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our tools, and ran as fast as we could towards the mouth of the mine ; but before we had gone twelve yards from where we had been at work, we came upon a great mass of rock right across our path, completely blocking it up, and confining us as in a close bound prison. How thick the rock was we could not tell; it seemed, when we tried to examine it with our lamps, as if the roof of the passage had fallen in through its whole length, and we knew at once that there was very little hope of our comrades being able to dig us out in time to save our lives. The faces of my mates showed ghastly and white in the yellow glare of our lamps, as we looked at each other in silence, each fearing to put into words the terror and dread which we knew was in the heart of all. We were close at the end of the working, and there was no outlet except by the path which was thus suddenly and completely blocked, and our only earthly hope was that our friends outside might be able to bore through its solid thickness, and make a way out before we were past help.
Our silence did not last long; one of the men flung himself on his knees with frantio cries for help and for life. “ I can't die, I won't die; I must have time to get ready, I tell you
I can't die.” Poor Simonds ! he had led up to that time a wild, unsteady life; he used to boast that he believed neither in heaven nor hell, and only the day before I had heard him jeering at some of his comrades for their faith in God and in a future beyond the grave. Here, Mason,” said another of the men, turning to me,
you've got the coolest head among us, and you're a religious chap too, and so have no call to be so much afeard; you think it over and tell us what we'd best be doing, we must make the most of what chance there is for the sake of those above: I've a wife, poor thing, and I can't tell how she'd get along without me," and the poor fellow brushed the cuff of his coat across his eyes. My two scholars had crept close to me; they were very quiet, and one of them pulled my jacket, and whispered in my ear, “ Hadn't we better be asking God to help us ? You said he would hear us even down in the mine, if we prayed to him.”
“ You said so, sure enough,” added the other; “ it was yesterday was a week, when we were reading about Daniel in the den, you mind.”
“ These boys are in the right of it, mates," said I: our
own thoughts and our own doings won't help us unless the good God give us his blessing. It would be awful work to be here without God; let us pray to him now.”
“Ay, ay,” said Dixon, who hadn't spoke yet, “there's even Simonds thinks it's a time to pray now;" and he pointed to the poor fellow who was still on his knees uttering loud cries and entreaties. “For my part I should be ashamed to go on like that if I had said all my life that there was no God to pray to, and no hereafter to be afraid of.”
No, Dixon,” said I, “ the shame is in ever having denied them, not in repenting now," and after a pause we knelt down together and I put up the best prayer I could. The rest said “ Amen” from their hearts, and I think when we rose we all felt the lighter, and the readier to do all that lay in our power and to bear whatever it might please God to send us.
I turned the matter over in my mind, and by what I could see our only chance was to begin to work on our side, for I felt sure that others would do all they could to meet us from without. But it was little way we could make;
the rock was hard and smooth, and our pickaxes seemed only to chip it and not get any real hold as it were. About six
o'clock that evening Jones' pick broke. We had only four to begin with, and now we used the three, turn and turn about; so that half of us were always at work while the rest did their best to keep quiet and ready for their turn. The worst of it was that our lamps were getting low: we had put out all but one to make them last the longer. But we knew that even in this way they would scarce carry us over noon the next day, and we did not dare to think how we could live and work without them. When I was not using the pick, I did my best to quiet and calm our minds by repeating verses of Scripture and hymns, my two scholars helped me there; and once or twice we tried to sing a little, but could hardly manage it in the narrow space, what with the bad air and the echoes from every side.
Most people know something about prayer, but it takes a time like this to teach us what it may be : I know there wasn't one of us, not even Simonds, could have held out but for the strength and comfort which came to us through prayer. It seemed to bring us close to that God in whose hands our lives were hid, who could, if it were best for us,
make a way of escape for us, when all our powers and efforts were useless; to that loving Saviour, through faith in whom death might be made to even the worst and most sinful of us even the gate of life.
I was the only one who had a watch, and I took care to wind it up, so we know how the time went; and when it was getting towards morning of the second day, I said, “Mates, our lamps will soon be out: I've the back of a letter in my pocket here ; we might make shift to write a word with a piece of coal, to tell those yonder about us, if so be 'tis the Lord's will we never see them again.”
They all agreed, and Bill found a sharp bit of coal, and I managed to mark out a few words, to tell that we sent our love to all, and that we hoped the good God would forgive us our sins through Jesus Christ, and take us to be with him when we died. Then I asked the men if they would put their names.
