B~~U~A A -A
THE CHILD OF THE .CAVERN;
STRANGE DOINGS UNDERGROUND.
By JULES VERNE.
W. H. G. KINGSTON,
AUt HOR OF "SNOW SHOES AND CANOES," "PETER THE WHALER," THE TWO
SUPERCARGOES," ETC., ETC., ETC.
MARSTON, SEARLE, & RIVINGTON,
CROWN BUILDINGS, I88, FLEET STREET.
[All rigihs reserwd.]
GILBERT AND RIVINGTON, LIMITED
ST. JOHN'S SQUARE.
THE works of.Jules Verne are too well known for the
purity of their style, and the intense interest they excite in
their readers, to require any commendation from me. One
of his chief merits is the wonderful art with which he lays
under contribution every branch of science and natural
history, while he vividly describes, with minute exactness,
all parts of the world and its inhabitants. In the wild
flights of his imagination, he carries his characters high
above the clouds, sends them whirling through the air,
driven by the howling tempest across the foaming waves,
or allows them to mount up towards the distant moon.
Now he conducts them into the bowels of the earth, or
down to the depths of old ocean.
For the last production of his fertile brain he has
selected Scotland as the scene on which to display his
unbounded powers of invention; and, in spite of the sober-
minded character of its population, has by the magic power
of his pen converted it into enchanted ground. He has
called into existence a mine of fabulous wealth, and has
placed in it a mysterious being endowed with super-
human powers, who performs wonders unsurpassed in the
present prosaic age. Those who are unacquainted with
the manners and customs of the Scotch cannot severely
criticize the characteristics he assigns to them; and those
who have resided in the land o' cakes will not fail to be
highly amused with the pictures he draws of its people,
though they differ not a little from those we have met
with in the tales of the author of Waverley," and give us
impressions considerably at variance with such as we
derive from other Scotch novelists of a later date.
One thing, however, is certain, that the readers of "The
Child of the Cavern will be as deeply interested in the
extraordinary adventures of its gallant hero and fair
heroine as they have been in those of the numerous
dramatic persons who play their parts in the almost count-
less numbers of the talented Frenchman's previous works
-works now as well known and as much appreciated in
England as they are in' his native land.
W. H. G. K.
CONTRADICTORY LETTERS I
ON THE ROAD ....12
THE SUBSOIL OF THE UNITED KINGDOM 20
THE DOCHART PIT 31
THE FORD FAMILY 47
SOME STRANGE PHENOMENA 60
SIMON FORD'S EXPERIMENT .68
AN EXPLOSION OF DYNAMITE
NEW ABERFOYLE .
THE FIRE-MAIDENS .
JACK RYAN'S EXPLOITS .
COAL TOWN .
HANGING BY A THREAD .
NELL ADOPTED .
ON THE REVOLVING LADDER
LOCH LOMOND AND LOCH KATRINE 195
A FINAL THREAT 209
THE "MONK" 223
NELL'S WEDDING 235
THE LEGEND OF OLD SILFAX 244
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
A puzzling letter .. 9
Harry Ford ...31
The Engineer and Harry on their way to the Dochart pit 32
The Engineer contemplating the changed aspect of the country 33
The abandoned works of the Dochart pit .36
Jack Ryan above ground 42
Simon Ford 50
Starting on an exploring expedition 59
Harry suspicious 65
The Monk at work 7
The fire-damp shows itself .80
Madge attending to her domestic duties 83
The moment of success .86
The mammoth cave of Aberfoyle. 94
A mysterious accident 100
Prisoners .. 102
The fire-maidens of Dundonald Castle III
The wreck of the" Motala". 113
A dead stop 121
The fate of the explorers 128
Loch Malcolm and Coal Town 134
Holiday in Coal Town 140
Harry's discovery .150
A fearful foe. ..... 152
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. xi
Secrets revealed .. 168
Harry explains his intentions 171
The deadly enemy 178
Nell beholds the starry heavens. 183
" Let her sleep, my boy" 187
Edinburgh Castle 195
Voyage on Loch Lomond 198
Highland travelling 202
The lift at work 209
The cottage menaced. 210
A monster shower-bath 211
Proof of malice prepense 215
Extinguishing the fire 219
Harry in danger .219
The child of the cavern 230
"Wherever you go I will follow" 234
On the watch 235
The supreme moment 241
THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
To Mr. Y. R. Starr, Engineer,
30, Canongate, Edinburgh.
"IF Mr. James Starr will come to-morrow to the Aber-
foyle coal-mines, Dochart pit, Yarrow shaft, a communica-
tion of an interesting nature will be made to him.
Mr. James Starr will be waited for, the whole day, at
the Callander station,'by Harry Ford, son of the old over-
man Simon Ford.
"He is requested to keep this invitation secret."
Such was the letter which James Starr received by the
first post, on the 3rd December, 18-, the letter bearing
the Aberfoyle postmark, county of Stirling, Scotland.
The engineer's curiosity was excited to the highest
pitch. It never occurred to him to doubt whether this
2 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
letter might not be a hoax. For many years he had
known Simon Ford, one of the former foremen of the
Aberfoyle mines, of which he, James Starr, had for twenty
years, been the manager, or, as he would be termed in
English coal-mines, the viewer. James Starr was a strongly-
constituted man, on whom his fifty-five years weighed no
more heavily than if they had been forty. He belonged
to an old Edinburgh family, and was one of its most dis-
tinguished members. His labours did credit to the body
of engineers who are gradually devouring the carboniferous
sub-soil of the United Kingdom, as much at Cardiff and
Newcastle, as in the southern counties of Scotland. How-
ever, it was more particularly in the depths of the mysterious
mines of Aberfoyle, which border on the Alloa mines and
occupy part of the county of Stirling, that the name of
Starr had acquired the greatest renown. There, the greater
part of his existence had been passed. Besides this, James
Starr belonged to the Scottish Antiquarian Society, of
which he had been made president. He was also included
amongst the most active members of the Royal Institution;
and the Edinburgh Review frequently published clever
articles signed by him. He was in fact one of those
practical men to whom is due the prosperity of England.
He held a high rank in the old capital of Scotland, which
not only from a physical but also from a moral point of
view, well deserves the name of the Northern Athens.
CONTRADICTORY LETTERS. 3
We know that the English have given to their vast
extent of coal-mines a very significant name. They
very justly call them the Black Indies," and these Indies
have contributed perhaps even more than the Eastern
Indies to swell the surprising wealth of the United
There, indeed, a whole tribe of miners work, night and
day, to extract from the British subsoil coal, that
precious combustible, the indispensable element of indus-
At this period, the limit of time assigned by professional
men for the exhaustion of coal-mines, was far distant
and there was no dread of scarcity. There were still
extensive mines to be worked in the two Americas. The
manufactories, appropriated to so many different uses,,
locomotives, steamers, gas works, &c., were not likely to
fail for want of the mineral fuel; but the consumption had
so increased during the last few years, that certain beds
had been exhausted even to their smallest veins. Now
deserted, these mines perforated the ground with their
useless shafts and forsaken galleries. This was exactly the
case with the pits of Aberfoyle.
Ten years before, the last butty had raised the last ton
of coal from this colliery. The underground working
stock, traction engines, trucks which run on rails along the
galleries, subterranean tramways, frames to support the
4 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
shaft, pipes-in short, all that constituted the machinery
of a mine had been brought up from its depths. The
exhausted mine was like the body of a huge fantastically-
shaped mastodon, from which all the organs of life have
been taken, and only the skeleton remains.
Nothing was left but long wooden ladders, down the
Yarrow shaft-the only one which now gave access to the
lower galleries of the Dochart pit since the cessation of the
Above ground, the sheds, formerly sheltering the outside
works, still marked the spot where the shaft of that pit
had been sunk, it being now abandoned, as were the other
pits, of which the whole constituted the mines of Aber-
It was a sad day, when for the last time the workmen
quitted the mine, in which they had lived for so many
The engineer, James Starr, had collected the hundreds
of workmen which composed the active and courageous
population of the mine. Overmen, brakemen, putters,
wastemen, barrowmen, masons, smiths, carpenters, outside
and inside labourers, women, children, and old men, all
were collected in the great yard of the Dochart pit,
formerly heaped with coal from the mine.
Many of these families had existed for generations in
the mine of old Aberfoyle; they were now driven to seek
the means of subsistence elsewhere, and they waited sadly
to bid farewell to the engineer.
These honest people, whom the necessities of life forced
to disperse-some of whom had for many long years
worked man and boy in the old Aberfoyle pit-waited,
before leaving it for ever, for the last farewell from the
engineer. The profits of the present year had been dis-
tributed among the men. Little enough it was for the returns
had hardly exceeded the cost of working; but it would be
sufficient to keep them until they got employment, either
in the neighboring collieries, or at the farms and manu-
factories of the county.
James Starr stood upright, at the door of the vast shed
in which he had for so many years superintended the
powerful machines of the shaft.
Simon Ford, the foreman of the Dochart pit, then fifty-
five years of age, and other managers and overseers, sur-
James Starr took off his hat. The miners, cap in hand
kept a profound silence.
This farewell scene was of a touching character, not
wanting in grandeur.
"My friends," said the engineer, the time has come for
us to separate. The Aberfoyle mines, which for so many
years have united us in a common work, are now exhausted.
All our researches have not led to the discovery of a new
6 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
vein, and the last block of coal has just been extracted
from the Dochart pit."
And in confirmation of his words, James Starr pointed
to a lump of coal which had been kept at the bottom of
"This piece of coal, my friends," resumed James Starr,
"is like the last drop of blood which has flowed through
the veins of the mine We shall keep it, as the first frag-
ment of coal is kept, which was extracted a hundred and
fifty years ago from the bearings of Aberfoyle. Between
these two pieces, how many generations of workmen have
succeeded each other in our pits! Now, it is over! The
last words which your engineer will address to you are a
farewell. You have lived in this mine, which your hands
have emptied. The work has been hard, but not without
profit for you. Our great family must disperse, and it is
not probable that the future will ever again unite the
scattered members. But do not forget that we have lived
together for a long time, and that it will be the duty of the
miners of Aberfoyle to help each other. Your old masters
will not forget you either.' When men have worked
together, they must never be strangers to each other again.
We shall keep our eye on you, and wherever you go,
our recommendations shall follow you. Farewell then,
my friends, and may Heaven be with you!"
So saying, James Starr wrung the horny hand of the
oldest miner, whose eyes were dim with tears. Then
the overmen of the different pits came forward to shake
hands with him, whilst the miners waved their caps,
"Farewell, James Starr, our master and our friend !"
