Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership


Title: In the Wake of Fortune
Author: Ivan Dexter
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1600971.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: Oct 2016
Date most recently updated: Oct 2016

Produced by: Maurie and Lyn Mulcahy

Project Gutenberg 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 at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

------------------------------------------------------------------------

IN THE WAKE OF FORTUNE.

AN AUSTRALIAN STORY.

BY

IVAN DEXTER.


Published in The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld.) commencing 5 May 1894 (this
text), and also in six other Australian Newspapers, and in three New
Zealand Newspapers.

No record found of it being published in book form.




CHAPTER I.--ST. COLUMB'S COVE.

Within a dozen miles of Land's End, where the grotesque and
imperishable rocks of the "Shark's Fin" and "The Armed Knight" leave
the wild surges of the Atlantic, is situated the ancient hamlet of St.
Columb's Cove.

The place is wild and picturesque in the extreme.

The ceaseless billows of the ocean rolling across from the shores of
America have indented the Granite rocks which faced them into strange
and uncouth shapes. Hollows and caves have been worn by the erosive
action of ages, and at times when the sea was lashed to fury it howled
and shrieked amongst them in doleful and appalling accents.

The little cove was hollowed out of a soft stratum in the iron-bound
coast, and within it small craft could find shelter.

Looking from its cliffs on a fine day the dim outlines of the Scilly
Islands away to south-west could be discerned, and lying between was
the fabled submerged land of Lyonesse, over which King Arthur, of Round
Table fame, and his knights used to hunt.

There was not a spot in the whole locality that was not associated with
strange and weird legends.

Over at yonder black cliff was the dreaded place where the spectre
of St. Columb's made its ominous appearance as a herald of evil to
the little settlement. This portentous visitation took the form of a
phantom ship, black and square rigged, followed by a shadowy boat, the
whole being of unearthly aspect and worked by no human hands.

When the mists rose seawards over the calm ocean about nightfall the
spectre ship was seen to glide silently towards the dark beetling
cliff, and apparently sail right into it, disappearing as mysteriously
as it had come.

The apparition boded woe to Columb hamlet, and the primitive residents,
almost secluded from the busy world and superstitious to the last
degree, placed implicit faith in the legend.

Of all peoples on the earth those of Cornwall are perhaps the most
superstitious, and attach supernatural reasons to most commonplace
events.

From King Arthur's time down to the latter end of the nineteenth
century innumerable are the legends associated with Cornwall, and St.
Columb's Cove was in the very heart of the mystic district.

To the north the coast town of Tintagel stood with its ruins of
Arthur's celebrated castle, where the court of Round Table was held.
The famous bells of Tintagel, with the weird romance attached to them,
are still heard by credulous people chiming on occasions beneath the
ocean.

Indeed, eminent men have heard the strange sounds as of bells chiming,
but science now attributes the booming noise to other and natural
causes.

Close by the town is the site of the battlefield where King Arthur met
his death. Nearer to St. Columb is the celebrated morass which it was
part of the doom of the wicked Tregeagal to drain, and within half a
mile of the Cave hamlet were several strange granite rocks on an open
moor.

Of course a legend is attached to them, and it is at the expense of a
worthy man of former times, named St. Just.

This worthy man dwelt at the western side of the Promontory, and on the
eastern side lived another good man called St. Keverne, whose name is
still famous in Cornwall.

St. Just once paid his brother in righteousness a visit, but on his
leaving St. Keverne missed some of his property. Waxing wroth--for even
saints hankered after earthly riches--he pursued his late visitor,
carrying with him from the coast a few granite rocks of about a ton
weight each.

He overtook him near St. Columb. A colossal fight ensued and the rocks
were used as missiles with such effect that St. Just was glad to
disgorge the stolen property.

Such is the given reason assigned by the Cornish people for the
presence on the moor of the strange rocks, and it is simply stated
as a sample of the supernatural reasons to explain very natural
circumstances.

From time immemorial the hamlet of St. Columb had been supported by
mining.

Up to the year 1819 its output of tin had been considerable, but after
that date the yield had gradually fallen off until in 1863, the year
this story opens, it could scarcely be called a mining district longer.

Throughout Cornwall the stanniferous areas had become less, but the
working of other minerals had taken their place.

Coal and iron were being substituted for tin and copper, and it was
simply a change in the mineral, that made no alteration save for the
better in the progress of the district.

With St. Columb's Cove, however, it was different.

Tin was the only mineral in the neighbourhood that had been found
profitable to work, and once that industry became extinct there was
nothing else to take its place.

The locality was not fit for either agricultural or pastoral pursuits.

The coast-line was sterile and desolate, and the salt spray of the
Atlantic, which in rough weather swept far inland, precluded the growth
of vegetation, save that of a marine character.

The fens and moors at the back of the hamlet were almost as unsuitable
for agriculture, and nothing of a remunerative nature could be won from
the earth by that industry.

As a fishing village the cove was also unsuitable.

The long wash of the ocean which beat upon the coast with terrific
violence, whenever a slight storm arose, rendered fishing as a pursuit
out of the question in that particular spot.

The cove offered few advantages in that respect, and as there were
other parts not far distant which gave good shelter, fishing smacks
sought them.

So treacherous was the coast that a vessel driven near it was
inevitably doomed to destruction. It was caught in powerful currents
when far off and sucked in to disaster and death.

In former times the reputation of the coast was extremely evil.

It was even said as a matter beyond dispute that the inmates of a
monastery which was built near the Black Cliff, and could be seen a
long distance to seaward, were in the habit of hanging a lantern out at
night to entice voyagers to destruction.

The good monks of course maintained that the lamp was hung out as
a signal of danger to keep mariners away. That might be, but there
could be no disputing the fact that the religious brothers claimed
and received their full share of the wreckage that was plundered from
the ill-fated vessels lured on the rocks. In latter days without the
hanging out of false lights the wrecks on the coast were numerous and
disastrous enough to satisfy any lover of the sensational.

Of course the inevitable legend was associated with such disasters.

On stormy evenings a woman's shrieks were said to be often heard
coming from seawards, and some few favoured individuals with powerful
imaginations had even caught a glimpse of a female form floating along
in the mist and calling for succor.

This was supposed to be the ghost of a woman who long ago had been the
only person saved from a terrible wreck.

Her husband and family had all been swallowed up in the furious sea
when the ship drove on the rocks, and she, caught by a huge wave had
been thrown into a cleft of rock, where she was found unconscious by a
party of wreckers.

Instead of dropping her back into the sea they had saved her, but
it was soon found that her reason had been shattered by the awful
experience of the calamitous night.

When she was able to get about she used to spend her time wandering
along the beetling rocks and everyone pitied her sad case.

One evening when a storm was lashing the ocean against the cliffs she
disappeared, but a miner making his way home had seen her end.

He had watched her go to the edge of the Black Cliff and gaze,
apparently fascinated, into the tumbling billows below.

Suddenly she precipitated herself from the Cliff and disappeared for
ever.

As her body was not washed ashore and she had a mystery attached to her
and the vessel in which she was lost, the usual legend grew around the
event.

It thus happened that in 1865 through the decline of the staple mining
industry that the residents were fewer than in former times.

The remainder still clung tenaciously to the remnant of the mining work
which remained. Centuries before the place had been famous for its
output of tin.

It was at the Cove so many historians said that the old Phœnicians
first landed in search of minerals, and long before the time of Julius
Cæsar the precious metals and the baser ones also had been worked from
their native ore.

All over the district could be found the remains of ancient workings.
These had been abandoned long anterior to the local records, but from
the extensive ruins they must have contained immense deposits of ore.
In several places shafts of profound depth existed that had not been
touched for centuries.

At what period or by what people they had been excavated no one could
tell.

It was honestly regarded as beyond dispute that for twenty centuries
mining had been carried on in the vicinity of St. Columb's Cove, and
romantic stories were current of the fabulous riches that had been won
from the earth there.

If B. Raleigh had lived a thousand years before he did there would have
been no occasion--had half the stories been true--for him to seek the
El Dorado in the mysterious recesses of a new world. In the Land's End
he would have found the wealth for which he pined.

Even in the sixteenth century the bulk of the riches had been taken
from the place, and as times rolled on the patient but persistent miner
still further diminished the treasure which lay buried in the earth.

In the year 1865 the glory of St. Columb's Cove had disappeared, or was
but a memory of the past so far as its mineral wealth was concerned,
and in the whole district there was but one mine which was still worked.

This was called the "Wheal Merlin," and the site was supposed to have
been pointed out as a profitable one to work by the famous enchanter of
that name.

This mine was in 1865 owned by one John Trenoweth, and it had been in
the same family for generations.




CHAPTER II.--THE TRENOWETH'S.

Almost as old as the hamlet of St. Columb itself was the Trenoweth
family.

Tradition set them down as being of memorable antiquity, but whether
the ancestors of John Trenoweth traded with the Phœnicians, or whether
a later generation fitted out a ship and fought with Drake against the
Spanish Armada is of little concern to this story.

There was little doubt that the family was of Ancient lineage, and it
was also certain that the "Wheal Merlin" had been owned and worked by
the Trenoweths for many generations.

John Trenoweth knew this to his cost, for in the year 1830, when his
father died and left him it as his only possession, he found that the
living to be obtained from it was likely to be a precarious one.

He was only eighteen years of age at his father's death and that event
left him an orphan, his mother having died several years previously.
Like all his predecessors he had no thought of leaving the old spot,
but at once settled down to the lot which had apparently been destined
for him.

He was thirty-five when he married Mary Treloar, a girl of the village
whom he had known since childhood, and the result of the union was one
child, who was named Edward, after his grandfather.

John Trenoweth was a man of greater enterprise in the working of the
mine than any of his predecessors. The spirit of the nineteenth century
was strong within him, and the rude and primitive methods of working
which had been in use for centuries at the mine were soon discarded.

The lode ran to a great depth and the shaft was deepened considerably
so that it could be worked more advantageously. The mouth of the main
shaft was not more than a couple of hundred yards from the cliffs on
the ocean beach, and hitherto the utmost precautions had been taken in
working towards the west.

A safe distance had been left between the furthest drive leading that
way and the sea, for the miners had no desire to be interfered with by
leakages from the Atlantic.

John Trenoweth was more venturesome.

With the shaft one hundred and twenty feet deeper than it had hitherto
been, he concluded that there would not be the least danger in
driving beneath the ocean bed if necessary. This would give about one
hundred and fifty feet of ground overhead if the drive were continued
from the lowest level west, and the most experienced miners in the
district considered with Trenoweth that westerly working under such
circumstances was perfectly safe.

After consultation with the miners they expressed their perfect
willingness to start a lower drive to the west and follow the rich ore
that was to be obtained in that line.

Trenoweth was soon rewarded for his enterprise by the increased yield
of the "Wheal Merlin," and it almost seemed as if the ancient grandeur
of the family was about to be renewed.

The turn of luck did not, however, last long, for the ore turned out to
be patchy and realised no more than a fair living for the owner after
all expenses were paid.

Year followed year, and slowly but surely the underground workings of
the mine became more extensive towards the west.

In fact in the year 1850 the whole of the operations were carried on in
that side of the historic mine.

The generations of miners who had lived, delved, and died at the mine,
had completely worked it out in every other place save the one they
were afraid to exploit, and consequently John Trenoweth was forced to
confine himself to the west or abandon the place altogether.

He had reason to be satisfied with the inheritance left him, for it was
turning out fairly well with his improved working, and so it went on
till the latter part of 1865, when an event occurred which completely
changed the fortunes of the Trenoweths.

Before narrating this Edward Trenoweth must be referred to.

The reader has already been informed that the marriage of John
Trenoweth with Mary Treloar resulted in the birth of a son, who was
christened Edward.

This son was born in 1847 and grew up a vigorous youth.

His parents had a notion of placing him in one of the liberal
professions, and in pursuance of that idea sent him to Eton to be
educated. It was the first time that a Trenoweth of St. Columb had ever
been sent out of the hamlet to be educated, and old people shook their
heads in bodeful anticipation of what the result would be. It seemed
like breaking the custom hallowed by centuries of observance and the
wiseacres of the village concluded that Edward Trenoweth was destined
to break the long period of family isolation which had shut out the
race from the world beyond the district in which they lived.

It must be said that Edward Trenoweth himself did not fall in
cheerfully with the exile from his native village, and he made no
secret of his repugnance to life at Eton.

A wild strain was inbred.

The youth loved the lonely grandeur of the storm-tossed Cornish coast,
and to him St. Columb's Cove was the one place on earth.

He had a further reason for this love of the hamlet, for he had given
his boyish heart to a maiden of the place, and that made the enforced
separation from home all the more intolerable.

The girl's name was Inez Jasper, and her history was a strange one.

She was in fact a waif of the sea.

One wild night in November, 1849, signals of distress were observed
rising to seaward and the few inhabitants of the Cove gathered on the
beach to give what help they could.

This was very little indeed. The few old boats of the fishermen were
utterly useless in such a storm outside the cove.

The hardy men of the place well knew that it would be suicidal madness
to put out to where they could see a great ship drifting on to the
rocks.

The Cove had probably been sighted by those on board the ship during
the afternoon and as a last hope they had made towards it.

They must have been strangers to the coast to have done so, for to a
vessel of such tonnage the Cove was practically inaccessible.

The spectre lady had been seen to walk the night previous, so some of
the superstitious villagers said.

This legend had been whispered from one to another until it was
believed, and as they gathered on the beach with the salt spray lashing
in their faces from the half sheltered Cove they had no hope that the
ship would live through the storm.

They seemed in fact to look upon it as a matter of course that the ship
was doomed. The few boats were manned at nightfall, and the men rowed
out to the entrance of the Cove, beyond which they dared not go. From
the course the ship was driving it was expected she would strike near
the entrance of the little bay and all the men could do would be to
lend a hand in saving any possible survivors.

A few persons took their stand on the jutting cliffs on either side of
the Cove with ropes to throw to any clinging waif that might be dashed
up by the waves on the lower ledge of rocks.

As the people expected the unknown vessel drifted almost into the
entrance of the Cove.

Had she come fairly in many lives would doubtless have been saved, but
it was not fated to be.

A treacherous current seized and bore her right under the Black Cliff
where no human help could avail.

Huge fires had been lighted at the spot immediately it was seen the
ship was going to strike there, and all night the villagers peered into
the seething ocean by them and the fitful light in search of a possible
survivor.

Not one was saved by them, and when morning dawned nothing but wreckage
strewed the coast, whilst here and there a ghastly battered corpse was
to be seen.

Though the people on the cliff had not succeeded in saving a single
soul, an old fisherman named Michael Jasper had been more fortunate.

Early in the night he had put out to the mouth of the Cove in company
with his three sons.

Jasper, the father, was nearly eighty years of age, and the sons were
beyond middle age. Father and sons had been born at St. Columb, and had
passed most of their lives mining, varied with occasional fishing when
the sea was calm.

It was not long after the ship struck that Jasper and his sons noticed
fragments of wreck drifting into the bay, and they pulled about in the
hope of securing something valuable.

The people of the village regarded a wreck as their own especial
property, and they had no qualms of conscience regarding the
appropriation of anything that came within their reach from such a
source.

Jasper and his sons were engaged examining a mass of floating wreckage
when they were somewhat startled by the sound of a human voice to
seaward.

It was but a faint cry, but to the practised ears of the men it told
its tale.

It must be a survivor's cry to come from such a direction the men
instinctively knew, and loosing the wreckage they had hooked the boat
was instantly turned towards the spot the sound came from.

In a few moments a second feeble cry was heard, fainter than the first,
but in the thick darkness nothing could be discerned, save the white
crested waves that broke against the rocks.

They had almost reached the mouth of the Cove, and Jasper, who had
ignited an oil lamp and was holding it above his head saw another pile
of wreckage sweep by.

By the flickering gleam of the light the occupants of the boat saw
a struggling object on the floating mass, which turned out to be a
portion of the ship's bulwarks, but almost as they looked a huge wave
dashed the timber against a jutting rock, and with a smothered cry the
living object disappeared.

Impelled with the desire to save life the men pulled perilously near to
the boiling cauldron of the entrance, and as they did so a sheet of the
broken timber swept by the frail craft and a gleam of something white
on it caught the old man's eye.

Stretching out his hand he caught the object, which seemed to be a
bundle of clothes, and as it was of little weight he lifted it into the
boat.

Examining it with the aid of the light they were astounded to find that
it contained a child, and in a few moments Jasper was convinced that it
lived.

The boat had by this time been drifting back into the Cove and knowing
how necessary it was to provide warmth for the almost inanimate infant
the men at once pulled back to the beach and landed amongst the
wondering few who remained there.

Mrs. Trenoweth was the first woman that Michael Jasper saw, and when
she took the waif so miraculously preserved her motherly tenderness was
aroused and she claimed the care of the child.

This was at once conceded, for there were no women-folk in the Jasper
household, and the care of an infant would have been awkward.

By dint of care the child was brought round and at daylight seemed
little the worse for the awful experience of the night.

Out of all on board the ship the child was the only soul saved, and the
wondering people of St. Columb regarded her--for it was a female--as
specially under Divine care.

There is no doubt that the cries which first attracted Jasper's
attention came from someone who had the child and was lost when the
floating wreckage struck the rock.

There was never the slightest clue found to the identity of the lost
vessel, and the only token discovered on the child was the name "Inez"
broidered on one of its garments. Mrs. Trenoweth, after consultation
with her husband and with old Jasper's consent, decided to adopt the
little Inez, but the old man insisted on his name being given to her as
well as that marked on her clothes. The Trenoweth's child Edward was
but a year old at the time and thus the two children grew up together.

Edward was fourteen when he was sent to Eton, but the routine of school
life was extremely distasteful to him, and he longed for the wild
freedom of his Cornish home.

How he managed to remain two years at the great school it is not easy
to explain, but during that time he paid several visits to the Cove and
each time he saw Inez Jasper his boyish heart was more impressed with
her.

She was certainly growing into a lovely woman. Her features were as
Spanish as her first name, and there was little doubt she was of
Southern extraction.

There was nothing in common between her and the natures of the secluded
hamlet, and consequently she was not a favourite with them. Edward
Trenoweth was a spirited and handsome youth and more to her liking.

The friendship that existed between them developed into ardent love
on his part and some degree of affection on hers. At best it was but
Love's young dream.

At the age of sixteen Edward departed from Eton, or, rather, was
compelled to leave owing to a serious disagreement with one of the
masters.

During his two year's sojourn there he had not wasted his time but had
made fair progress with his studies. The spirit of his ancestors seemed
to possess him, as he evinced a decided inclination for the life of a
miner.

Both his parents tried to dissuade him from that pursuit, but it was
in vain, and soon after he took part with his father in the working of
the mine. This pursuit possessed in infatuation for him and he speedily
acquired a practical knowledge of geology.

His theoretical knowledge stood him in good need, and before he was two
years in the mine he was regarded as quite an authority by the rough
miners. This was in the latter end of 1865, and no one guessed of the
awful calamity that was even then throwing its shadows over the doomed
hamlet.




CHAPTER III.--THE WHEAL MERLIN.

One of the most ancient mines in venerable Cornwall was the Wheal
Merlin. Its underground workings extended for miles and formed a
perfect labyrinth likely to prove fatal to the uninitiated explorer.

Having been worked for hundreds of years, nearly every spot was
hallowed or cursed by the memory of a fatal disaster. The awestruck
miner would show the visitor places where human self-sacrifice had
reached sublime heights, or mayhap where personal malice in vengeful
mood had invoked aid of death to remove a hated rival or to gain a
little wealth. Every subterranean gallery was filled with unwritten and
unpainted legends, but to the superstitious miners and residents of the
district they were infinitely more real and enduring than if wrought in
marble or bronze.

Considering the primitive manner in which the mine had for ages been
worked it was a marvel that the accidents had not been more numerous
and more serious. Even with simple appliances in use a great depth had
been attained, and the work of ages had caused the district around St.
Columb's Cove to be honeycombed with underground drives.

In olden times the mine was noted for its rich yields and miniature
battles had been fought for its possession.

An ancient representative of the Trenoweth family, who had been worsted
above ground at the outpost from which he defended his property, took
refuge below, and for several days fought the enemy in its drives. His
better knowledge of these ramifications enabled him to triumph, but the
victory was a hard one.

A villager named Penfold, who worked in the mine, was either bribed or
forced into showing the enemy underground, and this man paid dear for
his treachery. Having been captured, the enraged miners took him to the
surface and then dropped him seven hundred feet to the bottom of the
main shaft.

His was one of the ghosts that was said to walk by the credulous
people, and whenever the phantom appeared it was looked upon as an omen
of fast approaching evil to the people of the hamlet.

Such superstition as this may appear childish to the matter-of-fact
people of today in Australia. It should not be forgotten, however, that
even at this latter end of the nineteenth century there still lingers
in many parts of Cornwall superstitious beliefs that ceased to obtain
followers in other parts about the middle ages.

Mining is essentially a precarious and dangerous calling, and in such
a remote spot as St. Columb's Cove--almost cut off from communication
with the busy world, and in a locality where nature herself conspired
to overawe man--there was nothing strange in the fact that the miners
employed in the Wheal Merlin should still cherish the legends of their
forefathers.

Indeed, they had some ground for the strange beliefs they held.

On more than one occasion weird predictions had been verified in
a strange and remarkable way. Omens that could only have been of
supernatural origin had, through the key of certain prior prophecies
been interpreted, and they had been fulfilled.

More than one hundred years before the date on which this story opens
an ancestor of Edward Trenoweth had met the phantom of Penfold in
one of the drives of the Wheal Merlin. The spectre--so Trenoweth
said--pointed menacingly in a northerly direction, and then, like the
usual orthodox ghost, vanished.

This Trenoweth was a man more than ordinarily sceptical for a
Cornishman, and he refused to listen to the appeals made to him by
certain of the villagers when he told them of the apparition. They
urged that he should not work in the mine for a week and a day or harm
would befall him.

The period of a week and a day was universally consulted as the longest
in which a spirit could exercise a malign influence.

Even Mrs. Trenoweth urged her husband to take heed of the warning
given, but he was obdurate. He pointed out, like a shrewd, sensible
man that he was, that he could not see how working the mine would
precipitate his fate any sooner than remaining above ground for a few
days, and perhaps having an encounter with some straggling smugglers or
pirates who might drop into the Cove.

If his hour had come his bolt would fall equally sure above ground as a
few hundred feet below the surface.

This is the view that the practical man of today would take in such
matters, but the sequel showed that Trenoweth should have taken the
kindly advice.

Next morning he descended the shaft in company with nine men who were
embued with the courage of their master, but none of them ever came to
the surface again alive.

Shortly after noon an outburst of air from the main shaft told the
alarmed villagers that some catastrophe had happened, and they flocked
to the mouth of the mine.

Some of the experienced miners, when they heard the rush of air, knew
but too well the nature of the fatality. It was evident to them that an
inrush of water had taken place, and this proved to be the case.

When a few of the more daring descended the ladders they found that the
shaft was nearly half full of flood waters. It was thirty feet above
the drive where Trenoweth and his men were working, and it was certain
that they must have perished.

They were working in the main drive to the north and the fatality was
soon found to have been caused by the bursting in of water from an old
mine shaft had not been worked for a century.

It was weeks before the bodies were recovered, and the villagers went
about their task as if obeying a command of fate. They shook their
heads and shrugged their shoulders but said little, for they knew that
Trenoweth had paid with his life his disregard of the phantom's warning.

And so from generation to generation these grim legends of spectial
appearances and their results were handed down until they seized
on men's minds and became clothed in the habiliments of reality,
presenting themselves as infallible articles of flesh and blood.




CHAPTER IV.--THE CATASTROPHE.

It has already been stated that when Edward Trenoweth took charge of
the mine he at once introduced an improved system of working. By deeper
sinking he felt justified in believing that he would be able to follow
the rich lode further seawards with perfect safety.

In years gone by drives had been put in westward as far as it was
deemed prudent, but a large portion of the lode which was the richest
in the mine had to be left unworked through fear of the sea breaking
through.

When, therefore, Trenoweth put the western shaft down a hundred feet
and made a survey, he calculated that he could drive a long distance
under the Cove without fear of a burst. This he set to work to do with
energy, and his enterprise was soon rewarded.

He bared a considerable portion of the lode and the returns it gave
were richer than the oldest miner in the Wheal Merlin could remember.

In fact, it almost seemed as if fortune were about to smile once again
upon the Trenoweth family, and Edward felt proud to think that ere long
he would be in a position to offer Inez a home worthy of the girl he
idolized.

It should be said that these two young people, growing up together, had
come to love each other, and the villagers regarded it as a matter of
course that some day they would marry. The choice for either Edward or
Inez in such a place as St. Columb's Cove, was, it is almost needless
to say, extremely limited, and to some extent this fact may account for
the mutual affection which had grown up between them.

As the lode turned out so well Edward put as many men to work as could
do so conveniently, and the drives were soon considerably extended. As
the upper workings approached the sea they were abandoned and all the
operations were confined to the lowest level.

Month after month successful work was expended on this drive, and it so
well rewarded the owner that the almost extinct hamlet of St. Columb
began to prosper.

A mild sort of boom had set in, and it only needed a few colonial
"syndicators" and speculators to have established a fleeting city in
the venerable place.

In 1869 the prosperity of the mine was at its height, and the Trenoweth
family were considered to be on the high road to wealth.

In November of that year Edward made a survey of the lower western
drive, and he calculated that it extended fully one hundred yards under
the Cove.

His intention was to continue the workings to the outer edge of the
Cove and then discontinue.

Prudence dictated to him that once the open ocean was reached it would
not be safe to drive, although the level might be far below the sea
bottom. He knew the Cove sufficiently to understand that the ceaseless
beating of the Atlantic rollers on the iron-bound coast could not fail,
after ages of effort, to honeycomb the cliffs.

In places where soft strata existed fissures would thus be worn to a
great depth, and to drive in such a place would be to invite disaster.

Inside the Cove the case was, of course, different. Sheltered from the
fury and force of the eroding waves the weight of the water above the
drive was the main point to be considered.

At least that was the view which Edward Trenoweth took, and it was one
which would be shared by most experts.

As Christmas time approached Trenoweth decided to celebrate the merry
festival in a way worthy of his name.

He had reason to bless the fast dying year, for wealth and happiness
had placed their benediction on him since the previous Christmas.

Inez Jasper promised to be his wife, and the Wheal Merlin had given up
some of its buried treasure to him.

He was happy and he desired that the good villagers should share his
joy in some measure.

On the 20th of December Morris Jones, the underground boss--as the
position is colonially termed--met Edward near the main shaft, and
spoke to him----

"There is a good deal of water coming up from the bottom of the west
drive, sir, near the end."

"From the bottom?" Edward queried in surprise.

"Yes, sir."

"I will go down and have a look at it. You must have struck a spring,
surely?"

"It is a spring of salt water, then, sir," Jones replied.

Without further conversation the two men went below, and thence along
the western drive.

About four feet from the face Trenoweth sure enough saw a small spring
of water bubbling up from the floor of the drive. With the aid of the
flickering lights he made a careful examination of the drive in the
vicinity, but there was nothing to cause alarm. The roof of the drive
was remarkably dry, and it was there that Edward looked for danger.

The men working at the face seemed a bit uneasy at first, but after
Trenoweth's examination and his emphatic statement that there was no
danger to be apprehended they were reassured.

As he turned to go back Edward stooped to examine the strange, bubbling
spray.

It did not seem to be increasing in flow and the force was not
considerable, so, concluding that it was only the outlet of a small
natural cistern he went back again to the surface.

About noon on the 23rd of December the Trenoweths saw Jones coming
to the house, where he had been during the morning assisting in the
preparations for the Christmas festivities.

Inez Jasper was with him, and Edward looked the picture of radiant
happiness as he came out to meet the foreman.

"What's the matter now, Morris?" he asked.

"Well, sir, the men in the west are beginning to get afeared. They say
there is danger ahead. The night shift told me this morning that they
heard queer noises, and that fool, Jack Pengelly, swears he saw strange
figures standing at the entrance of the west drive and pointing down
it."

"Of course," laughed Trenoweth, "we mustn't blame the poor fellow for
that. Such superstition has been born in him. But if you think there
is any danger," he continued, anxiously, "we must bring the men up at
once."

"I don't know what to make of it, sir," replied Jones. "Sometimes I
think there is no danger, and then again I don't feel sure of it. That
spring is still running, and stronger than before--but it is not that I
am afraid of it. There is occasionally a queer ring in the face of the
drive near the lode and if left alone for a few minutes small pieces
scale off without apparent cause. It is also getting much wetter; and,
in fact, the whole face is weeping," (mining term for oozing).

"I will go back with you and see for myself," answered Trenoweth,
curtly.

He went back into the house and acquainted Inez of his intention.

She made a slight demur at first, but finding he was resolved she
poutingly asked him not to be long. She returned his kiss, and he
rejoined Jones.

"What danger do you think there could be, Jones, in the position the
drive now is?" he asked as they walked towards the shaft.

"I cannot say, Sir, unless there is some fissure in the Cove," was the
reply.

"If that were so the water would most likely come from the top and
not from the floor of the drive. We must be fully one hundred and
fifty yards from the ocean, and from the soundings taken in the Cove
our drive is more than one hundred feet below the basin," Trenoweth
answered.

"Yes, sir; but you know this is a treacherous place, and one cannot say
what may happen. Everything may be right and safe, but the men seem
anxious, and I would like them to see you and have your opinion," Jones
replied.

"They will not have long to wait for that, at any rate," laughed
Trenoweth, who was in excellent spirits. "But," glancing down at his
holiday clothes, "I must change these."

He went over to the engine-house and in a few minutes returned attired
in the orthodox miner's costume, and then the two men went below.

Making their way to the end of the drive Trenoweth found the party of
miners were grouped idly about, waiting for him.

They were looking keenly at the face of the drive, which since
Trenoweth's visit of a couple of days previously had undergone quite a
change.

At that time it was remarkably dry and hard, but now the water was
exuding from it and carrying down large flakes of the soft rock.

The spring which had broken out on the floor of the drive was still
there, but the flow of water from it was much stronger. It bubbled up
fully six inches from an aperture above two inches in diameter and
threw quite a stream into the drive.

As Trenoweth stood close to the face of the drive for a few minutes
silently watching it he almost started as a queer sound fell upon his
ears.

He could have sworn that it came from the opposite side of the face to
where he stood, and the noise filled him with a certain indefinable
alarm.

He could not say why he was thus startled, nor could he quite make out
the character of the sound. It was like the sigh of a slumbering Titan
or the fateful warning of a spectral guardian.

At least that was the feeling which possessed even the somewhat
sceptical Trenoweth as he stood in that queer spot a hundred feet below
the bed of the ocean.

"You heard that sound, sir?" asked Jones in a whisper, as he stood
behind Edward.

"Yes; and I really don't like it," answered Trenoweth, with a forced
laugh.

"It has been heard several times since eight o'clock last night, and
the men were almost too scared to work," Jones spoke.

The reader, unaccustomed to mining below ground, will scarcely
understand how an unusual sound will affect miners.

There are certain noises well known to such workers, and they are
readily understood. When, however, the prevailing silence is broken by
strange sounds the attention of the earth delver is at once fixed and
in many instances mines have actually been abandoned from such causes.
Burrowing deep into the mysterious bowels of the earth the imagination
is given full play, and weird fancies are built up on slender
foundations.

The western drive of the Wheal Merlin however, afforded indications of
danger to the experienced eyes which could not be overlooked outside
the uncouth sound.

The weeping face and the falling flakes unmistakably showed that water
was near and that a softer stratum was being encountered. Possibly
there was a small and harmless accumulation of water behind the face,
but it was just as likely there might be a huge reservoir which a
stroke of the pick might tap, bringing death and destruction with
it. The small burst in the floor of the drive seemed to be a warning
outpost of the main body of the enemy ahead.

At least this was the view the intelligent and cautious owner of
the mine took of the situation, and he was not long in forming his
conclusion.

"The men had better cease work Jones, until after the holidays. If
there is anything wrong here," he said, pointing to the face, "it will
have time to develop. Above all things we must not risk life."

He stopped abruptly, for the strange sound again smote his ears, and
this time it rose louder and more menacingly than before.

"Yes; tell the men to gather up their tools and leave everything secure
for the holidays. They can get to the surface as soon as they like
after."

"Bring all the hands over with you," he concluded to Jones, "over to
the house as soon as they are paid, so that we can wish each other a
merry Christmas."

Jones gave his orders to the grateful men accordingly, and then he
accompanied Trenoweth to the shaft and saw him into the cage.

"Now, don't forget, Jones!" Edward shouted as the cage began to ascend,
and he saw his foreman turn back to the gang on the western drive.

The cage had just reached the surface and Trenoweth was in the act of
stepping off, when suddenly a rushing, roaring noise sounded in his
ears and the next instant he was precipitated head foremost out of the
cage on to a heap of mullock close by.

Like a flash of lightning the heavy cage shot up to the poppet-heads,
smashing them to pieces, and then it fell back into the shaft.

Struggling, half-stunned, to his feet, Trenoweth was conscious of a
booming sound in his ears, and as he looked stupidly at the wreck he
saw people wildly hurrying towards the shaft.

Something terrible had happened, and as the engine-driver reached his
side he cried, in a voice quivering with horror----

"By Heavens, sir, there's been a burst, and the mine is flooded!"




CHAPTER V.--THE END OF THE WHEAL MERLIN.

For a few moments Trenoweth could not speak. He stood with his left
hand pressed to his forehead, looking about in a bewildered sort of
way, and as his full senses returned he realised what had happened.

"How many are below?" he gasped to the engine-driver.

"Sixteen I lowered this morning, sir, and may God help them, for we
can't," answered the man with a sort of sob.

"Could--could they not get up to the old workings?" cried Edward,
almost at the top of his voice.

"They be mostly working in the west, sir, and I'm frightened that's
where the burst has been," returned the driver.

Trenoweth by this time well knew where the burst had taken place, and
he realised the full force of the calamity which had overtaken himself
and the village.

By this time a wildly excited crowd had begun to gather at the mouth
of the now useless shaft. The dread explosion caused by the forcing of
the air up the shaft before the inrush of water had been heard all over
the place, and it had as much significance to the people as those worse
explosions which sometimes appal the dwellers in colliery districts.

Men, women, and children made their affrighted way to the spot where
their hearts told them sorrow and pain awaited them.

The scene which followed was awful and almost indescribable, and,
fortunately, not often witnessed.

