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Moonfleet/Chapter 10

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CHAPTER 10
THE ESCAPE

            … How fearful
And dizzy ’tis to cast one’s eyes so low!
   … I’ll look no more
Lest my brain turn—Shakespeare


The while chalk was a bulwark between us and the foe; and though one or two of them loosed off their matchlocks, trying to get at us sideways, they could not even see their quarry, and 'twas only shooting at a venture. We were safe. But for how short a time! Safe just for so long as it should please the soldiers not to come down to take us, safe with a discharged pistol in our grasp, and a shot man lying at our feet.

Elzevir was the first to speak: 'Can you stand, John? Is the bone broken?'

'I cannot stand,' I said; 'there is something gone in my leg, and I feel blood running down into my boot.'

He knelt, and rolled down the leg of my stocking; but though he only moved my foot ever so little, it caused me sharp pain, for feeling was coming back after the first numbness of the shot.

'They have broke the leg, though it bleeds little,' Elzevir said. 'We have no time to splice it here, but I will put a kerchief round, and while I wrap it, listen to how we lie, and then choose what we shall do.'

I nodded, biting my lips hard to conceal the pain he gave me, and he went on: 'We have a quarter of an hour before the Posse can get down to us. But come they will, and thou canst judge what chance we have to save liberty or life with that carrion lying by us'—and he jerked his thumb at Maskew—'though I am glad 'twas not my hand that sent him to his reckoning, and therefore do not blame thee if thou didst make me waste a charge in air. So one thing we can do is to wait here until they come, and I can account for a few of them before they shoot me down; but thou canst not fight with a broken leg, and they will take thee alive, and then there is a dance on air at Dorchester Jail.'

I felt sick with pain and bitterly cast down to think that I was like to come so soon to such a vile end; so only gave a sigh, wishing heartily that Maskew were not dead, and that my leg were not broke, but that I was back again at the Why Not? or even hearing one of Dr. Sherlock's sermons in my aunt's parlour.

Elzevir looked down at me when I sighed, and seeing, I suppose, that I was sorrowful, tried to put a better face on a bad business. 'Forgive me, lad,' he said, 'if I have spoke too roughly. There is yet another way that we may try; and if thou hadst but two whole legs, I would have tried it, but now 'tis little short of madness. And yet, if thou fear'st not, I will still try it. Just at the end of this flat ledge, farthest from where the bridle-path leads down, but not a hundred yards from where we stand, there is a sheep-track leading up the cliff. It starts where the under-cliff dies back again into the chalk face, and climbs by slants and elbow-turns up to the top. The shepherds call it the Zigzag, and even sheep lose their footing on it; and of men I never heard but one had climbed it, and that was lander Jordan, when the Excise was on his heels, half a century back. But he that tries it stakes all on head and foot, and a wounded bird like thee may not dare that flight. Yet, if thou art content to hang thy life upon a hair, I will carry thee some way; and where there is no room to carry, thou must down on hands and knees and trail thy foot.'

It was a desperate chance enough, but came as welcome as a patch of blue through lowering skies. 'Yes,' I said, 'dear Master Elzevir, let us get to it quickly; and if we fall, 'tis better far to die upon the rocks below than to wait here for them to hale us off to jail.' And with that I tried to stand, thinking I might go dot and carry even with a broken leg. But 'twas no use, and down I sank with a groan. Then Elzevir caught me up, holding me in his arms, with my head looking over his back, and made off for the Zigzag. And as we slunk along, close to the cliff-side, I saw, between the brambles, Maskew lying with his face turned up to the morning sky. And there was the little red hole in the middle of his forehead, and a thread of blood that welled up from it and trickled off on to the sward.

It was a sight to stagger any man, and would have made me swoon perhaps, but that there was no time, for we were at the end of the under-cliff, and Elzevir set me down for a minute, before he buckled to his task. And 'twas a task that might cow the bravest, and when I looked upon the Zigzag, it seemed better to stay where we were and fall into the hands of the Posse than set foot on that awful way, and fall upon the rocks below. For the Zigzag started off as a fair enough chalk path, but in a few paces narrowed down till it was but a whiter thread against the grey-white cliff-face, and afterwards turned sharply back, crossing a hundred feet direct above our heads. And then I smelt an evil stench, and looking about, saw the blown-out carcass of a rotting sheep lie close at hand.

