“You’re right, Bets. That’s a good point,” said Fatty. “That’s why I wanted to be locked into a boxroom, and not in the playroom downstairs.”

The others were so thrilled with this new trick that they wanted to try it themselves.

“All right,” said Fatty. “It will be good practice. You simply never know when you might be locked up somewhere. Each of you do it in turn.”

So, much to Mrs. Hilton’s surprise, the five children and Buster spent the whole afternoon apparently doing nothing but walk in and out of the cold boxroom, to the accompaniment of squeals and giggles.

“Jolly good, Find-Outers,” said Fatty, when even Bets could escape from the locked room quite easily. “Jolly good. Now tomorrow I’ll go up to London and get some disguises. Look out for some fun the day after!”


A Very Queer Boy


Next day was Fatty’s birthday. He was always sorry it came so near Christmas, because it meant that many people gave him a Christmas and birthday present in one.

“It’s bad luck, Fatty,” said Daisy. “But never mind, we won’t do that. We’ll give you proper birthday presents as well as Christmas presents.”

So, early after breakfast, Pip, Bets, Daisy, and Larry walked up to Fatty’s house to give him the presents they had got for him.

“We’d better go early, because Fatty said he was going up to London to buy those disguises,” said Daisy.

“Yes, by himself,” said Bets. “He’s awfully grown-up, isn’t he?”

“I bet he won’t be allowed to go up by himself,” said Pip.

Fatty and Buster were delighted to see them. “I’m so glad you’ve come,” said Fatty, “because I wanted to ask you if you’d mind looking after Buster for me whilst I go to London. I’m catching the eleven forty-three.”

“Are you really?” said Pip. “All alone?”

“Well, as a matter of fact, Mother is coming with me,” said Fatty. “She’s got it into her head that as I don’t want a party I’d better have some sort of treat. So we’re going to some show or other. But I shall slip off and buy the things I want all right!”

“I’m sorry you won’t be with us on your birthday, Fatty,” said Bets. “But I hope you’ll have a lovely time. Will you come and see us tomorrow and show us all you’ve got?”

“I may not be able to come down tomorrow,” said Fatty. “I may have two or three friends here - people you don’t know. But I’ll come as soon as I can.”

He was very pleased with his presents, especially with Bets’ gift. She had actually managed to knit him a brown and red tie, and Fatty at once put it on. Bets felt proud to think he was going up to London wearing her tie.

“Freddie! Are you ready?” called his mother. “We mustn’t miss the train!”

“Coming, Mother!” sang out Fatty. He took down his money-box and hurriedly emptied all his money into his pockets. The others gaped to see so much - there seemed to be sheaves of ten-shilling and pound notes.

“My aunts and uncles were only too glad to give me money instead of having the bother of buying me presents,” said Fatty, with a grin. “Don’t tell Mother I’ve got so much on me. She’d have a blue fit.”

“Would she really?” said Bets, wishing she could see Mrs. Trotteville in a blue fit. “Oh, Fatty - don’t get your money stolen, will you?”

“No detective would be such an idiot as that,” said Fatty scornfully. “Don’t you worry - the only person to take money out of my pocket is myself! Now, Buster, do be a good dog today. Come home tonight by yourself.”

“Woof!” said Buster politely. He always seemed to understand what was said to him.

“Have you left that invisibly written letter at Mr. Goon’s house yet?” asked Bets, with a giggle.

“No. I thought I’d send one of my friends down tomorrow with it,” said Fatty, grinning. “I didn’t want old Goon to see me. All right, all right, Mother. I’m just coming. I don’t mind if I do have to run all the way! Good-bye, Buster. Hold him, Bets, or he’ll tear after me all down the road to the station.”

Bets held Buster, who wriggled and struggled wildly, barking desperately. He couldn’t bear Fatty to go anywhere without him. Fatty disappeared after his mother, trotting down the drive like a fast pony.

“I hope Fatty will be able to get the things he wants,” said Pip. “It would be such fun to wear disguises.”

They went home with Buster, who at first looked very aggrieved and kept his tail down. But on being presented with a perfect giant of a bone by Bets he decided to get his wag back. After all, when Fatty went away he always came back again. It was just a question of waiting for him. Buster was prepared to wait, if he could while away the time with such a marvellous bone.

“It’s a pity old Fatty won’t be down for a day or two,” said Larry. “I hope his friends don’t stay long. He didn’t tell us who they were.”

“Some of his school friends, I expect,” said Pip. “Well, he’ll be down in two or three days’ time, and then we’ll have gorgeous fun looking at his disguises.”

Buster went home by himself that night, trotting down the drive like a good little dog. He took the remains of the bone with him. He wasn’t going to leave it for Pip’s kitchen cat to finish!

Next day Larry and Daisy came down to play with Pip and Bets. Their playroom was so big and cheerful that it made a nice meeting-place. Bets sat on the window-seat, reading.

She heard the click of the gate down the drive and waited to see who was coming. Perhaps it was Fatty after all. But it wasn’t. It was a queer-looking boy with a limp, a pale, sallow face, and curly hair that stuck out from under a rather foreign-looking cap.

He carried a note in his hand. Bets supposed it must be for her mother. She wondered who the boy was.

She heard the front door open below. Then evidently the maid showed the boy into the sitting-room, where Mrs. Hilton was. Bets waited for him to come out into the drive again.

“There’s a funny-looking boy come with a note,” she said to the others. “He must be seeing Mother. Do watch him come out again.”

They went to the window to watch. But suddenly the playroom door was opened, and in came Mrs. Hilton, followed by the boy, who appeared to be very shy.

He hung back, and twisted his cap round and round in his hands and hung his head. His hair was as curly as Bets’ was, but his face was very pale. He had jutting-out teeth like a rabbit, and they stuck out over his lower lip.

“Children, this is a friend of Frederick’s,” said Mrs. Hilton. “He brought me a note from Mrs. Trotteville, and I thought you might like to ask him in for a few minutes. He would like to see your things, I’m sure. He’s French, and doesn’t seem to understand much English. But still, as Pip was top of his form in French last term, I expect he can talk to him all right.”

The boy hung back. Pip went forward and held out his hand. The boy took it and gave it a limp shake.

“Comment allez-vous?” he said.

“That means, ‘How do you do,’ Bets,” explained Larry.

“Tres bien, merci,” said Pip, feeling that he must say something to justify his mother’s pride in his French. But it was one thing to write French sentences in school, when you could look up every single word, and quite another to say something ordinary. For the life of him Pip couldn’t think of a single thing to say in French.

Bets was sorry for the boy. She went forward and took his hand. “Don’t be shy,” she said. “Why didn’t Fatty come with you?”

“Je ne comprends pas,” said the boy, in a rather silly, high voice.

“That means he doesn’t understand,” said Pip to Bets. “Let me try now!” He cleared his throat, thought hard, and addressed the boy.

“Ou est Fatty - er, Frederick, I mean.”

“Je ne comprends pas,” said the boy again, and twisted his cap round and round furiously.

“Golly! he doesn’t even understand his own language,” said Pip, in disgust. “I wonder what his name is. I’ll ask

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