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Five on a Farm

by Anne Marie Hawkins

steam train "Hurrah, here we are at last" cried David, as the familiar sight of Borchester Station came into view. "Arro-gant-toffs, arro-gant-toffs", the train seemed to say as it rattled along the tracks, "we're going on our holidays".

David, his brother Kenton, and sister Shula were going to spend the long summer holidays with their cousin Denny at Home Farm. Denny was really a girl, and her name was Debbie, but she wanted to be a farmer, and could drive a tractor almost as well as any boy. Denny hated to be reminded that she was only a girl, and would not answer if anyone called her by her real name.

Denny was waiting for them on the station platform, madly waving her handkerchief. "David! Kenton! Shula!" she cried excitedly,"you're here at last!"

"Woof, woof!" barked Denny's dog Lizzy, wagging her tail and licking the children excitedly. The porter brought their bags from the guard's van and tugged his forelock. "It's a pleasure to hump burdens for you young gentlefolk" he said, refusing David's tip.

"Higgs will take the luggage for us now" said Denny "he's going to drive us to Ambridge." "He's that surly chap, isn't he?" asked Kenton. "Oh, Higgs never speaks" replied Denny " but he knows his place and doesn't mind only ever being called by his surname."

Soon the Daimler was drawing up outside the door of Home Farm. "Coooeee, children!" called Aunt Jenny, Denny's mother, as she came out to greet them "how lovely to see you all again! Are you going to have another adventure this summer?" Shula certainly hoped not! The little girl was not so bold as her tomboy cousin, and would much rather have a quiet game of bridge with the Young Conservatives.

"Mother, where's Father?" asked Denny. Denny's father, Uncle Brian, was a very clever scientist who was working on top secret fornication experiments for the government. The children were secretly a little afraid of Uncle Brian, who could have a fierce temper when he was disturbed in his work, so they were rather glad when he wasn't there "Now you know your Father is very busy with his top secret fornication experiments, and musn't be disturbed." soothed Aunt Jenny.

A very fat lady in a white coat opened the door of Uncle Brian's lab. "Top 'o the morni' to ye, children!" she called. "Who's that?" asked David. "Oh, that's Mrs. Hathaway, Father's lab assistant." replied Denny. "Gosh, isn't she fat!" gasped Kenton. "I say, she isn't..." "Don't be an ass, Ken!" ejaculated David.

"I vote we all go for a bathe before supper!" suggested Denny, changing the subject. "Rather!" chorused the others. The children were all good swimmers. The slurry pit gleamed a beautiful brown in the sunlight. "Race you!" cried Denny. She and Lizzy dived in and soon all five were splashing merrily in the slurry.

"Gosh! I'm hungry as a hunter!" exclaimed David as he towelled himself dry afterwards. "I hope Aunt Jenny's put on a good spread for supper!" Aunt Jenny's table was spread with a snowy white cloth, and groaned beneath all the good things their cook, Mrs. Grundy, had made. The was a roast swan each, a meat pie, a saddle of mutton, hard-boiled eggs, heavenly tomatoes, crusty new bread, pots of jam, a whole wedding cake, and lashings of ginger beer.

"I say," exclaimed Kenton, looking at the window, "who's that frightful, common-looking boy in the garden? He's just poked his tongue out at me!" "Oh, that's Mrs. Grundy's son, Edward" said Denny "Yes, he does look jolly queer, doesn't he? He's so terrifically common he doesn't even go to boarding school!" Even Lizzy went "Woof!" in amazement.

Just then a neighbour, Mrs. Antrobus, called by with her dog, Nigel. "Denny!" she exclaimed excitedly "I've never seen your dog Lizzy before - do you know that she's a Borsetshire Gussethound, just like Nigel? They're terribly rare and very valuable, you know - I shouldn't wonder if some of those gypsy fellows might try to steal them! Wouldn't it be fun if they had pups? Look, Nigel's sniffing Lizzy's bottom, they're making friends already!"

