32. Goings On At Number Thirty-Two
Paddington woke with a start and then sat up in bed rubbing his eyes. For a moment or two he wasn’t quite sure where he was but gradually as a number of familiar objects swam into view he realized with surprise that he was in his own room.
The afternoon sun was streaming in through the window and after blinking several times he lay back again with his paws behind his head and a thoughtful expression on his face.
Although he wasn’t quite sure what had disturbed him he felt very glad he’d woken when he did for he had been in the middle of a particularly nasty dream about a large jar of his special marmalade from the cut-price grocer in the market.
In the dream something had gone wrong with the lid and no matter how much he’d fried nothing would budge it. Mrs Bird’s best tin opener had broken off at the handle, and when he’d tried squeezing it in a door jamb the door had fallen off. Even Mr Brown’s hammer and cold chisel had made no impression at all and after several bangs the head had flown off the hammer and broken the dining-room window. In fact, if he hadn’t woken at that moment there was no knowing what other awful things might have happened.
Paddington heaved a sigh of relief and after dipping a paw into an open jar of marmalade by his bed in order to make sure everything really was all right he closed his eyes again.
The Brown household was unusually quiet and peaceful that afternoon for Paddington had the house to himself. In the morning the postman had brought Jonathan and Judy a surprise invitation to a tea party and by the same delivery a letter had arrived asking Mrs Brown and Mrs Bird to visit an old Aunt who lived on the other side of London.
Even Paddington should have been out, for Mr Brown had given him several books to take back to the Public Library together with a long list of things he wanted looking up in the Reference department.
It was Mr Brown’s list which had proved to be Paddington’s undoing for he had taken it upstairs to his room after lunch in order to study it and before he knew where he was he had nodded off.
Thinking the matter over Paddington wasn’t quite sure whether it was the effects of an extra-large lunch, with two helpings of suet pudding, or the hot afternoon sun, or even a mixture of both; but whatever the reason he must have been asleep for over an hour for in the distance he could hear a clock striking three.
It was as the last of the chimes died away that Paddington suddenly sat bolt upright in his bed and stared with wide open eyes at the ceiling. Unless he was dreaming again there was a strange scraping noise coming from somewhere directly overhead. It began by the door, then passed across the room in the direction of the window and paused for a moment before coming all the way back again.
Paddington’s eyes got larger and larger as he listened to the sound, and they nearly popped out altogether a few moments later when a noise remarkably like that of a hammer and chisel broke the silence which followed the scraping.
After pinching himself several times to make sure it had nothing to do with his dream Paddington jumped out of bed and hurried across the room in order to investigate the matter.
As he flung open the window an even stranger thing happened and he jumped back into the room as if he had been shot, for just as he peered outside a long black snake-like object came into view and hung there twisting and turning for several seconds before it finally disappeared from view below the ledge.
Paddington backed across the room and after making a grab for his hat and suitcase rushed out on to the landing banging the door behind him.
Although after the dream and the strange events that had followed he was prepared for almost anything Paddington certainly wasn’t expecting the sight which met his eyes on the landing and he almost wished he’d stayed in his room.
Only a few yards away, between his door and the top of the stairs, there was a ladder which definitely hadn’t been there after lunch. It was leaning against the trap door in the ceiling and worse still the trap door itself was wide open.
Paddington was a brave bear at heart but even so it took him several moments to pluck up his courage again. After pulling his hat well down over his head and carefully placing his suitcase at the top of the stairs in case of an emergency, he began climbing slowly up the ladder.
It was when he reached the top rung and peered over the edge into the loft that Paddington’s worst suspicions were realized. For there, tip-toeing across the rafters with a torch in one hand and what looked like a long knife in the other, was a man in a trilby hat and blue overalls.
Holding his breath Paddington considered the matter for several seconds before coming to a decision. As quietly as possible, he stretched his paw into the darkness until he felt the edge of the trap door and then he flung it back into place and pushed the bolt home as hard as he could before scrambling down the ladder on to the landing and safety.
