The Kirrins and the Mystery
of the Sandy-haired Dwarf

by Robin Gordon



Auksford crest: a great auk displaying an open book with the words "Ex ovo sapientia"
-  Auksford, 2001  -

Chapter 3:
Three get into trouble

©  Copyright Robin Gordon, 2001

Hadbury Station is one of those long windswept spaces, grey platforms protected from the rain by Victorian cast iron and glass canopies, said Dick. The wind whistles right along the lines, swirls around the passengers on the platforms, lifting plastic bags and discarded newspapers and rattling them round the trolleys and seats. It's always cold there, even on warm sunny days, and this particular day was far from fine. Jonathan and Nick were glad of their warm sweaters, jackets, and thick cords as they made their way to the middle of the platform to wait for Mr Big.

Nick stamped up and down trying to keep warm, while Jonathan sprawled on one of the seats. Now there's something about Jonathan that's very like you Julian: whenever he sits down for more than a few minutes, he starts getting sleepy.

"Yes" snorted George. "Mrs Blyton always put that in, didn't she. I wonder if she ever realised just why you were always so sleepy, Ju?"

"Growing boys need lots of rest," said Julian.

"Especially when they're awake all night!" snorted George. "I don't think Anne ever knew what you got up to, but I did. That's when I began to stop wanting to be a boy myself."

"I thought you never stopped wanting to be a boy," said Dick. "I thought you hated being female."

"I loathed it," said George, "I still do. We're oppressed and put upon, we're at everyone's beck and call, we're never allowed to have lives of our own. We're just slaves to you men. And why? I was just as good at climbing trees and socking villains as you two! I could run as fast and shout as loud. I could've taken on any boy my own size and beat the pants off him. Look how I sorted Edgar Stick when he threw a stone at Timmy."

Mrs Stick and the trouserless Edgar confront George

"That's one of the things Mrs B left out," chortled Dick. "Wasn't it funny though, Ju? Remember how old George hurled herself on Edgar and rolled him in the dust, while he bleated and wailed like a lost lamb?"

"I soon sorted him out!" said George.

"He deserved all he got," observed Julian. "Remember how he ran off in his shirt and told his mother we'd all attacked him."

"Ashamed to admit he'd been debagged by one little girl!" said Dick.Note 4

"There you are," said George triumphantly. "I was as good as any boy!"

"Better than most!" chorused the boys.

"More vino, chaps?" said Dick.

"You bet!" said George.

Dick poured the wine and resumed his tale.

So there they were on this bleak and windswept station, waiting for the sandy-haired dwarf to arrive back from London, and Jonathan felt sleepy.

"Wake me up when the train comes in, old man, won't you," said he, closed his eyes, and, in a moment, was fast asleep.

Now, there was a poser for poor old Nick. It wasn't that he felt the slightest inclination to sleep himself, but the pangs of hunger were beginning to gnaw at his belly, and he started to feel that if he didn't get some food soon he might pass out from lack of nourishment. Then the sandy-haired dwarf would just stroll past the two unconscious boys with whatever nefarious secrets he had brought back from the metropolis, and the whole surveillance operation would have been in vain. Should he go and look for a shop? There weren't any on the platform. It would probably mean going right outside the station. If the dwarf passed while he was away Jonathan would be furious. But if he didn't have something to eat soon he might die. They should have brought the girls with them. If only Jonathan hadn't insisted on being so noble and chivalrous and protecting them from harm. They could have left little Fran at home, but Harry was as good as a boy...

"... and better than most!" put in George. "Good old Harry. She'd have been more use than Nick. I suppose he's always hungry?"

"Always," said Dick.

"Just like you were," said George, "and probably for the same reason.

"Growing boys need food," said Dick.

"To feed their filthy habits," said George. "Honestly, if I'd had dogs that behaved like you two did, I'd have had them doctored.

"Most boys," said Julian judiciously, "find an outlet for their hormonally determined urges in solitary ... well, you know ..."

