[Illustration: The children leant forward and peered down into this
wonderful box. _Page 113._]
UNDER PADLOCK AND SEAL
BY HAROLD AVERY
Thomas Nelson and Sons
London, Edinburgh, Dublin
and New York
_I. Downstairs in the Dark_, 9
_II. The Lost Carving-Knife_, 19
_III. Uncle Roger's Box_, 30
_IV. The Box Opened_, 41
_V. A Naval Disaster_, 51
_VI. More Mystery_, 61
_VII. Sad News_, 71
_VIII. Elsie has a Fright_, 82
_IX. A Fresh Discovery_, 93
_X. Elsie's Confession_, 103
_XI. Uncle Roger's Legacy_, 112
_XII. The Riddle Solved_, 122
UNDER PADLOCK AND SEAL.
DOWNSTAIRS IN THE DARK.
Elsie pushed away the bed-clothes which were covering her ear, and
listened; then she sat up in bed, and listened again.
There was no doubt that it was an actual
sound, and not mere
imagination. How long it had been going on, or when it first began to
mingle in a confused manner with her dreams, she could not say; but now
she heard it plainly
enough, and recognized what it was--the peculiar,
grating hiss of a grindstone, punctuated every now and then with a
subdued little squeak
made by the treadle.
Who on earth should want to be grinding anything at that time of night?
The Pines was a rambling old house; the girls always slept with their
window open; and just below was an outbuilding, part of which was used
as a tool-house, in which stood the grindstone; and thus the sound had
reached Elsie at a moment when perhaps her slumber
was not as deep as
usual. The noise continued, with pauses at regular intervals, when
whatever was being sharpened was removed from the stone. Taking care not
her elder sister, Ida, whose heavy breathing showed that she
was sound asleep, the little girl slipped out of bed, and crept softly
over to the window. By straining her neck, and pressing her cheek close
against the pane, she could just get a glimpse
of the tool-house window,
which she noticed was faintly
illuminated, as it might have been by the
feeble rays of a night-light.
A sudden thought occurred to Elsie that it must be her cousin, Brian
Seaton, who lived at the Pines, and went to school with her brother
Guy. Brian was always boat-building; sometimes he sat up later than he
ought to have done, and continued to work long after every one else was
in bed. No doubt the rascal
was doing so now, and had stolen
down to put
a fresh edge on his chisel. Elsie was a spirited young monkey, and she
and Brian were great chums.
"I'll just creep down and show him I've found him out," she said to
herself. "What fun to take him by surprise!"
To put on dressing-gown and slippers was but the work of a few moments.
the bedroom door, she passed out on to the landing, and
groping in the darkness until she found the rail of the banisters, she
proceeded down the stairs.
How still and quiet the house seemed! Nothing broke the silence but the
solemn "tick-tack" of the big clock in the hall, which had been ticking
in the same sedate manner since the days when Elsie's grandmother
been a little girl. Feeling her way down the length of the hall, not
without an occasional
bump against chairs and other such obstacles,
Elsie came to a little lobby or cloak-room, having at the farther
end a half-glass door, which opened on the yard, and from which the
tool-house was distant not more than a dozen paces. She quite expected
to find this door open, and was surprised to discover that it was not
only shut, but locked on the inside.
"What a beggar
Brian is!" thought the girl. "He must have climbed out of
his window, and come down the water-pipe, as he did one day last summer."
She laid her hand on the key, when a low growling noise gave her quite
a little fright, until she remembered that it was the old clock in the
hall preparing to strike--"clearing his throat," as Ida called the
operation. The next moment the bell struck--
Elsie listened with a gasp of astonishment; the old clock ignored the
halves and quarters, so the time must be two o'clock in the morning!
She never remembered having been up so early or so late before, and the
thought that she was wandering about the house at that unearthly hour
made her feel quite queer.
"What can Brian be about?" she murmured. "He can't have been sitting up
working till this time."
