Last time I left off just as the Julian decides that they are going to visit Two Trees and Gloomy Water to see if they can find Saucy Jane (but avoid Maggie who Knows).
The adventure begins
We are a little over halfway through the book by now, and yet we are only just at the part where the real adventure begins.
That’s not to say the previous chapters have been boring or eventless, but apart from the strange message in the night it hasn’t been adventurous.
But now, we get to see the places from the message Dick was given. Two Trees is slightly sinister burnt out ruin and Gloomy Water is exactly as it sounds from the name. I’m stuck with some strange mental images having formed them when I was a child and reading this for the first time and they’re hard to get rid of.
Firstly the two trees are palm trees in my head (no idea why – I did know it was England and not the tropics!) and Gloomy Water is annoyingly small and bordered by a ridiculously even line of shrub/hedges.
As they were not prepared for camping they end up in the cellars – and I’m absolutely with Anne that having lots of other doors and rooms down there is more than a tad creepy.
Quickly the hunt for Saucy Jane starts – she’s not in the boat house, so where else could a boat be?
This is the first time I’ve really thought about the history of the house and the boats. Merry Meg, Cheeky Charlie, and Careful Carrie. Were they named after some of the people that lived at Two Trees? (Also why are three alliterative but not the fourth?) Blyton uses Saucy Jane as the name of the narrow boat in The Saucy Jane too, but I’m not sure if it’s a common boat name or not.
I definitely felt a pang or two reading about the little boat house and the boats with the cushions and everything just mouldering away.
Dick and Maggie
An adventure becomes more adventurous when the baddies show up. Dick never got his message but obviously Maggie sought him out and let him know.
They naturally turn up to do some treasure hunting themselves and are not happy to find the Five right in their way. They attempt to be threatening and menacing but are unarmed and therefore easily held off by Timmy. We know Dirty Dick can be violent and dangerous from our earlier meeting with him, so there is an air from him, but otherwise he and Maggie are not the toughest enemies the Five have faced.
They do steal the Five’s food in an attempt to get rid of them, but Timmy just steals their food in return, and there is an incident where Dirty Dick rows their boat into the Fives’ raft but other than that it’s fairly conflict free. Dick and Maggie think that as the kids have to be back at school on Monday they can just wait it out – of course they have no idea that the Five know about the hidden loot and have all the clues to find it.
The Five find the loot first, but it’s actually a close call. Dick and Maggie are obviously smart people even if they don’t look it because they work out the clues and are extremely close to finding the right spot on the lake themselves. They are hampered by there only being two of them, though, and having the children so close they don’t want to give anything away.
So it’s a moonlight dip for the boys to recover the loot and outwit Dick and Maggie.
Nitpicks, observations and other comments
As always I noted various things that seemed like contradictions, curiosities, plot holes and so on.
- Julian creates a comprehensive list of things the girls are to pack but leaves off underwear. As nobody ever goes to the toilet I suppose they never change their pants either.
- The woman at the inn says that the nearest vet is in Great Giddings but no bus goes there. Surely a village big enough to have a vet would have a bus going there or at least close? It made me think of Robbie Coltrane in the Comic Strip Presents episodes, he would have made it sound very sinister.
- The escaped prisoner says to Dick I saw you go in [to the barn] and I’ve got to go in half a tick. This guy is on the run from the police and has agreed to deliver two messages as he goes. So why does he see Dick go into the barn and then wait around for ages? Dick had time to fall asleep, dream and awaken and the narrative has the moon rise etc. There’s no suggestion that there is anyone else around to see him, so unless he saw Dick enter the barn then went off and saw Maggie then returned, I’ve no idea what he was doing all that time.
- After their run in with the unhelpful policeman George says I hope his dinner’s gone cold. How does she know that he was eating his dinner? We know because Blyton told us but the Five don’t see him at his dinner and he doesn’t say anything about them interrupting his meal.
- Not strictly a nitpick but George mentions that her mother lived in a town at some point. Kirrin has belonged to her mother’s family for generations so I always assumed that Fanny has been in Kirrin all her life.
- When Dirty Dick arrives at Gloomy Water he doesn’t recognise Dick, yet they met at his house when he turfs him out.
- The bit of paper reads Chimney but later they say One Chimney as if that’s its name. Similarly the prisoner who sent the message is referred to as both Nailer and The Nailer.