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I’ve just done a very stupid thing. I read the above paperback copy of
Disappearing Cat, seduced as I was by the clever cover and in particular the creamy splodge on the tail of the disappearing cat. It was only when I got to the end and was thinking back over the book that I realised that two of the scenes that I’d really enjoyed on first reading the novel - highlighting them in Looking For Enid - had been bowdlerised in this particular edition. I’ll come back to those incidents later in this text. But for now the moral has got to be (at least for any adult reading the Mystery books): ‘make mine Methuen’.

Geographically, this book is simpler than the ones I’ve analysed so far. Most of the action takes place in the garden of the Hiltons’ house - Pip and Bets place - and the garden next door to it. A complicating factor is that Enid is really thinking about the garden of her own house, Green Hedges, in Beaconsfield, three miles from Bourne End. Though in the second half of the book, when the Inspector calls on the Find-Outers, parks his car at the Hiltons’ house and walks with the Find Outers down the lane to the river, Enid succeeds in switching to her usual Bourne End scenario. Here is a reminder of where Pip and Bets live in the Red House.

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Below is a useful diagram that was submitted by Eljay to the thread in the forums of the Enid Blyton Society called ‘Where exactly was Green Hedges’ . The whereabouts of Green Hedges, a.k.a 42 Penn Road, Beaconsfield, destroyed shortly after Enid’s death and replaced with Blyton Close and its ten houses, has been marked on a Google map from 2008. Throughout
Disappearing Cat Enid is flipping between Green Hedges in Beaconsfield and the Red House three miles away in Peterswood/Bourne End. And to truly follow the book we readers have to do the same.

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The above diagram makes it easy to locate Green Hedges on the historical plan of the area that appears below and which was submitted to the EBS forums by Redlionweb. Green Hedges is the third house south of Curzon Avenue, on the right hand side of Penn Road, the house with the biggest grounds. When Enid bought Green Hedges, the gardener was known as Old Tapping. Tapping’s daughter-in-law, Francis, was employed as Enid’s cook, and her son, Kenneth, became a friend of Enid’s daughter, Imogen. Enid did not get on at all well with Old Tapping, though apparently he was a very good gardener, and after several years (not sure how many) he was sacked for stealing vegetables.

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Old Tapping then worked for the family whose garden was at the bottom of Green Hedges’s. Surely it was the continued presence of this despised man that led to Enid making a gardener called Tupping be the villain of
Disappearing Cat. She draws attention to this in a teasing way through one of the other characters, Miss Trimble, who Bets repeatedly calls Miss Tremble. The line ‘My name is Trimble not Tremble,’ is said three times by the poor woman. OK, Enid, we get it. The gardener’s name is Tupping not Tapping. Tapping not Tupping? Tupping not Tapping.

In
Disappearing Cat, the gardener lives in the next house along the road, which belongs to Lady Candling who has a cat-house full of valuable Siamese cats located in her garden. Several times, the Find-Outers and/or Buster walk/run down the drive of their house and up the drive of next door’s. Was Enid thinking of Upton Leigh, 44 Penn Road, to the north of Green Hedges? Or Northfield, 40 Penn Road, to the south? Well, perhaps she was thinking of Upton Leigh, as I’ll explore in a moment. Fundamentally she was thinking of horrible Tupping still working in the garden at the bottom of Green Hedges. But she had to make it the house next door to make the comings and goings of her characters more plausible.

Disappearing Cat was published in July 1944, the same month as The Boy Next Door. Both books may have been inspired by the fact that in the winter of 1943, the Biggs family moved in to Upton Leigh, and there was a certain amount of coming and going of both the adults and the children where there had been none before. Kenneth and Enid Darrell Waters were soon friendly with Gordon and Ida Biggs. Imogen became friendly with the four Biggs children, especially Keith, and a hole was made in the hedge to facilitate movement between the gardens. There was no hole in the wall separating the gardens in Disappearing Cat. Mrs Hilton had to walk down her own drive and up the drive of Lady Candling in order to pay her a visit, as she does in the middle of the book.

In
A Childhood at Green Hedges, Imogen quotes Diana Biggs’s recollection of Enid paying a visit to Upton Leigh in winter 1943. ‘Your parents came over for a drink and I remember walking into our drawing-room. Enid Blyton was sitting in that settee. It is over forty years ago, but her personality is as clear to me as on that particular day. She was incredibly vibrant, an absolutely vital person. Everyone else in the room sort of faded. It was just this incredible personality sitting on the settee. She called me “Dear” straight away. She was attractive, vivacious, beautifully groomed.

