“They must have opened one of the windows,” he surmised; but he quickly dismissed the suggestion after flashing his light around the cellar. The pile of lumber had been moved to the opposite side and in the section of the floor it had formerly occupied was a hole three feet in diameter.
“That’s where the wind comes from,” Mr. Stanlock decided. “It’s the mouth of the old mine we used to hear about years ago. But where’s the other opening? Funny nobody knows about that. This end has been covered up with that old heavy door and concealed with a layer of earth. When our men moved the pile of lumber, they observed that the earth had been disturbed recently and shoveled it away and found this hole.”
Mr. Stanlock directed the rays of light into the hole and discovered a flight of steps cut in the hard clay.
“The lieutenant and his men are down in there,” he concluded. “I think I’ll follow them.”
He descended cautiously into the hole. Half a dozen irregularly formed steps brought him to a slope leading downward on an inclined plane of six or seven degrees. He was astonished at the degree of preservation of the walls, ceiling, and supports, considering the years that had elapsed since the mine was last worked. The passage continued as a downward slope for about fifty yards and then became almost level for a like distance. Only in two places had the walls or ceiling fallen in to any considerable extent, and in neither of those places was the obstruction so great as to constitute an impassable barrier.
As he proceeded, Mr. Stanlock peered ahead anxiously, in the hope that he would discover the lights of Lieutenant Larkin and his companions. But he walked nearly 100 yards through an irregular and characteristically jagged passage before he caught sight of anything indicating that there was anybody besides himself in the abandoned mine. Then suddenly, rounding a sharp point he came upon the advance party of searchers approaching him.
“What did you find?” the mine owner inquired before any surprise greetings could be exchanged. “There’s another outlet to this place somewhere, isn’t there?”
“Yes, there is,” was the reply of the officer in charge. “This gallery runs on for another hundred yards, piercing Holly Hill right through the center. You know the bluff and the rocky slope behind the old mill. Well, it seems that this mine was cut right through at that point, but there was a cave-in that filled up that opening. These rascals that kidnapped the girls evidently were associated with the people that rented the Buchholz place and cut the passage through. The girls have been here all right, but they’re gone. They’ve been taken out of this end of the mine and spirited away in some manner. This means that the scoundrels have a larger and more effective organization than we have ever suspected. Such a case of wholesale kidnapping was never heard of before.”