Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 9


 The Secret Room

  “Where?” asked Gogs eagerly.

“If Bunny’s father is willing, we can put it underneath his new shed.”

The others looked momentarily mystified. Smudgie broke the silence: “Underneath?”

“But we can’t Titch,” said Bunny. “There’ll only be a space of one or two inches underneath. We couldn’t possibly get under there.”

“No, not with the earth there,” answered Titch. “But we could dig a room underneath . . . that is if your Dad will let us.”

The frowns on the faces of the other four changed to smiles of delight as they finally understood Titch’s plan.

“Wick . . .ed!” shouted Miff.

“Brilliant idea!” yelled Gogs as he jumped up and waved his fist in circles above his head now that his curiosity had finally been satisfied.

“Sit down Gogs!” ordered Titch as he turned to a page in his volume marked with a slip of paper. “Look, it tells you exactly how to do it in this book.”

The others gathered round eagerly as Titch pointed to a series of sketches and diagrams, and read out the instructions.

“Excellent idea Titch,” said Bunny. “It says the underground room must be dug before the shed is put up. Mmmmmm, I wonder whether my Dad would let us do it. We’ll have to get moving pretty fast because the shed is being put up on Monday.”

“Is your father in now?” asked Titch.

“Yes, he hadn’t finished his coffee when I came out,” Bunny replied.

“Go and ask him now,” urged Gogs.

“OK,” agreed Bunny. “Oh, there’s just one thing though, suppose he asks why we want a room underneath the shed? What’ll I say Titch?”

“Er. . . tell him we have a kind of club or something. After all it is a kind of club.”

“Right, I’ll see what he says,” and with that Bunny disappeared along the path and up the drive to the house.

The other three examined the instructions in Titch’s book.

“How are we going to get down into the room with a shed on top of it Titch?” asked Smudgie.

“It tells you here,” Titch replied indicating one of the diagrams. “We must have a small passage which ends outside the side of the shed. On top of this you put a trap door sunk an inch or two into the ground. It’s kept up by being a bit bigger than the passage.”

“Oh, I see,” said Smudgie. “Yes . . . it says you can even walk on it.”

“Look out!” cried Miff who had looked through the greenhouse doorway. “Here’s Bunny and his Dad’s with him.”

The others stood up to see.

“Oh dear!” groaned Smudgie. “I bet Bunny’s put his foot in it.”

“I hope he hasn’t spoilt everything,” said Titch apprehensively.

“Well, at any rate he’s smiling,” said Gogs hopefully.

Mr Francis and Bunny came along the path to the greenhouse. The four boys went outside to meet them.

“Hello lads!” said Mr Francis smiling. What’s all this about? Bernard’s just been telling me you want to dig a hole under my new shed.”

“Well, you see Mr Francis,” began Titch, “we have a sort of club . . . just the five of us . . . and we thought it would be nice to have a room to meet in; one of our own I mean.”

Mr Francis looked at the vacant ground prepared for the shed. “Er . . . tell me,” he asked, “how do you propose to get into this hole when the shed is on top of it?”

Titch explained about the trap door. At this Mr Francis looked doubtful.

“Mmmm . . . doesn’t sound very safe to me. Can’t say I like that part,” he said.

The five boys looked glum, and Gogs’ face wore the expression of someone who’s just been sentenced to death.

“It’’l be all right, honest Dad,” pleaded Bunny.

“Oh, you might think so,” returned his father, but if it wasn’t safe and one of you should get hurt, I’d feel responsible.”

“But it says in the book that it’s quite safe,” put in Titch.

At this Mr Francis seemed more interested. “Book? What book’s that Roger?”

Titch, seeing a ray of hope, handed his book to Mr Francis and indicated the diagrams and instructions. At length he said, “Oh . . . so this is where the idea came from. Well, I must say it seems safe enough in here. Do you think you could manage to do it properly?”

The boys assured him in unison of their undoubted ability in this direction. Mr Francis, once again, looked at the plot of ground and rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

“Yes, all right. You go ahead and dig the hole, but, remember, I want to inspect it before the shed goes on top of it. I want to be absolutely certain.”

“Oh, thanks Dad!” cried Bunny amidst a chorus of gratitude from his friends. Mr Francis turned to go.