All at once there was a commotion in the roof as someone started to shout, then several bumps followed by the sound of banging on the other side of the trap door. But by that time Paddington was much too far away to hear what was going on. The sound of the Browns” front door slamming had added itself to the general hubbub and he was halfway down Windsor Gardens, hurrying along the pavement with a very determined expression on his face indeed. All in all, he decided that bad though his dream had been, things had been even worse since he’d woken up and it was definitely time to call for help.
After rounding several corners Paddington at last reached the place he had been looking for. It was a large, old-fashioned stone building which stood slightly apart from the rest on a corner site. Most of the windows had bars across them and at the top of some steps leading up to the entrance there was a blue lamp with the word POLICE written across it in white letters.
Paddington hurried up the steps and then paused at the entrance. Leading from the hall there were a number of doors and it was difficult to decide which was the best one, In the end he picked on a large brown door on his right. It looked more important than any of the others and Paddington was a firm believer in going to the top whenever he had an emergency.
After knocking several times he waited with his ear against the keyhole until he heard a gruff voice call out “Come in” and then he pushed the door open with his paw.
The only person in the room was a man sitting behind a desk near the window and he looked rather cross when he saw Paddington. “You’ve come to the wrong place,” he said. “Undesirables are supposed to report round the back.”
‘Undesirables!” exclaimed Paddington hotly, giving the man a hard stare. “I’m not an undesirable. I’m a bear!”
The man jumped up from behind his desk. “I beg your pardon,” he said. “The light’s none too good and I thought for a moment you were Hairy Harry.”
“Hairy Harry?” repeated Paddington, hardly able to believe his ears.
“He’s what we call the ‘Portobello Prowler’,” the man added confidentially, “and he’s been giving us a lot of trouble lately. He’s only small and he slips in through pantry windows when no one’s looking.”
His voice trailed away as Paddington’s stare got harder and harder. “Er … what can we do for you?” he asked.
“I’d like to see Sid, please,” said Paddington, putting down his suitcase.
“Sid?” repeated the man looking most surprised. “I don’t think we have any Sid’s here. We’ve several Alf’s and a Bert, but I don’t recall any Sid’s off hand.”
“It says on the notice outside you’ve got one,” said Paddington firmly. “It’s written on the door.”
The man looked puzzled for a moment and then his face cleared. “You don’t mean Sid – you mean C.I.D.”
“That’s quite a different matter,” he explained. “C.I.D. stands for Criminal Investigation Department.”
“Well, there’s a criminal in Mr Brown’s roof,” said Paddington, not to be outdone. “And I think he needs investigating.”
“A criminal in Mr Brown’s roof?” repeated the man, taking a notepad and pencil as he listened while Paddington went on to explain all that had taken place.
“Good work, bear,” he exclaimed when Paddington had finished talking. “We don’t often catch anyone red handed. I’ll send out an alert at once.”
With that he pressed a button on the side of his desk and in a matter of seconds the Police Station became a hive of activity. In fact Paddington hardly had time to adjust his hat and pick up his suit-case before he found himself being led by several policemen into a yard at the back of the building where he was bundled into the back seat of a large black car.
Paddington felt most important as the car shot down the road in the direction of Windsor Gardens. He had never been inside a police car before and it was all very interesting. He didn’t remember ever having travelled quite as fast either, and he was most impressed when a policeman on point duty held up all the other traffic and waved them across some lights which were at red.
“Right, bear,” said the C.I.D. man as the car screeched to a halt outside the Brown’s house, “lead the way. Only watch out – If he’s got a knife he may be dangerous.”
Paddington thought for a moment and then raised his hat. “After you,” he said politely. Taking things all round Paddington felt he’d had his share of adventures for one day and apart from that he was anxious to make sure his store of marmalade was safe before anything else happened.
“Do you mean to say,” exclaimed the policeman as he looked down at the man in the blue overalls, “you were putting up a television aerial all the time?”
“That’s right, officer,” said the man. “And I’ve got a letter from Mr Brown to prove it. Gave me the key of the house he did. Said there would be no one else here as he was getting rid of them for the day and I was to let myself in on account of it being a special surprise for the rest of the family and he didn’t want them to know about it.”
The man in the overalls paused for breath and then handed a card to the policeman. “Higgins is the name. Tip Top Tellys. If you ever want a job done just give me a ring.”
