Dickey squeezed up the narrow cleft a short way to the entrance, then squatting down out of the wind, he lit the kerosene lamp."Right Miss Mary. Now you follow me. I'm afraid you'll have to crawl on your hands and knees to get in." Mary dropped to her knees and crawled into the dark, muddy hole. Suddenly she could see nothing but the faint glow of Dickey's lamp.
"Don't look back Miss Mary. Let your eyes get accustomed to the dark. You can stand up now if you want."

Carefully, Mary got to her feet. Sure enough, immediately inside the entrance the roof was about six feet high. Ample space in which to walk. As Mary's eyes gradually adjusted to the gloom, she was soon able to make out the detail of her immediate surroundings.

She was standing in a high, narrow passage. The floor was paved with muddy, slimy flagstones, the walls and lintels overhead being composed of stone slabs interspersed with drystone walling, giving an appearance not unlike that of a prehistoric passage grave like those found in Cornwall, Ireland and Brittany. After about ten feet, the passage curved round to the left, finally culminating a high, circular chamber, just beyond the reach of daylight. This was Captain Thompson's grotto.

Dickey turned round to her, his welcoming face irradiated by the low of the lamp. "Impressive eh Miss Mary?"
Mary smiled. "It's amazing Dickey. To walk along that rocky crest up there you would never think that all this was hidden underneath!"
"Well you see Miss, the rock outcrop isn't as big as it looks. It was enlarged artificially to make the grotto. Once the grass and heather had grown back you'd have no way of knowing that it was ever anything but a natural pile of boulders."
Mary looked down at the floor of the grotto. It was a muddy rubbish choked mess. Obviously Dickey wasn't the only person who knew about the Captain's grotto. Mary stared thoughtfully at the glistening walls. Whatever it was, it had to be here.
"Will you pass me the lamp please Dickey?"
"Why Miss?"
"So I can look at the walls."
"Here you are miss, but I can tell you afore you look that theres nowt to see apart from a few stonedressers marks."
"Well, numbers actually miss. If you look over there, in t'far corner, about five feet up t'wall you'll see two numbers."
Mary held the lamp above her head, close to the wall. Sure enough, almost obscured by an adjacent gritstone slab she could make out two small roman numerals - 'II' and 'VI'. Mary put the lamp on the floor and pulled out her notebook and pencil.

"Here Dickey, will you please hold the lamp for me?"
"What you doin' miss?"
"What do you think? Copying down the numbers."
"But why miss? Surely you don't believe all that nonsense about Captain Thompson's treasure?"
Mary gasped. "Well Dickey Postlethwaite I'm amazed at you! I thought you believed in the story?"

Dickey hung his head sheepishly. "Well I don't rightly know now miss. I did believe it when I were a young 'un, but nah I'm gettin' a bit older an' wiser as it were, I'm not so sure. A young lad believes in any old tale if it's exciting enough."
"You didn't make up the tale did you?"
"Well not exactly miss. Its more or less as it were told to me. O' course I might a made a bit up here an' there."
Mary grinned. "Well there's no smoke without fire so they say, and these odd clues are certainly sending up a lot of mysterious sparks!" She looked at him seriously. "Now listen carefully Dickey. I think I am onto something here, but first do you promise not to repeat to anyone what I'm about to tell you?"
Dickey grinned. "You can count on me miss."
"Alright then, now I'll tell you what I've discovered................."

Back in the sunlight, her hair blown by the moorland breeze, Mary and Dickey sat silently among the rocks on top of Rawley Billing admiring the fine (if smoky) view. Dickey was the first to speak. "So what do you think the numbers mean then Miss Mary?"
"I don't rightly know Dickey. So far the whole thing seems to revolve around verses in the Bible. Maybe that's what they represent - chapter and verse."
"But which book miss?"
"Well the verse that brought us here was in the Book of Joshua. Perhaps this one is too."
"I certainly hope so miss."

But it wasn't. Back in her room, poring over her Bible, Mary quickly drew a total and utter blank. If the numbers were indeed Bible chapter and verse numbers they certainly didn't come from the Book of Joshua. There had to be something else, something she was overlooking, something obvious.........

copyright © Jim Jarratt 2007