|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Weekly Mercury (NSW : 1892-1931)|
|Trove Title||The Gold Seekers|
THE GOLD SEEKERS.
CHAPTER XVIII (continued).
Tlicre was no better luck on the morrow in spite of Beausire's fervent wish for its arrival. Nor, indeed, did the nest day or the nest bring tliem any nearer to the longed-for wealth. It was some weeks before they ever saw gold at all.
In tlie meanwhile, Ivor found his life very hard to bear without the certain hope of winning Gweii. He had written to her from Castlemaine — after having decided not to cable her — a long account of his shipwreck and sub sequent rescue. He had said that he was afraid that he must bo destined to be dogged by ill-luck, since he could not even get an opportunity of trying to make that fortune for which he was so eagerly anxious. There was a tone not so much of compliant as of sadness in the letter, which made Gwen's eyes fill with tcais when she read it. It also made her determine on a step of which she had been thinking ever since her father died. Some sis months previously Mr. Llewellyn had gone quietly to his grave, and had left Gwen mistress of Glanwythian and about a thousand pounds or so a year. Ivor's silence had at first surprised her, and had then annoyed her. It was not kind of him. There was no misunderstanding between them. In their inmost heart each knew that they loved the other, but modesty, forbade Gwen from openly acknowledging the fact to Ivor, .and Ivor's poverty — quite wrongly— made him think that he had no light to bind her by a promise of marriage. In fact, so long as Mr. Llewellyn should live, at least, it would be merely absurd to suggest anything of the sort, for they were both quite impecunious. This was tho real state of matters. Ivor, despite tho fancied coldness of Gwen's last letter — fancies which always trouble a lover's heart and serve to keep him ardent — could not '*-- bring himself to believe altogether that Gwen did not love him. He was sufficiently well aware of his ov/n deficiencies to think that if Gwen were to consent to marry him, it would be an act of condescension on her part, and i yet they were surely mado for each other. ' In three months, at any rate, ho could hope for an answer from her, and then he should know his fate ; for during these long months of silence she would have been able definitely to make up her mind. So Ivor toiled on, and by the end of three months no letter had come, and Ivor and Beausire found that it was all they could do to keep body and soul together.
? \ CHAPTER XIX. THE VERGE OP STARVATION. The two partners had worked on uncom plainingly side by* side' for more than four months and were at thoir wits' end. They had no money left, and had found no gold at all for a fortnight. Their stock of provisions was at an exceedingly low ebb, -and their clothes were worn out and torn. It was a Sunday morning, and Ivor, as usual, was going to walk in to Yaughan to see if any letter bad arrived for him. ' Will you come, Beausire ?' 'No, thanks, old chap. I don't care -much to parade our failure more than necessary by appearing in these rags. I shall sit under the trees, and smoke until you come back. Back about four, I suppose ?' 'Yes, I suppose so,' said Ivor, going as he said it into the tent and wrapping up a sand wich — consisting of two thick slices of stale . bread, with a slab of cold salt pork in between — for his dinner. They did not talk much in these days. During the day thoy worked stolidly on, with that fierce, impetuous eagerness which only those know who are fighting against despair. Ivor walked in to Vaughan and, asked in his nsual way for letters — as usual, nor expecting -any. Gne, edged deeply with black and addressed in Gwen's well-known writing, was handed to him. Ivor knew what news it contained before he tore open the envelope. He was almost half way back to tho camp, when he sat down on the trunk of an uprooted tree and opened the letter. It was very short. She would havo written before, but Ivor's letter had arrived when she was in the midst of business resultant on her father's death. His longed and tried illness\ i had worn hor out, and she thought of going j v abroad. Tho letter ended thus : i I thought that you had forgotten me; bnt your | letter showed me that you were not to blame. I % hardly know whether to be more glad atyour escape i or Borry for your disaster. You seem to be destined i to bad luck. 4 Ivor sighed deeply as he folded tho letter '?