This farewell would leave a lasting remembrance in all
these honest hearts. Slowly and sadly the population
quitted the yard. The black soil of the roads leading to
the Dochart pit resounded for the last time to the tread
of miners' feet, and silence succeeded to the bustling life
which had till then filled the Aberfoyle mines.
One man alone remained by James Starr. This was the
overman, Simon Ford. Near him stood a boy, about
fifteen years of age, who for some years already had been
employed down below.
James Starr and Simon Ford knew and esteemed each
Good-bye, Simon," said the engineer.
"Good-bye, Mr. Starr," replied, the overman, "let me
add, till we meet again "
"Yes, till we meet again, Ford answered James Starr.
-'You know that I shall be always glad to see you, and
talk over old times."
"I know that, Mr. Starr."
"My house in Edinburgh is always open to you."
It's a long way off, is Edinburgh! answered the man,
THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN
shaking his head. "Ay, a long way from the Dochart
"A long way off, Simon? Where do you mean to live
Even here, Mr. Starr! We're not going to leave the
mine, our good old nurse, just because her milk is dried
up My wife, my boy, and myself, we mean to remain
faithful to her !"
"Good-bye then, Simon," replied the engineer, whose
voice, in spite of himself, betrayed some emotion.
"No, I tell you, it's till we meet again, Mr. Starr, and not
just 'good-bye,'" returned the foreman. Mark my words,
Aberfoyle will see you again !"
The engineer did not try to dispel the man's illusion.
He patted Harry's head, again wrung the father's hand,
and left the mine.
All this had taken place ten years ago; but, notwith-
standing the wish which the overman had expressed to see
him again, during that time Starr had heard nothing
of him. It was after ten years of separation that
he got this letter from Simon Ford, requesting him
to.take without delay the road to the old Aberfoyle col-
A communication of an interesting nature, what could it
be? Dochart pit, Yarrow shaft! What recollections of
the past these names brought back to him! Yes, that
A puzzling letter.
was a fine time, that of work, of struggle,-the best part
of the engineer's life.
Starr re-read'his letter. He pondered over it in all its
bearings. He much regretted that just a line more had
not been added by Ford. He wished he had not been
quite so laconic.
Was it possible that the old foreman had discovered
some new vein? No!
Starr remembered with what minute care the mines had
been explored before the definite cessation of the works.
He had himself proceeded to the lowest soundings without
finding the least trace in the soil, burrowed in every direc-
tion. They had even attempted to find coal under strata
which are usually below it, such as the Devonian red sand-
stone, but without result. James Starr had therefore
abandoned the mine with the absolute conviction that it
did not contain another bit of coal.
No," he repeated, "no! How is it possible that any-
thing which could have escaped my researches, should be
revealed to those of Simon Ford. However, the old over-
man must well know that such a discovery would be the
one thing in the world to interest me, and this invitation,
which I must keep secret, to repair to the Dochart
James Starr always came back to that.
On the other hand, the engineer knew Ford to be a
IO THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
clever miner, peculiarly endowed with the instinct of his
trade. He had not seen him since the time when the
Aberfoyle colliery was abandoned, and did not know
either what he was doing or where he was living, with his
wife and his son. All that he now knew was, that a ren-
dezvous had been appointed him at the Yarrow shaft, and
that Harry, Simon Ford's son, was to wait for him during
the whole of the next day at the Callander station. It was
evidently quite necessary for him to visit the Dochart pit.
"I shall go, I shall go!" said Starr, his excitement
increasing as the time drew near.
Our worthy engineer belonged to that class of men
whose brain is always on the boil, like' a kettle on a hot
fire. In some of these brain kettles the ideas bubble over,
in others they just simmer quietly. Now on this day
James Starr's ideas were boiling fast.
But suddenly an unexpected incident occurred. This
was the drop of cold water, which in a moment was to
condense all the vapours of the brain.
About six in the evening, by the third post, Starr's
servant brought him a second letter. This letter was
enclosed in a coarse envelope, and evidently directed by a
hand unaccustomed to the use of a pen.
James Starr tore it open. It contained only a scrap of
paper, yellowed by time, and apparently torn out of an old
CONTRADICTORY LETTERS. II
On this paper was written a single sentence, thus worded:
"It is useless for the engineer James Starr to trouble
himself,-Simon Ford's letter being now without object."
12 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
ON THE ROAD.
THE course of James Starr's ideas was abruptly stopped,
when he got this second letter contradicting the first.
"What does this mean ?" said he to himself.
He took up the torn envelope, and examined it. Like
the other, it bore the Aberfoyle postmark. It had therefore
come from the same part of the county of Stirling. The
old miner had evidently not written it. But, no less
evidently, the author of this second letter knew the over-
man's secret, since it expressly contradicted the invitation
to the engineer to go to the Yarrow shaft.
Was it really true that the first communication was now
without object? Did some one wish to prevent James
Starr, from troubling himself either uselessly or otherwise ?
Might there not be rather a malevolent intention to thwart
Ford's plans ?
This was the conclusion at which James Starr arrived,
ON THE ROAD. 13
after mature reflection. The contradiction which existed
between the two letters only wrought in him a more keen
desire to visit the Dochart pit. Arid besides, if after all
it was a hoax, it was well worth while to prove it. Starr
also thought it wiser to give more credence to the first
letter than to the second; that is to say, to the request of
such a man as Simon Ford, rather than to the warning of
his anonymous contradictor.
Indeed," said he; "the fact of any one endeavouring
to influence my resolution, shows that Ford's communica-
tion must be of great importance. To-morrow, at the
appointed time, I will be at the rendezvous."
In the evening, Starr made his preparations for de-
parture. As it might happen that his absence would be
prolonged for some days, he wrote to Sir W. Elphiston,
President of the Royal Institution, that he should be unable
to be present at the next meeting of the Society. He also
wrote to excuse himself from two or three engagements
which he had made for the week. Then, having ordered
his servant to pack a travelling-bag, he went to bed, more
excited than the affair perhaps warranted.
The next day, at five o'clock, James Starr jumped out
of bed, dressed himself warmly, for.a cold rain was falling,
and left his house in the Canongate, to go to Granton
Pier to catch the steamer, which in three hours would take
him up the Forth as far as Stirling.
14 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
SFor the first time in his life, perhaps, in passing along the
Canongate,' he did not turn to look at Holyrood, the palace
of the former sovereigns of Scotland. He did not notice
the sentinels who stood before its gateways, dressed 'in
the uniform of their Highland regiment, tartan kilt, plaid
and sporran complete. On he strode regardless of his
usual interest in anything described by Sir Walter Scott,
past the inn at which Waverley dismounted, and where
the tailor brought him the famous Highland dress, which
the widow Flockhart so naively admired. He did not
even glance at the spot where the Highlanders discharged
their muskets, after the victory of the Pretender, at the
risk of killing Flora Maclvor. He certainly looked at the
prison called the Heart of Mid-Lothian, but only to see
by its grim, old projecting clock, that he was in time
for his train. He saw nothing of the house of the great
reformer John Knox, the only man who could resist the
smiles of Mary Stuart. From the High Street he turned
on to the North Bridge, and soon reached the Waverley
Half an hour after the train set him down at Granton,
a pretty village, situated near Leith, the port of Edin-
burgh. The rising tide was rapidly covering the black
and stony shore, and the waves were already washing up
SA famous street in the Old Town.
ON THE ROAD. 15
against a little jetty. On the left, one of the boats which
ply,up and down the Forth between Edinburgh and Stir-
ling, was moored to the Granton Pier.
Just then, the funnel of the "Prince of Wales" steamer
began to vomit out torrents of black smoke, and its boiler
snorted fiercely. A bell rang hastily, and tardy travellers
began to. run.
James Starr was not the last to embark. He quietly
stepped on to the deck of the "Prince of Wales." Although
it was raining hard, not one of the passengers thought of
taking shelter in the saloon of the boat. All remained
motionless, covered up in their travelling wraps, a few
solacing themselves now and then with a pull at their
flasks. The bell rang for the last time, the ropes were
cast off, and the "Prince of Wales" backed out of the
little basin which sheltered her from the waves of the
The Firth of Forth is the name given to the gulf between
the counties of Fife on the north, and Linlithgow, Edin-
burgh, and Haddington on the south. It is the estuary of
the Forth, a small river, which springs from the sides of
Ben Lomond, and widens into a noble Firth below Grange-
The voyage from Granton Pier to the extremity of the
gulf would be short, but for the necessity of touching at
different places on the two banks, which causes numerous
16 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
detours. The towns, villages and cottages on the banks
of the Forth stand out among the trees of a fertile country.
James Starr, sheltered under the bridge of the steamer
did not even try to see anything of the country, then con-
cealed by the driving rain. He was chiefly anxious to
find out whether he attracted special attention from any
passenger. The author of the anonymous letter might,
perhaps, be on board. However, the engineer could not
catch any suspicious glance.
On leaving Granton, the "Prince of Wales" steamed
between the two points of North Queensferry and South
Queensferry, beyond which the Forth forms a sort of lake,
navigable for vessels of a hundred tons. Every now and
then, when the mist lifted, the snowy summits of the
Grampians could be seen.
The steamer soon lost sight of the village of Aberdour,
the isle of Inch Colm, crowned by the ruins of a monastery
of the twelfth century, the remains of the castle of Barn-
bougle, then Donibristle, where the son-in-law of the
Regent Murray was assassinated, and passed the fortified
island of Garvie; leaving on the left the castle of Rosyth,
where formerly resided the branch of the Stuarts to whom
the mother of Cromwell was related. Blackness Castle
was next seen, still fortified, conformably with one of the
articles in the treaty of the Union, and the boat ran along-
side the quay of the little harbour of Charlestown from
ON THE ROAD. 17
whence the limestone from Lord Elgin's quarries is ex-
ported. The next stopping-place was Crombie Point.
The weather was still very bad. The rain and wind
splashed and howled in concert, and blotted out the land-
scape with a driving mist.
James Starr was not without some anxiety. Was Harry
Ford sure to be at the rendezvous ? He knew by ex-
perience that miners, accustomed to the calm of the mines,
are more unwilling than workmen or labourers to face the
inclemencies of the weather, and from Callander to the
Dochart pit being a distance of four miles, the arrival of
the old overman's son might easily be delayed. However,
the engineer was more occupied with the idea that the
appointment made in the first letter was contradicted in
the second. Truth to say, this was his chief concern.
