Bill's Diary 1950 (Part 2)
First edition: 2014
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1950
Type: Continuation Books
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1950
Type: Continuation Books
On This Page...
Picnic arranged for today and it was conveniently sunny. Set off after 10:00 with Gussy complaining as usual – he didn't like having to carry a satchel of food and utensils on his back. He thought the girls should have been recruited for such a menial task and I thought it best not condemn him too much because I remembered reading in my sixpenny booklet about his kingdom that females were more in line for this kind of thing. It was sorted out though because the uninformed kids were having 'None of That' so if he expected one of the girls to carry his food he was out of luck. After Allie and I had heard the word 'Donkey' applied to His Royal Highness a few times, Gussy realized that no one else was going to help out and he certainly didn't want to leave his food behind as had been suggested by Dinah.
A hill called Sugar Loaf was our destination and it wasn't all that far off although it was a bit of a struggle to the top but well worth it when we feasted our eyes on the view. I helped Allie over some of the rougher ground and I saw Jack assisting Lucy-Ann a few times. Dinah sprang up under her own steam and was in front mostly seeing Philip stuck with Jack. We pondered about the curious name of our setting and I could only think of a hill that was mentioned during the Battle for Okinawa but Allie seems to think there are a few 'Sugar Loafs' around. The top was breezy and looking around at the wildflowers amongst the windswept grass, Lucy-Ann said it reminded her of various pictures she's seen in her Christopher Robin books. Had to agree with her.
Great feast supplied by Allie and the girls and they were warmly congratulated. Even Gussy nodded his head in acquiescence when the praises rang out and it was good to see because he's used to getting the best. I'll have to ask him what he thinks of the meals at his school if I can remember to. Allie and I sat under the shade of a tree to look at the view and discuss a few things while the kids went for a wander. The boys climbed a tree and Gussy, after looking at the tree rather disdainfully, decided to go up as well after being urged to have a go. I think he'd realized that it wouldn't look too good if he wasn't able to do what commoners could do, and after all, it was a challenge and a prince must lead by example. The girls picked flowers, I lit up the pipe and Allie leaned against my shoulder and read some more of her book which is almost due back at the library. Think it'll be overdue because Basingstoke is nowhere near where we are. Fleecy clouds overhead and a light breeze made for pleasant surroundings and when the kids returned to rest on the blanket and pick out landmarks, Philip, who was using the field glasses, kept us up-to-date with a car he was tracking. The occupants seemed to be visitors according to their erratic progress but eventually they made their way to the farm. A large black Daimler with people unfamiliar to the territory made me have a look for myself. After all there are not many Daimlers around although, coincidentally, mine's one. What was happening fitted the scenario touched on during one of the briefings and an expensive looking vehicle showing up through the glasses made me resolve to check things out later on.
Relaxed some more while being entertained with the fabulous view. When Allie and the girls were dozing, Philip, thinking it was the ideal time, introduced us to a new pet – a dormouse. Once more his magic has attracted an animal that would probably had scarpered if anyone else had approached it. Kiki, sitting on Jack's shoulder, eyed it with trepidation – was it worth snatching up? I think she realizes that if Philip is holding a live creature in his hand, then such an action would be a definite 'No, No!' Kiki's an intelligent parrot so she just sat there sizing it up. 'Snoozy' is the creature's name and it seems an appropriate one. We were invited to stroke the top of its head very gently and it didn't seem to mind. Philip's always got to have some kind of a pet around him whether it be big or whether it be small; it was a little monkey last time unless he's had some other pet somewhere in between. Micky Monkey ended up at the Chester Zoo after developing a goitre or something similar round its neck. The vets there took it into care and eventually we thought it best to leave the monkey with them seeing they've got an excellent primate enclosure. Leroy said it was getting on fine but that was a while ago so we'll have to enquire after it and see if the fellow is still alive. Philip's accepted that having a monkey on one's shoulder can cause difficulties especially as he and the others lead fairly international lives these days although, admittedly, Kiki seem to get away with it.
