No one had a clue about where the Enchanter
came from; it was suddenly there – as if by magic
and then it disappeared again.
Archie found it in a dark and mysterious corner of
the forgotten cavern under
Grandpa’s old house. What it would do was
but that’s a different story.
No one knew what happened to the original
Jacobite war chest either. It was like
the Enchanter. It was there, and then it wasn’t. It
The Stuarts were still searching for it before their
unlucky 1745 rebellion and had to rely on Spanish
gold. The Spanish gold also mysteriously
What would have happened if the old Jacobite
treasure hadn’t disappeared?
Would it ever be found again?
Archie and the Dark Door Mystery
Alexander Weir retired from London based
business life to be part of a small community
in a remote part of Scotland’s Argyll Coast.
As part of the community, he teaches art to
the children and, of an evening, they join him
in the family room for ‘story time.’
The children’s imagination has been captured
by the tale and they are keen to see it being
enjoyed by others of their age.
This is the sequel to Archie and the Enchanter.
Both books have been serialised and transmitted
over the local radio station to the delight of
children in the area.
1. The mysterious yellow paper
2. Searching for clues
3. The cellar's dark secret
4. Archie to the rescue
5. Fate lends a hand
6. The Red Dean
7. An amazing discovery
8. The professor is lost for words
9. The sign of the McAllister crest
10. The Human Locust lends a hand
11. Going underground
12. We find it at last!
13. Lots of loose ends
14. All's well that ends well… perhaps!
THE MYSTERIOUS YELLOW PAPER
It was electric! The air was filled with tingling suspense.
Something major was about to happen, and I knew it.
It had become ominously dark. Heavy clouds obliterated the pale wintry sunlight. Strong gale-force winds howled around the old building and angry Atlantic waves, pounding on the rocky shoreline, sounded like distant thunder. The room felt as icy as the inside of a fridge, and the windows rattled in the gale.
It wasn’t the tingling suspense that was my concern, it was the cold, and I was frozen. I crept closer to the fire blazing halfway up the chimney and pushed my hands deep into my trouser pockets. As I looked around the room, I wondered if I'd ever get used to an icy Scottish winter; the iciness of the Atlantic gales always took me by surprise.
Wintry weather seemed worse at Grandpa's because it was such a big, rambly old house, full of draughts and freezing corners. I sat in the kitchen, the warmest place in the house, but it was like being in an iceberg! Even the log fire appeared to be growing icicles!
It was the school's half-term holiday. Instead of late October’s wet, dreary weather, it had become much colder. A strong northerly wind was blowing Arctic chilliness down the bleak West Scotland coastlands.
The old man was stretched out on his chair, fast asleep and snoring noisily. His fat stomach rhythmically rose and fell in time with the loud snores. He was like a sea lion; chilliness didn’t seem to bother him at all. In fact, he seemed to be able to sleep anywhere no matter how icy.
On a small table, between him and the roaring fire, stood an old-fashioned birdcage. This is where Wee Billy, the old budgie, lived. He too was fast asleep, with his head tucked under his wing. Budgie’s don’t like the cold, but Wee Billy was made of sterner stuff – perhaps his occasional wee dram kept him warm, chatty and able to sleep in that icebox of a kitchen.
Grandpa and Wee Billy may have been asleep, but not me, I was wide awake!
Looking at Wee Billy stirred my scientific interest. The question was, ‘do budgies snore?’ I put my ear close to the little bird's beak, listened and heard what sounded like a smaller version of the old man’s ‘zzzzzz.’
Now for the scientific investigation bit. Was the budgie snoring for real, or was it copying the old Grandpa sea lion? I was about to poke the bird into wakefulness with a pencil when I thought again, turned away and left the wee guy to rest in peace.
My prized possession leaned against the chair. It was an antique set of bagpipes. I took it with me wherever I went. I’d found it three months earlier in a mysterious cavern under the old house and immediately discovered the old instrument could do amazing things. Play it, and the spectacular always happened. In fact, following its discovery there was one incredible drama after another, always caused by the instrument. It was all pure magic!
