A WAY OUT
“How did you find this out, Philip?” asked Bill sternly, feeling very proud of the boy.
“I followed them, right over here, and kept as close to them as possible so I could hear what they were saying,” said Philip, feeling quite proud of what he had done. Really – he was quite popular with the men. He had showed them his little purple heron earlier and this had been a great hit.
“Bill, how will we get out of here?” Lucy-Ann asked rather dolefully.
Bill put his arm round her again. “You do know, that there is always more than one ways out of a cave, don’t you, Lucy-Ann dear? All we’ve got to do is find that way. This cave is quite big, we need to explore every bit of it, and then escape to see exactly how those men are planning to drain the marsh and we’ll try and put a stop to it. That treasure should remain where it has been forever, not sold on to make money. Well, we know lot more now,” he added. “Those men are draining the marsh so they can retrieve the Foresters treasure more easily.”
“But if you knew a way out, why haven’t you done it until now?” asked Dinah, suspiciously.
“Well, we do want to learn a bit more about what those men are doing,” said Bill, “And now you have come along and told us exactly what the men’s motive is, our work down here is done. Now there is no time to waste in finding out exactly how the men intend to achieve this.” The children nodded.
“But how can we check every inch of this cave?” asked Jack doubtfully, “We’ll never do it in time…”
Bill nodded, wisely. “It certainly would, Jack, but I know an old trick that works,” he said, to everyone’s surprise.
“What is it?” asked Lucy-Ann, in excitement, “what’s the secret?”
“Well, it’s quite obvious, really,” he said, looking round at the intent faces of all four children. “All we need to do if place a few candles about in different places all around the cave. We’ve only got a few, so I’ll have to ask for a few more from the men, next time they come down. Any fresh air coming in, through a hole will blow the candle slightly and we will able to see it. The we can just search round about that area for any hole, and we can make it bigger, by working on it, a little,” he said. The children thought this was genius! “We’ll just have to wait till the men come back now,” said Bill, leaning back on his chair.
It was quite a while until the men came, lunch time, for that matter, and the children were feeling rather impatient. They also wondered how Bill would tackle the men about the candles, but he shook his head with scorn. “Small fry!” he said in a gruff voice. One of the men came at lunch time with a few pieces of buttered bread and a small jug of rather dirty looking water, which the man had most probably got from a puddle of water in the outer passage. He slipped the things in, hardly opening the door. “Wait!” Bill commanded, just as he was shutting the door. The door opened slightly, again. “We need more candle sticks, please, we’ve only got a few stubs left,” he said.
“Use your torches!” came an unpleasant voice. Kiki imitated it at once.
“They’ve run out too, and we would like a better meal please,” said Bill, much to the children’s admiration. “Come on, it’s your duty to keep us fit and well, you wouldn’t want anything to happen to Wilfred, he wouldn’t be able to tell you his secret after all!”
The man grunted in annoyance and shut the door and bolted it. He was back a few moments later and slipped a large tray into the room. The door was locked and bolted once more. Bill lit a few candles with the flame from a stub which was burning. He passed them to the children who placed them in candles holders and put them in various places around the cave. Kiki looked at them all in surprise.
“Leave, Kiki,” Jack said, seeing the parrot eyeing the candles, mischievously.
“We will have to be careful now, don’t want the whole place to go up in flames.” The children sat down for lunch. They would check on the candles afterwards.
“My! Those men have treated us!” said Bill, looking at the tray. “Egg sandwiches, sausage rolls, bars of chocolate, orange juice, an apple pie and some delicious looking tarts!” This sounded good – a proper meal at last! Everyone tucked in, enjoying every bite! It tasted even nicer to the men, for they had only been having bread and water the last few days. The children felt rather alarmed when they saw the men taking very large slices of apple pie! Would there be any left? There was! It was a very large pie, which the man had taken out their own food supply! Every scrap was eaten up. Kiki pecked the last slices of apple, which remained in the pie dish. Nobody had offered her a tit-bit that meal! Jack gave her a handful of sunflower seeds too. The children were not used to seeing the adults tuck in so much, and they didn’t much like it. It was up to the children to finish off the last helping!
Raymond cleared all the things up a piled them up on the tray, leaving them at the door. “Right,” he said, “Are we going to have a look at these candles then?” Bill nodded.
“We’ll have to be careful not to make a draught ourselves, or that would trick up very neatly indeed!” said Bill, to the children, “Remember to be cautious.”
The children nodded. Everyone began taking a look at the candles, to see if any of the flames were blowing about a bit. There were quite a few scattered about the floor in holders, so it took quite a while to inspect each one. It was Howard and Sammy who found the candles which swayed slightly, side to side. They each found a different one, quite far apart. Sammy’s was at the back of the cave, right in the right hand corner, and Howard’s was right above where one of the stools were positioned. Everyone crowded round Howard’s candle first. It certainly as swaying a little, side to side. Everyone stared up. The ceiling was quite high, and Bill had to stand on a stool. He had a look around and found a small hole, big enough for him to put his finger through. He felt the ceiling around it. He looked own at everyone.
“I’m afraid we’ll never get through this one, with all the scraping in the world!” he said, feeling rather disappointed but pretending to be cheerful. “All the rocks around it around very firmly stuck in place, and they’re rather large ones too. We need a hole with loose stones around it so they are easy to move.”
The children were rather disappointed too, however there was always Sammy’s candle. They moved to this one next, Bill carrying the stool. He moved the candle, and placed the stool right where the candle had been. He stepped up onto it. There was a much larger hole there, big enough for him to get his whole hand into! He felt the stones around it. The children looked up anxiously! Bill touched the stones, hoping that they would be loose. They were! “They’re loose!” he said.
The children were thrilled, and as were Howard, Sammy and Raymond! “All we need to do is take away these loose rocks and the hole should be big enough for us to squeeze through.” said Bill, “Raymond and Howard, could you work on that, whilst the children, Sammy and I will carefully receive the rocks.” And so another stool was brought over for Raymond, and the two set to work, wobbling the stones about so they would become loose. They carefully passed them down to the people beneath, who began piling them up in an untidy heap.
The hole got bigger and bigger and sunlight began to pour through it. Sammy and Bill swapped jobs, at one point. Eventually, there were no more loose stones, and the hole looked big enough for everyone to fit through. Kiki flapped towards it and sailed straight out!
“Right – has anyone got a length of rope?” asked Bill, stepping down from the stool. Jack still had a few lengths wrapped round his stomach, and untied them and passed them to Bill. Bill accepted them, secretly thinking that these children were finest he had ever met, for about the hundredth time! “Right, if you give me a leg up, Raymond, I’ll get up and tie this rope to something above and let the other end down for you to climb up. Raymond nodded and helped Bill up, into the hole. He disappeared, but they could all hear his voice quite clearly.
“I’m tying the rope to a tree close by,” he called down. Suddenly, the end of the rope fell neatly down the hole, right to the bottom. The men signalled for the children to climb up first, so the boys leading, the children climbed up the rope. They got to the top where Bill was stood with Kiki on his shoulder. The men followed the children and soon they were all stood at the top, glad to be in the sun again.