Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 10

   CHAPTER 10

 KEEPING WATCH

On the day Mr Francis’s shed was to be erected, Bunny was told not to bring his friends around as they might get in the way of the workers. They had no objection to this arrangement as it meant that the roof of their new headquarters was being put in place. They therefore decided to go up to the old tower where there was always room to kick a ball around.

One of their favourite games was scoring goals through the doorway of the tower while one of them acted as goalie standing just outside the door. Much to their disappointment, as they arrived at the door they saw Louis sitting inside, painting at his easel.

“Sorry Louis!” they chorused as they were about to enter. “Didn’t know you were painting in here.”

“Is all right,” muttered the artist. “I finish soon, then I go home.”

“We can’t kick for goals with him in there,” muttered Miff as they walked further along the ridge.

“Let’s go down to the shell house,” suggested Smudgie. “We can put our coats down as the goal and kick against one of the walls.”

The others agreed that this was a good idea so they walked down the path along the side of the hill. As the shell house was only open to the public at weekends there was no one there to interrupt their play. They each took it in turn to be goalie and kept a score of who kept out the most goals. After well over an hour, feeling slightly tired, they sat down on the grass to chat. Titch looked idly up towards the tower.

“No sign of Louis finishing his painting yet,” he said wearily.

“I finish soon, he told us,” said Gogs trying to imitate the French accent of the artist.

“Perhaps ‘soon’ to old Louis means a couple of hours,” laughed Miff.

“Tell you what,” suggested Titch, “let’s go back up to the ridge and have some races across the top.”

“Good idea!” they all agreed.

When they were on their feet Titch said: “O.K. now get in line. Last one to touch the old tower is in goal when Louis is gone. Right! Go!”

They all dashed up the hill arriving at the tower in quick succession but with Gogs slightly ahead. After slapping his hand against the tower he peered inside and then turned to look around.

“Where’s Louis gone?”

The others peered through the doorway. “Strange!” said Titch. “He said he was going home. We didn’t see him walking down the hill and he certainly didn’t come down the path past the shell house.”

“Doesn’t matter,” added Bunny. “We can use the door of the tower as goal now.”

After another session each as goalkeeper, they decided they’d had enough and sauntered down the hill back home. As they neared the bottom, Miff, who was in the lead, stopped in his tracks.

“Look! There’s old Louis coming from the abbey,” he cried.

The others stopped in surprise. “P’raps he’s been doing a painting of the old abbey ruins,” suggested Gogs.

“He really does flit about,” added Miff.

“Anyway,” said Titch, changing the subject. “How about a game of cricket on the common after dinner?”

“Great!” enthused Gogs.

“Two o’clock on the common?” suggested Titch.

“Right!” they all agreed.

*     *     *     *     *

Bunny was last to arrive for their cricket practice but was smiling broadly as he approached the others. “Hey boys! Good news! The men erecting Dad’s shed say they will have it finished by 4-o-clock, so if we cut our practice short we can go to my place before we go home to tea and see our new secret room.”

The others shouted their approval of this news and Gogs clapped his hands excitedly. “Great!” he yelled.

It was not uncommon for the boys to arrive home late for tea after their cricket matches, but today was an exception. Just after half-past three, Bunny suggested that they finish and go along to his house to see whether the new shed was in place. When they arrived they walked around the house into the garden at the rear. They were delighted to see the bright new shed entirely covering the large hole they had dug. All that was visible of it was just over a metre of the passage showing at the side of the shed.

“Come on in boys,” said Bunny leading them into the new building. “I’ve got something to show you.” He led the way to a corner at the back of the shed and held up a rectangle of wood made of two planks battened together underneath.

“What’s that for?” asked the puzzled Gogs

“Trap door to fit over our passage entrance,” replied Bunny triumphantly. “One of the men who put the shed up made it for me dinner time.”

“Good old Bunny!” exclaimed Titch. “Will it fit?”

“Yep! Come outside and I’ll show you.” He led the way to the side of the shed and placed the square of wood over the entrance to the passage. The workman had recessed the edges of the hole a few centimetres so that the wood was a perfect fit. The top was exactly level with the ground.

“Wow! That’s smashing!” gasped Miff as Bunny walked to and fro over the wood to demonstrate its strength.

“Great work!” agreed Smudgie.

“Come on boys. Let’s go down inside our new headquarters,” suggested Titch. The others needed no second bidding and a minute or two later all five members of the Pontyrabad Secret Society were standing in the semi-darkness of their underground room, blinking as their eyes grew accustomed to the dim light.

