A clever piece of machinery
“What do we do now?” asked Jack, who couldn’t bear the thought of the enemies below escaping before they had chance to catch them.
“We’re going back underground to try and overhear any conversation,” said Bill after conversation with Raymond, Howard and Sammy. “The girls are to stay here though, with Sammy. Only the boys and I shall go back underground now.” Dinah was not very pleased about this, but secretly she didn’t want to go back underground! The boys were thrilled to be going back underground, and hurried to pull up the length of rope, so the men wouldn’t guess how they got out. Jack wrapped it round his stomach again and Bill had a word with Sammy.
“Where’s this second hole, you were talking about?” asked Raymond, while they were waiting.
“Not far from here,” said Jack looking round, “A little bit further down this way, I think.” he said, heading towards the stream.
“Remember Lucy-Ann tripped over when she was bringing a jug of water to us. We stuffed it with heather and bracken, didn’t we?” Philip said.
“Here it is!” cried Jack. Bill ran over to where they were all crowded.
“Found it?” he asked. “It looks just big enough to fit us all through. Jack, we’ll have your piece of rope again please!” Jack handed over his length of rope, and the men tied it securely up.
“Lucy-Ann, take Kiki. She’ll be sure to fly off and make a nuisance of herself.” Jack said, pushing Kiki off his shoulder onto Lucy-Ann’s. She held her tight as Jack disappeared.
The girls watched Raymond, Howard, Bill and the two boys slither carefully down the rope. They each held their torch in their mouths. Thud! Each of them dropped to the bottom. The girls and Sammy could see them no longer. The boys recognised the passage. It was exactly the same as last time they had looked down here and looked the same as the room they had just been locked in. “Come on!” whispered Bill, “There’s no time to waste here. Raymond and I will go first, Jack. We more or less know where we are going. The men must have a room at the end of this passage, for we have heard noises coming from along here.”
Bill opened the door slightly, and peered out, looking side to side. Apparently, there was no one about but the children could hear a funny sound coming from all the way down the passage. It was the sound of machinery at work, and sounded quite loud down in the passage, though it wasn’t really and was just bouncing off the walls making the noise sound twice as loud. Everyone had to raise their voices to be heard.
Jack looked at the door they had come out of. It was the second but last one. There were no bolts in it like the one the children and Bill had been locked behind, and no lock either. It was just an unused room. Raymond and Bill kept to the front, as they had instructed, once they began walking along the passage in the opposite way the children had been brought. The noise got louder and louder. Howard crept behind the children, glancing back behind quite often. It was quite a long passage, and when they came to the end of it, there was a flight of stairs leading down. Voices could be heard, shouting to one and other from below. Bill stopped and turned round towards the others. “Torches off now, please,” he said in a calm voice. “The men are all down those stairs and are working. There’s a big crate just at the opening at the bottom. We’ll all get behind there at first and see what we can make out. Howard, keep look out,” Bill ordered.
Bill turned back round and headed down the stairs, the others following, all but Howard who remained at the top. It was rather difficult to get down the stairs without looking where they were going, and Jack was rather afraid that if he tripped, he might go rolling down the steps making a fine row! It got easier once they reached the last few steps, for it was quite light. Evidently, the men had lit candles and everything was lit up. Down they all crouched, behind the large crate, which had been dropped carelessly there.
Jack and Philip peered over the crate cautiously. Bill and Raymond did the same. The boys gasped. They saw a very large cave room with a very high ceiling. It was what was in the room which interested the two boys. There were lots of large pieces of machinery being worked making a very loud noise. It looked like hundreds of candles were burning, placed in candle holders in various places round the room. The men were also working the machinery, calling to each other. “Recognise any of this, Raymond. Will they be able to drain the marsh with this machinery?”
“Certainly looks like it, sir. Don’t know how they’ll have figured it out, though,” Raymond replied. Bill grunted. The machinery was all joined together, however it was made in separate parts. There was one big part which was making all the noise, clanging and clanking, banging and clashing. The boys felt rather puzzled.
“How does the machine work, Bill?” asked Jack. But it was Raymond who knew about the machinery, and he answered for Bill, who nodded to him.