Those who had relatives below were frantic with grief, and in some
cases hysterical wives and mothers had to be restrained from throwing
themselves down the shaft. Fatherless children looked wonderingly at
the scene, which was almost incomprehensible to them, and then joined
their mothers in wailing, wailing more out of sympathetic contagion
than from any knowledge of the loss they had just sustained.

The broken poppet-heads accentuated the disaster and the helplessness
which had stricken the would-be rescuers.

"The pumps," Trenoweth curtly said, turning to the engine-driver, who
still stood near him.

"Yes, sir," answered the man as he turned towards the engine-house. In
a few minutes he came back and said, "They won't work, sir. I thought
the cage would injure the pipes." Then as he turned back to look after
the engine he muttered, "and little good it would do if they did work,
I couldn't pump the ocean dry."

And he was right.

The sea had poured into the Wheal Merlin and all the pumping plants in
Great Britain could not have lowered the water a foot.

After the first frantic and tumultuous rush to the mine an organised
attempt was made by the experienced miners to afford rescue to those
below.

The men well knew that nothing short of a miracle from heaven could
possibly save the doomed ones in the mine, but nevertheless they set
about to work with a will. It was just possible, they thought, that
a few of the miners might have been able to reach the high levels in
the eastern workings and get above the water level. Even then the
compressed air would be so great as to render it almost, if not quite,
impossible for a human being to live.

Moreover, the main body of men were employed in the west drive, which
it was certain had been flooded.

As the winding gear was disabled one of the most intrepid of the men
volunteered to be lowered by a rope and ascertain if possible the full
amount of the disaster.

A windlass was improvised, and young Penfold allowed himself to be
lowered into the fated mine.

With breathless interest, the agitated crowd watched the rope gradually
pay out.

The hundred feet mark passed out of sight into the dark depths, and
soon after the two hundred feet line on the rope also went down.

With strained eyes those on the surface still watched the descending
rope, but their suspense was not of long duration. Scarce another
ten feet had gone down when a signal from below told the men at the
windlass to stop.

A wild cry from the watchers went up as the signal was given, for they
well knew that the sea-level in the Cove at half-tide was about two
hundred feet from the surface of the main shaft of the Wheal Merlin.
Penfold's signal evidently meant that the rope had reached the water
in the shaft, and this view was verified a few minutes after as he was
hauled to the surface.

With a set face he told the crowd that the water was up the shaft to
within a couple of hundred feet of the surface, and moreover he stated
that it was sea water, for he had tasted it.

This intelligence supported the worst forebodings of the villagers.

About two hundred yards from the coast was the old shaft and the
would-be rescuers immediately went in that direction.

The shaft had not been used for a couple of years, but it was in good
order, and a second descent was made in it.

The same result followed.

With marvellous rapidity the sea waters had penetrated the most distant
workings and filled drives and shafts alike.

The lowest levels of the famous old mine were seven hundred feet below
the surface, so that the water had risen five hundred feet above them.

This fact made it certain that not one of the unfortunate miners below
at the time of the flooding could possibly have escaped with their
lives.

Of the sixteen men thus overwhelmed nine of them were married, with
families, whilst the remaining seven were young single fellows with few
dependent on them.

In a small hamlet like St. Columb's Cove such a catastrophe was of
enormous magnitude and made a serious inroad upon the population of the
place.

Almost every family was related to the victims.

For generations the practice of intermarrying had been adopted in the
remote place and there was scarcely one in the village on that sad
Christmas of 1869 who had not to mourn a relative taken from them by
death.

The Trenoweth family had indeed met with no such bereavement, but it
was the saddest family in the hamlet. Edward Trenoweth knew full well
that the disaster meant absolute ruin to him.

Not only would he be compelled to prosecute a hopeless and expensive
search for the bodies of the lost miners, but his rigid sense of
equity and justice impelled him to make some provision for the widows,
orphans, and others who were dependent on those who were lost. During
the past three years Edward had managed to win a considerable profit
from the Wheal Merlin, and in a few more months he regarded it as
certain that he would have acquired a competence.

He had already dreamt golden dreams of the future and built many a
bright castle of the coming days with Inez at his side.

He would take her to see the great world outside of which he had some
conception but which she had never known, and together they would go
down the vale of life.

His home would always be in St. Columb's Cove, where he would be a
kindly squire to the poor villagers who had helped him to build his
fortune. He had fondly imagined himself walking in the vanguard of the
fickle goddess, but he now found he was far in her wake.

In a single instant, where his prospects appeared brightest, his
cherished hopes had been ruthlessly blasted, and gloomy misfortune was
hovering over him. He had meant to celebrate the Christmas time in a
manner never before done in the village, and now his feast of joy was
turned into one of sorrow.

These gloomy thoughts filled his mind as he stood near the old shaft
watching the forlorn efforts of the miners to effect a rescue. From the
outset he well knew what had happened and how in a few moments the men
below had been swallowed up by the inrushing waters.

The strange sounds which he had heard at the end of the western
drive were now made somewhat plain to him. Evidently a great body
or reservoir of water was not far away from the face and must have
gradually worked its way through. The uncanny spring on the floor of
the drive was a warning of some danger ahead.

The strata of the district was of a most peculiar nature. Interspersed
with rock almost hard as flint were soft strata of sandstone. In some
places these soft veins were only an inch or two in width, whilst in
others they were several feet across and ran for many hundreds of yards.

Without doubt one of these great soft veins had been tapped by the west
drive. It must have come from the main ocean and ended where it was
struck.

The noises he heard were caused by the booming action of the rollers
outside striking the cliffs, and the small leak on the floor of the
drive was no doubt a thin vein running from the large one.

A submarine drive, formed by the ceaseless action of the restless ocean
in long ages, had been met by the artificial drive and a catastrophe
brought about.

The wearing action of the ocean in this manner is no uncommon thing on
exposed coasts like that of Cornwall.

On the south and west coasts of Tasmania, parts of the southern coasts
of Australia, and many other places the strangest phenomena is thus
produced.

The Devil's Blowhole of Tasman's Peninsula is a most notable instance
of the erosive action of the ocean acting on soft strata in both a
horizontal and a perpendicular direction.

Indeed, the average reader can readily understand how the ceaseless
action of the ocean on such coasts will act.

These thoughts did not occur to Trenoweth as he stood with folded arms,
like one paralysed, watching the weeping women and the hopeless-looking
miners.

Everyone present instinctively knew how profound was his grief, not
only for his own great loss but also for the bereaved ones, and they
respected his grief.

He was interrupted suddenly in his gloomy reverie by a light hand laid
on his shoulder, and, turning, he saw the face of Inez regarding him
with a wistful gaze.

"What is the matter, Edward?" she asked, with a pathos in her rich
voice that touched his heart.

For a moment he could not find courage to answer, and, as he hesitated,
she again spoke.

"Let me know the worst, Edward. I hear the mine is flooded and all
below are lost."

"You have heard truly, Inez dear. Sixteen honest fellows are gone from
our little village, and I fear that I, too, am ruined and must leave
too; but not by the road of death," he answered.

"What do you mean?" she quickly asked looking up strangely at him.

"Nothing, dear. I think the shock has unnerved me, and I scarcely know
what I am saying."

"Can you do any good by remaining here? If not, you had better come
home," she said.

"No! I don't suppose I can do anything of avail here," he answered;
and then he beckoned to a man who was taking a foremost part in the
hopeless rescue work.

When the man came up the young man said, "Pengelly, I can do no good
here, nor, for that matter, can you. Will you bring all the poor people
concerned in this--this trouble to my place at four o'clock. I want to
see them all and speak to them."

"Yes, sir; I will indeed, sir. No one but God can do anything for
Morris Jones and our comrades below," he added.

Without another word Edward Trenoweth and Inez turned away from the
grief-stricken group and went home.

As they entered the house the preparations for the village feast were
seen in active progress, and bitterly the young man turned to his
companion and said.

"This is a changeful world. We bade our guests to a marriage feast, and
now funeral meats must be served up."

Trenoweth had good grounds for his remark, for no such disaster had
fallen upon the hamlet of St. Columb ever since it was founded. For
seven hundred years the Wheal Merlin had been worked, and now its end
had come in gloom and death. Not only were a number of gallant men and
youths buried deep down in the watery depths of the mine, but those
who depended upon them for food and raiment were left to mourn their
absence.

No more would the bright, homecoming smile of fathers and brothers
cheer the hearts of those desolate ones. And, worst of all--to people
reared as those simple Cornish miners were--the mournful satisfaction
of giving their loved ones Christian burial; of visiting Sunday after
Sunday their quiet resting place in the old churchyard; and of planting
and tending flowers on their graves, was denied them.




CHAPTER VI.--FOLLOWING FORTUNE.

The first to meet Edward and Inez was Mrs. Trenoweth and she read
trouble on their faces.

The news of the catastrophe had been carefully kept from her, but she
had an inkling that something was wrong. A messenger had come to the
house, but he saw Inez, who went back with him to the mine.

"What has happened, Edward?" his mother queried.

"There has been an accident at the mine, mother. A portion of the
workings has been flooded," he answered, not wishing to unduly alarm
her.

"May God grant there are no lives lost," Mrs. Trenoweth said, with
alarm shining out of her eyes.

"I am afraid there are some; but it may not be so bad as we think. The
rescue party are at work."

"The rescue party at work and you not with them, Edward," his mother
replied looking severely at him. "Whoever are below must be past hope
when you are not there to help in saving their lives, my son," she
concluded, more tenderly.

"Yes, mother, they are beyond hope. In fact, a great disaster has
befallen us, but we must not give way under it. Now is the time to show
what the Trenoweths are made of," Edward answered, trying to put a
courageous tone into his voice.

As he concluded he led the way to an inner room, where he narrated to
his mother the full extent of the disaster.

"It means this, mother," he went on, "when we have provided for the
widows and orphans, and complied with the government regulations in
finding the bodies of those below we will have little left. There will
be enough for you and Inez, but I must seek my fortune elsewhere. You
know that Cornwall will be no place for me to do that, and though I
have not yet made up my mind, I am thinking of that great mineral land
of Australia. My training fits me for that pursuit, and I feel that my
fortune lies in that direction."

His mother and Inez listened in amazement to the words that fell from
Edward's lips, and for some moments neither spoke. They had been long
used to understand that Edward always meant what he said, and once his
mind was made up it was not an easy matter to alter it.

Nevertheless, the idea of the only son and sweetheart leaving them and
going to the other side of the earth gave them both a violent shock.

The elder woman seemed the most disconcerted of the two, but she had a
resolute spirit, and her only ambition was to see her son advanced in
the world.

"Do not let us say anything further on so painful a subject just now,
my son. There will be plenty of time to decide on our future course. At
present our hands and hearts are full of sorrow without adding another
pang. Whatever may happen in the future I am sure we will all bravely
face it," Mrs. Trenoweth said.

"That is spoken just like you, mother, and, as you say, other matters
claim our attention at present. I have asked Pengelly to bring the
people here at four o'clock. I am then going to tell them that so far
as our means will allow we will make provision for those left helpless
by the death of their bread-winners. I am sure you agree with me in that
course, mother."

"I do, my son. It is only our duty to do that, and we will do it as far
as we can."

During this conversation Inez had remained silent, but with a deeply
anxious look on her face. She was, of course, vitally affected by the
tragic occurrence, for during the coming year she was to be the wife of
Edward.

If he carried out his resolve of leaving St. Columb's Cove into
execution her whole life might be altered. At least, the prospect
seemed to point in that direction.

She waited for a few minutes until Mrs. Trenoweth left the room to
countermand some orders relating to the Christmas feast, and then she
said----

"Do you forget your promise to me a few weeks ago, Edward, for if you
do I certainly do not?"

"God forbid that I should ever do that, my loved one. It is because it
is burnt into my heart that I am going to act as I have said. Would you
marry a pauper and live a life of drudgery, Inez? If not, the only way
I can give you a home worthy of you is to seek a land where fortunes
are made more quickly than in worked out Cornwall. I have spoken to
Australians and did I not know they were truthful men I should have
thought they were telling me fables regarding the mineral wealth of
that land. Indeed, Inez, if it had not been for striking that fatal
western lode three years ago I think I would have taken you and mother
to that Southern land and made our home there."

"And could you not do so now?" she broke in eagerly, "why leave us
behind?"

"Because there will now be enough left to keep you and mother in
comfort while I am away, and without you I will be able to travel
better in the rough country, and, I hope, make my fortune more
quickly," he replied.

"I am not so sure of you making your fortune so rapidly as you think. I
have read of Bendigo, Ballarat, and Forest Creek as places where gold
was found in buckets-full, but those days are long since passed and
you may not find the wealth you seek where now there are so many other
seekers," Inez wisely answered.

"It is not gold I will go to seek at all, but tin, silver, or copper.
These are the metals I know most about and from what I have heard
Australia teems with such metals. In the thirst for gold the baser
metals have not been sought, but believe me there is as great a wealth
in tin or silver as in gold," answered Edward.

The girl said no more at the time, for there was something so emphatic
in the manner of the young man's answer that it quite silenced her.
Just at the moment a message came to the room that Edward was required,
but before he left the room he took Inez in his arms and kissed her
again and again passionately, and then without a word strode out of the
room.

The young girl threw herself into a chair and for a minute or two
sat with closed eyes. Then she muttered as if in deep communion with
herself:--"I don't know that Edward is not right after all. A pauper's
love, in spite of what sentimentalists may say, is really not worth
having. At least I feel that love and poverty do not agree and I could
not reconcile myself to it. Edward is brave and clever and in two or
three years might do well in the strange land of Australia. Two or
three years! It seems a long time to wait, but time flies, so it is
said, and--well, yes I think Edward is right."

Her reverie was interrupted by Mrs. Trenoweth, who asked her to assist
in getting the large hall ready for the villagers who would shortly
arrive.

This was soon done, and the viands which were to form that evening's
feast were ranged around. There were many who had lost dear relatives
who would that day look upon food as a mockery, but others again had
not tasted food since early morning and would be glad of nourishment.
At four o'clock the hall was filled with the stricken people, and
Edward Trenoweth addressed a few manly and kindly words to them.

He told them that his family had decided no one should suffer
pecuniarily for the loss of their bread-winners. As far as the small
fortune of the Trenoweth's would go, provision would be made for the
widows and orphans of the deceased. Only a small allowance would be
made for Mrs. Trenoweth and Inez. As for himself he feared he would
have to seek his fortune in other lands, though he hoped not.

This was the gist of his address, and it brought fresh tears into
eyes already dimmed with weeping. For generations the Trenoweths, as
already said, were the chiefs of the little isolated community, and
none of them were more beloved by their dependants than Edward and Mrs.
Trenoweth.

Their generosity in thus making provision for the bereaved they could
understand but to think that the last of the line should think of
leaving St. Columb's was almost more than they could comprehend.

The Trenoweths were as much an institution of the place as the Cove
itself, and as Edward spoke the last few words they stared stupidly at
him as if they did not quite understand the full import of his words.

He saw their doubts, and hastily said, "Do not think of anything now,
my dear friends, but our present position. You know we must do our
best for the lost ones. Our Christmas must be spent in repairing the
best shaft. I need scarcely tell you that I am afraid our task will
be hopeless, but still we will be compelled to do it. In the meantime
there is food and drink here. What you cannot eat take home with you.
I thought this morning we would have had a happy gathering here,
but--God's will be done."

"Yes; God's will be done!" fervently echoed several in the rooms,
whilst above all, could be heard the suppressed sobs of those who had
lost dear ones.

For nearly a month after that day the most strenuous efforts were made
to recover the bodies of those lost in the Wheal Merlin. The government
insisted on such being done, and no expense was spared. Divers were
employed, but they could do little or nothing in such a depth of water.

A new shaft was sunk two hundred feet in a vain attempt to reach the
top drive, but it could not be done as it was found that at high tide
the top drive was covered.

In the course of the pumping operations two bodies came to the surface
of the water in the main shaft, and they were the only two ever
recovered. The Wheal Merlin was the tomb of the other fourteen, and
there they will remain until the Last Trump sounds.

At last the work of recovering the bodies was given up, though not
before Edward Trenoweth had been put to great expense. He immediately
sold the machinery and plant, for the district was now thoroughly
worked out. His next step was to make legal provision as he had
promised for the helpless women and children, and he did not forget the
other villagers who had to some extent been deprived of their means of
living by the closing of the mine.

There was still sufficient for a small competency for Mrs. Trenoweth
and Inez, and when this was secured Edward felt himself a free man and
ready to face the world.

After the first shock of the catastrophe had passed, the young man
soon decided on his course of action. He was naturally of a restless
disposition and could not settle down to the humdrum life he would have
to lead if he remained at St. Columb's.

The stories he had heard of far-off Australia made a deep impression on
him, and he longed to be away to that El Dorado.

His love for Inez had not abated one jot, but he felt he must be
able to offer her more in the way of wealth than he could in his now
reduced position. Something in the girl's character--he could not
define it--told him that she would not be completely happy unless she
had wealth at her command, and he was determined that she should.
This opinion strengthened him in his resolve to leave St. Columb's.
His mother, when she knew his views, ceased her opposition to his
resolution.

It was a fearful wrench to her tender heart to part from her only
child, but Edward managed to persuade her it would be for all their
benefit and especially for the happiness of himself and Inez.

She could not withstand this appeal, and it was soon decided that he
should sail for Melbourne.

It was on the 12th of March, 1870, that he left his native village on
his long journey. There is no need to tell the reader of the scenes
which marked his departure.

Though the world was convulsed with the great Franco-German war such an
event was scarcely heard of in St. Columb's Cove.

At any rate, if straggling, fitful gleams of news of the great struggle
did break on the isolation of the place it was regarded as an event
very trifling in its consequences to the departure of Edward Trenoweth.

The villagers gathered round him in tears after he had bidden a last
farewell to his mother and to his affianced bride, and as he rode away
they stood in a sorrowful group regarding him.

As he reached the top of the last eminence which would shut out his
native village from sight, he stopped his horse, and, turning round,
regarded the little place with tear-dimmed eyes.

"Ah, well--it must be," he muttered; and then, after the horse had made
a few steps forward, St. Columb's and those he loved were shut out from
his eager vision.

A week later he stood on the deck of the Celtic King, bound for
Australia, and watching the fast receding shores of England.




CHAPTER VII.--THE SOUTHERN LAND.

Tens of thousands of voluntary exiles from their native land have stood
upon vessel's decks and looked with dimmed eyes on the receding shores,
even as Edward Trenoweth did.

Few, perhaps, had more cause for grief than the young Cornish miner.

He was leaving all that were dear on earth behind him. Mother and
promised bride were all in all to him, and, in addition, dear old
Cornwall, inhospitable as it was in many respects, was his country,
and a pang smote him as he thought he might never look upon the rugged
coast again.

Then a sense of his utter loneliness and isolation forced itself upon
him and for a moment he regretted he had not taken the advice of Inez
and brought her along as his wife.

The weakness was only momentary, for his native resolution and courage
came to his rescue and he felt almost ashamed of himself for giving
way, even for a moment, to what he considered selfish thoughts.

"Why should I drag her with me to a life of hardship," he mused.
"Mother would have had to come too, and I think it would kill her to
leave the old village. I could not leave her alone and I am sure I have
done the best under all the circumstances."

Still, the uncomfortable thought would obtrude itself that he had not
done the wisest thing he might have done, but he always stifled the
idea.

As he was standing thus preoccupied and mentally oblivious to his
surroundings he felt a hearty slap on his back, and, turning,
encountered the cheery face of Captain Telfer.

"Your first voyage, my lad, I can see. You cannot keep your eyes off
Old England and I'll bet you'll be looking in this way until we cross
the Biscay--that is if you are able to stand up in a day or two," the
skipper concluded, with an ominous twinkle in his eyes.

Before Edward could reply he went on, "It's rough over
there,"--pointing with his right thumb across his shoulder--"and if
it's your first voyage, my lad, I'm afraid you'll know what seasickness
is. But it won't do you any harm--perhaps good; unless you die," he
continued quite seriously, "and then there'll be a burial at sea. Worth
seeing if you're not the principal performer."

Trenoweth by this time knew that the Captain was thus talking to
distract his thoughts, and he could not help feeling grateful for the
well meant attempt, though it took a somewhat gruesome form.

"I don't think my time has yet come, Captain," he answered.

"No, my lad, I hope you'll see many a long year of life yet. But you
look so lonely, and I think are alone, as there was no one to see you
off--that I thought I would come to your aid. Let us take a walk round
and I'll show you the good craft that has to carry you to far."

The young man felt extremely pleased at this mark of the Captain's
regard. There were over one hundred other passengers on board, and to
be thus singled out was no slight honour.

During the tour Edward briefly told Telfer the circumstances under
which he was leaving his native land. The Captain had heard or read
something about the disaster in the Wheal Merlin Mine and he deeply
sympathised with the young fellow in his misfortune.

Edward did not omit to tell him about his love affair--it was uppermost
in his thoughts, and the bluff old salt did not hesitate to give his
opinion on the point.

"If I had been you, lad, I would have married her and brought her out.
You could have left your mother and your wife in Melbourne, or some
other civilised place, while you went to where you pleased. I have seen
a good deal, lad, in my time, and my advice is always to marry a woman
when the chance comes. If she loves you no amount of 'roughing it' will
shake that love, and if she is afraid of a little hardship then my
advice is never to marry her at all."

The old captain looked as wise as Solon as he gave this advice and he
appeared so preternaturally serious that Edward could scarce forbear to
laugh outright.

As it was he checked himself, and replied:----

"I hope everything will turn out all right, and I did it for the best."

"Oh, I hope so too, my boy; but you know, 'There's many a slip between
the cup and the lip.'"

With this rather Job-like answer he turned away to attend to some
routine duty, and Edward, left to himself, sauntered amongst his fellow
passengers.

It was quite natural that he desired to see those with whom he would
have to associate for two or three months. Unless a man is an absolute
misanthrope he cannot avoid making acquaintances on shipboard during a
voyage from Liverpool to Australia.

A quarter of a century ago it was even more difficult to do so than
today, for the time occupied on a voyage was twice as long. The ocean
greyhounds of today make a great difference in this respect, and the
tedium of the long trip is immensely relieved.

Yet those old three month voyages had their compensations.
Acquaintances were struck up that produced lifelong friendships and led
to important results.

As Edward sauntered carelessly up and down he noticed the usual mixed
crowd that makes up every passenger list. Old men, with the weight
of their years plainly stamped on their wrinkled features, rubbed
shoulders with young men in the first flush of vigorous manhood, to
whom the future seemed full of promise.

A close observer would have noticed that some of the passengers at
least were not making their first voyage. Their businesslike actions
and matter-of-fact way made this evident.

Others, again, by their cheerful expression, were setting out to rejoin
the loved ones, but there was a goodly number--like Edward himself--who
were evidently leaving home and kindred. It was the usual motley crowd
to be met with in any assemblage either on or off a ship's deck.

He had not been strolling round more than a quarter of an hour when he
came face to face with a young man whose good nature seemed to beam out
of his countenance.

He was of stout build, about the medium height, clean shaved, and about
27 years of age. He seemed thoroughly at his ease, and as the two young
men met he stopped and said, as he extended his right hand----

"It seems to me that you and I are not only sailing in the same ship
but also in the same boat, so to speak, as neither of us appear to have
relatives or friends on board. At least I have not, and I am glad to
meet one in the same position."

Trenoweth took the proffered hand and shook it warmly, for there was
something in the man's face which attracted him irresistibly.

"I am indeed like yourself. I do not know a soul on board, except the
Captain. I am leaving kindred and friends behind me," Edward answered.

"Well, I am more fortunate than you, at any rate, for I am on my way
to my native land and to my home. My name is John Barr, and I live in
Melbourne," replied the jolly stranger.

"My name is Edward Trenoweth, and my destination is Melbourne, but I do
not know a single person in that place. This is the first time I have
left England."

"You know me," said Barr warmly, "and you will not be without a friend
when you reach Victoria. I am glad to hear you are going to the same
part as myself, as we can 'chum up.'"

It is a remarkable fact that hastily formed friendships--like love at
first sight--are generally the most enduring, and so it was destined to
be in the present case.

When John Barr and Edward Trenoweth thus made each other's acquaintance
on the deck of the Celtic King they little knew how important the
meeting was to be to at least one of them.

The veil of the future is not often lifted in these days to ordinary
humanity, and the race of prophets seems to have died out.

The two shipmates strolled away together and with little difficulty
managed to secure a cabin to themselves.

The Captain was, in fact, quite pleased that Trenoweth should have
found so good a mate.

He knew Barr, for he had sailed from Melbourne to Liverpool on board
the Celtic King, and was now returning by the same vessel.

Barr soon informed his companion that he was general manager of one
of the largest firms in Melbourne, and he had been compelled to visit
England on business connected with the firm.

It was of an important and delicate nature or he should have sent some
one else, as he could ill be spared from the Melbourne management.

He also gave the young Cornishman a detailed description of the country
he was going to, and dispelled some of the daydreams which Trenoweth
had indulged in.

"It was a land," said Barr, "where there was room for everybody, and
where the clever and industrious man in any line was bound to succeed
and distance his fellows."

A great portion of the Continent was practically unknown, though
intrepid explorers had for more than half a century pushed into the
heart of the great unknown. Their tracks were, however, infinitesimal
lines on the broad bosom of the land, and if the explorer ever did
return his information was of little practical value. These researches
were something like that of a flying column through an enemy's country.
They made little impression even when they did succeed.

Now, however, the great army of settlements were moving steadily
forward, and each year a portion of the terra incognita was being
laid bare to the ken of man. From the regular settlements outposts were
being thrown out and places which a few years previously had proved
the graves of intrepid explorers were now the sites of squattages and
homesteads.

Reports were frequently coming to the centres of population concerning
the alleged finding of rich mineral treasures in remote and unsettled
parts, but, as a rule, nothing came of the statements.

Barr expressed his opinion--though not as an expert--that in portions
of the Continent immense gold, silver, tin, and copper fields would
sooner or later be discovered. This, he said, was a very general belief
among Australians.

This recital fired the imagination of the young miner, and he eagerly
enquired how it was none of the deposits had yet been found in the
interior.

Barr laughed as he explained what the interior of Australia really
meant.

Without permanent water, practically unexplored, and devoid of means
of communication, the isolated miner had little or no chance to compel
nature to reveal her buried treasures.

He illustrated the difficulties by the tragic story of Burke and Wills,
and Trenoweth little dreamt how near he would be in the not distant
future to sharing the fate of the ill-starred members of the Burke and
Wills expedition and almost in the same locality.

When Trenoweth told Barr his history--which he soon did--the
Melbournite, with that keen discernment for which he was famous, at
once saw that his companion intended to follow the life to which he had
been trained in Cornwall.

Knowing this, Barr devoted all his efforts to describing the mineral
resources and possibilities of the Continent, Tasmania, and New Zealand.

He was not, of course, a practical miner, but he had a large general
fund of information on the subject. He had been born in Victoria, and
lived in Australia all his life and was, therefore, a capable mentor of
the hopes and fears of mining.

It was no doubt fortunate for Trenoweth that he met with such a
companion, for during the voyage he acquired an excellent theoretical
knowledge of the land whither he was going to seek his fortune.

Barr could have given him good employment in his warehouse, but that
was not what Edward required.

Dull, plodding industry in that line would not make his fortune in a
couple of years and enable him to go back to Cornwall and claim his
bride.

The voyage passed as uneventful as it was possible so long a sea trip
could pass.

On the morning of the 16th June, 1870, as Trenoweth and Barr came on
deck they found a Port Phillip pilot in the act of boarding the Celtic
King, and an hour after they were making their way through the
dangerous "Rip."

A heavy mist had the previous day obscured the Otway, so that the first
sight Trenoweth caught of Victoria was the Port Phillip Heads.

At 11 o'clock the same day the ship was berthed at the Port Melbourne
Pier, and Barr insisted on his friend accompanying him to his pretty
home at Essendon.

His arrival in Victoria was therefore a much happier one than he had
anticipated.

His first act was to sit down and write a long letter to St. Columb's
Cove, telling the loved ones there of his safe arrival in Melbourne.

As a mail vessel was sailing that night he had no time to describe the
city in which he found himself.




CHAPTER VIII.--THE ANTIPODES.

The unassuming kindness with which the Barr family treated Trenoweth
made the young man almost forget he was in a strange and distant land.
He felt absolutely at home, save that occasionally he would miss the
well-known faces of those he had left behind.

The programme he had sketched out for himself was a decidedly active
one, but now that he was in Australia he felt bewildered as to how he
should start to make his fortune.

It seemed that he had just as good a prospect in Cornwall as in
Victoria, for neither gold or silver, or tin ore was to be picked up
without labour--or, indeed, with labour--unless one was lucky enough to
get on a reef or lode.

Barr advised the impatient young man to take matters easy for a week or
two and become, as it were, acclimatised.

"There is no use moving before you are ready. Your time will come
directly," was the advice of his friend.

On Barr's advice he also visited Bendigo and Ballarat, to see those
historic gold-fields.

The firm of which Barr was manager had agents in every important town
in Australia, and the letters of introduction which Trenoweth received
to them were of considerable assistance.

At Bendigo and Ballarat Edward felt, if possible, still more helpless
than he had done in the metropolis. There were fortunes, he was told,
buried deep down in the bowels of the earth, but a fortune would have
to be expended before they were reached.

Only a Crœsus or an army of shareholders were capable of successfully
pursuing those carefully guarded treasures, and Trenoweth at once knew
that in Victoria at least he had little or no chance of acquiring
sudden wealth.

He also made a trip from Bendigo across country through Inglewood,
Tarnagulla, Jones's Creek to Dunolly, skirting round by Moliagul and
Berlin. This was the country of the great nuggets and Trenoweth hoped
his practised eye might discover something that might be of use. This
arduous tramp--for it was done on foot--was fruitless.

In fact the young Cornishman knew little about auriferous country, and
he had to confess that the districts through which he travelled showed
few stanniferous indications.

The day after he got back to Bendigo he was reading one of the local
journals when an advertisement caught his eye which made him start.

It consisted of a few lines, and was as follows:----


"Wanted, four men, with a capital of £100 each, to join advertiser in a
prospecting expedition to the northern part of South Australia. William
Grey, Victoria Hotel, Pall Mall."


As he read the notification over and over again, it began to dawn upon
him that it was in the direction of prospecting unknown country that
his only chance lay.

It was for that he had crossed the ocean, for it was utterly absurd to
expect anything on fields that, if not already worked out, could only
be exploited with the aid of expensive machinery and labour.

Barr had told him a great deal about the possibilities of the unsettled
regions of the Continent, and he had not forgotten to point out the
dangers which pioneer prospectors ran.

If the possible reward was great so also was the risk imminent, but men
have staked their lives for a much smaller prize than Trenoweth had in
view.

He had heard that the indications of metals such as tin, copper, and
silver were often noticed inland, but prospectors were so eager in the
quest for gold that they scorned the baser metals.

It was just in the latter that Trenoweth's skill lay and he well knew
their value.

The Burra Burra copper mines had already proved a source of wealth to
South Australia, and tin, for instance, was much more valuable.

As these thoughts flew rapidly through his mind he rose suddenly as it
occurred to him he might lose his chance if he did not see Grey at once.

He imagined there would be a perfect rush of miners with £100 to spare
to join the expedition, and hastily catching up his hat he inquired
from the barman where the Victoria Hotel was.

"About a hundred yards to the south, sir. You can't miss it," was the
reply.

With rapid steps he traversed the distance, and entering the place,
inquired if Mr. William Grey was inside.

"He is, sir. What name shall I say?"

"Oh! tell him I wish to see him about an advertisement."

"Yes, sir."

In a couple of minutes the waiter returned and politely asked Trenoweth
to "step this way, sir."

Following his guide into what appeared to be the public sitting room
the young miner saw a rough-looking man sitting at the end of a long
table covered with the periodical literature of the day.

As Trenoweth entered the solitary inmate of the room rose, and with
formality said:--

"I am William Grey, if you wish to see me. I am trying to form a
prospecting party to search for minerals outside the usual area of such
quests."

"I am glad to meet you, Mr. Grey," replied Trenoweth, "as my ambition
is in the same line as your own. I wish to discover something that may
be turned to immediate profit, and I know it is no use depending on
settled districts for that. I saw your advertisement only a few minutes
ago and I hastened at once to speak to you in reference to it."

Trenoweth was emboldened to make this rather long introduction by the
appearance of the man before him. If honesty and industry were ever
written on any human countenance it was certainly on that of William
Grey.

A man of 48 or 50 years of age he was, grizzled in appearance, his
rugged features yet could not hide the kindly soul that lived within.
His horny hands gave evidence that he had not lived at the clerical
desk all his life, and there was something undefinable in his clear
eyes which showed he was a man to be trusted.

"Have you ever done anything in the mining line before?" was Grey's
query.

"Not in Australia, I must admit," answered Edward, "but since I was a
boy I have worked for metals in Cornwall, and my ancestors for well,
I don't know how many generations, have done the same. In fact, the
Trenoweths for seven hundred years have done nothing else."

"Oh? you are the very sort of man I want. Tin, I suppose you have been
engaged at?"

"Yes, tin mining in the lode is what I am an expert in. I confess I do
not know much about gold, as, until I arrived here a couple of months
ago I was scarcely acquainted with auriferous country."

"Well," broke in Grey, "you are the very sort of pioneer I require. The
districts which I desire to prospect are, I believe, more argentiferous
or stanniferous than gold-bearing, and most of the colonials of today
think about nothing else but gold. I put the advertisement which you
saw in the Independent a week ago and though many persons have seen
me not one have I selected."

"Why? How is that?" asked Trenoweth.

"There are many reasons for it. In the first place, some of them were
not fit physically to undergo the hardships of such an expedition;
for I must tell you," he added, suddenly breaking off, "that only the
strongest could hope to bear the strain. It will be really as hard as a
Polar expedition, with less of the comforts which usually attend such
trips. Again, some of the applicants were destitute, and as I am not a
man of great means I could not take them. Each member of the party must
be able to provide his own kit and certain articles which are necessary
to the party. The real secret of success in these searches is proper
equipment."

"Well I, at least, can conform with one of your conditions," remarked
Trenoweth, smiling, "That is, I have got £100 to spare."

"Yes; and if I am a judge of men you comply with the second condition.
You seem strong enough to go through almost any hardships," laughed
Grey.

"My heart is in the work, at any rate. If I thought success would crown
our efforts I would really go through fire and water to attain it."

