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The Lost Middy Being the Secret of the Smugglers' Gap

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Chapter One.

There was a loud rattling noise, as if money was being shaken up in a box. A loud crashing bang, as if someone had banged the box down on a table. A rap, as if a knife had been dropped. Then somebody, in a petulant voice full of vexation and irritability, roared out:


And that’s exactly how it was, leaving Aleck Donne, who looked about sixteen or seventeen, scratching vigorously at his crisp hair as he sat back, with his elbows resting upon those of the big wooden arm-chair, staring at the money-box before him.

“I call it foolishness,” he said, aloud, talking, of course, to himself, for there was no one else in the comfortable room, the window of which opened out upon the most quaint garden ever seen. “It’s all right to save up your money in a box and keep on dropping it through a slit; but how about getting it out? Here, I’ll go and smash the stupid old thing up directly on the block in the wood-shed.”

But instead of carrying out his threat, he leaned forward, picked up the curved round-ended table-knife he had dashed down, seized the money-box again, shook it with jingling effect, held it upside down above his eyes, and began to operate with the knife-blade through the narrow slit in the centre of the lid.

For a good quarter of an hour by the big old eight-day clock in the corner did the boy work away, shaking the box till some coin or another was over the slit, and then operating with the knife-blade, trying and trying to get the piece of money up on edge so that it would drop through; and again and again, as the reward of his indefatigable perseverance, nearly succeeding, but never quite. For so sure as he pushed it up or tilted it down, the coin made a dash and glided away, making the drops of perspiration start out on the boy’s forehead, and forcing him into a struggle with his temper which resulted in his gaining the victory again, till that thin old half-crown was coaxed well into sight and forced flat against the knife-blade. The boy then began to manipulate the knife with extreme caution as he kept on making a soft purring noise, ah–h–h–h–ha! full of triumphant satisfaction, while a big curled-up tabby tom-cat, which had taken possession of the fellow chair to that occupied by Aleck, twitched one ear, opened one eye, and then seeing that the purring sound was only a feeble imitation, went off to sleep again.

“Got you at last!” muttered the lad. “Half a crown; just buy all I want, and—bother!” he yelled, and, raising the box on high with both hands, he dashed it down upon the slate hearth with all his might.

Temper had won this time. Aleck had suffered a disastrous defeat, and he sat there with his forehead puckered up, staring at the cat, which at the crash and its accompanying yell made one bound that carried it on to the sideboard, where with glowing eyes, flattened ears, arched back, and bottle-brush tail, it stood staring at the disturber of its rest.

“Well, I am a pretty fool,” muttered Aleck, starting out of his chair and listening for a few moments before stealing across the room to open the door cautiously and thrust out his head....