'Faugh,' said Elzevir, 'tis a poor beast has lost his foothold.'

It was an ill omen enough, and I said as much, beseeching him to make his own way up the Zigzag and leave me where I was, for that they might have mercy on a boy.

'Tush!' he cried; 'it is thy heart that fails thee, and 'tis too late now to change counsel. We have fifteen minutes yet to win or lose with, and if we gain the cliff-top in that time we shall have an hour's start, or more, for they will take all that to search the under-cliff. And Maskew, too, will keep them in check a little, while they try to bring the life back to so good a man. But if we fall, why, we shall fall together, and outwit their cunning. So shut thy eyes, and keep them tight until I bid thee open them.' With that he caught me up again, and I shut my eyes firm, rebuking myself for my faint-heartedness, and not telling him how much my foot hurt me. In a minute I knew from Elzevir's steps that he had left the turf and was upon the chalk. Now I do not believe that there were half a dozen men beside in England who would have ventured up that path, even free and untrammelled, and not a man in all the world to do it with a full-grown lad in his arms. Yet Elzevir made no bones of it, nor spoke a single word; only he went very slow, and I felt him scuffle with his foot as he set it forward, to make sure he was putting it down firm.

I said nothing, not wishing to distract him from his terrible task, and held my breath, when I could, so that I might lie quieter in his arms. Thus he went on for a time that seemed without end, and yet was really but a minute or two; and by degrees I felt the wind, that we could scarce perceive at all on the under-cliff, blow fresher and cold on the cliff-side. And then the path grew steeper and steeper, and Elzevir went slower and slower, till at last he spoke:

'John, I am going to stop; but open not thy eyes till I have set thee down and bid thee.'

I did as bidden, and he lowered me gently, setting me on all-fours upon the path; and speaking again:

'The path is too narrow here for me to carry thee, and thou must creep round this corner on thy hands and knees. But have a care to keep thy outer hand near to the inner, and the balance of thy body to the cliff, for there is no room to dance hornpipes here. And hold thy eyes fixed on the chalk-wall, looking neither down nor seaward.'

'Twas well he told me what to do, and well I did it; for when I opened my eyes, even without moving them from the cliff-side, I saw that the ledge was little more than a foot wide, and that ever so little a lean of the body would dash me on the rocks below. So I crept on, but spent much time that was so precious in travelling those ten yards to take me round the first elbow of the path; for my foot was heavy and gave me fierce pain to drag, though I tried to mask it from Elzevir. And he, forgetting what I suffered, cried out, 'Quicken thy pace, lad, if thou canst, the time is short.' Now so frail is man's temper, that though he was doing more than any ever did to save another's life, and was all I had to trust to in the world; yet because he forgot my pain and bade me quicken, my choler rose, and I nearly gave him back an angry word, but thought better of it and kept it in.

Then he told me to stop, for that the way grew wider and he would pick me up again. But here was another difficulty, for the path was still so narrow and the cliff-wall so close that he could not take me up in his arms. So I lay flat on my face, and he stepped over me, setting his foot between my shoulders to do it; and then, while he knelt down upon the path, I climbed up from behind upon him, putting my arms round his neck; and so he bore me 'pickaback'. I shut my eyes firm again, and thus we moved along another spell, mounting still and feeling the wind still freshening.

At length he said that we were come to the last turn of the path, and he must set me down once more. So down upon his knees and hands he went, and I slid off behind, on to the ledge. Both were on all-fours now; Elzevir first and I following. But as I crept along, I relaxed care for a moment, and my eyes wandered from the cliff-side and looked down. And far below I saw the blue sea twinkling like a dazzling mirror, and the gulls wheeling about the sheer chalk wall, and then I thought of that bloated carcass of a sheep that had fallen from this very spot perhaps, and in an instant felt a sickening qualm and swimming of the brain, and knew that I was giddy and must fall.

Then I called out to Elzevir, and he, guessing what had come over me, cries to turn upon my side, and press my belly to the cliff. And how he did it in such a narrow strait I know not; but he turned round, and lying down himself, thrust his hand firmly in my back, pressing me closer to the cliff. Yet it was none too soon, for if he had not held me tight, I should have flung myself down in sheer despair to get quit of that dreadful sickness.