Sounds almost as if Diana Biggs is describing a beautiful cat. Perhaps Enid was in the middle of writing
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat and knew that a quick visit next door wouldn’t be too distracting and might even help her muse. That’s ‘muse’ not ‘meows’...

Where did the cat theme of
Disappearing Cat come from? Well, in October 1943 Enid published a book called Bimbo and Topsy. These were animals owned by Gillian and Imogen who crop up all the time in the book, as does their mother, the unnamed Mistress of the house. Bimbo is a Siamese cat as are all the cats kept by Lady Candling in Disappearing Cat. In Bimbo and Topsy, the Siamese gets covered in soot and is not recognised by Topsy who chases him around the garden, until Bimbo falls into a barrel of water and his true colours are revealed. This echoes a major plot element in Disappearing Cat. Dark Queen, the cat that goes missing, has a ring of cream hairs on her long tail. Tupping steals Dark Queen, but by painting a similar ring on another cat’s tail, it is not apparent that the cat is missing until at his chosen time he enters the cat-house and secretly removes the ring of paint using turpentine. The timing of the perceived loss of Dark Queen implicates Tupping’s young assistant Luke. I’m sure that it was a lot easier for Enid to type out the paint and turps business than for anyone to actually do it in practice. But that’s all right. Enid was only telling a story after all, for all it’s allusions to the real world.

Below is the front cover of an edition of
Bimbo and Topsy. I’ve every reason to think that Bimbo looks like Dark Queen, minus cream ring on tail. I haven’t bothered to fully remove the charity shop sticker, say with turpentine. But if I ever do get round to rubbing it off, I’ll apply the turps to the cat’s tail as well in case this is Dark Queen rather than Bimbo, and old Tapping - I mean Tupping (or do I mean Topsy?) - has been trying to pull the wool over our eyes again!

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Bimbo the cat and Topsy the dog are friends in
Bimbo and Topsy, but Topsy does chase the cat from time to time. Buster and Dark Queen do not become pals in Disappearing Cat. Buster chases Dark Queen who usually takes to trees to escape Buster’s attentions. In my opinion, Joseph Abbey has rather too many drawings of Buster and Dark Queen in the original edition. Though, like the one below, they are quite cute.

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Both Bimbo and Topsy were around for a while. In Gillian’s diary for January 14, 1946, she mentions sketching Topsy lying by the fire at Green Hedges. And in
The Story of My Life, which was published in 1951, Enid mentions that Bimbo is still going strong. She also writes:’ I love Siamese cats with their creamy coats, dark brown points and strange, brilliant blue eyes. I bred them for years, and many a time I have had as many as ten or twelve small Siamese kittens racing about, plaguing the life out of Bobs or Sandy. They are most amusing and are really more like dogs than cats.’

So although Enid is writing about a cat-house next door. She herself may have had a cat-house in the grounds of Green Hedges and/or Old Thatch. Barbara Stoney tells us that Enid had her first Siamese cat while at Old Thatch. Was the following photo taken there? The hair style is one that doesn’t crop up in any Green Hedges pictures that I’m aware of. In which case Enid was using a swing seat at Old Thatch, although it is the swing seat at Green Hedges that crops up in many photographs. Anyway, a young Enid has a Siamese cat on her lap. The long gestation process for
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat has begun.

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Below is the cover of the Methuen edition I should have read today. Note that I’ve not reproduced the full wraparound image that Joseph Abbey painted for a reprint edition. My scan is of the first edition wrapper. In fact, it’s the dustcover from Gillian’s own copy of the book which would have been kept at Green Hedges, as I’ll come back to.

Joseph Abbey has chosen to paint the moment when Goon, accompanied by Tupping, was searching the cat-house for clues. Tupping had planted a whistle made by Luke, his assistant, in order to make it look like Luke had stolen the cat. But the Find Outers, knowing that nice Luke couldn’t possibly have stolen the cat, had got rid of the clue, and each of them had planted a false clue instead. Pip provided a peppermint drop, Daisy a blue piece of hair-ribbon, Bets a blue button, Larry a brown shoelace and Fatty two spent matches, one in the cage and one underneath it. What is it that Goon has found in the cover picture? Well, none of the aforementioned objects cos this is one of the places where the version of the book I read this morning has been bowdlerised. In the original text, Fatty drops two cigar butts, not matches. Does it matter? Well, yes it does, because the following funny lines are diluted:

And two cigar-ends, two. Mr Goon felt that if there had been one it would have been easier. Why should a thief stand and smoke two cigars while stealing a cat?

