Roy Glashan's Library
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THOMAS CHARLES BRIDGES
(WRITING AS T.C. BRIDGES)

PIXIE PIT

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First published in The Children's Newspaper, 16 August 1941

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2022
Version Date: 2022-09-20

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PHIL FLEMING looked across at his friend:

"Another bit of cake, old chap?" he asked, as he took up the knife.

"Thank you very much, Phil," Terry Clayton answered in his small, gentle voice; and Phil cut a lordly slice out of the new, home-baked dough cake, while his mother helped Terry to a goodly portion of rich yellow Devonshire cream, and then refilled his cup with tea.

The two boys were almost the same age, but Phil was half as big again as Terry. A fine, sturdy fellow with brown cheeks, blue eyes, and very fair hair, while Terry was slim and dark with thin cheeks and brown eyes that looked too big for his small face.

Terry ate slowly and nicely, but it was plain that the good food was a treat and that he was enjoying every mouthful. Phil tried to persuade him to have a third slice of cake, but Terry refused.

"I'd never get up the hill," he smiled as he got up. "I shall have to be going home now, Mrs. Fleming. Thank you very much. I've had a lovely tea."

"I wish you'd come for one every day, Terry," she answered quickly.

"I wish I could," said Terry simply, "but Uncle James wouldn't like it."

"Why do you call him uncle?" Phil cut in sharply. "He's no relation at all—only your father's stepbrother."

"I know, but he wants me to, and—"

"And you daren't do anything else," said Phil.

Terry flushed, and Phil was sorry at once.

"It's all right, old chap. I'd be just as scared if I were in your shoes. I'll walk back with you."

"You won't," said Terry firmly. "You've got all the evening jobs to see to. Anyhow, Peter's good company. Come on, Peter!" he called, and with the terrier at his heels went off along the footpath leading up the Cleave to The Holt, where Terry lived with his step-uncle.

Mrs. Fleming watched him.

"It's my belief the boy's half-starved," she said. "I can't think why his father left him in that man's charge."

"I don't believe he did," said her husband suddenly.

Phil's father was usually a very silent man, and his wife and son both turned and gazed at him.

"What do you mean, Harry?" Mrs. Fleming asked.

"Just what I say. Mr. Clayton told me just before he died that we were to look after Terry, and said he had put it in his will. But the only will found was one he had made when Terry was a baby and Mrs. Clayton still alive. So the courts decided that his uncle should be his guardian until he came of age."

Phil spoke.

"Then I'll be bound James Burrell destroyed that last will."

"He may have done so," his father allowed, "but that would be a very serious offence if it were found out. I don't like Mr. Burrell. He's a mean, miserly fellow, but actually I don't think he would have the pluck to burn a will. I believe it's hidden somewhere in the house. Mr. Clayton was like that. He was absent-minded, always thinking of his old flints and things of that kind."

"I do wish we could find the will," cried Phil. "It would be great to have Terry here. Can't we do anything, Dad?"

His father shook his head.

"Nothing, I'm afraid. Now I must see to the milking, and you have to feed the fowls."

They were all busy till supper-time, and were in the house, getting ready for the meal, when old Prance, gardener at The Holt came in.

"Be Master Terry, here? Her baint come home."

"Terry!" exclaimed Phil. "He left here more than two hours ago."

"Us baint seen nothing of him," said Prance.

Phil looked at his father.

"I believe he's run away."

"Us wouldn't blame him," muttered Prance, who was fond of Terry.

"He wouldn't do that," Mr. Fleming declared. "He's had an accident. We must look for him."

Phil snatched up his cap and was off. His father and Prance followed, but Phil was out of sight by the time they had reached the field-path.

In the Cave

IT was a lovely summer evening and would be light for some time yet.

The two men kept to the made path which ran up the wooded Cleave to the higher ground where the Holt stood, but Phil was already in the thick of the wood. He knew Terry sometimes took a short cut up the steep hill. Phil belonged to the Taverton Troop of Scouts, and as soon as he was on the soft ground under the trees began to search for tracks. He found and followed them.

