Chapter 910257

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Chapter NumberVII (CONTINUED)
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article910257
Full Date1881-06-04
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count2132
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)
Trove TitleFacing Death: A Tale of the Coal Mines
article text

Facing Dcatu.

A TALE OF THE COAL MINE3.

By G. A. Henty, in the Union Jack.

Chapter VIL-fContinued.)

Tuet wore juat atarting when they heard a movemont iu the street, and men setting off to run. A tnoineut later a miner entered tho room hurriedly. " There's a big smoko coming up from the old Logan shaft, gentlemen ; it's too light for coal Bmoke, and I don't think it is steam, either,"

With utclamatious of surprise tho whole party seined their bats and hurried off. It was twenty minutea' sharp walking to the shaft, where, by the time they reached it, a largo crowd of minora and others were already assembled. As they approached, eager men ran forward to meet them.

" It bo gunpowder smoke, sir !"

There waa indeed no mistaking the sulphurous

smell.

" It's one of two things," Mr. Hardinge Baid ; "either the fire has spread to the upper woikings, some powder bags have exploded, and the shock has brought down the dividing wall, in which case the powder smoko might possibly fiud its way out wheu the water from the Logau drained in ; or else, in some miraculous way some of tho men have made their escapo, and are letting off powder to call our attention. At any rate let us drop a small stone or two down. If anyone bo below, ho will know he is noticed." Then ho turned to the miners standiug round : "I want the pulley and rope that wo were uaing at the Vaughan, and that small cage that was put togothor to work with it. I want two or threo strong polo?, to form a tripod over tho pit hera, and a few long planks to make a stage."

Fifty willing meu hurried off to fetch tho re- quired materials.

"The smoke is getting thinner, a good deal," one of tho managers Baid, " Now if you'll hold me, I will give a shout down."

The mouth of the pit waa 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 odgo, which sloped dangerously down, whilo others, following in the same way, held his legs, and wore in thoir turn hold by othera. When his head aud shoulden were fairly over the pit, he gave a loud about.

Thoro was a death-like Bileuce on the part of the crowd atanding round, and all of those close

could hear a faint murmur como from below.

Then aroae a cheer, ochood again and again, and then balf-a-dozeu fleet-footed boya atartod for Stokebridge with tho nowa that some of tho imprisoned pitmen were below.

Mr. Hardinge wrote on a piece of papor, "Keep up your courage ; in an hour's time the cigo will come dowu ;" wrapped it round a stone, and dropped it down. A messenger was despatched to the Yaughau for the police force stationed thoro to come up at onoo to keep back the oxcitcd crowd, and with orders that the stretchers and blankets in readiness should bo brought on ; whilo another went into Stokebridgo for a sur- geon, and for a supply of wine, brandy, and food, and two or threo vehicles. No sooner wore the men set off than Mr. Hardinge said, in a loud

touo :

" Every moment must be of consequence ; they must bo starving, Will auyouo hero who haB food givo it for them ?"

Tho word was paBaed through the crowd, and a scoro of pic-nic baskota wero at once offered. Filling ono of thom full with sandwiches from tho rest, Mr. Hardinge tied the lid seem ely on, and threw it down the shaft, "There is no foar of their standiug under the Bhaft," ho said ; " they will know wo Bhall bo working hero, aud that Btone3 might fall."

In loss than nu hour, timuka to the willing wot k of many hands, a platform waB constructed across the mouth of the Logau ahaft, aud a tripod of strong poles fixed in its placo. The polico kopt the crowd, by this time very many thousand strong, back in a wido circlo round the shaft, nono boiug allowed inside savo thoBo who had relatives iu the Vaughan. These wore womon, who had, on hearing tho news, rushed wildly up without bunuots, just as they wero when tho roport that there wore yet soino survivors of tho oxploBion reached thom. At full speod they had hurried along the road-aonio palo and still dca pairing, refuaing to allow hope to rise again, but unablo to atay away from tho fatal pit ; others crying as they ran ; somo oven laughing in hysterical excitement. MoBt excited, because

inoBt hopeful, wero those whoso husbands had , worked in the old workings, for it had from the first been believed that, while all in the main workings woro probably killed at ouco by tho QrBt explosion, those in the old workings might have survived for days.

Jane Haden walked Btoadily along the road, accompanied by Harry Shepherd, who had brought

her the newe.

" I will go," she Baid, " but it is of no nee ; thoy aro both gone, and I shall never soo thom again."

Thon sho had put on her bonuot and shawl, deliberately and slowly, and had Btarted at her ordinary pace, protesting all along against its being supposed that she entertained the slightest hopo ; but when bIio nearod the spot her quivor 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 wero taking thoir places in the cage she Bat down on a block

of broken brickwork and laid her faco in hor j hands, |

A Btnaller circlo, of Borne thirty yards in diameter, was kept round the shaft, and within this only those directing the operations wero allowod to enter, Tho rope waB hold by twenty men, who at first stood at its full length from the shaft, and advanced at a walk toward it, thus allowing tho cage to descend steadily and ea ily, without jerks. As they carno close to tho shaft the aigual rope waa shaken ; another step or two, slowly and carefully taken, and the rope waa Been to away slightly. The cage was at the bottom of the shaft. Three minutes' pause, tho signal rope shook, and the mon with tho omi of the ropo started agaiu to walk from the shaft.

