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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Abandoned Country » CHAPTER VII. BARNEY’S AND POMP’S ADVENTURES.
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CHAPTER VII. BARNEY’S AND POMP’S ADVENTURES.
“Phwere the divil do yez suppose that goes to?” cried Barney, glancing somewhat timorously down into the place.

“Golly! I cudn’t guess so hard a one as dat, I’sh.”

“Be me sowl, I belave there’s a big treasure hid away down there! Who knows but that murtherin’ ould spalpeen, Captain Kidd, left his gould in this spot?”

Pomp’s eyes glistened.

“We ain’t gwine to find out unless we tries it,” he said.

“Yez are roight, naygur. Jist climb down there an’ take a look about whoile I load up me pistol.”

“Yo’ go yo’sef!” sniffed the darky. “Yo’ am de leadah. Kain’t play no tricks on dis chile!”

“Begorra, I’m not afther thryin’ to do that,” cried Barney, indignantly. “Go an wid yez fer a big coward. Shure, it’s afraid yez are!”

“I ain’ afraid.”

“Yez are!”

“Youse ’fraid yo’sef!”

This was enough for Barney. He gave the darky a look of withering contempt, and then ventured down into the place.

Down the steps he blundered and soon found himself at the bottom of them. A dim light showed him the way through a long corridor.

This was paved and extended far beyond the range of his vision. The Celt halted a moment.

“Be me sowl, we kin do moighty little widout a lanthern, naygur. Wud yez go back and get one?”

“A’right,” agreed the darky.

So back to the Scorcher went Pomp. He soon returned with a lantern.

This aided the two explorers very materially. They were able to easily see their way now.

Along the passage they proceeded and came to another flight of steps. As they descended these ’Barney remarked: “Shure, they seem to be a bit shaky, naygur. Luk out fer thet lower one.”

“A’right, I’sh!”

In fact, it did not look to be a difficult thing to tumble the whole pile of masonry down. However, the two explorers now entered another passage.

Suddenly they came to a curious niche in the wall of stone. Barney scanned it a moment carefully in the light of the lantern.

Then he said:

“On my honor, naygur, this is a big dure in the wall.”

“A door, yo’ say?” asked the darky.

“Yis.”

“A stone door? I don’t see it.”

“Begorra, yez will!”

Barney put his hand in the niche and began to pull upon a metal bar which he saw there. It was consumed with rust, and crumbled in his grasp.

But the pressure was sufficient to cause a huge slab of stone several feet square to move out of place, leaving an aperture.

This was large enough to admit the body of a man. Barney flashed his lantern rays into it.

The sight which he beheld gave him a chill.

A small apartment hewed out of the solid rock was seen. Its walls were damp and moldy, but what transfixed the two explorers with horror was the fact that the place was a literal charnel house.

There, exposed to their view, were four human skeletons. They were in various positions against the crumbling wall.

For an instant Barney thought that the apartment might be a tomb.

But second thought told him better than this. The position of the skeletons disproved the theory.

“Mither presarve us!” gasped the Celt in horror. “Phwat do yez say to that?”

“Golly fo’ glory!” echoed Pomp, “dey shut dem po’ chaps in dar to die!”

“Be me sowl, that was a hard fate fer thim!” cried Barney. “An’ Hiven rist their sowls! Shure, whoiver do yez suppose they cud av been?”

“Huh! I done fink dat dis was a big prison, I’sh, an’ dat dese were some ob de prisoners.”

“Av coorse, yez blockhead! But who may the poor divils be? Howld the lanthern, an’ I’ll be afther takin’ a bit av a look at thim.”

With which Barney crawled into the place.

All raiment which the dead men might have worn had fallen to decay. There seemed nothing left but the bones.

But of a sudden Barney’s keen eye caught some lines in the black surface of the stone wall. They were scratched quite deep with some sharp instrument.

To the Celt’s surprise they were in legible English, and thus he read them;
“July 10th. 18—.

“Heaven have mercy upon our souls, and should this ever meet the gaze of civilized beings, pity us.

“We sailed from Montevideo in January, after Southern seals. Nipped in an ice-patch, our good ship, the Hester, went to the bottom. For months we wandered about the accursed ice country, until finally we discovered this Polar land, free from ice and snow. But we were surrounded by the Polar people, whose traditions forbade the coming among them of any being beyond the ice belt.

