But at any rate, for the sake of the new works, I must and will know who he is and whence he comes."
"For the sake of the new works did you say?" asked Jack, considerably surprised.
"I said so, Jack," returned Harry. "I may be mistaken, but, to me, all that has happened proves the existence of an interest in this mine in strong opposition to ours. Many a time have I considered the matter; I feel almost sure of it. Just consider the whole series of inexplicable circumstances, so singularly linked together. To begin with, the anonymous letter, contradictory to that of my father, at once proves that some man had become aware of our projects, and wished to prevent their accomplishment. Mr. Starr comes to see us at the Dochart pit. No sooner does he enter it with me than an immense stone is cast upon us, and communication is interrupted by the breaking of the ladders in the Yarrow shaft. We commence exploring. An experiment, by which the existence of a new vein would be proved, is rendered impossible by stoppage of fissures. Notwithstanding this, the examination is carried out, the vein discovered. We return as we came, a prodigious gust of air meets us, our lamp is broken, utter darkness surrounds us. Nevertheless, we make our way along the gloomy passage until, on reaching the entrance, we find it blocked up. There we were--imprisoned. Now, Jack, don't you see in all these things a malicious intention? Ah, yes, believe me, some being hitherto invisible, but not supernatural, as you will persist in thinking, was concealed in the mine. For some reason, known only to himself, he strove to keep us out of it. WAS there, did I say? I feel an inward conviction that he IS there still, and probably prepares some terrible disaster for us. Even at the risk of my life, Jack, I am resolved to discover him."
Harry spoke with an earnestness which strongly impressed his companion. "Well, Harry," said he, "if I am forced to agree with you in certain points, won't you admit that some kind fairy or brownie, by bringing bread and water to you, was the means of--"
"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.