Chapter 33151484

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Chapter NumberVII.
Chapter TitleNone.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33151484
Full Date1898-03-11
Page Number55
Corrections1
Word Count2023
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2020-09-01
Newspaper TitleWestern Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954)
Trove TitleThe Wealth of the West
article text

CHAPTER VII.

It was evening at the Three Fingers.

Some hours had passed since the last scene. The Fingers themselves stood

up black, gaunt and forbidding. There was an atmosphere of dull red impal-

pable dust over the earth. It found its way into the ears, the mouth, the eyes,

the nostrils, the pores of the skin. Away on .. horizon the sky was a dull orange, ... ... apple green, and above that

it faded away into a black blue. A few

of the more brilliant stars were visible. Where a horse or a man crossed the red road a cloud of dust rose a little way into the air, caught the low rays of light that still strayed over the ground, and looked somewhat like the pillar of fire that accompanied the children of Israel. There were a few dozen bare trunks of eucalyptus trees, breaking out into feathery branches at about twenty feet from the earth. Over all was the dull, searching restless sense of heat, that made every position easeless and irri- tating, that made men drink, and drink again, and then made them sorry that they had drunk. Windows were wide open in the houses and hotels. Behind the first gasping loungers looked out. From the last came the click of billiard balls. Men who were too poor or too unskilled, or too utterly lazy to play, sat and smoked, and looked the criticism they were too indolent to speak. In this direction, and that, were numberless buildings, if the term can be used, made up of brown dust-begrimed scrim and canvas—looking for all the world like big brown-paper parcels, with holes for

doors : windows were in most cases dis- pensed with as luxuries. Houses of corrugated iron. Houses that began with what looked like the remants of packing cases, went on with patches of tin, and ended with rough thatch of boughs of trees. Incongruous, and making one wonder how they could ever have managed to get there, were one or two iron postal-pillars. It was nature, human and otherwise, in the rough—in the very roughest, and com- prising thousands of men and women of that marvellous Anglo-Saxon breed that lives and thrives and bends nature to its

purposes though the daily life is one long Hades of heat and dust and absence of those things that ave considered necessary to make living possible. It was arid, bare, desert—a community in the centre of a grinding Sahara—a community that presented a riddle that will not explain itself—for men worked all day with tireless persistence—for what ? Gold alone ? Apparently. Yet the gold they longed for and worked for as hard as do prisoners in Siberia, they spent on themselves, their friends, in charity, in folly—anyhow so long as it was spent in the quickest way and the greatest quantity.

Two men had met and were talking. They were talking secretly; but in the wide spaces all round them, in the straggling streets, in the shadows of the mounds of tailings, there was no need to make special provision, to be alone. Yeend was one. The other was a tall, raw-boned Bedouin of the world named Cornwall—booted and spurred.

" We must hurry, Cornwall. I hadn't expected the Colonel so soon as this." Yeend looked at his watch, holding it close to the end of his cigar. " What is

it ?"

" What is it? What is it? Mister

Yeend, you know as well as I do whatsit

is, and the Colonel's coming only makes

it more so."

The Warden rubbed his chin.

" I am afraid that it does, Cornwall. I am afraid it does. He is a delightful old fool—but still it is the unexpected that always happens, and the old fool will be blundering on to something with his eyes shut that a wise man would not find out in twelve months. What we do we must do quickly. What does the last fortnight show, Cornwall, and what have you allocated to us ?"

" There were four hundred and sixty ounces from the Big Divvy, and three hundred and twenty-seven from The Twins, and the reef in the Flotsam and Jetsam is widening out and the stone looking kinder—it's a very pretty mine."

Yeend had been looking down at the ground as the other spoke. One would have imagined he was listening to some sweet tale of ingenuous youth. He looked up again as Cornwall stopped.

"I'm glad to hear all this, both for the shareholders' sake and ours. But what's for us, man, what's for us ?"

Cornwall grinned in the dark, with the grin of an American millionaire who has made a successful corner in wheat.

" I think I can please you, Mr. Yeend. I'm setting apart a hundred and seventy from the one, and eighty from the other, and that will keep up the average of both and create no nasty suspicion—for the present !"

" For the present ?" said Yeend shortly. "I don't like your accent, Cornwall. Why ' for the present' in that peculiar

tone?"

" Other folks can see as well as you or I, Mr. Yeend, remember, and there's one of the feeders, a man named M'Gregor, and he's a good judge of the tables—so good that I have my doubts as to his past career—and for the two cleanings past he has been watching me very closely—most infernally closely."

" And you're afraid that one of these days he'll be saying ' halves,'eh, Corn- wall?''

