|Newspaper Title||The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)|
|Trove Title||The Mine by the Sea|
The Mine by the Sea.
The little seaport town of Saiutby is built «non the shores of a natural harbour, formed by a break in the hue of cliQs which, with but few interruptions, stretch along tho north-western coast of the couuty of rellslura 1 he white washed houses perched in urepular hues upon the steep mil sides, aud long disused foi t com niandiug the bay, aud the slur., aud filing smacks moored to the quiys within the barbour, nve an mr of pictureequene»s and cheerfulue=3 to the town which is hardly sustained bj a nearer ?view of tho uanow diugy street', nn 1 au et nenence of the mauy mingled odours of the eiuays and beach Yet the little town is pro»i erous iu ltB way i considerable trado is dono iu the ex Dort of coal and iron ore from tho mines of the neiKhbourhood , many boats aro euiplo\ed in the fishing trado , beside, «aintby is the maiket town whither the f irmers of the surrounding district every week bring the pioduce of thtir larms for Saii'nmedntely to the south of Saiutby the cliffs
make a bold sweep m a westerly direction, aud the heidland thus formed, on which a. light hou«e baa beeu built, is always spoken of by the country pe iple under the general mme of " The Heads" 1 urther on the cliffs recede ag nu and soon come to an end, being succeeded hy a long stretch of ï ery fertile level country skirtiug the sea The c imuiencement oi this plaiu is onlj about five milos in a direct hue from Saiutby, and this cojliguiatiou of the land has Riven rise to a legend .uioug tho peoplo that the headland had once b en an island, the sea then Hawing over the si e of the present Samtby, and through the deep \ « Icj which stretches behind the cliffs and ends iu the level tract of country t> ken of
S»»«i*by ' » quiet dull little town, yet it has Bights and "oiidara of ita own Ita coal mines, sunk close t j the shore, their underground work- ings stretching for miles beneath the bottom of the sea, are, I hough the natives do not think so, its most remarkable feature. And of the3e, the Westray mine, which was situated on a strip of land at the bass of the sandstone chu, aud im- mediately e erlookod the sea, waa, at the time of my story, ooe of the 1 irgest and most productive
Mrs Beuton kept the toll bar at Raby, a little hamlet lyms on the main road from S nutby to Ravington, the ne irest maiket town to the south I say Mrs Benson kept it, although her husband s name was punted abo\e the door, but ho was now, after nu adveutuious life aä a eailor in tho old fighting dajs of the navy, a enpple-1 bed- ridden old man, and nil the work of collecting the tolls, keeping the hou«e bright aud clean, and cultivating the little p itch of garden belonging to it, was performed by Mrs Benson and her daughter A^ues, a handsome fresh featui ed girl
Raby wai ibout two miles from Suutby, and lay on the ml ml slope of the lime cliffs To any one win chose to climb from the seislnre up the de» 1 ita face of those precipitous cliffs, on mountiu., to the summit a straugely different scene presented itself to bia eyes 1 he hill sides, both that on which he stood and that facing him, and separated by the narrow valley at his feet, were overed with c ustenug trees and rieh meadow hud, and completely sheltered by the rocky ban 1er from all rou,h winds and the blighting t uch of the sea f jam tint iu the wild winter stoims uns often fluug high up the slopes
of the seanard si le
"Mother heies George nijiiul Bud Agues, ono nutuniu ovening, as she was irouiug her mother's c ps ou a broad table beneath the cottage w11 liw, just at the moment when the shadow of x usitor on his wa) to the dooi fell
over her woik
"Come tin wajs in, George-como thi ways in1 cried, in a cheery but not very musical voice, the old womau, who was oeutpied iu bend ing over tho file in preparation of oat cakes for the family supper She did not turu to bim immediately, evidently being ou too familiar term» with him for ceiemouy
The door o[ eued, and with slo-v slightly halt
rag step the visitor carno forward He was a tall man, but stooped a good deal, leaning ou a stick that he always earned with bun , this, with the perceptible drag of his left foot m walking, being the result of a tembló iccident in the Westray mine, in which he, together with many otheis, had suffered But it was also to tins accident that his friendship with the Bensons was owing About fiva veiw before, young lorn Benson, Agues s brother, when working in the mine, waB crushed to death by the fall of a huge mass ot coal and in tho attempt to íescue his friend George Heimeis-for that was his name-bad al«o been struck, and suffered muirías from which he had nclei quite recoveied Lver siuce hei Toms death Mis Benson hid ndcomed Heiniers to the catt u,e, aud of late ho had got into the habit of c ming there very fi equentlj, under the pretext of giving Agneä writing lessons
His fico w s palo and thin with no special Tegul u lty or beauty iu his featuies but still with something cb mcterutic iu it-a look of clever
ne53 mid novei, with a curious earnestness of manner tintinado one soon forget the rough
he-vn lines u lus f ice
He carno f i ard into the kitchen
" W eil, u ajier I -foi ever since her son's death he cal e 1 her by this name-" you look finely to day And so do s A¡,ues How s the
old man ?