“Tip Top Tellys?” repeated the C.I.D. man, looking distastefully at the card. He turned to Paddington. “I thought you said he had a knife, bear?”
“That wasn’t a knife,” said Mr Higgins. “That was my tweeker.”
“Your tweeker!” exclaimed Paddington, looking most upset.
“That’s right,” said Mr Higgins cheerfully, as he held up a long screwdriver. “Always carry one of these on account of having to give the old tellys a tweek when they want adjusting.”
“Tell you what,” he added, as he waved his hand in the direction of a large cabinet which stood in one corner of the dining-room, “I’m nearly ready to switch on. Just got to connect the aerial. With this young bear’s permission, I vote we take five minutes off and brew up a cup of tea. There’s nothing like a nice cup of tea for cooling things down.”
Mr Higgins gave Paddington a broad wink. “If there’s a detective play on we might even pick up a few hints!”
As a spluttering noise came from one of the policemen Paddington disappeared hurriedly in the direction of the kitchen. The C.I.D. man’s face seemed to have gone a rather nasty shade of red, and he didn’t like the look of it at all.
All the same, when he returned a few minutes later staggering under the weight of a tray full of cups and saucers and a large plate of buns even the policemen began to look more cheerful, and in no time at all the dining-room began to echo with the sound of laughter as everyone recounted their part in the afternoon’s adventure.
In between explaining all about the various knobs on the television and making some last minute adjustments Mr Higgins kept them all amused with tales of other adventures he’d had in the trade. In fact the time passed so quickly everyone seemed sorry when at last it was time to leave.
“I’ve just sold two more television sets,” whispered Mr Higgins, nodding towards the policemen as he paused at the door. “So if I can ever do you a favour just let me know. One good turn deserves another.”
“Thank you very much, Mr Higgins,” said Paddington gratefully.
Having waved goodbye to everyone Paddington shut the front door and hurried back into the dining-room. Although he was pleased that the mystery of the bumps in the roof had been solved he was anxious to test Mr Brown’s new television set before the others arrived home and he quickly drew the curtains before settling himself comfortably in one of the armchairs.
In the past he had often watched television in a shop window in the Portobello Road, but the manager had several times come out to complain about his breathing heavily on the windows during the cowboy films and Paddington was sure it would be much nicer to be able to sit at home and watch in comfort.
But when he had seen a cartoon, some cricket, two musical items and a programme on bird watching, Paddington’s interest began to flag and after helping himself to another bun he turned his attention to a small booklet which Mr Higgins had left behind.
The book was called “How to Get the Best Out of Your Television” and it was full of pictures and diagrams – rather like maps of the Underground – showing the inside of the set. There was even a chapter showing how to adjust the various knobs in order to get the best pictures and Paddington spent some time sitting in front of the set turning the brightness up and down and making unusual patterns on the screen.
There were so many different knobs to turn and so many different things it was possible to do with the picture that he soon lost all account of the time and he was most surprised when the dining-room clock suddenly struck six.
It was while he was hurriedly turning all the knobs back to where they’d been to start with that something very unexpected and alarming happened.
One moment a cowboy on a white horse was dashing across the screen in hot pursuit of a man with a black moustache and side-whiskers, the next moment there was a click and before Paddington’s astonished gaze the picture shrank in size until there was nothing left but a small white dot.
He spent some moments peering hopefully at the screen through his opera glasses, but the longer he looked the smaller the dot became and even striking a match didn’t help matters for by the time he had been in the kitchen to fetch the box the spot had disappeared completely.
Paddington stood in front of the silent receiver with a mournful expression on his face. Although Mr Brown had gone to a lot of trouble in order to surprise the family it was quite certain he wouldn’t be at all pleased if they received that much of a surprise and arrived home to find it wasn’t even working.
Paddington heaved a deep sigh. “Oh dear,” he said, as he addressed the world in general. “I’m in trouble again.”
‘I can’t understand it,” said Mr Brown as he came out of the dining-room. “Mr Higgins promised faithfully it would be all ready by the time we got home.”
