There is more to her silence than will ever be spoken. Can he unlock the mysteries?
When Jeremy, a young cowboy from Indian Rock, Colorado, in the 1890s, is sent to San Francisco on official ranch business, he gets more than he bargained for.
A tragic train wreck caused by a criminal gang, in the lawless Sierra Nevada Mountains, starts off a series of unfortunate events for Jeremy, which ultimately ends in him washing ashore on a tiny island off the coast of California.
Battered and bruised, Jeremy is nursed back to health by the most beautiful girl he has ever seen—Sophia Annikov. But Jeremy soon learns that the stunning silent Russian has secrets enough to scare anyone away.
And these secrets have forced her and her overprotective father into hiding on this tiny island.
As Jeremy prepares to leave the island this time with Sophia by his side, it is her secrets that threaten his plans . . . and his life, before an invasion on the island begins!
“Now you’ve checked your trunks and your carpet bag at the baggage window. You got your map of San Francisco, and your wallet, and all the details about the job wrote out for you. You got any questions?”
Jem McClary’s keen eyes challenged his son. The boy looked away and seemed embarrassed by his questions, but that was just too bad. He wasn’t about to let his young son go on his first solo, out-of-town business trip without going right down his checklist.
They were standing in the yard of Cheyenne’s beautiful new train depot, and the clock tower high above the red brick building read ten minutes to nine o’clock. A shrill whistle sounded in the distance, and the other travelers in the yard scurried past them on their way inside.
“You got your pistol and your box of ammunition, your hunting knife, your socks, and six pairs of clean underwear.”
Jeremy glanced around them anxiously and hissed: “Dad!”
“You got your boots, your Sunday shoes, your nice business suit and shirt, your Sunday hat and necktie.”
Jeremy planted his hands on his hips in exasperation. “If I find out I forgot anything, I’ll buy it in San Francisco, Dad. For cryin’ out loud.”
“I expect you to go to church while you’re there, you hear me?”
A trill of scornful laughter from a passerby made them both look up, and Jem’s eyes narrowed in exasperation. A flossy young woman sauntered past―one of the small army of working girls who seemed to be everywhere in Cheyenne.
The girl circled Jeremy, boldly assessing his blonde hair and trim physique. Jem let her do it; but his patience only lasted until she strutted within reach. He grabbed her arm, hustled her down the sidewalk, and unceremoniously pushed her out into the street.
“Go hunt you a grown one, sister!” he called after her. He glared after her as she stumbled down the street, and then returned to his red-faced son.
“Dad, I know a second-story girl when I see one,” he murmured.
“You’d better,” Jem told him grimly. “San Francisco has more of ‘em even than Cheyenne. It’s a wicked town. Your mother and I raised you to be a decent man, Son. I’m trusting you to behave like one while you’re there.”
“You treat me like I’m a kid.”
“Nineteen is a kid. Now stand still, your collar’s crooked.”
Jeremy pulled away and turned for the depot. Jem followed him, still mentally ticking off items on his checklist.
“Your mother and I expect to get a telegram as soon as you arrive, you hear me?”
“I’ll telegram you.”
“You have a reservation at the―”
“At the Castle Hotel on Excelsior and Seventh streets,” Jeremy finished wearily. “I’ve got it, Dad.”
“You got your train ticket?”
“Right here.” Jeremy lifted it up and waved it back and forth as he walked inside the big brick building. The station door swung open to reveal an elegant interior with hanging chandeliers and wood wainscoting.
As they crossed the marble floor to the boarding area, the hiss and roar of the arriving train drowned out all other sounds, and they picked up their pace.
By the time they got outside and onto the boarding platform, the hissing engine was several hundred yards down the track and pouring steam into the morning air. The uniformed porters were already out on the platform, making way for the debarking passengers.
Jem turned to his son. “Well, boy, this is it. Your Uncle Nate is paying you a big compliment, to trust you with such an important assignment. He knows you’re going to do a good job for him. And so do I. Your mother and I are proud of you, Son.”
Jem took his son by the shoulders, hugged him, and slapped his back. “You look out for yourself, you hear?”
Jeremy nodded, stepped backwards, and waved. Jem watched as he handed the porter his ticket and climbed onto the train. Jem’s eyes followed his tall blonde son as he walked through the train car and settled into a window seat near the front.