% and put it into liis coat-pocket. ;'] ' ' Yon seemed destined to bad luck,' ' he te repeated to himself. ? ' Gwen has exactly hit nH it. I am destined to bad luck.' \ ',-tf He sat for quite an hour on the log, f and ate his far from tempting dinner in a pensive manner. Then, he lit his pipe and strolled slowly back towards the camp. Gwenjyas not yet married, that was quite certain, nor, indeed, could she be thinking of ? marrying jnst yet, for she announced her in * j V tontion of going abroad. To- Ivor's obscured mental vision the fact kG* father's death had placed a still wider ( gulf ihan_ previously between them. Gwen was an heireBB now, and ho — well, not very , far removed from being a pauper. '/..?.-j ? ? ''?'4
' Beausiro saw when Ivor approached the 1 camp, that something had happened, bnt was well-bred, enough to allow Ivor to tell his own story if ho wished. j They were more than usually silent after their never- varying supper of tea and damper. At last Beausire lose from tho ground on which ho was reclining and knocked ftlie 'doddle' out of his pipe, and, putting his hand on Ivor's shoulder, said :
' Come, Ivor, old boy, let's turn in.' Ivor looked up and saw Beausire's eyes fixed upon him very kindly. His own oyes filled with tears as he said : ' Beausire, you are a good soul. I have lost a very dear old friend.' They then went, without another word, to bed. On the following morning they began again that search for gold which promised to lure thom to starvation in the bush. For about a fortnight they had been sink ing a hole about a quarter of a mile from the camp, where a month or two before they had found a little surface gold. They took it in turns to dislodge and shovel out the soil and to wash it in the cradle at the creek which ran close past them. At midday they knocked off work, without having washed .any signs of gold at all. As they were eating their cold pork, Beau sire said :
' This is getting really serious, Ivor. How long can we exist if wo wash no more gold ?' ' I should think that we might pull through for just about another week, and after that — ' ' Well, after that ?' asked Beausire, as Ivor paused. ' That is just what I don't know.' ' We might go to see old Courtenay.' ' I think that's about -the best thing we could do. He has. proved himsolf to be' that ram avis — a true prophet. We hardly thought it would come to this, old man, did we ?' ' Not exactly.' ' I feel more or loss to blamo for having brought you into it.' ' Ivor, don't be a fool. I am of age, and np till now I have enjoyed myself well enough here.' ' It will be rather ignominious to go back to Courtenay and tell him we had failed.' ' Not in the least. _ We have done our best. There is nothing disgraceful in it; we have simply- had bad luck; besides, we haven't failed yet. You say we can last out another week. Who knows ? In that time the luck may turn. We have been expecting it for all these months, and its hasn't- come. Nothing ever does come when it is expected ; it wouldn't be worth having if it did. Let ns work on here until wo are absolutely starved out, and then we can go to old Courtenay, to ask him to put us in the way of earning a respectable living.' ' I suppose that is. the bost thing to do
under the circumstances. ' Of course it is. We are gentlemen, and ho knows it. He will know perfectly well that we don't come to beg of him.' So they settled the matter to the satisfac tion, at any rate, of one of them. Ivor for some inexplicable reason, felt that he vrould be in some way degrading himself by going to Courtenay, but having nothing else to suggest, was fain to fall in with Beausire's suggestion. It was oh a Monday night when the con versation had taken place. ' All through Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday they worked with that 'dogged determination which marks the Englishman the world over. Not a solitary grain of gold did they see during that time. As they were coming homo that night from their work Beausire quite suddenly broke into a roar of mocking laughter. ' Doesn't it strike you as humorous, Ivor?' Ivor was bound to confess that it did not strike him in that light. ' No, of course it doesn't, old chap. I never met