SUMMER HOLIDAYS AGAIN!
"Snubby - do hurry up!" Diana called. "You're making us late for lunch!"
"Fancy Snubby making US late for lunch." chuckled Roger. "He's usually well ahead of us when there's food involved."
Barney smiled, his startlingly blue eyes lighting up.
The four children were to meet Barney's father, Mr Martin, for a nice lunch at a posh hotel. They were all staying with Mr Martin for the first couple of weeks of their summer holiday, and after that they would be going home to stay with Roger and Diana's parents, Mr and Mrs Lynton, as Mr Martin had to go away.
Mr Martin had taken them all to the town near his home for a day out. He had gone off to do a bit of shopping of his own, and the four children had explored the quaint little town by themselves for a couple of hours. Now it was time to meet for lunch - but Loony had other ideas!
Snubby's crazy black spaniel had taken rather a fancy to a display of mats on a stall in the market that they were just strolling past, and much to the shock of the stall holder, had dragged Snubby over to the mats and had grabbed one in his mouth and tried to run off with it.
Loony certainly lived up to his name. He had always had a fascination with mats and brushes. He would take them from anyone at any time and then deposit them in the strangest places. He always drove Mr Lynton to distraction when Snubby stayed at their house. Thankfully Mrs Lynton was getting more used to his antics, but he and the irrepressible Snubby were certainly a force to be reckoned with at times.
"Loony - let GO!" Snubby finally pulled the mat away from Loony and replaced it on the stall. "I'm ever so sorry." he said to the stall holder, then shot off before the man could examine the mat for damage.
Diana laughed as he caught them up outside the hotel.
"Still the same old Loony." she said. "Goodness knows what Daddy is going to say - I think he hopes that Loony will grow up at some point."
"What would be the fun in that?" Snubby grinned, his eyes crinkling up underneath his shock of red hair. "We love you as you are, don't we Loony?" and he reached down and gave the little dog a quick hug.
"Come on, for goodness' sakes." Roger started to walk up the steps of the hotel. "Barney's father will wonder where we are."
The doorman of the hotel looked rather doubtful as he caught sight of Loony and Miranda. Barney's beloved little monkey was sat on his shoulder as usual, chattering away to the children.
"Here, we don't usually allow pets in here." he began. "Especially ones like that." and he pointed at Miranda. She saw him pointing and leapt from Barney's shoulder to the doorman's. She tried to take his little round hat off. He cowered away at first, but after seeing how charming the little monkey was, stroked her gently and laughed as she tried to put his hat on and it fell over her head.
Mr Martin, who had been waiting in the hotel lobby, saw all this and came out to greet the children. He managed to convince the doorman that Miranda and Loony would be very well-behaved, and that they would leave at once if the pets caused any disturbance. They were finally allowed in.
"We'd better go and wash for lunch." Diana said, noticing her hair in a mirror. "Snubby - how do you manage to get so filthy? We've only been strolling round the town and you've already got a smudge of dirt on your nose and some kind of black mark all down by your ear."
Snubby looked at himself in the mirror and was surprised to see a large dirty mark on his little snub nose, and, as Diana had said, a strange black mark on the side of his cheek.
"No idea." he shrugged. People made far too much fuss about a bit of dirt, he always thought. "Alright, we'll go and wash."
The four children and Mr Martin had a marvellous lunch. There was cold meat, jacket potatoes smothered in butter, a large salad full of lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and chunks of boiled egg, and a delicious-looking chocolate pudding with custard for dessert.
Barney looked very happy as they sat and tucked in. It was strange to think back to when he had been a circus boy, living by his wits, sleeping in barns and under hedges, with no family to call his own. Now he had found his father and was a happy young man with a home and a new family. Diana looked at him. He and his father were very much alike, with their wide-set blue eyes, thick golden hair and brown skin. Diana adored her parents and couldn't imagine being without them, so she was very glad that Barney now had a family of his own to love.
"Come on, slowcoach!" Snubby elbowed Diana, disturbing her thoughts. "Do you want that last bit of pudding or not?"
"Yes!" Diana said, and ate it up quickly before Snubby could take it. "You've already eaten twice as much as anyone else."
"Thankyou for lunch, Mr Martin." Roger said, as they left the hotel to go back to the car. "It was marvellous."
Mr Martin was just about to answer when a shout from Snubby drowned out his voice.
"Look! It's Miss Pepper! Miss PEPPER!"
The childern looked to where Snubby was pointing and saw Mrs Lynton's old governess, Miss Pepper, dressed in a smart grey skirt and jacket, walking down the street. She was astonished to hear Snubby shouting her name, and stopped. Snubby and Loony flew down the street to her and almost bowled her over as Snubby hugged her and Loony leapt up at her, barking loudly.
"Oh my goodness, Snubby - let go!" Miss Pepper laughed, hardly able to breathe from the sudden hug.
