Famous Five





Behind the frosted glass windows, the children sat looking at the changing countryside. Timmy was lying under a seat, his nose on his paws.
- We are lucky, said Dick, snow for Christmas, and a lovely layer, too !
- How happy I am, said Anne, see how the trees are beautiful, and this beautiful spotless white coat on the moors !
- A real Christmas ! added Julian. The Famous Five are in luck ! Why are you so quiet, George ?
The girl, thoughtful, was delighted. She was going to see her parents, the Kirrin cottage. Timothy, each evening, would sleep on her legs... A smile spread on her lips.
- Here we are again together. And no tutor to irritate us, this time ! We are going to enjoy ourselves !
The train stopped loudly.
Aunt Fanny was at the station to meet the children, sitting in the small cart attached to the poney. A cover envelopped her legs, for it was bitter cold. There were kisses round, and the little troup set off for Kirrin cottage !
- Mummy, what joy, said George, we are really very happy ! and it is Christmas ! Is Dad very busy ?
- He still has a lot of work, answered her mother. But he promised me to rest the eve of Christmas and the next day. Anyhow, it is neccesary to be calm, for you can not all the time be outside, it is so cold... and the house will not resist to your games...
- Mum, must we walk on tip toes, speak softly, and Timmy will not have the right to bark..
- But can he do all that at school ? asked Julian, coming to the help of his aunt.
- No, certainly not... The girl stopped herself : one could see the Kirrin cottage, covered with snow. A smile appeared on the face of George. A smoke was escaping slowly from the chimney of the kitchen, and Joanna, the cook, who liked a lot the children, moved hands near the window.
When the door opened, a good odour of cake arrived to the nose of the children, and a breath of warmth envelopped them.
- How nice it is here, said Dick, removing his coat. Here, there is uncle Quentin who is coming out of his office. Hello, my uncle !
The oncle Quentin kissed his nephews, his niece and his daughter.
He looked cheerful. What luck, thought the children, that's a good sign. The holidays announced themselves well. When the uncle Quentin had retired, aunt Fanny invited the children to the kitchen where Joanna was waiting for them, before some dishes of cakes still hot, full of appetizing odours.
Tim was agitating itself, smelling all the corners, snifing at the dishes, pushing the children, whereas Joanna was distributing huge kisses to the boys and to the girls.
 - Joanna, how nice smell your biscuits, can we taste them ? asked Dick, the greedy boy.
- No, they are for this evening, replied Joanna turning herself to hide her laugh. You will wait untill then ?
But nobody believed her, and even Timothy ate the cakes, the biscuits, and the buns, whereas the children savoured each a bowl of creamy drinking chocolate.
- How comforting this is,  after the badly heated train, said  Anne. Are we going to take are  suitcases upstairs ?
- Of course, approoved Julian, high, and long live the holidays.



- I am happy to see my room again, said George, putting her suitcase down. I am not sad at school, but all the same, it is better to be back home !
- And then, it is Christmas, we are going to buy cakes, make the tree, decorate it...
- We will need holly, mistletoe and lots of other shining things, said Dick passing his head in the opening of the door ! That is going to be really funny. Your eyes hine, George, added the boy laughing... What is the matter ?
- This year, wrote to me mummy, we are going to do all by ourselved. Tomorrow, we will go to our forest to cut the pine tree, then we will pluck the holly and the mistletoe, there are in the apple tree of the garden !
- And we will go the attick looking for angle hair, balls, garlands...
- What do you say, asked Julian who was just arriving. You are all chating 19 to the dozen ! You prepare an expedition ?
- Oh ! no, laughed Anne, we were speaking only about the joys that await us ! You will not be the last to take part in it, I think ?
- No, but Christmas is my favorite festival... I love a lot this period of the year. The snow, the wind, the long nights and the days...
- so short, mocked Anne.
All burst out laughing.


