<DIV><DIV><DIV></DIV><DIV><DIV><B>1</B></DIV><DIV><B>An Old Flame</B></DIV><DIV>Night was drawing in on the island of Crampton Rock. The fishermen had finished work for the day and the harbor was emptying slowly. But some stranger’s boat was approaching in the lost light. An oil lamp hung off the bow and the small yellow glow spread itself across the rippling water ahead.</DIV><DIV>A frail, hunched man in ragged clothes readied himself as the boat careened up to the harbor. He threw a length of wizened rope onto the nearest post and pulled himself in.</DIV><DIV>Turning to his passenger, he gestured at Candlestick Hall with a long, bony finger. “That’s it, sir. That’s the old place. I heard it’s a young lad that lives there now. Stanley Buggles. Inherited it from his great-uncle.”</DIV><DIV>“That don’t sound right,” the passenger said gruffly. “I ain’t looking for no young lad. Still, it’s late. Better take a look.”</DIV><DIV>“Are yer sure, sir? Strange place, this island. Ain’t nowhere that’s safe to be out and about in the dark, that’s for sure.”</DIV><DIV>“Ahh, not to worry. It’ll take more than a black night to frighten old MacDowell.”</DIV><DIV>The passenger gathered his things and made his way toward the Hall. Darkness had blotted out Crampton Rock and now only the street lamps showed the village.</DIV><DIV><DIV></DIV></DIV><DIV>A large pair of feet arrived on the steps of Candlestick Hall and a skinny hand reached out for the door knocker. BANG, BANG, BANG.</DIV><DIV>Stanley’s heart picked up its pace and fluttered anxiously when he heard the knock at the front door. He did not like night-time visitors. They reminded him of sinister arrivals in the past. Pirates were the scourge of the Rock, and Stanley had had his fill of them. And then there were the Darklings, the strange family from the village who had recently tried to lay claim to his house, insisting that it was rightfully theirs. Edmund Darkling had plotted to be rid of young Stanley, and he was now awaiting trial for attempted murder.</DIV><DIV>His trusty housekeeper, Mrs. Carelli, clomped across the floorboards, and her husband Victor poked an inquisitive head around the door and peered into the hallway. Both were fiercely loyal to Stanley and would not allow anyone or anything to put him at risk.</DIV><DIV>“Who on earth could that be at this hour?” Victor said and raised an eyebrow.</DIV><DIV>Stanley crept up behind Mrs. Carelli and prepared himself. His best punch was curled up neatly behind his back, and he was ready to leap in front of her.</DIV><DIV>The familiar creak of the door announced its opening.</DIV><DIV>“Aah, good evening there madam, young sir. My name is MacDowell and I be lookin’ for a good friend o’ mine. Goes by the name o’ Bartholomew Swift. I had a feelin’ I was in the right place but something tells me I’ve taken a wrong turn.”</DIV><DIV>The newcomer was ragged and thin, and wore a tattered patch over his left eye. A broad hat sat on trails of greasy unkempt hair, and a spiky chin of gray tufts showed that he hadn’t shaved for a while. A large gold earring hung from one lobe. He carried a modest bag of belongings over his shoulder and wore a droopy-eyed expression.</DIV><DIV><DIV></DIV></DIV><DIV>A shocked silence fell upon Stanley and Mrs. Carelli, and Victor meandered slowly across the hallway to stand beside them. They all knew that any old friend of Stanley’s great-uncle, Admiral Swift, would be either a naval man or a buccaneer. And by the look of him it was more than likely that he had a skull and crossbones tattooed somewhere on his loose-limbed body.</DIV><DIV>Stanley peered down. Stripy leggings were wrapped around a pair of bony legs, and a pair of huge, buckled shoes stuck out awkwardly at the ends.</DIV><DIV>“Ah, not to worry. I ’ad a feelin’ I was in the wrong place. Doesn’t matter. I apologize for disturbin’ yer evening.”</DIV><DIV>The man began to wander down the path. The three looked at one another and hesitated. They knew nothing of this oddlooking stranger. What if he was a genuine good friend of Stanley’s Great-Uncle Bart, the man who had died and left Stanley his every possession?