At any rate, if Harry Ford could not be found at the
Callander Station, James Starr had quite decided that he
would go alone to the Dochart pit, and if necessary to the
village of Aberfoyle. There he would no doubt get news of
Simon Ford, and learn at what place the old man actually
In the meantime, the "Prince of Wales" continued to
churn its way along. Nothing could be seen of the banks
nor of the village of Crombie, nor Torryburn, Torryhouse
Newmills, Carriden House, Kirkgrange and Saltpans on
the right. The little port of Bo'ness, and Grangemouth
18 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
port, at the mouth of the Clyde canal, were hidden in the
damp fog. The old town of Culross and the ruins of its
abbey of Citeaux; Kincardine and its building-yards, at
which the boat touched, Ayrth Castle, with its square
tower of the thirteenth century, Clackmannan and its
castle, built by Robert Bruce, were all concealed in the
The Prince of Wales stopped at Alloa to land a few
passengers. James Starr's heart beat as he passed after
ten years' absence, near this little town, where large
collieries still supported a numerous population of workers.
His imagination carried him down into those subterranean
regions in which the miners' picks found plenty of work.
These Alloa mines, contiguous to those of Aberfoyle, con-
tinued to enrich the county, whilst the neighboring mines,
exhausted many years ago, did not contain a single worker.
On leaving Alloa, the steamer followed the windings,
which the Forth takes for a distance of nineteen miles
between fine trees on either side. For one moment the
fog cleared enough to show the ruins of the abbey of Cam-
buskennette, which dates from the twelfth century. Then
came the castle of Stirling and the royal town of that
name, and here the Forth, traversed by two bridges, is no
longer navigable for tall-masted vessels.
The moment the "Prince of Wales" touched the quay,
the engineer leapt ashore. Five minutes after he was at
ON THE ROAD.
the station. An hour later he alighted from the train at
Callander, a large village on the left bank of the Firth.
There, in the station, stood a young man, who imme-
diately advanced to meet the engineer.
It was Harry, the son of Simon Ford.
THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
THE SUBSOIL OF THE UNITED KINGDOM.
THE better to understand this narrative, it will be as well
to hear a few words on the origin of coal.
During the geological epoch, when the terrestrial spheroid
was still in course of formation, a thick atmosphere sur-
rounded it, saturated with watery vapours, and copiously
impregnated with carbonic acid. The vapours gradually
condensed in diluvial rains, which fell as if they had
leapt from the necks of thousands of millions of Seltzer
water bottles. This liquid, loaded with carbonic acid,
rushed in torrents over a deep soft soil, subject to sudden or
slow alterations of form, and maintained in its semi-fluid
state as much by the heat of the sun as by the fires of the
interior mass. The internal heat had not as yet been col-
lected in the centre of the globe. The terrestrial crust, thin
and incompletely hardened, allowed it to spread through
its pores. This caused a peculiar form of vegetation, such
THE SUBSOIL OF THE UNITED KINGDOM. 21
as is probably produced on the surface of the inferior
planets, -Venus or Mercury, which revolve nearer than our
earth around. the radiant Sun of our system.
The soil of the continents was covered with immense
forests. Carbonic acid, so suitable for the development of
the vegetable kingdom, abounded. The vegetables also
grew under an arborescent form; there was not a single
herbaceous plant. The ground was everywhere covered
with dense masses of trees, without flowers or fruits, of a
monotonous aspect, and not supplying nourishment for the
support of even a single living creature. The earth was
not yet ready for the appearance of the animal kingdom.
These antediluvian forests were composed as follows :-
The order of vascular cryptogams predominated. Cala-
mints, varieties of arborescent horsetail, lepidodendrons, a
sort of giant lycopod, seventy or eighty feet high, astero-
phylls, ferns, sigillaries, &c., of gigantic proportions, of which
impressions have been found in the mines of Saint 'Etienne,
all grand vegetable productions then, but now anything
similar to them can only be found among the humblest
botanic specimens of the habitable earth; such, with small
variety in their species, but enormous in their develop-
ment, were the vegetables which exclusively formed the
forests of this period.
The feet of these trees were drowned in a sort of
immense lagoon, kept continually full by currents of fresh
22 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
and salt waters. They eagerly assimilated to themselves
the carbon which they, little by little extracted from the
atmosphere, as yet unfit for the function of life, and it may
be said that they were destined to store it, in the form of
coal, in the very bowels of the earth.
It was the earthquake period, caused by internal convul-
sions, which suddenly modified the unsettled features of
the terrestrial surface. Here, an intumescence which was
to become a mountain, there, an abyss which was to be filled
with an ocean or a sea. There, whole forests sunk through
the earth's crust, below the unfixed strata, either until they
found a resting-place, such as the primitive bed of granitic
rock, or,settling together in a heap, they formed a solid mass.
The geological structure is built up in the following
order: in the depths of the globe is the primitive soil,
which surmounts the rugged layer, composed of the primary
rocks; then come the secondary rocks, of which the veins
of coal form the lower beds; then the tertiary rocks, and
above all the ancient and modern alluvial deposits.
As the waters were contained in no bed, and were spread
over every part of the globe, they, rushed where they liked,
tearing from the scarcely-formed rocks material with which
to compose schists, sandstones, and limestones. This the
roving waves bore over the submerged and nowpeaty forests,
and deposited above them the elements of rocks which were
to superpose the coal strata. In course of time, periods
THE SUBSOIL OF TIE UNITED KINGDOM.
of which include millions of years, these earths hardened in
layers, and enclosed under a thick carapace of pudding-
stone, schist, compact or friable sandstone, gravel and
stones, the whole of the massive forests.
And what went on in this gigantic crucible, where all
this vegetable matter had accumulated, sunk to various
depths ? A regular chemical operation, a sort of distilla-
tion. All the carbon contained in these vegetables had
agglomerated, and little by little coal was forming under
the double influence of enormous pressure and the high
temperature maintained by the internal fires, at this time
so close to it.
Thus there was one kingdom substituted for another in
this slow but irresistible reaction. The vegetable was
transformed into a mineral. Plants which had lived the
vegetative life in all the vigour of first creation became
petrified. Some of the substances enclosed in this vast
herbal left their impression on the other more rapidly
mineralized products, which pressed them as an hydraulic
press of incalculable power would have done.
Thus also shells, zoophytes, star-fish, polypi, spirifores
even fish and lizards brought by the water, left on the yet
soft coal their exact likeness, "admirably taken off."
SIt must be remarked that all these plants of which impressions
have been found belong to species now only found in the equatorial
zsnes. We may conclude that at that time heat was equal all over the
THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
Pressure seems to have played a considerable part in the
formation of carboniferous strata.. In fact, it is to its
degree of power that are due the different sorts of coal, of
which industry makes use. Thus in the lowest layers-of
the coal ground appears the anthracite, which, being
almost destitute-of volatile matter, contains the greatest
quantity of carbon. In the higher beds are found, on the
contrary, lignite and fossil wood, substances in which the
quantity of carbon is infinitely less. Between these two
beds, according to the degree of pressure to which they
have been subjected, are found veins of graphite and rich
or poor coal. It may be asserted that it is for want of
sufficient pressure that beds of peaty bog have not been
completely changed into coal. So then, the origin of coal
mines, in whatever part of the globe they have been dis-
covered, is this; the absorption through the terrestrial
crust of the great forests of the geological period ; then, the
mineralization of .the vegetables obtained in the course of
time, under the influence of pressure and heat, and under
the action of carbonic acid...
However, nature, usually so-lavish, has not buried forests
in numbers sufficient for a consumption which may con-
world, either that it was brought by currents of warm water, or that
the interior fires were felt through the porous crist. In this way the
formation of carboniferous veins under every latitude may be accounted
THE SUBSOIL OF THE UNITED KINGDOM. 25
tinue some thousands of years. Coal will fail one day,
that is certain. A forced stoppage will be imposed on the
machinery of the whole world, if some new combustible is
not found to replace coal. At a more or less distant
period, there will be no more coal seams, unless it be those
covered by an eternal sheet of ice, in Greenland, on the
shores of Baffin's Bay, where excavations would be next to
impossible. This consummation is inevitable. The coal
mines of America, of Salt Lake, Oregon, and California,
now prodigiously rich, will one day yield but a scanty sup-
ply. It will be the same with the mines of Cape Breton,
and of the St. Lawrence, of the veins in the Alleghanies,
of Pennsylvania, of Virginia, of Illinois, of Indiana, of the
Missouri. Although the carboniferous strata of North
America must be ten times larger than any others in the
world, a hundred centuries will not pass before the monster
with millions of manufacturing throats will have devoured
the last lump.of coal in the globe.
Scarcity will of course be felt sooner in the Old World.
Many beds of combustible mineral exist in Abyssinia,
Natal, on the Zambesi, in Mozambique, Madagascar; but
their regular working would offer very great difficulties.
Those of the Birman Empire, China, Cochin-China,
Japan, and Central Asia, will be very soon exhausted.
The English will have certainly emptied Australia of its
carboniferous treasures, before the day when coal will
26 -* THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
fail' in the United Kingdom, previous to which, also, the
carboniferous seams of Europe, probed to their innermost
veins, will have been abandoned.
We may judge by the following figures of the quan-
tity of coal which has been consumed since the discovery
of the first bearings. The coal-beds of Russia, Saxony,
and Bavaria, comprise six hundred thousand acres, those of
Spain, a hundred and fifty thousand, those of Bohemia and
Austria, a hundred and fifty thousand. The Belgian beds,
a hundred and twenty miles long, and nine miles wide, also
contain a hundred and fifty thousand acres, which extend
beneath the territories of Liege, Namur, Mons, and Char-
leroi. In France, the bed situated between the Loire and
the Rhone, Rive-de-Gier, Saint-Etienne, Givors, Epinac,
Blanzy, the Creuzot; the mines of the Gard, Alais, the
Grand Combe; those of the Aveyron to Aubin, the beds of
Carnaux, Barsac, Graissessac; in the north, Auzin, Valen-
ciennes, Lens, Bethune, contain nearly three hundred and
fifty thousand acres.
The country most rich in coal, is unquestionably Great
Britain. Without including Ireland, which is almost entirely
deficient in the combustible mineral, it possesses enormous
carboniferous wealth; but like all wealth it is exhaust-
ible. The most important of these different beds, that
of Newcastle, which occupies the subsoil of the county
of Northumberland, produces annually about thirty mil-
THE SUBSOIL OF TIIE UNITED KINGDOM. 27
lion tons; that is to say, nearly the third of the English
consumption, and more than double what is produced in
France. The mines in Wales, which have concentrated a
whole population of miners at Cardiff, Swansea, and New-
port, yield annually ten million tons of the much-prized
Welsh coal. Less productive, though still very profitable;
are the mines in the counties of York, Lancaster, Derby,
and Stafford. Lastly, in that part of Scotland situated
between Edinburgh and Glasgow, between the two Firths
which indent it so deeply, lies one of the largest coal-beds in
the United Kingdom. The whole of these different beds do
not contain less than sixteen hundred thousand acres, and
produce annually a hundred million tons of the grimy fuel.