"That's why I'm glad I never was one," said George. "The Victorians had the right idea: clips and chastity belts, and that sort of thing -- and for incurables like you two ..." She held up her right hand, index and middle fingers extended, and made a snipping motion. "Don't you think so, Timmy? SNIP! SNIP!"

Julian smiled amiably. Dick cradled his groin and moaned. Timmy whined. Why did George talk about snip-snip, like that? He knew a couple of dogs whose mistresses had said "snip-snip", and next time he saw them they weren't really dogs any more. He crawled over to George and licked her hand beseechingly.

"Oh, don't worry, Timmy darling," she said. "There'll be no snip-snip for you. What about a little stroll down Cuckoo Lane?"

"Wrrrow! Yes please!" growled Timmy.

"We'll hear the rest of the story tomorrow, Dick," said George, throwing back her wine, "Come on, Tim!"

***

The next day was Sunday. Anne and her children arrived in time for lunch, and Anne was extremely disgruntled to hear that Dick was in residence at the rectory. It was, she said, all his fault that her children's imaginative play had clashed with reality and caused the family considerable embarrassment. The Pembertons lunched with George at Kirrin cottage, attended evensong, talked to the Rector, but avoided Dick. George realised that she would have no chance that day of hearing the rest of the story of the Lively Five and the sandy-haired dwarf, so she made Julian promise to keep Dick off the subject until she could slip away and join them. There was, of course, no possibility of that on Anne's first day in Kirrin, and, despite George's finest probing -- "Aren't you going to tell me how the boys made such fools of themselves, Anne?" -- Anne absolutely refused to talk about it.

The dogs had to be introduced too. "Woof!" said Timmy, lazily waving his tail.

"Ruff!" replied Mycock.

"Ruff?" thought Timmy. "What sort of a bark is Ruff."

"Arr-rowf," he said. "Rrr-rwuff, wurruff, WOOF WOOF."

"Are there?" thought Mycock "All on heat?"

"RRRwuff, rruff, Wroof" he said.

"Tomorrow," said Tim. "I'll get mistress to take us a walk tomorrow."

"Zowie!" replied Mycock.

"Well, those two are getting along splendidly," said George.

So it wasn't until Monday afternoon that George was able to get away to hear the next instalment of Dick's story. Her brothers had just finished their lunch and Stubbs had cleared away the debris when she blew in.

"Said I had to take Timmy for a walk," she bellowed. "Told Anne he'd get fat and out of condition if I didn't walk him five miles every day. Just cut through Cuckoo Lane to let him work off his din-dins, didn't we Timmy, old boy?"

"Grrr-rwoof!" said Timmy. "Too bad about old Mycock missing his chances", he thought, "but there would be other days, and Phoebe had been very impressed when he told her how he'd saved George from a mad smuggler with a gun. All in all a very satisfactory walk. "Rrrr-rrr-rwuff!"

"Thanks, Dick. Make it a large one," said George, "and then go on with your story.

***

Well, said Dick, Jonathan was asleep and poor old Nick was suffering the most excruciating pangs of hunger. He was tortured by the knotting and twisting of his empty stomach, but unable to leave his post in case the train arrived and the sandy-haired dwarf escaped with his briefcase full of drugs, diamonds or counterfeit banknotes.

Just as Nick thought he'd expire on the spot and Jonathan would wake to find a cold dead corpse lying at his feet, along came a little boy and stopped nearby -- a grubby little urchin but with the sort of cheeky smile that always used to melt our hearts when we were young and adventurous and had hearts that could be melted. Anyway this little fellow suddenly pulled a biscuit out of his pocket and wolfed it down. Nick gave a loud groan.

"Wossama'e'?" says the urchin. "You ungry?"

"Aren't I just!" groaned Nick. "Is there a tuckshop nearby."

"Ver's a bakery sells lovely sticky buns jus' artside ve station."