The boys made off when they heard voices of a couple of locals further down. They've got 'badgers' on the brain and are eager to hunt some down. Allie woke and we spent a pleasant ten minutes trying to identify some of the colourful plants that were growing in patches here and there. The girls joined in while Gussy snored away in the grass and eventually, when the sun had lowered a bit and a cool breeze started up we began clearing up and I called the boys. Gussy was in a mood because he'd found bits of grass in his mouth. He tends to sleep with his mouth open and no doubt, someone, unable to resist the temptation, had indulged in a little tomfoolery. Poor old Gussy. He rounded on the boys even though I told him it was probably Kiki who'd Done the Deed ... she's like that at times. Gussy couldn't do much about it so he told us all off, at least it seemed he was but as the language was in his native language, no one understood anything. Kiki joined in as is her wont whenever she hears something strange, and she came out with a stream of gibberish that made Gussy look at her in surprise. Allie and I started walking down the hill carrying our share of the gear. The haversacks were considerably lighter and it was downhill all the way so there was no excuse for any complaints as we all made our way along the track we'd followed earlier, with Gussy in the rear.
We were back in the Cottage before 18:00 and the kids started eating again. I heard Gussy arguing with Kiki but overall he's becoming a little more good-natured and that helps immensely when one rubs shoulders with our lot. Dinah usually takes a little longer to accept people who don't 'toe the line' but the kids are generally fair and sometimes remarkably understanding. The milk had been finished up so I thought I'd use that as an excuse to visit the farm this evening. Allie and I got ourselves an aperitif each and went to sit in the lounge where we could listen to the news in peace while the kids played cards in the kitchen. Allie was humming when she came in with our drinks and I told her it's quite true, when I recognized the tune –
"I do love a Lassie, a Bonnie Bonnie Lassie," I told her. " ... and that Lassie is you."
We discussed the selection of biographical notes and Harry Lauder tunes that had been aired on the radio a few days before. Hadn't realized he'd passed away just a few weeks ago, although Allie knew because she keeps herself up-to-date with most events attached to the world of music.
" ... and it's Sir Harry Lauder," she told me with the look she uses to stir me into a passionate sparring session.
"I knew that!"
I sensed we were about to have one of our stimulating debates and resolved that if it looked as if she was gaining the upper hand, I'd seize my woman and 'shut her up.' Just as I went over to increase the radio volume, a typical 'Gussy versus the rest' argument started up but I couldn't be bothered to intervene until suddenly a lull descended and a dramatic announcement rang out. I got up only half-believing my ears because it appeared that our young border was about to reveal his true identity. I walked into the kitchen just as the words "Torquinel of Tauri-Hessia" was announced to four wide-eyed children. Right from the start I'd accepted the fact that sometime or other the secret would be known and I'd also suspected it wouldn't take all that long owing to the clash of personalities. A Royal, used to having everyone and everything at his beck and call, had found it too difficult posing as a lowly 'peasant' but I'd expected the subterfuge to last a little longer.
It wasn't to be, unfortunately. I joined the group and looked sternly at Gussy although I couldn't help thinking he can't really be blamed for letting the others know his real identity. After all, why should a kid be forced to act like Clark Kent and not be able to express himself more in line with his culture? At least the revelation explained the boy's long hair and inherent mannerisms but it was a nuisance because the more people who know a secret, the more chance there is of would-be assassins getting wind of it. It was time to fill the kids in on a few facts and I did so, telling them that Gussy's uncle is a King and that others want him out of the way although he's a fair and just ruler. He's also an asset to our country because we are 'favoured' and the association is a good one with defence contracts all worked out. In a nutshell, things are running smoothly and could do so for a long time provided the traitorous people who are plotting against him, wanting to seize the Prince and compel him to do their bidding, can be hunted down and put away. What they're doing is highly illegal and it's not only a matter of sniffing them out; the people, who are mainly peasants, need to be informed as well. I didn't tell the kids about perceived threats from outside the country because such instances can be dampened and eventually eliminated provided the British and Hessians are closely aligned.
