by Dawn Knox
Previously: Garden Inspection is always a fraught time. Mr Po Lin, the Gardener, checks off each Garden Gnome and Garden Ornament on his list every Monday and if one is missing, no stone is left unturned.
Crispin tapped on Sylvester’s bedroom door. “It’s Monday. Garden Inspection. Get up!”
“I don’t know where you’ve picked up all this bad language from but you can take it back and leave it. It’s not my fault it’s Monday and Garden Inspection. Don’t take it out on me!”
Sylvester’s bed creaked and Crispin knew he’d pulled the duvet back over his head.
He tried another tack. Opening the front door, he said loudly “Yes, Bartrum, I’ll make sure Sylvester is there at Garden Insp—” before he could finish, Sylvester was halfway to the bathroom.
Crispin waved to the Wooden Robin, who was walking past the Toadstool.
“Did you say something?” he trilled.
Crispin knew better than to explain he was only trying to frighten Sylvester into getting up.
“No, just admiring the day,” Crispin said and waved again.
“Stop sulking,” said Crispin over breakfast, “I fooled you for your own good. As soon as Garden Inspection’s over, you can do what you like, even go back to bed. But you know what happens when a Garden Ornament is missing at inspection time. Big Po leaves no stone unturned until they’re found and you know how long that can take. The last time Jubbly had an episode, we all had to stand in the sun for hours.”
Despite his grumpiness, Sylvester smiled at the memory. It was one of those days when Jubbly had woken up feeling more female—and Mexican—than usual. It was also Monday and Garden Inspection Day. Jubbly had arrived at his position on time and waited for Mr Po Lin to tick him off his list as he progressed throughout the Garden. But the Gardener’s memory of the Gnome with his thumbs tucked into his braces, definitely didn’t match what he was now seeing, standing next to the birdbath. Jubbly had surpassed himself. His long red skirt with braid decoration and white frilly blouse were set off with red and white flowers in his hair and a matching fan.
Mr Po Lin grabbed Jubbly round the middle and stabbing the air with his finger, he shouted in the direction of the Old Priory, “So, Mr Wirrets, you think you can replace one of my Ornaments with a cheap copy?” He’d deposited Jubbly in the rubbish bin, soiling his outfit and convincing him that in future, he definitely wouldn’t be female or Mexican on any Monday when Mr Po Lin carried out his inspection. It was hours before Mr Po Lin gave up looking for the “real” Jubbly. He’d been convinced that Mr Willets, who’d been to Spain the previous week had taken Jubbly and replaced him with a travesty of a Gnome, as a joke. He was certain that, one day soon, a postcard would arrive from Torremolinos, supposedly from Jubbly.
Of course, a postcard never appeared. Crispin, whose position was next to the drystone wall, had to stand in the sun for three hours and almost passed out before Mr Po Lin had given up searching, abandoned Garden Inspection and gone to mow the large lawn.
At the following Garden Inspection, Jubbly was there by the birdbath, thumbs tucked into his braces and Mr Po Lin gave a triumphant glance at the Old Priory and a grunt of satisfaction as he ticked him off the list.
The inspection had gone well although now, the Garden Ornaments were on high alert after Bartrum’s post-Garden Inspection meeting. Not only was there a compulsory health check that afternoon but more immediate and worrying was the news that a little girl had gone missing.
“Big Po placed her by the maze,” said Bartrum “but when I went to inform her of this meeting, she wasn’t there. I can only assume she’s wandered off. We must find her immediately. She’s just a young girl and she’s probably terrified.”
“You promised I could go back to bed!” grumbled Sylvester as he and Crispin scoured the area near the Shed of No Return.
“Stop being such a… a teenager!” snapped Crispin, “there’s a little girl somewhere in the Garden, lost and afraid. Stop thinking of yourself and go and check over there.”
With hunched shoulders and hands deep in pockets, Sylvester stomped to the bushes. He was wondering whether Crispin would notice if he slipped back to the Toadstool, when a voice from the bush brought him back to reality with a start.
