Roy Glashan's Library
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First published in Chums, Cassell & Co., London, 6 December 1919

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2023
Version Date: 2023-08-07

Produced by Keith Emmett and Roy Glashan

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Two Foxes

HOUNDS were running like smoke. The old dog-fox which they had found in Braunton Gorse had led them a pretty dance all across Murk Hill Moor, and now was going straight, as a die across the broad valley of the Strave.

Already three-quarters of the field had vanished altogether. It was only the lightest weights and the best mounted who could live with hounds traveling as they were.

A tall slim boy of sixteen, with dark hair and a tanned face lit by a pair of extraordinary keen blue eyes, was galloping alongside of a youngster of about his own age, but shorter and fairer. The tall boy was riding a bright bay mare that was still pulling on her bit, while the other was on a wonderful brown cob that looked as if it could go all day.

The tall boy turned a glowing face to his friend. "Best run of the season, Joe," he cried.

"Topping!" rejoined Joe Vassall. "But look at the river, Dick. It's in flood. How the mischief are we going to cross?"

"Stick to your Uncle Dick," laughed Dick Durrant. "I'll show you a ford."


"Honest, Joe. I know every foot of the river. Remember, we're only a few miles from Mericombe. This is still my dad's land."

His face changed and he laughed bitterly. Joe knew what he meant. The Durrants were ruined at last, and Mericombe Manor—their old home—was going from them. Not their fault. It had been cumbered with mortgages before Dick's father inherited, and he, poor man, had no head for business, and though he had tried hard had failed to make ends meet.

But Joe had not much time for thoughts of this sort. Already hounds were swimming across the brown flood, and the moment Dick Durrant saw that the fox had actually crossed the river he pulled his horse to the right.

"This way, Joe!" he cried.

It looked as though they were going clean away from the hunt, but Joe trusted Dick. He was right to do so, too, for Dick did know a ford, and when he and Joe had splashed across, girth deep in the foaming torrent, they found, to their intense delight, that they were first of all the field. Everyone else, it seemed, had ridden downstream, to cross by the bridge at Grendon.

"Good for you, Dick!" exclaimed Joe. "But, I say, where are the hounds, and where are we going?"

"Straight over the hill," said Dick. "The fox is almost sure to go for the big earth in the cliff-wood close to our place. I'm going to chance it and make a short cut."

"Isn't the earth stopped?"

"I'm not sure. I hope it isn't."


"Because if it is, the fox is as likely as not to go over the cliffs. Then there'll be trouble."

"Phew! Only too likely. Come on!"

"Quietly up the slope," advised Dick. "We've a long way to go yet."

Both horses were black with sweat by the time they had topped the rise. Before them—a mile or more away—the broad muddy waters of the Bristol Channel gleamed yellow under the cold autumn sun.

"There they are!" cried Joe Vassall, and sure enough, on the open, close by the edge of the cliffs, the pack was streaming onwards. Their cry rang musically through the calm, misty air.

"The earth is stopped," said Dick sharply, and digging in his heels pressed on as hard as his mare could go.

But the pack had a long start. Before the boys could get up, the hounds seemed to sweep suddenly out of sight.

Dick flung himself off his mare, and Joe did the same. Both ran hard across the short turf leading to the edge of the tall limestone cliffs.

"It s all right," panted Bob. "Here they are, in this little hollow."

Sure enough, the pack seemed all to be there, grouped in a cup-shaped hollow overlooking a narrow cleft. Dick ran his eyes over them.

"No, three are missing," he said sharply. "Three at least. I can't see Bluebell or Katie or Blossom."

As he spoke he slid down into the hollow and, flinging himself flat on his face, looked over the edge of the cliff.

"Hallo, what's up?" came a voice from behind—a loud, harsh, self-confident voice.

Dick Durrant looked round. A third boy or rather young man of about nineteen stood behind Joe Vassall. He was a heavy set fellow, got up in a beautiful pink coat and wonderfully cut cords. He looked like his voice, bumptious and overbearing.

"Three hounds over this cliff," returned Dick curtly. Then to Joe—"I'm going down after them, Joe. You'd best go to the house and get a rope. I shall need one to haul them up."

"Can you see them?" asked Joe.

"Yes. They're not far down. They're on a widish ledge. I think I can get there."

"Better wait for the rope, old son," replied Joe anxiously.

"No, I shall be all right, Joe," declared Dick.

"Dick doesn't care whether he breaks his neck or not," said the new-comer. There was nothing in the words, but his jeering, unpleasant laugh made them an insult.

Dick Durrant swung round.

"I've no doubt you'd like me to," he said quietly.

Mark Alston flushed redly.

"What do you mean by that?" he blustered. "You know as well as I do. You and your father would find it a sight easier to lay your greedy hands on Mericombe once I was out of the way."

Alston lost his temper.

"You—you don't count," he said brutally. "The place is as good as our already."

Dick laughed. "I know you think so. But there's many a slip, my good cousin."

Alston's eyes were red with rage. He took a quick step forward, then pulled up short. "Bah!" he said. "I'm a fool to waste words on a fellow like you. But when you and your precious father are on the streets, don't come and beg from us—that's all."