After that little tidying up, there seemed to be slightly more acceptance of Gussy's characteristics and in turn, I think he felt better now that he didn't have to keep his secret any longer. A more settled and understanding atmosphere descended and I saw the girls looking curiously at the prince and no doubt sizing him up in his new identity. Girls like princes and it wasn't hard to imagine the boy with his long dark hair standing on a balcony in full uniform. Actually, I have to admit, he could probably carry it quite well.
After the dramatic announcement had settled the kids went back to their game in a more peaceful mode and I rejoined Allie who had decided not to intrude, feeling it best that I be the one to explain seeing I was in possession of more facts. We went back to attacking Tuesday's crossword, determined as ever to complete it by pooling our particular avenues of interest, but as usual our combined stores of knowledge were pipped at the post. 'It would have been a flop if Holmes had failed to' baffled Allie but I offered 'Detect' which allowed 'cricket bat' to pass through and for 'Lone singer from Scotland was passing wise,' Allie filled in 'Solomon' which made sense and allowed 'Uninteresting' to fill 9-Down with no complications. 'The cheek Eve offered Adam' elicited a ribald remark from my sweet wife as she filled in 'applesauce.' We're keeping a record of our attempts and not one have we completed as of date. Allie suggested we switch back to the Telegraph and the motion was passed; the Times crosswords are a tad too cryptic so we'll get rid of the week's worth of crosswords that have mounted up and move to other pastures.
A few minutes after 17:00 saw Lucy-Ann and myself heading off to the farm with the churn to fetch some milk for supper. The sun had just gone down and it was pleasant to hold hands with Lucy-Ann as she stumbled along trying to keep up with my long strides. She asked me about the prince but I thought it best to keep information minimal at the present time and just told her not to breathe a word about his presence. We wandered along talking about this and that, and Jack, and owls that were hooting from various locations. Lucy-Ann's well versed in birds and took a loud screech in her stride whereas I took a few seconds to realize what it was when the sudden noise rattled me.
Reached the farm and after knocking on the door we entered seeing it was ajar; Mrs. Ellis made us both welcome and went to get a hunk of cake for Lucy-Ann to nibble on as she made herself comfortable in a rocking-chair and petted a cat that jumped up to use her lap as a bed. I reported that the cottage was fine and after telling Mrs. Ellis how peaceful we found the area, I put on my working hat and brought the subject round to the lack of strangers in such a beautiful place. Got just what I wanted – Mrs. Ellis said that two strangers had visited the farm only that afternoon looking for temporary accommodation, and she'd agreed to take them in as boarders for a few days.
"They're Mr. & Mrs. Jones," she told me.
I asked her if she knew who had recommended the place ... was it a friend. No it wasn't - just someone they'd met. Could it have been someone who had stayed here before? I put it to her, but no names had been given. I tried to maintain a position of casual interest.
"Do you advertise anywhere?"
"No we just rely on word-of-mouth," Mrs. Ellis answered.
"But, you do occasionally take in someone who just happened to spot the farmhouse and enquired at the door?"
"Oh yes," she replied. "It's not up at the moment, but we put a sign outside the front door every now and again."
Mrs. Ellis left to fetch our milk and I went over to Lucy-Ann and gave the chair a rock.
She looked up at me questioningly.
"Bill, do you think someone's trying to find out if Gussy is here. Could he be in danger?"
"Don't you worry," I said patting her curls as she rocked back and forth with the cat still on her lap. It had gone to sleep.
"You won't let Gussy be kidnapped, will you Bill?"
"Try my best," I said. "I have a suspicious nature seeing Gussy's in my care and there's a lot at stake so I need to check things out from every angle."
Lucy-Ann rocked the chair some more. "I don't want anything to spoil our holiday, Bill. I've so much looked forward to being with you and Aunt Allie after being shut away at school for so long."
