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THOMAS CHARLES BRIDGES
(WRITING AS CHRISTOPHER BECK)

TURK TAKES A HAND

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A COMPLETE STORY OF ADVENTURE


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First published in The Children's Newspaper, 1630 September 1939

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2020-08-27
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CHAPTER 1
The Hermit of Burnt Island

"TURK, you can't leave," cried Dick Durrant in a tone of utter dismay. "Just think! You're to be the captain of footer next term. And—and what should I do without you?"

Turk Brydon was one of those square, solid, dependable boys who do not easily get upset, and when they do rarely show it. Yet now the tightness of his lips and the lines around his grey eyes showed that he was finding it difficult to control himself.

"Do you think I want to leave Broadmead, Dick?" he burst out. "Don't you know I've been looking forward more than anything else to the footer next term. And leaving you and all my pals makes me simply writhe."

"Then why can't you stay? Peter likes you. I'm sure he'd give your father reduced terms."

Turk drew a long breath.

"It wouldn't matter if dear old Peter took me for nothing. Dad's broke—absolutely broke. I've got to start and work for a living."

Dick bit his lip. "There must be some way out," he insisted stubbornly.

Turk faced him. "It's no good kidding yourself, Dick," he said earnestly. "Dad's lost all his money in the collapse of that building company. He's got nothing left but his pay as a parson. And he has this big rectory which has to be kept up somehow. There won't be a penny to spend on me, so I have to get apprenticed to someone. A job in an office, I expect."

At this moment the door of the study opened and Joe Stubbs, the school porter, put his head in.

"The master wants to see you, Mr Brydon."

"There! I told you," Dick said quickly, but Turk was gone.

The headmaster of Broadmead was the Reverend Arthur Peterson, affectionately known to his boys, with whom he was very popular, as Peter. He was at his desk in his study as Turk came in, and looked up with an unusually grave expression on his lean face.

"Brydon," said the master, "that silly fellow Tyne has disappeared and I believe he has run away. What do you think?"

"I should think it's very likely, sir," Turk answered frankly. "He's always up to something crazy."

"Have you any idea where he can have gone? Naturally, don't want to call in the police. It would be bad for the school, for they might think he had been bullied or was unhappy."

"He hasn't been bullied, sir," said Turk. "It's just that he won't make friends and always wants to do something different from anybody else."

The master nodded. "I think you are right, Brydon. But where can he be?"

"I have a sort of notion he might have gone to Burnt Island," Turk replied. "Some chaps were talking about the hermit who is supposed to live there."

"You must be right," said the doctor quickly. "Stubbs says a boat is missing. I will go there at once."

Turk looked doubtful.

"Well?" said the other sharply.

"How would it be if I went, sir? Dick Durrant and I could fetch him and be back by tea."

Mr Peterson frowned, then laughed. "Less official you mean. Upon my word, I believe you are right. Run along then. Take the big dinghy, and be careful about landing. There's always a swell."

"I'll be careful, sir," Turk promised and was off. He was so interested that for the moment he forgot his own troubles, and Dick, when he heard, was equally keen.

"Silly ass!" remarked Dick. "Tristram Tyne never did have any sense. All the same, Turk, I wonder he hasn't come back by this time. He's been gone all day, and I don't suppose he had any grub with him. Who is this hermit chap they talk about?"

Turk shrugged. "Some cranky fellow who likes to live alone. But I don't know a thing about him. Let's get on. I don't like the look of the sky, and we want to be back before it begins to blow. I'll get a flash and one or two things. You run on and push the boat out."

The school was close to the sea and in a very short time the two boys were afloat.

Burnt Island lay about two miles out. It was a great rugged hump of granite with a little grass, a few bushes, and hundreds of gulls on it. Both boys had been out to it, fishing, but had never landed. They knew, however, the small cove where it was possible to land. It had a narrow entrance, but inside was a perfect little harbour, still as a pond, with a ledge where it was easy to climb ashore.

As they ran the dinghy in Dick looked up at the towering cliffs surrounding it.