a man so absolutely destitute of humour as you ; but I can't help laughing. Here we have been digging away at a hole in the ground for three blessed waeks, and wash ing the earth as carefully as though it was a new-born babe — simple earth, mere soil worth about a penny a ton ; it is not as if we were going to do anything with it ! we ain't — we simply ladle it out and wash it,' and he burst into anothor roar of laughter. Ivor was afraid that Beausire was going off bis head, and said, in a tone of anxiety : ' I am afraid you have got a touch of the sun, Beausire.' Ivor's grave face and his solicitude for him made Beausire worse, and he was compelled to sit down on the ground and hold his sides as he rolled about in a paroxysm of laughter. 'When he at last found breath, ho gasped out :
' Oh, dear — oh dear ! For Heaven's sake don't look so serious, Ivor, or you will kill me ! I never did see a man like you any where.' Ivor, now convinced that Beausiro was all right, laughed ,too in a half-hearted way, and said : ' I am vory glad to seo you laugh, under the circumstances ; but I'm hanged if I 'see anything to laugh at.' ' You wouldn't, old. chap. I didn't expect you to. Come' on, let's get back to the tent and cold salt pork. Lord, I am sick, enough oFthat anyhow.' All through that evening Beausiro contin ued to explode with laughter at intervals, until Ivor began to bo annoyed with him. ' My dear Ivor,' said Beausire, at last, ' I can't help it. It is very lucky that I can see the humourous side of it, for if I took every thing so uncommonly seriously as you. do we should havo been bored to death weeks ago.' ' Yes, I daresay ; hut I don't see any light -forward.' 'Bah! what rot yon aro talking. Life
doesn t end at twenty-five. For most men it doesn't begin until after thirty. Suppose we do make a fiasco of this, it isn't our first, and wo have all the world before us — nothing to lose — at least, I haven't — and everything to win.' Ivor sighed for answer, and Beausiro' looked at him critically, and said : ' I believe you are in lovo, old chap.' ? Ivor coloured slightly, and Beausire got up from_ the ground where he was sitting, and said in a tono of concern : ' By gad ! I am sorry ; so that has been the cause of all. your seriousness. Cheer up, Ivor we'll make our fortunes yet, and I will be your bost man before a couple of years are out.' .'I sincerely hope you may,' said Ivor with a smile. Ho then gave Beausire a gen eral outline of his position with regard to Gwen, a narrative to' which Beausire listened ?mth tho utmost attention.
' Yon are a very eensitivo person, Ivor. | Just fancy our having been together all this time and you never having mentioned a word about it.' . . ' I didn't think you would appreciate it when we first met, and I have always put off tolling yon for the last six months.' _ 'You aro right there. I don't think I was a fit rcceptablo for love confidence eighteen months ago. I hope you can trust mo now, old fellow, though.' ' Anywhere, with anything, answorcd Ivor, earnestly ; and then roso and they went to bed. .. Tho following day they worked as usualy
until midday, and, as usual had 'washed no gold. £: To-morrow wo must havo a final try somewhere,' said Beausire. ' Since what . you told me last night, I feel that wo must j make money somehow at this game. I think we shall havo given this confounded hole a fair trial by to-night.' ' Yes, in fairness to ourselves, I vote for a hew place to-morrow. We shall only be able to give to-morrow and Monday to it if we wash no gold. Wo cannot possibly last pajpt Monday.' 'That is so, I suppose,' said Beausiro, meditatively, as he puifed slowly at his pipe ' Come on,' said Ivor, after about half an hour's silonce, during which thoy had smoked thoughtfully ; ' let us give this beastly place the best of its chance.' Beausire rose and descended the now fairly deep hole, and tho monotonous work began. Beausire picked and shovelled with heroic energy, while Ivor, in a preoccupied frame of mind, washed tho oavtli mechanically. The cradle seemed to work automatically under his now practised hand. It must havo been four O'clock in the after noon when Ivor was awakened from his rev erie by the sound of the pick striking against something hard, followed by an ejaculation from Beausiro. Ivor continued to rock the cradle to and fro, and the pick again descen ded, this time with a dull sound._ Again there was an ejaculation from Beausire, and the sound of the picking ceased for a time. Ivor still rooked the cradle to and fro, and suddenly the picking began again with redoubled vigour. After a few strokes Ivor again heard the sound of the pick striking something hard, followed this time by an oath. ' He must have come to a bed of rock,' thought Ivor to himself, and rocked' the cradlc. Again the picking began vigorously. Bean sire took some twenty strokes before the same sharp, hard sound struck- Ivor's ears once more. /