“That’s all right lads. Come to think of it, it’s the sort of thing I’d have liked when I was a boy. By the way, you’ll have to work jolly hard. I want the shed up on Monday.”

“We’ll manage it,” answered Titch. Then, turning to his friends he said, “We’ve only got today to do it. Come on boys, let’s start now.

Never before in their lives had the five members of the Pontyrabad Secret society moved so fast and worked so hard in one day. Ordered by their Chief, Titch, the boys had run quickly home to their various houses to bring back any tools which they thought might be useful for digging their underground room.

Twenty minutes after dispersing, they were reassembled in front of the shed plot regarding the weapons with which they were going to make their assault. Altogether they had assembled between them two shovels, one spade, an old pick, a large stone hammer, three small ones, two iron bars and one garden fork. Titch had also brought a tape measure. He took this out of his pocket and spoke to Bunny.

“Do you know how big the shed is going to be Bunny?”

“Yes, my Dad said it will be five metres long and three metres wide.”

“Doesn’t look that big,” said Gogs doubtfully, looking at the pegged out rectangle of earth.

“Foundations never do look as big as the building,” said Titch. “Five by three,” he mused looking at the diagrams in his book. “Mmm . . . let’s see . . . yes. . . mmm. I think we can dig a hole about two and a half metres long and one and a half metres wide. That means the passage leading to the room will be about one and a half metres by a bit over half a metre.”

“Can we start now Titch?” asked Gogs who was becoming rather impatient with Titch’s preliminary calculations.

“Yes, as soon as we’ve marked it out,” Titch replied.

With the aid of some long bamboo canes, a piece of string and Titch’s tape measure, they marked out the rectangle.

“Right boys,” said Titch taking off his coat. “We can’t all dig at the same time, so we’ll have to relieve one another in turns. One of us will have to carry the earth away in buckets or the wheelbarrow and scatter it over other parts of the garden.”

“Oh, where’d we better put it I wonder?” queried Bunny. “I’ll ask my Dad before he goes out.”

“Bags me first to dig,” shouted Gogs.

“And me!” echoed Miff and Smudgie together.

“All right,” said Titch. “You start with the shovels and spade. When Bunny comes back he can help me to mark out the passage.”

Luckily the boys were able to dig down a good way before coming to clay. From then on it was harder going and the pick was in constant use. But despite this they had soon dug a hole half a metre deep, and Titch and Bunny were kept busy distributing earth over certain obscure parts of the garden as instructed by Bunny’s Dad. From time to time they all changed jobs.

They worked on and on gamely, all perspiring freely in the warm sun, until stopped by Titch.

The boys worked on gamely digging their hole

    “O.K. boys. Let’s knock off now,” he panted throwing up a final shovelful of earth.

The others, although game, welcomed this rest.

“How’s the time Bunny?” asked Titch.

“Quarter past five.”

“Teatime!” cried Miff. “Come to think of it, I’m feeling pretty hungry.”

“Me too!” agreed Smudgie wiping a grubby forehead with the back of an even grubbier hand.

“Yes, we’d better go home for tea now,” agreed Titch. “We’ll measure the depth and then go,” he said jumping into the hole with his tape measure. “That’s a fair bit over a metre he announced. That’s good. Well done boys.”

“That’s good going,” added Bunny.

They all hurried home for tea and rushed through that meal as never before. Their haste invited many enquiries from older brothers and sisters and even grownups, but all these were casually evaded.

Gogs’ mother looked rather worriedly after him as he dashed down the garden path after refusing a second cream puff. Her son had never been known to do such a thing before, and she wondered whether he was sickening for something.

Forty-five minutes after leaving Bunny’s garden the four were re-entering the gate and, on looking in the direction of the hole, they noticed that Bunny was already at work with the pick. The others joined in and worked hard for well over two hours until stopped again by Titch.

“Hang on a bit boys. I think we might have gone down deep enough in that one corner.” He took out his tape measure to check. “Not far short of two metres. That should be plenty deep enough. We’ll level off the bottom and smooth the walls and passage and we’ll be finished.”

By the time they had finished doing that, darkness was closing in fast. Titch put the finishing touches to the four steps he had cut in the clay at the entrance to the passage, then called on the others to walk up them to try them out.

This they did, then the five diggers stood around the edge of their newly dug headquarters, perspiring, tired, but very proud of their day’s work.

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