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Title: The Man Who Held The Wires Author: Randolph Bedford * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1402221h.html Language: English Date first posted: May 2014 Most recent update: May 2014 This eBook was produced by: Paul Moulder Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.
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A willy-willy blowing over Coolgardie filled with dust our camp on the twenty-five mile road. We ate dust, breathed dust, and wore it as our most intimate garment; we wrote in a mixture of organic matter and mud.
'Twenty-five per cent moisture, twenty-five per cent dust, and fifty per cent dead blowfly,' said Billy Pagan as he decoded the cable from London.
'What does it say?' said I, when he had closed the codebook.
'It's from Harmer. There's a show at English Flag under offer to him, and his option expires in four days. Did you ever hear of a big mine there, Harry?'
'No,' I replied. 'Is it supposed to be big?'
'Judging by the price, yes. Harmer says it's under offer to them for fifty thousand pounds, and that other people are ready to take it up when his option expires. He's had a report on it, and it's so good he wants me to confirm it.'
'Whose report was it?'
'Manning's. He says it's a two-ounce show with unlimited quantities of ore proved.'
'Do you know Manning?'
'Only by reputation, and that says he's very straight but not very smart.'
'And you've got to confirm in four days?'
'Yes. Do you feel inclined for a trip? It's not a nice day but there's only fifty miles of it.'
'I'll come, certainly.'
'Right, old man. I'll get the buggy round.'
Late that night we drove up to the mine—a mile or so beyond the grogshop of galvanized iron roof, salmon gum wallplates and rafters, and hessian sides—having been directed to the track to the mine by the owner of the shanty. A great blow of quartz, a mountain in size and of precipitous steepness, loomed grey and mysterious at our right, but the light of a camp to the left bore us away from the mammoth outcrop. At the sound of buggy wheels the door of the camp opened, and the white rays of a kerosene lamp invaded the darkness, except where it was broken by the figure of a man who appeared in the doorway.
'All right, Mr Pagan,' said the man. 'Jim'll take care o' your horses.'
'H'm,' said Billy Pagan to me, and I saw that he was not pleased at the meeting, although he replied, 'Hullo, Swainger. What are you doing here?'
'Just come along to measure up for the contractor tomorrow, Mr Pagan.'
'H'm.' We had alighted and entered the hut when Billy Pagan spoke again. 'Sinking the shaft on contract, are you?' he said.
'Yes, Mr Pagan. Sit down here. I've got a bunk ready for you. Didn't expect your mate.'
'Never mind troubling about the bunk,' said Billy Pagan. 'We've got our blankets and I'd rather camp outside.'
There were three men at the rough table—two of the usual type of young Australians, very tall and spare, very silent—their faces wrinkled by blinding suns to the semblance of middle-aged men, whereas they were little more than youths. The third man was short, broad and black-bearded—every hair of him gave the impression of the immense strength of their owner. He received us sullenly, as if we were men he was forced to meet and would be glad to part with. Peculiar glances as of enquiry on one side and of warning in reply passed between this pocket Hercules and Swainger.
'Have a drink, mates,' said the Hercules almost commandingly, and although neither of us desired it, we could not be guilty of a refusal—which is a serious infraction of bush law. But after we had drunk the whisky and the hot water, which proved that it had known the condenser only a few minutes before, Billy Pagan said that we were tired and would talk in the morning. Without waiting for a reply, he said 'Goodnight,' and led the way out to our buggy, and I followed him.
In silence we spread our blankets near the buggy, filled the last pipe for the night, removed our boots, and turned in. We smoked for a few minutes in silence—a silence broken by the first of the questions that tormented me.
'Why don't you like Swainger, Billy?'
'S-s-sh—not so loud...I don't know anything against him except indefinite hearsay, but I don't like him on sight, and I trust to my instinct.'
'But how can your likings affect this business?'
'He was in Coolgardie when we left. He was loafing about the post office when I drove down Bailey street...looking as if he were at rest and likely to stay so. Yet he turns up here to receive us.'
'How could he know where we were going?'
'A cable from whoever is trying to sell this mine in London, or leakage in the telephone office here.'
'I see, but—'
A quartz splinter cracked under a heavy boot. I looked in the direction of the sound and saw two figures so indefinite as to appear mere shadows. They had approached from the back of the camp...now they stood motionless.