"Bidly, Georgp, b dly enough them rheu mat ..s plaRues lum ten ibis But, hist, he hears eveiy wordwt nextioom Hasthatltbisupper?
" Nay, I T-au t no supper , thauk jon all the same' he answered, aid turned tovvaid AgneB "I came to .>»k if Ai,uea would havo her lesson to night, or would come i walk ou t cliff Its so bonn} fine w uh sun setting ov er t1 eea, Agnes '
He spoke thus leaning over the dresser, ns the long table wa= called, at which Agues was still continuing her inning opeiatious
" Ay, Georhe, tak her out-tnk her out a bit," said the old woman "Shes been that queer o' late I canua uiak out what s como to her Why, what doat think ' She gave sixpenny change f >r a fourpeuny bit at tow bar this morning , and what ti breiking things and foigetting what a body says bhe makes me clean daft sometimes Thee tak her m the fresh au, and seo if thou can
brighten her nu a bit
" Nay, muther, there s this ironing to finish '
The girl 1 oked round with a deep blush upon her face and a supplicating look tovvard her mother, but the old woman would not heed this, and Agnos had to get her bounet and shawl for the autumn evenings weie now rather chilly -and ace mi, any George in a stroll on the cliffs
"\ou mustn t quite believe all mother Bays about me, she began in. a low voice, as they sauntered lo^e'lier up the lawn, sheltered by tall hedges rich with autumn flowers on the hillside
But, George, I don't know how it is, ' she added, turum¿ with quick impulsive gesture to him, " you re patient and kind, and mother well, she s impatient and kind, and other people, they re just about tho same as they always were, but things don t seem to fit iu now as they used to-they don t always in this world, do they,
" Why, what do you know about di that ' ' cried George, in honest amazement, and then he came nearer to her with an instinctive impulse of help, though as he did this she slifehtly drew aray from him " Men's troubles aud women a are not alw ay* alike, ho went on, with a softened voice , ' but when things go wrong with me, ^gnes, Ive got a bit of philosophy ror them keep on and worry them till they come right again-make them come right One can only do oje s best, you know There s a deal o things wrong vith me lust now at the pit and other place» beside , but I know this-111 have a fight ie j/6 £lN s in ^ k°ro a ^e maBter wants money badly for his son, who s in the army, and I tell n ni he a working the coal far too near the sea that s one thine, Vud sometimes, when I m down spirited I think 111 give it up aud go to places f here men don't work in boles in the dark, and where thero s such beautiful things as a collier hke ma eau only dream of sometimes Still, ill stick to it and fight it out But, Agnes, what troubles thee ? Can I help ? I'm strong enough for tro, lass, and thou know st 111 do it
it I can '
.. ^av> George, its only silly fancies of mine, I it ' slie eaid' bendinB 0Ter some flowers oy the wiy id*, and so contriving to hide her tears " Tluugs are gone a bit awry, but per napsi they 11 come straight some time '
They bad now reached the edge of the cliff, £ j vera leanwS uPon the grassy hedge that had been placed there to prevent the cattle tailing over The sun was setting behind the western sea, with all tho broad crimson glories oí illumined clouds and glittering expanse of waters Agnes bad taken off her bonnet and «id it beside her Splendidly beautiful she looked aa ahe stood there, with long wavy hair
of Boftest golden, exquisitely moulded features, aud complexion bright aud rosy with the hues of country life. Her girlish figure and innocent child-like ways almost entirely concealed^ a strength of will aud latent passion of which none but Heiniers had as yet a suspicion.
