Mary Gernat cover of 1969 Armada edition.


Tally-Ho Cottage
is full of mysterious comings and goings. In the cover image above, stick-wielding Fatty (actually, not fat at all) is having his attention drawn by Larry to a fragment of a label where the letters ’nhe’ are still visible. That’s enough to identify Maidenhead (the ’nhe’ are the 6th, 7th and 8th letters), a large town a few miles south of either real-world Bourne End or fictional Peterswood.


Fatty tells his fellow Find-Outers that the crate - in which they think a stolen picture may have been transported - came from Maidenhead. That is, Maidenhead was where the crate was last sent and where it was picked up by the thieves. Do you follow that? It doesn’t matter if you don’t. Many of the movements in this books seem perverse. Stealing a painting, sending it off in a crate, but making the final destination the house you’ve just fled from - what’s that all about?

I suspect that Mary Gernat chose this subject for her cover of 1969 to follow in the footsteps of the original hardback edition published in 1954, which is reproduced below. This is the fourth cover by Treyer Evans, and the fifth Mystery he drew splendid internal illustrations for.

Treyer Evans cover of 1954 Methuen edition.

Look at Buster, jumping from the flames! But it's another dog that steals the Tally-Ho show, as I'll try and demonstrate. And something else makes for a far stronger cover. As you'll see.

But let's take this one step at a time. This Mystery is well worth it.



The story is set in January and starts at Peterswood Station. The Lorenzos, who have been renting a large furnished house by the river, are leaving town. However, they’re not taking away their poodle. Mr Larkin, their servant, takes Mrs Lorenzo’s beloved Poppet from her arms just before she boards the train. There’s a bit of a fracas involving Buster, Poppet and the Lorenzos, who report the Scottie to policeman Goon, all of which distracts the Find-Outers from Fatty’s arrival by train.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1954.

Yes, Fatty’s home from Switzerland where, Enid tells us, he spent Christmas being sporty with his school friends. Hopefully there would still be enough time for a Mystery in what remains of the hols before going back to boarding school!

This is similar to other opening chapters where Fatty has been met at the station. But Enid has managed to introduce us to the Lorenzos, Poppet and Larkin. The man who takes charge of the poodle is not in the above Treyer Evans illustration, he is described by Enid as follows:
'Larkin was a queer looking fellow, who stooped as he walked, and dragged one leg behind him in a limp. He looked fat and shapeless in an old and voluminous overcoat, and had a scarf round the bottom part of his face and an old cap over his eyes. He carried Poppet in his arms.'


On the way back home from the station, the Find-Outers hide in a roadside hut and Fatty is brought up to date with how Buster has been in his absence - a very well-behaved dog. Then the next day in his shed, Fatty tells the Find-Outers about impersonating a new French master and ski-ing in Switzerland, a lively process that is interrupted by Mrs Trotteville coming to tell Fatty that Constable Goon is on the phone and wants a word.


Goon wants to see Fatty about the complaint made against Buster, but Fatty hangs up. The Find-Outers go down by the river where they feed swans and spot Poppet, the dog that was at the station. They note also a nearby cottage, clearly occupied, where the poodle stays, and the big house, seemingly empty, in whose grounds the cottage stands. There is a confrontation with the dog's keeper when Bob Larkin (called out to by his wife) ill-treats Poppet. Mrs Larkin is described in the following terms:
'A woman now came into sight, very thin, wearing a draggled skirt and a dull red shawl wrapped tightly around her. Her hair was so extraordinary that the children gaped to see it. It was obviously a wig, mouse-colour and much too curly - and much too crooked!'


Fatty goes round with Buster and the rest of the Find-Outers to see Goon, but not before his mother has told him about the Lorenzos, out-of-work actors who have rented Tally-Ho House. Apparently, the Lorenzos have been notorious locally for having wild parties, for not paying their bills and for messing about on the river.
‘Midnight bathing in the river and hide-and-seek in the garden afterwards,’ is how Enid describes the goings on.

I should just point out that the Lorenzos are not exactly the villains you love to hate. Perpetrators of a victimless crime, besotted with Poppet, lovers of the high-life and daring actors. Indeed, they are not really the villains of the piece.

While waiting in Goon's parlour, Fatty overhears Goon being briefed about the Lorenzos who are suspected of being thieves of some kind. Fatty embarrasses Goon with this information, and uses it to get Buster out of trouble.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1954.


The next morning the Find-Outers learn from the morning paper that the Lorenzos are suspected of stealing an old picture from a famous gallery (presumably in London, 20 miles away). Fatty phones up the Inspector and gets permission to keep an eye on things, though he is not allowed to interview the Larkins. At Larry's, at 11.30, the Find-Outers wonder how they can keep an eye on the Larkins' place, the house being quite far from where they all live.


