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Chapter 14
Bart and Pat.—Terrible Situation. ‘—The first Horror, and its Effects.—An Attempt to climb.—Another Attempt to scale the Corners.—Trying the Sides.—Too wide by far.—Pat wants to tie a Rope to Nothing.—The Pickaxe.—New Attempts at Climbing.—New Disappointments.—Pat’s Fertility of Invention.—A new Suggestion.—A dangerous Experiment.—Running the Risk.—Tugging at the Logs.—The obstinate Fabric.—Baffled and beaten.

THERE, side by side, stood the two boys, at the bottom of the deep pit, into which they had descended; and, standing there, they looked with unutterable feelings at the opening far above them, across which was suspended the treacherous beam. At first there was a thrill of expectation, in both of them, that the beam was even then breaking, and at any instant might fall and crush them. It had sagged down so far, and the fracture was so complete, that the end might come in another moment. Thus they stood, and looked up in silence, and with hearts that throbbed fast and painfully. Neither of them spoke a word. It was as much as they could do to breathe.

A terrible position it was, and how terrible they knew only too well. One hundred feet below the ground, and seventy feet below the level of the sea—such was the depth of that pit. It was so long and so narrow that the bottom was quite dark. As they stood with their eyes thus fixed on the threatening beam, they noticed that the sky beyond it had changed in its color from blue to black, and two or three stars were faintly visible. It was like the sky of night, and not like that of day. That little piece of sky thus indicated to them the change in their fate, and seemed to frown upon them from above.

In their minds there was one prevailing sense of mute horror and awful expectation; yet, together with this, a thousand other thoughts flashed through them—thoughts of friends, thoughts of home, wild speculations as to the possibility of escape; and with these they noticed also that black piece of sky, with its faintly-twinkling stars. But between them and it, between the upper world which that sky spoke of and themselves, there intervened that broken beam stretching across like a bar, to shut them in forever.

Now, gradually, the first horror passed. It was too intense a feeling to endure. The delay of their fate made them calmer, and brought back presence of mind; for the beam moved no more—it fell not—perhaps it might remain as it was, threatening them, but doing no more than that. This respite from their doom thus brought them back to themselves, and made them search eagerly the sides of the pit as they looked up.

“I wonder if we can’t climb it, thin,” said Pat.

“I’m afraid not,” said Bart, in a dejected tone.

“Sure an there’s no harrum in given it a thrial,” said Pat; and, as he said so, he laid his hands upon the staying around the hole. Scarce had he done this, than he was aware of a difference between the staying here, and that which was higher up. Bart, also, who had done as Pat had done, and tried to find some way of climbing, noticed the same thing.

Had the staying below been like that above, the question of their escape would very soon have been settled by such practised climbers as these two; but, unfortunately, there was a very important difference. Above, the staying had been made of stout planks and deals, and these were far enough apart to have served for grasping by both hands and feet. They would thus have afforded an actual ladder. Below, however, it was very different. The staying of the sides of the pit was made, not of planks, which could be grasped by the hands, but of round logs, which the hands could not hold, though the feet could insert themselves well enough in the interstices. These logs rested closely one upon the other, nor was there any way by which the hands could pass between them or around them so as to grasp them. This, then, was the discovery that Bart and Pat made the moment that they tried their hands at climbing; and thus the first plan of escape which had suggested itself was baffled most completely.

“If we only had the planks!” sighed Bart: “but these round logs give no chance.”

Pat made no reply.

Bart then tried to climb at the corner, for here there would be more advantage to the feet, since the sides, being at right angles, would afford an easier foothold. But, though it was easier for the feet, it gave no greater help to the hands than before. Still, there were the round logs; nor was there at the angle formed by the sides any spaces sufficient to receive the hand and afford a hold.

“If we cud only get up as far as the rope,” said Pat, “it might give us a help, so it might.”

“What! when that beam is hanging there? Why, if you touched that rope the beam would come down.”

“Sure an I forgot that for the moment, so I did,” said Pat, dejectedly.

“Strange we didn’t notice that the beam was rotten,” said Bart, mournfully. “It looked sound enough.”

“It looked as sound as a nut, so it did; and how it managed to howld on till I jarked it bates me intirely, so it does.”

“It must have been sagging down and cracking all the time. The only wonder is, that it didn’t give way when we were higher up. If it had, there’d have been an end of us.”

