Thursday, 23rd May, 4 pm
“Cassie!! Hang on a minute!!”
I turned round and saw Jenny running up the road just after me, waving and shouting, so I stopped and waited for her to catch me up. She stood there, panting for a moment, before she said “Sorry - Angela just wanted me to tell you that we’re both going to be in the Manor House at the weekend, working on a school project, but we’re going to stay out of your way as much as possible.”
Now I had been looking forward to a weekend without a big sister, but I could understand why she had told me. It was going to be the first time the five of us - Suzie, Pippa, Hazel and Claire as well as me - had been alone since I got the award, and I had hoped we would be left alone. We usually are when we go to Suzie’s grandmother’s house anyway, but if Jenny and her gang were going to be there as well...
“Hey - whose car is that outside our house?”
I turned to look to our gate, and saw what Jenny meant. There was a small green car parked outside, one I had never seen before, and as we got closer I could see that there was a pair of pink fluffy dogs sitting behind the back window.
“Now who do you think they belong to,” Jenny said as we walked to our front door. As we went in, I could hear Mum talking to someone in our front room.
“I was as surprised as you were when they appeared here. Did you know they were coming?”
I then heard another woman talking, her voice a little different, almost Scottish, saying “Not a sausage of an idea - the first I knew was when they appeared on my doorstep just before Christmas. I think the lass was more shocked than I was.”
“Mum, we’re home,” Jenny called out, and we saw Mum appearing in the doorway, holding her back as she said “Come in here, girls - there’s someone I want you to meet properly.”
We followed mum in and saw two other people in there. One looked like a younger version of Mum, although her face was more lined and her hair was a darker colour. “Oh my god, Jenn,” she said as she saw us, “They’ve grown so much.”
“Hello Aunt Jessica,” Jenny said as she stood there, “Have you settled in yet?”
“Oh it’s going to take a while for that to happen, Jenny,” she said with a big smile, “but I’m glad to be back nearer my family. Patty, say hello to your cousins.”
I was looking at Aunt Jessica as she sat there. She was slightly smaller and plumper than Mum, and was wearing a blue denim dress with brass buttons on the front, with black knee length boots. Mum was wearing an old t-shirt and stretch pants with slipper socks.
“Hello Jennifer, Hello Cassandra.”
I looked to the other armchair, and sitting on it was a nine year old girl, with long black hair that was platted into two pigtails that fell either side of her face and down her shoulders. Her eyes were a mixture of green and brown, and hidden behind a pair of steel rimmed glasses. She was wearing a red t-shirt under a denim bib dress, which came to the top of her knees, white socks and black shoes.
“Say hello to your cousin, girls,” Mum said as she looked at us. We both said “hello,” and smiled at her, before I said “so, how do you like your new home?”
“It’s all right,” Patty said, “but I miss my friends, and I miss playing at the Peel on a Saturday.”
“You’ll make new friends soon enough,” Aunt Jessica said with a smile. “Patty will be starting at your school after the holiday, Cassie, and I understand she’s going to meet some of your friends this weekend?”
“That’s right,” I said with a smile, “You’ll like Suzie and the others.”
“Girls,” Mum said before she groaned and held her back again, “Why don’t you go and get changed, and then the three of you can play upstairs.”
“What about our homework, Mum? You always say we have to do that first.”
“I think,” Mum said as she groaned again, “I am going to allow an exception to that tonight. On you go - I’ll send Patty up in a few minutes.”
We both turned and walked up the stairs, going into our bedrooms as we wondered why Mum was groaning. I put my bag on the floor, and took off my school clothes, folding them and putting them on the laundry box before I pulled out a pair of grey joggers and an old white t-shirt and put them on.
There was a knock on the door, and I heard Patty say “Can I come in, Cassandra?”
“Sure,” I said, and as she came in I said “Patty, please call me Cassie - only Granny calls me Cassandra, and only when she is angry.”
“Gotcha,” Patty said as she sat on the bed, swinging her legs to and fro. “So what do you do for fun here, Cassie? What about your friends, will they like me?”
“I’m sure they will,” I said as I sat next to her, “And Jenny’s all right as well.” I looked at her and said “I guess it’s scary, coming to a new town?”
“Yeah,” she said as she looked at me, “I know why Mum did it - too many bad memories of Dad. I really liked Linlithgow, and I’ll miss my classmates from there, but I guess we’ll keep in touch.”
Patty’s dad, Uncle Harry, had died a couple of years ago - Granny had looked after us while Mum and Dad went to the funeral. I don't exactly know what happened - all Dad said was there had been a car crash - but I know Mum had been very unhappy when she came back. Something had upset her a lot, I guess - but whatever it was was in the past.
Jenny came in, and sat in my chair, looking at both of us. She had put on a pair of jeans and a white sweatshirt, as she said “Listen, it’s nice outside - why don’t we go to the park for an hour or so? We can show you some of the local shops and things then.”
Patty nodded as she stood up, and then said “thanks - I get the feeling Mum and Aunt Jenn want to talk about things.”
“I noticed,” Jenny said as I put on a jacket. We went downstairs in time to meet Dad coming in.
“Hello Patty,” he said as he picked up and hugged our cousin. “You’ve grown - is your mother in the front room.”
As Patty nodded, Jenny said “Dad, we’re going to the park for an hour.”
“All right,” he said as Jenny and Patty put on their coats, “Don’t be any later than that though - I’m going to cook tea tonight.” We walked to the front door, as we heard Dad say “Hello Jessica, I was...”
When we got back to our house, we saw Dad driving off with Mum and Aunt Jessica. “Where do you think they are going,” Jenny said as we walked in, and saw Granny standing there, with a big smile on her face.
“Patty, my little angel,” she said as Patty ran up and cuddled her, “It’s so good to see you. Jenny, Cassie, your dad had taken your mum to the hospital, and your Aunt Jessica has gone with them, so I’ve come over to keep an eye on you, and Aunt Cassie will join us later.”
“Is it time,” Jenny said, and I looked at her, wondering if she knew something I had missed. Looking back at Granny, I saw her nod and then say “Let’s have a girl’s night in, all right? Patty, your mum says you should stay here tonight - I’m sure you can borrow some nightclothes from Cassie to sleep in.”
“Can we play our special games tonight,” I said as I looked at Granny, but she shook her head. “Not tonight, poppet,” she said, “we need to be ready in case anything happens, but we’ll still have fun, all right? At any rate, you two still have some homework to do, don’t you?”
“What’s going on,” I whispered to Jenny as we went in the front room, “Is Mum all right?”
“I think,” Jenny said quietly, “you’re about to stop being the baby of the family, but keep quiet about it, all right?”
“Keep quiet? You may have to make me,” I whispered back, but as Jenny laughed she said “Not tonight - we don’t know if Patty wants to play, or even if she knows. All right?”
I nodded as the front door opened, and Aunt Cassie came in, wearing a long brown skirt that rustled as she moved, a tan coloured jumper and a funny soft waistcoat. “Well, there you are,” she said as she looked at us. “And you must be Patricia. I’m Aunt Cassie - a pleasure to meet you.”
Patty blushed and nodded as Aunt Cassie looked at both of us, and then said “Right - let’s find a DVD to put on, as soon as you two have finished your homework. Why don’t you help me pick, Patty?”
It was a funny night - we did our homework, had our tea, and then watched Patty’s choice of movie - Tangled. When the film finished, Granny simply said “Right - time you three got ready for bed. Cassie, can you find something for Patty?”
We went upstairs, and I found an old blue nightdress that came to above my knees, but on Patty almost reached the floor. We then went back downstairs for a while, but Granny and Aunt Cassie were spending half the time listening to us and half looking at the door.
“When’s Dad going to be back,” Jenny said, and as if on cue the phone rang. “I’ll get it,” Aunt Cassie said, and as she left the room Granny said “He may not be back until much later, Jenny - I’m sure...”
“That was John,” Aunt Cassie said as she came back in, “Jennifer’s fine, but they’re staying there. You three are to go to bed, and he’ll see you in the morning.”
“Will Mum be coming home as well,” I said as I looked at Granny.
“I don’t know, Cassie,” she said with a smile, “but I’m sure Dad will tell you everything later. Right - come on, up to your bed.”
Aunt Cassie came up with a blow up mattress, which she used a foot pump on to make it big and firm in my room, and then put a sleeping bag and a pillow on it for Patty. As I climbed under the duvet, Aunt Cassie said “Good night, both of you,” and turned the light off.
“Mum said you got an award for bravery last week - were you really held hostage by robbers?”
“Yeah I was.”
“Were you scared?”
“A little, but I had to be brave for everyone else.”
There was a moment’s silence, before Patty said “Will you tell me about it?”
“In the morning, all right?”
“All right - I want to know what it was like.” There was silence as I turned over and went to sleep, wondering what Patty had been told.
I was woken up by the sound of Granny saying “Oh thank God,” and Dad speaking to her. I looked at the clock, and saw it was two in the morning, so I went back to sleep.
Friday 24th May, 7 am
When my alarm went off at seven, I got up, stretched and yawned before I went to the toilet, leaving Patty sleeping on the bed. When I came out, Jenny was waiting.
“Did you hear Dad last night?”
I nodded and waited until she came back out, before we both went downstairs. Dad was sitting at the table, and when I looked at him I realised he had not been to bed - he was still wearing his shirt and trousers from when I saw him last night.
“Ah here are my angels,” he said as he looked up at us. “How are you both this morning?”
“Dad,” Jenny said as Granny came in with the milk bottles, “Where’s Mum?”
“Sit down, girls,” Dad said as Granny handed him a cup of coffee, and then sat down herself, a big grin on her face. “Now, I took your mum to the hospital last night because she knew it was time for the newest member of our family to arrive - and she was right to do so.”
I grinned from ear to ear as I said “So my baby brother has arrived?”
Jenny looked at me and said “How did you know it was a baby brother?”
Dad yawned and said “Well, I told her Jenny - but then you know something else, don’t you? Mum told me what happened when you listened on Mother’s Day.”
It was Jenny’s turn to blush as she said “I... I thought I heard two sets of heartbeats.”
Dad was still smiling as he stood up and picked up our digital camera, as Patty came in and said “Good morning.”
“Jennifer Alison and Cassandra Paulette Craig,” he said as he looked at us, “Later today I’ll take you to meet them for real, but this is your new baby brother, born at 11.40 last night. His name is David John Craig.” He looked at Granny as he said this, while we looked at the new born baby on the photo.
“Oh wow,” Patty said as she looked at him, “He looks so small.” Jenny and I said nothing, as we gazed at our baby brother.
“And this,” Dad said again as he fiddled with the camera once more, “is your little sister, who was born at 12.15 this morning.”
“Our...” I started to say, and then stopped as I looked at Dad and Granny, “Our baby sister?”
“That’s right,” Granny said with a smile, “You did hear two sets of heartbeats, Jenny. Your mother had been expecting twins - but it seems they are going to have different birthdays.”
“What... what is her name,” Jenny said as she looked at the second picture, this one of a baby with dark hair.
“We’re going to call her June - June Helen Craig,” Dad said as he sat back down, leaving us looking at the pictures.
I just stared at the second picture, at the pink bonnet and her hands waving in the air, as Dad said “Cassie - your jaw is dropping. Close your mouth please.”
Jenny had sat down, looking at Dad and Granny with a look I had never seen before. “So that’s what Aunt Cassie was trying to say,” she eventually whispered, and then more loudly said “Why didn’t you tell us?”
“We wanted to, but - well, we felt it was better to wait and see what happened. I’m sorry if that sounds as if we were hiding things - although, come to think of it, we were.”
Granny looked at me and said “Well, Cassie - what are you thinking?”
“I... I don’t know,” I said, and then I smiled as I said “Wait until I tell the girls...”
“On which note,” Dad said, “You two need to have your breakfast and get ready for school. Patty, you’re going to stay here with granny until your mother comes to collect you later.”
“All right, Uncle John,” Patty said as she looked at both of us. “Wow - double the family in one night. What do you think your friends are going to say?”
That was what Pippa said when I saw her in the playground when Dad dropped me off. When Hazel and Claire came up, and I told them, they just looked at each other, hugged me and then said “If you want any help, let us know - even if one of them is a boy.”
“Especially as one of them is a boy,” Claire said, “they can be real trouble.”
“Tell me about it,” I said with a smile, “but I can’t quite believe it - a baby brother and a baby sister.”
“Yeah - but do you realise what else that means?”
I looked at Pippa and said “What?”
“You’re not the baby of the family any more. Congrats Cassie - you’re all grown up.”
“No I’m not - I’m... I’m...”
I stopped and thought for a moment, before the bell went and we lined up to go into our classes. When we found a table at lunchtime, Pippa said “Actually, we wanted to ask you if that means things are different this weekend.”
“Oh lord no,” I said with a smile, “I’m looking forward to that.”
“What about your cousin,” Hazel said “Will she be joining in?”
That was when I realised that, in all the excitement that morning, I had not had a chance to talk to Patty. “Let’s see what happens,” I said, “but Jenny’s going to be around somewhere.”
“Great - big sister syndrome.”
“Nope, Claire - they’ll be somewhere else in the house. It’s a big place. Don’t worry - they won’t disturb us.”
“So you’re going to teach us - you and Suzie?”
“Oh yes - but are you three ready? After all, your mum,” I said as I looked at Hazel and Claire, “was a bit funny last weekend.”
“Mum’s still a bit scared about what happened - but we want to know how you did what you did to us. We won’t tell her.”
“You may have to at some point - but let’s not worry about that now. Tonight I see David and June - and I can’t wait!”
