by Enoch Blyton
transcribed and edited
from the original manuscript
by Robin Gordon
- Auksford, 2009 -
/ by Robin Gordon
While I was in the Babylon Library in Auksford recently
looking up various references in my capacity as unofficial (and unpaid)
research assistant to Professor Knuckleweed, I came across an envelope
in a box of manuscripts and letters, and in it I discovered the
following story, written in a crabbed and faded nineteenth-century
hand, on paper which had not stood the test of time at all
A typewritten label attached to the envelope attested that the enclosed
manuscript had been deposited in the library on 23 July 1956 by Kenneth
Walters, that it had been written by a great uncle of his wife, the
novelist Edith Brighton, that it contained source material on which she
had drawn for some of her best-known works, and that it was not to be
made available to researchers for fifty years from the date of
deposit. That period having elapsed, I felt justified in
the envelope and reading the manuscript.
It rapidly became obvious that the typist responsible for the
label had made a number of errors. The author gave his name
Enoch Blyton, and it was apparent that his tale of “trouble
t’ mill” somewhere up north, and of the struggles
honourable union man to make his way through the suspicions of his
fellow workers, the sabotage of wreckers and the determination of the
factory owner to keep the screws on hard to prevent any discontent
among the workforce threatening his profits, had been utilised, and
completely transmogrified into a series of children’s stories
the most popular British children’s writer of the mid
century: not Edith Brighton but Enid Blyton. The depositor of
manuscript would therefore have been, not Kenneth Walters, as the label
indicated, but Kenneth Darrell Waters, Enid Blyton’s second
Critics and scholars to whom I have shown my transcriptions
cast doubt on the authenticity of the original, one objection being
that toys were not made of plastic in the nineteenth century.
Particular exception was taken to the word polymers in the description
of Noddy’s work. This word, it was alleged was of
My first thought was that perhaps I had misread, but on
the manuscript again, I could not make the objectionable word into
anything other than polymers. Reference to the dictionary
confirmed that the word had come into use in 1866 and that it was
therefore quite feasible that Enoch Blyton would have used it.
There were still doubters.
Could the manuscript have been a forgery intended to
Enid Blyton by casting doubt on the originality of her work?
Hardly, for even if she had used her great uncle’s story as
source material, the use she made of it was entirely original.
Could the manuscript have been placed in the Babylon
archives as a mischievous prank by a rogue librarian? Again
hardly, for it is surely inconceivable that a member of that solemn and
humourless profession would have stooped to playing practical jokes on
The final allegation is perhaps the most serious of
That most subtle of critics, Dr Malcolm Potter-Brown has suggested, on
the basis of a stylistic and thematic analysis of Noddy comes to
Toyland that, far from having discovered a genuine, or even a
fraudulent, manuscript in the Babylon, I have written the story myself.
Unfortunately, when I returned to the Babylon to reserve the
manuscript so that I could show it to Dr Potter-Brown, there was no
trace of that particular box on the shelf. The library staff
thought it must have been mis-shelved, possibly in the wrong bay, or in
the wrong stack, or even perhaps on the wrong floor. They
me that it would eventually turn up, either by chance or during the
regular stock-taking process, but the library is so large that it might
take fifteen or twenty years before the stock-takers rediscovered it.
In the circumstances, all I can do is place the story before
dear readers, for yours must be the final verdict.
Noddy comes to Toyland
Big Lugs Brown was pushing his bike up the hill when he met a
smallish sort of man.
“Is there work?” said the stranger.
Big Lugs peered through the gloom. Cloud and smog
obscured the setting sun.
“Happen,” he said.
Metal. The lot.”
“Who do A see?”
The stranger nodded and walked off down the hill.
stood for a moment and looked down after him until he disappeared into
the murk. A chill wind blew round the hills and across the
valley, sending the brown-yellow smoke swirling down from the
chimneys. It rolled along the damp street and swallowed the
Big Lugs coughed, pulled up his collar, and trudged on.
“We could do with a new face round here,”
for there was something he liked about the stranger’s face, a
sort of innocence that reminded him of how he’d felt,
when he first came to the Toyland factory – about a hundred
Down below, the stranger asked for Mr Plod’s
Somebody jerked a thumb. He followed the direction, climbed a
rickety staircase and knocked.
He went in.
“A’m lookin’ for
work,” he said.
“Ay. And mixer. Owt.”
Mr Plod leaned back in his chair.
“So ’appens,” he said,
“that I do
’ave a vacancy for a plastic moulder.
Mr Plod nodded. “Start Monday,”
“A need somewhere to lodge.”
Mr Plod went to the door and peered out.
“Hey! You! Bear!
Tubby Bear! Here!”
