FOLLOWING THE STREAM
Jack awoke first the next morning and at first and found he couldn’t make out at all where exactly he was. He rubbed his eyes and stared out of the tent flap. And then, all in a flash, he remembered, he was camping up on Lowfell Hill. And then the happenings of last night came flooding back. Why were those two men so anxious to get them away from there? He woke Philip and they got up and shook the girls tent. They heard Lucy-Ann shriek and grinned.
The two girls crawled out their tent a few moments later, dressed. “Morning!” they called as they set off to the cubby hole. “We’ll just go and fetch breakfast. Back in two ticks!”
The boys sat down on their seats and waited for the girls. They were soon back with arms full of food and plates. Dinah lit the little stove and soon the delicious smell of bacon frying lingered over the camp. The children ate a delicious breakfast and began making their plans for the day. The girls seemed to have forgot all about the last night’s happenings. The boys were both secretly pleased. They didn’t want the girls worrying over that, but planned to watch out for the men returning.
“Right then. What shall we do today then?” Dinah asked, when the meal was over.
“I vote we follow that little stream nearby and see where it leads.” Philip suggested.
“I vote we stay here and watch the birds.” Jack said lazily, looking up into the sky.
“I think we should wait here, in case Mr Jordans brings any news about Bill. I do hope he’s come back.” Lucy-Ann said mournfully.
“Cheer up,” the others said.
“Even if Mr Jordans does have any news, he’ll leave a message or something. And as for Bill, he’ll be staying with mother for a few more days, I bet. You never know, we might be able to join them both soon. Don’t fret, Lucy-Ann.” Jack said wisely. “Now what would you like to do?”
“Let’s follow the stream,” Dinah decided.
The girls decided that the plates and things needed to be washed before they went anywhere.
“You can jolly well take these to the stream to wash,” Dinah said to the boys. “We’ll make the picnic.” The boys took the plates and cutlery reluctantly to the river and washed it carefully.
The girls cut sandwiches and cake and soon they had a marvellous picnic ready to take.
Philip swung the bag over his shoulder. “Off we go then, everyone!” he exclaimed.
Jack shouted Kiki, who was worrying a group of birds that nested in a tree not far off. When she heard Jack calling, she sailed to his shoulder and nestled against his shoulder lovingly. Jack gave her a few seeds. She crunched them, happily. And then off the children went, in the blazing sunshine. First of all, they made for the stream, to the right from their camp.
“Don’t you think we ought to leave someone here, just in case those men come back?” Jack asked Philip in a low voice.
“No, we should be alright, I think.” Philip replied. Soon, the little party were following the stream down the other side of the hill, away from Lowfell Village. The camp was soon out of sight. The boys were secretly rather anxious about leaving it, unsupervised, but soon they forgot their worries and enjoyed the beautiful weather, and each others company.
Lowfell Hill was a tall hill, but wasn’t very steep. There was a narrow overgrown path at the side of the stream, which the children walked across. The stream soon began to widen out a little. The children picnicked halfway down, when they found a shady spot, for the sun was quite strong now.
“The sign of a storm,” Jack said, in a worried voice. “Let’s hope it blows over. We don’t want to be caught in it.” The children drank from the stream, and after cooling off a bit, they set off again. Philip was rather relieved, for the bag was twice as light as it had been.
Down they climbed, right to the very bottom. The stream then gushed under some low rocks, so it was impossible to follow any longer. The children were rather disappointed. It was nice and cool at the bottom of the hill, and they were now between the hill and a forest of trees.
The bottom of the hill was rather boring, though. All that was to be seen was the grassy slope that led back up the hill and a lot of heather in places.
Kiki flew off Jack’s shoulder, meaning to explore a bit. Off she sailed. There wasn’t really much to see, so, glad of the coolness, the children sat down for a rest. Jack looked at the sky again. It certainly did look as if a storm was coming on. He called to the others.
“I think we should get back, before the storm comes. I am sure it will start raining any minute,” he said in a worried tone. The others got up.
“Yes, I think you’re right, Freckles. Come on you girls.”
“Wait a minute.” said suddenly. “Where’s Kiki? Blow her. She must have flown off. Kiki! KIKI!”
The children began shouting for Kiki, looking up at the sky anxiously. It would rain any minute! “Kiki! Here bird! Kiki!” But no Kiki came…
“Where on earth is she?” said Jack desperately. Suddenly there was the most enormous screech seemed to come from in the hill. It was Kiki’s imitation of an express train.
The children jumped. “Sounds like it’s coming from in the hill,” Philip said, in a puzzled voice.
“Maybe there’s something behind this heather.” Philip walked over to where big clumps of heather were stuffed. He started pulling it out the hill. The others helped him. When it was all out, they stood back and looked in surprise.