But then Nigel smelled something ven better - ice cream! How they all laughed as he golloped down a three-litre tub! Lizzy had gone out into the garden and seemed to be digging something up; she could hardly be seen behind a shower of earth. "Oh bother" exclaimed Denny "it'll be another hoard of gold ingots left over from last summer's adventure. I'll have to get to Edward to stack them behind the potting shed with the others. His family are awfully poor, and mother says it's just as bad for poor people not to have lots of hard work to do, as it would be for ladies like her to do their own cooking and housework."

Just then a gypsy caravan with a sinister-looking fellow at he reins, paused outside the gate. He wore a dirty neckerchief in the throat of a ragged shirt, and a scar ran down one grimy cheek. "Be they Borsetshire Gussethounds, Missus?" he asked "for I'll give 'e a good price for 'un." "No thank you" replied Mrs Antrobus "They are not for sale." "Yes, be off, you ruffian" cried David" "We have all the gold ingots we need!"

The man spat on the ground and uttered an oath. "You an't seen the larst o' me!" he muttered threateningly, as he drove away.

"Well" ejaculated David as the shifty fellow disappeared from sight, "he needs a jolly good birching!"
"Yes!" agreed Kenton,"and a bath, a haircut, and a job!"
"He was awfully niffy!" chimed in Denny "but if you give the working classes baths, they only keep coal in them!" They all roared with laughter. How comical their funny cousin was - especially for a girl! Lizzy licked her mistress appreciatively.

"Coooeee! Time for bed!" called Aunt Jenny. "I'll show the girls to their room, Jenny dahling!"said Uncle Brian, emerging suddenly from his laboratory. How kind Uncle Brian could be sometimes, thought Shula as he tucked her in very attentively, not at all fierce like when he was disturbed in his fornication experiments.

The sun filtered through the curtains in the pretty little bedrooms at Home Farm, and the children were still dozing as the telephone bell shrilled through the house. Denny sat up abruptly. Why hadn't Lizzy woken her up as usual with her big, wet licks?

Mrs. Grundy burst into the room, her plump, homely features the very picture of misery. "Ooh, Master Denny" she cried as she curtsied "a terrible thing 'ave 'appened! Crooks 'ave stolen Mrs. Antrobus's Nigel away in the night, and I've called an' I've called Lizzy for 'er plate 'eaped 'igh with biscuits an' swan giblets, an' I think as they've took 'er an' all, for she ent come!" Poor Mrs. Grundy threw her apron over her head and burst into tears. "This is your fault!" cried Denny, flying into a passion. "You know you should have been sleeping outside my door all night - I'll have Father whip you for this!"
"OH, well, 'twill turn the tables" blurted Mrs. Grundy through her tears.

"I'm sure the police will soon find the crooks who stole Lizzy and Nigel" soothed Aunt Jenny over a lovely breakfast of porridge with crocks of fresh cream, and plates piled high with gammon, eggs, fried tomatoes, new made bread, cherry cake, pickles and bull's fry. "Borsetshire Gussethounds are so rare, and everyone will be looking out for them. Now, why don't you run along and explore, but don't go into any of the catacombs, or down any of the secret passages which run beneath Ambridge like the veins in Borset Blue."
"Rather not!" they all chorused.

Hours later, after trampsing the glorious countryside, the children flung themselves down on the springy purple heather of Lakey Hill - they suddenly felt very hungry indeed! Shula, who was a proper little housewife, unwrapped paper packets of sardine sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, cold stuffed camel, and a bottle of Cook's home-made lemonade, which Mrs. Grundy had just had time to make before her whipping.

"Isn't this heavenly!" murmured Shula. "I think I might get proposed to here when I grow up, by someone deeply boring who will never have any adventures." "I say, Denny" said Kenton, ignoring her, "do buck up, old thing! The Borsetshire Police are such stout fellows that I'm sure Lizzy won't stay lost for long. Why, we could even have another adventure and catch the crooks ourselves!"

But Denny was shifting uncomfortably on the heather, and began parting the springy plants with her hands.
"David! Kenton! Shula! Look!"
"What is it, old thing - a hidden trapdoor leading down into the heart of the moor?"
"No - it's a Methodist Hymnal! Do you think this might be a clue that will lead us to Lizzy and Nigel?"

Read the second and final part

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