Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

little Martin, if I can do it without startling him. I don't think he can be much hurt, but if he should move he might be killed in a moment."

The two boys started off at full speed, not sorry that their errand should call them away from the spot where such a terrible catastrophe seemed to be imminent. If Martin should fall from the narrow ledge on which he lay, it would be an awful sight to witness. Howard was the best to stay and watch him. Howard was the best at everything. So they said to themselves, as they ran off, bracing themselves as best they could for their task, which was not an easy one, for their knees trembled and their breath had begun again to fail them. But they got the better of that as they ran on.

Meantime Tom Howard, first by whistling and then by a few quiet words, succeeded in attracting poor little Martin's attention;

but the child did not move nor look up nor make any articulate reply. He was lying on his face, just as he had fallen, his body being slightly bent over the curve of the ledge or rock, and but for the effort which he made to cry out in answer to Tom's hail, it might have been supposed that he was lifeless. Tom took the bearings of his position as accurately as he could, and noticed particularly the form of the cliff just above where the child was lying, that he might be able to direct those who should come to the rescue where to go and how to proceed. Then he waited with great impatience for the expected help from the farm. It was not long in coming, but it seemed to be an age. Three men and two or three women appeared running to the spot, Hall leading them. They had a waggon-rope with them, the only one that they could find; a crowbar, an axe, a spade, and two or three other things which they had caught up without reflection, and which did not promise to be of much utility.

“It was a simple thing of Dick,” every one said, “ to bring a spade and an axe; but no wonder he was a little off his head. Dick had not much thought at the best of times.”

“How are we to get at un?” one of the men asked, when they had inspected the ground. Tom explained exactly how the poor child was lying, for they could not see him without leaning over the cliff, as he had done, and none of them liked to do that.

“Can he help hisself if we let the rope down ? "
“No; certainly not."
“Somebody must go over, then!”

They knew that from the first, but did not like to contemplate it. The three men stood and looked at each other, fingering the rope nervously.

“I'll go," said Tom, observing their hesitation. “I can manage it. I'll go." He threw off his jacket and his hat, clasped his hands together, and remained standing for a few moments with eyes closed and head slightly inclined forward ; then said again, “I'm ready now. I'll go."

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XVI.

IN PERIL.

T"

Alone by night, a little child,
In place so silent and so wild.

Coleridge.
HE little group who had observed the simple act of piety

of young Tom Howard, by which he prepared for the dangerous task that he had undertaken, stood for a moment silent; then seeing that he had taken hold of the rope and was winding it round his arm, one of the men suddenly interposed.

“Let be,” he said. “ You are not going over the cliff, not you.”

[ocr errors]

“Yes,” said Tom, quietly. “ I'm going.”
“Not you,” said the man again.
“Who then ? Somebody must do it.”
“ You shan't, anyhow.”

“ I'm used to climbing. I am never giddy. I am not afraid," said Tom. “I'll go."

“I tell ye ye shan't.”

“Don't hinder me!” Tom exclaimed ; "every moment is of consequence."

“There's time enough," said the man, glancing timorously over the cliff and turning very pale. “I don't see as there's much danger, lads, if you can manage the rope."

" I wouldn't trust much to that rope,” said one of the farm men. " It's an old one, and was never made for such a job as that.”

“The rope will stand," said the other. “Can you hold it?"

“We can hold it if we can only be footsure ; but it's too slippery for anything down there."

"Hold it up here, then." His voice faltered as he spoke, and taking the rope out of Tom's hand he began with trembling fingers to make a slip-knot in the end of it.

“What is John going to do?” cried one of the women, approaching him in haste.

"Go you home, Kitty,” said Jolin, giving her a lingering kiss. “Go and get something hot and comfortable for the lad when we bring him to you safe and sound.”

“John, dear, you are never going over there; you shan't. You are not fit for it. You are all of a shake. Think of the children. Oh, John, you won't do it; you shan't ; you shan't!"

. She clung to him resolutely, but sobbing all the while. “ Think of them children, John; Teddy, and Billy, and May."

“He has got a mother, too, I suppose," John answered, jerking his head towards the spot where Martin was supposed

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

" and

to be lying; "and a father somewhere, mayhap;” and again kissing his wife affectionately he tried to disengage himself from her embraces.

Tom took advantage of this scene, and quietly taking the rope again, put the loop which had been formed over his head and under his arms.

“Now," said he to the other men, “lower away gently.”

"Never," cried John. "It would be a life's shame to any man to let that child go over there."

“He has pluck enough,” said one of the other men, that's the chief thing in a case like this. The rope, too, will bear his weight better than it would yours.”

“ Lower away, I tell you !” cried Tom, beginning already to glide down the slope ; “lower away carefully and slowly.”

“ He can climb like anything,” said Hall, who had more confidence in Tom Howard than in the pale and nervous, though courageous, farmer. “If you had seen him go down the spout at our boarding-house you would say so."

"Lower away!” cried our hero once again. By this time

“ he was at the very edge of the cliff and looking over it, as if the precipice had been only five or six feet in depth, instead of as many hundreds. “Let somebody go round to the point yonder and watch, and sing out when to stop and when to pull up again."

“Go there, John; that's your place,” cried Kitty, urging her man towards the spot indicated; and the brave-hearted farmer, finding that he could really be of service there, yielded, though not without reluctance and emotion.

Tom was lowered in safety to the spot where Martin was lying, but there was very little standing-room for him when he reached it. It was a projecting rock, uneven, rising up in the middle, like a large pack-saddle, and it was clear that if Martin had not fallen across it in the position in which he then

K

lay, he would have slipped away from it again immediately. He scarcely moved when Tom alighted near him, and only moaned when spoken to, clinging with one hand to a root of some wild shrub which grew there, and clasping in the other a bunch of the supposed samphire, which he had evidently been in the act of gathering at the moment of his fall.

Tom spoke to him encouragingly, and proceeded to divest himself of the rope, in order that he might place it under the child's arms, for after the report of it which he had heard he dared not trust it to carry them both at once. The

rope

could easily be lowered a second time, he thought, and he could remain upon the ledge meanwhile. He was excited by his adventure, and did not feel any alarm. It was indeed an awful precipice to look down into; but a mist had crept over the shore, and the depth was partly concealed. He had some difficulty in

. passing the line under the boy's arms, for he clung instinctively to the rock, and dreaded any disturbance of his position upon it; but it was accomplished at last, and with a loop under his shoulder and a long end hanging down, by which Tom could help to steady the burden from below, there was not much doubt but it would reach the top of the cliff in safety. Toni had seen spars sent aloft in this fashion at sea, and scaffoldpoles on shore, so he gave the signal to “haul up easy,” and planting his own feet as firmly as he could upon the rock, with his back inclined against the cliff, he watched the child's ascent, and directed it with all his care, until the summit was reached. Meanwhile the spade which simple Dick had brought with him had been turned to unexpected account. One of the men had cut steps in the slippery turf, by which the edge of the slope might be approached, and strong arms were waiting there to receive the boy and to assist his landing.

Tom, looking up, saw with a feeling of intense relief the object of his care disappear over the edge of the cliff, and knew

« AnteriorContinuar »