Back toа Chapters 12-17
Five Go to
Chapters 18-22 (the end)
18ааа Curious discoveries
Just as she had unscrewed almost the last screw there came a tapping at the door. George jumped and stiffнened. She did not answer, afraid that it was Block, or Mr Lenoir.
Then, to her great relief, she heard Julian's voice. 'George! Are you in here?'
The little girl hurried across to the door and unнlocked it. The boys came in, looking surprised, followed by Anne and Marybelle. George shut the door and locked it again.
'Mr Barling's gone away and shut up the house,' said Julian. 'So that's that. What on earth are you doing, George?'
'Unscrewing this window-seat,' said George, and told them about the screw she had found on the floor. They all crowded round her, excited.
'Good for you, George!' said Dick. 'Here, let me finish the unscrewing.'
'No, thanks. This is my job!' said George. She took out the last screw. Then she lifted the edge of the window-seat. It came up like a lid.
Everyone peered inside, rather scared. What would they see? To their great surprise and disappointment they saw nothing but an empty cupboard! It was as if the window-seat was a box, with the lid screwed down for people to sit on.
'Well - what a disappointment!' said Dick. He shut down the lid. 'I don't expect you heard anyone screwнing down the lid, really, George. It might have been your imagination.'
'Well, it wasn't,' said George, shortly. She opened the lid again. She got right into the box-like window-seat and stamped, and pressed with her feet.
And quite suddenly, there came a small creaking noise, and the bottom of the empty window-seat fell downwards like a trap-door on a hinge!
George gasped and clutched at the side. She kicked about in air for a moment and then scrambled out. Everyone looked down in silence.
They looked down a straight yawning hole, which, however, came to an end only about eight feet down. There it appeared to widen out, and, no doubt, entered a secret passage which ran into one of the underground tunnels with which the whole hill was honeycombed. It might even run to Mr Barling's house.
'Look at that!' said Dick. 'Who would have thought of that? I bet even old Sooty didn't know about this.' 'Shall we go down?' said George. 'Shall we see where it goes to? We might find old Timmy.
There came the noise of someone trying the handle of the door. It was locked. Then there was an imнpatient rapping, and a cross voice called out sharply: 'Why is this door locked? Open it at once! What are you doing in there?'
'It's Father!' whispered Marybelle, with wide eyes. 'I'd better unlock the door.'
George shut the lid of the window-seat down at once, quietly. She did not want Mr Lenoir to see: their latest discovery. When the door was opened Mr Lenoir saw the children standing about, or sitting on the window-seat.ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа .
'I've had a good talk to Block,' he said, and, as I thought, he doesn't know a thing about all the goings-on here' He was most amazed to hear about the signalling from the tower. But he doesn't think it's Mr Barling. He thinks it may be a plot of some sort against
'Oh!' said the children, who felt that they would not believe Block so readily as Mr Lenoir appeared
'It's quite upset Block,' said Mr Lenoir. 'He feels really sick, and I've told him to go and have a rest till we decide what to do next.'
The children felt that Block would not be so easily upset as all that. They all suspected at once that he would not really go to rest, but would probably sneak out on business of his own.
'I've some work to attend to for a little while,' said Mr Lenoir. 'I've rung up the police, but unluckily the Inspector is out. He will ring me directly he comes back. Now can you keep out of mischief till I've finished my work?'
The children thought that was a silly question. They made no reply. Mr Lenoir gave one of his sudden smiles and little laughs, and went.
'I'm going to pop along to Block's room and see if he really is there,' said Julian, as soon as Mr Lenoir was out of sight.
He went to the wing where the staff bedrooms were, and stopped softly outside Block's. The door was a little ajar, and Julian could see through the crack. He saw the shape of Block's body in the bed, and the dark patch that was his head. The curtains were drawn across the window to keep out the light, but there was enough to sec all this.
Julian sped back to the others. 'Yes, he's in bed all right,' he said. 'Well, he's safe for a bit. Shall we have a shot at getting down to the window-seat hole? I'd dearly like to see where it leads to!'
'Oh yes!' said everyone. But it was not an easy job to drop eight feet down without being terribly jolted! Julian went first and was very much jarred. He called up to Dick: 'We'll have to get a bit of rope and tie it to something up there, and let it hang down the hole - it's an awful business to let yourself drop down.'
But just as Dick went to find a rope, Julian called up again. 'Oh, it's all right! I've just seen someнthing. There are niches carved into the sides of the hole - niches you can put foot or hand into. I didn't see them before. You can use them to help you down.'
So down went everyone, one after another, feeling for the niches and finding them. George missed one or two, clawed wildly at the air, and dropped down the last few feet, landing with rather a bump, but she was not hurt.
As they had thought, the hole led to another secret passage in the house, but this one went straight downнwards by means of steps, so that very soon they went well below the level of the house. Then they came into the maze of tunnels that honeycombed the hill. They stopped.
'Look here - we can't possibly go any farther,' said Julian. 'We shall get lost. We haven't got Sooty with us now, and Marybelle isn't any good at finding the way. It would be dangerous to wander about.
They could hear the hollow sound of footsteps coming from a tunnel to the left of them. They all shrank back into the shadows, and Julian switched o. his torch.
'It's two people!' whispered Anne, as two figures came out of the nearby tunnel. One was very tall and long. The other - yes, surely the other was Block! If it wasn't Block it was someone the exact image of him.
The men were talking in low voices, answering one another. How could it be Block, though, if he could hear as well as that? Anyway, Block was asleep in bed. It was hardly ten minutes since Julian had seen him there. Were there two Blocks, then? thought George, as she had once thought before.
The men disappeared into another tunnel, and the bright light of their lanterns disappeared gradually. The muffled rumble of their voices echoed back.
'Shall we follow them?' said Dick.
'Of course not,' said Julian. 'We might lose them-and lose ourselves too! And supposing they suddenly turned back and found us following them? We should be in a horrid fix.'
'I'm sure the first man was Mr Barling,' said Anne, suddenly. 'I couldn't see his face because the light of the lantern wasn't on it - but he seemed just like Mr Barling - awfully tall and long everywhere!'