“Sure ‘n you niver spoke a truer word in your life, so you didn’t; an, be the same token, it’s a good sign, so it is, an a fine thing intirely, that we’re down here now at this blissid minute, wid our bones not broke to smithereens. Sure but it makes me fairly shiver whin I think of you an me, one after the other, hangin away up there from that bit of rotten stick that was broken all the time.”

“If this wasn’t quite so wide,” Said Bart, “we might stretch our legs across, and get up that way. I’ve seen men go down into wells as easy as you please, just by stretching their legs across.”

“Sure an meself it is that’s seen that same,” said Pat, briskly; “an I wondher whether, afther all, our legs mightn’t be long enough to do it.”

“O, no,” said Bart; “it’s too wide altogether.”

“Sure an we might then; an there’s nothin like tryin.”

With these words Pat set himself to try, and Bart did the same. They tried by stretching their legs as far as possible on each side to secure a foothold, and thus ascend. Had the pit been narrower, or had their legs been longer, they could have done it; but, as it was, they found it quite impossible. They could, indeed, touch the beams on either side if they stretched their legs as far apart as possible; but, having accomplished this, they could do no more. They could not raise their feet higher to the log above. So rigid were their legs when thus spread apart, that they could not raise them. At length they were compelled to desist from these efforts.

“It’s too wide intirely, so it is,” said Pat, dolefully. “An whativer was the use of makin the hole so wide is beyond me. It wasn’t any use at all at all, so it wasn’t; an there you have it.”

“The fault’s in our legs as much as in the pit,” said Bart. “If we were five years older we might do it.”

“Sure I always thought I cud climb betther thin any man till this blissid momint,” said Pat.

“I only wish I was a man for about five minutes,” said Bart, fervently.

“Two minutes’d jist do it, so it wad,” said Pat. “Yes,” said Bart.

“An these logs don’t go all the way up. If we cud only get up to the planks we’d be all right.”

“I didn’t notice particularly,” said Bart, “but it seems to me that the plank staying reaches nearly half way down.”

“Full that, ivery inch of it, so it does,” said Pat. “If we could only get up as far as that!” exclaimed Bart.

“Faith, I have it,” said Pat, suddenly. “What?” asked Bart, with some excitement.

“I have it,” repeated Pat. “It’s a rope we want.”

“A rope!” exclaimed Bart.

“Yis, a bit of a rope; ony we haven’t got one long enough.”

“Why, what good would a rope be to us here?” asked Bart, in a puzzle to know what in the world Pat had got into his head.

“Sure, I have it. Can’t we twist a rope an make this longer?”

“I don’t know what you’re after,” said Bart, impatiently. “What do you mean?”

“Sure an we can tear up our coats an shirts, an make a rope that way; ony,” he added, thoughtfully, “it mightn’t be long enough, so it mightn’t.”

“Nonsense,” said Bart; “you’re crazy. What do we want of a rope?”

“Sure, to climb with.”

“How? Where would you fasten it?”

“Fasten it, is it?” said Pat, in a dubious tone; “sure that same I niver thought of at all at all. I forgot all about it, so I did.”

“Well, we’ll have to do something,” said Bart. “We can’t stand still here and die.”

“There’s the bit of a pick here,” said Pat. “Sure an we ought to be able to do somethin with the pick, so we ought.”

And with these words he stooped and lifted up the pickaxe which he had thrown in before they went down, and which, in the anguish and excitement which they had thus far felt, had been altogether forgotten.

“We ought to do something with that,” said Bart.

“It won’t do any good to more thin one of us,”. said Pat, sadly, “for only one of us can use it at a time.”

“Nonsense,” said Bart; “if one of us can only climb up, can’t he help the other?”

“Sure an so he can,” said Pat; “an I niver thought of that, so I didn’t.”

“I wonder if we can climb with that?” said Bart.

“Sure an we can try,” said Pat; “an we ought to do somethin, so we ought.”

With these words, he thrust the pick between two timbers, a few feet above his head, and then clutching it, he raised himself up to a level with the pick, in the easiest way possible. Hanging there for a moment, with his hands grasping the pick, and his feet stuck tight between the logs, he tried to raise himself higher. To do this, it was necessary to hold himself there, while removing the pick, and raising it to the logs farther up. But here was the fatal and insuperable difficulty; and this brought them exactly back to where they were before. Do what he would, his hands could not grasp the round logs with sufficient firmness to maintain a hold. After a few efforts he gave it up, and jumped down.

