I read this book when I was a child. Let's say in 1968, when the above cover was in print. I read it again when I was researching
Looking For Enid in 2006. And I read it a third time for the first version of this essay which was posted in 2012. Now it's 2019, I'm 62, and I'm finding that there is so much more to the story than I'd previously thought. Looks like this book will be with me for life.

Life - there's the rub. When Enid Blyton sat down and closed her eyes for a few minutes in preparation for writing this book, several things in her then life seem to have been swirling around in her mind. Not the same things that were uppermost in her mind when she sat down to write
The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage. That first Mystery was published in December 1943. She'd got divorced from Hugh Pollock in August of that year leaving her free to marry Kenneth Darrell Waters in October. By writing the story of The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage, say in the summer of 1943, she was - as I've tried to show in the corresponding essay - disposing of that first marriage. And having done so she could move on. (Book three in the series would put the lie to that, but it's important to do this analysis one book at time, and chronologically.)

The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat was published just six months after the first, on July 13, 1944. Although her diaries of this time do not survive (thank-you for nothing, Kenneth Darrell Waters), I've been able to piece together what I understand to be the pertinent facts.

Geographically, this book is simpler than the first one. Most of the action takes place in the garden of the Hiltons’ house - Pip' and Bets' place - and the garden next door to it. For sure, Enid is really thinking about the garden of her own house, Green Hedges, in Beaconsfield, three miles from Bourne End, the real village which is the effective setting for most of the series. Is Peterswood not Bourne End in
Mystery of Disappearing Cat then? Yes, but it plays a subsidiary role, which I'll illustrate in a minute.

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, aka 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. The limits of the grounds are marked in mauve.


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 he was sacked for stealing vegetables.

Screen shot 2012-07-27 at 21.58.59

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. (How brilliant and subtle is that!)

Disappearing Cat, the gardener works 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, she was probably 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.

The next image shows how Enid effectively transposed Green Hedges (see the square patch towards the left-middle) onto a map of Bourne End (the two blue tacks are the police station and the Daykins' house). The Hiltons' house in Peterswood is the Blyton house in Beaconsfield transferred to Bourne End. Not sure that's clear or convincing, but I'll go into it a bit more when we come to the relevant part of the book.


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 - according to Enid's daughter, Imogen, in A Childhood at Green Hedges - 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 adults and children where there had been no such thing 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. The Find-Outers are up and over the wall that separates the Hilton garden from the Candling garden in just about every chapter of Disappearing Cat.

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’.

Just how similar certain aspects of The Boy Next Door are to The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat has to be emphasised. And one way to do this is to place the opening page of each book together. So, see below. First, The Boy Next Door, featuring Betty waiting for her brother to get home from school in the summer, plus her cousin. Then The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat which kicks off with Bets waiting for her brother to get home from school for the summer hols, plus Larry and Daisy.


In The Boy Next Door, said boy is the clever and adventurous Kit. In Disappearing Cat, the boy next door is gentle, good-hearted Luke, a very different lad, but a similar structure is created.

In other words, Enid is so struck by the comings and goings between Green Hedges and Upton Leigh, with new children appearing in the garden and her own children coming back with tales from the other side of the hedge (Imogen was particularly excited by the appearance of these new friends), that she was inspired to write two full-length books in close succession about the scenario.


You might think that the above could also be Daisy, Pip and Bets looking over the wall from the Hilton garden to the one next door. But that's not how it's done in Disappearing Cat. In the first place, Larry gets up onto large flowerpot in order to look next door. And when climbing over the wall, the Find-Outers don't seem to make use of a handy tree on either side, instead they help each other over.

Another thing to point out (which I've only just realised) is that
The Boy Next Door was serialised in Sunny Stories. The first chapter was published in February 1943, which means the whole book was written by then even though it didn't appear as a complete book published by Newnes until April or May of 1944. In other words there is no neat pattern of late 1943 events at Green Hedges directly and immediately inspiring two great novels. But that's not to say there wouldn't be a pattern. It's just such a shame that the diaries are lost. The putting together of Enid's life and the Mystery series is a rewarding process, but some important data is missing.