'But Mr Barling's gone away,' said Marybelle.
'Supposed to have gone away!' said George. 'It looks as if he's come back, if it was him. I wonder where those two have gone Ч to see my father and Sooty, do you think?'
'Quite likely,' said Julian. 'Come on, let's get back. We simply daren't wander about by ourselves in these old tunnels. They run for miles, Sooty said, and cross one another, and go up and down and round about -even right down to the marsh. We should never, never find our way out if we got lost.'
They turned to go back. They came to the end of the steps they had been climbing, and found themselves at the bottom of the window-seat hole. It was quite easy to pull themselves up by the niches in the sides of the hole.
Soon they were all in the room again, glad to see the sunshine streaming in at the window. They looked out. The marshes were beginning to be wreathed in mist once more, though up here the hill was golden with sunlight.
'I'm going to put the screws back into the window-seat again,' said Julian, picking up the screwdriver and shutting down the lid. 'Then if Block comes here he won't guess we've found this new secret place. I'm pretty certain that he unscrewed the seat so that Mr Barling could get into this room, and then screwed it down again so that no one would guess what had happened.'
He quickly put in the screws. Then he looked at his watch.
'Almost dinner-time, and I'm jolly hungry. I wish old Sooty was here - and Uncle Quentin. I do hope they're all right - and Timmy too,' said Julian. 'I wonder if Block is still in bed Ч or wandering about the tunnels. I'm going to have a peep again.'
He soon came back, puzzled. 'Yes, he's there all right, safe in bed. It's jolly funny.'
Block did not appear at lunchtime. Sarah said he had asked not to be disturbed, if he did not appear.
'He does get the most awful sick headaches,' she said. 'Maybe he'll be all right this afternoon.'
She badly wanted to talk about everything, but the children had decided not to tell her anything. She was very nice and they liked her, but somehow they didn't trust anyone at Smuggler's Top. So Sarah got nothing out of them at all, and retired in rather a huff.
Julian went down to speak to Mr Lenoir after the meal. He felt that even if the Inspector of police was not at the police-station, somebody else must be inнformed. He was very worried about his uncle and Sooty. He couldn't help wondering if Mr Lenoir had made up the bit about the Inspector being away, to put off time.
Mr Lenoir was looking cross when Julian knocked at his study-door. 'Oh, it's you!' he said to Julian. 'I was expecting Block. I've rung and rung for him. The bell rings in his room and I can't imagine why he doesn't come. I want him to come to the police-station with me.'
'Good!' thought Julian. Then he spoke aloud. Til go and hurry him up for you, Mr Lenoir. I know where his room is.'
Julian ran up the stairs and went to the little landing up which the back-stairs went to the staff bedrooms. He pushed open Block's door.
Block was apparently still asleep in bed! Julian called loudly, then remembered that Block was deaf. So he went over to the bed and put his hand rather roughly on the hump of the shoulder between the clothes.
But it was curiously soft! Julian drew his hand away, and looked down sharply. Then he got a real shock.
There was no Block in the bed! There was a big ball of some sort, painted black to look like a head almost under the sheets Ч and, when Julian threw back the covers, he saw instead of Block's body, a large lumpy bolster, cleverly moulded to look like a curved body!
'That's the trick Block plays when he wants to slip off anywhere, and yet pretend he's still here!' said Julian. 'So it was Block we saw in the tunnel this morning - and it must have been Block that George saw talking to Mr Barling yesterday, when she looked through the window. He's not deaf, either. He's a very clever - sly - double-faced - deceitful ROGUE!'
19ааа Mr Barling talks
Meantime, what was happening to Uncle Quentin and Sooty? Many strange things!
Uncle Quentin had been gagged, and drugged so that he could neither struggle nor make any noise, when Mr Barling had crept so unexpectedly into his room. It was easy to drop him down the hole in the window-seat. He fell with a thud that bruised him considerably.
Then poor Sooty had been dropped down too, and after them had come Mr Barling, climbing deftly down by the help of the niches in the sides.
Someone else was down there, to help Mr Barling. Not Block, who had been left to screw down the window-seat so that no one might guess where the victims had been taken, but a hard-faced servant belonging to Mr Barling.
'Had to bring this boy, too - it's Lenoir's son,' said Mr Barling. 'Snooping about in the room. Well, it will serve Lenoir right for working against me!'
The two were half-carried, half-dragged down the long flight of steps and taken into the tunnels below. Mr Barling stopped and took a ball of string from his pocket. He tossed it to his servant.
'Here you are. Tie the end to that nail over there, and let the string unravel as we go. I know the way quite well, but Block doesn't, and he'll be coming along to bring food to our couple of prisoners tomorrow. Don't want him to lose his way! We can tie the string up again just before we get to the place I'm taking them to, so that they won't see it and use it to escape by.'
The servant tied the string to the nail that Mr Barling pointed out, and then as he went along he let the ball unravel. The string would then serve as a guide to anyone not knowing the way. Otherwise it would be very dangerous to wander about in the underнground tunnels. For some of them ran for miles.
After about eight minutes the little company came to a kind of rounded cave, set in the side of a big, but rather low tunnel. Here had been put a bench with some rugs, a box to serve as a table, and a jug of water. Nothing else.
Sooty by now was coming round from his blow on the head. The other prisoner, however, still lay unconscious, breathing heavily.
'No good talking to him,' said Mr Barling. 'He won't be all right till tomorrow. We'll come and talk to him then. I'll bring Block.'
Sooty had been put on the floor. He suddenly sat up, and put his hand to his aching head. He couldn't imagine where he was.
He looked up and saw Mr Barling, and then sudнdenly he remembered everything. But how had he got there, in this dark cave?
'Mr Barling!' he said. 'What's all this? What did you hit me for? Why have you brought me here?'
'Punishment for a small boy who can't keep his nose out of things that don't concern him!' said Mr Barling, in a horrid sarcastic voice. 'You'll be company for our friend on the bench there. He'll sleep till the morning. Tm afraid. You can tell him all about it, then, and say I'll be back to have a little heart-to-heart talk with him!
