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18. Sparrows on the Housetops
'I've often regretted,' said Blenkiron, 'that miracles have left off happening.'
He got no answer, for I was feeling the walls for something in the nature of a window.
'For I reckon,' he went on, 'that it wants a good old-fashioned copper-bottomed miracle
to get us out of this fix. It's plumb against all my principles. I've spent my life using the
talents God gave me to keep things from getting to the point of rude violence, and so far
I've succeeded. But now you come along, Major, and you hustle a respectable middle-
aged citizen into an aboriginal mix-up. It's mighty indelicate. I reckon the next move is
up to you, for I'm no good at the housebreaking stunt.'
'No more am I,' I answered; 'but I'm hanged if I'll chuck up the sponge. Sandy's
somewhere outside, and he's got a hefty crowd at his heels.'
I simply could not feel the despair which by every law of common sense was due to the
case. The guns had intoxicated me. I could still hear their deep voices, though yards of
wood and stone separated us from the upper air.
What vexed us most was our hunger. Barring a few mouthfuls on the road we had eaten
nothing since the morning, and as our diet for the past days had not been generous we
had some leeway to make up. Stumm had never looked near us since we were shoved
into the car. We had been brought to some kind of house and bundled into a place like a
wine-cellar. It was pitch dark, and after feeling round the walls, first on my feet and then
on Peter's back, I decided that there were no windows. It must have been lit and
ventilated by some lattice in the ceiling. There was not a stick of furniture in the place:
nothing but a damp earth floor and bare stone sides, The door was a relic of the Iron
Age, and I could hear the paces of a sentry outside it.
When things get to the pass that nothing you can do can better them, the only thing is to
live for the moment. All three of us sought in sleep a refuge from our empty stomachs.
The floor was the poorest kind of bed, but we rolled up our coats for pillows and made
the best of it. Soon I knew by Peter's regular breathing that he was asleep, and I
presently followed him ...
I was awakened by a pressure below my left ear. I thought it was Peter, for it is the old
hunter's trick of waking a man so that he makes no noise. But another voice spoke. It
told me that there was no time to lose and to rise and follow, and the voice was the
voice of Hussin.
Peter was awake, and we stirred Blenkiron out of heavy slumber. We were bidden take
off our boots and hang them by their laces round our necks as country boys do when
they want to go barefoot. Then we tiptoed to the door, which was ajar.