Jem sat down on a bench and kept silent vigil until all the embarking passengers had climbed onto the train. He sat watching as the porters settled them in, and a new belch of steam burst from the engine’s maw. An ear-splitting whistle shook the station, and the train’s ponderous wheels began to churn.
Jem stood up and put up his hand. He watched as Jeremy leaned out the window, grinned, and waved.
Well, there goes my big lanky heart, Jem prayed silently. Please, Lord, watch after that boy, and bring him back safe to his mother and me. Help him to do the job right and keep his mind on business while he’s there.
And, Lord, if it’s not too much trouble, please help Jeremy forget about that little gal he had his heart set on. His mother and I figured that a trip out of town might help him do that.
Please mend that boy’s heart, Lord. It’s tender, and so easily broke.
It worries me that this job’s in San Francisco, Lord, but I guess I just have to trust that Jeremy’s a decent man, a Christian man, and has a good head on his shoulders.
Leonie and I did our best, Lord. He’s in your hands now.
Jem watched the train until it shrank to a tiny wisp of steam on the edge of sight, and then rose with a sigh. He put his hat back on and walked out of the train station with his eyes on the ground and his thumbs in his belt loops.
As he walked out of the station, across the depot yard, and back into the streets of Cheyenne, a girl with a painted face greeted him from the doorway of a nearby saloon.
“Wanna have some fun, mister?” she smiled.
Jem raised sad eyes to her face. He was still thinking of Jeremy.
“Does your Mamma know what you’re doing, little girl?” he asked, and the young woman’s smile faded.
“Bet she’s worried about you,” Jem told her softly, and walked on.
Jeremy looked out the car window, then turned back, slumped into his seat, and pulled his hat down over his eyes. The passing landscape was dusty and barren for miles west of Cheyenne, so there was no reason to stare at it.
It was going to be a long, boring train trip, and he figured he might as well settle down to it.
Jeremy smiled a bit, thinking of how nervous his dad had been in the station. Jem hadn’t fussed over him this much since he fell out of a tree and broke his arm when he was five.
Jem’s usual way was to throw him in the water and let him sink or swim.
His dad had been worried, all right.
It was his first big out-of-town job for the ranch, and an important assignment. Uncle Nate had bought a couple of prize bull calves, a special breed imported from China, and Jeremy was going to pick them up at the wharf in San Francisco and bring them back on the train. It was his job to see that they were taken care of on the way, and that they reached the Circle T healthy and well fed.
That was the story his dad and Uncle Nate had told him; but there was more to it than that. Jeremy crossed his feet at the ankles and snuggled down low in the seat. His parents were shipping him to San Francisco to help him get over Daisy Dailey. That much was as plain as print.
He’d been in love with that blonde wildcat―he loved her still. It had been a tough blow when she married Clay Whitlock. He’d gone to work just like always, and settled back into his life, but his parents must’ve been able to tell his heart was broken.
They must’ve figured that a change of scene would do him good.
Not that there wasn’t real work to be done in San Francisco, and not that it was a bad idea to go. He kind of appreciated it. It was sure enough awkward to have to work with Daisy’s new husband on the ranch, and to have the other fellas in the bunkhouse lookin’ at him like they thought he was pitiful. It was strange to have every old lady in town hintin’ that he could call on her daughter.
It was just plain tough to get over a broken heart. Especially when everybody in town knew about it.
It was going to be a whole lot easier to be Jeremy McClary, representative of the Circle T Ranch in San Francisco, than to be Jeremy McClary, jilted lover boy, in Indian Rock.
Jeremy settled down in his seat, sighed, and tried to drop off to sleep. Within five minutes he was snoring peacefully, and the dusty plains outside Cheyenne rolled past.
Hours later, a woman’s shriek close to his ear roused Jeremy with a start. He sat bolt upright and swiped his hat off, only to see the other passengers crowded at the windows.
The porter was a neat, uniformed man with a bushy head of white hair and a ferocious white moustache. He announced: “We’re about to cross the Dale Creek Bridge, folks. It’s one of the longest and most dangerous bridges on the Union Pacific line. You can see her coming up now,” he told them, and pointed forward― “the good old spider web!”
Jeremy’s mouth fell open. As he slept, the train had left the plain behind and climbed up into a high, stony mountain pass; and to his alarm, the ground directly ahead of the locomotive suddenly dropped away. In its place was a long, string-thin bridge spanning a plunging gorge.
