Title: Famous Five #10: Five on a Hike Together
Summary: When Dick is woken by a light flashing through his window, he is puzzled. Is someone trying to send him a coded message? And when the Famous Five hear of an escaped convict in the area, they are on red alert. The police won’t help, so the Five have no choice. Yet again, they’ll be solving this mystery by themselves… [Wing: Does anyone else ever solve a mystery? Ever?] [Dove: Adults are useless. Where have you been?]
At last I have returned from the war! The war known as life. I’m certain the dear Famous Five have changed not one whit and will be as precocious and fun and sometimes assholey as ever I’m looking at you Julian.
(I love how the cover shows them actually on a raft and not hiking at all.)
Onward to adventure. And probably some hatred of Julian.
[Dove: I figured this would be helpful: For reference, the kids’ ages should be roughly: Anne: 14; George and Dick 15; Julian 16. I have a spreadsheet that figures out their ages, because I’m pretty sure Blyton couldn’t be bothered.]
We open on George rushing a letter from Julian to Anne; she found it on the letter-board. I’m picturing a cork board with everyone’s letters stuck to it, and it is both kind of adorable and a horrible privacy breach. (I realise that was not a concern at the time. I am still horrified.) This is the second letter in just a few days, and Anne thinks it must be important. I mean, you could just open the letter and find out, but I guess you like the antici
Julian and Dick have a few days off at the girls’ half-term weekend because someone at their school won a scholarship or something and the boys get extra days off. (a) We never got extra days off when people won scholarships what the hell. (b) How very very convenient.
The boys want all of them to go on a hike, which is shocking, shocking I tell you, and certainly not given away by that title.
The boys don’t normally get a half-term in the winter term (why not?) even though the girls do [Dove: Well, Blyton was actually a teacher before she became a full-time writer, so I suspect this was her experience. I knew a boy who went to public school who had school on Saturdays, and a much longer summer holiday than private school. (For the readers: I’m English: public is paid for, private is free.) Possibly the boys’ school is set up to have less holidays because boys are stronger and can do more learning, whereas girls are weak and call for smelling salts, when they’re not making the menfolk sandwiches.]; they can’t go home because the painters are at the house (…how many times are houses painted in this series?), and Anne was going home with George, but surely George’s parents won’t mind since her dad is always so grumpy when they’re home at half-term anyway.
(Winter term is apparently the term that includes October, because this half-term will still be October and they have a chance for warm sunshine. Dove has not led me to believe there will ever be warm sunshine in October. [Dove: Hey, remember that heatwave when I had to go back to Kent for a funeral? That was October. That was 29.9 degrees. We dressed for drizzle. We got sunburn. And who doesn’t love a funeral when everyone’s sweating their bits off?])
Anne talks to Julian on the phone to get the details from him and then she passes that along to George while they’re hanging out in their common room with Timmy and three other dogs, so of course I would much rather be hearing about their adventures than what’s going to happen but alas, there is no puppy cam in this book.
Anyway, Julian is as bossy as ever: everyone will take off right after breakfast and they can carry very little, only night-things, toothbrushes, hair brushes, flannels, a mac, two extra pairs of socks, and any biscuits or chocolate they can buy. I see where your priorities lie, kids. (A mac is a waterproof winter-ish coat, right Dove?) [Dove: Imagine Castiel’s coat, only waterproof.]
The girls tell their housemistress that they’re going off with the boys instead of to Kirrin House, and even though there will be letters giving them permission, Miss Peters sure seems willing to let them go off based just on their story. Ah, the days when students could wander about.
They’re going to the moors, the “very loneliest, most deserted parts” Julian can find. (a) Julian’s going to kill you all. (b) I would very much like to join this hike. He’s arranged little inns and farmhouses for them to stay at, because it will be too cold to sleep outside.
No, really, you’re off to a horror movie waiting to happen. I wish like hell this book was going there. [Dove: Gosh, if only there was someone who could write atmosphere and could write a horror style Famous Five. And it would be very helpful if her BFF was English, just to help Brit-pick the fic. Wouldn’t that be amazing?] [Wing: Why Dove, when did you become so subtle?]
The girls keep adding things to their bags, which I’m sure will make Julian shout and infuriate me: Anne brings a book, George packs torches with new batteries (dude, that’s just fucking logical, screw Julian for not thinking of that), and George wants to bring biscuits and a big bone for Timmy, though in the end decides not to bring the bone because it is very heavy and smelly.
They set off on Friday right after an early, enormous breakfast. As they take off walking, their friends call good-bye to them and say they won’t believe any story about one of their hair-raising adventures this time. Yeah, sure, right, you know better than that.
Julian and Dick have also set off nice and early and they are gossiping about Willis and Johnson who never have time for games or fun, but oh, look, they’ve won medals and scholarships and got the boys a long weekend, so get the fuck out of here, assholes.
The two groups are walking across the moors between the schools, which is kind of delightful, really, to be in schools separated by moors and also very horror movie. Can you tell where my mind is today?
Oh, wait, no, the boys are catching a bus across and then hiking the moors. Less cool, more logical.
Julian is rude to the conductor because the conductor makes the same old boring jokes, but by god, kid, he has to put up with swots like you, so fuck off into the sea. The two groups meet up at Pippin Village, though the girls came by train and the engine broke down, so they’re late.
