|Newspaper Title||Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||The Miner's Mistake|
CHAFTER II.— A FALSE FRIEND.
Dave was the first of the pair to come to his senses and it was some minutes be fore he could fully realise what had hap pened. The sight of his overturned lamp, which, fortunately, was still alight, soon brought the dreadful truth home to him, and as he tried to raise himself he touched Driver, who was still unconscious. For a moment or so he thought Jake
was aead, but lound that bis heart was still | beating; but lie had no means of restoring him to his senses. Painfully he struggled ; to hie feet, and picking up his lamp he went to explore the damaged gallery, but soon had to return, for at both ends he found the way blocked by enormous masses of fallen coal. With an awful sense of fear at hi6 heart he went back to his inate, and as he sat ' down by his side he became aware of the i fact that the deadly fire-damp which fol lows in the' wake of explosions was curling insidiously along the gallery. He at once' lifted Driver up and propped him against the wall, so that his head was above the level of the deadly gas. The action roused Jake and he regarded Dave in a stupefied way for a while till recollec tion gradually came- back to him. 'What was it?' he asked feebly. 'An explosion, of gas and we are fair blocked in; there's no way out that 1 can see.' A groan of anguish escaped from Driver, and' he caught at Dave's arm in an im ploring manner. 'You don't mean as we're to be clemmed to death?'! he asked, his face ashen to the lips. 'JNot without a fight for it,' replied Dave cheerily. 'You heard what old Ben said about being below for a week; I reckon there will be a rescue party along before that time. But come along and have a look round; it's no good sitting here doing nothing.' Driver staggered to his feet, and leaning on Dave, the pair made a tour round; but Dave's first impression that they were hopelessly walled in proved to be correct. Holding the lamp above his head, thc lad's heart almost failed him as he saw how many tons must lie between them and the pit's month. 'If we only had a pick we might help ourselves a bit,' was all he said aloud. 'There was one- in the refuge' said Driver, and the two turned back, and I after some little difficulty succeeded in find
ing the pick, which had bean shifted by the force of the explosion. 'Where are .you going to begin?' asked Jake gloomily. 'At the far end; it would give ue a bet ter chance if we once got through. I've often heard old Ben say that we must be getting pretty close to the old working; and if we got there it would be all right. It's worth trying, anyway, I wonder how the otherg.got on?'.-' 'They're the other side of that lot,' said Jake, with a jerk of his head. 'If I was you, Dave, I should work eo as to join 'cm.' . 'What's the good? They'll sure to be as badly off as we are, and there's a longer journey to the pit's mouth..' Driver gave way to Dave, who, being the fresher of the pair, at once began to hew away at the loose blocks, that lay between them and liberty. It was slow wo^k, how ever, and the atmosphere in the confined space was rapidly 'becoming unbearable; but Dave worked on till he :was wet through with perspiration. 'Here you take a hand, .Jake, he earn, gloomily surveying \ho very small impres sion be had made on the mass before him. Although bigger and stronger then Dave, ' his mate had not the other's heart and courage in the face of the impending -doom that awaited them, and did not hold out nearly as long as Dave had done. 'Phew! I've had about enough of that, Dave: I feel dead tired and as sleepy as ever I can be.' ?-? ' . ' . I 'Right ho! you have a doze wJiile I ,take another turn. ' We must work and sleep by turns, or both, of . us .will g»t IbawlAd over with the fire-damn.' I
Grimly Bttve,jrtack. t9*l» m-&%$jW£$toB mate dropped Jpff »nt-5fa *ouM;iJeep;,-ut, capped the plucky, .lad iti ^-,«fforls i» tfe gain their liberty, infi; presently he eaak down sxbaustei-Pby Driver^ fiide, :. ; ,: It seemed useless to awaken tne latter, but feeling terribly ileepy and dreading lest he should drofe^ff, P»v at last shook! Jake's arm, and when he was thoroughly aroused warned him. of the danger of the deadly fire-damp. , :' ?' ? ?? ' . Driver promised to keep awake and watch -while Dave slept, but he' was too drowsy to keep his promise, and, not hav ing the heart to -work, was Boon Bleeping as-jsoundly -as his mate. -, .., After some little time Dave awoke With a curious choking' sensation in 'his -throat ' und it was with the greatest difficulty lie could rise to his feet. Once on them, however, he felt a trifle, better, bnt owing to the manner in which the lamp was burning, he knew at once what had caused that sensation of suffoca tion. The fire-damp was rising higher j every moment, and with sinking heart he awoke Driver.' 'Rouse up, Jake, or you 11 be choked. Stand up here by me.' His mate rose stiffly and in a few words ! Dnve told him how near to death they ' were, and Jake's face grew livid and his teeth chattered in her head with fear. 'What, are you going to do now?' he asked aa Dave moved from -his side and took up the pick. 'May as well die lighting as lying down to it, said Dave, with a laugh that had no merriment in it. ? . Driver watched him as one hypnotised, wondering that the mate he had always despised could show such a bold front to death. Dave felt in his despair that any thing was better than inaction, and began to ply bis pick -with all thc energy ttut remained to him'. With grim-set face he worked, the sweat pouring off his brow in great drops till suddenly his pick struck against a piece of :stone or rock. There was a shower of sparks, and the Rim's moment the two lads were thrown to the ground by the impact of a fearfu] explosion. The sparks .had ignited the deadly damp, but this time fate had been kind to the isolated pairj for the mass in front of them was scattered, and when Dave scrambled to his feet' he felt that the air Jvas purer and easier to breathe. 'Jake,' he shouted, and almost before the name had left his lips Driver was by his side, a little dazed by his fall, nothing more. 'Well, what is it?' he demanded. 'That blow-up has helped us a bit, mate. Keep close to me, and I believe we shall reach the old working. It was nearly dibs with us then, Jake.' 'You don't think we shall get through, do you?' . ? ? 'I'm pretty well certain of it. Can't you 6mell- how fresh the air is? Come on, there's plenty of room, bo that we ~can squeeze through. My word! what a bit of luck. Five minutes more and I should
