Dinah has a plan
“What is it, then, Dinah? Do tell us, we need to act quickly,” Philip said, sitting down again.
Everyone else sat down too, eager to hear what Dinah had to say. “Right, well, we need a plan to help us understand what those men are up to, that Jack saw last night. We know it is something to do with the passages inside this very hill, for the hole in the bottom of the hill has now been blocked up with a big stone, and we have seen the men heading down there many a time now.” Everyone listened intently. Dinah smiled round triumphantly.
“Well, all we need to do is follow them.” Everyone gasped. Dinah nodded importantly. She was rather enjoying all this. “Yes, we need to follow them, but not all of us, of course. That would be too dangerous, and anyhow, they’d see us if a big group of children began following them, all the way down the hill. We’d be bound to be scolded and goodness knows what else might happen to us if we were caught. But we shan’t be caught, for here is my plan. Three of us must wait at the bottom of the hill in the trees of bushes that grow there, out of sight from the men. We know that they will go down there.”
“What about the other one of us?” Jack asked curiously.
“They will follow the men, try and work out what they’re saying, warn the rest of us if there is any danger…” said Dinah. “Then, we will follow them into the hill, quietly, and see where they go, what they do, you know what I mean,” she said impatiently. “We will do it tonight!” Everyone gasped. They all admired Dinah’s plan except Jack who was rather doubtful about them all being caught when they tried to follow the men into the hill.
“Well what’s your great plan?” asked Dinah, rather annoyed at having her idea criticized.
But of course, Jack couldn’t think of a possible one, so they began thinking out Dinah’s. “Right, who will stay up here and follow the men to the other side of the hill?” asked Philip, looking round at them all.
“You shall,” said Jack grinning. “I did my bit last night, now it’s your turn!”
The girls nodded and Philip grinned. “Right then,” he said, “I shall wait up here in a bush, or something, and you can all hide in the trees at the bottom of the hill. As soon as the men come by, I shall slip out of my place and follow them, quietly, in rubber soled shoes. I shall try and hear what they are plotting, and then, when they are removing the rock from the hill, I signal to you, like this,” he said, putting his thumbs to his mouth and blowing softly. It sounded exactly like an owl hooting.
“Right, and then I’ll hoot back as if to say we’re coming,” said Jack.
Philip and the girls nodded. “We need to sort out a hiding place for you three, tonight,” said Philip, taking charge. “And a place for me.”
“Well, we’ll look for you one, first,” said Dinah. “I don’t want to run all the way down the hill, just to find you a hiding place and then come back up. We’ll find one when we come along this evening,” she said lazily, stepping out from beneath the canopy. She then sat down suddenly and lay in the sun, closing her eyes. Jack poked his toe at her, and she punched him softly.
“Come on, lazy bones. No time for sunning yourself, we need to find old Philip a hiding place, and then we’ll set off down the hill for a picnic lunch and then find us a place,” he said.
Dinah groaned. “What? Philip can find his own place,” she said haughtily.
Philip pulled her up. “Right, a good hiding place. How about in the bush where we watched from last night?” Philip said.
“I’m afraid not, old thing. Remember how the men kept well away from our camp, last night. Of course it’s because they bumped into our tents that time, and now they’re keeping well away. We need to find you somewhere where you can just slip out of. If you were positioned there, you wont be able to see them go by as well, and you might lose them,” Jack explained. Philip sighed.
“They kept quite close to the stream, last night, didn’t they, Jack?” Lucy-Ann said. “Why don’t we have a look over there?”
“Good thinking, old thing!” Jack said, and they all made their way to the stream. Kiki flew just above their heads, hoping that they would not be going for one of those dreaded swims in the stream! The water trickled by softly, and slowly. The children watched it for a moment. “There’s not many bushes over here, is there?” said Jack, looking round. “There’s only one here and it’s a prickly one. A few trees, but you don’t want to be jumping down from one of those.”
“Why don’t you hide yourself in the canopy?” asked Lucy-Ann suddenly. “If you place it beside this willow tree, it would just look like part of the willow tree!” she said, looking round at the others.
“Lucy-Ann, that’s a simply marvellous idea!” Philip said, smacking her on the back. She jumped, but she couldn’t help smiling hearing the other children’s words of praise. “I’ll go and fetch the canopy, and Philip can test it out,” she said, and so bright red with pleasure, she went back to their camp and pulled the canopy off the tents, undoing the knots of string. She pulled it along by one end of string and soon, she joined the others again, who were talking over the idea. They grinned at Lucy-Ann.
“Nice thinking of yours Lucy-Ann!” Jack said, “We’ve looked and looked and there is simply no other way suitable to hide! This way is perfect!”