Julian immediately says that George has grown fat, as an insult, and she takes it as an insult, and fuck off the lot of you. (Also, aren’t there food shortages and what-not? Shouldn’t you all be grateful you have food?) [Dove: Yep, one would assume that rationing was a thing, otherwise why do smugglers always smuggle so much food with their gold ingots.]
Dick handles things better, telling George she has grown taller and soon she’ll be as tall as he is, which is surely something delightful for George who so wants to be a boy.
The kids talk the shopkeeper into making them sandwiches, which will allow them to avoid villages all day and explore instead of finding food; they won’t have to find a place to stay until that night. While she’s making them, her son, Jim, comes in to pick up his own sandwiches. He works at Blackbush Farm. Since we don’t need this detail, I’m going to assume it will be important.
The man grabs his sandwiches, says he’s in too much of a hurry to wait for his mother to come back out, and tells them to tell her that he’ll be late because he has to take some stuff to the prison.
Foreshadowing? In my Famous Five book? It’s more likely than you think.
Anyway, he’s taking something to her other son, Tom, who is a warden and she worries about him around all those fierce, bad men in prison. Because no innocent person has ever been sent to prison, and no prisoner is ever redeemable.
Julian says he knew about the prison because it’s marked on the map and of course they won’t go near it, and the woman goes back to making their sandwiches. While she’s doing that, only one customer comes in, an old man smoking a clay pipe. He buys a packet of blancmange powder (?) and leaves the money on the counter for it. He smells bad and Timmy growls at him. Geeeeeeeee, I wonder what that means. (We learn in a bit that he’s Old Man Gupps.)
The woman gives them cake with their sandwiches and a bone for Timmy, which charms me to no end, and they are at last off.
It sounds gorgeous, all sunshine and colourful autumn leaves. On some of the paths, the hedges come up so high overhead they can’t see over them.
Julian tells him about the queer moor with its queer names: Blind Valley, Rabbit Hill, Lost Lake, Coney Copse. Absolutely zero of those sound like queer names (in either sense of the word). (Also, Coney apparently means rabbit, there are two rabbit places for Timmy.)
The kids sit down to watch the rabbits, but Timmy chases them all over. Dick thinks they’re playing with Timmy, which is quite probably, but also, those poor terrified rabbits. (Monster Dog keeps trying to chase rabbits in our back garden, but I keep calling her off.)
At Coney Copse, Timmy takes off after the rabbits again and gets himself stuck in a very big rabbit hole. I cackled, even though I also feel sorry for him. Anne has to crawl in after him because she’s the only one small enough to get into the hole. That being said, this is the biggest goddamn rabbit hole since Alice’s. [Dove: I was shocked it didn’t lead to an underground cave containing either: a kidnapped girl; a kidnapped scientist; gold bars; black market food; a secret passageway to Kirrin Cottage; a secret passageway to Kirrin Island; or any combination of the previously listed.]
George is certain that Timmy’s hurt himself once he’s out, but Julian dismisses this soundly, because of course he does. He says Timmy’s vanity is wounded. I hope Julian falls into a hole and snaps a bone.
…I am feeling very anti-Julian already.
They have their lunch at Fallaway Hill. Timmy’s appetite is good, but George is still worried because he’s being very quiet. I must say, I have no real fear for Timmy in this series, which is pleasant.
They end up with three sandwiches and half a piece of cake left for each of them. Julian won’t let Timmy have any cake, which is probably not good for him anyway, but since I dislike Julian so in this book, hope he trips and smashes the cake into his face.
Julian tells them they can eat their extra food whenever they like because he expects they will have a good meal at that night’s farmhouse. You are assuming a lot there, Julian, but knowing this series, you will, of course, be right. They’re going to stay at Blue Pond Farm. Julian wants the girls to sleep in the house while the boys sleep in the barn and is, I’m sure you’re surprised, condescending as fuck when the girls want to sleep in the barn, too. Fuck out of here, Julian. I hope one or both of the girls stab you and leave you to rot in the moors.
JESUS FUCKING CHRIST IT GOT WORSE ONE PARAGRAPH LATER: George says she will sleep in the barn no matter what Julian says, and his response: You know quite well that if ever you go against the orders of the chief – that’s me, my girl, in case you didn’t know it – you won’t come out with us again. You may look like a boy and behave like a boy, but you’re a girl all the same. And like it or not, girls have got to be taken care of.
I AM NOT GOING TO MAKE IT THROUGH THIS BOOK MUCH LESS THE REST OF THIS SERIES WHAT THE FUCK BURN IT DOWN WITH JULIAN IN THE MIDDLE OF IT.
George actually laughs and gets over her sulky mood at all of this and says he’s so domineering she’s quite afraid of him these days. She’s joking, a little, but he really fucking is and I hate him.
Dick tells George she’s the bravest girl he’s ever known, makes her blush, and then teases her by pretending to warm his hands on her cheeks. Ummm. This is far flirtier than Blyton intended. I think. They are cousins, and that’s not always considered incest, so maybe it is exactly as flirty as she intended? I don’t even know. /o\ [Dove: Their collective surname is Kirrin… even though that makes no sense. I did tell you about the guy from my home town who married his cousin, right? She shared his surname too. To be fair, that guy was creepy before he married his cousin. He didn’t have much more low to go.]