The corridor still smelt of a forest as Dad walked down it, with my hand in one of his and Jenny’s in his other one, and we went back under the sign we had seen only a week or so before. As we approached the double doors, they opened and we saw Aunt Connie and Uncle Dave coming out. Uncle Dave was carrying a small car seat by a handle, and sleeping inside, wrapped in blankets, was little Danny.
“And there’s the next proud Dad,” he said as Aunt Connie hugged Dad, and then both of us. She looked tired, but there was a glow in her face as she said “Well, at least we can stop keeping this secret from you two now. Go on in - she’s waiting for you. Cassie came earlier, and Jessica said she and Patty would drop by later.”
“Yeah - they’re coming to our house for dinner tonight,” Dad said, and with that we went into the room, and saw Mum sitting up in bed. She smiled as she saw us, me in my yellow dress and Jenny in her school uniform, and said “Come here you two - give your mother a hug.”
We didn’t run over, but we did go quickly to each side of her and gave her the biggest hug we could. As we went to her, we passed a plastic box at each side of the bed, but it was only after we stopped that we turned and saw them in real life for the first time.
They looked very, very similar, save for the fact one had a blue bonnet on and one a pink one. “So is that David,” Jenny said as she pointed to the pink hat, making Dad and Mum both laugh.
“Of course not,” Mum said, “That’s June - would you like to hold her?”
Very carefully, Dad lifted June out of the box and placed her in Jenny’s arms, resting the tiny head in the crook of her arm. “Just hold her like that and you’ll be fine,” he said as he lifted David out. I looked at Dad, and then the next thing I knew he was in my arms, and I was looking down into his face as he opened his eyes and looked at me.
“Hello David,” I said, and I felt myself smile as I looked at him. “I’m your big sister Cassie. Welcome to the family.”
“You too June,” I heard Jenny say, and as I looked over I could see there was a tear running down her cheek. What was more surprising was that I could feel one running down mine as well.
“Hey, hey,” Mum said as she looked at us, “I know - it’s a bit overwhelming, now that we’re a much bigger family.”
“It’s not that,” Jenny said, “I just know now how Alicia felt when she saw Andrew - it’s a strange feeling. Was I like this when I saw Cassie for the first time?”
“As I remember, you cried for a completely different reason - you needed the toilet,” Dad said, which made us both laugh. “Look girls, Mum is going to need all three of us to help her over the next few months, and we need to make some changes - the spare room is now a nursery for one thing.”
“What about our games?”
“Well,” Mum said as she took the new babies from us, “I won’t be able to play for a while, but you can still play. Let’s just see what happens, all right?”
We both nodded as Aunt Jessica and Patty came in. “How are you, sis,” she said as she kissed Mum’s cheek.
“Tired, but happy,” Mum said as Dad took us by the hand. “I’ll take them to get a drink - back in a few minutes,” he said as we left the room, and went to a small cafe.
As we both sipped on a glass of Coke, Dad put a cup of coffee to his mouth.
“I was wondering - do you think Andrew, Danny and David will get on as well as we do with Alicia and Suzie?”
“Almost certainly,” he said as he put his cup down.
“Do you think they will play our games as well?”
“Not for a while - but I’d be very surprised if they did not.” Dad looked at his watch, and then said “Cassie, when we go back, let Mum know you will tell Lady Holderness tomorrow our news.”
I nodded as he then said “Oh - and we need to get something for the new babies. How about I take care of that for both of you later?”
We both nodded and started to drink again.
“You promised you were going to tell me!”
Tea was over, and the three of us were in my room. Patty was wearing a pair of grey joggers and a matching Nike sweatshirt, while for once Jenny and I had not changed - save for Jenny taking her blazer and tie off.
I nodded as I sat on the bed, my legs swinging as I said “Well, it was scary, when the man walked in the door holding Pippa’s arm. I knew two things - the house was being robbed, and we were in trouble, but I had to keep the others calm. So I took the lead, and when we discovered we were going to be tied up I offered to help.”
“But how did you know what to do?” Patty was looking at us both, wide eyed, as I looked at Jenny and she looked at me.
“Well.... Patty, can you keep a secret from your mother?”
“Cross my heart and hope to die,” Patty said as she ran her finger over her chest and looked at us.
“It wasn’t the first time I and Suzie had been tied up - nowhere near the first time. I knew how it had been done to me, and the man took care of Suzie. I made it look as if I was copying him, but I did know what I was doing.”
“Wow,” Patty said as she looked at us, “What about you Jenny - have you been tied up and gagged too?”
Jenny nodded, and then said “In fact, quite a few of us have. You see...”
“Can you tie me up?”
I looked at Patty, and said “Have you ever been tied up before?”
She shuffled her feet a little, and said “No - but I have seen it on the television. What’s it like?”
Jenny picked up a skipping rope, and said “Put your hands in front of you.” As Patty did this, Jenny wrapped the rope around her wrists, pulling them gently together as she secured them side by side, and then let them fall to her lap.
“Is this how you were tied, Cassie,” she said as she looked at me and twisted her wrists around.
“Not quite the same way, no,” I said as Jenny picked up a second skipping rope and tied her ankles together. “Tell you what - maybe tomorrow at the Manor house I can show you, if you’re not scared.”
“I’m not scared,” Patty said as she twisted her legs round, “I can be as brave as you were - I can!”
“Sound familiar,” Jenny whispered to me, and I hate to say it - but it did sound familiar. I had to stop myself from laughing as Aunt Jessica called up “Patty - we need to get home. Uncle John will pick you up tomorrow.”
“All right Mum,” Patty shouted down as we untied her. “See you both tomorrow,” she said as she ran out of the room.
“Let’s find out tomorrow,” I said as I put the skipping ropes away.
Saturday 25th May, 10 am.
We looked out of the car window as Dad went to the front door of the house and knocked on it, and Patty ran out, jumping into the car and sitting between us. She was wearing a blue top with red flowers on it, blue jeans and sneakers. I had on a white t-shirt and shorts, with knee length socks and trainers, while Jenny was wearing a blue blouse and jeans with her black Ugg boots.
“Strap in,” Dad said over his shoulder as he started the car again, having put an overnight bag into the back of the car, and we set off again on the short drive to Holderness Manor. As we drove through the gates and up the driveway, I felt like I was coming to my second home, so familiar was it.
Patty, however, stared wide eyed out of the window as we drove up the tree lined road, and then onto the driveway at the front of the house. We got out, and she simply said “Wow,” as she looked at the lawn running down from the house.
“I’m glad you like it,” a familiar voice said, and we turned to see Angela standing there, wearing a pale green cotton dress, a cream coloured jacket and flat cream coloured shoes.
“Hello girls, and hello Patricia - I’m Angela Bowden, welcome to Holderness Manor. Grandma is inside with Suzie and Alicia - why don’t you come and meet her?”
As we walked into the hallway, Mr Bridges went past, saying “Allow me to fetch the bags” as he did so. “A real butler,” Patty whispered - well, said out loud. Angela laughed and said “no - Mr and Mrs Bridges look after the house. You’ll meet them later - this way please.” She opened the door to the library and we went in, to see Lady Holderness, Alicia and Suzie sitting there.
Suzie ran up and hugged me, her gypsy skirt rustling as she did so, then said to Patty “You must be Cassie’s cousin - I’m Suzie. Do you like to be called Patricia or something else?”
“Patty please,” she replied as I saw Alicia hugging Jenny. “Now I know how you felt,” she whispered as Lady Holderness said “I believe you have something to tell me, Cassandra?”
“Yes, your Ladyship,” I said, “I have a new baby brother and a new baby sister.”
She smiled and said “Congratulations to all of you.” She was wearing her usual cream coloured twin set, with a knee length tweed skirt and brown shoes, but she then did something I had never seen her do before - she stood up, walked over and hugged Dad, saying “I’m so glad it all worked out in the end,” as she did so.
Alicia and Suzie looked at their grandmother - Suzie had on a short sleeved blouse as well as her skirt, and white shoes, while Alicia was wearing a pair of tan coloured trousers and a mustard coloured short sleeved top.
“Well, I have to go,” Dad said eventually, “Jenny, I’ll come and pick you up at five. Cassie, I’ll see you tomorrow.” As he turned to leave, Mr Bridges came in and said “Mrs Brooks is here with her daughter, your Ladyship.”
“Thank you,” Lady Holderness said as she took Suzie by the hand. “Come on,” Alicia said to Jenny, “the others are in the main hall.” They both left as Patty stood with me, looking round the library and saying “Cassie - just who are these friends of yours?”
“The best,” I said as we followed them out, and saw Pippa standing with her mother as Lady Holderness was talking to them.
“I hope this is not an imposition on you, Your Ladyship,” Mrs Brooks was saying as Pippa stood there, twisting from side to side on her feet as she looked round. She was also wearing a t-shirt and shorts, pink in her case, and she smiled as she saw us standing there.
“It is no imposition, Mrs Brooks,” Lady Holderness replied, “After what happened that night, I feel Suzanne is a friend of your daughters, and we make a point of allowing her to have her friends to stay. Suzanne, why don’t you take the others to the playroom - Mrs Bridges will show the other girls up when they arrive.”
“Of course, Grandma,” Suzie said as Pippa walked over and joined us, and we walked up the staircase. Walking into the playroom, both Pippa and Patty looked round as Suzie closed the door, then said “Welcome to my grandmother’s house, Pippa.”
“Oh my goodness,” Pippa said as she sat on a beanbag, “Is this the room you were tied up in last year?”
Patty looked at me, as I said “This is it - the room where we first met, right Suzie?”
“It sure was,” Suzie said as she sat down. I looked at Patty, and then said “oops - Pippa, this is my cousin Patty. Patty, this is Pippa.”
“Hi,” Pippa said as she leaned back. “So, when do we start?”
“When the twins get here,” I said as I sat down as well, watching Patty as she picked up a book. “Do we have to wait,” she said as she sat down and kicked her legs in the air, “I want to know what happened to all of you.”
I could see she was getting a little impatient, so I said “I tell you what, Patty - why don’t I show you how I was tied up the first time we were robbed. Then you can decide what else you want to do?”
“You’ll do that - great! What do I have to do?”
Suzie opened a box and took out some rope as I said “Put your hands behind your back,” I said, and Patty actually had the biggest grin on her face as she did so. I then crossed her wrists behind her back, and started to tie her arms together, making sure I wound the rope around and between them, before tying the ends off and tucking them into the band. I then took a second length of rope around her waist and tied the ends together just below her belly button.
“Wow,” Patty said as she tried twisting her arms round, “that feels tight.”
“Is it uncomfortable?”
“I don’t know - it just feels funny. What now?”
“Sit down on the blanket box,” Suzie said, and as my cousin sat I picked up another length of rope, which I used to tie her ankles together, cinching the coils between her legs. Another length went round her legs, just below her knees, and then she sat there, swinging her legs to and fro as the door opened.
“Your other friends are here, Miss Suzanne,” Mrs Bridges said as she showed Hazel and Claire in. They were, as usual, virtually identically dressed, in short sleeved blouses over long sleeved white tops, casual trousers and trainers - Hazel was wearing a brown blouse and pants, while Claire was wearing grey ones.
“Aw, you started without us,” Hazel said as she saw Patty on the box. “Is this your cousin?”
“It is,” I said as I picked up an old cotton headscarf, a yellow triangle with thin straps at two corners. “Patty, this is Hazel and Claire. I was showing Patty what happened when Jenny and I were tied up one afternoon with Mum.”
“Oh I remember that - so this is how they tied you? It does not look as tight as what happened to us?”
I shook my head at Hazel’s comment, and the hurt look on Patty’s face. “No it isn’t,” I said, “but this is the first time Patty has really been tied up - I want her to get used to it, then if she wants to join us later she can.”
“So how does it feel, Patty,” Claire said as she looked at the ropes around my cousin’s body.
“Strange - it feels strange, but not scary,” she said as she looked at me. “What are you going to do with the scarf?”
“Well, the man tied it in my mouth to keep me quiet. Of course, if you don’t want it...”
“Can I try that later, I want to get used to this first,” Patty said, so I put the scarf down and said “Now then - if you want Suzie and me to teach you how I tied you up, you need to go to the toilet first, and then you need to draw lots to see how we teach first. Then the other two get a chance to try it later, all right?”
“That seems fair - then we all get a chance to practice on each other?”
Suzie nodded, as she said “Angela, my cousin, will come and help us for the first time in a little while - we’ll teach one of you, then Cassie can tie that one up with me, and then...
“Can I be tied up the same way?”
We both looked at Patty, and I said “Watch what happens, and then decide how it feels.”
“Will we have our hands covered?”
“Not the first time - given this is the first time it will have been done as a game, you need to be able to feel you can move or use your hands. The toilet is the third door on the right - you three go, and then come back.”
As the trio left the room, Suzie said to Patty “so how do you like it - hands behind back and legs tied?”
“It’s not as scary as I thought it would be,” she said as she shuffled on the box seat, “I can see why you like this, but I still think I could get away if I wanted to.”
“We may do something about that,” I said with a smile. “So where’s Alicia and the others?”
“In the main room downstairs - they were charged with interviewing a local celebrity, so Alicia naturally thought of Grandpa. Once they’re finished with that, I think they might go down to the lake for a while later.”
“Are we going to go down later?”
“I thought we might save that fro tomorrow,” Suzie said as the others came back, “Grandpa and Grandma want us to dress for dinner tonight. Did you bring your dress?”
I nodded as Claire closed the door, and then said “How do we do this?”
Suzie picked up a pack of cards, and then said “Draw one out” after she had shuffled them. “Highest card gets to learn first." They looked at each other, drew one card, and then turned them face up at the same time.
