Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 16

CHAPTER 16

Exploring the tunnel

 
 “Old Louis the artist!”

“Eh? What’s he doing down here at this time of night? He can’t be painting.”

“That’s for sure,” Titch replied. “Well, he’s shown us that there are two doors in the walls of the cellar. We’d better not follow him, but we can have a look at the one he came out of.”

Realising that there was no one else in the cellar, Titch shone his torch on the wall to his left. He noticed that there was some upright moulding on that wall also. “Start pressing on this moulding Miff. It might open the door, same as the other side.” Both boys ran their hands up and down pressing as they went. Suddenly Miff felt the stone give but nothing happened.

“I think this is it Titch.” he whispered. They both pressed heavily in the same spot and were rewarded by a steady slow rumble as a stone door opened inwards before them.

“Wow!” breathed Titch in amazement. “Look Miff. A secret passageway.” They both shone their torches inside and could see a narrow stone-lined tunnel beyond. Slowly they entered.

“Shall we see where it goes?” asked Miff.

“Good idea,” returned Titch. “But we’d better see if we can shut the door first then, if those men come they won’t know we’re in here.” He shone his torch all around the edge of the doorway. One of the stones was painted red. He pressed hard on it and the door rumbled shut.

“Why is that stone painted red?” asked Miff.

“I suppose they realise that only people who know about the passageway would use it. They couldn’t paint the one outside could they?”

Because of the narrowness of the passageway the boys had to walk in single file. Titch led the way flashing his torch ahead as he went. To begin with the walls on each side were quite dry but as they made their way further along, they noticed trickles of water running down the stonework. After they’d walked a hundred metres or so the twisting passage became wider so that they could walk side by side. They also noticed that the top of the passage was higher. Then they walked around a sharp corner and were amazed that right in front of them was a flight of stone steps leading steeply upwards. They started climbing and when they reached the top a curved landing led them in another direction towards another flight of steps.

“Wonder where this place leads to?” queried Titch.

“Dunno! We’ve turned so many corners I don’t know where we are.”

“Let’s have a look at my compass,” replied Titch. He shone his torch on it. “That flight of steps in front of us is pointing due North Miff,” he said. “That means we are climbing up inside the hill. I wonder what’s on top of us?”

“If we carry on climbing we’ll be able to find out,” Miff replied.

At the top of the steps they emerged onto another curved landing which was quite wet under their feet. They rounded two more corners in quick succession and were met by another flight of steps. This time when they reached the top there were no further steps in sight but the passage sloped upwards. After what seemed ages it flattened out again and narrowed.

“We must have walked a quarter of a mile from the entrance by now,” announced Titch in a breathless voice. “Let’s see what’s around that corner.”

As they rounded the corner they noticed that the roof sloped steeply up above them and they emerged onto a flat area of rock about the size of a boxing ring. On the far side they could see a short flight of stone steps with iron railings on the sides.

The boys walked over and stood on the bottom step shining their torch all around. “Strange!” exclaimed Titch. “The top step ends at a blank wall.” They mounted the steps but discovered that, when they stood on the top step, the roof was so low that they were unable to stand up.

“This is weird Titch! Really weird!” exclaimed Miff. “There doesn’t seem to be a way out of this place.”

“There must be one somewhere,” stated Titch. “If old Louis got into this tunnel he must have come through a door somewhere.”

“Can’t see any moulding on this rock like there was down below,” remarked Miff.

“No,” agreed Titch. “But let’s push it and bang on it to see what happens.”

Crouching low to avoid hitting their heads they both pushed and knocked the blank wall all over but nothing happened. Frustrated by their lack of success, the pair sat down on the top step to think about their next move.

“Best turn our torches off,” suggested Titch. “The batteries must be getting low by now.” Instantly they were plunged into darkness.

“What d’you think happened to Bunny, Gogs and Smudgie?” asked Miff.

“I think it’s pretty obvious now that those men must have captured them and taken them somewhere. My guess would be down that other passage we saw Louis go down. They certainly don’t seem to have come this way.”

“What I don’t understand is why old Louis would be in this passage if it doesn”t lead anywhere.”

“I think there must be a door somewhere quite near to us. Otherwise why make these steps?”

“But we pressed all over this blank rock and nothing happened,” returned Miff.

“That’s what puzzles me,” groaned Titch.  He looked towards Miff. “If only . . .” he stopped in mid sentence.

“What’s wrong?”

“Miff, I can faintly see your face.”

“Yeah! I can see yours too.”

“But it should be totally dark in here. There must be light getting in somewhere,” Titch exclaimed. He instinctively looked above his head. “Look! Look, Miff!! Up there!” He pointed to the roof less than a metre above their heads. They could both see a distinct but very faint circle of light about the size of a football.

“That might be the way out Titch!” exclaimed Miff excitedly. “Let’s have a look.” He put his hand on the railing near him and tried to haul himself up. But the railing seemed to give way and move towards him. At the same time there was a hollow rumble above their heads as the circle was suddenly uncovered and admitted a beam of light.

Titch was first on his feet and put his head and shoulders up through the hole. “Wow!” He ducked back down to look at his companion. “You’ll never guess where we are.”

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