Somehow, Lucy-Ann calling me Bill seemed to fit in. We'd known each other for a while now and 'Bill' rather than 'Dad' sounded right. Mrs. Ellis returned with the churn and Lucy-Ann deposited her friend next to the blazing fire before following me out into the night. We bid the farmer's wife "Goodbye" and started on our way back. Lucy-Ann volunteered to hold the churn but it was too heavy and awkward for her so I took it back and put my other arm around her because it was slightly chilly. Didn't think there was any harm in passing on that I thought someone may have tracked Gussy to these parts and whilst the boy with us, he mustn't be left alone. Lucy-Ann has had enough experience with 'intrigue' to understand what I meant and after assuring her as much as I could that things would work out all right we both fell silent and enjoyed the night air under a sky full of stars. Over the tiny stream we went and into the courtyard where the lights filtering through the curtains of Quarry Cottage beckoned. Lucy-Ann pushed the door open and after I'd put the milk away there was a short discussion about what we'd learnt up at the farm. Dinah and Gussy were in bed and, as inclined as I was not to let him be alone for any period, good sense told me that no one could get up into the boys' room while we were down here, and besides, Mrs. Ellis's guests hadn't even arrived.
Lucy-Ann went into the kitchen and shortly she and Allie had produced a supper of sausage rolls, Madeira cake, and Bourn-vita. I brought the boys and Allie up to date and said there was nothing to be concerned about at present - just that a couple of boarders were coming to the farm. The boys weren't very keen upon a stipulation I made but they understood – their bedroom window must be kept locked all night. It probably wasn't necessary as Kiki would screech the place down if an intruder so much as placed a hand inside but no one knows what means a potential kidnapper might use in order to net the prey. At 22:30 I went up with the boys to check on Gussy. He was lying fast asleep all huddled up in his narrow un-prince-like bed, but looking extremely comfortable so I left him to it, checked the window catches and said 'Goodnight' to the boys. Jack shushed Kiki, who had flown onto my shoulder, just as she was about to repeat roughly what I'd said – at least I was pretty sure of it. She often flies into Lucy-Ann and Dinah's room to wish them goodnight when they're preparing for bed and, being who she is, her 'Good Nights' can be quite rowdy. Peeped into the girls' room in passing. Dinah was already asleep and Lucy-Ann insisted I tuck her up. She had on her new nightie and after I'd admired the colourful flowers imprinted round it she snuggled down, just as Allie came in. She pushed Dinah's leg back into the bed and after I'd kissed Lucy-Ann she followed suit – Lucy-Ann thrives on her 'Good Nights.'
"I'm so glad you're my parents," she said looking up at us and then gradually closing her eyes.
"She'll be off in ten seconds flat." Allie whispered to me and it certainly looked as if she was right. I switched off the bed lamp and we made our way to the master room. The cottage is set up very efficiently and has everything - the bed is large and we wanted it large. There's a small basin in the corner, an empty chest under the window and there's even a small rubber grommet embedded in the wall behind the door so the wallpaper won't be marked if someone happens to enter suddenly and pushes the door open too vigorously. Allie read some more of her thriller about 'Arthur and Dolly' which I'm waiting for her to finish because from what she's revealed so far it sounds like a good read.
She finished her chapter and lay back on the pillow just as I was completing my diary entry.
"There's a body in the library."
"No library here, and don't tell me any more. I'll be reading it myself"
"There's also a body in this bed."
"Two, no doubt"
"Two can live as cheaply as one."
"What are you talking about?"
"Dunno," she said looking up at me with her beautiful eyes.
"I dunno either my Princess!"
We switched off our lamps.