“As we cross the bridge, we will be fifteen stories over the rocks below,” the porter announced, in a tone of grim relish.
Jeremy stood up and stuck his head out the open window. The skinny track crossing over the chasm was propped up by what looked like pairs of giant toothpicks, and what was more, the wind on top of the mountain was blowing a gale. The delicate-looking bridge shimmied in the wind, and the motion made its threadlike metal guy wires glitter like the strands in a spider’s web.
Jeremy watched uneasily as a large, hand-painted sign on the mountainside loomed up. Its big letters warned: Slow trains to 4 miles per hour in crossing bridge.
A well-dressed lady standing at the windows asked the porter nervously: “Is it safe to cross the bridge when the wind is blowing like this?”
The porter crossed his arms and nodded toward the approaching bridge. “When the wind kicks up, like it’s doing now, you may feel some movement in the bridge as we cross. The wind sometimes makes it sway, but we cross real slow, just to be careful.”
A chorus of soft shrieks met these words, and Jeremy frowned at the approaching drop off in disbelief. The train slowed, and finally stopped, right on the brink of the chasm.
Jeremy turned to the porter. “Why are we stoppin’?”
The porter replied: “The engineer is probably debating whether or not we should cross. The wind always howls up here, but it’s been bad all the way up the mountain today. And near the summit―well, it’s like a regular storm. He may wait to see if it dies back a bit, before trying to cross.”
Jeremy’s mouth dropped open in dismay, and a large woman frowned at the porter. “If there’s any doubt, maybe we should go back to Cheyenne,” she complained. “Can he put the engine in reverse?”
But the porter didn’t answer. He leaned out the window to look up the line, and then ducked back in again.
“Here we go, folks!”
Jeremy watched in tingling suspense as the locomotive crept out onto the swaying spider’s web. He watched as the train slowly snaked away to the right, carefully following the narrow track. He swallowed as their car slowly followed, and watched as the last rocky ledge fell away, and their car moved out over the empty chasm.
Jeremy looked straight down. Boulders and shrubs at the bottom of the dry creek bed, fifteen stories below, were as tiny as toys. Jeremy caught sight of something that made him frown and half-turn to the porter.
“What’s that at the bottom of the creek bed?” he asked uneasily. “It looks like a―”
“That’s right,” the porter nodded. “It’s a train car. The wind sometimes kicks up so, that it can knock an empty boxcar right off the track and into the gorge. We lost that one off the end of the train last month. It’s a real job to get them out of that canyon once they fall.”
Jeremy’s awed gaze returned to the tiny train car, lying on its side more than a hundred feet below. “Law!” he gasped, but any further comment was cut off when a fierce gust of wind roared over the summit, struck the bridge like a battering ram, and made it sway sharply to the left beneath them. The women screamed in earnest, and Jeremy grabbed at the window frame. Small objects came clattering off the seats and fell into the aisle, and the grim smile vanished from the porter’s face.
“Hold on!” he cried, as another gust rocked them again. Jeremy fell hard into his seat, and some of the other passengers ended up rolling on the floor. The wind howled through the open car windows and sent papers flying into the air; and Jeremy saw an impromptu poker game destroyed when some of the cards went soaring out the window.
The metal bridge supports shrieked and groaned as the track swayed back and forth, and Jeremy closed his eyes and began to pray. He imagined a grim railroad man arriving at his parent’s house. He watched the sad-faced man inform them that their son and everyone else on the train had perished when it fell off the track and went crashing to its doom at the bottom of the rocky gorge.
The passengers in the aisle crawled up from all fours and clung to their seats as the floor of the car jerked this way and that. The wind battered them relentlessly, and to Jeremy, the time seemed to crawl. Their car continued to creep forward, but the track trembled and shook with every turn of the wheels.
Every minute Jeremy expected their car to tilt off the slender track and throw them plunging to their doom; but to his amazement and profound relief, after what seemed like an hour, the train finally crawled across the precarious bridge and gained the other side.
The passengers greeted the rocky shoulder of the mountain with exclamations of joy; some fell to their knees and thanked God aloud. Jeremy looked back over his shoulder and swallowed hard as the spindly bridge swayed in the wind behind them.
“I don’t care if I have to walk a hundred miles around on my own feet,” he muttered, “I ain’t never going over that cat walk again!”
“Amen, brother,” another passenger grinned, as he crouched on all fours on the car floor. He shook his head and picked his scattered cards up off the car floor. “Amen!”
