The children waved goodbye to Alf and began to walk back in the direction of their camp. Lucy-Ann looked at the boys with scared eyes. “What do you suppose Alf meant about those men, are they dangerous?” she asked.
“Oh, he was most probably dreaming, Lucy-Ann. Don’t worry, you’ve got me and Philip to look after you,” Jack said.
Lucy-Ann seemed content with this and skipped along, picking raspberries off the bushes she passed and popping them into her mouth. Dinah ran ahead to grab her torch which she had forgotten and left at the camp. Philip had tied the rope round his waist a few times, for when they were to explore the cave in the hill. Everyone had their torches in their pocket. When the boys were alone, Lucy-An skipping in front and Dinah running over to the tent, the boys discussed what Alf had said. “How can old Alf have seen two figures if we saw four?” Philip asked Jack, in a low voice.
“Easy,” Jack replied grinning. “Remember Alf said he saw two men, walking up the hill, when we saw them going down. Well we both must have seen the men at different times.”
“What do you mean?” asked Philip impatiently.
“What I mean is, we saw four men going down the hill, two of them captive. Well, the other two must have hidden the captives somewhere and locked them up, and then made their way back up the hill, only two of them now,” Jack explained.
Philip nodded. “It’s the only explanation, and a very good and believable one too, good work Jack!” he said.
“But there’s still lots of question we can’t yet, answer, like who the captives were, why they were being held captive, where they are being held prisoner, and where on earth is Bill?” Jack moaned.
“You know, I think we’ve dived head-first into another hair-raising adventure,” said Philip slowly.
“And we’re going to solve it,” Jack laughed.
“I don’t see how we can old thing. But, we might find some clues, you never know.”
The four children soon reached the stream and began following it down the hill again. They stopped for their picnic again, halfway down. The children drank from the spring for there was hardly any ginger beer left and they wanted to save it. “We should perhaps go and fetch some more food from the inn tomorrow. There’s hardly any food left in the store-room,” Dinah suggested. The others nodded.
“I need some more batteries for my torch, too,” Jack said. “I almost ran them all out last night when I couldn’t find our tents.”
They went on their way once more, walking steadily down the hill, on the grassy footpath that appeared half way down the hill. When they were not far from the bottom the children raced down the hill, Kiki squawking excitedly. Philip was got there first.
When they were all down, they began looking for the little opening. They hunted about for a while, Kiki helping, though not at all anxious to go back down into that horrible cold room again, but no amount of searching seemed to get the children anywhere. The hole in the hill just seemed to have completely disappeared! And then suddenly, Dinah gave an exclamation. The others rushed over, thinking that perhaps she had found the little cave at last.
“Look!” she said pointing at a large stone that seemed to be fixed into the cave. The others looked, feeling disappointed. “Surely this is where the hole was yesterday. I’m sure it is. And I think, it still is, right under this big piece of rock look.”
“But who could have put the rock there?” asked Lucy-Ann feeling puzzled.
The boys knew exactly who, and without thinking, Jack blurted it all out!
“Of course! We saw four men last night, at about midnight, stumbling down this side of the hill. The two captives were shoved into our little room and the other two, who I’m assuming are Ferton and Kennedy pulled this stone over so they couldn’t escape and then made off up the hill, to be seen by Alf who saw them from his window!” he said looking round excitedly.
The girls stared at him, puzzled. What was he talking about? Lucy-Ann was looking rather scared, and Dinah thoughtful. “You’ve been hiding a new adventure from us, haven’t you?” she said looking at the boys. “For us to forgive you, you must explain it to us and let us be involved from now on.”
And so the children sat down and the boys told them everything, the mysterious conferences they had seen of Mr Ferton, Mr Kennedy and the scientist, the noises in the night. The girls listened in excitement. “Let’s try and heave the stone off and let the prisoners free,” said Lucy-Ann unable to bear thinking of how awful it must be for a prisoner locked up in the secret room.
“Right,” said the boys. They got up and made their way back over to the rock which completely blocked the hole in the hill. The boys stood at the sides and the girls at the back.
“One, two, three… heave!” Jack yelled. They all heaved for all they were worth but the stone refused to budge.
“Again!” Philip exclaimed.
They all pulled and heaved as strongly as they could, until Jack sat down suddenly on the grass. “It’s no good,” he said. “The rock won’t move. Those men must be pretty strong if they can move this by themselves. The others gave it up too, and sunk down beside Jack.
“Well, have we got any plans then?” asked Dinah.
“No, it doesn’t look like there’s much that we can do, Dinah, old thing,” said Philip, dolefully.
Four disappointed children sat at the bottom of the hill. “Well, we’d better make a move then,” said Philip finally. “Or we won’t be back before dark.” Up they all jumped and grabbed their things and made off up the hill. They were soon at the top, back at their camp.
The children took down all their things off the washing line as they were now dry, and the boys went off to look for the bushes they had laid their towels out on. Soon everything was gathered together and put away in their places. Meanwhile the girls made a fine dinner with the rest of the food in the hidey hole and there was only just enough for breakfast left.
There were egg sandwiches, bread rolls with marmalade, a small slice of ginger cake for each of them, and a plum each.
“Let’s have a glass of milk each, we haven’t drunk much of that,” Lucy-Ann said, carefully carrying the jug of milk out of the hole in the middle of the store. She poured everyone a glass and they drank it with their meal.
Overall it was a delicious meal. “I’m afraid we won’t have enough food for supper, but we’ve had enough dinner to last us,” Lucy-Ann announced. Nobody minded that. They were all full and lay back in the last rays of the sunlight. Kiki flew over to the table and pecked at a half eaten plum. Philip’s mouse lay comfortably in his shirt pocket, and the children fell asleep at once.
Kiki went on eating the plum, getting juice all over her feathers and making a sticky mess of the tree trunk table. But she didn’t mind and nobody else did either, for there was no adult to come along and tick them off for not clearing away the plates, no adult to scold them for not washing up, nobody to tell them to do this and that. The children didn’t even have to make their beds in the morning! All they had to do was roll up their sleeping bags and get themselves a fine old meal when they felt like it! This was the life! Kiki finished off the plum, licking every bit of juice she could find.
She was rather angry that the children had gone off to sleep at this time, why the sun was only just sinking! What about a late night card game? Or raspberries and cream? Or a play with Philip’s little mouse? But everyone was tired out after their long day and lay in all sorts of peculiar positions across the ground. Luckily it was quite heathery and soft in that spot, so they would not all wake up with aching backs.
Kiki decided it was no good waking them up with her express train screech for they would just tick her off and send her to play with the other birds, so she nestled down on the edge of a seat nearest to Jack and perched there, looking lovingly at her master. As soon as she fell asleep the sunk sun behind the hill and everything darkened. The stars blinked and shone, tiny little specks in the sky, and the moon sailed to the highest point, casting a white path across the children. But no-one awoke, everyone slept on, exhausted. It had been a long day and now they wanted a long rest.