I should explain from the start that there are three priorities in my life:
food, and lots of it;
fun which usually involves lots of dirtiness and lastly, though it comes first,
playing the ancient bagpipes.
‘Playing the ancient bagpipes’ doesn’t really tell the story though. It’s hard to explain. But I don’t really play it at all. Okay, I may blow into the mouthpiece and do what a piper usually does, but its music is none of my doing. It chooses the tune, not me, and, in any case, I’m not talented enough to make the sort of music that it creates. What happens is this: when my fingers touch the strange silver chanter they become like puppets on a string and are guided by something or other that I don’t know - then the magical music bubbles out.
And there is the secret. It isn’t the bagpipes that’s magical but the chanter. It’s made of a gleaming silvery metal that has an unnatural shininess about it, and soon got the nickname of Enchanter because it did enchanting things!
Apparently, as I later found out, the Enchanter appeared out of nowhere over a thousand years ago and then disappeared again. After centuries of being lost it unexpectedly showed up in the corner of Grandpa’s cellar, where I found it.
The old instrument seemed to have picked up the tingling tension in the air and urged me to pick it up and play. I tried to resist its pull and was about to give in when Grandpa gave a tremendous snort in his sleep. The snort was a warning reminder of how crotchety he could be if his after-dinner nap was disturbed.
I sighed and, with a reluctant struggle, slowly turned away from both the old man and the tempting bagpipes.
It had begun snowing heavily. Big white flakes, driven horizontally from heavy leaden grey skies, drifted against the house. I looked at the driving snow and dismally wondered how on earth I was going to get home that night. The idea of staying overnight in that icy old place was dreadful, and then there was me having Grumpy Grandpa for company which made it worse than ever. The more I thought about being trapped there, the blacker my mood became. I’d got a sneaking suspicion I was wrong about the crusty old chap, and desperately hoped I was right! Sighing again, I decided to make the best of it no matter what. If I were going to stay in that awful place, then I’d be cheerful about it; one grump was enough without my making it two.
Playing the bagpipes was forgotten. With nothing else to do, I wandered across to an old relic of a bookcase standing in the far corner. I’d never really paid too much attention to it before.
The old chap lived on his own and generally ignored unnecessary cleaning jobs. Cleaning the bookcase was thought useless, and it was filthy. From what I could see in the gloom, the whole of its top shelf was covered with a thick layer of cobwebby dust that looked as if it hadn't been disturbed for centuries.
In the middle of the top shelf stood an enormously fat book. Like the others, it was blackened and battered by age. It held my gaze like a magnet. I couldn’t look at anything else and knew that it was why I was there. The more I looked at the big fat book, the more I longed to lay my hands on it and was certain that its pages held a hidden secret.
There was a major problem! I was too small, and, because it was too high, the book was way out of my reach.
I pulled the wee kitchen stool across to the bookcase and climbed on it, but it was too small. Even when standing on tiptoes, I could only touch the top shelf with the tip of my fingernails.
In frustration, I got down from the stool and thought again. The solution swept over me like a wave of inspiration. I could quickly climb up to the book if I used the shelves for a step ladder.
So, up I went, like a monkey climbing a tree!
The wobbly bookcase swayed violently and threatened to topple over. As I climbed, it swayed and showered everything with its grime. Getting to the top was easy-peasy, but having got there, I discovered a different problem. To get hold of the book mean me having to let go of the shelf; letting go of the shelf would mean I would fall back to the kitchen floor – without the book.
Paralysed with uncertainty, I quickly glanced at the floor below. That slight movement was literally my downfall. My feet slipped, and down I slithered like a human duster wiping the shelves as I descended to ground level.
Nothing daunted, I stood looking at the book high above me and tried again.
This time, I discovered that if I stood with one foot on the stool and the other on a much higher shelf, I could grasp the old volume. Keeping my balance was a bit tricky; the stool wobbled dangerously, and the bookcase swayed like a tree in a storm.