Ern turns up during the meeting at Larry's. Goon's nephew presents Fatty with a table he's made using the carpentry skills picked up at school the previous term.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1954.

As it happens, Ern is staying with his relatives (another uncle and aunt) at the cottage attached to High Chimneys, next door to Tally-Ho House, and can keep an eye on Tally-Ho Cottage from there. (Clever of Enid's under-mind to come up with that.) Bets wants Ern to report if the Larkins are cruel to little Poppet.


The Find-Outers base in this book is mostly Fatty’s shed, though that last meeting was at Larry and Daisy's house. Several times Fatty and co. make their way to Tally-Ho House on the river. On the map that follows I’ve marked their route from his house to the river in green. But I’ve let that be subsumed by Enid Blyton’s own route in the 1930s, from Old Thatch to the riverside walk, which is marked in red. You must imagine Enid and the Find-Outers walking the rest of the way, due south,
en masse, with the author striding out in front, leading the way.


Does this help find Tally-Ho House? Well, we do get there in the end (as you see from the yellow house symbol, bottom right of the above map), but a bit of map-morphing is required. The trouble is, the riverside path stops at Wharf Lane, before you even get to the railway bridge. In that first stretch there are a few properties by the river, but, as you can see from the aerial view below, they are small places with no road connection, because the railway runs just behind them, parallel to the river and to the riverside path (marked in red), cutting them off from the road network. Possibly this part of the riverside walk could have put Tally-Ho cottage and Ern’s aunt’s cottage in Enid’s mind, but not Tally-Ho House or High Chimneys.

Screen shot 2012-08-27 at 18.40.27

But how about if Enid - by 1954 sitting three miles away in Green Hedges, Beaconsfield, remember - simply projected the riverside path to carry on south of the railway bridge? That’s what I’ve done with the help of Google, and after a bit of walking (actually, the Find-Outers and Goon sometimes prefer to cycle to Tally-Ho House) you get to the lovely neck of the river shown below. Each of the houses has a drive, or a private road, that opens onto the lane called Riversdale.

Screen shot 2012-08-27 at 17.53.02

I thought it would be good to know what some of these riverside properties looked like. So I did what Fatty repeatedly does in the Mysteries, I consulted a local estate agent. From them I found out that a house called Toad Hall is currently for sale. Not a bad synonym for Tally-Ho House! In fact, if Toad doesn’t use the tally-ho expression when routing the weasels in the last chapter of
Wind in the Willows, then he should do! Of course, I don’t know how long this house has been called Toad Hall. Could the name go all the way back to the Thirties, when Enid was living in Bourne End? Or to the Fifties when she was concocting this tale?


Below is a view from the front garden of Toad Hall/Tally-Ho. The boathouse that crops up later in the Mystery is to the right. Plenty room for a hypothetical cottage to the left, you’ll note. Perfect for wild parties and messing about on the river. I’m happy to think that this could be the place that Enid imagined the Lorenzos renting for six months back in the early 1950s. Except these photos were taken in summer while
Tally-Ho is set in winter.


But we also need High Chimneys and the two cottages. So there they are in the aerial shot below, the cottages marked in yellow. Toad Hall, in the shadow of a cloud, is just to the north and west of ‘High Chimneys’. I’ve also marked with a blue tack a tree which overlooks the cottage in the grounds of ‘’Tally-Ho House’.

Screen shot 2012-08-27 at 17.56.37

So bear that in mind as the excitement unfolds.


Ern is staying with his Auntie and Uncle Woosh. Their kids are called Liz and Glad, though for some reason Enid restrains herself from actually calling them Liz Woosh and Glad Woosh in the story. Less is more?

And this is where things get even more exciting. Because I’ve been in touch with Viking Star who owns the Tally-Ho typescript and he’s sent me scans of a few pages from it. Here is Ern's aunt encouraging him into the garden:

Extract from original typescript, courtesy of Viking Star.

Up in the tree, Ern realises that he can smell the smoke from the chimney, it’s so near. His uncouth cousins suggest throwing stones down the chimney, but Ern won’t hear of this as any stones that missed would rattle on the tiles and bring out the Larkins in a fury. Instead, he starts to plan the building of the tree-shed for which his new found carpentry skills will come in handy. Indeed that seems to be why Enid's under-mind came up with the idea of the table as a present from Ern to Fatty.


This tree-house scenario, which is fundamental to the story, is not reflected in the cover art of the early UK editions. In a German edition of the book, pictured below, whose title has been changed to
The Mystery of the Stolen Picture, a fair stab has been made at rendering the tree-house and Tally-Ho Cottage. But where is Tally-Ho House or the river? Actually, it’s not such a fair stab when one recalls that the tree containing the tree-house is supposed to be an evergreen fir. No doubt Enid defined it as such so as to explain why there was copious greenery on its branches in mid-winter.