nave been choked in my sleep. They scrambled on, cfimbing over masses of fallen coal, but finding no real ob stacle to their progress; and hope rose high I in both their hearts as they entered a part of the gallery which was strange to them, I and Dave announced that they were in the old working. 'Dave, you are a rcaj mate, and no er ror,' said Jake gratefully, holding out his band, which Pave grasped cordially. 'I leckon you have saved my life to-day. 1 1 should have given in; and to think I thought you a softie.' Dave laughed aloud for joy; he felt be could afford to be very generous to the mate who* had so misjudged him, and only gave him a modest reminder. 'We aren't out of the wood yet, Jake, don't forget we have got to get to the top of the old pit s mouth, and that will want doing.' 'Oh! we'll make 'cm hear somehow ' said Driver, as the -jair made tbijr way hopefully towards the pit shaft. They did not find it without some trouble, and when thev did were reminded of the flight of time Iby discovering that njgnt had faHen, and there was nothing to be done but to wait till morning for any chance of being heard above and res cued. Jt was intensely cold and after their ex ertions the two felt it terribly, and at ?lake's suggestion they aought for a refuse whe-re they could huddle tog^thor and keep ; something like warmth in their tired and benumbed bodies. To thcrir great surprise, in the first one they came to they found several sacks, and with a cry of delight Dave put down hie lamp and began to empty the contents of one, eo as to be able to use it for a cover ing. No sooner had he done so than there was a cry from Jake as the light of the lamp fell on some b:ght, shining articles, which, I on close inspection, turned out to be pieces of silver plate. 'Well, we are in luck, and no miserror,' I said Jake with a coarse laugh. 'We'll see ' what's in the other bags, Dave, and go halves in the find.' . i 'Not me; I don't want to get into ' trouble, taking other people's stuff,' said ! Dave. 'It looks as if some gang have got their den down here.' On examining the other bags they proved to contasin more silver plate and some costly articles of jewellery, and then it struck Dave all at once how they came to I be there. | 'That's Colonel Heyworth's crest,' he paid, pointing to it on a silver dish. 'I'll bet you this is the. swag of the burglary that took place at his house.' 'I don't care if it is/' said Driver. 'Find- jng'b keepings, that is my motto. Now what are you going to do about it, Dave?' 'Let the boss know as soon ee I get on top,' replied Dave. 'I'm no thief. ? ''No. more am I,' retorted Driver, see- i ing his chance, and, without a word of warning, he struck Dave a cowardly blow full betwwn the eyos, which brought him to the ground. I Not content with this, he struck him.1 on ' the head with a silver candlestick that had fallen from one of thi? sacks, and. with a cry of pain, Dave fell back senseless. When at length consciousness returned Dave found himself alone. His head was aching and every limb was stiff through I lying all night in the cold; but he roused himself and called aloud for Jake, but with no result. His lamp was gone, and, summoning up all his energy, ho endeavored by the aid of memory to find his way to the ehaft, which he was lucky enough to reach after several failures; but no sooner had his eyes grown accustomed to the light than a gruesome sight met his gaze. Driver was lying perfectly still at the bot tom of a long rope which descended from the pit mouth, and on bending down Dave saw that his old mate was quite dead. Near him lay a small bundle, and as soon as he opened it Dave understood that Driver's greed had been hi* widoins;' the buodla
was filled with the indsj; expensive 'piecflB - of jewellery in the haul, . .' : ' ' ' . ' Bave did his utmost ibjget. warm, so that : in climbing'up the rope he should not shaw his treacherous mate'« fate. His heart beat quickly as he began the eeoent, for he felt Ee was very weak. \.y . ; . The arduous climb 43eemed never ending. 'More than once Dave thought 'he irould ~ have to give up, Iftrt with grim determina tion he held on. till he reached the cross- . piece,' and only collapsed .when he gained the tdp' in; safety;' ;i ..'.''-'-. Later he was able to make his way into the .yafd, and after being giyen restoratives and food , he told Ms strange, thrilUng story . to the manager; who at once had a rescue ? gang sent down the disused Working. ? ' -Before the day was out the whole of the imprisoned miners were set free. But though/no lives were. lost, several .men were sorely injured, a fact which kind-hearted Ben Akers took sorely to heart.. 'Twas my mistake, lad— aye, that 'twas, and all through not sacking that cur!' he said to Dave after hearing the lad's 6tory. 'It might ha' been a bad job if it hadn't ha' been for your pluck.' Dave was tne popular hero for some time, and, in addition to a nice present from Colonel Heyworth, who was delighted to §et his plate back, he was taken in hand y the firm and given a good start in the engineering department.— Chums.'