There was certainly a thunderstorm coming. The sky was very black indeed, and it was getting dark. Nora and Mike caught the six hens in the little cave, bundled them gently into the sack, and raced off to the hen-yard with them. Mike stuck two or three willow sticks into the ground at one end of the hen-yard and draped the sack over them.
“There you are, henny-pennies!” said Nora. “There is a nice little shelter for you!”
Plop! Plop! Plop! Enormous drops of rain fell down and the hens gave a frightened squawk. They did not like the rain. They scuttled under the sack at once and lay there quietly, giving each other little pecks now and again.
“Well, that settles the hens,” said Mike. “I wonder how Peggy is getting on with the fire.”
Peggy was not getting on at all well. The rain was now coming down fast, and she could not get the fire going. Jack arrived with Daisy the cow and shouted to Peggy:
“Never mind about the fire! Now that the rain’s coming down so fast you won’t be able to light it. Get into Willow House, all of you, before you get too wet.”
“The girls can go,” said Mike, running to help Jack. “I’ll get the things to help you milk. My goodness - we haven’t drunk all the milk yet that Daisy gave us this morning!”
“Put it into a dish and pop it in the hen-yard,” said Jack. “Maybe the hens will like it!”
In the pouring rain Jack milked Daisy the cow. Soon all the saucepans and the kettle and bowls were full! Really, thought Jack, he simply must get that old milking-pail that the girls had told him of at their Aunt’s farm. It was such a tiring business milking a cow like this.
When the milking was finished, Jack took Daisy back to her grassy field on the other side of the island. Mike went to Willow House where the two girls were. It was dark there, and the sound of rain drip-drip-drip-ping from the trees all around sounded rather miserable.
Mike and the two girls sat in the front part of Willow House and waited for Jack. Mike was very wet, and he shivered.
“Poor old Jack will be wet through, too,” he said. “Feel this milk, girls. It’s as warm as can be. Let’s drink some and it will warm us up. We can’t boil any, for we haven’t a fire.”
Jack came to Willow House dripping wet. But he was grinning away as usual. Nothing ever seemed to upset Jack.
“Hallo, hallo!” he said. “I’m as wet as a fish! Peggy, where did we put those clothes of mine that I brought to the island last night?”
“Oh yes!” cried Peggy, in delight. “Of course! You and Mike can change into those.”
“Well, I don’t know about that,” said Mike. “Jack only brought three old vests, a shirt or two, and an overcoat.”
“Well, we can wear a vest each, and a shirt, and I’ll wear the overcoat, and you can wrap the old blanket I brought all round you!” said Jack.
The boys took off their wet clothes and changed into the dry ones. “I’ll hang your wet ones out to dry as soon as the rain stops,” said Peggy, squeezing the rain out of them.
“I can’t see a thing here,” said Mike, buttoning up his shirt all wrong.
“Well, light the lantern, silly,” said Jack. “What do you suppose the candles are for? Nora, find the lantern and light it. It may want a new candle inside. You know where you put the candles, don’t you? Over in that corner somewhere.”
Nora found the lantern. It did want a new candle inside. She found a box of matches and lighted the candle. Mike hung the lantern up on a nail he had put in the roof. It swung there, giving a dim but cheerful light to the little party huddled inside Willow House.
“This really feels like a house now,” said Nora, pleased. “I do like it. It’s very cosy. Not a drop of rain is coming through our roof or the walls.”
“And not a scrap of wind!” said Jack. “That shows how well we packed the walls with heather and bracken. Listen to the wind howling outside! We shouldn’t like to be out in that! What a good thing we’ve got Willow House to live in! Our outdoor bedroom wouldn’t be at all comfortable to-night!”
The thunderstorm broke overhead. The thunder crashed around as if someone were moving heavy furniture up in the sky.
“Hallo! Someone’s dropped a wardrobe, I should think!” said Jack, when an extra heavy crash came!
“And there goes a grand piano tumbling down the stairs!” said Mike, at another heavy rumble. Everyone laughed. Really, the thunderstorm did sound exactly like furniture being thrown about.
The lightning flashed brightly, lighting up the inside of Willow House. Nora was not sure that she liked it. She cuddled up to Mike. “I feel a bit frightened,” she said.
“Don’t be silly!” said Mike. “You’re as bad as those women trippers over the bats! There’s nothing to be frightened of. A storm is a grand thing. We’re perfectly safe here.”
“A storm is just a bit of weather being noisy!” laughed Jack. “Cheer up, Nora. We’re all right. You can think you’re lucky you’re not Daisy the cow. After all, we do know that a storm is only a storm, but she doesn’t.”
Crash! Rumble! Crash! The thunder roared away, and the children made a joke of it, inventing all kinds of furniture tumbling about the sky, as each crash came. The lightning flashed, and each time Jack said, “Thanks very much! The sky keeps striking matches, and the wind keeps blowing them out!”
Even Nora laughed, and soon she forgot to be frightened. The rain pelted down hard, and the only thing that worried Jack was whether or not a rivulet of rain might find its way into Willow House and run along the floor on which they were sitting. But all was well. No rain came in at all.