Ern and the twins keep watch. Ern witnesses Mrs Larkins saying to Poppet:
"Don't you dare run off, or I'll lam you again, nuisance that you are!" Which brings this to mind, an illustration from Clipping Your Poodle, which I'll introduce properly later:

Illustration from Clipping Your Poodle, 1960.

For me, the Jason Ford cover of The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage takes some beating. Or should I say it takes some lamming? It places Poppet at the centre of the action and this is very perceptive of the artist.

Jason Ford, cover of 2003, Egmont edition.

After two days, Ern goes to Fatty's shed with his notebook and reports. He is pleased to see his table is being used, with a plate of chocolate biscuits resting on its polished top. After the meeting, Ern collides with his Uncle Goon, who falls off his bike. Goon is surprised to learn that Ern is in Peterswood, but Ern just manages to avoid his clutches.


The first time Fatty goes to Tally-Ho, he’s made up to look like an Indian, wearing a turban. To help him with this, he consults the chapter called 'Turbans - how to wear' in a useful little book called
Dress Up Properly. I wonder if it was a Foyles Handbook. You'll understand why I wonder that soon enough. The turban itself, plus the suntan Fatty has got from his time in Switzerland, is enough to produce the effect he wants. He doesn’t want a crowd of kids following him around!

Extract from original typescript, courtesy of Viking Star.

He makes his way to the river, then along the river-path for a fair distance. That seems to correspond with the above geographical interlude. ‘Fatty came to the river-gate leading into the grounds of Tally-Ho. It was only a small wicket-gate, quite unlike the two imposing drive-gates at the front of the big house, through which so many cars had driven in and out that summer.

Fatty climbs over the fence into the grounds. He goes over to the big deserted house. Take it away Enid:

Extract from original typescript, courtesy of Viking Star.

These are Enid's own corrections marked in the above typescript.

Fatty walks round the house and bumps into Mr Larkin, who in his surprise drops the wood he has been collecting.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1954.

Fatty explains that he’s Mr Hoho-Ha from Bong Castle, India, looking for his friends the Lorenzos. (Tally-Hoho Ha!). Meanwhile Mr Hoho-Ha has been spotted by Ern’s cousins, Liz and Glad, up in the tree-house and they decide to report his presence to Ern.


Ern goes through the hedge and bumps into Goon, who is also snooping around. Goon is not pleased to see his nephew but relents when Ern volunteers to follow the 'foreigner'.
‘Fatty went along the river-path and turned up into Peterswood village. Ern stalked him, keeping in the shadows.’ Eventually, Fatty makes a bolt for home and gets changed. Farce ensues between Fatty and Goon when the latter shows up, after which Ern is told that he nearly got Fatty into a lot of trouble. But it’s OK, Fatty Hoho-Ha lives to fight another day!


The Find-Outers are joined by Ern in the Hiltons’ playroom the next day. Fatty is feeling down because the paper is full of reports of the Indian who was spotted creeping about Tally-Ho House. Bets asks Ern if he’s come up with any poems recently. Ern obliges with the beginning of one. Try and ignore the printer's instructions on the following page from Enid's typescript:

Extract from original typescript, courtesy of Viking Star.

Needless to say this poem has been toned down in recent editions, rhyming 'cold' with 'scold' instead of nippin' and whippin'.

Seems to me that Enid's humour doesn't need toning down, it needs underlining. Below is the cover of a horrible little book that was published in 1960. I like to think that the figure shown clipping the poodle is a composite of Mr and Mrs Larkin.

Cover of Clipping Your Poodle, 1960.

Let's have the third verse. Over to Fatty:

"Her husband shuffled in and out,
He wasn't very supple,
They weren't at all what you might call
A really pleasant couple."

Treyer Evans illustration, 1954.

Hilarious or what? As well as being humorous, the verse underlines what turns out to be an important plot element. Which we'll come back to.


Ern joins Fatty and the rest in a cake shop, reporting that the twins are getting restless and want to blow bubbles over Tally-Ho Cottage. Goon comes in, doesn't see Ern, but makes it clear that he knows that Mr HoHo-Ha was Fatty in disguise. Later the Find-Outers have tea at Pip's place, where they notice a report that the Lorenzos have been seen in Maidenhead. Ern reckons they might visit Tally-Ho to fetch their beloved poodle. So it’s decided that Ern should be up in the tree-house all the more, keeping watch, and Fatty should do a bit of scouting around that evening.