“Aces high,” Claire said as she looked at me, and then smiled as I nodded. “Can I do Hazel then,” she said as she looked at her twin sister, “she woke me up this morning with a wet flannel on my face.”
“Only because you were snoring,” Hazel said as she stuck her tongue out, but we all laughed - including Patty. “All right,” I said as I took a length of rope and handed it to Claire, while Suzie sat down next to Patty, “Copy what I do. Double the rope over, and hold the centre in one hand and the ends in the other. Pippa, Hazel, you need to stand with your backs to us and your wrists crossed behind your back.”
They turned and did as we asked, as I said “Right, Claire, you wrap the doubled over rope around Hazel’s wrists, and then feed the ends under the middle and pull gently, bringing her wrists together. Then pull back against the middle, and wrap it round her wrists, keeping the coils of rope on top of each other. All right?”
Claire nodded as she did as I asked, binding her sister’s wrists together as I took care of Pippa. “Hey,” she said as she looked over her shoulder, “Did I hear Mum right? Your mother had twins as well?”
I nodded and said “Yup - a boy and a girl, born on different days, but still the cutest and most adorable little...” I looked at Claire, who was looking at me in a funny way.
“Do you know how big a grin you have at the moment? Right, what do I do now?”
I shook my head and said “Tuck the ends under the top loop, then separate them and pass them between the arms. As you pull, it tightens the loops around the wrists - it’s called cinching.” We both did the same thing to our volunteers, tying the ends tightly together on top and then tucking the ends in.
“So that’s what you did to me,” Patty said as she looked on, “I bet I could do that.”
“Maybe you will,” Suzie said as I picked up two longer lengths of rope. “You now need to use this,” I said as I handed one to Claire, “and pass it around Hazel’s waist from behind, making sure her wrist sit against her back. You can then bring the ends back, and pass them between her wrists and her back - this locks them in place. Watch what I do to Pippa, and then you do the same.”
She watched as I tied the rope around Pippa’s waist, and then did the same to hazel, who said "This feels familiar” as she stood there.
“Yes, it does,” Pippa said as I tied the rope off, and then picked up two more long lengths of rope. “Watch carefully,” I said as I tied one end of the rope around Pippa’s arm, just below her elbow, and then wrapped the rope around her tummy and other arm as if doing two circles of eight. “This keeps the arms into the side,” I said as I finished off by tying the ends against the first arm, “and stops you making much use of them. Can you do the same to Hazel?”
Claire did just that as Pippa wriggled round, the rope rubbing against her bare arms. “It’s tight all right,” she then said as Hazel had her arms secured. “Is this the worst you’ve ever had?”
“No - but one step at a...”
“I want you to do that to me.”
I looked at Patty, who had a big frown on her face. Looking at Suzie, I said “Are you sure you want me to? It is a bit more restrictive than that.”
“I want to be part of the gang,” she called out, so Suzie bound her arms in the way as we turned Pippa and Hazel round, and then helped them to sit on two of the beanbags.
“This actually feels quite cosy - and without the man standing over us, I don’t feel afraid,” Hazel said as she looked at us, then at Pippa.
“It is funny isn’t it - that night I was scared stiff, but you stayed calm. Now - I can see why you like it. So what happens next?”
I handed Claire another length of rope. “Same as with the wrists, “I said quietly, “double the rope over, and then keep their ankles side by side as you tie them together.”
“Why don’t you want them crossed,” Hazel said as Claire bound her ankles together, over the bottom of her pant legs.
“You’ll see,” I said as I winked at Suzie, and then tied Pippa’s ankles together. We then used another length of rope, and Claire followed my instructions to tie their legs together, the same way as their ankles, below their knees to secure them together,
“Oh,” Hazel said as she watched her twin sister tie her legs together, “That is tight. But nice as well - I could get to like this.”
“Yeah - but do we get to be quiet now? And what are you going to use? Not that silver tape I hope.”
“No,” Suzie said as she reached up to as helf and picked up a box, “I think you might prefer this stuff. It goes round the head, but will not damage your hair, so you don’t need a scarf on.” She opened the box and took out a wide roll of our favourite white tape, handing it to Claire and sitting back down. She tore a little strip off and stuck it to the back of her hand, before saying “It feels soft - but is it strong?”
“Try it,” I say as I hand her the yellow scarf. “Make that into a ball, and put in into Hazel’s mouth, then stick the tape to her cheek and wrap it round three times.”
She did as I asked, then handed me the roll as I folded a red scarf into a pad and pushed it into Pippa’s mouth. “There,” I said after I wrapped the tape around her mouth, trapping her hair at the back of her neck, “Does that feel as tight as it did that night?”
The two girls nodded as I heard Patty say “Oh come on - I want to be gagged like that as well!! Please!!!”
“All right,” Suzie said as she picked up a white handkerchief, and Patty opened her mouth, nodding as her mouth was stuffed and then taped over. She nodded as she said “Tsssfnnene” and then started to giggle.
“Be careful,” I said as I looked at her. “If you’re not used to this, you can get into real trouble if you laugh.”
“You need to listen to your cousin, Patty - she knows what she’s talking about.”
I turned to see Angela standing in the door, her arms crossed in front of her. “I see Cassie has taught you a few things, Claire,” she said as she checked the ropes on Hazel and Pippa. “Why don’t you show me what you have learned - if you tie Cassie up, I’ll take care of Suzie, and then you.”
“REVENGE!” Claire called out as she picked up some more lengths of rope, while Suzie stood up with her back to Angela and crossed her wrists behind her back. As she methodically tied me up, I could tell she was a quick learner - it as not as tight as Suzie, never mind Angela, but she was doing the right sort of thing.
Twenty minutes later, Angela finished wrapping the tape round Claire’s head, as we sat in a circle, four of us on beanbags. Suzie on a chair and Pippa on the box. “Lunch,” Angela said as she looked at her watch, “will be in about ninety minutes, so I’ll come up to free you then. Suzie, Cassie - remember not to try the stairs yet.” She walked out of the room as Hazel said “whtddshmnbtht?”
“Lsshwu,” I said as I pushed myself up onto my feet, and then started to jump around the room. Suzie joined in, as one by one the others managed to get to their feet and start to take little hops round.
Well, big hops in Patty’s case - she really seemed to be enjoying the situation, so much so she almost fell, but Suzie managed to help her to lean against the wall while she caught her breath.
“Thshsssxstng,” Pippa said as she jumped towards the door, “cnwgwlkbt?”
Suzie nodded as she jumped over and opened the door, the six of us making our way along the corridor to where I could hear noises coming from another bedroom. “Ltsllknsd,” Suzie mumbled as we slowly approached the door.
We congregated outside the doorway, a big smile evident under Suzie’s face as she pushed down on the handle. As the door swung inwards, we all started to hop in and shout “SRPRSSS” through our gags. I had expected to see Jenny and the others, but as we looked in we got the surprise of our lives.
“Great,” Bobby said as he looked up from the bed, “and I thought Colin and I would get some peace and quiet to get on with our work.”
Patty hopped past us, before she tripped and fell on a cushion on the floor while the rest of us stared at the two boys. Colin and Bobby were wearing shorts and t-shirts, and scattered on the bed were a number of books and papers.
“Hgrttrbl,” Suzie mumbled as Bobby looked at the six of us, while Colin got off the bed and helped Patty to sit up. “I don’t think we’ve met,” he said as he looked at her. “Are you Cassie’s cousin?”
“Ysmmpte,” she said through the gag as she looked at him. “So there are your playmates, sis,” Bobby said as he looked at the rest of us. “I see you’ve started the games early - why don’t you introduce us?”
“Mppeee,” Pippa said as she looked in, “ndthsss hzlnclr.”
“Usndffnee,” Hazel mumbled as Colin and Bobby looked at us. “Well, you all sound a bit funny,” Bobby said with a smile, “and I guess Suzie felt you were ready for a more - formal bind, but I am willing to bet there is one thing she did not tell you about.”
Suzie was looking at Bobby, saying “Hnnn, dntudr,” as she tried to back away, only for Colin to close the door. I looked at her, then at the boys, before saying “hnnn” and trying to jump out of the way.
Pippa and Hazel were not so lucky, as Bobby and Colin grabbed them both and started to tickle them, making them fall to their knees as their eyes widened in surprise. “NNNPLSSDDNT!” Pippa screamed as I went and sat next to Patty, who was giggling like mad under her tape gag.
“Mnttcklsh - smsf.”
“Dntstht,” I mumbled as the boys dropped the two girls on the bed, and then grabbed Suzie and Claire, running their fingers over the sides of their ribs as they did so. They were so occupied with what was going on that they ignored the two of us, which was to my advantage as I nudged Patty.
She nodded as I turned my back to her slightly, and found the knot in the rope that Cassie had tied around her arms. She looked over her shoulder and watched as I started to unravel the knot, feeding the ends of the rope back through the loops as I said “Dntltnwhtmdng - wllsrprshtm.”
The screams of muffled laughter continued from the bed as Bobby and Colin kept tickling the other four, not noticing as I managed to free Patty’s arms and hands. She reached up and slowly unwound the tape from around her head, before taking the handkerchief from her mouth. I turned my back to her, hoping she would untie my hands once she had finished freeing herself - so I was totally unprepared when she started to tickle my ribs instead, making me wriggle round almost as much as the other four.
“Whtrudng,” I screamed as I tried to look over my shoulder at her.
“Oh come on Cassie - you would have done the same to me,” she whispered with a smile as she continued to tickle my ribs. I closed my eyes to try and ignore the sensation, but it was no use - especially when I realised after a while I was the only one laughing.
Opening my eyes, I could see the others sitting on the bed, watching me as Patty made me wriggle round on the floor. Suzie was laughing under her gag as Colin said “If that’s Cassie’s cousin, then she’s going to be an even bigger hellion than Cassie and Suzie.”
“Alicia’s going to love that,” Bobby said as he eventually picked Patty up and deposited her on the bed as well. “I think that’s enough for the moment,” Bobby said as he helped me to sit up, taking the gag off me and removing the scarf as I tried to catch my breath.
“Patty, you...” I eventually said. “You have to go easy when someone has something in their mouth - accidents can happen.”
“Don’t worry Patty,” Bobby said as we watched her frown and lower her head, “after lunch, Angela will show you why that’s the case.” He then bent down and whispered in my ear “Mind you, you looked cute struggling on the floor like that.”
I must have blushed at that, because Pippa said “Oh look - Cassie’s all red in the cheeks.” My blushes were spared by a knock on the door, and I heard Alicia say “Bobby - are Suzie and the others in there with you?”
“Yeah,” he called back, “Is lunch ready?”
“Just about - you’d better tell them to do whatever they have to do and come down with them.”
“Which is our cue to release you for now,” Colin said as he started to untie Suzie. “I’m sure there will be other opportunities to get treated this way over the weekend.”
I watched as Bobby removed the ropes around me, and said “No hard feelings, Cassie” as he helped me to stand up.
“I’ll get you for this, Robert Holderness,” I hissed when I eventually stood up and hit him in the arm. As I did so, however, Claire made a funny sound and said “Look - Cassie is in love with him.”
“No I’m not,” I shouted as I hit Bobby again, but he only rubbed his arm and smiled as we started to leave the room. “I meant it by the way,” he said as we walked out together, “You did look cute like that.” I smiled and said “Thank you” in response as we all walked down the stairs and into the dining room.
“There you are,” Alicia said as she looked over at us, “I was beginning to think you were going to miss lunch.” She was standing with Jenny, Mary and Cathy as they held a plate of sandwiches in their hands.
“No chance,” Suzie said as they walked over to the table and sat at one end. “How did the project work go?”
“It was great,” Cathy said as she picked up a sandwich, “I never knew there was so much history to this house or the town. Your grandfather is some guy, Alicia.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard him referred to as ‘some guy’,” Alicia said as she sat back, “but he’d probably appreciate it. So,” she then said as she turned to us, “How do you like the place?”
“They haven’t had a chance to look round properly,” Suzie said as we stood at the side table, picking sandwiches from the pile and putting them on the plate, “There will be plenty of time for that later - right now, for some reason I’m starving.”
“Must be something to do with the exercise,” Colin said, only to wince as Suzie kicked him in the shin. One by one we came over and sat at the table with the others.
“Where are Grandpa and Grandma anyway,” Suzie said as she looked at Alicia.
“They’re talking to Angela - probably planning something devious for you lot later,” she said with a smile, “then I believe they are going to see your mother, Cassie - something about wishing to welcome the twins to the family.”
“So they’re not around this afternoon?”
“No - but they will be here for dinner with the rest of us tonight. Are you staying, Colin?”
“I’m afraid I can’t,” Colin said after he had swallowed a bite of his beef sandwich, “I’m going to the theatre with Mum, Dad and Brian tonight.”
“Brian,” Jenny said with a hint of surprise, “Who’s Brian?”
“My cousin - he lives up near Manchester, and he’s down for the weekend. I wanted to ask your grandparents if he could come over with me tomorrow, but if they’re not here...”
“Bring him,” Bobby said, “We could do with the extra pair of hands, I suspect.”
“Oh,” Suzie said as she stuck her tongue out, “and what are you planning? If you think you’re going to be the boss of all of us tomorrow...”
“That’s enough Suzie,” Alicia said. “My parents are bringing Andy over with me tomorrow anyway.”
Bobby nodded and said “His first trip to the manor house - I guess he should start young, even if all he does is eat, sleep and drool.”
“You were like that once Bobby,” Jenny said, which made the older girls laugh as he turned red. Served him right for the way he teased me earlier! Anyway, we settled down and finished our lunch, before Alicia said “right - we need to go and read over our notes, then write up our report. Where will you girls be?”
“Well, if you go upstairs, we’ll stay in the library - Angela said she was going to teach us a few tricks.”
