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|The Underground City||Jules Verne|
The Dochart Pit
|Page 5 of 6||
"Thank you, Jack, but it's impossible."
"Yes; Mr. Starr's visit will last some time, and I must take him back to Callander."
"Well, Harry, it won't be for a week yet. By that time Mr. Starr's visit will be over, I should think, and there will be nothing to keep you at the cottage."
"Indeed, Harry," said James Starr, "you must profit by your friend Jack's invitation."
"Well, I accept it, Jack," said Harry. "In a week we will meet at Irvine."
"In a week, that's settled," returned Ryan. "Good-by, Harry! Your servant, Mr. Starr. I am very glad to have seen you again! I can give news of you to all my friends. No one has forgotten you, sir."
"And I have forgotten no one," said Starr.
"Thanks for all, sir," replied Jack.
"Good-by, Jack," said Harry, shaking his hand. And Jack Ryan, singing as he went, soon disappeared in the heights of the shaft, dimly lighted by his lamp.
A quarter of an hour afterwards James Starr and Harry descended the last ladder, and set foot on the lowest floor of the pit.
From the bottom of the Yarrow shaft radiated numerous empty galleries. They ran through the wall of schist and sandstone, some shored up with great, roughly-hewn beams, others lined with a thick casing of wood. In every direction embankments supplied the place of the excavated veins. Artificial pillars were made of stone from neighboring quarries, and now they supported the ground, that is to say, the double layer of tertiary and quaternary soil, which formerly rested on the seam itself. Darkness now filled the galleries, formerly lighted either by the miner's lamp or by the electric light, the use of which had been introduced in the mines.
"Will you not rest a while, Mr. Starr?" asked the young man.
"No, my lad," replied the engineer, "for I am anxious to be at your father's cottage."
"Follow me then, Mr. Starr. I will guide you, and yet I daresay you could find your way perfectly well through this dark labyrinth."
"Yes, indeed! I have the whole plan of the old pit still in my head."
Harry, followed by the engineer, and holding his lamp high the better to light their way, walked along a high gallery, like the nave of a cathedral. Their feet still struck against the wooden sleepers which used to support the rails.
They had not gone more than fifty paces, when a huge stone fell at the feet of James Starr. "Take care, Mr. Starr!" cried Harry, seizing the engineer by the arm.
"A stone, Harry! Ah! these old vaultings are no longer quite secure, of course, and--"
"Mr. Starr," said Harry Ford, "it seems to me that stone was thrown, thrown as by the hand of man!"
"Thrown!" exclaimed James Starr. "What do you mean, lad?"
"Nothing, nothing, Mr. Starr," replied Harry evasively, his anxious gaze endeavoring to pierce the darkness. "Let us go on. Take my arm, sir, and don't be afraid of making a false step."
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