Tally-Ho two, then. Funny, we’re more than half-way through the book and this is only the second visit to Tally-Ho, yet by the end of the book Fatty will have made his way there six times. As a special treat here’s a whole page from the typescript, the final one that Viking Star has so generously provided:

Extract from original typescript, courtesy of Viking Star.

The sentence carries on: ‘...
were going to, they would disguise themselves too thoroughly to be easily recognised!’

Fatty lets himself in at the gate. Ern, who has been in the tree-house since 9pm, and had never been so happy in his life, lets Fatty know he’s in position by hooting like an owl. Fatty is making his way around Tally-Ho House when he realises there’s someone else there.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1954.

Actually, it’s two policemen, one of whom is Goon. Goon tells his constable to arrest Fatty, but while the policemen debate the merits of this dubious act, Fatty slips away.


Ern ends up getting accidentally locked out of his aunt’s house and has to stay in the tree-house all night, wrapping himself in newspapers. He sleeps for two hours then wakes to the sound of a humming engine. Then he hears another noise and sits up. He looks towards the river and realises that the splashing he can hear is from swans and their offspring. He’s still half asleep when he thinks he hears people talking and a dog barking, but is he dreaming?

In the morning, Ern wakes to the noise of Goon and the other policeman who have been locked up in the boiler-house of Tally-Ho House. Goon wants to blame Fatty for this, and tells the Inspector as much, but Fatty knows he didn’t lock them in, therefore someone else must have.


The inspector comes round and learns from Fatty what he knows of the goings-on the previous night, ending by encouraging Fatty to carry on investigating. Ern comes to see Fatty later in the morning and they swop notes. The fact that Ern thinks he heard Poppet’s happy bark at night allows Fatty to deduce that the Lorenzos made a visit in the night. He suspects that they have taken the dog away from the district, so the next step is to see if the pooch has indeed gone. The rest of the Find-Outers are brought up to date in Fatty's shed then they cycle back to Tally-Ho with a view to interviewing Larkin.

Tally-Ho three, then. The Find-Outers cycle by way of the river-path because the Larkins’ cottage is so near it. They knock on the door and are asked in. Apparently, Mrs Larkin is not well and has Poppet in the bed with her. Strange! Bets asks to see the dog but Mr Larkin says no. Outside again, they hear Poppet and then they see her through the window, seeming quite happy.


Fatty asks Larkin if he heard a disturbance last night, but is is told no. Fatty is reluctant to leave the cottage. Could the Larkins be hiding the Lorenzos?

Treyer Evans illustration, 1954.

Having retreated to regroup, the Find Outers enjoy cocoa in Fatty’s shed. They feel sure the Lorenzos arrived in the middle of the night of Ern’s vigil, and that Poppet is happy because Mrs Lorenzo is around. They discuss the fact that a crate was seen in car that the Lorenzos stole to get away from one of their hiding places. It's suggested that the painting may have been taken out of the crate and hidden somewhere. It's decided that they must try and get a good look round both properties though.


Tally-Ho four. Fatty intends to disguise himself as an electricity man and ask to read the meter at Tally-Ho Cottage, but only once Mrs Larkin is back on her feet. Larry suggests that they go and check to see if a car has arrived at Tally-Ho House. And they work out a system whereby Ern can whistle if he sees Mrs Larkin about, in which case Fatty can read the meter at Tally-Ho Cottage.

At half-past two everyone except Ern assembles at Fatty’s shed on their bikes. Buster is running alongside as they make their way down to the river.

Wait - we’re not going to the river path this time!’ said Larry, as they all turned down the river road. ‘We’ve forgotten, we’re going to the drive-gates that open on to the lane that leads out of the main road.’ In other words, they cycle along the Marlow Road and turn off at Riversdale.


The Find-Outers find the gates to the drive are locked and they realise the Lorenzos couldn’t have come in that way. Seeing swans on the river, Bets wonders if Ern might have heard a motor boat in the night. They find a rowing boat called Tally-Ho in the boat house.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1954.

But at that point they hear Ern’s whistle from the tree house, the signal that means he’s spotted Mrs Larkin moving about.


Cue Fatty-the-electricity-man who bluffs his way inside Tally-Ho cottage. Fatty has already worked out that there is no upstairs and at most three rooms downstairs. He checks out the front room and the back room which is a bedroom. The third room is an untidy kitchen with a miserable little larder. He concludes that the Lorenzos could not possibly be hiding in the cottage.

Back at the boat house, the Find Outers realise that the river flows between Peterswood and Maidenhead, where the Lorenzos had been spotted. So they may well have come up river by a motor boat that was met by the Tally-Ho rowing boat. Perhaps they had the stolen picture with them and have hidden it somewhere at Tally-Ho. It’s at this point the Find-Outers come across the bonfire, made by Larkin.