April 7th – Good Friday
Be nice if it was just a normal holiday but there'll be plenty of those to look forward to and, after all, Gussy boy's not all that much trouble seeing we could have been landed with a considerably more difficult kid to handle. It's still a holiday despite my having to be on duty almost continuously and there'll probably be a fat bonus dispensed by Tauri-Hessia's Internal Affairs Department. A fight blew up between Philip and Dinah (who else?) over their share of duties but I didn't intervene because it was firmly handled by Allie who told them that one thing we weren't going to have on our holiday was aggression of any sort. There can be arguments but physical violence was out and for a very good reason - the nearest doctor is in Bridgnorth and I couldn't be expected to supply transport unless Gussy came with us, which could be risky. I wasn't sure whether she was being serious but the two antagonists ceased eyeing each other with daggers. Philip looked as if he was about to get out his secret weapon - Snoozy, but Allie reminded them that no fights had occurred for a long time and they were getting older and more responsible and so on. Couldn't swear to it but I think they both felt a little embarrassment at being pulled up like small kids and they actually had the heart to apologize to each other. Good for them both.
I sent Philip up to the farm partly to get rid of his pet for an hour or two so that Dinah could reclaim her equilibrium but mainly so that he could bring back some description of the pending visitors. He returned with some rough detail – a young and fairly attractive woman had arrived with a partner who should be easy to discern because apart from "looking foreign," he wears a monocle. Looks like they speak our language quite well but the accent should be a giveaway, especially to Gussy. From what Philip says, the woman may have been recuperating from something hence the country holiday, or she may have been faking it. Expensive car – same one we saw yesterday. Gussy can't place the description because it's rather a vague one except for the monocle. Asked him if he knew of any friends or foes of his uncle who wore one but drew a blank, so we were still at square one - and now that we'd made our approach, the ball was in their court, but we had to remain alert.
Sure enough, halfway through the afternoon, Jack who was out in the garden saw a man and woman in the street that fitted the descriptions so he tore inside to inform us. Gussy made himself scarce when the people suddenly approached the gate and began walking down the pathway to our front door. Went and got Allie to answer the door seeing Gussy and I had to keep right out of the way, just in case. A knock came and when Allie opened it I heard the man request a drink of water for his wife who had come over faint. He spoke with a marked accent. Allie did the right thing and invited them in because it may have looked a bit odd if she told them to wait whilst she brought it out - and they looked pretty harmless as it was. Gussy was upstairs while I stayed where I was and eavesdropped as best as I could from the kitchen. Dinah came in to get some iced water and I whispered to her.
"Act this one out, but take care."
I kept behind the door while she returned to the sitting room with a tray. Heard the others come down minus the prince and then the woman screamed; seems she's not fond of parrots but Kiki didn't know that and had given her impression of a dog growling. Red lights started flashing when I heard the woman ask if we had a fifth child here. O.K, Mrs. Ellis may have mentioned it in passing but why should the woman pursue it?
"Perhaps you have a boy staying with you?"
I could almost feel the tension as Allie grappled with the question. She took the ball into their court and said "Yes" they had a friend called Gussy staying for a few days. Any doubts to their innocence were dispelled when the visitor actually asked if she could see Gussy. A person convalescing and "coming over faint" wouldn't want to see a family friend unless there was good reason. This had now placed them definitely in the 'suspicious' category and the children handled it pretty well by feigning ignorance of Gussy's whereabouts and suggesting he might be "messing about" somewhere outside. The visitors could hardly have demanded to see the boy but the man suggested they might spot him when they continue on to the farm. Just before they left I heard Allie exclaiming loudly and wondered what was happening. When I rejoined them she told me the man had offered some money for their kindness.
"Your Ladyship jokes, surely?"
"No, seriously. Couldn't accept it though."
Seeing such an amount would have filled their sweet quota for several weeks I asked Allie what the kids' reaction had been and she laughed.
"Disappointment reigned initially but their better sides showed through. They realized it wouldn't have been right to pocket the money, especially after they were reminded it could easily belong to people who want the prince done away with."
"That's more than likely," I mused.
"Another thing," Allie volunteered. "Jack happened to ask the man which country he came from and he said Italy."
"As they were leaving I called out to them in Italian and neither of them seemed to understand."
That was of interest.
"What did you say?"
Allie looked up at me brightly.