Let me emphasise how unfortunate Enid Blyton has been in the investigation of her writing process and her literary prowess:

1) Kenneth Darrel Waters, her husband, destroying the diaries, which, on the basis of the extant 1937 to 1940 diary, would have been littered with crucial little facts about what was written and when. See the essay
here about that.

2) Barbara Stoney, her official biographer, being interested in Enid Blyton the person and Enid Blyton the writer, and interesting and insightful about both, but doing little to connect up the two. Stoney wrote a few other biographies, none of them about writers.

3) Tony Summerfield, her bibliographer and head of the official Enid Blyton Society, being a completist in terms of Enid's output (re which he has done a superb job), but less interested in attempts to link her life and her work. Tony is no admirer of what he calls 'speculation'.

Which is why this kind of essay is needed if Enid is not to spend another fifty years being written off as somehow shallow, politically incorrect and freakish, little more than a spider spinning stories for the sake of it. In fact, she wrote from the centre of her life.

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 her daughters, Gillian and Imogen, who crop up all the time in the book.


The unnamed mother crops up all the time as well. Any relation to Enid? Well, obviously. And I think Lucy Gee, the illustrator, has captured her main qualities in the book's frontispiece (see below). Let's repeat Diana Biggs's recollection about Enid of this era: 'She was incredibly vibrant, an absolutely vital person.'


Bimbo is a Siamese cat, as are all the cats kept by Lady Candling in
Mystery of the 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, for all its allusions to the real world.

The pets, 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 was 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 in
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat, Enid is writing about a cat-house next door. She herself may have had a cat-house (she did have a hen-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.


A Siamese cat began to pay an important role in Enid's writing life in 1940. Sunny Stories had long began with a letter from Enid, but now she ended each weekly magazine with a page ostensibly written by Bimbo. Here is the first one, from June of that year.


I love that first sentence. 'I must be the most important cat in the world - because I'm going to write you a letter each week.' In fact the most important cat in the world, by that measure, was Enid Blyton, who was writing Sunny Stories every week plus all the books. Have a quick check of the image that heads this essay. How's that for an evocative illustration of the sentence I've just said I love!

For a couple of years, Bimbo contributed the end letter to every single issue of
Sunny Stories, that's more than a hundred such letters. After that, Bimbo alternated with Topsy to provide the end-letter. In Topsy's letters, the little dog would often be referring to Bimbo. So it shows how important a Siamese cat was in Enid's writing life leading up to and through the whole period in which Mystery of the Disappearing Cat could have been written. And, yes, as the sample letter above suggests, the cat found ways of disappearing! Bimbo's tail came in for a lot of adventures as well, but I'll save one or two of these until I get to the relevant chapter in the book, which in the photo below Enid has not written yet but is just beginning to turn her mind to it.

Enid: "What is the second Mystery going to be about my Bimbo? Something that the boys and girls will love reading about."


Enid: "Well, Bimbo. I think we both know what my next book is going to be about. It's going to be about the most beautiful creature in the world. That same creature that brings sponges all the way from the bathroom into the hall in order to tempt me with them."


Right, after that lengthy introduction, emphasising the importance of both the neighbouring garden and the Siamese cat motif, we can see how The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat was a celebration of Enid's domestic life at Green Hedges: her children, her pets, her garden. This being in contrast to the equally impressive achievement of The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage, which was a lament for the loss of her first marriage and family life at Old Thatch, the blame for which she put down, fairly and squarely, to her first husband, Hugh.

Let's now go through the
Disappearing Cat chapter-by-chapter. In other words we're going from what was effectively swirling around Enid's sub-conscious - being licked into shape by what she called her under-mind - to what spilled out onto the paper she was typing on when she let the sluice gates open as only she could.



