and miraculously escaped; and when these failed to cheer us, pointing out how, after all, it was only anticipating an end that must come to us all, that it would soon be over, and that death from exhaustion was a merciful one (which is not true). Then, in a diffident sort of a way, as I had once before heard him do, he suggested that we should throw ourselves on the mercy of a higher Power, which, for my part, I did with great vigor.
His is a beautiful character, very quiet, but very strong.
And so somehow the day went as the night had gone (if, indeed, one can use the terms where all was densest night), and when I lit a match to see the time it was seven o'clock.
Once more we ate and drank, and as we did so an idea occurred to me.
"How is it," said I, "that the air in this place keeps fresh? It is thick and heavy, but it is perfectly fresh."
"Great heavens!" said Good, starting up, "I never thought of that. It can't come through the stone door, for it is air-tight, if ever a door was. It must come from somewhere. If there were no current of air in the place we should have been stifled when we first came in. Let us have a look."
It was wonderful what a change this mere spark of hope wrought in us. In a moment we were. all three groping about the place on our hands and knees, feeling for the slightest indication of a draught. Presently my ardor received a check. I put my hand on something cold. It was poor Foulata's dead face.
For an hour or more we went on feeling about, till at last Sir Henry and I gave it up in despair, having got considerably hurt by constantly knocking our heads against tusks, chests, and the sides of the chamber. But Good still persevered, saying, with an approach to cheerfulness, that it was better than doing nothing.
"I say, you fellows," he said, presently, in a constrained sort of voice, "come here."
Needless to say we scrambled over towards him quick enough.
"Quatermain, put your hand here where mine is. Now, do you feel anything?"
"I think I feel air coming up."
"Now listen." He rose and stamped upon the place, and a flame of hope shot up in our hearts. It rang hollow.
With trembling hands I lit a match. I had only three left, and we saw that we were in the angle of the far corner of the chamber, a fact that accounted for our not having noticed the hollow ring of the place during our former exhaustive examination. As the match burned we scrutinized the spot. There was a join in the solid rock floor, and, great heavens! there, let in level with the rock, was a stone ring. We said no word; we were too excited, and our hearts beat too wildly with hope to allow us to speak. Good had a knife, at the back of which was one of those hooks that are made to extract stones from horses' hoofs. He opened it, and scratched away at the ring with it. Finally he got it under, and levered away gently for fear of breaking the hook. The ring began to move. Being of stone, it had not got set fast in all the centuries it had lain there, as would have been the case had it been of iron.
Presently it was upright. Then he got his hands into it and tugged with all his force, but nothing budged.
"Let me try," I said, impatiently, for the situation of the stone, right in the angle of the corner, was such that it was impossible for two to pull at once. I got hold and strained away, but with no results.
Then Sir Henry tried and failed. Taking the hook again, Good scratched all round the crack where we felt the air coming up.
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