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Rise of the Ragged Clover by Paul Durham

Rise of the Ragged Clover by Paul Durham

Author:Paul Durham
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 2015-12-22T16:00:00+00:00


18

Hogsheads

Rye, Folly, and Quinn hurried back inside, Folly sticking out her tongue in reply to the twins’ reproachful faces as she rushed past. The three friends gathered around the table in the Mermaid’s Nook.

“Rye had the right idea,” Quinn said.

“What idea?” Rye asked.

“I used your spyglass to see the words more closely.” He held up a small circle of glass between his thumb and forefinger. Rye frowned. The rest of her spyglass lay dismantled in pieces around the table.

“Sorry,” Quinn said. “I needed the lens.”

Rye waved him off. “Just show us.”

Quinn reached into his pocket and carefully placed a small wooden stickman next to the open book—the Strategist’s Sticks, a charm given to him by Harmless. He gave a sheepish shrug.

“It helps me concentrate,” he said. Then he held the lens over the page titled “The Reckoning,” placing it over the letter T in the heading. “Look.”

Rye and Folly squinted.

“That’s a big letter T,” Folly observed.

“No, look closer. In the ink itself,” Quinn coaxed.

Rye lowered her head until her eyelash nearly flicked the surface of the lens.

“There’s a . . . word. In the letter T.”

“That’s right,” Quinn said.

The word was so small it looked like a straight stroke of a quill to the naked eye, but now, under the makeshift magnifying glass, the letters within the letter became visible.

“B . . . l . . . e . . . e . . . d.” Rye looked up from the lens, a sour look on her face. “Bleed?”

“Yes. Now the next.” He slid the lens over the letter h.

There were two words in this letter. The ran vertically, and hogsheads arced around the bend in the letter h.

“The hogsheads,” Rye read aloud.

Quinn nodded enthusiastically. “You’ve been practicing, Rye. Look, each letter contains more hidden words.”

He moved the lens along each letter in the chapter title, reading aloud as he did. Putting them all together, they formed a sentence. An instruction.

Bleed the hogsheads under Ned Cooper’s mill, ’til the river runs with their froth and spill.

“Brilliant way to hide a message in plain sight, isn’t it?” Quinn said with a smile.

Rye winced. “I suppose,” she said. “But that’s awful. We have to find a hog’s head and bleed it? I think I’m going to be sick.”

“No,” Folly said, jumping in with enthusiasm. “I think we’ll find that everything we need is already there.”

“Where?” Quinn asked.

“Ned Cooper was a barrel maker,” Folly explained. “His old mill is on a pier at the end of Little Water Street. It’s been closed for years, but under the pier, there’s a mountain of old casks they never removed.”

Rye looked at her blankly.

“Casks, barrels . . . hogsheads. They’re all the same thing, Rye.”

Rye and Quinn looked at each other, putting it together.

“See?” Folly said. “Sometimes it comes in handy to have a friend who’s a barkeep’s daughter.”

Quinn insisted that Rye and Folly wait for him to check in with his father before venturing to the old coopery. It was late afternoon by the time he rejoined them.



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