As he spoke Trenoweth's face lighted up with enthusiasm, for he thought
of home and what success meant to him.

Grey eyed him keenly, but kindly, as he said:--

"I don't see why we should not succeed. I am no novice at this work.
For thirty years I have scarcely lived within the pale of civilisation.
I have been a companion to the aboriginal more than the white man, and
one great advantage I have is that I know the interior as well as any
person living. My mining knowledge is somewhat limited, or perhaps I
would ere now be a Silver King instead of a struggling prospector. It
is for that reason I want intelligent miners like yourself to accompany
me to regions where I believe fortunes are to be found. You must
clearly understand that the work is a dangerous and difficult one.
We will be going outside the bounds of settlement, and if the season
should prove unfavourable it may be that death and not fortune will be
our lot."

"We must face that," broke in Edward. "I didn't come to this land to
have easy times. I don't mind what danger and hardships we face if
anything good comes from it."

"Ah! That is the way to talk," exclaimed Grey. "Faint heart never
won fair lady, and timorsome milksops are not the persons to pioneer
prospecting in Australia. I suppose," he went on, "that I may count on
you as a mate?"

"Indeed you may," answered Edward, "and the sooner we get away the
better I will like it. I feel that every hour we are here is lost."

"Oh, don't be too impatient," laughed Grey. "When you are as long here
as I have been, and met with as many disappointments, you will take
matters much easier."

"I have a reason for impatience that I may tell you of some day,"
replied Trenoweth.

"Well, so far you are the only one to answer my advertisement. We must
have four at least to make success probable. I was thinking of having
six, but we can do with four."

"It seems strange that you cannot get a score of men to go on such a
trip. What is the cause?" asked Edward.

"The fact is, few miners who would care to prospect in such places as
we will go have £100 to spare. Of course the expedition would not suit
many men with wives and families, and though single men have come to me
they have not had funds enough to warrant their inclusion. Depend upon
it you cannot do anything much, even in the search for wealth, unless
you have money to begin with," Grey concluded sententiously.

This was rather an item of information for Trenoweth.

That in Australia--the land of gold--half a dozen men could not be
found with £100 to join Grey's party in the mineral quest seemed to him
extraordinary. His ideas of easily acquired wealth which he had picked
up in Cornwall were being rapidly dissipated, and the stern reality of
colonial life was being forced upon him.

"If you can get a really suitable man for the party I won't mind
finding his share myself," spoke Trenoweth. "For the sake of £100 we
should not allow the expedition to fail."

"A couple of young fellows are coming to see me tonight from Inglewood.
They wrote to me this morning, and from what they say in the letter I
think they will be suitable. You might remain here and see them. If
they accompany us you cannot make their acquaintance too soon," Grey
answered.

Trenoweth eagerly compiled, and for the next hour the two men passed
the time in conversation. The young man plied his elder companion with
questions as to the physical features of the almost unknown country
they intended to prospect, and the answers he received were clear,
concise, and truthful.

At the end of about an hour the visitors from Inglewood were announced.
Their names were Norton, and both of them were comparatively young men.
The elder, Joseph, was about thirty years of age, whilst his brother
Tom was a couple of years younger. They were really fine specimens
of manhood and most of their lives had been spent on the Victorian
gold-fields.

Their parents lived at Inglewood and were fairly comfortable, as the
father and his sons had been lucky enough to bottom on a rich patch
near Tarnagulla about a year previously.

They were just the stamp of men which Grey had been looking for.
Bronzed with an Australian sun, their well-knit, yet lithe frames,
showed they could endure no common hardships. Moreover they had the
necessary capital, and within ten minutes of their entrance to the
room it was agreed that they should become members of the Pioneer
Prospecting Expedition.




CHAPTER IX.--PIONEER PROSPECTORS.

It was not considered advisable to remain in Bendigo with a view to
augment the prospecting expedition. The members came to the conclusion
that four resolute fellows would have as much chance of making a
discovery as a dozen.

A large party was not necessary for purposes of defence, as the
aboriginals in the districts which it was intended to visit were not
fierce or troublesome. In the far Northern Territory this latter
aspect of the question would have to be considered, for there frequent
murderous attacks were made on prospectors and explorers by the black
cannibals of the region.

An important departure was, however, made in the original design of the
expedition.

On the strong advice of Joe Norton it was decided to pay a preliminary
visit to some of the islands in Bass's Straits, as he had heard tales
of great mineral deposits that existed there.

An old "Vandemonian" was his informant. As the fellow had lived on the
Straits Islands as an escapee it was probable there might be some truth
in the statements made.

In the days of convict settlement in the southernmost colony numbers of
escaped convicts, and even so-called free settlers, made their homes
amongst the forbidding islands of Bass's Straits, and they had ample
opportunities of testing the mineral wealth of the locality.

Of course, none but the richest finds would have been worked in the
early times, as, through want of machinery, a market, and transport, it
would not have paid expenses. In 1871 all this was changed, and mineral
deposits which were valueless forty or fifty years previously were
worth looking after.

Grey and Trenoweth readily agreed to the suggestion made by the elder
Norton. Probably the Straits Islands might yield treasures sufficient
to obviate the necessity of going into the arid interior of the
Continent. At any rate, the trial was worth making, and if nothing came
of it the original intention could be adhered to.

It was not an easy matter to reach the Islands which the party decided
to prospect, as a vessel only touched at them once in six weeks. That,
of course, only meant delay, and with the exception of Trenoweth, the
members of the party cared little for that. They would require a few
days to make their final arrangements, and, pending this, Trenoweth
decided to get back to Melbourne and acquaint his good friend Barr with
his intentions.

In a week's time a steamer would be sailing for Launceston and it would
be necessary for the expedition to first go to that place in order to
reach the islands.

These were under the jurisdiction of the Tasmanian Government,
who despatched a boat every six weeks to them for the purpose of
victualling the few half-castes who resided on them, and also a couple
of lighthouses which were on the headlands.

The Government vessel carried passengers whenever they desired to visit
the islands--a very rare occurrence. The fare then was £2 for a six
hours' trip.

On reaching Melbourne Edward at once repaired to his friend Barr and
told him of his contemplated trip. The latter did not oppose it, nor
did he give the young man much encouragement.

He fully concurred in Trenoweth's assertion that it was of little or no
use to remain in Victoria in the hope of picking up a fortune from the
earth, but he warned his friend not to be too sanguine of his luck in
other localities. More than one prospecting expedition had set out with
high hopes for the unsettled districts, but in nearly every instance
failure had met them.

There was no doubt immense mineral deposits existed in Central
Australia, but the difficulties of discovery were prodigious. The
Golden Apples of the Hesperides were not more jealously guarded than
were the natural treasures of the Continent.

The bold adventurers who sought to win the prize of wealth would have
to face dangers in the shape of sudden deluges or frightful droughts in
trackless wilds in which Famine stalked.

Of all the inhospitable regions on the face of the earth Central
Australia was one of the worst, so Barr said, and he impressed on his
friend above all things to have a proper base of operations, and not
penetrate too far into the wilderness unless full provision was made to
get back again.

The region of South Australia in which the party were to prospect was
really in the locality where Burke, the explorer, had perished ten
years previously in spite of the precautions taken to prevent such an
untimely ending to that ill-starred expedition.

This was the gist of Barr's advice, but Trenoweth pointed out to
him--on the strength of Grey's information--that during the decade
which had elapsed since the death of Burke considerable settlement had
taken place in the hitherto wilds.

The "squatters," or large pastoralists, had pushed out into the
interior, and even in 1870 a station was established as far west as
Cooper's Creek.

This, of course, was true, but even with that possible aid in the way
of nearer settlement it was certain that the prospecting expedition in
their quest would be a hard one.

Barr laughingly told Edward that the firm had not yet agents in Central
Australia, nor on the Straits Islands, so that he could not assist the
party in that direction.

Of course this was not expected, and Trenoweth set about his
arrangements for the trip. As it would be mostly carried out on foot
it was necessary that no encumbrances should be taken save what was
absolutely necessary.

Provisions for the island prospecting would be got at Launceston,
and the nearest town or store to the fringe of settlement in South
Australia or New South Wales would be their market place for those
colonies.

The party had arranged to sail for Launceston on the 3rd of October by
the Otago and on the previous day Grey and the two Nortons arrived
in Melbourne.

They had already made their preparations for the expedition, and on
reaching the metropolis they went on board the Otago and took their
berths.

Barr made a present to his friend of the latest maps and information
available relating to Australasia. He added to this a splendid compass,
and the best advice at his command.

Next morning he went to the wharf to see Trenoweth off, and the latter
introduced him to Grey and the two Nortons. Barr was very pleased to
see the stamp of men that Edward had secured to accompany him.

"Honest and determined fellows," was his silent comment as he saw them
for the first and, indeed, the last time.

They impressed him most favourably, and he took consolation that
Trenoweth was in good company, and if the party did not command success
they would at least deserve it. His few minutes' conversation with
Grey convinced him that the leader of the expedition knew what he was
undertaking to the fullest extent. He was an old bushman, and one who
had experienced the terrors that surround the explorer.

As the boat moved off Barr stood on the wharf waving his handkerchief
until the forms of Edward and his friends were lost in the distance
down the river.

He turned away with something like a sigh, for the impression forced
itself on his mind that Trenoweth would find Fortune still coy and
elusive. Barr's colonial experience convinced him that only by patient
industry could the fickle goddess be wooed.

Extraordinary luck, it was true, sometimes met people half way, but to
one thus favoured ten thousand had to remain in the rear and go down to
the grave as poor as they started life.

The Otago made the usual uneventful voyage across the Straits to
Launceston. Neither then or now was the danger of this twenty-hour
voyage of moment.

The passage up the Tamar was, in fact, more perilous than the run
across the Straits, but as it was made at night neither Trenoweth or
his friends saw the difficulties that in those days were met with in
the navigation of that river.

At daylight on the morning after leaving Melbourne they found
themselves alongside the Launceston wharf, and an hour after they were
having breakfast at the George Hotel.

The appearance of Launceston put Edward in mind of some of the English
towns he had seen, though it must be confessed he took little notice of
the place.

In three days' time the Government vessel Flora would make her usual
trip to the islands around the Tasmanian coast, and the four men knew
there was little time to be lost in making their final preparations.
They just made all possible enquiries as to the probability of minerals
existing on the islands, and their hopes were to some extent confirmed
by what they heard.

It was currently reported that considerable deposits of stream tin were
to be found on Cape Barren and Flinders Islands, whilst gold was said
to exist on Clarke Island which adjoined the two first named.

Some of the "old hands" also contended that silver was to be found
on some of the islets, and the expedition were struck with the fact
that whilst all this mineral wealth was lying so close at hand no one
seemed to have the energy to work it. They afterwards found that they
were wrong in this supposition, as spasmodic attempts had been made to
develope the mineral deposits.

Close to Launceston a Mr. Burrowes had erected furnaces and
concentrators for the treatment of tin, and a visit was paid to the
works. On the mainland to the east of Launceston a considerable
quantity of stream tin was found, and Burrowes treated it, and also
purchased the metal. He expressed his readiness to do the same with any
which Grey's party might find on the islands.

Every six weeks, he pointed out, they could send the material back
by the Government boat, consigned to him, and he would give them the
highest local market price for the tin obtained.

If none of the party cared to run over to Launceston he also expressed
his willingness to act as agent for them in the matter of food supplies.

This latter was, in fact, a very important point. There was little or
no food to be obtained on the islands. At a certain season of the year
mutton birds could be easily caught, and no doubt some fish could also
be hooked, but that would have been an exceedingly precarious food
supply to depend on.

Grey thanked Burrowes for his offer, which was accepted, and the party
on leaving felt they had done a good day's work by their visit to the
smelting plant.

On going back to the town they set about obtaining supplies. A couple
of sides of bacon and a barrel of salted beef, with half a ton of
potatoes and a similar quantity of flour, formed the substantial
nucleus of their larder.

A chest of tea, with sugar and condensed milk, was added; and last, but
not least, a large sack of salt was obtained.

A quantity of fishing tackle was also bought, and a hundred and one
miscellaneous but useful articles which would be needed. Before leaving
Melbourne tents, clothing, tools, &c., had been obtained, and when the
impedimenta of the expedition was placed on board the Flora it
formed quite an imposing baggage train.

They were the only passengers, and, of course, they were viewed with
some degree of curiosity by the officers and crew of the Flora.

Captain Forbes, who had charge of the Government vessel, had been
running to the coastal islands for a number of years, and no man knew
them better, so far as their topography was concerned.

He was perfectly ignorant as to their mineral resources, for he
expressed himself as ignorant on that subject "as a cow about the orbit
of a comet." This simile conveyed such an absolute lack of knowledge
that Grey and his party thought it useless to converse with the captain
as to their prospects in that direction, but they took full advantage
of his general knowledge in other directions.

He told them that all the larger islands had a small population of
half-castes, with an occasional white Government schoolmaster thrown in.

Some of the islands were only inhabited by two or three whilst as
many score lived on others. In the early days of Van Diemen's Land
many of the aboriginal inhabitants had either been forced to live
on the islands by the settlers, or had taken refuge there from the
bloodthirsty persecution which was made against them. The blacks had
died out, but the white intermixture of half-castes remained, and
they were in a sense wards of the more humane latter-day Tasmanian
Government.

Captain Forbes stated that they were a really intelligent class of
people, but they seemed to cling to their comfortless island life.

This was narrated as the Flora ran across to Cape Barron Island, and
on the afternoon of the 8th October Grey and his party were put ashore
in a little Cove between Clarke and Cape Barren Islands.




CHAPTER X.--STRAITS ISLANDS.

As the Flora drew into the tiny bay which indented the forbidding
coast of Barron Island, schoolmaster Ryan and about a dozen of the
swarthy residents were assembled on the beach to meet the vessel.

It was a rather important event in the life of the little community,
for not only did the boat bring over a fresh supply of provisions but
it also acted as letter-carrier with the outside world.

Even these isolated people were thus not quite cut off from
civilization, for not only did a limited correspondence exist, but even
a small trade was maintained with Launceston. This was in mutton birds,
which were caught, killed, salted and sold on the mainland.

When the residents saw the newcomers by the Flora they were somewhat
surprised, for the party were equipped in a manner which seemed to
denote that they had come to stay.

With unfeigned delight Ryan bade Trenoweth and his friends welcome
and pressed them to remain at his house for a day or two. The
schoolmaster's residence was the most commodious on the island, and the
dominie himself was anxious to hear news of other parts.

There was a small pier running out in the cove and the baggage or Grey
and his party was landed on it. Ryan's house was half a mile away but
willing hands soon transported the provisions to it.

"These are all my boys, and they are as honest as the sun," the chief
Government resident said, pointing to the half-castes.

Some of the "boys" looked older than Ryan himself, but the party
understood what was meant and they felt pleased at the evidence of
affection which existed.

On reaching the cottage it was seen that the schoolmaster was married,
as a vigorous looking woman was introduced to them as Mrs. Ryan.

Both Ryan and his wife were considerably on the shady side of forty,
but they appeared perfectly contented with their somewhat solitary
life. They had been on the island for sixteen years, and during that
long period had not been absent more than half a dozen times for a few
weeks.

There was a Miss Ryan, too, but she was being educated at Launceston.

Trenoweth had noticed a pretty girl come on board the Flora a few
hours before the boat sailed and give a large package to the captain.
At the time he thought it was Forbes's daughter, as he seemed so
familiar with her, but he found out it was Miss Ryan, who never let the
boat leave Launceston without sending some token of her love to her
parents.

The old couple were proud of their "Nelly," and many times referred to
her during the course of the evening.

Gray and his party were entertained with a rare hospitality, and they
soon enlightened Ryan as to the purport of their visit.

The schoolmaster informed them that there was undoubtedly tin on the
island and on others in the vicinity, but whether it existed in payable
quantities he could not say.

For several years imperfect attempts had been made to develope the
mineral industry, but it was not successful. Not being an expert he
could not say what the cause was. He further stated that there would be
no difficulty in getting from one island to another, as the half-castes
had several boats large enough to cross them.

In fact, they occasionally made trips as far as Launceston, but such a
voyage was risky, as if a storm arose it would mean certain death.

About three miles to the east of where he lived, Ryan said, was the
most likely place to begin their search.

There was an abandoned hut there, which would be ample to accommodate
them, and from there they could get at the heart of the most likely
mineral district in the whole island.

The old schoolmaster also said that it was rumoured a half-caste had
discovered a gold reef on Clarke Island, but he could not vouch for its
truth.

He would, however, arrange that Grey and his party should see the man
alluded to, and try what effect the offer of a small bribe might have
upon him.

It was far into the night when Ryan and his new friends separated, and
as Trenoweth slumbered he dreamt golden dreams and saw himself once
again wandering through St. Columb's Cove with Inez by his side, and
his mother looking out from the porch of the old house on them with
happiness on her face.

Then the vision changed, and he felt himself shot upward as the fateful
burst took place in the Wheal Merlin. All was terror and confusion in
a moment, and he could hear the wild cries of the frantic villagers as
they rushed to the doomed mine.

He was wrestling in his sleep when he became conscious that someone was
laughing at him, and sitting bolt upright, he saw, as he opened wide
his eyes, that his friend Grey was standing beside him and looking down
in a somewhat amused manner.

"Why, Ted, you sleep soundly. I've been trying to rouse you for five
minutes, but all the answers I could get were sighs and groans. There
is a deuce of a wind blowing, so that we will not be able to do much
today in getting our stores around to the hut."

Trenoweth, now wide awake, sprang to his feet with a forced laugh, as
he answered.

"I was dreaming of home and love, Bill--and some more things that I
would sooner forget. Whew!" he continued, as a gust of wind made the
house shake, "it does blow here. I wouldn't care to be out in one of
the open boats now."

He was interrupted by the appearance of Ryan at the door. He seemed
considerably agitated, as he said----

"Two of the Clarke Island people are out in the channel, and I don't
think they'll ever reach the cove. What the devil made them come over
on such a morning, I don't know."

While he was speaking Trenoweth had rapidly dressed himself, and he
hurried out after the schoolmaster and Grey.

Down at the end of the pier about a score of people were assembled,
gazing helplessly at a small boat tossing outside on a storm-swept sea.

There were two occupants in it, as could by seen with the naked eye,
but with the aid of an excellent telescope Ryan was able to distinguish
the identity of the men.

"It is Charleston and Parsons," he exclaimed, "from Clarke Island."

"Can we do nothing to help them?" cried Grey and Trenoweth
simultaneously. "They seem to have lost an oar, by the way the boat is
drifting."

"What can we do?" answered Ryan. "They may manage the entrance to the
cove, and then they would be safe."

It was evident, however, that the occupants of the open boat would not
be able to reach the haven without aid. This was caused by the fact
that one of their oars had been swept away. The sea was so rough in the
comparatively narrow channel that it seemed almost a miracle that the
boat was not swamped.

If it were once swept beyond the mouth of the cove nothing could save
the occupants from death.

The cliffs rose abruptly from the water to a height of fifty or sixty
feet, and there was not the smallest ledge or nook to which a possible
survivor might cling.

The rollers dashed with tremendous force on the iron-bound coast and
the small boat would not offer as much resistance as a nut-shell.

Trenoweth had been brought up face to face with the fury of the ocean
on a wild coast, and old Neptune in his angriest moments had no terrors
for him.

Most of the half-castes were splendid boatmen, and recognising the
deadly peril of the storm-tossed waifs he decided to attempt a rescue.

There were several stout boats moored alongside the pier and with
skilful eyes he at once selected the best.

In a few words he made his intention known to his mates and the
schoolmaster.

Each of them tried to dissuade him from what they considered a
foolhardy attempt, but he was inflexible.

Seeing his resolution and knowing there was not a moment to be lost,
Ryan called the half-castes around him and asked for four volunteers to
accompany Trenoweth on the attempt at rescue.

The latter would not allow Grey or the Nortons to accompany him. In the
first place they were not such skilled boatmen as the island residents,
and secondly, if lives were to be lost he preferred there should be
some survivors of the white party.

With admirable courage nearly every man on the pier expressed his
willingness to go out to the rescue. Ryan soon selected four of the
best men, and within a minute Trenoweth and his swarthy companions had
cast the boat off and were making for the open sea.

By this time nearly every resident on that part of the island had
gathered at the cove and were watching with breathless anxiety the
gallant attempt made by the rescue party.

The entrance to the cove was scarcely one hundred yards wide and a
tremendous sea broke through it. The cliffs rose sheer on either side,
and as Trenoweth looked at the passage his heart almost misgave him.

The oarsmen were, however, well used to the passage, and it was simply
due to their splendid skill that it was safely negotiated.

As the boat sank into the trough of the sea after a giant roller had
lifted it high up those on shore thought it had foundered. As it rose
again on the crest of a wave just outside the entrance a cheer broke
from the spectators, but it was unheard by those in the frail craft, as
the roar of the angry ocean silenced all other sounds.

Edward was kneeling in the stern of the boat and directing the rowers
towards the practically derelict boat. This was rapidly being swept
past the entrance to the cove on to the treacherous cliffs, and the
stout-hearted Cornishman knew it would be a hard task to intercept it
in time.

Urging the oarsmen to the utmost be seized a line that lay in the
bottom of the boat and made his way to the bows.

If he could only get the line to the drifting men and make it fast,
they could then probably be towed into safety.

With such a sea the task Trenoweth had set himself was an extremely
difficult one. Some of the waves stood the craft in an almost
perpendicular position, but fortunately very little water was taken in.

At last the rescuers got within twenty feet of the drifting vessel, and
Edward cast the line.

To his chagrin it fell astern, but hastily gathering it in he made
another attempt.

This time success crowned his efforts, and with feverish haste the men
made it fast to their boat.

By this time both craft had got dangerously near to the cliffs.

Those on shore thought it impossible that they could get off, and,
seizing ropes, they made for the top of the rocks, to the point at
which it was expected the two boats would be dashed to atoms.

They had a vain hope that perhaps they might be able to afford succor
to those below.

When the rope was made fast Trenoweth ordered the men right about, and
then the struggle for life began.

The hungry ocean was forcing them on to the cliffs, but they were not
the men to tamely submit to such a fate. For half a minute at a time,
in spite of the most strenuous efforts, not an inch of way would be
gained. Then, as a back wash assisted, a little progress would be made.
It was human skill and strength pitted against the power of the wind,
assisted by the ocean, and the result hung in the balance.

At last it was seen that the boats were drawing slowly but surely away
from the dangerous spot. If the men could only hold out a little longer
victory would be theirs, but the strain was terrible. One of the rowers
showed visible signs of exhaustion and Trenoweth at once took his place.

His unimpaired strength aided considerably, and the people on the
cliff became almost frantic as they saw the boats were now out of
the imminent danger, and were heading for the entrance. If they were
swamped going through, rescue would be possible, as the boats would be
swept into the cove.

The spectators now got back to the pier, and the remaining boats were
manned in readiness to afford help should it be needed.

Providence, however, seemed to watch over the two boats, as they were
safely brought into the comparatively calm waters of the cove.

Fully fifty people were assembled, and they gave way to their feelings
of joy in a much more ostentatious manner than might be expected.

The two rescued men were especial favorites on the Furneaux Group of
Islands, and as they lived in a sort of brotherhood it was as though
dear relations had just been saved from a watery grave.




CHAPTER XI.--A STRANGE QUEST.

As Trenoweth stepped on the pier he was almost overborne with the crowd
which pressed around to pay him tribute for his bravery.

Ryan, meanwhile, had taken possession of the rescued men, Charleston
and Parsons, and, as they were thoroughly exhausted, he at once took
them to his house, after asking Grey to bring along Edward and the men
who manned the rescue boat.

Grey had made up his mind that little or nothing could be done that day
in the way of prospecting. The abandoned hut where they were to make
their headquarters was three miles to the east, and their stores would
have to be conveyed there by boat. The rough and ragged nature of the
country made land carriage quite out of the question, and until the
gale subsided and the sea moderated they could not use the boats.

He meant during the day to make the ascent of a neighbouring hill and
take a survey of the surroundings.

On going to the schoolmaster's residence with Trenoweth and the
Nortons, they were agreeably surprised to find that Charleston,
whose life had just been saved, was the man who was reputed to have
discovered a gold bearing reef on Clarke's Island. This was good news,
for the party now felt assured that the alleged discoverer would not
hide any information from the man who had just saved his life.

Mrs. Ryan had prepared a good breakfast--her larder having been
supplemented from the stock of Grey and his party--and the whole of the
visitors had an appetite to do justice to it.

Ryan at once told the arrivals from Clarke Island the mission on which
Edward and his friends were bent, and the two men gratefully expressed
their desire to help the party to the fullest when they went across to
their island.

Charleston readily stated that he had made a discovery of value and
that he would show his friends as much as he knew himself. This was a
cheering piece of news, especially for Trenoweth, who was fervently
eager to make a rich discovery.

The castaways also narrated how they came to be in such a plight as
they had just been rescued from. It appears that very early in the
morning the men had put off to intercept the Flora, which was
expected to pass.

The storm had not then arisen, and when they were about midway in the
channel it struck them with great suddenness. As the wind blew from
the south it was hopeless to expect returning to Clarke's Island, from
which they had put off.

Their only chance lay in reaching the cove on Barren Island, and for
this they made. The sea soon became very rough, and then misfortune
overtook them, as one of the two oars they had was swept away. They
were now practically at the mercy of the storm, but as they had a
most intimate knowledge of the channel--having crossed it hundreds of
times--they managed to steer a course which brought them opposite the
cove.

How they were rescued the reader already knows.

As the day wore on the storm abated, and by sunset a deep calm had
succeeded.

After consultation, Grey and his mates decided, now they had reached
Barren Island, to thoroughly prospect it before crossing the channel to
Charleston's district.

If the latter had discovered anything of value, a few week's delay
would make little difference, and it would not be a wise plan to leave
one place until its mineral resources were tested.

During the course of the day the party, accompanied by Ryan, ascended
the hill already mentioned, but they did not receive much enlightenment
from the visit. Away to the north and north-east great ranges towered
one above another. They were on the summits mostly bare of vegetation,
and presented tablelands or peaks of solid basalt. Bleak and dreary
they looked, and afforded ample proof of the severe storms which so
frequently swept through Bass's Straits.

For a considerable distance upwards the sides were clothed with a
dense, tangled and stunted vegetation. In the hollows and gullies
almost impassable swamps existed, so Ryan told them, and he also
narrated some gruesome stories of prospectors who had ventured into
the interior of the large island and were never heard of again. It was
surmised they had been swallowed up in some of the treacherous swamps;
for there were neither wild beasts, human savages, nor dangerous rivers
by which they could have met their fate.

Some of these swamps were deep morasses, partaking of a quicksand
character. Search parties sent to discover the lost men had found out
this fact, for on two occasions members of the parties would have lost
their lives had it not been that prompt assistance was at hand.

As well as he was able, Ryan, from the summit of the hill, pointed out
the locality of these mantraps, and Grey took their bearings.

To the eastward, along the course of the channel, the abandoned hut
which was to be the headquarters of the expedition was to be seen. It
was built near the edge of the sea on a stretch of low sandy shore, and
no difficulty would be experienced in landing their stores.

Next morning the water was sufficiently smooth to allow of a start
being made. The men were all eager to test their luck, and nothing
could be gained by remaining longer under the hospitable schoolmaster's
roof.

A boat, owned by a resident named Burgess, was hired, and it did not
take long to put the stores into it. Burgess himself was also engaged
to accompany the expedition, and at 10 a.m. a start was made from the
pier amidst the hearty cheers of those assembled.

Ryan promised to take a run round in a few days and see how his friends
fared.

The pull along the cliffs was an easy one, as a slight breeze aided
them on their way. Two queer-looking indentations were passed, which it
was decided they should explore on some other day. Being heavily laden
with the stores it was not thought wise to risk loss in running into
them on that occasion.

Within two hours their destination was reached, and the building was
found to be in a tolerable state of preservation. It was soon cleaned
out, and the stores transferred to it.

Whilst Burgess and Tom Norton were engaged in making improvements to
add to the comfort of their temporary home, Edward and his two mates
made a tour of inspection.

They soon found that a considerable quantity of sluicing work had
been done in the vicinity in the search for tin, and the indications
of stanniferous deposits were very plain to the experienced eyes of
Trenoweth. Long races had been made from a strong flowing creek in the
vicinity, and a large area had been sluiced away.

"Either the work has been badly done, or the tin is not in payable
quantities," Trenoweth remarked to his companions.

"We will soon test the point, now we are here. This seems rich enough,
at any rate," he continued, as he bent down to one of the sluice-boxes
and lifted out a handful of material that contained about 80 per cent.
of ruby tin.

"Yes. If we had enough of that sort it would do," answered Edward, as
he critically examined it. "But I would like to know how much stuff has
been put through to get that lot."

Going along the creek they found it would be easy enough to get an
unlimited supply of water for sluicing purposes. If after trial the
material was proved to be rich enough to treat, the party had made
arrangements with Ryan to obtain labour from the residents.

When the mutton bird season was out the islanders were practically
unemployed, and would be glad to supplement their scanty earnings by
mining work.

The watercourse mentioned came tumbling down to the sea from a steep
range a little more than a mile inland, and it had force enough to
drive the largest mill-wheel. The water was beautifully fresh and
clear, and this was, of course, a distinct advantage to their little
settlement. A hasty inspection showed that a weir could easily be
thrown across the stream, from which their water supply could be
obtained without fluctuation.

After a careful search for a ground, Trenoweth selected a piece within
two hundred yards of the hut, and there it was determined to make a
start the following morning.

The remainder of the afternoon was occupied in rigging up bunks in the
hut and making arrangements to properly store the provisions.

A rough table and a couple of long seats were thrown together in a very
short space of time by Tom Norton. He was a handy fellow--a sort of
bush carpenter--and proved exceedingly useful.

That evening they dined in true camp fashion, amidst a solitude that
would have depressed less stout-hearted fellows.

Joe Norton had a battered little piccolo, which he invariably carried
with him, and as he could play fairly well, he charmed melancholy away
as they sat outside and watched the shadows steal slowly up the scarped
hills of gloomy basalt from the darksome gullies below.

There was an unlimited supply of firewood lying about, and a huge fire
was made on the sand outside the hut.

The prospect around was not the most inviting that could be imagined,
but that hope which springs everlasting in the human heart whispered
tidings of joy to them.

Whilst Joe Norton blew on his reed to the approving nods of Burgess,
the other three men reclined silently around, and built from the depths
of their imagination golden castles in the air.

The one thing which sustains the poverty-stricken "fossicker,"
delving year after year in abject misery after phantom riches, is the
ever-present thought that to-morrow perhaps a stroke of the pick might
reveal to his exhausted eyes a "Welcome Nugget," or a "Molliagal Lump."
Eternal hope sustains him amidst the reverses of fortune, but how
often, alas! the "to-morrow" never comes.

Life flickers out and he sinks into the grave with a vague hope that
to-morrow may yet come; and, perhaps, as old Charon ferries him across
the Styx, he questions his grim conductor as to the probability of his
bottoming on a "Jeweller's Shop" in the Kingdom of Shades.

So it was with Edward Trenoweth.

He was now face to face with the possibility of wresting a rich prize
from Nature's lottery, and his hopes soared high indeed.

He was slightly disconcerted that others should have prospected the
place before him and his companions, but he consoled himself with the
reflection that they did not understand the work, and had gone away
leaving a fortune behind them.

Burgess told them that the whole of the operations had been carried out
by a fugitive from justice, and his son, who had spent a year and a
half on the spot and had taken away eight tons of tin.

To the experienced Cornishman it seemed incredible that work of the
magnitude he saw could have been carried out by a man and a boy in so
short a time, yet it was not impossible.

The fact that nearly £800 worth of tin was obtained made it still more
incomprehensible that work had not been continued, for it proved, if
true, the richness of the deposits.

He got into a deep reverie as he weighed over the various possibilities
which lay before him, and occasionally his memory would take him on
wings of lightning across thousands of leagues of ocean to his far-off
home in Cornwall.

He could see his mother and Inez--far clearer than his mates beside
him--as they sat in the well-remembered room, and spoke of the absent
one across the seas. Yes, they were speaking lovingly of him, and----

"By the mysterious Bunyip, Ted--not to use a stronger oath--you must be
badly in love. I've been speaking to you for the last five minutes, and
you haven't taken the least notice of me or my remarks."

It was Grey who thus interrupted his reverie, and Edward almost
blushingly apologised for his absence of mind.

"Never mind, my boy," replied the leader, with a hearty slap on the
shoulder, "you cannot have more sacred or better thoughts than those of
home. But, by-the-bye," he continued, "did you think of home when you
risked your life yesterday to save Charleston and his mate?"

"There was so little time, you know, but of course I did," Ted
answered, deprecatingly.

By this time Joe Norton had blown himself to a stop and put Burgess and
his brother into a sound slumber.

All the party had worked hard during the day, and, as sleep meant
strength for the next day's labour, the order to turn in was given by
Grey, who roused the half-recumbent slumberers.




CHAPTER XII.--BARREN ISLAND TIN.

Next morning the prospectors were out of their rough bunks before
daylight, and Grey proved himself an adept at cooking. His damper was
pronounced most palatable, and rashers of bacon cooked on the fire
proved a luxurious addition.

The inevitable "billy" of tea was also brewed, and Burgess made them
almost feel like gourmets by stating that he would be able to get them
a stray mutton-bird or two for dinner.

These semi-marine birds are somewhat curious creatures. They make holes
in the earth along the coast, like shallow rabbit warrens. The hunters
put their arms into these excavations and seize the helpless bird,
which is at once despatched.

The novice in the search is as apt to seize a venomous snake as a
mutton bird when he thus plunges his arm into these holes, for the
islands are infested with reptiles who make their abode in the retreats
of the bird.

The experienced fowler can always tell by a very simple device whether
a snake or a bird is to be found at the bottom. If the entrance is warm
a bird is below, but, if cold, either it is empty or a snake is snugly
coiled in it.

The mutton bird is very fat, and when properly cooked makes a very fair
dish. It forms, in fact, the staple article of diet for the islanders.

After the early breakfast, Grey and his party at once started work
by throwing a rough weir across the creek. This, by working at high
pressure, was accomplished by nightfall.

The creek was only some twelve feet wide, but the strength of the
current--through the rapid fall--made the construction of the weir a
matter of some difficulty.

That night the prospectors slept the sleep of the weary. Even Joe's
piccolo was silent, and the roast mutton-bird could not rouse the party
to enthusiasm.