And see here,
Sooty looked pale. He did know the danger of wandering about those lost old tunnels. This one he was in he was sure he didn't know at all. He was about to ask a few more questions when Mr Barling turned quickly on his heel and went off with his servant. They took the lantern with them and left the boy in darkнness. He yelled after them.
'Hi, you beasts! Leave me a light!' But there was no answer. Sooty heard the footfalls going farther and farther away, and then there was silence and darkness.
The boy felt in his pocket for his torch, but it wasn't there. He had dropped it in his bedroom. He groped his way over to the bench, and felt about for George's father. He wished he would wake up. It was so horrid to be there in the darkness. It was cold, too.
Sooty crept under the rugs and cuddled close to the unconscious man. He longed with all his heart for him to wake up.
From somewhere there sounded the drip-drip-drip of water. After a time Sooty couldn't bear it. He knew it was only drops dripping off the roof of the tunnel in a damp place, but he felt he couldn't bear it. Drip-drip-drip. Drip-drip-drip. If only it would stop!
'I'll have to wake George's father up!' thought the boy, desperately. 'I must talk to someone!'
He began to shake the sleeping man, wondering what to call him, for he did not know his surname. He couldn't call him 'George's father'! Then he remembered that the others called him Uncle Quentin, and he began yelling the name in the drugнged man's ear.
'Uncle Quentin! Uncle Quentm! Wake up! Do wake up! Oh, won't you please wake up!'
Uncle Quentin stirred at last. He opened his eyes in the darkness, and listened to the urgent voice in his ear feeling faintly puzzled.
'Uncle Quentin! Wake up and speak to me. I'm scared!' said the voice. 'UNCLE QUENTIN!'
The man thought vaguely that it must be Julian or Dick. He put his arm round Sooty and dragged him close to him. 'It's all right. Go to sleep,' he said. 'What's the matter, Julian? Or is it Dick? Go to sleep.'
He fell asleep again himself, for he was still half-drugged. But Sooty felt comforted now. He shut his eyes, feeling certain that he couldn't possibly go to sleep. But he did, almost at once! He slept soundly all through the night, and was only awakened by Uncle Quentin moving on the bench.
The puzzled man was amazed to find his bed so unexpectedly hard. He was even more amazed to find someone in bed with him, for he remembered nothing at all. He stretched out his hand to switch on the reading-lamp which had been beside his bed the night before.
But it wasn't there! Strange! He felt about and touched Sooty's face. What was this beside him? He began to feel extremely puzzled. He felt ill, too. What could have happened?
'Are you awake?' said Sooty's voice. 'Oh, Uncle Quentin, I'm so glad you're awake. I hope you don't mind me calling you that, but I don't know your surname. I only know you are George's father and Julian's uncle.'
'Well - who are you?' said Uncle Quentin, in wonder.
Sooty began to tell him everything. Uncle Quentin listened in the utmost amazement. 'But why have we been kidnapped like this?' he said, astonished and angry. 'I never heard of such a thing in my life!'
'I don't know why Mr Barling has kidnapped you - but I know he took me because I happened to see what he was doing,' said Sooty. 'Anyway, he's coming back this morning, with Block, and he said he would have a heart-to-heart talk with you. We'll have to wait here, I'm afraid. We can't possibly find our way to safety in the darkness, through this maze of tunnels.' So they waited Ч and in due course Mr Barling did come, bringing Block with him. Block carried some food, which was very welcome to the prisoners.
'You beast, Block!' said Sooty, at once, as he saw the servant in the light of the lantern. 'How dare you help in this? You wait till my stepfather hears about it! Unless he's in it too!'
'Hold your tongue!' said Block. Sooty stared at him. 'So you can hear!' he said. 'All this time you've been pretending you can't! What a sly fellow you are! What a lot of secrets you must have learnt, pretending to be deaf, and overhearing all kinds of things not meant for you. You're sly, Block, and you're worse things than that!'
'Whip him, Block, if you like,' said Mr Barling, sitting down on the box. 'I've no time for rude boys myself.'
'I will,' said Block, grimly, and he undid a length ot rope from round his waist. 'I've often wanted to, cheeky little worm!'
Sooty felt alarmed. He leapt off the bench and put up his fists.
СLet me talk to our prisoner first,' said Mr Barlingа 'Then you can give
Uncle Quentin was listening quietly to all this. He looked at Mr Barling, and spoke sternly.
'You owe me an explanation for your strange beнhaviour. I demand to be taken to Smuggler s Top. You shall answer to the police for this!Т
'Oh no, I shan't,' said Mr Barling, in a curiously soft voice. 'I have a very generous proposal to make to you. I know why you have come to Smuggler's Top. I know why you and Mr Lenoir are so interested in each other's experiments.'
'How do you know?' said Uncle Quentin. 'Spying, I suppose!'
'Yes - I bet Block's been spying and reading letters!' cried Sooty, indignantly.
Mr Barling took no notice of the interruption. 'Now, my dear
sir,' he said to Uncle Quentin, 'I will tell you very shortly what I propose. I
know you have heard that I am a smuggler. I am. I make a lot of money from it.
It is easy to run a smuggling trade here, because no one can patrol the marshes,
or stop men using the secret path that only I and a few others know. On favourable nights I send out a signal - or rather Block
here does so, for me, using the convenient
'Oh! So it was Block!' cried Sooty.
'Then when the goods arrive,' said Mr Barling, 'and again at a favourable moment I - er - dispose of them. I cover my tracks very carefully, so that no one can possibly accuse me because they never have any red proof.'
'Why are you telling me all this?' said Uncle Quentin scornfully. 'It's of no interest to me. I'm only interested in a plan for draining the marshes, not in smuggling goods across them!'
'Exactly, my dear fellow!' said Mr Barling, amiably. 'I know that. I have even seen your plans and read about your experiments and Mr Lenoir's. But the draining of the marsh means the end of my own business! Once the marsh is drained, once houses are built there, and roads made, once the mists have gone, my business goes too! A harbour may be built out there, at the edge of the marshes - my ships can no longer creep in unseen, bringing valuable cargoes! Not only will my money go, but all the excitement, which is more than life to me, will go too!'
