Last time the agents found the children’s camp site, their puffin hole, the remains of their signal fire and Anatoly found a stub of pencil that proved Bill had been on that island.
You should hopefully recognise most of the dialogue in this chapter as it comes straight from the book! There was no way around it short of skipping this chapter, and we didn’t want to do that as it’s fairly important. Hopefully Enid wouldn’t mind.
Bill rolled his eyes for the hundredth time in the past few hours alone as Horace’s complaining continued, it was nearing midnight according to his watch, he thought it was reasonably accurate as he had been careful to wind it each night, and yet Horace was not winding down at all. “It’s ludicrous, simply ludicrous that they think they can do this to us,” he was saying, and not for the first time. “I mean, who do they think they are? Locking up legitimate travellers like myself. It’s barbaric!”
Bill wanted very badly to be rude but thought better of it. Horace would, at least, be a good distraction for the guards if he needed. Horace was still speaking when the hatch above their heads was wrenched open. Bill’s head whipped round and he looked up to see Jack, one finger over his lips, warning them to be quiet, and a shadow behind him that he thought was probably Philip. “Come on out, quick! We’ve got to deal with the guard here!” he whispered urgently.
Although his heart had leapt at the sight of the boys, Bill knew that the situation was far from ideal. One wrong move and the boys could be prisoners along with himself and Horace, and they might even get hurt in the process. He was already trying to make mental plans, his mind going a mile a minute, and so he was quite unprepared for Horace opening his mouth and yelling “There’s that villainous boy! Wait till I get him!”
The idea of Horace ‘getting’ anyone would be quite hilarious at any other time, but right now he quite possibly had ‘got’ Jack just by opening his big mouth.
Jack looked a bit stunned for a fraction of a second and then said “Sh!” Bill switched off the light as he heard the guard shout “What’s all this? Hi, what are you doing? Who’s there?” The shadow that was probably Philip disappeared from view, and Bill could hear a struggle in the darkness, and he began to pull himself up and out of the cubby hole. As Bill got to the deck there was a loud splash and he came up fighting, guided by the guards’ panting and swung his right fist into his face.
It was as satisfying punch, made all the better by the guard tripping over the foot Bill stuck out, and before the guard could react Bill threw himself down on top of the surprised man. He was grateful to see Jack coming to his aid, though he was wondering who had gone overboard creating the splash he had heard just a minute before.
“Philip,” Jack told him as he sat down on the guard’s squirming legs.
Bill knew Philip could handle himself in the water even without Jack’s comforting words which followed, and so wasted no time worrying about the other boy. “Get the guard down into the cabin,” he ordered. “Where’s the other fellow – Tipperlong? The idiot spoiled the whole show.” He could have said a lot more about Horace – he was absolutely furious with him – but time was of the essence.
Together they manhandled the guard to the hatch and he gave a yell as they pitched him down, though kindly not straight on his head.
“He’s safe for the moment,” he said, though he knew it wouldn’t be long before he started making a row, and moved on to the next issue they had. “Let’s get the boat going, quick! We’ll be off before the enemy knows what we’re up to!”
“That’s what I planned we’d do! How do we start up the engine? Blow this darkness, I don’t have a torch on me!” by Jack’s tone of voice, Bill could hear that the boy was thrilled and excited that most of this had gone the way the children had planned. The guard they had just foiled was making a racket below, Bill however chose to ignore him and made his way to the wheel of the boat. He began trying to start the boat as lights from the shore lit up the night and the sound of feet filled the air.
Bill quickly realised that they wouldn’t have time to get the boat freed from its mooring and get it started before the men got to them, and he said as much to Jack. “Did you say you’ve got another boat here, Jack? Where is it? And what about Philip? Quick, answer me!”
“Yes – there’s a boat off the end of the jetty there – with the girls in it – and Philip will probably be there by now, too,” Jack replied hurriedly. “We’d better swim for it!”
Bill agreed with Jack’s assessment. “Overboard then!” he commanded. He was ready to dive himself but spared a thought for Horace. The man was an aggravating idiot but he didn’t deserve to bear the brunt of these men’s retribution when they discovered one of their prisoners had escaped. “Tipperlong where are you?” he called. “You’d better come too.”
“I c-c-c-an’t swim,” Horace stammered.
‘Of course you bloody can’t,’ Bill thought despairingly. “Well, jump overboard and I’ll help you!” he commanded but Horace shook his head and crawled away into a corner.
“Well, stay where you are, then,” Bill said scornfully. He wasn’t going to waste any more time on someone who wasn’t willing to help himself. “I’ll have to go with these kids – can’t let them down now!”
Horace did not follow them and Bill didn’t feel it was much of a loss as he struck out to swim after Jack towards the boat the children had stolen. Soon they had reached the boat, thanks to torches being flashed from the children on board and heard the voices of the others. Bill and Jack were pulled into the boat. Bill patted each of the girl on the back as he said, “Come on – we must get going. My what a row there is on that boat! They’ve let the guard out now. Come on, before they know where we are!”
To be continued…