He stood by her side, while his eyea wandered over that scene-the tranquil flashing waters stretched out before them, the glories of cloud land around and above, and the long range of scarped cliffs rising above the sea line to right and le'ft. And then they were fixed upon her face, lit up also with that ethereal biightuess fiom the weat, and softly and slowly ho spoke
"Agnes, I've made up my mind to speak it out, como what may I I'm going to tell a bit o' my troubles that p'raps thee never guessed at, It's only ten years since I came here, and beforo that -well, never miud, it's all over and dono for now. Things had beeu different with ma before. I spoke different, lived different from what I do now. All at once I found myself ruined, with my name blackened for ever, and I chose men should think mo dead. 1 went to the pit and worked thore. Tom, thy brother, was the first that showed mo any kindues?, theu thy mother, and then-Agnes, there was a bit of kindness in thy voice and ways, and I began to hope a little. And I carno o' nights to tho toll-bar, and the more I carne the moro I hoped and louged for theo. And now it's out. Agues, canst thou caro a bit for a poor rough fellow like I am 1"
" Oh, George ! I never thought-oi that," she
" Never thought !" said he, laying hold of her hand with passionate grasp. " Never thought, when I used to guide these little finden o' winter nights iu our schooling, how I louged to Beize them and tell theo all, or that when
we wandered about on these cliffs mid talked o' all strange thiugs iu the big world, I was any- thing more than the stern old school-master 1 Well, I was a fool. Curse it all !" and he stamped with sudden rage and impatience.
Her head was bent low, and tho teara wero fast ailing again.
" AgneB, dear, look up," he went on, with a sudden change in his voice ; " I seo it's no use ; I was a fool to think any woman could care for me again. Well, never miud. I won't trouble you iu this way auy more. But, oh, if you could only love me, child !" he broke out with another burst of passion. " I would make you so happy -happier far than any of the poor fools about
here could do !"
" Oh, George, didn't I say it was all a mistake the way thiugs go !" she said, looking appealingly into hie face1. "You were so good, George, I never thought of that, and theu-thore waa another, and he used to court me, though neither you nor mother knew ; und I lovo bim, oh, George, so much I But I don't know how it ia,
things have gone wrong, and I don t know whether he care» f >r ino now, and I m so wretched '
Heimers w13 too generous to ask tho name Still, he thought ho might watch over aud help her, and there was no knowing but she might leam to love him it last So, with some hope yet loft, he talked of other matters the fair at Sixby, the nevv steimer anchored iu Snutby harbour, and so on, till it waB time to return to the cottage
Hu would not go in that night, but wa dered instead for miuj hours by the sea shore vv ith the geutly murmuring waves aud the couutless gleaming st na for company Then he roturi ed to the mine in vv Inch ho waa ov erlookmg, and did not leave it till again the sun was setting on the following day
A week went past, when one night George, weary and disheartoned (for things were (,omg on very badly iu tho miuo), strolled along the beach till he came to hoiuo seaweed covered rocks Lyiug down and resting bia head upon his hand, he remained there motimless for a long time with bia ejea fl\od upon the waves that iu restless mood were beating upon tho rocks before him It was about 9 o clock, and the night was now very dark
All at once he heard footsteps approaching by the narrow path which wouud along the side of the cliff at a little distance above his head He looked up, though the darkness was too great to see anyono but at tho samo time ho heard voices, and evidently the speakers lind stopped just above whare he waa Ijing At the Bamo instant ho recognised their voices They were AgneE Benson and her cousin Jim Massey, agood looking hard woikiog follow, lgnonutnnd thoughtleBB, and too foud of Bpeudiug his money in public houses, with no ambition to bo any- thing higher in life than a. working collier, but
with no worse faults that Heimers know of
It was bitter tortuie for him to liston, but he could not move from where he waB without being discovered, and ho did not w ish that 1 he lovers quarrel hld evidently boen undo up