After lunch, they all notice that Timmy is limping, so fuck out of here with your know-it-all-bullshit, Julian. His left hind leg is twisted and his back is sore and bruised. Poor puppy. Julian promises he’ll be fine after that night, which is rich considering how you brushed off her concerns earlier.
George is determined to see a vet if there’s one in Beacons Village, and she wishes he was smaller so she could carry him.
Once they’re at Beacons Village, Julian asks about a vet at the Three Shepherds inn, but there’s no vet for more than six miles. George knows Timmy can’t walk that far, but, uh, hasn’t he been walking pretty damn well on three legs? I mean, I get your worry and I would have Monster Dog at the vet, too, but if we were in the middle of nowhere, I would trust her to be able to three leg it back to civilization.
The innkeeper sends them up to Spiggy House where Mr Gaston takes care of his horses and knows about dogs. It’s only about half a mile up the hill. Julian sends Dick and Anne off to the farmhouse where Julian wants to stay and he, George, and Timmy take off for Spiggy House. [Dove: I keep reading that as Spiggy Holes, and thinking she’s going to crossover the Famous Five and the Secret series (not the Secret Seven, the other Secret series).]
Dick and Anne take off, and Dick has to ask for directions because Julian didn’t give him very clear directions. I thought you were hot shit and on top of things, Julian. Dick asks a little old man in a carriage who only says “ar” to all his questions and nearly runs him over when he takes off again.
It gets dark quickly as a big storm cloud moves over them. They turn down one of the lanes which is as dark and tunnel-like as that one earlier, though now creepy, and they end up walking into a stream that gets deeper and deeper and so Anne thinks this can’t be the way.
Dick leads her over a stile and into a wide field with a narrow path that Dick swears leads them to the farmhouse. As if you’d know!
They walk for quite awhile and don’t find a farmhouse. It’s raining and Anne doesn’t want to go back to the dark little lane and they’re really lost — and then they hear wild, clanging bells. Well that’s beautiful and creepy. They’re not church bells, and Dick guesses that they’re maybe some kind of warning bells.
Anne puts it together that the village is named Beacons and maybe it used bells to warn people the enemy was coming and maybe they’re hearing ghost bells. I wish!
They follow a hedge to a much nicer lane and in the distance a shining light. Anne ends up in an enormous puddle, but they make it to the house. They can see an old woman inside sewing, but she doesn’t answer the door when they knock, so Dick decides to open the door and go inside.
…what. the. fuck.
I know, I know, it was another time, but still, what. the. fuck.
Dick goes so far as to walk right into the room where the woman is sewing, scaring her so goddamn much she knocks her chair over. WHAT. THE. FUCK. DICK.
They try to talk to her, but she tells them she’s deaf as a post and it’s no good trying to tell her anything. She guesses that they’re looking for a place to stay and tells them that they’d best leave before her son gets there. He has a nasty temper and won’t have anyone around at all.
Considering how they just fucking walked into your house without a care in the world, I’m all for his temper at the moment.
Dick gestures his way through the conversation (I have a gesture for you, DICK), and convinces the old woman to help them, though she makes it clear that her son can’t see them at all. She sends Anne up a small, steep staircase to a little loft that is nearly empty and clean enough, and Dick goes outside to find shelter for himself. [Dove: I hate the way they always bully abused women into helping them, as if it’s their right. As if their need as middle class children overrides the constant living situation of a woman who has to work damned hard not to upset quick-tempered men. And the way the narrative just nods and smiles.]
They call to each other through a window Anne opens, because they have no fucking sense of discretion; Anne’s worried about what will happen when George and Julian come, because neither of them have figured out this isn’t the right fucking farm, oh my god. Anyway, Dick tells her he’ll take care of it and she should eat her food, dry her feet, and make herself comfortable. She can yell if she needs him.
Anne does those things and falls asleep pretty quickly.
Dick, meanwhile, prowls around until he finds a small barn with piles of straw in one corner. He realises he’ll fall asleep if he lies down in it, and instead goes to wait for George and Julian in a broken-down shed near the gate.
They don’t come. Neither does the woman’s son, to Dick’s luck. He waits two hours, until the woman puts away her work basket and leaves the room, though the light still shines out the window. He thinks she’s left it on for her son. I think it’s a fucking signal, of course.
He peeks in the window and finds the old woman sleeping on a broken-down sofa in the corner. Dick goes back to the shed, but decides it’s no use waiting, the others must either be lost or stayed in Beacons Village because of Timmy.
Finally he goes off to the barn, bolting it from inside by putting a stick through two hasps, because locking the barn from the inside out certainly isn’t a sign that something’s up. He falls asleep as soon as he lies down and dreams of Timmy and George (…yeah, okay, do people ship them? Because if so, I’m starting to see why), Blue Ponds and bells.
He wakes suddenly sometime later not sure where he is or what woke him. Finally he figures out there’s a light scratching from outside the barn that he first thinks are rats and then a quiet tapping at the window.
Then a voice starts saying his name, calling him to the window and telling him to be quiet. It’s not a voice Dick recognizes, but he goes over to take the message anyway. He can just make out the face, “dim and wild-eyed, with a round bullet-like head” but the man can’t see him inside the barn.
