The Project Gutenberg eBook of The wizard's cave

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Title: The wizard's cave

Author: Eglanton Thorne

Release date: June 7, 2023 [eBook #70936]

Language: English

Original publication: United Kingdom: R.T.S, 1910


Transcriber's note: Unusual and inconsistent spelling is as printed.





















R.T.S., 4, Bouverie Street, London, E.C.4.

























THE coach rolled away from the door of Tudor Hall. The large schoolroom, tenanted only by two small boys crouching close to one of the windows, looked bare and grim.

It was raining so fast that they could not go into the playground. The dusty roads and scorched gardens of the London suburb needed rain badly, but what cared the boys for that? The downpour swelled the sense of wrong which filled the bosom of the elder, Marmaduke (generally known as Duke) Bryden, a well-grown boy of twelve, for this was "breaking-up day," and these boys had seen their schoolmates depart gleefully for home while they, having no home, were to spend their holidays at the schoolhouse.

"It's a horrid shame," ejaculated Duke Bryden, not for the first time—"a horrid shame! That's just what it is, and I don't care who hears me say it!"

As there was no one save themselves in the large room, the boast seemed unnecessary.

"It's not any good to say it," replied Noel, his brother, a slight, fair boy about eighteen months younger. "It does not alter it; we've gone through it before, and we know what it's like. Mrs. Tapson isn't half bad when we're the only boys she has to look after. Do you remember when we went to the sea?"

"Of course I remember it," Duke said. He had indeed a far clearer recollection than Noel of the summer when their parents took them to Deal, yet it was the younger boy who loved to brood over the vague, sweet memory of joyous days.

Since then, through their father's untimely death, the boys' lives had wholly changed. Their home was broken up and their mother obliged to take a situation. A friend offered to pay for the boys' education. He was a well-to-do man and kindly disposed towards the little fellows, but he had a large family of his own, and his wife could not be troubled with strange boys in the holidays.

The brothers had ceased to talk, and were moodily watching the steady downfall of the rain, when the door opened and a stout, middle-aged lady looked into the room. It was Mrs. Tapson, the matron who took charge of the boys at Tudor Hall.

"Come away, boys," she said cheerily. "Tea is ready. You must be weary of moping there by yourselves, and I am tired enough with turning out drawers and packing boxes. I am thankful that breaking-up day does not come often. It would not take many such days to break me up."

"She does not look as if she would break easily," Noel whispered to Duke as they followed her along the passage which led to the housekeeper's cosy room at the back of the house.

Duke's brow cleared as, on entering, his eyes fell on the dainty tea-table. The sight of a dish of fine cherries and a home-made cake, such as appeared on the school-table on Sundays only, afforded him consolation.

The boys had enjoyed their tea and wore feeling in better spirits when the heavy knock which announces the postman resounded through the house. Noel ran to fetch the letters, and came back with an excited air, for he had found amongst them a letter addressed to Mrs. Tapson in his mother's handwriting.

"I guess it's to say that she's going to send us a box," he remarked to his brother; "but why did she not write to us about it?"

"Here you are!" said Mrs. Tapson, who had opened the envelope. "There's a letter for you inside. It's addressed to you both, so you cannot quarrel over it."

Eagerly the boys took the folded sheet, and, both trying to open it at once, tore it across ere they did so. Then, putting it together with some difficulty, they read the following words:—


"Egloshayle, July 31st."
"MY DEAR DUKE AND NOEL,—It has pained me so to think that you would
have to remain at school while the other boys were enjoying themselves
at the seaside or in the country, that at last I screwed up my courage
and spoke to Mr. Torrington about it. He and his brother are going to
Switzerland for a month on account of Mr. Alan's health, which does not
improve. While they are away their rooms are to be thoroughly done up,
so I shall be busy looking after painters and whitewashers, yet I dared
to ask Mr. Torrington if he would mind two little boys coming here for
a fortnight."
"'Nothing venture nothing have' is a good old saying. I am thankful now
that I ventured, for Mr. Torrington took it better than I could have
expected. He does not like boys, and he looked frightened at first, but
ended by giving me permission to have you here for the whole of the
month he expects to be away. I had to promise that you would behave
very well and do no mischief in house or grounds. I am sure I can trust
you to make good this promise."
"I can fancy how you will look when you read this. You do not need to
be told what a joy it will be to your mother to have you here. You will
enjoy this lovely place and the beautiful wild Cornish coast."
"I am writing to Mrs. Tapson to tell her about the train and to ask her
kindly to see you off. Mr. Torrington and his brother leave on Saturday
morning, so I shall be ready to welcome you on that evening. Now do not
let yourselves get too excited on the journey and don't lean too far
out of the window and lose your hats. When you reach the station there
will be a coach waiting to bring you and your luggage on here. When the
coach draws up at the Golden Lion, near Egloshayle, you will see me.
Till then much love from—"
"Your mother,"


The boys were wild with delight at the news brought by the letter.

"Cornwall is ever so much better than Scotland," said Duke confidently, "and I certainly would not change places with Jack and his girl cousins."

"Is it as nice as Deal?" asked Noel.

"As nice!" repeated Duke scornfully. "Deal isn't a patch upon Cornwall. Don't you remember hearing mother talk about the broad sands where we can build castles, and the rocks and caves?"

"Caves!" echoed Noel. "Do they go a long way back, and are they dark inside?"

"That's what we shall have to find out," said Duke. "Oh, I wish we had known about it sooner, we might have saved up bits of candle."

"But I'm glad we've only to wait till Saturday," said Noel. "Only two more days and then we shall be there! Isn't it scrumptious!"

"I wish I had known sooner," said Mrs. Tapson; "I'd have had all your things nicely washed and mended. Your mother kindly says it does not matter; but I like to send everything in order."

The boys could not see that this was of the least consequence. They did not cease talking of Cornwall till, at a later hour than usual, Mrs. Tapson sent them to bed, and then they carried the thought of that beautiful county into their dreams.







IT was vain for Mrs. Dryden to warn her boys against over-excitement as they travelled west. From the moment when they left Paddington until they alighted at the little Cornish station they were in high spirits, and they greatly amused their fellow-passengers.

"Where is the coach for Trevethick?" Duke demanded with a lordly air, as he sprang on to the platform almost before the train had stopped. A tall, thin porter, sauntering in a leisurely way along the platform, looked at him calmly, but made no reply as he moved forward to open a carriage door.

Many other passengers were on the platform, and the chief concern of all was their luggage.

The platform was soon littered with a rich variety of trunks and portmanteaux, which were gradually sorted into family groups. Duke hunted for the small box which contained his own and Noel's slender outfit.

Just as he had made up his mind that it was lost, the guard tumbled it out of his van on to the platform, shouting to a porter as the train started and he swung himself into it, "The two little chaps will be met at the Golden Lion."

"Two little chaps!" Duke's dignity was seriously impaired. Noel might be a "little chap," but everyone said what a tall, big fellow Duke was for his age.

Noel, meanwhile, had been looking round and had discovered, amid various private and hired vehicles waiting outside the station, a small country omnibus to which were harnessed three tall, bony horses.

"I believe it goes to Trevethick," he said to Duke as he drew his attention to the conveyance. The porters were beginning to load the top with luggage, while a short, square, red-faced man standing by the gate shouted instructions.

"Oh, we're not going in that," said Duke; then turning to one of the porters, he asked again, "Where is the coach for Trevethick?"

"There he be," said the man, jerking his head towards the conveyance.

"But that isn't a coach," said Duke.