The above cover was used on the first paperback publication of the title in 1963. Curiously enough, Mary Gernat was asked to do a different cover just four years later, the one at the top of this page. The figures are kind of similar. Full of life, fun and energy.



They discover the crate with the Maidenhead clue in it in the fire. Wow, aren’t the Find-Outers cutting through this mystery! They feel sure that the picture is at Tally-Ho, but not with the Larkins, surely! They spot Goon on the trail of Mr Larkin. Larkin disappears but Fatty gets the idea that it would be good fun to disguise himself as Larkin and have Goon follow him around. This would pay back Goon for telling the Chief that it had been Fatty that had locked Goon and the other policeman in the boiler-shed. So Fatty gets into disguise number three in his shed, then slips out when it gets dark and peers at Goon through his window.


Soon Goon is following Fatty, who leads him a merry dance. But in the end Fatty decides to make Goon think that Larkin is going home to his cottage. Tally-ho five:
‘Down to the river - along the river path - through the little wicket-gate - up the path to Larkins' cottage which stood under the shadow of the tall tree in which was Ern’s house’

Fatty hides in a bush and Goon hammers on the front door of the cottage. Larkin finds himself addressed by a furious Goon and shuts the door on him. Shortly after, Mrs Larkin comes out to the dustbin, spots Fatty dressed as the husband she’s just seen indoors, and screams. A few minutes later Goon comes across both Larkin and Fatty (dressed as Larkin) who have run into each other!

Treyer Evans illustration, 1954.

The sight freaks out poor Goon who runs away, having had his evening completely spoilt by the entity called Larkin. Fatty decides to take a look at Tally-Ho House. He comes across a ladder which is proof that someone has been trying to gain access to the interior. Fatty too then panics and tears off at top speed. Either Enid wanted to call it a day and end Chapter 20 quickly, or she wanted to save subsequent revelations until tally-ho six. Which maybe comes to the same thing.


Back home, in his bath, Fatty recalls that when he bumped into Larkin, the man said:
‘How did you get back? What have you come for?’ Now why would Larkin say that?

Next morning, Enid remembers to tell us that Fatty has had to get up at 8am and fetch his bike from where he left it close to Goon’s house. Back at home, Fatty updates his team, including Ern, with what went down the previous evening, and they all cycle back to Tally-Ho. (Tally-ho six.) Fatty notices that the ladder is gone. They walk round the house to see if it’s been ransacked. They come to the last window which is the one that Fatty looked through earlier in the book. Over to Enid, typing furiously:

'His eyes slid round, remembering everything - and then he frowned. Something was missing. He was sure it was. Something that had puzzled him. Yes - there had been a little rubber bone on the floor, beside that stool. But it was gone now!'


Bets sees Poppet at Tally-Ho Cottage with the rubber bone in its mouth. So it must have been the Larkins who broke into Tally-Ho House, and took the bone for the poodle. But Bets doesn't think they would do such a kind thing.

Let me revert briefly to
Clipping Your Poodle: This is how Mrs Lorenzo treats Poppet:


And this is how the Larkins treat the poor creature. Honestly, those Larkins!


To balance these ridiculous pictures, we need another. As a friend of mine puts it: 'But poodles should not be petted and made fun of with ridiculous hairdressing. Winston (Nancy’s poodle) is a proper country dog and loves nothing more than chasing smells and getting his natural curly coat full of mud. I think Blyton understood that, though I can’t be quite sure.'

Here is picture of Winston. A dog that I'm certain Enid would have approved of, encouraging his natural proclivities for muddy, grassy, woody smells.



‘I’m glad that horrid Mrs Larkin is so much nicer to dear little Poppet,’ said Bets. ‘Honestly, she might be Mrs Lorenzo the way she fusses her now.’ From this Fatty realises that since the night of the stake-out, the Lorenzos have taken the place of the Larkins, disguised as them. Which explains why ‘Larkin’ said what he did when he bumped into Fatty. Rather than two Larkins being around that night, neither of them was the real Larkin! (Enid did like to lark around: always larkin’ about she was, in a Shakespearean way.)

Fatty gets off his bike to work all this out, letting the others cycle on. Goon approaches and asks what the matter is. "Be quiet," said Fatty. "I'm working something out." Which is the only way to talk to a policeman.


Fatty lets the Inspector know that he’s found the Lorenzos. So the Inspector turns up at Tally-Ho cottage.

Treyer Evans illustration, 1954.

The Lorenzos are exposed and Goon is humiliated. But what about the stolen painting? Well, Fatty tells the Chief that Bets had seen a nice rug being put under the dog’s basket that morning. Fatty reckons that the picture may be sewn inside the rug which was probably backed with hessian. But where is the rug now?

