SAFE WITH MR KING
Mr King listened to the two boys’ story in amazement. He looked very worried.
“Well,” he said at last, puffing on his cigarette. “Boys, this sounds worrying. The fact that there is silverware missing proves that someone has been in the cottage, and the fact that no-one can work out how makes it all the more frightening.”
“Will they try again, do you think?” asked Snubby.
“Depends what they’re after,” said Mr King thoughtfully. “It depends whether they are after valuables like Miss Pepper’s silver, or whether they came to the cottage with another motive, but spotted the silver and took it as well.”
“Another motive?” said Roger. “Like what, Sir?”
“I don’t know,” said Mr King. “But I am inclined to take this seriously. Boys, what would you all say to me coming and staying at the cottage with you all? I don’t feel happy about you all being there alone with this mystery, especially Miss Pepper and Diana.”
“Oh, Sir – would you? Could you do that?” said Roger. “I know we’d all feel a lot safer, you know – Miss Pepper was terribly worried and scared I think, and I know she would feel so much safer with you around!”
“All right then,” said Mr King, getting up. “Let me go and pack a few clothes and things. You two wait here for me, I’ll be back in ten minutes.”
He set off across the village to a large, cosy-looking cottage with a ‘vacancies’ sign outside it. Snubby went back to the general store and bought three ice-creams; one each for himself and Roger, and one for Loony, who was sitting under the bench they were on, panting in the heat. They sat and enjoyed them while they waited. Not long after, Mr King appeared out of the cottage again, waving goodbye to a plump old woman with an apron on. He rejoined the boys and they set off on the long walk back to Rosewood.
It was past tea-time when they got back. Diana and Miss Pepper had decided not to have tea, but to wait for the boys so they could all have it together. Diana was watching for them at the end of the drive. She gave a squeal and ran to find Miss Pepper.
“Miss Pepper! The boys are back! They’ve got Mr King with them!”
Miss Pepper was doing some baking. She wiped her floury hands on a towel and came out to greet Mr King. He smiled.
“The boys have told me what’s happened,” he said. “And I thought it would be best for me to come and stay here with you all, if you’ll have me and it’s not too inconvenient for you. The boys seemed to think you would all feel safer with me here, especially the two ladies.” his eyes twinkled at Diana and Miss Pepper. Diana laughed.
“Yes, we would!” she said.
“Thankyou so much, Mr King.” said Miss Pepper. “As long as you don’t mind a houseful of noisy children and pets?”
“I can cope.” grinned Mr King. “We managed alright in Rockingdown, didn’t we? Does Loony still like to leave booby traps round the house?”
“I’m afraid so, Sir.” grinned Snubby, ruffling Loony’s fur.
They all went indoors. Miss Pepper put her scones into the oven and then set about getting Mr King settled in to a room.
“Barney, you can go in with Roger and Snubby, and Mr King can have your room.” she said. “There’s a spare mattress under Roger’s bed, you’ll have to pull that out and sleep on that, I’m afraid. Diana, could you go into the cupboard in my room and fetch some fresh sheets and blankets out for Mr King’s bed?”
“Of course.” said Diana, and sped off upstairs.
The boys went up with Mr King to show him his room, and to get the mattress set up for Barney. Miranda nearly frightened the life out of Mr King – she was sat in the cupboard in his room, where there were some blankets that she found very cosy. When it had been Barney’s room she often slept in there if she got too hot cuddled in Barney’s pyjamas. Mr King had no idea that she was in the cupboard, until she suddenly took it into her head to leap out and straight onto his back while he was leaning over the bed unpacking his case. He gave a yell, and then laughed when he realised who it was. The boys came running in and Barney roared to see Miranda hanging onto Mr King’s back, chattering.
The next thing that happened was that Loony came rushing in and leapt onto the bed. He was interested in the piles of clothes that Mr King was unpacking. He looked with interest at a very nice pair of thick hiking socks, then suddenly grabbed them, jumped off the bed, and was gone. He almost tripped Diana up as they collided on the stairs. She saw that he was carrying socks and chased after him right away. She caught him in the kitchen and snatched the socks away.
“Don’t you upset Mr King, or he’ll leave!” she said tapping Loony on the nose. “Sock thief!”
She went upstairs and returned the socks.
Once Mr King was settled in, they had tea. As well as all the usual scones and cakes, Miss Pepper added buttery jacket potatoes and pork chops, and a bowl of salad. She thought she had better combine tea and supper together, as they were so much later than usual having a meal. After they had eaten, Mr King went outside to smoke, then came in and had a good poke round the cottage, looking for anything suspicious.
“We had a good look today, Sir, we couldn’t find anything.” said Barney. “Maybe you’ll have better luck.”
“Afraid not.” Mr King sighed and sat down in an armchair. “There is nothing to discover. It beats me how anyone got in. You say the silver was on this table, Miss Pepper?”
“Yes.” said Miss Pepper, coming in with a tray of cups of coffee.
They all sat and drank in silence. Mr King was puzzling over the matter. Miss Pepper was too, although feeling more relaxed now that they had Mr King in the house. Barney was wondering if they would come back. Roger and Snubby were both hoping that if there was another adventure, they would be involved this time!
They played a few games of cards together, then gave up when Miranda got bored and started taking people’s cards. Eventually she snatched all Barney’s cards out of his hand and threw them up in the air. Everyone laughed, but Barney was cross and tapped Miranda’s hand sharply.
“Naughty Miranda!” he said. “You mustn’t do that!”
“Are you going to sit downstairs tonight, Sir, in case anything happens?” asked Snubby, who had visions of Mr King sitting silently in an armchair in the dark, waiting for any would-be burglars!
“No, not tonight.” said Mr King. “I’ll leave my door open though, in case there are any other strange noises downstairs!”
“Can’t we get Loony to leave a few piles of mats about the place?” giggled Diana. “Then we’ll hear the burglars trip over them!”
“Go on now then – off to bed.” Miss Pepper said. “You all look tired, and I certainly feel it! And poor Mr King looks all in, too!”
The four children said goodnight and went upstairs to bed.
“Well it will be a miracle if I get any sleep tonight, with Loony and Miranda both in the room together.” said Roger, going to the bathroom to brush his teeth. Almost as if he had heard him, Loony straight away dragged one of the landing rugs right outside the bathroom door and left it rumpled there, so when Roger came out onto the dark landing, he promptly fell over the rug.
“What the…?” he exclaimed, getting up and reaching for the light switch.
Diana squealed with laughter.
“That’s because you complained about Loony!” she laughed, from in her bedroom.
“Stop laughing or we’ll bring him in to you!” Roger grumbled, replacing the rug and stomping off to his room.
Miss Pepper came up to bed not long after the children. Mr King stayed downstairs reading his book for a while, then he too came up and went into his room. he left the door open a little way, so he could hear anything suspicious.
It was a peaceful night for everyone. No-one heard any noises or anything strange. Loony slept peacefully next to Snubby, and Miranda curled up with Barney and didn’t wake. Miss Pepper and Diana had closed their doors and slept very well. Even Mr King, with his door ajar, slept soundly. No-one was disturbed at all.
And yet – when Diana came down in the morning to make cups of tea for Miss Pepper and Mr King, she froze in fright as she went into the sitting room. The silver candlesticks and goblet were back on the oak table, standing there exactly if they had never disappeared.