* *     
by Enoch Blyton
* *
transcribed and edited
from the original manuscript
by Robin Gordon

Auksford crest: A great auk displaying a book with the words "Ex ovo sapientia"
-  Auksford,
2009  -


©  Copyright Robin Gordon, 2009

Noddy comes to Toyland
Part II

Link to Part I

    “Were you with Noddy last night, Tessie my love?” Mr Plod asked.
    “No, Mr Plod.  A were trying to find out more about the wreckers so A went out with Wiley.”
    “With him the whole night.”
    “Ay, Mr Plod, till nigh on midnight.”
    “A hope, Tessie, that you don’t let Wiley take liberties.”
    “Oh no, Mr Plod.  A wouldn’t, and he’s never tried.”
    “And where was Noddy?”
    “A don’t know, Mr Plod.  A saw him looking for me, then A think he went off for a walk.”
    “Ay, happen he did.  And where’s Noddy this morning?”
    “A ‘spect he’s in the moulding shed, Mr Plod.”
    “Go fetch him then, will you, Love?”
    “Ay, Mr Plod.”
    But Noddy wasn’t in the moulding shed and nobody had seen him that morning.
    “Go and find Tubby, then, there’s a good lass,” said Mr Plod.
    “Summat’s up, Uncle Tubby,” said Tessie.  “Mr Plod’s being ever so jovial and calling me Love and good lass.  He’s looking for Noddy, but A can’t find him anywhere.  You’d best come.”
    “A’m looking for Noddy,” said Mr Plod, “but he’s not at his work.  Where is he, Tubby?”
    “He’s at home, Mr Plod,” wheezed Tubby.
    “At home, Tubby?  Why is that?  Surely he hasn’t given up his job.  Come into a legacy perhaps.”
    “No Mr Plod.  He hasn’t got any trousers.”
    “No trousers?  You surprise me, Tubby.  I am perplexed, astounded even.  Why has Noddy got no trousers?”
    “Well,” wheezed Tubby, “he went out for a walk last night and was attacked by a gang.  They beat him up, Mr Plod, knocked him out, cold, and when he came to he was sitting on the ground with his arms tied round a tree behind him, and his trousers had gone.”
    “What a harrowing tale, Tubby.  You mean to tell me that our little town, the home of the Toyland factory, is now plagued by trouser-thieves who would strip a man of his dignity and leave him tied up by the wayside.  But tell me Tubby, how did poor Noddy ever escape?”
    “He sat there for hours, Mr Plod, then, about midnight someone sneaked up behind him and cut him free.”
    “A public benefactor, Tubby?  A good Samaritan on the lookout for victims of these wicked trouser-thieves.”
    “Noddy thinks it was one of the gang.  They’d taught him a lesson and now they let him go.  They were the Hobgoblins, you see, Mr Plod.  They tried to get him to join, but he wouldn’t.”
    “Most interesting, Tubby.  What happened next?”
    “Well Noddy found some dock-leaves …”
    “Dock-leaves?  Well, whatever next.  I suppose he sewed them together to make himself a skirt.  Can you imagine it Tessie, Noddy sneaking through the village in a skirt of green dock-leaves.”
    “No, Mr Plod,” wheezed Tubby.  “He used them on his legs.  They dragged him through the nettles, you see.  Took off his trousers and dragged him through the nettles.  Poor lad’s still in pain”
    “I imagine he would be,” smiled Mr Plod.  “Acid’s a terrible thing for burns.  Well, Tubby, when can we expect to see Noddy back at work?”
    “Tomorrow, Mr Plod.”
    “No Mr Plod.  Glenys is going into town later to get him some trousers.”
    “A’m glad to hear it.  A wouldn’t want poor little Tessie here subjected to the sight of one of our plastic moulders in a state of semi-nudity.  All right, Tubby.  You can go.  Back to work.”

    “You’re late Plod!  I thought you were never coming.  Afraid to tell me what’s happened, is that it?  More sabotage?  Well, speak up, man!  Has there been more sabotage?”
    “Ay, Mr Claws, there has!”
    “Wreckers in my factory!  Wicked men destroying my machinery and you stand there smirking as if it was summat wonderful!”
    “It is, Mr Claws.  We’ve got him!  The proof’s there.  There’s not a court in the land would let him off.  We’ve got him, Mr Claws!”
    “Stop sniggering and tell me properly what’s happened!”
    “They broke into the factory again last night, Mr Claws, and they put a spike through a vat of acid …”
    “Ay, but they weren’t quick enough.  The acid gushed out and soaked one of them.  He had to pull off his trousers, and he left them at the scene of the crime.”
    “As far as I can see, Plod,” said Mr Claws ominously, “you’ve lost a vat of valuable acid and all you’ve got to show for it is an old pair of workman’s trousers.”
    “Proof, Mr Claws.  There’s a man couldn’t come to work today because he’s lost his trousers, and his legs are all burned with acid too.  He made up some cock-and-bull story about being set on and stripped and thrown in a patch of nettles, but he’s our man, Mr Claws.  We’ve got him!”
    “Well done, Plod.  Who is it?”
    “Noddy, Mr Claws.”
    “Noddy … the man you took on without checking his references … the man you assured me wasn’t a union man … and now we find he’s the leader of the Hobgoblins.”
    “Yes, Mr Claws,” said Mr Plod, in a small and chastened voice.
    “Well, never mind that now,” said Mr Claws.  “The main thing is, we’ve got him.  Send for the constable and have him formally charged and arrested, then have him brought before me.  As a justice of the peace I shall commit him to prison and have him tried at the next assizes.  I wonder if this might be a hanging offence.  I think it might, oh yes, I think it might.  – Well don’t just stand there, Plod.  Go and have him arrested!”

