The treasure

about a little puzzle box

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2. Part 2

Fiona was inspecting the painting with ring in hand, when I finely came down from putting the twins to bed. It was always the same, they wanted another story, and then another till they fell asleep. She was standing by the panelling on the right side of the painting.

She was rather excited and indicated for me do likewise on the left. Now facing her, I saw that the blood ruby was really on a raised mound. I also saw that the painting was a permanent fixture imbedded in the plaster of the wall, and not hanging as I had previously thought.

She had this idea; maybe the ring was the key. I took the ring from her and standing on tiptoes reached up and inserted ‘ruby to ruby’. I pushed. There was a click. A panel at Fiona’s side swung open, which made her jump. We had found a priest hole.

It was very dark inside, even with the door open. I fetched my torch, which certainly brightened things up. At the far end there were steps going down.

Just then who should come in but Jack! He insisted that he should go and investigate with me. To put him off I warned him that there could be spiders and maybe rats, which I knew he hated. He suddenly changed his mind and thought that maybe he should stand guard by the entrance.

That left me, followed by Fiona, descending the steps. They ran down a false passage built to appear as an integral part of the chimneybreast. I hoped that my torch battery would last as I would have hated to get caught in the darkness. It didn’t help that I remembered reading somewhere that a few priests had died of starvation or suffocation whilst hiding in such places.

We did not stop in the basement, where the kitchens were, but carried on down until we reached the bottom of a long shaft. We then stepped out into a room below ground. It was split in two by a supporting arch holding up the floor above. To one side there was another set of steps leading to a passage, going to god knows where.

The room contained a bed, a table and a chair. By the side of the bed I could see a small iron banded chest, which, Fiona helped me pull out.

Only to discover that there were chains wrapped around it. The chains were secured by a very heavy old padlock that was locked and would not open.

It was time for us to go back up as we had left both Jack and the twins alone for long enough. We had to leave the chest as it was far too heavy to carry up the stairs.

Back in the hall Jack was waiting for us with so many questions! Even the pictures I had taken on my phone camera would not do. So I decided it would be better to take him back down leaving Fiona, this time, to keep watch.

I was amazed how quickly we reached the underground room. I could tell Jack was very excited. He sat in the chair, lay on the wooden strutted bed, inspected the chains on the chest and would have gone up the other steps and along the passage if I had not stopped him.

He would not leave before making me promise not to open the chest without him.

Once more back with Fiona, I pushed the panel into place. In its original position again, no one would ever have realised a hidden doorway existed.

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