CHAPTER 6 - In a Hole

At first it seemed like a normal summer Saturday afternoon on Wildside. David’s music filled the air, and the Wildside Elves (greatest rock band in the world) were lying in the long grass, listening happily. Adam and Joseph were playing cricket, just for a change. No-one else was around, just then.

A car drew up on Cherrytree Close, just near the passage between number eight and number ten. A man got out of the car, and walked between the houses onto Wildside. He wandered down a footpath, that led to a gap in an old fence that separated Wildside from the main road. Mr. Connolly came out of his garden to join him, and the two men stopped to talk.

“We might be able to leave the footpath,” said Mr. Connolly’s friend, who was called Bill Pearce.”The building will be near the main road. It won’t affect your house, you’ll be overlooking the car park. Better than all this rubbish, I should think!” he laughed, kicking at a can.
“So why are you building here now, after all these years?” asked Mr. Connolly.
“When your estate was built, in the Sixties, we were going to take houses right to that brook. But the ground’s very damp this side. Would have cost too much in drainage. But the way property prices have gone up, I’d be daft not to now. There’ll be twenty-four retirement flats in the block, and when you think what they’ll sell for, you can see for yourself it’s worth it.”
Mr. Connolly agreed with him, but he knew very well what his children were going to think about it.
“Do you need such a big car park?” he tried. “If they’re retirement flats, wouldn’t they prefer a garden?”
“Not at all,” said Mr. Pearce. “Everyone wants parking nowadays, even older people. And they can't be bothered with gardens. People who buy these flats want to be free of that sort of hassle.”
“So when do you start?”
“Couple of months. A surveyor’s coming on Monday. I wanted to let you know what was happening before you saw him wandering about with his poles.”
“Thanks for that. Have you got planning permission yet?”
“No, I’ll wait for the architect’s drawings first. Shouldn’t be a problem. The wiring sub-contract’s yours if you want it.”
“Thanks. I’ll do you a quote when I’ve seen the plans.”
“Cheers, Michael. See you around.”
They shook hands, and Mr. Pearce strode off to his car. Dominic came out to join his dad.

“Who was that, Dad? What did he want?”
Mr. Connolly frowned. He wasn’t looking forward to this.
“Name’s Bill Pearce,” he told Dominic. “His dad built our house, all of our road. He owns this land that you call the back field, that our Tony’s started calling Wildside.”
Bit poetic, that, he worried.
“He’s going to put up a building on it. Retirement flats. Surveyor’s coming Monday. He’s offered me the wiring of it. Make a packet, that will. We could go to Majorca next summer. How would you like that?”
It would have worked with Joseph, but not Dominic.
“Build on our field! He can’t! We’ve always played here, we love it! Can’t you stop him, Dad?”
Mr. Connolly sighed.
“Only the Council could stop him. They could refuse him planning permission. But honestly, Dominic, they won’t. I’m sorry, son, but you’re just going to have to get used to the idea.”
He shook Dominic’s shoulder cheeringly, and went back in. Dominic raced off to number sixteen to tell Rowan. She was even more upset than he was, if possible.

“We must do something!” she cried. “What can we do?”
“Whatever’s the matter?” asked Sally, coming into the garden for her washing.
“Oh, Mum, it’s awful! Dominic’s dad knows this man, right, who owns the back field, and he’s going to build on it!”
“Not if I can help it,” said Dominic.
Oh no, thought Sally. The poor sprites! And that beautiful tree.
Her heart sank.
“Tell me what you know,” she said to Dominic.

He told her everything his dad had said, then she said firmly,
“He may not get planning permission. The Council have to ask everyone whose land is nearby. Lots of people will object.”
“Will that be enough to stop it?” asked Rowan.
“It depends on the reasons people give for objecting. We’ll have to find out what the Council would think were good reasons. Leave that to me.”
“What can we do?” said Rowan.
“I’ll tell you what I think might help,” said Sally thoughtfully. “You say a surveyor’s coming on Monday? Well, before he or she starts clumping around in big boots, do your own survey. If you can find anything unusual living or growing there, that would be a great weapon.”