"Baint it?" said the man. "Then I reckon he'll have to do instid of one."

"How funnily they talk!" whispered Noel to his brother. "Why does he say 'he,' when he means the bus?"

Duke did not reply. He was wondering how all the luggage scattered round it was to be packed on to the omnibus. It seemed somewhat of a puzzle to the men engaged on the task.

The other vehicles had started off and the porters were now anxious to get off "the coach," as they termed it. They placed and replaced the boxes, while the red-faced man shouted somewhat contradictory directions and bystanders made suggestions.

"'Eave 'im up a bit, Joe. Put the littl'un atop. Not that way, t'other side up. Mind that hatbox. All right, sir, that won't hurt. Safe, ma'am? As safe as the baby's cradle."

Nearly half an hour slipped by ere all the luggage was piled up and secured by a rope. Then the passengers took their places, six inside and nine on the top. There was room for two on each side of the driver, and five occupied the bench behind him.

Duke watched them take their places with some dismay.

"We want to go to the Golden Lion," he said to the red-faced man, who proved to be the driver; "will there be room for us?"

"Don't you be afraid, sonny," he replied; "there'll be abundance of room for you and t'other little chap. You don't want a whole coach to yourselves, do you?"

"Now, if you please," he shouted to his passengers, "you can make room there for a littl'un." So saying he helped Duke to clamber up, and pushed him with little ceremony into the middle of the back row.

Then he lifted Noel on to the box, mounted behind him and took the reins. Noel was squeezed into about six inches of space between the driver and a fat-faced burly man who leaned over him as he talked so that the small boy could see little more than the horses with their blinkers saw. But he could see them and observe how they responded to whip and reins and the driver's words. Duke, who sat higher, could see the tall hedges, which promised a rich harvest of blackberries and nuts, and waved sweet tendrils of honeysuckle high above the reach of the passer-by.

When they had gone several miles the driver drew up his horses at the foot of a very steep hill and requested the passengers to walk up it. He told Duke and Noel, however, to stop where they were. For this they were grateful, for, released from their cramped position, they could talk to one another, and from the top of the vehicle they caught a splendid view of the country through which they were passing.

Presently, as the road wound about and the horses climbed higher, a cry of rapture broke from Noel.

"Oh, look! Look, Duke! The sea!"

To the left lay a narrow green glen with a stream rippling through it. Beyond it rose mighty cliffs which, falling asunder, framed an exquisite view of the deep blue sea.

"Hurrah!" cried Duke. "There it is! What a glorious sea! Look, Noel, how the waves foam at the top! That shows the sea is rough."

"Ay, and it most always is rough along this coast," remarked the driver. "You young gentlemen must not think of bathing alone, for it is not safe. There are treacherous undercurrents in places, and I've known even good swimmers swept away by them. Whoa, now—whoa!"

Noel with a sigh resigned himself to being crushed and squeezed by the big man, who came back more talkative than ever. The boy had taken a strong dislike to this man, who spoke in a thick husky voice.

"Is that Egloshayle House I see there?" he asked presently. "Just a bit of a roof amongst the trees?"

"Ay, that's it," said the driver; "we can see it from here, though we're more than three miles from it by the road."

Noel tried in vain to look in the direction indicated by the driver's whip; he was unable to turn his head far enough.

"The twin brothers still live there, I suppose?" said the other man.

"Ay, but they're not at home now. Went off this very mornin' to furrin parts."

"What—the cracky one too!"

The driver nodded. "'Tain't likely his brother would leave him behind."

"Is he really as mad as folks say?"

"Not likely," returned the driver; "I never knew folks tell the truth yet. They say that he's a miser, and hides his money in out-of-the-way places; and goes to count it when other folks are sleeping. They'll tell you he haunts the rocks at night, and is a sort of wizard, or something uncanny; but don't you believe it! I don't."

"They're very rich, ain't they?" said the big man. "Is the brother miserly too?"

"Not he," replied the driver. "Mr. Oscar Torrington is as open-handed as his brother's the opposite. I don't suppose he's over rich; but he gave a hundred pounds to the Trevethick Lifeboat Fund, and he lets the widow of a man who was drowned last year live in one of his cottages rent-free."

"Oh, he's a good fellow; but his brother has got his crotchets—a bit here, you know—" he touched his forehead—"there's no denying that."

"Do they live alone?" asked the man.

"They've no one belonging to them, if that's what you mean; but a lady keeps house for them, and a real nice lady she is too. What is the matter, sonny? A bit squeezed-eh?"

Noel in his excitement at hearing his mother thus mentioned was making frantic attempts to get his arms free that he might signal to Duke. He blushed and became very still; but only for a few moments. The horses were turning a corner. Two or three cottages came into sight, together with a quaint old inn, distinguished by a sign bearing a bold and extraordinary painting of a lion.

But Noel did not observe this curious representation of the king of beasts. His eyes fell on a lady who stood a few paces from the inn, gazing eagerly up the road.

"Oh, there's mother—mother!" he cried, forgetting his shyness in the rapture of the moment. "Duke, do you see? There's mother!"

"You don't mean to say she's your mother!" said the driver. "Well, to be sure!"







Tun boys found Egloshayle House the most remarkable dwelling they had ever seen. It would be difficult to imagine an abode more unlike the ordinary town house to which they were accustomed. It stood at the head of a rocky gorge, or chine, as it would be called in the south of England, through which a swift, narrow stream made its way to the sea.

The house consisted of two parts, one modern, one very old. The modern rooms had large windows and faced a bright flower-garden, with a gravelled drive leading to the stately entrance. The old part lay behind and extended almost to the edge of the gorge, which it seemed to overhang. Here the rooms were low, the roof had deep eaves which sheltered a whole colony of swallows, and ivy grew thickly about the small-paned windows.

A curious little tower rose at one side. The boys' mother told them that in the old days a lamp had always burned at night in the window of this tower, giving a light which could be seen far out at sea. The boys asked why this was no longer done, and she said she was afraid the lamp had been no good.

It was said that a former dweller at Egloshayle had used it as a treacherous beacon to lure vessels on to the deadly rocks below. That was in the old wrecking days, when men believed that all that the sea brought to their shore was their lawful prey, and instead of seeking to save shipwrecked sailors, sought rather to hasten their doom that they might enrich themselves by the spoil that the waves cast up.

"It is much better there should be no light in the tower," Mrs. Bryden said, "than that men should mistake it for the light at the entrance to Trevethick harbour and steer their vessels accordingly."

"It should show a red light," said Duke; "that means danger, and when the sailors saw it, they would know they must keep away."

"Ah, yes," said his mother; "then it would be a useful warning. It would be a terrible thing to show a light that would lead men to destruction."

"Noel," said Duke to his brother, on the night of their arrival, just as they were about to fall asleep, in the bedroom which their mother had prepared for them next to her own, "I wish it was not Sunday to-morrow. We shall not be able to bathe, or to paddle, and I do want to see what the sands are like."

"Oh, I'm glad it'll be Sunday," said Noel, "for we shall have mother with us all day."

They were both so tired from their long journey that this was the last word said ere sleep overcame them.

The boys did not wake till a late hour the next morning. Then, as they rushed to their window, which looked towards the sea, it was a disappointment to find that a fine, driving mist hid the cliffs, and the air felt almost as chill as winter. But by the time they had finished breakfast, which was rather a long meal, since they had so many questions to ask their mother, and she had so much to say to them, the sun was beginning to shine through the mist.

They walked with their mother to an interesting old church, set in the midst of the green downs. By the time the service was over the sun had conquered the clouds, and in brilliant sunshine they took their way home along the cliff path.

