Read an Excerpt
Thirteen-year-old Andrew Pringle found himself further up the glen than he had ever been on his own, but he was eager to catch a glimpse of the vixen and her cubs. He knew he ought to keep well away from the old quarry but he was sure he had heard a whimper from an animal in distress. His blue eyes scanned the scrub and rough grass which had grown up in crevices since the quarry was last worked a dozen years ago. The whimper came again. He thought it was below him and he stepped as near the edge as he dared. Loose stones and rocks immediately broke away, rolling and crashing over the jagged outcrops, some of them to land in the water which had gathered far below. Andrew shuddered, but the animal whimpered again. He had to investigate. He lay on his stomach and eased himself towards the edge of the quarry. He gasped when he realised he was on the edge of an overhang which could break away any minute. He moved back swiftly and as he did so the whimper of the animal became more distinct, more urgent. It doesn’t want me to leave, Andrew thought.
He walked further round the rim of the quarry until he judged the ground was firmer. Again he lay on his stomach and squirmed forward. Almost directly beneath him was a narrow ledge. A scrubby sapling seemed to have sprouted from the bare rock but it was enough to prevent the animal from falling to its death. It was not a fox. It was a collie dog. Andrew’s heart began to thump. His eyes searched the surrounding area. There was no path to the ledge, but there were several boulders interspersed with stunted bushes. He judged the ledge was not much more than twelve feet below him. He refused to let his mind dwell on the nothingness beyond.
Andrew was intelligent and he was not usually impulsive, but he knew the collie was pleading for help and his young heart couldn’t resist. He eased himself over the edge. Slowly, testing each rock, each bush, he made his way down. He breathed a huge sigh of relief when he reached the ledge. The collie looked up at him with melting brown eyes. He dare not rest his own weight against the sapling and the ledge was narrower than he had realised, petering out to no more than a ridge in the red sandstone face. Carefully he squatted down beside her. He spoke gently and patted the velvety head. She whined softly and tried to stretch, almost as though wanting to show him where it hurt. He felt her legs gently. There didn’t seem to be any broken bones but she had a nasty gash on one front leg and another on her flank. The blood had dried and the wounds looked stiff and sore. A silver disc told him her name was Nell.
‘How long have you been here, Nell? Without food or water …’ She pricked her ears at the sound of her name but she was obviously weak. The problem was how to get her back up. Could he even get out of the quarry himself?