Bets is excited. It's the summer holidays. Pip comes back and tells Bets that Fatty’s family are coming to stay in Peterswood. Next day, Larry and Daisy arrive and join Pip and Bets as do Buster and Fatty. Bets tells them that the house next door is occupied after having been empty for a couple of years. Lady Candling, the owner, has many Siamese cats, and in the garden there is a big boy who whistles. Larry hops on a big flower pot, looks over the wall and meets Luke, the gardener’s young assistant. The F-Os are invited over to see the cats the following afternoon.

Although in this opening chapter we are told that Fatty has moved to 'White House', not far from Pip and Bets, this information is not really made use of in the book. It will be in subsequent books, but the Hilton (Blyton?) household is very much the centre of operation, with only the odd allusion to Larry and Daisy's home being elsewhere in the village.

Next afternoon, the children go over the wall for the first time. Introductions are made. Luke has a harsh step-father and lives by the river. Miss Harmer is in charge of the cats which are kept in a green-painted building beyond the rose garden. Dark Queen’s tail has a pale ring on it. Dark Queen is taken out of the cage to be admired but she runs away when Buster appears. It's at this point that Old Tupping turns up, angry that children and a strange dog are in his garden. He doesn’t like the cats either. Enid describes him as follows:
'He was an ugly, bad-tempered looking fellow, with straw-coloured hair streaked with grey. Dirt was in all his wrinkles, and the children didn't like the look of him at all.' Buster gets locked up in a shed. Find-Outers go back over the wall. Except Bets, who is left stranded.

I'll pause here to demonstrate that this is the chapter in the book that illustrators have made hay with. In particular the dog-chasing-cat scenario. First, Joseph Abbey…

Joseph Abbey Illustration

Joseph Abbey was commissioned to draw nine illustrations for the 1944 edition. The only other person to illustrate the book was Mary Gernat, whose four images adorn paperbacks published between 1966 and 1997. I'm not counting the Rodney Sutton illustrations that appeared in a 1991 edition for Armada, as these were close copies of those of Mary Gernat.

Gerant's illustrations are precious as she liked drawing the Find-Outers and did so in a fluent way.

Mary Gernat Illustration

It's this cat-chasing scenario that provides the inspiration for a cracking 2003 cover of Disappearing Cat created by Jason Ford. All of his covers suggest that the Find-Outers operate in a world that is not flat, but circular. Which I think is appropriate to the fluidity and three-dimensionality of both Enid's creativity in general and her Peterswood creation in particular.


And then, in the same chapter occurs the dog handling incident. Tupping mistreating Fatty's lovely Buster.

Joseph Abbey Illustration followed by Mary Gernat illustration.

Enough. Time to get back to the text…

Bets, still in the garden next door, chances upon Dark Queen up a tree and listens to the commotion of Tupping and the others. Tupping drags Luke by the ear and gives him a slap. Bets is in tears. When the coast is clear, Bets comes to Luke and Dark Queen is put back in the cage. Luke helps Bets over the wall. Luke bravely lets Buster out of the shed using the key from Tupping’s jacket pocket. Buster gets lost on his way out of the garden and is soon being chased again by Tupping. But the Scottie does make it back to Pip’s garden. At 7pm Luke is finished work and the children go to the front gate to thank him for what he’s done.

Luke makes a model wooden cat for Bets. He admires her little garden and invites her over the next day to get strawberry runners which are going spare. Bets meets Miss Trimble/Tremble. The next day Trimble tells Tupping that Bets was there. Furious, Tupping asks Luke about this.

Joseph Abbey Illustration

And when he receives confirmation of Bets' trespass, he heads straight for the wall. Up and over…

…Tupping destroys the newly planted strawberry plants and viciously scolds Bets. Buster has a go at Tupping who is forced to retreat back over wall. The other Find-Outers return and console Bets. They all talk to Luke at the end of his working day. Then Goon turns up and Buster has a go at his ankles. Tupping hears this and tells Goon that the dog attacked him. Goon makes a note but won’t do anything about it as the children have been in favour with the inspector since solving the burnt cottage mystery.

Right, we need to pause at this point to go into this garden business. To find out what's happening sub-text.