“Never mind, Henry,” said Mrs Brown as the rest of the family crowded round the doorway. “It was a surprise and I’m sure he’ll be able to get it working soon.”
“Crikey!” exclaimed Jonathan. “He must have been having a lot of trouble. Look at all the pieces.”
“Don’t bother to draw the curtains. We’ll eat in the kitchen,” said Mrs Brown as she took in the scene. There were bits and pieces everywhere, not to mention a large number of valves and a cathode ray tube on the settee.
Mrs Bird looked puzzled. “I thought you said it wasn’t working,” she remarked.
“I don’t see how it could be,” replied Mr Brown.
“Well, there’s something there,” said Mrs Bird, pointing to the screen. “I saw it move.”
The Brown family peered through the gloom at the television set. Although it didn’t seem possible Mrs Bird could be right, now they looked there was definitely some kind of movement on the glass.
“It looks rather furry,” said Mrs Brown. “Perhaps it’s one of those animal programmes. They do have a lot on television.”
Jonathan was nearest to the screen and he suddenly clutched Judy’s arm. “Crumbs!” he whispered, as his eyes grew accustomed to the dark and he caught sight of a familiar-looking nose pressed against the glass. “It isn’t a programme. It’s Paddington. He must be stuck inside the cabinet!”
“This is most interesting,” said Mr Brown, taking out his glasses. “Switch on the light someone. I’d like a closer look.”
As a muffled exclamation came from somewhere inside the television Jonathan and Judy hurriedly placed themselves between Mr Brown and the screen.
“Don’t you think you ought to ring Mr Higgins, Dad?” asked Judy. “He’ll know what to do.”
“We’ll go down and fetch him if you like,” said Jonathan eagerly. “It won’t take a minute.”
“Yes, come along, Henry,” said Mrs Brown. “I should leave things just as they are. There’s no knowing what might happen if you touch them.”
Rather reluctantly Mr Brown allowed himself to be shepherded out of the room closely followed by Jonathan and Judy.
Mrs Bird was the last one to leave and before she closed the door she took one last look round the room.
“There are some rather nasty marmalade stains on that cabinet,” she said in a loud voice. “If I were a young bear I’d make sure they’re wiped off by the time Mr Higgins gets here otherwise certain people may put two and two together.”
Although Mrs Bird kept a firm hand on “goings on” in the Brown household she was a great believer in the proverb “least said – soonest mended,” especially when it had to do with anything as complicated as a television set.
If Mr Higgins was surprised at having to repay Paddington’s good turn so soon he didn’t show it by so much as the flicker of an eyelid. All the same, after Mrs Bird had spoken to him he took Paddington on one side and they had a long chat together while he explained how dangerous it was to take the back off a television receiver if you didn’t know what you were doing.
“It’s a good job bears paws are well insulated, Mr Brown,” he said as he bade goodbye to Paddington. “Otherwise you might not be here to tell the tale.”
“That’s all right,” he said cheerfully, as Paddington thanked him for all his trouble. “Got a bit of marmalade on my tweeker, but otherwise there’s no harm done. And I daresay it’ll wash off.”
“It usually does,” said Mrs Bird with the voice of experience, as she showed him to the door.
As the Browns trooped into the dining-room for their first evening’s viewing it was noticeable that one member of the family settled himself as far away from the screen as possible. Although Mr Higgins had screwed the back on the television as tightly as his tweeker would allow, Paddington wasn’t taking any more chances than he could help.
“Mind you,” said Mr Brown, later that evening when Mrs Bird came in with the bedtime snack, “I still can’t understand what it was we saw on the screen. It was very strange.”
“It was probably some kind of interference,” said Mrs Bird gravely. “I don’t suppose it’ll happen again, do you Paddington?”
As she spoke several pairs of eyes turned in Paddington’s direction but most of his face was carefully hidden behind a large mug and very wisely he only nodded his agreement. Not that he was having to pretend he felt tired for in fact it was only the cocoa steam that was keeping his eyelids open at all. Nevertheless, there was something about the way his whiskers were poking out on either side of the mug that suggested Mrs Bird had hit the nail on the head and that as far as the Brown family were concerned there was one kind of interference they weren’t likely to get on their television again in a hurry.