But what of that ? The consumption will become so tre-
mendous, as the demands of industry and commerce increase,
that even these vast riches will be exhausted. Ere the close
of a third millennium of the Christian era, the European
miners' hand will have emptied those magazines in which, so
to speak, is concentrated the solar heat ofearth's early days.'
2Taking into consideration the progressive increase in the con-
sumption of coal, the latest calculations assign, in Europe, the following
limits to the exhaustion of mineral fuel:-
France .. in 1140 years.
England. in 800
Belgium .. in 750 ,
Germany in 300 ,,
In America, at the rate of 500 millions of tons annually, the beds
could produce coal for 6000 years.
THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
Now, at the time when the events related in this story
took place, one of the most important mines of the Scottish
coal-beds had been exhausted by too rapid working. In
this region, which extends between Edinburgh and Glasgow,
for a distance of ten or twelve miles, lay the Aberfoyle col-
liery, of which the engineer, James Starr, had so long
directed the works.
For ten years these mines had been abandoned. No
new seams had been discovered, although the soundings
had been carried to a depth of fifteen hundred or even of
two thousand feet, and when James Starr had retired, it
was with the full conviction that even the smallest vein had
been completely exhausted.
Under these circumstances, it was plain that the dis-
covery of a new seam of coal would be an important event.
Could Simon Ford's communication relate to a fact of this
nature ? This question James Starr could not cease asking
himself. Was he called to make conquest of another corner
of these rich Treasure Fields ? Fain would he hope it was so.
The second letter had for an instant checked his specula-
tions on this subject, but now he thought of that letter no
longer. Besides, the son of the old overman was there,
waiting at the appointed rendezvous. The anonymous
letter was therefore worth nothing.
The moment the engineer set foot on the platform the
young man advanced towards him.
THE SUBSOIL OF TIE UNITED KINGDOM. 29
"Are you Harry Ford ?" asked the engineer quickly.
"Yes, Mr. Starr."
"I should not have known you, my lad. Of course in
ten years you have become a man!"
I knew you directly, sir," replied the young miner, cap
in hand. "You have not changed. You look just as you
did when you bade us good-bye in the Dochart pit. I
haven't forgotten that day."
"Put on your cap, Harry," said the engineer. "It's
pouring with rain, and politeness needn't make you catch
Shall we take shelter anywhere, Mr. Starr?" asked young
"No, Harry. The weather is settled. It will rain all
day, and I am in a hurry. Let us go on."
"I am at your orders," replied Harry.
"Tell me, Harry, is your father well ?"
"Very well, Mr. Starr."
"And your mother ?"
"She is well too."
"Was it your father who wrote telling me to come to the
Yarrow shaft ?"
"No, it was I."
"Then did Simon Ford send me a second letter to
contradict the first?" asked the engineer quickly.
"No, Mr. Starr," answered the young miner.
30 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
"Verywell,"said Starr,without speaking of the anonymous
"And can you tell me what your father wants with me ?"
"Mr. Starr, my father wishes to tell you himself."
"But you know what it is ?"
"I do, sir."
"Well, Harry, I will not ask you more. But let us get
on, for I'm anxious to see Simon Ford. By-the-bye, where
does he live ?"
"In the mine."
"What! In the Dochart pit ?"
"Yes, Mr. Starr," replied Harry.
"Really! has your family never left the old mine since
the cessation of the works ?"
"Not a day, Mr. Starr. You know my father. It is
there he was born, it is there he means to die!"
"I can understand that, Harry. I can understand that!
His native mine! He did not like to abandon it! And
are you happy there ?"
"Yes, Mr. Starr," replied the young miner, "for we love
one another, and we have but few wants."
"Well, Harry," said the engineer, "lead the way."
And walking rapidly through the streets of Callander, in
a few minutes they had left the t9wn behind them.
TIIE DOCHART PIT. 31
THE DOCHART PIT.
HARRY FORD was a fine, strapping fellow of five-and-
twenty. His grave looks, his habitually passive expression,
had from childhood been noticed among his comrades in the
mine. His regular features, his deep blue eyes, his curly
hair, rather chestnut than fair, the natural grace of his
person, altogether made him a fine specimen of a lowlander.
Accustomed from his earliest days to the work of the mine,
he was strong and hardy, as well as brave and good.
Guided by his father, and impelled by his own inclinations,
he had early begun his education, and at an age when most
lads are little more than apprentices, he had managed to
make himself'of some importance, a leader, in fact, among
his fellows, and few are very ignorant in a country which
does all it can to remove ignorance. Though, during the
first years of his youth, the pick was never out of Harry's
hand, nevertheless the young miner was not long in acquir-
32 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
ing sufficient knowledge to raise him into the upper class of
the miners, and he would certainly have succeeded his father
as overman of the Dochart pit, if the colliery had not been
James Starr was still a good walker, yet he could not
easily have kept up with his guide, if the latter had not
slackened his pace. The rain was now falling with less
violence. The big drops broke and dispersed before they
reached the earth. It was now rather a heavy, damp mist
driven through the air by a fresh breeze.
Harry Ford and James Starr, the. young man carrying
the engineer's bag, followed the left bank of the river for
about a mile. Leaving its winding course, they took a
road under tall, dripping trees. Wide fields lay on either
side, around isolated farms. In one field a herd of hornless
cows were quietly grazing; in another sheep with silky wool,
like those in a child's toy sheep-fold. No shepherd was to
be seen, he was probably sheltering himself in some hollow
tree; but his colley, a dog peculiar to this country, and
renowned for his vigilance, was roaming about the pasture.
The Yarrow shaft was situated four miles from Callander.
Whilst walking, James Starr could not but be struck with
the.change in the country. He had not seen it since the
day when the last ton of Aberfoyle coal had been emptied
into railway trucks to be sent to Glasgow. Agricultural
life had now taken the place of the more stirring, active,
" -\ '
The Engineer and Harry on their way to the Dochart Pit.
The Engineer contemplating the changed aspect of the country.
THE DOCHART PIT. 33
industrial life. The contrast was all the greater because,
during winter, field-work is at a stand-still. But formerly,
at whatever season, the mining population, above and below
ground, filled the scene with animation. Great waggons of
coal used to be passing night and day. The rails, with
their rotten sleepers, now disused, were then constantly
ground by the weight of waggons. Now stony roads took
the place of the old mining tramways. James Starr felt as
if he was traversing a desert.
The engineer gazed about him with a saddened eye. He
stopped now and then to take breath. He listened. The
air was no longer filled with distant whistlings and the
panting of engines. None of those black vapours which the
manufacturer loves to see, hung in the horizon, mingling
with the clouds. No tall cylindrical or prismatic chimney
vomited out smoke, after being fed from the mine itself; 'no
blast-pipe was puffing out its white, vapour. The ground,
formerly black with coal-dust, had a bright look, to which
James Starr's eyes were not accustomed.
When the engineer stood still, Harry Ford stopped also.
The young miner waited in silence. He felt what was pass-
ing in his companion's mind, and he shared his feelings; he,
a child of the mine, whose whole life had been passed in its
"Yes, Harry, it is all changed," said Starr. "But, at the
rate we worked, of course the treasures of coal would
34 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
have been exhausted some day. Do you regret that
"I do regret it, Mr. Starr," answered Harry. "The work
was hard, but it was interesting, as are all struggles."
"No doubt, my lad. A continuous struggle against the
dangers of landslips, fires, inundations, explosions of fire-
damp, like claps of thunder. One had to guard against
all those perils! You say well! It was a struggle, and
consequently an exciting life.'
The miners of Alva have been more favoured than the
miners of Aberfoyle, Mr. Starr!"
"Ay, Harry, so they have," replied the engineer.
Indeed," cried the young man, it's a pity that all the
globe was not made of coal; then there would have been
enough to last millions of years !"
"No doubt there'would, Harry; it must be acknow-
ledged, however, that nature has shown more forethought
by forming our sphere principally of sandstone, limestone,
and granite, which fire cannot consume."
"Do you mean to say, Mr. Starr, that mankind would
have ended by burning their own globe ?"
"Yes The whole of it, my lad," answered the engineer.
"The earth would have passed to the last bit into the
furnaces of engines, machines, steamers, gas-factories;
certainly, that would have been the end of our world one
fine day I"
THE DOCHART PIT. 35
"There is no fear of that now, Mr. Starr. But yet, the
mines will be exhausted no doubt, and more rapidly than
the statistics make out!"
"That will happen, Harry; and in my opinion England
is very wrong in exchanging her fuel for the gold of
other nations! I know well," added the engineer, "that
neither hydraulics nor electricity have yet shown all they
can do, and that some day these two forces will be more
completely utilized. But no matter! Coal is of a very
practical use, and lends itself easily to the various wants
.of industry. Unfortunately man cannot produce it at
will.. Though our external forests grow incessantly under
the influence" of heat and water, our subterranean forests
will not be reproduced, and if they were, the globe would
never be in the state necessary to make them into coal."
James Starr and his guide, whilst talking, had continued
their walk at a rapid pace. An hour after leaving Cal-
lander they reached the Dochart pit.
The most indifferent person would have been touched at
the appearance this deserted spot presented. It was like
the skeleton of something that had formerly lived.
A few wretched trees bordered a plain where the ground
was hidden under the black dust of the mineral fuel, but
no cinders nor even fragments of coal were to be seen. All
had been carried away and consumed long ago.
On a mound stood an immense framework, slowly de-
36 THE CHILD OF TIE CAVERN.
caying under the influence of the sun and rain. At the
top. of the framework appeared a huge cast-iron wheel, and
lower. down could be seen great rollers, over which the
cables to bring the baskets up to the surface formerly ran.
In the lower story was the empty engine-room, formerly
so bright with all the polished steel and brass- of the
machinery. Bits of the wall lay on the ground with joists
broken and green with damp. Remains of beams to which
were jointed the rods of exhaust-pumps, greasy iron wedges,
toothless pinions, overturned weighing machines, a few
ladders fixed up on the walls, each looking like the back-
bone of an ichthyosaurus, rails carried along a line. still
supported by two or three rickety piles, tramways which
could not.have borne the weight of an empty truck,-such
was the desolate aspect of the Dochart pit.
The worn kerbstone of the shaft was hidden by thick
moss. Here lay the remains of a basket, there a yard
where coal used to be stored, and sorted according to its
quality and size. Broken casks, to which hung the end
of a chain, fragments of gigantic buttresses, pieces, of burst
boilers, twisted pistons, long beams stretching over the
opening of the pump-well, bridges trembling in the wind,
culverts shaking under foot, walls cracking, roofs falling in,
chimneys all disjointed, resembling those ancient cannons
of which the breech is hooped with cylindrical rings; all
this gave a vivid impression of desertion, misery, and sad-
The abandoned works of the Dochart Pit.