She turned the handle of the door, and stepped across the threshold. The
cold night air made her shiver, the whir of the grindstone came clear
from the tool-house, and the window still gleamed with
the same subdued, ghostly
light. Elsie had intended to rush across the
flagstones, fling open the door, shout "Brian, go to bed!" and then
herself beat a hasty retreat; but, just when she was on the point of
doing so, she hesitated.
What if it shouldn't be Brian after all? And if it were not her cousin,
who or what could be there in the tool-house turning the grindstone at
two o'clock in the morning?
It is when we pause to think that fear often takes hold of us. Elsie was
a brave child; but, somehow, just then her courage seemed to desert her.
She remained for an instant
listening to the whispering of the night
wind, and the mysterious
sound which had first roused her from her
slumbers; then she drew back in sudden panic, locked the door as if in
the fear of some lion, and went quickly back the way she had come.
"Tick-tack! tick-tack!" muttered the old clock. He never felt afraid at
having to stand alone all night in the darkness. Elsie hurried
and after one or two stumbles on the stairs, regained her bedroom.
"Ida! Wake up!"
"Every one of my sums is right," murmured Ida drowsily. "You can always
get them right with a blue pencil."
"Wake up, Ida! I want to tell you something."
"Oh, bother!" grumbled the elder girl. "What's the matter, Elsie? What
d'you want to keep shaking me for when I'm sound asleep?"
"Why, I want to tell you there's some one turning our grindstone."
"Well, what if they are? I suppose it's meant to be turned."
"But not now. It's two o'clock in the morning. No one ought to be about
there at this time."
Ida sat up, rubbed her eyes, and yawned.
"What d'you mean?" she exclaimed.
"Listen!" was the answer. "You'll hear the noise. Some one was working
the grindstone. Why, I heard the little squeak
of the treadle as plainly
"You have been dreaming, you little silly!"
"No, I _haven't_! What I say is quite true."
There was something in the speaker's tone which showed that she was very
much in earnest.
"And you mean to say that you've been all the way downstairs?"
"Yes; I went to the yard door. I meant to have gone across to the
tool-house, but I was frightened."
"Well, if any one was there, it must have been Guy or Brian--probably
Brian, for he's the only one who can sharpen
tools. I'll go across and
Throwing the dressing-gown over her shoulders, Ida left the room. She
still did not believe that either of the boys had been up at that
unearthly hour using the grindstone, but she wished to prove to Elsie
that it was all imagination. As she passed the head of the stairs she
suddenly stopped. Somewhere, down below, she distinctly
heard a soft
noise like the patter
of slippered feet. Ida leant over the banisters.
"Brian!" she cried in a whisper. "What are you doing?"
There was a scuffling noise, and a moment later, to the girl's
astonishment, a black dog came jumping up the stairs as fast as it could
"Why, Bob, you rascal, whatever
brings you in here?"
The dog capered about with a whining noise, which showed his delight.
"Hush! don't bark!" commanded the girl; "you ought to be in your kennel.
Go downstairs, and lie on the mat."
The dog obeyed, and pattered off down the stairs, while Ida went on and
tapped at the door of the room in which the two boys slept. The knocking
had to be repeated
several times before there was any answer. At last
there came a sleepy, "All ri'. What 'er want?"
"Have you been down turning the grindstone in the tool-house, Guy?"
"No, of course not."
"No; he's here asleep."
"Have either of you been down there?"
"No, you stupid!"
"Well, some one's let Bob into the house."
Bob! I say, Ida, you are a fool to go waking a fellow up
like this. What's the joke?"
"It's no joke," she said. "Good-night; go to sleep."
"You are a little noodle, Elsie!" Ida exclaimed as she jumped back into
bed, her teeth chattering with the cold. "The boys are both in bed, and
haven't been near the tool-house. And d'you know what you've done?
You've let in Bob."
"I'm sure I didn't."
"But you _did_. He's just run upstairs. He must have slipped in when you
opened the yard door. His collar's broken, and he gets loose sometimes."
"I'm sure he didn't come into the house when I opened the door,"
persisted Elsie. "I only stood there half a minute. The servants must
have let him in when they were locking up."