“Why, there’s a hole in the hill!” Lucy-Ann said, looking in surprise.
The others were just as surprised and stood gaping at the rather peculiar sight for a while.
The opening didn’t come from the floor, it simply was just, a hole in the hill, as Lucy-Ann put it! It was big enough for anyone to get through, though it would be rather awkward. And then, Kiki flew out!
“Ah, so that’s where you were!” Jack exclaimed. “You’re a naughty bird, flying off like that, Kiki.” She landed on Jack’s shoulder, and pecked at his ear gently. She had been rather scared, for she couldn’t find her way out.
“Can we go and explore then?” Dinah said impatiently, making a clicking noise with her tongue.
Jack and Philip looked at each other. “Well I‘ve brought a torch. There’s no harm in going a little way in, I suppose,” Jack said, pulling the torch out his pocket and stepping towards the opening. Philip and the girls followed, the girls rather cautious.
“Hey, Philip. You wait here with the girls. I’ll go on through and see if it looks safe enough. With that, he switched on his torch, slipped it in his mouth, and slid through the hole, on his tummy. Kiki followed. The others watched until all they could see left of him was his feet. And then, they too were gone. And then suddenly there was a thud and a cry. “Ouch!”
The others looked down the hole, rather alarmed. “I didn’t think there would be a drop,” came an echoing voice from inside the hill. It of course, was Jack’s voice.
“You alright, Jack?” Philip asked, peering down into the hole. “I say! See if there’s a safer way of getting down, will you? We don‘t all want to slide down on our tummies and land head first!” There was a silence. Evidently, Jack was hunting for a safer way for Philip and the girls to get down by.
“Ah yes!” Jack exclaimed “There are some iron rings stuck into the wall, leading all the way down. Come down feet first and try to find the iron rings with your feet.”
“Righto!” Philip said from above. “I’ll send Dinah down first.” Two feet appeared at the top. They began to feel for the iron rings on the side of the wall. Dinah found one and put her left foot onto it, clinging onto the grass above. She found another and put her right foot on it. She began climbing down, feeling for the rings with her hands now, as well. She soon joined Jack at the bottom and called to Philip and Lucy-Ann. Lucy-Ann began to clamber down. Soon all four were stood at the bottom, looking round curiously.
Jack and Philip both had torches and they shone them around, slowly. It appeared that the children were stood in some sort of cave, with rocky walls surrounding them. It wasn’t very large, and the ceiling was quite low, however the children could still stand up straight and have a few inches between their heads and the roof. There were puddles on the floor, glistening in the torch light. Webs hung low above the children’s heads. Lucy-Ann didn’t much like it and stayed as close to Jack as possible.
A rocky ledge coming out of the wall, surrounding the whole cave. It was very cool, which Jack thought was rather peculiar for there was only that small hole they had climbed through that could be letting in any fresh air. He thought that perhaps there might be a passage leading out of one of the walls. The children began looking round to see if there was, but after a long time of searching nothing was found. There seemed nothing hidden in the walls of the cave, but the hole the children had come through.
“We’d better go, it’s getting late now.” Philip said, at last. The girls were both secretly pleased to escape the damp, dark cave, but the boys were reluctant however remembering the on-coming storm, they hurried out of the little cave room. Philip shinned up the iron rings first, then the girls and then Jack.
By this time, big, heavy spots of rain had began to fall, and the sky was completely grey. “Just as I thought…” thought Jack, feeling rather troubled. “We need to hurry back, now!” he cried to the others. The children left the hole in the hill and began searching for the stream.
There it was! The rain came down heavy, splashing on the children, wetting their hair and clothes. They ran as fast as they could, following the stream, the rain coming down heavier and heavier. And then suddenly a far away rumble of thunder grumbled in the clouds above. Kiki squawked in fright and flew to Jack’s shoulder. He muttered softly to her to comfort the frightened parrot.
Finally the camp came into sight. The children were soaked through and their hair was drenched. They slipped into the boys’ tent quickly. They snuggled up into the covers as the thunder rumbled and the lightning flashed. It was a bit of a squash but the children were glad to be out of the rain. Kiki stayed firmly on Jack’s shoulder. Jack passed round some boiled sweets and Dinah produced a pack of cards she had managed to slip into her pocket as she passed the tree trunk table. They were very wet, but it would be something to do.
Dinah dealt the cards and soon they were all having a jolly game of snap while sucking boiled sweets. The rain came down heavier and heavier until it was actually soaking through the tent. The children were horrified to see big drops of rain soaking through the tent roof. “Everything in here, including us will be soaking by the end of this storm,” said Lucy-Ann in a dismayed tone.