"Oh, what couldn't I do with a sticky bun!" said Nick. "I say, you couldn't get me a couple, could you? And get one for yourself too as a reward. Here's some money."

Nick and the urchin

"Ow, no!" squealed the urchin. "Don't trust me wiv money, mister. I'd rob yer, I would. I don' wanna do it, cos I likes yer, see, but I couldn't 'elp meself. It's me nature. I'm a bad lot, I am. Don't trus' me wiv money!"

"But I'm dying of starvation!" said Nick.

"Well go an' ge' a bun or two," said the kid.

"I'm waiting for a train, well for somebody on a train. If he gets away my brother'll kill me."

"S tough," said the urchin.

They stood in silence for a minute or two, then the urchin said, "Gorranidear!"

"What?" said Nick.

"You go an' get ve buns, an' I'll stay 'ere an' wake your bruvver when ve train comes in."

"Brilliant!" said Nick, and set off over the bridge for the exit.

Next scene: Nick bursts out of the station door and looks this way and that. Turns right and runs along the street. Slows down, looks puzzled. No sign of baker's shop. Hesitates, hurries back to entrance. Hesitates again, looks inside. Long-shot of station and platform. No sign of any train. Nick makes up his mind, goes out and hurries off to the left.

Suddenly a gang of Brunton kids surges out from a side alley and surrounds him. The scrawny kid he kicked is at their head.

"Well, well," says the scrawny kid, "wot 'ave we 'ere?"

Meanwhile, back on the platform the train is coming in. Close-up of Jonathan's face. Sound of train arriving, noise and bustle. Jonathan's eyes flicker and open. He shivers with cold, doesn't know where he is for a moment, then wakens properly.

Jonathan's view: the train is at the platform and passengers are pouring out of it. He searches for the sandy-haired dwarf but can't see him in the crowds. People are looking at him as they pass. Is he being too obvious in his search? Close up on Jonathan's face again, as he looks back and forward, seems doubtful, glances back and forth, up and down. Dawning expression of absolute horror on his face, then PBTRNT!

"PBTRNT?" Julian queried.

Technical term we use in the film industry, said Dick. A lot of directors despise it as a cliché, and I suppose it may have been overdone in cheap comedies, but in the right context it can still be a winner.

"But what's it mean?" said George, pouring herself another snifter.

Pull back to reveal no trousers, said Dick.

"WHAAT?" spluttered George.

"Not literally of course," said the Padre. "You mean that some sort of surprise is revealed."

The surprise, said Dick, is that our nephew Jonathan had woken up on the crowded station platform to find himself trouserless, with hundreds of people pouring off the train and staring at him.

"What did he do?" George asked.

What could he do? said Dick. There was no way of escape. He clamped his hands over his crotch and hunched up as small as he could -- and that, of course is when the passers-by all started laughing at him. And who should come by at that moment but the sandy-haired dwarf. So there's Jonathan, curled up in embarrassment, and the dwarf stops right in front of him, recognises him, and gives a sneering laugh. Then he strolls away about his criminal activities, leaving Jonathan paralysed on his bench -- until a heavy hand tapped on his shoulder and a uniformed railway official said, "Come on then, streaker, let's go to the manager's office," and he was led away through the sniggering crowds to meet his fate.

Meanwhile poor old Nick was in the hands of the Brunton gang. They grabbed him, dragged him into a back alley, and proceeded to remove his trousers too. Naturally he fought. He's not the kind of boy to submit to a debagging without a struggle, but to no avail. There must have been a dozen of them, and they soon had his trousers round his ankles and were pulling his shoes off while he hung on grimly to his underpants.

Then, suddenly, the attackers were attacked. There was shouting and yelling and struggling and kicking. The tightly clutching hands that held Nick helpless were torn away to defend their owners from the tornado. The bodies kneeling in his chest and arms reeled away. He was able to tear himself free and run. Down the alley he went, pelting for dear life, and hearing behind him the pounding of feet as three or four of the Brunton boys charged after him.