    Mr Plod arrived back at the factory, muttering to himself.  When he was halfway up the steps to his office he saw Wiley.
    “Hey, you, Wiley,” he shouted.  “Come here.”
    Wiley slouched over.
    “A want you to go and find the constable,” shouted Mr Plod.  “We know who the leader of the Hobgoblins is.  It’s that new man, Noddy.  He got his trousers drenched in acid when he holed the vat, so he’s at home today.  Find the constable, take him to Tubby Bear’s house, and get him to arrest Noddy and take him before Mr Claws.  Mr Claws’ll find him guilty and send him up for trial at the next assizes.  He’ll probably be hanged, poor fellow, but there’s nowt we can do about that.  Hurry up and get him arrested before Glenys gets back from the shop with his new trousers, or he’ll give us the slip.  Go on, man!”
    “Yes, Mr Plod,” said Wiley, and went off grinning.
    Tessie was listening from the top of the steps.
    “Oh, Mr Plod,” she said, “A wonder if A could just …”
    “Oh, Tessie, Tessie,” groaned Mr Plod.  “A need me ’ot chocolate.  Oh, what a day, what a day!  Hot chocolate, Tessie, quick as you can.”
    “Yes, Mr Plod,” Tessie sighed.

    As soon as Tessie and Mr Plod were in the office and the door was closed, Big Lugs Brown appeared from under the steps.  He hurried across to where the packing materials were kept, grabbed a sack and scuttled off.
    By the time Wiley had found the constable Big Lugs had run to Tubby’s house, warned Noddy, given him the sack to wear as a sort of skirt, and hurried him away, much to the amusement of some little boys and girls hanging about in the street.

    “Escaped?!  You are an idiot, Plod.  You are a thick-skulled useless clod, Plod!  You disgust me, Plod!  You are an incompetent, stupid, idle, addle-pated, pea-brained … grrrrumph … g-g-g-rrrrrr-fffff-p!”
    Mr Claws was incandescent with fury.  His face shone with an internal purplish-reddish light as if he was filled with boiling lava.  He looked as if he were about to explode, as if he were about to burst into flame.  Plod almost expected to witness spontaneous human combustion before his eyes, as Mr Claws lost his capacity for speech and popped and spluttered like a boiling mud-hole.
    Mr Claws shuddered and trembled and at last managed to control himself enough to speak.
    “Plod,” he snarled, “you have gone too far this time.  You are dismissed!  You are no longer overseer at the Toyland factory.  Send me Wiley.”
    “He’s outside Mr Claws.  It was Wiley I sent to …”
    “Shut your mouth, Plod.  Bring Wiley in, NOW!”

    Mr Plod scuttled to the door and beckoned Wiley in.
    “Wiley,” roared Mr Claws.  “Plod is dismissedYou are now overseer.  Plod can have your hovel if you can find a job for him, otherwise he can go.  Now get out both of you, and FIND ME NODDY!  I’ll have him strung up on the gallows.  OUT!”