</DIV><DIV>Could they really turn him away?</DIV><DIV>“Stop!” cried Stanley.</DIV><DIV>“Stanley, no. Yer can’t. We don’t know him,” urged Mrs. Carelli in a whisper that was so loud it could have woken the dead admiral.</DIV><DIV>MacDowell stopped and turned.</DIV><DIV>“Wait,” called Stanley. “You haven’t given us a chance to explain. Bring your things and come inside. If nothing else, you need an explanation and a room for the night.”</DIV><DIV>“‘Are yer sure now? An old stranger like me? I could be anyone!”</DIV><DIV>“Come on,” urged Stanley again.</DIV><DIV><DIV></DIV></DIV><DIV>“Don’t make me regret this, Stanley,” continued Mrs. Carelli in his ear.</DIV><DIV>“Come and sit by the fire,” Victor said. “We have much to tell you.”</DIV><DIV>The stranger shuffled into the house and they sat, all four of them, around the burning logs. They explained the dreadful circumstances of Admiral Swift’s death at the curse of the werewolf, and how it had led to Stanley inheriting the old place, with Mr. and Mrs. Carelli continuing their work there.</DIV><DIV>MacDowell held his face in his hands. “Me old mate Swifty. We drank a thousand bottles together. We dug and buried a hundred chests on as many islands and sailed the seven seas in search of many more. All for nothin’. Killed by a werewolf! I seen a lot o’ things in me time but I ain’t never ’eard o’ nothin’ so sinister as that. This place must be cursed.” A single tear ran from the corner of one lonely eye.</DIV><DIV>“It’s cursed all right,” said Stanley, handing him a handkerchief.</DIV><DIV>“Well, blisterin’ coconuts, if ever a piece o’ news knocked the wind out o’ me sails it’s this.”</DIV><DIV>“What is your name?” asked Mrs. Carelli.</DIV><DIV>“MacDowell, ma’am. I already told yer!”</DIV><DIV>“No, I mean your first name.”</DIV><DIV>“MacDowell.”</DIV><DIV>“So what is your last name?”</DIV><DIV>“MacDowell.”</DIV><DIV>“So your full name is MacDowell MacDowell?”</DIV><DIV>“No ma’am, just MacDowell, though some folks call me Dead-Eye MacDowell. Yer know, due to the patch. Lost me left goggle in a fight, I did. Very painful.”</DIV><DIV><DIV></DIV></DIV><DIV>“That must have been some mean old buccaneer you fought that took out an eye,” said Mrs. Carelli.</DIV><DIV>“Weren’t no buccaneer, ma’am. T’was a bear!”</DIV><DIV>“A bear?” they cried out all at once.</DIV><DIV>“Aye, lad,” said MacDowell, turning to Stanley and looking close with one eye. “Seven feet tall and hairy as a mammoth. Didn’t like me diggin’ a hole near his patch in the woods and clawed me badly. It was yer Great-Uncle Bart that saved me that time. Blasted it to the other side o’ the woods with his old musket.”</DIV><DIV>Stanley sat with his mouth open and wide eyes staring. And as they listened to all the old tales of MacDowell and Swift, it grew late into the night and the fire was on its last legs.</DIV><DIV>Mr. and Mrs. Carelli sat snoozing in their chairs, but old MacDowell was still going strong, a bottle of whiskey clutched in his hand and a tall tale reeling away. Stanley listened in fascination and wonder, but he felt his eyelids dropping.</DIV><DIV>“Perhaps I should show you to your room now, sir,” he murmured.</DIV><DIV>“Aye, lad. That’d be just fine. I’m in need of a good night’s sleep. Thank yer very much.”</DIV><DIV>Stanley led him upstairs and MacDowell closed the door on his host, bidding him goodnight. When he had sat a moment on the bed and taken a good look at his room, he looked into the mirror. He scratched at his whiskery chin and fell on to the bed in a fit of whiskey-fueled snoring.</DIV><DIV><DIV></DIV></DIV></DIV><DIV>Text and illustrations © 2008 Chris Mould. First published by Hodder Children’s Books, a division of Hachette Children’s Books, an Hachette Livre UK company.</DIV></DIV></DIV> <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>The Smugglers' Mine</b> by <b>Chris Mould</b> Copyright © 2010 by Chris Mould. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.