“So we were condemned to imprisonment and death by starvation. We are confined in this awful hole to die. There is no hope of rescue, no chance for life. We must die. Already the awful shadow of the eternal is descending upon us. Our names are:
“John Fenton, Shipmaster.
“Alec Smythe, Mate.
“Jed Manson, Seaman.
“Pierre Martin, seaman apprentice.

“I, John Fenton, scrawl these lines. This is all we can leave behind us. Heaven rest our souls, for we are buried alive; lost forever! Farewell to earth and friends. Requiescat in pace.
“John Fenton. Salem. Mass.”

Barney read all this aloud, and then he and Pomp shivered as they regarded the skeletons.

“Golly!” gasped the coon. “Dat am do mos’ orful fing I eber heern tell oh! Come out oh dar, I’sh! Lot’s get out ob dis place!”

“Divil a bit until I’ve found out if there are any more av the same koind here.” declared the Celt.

And he went on down the passage. His quest was not unrewarded. There were other cells, and in some of them were skeletons.

But in no other place did he find a record. Also, the conformation of the skulls satisfied him that these victims were doubtless criminals of the Polar nation, and not civilized men.

These vaults were doubtless part of a great prison. They extended a long distance underground.

But the two explorers soon tired of the quest, and decided to get out of the grewsome place as quickly as possible.

“Golly, I’se seen nuff ob dis place,” declared Pomp. “I’se ready fo’ to get a breaf ob fresh air.”

“Cum on, then,” said Barney, “shure, we’ll have something to tell Misther Frank, anyway!”

“Dat am right!”

So they set out along the corridor. But when they reached the foot of the shaky, stone staircase they were confronted with a horrible discovery.

It had caved in, and a section of the wall also yielding, the entire passage was closed.

They were shut off from the outside world by a depth of earth and rocks which they could not easily calculate. It was a stunning reflection.

They might never escape!

For a moment neither could speak.

“Gor’ a’mighty!” finally ejaculated Pomp. “We’se in fo’ it now!”

“Be me sowl, it looks loike it!”

“Shuah’s you’se bo’n, we’se buried alibe ’long wif de res’ ob dese people!”

Barney had turned a grayish pallor.

“Bejabers, Misther Frank will be afther gettin’ us out,” he declared.

“Marse Frank neber fin’ out whar we gwine ter; we’se in de soup, yo’ kin bet!”

Trembling and faint, the two jokers sank down onto the damp pavement. Both were plucky, keen-witted fellows, and they tried to think.

Finally Barney rose.

“Wha’ am yo’ gwine to do, I’sh?”

“Begorra, I’m goin’ ter thry an’ dig me way out av this,” declared the Celt.

“Dig?”

“Yis.”

“A’right; I’se wif yo’.”

They had no spade or pick; but they had strong hands, and soon got to work. Their efforts were not without avail.

The earth was coarse and gravelly, and much easier displaced than as if it had been solid dirt.

In a very short time they had cleared quite a space in the heap of debris. Then they came upon two large slabs of rock, a part of the stone staircase.

However, beneath their most intense exertions these rocks were moved aside and they fell to digging again.

It seemed as if they had been in the place for an eternity, and they were getting exhausted without seeming to be any nearer the outer passage than ever, when Barney suddenly stopped work and began to listen.

Pomp looked up in surprise.

“Wha’ am de mattah, I’sh?” he asked.

“Bejabers, I belave there’s some wan digging beyant us,” he declared.

“Yo’ does?”

“Yes, I do.”

Then they fell to listening.

When Frank and Randall and the sailor reached the Scorcher and were unable to find any trace of Barney and Pomp, they were not a little alarmed.

They shouted and fired their pistols, but no answer came.

“That is very odd!” exclaimed Frank. “Where the deuce can they be?”

“Can anything have befallen them?” asked Randall.

“That I am unable to answer. I certainly hope not.”

“With due respect, sir,” said Wendel, “perhaps they have gone off on a little cruise of their own and missed their course.”

“I believe you have the right of it,” agreed Frank. “We must look them up, or track them if we can.”

“Could we follow their trail in this hard soil?” asked Randall.

“We will try.”

With this the quest began. As good fortune had it, Randall found his way quite accurately to the staircase in the demolished prison.

In the dust on the steps were the mark of footprints.

“We have found them, Frank!” he cried. “Here are the footprints!”

In a moment the young inventor was on the spot and closely examining the marks. He was at once satisfied that the trail was found.


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