Blushing, bright red, Lucy-Ann shook her head and handed the boys the canopy. “Right, so Philip, come over here, beside this willow tree and curl up tight and I’ll throw the canopy over you. Make sure you can see and everything, and move quickly out of there,” ordered Jack. Philip obeyed, and solemnly curled up in a tight ball beside the weeping willow tree. Kiki tried to get under too, but Jack offered her a few sun flower seeds and she flew out at once. With the help of Dinah and Lucy-Ann, Jack threw the canopy over him. He was hidden at once. The girls straightened it up and tucked the edges in, and Jack watched, closely. It was perfect! It looked exactly like a piece of willow tree, so much, in fact, that the children could hardly recognise their canopy! “It looks perfect!” Jack said, “Can you see all right, Phil?”
“Yes, I can see fine. There are little holes between the leaves everywhere,” replied Philip, “Gosh it is rather heavy though, I’ll have to practise throwing it off, when I leap up!”
“Have a try now,” said Dinah, stepping back. Jack and Lucy-Ann stepped back too. Suddenly, a piece of the tree, it seemed, was flung back, and Philip appeared, looking warm and flustered. Kiki rose up into the air at once, startled by Philip‘s sudden appearance.
“Golly, it’s warm under there,” he said, breathing heavily. The others seemed happy with this, and nodded.
“Right, we’ll leave this here for later, when Philip needs to hide,,” said Jack pushing the canopy into the willow tree.
“Is there anything else you shall need, for you’ll not be coming back up, remember?” Philip asked, as they walked to camp. “We’ll find you a hiding place and down at the bottom of the hill, you shall stay!”
“No, nothing I think,” said Lucy-Ann. “Except food, torches and ropes, of course. Jack can wind the rope round his waist though, we’ll have torches in our pockets and we’ll just take a bag with the food in. We can easily hide it in the trees when we follow the men into the hill. We can pick it up later.”
The children picked up some food on their way back, from the hidey hole. They bundled it into their arms and wandered back, dropping various tins which were pecked by a curious Kiki.
Soon they were back at their camp. The children dropped all the food into a bag which Lucy-Ann held open. It was really quite heavy but it had to last the three children who were to stay at the bottom of the hill, a good few meals. Jack wound the rope around and around his stomach and pulled his shirt down over it. He looked quite plump and the others giggled. Everyone slipped their torch into their pocket, including Philip who had decided he would not return to the camp before he hid that night, he would stay with the others until the sun began to sink, and then run straight up the hill. Lucy-Ann made him a packet of sandwiches and cut him a piece of cake. “For when you’re waiting in your hiding place,” she explained.
“You always think of everything, don’t you, Lucy?” he said, grinning at her. “I bet you’re quite enjoying being house wife these hols. You’re having the time of your life aren’t you, looking after us all! What would we do without you?” Lucy-Ann suddenly went quiet and Philip looked at her in surprise. “That was all meant to be compliments, Lucy, dear,” he said. He looked rather uncomfortable. “No, it’s not that,” she said hurriedly.
“Then what is it, Lucy-Ann?” asked Jack, stepping in and putting his arm around his little sister. And to his horror she began to cry quite bitterly. Jack wiped her eyes with a clean handkerchief, wondering what on earth could be making his sister so upset. Why she was smiling like anything a few moments ago! “Well, when Philip said I must be enjoying this holiday, well, well…”
“Well, what?” asked Jack, sounding quite concerned. He was very fond of his sister, though sometimes he did not show it, and he didn’t like it when she was upset.
“Well, I’m not really enjoying myself,” Lucy-Ann said, sniffling.
“Why ever not, Lucy? Has one of us done something mean to you? Have you lost something, do tell me why you’re so upset…” Jack said.
“I’m worried about Bill…” she said, tears streaming down her face, “ I know he can’t have stayed behind with Aunt Allie, he would have rung and told us so, so where is he?” Jack sighed and hugged his sister.
“We’re all worried about Bill, but there is nothing we can do. You never know, he could be mixed up in this affair, and tonight, if we solve it, he could come back,” Jack said, feeling rather doubtful. This statement seemed to cheer Lucy-Ann up, considerably, however.
Jack was rather alarmed. What would happen if Bill didn’t suddenly appear? It seemed almost impossible that he would. There was no time to think about that now though, the others wanted to be at the bottom of the hill for lunch time. The girls had all the food ready in the bag, which Philip now held, Jack was well wrapped up in rope and each child had their torch. “Are we ready, then?” asked Dinah impatiently. Everyone nodded and cast a last glance at their camp before they set off down the hill. Kiki sang a silly song to the birds and the children chatted nineteen to the dozen. The sun was at its highest point and there was not a cloud to be seen. All seemed peaceful, nothing from the ordinary.