"Gloomy-looking place!" he remarked, with a shiver.

Turk was also looking round. "Where's Tristram's boat?" he asked sharply.

Dick was dismayed.

"We must be on the wrong tack," he answered.

Turk grunted, then took a pull at the oars and drove the dinghy farther into the harbour. He pointed. There was Tyne's boat pulled up out of the water and half hidden in a crevice in the rocks. Turk's face darkened.

"Something queer about this," he said as he scrambled ashore.

Dick was tying the boat to a projecting point of rock when he heard a slight gurgling sound. He looked round to see his chum in the grasp of a great gaunt man, who had one arm round Turk's neck. With the other hand the man beckoned to Dick.

"Come ashore," he ordered in a harsh, grating voice. "Quick, or I'll pitch a rock into your boat and knock the bottom out of it." Dick obeyed. It seemed to him he had no choice.


CHAPTER 2
Prisoners in the Cave

"A PRETTY trap we've tumbled into!" growled Dick Durrant, as he struggled vainly with the cords that bound his wrists and ankles.

He and the other two boys were seated on the hard rock floor of a small cave. All three were tied hand and foot. They were alone, for the hermit had left them and gone off through a tunnel to his own quarters. He had not troubled to give them any supper, and they were all ravenously hungry as well as cold and stiff.

"It's all my silly fault," said Tristram Tyne, in a very shaky voice.

"What did the fellow do it for?" went on Dick. "Is he crazy, or has he really got a treasure here?"

"He's crazy as a coot," said Turk curtly. "You've only to look at him to see that."

"Crazy or not, he's got us," replied Dick.

"But won't Peter come to look for us?" Tristram asked. "He knows that you chaps came here."

"He probably will," Turk answered; "but what good will that do? You can be sure the hermit has sunk or hidden our boat, and Peter would have a job to find this cave, specially at night. No one's going to help us, and it's up to us to get away."

"Got any notions on how to do it?" Dick asked dryly.

"I have. I expected trouble and came prepared for it. There's a safety razor blade hidden in the heel of my left shoe. Think you can get it out, Dick?"

"I'll try," said Dick, as he wriggled closer. Turk twisted round and Dick got to work.

It was a ticklish job. In the first place it was almost pitch dark; in the second, Dick's fingers were stiff from the cord tied tightly around his wrists. But he stuck to it and presently muttered, "Got it!"

"Good!" said Turk. "Hold the blade while I get my wrists up against it." There was silence for a minute. Then Turk drew a deep breath. "Done it!" he said in a tone of relief.

He took the blade from Dick and in a very few moments had cut the others free.

"It's blowing a bit," said Dick, "but if the hermit hasn't sunk the big dinghy we ought to make it all right."

"Wait a jiffy," Turk whispered. "We've got to block that tunnel first. We don't want that big beggar chasing after us."

Dick chuckled softly. "Now, I'd never have thought of that." He groped about, found a stone, and tiptoed across to the tunnel.

There were lots of stones, and in five minutes the three boys had plugged the mouth of the tunnel so securely that no one could get in, let alone out. Then Turk led them out of the cave.

The mouth was high above the sea and the way down was steep and slippery. That did not bother the boys. What did worry Turk was the fact that the breeze he had expected was already blowing, and a heavy surf breaking in thunder at the foot of the cliffs.

The sky was clear and just enough light was left to see the white surf flying high over the outlying rocks.

Turk hurried. He was anxious about the boat. The one Tristram had used was no good. It would never live in this sea. The big dinghy was better, but if the hermit had sunk it they were done. Dick knew what Turk was thinking and he, too, came leaping down the steep path at reckless speed. Tristram was left far behind. Dick and Turk reached the ledge together.

"It's all right, Turk," Dick said. "There's our dinghy, but he's pulled her up and we'll have to launch her."

"Be careful," Turk warned. "These rocks are sharp and it's easy to knock a hole in her. Right—lift!" The boat was a heavy weight for the two boys but they managed to get her into the water. And just then Tristram came racing down.

"Quick!" he panted. "The hermit's out. Must have been another entrance. He's after us."