Next day the work of race-making was begun.

The water had to be carried a little more than one hundred yards, where
a good-looking patch was to be sluiced.

Tom Norton was kept busily engaged making sluice boxes. There was ample
material lying about for the purpose, and the prospectors did not
scruple to make use of it. Sawn wood and several sheets of galvanised
iron were stacked near the hut, and it had evidently been brought there
from Launceston, or some other place, by previous prospectors. There
were some old sluice boxes in the races, but they were of little use,
and new ones were necessary.

It was nearly a week before everything was got in readiness for
operations.

During the time, Ryan had made a trip across to them, and spent a day
giving them what help he could.

Fully twenty tons of the likely looking stuff was sluiced through the
following week, but the results were most disappointing.

The stuff did not average a half per cent. and was quite unpayable.
Discouraged, but not disheartened, operations were again renewed, and
for a month trials were made in different spots, but failure attended
them all.

It became at last evident that they were simply wasting their time
prospecting the place, and they decided to discontinue operations.
Years after--it might be here mentioned--Trenoweth found out what
caused the operations at such a sterile place.

A rumour reached Launceston that stream tin had been found at the
place, and a couple of shrewd speculators, hailing from Melbourne and
Hobart respectively, turned the rumour to profitable account.

They applied for a mineral lease, and, by means of "booming,"
successfully floated a company.

Operations were begun, and, aided by a few "cooked" reports, the
original promoters--or first robbers, as they are now usually
termed--unloaded their shares on a credulous public, who were left
lamenting.

As soon as the real character of the "rich find" was discovered the
duped shareholders summarily stopped operations.

They could not see the use of throwing good money after bad, as they
put it, and they had practically no redress against the promoters.

The injury did not, however, end with the deluded company.

Rumours--more or less unreliable--got abroad that tin ore was to be
found in large quantities on the Strait's Islands, and in after years
many parties expended money and labour in its quest.

Though disappointed so far, Grey and his mates decided to launch out in
a new line and prospect inland. There might be rich reefs in the almost
unexplored interior, and, after little hesitation, it was decided to go
right across to the north side.

Tom Norton and Burgess were left in charge of the hut and the remaining
stores, and on the morning of the 16th November 1870, Grey, Trenoweth,
and Joe Norton made a start from the hut due north.

They each carried a heavy swag of provisions, and, in addition to guns
and ammunition, each man had a serviceable hatchet.

In some of the gullies through which they would have to go, the
undergrowth was so dense and tangled that they would literally have to
cut their way across, and the hatchets would be most useful.

The season of the year was quite favourable for the contemplated
journey, as the weather was mild and dry.

The ascent from the coast was rather abrupt, and the first day's
journey was a toilsome one. As evening drew on they found themselves
near the summit of the great range which seemed to intersect the island
from east to west. Selecting a sheltered glen, the party determined to
camp for the night.

They had not traversed more than eight miles of country, but the route
had been a rough one, and their prospecting operations had delayed them.

Every piece of likely-looking stone or rock was chipped to ascertain if
it contained any valuable mineral, but during the day they had met with
no encouragement in that respect. They were somewhat chagrined also to
find that the ubiquitous prospector had preceded them.

In every direction there were visible evidences that the clipping
hammer had been in use before. There was scarce a rock left untouched,
and it was evident they must be following in the wake of previous
mineral explorers.

The following day their troubles began in real earnest.

The tableland seemed to consist of a chain of morasses. Wading waist
deep through these watery jungles was a most unpleasant experience,
and, bearing in mind Ryan's warning about lost travellers, they had to
exercise the greatest care.

They walked through these swamps in Indian file, each man taking the
lead alternately. The mineral indications through this desolate region
were practically nil, and their journey was apparently a case of labour
in vain.

On the fourth day the party reached the northern shore, and in the
misty distance they could see Flinders Island towards the Victorian
coast.

They remained at the seaside for a couple of days to recruit after
the arduous journey. Their food supply was getting short, but they
supplemented it by fishing, several good hauls being made.

They decided to take a different route back, so that fresh country
might be traversed. They believed that if a thing was worth doing at
all it was worth doing well. It was quite possible that they might have
passed rich mineral deposits which another route would reveal to them.

In pursuance of this view they travelled eastwards along the coast for
nearly three miles, and then plunged directly into the interior.

If possible, this route was rougher and more inhospitable than the
one they had come across on. The jungle was simply fearful, and the
morasses more dangerous. The warm weather was also revivifying the
snake world, and several narrow escapes were experienced. Recovering
from their long hibernation the reptiles were hungry and fierce.
Roaming in search of food the prospectors came across them every few
hundred yards, and killed them until they were weary of the work.

It was on the second day out that they met with a hideous adventure,
which well illustrated the perils of a prospector's life in such a
region.

They were crossing one of the worst swamps they had yet encountered
in their travels. A deep, gloomy gully, which apparently extended in
length for miles between two steep ranges, had to be passed, and,
contrary to expectation, it was found to be a quaking morass. It was
overgrown by a rank jungle, tropical in its luxuriance, which had to be
cut through in places to make a passage.

Overhead the thick branches met and interlaced, shutting out the sun,
and throwing a deep twilight around the traveller.

It was Joe Norton's turn to take the lead across this place, and he
was doing his duty manfully in the face of fearful difficulties. When
almost across they reached a ravine which ran down the opposite range.

A strong stream of spring water coursed down it, and after cutting a
way for itself for a short distance became swallowed up in the morass.
After heavy rain a large volume of water was poured down the ravine,
and it was only the roots of the tangled scrub which prevented a
well-defined creek being cut in the swamp.

Norton was some six feet ahead of Trenoweth, who was immediately
followed by Grey, when a startled cry from the leading man suddenly
roused his followers.

Trenoweth had been walking with bent head to avoid the overhanging
branches, but Joe's cry instantly called him to attention. At first,
Edward thought his mate had stepped into a quagmire, or come into
unpleasant proximity with a snake, but, as he looked ahead, he saw at
once that neither of these suppositions could be right.

Norton was staring fixedly ahead, as if fascinated by some terrible
sight, while, with his left hand behind him, he waved his companions to
him.

In a couple of seconds Trenoweth was behind him, and looking over his
left shoulder.

He could scarcely repress the cry which rose to his lips, but
strangling it in his throat, he gazed speechless at the object which
had petrified his companion.

Less than twenty feet ahead the torrent from the ravine had cut away a
huge slice of the morass to a depth of nearly ten feet. The strata, or
rather vegetable mould, stood out bare, as if only recently subjected
to flood action.

Standing erect in the face of the wall, and protruding several inches
outwards, was the perfect skeleton of a human being.

It was face outwards, and the horrible, grinning skull, which the
water had washed clean to the bony frame, seemed to the astounded men
sentient with a hideous life.

Grey had his hand on Trenoweth's shoulder, and, mute with surprise, the
trio of prospectors stood silent for the space of a couple of minutes.

Grey was the first to speak.

"It may be the skeleton of an aboriginal, lads, who has been dead a
century or two," he said.

There was a brief pause, and then Norton replied----

"No, I don't, think so. I believe I can see some clothes or rags; and
what is that sticking out of the bank a couple of feet lower down? It
looks like a piece of iron." As he spoke he pointed to a projection
which they had at first mistaken for the root of a tree.

Their attention being directed to the object, they had little
difficulty in seeing that it was apparently a piece of hollow iron.

"It may be the remains of one of those poor fellows Ryan told us about.
How one man could venture to prospect in such a place as this, I cannot
understand," he added, with a shudder.

It did not take Grey and his men long to recover from their surprise,
and they soon took action.

"It would not be a Christian act to leave those remains there,"
Trenoweth at length said.

"Can we not give them decent burial?"

"That we can," re-echoed his companions in a breath.

The task was one of no small difficulty, however.

The bed of the little stream was very yielding, but once they got a
footing--which they did by throwing in a few logs--they soon excavated
the skeleton.

This they did with as much care as a scientist would exhibit in digging
out some strange fossil from its antique bed. The projecting iron
which they saw proved to be an old musket in a wonderful state of
preservation.

Stranger still was the fact that on the side not exposed to the air and
water the very garments of the dead man were found nearly intact. Two
sovereigns, some silver coins, and a powder horn, and a jack knife were
also discovered on the skeleton.

There were no papers to establish the unfortunate fellow's identity,
but the powder horn and musket, which the party took on with them, were
sufficient for that purpose.

When Ryan saw them he stated they belonged to a miner named Michael
Brady, who had been prospecting on the island ten years before, but who
had mysteriously disappeared.

Grey and his companions managed to get the skeleton out of the swamp,
and, digging a rude grave close to a huge sheoak tree, they placed it
reverently in.

A subsequent inspection of the morass convinced them that the solitary
miner had got entangled in a sort of quicksand and been smothered. The
washing away of the ground by the rivulet had laid it thus strangely
bare.

After this the party did not waste much time in getting back to their
comrades at the hut.

They were half-starved when they reached it, as their provisions had
been exhausted for a couple of days.

No time was lost in breaking up camp, and the following afternoon they
embarked in Burgess's boat and got back to Ryan's hospitable roof.

Their opinion of the valuable deposits of Cape Barron Island stream tin
was certainly not a favourable one.

In fact, they began to think that they had been wasting valuable time
in visiting the islands at all, and began to cast longing eyes on the
possibilities that Central Australia presented.

There, at all events, were new fields to prospect, new possibilities of
obtaining the wealth which they all so eagerly longed for.

Edward Trenoweth, particularly, with the feverish desire that ever
possessed him to get back to England--and Inez--felt very regretful at
what seemed the wasted time.




CHAPTER XIII.--WHAT CLARKE ISLAND REVEALED.

The non-success which had attended the prospecting operations on
Barron Island was quite expected by Schoolmaster Ryan and most of the
residents.

The old man told Trenoweth that if any really valuable mineral deposits
existed in the locality he felt sure they would have been discovered
long before.

The half-caste residents were keenly alive to the benefits which would
result from such a discovery, and for many years they had not been slow
to make search.

On Clarke Island the position was somewhat different, as most of the
island was in the hands of a couple of men, and the population was
exceedingly limited. It was nearer the mainland, also, and it was quite
possible the Ringarooma deposits might extend to it.

Altogether, Ryan took a more cheerful view of the prospects on the
neighbouring island than he did of his own district.

The Flora was daily expected to arrive, and Grey and his mates
decided to wait the advent of the vessel, as they expected further
supplies from Launceston.

They had not long to wait, as three days after their return to the old
schoolmaster's the smart little government vessel hove in sight.

The next day was all bustle and confusion.

Supplies had to be got on shore, letters read and answered, and all the
gossip of the outside world retailed.

The Flora remained for twenty-four hours and then left for other
stations.

Burrowes, the Launceston agent, had sent the Pioneer Prospectors some
needful supplies. Not only was the food supply pretty well exhausted,
but their clothes were in a sad condition from the rough usage to which
they had been subjected. Not all the skill of the most expert tailor
would have been sufficient to make them presentable. Tom Norton fared
best in this respect, as he escaped the trials of the overland journey.

The young men were considerably mortified, therefore, when one of the
first to step ashore on the arrival of the Flora was Nelly Ryan.

Her parents did not know she was coming, for she only took the thought
into her head at the last moment, on the invitation of Captain Forbes.

Edward Trenoweth and his mates certainly presented a woe-begone
appearance from a dudish point of view. Their garments had been
clumsily patched with textures of many hues.

It was comfort they wanted and not mere outside show, so Grey said; but
even he felt that his coat partook too much of the motley as the young
girl came to him, introduced by her father, to shake hands.

Trenoweth was, however, the most abashed, for he had been used, even in
his quiet Cornwall village to study his dress.

Whatever misgivings the visitors might have had were soon set at rest
so far as Nelly Ryan was concerned. She had been too much used to
the rough life of the place to pay much attention to foppishness in
dress, and she roundly declared afterwards that she liked her friends
better in their variegated suits than in the "slops" which the Flora
brought over for them.

Burrowes, it must be confessed, had little eye for a "good fit," and
the result of his wardrobe purchases for Trenoweth and his mates was
appalling to behold.

In spite of a vigorous but well-meant attempt on the part of the
recipients to make their new clothes fit them somewhat different from
the rags on a scarecrow, dismal failure attended them.

The two Nortons and Grey had a better sartorial knowledge than
Trenoweth, but it was soon evident that none of them could trust to
their tailor for effect.

The trail of civilization seems to hang over all, and even the
stalwart, honest prospectors could scarcely rise superior to the
goddess of fashion.

A sort of select dinner-party was given by Mr. and Mrs. Ryan in honour
of their daughter's visit, and Grey's party made painful efforts to
look presentable.

When they saw their host, however, clad in a rough Crimean shirt and
unmentionables of the same rugged sort presiding at the table, they
felt that they had been making an offering to Vanity, and in the
general good fellowship they soon forgot their misshapen attire.

Not since leaving home had Edward enjoyed such an afternoon as that of
Ryan's festival.

Most of the guests were half-castes, but they were thoroughly
intelligent, good fellows.

As vis-a-vis Trenoweth had Nelly Ryan, and he certainly made himself
agreeable.

The absence of formality and the honest faces of the guests made him
think of his native village and similar gatherings that himself and his
father had presided at, and this gave him a happiness that he had long
been a stranger to.

The old schoolmaster intended his hospitable dinner to be not only a
welcome to his daughter, but also a valedictory gathering in honour of
Grey and his party.

It was arranged that, weather favouring, a start would be made next
morning for Clarke Island. Burgess was under a standing engagement to
the party, and he was to take them over.

The old fellow more than hinted that he knew of vast deposits of
valuable minerals but they were in the far west of the Straits, fully
one hundred and fifty miles from Cape Barron Island. As he had been
fifty years roaming the Straits it was possible he knew of places worth
prospecting, and it was agreed by the party to stick to him as long as
they could.

His boat was a thoroughly seaworthy one, and no man living knew more
about the navigation of the place than old Burgess--or, as he loved to
call himself, "The Tasmanian Devil."

Since the rescue of Charleston and Parsons the coloured residents
regarded Edward Trenoweth as something of hero, though it was really
members of their own body who were chiefly instrumental in the rescue.

At the dinner, and, subsequently, they paid special attention to him,
and they did not forget to tell Miss Ryan, in hyperbolical language, of
the deed of daring performed by Edward.

He modestly refrained from referring to himself, but, on being
questioned by the young girl, he gave her an account of the rescue,
ascribing most of the credit to the coloured oarsmen.

Never did an evening pass more pleasantly.

Joe Norton's piccolo was pressed into service, and, with the aid of
what might be called "the resident" musical instruments, there was no
lack of harmony, and, indeed, it might be said, of discord either.

At daylight next morning the residents were astir to bid hearty
God-speed to their departing guests and visitors.

The Ryans had an early breakfast ready--for the morning wind was
favourable--and after it was partaken of the four wanderers bade their
good friends adieu.

The boat had been loaded the previous day, and at 7 o'clock, amidst the
sympathetic cheers of the crowd, the prospecting party put off from the
little pier and soon got through the passage into the open channel.

Each and all had made faithful promises to some day pay a flying visit
to the island but--Man proposes and God disposes.

With a single exception, they were fated never again to look upon the
faces of the hospitable islanders.

The Ryan family stood upon the end of the pier waving adieu until
the boat was lost behind the beetling cliffs, and a quarter of an
hour after the flag-like signal of a pocket-handkerchief, wafted on
the breeze from the top of the cliffs, caught the eyes of the boat
occupants.

"I believe that's Miss Ryan waving to us," said Trenoweth, as he took
out his dingy "wiper" and replied.

And Miss Ryan--for it was she--stood on the coast-summit and waved
farewell to her new-found friends until boat and occupants were
swallowed up in the misty distance.

The day was peculiarly favourable for the trip, and excellent progress
was made, Clarke Island being reached shortly after midday.

Charleston lived about a mile inland, but he had seen the little craft
making its way across the channel, and he was on the beach to welcome
the occupants. He guessed it contained the prospecting party, and
therefore his rescuer, and his kindly greeting soon set at rest any
doubts the miners might have had as to their reception.

Clarke Island was not famed for its hospitality, for the "white man"
had in former days been seen at his worst in that place, and his memory
was not revered.

Charleston's parents had been victims to white rapacity and cruelty,
and it might be expected that the son did not cherish kindly feelings
to those he looked upon as his natural enemies.

Trenoweth had, however, saved his life, and all his enmity was
forgotten in that action.

"Pull your boat right up here, Burgess," he cried to the party,
pointing as he spoke to a small creek.

Burgess did as he was told, and it was found that the little stream was
navigable nearly as far as Charleston's house.

The latter walked along the bank and chatted with his friends until the
anchorage was reached, and then he assisted them to convey the stores
to his residence.

Parsons and the two other residents had also arrived and gave their
help, and in half an hour everything was transferred to the house.

Clarke Island, it might be here said, is very much smaller than Cape
Barren Island and there was consequently no necessity to have a second
base of operations, as in the latter place.

All parts were easily accessible from Charleston's house, and the
latter, in fact, was practical owner of the island.

The storm-swept waters of the Southern Ocean, rushing through the
marine gorge of Bass's Straits, is still further narrowed by the
intervening islands of the Furneaux Group. The largest of these is
Flinders, Cape Barren, and Clarke Islands.

The latter is situated nearest the Tasmanian coast, and the terrific
currents--not to speak of storm-tossed rollers--which for ages have
swept with irresistible force through the broken channel, has had a
strangely erosive effect on the islands, and especially on the one
named Clarke.

A similitude can nowhere be better found than that of Tasman's
Peninsula, on the south-east coast of "The Tight Little Island." The
great sweep of the Antarctic has hurled itself for thousands of years
on that exposed coast, and even granite and basalt has crumbled beneath
the Ocean Destroyer. Where the strata has been soft the hungry sea has
eaten it out, and thus formed strange and grotesque samples of Neptunic
masonry.

Capes Pillar and Raoul, the Devil's Blow Hole, and the Austral
repetition of the Giant's Causeway, which meet the eye of the observer
on every side as he sails round Southern Tasmania bear testimony to
marine action.

In Ireland--that land of imaginative orators and brave soldiers, where
every hill-top is an altar of liberty and martyrs might be found
to-morrow--the peasantry erect strange and uncouth legends around each
natural monstrosity.

The Giant's Causeway was built by Titanic personages of prehistoric
origin, in order to wrest back a ravished maiden or wreak vengeance on
an enemy who--like some of our latter-day boomers--were trying to "put
the seas between them." "The Devil's Gap," in McGillycuddy's Reeks,
is popularly supposed to have been made by Satan in a fit of pique at
losing a soul. As a sort of soporific bolus he, therefore, bit out and
swallowed a few thousand tons of basalt and thus made the gap.

There are a hundred other obvious cases in point in which marine
or pluvial action is overlooked and mundane causes attributed to
supernatural origin.

At Clarke Island the supernatural or diabolic might well have been
invoked to account for some of the strange physical phenomena to be
seen on the west line, but the prosaic islanders did not dream of such
an explanation.

They had little else to do but watch the vagaries of the intrusive
ocean, and they knew as one cleft after another became scooped out
until it gradually assumed the dimensions of a cave that the marine
rollers were responsible for it.

They did not understand the meaning of the word superstition, and with
a light heart Charleston told his visitors that after they rested that
day he would bring them to where he had made his discovery.




CHAPTER XIV.--THE DISCOVERY.

The prospectors soon found that Charleston had almost as comfortable a
home as Ryan, and, like the schoolmaster's, his residence showed signs
of permanency.

He was a widower, with a family of two sons and three daughters. None
of the sons were resident on the island, but two of the daughters
kept house for him. They were quadroons but excellent girls, and the
comforts of the place were grateful to the travellers.

Charleston proved himself a capital host, and before retiring to rest
he had sketched out the next day's work. Their journey would lie to the
south-west on a promontory which jutted out a short distance into the
worst part of the Straits.

It was there, Charleston declared, lay his discovery, and if there was
anything in it his visitors were welcome to participate in the profits.

He said this with dubious air which struck Grey as somewhat peculiar,
but, though the latter subjected his host to a somewhat direct
cross-examination, he could not extract any admission going to show
that Charleston had not made an important discovery.

The prospectors slept little that night, for the restlessness of
anticipation filled their minds and kept slumber from their eyes. They
were all in one large room, and for the greater part of the night
they discussed the chances of their expedition on the morrow. None of
them could quite understand why--if Charleston had really discovered
anything of value--he had not long since turned it to account.

They were emphatic in the opinion that their host was not deceiving
them in his statements, for there was no earthly reason why he should.
One of the party had saved his life when it was in deadly peril, and
the least the rescued could do would be to discard treachery. The
problem was somewhat puzzling, but as one after another of the miners
dropped off to sleep they entered the domain of Somnus with the sincere
conviction that a valuable discovery awaited them with the dawning day.

Their host did not rise with the sun, and the visitors were out of
bed a full hour before Charleston greeted them. Breakfast was already
waiting them, and after they had partaken of it arrangements were made
for an immediate start. The headland lay six miles off, so that they
had no time to lose if they wished to explore it and return that day.

In order to provide against contingencies it was decided to take with
them sufficient provisions for twenty-four hours. The weather was
favourable for camping out, and if the exploration could not be made in
the one day the next could be pressed into service.

At eight o'clock the party, accompanied by Charleston alone, made a
start for the promontory.

The way lay over an exceedingly rough kind of country. It was barren
in the extreme but the half-caste assured them that a few inches
underneath the soil valuable deposits of vegetable gum was to be found.

This gum was considered much more valuable than the kauri gum of New
Zealand, but through the out of the way position of the island it had
been little worked. The gum was supposed to have been deposited ages
before by the grass tree, which, at the time now spoken of, was almost
extinct on the island.

Coming to a favourable looking spot Charleston began turning the rich
mould over with spade he carried, and, sure enough, he was not long
discovering a ball of the precious gum. It was about the size of a
billiard ball, semi-opaque, and of a sherry colour. It was remarkably
light, and according to the half-caste, could be used for a variety of
important purposes.

The gum was given to Trenoweth as a sort of keepsake, and the party
went on its way, some of the members thinking that there might be other
natural deposits as valuable as gold, silver, or tin worth seeking.

It was near midday when they reached the neck of the promontory, or
rather peninsula, for such it really was. They could see to south
and west the ocean stretching out, and far away, in a south-westerly
direction, a blue haze rose which Charleston said was the Ben Lomond
ranges on the mainland.

The view was magnificent, but the fortune hunters had no eye for either
landscape or seascape beauties. Though scarce a breath of wind was
blowing, a long, heavy wash beat against the fantastic cliffs which
formed the coast line. Thunderous echoes were occasionally awakened by
the play of the waves in the caverns, and they sounded as weird as the
death drums of the Sahara.

As the men walked further along the reverberations seemed to sound now
and again right under foot. Charleston explained this by saying that in
places the peninsula was quite undermined by the ceaseless action of
the ocean, and this information filled all with a vague dread that the
hollow earth might give way and swallow them up, like the wicked spoken
of in the Old Testament.

The spot to which their steps were directed was a huge mass of jutting
rocks almost on the extreme point of the headland. It towered, conical
shaped, fully one hundred feet high, and spread out broadly at the
base. It had evidently been formed by marine action, as it jutted out
some distance into the sea, and was almost cut off from the mainland.

Charleston, of all the party, seemed to be the only one thoroughly
familiar with the queer looking locality. Taking the lead he rapidly
threaded his way through a maze of narrow intricate passages between
the frowning rocks. In places it was almost as dark as night, and most
ominous sounds came from below through the blowholes worn in the rocks.

"If it was anyway stormy we would have a job to get along here, as
those blowholes would throw up water like fountains," coolly Charleston
remarked to his companions.

"This seems to be the last place where I should expect to find a gold
reef. The indications are, so far, quite absent," Grey at length said.

"It is certainly an extraordinary looking place, but for that reason we
cannot tell what we may expect," replied Trenoweth.

By this time the party had gone a considerable distance through the
huge pile of conglomerate, and a deep twilight surrounded them.
Through occasional crevices and rents in the rocks gleams of sunlight
descended, and illuminated in a weird fashion the grotesque and
fantastic shapes in the caverns. The whole pile was honeycombed
throughout, and it was apparent that at some period this excavating was
done by the sea.

After penetrating for upwards of one hundred yards Charleston stopped
and called up his companions. Just ahead there was a most extraordinary
bridge of rocks over a chasm that seemed of enormous depth.

The eye could not penetrate its dark recesses, and it was to warn his
followers that Charleston spoke to them----

"You must be careful here and imitate me. If you slip in there you may
say good-bye to life," he said.

The narrow bridge of rock was slippery with moisture, and as he spoke
Charleston went down on his hands and knees and proceeded to creep
cautiously across.

His companions did the same, and when they crossed they found
themselves on a terrace of rock which sloped downwards.

The wash of the ocean on the cliffs could now be distinctly heard, and
it was apparent they were nearing the beach.

The appearance of the place puzzled the prospectors exceedingly, for
it scented impossible auriferous deposits would be found in such a
spot. The difficulties of transport and working would necessarily be so
great, as to render operations so costly that little profit could be
expected.

After going about sixty yards further down the slope the party emerged
suddenly on a channel of the sea that barred further progress.

The scene around was of an extraordinary character. The channel ran
from the open ocean between a cleft of two mineral rocks which rose
sheer on either side.

At the spot to which Charleston had led them a natural roadway seemed
to exist almost to the water's edge, but at no other place was it
possible to reach the channel.

Although the day was calm the waters boiled cauldron-like in the
mysterious passage, and in places near the end sharp rocks jutted out
of the sides and bottom of the marine gorge.

The monstrous towering rocks threw a deep gloom on the water, and
around the adjacent cliffs were in a dark shadow almost to their
summits.

At first the gloom prevented the men seeing an object to which
Charleston pointed but as their eyes got accustomed to the dim light
a queer-looking, misshapen appearance like a gigantic grotesque rock
seemed to bar the end of the channel.

It jutted out a few feet from the rocky wall which formed the abrupt
end of the strange channel, and against which the angry water
impotently threw themselves.

"That's where my gold mine is," Charleston said, with a laugh.

Grey suppressed an oath as he replied, "A gold reef there? Why, it's
impossible, and I don't see any fun in such a practical joke," he
concluded, with anger in his tones.

"I tell you there is enough gold in that wreck to make us comfortable
for life, if we could only get it," Charleston answered.

"A wreck?" his listeners queried.

"Yes; that is the wreck of the Gellibrand, a little barque on which
most of the gold stolen from the Nelson in Hobson's Bay was placed.
The crew were apparently making for the Tasmanian coast when they were
overtaken by a storm, swept into this channel, and death. You see what
the place is like in calm weather, so you can imagine what it would be
with a fierce southerly gale. The Gellibrand has been lying there
for over fifteen years. I have located the wreck two years ago, but I
have never been able to do more than stand here and look at it."

"But how do you know it is the vessel you say, and that gold is on
board?" Trenoweth asked Charleston.

"My father saw the wreck take place. He was standing on the cliffs
watching the vessel in distress. He saw it swept right underneath where
he stood and disappear apparently in the solid cliffs. Two days after
when the sea was smooth enough we pulled round in our boat and saw the
strange channel. It would have been certain death to venture up it,
and we decided to search from the land side for the lost barque. We
did not know for a couple of years that the Gellibrand had gold on
board but when we did we made further searches. We could not find the
slightest trace of the missing vessel, but I kept up the quest, and by
an accident discovered the passage through which I brought you today.
Your ingenuity might help us to find means of getting at the treasure,"
Charleston concluded, looking at the prospectors.

"If you could not manage it, I don't see what chance we would have,"
Trenoweth replied.

Old Burgess appeared to be the most deeply interested in the strange
discovery. With practised eyes he narrowly scanned every point from
which the wreck might be reached, but the observation was not a
satisfactory one. At length he said to Charleston.

"Have you ever tried to enter the channel?"

"Yes," answered the latter. "I made the trial once under the most
favourable circumstances, and I narrowly escaped with my life. There is
an extraordinary suction in it which would swallow up anything."

"If you are sure the gold is on board I wouldn't mind risking it,"
Burgess answered.

"The gold is there, but if you take my advice you will not try by sea.
It might be possible by means of ropes to get down to the wreck, but
you would have no chance in a boat," the man answered.

The gathering gloom reminded the party that night was approaching, and
it would be necessary for them to get out of the labyrinth in daylight.

This brought the discussion to an abrupt end for the time, and the
return journey was begun.




CHAPTER XV.--THE TREASURE SHIP.

When the open country was again reached it was decided to go back
to Charleston's house that night. There was nothing to be gained by
camping in the vicinity of the wreck, as they could do no more the next
day than they had done in the way of exploring the treasure ship.

Burgess, in fact, had fully made up his mind to enter the channel in
his boat, and Trenoweth and Grey seemed inclined to bear him company in
the hazardous attempt.

There was no more experienced man in the Straits or around the
Tasmanian coast than Burgess. This was generally admitted, but
Charleston spoke from experience of the imminent risk of attempting
a passage as suggested. All his remonstrances, were, however, of no
avail. The temptation to seek for the fatal gold seemed well nigh
irresistible, not only to Burgess, but to Grey and Trenoweth, and they
thought lightly of the supposed dangers.

It was late in the evening when their host's residence was reached, and
all the party were pretty well fatigued with the journey over the rough
country. They remained together, however, until a late hour, discussing
the advisability of the proposed undertaking on the following day.

The party were equally divided in their views.

Charleston and the two Nortons were opposed to it, while Trenoweth,
Grey and Burgess were as strongly in favor of risking it.

It was near midnight when the discussion ended, it being arranged that
if the weather was favorable the three latter should leave in the
morning by boat, while the Nortons and Charleston took the overland
route to the scene of operations.

At daylight, therefore, the three men were in the boat and, dropping
down the creek, were soon skirting round the coast in the direction of
the headland.

The day could not have been more favorable for such a venture.

The sea was perfectly smooth and not a breath of wind arose to disturb
its surface. The boatmen had a long pull before them, but on such a day
it was almost a pleasure and not a task.

Half an hour after they put off the two Nortons and Charleston made
a start. The latter was most apprehensive as to the result of the
expedition. He made no secret of his fears, and took with him a couple
of coils of stout rope, which he found at the house. On the way across
he explained to the brothers the cause of his rather extraordinary
anxiety.

It was quite certain that a remarkable suction existed in the
channel, probably caused by the the fact that there was subterranean
communication between the apparent end of the channel and the main
ocean eastwards.

The only attempt he had made was in company with his father; and it
was only after the most strenuous efforts that they got clear of the
current which was sweeping them up the channel.

During the night he had decided on his course of action for the day. He
would at least do what he could to avert disaster to his friends, to
one of whom he was indebted for his life.

It was noon when the land party reached the side of the channel from
which they had a view of the long-lost barque.

The Nortons were better able to observe the surroundings than they had
been on the previous day.

They made the most minute observations, but their survey only confirmed
them in the opinion that it was next to impossible, without elaborate
preparations, which would involve a large expenditure, to reach the
wreck.

Even then the labor and danger might be futile, as perhaps the vessel
was thoroughly broken up and only the end shell remained. If so, the
gold would, of course, be past recovery, as it would be swept away by
the current.

Charleston, however, did not share this view. He felt convinced that
the hull of the vessel was still intact and the gold boxes on board.

At best, it was all surmise, any way, for, from their position, they
could not really tell much.

Charleston did not expect the boat party to reach the entrance to the
channel until two o'clock, and the land party had thus a couple of
hours to spare.

This time was not wasted, as it enabled them to see important
points not previously observed. It was seen that various kinds of
flotsam--such as sea weed, pieces of wood, &c.--were swept into the
channel with great rapidity.

The strange part was that this stuff did not return. Evidently there
was a passage somewhere to the outer ocean beyond the cliffs.

This fact suggested a course of action to Charleston, which years after
was adopted by himself and Trenoweth with some slight success.

If a small cannon could be brought to the spot where the vessel was
viewed from, it might be possible to dislodge her from the place she
was jambed. The current would then carry the hull along to the open
sea, where it could be secured.

It was probable that this operation might result in the loss of the
treasure, but it left a chance of obtaining it.

While the land party were thus building up theories as to the best
method of obtaining the gold, those in the boat were making their
way around the coast as fast as they could. The pull was a long one,
but the excitement consequent on the proposed attempt prevented them
feeling fatigue.

The scenery was not of the most inviting kind, as where it did
not consist of long reaches of low sandy coast, deeply indented
with shallow bays, frowning cliffs met the eye. At times a piece
of fantastic natural carving on the iron-bound coast relieved the
monotony, but until they got close to the headland, in the recesses of
which lay the treasure ship, the scenery was exceedingly tame.

It soon changed when they reached their destination, however, and at
once became impressive.

Whether it was the knowledge that a ghastly tragedy had long before
occurred amongst those pillars of granite and basaltic mounds, or
whether it was the naturally forbidding aspect of the place, Trenoweth
and his companion could not but say that they visibly felt the
depressing influence of the scene.

Burgess, on the contrary, was as immovable as the Sphinx. He had been
round the headland scores of times previously, and his familiarity had
bred either indifference or contempt. Occasionally he broke through his
taciturnity and intimated points of interest.

"We drove thirty blacks over that cliff in '36," he once ejaculated,
pointing to a precipice about a hundred feet deep falling sheer into
the sea.

"Drove them over that place?" repeated Trenoweth, in amazement; "why,
they must have been killed."

"Of course they were; that's what we did it for. They'd have been
killed if they did not jump, too," he added, with a fierce scowl.

Edward had not read of the frightful atrocities perpetrated on the
aboriginal inhabitants of Tasmania in the early days, and he felt
thoroughly horrified at the matter of fact slaughter of thirty
unfortunate blacks.

Burgess laughed as Trenoweth expressed his feelings on the point, and
said to the young man:--

"Why, that is nothing. We sent two hundred over a cliff at Circular
Head twice as high as that place. It was the best day's fun I ever had.
We pricked them with our bayonets until they were glad enough to jump.

"They were rounded on to the narrow promontory like a lot of sheep, and
not one escaped. Oh, you should have been here fifty years ago. There
was some fun then," he concluded, addressing himself to Trenoweth.

"Thank goodness I wasn't, if that's what you call fun," replied Edward.

Burgess chuckled quietly to himself, and nothing more was said on the
subject, as they were rapidly nearing the point where the entrance to
the strange channel should be found.