Mr Plod returned to his chair. Tubby Bear came in
– the thinnest man Noddy had ever seen.
Mr Plod nodded at Noddy. “New
lodger,” he said. “Starts
“Yes Mr Plod,” wheezed Tubby Bear and
out. Noddy followed him. Neither said a word as
trudged through the gloom until they came to a house like all the
others in a street like all the others.
“Here,” grunted Tubby Bear.
They went in.
“Glenys,” said Tubby Bear hoarsely,
“new lodger. From Mr Plod.”
Glenys was as short as Tubby was long, though not as fat as
was thin. She looked at Noddy wearily and turned back to her
cooking. Tubby slid behind the table and pointed wordlessly
another of the chairs. Noddy took it.
Wordlessly Glenys dished a soup made of vegetables.
Noddy and Tubby spooned it up with relish.
“There’s meat in this,” thought
“Good soup,” he said.
Tubby and Glenys exchanged glances.
“Come far?” said Tubby.
“You’ll be tired.”
Tubby got to his feet and headed for a ladder in the
corner. Noddy followed him.
The loft was low. Noddy nearly cracked his head on
beam. Tubby slid past like a snake. He pointed.
“Me an’ ’er,” he
grunted pointing one way
into the blackness, “you an’ La’al
“Ay. Fourteen, nigh on fifteen.
Pride mingled with bitterness in his voice. Noddy
need to ask why. Young Tubby, old Tubby’s son,
doubt into a fine young fellow, ready to assume the rights and duties
of manhood, ready to start his career – in the factory, where
back would be bent beneath the loads he had to carry, where his skin
would be burned by chemicals, his joints grow arthritic before their
time, and his lungs be seared by the choking fumes rising from the
molten rubber and plastic – and all so that the
kids of the rich southern bourgeoisie could have toys with which to
Of this he said nothing. He did not entirely trust
Bear and his wife. They seemed decent enough, but you never
tell. It might not have been pure chance that led Mr Plod to
lodge him with the Bears. Better not to reveal his political
opinions too soon.
“Out back?” he said.
Noddy went out into the little yard. It was cold.
The reeking smog still lay over the valley.
“A bet Mr Plod has one inside,” he
thought sourly as he made his way back to the garret.
When his eyes grew accustomed to the blackness he made out
Tubby in one corner and found a pile of straw for himself in
another. He lay awake for a while listening to Tubby and
talking in low voices – more talk than he had heard all day,
what they said he couldn’t make out.
Sunday was a day of rest.
The Bears were up at dawn. They breakfasted on
weak tea, then Glenys washed Tubby’s working clothes while
dug his allotment. Noddy and La’al Tubby helped.
“Time,” said Tubby.
Noddy was surprised. Why stop their work?
“It’s not ten yet,” he said.
“Church,” said Tubby.
“Not me,” said Noddy, without
thinking. “I’ll go on digging.
Tubby paused and looked at him.
“Mr Claws,” he said.
“Mr Claws. Owns factory.”
So Noddy went to church. He sat with the
sang the hymns. He listened to the sermon – and he
at Mr Claws, the fat and prosperous factory owner, with his fat and
prosperous wife clad in silks and satins, and their plump and pretty
After church, more digging. Vegetable soup for
dinner, with not a trace of meat, then more digging.
“A’d like to tek a walk roun’
them woods,” said Noddy that evening.
Tubby and Glenys exchanged glances.
“Private,” said Tubby.
“No-one goes there,” said Glenys,
“Mr Claws,” said Tubby.
“Starts soon,” Tubby had said.
La’al Tubby started on Monday. Noddy was set to
moulding plastic ducks, scooping up the molten polymers and ladling
them into the moulds or matrices, then setting them to cool while he
scooped up more. He felt again the searing, choking fumes
would leave him breathless and disabled before he was fifty.
He knew Mr Plod was watching him, checking his ducks and
them checked by skilled workers, but he knew that his work
couldn’t be faulted. He had served his
he was a skilled man. In his time he had moulded more than
and done more skilful tasks than moulding. It
workmanship that had sent him off on his travels.
Half an hour was allowed for lunch. The men swarmed
the factory into the yard. It might be cold and the wind
but the air was fresher than round the vats.
The girls were out too, from the packing
department. One of
them came over and called La’al Tubby. He looked
but his father jerked his head as if to say Go on.
She took him round the corner of the shed. Some of
exchanged grins. Tubby didn't look up from his
Noddy heard scuffles, girlish giggles, a boy’s voice only
broken, raised in protest, then more giggles and a bit of a
cheer. Then a few minutes later La’al Tubby came
dishevelled and red in the face, but smiling bravely. The
lads made room for him, and he sat down with them, became one of them,
and joined in their laughter. He didn’t look in his
father’s direction at all, and Old Tubby still seemed to have
eyes for anything but his sandwiches. Then the hooter went
they returned to their work.
