“Hurrah, we’re here!” cried Anne as she poked her head out the train window and into an icy breeze.
“Close the window, little sister, before you catch a cold!” Dick admonished her with a laugh, and tugged at Anne’s sleeve.
“Look, there’s George and Timmy!” Anne waved to her cousin, who was standing on the station platform with her dog to pick up Anne and her brothers, Julian and Dick. The three of them were going to spend the Christmas holidays with George in Kirrin Cottage while their parents went on a skiing trip in the mountains.
George’s real name was Georgina. But because she wanted to be a boy and always acted like one, she insisted on being called George.
Timmy was already wagging his tail excitedly. He knew exactly whom he and George were there to see!
“Hallo Anne, hallo Julian, hallo Dick!” shouted George joyfully as the train finally came to a stop and her three cousins got off. She kept a firm hold on Timmy’s collar so that he wouldn’t jump at them in his excitement and run among other people in the crowd.
“Hallo, Timmy, you’re the best dog there is and always will be!” laughed Anne as the dog eagerly licked her face.
“Dear old Timmy is as happy as a snowman in cold weather!” declared Julian.
“You can say that again!” agreed Dick. “We haven’t got snow like this at home.”
George grinned from ear to ear. “Wait until you see what Timmy and I are picking you up in. You’ll be amazed!”
She was right about that! Her cousins broke out into cheers when they saw who was patiently waiting for them in front of the little station building.
“Good old Trotter!” Anne dropped her suitcase and ran up to the horse, which was hitched to a large sleigh.
“I borrowed the sleigh from our neighbours,” explained George. “We hardly ever get so much snow here on the coast. So the sleigh is almost never used. And look, there are blankets for everyone, so no one has to freeze.”
“There isn’t one for Timmy though,” observed Dick and rubbed the dog’s head. “Poor chap.”
“Idiot!” cried George. “His fur keeps him warm enough.”
And so the Famous Five got into the sleigh. There wasn’t much room with all the luggage as well. Dick and Anne, who sat in the rear, had to put their knapsacks on their laps. Timmy squeezed in between Julian and George. The latter expertly guided Trotter along the road to Kirrin Cottage.
Naturally, they all felt very happy and sang a Christmas carol as they drove along. Timmy sang too, or rather howled! That made the children laugh so hard that they couldn’t carry on singing.
“Hurrah, there’s Kirrin Cottage!” cried Anne, and raised her arms in delight. “This is going to be a super holiday!”
“Yes, but we can’t make any noise in the house,” said George and rolled her eyes. “My father’s working on a new book. You know what that means. He needs peace and quiet.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Dick with a dismissive wave. “With this lovely weather, we’ll be outside a lot. It’s a good thing our skis are still stored in your shed. We don’t need to go to the mountains to go skiing!”
Aunt Fanny was standing at the door of Kirrin Cottage as they drew up to it. She greeted the children warmly. “Come in, come in!” she called to them. “I’ve got tea, muffins and hot scones on the table.”
After the children had stowed their luggage upstairs – Julian and Dick shared one bedroom, while Anne slept in George’s room – they sat down at the cosy table to enjoy the spread. Julian spread lemon butter on a scone. It immediately melted on the warm surface.
“No one makes scones as delicious as yours, Aunt Fanny,” he praised her, before biting into his one with relish.
That was Dick’s cue. He told everyone a story about how he and Julian had baked some scones in the boarding-school kitchen and then left them in the oven. “They were burnt so black that they weren’t even fit for pigs!” he grinned.
“And the smell of burnt scones lingered for two days,” added Julian. “There was quite a row about it, and they gave us extra homework too.”
Eventually, Uncle Quentin emerged briefly from his study to greet the children. He was in a good mood as his work was progressing well.
“I’m pleased you’re staying with us at Kirrin Cottage again,” he said solemnly. “George and Timmy were getting quite impatient.” He squeezed Anne’s hand and greeted the two boys with a friendly thump on their shoulders. “My word, you’ve grown!”
While they all told each other about what they’d been getting up to over the last few weeks, heavy snow suddenly began falling outside. Large thick flakes flew past the window.
“Oh look!” exclaimed Anne. “Isn’t it lovely? Why don’t we go outside and build a snowman?”
Timmy had also spotted the snowflakes. He ran to the window and barked as if he wanted to give each of them a piece of his mind!
“It’s all right, Timmy,” George reassured him with a laugh. “The snow can’t hurt us.” But Timmy refused to be quiet.
“Timmy wants to go outside,” said Anne. “So what are we waiting for?”
A few minutes later, the children, warmly dressed in thick jackets, hats, gloves and scarves, ran outside into the white splendour. Timmy was in high spirits, and took a bite out of the snow. Then he pushed his mouth deep into it and spluttered.
“Hey, Timmy, you’re not a wild boar!” yelled Julian.
“Don’t eat so much of that cold snow, Timmy!” George scolded him. “You’ll get an upset stomach.”