In former trips round the islands, Burgess had not observed the
entrance, probably because he had not looked for it or had no reason
for doing so. Now that he was aware that it existed, he had no
difficulty in finding it.

The boat was kept fully a quarter of a mile out, and, in turning the
last angle of the headland, the quick eyes of Burgess immediately
caught the object he was in search of. It appeared like a huge cavern
in the cliff. It rose in an arch about thirty feet high, and for nearly
one hundred yards was roofed over by the cliff.

On getting in a line with the entrance daylight could be clearly seen
beyond; and it was at once evident that this was the open space which
they had seen on the previous day.

While the party were thus inspecting the strange opening in the cliff,
they had ceased rowing, and were so much absorbed in contemplation that
they did not observe that the boat was drifting rapidly towards the
entrance to the channel. Burgess was the first to notice the situation,
and they were scarcely one hundred yards from the mouth at the time.

"There is a strong inward current here, but, as everything is
favorable, I suppose we had better make the venture at once," he said,
questionally.

"You are the best judge of that," replied Grey.

While they were speaking the drifting of the boat was accelerating, and
they were almost rushing into the cavern. Burgess seized the oars and
tried to check the speed of the small craft. He soon saw that he was
powerless to do so.

The boat seemed to be in the grip of a giant, and, after the first few
strokes, Burgess, with a rather serious look on his face, said:--

"Well, mates, whether we like it or not, we must go into the channel
now. Keep cool and we'll go through all right, though I don't quite
like this current. It's the worst I've ever been in."

Even as he spoke a gloom fell on the occupants, as the craft was
irresistibly drawn into the cavern.

Burgess noted with relief that the channel seemed to be clear of rocks,
and their safety depended on keeping in the centre of the rushing
stream. With extraordinary skill he guided the boat, the speed of which
was each moment becoming greater.

Suddenly they swept out into daylight again and a long reach of water
lay before them. On either side walls of rock seemed to reach the skies
and almost meet at the top; and, as the party were swept on, they began
to realise that they had been caught in a sort of trap, and that they
were in imminent danger.

The old man stood erect with an oar in his hands, with which he kept
the boat head on to the stream. His eyes were fixed ahead and his lips
were tightly set. Courage and determination were plainly written on
every lineament of his face.

From their position they could now see the dark end of the marine gorge
and the mouldering bows of the Gellibrand, sticking out of what
seemed to be a solid wall of rock.

Trenoweth was kneeling in the bows of the boat with an oar. He could
see the jutting rocks near the end, and his object was to ward the boat
off the dangerous rocks.

Grey was in the stern, and he likewise held an oar to render assistance.

Both the prospectors were now fully alive to their danger, and it broke
upon them that chances of escape were small.

At the rate the craft was going on, she would inevitably be dashed to
pieces against the rocky end. Even if she withstood the shock, it would
be impossible for them to get back again, and they would have to perish
in that awful gorge.

This thought almost unmanned the two men.

Suddenly a shout aroused them and, as they looked up, they saw
Charleston and the two brothers Norton, who were standing beside the
channel, not more than twenty yards ahead.

Charleston and Joe Norton had each a coil of rope in their hands ready
to throw to the occupants of the boat. The channel at the place was not
more than twenty feet wide, and the men on the bank called loudly to
those in the boat to watch for the ropes and save their lives.

Their calls roused Trenoweth and Grey to full sense of their situation,
but old Burgess seemed to be completely oblivious of danger.

"We are going to certain death, Burgess, let us try to save ourselves,"
Edward said to him.

"Tut, lad!" the old man replied; "I am going through. If you are afraid
try for the rope."

"I do not see why we should wantonly throw away our lives," Trenoweth
replied.

"Take my advice and come off with us," he pleaded.

By this time the impelled boat was almost abreast of the land party.
Trenoweth had moved into the stern, beside Grey and, as Charleston
threw the rope, both men seized it and jumped overboard.

Tom Norton helped Charleston, and it took their united efforts to pull
the two men out of the channel.

Meanwhile, Joe Norton had thrown his rope to Burgess. It fell in the
old man's hands, but he proudly declined to take hold of it.

"I'm going right through with it," he shouted, waving his oar.

As Trenoweth and Grey scrambled out of the water the five men turned
their eyes after Burgess.

The boat had now swept amongst the jagged rocks with tremendous
velocity, but the solitary occupant piloted it along with wonderful
skill.

The onlookers held their breath as a moment later it reached the
apparent end of the channel. Instead of dashing against the dark rock,
it was seen to rise in the stern and then disappear.

As it did so Burgess made a grasp at the bows of the Gellibrand. For
a moment he clung to a piece of timber, but it was rotten, and a second
later he dropped into the seething cauldron and was swept out of sight.

A week later his battered body was discovered about three miles away on
the open beach.

Trenoweth and his friends gazed silently for several minutes at the
spot where poor Burgess had disappeared.

They were absolutely powerless to render any assistance to the lost
man; and they keenly regretted that he should have thus thrown away his
life, as it were.

"We can do no good here, mates," said Charleston. "Let us get away at
once, as our friends cannot be comfortable in their wet clothes."

Taking a last look at the dark recesses of the gorge, the party
silently turned away to retrace their steps through the dangerous and
devious passages.




CHAPTER XVI.--THREE HUMMOCKS.

The disastrous results of the expedition were very strongly felt by
Trenoweth and Grey. They considered themselves in some degree to
blame for the fatal ending, as they would not listen to the advice of
Charleston and so aided and abetted, so to speak, the action of Burgess.

If the old man had taken the rope thrown by Joe Norton, his life would
doubtless have been saved; but it was too late to think of that now.

Life in the straits was somewhat precarious to those engaged in
seafaring work; though, judging by the experience of Burgess, it was
not a dangerous calling.

For sixty five years he had been about the coast, and though his
escapes were many and narrow, he had avoided a fatality until that
day. Though having led a wild and rough life for half a century he was
widely respected and possessed many sincere friends.

By the time Charleston's house was reached the clothes on Grey and
Trenoweth were quite dry, and, after an ample meal, they began to
discuss their future movements.

They would not be able to leave Clarke Island for nearly a fortnight,
as they had no suitable boat, and the interval they arranged to fill up
by searching for the body of Burgess and doing a little prospecting.
They did not hope for much from the stone in the district, but still
something of value might be found.

If it was only gum, they need not be idle: and many parts of the island
were almost unexplored.

Charleston was strongly of opinion that before leaving the straits a
visit should be made to The Three Hummocks Island. This was a small
islet situate on the western side of the straits, near Circular Head,
and about one hundred and fifty miles distant from Clarke Island. The
distance would not signify, as if nothing was obtained at the place it
was on their way to Adelaide, whither the party was ultimately bound.

A boat could be got at one of the north-west ports for South Australia
without much trouble, and they would have the satisfaction of knowing
whether there was anything of a remunerative prospect on Three Hummocks
Island.

Charleston was very anxious to find where the current from the channel
gorge led to; for that it did come out into the sea again he was
convinced. For that purpose, he decided to go to the south-west part
of the island and camp for a few days. It was too far to allow of
their returning to the house each night, and it would facilitate their
observations if they stayed close to the beach.

Accordingly, a camp was made on the beach about a couple of miles from
where Burgess was engulphed, and each day the beach was thoroughly
examined for wreckage.

On the second day the searchers were rewarded by finding Burgess's boat
stranded and almost uninjured.

Evidently the passage through which it had come could not have been
a rough one; and this confirmed Charleston in his opinion that it
might be possible, even yet, to get at the treasure on board the
Gellibrand.

The position where the boat was found was carefully marked and an
anxious search kept up for the body. This, of course, might never come
ashore, as it might be devoured by sharks or destroyed in some other
way.

However, within a fortnight, the remains of the poor old man were found
not very far from the spot where the boat was found stranded.

The body was interred in the little cemetery on the island; and, this
last duty being performed, Grey and his party felt anxious to get away
into some more promising locality.

For another week they remained waiting, waiting for the arrival of the
Flora, and during that period they thoroughly prospected the island,
though with very small results.

When the Flora arrived they went back to Launceston, where they
remained a week, after which they took passage for Circular Head.

The Three Hummocks Island was only a few miles from the latter port,
and, on the day after their arrival, they engaged one of the small
trading boats of the place, and, with a fortnight's provisions, were
landed on the island.

This place was even more rugged and wild than the eastern islands.
The great sweep of the Southern Ocean, which has eaten into the west
coast of Tasmania, plays with full force on the Three Hummocks, and
has reduced it to the condition of a granite islet. Huge masses of the
imperishable material offer their resistance to the waves, and for
centuries a war has been unceasingly waged between the two forces.

Whenever the soft strata existed it had been eaten out and strange,
fantastic caverns formed in the walls and plateaux of granite. At
low tide the occasional low stretches of beach presented a beautiful
appearance, as the denudations from the granite have been washed white
and are interspersed with glittering mica.

At the first sight of the island Trenoweth was filled with hope that
valuable deposits of tin would be discovered on it, the appearance
seeming to indicate the presence of that mineral.

The first care of the party was to select a suitable camping place as
their head quarters, and little difficulty was experienced in this.

On the north-west portion of the island a beautifully sheltered spot
was found between some cliffs and a couple of tents were pitched.
Experience had taught them how to select the most suitable provisions
for the expedition, and these were agreeably supplemented by plenty of
fish. The waters around the island were teeming with excellent fish,
which were easily caught, and Trenoweth acted as provider in this
respect.

Next morning it was decided to try a few prospects from the debris on
the shore, at the foot of the cliffs. The miners well knew that in such
a position they would be able to obtain a fair idea of the composition
of the rocks in the vicinity.

In almost every dish they washed excellent prospects of gold were
obtained, but the tin yields were not satisfactory. This was somewhat
of a surprise to them all, as it had been thought by them that the
stone contained most tin.

A couple of days were spent in searching the small bays in this manner;
but, with the exception of gold indications, nothing was obtained.

There was one peculiar granite formation near the centre of the island
which looked worthy of closest investigation.

Out of a high cliff a peculiar wall or lode ran for fully half a mile.
It was splendidly defined and over twelve feet wide on the average. At
the place where it jutted out of the cliff it was ten feet high and
looked almost like an artificially-built stone wall made to form a
rampart.

As it ran further away it sank gradually until it became on a level
with the surface and then it could be traced for a long distance. A
quarter of a mile from the coast it dipped out of sight, but far down
on the cliffs it could be seen running out into the ocean.

It was a true reef and apparently it had never been tested.

To this point, therefore, the energies of the prospectors were devoted
for nearly a week. In places the results were disappointing, but in
other parts magnificent samples of tin ore were found.

They were so rich that it really seemed worth while to work the lode
in a thorough manner; and, had it not been for an unexpected obstacle,
this might have been done.

Before finally deciding to remain at The Three Hammocks Island
permanently, it was agreed that the most exhaustive tests should be
made.

This was of the utmost importance, as, unless the lode was fairly
permanent and extensive, it would be waste of time, energy and capital
to remain on it.

For the purpose operations were commenced on a larger scale.

It was agreed to take out ten tons of the most likely looking ore and
ship it to Launceston for proper treatment. A shaft was also commenced
to lay bare a portion of the lode and ascertain its depth, or at least
far enough down to make it sure of sufficient material being present.

The surface indications were very favorable to denoting permanency, but
Grey's motto was, in this case, "Better be sure than sorry."

It would take a month at least to do the necessary work, and a passing
boat was engaged to bring a further stock of provisions, Grey and Joe
Norton going in it to Circular Head for the purpose.

On their return the whole party set themselves out for work and
operations were vigorously pushed on.

The ore was found somewhat difficult to quarry; but, almost on the
surface, good progress was made. In a week's time they had ten tons at
grass, and then the shaft was run down to a depth of twenty feet beside
the wall of stone.

The permanency of the lode seemed to be certain, though its patchy
character was not promising.

About three weeks after their arrival on the island the prospectors
received a somewhat unpleasant surprise.

They were engaged in the laborious task of conveying the ore to a
little bay, so that it might be loaded without delay, when a boat hove
in sight.

This, of course, was not an unusual occurrence, as quite a number of
boats were kept at Circular Head for trading to Devonport and other
places.

It was seldom any of them put into Three Hummocks, except for shelter,
but this one made straight for the bay.

When the miners returned with a load of ore they were met on the beach
by a little, old-looking, wizened man and two others, who seemed to be
boatmen.

"What the deuce are you fellows doing here?" was the unfriendly
greeting which the little old visitor gave to Grey and his mates.

"Doing a bit of prospecting, my friend," replied Grey, good-humoredly.

"I've not given you permission to prospect here, and you are simply
trespassers--do you hear?--I say you are trespassers, and I order you
to leave the island at once," returned the man, sharply.

"And who may you be?" broke in Joe Norton, indignantly. "If you were a
little blacker I should take you for King Billy."

"I am the lessee of this island, and I could have every man Jack of you
arrested for robbing me in this manner," was the reply.

"Oh, no, you could not. We hold miners' rights from the Tasmanian
Government, which entitles us to enter any Government leasehold lands
and prospect for minerals. You have no claim whatever to such minerals,
as they are the property of the Crown," returned Grey.

"We shall see what power I've got. We shall see," roared the little
man, almost furious with passion. "You are robbing me, and the state
will protect me." As he spoke he beckoned to his two companions and
strode towards the boat.

As he was getting into it those on the beach heard him order the
boatmen to go back to Circular Head as fast as they could; and, as the
craft disappeared round the cliffs, the prospectors looked at each
other and burst into laughter.

"That is the first ugly customer we have met since we started out on
our expedition; but he can't do us any harm," spoke Joe Norton.

They reckoned, however, without their host.

Next morning a Government official put in an appearance from Circular
Head, and informed the astonished miners that, although the lessee
could not prevent them prospecting, it was illegal to remove anything
from the lease unless certain formalities were complied with.

"I suppose we can easily do that," said Trenoweth.

"Unfortunately, no," answered the official. "You must go to Launceston
before you can obtain the necessary authority, I am sorry to say."

"That is awkward," spoke Grey. "But I suppose that there will be very
little delay there?"

"One month's notice is required to be given."

The men looked blankly at each other. This would mean a delay of
fully two months, and in the end the results might not pay expenses.
Moreover, it was a monstrously vexatious system of dealing with men who
were trying to develope the mineral wealth of the country.

"I wouldn't stop in the place five minutes," impetuously burst out
Trenoweth. "If we are to be hampered in such a manner, the best thing
we can do is to go to another colony."

"I think so, too!" the others replied in chorus.

The decision was acted on with a promptitude that quite surprised the
Government official. On being asked if he would kindly send over a boat
during the day to take them off, he courteously placed his own boat at
their disposal.

Within two hours the camp had been struck and the articles placed on
board, and they were on their way toward Circular Head.

Some of them were fated never to see Three Hummocks again.




CHAPTER XVII.--TERRA INCOGNITA.

The disappointment felt by the prospectors was of the keenest nature.
It would not have been half so bad had the test been made and the ore
found valueless. They would then have had the satisfaction of knowing
what the lode was worth, but now they had neither the one nor the other.

From appearances, they were being debarred from exploring what seemed
to be a valuable discovery; and perhaps they had only found it to be
turned to advantage by others.

They had labored for over three weeks, and just as fruition was about
to crown their efforts a miserable lessee stepped in and frustrated
them.

The man only held a licence for mutton-birding, the official told
them; and this made the matter all the worse. Had it not been for the
fact that they had fully resolved on going towards the interior of the
continent, they would certainly have remained on The Three Hummocks and
got the necessary authority to remove the material.

The Government official sympathised with them, and stated that the
Ministry of the day were even then engaged in liberalising the mining
laws. He expected that before the session was over, the obnoxious
clause which had just affected them would be removed from the
regulations.

This was small comfort, indeed, to the checkmated prospectors; and
they inwardly cursed the stupidity which had baulked them. It was such
a monstrous absurdity to allow men to raise ore, but prevent them
removing it for treatment from a desert island without a tedious delay
for authority.

Trenoweth was the most disappointed of all the party, for he was
feverishly eager to return to Cornwall and claim his promised bride. On
reaching Circular Head he wrote a long letter to John Barr, giving him
a detailed account of his wanderings since he had parted from him. He
alluded to the treasure ship, but gave a graphic account of the dangers
of the channel. He also asked Barr to kindly send any letters which
might have arrived at the latter's place for him to the general post
office at Adelaide, as he expected to be there within a week or so.

This duty over, he felt more at ease, and slowly the disappointment
began to die out of his mind.

He reflected on the adage that "it is an ill wind that blows nobody any
good," and thought that everything might turn out for the best.

He had a sort of blind infatuation as to the mineral wealth of the
continent, and expected very great results to follow from the visit
himself and his mates were about to make.

He took altogether an extremely sanguine view of the expedition; and,
as he conversed with Grey and the Nortons, who were disposed to view in
rosy colors the prospect before them, Trenoweth actually felt glad that
they had practically been turned off the island.

They might have squandered the time on it without doing any good,
and it was well they were now on the high road to their original
destination.

It was ten days before they could get a boat for Adelaide, and the time
was occupied in prospecting the dense forests at the back of Circular
Head.

The country pleased Trenoweth immensely; and, in fact, he narrowly
escaped finding the magnificent tin deposits of Mount Bischoff.

He and the other members of the party had got into the very
neighborhood of the deposits the day before they had to leave Circular
Head. Trenoweth himself obtained a splendid sample of stream tin, but
there was no time to follow up the discovery. If they had had another
week to spare it was almost beyond a doubt that they would never have
left Tasmania on their terrible expedition.

As it was, Edward formed the very highest opinion of the west coast of
Tasmania as a mineral district, and his knowledge afterwards stood him
in good stead, as will be seen.

Returning to Circular Head, the Adelaide boat was caught, and in less
than two days they found themselves in the pretty capital of South
Australia.

The weather was terribly hot--it was the month of January, 1871--but
the prospectors did not take much notice of small inconvenience.

The first thing Trenoweth did was to go to the G.P.O. and ask for any
letters that might be there.

He was somewhat disappointed to find only one, but on opening it he
was delighted to find it was from John Barr, and conveyed the brief
intimation that that individual was himself in Adelaide, staying at the
King William Hotel, and would be delighted to see Trenoweth and his
friends as soon as they arrived.

Edward lost no time in going to the address given by his friend Barr,
and the meeting between the two was extremely cordial.

"I simply came over on business to see our branch here. I run over two
or three times a year," Barr said.

This was really true enough, but the present visit was made more to see
Edward than to inspect the branch.

The fact was, that Barr had some misgivings as to the expedition on
which the party was bent. The season was not a favorable one by any
means, though one advantage was that during the preceding year heavy
floods had taken place in Central Australia, and, as a matter of fact,
nearly all over the continent.

This ought to ensure a supply of water but, if the reports in the press
were to be believed, such was not the case. Lamentable accounts of the
loss of stock were being continually published, and this was an ominous
sign for a poorly-equipped prospecting party.

Barr insisted on Trenoweth and his mates having dinner with him that
evening, and he took advantage of the gathering to have a serious
argument with the members of the expedition. He plainly told them that
they were risking their lives in such a season; and, in view of recent
reports from the interior, it would be courting death to go to the
districts indicated.

Grey, who spoke from experience, was extremely sanguine as to the
outcome of the trip. He ridiculed the idea of danger and urged that
never before had the chances of a prospecting party been more favorable.

Barr drew his attention to a number of clippings he had from newspapers
as to the fearfully deplorable condition of the interior. It seemed he
had cut out every unfavorable notice he could find as to the state of
the out country, and he had quite an album full.

This mark of interest in his movements was not lost on Trenoweth, who
silently thanked his friend for his solicitude.

Grey insisted that the reports were mostly false, got up by interested
squatters to keep back settlement. He said it was an old dodge, as he
had travelled through districts plentifully supplied with good water
that had been represented as arid deserts at the time.

The old prospector spoke with such an air of truthful sincerity that
his arguments almost carried conviction to the mind of Barr himself,
and quite convinced his other listeners.

Barr saw that it was simply wasting breath to argue the matter further,
and he wisely desisted and exerted himself to entertain his guests.

He remained in Adelaide for a week longer, and, as the prospectors did
not wish to make a hurried start, they saw him off in the Aldinga,
for Melbourne.

Trenoweth was somewhat disappointed at not receiving any letters, but
Barr explained that there was yet scarcely time for an answer to reach
him. Mail arrangements were not nearly so perfect in those days as they
are now, and a few months' delay might be expected in getting a reply
from so outlandish a place as St. Columb's Cove.

Two days after Barr left Grey's party started inland.

For close on three hundred miles they could use the railways, and this
means of transit was availed of to the very utmost limit. They had
a considerable amount of baggage, though not an ounce more than was
absolutely necessary.

Grey's knowledge had been especially useful in this respect. He knew
just what to take and what to discard, and the result was that only the
requisites which could not be dispensed with were taken.

At Farina the railway was discarded, and it was then necessary to
purchase horses.

Very much depended on getting hardy animals, for the work which would
devolve on them would be of the most trying nature.

Camels were just coming into use at the time, but they were almost
exclusively used for exploring purposes in the far north. They were
very costly, also, and not easily managed by Europeans.

The Nortons were fairly good judges of horseflesh, and in a few days
they managed to get half a dozen really good animals at a reasonable
price. They seemed just the sort for the work required from them, and
their equipment was soon finished.

In spite of the opinions held by Grey, it was apparent even at this
stage of the journey that a great drought had fallen on the land. There
was scarcely a blade of vegetation to be seen anywhere, and the fervid
sun poured down on the cracked and scorched plains.

Fearful duststorms, revolving with cyclonic fury, were to be seen on
all sides while the sun shone; and it was plain that if a change did
not take place further north the prospectors would have an exceedingly
hard time of it.

The opinion of the country people who were spoken to on the subject was
that further north the effects of the drought were much worse.

That was only to be expected, as the rainfall, except in rare seasons,
was always small and the heat greater.

Grey, however, still hugged himself with the idea that they would find
the country in a better condition in the districts he had decided to
prospect. He argued this because his former experience had led him to
the conclusion.

His companions had full trust in their leader; and, as they had no
far-inland experience of their own, they were fain to accept Grey's
theory.

After a stay of a week in Farina, a start was made due north, towards
Mount Attraction.

Little travelling was done during the daytime, but full advantage was
taken of the moonlight nights, and good stages were covered.

The heat during the day was intense, and both riders and horses were
kept out of it as much as possible.

There were a few homesteads to be met with on the route, and at these
nourishment was obtained for man and beast.

There was not the slightest trace of food for the horses to be met with
on the way, for even the salt bush, which had been growing in small
isolated places, was entirely eaten up.

A fortnight after leaving Farina the uttermost fringe of settlement was
reached and a plunge would very shortly be made into the unknown--or,
at any rate, the unsettled--parts.

Without food for the animals, it seemed very rash to make the venture,
but Grey was obstinate on the point.

At the last station, that of Mulwa, the manager was particularly
emphatic in his warning to the party. He told them that it was simply
courting death, under the circumstances, to go further inland. There
was no food for the horses and the wells were mostly dried up. Even if
there was water, there was nothing to support the horses; and, without
them, the prospectors would have a very poor chance of either going
ahead or getting back again.

This was the pith of the experienced manager's warning, but it fell
almost unheeded on the ears of the miners.

Grey was deaf to reason, and the other members of the party were too
anxious to push on to where fortunes were supposed to be to listen to
the voice of warning.

They consented to remain at the station for a fortnight, to recruit;
and the manager was in hope that during that time the weather might
break up and rain fall. The hope was vain, however, for the heavens
remained like molten brass; and when, on the 18th of February, the
expedition started out from Mulwa, the country was scorching under the
sub-tropical sun.

Anderson, the manager, and one of the boundary riders accompanied the
party a few miles on their way, and gave them all the information which
might be useful to them.

As they parted on the edge of a vast plain, Anderson's companion turned
to him and said:--

"Well, sir, they be dead men."

"I am afraid their chances are small if they persist in pushing on. I
did all I could to keep them back."

As Anderson spoke he turned in the saddle and took a last look at the
four adventurers, who were then being rapidly swallowed up in the gloom
of the coming night.




CHAPTER XVIII.--THE GREAT LAKE.

It was not without considerable misgivings that the prospectors turned
their backs on civilization.

They could not disguise from themselves the fact that the season was
unfavorable to their enterprise so far as they could judge up to the
present. Without vegetation it would be extremely hard to make much
progress. Certainly, they had brought along with them a week's supply
of horse fodder, and before it was exhausted there was a probability of
getting into better country.

They were all inclined to be hopeful, and each was imbued with a fixed
determination to succeed if possible in the quest on which they had
entered.

During the night they kept steadily on in a northerly direction, and
for a couple of hours after sunrise continued their lonely march.

When it began to get too hot, they rigged up a shelter with the flies
they carried, for there was no sign of vegetation as far as the eye
could reach. The tents kept the direct ray of the burning sun off, and
the horses were also sheltered.

Food was sparingly distributed to all, and also water, which had been
brought along in large canvas bags. It was expected that a natural well
would be arrived at on the following day. At least, the manager of
Mulwa had so stated, on the authority of some blacks who occasionally
visited the station.

Since leaving the fringe of settlement not a single aboriginal had been
seen. This was a very bad sign, as it showed that the drought must be
severe toward the north. The blacks kept near the permanent supplies,
and did not care to venture across the vast, waterless tracts of
country which were to be met.

As the day advanced the prospectors were treated to a typical summer
experience in the interior of the continent. They lay panting under the
canvas shade, which seemed to fairly glow under the red sun, while it
broke in dazzling streaks on the heated plain.

In a score of directions whirlwinds of dust were rising heavenwards and
making the atmosphere murky as though filled with smoke.

All nature seemed dead.

The horses hung their heads motionless, and it almost appeared as if
the last day had come, in which the heavens were to be rolled up like a
scroll.

The prospectors had brought along two thermometers, and they registered
under the shade 116 degrees. This heat would have been simply
unbearable, were it not for the extreme dryness which characterised it.

As evening came on the nearly exhausted men and animals tried to snatch
a brief rest, but a hundred different sorts of insects filled the air
and tormented them. Where they came from so suddenly no one could tell;
but there they were, filling the air with a humming sound. In such a
waterless district it was unusual to be thus invaded by myriads of the
insect world.

Sleep was entirely out of the question, and it was agreed to saddle up
and push on.

No one cared for food after the awful heat, and it was a positive
relief to once again get on the march.

All that night they tramped onward. At times they dismounted and led
the horses for miles.

When the sun shot its first rays across the horizon they began an
anxious watch for the expected water which they were told was in the
vicinity of where they now found themselves.

As the sun rose they saw nothing to indicate the presence of water, but
they kept on, and at last they were rewarded by seeing in the not far
distance slight signs of scrub.

For two hours longer they had to march before they reached it, and at
first they felt that a disappointment was in store for them, and they
had only come across the so-called waterless scrub.

This is a barren bush which flourishes on the most sun-baked plains in
an extraordinary manner. Investigation seems to show that it lives by
means of an unusually long tap-root, which penetrates to underground
stores of water. It is a useless plant, being quite unfit for food.

After passing through the scrub a short distance, Grey, who was in
advance, gave a joyful call to his companions to hurry up at once.

The inspiriting sound quickened their movements, and as they came up
the leader was found standing beside a waterhole that contained about a
dozen gallons of what might be termed liquid mud.

Bad as it was it gave them hope; and, dismounting, they got their
shovels to work and soon scooped out a small well in the centre. The
muddy water flowed into it rapidly, and as soon as a bucketful could be
dipped out they began to give it to the horses to drink.

The animals were famishing with thirst, and drank an enormous quantity
of the tepid fluid.

While Joe Norton was attending to this duty the others were busy
erecting a more substantial shade than they had been able to get the
previous day. The scrub was pressed into requisition for the purpose,
and an excellent protection was provided.

Buckets of water were taken out of the hole and allowed to settle, when
the liquid was drawn off and was fairly palatable.

Grey's bush experience had taught him that if there was any animal life
in the vicinity it would visit the waterhole, and he pitched his camp
where he could command a view of the place. He was not mistaken in his
calculation, as towards evening a medium-sized kangaroo hopped boldly
down to the edge of the hole.

Tom Norton was in wait and at the first shot brought the animal down.

This was a welcome addition to the food supply, as portions of the
kangaroo are excellent eating. The portions that were not to be eaten
at once were cut into strips for jerking or drying in the sun.

It was agreed to remain at the water for another day, as even the two
nights' march had proved very fatiguing under the circumstances.

A wallaby was added to the larder during the following evening, and
later on a start was made again.

So far the country passed through gave no indications of mineral
deposits, but further on high ranges existed, in which it was expected
prospecting might repay those who sought.

At daylight the following morning the adventurers were astonished to
see on their left what appeared to be a vast inland sea.

A mist was rising from it, thick and heavy; and the men looked and
rubbed their eyes more than once before they were convinced that it was
really water and not a mirage they saw.

The country was flat, and Grey well knew what illusions are sometimes
seen on the interior deserts.

There could be no mistaking this, however, for anything but what it
really was, and Grey led the way towards it.

"I think it must be Lake Eyrie, though our course should take us
further east than we are, if it be really that sheet of water," Grey
said.

"Is it not better for us to be near water in such a desert as this?"
questioned Trenoweth.

"Not such water as this probably is. It is salter than the sea, and
more likely to produce sickness than health," was the answer.

"Salt! Ah, that alters the case. What a godsend a body of fresh water
like that would be in this place."

"There would very soon be a settlement around if it were fresh water,"
answered Grey.

As they rode close to it a steam seemed to arise and there was a total
absence of the vegetation that might be expected in such a place. Far
as the eye could reach stretched a vast expanse of clear-looking water;
but a glance was sufficient to show how shallow it was.

In places ripples marked the tops of mud banks just protruding above
the surface and showing how rapidly the drying up process was going on.

The water looked so clear that Trenoweth could hardly bring himself to
believe it was unfit for use, and he dismounted to satisfy himself. He
had scarcely got within a dozen yards of the edge when he sank up to
his knees in a sort of impalpable ooze.

Nearer the water he could see what appeared to be accumulations of pure
salt, and he soon found out that it was really such.

The sun continually playing on the shallow water evaporated it and left
the salt behind.

Finding that he would have to wade through such stuff, he was glad to
beat a retreat, for the mud was semi-warm and not calculated to cool
one.

As the spot where they first struck the lake was not a suitable one for
making the camp, the party skirted along in a northerly direction until
they came to a low scrub of what looked like a kind of salt bush.

Here a halt was made and the same kind of arrangements made as before.

The meat of the kangaroo and the wallaby was hung out in the sun to
dry, and the horses were allowed to crop the shrubs before mentioned.

This they did for a few minutes, when they seemed to become satisfied.

A couple of hours afterwards the prospectors saw with consternation
that the horses were affected by their new food. They showed extreme
restlessness and irritability, and gradually got worse.

Everything possible was done to quieten them, but in vain. A sort of
greenish froth exuded from their mouths, while their tongues lolled
out in a helpless sort of way. Their eyes became bloodshot and filmed,
and at last one of the animals broke away and galloped madly in the
direction of the lake. In a few seconds it was followed by the others,
and, to the consternation of the miners, all the animals floundered
into the briny water and appeared to drink copiously of the fatal fluid.

Grey looked at the scene with a set face, and then broke the silence
with the remark:--

"Our horses are lost, mates, and we will need courage and skill to save
ourselves."

It was apparent to them that Grey spoke the truth.

The shrubs must have been poisonous, and perhaps were of the same
species as those which killed Captain Sturt's horses on one of his
expeditions.

After drinking deep draughts of the saline water the maddened horses
plunged out further into the steaming lake.

The remorseless sun beat down vertically on the animals and the rays
from the surface met those falling and formed a blinding heat which
nothing but a salamander could long withstand.

Within two hours of the fatal plunge all that could be seen of the
horses was their dead bodies floating in the shallow mud and water.

The four men looked on as men in a dream at the strange sight that was
being enacted before them. They well knew that probably it was but a
prelude to a greater tragedy, in which they would have to play the
principal parts.

Considering the way in which they must be, fully one hundred miles from
Mulwa station, and in such weather, it was improbable they could reach
it.

They had only a single day's supply of water, and it would take a week
to reach the station on foot. The stock of provisions was ample, though
it would be difficult to transport it without the horses; but water was
of greater consequence than food in such weather.

Trenoweth was the first to call his companions' attention to the
situation.

"There is no time to be lost, mates. What is best to be done?"

Joe Norton looked up as he said:--

"The best thing I see is to try and get back to the station. We ought
to be able to manage it."

"Yes," answered Grey, thoughtfully, "it is our only chance. We should
be able to get back in five days, and if we are lucky we might manage.
It might, indeed, rain," he added, looking up at the burning sky, as
though to seek for hope there.

"Will we go right back now?" Tom Norton asked, anxiously.

"No; it would be the worst thing we could do. The heat would shrivel us
up," replied Grey.

This decision was the most sensible he could arrive at, and he added to
it by urging on his mates to look upon their position hopefully.

"You know," he concluded; "that if you give way to excitement or fear,
it will increase thirst, and that is the enemy we must conquer."

He got out a little food and served about a gill of water to each man,
and then they stretched themselves under their impromptu abode, and
gave way to gloomy reflections.

The brave fellows had not a particle of bitter feeling towards Grey,
however, although he was actually responsible for their being in their
present unfortunate position.




CHAPTER XIX.--THE RETREAT.

For several hours the silence was unbroken. Trenoweth, for a
wonder, slept soundly, and the rest was of great assistance to him.
Notwithstanding the heat of the day, he slumbered on until aroused to
help in packing the stores. He sprang to his feet quite cheerfully and
fully refreshed, and looked with surprise on the worn-out appearance of
his mates.

"Why, its near sundown. How I must have slept," he exclaimed.

"Yes; you have slept well, my lad," replied Grey, sympathetically; "and
will feel the benefit of it tonight. I wish we all did the same."

Active preparations were now made to start. The saddles and other
harness were left behind as useless, and only the straps were used in
the packing. Everything was put in the most convenient form, and any
article not absolutely wanted in the journey was cast aside.

Half an hour before sunset the party began to retrace their steps. They
intended doing a long march that night, in the hope of reaching the
waterhole before it was too late. If they could get a single bucketful
there it would save them, but it was exceedingly doubtful if they could
even squeeze out that modicum of fluid.

The distance was fully twenty miles, and the country was not easy to
get over, but life or death depended on haste, and they kept up a good
speed during the whole night.

At daylight they found themselves within two miles of the desired
place, and in less than an hour they reached it.