Billy Pagan's whisper came to me, 'Talk—laugh—so they can go away again.'
I took the cue.
'Hang this pipe...It's foul. Got your knife, Billy?'
'No,' replied he as loudly. 'There's saltbush growing near you—get a twig.'
He continued talking advice as to pipe cleaning while I turned over to pluck the saltbush, and I heard the quartz splinter crepitate as if its broken edges were relieved of weight. I looked up and the two shadows had vanished.
The midnight winds sprang up and ruffled the plain; the night showed fever stars and darker than usual.
'What's their game, Billy?'
'S-s-sh—no more talking tonight...It's risky.'
There were sounds as of shovels being moved from the ground behind the camp. Then the noise of retreating footsteps.
'But what are they doing?'
'They're going to the shaft. It's none of our business, though.'
'What shall we do then?'
'S-s-sh. When in doubt, keep quiet—go to sleep.'
He rolled over, his face set from the dawn. In a few minutes his deep and regular breathing told me that he had followed his own advice. For myself, I was too excited by the mystery I felt afoot, and by turns dozed and awakened to every sound from the camp, the shaft and the plain.
Morning showed us the great outcrop of quartz that had been grey mystery in the starlight, a white crystalline mountain glaring and eye-wearing in the sun. In the centre it had weathered to fragments that strewed the plain—rising again in towers and pinnacles of whiteness, showing only the infrequent discoloration of millions of years of moss.
'H'm,' said Billy Pagan, chipping a boulder as if with his prospecting hammer—hungry as a swamper.'
Swainger interpolated hastily, 'She's not all brick quartz like this. She's better below—and she'll get richer with depth.'
'H'm,' said Billy, as Swainger and the sullen Hercules walked before us to the shaft. 'Same old lie, Harry—the stone will get richer with depth. Will it? I've never known a reef that did—it's always the other way.' We reached the shaft, and the engineer, addressing Swainger, said, 'What's the depth?'
'Two hundred and twenty; we've opened out and driven at the hundred and the two hundred. I suppose you like to do the sampling alone?'
'Yes, my friend and myself will go.'
'Right you are—we'll lower you then'. As he spoke he looped and knotted the end of the windlass rope as a foothole.
'No thanks. We'll go down the ladders. Will you lower the sample bags, Harry, after I've got down? There's a connection between the hundred foot level and the two hundred, isn't there, Mr Swainger?'
'Yes, there's a winze through and ladders in it.'
'Right. Is your friend here'—he indicated the sullen Hercules—'the leaseholder?'
'I'm one of 'em, mister,' replied Hercules, answering for himself, and truculently, as if he expected opposition and wanted to anticipate it.
Swainger silenced him with a look.
'And you, Mr Swainger?' pursued Pagan imperturbably, as if he had neither heard nor seen the truculence nor its correction.
'I've got the option,' replied Swainger, flushing uneasily.
'And who has given the option to my people?'
'He's in London, I think?'
'Ye-e-es—he's in London.'
'H'm...Lower away when I call, Harry.'
I sat in the hundred foot level, looking at a glistening mass of quartz. Billy Pagan's candle burned steadily in its spider-socket driven into the soft slate of the reef-enclosing rock. I held my candle in my hand and the tallow guttered to my fingers.
He had spread a long sampling sheet of canvas on the floor of the drive and drove the pick at random into the quartz that stood up well, although it was shattered in all directions.
We had sampled the drive in sections of ten feet, had then roughly quartered each sample, packed it in its bag—numbered for identification—and sealed it.
When he had finished every section of the level Billy walked back into one of the crosscuts and measured the width of the lode.
'She's a beauty for size,' he said. 'Thirty feet if it's an inch...Let's go down the winze...Wait a minute. What about a sample from the floor?'
'But you didn't knock it down. All you knocked down fell on the sapling sheet.'
'Never mind that. We'll see what it's worth.' He scraped away half an inch of the surface and smiled as he saw moisture in the debris below.
'Who would have expected water? Eh! hold the bag, Harry. That'll do...Now to No. 2.'
I climbed down the hundred feet of crazy Jacob's ladder and Billy Pagan lowered the tools and sample bags, threw down the sampling sheet, and followed slowly—holding the candle to the white walls around him, scanning each point and crevice of the rock.