As they trooped in, Noddy saw a lass make her way up the
steps to Mr Plod’s office.
“Who’s that?” he asked.
She was a lass worth looking at, and her dress, though cheap,
made the most of her figure.
“Tess,” replied Tubby.
Noddy nodded and said nothing.
“Teks Mr Plod ’is hot
chocolate,” Tubby explained.
“New lad today, Tessie.”
“Yes, Mr Plod.”
“Yes, Mr Plod.”
“No worries there. New man too.”
“Yes, Mr Plod?”
“Incomer. “A know nowt about
Good workman. Too good to be lookin’ for
Tess gave a half shrug and said nothing.
“A need to know, Tessie,” said Mr
Plod. “A rely on you.”
“Yes, Mr Plod.
Mr Plod had good reason to be worried. Mr Claws had
summoned him up to the Big House after church.
“Come in, Plod. I’ve got summat
No good beating round the bush. Have we taken on any men
“Only one, Mr Claws.”
“Plastic moulder. Pickersgill fell into
plastic last week. We needed a new man quick. Busy
“You checked his references, of course?”
“Oh, ay, Mr Claws. Good worker.
Never a moment’s trouble.”
“Not a union man?”
“Never, Mr Claws.”
“You rely on references, Plod?”
“No, Mr Claws, not even the best of
A’m keepin’ me eye on’im, Sir, but
need to worry. A can smell them union agitators.
There’s not one would get past the door.”
“Vigilance, Plod, that’s the
watchword. Ho ho,
watchword, that’s good. A joke, Plod, a
“Yes, Mr Claws, heh heh ...”
“I don’t know why I bother.
Stop that silly cackling and be serious. There’s
trouble up north. Agitators trying to start a
men trying to rob the benefactors who give them work – rob
of their meagre profits. Well, they’ve been given a
lesson. They’ve been turned out of their jobs and
tied housing. Watch out for them, Plod!
flooding down here. They’ll be looking for work and
houses. Don’t take pity on them, Plod.
rotten apples, the lot of ’em. Don’t want
apples in the Toyland barrel, do we?”
“No, Mr Claws.”
Mr Claws leaned back in his big chair. He took up a
and lit it. He drew on it and exhaled a cloud of
took a nip of brandy from a balloon glass.
“Christmas coming up, Plod,” he said, and
a smile spread over his fat face.
Christmas,” he continued. “It’s
the best time
of the year. I rely on you to see that production is not
interrupted. You can go now, Plod.”
Mr Plod bowed and backed towards the door. He
way out, bowed again on the thresh-hold, and closed the door.
“This way, if you please,” said a haughty
under-butler, and he was guided along a luxuriously carpeted corridor,
through a green baize door, along a stone-flagged passage, and out of a
“Yes, Mr Claws. No, Mr Claws.
Three bags full,
Mr Claws,” he muttered. Why had he been such a fool
engage that new man without references. All he knew of him
that his name was Noddy. What sort of a name was that?
It was a hard life, he thought as he trudged down the hill
towards his house. He had risen to be overseer, but for
what? Brickbats from both sides, like pig in the middle.
There were compensations, of course: his house was
and he didn’t have to go out back at night, he could afford
for the winter and meat for Sundays – and there was Tessie,
only one who understood him, to bring him his hot chocolate and to find
out how the wind was blowing. It was pure chance that had led
to pick on Tubby Bear to lodge Noddy, but it couldn’t have
“You’ll be visiting Tubby and Glenys,
“Ay, Mr Plod.”
That night La’al Tubby celebrated his initiation
manhood by going out with the lads. He had no money of his
yet, but Tom Catt let him have credit. Tom Catt knew that
would be a wage packet at the end of the week. La’al Tubby
never had money or credit. It went to his head. The
let him sup his ale and buy round after round. He’d
nowt left in his wage packet, but that would teach him to be more
careful in future.
Noddy lay in his attic straw listening to the voices
Tubby and Glenys were talking again. Did they talk like this
every night? he wondered. Then he heard singing in the
someone being sick outside, the door opening, and Glenys’
raised in a mixture of concern, anger and despair.
More talk from downstairs. Glenys, mainly
La’al Tubby’s voice, strangely slurred. Then Glenys
sharp and angry, and then La’al Tubby, shouting.
that Old Tubby, so loud that Noddy could hear what he said.
“Don’t you talk to your mother like that
A’ll take me belt to you! Get to bed, this
A’ll talk to you in the morning!”