The first thing they saw in the dried-up hole was a dead wallaby, that
had apparently perished of thirst.

This was not a pleasant introduction, but they did not despair.

They took the animal out and at once began digging at the bottom, which
was intersected by huge cracks in the baked earth.

Although not more than forty hours had elapsed since they got water
at the place, it was now as dry as the Desert of Sahara. Several feet
deep, they laboriously excavated, but there was not the slightest
indication of water. The ground was perfectly dry, for the hot air had
penetrated the crevices and sucked every drop of moisture up.

Still the prospectors worked on, for they all felt that their very
lives depended on finding water.

It was near noon when they abandoned the task as hopeless, every drop
of moisture seeming to have shrunk into the earth in terror of the heat.

The exertion of digging under such a sun caused an intolerable thirst
to afflict the party.

Though any one of them could have drunk the whole supply half a dozen
times over, they had to be content with merely moistening their lips.

A draught was entirely out of the question.

All save one tent had been left behind and spreading this over some
bushes the wearied men crept under it to remain until the sun got low
in the heavens.

They tried to sleep; but, worn out as they were, they could not obtain
the rest which was so necessary to keep up their strength. For a while
they tossed restlessly about and then, as if by a common impulse, they
rose and made arrangements to continue on their journey.

Before going Trenoweth and Grey went and looked down the well they had
sunk to see if perhaps a miracle had taken place and water flowed in.

It was as dry as a hearthstone, and they turned bitterly away.

Time was now of supreme importance, and it was agreed that they should
travel day and night until exhaustion compelled them to rest.

Strapping their loads on, another sip was doled out, and they started
about four o'clock in the afternoon.

Grey advised them to take a piece of the scrub along with them and chew
it, but it was found to be so salty that it rather aggravated than
allayed their thirst.

Through all the long night they went staggering on, and when morning
broke they were on the great plain.

A halt was called, for they felt they must have rest; and the wearied
men could hardly erect the sunshade.

Their lips and tongues were swollen and cracked, and in husky whispers
it was decided to at once drink the remainder of the water.

Some of it was being lost through evaporation, and a frightful longing
possessed the stricken travellers to quench the burning thirst which
was devouring them as if in a furnace.

It was a pathetic sight to see Grey measuring out the precious fluid
in a small pannikin, while, with eyes of terrific longing, his mates
watched him.

The leader's loyalty to his comrades will be understood when it is said
he reserved the smallest quantity for himself; and, as water carrier,
he could at any time have drunk the contents of the bag.

The homœopathic draught had a reviving influence on the men, who were
able to eat a little food after it; and then, one after another, they
sank into a wildly-fevered sleep.

It did not last very long, however, for the heat was dreadful, and they
awoke with bloodshot eyes and a sensation of choking. Their finger
nails seemed to be cracking off, and their hair felt brittle as glass.

It was past noon when they awoke, and silently, they took up their
loads for another start.

Without a word Grey took the lead, and, under the full force of the
pitiless sun, they headed across the apparently interminable plain.

Sunset came, and with it a slight cessation of the heat; and, with the
energy of despair, the doomed prospectors struggled on.

All that night the power of human endurance was exemplified, for the
monotonous tramp was kept up.

When daylight came Trenoweth looked round as if waking from a trance,
for he had only two companions. He looked hard at them to see who
they were, and he recognised in a dim sort of way that they were the
brothers Norton. Grey was missing, and Joe and Tom appeared to be quite
unaware of it.

Half dead as he was, Edward could see that there was a look in the
eyes of the brothers which seemed strongly indicative of insanity. The
swollen tongues and lips of the men refused speech, but by signs it was
decided to rest.

Mechanically the shade was put up and the three exhausted travellers
crept under it.

In a few minutes Trenoweth had fallen into a deep sleep, which held him
in a trance for hours. With a start he awoke to his misery, as night
was falling on the earth, or that horrible portion of it where he then
was.

He looked round in a dazed and stupid fashion, as if expecting to see
others about him; but, save for a few buzzing insects, he was alone. He
staggered to his feet and walked round the raised screen, but no human
form met his wild eyes. He laughed to himself at his position. What an
excellent joke it was to be left alone in such a place! How he would
rally his comrades upon it when he saw them?

Yes, it was most amusing to have such a trick played on him; but, of
course, it was only a joke. Ah! what about the water bag? Where was
that? He must have a drink! He recollected in a sort of phrenzy, as he
dashed madly under the screen where it was usually kept.

Groping on his hands and knees, he sought in vain, and in his search he
scattered the contents of three swags which lay on the ground.

In his delirium he picked up a round tin containing preserved sheeps'
tongues, and imagined it was full of water. With eager haste he brought
his jack knife into use, and soon had the top of the tin off.

Seizing the tongues he slowly devoured them and also the jelly which
was with them. They were very juicy, and were grateful to his parched
throat, for the soothing effect produced partly restored him to his
senses.

He again glanced round for his companions, but not seeing them,
commenced a search outside. Then, in a voice that was more like the
croak of a raven, called them by name, but no answer came.

The echoes of the hoarse call echoed over the desolate, parched plain,
but those called were as mute as though Death had placed his hand upon
them.

It would have been merciful if he had thus saved them from an awful,
lingering death by thirst.

The stars were shining out brightly in a cloudless sky, and Trenoweth
looked up to them as if in silent appeal for help and companionship.
Then he stood like a statue for fully half an hour, until, as if
rousing himself from a reverie, he went hurriedly back to the shelter
and began doing up his swag.

With curious cunning, he carefully took with him half a dozen tins of
the preserved tongues which lay about.

Then, recollecting that night was marching time, he sallied out,
leaving the shade as it was, and started off on his lonely journey.

He kept on at a rapid pace all night, and when morning came opened
another of the tins and voraciously devoured the contents, although he
almost choked himself in the act.

About a mile to the east he could see a small clump of trees on the
side of a conical-shaped hill.

Towards this he made and reached the grateful shade before the sun's
rays became too strong.

As he stood under one of the stunted eucalypts and looked towards the
summit of the hill, a keen desire possessed him to ascend it and see if
human habitation could be seen from it.

He instantly acted on the idea and slowly began the toilsome ascent. It
took him over an hour to gain the top, and when he did he saw he was on
the edge of an extinct crater, which sank to a considerable distance.

As he looked into the abyss a fascination seized upon him, for far down
below he could surely see water shining.

Yes! It was no delusion! The crater held a small lake in its centre
which could easily be reached.

Who can describe the haste with which the suffering man descended to
that which was more precious to him than all else upon earth.

In a few minutes he was beside the water and swallowing it as if he
would drain the crater. It was a wonder that he did not kill himself,
for the water was totally unfit for human consumption, and he must have
drunk a gallon.

Nature, however, came to his relief and he got sick; a fact which no
doubt saved his life.

The cool liquid, also, had an instantaneous effect on his blackened and
swollen lips and tongue. In a few minutes they became soft and reduced
in size; and, creeping under the shadow of an overhanging piece of
lava, he again had recourse to the tongues. This time he ate them with
a relish, and a few minutes afterwards he sank into a refreshing sleep.

The sun, in its westerly course, pouring its rays on the slumbering
wayfarer, awoke him from his strange bed. He got up refreshed, though
with a heavy sense of his desperate position, and decided to take a
small drink of the volcanic water. He filled the empty tin which lay
beside him and drank a few mouthfuls.

It had a most unpalatable taste; but a man in his position cared very
little for such a trifle as that. After this he again filled the tin
and then climbed up the crater to get another view of the surrounding
country.

In fact, he had seen nothing in the morning save the water at the
bottom of the crater, and once he had realised its presence he had
wanted for nothing else.

The day, though intensely hot, was clear, and Trenoweth got an
excellent view. To the west lay a vast plain, which he had a dim
recollection of crossing. In a southerly direction the country was also
level, while to the north it was broken by a couple of small mounts.
Easterly he could see a great range of hills stretching for many miles
and rising to a considerable altitude.

It occurred to him that this would be the most likely direction to
meet with fresh water, as such an important range could not fail to
have springs or affluents. He was quite lost as to the nearest way to
civilization, but concluded that he would reach a station as soon to
the west as if he went due south.

As he looked across the great plain he wondered what had become of his
late mates and how he had managed to get so far to the east.

Evidently the party had been going in the wrong direction for some
time, as, on the outward journey, no hills were visible at all.

It then flashed across his mind that Grey had disappeared a day before
the unfortunate brothers, and he remembered the awful look of insanity
in the eyes of Joe and Tom Norton. The whole of them must have wandered
away in delirium in search of water and perished miserably.

Yet, how did he, the least experienced, go through the ordeal? It must
have been, he thought, with rare lucidity under the circumstances,
the splendid sleep he had on the banks of desolate Lake Eyrie, which
fortified him for the trial.

This was undoubtedly the case, but a few minutes' reflection convinced
him that his trial was by no means over.

He was sitting on the summit of a small extinct volcano, alone, with
the shades of evening gathering round, in a desolate and (to him)
unknown spot. It was simply another form of madness to congratulate
himself on his escape from a frightful death, when all the horrors of
it were probably before him.

The gathering gloom did not tend to inspire cheerful thoughts, but,
with an effort, he shook off his heavy load of forebodings and got on
his feet.

"If I only had a companion!" he cried, "I would not feel the position
half so much. Yet, God knows, I must be selfish to wish a second person
to share my misfortune."

Then, for the first time, his thoughts reverted to his home, and he
wondered what his mother and Inez would say if they could see how he
was circumstanced that evening in March.

"It is better they should not know," he murmured; "but for their sakes
I will make an effort to get back to civilization."

As he spoke he went slowly down the eastern slope of the hill, with his
swag strapped to his back and carrying the tin of water in his hand.




CHAPTER XX.--THE STRANGE MOUNTAIN.

Trenoweth was absolutely ignorant of the district in which he was
wandering, for the maps and charts had been carried by Grey, who had
disappeared so mysteriously. The lost man felt a feverish desire to
keep moving; and, as his faculties had not quite played him false, he
kept in a fairly straight line.

One of the most remarkable incidents attending those lost in the awful
Australian bush rendered delirious by thirst, is the well known fact
that they wander in a circle and inevitably perish if left to their own
resources.

More than one cause has been urged as the reason for this circular
motion.

It is gravely laid down by scientists that the left leg of ninety per
cent. of the human race is shorter than the right pedal appendage, and
that when reason ceases to govern the physical movements a circle will
be described by the wanderer.

It is more likely that the whirling brain of a delirious person is more
responsible for the act than the first-mentioned theory.

One point is, however, certain, as it has been proved hundreds of
times, and that is, that a person utterly lost, and with reason
unhinged, will wander in a circle.

Another discovery which often gives a clue to the death of those whose
skeletons are found long years after in the Australian deserts, is that
persons suffering from the last pangs of thirst will invariably strip
themselves of all their clothes.

This fact, which has so often received fatal proof, is more easily
explainable than the former.

Deaths from thirst in the interior nearly always take place in the
hottest portions of the year.

The suffering itself almost sets the body on fire, and when, in
addition, the thermometer is at such a height, it makes one almost
desire, as Sydney Smith said, 'to take off your flesh and sit in your
bones,' it is little wonder that a sufferer from thirst divests
himself of his clothes.

And, unless rescue speedily comes, this taking off of garments is only
the prelude to the operation Sydney Smith mentioned. It is not long
before all that is left of the man is a bleached skeleton lying on the
interminable waste.

It was this terrible fate that overtook Grey and the brothers Norton.
The great scorched plain, over which they had travelled with high
hopes, had proved their grave. During the second night of the retreat,
Grey's mind had become unhinged, and he had unconsciously wandered away
from his companions, to meet his dread death on the tractless waste.
The following day Joe and Tom Norton went off in the same way.

A curious fraternal feeling kept them together, even in death; for, six
months after, Anderson, of Mulwa, hearing from the blacks that three
skeletons lay on the plains, made a search. He had no difficulty in
identifying two of the hideous heaps of bones lying within a few yards
of each other as the brothers Norton. Papers and personal articles
found in the vicinity fully corroborated the identification.

Less than two miles away the body of Grey was found; and the kindly
manager, in the presence of the station hands, gathered up the relics
and laid the three skeletons side by side in one grave.

It was two years later before Trenoweth heard of the end fate of his
former comrades.

* * * * * *

As Trenoweth went slowly down the sides of the volcanic hill, with the
darkness fast gathering round him, something caught his eyes in the
direction of the far-off range.

It was either the rising moon or a fire.

It was several miles distant, he could easily tell, but it was a small
stretch, considering what he had lately been accustomed to. As he
got near the foot of the hill the light disappeared, and he rightly
reasoned that some elevation intervened between it and him. As he got
into the hollow the ground became rugged, and, as the moon had not yet
risen, he decided to wait for better light.

This necessitated an hour's delay; but, though he chafed under it,
he knew it was safest to do so. It struck him that if he met with an
accident such as breaking his leg he would be in an awful plight.

It is said that there is nothing so bad but it can be worse, and
Trenoweth reflected that, unfortunate though his lot was, it might be
much worse.

As the moon rose he saw by the shadows it cast that he was wise not to
go on in the dark. Huge jagged pieces of lava and scoria lay around and
in some places there were abrupt plateaus of volcanic debris with a
precipitous fall of six or seven feet.

This escape impressed upon him the necessity of caution, for the
district he was entering was evidently a rough one.

As the moon got higher he was able to make better progress, and for
several hours he kept on in as straight a line as he could make.

He was now beginning to feel the effects of the bad water he had drunk,
and, as the night advanced, he felt so fatigued that he decided to
rest. He was anxious not to go too far, through fear that he might
overshoot the fire he had seen.

Sleep again came to his relief, though when he awoke, with the sun
beating its fervid beams upon him, he did not feel much refreshed.

About a mile ahead was a thinly wooded eminence, and after trying to
eat another of the tongues, which, however, nauseated him, he moved on.

He soon began to see that his strength was gradually failing him, but
he had little difficulty in reaching the summit of the hill. He fully
expected that from this point of vantage he would be able to make the
important discovery that he was within reach of human help, but blank
disappointment met him.

Several miles in front rose a peculiarly rugged mass of ranges, which
towered far upward. They were broken into huge clefts and pinnacles,
and apparently barred the way in the direction he wished to go.

Scanning the immediate horizon below him, he saw that it was a solitary
waste.

The deep bed of a dried-up watercourse lay between him and the high
range, but not the remotest vestige of human presence could he detect.

For half an hour he strained his eyes in the hope of meeting a breath
of smoke rising from the fire which he felt certain he had seen on the
previous night--but in vain.

There was sufficient shade at hand to partially shelter him from the
heat; and dragging himself to it, he threw himself on the ground in an
agony of despair.

He must have slept again, for when he recovered himself the sun was far
down on his western course. He felt terribly thirsty and he eagerly
drained the remainder of the water he had brought with him.

This only aggravated his sufferings, and the sight of the watercourse
below filled him with the hope that he might obtain enough to quench
his thirst.

Going down to it, he walked along the bed for nearly two miles, when he
came to a deep depression, shut in by high cliffs. In the lowest place
the earth seemed moist and he hastily scratched a hole in it with a
stick.

To his infinite joy, when little more then a foot down, a tiny stream
of water began to trickle in through a sand stratum.

He tasted it and found it was not salt, though rather brackish. He held
the tin under it and took deep draughts, and then, for fear it should
disappear, like fairy gold, he filled the tin and put it aside.

His life had again been prolonged--but for how long?

He decided not to leave his new-found treasure until next day, and as
he looked lovingly at the tiny pool of water, a reflection crossed his
mind which caused him to laugh a low, bitter laugh.

He had come out to seek for wealth, and here he was hoarding up a pint
of dirty water as if it were the greatest and only treasure on earth.

In very truth, it was so just then.

He got up impatiently at the thought and walked slowly down the ravine,
to see what lay behind the great cliffs which stretched for a few
hundred yards and then ended abruptly. He must have gone for a quarter
of a mile in a preoccupied fashion when he decided to turn back to the
water.

He had got beyond the high walls and found that the bed of the creek
ran through a small plain quite devoid of timber.

The prospect was not encouraging, and as he was going back, something
caught his eye on the left bank of the creek which caused him to start.

It was like the flutter of a garment disturbed by the slight breeze
which had risen.

With mingled feelings of fear and expectation, he went towards the
spot, and each step convinced him he was about to make a discovery.

As he neared the place he began to realise what he had half suspected.
He could see the form of a man stretched out on the exposed bank. In
such a place, it could not be that of a sleeper.

The truth was soon apparent--the object was that of a dead body--dead,
evidently, for a long time, though the sun had partly mummified the
corpse, lying as it was, on a bare, exposed rock.

With something of awe Trenoweth drew near.

When the Great Reaper places his seal on humanity, there is something
impressive in the sight, even to those not deprived of companionship.
To the solitary prospector--alone in an unknown wilderness, and with
Death haunting his footsteps--there was something indescribably
dreadful in being thus brought suddenly face to face with death.

It seemed to him an omen of his own impending fate, yet he could not
resist the fascination before him.

The dead man had evidently been a European and a bushman, judging by
what remained of his dress.

It did not look, either, as though he had died of thirst; and, in fact,
with water so close, that was not a probable solution of how he met his
fate.

There are many ways of making the journey to the grave, Trenoweth
thought, even in such a place as he then was.

As the young man took in the surroundings, he noticed that, clenched in
the dead man's hand, was a large piece of rock.

Looking narrowly at it, he was amazed to see that it was, in reality, a
magnificent specimen of silver ore--one of the finest he had ever seen.

Here, then, was a partial solution of the mystery.

Like himself, the still form had been attracted to the inhospitable
place in the search for wealth, and he had found, not fortune, but
death.

If he--the living--only knew where that piece of ore came from his
quest would be at an end, perhaps.

After all, might there not be a special providence working in his favor
to lead on to fortune?

"I don't care to rob the dead," Edward muttered, to himself, "but in
this case I am surely not doing any harm."

With an effort at self-control, he knelt down and seized the ore. With
a cracking sound the dead fingers released their hold and yielded up
the rich specimen almost as Trenoweth touched it.

As if smitten with dread, the kneeling man rose to his feet and, with a
last look at the body, hastily retraced his steps to where he had found
the water.

Taking another long drink, he filled the tin; and, ascending the hill,
walked away rapidly in the direction of the high ranges.

He kept on his journey all that night, only stopping once to appease
his appetite; and when morning dawned he saw that he was in the
vicinity of the rugged hills.

He had a queer sort of feeling that all was not right with him. Either
the sun or his privations had affected his brain to some extent, he was
certain, though the thought occurred to him in a dreamy kind of a way.

He did not pause when the sun rose, but kept steadily on towards the
foot of the mountains. Perhaps they were the last barrier between
himself and civilization, and if so he would soon ascertain.

At noon he was sinking with exhaustion, but a little water was still
left, and this he swallowed and also ate a little food.

The sight of the rugged peaks in front inspired him with a false
strength, and he began to climb one of the most forbidding of the
pinnacles.

About half way up he sat down on a ledge to rest, but he had scarcely
done so when he sprang to his feet in alarm.

The ore he had taken from the dead man's hand seemed to mock him, for
all around he could see argentiferous stone. He had been carrying the
piece in his hand, and he looked at it as if it had been a basilisk.

Then his eyes wandered to the rocks at his feet, and in a hundred
directions a repetitions of the ore he held leaped up before his
astonished vision.

The apparition was too much for him.

Worn out with hunger, thirst, fatigue and the awful nervous depression
caused by his solitary and desperate position, he sank down upon the
hard rock in a deep swoon.




CHAPTER XXI.--A TRIBAL CHARGE.

For nearly an hour Trenoweth remained unconscious; and when he did
begin to get better it was only a partial recovery. It seemed to him
that he must have been dreaming, for he felt certain that Grey was
standing over him and speaking.

Then it would be the faces of the brothers Norton he recognised and,
of course, he knew what they were saying to him. They wanted him to
pack up and make another start, so that Mulwa station could be reached
before all the water gave out.

Water! Ah! Water! He could feel the thirst just then; and yet there
was plenty of water--pure, limpid streams flowed around--but, like
Tantalus, he could not quench his thirst.

In another moment the streams of crystal water would be transformed
into solid masses of silver ore, and he would feel that at last fortune
had smiled upon him, even as he slept.

The form of Inez Jasper rose before him and he was just stepping
forward to playfully greet her when a hideous spectre came between them
and beckoned him back. He shrank away in terror, for the spectre took
the form of the dead whom he robbed of the ore.

Quick as imagination changes her mental panorama, the slide of memory
would shift and new pictures unfold themselves.

He was standing on Cape Barren Island and Nelly Ryan was laughing
merrily at him. A moment later he was looking with horror at old
Burgess being engulphed in the marine gorge; and so the mnemonic
kaleidoscope went on.

At last he felt certain that Grey was standing over him, but as he
looked the face appeared to be of shining blackness.

Yes, it was a black face that was looking down.

Struggling to a sitting posture, his mental vision cleared somewhat,
and he saw a hideously ugly aboriginal leaning on a spear a few
feet away. For a moment a fear came over Trenoweth, but it speedily
vanished, and he laughed quietly to himself at his strange position.
Evidently he was not in his right mind altogether.

The blackfellow spoke some unintelligible words to the sitting man, who
only stared back. Then the native turned and pointed into the valley,
and, making a step forward, motioned to Trenoweth to follow him. The
latter struggled to his feet and, docile as a child, did as he was
bidden.

Here was human companionship, at any rate; and perhaps it was that
wondrous sympathy, a touch of which makes the whole world kin, that
told the forlorn Cornishman that he had met a sable brother in the
companion he was now following.

As he walked away from the spot on which he had sunk unconscious,
Trenoweth did not dream that he was leaving the greatest silver deposit
the world had ever seen.

Yes, strange irony of fate, he had all unconsciously hit upon the
famous Broken Hill lode for the first time. His overwrought mind had
given way under the strain, for the face of the dead man, lying on the
bank of the creek was ever before him.

When his eyes rested on the mass of silver ore he thought it must be an
hallucination and not reality.

Had his mind been a little stronger he'd have found his fortune and
started Broken Hill ten years before the mineral treasures of that
region were made generally known to the world.

The lofty hills which had caught Trenoweth's eyes from the volcanic
peak were, in fact, the Stanley or, as they are now known, Barrier
Ranges.

The desolate man did not dream that in a few short years that rugged
wilderness would be overrun with tens of thousands of eager men and
that the hum of industry would resound night and day amongst the hills.
Yet so it was.

The treasures of Broken Hill had been within the grasp of Edward
Trenoweth, but he had failed to retain them.

The tall aboriginal led the way cautiously down the rugged sides of the
mount, and Edward followed without a word.

As they came near the bottom the guide branched to the left and,
turning a huge overhanging rock, Trenoweth found himself almost in the
centre of a camp containing as near as he could guess ten Aboriginals.
There were two gins, five children and three males.

They manifested little surprise at seeing the white, or, at least, if
they did Trenoweth was not in a state to notice it. His kindly guide
led him to the centre of the camp and motioned him to sit on a log
lying there.

A terrible thirst was eating up the young man, and, as if an
inspiration had seized him, he put his hand to his mouth and pointed to
his throat.

The tall black apparently understood the sign, for going to where there
was a small cavern in an adjacent rock, he took out what appeared to
be a huge hollow knot of wood and brought it to Edward. It was full of
fairly good water, and the thirsty man seized it with avidity, half
draining its contents.

The owners made not demur, and when it was handed back the sable host
returned with some food on a white piece of bark, which the recipient
thought must be fish, it tasted so delicious; and the hungry man
devoured it eagerly.

It is said that what the eye don't see the heart don't grieve about,
and Trenoweth would probably not have relished his meal so much had he
known that his dish consisted of roasted snake.

He still had a couple of tins of tongues left, and opening one of them
he invited his host to partake of them.

These nutritious preserved tongues had palled on the young man's
appetite, but the blacks did not seem much surprised at the articles of
food.

They were a little taken aback at the way in which they were stored in
the tin, but the flavor appeared to be quite familiar to them.

It was certainly not the first time those in camp had tasted such
delicacies, for they were a portion of the Barcoo tribe, and sheep
stations extended right back to that remote continental river.

After his draught of good water Trenoweth began to collect his
scattered senses. He could see that he had fallen in with friendly
blacks, and he felt that a great danger had passed away from him.

Perhaps his dusky friends would be able to bring him back to
civilization. And even if they could not, he would be to some extent
secure from hunger and thirst. Whether he could live as the aboriginals
did he scarcely cared to consider; but, at any rate, there was
something so infinitely comforting in the reflection that he was not
now a solitary wanderer, that he was inclined to take a roseate view of
his position.

As evening approached--though the heat was intense--the blacks made a
fire and, as it blazed up, Trenoweth concluded that it was probably
the camp fire of this sable band of wanderers which he had seen the
previous night.

In spite of the jabbering that was kept up the wearied prospector fell
asleep soon after nightfall, and slumbered peacefully until awakened by
someone shaking him.

He sat up and saw that it was the leader of the blacks, who was
offering him a drink. When he finished it he saw that the camp--such as
it was--had been struck, and everything was in readiness for a move.

The gins had the smallest piccaninnies strapped to their backs, as well
as the baggage of the camp. They acted, in fact, as beasts of burden,
while their masters stepped on unimpeded by anything more than spear,
nulla, or boomerang.

Trenoweth did not like this way of doing things, and, going to the
nearest female, he made signs that he wished to relieve her of a
portion of her load.

Her indignant looks convinced him that he had made a mistake, and he
recollected that it was only a custom of the country and he should be
careful how he interfered.

During the morning he tried to elicit from his friend of the previous
day where they were going, but all he could get from him was the
solitary word--or rather grunt--"Barcoo," as he pointed in a southerly
direction.

The white man concluded from this that the tribe were going to some
place called Barcoo, which might, indeed, be a station; and, as his
only course was to accompany them, he resigned himself to whatever
might eventuate.

In some mysterious way the blacks seemed to get water and food, and
they were generous enough to their white friend.

One thing that particularly astonished Trenoweth was the method
they had of cleansing themselves. Washing in water--in such an arid
region--was out of the question, but for this they had a substitute,
which might be called an ash bath.

Wherever a fire had been and left fine ashes in any quantity, they
went to the place and rolled in the debris, throwing the ashes over
themselves something like a hen does. Trenoweth tried this novel form
of cleansing himself, and found it not only effective to a certain
degree, but also refreshing.

The third night out, as Trenoweth lay musing, he felt something in one
of his pockets and, taking it out saw that it was a piece of silver ore
of remarkable richness.

His face became at once troubled as he tried to recollect where he had
obtained it, and at last his memory cleared and revealed to him the
tragic scene on the banks of the dried creek.

Then he wrestled with himself, as if to still further penetrate the
recesses of his mind, but he could get nothing definite or tangible to
go on. It rose like a phantom before him that he had found something
else than the small piece of ore, but as he sought to grasp the shadow
it eluded his hand.

For half the night he kept awake, vainly trying to lift the dark veil
which had fallen across his memory, but the struggle was futile; and,
when at last he fell into a troubled sleep, it was to dream only of a
dry watercourse and a rigid form lying on its bank.

The marches made by the blacks were not such as to fatigue a European,
and Trenoweth had little difficulty in keeping up with them. For at
least a fortnight--the young man had lost accurate time and date--the
party kept steadily on in almost a straight line, and at last they came
abruptly on to what at first sight resembled a Dutch dyke, but which
was found to be the bed of a large river.

The silt which for generations had been carried across the sluggish
plain through which the river ran had deposited on either side of the
current and formed natural banks, which in some places were fully ten
feet above the level of the plain.

About a mile from either side the country slowly rose in a sort of low
plateau, and formed a large basin.

As they stood on the banks of the watercourse, in which here and there
were to be observed stagnant waterholes, the aboriginal pointed along
it and said, "Barcoo?"




CHAPTER XXII.--RELEASED.

This, then, was the destination to which the party had been making,
Trenoweth thought: and he felt grateful to think the inland journey had
ceased.

The aspect of the stagnant river was uninviting enough, but not more so
than some of the localities he had recently passed through.

The taciturn aboriginals, after making an inspection of the waterholes,
returned to the southern elevation a mile away, and began to make
preparations for a more permanent camp than usual.

Mia-Mias of bark and a couple of "lean toos" were put up with little
trouble, and it struck Trenoweth that the blacks were going into winter
quarters.

This was apparently the case, for four months passed away (they seemed
to Edward twice as many years) and the camp still remained. During that
period only two strange aboriginals made their appearance, and they did
not stay long.

About the month of September or October, as nearly as the lost man
could calculate, it commenced to rain with tropical violence.

By dint of care and attention Trenoweth had made his mia-mia as
comfortable as such a structure could be; but his lot was miserable
enough when the rain came.

For two days and nights it rained with terrible violence, and Edward
was astonished that the surrounding country was not entirely flooded.
It seemed, however, to drink up the moisture as quickly as it fell,
and, outside of the narrow watercourse of the Barcoo, little water was
to be seen.

On the third day the rain had almost ceased, but a couple of hours
before daylight the white waif was awakened by a most unusual noise in
the camp.

Going outside, he found that a more than ordinary fire had been made;
and it was apparent that something was expected by the blacks.

The tall fellow, whom Edward knew by the name of Kallakoo, pointed
north-eastwards along the course of the river, and denoted that as the
direction from which the excitement was to come.

As daylight broke gloomily over the scene, the young man saw that the
depression between the edge of the plateau and the river was still in
the same condition as the night previous.

It seemed as if the monotony of his life was never to change, and for a
time he gave himself up to the gloomiest of thoughts. It was eating out
his soul to think that he should be imprisoned in the interior of the
continent, and perhaps lost forever to those whose interests he desired
serve.

He was startled from his moody thoughts by the dull boom of a
thunderous sound, which came floating heavily on the morning air. The
blacks had heard it some time before, and were in a state of great and
unusual excitement.

As he listened the strange noise grew momentarily louder, and in
response to his questioning look, Kallakoo only pointed to the river.
For several minutes Trenoweth could not comprehend, but at last it
flashed across his mind that it must be one of those extraordinary
floods peculiar to the "continental" rivers which was rushing down.

He was soon confirmed in his surmise, for as he looked in the direction
of the ever-increasing noise he could see, far away, a mighty tumbling
yellow wall.

It was one of the strangest sights he had ever looked upon. The
enormous yellow wave came rolling on with considerable speed, and
carrying everything before it. In all directions, dark objects could be
seen on the bosom of the mighty flood, which extended right across from
plateau to plateau, and quite covered the raised banks of the ordinary
watercourse.

Cattle, sheep, kangaroos, and other smaller animals were mixed up with
trees, logs, branches, and all sorts of debris, on some of which snakes
tried vainly to cling.

As the rolling torrent came near it presented a terrific spectacle, and
Trenoweth felt alarm as to whether it would not sweep away the camp.
There was no need for this, however, as it did not rise within half a
dozen feet of where the experienced blacks had erected their mia-mias.

As it came abreast of the camp it made a noise like thunder--the very
earth seemed to shake. It presented a solid wall of water, fully
fifteen feet high, and nearly two miles in width.

As Edward gazed on the moving sea, he was pleasantly surprised to
notice how little loss had been occasioned by the great pluvial wave.

Although there were a number of carcases of cattle, sheep and a few
horses in the tide, it was nothing like what might have been expected.

The pastoralists had, of course, provided against such a contingency,
by removing their stock from the track of the devastating wave, which
was annually expected, under certain conditions.

When the first rush of the watery vanguard was over, the blacks amused
themselves by rushing into the still seething flood and pulling out
anything which might be of use.

Amongst the spoil was the carcase of a sheep, and no time was lost in
cooking a portion of this. This was acceptable to Trenoweth, for, in
truth, the fare of the blacks was not to his liking.

During the whole of the day the flood rolled by, and formed an
agreeable change from the dead monotony which had characterised
existence for several months past.

It was now apparent to the white man why the aboriginals had come to
the Barcoo. It was to get an easy food supply and indulge in their
annual recreation. The men acted as light-hearted as boys during the
day, and were scarcely out of the flood for an hour during the whole
time.

About a dozen drowned sheep were secured and near dark the carcase of a
bullock was seen coming slowly down the swollen stream. It had become
more sluggish since its first impetuous rush, and the blacks essayed
the task of landing the huge body of the recently defunct bullock.

It was a long time since Trenoweth had tasted beef, and he could not
resist the temptation of lending a hand to his black friends. With this
object he plunged into the stream.

Near the shore the current was light, but, as he neared the spot where
the bullock was drifting he found it required all his strength to
resist its force.

The aboriginals had already reached the carcase, and were making great,
but partly ineffectual, efforts to land it.

When Trenoweth reached it he got on the upper side and, as the blacks
inch by inch piloted it out of the current towards the land, he could
not but confess to himself that he was more encumbrance than assistance.

After strenuous efforts, the beast was got ashore a couple of hundred
yards below the camp, and it was soon skinned.

Trenoweth noticed that the blacks skinned all the animals and put the
skins carefully away. He thought at first that this was done to provide
mats, but he afterwards found such was not the case.

He fared sumptuously that night off roast beef, and was in a much more
cheerful state of mind than usual.

He did not know, as he stood on the bank of the vast stream, with the
moonlight flickering on its muddy waters, that the huge volume was
being carried into that great lake on the side of which the sufferings
and misfortunes of himself and his mates had started. Yet it was so,
for the stream was really Cooper's Creek, called further east the
Barcoo.

It did strike the young man, probably enough, that Australia was a land
of acute extremes. A few weeks ago he was perishing with thirst, yet
here was sufficient fresh water going to waste to supply the continent,
if conserved.

He turned into his rough bunk that night more fatigued than usual, and
the sun was high in the heavens when he awoke next morning.

On going out, he saw that the flood had considerably subsided, but it
still covered a vast area.

The blacks had been busy and had brought to shore a number of sheep and
a few kangaroo.

He could see in places, both up and down the river, that the bodies of
many cattle were stranded, but the blacks did not touch them. They had
as much meat as would last them a long time, and they were too lazy to
skin the animals for the mere sake of their hides.

In the course of four days the flood waters had almost run off, and
Edward thought that when the carcases of the drowned animals putrefied
the camp would not be a pleasant location.

He conveyed this idea to his good friend, Kallakoo, by signs that could
not be misunderstood, but the latter replied by simply pointing up the
course of the stream for the third time.