    When Tess came out of the packing department to go and make Mr Plod his hot chocolate there was a thin, miserable drizzle.  She hurried over to the office, then stopped in surprise.  Plod was hunched against the wall close to the stairs, his hair plastered down over his face and rain dripping off his nose.
    “Mr Plod!” she cried.  “What are you doing out here in the wet?  You’ll catch your death.  Why aren’t you in your office?”
    “It’s not my office, Tessie,” moaned Plod.  “Wiley is overseer now.  He told me to wait here till he’s ready to see me.”
“That’s terrible, Mr Plod,” said Tessie.  “And making you wait out here in the rain – it’s cruel and disgusting, and A’ll tell him so.”
    “No, Tessie, you mustn’t,” said Plod.  “If you put his back up he’ll not give me a job.  A’ll be unemployed and A’ll starve.”
    Tessie hurried up the steps.
    “Are you overseer now, Wiley? she asked.
    “I am, and you’ll call me Mr Wiley from now on,” said Wiley.
    “Yes Mr Wiley,” said Tessie.  “Mr Plod’s waiting outside.”
    “Plod,” said Wiley, not Mr Plod.  A’ll see him when A’m good and ready.  Get me me ’ot chocolate.”
    “He’s getting soaked, poor man,” said Tessie.
    “A won’t tell you again, Tess,” snarled Wiley.  “A’ll see Plod when A’m good and ready – and now A want me ’ot chocolate.”
    “Yes Mr Wiley,” said Tessie and slipped into the kitchen to prepare the overseer’s morning beverage.
    When she brought it Wiley took a sip, sighed contentedly, then said, “You can call Plod in now, Tess – and mind you don’t call him Mr Plod.”
    Tessie opened the door.  “You can come in now … Plod,” she called.
    Plod came in, dripping.
    “Stay over there by the door, Plod,” said Wiley.  “A don’t want you dripping water all over my rug.”
    He took another sip of chocolate, sighed again and smacked his lips.
    “Now, Plod,” he said, “the question is, can we use you?  Does Toyland have any use for an overseer who’s been sacked for incompetence?  Well?”
    “A used to be a wheel-fitter,” said Plod.
    “Used to be, yes, used to be, but you’re out of practice now, Plod.  A couldn’t take the risk of railway engine wheels being fitted to pull-along ducks.  What would it do to Toyland’s reputation?  No, Plod, you’ll start at the bottom like every other new boy.  You’ll be on sweeping-up duties.  Go and find La’al Tubby, ask him for his broom, tell him he’s being promoted and send him to me.  And just think yourself lucky to have a job at all.  A’m too kind, I am.  What Mr Claws’ll say A don’t know.  Well?  Aren’t you going to thank me?”
    “Thank you, Mr Wiley,” muttered Plod, and went out.
    “A’m too soft, Tess,” said Wiley.  “A shouldn’t have let him get away with muttering like that.  A should have made him say it properly, out loud and clear – shouldn’t A, Tess?”
    “Yes, Mr Wiley,” said Tess, loudly and clearly.
    “There’s going to be some changes round her, my girl,” said Wiley, and one of them affects you.”
    “Me, Mr Wiley?”
    “Yes, you, Tess.  A’ve decided not to have you bring me me ’ot chocolate.  After tomorrow you’ll be full time in the packing department.”
    “Yes, Mr Wiley,” said Tess, not sure if she was sorry to lose her privileged position as the overseer’s hot chocolate girl or glad not to have to serve Wiley.
    There was a tap at the door.
    “IN!” honked Wiley.
    La’al Tubby came in, wringing his cap nervously in his hands.
    “You wanted to see me, Mr Wiley?”
    “Yes, Tubby,” said Wiley.  “A’ve had me eye on you, and A think it’s time you were promoted.  Plod can do the sweeping up till there’s another new lad, then – we’ll see.  As for you, well, A’ve a vacancy for a wheel-fitter, and A think it’d just suit you.  What’s the matter, Tess?  Got summat in your throat?  Don’t gasp like that, girl!  Well, Tubby, me boy, would you like to be a wheel-fitter?”
    “Yes, Mr Wiley.  Thank you, Mr Wiley,” gabbled the delighted boy.  To be a wheel fitter, working in the assembly shed, away from the fumes.  It was one of the best jobs at Toyland.
    “Good,” purred Wiley, “but there’s more.  Like A said, A’ve had me eye on you, and A’ve got a special job for you – you’re going to bring me me ’ot chocolate.”
    La’al Tubby’s jaw dropped.  “A…a…, no, Mr Wiley,” he gasped.  “Not me.  That’s a girl’s job.  They’d all laugh at me.”
    “Sticks and stones, La’al Tubby, may break your bones, but the laughter of the ignorant can’t hurt you.”
    “A won’t do it, Mr Wiley,” said La’al Tubby.  “You can make me a plastic moulder if you want, but A won’t bring ’ot chocolate to anybody.”
    “You’ll bring me me ’ot chocolate, Tubby,” Wiley grated, “or you’ll be out of a job, you and that idle swine of a father of yours, and out of your house and on the streets.”
    “You can’t do that, Mr Wiley,” said La’al Tubby.  “Mr Claws would never let you!”
    “Mr Claws!  What do you know about Mr Claws?  You see him in church every week, smiling and looking benevolent, but you don’t hear what he says to Plod.  Squeeze ’em, Plod, that’s what he says.  A’ll just need say that you and your family know where Noddy is but won’t tell me, and he’ll have you thrown in gaol.  Well, what is it to be?  Hot chocolate for you and me, or prison for all the Bear family?”
    “Hot chocolate, Mr Wiley,” muttered La’al Tubby.
    “Good!  Tess’ll show you how to make it tomorrow, that after that you’re on your own!  Well, don’t stand about all day!  Over to the assembly shed.  Tell them A said you’re to be a wheel fitter.  And you, Tess – back to the packing shed.  There’ll be no more lounging about for anyone now Ah’m in charge.”

    The evening was dark and odd strands of fog hung about as Tessie hurried towards her Uncle Tubby’s house.  The moon was hidden behind clouds, appearing briefly as they moved, to cast strange shadows.  Occasional gusts of cold wind shifted the strands of fog and smoke and sent dead leaves and dust rattling along the gutters.  As she came round the last corner a man came out of the shadows towards her.
    “Evening, Tess.”
    “Oh!  Oh it’s you, Mr Brown.”
    It wasn’t the awestruck Mister with which she would have referred to Mr Claws, or the respectful Mister she used when talking to Mr Plod, nor yet the contemptuous Mister she reserved for Wiley: it was a wary, unfriendly, keep-your-distance sort of Mister.
    Big-Lugs paid no heed.
    “Things have come to a pretty pass, Tess,” he said, “with Mr Plod dismissed and Wiley in his place as overseer – and then there’s Noddy, accused of being a wrecker and threatened with prison or worse.  You don’t believe he’s a Hobgoblin, do you, Tessie?”
    “I certainly do not,” said Tessie.
    “No more do I,” said Big Lugs.  “It’s a put-up job.  He’s no more a wrecker than you are, Tessie.  Somebody’s out to get him – and it’s up to us to find out who.  But tell, me, Tessie, what does Tubby think?”
    “He doesn’t know what to think, Mr Brown, he really doesn’t.”
    The Mister was less hostile now, scarcely more than the standard form of address from a youngster to an older man.
    “He believes Noddy, doesn’t he?”
    “He’d like to, Mr Brown, he’s always thought Noddy was a good lad, but there’s the evidence you see.  If he wasn’t a wrecker how did he get his trousers ruined by acid from the vat?”
    “A thought he’d explained that.”
    “Ay, and Ah believe him, Mr Brown, but Uncle Tubby just doesn’t know.”
    “Can A come along with you, Tessie, and mebbe speak to him?”
    “Well, A suppose A can’t stop you if you want to, Mr Brown.”