"It wouldn't be much use," retorted Dick, still smiling. "You never yet gave a penny to anyone in your life. Anyhow, Mericombe isn't yours yet and since the land is still ours, I'll thank you to clear."

Without waiting for an answer, he swung boldly over the edge of the cliff and went scrambling down towards the spot where the three hounds were standing helplessly on the ledge below.

From the top of the cliff to the brown tide which bubbled hungrily along the foot the height was a full two hundred feet. It was no place for anyone whose head was not hard and nerves firm. But Dick had been down worse places after seabirds' eggs, and no qualm of giddiness troubled him as he swung lightly from ledge to ledge.

The bounds were no great distance down. In their eagerness to seize the brush of the escaping fox, they had toppled over and rolled until they were caught on the broad ledge where they stood all in a bunch, badly frightened.

Dick reached them and stooped to pet them. As he did so he heard a whizzing sound overhead, and instinctively ducked back against the face of the cliff. The movement saved his life, for a great chunk of rock, weighing a good half hundredweight, missed him by a matter of inches, and striking the big ledge just to his left, cut it away as a scoop cuts cheese. The boulder, together with a mass of earth and rubble, went crashing down, to plunge with a monstrous splash into tho sea below.

It was an escape so close that the nerves of most people in Dick's position would have been in ribbons. Not so Dick. His only feeling was one of burning anger. For he did not believe for an instant that this was an accident, but was convinced that Mark Alston had made a deliberate attempt to murder him. No one knew better than he how Mark hated and envied him.

He rather doubted whether Mark would have the pluck to roll another rock, but he was fully determined to take no chances. Standing with his back flat against the cliff, he took a swift glance around. He saw that he was not safe where he was—not safe, indeed, anywhere on this particular ledge.

To the left the ledge was gone altogether. There was no escape that way. To the right it tailed off, sloping downwards and growing very narrow. But beyond, and some six feet lower, was another ledge which, trending far up over the narrow inlet, sank in under a heavy overhang.

All this he took in at a glance, and, quick as a flash, had dashed along the ledge, and reaching the far end taken a flying leap down on to the lower ledge.

It was a risk he could never have run in cold blood, yet he landed safely, staggered an instant, recovered himself and darted in under the overhang.

He was hardly in safety before there was a second crash and another stone as big as the first came thundering over. Striking the very spot where he had been standing a moment before, it carried away at least a ton of the shaly rock. The mass went roaring over the face of the cliff like an avalanche and dropped plumb into the depths below. Looking back, Dick saw that the whole face of the cliff was swept bare. Ledge, hounds. and all had vanished.

"The brute!" he muttered, and his tone was bitter. "The murdering brute! But I'll be even with you, Master Mark. Before twenty-four hour's are over you shall wish you had never been born."

Again he looked about him, and saw that it was out of the question to get back by the way he had come. Not even Joe, with the rope he was bringing, could help him, for the bulge overhead stuck out so much that the rope would dangle far out of reach.

The prospect was ugly enough, but Dick was not dismayed. If he could not climb up, he would climb down.

But there was no hurry. Joe would be coming back soon, and Mark, knowing that, was bound to clear out shortly. Sure enough, about five minutes later Dick heard Joe shouting from above. "Where are you, Dick?"

"Farther down than I reckoned," he answered. "You can't reach me with the rope. Go on up towards the head of the cleft and wait until you can see me."

"Right!" came the faint answer; then Dick started on his climb.

Ugly work it was and risky to the last degree. One slip, and he would go where the two big rocks had gone already. But Dick had no intention of following those rocks. As a matter of fact, he hardly thought of the danger at all; he was much too keen to get square with Mark Alston.

Ten minutes later he found himself about half-way down the cliff and very nearly at the point or apex of the deep cleft. He heard Joe's hail again, and, looking up, saw his anxious face peering down over the rim of the rock a hundred feet above.

"All right, Joe," he cried. "Throw over the rope."

"It's not long enough, Dick. Can you climb a bit higher?"

"Yes, I think so. Drop it and let's see how far it comes."

Like a thin snake the rope came curling down the cliff. The lower end came to a point some thirty feet above Dick. He started climbing up.

To do so, he bad to go round and under a wide flat rock which stuck out like a huge shelf from the face of the cliff. It was a tough scramble, but he did it in safety, and found himself standing at the mouth of a cave.

Nothing wonderful in that. These cliffs are full of caves. Yet Dick stood staring in at the mouth of this one as if he had never seen a cave before.

The Discovery

"WHAT'S up?" came Joe's shout.

Dick did not answer for a moment. When he did his voice was not very steady. "Joe," he called, "I believe I've found the mouth of Todd's Tunnel."

"Todd's Tunnel!" gasped Joe.

"But I have! Here are the steps that run up the cliff, only most have been broken away by some big slip. The mouth looks exactly like the picture in the Abbot's book. Anyhow, I m going in."

"Wait! Let me come down."

"Can you?"

You bet I can," replied Joe, and suiting the action to the word came scrambling down the rope. In a very few minutes he stood beside Dick at the mouth of the cave.