"Surely there is not another flood coming down to wash away the
stranded carcases," he thought. It was such a strange country that he
would not be surprised even if such an event took place; but the next
visitation was destined to have more important consequences for him
than merely bringing down a welcome supply of beef and mutton.

He noticed with some surprise that the aboriginals were now actively
engaged in taking the hides off the cattle and spreading them out to
get the mud off.

On the sixth night after the flood the barking of the dogs in the camp
so disturbed him that he could not sleep; and, as the night was a
beautiful one, he got up and went for a walk. The full moon rendered
objects almost as visible as if the sun were above the horizon; and
Trenoweth wandered on, a prey to his miserable thoughts.

The melancholy fit was on him again, and no wonder, when his isolated
position is considered. An intense longing had seized him to get back
to civilization.

He thought of Inez and his mother as seldom as he could--or, at least,
tried to stifle memory in that respect, for the reflection almost drove
him mad. That melancholy night he could not prevent his memory going
back to Cornwall, and, as he thought, a light seemed to break in upon
him.

Why not ask the blacks, who were so kind to him, what he so ardently
desired? he asked himself. Kallakoo never yet refused him a request,
and next morning he would put his wish before him.

"We cannot be far from settlement, surely. The white man is not far
away from where carcases come from," he said to himself, looking at
the wide waterway of the Barcoo. "If I followed the river up it should
bring me out of this wilderness. If Kallakoo won't help me I will make
the trial myself."

He sat down on an old stump to think the matter out, and while he
was silently musing he jumped to his feet as if electrified, for he
could have sworn that he heard the voice of Europeans speaking his own
language strike faintly upon his ears.

He listened, rigid as a statue, and drops of perspiration stood on his
forehead with the intensity of his suppressed excitement.

Alas! it must have been the voices of demons mocking him, or perhaps
his overwrought imagination was playing him false, for he heard the
sounds no more.

With leaden footsteps he retraced his way to the camp, and lay in
broken slumbers until daybreak.

After a slight breakfast, he sought Kallakoo, and, with all the
eloquence that deep sincerity could command, both in voice and gesture,
besought him to lead the way back to civilization.

Kallakoo seemed to understand, but before Trenoweth had finished, some
of the younger blacks, who were out a little distance on the place
lately flooded, began to shout lustily and point up stream.

Without uttering a word the tall aboriginal took Edward by the arm and
led him out to where the youngsters were. Far up the watercourse, as
Trenoweth followed the pointed finger, he could see figures as of men
moving slowly.

"Who can they be? Ah! great God! perhaps they are more blacks,"
Trenoweth hissed in his excitement.

Kallakoo pointed to the young man and then to the hides on the bank,
and then went through the pantomime action of removing them.

Gradually the truth dawned on the white waif. These must be station
hands coming down the river to secure what hides they could from the
drowsed beasts. The blacks had gone to the trouble of skinning them for
that purpose.

The thought made him tremble, and his hearing the voices the night
previous further convinced him that at last he was about to be released
from the wretched life he had led so long.

For an hour he stood and watched the approaching figures, until he was
satisfied they were white men.

He soon observed that they had horses and drays--or, rather, spring
carts--with them; and when they got near the camp and found others had
been at work they came rapidly down.

Trenoweth stood beside Kallakoo as they came up.

In front of the carts was a horseman--a big, burly fellow, with long
brown beard, clad in Crimean shirt, tights and Wellington boots.

He almost drew rein as he noticed the uncouth form of Trenoweth
standing beside the aboriginal; but his surprise was only momentary,
as, putting spurs to his horse, he dashed up and said:

"Mate, what the devil brings you into this God-forsaken quarter? Where
did you find him, Kallakoo?" he concluded, looking at the latter.

The black seemed to understand the purport of the question, for he
pointed south and said, "Barrier."

During this time Trenoweth stood dumb, but as the horseman leant over
and seized his hand and shook it warmly, he said, in a hoarse voice:

"Saved at last! Thank God for His mercy!"

"Saved? I should think you will be all right now, though it is a long
way to civilization. But you'll be all right with us, mate, I warrant
you," the leader of the station party said, with a hearty laugh, that
was almost contagious.

By this time the others had arrived and they stood around looking with
wondering eyes at the strange being who, with bare feet, a shirt made
half of kangaroo skins and half of rags, a trousers of the same mixed
material, but a luxuriant growth of well matted hair and beard, looked
upon his white friends with dumb pleasure.




CHAPTER XXIII.--ONCE MORE.

In truth Edward Trenoweth did not recognise that his personal
appearance seemed "outre," until the station hands stood around him.

The general reader will know that dudish dress is not held in high
estimation by station hands in the interior, but the new arrivals were
perfect Bond Street mashers compared with Trenoweth. Everything in the
world is really a matter of comparison, and the lost Cornishman had
only his black friends by which to compare the relative merits of their
personal adornment. Beside these he was certainly entitled to regard
himself with a considerable amount of complaisance, but he now saw his
self-esteem was rather out of place.

In spite of the almost solemn position in which he was then, a
momentary thought passed through his mind as to what Nelly Ryan would
have said had she seen him in this attire. And yet it had served him
well and, at least, had fulfilled its purpose.

"I see you have not been idle, Kallakoo," the horseman said, as his
eyes fell upon the hides.

The words roused Edward from his reverie and he said:

"I forgot to tell you. My name is Edward Trenoweth. I left Adelaide a
long time ago--yes it must be a long time ago--in company with three
others, to go prospecting in the north, but we lost our horses and then
thirst fell upon us. I don't remember very much until my kind friend,
Kallakoo, found me," and he looked gratefully at the black.

"Whew! you must have had a time of it to get this far. When did you
leave Adelaide?" queried the leader.

"It was somewhere about Christmas time, I know."

"Well, we'll have another Christmas here in about a month, so that
you must have been out nearly a year. I met Kallakoo here last flood
time, and you were not with him then. He tells me he found you at the
Barrier. That is a long way from here, to the south. It is fortunate
that you met so good a fellow as Kallakoo. He was chiefly instrumental
in saving poor King's life, after Burke died, ten years ago. By the
way, my name is Long--Jack Long."

The burly man spoke this with great volubility, and with an expression
of sympathy on his face for the awful sufferings through which he knew
the young man must have passed.

"I might add," Long went on, "that we come from Poole Station, which
is about one hundred and fifty miles along there"--pointing due east.
"Once there, you can spend the Christmas with us, and we can pass you
on to Wentworth. There are good stages all the way, so that you need
not fear being lost. I know," he added, apologetically, "that when a
fellow's once been like you have been lately, it makes him feel a bit
skeary."

"I think I shall recover myself in such company as yours, Mr. Long,"
Trenoweth said, with a smile.

"I hope so; and now let us to work, boys. I'll look after our friends,
here," Long called out.

At this the men, assisted by all the blacks save Kallakoo, at once made
for the hides and began to load them.

Meanwhile, Long had gone to the provision cart and taken out a huge
damper, a large piece of which he handed to Trenoweth and another to
the black.

"I'll make you a pannikin of tea," Long said to Edward, who was
greedily devouring the damper.

He had not tasted bread for eight months and the sodden damper was to
him an inconceivable luxury.

Within five minutes he held a pint of hot tea in his hands; and, as he
sipped the delicious nectar, he felt that, after all, life was worth
living.

The beverage he drank was certainly only "ration"--better known as
"post-and-rail"--tea. It was milkless, and the sugar was almost the
color and consistency of treacle; but it was tea, anyhow, and a prized
luxury to the man who for so long had to put up with bad water.

Plenty of meat was cooked over the fire to go round; and, when the
loading was completed, everyone--black and white, old and young--sat
down to what, in Edward's opinion, was the most cheerful meal he ever
had.

Long had decided not to go further down the river in search of hides
now that they had discovered a "wild white man." The carts were already
well filled, and, as no one was in a desperate hurry, it was agreed to
make a return start on the following morning.

Trenoweth was eager to hear news of the great world, and it took half
the night for his discoverers to satisfy him in that respect.

At last Long abruptly said:

"What could have become of your mates, Grey and the two Nortons?"

The question almost startled Edward.

"I should think--at least, I hope--that they must have got back to
Mulwa station. We became separated somehow, and I have no idea in
what direction they went. Grey, I believe, had some knowledge of the
districts, and the brothers, being together, would have a better chance
than a solitary wanderer. I must have gone in the wrong direction to
have reached the spot I did," Edward concluded.

"Well, let us hope so. I wouldn't like to bet they got back to the
station, for they must have been delirious to have left you as they
did. That is a sure sign the mind is gone. Are you sure it was not you
who went from them?" Long asked.

"I can remember Grey left the three of us, and I am sure Joe and Tom
Norton left me under the shade of the tent the following day. Yes," the
young man added, thoughtfully, "I recollect leaving the tent behind me,
and there was no one in or around it. I called out their names but got
no answer."

"Oh, then, it's touch and go with them," was the laconic reply.

In the morning the preparations for departure did not take long; and,
as the time drew near, Trenoweth almost felt reluctant to leave the
blacks who had saved his life. Thirty-six hours previously he had been
calling upon high heaven to rescue him from his miserable life, and now
he felt a certain sort of regret at his wish having been granted. Such
is the mutability of the human heart.

Before leaving Long made plentiful distribution of tobacco and pipes to
the blacks.

That was the only thing they seemed to care for, as Kallakoo was a
favorite at Poole station, and could have had anything in reason for
the asking.

Before getting into the cart in which he was to ride, Trenoweth walked
round and bade good-bye to each of the blacks, old and young.

To Kallakoo, in particular, he offered his kindest wishes in a manner
the black could not misunderstand. Never amongst white people had more
real kindness been shown him then by the untutored savages he was
leaving. Black or white skin made little difference to him, provided
the heart was clean; and this remnant of a once numerous tribe had
given no cause to be classed amongst brutal savages.

Kallakoo and his few followers stood and watched the departure of the
men until a bend in the road hid the party from their view.

Edward turned round from taking a last look at his dusky friends with a
suppressed sigh.

"You almost seem sorry to leave the camp, old man," Long said,
banteringly.

"It is not exactly that, but when a man has saved your life and hunted
food for you for six months, it is impossible not to feel regret at
leaving him in such a wilderness as that," Trenoweth replied, pointing
back towards the camp.

"Yes, you are right, in one way. But don't let those thoughts grieve
you. If you were the greatest enemy of Kallakoo and wished to do
him the worst injury, the way to do it would be to bring him out of
yonder wilderness and take him to Melbourne. His natural home is the
wilderness," Long replied.

The truth of this was so apparent that the young Cornishman recognised
it at once and ceased to grieve over his black friend.

Each mile that brought him nearer to Poole station made him feel more
anxious to get back to settlement. He did not present such an uncouth
appearance in the cart as he did when first met. A sort of general levy
was made upon the station hands, and enough clothes gathered to make
him comfortable until the homestead was reached.

This journey alone would occupy four days. This period was but a
fleeting minute to Trenoweth in comparison with those of his solitary
wanderings from Lake Eyrie. In good companionship the long journey was
scarcely felt, and when the station was reached he had almost recovered
his former cheerful demeanor.

At Poole he received a most hospitable welcome.

It was within a week of Christmas time, and as no one would think of
leaving until after that festive season, he was glad enough to stay
with his friends.

With the aid of a razor and a pair of scissors his unkempt hair and
ragged beard were brought into something like subjection, and there was
also an ample wardrobe at the station to provide him with an outfit.

He had some of the money left with which he started from Farina; but,
after one or two attempts, he saw the futility of offering payment for
the articles given to him.

Christmas day was kept in that far-off region as merrily as in the old
land.

The thermometer, it is true, stubbornly refused to drop below one
hundred degrees in the shade, but all present were used to that sultry
temperature.

Trenoweth had undergone such a trial that he was perfectly weatherproof.

On the 3rd of January, 1872, a team left Poole for the Darling river,
and it conveyed Trenoweth from his friends. They accompanied him on
horseback for several miles, and gave him a most enthusiastic send-off.

A three-days' journey brought them to the river, where a barge was
met bringing up stores, and on this Edward voyaged down to Wentworth.
Crossing over to Swan Hill, he took coach to Inglewood; and it occurred
to him that he would visit the address which the Nortons had given him
as the residence of their parents. He found it after some difficulty,
but the house was unoccupied and he could get no information as to
where the old couple had migrated to from anyone around.

This seemed a favorable omen, for probably the sons had returned safely
and taken their parents away with them.

The railway to Sandhurst was not then opened, and next morning he had
to take the coach again over the intervening thirty miles.

He felt somewhat fatigued with the long and dusty journey, and remained
in Sandhurst until the first train for Melbourne next morning.

It was eleven o'clock when he reached the Victorian metropolis, and he
decided to go straight to the office of his friend, John Barr.

He was longing to see him; not only for the deep friendship he felt
towards him, but also because he would probably have an accumulation of
letters from St. Columb's for him.

Rapidly he covered the distance between the railway station and Barr's
place of business, in Collins Street. He ascended the stairs leading to
the first floor two at a time, and in half a minute was standing before
the open door of his friend's office. Barr was sitting inside with his
head bent, deeply cogitating over some correspondence.

"A happy new year to you, my dear friend!" Trenoweth cried, in the
fullness of his heart at the sight of Barr.

If a pint of nitroglycerine had exploded at Barr's feet he could not
have been more astonished, though he might have been more seriously
hurt. He sat up rigid in his chair and his face became livid.

"Why--why, Trenoweth, I thought--at least, how did you get here?" he
gasped.

"By coach and rail and a little boating, too. But what is the matter?"
he went on, as he noticed the agitation Barr was in. At the same moment
he saw a black band on his friend's arm, and he concluded a domestic
bereavement had fallen upon him. "Ah, I see, I am very sorry indeed for
your trouble, Barr."

"My trouble!" rejoined the latter. "My trouble has only been about you.
It has been officially reported that you were dead, and I concluded it
was a fact."

"What an ass I am. I might have known that," Trenoweth replied, in a
tone of vexation. "Of course I have been dead to the world for nearly a
year, but I have come through it safely, as you see."

Barr stood up, and, seizing his friend's hand, wrung it as though he
would shake it off.




CHAPTER XXIV.--SHATTERED HOPES.

Closing the door of the office, Barr put Edward into a seat and
insisted on hearing the whole story of his terrible wanderings. He
listened for more than an hour with breathless interest, and when he
had finished said:

"Then you don't know what became of your mates?"

"I have not been in a position to find out where I have been, but I
hope to do so now. In fact, I will make it my first duty to do so."

"I really do not think you will have far to search," replied Barr,
looking fixedly at him.

"Have you heard anything?" queried Edward, in a tone of alarm.

"Yes; it is public property now, as it has appeared in the press. I may
as well tell you that your former good comrades are supposed to have
perished on the plain which so nearly proved fatal to you."

"Ah!" gasped Trenoweth, "Jack Long told me so."

Barr opened a desk and took out a few newspaper slips, which he handed
to his friend. They were headed, "Terrible Deaths From Thirst," and
gave a circumstantial account of the finding of three skeletons, the
details of which are familiar to the reader, which had been fairly
identified as those of Grey and two brothers named Norton.

The accounts concluded with a few lines to the effect that although the
remains of the fourth member of the prospecting party, one Trenoweth,
had not been found, there was no doubt that he also had perished
miserably.

For a few minutes Trenoweth sat, overwhelmed with the news, though to
some extent it was not unexpected; then he suddenly said, with a white
face:--

"You have not sent my mother this news, have you?"

Barr lifted a half-finished letter from under a sheet of blotting
paper. It was the letter he had been so engrossed in when startled
by Edward's voice. As the latter glanced at it he saw that it was
addressed to his mother, and contained a full account of the tragic
death of her son.

"Another day and you would have been too late to stop that," Barr said,
in a husky voice.

"It would have killed her. Thank God I was in time."

"In one hour I can go home with you, if you care to wait. If not, you
know where the house is. I have several letters from home for you,"
Barr said.

"Oh, I can wait for an hour, I assure you. I have been well schooled in
waiting lately," smiled the young man.

Barr, however, did not put him to the ordeal of waiting even the hour,
for in half that time they were speeding in the Essendon train towards
the former's home.

"They think you are up aloft," whispered Barr, as they neared the
house; "I must go first and let them know the truth, or they will
perhaps object to my bringing a ghost home with me."

In a few minutes he came to the gate with Mrs. Barr at his side and
beckoned Trenoweth up. Mrs. Barr's greeting was a cordial one, for she
looked upon him as one really risen from the dead.

Before he was allowed to shut himself up with his letters, his host
insisted upon his having lunch, and, that over, he made hastily for his
room and opened his budget of letters. He took them according to the
dates on the envelopes, and thus he had a consecutive history of events
in St. Columb's Cove.

The letters from Inez were of an affectionate character, but the later
dated ones were mostly written by his mother.

The last one he had to open was very voluminous, and he found that it
was dated from St. Columb's Cove, on the 5th of September, 1871, and
from his mother. It was as follows:--


"My dearest Son,--

"It is only a sense--a very strict sense--of my maternal duty to you
which impels me to send you the information contained herein. Knowing
me as you do, you can well believe me when I say that I would rather be
in my grave than be thus forced to inflict the pain which I know this
will give you.

"Not to keep you in suspense, I may as well tell you at once that Inez
has proved unfaithful to you (oh, that I should live to have to say
it!)."


Trenoweth put down the letter at this juncture and stared vacantly at
the wall in front of him.

The news was so sudden that it fell upon him like a thunderbolt,

"Inez unfaithful!"

He had never even reckoned on the possibility of such an ending to his
love dream. The awakening was a rude one.

For twenty minutes he thus sat, and then, slowly lifting the fatal
letter, he began to read again.


"It is as well that you should know the whole story that it is my
painful task to tell to you. I begged Inez to do so, as it was her
duty, but she refused.

"In the beginning of June two strangers--tourists--made their
appearance at St. Columb's Cove. They were staying near Tintagel
and spending the summer along the Cornish coast. On the 4th of June
our friend Edwards drove them over here and, being visitors of some
distinction, he brought them to our house. On learning that they were
from Australia, I gave the heartiest welcome, for I thought I might
possibly learn something of my beloved son in that far-off land.

"Inez was at home, of course, and we entertained them for the greater
part of the day. They said they were what in Australia were called
'squatters' and both Inez and myself were so interested in their
descriptions of the region you are now in that we probably prevented
them seeing many of the points of interest in the neighborhood.

"To remedy this, I asked them to pay another visit, and arranged to get
Pengelly to act as guide for them.

"They readily consented to this, and three days subsequently Charles
Simpson and John White--for such were the names they gave--again
visited St. Columb.

"I did not notice that either of them paid more attention to Inez
than might be expected under the circumstances; and, as their general
bearing was most gentlemanly and respectful, I had no idea that
anything would happen from the visits.

"I might say, that on the first visit I told Charles Simpson of the
intense interest I felt in Australia through my only child being there.
I further said that Inez was your betrothed.

"I did this so that there could be no possible misunderstanding; but at
the time I had no idea that Inez was likely to prove fickle.

"On several other occasions the tourists paid visits to St. Columb;
but, as there are so many places of legendary interest to be seen, I
did not attribute the slightest importance to the visits.

"On several occasions, I now recollect, Inez was away from home for two
or three hours at a time; but, as she was in the habit of visiting the
villagers as you know, I could not be expected to connect her absence
with the Australian tourists. I afterwards learnt that, at least twice,
she went to meet Charles Simpson.

"At the end of two months I began to notice a change in the demeanor of
Inez. She seemed dissatisfied and irritable in an unusual degree, and
her absences were more numerous and more prolonged than before.

"I bore with it all until one day the truth was most unexpectedly
revealed to me by old Peggy Penhaven, who nursed you, and who has loved
you like a second mother.

"The good soul came to me as a sort of accredited messenger of the
villagers to let me know that all was not right--Inez Jasper was almost
daily in the company of one of the visitors who had lately driven over
to St. Columb.

"The jealous villagers had watched the meetings, which took place near
the Black Rock, on the road to Tintagel. It was beyond doubt that the
pair met as lovers, and the villagers, knowing that I must be ignorant
of the action taken by Inez, resolved that I should know.

"I can assure you, Edward, that at first I was incredulous, for I could
not bring myself to believe that the child I had reared could act so
treacherously.

"When the old nurse went away I sat down and pondered deeply over the
communication I had just received.

"The more I thought the more firmly was I convinced that it was my
duty, both for your sake and for hers, to speak to Inez on the subject.

"It was six o'clock when she returned, and as she passed me to go to
her room I thought she seemed somewhat agitated.

"When she returned I asked her in the kindest way where she had been.

"'I just went to see Mother Penhaven,' she answered.

"'Was she at home?' I asked.

"'Oh, yes,' replied Inez.

"This answer confirmed my worst fears, for I well knew that Inez had
told me a lie.

"I went to her, and, taking her hand in mine, said:

"'Do you remember, Inez, when Edward bade you his last good-bye? Do you
remember promising to be faithful to him and that only death would part
you?'

"'People, when they are young, promise many foolish things which never
come to anything,' she answered with a forced laugh.

"'People, young or old, should not break solemn vows without abundant
cause,' I said sharply.

"'And have I not abundant cause?' she broke out in a torrent of
passion. 'I have not heard from Edward for more than a year; and it
seems to me I will have to wait until I am grey-haired if I wait for
him to get rich and marry. But I am not going to wait. I am engaged to
Charles Simpson, and arrangements are already made for our marriage at
Tintagel to-morrow.'

"The suddenness of this revelation gave me a shock. I dropped her hands
and was about to turn silently away, when I remembered my duty to you.
Turning to her, I said:

"'Will you do your duty as far as you can and tell Edward what you have
done? It will spare me a trial.'

"'No!' she answered, passionately and decisively. 'I will tell him
nothing, nor hold communication with him. He treats me with neglect and
I will return it.'

"I said no more, for my heart was too full. I went to my room, and
when I came down in the morning I found a curt note on the table from
Inez, telling me that she had left St. Columb for ever, as she was to
be married that day and, with her husband, would immediately take her
departure to Australia.

"Thus without a kind farewell to myself or the villagers, she fled from
our midst. She came amongst from we knew not whence, and she has gone
from us we know not whither.

"My dear boy, I have now told you all, and I pray you may be strong and
not allow this most unfortunate event to blight your life. We are all
in God's hands, and He does everything for the best. You always have
the blessing of your affectionate mother, and I pray God you will soon
forget your false love and find a faithful heart to take her place.
When may I expect to see you? I am very lonely now."


The letter concluded here, and in his despair Trenoweth crushed it
convulsively in his hand.

He must have sat in the room for nearly three hours, when he was roused
by someone knocking at the door. Recollecting that he was a guest, he
tried to calm his agitation, and at once opened the door.

He was confronted by John Barr, who jokingly reminded him that time
was flying and suggested that he must have found his correspondence
interesting. In the dim light he did not notice the pallid face of his
guest, but as he stepped into the passage the change in his features
was apparent.

"What! Bad news? I am sorry for that."

Trenoweth took him by the arm and led him into the room, handing him
the letter as he did so.

Barr hastily glanced through it, and then, taking Trenoweth's hands in
his own, said:

"I don't want to be severe on you, but let me say that, instead of
being thus plunged in grief, you should thank God at having escaped
being linked for life to a woman such as this. She is one not only
insensible to true love but also to gratitude. Are you going to wreck
your life for one so unworthy of any sacrifice? I will say no more now,
but think tonight over what I have said. If you do not care to leave
your room I will send you something."

Trenoweth did not care to leave his room, and Barr left him to himself
to fight out his own salvation. Even as Jacob wrestled with the angels,
so also did Edward Trenoweth struggle with his passion that night; and,
ere morning dawned, he had obtained the victory.

The guardian angels of good sense and fortitude came to his rescue,
and he registered a vow that he would blot the image of Inez Jasper
entirely out of his mind for ever.




CHAPTER XXV.--BISCHOFF.

When Trenoweth appeared in the breakfast room next morning Mr. and Mrs.
Barr were surprised to find the young man in such good spirits.

As he shook hand with Barr, he whispered:

"I have taken your advice, my good friend."

"Good! Be firm!" replied Barr.

"You will want the day to yourself to answer your mother's letters
and give an account of your long silence," his host said to Edward as
he was leaving. "And mind," he added, turning back, "the mail goes
to-morrow."

Trenoweth was anxious to write to his mother and explain his long
silence, and he sent away an unusually long epistle, which it was feted
she would never see.

He touched lightly on the dangers he had gone through, so as not to
unduly alarm the good soul at home. He announced his intention of
returning to St. Columb's Cove within a few months.

His idea was that, if his mother did not like to leave the old home, he
would remain there also; but, if she would emigrate, he intended coming
back and taking up his permanent residence in Melbourne or some other
part of Australia.

The sunny southern land was beginning to charm him, in spite of the
trials and disasters he had experienced. The progressive character of
the people and the boundless resources of the land convinced him that
he would do much better in the young country than in old Cornwall. The
associations at St. Columb could not but be painful to him, and his
resolution was fixed to return provided his mother was agreeable.

The next morning, as he was glancing over the daily paper before
breakfast, a telegram from Launceston caught his eye which made his
heart beat faster.

It was a simple announcement that valuable deposits of tin ore had been
discovered in the north-west of Tasmania, not far from Emu Bay and in
close proximity to Mount Bischoff.

A slight description of the locality followed, and as he read Trenoweth
knew that it was in the vicinity of the place where he and his mates
had found favorable indications of stanniferous areas after leaving the
Three Hummocks Island.

His resolution was instantly taken.

"Do you know if there is a boat going to Circular Head, Emu Bay, or any
of the north-west ports of Tasmania today?" he asked of Barr.

"I will soon tell you. But what do you want to know for?" replied his
host.

"If there is I am going there at once. Read this."

Barr took the paper with some surprise and read the telegram carefully.
Then he said:

"I thought you had had enough of this prospecting work for a time. The
west coast of Tasmania is not a pleasant place, though not quite so bad
as central Australia. You can get plenty of water, at any rate; but the
food is scanty, and the forest and scrub are awful."

"I have been to this locality, as I told you, and I am sure that a
vast deposit of tin exists there. In fact my intention was to go to
the place in a few days and further prospect it; but you see there
is no time to be lost if I want to make anything," Edward answered.
"Besides," he went on, "there is sure to be a rush to the place, and
there is little fear of anything bad happening to me."

"Yes, I dare say you are right," returned Barr, who had been closely
examining some papers. "I find the only boat leaving for Tasmania today
goes to Launceston; but you can join a service there which will take
you to Emu Bay, or you can get overland to Bischoff. The boat sails in
two hours from now, so that not a single moment is to be lost."

The preparations which Trenoweth had to make were few, for Barr told
him he would send a cable message to his agent in Launceston to buy the
necessary outfit and also secure a berth in the coastal steamer.

Bidding Mrs. Barr a hasty adieu, Edward and his friend went into the
city, and two hours later the former was steaming down the turbid
Yarra on his way to Launceston. Early next morning he was at the Tamar
settlement; but, early as it was, Barr's local agent was awaiting him.

The latter knew him through his former visit, and, having heard of
his reputed death, was a good deal surprised to see Trenoweth, for he
thought Barr--which would be most unusual with him--had made a mistake
in the name he sent.

"I was under the impression," Fraser said, as he cordially greeted
Trenoweth, "that I would never meet you again except in the kingdom of
shades. It seemed almost certain that you must have perished in that
confounded place."

"Well, here I am at any rate! and with much more experience than when I
last saw you," said Edward.

"Yes; I believe that."

The boat to Emu Bay did not leave until noon. Fraser had already
engaged a passage on it for Trenoweth, and the necessary articles were
obtained and put on board.

As Edward was walking up the street in a somewhat abstracted frame of
mind, he was surprised to hear a sweet voice--at least it seemed sweet
to him--call:

"Mr. Trenoweth."

Turning, he found himself confronted by Miss Ryan, of Cape Barren
Island. She looked even more surprised than he did, as she said:

"I was almost doubtful that it could be you, but I was determined to
make certain. I have been watching you for five minutes. You know, Mr.
Trenoweth, we heard such--such very bad news."

"I am most delighted to meet you, Miss Ryan. How are your father and
mother and all on the island?" volubly enquired Edward, as his face
lighted up with real and unfeigned pleasure.

"They are all well," the girl answered; "but we heard such bad tidings
of yourself and party. Of course, we took a great interest in your
expedition, and we watched the papers for information, knowing where
you intended going. Six months ago we read a dreadful account of what
had happened to you; but I am so glad to find that it was a mistake."

"So far as I am concerned, it was a mistake; but, I am sorry to tell
you, that I must believe my good mates, Grey and the brothers Norton,
perished in the wilderness."

Neither of them spoke for a minute or two when Miss Ryan said:

"Are you going to stop here for long, Mr. Trenoweth?"

"I sail in an hour for Emu Bay, and from thence I am going to Mount
Bischoff. You see I am still in quest of fortune."

The girl looked greatly disappointed, as she said:

"I suppose you will not be able to visit us again at the island? It is
such an out-of-the-way place."

"I hope that in a few months I will have time to see you. I will
certainly take the first opportunity."

Seeing Fraser approaching, the conversation was brought to a close, and
Trenoweth went down with his friend to the vessel. Soon after, the boat
lifted her anchor and went down the stream, and in the evening Emu Bay
was reached.

Considering the importance of the find--or, rather, considering the
importance which Edward attached to it--he was surprised to see the
little stir it made.

In Launceston no one was apparently aware of the discovery, and even at
Emu Bay the few inhabitants took very little notice of it.

The fact was, that the intelligence which Trenoweth read in the
Melbourne paper was the first that was sent from the scene of the find,
and, of course, it was not generally known.

At daylight in the morning Edward set off alone for the district in
which he knew from previous experience that tin was to be found. He was
going to play a lone hand, so to speak, for he had certain ideas of his
own.

For some time he followed the course of the Emu River and was
particular to note the appearance of the country. The district was
sparsely settled, and he passed stretches of magnificent agricultural
land.

With a perfect climate and rich soil, he thought the place should be
a second Eden. Belts of forest containing giant eucalypti were passed
through; and, as night came on, Trenoweth selected a suitable place to
camp. He had covered fully twenty-five miles in his march, and was now
in the neighborhood of the new find.

A short distance ahead Mount Valentine towered four thousand feet
high, and a long range of great altitude ran from it for fifty miles
along the coast. The range was thickly wooded, and numerous rivers ran
from it on both sides. The rainfall to support so many large streams
was, of course, great, but that would be all the better for tin mining
operations.

Next morning Trenoweth reached the spot where he had previously
obtained such favorable indications.

It was as he had seen it last.

As he stood in a deep gully he could see the misty peaks of the huge
range rising one upon another until the rugged heights were lost in the
cloud-capped distance.

As he looked he decided to ascend Mount Valentine and obtain a
panoramic view of that strange west land of Tasmania.

Far to the south the snow-topped Frenchman's Cap pierced the clouds
with its hood of eternal snow, looking down in its marble purity on
that sin-stained spot, Macquarie Harbor, for ever infamous in British
annals.

Still further south another peak in veiled drapery lifted its mighty
head to the skies. This, he concluded, from the map he carried, was
Mount Humboldt.

Far as vision lay, crested mountains raised their heads to heaven, and
to the west he could see the white-tipped rollers of the Southern Ocean.

Although he was at such an altitude, a huge backbone, almost on a level
with the mountain on which he stood, ran across the island from north
to south; and it seemed to the spectator that between it and the coast,
if mineral treasures existed on the globe, they would be found there.

The whole vista was clothed in a level green sward, it seemed, except
in odd places where the bare, scarped granitic peaks of the mountains
reared themselves in desert solitude, as if desirous to leave the
everlasting clinging embrace of vegetation.

In a hundred places Trenoweth could trace in silvery streaks the course
of creeks and rivers, which flowed in tortuous courses to the sea. In
places they appeared to get lost in the primeval forests, which clothed
their sides, and then come winding out like a huge python in search of
prey.

To his left was the lake country, that queer "terra incognita"--so to
speak--on the very verge of settlement.

Trenoweth could not help reflecting, as he leaned against a huge
boulder in the pure rarified air in which he was, on the slumbering
apathy of a people who allowed their great inheritance to thus lie
waste.

To the active man it seemed a sort of sacrilege that, in a small
island, the best portion of the country should only be known as the
home of the former convict and bushranger.

He had read, certainly, strange stories of attempted escapes from
the penal station of Macquarie Harbor, and how men became cannibals
in order to support life in that inhospitable west coast; but, as he
looked, he thought it must surely have been the licence of the novelist
which prompted such narratives.

To the young man it seemed as if all nature smiled and held forth with
outstretched hand her choicest gifts to those who chose to take.

He little thought at the time that from his vantage point on Mount
Valentine he was looking down on one of the richest spots on God's
earth. The day was to come when the secret places of the dim forest
would be bared and the roar of mining machinery would awaken the echoes
of the surrounding hills and dells.




CHAPTER XXVI.--THE QUEST.

After taking his long survey, Trenoweth descended from the mount and
began his search.

Like an experienced miner, as he was, his climb had not been for mere
spectacular purposes. He wished to see the trend of the watershed of
Mount Bischoff and the neighboring hills, for he well knew that stream
tin, like alluvial gold, would lie in the lowest levels of the alpine
gorges.

After his brief survey of the surrounding scenery he therefore
turned his attention to the formation of the underlying country. His
practised eyes soon rested on a ravine which appeared to him worthy of
investigation.

It was at the foot of Bischoff, and a huge hill reared itself on the
opposite side to the height of nearly a thousand feet. The place was
thickly overgrown with a dense vegetation, out of which great bare
rocks peeped.

Edward concluded that the ravine was the natural drainage of the hills,
and formed an elongated basin.

As he descended the mount he took particular notice of the stanniferous
indications, and the result was supremely satisfactory.

It is almost superfluous to tell latter-day Australians that all
minerals come from a matrix. Until a few years ago, this point was
disputed.

Places like Ballarat and Forest Creek (Castlemaine), where the richest
alluvial deposits in the world were found, were supposed to be
independent of reefs: but subsequent working has conclusively proved
that the enormous "gullies" and "leads" of gold were simply debris from
the action of water.

So with tin. In Cornwall Trenoweth worked a lode, but long ages before
the alluvial, or stream, tin had been exploited.

As the young man noticed the favorable indications of a matrix, he
became more than ever convinced that he was at last on the right path.

Selecting a suitable place in the ravine, the seeker pitched his camp,
for he meant to give the place the fullest trial.

The spot where he had the year before found the favorable indications
was about a mile further north, but in the same trend of country. It
was near this place that the smoke from the other prospectors' fires
rose.