She paused for a moment, thinking of the irony of it. If anyone knew who really lived there! But of course that could never be mentioned.
“People care about endangered species nowadays,” she went on. “A whole by-pass got re-routed once because of a colony of natterjack toads.”
“Oh, I see!” said Dominic. “I saw this boy on Blue Peter who saved a playground from being turned into a car park, by doing a nature survey!”
“That’s the idea. Get some books, and look carefully. Sometimes rare things are tiny and inconspicuous. Look at plants, and insects. And animals too, of course, if you find any.”
Rowan raced indoors to get some reference books, a pad, and a pen.
Sally spoke to Dominic.
“Don’t be hard on your dad. It isn’t his fault. I don’t suppose he really wants it either, but if it’s going to be built, you can’t blame him for taking the chance of earning good money.”
“I know what you mean. But he won’t blame me for trying to do what I can. How are the kittens? Tony was full of it this morning.”
“They’re fine. One of them’s very lively. Keeps trying to jump out of the box, and it’s only half a day old. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Rowan and Dominic were soon joined by Tony, Laura and Gemma, all looking very worried. They’d been to visit the mice, and when they’d got back, Sally had told them what was happening. Their first thoughts were for the sprites.
“If you see any of them, warn them,” Sally had told them. “Otherwise, the best thing you can do is help Rowan and Dominic.”
They tried to get Adam and Joseph to help, but they weren’t interested.
“A car park would make a better football pitch,” Joseph explained. “Not so many nettles.”
Disgusted with him, they set to work. Rowan was trying to write down what everyone found, but as half the time they didn’t know what they’d found, and the other half they couldn’t remember where they’d found it, the entries all looked a bit like this:
Gemma. Tiny white sort of flower. Over there somewhere.
Rowan sighed. This was going to be more difficult than she had thought. But help was at hand.
“I don’t believe it,” said Dominic. “Look who’s coming!”
It was David.

When the elves heard the music stop and saw David coming out onto Wildside, they didn’t think to wonder why, which was a pity. Instead, they took the opportunity of going into his room while he was out. They wanted to look at his CDs. Now they were a real rock band, they had to learn the words properly. Dan quickly offered to keep guard, and the other three jumped up to the open window.

David’s arrival put fresh heart into the survey team. He didn’t know any more than they did about plants, but he had a much better idea of organisation.
“This won’t do,” he told them. “We need to divide it into sections and search each one thoroughly.”
“We?” said Dominic. “Are you going to help us then?”
“You bet,” said David. “I was playing on here when you were still in nappies. Great place. Can’t let anyone build on this. It’s weird you know, last night I thought I heard music playing here. Could have sworn I heard Aces High coming from that horse chestnut tree. But I couldn’t see a thing.”

Tony just looked at Gemma and Laura, and they all turned away from David so he couldn’t see them laughing. But with his help, things went much better. They’d covered four small sections really thoroughly, and though they still hadn’t found anything really rare, the notes of what was there were a lot more accurate. David was a good artist, and had eye enough to spot whether a plant was or was not the one in the book. He poured scorn on the supposed loose-flowered orchid, saying it looked a lot more like rosebay willow herb to him, a plant not noted for its rarity.
But it was getting late, and the younger ones were very tired. They hadn’t had much sleep last night.
“We need more time,” said Dominic. “There’s loads more to do. We need a delaying tactic. Something to put the survey off until we’ve done our own.”
“Good idea,” said Rowan. “Let’s make some booby traps. With a bit of luck he’ll give up and come another day.”
“Booby traps, hey?” said David thoughtfully. “I’ll go and get a spade.”

