SNUBBY’S LITTLE ADVENTURE
The girl simply could not believe her eyes. She stood and stared at the silverware, then suddenly came to her senses and looked around fearfully, almost as if she expected someone to be standing there watching her. Then she shot out of the room and upstairs
“Mr King!” she shouted, and knocked on his half-open door. “Are you awake?”
There came the sound of Mr King getting out of bed and two seconds later he appeared at his door, tying the belt of his dressing gown.
“What’s wrong?” he asked cheerfully. “Are you ill?”
“Mr King – the silverware – the silverware is back!” Diana stammered. “I just went downstairs and it’s back on the table where it was before!”
Miss Pepper heard the commotion and peered round her door. The boys had also woken up, as Miranda and Loony had both heard Diana shouting, and had disturbed their masters, wanting to get out of the room and see what was going on. Soon everyone was assembled in the sitting room, all in their dressing gowns, looking sleepy and mystified.
“It’s mad!” Snubby said, sitting down with a bump on the sofa. “They disappear without any clue as to how, and now they’re back! I can understand someone stealing them perhaps, even though we have no clue how they did it, but to bring them back?”
Even Mr King, who was used to mysterious happenings and crimes, was at a loss to know what was going on and how it was happening. He scratched his head ina puzzled manner and sat down next to Snubby. Loony sensed that everyone was very serious and, in the case of Diana and Miss Pepper, frightened, and he started to run round the sitting room and tug at the arm-covers again, trying to make everyone smile. But no-one did, apart from Snubby, who gave a weak grin and patted the little dog.
“I think I shall make a phone-call to my superiors,” said Mr King at last. “Do you mind, Miss Pepper?”
“Of course not,” said Miss Pepper. The telephone is in the hall. Children, come into the kitchen with me and give Mr King some peace to make his call.”
Everyone disappeared into the kitchen and Mr King went out into the hall to telephone. The children helped Miss Pepper to make some breakfast.
“I don’t know why, but a jolly good mystery makes me hungry!” said Snubby, picking at some bits of bacon as Miss Pepper ladled them out of the pan onto plates. “Ooh – are you doing fried tomatoes? Wizard!”
Mr King came into the kitchen after about fifteen minutes. He didn’t divulge anything about his call, and the children knew better than to press him for details. His superiors were obviously very high-up, secret men.
“Well,” he said with a cheerful grin, hopeing to cheer everyone up a little. “We’ve got to keep a jolly good look out for the next few days. You children are good at that kind of thing, aren’t you? Got to look after poor Miss Pepper!”
They ate breakfast outside in the sun. After they had finished, Mr King went into the sitting room and poked around for a bit, checking for fingerprints, and having a good old look round the room. The children left him to it. After that he came out into the garden in his shorts, to cut the grass for Miss Pepper. They had been talking about gardening at breakfast and he had offered to do it, as there was a lot of lawn and it was a tiring job. Miss Pepper sat in the summerhouse to finish her sewing, and the children just lazed about, playing games with Loony and Miranda, and talking over the strange happenings.
“Mr King is obviously doing something about it.” said Roger quietly. “I bet they gave him instructions on that phone call. We’ve got to be on our guard for a few days, and then I bet he’ll get more instructions.”
“I’m so glad he’s here,” Diana said, looking at his strong, cheerful face as he went about cutting the lawn.
“Me too!” said Snubby. “Come on Loony dog – how about a race?”
All in all, it was a pleasant day. The children didn’t really feel like going out walking or riding anywhere; they felt they should be at home with Miss Pepper. So they played in the garden all day, while Mr King did gardening and Miss Pepper sat outside.
Barney thought it was a miracle how patient Mr King was with Miranda, after she followed him round the garden scattering the grass cuttings that he had made into a nice neat pile. Barney kept telling her to stop it but as soon as he was looking the other way, or busy talking to the others, she started doing it again. In the end Barney got a brush and went to sweep them all up for Mr King.
“Looks like the weather will be fine tonight,” Roger said quietly. “How about a trip up to the old manor?”
The children had almost forgotten the flashing light and their intention of going out at night to have a look. They had been too preoccupied with the strange goings-on at the cottage.
“Yes!” Snubby said at once. “I could fancy a good old adventure!”
“Isn’t the one we’re already having enough for you?” Diana asked.
“But we haven’t been in it yet!” said Snubby. “You and Barney have had all the fun!”
“Well if it stays fine, we could pop up there once Mr King is asleep,” Barney said, considering. “We’d have to be jolly quiet though, Mr King will be sure to be listening out for any noise!”
That night, the children all went to bed quite early, to get a bit of sleep before their night-time outing. Barney set his alarm clock for midnight, to give Mr King time to get to bed and to sleep, as he always came up later than Miss Pepper.
Mr King came up at about quarter-past eleven. He woke up Snubby because he tripped over a hairbrush that Loony had left at the top of the stairs for him to fall over, and the noise echoed round the landing. Snubby heard the noise and panicked for a second. Was it the burglars back again? Then he heard Mr King exclaim and then chuckle as he realised what he’d fallen over. He went into his room, and much to Snubby’s delight, he closed his door! That was a bit of luck – Snubby had thought that they would never get out of the house without waking Mr King if his door was ajar again!
Snubby lay there for a few minutes, wide awake now. He was hungry again. He remembered that Miss Pepper had some lovely soft iced cakes in the larder, and decided to get up and go and have one. It was nearly time to be waking up to go out anyway. He’d have a snack first, and by the time he’d finished, the others would be getting up.