    La’al Tubby was leaning against the front wall.
    “Thought you’d be out wi’ the other lads,” said Big-Lugs”
    “It’s not fair,” snarled La’al Tubby.  “A don’t want to tek Wiley ’is ’ot chocolate.  They’re all laughing at me.  They’re calling me ’Ot Chocolate, cos it’a a girl’s job.  Why does Wiley want me to do it?  Why can’t Tessie do it like she’s always done it?”
    “Who knows,” said Big-Lugs.  “Maybe he’s posing as a somdomite.”
    “Mister Brown!” Tessie gasped.  This time the Mister expressed shock and disapproval.
    “A’m only teasing him,” chuckled Big-Lugs.
    “What’s a somdomite?” La’al Tubby asked.
    “Summat A hope you’ll never find out about,” said Big-Lugs.  “Let’s go in, Tessie.
    “A’ve brought Mr Brown,” said Tessie to Uncle Tubby.
    “Oh, ay,” wheezed Tubby, “and what do you want, Big-Lugs?”
    “A’ve come,” said Big Lugs, “to tell you that Noddy is innocent.  He’s never been a wrecker and he’d never join the Hobgoblins.”
    “That’s what you say,” wheezed old Tubby, “but Mr Plod found his trousers eaten away by acid where the Hobgoblins punctured the vat, and his legs were covered in sores.”
    “Nettle stings,” said Big-Lugs.  He told you.”
    “A don’t know what to believe,” said Tubby.
    “Noddy’s telling the truth,” burst out La’al Tubby.
    “How would you know?” wheezed his father.
    “A joined the Hobgoblins,” said La’al Tubby, “but A’m having nothing more to do with them after this.  They beat Noddy up and knocked him out.  They took off his trousers and dragged him through the nettles, then they sat him against a tree and tied him up.  It was me as came back to cut him free after we’d wrecked the acid vat.  One of them puddled Noddy’s trousers in the acid then threw them in the corner for Mr Plod to find.”
    “You stupid little …”  Tubby broke off coughing.
    “Leave him, Tubby,” said Big-Lugs.  “He’s learnt his lesson.  There’s lots of young lads joined the Hobgoblins.  A’ve seen ’em going out and Ah know.  What we’ve got to do is find out who’s behind it.”
    “He’s a useless little … ’ot chocolate girl,” wheezed Tubby.  “What d’you ever take that job for, Our Kid?  You should have refused.  A can’t go into Tom Catt’s any more without someone having a snigger about it.  You should have refused.”
    “A couldn’t refuse,” yelled La’al Tubby.  “Wiley said he’d put us out of work and out of our house.”
    “Mr Claws would never let him do a thing like that,” said Glenys.
    “Wiley said he’d tell Mr Claws we were hiding Noddy,” said Tessie.  “He said Mr Claws would have us thrown in gaol.  He said Mr Claws was always telling Mr Plod to squeeze us harder.”
    “Surely not,” said Glenys.
    “A think Mr Plod’s been trying to protect us from Mr Claws,” said Tessie.  “He’s often quite upset when he comes back from Mr Claws.”
    “Ah’ve seen him too,” said Big Lugs, “and A’ve heard him muttering to himself.  Things like: Squeeze ’em, Plod!  How am I supposed to squeeze ’em when they’ve not enough to live on as it is.  It was when I heard him mutterin’ Poor la’al fella, he’s a good worker, and a nice little chap, and Mr Claws’ll probably get him hanged, that A decided to follow him back to the factory – and it was a good thing A did, cos A heard him telling Wiley to fetch the constable and drag Noddy to Mr Claws to be condemned as a wrecker.  Anyway, as soon as they were out of the way A stole a sack, ran along here and got Noddy away wearing the sack like a skirt.”
    “So he’s at you’re house,” said Tessie.
    “Did A ever tell you,” said Big-Lugs, “why A call my little cabin Toadstool House?  It’s cos there’s not mush-room in there.”
    “What?” said Tessie.
    “You’re right, Big-Lugs,” wheezed Tubby.  There’s not much room there, and it’s better none of us knows where Noddy is.”
    “Anyway,” said Big-Lugs, “if anybody should’ve happened to have bought Noddy a new pair of trousers, seeing as we don’t know where he’s got to, it would be a kind thought to bestow them on a poor old man that’s got no regular work and lives by himself on the edge of the woods.”
    “It would,” said Glenys.  “I’ll get them.”
    “Now, La’al Tubby,” said Big Lugs, “you’ve served Noddy a nasty trick, the least you can do is help put it right.  Can you identify the leader of the Hobgoblins or Captain Moonlight?”
    “A only saw Captain Moonlight once,” said La’al Tubby.  “It was when A joined.  Noddy asked me if he was from London, but he talked much like everybody round here – except … when he was talking to me he sought of purred, like a cat, or like a lass trying to sweet-talk a man.  A’ve seen the boss o’ the Hobgoblins a few times, but A don’t know who he is.  They all wear masks, you see.  Older than Noddy, but not as old as you.  A know one o’ the younger lads.  It was Monkey as asked me to join”
    “That’ll do to start with,” said Big-Lugs.  “Listen, Tubby and La’al Tubby.  Start with Monkey, find out who he knows, then ask that lad, till you work your way up to the leaders.  An’ as for you, Glenys and Tessie, spread the word round what happened to Noddy, and keep your ears open for anything useful.  It always seems to me that women know more about anything that’s going on than us men do, so who knows what we may find between us?”