David stayed outside for hours. The elves couldn’t believe their luck. They’d never had so long before to look at the CDs. Dan had got bored keeping guard and climbed up to join them. They were very interested in the photos of real bands in concert.
“Your hair’s not long enough, Phil,” said Ace. “You’ll have to let it grow more, it’s too tidy. Every single drummer has long hair.”
“They have, haven’t they? I’ll give it a try. How do you two manage to see where you’re going, though?”
“Stick it in a cap, Phil, like I do,” said Dan.
“That’s a thought. Hey, what was that noise?”
Ace jumped onto the window ledge and looked out.
“It’s not David. He’s still out there, digging holes.”
“We’re OK then,” said Will. “No-one else comes in here.”
“What do you want to learn next, anyway?” said Dan, who was lying on her side, trying to read the titles in the rack. “I think we ought to stick to Iron Maiden. They’re the greatest, no contest.”
“Definitely,” said Will. “But one day we ought to write our own.”
“Write our own? D’you think we could?” said Phil.
“Why not? That’s what real bands do.”
“I’d like to do that one about fighting,” said Ace.
“Yeah, right, Ace, like there’s only one about fighting. Which one do you mean, you halfwit?”
“Oh, what’s it called, The Duellists.
“That’s on the same one as Aces High.
Dan passed him the book with the words in.
“Never mind looking at the pictures, get learning the words.”
“Shut up, Will, we’ve got to look right as well as sound right. And I’ve got to be two people, don’t forget. They’ve got someone who can just sing.”
“And we’ve just got someone who can’t sing.”
“He sings better than he plays.”
“That’s not saying much.”
Ace tore his attention away from looking at the clothes and the guitars, and found the page with the words on.
“D’you mind?” he sniffed. “I’m trying to concentrate.”

At half past seven, Sally Grey and Cynthia Johnson came looking for their children.
“Come on Gemma, time to come in. Yes, I know it’s important but you don’t have to do everything tonight.”
“Ah, Mum, not yet!” pleaded Gemma. “I’m looking for a rare toadstool.”
“You won’t even find a common one! They don’t grow until the autumn. Come on, now. Say goodnight.”
“Bye everyone, bye Laura. Call for me tomorrow.”
“See you, Sal,” said Mrs. Johnson, and hand in hand Gemma and her mum walked back to number fourteen, with Gemma talking non-stop.

When they’d gone in, Sally spoke softly to Laura.
“Have you seen them?”
Laura shook her head.
“Nip in and write them a note, and leave it where you left the last one. Then you really ought to come in too, you need a bath.”
Laura dashed home, and Sally went to see what the others were doing.

“Hello, David. Haven’t seen you for ages. How’s the GCSE work going?”
“Oh, pretty badly.”
“You’d certainly pass an exam in digging. What are all these holes for?”
“They’re booby traps, Mum,” Rowan told her. “Look, you’re the surveyor, so you won’t keep to the footpath. What will happen when you step off it? You’ll fall down a hole! We’ll camouflage them with grass and stuff, of course.”
“Better do that tomorrow, Rowan, or it’ll look too dried up by Monday,” David told her.
“You think of everything! Mum, David’s been brilliant. We got on so much better when he joined in.”

Sally looked at David. In his jeans and leather jacket, with his dark eyes and long dark hair, he looked a bit like an elf himself.
Who’d have thought you would care? she thought. There’s more to you than meets the eye. Aloud, she said,
“I hope the poor surveyor doesn’t break a leg.”
“I don’t think he will, Mrs. Grey,” said Dominic seriously. “We haven’t made them too deep.”

Laura rejoined them, panting, from the direction of the horse chestnut.
“I hadn’t realised how many different plants there were out here,” said David, “but nearly all of them said Common in waste places.”
“Waste places indeed!” said Sally. “Just nature doing its own thing in its own way. Places like this are the only real countryside that’s left.”
“Do you think we can save it?” asked Tony. “And all the creatures that live on it,” he added meaningfully.
“I’m not very optimistic,” Sally told them truthfully. “But we must try, whether there’s any hope or not. Especially, we must try to save that tree. I mean, look at it!”
They all looked at the horse chestnut towering above them, beautiful in the early evening light.
“I wonder if there’s a tree preservation order on it? If there’s not, there ought to be, don’t you think?”