Then La’al Tubby came stumbling up the steep steps,
staggering across the attic, blundering into the beam, and crashing on
to his mound of straw. Noddy heard him muttering indignantly
himself for a few minutes, then, suddenly, he began to snore.
Downstairs the voices continued: Glenys complaining, interrupted from
time to time by Tubby’s wheezing rumble. They were
it when he fell asleep.
It was vegetable stew for dinner the next night.
La’al Tubby went straight up to the attic. Noddy
walk. He looked in at Tom Catt’s place.
There was a
hum of talk, but it stopped as soon as he entered. He drank a
pint in silence, nodded in a friendly way, and left.
He walked up the hill, out of the village, toward Mr
woods. They were well fenced. Barbed
wire. No way
in. But there had been meat in that soup. Either it
poached, or it had been given – and Mr Claws was not one to
anything for nothing.
Noddy stood under a tree to think. He wasn't
hide, but he was invisible to someone who passed by on the
Noddy was sure it was La’al Tubby. He followed, but
a twig. The boy swung round, then hared off uphill far faster
than Noddy could run.
He shrugged and turned. The old man he had seen
when he first arrived was watching him.
Noddy nodded curtly.
“They call me Big Lugs Brown,” said the
man. “Tubby Bear’ll tell you
why. A see a lot,
and A hear a lot, but A’m no spy. You’re
“You can trust Tubby Bear. And
out for Wiley.” The man turned and went into a
cottage. Noddy went home.
The Bears were in the ground-floor room. They fell
silent as Noddy came in.
“A met a man up the hill,” said
“Old fella. Said ’is name is Bug Lugs
Brown.” He knew La’al Tubby would have
seen and told.
Glenys sniffed scornfully.
“A went up to tek a look at the woods. I
mebbe sometimes a rabbit might cross the road and get knocked
La’al Tubby got up and went upstairs.
You can trust
Tubby Bear. And Glenys.
That’s what he said.
“A’m from up north.
heard. There was a strike. Then a
lock-out. Then we
were sacked and put out of our homes. If you’re
tell Mr Plod, there it is. A’m a union
Noddy went out back, then up to the loft.
was asleep, or, more likely, pretending. Downstairs he heard
voices: worried, anxious, debating. He could imagine
he a real union man? Or is he a spy for Mr Plod?
“A’m a union man,” he said out
“There was a strike up north. We were all sacked
out of our homes. We’re exploited by the
to death and thrown on the scrap-heap. A bet nowt was done
Pickersgill’s widow. We need to organize.”
La’al Tubby had stopped snoring. He was
“If you can get a rabbit for the pot,”
“A’ll say nowt. A’ve taken many
a rabbit in my
time, and pheasants. They’re wild
don’t belong to t’ masters. A went up
looking for a
way into the wood.”
La’al Tubby said never a word.
“That’s done it,” thought
“If they tell Mr Plod A’m out of a job and up
magistrates for poaching. A wonder why A believed old Big
Sunday came round again. Work on the allotment,
in a thin cold drizzle, then church, then Sunday dinner, vegetable soup
again and coarse bread. Tessie came round in the afternoon
she and Glenys stayed in the house talking while Tubby and Noddy and
La’al Tubby dug and hoed and weeded. Not a word was
about unions, in fact no a word was said about anything except digging
and weeding and hoeing, and even those words were few. Tubby
would point and say “There,” and Noddy or
would weed or dig or hoe the spot.
It was getting dark when Tessie got up to go.
“A don’t like you walking through the
streets alone in the dark, Tessie,” said Glenys.
“A’ll go,” Tubby wheezed, and
then broke into a fit of coughing.
“No,” said Glenys.
La’al Tubby? Never here when he’s
“A’ll go,” wheezed Tubby, and
coughed as if his lungs were bursting.
“A’ll go,” said Noddy.
They set off through the dark drizzle.
“You’re new,” said
don’t see many new faces round here.”
“Happen,” said Noddy.
“From up north?”
“I heard there was trouble.”
“You tek Mr Plod his ’ot
“An’ you're Tubby’s
“So you’ll tell me nowt.”
“La’al Tubby started last week.”
“You’re new too.”
“Oh, that’s it is it. Listen
served me apprenticeship. A’ve worked here
there. There’s more than once A’ve had me
pulled of and me feet tickled by the lasses.
mek me squeal for mercy. An’ A bet you
any helpers to tickle the toes of an old codger like me, now would
“Mebbe not, though you’re not so
“A’ll be getting’ me hopes up
if you talk like
that, lass. But anyway, who’s asked you to find
“That’d be tellin’.”