This first evening at the Kirrin cottage was spent happily. They went to eat in thre hall which was lighted by a small lamp. A firewood was burning in the chimney, and Timothy, as all the dogs, had laid himself down near the fire. They were speaking of the school, of holidays, of the fete which was prepared. In a cornor, some packages were piled, but the children did not speek about it.
Uncle Quentin announced that the days to come will also be as cold, and that the snow will fall.
- Can  we all the same go to  the wood to cut the tree of Christmas, asked George ? We want so much to do it !
- yes, said her mother ! You will put you coats, your hoods, and you will wear boots. That will be the best. You will choose a tree, not too big, in the Log Wood, you now George, near of the cabin in wood !
George knew well this wood situated between the road and the moor, where heath grew, along with pines and other trees. It was situated between a depression of the terrain, and one could not see it from the house, neither from the road.
- It is a beautifull walk, said George to her cousins. A good walk anyhow, I inform you. Timothy will be happy, he will have all the time to play in the snow.
- And we too, said Dick and Julian, beware the balls of snow, the girls...
- You also, riposted George laughing ! Anne, we will defend ourselved like tigresses and the boys will have to be carefull.
All laughed at these funny comments, and they climbed to lie down.
Through the glasspane, Anne looked outside, in the dark night.
- Come to lie down, said George to her cousin sister, you are freezing yourself for nithing ! You can see nothing !
- Yes, protested Anne... You see, uncle Quentin was not wrong ! The snow is falling again. It is whirling ! What thickness there will be tomorrow !
- Very well. Let the snow fall, now sleep.
Anne murmured some words against her George who was scolding her, then slipped herself in the feather bed with satisfaction.



The next morning, in deed, a good layer of snow covered again the countryside
- Christmas is after tomorrow, said aunt Fanny, whereas the children were finishing their breakfast. Get ready, for we go in city this morning. We can take the small train. Tomorrow perhaps there will be too much of snow !
- The farms of the hills are already blocked, said the uncle quentin. And they announce still more falls of snow, and some wind !
- What beautifull white Christmas, said George, fast Anne, put your coat, you come, boys ?
In the city, all was marvellous. Some pines were standing everywhere, decorated of shining garlands in golden and silver colors. The windows were filled with toys and with games. Behind the glass windows of the pastry shops, superb cakes decorated with spirits, holly, axes and some small trees.
- I am off on my own way, said aunt Fanny, make your purchases, enjoy yourselves, we will meet again in front of this pastry shop to drink chocolate and eat some cakes.
- Very good programme, said Anne. See you soon, my aunt, come, others, lets us go our shopping.
The children made their purchases secretly, for they offered each other small gifts, and no body had to be forgotten, neither Joanna, neither Timothy.
Joanna had prepared a hot dinner, lovely winter dish, that the children gobbled down without making a fuss.
- Let us take our packages in our rooms, proposed Julian. Oh, George, what do you hide behind your back, is it my present ?
Don't try to guess, protested the little girl, it is a surprise ! Quick, Anne, let us hurry up before the boys tear open the wrappers and see what is inside...
Everybody laughed loud, and Timothy barked all he could.
From below, a door was slamed open brutally, and a very irritated voice came up :
- Is there ever going to be peace in this house, I am working !
It was the uncle Quentin who, one more, did not understand the excitement of the children. Aunt Fanny thought it was necessary to intervene :
- Calm yourself, Quentin, the children are going out. They are going to go to the wood to cut the tree ! Aren't you, the children ?
- Yes, mummy, shouted George, whereas her father banged the door of this study- room.
- Yes, aunt Fanny, daid the three other voices, more calmly.
Anne borrowed a basket from her aunt. Julian took a small axe, while George armed herself with a rope.
- To strip the branches, she explained.