Bart then tried, making his attempt at the corner of the pit, where the angle of the two sides favored him more. Striking the pick in between two logs, as high up as he could reach, he raised himself up as Pat had done, and then tried to lift himself higher. He found a place which he could grasp, and clinging to this with a convulsive effort, he raised the pick to the logs farther up, and succeeded in thrusting it into a new place. Then he drew himself up higher, and once more searched about for a place to grasp. But now no place could be found. In vain he tried to thrust his fingers between the logs; in vain he sought to grasp the round surface. It was a thing that could not be done. After a long but fruitless effort, Bart was compelled to give up. Yet he was not satisfied. He tried the other three corners of the pit in succession. In all of them his efforts met with the same result—failure, utter and hopeless.

At length he flung down the pick, and stood panting.

“Deed, thin, an I’m glad to see you back, so I am,” said Pat.

“Glad!” said Bart.

“Yis, glad I am; that same’s what I mane. I’d rather have you fail down here, than half way up. You niver cud go all the way; an if you had to turrun back when half way up, it’s a sore head I’d have watchin you; an you cud niver expict to git back here again without broken bones.”

“If we only had one other pickaxe,” said Bart, “I could do it.”

“Of coorse you cud; an if we had dizens of other things, you cud do it, so you cud, an so cud I; but there’s the throuble, an that’s what we’ve got to contind against, so it is.”

“We’ll have to do something,” said Bart, gloomily and desperately.

“Sure an that’s thrue for you, so it is, an you niver spoke a thruer word in yer life, so you didn’t,” said Pat; “an be the same token, it’s with this pick, so it is, that we’ve got to work,—for it’s the only thing we’ve got at all at all.”

“What can we do,” said Bart, in the same gloomy tone, “if we can’t climb?”

“Sure an there’s lots more, so there is,” said Pat, who on this occasion showed a wonderful fertility of invention. “I’ve ben a thinkin,” he added, “that we might dig away these logs with the pick.”

“What good would that do?” asked Bart.

“Sure an we might dig thim out one by one, an pile thim up as we dug thim, an so we might make a pile of logs high enough to reach to the top.” Bart was silent for a few moments. The suggestion was certainly of some value.

“I wonder whether we mightn’t shake that log down on us, by pounding away down here?”

“Sure an it’s the only thing,” said Pat. “We’ve got to run some risk, of coorse; an I don’t think that our blows would be felt so high up. Besides, we needn’t sthrike very hard.”

“Well,” said Bart, “it’s the only thing we can do.”

Upon this, Pat inserted the point of the pick between the logs near him, and tried to pry the lower one out at one end. But the stubborn log resisted his efforts. It had been too firmly fixed in its place to yield to such a slight force as that which he could bring. Bart lent his efforts, and the two exerted themselves with their utmost strength, but altogether in vain.

“If we cud ony git out one log,” said Pat, “it wud be aisy workin out the others, so it wud; but this one seems a tough customer, so it does.”

“There ought to be some log about here,” said Bart, “weaker than others.”

“Sure an that’s thrue for you,” said Pat, “an so we’ll jist thry thim all one afther another, ivery one of them. We’ve got lots of time, so we have.”

“See, here’s a smaller one,” said Bart.

Pat struck the point of the pick where Bart pointed, and once more the two boys exerted themselves to pry out the log. But though this one was somewhat smaller than the other, it was quite as firmly fixed, and the utmost efforts of both of them failed to move it, even in the slightest degree, from its bed.

“Sure an there’s no danger of this pit iver cavin in,” said Pat, as he desisted from his efforts. “They made this pit strong enough to howld a iliphant, so they did—the worse for us.”

“Well,” said Bart, “we’ll have to try every log that’s within reach.”

“Sure an we ought to find some weak spot if we do, so we ought,” said Pat.

Bart now inserted the pick between the logs just above the last one.

“This is jist what we intinded to do whin we come down,” said Pat; “for weren’t we goin to thry to git to the money-hole?”

Bart said nothing.

The two boys now tugged away as before. But the result was the same, for this log was as firmly fixed, as tough, and as obdurate as the others.

“Sure an it’s hard, so it is, that the very log we trusted our lives to should turrun out to be rotten, an all these logs here should be as sound an as strong as steel an iron, ivery mother’s son of thim. If we cud only find a rotten one, an pull it out of its place, we’d be able to git at the others aisy, and haul out all the rist of thim.”

The boys now tried other logs, one after the other; but from all of them they met with the very same stubborn resistance. They had all been placed here evidently by men who worked comscientiously, and were determined to leave no weak spot exposed to the pressure of the earth. And, as was natural, that which had withstood so well the pressure of the surrounding soil, was easily able to withstand the puny efforts of a couple of boys.



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