Turk almost flung Tristram into the boat; he and Dick followed. They got out the oars and had taken the first stroke when the big man reached the ledge.

"Come back!" he roared in a voice of fury.

"Pull!" Turk panted, and he and Dick dug in their oars and drove the boat with all their strength towards the mouth of the harbour.

"Look out!" cried Tristram. "He's got a big stone."

The words were not out of his mouth before the stone hit the boat with a loud crunching sound.

If it had been as big as Tristram had thought it would have wrecked the dinghy, but luckily it was small and all it did was to dent the gunwale. Before the crazy man could find another stone the boat was out of his reach and rising on a swell. Both oars dipped once more and there was a crash as she buried her bow in a breaking wave. She rose again, and now she was outside.

"We're all right," shouted Turk. "Keep her going, Dick. Tristram, bale for all you're worth."

"Here's a launch," cried Tristram.

It was Mr Peterson with a crew of three sturdy fishermen. They took the dinghy in tow, and in less than half an hour all were safe in Broadmead harbour. As they walked, up to the school together Turk told the master all that had happened on the island. Mr Peterson looked grave.

"This hermit man is dangerous. I shall send the police out for him in the morning. As for you boys, you will have some supper and go to bed."

"Isn't he a brick?" said Dick as the three devoured cold meat and apple tart.

"Didn't even say a cross word to you, Tristram."

"I'll hear the cross words all right in the morning," said Tristram dolefully.

"I shall probably get expelled for this."

"Not you," said Turk comfortingly. He yawned. "Bed for me," he added.

Early next morning police visited Burnt Island. They found no hermit. He and his boat had utterly disappeared. That same day Turk was again summoned to the master's study.

"I've heard from your father, Turk," said Mr Peterson. "I'm terribly sorry about his losses. But don't despair; I shall do all in my power to keep you here for at least another term."

Turk went away, wondering what Mr Peterson could possibly do about it. The more he thought the less hope he had. The next two days passed quietly, then for a third time Stubbs summoned him to the master's room, where he found not Mr Peterson but a tall, powerfully built man of about fifty, with thick grey hair and brilliantly blue eyes. The big man put out his hand.

"Brydon, I am Tristram's father, and I have to thank you for getting my boy out of a nasty mess. Sit down. I want to talk to you."

Turk sat down. He wondered what was coming. The other did not leave him long in suspense.

"Tristram's mother died when he was born," he went on. "And I have been too busy to look after the boy properly. That's why Tristram is queer."

"There's nothing really wrong with him, sir," Turk declared.

"I'm glad to hear you say so. But he wants someone to steady him. I think you are the very fellow for the job. I am going to suggest that you take him home with you for the vacation. It may spoil your holidays."

"Not a bit, sir," put in Turk quickly.

"It will mean a lot of work for you and your people," said Mr Tyne. "Luckily I am well able to pay for such trouble, and I propose offering your father 50 for the six weeks."

"It's too much, sir," said Turk. The other laughed.

"Don't, let that worry you. Do you accept?" Turk drew a long breath.

"Very gratefully, sir," he answered.


CHAPTER 3
The Man Called Tallon

DICK DURRANT stepped out of the boat on to the ledge beside the little rock harbour of Burnt Island.

"There won't be any hermit to jump us this time," he remarked.

"Her'd have a job to jump me, I reckon," said the man at the oars. He was George Denby, one of the best of the Broadmead fishermen. He was almost as wide as he was tall, and was famed for his immense strength. When Turk Brydon had asked Mr Peterson if he and Dick could pay a second visit to Burnt Island permission had been given only on condition that George Denby went with them.

"What do you think you're going to find, Turk?" Dick asked. "If there was anything in the cave the police would have had it."

Turk shrugged. "I don't know that we shall find anything, but I want to see the cave the hermit lived in."

"Just an excuse for an afternoon out," grinned Dick. "All right. Are you coming up, George?"

"Baint no need for me to climb they great rocks," said Denby gravely. "Reckon us'll sit in the boat and take a rest."