Ern is able to tell the assembled company that his cousins, Glad and Liz, had dutifully reported to him a rug being hung on the line - and given a lamming - by Mrs Larkin that very morning. The rug is still hanging there, so it’s taken down and slit open. Inside, just as Fatty has predicted, is the picture, packed flat in grease-proof paper and quite unharmed. Unharmed? After Mrs Larkin had handed out a whippin’ to it?

‘Phew! Fifty thousand pounds worth of picture sewn inside a rug!’ said the Chief. ‘It makes me feel quite ill. Take it to the car, Sergeant.’

The story ends with Fatty inviting Ern, the inspector and the Find-Outers round to his shed for hot mince pies.


What does the fate of the painting say about Enid’s attitude to art? First, it being hung on a washing line and beaten. Second, Enid not even glancing at the masterpiece. What was it? A Renaissance portrait? A Constable landscape?
Sunflowers? Well, in the absence of Enid bothering to tell us, and if you’ll forgive the indulgence, I’m going to try and describe it.

I said in the ‘BOURNE END FOREVER’ page on this site that Stanley Spencer - who lived in Cookham for a few years while Enid lived just the other side of the Thames in Bourne End - is a painter I admire. There is now a permanent Stanley Spencer gallery in Cookham, and in 2012 a painting was stolen from it. The
South Bucks Gazettte reported the theft in terms that wouldn’t have seemed out of place back in The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage (1954):

‘THIEVES have stolen a distinctive painting by renowned British artist Sir Stanley Spencer. The artwork, entitled ‘Cookham from Englefield’, was taken from the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham High Street. The theft happened just before 1am yesterday morning, police revealed this afternoon. Both the gallery and the private owner who had loaned it are devastated, police said. The oil on canvas painting, created in 1948, was taken after a window was smashed at the gallery. Police were alerted by a member of the public.’

Below is a map which places the gallery and the painting in a geographical context. That is, the gallery (marked by a single yellow house symbol) is in the centre of Cookham, not far over the road bridge from the southern edge of Bourne End. The painting is a landscape, a view of Cookham painted by Spencer while standing in the garden of Englefield House (marked by a green tack) on Poundfield Lane.


And the painting itself? Well, obviously I’m going to show you it. Especially as it puts in mind the evergreen fir in which Ern built the tree-house for himself and his cousins. In fact, it gives you a choice of evergreens, one being an old cedar that was chopped down in 2011. (A double-whammy for Cookham: great tree gone in 2011, corresponding painting stolen in 2012.)


So why was the stolen painting given a beating in
Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage? That is the real mystery, or at least the one that I will try and solve in these last few paragraphs. Well, first you have to bear in mind who it was that was wielding the carpet beater. It was Enid herself, albeit via her Mrs Lorenzo/Larkin personas. And what was Enid saying as she was doing the beating? I’m afraid she was declaiming: “Dirty little man... Smelly little man... Stanley the tramp...”

You see, I don’t think Enid would have recognised Stanley Spencer’s genius. Spencer had two children from his first wife in Cookham, then married a woman who wouldn’t treat him with respect never mind have sex with him, and to whom he signed over the house that his first family lived in. What an imbecile! Enid would have had no time for such unbalanced behaviour. Wasn’t it possible to do your imaginative work and retain some kind of control of your personal life? Of course it was! Enid was living proof that you could. For all that she’s been retrospectively criticised for being a cold mother.

And so Enid would probably not have been aware of Spencer’s visionary paintings, which is such a shame. He portrayed Cookham as ‘A village in Heaven’, using that phrase, as well as the phrase, ‘The church of me’. He took everyday scenes in Cookham and transformed them into sublime visions. He took events from the Bible and transferred them to the houses and streets he’d grown up in. The people in his paintings are so fond of the lives they’ve lived in Cookham that after they die they’re resurrected, to live again and forever those simple-yet-sacred country lives. His project had much in common with Enid’s. Wasn’t Enid portraying Bourne End as a village in Heaven? And what is the Mystery series, if not, at a deep, deep level in Enid, ‘The church of me’. See her own children! See them young again! And alive forever!

The picture below is a detail from
The Resurrection, Cookham. It’s typical of Spencer’s more visionary style of painting. In the foreground, left, you can see Glad and Liz Woosh emerging from their coffin. Why have they been resurrected? Because they want again to be in the tree house having dinner with Ern. They want once more to be blowing bubbles over the roof of Tally-Ho cottage. They want again and again to feel the wind in their faces, whether accompanied by January frost or June sun, while watching Mr Hoho-Ha, dressed in a gay turban, pull the wool over Goon’s eyes.