'You're mad!' said Uncle Quentin, in disgust. Mr Barling was a little mad. He had always felt a great satisfaction in being a successful smuggler in days when smuggling was almost at an end. He loved the thrill of knowing that his little ships were creeping in the mist towards the treacherous marshes. He liked to know that men were making their way over a small and narrow path over the misty marsh to the appointed meeting-place, bringing smuggled goods. 'You should have lived a hundred years or more ago!' said Sooty, also feeling that Mr Barling was a little mad. 'You don't belong to nowadays.'
Mr Barling turned on Sooty, his eyes gleaming dangerously in the light of the lantern.
'Another word from you and I'll drop you in the marshes!' he said. Sooty felt a shiver go down his back. He suddenly knew that Mr Barling really did mean what he said He was a dangerous man. Uncle Quentin sensed it too. He looked at Mr Barling warily.
'How do I come into this?' he asked. 'Why have you, kidnapped me?'
'I know that Mr Lenoir is going to buy your plans from you,' said Mr Barling. 'I know he is going to drain the marsh by using your very excellent ideas. You see, I know all about them! I know, too, that Mr Lenoir hopes to make a lot of money by selling the land once it is drained. It is all his, that misty marsh -and no use to anyone now except to me! But that marsh is not going to be drained - I am going to buy your plans, not Mr Lenoir!'
'Do you want to drain the marsh, then?' said Uncle Quentin, in surprise.
Mr Barling laughed scornfully. 'No! Your plans, and the results of your experiments, will be burnt! They will be mine, but I shall not want to use them. I want the marsh left as it is, secret, covered with mist, and treacherous to all but me and my men. So, my dear sir, you will please name your price to me, instead of to Mr Lenoir and sign this document, which I have had prepared, making over all your plans to me!'
He nourished a large piece of paper in front of Uncle Quentin. Sooty watched breathlessly.
Uncle Quentin picked up the paper. He tore it into small pieces. He threw them into Mr Barling's face and said, scornfully: 'I don't deal with madmen, nor with rogues, Mr Barling!'
Mr Barling went very pale. Sooty gave a loud crow of delight. 'Hurrah! Good for you, Uncle Quentin!'
Block gave a loud exclamation, and darted to the excited boy. He took him by the shoulder, and raised the rope to thrash him.
That's right,' said Mr Barling, in a funny kind of hissing voice. 'Deal with him first, Block and then with this - this - stubborn - obstinate - fool! We'll soon bring them to their senses. A good thrashing now and again, a few days here in the dark, without any food Ч ah, that will make them more biddable!'
Sooty yelled at the top of his voice. Uncle Quentin leapt to his feet. The rope came down and Sooty yelled again.
Then there suddenly came the pattering of quick feet, and something flung itself on Block. Block gave a scream of pain and turned. He knocked the lantern over by accident, and the light went out. There was a sound of fierce growling. Block staggered about tryнing to keep off the creature that had fastened itself on to him.
'Barling! Help me!' he shouted. Mr Barling went to his aid, but was attacked in his turn. Uncle Quentin and Sooty listened in amazement and fear. What creature was this that had suddenly arrived? Would it attack them next? Was it a giant rat, or some fierce wild animal that haunted these tunnels?
The fierce animal suddenly barked. Sooty cheered.
СTIMMY! It's you, Timmy! Oh, good dog, good dog! Go for him, then, go for him! Bite him, Timmy, hard.'
The two frightened men could do nothing against the angry dog. Soon they were running down the tunnel as fast as they could go, feeling for the string for fear of being lost. Timmy chased them with much enjoyment, and then returned to Sooty and George's father, rather pleased with himself.
He had a tremendous welcome. George's father made a great fuss of him, and Sooty put his arms round the big dog's neck.
'How did you come here? Did you find your way out of the secret passage you've been in? Are you half-starved? Look, here's some food.'
Timmy ate heartily. He had managed to devour a few rats, but otherwise had had no food at all. He had licked the drops that here and there he had found dripping from the roof, so he had not been thirsty. But he had certainly been extremely puzzled and worried. He had never before been so long away from his beloved mistress!
'Uncle Quentin - Timmy could take us safely back to Smuggler's Top, couldn't he?' said Sooty, sudнdenly. He spoke to Timmy. 'Can you take us home, old boy? Home, to George?'
Timmy listened, with his ears cocked up. He ran down the passage a little way, but soon came back. He did not like the idea of going down there. He felt that enemies were waiting for them all. Mr Barling and Block were not likely to give in quite so easily!
But Timmy knew other ways about the tunnels that honeycombed the hillside. He knew, for instance, the way down to the marsh! So he set off in the darkness, with Uncle Quentin's hand on his collar, and Sooty following close behind, holding on to Uncle Quentin's coat.
It wasn't easy or pleasant. Uncle Quentin wondered at times if Timmy really did know where he was going. They went down and down, stumbling over uneven places, sometimes knocking their heads against an unexpected low piece of roof. It was not a pleasant journey for Uncle Quentin, for he had no shoes on his feet, and was dressed only in pyjamas and rugs.
After a long time they came out on the edge of the marsh itself, at the bottom of the hill! It was a desolate place, and the mists were over it, so that neither Sooty nor Uncle Quentin knew which way to turn!
'Never mind,' said Sooty, 'we can easily leave it to Timmy. He knows the way all right. He'll take us back to the town, and once there we'll know the way home ourselves!'
But suddenly, to their surprise and dismay, Timmy stopped dead, pricking up his ears, whined and would go no farther. He looked thoroughly miserable and unhappy. What could be the matter?
Then, with a bark, the big dog left the two by themselves, and galloped back into the tunnel they had just left. He disappeared completely!
'Timmy!' yelled Sooty. 'Timmy! Come here! Don't leave us! TIMMY!'
But Timmy was gone; why, neither Sooty nor Uncle Quentin knew. They stared at one another.