“I bet she will,” Mary said with a wink as the four girls stood up and left the dining room. “We’d better go too,” Bobby said as he and Colin stood up, “Please, Suzie, leave us alone for the rest of the afternoon. We’ll make it up to you later, all right?”
“All right, I pwomise,” Suzie said as she held up her fingers in a Scout salute. Bobby shook his head, and then left with Colin as Mrs Bridges came into the room, followed by Angela.
“There you are,” she said as she picked up some sandwiches and put them on a plate, “so how have you enjoyed the morning so far?”
“It’s been fun,” Patty said, “We’ve been tied up so tightly, and silenced, and tickled, and...”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Angela said as she sat down. “Who tickled you? If this was the first time you had been tied and gagged in that way, then...”
“Can I ask a question,” Hazel said as she raised her hand. “I kinda sorta understand why the men tied and gagged us so tightly that night, and it was fun today as well, but does it always have to be that way? When you see it on the television, it never seems to be so much and they stay just as silent.”
Angela finished her meal, and then said “Come with me.” We followed her to the library, where we saw a very familiar box sitting on the floor by the coffee table. As we all sat round it, she opened the box and took out four silk scarves, black ones that we had used in the past.
“Now then,” she said as she gave one to Pippa, Hazel, Claire and Patty, “when those men visited you that night, the reason Cassie did what she did was she knew they wanted you to be silenced as much as possible. I want you to use these, and to tie them in the way you’ve seen them used as gags in television programs.”
Hazel and Claire folded the scarf into a band, and then tied them around their heads to cover their mouths, while Pippa also folded the scarf into a band, but opened her mouth and pulled the band between her teeth. Patty folded the scarf in half along the diagonal, and then tied that over her mouth and chin as Suzie and I watched.
“Very good - you’ve all seen how they do it in films and television,” Angela said as she sat back. “Now, I want you all to try and say “HELP! I’m being held hostage.”
The four of them looked at each other, and then Suzie said “On... to... Fre...” before they recited in unison “HLP! M bean hld hostaj!” We both started laughing, but Angela just smiled as she said “You see? I think we all understood what you said, and it was nice and loud. A scarf across, or even tied into the mouth, looks exciting on the screen, but the only reason they work is because the person wearing it is acting.”
We watched as they nodded, before Patty said “But the scarf worked earlier.” She then looked at me, as she realised the scarf was not silencing her at all.
“Well,” Angela said, “If you are truly going to silence someone, you need to make sure they cannot speak at all - which means stopping their lips moving or their tongue. When you had the scarf in your mouth, which stopped the tongue working and the tape stops the lips.”
“I see,” Pippa said, “but in the movies they only put one strip over the mouth - they did that to us as well at first that night.”
“At first,” Angela said, “but what happened?”
“Cassie - no, we all managed to work the strip off, but we still had the strips of towel keeping the cloth in our mouth....” Pippa stopped and looked as if she was thinking about something, then said “Cassie, why did you tell him to use towel strips?”
“The scarf would have hurt your mouths - forced your mouth open,” I said with a smile. As to how we got the tape off - you copied me, but let’s try something. Angela, can you give us each a strip of duct tape?”
Angela nodded as she took a roll from the box, tore off a strip and handed it to each of us. “Right,” I said as I held the strip in my hands, “Stick this over your mouth, and then when we all have - Patty, do you know Frere Jacques?”
“Of course I do - I did French at my primary school,” Patty said, “Why?”
“When we all have the strips on, we’re going to sing it, and you’ll see what happens,” I said. We all smoothed the strip of tape over our lips, as Angela picked up a camera.
“Hang on,” she said, “before I start, let’s get a picture of all of you.” We all gathered and looked at the camera, as Angela pressed the button down. “All right - start singing.”
We all nodded and said “Frrjcques, frrrjacqy, domessvs, dromezvous, Sella...” As we did so, the tape quickly worked free from our lips so that we could all speak normally by the end.
“Again, that’s why,” Angela said quietly. “If you just tape your mouth over, the tape will give way very quickly. I’m sure it was scary at first that night, but when Cassie said you should be gagged that way she was trying, I think, to find a way to make the men feel you would be quiet, and at the same time not scare you. Right, Cassie?”
“Right,” I said as I nodded. Well, that was half true - the other half was I was scared they would do something that would make them choke, but I wasn’t going to say that yet. “That’s why I got a bit upset when Bobby and Colin tickled you earlier - I was afraid of what might happen.”
“But it was fun!” Pippa said out loud, and then put her hands to her mouth. “Yes, it can be fun, but you have to be careful,” Angela said as Hazel toyed with the roll of tape.
“What’s it like to have your wrists taped together,” she eventually said, as Suzie and I looked at each other. “Take your trainers off, and I’ll show you,” I then said as the others sat back.
“All right then,” Hazel said as she pulled her trainers and socks off, and then sat back on the seat, her legs swinging against the front. Angela took the roll of tape from her hand and said “If you put your legs together, I’ll show you how it feels when your legs are held by tape rather than rope. If you like that, we can do your wrists.”
“Fair enough,” Hazel said as Angle taped her ankles together, side by side, and then her legs below her knees. “That feels different,” she said as she swung both her legs up and down, and then tried to move her legs apart, her trouser legs rubbing against each other.
“Now turn round and put your arms behind your back,” Angela said, and we watched Hazel turn round and cross her wrist behind her back. To her surprise, but not to mine or Suzie’s, Angela arranged her arms so that her forearms were parallel to each other and taped them together at the wrists, then in the middle of the forearms.
Patty looked over and examined Hazel’s arms, then said “Why did you do that?”
“This makes it more difficult for Hazel to use her fingers to free herself, without taping her fingers or covering them up,” Angela said with a smile. “Is it uncomfortable?”
“Not at all,” Hazel said as she got up, and then remembered her legs were tied together as she sat back down again.
“Cool,” Claire said as she looked at her sister, “Is that the only way you can use tape to secure the arms?”
“Not at all - you can do it the same way as rope - want to try it?”
“All right,” Claire said, “but can I have my wrists in front of me please?”
“Of course you can - but I’m not going to do it,” Angela said as she passed the roll of tape to Pippa. “Why don’t you have a go - I understand you and Hazel were the dummies earlier and she will get payback in a few minutes.”
“All right,” Pippa said nervously as she tore the end free from the roll, jumping at the sound. “It’s all right, Pippa,” Claire said as she held her hands out, palms together, “I’m ready.”
“Wind it round her wrists, then round her waist to hold them in front,” Suzie said as Pippa stuck the end of the tape to Claire’s wrist, and began. She worked slowly, but as she got more confident the tape went round more tightly, until Claire could only wriggle her fingers.
“Sit down next to Hazel,” Pippa said, and five minutes later Claire had her shoes and socks off, and her ankles and legs taped firmly together.
“Hey,” Pippa said as she put the roll of tape down, “Do you know what this means?”
“No,” Hazel said as I saw the gleam in my friend’s eye, “What?”
“TICKLE TIME” Pippa screamed as she started to tickle the soles of their feet, making both of them break out laughing. As they did this, Angela said to Patty “So, do you think your cousin and her friends are doing something wrong?”
Patty stood there, her head down for a moment, before she said “No - but I’d like to learn how to do what they do.”
“All right,” Angela said as she picked a length of rope out of the box, “Why don’t I show you how to secure Cassie - if she is willing, of course?”
“Sure,” I said as I turned my back to them and looked at Suzie, crossing my wrists as I did so. I heard Angela whispering to Patty, and then my wrist moved so that my palms were touching, before the familiar feel of the cord against my wrists was there.
“That’s good,” I said as I looked over my shoulder and saw Patty concentrating, her tongue sticking a little out from the corner of her mouth as she fed the ends between my arms and pulled the band tightly together. “Now, cross one of the ends under the other and pull, then do the same again in the other direction,” Angela said as Patty finished with a simple reef knot.
“You know we can untie those easily,” Suzie said as she sat watching us, while the twins rolled about on the couch.
“Not if I do this,” Patty said as she picked up the roll of tape and wrapped it round my hands, to my surprise and Angela’s pleasure. “Very good, Patty,” she said as the end was smoothed down, “that makes it very difficult to pick the knots. Now, take a long length of rope and fix Cassie’s wrists against her back.”
“Like this,” Patty giggled as she did what I had done to her earlier - including passing the rope between my arms and back.
“Exactly like that,” Angela said as Suzie clapped her hands. “Now then Cassie, sit down and let your cousin tie your legs.”
“What about her arms,” Patty said as I sat myself on the floor and stretched my legs out.
“Perhaps later, for now let’s keep it simpler for all of you. After we eat tonight, we can do that, but for now just tie her ankles side by side, as you did with her wrists, and then tie her legs together below her knees.”
I looked down and watched as Patty did just that, with a bit more confidence now as she pulled the rope tighter. “Pippa,” Angela said as I was watching her, “I believe you were also a model earlier?”
Pippa stopped tickling the twins and nodded, as Angela said “Come over here then - it is time you learned how to tie some ropes as well, and Suzie here will be your model.”
“Whhhh - What about me,” Hazel said as she calmed down. Angela picked up a pair of scissors and cut them both loose before saying “I think turnaround is fair play - take some rope and tie Claire in the same way as the other two.”
By this time Patty had tied my legs together below my knees, and I was looking at her as she smiled at me.
“No tickling this time,” I said as I guessed what she was planning, “Suzie and I are going to show you how to go up and down the stairs if you keep those fingers away from me.”
“You mean you can climb the stairs even with your hands and legs tied up,” Patty squeaked as she looked at me.
“If you are very very careful,” Angela said as she watched Hazel at work on Claire. “Now, Patty I want you to take those headscarves and fold them into bands, before tying a knot in the middle of each one. Once we have you all snugly tied, I’m going to use them to show you how effective that sort of gag is.
“Do you want me to tape her fingers,” Claire said as she looked at Angela.
“No, dear,” Angela replied, “we have to do that for Cassie and Suzie because they are very very good at undoing knots. For your four, I’m going to assume that your will not to try to do that just now, but I will show you later how easy it is.”
Suzie and started to push ourselves off the floor as Claire helped Hazel to sit in a chair again and tied her ankles and legs, while Angela took care of Patty after she had tied the knots. “When Hazel has finished,” Angela said to Pippa, “you can secure her as well, and then I will take care of you.”
We had started at one thirty, and it was now nearly three as the six of us sat talking to each other as if nothing unusual was going on, despite us all being tightly bound by this point. One by one Angela pushed the knot of one of the scarves into our mouths, and then tied the ends around our head, before she said “All right - why don’t I show you round the rest of the mansion. Cassie, why don’t you take the lead?”
Cassie nodded as she stood up and hopped to the door, the rest of us following suit as Angela opened the door and let us out. “Now then,” she said as we looked round, “why don’t we start by going upstairs. Cassie, Suzie, show your friends how you do it safely.”
We nodded and jumped over to the stairs, sitting two steps up as we planted out feet on the bottom one and pushed ourselves up. As we made our way up, we watched as Hazel and Claire came next, followed by Pippa and Patty with Angela looking on.
“Take it slowly, one step at a time - it can be very easy to slip down a few of them,” Angela said as we made our way up.
“Rllle?” Pippa said as she looked at Angela.
“Really - I had the bruises for weeks,” Angela said with a smile as in pairs we reached the top of the stairs and rested against the wall. Once we had caught our breath, Angela helped us to stand up and we jumped along, while Angela explained some of the pictures on the wall.
“Thtsstlk,” I said as we gazed at the picture of the island in the morning mist.
“We’ll go there tomorrow morning if the weather holds up,” Angela said with a smile. “I think the boys may have some ideas as to how you can pass the time.”
“Whlbrws?” I said as I looked at Suzie, who nodded and smiled over the knot in her mouth.
“Whssttht,” Pippa said as she looked at a picture of a man in an RAF uniform.
“That,” Angela said, “is my grandfather’s father, Group Captain Alexander Holderness. He fought in the Second World War as a pilot, and then retired to the house here when he was wounded.
“He was shot down behind enemy lines, and made his own way back through enemy territory. You can ask my grandfather about him at dinner.” We jumped a bit further down the corridor until we stopped outside a door, and Angela listened to it.
“Snnttsslshsrm,” I said as I looked at Suzie, who nodded as Angela opened the door and allowed us to go in. It was indeed Alicia’s room - as testified to by the fact that she, Jenny, Mary and Cathy were lying side by side on the bed, looking at us as we lined up and had to stop ourselves from laughing.
They were all tied in the same way, with their arms folded in the same way Hazel had hers earlier behind their backs, their forearms tied tightly together and ropes around their upper arms and body. A length of rope went from that to their ankles which had been pulled back against their bottoms, with ropes around their ankles and knees.
Their mouths were covered by long woollen scarves, which had also been tied back to their arms, and by the way their cheeks were bulging I could see there was more than one layer underneath.
“Fllggg,” I mumbled, and Jenny slightly nodded in agreement. The really strange thing about the, however, were their hands. The looked like sliver balls, with tape covering their fists and stuck down to the sleeves of their tops. Angela walked in and examined them, before coming back and saying “Girls, this is the handiwork of the most devious binder in this household - even stricter than me, and more devious than Grandmother. Can you guess who it is?”
Well, normally I would have said Suzie, but she had been with me the whole time - but the question was answered for us as we heard Mrs Bridges behind us.
“My apologies, Miss Alicia, but - oh,” she said as she came into the room, “I did not think you would have company.”
“It’s all right Mrs Bridges,” Angela said with a smile, “I was showing the girls round, and I brought them in. I’ll take them out now and let you free them - I guess they will have to go soon anyway?”