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I must now mention in passing the history of Gillian’s
Disappearing Cat. Her childhood copy ended up in the possession of Darrell Waters Ltd after Enid’s death. At some point Gillian would seem to have gone to the library of the company and retrieved what was obviously her own personal property. As a child she signed it ‘G. Darrell Waters’ on the front endpaper, adding the double underline that was omnipresent in her mother’s signature. Obviously she was within her rights to repossess the book:

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Perhaps it was Gillian who removed the two stickers that someone associated with Darrell Waters Limited had placed on the spine of the dustcover. If so, I only wish she had used turpentine or some other solvent, as Tupping did. Just looking at the white patch on the front cover of what was Gillian’s no-doubt treasured childhood copy of the book makes me feel physically ill. Pass the smelling salts, Fatty!

Talking of Fatty, he’s hiding in the branches of a tree overlooking the cat-house when Goon gathers up the false clues and puts them in an envelope. And so Fatty hears Goon deliver the immortal line, referring to the boy Luke and revealing his own first name for the very first time:
’If I don’t force a confession out of him, my name’s not Theophilus Goon’. Well, I have argued that the Find-Outers series, and Goon in particular, was, in part, Enid’s revenge on her first husband, Hugh Pollock, but in Dispappearing Cat her primary target was Old Tapping. Are you trimble/trembling in your boots Tappers? (No, I must remember that seventy years has passed between Enid’s writing of the book and this analysis of it.) Are you turning/churning in your grave?

But I need to introduce Tupping properly. And the best way to do that is to transcribe the scene at the beginning of chapter five, one that has been heavily pruned for modern child readership (only the sentences in black survive, those in green have been lopped). In this scene, Tupping has climbed the wall from Lady Candling’s garden and has entered the garden of the Hilton’s where Bets is sitting alone:

Bets was horrified. She couldn’t even get up and run away. She looked round for Buster, but he wasn’t there. She stared in fright at Mr Tupping, who came towards her with a red and angry face.
‘You the little girl who came into my garden yesterday?’ he said.
Bets nodded. She couldn’t say a word.

‘Did you take my strawberry runners?’ asked Mr Tupping, even more fiercely.
Still Bets couldn’t say a word. She nodded again, her face very white. Surely, surely, it hadn’t been wrong to have those strawberry runners! She had planted them carefully in her little garden, and had watered them well. They were hers now. They would have been thrown away and burnt.
Mr Tupping put out his hand and jerked the frightened little girl to her feet. ‘You show me where you put them,’ he said.
‘Let me go,’ said Bets, finding her tongue at last. ‘I’ll tell Mummy about you!’
‘You tell her if you like,’ said Mr Tupping. ‘And I’ll tell Mr Goon the policeman, see? I’ll tell him you took the strawberry runners and he’ll put you and Luke into prison!’
‘They don’t put little girls into prison,’ sobbed Bets. But her heart went cold at the thought of Luke going to prison.
‘Where’s them strawberry runners?’ demanded Mr Tupping.
Bets led him up to her garden. As soon as Mr Tupping saw the neatly-planted, well-watered little strawberry plants he bent down and wrenched every one of them up. He tore them up into tiny pieces and threw them onto the bonfire that was smouldering nearby. Bets sobbed bitterly. Poor little strawberry plants!
‘You’re a bad girl,’ said Mr Tupping. ‘And I’ll tell you this - if you come into my garden again, I’ll go straight to Mr Goon the policeman. Great friend of mine, he is, and he’ll be along to see your father before you can say “Jack Robinson”. As for that Luke - well, he’ll end up in prison, no doubt about that.

At 8-years old, Bets is the same age as Imogen was in 1943 when Enid wrote her first Mystery. However even in 1946, when Gillian was 15, she was making diary entries which mention her garden at Green Hedges and these remind me of Bets intimate relationship with her little garden:

April 14, 1946
Today summer time started. I weeded half my garden and raked it.

April 17, 1946
After tea I weeded my garden. It has really started to look nice now.

April 24, 1946
I planted my vegetable seeds and my [?] stock and my Nasturtiums. I put the Bird Bath and a stone rabbit in my garden.

April 26, 1946
At 11.0 I went out and planted my seeds. In the afternoon I weeded one path and put all the stone edges straight. After tea I went out and clipped the grass edges round my garden. I also tidied the edges and raked my gooseberry bed.