'Well - I suppose we'd better try to make our way over this marshy bit,' said Uncle Quentin, doubtfully, putting a foot out to see if the ground was hard. It wasn't! He drew back his foot at once.
The mists were so thick that it was really impossible to see anything. Behind them was the opening to the tunnel A steep rocky cliff rose up about it. There was no path that way, it was certain. Somehow they had to make their way round the foot of the hill to the main road that entered the town - but the way lay over marshy ground!
'Let's sit down and wait for a bit to see if Timmy comes back,' said Sooty. So they sat down on a rock at the entrance to the tunnel and waited.
Sooty began to think of the others. He wondered what they had thought when they had discovered that both he and Uncle Quentin were missing. How astonished they must have been!
'I wonder what the others are doing?' he said, aloud. 'I'd love to know!'
The others, as we know, had been doing plenty. They had found the opening in the window-seat where Mr Barling had taken the captives, and they had gone down it and actually seen Mr Barling and Block on their way to talk to Uncle Quentin and Sooty!
They had found out, too, that Block hadn't been in his bed - he had left a dummy there instead. Now everyone was talking at once, and Mr Lenoir was suddenly convinced that Block had been a spy, put in his house by Mr Barling, and not the good servant he had appeared!
Once Julian felt that he was convinced of this he spoke to him more freely, and told him of the way through the window-seat, and of how they had seen Mr Barling and Block that very day, in the underнground tunnels!
'Good heavens!' said Mr Lenoir, now looking thoroughly alarmed. 'Barling must be mad! I've always thought he was a bit strange - but he must be absolutely mad to kidnap people like this - and Block must be, too. This is a plot! They've heard what I've been planning with your uncle - and they've made up their minds to stop it because it will interfere with their smuggling. Goodness knows what they'll do now! This is serious!'
'If only we had Timmy!' suddenly said George. Mr Lenoir looked astonished. 'Who's Timmy?'
'Well, you might as well know everything now,' said Julian, and he told Mr Lenoir about Timmy, and how they had hidden him.
'Very foolish of you,' said Mr Lenoir, shortly, looking displeased. 'If you'd told me I would have had someone in the town look after him. I can't help not liking dogs. I detest them, and never will have them in the house. But I would willingly have arranged for him to be boarded out, if I'd known you'd brought him.'
The children felt sorry and a little ashamed. Mr Lenoir was an odd, hot-tempered person, but he didn't seem nearly as horrid as they had thought he was.
'I'd like to go and see if I can find Timmy,' said George. 'You'll get the police in now, I suppose, Mr Lenoir, and perhaps we could go and find Timmy? We know the way into the secret passage from your study.'
'Oh - so that's why you were hiding there in the afternoon yesterday,' said Mr Lenoir. 'I thought you were a very bad boy. Well, go and try and find him if you like, but don't let him come anywhere near me. I really cannot bear dogs in the house.'
He went to telephone the police-station again. Mrs Lenoir, her eyes red with crying, stood by him. George slipped away to the study, followed by Dick and Julian and Anne.а Marybelle stayed beside her mother.
'Come on - let's get into that secret passage and try and find old Timmy,' said George. 'If we all go, and whistle and shout and call, he's sure to hear us!'
They found the way into the passage, by doing the things they had done before. The panel slid back, and then another, larger opening came as before. They all squeezed through it, and found themselves in the very narrow passage that led from the study up to Sooty's bedroom.
But Timmy was not there! The children were surprised, but George soon thought why.
'Do you remember Sooty telling us there was a way into this passage from the dining-room, as well as from the study and Sooty's bedroom? Well, I believe I saw a door or something there, as we passed where the dining-room must be, and it's likely Timmy may have pushed through it, and gone into another passage somewhere.'
They went back, one by one. They came to the dining-room - or rather, they walked behind the dining-room wall. There they saw the door that George had noticed as they passed - a door, small and set quite flat to the wall, so that it was difficult to see. George pushed it. It opened easily, and then flapped shut, with a little click. It could be opened from one side but not from the other.
That's where Timmy's gone!' said George, and she pushed the door open again. 'He pushed against the door and it opened - he went through, and the door fastened itself so that he couldn't get back. Come on, we must find him.'
They all went through the small door. It was so low that they had to bend their heads to go through, even Anne. They found themselves in a passage rather like the one they had just left, but not quite so narrow. It suddenly began to go downwards. Julian called back to the others.
'I believe it goes down to the passages where we used to take Timmy when we let him down into that pit to go for a walk! Yes, look - we've come to where the pit itself is!'
They went on, calling Timmy, and whistling loudly, but no Timmy came. George began to feel worried.
'Hallo! - Surely this is where we came out when we climbed down all those steps from the window-seat passage!' said Dick, suddenly. 'Yes, it is. Look, there's the tunnel where we saw Block and Mr Barling going!'
'Oh - do you think they've done something to Timmy?' said George, in a frightened voice. 'I never thought of that!'
Everyone felt alarmed. It was strange that Block and Mr Barling could go about unmolested by Timmy if Timmy was somewhere near! Could they have harmed him in any way? They had no idea that Timmy was at that very minute with George's father and Sooty!
'Look at this!' said Julian, suddenly, and he shone his torch on to something to show the others. 'String. String going right down this tunnel. Why?'
'It's the tunnel that Mr Barling and Block took! said George. 'I believe it leads to where they've taken father and Sooty! They're keeping them pnsoners down here! I'm going to follow the string and ri them! Who's coming with me?'
21ааа A journey through the hill
'I'm coming!' said everyone at once. As if they would let George go alone!
So down the dark tunnel they went, feeling the string and following it. Julian ran it through his fingers, and the others followed behind, holding hands. It would not do for anyone to get lost.
After about ten minutes they came to the rounded cave where Sooty and George's father had been the night before. They were not there now, of course -they were on their way down to the marsh!
'Hallo, look! This is where they must have been!' cried Julian, shining his torch round. 'A bench - with tumbled rugs - and an over-turned lamp. And look here, scraps of paper torn into bits! Something's been happening here!'