“I've put me cards on’t table
wi’ Tubby and
Glenys, so you’ll know anyway. A’m a
We tried for a strike, but they brought in blacklegs and put us out
– out of our jobs and out of our houses. Some
lads went back. They had to: babbies to feed. Not
No wife, no babbies. And they’d not have taken
Will you tell Plod?”
“Have you ever heard of Evan Jones?”
“Evan Jones? Best union organiser
out of Wales. Came up this way. Dead now they
“Three year ago. Glenys’s
“Came up this way sixteen years ago.
Brought his wife
and Glenys. She fell for me Uncle Tubby. He
get a job in the factory. Mr Claws knew, you see.
for Tom Catt in the pub. Pot washer.
“But he probably lived longer away from the
“Ay, he did. He was fifty-five!”
“A wish A’d met him.”
“A’ll not be telling Mr Plod.”
Two days later there was a distinct taste of meat in the
and Noddy decided to take another walk around the woods to see if he
could get something to contribute to the pot.
He had found a weak spot in the fencing a few days earlier,
gone in to scout. He’d managed to find some old
made a snare – and after all, rabbits were wild animals,
vermin. They didn’t belong to the landowners and it
really doing them a favour to take out a few now and then.
It wasn’t actually raining, but it was dark and
with a hint of drizzle and the odd patch of mist – a perfect
night. Noddy found a suitable run, and had just finished
his snare when he heard the snap of a twig. He sprang up and
turned, just in time to see the back of someone’s coat
disappearing through the trees. Without thinking Noddy set
pursuit. The spy was thin and wiry, and he sped through the
undergrowth like a wild beast, out of the woods and into the
lane. Noddy was close behind him but tiring rapidly when the
tripped, and Noddy was on him.
“A’ll teach you to spy on me!”
turned the lad over and pulled off his cap. It was
“Easy, Easy!” said an old man’s
voice nearby, and Big Lugs Brown hobbled out of the gloom.
“A see you’ve found the way into the
said to Noddy. “A rabbit now and then for the soup
won’t be missed, that’s what Ah
say. But you shouldn’t be fighting.
on the same errand. And A hear there’s dogs been
“Dogs?” said Noddy.
“Ay, dogs. Guard dogs. Mr
them patrolling the woods by the end o’ t’
They’ll eat more rabbits than all the village ever took, and
pheasants too, but he won’t care. Best get your
while you can.”
“How d’you find out,” Noddy
“Mr Claws told him!” sneered
“He’s a spy! Everybody knows.”
“A look and A listen,” said Big Lugs,
see things and A hear things, and A put two and two together, but
that’s as far as it goes. You’ll find
about t’ dogs. I was right about Tubby and Glenys,
“What about Tubby and Glenys?” yelled the
boy, thrashing about on the ground where Noddy still held him.
“He said A could trust them,” said Noddy,
he was right. Best get our snares while we can. It
wasn’t easy finding a suitable bit o’
He let go of La’al Tubby and stood up.
The boy scrambled to his feet.
“Never ’ave got me if I hadn’t
fallen,” he said.
“True,” said Noddy.
Big Lugs laughed. “You both need more
woodcraft,” he said. “Crashing about like
folk. Here’s yer snares, La’al
won’t get back into the woods near the big house.
He’s got gamekeepers posted there. Looks like no
for you, nor me, nor half the village. Good evening, Mr
Plod! Out for a stroll?”
“Um, yes. I er ... I like to look at the
woods in the moonlight.”
“Not much of a moon tonight.
You’ll have heard about the dogs?”
“Mr Claws is getting dogs to patrol the woods
dogs from Germany. Tear your throat out as soon as look at
you. There’ll be no more poaching in these
“What?!! Oh, yes, good ... very right and
proper ... Where did you hear that?”
“A can’t remember.”
“And who were you talking to when A came
“A’m an old man, and lonely. A
talk to meself
sometimes. There’s no law against it.”
“Not yet, there isn’t”
“Good night, Mr Plod.”
“Good night, Big Lugs. Dogs, you
“Not till t’ weekend, Mr Plod.
time to get your snares.” And the old man was gone.
Noddy and La’al Tubby, lurking just out of sight
Plod’s snort of exasperation, then they made off.
“Does old Plod really go poaching?” said
“Happen,” said Noddy, “or mebbe
Big Lugs was just trying to annoy him.”
It was just as Big Lugs said. A few days later
there was a
pack of dogs in the woods. Rabbits by the dozen were torn to
pieces, and pheasants were snatched and devoured, but at least Mr Claws
had the satisfaction of knowing that there would be no more poaching.
