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Chapter NumberVII (CONTINUED)
Chapter Title
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Full Date1881-05-28
Page Number684
Word Count2236
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleFacing Death: A Tale of the Coal Mines
article text


Facing Death.


CHAPTER VII.-(Continued.)

BY G.A. HENRY, in the Union Jack.

A STRANGER arriving at Stokebridge on that Sunday morning might have thought that there was a fair, or some similar festivity, so great was the number of people who passed out of the

station as each train came in. For th*4lay Stoke* biidge waa the great point of attraction for ex cursionists from all parta of Staffordshire, Not that there waa anything to aee\ The Vaughan mine looked atill and denatmi ; no smoke issued from its chimneys; waa a strong body of police kept all except tho*i who had business there from approaching wuhin a certain distance of the shaft Still less waft then to see in Btokebridge itself. Every bluM was down—for scarce a house but had lost afieast on* of its members ; and in the darkened'Toom women sat, silently weeping for the deadrfar below. For thelaat four days work had been entirely suspendas through the district; and the men oi the other collieries, as well as those of the Vaughn who, belonging to the other shift* had escaped^ hung about the pit yard, in the vague ,r*fcoge of} being able in some way to be useful. Within an hour of the explesion, the managers of the surrounding pits had assembled ; and in spite of the faot that tke three volunteers who had first descended were, without doubt, killed, plenty of other bravo fellows volunteered their services, and would have gone down if permitted. But the r>VtMe%^x.flouonu t and the fact that the lower P*l^M Ihe shaft was now bloekjaoVup, decided the experienced men who had assembled that jruch a course would be madnesV"Cgh opinion —?•fhich was thoroughly endorsed by Mr. Hardinge and other Government inspectors and mining authorities, who arrived within a few hours of the accident ' It was unanimously agreed that the pit was on fire, for a light smojreeurled up from the pit mouth, and someyalready began to whisper that itfwould hajtfetfr be closed up. There are few things xodCe painful than to come to the con* cluetoiTthat nothing can be done, when women, /-"fialf mad with sorrow and anxiety, are imploring men to make an effort to save those below. Jane Haden, quiet and tearless, sat gazing at the fatal shaft, when she was touched on the shoulder. She looked up, and saw Harry. MThou art not down with them then, Harry?" "No; I almost wish I was," Harry said. "I came up with Jack, and hurried away to get breakfast. When I heard the blow I ran up, and .. found Jack had juat gone down. If I had only TSWUfnear,^jnurht hare gone with him;" and the young man>poke in regret at not having shared his frfend'rfate rather than in gladness at bis own escape. * Dost think therWs any hope, Harry f' *Ifi no use lying, and there's no hope for ? Jack, mother," Harry said; "bnt if anyone's saved it's like to be your Bill. He was up ia the old workings, a long way off from the part where the strength of the blow would come." "It's no use telling me, Harry ; I ask, but I know how it Is. There ain't a chance—not a ohaDee at aIL If- the pit's a-fire they'll have to flood it, and tken it'll be weeks before they pump it out^afafci; and when they bring Jack and Bill —trp-T'shan't know 'em. That's what I feel, I shan't even know 'em." " Don't wait here, Mrs. Haden; nought can be done now ; the inspectors and managers will meet this evening and consult what is best to be done." "Is your father down, Harry 1 I can't think of aught but my own, or I'd have asked afore." \*T No} heifcin the other shift My brothers WflJie andtSeoMVare both down. Come, mother, Ist mVUke you horn*." But Mrs. Haden would not move, but sat with scores of other women, watching the mouth of the pit, and the smoke cuVtingup, till night felL The news spread round'slokhbridge late in the evening that the managers hadV determined to shut tip the mouth of the pit, it* there was still smoke in the morning. Then^es is always the ease whem such a determination is arrived at, there was a cry of grief ancKanger throughout the Tillage, and all who had friends below pro tested that it would* be nothing short of murder to out off the Bupply of air. Women went down to the inn where the meeting was held, and raved like wild creatures ; but the miners of the dis trict could not but own the Btep was necessary, for that the only chance to extinguish the fire was by cutting off the air, unless the dreadful alternative of drowning the pit was resorted to. In the morning the smoke still curled up, and the pit's mouth waa closed. Boards were placed over both the shafts, and earth was heaped upon them, so as to cut off altogether the supply of air, and so stifle the fire. This was on Thursday morning. Nothing was done on Friday ; and on Saturday afternoon the mining authorities met again in council. There were experts there now from all parts of the kingdom—for the extent of the catastrophe had sent a thrill of horror through the land. It was agreed that the earth and staging should bo removed next morning early, and that if smoke still came up, water should be turned in from the caoaL At 0 in the morning a number of the leading authorities met at the mine. Men had during the night removed the greater part of the earth, and the reßt was now taken off, and the planks withdrawn. At once a volume of smoke poured out This was in any case expected ; and it was not for another half-hour, when the accumulated smoke had cleared off, and a straight but un broken column began to rise as before, that the conviction that the pit was still on fire seized all present. "I fear there is no alternative," Mr. Hardinge said ; " the pit must be flooded." There was not a dissentient voice; and the party moved towards the canal to see what would : be the best method of letting in the water, when a cry from the men standing round caused them

