Authors: Enid Blyton
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Fiction, #General, #Suspense, #Action & Adventure
Adventure - 04
Sea of Adventure
No Governess, Thank You!
"DO YOU know, it's May the fifth already!" said Jack, in a very gloomy voice. "All the fellows will be back at school today."
"What a pity, what a pity!" said Kiki the parrot, in just as gloomy a voice as Jack's.
"This awful measles!" said Lucy-Ann. "First Philip had it as soon as he came home for the hols, then Dinah, then she gave it to me, and then you had it!"
"Well, we're all out of quarantine now," said Dinah, from her corner of the room. "It's just silly of the doctor to say we ought to go away and have a change before we go back to school. Isn't it enough change to go back to school? I do so love the summer term too."
"Yes — and I bet I'd have been in the first eleven," said Philip, pushing back the tuft of hair he had in front. "Golly, I'll be glad to get my hair cut again! I feel like a girl, now it's grown so long!"
The four children had all had a bad attack of measles in the holidays. Jack especially had had a very nasty time, and Dinah's eyes had given her a lot of trouble. This was partly her own fault, for she had been forbidden to read, and had disobeyed the doctor's orders. Now her eyes kept watering, and she blinked in any bright light.
"Certainly no school work for Dinah yet," the doctor had said, sternly. "I suppose you thought you knew better than I did, young lady, when you disobeyed orders. Think yourself lucky if you don't have to wear glasses a little later on!"
"I hope Mother won't send us away to some awful boarding-house by the sea," said Dinah. "She can't come with us herself, because she's taken on some kind of important job for the summer. I hope she doesn't get us a governess or something to take us away."
"A governess!" said Philip in scorn. "I jolly well wouldn't go. And anyway she wouldn't stay now that I'm training young rats."
His sister Dinah looked at him in disgust. Philip always had some kind of creature about him, for he had a great love of animals. He could do anything he liked with them, and Lucy-Ann secretly thought that if he met a roaring tiger in a jungle, he would simply hold out his hand, and the tiger would lick it like a dog, and purr happily like a cat.
"I've told you, Philip, that if you so much as let me see one of your young rats I'll scream!" Dinah said.
"All right, then, scream!" said Philip obligingly. "Hey, Squeaker, where are you?"
Squeaker appeared above the neck of Philip's jersey collar, and true to his name he squeaked loudly. Dinah screamed.
"You beast, Philip! How many of those things have you got down your neck? If we had a cat I'd give them all to her."
"Well, we haven't," said Philip, and poked Squeaker's head down his collar again.
"Three blind mice," remarked Kiki the parrot, with great interest, cocking her head on one side and watching for Squeaker to appear again.
"Wrong, Kiki, old bird," said Jack, lazily putting out a hand and pulling at his parrot's tail feathers. "Far from being three blind mice, it's one very wide-awake rat. I say, Kiki, why didn't you catch measles from us?"
Kiki was quite prepared to have a conversation with Jack. She gave a loud cackle, and then put her head down to be scratched. "How many times have I told you to shut the door?" she cried. "How many times have I told you to wipe your feet? Wipe the door, shut your feet, wipe the . . ."
"Hey, you're getting muddled!" said Jack, and the others laughed. It was always comical when Kiki mixed up the things she loved to say. The parrot liked to make people laugh. She raised her head, put up her crest, and made a noise like a mowing-machine outside in the garden.
"That's enough," said Jack, tapping her on the beak. "Now stop it, Kiki!"
But Kiki, pleased with the noise, flew up to the top of the curtains, and went on being a mowing-machine, one that wanted oiling.
Mrs. Mannering put her head in at the door. "Children! Don't let Kiki make such a noise. I'm interviewing someone, and it's very annoying."
"Who's come for an interview?" said Philip at once. "Mother! You haven't gone and got a governess or something awful to take us away for a change, have you? Is she here?"
"Yes, she is," said Mrs. Mannering. All the children groaned. "Well, dears, you know I can't spare the time to take you myself," she went on. "I've taken on this new job, though, of course, if I'd known you were going to be measly for so long, and then be so peaky afterwards . . ."