Round a twisting corner he fled, then faltered in despair. The alley was a cul-de-sac. It ended in a blank wall, and the thudding feet of his pursuers were rounding the bend behind him. But the wall wasn't all that high, and there were dustbins below it. He leapt forward, bounced on a bin, evading clutching hands, and hurled himself onto the wall and over.

Too late he realised where he was. On the other side of the wall was the station. Below him as he fell were hundreds of people streaming towards the exit. Too late to stop. He crashed helplessly onto a man and they both went down.

"I'm sorry..." he gabbled, then stopped.

"Mr Big!" he gasped.

It was the sandy-haired dwarf.

Perhaps it was being flattened by a boy, perhaps it was the nickname Mr Big, whatever it was, the dwarf's face twisted in rage and he seized Nick by the collar.

"What d'yez mean by it?" he raged, shaking the miserable boy. "Following me around! Spying and prying! Calling me names! And jumping on me like a hooligan! Answer me, will yez?"

It was only then that he realised his captive was trouserless.

"Hah!" said he. "Just like the odher one! Ah, twas dhe bhoys, I'll bet. Roight, you. To dhe station master's office, and we'll see what's what."

And Nick too was marched off through the sniggering crowds to meet his fate.

Jonathan, unable to hold back his tears, was being questioned by a puzzled station manager when there was a rattle at the door. The security man opened it, and in came a short, stocky man, bundling in front of him a second tall boy who was as trouserless as the first.

"What ...?" stuttered the station manager.

"Ah," said the dwarf. "I see you've got dhe odher one. Question is, what'll we do wid dhem?"

"Who ..." said the station manager.

The dwarf released Nick and offered his hand. "Liam O'Shaugnessy, Hadbury News. Pleased to meet yez. Now I suggest ye leave these bhoys to me. You know me column, Through Irish Eyes, Liam O'Shaugnessy looks at loife? Dhis'll make a foine little paragraph. Can I use yer phone? ... Hello, is dhat yerself, Padraig? I've got a little job job for yez. I tink you'll find it particularly interesting. Dhat's roight. Station Master's office. See you in a few minutes ...

My photographer, just in case we can fit in a few pictures. Now then, bhoys, explain yerselves. First, why did yez keep following me?"

They tried to explain. They burbled about always seeing O'Shaugnessy at the scene of every crime or accident. The dwarf laughed in high good humour.

The dwarf demands an explanation from the trouserless boys

"Well, yez know whoy now. Oi'm a journalist, a reporter, a news-hound. Now explain why yer running round dhe station in dhis amusing state o' semi-nudity."

O'Shaughnessy made notes as they bumbled and burbled through their story. Then his photographer arrived and the red-faced, tearful boys were photographed again and again. Finally O'Shaughnessy jabbed his ball-point against Jonathan's throat just as if it were a knife.

"Yer in luck dhis time, bhoyo," he snarled, "I'll just put in a couple of little funny paragraphs about schoolboy streakers annoying people at dhe station, but if either of yez crosses my path again, I'll give yez dhe full works: big news item wid great big headlines: BOY STREAKERS ANNOY PASSENGERS. And den dhe next day: FURY OVER STREAKERS. Den dhe day after dhat "WE WERE DEBAGGED STREAKERS CLAIM". Dhe full story, wid names and pictures. Now Oi'll very koindly put yez in a taxi and you can pay dhe driver when yez get home."

Well actually it was I who paid the driver, but not before Anne saw her sons arrive home minus their nether garments and learned all about their adventures at the station, for which, for some unaccountable reason, she blames me.

"I wonder why," said George sarcastically, but Julian shushed her and Dick went on.

Meanwhile, back in the alleyway, the tornado was sorting itself out. It turned out to be Harry, noble girl, who'd followed her brothers to make sure they didn't get into trouble. As soon as she saw what the Brunton boys were doing to Nick she'd hurled herself into the fray -- and to such good effect that Nick had escaped. But with a dozen or more tough Bruntonites against one little girl, even if she is as good as any boy, what chance did she have. At about the time Nick leapt over the wall and fell on O'Shaughnessy the Brunton gang captured and immobilised Harry, and a couple of them grabbed inoffensive little Fran, who was hovering nervously on the outskirts.