"Oh, I just asked him to be sure and give my best wishes to the Mrs. Ellis."
"He didn't understand?"
My leanings were toward their presence here being nothing more than a 'cover' and it didn't bode too well for young Gussy especially as it appears they've lied as to their country of origin. It had been a moment of inspiration on Allie's part to call the man's bluff when he'd mentioned they were from Italy.
"My troupe is coming on very well,"
Allie slipped her arm in mine and suggested I apply to have them added to the payroll.
"Could possibly do that," I said. "You've done admirably but a little more evidence is required."
That came when we hauled Gussy out of hiding and listened to him telling us that he knew the woman. None other that the wife of his country's Prime Minister had visited our humble little cottage. My briefing had simply included the name Tatiosa but no pictures had been forthcoming and now here was Gussy informing us he knew of her and that she is a clever, cruel woman who was once a spy and quite a ruthless 'controller.' So that's it - two agents are threatening Gussy and they're probably geared to do something dastardly; I thought this was a good enough reason to whisk Gussy out of harm's way but was glad to fall in line with a suggestion that we just keep a good look out for the presence of any other strangers - and the boys have volunteered to keep an eye on the farm to monitor the traffic. That sounded all right because it means we can continue in holiday mode provided we keep our eyes wide open. Although the visitors hadn't seen Gussy it's 100 to 1 they've asked for, and received, a photograph and description of the boy. His long dark hair is a giveaway in itself.
The kids went out for the afternoon – Jack to keep watch on the farm, and the rest on a picnic with strict instructions not to go anywhere near where the farm was and to keep a close watch for strangers. While Allie went to sort some clothing and familiarize herself with the converted dairy that served as a washhouse, I tidied up a few things in the study. Rang through to HQ and got Dennis to put me on to Del which he did after I'd filled him in on the current state of my life. He wished us well and a few seconds later Del's voice came through. He sounded pleased to hear from me and after we'd exchanged news (his daughter's getting engaged soon and we'll receive an invitation if we're handy), I asked him for any News from the Front. He went away and came back with some papers which he rifled through and then read out a few facts hot off the press – Gussy's uncle is still facing threats from unknown persons and a name had come up. Eugene from the Intelligence Service who's working near the area has recognized a title he'd seen when reading through an older report that dealt with potential troublemakers.
Del read out a few selected items and then described the man as more-or-less equivalent to an 'Earl' in our language.
"If you ever meet up with him and want to ingratiate yourself," said Del, " ... address him as 'Count,' if you're speaking English that is. Should do the trick."
I told him about the couple who'd called on us and who the woman was according to Gussy. Del whistled and said it's more than likely she was with Paritolen seeing he's the one who'll profit most; obviously he's running out of time and is taking a more personal part in the conspiracy. Keep an eye out, Bill."
"Don't you worry about that, Del," I said. "We'll keep Gussy firmly in our gun sights."
"Sorry, it's a nickname. We're talking the prince."
Del chuckled and said, "'You'd better not let the peasants hear you calling Al 'Gussy."
"Or you calling the future king of Tauri-Hessia Al," I said, and with a "Touche" the conversation was brought to an end. I put down the receiver and thought for a few minutes. Couldn't quite figure out their game ... a kidnapping seemed the only solution as to why the Tatiosa woman was here with the 'Count.' A Count is not your run-of-the-mill hoodlum so there must be a good reason for his presence and if it'd been earlier I could have rung round the airlines and asked for some flight details. That meant going through channels though and it would have taken time to collar Matt and anyway, I think it's his day off. Leave it till tomorrow although we mightn't need to go in that direction. Got down to some writing. (17:20)
When I descended to the living room later on, Philip, Gussy, and the girls had returned and roped Allie in for a board game so I left them and thinking I'd better familiarize myself with any available titbit of news available that may concern Gussy's kingdom, I drove into Much Wenlock to see what was available in the newspaper department and found three. Called into the local for a beer and struck up a conversation with someone from the village who happened to have noticed a "posh black car" cruising the highways between here and Brockton. I asked him when he'd first spotted it and he told me the car had been seen in Smithfield Road on Monday. He described the vehicle pretty well and it confirmed the visitors had been around longer than we thought – they were probably making enquiries but I'd like to know what intelligence sources they're using that led them to our neck of the woods.
