Chapter 20707490

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Chapter NumberVII (CONTINUED)
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20707490
Full Date1881-06-04
Page Number715
Corrections1
Word Count2102
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2013-04-17
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleFacing Death: A Tale of the Coal Mines
article text

Facing Death.

A TALE OF THE COAL MINES.

CHAPTER VII.— (Continued.)

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

THEY were just starting when they heard a movement in the street, and men setting off to run. A moment later a miner entered the room hurriedly. "There's a big smoke coming up from

the old Logan shaft, gentlemen ; it's too light for coal smoke, and I don't think it is steam, either." With exclamations of surprise the whole party seised their hats and hurried off. It was twenty minutes' sharp walking to the shaft, where, by the time they reached it, a large crowd of miners and others were already assembled. Aa they approaohed, eager men ran forward to meet them. " It be gunpowder smoke, sir i" There was indeed no mistaking the sulphurous smell. M It's one of two things," Mr. Harding* said; "either the fire has spread to the upper workings, some powder bags have exploded, and the shook has brought down the dividing wall, in which case the powder smoke might possibly find its way out when the water from the Logan drained in ; or else, in some miraculous way aome of the men have made their escape, and are letting off powder to call our attention. At any rate let us drop a small stone or two down. If anyone be below, he will know he is noticed." Then he turned tojthe miners standing round : "I want the pulley and rope that we were using at the Vaughan, and that small cage that was put together to work with it I want two or three strong poles, to form a tripod over the pit here, and a few long planks to make a stage." , Fifty willing men hurried off to fetch the re* quired materials. "The smoke is getting thinner, a good deal" one of the managers said. " Now if you'll bold me, I will give a shout down." The mouth of the pit was Surrounded by a wooden fencing, to prevent anyone from falling down it. The speaker got over this and lay down on his face, working nearer to the edge, which sloped dangerously down, while others, following in the same way, held bis legs, and were in their turn held by others. When his head and shoulders were fairly over the pit, he gave a loud shout There was a death-like silence on the part of the crowd standing round, and all of those dose amid hear a faint murmur come from below. Then arose a cheer, echoed again and again, and then half-a-dozen fleet-footed boys started for Stokebridge with the news that some of the imprisoned pitmen were below. Mr. Hardinge wrote on a piece of paper, " Keep up your courage ; in an hour'a time the cage will come down ;" wrapped it round a stone, and dropped it down. A messenger was despatched to the Vaughan for the police force stationed there to come up at once to keep back the excited crowd, and with orders that the stretchers and blankets in readiness should be brought on; while another went into Stokebridge for a sur geon, and for a supply of wine, brandy, and food, and two or three vehicles. No sooner were the men set off than Mr. Hardinge said, in a loud tone : " Every moment must be of consequence; they must be starving. Will anyone here who baa food give it for them!" The word was passed through the crowd, and a score of pic-nio baskets were at once offered. Filling one of them full with sandwiches from the rest, Mr. Hardinge tied the lid securely on, and threw it down the shaft. " There is no fear of their standing under the shaft," he said ; "they will know we shall be working here, and that stones might fall" In leas than an hour, thanks to the willing work of many hands, a platform was constructed across the mouth of the Logan shaft, and a tripod of strong poles fixed in its place. The police kept the crowd, by this time very many thousand Btrong, back in a wide circle round the shaft, none being allowed inside save those who had relatives in the Vaughan. These were women, who had, on hearing the news, rushed wildly up without bonnets, just as they were when the report that there were yet some survivors of the explosion reached them. At full speed they had hurried along the road—some pale and still des pairing, refusing to allow hope to rise again, but unable to stay away from the fatal pit; others crying as they ran ; some even laughing in hysterical excitement. Most excited, because must hopeful, were those whose husbands had worked in the old workings, for it had from the first been believed that, while all in the main

