The young men all leapt to their feet, pains and aches quite forgotten in the excitement of this unexpected news, and six of them seized hold of the irons.
“Gently!” Francis said. “You must remember, there may be people going down there at present, getting up stores. Before we venture to disturb a plank, we must make the hole sufficiently large for us to spy through. This will be a very easy affair, in comparison with making a hole large enough for a saw to go through. Still, you will find it will take some time. However, we had better wait, as we agreed, till we have had our food.”
Chapter 16: The Recapture Of The Pluto.
As soon as the hatch had been removed, and the bread and water lowered down, and they heard heavy weights again laid on the hatch, two of the party took one of the irons and began to bore a hole, while the others proceeded to eat their food. Several times, the workers had to be relieved. The iron penetrated comparatively easily for a short distance, but beyond that the difficulty greatly increased; and it was fully four hours before one of the workers, applying his eye to the hole, said that he could see a gleam of light through.
In another quarter of an hour, the orifice was sufficiently enlarged to enable a view to be obtained of the central hold. It was comparatively light there, for the hatch was off, and they could see two men at work, opening a cask for some stores that were required.
“We must wait till it gets dark now,” Francis said. “I do not think that we shall make much noise, for the nails will be likely to draw quietly; but we had better choose the time between nightfall and the hour for the crew to turn in, as there will be a trampling of feet on deck, and talking and singing, which would prevent any slight noise we might make, being heard.”
“The difficulty will be to force the ends of the iron down, between the beams and the planks, so as to give us a purchase,” Matteo said.
“I think we shall be able to manage that,” Francis replied. “The beams are put in in the rough, and if we hunt carefully, I think we shall find a plank where we can get the irons in far enough, between it and the beam, to give us a hold.”
After a careful examination, they fixed upon a plank to operate upon, and, leaving one of the irons there, so that they could find it in the dark, they lay down to sleep, or sat talking until it was dark. Before this, a glance, through the peephole, showed them that the hatch had been placed over the hatchway of the next hold, so that there was little fear of anyone coming down, unless something special was required.
“Now I think we can begin,” Francis said, at last. “Do you, Paolo Parucchi, take one of the irons, I will take another, Matteo a third. We cannot possibly work more than three at the foot of a plank, though perhaps, when we have fixed them and put on the strain, two or three more hands may get at the irons; but first we will try with three, and, unless the nails have got a wonderfully firm hold, we shall certainly be able to draw them.”