Aunt Susan,” said Snubby, putting on his best innocent, wide-eyed look. “Loony is just….”
“I know exactly what Loony is.” laughed Mrs Lynton. “And don’t go giving me that look Snubby – it just makes you look more mischievous than ever!”