'Keep thine eyes shut, John,' he said, 'and count up numbers loud to me, that I may know thou art not turning faint.' So I gave out, 'One, two, three,' and while I went on counting, heard him repeating to himself, though his words seemed thin and far off: 'We must have taken ten minutes to get here, and in five more they will be on the under-cliff; and if we ever reach the top, who knows but they have left a guard! No, no, they will not leave a guard, for not a man knows of the Zigzag; and, if they knew, they would not guess that we should try it. We have but fifty yards to go to win, and now this cursed giddy fit has come upon the child, and he will fall and drag me with him; or they will see us from below, and pick us off like sitting guillemots against the cliff-face.'

So he talked to himself, and all the while I would have given a world to pluck up heart and creep on farther; yet could not, for the deadly sweating fear that had hold of me. Thus I lay with my face to the cliff, and Elzevir pushing firmly in my back; and the thing that frightened me most was that there was nothing at all for the hand to take hold of, for had there been a piece of string, or even a thread of cotton, stretched along to give a semblance of support, I think I could have done it; but there was only the cliff-wall, sheer and white, against that narrowest way, with never cranny to put a finger into. The wind was blowing in fresh puffs, and though I did not open my eyes, I knew that it was moving the little tufts of bent grass, and the chiding cries of the gulls seemed to invite me to be done with fear and pain and broken leg, and fling myself off on to the rocks below.

Then Elzevir spoke. 'John' he said, 'there is no time to play the woman; another minute of this and we are lost. Pluck up thy courage, keep thy eyes to the cliff, and forward.'

Yet I could not, but answered: 'I cannot, I cannot; if I open my eyes, or move hand or foot, I shall fall on the rocks below.'

He waited a second, and then said: 'Nay, move thou must, and 'tis better to risk falling now, than fall for certain with another bullet in thee later on.' And with that he shifted his hand from my back and fixed it in my coat-collar, moving backwards himself, and setting to drag me after him.

Now, I was so besotted with fright that I would not budge an inch, fearing to fall over if I opened my eyes. And Elzevir, for all he was so strong, could not pull a helpless lump backwards up that path. So he gave it up, leaving go hold on me with a groan, and at that moment there rose from the under-cliff, below a sound of voices and shouting.

'Zounds, they are down already!' cried Elzevir, 'and have found Maskew's body; it is all up; another minute and they will see us.'

But so strange is the force of mind on body, and the power of a greater to master a lesser fear, that when I heard those voices from below, all fright of falling left me in a moment, and I could open my eyes without a trace of giddiness. So I began to move forward again on hands and knees. And Elzevir, seeing me, thought for a moment I had gone mad, and was dragging myself over the cliff; but then saw how it was, and moved backwards himself before me, saying in a low voice, 'Brave lad! Once creep round this turn, and I will pick thee up again. There is but fifty yards to go, and we shall foil these devils yet!'

Then we heard the voices again, but farther off, and not so loud; and knew that our pursuers had left the under-cliff and turned down on to the beach, thinking that we were hiding by the sea.

Five minutes later Elzevir stepped on to the cliff-top, with me upon his back.

'We have made something of this throw,' he said, 'and are safe for another hour, though I thought thy giddy head had ruined us.'

Then he put me gently upon the springy turf, and lay down himself upon his back, stretching his arms out straight on either side, and breathing hard to recover from the task he had performed.

*       *       *       *       *

The day was still young, and far below us was stretched the moving floor of the Channel, with a silver-grey film of night-mists not yet lifted in the offing. A hummocky up-and-down line of cliffs, all projections, dents, bays, and hollows, trended southward till it ended in the great bluff of St. Alban's Head, ten miles away. The cliff-face was gleaming white, the sea tawny inshore, but purest blue outside, with the straight sunpath across it, spangled and gleaming like a mackerel's back.

The relief of being once more on firm ground, and the exultation of an escape from immediate danger, removed my pain and made me forget that my leg was broken. So I lay for a moment basking in the sun; and the wind, which a few minutes before threatened to blow me from that narrow ledge, seemed now but the gentlest of breezes, fresh with the breath of the kindly sea. But this was only for a moment, for the anguish came back and grew apace, and I fell to thinking dismally of the plight we were in. How things had been against us in these last days! First there was losing the Why Not? and that was bad enough; second, there was the being known by the Excise for smugglers, and perhaps for murderers; third and last, there was the breaking of my leg, which made escape so difficult. But, most of all, there came before my eyes that grey face turned up against the morning sun, and I thought of all it meant for Grace, and would have given my own life to call back that of our worst enemy.