Bets garden is described by Enid in
Disappearing Cat as follows: 'It was a funny little garden, done nay Bets herself. It had one old rose tree in it, tiny gooseberry bush, some Virginian stock, a few red snapdragons, and some Shirley poppies.'

In A Childhood at Green Hedges, Imogen tells us about Green Hedges. 'The place that my mother chose for our own childish gardens was a big flower-bed beside the sandpit and swing. I remember it now especially for lupins. In her patch my sister successfully planted and grew candytuft and cornflowers, love-in-the-mist and Virginia stocks. I was not so successful.'

Given that in 1943, when Enid was writing Disappearing cat, Gillian was 12 and Imogen was 8, you might think it would be 12-year-old Daisy that was given the garden rather than 8-year-old Bets. But Enid had split the girls up in order to give them each a brother, and it was the 8-year-old that was located in the main Hilton/Blyton household.

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 Virginia 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’.

Isn't that sweet? So when Old Tupping sets about the child's garden, it is truly horrible thing to do. In Disappearing Cat, it's a scene that has been heavily pruned for modern child readership (only the sentences in black survive, those in green have been lopped off by an editor). Here is what actually happens when Tupping invades the Hilton garden and finds Bets 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.

The attack on an 8-year-old girl, symbol of Imogen. The destruction of a lovingly kept garden, like the one created by Gillian. How on earth did Old Tupping/Tapping think he was going to get away with that! Indeed, let Old Tupping/Tapping trimble/tremble, for he was not going to get away with it. A furious Mother Enid - the enraged Dark Queen herself - would see to that.

One morning, the F-Os are playing Red Indians in Pip’s garden. And in the afternoon they picnic in the garden while Mrs Hilton is at tea with Lady Candling. Mrs Hilton reports back that Black Queen has disappeared and that Luke may have stolen her. Miss Trimble and Lady Candling were shown the Siamese cat at 1pm. Tupping was out then. Lady Candling showed Dark Queen to Mrs Hilton at 4pm. Tupping came back at 5pm to show Goon the cat, but it was missing. The suggestion is that she was taken by Luke between 4 and 5pm as he was the only person near the cat-house between 4 and 5pm. The Find-Outers don't believe Luke would ever have stolen the cat. They decide to investigate and draw up a list of suspects. But where is Luke?

Pip, in the pretence that his mother has left a glove, goes next door to try and find Luke. He is in the garden being interviewed by Goon in presence of Lady C., Miss T., and Old Tupping.

Joseph Abbey Illustration

Luke is being given a very bad time. As people disperse, Tupping spots Pip.

Mary Gernat Illustration

Lady Candling saves Pip from a manhandling, since he’s the son of her new friend, Mrs Hilton, and tells Tupping that the children can come into the garden when they want. Pip hears that Goon plans to return to the cat-house to look for clues. Pip goes back over the wall.

Pip briefs the F-Os. They go over the wall and explore the scene. The cat-house consists of
‘strongly built wooden houses set high on stout wooden legs, rather like modern hen-houses.’ They are covered with wire-netting. A wooden whistle carved by Luke is lying on the ground inside the cage. The Find-Outers retrieve the whistle thanks to Fatty’s ideas and skills. Bets smells turpentine, an observation that Enid will come back to. Pip has the idea of putting false clues into the cage. He provides a peppermint drop. Daisy comes up with an old hair ribbon. Bets provides a blue button from her doll, Larry a brown shoelace and Fatty two cigar ends, which he apparently collects so that he has an adult smell about him!

Fatty fills an envelope with a duplicate of the ‘clues’ in case he has to prove that they're fake later. Then it's bedtime for Pip and Bets. Larry and Daisy go home too. Fatty waits and climbs a tree to hear what happens when Goon turns up. The clues excite Goon. Speaking to Tupping of Luke, he says:
“If I don’t force a confession out of him, my name’s not Theophilus Goon.’ The clues also puzzle Goon. He asks himself: ‘Why should a thief stand and smoke two cigars while stealing a cat?’