    Weeks passed.  Christmas came and went.  The snow lay heavy, then was churned to slush, then froze and was covered by fresh snow, then, finally, melted away.  Mr Claws appeared each Sunday in church, beaming benevolently on his workers as if he wished he could increase their wages in spite of the poor sales that had scarcely raised his profits at all.  Wiley squeezed them on his behalf: hourly rates were cut, rents were raised.  A couple of plastic moulders died of pneumonia and were buried in the churchyard.  Wiley told La’al Tubby that if he didn’t look more cheerful about bringing the hot chocolate he might well find himself transferred from the wheel-fitting team to the plastic-moulding shed.  The lads accepted the boy again when they heard how he’d been forced into accepting the demeaning “girl’s job”, and, step by step, the Bears identified more and more of the Hobgoblins.
         La’al Tubby had identified Monkey, a slightly older boy, and Monkey identified a lad everyone called Clockwork because of his constant jerky movements.  Clockwork said he had been recruited by Mouse, and Mouse knew that Bumpy was a wrecker.  From the younger lads the trail led to the older men, until it reached Wally Cox.  Wally swore and blasphemed, said he didn’t care what happened to Noddy, denied he’d ever been a saboteur, then finally admitted that he’d been recruited by Noah Arkwright.  Like all those questioned before him he had no idea who Captain Moonlight was.
    Noah admitted straightaway that he’d been a Hobgoblin, but said he’d decided never to go out wrecking again after the way the gang had trapped Noddy and made him a scapegoat.  A man had the right, he thought, not to belong to a gang if he didn’t want to, and to put him in danger of prison, or even hanging, just because he wouldn’t join was a disgrace.  Luckily, he added, he’d never been asked to go wrecking since that day, and nobody had seen Captain Moonlight for weeks.
    Did he know who Captain Moonlight was?  Was he a local man or a Londoner maybe?
    Noah had no idea.  Only one man knew who Captain Moonlight was, he said, and that was Gobby.
    That was a surprise.  Gobby was known for his big mouth: anything he achieved he trumpeted to the town; any misfortune that befell a neighbour would be told with relish to every passer-by; every secret he found out would be published to the world.  How could Gobby know the identity of Captain Moonlight and not tell a single soul?
    Perhaps, Noah suggested, he was afraid of Captain Moonlight.  That seemed to be the answer.

