Chapter 70952158

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Chapter NumberII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70952158
Full Date1881-01-29
Page Number27
Corrections0
Word Count2689
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAustralian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)
Trove TitleThe Mine by the Sea
article text

CHAPTEU II.

A strange sight is a coil mine. "Wonderfully picturesque with its streets and lancB and alleys, its unending corridors and countless chambers of the dead. T'ho men there, with blackened faces and scanty attire, seem of another race from those above ground, and tho fesbio light3 gleaming in the midst of the darkness give a weird, unreal aspect to tho scene.

Tho only sounds heard are those of the coal waggons slowly pnshod along by boys towards the mouth of tho pit, and in the narrow passages, whore the mon aro at work, tho clang of their pickaxes as they c'oave their way through the great rocks of coal. Mon are not the only beings hero. Thore are horsta that have not seen tho daylight for many a year, to draw the waggons in the broader passages, and sometimes, if tho light of the lamp is turned towards thc ground, tho bright little eyes of rats (how thoy carno to that under world I don't know) may bo soon peer- ing out of nooks among tho walls. Thero is an almost fearful oom breñoso about the place. Thoughts that tho daylight would at once dispel seem to haunt the air, and tho voices of the mon as they wandor about, each one, Gideon-like, with his lamp and pickaxe, have a deeper, hollower tone than above ground.

Two days had passed, and during that timo a storm, long remembered on the coast, had been raging ; but the men in tho mine, accustomed as they wore to hearing the roar ot tho waves abovo their hcada, paid little hood to tho increased noise. George Iieiiuers alone had noticed it, and oach day had spout moro time than usual in ex amvninc tho supports of tho roof.

It was now night time, and he had boen superin- tending soma rather dangerous work in tho lower lorels, of blatting with gunpowder, which, much against his advico, the owner had ordered. This being done, lcaviug further ordern for work with the mon, Georgo turned away and walked alono in tho direction of tho pit's mouth, carrying in ono hand a largo canister containing tho gun- powder; in tho othor his lamp and tho hoavy stick, that, OQ account of his lameness, was \\\H

constant companion. Even in that imperfect light it might havo heen aeon that a great chango, had passed over, his faco j it was haggard and pinched=lookin¡> ; thora was a strange restleaa

glitter in his oyes, and now and then his lipa . parted with'an involuntary quivering movement, quickly pressed together again with that stern, act expression that was now habitual to thom.

Instead of leaving the mine, a sudden thought , EOiuied to strike him half way, and he turned . aside and entered a-part of the mine long deserted on account of tho danger of working too near the bottom of tho sea, but which recently had been opened again ; and though George had many

times warned thn owner of the danger of weaken^ ? ing the supports of tho roof, large quantities of

coal had boen taken from it.

All was still as ho advanced through the narrow . passages, but soon these widened into a more open apace, and as bo entered the noise of the tumul- tuous waters overhead was foarftilly loud. A cold draught of air smote on him, and made him shiver. The place wa3 known to the colliers.aa the"ßoggart*3 Hole," or'tlio"GhoBt's Holë." . lb

was an immense low-roofed hall, one of those natu- . ral caverns that exist beneath the sea and land j and in tho centro was an abyss, into whose depths no human being had ever penetrated. The work- ings had beon carried on ulong tho sidos, and a

rude pathway led half-way round, abruptly stop- . ping above the great chasm.

Tho poor light which George held illumed only a narrow circle round him, but he know the place well, and, cautiously stopping along, reached tho part where tho last workings had been mado, and which was so low that he could touch with

his hand the black slimy roof, to which gigantic

loathsome fuuci chiner.

j As he stood there wild fancies stole over him.

Loud above sounded tho thunderous boom of the . Burf, and beneath him lay, -wrapped in eternal darkness, the groat mino, stretching for miles into the depths of tho earth. He seated himself on a projecting rock, tho canister of powder on

the ground at his Bide, and tho lamp hold between

his knees.

What wore his thoughts just then? I know not all-bvifc there was one, fiercer than the clamour of. tho wavo3 above, inore.terrible than the abyss beneath him-he had lost ali, all ! . Ho looked back upon his lifo-all had gone wrong from the beginning, and now, when at lash the cup of sweetness had seemed to be so near his lips he had seen it dashed away. He ground IÚB teeth with rage, and then his passion took another form.-his breast heaved, and a great sobbing cry

rose to his lips.

" If she only knew how I loved her ! He love 1. A moment of the love I could give her would bo moro than a lifetime of his. But I know that never, never-lot mo make an ond of it.