THE DOCHART PIT. 37
ness, beyond anything suggested by the ruins of an old
stone castle, or the remains of a dismantled fortress.
"It is utter desolation!" said James Starr, looking at
the young man, who did not reply.
They walked into the shed which covered the opening
of the Yarrow shaft, whence ladders still gave access to the
lower galleries of the pit. The engineer bent over the
Formerly from this place could be heard the powerful
whistle of the air inhaled by the ventilators. It was now
a silent abyss. It was like being at the mouth of some
James Starr and Harry stepped on to the upper landing-
When the mine was being worked, ingenious machines
were used in certain shafts of the Aberfoyle colliery, which
in this respect was very well off; frames furnished with
automatic lifts, working in wooden slides, oscillating ladders,
called man-engines," which, by a simple movement, per-
mitted the miners to descend without danger and mount up
But all these appliances had been carried away, after the
cessation of the works. In the Yarrow shaft there re-
mained only a long succession of ladders, separated at
every fifty feet by narrow landings. Thirty of these
ladders placed thus end to end led the visitor down into the
THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
lower gallery, a depth of fifteen hundred feet. This was
the only way of communication which existed between the
bottom of the Iochart pit and the open air. As to air,
that came in by the Yarrow shaft, from whence galleries
communicated with another shaft whose orifice opened at
a higher level; the warm air naturally escaped by this
species of inverted siphon.
"I will follow you, my lad," said the engineer, signing to
the young man to precede him.
"As you please, Mr. Starr."
"Have you your lamp ?"
"Yes, and I only wish it was still the safety lamp, which
we formerly had to use!"
Sure enough," returned James Starr, "there is no fear
of fire-damp explosions now!"
Harry was provided with a simple oil lamp, the wick of
which he lighted. In the mine, now empty of coal, escapes
of light carburetted hydrogen could not occur. As no
explosion need be feared, there was no necessity for inter-
posing between the flame and the surrounding air that
metallic screen which prevents the gas from catching fire.
The Davy lamp was of no use here. But if the danger did
not exist, it was because the cause of it had disappeared,
and with this cause, the combustible in which formerly
consisted the riches of the Dochart pit.
Harry descended' the first steps of the upper ladder.
THE DOCHART PIT.
Starr followed. They soon found themselves in a pro-
found obscurity, which was only relieved by the glimmer
of the lamp. The young man held it above his head, the
better to light his companion. A dozen ladders were
descended by the engineer and his guide, with the measured
step habitual to the miner. They were all still in good
James Starr examined, as well as the insufficient light
would permit, the sides of the dark shaft, which were
covered by a partly rotten lining of wood.
Arrived at the fifteenth landing, that is to say, half-way
down, they halted for a few minutes.
"Decidedly, I have not your legs, my lad," said the
"You are stout, Mr. Starr," replied Harry, "and it's
something too, you see, to have lived all one's life in the
S"Right, Harry. Formerly, when I was twenty, I could
have gone down all at a breath. Come, forward !"
But just as the two were about to leave the platform,
a voice, as yet far distant, was heard in the depths of the
shaft. It came up like a sonorous billow, swelling as it
advanced, and becoming more and more distinct.
"Halloo who comes here ?" asked the engineer, stop-
"I cannot say," answered the young miner.
THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
"Is it not your father ?"
"My father, Mr. Starr? no."
Some neighbour, then ?"
"We have no neighbours in the bottom of the pit,"
replied Harry. We are alone, quite alone."
"Well, we must let this intruder pass," said James Starr.
"Those who are descending must yield the path to those
who are ascending."
The voice broke out again with a magnificent burst, as if
it had been carried through a vast speaking-trumpet; and
soon a few'words of a Scotch song came clearly to the ears
of the young miner.
"The Hundred Pipers!" cried Harry. "Well, I shall
be much surprised if that comes from the lungs of any man
but Jack Ryan."
"And who is this Jack Ryan, who sings so well ?" asked
"An old mining comrade," replied Harry.
Then leaning from the platform,-
Halloo Jack !" he shouted.
"Is that you, Harry ?" was the reply. "Wait a bit, I'm
And the song broke forth.again.
In a few minutes, a tall fellow of five-and-twenty, with
a merry face, smiling eyes, a laughing mouth, and sandy
THE DOCHART PIT. 41
hair, appeared at the bottom of the luminous cone which
was thrown from his lantern, and set foot, on the landing
of the fifteenth ladder.
His first act was to vigorously wring the hand which
Harry extended to him.
Delighted to meet you!" he exclaimed. If I had
only known you were to be above ground to-day, I would
have spared myself the trouble of going down the Yarrow
"This is Mr. James Starr," said Harry, turning his lamp
towards the engineer who was in the shadow.
"Mr. Starr!" cried Jack Ryan. "Ah sir, I could not
see who it was. Since I left the mine, my eyes have
not been accustomed to see in the dark, as they used
"Ah, yes, now I remember a laddie who was always
singing. That was ten years ago. It was you, no
"Ay, Mr. Starr, but in changing my trade, I haven't
changed my disposition. It's far better to laugh and sing
than to cry and whine!"
You're right there, Jack Ryan. And what do you do
now, as you have left the mine ?"
"I am working on the Melrose farm, near Irvine, in
Renfrewshire, forty miles from here. Ah, it's not like our
Aberfoyle mines I The pick comes better to my hand than
42 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
the spade or hoe. And then, in the old pit, there were
vaulted roofs, to merrily echo one's songs, while up above
ground! But you are going to see old Simon, Mr.
"Yes, Jack," answered the engineer.
Don't let me keep you then."
"Tell me, Jack," said Harry, "what was taking you to
our cottage to-day ?"
"I wanted to see you, man," replied Jack, and ask you
to come to the Irvine games. You know I am the piper
of the place. There will be dancing and singing."
"Thank you, Jack, but it's impossible."
"Yes; Mr. Starr's visit will last some time, and I must
take him back to Callander."
"Well, Harry, it won't be for a week yet. By that time
Mr. Starr's visit will be over, I should think, and there will
be nothing to keep you at the cottage."
Indeed, Harry," said James Starr, "you must profit by
your friend Jack's invitation."
"Well, I accept it, Jack," said Harry. In a week we
will meet at Irvine."
"In a week, that's settled," returned Ryan. Good-bye,
Harry! Your servant, Mr. Starr. I am very glad to have
seen you again! I can give news of you to all my friends,
No one has forgotten you, sir."
Jack Ryan above ground.
THE DOCHART PIT.
"And I have forgotten no one," said Starr.
"Thanks for all, sir," replied Jack.
Good-bye, Jack," said Harry, shaking his friend by the
And Jack Ryan, singing as he went, soon disappeared
in the heights of the shaft, dimly lighted by his
A quarter of an hour afterwards James Starr and Harry
descended the last ladder, and set foot on the lowest floor
of the pit.
From the bottom of the Yarrow shaft radiated numerous
empty galleries. They ran through the wall of schist and
sandstone, some shored up with great, roughly-hewn beams,
others lined with a thick casing of wood. In every direction
embankments supplied the place of the excavated veins.
Artificial pillars were made of stone from neighboring
quarries, and now they supported the ground, that is to say,
the double layer of tertiary and quaternary soil, which
formerly rested on the seam itself. Darkness now filled the
galleries, formerly lighted either by the miner's lamp or by
the electric light, the use of which had been introduced in
the mines. But the dismal tunnels no longer resounded
with the grinding of trucks along their rails, the voices of men,
the neighing of horses and mules, the blows of the miner's
pick, nor the crash of the blasting which broke down the
44 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
"Will you not rest a while, Mr. Starr?" asked the young
"No, my lad," replied the engineer, "for I am anxious to
be at your father's cottage."
"Follow me then, Mr. Starr. I will guide you, and yet I
daresay you could find your way perfectly well through this
"Yes indeed I have the whole plan of the old pit still
in my head."
Harry, followed by the engineer, and holding his lamp
high the better to light their way, walked along a high
gallery, like the nave of a cathedral. Their feet still struck
against the wooden sleepers which used to support the
But they had not gone more than fifty paces, when a huge
stone fell at the feet of James Starr.
Take care, Mr. Starr cried Harry, seizing the engineer,
by the arm.
"A stone, Harry! Ah! these old vaultings are no
longer quite secure, of course, and-"
"Mr. Starr," said Harry Ford, "it seems to me
that stone was thrown, thrown as by the hand of
"Thrown!" exclaimed James Starr. "What do you
mean, lad ?"
"Nothing, nothing, Mr. Starr," replied Harry evasively,
THE DOCHART PIT.
his anxious gaze endeavouring to pierce the darkness.
"Let us go on. Take my arm, sir, and don't be afraid of
making a false step."
"Here I am, Harry."
And they both advanced, whilst Harry looked on every
side, throwing the light of his lamp into all the corners of
"Shall we soon be there ?" asked the engineer.
"In ten minutes at most."
"But," muttered Harry, "that was a most singular thing.
It is the first time such an accident has happened to me.
That stone falling just at the moment we were passing."
Harry, it was a mere chance."
"Chance," replied the young man, shaking his head.
He stopped and listened.
"What is the matter, Harry?" asked the engineer.
"I thought I heard some one walking behind us," replied
the young miner, listening more attentively.
Then he added,-
"No, I must.have been mistaken. Lean harder on my
arm, Mr. Starr. Use me like a staff."
"A good solid staff, Harry," answered James Starr.
"I could not wish for a better than a fine fellow like
46 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
They continued to walk in silence along the dark nave.
Harry was evidently preoccupied, and frequently turned,
trying to catch, either some distant noise, or remote glimmer
But behind and before, all was silence and darkness.
TIE FORD FAMILY. 47
THE FORD FAMILY.
TEN minutes afterwards, James Starr and Harry issued
from the principal gallery.
They were now standing in a glade, if we may use this
word to designate a vast and dark excavation. The place,
however, was not entirely deprived of daylight. A few rays
straggled in through the opening of a deserted shaft. It
was by means of this pipe that ventilation was established
in the Dochart pit. Owing to its lesser density, the warm
air was drawn towards the Yarrow shaft.
Both air and light, therefore, penetrated in some measure
into the glade.
Here Simon Ford had lived with his family ten years, in
a subterranean dwelling, hollowed out in the schistous mass,
where formerly stood the powerful engines which worked
the mechanical traction of the Dochart pit.
