Harry's eyes seemed made for the dark, just as a sailor's are made for distances. But all this while Harry felt irresistibly animated by the hope of finding the mysterious being whose intervention, strictly speaking, had saved himself and his friends. Would
he succeed? He certainly would, if presentiments were to be trusted; but certainly not, if he judged by the success which had as yet attended his researches.
The attacks directed against the family of the old overman, before the discovery of New Aberfoyle, had not been renewed.
CHAPTER XI HANGING BY A THREAD
ALTHOUGH in this way the Ford family led a happy and contented life, yet it was easy to see that Harry, naturally of a grave disposition, became more and more quiet and reserved. Even Jack Ryan, with all his good humor and usually infectious merriment, failed to rouse him to gayety of manner.
One Sunday--it was in the month of June--the two friends were walking together on the shores of Loch Malcolm. Coal Town rested from labor. In the world above, stormy weather prevailed. Violent rains fell, and dull sultry vapors brooded over the earth; the atmosphere was most oppressive.
Down in Coal Town there was perfect calm; no wind, no rain. A soft and pleasant temperature existed instead of the strife of the elements which raged without. What wonder then, that excursionists from Stirling came in considerable numbers to enjoy the calm fresh air in the recesses of the mine?
The electric discs shed a brilliancy of light which the British sun, oftener obscured by fogs than it ought to be, might well envy. Jack Ryan kept talking of these visitors, who passed them in noisy crowds, but Harry paid very little attention to what he said.
"I say, do look, Harry!" cried Jack. "See what numbers of people come to visit us! Cheer up, old fellow! Do the honors of the place a little better. If you look so glum, you'll make all these outside folks think you envy their life above-ground."
"Never mind me, Jack," answered Harry. "You are jolly enough for two, I'm sure; that's enough."
"I'll be hanged if I don't feel your melancholy creeping over me though!" exclaimed Jack. "I declare my eyes
are getting quite dull, my lips are drawn together, my laugh sticks in my throat; I'm forgetting all my songs. Come, man, what's the matter with you?"
"You know well enough, Jack."
"What? the old story?"
"Yes, the same thoughts haunt me."
"Ah, poor fellow!" said Jack, shrugging his shoulders. "If you would only do like me, and set all the queer things down to the account of the goblins of the mine, you would be easier in your mind."
"But, Jack, you know very well that these goblins exist only in your imagination, and that, since the works here have been reopened, not a single one has been seen."
"That's true, Harry; but if no spirits have been seen, neither has anyone else to whom you could attribute the extraordinary doings we want to account for."
"I shall discover them."
"Ah, Harry! Harry! it's not so easy to catch the spirits of New Aberfoyle!"
"I shall find out the spirits as you call them," said Harry, in a tone of firm conviction.
"Do you expect to be able to punish them?"
"Both punish and reward. Remember, if one hand shut us up in that passage, another hand delivered us! I shall not soon forget that."
"But, Harry, how can we be sure that these two hands do not belong to the same body?"
"What can put such a notion in your head, Jack?" asked Harry.
"Well, I don't know. Creatures that live in these holes, Harry, don't you see? they can't be made like us, eh?"
"But they ARE just like us, Jack."
"Oh, no! don't say that, Harry! Perhaps some madman managed to get in for a time."
"A madman! No madman would have formed such connected plans, or done such continued mischief as befell us after the breaking of the ladders."
"Well, but anyhow he has done no harm for the last three years, either to you, Harry, or any of your people."
"No matter, Jack," replied Harry; "I am persuaded that this malignant being, whoever he is, has by no means given up his evil intentions. I can hardly say on what I
found my convictions.