Gradually the storm died away, and only the pitter-patter of raindrops falling from the trees could be heard, a singing, liquid sound. The thunder went farther and farther away. The lightning flashed for the last time. The storm was over.
“Now we’ll have something to eat and a cup of milk to drink, and off to bed we’ll go,” said Jack. “We’ve had quite enough excitement for to-day! And Mike and I were so late last night that I’m sure he’s dropping with sleep. I know I am.”
Peggy got a small meal for them all, and they drank Daisy’s creamy milk. Then the girls went into the back room of Willow House and snuggled down on the warm heather there, and the boys lay down in the front room. In half a minute everyone was asleep!
Again Daisy the cow awoke them with her mooing. It was strange to wake up in Willow House instead of in their outdoor sleeping-place among the gorse, with the sky above them. The children blinked up at their green roof, for leaves were growing from the willow branches that were interlaced for a ceiling. It was dim inside Willow House. The door was shut, and there were no windows. Jack had thought it would be too difficult to make windows, and they might let in the wind and the rain too much. So Willow House was rather dark and a bit stuffy when the door was shut - but nobody minded that! It really made it all the more exciting!
The children ran out of Willow House and looked around - all except Nora. She lay lazily on her back, looking up at the green ceiling, thinking how soft the heather was and how nice Willow House smelt. She was always the last out of bed!
“Nora, you won’t have time for a dip before breakfast if you don’t come now,” shouted Peggy. So Nora ran out, too. What a lovely morning it was! The thunderstorm had cleared away and left the world looking clean and newly washed. Even the pure blue sky seemed washed, too.
The lake was as blue as the sky. The trees still dripped a little with the heavy rain of the night before, and the grass and heather were damp to the foot.
“The world looks quite new,” said Mike. “Just as if it had been made this very morning! Come on - let’s have our dip!”
Splash! Into the lake they went. Mike and Jack could both swim. Jack swam like a fish. Peggy could swim a little way, and Nora hardly at all. Jack was teaching her, but she was a bit of a baby and would not get her feet off the sandy bed of the lake.
Peggy was first out of the water and went to get the breakfast - but when she looked round their little beach, she stood still in disgust!
“Look here, boys!” she cried. “Look, Nora! How those trippers have spoilt our beach!”
They all ran out of the cold water, and, rubbing themselves down with their two towels, they stared round at their little beach, which was always such a beautiful place, clean and shining with its silvery sand.
But now, what a difference! Orange-peel lay everywhere. Banana skins, brown, slippery, and soaked with rain, lay where they had been thrown. A tin that had once had canned pears in, and two cardboard cartons that had been full of cream, rolled about on the sand, empty. A newspaper, pulled into many pieces by the wind, blew here and there. An empty cigarette packet joined the mess.
The children felt really angry. The little beach was theirs and they loved it. They had been careful to keep it clean, tidy, and lovely, and had always put everything away after a meal. Now some horrid trippers had come there just for one meal and had left it looking like a rubbish-heap!
“And they were grown-up people, too!” said Jack, in disgust. “They ought to have known better. Why couldn’t they take their rubbish away with them?”
“People that leave rubbish about in beautiful places like this are just rubbishy people themselves!” cried Peggy fiercely, almost in tears. “Nice people never do it. I’d like to put those people into a big dust-bin with all their horrid rubbish on top of them - and wouldn’t I bang on the lid, too!”
The others laughed. It sounded so funny. But they were all angry about their beach being spoilt.
“I’ll clear up the mess and burn it,” said Mike.
“Wait a minute!” said Jack. “We might find some of the things useful.”
“What! Old banana skins and orange-peel!” cried Mike. “You’re not thinking of making a pudding or something of them, Jack!”
“No,” said Jack, with a grin, “but if we keep the tin and a carton and the empty cigarette packet in our cave-cupboard, we might put them out on the beach if anyone else ever comes - and then, if they happen to find the remains of our fire, or a bit of string or anything like that - why, they won’t think of looking for us - they’ll just think trippers have been here!”
“Good idea, Jack!” cried everyone.
“You really are good at thinking out clever things,” said Peggy, busy getting the fire going. Its crackling sounded very cheerful, for they were all hungry. Peggy put some milk on to boil. She meant to make cocoa for them all to drink.
Mike picked up the cigarette packet, the tin, and one of the cardboard cartons. He washed the carton and the tin in the lake, and then went to put the three things away in their little cave-cupboard. They might certainly come in useful some day!
Nora brought in five eggs for breakfast. Peggy fried them with two trout that Jack had caught on his useful lines. The smell was delicious!
“I say! Poor old Daisy must be milked!” said Jack, gobbling down his breakfast and drinking his hot cocoa.
Suddenly Nora gave a squeal and pointed behind him. Jack turned - and to his great astonishment he saw the cow walking towards him!
“You wouldn’t go to milk her in time so she has come to you!” laughed Peggy. “Good old Daisy! Fancy her knowing the way!”