So the two boys went up the steep path alone. It was a lovely afternoon, and as they climbed they got a grand view of the sea and of the rocky coast. On the northern horizon lay the purple tors of Broadstone Moor. Soon they reached the cave where they had spent unpleasant hours, tied hand and foot, but they wasted no time there. They cleared the tunnel leading to the hermit's quarters and came into a small rock chamber with a second entrance facing the sea.

"Not so dusty," said Dick, looking round at the rough furniture contrived by the hermit out of packing-cases and driftwood. There was an oil stove, and the bed was sacking stuffed with dry grass, which must have taken a long time to gather. Turk stood examining everything with his keen eyes. Then he began to prowl round, poking into all the corners.

"The police have done that, old chap," said Dick with a laugh. "You can be jolly sure that if there was any treasure here they've found it."

"I'm not looking for treasure," Turk answered, and went on with his search. Dick sat on the mattress and watched him. Dick was fond of chaffing Turk, but all the same he had a great respect for Turk's brains.

Turk examined everything, even the stove and the pots and the kettle. Dick got bored; he took two sticks of chocolate from his pocket and offered one to Turk.

"Thanks, but I'm too busy," said Turk. "What about that mattress?"

Dick got up and Turk dragged the mattress into the light. He took out a knife, cut some of the stitches, and pulled out the dried grass.

"That wouldn't be a bad place to hide banknotes," Dick observed, "but I expect the police have looked already.

"They didn't find this," said Turk, and held up a little black notebook—the sort you buy for a penny at Woolworths. Dick stepped forward.

"Anything in it?" he asked eagerly.

Turk turned the pages. There was a puzzled frown on his sun-tanned face.

"A lot," he answered, "but nothing that means anything, so far as I can see." He handed the book to Dick, who studied it for a minute then looked up at Turk. "Sheer gibberish," he remarked.

"I'm not so sure," said Turk. "I think it's some sort of cypher."

"Cypher," Dick repeated. "It might be, but who in the world is going to find out what it means?"

"Dad might," said Turk. "He's a nailer at this sort of thing. We'll take it back to Peter and ask him if I may send it home."

They hurried down the steep path, and as they reached the cove were surprised to see a second boat come in. The boat was a dinghy driven by an outboard motor. There was only one man in it, a middle-sized man powerfully built and dressed in very ordinary grey flannels. But he himself was by no means ordinary, for he had the hardest face the boys had ever seen. His pale blue eyes were like two marbles, and his lips so thin they made his mouth look like that of a fish.

If they were surprised so was the stranger, and for a moment there was a queer glare in his pale eyes. That passed and he smiled as he came ashore.

"I was surprised to see strangers on this lonely islet," he said, "but I think you must be the boys who met poor Fred Caledon here three days ago."

"Caledon—was that the hermit's name?" Turk asked sharply.

"That is his name. He is my cousin. The poor fellow has been suffering as the result of a motor accident. He recovered, or seemed to recover, but then disappeared. The first we heard of his being on Burnt Island was the story I read in yesterday's paper. So I came at once to see what I could do."

George Denby looked up. "Don't reckon you can do a thing, mister. The police have been here, but the chap's left and they baint able to find un."

"You have been up to the cave?" asked the stranger, looking at Turk.

"We've been there, but there's not a sign of him," Turk answered.

"Were there any papers or letters?" the stranger asked.

"You'll have to ask the police about that," Turk said. "Sergeant Carr at Broadmead will tell you."

The man gave Turk a queer, hard look, but Turk returned it calmly.

"I'll go up and have a look round," said the man.

"And we must be getting back to school. Goodbye," said Turk politely, and got into the boat. As they pulled out of the harbour they saw the stranger climbing the hill. Dick grinned.

"You bluffed him properly, Turk."

"I didn't like the look of him," said Turk, and Denby nodded.

"More did I, young master. That chap baint up to no good, I tell 'ee. Her'd got eyes like a squid's."

Turk laughed. "You've sized him up exactly." Then his brows knitted. "I wish I knew what he was after," he added.


