"Because those men were James Starr, my father, and myself, Nell!"
Nell looked up hastily, seized the young man's hand, and gazed so fixedly into his eyes that his feelings were stirred to their depths. "You were there?" at last she uttered.
"I was indeed," said Harry, after a pause, "and she to whom we owe our lives can have been none other than yourself, Nell!"
Nell hid her face in her hands without speaking. Harry had never seen her so much affected.
"Those who saved your life, Nell," added he in a voice tremulous with emotion, "already owed theirs to you; do you think they will ever forget it?"
CHAPTER XIII ON THE REVOLVING LADDER
THE mining operations at New Aberfoyle continued to be carried on very successfully. As a matter of course, the engineer, James Starr, as well as Simon Ford, the discoverers of this rich carboniferous region, shared largely in the profits.
In time Harry became a partner. But he never thought
of quitting the cottage. He took his father's place as overman, and diligently superintended the works of this colony of miners. Jack Ryan was proud and delighted at the good fortune which had befallen his comrade. He himself was getting on very well also.
They frequently met, either at the cottage or at the works in the pit. Jack did not fail to remark the sentiments entertained by Harry towards Nell. Harry would not confess to them; but Jack only laughed at him when he shook his head and tried to deny any special interest in her.
It must be noted that Jack Ryan had the greatest possible wish to be of the party when Nell should pay her first visit to the upper surface of the county of Stirling. He wished to see her wonder and admiration on first beholding the yet unknown face of Nature. He very much hoped that Harry would take him with them when the excursion was made. As yet, however, the latter had made no proposal of the kind to him, which caused him to feel a little uneasy as to his intentions.
One morning Jack Ryan was descending through a shaft which led from the surface to the lower regions of the pit. He did so by means of one of those ladders which, continually revolving by machinery, enabled persons to ascend and descend without fatigue. This apparatus had lowered him about a hundred and fifty feet, when at a narrow landing-place he perceived Harry, who was coming up to his labors for the day.
"Well met, my friend!" cried Jack, recognizing his comrade by the light of the electric lamps.
"Ah, Jack!" replied Harry, "I am glad to see you. I've got something to propose."
"I can listen to nothing till you tell me how Nell is," interrupted Jack Ryan.
"Nell is all right, Jack--so much so, in fact, that I hope in a month or six weeks--"
"To marry her, Harry?"
"Jack, you don't know what you are talking about!"
"Ah, that's very likely; but I know quite well what I shall do."
"What will you do?"
"Marry her myself, if you don't; so look sharp," laughed Jack. "By Saint Mungo! I think an immense deal of
bonny Nell! A fine young creature like that, who has been brought up in the mine, is just the very wife for a miner. She is an orphan--so am I; and if you don't care much for her, and if she will have me--"
Harry looked gravely at Jack, and let him talk on without trying to stop him. "Don't you begin to feel jealous, Harry?" asked Jack in a more serious tone.
"Not at all," answered Harry quietly.
"But if you don't marry Nell yourself, you surely can't expect her to remain a spinster?"
"I expect nothing," said Harry.
A movement of the ladder machinery now gave the two friends the opportunity--one to go up, the other down the shaft. However, they remained where they were.
"Harry," quoth Jack, "do you think I spoke in earnest just now about Nell?"
"No, that I don't, Jack."
"Well, but now I will!"
"You? speak in earnest?"
"My good fellow, I can tell you I am quite capable of giving a friend a bit of advice."
"Let's hear, then, Jack!"
"Well, look here! You love Nell as heartily as she deserves. Old Simon, your father, and old Madge, your mother, both love her as if she were their daughter.