Mrs Bridges nodded as we were ushered out and along to the stairs. “Let’s go downstairs,” Angela said as she stopped us. “You go in pairs as before, Cassie and Suzie in the lead, but be very careful - the temptation to slide can be great, and I do not recommend it.”
As we made our way down the stairs, I could hear Hazel and Claire talking in gag talk to each other, and laughing at the sounds that were coming out. Patty was taking a great deal of care coming down, and Pippa was just looking round. Eventually we got to the bottom of the stairs and jumped back into the library, literally throwing ourselves onto the chairs as Angela closed the door.
“Now,” she said as she looked at us, “I did promise that I would show you why I covered the fingers of Suzie and Cassie. Hazel, Claire, can you turn yourselves so that you can reach each other hands?”
The twins did as she had asked, before she said “Try and find the knot on top of each other’s wrists, and if you do try to see if you can loosen it with your fingers.”
It took then a while, but eventually Hazel squealed as she felt her wrists loosening, and then brought them round to her front.
“It can be very easy, if you can reach the knot and use your fingers, to untie someone,” Angela said with a smile, “so we usually cover our hands or fingers. Any questions?”
“Whwrggdsthtly,” Patty said as she looked at me.
“Why were they gagged so tightly upstairs? Tell me, all of you, how do the gags feel?”
We looked at each other, and said nothing. “Cassie, Suzie,” Angela eventually said, “show them.”
It took both of us - oh, a minute to open our mouths wide and push the now very wet knot out of our mouths with our tongues. “Hwddd....” Patty said as she gaped at us, and I said “You can do it as well - all of you open your mouths as wide as you can and push the knot out with your tongue.”
“Thank you for playing along,” Angela said to us as the others pushed their own gags out, and then looked at the clock. “Anyway, we need to untie all of you now - you need to get changed for dinner. Suzie, I will untie you, then you untie Cassie and so on. Then take them to their rooms - Dinner will be at six thirty.”
“Do they always dress for dinner here?”
I looked at Patty, who was swinging her legs to and fro at the edge of the bed. She had put on a red party dress with white trim on the hem, sleeves and collar, a pair of white socks and black shoes.
“Only when some of us are staying,” I said as I fastened on my own black shoes and stood up, brushing down my yellow dress. “We sometimes dress up even more, but not tonight.”
“I’ve never been to a posh dinner before,” Patty said quietly, “What do I do?”
“Follow my lead - and don’t be afraid to answer anyone. I know they are a Lord and Lady, but trust me - they are nice people. Come on - they’ll be waiting for us.”
As we walked out of the bedroom, we met Hazel and Claire, wearing their light blue sundresses and white shoes. Pippa came out a moment later, tugging at the sleeve of her high collared white blouse as she did so. She was wearing a red and black tartan short skirt, as well as dark tights and soft shoes.
“Ready to eat,” I said as the dinner gong sounded, and I led the group downstairs, past Mr Bridges who smiled as we walked to the dining room.
Suzie and Bobby were already there - Bobby in a grey suit, white shirt and grey tie, with black shiny shoes, while Suzie was wearing a pale green pinafore dress over a short sleeved white blouse, her shoes matching her dress.
“Ah, our guests are here,” I heard Lord Holderness say. He was on the far side of the room, standing next to Lady Holderness and Angela. Angela was wearing a black sleeveless dress, the skirt coming to her knees, and high heeled shoes, while Lady Holderness was wearing a grey jersey dress. Lord Holderness, like Bobby, was wearing a shirt and suit.
“Please, take a seat,” he said as he smiled at us, “we don’t stand on ceremony here.”
“Come on,” I said to the others, and we took our places at the table, Suzie sitting next to Bobby as I sat next to Angela, Patty beside me and Pippa next to her with the twins opposite them. Lady Holderness sat at one end of the table, while Lord Holderness sat at the other. Mrs Bridges brought in our starters, and we got stuck in - I was starving after all the fun that day.
“So tell me Pippa,” Lady Holderness said eventually, “Have you quite recovered from the robbery at your house?”
Pippa swallowed her melon, and said “I think so, your Ladyship. It was incredibly scary at the time, but after a while I realised I had to be brave and - well, I found that I quite liked it, not being able to move or talk. I know it sounds weird...”
“Not to me,” Bobby said as he pushed his plate away, “especially with Cassie and Suzie there. I’m just amazed they did not do more.”
“Robert,” Lord Holderness said quietly, “young Cassie here showed incredible presence of mind that night. She did the right thing, in keeping everyone calm and finding a way to raise the alarm without putting anyone else in danger. I think they others will agree that she deserved her award for that.”
Bobby looked at his grandfather, so I said “It’s all right, Bobby - I know Suzie and I have caused a lot of trouble for robbers and others in our time, but this was different - the others,” I said looking at Pippa, Hazel and Claire, “had never gone through something like that. We were all scared - trust me.”
Mrs Bridges brought out the main course next, as Lady Holderness said “Well, I know you had the ceremony, but Desmond and I wanted to say thank you personally, Cassie - you were inspirational that night to everyone.”
I blushed at that, as Bobby stuck his tongue out at me, but the others all nodded and - they started clapping. “Thanks,” I said quietly, “but I wasn’t the only heroine that night - Suzie also was very brave, in not jumping round too much and staying with the others.”
Claire nodded as I said this. “Yeah - I was terrified when the man came in, but Cassie calmed me down a lot, and kept talking to me. Then, when she went to find Pippa’s mum, it was Suzie who kept talking to us and kept our minds off what was happening.” She looked down at Suzie and said “Thanks - I’ll never forget what you did.”
“I think,” Lord Holderness said as he picked up his glass of water, “That deserves a toast - even if it is water. Cassie and Suzie, the bravest girls in the room.”
“Cassie and Suzie,” everyone said as they raised their glasses to us, and I felt my cheeks go a bright, deep, warm red. We got back to eating, but as I looked up I caught Bobby looking at me, his head tilted to one side.
“Yes,” I said in a low voice as I looked at him. Out of the corner of my eye, I swear I saw Angela’s mouth twitch as Bobby stammered something out - his blushes saved by Hazel saying “You told me later just how scared you were, Claire, but that by the time we were all the same you didn’t feel so bad.”
Claire nodded. “It’s true - I was so scared I was shaking, but somehow, when we all ended up the same way, I felt as if I was part of the same group again, and I felt so free - does that sound funny?”
“Nope,” Suzie said as she looked at the bowl of Ice Cream Mrs Bridges sat in front of her, “not at all.”
Patty nudged me and whispered something in my ear, so I said in a stage whisper “Lady Holderness, my cousin would like to ask a question.”
“Of course you may, Patty,” Lady Holderness said with a smile, “what would you like to know?”
Patty swallowed and said “Please, can you tell me if the town is named after you, or you are named after the town?”
Do you know, that question had never occurred to me? Angela wiped her mouth and said “I think we took the name of the town, is that right Grandfather?”
Lord Holderness nodded and said “Quite right, Angela - when our family took over the manor house, we took the name of Holderness as the family name - after all, at that time the manor also owned the whole village, and it was the custom at the time to do that. When the first Lord Holderness received his title, he naturally assumed that name as well.”
“So how many have there been?”
Lady Holderness smiled as she said “My husband is the Eighth Lord Holderness - you saw the portraits of the other holders of the title earlier, I believe?”
“Oh yeah,” Pippa said, “The man in the uniform - Angela said that was your father, Your Lordship?”
“It was indeed - did you tell them he fought in World War Two,” he said to Angela, who nodded with a spoonful of pudding in her mouth. “A very brave man, very brave - he taught me a lot of how to live your life.”
Lady Holderness looked at Patty as she wiped her mouth, and then said “How do you like our town, my dear? I know you only just moved here from Scotland - why did you pick here?”
“I think Mum wanted to be near Aunt Jennifer, your ladyship,” Patty said quietly. “My father died a few years ago, and with the new babies she said she wanted to be near the family again. We’ve bought a house nearby, and Mum is going to work at the local library.”
“Ah yes,” Lady Holderness said with a smile, “such beautiful babies as well. You must be very proud, Cassie.” I nodded and said “I am - it feels funny to have a younger brother and sister on the same day.”
“So,” Patty said as she turned and looked at Bobby, “Does that mean you’ll be Lord Holderness one day?”
“Yeah - but not for some time,” Bobby said, “Dad comes first, then me. I expect it will be a good while before I am lord of the Manor here.”
“And we all know who your lady will be,” Hazel said as she looked at me. This time it was Bobby’s turn to go beetroot red as he looked away for a moment, making Angela laugh.
“I’m sure young Robert will find a suitable Lady of the Manor when he is ready,” Lady Holderness said with a smile, and I could have sworn she winked at me as she said that.
“Angela,” Suzie said as Mrs Bridges came in and started to clear the pudding plates away, “Will Alicia be coming back tomorrow?”
“I hope so,” Lord Holderness said, “She promised to let me see the report they were preparing for school. Why?”
“Well, you promised the girls we could go out to the island tomorrow. Can we take a picnic, and who’s going to take us over?”
“A picnic sounds like an excellent idea,” Lady Holderness said. “Mrs Bridges, could you prepare some picnic baskets tomorrow for.,,” She paused as she counted in her head, then said “fourteen I think. Did you not say Colin was bringing his cousin as well tomorrow, Robert?”
Bobby nodded before saying “We’re going to need to take two of the boats in that case.”
“Mr Bridges can help take you over,” Lord Holderness said as he stood up. “Why don’t we go into the main room and sit down there. I believe Angela and Robert have a surprise for you - an extra lesson, if you will.”
As we stood up and followed the older people out, bobby slipped up to me and said “Cassie, can I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” I said quietly, “What is it?”
“Look, I was wondering if you would like to come over here one Saturday - you and Jenny.”
“I’d love to - are the others coming too?”
He blushed again before he said “No - just you, Jenny, me and Colin. I - well, we would like to spend the day with the two of you, if you want to?”
“I heard that,” Suzie said from behind us, and she skipped past, singing as she did so
Bobby and Cassie sitting on a tree,
First comes love,
then comes marriage,
then comes baby
in a baby carriage
“Oh I am so looking forward to this,” Bobby said as he glared at his sister, but she smiled, he smiled, and I laughed - then realised what he had said and why Suzie sang the song.
“Looking forward to what,” Patty said as I mumbled a “Sure”, and we went into the front room. Mrs Bridges was waiting there, next to a box of supplies.
“Earlier today,” Angela said as she closed the door, “you saw how tightly Mrs Bridges can tie someone. We’re not going to do that to you, but we are going to give you a taste of how the older girls felt today - and how we can make sure you cannot use your fingers to pick at knots. Mrs Bridges, if you please?”
“All right, girls,” the older woman said as she threw each of us a pair of small sponge balls, “I want you to squeeze these in your hands, making a fist, and then put your hands out in front of you.”
I had guessed that we were going to get our hands covered - when the robbers were at Pippa’s, I had got them to use socks, but I got the feeling that was not enough for the housekeeper. I was right when I saw her pull a pair of sports socks over my hands, and then tape the cuff of the sock to my arm with the special white tape.
“This feels funny,” Patty said as she loosened her hand a little, “my nails are digging into the sponge a bit.”
“That’s the idea - it is possible to rip a sock if your nails are sharp enough, and the sock is thin enough.” I remembered the time I had to race against Aunt Cassie, and realised this must have been what she did. “But to ass that special extra strong layer...”
I watched as she picked up a roll of silver tape, and covered our balled up, sock covered hands in a layer of tape, leaving us all looking as if we had boxing gloves on. We started play fighting with each other, before Angela said “Right then - form a line and we’ll make sure you can’t misuse those fists of yours. Bobby and I will do the honours.”
We lined up, and one by one we had our hands taken behind our backs and our wrists crossed, while they were tightly bound together and then to our back with a length of rope around our waist. As Bobby was doing this to me, he actually gave me a little hug as well, which I hoped nobody else saw.
“I saw that,” Patty said as she nudged me with her elbow. It was the last chance she got to do that as we both had our arms tied against our body by Robert and Angela. They first tied the rope around our stomachs, then around our shoulders, passing it over both bands several times before using smaller lengths under our arms, making Patty squeak a little as her arms were forced into place.
“This feels like the way you tied us for the men,” Hazel said as she wriggled her body round, “It feels really comfy this way, though?”
“An important rule if you are going to play these games,” Lady Holderness said, “is that if it hurts, it is wrong. Now then, please be seated all of you and we will secure your legs.”
We did not need to be told twice, as we sat on the couches and watched our ankles been crossed and tied together, and then our legs secured below our knees.
“But this means we can’t hop around,” Patty said as she swung her legs up and down and looked at them.
“Exactly,” Angela said as she sat down. “We want you to hear the stories Grandma has to tell, without interrupting her. We will use a three layer gag for this - something in your mouth, a knotted strip of towelling, and then some white tape round your head as we had it earlier. Just keep breathing normally, and then we will begin.”
One by one we opened our mouths, allowed Bobby or Angela to push a cloth into our mouths, tie a towel strip between our lips and then wrap the tape around our heads, before Lady Holderness sat down and told us her stories.
She told the other four of the Holderness Shadow, and some of the family stories, Suzie and I remembering some of our own experiences. Lord Holderness then told us about his father, and how he had been shot down over Occupied Germany and had to make his way back to the Allied lines on his own without been captured.
As they did this, Angela and Bobby left the room for a few minutes, returning eventually with large mugs of hot chocolate with marshmallows floating on top. “Well,” Lord Holderness said as he looked at his watch, “It is getting late, and I need my sleep. I understand they are all sleeping in the playroom tonight?”