The foreigners haven't shown themselves according to Jack who arrived back from the farm just after I returned to the cottage – he actually saw my car shoot past as he came out of the side street, too late to hitch a ride.
"Couldn't be bothered to stop and pick me up," he said but I saw him winking at the others.
"Didn't see you."
'If you're going 40 miles per hour down the main road you're looking everywhere - right, left, and centre in case there's a cop about!" Jack told me.
"I wasn't speeding - well not much, and I truly didn't see you."
Kiki had to fly to the defence of her beloved master. She landed on my shoulder screaming -
"NAUGHTY BILL! NAUGHTY BOY! POP GOES BILL."
"You can't win an argument with Jack ... he's got friends," said my sweet wife coming into the room with Dinah who was carrying a scrumptious looking salad. Lucy-Ann brought in a supply of cold ham and both girls fended away hands that were reaching for the tucker.
"You have to wait - this is the cold stuff so just hold on. Hot rolls are on their way."
The boys are never-endingly hungry and I'm curious as to whether the change of environment brings it on. Might well be the case because even my hunger pangs seem to arrive more frequently, but I couldn't care less ... not when we're on holiday. It was an enjoyable supper and after the girls had done the dishes and all the youngsters had retired to their rooms, Allie and I relaxed in the comfortable sitting room and thought we'd listen to the news before going upstairs.
New York's City's rainmaker gets $100 a day!! Now why would they mention that? Still it was more interesting than the government's continual bleating about 'ruthless communists.' Just before 10:00 we heard a slight noise coming from the hallway. I went out to see if perhaps one of the children had come down but the passage was empty - the tapping was coming from the front door. Wondering who on earth would want to be visiting at this hour and thinking suddenly of the prince, I went to the entrance and asked who it was. A voice spoke; it was someone from the farm so I unlatched the door and upon opening it a frail-looking figure came into view. Couldn't see her face properly but I assumed it was Mrs. Ellis's kitchen help Alice, and she had disturbing news – old aunt Naomi had seemingly fallen and broken something. Apparently the farmer knows nothing about first aid and they'd thought of us. I invited her in but she said she had to get back and after assuring her I'd get Allie to come over, she disappeared.
Went back into the sitting room and relayed the bad news to Allie who got up straight away to gather some first aid things from the bathroom cupboard. I went and got our coats with the intention of delivering her and coming straight back. Didn't have the heart to wake up the kids and bundle them into the car but we wouldn't be away any longer than twenty minutes - if that. We were hardly likely to have a burglar visit the cottage during that short spell and depending on what the damage was, Allie could either stay the night or perhaps Mr. Ellis could bring her back. Allie agreed and after a check upstairs where all were sleeping like babes we made our way out into the yard and, keeping as quiet as possible, we shut the door and walked across the cobbles and down to the road. I suppose we could have taken the car but the farm's only about ½ a mile down the road and starting up the motor would have woken not only the children but probably anyone else seeing there were no lights on anywhere. Beautiful night with a full moon flooding the fields and it would have been an enjoyable walk for the two of us if we hadn't both been thinking of poor Naomi's plight. Could only hope that it wasn't serious seeing she was so elderly.
Went up the lane and towards the farm and then, just as we walked past some trees, disaster struck in the form of an ambush. There was no chance for me to do anything when three men suddenly jumped on my back and wrestled me to the ground. I tasted earth but my first thought was for Allie. I struggled like anything to see what had happened to her and managed to make out the figure of a fourth attacker who had seized her arms and was trying to stop her from screaming. Too late! I hadn't realized just how desperate the prince's enemies were to lay their hands on him – my reckoning had been that it would take the foreigners several days to plan their moves carefully because they couldn't afford to make a mistake. No intelligence had been relayed from Whitehall so I had felt we were safe to simply lay low and keep an eye on the farm occupants.