CHAPTER 4
Circles of Stone

MR PETERSON told Turk he must take the little black book to Sergeant Carr and ask his permission before sending it to Mr Brydon. Turk did so, and the sergeant, after carefully turning the pages, shook his head and handed it back.

"If your father can make head or tail out of that stuff he's a wonder, Master Brydon. You can send it along to him. I make no doubt he will let us know if he does find out anything."

"You may be sure of that, Sergeant," Turk replied. "I say, did that ugly fellow with the fishy eyes come to see you?"

The sergeant nodded. "Aye, he came round last evening. Told the same tale he gave to you. Asked if we'd found any papers, and I told him no."

"Did he give his name?"

"Called himself Tallon. Can't say I liked the looks of him.

"I wonder if it was this book he was after?" Turk asked shrewdly.

The sergeant looked up quickly.

"It might be," he allowed. "But the book don't belong to him. It belongs to this Caledon—if that's his name. If there's anything in the book maybe it will help us to find the chap. You send it along. Better do it at once."

The book was posted, and with it a letter from Turk, explaining what it was and where it had been found. Two days later he had a letter from his father.


My dear Turk,

This little book certainly contains a cypher, but without a key it is going to be very difficult to unravel. Still, I will do my best.

I have had a very kind letter from Mr Tyne in which he asks if I will take his son Tristram for the holidays. He has enclosed a cheque for 50. I have told him that the payment is absurdly high, but he insists that it will be well worth it, so I have accepted. Part of this money I intend to use to keep you for another term at Broadmead. Your mother and I are looking forward to seeing you next Monday week.

Your affectionate father,

Everard Brydon.


Turk showed this letter to Dick, and Dick was delighted.

"Simply great!" he declared. He paused. "What's the matter with you, Turk? Aren't you pleased?"

Turk shrugged.

"Of course I'll be glad to come back next term, but it's only putting off the evil day. By Christmas there'll be nothing left."

"Wait till Christmas comes. You never know what may turn up," was Dick's cheerful advice. "Now, what about that sweat tomorrow?"

Sweat was the slang word used at Broadmead for a training run. Turk and Dick took one on most half-holidays when there wasn't a match on.

"We'll take the bus up to Stoke Underwood," said Turk, "go across the moor, and come home by South Newton."

Dick nodded, "Suits me," he said.

Next day turned out dull and cloudy, but weather did not matter to Turk or Dick, and as soon as dinner was over they got into shorts and boarded the two o'clock bus. Twenty minutes later they were landed at Stoke, a village on the edge of the moor, and set off at a steady jog-trot. The distance they were set to cover was about seven miles, and all hard going.

"Hope it isn't going to fog up," said Dick, as they came to the top of the big hill leading out of the Arrow Valley.

"Fog tonight," Turk answered, "but we'll get back before it comes on." They turned off the road and made their way across the rough ridge of Barton's Beam. Suddenly Dick stumbled.

"I've ripped the sole off my shoe."

So he had. The shoe was old, the stitching had gone, and three inches of the toe end of the left sole was flapping loose.

Turk frowned, then his face cleared.

"It's only a mile to Snaily House. I dare say we can borrow a shoe from the Barlings. If not, Mr Barling will give us a lift to Newton, and we can catch the bus."

Old Tom Barling was a good friend of the boys, and they had more than once had tea in his oddly-named house. He looked at the shoe.

"Her needs a few stitches," he said. "Reckon us can fix un with a harness needle. But 'ee won't be able to run in un."

Kindly Mrs Barling came out. "You'll stop to tea, young gentlemen," she said. "Dough cakes in the oven. They'll be ready in half an hour."

"Hot dough cakes, Mrs Barling," grinned Dick. "What a treat! This is one time I'm glad I bust a shoe. How about it, Turk?"

Turk shrugged.

"I know I couldn't drag you away with a rope, once you've heard of hot dough cakes. Thanks, Mrs Barling, we'll love to stay. But as there's half an hour to spare I'll go as far as the foot of Grim Tor. I want to look at those hut circles."