The boys could hardly contain themselves for joy as they bounded over the soft, springy turf or gazed down on the blue sea, fringed with foam wherever it touched the land, and the rugged brown cliffs, tinged in places with streaks of rust-colour, which their mother told them marked the presence of iron.

Here and there huge rocks stood detached from the cliffs, and the waves surging fiercely against them seemed possessed by an angry desire to bring down their pride.

Mrs. Bryden felt some qualms of fear as she warned her children not to go too near the edge of the cliff. It was a place where a boy's high spirits and contempt of fear might easily betray him into danger; but she foresaw that she must harden herself to accept some risk if she would not spoil her boys' pleasure or prevent their gaining proper courage and self-control.

"Listen to me, boys," she said. "I want you to enjoy a good holiday here; but I cannot always be with you. My duties will oblige me often to leave you to yourselves; but I dare not let you go beyond the garden alone unless you will promise me to be careful and not do things of which you know I should not approve."

"You, Duke, are old enough to understand when there is danger which you ought to avoid, and I shall make you responsible for Noel's safety. You are not to let him climb into dangerous places. Remember that he is younger and weaker than you, and things that you could attempt with safety might prove too much for him. Will you promise me?"

"Yes, mother," said Duke; "but we can bathe, can't we?"

"Not alone," said his mother; "there is a good bathing beach at a little distance, where it is safe to bathe. I will take you there to-morrow morning if it is fine. When I am unable to go with you, I will try to find some one to take my place."

"Why can't I bathe alone?" asked Duke. "I have learned to swim in the swimming-bath at school, and I can do six strokes quite easily."

"I am glad to hear it," said his mother with a smile; "but the water off this coast is very different from that in the swimming-bath. There is often a strong undercurrent too, and it would take more than six strokes to save you, if that carried you out of your depth."

"Mother," said Noel, as they came in sight of Egloshayle House, "who sleeps in those rooms with the ivy almost covering the windows?"

"No one," said Mrs. Bryden; "those rooms are all unoccupied, with the exception of the one next the tower, which Mr. Alan uses as a kind of a study."

"Is Mr. Alan the one who is a miser?" asked Noel.

"A miser!" repeated his mother in surprise. "Who has been telling you such a thing about him?"

Noel told her, pretty correctly, the talk he had heard on the coach.







FROM Egloshayle House the nearest way to the sea lay through the glen into which a steep narrow path descended close to the foot of the tower. The boys could never have imagined such a wild lovely place as this glen. Green cliffs with rocky crags jutting from them enclosed the clear brown stream. Rich ivy mantled the crags and purple heather grew thickly about them. On either side the stream were tangles of meadow-sweet, crimson-vetch, honeysuckle and other flowers. Bees and butterflies flitted amid these, while dragon-flies darted to and fro or hovered above the stream.

The boys found so many attractions in the glen that they felt as if they wanted to be in twenty places at once. At its lower end the cliffs grew bleaker and the stream was forced into a narrow, channel between straight black rocks forming what in Scotland, Mrs. Bryden told her boys, was called a linn.

The water descended from level to level, in a series of snowy cascades, to the sea, which at high tide rushed forward to meet it, swelling deep and strong between the rugged cliffs and breaking in great foaming billows over the platforms of rock through which the stream had cut its way. At low tide it lost itself in the yellow sand of a little sheltered cove and rippled in many a tiny streamlet to join the waves.

Into this sanded cove the boys came one morning about a week after their arrival at Egloshayle. The sea was unusually calm, and fell on the shore with a soft murmur. The tide was going out, and as Duke and Noel ran over the sand they came to heaps of beautiful seaweed, and gathered some lovely specimens to carry home. They seldom saw anyone else at this spot, for it was considered dangerous to bathe in the cove, and most of the visitors preferred to spend the morning on the large bathing beach to the west.

Gulls haunted the place. There was quite a congregation of them on the tall rock which stood a few paces from the shore.

"Come along, Noel!" Duke cried. "Now's our time to explore this cave. The sea won't be back for hours. I've got a bit of candle and some matches. We'll go back as far as ever we can."

Noel looked grave as he followed his brother to the mouth of the deep cave that opened on to the beach. He was naturally timid, and he did not like the thought of their venturing alone into the hidden recesses of the rock; but he would not say so. Noel was much ashamed of the fears he could not banish.

The sand within the cave was wet, the rocks green and slimy. Duke had taken the precaution to remove his shoes and stockings, and he sped forward fearlessly. Noel followed more cautiously and lingered to look up at the green fronds hanging from the roof of the cave. He had kept his sand-shoes on, for he had a horror of coming into contact with crabs or jelly-fish.

The cave ran back for several yards, and grew narrower and lower as they went on.

"We can't go any farther," Noel said as he bent to avoid knocking his head against the rock above.

"Yes, we can!" Duke cried. "Here's a hole, and we can get through into another cave. Come along," He was clambering through as he spoke. Noel followed him, and found himself in a larger cave.

"It's rather dark and not very nice here," he said with a shiver.

"Hallo!" exclaimed Duke, peering upwards. "Do you see that?"

"See what?" Noel asked fearfully in reply to his brother.

"Don't you see that big hole up there? It's like a little room."

Noel looked up and saw a square opening, revealing a deep recess, exactly opposite a window in the rock which threw light into it.

"Yes, it is like a room," Noel said, adding, with a sigh of relief, "but there's no way of getting into it."

"I daresay I could climb up," said Duke; but the straight smooth wall of rock seemed to offer no foothold.

Though he would not allow it was impossible, Duke made no attempt to reach the rock chamber. When they had fully examined the inner cave, there seemed no opening for further exploration, and Duke was willing to return. Noel hurried back eagerly, and was thankful to find himself once more in bright sunshine.

Almost the first thing he saw as he came out of the cave was a boy disporting himself in the waves.

"Oh, look, Duke!" he cried. "There's a boy bathing. He can't know that it's dangerous to bathe here."

"I don't believe it is dangerous to-day," said Duke; "it doesn't look so."

"Oh, but you know Box says that there is always a dangerous eddy at that point. Don't you think we ought to warn him?"

"All right," said Duke, quite willing to make acquaintance with the young stranger, who seemed to be a year or two older than himself.

"I say, boy, whatever's your name!" he shouted. "Don't you know it's dangerous to bathe off this beach? Look out for a groundswell—do you hear?"

Clearly the boy heard, for he smiled and nodded gaily as he stood with the water almost to his shoulders and shook the drops from his dark hair; but he only uttered a sound which appeared to the others like "Yah! yah!" He threw himself forward, apparently wishing to show the strange boys that he knew how to swim; but the attempt was feeble. It carried him, however, beyond his depth, and when he tried to return he lost himself altogether. He screamed for help as he felt the current sweeping him away.

"Oh, Duke, he'll be drowned! Can't you go to him?" Noel cried.

"I don't believe I could swim to where he is," said Duke, growing very white.

"Oh, you could! It is not more than six strokes," Noel said.

An instant later he wished he could recall the words, for Duke threw off his coat and plunged into the sea. He struck out bravely, land the current helping him, was soon beside the other boy, who clutched at him instantly, with the result that they both disappeared beneath the water, while Noel uttered a succession of piercing screams.

The next moment there was a great splash. A huge dog had sprung from somewhere and was swimming to the rescue. As the boys rose again to the surface the dog seized hold of Duke by his clothing and held him up in the water, with the other boy still clinging to him.