“I’m a walking down the track, I’ve got tears in my eyes,I’m tryin’ to read a letter from my home;If that train runs me right, I’ll be home Saturday night,‘Cause I’m nine hundred miles from my home.And I hate to hear that lonesome whistle blow,That long lonesome train whistlin’ down.”
Jeremy rested his chin on the open window of the car and hummed the rest of the tune. He’d slept for most of the two days it had taken them to get from Wyoming to Nevada; and if he opened his eyes and squinted out of the window, what he saw didn’t inspire him to stay awake. It had been barren desert, or white salt flats that dazzled the eye like snow.
But sleeping hadn’t been much better. He’d dreamed of Daisy―the girl he’d loved and lost. He dreamed sweet, lying dreams that showed her laughing blue eyes and her funny, crooked smile. He saw the two of them sitting on the bench near the little pond at her Pa’s place, and they kissed as the willow leaves fluttered into the water. Daisy’s lips had been as soft as rose petals, and the touch of her hand on his face as light as down.
She looked up into his face and whispered soft things; and when he asked her to marry him, she smiled and said yes right away.
And then he woke up―to find that he was on a train crossing the barren salt flats, alone in a car full of strangers. And when he looked out the window, the desert’s vast emptiness made him so lonesome that his chest ached.
It reminded him that Daisy was lost to him. That she was married to Clay Whitlock, now. And so, he closed his eyes, to dream another dream.
As the days slowly passed, the train left the deserts of Utah and Nevada and began to climb back up into fir-covered foothills. Gradually the scenery improved; and when the train climbed the eastern flanks of the mighty Sierra Nevada Mountains, the view was positively dramatic.
The world outside Jeremy’s window was majestic enough to lure him away from his painful memories.
He looked back east over a panorama of hills. Reno glittered in the hazy distance below like a toy town, and the rails behind them curved down the mountain like toy tracks.
And when he turned to look west, the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range lifted peak after snow-capped peak far into the distance.
Jeremy pulled the window down to cross his arms on the sill and gaze out at the mountains in wonder. He shook his head and prayed:
Lord, I ain’t never seen nothing like these mountains―ain’t even imagined nothing like ‘em. They’re so high and strong, and the range marches away back yonder, peak after snowy peak, just like hundreds of soldiers marching in an army. Till they fade plumb out of sight.
You sure outdid yourself.
A voice interrupted his reverie. The porter was staring at him, arms crossed, amusement written across his face. “The Sierras are pretty, aren’t they?”
Jeremy nodded. “I can kinda understand, now, why all them settlers in covered wagons half-killed themselves to get to California. I admit that going through the salt flats in Utah and Nevada I thought they was crazy. But now I see it. This is the promised land, if there ever was one.”
The porter grunted. “It was terrible to cross these mountains in the days before the railroad. The Donner Pass is named after a party of settlers who tried to get over the Sierras in their wagons. They got trapped on this side of the mountains the whole winter, and half of them starved or froze to death. Some of the ones who lived, had to resort to cannibalism to survive.
“It was hard even for the railroad to get over Donner Pass. But the engineers found a route and the railroad hands carved a tunnel through solid granite. Some of them died carving that tunnel, but they got it done.
“Nowadays, you don’t have to brave the bitter winter or drag a covered wagon up these mountain walls with ropes, to get over the Sierras. All you have to do is buy a ticket, sit down in a nice, comfortable seat, and enjoy the view.
“That kind of disaster doesn’t happen here anymore.”
As the late afternoon began to ripen toward sunset, the train made a wide loop on the shoulders of the mountain, and then turned due west to challenge the summit. Jeremy watched the side of the mountain rushing toward them, and instinctively wrapped his fingers around the edge of his seat.
The porter walked to the front of the car and announced: “Ladies and gentlemen, we will shortly be passing through the Summit Tunnel of Donner Pass. It is 7,000 feet above sea level, and the corridor through which we will cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Please return to your seats and remain still and quiet, because the train will be dark for a little while.”
He turned to look at a little boy, whose elbows were still sticking out of the open window, and added: “Pull those arms in, young man. This tunnel was blasted out of solid granite. It doesn’t give. Anything you poke out of that window is going to be knocked off.”