“I have laid our mattresses and sleeping bags, Sir,” Mr Bridges said as he appeared at the door. “Mrs Bridges has already placed their nightclothes on the sleeping bags.”
“Excellent,” Lady Holderness said as she stood up. “Angela, Robert, remove their gags and untie their arms - their legs may remain tied until they have to go upstairs. I will also retire for the evening - I will see you all tomorrow morning.”
We all mumbled good night as they left the room, the door closing as Angela said “You lot are not going to sleep for some time, are you?”
We all shook our heads as Bobby said “Great - well, we’ll make sure you get to the playroom, but after that - well, just take care if you come back downstairs at night, all right?” With that, he started to untie me and Patty, the aroma of the hot chocolate making me thirsty already.
“What about our hands,” Patty said as she brought them round, “we can’t
hold mugs if we have the tape around our hands.”
“Fair point,” Angela said as she produced a pair of scissors. “Stay very very still.” She cut the tape away from our hands, then handed us a mug each before she started on the twins.
The hot chocolate was divine - warm and creamy, with a lovely layer of melted marshmallow over the top. We all took a few minutes to enjoy the warmth spreading through us and relaxed, while Angela and Bobby gathered up the ropes and other material.
“So,” Angela eventually said as she sat down, “Have you enjoyed your day so far?”
“It’s been great,” Claire and Hazel said in unison, and they both jumped up and hugged Suzie in thanks. “Whoa,” she said as she fell back against the chair back, “I can see you’re getting more confident in the hopping department.”
“What about you, Cas,” Bobby said as he sat next to me, “enjoying the stay so far?”
“You know I always like coming here,” I said quietly, “and I think Patty likes the place as well, don’t you Patty?”
I looked over to see Patty lying on the couch, her head resting on the pillow as she quietly slept with her eyes shut tight. “Looks like she’s had a full day,” Angela whispered as she picked her up in her arms, and carried her to the door while bobby held it open. “I’ll take her up and put her in her sleeping bag - you girls had better stay down here until you are ready to come up to bed.”
“Good idea,” Claire said as we watched her carrying my cousin to the staircase. “We don’t want to wake her up, do we?”
“Nah,” I said as I took another sip of the hot chocolate, “She’s exhausted, I guess. We’ll let her settle before we go up.”
So we sat, and we talked, and we laughed and we cried a little - it was an interesting couple of hours, even with Bobby and Angela popping in and out from time to time. I think it must have been about midnight by the time we all agreed that we needed to go to bed - the fact Pippa, Hazel and Claire were all yawning their heads off were the real giveaway, so we asked Angela to untie our legs, and we went upstairs, using Suzie’s bedroom to change into our bedclothes before we went to the play room. I had on a pair of white cotton pyjamas with elasticated cuffs, while Suzie put on a white nightdress.
Hazel and Claire had matching shorts and vest tops, while Pippa had brought a pink and blue onesie. As we went into the playroom, we saw that Angela had changed Patty into a pair of Hello Kitty pyjamas, as she lay in her sleeping bag with her head on a pillow.
“She looks so peaceful there,” Suzie whispered as we all settled down, “like a little angel.”
If only we knew what was going to happen the next day...
It was the light that eventually woke me up the next morning - the
light shining through the window that looked out over the side of the manor
house. I blinked a few times, allowing my eyes to come into focus a bit, and
then tried to open the sleeping bag so that I could sit up.
That was my first hint something was not quite right - for some reason, I could not move my hands apart. Feeling round with my fingers, I soon realised the problem - someone had taped my wrists together by the feel of things.
I turned my head to see if anyone else was awake, and noticed Suzie was beginning to stir as well. “Suzie,” I whispered, and then more loudly “Suzie - wake up.”
“Mmmmswwhts th problem, Cas,” she said as she opened her eyes and looked at me over the top of her sleeping bag, the opening closed around her neck.
“Can you get out of your sleeping bag?”
“Silly question,” she said as she tried to move her hands, and then looked back at me. “Is it just me, or are your wrists taped together as well?”
“Not just my wrists,” I whispered as I tried to move my legs around, “I think my ankles are taped as well. What about you?”
I watched as Suzie tried to kick her legs up and down as well, and then she turned and looked at me. “All right, Cassie, you obviously did not do this, and I certainly did not - so who did?”
With some effort, I sat myself up and looked round the room. All six of us were still in our sleeping bags, the tops closed around our necks, so I wasn’t sure who may have done this. As I looked round, however, Pippa started to stir and yawn, then sat bolt upright and said “Why can’t I move my hands and legs?”
That woke the twins up, so that all five of us were looking at each other, wondering what was going on. Hazel looked round the room, especially at the still sleeping Patty, and then said “Hold on - I’m going under.” Her sleeping bag was looser than ours, so she managed to get her head under the top, returning a few minutes later.
“My wrists are taped together, so are my ankles, and my legs,” she said as she looked round, “so I’m guessing the same has been done to all of us. The question is who did it - Bobby?”
“He wouldn’t” Suzie said with an air of authority, “he knows the rules. No way would he come into the room after dark - and when we’ve been tied up overnight, it’s always with an adult doing it.”
“But we weren’t like this when we went to sleep,” Hazel pointed out, “so someone must have done it while we slept. Whoever did it was very quiet as well - I did not hear a thing.”
“None of us did,” Suzie said as she managed to push the edge of her sleeping bag up, and tried to grab the knotted cord with her teeth, “Which begs the question of my older cousin.”
“Angela? No way - she would not do something like that to us,” Pippa said as we heard a gong sounding downstairs. “What’s that for,” Hazel said as Suzie looked at the clock.
“Eight o’clock - it means Mrs Bridges has done enough for people to start having breakfast - and I’m starving.”
“So am I,” said Patty as she pulled her sleeping bag open, and stepped out of it, walking to the door and opening it. “See you lot downstairs.” I looked at her, and did something I very very rarely do.
“PATRICIA PICKERING!! WHEN I GET MY HANDS ON YOU, I’M GOING TO...” I screamed at her as she waved and ran out of the playroom, leaving me struggling to get out of the sleeping bag.
“Schemer, isn’t she,” Suzie said as her bag fell down her body and she brought her hands up, picking at the tape that had been wrapped around her wrists. “I can see we may have to teach her a lesson at some point.”
“Teach her a lesson? I’m going to do more than teach her a lesson, I’m going to...” I had to stop myself then, because I realised something - I was beginning to sound a little too much like Jenny.
“You’re going to what,” Suzie said as she shook her hands free, then slipped out of her bag and hopped over to fetch a pair of scissors to free the rest of us.
“Oh you’ll see,” I said with a grin, “in fact, I’m going to need your help. Suzie, any chance of our playing dress up before we go on the picnic?”
“Good morning, girls,” Lady Holderness said as she looked up from the breakfast table when the five of us walked in. She was wearing a dressing gown over her nightdress, and Patty was sat next to her. “I have been talking with young Patricia here - she tells me you all had a most interesting night.”
“Young Patty here,” I said as I sat down, “fell asleep before the rest of us, and I think woke up before the rest of us too.” I thanked Mrs Bridges as she put a glass of milk in front of us, and then walked back to the stove where I could smell bacon frying.
“Indeed,” Lady Holderness said as she raised an eyebrow to look at Patty. “But you had a good sleep?”
“Oh yes, your ladyship,” Patty said with a smile, “we all slept very well, didn’t we?”
I could see the looks on the other’s faces as they each got a glass of milk, before Suzie said “Grandma, Cassie was asking if it was possible for us to perhaps do a little dressing up before we head off for the picnic. Would it be all right if we raided the costume box and found some dresses?”
“That sounds like an excellent idea, Suzanne,” Lady Holderness aid with a smile, “It will help pass the time, and it will give you girls a chance to practice your hopping skills even more. Angela, darling, Suzanne has suggested a little dressing up this morning.”
“Good idea,” Angela said as she sat at the table, and accepted a hot steaming mug from Mrs Bridges. She was wearing a white t-shirt and a pair of shorts. “We’ll find some old dresses and let you girls try them on.”
“How old? Will we look like proper ladies of old,” Hazel said in an excited voice as she watched Mrs Bridges putting out a cooked breakfast for each of us.
“Oh, we have some Victorian style dresses that we keep for this sort of purpose,” Angela said with a smile, “Cassie and Suzie will tell you how much fun they are.”
I just smiled as I started to eat my breakfast - this was exactly what I wanted to happen, and Patty was not going to know what hit her.
“And what are you smiling at this morning,” Bobby said as he came in, “I heard you shouting earlier - what happened?”
“Nothing for you to worry about,” I said politely, “So long as you are strong enough for the rowing later.”
“A big breakfast will take care of that,” Mrs Bridges said as she put a plate in front of Bobby. “Now the picnic - Chicken, ham, sandwiches, cakes and drinks, right - and fruit of course?”
“Sounds wonderful Mrs Bridges,” Lady Holderness said. “When is Colin due to arrive Robert?”
“About eleven - same time as Alicia I think,” Bobby said as he cut into a sausage. “When are we planning to set off?”
“Not before twelve thirty I would imagine - plenty of time for your girls to have some fun.”
“Wow, these are amazing,” Claire said as Suzie and I laid out six
dresses on the bed in her room. They were all floor length, and two of them
were black with long sleeves that were trimmed with white lace, and a sash belt
to go round each one. Two others were real old fashioned petticoat dresses,
with a gathered waist and a flowing skirt, and Suzie was searching for two high
necked blouses to wear with them.
The fifth one was smaller - more Patty’s size, and made from blue material with short puffed sleeves. The last one was red, also with short sleeves and a gathered waist.
“Here we are,” Suzie said as she found two lace fronted blouses and laid them out. “Pick your dress and put them on.”
To my surprise, the twins went for the blouses and pinafore dresses, while Pippa and I went for the black dresses. Patty looked at the blue one, and then started to step into it and pull it onto herself, while Suzie took the red one. We spent the next twenty minutes fixing each other up, until we made a row of Victorian girls looking to have a day out.
“Now of course,” Suzie said as she went back to the wardrobe, “no lady would be seen without gloves, and we need shoes to wear.” She brought out six pairs of shoes with higher heels, two pairs of elbow length gloves, one red and one blue, and four pairs of lace gloves. She handed the elbow length gloves to Patty, as we all tried on a pair of shoes. They did not fit perfectly, but well enough for us to keep them on, and the fact our skirts were covering them made it even funnier.
“These feel really soft,” Patty said as she pulled the bluer gloves yup her arms, covering her elbows as she did so, “I really do feel like a lady of the manor now.”
“You look a little like one,” Suzie said with a smile as I picked something up. “Of course, of you really were the lady of the manor, you would be Lady Patricia, and as Lady Patricia you would have certain responsibilities and certain things to consider.”
“I’m sure I would make a very grand lady of the manor,” Patty said as she walked round, stumbling a little as the skirt brushed over the floor. “So what would be the major responsibility for one such as I?”
“To be the main way a kidnapper would get money from the family,” I said as Suzie grabbed her hands and held them behind her back, while I wrapped a length of rope around them and pulled them together, the white cords clearly visible over the blue silk.
“What the...” was all Patty managed to get out before Pippa had pushed a folded up handkerchief into her mouth, and pressed a length of duct tape over her mouth, while Suzie and I helped her to sit down. As Hazel and Claire took some rope and tied her ankles together, folding her skirt out of the way to allow that to happen, Suzie tied Patty’s wrists against her back and I tied her arms to her side around her stomach.
“Kidsrvths,” Patty mumbled as Suzie tied a folded scarf over her mouth, and then tied a straw bonnet over her head, securing the silk ribbons under her chin so that it held her mouth closed as well.
“Want to explain what happened,” Angela said as she stood in the doorway. She had put on a pair of blue jeans and a sweatshirt, and was standing with her arms folded.
“My darling cousin,” I said as I turned round, “somehow managed to tape our wrists, ankles and legs during the night while we slept - I figured some payback was in order.”
“Is this true, Patty,” Angela said as she looked at her, and Patty nodded. I could see she was not upset - her eyes were not downcast, and she seemed to be enjoying her situation.
“Well, you need to realise that everything you do has a consequence - so when you play these games, be prepared for the response,” Angela said as she unfolded her arms. “Having said that - it is unfair for only one of you to be this way, so you all need to be bound and silenced. Line up, hands behind your back, and stand still.”
“Yes, Angela,” Suzie said in a mocking tone as she walked over and turned her back, crossing her wrists as her cousin picked up a length of rope. We all followed suit, as Angle secured our wrists together, keeping the rope either over the gloves that Suzie was wearing or over the sleeves of the blouses and arms, and then wrapped a length around our waists to hold them in place.
“Now, I need you all to sit down in a row,” she said as Bobby came in, “and let me have a look at your legs. Bobby, can you start to take care of their arms for me.”
“Sure thing,” he said as he walked behind Cassie and picked up a long length of rope, wrapping it around her arms and stomach to hold them in place, while Angela folded back the skirt of Patty’s dress. “nice job on the ankles,” she said as she looked at us, “but you know you need to secure the legs as well.” Picking up a length of rope, she began to bind Patty’s legs together below her knees, as bobby used a second length of rope around Cassie’s upper arms and shoulders, taking it under her arms to keep it tightly in place.
“comfy, Cuz,” Bobby said as he teed off the ropes, and Suzie nodded before saying “Do me a favour - put some rope around Patty’s upper arms as well before you start on the others. She needs to be just like us, right Patty?”
My cousin turned and nodded as she felt the rope going round her upper arms, while Angela folded the skirt back down. The back of the skirt touched the floor, while the front was high enough to allow us to see the shoes Patty was wearing.