'Won't you sample the winze?'
'Yes,' he said loudly—and then whispered, 'S-s-sh, this place carries sound like a railway tunnel...No. It's not worth the smell of gold to the acre.'
'But it's the same stone as in the level.'
'S-s-sh—what if it is? We'll sample number two now, and then we'll get away.'
The reef at the lower level showed the same characteristics as the upper stone, but with fewer of the laminated veinings that had distinguished the reef at shallower depths. He sampled it quickly, and then he took a sample of the floor, which the sampling sheet had hidden, bagged it and sealed the bag, enclosed the samples in two gunny bags and sealed them. We carried them along the drive and to the shaft, and as he prepared to ascend by the ladders he handed me the last half inch of his candle—guttering tallow and sealing wax and nigh extinction.
'I'll climb quickly and lower the rope for the samples. Don't take your eyes off the bags, Harry—not for a moment.'
'Why—there's no one here?'
'There's always somebody everywhere...keep one eye on each bag. I won't be long.'
He climbed out of the circle of candlelight and into the half gloom of the shaft.
I looked at the bags as he had bidden, but the eye wearied of them, and I must have been looking at the candleflame for some minutes when I was conscious of the nearness of a man. There is a sensation something approaching horror at the sudden consciousness of the espionage of an enemy; and at the moment I must confess I was at least disagreeably startled.
I turned swiftly, and there, in the entrance to the drive, stood the sullen Hercules—his black beard and piercing eyes more commandingly sinister than usual, his left foot arrested suddenly in the act of taking another step towards me.
'Hallo!' said I, astounded at finding him behind me. 'How did you get here?'
'Same way as you. Down the ladders to the hundred foot and then down the winze, and along this level.'
'But in the dark?' For I saw he had no candle.
'Yes. I know every stone in this show...You finished sampling pretty slick.'
I did not immediately reply—I felt a new dislike to him. This man who went wandering through a mine and down crazy Jacob's ladders in the dark and then showed that he wished me to believe that he had taken the risks carelessly, motivelessly and merely to pass the time, was not at all to my taste or understanding.
'You got through the sampling in quick time,' he said again.
'Yes,' I replied, then, 'Mr Pagan is a quick worker.'
'It isn't fair to a mine to jump through it like that,' he replied, plainly showing that the rapid sampling had not been anticipated by him and had disarranged his plans.
'Mr Pagan doesn't scamp his work,' I replied with some warmth.
'More haste—less speed, I think,' he said doggedly, and then his eye suddenly flamed as he saw the sampling sheet folded up, with all Billy Pagan's finicky orderliness, on the bags. I saw the glance, shifted the candle to my left hand, and prepared for war.
'Under below,' called the voice of Billy Pagan cheerily, and with feelings of relief I heard the hook on the windlass rope strike metallically against the walls of the shaft. There were two slings on the hook. I slung the two bags of samples, called to the men on top to 'haul away,' and as soon as the samples were out of reach took the sampling sheet over my shoulder, put the prospecting hammer in my belt, blew out the candle and started for the surface.
I expected Hercules, maddened by his black and silent rage, to wrench me from the ladder, and I climbed through the half gloom with only one sensation, and that, the instinct to reach the good earth's surface quickly; but I had no need for fear. Hercules warred in no such open ways. I could hear him muttering curses in the blackness of the drive, but I was on the last ladder before he began to climb.
Billy Pagan stood on guard over the bags. At the mouth of the shaft Swainger, looking furtively depressed and making his anxiety more apparent by affecting an air of good fellowship, deprecated an immediate departure.
'Give the show a chance, Mr Pagan,' he said. 'There's another reef further over there.'
'But no work done on it?'
'Not as much as on this one—just potholes.'
'Well, I don't trouble to see them,' replied Billy Pagan. 'My instructions were to sample a mine not potholes.'
'But you'd better wait and drive back in the cool. Your horses are getting a bit of green feed, too.'
Billy Pagan smiled—he knew how much 'green feed' there was in that drought-stricken wilderness, and then he suddenly snapped rather than said, 'Green feed! Much more likely poison plant...Hallo! What's that fellow doing with my horses?'
I looked in the direction of his gaze and saw one of the over-tall youths stoning Pagan's two greys. They had halted to browse on the ridge three hundred yards from us, and the lanky youth attempted to drive them on. Another minute and they would have been driven down the ridge and out of our sight in the gullies.