" Ah, and Jim Massy, too; a light to his powder, and there'd bo no victory to unyone-tho soa wou:d cover us too close for that! But tho otheiB? Pooh! it's only dying a tittle sooner;

and what is lifo tb stupid, toiling drudges liko

thom?"

A terrible smile passed over his face; ho placed the lamp by his side and bent over the canister. Only a light to the powder, and the rocks would be riven, and with a mighty burst the sea would rush in and whelm them all ! Ho took out his hmife and proceeded to open the canister, which

by some means had been fabtened down too

tio-htlv.

But, hark ! Close behind him, juet beyond tho ending of tho path he heard a rustling, crackling sound, then a crash, and a huge fragment of rook' rolled down, and he waa only just in time to leap aside before the place whuro he had stood was I covored with shivered portions of it as it descended, and, leaping from ledge to ledge, at last, with

sullen roar, waa lost in the depth below. Still, \ he;li8tened, for another and moro dreadful sound caught his ear-thc low, swishing sound of falling water. He crept as near as he could along the narrow pathway, and as ho did so his face was I sprinkled with the cold spray ot* the torrent. Ho held out his hand, and then, touching his lips,

I tasted tho water. It was salt !

j Still and breathless as a statue he stood for a moment; the next, holding tho lamp before him, he was rushing with wild speed down the broken pathway away from the placo. Aa he approached the entrance ho stopped, and for a moment looked around in bewilderment-he-had mistaken tho road, and inatend of taking that by which he had como, had followed another, which abruptly stopped-a mass of coal had fallen and broken it off. He had no time to turn back. Ho throw his

lamp down, and, UB fortune would have it, it was - ?: not broken, but only fallen on ono side about ten feet below ; then, drawing his breath, he prepared for the leap. Ho did not know the ground-tho

lamp had gone out. If he leaped ho might fall-.:' into somo deep fissure ; but there waa no time to hesitate. He took the leap ¡md fell; tho.firin ground was beneath him.

His arm waa bruised and bia ankle sprained, but he hardly felt it. Relighting his lainp, he dashed along through tho narrow passagoa towards tho main where tho mon were at work.

At la3t ho met a boy slowly dragginsr along a . numil waggon. He caught thc lad by tho shoulder

and shouted to him :

'< finn «nu flin WH! ? "

" Ay, oi can," answered tho boy.

" Then nm jour hardest, Will. Tell them in ' tho lower mam the water's' coming in, and in an

hour it'll all bc fboded."

" Faylhar's thtru ! " tho boy cried, and -without ?'

another word rushed off.

Other b^ys wero eont to the other parés of tho .

mine, forced by George's stern voioo to obey, as , ho told thom ho would nob lot ono man leave tho pit till they were all there.

Thou he waitod.. Anti if anyone had soon his face as ho stood alone, a strange chauero would

have been no'.iood in it. Thcro was now a looic of' f such triumphant gladness ac for many a year had not rostcd tliore. He stretched out his arms liko! ono who hud jual ended BOUJU wtsiry labour. Thon Iiis [head s-.mh on his bosom, and ho mut-

tered :

«. O God ! Caved! saved ! Thon haut fcopt mo from it, and I muy yet suvo thom all."

Quickly ho rocovorod, hiuisolf, and wont into ft

Bmall office where ho kopt his booka and inabru menta. He too-r from a box a email rovolver anc somematchos, and wont out again. Ho thon BCI light to a hoap of shavings and dry wood lying near the door, and this noon blazed up, illuminât' ing tho whole placo.

And again ho waited.

Soon troop after troop'of tho men, flying ai their utmost speed, roached tho pit's mouth, and a fearful Bight it was to seo the struggling mass of men, eaoh ono, with maddened Bhouta and blows, striving to comb nearer to tho basket, But George HeimerB'a voico was heard loud above

it all :

" The first that touches that basket before I tell him, I'll shoot that man i "

They Baw the lovelled barrel of tho rovolver,

and drew back.

" Those that are married, stand here." And in silence the mon obôyed him.

He then signalled to a certain number of them to enter tho biskeV. Not an instant was lost, nnd they were hoisted out of sight.

The others strained their eyes to watch tho ascending mase, calculating how soon it would return to rescue them. Some of tho men who had their sons' with them clasped them tight in their arniB, whispering messages to be niven if they .were lost", for in nearly every case tho fathers chose that the boys should go in their place ; some sank to the ground muttering prayers that theyihad never spoken since childhood, and others listened to George Heimers as he told them there was still hope if they would obey him.