There was a roar from the hole, whether of pain or joy Ivor could not determine ; but he dropped the handle of the cradle and ran to. tho edge of the hole to see Beausire scram bling out as fast as he could. ' What is it ?' asked Ivor, anxiously! ' Come on !' roared Beausire, as he scram bled out, and pushing Ivor aside, began to run as fast as he could toward tho bush. Ivor, thinking that he must have got a sunstroke, ran after him. Beausire ran in a straight lino from the pit, looking back every now and then, and shouting to Ivor to ' come on.' Ivor, who was only about five yards behind him, did his best to ' come on,' but Beausire seemed to be possessed of a devil, and ran like the wind. He ran in a perfectly straight line through tho bush for some three hundred yards, 'and then with a shriek, dropped on to the ground beside some gleaming white rock. Ivor, who had lost ground in the last two hundred yards, came *up . panting, thinking that Beausire had dropped in a fit. To his amazement he found him fondling the rock and laughing foolishly. 'What is the matter, Beausire?' gasped Ivor. ' Shall I get some water ?' Beausire looked np and laughed, as he I shouted, at' the pitch of his voice : j ' Asses, mules, idiots ! Oh, Ivor, I could kick myself for a fool !' I ' For Heaven's sJSce, Ijeausire, what is it ??' 'Do you see that, you old mol&-?' said Beausire, as he dashed his fist down on to tho j rock which he appeared to be embracing. That — that — that !' he cried again pound ing the rock till tho blood spurted from his hand. 'Well?' ' Well, it is quartz — a quartz reef ! This is tho out crop of one of the richest quartz reefs in the world, and here have we been fuddling and fooling away washing that darned soil while a. fortune has been lying at our feet.' Beausire yelled this out at -the pitch of his voice. ' How do you know ?' asked Ivor. ' How do I know ? Oh, Ivor, you aro an old fool ! Come on back to that confounded
hole with me.' They hurried back and descended together. Beausire was now in a state of suppressed ex citement which mado his . face ' twitch ner vously. He took, up the pick, and examined the point carefully. He then grunted and began to pick gingerly at tho soil. Then he shovelled away the soil and laid bare the quartz. Ivor strained his eyes, but saw nothing but the gleaming quartz. ' I see nothing,' said lie to Beausire. ' Hush !' whispered Beausire, from whose forehead the sweat was pouring in streams. His hands shook so that tho shovel which he was holding rattled against his boots. He went clown on his knees and brushed away the Soil with his hands, and after a foV mo ments grunted again. He then took up tho pick and aimed very carefully at a particular spot in tho quartz. The pick wont in with a dull sound and remained. ' There !' said Beausire, in a low voice, as he wiped the sweat away fr«m his brow. ' What is it ?' said Ivor. ' Gold — pure gold,' answered Beausire, in a reverent whisper. ' But I don't see it.'
31 or answer, Boausire tried to pull out the pick, but finding it too firm embedded, he wrenched it away sideways, and on the end -a jagged piece of qnartz and gold remained. ' There !' he said to Ivor, in the same rev erent whisper 'Do you see that? . There's more gold than quartz! Now I have never heard of anything like this in tho whole his tory of gold-mining. This little bit hero is crammed full of gold, and I expect the whole reef is the same.' 'But why did you run up into tho bush ?' ' Because after I had struck the quartz I found which way the reof ran, and I saw the up-trend'was in that direction, and I know tliat it couldn't be far off, because this part of reef is so near the surface.' ' Biit do you think that it is likely tlie whole ? reef will ba aa productive ?'