The soup at the Bears’ house went back to being
vegetable, with not a trace of meat. The soup at the other
was the same. Even Mr Plod lived off the vegetables he could
in his garden. He had meat on some Sundays, but even the
found it too dear to have often.
“We should do summat for Mrs
Noddy. “We should set up a sort of friendly society
collect a little bit of each man’s wages every week and keep
in a fund. Then, when there’s an accident,
be summat in hand to tide a man ower till he’s fit to work
– or to see ’is widow all right.”
“My father wanted to set up summat like
Glenys, “but the bosses wouldn’t have it.
like a union, they said.
“They don’t like the idea of workers
together for owt,” said Tubby, “not even to help a
“If Tessie were to put it to Mr
Plod…?” suggested Noddy.
So Tessie put it to Mr Plod.
“A don’t like it, Tessie,” he
“It’s not against the bosses, Mr
It’s to help widows and orphans like the
Terrible accident that. Don’t you feel pity for
“A’m not heartless, Tessie.
It’s just, A’ve got to satisfy Mr Claws.”
“If Mr Claws had any decency,” said
would look after Mrs Pickersgill himself. He can afford
“Tessie!” said Mr Plod.
shocked! Shocked to the core to hear you say such a
Mr Claws is a benefactor to the whole village. He gives us
work. Without Mr Claws we would all starve.”
“A know, Mr Plod. I’m really
all are. I don’t know what came over me to say such
dreadful thing. Don’t tell Mr Claws, Mr
“Of course A won’t, Tessie. A
feel as grateful to Mr Claws as Ah
“A do, Mr Plod, and A’m sure such a kind
wouldn’t object to us putting aside a bit of the wages he so
kindly pays us so we can help anybody as has an accident.
Isn’t it our Christian duty, Mr Plod?
Aren’t we told
so at church every Sunday?”
“Ay, we are Tessie.”
“So you’ll ask him?”
“Well … A …”
“Please Mr Plod, for me.”
“Well … all right, Tessie.”
“A mutual aid society, Plod? To help
widows and orphans?”
“Ay, Mr Claws.”
“We all know where that leads, don’t we
“Ay, Mr Claws.”
“You don’t sound very sure,
Plod. Where does it lead? Tell me that!
“You haven’t thought about it, have you
You’re a clod, Plod! Mutual aid, workers banding
together! What’s that going to lead to?
tell you: a union. That’s where it’s
leading: a union,
Plod. Another thing, Plod: who’s behind
“A don’t know, Mr Claws.”
“You don’t know, Plod? But
business to know. What do you think I pay you for?
don’t know, do you? I
know, though. I can tell you exactly who’s put them
banding together against me. It’s that new man,
Noddy. He’s an agitator, Plod. And you
failed to see
through him. Well?”
“He’s a good worker, Mr Claws.”
“Why would a good worker be looking for
I’ll tell you, Plod. He’s been dismissed,
and if not
for bad workmanship, then for what? For organising a union to
disrupt the factory, to steal profits of his employer. Why
haven’t you found this out Plod? Haven’t
“Yes Mr Claws. A can assure you, Mr
Claws, if he
steps out of line, A’ll know about it.
him with Tubby Bear, and his
niece, Tessie is the one as brings me me hot chocolate. A
rely on her to keep me informed.”
“You seem to have forgotten, Plod, that Tubby
wife’s father was a union organiser.”
“No Mr Claws. A haven’t
– and the Bears
know A haven’t. They won’t make any
Claws. They know A’m watching them. If
Noddy is an
agitator, they’ll tell me.”
“Mmmh! I hope you’re right,
“Get things wrong, and you’ll find yourself back on
production line. As for this idea of mutual aid: tell them
“No!” There’s to be no banding
workers in my
factory. Not now,
As for that Pickersgill woman, don’t I do enough for
I’ve let her stay in her cottage even though
no-one to work in the factory. I’ve even let her
of the rent till the boy starts, and I’ve hardly charged her
interest. I’d let the lad start right away if it
wasn’t for those do-gooders in London passing laws to stop
children earning their living, casting families on the charity of their
employers, and depriving us factory owners of valuable young
workers. Remember that, Plod, and tell them it
do. Off you go then.”
“Yes Mr Claws.”
“No go, Tessie.”
“No, Mr Plod?”
“Mr Claws thinks it’s a trick to start a
He thinks Noddy’s behind it. Have you found out
about him, Tessie? He’s not a union man, is
“Wouldn’t A have told you right away, Mr
A’m sure you can rest easy about Noddy. A suspect
his old job because he knew there were union men planning to make
trouble. He’s the most honest, loyal worker
got, Mr Plod. Me uncle Tubby’s had long talks with
there’s never been a word amiss.”
“Ay. Good. A rely on you,
“A know, Mr Plod.”