The scrawny kid took charge again. Looking down at Harry. Harry's viewpoint. Scrawny kid glaring at her. "Well, you got him away, dincha? But not in one piece, see?". Scrawny kid brandishes Nick's trousers. Harry struggles. Kid continues, "Nah we'll 'ave yours off too. Teach yer a lesson."

Fran suddenly bursts out of her captors hands and flings herself in front of the scrawny kid, yelling: "You can't do that! It's not right! She's a girl! Leave her alone!"

"Zat right," says the scrawny kid. "You a gel?"

"I'm as good as any boy!" yells Harry. "I'll fight you any time you like!"

"Snot about fighting," said the kid. "You're our prisoner, and I'll do whatever I want wiv yer."

"He's not a gel," said one of the boys, "We hear 'im boastin 'bout 'ow big 'is cock is, din' we?"

"S'right," said another. "We 'eard him. My cock's twice as big as veir li'l tiddlers, he said."

"Zat right," said the scrawny kid. "Go' a big one 'ave yer? Mebbe you'd like us to measure it."

"But she is a girl," Fran pleaded. "Mycock's the name of her dog."

"Garn!" said the scrawny kid, "ooever 'eard of a dog called Mycock?"

"Mycock's wonderful," yelled Harry. "How dare you insult him?!"

"We'll soon see 'ow wonderful it is," jeered the scrawny kid.

"She is a girl," wept Fran. "Her names Harriet! Tell him Harry!"

"I'm a girl", said Harry. "My name's Harriet. My dog is called Mycock. And if you do anything at all to me you'll be in trouble."

"Good try," jeered the scrawny kid, "but I fink we'll still 'ave yer pants off."

"Yeah," sniggered a boy. "I hope it is a gel. Be good fun strippin' a gel."

"We'll see about vat. Hold him still!" said the scrawny kid, and Harry squirmed helplessly as the kid's hands ran over her body, squeezing her breasts, forcing their way down her jeans.

"You're enjoying this, Dick, you horrible beast," yelled George. "You sit there telling us all about how poor Harry was groped by a beastly boy from Brunton, and all you can think about is what a good scene it will make for your next disgusting film. I can understand why Anne won't talk to you! You make me sick!"

"Easy, old thing," put in Julian. "Let Dick tell the story, or we'll never find out what happened to Harry and Fran."

"They ought to be horsewhipped!" snarled George.

"Go on Dick," said Julian.

The scrawny kid grinned. "She is a gel!"

"Lemme up!" yelled Harry. "I'll pulverise you. How dare you put your filthy hands all over my body. Put your fists up, you coward!"

"I don't fight gels," said the scrawny kid.

"What do you mean, you don't fight girls?" Harry demanded. "I'm as strong as anybody here! I took on the lot of you and let my brother escape. I'll fight you, you coward!"

"I don't fight gels," said the scrawny kid, "cos I'm a gel meself, an' I fink gels should stick togevver. Let her up. Nah, oo was it wanted ter strip her?"

"Wayne," said a boy.

"I fought she was a boy," pleaded Wayne.

"Vat's why you said it'd be fun ter strip a gel, was it, said the scrawny kid. Orright, boys, 'e's all yours."

"Boys is really stoopid," said the scrawny girl to Harry and Fran while the boys with whoops of joy set about the detrousering of Wayne. "Vey don't care oo vey strip s'long as vey're 'avin' fun. I can twist 'em round me li'l finger. I could do wiv you in ve gang. You're a fighter, you are. Cor! Ve way you smashed inter vem boys and knocked ve wind out of 'em. She can be in, too. Woss'er name.?"

"Fran", said Harry. "Why did you attack my brothers?"