Quick-witted George pieced it together in her mind. 'Mr Barling took them here and left them. Then he came back with some sort of proposal to Father, who refused it! There must have been a struggle of some sort and the lamp got broken. Oh - I do hope Father and Sooty got away all right.'
Julian felt gloomy. 'I hope to goodness they haven't gone wandering about these awful tunnels. Even Sooty doesn't know a quarter of them. I wish I knew what's happened.'
'Someone's coming!' suddenly said Dick. 'Snap out the light, Ju.'
Julian snapped off the torch he carried. At once they were all in darkness. They crouched at the back of the cave, listening.
Yes - footsteps were coming. Rather cautious footsteps. 'Sound like two or three people,' whispered Dick. They came nearer. Whoever was coming was plainly following the tunnel where the string was.
'Mr Barling perhaps - and Block,' whispered George. 'Come to have another talk with Father! But he's gone!'
A brilliant light flashed suddenly round the cave -and picked out the huddled children. There was a loud exclamation of astonishment.
'Good heavens! Who's here? What's all this?'
It was Mr Barling's voice. Julian stood up, blinking in the bright light.
'We came to look for my uncle and Sooty,' he said. 'Where are they?'
'Aren't they here?' said Mr Barling, seeming surнprised. 'And is that horrible brute of a dog gone?'
'Oh - was Timmy here?' cried George, joyfully. 'Where is he?'
There were two other men with Mr Barling. One was Block. The other was his servant. Mr Barling put down the lantern he was carrying.
'Do you mean to say you don't know where the others are?' he said, uneasily. 'If they've gone off on their own, they'll never come back.'
Anne gave a little scream. 'It's all your fault, you horrid man!'ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа
'Shut up, Anne!' said Julian. 'Mr Barling,а he s; turning to the angry smuggler, 'I think you d b come back with us and explain things. Mr L now talking to the police.'ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа
'Oh, is he?' said Mr Barlmg. 'Then I think it would be as well for us all to stay down here for a while! Yes, you too! I'll make Mr Lenoir squirm! I'll hold you all prisoners - and this rime you shall be bound so that you don't go wandering off like the others! Got some rope, Block?'
Block stepped forward with the other man. They caught hold of George first, very roughly.
She screamed loudly. СTimmy! Timmy! Where are you? Timmy, come and help! Oh, TIMMY!'
But no Timmy came. She was soon in a corner with her hands tied behind her. Then they turned to Julian.
'You're mad,' Julian said to Mr Barling, who was standing nearby, holding the lantern. 'You must be mad to do things like this.'
'Timmy!' shouted George, trying to free her hands. 'Timmy, Timmy, Timmy!'
Timmy didn't hear. He was too far away. But the dog suddenly felt uneasy. He was with George's father and Sooty at the edge of the marsh, about to lead them round the hill to safety. But he stopped and listened. He could hear nothing of course. But Timmy knew that George was in danger. He knew that his beloved little mistress needed him.
His ears did not tell him, nor did his nose. But his heart told him. George was in danger!
He turned and fled back into the tunnel. He tore up the winding passages at top speed, panting.
And, quite suddenly, just as Julian was angrily submitting to have his hands tied tightly together, a furry thunderbolt arrived! It was Timmy!
He smelt his enemy, Mr Barling, again! He smelt Block. Grrrrrrrrrr-rrrrrr!
'Here's that awful dog again!' yelled Block, and leapt away from Julian. 'Where's your gun. Barling?'
But Timmy didn't worry about guns. He leapt at Mr Barling and got him on the floor. He gave him a nip in the shoulder that made him yell. Then he leapt at Block, and got him down, too. The other man fled. 'Call your dog off; call him off, or he'll kill us!' cried Mr Barling, struggling up, his shoulder paining him terribly. But nobody said a word. Let Timmy do what he liked!
It wasn't long before all three of the men had gone into the dark tunnel, staggering about without a light, trying to find their way back. But they missed the string, and went wandering away in the darkness, groaning and terrified.
Timmy came running back very pleased with himнself. He went to George and, whining with joy, he licked his little mistress from head to foot. And George, who never cried, was most astonished to find the tears pouring down her cheeks. 'But I'm glad, not sad!' she said. 'Oh, somebody undo my hands! I can't pat Timmy!'
Dick undid her hands and Julian's. Then they all had a marvellous time making a fuss of Timmy. And what a fuss he made of them too! He whined and barked, he rolled over and over, he licked them and butted them all with his head. He was wild with delight.
'Oh Timmy - it's lovely to have you again,' said George, happily. 'Now you can lead us to the others. I'm sure you know where Father is, Timmy, and Sooty.'
Timmy did, of course. He set off, his tail wagging, George's hand on his collar, and the others behind in a line, holding hands.
They had the lantern with them and two torches, so they could see the way easily. But they would never have taken the right tunnels if Timmy hadn't been with them. The dog had explored them all thoroughly, and his sense of smell enabled him to go the right way without mistake.
'He's a marvellous dog,' said Anne. 'I think he's the best dog in the world, George.'
'Of course he is,' said George, who had always thought that ever since she had had Timmy as a puppy. 'Darling Tim - wasn't it wonderful when he came racing up and jumped at Block just as he was tying Julian's hands? He must have known we needed him!'
'I suppose he's taking us to wherever your father and Sooty are,' said Dick. 'He seems certain of the way. We're going steadily downhill. I bet we'll be at the marshes soon!'
When they at last came to the bottom of the hill, and emerged from the tunnel in the mists, George gave a yell. 'Look! There's Father - and Sooty too!"
'Uncle Quentin!' shouted Julian, Dick and Anne. 'Sooty! Hallo, here we are!'
Uncle Quentin and Sooty turned in the greatest surprise. They jumped up and went to meet the dog and the excited children.
'How did you get here?' said George's father, giving her a hug. 'Did Timmy go back for you? He suddenly deserted us and fled back into the tunnel.'
'What's happened?' asked Sooty, eagerly, knowing that the others would have plenty of news to tell him.
