"It will be good to see the others again, won't it, Peter?" said Janet as she arranged the old cushions on the boxes the Secret Seven used for seats when they had their meetings.
"Oh, yes. I love staying with Granny and Grandad on their farm, but we have such fun with Jack, Colin, George, Pam and Barbara."
"And Scamper, of course." Peter gave Scamper a quick pat.
"Do you think everyone will remember the password this time?" asked Janet.
"Do you remember it?" said Peter slyly. His sister almost always forgot it when they went on holidays.
"Of course I do! It's ginger beer."
"You did remember! It would have been most awkward if you'd forgotten and couldn't attend the meeting."
"It's lucky I have you to remind me when I do. Listen! I hear footsteps. I wonder who it is."
There was a sharp knock at the door. "Ginger beer." The password was loud and clear.
"Enter," said Peter, and George came in.
"Hello, Peter. Hello, Janet. Did you have good hols?"
"Grand. We rode the horses every day," answered Peter.
"I milked Granny's favourite cow, Daisy, and made some butter," said Janet.
"My cousin Mark came to stay. Mother said I should bring him to a Secret Seven meeting, but he went home yesterday." George looked uncomfortable. His mother never seemed to understand the club was for members only. She was always urging him to take this friend or that to meetings.
"Rule five clearly says--" began Peter, but a knock on the door and two voices giving the password interrupted him.
Colin handed over a bag of biscuits. "Mother sent these."
"And my mother sent this." Jack produced a bottle of lemonade from his satchel.
A shelf on the wall held seven mugs and a plate of buns. Janet arranged the biscuits next to the buns, and lemonade by the mugs. It made her hungry and she hoped the meeting would be a short one. They could start as soon as Pam and Barbara arrived. She listened for the giggles that usually announced the girls' arrival.
Everyone was surprised when Pam and Barbara knocked softly and murmured the password so softly Peter almost didn't hear them. They looked serious as they looked around at the others. They didn't even smile as they took their seats next to one another.
Quickly, Peter called the meeting to order. He wondered what had happened to Pam and Barbara, but it would have to wait. "First of all, we must choose a new password."
Barbara raised her hand. "Please, Peter, before you do that, Pam and I have something to tell all of you."
Peter frowned. There was a proper order to do things at meetings, but Pam and Barbara hadn't giggled or been at all silly since they'd arrived. It was obviously important, so for this once, he'd let it pass. He waved his hand to indicate they should speak. "Go ahead. We're all listening."
"We, that is, this--" Pam's lips trembled. She took a breath and started again. "Barbara and I--" It was no good. She pulled out her handkerchief and scrubbed at the tears that had begun to trickle down her cheeks.
"You can't choose a password while Pam and I are here," said Barbara bravely. "We can't be members of the Secret Seven any more. You see, we're going to boarding school."
"Our parents decided that it's not appropriate for us to solve mysteries or spy on people. There won't be any of that at boarding school," said Pam in a rather wobbly voice. "Term starts in two days time. We came to say good-bye."
"At least we're going to the same school. It's in Cornwall. You will write to us and tell us all the news, won't you. We want to hear everything," urged Barbara.
"Of course we'll write to you," said Janet, glad it wasn't her parents sending her to boarding school. She'd hate to be separated from Peter for a whole term at a time. "What's the name of your new school?"
"Malory Towers," said Pam.
"We'll have to vote on a new name then, as well as a new password," said George. "We'll be the Something Five. Not the Famous Five, of course. Let me think. Fantastic? Furious? Flexible?"
"Flexible? What sort of name is the Flexible Five?" Jack poked George in the ribs, and laughed when George fell off his box. "You must belong to the Falling Five. Say, how about Funky?"
"Woof!" Scamper didn't want to belong to the Funky Five. He thought this would be an ideal time for the group to change its name to the something Six. What was good enough for Timmy should be good enough for Scamper. He rather liked the Special Six, and gave a hopeful bark.
"I vote we eat," said Janet, seeing Peter was lost for words. "It can be a good-bye party for Barbara and Pam. We can have another meeting tomorrow."
"That's a good idea, Janet," said Peter gratefully. His Secret Society was breaking up and for the first time since it started, he felt out of control.
Little did Peter and Janet know they were slated for boarding school too. Fortunately, their parents had settled on a co-ed school, and they would be going to Whyteleafe the following term.