Being spread-eagled across the bookcase was my only way of getting hold of the old book. I guess what I was doing was just like the sort of thing that rock-climbers do when crossing over a sheer rock face. Not only was it dangerous, but it was dirty work as well; I was soon covered with gunk.
Finally, I gripped the ancient tome and, with my heart in my mouth, I slowly inched it from its resting place. It was a tough job that demanded a lot of my strength. I began puffing and panting with the effort. The dust went into my nose and mouth.
Coughing and spluttering, I battled on, only to find the book had become stuck to its neighbours. As I pulled and tugged, the whole row of books slowly began to move as one towards me. Terrified, I paused and thought again. The idea of giving up never once crossed my mind. I was going to win whatever happened, and I gritted my teeth with determination and dirt.
I changed my position and tried again, pulling and tugging for all I was worth from a different direction. After what seemed like an age the book suddenly came loose. Like a cork coming out of a bottle, it shot out from its resting place, escaped from my grip and fell with a mighty thump on to the kitchen floor. As it dropped, both the stool and I, together with some of the other top-shelf books, fell in sympathy with a crash and a clatter.
Everything was in a heap – a dirty, dusty mound of chaos.
Luckily, Grandpa was deaf, and that, together with his snoring saved the day. He heard nothing of the commotion and went on sleeping, dreaming and snorting like a contented buffalo. For a moment, I lay anxiously waiting for his angry explosion, which never came. In the sleepy silence, I groaned, got to my feet, returned the stool to its place and picked up the book from the filthy pile of clutter.
It was then I spotted the small scrap of yellowed paper lying on the floor. A fragment of yellow paper that was going to change everything and is the start of the story.
For a moment I wondered where it’d come from and decided it must have fallen from one of the books. It looked like nothing more than what it was, an old, crumpled scrap of paper. It felt unusually thick, almost like a piece of card, and had nothing on it but one or two very faint lines.
It’s only a bit of rubbish, probably an old bookmark or something like that I thought and began to scrunch it up for tossing on the fire. At that very instant, the bagpipes gave a loud squeak of horror.
The old instrument had a mind of its own, and I knew by now that adventures inevitably happened when the pipes squeaked. What exactly was the old instrument trying to tell me?
Puzzled, I carefully examined the yellowed fragment once again and wondered what was so special about it? It was just a grubby, postcard-sized scrap of paper; apart from the two faint lines, there was nothing else to be seen on it.
To be honest, though, it was difficult to see anything clearly. The wintry sky made the room too dark, and gloomy to see much at all and no lights were allowed during the old man’s after-lunch siesta.
I took the fragment to the window where there was slightly more illumination. There, in the wintry afternoon’s half-light, I once more examined the scrap of paper. I looked at it this way and then that; this side and then the other. No matter whatever way I looked at it, the results were always the same, I could make no sense of it at all. I held it up so that what sunlight there was could shine through it and show up any hidden message, but it was no use. Its secret remained undiscovered.
I put the paper on the kitchen table and heaved up the dusty old book from the floor. Perhaps this would give some idea of what it was all about. As I opened it and flicked through the pages, a small haze of dust swirled up making me sneeze, again and again.
‘Atishoo … ATISHOO … ATISHOO … AH … AH… AH…
That woke up Grandpa!
With a loud snort, the old chap returned to the wide-awake world around him.
‘Wazzamarrer?’ he mumbled. ‘Hey, laddie, what are ye up to?’ This was always the question whenever I (or anyone else for that matter) woke Grandpa from his slumbers. Groggily, he tried to rub the sleep out of his eyes and still only half awake mumbled, ‘I was having the strangest of dreams. It was all aboot this hoose but from long ago. Aye, and aboot this room too.’
The old man suddenly seemed to switch on and become more alert, probably he felt the tingling suspense in the air.