They took a way where the snow was covering almost the boots. Timothy had snow right uptill his tummy, jumping, and seemed to enjoy himself a lot. The trees were whispering, packets of soft snow were falling off from the tree-tops.
Let us take the way of the hut, said George, there are beautiful pine trees over threre. We will enjoy the view of a beautifull hut under a white coat.
- Not a foot print, pointed Anne... How beautifull this is, this wood. You hid this treasure from us, George ?
- Well, we are all the time so busy, during our hols ! It never occured to me to show you this wood, neither the cabin of wood-cutters ! All this is a part of the farm of Kirrin.
- You are lucky, said Dick for the hundredth time ! A beautifull house, an island, a farm... a nice dog !
- And "smashing" cousins, cut George. Ah ! here we come to the hut !
In a clearing, a solid looking hut appeared, covered with snow, like a house straight out from a Christmas card. The children approached.
- The door is not closed, remarked Julian. Can we enter, George ?
Without answering, the little girl pushed the door, closed only by a log of wood.
- We hardly use it, said George. There are just a stack of hay, an old empty tub or a table and two chairs. It is used by the wood-cutters, when they stay here many days.
- And a cute little pan, continued Anne ! Oh ! How I shall enjoy using it !
- We won't have time for that, said Julian, it will soon become dark, and we have to cut our pin for our tree. Come all, added the boy, otherwise Anne will make us spend Christmas here !
- That will not annoy me, sighed George, who loved adventures, but all the same, not for Christmas !
Julian closed the door behind him when the others had got out of the hut.
- It is all the same necessary to put a chain or a padlock, he said to his cousin sister.
George took them a little further, where the woods were lovely, dark and mysterious.
- How beautifull are these tall trees, said Anne, which one are we going to take ?
They agreed upon a straight tree, with narrow boughs, about Julian's height.
Dick attacked it with his axe, and soon, it fell down with a hissing sound. George flattened out the boughs and tied them with her rope.
Like an escort of Father Christmas, they left, dragging the tree in the snow.
Julian plucked some branches of holly and George promised to climb up the apple tree of the garden to cut mistletoe.
The little troop looked quite funny when they entered in at the gate of Kirren cottage. The children shook their boots, put their coats, whereas Joanna shook the pine tree. Then she accompanied the children to the drawing room, where it was to be dressed.
How lovely the evening was. The excited children passed one another angels, balls, little colour candles, white cotton to for snow. Aunt Fanny had decorated the leg of the tree with paper that looked like rocks. Joanna came in and out of the hall, with a tray of hot biscuits or crunchy snacks. Even Uncle Quentin was all smiles that evening, and forgot all about his diagrams and equations !
"Gosh ! how tired I am," said Anne, I am going to sleep. I am already yawning !
"Same here, agreed Dick, but we have enjoyed our day... I am already falling asleep ! It's already a quarter past ten. Which of you likes me, follow me !

The next day, the weather was dull. The wind blew itself into a gale while the snow fell hard. Christmas was only a day away, and this evening would be spent in fun and gaiety.
At times, it snowed a little lesser, and by mid-day, the weather was better. The children were playing in the house, trying to make less noise in order not to irritate Uncle Quentin.
But Aunt Fanny decided to send them up to the attic where they would be a little farther from their uncle and where they could enjoy themselves without being disturbed. They imagined that the attic was a lost boat, in storm, and while George was looking out at the sea, Anne was looking out of a small window overlooking the moor.
- Oh ! she said suddenly, a smoke in the woods...
Leaving her post, George approached.
- You cannot see the woods from the house ! she said. Move a little !
She wiped the glass pane with her handkerchief, then saw.
- You are right, Anne ! I should have known that it could be seen from here ! It's because we are up here in the loft ! Who do you think could have set that fire ?
All the children had approached the window, and discussed in excited voices.
- It is coming from the hut, said Dick. There is somebody there !
- A this time of the day, said Julian. Seems funny !
- Let's go and see, asked George. It's a mystery...
- On Christmas eve ! protested Anne.
- We shall go there this afternoon soon after lunch, decided Julian, and now, let's be silent about it. Anne, please don't give away our little secret...
- Okay, I will hold my tongue, promised Anne... At least, I'll try !
The children continued to play until mid-day, but the blue smoke which curled itself slowly up into the thick sky kept coming to their mind, so the children waited dinner with impatience.
Was it adventure round the corner ?