'Heaps,' said George, her face glowing. It was so nice all to be together again, Timmy too. She and Julian and Dick began to tell everything in turn, and then her father told his tale, too, interrupted a little by Sooty.
'Well,' said Julian at last, 'I suppose we ought to be getting back, or the police will be sending out blood-hounds to trace us all! Mr Lenoir will be surprised to see us all turning up together.'
'I wish I wasn't in pyjamas,' said his uncle, drawing the rugs about him. 'I shall feel most peculiar walking the streets like this!'
'Never mind - it's awfully misty now,' said George, and she shivered a little, for the air was damp. Timmy-show us the way out of this place. I'm sure you know it. ' Timmy had never been out of the tunnel before, but he seemed to know what to do. He set off round the foot of the hill, the rest following, marvelling at the way Timmy found a dry path to follow. In the mist it was almost impossible to see which place was safe to walk on and which was not. The treacherous marsh was all around them!
'Hurrah! There's the road!' cried Julian, suddenly, as they came in sight of the roadway built over the marsh, running up the hill from the salty stretches of mud. They picked their way to it, their feet soaked with wet mud. Timmy tried to take a flying leap on to it.
But somehow or other he slipped! He fell back into the marsh, tried to find a safe foothold and couldn't. He whined.ааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааааа аааааааааааа,
Timmy! Oh look, he's in the mud - and he s sinking!' screamed George, in panic. 'Timmy, Timmy, I'm coming!'
She was about to step down into the marsh to rescue Tim, but her father pulled her back roughly.а Do you want to sink in, too?' he cried. 'Timmy will get out all right.Т
But he wasn't getting out. He was sinking. СDo something, oh, do something!'а shoutedа George, struggling to get away from her fatherТs hold.аа СOh, save Timmy, quick!'
22 Things come right at last
But what could anyone do? In despair they all gazed at poor Timmy, who was struggling with all his might in the sinking mud. 'He's going down!' wept Anne.
Suddenly there came the sound of rumbling wheels along the road to the hill. It was a lorry carrying a load of goods - coal, coke, planks, logs, sacks of various things. George yelled to it.
'Stop, stop! Help us! Our dog's in the marsh.'
The lorry came to a stop. George's father ran his eye over the things it carried. In a trice he and Julian were dragging out some planks from the load. They threw these into the marsh, and, using them as stepping-stones, the two reached poor sinking Timmy.
The lorry-driver jumped down to help. Into the marsh, crosswise on the other planks, went some more wood, to make a safe path. The first lot were already sinking in the mud.
'Uncle Quentin's got Timmy - he's pulling him up! He's got him!' squealed Anne.
George had sat down suddenly at the edge of the road, looking white. She saw that Timmy would now be rescued, and she felt sick with shock and relief.
It was a difficult business getting Timmy right out, for the mud was strong, and sucked him down as hard as it could. But at last he was out, and he stagнgered across the sinking planks, trying to wag a very muddy tail.
Muddy as he was, George flung her arms round him.
'Oh Timmy - what a fright you gave us all! Oh how you smell - but I don't care a bit! I thought you were gone, poor, poor Timmy!'
The lorry-driver looked ruefully at his planks in the marsh. They were now out of sight beneath the mud. Uncle Quentin, feeling rather foolish in pyjamas and rugs, spoke to him.
'I've no money on me now, but if you'll call at Smuggler's Top sometime I'll pay you well for your lost planks and your help.'
'Well, I'm delivering some coal to the house next to Smuggler's Top,' said the man, eyeing Uncle Quentin's curious attire. 'Maybe you'd all like a lift? There's plenty of room at the back there.'
It was getting dark now, as well as being foggy, and everyone was tired. Thankfully they climbed up into the lorry, and it roared up the hill into Castaway. Soon they were at Smuggler's Top, and they all clambered down, suddenly feeling rather stiff.
СIТll be calling tomorrow,' said the driver. 'Can't stop now. Good evening to you all!'
The little company rang the bell. Sarah came hurryнing to the door. She almost fell over in surprise as she saw everyone standing there in the light of the hall-lamp.
СLands' sakes!' she said. 'You're all back! My, Mr and Mrs Lenoir will be glad - they've got the police hunting everywhere for you! They've gone down secret passages,а and they've been to Mr Barhng s, and ЕТ
Timmy bounced into the hall, the mud now drying on him, so that he looked most peculiar. Sarah gave a scream. 'What's that? Gracious, it canТt be a dog!Т
'Come here, Tim!' said George, suddenly remembering that Mr Lenoir detested dogs. 'Sarah, do you think you'd have poor Timmy in the kitchen with you? I really can't turn him out into the streets - you've no idea how brave he's been.'
'Come along, come along!' said her father, imнpatient with all this talk. 'Lenoir can put up with Timmy for a few minutes, surely!'
'Oh, IТll have him with pleasure!' said Sarah. 'I'll give him a bath. That's what he wants. Mr and Mrs Lenoir are in the sitting-room. Oh, shall I get you some clothes?'
The little party went in, and made their way to the sitting-room, while Timmy went docilely to the kitchen with the excited Sarah. Mr Lenoir heard the talking and flung open the sitting-room door.
Mrs Lenoir fell on Sooty, tears pouring down her cheeks. Marybelle pawed at him in delight, just as if she was a dog! Mr Lenoir rubbed his hands, clapped everyone on the back, and said: 'Well, well! Fine to see you all safe and sound. Well, well! What a tale you've got to tell, I'm sure!'
'It's a strange tale, Lenoir,' said George's father. 'Very strange. But I'll have to see to my feet before I tell it. I've walked miles in my bare feet, and they're very painful now!'
So, with bits of tales pouring out from everyone, the household bustled round and got hot water for bathing Uncle Quentin's feet, a dressing-gown for him, food for everyone, and hot drinks. It was really a most exciting time, and now that the thrills were all over, the children felt rather important to be able to relate so much.
Then the police came in, of course, and the Inspecнtor at once asked a lot of questions. Everyone wanted to answer them, but the Inspector said that only George's father, Sooty and George were to tell the tale. They knew most about everything.