their talk was half bauter and half iu earnest of a happy future in winch none but thomselves should have a part and George detected 111 the soft tones of Agnes s voice a joyous ring that be had not before heard in it Then carno t! e eouud of kisses interchanged, and still Geor¡,o had to listen lhen they pi«ted away up the hillside, in the direction of Agnes s home
George Heimera stiod erect, his back against tho cliff All was still save for the long melan- choly cry of a sea gull that chanced to fly past him, and the hoarse sound of the waves beating at bia feet with tho grating rattle of tho pebbles as each Bpent wave drew back fiom tho shore Ihe thick darkness was about bim aud within his soul Terrible to him was the clamour of thoso waves as they rushed up the boach, and then retiring dragged with them then pi ey from the shore The sound was in b13 ears like the dirge of his hopea overthrown his life drawn downward, dowuward, by tho waves of pitiless fate to the depths of that ocean of despair that never moro gives up its dead
A 8TIUI.0E Bight is a coal mine Wonderfully picturesque with its streets and lanes and alleys, its unending corridors and countless chambers ot the dead The men there, with blackened fices and scanty attire, seem of another race from those above ground, and the feeble lights gloaming in the midst of the darkness yi\e a
weird unreal aspect to the scene
The only sounds heard are those of the coal vvaggouB Blowly pushed aloug by boys towards the mouth of the pit, and in tbe narrow pass- ages, where the men are at work, the clang of their pickaxea as they cleave their way through the great rockB of coal Men are not the only beings here There are horses, that bavo not seen the daylight for many a year, to draw the waggons in the broador passages, and sometimea, if the light of the lamp ia turned toward the ground, the bright little eye3 of rata (how they came to that under world I don t know) may be seen peering out of nooka among the walla There is an almost fearful sombreness about the place Thoughti thit the daylight would at once dispel seem to haunt the an, and the voices of the men aa they wander about, each one, Oideon like, with his lamp and pickaxe, have a deeper hollower tone than above ground
Iwo days had passed, and duung that time a Btorm, long remembered on the eoa3t, h id been ragiug , but the men in the mine, iccustomed as they were to hearing the roar of the waves above their heads, paid little heed to the in creased noise George Heimers alone had noticed it, and each day h id spent more time than usual iu examining the supports of the roof
It was now nighttime, and he had been super intending some rather dangerous work in the lower levels, of blasting with gunpowder, which, much against bis advice, the owner had ordered This being done leaving further orders for work with the men, George turned away and walked alone in the direction of the pit b mouth, carry- ing ia one hand a large canister containing the gunpowder , in the other bia lamp and the heavy stick that, on account of hia lameneps, was his constant companion Even in that imperfect light it might have been seen that a great change had passed over his face , it was Suggard and pinched looking , there was a strange restless glitter in his eyes, and now and then hia lips parted with an involuntary quivering movement, quickly preased together a¿ain with that stern aet expreaaion that was now habitual to them
Instead of leaving the mine, a sudden thought seemed to strike him half way, and he turned aside and entered a part of the mine long de serted on account of the danger of working too near the bottom of the sea, but which recently had been opened again , and, though George bad many times warned the owner of the daugei of weakening the supports of the roof, large quanti ties' of coal had been taken from it
AU was still as be advanced through the narrow passage«, but soon the^e widened into a 1 mere open space, and ob he entered the noise
of the tumultuous waters overhead was fearfully
loud A cold draught of air smote ou him and made him shiver Tho place was known to the colliers as tho " Boggart s Hole, or the "Ghost a Hole ' It ia an immenee low roofed hall, one of thoso natural caverns th it exist beneath the bch and land, and in the centre was an abyss, mt j whose doptliB no humau being had ovei peuo trited The workings had been earned on along the sides, and a rude pathvviy led halt w ly round, abruptly stopping above the great cb ism
The poor light wbieh George held illumined only a narrow cncle round him, but ho kuow the place well, and cautiously atepi mg along reaehed the part where the last vv orkiugs had been m i le,