This is the message from Nailer: Two-Trees. Gloomy Water. Saucy Jane. And he says Maggie knows. He sent you this. Maggie’s got one too.
The man drops a bit of paper in through the broken pane on the window, and Dick is utterly confused. The man repeats the message and then leaves. Dick takes a quick moment to look at the piece of paper, a dirty half sheet with pencil marks that mean nothing to him.
He puts the paper in his pocket, tells himself he must be dreaming (let me know if that works), and curls up in the straw again to sleep.
Just before he falls asleep, he hears cautious footsteps again and thinks it’s the man coming back. But no! This man lets himself inside the barn (he shakes the door until that stick falls out and doesn’t seem to notice the door was locked and not just stuck) and sits down to wait. He mumbles to himself, grumpy, a little bit about how all he ever does is wait.
Dick dozes off again, thinking this is a dream, too, maybe, until he’s actually dreaming about the bells again and trees in pairs. He wakes in the morning, alone in the barn, and he’s not sure what was real and what was a dream. I take you don’t snore then, Dick. Or move about in your sleep. Or breath slightly heavily at all or mumble anything or even turn a bit, because all of that would make enough noise that a man impatiently waiting for something would hear.
Dick checks in with Anne who tells him the son is downstairs yelling at his deaf mother and they have to wait until he goes out to his work before Dick tries to get food from the woman and Anne can come down from the loft.
The son comes out, and Dick recognizes him as the second man, the one who came into the barn. He doesn’t stop at the barn this time, but heads out through a gate, slamming it behind him. Dick takes this chance to run up to the little white house.
Dick tries to ask the woman for bread and cheese, but she keeps telling him to get Anne and get out. Before he can, though, the son comes back in carrying some eggs. He shouts at Dick to clear out and demands to know why he’s there. Dick says he’s there to ask the woman if she would sell “us” some bread and immediately realises he fucked up by letting on that someone else is with him. The man assumes it’s another boy, of course, and Dick ducks out of the house saying he’ll go get the other boy. The man tries to catch him, but Dick is too fast for him.
The man yells for awhile, then comes out with a pail of steaming food. Dick assumes it’s for the chickens. I did not know you fed chickens hot food. Cool.
Once the man is off again, Dick races back to the house and calls for Anne to come running. She escapes the house and they take off down the path all the way to the hedge the followed the night before.
Anne is terrified from everything she heard, poor girl, and doesn’t understand why in the world Julian would choose such a place for them to sleep, it’s terrible and not much like a farm at all. Get yourself together, girl.
Dick, at least, has caught on that it wasn’t the Blue Pond farmhouse after all, and thank fuck for that. [Dove: No wonder Dick never won a scholarship that netted them a few days off school.]
They wash up a little in a cold stream and then try to figure out what to do next. Conveniently, a boy comes by and tells them that house is not Blue Pond farmhouse, it’s Mrs Taggart’s place, and it’s terrible. Dirty Dick is a terror and will drive everyone off. The boy gives them directions to Blue Pond, which is back past Three Shepherds Inn and off to the left.
Dick’s very angry about the man who sent them wrong the day before. Hey, you chose to interpret his lack of response as you would. [Dove: But Wing, it’s not Dick’s fault. It can’t be.] The boy heads off across the moorland, leaving the two of them to head back toward Three Shepherds. Anne thinks they should use the phone there to call Blue Pond and see if they can get better directions (and and you know, see if the others are there, I guess).
(Dick comes up with that a bit later.)
They make it to the inn, but before they can go inside to make the call, Julian, George, and Timmy come racing up to them. Timmy’s not limping at all anymore. Anne asks about Timmy, but Julian interrupts her response to say they can get breakfast and tell all their news. That is logical, but oh my god, I want to backhand him for interrupting Anne and George.
Food porn: Porridge and cream, cured bacon, eggs, honey and fresh bread, and coffee with cream. All of that sounds amazing, except for the coffee. I’ve never even had porridge and cream.
Team George: They got to Spiggy House without problem, but Mr Gaston wasn’t there. His wife made them wait for hours, but when Mr Gaston came home, he apparently popped Timmy’s leg back into place or something and now Timmy is fine. They all had a jolly good meal (and George was thinking about changing Timmy’s name to Tummy, they spoiled him with so much food), and then they set off for Blue Pond, though not until nine p.m. When they got there and Team Anne wasn’t there, they were in a state.
They came back to the little village first thing in the morning to get the police, but found Team Anne instead. Blue Pond was a great place to stay, they each had a little room and Timmy got to sleep with George.
More food porn: A wonderful smell came creeping into the little dining-room, followed by the inn-woman carrying a large tray. On it was a steaming tureen of porridge, a bowl of golden syrup, a jug of very thick cream, and a dish of bacon and eggs, all piled high on crisp brown toast. Little mushrooms were on the same dish. …Toast, marmalade and butter to come, and the coffee and hot milk. … And if you want any more bacon and eggs, just ring the bell.
I am still full from dinner and yet that is enough to make me want more food, god. [Dove: Porridge and golden syrup is delicious.]
They talk awhile about various ways to approach the meal (more porridge but then they might not fully appreciate bacon and eggs, and the mushrooms are good and and and and) but finally Julian turns them back to the story at hand.