'Hey, you! Leave those horses alone,' Billy shouted, and at the sound of his voice the lanky youth dropped behind a boulder and disappeared, and the horses resumed feeding on the scanty salt-bush.
Billy Pagan's eyes glittered, but he said no word to betray the fact that his suspicions were aroused to their highest pitch.
'Will you bring my horses back here, Harry,' he said quietly, and I threw the sampling sheet on the bags. At sight of it Swainger's eyes were filled with murder. As I turned to go the sullen face of Hercules appeared at the mouth of the shaft.
When I returned with the horses the group of three at the shaft mouth were waiting in silence; Hercules, with his strong, sullen head bent, relieving his passion by pulling fragments of stout chip with fingers that seemed to be made of steel—so hard and irresistible seemed their grip upon the wood. Swainger, in doubt, glaring at the sampling sheet; Billy Pagan, cool, calmly smiling his superiority in the struggle.
As I came up he said, 'Will you put the horses in, Harry? The harness is in the buggy', and as I nodded acquiescence, his tone became stern as he hailed the second lanky youth who hovered round the buggy with an axle-nut wrench.
'Hey, you! What are you doing?'
'Goin' to put a drop o' neatsfoot in the axleboxes,' replied the youth sulkily.
'Well, why don't you?' I, who knew him, detected irony in the question—irony that was sure of the weakness of its opponent.
'Our wrench won't fit,' said the youth, even more sulkily than before.
'Won't it? Well, there's a wrench in the box under the seat.'
The youth started towards it.
'Wait a minute—the box is locked.'
The youth stopped with an oath.
'Never mind—I'll oil the axles myself. I like greasy work...Come here, my lad.'
The youth slouched to the mouth of the shaft. 'Take one of these bags, will you? I'll take the other.'
'I'll carry one,' said Hercules with a little badly disguised eagerness in his voice.
'I won't trouble you,' said Billy soothingly, as if he were merely careful that Hercules should not overtax his strength. 'But you may carry the sampling sheet.'
Hercules snatched up the canvas and cursed in a whisper as audible as a stage aside.
The little procession came to the buggy. Billy Pagan stacked the bags in the front of the vehicle, took his seat and put a foot on each bag. I handed him the reins as Swainger came from the camp with a bottle and glasses.
'No thanks,' said Billy; 'I never drink before twelve.'
'But it's after twelve now,' said Swainger.
'I mean before twelve midnight then.'
Swainger scowled, but affected to laugh off his disappointment.
I fastened the traces to the bars and mounted to the buggy beside the engineer.
He bore upon the reins to feel the mouths of the horses and let them know the journey was beginning. Then he shook hands with Swainger, thanking him for the hospitality of the camp in the usual set terms, and concluded to the lanky youth.
'Good-bye, sonny—I take the will for the deed in the matter of greasing the axles...Good-b'—Hallo! Where's your mate, Mr Swainger?'
Hercules had disappeared.
'In the camp, I think,' replied Swainger confusedly.
'All right...Well, good-bye.'
He put the horses up to the collar as he spoke, and the buggy moved.
'Good-bye, Mr Pagan...Hey! You're left the sampling sheet.'
'Never mind...I'll give it to you. You'll find it handy next time.'
If Swainger made reply he never heard it. The beautiful team took us swiftly past the spurs of gleaming quartz into the deep-milled dust of the main track.
'So the mine's a fraud, Billy?'
'Fraud's no name for it...And those fellows would stick at nothing. That black scoundrel sneaking after us in the dark; the murder in the eyes of both of them when they saw the sampling sheet, and knew that the little game of salting the bottom edges of the drive was no good to them...I knew when I saw the stone it was N.G...They sunk that shaft on the strength of little rich leaders that I could see at the surface had been payable...Then they say, Well, here's a boom. We'll be in it. We've got any quantity of stone, and we'll make the quality good enough...I don't grumble at them doing that...It's all in the game—their game; and it's all in my game to crab them if I can.'
'What are you hot about then?'