The dog could hardly have dragged them to shore, but other help was at hand. The dog's owner, hearing Noel's screams, had followed him rapidly. He too plunged into the sea, and being a strong man and an excellent swimmer, he had the two boys on shore in a few moments. They had not wholly lost consciousness, and some vigorous rubbing and arm-exercise restored them to animation.

Meanwhile Noel had been sent running back to the house to fetch a change of clothing for Duke. He was told not to frighten his mother, but the sight of his scared face and breathless haste was sufficiently alarming. Mrs. Bryden ran down to the beach in a terrible state of anxiety, but was relieved when she saw Duke's smiling face.

"A brave boy, madam," said the stranger as he gave Duke into his mother's care, "though he set himself a task beyond his strength. I congratulate you on having such a son!"

Mrs. Bryden burst into tears, and Duke and Noel cried too, though Duke could never afterwards bear to be reminded of the fact.

In a few minutes all were calm enough to enter upon explanations. Then it appeared that the strange boy was an Italian who had come to Trevethick with the English tutor who had charge of him. He knew so little of English that he had utterly failed to understand the warning Duke had tried to give to him.

"Luigio brought this trouble on himself through disobedience," said his tutor. "I distinctly told him that he was not to go into the water till I joined him. We only came into this neighbourhood last evening. When I saw this little beach I thought it looked a delightful place for a bathe; but I meant to make inquiries as to its safety before I allowed Luigio to go in."







WHEN they reached home, Duke was put to bed, where he remained for the rest of the day. His mother would not let him talk of what had happened.

"Thank God that your life was spared, my boy," she said, "and then try to forget it all in sleep."

Duke did try to thank God as he lay still, feeling strangely awed.

"Mother," said Noel, as they sat at dinner together, "are you glad that Duke was so brave?"

"Oh, yes, I am glad," said Mrs. Dryden, though tears sprang to her eyes, "I want my boys to be brave. And yet I don't know how I should have felt if he had been drowned. It seems to me I could not have borne it."

"I told him to go, mother, so it would have been my fault if he had been drowned," Noel said gravely. "I felt dreadful when I saw him go under, yet I thought God would save him somehow, and He did."

"Oh, we can never thank Him enough that it ended happily," said Mrs. Bryden.

"But we must go on being brave," said Noel.

"Yes," said his mother, "you must go on being brave. There is nothing I more desire than that my boys should grow up to be brave, good men—Jesus Christ's men. You know that He was the bravest, noblest Man that ever lived upon this earth. If you truly follow Him, your lives cannot but be heroic, it seems to me."

On the following day Duke seemed just as usual; but there could be no going down to the shore that morning. The sky was dark, and a wild stormy wind prevailed, which beat in fierce squalls against the house, accompanied by drenching showers. It was plain that the boys must find amusement indoors. By this time the front rooms were in the hands of the workmen.

Ever since he arrived, Duke had felt a longing to explore the old part of the house, but as long as fine weather lasted the attractions of the outer world proved stronger.

A stout door, locked and bolted, separated the inhabited part of the house from the old portion, used only by the eccentric Mr. Alan. One of the servants opened the door for the boys. Their mother had too many matters in hand that morning to be able to accompany them.

This door admitted them into a narrow passage, passing along which they came to a small square hall, and from this a narrow twisted staircase ascended.

"The tower! the tower!" cried Duke, and darted up the steps. Noel followed swiftly, in fear of being left far behind, for the stairway was narrow and dark; but it was not long, and they quickly emerged into a tiny square chamber, with a window occupying nearly the whole of each side. All the boys could see from it at this time, however, was grey mist and driving rain. There was no furniture save a tall, three-legged stool.

"I say," exclaimed Duke, "what a jolly view there must be from here when it's clear!"

"We can't see anything now," remarked Noel, "and it's awfully cold."

"So it is," said Duke. "We'll go down again. We haven't seen Mr. Alan's room."

"Where is it?" Noel asked.

"That's what we've got to find out," responded his brother as he ran down the steps.

There was a door very near the foot of the stairs, but it was locked. Peeping through the keyhole, Duke saw enough to convince him that it was Mr. Alan's room.

"Mother did not say it was locked," said Noel.

"She did not say it was not," replied Duke. "Let us see if there is not a key in one of the other doors that will open it."

Just then Noel's eyes spied a key lying under a step in the bend of the stairway. Duke pushed it into the lock and found that it turned it easily.

The room they entered was small and comfortably furnished, but it seemed to be in an amazing state of disorder. A large writing-table was littered with books, papers, diagrams, stones and other things which seemed to the boys mere rubbish. The table had several drawers, and more than one of them stood open, showing the contents thrown together in the utmost confusion.

"He did leave his things in a muddle when he went away," said Noel, wide-eyed with wonder.

"And here's his pipe on the mantelpiece," said Duke. "Now would you have expected that Mr. Alan would smoke a short black stump like this?"

"You forget he is a miser," said Noel. "He would not like to buy a better one."

"Hulloa!" exclaimed Duke. "Look here! He's been eating bread and cheese! Did you ever!"

As Duke touched the paper with his foot, a mouse darted from beneath it, and Noel uttered a scream.

"What a coward you are, Noel! You're as bad as a girl. They always scream when they see a mouse."

"Hulloa!" said Duke, as he examined the relics more closely. "This cannot be his bread and cheese. Do you see the date on this paper? Yesterday was the 12th of August."

"P'raps one of the workmen brought it up here," suggested Noel. "They have bread and cheese for dinner."

"But why in the world should he come here to eat it? I shouldn't think Mr. Alan would like him to make so free with his room."

"How could he get into this part of the house?" asked Noel. "The door is kept locked."

"I guess a workman would know how to get in if he wanted to," said Duke. "Besides, there's a door in the hall below. I think it opens on to the down, just below the tower. I've often noticed it from the outside. Let's go and see."

They ran downstairs and were crossing the hall when Noel clutched his brother by the sleeve.

"Duke," he whispered, "there's a man in that room we've just passed."

"A man, Noel? Nonsense!"

"But there is. I saw him through the chink of the door."

Duke was for going back to see, but Noel in terror pushed him into the next room and implored him not to go. The nest moment they heard a heavy step cross the hall and a door closed with a bang.

Duke ran to the window and looked out. He caught sight of a man disappearing in the mist.

"He's gone, whoever he was," he said, "What was there to be so frightened about?"

"Was it one of the workmen?" asked Noel, feeling ashamed.

"I don't know. He didn't look much like one. He had on a rough sort of coat like sailors wear."

Duke went across the hall to examine the door. It opened easily. They stood for a moment looking forth on the wet turf and driving rain.

"He shan't come in again this way," said Duke, as he shut the door and pushed the rusty bolts into their sockets; there was no key. Then they dismissed the man from their minds, and went back to Mr. Alan's room.







ON the wall to the right, as one entered Mr. Alan's room, hung a long, narrow picture which had a strange interest for the boys.

It was a life-size painting of a man in the dress of a Cavalier, with feathered hat and ample cloak, lace ruffles and pointed shoes. He was leaning forward with his finger on his lips as if enjoining silence. The boys were struck with the disagreeable expression of the countenance and the cunning leer in the eyes. Noel was uneasily conscious that the eyes followed him to whatever side of the room he retreated.

"I hate that picture," he said; "the man keeps staring at me as if he were alive."

"What does that matter when you know he is not?" said Duke. "Let him stare. I snap my fingers at him. I would turn him round with his face to the wall if the frame were not so large."

He laid his hand on the picture as he spoke and gave it a slight push.

Then an amazing thing happened.