By being an ass, of course: perhaps you feel able to tell us exactly why you ignored my instructions and didn’t arrive where you were supposed to last night.
WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK, JULIAN.
My anger has upgraded to punching him, not just backhanding him.
Dick tells Julian that he sounds like their headmaster and explains they got lost and spent the night somewhere they thought was Blue Pond; Julian wants to know why they didn’t contact Julian somehow to let them know they were in the wrong spot. You’re a dick, Julian, shut the fuck up.
Anne explains about the deaf woman and points out that they were worried about Julian, Anne, and Timmy, but Julian waves this off as “a chapter of accidents. All’s well that ends well, however.”
Dick calls him pompous and tells them about the pretty rough night they had at not!Blue Pond. I’m not a huge fan of Dick so far in this book, but he’s loads better than Julian and the more he calls Julian on his shit, the more I like him. He doesn’t talk about the weird message, not yet, he wants to wait until they’re away again.
Julian pompously explains the bells to Anne when she says she was frightened of them; they rang to let everyone know that a prisoner escaped.
When the woman comes back to check on them, they ask if her if the prisoner has been caught yet. He has not, and she tells them that he is a robber who used to break into houses and attack anyone who tried to stop him [Dove: That’s odd. Most robberies over here are crimes of opportunity. We don’t have guns, so home invasions aren’t a thing. Although this was pre-gun laws. *shrugs*]. [Wing: Huh, I wouldn’t think guns would be a requirement for a serial home robbery.] All the roads from the moor are guarded and everyone is on watch, so she’s certain he’ll be caught soon.
Gee willikers, if only there were four curious children and their clever dog about to solve this mystery.
Anne’s worried about hiking on the moors with the prisoner about, but Julian reassures her that they’ll be fine and, for once, isn’t cocky and condescending. He’s not the one who will keep them safe, Timmy will!
They finish breakfast, buy sandwiches from the woman working at the inn, and head off toward a lovely little stream. They walk awhile, trying to listen to Dick’s story, but there’s no real path and they can’t all walk abreast. Julian stops them at some heather and they sit down to hear the story properly. I shan’t recap it here again, but they keep interrupting him when he tells them about the man with the message calling his name.
They’re all almost convinced it was a dream until Dick remembers the paper. And he still has it!
There’s an illustration of the five of them looking at the bit of paper and Julian’s drawn big enough to be a full-grown adult. Damn it, Julian, go away and do adult things so I don’t have to read about you.
When Dick tells them that the son of the deaf woman came grumbling to the barn for awhile, Anne says that the son’s name must have been Dick, too, and works out exactly what happened, because she’s clever as hell. I wish she and George could go off and have all their own adventures. [Dove: … that’s actually a really good idea.]
Of course, it’s Dick who remembers that the whistling boy who told them they weren’t at Blue Pond also told them that the woman’s name was Dirty Dick. I mean, really, kids. Really. That didn’t give it away as why the other man would have been calling out the name Dick?
They decide to tell the police at the next village, which is Reebles, where Julian wanted to stop for lunch if they hadn’t otherwise bought sandwiches (though they have). Really, it seems like they were still much closer to the last village, but whatever, moving along.
More walking, more rabbits and Timmy chasing them, wild ponies that delight them and me, and finally the stream joins the path that leads to Reebles. They go straight to the police station, which has only one policeman in charge of four villages. The kids interrupt his meal, and he hates children anyway, so I can already see this is going well.
They give him the message, he’s rude to them, I’m rolling my eyes because this is always so convenient, and finally he tells them that the prisoner was caught four hours ago and is already back in prison. Julian tells him off a little, and the policeman is impressed by his manner. I’m back to wanting to smack them both.
They head out, but not before the policeman tears the paper into four pieces. I’m sure there’s no possible way for them to figure anything out from four pieces Dick immediately picks up.
A little girl in the village directs them to her gran’s farm for a meal, Timmy wants to fight some dogs but George talks him down with mention of food and a nice bone (if only it was actually that easy [Dove: You mean you can’t use your excellent vocabulary to reason with your dog?]), and they get some food: homemade meat pie, ham and tongue, and hard boiled eggs and salad. Pickled cabbage and onions and beetroot in vinegar, too. Raspberries and cream if they want, and fresh cream cheese.
Literally just finished dinner (a few days after I started this recap), and I’m now desperate for some of that food.
They talk about why food is always better out at farms, and George says that when she’s a grown-up, she’ll make all sorts of food so she can offer homemade things to people when they come for a meal.
George. Wants to cook all the time, which is very woman’s work in this series.
WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK, BLYTON. (This would be a good phrase to use in a Wing Recap Drinking Game, except I fear you’d all die.)
They meet a little girl called Meg and ask her about a place they haven’t been, Two-Trees. Meg doesn’t know about it, but asks her gran, who tells them that it was a lovely place before but is now in ruins. It was built by a dark lake in the middle of the moors — Gloomy Water. She warns them to be careful if they go there because there’s marshland all around there and they can easily stumble into it.
They find Gloomy Water on the map and ask at the post office how far away it is. The old man there said that it burned awhile back, almost to a shell, and it was never built up again. The owner abandoned it to rack and ruin, and there are tales of lights being seen there. He marks marshland on their map and draws them paths to show them how to get to Two-Trees.