'Because they've done things that are not in the game. They'd have thrown us both down that shaft and the samples after us, only they hadn't quite enough courage for it. If we had shown the least sign of fear we were done. But they couldn't understand a man having sufficient front to laugh at 'em. And what clumsy liars! Swainger had come along to measure up the work of the contractors, and there's no contractors there and not a foot of work has been done for months. They tried to lose our horses, didn't they?—and that long-necked young thief who was monkeying round with a wrench—trying to kindly grease the wheels and lose an axle-nut or two...They've put my back up. We've only two days to stop Harmer paying the money to the other thief in London—less than two days, because Australia is nine hours ahead of England.'
'And where did the black ruffian go to?'
'Did you see a cloud of dust away to the right—two miles back?'
'Well, I'll lay a wager that was Mr Hercules rounding up his horses and galloping them back to the English Flag.'
'They'll follow us then?'
'My colonial oath they will. The game's just begun, but we'll win it.'
'We! What do you get out of it, Billy?'
His face hardened at that, and he replied almost coldly, 'My fee—and so far as actual inspection goes, it's the easiest two hundred and fifty I ever earned.'
'But you'll get it whether you beat these fellows or not?'
'Harry,' said Billy Pagan severely, 'I'm surprised at you. You're no sportsman!'
'Now, Mr Manning,' said Billy, the night after our arrival in Coolgardie, 'will you please tell me how you took your samples?'
'In the usual way,' replied the older man, but deprecatingly—'all along the drive diagonally in six feet sections.'
'But you didn't use a sampling sheet. All the stone you broke down fell to the floor and you shovelled it up from there and then quartered it.'
'And the result is this. I've crushed and panned all my samplings, and I can only get a few grains to the ton. But I took a special sample of the broken stuff along the side of the drive and I got twelve ounces to the ton for one sample and fourteen ounces for the other.'
'Good heavens! Then I was salted?'
'I'm ashamed of myself. I am sick of myself. I might have known by the character of the rock, but I don't trust my eyes, as I'm shortsighted.'
'It can't be helped—you got an average of two ounces for all the stone in sight, didn't you?'
'Then we've just got time to stop the swindle...Now don't be downhearted. Nobody could doubt your straightness.'
The old man smiled sadly. 'But I doubt my own ability now, Mr Pagan.'
'We must go now...Good-bye. See you later...Off to the telephone office, Harry.'
The terminus of the telegraph line was twenty miles further west, and from Coolgardie telegrams were sent by telephone to the operator at the terminus at Pink Rocks.
Billy Pagan coded a cable that was translatable thus, 'Refuse to complete. The mine is an absolute swindle.'
We walked to the Post Office feeling very successful and confident, but Billy Pagan stopped at the entrance as Swainger's figure disappeared within.
'They're here, Harry—but they're later than I thought. And what's the good of them being here now and cabling?'
We entered. Hercules leaned against the wall of the inner office and glared at us, drunkenly truculent.
Billy rapped at the wooden shutter of the telephone room, and the clerk appeared and demanded our business.
'I've got a cable I want sent right away.'
'Can't send it till I've got this message through.'
'And how long will that be?'
'About two hours.'
'Two hours! Man, it must go through at once. I'll pay urgent rates.'
'It's an urgent I've got on now, and it's a long message.'
Billy thought a moment and then replied, 'All right, I'll come back in two hours. You must arrange to break the long message if it's not through then.'
The clerk said 'All right,' and closed the shutter. The telephone bell rang again—the voice of the transmitter spoke again.
We left the office, Billy leading me into the scrub beyond the office, and then by a detour back to the Post Office, but at its side and not its front.
'Quiet,' he whispered. 'Keep out of the ray of the lamp. Now...crawl behind me.'
We crawled through a little belt of scrub and past the piles of a building—built, as usual, high from the ground on zinc-covered piles to delay the ravages of white ants.
We were under the Post Office.
'Listen—Harry—what is it?'
We listened and heard this:
'In the last summer number of The Clarion we reviewed the Westralian discoveries by sea—'Have you got that? Eh... Never mind whether it's rot or not—this is the message and I'm being paid for it—' By sea. Inseparably connected with the land discoveries are the travels of John Forrest, Alexander Forrest, Fyre Austin and others whose names we know and of that great and nameless legion of explorers and prospectors and adventurers who have beaten the ways for the little men of the cities in all countries and at all times. And if there is one thing that calls for the adventurous Australian's gratitude it is—'Got that?'