Jim Massey had been in one of the most distant workings, and was one of tho last to reach the pit's mouth, and now he stood by the wa 1 apart, with eyes bent down on something he held in his hand-a lock of Agnes's hair that she had given

him the night before.

More than half tho number of men were now safe; and the basket, whirled up by those who knew just how much depended upon their work, had just left when George, in tho calm voice with which he bad Bpoken before, said :

" Men, who's to go next ? ".

There were only about twenty loft, mon and boys, whom George had many a time helped by words and deeds ; they remembered this, and ail

oried at once : '

" Next turn's thine, maator-we'll como i

after!"

"Thank you, my lads," he answered auietlv:

"I'm not going this time, bub. I want to send some on» in my place. Will you leb mo ? "

Not so eagerly this , time--but still the answer, *. Ay, master ! " was given.-'

" Jim, come hero," George shouted. " You take my placo wtion it comes aerain. Nay, lad, voit - »mst Kemember, Agnes wants you, Jim. You'll bo good to her, won't you ? And tell ber sometimes the last words 1 tried to say were, ? God bless both Of you ! "*

Once more the basket descended, thc few that wer« chosen leapt into it, the rope was shaken aa the ßignal to hoist up, and with one tight hand grip Goorgo sent Jim on his way. And aB they parted Jim looked at the other's face, and never to his dying day did he forget what he aaw there-the bitterness of death had passed away , and a strange peace was shining forth from his eyes.

This was the last freight. George already had heardrtho distant thunder of tho waters bursting im full flood into the ,mino. He knew the end waa öome, and when the basket was ascending ho turned áway down a side passage that he might not seo the agony of tho poor mon when they

found it was too late.

JiiBt as the basket reached the level of tho upper ground, where hundreds were waiting anxiously t¡» watch the arrival of each oompany that waa saved, a tremendous! black cloud rolled up the pit's mouth, bursting tip with a fearful roar.high into mid air, and whon it had cleared away and tho men peered down the shaft, far away in'tho darknesâ beneath they could hoar the dash of :the waves, and sometimes thought they cpuld discern their white g èam asthey Jeapod hp the Bides of the shaft. Jim Massey and several others volunteord to go down and seek for any who might be still struggling in the water. It was tosíate when thoy'reached tho place, and only a few of the dead bodies' Vero ever recovered.

. . ? « * .' * »' > * . p

The mine is now deserte 3, and its buildings are in ruins* ;

S»më time timo after tho disaster a part of the oliff p.bovo it, probably undermined by the action of the waves, foll down ono stormy night, and -now'there ia a great cavern wandering, away in dark* passages under tho cliff where part of the i-i;?fiOo,i amine had been. ; . .

''.'t'^JLt is easy to oonetrato beneath these gloomy

arches in a boat during flue weather,, and many times in after days, Agnes-then a happy wife and mother-would como there with her children ©n summer duya, and tell thom the story of how their father's lifo had boen saved. And when she had ended and loaned back in the boat as they floated on through that Bilant gloom as of twilight, tho largo tears would gather in her eyes for him who lay in that unknown tomb of .his, far below

in some dark cavern of tho sea.-TEMT-IE BAB.

Tho E. and A. CO.'B steamet Brisbane Captain Reddell, now in quarantine, haa on board 119 Chinese passengers, and it waa ono of thom who waa aoizod with Bmall-pox Bhortly boforo tho voasol reached . Cooktown. Thia oaao ia, howovor, now oonvaloauont,

and tho romaindor of tho paaaonsrera and crew aro in goad health. Ag soon an tho steamer arrived at tho qaarantino station on Monday tho passongora wero landod, and tho wholo of tho vesaol ia now undergo- ing a thorough fumigation, in ordor to provont tho possibility of tho diBonso sproadinnr. Tho ngonts oro desirous that tho Bhip, after being proporly fumi- gated, shall bo allowed to ship a now orow and pro ooidon hor voyngo.

AB already announced, tho railway to Dubbo will bo opened on February 1, and that to Albury on -Februarys. Sir John Itobortaon, vico-proaidontof

tho Exooutivo Council, and several othor MiniBtorn, will go to Dnbbo, and Mr. Laokoy, Soorotary for "Works, with como of kio colleagues, to Albury. Sir Henry Porkos has boon invited to both, but ia so bnay that it ia hardly likely ho will bo able to leayo town tor eithpr, ,