THE BATTLE BY ROCKS
Roy saw Ken’s dismay.
‘Sorry, old chap,’ he said simply. ‘I thought you understood.’
Ken smiled back.
’I’m afraid I took it for granted that you had it all pat. You see, I don’t know the first thing about mountaineering myself. Can’t we get back the same way we came?’
Roy shook his head.
’It’s too big a reach. But don’t worry. We’ll find some way out. Stop here a minute and I’ll go and have a squint round.’
Ken looked at him.
‘You’ll be careful, Roy? Hadn’t I better come and give you a hand?’
‘I’ll call you if I want you,’ said Roy. ’I’m going to see where this ledge leads.’
He strolled off as calmly as though walking along a twelve-inch ledge over a two hundred foot drop was as simple as a promenade down the sunny side of Piccadilly. Ken, feeling anything but happy, watched him until he was hidden behind a shoulder of rock.
It was quite five minutes before he came back.
‘It’s all right,’ he said cheerfully. ’True, we can’t get up, but I think we can get down. This ledge drops a long way, and there seems to be another below it. Let’s have our grub and go along.’
He ate his share of Ken’s rations with evident appetite, and Ken did his best to follow his example. But it would be idle to say that Ken felt happy. Glancing down into the tremendous depths that yawned below, he felt that he would infinitely rather charge a score of Turks, single-handed, than try to make his way down the face of the gigantic wall of rock.
Roy finished his food, brushed the crumbs from his tunic, and taking the bayonet which—with the automatic pistol captured from Kemp—were the only weapons they had, walked off along the ledge.
Ken set his teeth and followed.
‘Look up, not down,’ said Roy quietly, and Ken did his best to obey.
The ledge, though narrow, did not really present any particular difficulties. As Roy said, ’If it wasn’t for the big drop below, you wouldn’t think twice about it.’
Ken knew this was true, and tried hard to keep it in his mind.
Presently, however, the ledge began to narrow again, and the only way to tackle it was to flatten themselves, limpet-like, against the cliff face, and claw their way onwards, gripping every possible little projection which gave any sort of hand hold.
At last Roy pulled up.
‘Capital!’ he said. ’You’re doing first-rate, Ken. That’s as far as we can go on this ledge. We’ve got to drop to the lower one now. Don’t worry. It’s not as bad as that first drop we had to do last night.’
As he spoke, he stooped, gripped the edge of the ledge with his hands, and let himself down gently. There was a knob of rock about seven feet down. He got his feet on this, then reached up for the bayonet which Ken held.