to tnrn, and they saw a dense white column rise from the shaft " Steam!" everyone cried in astonishment A low rumbling sound ran from the pit " What can have happened ?" Mr. Hardinge exclaimed, in surprise. " This is most extraordi nary 1" All crowded round the pit mouth, and could still hear a distant roaring sound. Presently this died away. Gradually the steam ceased to rise, and the air above the pit mouth was clear. "There is no smoke rising," one of the in spectors said. "TTliiimijipi Hi siniism lisinilnunif1 Let us lowerrfsJnTaown." Hoistige'tear and rope had been prepared on the Jbetday, in case it should be necessary to ""fewer anyone, for the wire rope had snapped when the attempt had been made to draw up the cage after the second explosion, and the sudden release from the strain had caused the "engine to fly round, breaking some gear, and forthe time disabling it from further work; 140 fathoms of rope, the depth of the shaft being 120 fathoms, had been prepared, and »n in readiness to be passed over a pulley aisJKled above the shaft, A lighted candle in a^HTlestick was pltfced onff sort of tray, which warfastened to the ropey tad; then it ras lowered gradually down. /Eagerly those above watched it as it descended^down — i dovn, till it became a mere speck below. Then ; it suddenly disappeared. / , "Stop I" Mr. Hardinge, whojsaT directing the - operations, said. Jr "There are six more fatUoms yet, sir—nigh seven—before it gets to the 120 fathom mark. "Draw up carefully, ladi" What can have ' put the light out 40ft fismn the bottom of the '. shaft ? Choke damp, ivsuppoee; but it's very liugulir." / When the candfeflfcme up to the surface there : was a cry of astonishment, the tray and the candle were jwt! The whole of those present' were artetmded, and Mr. Hardinge at once ' determined to descend himself and verify this , extraordinary ooourenoe. There was no fear of an «4xplosion now. Taking a miner's lamp, he took ' his seat in a sling, and was lowered down. Just before the rope had run out to the point at which the light was extinguished, he gave the signal to , stop by jerking a thin rope which he held in his hands. : There waa a pause, and in a minute or two came two jerks, the signal to hanl up. . "It is so," he said, when he gained the sur ; face; " there are 40ft of water in the shaft, but . where it came from is more than I can tell." ) Greatly astonished at this singular occurrence, I the group of mining engineers walked back to . breakfast at Stokebridge, where the population were much excited at the news that the pit was ' flooded. To the miners' it was a subject of the greatest surprise, while the friends of those in the pit received the news as the death-blow of their last hopes. It was now impossible that any one could be alive in the pit At 10 o'clock the mining authorities went again to discuss the serious phenomenon. All agreed ' that it was out of the question that so large a quantity of water had accumulated in any old workings, for the plan of the pit had been re peatedly inspected by them aIL Some inclined to the belief that there must have been some immense natural cavern above the workings, and that when the fire in the pit burned away the pillars left to support the roof this must have fallen In, and let the water in the cavern into the mine ; others pointed out that there was no ex ample whatever of a cavern of such dimensions as this must have been being found in the coal formation, and pointed to the worked-out Logan pit, which was known to be full of water, as the probable source of the water. During the pre i vious four days the practicability of cutting through from the Logan, which was known to have been worked nearly up to the Vaughan boundary, as a means of entering the pit and rescuing any miners who might be aliye, had been discussed, but the fact that to erect pump ing gear and get out the water would be an affair of many weeks had caused the idea to be abandoned as soon as broached. To those who argued that the water had come from the Logan, it was pointed out that there were certainly several yards of solid coal between the Vaughan and the Logan still standing, and that as the force of the explosion was evidently near the Vaughan shaft it was incredible that this barrier between the pits should have been shattered. However, it was decided to solve the question one way or the other by an immediate visit to the top of the old Logan shaft [WILL BK CONCLUDED IK OUR NEXT.]

BmuT Lesallt.—Not long since, in a Missis* sippi court, a coloured man sued a neighbour for damages for killing his dog. Colonel M., defen* dant's lawyer, called Sam Parker, a coloured man, to prove that the dog was a worthless cur for whose destruction no damage ought to be re covered. Colonel M.: " Sam, did you know this dog!" Sam : " Yes, sah, I wer' pussonally acquainted wid dat dog." Colonel M.: " Well, tell the jury what sort of a dog he was." Sam: "Ha was a big yaUer dog." Colonel M : " What was be good for T" Sam : " Well, he wouldn't hunt; he wouldn't do no gyard duty ;he jes' lay 'round an' eat Dat make 'em call him wat dey did." Colonel M.: " Well, sir, what did they call him ?" Sam : " Oey called him ' Lawyer, Bah." The late Mr. Sothern's comical contrivances were endless. His pockets, in addition to the piece of soap which for years he carried about in order to Btartle unwary friend* by marking their looking-glasses so as to give them the appearance of being cracked across, were always full of labels marked "poison," and so on, and these he affixed, whenever an opportunity afforded, on likely objects. On the railings of a London square he one day saw a newly-painted board with the inscription, "None but led dogs ad mitted ;" out came one of the endless supply of labels, and paßsers-by were astonished for a few days to read, " None but mad dogs admitted." "Smith, didn't you tell me you sometimes wrote for the papers?" "Yes. I do." "It's strange, I never have seen any of your articles in print" "Ob, they never publish them. You see, I don't mind telling you, the editor told me confidentially that my artioles were io solid he wed them for paper weights."