A pretty young woman with long golden hair and clear blue eyes set in an almost angelic face took a few more steps along a moorland hillside. Then she sat down on a white rock, kicked off one shoe, and sighed as she thought of the long walk down to the car. When she had parked in Kingsdale and set off up the hill it had seemed a jolly jaunt, but now it had started to rain and the path would be slippery and difficult.

Steeling her resolve to get back safely to the car, Geraldine put her shoe back on and stood up. Just then a tall man came up the hill. He was wearing a tight blue wet-suit and a curious hat with a lamp on it, like a miner would wear.

"Hello," he said, flashing perfect white teeth beneath a trim brown moustache. "What's a nice girl like you doing all alone up here?"

"I came for a walk," she replied. "But now that it is raining..."

A little tear formed in the corner of her eye.

"That needn't be a problem," answered the stranger. "Come on. I'll show you a way back to the car that's sheltered from the rain."

"But I don't know you." Even as she said it, somehow Geraldine felt it did not matter. It was as though they had known each other for as long as she could remember.

"I'm William," he said. "So you know me now."

Gently, he took her hand and led her across the wet grass to a little hollow with a dark hole at the bottom.

"This is the way," he said cheerily.

He turned on the light on his hat and led Geraldine down to the dark hole.

"Come in behind me. Don't be frightened. I'll see you are safe," he said.

Geraldine willingly put herself in his care.

"Grab my cow's tail," he told her.

She blushed and declined.

"This," he continued, proffering a strange little metal clamp on the end of a piece of pink cord that was tied to the middle of a complicated belt, slung rather lower than his waist and looped between his legs.

"Oh, I see," she answered, taking it into her grasp and trying not to pull at it too hard.

They crawled a short way in some shallow water until they came to the top of an underground waterfall.

"Now we're going to abseil," William said.

It sounded very exciting. He took a long rope out of a yellow bag and cast it down into the darkness.

"Take off your tights," he said, "and I'll fashion them into a harness for you."

She did as he asked, knowing that he was too much of a gentleman to take advantage of her situation. Deftly he knotted the tights into a perfect harness, and slipped it onto her. She felt his warm breath against her cheek as he tightened the harness across her breast.

"You needn't do anything," he explained. "I'll tie you onto my maillon and we can abseil together."

Soon they were floating down into a deep, deep pit that might have led to the centre of the Earth. Geraldine felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole and expected at any moment to see the White Rabbit. As they descended, they came under the charming waterfall that chuckled down the rocks from high above. By the time they reached the bottom, Geraldine was soaked through and started to shiver.

"You're cold," observed William, with kindly attention. "Here - take my wet-suit."

He unzipped the front, revealing his manly chest.

"Give me a yank off," he breathed, pulling the zip down to its end. "I can't get it over my shoulders."

Geraldine took hold of the collar of the wet-suit and peeled it over William's muscular sun-tanned arms. He stepped out of it and stood quite naked except for his neat black and orange boxer-shorts. He helped Geraldine into the wet-suit, stretching it over her heaving bosom. She felt safe and warm, even though her heart had quickened at the thrill of his touch.

They went on and on, along dark passages, into yawning chasms. How strong William was, carrying Geraldine over every stony stretch of passage, down every journey on a rope until at last they came to a great underground river.

"We're nearly there," he said. "Just a little walk down the stream."

They waded until they came to a place where the water disappeared into a hole under a little cliff. William called it a sump.

"Now, there's a surprise," he said. "I left a ladder hanging down this cliff. Someone must have moved it. Oh well, stay where you are. I'll free climb it and then use the rope to fetch you."

He turned to go to one end of the cliff, but at that moment his light went out. He thumped the side of his hat a few times, and then took it off and shook it, but the light would not come back on.

"Don't suppose you've got any matches?" he asked.

"In my handbag," she replied, "but it got full of water when we were crawling."

"We'll have to sit it out," said William, bravely.

They huddled together in the darkness. Even through the wet-suit, Geraldine could feel the warmth of William's bare athletic body. She longed to be with him in a cosy cottage, before a wood fire, instead of this dismal place.

She did not know how long they waited, but suddenly they heard voices and saw a light.

"I've found them, Jack, at the bottom of the ladder pitch."

Jack came forward, unrolled a ladder, and descended. Geraldine and William got up.

"Jolly good thing you came, old chap," said William. "We've had a complete light failure."

Jack frowned at the man in the clinging muddy boxer-shorts. Then he lifted Geraldine effortlessly with one arm, laid her carelessly over his shoulders like a shepherd might lay a lamb, and carried her up the ladder towards safety.

"We'll soon have you in the Marton Arms," he promised.

"Oh Jack," sighed Geraldine. "You're so strong!"

She knew now who she wanted to be with forever.

Philip Judson