During the meal, the children thought of Christmas and of that mysterious smoke identified from the attic. But alas ! they could not speak about it all. Anne managed to hold her tongue, and the meal ended finally.
As he had announced, uncle Quentin did not mean to work thay afternoon, neither the next day which was Christmas.
They were scared that he did not manifest his desire to remain with the children but the children heaved a sigh of relief seeing him taking a book out of the library and settling comfortably in an arm-chair.
- What are you going to do ? he asked them. Don't disturb Joanna, in any case !
She is already very busy, preparing meals for seven of us, to say nothing of your hungry dog !
- We were thinking of making the most of the snow, said George. It's so nice.
- Well, then, make it fast, and do not go too far, the wind is strong, and one announces still more falls of snow on the radio !
- It is possible that the roads are blocked by the snow tomorrow, added Aunt Fanny. Be careful, and don't come back home too late.
- We put our coats, our boots and our gloves, said Anne. See you soon, Aunt Fanny !
As they walked, the children looked at the sky, laden and heavy, on that December afternoon. Thick snow flakes kept turning round and falling, thereby making a white carpet.
- Damn it ! said Julian, it was a good thing we left early, it is more difficult to walk today than it was yesterday.
- Even Timothy is finding it difficult to walk, said George. See how the snow accumulate itself in the ditches.
- Let us advance as quickly as we can, suggested Dick, who knows what we may find there ?
They came down slowly and they were now between the trees. The wind was less strong. Timothy had stopped jumping, and walked carefully near George.
The countryside was splendid, and inspite of the mystery that surprised the children, the Five kept their eyes wide open, as Timmy was enjoying the snow, this surprising thing, soft, which sometimes fell on his nose. The children staryed talking about the mystery of the smoke. Was it still visible ? Or had it disappeared ? Who had made the fire in this hut lost in the woods, instead of being wisely at home, sitting infront of the fireplace ?
- If I am not mistaken, said Julian, we are approaching the hut. Let us move forward carefully. Timothy will warn us of any danger, if there is one.
- I don't think we will find anybody, George said finally. Someone might have refuged himself in the cabin to make some fire and will have left. A woodcutter, a vagabond.
- Then we will verify that everything is well extinguished, and that the place is in order, and we will carefully close the door.
- Look, said Dick, the sky is even lower. How dark it is !
The children continued on their way silently. They soon came to a clearing, but the day was so weak that they could hardly see where they were. The smoke was still escaping from a tube of gas, but Timothy did not manifest any sign of fear.
- Let us go see, said Julian.
There were two small windows, masked by old curtains. And a quivering light lit the room.
- That's the heater, murmured George.
The five came still closer, and Julian put his face against the window.
- There is a candle that is lit, he blewed... And the heater is red. But there is nobody.
- Lemme see, said George pushing her cousin brother, I hve better eyes than you. No, I don't see anybody either.
The children went back a few steps, and then Julian said :
- Timothy does not look worried. See, he is approaching the door and is scratching it softly.
- In that case, let us enter, said George.
- Wait a little longer, said Dick, let me go round the hut.
- I come with you ! said George.
Crouching themselves, the four children walked carefully around the hut. After a few meters, at the shelter of a tree, Anne found foot-prints.
- They are those of someone who has small feet, said Dick. A bit of luck that the traces are under the trees, otherwise the snow would have erased them.