Such was the habitation, "his cottage," as he called it,
THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
in which resided the old overman. As he had some
means saved during a long life of toil, Ford could have
afforded to live in the light of day, among trees, or in
any town of the kingdom he chose, but he and his wife and
son preferred remaining in the mine, where they were happy
together, having the same opinions, ideas, and tastes. Yes,
they were quite fond of their cottage, buried fifteen hundred
feet below Scottish soil. Among other advantages, there
was no fear that tax-gatherers, or rent-collectors would ever
come to trouble its inhabitants.
At this-period, Simon Ford, the former overmani of the
Dochart pit, bore the weight of sixty-five years well. Tall,
robust, well-built, he would have been regarded as one of
the most conspicuous men in the district which supplies so
many fine fellows to the Highland regiments.
Simon Ford was descended from an old mining family,
and his ancestors had worked the very first carboniferous
seams opened in Scotland.
Without discussing whether or not the Greeks and
Romans made use of coal, whether the Chinese worked
coal-mines before the Christian era, whether the French
word for coal (kouille) is really derived from the farrier
Houillos, who lived in Belgium in the twelfth century, we
may affirm that the beds in Great Britain were the first
ever regularly worked. So early as the eleventh century,
William the Conqueror divided the produce of the New-
THE FORD FAMILY.
castle bed among his companions-in-arms. At the end of
the thirteenth century, a licence for the mining of sea-
coal was granted by Henry III. Lastly, towards the end
of the same century, mention is made of the Scotch and
It was about this time that Simon Ford's ancestors pene-
trated into the bowels of Caledonian earth, and lived there
ever after, from father to son. They were but plain miners.
They laboured like convicts at the work of extracting the
precious combustible. It is even believed that the coal-
miners, like the salt-makers of that period, were actual
slaves. Indeed, so firmly was this opinion established in
Scotland that as lately even as during the war of the Pre-
tender, it was feared that twenty thousand Newcastle
miners would not rise to gain by force a freedom which
they did not consider had ever been granted to them.
However that might have been, Simon Ford.was proud
of belonging to this ancient family of Scotch miners. He
had worked diligently in the same place where his ancestors
had wielded the pick, the crowbar, and the mattock. At
thirty he was overman of the Dochart pit, the most im-
portant in the Aberfoyle colliery. He was devoted to his
trade. During long years he zealously performed his duty.
His only grief had been to perceive the bed becoming
impoverished, and to see the hour approaching when the
seam would be exhausted.
THE CHILD OF TIE CAVERN.
It was then he devoted himself to the search for new
veins in all the Aberfoyle pits, which communicated under-
ground one with another. He had had the good luck to
discover several during the last period of the working.
His miner's instinct assisted him marvellously, and the
engineer, James Starr, appreciated him highly. It might
be said that he divined the course of seams in the depths of
the coal-mine as a hydroscope reveals springs in the bowels
of the earth.
But, as we have said, the time came when the coal supply
failed entirely in the mine. Sounding yielded no result.
It was evident that the carboniferous bed was entirely
exhausted: work ceased ; the miners retired.
Will it be believed ? It was a downright grief to the
greater number of them. But those who know that men,
in the. main, love their work, whatever it is, will not be
astonished. Simon Ford was unquestionably the most
distressed. He was par excellence the type of a miner whose
whole existence is indissolubly connected with that of his
mine.. He had lived there from his birth, and now that the
woiks were abandoned he wished to live there still. And
so he. did. His son Harry foraged for the subterranean
housekeeping; as for himself, during those ten years he
had not been ten times above ground.
Go up there! What is the good ?" he would say, and
refused to leave his black domain.
THE FORD FAMILY.
The place was remarkably healthy, subject to an equable
temperature; the old overman endured neither the heat of
summer nor the cold of winter. His family enjoyed good
health; what more could he desire?
But at heart he felt depressed. He missed the
former animation, movement, and .life in the well-
worked pit. He was, however, supported by one fixed
"No, no! the mine is not exhausted!" he repeated.
And that man would have given serious offence who could
have ventured to express before Simon Ford any doubt that
old Aberfoyle would one day revive! He had never given
up the hope of discovering some new bed which would
restore the mine to its past splendour. Yes, he would
willingly, had it been necessary, have resumed the miner's
pick, and with his still stout arms vigorously attacked the
rock. He went through the dark galleries, sometimes
alone, sometimes with his son, examining, searching for
signs of coal, only to return each day, wearied, but not in
despair, to the cottage.
Madge, Simon's faithful companion, his "gude-wife,"
to use the Scotch term, was a tall, strong, comely woman.
Madge had no wish to leave the Dochart pit any more than
had her husband. She shared all his hopes and regrets.
She encouraged him, she urged him on, and talked to him
in a way which cheered the heart of the old overman.
THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
"Aberfoyle is only asleep," she would say. "You,are
right about that, Simon. This is but a rest, it is not
Madge, as well as the others, was perfectly satisfied to
live independent of the outer world, and was the centre of
the happiness enjoyed by the little family in their dark
James Starr now arrived among them.
The engineer was eagerly expected. Simon Ford was
standing at his door, and as soon as Harry's lamp announced
the arrival of his former viewer he advanced to meet him.
"Welcome, Mr. Starr!" he exclaimed, his voice echoing
under the roof of schist. Welcome to the old overman's
cottage! Though it is buried fifteen hundred feet under
the earth, our house is not the less hospitable."
"And how are you, good Simon,?" asked James Starr,
grasping the hand which his host held out to him.
"Very well, Mr. Starr. How could I be otherwise here,
sheltered from the inclemencies of the weather? Your
ladies who go to Newhaven or Portobello in the summer
time would do much better to pass a few months in the
coal-mine of Aberfoyle! They would run no risk here of
catching a heavy cold, as they do in the damp streets of the
"I'm not the man to contradict you, Simon," answered
James Starr, glad to find the old man just as he used to be.
THE FORD FAMILY.
" Indeed, I wonder why I do not change my home in the
Canongate for a cottage near you."
"And why not, Mr. Starr? I know one of your old
miners who would be truly pleased to have only a partition
wall between you and him."
"And how is Madge ?" asked the engineer.
"The goodwife is in better health than I am, if that's
possible," replied Ford, "and it will be a pleasure to her to
see you at her table. I think she will surpass herself to do
'We shall see that, Simon, we shall see that!" said the
engineer, to whom the announcement of a good breakfast
could not be indifferent, after his long walk.
"Are you hungry, Mr. Starr ?"
"Ravenously .hungry. My journey has given Ine aif
appetite. I came through horrible weather."
"Ah, it is raining up there," responded Simon Ford, with
a very obvious air of pity.
Yes, Simon, and the waters of the Forth are as rough as
"Well, Mr. Starr, here it never rains. But I needn't
describe to you all the advantages, which you know as well
as myself. Here we are at the cottage. That is the chief
thing, and I again say you are welcome, sir."
Simon Ford, followed by Harry, ushered their guest into
the dwelling. James Starr found himself in a large room
THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
lighted by numerous lamps, one hanging from the coloured
beams of the roof.
The table, spread with a snowy cloth, was ready for the
guests, for whom four chairs, covered with old leather, were
Good day, Madge," said the engineer.
"Good day, Mr. Starr," answered the woman, as she rose
to receive her visitor.
"It's a pleasure to me to see you again, Mrs. Ford."
"That's right, Mr. Starr. You must feel it a pleasure to
see again those to whom you have always been so good."
"The soup is ready, wife," said Ford, and it mustn't be
kept waiting any more than Mr. Starr. He is as hungry as
a miner, and he shall see that our. boy doesn't let us want
for anything in the cottage! By-the-bye, Harry," added
the old overman, turning to his son, "Jack Ryan came here
to see you."
"I know, father. We met him in the Yarrow shaft."
"He's an honest and a merry fellow," said Ford; "but
he seems to be quite happy above ground. He hasn't the
true miner's blood in his veins. Sit down, Mr. Starr, and
have a good dinner, for it is possible that we may not sup
As the engineer and his hosts were taking their places,-
"One moment, Simon," said James Starr "Do you
want me to eat with a good appetite? "
THE FORD FAMILY. 55
It will be doing us all possible honour, Mr. Starr,"
"Well, in order to eat heartily, I must not be at all
anxious. Now I have two questions to put to you."
"Go on, sir."
"Your letter told me of a communication which was to
be of an interesting nature."
It is very interesting indeed."
"To you ?"
"To you and to me, Mr. Starr. But I do not want to
tell it you until after dinner, and on the very spot itself.
Without that you would not believe me."
Simon," resumed the engineer, "look me straight in
the face. An interesting communication? Yes. Good!
I will not ask more," he added, as if he had read the reply
in the old overman's eyes.
And the second question?" asked the latter.
"Do you know, Simon, who the person is who can have
written this?" answered the engineer, handing him the
Ford took the letter and read it attentively. Then
giving it to his son,-
"Do you know the writing ?" he asked.
"No, father," replied Harry.
"And had this letter the Aberfoyle postmark ? inquired
56 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
"Yes, like yours," replied James Starr.
What do you think of that, Harry ?" said his father,
his brow darkening.
"I think, father," returned Harry, "that some one has
had some interest in trying to prevent Mr. Starr from
coming to the place where you invited him."
"But who," exclaimed the old miner, who could have
possibly guessed enough of my secret ?"
And Simon Ford fell into a reverie, from which he was
aroused by his wife's voice.
"Let us begin, Mr. Starr," she said. "The soup is
getting cold. Don't think any more of that letter just now."
On the old woman's invitation, each drew in his chair,
James Starr opposite to Madge-to do him honour-the
father and son opposite to each other.
It was a good Scotch dinner. First they ate "hotch-
potch," soup with the meat swimming in capital broth.
As old Simon said, his wife knew no rival in the art of
It was the same with the "cockyleeky," a cock stewed
with leeks, which merited high praise. The whole was
washed down with excellent ale, obtained from the best
brewery in Edinburgh.
But the principal dish consisted of a "haggis," the
national pudding, made of meat and barley-meal. This
remarkable dish, which inspired the poet Burns with one
THE FORD FAMILY. 57
of his best odes, shared the fate of all the good things in
this world-it passed away like a dream.
Madge received the sincere compliments of her guest.
The dinner ended with cheese and oatcake, accompanied
by a few small glasses of "usquebaugh," capital whisky,
five-and-twenty years old-just Harry's age.
The repast lasted a good hour. James Starr and Simon
Ford had not only eaten much, but talked much too, chiefly
of their past life in the old Aberfoyle mine.
Harry had been rather silent. Twice he had left the
table, and even the house. He evidently felt uneasy since
the incident of the stone, and wished to examine the environs
of the cottage. The anonymous letter had not contributed
to reassure him.
Whilst he was absent, the engineer observed to Ford and
"That's a fine lad you have there, my friends."