Then Elzevir sat up, stretching himself like one waking out of sleep, and said: 'We must be gone. They will not be back for some time yet, and, when they come, will not think to search closely for us hereabouts; but that we cannot risk, and must get clear away. This leg of thine will keep us tied for weeks, and we must find some place where we can lie hid, and tend it. Now, I know such a hiding-hole in Purbeck, which they call Joseph's Pit, and thither we must go; but it will take all the day to get there, for it is seven miles off, and I am older than I was, and thou too heavy a babe to carry over lightly.'

I did not know the pit he spoke of, but was glad to hear of some place, however far off, where I could lie still and get ease from the pain. And so he took me in his arms again and started off across the fields.

I need not tell of that weary journey, and indeed could not, if I wished; for the pain went to my head and filled me with such a drowsy anguish that I knew nothing except when some unlooked-for movement gave me a sharper twinge, and made me cry out. At first Elzevir walked briskly, but as the day wore on went slower, and was fain more than once to put me down and rest, till at last he could only carry me a hundred yards at a time. It was after noon, for the sun was past the meridian, and very hot for the time of year, when the face of the country began to change; and instead of the short sward of the open down, sprinkled with tiny white snail-shells, the ground was brashy with flat stones, and divided up into tillage fields. It was a bleak wide-bitten place enough, looking as if 'twould never pay for turning, and instead of hedges there were dreary walls built of dry stone without mortar. Behind one of these walls, broken down in places, but held together with straggling ivy, and buttressed here and there with a bramble-bush, Elzevir put me down at length and said, 'I am beat, and can carry thee no farther for this present, though there is not now much farther to go. We have passed Purbeck Gates, and these walls will screen us from prying eyes if any chance comer pass along the down. And as for the soldiers, they are not like to come this way so soon, and if they come I cannot help it; for weariness and the sun's heat have made my feet like lead. A score of years ago I would have laughed at such a task, but now 'tis different, and I must take a little sleep and rest till the air is cooler. So sit thee here and lean thy shoulder up against the wall, and thus thou canst look through this broken place and watch both ways. Then, if thou see aught moving, wake me up.—I wish I had a thimbleful of powder to make this whistle sound'—and he took Maskew's silver-butted pistol again from his bosom, and handled it lovingly,—'tis like my evil luck to carry fire-arms thirty years, and leave them at home at a pinch like this.' With that he flung himself down where there was a narrow shadow close against the bottom of the wall, and in a minute I knew from his heavy breathing that he was asleep.

The wind had freshened much, and was blowing strong from the west; and now that I was under the lee of the wall I began to perceive that drowsiness creeping upon me which overtakes a man who has been tousled for an hour or two by the wind, and gets at length into shelter. Moreover, though I was not tired by grievous toil like Elzevir, I had passed a night without sleep, and felt besides the weariness of pain to lull me to slumber. So it was, that before a quarter of an hour was past, I had much ado to keep awake, for all I knew that I was left on guard. Then I sought something to fix my thoughts, and looking on that side of the wall where the sward was, fell to counting the mole-hills that were cast up in numbers thereabout. And when I had exhausted them, and reckoned up thirty little heaps of dry and powdery brown earth, that lay at random on the green turf, I turned my eyes to the tillage field on the other side of the wall, and saw the inch-high blades of corn coming up between the stones. Then I fell to counting the blades, feeling glad to have discovered a reckoning that would not be exhausted at thirty, but would go on for millions, and millions, and millions; and before I had reached ten in so heroic a numeration was fast asleep.

A sharp noise woke me with a start that set the pain tingling in my leg, and though I could see nothing, I knew that a shot had been fired very near us. I was for waking Elzevir, but he was already full awake, and put a finger on his lip to show I should not speak. Then he crept a few paces down the wall to where an ivy bush over-topped it, enough for him to look through the leaves without being seen. He dropped down again with a look of relief, and said, '’Tis but a lad scaring rooks with a blunderbuss; we will not stir unless he makes this way.'

A minute later he said: 'The boy is coming straight for the wall; we shall have to show ourselves'; and while he spoke there was a rattle of falling stones, where the boy was partly climbing and partly pulling down the dry wall, and so Elzevir stood up. The boy looked frightened, and made as if he would run off, but Elzevir passed him the time of day in a civil voice, and he stopped and gave it back.