Below is what Stanley Spencer looked like, a self-portrait from 1951, painted just three years before
The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage was published. The portrait reminds me of how Larkin is portrayed by Treyer Evans. Perhaps Evans was given a photograph of this painting to work from!


In which case Larkin was much-impersonated man. Fatty, Mr Lorenzo and Stanley Spencer had all dressed up as him.

Actually, the image of the two Larkins being looked down on by a startled Goon is really two Stanley Spencers. Yes, that makes more sense. First, Fatty, dressed as Larkin, whose appearance was based on the Spencer whom Enid must have seen pushing his distinctly odd pramful of painting gear through the streets of Cookham and, occasionally, Bourne End.


Second, Lorenzo, dressed as Larkin, who’d been told to disguise himself as Stanley Spencer so that he could steal a Spencer painting in broad daylight from the Spencer's second wife's house in Cookham.

When Stanley Spencer died in 1959, he asked whichever friend or family member was by his bedside to read aloud from
Wind in the Willows, his favourite book, in part because it was written by Kenneth Grahame while living nearby at Cookham Dene decades earlier. Shame, really. I say ‘shame’ because there never was a meeting of minds between those two contemporary visionaries, Enid Blyton and Stanley Spencer, the lady and the tramp. No hands across the water from Bourne End to Cookham, or vice versa. Otherwise, on his deathbed, Stanley would surely have been asking to be read aloud from The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage.

Actually, what I've said above about Enid's attitude to the painting is not really fair. The real crime at Tally-Ho was committed on Poppet by the Larkins. The stealing of the painting by the Lorenzos is neither here nor there. Not really. The key thing to acknowledge is that Enid loved life more than she loved art. She loved the dog called Poppet, just as she loved all dogs.


I find I'm not quite finished. That first outro is a little self-indulgent. I must try harder. So here goes.

The Enid Blyton Society's Viking Star has sent me the foreword to
The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage that Enid typed after she had typed the book itself. Marked on the sheet are both Enid's instructions to the printer, and marks made by the printer.


This document can usefully be compared to the foreword for the preceding book in the series, The Mystery of Holly Lane. For a start, this sheet is a top copy, not a carbon. And there are no printers marks on it. This is something I will investigate elsewhere.


The foreword to Holly Lane ends with a signature by the author. The foreword to Tally-Ho Cottage ends differently. If I enlarge the foot of the image that is one up in this page, it looks like this.


I said about the real signature on the foreword of Holly Lane that it was like an artist signing her work. I now see that Enid had very little ego of this sort. This fresh and complex work came so easily to her that she didn't see it as 'work'. Which doesn't stop it being 'art' as far as I'm concerned.

So let me finish by paying Enid's art a bit of a compliment. A gift to her, a bit like Ern's gift of a table to Fatty.


This little table has a polished top as well.


What's the little grey thing that looks a bit like a rubber bone for dog? It's a facsimile signature, of course.


Does it give an identical signature to the one in The Mystery of Tally-Ho House?

Well, if it didn't there wouldn't be much point to it, would there?


I'm pushing it now, but I can't seem to stop writing about this wonderful book. So let's dive in one more time, this time re the location of Tally-Ho House and Cottage.

In 2012, I received an email from a Bourne End resident focussing on the geographical interlude above that's been part of my analysis from the start. Lawrence wrote:

Hi Duncan

The path has always gone past wharf lane to just beyond the railway bridge, then it cuts between some houses coming out by furlong road.

If anything I think she is referring to the houses just past wharf lane - these are down a road called donkey lane, I think. The footpath cuts through the bottom of their gardens, so hard to see on Google - this leaves another part of the gardens with river frontage, and where some will have had boat houses.

Some of these house are bungalows as well. All the houses on this section would have had a small wicket gate off the path, with imposing drive gates. Probably not the case where you have highlighted.

Where you have gone is too far out of the village, in the area which would have been referred to as Hedsor in Enid's time.

My thoughts as a local and having read your notes and bits of text. Hope they help.

This had me turning to Google Maps to check its information, and in particular to find Donkey Lane. As you can see from the next aerial shot, Google Street View (blue lines) does not extend to Donkey Lane, so I can't take photos of the houses there.


However, here is a close up view of the houses that Lawrence seems to have in mind. The river path is prominent.


And having done that much, I got back to him:

Hi Lawrence,

I had looked at Donkey Lane as a prospect but couldn't get photos of any of the properties on Google.

I didn't realise the riverside path goes along the bottom of those gardens, thanks for telling me. I couldn't see it on Google Maps. Now I see that it's marked as being there on the 1:25,000 Explorer OS map. So, yes, one of these houses must be a definite prospect.