"We're not peaky!" said Philip indignantly. "What an awful word!"
"Peaky Squeaky," said Kiki at once, and cackled with laughter. She loved putting the same-sounding words together. "Peaky Squeaky!"
"Shut up, Kiki!" called Jack, and threw a cushion at her. "Aunt Allie — we can quite well go away by ourselves. We're old enough to look after ourselves perfectly."
"Jack, as soon as I let you out of my sight in the holidays, you plunge into the middle of the most hair-raising adventures," said Mrs. Mannering. "I shan't forget what happened in the last summer holidays — going off in the wrong aeroplane and being lost for ages in a strange valley."
"Oh, that was a marvellous adventure!" cried Philip. "I wish we could have another. I'm fed up with being measly so long. Do, do let us go away by ourselves, Mother, there's a darling!"
"No," said his mother. "You're going to a perfectly safe seaside spot with a perfectly safe governess for a perfectly safe holiday."
"Safe, safe, safe!" shrieked Kiki. "Sound and safe, sound and safe!"
"Other way round, Kiki," said Jack. Mrs. Mannering put her fingers to her ears.
"That bird! I suppose I'm tired with nursing you all, but honestly Kiki gets dreadfully on my nerves just now. I shall be glad when she's gone with you."
"I bet no governess will like Kiki," said Jack. "Aunt Allie, have you told her about Kiki?"
"Not yet," admitted Mrs. Mannering. "But I suppose I'd better bring her in and introduce her to you all and Kiki too."
She went out. The children scowled at one another. "I knew it would happen. Instead of having fun at school we shall mope about with somebody we can't bear," said Dinah gloomily. "Phil — can't you do something with those awful rats of yours when she comes in? If she knew you were the kind of boy that likes mice and rats and beetles and hedgehogs living down his neck and in his pockets, she'd probably run for miles."
"Jolly good idea, Dinah!" said everyone at once, and Philip beamed at her. "It's not often you get a brain-wave," he said, "but that's one all right. Hey, Squeaker! Come along out. Woffles, where are you? Nosey, come out of my pocket!"
Dinah retreated to the furthest corner of the room, watching the young white rats in horror. However many had Philip got? She determined not to go near him if she could possibly help it.
"I think Kiki might perform also," said Jack, grinning. "Kiki — puff-puff-puff!"
That was the signal for the parrot to do her famous imitation of a railway engine screeching in a tunnel. She opened her beak and swelled out her throat in delight. It wasn't often that she was begged to make this fearful noise. Lucy-Ann put her hands to her ears.
The door opened and Mrs. Mannering came in with a tall, rather stern-looking woman. It was quite plain that no adventure, nothing unusual, would ever be allowed to happen anywhere near Miss Lawson. "Perfectly safe" was written all over her.
"Children, this is Miss Lawson," began Mrs. Mannering, and then her voice was drowned in Kiki's railway-engine screech. It was an even better imitation than usual, and longer drawn-out. Kiki was really letting herself go.
Miss Lawson gave a gasp and took a step backwards. At first she did not see Kiki, but looked at the children, thinking that one of them must be making the terrible noise.
"Kiki!" thundered Mrs. Mannering, really angry. "Children, how could you let her? I'm ashamed of you!"
Kiki stopped. She put her head on one side and looked cheekily at Miss Lawson. "Wipe your feet!" she commanded. "Shut the door! Where's your handkerchief? How many times have I told you to . . ."
"Take Kiki out, Jack," said Mrs. Mannering, red with annoyance. "I'm so sorry, Miss Lawson. Kiki belongs to Jack, and she isn't usually so badly-behaved."
"I see," said Miss Lawson, looking very doubtful. "I'm not very much used to parrots, Mrs. Mannering. I suppose, of course, that this bird will not come away with us? I could not be responsible for pets of that kind — and I don't think that a boarding-house . . ."
"Well, we can discuss that later," said Mrs. Mannering hastily. "Jack, did you hear what I said? Take Kiki out."