“Hello! Would you like a dab of my sherbet? I’ve got a Mint Humbug if you’d pwefer...”
Sylvester leapt backwards and swore.
“Ooh!” said the Little Girl crawling out from her hiding place under the bushes, “You shouldn’t thay that. That’th a thwear word. I know all the thwear wordth and that’th a bad one. You’re very naughty.”
“Have you had any luck?” shouted Crispin from the boating lake.
“Yes,” shouted Sylvester, “I’ve had some luck and it’s all bad luck. I’ve found her.”
Crispin arrived out of breath, “Oh, thank goodness, I was beginning to wonder if we’d have to dredge the lake. You must be...” he paused, trying to remember if Bartrum had told them her name.
“She’s the girl with the scruples,” Sylvester said caustically.
“Are they like gob thtopperth?” she asked, her enormous, violet eyes gazing adoringly at Sylvester.
Crispin was tempted to ask what they were talking about and then thought better of it.
“My name’th Wendy Wuthell,” she said, “who are you?”
While Crispin introduced Sylvester and himself, she continued to stare admiringly at Sylvester, who was quite oblivious to the adoration.
There was something completely surreal about a little girl who was twice as tall but half the age of Sylvester, and Crispin couldn’t help adding, “For a little girl, you’re rather... big.”
“Yeth,” she agreed quite happily, her chestnut curls bobbing around her heart-shaped face.
“Shall I show you how good I am at curttheying?”
“Curtseying?” Crispin asked, certain he’d misheard.
“Yeth,” she said, “I’m very good at it. I’ll show you.”
“No,” said Sylvester.
“Yes, please,” said Crispin as her bottom lip began to quiver. He jabbed Sylvester in the ribs with his elbow and mouthed Be nice.
Wendy took hold of the bottom of her dress with chubby hands, put one ballet-shoe-clad foot forward and bending the knee of the other leg, she sank into a deep curtsey and looked through her lashes to see if Sylvester was impressed.
“I know,” she said, “I’ll teach you both how to do it.”
“No,” said Sylvester, moving out of range of Crispin’s elbow.
“Well,” said Crispin, “that’s very kind of you but we need to let Bartrum know you’re safe.”
“Yes. Bartrum’s in charge, so we really need to go and find him…”
“Ooh! You mean like a king?” asked Wendy, her face lighting up, “Well then, you thimply have to learn how to curtthey.”
“Well, not so much a ‘king’, more a sort of leader—”
“Pleathe! You’ll like it, really you will!” her eyes filled with tears, “Pleathe!”
“What on earth...?” said Bartrum as he entered the clearing in the woods followed by a group of young Gnomes.
“Ah, Bartrum…” said Crispin leaping up from his curtsey.
“Your Majethty!” said Wendy sinking more deeply into hers.
Sylvester groaned with embarrassment and collapsing sideways from his curtsey, he lay there pretending to be dead.
Even Bartrum was sitting upright watching Nurse Bludgett warily. He’d given Gusty Bob special permission to wait near the begonias until everyone else had been seen. This was more for the other Garden Ornaments’ benefit than the nurse’s. With her face mask and strong, medical smell, Nurse Bludgett always seemed impervious to Gusty Bob’s signature odour.
“You are an absolute disgrace!” the nurse bellowed at the Garden Ornaments, tapping the palm of her hand with the nurse’s stick. “You are flabby and unfit and I am placing you all on a strict diet.”
Not one Garden Ornament dared groan or disagree, although there was a sound that could have meant anything, which came from the begonias.
“Now, line up! I will see you all individually. You!” she yelled, indicating Jubbly with her nurse’s stick. “Here! Now!”
Jubbly gulped and stepped forward.
“What’th she going to do?” Wendy whispered to Crispin.
“She does tests and gives jabs.”
“Jabth?” said Wendy, “I’m up to date with my jabth.”
“It doesn’t make any difference. If you slouch, sniff or breathe at the wrong time, she’ll jab you anyway.”