    Noddy, meanwhile, lay low at Big-Lugs Brown’s house, coming out only at night when the workers were safely snoring in their beds.  He didn’t waste his time though: rabbits would sometimes come out of Mr Claws’ woods, and Noddy and Big-Lugs had snares in the hedgerows.  Each night too he would go to the fence and talk to the guard dogs, gradually winning them over.  The odd bit of rabbit helped.
    “Won’t be long now, Big-Lugs,” he said.  “When A’ve got them eating out of me hand A’ll climb over the fence.  If they don’t tear me to pieces A’ll be able to set snares in Mr Claws’ woods, just like before.”
    “Rather you than me,” said Big-Lugs.  “A’m terrified of dogs – any dogs, not just them ravening wolves.”
    So it was at Big-Lugs’ house that the conspirators met to discuss their findings: Big Lugs and Noddy, Tubby and La’al Tubby, Glenys and Tessie, and Plod.
    Glenys and Tessie hadn’t been able to find out anything.  The Hobgoblins had kept their nocturnal activities secret from their wives – warned no doubt by Captain Moonlight that the careless gossip of women could send them all to gaol.  It was the men’s careful tracing from recruit to recruiter that had taken them back as far as Gobby, and Gobby, despite his reputation refused to talk.
    “We could threaten to tell Mr Claws that he’s the leader of the Hobgoblins,” said Plod.
    “We couldn’t,” wheezed Tubby.  “We couldn’t hand over even a filthy creature like Gobby to Mr Claws.”
    “You’re right,” said Big-Lugs, “and even if we did, he’d not believe us.  He’s convinced Noddy’s his man.”
    “Ay,” sighed Plod gloomily.  “He’s not one for being persuaded.”
    “We’re stuck,” wheezed Tubby.  If Gobby won’t talk and we can’t make him, we’ll never find out who Captain Moonlight is.”
    “Ah know who he is!”  It was La’al Tubby.  They all turned to look at him and the boy blushed.
    “Well,” he said, “A think A know who he is: it’s Wiley!
    “WILEY?” they chorused.
    “It’s the way he talks,” said La’al Tubby.  “A told you when A joined the Hobgoblins Captain Moonlight talked to me like a cat purring or like a lass trying to sweet-talk a man – well when A bring him his ’ot chocolate, that’s just how Wiley talks.  A’ve never told anyone.  It’s horrible.  It’s like … well it’s like he’s talking to a girl that he wants to … A hate him!”
    Glenys put a comforting arm round her son.  Tubby started pacing, smacking his right fist into his left palm.
    “A’ll kill him!” he wheezed.  “A’ll kill him.  Even if A get hung for’t.”
    “Easy, easy,” murmured Noddy.
    “If La’al Tubby’s right you won’t need to kill him,” said Big Lugs, “and A think he is.  Listen, there’s never been a Hobgoblin attack since Wiley became overseer, right?”
    “Right,” said Plod.
    “Captain Moonlight hasn’t been seen since Wiley became overseer, right?”
    “Right,” said Plod and Noddy.
    “So,” said Big-Lugs, “it’s obvious, isn’t it.  Wiley’s Captain Moonlight and he used the Hobgoblins to get Plod dismissed and get himself made overseer.  A’ve sometimes seen him sneaking into Mr Claws’ house – well, there’s your spy.  It’s Wiley that’s been letting Mr Claws know everything that’s been going on in town.  It’s Wiley that told the Hobgoblins what to do.  It’s Wiley that got Noddy blamed for the wrecking – and all to get himself made overseer.”
    “He’ll regret it,” muttered Plod.  “He’ll find out what sort of a temper Mr Claws has got.  It’s not a bed of roses being overseer.”
    “Not even if you squeeze the workers like Wiley’s been doing,” said Big Lugs.
    “What’ll we do?” Noddy asked.
    “Somebody better keep watch on Wiley.  That’ll be your job, La’al Tubby.  Young-uns can wander round following people in the streets without it looking suspicious.  He’d know we were on to him if old Tubby followed him.”
    “Can I have Monkey to come with me?”
    “Ay, that’s even better.  Two lads just mooching round together.  But not Clockwork.  All that twitching of his will draw too much attention.  Get Mouse and Bumpy to watch Gobby.  We’ll meet here every Sunday and see what we come up with.”

    Plod was right that the overseer’s job was no bed of roses.  The next morning Mr Claws was in a foul mood and Wiley was trembling and stuttering.
    “Production down!” yelled Mr Claws.  “Why is production down Wiley.”
    “A … A… don’t know, Mr Claws.”
    “Down!” snarled Mr Claws, “Down because you forgot to order supplies of plastic on time – just like you forgot to order wheels and springs and paint.   I had workers standing round idle because they didn’t have the materials to make toys.  Standing idle while I’m paying them!”
    “A’ll dock it from their wages next time Mr Claws.  A’ll lay them off.”
    “There’d better not be a next time, Wiley, or you’ll be out of that grand house of yours and on sweeping-up duties.  Understand?  Now get out and don’t let production be interrupted again!  OUT!”
    Wiley backed out of the presence, was shown out of the house by a haughty flunkey, and shambled down the drive.  As he passed the little gate to the wood the dogs hurled themselves at it, barking furiously.  Wiley jumped, then scrambled away, down to the lodge and out of the main gate.  The dogs run along the fence, snarling at him and crashing against it until he was out of sight, while he muttered and swore.
    Wally Cox was waiting at the bottom of the steps.  He followed Wiley into his office and closed the door.

    On Sunday afternoon Old Tubby wandered casually along to the end of his street.  Plod came along and joined him, then they strolled off towards the woods and Big-Lugs Brown’s house.  Wally Cox, who’d been leaning against a wall smoking strolled quietly after them until he saw where they were headed, then he turned and hurried to the overseer’s house.
    A few minutes later Wiley emerged and marched off towards Mr Claws’ woods.  Two boys who’d been lounging against a nearby wall sprang into action and hurried after him.  He turned at the end of the street, but the lads were scuffling in a sort of fight, so he went on.  He heard feet running after him and looked round.  It was La’al Tubby.  Monkey caught up with him and knocked him down and they scuffled again.
    “So much energy,” thought Wiley.  “They’re being paid too much if they’ve got energy to waste playing games on Sunday.”
    He hurried on.  When they left the town the boys climbed over a gate and followed him behind the hedge.  They saw him go into Mr Claws’ garden.
    “Gone to see Mr Claws.  What’ll we do?” said Monkey.
    “Wait and see, then A’ll go and tell me dad.”
    Wiley didn’t stay long, just a few minutes, then came hurrying out and set off down the road, almost running.  They followed him almost as far as the beginning of the houses.  They saw him meet Wally Cox, and crept up quietly behind the hedge to listen, then they raced off to report to the conspirators.