Then, as he saw me struggling with the massive old book, he cried out, ‘What on earth is it that ye've got there, Archie?’ In dismay and hoping that he’d be lenient, I told him of my discovery and what I’d suffered. As he listened, his eyes turned to the bookcase. The top shelf looked like a row of blackened teeth with a wide gap in the middle.
‘And what's all this about a wee bit of paper,’ he asked in a gruff, grumbly voice? ‘Let’s see it will yer.’ He got up, turned on the light and put on his glasses. Taking the scrap of paper from me, he too tried to decipher the meaning of the two faint lines.
Finally, Grumpy Grandpa put it down and, with a struggle, picked up the book. Another cloud of dust rose from it as the pages were flipped over. He too started sneezing. One enormous sneeze blew the scrap off the table; it slowly floated to the floor and came to rest snuggled against the bagpipes. They looked like two long lost friends that had just found one another again.
Grandpa skimmed through the book then put it down. ‘I dinnae ken what this is all aboot and I hav’nae the time to read it noo,’ he muttered. Turning to me, he continued, ‘I hav’nae read this book afore. It was my great great grandfaither's I think, and it's been up there for donkey's years. I think it's all aboot our clan, its history and all that sort of thing. To be honest, it’s in auld Gaelic, and I couldnae understand a word of it.’
‘Tell me, laddie,’ he said, turning his attention back to me, ‘what aboot yer playing a wee tune on those pipes of yours while I make a cuppa tea?’
I’d been aching for this invitation, and with great glee, picked up the ancient instrument. The tune that magically bubbled out sounded hauntingly beautiful, age-old, Gaelic and dreamy. Grandpa stood still, holding the half-filled kettle and listened spellbound. When I’d finished, he put the kettle down, took the paper to the fireplace and held it in front of the flames. A diagram slowly appeared as the yellow scrap was heated by the fire.
‘When ye'd finished,’ he explained, ‘something reminded me of an auld secret writing trick. All ye've got to do is hold the paper in front of the fire and, hey presto, any hidden writing will appear.’
He carefully examined the paper, and the more he looked, the more excited he became. Indeed, in only a couple of minutes, he was so stirred up that he began to bounce up and down like an over-sized ball.
It got to such a pitch that he could contain himself no longer and yelled out, ‘Just look at this, laddie. Look at it will ye!’ He paused for breath and, spluttering in excitement, went on, ‘Wow, what do ye make o' this, eh? Just look at it, laddie!’
What excited him was that a drawing of a room had appeared; a large room with steps in one corner and a large ‘X’ marked in the opposite one. It was all vaguely familiar, but neither of us was too sure where it was. We were also puzzled as to why invisible ink had been used.
‘There's an old and mysterious riddle tied up in this house,’ Grandpa continued. ‘That is why I've stayed so long in the draughty auld ramshackle barn of a place. I’ve searched high and low for years to find out what it is, and hav’nae had any luck. Then ye turn up, unearth the mysterious old bagpipes, and then ye find this!’
With that, the old man began waving the paper over his head while he danced and sang an old Gaelic song in his joy. Finally, out of breath and just a little embarrassed, he sat down. ‘Do ye know the name o' this auld hoose?’ Without waiting for an answer he went on, ‘It’s always been called “A' Dorcha Dorus,” which means “The Dark Door”.’
There was a brief pause for thought, then he murmured almost to himself, ‘Does this old hoose really hold the key to the mystery then? Has the answer been under our noses all this time and we’ve missed it? Aye, but we’ve not missed it this time, and look ye, we have a wee glimmer of light in that dark door.’
‘What we're aboot, you and me, is solving the age-old puzzle of The Dark Door. Aye, and that was what I was dreaming about before ye woke me up.’
SEARCHING FOR CLUES
‘Och aye, I quite forgot in all my excitement,’ said Grandpa, picking up the kettle from where he’d put it on the table. ‘A cuppa tea, and a bun or three, would ye be up to that? I always feel a wee bit peckish after a snooze, and then there was the music-making too.’