They went up to the foot of the steep bank; there they stopped and turned sharp to the right.

Phil nodded.

"I've got it," he said to himself. "Peter went after a rabbit and wouldn't come back. Terry followed him."

The ground was thick with fallen leaves, the track was not easy to follow, but Phil worried it out and presently came into an open space at the foot of a low cliff of limestone. Here was the mouth of a cave called Pixie Pit, which had been opened up by Terry's father years ago. He had found flints there, arrowheads, scrapers, and knives, proving that people had lived, in the cave thousands of years ago.

To Phil's surprise Terry's footsteps led to the mouth of the cave. He went inside and shouted. There was no reply. He moved cautiously forward. It was very dark. Suddenly his feet slipped from under him and he went flying down a steep, slippery slope into blackness.

Phil landed with a bump that knocked the breath out of him, but presently found that, barring bruises, he was none the worse. He fished for his matches and struck one. The first thing he saw was Terry lying flat and still; the second, Peter the terrier standing over his young master.

He was in a small rock chamber, into which he had fallen down a steep muddy slope about ten feet long.

He struck a second match, and found that Terry had hit his head against what Phil at first took for a stone, but then discovered to be a small, rusty iron box.

Terry was insensible, and at first Phil was scared, but when he found that his friend was breathing regularly he felt better.

The next thing was to get out of this place and fetch help. He looked round the little cavern and spotted two things, a stump of candle on a shelf and an old broken shovel. He lit the candle, which was black with age, and fixed it on the brim of his hat. Then, using the shovel as a staff, he worked his way cautiously up the slope.

Once outside he shouted lustily, and almost at once his father replied. He and Prance came running, and Phil quickly told them that Terry was in the cave.

"I'll fetch a rope," he said, and was off like the wind.

Using the rope as a handrail, they soon got Terry out, and Peter too.

"Her baint bad hurt," old Prance declared with relief, "but sooner her be in bed the better."

So they carried Terry back to the farm, where Mrs. Fleming bathed his head and put him to bed.

"Us'll go up and tell Mr. Burrell," Prance said and pushed off.

"Tell him Terry will have to stay here tonight," Mrs. Fleming called after him. She turned to her husband. "He's coming round. But what made him go into that horrid place?"

"Peter went after a rabbit most likely and Terry followed. I'm thankful Phil found him." He looked round. "Where is Phil?"

"Went to fetch the rope, I expect. Now I must get supper."

Supper was on the table, when the door burst open and a big, thick-set man marched in. His small sharp eyes glared from under shaggy eyebrows.

"What's this about Terry?" he demanded in a loud, harsh voice. "What mischief have you led him into now?"

Mr. Fleming faced him.

"Have you seen Prance, Mr. Burrell?" he asked curtly.

"Of course I've seen Prance. That's why I'm here."

"Then you know that Terry has had an accident and that there is no question of his being in mischief."

"I know he'd no business to come down here at all," retorted Burrell. "I'm taking him home at once."

"That you're not!" cried Mrs. Fleming. "He's not fit to be moved."

"As his guardian, I am the best judge of that. I say I shall take him home tonight, and you may be very sure he will never come here again."

"It's you will never come here again."

The three grown-ups had been so excited they had not seen Phil come in. Now he stood opposite Burrell, with a look of triumph on his glowing face. In his hand he held a sheet of yellowish paper.

"Are you crazy, you impudent brat?"

Phil laughed.

"Crazy? No. I've just had the sense to find Terry's father's will. There's not a word about you in it, and Terry is left under my father's care. If you don't want the police after you you'd better clear out—and quick, too," he added.

Burrell gasped.

"Where did you get it?"

"In the cave. No, you're not going to touch it. I'm not crazy enough for that. Take it, Dad."

Burrell glared at them a moment, then suddenly plunged out of the door. They heard him striding away.

"It's true, Mother," said Phil's father to his wife. "Terry is our boy now."


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.