THE TREASURE HUNT
by Gordon Murray
Television Yearbook for Boys and Girls, pp. 37–40
Copyright © Gordon Murray
Reproduced here courtesy of Gordon Murray
In the front room of Rubovia Castle all was peaceful.
The Queen’s pet baby dragon, Pongo, slept silently in front of the
flickering log fire and the only sound was the mellow tick of the gilt clock on
His Majesty King Rufus XIV, Ruler of Rubovia, sighed contentedly. He beamed at the draughtboard in front of him, then glanced at the puckered face of the Lord Chamberlain.
“Come on, Chamberlain, don’t hover! You’ve been three minutes on this move already!”
The Chamberlain knew that he was cornered. He took a deep breath and moved one of his men.
“Ah! I huff you!” cried the King. “You should have taken this man, so that I would then be able to take this man and this man . . . and win the game!”
“B-but your Majesty, I . . .”
“Now don’t start trumping up excuses, Chamberlain! Why not be a good loser for a change?”
“I am not trumping up excuses, sire! I was merely going to point out that your coat-sleeve happened to move one of your men—by accident, of course—into a more advantageous position.”
“Nonsense, nonsense! Now we’ll play another game! Bags I the first move!”
The Chamberlain was just about to forget his manners and say what he really wanted to say, when a familiar voice rang through the room.
“Ah, Rufus, there you are!”
It was the Queen. With a flurry of silk she was upon them.
“Stop playing that silly game! Don’t you know that today is Thursday?”
“Oh no! . . . Oh, how awful!”
Thursday was the day on which Rubovia Castle was open to the public—on payment of a small entrance fee.
“Hurry up, Rufus, or you’ll be caught! It would be most undignified for you to be found playing tiddlywinks!”
“It’s not tiddlywinks, it’s draughts—a game which needs a great deal of . . .”
But the Queen wasn’t listening. She was already half-way to the door.
“Pongo! Pongo! Come along Pongopongopongo!”
The baby dragon uncurled himself from the hearthrug and tottered sleepily after his mistress. The King and the Chamberlain watched until the pointed tail disappeared through the doorway.
“Never any peace around here,” complained the King. “Just as we were about to . . .”
“Ssh!” interrupted the Chamberlain. “Listen!”
A murmur of voices was coming through the open library door.
“It’s them!” cried the King. “They’ll be on us at any second! Sound the retreat!”
The two men dived through the French windows with amazing agility as a group of about twelve people entered the room.
“And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the famous Front Room of the castle. Occupying the whole of the ground floor of the South Wing, it was built by King Rufus the Sixth, known as ‘Rufus the Ruffian,’ a hundred and fifty years ago.”
Mr. Albert Weatherspoon, official guide, was in good form. The visitors, however, paid very little attention to the information he was giving them.
“Notice particularly the Grand Fireplace, over which is the famous Weatherspoon portrait of our present king in full regalia. Don’t finger the curtains, please!”
The sightseers, mainly tourists from Borsovia and Humperstein, milled half-heartedly round the room. Rubovia Castle, falling rapidly into neglect, was not particularly interesting and there had already been some ugly mutterings about demanding entrance money back.
“That completes the tour of the castle, ladies and gentlemen. I hope that you have enjoyed your visit. May I call your attention to the excellent souvenir guide-book, price three crowns each or thirty crowns a dozen, obtainable from the bookstand on your way out.”
Weatherspoon hastened to take up his position behind the bookstand, an up-ended soap box by the French windows. He straightened the pile of guide-books and opened the lid of a small cash box.
The crowd made a hurried exit.
Weatherspoon resisted the temptation to call out something rather rude after the disappearing figures. He looked sadly at the empty cash box and started to pack up. It was some time before he realised that not all the visitors had left.
“Excuse me, but I’m afraid the tour is over. The way out is. . . Oooh!”
The white clad figure who he was addressing bowed and smiled. Weatherspoon then recognised one of Rubovia’s strangest characters.
MacGregor, the Indian with the Chinese accent! The biggest rogue in Rubovia!
“Good mlorning! Vellee pleasant day, yes?”
“Er, yes . . . yes! Er, can I help you in any way?” Weatherspoon enquired.
“No tank you vellee much! Me go vellee soon!”
MacGregor turned and, to Weatherspoon’s surprise, started to measure one of the walls with a tape. He then paced the floor, stopped, stood on tiptoes, then trotted outside.
“Hm!” thought Weatherspoon. “There’s something odd going on! I must tell his Majesty. We don’t get a visit from Macgregor for nothing!”
Picking up his soapbox full of unsold guidebooks, he hurried out of the room. Being official guide was tiring work and he just had to have a nice cup of tea. Then he would be able to think more clearly.
* * *
“Come on now, own up!”
It had taken a great deal of effort to trace MacGregor, but at last he had been found and, by a mixture of bullying and cajolery, was now standing before the King and Queen in the front room of Rubovia Castle.
“We know you’re doing something rather–er–fishy,” continued the King. “Now, if you tell us exactly what it is, we won’t be cross with you.”
It was a shot in the dark and the King surreptitiously crossed his fingers as he said it.
“Me find clue to seclet tleasure!” lisped MacGregor. “Me find parchment in book in Public Liblaly.”
“Secret treasure!. . . Public Library!. . . Do you mean to say that you have found some sort of information about valuable lost property?”
“Yes! Valuable ploperty is clown jewels!”