The picture swung slowly back, revealing an opening. Gazing into it with startled eyes, the boys saw the beginning of a narrow flight of stairs leading downwards.

"Oh, look, Noel, look!" cried Duke. "A hidden staircase! Let us go down and see where it leads to."

"Oh, no, no!" cried Noel, shrinking back.

"Why not? Well, you are a fellow! I am going down." Duke descended a few steps and was lost to sight. Noel waited in breathless suspense. He was trying hard to nerve himself to follow, when his brother reappeared.

"The steps go a long way down," he said "they are quite easy, but it's rather dark. We'll come again to-morrow and bring some bits of candle."

"Does mother know about it, do you think?" asked Noel.

"I can't tell. I dare say she does not," said Duke. "But look here, Noel, we won't say anything about it till we've been down and seen what it's like."

"But don't you think we ought to tell her?" said Noel. "Then p'raps she'd let Box go with us."

"Box!" returned Duke contemptuously. "Much good it would be to go with an old fellow like that! Really, Noel, I think you should have a nursemaid. I'll go by myself if you're afraid. Only be quiet about it for the present. Now we'll push the picture back. See how easily it goes!"

"How clever to make a picture into a door!" said Noel. "No one would guess it was that."

"No, but aren't you glad we've found it out? Now I feel as if it must be about dinner-time, so we'll go back into the house."

In the afternoon the rain ceased and the sky gradually grew clearer; but the force of the wind increased. Standing by a window, the boys could hear the roar of the waves mingling with the noise of the blast.

"Oh, what a sea there must be!" cried Duke. "Do let us go down to see it, mother!"

"Will it be mountains high?" asked Noel.

"I can't say that," replied his mother with a smile, "but it is sure to be a grand sight. I dare not let you go down to the shore alone. In half an hour I shall have finished this work, and then, if it is still fine, I will go with you."

Never did half an hour seem so long. The boys were impatient to be off. At last their mother was ready, and they set out. Mrs. Bryden had wrapped herself in a cloak with a hood, which she drew over her head, for it was impossible to wear a hat in such a gale. The boys drew their caps low down on their heads that the wind might not carry them away, and set off in high glee.

It was hard work fighting their way down the glen in the teeth of the wind; but Duke and Noel found it good fun.

Mrs. Bryden was obliged to pause now and then, shrinking into some sheltered nook while she regained her breath.

At last they came on to a rocky platform beyond which it was impossible to go, for the sea was raging high between the cliffs and dashing in mad fury against the rocks that barred the entrance to the glen. In the distance the waves might be seen towering like high walls of palest green ere they rolled over in foaming billows. Where they struck the side of the cliff a cloud of spray resembling smoke rose to the green summit. It was grand to watch the fury of the breakers as they dashed against the rocks.

Retreating, they left behind them a surf which lay like soapsuds in the hollows, or was driven landward by the wind in fragments, giving the effect of a snowstorm. The boys never forgot that spectacle.

As the three stood watching it, they were joined by the Italian boy and his tutor, Mr. Fletcher, accompanied by the huge mastiff they called Nero.

Their greetings were mute at first, for it was scarcely possible to hear each other speak, so great was the tumult of the elements. In addition to the uproar of wind and waves there was the loud and peculiar noise made by the sea as it rushed into the deep caverns so numerous along that coast. With a roll as of thunder the waves made their way into the long cave which the boys had explored only, yesterday; then came some loud and terrific reports as the sea entered the rocky passage into the inner cave, followed, after a few seconds, by a sound of sobbing and wailing as from a soul in deep distress.

"Oh, mother, what is it?" Noel asked, with his lips close to his mother's ear.

"Only the sea, dear," she answered. "It makes that noise as it rushes along the hidden passages in the rooks. I have heard it before in stormy weather."

"I don't, like to hear it, mother. It sounds as if someone were crying out. Oh, would it not be awful to fall into that sea!"

"Awful indeed!" said Mrs. Bryden with a shudder as she moved forward to draw Duke farther from the edge of the platform. "Now, children, we must go back. You will catch cold if you stay here longer."

In spite of their protests she was firm, and they turned their steps homeward. Mr. Fletcher and his charge walked with them to the head of the glen.

"I fear the storm will rage all night," Mr. Fletcher said as he bade Mrs. Bryden good-day. "I pity all upon the sea, especially such as must pass along this coast."

"Noel," said Duke, drawing his brother aside, "I've got a splendid idea."

"What is it?" Noel asked, with some anxiety.

"You heard what Mr. Fletcher said? Well, I'm going to put a light in the tower to-night to warn the sailors of the rocks below."

"But how can you, Duke?" said Noel.

"Easily enough," replied his brother. "I saw an old lantern in one of the rooms this morning. I shall put a candle in it and set it in the tower."

"But is it a red lantern?" Noel asked; "for if it is not, they won't know it means danger."

"Of course it isn't a red lantern; but I can make it look red. I shall ask mother to give me a bit of that red gauze she was wrapping round the mirror in the drawing-room yesterday. If I fasten it round the lantern the light will look red; you see if it does not! We'll go and fix it after tea, and I'll light it as soon as it gets dusk."







THE gale was at its height. The wind beat in thunderous blasts from the sea, but the boys sleeping in their cosy beds heard nothing of the uproar. They had fallen asleep, happy in the belief that they had done something to secure the safety of those "in peril on the sea," for while they slept the thick candle they had coaxed their mother into giving them showed a brave light through the windows of the tower.

Every other light in the house was extinguished when two men made their way up the narrow path through the glen. There was no moon, and the way was hard to find in the darkness. Now and then one or other of them would stumble, uttering a fierce exclamation which was lost in the rush of the wind. But they knew the glen fairly well, and the noisy flow of the swollen stream helped them to avoid its brink.

The foremost was a short, thick-set man, who wore a rough pilot coat with its collar turned up, and a small fur cap. His companion was the fat-faced burly man who had sat beside Noel on the coach.

As they came nearer to Egloshayle House a bend of the glen afforded them some shelter from the wind and made it possible to hear each other speak. It also enabled them to see the bright light that burned in the tower.

"Hullo!" exclaimed the first man, "what on earth is the meaning of that!"

A cry of surprise and anger broke from the other. "Don't ask me!" he said. "You know more about the place than I do, Isaac."

"Someone must have placed that light there, it's certain," was Isaac's reply. "Someone may be watching there now. It may be the old wizard himself."

"How can it be when he's in France or some such place?" returned his companion.

"He may have come back," said Isaac. "You know, Ned, I told you I did not believe he would stay away as long as folks said."

"Well," said the other with an oath, "it will be the worse for him if he has come back before we have discovered where he hides his money."

"Don't talk that way, Ned. I'll have nothing to do with that sort of thing, as I told you at first; though I see no harm in helping ourselves to a little of the gold which the old chap does not know how to use."

"Nonsense, Isaac, I'm not going to kill him," replied the burly man. "I'd only give him a rap on the head that would knock him silly for a bit."

"All the same I'll have nothing to do with it," said Isaac. "I should not wonder if that light's the work of those tiresome young kids I saw in the house this morning. I had barely gone through all the old miser's drawers and cupboards when they arrived, and I heard them run up to the tower. I locked up and was off in a jiffy; but was not clear of the place when they came scampering down. They may have caught a glimpse of me."

"It was like your stupidity to let them," growled the other. "P'raps they gave an alarm and there's someone there waiting for us. We must mind what we are about."

"If he's a wizard, he may have found it out in some uncanny way," suggested Isaac. "He's been known to vanish into the ground when folks were watching him, and to stay in the cave after the sea filled it without being drowned."