"You're right," he said hoarsely as he stared in. "It's the same as the picture. Dick—Dick, suppose the stuff is still there?"

"Why shouldn't it be there?"

"Oh, if it was, it would be almost too good to be true. Why, it would save Mericombe."

"And score off Mark Alston," added Dick, so fiercely that Joe was startled for the moment.

"Come on," added Dick, and went forward. For a few yards the tunnel ran straight inwards, then it curved and began to descend. Dick stopped, struck a wax match, and they found themselves at the head of a flight of rudely cut steps.

"It's the tunnel all right," he said, and together they began to descend. The steps were much worn, and slimy with moisture, the air struck chill and damp. Overhead, small stalactites hung thickly from the roof. Dick saw these things without noticing them. He could hardly breathe for sheer excitement.

For generations Todd's Tunnel had been a legend at Mericombe. The story was that in the days of Henry VIII. the plate of the monastery of Mericombe and all the treasure of the Abbot had been hidden in a specially prepared sea cave, so as to save it from the king, who was then seizing one abbey and monastery after another. The Abbot of the day had been one, Paul Durrant. and it was said that he had left a record of the hiding-place. This book or rather parchment had disappeared, but some three years earlier Dick, grubbing about in a loft at Mericombe, had hit upon what was evidently a piece of it, a picture of a cave mouth with an inscription below:

Ye mouthe of ye cave called Todde his
Tunnelle wherein be preserved ye greate
treasure of ye Monasterie offe Mericombe.

Ever since, Dick and Joe Vassall, together and separately, had searched the cliffs for this tunnel. Now it seemed that they had at last found it.

But was the treasure there? That was the question. And so much hung upon it that Dick was almost sick with suspense.

A faint light showed beneath them. Dick blew out his match. The light grew stronger. A few steps more and the two stood upon the floor of a sea cave. It was carpeted with sand and strewn with dry seaweed. To the left was a low entrance in which the small waves gurgled. To the right, a great space of gloom.

"Another match, Dick," said Joe thickly. He was every bit as excited as Dick himself.

Dick's fingers shook so that he had difficulty in striking the match. The flame flickered, burned up clearly, and a shout burst from both boys at once. For, high on a ledge at the inner end of the cave stood three great old oaken chests bound with rusted iron.

How they reached the first, how they burst the great hoop with a piece of rock and how they lifted out, one after another, huge, massive pieces of tarnished plate, Dick only remembered afterwards. In fact, he remembered very little indeed until he found himself in the library at Mericombe, pouring out his story to his father.

The latter at first flatly refused to believe his son. It was not until Dick and Joe had actually got him down, by means of a rope ladder, into the sea cave that he could credit the astounding luck which had befallen them.

Before night the whole of the treasure was safe under the roof of the old home of the Durrants.

Mr. Durrant jotted down some figures on a sheet of paper.

"Somewhere between twenty-five and thirty thousand pound, I should reckon," he said. "Enough, at any rate, to clear the mortgage, Dick, and put us square with the world. And all ours, too. Seeing that Paul Durrant was brother of the Lord of the Manor who was my direct ancestor, I don't think that anyone could dispute our claim."

He rubbed his hands together and laughed softly.

"James Alston will get the shock of his life," he added. "I'll see him to-morrow."

Dick cut in quickly. "Dad, let me go. I have a special reason. Please do."

His father looked hard at him for a moment. "Very well, Dick. You can go."

Dick did not sleep much that night. Next morning, after an early breakfast he mounted his bay mare and rode off to Vermaton, the Alston's place. He got off outside the gate, tied the mare and walked quietly up to the house.

Just as he reached the door, Mark came out. At sight of Dick he went white as sheet, he staggered and seemed on the point of collapse.

"W—what—?" he gasped. "I—I—"

"You wretched brute!" said Dick scornfully. "You thought you'd finished me, but you hadn't. Stand up and fight if you're got the pluck of a rabbit."

Mark pulled himself together.

"What—what do you mean? I wouldn't soil my fingers on you," he retorted.

Dick started off, hit him between the eyes and knocked him flat on the gravel.

Mark yelled for help. His father came rushing out, a big gaunt, narrow-eyed man, with a hard ugly face. Dick stood his ground.

"No you don't, Uncle James," he said coolly, "Mark has got only what he deserved, and not half that. He tried to murder me yesterday, but made a hash of it."

Mr. Alston glared at Dick.

"You young rogue," he roared. "But that settles it. Out you shall go, you and your beggarly father, I'll foreclose this very day."

Dick laughed.

"I don't think you will, my good uncle. As it happens, dad has come into a legacy since yesterday. He has already wired to his lawyers to settle your claim."

"W-who left you a legacy? Where did you get it from?"

Dick pointed to Mark who was sitting in a heap on the drive, trying to staunch his bleeding nose.

"From him," he answered, laughing again. "Mark there stoned me and drove me down the cliff instead of up. The result was that I ran right into the mouth of Todd's Tunnel, and we are now in possession of the Abbot's Treasure."

And turning on his heel, he walked off, leaving the two rogues in a state of complete consternation.


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.