and which wa3 so low that ho could touch with
his baud the blick Binny îoof, to which gigautic loatboomc fungi clung
As he stood thete wild fancies stole over him Loud above sounded the thunderous boom ot the suif, and beneath bim lav, wrapped in eternal darkness, the great mine, Bti etching for miles into the depths of the eaith Ho ae ited himself on a projecting rock, the canister of powder ou the grouudat hi« side, and the lump held betweeu
M hat were his thoughts just then ' I know not all-but thore was one, fiercer than tho clamour of the waves above, moie temblé than the abyss beueith bim-he had lost all, all ! Ho looked bick upon his life-all had gone wione, fiom the begiuuiug, and now, wheu at list the cup of sweetuesa had seemed to be so near h s lips he had seen it dashed away lie ground his teeth with rage, aud then bia passion took another form-bia breast heaved, and a ¡.rent sobbiug cry ro=e to his lips
" If she only knew how I love her ! Ile love ! A incinOut vi tue love 1 could give Der ?woum uu
ino-e than a lifetime of his But I know that never, never-let me make an end of it
" Ah, aud Jim Massey, too , a light to this powder, and there d be no victory to auy one - the sea would cover us too close for that ! But the others 1
" Pooh . it s only dying a little sooner, and what ia life to stupid toiling drudges like them?
A terrible smile parsed ov el hia face, he placed the lamp by b13 side aud bent over the canister Ouly a light to the powder, and tho rocks above would be riven, aud with 1 mighty burst the sea would rush iu and whelm tnem all ' ne took out his knife and proceeded to open the lid of the canister, which by bouib means had been fastened down too tightly
But, hark' Close besido him, just beyond the ending of the path, ha heard a ruttluig cracking sound, then a cr ish and a huge frag mont of rock rolled down, and he wns only just in time to leap aaide before tho place where he had stood waa covered with shivered portions f it aa it descended, ind, leaping from led¿e to ledge, at last, with sullen roar, was lost in the depth below Still he listened for another mid
more dreadful souud c night his ear-the low swishing sound of falling water Ho crept as near is he could doug the narrow pathwav, ind as he did so his face wns sprinkled vv ith the cold Bpray of the torrent Ho hi Id out his hand, und then, touching his lips, tasted the water It
was salt '
Still and breathless as a statue he stood for a moment, the next, holding the lamp before lum, he was rushing with wild speed dowu the broken pathway away from the place As ho approached the entrance he Btopped, and for a moment looked around in bevvildermeut-ho had mistaken the road, and instead ot tiking that by which he had come, had followed another, whieh abruptly stopped-a miiBa of coal had fallen aud broken it oil He bad no tim« to turn back He threw his lamp down, und, ai fortuno would hive it, it was not biokon, but only fallen on one side about ten feot below , theu, drawing m hu bieatb, ho prepared foi the lea]) He did not know the ground-the lamp lind gouo out If he leaped ho might fall into sotno deep fissure , but there was no time to hesi'ate He took the leap and fell , the firm ground was beneath him
His arm was bruised and his ankle sprained, but he hardly felt it Relighting his lamp ho dashed along through tho narrow passages toward tho main where the men were at woik
Atlast ho met a boy slowly dragging along a small coal waggon Ho caught the lad by the
shoulder and shouted to him
" Can you run, Willi"
" Ay, 01 can," answered tho boy
" Then run your hardest, Will Tell them u the lower mum tho waters coming in, and in an hour it 11 all be flooded "
" Pay ther s there ' ' the boy cried, and without
auothei word lushed oil
Other boys were sent to the other puts of the mine, forced by Geoigo s stern voice to obey, as
ho told them ho would not let one mau leav u the pit till they were all theio
Theu he waited And if any one had seen his face as he stood alono a strange chango woul 1
have been noticed in it Thero vv is now a look
of such tnumphaut gladucss aB foi mnuyayear
had not rested there Ho stretched out Ins aims like one who had just ended soma weary 1 iboui Theu his head sunk on hia boram, lud ho mut
" 0 God ! Saved . saved ! 1 hou hast kept ma from it, and I may yet Bave them all "
Quickly he recovered himself aud went tuto a small ofhce where he kept his books and mstru menta Ho took from a bo\ a sin ill re olver and some matches and went out again He then set light to a heap of shavings and dr wood lying near the door, and this soon blu/ed up, illuminating the whole place