working! were probably killed at once by the first explosion, those in the old workings might hare survived for days. Jane Haden walked steadily along the road, accompanied by Harry Shepherd, who had brought her the newt. "I will go," she said, "bat it is of no use; they are both gone, and I shall never see them again." Then she had pat on her bonnet and shawl, deliberately and slowly, and had started at her ordinary pace, protesting all along against its being supposed that she entertained the slightest hope ; but when she neared the spot her quiver* ing lips and twitching fingers belied her words. Harry made a way for her through the outside circle of spectators, and when she saw that Mr. Hardinge and two other managers were taking their places in the cage she sat down on a block of broken brickwork and kid her faoe in her A smaller circle, of some thirty yards in diameter, was kept round the shaft, and within this only those directing the operations were allowed to enter. The rope was held by twenty men, who at first stood at its full length from the shafts and advanced at a walk toward it, thus allowing the cage to descend steadily and easily, without jerks. As they came close to the shaft the signal rope was shaken ; another step or two, slowly and carefully taken, and the rope was seen to sway slightly. The cage was at the bottom of the shaft Three minutes' pause, the signal rope shook, and the men with the end of the rope started again to walk from the shaft As they increased their distanoe the excite ment in the great crowd grew; and when the cage showed above the surface, and it was seen that it contained three miners, a hoarse cheer ana*. The men were assisted from the cage, and sur rounded for a moment by those in authority; and one of the head men raised his hind for alienee, and then shouted, — " Mr. Brook and twenty others are saved!" an announcement which was received with another and even more hearty cheer. ' Passing on, the rescued men moved forward to where the women stood, anxiously gaiing. Blackened as they were with ooal dust, they were recognisable, and with wild screams of joy three women burst from the rest, and threw them sslves in their arms. But only for a moment could they indulge in this burst of happiness, for the other women crowded round. "Who is alive f For God's sake tell us I who Is alive r Then one by one the names were told, each greeted with cries of joy, till the Lot name was spoken; and then came a burst of wailing and lamentation from those who had listened in vain for the names of those they loved. Jane Haden had not risen from her seat, nor approached the rescued men. *No, no r she said to Harry I will not hope I I will not hope I" and while Harry moved closer to the group, to bear the names of the saved, she sat with her face buried in her lap. The very first name* given were those of Jack Simpson and Bill Haden, and with a shout of joy he rushed back. The step told Us tale, and Jane Haden looked up, rose as if with a hidden spring, and looked at him. MBoth saved I" he exclaimed; and with a strange cry Jane Haden swayed, and fell insen sible. An hour later the last survivor of those who were below in the Vaughan pit stood on the sur faoe, the last cage load being Mr. Brook, Jack Simpson, and Mr. Hardinge. By this time the moarners had left the scene, and there was nothing to cheek the delight felt at the recovery from the tomb, as it was considered, of so many of those deemed lost When Mr. Brook—who was a popular em* ployer, and whose popularity was now increased by his having, although involuntarily, shared the dangers of his men—stepped from the cage, the enthusiasm was tremendous. The crowd broke the cordon of polioe, and rushed forward, cheer ing loudly. Mr. Hardinge, after a minute or two, held up his hand for silence, and helped Mr. Brook on to a heap of stones. Although Mr. Brook, as well as the rest, had already recovered much—thanks to the basket of food thrown down to them, and to the supply of weak brandy and water, and of soup, which those who had first descended had carried with them—he was yet so weakened by his long fast that be was unable to speak. He could only wave his hand in token of his thanks, and sobs of emotion choked his words. Mr. Hardinge, however, who had, during the hour below, learned all that had taken place, and had spoken for some time apart with Mr. Brook, now stood up beside him. "My friends," he said in a loud dear voioe, which was heard over the whole crowd, "Mr. Brook is too much shaken by what he has gone through to speak, but he desires me to thank you most heartily in his name for your kind greeting. He wishes to say that, under Ood, his life, and the lives of those with him, have been saved by the skill, courage, and scienoe of his under-viewer, Jack Simpson. Mr. Brook has consulted me on the subject, and I thoroughly agree with what he intends to do, and can certify'to Jack Simp son's ability, young as he is, to fill any post to which he may be appointed. In a short time I hope that the Vaughan pit will be pumped out and at work again, and, when it is, Mr. Jack Simpson will be its manager !" The story of the escape from death had already been told briefly by the miners as they came to the surface, and had passed from mouth to mouth among the crowd, and Mr. Hardinge's announce ment was greeted with a storm of enthusiasm. Jack was seized by a score of sturdy pitmen, and would have been carried in triumph were it not that the startling announcement, coming after such a long and intense strain, proved too much for him, and he fainted in the arms of his admirers. It is twelve yean later. Jack Simpson is now part proprietor of the Vaughan pit, and is the real manager, although he has a nominal manager under him. He cannot, however, be always on the spot, as be lives near Birmingham, and is one of the greatest authorities on mining, and the firßt consulting engineer, in the Black Country. Dinner is over, and he is sitting in the garden surrounded by those he xnoßt cares for in the world. It is the Ist of May, a day upon which a small party always assembles at his

house. By his aide v hi* wife, married to him ten years ago. In the chair beyond her sits Mr. Brook. On Jack's other hand aits an artist, bearing one of the moat honoured names in England, and whose health Jack always proposes at this dinner as " the founder of his future." Next to the artist Bits Mrs. Simpson's father, a permanent resident in the house now, but some years back a professor of mathematics in Wolverhampton. Playing in the garden are four children, and walking with them are an old couple, who live in the pretty cottage just opposite to the entrance of the grounds, and whom Jack Simpson still affeotionateiy calls "dad" and "mother." [CONCLUDED