"This is the story of the different ways we looked for treasure, and I think when you have read it you will see that we were not lazy about the looking." This novel, the first in what is often called "the Bastable Saga" begins the story of these six children -- Dora, Oswald, Dicky, Alice, Noel, and Horace Octavius Bastable. When their mother dies and their father's business fails, the children embark on a series of adventures. Says Oswald (the book's narrator) at the start: "I'll tell you what, we must go and seek for treasure: it is always what you do to restore the fallen fortunes of your House."
This is the story of the different ways we looked for treasure, and I think when you have read it you will see that we were not lazy about the looking. There are some things I must tell before I begin to tell about the treasure–seeking, because I have read books myself, and I know how beastly it is when a story begins, "'Alas!" said Hildegarde with a deep sigh, "we must look our last on this ancestral home"'—and then some one else says something—and you don't know for pages and pages where the home is, or who Hildegarde is, or anything about it. Our ancestral home is in the Lewisham Road. It is semi–detached and has a garden, not a large one. We are the Bastables. There are six of us besides Father. Our Mother is dead, and if you think we don't care because I don't tell you much about her you only show that you do not understand people at all. Dora is the eldest. Then Oswald—and then Dicky. Oswald won the Latin prize at his preparatory school—and Dicky is good at sums. Alice and Noel are twins: they are ten, and Horace Octavius is my youngest brother. It is one of us that tells this story—but I shall not tell you which: only at the very end perhaps I will. While the story is going on you may be trying to guess, only I bet you don't. It was Oswald who first thought of looking for treasure. Oswald often thinks of very interesting things. And directly he thought of it he did not keep it to himself, as some boys would have done, but he told the others, and said— 'I'll tell you what, we must go and seek for treasure: it is always what you do to restore the fallen fortunes of your House.'