"Polly, put the kettle on," said Kiki to Miss Lawson, who took absolutely no notice at all. Kiki growled like a very fierce dog, and Miss Lawson looked startled. Jack caught the parrot, winked at the others and took Kiki out of the room.
"What a pity, what a pity!" mourned Kiki as the door shut behind them. Mrs. Mannering gave a sigh of relief.
"Jack and Lucy-Ann Trent are not my own children," she said to Miss Lawson. "Lucy-Ann, shake hands with Miss Lawson. Lucy-Ann and her brother are great friends of my own children, and they live with us, and all go off to boarding-school together," she explained.
Miss Lawson looked at the green-eyed, red-haired little girl and liked her. She was very like her brother, she thought. Then she looked at Philip and Dinah, each dark-eyed and dark-haired, with a queer tuft that stuck up in front. She would make them brush it down properly, thought Miss Lawson.
Dinah came forward politely and shook hands. She thought that Miss Lawson would be very proper, very strict and very dull — but oh, so safe!
Then Philip came forward, but before he could shake hands, he clutched at his neck. Then he clutched at one leg of his shorts. Then he clapped a hand over his middle. Miss Lawson stared at him in amazement.
"Excuse me — it's only my rats," explained Philip, and to Miss Lawson's enormous horror she saw Squeaker running round his collar, Nosey making a lump here and there over his tummy, and Woffles coming out of his sleeve. Goodness, how many more had the awful boy got!
"I'm sorry," said Miss Lawson faintly. "I'm very sorry — but I can't take this post, Mrs. Mannering. I really can't."
A GLORIOUS IDEA
AFTER Miss Lawson had hurriedly said good-bye to Mrs. Mannering, and the front door had shut after her, Mrs. Mannering came back into the children's playroom looking very cross.
"That was too bad of you, really! I feel very annoyed and angry. How could you let Kiki behave like that, Jack! — and Philip, there was no need at all for you to make those rats all appear at once."
"But, Mother," argued Philip, "I can't go away without my rats, so it was only fair to let Miss Lawson know what she was in for — I mean, I was really being very honest and . . ."
"You were being most obstructive," said Mrs. Mannering crossly. "And you know you were. I consider you are all being really unhelpful. You know you can't go back to school yet — you all look thin and pale, and you really must pick up first — and I'm doing my best to give you a good holiday in the care of somebody responsible."
"Sorry, Aunt Allie," said Jack, seeing that Mrs. Mannering really was upset. "You see — it's the kind of holiday we'd hate. We're too big to be chivvied about by Miss Lawson. Now — if it was old Bill . . ."
Old Bill! Everyone brightened up at the thought of old Bill Smugs. His real name was Cunningham, but as he had introduced himself as Bill Smugs in their very first adventure, Bill Smugs he remained. What adventures they had had with him!
"Golly, yes! — if we could go away with Bill," said Philip, rubbing Squeaker's nose affectionately.
"Yes — and dive into the middle of another dreadful adventure," said Mrs. Mannering. "I know Bill!"
"Oh no, Aunt Allie — it's us children who have the adventures, and drag old Bill into them," said Jack. "Really it is. But we haven't heard from Bill for ages and ages."
This was true. Bill seemed to have disappeared off the map. He hadn't answered the children's letters. Mrs. Mannering hadn't heard a word. He was not at his home and hadn't been there for weeks.
But nobody worried much about that — Bill was always on secret and dangerous missions, and disappeared for weeks at a time. Still, this time he really had been gone for ages without a word to anyone. Never mind — he would suddenly turn up, ready for a holiday, grinning all over his cheerful ruddy face.
If only he would turn up now, this very afternoon! That would be grand. Nobody would mind missing the glorious summer term for a week or two if only they I could go off with Bill.
But no Bill came — and something had to be decided about this holiday. Mrs. Mannering looked at the mutinous children in despair.
"I suppose," she said suddenly, "I suppose you wouldn't like to go off to some place somewhere by the sea where you could study the wild sea-birds, and their nesting habits? I know Jack has always wanted to — but it has been impossible before, because you were all at school at the best time of year for it . . . and — "