The boys were rather alarmed. ‘Who were those men, they held captive?’ ‘Where were they taking them?’ ‘Why did they hold them captive?’ Questions raced through the children’s heads.
“They might come back this way, might they?” Jack whispered.
“Shouldn’t think so after they disturbed us. They probably try and keep a good distance from our tents!” Philip laughed. “I think it’s time we got some sleep, don’t you think?” he suggested. Jack nodded. They both settled down and laced their sleeping bags up to the necks. They had a few extra rugs which they piled on top of themselves. This way it was very warm and snug! The girls were still asleep, of course. None of that night’s strange happenings had awoken them. The boys were rather glad. They didn’t want the girls worrying over things whilst they were trying to enjoy their camping holiday.
“All the same, I think we might try and distract the girls tomorrow. We might let something slip, just by accident,” Jack said in a low voice.
“Well, what about going and seeing Alf again? Then we could have a peep down the hill and explore that hole in the hill a bit more. We were in a bit of a rush yesterday and we didn’t get to have long in there.”
“Right,” Jack said. It sounded a good plan but the children did not know of the shock that was to await them the next day.
The sun and sky were beautifully washed that next day, when the children crawled out of their tent. It was another wonderful day, everything fresh and sweet. The children heaved all their rugs and wet clothes out and hung them on the washing line. The tents had stopped dripping and all the water had been dried up by the early morning rays of sunlight. Philip and Jack then pulled the tables and chairs out their own tent and arranged them in the middle of the little camp, in their usual place. Meanwhile the girls got ready a good breakfast of eggs, bacon, fried bread, and sausages. The children ate their meal much more cheerfully than their meal in the tent the last night finishing every single scrap. Kiki had a piece of fried bread to herself, she did like it so. Suddenly, a little face popped out of Philip sleeve. It was Dormy. Philip did not see him peeping out of his sleeve, eyeing Kiki nibbling at her fired bread, feeling rather envious, but someone else did.
“Philip, you are a beast. That beastly mouse is peeping out of your sleeve. You didn’t let him go after all, did you? Look, it’s coming out! It’ll steal the tomatoes! Philip, you do make me angry. Quick, get it!”
Sure enough, Dormy was heading straight for the tomatoes the girls had put out. Evidently, he loved tomatoes. He put his head into the bowl and began nibbling a big, red tomato. Dinah squealed. Philip laughed and the others watched in amusement. They hoped Dinah would not fight Philip, but that was what she intended to do, when she saw Philip laughing at ‘that beastly mouse’. She shoved him, sulkily. Lucy-Ann gulped. She knew what was coming now.
Philip looked at his sister scornfully. “As if I’d fight a girl,” he said, sensing what Dinah was thinking.
Dinah flared up angrily. “Shut up,” she said, shoving him again, feeling a deep urge to slap her brother. “ Do shut up.”
“No,” Philip said, trying his best not to flare up. “I won’t fight you, and I won’t shut up.”
This made Dinah all the more mad and she stood up and flung her hand towards Philip. He stopped her, putting his arm up, to shield himself.
“Take your beastly mouse away,” she said, remembering it was right in front of her.
“Right.” said Philip. “If you’d have said that in the first place, I would have taken Dormy away instead of you going for me like that,” he said, calmly.
Dinah saw she had been in the wrong, and sunk down into her chair rather ashamed she had made such a scene. “Sorry,” she mumbled humbly. The others smiled secretly. They knew that Dinah’s temper died down as suddenly as it came.
“What are we going to do today?” asked Lucy-Ann, eager to change the subject. She hated quarrels of any sort.
“Well, I thought we might go and visit Alf again,” said Philip winking at Jack. “And then we could go and explore the hole in the hill a bit more. Take some more torches and rope. I wouldn’t mind looking round and seeing where any other fresh air could be coming in from. Remember, we said it was very cool down there, even though there was only one small hole where any air could be getting through.” The girls nodded.
“Well, the secret room is next to the stream, just like our hidey hole is, isn’t it?” said Lucy-Ann thoughtfully. “Couldn’t the stream be keeping the secret room cool, just like it keeps our hidey hole cool?” The others laughed.