None of them thought to worry about the sycamore behind them, or the willow by the brook, half hidden by bushes.
“It’s a bit late to set trip wires now, Dominic,” said David. “Let’s do that tomorrow.”
“OK. What time are you coming out?”
“Oh, after lunch,” said David, grinning. “I don’t do mornings at weekend.”
“See you, then. Come on, Tony, we’d better go in too.”
Tony and Dominic wandered off behind Laura and her mum, and last of all came David, shouldering his spade.

Dan had gone back on guard. When she saw him coming, she let out a clattering noise, like a magpie that’s seen a cat, to warn the others. They went straight to their shed, to try a few things out. They knew it was no good looking for the fairies that night. They’d gone flying with Madge and Heather, to see Heather home as far as Holt on the River Dee, and have a lesson in navigation on the way back. So none of them saw Laura’s note that night. By morning, it had gone.

On Monday morning, no-one wanted to go to school. Gemma pretended she had stomach ache, and made some very realistic groaning noises, but it didn’t work.
“I’m not daft, Gemma,” said Mrs. Johnson crossly. “Laura’s mum is going to watch what happens for you, you’ll have to make do with that.”

Meanwhile, out on Wildside, the young sprites were sitting in the chestnut tree, swinging their legs and chatting. It was the first time they’d all been together since Midsummer’s Eve.
“So, Clover, was it worth waiting for? Are you glad we didn’t spoil the surprise?” asked Will.
“You were brilliant,” Clover admitted. “Almost as good as the real Iron Maiden. When are you going to do some more?”
“Soon,” Ace told her. “We’re working on some new ones. We had a bit of luck on Saturday, David was out here for ages digging holes, so we nipped into his room to learn some words.”
“What was he digging holes for?”
“Search me. P’raps he thought it would be fun.”
“And what about you two? How many times did you get lost?” asked Will.
“Only twice,” said Rose. “But Madge found us. We went wrong where she expected us to go wrong, so we can’t have been that bad."
“How does it work?” asked Dan.
“It’s pretty tricky,” said Clover. “You have to remember what time of day it is, so you know which direction the sun is, and remember which direction you’re supposed to be going, and you mustn’t cheat by flying down to look at human signposts, ’cos what if there weren’t any?”
Will nobly resisted the temptation to ask what was so difficult about any of that, but Ace and Phil were already crowing with laughter, so the fairies were offended anyway. Dan though they were very rude.

“Phil, sit down a bit lower,” said Ace. “There’s some humans coming. Strangers.”
“Wonder what they want?” said Will. “They’ve got a lot of stuff with them.”
They watched as equipment was unpacked. Red-and-white poles, metal marking arrows, tape measures and clipboards. Phil gasped.
“No!” he shouted. “No, no! Not again! Go away, go away!”
Will went cold. He felt he knew what was coming.

“What’s up?” asked Ace.
“They’re surveyors!” Phil told him. “They start it all! First they measure, then people come drawing pictures, then it’s bulldozers tearing everything up, then they build, bricks, tarmac, everything ruined!”
“You mean like happened to your garden?” gasped Rose, horrified. “Humans are going to build on Wildside?”
“No!” breathed Clover. “Oh, no!”
“Be quiet,” said Will. “Let Ace think.”