The men were burly but I've fought burly men before and when I succeeded in knocking one to the ground, I was bashed on the head with an implement by one of the others. I was almost knocked out and whilst recovering, someone wrapped a piece of cloth tightly round my head and tied both hands and feet. The same happened to poor Allie who'd ceased struggling when she saw me do the same; in the heat of the moment, I decided the best tactic was to go along with whatever they were doing and then hope they'd leave us alone when they went to seize Gussy. I was sure they were about to take the prince and could only hope they'd not leave anyone to guard us because I'd followed the instructions drummed into us by Rex Hartley when he took our unit for a refresher course last year. I had tensed my arms and turned my hands inwards thus expanding my wrists very slightly as magicians do when someone binds them up "... and that makes a lot of difference in the scheme of things," Rex had reiterated. He was right ... I could feel slack in the ropes.
One of the assailants began dragging Allie through the gap they'd come out of and I saw red. Forgetting my intentions I tore myself away from the restraining hands and threw myself at the ruffian but with tied hands there was little to be done. I felt a blow on my head and after dropping to the ground Allie and I were both manhandled along to a roughly built haystack and thrown against it. I got close to Allie who was quite stunned by the sudden attack and near to tears as I whispered some words of encouragement.
"Don't worry darling. It's not us ... we're just in the way. It's the prince ... "
The bearded one who was biggest of the bunch and seemingly in charge suddenly leaned down and went through my pockets. Thank God I had the key and not Allie – I couldn't stomach the thought of this character running his hands over her. He stood up and recited a few words in rather broken English to the effect that they didn't want to harm us but the prince must be returned to his country and after a few unintelligible words had passed amongst them it seemed we were no longer of interest. One moment they were there and the next they were gone. Shortly we heard a car starting up further down the road and we listened as it purred off into the night.
"I'll have us free in a minute or two Allie, just relax."
The cloth had slipped down from my face so that was no problem, but there was definitely trouble with the ropes. No doubt about it - the man who'd trussed us was an expert and my escape plans went haywire; somehow he'd managed to weave the rope in such a way that Allie and I were partly joined so the moment I tried to work it round my wrists, the tension passed to Allie's wrists and when she cried out I stopped very abruptly. Poor Allie. She told me to try again - she could take it, but I wasn't going to especially as I knew there'd be considerably more pressure to endure. We'd just have to stay there until someone passed when it got light. At least we were near the road.
We huddled together and, making ourselves as comfortable as possible, we waited and discussed the gloomy prospects. What a mess. Spent a few moments berating myself then decided it was pointless because what had happened was not to be mollified by recriminations over leaving the children by themselves. The woman was obviously in on the act – Tatiosa! I wondered about what would have happened had we still been at the cottage and thought it possible they would have knocked on the door, forced their way in and held us at bay with a gun while the kidnapping took place. Couldn't imagine in my wildest dreams that they weren't prepared to do this because these agents entrusted with such a mission would have planned everything down to the very last detail.
The only glimmer of hope lay in the kids' prowess for handling difficult situations but try as we might, it was impossible to think how the plot could be foiled. The rogues weren't going to let a bunch of children foil their plan so what would happen? Break in, search upstairs, find the sleeping occupants, hold everyone at bay, take Gussy and disappear. I couldn't put my arm around Allie when the scenario was spelt out so, hearing her give a sob, we snuggled as close as possible and just lay there before falling into a doze – at least I think we did because after a time I became aware it was getting light. A few curious cows that'd wandered up to look at us started nibbling at the hay near where we both sat. Allie suddenly moved and then groaned as she tried to sit up while I shifted as much as possible to make it easier for her. We were both cold and damp and then we saw a wonderful sight – just as the sun was becoming visible a figure could be seen shuffling along the lane in the direction of Quarry Cottage and what a blessing ... it was none other than Emily.