“And that’s what I heard when I was a prisoner,” interrupted Higgs.
“I daresay,” answered Orme; “but it is always well to allow a margin in case the procession should be delayed, or something. So until ten o’clock I’ve got to stop where I am, and you may be sure, Doctor, that under no circumstances shall I fire the mine before that hour, as indeed you will be here to see. After that I can’t say what will happen, but if we don’t appear, you two had better come to look for us—in case of accidents, you know. Do your best at your end according to circumstances; the Doctor and I will do our best at ours. I think that is all, Sergeant. Report yourselves by the telephone if the wire is long enough and it will work, which I daresay it won’t, and, anyway, look out for us about half-past ten. Good-bye!”
“Good-bye, Captain,” answered Quick, then stretched out his hand, shook that of Orme, and without another word took his lamp and left the chamber.
An impulse prompted me to follow him, leaving Orme and Higgs discussing something before they parted. When he had walked about fifty yards in the awful silence of that vast underground town, of which the ruined tenements yawned on either side of us, the Sergeant stopped and said suddenly:
“You don’t believe in presentiments, do you, Doctor?”
“Not a bit,” I answered.
“Glad of it, Doctor. Still, I have got a bad one now, and it is that I shan’t see the Captain or you any more.”
“Then that’s a poor look-out for us, Quick.”
“No, Doctor, for me. I think you are both all right, and the Professor, too. It’s my name they are calling up aloft, or so it seems to me. Well, I don’t care much, for, though no saint, I have tried to do my duty, and if it is done, it’s done. If it’s written, it’s got to come to pass, hasn’t it? For everything is written down for us long before we begin, or so I’ve always thought. Still, I’ll grieve to part from the Captain, seeing that I nursed him as a child, and I’d have liked to know him well out of this hole, and safely married to that sweet lady first, though I don’t doubt that it will be so.”
“Nonsense, Sergeant,” I said sharply; “you are not yourself; all this work and anxiety has got on your nerves.”
“As it well might, Doctor, not but I daresay that’s true. Anyhow, if the other is the true thing, and you should all see old England again with some of the stuff in that dead-house, I’ve got three nieces living down at home whom you might remember. Don’t say nothing of what I told you to the Captain till this night’s game is played, seeing that it might upset him, and he’ll need to keep cool up to ten o’clock, and afterwards too, perhaps. Only if we shouldn’t meet again, say that Samuel Quick sent him his duty and God’s blessing. And the same on yourself, Doctor, and your son, too. And now here comes the Professor, so good-bye.”
A minute later they had left me, and I stood watching them until the two stars of light from their lanterns vanished into the blackness.