“Keep calm, Phil, and tell me this,” said Ace after a moment. “How long does it take them - these surveyors - to do their measuring?”
“A whole day, I think,” said Phil.
“And what are those stripey poles for?”
“They stick them in the ground. They measure from one to the next one.”
“OK, here’s what we’ll do. Rose, go and warn Madge and Cory. Phil, you stay here, keep an eye on them, and pass messages. Dan, go to the goblins and see if you can get Hogweed to come and help. If you can, tell him to meet us…where do they look like they’re starting, Will?”
“Hawthorn cave corner.”
“…in the hawthorn cave.”
“I’m on my way,” said Dan. Rose had already gone.
“Clover, get or make some scissors and hide in the long grass roughly opposite number four. When you get a chance, cut their tape measure.”
Clover smiled. “Nice one! See you!”
Ace turned to Will.
“Are you feeling strong?”
“I suppose we’re going to heave those poles out of the ground as soon as their backs are turned?”
“Got it in one.”
“I hope Hogweed comes.”

Mr. Grisedale, the surveyor, wasn’t feeling very happy. He was too hot, and he didn’t like students. Especially not know-it-all girl students. But he’d been lumbered with one as his assistant today.
“Right, lass,” he said, trying to be friendly. “We’re going to do a linear survey. Site’s less than a hectare, and no visible slope, so we don’t need anything fancy. Now what do we do first?”

Alice, the student, felt annoyed. Here she was trying to be really professional, and she just got called ‘lass’. Sexist old dinosaur.
“I presume, Mr. Grisedale, that we will select positions for the survey stations, and mark them.”
“Very good. Here’s a bit of four-by-two with a nail in it; hammer it into that corner, right by the fence, will you?”
Alice wasn’t put out by this, and made a good job of it. Mr. Grisedale held the end of the tape measure, and Alice walked off in the direction of the horse chestnut, feeding the tape out behind her. She never got there. She was watching the tree so carefully she wasn’t looking at her feet, and she went straight into one of David’s holes.
“Aaargh!” she yelled, as she disappeared.
Startled, Mr. Grisedale let go of the tape, which rolled itself up.

“It’s steel!” said Ace. “Quick, Will, go and find Clover and tell her to use something stronger than scissors.”
When Will returned, panting for breath, Mr. Grisedale had helped Alice out of the hole. She was muddy up to her knees and very shaken, but determined to carry on. Mr. Grisedale had a look at the hole. Man-made, of course. Treasure hunters, perhaps. Showed how wet this site was, though. They’d need a soil survey, too. Musing on this, he walked back to where he’d started, and this time walked straight into a trip wire. They were made of garden twine, which snapped, so he managed to stop himself from falling, but only just.

Holding the tape down again, he watched Alice get all the way to the tree. She held up the pole, and he signalled to her to move it a little to the left, until it was perfectly aligned with the tape. Then he fixed his end over the nail in the wood, she tightened her end, and Mr. Grisedale walked forward to place the first marking arrow at the twenty metre mark. But as he bent to push his marker in the ground, the tape measure snapped in half.
Clover managed a thumbs-up to Will and Ace, who were still near the first corner.

“How on earth…? I dunno. That’s strange. What could have cut a steel tape? Hang on, lass, I’ll get another tape out of the box.”
Another trip wire got him.
“Stupid place,” muttered Mr. Grisedale.

When Hogweed arrived, Ace led them back to the chestnut tree.
“Wait till they’ve planted the pole,” said Ace. “I’m going up to speak to Phil. Where will they go next, Will? Have you worked out what they’re doing?”
“Yes, they’re measuring a triangle. Once they’ve set a pole here, they’ll measure to another bit of wood which they’ll hammer into the ground in that far corner, where Sally’s fence meets the railway fence.”
Ace nodded, and jumped into the tree. Madge had joined Phil, watching.
“Phil, where’s Rose?”
“Helping Clover. It looked like she needed someone to keep the tape still.”
“Oh… OK. Anything else?”
“Sally Cain’s watching them through binoculars. The humans knew this was going to happen, didn’t they? That’s why David dug the holes!”
“You’re right… of course, that makes sense! But why didn’t they tell us? Still, never mind that now.”

