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The Underground City Jules Verne

The Fire-Maidens

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Two days after the catastrophe Jack left the farm merily, feeling nothing of his wounds. Singing in the fullness of his heart, he awoke the echoes of the cliff, as he walked to the station of the railway, which VIA Glasgow would take him to Stirling and Callander.

As he was waiting for his train, his attention was attracted by a bill posted up on the walls, containing the following notice:

"On the 4th of December, the engineer, James Starr, of Edinburgh, embarked from Granton Pier, on board the Prince of Wales. He disembarked the same day at Stirling. From that time nothing further has been heard of him.

"Any information concerning him is requested to be sent to the President of the Royal Institution, Edinburgh."

Jack Ryan, stopping before one of these advertisements, read it twice over, with extreme surprise.

"Mr. Starr!" he exclaimed. "Why, on the 4th of December I met him with Harry on the ladder of the Dochart pit! That was ten days ago! And he has not been seen from that time! That explains why my chum didn't come to Irvine."

And without taking time to inform the President of the Royal Institution by letter, what he knew relative to James Starr, Jack jumped into the train, determining to go first of all to the Yarrow shaft. There he would descend to the depths of the pit, if necessary, to find Harry, and with him was sure to be the engineer James Starr.

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"They haven't turned up again," said he to himself. "Why? Has anything prevented them? Could any work of importance keep them still at the bottom of the mine? I must find out!" and Ryan, hastening his steps, arrived in less than an hour at the Yarrow shaft.

Externally nothing was changed. The same silence around. Not a living creature was moving in that desert region. Jack entered the ruined shed which covered the opening of the shaft. He gazed down into the dark abyss--nothing was to be seen. He listened--nothing was to be heard.

"And my lamp!" he exclaimed; "suppose it isn't in its place!" The lamp which Ryan used when he visited the pit was usually deposited in a corner, near the landing of the topmost ladder. It had disappeared.

"Here is a nuisance!" said Jack, beginning to feel rather uneasy. Then, without hesitating, superstitious though he was, "I will go," said he, "though it's as dark down there as in the lowest depths of the infernal regions!"

And he began to descend the long flight of ladders, which led down the gloomy shaft. Jack Ryan had not forgotten his old mining habits, and he was well acquainted with the Dochart pit, or he would scarcely have dared to venture thus. He went very carefully, however. His foot tried each round, as some of them were worm-eaten. A false step would entail a deadly fall, through this space of fifteen hundred feet. He counted each landing as he passed it, knowing that he could not reach the bottom of the shaft until he had left the thirtieth. Once there, he would have no trouble, so he thought, in finding the cottage, built, as we have said, at the extremity of the principal passage.

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The Underground City
Jules Verne

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