The Legend of the Phantom Highwayman

The Legend of the Phantom Highwayman by Tom McCaughren Read Free Book Online

Book: The Legend of the Phantom Highwayman by Tom McCaughren Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tom McCaughren
    â€˜Well, who’s doing the smuggling now?’ asked Róisín. She had plaited a straw bobbin and was putting Rachel’s hair up in a ponytail.
    â€˜I don’t know,’ said Tapser. ‘But I still think Max and Peppi are tied up with it somehow.’
    â€˜What more can we do?’ asked Cowlick.
    â€˜Well there are two things I’d like to do,’ said Tapser. ‘I’d like to have a look at Max’s bottling plant. And I’d like to see inside Peppi’s caravan.’
    â€˜You’d be asking for trouble if you tried that,’ warned Rachel.
    â€˜She’s right,’ said Cowlick.
    â€˜What if we did it when they weren’t looking?’ said Tapser.
    â€˜And when might that be?’ asked Róisín.
    â€˜How about tonight, when they’re at the ceili? Peppi said he’d be there. And if the Castle Spa is sponsoring it, Max will probably be there too.’
    The others looked at each other. They were beginning to wonder about their red-haired cousin and his bright ideas.
    By the time it came to go to the ceili, however, Tapser had convinced the others that if they wanted to find out who was behind this smuggling business, Max and Peppi would have to be investigated.
    The ceili was already under way when they arrived at The Highwayman. There was no sign of Peppi, but they were relieved to hear Max doing his party piece inside. Peering through a window, they saw him standing, glass in hand, singing a verse of the Ballad of Hugh Rua .
    â€˜They hung him on the High Road
In chains he swung and dried,
But still they say that in the night
Some do see him ride.
They see him with his blunderbuss
In the midnight chill,
Along the High Road of the glen
Rides Hugh Rua still …’
    Rachel nipped in to tell her mother and father that they were going down town, and as everyone joined in the chorus the four of them stole away.
    * * *
    It was almost dark and the Castle Spa jutted up into the purple sky like a giant finger of chalk.
    Crouching behind a clump of bushes, they scanned the high wire fence.
    â€˜How are we going to get in?’ whispered Cowlick.
    Two shadowy figures came bounding down the inside of the fence.
    â€˜The Alsatians,’ warned Róisín.
    â€˜Oh-oh, I don’t like this one bit,’ whispered Rachel.
    â€˜You don’t have to go in’, Tapser told her. ‘I’ve got an idea.’
    â€˜Here we go again,’ sighed Róisín. ‘Another bright idea.’
    â€˜Would you keep quiet,’ said Cowlick, ‘and listen.’
    â€˜You and Rachel take Prince,’ Tapser told Róisín. ‘Go away up to the far end of the castle grounds. And don’t worry about keeping quiet. Make sure the Alsatians follow you. They’ll go mad to get out to you when you have the dog.’
    â€˜And what will we do?’ asked Cowlick.
    â€˜When the Alsatians are at the far end we can get in over the fence.’
    â€˜And then what?’
    â€˜We’ll make for that cluster of outbuildings and see if we can find the bottling plant. Where’s the best place to get over the fence?’
    â€˜There’s a sycamore tree down there to our left,’ said Cowlick. ‘I think we could swing over from that.’
    â€˜Great.’ Tapser turned to the girls and told them, ‘We’d better take the torch in case we need it. Off you go, and whatever you do make sure you keep the Alsatians busy.’
    â€˜We’ll do our best,’ Róisín assured him. ‘But be careful. Guard dogs can be very vicious.’
    Taking Prince with them, Róisín and Rachel ran crouching up along the fence. Immediately the Alsatians were over to them, barking loudly and jumping up against the wire. Prince barked back, but Róisín held on to his collar as she ran and the Alsatians followed them.
    When they had disappeared into the gloom and the barking had become more

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