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||The Underground City||Jules Verne|
|Page 6 of 6||
"And were you not afraid, Nell, all alone there?"
"It was just when I was alone that I was not afraid."
Nell's voice altered slightly as she said these words; however, Harry thought he might press the subject a little further, so he said, "But one might be easily lost in these great galleries, Nell. Were you not afraid of losing your way?"
"Oh, no, Harry; for a long time I had known every turn of the new mine."
"Did you never leave it?"
"Yes, now and then," answered the girl with a little hesitation; "sometimes I have been as far as the old mine of Aberfoyle."
"So you knew our old cottage?"
"The cottage! oh, yes; but the people who lived there I only saw at a great distance."
"They were my father and mother," said Harry; "and I was there too; we have always lived there--we never would give up the old dwelling."
"Perhaps it would have been better for you if you had," murmured the maiden.
"Why so, Nell? Was it not just because we were obstinately resolved to remain that we ended by discovering the new vein of coal? And did not that discovery lead to the happy result of providing work for a large population, and restoring them to ease and comfort? and did it not enable us to find you, Nell, to save your life, and give you the love of all our hearts?"
"Ah, yes, for me indeed it is well, whatever may happen," replied Nell earnestly; "for others--who can tell?"
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, nothing--nothing. But it used to be very dangerous at that time to go into the new cutting--yes, very dangerous indeed, Harry! Once some rash people made their way into these chasms. They got a long, long way; they were lost!"
"They were lost?" said Harry, looking at her.
"Yes, lost!" repeated Nell in a trembling voice. "They could not find their way out."
"And there," cried Harry, "they were imprisoned during eight long days! They were at the point of death, Nell; and, but for a kind and charitable being--an angel perhaps--sent by God to help them, who secretly brought them a little food; but for a mysterious guide, who afterwards led to them their deliverers, they never would have escaped from that living tomb!"
"And how do you know about that?" demanded the girl.
"Because those men were James Starr, my father, and myself, Nell!"
Nell looked up hastily, seized the young man's hand, and gazed so fixedly into his eyes that his feelings were stirred to their depths. "You were there?" at last she uttered.
"I was indeed," said Harry, after a pause, "and she to whom we owe our lives can have been none other than yourself, Nell!"
Nell hid her face in her hands without speaking. Harry had never seen her so much affected.
"Those who saved your life, Nell," added he in a voice tremulous with emotion, "already owed theirs to you; do you think they will ever forget it?"
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