Hazel was next, watching as Angela folded back the pleated skirt of her pinafore dress, putting the lace trimmed hem on her lap as she placed her ankles together and started to bind them, and then her legs below her knees, with rope. “this feels nice,” Hazel said as she swung her legs to and fro, while Bobby started to secure her arms, “what are we going to do after this?”
“You will be free to explore the house - all we ask is that if you want to go downstairs, you watch Cassie and Suzie, and then let us help you if you want.” Soon both Hazel and Claire were secured, their legs swinging as they looked at Patty, while Angela lifted up the black skirt of Pippa’s dress and began work.
As the clock struck ten, all six of us were very securely bound, as Angela folded down the red skirt of Suzie’s dress. “Now then,” she said as she looked at Patty, “I think we need do something a bit more to secure that gag - it could still slip down, even with the use of the bonnet.”
She went behind Patty and untied the bonnet, then the scarf - but only to tie a knot in the middle, and pull that against the tape covering her mouth before tightening it, and then wrapping a larger scarf over her mouth.
“Oh yeah - I want to try that,” Claire said, so each of us were gagged in the same way - first a folded cloth was pushed into our mouths, before Bobby used the special white tape to keep it in place, trapping our hair against our necks. A knotted scarf pressed against our gagged lips, a wide scarf tied over that, and then a bonnet or sunhat tied onto our heads forcing our chins up and keeping our mouths closed.
“There now,” Angela said as she stood up, “quite the collection of Victorian children. You may stand up now.” We looked at each other and stood up at the same time, our skirts falling as they did so. Those of Hazel and Claire came to about an inch off the floor, with their shoes visible underneath. For Pippa and me, the skirt came a little lower, but as we twisted round the skirt moved freely, so I did not think we would have many problems.
The skirts of the dresses Suzie and Patty had on were a little higher, and I could imagine in olden days you would have seen the button boots they wore then - I’d seen some in one of Granny’s books. I guess they were meant for slightly younger kids.
“”I need to take care of something downstairs,” Angela said as she turned and walked to the door. “If they head for the stairs, call down and I’ll be at the bottom.” As she opened the door and went out, Bobby and looked at us, an evil grin on his face as he said “Now then - who wants to be the first victim of the Tickler?”
We all screamed and started to hop round the room, trying desperately to stay out of the evil fingers of our tormentor. Bobby played along, not quite catching any of us as we started to hop out of the room and down the corridor, taking short hops in case we stumbled, and he gave chase after us.
After a while, I stopped and got my breath back, before saying “ltsgdwnstrs.” Bobby nodded and said “Do you all want to go down the stairs,” looking at the six of us as we nodded. Going to the top of the long staircase, her called down “Angela, are you there?”
“She’s in the kitchen,” I heard Alicia call back, and glancing over the banister I saw her walking out of the main room. She was wearing a black sweatshirt and denim cut off leggings. “What’s up, Bobby?”
“The kids want to come down - can you stand at the bottom of the stairs just in case?”
“Why - they never done this before?”
“Not sure - but they’ve been playing dress up.” There was a moment’s pause before I heard Alicia say “Right - send Cassie and Suzie down first, will you?”
“Going down is just like coming up - except you’re going to be tempted to slide down the stairs,” Bobby said as Suzie and I sat ourselves on the top stair. “Not a good idea at the best of times, and certainly not wearing these dresses. Watch these two, and then go down one at a time.”
The others watched as both Suzie and I very carefully moved our legs down, the skirts gathering under our legs as we planted our feet on the second step down, and then slid gently onto the next step. The skirt flared around our bodies as we moved down, taking care to not trap the material under us, before we reached Angela at the bottom. “Nicely done,” she said as she helped us to stand up, and then watched Pippa as she very gingerly followed us down.
“That’s good,” Alicia said as she helped Pippa to stand up, then Hazel and Claire. “That leaves Patty, right?”
“Rt,” I mumbled as a thumping sound came down the staircase, and I looked t see Patty sliding down on her bottom, the petticoat of her dress flying up. Alicia braced herself at the bottom of the stairs and scooped the youngster up before she hit the floor, putting her on her feet and saying “Are you all right?” while Bobby ran down after her.
“I’m sorry,” he panted as he stopped at the bottom, “I saw her go and was too slow.”
I looked at Patty, who grunted for a moment and then said “mlrt,” her eyes sparkling as she tried not to giggle.
“What the...” Angela said as she came out of the kitchen, and looked at us. “Did someone fall down the stairs?”
“Not quite,” Alicia said, “but they may be better off on the back lawn. Do you lot think you can hop into the kitchen?”
We nodded and made our way in, past Mrs Bridges as she packed paper parcels into a wicker basket, and then out onto the lawn. “You need to sit on the benches for a moment,” Angela said, so we made our way to a row of wooden benches and sat down, waiting as she made her way along the lien and untied our ankles.
“It will be slightly safer for you if you have your ankles free, but we’ll keep your legs tied for the moment,” she said as she released the last of us. “Have a run around and get some of that energy out of you - I’ll call you when it’s time to set off.”
Well, come on - six young girls, dressed up to the nines in pretty dresses and bonnets, given the run of a huge lawn? All right, we were tied tightly at the arms and knees, and our mouths were tightly muffled, but that was no hindrance, we hared off down the grass and chased each other, playing mute tag as we covered every possible inch of grass.
Even when Patty fell over accidentally and roiled down tot eh line of trees, it was fun - we all rolled after her, even Suzie who knew she was probably in trouble if the dresses got marked. Although, now that I say that, they were in the dressing up box, right?
At the bottom, we watched Patty as she got onto her knees, looked at us all as if to dare us, and then started to run back up the hill, all of us chasing after her. As we got in sight of the house, I saw Lord Holderness sitting outside with Alicia, talking to her as he looked over a pile of papers. He smiled and waved to us as we continued our chase and play.
After a while, I looked up and saw Colin standing with Bobby, as well as a boy I had not seen before. He looked as if he was the same age as us, with red curly hair, and was wearing a white short sleeved shirt and a pair of tan trousers as well as sneakers. I nudged Suzie and made her look towards the house as well.
“cldb,” she mumbled as we walked up the lawn towards them. As we got closer, we heard the new boy saying to Colin “I thought you were joking when you said they would look different - they really ask to be like this?”
Colin just shrugged his shoulders as Bobby said “Cassie, Suzie, this is Colin’s cousin, Brian Hampton. Brian, meet my sister Suzanne, and her friend Cassie Craig.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Brian said as he held his hand out. Suzie and I looked at each other and then giggled as we turned and showed Brian our tightly bound wrists. Turning back, we giggled as he blushed and said “Oh, yeah - right.”
“What’s going on, Bobby,” I heard Alicia’s mother say as she came out, holding Andy in her arms as she smiled at us. “Oh - I see you’re playing,” she said without batting an eyelid. “Well, carry on - I think Angela and Mrs Bridges will bring out the picnic baskets soon.”
“Actually,” Angela said as she, Lady Holderness and Mrs Bridges came out, carrying a basket each, “we’re about ready to go now. Robert, will you take one of the baskets please and gather the rest of the girls by the path. I’ll follow with Mrs Bridges in a moment.”
“rntucmnggndm,” Suzie said as she looked at Lady Holderness.
“I and your grandfather want to spend some time with your Aunt Anne,” Lady Holderness said with a smile, “but you will be back in time for tea, and Angela is going with you. On you go now - and be careful in the boats.”
“Brian, give me a hand with this basket, will you,” Colin said as he took one handle, and his cousin the other, before they started to walk down the path. We followed Angela, Alicia and Mrs Bridges as they walked down, and then formed a line as we passed between the gap in the trees and made out way down the familiar path.
As we walked down, we passed the simple white cross, and the other girls stopped to look at it. “I’ll tell you about that when we are on the island,” Angela said as we continued down and entered the glade. It was as I remembered it - the trees around the edge, and the island in the middle of the lake, the white marble building gleaming.
The difference this time was that two boats were tied to the shore, and one by one Bobby and Colin helped us to sit in them, three to a boat. Taking the oars of one boat each, they rowed us across the lake, leaving Angela, Alicia, Brian and Mrs Bridges to keep an eye on the picnic baskets.
The water was lovely and still, except for the ducks that swam past us, until we reached a jetty on the other side and they tied the boats to the wood, then helped us out and onto the well kept grass.
“We’ll be back in a moment,” Bobby said as they set off, returning with the others and helping them to get out of the boats and collecting the baskets before we all watched Mrs Bridges laying some blankets on the ground.
“Time for your young ladies to be untied,” Angela said as she helped Mrs Bridges to lay out the food. “Bobby, Colin, will you do the honours please.”
Brian watched, his eyes wide open and his mouth dropping, as one by one we were released from the rope around our arms and waist, and then the scarves and tape removed from our mouths. “I’m dry,” Suzie said as she was ungagged, “Could I have a drink of squash please, Angela?”
“You can all have one,” she said as we were each handed a glass, and we sipped the ice cooled drink before sitting down round the picnic. “Drink it slowly, and then we can eat.”
“So what does the cross mean,” Patty said as she sat down, “is that where the family pets are buried?”
Bobby, Suzie and Angela looked at Patty, before Suzie said “Not quite - that marks where the first Lord Holderness lost his brother a long time ago. He’s in the mausoleum as well.”
“The big marble building behind you,” Bobby said, “all the Lord and Lady Holderness are in there. Slice of pie?”
“This is the first time I’ve ever come to the island,” Suzie said as she looked round, “It’s so quiet and peaceful.”
“I know,” Mrs Bridges said as she looked round, “but your grandfather likes it to stay that way, so we will eat and drink quietly and only when we go back to the other side will we play any games.”
I nodded as I ate a sandwich and looked round. A few birds were singing in the trees, but that was the only other sound - that and the water coming up against the side of the boats.
“Can we have a look inside?”
I turned and stared at Patty, but Angela said “If you are very quiet, and promise to let me do all the talking then yes. You have to remember, Patty, this is effectively a graveyard for my family - so we need to treat it as such.”
After a while, Angela stood up and said “Who would like to look inside?” I stood up, as did Patty, Suzie and Bobby, but the others shook their heads. “All right,” Angela said, “You rest and enjoy the sunshine.”
We walked up to the large oaken doors that were in the front of the marble building, watching as Angela took out a key and unlocked it. Opening the door, she held it open for us as we walked quietly in, unsure of what we were going to find.
“Hold up - I’m coming too.”
We looked round to see Alicia walking up to join us. “I’ve been once before, but I’d like to see it again,” she said as we all walked into the large hall like room.
Inside it was incredibly quiet, and we could see the little bits of dust hanging in the air as the sunlight streamed in from the open doorway. Around the side of the room were several shelves, some open but others covered with little plaques set into the wooden doors.
“This is where the members of the Holderness family have been laid to rest since the time of the first Lord Holderness,” Angela said in a quiet voice as she looked at the first of the covered shelves. “Here we have the coffin of Bartholomew, the first Lord Holderness, and his wife below him.”
I walked over and looked at the brass plaque, which gave the names of Bartholomew and his wife, their dates of birth and death, and their children. I saw he had two sons and three daughters.
“If the oldest son became Lord Holderness,” Patty whispered as she stood next to me, “Where is he?”
“Right next to him,” Angela answered as she looked at the next row of covered shelves along. “The other family members are interred according to the wishes of their relatives, or at the rear of this building, but they are all remembered in the plaque with each of the family heads.”
I looked at the first plaque, and the name of the first son, George. Sure enough, on the next plaque along there was George, Lord Holderness, and his family. We walked down in silence, looking at each of the plaques in turn, and stopping with one that had the name of Alexander, Lord Holderness, his wife, their two daughters and then Desmond Holderness.
The shelves from there were empty, and I realised something as I turned to look at Bobby.
“Yeah,” he said quietly, “Some day Granddad will end up there, Dad in the next lot, and then me - and anyone who follows. Our ancestor built this place for quite a few generations.” I looked at the two empty sets of shelves, then the ones on the other side, and nodded as Angela and Alicia looked with Suzie and Patty at the end of the building, and a number of individual little brass plaques.
“So this is where Horatio Holderness is buried,” Suzie said as she touched a little plaque. Angela nodded, saying “He has a place of honour here - as do some of the others, those who fought and died for their country, or committed other acts of valour. At any rate, as a family we always honour and remember them.”
Patty looked down at one plaque, and said “Who was Jonathon Holderness?”
“A very brave and unfortunate man,” Angela said quietly. “he was the brother of Desmond, my great great grandfather.” I stood in silence for a few moments, doing the sums in my head as Angela continued.
“Desmond was in the army, in the Somme - I believe Grandma told you some of that story once before. Anyway, Jonathon was also in the army, but he was less lucky than his brother - he was badly injured and returned to an army hospital, to recover, but the time came for him to be sent back to the front lines.
“In those days, the idea that a soldier would be mentally scarred by war was frowned upon - it was considered an act of cowardice to say you did not want to go back. Now, of course, it would not happen, but that was then - the time came for Jonathon to be sent back, and the night before he sent his brother a letter, in which he poured out his heart and his fears, and his desire not to return.”
Angela gently touched the plaque, and I could see a small tear running down her cheek. “He went back - and two weeks later, he had what would now be called a mental breakdown, refusing to go over the top on one of the interminable pushes that they carried out. He was only a lieutenant, not a captain like Desmond, and - well, he was accused and court martialled for desertion of duty.
“Desmond heard what had happened, and offered his services as defence counsel - he was a trained barrister. Even though he tried his best, he failed to stop the conviction - and there was only one punishment for desertion.”
I heard Bobby gasp, and as I turned to look at him I could see he was shocked. I had no idea why I did this, but the next thing I knew I was giving him the biggest hug I could.
“That’s - that’s just not right,” he eventually said.