Not sure about the imposing drive aspect as the railway line to Marlow does hem in the properties somewhat. I might end up revising my piece but will leave it for now as I'm by no means sure. And of course it suits my purpose to get the Find-Outers down to Hedsor so I can flip across to Cookham and fly up the flag for Stanley Spencer. I'll still be doing that even if I end up plumping for a Donkey Lane property.

The odd photograph of the Donkey Lane houses from the riverside path would be great, if you get a chance to do that. With the odd wicket-gate and boathouse! I'm sure many Enid Blyton fans would be very grateful. Certainly, I would.

My real view was that the use of bicycles by the Find-Outers - the implied distance to Tally-Ho house - meant that my original thesis was (and is) correct. But I wanted to get as much local insight as possible from my knowledgeable correspondent.

Hi Duncan

So on route home from work I stopped by donkey lane which used to be a gravel road when I was younger but is now a tarmac road - evidence of an old gate at the entrance. And one house still has what looks like the original grand gates.

Most of the houses have been demolished and replaced with new - however a few originals remain. Two which fit perfectly for Tall chimneys. One with a bungalow next door.

I have taken some pictures which I will email later - probably tomorrow as out this evening.

Now on to the name Tally Ho - as I was crossing the railway bridge to the other side - note this footbridge is a 90's edition to the railway bridge a train came past - say the word tally ho repeatedly and rather quickly and you have the noise the train makes. Now this would be heard from the house as the train passed either at the front of the house going to Marlow or as it went the other direction towards cookham over the bridge. I am thinking the name of the house is based on the sound a train makes as it goes past. Tally ho tally ho tally ho tally ho. (Like my thinking?)

Nearly all the boat houses have gone, leaving just mooring, however a house just past the railway bridge still has the original boat house albeit the house is new-build.

Numerous very large trees which have been around for a very, very long time - would have been ideal for Fatty to hide in.

I will return at the weekend when walking my dog, and, weather permitting, will bring my camera so I can zoom in on a few of these houses.

I will email you them now from my phone, the couple which I think could be Tall chimneys.


Alas, I can't find (in 2020) the photos Lawrence took with his phone. And I'm not quite sure what's going on with the capital letter for 'Tall' but not 'chimneys'. But we haven't reached the end of our exchange yet.

Hi Lawrence,

I think what I'd like to do is add a postscript to my Tally-Ho page outlining your alternative location theory. Let me know if you want to be referred to by your real name or your Enid Blyton Society name. Alternatively, you could post your ideas directly to the EBS forums.

For the additional bit, I envisage posting a terrain shot from Google Maps on which I'll mark a wicker gate (the one you've kindly sent me, if that relates to one of the properties on Donkey Lane) the front gates of one of the houses, and an evocative shot of a grand building with mature tees, preferably coniferous! The wicket-gate, the grand gate wouldn't both need to refer to the same house, though of course that would be best. Oh yes, and if there is any old cottage along Donkey Lane then that would of course be worth a snap.

Together the pics and map should give the reader enough to go on. But to do that you'd have to provide the precise locations one way or another.

I may outline your Tally-Ho name theory. Not sure why Enid would studiously avoid mentioning the railway line in this context here and yet give the house a name derived from the sound of speeding trains. But it's possible.

I don't think Lawrence replied to that email. Perhaps he'd got fed up with my reluctance to wholeheartedly embrace his theories.

No, I'm wrong, there is this:

Hi Duncan,

Any reference please use my Enid Blyton Society name - now in hindsight I should have called myself Lorenzo - another nickname I have. By the way the Lawrence family in Bourne End were quite well to do.

Let me get some photos done with a proper camera before uploading the pictures.

From my part I have an interest more in the history of Bourne End, than in the works of Enid Blyton, however find it fascinating as it is a glimpse of the past through another person's eyes.

As a kid I was a great explorer of the area, exploring the woodland, along the river, old derelict houses etc and remember some of the odd characters who lived in the village.

Yes, the wicker gate is down the path, it is shortly before the railway bridge, and is where the house with the tall Chimneys is, not the one with the tall chimney pots.

Out of interest, the house with the Tall chimney pots is almost certainly the largest house down donkey lane, and I guess many of the modern houses have been built it the original gardens. I will have to check on an old map.

Will try and get one and start marking up other places referred to.



And that's it. Though Lawrence has also written to me about The Mystery of the Missing Man and The Mystery of the Strange Bundle, as you will see on their respective pages.

Am I really finished with Tally-Ho Cottage? I will never be finished with Tally-Ho Cottage. Poppet would be so upset.


Many thanks to Viking Star for providing scans of pages from the
Tally-Ho typescript.

Internal illustrations from the original Methuen edition of
The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage are taken from the Cave of Books on the Enid Blyton Society website, which is the work of Tony Summerfield.

Thanks to Google for use of their mapping facilities.

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.