"Stuff and nonsense! A pack of old women's tales!" said Ned. "If no one saw him come out of the cave, it was because he knew of some underground passage that would lead him to the top of the cliff. I have been thinking there might be something of the kind, and I mean to find out one of these days."

They had gained the top of the path, and were but a few yards from the old tower, when they were startled by the sound of a fierce bark, and a large dog sprang towards them from among the bushes. Convinced that their guilty plans had been found out they fled in desperate haste, tumbling over each other as they ran down the slope, pursued by the angry dog, till at last he was recalled by a whistle from above.

Mr. Fletcher with his dog had lingered till a late hour on the cliff to watch the grandeur of the storm. He had noted the light shining in the tower of Egloshayle House, but having so recently come into the neighbourhood he was unaware that it was unusual.

He wondered what the men were about whom his dog had disturbed. The haste with which they fled seemed to suggest that they were there for no good purpose. After waiting for some minutes to see if they would return, he walked away, resolved to give Mrs. Bryden a warning on the following day.

Ere dawn the gale had subsided, though the day proved wet and rough. About noon the rain ceased. Mr. Fletcher took a stroll with his pupil, but saw nothing of the boys and their mother. Later in the afternoon he went out again, and was entering the glen, when he saw Mrs. Bryden running down the steep path from the house, and hastened to join her, for her appearance instantly conveyed to him the idea that something was wrong.

"Oh, Mr. Fletcher," she cried breathlessly, "have you seen my boys?"

"No," he said; "have you lost them? Oh, do not look so distressed. They cannot be far off. Where did they go?"

"I wish I knew," she said. "This morning, as it was wet, I let them go and play in the old, unused part of the house. I was very busy all the morning, and I left them to themselves till dinner-time. Then I went to call them, but there was no response to my call. Thinking they were hiding for fun, I went into all the rooms and up to the tower, searching in every nook and corner; but could find them nowhere. Since then we have looked in every possible place. Oh, you cannot think how frightened I am!"

"Oh, but you must not give way to fear," he said. "Depend on it, they grew tired of being indoors, and, when they saw the rain was over, they went out. But we shall come upon them somewhere presently."

"How could they get out?" she asked. "The door below the tower, which opens on to the down, we found bolted."

"Boys do unaccountable things," he said; "they took a way of their own."

But she shook her head in despair. The worst fears had taken possession of her mind.







DUKE was rather pleased than otherwise when he discovered that the morning was wet.

"I know what I mean to do this morning," he said to Noel as they dressed. Noel thought he knew too, and his heart sank within him.

At breakfast Duke talked a great deal about the storm. He was confident that his warning light had proved of good service to seamen.

"I should like to know how many hours that candle burned," he said. "King Alfred used to measure the time by candles."

"I wish we did now," said Noel; "it would be much easier than telling the time by a clock."

A scornful laugh from his brother made him aware that he had said a foolish thing.

"Never mind, Noel," said his mother, "you will soon be able to read the clock easily."

"May I have another candle, mother, to put in the tower?" Duke asked.

Mrs. Bryden gave him a candle. A little later the boys went off to play in the deserted rooms.

As soon as they were alone, Duke said to his brother—

"Did you guess why I asked mother for this candle?"

"To put in the tower," replied Noel; "you said so."

"Of course I said so, stupid, because I did not want mother to know about the secret staircase," replied Duke; "but I thought you would guess that I wanted it to light us down those steps."

"Oh, Duke, then you told mother a story?"

"No, I didn't; for I mean to use it for the tower as well! We are not likely to burn up the whole candle there."

Noel earnestly hoped that they would not. He shivered as he thought of what lay before him; but it never occurred to him to try to dissuade Duke from going. He was sure it would be of no use, and he did not want Duke to suspect that he was afraid.

Having made a hasty visit to the tower, and discovered that the candle had burned right out in the most satisfactory manner, Duke hurried to Mr. Alan's room.

"Have you brought matches?" Noel asked.

"Of course," Duke replied, showing the corner of a box protruding from his jacket pocket. "Now then, to open this door."

It did not prove so easy as he expected. By accident he had touched the right spot on the previous day; but now it was not till after many knocks and pushes had been given, and when Noel was beginning to hope that it would not yield, that the picture swung back with startling suddenness and showed the steps behind.

"Hurrah!" cried Duke. "Come along, Noel." He knew that Noel was trembling at the thought of descending that dim, narrow stairway; but he did not care. Indeed, he rather found pleasure in making Noel do what he feared to do.

Without a word Noel followed Duke. There was no light on the other side, save what entered through the doorway.

"Now I'll light the candle," said Duke, "and then we must close this door all but the tiniest crack, or someone may come in and discover the secret."

"No one will come," said Noel. "Don't shut the door, Duke."

He spoke too late. As Duke gave the door what he intended to be but a slight push it sprang back and closed with a sharp snap.

A cry broke from Noel.

"Oh, Duke, open it, open it!" he screamed.

But this was more than Duke could do. The door was fast shut, and no pushing or knocking from this side was of the least avail. There was no handle. Examining it by the light of his candle, Duke discovered a small keyhole, but what was the good of a keyhole without a key?

Noel burst into tears.

"Oh, Duke, we shall never get out, never! Mother does not know where we are, and she'll never guess that that picture is a door."

The prospect was appalling. The candle shining full on Duke's face showed it quite white. The adventure was turning out very differently from his expectations. He could hardly keep back his tears.

Curiously, the sight of his distress roused Noel's courage.

"Don't cry, Duke," he said softly. "Mother is sure to come and look for us, and if we shout very loud she'll hear us."

"I'm not crying," said Duke stoutly. "I dare say mother knows all about the picture, and if not, there must be another way out. Come along. Let's see where these steps lead to."

Duke led the way, holding the candle high that Noel might see each step. Thus they went down a long, narrow, crooked flight of steps, which seemed to lead down into the heart of the earth. It ended in a low, arched passage, just wide enough for the boys to walk side by side. They could walk upright, but most men would have had to stoop. The passage was not damp, but it had a strange earthy smell. It inclined slightly downwards, and as they went on the air grew fresher till presently a breeze blew in their faces which brought a smell of the sea.

"Does the sea come up here?" asked Noel, inspired with a fresh fear.

"Of course not," said Duke. "Can't you see it doesn't? Oh!"

The exclamation was caused by the fact that the tunnel had brought them out on to a broad platform of rock, enclosed by cliffs. But ere they had time to see more a sharp gust of wind blew out Duke's candle, while wild shrieks and flapping of wings showed that they had invaded a haunt of sea-birds.

Noel clung to Duke in terror.

"Never mind," said Duke hoarsely, "I'll soon light it again," But his teeth chattered as he said it, and the next moment the match-box slipped from his trembling fingers and was lost in the gloom.

Now indeed their situation seemed terrible, and they clung to each other in despair. The birds they had disturbed had flown away, and the sense of utter loneliness was appalling. Then they remembered that there was One Who would not fail to hear their cry, and from each childish heart there went up a prayer to the "Eternal Father, strong to save."

"Don't be afraid, Noel," Duke said in a quavering tone. "It's not really dark. I can see the path before us, and there's light at the end. Give me your hand."

At first Noel resisted his brother's effort to lead him forward; but as his eyes grew accustomed to the gloom, he could distinguish the platform on which they stood and see across it to where the path wound on with light at the far end. So they moved forward very slowly and carefully. The path curved downwards and the light increased as they went on.