“Where has Mr Claws got the idea Noddy’s
a union man, Tessie?”
“Mr Plod didn’t say.
Don’t suppose he knows.”
“Mebbe,” said Noddy, “he
suspects me just cos A’m new.”
“Somebody’s been spying and passing
information,” said Tubby Bear, “and A know who:
that old feller, Big Lugs Brown. He’s always
wid’is lugs flapping, picking up every bit o’
gossip he can
– an’ he never passes owt on.”
“He told me A could trust you,” said
“both on you, but he said to look out for Wiley.”
“Ay, Wiley’s a wrong
’un,” said Tubby,
“but A still divven’t trust yon Big Lugs.”
“Well,” said Noddy, “if we
can’t form a
mutual aid friendly society with the support o’ the bosses,
we’ll just have to do it in secret.”
“All the lads’ll be in Tom
We’ll have a quiet talk, mebbe a bit of a
keep it among ourselves.”
“Ay, Mr Claws. A whole vat o’
molten plastic lost.
“And who’s responsible?
“A don’t know, Mr Claws, not yet, but
A’ll find out …”
know, Plod. Were you aware that last night a gang of workers
at Tom Catt’s place to form a forbidden
collected money for a fund to tide them through thin times, then they
sabotaged my factory. And do you know who their leader
“No, Mr Claws.”
“It’s that new man, Noddy, that you
took on without proper references, that’s who.
supposed to be my eyes and ears Plod. You’re
find out who’s plotting against me and stop them.
have you done? Nothing! You’re useless,
Now go and find out exactly who’s involved. By God,
have to get rid of the whole bloody lot of ‘em, I
Now, get out!”
The chill of the morning fog gnawed at Mr Plod’s
gnawed at his cheek, gnawed at his very soul. Things had been
going so well for him. He’d been overseer long
feel secure in the job, and Tessie had been bringing him his hot
chocolate long enough for him to begin to feel that maybe she might be
willing to consider putting their relationship on a more intimate
footing. There was Wiley, of course. Wiley was
hanging around Tess. She didn’t turn him away, but
didn’t really seem all that keen on his company
the overseer, with the comfortable house, where you didn’t
to go out back into the cold … well, if Mr Plod were to make
offer, she might well look on it with some favour.
Now it had all gone wrong. It all started when
fell into the vat of molten plastic. There’d been
before, but this time he’d been fool enough to take on a new
without checking his references properly. Day-dreaming about
comfortable future with Tessie not just bringing him his hot chocolate
but cooking his breakfast and his tea, Tessie always there, offering
him comfort when he felt down – and now all this: wreckers in
Toyland factory, rumours that Captain Moonlight was behind it, Mr Claws
thinking the new man was the leader and threatening to turn Mr Plod out
of his job and out of his comfortable house, and, to cap it all, that
new man setting his cap at Tessie, and Tessie looking as if she liked
Mr Plod felt in his bones, even before he unlocked the
gate, that there would be more wrecking, more sabotage to report to Mr
Claws, and more rebukes and threats from Mr Claws. Every day
brought him closer to his doom.
It was just as bad as he thought. Broken tools,
toys smashed to smithereens. Mr Claws ranted and raved at him.
“One last chance, Plod, that’s all
I’m giving you. One last chance.
If there’s more sabotage and you can’t catch the
you can say goodbye to your life of ease and comfort.”
Ease and comfort! Daily interviews, with Mr Claws
threatening to sack him; envy and hatred from the workers, who blamed
him for the hard lives they lived, as if he was making the rules
himself and not just following instructions.
“Squeeze ’em, Plod. Make
harder. Make ’em work longer hours.
to maximise profit, Plod. Squeeze these idle reprobates till
If he protested that the lads were doing their best, Mr Claws
would fly into a rage and berate him until he was too terrified to do
anything but carry out his instructions to the letter. As far
the workers were concerned the squeezing came from Mr Plod.
they saw of Mr Claws was his fat and jolly smiling face in church each
Sunday. How could anyone believe a man with such a kindly
could be the squeezer? Mr Claws knew it, and Mr Plod knew it.
Mr Claws could threaten, and Mr Plod knew that he could be
deprived not just of his wages and his comfortable house and his
prospects of winning Tessie, but of his status. When he
but just Plod, one of the workers, they’d make sure they had
their revenge. He’d be given all the dirtiest
He’d be pushed around by everyone. Even the
apprentice would have more respect than he. He’d be
butt of their jokes, the whipping boy, the scapegoat to take the blame
whenever anything went wrong. He’d be ragged and
and bullied, until he’d have to pack up his few belonging and
take to the road to see if he might be able to find work somewhere
else, and he’d go without a reference, and very likely with
workers all along his travels warned that he was a former overseer.