Madge was in a bit of a predicament. Another colony in danger…that didn’t surprise her. It was what she’d been expecting. But usually her job was to calm panic, mend quarrels, comfort grief, and guide the colony to a place where it could make a new home. None of that seemed to be needed here. What they did need, was another pair of hands. There weren’t very many of them.
Fighting back? she thought. I don’t know what the colonel would say.
She made her mind up. It didn’t take long.

“What did you want Rose to do?” she asked. “Can I help?”
“Thanks, Madge. Yes, can you fly to that far corner, and make any stone that’s buried there as big as possible?”
“No problem.”
Satisfied, Ace jumped down, just as Alice turned her back on the pole and went to help Mr. Grisedale with the marking arrows. Once those were done, they set off for the far corner with a mallet and another bit of wood, and the tape measure.
“It’s solid rock here!” groaned Mr. Grisedale. “I dunno, one problem after another this morning!”
When the second wooden survey station was finally planted, well out of position, they took up the tape measure again, ready to measure from the second station to the pole. But when they looked for the pole, they couldn’t see it. It had disappeared.
“I don’t believe this! It’s fallen over, hasn’t it? You can’t have planted it firmly enough!”
“Yes, I did!” said Alice, getting upset. “It was at least a foot into the ground! Someone’s moved it!”
“We’ll soon see. Come on.”

They plodded back, feeling frustrated. Brambles kept catching their feet, as if Wildside itself was setting tripwires for them.
“There!” said Alice. “Look, it’s not fallen over, has it? It’s gone!”
Thanks to Hogweed’s strength, the elves had managed not only to uproot the pole but also to lug it out of sight.
“Fair enough, it wasn’t your fault. Some kid off school, perhaps, messing about. Get another pole, will you?”
Alice brought one, and they set it in the hole where the first one had been.
“Stay here and keep an eye on it,” said Mr. Grisedale. “I’ll loop the tape over the nail instead of holding it, and run out the measure myself.”

When he heard this, Ace sent Will up into the tree to calculate where Rose and Clover should go next. He himself ran to find them.
“You were great,” he told them. “You should get another chance, you can cut their new tape measure too. Will can tell you the position, he’ll be under the tree. Sneak round the back so the woman with the pole doesn’t see you.”
When the second tape measure got cut, Mr. Grisedale swore. Alice ran to see what had happened, and by the time they looked again, the second pole had disappeared too.
“This is ridiculous!” stormed Mr. Grisedale. “I’ll go and get another tape measure from the car. Keep your eyes peeled. Someone’s messing about!”
“Kids off school, hey?” said Ace to himself. “Watch this!”
There was a yell from Mr. Grisedale as he fell into a hole on the way to his car. Alice helped him out, and Ace ran to the marking arrows and twisted the solid steel rods with his imagination, until each one looked like a stick of barley sugar. Then he ran back to join the others under the tree.
“They’re losing it,” said Will. “We’re almost there.”

Dripping with mud and sweat, Mr. Grisedale returned from his car with yet another tape measure, to see Alice in tears and his neat row of marking arrows looking like eccentric garden ornaments.
“Come on!” he roared. “We’re going! I’ll tell that Bill Pearce he can survey his rotten haunted field himself!”
“Yes!” shouted Ace, and jumped for joy. Straight into one of David’s holes.

At first, everyone was laughing too much to notice he hadn’t jumped out again. But Clover and Rose, flying over from where they’d been hiding, saw he was stuck and called the others.
“I’m sinking!” Ace shouted to them. “I’ll drown in this mud! How am I going to get out?”
The fairies flew down and all three tugged their hardest, but they couldn’t free him. He was up to his waist; the suction of the mud was too strong for them. Would one more make a difference, wondered Will. In an emergency, surely… then he realised Dan wasn’t even there. He pulled Hogweed to one side.