“Crown jewels!” exploded the King. “B-but they’d be mine! We’ve been searching for them for years! One of my ancestors hid them when the Castle was being attacked three hundred years ago. Then the fool couldn’t remember where he’d put them!”
MacGregor removed a yellow square from the folds of his turban.
“Here is parchment! Full instluctions for finding clown jewels!” he announced.
“Show it to me!” cried the King, eagerly.
“Oh no! Vellee solly! Vellee solly indeed! But parchment is my ploperty! Vellee seclet!”
For a moment the two men eyed each other in silence. Then the King took a deep breath.
“How much?” he enquired bluntly.
“Half the ploceeds for you; half the ploceeds for me.” The reply was equally blunt.
“B-but that’s monstrous!” cried the King. “This is crown property!”
“Me vellee solly,” beamed MacGregor. “No half-tleasure for me; no parchment for you!”
The King turned to the Queen and the Lord Chamberlain.
“He’s got us, I’m afraid!” he whispered.
“We’ll have to agree, Rufus!” sighed the Queen. “But I hope it’s not a trick of some sort! We’ve had trouble with him before!”
“It probably is genuine, ma’am!” interjected the Chamberlain. “If he had faked the parchment he would have wanted to sell it for cash!”
“Quite right, Chamberlain! A very good point!” The King turned to MacGregor. “All right, MacGregor, we agree!”
MacGregor bowed low. “Vellee good!”
“Now let me see the instructions!”
MacGregor handed him the parchment. The King peered at the faded spidery scrawl which covered one side.
“How to find ye Royal Treasure,” he read. “Solve ye this riddle:
Take four steps from ye box of words
Towards ye sound of singing birds.
Eye the roundy hole to see
The water which do cover me.”
“Him vellee simple liddle!” said MacGregor. “Box of words is over here. . . Bookcase!”
“Yes, yes, of course! That bit’s easy!” said the King.
“Take four steps to window, where birds are heard!” continued MacGregor. “And here, honolable Majesty, is loundy hole!”
He was pointing to a small hole drilled in the frame of the french window.
“Bags me the first look!” cried the King excitedly. In a second he was bending down with his eye firmly applied to the tiny aperture.
“Well, all I can see is the duckpond in old Bottle’s farm!” he said at last.
“But that must be it, your Majesty!” said the Chamberlain. “That must be ‘The water which do cover me’!”
“Yes, I suppose so! It’s a very deep pond. Fishing up the treasure won’t be easy!”
“Excluse me, but I suggest using service of plofessional diver!” MacGregor countered. “Have you diver in Lubovia?”
“Er, no! But I’m sure old Weatherspoon will be able to cope with that!”
“Oh no he won’t!”
Everyone turned to the door. Standing there with arms akimbo was an extremely grim-faced Weatherspoon.
“I’m not diving into Farmer Bottle’s duckpond for anybody! Not even to bring up the crown jewels or a dustbin full of old boots!”
“Excluse please! Vellee plessing appointment! Good mlorning!” MacGregor muttered as, with amazing agility, he darted through the French window into the garden beyond.
“Hey! Come back!” cried the King. “Weatherspoon, will you please tell me what is going on!”
“With pleasure, sire It’s quite simple. He’s been rumbled!”
“Rumbled?” queried the King.
“Rumbled?” echoed the Queen.
“D-do you mean that the parchment was a fake after all?” The King began to turn pale.
“But of course, sire! I must remind you that one of my Royal Appointments is Household Detective, so I felt that it was my duty to do a bit of detecting on your behalf!”
“But what was MacGregor hoping to get out of this exploit? I only agreed to give him half the proceeds. If the parchment were a fake there wouldn’t be any proceeds!”
Weatherspoon smiled. “Oh yes there would, sire! I overheard a very interesting conversation between MacGregor and Farmer Bottle. They were going to charge an entrance fee, admitting members of the public to Bottle’s farm, so that they could watch the diving operations for the crown jewels!”
The King was still very puzzled.
“But, Weatherspoon, no crown jewels would be found!”
“No, sire. . . Only a dustbin full of old boots, which was going to be dumped in the pond the day before! And in case any member of the audience felt that he wasn’t getting full value of entertainment they arranged a special ending to the whole show!”
“What was that—a firework display?”
“Ooh no, sire! Something much funnier than that!” and the old man burst into roars of uncontrollable laughter.
“Weatherspoon! Pull yourself together. . . Immediately!” cried the Queen.
“Hoo, hoo, hoo! . . . I’m sorry, ma’am,” gulped Weatherspoon, wiping the tears from his eyes, “but they were going to invite you and the King to be present. Hoo, hoo, hoo!”
“Go on, Weatherspoon! Go on!”
“Well, ma’am, you were going to be standing on a specially-built platform at the edge of the duckpond and at a certain moment this platform would. . .”
“Stop!” cried the Queen. “I do not wish to hear any more! Weatherspoon, I must congratulate you on your detective-work!”
“Thank you ma’am!”
The Queen turned to the King. “Rufus, this matter will never ever be mentioned again! Do you understand?”
But she didn’t wait for his Majesty’s reply; she was moving rapidly out of the room, with Pongo the baby dragon hard at her heels.
The King, the Chamberlain and Weatherspoon looked at each other and it was a full minute before the King broke the silence.
“Chamberlain,” he said quietly, “it’s time we played a game of draughts!”
Everything in Rubovia Castle was back to normal.