The other children ran up to greet her. They were very fond of her, with her twinkling eyes, and had had some lovely holidays with her. Diana hugged her too, and Roger and Barney shook hands with her. Miranda danced about in delight on Barney's shoulder, and Miss Pepper gave her a little stroke on her head.
"It's lovely to see you, Miss Pepper!" Diana smiled. "What are you doing here?"
"I've been to visit an old friend here." Miss Pepper said. "I stayed with her a for a few days and now I'm about to catch the train home. What are you all doing?"
"We've just had a super lunch!" Snubby said. "We had salad and chicken and ham and jacket...."
"I'm sure Miss Pepper doesn't want to hear the whole menu." smiled Mr Martin.
"... and Loony ate a whole chicken leg, and then......" Snubby continued. "He was good as gold, Miss Pepper, he...."
"Would you like to come for tea at our house?" Mr Martin asked Miss Pepper kindly. "There's room in the car, and I'll drive you to the station afterwards, so you can catch a train home."
"Why, thankyou Mr Martin." Miss Pepper smiled. "That would be lovely."
They all piled into Mr Martin's big car and he drove out of the town and away into the countryside, to the little village where he and Barney lived.
It was a lovely hot day, so they all sat out in the garden and talked. they told Miss Pepper all about school that year, all the things they had been up to, and about the lovely two weeks they had spent with Mr Martin so far.
"So what are your plans when Mr Martin goes away?" asked Miss Pepper.
"We're going home." Diana said. "I can't wait to see Mummy and Daddy, although I'm sure we will all drive Daddy mad, what with Snubby and Loony, and Miranda - the house will be even more hectic than usual!"
"I think it's jolly unfair that we always get the blame." Snubby said, pulling Loony up on to his lap. "Loony can't help being energetic, and..."
"But he can help taking mats and brushes and leaving them for us to fall over on the landing." Roger grinned.
"Well what about Sardine?" Snubby said indignantly. "That cat always lies in wait for people on the stairs, to trip them up!"
"Yes but she doesn't take things and leave things for people to trip on." Diana laughed at Snubby's indignant face. "If my hairbrush goes missing, I always know it isn't Sardine."
Miss Pepper smiled at all the banter.
"Well we'll leave Dad to sort Snubby out." grinned Roger wickedly.
Snubby looked horrified. He was very in awe and wary of his Uncle Richard, and had been in trouble more times than he cared to remember for being noisy, being cheeky, getting in the way, not controlling Loony properly, the list was endless. He never seemed to think he was being cheeky or obstinate, but the grown-ups seemed to think differently. Mrs Lynton was softer than Mr Lynton and often felt sorry for Snubby, as the boy had no parents of his own, but Mr Lynton always seemed to see the worst side of Snubby, when he was playing a joke or being cheeky, and if Loony played up too it made things even worse.
"Well," smiled Miss Pepper, "If your mother would allow it, I have an idea that might appeal to all of you for the holidays, and it would save a lot of uproar at home."
"Ooh - what is it?" Barney asked. He had secretly felt slightly worried about staying with the Lyntons. He liked Mr and Mrs Lynton very much and they had been very kind and welcoming to him when he had first met the children, when he was a homeless circus boy, but he was worried that they might think he was a nuisance now, if he stayed with them at the same time as Snubby and the house was full of monkeys and dogs and noise and uproar.
"Well, I have just inherited a litte old cottage in the village of Rosewood." Miss Pepper explained. "I am going there next week to sort it out and stay there for a few weeks. Would you all like to come and stay with me? It would mean peace and quiet for your parents, and I would like the company."
"Oh, what a super idea!" Diana cried, delighted. "I'm sure Mummy and Daddy would say yes, it would mean no noise and bother at home, and we can help you sort out the cottage!"
"It's a lovely village." Miss Pepper said. "There's a forest on the outskirts, and a lovely river to walk along, and I think you can hire boats, and there is a beautiful old manor house on a hill near my cottage."
"It sounds terrific!" Snubby said. "We could go and explore the manor, and..."
"I think it's locked up." Miss Pepper smiled. "But there will be plenty for you all to do. It's not too far from the coast either so we could go to the sea for a day out too, if you like."
"Oh, it all sounds wizard!" Roger clapped Miss Pepper on the back and then looked guilty and rubbed it, as she pulled a distressed face.
"Can I go, Dad?" Barney asked Mr Martin, his eyes shining.
"Of course you can." Mr Martin smiled back, looking exactly like Barney. "It will be lovely for you all, and peaceful for Mrs Lynton!"
"I'm going to ring Mummy at once, and tell her!" Diana got up, almost knocking the table over. "May I use the phone, Mr Martin?"
Mr Martin nodded and smiled, and Diana flew off to tell her mother the exciting plan.