“ No,” said Simonds, “you ain't to write that for me ; I've nought to do with such-like words ; I've stood against it too long; it ain't to be expected that the Almighty will take any
heed of me.” Nothing that any of us could say could comfort him; and though he took his turn in working with the rest, it was in utter despair, for hope was gone from his heart, both for this life and for the life to come.
We had not been quite without food all this time. The two boys had their dinners with them, and Jones had carried a hunch of bread in his pocket. We had divided these carefully among us, taking a mouthful now, and again when we were quite spent; but by the end of the second day they were all gone, and every one of us was feeling the bitter pains of hunger and thirst. There was one place wbere water came down the face of the rock a drop at a time, and one of us was always there, holding my watchcase, which served us as a cup; but we could not get enough even to keep our mouths from getting dry and parched, not to speak of quenching the thirst that well nigh burned us up.
By the fourth day Charlie fancied he heard the sound of picks ringing on the stone without, and after a while I seemed to hear it too. It was our first real hope of safety, but it was only a faint hope, for the sounds were yet a great way off, and it did not seem possible that any of us could last out much longer. Our strength gave way much sooner than it would have done had there been even a glimmer of light. All through the night the sounds without never ceased, but we seemed scarcely to hear or heed them. We lay one on another, in a kind of stupor, and I know, for myself, that I felt neither hope nor fear, and was fast becoming insensible. Suddenly I thought I heard close beside me a sweet familiar voice. surely was my little Susan singing the words which I had so often heard from her lips. How clearly it sounded
“ Through winds and clouds and storms
He gently clears thy way;
Shall end in brightest day.” I started up, forgetting for a moment where I was; but my head touched the cold stone, and I heard poor Dickson groaning as he lay beside me, and remembered all. Had I been dreaming? I suppose it must have been so; but in my dream God had spoken to me, and I felt no longer hopeless or indifferent. It seemed to me that the lives of all hung at that moment on me. If they were not roused from this terrible stupor, it might be too late when rescue came; and it was coming now, for I could hear the voices of our fellow workmen outside, as they cheered each other on, and shouted questions to us, which none amongst us could even try to answer. I took Jim in my arms, and talked to him a bit about what we must do; and when he was a little come to himself, he and I tried to rouse the others. It took a long time, and some begged to be left to die; but after a while one after another sat up, and we felt for each others' hands, and held them in silence. “Help is very near," I said; “let us pray God it comes in time.” We could none of us kneel, and our dry lips could scarce get out the few words we tried to say; but I believe God heard us.
For more than two hours we sat together thus, and if one sank back the others pulled him up; for we felt, one and all, that to sleep now was to die. Those two hours were the longest and most terrible I had ever spent. But at last came the blessed moment when the first little ray of light pierced into our dungeon, and very shortly after that a way was made, through which we were carried out one by one and lifted to the free air and daylight outside the mine. I don't think any one of us remembers much about that. There were crowds of people, and plenty of crying and cheering as we were brought up, looking like dead men, they have told me since, but alive, through the mercy of God; saved, I trust, that we may yet glorify him and serve him here.
Bill and Susan were waiting for me, and had everything ready for me at home, though they had well nigh given up hope of seeing their father again. Now, I am thankful to say, we are all doing well. I doubt, though, if we shall ever any of us be the same men again, and in one sense I hope not. Simonds tells me he is minded to begin all over again now. He says he's clear enough about one thing—that the past has been worse than wasted. He is an infidel no longer, and I believe that little by little his eyes are being opened to understand the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. His face has lost its look of despair, and he listens with brightening eyes when the minister reads to him the message of glad tidings that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.
I am nearly well again myself. Last Sunday I was able, for the first time, to go to church, with Bill and Susan and Tom by my side. I can't tell any one what that service was to me. I thought I had felt long ago how beautiful, how sacred it was, but now it seemed full of new and deeper meaning. Dickson and the two lads were there too, and I think there was scarcely one in the congregation who didn't join in the earnestness with which we sang that morning the verses of the psalm which tell how
They cried unto the Lord in their trouble; he delivered them out of their distress.
“For he brought them out of darkness, and out of the shadow of death; and break their bonds in sunder.”
ASKING AND GETTING.
on in the afternoon it had cleared up nicely. But
lowed its good example. With a feeling as if she had been very badly used indeed, she took up her baby in her arms and went across to her neighbour Mrs. Fair, a kind motherly woman, that she might have her fret out, as she expressed it, for having it wet on a Monday, and she with all her washing to do, and baby cutting his teeth too, and wanting to be taken up out of his bed and carried