Julian buys some rugs and rubber groundsheets from the man, too, and says they want to camp outside for the night. Once they’re alone again, Julian tells them he has a feeling that something important is going to happen and they should camp in the ruin to figure things out. A few hours ago, you were willing to wave this all away as a dream, dude.
They buy some food (loaves of bread, butter, potted meat, fruit cake, orangeade, chocolate, and biscuits) and then set out. They have a lovely walk out to the ruins and see more wild ponies and beautiful dappled deer. This does all sound wonderful (but not wonderful enough to put up with Julian, oh my god, you’ve gone so terribly wrong since the beginning of this series).
It’s nearly dark when they show up at Two-Trees, and it is a desolate ruin, but not as bad as I was picturing, because there are still windows to have no glass. It sounds glorious and like the perfect location for a horror novel. If only this turned into that. (I volunteer Julian as tribute.)
Gloomy Water itself is creepy, smooth and dark, as still as if it were frozen, no little waves at all. I love it.
Julian actually wants to sleep inside the damn house, which surprises me because he’s normally so obnoxious about where he’ll let Anne and George sleep. Anne finds a way down to the cellars, which are dry and cleaner. I’m not so sure I’d want to sleep somewhere I’d be trapped if I was trying to solve a mystery, but get down with your bad selves, kids.
There’s a sitting room down there, even, wired for electricity, and candles still in the candlesticks. They make beds of heather and bracken [Dove: Golly, if only they had sand too, these would be the most perfectly soft heathery beds ever!], as usual, and put their food on the table after George dusts it. Anne even finds an old water pump in the kitchen, so they have fresh water in the ruins, once he pumps a lot to get out the dirty, rusty old water that had been sitting there.
Over dinner, they talk about what they’ll do next, and about the secret that must exist. Julian’s certain he knows what it is: where Nailer has hidden the stuff he stole. Because no one else could have possibly guessed anything like that, Julian.
They try to work through the clue in the message Dick received. After Two-Trees and Gloomy Water comes Saucy Jane, which Dick thinks sounds like a boat. George suggests they’ll find the stolen goods in the boat, but Dick shoots that right down as too easy a place to hide it.
Dick brings out the pieces of paper the police officer tore up. No one has gummed paper, but by god George is absolutely carrying Elastoplast. Why? I don’t know. [Dove: If she remembered extra batteries, maybe she added a first-aid kit. Or maybe she bought some after Timmy’s injury?]
There are four lines meeting in the centre and a word at the outer edge of each line: Tock Hill, Steeple, Chimney, and Tall Stone.
George is adamant that they will never, ever find out what they all mean. UMMM. Why are you suddenly so down on everything? You guys literally always figure things out and you’re normally confident as hell. What’s going on, George? Is this Julian’s influence?
They decide that if Maggie comes around, they won’t hide, they’ll just pretend the found the place on a hike and chose to shelter there. They won’t let on that they know anything. This is actually a good point, because it would be super weird and obvious if they tried to hide and Maggie stumbled over them anyway. Hard to spin that as them being innocent.
Anne’s feeling nervous over people hiding in the cellars beyond their underground room even though she knows it’s not actually going to happen, it’s just her imagination. George is scornful toward her anyway, and at this point I want to smack everyone except for Anne and Timmy.
The next morning, the kids sleep in until half-past eight and then the boys go swim in the ice-cold lake to clean up while the girls make breakfast. Such a huge eyeroll here. When the bells start going off, Anne freaks out a little, but Julian talks her down because it’s just church bells. He’s fairly nice about it here, too.
The boys gather more heather and bracken for bed while the girls clean up breakfast. And yet another eyeroll here.
Finally they head out to look for Saucy Jane. This book is starting to drag, in huge part because of how annoyed I am at Julian throughout, I think, because the parts that are dragging on are the parts that I normally like, all the little details about camping and food and such.
Eventually they find a boathouse covered with ivy and brambles, so overgrown it’s hard to tell that it’s a building. It’s falling apart and they have to go in through one of the walls to even get inside. There are three boats, two of them half-full of water with sunken bows. One is the Merry Meg. One is Cheeky Charlie. Okay, these names are ridiculous and made me laugh.
And finally … Careful Carrie. Trombone noise of disappointment goes here.
Today, Julian says that Saucy Jane must have the loot because why else would it be in the message, and this time, Dick thinks that must be it. But when George mentioned it the night before, fuck all that noise, right Dick? Goddamnit.
They go around the edge of the lake looking for the Saucy Jane, but struggle with the brambles tearing into their skin and clothes, and then they decide to take the raft George found out onto the lake to explore from the water.
They head back to the ruined house and Timmy immediately starts growling. A second later, a woman and a man walk out of the house, talking earnestly together. Maggie and Dirty Dick!
The boys don’t like the look of Dirty Dick. The girls don’t like the look of the woman. by god, she’s wearing trousers and sunglasses, that hussy. Clearly only George can wear trousers instead of dresses. Clearly.
The kids go out to play innocent hikers and Julian spins and spins around why they’re there, swimming in the lake and exploring and watching moor-hens and deer and wild ponies. Dirty Dick shouts at them to clear out and threatens Julian, but George lets Timmy loose. He doesn’t attack, but he does growl and raise his hackles, which sends Dirty Dick back.
