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|The Underground City||Jules Verne|
Hanging By A Thread
|Page 3 of 6||
"Jack, my friend," interrupted Harry, "it is my belief that the friendly person, whom you will persist in calling a spirit, exists in the mine as certainly as the criminal we speak of, and I mean to seek them both in the most distant recesses of the mine."
"But," inquired Jack, "have you any possible clew to guide your search?"
"Perhaps I have. Listen to me! Five miles west of New Aberfoyle, under the solid rock which supports Ben Lomond, there exists a natural shaft which descends perpendicularly into the vein beneath. A week ago I went to ascertain the depth of this shaft. While sounding it, and bending over the opening as my plumb-line went down, it seemed to me that the air within was agitated, as though beaten by huge wings."
"Some bird must have got lost among the lower galleries," replied Jack.
"But that is not all, Jack. This very morning I went back to the place, and, listening attentively, I thought I could detect a sound like a sort of groaning."
"Groaning!" cried Jack, "that must be nonsense; it was a current of air-- unless indeed some ghost--"
"I shall know to-morrow what it was," said Harry.
"To-morrow?" answered Jack, looking at his friend.
"Yes; to-morrow I am going down into that abyss."
"Harry! that will be a tempting of Providence."
"No, Jack, Providence will aid me in the attempt. Tomorrow, you and some of our comrades will go with me to that shaft. I will fasten myself to a long rope, by which you can let me down, and draw me up at a given signal. I may depend upon you, Jack?"
"Well, Harry," said Jack, shaking his head, "I will do as you wish me; but I tell you all the same, you are very wrong."
"Nothing venture nothing win," said Harry, in a tone of decision. "To-morrow morning, then, at six o'clock. Be silent, and farewell!"
It must be admitted that Jack Ryan's fears were far from groundless. Harry would expose himself to very great danger, supposing the enemy he sought for lay concealed at the bottom of the pit into which he was going to descend. It did not seem likely that such was the case, however.
"Why in the world," repeated Jack Ryan, "should he take all this trouble to account for a set of facts so very easily and simply explained by the supernatural intervention of the spirits of the mine?"
But, notwithstanding his objections to the scheme, Jack Ryan and three miners of his gang arrived next morning with Harry at the mouth of the opening of the suspicious shaft. Harry had not mentioned his intentions either to James Starr or to the old overman. Jack had been discreet enough to say nothing.
Harry had provided himself with a rope about 200 feet long. It was not particularly thick, but very strong--sufficiently so to sustain his weight. His friends were to let him down into the gulf, and his pulling the cord was to be the signal to withdraw him.
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