Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/220

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198
chap.
LIFE OF OCTAVIA HILL

my work and hers too ; also because I thought I'd like to see you quietly before Sophy's return; but I don't want the report spread ; besides, it's quite uncertain whether I shall be well enough to return. Do tell me whether it could be anyhow easily arranged about the double work without me till October.

Derwent Bank,

August 15, 1861.

To Miranda.

I went all over a coal pit yesterday. It was very impressive. Of course the depth and darkness and lowness one expected ; but I had not realised the entire absence of all native life ; no rats or mice, or even insects. Of course there was no place for them to be ; but, were the pit forsaken, there would be none at all. At present there are a few weak flies seen ; and the rats are terrifically fierce, having so little food. When caught in a trap they are usually found with great pieces eaten out of them by their fellows. They are brought down sometimes in the bags brought with food for the horses, who live in darkness, but in such an equable temperature, and free from exposure to weather that they look quite thriving. Wood down there soon rots, and is soon covered with white lichen like wool, but exquisitely feathered. The large furnace, kept continually burning near the second shaft, to cause a perpetual draught, looked so living and bright, after the damp low dimly lighted passages. The height of these depends on the depth of the coal strata. They call the earth above it the roof. The safety of a mine, and the ease with which it is worked, much depends on the material of the roof. Here it is stone, which is nice and firm. The main roads are first cut out, from which