Yes, Mr. Starr, he is a good and affectionate son," replied
the old overman earnestly.
"Is he happy with you in the cottage?"
"He would not wish to leave us."
"Don't you think of finding him a wife, some day?"
"A wife for Harry," exclaimed Ford. "And who would
it be? A girl from up yonder, who would love merry-
makings and dancing, who would prefer her clan to our
mine Harry wouldn't do it!"
THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
"Simon," said Madge, "you would not forbid that Harry
should take a wife."
"I would forbid nothing," returned the old miner, "but
there's no hurry about that. Who knows but we may find
one for him-"
Harry re-entered at that moment, and Ford was silent.
When Madge rose from the table, all followed her
example, and seated themselves at the door of the cottage.
"Well, Simon," said the engineer, "I am ready to hear
"Mr. Starr," responded Ford, "I do not need your ears,
but your legs. Are you quite rested ?"
"Quite rested and quite refreshed, Simon. I am ready
to go with you wherever you like."
"Harry," said Simon Ford, turning to his son, "light our
"Are you going to take safety lamps!" exclaimed James
Starr, in amazement, knowing that there was no fear of
explosions of fire-damp in a pit quite empty of coal.
"Yes, Mr. Starr, it will be prudent."
My good Simon, won't you propose next to put me in a
miner's dress ?"
"Not just yet, sir, not just yet!" returned the old over-
man, his deep-set eyes gleaming strangely.
Harry soon reappeared, carrying three safety lamps.
He handed one of these lamps to the engineer, the other
Starting on an exploring expedition.
THE FORD FAMILY. 59
to his father, and kept the third hanging from his left hand,
whilst his right was armed with a long stick.
"Forward!" said Simon Ford, taking up a strong pick,
which was leaning against the wall of the cottage.
"Forward !" echoed the engineer. "Good-bye, Madge."
God speed you !" responded the good woman.
"A good supper, wife, do you hear?" exclaimed Ford.
"We shall be hungry when we come back, and will do it
60 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
SOME STRANGE PHENOMENA.
MANY superstitious beliefs exist both in the Highlands and
Lowlands of Scotland. In some places the laird's tenants
collect together in the evening and love to relate to each
other stories borrowed from the old hyperborean mythology.
Education, though widely and liberally spread over the
country, has not as yet been able to .reduce these legends
to the class of fiction, they seem inherent to the very soil of
old Caledonia. It is still the land of spirits and ghosts,
goblins and fairies. The malicious spirit, which is only got
rid of by means of money, is still believed in; also the seer
of the Highlanders, who, by second sight, predicts approach-
ing deaths; the "May Moullach," who appears in the form
of a young girl with hairy arms, and warns families of mis-
fortunes by which they are threatened; the Brownies, to
whom is intrusted the care of the domestic arrangements;
the Urisk, who more especially frequents the wild gorges
of Loch Katrine, and many others.-
SOME STRANGE PHENOMENA. 61
Of course' the mining population must furnish its con-
tingent of legends and fables to this mythological repertory.
If the Highlands are peopled with imaginary beings, either
good or bad, with much more reason must the dark mines
be haunted to their lowest depths. Who shakes the seam
during tempestuous nights? who puts the miners on the
track of an as yet unworked vein ? who lights the fire-damp,
and presides over the terrible explosions ? who but some
spirit of the mine ? This, at least, was the opinion commonly
spread among the superstitious Scotch. In truth, the
greater number of miners chose to believe in the work of
spirits, when the phenomena were in reality purely physical,
and it would have been but losing time to endeavour to
convince them of their mistake. Where could credulity de-
velope itself more freely than in the depths of these abysses ?
The Aberfoyle mines being situated in this legendary
country were naturally the scene of many supernatural
Legends of course were in plenty. It must be acknow-
ledged besides, that certain phenomena, as yet unexplained
furnished fresh food to the public credulity.
In the first rank of the believers in the supernatural in
the Dochart pit figured Jack Ryan, Harry's friend. He
was the great partisan of all these superstitions. All these
wild stories were turned by him into songs, which earned
him great applause in the winter evenings.
62 THE CHILD OF TIE CAVERN.
But Jack Ryan was not alone in his belief. His comrades
affirmed, no less strongly, that the Aberfoyle pits were
haunted, and that certain strange beings were seen there
frequently, just as in the Highlands. To hear them
talk, it would have been more extraordinary if nothing
of the kind appeared. Could there indeed be a better place
than a dark and deep coal-mine for the freaks of fairies,
elves, goblins, and other actors in the fantastical dramas ?
The scenery was all ready, why should not the supernatural
personages come there to play their parts.?
So reasoned Jack Ryan and his comrades in the Aber-
foyle mines. We have said that the different pits com-
municated with each other by means of long subterranean
galleries. Thus there existed beneath the county of Stir-
ling a vast tract, full of burrows, tunnels, bored with caves,
and perforated with shafts, a subterranean labyrinth, which
might be compared to an enormous ant-hill.
Miners, though belonging to different pits, often met,
when going to or returning from their work. Conse-
quently there was a constant opportunity of exchanging
talk, and circulating the stories which had their origin in
the mine, from one pit to another. These accounts were
transmitted with marvellous rapidity, passing from mouth
to mouth, and gaining in wonder as they went.
Two men, however, better educated and with more prac-
tical minds than the rest, had always resisted this tempta-
SOME STRANGE PHENOMENA. 63
tion. They in no degree believed in the intervention of
spirits, elves, or goblins.
These two were Simon Ford and his son. And they
proved it by continuing to inhabit the dismal crypt, after
the desertion of the Dochart pit. Perhaps good Madge,
like every Highland woman, had some leaning towards.the
supernatural. But she had to repeat all these stories to
herself,-ad so she did, most conscientiously, so as not to let
the old traditions be lost.
Even had Simon and Harry Ford been as credulous as
their companions, they would not have abandoned the mine
to the imps and fairies. The hope of discovering a new
vein would have made them brave all the fantastic army of
goblins. They were not credulous, they were believers but
in one point; they could not admit that the carboniferous
bed of Aberfoyle was totally exhausted. It may be said
with truth, that on this subject, Simon Ford and his son had
a faith in God which nothing could shake.
For ten years, without missing a single day, obstinate
and immovable in their convictions, the father and son took
their picks, their sticks, and their lamps. They went about
searching, sounding the rock with a sharp blow, listening if
it would return a favourable sound. So long as the sound-
ings had not been pushed to the granite of the primary
formation, the Fords were agreed that the search, unsuc-
cessful to-day, might succeed to-morrow, and that it ought
64 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
to be resumed. They spent their whole life in endeavouring
to bring Aberfoyle back to its former prosperity. If the
father died before the hour of success, the son was to go on
with the task alone.
At the same time, these two devoted guardians of the
mine, examined it with a view to its preservation. They
assured themselves as to the safety of its roofs and embank-
ments. They found out if a landslip was to be feared, and
if it was necessary to stop up some part of the pit. They
discovered leakages of water, drained it off into channels so
as to collect it into a pool. In short, they had voluntarily
constituted themselves the protectors and preservers of this
unproductive domain, from whence had issued such great
riches, now dissolved in smoke !
It was during one of these excursions that Harry was
more particularly struck by certain phenomena, which he
vainly sought to explain. Several times, while walking
along some narrow cross-alley, he seemed to hear sounds
similar to those which would be produced by violent blows
of a pickaxe against the wall.
Harry, who knew no fear either of what was natural or
supernatural, hastened to seek the cause of this mysterious
The tunnel was empty. The light from the young
miner's lamp, thrown on the wall, revealed no trace of any
recent work with pick or crowbar. Harry would then ask
SOME STRANGE PHENOMENA. 65
himself if it was not the effect of some acoustic illusion, or:
some strange and fantastic echo.
At other times, on suddenly throwing a bright light into a
suspicious-looking cleft in the rock, he thought he saw a
shadow. He rushed forward. Nothing, and there was
no opening to permit a human being to evade his pursuit!
Twice in one month, Harry, whilst visiting the west end
of the pit, distinctly heard distant reports, as if some
miner had exploded a charge of dynamite. The second
time, after many careful researches, he found that a pillar
had just been blown up.
By the light of his lamp, Harry carefully examined the
place attacked by the explosion. It had not been made in
a simple embankment of stones, but in a mass of schist,
which had penetrated to this depth in the coal stratum,
Had the object of the explosion been to discover a new
vein ? Or had some one wished simply to destroy this-
portion of the mine? Thus he questioned, and when he
made known this occurrence to his father, neither could
the old overman nor he himself answer the question in a
"It is very queer," Harry often repeated. "The pre-
sence of an unknown being in the mine seems impossible,
and yet there can be no doubt about it. Does some: one
besides ourselves wish to find out if a seam yet exists ?
Or, rather, has he attempted to destroy what remains of
66 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
the Aberfoyle mines ? But for what reason ? I will find
that out, if it should cost me my life "
A fortnight before the day on which Harry Ford guided
the engineer through the labyrinth of the Dlochart pit, he
had been on the point of attaining the object of his search.
He was going over the south-west end of the mine, with
a large lantern in his hand. All at once, it seemed to him
that a. light was suddenly extinguished, some hundred
feet before him, at the end of a narrow passage cut
obliquely through the rock. He darted forward.
His search was in vain. As Harry would not admit a
supernatural explanation for a physical occurrence, he
concluded that certainly some strange being prowled about
in the pit.. But whatever he could do, searching with the
greatest care, scrutinizing every crevice in the gallery, he
found nothing for his trouble, and could not arrive at any
Harry therefore left it to chance to unveil the mystery.
He still now and again saw lights hovering from one point
to another like Will-o'-the-wisps; but they just appeared
like flashes, and there was no use in trying to discover the
cause of them.
-If Jack Ryan and the other superstitious fellows in
the mine had seen these lights, they would, without
fail, have called them supernatural, but Harry did not
dream of doing so, nor did his father. And when they
SOME STRANGE PHENOMENA. 67
talked over these phenomena, evidently due to a physical
My lad," the old man would say, "we must wait. It
will all be explained some day."
However, it must be observed that, hitherto, neither
Harry nor his father had ever been exposed to any act of
If the stone which had fallen at the feet of James Starr
had been thrown by the hand of some ill-disposed person,
it was the first criminal act of that description.
James Starr was of opinion that the stone had become
detached from the roof of the gallery; but Harry would
not admit of such a simple explanation. According to
him, the stone had not fallen, it had been thrown; for
otherwise, without rebounding, it could never have de-
scribed a trajectory as it did.
Harry saw in it a direct attempt against himself and his
father, or even against the engineer. After what has been
said, it may perhaps be admitted that he had some grounds
for his belief.
THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
SIMON FORD'S EXPERIMENT.