“Well, the men are trying to drain the marsh, but of course they‘ll only drain a little bit of it, presumably where they assume the treasure is hidden. They have most certainly built a dam around the area they guess the treasure is,” he said in a low voice, “So see that tube there, that leads right through that gap in the wall. It will lead right through all these caves and will end up in the marsh, near where they want to drain – inside the dam of course. The tube is joined to that piece there,” he said, nodding his head towards a smaller piece of machinery which a man was working on. “Well, when that piece of machinery is worked, like that man is doing now, see, he has to pull the handle round and round, the machinery sucks up the marsh, and it will travel through the caves in this hill, right through the tube, through that mechanism, into the next bit which that man has to work by pulling that lever to and fro. That will collect up all the previous bit of machinery’s contents and roll it up, into a big bulk. Then that man opens up the lid on the machinery and scoops up the contents with that spade. He then takes it over to that big piece of machinery – where he puts it all in, and a crate in that lid on the side. The machinery will make the marsh into a smoother liquid by whisking it round several times in a special drainer place in the machine. This gets worked by that foot stool. The man working that needs to keep his foot on that, which will cause the drainer to whisk round and it will pour into the crate.” There were a few more men in the big room, piling up all the crates. Jack counted, and there were eight men in all, four working the machinery, and two moving boxes. The other two men lazed about on boxes, not needed in all that was going on. They were talking quite loudly, but the boys paid no attention to this, they were so enthralled in the goings on.
The boys watched it all in astonishment. How clever it all was! They wondered how Raymond knew all of this, and Philip was about to ask him when Bill hissed in a low voice, and pulled the boys down roughly. There was a man approaching to collect another crate to put in the machine. Luckily, they didn’t pick the one which Bill, Raymond, Jack, and Philip were hiding behind. They heaved it up and stumbled back over to the largest machine, when he opened up the lid on the side, and pulled the other crate out, which was now full of what looked like horrible grey, lumpy porridge. A large lid was slipped on, and straps were buckled up firmly. The crate was then heaved over onto another pile and the new crate was slipped into the machine, the lid banging behind it. The machines started up again and the banging and clanking continued. “Right, we’d better head off before we’re found.” said Bill, to the others. “Keep down as we go round the corner, and then we’ll run up the steps to meet old Howard. The boys nodded. The men were busy working the machinery and Bill nodded. The boys made for it round the rocky wall, and came to the flight of steps. There was Howard, waiting patiently at the top, looking to and fro.
He was relieved when he saw Raymond, Bill and the boys walking steadily up the stairs. “No sign of anyone,” he said quietly to Bill.
“There wouldn’t be,” replied Bill, “They’re all down there,” he said, nodding his head, down the stairs. Bill explained in a few short, sharp sentences what they had seen, and Howard grunted. “Anyway, back to the others, I think,” Bill said, turning to face the boys. They nodded and turned round, heading back to the cave room. The boys talked endlessly about what they had seen, admiring Raymond’s knowledge once again. The man secretly smiled to himself. Both boys immediately made up their minds they would learn all about machines and mechanism and impress the boys at school by telling them all about how certain things worked. They soon arrived back at the room, where they opened the door carefully and slipped in. Bill closed it behind himself, as the others shinned back up the rope. He then followed and hauled the rope up after himself.
Dinah, Lucy-Ann and Sammy were all sat together on the grass near the spring picking daisies and adding them to a rather long chain. Kiki was pecking at it, and Lucy-Ann ticked her off. It looked very pretty and Lucy-Ann wanted it for a necklace. Dinah tied up the ends, and Lucy-Ann slipped it over her head. She did look nice. “Look! Here’s Bill, Raymond, Howard and the boys!” she cried, “Haven’t they been a long time!”
The boys ran over to Dinah and Lucy-Ann and began pouring out all that they had seen. Kiki flew to Jack’s shoulder at once. The girls listened in astonishment, gasping when they heard how the mechanism worked to drain the marsh land. Bill told Sammy all they had learnt and Raymond explained the mechanism. He nodded, and took a few notes in his note book. He appeared the draw a diagram, and Bill ran his fingers over certain parts.
“So, is Bill going to capture them now?” asked Lucy-Ann feeling quite scared. “I do hope he doesn’t get hurt.” The others shook their heads scornfully.
“Capture eight dangerous men in broad daylight? Even Bill couldn’t do that Lucy-Ann. We’re waiting for tonight when we’ll return and hopefully capture them before they’ve drained the whole marsh!” Jack said.
“So, were you taking notes on what was said?” asked Bill, coming over, and sitting down next to the children.
The boys were puzzled. “What was being said?” asked Philip.
Very exciting and ingenious plot, Poppy.