As if to prove the point, Nurse Bludgett jabbed Jubbly with the end of her nurse’s stick, “Stop blubbing,” she said, “behave like a man.”
“I don’t want to go to the nurthe,” objected Wendy but Sylvester had pushed her forward.
“Name?” asked Nurse Bludgett.
“Wendy Wuthell, but I don’t want any jabth—”
“Well Miss Russell, no one is interested in what you want—”
“Wuthell, my name’s Wuthell, not Wuthell,” said Wendy indignantly, “You thpell it W, U, T, H, E, L, L.”
“Silence!” Nurse Bludgett jabbed Wendy with her nurse’s stick. She shook her thermometer vigorously, “Open wide.”
Wendy opened her mouth to reveal a well-sucked pear drop and a red tongue.
“Spit that out!” shrieked Nurse Bludgett, “Don’t you know sweets rot your teeth?”
“I will not!” cried Wendy with equal passion, “I haven’t got any more!”
Nurse Bludgett jabbed her again and held a bowl in front of her face to catch the pear drop.
Wendy opened her mouth but rather than ejecting the sweet, she let rip with a scream so loud it shook the windows in the Old Priory and set off the burglar alarm.
For a second, no one moved, then hands clapped over ears as everyone, including Nurse Bludgett, was almost knocked backwards by the force of the shock wave.
A sharp jab with the nurse’s stick only served to increase the volume of the scream and fearing for her eardrums, Nurse Bludgett hastily gathered her equipment and fled.
By the time Wendy stopped for breath, Nurse Bludgett was halfway down the tree-lined avenue, vowing never to return to the Garden of the Old Priory.
“We’ve escaped!” said Sylvester gleefully, “And it’s all thanks to Wendy.”
“Me?” asked Wendy, not quite understanding what had happened but delighted Sylvester was smiling at her. She blushed and looked down at her ballet shoes then back at Sylvester with unconcealed devotion.
“Ooh, I’ve got an idea! Play hide and theek with me!”
Sylvester was about to say “No,” when he had a ‘light bulb’ moment, “Yes, let’s,” he said.
“Weally?” Wendy squealed, clapping her hands together.
“Oh, yes. You go and hide and I’ll count to a hundred. One, two—”
Wendy squealed again and ran off to the woods.
“Sylvester, you should be ashamed!” said Crispin.
“Three, four—" said Sylvester sauntering off with his hands in his pockets, away from the woods and towards the Toadstool.
“She might go into the Shed of No Return, she might drown in the lake...” said Crispin but Sylvester had already gone.
Crispin groaned and headed towards the woods.
It hadn’t been hard to spot Wendy hiding in the tree, with her bright pink dress, although Crispin couldn’t imagine how she’d got up there.
It proved harder to get her down, as her petticoat had caught on a twig and despite not liking heights, Crispin had to climb up to free her.
“Quick, we need to hide. Thylvethter will be coming any minute.”
Crispin explained Sylvester might not be coming after all.
“A headache? Poor Thylvethter, he’ll be weally dithappointed. I hope it goeth thoon.”
“Yes, I’m sure it will. He’ll sleep it off and be as right as rain tomorrow.” Crispin had his fingers crossed behind his back.
“Okay. Well, what shall we do now, Cwithpin? Shall we play with my dolly?”
About the author
Dawn’s two previous books in the ‘Chronicles Chronicles’ series are ‘The Basilwade Chronicles’ and ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ both published by Chapeltown Publishing.
The Crispin Chronicles
Links to the previous chapters:
Chapter 1 – Her Ladyship’s Garden - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/04/the-crispin-chronicles-1-her-ladyships.html
Chapter 2 – The Letter from OFSGAR - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/search/label/The%20Crispin%20Chronicles%20-%20The%20Letter%20from%20OFSGAR
Chapter 3 -The Sweet Smell of Success - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-3-sweet-smell-of.html
Chapter 4 – A Visit from Peggy the Pram - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-4-visit-from.html
Chapter 5 – Nightly Disturbances - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-5-nightly.html
Chapter 6 – Just Desserts - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-6-just-desserts.html