“Of course it couldn’t, old thing!” Jack said, “a tiny little stream only just keeps our stores cool, never mind a small room.” Lucy-Ann went red. The children cleared up the breakfast things and the girls went to wash the pots and things in the stream. The boys came as well meaning to bathe. There was a deeper part of the stream they had passed the other day which would just about reach their waists.
“It’s very unusual for a stream to be so deep, but I suppose ones on hills are different.” Jack had said the previous day. They had their baths suits on and towels tucked under their arms. After washing up the pots and plates, the girls joined the boys. The stream wasn’t deep enough for children to swim in, but it was enough to mess about in and splash each other!
Soon they were playing a noisy game, waist high in the spring water. Kiki kept well out of the way, and sat on a high branch a tree near the stream and watched the children in surprise. She couldn’t understand why anyone would want to get so wet for fun like that. She soon found a nest of baby tailorbirds and was soon talking away to them.
The children soon got out, and dried themselves with their towels. “You girls run ahead and make us a picnic lunch to take out. We’ll be behind with all the pots and plates and things.” Jack said to the girls.
The girls headed for the stores and picked a few things out and made their way back to the tents. The boys put all the clean plates, pots and cutlery into their towels and carried them like that. It was easier than holding a big bundle of them. They were soon making their way back to camp. When they got back, the picnic was ready and loaded into the bag they had used the day before, and the girls were hanging out their wet towels onto their washing line.
It was quite full at the moment because there were all the children’s wet clothes they had worn that last night, hung out, across the camp. “You’ll have to put yours out to dry on those bushes over there,” Dinah said. The boys put their towels across two bushes to dry and then they set off.
“Which way is Alf’s hut?” Lucy-Ann asked, before they did set off walking.
“Well it faces the marsh, and from our side of the hill, we can’t see it, so that means, Alf’s hut is right over the other side of the hill,” Jack explained. They set off, walking steadily, this time with Jack holding the bag.
Kiki sat on his other shoulder, sad to leave the nest of tailorbirds. She really had made friends with them! The little chicks had tried to fly after Kiki when she had sailed off, hearing Jack shouting, but of course they couldn’t. Kiki cackled at them scornfully. Now, she was rather sulky. Surely they weren’t going off on another long walk, after the tiring one, she had experienced yesterday!
Soon they got to Alf’s hut, but again, even though they had made friends with the shepherd, the didn’t dare peep in at the window, to see if he was in. Instead, Philip knocked sharply on the door and stepped back. They expected to hear Alf shout back ‘who is it?’ in his gruff voice, but for a moment or two they didn’t. And then suddenly his voice hailed them from a bit further down the hill. The children looked down and they saw Alf, leaning on his wooden stick, surrounded by his sheep. Scamp ran around the sheep looking puzzled. The children grinned and raced down the hill to where Alf stood. Kiki flew to his shoulder at once.
“Hello!” Philip said cheerfully. Scamp at once, ran to him, faithfully. Philip stroked him. Alf gave them all a watery smile. He liked these children. “Now, what’a you doing up in these ‘ere ‘ills today? Not up to mischief, I ‘ope!” he said good humouredly.
The children laughed politely. “We’re camping over the other side of the Hill, Alf,” said Lucy-Ann.
Alf looked up in surprise. “You’ll ‘ave ‘eard the noises last night then…” he said mysteriously, eyeing them all sharply. The boys felt rather uncomfortable. It was plain that Alf was now going to give away the noises of last night and make the girls worried. They shook their heads at Alf desperately, but Alf took no notice. “It were late last night, raining and thundering. I were tucked up in bed, asleep, when suddenly I ‘eard voices. I gets up and puts on my slippers and dressing gown and looks out the window.” The girls listened breathlessly.
“Are you quite sure you weren’t dreaming, Alf?” Philip asked politely.
“No, I weren’t.” said Alf scornfully. “I should know if I were dreamin’ or not, shouldn’t I? Anyway, I looks out the window and sees two figures, stumbling up the other side of the Hill,” he finished. The boys raised their eyebrows at the mention of two men, when they had seen four.
Lucy-Ann looked at Alf with big scared eyes. “How frightening Alf, you must have been very brave. I should have screamed if I saw two figures in the thunder and rain,” she said.
Alf smiled. “Now, you out on a picnic?” he asked, gruffly.
“Yes, we’re going right down the other side of Lowfell Hill,” Lucy-Ann said cheerfully.
“You be careful,” Alf said, “Just you be careful…”