'Come away quietly,' whispered Billy, and knowing the uselessness of questioning him I backed out silently after him.
He did not speak until we were well clear of the scrub and near his camp again.
'What's the game, Billy? What does it all mean? What is it they are telephoning?
'You'll laugh at the idea. That was an article out of the Clarion. They are probably telephoning the whole paper.'
'But what for?'
'To hold the line, man. While they pay they hold the wires, and I can't get my cable through.'
'But the cost?'
'They cut that down by waiting until they saw me leave Manning's house. They're probably only telegraphing it as far as Fremantle, and what's a penny a word to fifty thousand for a shicer?'
'So you're beaten?'
'Not yet—the horses have had a day off. We'll yoke 'em up.'
'Where away now?'
'To the telegraph station at Pink Rocks.'
Can I ever forget the romance of the track that night—the beauty of the bush lying under the starlight without a breath to ruffle it; the smoke of our pipes curling up as incense; the ghostly track lying coiled and mysterious through scrub and forest; the horses enjoying their own rapid motion through the cool air; the only sounds the occasional clicking of shoe on shoe, the straining of the harness and the silky rustling of tyres in the sand.
As we sped through the divinely soft air, he told me my part of the programme.
'I'll drop you at twenty miles out, drive the other ten alone, get my cable away and drive back to you.'
'But if the operator has started on the long message he won't stop it for the cable.'
'I won't ask him to, but as there'll be a sudden interruption of communication with the place we've come from, he'll take my cable all right.'
I looked at him, and in the half darkness could just see that he was smiling.
'You mean to cut the telephone wire?'
'I mean that you shall. It's half past twelve now—you mustn't cut it till a quarter past two. I'll be in the office at Pink Rock then.'
'I see—that gives you an alibi.'
'Of course—they'd suspect me at once if I first cut a wire and then drive to the next office to get a cable through.'
'I see—all right, old man. How do I get up the poles?'
'There are no poles. Civilisation hasn't come along yet. The insulators are spiked to trees.'
'Good. And what do I cut the wire with?'
He pressed a fencing wire cutter into my hand, and we drove on in silence and I dozed.
A touch brought me to consciousness, and I found he had stopped the buggy.
'There you are, old man. There's the wire. What's your time?—five minutes to one! Right. I can do the ten miles by twenty past two, easy. Cut at twenty past. Good luck, old man—I'll be here again at four thirty, but it will be best for you to walk west, and I'll meet you sooner.'
'Good-bye, Billy, and good luck.'
We clasped hands. I lit my pipe and settled down to waiting—the buggy disappeared in the long perspectives of the aisles of salmon gum.
'Can't do it—I've got a long message,' said the operator.
'All right, I'll wait,' replied Billy Pagan, with one eye on his sweating but still strong team at the door, and the other on the telephone.
'It won't be much good waiting unless you've brought your blankets,' said the operator, laughing. 'Some crank up on the field has taken a ninety-nine years lease of this 'phone. He's sent half The Clarion up to now—all except the illustrations—and I suppose when he's through with that he'll start on Johnston's Dictionary and poor Doctor Watt's hymns. Sorry to keep you, but I can't help it.'
'I know,' replied Billy. 'It's not your fault. Fire away. Give that lunatic asylum at the other end another chance.'
'All right—you take it easily, anyhow—Hello! Are you there? Yes. Go on. What's my last? 'Repeat' did you say? All right? Here you are—'Governor Denison writing to H. Labouchere of the Colonial Office, respecting the formation of the first New South Wales Ministry, said'—
'Can you hear that?...Can you hear that? Hello!—Shake your battery...Oh, damn!'
Billy Pagan looked at his watch. It was fifteen minutes past two.
At that moment I had climbed the tree and cut the wire.
In the early dawn I met him driving gaily through the dewy bush, and he stopped the buggy to pick me up, and laughed. And when he had me in the buggy he laughed again, as at an excellent joke, and called me his good mate and his blood brother and many other pleasant things.
'Swainger will be on our track when they know of the broken wire. I'm game to bet that he's been admiring through my window a dummy in the bed, supposing it to be me.'
The wire must have been repaired the next day, for twenty-four hours after we reached Coolgardie came a cable for Billy Pagan and its decodation said this:
'Many thanks. We were on the point of paying. Please make complete examination Jindabine mines and cable report.'
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