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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

Myra was sitting down by the side of a little pool


The

little valley deepened rapidly, the sides became rocky and broken, and to Nat's satisfaction they presently came to a spot where a little rill of water flowed out from a fissure in the rock.

"How much farther, Dinah?"

"A lillie quarter ob a mile."

The sides of the valley closed in rapidly, and in a few minutes they entered a ravine where the rocks rose perpendicularly on each side, the passage between being but seven or eight feet wide.

"We jest dere now, dearie," Dinah said to Myra, who was now so exhausted that she could scarce drag her feet along. Another three or four minutes and she stopped.

"Here we are," she said. Nat looked round in surprise; there was no sign of any opening in the rock. "It up dere," Dinah went on, pointing to a clump of bushes growing on a ledge.

"Up there, Dinah?"

"Yes, sah; easy for us to climb up. You see where dere are little steps made?"

A casual observer would not have noticed them. They were not cut but hammered out of the rock, and appeared like accidental indentations.

"I see that we can climb up," he said, "but how we are to get the litter up I have no idea."

"No, sah, dat difficult. I'se been tinking

it ober. Only possible way is to take madame off de barrow and carry her up. You go up once or twice, and you see dat it am not so hard as it seems. Dese lower holes not deep, but dose higher up much deeper, can get foot well into dem."

"I had better go up and have a look, Dinah," and Nat started to ascend. He found that, as she had said, it was much easier than it looked. The first four or five steps, indeed, were so shallow that he could not get much foothold, but above there were holes for the feet some six or eight inches deep, and three or four feet apart, these being hidden from the sight of anyone passing below by a projecting ledge beneath. The holes were much wider than necessary, the corners had been filled with earth and tufts of coarse grass planted there, and these completely hid the openings from sight. He soon reached the clump of bushes. Behind them was a fissure some three feet wide and four feet high. He crawled into this, and found that it widened into a cave. He was here able to stand up, remaining motionless for a minute or two until his eyes became accustomed to the dim light. Then he saw that it was of considerable height, some twelve feet wide and about twenty feet deep. This was indeed an admirable place of refuge, and he felt sure that no one, unless previously acquainted with its existence, would be likely to discover it. He went to the entrance and looked out. Myra was sitting down by the side of a little pool. She had taken her shoes and stockings off, and was bathing her blistered feet.

"This is a splendid place, Myra," he said; "certainly nobody is ever likely to find us here. The only difficulty is to get your mother up." He at once rejoined them below. "The difficulty, Dinah, is that the face of the rock is so steep that one cannot stoop forward enough to keep one's balance with the weight on one's back. The only possible way that I can conceive is to fasten Madame Duchesne firmly to the barrow by these strips of blanket that we have been using. We can tear several more from the same blanket. It will want at least half a dozen lashings to keep her firmly down, then we must knot the other blankets to make a strong rope. I will go up with the end and pull when I get to the top. You can take the lower handles, and by holding them on a level with your shoulders you can steady the thing as it comes up. You won't want to lift, I can pull her weight up easily enough, all that you have to do is to steady it."


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