"I'd thought you'd come far enough already," said Mr Barling, "but go if you must. Only don't be too long or the tea will be black."

"Half an hour," said Turk. "Not a minute longer." He waved his hand and ran off.

During the few minutes the boys had been in the house the weather had got worse. Grey mist capped the great blunt head of Grim Tor.

"Fog tonight," said Turk to himself, "but plenty of time to see the circles." He had to pick his way uphill among thick heather, clumps of gorse, and rough boulders, then he crossed the deep bed of a small brook and came within sight of a rampart of enormous stones which surrounded the prehistoric Village of Grim Tor.

The size of the stones amazed Turk, and he wondered how those ancient folk, who had lived here three thousand years ago, had managed to move them. The space within the wall was about five acres, and here were the hut circles also made of large rough boulders piled cunningly together. These had originally been beehive-shaped huts thatched with heather, but now the foundation walls were all that was left.

In this village some long-forgotten tribe had lived and protected themselves and their cattle against the wolves and bears and had fought off enemies from the coast.

Turk walked from one circle to another; he noticed that the circles were not actually circles, for the entrance to each hut was protected by one wall curling outward and lapping over the other. No doubt this was done to keep the wind from blowing straight into the hut.

Turk glanced at his wrist-watch. It was nearly four. He had been longer than he had thought. If he was to get back to the farm in time for tea he would have to start at once. He turned, and as he did so a figure rose out of a thick clump of gorse close beside him.

Turk could hardly believe his eyes, yet there was no mistake. This tall man with the fierce face and wild eyes was the Hermit of Burnt Island.

So surprised was Turk that he hesitated, and that moment's delay was fatal. The big man came leaping upon him. Turk ducked, spun round, and tried to escape, but it was too late. The hermit's great right hand closed on his shoulder.

"You will not escape a second time," said the man in his deep, harsh voice.


CHAPTER 5
The Hermit Demands His Book

KEEPING an iron grip on Turk's shoulder, the Hermit led him towards a second, larger clump of gorse which grew outside the wall. Here he stooped and forced him to his knees.

"Crawl in front of me," he ordered, and Turk obeyed. He found himself in a tunnel cut through the thick gorse. This led to an open space in the middle of the clump where a sort of hut had been built of stones and heather. The roof was so low it could not be seen from outside the clump.

Inside was just room for a bed made of heather with a couple of old horse-rugs over it, a stool, a small suit-case, and an oil stove. The place was very dark, for the only opening was the door, which was just big enough to crawl through.

"Sit down," the Hermit ordered, pointing to the bed. "Give me that book," he demanded harshly.

"What book?" Turk asked.

"The one you found on the island. The little black book."

Turk considered. After all, the book was the Hermit's property and he himself had no right to keep it.

"What makes you think I've got it?" he asked.

"I know. I can read your mind," was the startling answer. "You found it in my bed."

"I did," Turk confessed, "but I haven't got it with me."

"Where is it?" the Hermit asked, scowling.

"I sent it to my father."

This news upset the Hermit badly and for a moment he looked quite savage.

"Who is your father? Where does he live?" he demanded.

Turk explained, and the Hermit frowned as he listened. For some moments the man sat silent. Then he spoke.

"I shall fetch it. You will stay here until I return."

"My father won't give it you."

"He will give it me when I tell him I am holding you as hostage," was the grim reply.

Turk hardly knew what to say. It was dangerous to argue with a man who was not right in his head, and probably useless, too. On the other hand, the idea of being left here alone in this horrible hut, probably tied hand and foot, scared him badly. He changed his tactics.

"Suppose I wrote a letter to my father," he suggested. "I could tell him that the book belongs to you and that he is to give it to you. How would that do?"

The idea seemed to appeal to the Hermit, for the scowl on his face was replaced by a thoughtful look.

"You can write the letter," he said, "but you remain here until I return." He paused and stared at Turk. "I shall have to tie you, but I will leave food and water. I shall be back in two days."

Tied up for two days in this dreadful, cold, damp hut! Turk felt desperate, yet had sense enough to keep his mouth shut.

