‘I feel sick,’ announced Gus. There was a sudden movement as everyone tried to shuffle out of his way.
‘Have you been drinking?’ said Priss. ‘Gertie, you idiot, why on earth did you let him have the whisky?’
‘It’s Hogmanay,’ said Gertie defensively. ‘It was only a bit of fun.’
‘You’d better get out, old chap,’ said Freddy.
‘No!’ whispered Gertie. ‘Listen!’ They fell silent; someone had come into the room. ‘It must be Bobby.’
They listened as the newcomer paused for a moment, seemingly out of breath. There was a soft thud followed by a creak. Bobby must be looking inside the oak chest first. Then came a rustle and a grunt, then another thud, this time louder, and they heard the sound of the chest lid being shut gently. Instead of throwing open the cupboard doors, however, Bobby then evidently left the room, for they heard the door shut quietly.
Suddenly an unpleasant noise emanated from Gus.
‘I’m going to be sick,’ he said, and burst out of the cupboard. The other hiders unfolded themselves and emerged too, treading carefully around the unfortunate young heir of Strathmerrick, who was now depositing the remains of his dinner on the floor.
‘You can clear that up,’ said Priss to Gertie in distaste. ‘It was your fault.’
Gertie, feeling rather guilty, patted her brother’s head gingerly as he groaned, and looked in the cupboard for some suitable rags to wipe the mess up with. Just then the door opened again and Bobby came in.
‘There you are,’ he said indignantly. ‘I’ve been searching for simply ages. Am I the last?’ He stopped, realizing that something had happened. ‘What’s wrong with Gus?’
‘He—er—ate something that disagreed with him,’ said Freddy. ‘You’d better get him to bed.’
Bobby was persuaded to escort his older brother away, and Priss and Gertie went off to fetch a mop and bucket, arguing crossly, leaving Freddy and Angela to stay or go as they pleased. Freddy stretched experimentally.
‘That cupboard was jolly uncomfortable,’ he said. ‘I say, where has Gabe got to?’ A snore revealed that Gabe Bradley had fallen asleep where he sat. ‘Angela, shall we lock him in?’
‘What?’ said Angela vaguely. She was not thinking about Gabe. She crossed the room and lifted the heavy lid of the oak chest. She stood there in silence, staring down at what it contained.
‘What on earth are you doing?’ said Freddy.
She turned to look at him, the lid still open in her hand.
‘I think I’ve found Professor Klausen,’ she said.