I nodded enthusiastically - things were getting better.
‘And I think ye'd better clear up that mess as well,’ he continued, pointing at the old books on the floor.
It was snowing heavily, and a few minutes later we were trying to get warm in front of the fire.
The tingling suspense was still in the air.
We gazed into the glowing embers and didn't know what to do next. The best and only answer was to guzzle doughnuts. When the last of them had gone, I sighed contentedly and stretched my legs. As I did so, the bagpipes prodded me. It had slidden down from the chair it had been leaning against and now poked me into action. ‘Okay,’ I said, to the instrument, ‘I know what you’re trying to tell me.’
I got to my feet, picked up the instrument, put my lips to the mouthpiece and began to play. As the music flowed, the old kitchen was no longer dour, humourless and miserable; instead, there was joy and laughter.
I played one piece after another of merry music. The old man jigged around with glee, and soon his face looked like an over-sized red and sweaty plum from the exercise. He was panting, and beads of sweat trickled from his forehead; he couldn’t help himself when the pipes were playing he had no choice but to dance.
Grandpa was plump; in fact, his width was almost equal to his height. His joyful dance made him look like a ball bouncing and wheezing around the room.
Wee Billy joined in the fun too, flying non-stop around the kitchen, his whirring wings sounded like a little helicopter. As he flew, he made the tweeting noises that excited budgies make.
I had second thoughts about spending the night there as I watched the old man dance. Indeed, I began to see a side of him that I never thought existed. Perhaps staying overnight may be more fun than I’d first thought.
Amid all the jigging, whirling and twirling, Grandpa caught a glimpse of the weather. The falling snow had thickened into a blizzard. My eyes followed his, and I stopped playing. In the silence that now enveloped the room, we went to the window to get a closer look at the snow - millions of flakes now filled the sky. The overgrown garden with its tall ryegrass, brambles and thistles had wholly disappeared under a thick white blanket.
Despite the Arctic chill sweeping through the window panes, we silently stood watching the weather. Suddenly, the telephone ringing in the hallway shattered the silence and Grandpa went to answer it. As he opened the door, a gust of bitter Siberian iciness swept into the kitchen. A moment or two later, he was back, cold and shivering.
‘Aye, and its nae too warm oot there,’ he said with a chuckle as he hurried across to the blazing fire. ‘That was your ma, Archie. There’s no way ye can get back hame tonight. The road’s all blocked with snow, no buses are running down the coast, so it looks as if ye're stuck here, my wee laddie.’
There was a silence as we both digested the news.
‘Well Archie, I’d better get a bed ready for ye. What about ye having your dad's room? Aye, I know it’s in the auldest part of the hoose, but I think that’ll be the best one. I know yer dad used to like it and spent far too long in there sleeping when he should have been up and doing. It's a cosy wee nest and, what's more, I'll light a fire there for yer as weel. We cannae have yer getting cold noo, can we?’
Grandpa was on his way out of the room when he paused and looked out through the kitchen window. ‘Hey, but look at that though,’ he exclaimed, ‘I think the snow’s letting up.’ He went over to the window and, after a few moments, continued, ‘Aye, it disnae seem to be snowing half so bad noo! I tell ye what, why don’t ye go ootside and have a go at building a snowman while I’m getting your room ready. Ye’ll find some wellie’s by the back door that should fit, and remember to put on your coat and gloves.’
Among the old boots, I eventually found a pair that fitted and was soon kitted out for the cold. In addition to a heavy jacket, I wore Grandpa's thick, prickly scarf and woollen gloves.
Drifting snow against the door had made a chest-high barrier for me to battle through. I wasn’t deterred and soon was smothered with sparkling, icy crystals as I ploughed my way forward. Despite extra clothing, the bitter northerly wind cut through me like a knife. However, neither freezing cold nor falling snow would stop me from building a snowman!
With a shovel from the garden shed, I had a great pile of snow. As I worked, my breath rose like steam into the freezing air.
