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A new entrance.
Clare sped jubilant. But soon came a check to his jubilation: it was one thing to drop from the wall, and quite another to climb to the top of it without the help of the door! The same moment he heard the clink of the smith's hammer on his anvil, and to go by his yard in daylight would be to risk too much! For what would become of them if their retreat was discovered! He stood at the foot of the brick precipice, and stared up with helpless eyes and failing strength. Baby was inside, hungry, and with no better nurse than ill conditioned Tommy; her milk was in his pocket, Tommy's bread in his hand, the insurmountable wall between him and them! He had the daylight now, however, and there was hardly any one about: perhaps he could find another entrance! Round the outside of the wall, therefore, like the Midianite in the rather comical hymn, did Clare prowl and prowl. But the wall rose straight and much too smooth wherever he looked. Searching its face he went all along the bottom of the garden, and then up the narrow lane between it and the garden of the next house, with increasing fear that there was no way but by the smith's yard, and no choice but risk it.
A dozen yards or so, however, from the end of the lane, where it took a sharp turn before entering the street, he spied an opening in the wall--the same from which, the night before, Tommy had returned with such a frightened face. Clare went through, and found a narrow passage running to the left for a short distance between two walls. At the end, half on one side, half on the other of the second wall, lay the well that had terrified Tommy. The wall crossed it with a low arch. On the further side of the well was a third wall, with a space of about two feet and a half between it and the side of the round well. Through that wall there might be a door!--or, if not, there might be some way of getting over it! To cross the well would be awkward, but he must do it! He tied the loaf in his pocket-handkerchief--he was far past fastidiousness, and Tommy knew neither the word nor the thing--and knotted the ends of it round his neck. But his chief anxiety was not to break the bottle in his jacket-pocket. He got on his knees on the parapet. How deep and dark the water looked! For a moment he felt a fear of it something like Tommy's. How was he to cross the awful gulf? It was not like a free jump; he was hemmed in before and behind, and overhead also. But the baby drew him over the well, as the name of Beatrice drew Dante through the fire. The baby was waiting for him, and it had to be done! He made a cat-leap through beneath the arch, reaching out with his hands and catching at the parapet beyond. He did catch it, just enough of it to hold on by, so that his body did not follow his legs into the water. Oh, how cold they found it after his run! He held on, strained and heaved up, made a great reach across the width of the parapet with one hand, laid hold of its outer edge, made good his grasp on it, and drew himself out of the water, and out of the well.
He was in a narrow space, closed in with walls much higher than his head, out of which he saw no way but that by which he had come in--across the fearful well, that seemed, so dark was its water, to go down and down for ever.
He felt in his pocket. If then he had found baby's bottle broken, I doubt if Clare would ever have got out of the place, except by the door into the next world. What little strength he had was nearly gone, and I think it would then have gone quite. But the bottle was safe and his courage came back.
He examined his position, and presently saw that the narrowness of his threatened prison would make it no prison at all. He found that, by leaning his back against one wall, pushing his feet against the opposite wall, and making of the third wall a rack for his shoulder, he could worm himself slowly up. It was a task for a strong man, and Clare, though strong for his years, was not at that moment strong. But there was the baby waiting, and here was her milk! He fell to, and, with an agony of exertion, wriggled himself at last to the top--so exhausted that he all but fell over on the other side. He pulled himself together, and dropped at once into, the garden. Happier boy than Clare was not in all England then. Hunger, wet, incipient nakedness, for he had torn his clothes badly, were nowhere. Baby was within his reach, and the milk within baby's!
He ran, dripping like a spaniel, to find her, and shot up the stair to the room that held his treasure. To his joy he found both Tommy and the baby fast asleep, Tommy tired out with the weary tramping of the day before, and the baby still under the influence of the opiate her mother had given her to make her drown quietly.
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