" He might say ' halves ' to me, or he might say the whole to someone else. I sent him away, to get another bucket the other day, so that I could get a chance to clean out part of the first table, and happening to look up I saw my noble with his eye on me from behind the stampers."

" The devil. What did you do ?"

" I just put all the amalgam into the bucket, and none in the chamois."

" This is getting unpleasant, Cornwall —deucedly unpleasant. You've not been doing the giddy Angora, and given your- self away ? Begad if you have you can stand the whole racket yourself. As for me, I am Cæsar's wife, and on the day

you come before me I will profess unto you— I never knew you. Depart from me, you that trifle with amalgam, and falsify the divvies of them that trust in thee, into the cell prepared for them that work iniquity.' There's no sort of hum- bug about me, Cornwall. I tell you from the start. If I'm too beastly candid, you may say so—I won't mind."

" You have a pretty humour of your own, Mr. Yeend. I know quite well how the land lies between us."

"It's perfectly right and reasonable, dear boy. You like money—though you are one of those coarse people who don't know how to spend it when you've got it. I like money—and I do know how to spend it when I get it. You couldn't get any without me. I couldn't get enough and quickly enough without you. That's where our bargain begins and

ends."

" And suppose, only suppose—(we are going in for frankness now)—that at a good opportunity I was to put an ounce

of lead or less into the place where your heart ought to be ?"

" First find your good opportunity, and then, Cornwall be very sure you don't miss. Remember that, won't you ? But let us not anticipate. We are use- ful to one another as yet. Keep your inquisitive friend from finding out or suspecting too much, and I will help you along the track to an honoured old age. The error that people make is in

keeping the thing going too long. We have now reached the point where we can stop. Let us tot up our savings and stop accordingly."

Yeend drew a pocket-book out.

" It is too dark now, Cornwall, but you can take that home with you. I make it £30,000. That's twenty-three for me and seven for you. It may sound out of proportion, but then my necessity is greater than thine, and I have supplied the brains."

" And I have run all the risk."

" Work of the very coarsest descrip- tion, Cornwall. Anyone can do that. We'll divide this last bit in the same proportion, Cornwall. There seems something charming in the proportion of twenty-three to seven. I don't know what it is, but there is a something about those particular figures that pleases me."

" My dear Miss Yeend there's no need for all this fine sarcasm. If I could have got the big share, you can bet any- thing I would have had it. As I cant, I take the seven. That will give me

about all I want."

"You are quite right, Cornwall. For-

give me. It is my unfortunate manner that is against me. I thought I was speaking to my wife."

" Your wife ?"

" My wife."

There was a pause for a moment or

two.

" Say something sarcastic, Cornwall— do. You'll be untrue to your better

nature if you don't."

" Not I. It's your own affair. What about getting the gold away ?"

" I shall send in my resignation—the state of my health requires rest—and leave at once. The registrar can act in my place till a successor is appointed. As the state of my health is too pre- carious to stand the jolting of the coach, I shall journey down on horseback by the old stock route. I shall avoid travel- ling teams on the new track. It will take longer, I know, for I shall only travel at night—no one must notice that the pack horses are so heavily laden, and that the packs are so small. Then on board the train at Perth and down to Albany nicely timed to catch the out- going mail. I am afraid that another man would find difficulties in the way, but that is where one of the little advan- tages of being a warden comes in, and another—reason in passing, Cornwall, why I should have twenty-three to your

seven. You don't think I return to that point too often, do you. I should be sorry for you to think me a bore."

" And then ?"

" Then ? Oh, then it will be simple. I have told you of a small, but pic- turesquely situated villa near Naples, gas, water, and all the latest conveniences and accessories. The villa Borghoni. There I shall show the gold openly, as a wealthy Australian miner, and there I shall await your arrival. It seems like wild and unthinking trust on your part, but it isn't. You would have all sorts of difficulties with the Customs. You would come to grief, and let both of us in. Whereas under present arrangements I could certainly clear with the whole lot, but I long for quiet and domestic peace, Cornwall—some- where where I can hear the church bells, and were I can babble of green fields, and live an exemplary life, with children and household love around me. It is that that I want to round off my character."

" When you are serious ? "

" Well, I mean that if I were to do the double on you I should have an un- comfortable time. In the first case my character would go to rags, and I don't want that to happen unnecessarily. In the second place you would be on my track,with leanings toward assassination. In the third place the amount I can honestly pocket will be enough for my small wants. If I could double receipts by doing the Pacific slope with the posh, I should probably do it. As it is, it isn't worth it. Good logic, Cornwall ? Now, in your case I would not trust you. You could make too much."

And Cornwall consented. It seems marvellous, but he consented