    Noddy and Big-Lugs had met Tubby and Plod in a copse not far from Big-Lugs’ cottage.  The four were gloomy.  They had learned nothing new all week.  Noah Arkwright was sympathetic but couldn’t tell them any more, Wally Cox had sworn at them, and Gobby, usually so ready to boast, had refused to talk at all.
    The dogs suddenly began a terrific commotion, barking and snarling and crashing through the wood.
    “They’re after summat,” said Noddy.  Then suddenly they heard a child screaming.
    “They’ve got a babby,” wheezed Tubby.
    They ran as hard as they could for Mr Claws’ gate.  The only way in to the wood where the dogs ran loose was a gate along his drive.  They pounded in, past the lodge.
    The dogs were loose in the garden, and they were after Mr Claws’ little girl.  Terror lent her strength.  She had swung herself up into a tree and clambered higher among its branches, while the hounds snapped and snarled below her, and leapt up to try and pull her down.  One dog’s teeth snapped shut on her skirt.  She almost lost her hold, but the skirt ripped, the dog fell back and she scrambled a few inches higher.
    “Grab the girl,” yelled Noddy.  “Big-Lugs, look after the gate!”
    Then he ran towards the dogs, shouting madly.
    They turned and raced towards him.  He disappeared in their midst.
    “He’ll be torn to pieces,” wheezed Tubby, then he hobbled after Plod.  They ran to the tree, somehow lifted the little girl down, and set her on Plod’s back.  Plod pounded towards the house, where Mrs Claws was having hysterics while Mr Claws shouted for servants to come and help.
    Tubby followed Plod, brandishing a stick that he’d found and turning from time to time to make sure the dogs weren’t following.
    Meanwhile Noddy was edging back towards the wood, surrounded by the pack of excitedly barking dogs.  They’d recognised the friend who had talked to them through the fence for so many weeks.  They hadn’t torn him to pieces, but he had many a scratch from their enthusiastic leaping and clawing.
    As soon as the pack was through the gate Big-Lugs slammed it shut.  Noddy found a stick and threw it for the dogs.  One raced after it and started worrying it.  He found another and threw it.  Now the dogs had got the idea.  They raced after the stick, tussling and scuffling for it, all except one, who wouldn’t be parted from Noddy.  He edged back along the fence.  Big Lugs opened the gate a crack.  Noddy slipped out, and the two of them slammed the gate shut and bolted it.  Noddy’s special friend let out a great howl, and the other dogs came racing back to the gate.
    Noddy and Big-Lugs hurried towards the house.  Mrs Claws was covering her little girl in kisses, and Mr Claws was shaking the hands of Plod and Tubby and swearing eternal gratitude.  He pumped Noddy’s hand, and Big-Lugs’ too, promising them any reward, within reason.
    “What I want to know,” said Mr Claws, “is, who let those dogs out?”
    “It was Wiley!” yelled a boy’s voice.  La’al Tubby and Monkey came running up.
    “It was Wiley,” said La’al Tubby again.  “We were following him.  He came into your garden, Mr Claws.  We thought he was coming to see you, but he only stayed a few minutes, then he came running out.  We wondered why he was in such a hurry, so we followed him till he met Wally Cox.  We heard him say this. That’ll learn ’em, all on ’em.  Claws’ll not to speak to me like that again after he finds his babby torn to bits by them dogs, and the best thing is Plod and Tubby and ol’ Big-Lugs’ll get the blame.  They’ll not come spying on me again.  They’ll be in gaol or transported, or mebbe hanged.  I’ll see you’re rewarded for keeping your lugs open, Wally, but if you split, that’ll be the end o’ you.  It was Wiley let them dogs out … um … er …”
    La’al Tubby suddenly seemed to realise who he was talking to.  He stammered and blushed and edged behind his father.
    “Fetch the lodge keeper,” roared Mr Claws, and a flunky set off.
    “Ay,” said the lodge keeper, “Wiley came in.  A thought he was coming to see you, Mr Claws, but then he went off in a great hurry.  A thought you must have sent him to get summat.”
    “I’ll have him hanged for this!” stormed Mr Claws.  “Murder!  Attempted murder, that is.  Plod!”
    “Yes, Mr Claws.”
    “You’re overseer again.  Sort out the mess yon Wiley’s got us into.  As for you, you brave young man,” said Mr Claws, turning to Noddy, “just tell me what you’d like.”
    “A job, Mr Claws, making toys.”
    “Don’t you work for me already.”
    “A did, Mr Claws, for a bit.”
    “What’s your name lad?”
    “Noddy, Mr Claws.”
    “Noddy!!  The leader of the Hobgoblins!  Captain Moonlight!  Seize him!  Hold him!  Throw him into the cellar!  Send for the constable.  As Justice of the Peace I find him guilty.  Hang him!  Hang him I say!”
    “No, Mr Claws,” said Plod firmly.  “Noddy’s not Captain Moonlight.”
    “Don’t contradict me, Plod, or you’ll be back to sweeping floors.  Of course he’s Captain Moonlight.  There’s been no sabotage since he was driven out.”
    “If he’d been Captain Moonlight, Mr Claws,” said Plod, “there would have been nothing to stop him coming back into town in disguise and stirring up the Hobgoblins – and he’d have had every reason to do it.  It’s Wiley that’s Captain Moonlight.  There’s been no sabotage since he became overseer because he was using the Hobgoblins to get himself made overseer.”
    “I’m sure, Mr Claws,” said Mrs Claws, “that this brave young man, who risked his life to save our little girl from being torn to pieces by those horrible hounds of yours, couldn’t possibly be a criminal.”
    “Me name’s Noddy Woodhead,” said Noddy.  “A were a skilled worker, and A joined a union, and we were all sacked by our bosses.  A’ve never been a wrecker, and A wouldn’t join the Hobgoblins.”
    “There you are, Mr Claws,” said Mrs Claws.
    “A’m called Noddy,” said Noddy, “because A used to make them little nodding men and animals.”
    “You worked for Utterson-Framley?” said Mr Claws.
    “Ay,” said Mr Claws.  “There were no little nodding men this Christmas.  Utterson-Framley are in a fix.  They’ve had to re-employ their workers and recognise the union, but they’ve lost Noddy.  Plod!
    “Yes, Mr Claws.”
    “See to it that Noddy has a workshop and all the materials he needs.  Toylands going into the nodding-men business.  Here, you two lads!”
    “Yes, Mr Claws,” said La’al Tubby and Monkey.”
    “From now on you’re Noddy’s apprentices.  He’ll teach you how to make nodding toys.  Oh this is splendid.  We’ll increase our profits no end.  What else can I do for you, men?”
    “A’d like to start a friendly society,” said Noddy.  “Not a union, Mr Claws, just a fund to help workers that fall sick, or to help their widows, like poor Mrs Pickersgill.”
    “Of course,” said Mr Claws expansively.  “You should have explained properly what these noble fellows wanted, Plod.  You know I’d do anything for my workers.  I depend on them and they depend on me.  You may start your friendly society, and to show my regard for you I’ll start you off with a donation of … um … one guinea.”
    “Thank you Mr Claws.”
    “Off with you, then.  I mustn’t keep you all day.”
    “There’s one more thing, Mr Claws,” said Noddy.  We’ll all work better if we have enough to eat.  Can you get rid of the dogs and let us take the odd rabbit from the woods.”
    “Rabbits is vermin, Mr Claws,” wheezed Tubby.  “They get into your garden and destroy your vegetables.”
    “And our lovely flowers,” said Mrs Claws.
    “You don’t pay the lads enough to buy meat,” said Big-Lugs.  “Letting them have a few rabbits is a cheap way of feeding them”
    “We certainly don’t want those dogs any more,” said Mrs Claws.
    “Grrrh … er… Rabbits?  Of course you can have rabbits,” said Mr Claws.  “Take all the rabbits you want.  Nothing else, good, off you go then … not you, Plod.”
    They left in high spirits.
    “Rabbits,” growled Mr Claws.  “Grrrh!  Rabbits and friendly societies.  Grrrrh!  That’s a whole guinea of my hard-earned cash that I’ve put into their friendly society, Plod.  One pound and one shilling!  Twenty one shillings!  Two hundred and fifty-two pence!  I want recompense and by God I’ll have it.  Squeeze ’em, Plod.  Squeeze ’em!
    “Yes, Mr Claws,” sighed Plod.