At last, to their great relief, they came into the light of day, and found themselves in a small rock chamber with an opening on one side which looked into a larger cave that had a window-like aperture, exactly opposite their little cell, through which the sweet sunlight came to them.

After a minute Duke recognised the spot. They were looking into the cave which he and Noel had explored two days before. The spot on which they stood was the very rock chamber he had foolishly boasted he could climb into if he chose! The problem now was how to climb down from it. At present it was impossible, for the cave was full of water.

"We can do nothing till the tide goes out," Duke said.

"It won't come up here, will it?" Noel said fearfully.

"No. You can see that it never comes as high as this," replied his brother.

"I am so tired," Noel said, sinking on to the rock floor with a sigh that was almost a sob, "tired and hungry. Don't you think it must be dinner-time, Duke?"

"I dare say," was Duke's response. It seemed to him ages since breakfast-time.

"Mother will be sure to look for us all over the old house," he said after a minute. "P'raps if we went back to the door and shouted she would hear us."

"But we could not go all that way back in the dark," said Noel with a shiver. Duke assented gloomily.

He began to examine more closely the place in which they were. It was evident that sea-birds were wont to lodge there.

"I wonder if gulls' eggs are good to eat," he said, and began to search for them. A pale greyish plant with prickly leaves growing from a crevice attracted his attention. He gave it a pull, and it came away in his hand, bringing with it a great stone which nearly struck Noel's head as it fell. This revealed a hole behind which lay a deep niche.

Duke put in his hand and pulled away another stone which guarded the entrance to what seemed a sort of natural cupboard. Standing on tiptoe, he thrust his arm as far as possible into the recess. His fingers came into contact with a hard substance which gave forth a peculiar sound as he pressed it. Tugging at it till it slowly yielded to his pull, he dragged into the light a bulky bag made of rough canvas and securely tied at the mouth.

"Whatever can this be?" he said.

"I hope it's something to eat," said Noel.

But the metallic sound they heard as they shook the bag was not suggestive of food.

It took Duke's nimble fingers but a few moments to unfasten the bag. To their amazement it was full of gold pieces.

"It must be Mr. Alan's money," said Duke, as they looked at each other in astonishment. "There must be hundreds of sovereigns here."

"I wish it was full of biscuits," said Noel.

"Or that there was a shop at hand," said Duke.

"If there was, the money is Mr. Alan's, and it would be stealing to take it," said Noel.

"Would it not be just as much stealing to take someone else's biscuits?" asked Duke.

Noel was silent.

"Well, as we can't do anything with it, and ought not if we could, I'll put the bag back," said Duke. "What a hoard! and what a miser! See, I have stuck in the plant, and it looks just as it did. I don't believe it was really growing there."

Noel paid little heed to his words; he was far too unhappy to get excited over the miser's gold.







WATCHING the waves as they flowed into the cave, Duke came to the conclusion that it was barely high tide. He and Noel would have to wait a long, long time ere it was possible to get home by way of the beach, even if they were able to climb down from their chamber in the rock. As he sat beside his brother, Duke tried hard to wait patiently, but to sit still is never easy for a boy so restless as he.

Long shafts of golden light were slanting through the window-like opening across the cave. From the direction they took Duke guessed that the sun was low in the west and the afternoon wearing to its close.

He could see gulls sailing by on white wings or perching for an instant on the edge of the window. He could catch a glimpse of the blue sky and hear the great waves dashing against the outside of the cave. Gradually their onset grew quieter. Turning to look at Noel, Duke saw that he had fallen asleep with his head resting on the hard rock.

"A stone for his pillow, like Jacob," Duke said to himself, and a feeling of pity and love for his little brother swept over him. He reproached himself for having led Noel into this trouble. He had promised his mother that he would guard Noel from danger, but not a thought had he given to this promise, nor to the possible consequences of his action when he led Noel through the secret doorway.

"If I'd been straight with mother about the candle this would not have happened," he reflected. "Poor little chap! he does look tired, and he's taken it like a brick and never said a nasty word."

Filled with remorse, Duke slipped off his coat, and rolling it into a rough bolster, placed it beneath Noel's head. Noel opened his eyes as his brother raised him, but they closed again in a moment. Duke watched him with envy. He wished he could sleep. Waiting was dull indeed when he could not talk to Noel.

Then an idea struck him. He would do a little exploring alone. He had taken care not to lose the candle. Perhaps if he found his way back to the rocky platform and groped about on it, he might find the box of matches. If he could only light the candle he would soon run back by the way they had come, and try what hammering on the door would effect.

Screwing up his courage, he set out. It seemed horribly dark in the narrow passage as he moved along it with his back to the light; but Duke went bravely forward till he reached the platform. Once more he caused a flight of birds; but he was prepared for this now, and it startled him less. In vain he searched for the matches; they were not to be found.

Duke made a discovery, however. He came upon the entrance to a path tunnelled through the cliff at a sharp angle to the one which he and Noel had descended. Venturing into it, he perceived to his delight that it rose steeply, and there was a spark of light at its far end. It was a narrower and more rugged path than the other. In places huge stones blocked the way and threatened to make progress impossible; but Duke clambered over them and struggled on, climbing on hands and knees.

The light grew clearer as he went on, till at last he saw before him an opening, veiled by a curtain of brambles, through which a man might have climbed.

The next minute a welcome sound reached Duke's ears. It was the loud, deep bark of a dog.

"Nero! Nero!" Duke shouted, almost beside himself with joy.

Ere he could reach the opening, he saw the dog's dark body pass it, then return, his black muzzle sniffing about the brambles. With a great effort Duke struggled up the last steep bit, pitched head foremost through the brambles, and found himself lying on a grassy slope not far from the top of the cliff, with Nero standing over him. Recovering himself after a few moments, he followed Nero, whose master was not far off, along a little path to the safe ground above.

While Duke was making his way up the hard, steep path, Noel continued to sleep. He was roused by the sound of voices close at hand. He felt sick and giddy as he sat up and looked about him in bewilderment. What strange place was this that he was in, and where was Duke?

Recollection came to him in a moment and added to his distress at Duke's absence. Where could he be? His was not one of the voices which he now heard again and knew that he had already heard in his dreams.

"You must not mind wetting your feet, Ned," said a man's voice. "I can't bring the boat any nearer. You'll just have to wade."

There followed the sound of knocks and splashes with smothered cries and laughter.

"Duke, Duke!" cried Noel. "Where are you? Come quickly. There is someone here with a boat. They must have come to take us home."

Even in his own ears his voice had a strange hollow sound. From the dim recesses of the cave a faint echo seemed to mock him. There was no other response, and his words ended in a sob.

Presently curious sounds caused him to peep down into the cave below. He was in time to see a man's head appearing from the other side of the hole which communicated with the outer cave. Noel recognised the head. It was that of the big round-faced man who had squeezed him so unmercifully as he sat on the coach.

With a painful effort he dragged his unwieldy body through the opening, then pulled after him a short ladder, behind which appeared another man who wore a fur cap. He looked like a sailor and had small, narrow eyes which glanced furtively around as he entered the cave.

"What was it made that cry?" he asked. "I did not like it. It sounded wisht."

"Wisht!" echoed the other contemptuously. "It does not take much to frighten you Cornishmen with your signs and omens. You heard nothing but the screech of a gull. Bring the ladder here. We'll soon see if the old chap hides his gold in that hole up there."







NOEL crouched back trembling. He knew now that these men had not come as his friends. He glanced upwards and saw the plant flourishing over his head in the crevice it was put to screen. Oh! if only Duke were there! Duke was so fearless and always knew what to do.