I quickly pummelled, shovelled and patted my heap of snow into a huge sausage-shaped column. It took me ages to get the column standing upright. When I’d finally succeeded, I found it was too tall and had serious problems in heaving its great snowball head on to its shoulders. When eventually I got the head to where it should be, it promptly rolled off. I did it again and again before the huge snowball gave up the fight and stayed in its place.
I took a step back to admire my handiwork. ‘Yes,’ I thought, ‘it looks wonderful. Indeed, it almost looks – hmm – sort of human.’ I had a right to feel pleased; it was the best snowman I’d had ever made and was much taller than me.
I took a further step back and collided with Grandpa who’d silently come up behind me
‘Hey, laddie, watch where ye're going will yer,’ he said and promptly sat down with a ‘phlump’ in a deep snow drift.
It took him ages to get back to his feet. Under the powdery snow was a layer of ice which had me slipping and sliding all over the place. As for the old chap, he grunted, struggled, slipped and slithered around on all fours like a hippopotamus.
When he’d finally managed to climb to his feet, he produced a large carrot from his pocket. ‘Come on! Let’s finish him, shall we,’ he wheezed? Standing on tiptoes, he reached out and thrust it into the snowman’s head for a nose. After more fishing in pockets, some lumps of coal appeared, which served for eyes and a wide and grinning mouth. To finish off this masterpiece, a couple of withered branches from the old apple tree were thrust into its sides for arms.
That done, we stood silently admiring our handiwork with the white vapour of our breath rising into the frosty air like steam from two small locomotives.
The snowman was taller than either of us. It seemed to have a slightly haughty and snobby smile on its face as it looked down its long red nose at us. None-the-less, it was the bestest snowman that I’d ever made, and I was mightily pleased.
‘Wow, laddie, doesn't that look grrrreat? Now, Archie. Let's discuss a vital subject. What aboot some grub? What would ye like for supper? How about some sausages – do ye like sausages?’
‘Yippee! Do I like sausages? What a question,’ I cried. ‘I love sausages. The question isn’t, do I like ‘em, but how many am I allowed?’
Grandpa chuckled with delight and, in the fading light of the late afternoon, led the way back to the old house.
In no time at all the kitchen table was groaning under stupendous mounds of sausages, bacon and pancakes. There was also a massive bowl of baked beans and a plate piled high with fried eggs. A large dish of butter, a stack of sliced bread and an enormous pot of strawberry jam completed the supper menu.
The old chap liked suppers and always made the most of them! It was a mouth-watering spread and my thoughts about staying the night had radically changed! This was a supper that exceeded even my wildest dreams.
With incredible speed, we demolished the feast. The wind had dropped and, at last, the roaring fire began to warm the kitchen. With a now barren table, we sat in a sleepy and contented silence. It seemed a pity to rush and do things after such an enormous meal. So our contented and sleepy silence dragged on.
Finally, the old chap sighed and stirred himself from his lethargy. ‘Och, I guess all good things must come to an end.’ After another long and sleepy pause, he sighed again and continued, ‘and there’s noo the washing up tae do! Sad ain't it?’ Reluctantly, we lumbered to our feet and began to move empty plates and bowls to the kitchen sink. ‘I'll wash if ye'll dry,’ he said, following which we stopped and dismally surveyed the enormous task before us. We both saw washing up as being an unfortunate necessity that stopped fun.
For a moment we stood and looked at the job. Then together, with one mind, we turned from the sink and returned to the table. We’d a much better idea of how to spend our time than wasting it on washing and drying dishes.
The books from the bookcase were an unsolved puzzle. We also needed to decide what the secret drawing was meant to represent. These tasks were far more critical than washing up; so we forgot all about the kitchen sink.
We moved the books onto the table and sat wondering where to start. Again, almost with one mind we silently came to the same conclusion. The starting point was the big fat book (now nicknamed the ‘BFB’).
One mind there may be, but that was as far as unity went. It’s difficult for two people to study one book at the same time and not get in each other’s way.