Back in front of the door, they decided to go in.
At once, Timothy went towards the old cot, the "bed" as George had said. A child was asleep. Near him, on a chair, was a candle that was almost dead. The heater was still giving some amount of heat, but was not sufficient. A big travel bag was lying beside the chair.
- Who is it ? murmured Anne.
The children hesitated a moment. Then Julian approached the child, and shook his shoulders.
He turned slowly to the other side.
- Oh ! what...
- Don't be scared, assured him Julian, we are only children. We found you by chance...
The boy could be 9 or 10 years. He was blond-headed, bright-eyed, who was at present yawning loudly.
- You have lost yourself, said Julian. What are you doing here ? It is a surprise for us to find a child asleep in this hut, far from all, and that too on the day before Christmas !
- Pour us your adventure, said kindly Anne.
And the boy began his tale.
He had left his school the previous day. A bus was taking the children back home. Little Michael, that was the child's name, was the last to get off the bus, as he lived at a farm lost between the hills, far away from all. Usually, his parents came to fetch him. But the snow storm had put certain roads out of use, and the bus was finding it hard to proceed.
- The driver dropped me on the road much before the crossing as he could not make his bus climb up the little cliff. It was snowing hard, making it impossible to see even a little ahead. And that's how I got lost... added Michael. I walked and walked, but to no avail.
- You must have been scared ? said Anne.
- Actually, I was beginning to feel tired, and I could still not recognize the countryside. Finally, I came to this wood. But I did not know where I was.
- So you must have been jolly glad to have found this shelter ? said George.
- Oh, yes ! It was cold, I was wet... I saw this heater, and a small heap of wood sticks, so I made fire to keep myself warm, and then fell asleep.
The boy looked intelligent and pleasant.
- Anne, interrupted Julian, see if you can find anything hot to drink.
- And I shall put some twigs in the pan, said Dick.
- My parents must be worried, said Michale... Why did they not come to collect me ?
- You know, explained Julian, many roads are filled with snow. Either they could not, or they arrived too late !
- We are going to take you back home, to Kirrin Cottage, said George. Father will inform your parents.
She thought the child was very nice, and Timothy was licking him and was putting his nose in between his hands.
The pan whistled gaily, and Anne had found a bowl still containing tea, and some humid stones of sugar. 
- You have been sleeping for a long time, remarked Dick.
- I slept until mid-night. Then I got up... The snow was still falling, and I did not know which way to go. And then, I had nothing to eat ! Just a package of biscuits in my bag.
- Good thing Anne saw this smoke in the forest, said George. Otherwise, we would not have found you today !
Anne served the tea and everyone sipped it.
- Right, said Julian. We must leave now. He helped the child to put some old newspapers beteween his shirt, to protect him from the cold.
- Do you hear the wind ? I think it is the storm of snow that had been announced on the wireless. Let us hurry up.
The children poured some snow on the fire that was still burning, closed the door again, and blocked it with a plank, so that the wind could not open it.
And they made their way back home.

- See, said George, how the way is beginning to disappear, let us walk fast, mother must be worried.
The children hurried up.
The little group was all white when it arrived to the Kirrin Cottage.
Aunt Fanny, who was anxiously awaiting the little party, was surprised to discover a fifth child.
Joanna, Uncle Quentin, the children, the dog, all started explaing at the same time. It was noisy !
Finally, when everything was explained, Joanna took the child to the kitchen, where she made him a nice breakfast, for the child was famished. Uncle Quentin phoned the parents of the little boy.
Surrounded by all, he was delighted. He became pink on the cheeks again, and smiled around.
- Your parents could not leave the farm, explained Uncle Quentin. And the telephone line was cut ! It is working again, now, and your father was about to call the policemen just when I called him ! How relieved he was ! Your mother is reassured. But you are going to stay with us this evening, for Christmas, as it is the - - Three cheers ! shouted George, this is our Christmas visitor.
Everybody clapped, even Uncle Quentin.
The five children took Michale near the tree, and the children excited, talked of Christmas, presents, good meals that were being prepared in the kitchen. Dick, George, Anne and Julian were happy to choose a gift for their guest. As for Timothy, he offered the child his best wishes, and the boy hugged him tightly.
The evening was marvellous. Garlands of the tree were switched on. Behind the tree, the fireplace was throwing peaceful showers of coal. An enormous turkey, surrounded with eggs, marvellously cooked by Joanna was sitting on the table, while everyone ate titbits. A cake waited on the dessert bowl. All kinds of toffees were set out on the plates. 
And at the leg of the tree, colorful packets were piled up neatly.
Everybody took good care of the little Michael, and the child admired the Famous Five whose members narrated to him their exciting adventures.
- He is a nice boy, said George to Anne, while climbing the stairs late in the evening. I hope we get to see him again. Here, Michael, you can go with the boys. Joanna has made a bed for you in their room !
- Thank you, thank you, said Michael, you are smashing, what luck to have met you ! I think that we will have some fun together !


Serge 2002

Translation : Srikrishnan Srinivasan


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