It’s obvious that Tupping was expecting there to be a whistle found in the cat house, but Fatty doesn’t make that deduction. It’s obvious that Enid had it in mind. Obvious too that the duplicate envelope of clues is setting up something for later.

Below is the cover of the Methuen edition, a wraparound cover that wasn't used in 1944, for the first edition, but for the 1950 reprint.


Joseph Abbey has chosen to paint the moment when Goon, accompanied by Tupping, was searching the cat-house for clues. Fatty finds it funny when Goon says:
"Judging by these here clues, the thief ought by rights to be someone that smokes cigars, wears blue hair-ribbons and blue buttons, sucks peppermint drops and has brown laces in his shoes. It don't make sense."

Probably one of those times that Enid found herself laughing as she typed. Fatty laughing. Enid laughing. Generations of children laughing.

Next morning, Fatty tells the rest what he saw and heard. Luke is not at work, so Pip and Bets go to see Lady Candling. First, they have to get through a long conversation with their suspicious mother who is not used to them wanting to wear clean clothes and making house calls. In next door's garden, they talk with the maid, then Miss Trimble, then Miss Harmer who tells them that she had whole day off (home to Langston) because Tupping volunteered to fill in for her.

Joseph Abbey Illustration

There is mention of Luke’s friend, Jake, who works at a circus in the next town, Farring.

Pip and Bet go to Larry and Daisy’s for tea. They cycle off to Farring and the older ones go round the circus and find Jake, who is an adult. But its Bets who spots Luke in a caravan.

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.

Luke tells Bets that he’s run away from his step-father. Bets then tells the others and they all speak to Luke. But Goon interrupts. They cycle back from Farring to Peterswood, Larry and Daisy getting to their houses first. That night, Pip and Bets are woken by Luke’s whistle from garden.

Luke has had to leave the circus because of Goon’s accusations. He needs food and shelter, which he gets in the summer-house. Next morning Pip and Bets steal sausage from the breakfast table for Luke. Then the others arrive. They show Luke the whistle. Luke does gardening during the three days he spends there. Then things begin to happen again.

Joseph Abbey Illustration followed by Mary Gernat illustration

In this chapter we get brief glimpse into the Hilton household at the breakfast table. Mrs Hilton plays it straight (no clue that it's really Mrs Blyton). She is surprised that Bets hacks off a thick slice of bread and that Pip and Bets both want two sausages as well as their porridge. As for Mr Hilton, he doesn't see the kids wrapping up a sausage each because he's hidden behind his newspaper. In A Childhood at Green Hedges, Imogen recalls being beaten by Enid while her father (Hugh) read the newspaper.

I shouldn't make too much of this. Enid is restrained when it comes Mr and Mrs Hilton. However, if you read the Mysteries in the order they were written, it's obvious that the Hilton household is very much 'home base'. The Dawkins house is not one-tenth as important. And Fatty is not truly located in Peterswood until several books into the series.

Mrs Hilton is delighted at the state of her garden, not realising that Luke is working on it when he's not hiding in the summer-house. Goon talks to Fatty about Luke’s possible whereabouts. Fatty phones Inspector Jenks to ask his advice and a picnic date is set for 4pm the next day, down by the river. (The inspector talks about ‘your lane’ on the phone to Fatty, remembering the locale from the burnt cottage case.)

Friendly picnic first, then a serious chat with the inspector who gives his advice. Goon blunders in on things and is humiliated when he presents his envelope of clues only for Fatty to show his own envelope containing exactly the same items!

All go to Pip’s garden and the Inspector talks to Luke. Goon is instructed to make sure that Luke's stepfather and Tupping treat the boy well. Then Dark Queen turns up in PIp’s garden. Buster chases her up a tree…

Joseph Abbey Illustration

…but Buster is locked up long enough for Daisy to get the cat. Dark Queen, thin and dishevelled, 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.

Screen shot 2012-07-16 at 12.16.12

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 the Red House, Bourne End cum Peterswood.

