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Boy Scouts in the Coal Caverns; Or, The Light in Tunnel Six By Archibald Lee Fletcher Characters: 8504

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"What makes you think it's Ventner?" asked the caretaker. "Did you see his face? I don't think he is here."

"I didn't see his face," answered Will, "but I saw the shape of his shoulders and the hang-dog look of him."

"You're prejudiced against Ventner," laughed Canfield.

"I admit it!" replied Will. "He looks to me like snake in the grass.

I don't think anything he could do would look good to me."

"Now," Canfield said, "perhaps we'd better be mapping out a plan of campaign. There are three gangways leading in three different directions. We'll leave one of the lights burning at the shaft, then we'll each take a light and proceed into the interior, making as much noise as we conveniently can, and flashing the light into all the chambers and cross headings we come to."

"How long are these gangways?" asked Will.

"Somewhere near a half a mile straight ahead," was the answer.

The caretaker went away swinging his electric searchlight, and Will and George pushed forward in their respective passages.

After proceeding a short distance, George heard Will calling to him.

"There's some one just ahead of me in the gangway!" Will declared. "I think we ought to go together!"

"Do you think it's that bum detective?" asked George.

"I certainly do!"

"Well, we can go together if you like," George said. "We can't cover quite as much ground in that way, but I guess we can accomplish more in the long run!"

The boys had proceeded only a short distance when they heard Canfield calling to them. A moment later they heard the caretaker's steps ringing on the hard floor of the gangway down which they were advancing. He came up to them, panting, in a moment.

"There's something mighty queer about this mine," the caretaker declared. "It was punk dry only two days ago, and now there are four or five feet of water where the gangway I started to follow dips down.

"And look there!" Will exclaimed holding his light aloft and pointing, "you can see plenty of water ahead! I guess all the gangways are taking a washing, and the water seems to be rising, too!"

"Is there any way by which the mine could be intentionally flooded?" asked George. "There may be some one planning trouble for the owners."

"There is only one way that I know of in which the mine could be flooded intentionally," replied the caretaker. "There is a large drain, of course, in what is known as the sump. Considerable water runs off in that way, and the rest of the drippings are taken out by the pumps. If this sump drainage could become clogged, the mine, of course, would become flooded though not to such an extent, unless the pumps were kept constantly at work."

"Then I guess you'd better set the pumps going," Will suggested. "We can't get into the mine in its present condition unless we swim."

"Haven't you got a boat?" asked George.

"Why, yes," replied the caretaker. "There's a couple of boats somewhere in the mine. The operators placed them here thinking they might come in handy at some future time, but I haven't any idea where they are now. Still, I think they're not far away."

"If you'll go and set the pumps in motion," Will advised, "George and I'll look around for the boats. We may need them before the pumps get under motion the way the water is pouring in now."

"I guess Tommy and Sandy don't come back because they're penned in by water," George suggested, as the boys began searching the vicinity of the shaft for the boats.

"If they're anywhere within hearing distance, they ought to answer us when we called out, hadn't they?" asked Will.

"We haven't tried that yet," George answered. "Suppose we let out a couple of yells!"

To think in this case was to act, and the boys did let out a couple of yells which brought the caretaker running back from the shaft.

The boys were listening for some answer to their shouts when he arrived, and so they paid little attention to his numerous questions.

"There is no time to lose," Canfield went on. "I'll go to the top at once and call an engineer and a couple of firemen. When you find the beat, take a trip down the main gangway here and stick your lights into all the cross-headings and chambers you see. But, above all," he contin

ued, "don't fail to leave a light here at a shaft, and be careful that you never pass out of sight of it."

Canfield hastened away, climbing the ladders two rungs at a time, and soon disappeared into the little dot of light at the top.

The two boys searched patiently for the boat for a long time, but did not succeed in discovering it. At last, Will suggested that it might be in the mule stable and thither they went.

The boat was there, in excellent condition, and the boys soon had it swinging to and fro on the surface of the water which now lay several feet deep in the main gangway.

"Jerusalem!" exclaimed George, taking the depth of the water with an oar, "if the water is four feet deep here, how deep must it be at the middle of the dip?"

"About forty rods, I should think!" exaggerated Will.

The boys left a large searchlight at the shaft so situated that it looked straight down the passage they proposed following, and started away in the boat. The flashlights illuminated only a small portion of the underground place, but the boys could see some distance straight ahead.

Once they ceased rowing to listen, believing that they had heard calls from the darkness beyond. The sound was not repeated, and they were about to proceed when a sound which brought all their nervous energy into full swing reached their ears.

It was a bumping of an oar or paddle against the side of a boat. The blow echoed through the cavern as sharply as a pistol shot might have done. There could be no mistake in the cause.

"Now who's in that other boat?"

"Somehow," George grumbled in a whisper, "we always have propositions like that put up to us! There's always a mystery in every trip we take! We found one on Lake Superior, and one in the Florida Everglades, and one at the top of the Rocky mountains and one in the Hudson Bay wilderness."

"Yes, and we solved them, too!" grinned Will. "And we're going to solve this one! You remember about my seeing some one sneaking in here just ahead of us, don't you?"

"Yes," was the answer. "You thought it was that bum detective."

"I think so yet," replied Will.

"If it's the detective," asked George, "why didn't he give the alarm when he found that the mine was being flooded. He might at least have done that and saved the company a great deal of expense and trouble."

"Give it up," replied Will. "I might ask you," he went on, "why he was rowing away into a flooded mine which is supposed to be deserted."

"And I'd have to give you the answer you gave me," George declared.

The boys could now hear the strokes of the oarsman who was in the lead quite regularly and distinctly. Now and then he turned into crossheadings and chambers, as if to escape from their surveillance, but they kept steadily on after him, not taking into account the fact that they were leaving the light they had set at the shaft far out of view.

"Perhaps we ought to turn back now," George proposed, in a short time, seeing that they came no nearer to the boat in advance. "We left the main gangway some time ago, and we ought not to get too far away from it."

Will turned and looked back, facing only inky blackness.

"We should have stuck to the main gangway," he said. "I don't even remember when we left it. Is it very far back?"

"Some distance," answered George. "You see we followed this other boat without thinking what we were doing."

"Perhaps, if we continue to follow the other boat,' it will lead us somewhere. The fellow rowing must know something about the interior of the mine or he probably wouldn't be here!"

"I've been listening for a minute or more, trying to catch sound of the fellow's oars," George went on, "but there's nothing doing. I guess he's led us into a blind chamber and slipped away!"

"We don't, seem to be lacking for excitement," Will suggested with a grin. "We've lost Tommy and Sandy, and the machinery of the mine has been interfered with and the lower levels axe filling with water! Any old time we start out to do things, there's a general mix-up!"

"Aw, quit growling and listen a minute," suggested George.

The boys listened only for a moment when the sound George had heard was repeated. It was the call of the Wolf pack!

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