"Well, if it was a robberworking
the grindstone," answered Ida
jokingly, "he can't get into the house without Bob barking and waking
everybody up. Now, good-night; don't wake me up again."
Ida's breathing soon showed that she was once more in the land of
dreams, but try as Elsie would she could not get off to sleep. As
often as she closed her eyes she seemed to see the dark outline
tool-house, the single window illuminated with a ghostly
again she heard the hiss and whir of the grindstone as she had heard it
Who could have been at work there, if Guy and Brian were both in bed? If
she had run across and opened the door of the little den, what would
she have seen? She was still lying awake thinking, when the old clock
downstairs struck three. Gradually her excitement
gave place to a
sensation of drowsiness, and at length she fell asleep. Even now her
puzzled brain was not quite content to let her rest. In her dreams she
once more went downstairs, and this time the door of the tool-house
opened, and out came the grindstone of its own accord, staggering along
on its wooden
stand, and whizzing round all the time with a buzzing
sound like a big angry bee. It chased her along endless passages, and up
and down countless
flights of stairs. Then Brian appeared on the scene;
she rushed forward to beg his help, and in doing so awoke to find that
she was in bed.
[Illustration: THE 'GRINDSTONE']
THE LOST CARVING-KNIFE.
There was a great deal of chattering going on at the breakfast table
next morning, seldom less than two people talking at once.
"Look here, Ida," cried Guy; "next time you come waking me up in the
middle of the night, I'll have a sponge
of cold water ready for you;
see if I don't!"
"I tell you it was Elsie's fault," was the answer. "She declared she
heard some one turning the grindstone."
"Well, so I did," persisted Elsie, who did not like her word being
doubted. "I heard it quite plainly; and there was a light in the
"Are you sure you were not dreaming?" asked Mrs. Ormond.
"Yes, quite sure, mother."
"Did you grind any of your tools last night, Brian?"
"Oh no, aunt. I haven't touched the grindstone for a week at least.
Besides, I'm too fond of bed to get up and sharpen
chisels at two
o'clock in the morning."
was a sturdy, good-natured
boy, two years older than Guy,
and greatly distinguished
this term by having received the cap of the
Rexbury Grammar School football team.
"You two girls are a couple of noodles," went on Guy. "I suppose you
thought it was a ghost working
at the stone?"
"Well, look here," cried Ida, anxious
to turn the conversation; "who let
Bob in last night? Elsie says she didn't, but he was in the house when I
came over to your room."
"He was fastened up when I crossed the yard about eight o'clock last
night," said Brian.
"Where did you find him this morning, Jane?" asked Ida, turning to the
"He was outside, chained up to his kennel, miss," was the answer.
"Outside! But when he was once in the house he couldn't possibly get out
again. He came running
up the stairs, and I couldn't think what it was
for a minute."
"He was in his kennel
when we came down this morning, miss," said Jane.
Guy burst out into a roar of laughter.
"Well, I'm blest!" he cried. "You are a pair! First there's Elsie's yarn
about that grindstone, and now you try to stuff some silly story into us
of Bob's running
about the house when he was outside all the time."
"But he _was_ in the house," cried Ida, flushing. "He came upstairs
me, and I sent him down again."
"Then if he was in the house, will you tell me how he could have got out
again before the servants came down to open the door? You girls must
have eaten something for supper last night that didn't agree with you,
and both had nightmare. Next time you get it, don't come across to our
"Now, now!" interrupted Mrs. Ormond, who saw that Ida was about to make
an angry retort, and judged that the discussion
had gone far enough.
"Come, you boys will be late if you don't make haste with your breakfast.
Are you going to play football this afternoon, Brian?"
"Yes, aunt; it's a match."
"Shall you want to take your things with you?"
"No, thank you. The game's on our ground, so I shall come home to
Mr. Ormond, who had not been paying much attention to the conversation,
now laid aside the newspaper he had been reading, at the same time
"I see that the _Arcadia_ left the docks in London yesterday
Australia, so I suppose by this time Mr. William Cole has begun his
first experience of being 'rocked in the cradle
of the deep.'"