“I know, Bobby - Desmond fought the same thing, so rather than the pauper’s grave they were going to use he had the body brought back here, and interred with full honours. Have you ever wondered why Grandfather and Uncle Alexander never attend the Remembrance Day parade you and Colin take part in?”
I’d seen that one - Dad had taken me and Jenny a couple of years before. Bobby shook his head and said “I always thought they went to the one in London. What do they do?”
“They come here instead, and lay a wreath inside,” Angela said, and for the first time I saw the faded green ring on the floor. Bobby nodded as we turned and walked out of the crypt in silence.
As Angela closed and locked the door, we walked round the other side, and saw for the first time one other thing - a small white cross, similar to the one next to the path, set under a large oak tree. “What is this one for,” Patty said as she stooped and looked at it.
“Do you know,” Angela said quietly, “I have no idea. I’ll need to ask Grandpa about it some day. Come on - let’s go and join the others.”
We walked back round and sat next to the other girls, as Bobby sat next to Colin and Brian.
“So Brian,” Angela said as she sat down with Mrs Bridges and Alicia, “where do you live?”
“I live in Salford,” he said as he picked up a slice of cake, “My dad works at the television centre there. He’s a sports reporter - gets to go to all the games.”
“United or City,” Bobby said.
“United - I’m looking forward to seeing how the new manager copes with the team,” Brian replied. “I hear you’re a Chelsea fan.”
“Yup - and Mourinhio is going to wipe the floor with Moyes next year.”
“Want a bet?”
“Boys,” Alicia said with a look at both of them, “Remember where you are, please. If you’re going to argue about football - do it when we get back.”
“All right, Lady Holderness,” Bobby said as he lay back and closed his eyes.
“So what is it like in there,” Pippa said as Hazel and Claire stood up and went for a walk.
“Scary, peaceful, strange and nice - I can’t really put it into words,” I said as I lay back on a blanket. “It felt - right somehow.”
Looking to one side, I saw Patty lying on her stomach, kicking her legs up and down as she watched the twins walking round. I was sore tempted to tickle her for what she had done that morning, but somehow it just did not seem right - so instead I contented myself with watching Bobby talking with Colin and Brian.
“He’s kinda cute, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, he is,” I heard myself say, and then I blushed as I heard Suzie laugh. “Who are you talking about anyway,” I said as I turned to look at her.
“Colin’s cousin - I like red hair,” she said as she sat down and drew her legs up to her stomach. “He seems friendly enough anyway - what do you think?”
“He’s a boy - what’s there to think about? I thought you had enough trouble trying to keep Bobby in line.”
Any other questions were dropped by Mrs Bridges, who stood up and said “I think we need to head back over now - Bobby, will you and Colin take the girls over first, and then come back for Angela, Alicia and myself?”
“No problem, Mrs Bridges,” Bobby said as he stood up, “Do we need to get them ready?”
“Not yet - wait until you get to the other side,” Angela said as she got onto her knees, “We need a little while to clear up anyway.” The six of us got together and waited as Bobby and Colin found the oars, and then got into the boats - Suzie, me and Patty joined Bobby, while the others went with Brian and Colin.
Bobby rowed us slowly across, Patty letting her hand slip through the water as I said “So what happens when there is a funeral - how does the coffin get over?”
“There’s a barge - we keep it with the other boats in the boat house further down the lake,” Bobby said as he pulled the oars into the water. “Hopefully it’s going to be a while before we need to use it, though.”
We eventually reached the other side, and as we got out Colin brought with him the bag that the ropes and gags had been kept in.
“Now then,” Bobby said with a big smile, “Who’s going to be first?”
Suzie and I looked at each other, and the same idea occurred to both of us at the same time. As one we wrestled Patty to the ground, and as Suzie crossed and held her wrists behind her back I started to tie them together.
“Does this happen a lot,” Brian said as he watched me wrap the rope three times around and twice between Patty’s arms, before cinching and tying the rope off.
“From time to time,” Bobby said as Hazel and Claire looked at each other. They then turned to Pippa, who barely got out an “Oh No...” before they too had tackled our friend to the ground and Colin had handed them some rope as well.
“All right, I know I should not have taped you lot in the sleeping bags this morning, but...”
“Hush,” Suzie said as she held one of the folded scarves in front of Patty, who winked before she allowed the cloth to be pushed in and closed her lips over it. Suzie then pulled a folded blue scarf over her mouth and tied it tightly round her head, as Bobby took something new out of the bag.
“Try this - strips over the mouth only,” he said as he handed his sister a roll of clear tape. Suzie nodded as she tore a few strips off and smoothed them over Patty’s mouth, so that you could still see the band under the front covering.
“Where are they, Bobby,” Colin said as he watched the two of us at work.
“Probably over at the tree line at the far side,” Bobby replied as we wondered what he was talking about, but decided instead to start tickling Patty, making her kick her legs up and down violently as she squirmed under our assault on her rib cage. The twins must have had the same idea, as we heard Pippa squeal out in a muffled way and saw them tickling the backs of her legs.
“I’ll go and get the others,” Colin said as he walked back to the boats, “why don’t you and Brian keep the girls company.”
“Fair enough,” Bobby said as he punched Brian on the arm. “You’d better come with me - I know something that you will like, and the girls can take care of themselves for a few minutes.”
As they walked across the grass, Suzie and I started to bind Patty’s legs together, below her knees, then made her sit up so that we could tie her arms to her sides.
“Hdnfrvng,” she mumbled as she looked at me.
“Not nearly enough,” I said as I tied her wrists to her back with rope around her waist, “but you’ll see, you’ll see.”
It took both me and Suzie, and the twins, a few minutes to get Pippa and Patty securely bound and gagged - by which time Bobby and Brian were returning across the grass, each of them pushing a wheelbarrow along.
“Whtrthfr,” Patty asked as the boys put the barrows carefully down next to us.
“Was she asking what they were for,” Bobby said, and Suzie and I just nodded, our hands clasped in front of us in perfect innocence as the twins looked on.
“Give me a hand, Brian,” Bobby said, and Patty squealed as they lifted her up and dropped her into one of the wheelbarrows, her legs hanging over the side as they dropped Pippa into the other one.
“First one to the far side and back is the winner,” Bobby said as he raised the barrow Patty was in, her laughing infectious as Brian did the same for Pippa, and they started to set off across the grass, the girls kicking their legs up in the air as they did so.
“Us next,” Hazel said as she and Claire looked at us, “Get us ready.” They turned and crossed their wrists behind their back, as we got to work.
It didn’t take Suzie and me long to bind the twin’s arms and upper bodies as we had Pippa and Patty - their wrists crossed and tied together, rope around their waists and tummies, and then their legs tied together below their knees. As we finished gagging them and smoothing the tape over their mouths, Bobby just pipped Brian in the race back, Patty cheering “GN, GN” through her gag as she stopped.
“Well, we can have a race off later,” Bobby said as he lifted Patty out and sat her on the grass, then helped Brian to lift Pippa from her carriage. “Now, for the next contestants.”
He swept Hazel off her feet and deposited her in his barrow, as Brian helped Claire to sit in his. “So, a race off between the Irvine girls,” Bobby said as Suzie went “On your marks, get set - GO!”
The boys raced off as we sat next to Patty and Pippa. “Enjoying it so far,” I said as I put my arm round Patty’s shoulders, and she nodded enthusiastically as we watched Colin rowing the rest of the party back over from the island. As he came alongside and tied the boat up, we walked over and helped Mrs Bridges with the empty baskets, while Alicia and Angela climbed out of the boat with Colin’s help.
“I meant to ask, sis,” Angela said as they walked up towards Pippa and Patty, “How did Grandpa like your project report.”
“A lot,” Alicia said as we walked behind them with Mrs Bridges, “he only asked us to take out the reference to the Shadow last year. Something about no way of proving it.”
“He may have a point,” Angela said as we watched the other boys racing back across the green with the twins kicking their legs up and down. “At any rate, I think you did a good job on it.” This time it was Brian who won, laughing as he accidentally tipped the barrow forward and tipped Claire onto the ground, her laughter muffled as she rolled against Pippa.
“Ntfr,” Hazel said as she was lifted out and placed beside the other three, while Mrs Bridges looked at her watch. “It’s getting late boys,” she said eventually, “and the girls need to get changed before their parents arrive. We’d better start walking back.”
“Awwww,” Patty said through her gag, but I said “she’s right, Patty - Dad will be here soon to pick us up, so we’d better be ready. Come on.” I helped her to stand up, a little upset that I’d missed out on the barrow ride - until Bobby lifted me up and dropped me in, saying “I’ll push you back, Your Ladyship,” setting off up the path with me in the seat.
“Not fAAAAA” Pippa said before Colin and Brian dropped her in the other barrow and pushed it up the path, the rest of the party following behind as we bumped and rode up towards the manor house, coming out of the trees as we were raced up to the kitchen door.
“All right,” Bobby panted as he set the barrow down and collapsed onto the ground, “You’d better head up and start to get ready. We’ll chase the others up once we have them ready.” Suzie and I nodded as we walked into the kitchen, almost running head first into Lady Holderness.
“Have fun, girls,” she said as she smiled at us, and we both nodded. “Very well - I’ll prepare some cakes and drinks, and we’ll have them in the library before your parents come to collect you.”
“Thanks, Grandma,” Suzie said as the other girls followed us in, rubbing their wrist as we ran through the hall and up the staircase to our rooms.
Half an hour later, we were sitting in the library, talking to each other as we drank the glasses of squash and ate the cakes. Suzie and I were wearing white t-shirts and knee length cycling shorts, with flip flops on our feet, while Patty had on a light green summer dress, white socks and trainers. Pippa had changed into a pair of blue jeans and a white sweatshirt, while the twins as always had similar clothing on, this time a pair of grey jogging pants, trainers and a cap sleeved t-shirt, Hazel in a blue one and Claire in a grey one.
Lady Holderness and Alicia’s mother were sitting at the far side of the room, talking quietly as she held little Andy in her arms.
There was a soft knock on the door, and Angela looked in. “Your mother is here,” she said as she looked at the twins.
“Ask Mrs Irvine to come in, will you,” Lady Holderness said as she stood up, and waited as Angela showed in Hazel and Claire’s mother. She looked rather nervous as she stood there, saying “I wanted to think you, Your Ladyship, for inviting the girls to stay.”
“It’s Lucinda,” Lady Holderness said as she walked over, “and it was our pleasure to have them stay. Isn’t that right Suzanne?”
“Yes, that’s right,” Suzie said as her grandmother took Mrs Irvine to one side and introduced her to Anne Bowden. As they sat talking, Hazel and Claire stood up and came over.
“Thanks for everything,” Hazel said as she hugged me, “and I mean everything. You’re the best friend we’ve ever had.”
“Both of you are,” Claire said as she hugged Suzie, then me. “Can we play like that again some time?”
“Sure - you’re always welcome if Grandma allows it,” Suzie said with a big smile, “and your parents say yes.”
They smiled and nodded as Patty stood up and came over. “When’s Uncle John coming,” she said as she poked me in the ribs.
“He won’t be long,” I said as I looked at Suzie. “In fact, he asked me to do one more thing with you before he came for us.”
“Oooo - what’s that?”
“Finish your drink - We’ll show you later,” I said with a smile as we went over to join the others. As we got there, the door opened and Pippa’s mum came in.
“Hello, Cassie,” she said as Pippa ran over and hugged her, “Have you all had fun this weekend?”
“Yes, I did,” Pippa said with a wink to me. I looked at Suzie, and then said “Patty, why don’t you come with me and Suzie - we have something to show you.”
Patty nodded and rushed over to the twins, hugging them and saying “Thanks,” before she did the same to Pippa, and then left the room with us.
We returned just in time to see Dad come in, saying “Hello Poppet” as I jumped into his arms and gave him a great big hug. “Good weekend?”
“Yeah,” I said with a smile, “How’s mum?”
“Much better, but still very tired - she’ll stay in hospital a few more days, but she wants to see you tomorrow,” he said with a smile. “Where’s Patty?”
“Having a rest - I’ll get her when we need to go,” I said as the others came out, waving at us as they left with their mothers.
“Hello John,” Mrs Bowden said as she came out of the room, “Congratulations. How’s Jennifer?”
“Very tired - you?”
“Happily exhausted,” she said with a smile. “Suzie, your grandmother is looking for you.”
“You’d better go and get Patty,” Dad said as he passed me the car keys. “Strap yourselves in - I’ll be along in a few minutes.”
Dad nodded as I said to Suzie “I’d better go and get her - see you soon.”
“Sure - and thanks,” Suzie said as I hugged her, and then watched as she followed Dad, and I went to get Patty.
I watched from the open window of the car as Dad walked back, and looked in at the two of us. “Well now - I see you have been playing with Patty,” he said as he looked at Patty in the seat next to me.
Patty nodded - the strip of white tape across her mouth stopping her from saying anything audible and understandable. The tape covered the knotted bandana that Suzie had loaned to me, and that held one of my handkerchiefs in her mouth.
I had tied her wrists together in front of her, hands palm to palm, and then her wrist to her waist, and walked her out to the car before tying her ankles together and her legs below her knees. Finally, I had put the seat belt on her, and now there she was, swinging her legs back and forth as she looked at Dad.
“Just as well we’re going back to my house,” Dad said with a smile, “I don’t think your Aunt is quite ready to find out about your games yet.” He got behind the wheel and drove down the path, as I sat back and looked forward to my next visit to Holderness Manor.
“Bbeendcsss, stngntr, kssssng....”
I looked at Patty, and took the only responsible and proper action in response - I started to tickle her ribs, loving the way she tried to squirm out of the way as we headed home.