“The only trouble with it,” stated Bunny, “is that it’s a bit dark. The only light is coming from the gap at the side of the shed.” Although their eyes were by now becoming a little more accustomed to the gloom, the others were forced to agree.

“Yes, and we’ll need a few things to sit on,” added Smudgie.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” said Bunny, “I’ve collected a few boxes and things and a camp stool from the house and my Dad says we can keep them down here. If a few of us go and get them we can hand them down now.”

While collecting their crude furniture, Bunny asked his father whether there was any way they could put some light in the room. His father took him into the garage and they emerged with an old paraffin lamp. It was dirty but in good condition and there was still some paraffin in it. They took some time lighting it but eventually got it going and took it  down to their headquarters. They were all delighted with this despite the rather unpleasant smell it gave off.

The boys sitting in the lamp light

    “I expect a good many secret societies have smelly lamps like this if they meet in caves and things,” stated Miff.

“Come on then boys. Let’s all sit down and start our meeting,” said Titch in a voice of authority. seating himself on the camp stool. Miff and Gogs sat on a plank resting between two bricks and Bunny and Smudgie were mounted  on an old apple box. In the centre of the room they arranged a long orange box, not strong enough to sit on but which served admirably as a table. Bunny produced his secretary’s notebook and a pencil which he placed on the improvised table.

“I’m ready, Chief,” he said. “Let’s start.”

“Me too Chief,” added Gogs quickly feeling rather disappointed that he hadn’t been the first member to address Titch by his proper title.

Titch glanced around at the other four. “First of all,” he began, “we must remember that the main aim of our society is to investigate those men. I think we should draw up a plan of campaign now.”

“What’s that?” enquired the enthusiastic Gogs with some relish.

“What I mean is, we must think of a way of getting more evidence about what those men are doing,” resumed Titch. “I don’t know what you others think about it, but, as far as I can see, there’s only one way to do it.”

“How?” asked Gogs eagerly jumping up excitedly, only to duck very quickly when he realised how near his head was to the floor of the shed above.

“We must keep watch on the old abbey every night,” stated Titch.

“Wow! Every night?” exploded Bunny.

“That’s a tall order Chief,” cried Smudgie. That means we won’t be able to play any more cricket, or go bathing or . . .”

“Course we will,” interrupted Titch. I’m talking about evening time. Remember, those men didn’t come until it was pretty nearly dark. Stands to reason they won’t do anything in the light when everyone can see ‘em. It doesn’t get dark until just after eight o’clock, so we’ll only have to watch for an hour or two, and if we work in twos we’ll still have plenty of spare time. And in the day time, when we’re not in school, we can carry on as usual.”

“Yes, I hadn’t thought of it like that,” said Bunny.

“And remember, we did say that one of the things our secret society would do was play cricket,” blurted out Gogs with some urgency. The others muttered their agreement on this.

“Right!” said Titch in a very business-like manner. “We’ll vote on it. All those in favour of my plan put their hands up.” They all raised their hands in approval.

“Good.” said Titch.

“Do I write that down in my book, Chief?” asked Bunny who was anxious to perform his secretarial duties.

“Yes. Put that voting was unanimous.”

“I thought that’s what they put at the end of a poem when they didn’t know who wrote it,” put in Miff with a puzzled frown.

“That’s ‘anonymous’ nitwit!” laughed Titch. The other three also laughed to try to convey the idea that they also knew the meaning of the word.

“How do you spell it?” asked Bunny.

Titch obliged and then resumed: “We’ll start tomorrow night. We don’t want to waste any more time.”

“Shall I write a list of all those on watch?” asked Bunny.

“Yes, good idea,” said Miff.

“We’ll have a rota,” said Titch. “We’ll all make a copy of it like we did of the rules, so that we’ll all know when we’re on watch. If any of the watchers see anything of the men they must tell me and I’ll call a meeting here so that we can write it all down. Now Bunny can write down our rota.”

“Who’s on tomorrow night?” asked Bunny with his pencil poised at the ready.

“Any volunteers?” asked Titch. Instantly four hands shot up.

“Right then, Smudgie and Miff, you go on tomorrow and Gogs and me’ll go on the day after and Bunny and Smudgie can go on the day after that.”

They waited until the Secretary had written down all the names and dates and then Titch asked: “Anything else we’ve got to do now about our investigation, because I’ve got something interesting to tell you about my book on organising a secret society?”

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