April 28, 1946
In the morning I mowed the lawn round my garden and helped Daddy cut down a tree. I played with Imp then went out and gardened. After I read, gardened and listened to ‘Just William’.


I can’t help wondering if Old Tapping had a run-in with Gillian at one time and whether Enid got to hear about it. Perhaps that would explain the fury that is directed towards Mr Tupping in Disappearing Cat. Enid really does lay in to the poor guy. As this evocative illustration suggests:

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OK, back to the story. The kids go next door to see the cats and Tupping gives them a hard time. Dark Queen gets stolen and Luke is blamed. Luke disappears and the Find-Outers take their bikes and go and look for him among the circus folk in Farring. Farring is not a real place-name, but Enid may be referring to Farnham, close to the Burnham that she mentions in
Burnt Cottage. I say that because it’s clear that they come back in to Peterswood/Bourne End from the east. First, Larry and Daisy say goodnight at the corner of the road where they live. Then Fatty jumps off his bike as he gets to the house that the Trottevilles have bought since the first book (though the location of this White House is not gone into in any more detail and virtually nothing happens there over and above Fatty making a phone call). Then Pip and Bets ride off down their lane.

That night, Pip and Bets realise that there is someone in their garden. It’s Luke and they put him up in the summerhouse by taking the mattress off the swing seat. A swing seat like the one that Enid sits on when she is typing in the garden at Green Hedges? Yes, the merging of Green Hedges and the Red House continues.

From his own home, Fatty phones the Inspector and arranges a picnic by the river. the Inspector parks his car in Pip and Bets garage and he and the Find-Outers go down to the river to eat and talk. Goon comes across the party and makes a fool of himself. The inspector is taken back to the Hilton garden and he interviews Luke sympathetically. Then, guess what? Dark Queen turns up looking thin and dishevelled. The cat is returned to the cat-house in Lady Candling’s garden. Miss Harmer, who is employed to look after the cats comments: ‘I think she must have escaped from whoever had her and made her way home - for miles probably - through the fields and woods.’

I can’t resist returning to the map I used in the ‘Bourne End Forever’ introduction, showing Green Hedges as a starting point and a house on Coldmoorholme Lane as the finishing point. That time I meant Old Thatch on the lane. This time I mean the Red House, a little further north.

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Yes, indeed, Bimbo has been looked after by Enid at Green Hedges, and whenever it’s suited her purpose she has typed the name Dark Queen and sent it back to Bourne End cum Peterswood.

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What happens next? Dark Queen is stolen again and in identical fashion. That is, she disappears on a day that Mis Harmer is not around and where it appears that only the forgiven and re-employed Luke could possibly have taken her. But this time the Find-Outers are up to Tupping’s tricks. Bets notices that there is the same smell of turpentine that was there in the cat-house the previous time. With Buster’s help, a tin of cream-coloured paint and a can of turps are traced to a hole in the ground. Then Fatty and Bets go into the cat-house and work out that the smell of turps is coming from the tail of a large cat. See them in the act of sniffing around the back end of a Siamese! Ah yes, the distinct
eaudour of turpentine. What a poo!

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Fatty now knows exactly how Tupping stole Dark Queen and he presents his findings to everyone sitting in the drawing room of Lady Candling’s house. The Inspector is impressed. Goon is humiliated. And Tupping is carted off to jail. Put in prison for stealing a cat? You get the feeling that he got off lightly, if Enid had got her way Tupping would have swung for his crimes!

As for the Dark Queen herself, there she sits by the reading girl at Green Hedges, quietly purring in self-satisfaction, if I’m not mistaken.

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Actually, I prefer the following photograph of the Dark Queen, sitting in the loggia at Green Hedges. Not so much a Siamese cat, more a lioness surrounded by the cubs that she is so proud and protective of. I imagine that not far away lies the bloodied corpse of Old Tapping. Near his decimated body can be seen a peppermint drop, some strawberry runners, a scattering of Nasturtium seeds and two typewriter ribbons.
Two typewriter ribbons, two. Now why should a lioness get through two typewriter ribbons while tearing apart a jobbing gardener?

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Acknowledgements: Internal illustrations from the original Methuen edition of The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat are taken from the Cave of Books on the Enid Blyton Society website, which is the work of Tony Summerfield. Thanks to Eljay and Redlionweb of the Enid Blyton Society for their contributions. Thanks to Google for not very much this time around, more gratitude next time.

Note: If any copyright holder wishes an image to be removed from this page then they should contact me and I will do as they ask.