The boy yanked his elbows in, and they all turned to watch as their locomotive charged the mountain face and was swallowed up by the tunnel. Jeremy stared, wide-eyed, as the coal car slid into the narrow tunnel with what looked like two inches to spare; and then suddenly their car went dark.
The din through the open windows was deafening, as the train’s roaring was magnified ten times in the narrow tunnel. Jeremy clapped his hands over his ears and gritted his teeth in the dark. It seemed forever before they passed back out into the sunlight; but the train finally burst out into the light of early evening and began its triumphant descent down the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains on its way to the sea.
Jeremy opened his eyes and gazed down over a wide and smiling panorama of forested mountains, blue lakes, and glints and gleams that hinted of distant rivers hidden in the trees. This new valley was rugged and soft at the same time, it was blue and green and brown and white. It glowed in the golden hour before sunset, and the sky smiled down on it like a benediction.
Jeremy smiled softly, and said, half to himself: “Yep, this is promised land, all right. Rest in peace, all you folk who passed on the way out here. Rest, you folk who died working it. This mountain pass is your gift to the world, and you won’t be forgotten.”
“When will we get into San Francisco?”
A bearded man sitting in the seat across from Jeremy lit a cigarette, shook out his match, and tossed it out the open window. The porter told him: “We’ll push for Sacramento. We should make it late tonight. Now that we’ve crossed Donner Pass, it’s a quick downhill run to the coast.”
“Can’t we stop at a town in the mountains for something to eat? I’m famished,” the man complained, but the porter shook his head.
“There aren’t many towns up here in the high country,” the porter replied. “It’s still pretty wild.”
The bearded man took a deep drag on his cigarette and gazed out the window in dissatisfaction. Plumes of smoke whirled out from his lips and out the window as the forested mountain slopes sped by.
Jeremy settled down to sleep. The sun had set, and there was nothing to see in the window but his own reflection. He closed his eyes and leaned back in his seat, but it was hard for him to nod off. The train was running faster now than when they were climbing uphill, and what was more, it seemed to be running rough. More than once, Jeremy was jarred out of a light sleep by a sharp rattle as the train rumbled down the tracks.
He opened one eye and glanced at the porter, but the older man looked perfectly composed; and so, Jeremy sighed and settled back in. He started to hum, and then to sing softly:
“Well this train I ride on is a hundred coaches long,You can hear her whistle blow a hundred miles;And if this train runs me right, I’ll see my woman Saturday night,‘Cause I’m nine hundred miles from my home.And I hate to hear that lonesome whistle blow,That long lonesome train whistlin’ down.”
The porter smiled and joined him.
“And if this train runs me right, I’ll see my woman Saturday night,‘Cause I’m nine hundred miles from my home.And I hate to hear that lonesome whistle blow,That long lonesome―”
With shocking violence, their car suddenly slammed hard to one side, throwing Jeremy and everyone else into the air. Jeremy got a split-second vision of the locomotive ahead as it plunged off the track, slammed over on its side, and went screaming down the slopes of the mountain. Tortured metal shrieked under them as their car tilted sideways and was dragged on one rail, and the shrieks of the passengers filled the car.
Fire roared up the mountainside and singed their car as the five-ton locomotive plowed up the ground on the slope below and felled trees in its agony. The locomotive roared down the incline toward a rocky cliff with a sheer drop of a hundred feet, and slowly and inexorably, the burning engine slid over the edge. It dragged the first three passenger cars over with it, as the screams of the doomed rose high into the night.
The coupling of the fourth car broke with a sound like a shotgun blast, but the car continued to careen down the mountain toward the cliff edge. Jeremy swam inside the car almost as if he was flying as it went skidding down the mountain. He had no time to pray, or think, or even to yell out. He slammed against the side of the car and everything went dark.
Jeremy groaned and licked his lips. Daisy was standing over him with her hands on her hips. She looked down at him and laughed.
“What trouble have you got yourself in this time, Jeremy McClary?” she teased. “Lay back, and I’ll get a wet rag to mop your face. You’re covered in dirt!”
Daisy, he moaned, and tried to get up; but for some reason he wasn’t able to move. His eyes flickered open. He saw fires burning, but even though their train car was smashed, it was still upright. He closed his eyes, and Daisy walked up again in her bare feet.
“I swear, boy, I got to watch you like a hawk, or you get into a mess.” She knelt down on the ground in front of him, squeezed out a wet rag, and placed it gently on his brow.
Stay with me, Daisy.