Everyone (except Tupping) is pleased to see Dark Queen back. Though that takes us back to square one. No mystery!

Exactly the same thing happens again - Dark Queen is stolen when only Luke is around the cat-house. Miss Harmer is away again. Tupping is with Lady Candling when the discovery is made. Bets counts seven cats. They find one of Luke's carved whistles, as before. And as before there is that smell of turps.

The children think about it overnight. Next day, Bets insists the smell must be a clue. So they look for a turps bottle. Luke helps, but Fatty and Pip have to go over the wall again and get Buster to smell Pip’s turps before Buster finds what they're looking for buried in a hole with a pot of cream paint.

Joseph Abbey Illustration

The children return to Pip’s garden. Bets suggests they find out exactly where the smell of turps is in the cat house. So back over the wall. (I must point out that the phrase 'over the wall' crops up more than thirty times in the book.) First, they have to get the key to the cat-house. Daisy distracts Miss Harmer allowing Pip to get the key from her coat hanging up in greenhouse. Fatty and Bets go into the cat-house and identify that the turps smell is coming from a cat’s tail.

Joseph Abbey Illustration

You could say that Enid Blyton was obsessed with Siamese cat's tails. Here is a relevant page from Sunny Stories, from May 1941.


There are several more tail-featuring letters. And here is a distinctly odd one, from a couple of months later.


You get the idea that Enid was interested in the tail of her Siamese cat. She must have been so pleased to introduce it so effectively into the climax of one of her Mystery books.

Tupping sees the children come out of cat-house and goes off to tell Goon. The Find-Outers climb over the wall and go into summer-house. Bets suggests the cat may have got paint on it which was cleaned off with turps. Fatty realises the significance of this. Together they put together what Old Tupping did. Tupping turped the cat in order to remove cream paint that he had applied to the tail. They have to go back over wall to return the key of the cat-house. In doing so, they enter a shed where Tupping keeps his things and come across a hanky smelling of turps and wellington boots spotted with cream paint. I have to say, Tupping was as sloppy worker.

Below is the front cover of an edition of
Bimbo and Topsy. I’ve every reason to think that Bimbo looked like Dark Queen, minus cream ring on tail. I haven’t bothered to fully remove the white, 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 - has been trying to pull the wool over our eyes again by applying dark brown paint over the cream ring of hairs on the cat's tail. A variation on his old trick!


Fatty phones Inspector Jenks. A meeting is made for an our’s time at Lady Candling’s. In the drawing room, Fatty take control as he explains what has happened. Tupping is exposed as a thief, bully and coward. Goon is angry that Tupping used him, but he feels humiliated as well.

In the denouement to
Burnt Cottage, Fatty takes a less leading role, with the inspector confronting Hick off-stage, as it were. So this is a development, Fatty is becoming more prominent, although Larry is still ostensibly leader of the Find-Outers on account of being the oldest.

The Dark Queen has finished typing her brilliant book. Here she is 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 corpse of Old Tapping. Near his bloodied 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 bad-tempered old sod of a gardener?


The answer to that is provided by the typescript of
The Mystery of Holly Lane. Enid typed that later story with a ribbon that wasn't new, starting each chapter with its Roman numeral. Then she changed to a crisp new ribbon and went through the book giving each chapter a name as she read over the typescript. Chapter by chapter then, this time around:


What does it all add up to? Well, according to Hachette/Hodder in 2016, this cool cat of a cover courtesy of Timothy Banks, which I think of as Beauty (Dark Queen), Brains (Fatty) and the Beast (Tupping).


Funny cat-house though. More of a bird-cage. And you might be wondering about a detail on the left. A white splurge of something on a smooth grey pebble. (Tupping hasn't done something truly horrid in the garden of Enid has he, in lieu of working?) I didn't mention it in my chapter-by-chapter summary, but in chapter 17, after the second disappearance, Daisy points out a little round blob of paint on a stone beside the path. They wonder if it's a clue and Fatty puts the stone in his pocket. Then when Buster finds the tin of paint stuffed down a hole in the ground, Fatty can confirm that it's the same colour as the creamy blob of paint on the stone.