As they increased their distance tho excite- ment in the groat crowd grew ; and when the cago showed above the surface, and it was seen that it contained threo miners, a hoarso cheer arose. The mon woro assisted from the cage, and sur- rounded for a moment by thoae in authority ; and one of the bead men raised his hand for silence, a'd then shouted,

" Mr. Brook and twenty othora ara saved I" au announcement which was received with another and even more hearty cheer.

Passing on, the rescued men moved forward to where the women stood, anxiously gaping. Blackened as they were with coal dust, thoy woro recognisable, and with wild screams of joy threo women burst from the rest, and threw them- selves in their arms. But only for a moment could thoy indulge in this burst of happiness, for the other women crowded round.

" Who is alive ? For God's sake tell us I who is alive ?"

Then one by one tho names were told, each greeted with cries of joy, till the last name was spoken ; and then came a burst of wailing and lamentation from thoso 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 !" she said to Harry I will not hope ! I will not hope !" and while Harry moved closer to tbe group, to bear the names of the saved, she sat with her face buried in her lap.

The very firat names given were those of Jack Simpson and Bill Haden, and with a Hhout of joy he rushed back. The step told its tale, and Jane Haden looked up, roBe aa if with a hidden spring,

and looked at him.

" Both saved !" he exclaimed ; and with a strange cry Jane Haden Bwayed, and fell insen-

sible.

An hour later the last survivor of thoso who were below in tho Vaughan pit stood on the sur- face, the laut cage load being Mr, Brook, Jack Simpson, and Mr, Hardinge. By this time the mourners had left the scene, and there waa nothing to check the delight felt at tho recovery from the tomb, aa it waa considered, of bo many

of thoBe deemed lost.

When Mr. Brook-who was a popular em- ployer, and whose popularity was now increased by bia having, although involuntarily, shared the dangers of his men-stepped from the cage, the enthusiasm waa tremendous, The crowd broke the cordon of police, and ruBhed 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 reat, 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 I first descended had carried with them-he waa

yet bo weakened by his long fast that he was

unable to apsafc. He could only wave his hand in token of his thanks, and soba of emotion choked his worda. Mr. Hardiugo, however, who had, during the hour below, learned all that had takeu place, and had spoken for some time apart with Mr. Brook, now stood up beside him.

" My friends," ho said in a loud clear voice, which waa heard over the whole crowd, "Mr. Brook is too much shakeu by what he has gone through to speak, but he desires ino to thauk you most heartily in hi* name for your kind greeting. He wishes to say that, under God, his life, and the lives of those with him, havo been saved by the skill, courage, and sciouceof his uuder-viower, Jack Simpson. Mr. Brook has consulted mo on the subject, and I thoroughly ngri e with what he intends tu do, mid can cortify to Jack Simp- son's ability, young as he is, to fill any pnat to which he m ty bo appointed. In a short timo I hope that the Viiughau pit will bo pumped out and nt work açain, and, when it is, Mr. Jick Simpson will be its manager I"

Tlie Btory of the escape from death had already been told briefly hy the minina as they carno to the Biirfa 'e, and had parsed f um month to mouth among the crowd, and Mr. Hardince's announce- ment was greeted with a storm of eutliusiasm. Jack was seized by a poora of sturdy pitmen, and would have been c.inied in triumph wero it not lb it the Btartliug announcement, coming after such a long and iutenso strain, proved too much for him, and ho fainted in the aru» of bia admirera.

It is twelve yeal a later. Jaok Simpson ia now part proprietor of the Vaughan pit, and ia the real malinger, although ho has a nominal manager under him. l[o cannot, however, be always ou the spot, as ho livos near Birmingham, and ia one of tho greatest authorities on miuing, mid tho first consulting engineer, in tho Black Country.

Dinner is ovor, and ho is sitting iu the pardon surrounded by those bo most cares for in the world. It is the 1st of May, a day upon which a small party always assembles at his house. By bia Ride is his wifo, married to him teu years ago. In tho chair beyond hor site Mr. Brook. On Jack's other baud sits au artist, bearing one of the most honoured names in England, and whose health Jack always proposes at this dinner as "the fouudor of his future." Next to the artist aita Mra. Simpson's father, a pel miment reaident in the house now, but Bomo yeara back a professor of mathematics in Wolverhiunpton. Playiug in the garden aro four children, and walking with thom uro au old couple, who live in tho pretty cottage just opposite to tho eutrauca of the grounds, and whom Jack Simpson still affectionately calls

"dad" and " mother."

[CONCLUDE!, 1