Telling Loony to be silent, he got out of bed and crept downstairs. The moonlight shining in at all the windows lit up the cottage quite well, so he did not need his torch. He went into the larder, fetched out two of the pretty little cakes, then went into the sitting room and sat on the windowseat with Loony, to eat them. The moonlight glinted on the silverware. Snubby looked at the candlesticks and shook his head in a puzzled manner. He couldn’t understand it at all.
He gave Loony some cake and the dog jumped down to the floor to eat it. He made a terrible mess with it, getting crumbs and bits of icing all over the floor and the rug.
“Oh, Loony!” Snubby whispered. “Look at that mess!”
He slid off the window seat onto the floor and went round on his hands and knees, scraping up all the crumbs and chunks of cake. Some had even got under the rug and he pushed it aside to get to them. Loony sat and watched him. Suddenly, Snubby stopped crawling in surprise. He was sure he could feel a draught on his bare arms. He looked round the room. All the windows were shut and locked as usual. He crawled over to the chimney and knelt there for a minute. He couldn’t feel the draught there, so it wasn’t coming from the chimney. He crawled back to where the cake was on the floor and sat there. There was definitely a tiny draught coming from somewhere, blowing ever so slightly onto his arms and bare feet.
Suddenly Snubby realised where it was coming from. It was blowing between the huge flagstones on the floor! He put his hand over the join between the stones, and felt the little breeze. Well! Wat an extraordinary thing! He pushed the rug out of the way and looked at the big flat flagstone beneath it. It looked the same as all the other stones, and the join around it was no wider than anywhere else in the room, but the tiny breeze was certainly coming from all round the stone. No wonder they had never noticed a draught before – the rug usually covered it!
It suddenly dawned on Snubby that perhaps there was a secret passage under the floor. Why else would there be a draught? Floors were usually solid! He felt suddenly very excited. A secret passage! Where did it lead to? And – most importantly – was that how the mysterious burglars had been getting in and out unheard?
Snubby at once tried to move the stone. It wouldn’t move an inch. He pushed it, stamped on it, pressed one corner then another, tried to get his fingers between the join – he tried everything but the stone would not budge. He was cross. He was sure he had found a secret way and now he couldn’t open it!
Meanwhile, upstairs, Barney’s alarm clock had gone off under his pillow, and he had woken up and switched it off quickly in case Mr King heard. He got out of bed and stood, listening to see if there was any sound from Mr King’s room next door. To his alarm he heard slight sounds coming from downstairs again! He was just about to go and wake Mr King when he saw, in the moonlight, that Snubby’s bed was empty. What was going on?
Grabbing his dressing gown, he crept quickly out of the room and down the stairs. He followed the sounds, and stared in amazement when he saw Snubby on his hands and knees on the floor, pushing and pulling at a stone!
“Psst!” he hissed. Snubby almost jumped out of his skin and leapt up. When he saw it was Barney he heaved a sigh of relief.
“Look!” he said. “Quick! I was picking up some cake and felt a draught coming from the floor – look, it comes from under this stone!”
Barney dashed forward and knelt down. He too felt the draught. He gazed at Snubby in amazement.
“Golly!” he said. “What a find! I wonder what’s underneath it!”
“I bet you anything it’s a secret passage!” Snubby’s eyes danced excitedly. “I bet you that’s how the burglars got in!”
“Of course!” said Barney. “Why didn’t we think of that before? And old cottage like this – it’s bound to have secret passages!”
“I’ve no idea how we open it though.” said Snubby. I’ve tried everything.”
Barney too, tried pushing it and stepping on it, and the two boys the hunted round for any levers or ropes hidden anywhere in the room. It was hopeless.
“I’m going to get a chisel or something out of the shed.” said Barney. “We’ll try and slide that down the side of the stone and prise it up. That’s all I can think of to do. Go and wake the others. But be quiet – don’t wake Mr King!”
“I’d like him to share in our adventure,” Snubby said.
“Let’s see what this stone does first.” said Barney, and he slipped off to the shed to find a chisel. Snubby went back upstairs and quietly woke Roger. They then went along to Diana’s room and went in. Diana was half awake already.
“Come on – buck up!” Snubby said, trying to pull her out of bed. “We’ve found something exciting!”
Diana dressed quickly and they all went back down to the sitting room. Barney was just coming back in. He had found a very thin, flat chisel in the shed, and they all knelt round the stone while he slid the chisel down between the stones and gently tried to lever it. The stone moved!
Diana and Roger could hardly believe their eyes. Snubby at once slid his fingers under the stone and he and Barney lifted it out of its place. A large dark hole showed below. There was no fancy mechanism, it was purely a plain stone that just needed to be lifted and put back again. A thought suddenly occurred to Barney.
“Hey!” he said to Diana, in a loud whisper. “Do you remember the other night – I tripped over the rug when I was going round the room – I bet the burglars didn’t manage to put it back properly when they closed the stone! They would have to rearrange it over the hole from below before they put the stone back, and I bet it got rumpled, and once they had put the stone back, they didn’t know it was rumpled! That’s why I tripped over it!”
“Of course!” said Diana. “I didn’t think anything of it at the time – I just assumed that you tripped because it was dark, or that Loony had pulled the rug a bit! I never imagined it was because there was a passage beneath it!”
“So what do we do now?” said Roger. “See where it goes?”
“Of course!” chorused everyone.
Snubby shot back upstairs to get everyone’s torches. Miranda was very excited and hopped up and down on Barney’s shoulder impatiently, as if she couldn’t wait to get into the passage and explore. Loony didn’t really like the look of this dark, dark hole, but wherever Snubby was going, he would certainly follow! If Snubby thought it was all right, then it was all right!