The Sinister Old Mine
The last part of their way took the friends over a small hill to the foot of a mountain, they passed a few fir trees down to the entrance of the former mine. Bobble, Elfrida’s father, had often told them that as a small ottifant he had been inside, because his father had worked there. Bobble had also said that in those days a lift had gone down and nobody had really known how deep the pit was.
Some people said it reached to the centre of the Earth, some even said the pit ended in Australia. But of course that only were stories by which the adults wanted to boast. Bobble also said that his friend Fred, who had seen much of the world, said the pit lead to something sinister and had therefore been closed down. But none of the friends thought much about such fustian which only grown-ups made up.
The entrance was nailed with a lot of planks but wind and weather had left their traces. Many of the nails were rusty and some of the planks hang down loosely.
Daisy and Bernie tore away the planks and soon there was an opening big enough even for Rosie. Finally they were inside. It was dark and cold. They assembled in the front part of the mine. Here they were in safety. The lightning sometimes brightened the place so much that Bernie and his friends had to close their eyes. The thunder had grown loud enough to make the ground tremble.
“What about going a little farther in, perhaps it’s more comfortable there”, Jenny suggested. “I’ve got my torch with me.” She switched it on and lit the back part of the entrance. A broad passage seemed to lead deeper into the mountain and when nobody objected they walked on. Outside the thunder was roaring. Rosie and Mary, who collected their things, once more looked out through the opening. About 30 metres away stood a mighty old oak tree. Suddenly everything was bathed in such glaring light that for a moment the cave became light as the day. The following thunder sounded like a crashing airplane. The mighty oak tree had vanished! Shrieking, the two girls ran after their friends.
“What was that?” Mary breathlessly asked.
“The lightning struck the large tree”, Jenny replied and added in a low voice: “Flee the high tree – I said so…”
Silent and cautiously the friends walked on into the old mine. Of course no one knew what to expect there, but it was clear to them that it was the only way to go. Nobody wanted to go back to the entrance, at least not while the thunderstorm lasted.
“What happens if lightning strikes?” Rosie asked with her typical coarse voice.
“Well”, Daisy replied, “lightning is electricity of high voltage. If such a power strikes on wood it’s so strong that the tree bursts and as electricity also is heat, it starts burning as well.”
Rosie cleared her throat: “The electricity?”
“Nonsense, the wooden tree of course!” was Bertha’s annoyed answer. “You never listen. Remember when teacher told you to wet the sponge and to fetch new chalk? What did you do? Wetted the chalk and took the sponge to the caretaker. Teacher broke her fingernail when she wanted to write with that. Moreover you didn’t do your homework and the next day…”
“Shsh… Be quiet, there is something!” Jenny paused. She switched on her torch. A few steps away there was a large wooden box and at its sides something like wire netting was fastened. Slowly, very slowly she walked on. The others followed hesitatingly.
“It looks like an old elevator”, Bernie said. “For sure in former times it has been used to take down the miners to their work.”
Rosie tore at something like a rusty clamp. With a screech a door opened and when they all had overcome the moment of shock, Bertha grunted:
“That’s like you, fumbling everything with your thick fingers. Because of you we will go to the devil one day.”
Rosie looked frightened.
“You think the pit goes down as deep as that? Right to hell?”
Bertha rolled her eyes, started to say something but she kept quiet. Elfrida and Bernie meanwhile studied the old elevator. Inside was a crank and various push buttons, it looked very interesting. It did not take long until also the others had overcome their fright. Everybody wanted to take a look, so that they were tightly packed in the lift. Elfrida looked about her and somehow had the feeling that something was going to happen.
Elfrida was quite right. When as the last one Rosie had squeezed into the elevator, she leant against the door and the door shut with a bang. Elfrida felt the sweat in her neck. She jumped to the door and wanted to turn the handle, but nothing was there, no handle, no knob, nothing. Bertha said: “Probably the elevator only could be opened from the outside, for safety reasons. Not that stupid! Accidents could be avoided. If in those days there were such muppets as this pig, God knows what may have happened.”
“But I only wanted… What I mean… My feet are hurting so much and I…”
“You did what you did”, Daisy remarked. “Better let’s have a look how we get out of here. I’m certain the thunderstorm is over and we can go home.”
The hope to get back to Aubachtal lent them wings. Bernie and Susie searched the corners, Daisy and Elfrida the door, Jenny and Mary the floor, Rosie and Bertha quarrelled. About two hours later they all sat down exhaustedly on the floor.
“This thing is built most solid, it surely should prevent a crash. But for us it means that we don’t get out of this prison!” Jenny shook her head in desperation and Elfrida whispered: “Not at the moment however.”
Elfrida sat down on the uncomfortable floor and thought things over. They were imprisoned here and did not know how to go on. But that did not mean anything, did it? They often had been in a situation which had looked hopeless. But this time it could be a long time before they were found because they had left their scheduled path.
How were their parents to find them? And if their parents or the police found them they perhaps would be starved for they had no supplies. The magic ring! A warm shiver crept over Elfrida’s back, but she immediately gave up the idea. How should the magic ring help them in here? Maybe the magic bottle, but the ring?
Elfrida played with the ring, until Daisy shouted: “Please, Elfrida, stop that. If you get invisible, I’ll be more frightened still.”
“Sorry, I was in the clouds!” Elfrida left the ring alone. Her thoughts went back to the time when she got the magic ring.