    Someone must have warned Wiley – perhaps it was Big Lugs – at any rate he had fled by the time Plod fetched the constable and he was never seen again.  The constable found a box in the overseer’s house, and in it was Wiley’s Captain Moonlight disguise.  After that Mr Plod moved back in, and chose Tessie to bring him his hot chocolate.  He was just beginning to think he might pluck up courage to ask her to be more to him than his hot chocolate girl, when she announced, with a radiant smile, that Noddy had asked her to marry him and that she had accepted.  Mr Plod congratulated her and concealed the ache in his heart.
    Mr Claws perhaps thought that Plod would be even more subservient now that he had seen how he could be dismissed so easily, but Plod’s experiences had the opposite effect.  Before he had been terrified that if Mr Claws demoted him he would be bullied and taunted by the workers, now he had friends among them and he was prepared to speak on their behalf.
    “Wiley cut the workers’ wages, Mr Claws,” he said.  “They can’t live on what we’re paying them now.  If they’re constantly hungry they’ll be always tired and we won’t get the best work from them.  We should put up the wages to what they were.  You won’t lose by it.  You’ll only be paying what you were before, and the work will be … much …”
    “Plod!  You are a NINCOMPOOP!” roared Mr Claws.
    Some twenty minutes later, blasted by Mr Claws’ fury, Plod staggered out and tottered home.  He hadn’t been dismissed, but it had been a near thing.
    Mr Claws had listened, however.  He stood up in church the next Sunday to make an announcement.
    “Workers of Toyland,” he boomed, “while I was going through my accounts I discovered that Wiley, wicked wretch that he was, had cut your wages.  This, of course was entirely unknown to me, and I have therefore decided to restore your earning to what they were before to show how much I care for my workers.”
    Plod leapt to his feet.
    “Three cheers for Mr Claws!” he called, and the church resounded to their enthusiasm.
    “Well done, Plod,” said Mr Claws afterwards.  “I like to be appreciated.  I like my workers to think I’m a humane, benevolent man, and you may be sure that we’ll find some way to squeeze ’em after the factory inspector has come and gone.  That’ll be next month, Plod.  Keep them contented till he’s been, then squeeze ’em.  I rely on you, Plod: Squeeze ’em!”

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Noddy comes to Toyland, Part I

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