' Likely ! All I know is that if wo put that sample on the Melbourne market, tho shares in this mine, if there wero any, would go up to Heaven knows^wliere.' Ivor laughed a low, soft laugh — the_ confi dent laugh of a man 'who sees his aim ac complished. ' Then we aro rich,' he said. ' We shall bo, if we can only manage to get our little scheme carried through before it gets blown upon.' ' What do you mean?' ' We must get two claims marked out provisionally, and find out how much more wo can acquire as soon as possible, and then | we must get hold of some machinery some how.' ' How are wo to manage that?' ' Go to Courtenay.' Ivor thought for a few moments before he answered. ' I suppose you are right. So it is Cour tenay, after all.' i How different were their feelings as they
?smoked their pipes that night ! Ivor had been smitten with the gold-fover, and visions of vast wealth arose beforo.him ; castlcs in Spain, which promised to become realities, and all tlieso dreams wero dominated by tho vision of Gwen — the imperial stately mistress of it fM. ( On the following morning, after having pegged out provisionally two claims, thoy walked into Yaughan and took tho train to Castlemaine. They called on old Courtenay, and were told that he was having his lunch at the hotel. They walked there, and on going up into tho verandah were greeted, to their amazement, by Anatole. Anatolo would have kissed them if they had allowed him, but being denied this, he con tented himself with shouting for Lola. Lola, dressed in a white muslin frock, and wearing a white roso in her hair, came lan guidly from an inner room ; on seeing who her visitors were, she smiled her old smile, and welcomed them with all the cordiality of which sho was capable. _ ° ' How is it, then ?' said/Beausire in French
to Anatole — ' is it that you are the proprietor of this establishment?' ' Mais 7ion, monsieur. I am ze managere.' He then proceeded to inform them that he had had the good fortune to make the acquain tance of tho proprietor through an advertise ment, and that the proprietor had expressed himself satisfied with Anatole's qualifications. They had been there a month, and the custom had increased enormously — ' chiefly owing to Lola's attractions,' he added, with a sigh. 'I see nothing to sigh about,' said Beau siro ; to which Anatole offered no reply save a shrug -of the shoulders. 'But we want to see Mr. Courtenay,' said Ivor. ' He is lunching here.' ' Ah, yes ; come wiz me ;' and Anotole led thom into a private room, where old Courte nay was lunching in solitude. He rose and greeted them warmly. 'Well, my young friends, how are you? Made your fortunes yet? I must say you don't look like it,' he added, glancing at their clothes. Ivor laughed in a way which showed the old man that he had something to tell, and Courtenay said : ( ' Out with it ! You havo something on your mind, young man ; I can see that in your oyes. You haven't come to tell me you can go no m,ore. I have too much experience of good' and bad news not 'to know the signs by this time.' . ' In as few words as possible, .Ivor told him the story of their discovery. When it was finished Courtenay called for his bill, and they left the hotel, promising Anatole' unlimited custom in the future. 'Come on,' said Courtenay; 'we have just time to catch the train to Yaughan. You will have to put me up to-night. 'Rough quarters, Mr. Courtenay,' said Ivor. ' I'm accustomed to them. Been in worse quarters than you have, perhaps.' Courtenay had decided instantly to come and see this wonderful find of Ivor and
Beausiro as soon asjhe -had heard their de scription of it. On the way down in the train he turned to Ivor, and said : ' By the way, did I see you in Castlemaine about ten days, ago ?' ' No,' said Ivor. 'I haven't been there since I saw you last.' ' H'm ! I must have been mistaken. I thought it was you, and that you were too proud to take notice of me. They drove from Vaughan out to tho camp and an hour after they arrived, Courtenay said as he stood at the side of the hole at which they had worked so assiduously : ' Well, gentlemen, I congratulate you. There is no doubt here. I am not a very rich man, but I make this proposition to von. j
You will want very little machinery, except a crushing machine to start with. This reef will bo vory easy worked for a year or two. I will supply all the necessary machinery and appliances out of my own pocket , to start the mine, on conditions that I havo one fifth sbaro of tho' profits. When further machinery, is required for more extensivo operations, we will share tho cost of them in the proportion of one-fifth to four-fifths. I shall not expect to bo repaid my original outlay, as I shall consider that a very moderate sum to pay for coming into the concern. If .you agree, there is my hand and we'll get the articles drawn np and ratified as soon as possible. If not — well, I have nothing to say in the matter, for it is your discovery.' Ivor held out his hand and said : ' I think your propostion a very generous one, Mr. Courtenay, and.I for one agree.' ' And I, too,' said Beausire. 'Very well,_ gentlemen, wo aro partners, arid I don't think you'll regret having taken on the junior. I must got back to Yaughan and get those claims recognised. What we
have pegged out already, together with my claim, will do, for us, I think.' Ivor accompanied tho old man half-way back- to Yaughan, and then come back to sleep and dream of Gwon.