The Hermit got up and opened the suitcase. In doing so he turned his back on Turk. Turk saw his chance and took it like a flash. With one spring he was on his feet and was out of the door.

He flung himself headlong into the tunnel cut through the gorse, going through it like a rabbit bolting from a ferret. Behind him he heard the Hermit roaring threats as he crashed after. Turk, being smaller and more active, got out ahead of him.

Turk was one of the best runners at Broadmead and could keep up a good pace for miles. But he was only a boy, and his legs were nothing like so long as those of the Hermit. Glancing back over his shoulder, he saw that the man was gaining, and for a nasty moment panic seized him. He fought it down and forced himself to keep a steady pace. He must save himself for a sprint when he reached the more level ground at the bottom of the tor.

The hillside was terribly rough. It was a mass of boulders, clumps of heather, and gorse, with here and there small bog holes where springs leaked out. The Hermit blundered into one of these bog holes and his left leg went in to the knee. He saved himself from falling, but all the same this checked him for a few seconds and gave the boy a fresh lead.

Turk saw ahead of him the little brook which he had crossed on the way up. It was about 12 feet across from the top of one bank to the other. The Hermit was gaining again, and Turk saw he would not have time to run down one bank and scramble up the other. He must jump it.

He checked a little, steadied himself, picked the best-looking spot for a take off, then went at it with all his remaining energy. Next instant he was in the air.

Considering the take off, which was nothing but soft peat, it was a real good jump, but it was not quite good enough. He landed a few inches short and pitched forward on hands and knees. But he wasn't hurt and was up in an instant. The delay, short as it was, had given the big man his chance, and as Turk scrambled to his feet the Hermit reached the far side and launched himself in a great heap. His weight, however, was double that of Turk; the peaty bank gave way under it and he fell with a crash into the bed of the brook. He came down like a ton of bricks, and Turk, checking and turning, saw that he was knocked out.

Turk clambered quickly down into the channel and bent over him. The Hermit's head had hit a stone and there was an ugly gash on his left temple which was bleeding badly.

Turk knew something of first aid. He pulled out his handkerchief, wrung it in the brook, and tied it firmly over the wound. He tried to drag the man out of the water, but the task was beyond his strength. The brook, however, was only a couple of feet wide and the Hermit's head was clear. He left him there and went in search of help.

Help was close at hand, for as he reached the road he saw a car coming up the hill. He waved his arms and the car stopped.

"What's the matter?" came a voice that Turk at once recognised. The man who got out was the stony-eyed person who called himself Tallon.


CHAPTER 6
Turk Makes a Bolt

TALLON was the last man Turk wanted to see, but he was better than nobody. Quickly he explained what had happened, and saw a queer gleam come into the man's dull eyes.

"Where is he?" Tallon asked.

"I'll show you," Turk said, and started at a run.

Tallon reached the bank of the brook and looked down. "Not dead, is he?" he asked.

"No," Turk answered as he jumped down.

Between them they lifted the Hermit up to the top of the bank. He was still insensible but breathing.

"This is a hospital job," said Tallon, in his queer, expressionless voice. As he spoke he was bending over the Hermit, and Turk was horrified to see that he was searching the man's pockets.

"You can't do that," he said sharply. "Can't I? Who's to stop me?" sneered the other. Still on his knees, he turned his head and fixed his glassy eyes on Turk. "Where's that book?" he demanded.

"So that's what you were after!" cried Turk, then realised that he had given the show away.

"You've got it. I might have known," said Tallon, and grasped at Turk. He was not quick enough. Turk leaped aside, and ran.

Instantly Tallon was at his heels. The boy was not fresh and Tallon was. He began to gain. Turk felt desperate. There was nothing for it but to run; run till he dropped—and Turk was pretty near that now. Tallon was so close that he could hear his panting breath just behind him. With a last desperate effort he gained the road and turned in the direction of Snaily House. But this was still half a mile away and Turk was completely blown. He flung himself down on hands and knees and the man ran right over him and came sprawling.

His language was dreadful, but Turk hardly heard.

