Book Shelf – Secret Seven
Enid Mary Blyton (11 August 1897 – 28 November 1968) was an English children’s writer whose books have been among the world’s best-sellers since the 1930s, selling more than 600 million copies. Blyton’s books are still enormously popular, and have been translated into 90 languages. She wrote on a wide range of topics including education, natural history, fantasy, mystery, and biblical narratives and is best remembered today for her Noddy, Famous Five and Secret Seven series.
The second book starts four weeks into the holidays there’s not been even a sniff of a mystery and the children are bored. To liven things up the Seven decide to dress up as Red Indians. It is agreed that Colin will be stalked as they only have six Red Indian costumes. After the usual assortment of home-made lemonade and biscuits and a lecture from Peter to Jack because his annoying sister Susie had his badge, the Seven go down to Thicket Hill.
At the hill, essentially an undergrowth of heather, bushes and trees, the children in their costumes with face paint, arrows and knives split up into groups of three. Peter with Janet and Jack are on one side of the hill, which is divided by a fence down the middle, whilst George, Pam and Barbara are on the other side. Colin is left helplessly in the middle, but to avoid being caught after Peter counted to 100, he decides to climb on to a branch of a thick tree.
Up the tree Colin gets the shock of his life as he sees a strange man sitting on and eventually jumping down from the wall of nearby Milton Manor. Peter also hears a noise near some bushes and thinking it’s Colin he goes to investigate. But to his horror Peter sees the scared face of a man who quickly makes a run for it and climbs the same tree that Colin’s in. A disbelieving Colin sits silently, not daring to sneeze, until the dark-haired man finally gets away when the other children lose patience in their search and decide to go home. After this an understandably frightened Colin pegs it back to the shed where he tells the Seven his story.
In light of Colin’s revelations at first the Seven can’t see what they can do about this mystery. Then the children, except Colin and George, are stunned to hear on the news that Lady Lucy Thomas’s magnificent pearl necklace has been stolen from her bedroom at Milton Manor. In excitement, Peter and Colin realise that they had seen the thief and call a meeting the following morning.
Following the meeting, the Seven inform a very pleased police officer that they had seen the thief. With the adventure back on the Seven race down to Milton Manor where they are let into the grounds by the gardener John. There they make some exciting discoveries. First, some unusual round holes near the oak and holly tree, the part of the wall the thief climbed. On the wall, Janet discovers a piece of blue wool with a tiny thread of red in it. To add to the excitement Scamper finds a dirty old cap. After all these sudden clues, the Seven also wonder how the thief managed to climb up the wall and what caused the holes.
The Seven suspect an acrobat could have been the only person to climb such a high wall. Their luck is compounded when they see a poster advertising a circus that happens to have clowns, stilt walkers, and of course, acrobats. In a meeting after lunch they decide to visit the circus, with the aim of identifying the thief amongst the acrobats. After paying £3 to get in the Seven are treated to a wonderful circus full of elephants, bears, stilt men and acrobats. During the circus they are convinced they have found the thief as there’s an acrobat matching the description of the thief and who could climb rope ladders. Convinced he’s the thief the Seven ask him for an autograph. To their disappointment, the acrobat takes his wig off and he is bald which rules him out as the thief.
Saint Wenceslaus – 28 September
On Sept. 28, the Catholic Church honours Saint Wenceslaus, a Central European ruler who died at the hands of his brother while seeking to strengthen the Catholic faith in his native Bohemia.
During his 2009 visit to the Czech Republic, Pope Benedict XVI called the country’s patron saint “a martyr for Christ” who “had the courage to prefer the kingdom of heaven to the enticement of worldly power.”
St. Wenceslaus was born around the year 903. His father Duke Wratislaw was a Catholic, but his mother Princess Dragomir practiced the native pagan religion. She would later arrange the murders of both Wenceslaus and his grandmother Ludmilla, who is also a canonized saint.
During his youth, Wenceslaus received a strong religious education from Ludmilla, in addition to the good example of his father. He maintained a virtuous manner of living while attending college near Prague, making significant progress both academically and spiritually. But with the death of his father Wratislaw, the devout young nobleman faced a spiritual and political crisis.
His mother Dragomir, who had never accepted the Catholic faith, turned against it entirely. She seized her husband’s death as a chance to destroy the religion his parents had received from Sts. Cyril and Methodius, through methods that included purging Catholics from public office, closing churches, and preventing all teaching of the faith.
Dragomir’s Catholic mother-in-law Ludmilla urged Wenceslaus to seize power from his mother and defend their faith. His attempt to do so resulted in the division of the country into two halves: one ruled by Wenceslaus, advised by Ludmilla; the other ruled by Wenceslaus’ younger brother Boleslaus, who had absorbed his mother’s hatred of the Church.
Wenceslaus, who would have preferred to become a monk and not a duke, fortified himself in this struggle through fervent prayer, extreme asceticism, charitable service, and a vow of chastity. Meanwhile, his mother carried out a plot to kill Ludmilla, having her strangled in her private chapel. St. Ludmilla’s liturgical feast day is Sept. 16.
The Bohemian duke also faced the threat of invasion from abroad, when Prince Radislaus of Gurima demanded that Bohemia submit to his rule. When Wenceslaus sought to avoid a war by challenging him in single combat, two angels are said to have appeared, deflecting the javelin thrown at Wenceslaus and immediately inspiring Radislaus to drop to his knees in surrender.
During his period of rule, Wenceslaus received the relics of several saints from the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, who also conferred on him the title of “King Wenceslaus.” But some noblemen of his own country resented the saintly king’s strict morals, and allied themselves with Dragomir and Boleslaus.
Wenceslaus’ brother sought to appear as a peacemaker, inviting the king to his realm for a celebration. When Wenceslaus was praying in a chapel during the visit, Boleslaus’ henchmen attacked and wounded him. Boleslaus himself delivered the final blow, killing his brother by running him through with a lance. St. Wenceslaus died on Sept. 28, 935.
Emperor Otto responded to St. Wenceslaus’ death by invading Bohemia and making war against Boleslaus for several years. He succeeded in conquering the region, and forced Boleslaus to reverse the anti-Catholic measures he and his mother had taken.
There is no evidence that Dragomir, who died soon after the murder of St. Wenceslaus, ever repented of killing her family members. Boleslaus, however, came to regret his sin when he learned of the miracles that were taking place at his brother’s tomb. He moved St. Wenceslaus’ body to a cathedral for veneration by the faithful.