Nancy and Betty wandered down the picturesque little lane, gaily swinging their picnic basket between them. They were an attractive sight, with corn-blond hair neatly plaited, and sparkling blue eyes. Their frocks were clean and tidy, and they intended to keep them that way, as Mother had words to say when they didn’t! Nancy and Betty reached the end of the lane, and were just deciding whether to go right down to the beach, or carry on the left towards the woods, when a boy on a bicycle came speeding past, knocked them both over, and stole their basket!
“I say!” shouted Nancy indignantly. “Stop, thief!” But the boy didn’t stop, which was sensible really, when you looked at it from his point of view. Betty sat in the road, and cried. They had been knocked over and their picnic stolen and she had scraped her knee, and torn her dress. What a horrible day it was! She cried some more. Nancy, who didn’t have much sympathy for her twin sister’s tears, patted her brusquely on the back. “Buck up, old thing,” she said bracingly. “Let’s go to the woods, and see if we can find any berries.”
“B-b-but it’s June,” wailed Betty. “There aren’t any, Nan. We’re going to starve!” At this grim prospect, she wept some more, until Nancy shook her by the shoulder.
“Now, stop it, Bets,” she said sternly. “There’s no point at all acting like a watering can; you just look soppy.” As Nancy was the older (by half an hour), and considerably more determined than Betty, Betty was accustomed to do as she was told, so she stopped crying, and wiped her face with her handkerchief.
“What shall we do?” she asked. Nancy frowned.
“I’m not entirely sure. Really, we should go back home, but that seems awfully tame. I know! Let’s have an adventure!” Betty looked dubious at this plan.
“How can we have an adventure?” she asked, scrambling up from the lane, and brushing down the skirt of her dress. “You can’t make them happen?”
“I’ll bet we jolly well can,” replied Nancy, her eyes glinting with a determined light that Betty well recognised.
“Don’t be silly,” came another voice, suddenly. “You can’t make adventures happen – they just happen to you, whether you like it or not.” Nancy and Betty turned to face the newcomer, who was of a similar age to them.
“Who are you?” demanded Nancy, who didn’t much like the look of this newcomer.
“My name’s George,” said George.
“That’s a stupid name for a girl,” said Nancy derisively. George looked angry.
“Who says I’m a girl?” she asked aggressively. Nancy merely raised an eyebrow, and George glanced down, blushing somewhat. “Fair enough,” she said, more mildly this time. “You two look a bit of a mess – what happened?” Betty poured out their tale of woe to the surprisingly sympathetic George.
“Jolly bad luck,” said that young lady. “Look here, we – my cousins and I – are having a picnic down in the cove. Would you like to come?” Although this wasn’t really an adventure, Nancy and Betty agreed, and followed their new friend down the path to the cove. At the bottom, they found two boys and a girl, playing with a dog, who immediately dashed up to George and lay at her feet, panting enthusiastically.
“Hallo, Timmy,” said George, bending down to ruffle his fur. “Hallo, you lot. These are Nancy and Betty – Nancy’s the one in the blue dress. One of the village kids stole their lunch, so I invited them to come and have some with us. These are my cousins, you two. Julian, Dick and Anne. This is Timmy, my dog. Shake hands, Timmy!” Timmy obligingly held out a paw, and both Nancy and Betty shook it gravely.
“It’s awfully nice of you to share your lunch with us,” said Betty, shyly.
“Oh, we’ve got plenty,” said Anne. She too had blonde hair, but it was shorter than the twins’, and neatly bobbed so that it tucked under her jaw. She was wearing a cotton frock, but it was prettier, with a pattern of tiny pink flowers. Betty thought she looked awfully nice.
“Bad luck about the kid,” said the boy who was called Dick. He was a little taller than the girls, with dark hair. He grinned at Nancy, and she grinned back.
“Rather! I yelled at him to stop, but of course he didn’t.”
“Probably a good thing he didn’t,” said Julian. “He might have made things rather nasty for a couple of girls.”
“We could have dealt with him!” Nancy flashed back, defiantly. Julian just looked at her. He was the eldest of the cousins, that was clear, and was much taller than the others, with smooth blonde hair swept arrogantly back from his forehead. Nancy shifted, feeling uncomfortable beneath his gaze.
“I would hate to see anything happen to you,” said Julian, and Nancy didn’t reply, merely burying her toe into the sand. Nancy had known lots of boys, but Julian was different. He was so grown-up, so manly. So intent on the sand at her feet and the intangible but unavoidable pressure of Julian’s eyes on her, she didn’t notice Dick exchange a wry glance with George, or the pair of them head towards the sea.
“I see Julian’s made a conquest again,” commented Dick, laconically. “He’ll be inbearable.”
“It’ll be all right,” said George, ever optimistic. “I thought if I found him a damsel in distress, he might leave us alone these hols and stop trying to lord it over the rest of us.”
“The Nancy-girl doesn’t seem too damsel-like.” George smiled slowly, knowingly.
“They’re always the ones to go. Anne’ll look after the other kid, but Julian will spend all the hols ordering Nancy around. And she’ll love it!”