'What are you doing here, son?' Block asked.

'Scaring rooks for Farmer Topp,' was the answer.

'Have you got a charge of powder to spare?' said Elzevir, showing his pistol. 'I want to get a rabbit in the gorse for supper, and have dropped my flask. Maybe you've seen a flask in walking through the furrows?'

He whispered to me to lie still, so that it might not be perceived my leg was broken; and the boy replied:

'No, I have seen no flask; but very like have not come the same way as you, being sent out here from Lowermoigne; and as for powder, I have little left, and must save that for the rooks, or shall get a beating for my pains.'

'Come,' said Elzevir, 'give me a charge or two, and there is half a crown for thee.' And he took the coin out of his pocket and showed it.

The boy's eyes twinkled, and so would mine at so valuable a piece, and he took out from his pocket a battered cowskin flask. 'Give flask and all,' said Elzevir, 'and thou shalt have a crown,' and he showed him the larger coin.

No time was wasted in words; Elzevir had the flask in his pocket, and the boy was biting the crown.

'What shot have you?' said Elzevir.

'What! have you dropped your shot-flask too?' asked the boy. And his voice had something of surprise in it.

'Nay, but my shot are over small; if thou hast a slug or two, I would take them.' 'I have a dozen goose-slugs, No. 2,' said the boy; 'but thou must pay a shilling for them. My master says I never am to use them, except I see a swan or buzzard, or something fit to cook, come over: I shall get a sound beating for my pains, and to be beat is worth a shilling.'

'If thou art beat, be beat for something more,' says Elzevir the tempter. 'Give me that firelock that thou carriest, and take a guinea.'

'Nay, I know not,' says the boy; 'there are queer tales afloat at Lowermoigne, how that a Posse met the Contraband this morning, and shots were fired, and a gauger got an overdose of lead—maybe of goose slugs No. 2. The smugglers got off clear, but they say the hue and cry is up already, and that a head-price will be fixed of twenty pound. So if I sell you a fowling-piece, maybe I shall do wrong, and have the Government upon me as well as my master.' The surprise in his voice was changed to suspicion, for while he spoke I saw that his eye had fallen on my foot, though I tried to keep it in the shadow; and that he saw the boot clotted with blood, and the kerchief tied round my leg.

'’Tis for that very reason,' says Elzevir, 'that I want the firelock. These smugglers are roaming loose, and a pistol is a poor thing to stop such wicked rascals on a lone hill-side. Come, come, thou dost not want a piece to guard thee; they will not hurt a boy.'

He had the guinea between his finger and thumb, and the gleam of the gold was too strong to be withstood. So we gained a sorry matchlock, slugs, and powder, and the boy walked off over the furrow, whistling with his hand in his pocket, and a guinea and a crown-piece in his hand.

His whistle sounded innocent enough, yet I mistrusted him, having caught his eye when he was looking at my bloody foot; and so I said as much to Elzevir, who only laughed, saying the boy was simple and harmless. But from where I sat I could peep out through the brambles in the open gap, and see without being seen—and there was my young gentleman walking carelessly enough, and whistling like any bird so long as Elzevir's head was above the wall; but when Elzevir sat down, the boy gave a careful look round, and seeing no one watching any more, dropped his whistling and made off as fast as heels would carry him. Then I knew that he had guessed who we were, and was off to warn the hue and cry; but before Elzevir was on his feet again, the boy was out of sight, over the hill-brow.

'Let us move on,' said Block; 'tis but a little distance now to go, and the heat is past already. We must have slept three hours or more, for thou art but a sorry watchman, John. 'Tis when the sentry sleeps that the enemy laughs, and for thee the Posse might have had us both like daylight owls.'

With that he took me on his back and made off with a lusty stride, keeping as much as possible under the brow of the hill and in the shelter of the walls. We had slept longer than we thought, for the sun was westering fast, and though the rest had refreshed me, my leg had grown stiff, and hurt the more in dangling when we started again. Elzevir was still walking strongly, in spite of the heavy burden he carried, and in less than half an hour I knew, though I had never been there before, we were in the land of the old marble quarries at the back of Anvil Point.