Someone else heard.

"That you, Turk?" came a ringing shout from Dick.

"Yes," Turk managed to answer. "Look out. Tallon's after me."

Tallon was picking himself up. His face was wicked. Turk almost gave up hope.

Then came Dick's voice again. "All right, Turk. Barling's with me."

That was enough for Tallon. With a savage exclamation he turned and ran for his car.

Turk could run no more, but he shouted again to Dick.

"Stop him. He's going for his car."

Dick called to Barling, and he and the big farmer raced for the car. Dick shot ahead and reached the car well in front of Barling and just ahead of Tallon, who was coming from the opposite direction. Turk saw him pull open the door. Instinctively he knew what Dick was after—the ignition key. He was right. Dick got the key and was out again just as Tallon came charging up.

"Give me that key!" cried Tallon hoarsely.

Dick dodged, spun round, and raced back down the road. Tallon, pounding after, ran right into Farmer Barling.

Barling, a sturdy moorman, did not ask questions. He thrust out a thick leg, and for a second time Tallon measured his length in the road. The force of the fall knocked the breath out of his body, and Barling promptly sat on him.

"I got un," he roared.

"Hold him!" cried Turk. "He's a thief."

"Us'll hold un," said Barling cheerfully. A moment later Turk came panting up and told the other two what had happened.

"Let me go," cried Tallon. "You've nothing against me."

"We'll see what the police say about that," remarked Turk.

They left him firmly tied and went after the Hermit. Turk was amazed to find that the latter's eyes were open. What was more, his whole expression had changed.

"What's happened?" the big man asked quietly. "Have I had an accident?"

"You've had a fall and cut your head," Turk told him. "We have a car and will take you to the doctor."

The Hermit insisted on walking, and, leaning on Barling's arm, got to the car. They drove him to the farm, then Barling himself drove off to Moreton and fetched young Dr Denstone. He telephoned to the school explaining matters and saying he would bring the boys back later, then visited the police-station and asked the sergeant in charge to fetch Tallon.

Meantime the Hermit was put to bed at the farm and the boys enjoyed their long delayed tea.

Dr Denstone, a clever young man, spent some time over the Hermit, and came downstairs looking very eager and interested.

"This is a most curious case," he told them. "Your hermit, as you call him, has been insane through a blow on the head. The fall he had today has in some strange fashion restored his senses. He is now as sane as you or I. He wants to see you, Brydon. You may go up."

It was a long time before Turk came down again, then he was looking rather white and his eyes were shining.

"It's simply amazing," he began. "He's a different man—polite and nice as you could wish."

"Yes, but what did he tell you?" Dick asked eagerly. "Is there a treasure?"

"There's a treasure all right, but you'll never guess what it is."

"I don't want to," retorted Dick. "What is it? Tell us."

"It's manganese."

"What's that?"

"A metal—very valuable. The Hermit found it a long time ago, and went to live on Burnt Island until he could get money enough to work the ore. This nasty fellow, Tallon, got wind of it and tried to get the Hermit to tell him where it was. They had a fight and the Hermit got hurt. Tallon thought he was going to die and ran away, but the Hermit pulled round.

"The blow had made him queer in his head, but he still remembered his manganese and the book in which he has written down all about it in cypher. Then we turned up, and you know what has happened since."

Dick nodded.

"Lucky you met him today, Turk. Well, I'm glad the poor chap will have his manganese, and I hope he'll make something out of it."

"Someone else is going to make something out of it, Dick," Turk said soberly.

"You and I."

Dick's eyes widened.

Turk went on. "He seems to think that we are responsible for getting him out of his troubles. So he's going to give us each a tenth share in the profits."

Dick sprang to his feet.

"Hurray, Turk! This will pull your dad out of his troubles and you can stay on at school."

"I hope so," Turk answered. He paused, then went on. "I'm to put it up to Tristram's father. He's an ironmaster and can find the money for opening up the mine."

"And that there Tallon. What'll come of he?" asked Farmer Barling.

"He will go to prison," said the doctor firmly.

Which was just what did happen.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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