“Where’s Dan?”
“Nightshade’s kept her there. Hostage. Oh, rats, I shouldn’t have said that!”
“It’s all right, I know. There isn’t time to get her, then. I’ll go down and help them.”
“Don’t, Will, you’ll only sink too,” shouted Ace, as he saw Will preparing to jump down.
“Tell you what,” said Hogweed. “Drop a plank down, that Will can stand on, while he’s helping to pull Ace out.”
They quickly made a plank and dropped it in, and Will jumped down as lightly as he could. But as he strained to lift Ace out, the plank sank down, and Will went in up to his knees. He was stuck, too.
“Oh, great,” said Ace. “Now what?”
“Try a rope,” said Will. “Hogweed! Send a rope down, and try heaving. But don’t fall in yourself, whatever you do!”

Hogweed made a rope and threw the end down to Will. He managed to get it tied around Ace, but sank in deeper himself while he was doing it. When they were ready, everyone hauled on the rope, Rose and Clover, Madge, Phil and Hogweed. With a huge effort, they managed to pull Ace an inch or so higher. Then the rope snapped. Grimly, they started again. Time was running out. Suddenly, Rose shouted,”Oh!” and flew away. No-one stopped to wonder why, they were too frantic. Will couldn’t move his arms now, so Clover flew down to try to fasten the rope, but it was impossible. She had to dig her arms into the mud to pass it under Ace’s arms, and she kept losing the end.
Ace was beginning to lose consciousness, the pressure of the mud on his chest was stopping him breathing.
“Ace! Stay awake!” said Will desperately. We really are going to drown, he thought wildly.
But then they heard human footsteps, running.
“It’s Sally Cain!” shouted Phil. “Rose went for Sally Cain! You’ll be all right now, hang on!”

Sally lay down by the hole’s edge and reached in. Her arms were just long enough to reach the surface of the mud. She dug her hands in and scooped up a huge amount of mud, and lifted it out, elves and all. She placed it gently on the ground and prised all the mud away so they could breathe. They were both trembling and gasping for breath. As soon as he could speak, Will said,
“Look before you leap, Ace,” and Ace had just enough strength to smile.
“Thanks, everybody,” said Ace.
“Yeah, thanks,” said Will. “I thought we’d had it that time.”
Ace clutched Sally’s hand.
“You’re not having any more children, are you?”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “Why?”
“Well, we’ve got pretty stupid names for girls.”
Sally realised what he meant after a moment, and laughed.

Clover shook her head. She was still shaking from the fright they’d all had, and those two were cracking jokes already.
“And Barking Mad is a name that’s wasted on a dog!” she told them. “I can think of much better candidates!”
“Did David dig these holes to stop the surveyors?” asked Madge. “Did you, humans who live here I mean, know they were coming?”
“Not until Saturday,” Sally told them. “We looked out for you, to tell you, but when we didn’t see you, Laura left you a note, pinned to the tree. Didn’t you get it?”
“No,” said Madge thoughtfully. “That’s very strange. I wonder what happened to it?”
“We need to work together,” said Ace. “We all want to save Wildside, but we won’t manage it if we fall into each other’s traps.”
“That’s very wise,” said Sally. “But only three of the children know about you. Are you happy about meeting the other three who are in on this - my Rowan, Tony’s brother Dominic, and David Chambers?”
“Cory’ll never agree to that,” said Will. “David’s almost a grown-up. It’s different with children, if they said anything, no-one would believe them anyway. But a fifteen year old? He’d go ballistic.”
“It seems to me,” said Madge, “that the three younger children will know what everyone is doing. They can tell us what David, Rowan and Dominic are up to, which should keep everyone safe.”
“Yes, that’ll be enough,” Ace agreed.
“There’s a lot to talk about,” said Sally. “Excuse me if it’s a rude question, but can you tell the time?”
“Yes,” said the elves proudly.
“Then come to my kitchen at four o’clock,” she asked them. “I’ll have the three younger ones there, and pints of milk and orange.”
“Sally,” sighed Ace, “you’re wonderful. Come on, Will.”
“The brook?”
“The brook.”