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THE BOUNCY CASTLE

Suzanne and her cousins Nicky and Mandy had been playing in the Bouncy Castle most of the afternoon.

It was a hot afternoon, and the sun beat down on the shiny red castle, so that there was only one shady place, just where the tower in the corner cast a shade. So Suzanne bounced her way over the the corner, curled up in the shade, and watched Nicky and Mandy leaping up and down and shrieking with laughter.

Then, suddenly, there came a huge gust of wind. The pegs that held down the ropes were dragged out of the dry soil, and the wind lifted the Bouncy Castle, carried it out of the playground and dropped it gently into the sea. And, because it was a Bouncy Castle it floated quite happily on the smooth sparkling waters of the estuary.

Nicky and Mandy bounced over to Suzanne, who was trying to decide whether to cry or not. Mandy put her arm round her and said,

'Don't be frightened ! Someone will come out and get us !'

Nicky was standing up, shading his eyes with his hand and staring at the shore which was quickly getting further and further away.

'They'd better be quick then !' he said. 'Look ! The tide's going out and taking us with it. A few minutes more and we'll be right out into the bay!'

Suzanne and Mandy watched the playground slipping away, getting smaller and smaller until it was out of sight, Suzanne was really frightened now. and even Mandy sounded a bit scared when she said,

'Somebody's sure to have noticed us by now ! Somebody's sure to come and get us !'

But Nicky shook his head.

'Everybody else had gone home for tea ! Remember ?' He looked at his watch. 'And it'll be half an hour before Dad will be back to collect us ! He won't know what's happened !'

'Well,' said Mandy. 'At least this thing will float. It's like a big rubber dinghy really, isn't it ?'

Nicky nodded.

'Yes, that's true ! And a lot safer, too. If we stay away from that edge !' He looked towards the open side of the Bouncy Castle and gasped.

'Just look ! The side's come right up. It really is a boat now !'

'A Bouncy Boat instead of a Bouncy Castle, said Suzanne. 'Except that it still looks like a castle at this end !'

Mandy stared up at the towers and battlements, and the flag flying from the top of the tower.

'You know, it does look a bit like one of those old ships ! Like Drake's ship and the Spanish Armada !'

Nicky put on a very important-looking expression, and Suzanne and Mandy knew at once that they were going to get a lecture about something or other.

'Yes, well, of course ! Those old ships were designed with a sort of castle arrangement at the front end. It's called the bow, you know. It was a sort of stronghold that the crew lived in and it was called the Fore Castle. That's where we get the word foc'sle from.'

Mandy and Suzanne were most impressed and quite forgot to be frightened. After all. to be sailing in the bay in a Galleon was a very different thing from being blown away in a Bouncy Castle.

So the three of them sat in the Bouncy Boat or, perhaps since it's now a Galleon we should call it Bouncy Galleon. They sat for a while watching the sunlight on the water and banks of the estuary getting further and further away.

Suzanne suddenly felt very hungry, and then she remembered.

'D'you know what ? We never had our picnic. And I expect we left it back at the playground !'

Nicky laughed aloud.

'Now that's just where you're wrong ! We didn't ! I put our sweaters and shoes - and our picnic - in that carrier bag over there, so that I could keep an eye on them !'

He bounced carefully over to one of the towers and came back with a large plastic carrier bag.

They tucked in to the sandwiches and threw the crusts to the seagulls. Many reached into the bag for a packet of crisps, but Nicky caught her hand.

'We'd better ration the food. They always ration the stores in this situation on television !'

Mandy and Suzanne stared.

'We're not going to be here for days and days !' said Mandy. .Someone's bound to see us soon !'

Nicky was busy sorting out the crisps and the apples and the biscuits and the orange-squash.

'Well,' he said. 'We can just have a small drink of orange-squash and a biscuit each. We're not really hungry now, are we ? And we might be later !'

Suzanne shivered.

'I'm cold, as well as hungry !' she said. Mandy put her arms round her and cuddled her close.

'I'm not very warm, either !' she said.

Nicky reached over and pulled their sweaters towards them.

'Better put these on before we get too cold. It's because the estuary's so wide here. It's always cooler on the open water. Remember how Mum made us wrap up well when we went on the fishing-trawler ?'

He pulled the sweater on over his head and pushed his arms through thew sleeves. Mandy suddenly cried, 'Look ! There's a boat following us ! A fast one ! And another, and another !'

She and Suzanne began to bounce over to the side, but Nick grabbed them.

'No ! No ! They've seen us ! Keep still and sit down, or you'll bounce over the side !'

The boat drew nearer and nearer, and now they could see that it quite a big boat, carrying several large men wearing shiny yellow jackets.

Mandy and Suzanne stared round-eyed as the big boat slowed down and stopped, gently rocking. Then it edged up carefully to the Bouncy galleon, and a man with a smiling face called to them.

'Are you children all right ?'

'Yes, thank you !' said Nicky. 'We're fine !'

'Right,' said the man. 'Now just stay where you are. Those two other boats are going round to the other side of you, to push you gently over to that sandbank there so that they can get the Castle up out of the water. And then you'll be able to climb out quite safely ! Do you understand ?'

Nick nodded and called across to the lifeboatman,

'Yes, we understand !'

'Good !' the lifeboatman replied. 'Now the lifeboat will be just in front of you all the way, so that we can keep an eye on you !'

'Why can't we come in the lifeboat with you ?' Suzanne asked. 'I don't like it here any more !'

She held Mandy's hand tight, and seemed about to cry. Mandy put her arm round her.

'We'll be quite safe,' she said, 'if we stay here and keep still !'

It was a bumpy sort of trip over to the sandbank, but as soon as the Bouncy Galleon grounded, Nicky jumped out and helped the other two ashore. At the last moment, Mandy remembered the carrier bag and grabbed it.

'I'm so hungry !' she said. 'Could we have a picnic on the sandbank ?'

But the lifeboat was already standing off in the shallow water and three lifeboatmen were clambering over the side and wading towards them.

'Come on, you kids ! We're going to give you all a piggyback to the lifeboat !'

It was very exciting sailing all the way back to Bideford in the lifeboat. the lifeboatmen made a big fuss over them and gave them steaming cups of cocoa.

And when they got to Bideford Quayside they saw a huge crowd gathered on the quay, and right at the front Nick and Mandy's Mummy and Daddy and Auntie Sherry waving to them.

The lifeboat men helped them climb up the ladder to the top of the Quay, and at once they were hugged and cuddled, and Daddy said how proud he was of the sensible way they had all behaved.

'You've all been very brave !' he said.

'Nicky wouldn't let us eat all the picnic !' said Suzanne.

Mandy tugged at her Mummy's arm.

'That was because he said we had to ration the stores like they do on television ! And we could only have a sip of orange squash !'

'That was very sensible of Nicky !' said his Mummy. 'And now you can all climb into the car, and we'll go home for a splendid supper !'

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