After the first great crash there ensued a moment’s hesitation. Then a second span succumbed. There followed a series of minor chutes with short intervening silences. At last so long an interval of calm ensued that we plucked up courage to believe it all over. A single stone rolled a few feet and hit the rock floor with a bang. Then, immediately after, the first-deafening thunder was repeated as evidently another span gave way. It sounded as though the whole mountain had moved. I was almost afraid to stretch out my hand for fear it would encounter the wall of debris. The roar ceased as abruptly as it had begun. Followed then a long silence. Then a little cascading tinkle of shale. And another dead silence.
“I believe it’s over,” ventured Miss Emory, after a long time.
“I’m going to find out how bad it is,” I asserted.
I moved forward cautiously, my arms extended before me, feeling my way with my feet. Foot after foot I went, encountering nothing but the props. Expecting as I did to meet an obstruction within a few paces at most, I soon lost my sense of distance; after a few moments it seemed to me that I must have gone much farther than the original length of the tunnel. At last I stumbled over a fragment, and so found my fingers against a rough mass of debris.
“Why, this is fine!” I cried to the others, “I don’t believe more than a span or so has gone!”
I struck one of my few remaining matches to make sure. While of course I had no very accurate mental image of the original state of things, still it seemed to me there was an awful lot of tunnel left. As the whole significance of our situation came to me, I laughed aloud.
“Well,” said I, cheerfully, “they couldn’t have done us a better favour! It’s a half hour’s job to dig us out, and in the meantime we are safe as a covered bridge. We don’t even have to keep watch.”
“Provided Brower gets through,” the girl reminded us.
“He’ll get through,” assented Tim, positively. “There’s nothing on four legs can catch that Morgan stallion.”
I opened my watch crystal and felt of the hands. Half-past two.
“Four or five hours before they can get here,” I announced.
“We’d better go to sleep, I think,” said Miss Emory.
“Good idea,” I approved. “Just pick your rocks and go to it.”
I sat down and leaned against one of the uprights, expecting fully to wait with what patience I might the march of events. Sleep was the farthest thing from my thoughts. When I came to I found myself doubled on my side with a short piece of ore sticking in my ribs and eighteen or twenty assorted cramp-pains in various parts of me. This was all my consciousness had room to attend to for a few moments. Then I became dully aware of faint tinkling sounds and muffled shoutings from the outer end of the tunnel. I shouted in return and made my way as rapidly as possible toward the late entrance.