I think the artist has picked up on the insistent materiality of Enid's vision. The story is full of excitement, humour, plot. It's full of all sorts of domestic trivia and physical objects as well. No detail is irrelevant. The universe is in each blade of grass, each blob of paint, each inch of wall. There is no such thing as a false clue when it comes to tracking down and becoming immersed in life itself.


The book was published in July, 1944. This is the cover of Gillian's actual copy.


I imagine Gillian reading it in or around Green Hedges that summer of its publication.

Enid had married Kenneth Darrell Waters in October 1943, and in due course Gillian and Imogen took on their step-father's name. Gillian signed her own copy of The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat in the following way:


Imogen notes in A Childhood at Green Hedges, that Gillian's name was changed by the summer of 1945, so that when she went to Benenden for the first time it was as Gillian Darrell Waters. And of course when Enid came to begin the Malory Towers series a few months later, the main character was called Darrell Rivers.

So either Gillian didn't sign this book until a year after its publication, or the name-change came a year before Imogen reckons.

Why the two strokes under the 'e' in Darrell? E is for Enid. Gillian's brilliant mother who signed her name with two strokes under the gap between 'Enid' and 'Blyton'.

I imagine, in that summer long ago, Gillian thinking about the scene where Goon is searching the cat-house, finding false clues, and saying to Tupping:
'If I don't force a confession out of him, my name's not Theophilus Goon.'

Moreover, I imagine Gillian asking her mother about this and Enid telling her. "Well, I called my policeman 'Goon' in the first Mystery. And just as it's the Christian name of children that comes to my under-mind - but I have to use a telephone directory or some such device to come up with the surname - so with adults it's often the opposite way around. 'Goon' came via my under-mind, but I had to consciously think about his first name. And I came up with 'Theophilus', because that allowed me to get anagrams involving 'Hugh' out of the whole name.

Gillian knew all about her mother's interest in anagrams. Imogen tells us that Enid did the prize crossword in the
Daily Telegraph every weekend. And in Gillian's diary for 1950, she mentions having helped her mother with anagrams no less than three times in a single day.

"So let me get this straight, Mother. The gardener's name is Tupping, not
Tapping. Tapping is the name of our gardener that you hated and who now works in the garden at the bottom of ours. But, so that it's understood that you do mean Tapping, not Tupping, you call a character Miss Trimble. Because after Bets calls her Miss Tremble, comes the line:

"My name is Trimble, not Tremble," said Miss Trimble.

"And again on the same page when Bets repeats her mistake.

"My name is Trimble, not Tremble," said Miss Trimble. "Do try and remember."

"And so I conclude, Mother, that the gardener's name is Tapping not Tupping."

"Congratulations, child. Do try and remember."

"Moreover, Mother, this comes a few pages after the fateful words uttered by Goon:
"If I don't force a confession out of him, my name's not Theophilus Goon." Well, if his name isn't 'Theophilus Goon', what is it?"

"'O Hugh spoilt one,' for example. But don't worry too much about that for now, darling. Just wait until the next Mystery."

Below is the whole dust-cover of Gillian's copy of
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat. I would suggest that the book stayed at Green Hedges until Enid's death, then became part of Darrell Waters Ltd's library, at which point stickers were placed on the bottom of the spine. Gillian Darrell Waters' book becomes Darrell Waters Ltd's book!


Perhaps it was Gillian who removed the two stickers that were placed on the dustcover, once she regained possession of the object. (Darrell Waters Ltd's book becomes Gillian Darrell Waters' book again.) 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!

So what does a copy of an early Methuen edition look like without its dustcover? It looks like this:


"I say again: Pass the smelling salts, Fatty."

"When you say, smelling salts, Duncan," says Fatty, suddenly as alive to me in 2019 as he was to Enid seventy-five years ago. "Do you mean one of Pip's peppermint drops?"



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.