They began building their snowman. Julian and Dick made a very large snowball, while George and Anne made a somewhat smaller one. Timmy frolicked around them all excitedly.
The snowballs were so big that they couldn’t lift the second one onto the first. The children fetched a plank and rolled the balls onto this. When they put a third snowball on top to be the head, it was a real job for Julian and Dick to lift it up. Eventually, they added the finishing touches. The head was so large that they had to use a big saucepan for the hat. A carrot for the nose was pinched from the kitchen, while two lumps of coal from the coal box were used to make the eyes. They found a broom in the shed and to finish the snowman off properly, they wrapped one of Uncle Quentin’s scarves around its neck.
“Perfect!” declared Julian. “May I introduce Mr Snowman of Kirrin Cottage!”
SPLAT! A snowball suddenly hit the new snowman on his head. Dick was the culprit.
“You beast!” cried Julian. “The poor snowman can’t defend himself.”
“Then you go ahead and defend him!”
Julian did not need to be told twice, and soon they were all having the most wonderful snowball fight. But eventually, Aunt Fanny called the children into the house for supper.
“Goodness me, it’s so late already!” exclaimed George. Her cheeks were glowing red. “I was having so much fun that I never noticed how dark it had got!”
Exhausted and wet through, the Five made their way noisily into the house.
“Shh!” George’s mother admonished them. “Uncle Quentin is working, as you well know. Now go upstairs and put some dry things on before you catch colds! Then come down to supper. Uncle Quentin and I have some news for you. And hang your anoraks in the laundry to dry.”
“Come on, hurry!” whispered Julian. “I can’t wait to hear what they have to tell us.”
“Are some more visitors coming?” asked Anne. “Or are we going on a trip?”
“Maybe they’re going to buy a new car,” suggested Dick.
“I have no idea,” said George with a shrug. “But I’m just as excited as you are. Oh well, we’ll find out soon enough!”
Aunt Fanny insisted that the children should have their supper before she told them the news. So they did. After all that running around, they were ravenous and the pastries, cold meat and fresh crispy bread were quite simply mouth-watering. There was also a delicious pudding for dessert.
Feeling full and satisfied, the four children rubbed their tummies and listened eagerly to what Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin, who was taking a short break from his work, had to tell them.
“You know how much I love classical music, children,” Aunt Fanny began. “Well I’ve just had a call from my cousin Alberta. Actually, she’s my second cousin. For some time now, she’s been living in a parsonage in the mountains, and is a trained singer.”
“She’s done some small concerts in the past,” added Uncle Quentin.
George rolled her eyes. “Don’t tell me she wants to come here and sing us a bunch of queer songs,” she groaned. “That would be a wonderful surprise!”
Immediately however, she received a kick on the shin from Julian as a signal that she should hold her fire for a little while.
“No, quite the opposite!” exclaimed Aunt Fanny. “We’re going to go to her. She’s got a pianist staying with her that she met on a trip. He wants to accompany her on the grand piano. And she would be so thrilled if a few people could attend the little concert. She kindly thought of me straight away.” Aunt Fanny looked so happy that her cheeks turned bright pink.
“And because she lives in such a large house, she’s got plenty of room for you and would love it if you went with Aunt Fanny,” put in Uncle Quentin. “I’d like you to go too, because I’m just up to a complicated part of my work and simply must have silence.”
“You’ll even get your own rooms each,” smiled Aunt Fanny. “Alberta claims that the house is so big that there are many rooms she’s never been into. You’ll like her, by the way. She cracks jokes a lot and doesn’t mind noise in the house.”
“Well I hope she likes dogs,” growled George. “I’m not going if Timmy can’t come with me. My mind is quite made up about that!”
“Of course you can take Timmy,” her mother assured her. “Alberta loves dogs. She even has one of her own. But it’s a very small dog. A Yorkshire terrier, I think.”
“Can I listen to her singing too?” asked Anne shyly.
“Certainly, my dear Anne!” said Aunt Fanny. “Alberta would love it if you young people took an interest in her music.”
“So when do we leave?” Dick wanted to know.
“Tomorrow, if that’s all right. Pack your things straight after breakfast. It will be quite a long drive.”
Later, long after the children had gone to bed, Anne whispered, “I don’t think I’m going to like sleeping in my own room. I’d rather be with you, George.”
“I’d prefer that too,” said George. “Then we can chat for a while in bed at night. Just so long as I don’t have to listen to that queer music.”
“Timmy will want to sing, or rather, howl along with her!” said Anne with a grin. “Do you think there will be a lot of snow there?”
“Of course. There’s absolutely heaps of snow up in the mountains. We’ll be able to whiz down the slopes on our skis.”
Later, in the middle of the night, George suddenly woke up with a start. Timmy was standing at the window with his front paws on the sill and growling. Was someone creeping about in the garden? Instantly, she leapt out of bed and whispered, so as not to wake Anne, “What is it, Tim?”
But then she almost laughed out loud. Stroking Timmy’s head, she said, “There’s no need to get upset, old fellow. It’s only our Mr Snowman!”