NOISES IN THE NIGHT
Four subdued children sat in the boys’ tent as thunder rolled, lightning flashed and rain lashed down. By now they were rather damp, and had given up their game of cards. They were rather hungry, for they had not yet had their tea.
“Did we leave any sandwiches over at lunch?” Lucy-Ann half shouted, battling to be heard in the noisy storm.
“Not a scrap…” Philip replied dolefully, but equally loudly.
“I’m starving!” Dinah moaned, huddling up into a ball under a few rugs. “Won’t somebody rush over to the hidey hole and bring something?”
Philip and Jack looked at each other. “I’ll go,” Jack said reluctantly. “Anything specific?”
“Just food!” Dinah said impatiently. “I don’t care what it is, I could eat anything! Do hurry, Jack.” Jack lifted the flap of the tent and looked out doubtfully. After a roll of thunder, he dashed out hurriedly. Kiki, not at all wanting to return to the storm, did not follow her master for once and sat firmly on Lucy-Ann’s shoulder as Philip buttoned the tent up again.
Jack raced through the storm to the hidey hole, where they stored all the food they had. The sky was very dark and grey by now. The lightning lighted things up for a moment when it flashed, but that was all the light there was. Jack could hardly see where he was going through the rain and thunder, and fought his way along. And then he realised he was going down the hill! “I must be going the wrong way,” he hissed to himself.
He stopped running and looked around. “Why, I’m half way down the hill!” he exclaimed. “How ever will I find my way back now?” And then suddenly he remembered the stream. Ah yes! If he found the stream, he could follow it back in the direction it flowed from, he thought to himself thankfully. He began looking round for it, wondering what the others would be thinking. He searched and searched feeling very tired and uncomfortable in his wet-through clothes. At last, Jack heard a little tinkle of water trickling somewhere. This could have course just been the rain, but Jack could hear it flowing steadily.
He followed the noise, and to his joy, there was the little stream running down the hill. He turned round and began heading up the hill. Finally the camp came into sight once more, the rain bouncing off the tents, all looking rather miserable. Then he began looking round for the little food store. He soon found this, as he had been here many a time to get food. He took off the slab of stone and picked out some tins, bread and a large tin which he knew contained some ginger bread. He pushed the slab of stone back over the food store and bundled the goods into his arms. Then he made his way back to the little tent, and pushed all the food in, before coming in himself. Philip had lighted the little lantern that used to hang over the fire, and brought the seats and table in, to keep them from getting soaked. They were all sat round the table, rugs wrapped round themselves all looking gloomy.
When they saw Jack they all sighed in relief. “Whatever happened?” they all asked. Lucy-Ann jumped up and gave him a bear hug. He shook her off and put all the food onto the table then sat down at his place. Kiki flew onto his shoulder.
“Lost my way,” he said, taking off his shirt and squeezing the water out. Lucy-Ann gave him a towel and he wrapped himself up in it. The girls began preparing the food. Philip had a tin opener on his pocket watch and opened the tins. They all laughed over the strange goods. There was tinned peaches, sardines, tinned milk, bread rolls, chocolate biscuits and ginger bread. They all voted it a perfectly ‘super’ meal and began eating at once. They found that sardines went very well with bread rolls, and tinned peaches and milk went nice with biscuits. The ginger bread was delicious enough on its own! When every scrap of food was finished, except a few biscuits, which were stuffed in the tin the ginger bread had come in, for supper, the four sighed and pulled the rugs round their shoulders even tighter. The water was still dripping through the tent.
“What a perfectly horrid end to such a lovely day,” Lucy-Ann said miserably for about the twentieth time, but she was right. Soon, Philip handed round the biscuits, to cheer everyone up. He looked at his watch. It showed half past eight.
“We should get some sleep,” he said looking round. “When we wake up, the storm will be sure to have blown over.”
Dinah stared at him scornfully. “We shan’t be able to go to sleep with all this water dripping on our heads,” she said.
“Well, get right into your sleeping bag then. Then you shouldn’t feel a thing. The only thing is, we shan’t have any room to lie down in, what with the table and chairs in here,” Jack said.
“We’ll have to make a dash for the girls’ tent. We’ll leave the table and chairs in here. Bring the rugs though,” Philip replied. And so, with rugs wrapped round themselves and sleeping bags under their arms, the children made a dash through the storm to the girls’ tent. Kiki fluttered about in panic. Philip pushed the girls in first, and the boys had to wait a moment while they squeezed in. Then Kiki sailed in, squawking all kinds of rude names at the storm.
Jack looked down over the hill, while he waited. It was only a glance, but in that second, he thought he saw something. Something strange, coming up the hill. He glanced again, while Philip squeezed in, and he could just make out four figures, battering through the storm. He couldn’t make out who they were of course, all he saw were four dark figures, all men, climbing desperately up the hill.
“Buck up, Jack. You’re getting all the rugs soaked, stood out in that rain,” came Dinah’s impatient voice. And Jack did just that. He jumped in, onto the heather and rugs, and all the children’s feet!
“What’s up, Jack?” Philip asked curiously, looking at Jack’s pale face.
“Nothing.” Jack said quickly, winking at him. “Just a bit tired that’s all. We should get some sleep now. The girls’ tent still dripped but for some reason, it wasn’t as bad as the boys’ tent had been. The girls got right inside their sleeping bags all the same. Their heads couldn’t be seen at all!
The boys threw a few more rugs over them, to keep them warm, and snuggled down themselves. Kiki had nowhere to perch, and made do with Jack’s knee, not pleased that she could feel drips of water splashing onto her head. Two minutes later, the boys could hear the girls’ steady breathing, and Jack sat up and shook Philip.
Philip sat up and looked at Jack suspiciously. “What did you see out there, as we came into the tents?” he asked in a low voice.
“Four figures, walking up the hill.” Jack replied in a puzzled whisper.
“Can you describe them?” Philip asked.
“Well, I know they were all men, because they all wore coats and trousers, and they were really wet.”
“Well they would be,” said Philip impatiently. “There is a storm going on outside, you know.”
Jack sighed. “Do you think it could be those men, coming back?” Philip suggested.
“No, it looked a bit like two of them were struggling, and the other two here pushing them,” Jack said thoughtfully, trying to figure things out. Suddenly, the sound of voices floated through the air. The boys looked at one another in surprise.
“That’ll be them. Keep quiet.” Philip hissed. So the boys kept silent and waited for the men to pass. Jack planned to have a quick peep when the men had passed to see if he could make out who they were. But before he could do this, someone walked straight into the tent! Evidently someone had tripped over a tent peg. There was an exclamation. “Ah! It’s one of those kids’ tents!.” th voice said sounding angry. “We told them to leave.” The boys listened in surprise. Surely that was Mr Kennedy’s voice?
Evidently the men passed by. Jack peeped out, but all he could make out were four figures, two of them struggling, and the other two walking behind. The boys couldn’t help feeling puzzled. What were Mr Ferton and Mr Kennedy up to now? Wouldn’t they just love to know!