The kids go inside the house to have their lunch and George puts Timmy on guard duty. They talk openly about the two people who are probably still hanging around outside, but I’m sure nothing will come of it. Oh, never mind, Dick decides to check and they’ve headed off in the direction of the boat house. Probably looking for Saucy Jane.
They decide to follow their original plan of taking the raft out while also trying to keep an eye out on Maggie and Dirty Dick.
When they head for the raft, they see Dirty Dick and Maggie out in a boat already (Merry Meg), and Dick is worried that they’ll find the Saucy Jane first.
The kids all paddle against each other until Julian, of course, tells them the right way to do it. Dude, what the fuck. As if George doesn’t know how to paddle a fucking boat. Come the fuck on.
They get super close up to the boat which enrages Maggie and Dirty Dick, but Julian wants to see what they’re looking at, whether they have a paper like the kids do. I hope you drown, Julian. (UMM. The illustration in the book shows them in the Cheeky Charlie, not the Merry Meg, which annoys me way more than it actually should.)
Dirty Dick rows all around the lack and the kids follow, but it wears them right out even though there are four of them paddling to one. The kids give up and the boat heads toward the boat house or another landing spot back by the house.
Timmy leaps into the water when George threatens to push him in and then she snaps at Dick for actually pushing him in. He keeps teasing her, she keeps rising to the bait, they even have a wrestling match on the raft, I’m shocked I haven’t seen more fic floating out there about them. [Dove: A quick scan of A03 shows that Julian/Dick is a common pairing. Odd. That’s the last one I’d think of.] [Wing: I’m not too surprised by that, based on their dynamic and the popularity of m/m and m/m incest in fandom. Which is fine, they’re fictional, not judging based on that. I am judging because Julian is terrible, how can you stand him?!]
Anne’s looking around at how lovely everything is when she sees an interesting thing like a very tall stone, which she then remembers is printed on Dick’s piece of paper, so they’ll have to check it out later.
By the time they make it back to the boat house, Maggie and Dirty Dick are nowhere to be seen. Timmy doesn’t start growling until they get near the cellar room. There’s no one in it and nothing has really been disturbed at first sight — until they realise all their food is gone. I’m shocked. SHOCKED that you piss off two people you already know are kind of sketchy and they then sabotage your camp. Idiots.
Julian storms outside to tell them off and finds their tents, but they aren’t around, instead they’re down by the lake. He goes to tell the others, and Timmy brings back a tin of shortbread for George, followed by a large cake and a cardboard box with a fine pork pie and a packet of ham. Are you fucking kidding me right now? Timmy is fucking not grabbing all that food and bringing it to them without messing it up at all much less eating it, I don’t care how great a pet he is.
Dirty Dick comes shouting at them for taking things, Julian tells him off for taking their things and tells him that the dog fetched it all and that Timmy will be on guard all night and he’s strong and savage as a lion.
After they finish eating, they examine the map again and find Tock Hill across from the place they saw Tall Stone; Tock Hill is also on Dick’s paper. In the middle of all this, Dick cries that he knows how to read the map and it’s actually easy. ONCE AGAIN, you are all being very loud when there are two people lurking about that hate you and want the loot too. (I know they’re trusting Timmy to let them know if someone is near, but still.)
Dick goes through the clues: Two Trees is a location. Gloomy Water is where the hidden stuff is. Saucy Jane holds the stuff and is hidden somewhere on Gloomy Water. Maggie is around and knows all the clues. There has to be some spot on the lake that shows Tall Stone, Tock Hill, Chimney, and Steeple, and that one spot will be where the loot is hidden.
They decide to set out as soon as it’s light the next morning to try to beat Maggie and Dirty Dick to it. Timmy wakes them up at 7:30, because he’s more god than dog, and they head out to the raft. It takes them forever to find Tall Stone again. Julian stops paddling then and watches Tall Stone, while Dick is supposed to look for Tock Hill. Once they find that, George is to look for Steeple, which she finds immediately, and then Anne gets them to look for Chimney, which is the chimney of the house.
Julian ties string to his knife and torch and sends them down to the bottom of the lake, then puts a cork on top that would bob. (He’s carved it into a horse head and why he’s carrying it around in his pockets, I don’t know.)
Dick points out that it will be hard to spot the cork, and George hands over a little wooden box in which she keeps threepenny bits that she collects. And is, of course, carrying that around with her randomly, too. These kids carry a lot of weird shit. (Which is, I suppose, realistic.)
They finally look down into the lake and see a boat. DUH. It’s about damn time.
Just then, Maggie and Dirty Dick come along in the Merry Meg again, also following the bearings on the paper. They’ve focused so hard they don’t see the kids and George keeps Timmy from barking and giving them away, but they’re right the fuck on the lake, it’s not like they’re hiding or could possibly keep the adults from doing anything.
Oh, wait, this is a Famous Five book. Of course they’ll outwit the adults.
The boat rams the raft and Julian has to save Anne from falling into the water. They pull away as soon as Timmy starts to bark and threaten to call the police on them. Maggie asks when they go back after half-term, and Julian tells her the next day, and they finally take off.
George is grumpy that they’ll get the loot after they leave and Julian tells her she’s not very bright. WTF, Julian, get the fuck out of here.