Mr Lenoir was perhaps the most surprised person there. When he heard how Mr Barling had actually offered to buy the plans for draining the marsh, and how he had frankly admitted to being a smuggler, he sat back in his chair, unable to say a word.
'He's mad, of course!' said the Inspector of Police. 'Doesn't seem to live in this world at all!'
'That's just what I said to him,' said Sooty. 'I told him he ought to have lived a hundred years ago!'
'Well, we've tried to catch him in the smuggling business many and many a time,' said the Inspector, 'but he was too artful. Fancy him planting Block here as a spy, sir Ч that was a clever bit of work - and Block using your tower as a signalling place! Bit of nerve, that! And Block isn't deaf, after all? That was clever, too - sending him about, pretending he was stone-deaf, so that he could catch many a bit of knowledge not meant for his ears!'
'Do you think we ought to do something about Block and Mr Barling and the other man?' said Julian, suddenly. 'For all we know they're still wandering about in that maze of tunnels - and two of them are bitten by Timmy, we know.'
'Ah yes - that dog saved your lives, I should think, said the Inspector. 'A bit of luck, that. Sorry you don t like dogs, Mr Lenoir, but I'm sure you'll admit it was a lucky thing for you all that he was wandering about!Т
'Yes - yes, it was,' said Mr Lenoir. 'Of course Block never wanted dogs here, either - he was afraid they might bark at his curious comings and goings, I suppose. By the way - where is this marvellous dog? I don't mind seeing him for a moment - detest dogs, and always shall.
'I'll get him,' said George. 'I only hope Sarah's done what she said, and bathed him. He was awfully muddy!'
She went out and came back with Timmy. But what a different Timmy! Sarah had given him a good hot bath, and had dried him well. He smelt sweet and fresh, his coat was springy and clean, and he had had a good meal. He was feeling very pleased with himself and everything.
'Timmy Ч meet a friend,' said George to him, solemnly. Timmy looked at Mr Lenoir out of his big brown eyes. He trotted straight up to him, and held up his right paw politely to shake hands, as George had taught him.
Mr Lenoir was rather taken aback. He was not used to good manners in dogs. He couldn't help putting out his hand to Timmy Ч and the two shook hands in a most friendly manner. Timmy didn't attempt to lick Mr Lenoir or jump up at him. He took away his paw, gave a little wuff as if to say 'How-do-you-do?' and then went back to George. He lay down quietly beside her. 'Well - he doesn't seem like a dogТ said Mr Lenoir, in surprise.
'Oh, he is,' said George, at once, very earnestly. 'He's a real, proper dog, Mr Lenoir - only much, much cleverer than most dogs are. Could I keep him, please, while we stay here, and get someone in the town to look after him?'
'Well - seeing he is such a very fine fellow - and seems so sensible- I'll let you have him here,' said Mr Lenoir, making a great effort to be generous. 'Only-please keep him out of my way. 'I'm sure a sensible boy like you will see to that.'
Everyone grinned when Mr Lenoir called George a boy. He never seemed to realise she was a girl.
She grinned, too. She wasn't going to tell him she wasn't a boy!
'You'll never see him!' she said, joyfully. 'I'll keep him right out of your way. Thank you very much. It's awfully good of you.'
The Inspector liked Timmy, too. He looked at him and nodded across to George. 'When you want to get rid of him, sell him to me!' he said. 'We could do with a dog like that in our police force! Soon round up the smugglers for us!'
George didn't even bother to reply! As if she would ever sell Timmy, or let him go into the police force! All the same, the Inspector had to call on Timmy for help before long. When the next day came, and no one had found Mr Barling and his companions in the maze of tunnels, and they hadn't turned up anywhere, the Inspector asked George if she would let Timmy go down into the tunnels and hunt them out.
'Can't leave them there, lost and starving,' he said. 'Bad as they are we'll have to rescue them! Timmy is the only one who can find them.'
That was true, of course. So Timmy once more went underground into the hill, and hunted for his enemies. He found them after a while, lost in the maze of passages, hungry and thirsty, in pain and frightened. He took them like sheep to where the police waited for them. And after that Mr Barling and his friends disappeared from public life for quite a long tune.
'The police must be glad to have got them at last said Mr Lenoir. 'They have tried to stop this smuggling for a long time. They even suspected me at on time! Barling was a clever fellow, though I still think he was half mad. When Block found out my ideas about draining the marsh, Barling was afraid that once the mists and the marsh were gone, that would be the end of all his excitement - no more smuggling! No more waiting for his little ships to come creeping up in the fog - no more lines of men slipping across the secret ways of the marsh - no more signalling, no more hiding away of smuggled goods. Did you know that the police had found a cave full of them inside the hill?' It was an exciting adventure to talk about, now that it was all over. The children felt sorry about one thing, though - they were sorry that they had thought Mr Lenoir so horrid. He was a strange man in many ways, but he could be kind and jolly too.
'Did you know we're leaving Smuggler's Top?' said Sooty. 'Mother was so terribly upset when I disнappeared, that Father promised her he'd sell the place and leave Castaway, if I came back safe and sound. Mother's thrilled!'
'So am I,' said Marybelle. 'I don't like Smuggler's Top - it's so weird and secret and lonely!'
'Well, if it will make you all happy to leave it, I'm glad,' said Julian 'But I like it! I think it's a lovely place, set on a hill-top like this, with mists at its foot, and secret ways all about it. I'll be sorry never to come here again, if you leave.'
'So will I,' said Dick, and Anne and George nodded. 'It's an adventurous place!' said George, patting Timmy. 'Isn't it, Timmy? Do you like it, Timmy? Have you enjoyed your adventure here?'
'Woof!' said Timmy, and thumped his tail on the floor. Of course he had enjoyed himself. He always did, so long as George was anywhere about.
СWell Ц now perhaps weТll have a nice peaceful time!Т said Marybelle. I don't want any more adventures.'
СAh, but we do!Т said the others. So no doubt they will get them. Adventures always come to the adventurous, there's no doubt about that!
Next Ц Picture: The Four Children and Timmy the Dog