“What am A to do, Tessie?” he
blubbed. “It must have been Noddy.”
“No, Mr Plod,” said Tessie.
can’t have been. He was with me all evening till
late. Then he went straight home. Ask me Uncle
Tubby and me
“Can A believe you, Tessie?”
“Ay, Mr Plod. You know A’d
never lie to you.”
“A know you wouldn’t, Tessie.”
“A’ll keep me eyes and ears open, Mr
Plod, and let
you know if A find owt out. These wreckers, they’re
making it worse for us all.”
Noddy was desperate to talk to Tessie.
her home the previous night, then gone straight back to his
lodgings. Tubby and Glenys were just going to bed.
He’d exchanged a few words with them, gone out back, then
to his attic. La’al Tubby wasn’t
didn’t come in till much later. Noddy
thought anything of it – young lads often kept late hours
but La’al Tubby wanted to talk.
“A’ve been out wi’ the
said. “A’ve just joined.
wrecking the factory. You should join us. Captain
told me to ask you.”
“Who’s Captain Moonlight.”
“The leader. He’s called
‘cos his men only come out at night.”
“Yeah, but who is he? What’s
his real name?”
“Aw, A dunno. He was wearing a
mask. They say he’s come up from London.”
“Does he have a London accent?”
“What’s a London accent?”
“They talk different down there.”
“Different language? Like French?
“Naw, they talk English, but the words sound
“Dunno. Sounded just the same to
“Must be a local man, then.”
“Anyway,” said La’al Tubby,
“will you join us?”
“Never,” said Noddy.
“What we need is a
union, so that we can join together and speak to the bosses with one
voice, threaten to withdraw our labour if they won’t pay a
“Smash up the factories!”
“Naw!” said Noddy.
“That way you fall
foul of the law. You make the bosses your enemies and you
them a weapon to use against you. Smash up the factories and
you’ll go to gaol.”
“That’s the sort of talk A get from Mam
Dad,” cried La’al Tubby.
out of date, behind the times. A thought you
would understand, but you’re just as stupid as they
Smashing up the machinery is like rubbing out all the hardships, all
the insults, everything we have to suffer from them, the
We just rub it out!”
“It’s against the law, and
A’m talking sense,” said Noddy, but there was
could do to persuade La’al Tubby to leave the Hobgoblins, and
La’al Tubby made him promise not to tell Tubby or Glenys that
he’d joined. Noddy despaired all day, and at last
that the only person in whom he could possibly confide was Tessie, but
at every break, and after work too, she had Wiley with her, holding her
hand and looking as if he thought he owned her.
At last, as darkness fell, Noddy gave up. He left
with Wiley and went off by himself for a walk. Maybe he could
think things out if he left the town and went along by Mr
woods. The dogs were there, of course, and they hurled
at the fence, barking and snarling, ready to tear any intruder to
Noddy looked at them.
“Good dogs,” he said,
encouragingly. They snarled and barked and rattled the fence.
Noddy stood still.
“Good lads,” he said.
dogs. When you get to know me you’ll like me, you
The dogs raged and barked and tried to jump over the fence or
to barge through it.
“A hope it holds,” thought Noddy,
a goner, but … if A keep coming night after night, if A keep
talking to them … well, we’ll see.”
The dogs were working themselves up more and more and the
was shaking. Noddy thought he’d better move
again another day.
He moved away from the woods and strolled along the path
the next village. What could he do about La’al
He’d given his word not to tell Glenys or Tubby, and there
no-one else except Tessie. “Damn and blast
thought. Still there was nothing for it but to wait until he
could confide in Tessie, and, in the meantime, he could always try
again to persuade La’al Tubby that wrecking the factory
wouldn’t improve conditions for the workers and might well
him thrown in prison.
Noddy sighed and turned for home, rehearsing the arguments he
could put to the boy and trying to imagine La’al
objections. If only he could talk to Tessie.
Then a group of shadows moved out from under the
trees. He was surrounded by masked men.
“We’re the Hobgoblins,” one of
them growled, “and we want you to join us.”
scoffed Noddy. “What good do you think it does to
machines. We just get laid off, weeks without pay till they
them fixed. And what if you’re caught.
best, or maybe transportation. Wouldn’t surprise me
Claws could find some law to have you all hanged.”
“Join us! Now!”
The spokesman swung a punch at Noddy. He ducked,
someone thumped him from behind. He swung round.
grabbed his arm. Someone hit him from behind. They
him down. They kicked him in the legs and the ribs.
struck his head and he knew no more.
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Noddy comes to Toyland, Part II
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