Jeremy opened his eyes, but to his confusion, Daisy was gone. He was lying on the floor of a train car. He raised his eyes, and the sky outside the shattered windows was dark, except for a red glow that seemed to be coming from somewhere below them.
Jeremy frowned, rubbed his eyes, and climbed painfully to his feet. He leaned over to look out of the window.
To his horror, the car he stood in was teetering dangerously over the lip of a massive cliff, and half of it jutted over the edge. Far below, the proud locomotive and the first three passenger cars were smashed and burning. The engine was barely visible at the center of a ring of fire, and the first three passenger cars were upside down and completely engulfed.
A column of fire jumped up from inferno, and Jeremy scrambled back as it blasted the exposed underside of the car.
Jeremy stumbled backward. “Everybody to the back of the car!” he yelled hoarsely. “We’re about to go over a cliff! Everybody to the back!”
A chorus of groans and sobs was the only reply. Jeremy moved up the aisle. The porter was splayed across a seat, with open mouth and unblinking eyes fixed on the ceiling. A woman and her baby were lying still and quiet on the floor. Jeremy put his fingers to the woman’s neck, and then checked the baby, bowed his head momentarily, and moved on.
The bearded man who had asked for a dinner stop was slumped in a seat midway to the back, and Jeremy shook his shoulder. “Get up, mister, move to the back! Everybody get to the back of the car! Hurry!”
A few passengers staggered to their feet and moved back; but even so, the car began to tilt downward.
“Everybody to the back!” Jeremy yelled, and threw an arm around an unconscious man and lifted him from his chair. He dragged the man to the back of the car and went back to drag some of the dead to the back as well; and the car slowly righted itself again.
Once the car was level again, the small, pitiful knot of survivors lifted their eyes to his, and Jeremy saw that they were looking to him for direction. Most were girls and women; what men there were, were old or wounded in some way. He swallowed hard.
“Stay where you are while I find a way out,” he mumbled, and went to check the back door of the car. To his frustration, the metal door was jammed tight, and all the windows in the car were cracked or smashed to bits.
He turned to announce, “I’m going to bust out some of these windows, and then I’m going to push you out, one by one. You may fall a little way, but you got to jump. The car’s on fire, and we could slide over the cliff any time!”
Renewed sobbing met his words, but Jeremy took a walking cane from one of the dead men and broke out the back window, then kicked the ragged shards out with his boot.
“No time to do it easy,” he told the onlookers. “You there, missy, give me your hand, and I’ll push you out!”
A girl of about thirteen sobbed but allowed him to pull her up onto the seat and help her climb out of the gaping opening. Once she was outside, Jeremy let go of her hand and turned to the next one.
The car suddenly groaned and shifted, and the women screamed; but Jeremy grabbed another woman’s hand and pulled her up to stand on top of the seat. “Come on,” he told her. “Climb out quick!”
The woman climbed up and braced herself in the window frame; but she turned her head and froze, transfixed with horror at the sight of the roaring fire, and their own fragile perch, half in the air.
“Go!” Jeremy cried; and when she didn’t reply, he pushed her out.
The car shifted lower, and Jeremy grabbed an old woman’s hand and pulled her up to stand on the window seat. He all but pushed her through the opening, and then out.
The floorboards of the car began to smoke and pop, and here and there little fingers of fire sprang up between them. Jeremy pushed the last woman out of the car and turned to the injured man.
He extended his hand, but the portly man shook his head. “I’m all that’s holding us down, boy. If I go, you won’t have a chance!”
Jeremy frowned at him. “We’ll jump together. Come on!”
The man bit his lip and nodded. He stepped up onto the seat, and their end of the car rose up into the air. The man climbed into the window and stuck there.
“Go!” Jeremy shouted, and pushed against him. The car tilted up again, and everything on the floor skittered away to the bottom of the car.
Jeremy shoved with all his strength, and the man fell out at last. The car began to slide, and Jeremy clambered up after him, clawed through the opening, and jumped for his life.
He landed heavily, rolled, and scrabbled to hold the ground with his hands. He looked up just in time to see their burning coach tilt up to the sky above his head, and then plunge to ruin with a terrible screech, followed by an earthshaking boom.
Jeremy clung to the ground and hardly dared to move; because, when he looked around again, he was safe, but only just. He had landed only a few yards from the cliff edge.
“Help me, Lord!” Jeremy gasped; and the world went dark.
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