"I'd better mount first while you hold the ladder," said the stout man.

Noel heard them placing the ladder against the wall of rock immediately below the place where he sat. In another minute the head and shoulders of the fat-faced man appeared above the opening. Noel stared at him, unable to speak, while he appeared amazed to see the boy.

"Well! I never!" he exclaimed. "Here's your banshee or whatever you call it, Isaac. Who would have expected to find a kid in this hole? I think I have seen you before, my young friend. Now tell me how you come to be perched up here?"

He climbed into the rock cell and stood over Noel, awaiting his reply. Noel was almost too frightened to speak.

"We came down from the old house," he said breathlessly; "the door slammed and we could not open it again."

"From the old house!" repeated the man eagerly. "Then there is a way down. Tell me how you found it."

"Duke found it, I didn't," said Noel.

"Who is Duke, and where is he?" demanded the man.

"Duke's my brother. I don't know where he is. I wish I did," said Noel, beginning to cry.

By this time the other man had climbed up beside them. Noel's sobs ceased for very terror as he met the glances with which they were regarding him.

"Look here, Ned," said Isaac. "We shall have to be quick if we are going to get through with this business. The other kid's got off, it seems. He may find his way home and bring others to this place. You can see for yourself that it's not here the old chap hides his gold. There's no sign of a trap-door or anything of the sort."

The big man glanced around him at the solid rook which formed the three walls, roof, and floor of the chamber. He saw nothing like an opening.

"Let's ask the kid," he suggested. "He may be able to tell us something."

"My dear little man," he said, changing his tone and adopting a wheedling manner, "you seem to have got here by a track that would suit a mole better than me. Did you on your way down come across anything like a hidden chest or box, or see any sort of place where a miser might hide his money?"

A denial leaped to Noel's lips; but he did not suffer it to pass them. He was silent for a moment ere he said: "I have not seen a box."

"Ah ha! but you have seen something," said the burly man. "Look, Isaac, this boy can tell us where the money is!"

"Then he'd better tell us at once," said Isaac sharply. "Out with it, lad, and no humbug."

Noel's face had grown very white; but he set his lips firmly and said not a word.

"Speak this instant," said the round-faced man fiercely. "Tell us where it is, or I'll—" His hand was uplifted to strike. Noel closed his eyes as he awaited the blow. He believed these men might kill him, but he would not betray the secret; nor would he say that he did not know where the gold was. But ere the blow descended the man named Isaac had seized his comrade's arm.

"Stay, Ned," he said in an undertone. "I told you I would have no violence, and I meant it. There's no need for it, if you manage the little lad properly. Let me speak to him."

"Now look here, little master," he said, addressing Noel—"if you tell me all you know, it shall be the better for you. I'll see that you have something good to carry back to school. But if you refuse to help us, we'll just take and pitch you into the sea, or throw you down from the rock. Now then."

Noel made no reply, nor did a violent shake produce from him anything more than a sob of fear.

"Leave him alone," said the big man in a tone of disgust. "He's just as senseless as a mouse in the clutches of a cat. I don't believe he knows, after all. We'll find it without his help if it's anywhere near. Let us see where this passage leads."

"Ay, but first we must stop the kid's mouth," said the other. "We don't want his cries to attract attention to us. Give us that silk handkerchief of yours, Ned."

His companion handed over the article and looked on without pity while Isaac skilfully bound it as a gag across Noel's mouth. Then he proceeded, to tie the boy's hands and feet together.

This task, however, was never finished, for suddenly the barking of a dog and the sound of voices were heard from outside the cave. Isaac sprang down the ladder and was off like a shot. The other man tried to follow, but ere he could get his big form through the hole which opened into the outer cave, Nero had gripped him and held him a prisoner with the upper part of his body in one cave and his legs in the other.

It would have gone badly with him had not Mr. Fletcher come speedily to the rescue. Then the ruffian got off, much to the gentleman's regret when he found the condition in which poor little Noel was left. As it had been impossible for the men in their haste to remove the ladder, Mr. Fletcher had no difficulty in reaching the boy and carrying him down in safety.

Noel had fainted, and as an unconscious burden Mr. Fletcher bore him through the waves to where his mother and Duke were waiting just beyond their reach.

It took Noel some days to recover from the shock of that alarming adventure. Meanwhile, efforts were made to trace the two scoundrels who had treated him so roughly. The man named Isaac was well known to the police as a seaman of doubtful character belonging to that neighbourhood, whose occasional visits to his native place afforded little satisfaction to the inhabitants.

Of the big man nothing was known save that he had visited Trevethick during the previous summer, and was believed to have come from Bristol.







WHEN he began to talk things over with Duke, Noel was much astonished to find that his brother regarded him in the light of a hero.

"I could never have done it," Duke protested. "I should either have shown the men where the money was, or I should have told a story and declared that I did not know. After all, Noel, you are braver than I."

"Oh, no! How can you say so?" cried Noel. "You know how I hate being alone in the dark, and I am frightened at ever so many things that you don't mind in the least."

"All the same, I should have been afraid of those men, and I would not have held out as you did," said Duke. "I should have told them a lie, and that would show me a coward, would it not, mother?"

"You are right; it is a cowardly thing to tell a lie," said Mrs. Bryden. "Noel was sorely tempted to do so, and I am glad and thankful that he resisted the temptation. A man, or a boy, is not a coward because he feels fear, but only if he gives way to that fear when he ought to struggle against it. A man's limbs may tremble when his heart is resolute, and it is the heart that counts. You cannot grow up to be brave, true, strong men, fighters on Christ's side against the evil of the world, unless you learn while you are boys to resist the temptations to meanness and cowardice and deceit, which are, I think, a boy's worst faults."

"It was all through my not being straight that we got shut behind that door," said Duke. "Mother, I will try to be straight; but it is not easy when the other boys want you to do things."

"I know it is not easy," said his mother. "It is often very hard to do right; but there is One Who is ready to help us in every difficult effort if we trust in Him. You know Whom I mean, boys—our Elder Brother, Who was tempted as we are, yet never overcome by evil."

The boys were silent for a few moments, then Noel asked:

"Did you know, mother, that there was a door behind that picture?"

"No, dear. I wonder now that it never struck me that there must be a secret passage to the shore from the old tower, for that explains why it was so difficult to trace Mr. Alan's comings and goings. His movements were attended by so much mystery that some of the more ignorant people about here believed him to be a wizard."

"Will you tell him how we found his gold?" asked Duke.

"I think not," said Mrs. Bryden; "it would excite him too much. But I shall tell his brother."

She had hardly said it when the post arrived, bringing her a letter. It was from Mr. Oscar Torrington, and brought sad news. The change had done his brother no good. His mental trouble had increased. In fact, he had grown worse, and had died in a few days. Mr. Oscar was bringing his brother's body home to be buried at Trevethick, and the funeral would take place on the day following his arrival. After giving many necessary directions, Mr. Torrington thoughtfully added a line to beg that Mrs. Bryden would not send away her boys on his account.

So it came about that the boys themselves led Mr. Torrington to the spot where his brother's hoard was hidden. He was greatly interested in the story of Noel's encounter with the thieves. He took such a liking for the little boy as helped to soothe his grief for the loss of his brother. He told Mrs. Bryden that the money Noel had saved from the men should be spent on his education and advancement in life.

In after years the boys spent many happy days at Egloshayle House. Noel continued to be such a favourite with its owner, who had no near relatives of his own, that, as the lad approached manhood, it was rumoured in the neighbourhood that Mr. Torrington meant to make him his heir.