"Well, ve first time was a favour to Ol' Shitpants, but vis time was cos one of 'em kicked me."

"Who's Old Shitpants?"

"O'Shaugnessy. Nasty little bleeder. Ve boys like 'im cos 'e gives 'em money and ciggies. Vey wouldn't believe me if I told 'em what 'e really is.

"Do you mean the sandy-haired dwarf? What is he?"

"Yeah, 'at's 'im. He's a pervert, 'at's wot' 'e is, a sex maniac, even tried to sweet-talk me, but 'e soon lost interest when I told him I was a gel. Gives ve boys drugs, too. Finks I don't know about it. Had to get rid of some of 'em from ve gang. Druggies ain't no use ter me."

Quite a lot of interesting information she gave about friend O'Shaughnessy. Not at all the innocent journalist he pretended to be, but at last, it was time to break up the party, and the scrawny kid was by this time so thick with Harry that she even gave her back her brothers' trousers and said she'd let them join the gang too -- as long as they didn't mind being initiated with O'Shaugnessy looking on. As you can imagine neither Jonathan nor Nick thought this was an offer they wanted to accept, in fact, despite all that Harry had found out about O'Shaughnessy, they were both determined to keep well away from him. As far as they were concerned he could inveigle half the juvenile population of England into drug addiction, and they wouldn't lift a finger to stop them. I must say I agreed with them, and, despite what Anne thinks, I told them to drop the case tout-de-suite.


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NOTE 4

Enid Blyton certainly could not mention that incident in Five run away together (1944), in which the Famous Five were left in the care of Mrs Stick when Aunt Fanny fell ill.

Though a good cook, Mrs Stick starved the children and used Aunt Fanny's provisions to feed herself, hers obnoxious fourteen-year-old son, Edgar, and her husband who arrived and made himself at home as soon as Aunt Fanny had been taken to hospital. The Five ran away to Kirrin Island, only to find that the Sticks were using it for some nefarious activity. At first they suspected it was smuggling, then they found that the Sticks were holding a little girl prisoner on the dungeons of the ruined castle. They managed to rescue her and imprisoned Edgar in her place.

Enid Blyton was unable to recount in full what happened then. Julian, who despised Edgar for his bullying, cowardice and dishonesty, pushed him into the cave. Edgar gave a howl of dismay and started to beg for mercy and sob like a baby.

Julian was appalled to see a boy of fourteen behaving like this.

"You're not much of a boy," he said. "You're nothing but a coward, a cry-baby sissy. You're not a boy at all. Well, I'll show you what we think of you. Take your trousers off! Take them off now, or I'll order Timmy to tear them off you!

Timmy growled fiercely and Edgar was so frightened that he pulled off his shorts and passed them to Julian.

Edgar hands over his shorts to Julian

"You don't deserve ever to wear trousers again!" said Julian, and locked him in the dungeon-cave.

Later, when Julian confronted Mr Stick and told him that Edgar was locked up in the dungeons, a ploy to get the Sticks back to the scene of the crime where they could be arrested red-handed, Mr Stick refused to take his word. He had to believe it when Julian threw at his feet a bundle of cloth which he recognised as his son's trousers.

Enid Blyton could not, of course describe the two debaggings of Edgar Stick in her book. Only twenty years before Evelyn Waugh had been criticised for the indecency of describing the debagging of Paul Pennyfeather at Oxford in a book for adults. Although by the forties most grown-ups knew that Battle of Britain pilots had relieved their tension by high-spirited horseplay including soda-siphon battles and debaggings, such incidents would not become acceptable in books for children until much later.

Edgar's complaint that all the children attacked him was not entirely unjustified. George's attack took Edgar by surprise, and he was, in any case, such a coward, that, despite being younger, she completely overpowered him and sat on him. Julian and Dick prefer not to mention it in her presence, but at this point they did come to her assistance and hold Edgar down while she performed the richly deserved ritual detrousering. Back to text


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