And again he waited
S ion iroop after troop of the men, flying at their utmost speed, reached the pit s mouth, and a fearful sight it was to see the struggling mass of men, each one, with maddened shouts and blows, Btrivmg to come lieaier to the basket But George Hoimers s voice was heard loud ubov o
it all -
"The first that touches that basket before I tell hun 111 shoot that man ! '
They saw the levelled barrel of the revolver
ana drew back
"Those that are married, stand here " And in silence the men obeyed him
He theu signalled to a certain number of them to enter the basket Not au instant was lost, and they were hoisted out of sight
The others Btrainad their eyes to watch tho ascending mass, calculating how soon it would return to rescue thom Some of the men who had their sons with them clasped them tight m their arms, whispering messagea to bo given if they were loaf, for in nearly every caBe tho fathers chose that the boys should go in their place , some Bank to the ground muttering prayers that they had never spoken since child hood, and others listened to George Heimera as ho told them there was still hope if they would obey him
Jim MaBaey had been m one of the most dis tant workings, and was one of the last to reach the pit's mouth, and now be stood by the wall apart, with eyes bent down on something he held in his hand-a lock of Agnes s hair that she bud given him the night before
More than half the number of men wero now safe , and the basket, whirled up by those who knew just how much depended upon their work, had just left when George, in the calm voice with which ho had spoken before, said " Men, who's to go next ' ' There veie ouly about twenty left, men and boys, whom George had many a time helped by words and deeds they remembered this, and all cried at once " Next turn's thine, master-we'll come after '"
" Thank you, my lads,' he i nswered quietly " I'm not going this time but I want to send some ono in my place Will you let me ! '
Not so eagerly this time-but still the answer, " Ay master ' ' was given
" Jim, come here 1 ' Georgo shouted " You take my place when it comos again Nay, lad, you. must I Remember, Agnes wants you, Jim, you'll be goo 1 to her, won't you * And tell her sometimes the last words I tried to say were, ' God bless both of you ' . '
Once more the basket descended, tne few that were chosen leaped into it, the rope was shaken as the signal to hoist up, and with one tight hand grip Georgo sent Jim on his way And aa they parted Jim looked at the other s face, and never to his dying day did he forget what bo saw there-the bitterness of death bad passed awav, and a strango peace was shining forth from his eyes
It was the last freight George already bad heard the distant thunder of the waters bursting in full flood into the mine He knew the end was come, and when the basket was ascending he turned away doTn a side passage that he might not seo the agony of the poor men when they found it was too late
JuBt as the basket reached the level of the upper ground, where hundreds were waiting anxiously to watch the arrival of each company
that was saved, a tremendous black cloud rolled up the pit's mouth, bursting up with a fearful roar high into mid air, and when it had cleared away and the men peered down the shaft, far away in tbe darkness beneath they could hear tho dash of the waves, and sometimes thought they couki discern their white gleam .as they leaped uj> the sides of the shaft. Jim Massey and several others volunteered to go dowu uud seek for .any who might be still struggling in the water. It was too late when they reached the place, and only a few or the elend bodies were
The mine ia now deserted, and its buildings aro
Some time after the disaster a part of the cliff above it, piob.ably undermined by the action of the waves, fell dowu one stormy night, and now there ia a great cavern wandering away iu datk passages uuder the cliff where part of the coal
mine bad been.
It is easy to penetrate beneath those gloomy niches in a boat during fine weather, and many times iu after days Agues-then a happy wife aud mother-would como there with her children on summer days, aud tell them tho story of how their father's life had beeu Biived. And wheu sho had endsd, and leaned back in the boat as they floated on through that silent gloom as of twilight, the large tears would gather in her eyes for bim who lay in that uukiiowu tomb of his fur below iu some dark cavern of the sea.-Temple liar.