Although I knew little of these quarries, and certainly was in evil plight to take note of anything at that time, yet afterwards I learnt much about them. Out of such excavations comes that black Purbeck Marble which you see in old churches in our country, and I am told in other parts of England as well. And the way of making a marble quarry is to sink a tunnel, slanting very steeply down into the earth, like a well turned askew, till you reach fifty, seventy, or perhaps one hundred feet deep. Then from the bottom of this shaft there spread out narrow passages or tunnels, mostly six feet high, but sometimes only three or four, and in these the marble is dug. These quarries were made by men centuries ago, some say by the Romans themselves; and though some are still worked in other parts of Purbeck, those at the back of Anvil Point have been disused beyond the memory of man.

We had left the stony village fields, and the face of the country was covered once more with the closest sward, which was just putting on the brighter green of spring. This turf was not smooth, but hummocky, for under it lay heaps of worthless stone and marble drawn out of the quarries ages ago, which the green vestment had covered for the most part, though it left sometimes a little patch of broken rubble peering out at the top of a mound. There were many tumble-down walls and low gables left of the cottages of the old quarrymen; grass-covered ridges marked out the little garden-folds, and here and there still stood a forlorn gooseberry-bush, or a stunted plum-or apple-tree with its branches all swept eastward by the up-Channel gales. As for the quarry shafts themselves, they too were covered round the tips with the green turf, and down them led a narrow flight of steep-cut steps, with a slide of soap-stone at the side, on which the marble blocks were once hauled up by wooden winches. Down these steps no feet ever walked now, for not only were suffocating gases said to beset the bottom of the shafts, but men would have it that in the narrow passages below lurked evil spirits and demons. One who ought to know about such things, told me that when St. Aldhelm first came to Purbeck, he bound the old Pagan gods under a ban deep in these passages, but that the worst of all the crew was a certain demon called the Mandrive, who watched over the best of the black marble. And that was why such marble might only be used in churches or for graves, for if it were not for this holy purpose, the Mandrive would have power to strangle the man that hewed it.

It was by the side of one of these old shafts that Elzevir laid me down at last. The light was very low, showing all the little unevennesses of the turf; and the sward crept over the edges of the hole, and every crack and crevice in steps and slide was green with ferns. The green ferns shrouded the walls of the hole, and ruddy brown brambles overgrew the steps, till all was lost in the gloom that hung at the bottom of the pit.

Elzevir drew a deep breath or two of the cool evening air, like a man who has come through a difficult trial.

'There,' he said, 'this is Joseph's Pit, and here we must lie hid until thy foot is sound again. Once get to the bottom safe, and we can laugh at Posse, and hue and cry, and at the King's Crown itself. They cannot search all the quarries, and are not like to search any of them, for they are cowards at the best, and hang much on tales of the Mandrive. Ay, and such tales are true enough, for there lurk gases at the bottom of most of the shafts, like devils to strangle any that go down. And if they do come down this Joseph's Pit, we still have nineteen chances in a score they cannot thread the workings. But last, if they come down, and thread the path, there is this pistol and a rusty matchlock; and before they come to where we lie, we can hold the troop at bay and sell our lives so dear they will not care to buy them.'

We waited a few minutes, and then he took me in his arms and began to descend the steps, back first, as one goes down a hatchway. The sun was setting in a heavy bank of clouds just as we began to go down, and I could not help remembering how I had seen it set over peaceful Moonfleet only twenty-four hours ago; and how far off we were now, and how long it was likely to be before I saw that dear village and Grace again.

The stairs were still sharp cut and little worn, but Elzevir paid great care to his feet, lest he should slip on the ferns and mosses with which they were overgrown. When we reached the brambles he met them with his back, and though I heard the thorns tearing in his coat, he shoved them aside with his broad shoulders, and screened my dangling leg from getting caught. Thus he came safe without stumble to the bottom of the pit.

When we got there all was dark, but he stepped off into a narrow opening on the right hand, and walked on as if he knew the way. I could see nothing, but perceived that we were passing through endless galleries cut in the solid rock, high enough, for the most part, to allow of walking upright, but sometimes so low as to force him to bend down and carry me in a very constrained attitude. Only twice did he set me down at a turning, while he took out his tinder-box and lit a match; but at length the darkness became less dark, and I saw that we were in a large cave or room, into which the light came through some opening at the far end. At the same time I felt a colder breath and fresh salt smell in the air that told me we were very near the sea.