, » CHAPTER XX. BIRD OP PREY. As surely as the. vulture scents death, so surely does the human race scent gold. In the early morning of Sunday, Ivor was awakened from sleep by the tramp of feet. He got up and looked out of the tent, saw three ^ Chinamen swinging paBt with that peculiar ' lope' which is neither a walk nor a run, and which is purely Chinese. On their backs thoy carried all their worldly goods, among which a cradle for washing gold was prominent. They passod on up tho creek some tyo or three hundred yards, and stopped. jf (
They had not spoken, and thoir facos 5wcro tho only expression which a Chinose faco can wear — that of inscrutability. By tho time that Ivor and Beausiro had got up three more Chinamen had arrived. By mid day half a cloven more Chinamen and eight or nino white men camo in. By dusk there were fifty men on the banks of tho creek. A ruffianly crew, for the most part ; among the whole throng there wore not one man who
showed by his appearance, habits, or expres sion that he had any of tho elements of success in him. Thoy wero tho riff-raff of the colony, who had tried and failed a hundrod times, and would try and fail again. , All had tho one' desire — to become quickly rich with as little labor as possible. For at least ninety-five per cent, of them wealth would bo as tuseless as poverty ; ' to them wealth meant only one thing — money to spend, to fritter away in folly and extravagance. One can well believo the extraordinary tales of the early goldfields in Australia, when men, from pure bravado and folly, wotlld eat a hundred-pound noto be: tween slices of bread.
' 'As Ivor and Beausiro scanned the faces of their new comrades, they saw in them all that was typically evil and nothing that was good. There was no sign of virtue or cleanliness or thrift — as evil-looking a crew of gallows-birds as one could wish to see. Yet these were not all. All through the night the tramp of mon and tho rumblo of carts disturbed the silence, and in the morning the numbers of the previous day had been doubled. Ivor and Boausire had all thoir work cut out to prevent'their claim from being ' iumped.' By midday, however, Courtenay
arrived, ancl a different aspect was put upon matters. All the new arrivals seemed to know him and rcspect him, in so far as any one of their type couldrespect anything. 'How is this?' said Courtenay to Ivor. 'You surely never told any one that you had found gold ?' ' Not a word did Beausiro or I breathe to any human being about the matter except to you.' 'H'm!' muttered Courtenay ; 'it is tho most extraordinary thing in tho world, this
instinct which draws men to gold — when it has been found. It is a pity for some of them that the instinct does not tell them a littlo sooner where to find it.' 'But how could they possibly know ?' 'It is the Chinamen. They must have seen you go into Yaughan and my coming back with you, and drawn their conclusions.' ' I suppose they wont interforo with us, though ?' ' Not in the least, except for stealing now and then ; but we'll soon have law and order of a sort down here ; besides, I shall want some of these men to work for us. Tho majority of them won't, ,as they will be for making fortunes on their own account. Ah, there's one, at any rate, who will — old Duncan M' Alpine, the best underground manager in Australia when he's sober, and as good as most others when he's drunk:' As Courtenay spoke, a man of about sixty years of age, with a gray, unkempt beard and a prodigious red nose, came toward Courtenay and, touching his ragged cap, said, in a tone of inquiry : . ' Ye'll be in this, Mr. Courtenay ?' 'Yes; . That's my claim jjegged out 'over there.' ' Ye'll be wanting ? an underground manager?' ' Yes, certainly.' ' Ye k&n auld Duncan ?' 'None better,' said Courtenay, with a laugh. , I ' Aweei, I suppose, I'll get the job and I'll jist gang and pick oot a dizen or sojo' these wasters to start wi'.' ' Then you have engaged yourself, Dun can ?' 'Ay.' ' You must really keep off whisky — this is going to be a big thing.' ' I ken. I'll aye get drunk on the Sawbath or mebbe o' the Saturday night ; and that'll no harm naebody.' ' Yery well Duncan. I shouid suggest that you would dQ very well not to get drunk on any day in the week ; but I Buppose you will please yourself.' 'Ay, I'll please mysel'. I hae been fu' o' a Saturday nicht for forty year, and I'm nao likely to change the noo.' | ' We shall start her to-morrow ; and seo that you got respectable men.'
' Respectable men !' said Duncan, in a tone of utter contempt. ' An' div yo think that I'll find anither respectable man forbye mysel' in yon crew ? Aweel, ye were aye a man for a bit joke, Mr. Courtenay. The men shall be there, an' I'll see that they are as respectable as need be.' ' That's a good start, at any rate,' said Courtenay to Ivor, as old Duncan moved away cc If any man can keep these fiends in order, ho will.' In the evening Duncan came to say that he had got a gang, and that sinking operations would begin in the morning. (To be continued.)