THE old clock in the cottage struck one as James Starr
and his two companions went out.
A dim light penetrated through the ventilating shaft
into the glade. Harry's lamp was not necessary here, but
it would very soon be of use, for the old overman was
about to conduct the engineer to the very end of the
After following the principal gallery for a distance of
two miles, the three explorers-for, as will be seen, this
was a regular exploration-arrived at the entrance of a
narrow tunnel. It was like a nave, the roof of which rested
on woodwork, covered with white moss. It followed very
nearly the line traced by the course of the river Forth,
fifteen hundred feet above.
In case James Starr had become less familiar than
formerly with the labyrinth of the Dochart pit, Ford put
.SIMON FORD'S EXPERIMENT.
him in mind of the general plan, by comparing.it with the
geographical outline of the ground.
Starr and Simon Ford walked together conversing.
Harry lighted the way in front of them. He tried, by
suddenly flashing his lamp into all the dark clefts, to dis-
cover any suspicious shadow.
"Are we going far in this direction, Ford ?" asked the
"Another half-mile, sir. Long ago, we should have
made the journey in a waggon on the traction tramway.
But those times are long past."
"So we are going to the end of the last vein ?" said
"Ay! You know the mine well still."
"Well, Simon," returned the engineer, "it will be diffi-
cult to go further than that, if I don't mistake."
"Yes, indeed, Mr. Starr. That was where our picks tore
out the last bit of coal. in the seam. I remember it as if
it were yesterday. I myself gave that last blow, and it
re-echoed in my heart more dismally than on the rock.
Only sandstone and schist was round us after that, and
when the truck rolled towards the'shaft, I followed, with
my heart as full as though it were a funeral. It seemed
to me that the soul of the mine was going with it."
The gravity with which the old man uttered these words
impressed the engineer,'who was not far from sharing his
70 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
sentiments. They were those of the sailor who leaves his
disabled vessel-of the. proprietor who sees the house of
his ancestors pulled down. He pressed Ford's-hand; but
now the latter seized that of the engineer, and, wringing
That day we were all of us mistaken," he exclaimed.
"No! The old mine was not dead. It was not a corpse
that the miners abandoned; and I dare to assert, Mr. Starr,
that its heart beats still."
"Speak, Ford Have you discovered a new vein ?"
cried the engineer, unable to contain himself. I know
you have Your letter could mean nothing else. A com-
munication to be made to me, and in the Dochart pit!
What other discovery but that of a coal-seam could interest
Mr. Starr," said Simon Ford, I did not wish to tell
any man but yourself."
"And you did quite right, Ford. But tell me how, by
what signs, are you sure ?"
"Listen, sir !" resumed Simon. "It is not a seam that I
"What is it, then ?"
Only positive proof that such a seam exists."
"And the proof?"
"Could fire-damp issue from the bowels of the earth if
coal was not there to produce it ?"
SIMON FORD'S EXPERIMENT. 71
"No, certainly not!" replied the engineer. "No coal,
no fire-damp. No effects without a cause."
"Just as no smoke without fire."
"And have you recognized the presence of light
"An old miner could not be deceived," answered Ford.
" I have met with our old enemy, the fire-damp !"
But suppose it was another gas," said Starr. "Fire-
damp is almost without smell, and colourless. It orily
really betrays its presence by an explosion."
Mr. Starr," said Simon Ford, "will you let me tell you
what I have done, and how I have done it, in my own way,
excusing my slowness ?"
James Starr knew the old overman, and knew that it
would.be best to let him have his own way.
Mr. Starr," resumed Simon Ford, "for ten years not a
day has passed that Harry and I did not think how to
give back its old prosperity to the mine-no, not a day!
If a seam still existed, we were determined to discover it.
But how to do it ? By sounding? That was not possible
for us ; but we had the miner's' instinct, and instinct often
leads one more straight to the mark than reason does-at
least, that's my idea.".
"Which I will not contradict," responded the engineer.
"Now, Harry had once or twice observed something
remarkable in his excursions to the west end of the mine.
72 THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
Fire, which suddenly went out, sometimes appeared along
the face of the rock or on the embankment of the further
galleries. How those flames were lighted, I could not and
cannot say. But they were evidently owing to the pre-
sence of fire-damp, and to me fire-damp means a vein of
"Did not these fires cause any explosion ?" asked the
Yes, little. partial explosions," replied Ford, such as I
used to cause myself when I wished to ascertain the pre-
sence of fire-damp. Do you remember how formerly it
was the custom to try to prevent explosions before our
good genius, Humphrey Davy, invented his safety-lamp ?"
"Yes," replied James Starr. "You mean what the
'monk,' as the men called him, used to do. But I have
never seen him in the.exercise of his duty."
"Indeed, .Mr. Starr, you are too young, in spite of your
five-and-fifty years, to have seen that. But I, ten years
older, often saw the last 'monk' working in the mine. He
was called so because he wore a long robe like a monk.
His proper name was the 'fireman.' At that time there
was no other means of destroying the bad gas but by dis-
persing it in little explosions, before its buoyancy had
collected it in too great quantities in the heights of the
galleries. The monk, as we called him, with his face
masked, his head muffled up, all his body tightly wrapped
The Monk at Work.
SIMON FORD'S EXPERIMENT.
in a thick felt cloak, crawled along the ground. He could
breathe down there, when the air was pure; and with his
right hand he waved above his head a blazing torch. When
the fire-damp had accumulated in the air, so as to form a
detonating mixture, the explosion occurred without being
fatal, and, by often renewing this operation, catastrophes
were prevented. Sometimes the 'monk' was injured or
killed in his work, then another took his place. This was
done in all mines until the Davy lamp was universally
adopted. But I knew the plan, and by its means I dis-
covered the presence of fire-damp, and consequently that of
a new seam of coal in the Dochart pit."
All that the old overman had related of the so-called
"monk or fireman" was perfectly true. The air in the
galleries of mines was formerly always purified in the
Fire-damp, marsh-gas, or carburetted hydrogen, is colour-
less, almost scentless; it burns with a blue flame, and makes
respiration impossible. The miner could not live in a place
filled with this injurious gas, any more than one could live in a
gasometer full of common gas. Moreover, fire-damp, as
well as the latter, a mixture of inflammable gases, forms a
detonating mixture as soon as the air unites with it in a
proportion of eight, and perhaps even five to the hundred.
When this mixture is lighted by any cause, there is an ex-
plosion, almost always followed by a frightful catastrophe.
THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
This danger Davy's apparatus guards against by isolating
the flame of the lamp in a tube of metallic gauze, which
burns the gas in the interior of the tube, without ever allow-
ing the flame to spread outside. This safety-lamp has
been perfected in twenty ways. If it happens to break, the
light goes out; if, notwithstanding the strict orders to the
contrary, the miner opens it, it goes out. Why, then, do
explosions ever occur? It is because nothing can guard
against the imprudence of a workman who insists on light-
ing his pipe, nor the blow of a tool which may produce a
spark. Fire-damp does not exist in all mines, and in those
the use of an ordinary lamp is authorized. Among such,
for instance, is the Thiers pit, in the colliery of Auzin.
But when the coal of the worked seam is rich, it contains a
certain quantity of volatile matter, and fire-damp escapes
in abundance. The safety-lamp alone is contrived in a
way to prevent explosions so much the more terrible, in
that miners, not being directly reached by the blast occa-
sioned by the fire-damp, run a risk of being instantly
suffocated in the galleries filled with the "after-damp,"
formed after the explosion, and called "choke-damp" by the
colliers, which is the carbonic acid gas of the chemists.
As they walked on, Simon Ford told the engineer all
that he had done to attain his object; how he was sure that
the escape of fire-damp took place at the very end of the
farthest gallery in its western part, because he had provoked
SIMON FORD'S EXPERIMENT.
small and partial explosions, or rather little flames; enough
to show the nature of the gas, which escaped in a small jet,
but with a continuous flow.
An hour after leaving the cottage, James Starr and his
two companions had gone a distance of four miles. The
engineer, urged by anxiety and hope, walked on without
noticing the length of the way. He pondered over all that
the old miner had told him, and mentally weighed all the
arguments which the latter had given in support of his
belief. He agreed with him in thinking that the continued
emission of carburetted hydrogen certainly showed the
existence of a new coal-seam. If it had been merely a sort
of pocket, full of gas, as it is sometimes found amongst the
rock, it would soon have been empty, and the phenomenon
have ceased. But far from that. According to Simon
Ford, the. fire-damp escaped incessantly, and from that fact
the existence of an important vein might be considered
certain. Consequently, the riches of the Dochart pit were
not entirely exhausted. The chief question now was,
whether this was merely a vein which would yield compara-
tively little, or a bed occupying a large. extent.
Harry, who preceded his father and the engineer,
"Here we are!" exclaimed the old miner. "At last,
thank Heaven! you are here, Mr. Starr, and we shall soon
THE CHILD OF THE CAVERN.
The old overman's voice trembled slightly.
"Be calm, my man!" said the engineer. "I am as
excited as you are, but we must not lose time."
The gallery at this end of the pit widened into a sort of
dark cave. No shaft had been pierced in this part, and the
gallery, bored into the bowels of the earth, had no direct
communication with the surface of the earth.
James Starr, with intense interest, examined the place in
which they were standing.
On the walls of the cavern the marks of the pick could
still be seen, and even holes in which the rock had been
blasted, near the termination of the working. The schist
was excessively hard, and it had not been necessary to
bank up the end of the tunnel where the works had come
to an end. There the vein had failed, between the schist
and the tertiary sandstone. From this very place had
been extracted the last piece of coal from the Dochart pit.
"We must attack the dyke," said Ford, raising his pick;
"for at the other side of the break, at more or less depth,
we shall assuredly find the vein, the existence of which I
"And was it on the surface of these rocks that you found
out the fire-damp ? asked James Starr.
"Just there, sir," returned Ford, and I was able to light
it only by bringing my lamp near to the cracks in the rock.
Harry has done it as well as I."
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8
REPORT xmlns http:www.fcla.edudlsmddaitss xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.fcla.edudlsmddaitssdaitssReport.xsd
INGEST IEID ESLYJ9GSH_MW4OXO INGEST_TIME 2014-06-04T23:06:33Z PACKAGE AA00009634_00001
AGREEMENT_INFO ACCOUNT UF PROJECT UFDC
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8
REPORT xmlns http:www.fcla.edudlsmddaitss xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.fcla.edudlsmddaitssdaitssReport.xsd
INGEST IEID ELI5IN4II_NK3CIY INGEST_TIME 2012-04-02T14:42:40Z PACKAGE AA00009634_00001
AGREEMENT_INFO ACCOUNT UF PROJECT UFDC