on 26 July 2016
I have had this version since I was eight years old in 1969, and I still have it. We first meet Roger, Diana, their orphaned cousin Snubby (real name Peter) and Miss Pepper. As Mr and Mrs Lynton (Roger and Diana's parents), Miss Pepper (Mrs Lynton's old Governess) is put in charge of Roger Diana, and Snubby, as their other relatives children got measles, so Miss Pepper is the next in line. She meets Roger and Diana at the station, and goes to a little village called Rockingdown, which is a derelict mansion. Diana is not pleased that Snubby is coming the next day, and her and Roger are horrified when Miss Pepper tells them that Mr Lynton has arranged for them to have coaching in the summer holidays. This includes Snubby!
Snubby arrives next day, and is told about the coaching. He, like Roger and Diana, is horrified. A couple of days before they are due to be coached, the coach's wife rings to tell them her husband can't come because he has been admitted to hospital with acute appendicitis! Snubby takes the call, and passes the message on to Roger and Diana. Miss Pepper then gets told, is shocked, and then to Roger, Diana and Snubby's dismay, she makes phone calls to obtain another coach, and finally drafts an advertisement in the local paper and posts it!
In the meantime, the children explore the surrounding area, and learn something of the old mansion's history. On one of the walks, they meet Barney and Miranda for the first time. Barney tells them a little bit of his history, and that his late mother was in a circus, and took Barney with her, away from his father. Barney knew his father had done some Shakespeare acting, and since his mother died, he and Miranda (a monkey named after the Tempest character) have been walking round the country looking for his father. He strikes up a friendship with Miss Pepper and the children.
Using his circus skills, he manages to get into the old mansion and prepares a room for himself to sleep in, and a room for the children to play in.
Later on, Mr King comes to teach the children. Barney and Miranda listen and absorb.
Later, Barney and Miranda go to sleep in the mansion. They are woken by strange bangs in the middle of the night. When Barney meets Roger, Diana, and Snubby, he tells them of his experience. He then joins them for lessons with Mr King.
After a few more nights, of sleeping in the mansion, he is woken by strange noises, and decides to find out more the next night. He goes downstairs, and finds the entrance into the cellar which is worked by using a screwing motion. He gets into the cellar, and the hole above him closes. Barney and Miranda spend the night in the cellar, but are caught by the men the next night when Miranda gives them away. Barney refuses to work with the men, so the men keep him prisoner in the cellar.
In the meantime, Miss Pepper's sister falls ill. Miss Pepper goes to her sister, and leaves the children in Mr King's charge!
Meanwhile, the children are getting worried over t he disappearance of Barney, and suspect Mr King of being involved, So much so, that Roger brings home a constable who tries to question Mr King. Mr King, however, shows him proof that he is a lot higher in rank than the Constable. Mr King then reveals that he took the job on as coach in order to investigate smugglers at the old mansion. Mr King tells them what he knows, and the children do the same. Mr King is actually let into the mansion with the children, and goes down into the kitchen. They do not however, discover the screwing motion.
In the meantime, Barney has to help the men do some dirty work, and realises Winches are used. He finds a very close barred iron gate. He manages to write a note, and ties it to Miranda's leg. Miranda squeezes through the iron gate and delivers the note to the children. Mr King gets told,and arranges reinforcements.
The children have discovered an old barn, with a hole in the floor. They find out that the smuggled goods are being winched up there at night. They follow Mr King and his men down to the mansion, and tell him where the hole is. Mr King and men then go down the hole, and into the cellars. The men are arrested, and Barney and Miranda are saved. It turns out that the owner of the barn and old farm was the leader of the smugglers- he was the son-in-law of the old farmer, and ran the whole operation.
Miss Pepper returns, and decides she can't now stay at Rockingdown, and says she will take the children to a seaside town. Snubby asks Miss Pepper if Barney and Miranda can come. Miss Pepper agrees, but Barney has got another job at a small fair, so he turns down the invite. Disappointment ensures, until it is realised that the fair Barney is going to is visiting the seaside town that they are visiting, in about ten days time!
Mr King leaves on friendly terms with everyone!
This is the first book in the series!