Mystery #03 — The Mystery of the Secret Room

Mystery03 — The Mystery of the Secret Room—Blyton, Enid.

Home from School

Pip set out his painting things, poked the playroom fire, and sat down to finish his Christmas cards.

“You do them nicely, Pip,” said Bets, looking over his shoulder. “I wish I could keep inside the lines like you do.”

“You’re only little yet,” said Pip, beginning to paint red berries on his card.

“Well, I’ve had another birthday, and I’m nine now,” said Bets. “I’m getting bigger. You’re still twelve, Pip, so I’m only three years behind you now.”

“When are the others coming?” asked Pip, looking at the clock. “I told them to come early. It’s fun to do our Christmas presents together.”

Bets went to the window of their big playroom. “Here come Larry and Daisy,” she said. “Oh, Pip, isn’t it fun to be altogether again?”

Bets didn’t go to boarding-school as the others did, and she often felt lonely in term-time, when her brother Pip was away, and their three friends, Larry and Daisy Daykin, and Fatty Trotteville.

But now it was Christmas holidays and they were all home. Bets felt very happy. She had her brother again, and Christmas was coming - and darling Buster, Fatty’s dog, would come to see her every single day.

Larry and Daisy came up the stairs to the playroom. “Hallo!” said Larry. “Finished your cards yet? I’ve still got three to do, and Daisy’s got a present to finish. We brought them along.”

“Good,” said Pip, putting his paintbrush into his mouth to give it a nice point. “There’s plenty of room at the table. Fatty’s not here yet.”

A loud barking outside sent Bets to the window again. “It’s Buster - and Fatty,” she said. “Oh, good! Fatty looks plumper than ever!”

In half a minute Fatty and Buster were in the playroom, Fatty looking very sleek and pleased with himself, and Buster bursting with excitement. He flew at everyone and licked them thoroughly.

“Hallo, Buster dear!” said Bets. “Oh, Fatty, Buster’s got thin and you’ve got fat.”

“Well, Fatty won’t be any thinner after Christmas,” said Larry, settling down at the table. “Brought some cards to finish, Fatty? I’ve just about worked down my list.”

Larry and Daisy were brother and sister. Fatty was an only child, always rather pleased with himself, and Buster was his faithful companion. The five and Buster were firm friends.

Fatty put down a fat book on the table, and a very fine Christmas card, which he had done himself. Bets pounced on it at once.

“Fatty! What a beauty! Surely you didn’t do this yourself? Gracious, it’s as good as any you can find in a shop.”

“Oh, well,” said Fatty, looking pleased, “I’m not bad at art, you know. I was top again this term, and the art master said -”

“Shut up,” said Pip, Larry and Daisy together. Fatty did so love to boast about his cleverness. They wouldn’t let him if they could help it.

“All right, all right,” said Fatty, looking injured. “Always biting my head off! I’ve a good mind not to tell you who the card is for?”

“For your flattering art master, I suppose,” said Pip, painting a holly leaf carefully.

Fatty kept silence. Bets looked at him. “Tell me who it’s for,” she said. “I want to know. I think it’s lovely.”

“Well, as a matter of fact, I meant this card and this book to go to a friend of ours from all of us!” said Fatty. “But seeing that only Bets admires the card, I’ll just send it from myself.”

The others looked up. “Who’s it for then?” asked Daisy. She picked it up. “It’s jolly good. Are these five children meant to be us? And is this Buster?”

“Yes,” said Fatty. “Can’t you guess who the card is for? It’s for Inspector Jenks.”

“Oh! What a good idea!” said Bets. “Is the book for him, too? What is it?”

She picked it up and opened it. It was a book about fishing.

“That’s a fine idea, Fatty,” said Larry. “The Inspector is mad on fishing. He’ll be thrilled with the book and the card. Do send them from all of us. They’re fine.”

“I meant to,” said Fatty. “We can share the price of the book between us, and we can each write our name on the card. See what I’ve put inside it.”

He flicked it open, and the children bent to see what he had printed there, in beautiful, neat letters:


“That’s fine,” said Pip. “Golly, we’ve had some fun, haven’t we, being the Find-Outers? I hope we’ll have some more mysteries to solve.”

“We’ve solved the Mystery of the Burnt Cottage and the Mystery of the Disappearing Cat,” said Daisy. “I wonder what our next mystery will be. Do you think we shall have a mystery these hols?”

“Shouldn’t be surprised,” said Fatty. “Any one seen old Clear-Orf yet?”

Clear-Orf was the village policeman Mr. Goon, detested by the children. He in turn detested them, especially as twice they had managed to solve problems before he himself had.

No one had seen Mr. Goon. Nobody particularly wanted to. He was not an amiable person at all, with his fat red face and bulging frog-eyes.

“We’d better all sign this card,” said Fatty, producing a very fine fountain pen. Fatty always had the best of everything, and far too much pocket-money. However, he was always willing to share this, so nobody minded.

“Eldest first,” said Fatty, so Larry took the pen. He was thirteen. He signed his name neatly, “Laurence Daykin.”

“I’m next,” said Fatty. “I’m thirteen next week. You’re not thirteen until the New Year, Pip.”

He signed his name, “Frederick Algernon Trotteville.”

“I bet you never sign your full initials, Fatty,” said Pip, taking the pen next - “ ‘F.A.T.’ ”

“Well, I don’t,” said Fatty. “You wouldn’t either, if you had my initials and were fat. It would be just asking for trouble.”

Pip signed his name, “Philip Hilton.” Then Daisy signed hers, “Margaret Daykin.”

“Now you, little Bets,” said Fatty, handing her the pen. “Best writing, please.”

Sticking her tongue well out, Bets signed her full name in rather straggling writing, “Elizabeth Hilton,” but after it she wrote, “Bets.”

“Just in case he forgets that Elizabeth is me,” she explained.

“He wouldn’t,” said Fatty. “I bet he never forgets a thing. He’s very clever. You aren’t made an inspector of police unless you’ve got brains. We’re lucky to have him for our friend.”

They were - but the Inspector liked and admired the Five Find-Outers too. They had been of great help to him in two difficult cases.

“I hope we can be Find-Outers again,” said Bets.

“I think we ought to find a better name,” said Fatty, putting the cap back on his fountain-pen. “It’s a silly name, I think - the Find-Outers. Nobody would know that we were first-class detectives.”

“Well,we’re not,” said Larry. “We’re not really detectives at all, though we like to think we are. The name we have is just right - we’re only children who find out things.”

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