Though he is the one who makes the point that they probably don’t have to get the boat up, they can dive for the loot. Depending on how heavy it is, I mean, but it’s probably not that bad.
Julian is, of course, a star swimmer and diver and it’s easy for him to hold his breath for so long. The bag’s too heavy to lift by diving, but he thinks if they can tie a rope to it, they’ll be able to haul it up.
They, of course, don’t have enough rope to get it, though, and they see that the boat has been banked and one of the adults is watching them using field glasses, so they’re seeing what’s happening. He doesn’t think they know the kids have found the boat, but you just fucking stripped down and dove straight into the water above it, goddamn it Julian. [Dove: I’m in stealth mode! Ok, I’m in the centre of the lake and people are watching. But nobody will see me!]
Julian decides they’ll have to come back for the loot that night when Maggie and Dirty Dick stop watching them. The second you all leave the raft, they should go grab the loot, you idiot. Julian’s certain that they won’t run the risk of the kids spotting what they’re doing, but wtf, dude, it’s not like you can easily see the spot from where you’re camping, they could get the loot in a quick minute having the right supplies.
Anne keeps not wanting to go at night and Julian tries to talk her around. Damn it, Anne, where is your sense of adventure?
They play games, rest a bit, Anne stays awake and wakes them up right before 11 when Julian thinks the moon will be well up. Everything is quiet around the tents and they sneak off to where they’ve beached the raft — and it is of course exactly where they left it, because the adults are fucking idiots.
It’s pretty easy for them to find the spot and Julian and Dick dive down to the boat. They have to dive twice to get it fully tied and then they slowly pull up the sack, though not before Dick falls off the raft once. I did laugh, though I wish it had been Julian.
They can’t quite get the bag on the raft without upsetting it, though, so they paddle back to shore dragging it behind them. They get back to the cellar, leaving Timmy on guard again, and finally get the bag open. They find little jewellery boxes, including a necklace stolen from the Queen of Fallonia are you fucking kidding me. There are diamonds and sapphires and opals and I kind of want the opals, no lie. Some of it belonged to a princess who was visiting the Queen of Fallonia, because of course they’re going to return priceless jewelry to royalty, of course they are.
They divide the jewellery up in handkerchiefs and hide them in their rucksacks to keep them safe and decide to set off first thing in the morning. I think they should probably leave right the fuck now, but what do I know. [Dove: Don’t you dare contradict Julian. He has plot armour!]
Timmy wakes them up the next morning because he’s barking at Maggie who has come to offer them some food for their trip to make them get going sooner. They head out quickly but immediately get into some trouble when Maggie and Dirty Dick come rushing up to try to cut them off.
George is the one who figures out they must have seen the waterproof covering and all the empty boxes down in the cellar. Why the fuck didn’t you hide it like you did the food the second time, Julian, you idiot?
Julian doesn’t want Anne to have to watch Timmy savage Dirty Dick, so the kids hurry on, hoping the adults will struggle being off the path in the marshland, and they, of course, do. Dirty Dick eventually cries out that he’s broken his ankle. Anne wants to go help him, but Julian says it might be a trick and even if not, leaving them in the marsh will make it easy for the police to find them.
Julian calls Mr Gaston, tells him about the jewels, and promises to come fetch them in his car so they can go to Gathercombe where Mr Gaston knows the inspector.
The kids have brunch while they wait (sandwiches, buns, biscuits, and ginger beer), tell their whole story to Mr Gaston when he turns up, and the inspector is very pleased with them. The inspector sends policemen after Dirty Dick and Maggie, the inspector tells the kids they’re the kind of kids they want in England (“plucky, sensible, responsible youngers who use your brains and never give up”) which comes across as very you middle class white kids, you’re the ones we want [Dove: I rage-quit a contemporary post-apocalyptic YA novel for this reason. Every time the main characters showed up somewhere, the world fell over themselves to congratulate them on being white, middle-class and good. If you think it’s annoying in the 1940s, it’s even more infuriating in 2019.] [Wing: Yeah, that’s pretty terrible.], and the inspector lets them clean up at the station and then drives them back to schools so they arrive on time because otherwise there’s no way they would.
And it ends as so: Yes, good luck to you, Famous Five — and may you have many more adventures.
I think the shine has gone off this series for me. Julian infuriates me pretty much constantly; he’s so obnoxious that even when he’s making good points or not being terrible, I still hate him, and Dick and George annoy me regularly. Anne really does need to poison them all.
The pacing dragged a lot on this one, I think because it has a kind of slow start to it once they’re on their hike, but I really did like the mystery itself and treasure hunting. Everything always wraps up far too easily for them, and I think this could be handled a bit better if the early parts didn’t drag and the end parts seem so rushed.
I miss the days when I looked forward to their next adventure. Julian, you’re ruining everything!
[Dove: Agreed. This one was a bit… just meh on every level. Except the food. The food was top notch as usual. The kids seemed really dim – how long was it before they figured out Anne and Dick stayed at the wrong place? How long before they figured out the mystery? Just everything was draggy. And I felt tense about Dirty Dick being around the kids while they were treasure hunting, but all that tension went nowhere. The kids’ plans constantly went perfectly, and when their food was nicked, they had everything put right before the next meal kicked in. And possibly I’d be kinder, but Wing’s right, Julian is an insufferable prick.]