So far, he had not seen the first comers, but he intended going to
their camp the following day.

Though alone in the gloomy forest, Trenoweth had no sense of loneliness
such as sat upon him like lead in his Australian bush wanderings.
The feeling that human help was near if required gave him a sense of
security unknown in that awful journey he had made until the face of
Kallakoo looked down on him on the Barrier reef.

That particular episode in his life seemed blotted out, for the tablets
of his memory were unconscious at the time, and the impression, like
the sensitive plate of a camera, had not yet developed.

After a hearty meal, the young man took off his pilot coat and
commenced his work of prospecting.

A limpid stream ran down the centre of the ravine, and where--as
frequently happened--miniature waterfalls occurred, Trenoweth lifted
the bottom strata and in every instance found magnificent ruby tin.

Step by step he followed up the rivulet, and dish after dish that was
washed only emphasised the fact that the surrounding area must be
stanniferous.

At last he came to a spot in the gorge where the water coursed down
a sloping shelf of rock some twenty feet broad. The water, which was
clear as crystal, was only a few inches in depth, for it spread out at
the top by means of a sort of natural gutter.

Trenoweth's first glance at this place was a revelation to him. The
bed down which the water flowed was black as jet, and gave a peculiar
appearance to the water.

The western sun was striking directly on the shallow cascade, and its
scintillating beams were reflected in a thousand shapes from the bed on
which the water flowed.

In his excitement Trenoweth tried to climb the surface of the slope,
but the effort was a failure, as it was as slippery as a sheet of glass.

Finding he could not get to the summit in that way, he stood and gazed
at the sight before him, rapt in an ecstasy of astonishment. The broad
lead on which the water ran was simply a solid rock of almost pure tin
ore.

The shining black prisms reflected back the beams of the sun dancing
through the crystal water, until the light almost dazzled the
spectator's eyes.

Probably no foot of white man had ever trod that spot before;
certainly, no Cornishman had looked on such a sight. If so, Bischoff
would have been discovered at the time.

It is somewhat surprising to reflect how few people, even in the
mineral land of Australia, know certain minerals in the native ore. Out
of a thousand educated men it is safe to say that not one half could
identify tin ore if they saw it. Unlike the shining white metal in its
pure state, the ore is jet black, and bears no resemblance to the tin
of commerce.

It is almost a natural faculty with a Cornishman to perceive
stanniferous indications. From the days of the Phoenicians until the
present tin has been a staple of that ragged end of Britain where
Edward Trenoweth had been reared. Never, in the best parts of the west
drive of the Wheal Merlin, had the young man seen such a rich deposit
as that which he had just dropped on.

A great wall of tin ore lay in front of him, and he knew that at last
his quest had been fruitful.

For a few minutes he looked as one fascinated at the shining black
slope, and then, as if seized by a sudden impulse, he ran to the side
of the running water and commenced to dig away furiously at the rank
vegetation which fringed the side of the lode.

Yes! the ore extended, as he thought, beyond the bared surface of the
cascade.

Gradually he cut a path through the scrub and then, in eager haste,
made a shallow excavation along from the water's edge. The black
deposit was unearthed the whole way, and then, out of breath, the young
prospector rested.

Going round the head of the slope a few minutes afterwards, he attacked
the opposite side, and here he found that the lode went down.

Thoroughly satisfied that it was permanent, he climbed on a rock a few
yards up the ravine, and took a survey of the place.

His previous knowledge of Tasmanian mining regulations had been of
benefit to him, and he was now thoroughly conversant with the rights
under the Act.

During the interval of a year in which he had been absent the mining
regulations had been much liberalised, as the Circular Head official
had foretold, and the rights of prospectors had been secured.

Indeed, it had been decreed by the legislature that a man who opened up
a new mineral field was a public benefactor, and stringent regulations
were laid down conserving to such pioneers certain rights and
privileges.

A scale of distances was drawn up, in which it was provided that the
further away from an existing field a discovery was made the larger
area would be the prospector's right.

This wise provision was no doubt inserted with a view to open up the
unexploited districts of the Island.

His practical knowledge told him as to the most likely trend of the
ore, and after a long look he descended. It was an easy matter to get
stakes in the neighborhood and, making his way through the dense scrub,
he soon had an approximate area marked out. Tearing leaves out of his
pocketbook, he marked his name in lead pencil, with the necessary
particulars, and secured them to each of the four posts.

This done, he again made his way back to the slope and mounted his
rock, feeling somewhat like a Robinson Crusoe as he proudly glanced
round at his newly-acquired possession.

He, of course, did not know the exact extent or value of his find, or
had he done so he might have justly felt prouder than he did.

For the first time since the earth was young the wondrous riches of
Bischoff had been laid bare to the vandal hand of the white man. For
centuries, no doubt, the sable owners of the soil had clambered up that
watery slope and had seen their hideous faces reflected back from the
sombre cliff; but to them it had no charm.

It perhaps struck them as congenial. The organic and the inorganic had
the same hue, and if a soul did not quicken those wondrous prisms of
ebony yet their dead eyes gave back glance for glance of the living
dead.

Trenoweth sat for a considerable time in self-satisfied contemplation,
and then it struck him that he would go down to where a thin column
of blue smoke rose straight, like Abel's sacrifice, to heaven. It was
a beacon that told him that a peaceful invasion was taking place in
that wild district. The men below were, like himself, in the Wake of
Fortune--oh, no! not now in the Wake, thought Trenoweth, but rather in
the Van.

He smiled to himself, and then a shade of sadness crept over him,
which he speedily banished. It is idle to say that he did not think
occasionally of Inez, and, of course, his mother was enshrined in his
heart. Yet his regret about Inez was not so poignant as it formerly
was. In the altar of his heart a new image was unfolding itself, and
henceforth he would worship at a new shrine.

His thoughts soon fled, and dropping from the rock, he got his swag and
went down the ravine.

When he came to his camp he left his shovel and other impedimenta and
took his way in the direction of the smoke. Soon he came on a rude
clearing, which apparently had not many weeks been denuded of the
sylvan giants which surrounded it.

He saw four men working on the watercourse--or rather beside it--that
ran down from the slope he had left.

A couple of others were engaged outside a tent, cooking.

As the prospector walked out of the belt of timber which fringed the
clearing he was immediately observed, and a man who was in the act of
lifting a huge can off the fire called:

"Hello! mate."




CHAPTER XXVII.--AT LAST.

Trenoweth returned the cheery salutation, and in a moment he was
standing beside the two men near the fire.

Close by a large heap of tin ore was stacked, but it looked quite
insignificant in Trenoweth's eyes after the riches he had just left.

"Tin?"

This monosyllabic query was put to the newcomer by the man who had
first spoken.

"Yes," answered Trenoweth; "I am, like yourselves, in search of tin. I
see you have met with some luck."

"Rather! We have got on to one of the finest tin fields in the world.
We have only been here a fortnight, and as soon as we discovered the
stuff we let the world know. We've got our own block and we are not
selfish," the rough-looking man said with a laugh.

"We've done pretty well for a fortnight," broke in his companion. "I
suppose there's half a ton of tin in that stuff," he added, pointing to
the ore.

Trenoweth smiled as he answered, "I do not think you have got on to the
proper place yet, mates. I could show you a spot where you could do
better."

"Do better!" the two men simultaneously exclaimed. "Do better! Why,
mate, I don't think we could do much better than we have done. Don't
you see that we are only opening up that deposit in the hill side, and
we have had a great amount of dead work to do. I think we have hit upon
a fortune."

"I think so, too," returned Trenoweth; "but you have only struck the
outskirts of the deposit. I can show you stuff twice as rich as this."

The two men stared at him in incredulous manner, as if they doubted the
sanity of the speaker.

"Yes, mates," continued Trenoweth; "I have got stuff ten times richer
than this"--pointing to the heap of stream ore. "But"--as if a sudden
thought had taken possession of him--"who sent the telegram to the
Melbourne papers about your find?"

The first speaker almost blushed as he said:

"Well, mate, I did that. I went into Emu on Wednesday for some tucker
and I thought my mates would not blame me if I let our folks know. Of
course, half-a-dozen men cannot hope to work all this great place, and
I've got friends in Melbourne who'll be glad to come here when they
know it's worth coming for. You don't blame me, Bill, for what I did,
do you, now?"

This query was addressed to his mate, who energetically replied:

"Blame you, Jack! Blame you! Not at all. Although we are not going to
start a public-house here, we would like to have some of our comrades.
You see, there is room enough for all."

This was spoken to Trenoweth, and the orator waved his hands towards
the hoary mountains and then, with a round sweep, took in the whole
horizon.

During this short colloquy, Edward had been revolving a most liberal
thought in his mind. Here were the men standing before him to whom he
was indebted for his late find. They were delving on the outskirts of
the real deposit, and he had been lucky enough to strike the heart. Had
it not been for the magnanimity of Jack, he'd now be mooning his time
away in Melbourne. Why, then, should he not share his good fortune with
these men who had placed it within his grasp?

His resolve was soon taken.

"Mates," he said, "I want you to spare an hour and come along with me.
I will show you that you have only got the edge of the field; and, as I
am indebted to you greatly, I am going to share my luck with you."

It took him several minutes to convince his friends that he was in
earnest, but at last they agreed to accompany him to his find.

In half an hour the seven men stood before the wonderful cascade, and
they were almost paralysed at the sight of the stanniferous riches. In
mute wonder they surveyed the scene and then Trenoweth took the leader
by the arm and walked to the nearest peg which he had put in.

"You see this?" he said to the men. "Now, as you all come in with me,
this will be our joint lease, for it is to you in a great measure I owe
this fortune."

"You are indeed a mate," broke in Bill; "but we have got an area, too,
and let us club the lot."

"Yes; let us club," echoed the men. And so it was decided.

Next day it was decided that Trenoweth and "Jack" should go to
Launceston to make the necessary arrangements.

Before doing so, other areas were taken up, in addition to the
prospectors' pre-emptive rights; and, practically, the seven men held
the whole of the Bischoff field.

On reaching Launceston, Trenoweth found that a vessel was about leaving
for Melbourne, and he sent a letter to John Barr, detailing the events
which had occurred since he landed.

He strongly urged his friend to watch the Stock Exchange, and if--as
was certain to be--Bischoff stock was placed on the market, to invest
in them.

As soon as the Governmental details were arranged the particulars
of the discovery were published in the Tasmanian papers and the
correspondents sent the news far and wide across the continent.

A few months more sufficed to prove the richness of the field, and then
the hub of the universe--London--was made acquainted with the discovery.

In six months from Trenoweth's first visit to Launceston a town had
grown up in the primeval forest, called Waratah; and the hum of busy
industry resounded in the once silent place.

The Bischoff mine was founded, and the discoverers could count
themselves amongst the richest of Australians.

The companies which were floated paid them £150,000 in cash for the
leases, and 50,000 paid-up promoters' shares were also divided amongst
the lucky discoverers of the field.

It was surmised by interested journals that the field would prove an
evanescent one, but as one development succeeded another all these
conjectures were completely blown to the winds.

Gradually the immense deposits of tin ore were laid bare and the
success of the discovery assured. In the short space of twelve months
ten thousand souls were located within a mile of Mount Bischoff and the
place became of national importance.

The Government turned its eyes towards the place, and it was deemed
advisable to lay down a railway from Emu Bay to the tin field.

This was a work of considerable magnitude, for the route of the
line lay through a rugged country. Trenoweth and the original
finders took the subject up in a practical fashion and volunteered
heavy subscriptions to assist the enterprise. As usual, red tape,
departmental apathy and circumlocution barred the way, and Edward
decided to go to Hobart and personally exert himself.

With that characteristic spirit of curiosity which marked him, he
insisted on making an overland journey instead of going to Launceston
and taking rail from thence to Hobart.

Accompanied only by "Jack" Howe, one of his co-finders, he left Waratah
and plunged into the ranges at the back.

The country beyond was really terrible to cross. Keeping on the summit
of the mount they at last reached Cradle Mount, an eminence in the
range which gave birth to the Dove River.

Leaving here, they plunged into a gloomy valley to reach the separate
range in which Mounts Rugged and St. Clair rose.

This journey well nigh proved fatal to the two of them.

In the depths they encountered a terrific obstacle in the bauri vine,
which in places interlaced over deep ravines and formed veritable
mantraps. Howe fell down through one of them, and in trying to rescue
him Trenoweth nearly lost his life.

They next struck the Surprise River, and passed over country teeming
with mineral riches. They just missed Mount Lyell, or that mass of ore
could have been revealed twenty years before it was.

Skirting round the huge peak of the Frenchman's Cap, they crossed
the Hobhouse range and entered the heart of the wildest country in
Tasmania. Howe, who had not the explorer's enthusiasm which was
implanted in Trenoweth, inwardly cursed his folly in making such a
gratuitous journey. At Wyld Crags he openly rebelled, when Edward
expressed his intention of keeping to the west coast until Port Davey
was reached. He stoutly announced his intention of going due east to
the overland railway to Brighton. By skirting the River Jordan, which
was some thirty miles away, they could easily reach the rail.

At first Edward demurred, but on reflection he agreed to fall in with
his companion's wishes. In fact, it was forcing itself upon him that
they were running imminent risk of starvation. The food they took with
them from Waratah had long since run out, and the inhospitable region
afforded little or nothing in the way of sustenance. The few stray
Tasmanian devils and opossums which were met with were not by any means
the kind of animal to which an epicure would turn.

Though Trenoweth had lived with his friend Kallakoo on snake and other
delicacies of the sort, it was not by choice, but of necessity.

Taking their course from Wyld Crags they reached settlement in a couple
of days, and, after getting the railway, they arrived at Hobart next
day.

This journey was their first ever undertaken from Bischoff over such a
route; and, though no discoveries of importance were made, it proved
the practicability of a small and poorly-equipped party crossing the
island.

In the early days of Van Diemen's Land, when bushranging was a
recognised pastime, some few expeditions had penetrated the Lake
country, but had never gone beyond the great dividing range into the
district that ran down to the sea.

The west was practically, even in 1872, a terra incognita, though a
few intrepid men connected with the Lands department had made flying
incursions. Bischoff and others had gone from the coast and given their
names to rivers and mountains, but no practical good had ever resulted.

The unusual amount of moisture which the winds from the Southern
Ocean brought up, and which was intercepted by the high lands of the
interior, produced a vegetation that, like that in Brazil, almost
defied the efforts of man to cope with it. Nothing but the magic power
of gold or the other valuable minerals could clear the wilderness, and
in later years that power was invoked.

In Hobart Trenoweth and his friend soon smoothed the difficulties which
barred the way of the Waratah rail-road, and that settled, Edward
decided, as a sort of relaxation, to visit Melbourne. Nearly a year
had passed since he had seen his friend Barr, and he felt a sort of
irresistible longing to again clasp his hand.

He had received but one letter from his mother during that twelve
months, and that somewhat surprised him. Barr had sent the letter to
Launceston and Fraser, the local agent, forwarded it on to Waratah.

When he reached Launceston after leaving Hobart, Trenoweth was
somewhat surprised to find a letter awaiting him from Barr. It was a
brief epistle, and simply intimated that the writer had something of
importance to communicate and would like to see Trenoweth.

At first Trenoweth thought the request had reference to some
transaction in Bischoff tin shares.

It might be mentioned that that Barr had not neglected the advice given
to him by Trenoweth when the discovery was first made, and he had
realised a considerable sum from his judicious investments.

Two days after his arrival in Launceston Edward took boat for
Melbourne, and the following morning he was shaking hands with his
friend.




CHAPTER XXVIII.--CHANGES.

"I have something important to tell you, Trenoweth, or you may depend I
would not have sent for you. I would have gone across only that I could
not well leave just at present," Barr said.

Trenoweth wondered somewhat at the serious tone of the speaker, and
asked if it was in referents to shares that he wished to speak.

"No, it is not that. The fact is, I got a letter from St. Columb's Cove
a couple of weeks ago. It was really intended for you, but the address
indicated that it was for me, and I opened it."

"From home?" Edward eagerly asked; "I was wondering why mother had not
written. Is she well?"

"Yes," Barr replied in a hesitating way; "she is well, Trenoweth, but
she will never see you again."

"What?"

"She is dead, as you will see," answered Barr.

As he spoke he took a soiled letter out of his pocket and handed it to
the young man. It was a fearful scrawl, and Trenoweth did not recognise
the handwriting.

Looking at the signature, which, like the body of the letter, was
scarcely decipherable, he read:

"John Pengelly."

It was a brief, if labored, note, and was to the effect that Mrs.
Trenoweth had died the previous June, somewhat suddenly. She had not
recovered the shock that Inez Jasper's treachery had caused her, and
the villagers could see that it made a deep impression on her.

The last word she uttered was her son's name, and old Pengelly took it
upon himself to communicate the mournful news to Trenoweth. The little
properly was now, of course, Edward's, so the letter ran; and, pending
his instructions, it was being taken care of by Pengelly.

This was a severe blow to Trenoweth. He had definitely made up his
mind to pay a visit to St. Columb in a few weeks' time, but this
intelligence quite upset his plans.

His mother was well advanced in years, but she was strong and healthy,
he thought; and the news was most unexpected. He had not taken into
account the fact that three years' absence and the severe trials that
Mrs. Trenoweth had experienced would necessarily have an injurious
effect on her own situation.

Barr recognised his friend's distress with evident sympathy, and then
broke the silence by saying:

"What do you think it is best to do? Will you go home?"

"I don't think so. I can do no good now. My intention was to sail in a
few weeks, but this alters everything. I am now alone in the world,"
answered the young man, mournfully.

"That is so," assented Barr; "but you must have expected this some day."

"Yes, of course, some day, but not so soon."

Trenoweth, left alone with his grief, began to revolve his future
movements in his mind. He could not very well make up his mind as to
what he should do, but he knew that action would best assist him to
forget his loss.

At last an idea entered his head. He would pay a visit to Cape Barren
Island and see his old friends. Perhaps Nelly Ryan would be at home,
and somehow that thought gave him pleasure.

As he pondered, the thought of the treasure ship came into his mind.

Charleston had confided to him his idea of getting at the gold, and
now such an undertaking, which promised some excitement, would be a
positive relief.

He acquainted Barr with his resolve, and the latter applauded the idea.

"I wish I could accompany you," he said; "but that is impossible."

A week later Trenoweth went back to Launceston, where he soon picked
up an old brass cannon, which was easily portable. He hired a small
schooner to take him to Clarke Island, and when he arrived he found the
place almost the same as at the time of his first visit.

Charleston told him that the wreck of the Gellibrand was in the same
position, as he had seen it a week previously. He was delighted that
Edward had taken steps to test the plan of removing the wreck, for he
felt sure that it would succeed.

As it was not considered desirable to take others into the secret, the
schooner was dismissed as soon as the cannon and stores were landed.

Edward had not forgotten his friends on the island, and he had brought
quite a cargo of presents.

The following morning Charleston, Parsons, and three other half-castes
in the employ of the former, accompanied by Trenoweth, set out for the
headland in which the wreck lay.

The journey was an arduous one, for they had to take along with them
the heavy six-pounder and a supply of balls and ammunition.

As there was no hurry, easy stages were made, and it was nightfall
before the huge mass of rocks was reached. A comfortable camp was
formed, and at daylight next morning the severe work of taking the
cannon to the edge of the channel was commenced.

The labyrinthan passages through the honeycombed rocks were difficult
enough to unencumbered travellers, and Trenoweth soon found that the
task the party had set themselves to accomplish was a most formidable
one.

It was noon before they reached the peculiar bridge of rocks which
spanned the awful chasm already mentioned. This, of course, was the
crux of the whole passage. Once across there, the remainder of the work
would be comparatively easy.

Ropes had been taken along and elaborate precautions were taken to
convey the cannon across the slippery bridge.

Trenoweth, Charleston and two of the attendants crossed to the opposite
side, the last man taking with him a rope which had been attached to
the cannon.

Parsons and the third man remained behind to guide and steady the heavy
piece of ordnance whilst the others pulled it across the bridge.

The preparations were soon complete, and, exercising the utmost care, a
start was made. Slowly the cannon was dragged inch by inch until past
the centre of the natural bridge. Parsons and his man, on their hands
and knees kept at either side of the piece guiding it fairly in the
centre.

The passage was almost complete when the brass piece suddenly swerved
as though on a pivot, and in an instant Parsons was brushed off the
rock as though he were a fly.

A few half-stifled cries reverberated down amongst the rocks for a few
seconds, and then a deathly silence reigned.

The tragedy had not occupied half a minute, and it was not in human
power to have saved the man once he fell.

The half-caste on the rocky bridge was speechless with terror, and by
mute signs he begged them to pull the cannon over so that he might get
away from his perilous position.

This was easily done, and when accomplished Edward leant over the side
of the chasm and called to Parsons loudly by name.

There was no answering response, and it was evident that the
unfortunate man had met his death.

"It is impossible that he can be alive," Charleston said, at last.
"That place must be a hundred and fifty feet deep at the least. I
have tried it by dropping stones and taking the time they occupied in
reaching the water."

"What is to be done? Can we do nothing?" asked Edward.

"We can do nothing for him," Charleston returned, pointing down the
abyss; "but, now that the cannon is over, we should go on with the work
we came for. Two lives have been lost already over this business and we
should see to it that no others are sacrificed."

"How can we do that?" the young man asked.

"By getting the wreck entirely away. That is the best thing to do. It
will be no trouble now to get this to the channel," said Charleston.

For several minutes the men lingered around the fatal spot, but at
last, seeing the futility of staying longer, they lifted the heavy
cannon and laboriously conveyed it slowly down the sloping rock to the
water's edge.

They had a clear view of the wreck, which, apparently, had not altered
in the least. It was not more than one hundred yards distant, and it
seemed an easy enough matter to break it up.

Little difficulty was experienced in placing the weapon in position
where it was secure and from which it could be fired without danger.

Trenoweth was the first to take aim, but it was trained too high, and
the ball struck the cliff several feet above the wreck.

The noise made on firing was extraordinary.

The echoes resounded from cliff to cliff and from cavern to cavern
until it seemed as if a broadside from a line-of-battle ship had been
given.

Charleston, who was the next to lay the gun, did not do much better
than his friend but Trenoweth's next attempt resulted as desired.

The ball struck the stem fairly, and the whole mouldering fabric seemed
to at once collapse.

The strong current seized one shattered plank after another and tore
them away, until, with a crashing sound, the Gellibrand finally
disappeared beneath the frowning cliff.

The men looked on in breathless anxiety at this disappearance, for it
seemed like a desecration to thus sweep away the visible evidence of a
long-past tragedy.

"I wonder if we will ever see it again?" Trenoweth said.

"We know where to look, at any rate. I should think the current will
throw it up in the place we know. It is very doubtful if we will find
anything in the old hull if it does come up," replied Charleston.

As evening was now approaching, a return start was made.

The now useless cannon was left behind, as it was not considered
advisable to risk taking it back.

In fact, when the chasm was reached where Parsons met his death,
considerable difficulty was experienced getting one of the half-castes
to recross. This was the man who had been with Parsons when the latter
was swept off the bridge.

If the cannon had swerved the other way he would have met the fate that
befell his companion, and the thought filled him with horror.

He was at last induced to make the venture, and soon the whole party
were outside the winding passages.

In order to give intelligence of Parsons' death, it was decided to
return to Charleston's place at once; but next day Trenoweth and his
host returned to watch for signs of wreckage.




CHAPTER XXIX.--THE GELLIBRAND.

The fate which had overtaken Burgess, three years previously, had
revealed to the watchers the direction of the current which flowed
through the fateful channel. They thus knew exactly where to look for
any wreckage that might be cast up by the sea, and they pitched their
camp accordingly.

The first day's search showed them a number of planks belonging to
the vessel, which were strewn along the beach. This was somewhat
disappointing, for it pointed to the conclusion that the Gellibrand had
gone to pieces.

They were consequently agreeably surprised when on the third day, at
low water, they saw the waves breaking over the old hull of the barque
that had so long been entombed in the gorge.

They swam out to it, but as the sea was getting rough, they could do
nothing more than make a hasty survey of the wreck.

They had not calculated on the fact that it would be extremely
difficult to get into the hold of the vessel in the position she was
stranded, but it seemed fortune was in their favor. During the night a
strong southerly gale rose, accompanied by particularly high sea; and
when daylight dawned, to their joy, they saw the Gellibrand had been
washed far up on the beach. At low tide the vessel would be high and
dry, and patiently they waited for the water to recede.

With something of awe in their hearts they approached the barque when
the tide went out, and they were astonished to find the vessel in such
an excellent state of preservation. They fully expected to have seen
a battered old shell, but in some places the stout planking was quite
sound. Save at the stern, which had been exposed to the atmosphere,
there was little sign of decay.

A strange peculiarity, also, was the almost total absence of barnacles.
In that terrible marine gorge, apparently, not even a barnacle could
live.

All of the masts, the bulwarks and a portion of the decking were
missing. The masts had been snapped off on a level with the deck, no
doubt when the vessel was swept under the rocky lodge where she caught.

The hulk was lying broadside on where it had been swept up, and as they
clambered up they saw that the hull was actually watertight and full of
water.

The two gold seekers had brought with them an axe, saw and other tools,
which they thought would be necessary, and they at once eagerly set to
work to let the water out.

This they found was not such a very easy matter.

The wood of the hull was as tough as leather and of extraordinary
thickness, and they were fully two hours occupied in displacing a plank
where it had to be taken out.

This work done, the drainage of the hull went slowly on; but, as the
tide was rising, they were compelled to cease further exertions until
the next day.

That night, as Trenoweth and his friends sat beside the huge fire they
had kindled, they speculated as to what would be the outcome of the
following day's quest.

Charleston was particularly sanguine, but Trenoweth did not have such
high hopes as his comrade. It was not at all certain, he argued, that
the gold stolen from the Nelson had been put aboard the Gellibrand. In
fact, it was currently reported that most of the stolen treasure had
gone in a ship that had sailed for America the night the robbery took
place, and a portion had remained in Victoria.

Charleston, however, was firm in his belief that the hulk so near them
was the boat into which the gold had been taken. He had no doubt about
it, as years before he had received information which placed it beyond
argument.

Thus the night bore on, and both men were so excited that sleep was out
of the question.

Charleston occasionally relieved the subject by narrating to his
companion some of the strange stories of life in the early days of
settlement in the straits, and when darkness waned and the first blush
of morning suffused the eastern sky he was still talking glibly of
singular scenes he himself had witnessed.

Two hours later the seekers left their camp and wended their way to the
hulk of the Gellibrand, or what they supposed was the Gellibrand, for
the name had long since been washed away.

When the tide receded sufficiently they got to the vessel and found
that the water was sufficiently low in the hold to allow of an
examination being made.

In order to permit of this being properly done, it was decided to take
out some of the deck planks.

This was not a difficult job, as much of it had been loosened by the
breakage of the masts.

In an hour's time a considerable opening had been made and sufficient
light was admitted to banish the gloom inside.

They had provided themselves with a rough ladder and, placing it in the
hold, Trenoweth descended. He had a lighted candle to assist in the
search, and he went into the uncanny place with something very like
fear in his heart. It was, he thought, like entering a grave; and he
half expected to see the spectres of the runaway crew, who must have
been drowned when the vessel drove into the awful channel, rise before
him.

There was still two or three feet of water in the hold and he had
almost reached it, when a frightful splashing close to his feet nearly
caused his heart to stop. It seemed to him as if a dozen of men were
floundering in the water and trying to get at him. In descending he had
dropped his candle, and the light which came down was but feeble.

He called on Charleston, who was standing alone, to come down, and his
comrade hastily descended, crying as he went:

"It is only fish, man! Do not be frightened!"

This reassured Trenoweth, and, though the floundering still continued,
he recognised the real cause.

When Charleston handed Edward the light he at once saw the cause of his
alarm. An enormous king fish had by some means got into the hold and,
as the water ran out, the huge fish was partly stranded.

The two men got off the ladder and began their search in the hold.

It was at once apparent that the barque had not been laden when
wrecked, and this seemed to confirm Charleston's belief that she had
been run away with for some important purpose.

With the exception of the stone ballast, there was nothing in the main
portion of the hold, but the after part was partly boarded up, the
partition being some six feet high.

There was a door in it, the iron of which was rusted away. The vessel
was sunk at the bows, and this drained the part that was partitioned
off. This portion of the hold was not lighted at all, but with the aid
of the two candles sufficient illumination was obtained.

The first object that met the seekers' gaze gave them somewhat of a
shock, though it was not quite unexpected--a human skull lay just
inside the doorway, but no other portion of the skeleton was visible.

Charleston stooped and picked it up, and found that it was in a fair
state of preservation. As was natural, both men looked keenly at it and
noticed that the top was broken in, as if by a terrific blow.

At the time Trenoweth thought the injury had been caused after death,
through being washed about; but he afterwards learned something which
put a different complexion on the case.

A rumor reached his ears that there had been a scene of murderous
assault on board the Gellibrand shortly before the wreck took place,
and that the only man on board who understood navigation had been
foully murdered.

When the gold-robbers seized the barque they put all on board, with
one exception, into a boat and sent them off. This exception was the
captain, and they ordered him to take them to the Tasmanian coast.

He was forced to comply and when, two days later, the coast was
actually sighted, they deliberately murdered him, thinking they could
manage for themselves. A storm rose before they could effect a landing
and blew them back to Clarke's Island, and their doom.

The retribution was certainly a speedy one.

Trenoweth and Charleston carefully examined round for any other ghastly
relics which might exist, but not another bone could they find.

Going cautiously forward they found evidences that the place had been
used as a sleeping apartment.

A good quantity of horsehair was strewn around, but the canvas that
probably held it had long before disappeared.

Some broken wood, like the rungs of chairs, was also scattered about,
but the devouring sea had eaten up everything else.

The seekers were about to go to the other end of the boat, when
something caught Trenoweth's eyes at the extreme end of the apartment
which caused him to make a closer scrutiny.

Jambed against the stem, he saw that there were several small boxes
piled one above the other and secured by a board which ran from the
floor to the bottom of the deck.

This gave the appearance that it had formed a portion of the stern, but
he found it was not so.

Calling Charleston, he proceeded to try and get the board away.

This was not hard to do, as the sea water had eaten away the nails
which formerly held it.

Both of them at once saw that the long-wished-for discovery had been
made. There were six strong boxes, such as were used for the carriage
of gold by the early escorts. The thick iron bands which had at one
time bound them had completely rusted away, and even the iron of the
locks had gone.

Lifting the top one down, Trenoweth easily pulled off the top and, as
the light shone in, it revealed a mass of rough, dull gold.

The second one contained smelted gold, and the remainder, on
examination, were found to hold loose gold chiefly, though some bullion
was also in them.

Three years previously Trenoweth would have leaped with joy to have
thus a fortune in his grasp, but now the discovery had little charm for
him. He was already a wealthy man, with riches far beyond his wants;
but, as he looked on the glittering metal he could not repress a thrill
of satisfaction that he had achieved success in his quest after the
treasure.

He wondered how many lives had been sacrificed in trying to get
possession of the gold. He knew of three at least, and there were
probably a dozen others. It was certain that all on board the
Gellibrand were lost, but it was never known exactly what the number
was.

"You see now that I was quite right in what I told you," Charleston at
last said, with pardonable pride.

"Yes, we have the gold; but what are we going to do with it? In fact, I
have some compunction in taking it at all," replied Trenoweth.

"It is very easy to dispose of," answered his companion, picking up a
bar of bullion and looking fondly at it. "We are halves, of course," he
added.

"I suppose we can soon circulate it if we like. By the by, we must not
forget poor Parsons' family," Edward said.

"We can provide for them. That will be our first duty," answered
Charleston.

"And, as for your claim to it, is it not 'treasure trove?'"

"Yes, so far as you are concerned, for you found it; but it is not
'treasure trove' to me. At any rate, you take half and do what you
like with it and I will do the same with my share," Trenoweth replied.

After this conversation, the two men began to carry the boxes out of
the apartment to the foot of the ladder, and soon after they had them
all out of the hold.

A further search made in the boxes revealed nothing of importance, and
the next step was to transport the gold to the camp.

Next morning Charleston went to his place and returned with a horse
and cart, and during the night the boxes were safely lodged at his
residence. The old hull of the Gellibrand was not interfered with, and
it gradually got broken up and tilted over.

At the present moment the visitor to Clarke's Island may see some of
the remains of the stout hull at the spot where it was stranded.




CHAPTER XXX.--OLD FRIENDS.

It did not at first occur to either Edward or his friend Charleston
that the gold they had so strangely obtained was not their property. In
fact, Charleston regarded it as "treasure trove" and as such rightfully
belonging to them, in spite of Trenoweth's remonstrances. The original
owners it would, no doubt, be difficult to find, even if it were
desirable to seek them.

With the gold in their possession, they began to feel how awkward it
would be to turn it into current coin. If such a large quantity were
taken to Launceston it would excite suspicion when they desired to sell
it.

Melbourne would be the best place to get rid of the stuff, they both
concluded; and even then the first difficulty that confronted them
would be the transportation thither.

This difficulty ripened in Edward's mind an idea that had been
germinating for some time. He had long wished for some speedy means of
reaching the straits islands--or, rather, if the truth must be told, of
reaching Cape Barron Island.

Somehow, the image of Miss Ryan frequently rose before him, and since
his last affliction the thought of his loneliness pressed more heavily
on him.

He was in a position to solicit the hand of the proudest woman in
Australia, but no such thought as a marriage for wealth or to better
his social standing ever entered his head.

To pay a visit to Cape Barren Island and return took almost as long as
a trip to Europe and back. Though only forty miles from Port Dalrymple,
at the mouth of the Tamar, a period of twelve weeks was occupied in
going and returning. No vessels save the Government steamer called at
the place, and Trenoweth determined to be independent of the Flora
in the future. His idea was to buy a comfortable yacht, in which he
could cruise about as his fancy dictated.

The transport of the gold decided him in his resolution. If they put
it on board the Flora it would be noticed, for such cargo from the
island would be most unusual. The boxes spoke for themselves, and it
would be a difficult matter to get other receptacles for it.

He immediately took Charleston into his confidence and his co-partner
in the find applauded the idea.

"You will have to go to Melbourne for a good boat. You can easily pick
one up there, I am sure. Money will get you anything," Charleston said.

Having arrived at this conclusion, Trenoweth decided to run across the
channel and see his friends the Ryans during the two days that would
elapse before the calling of the Flora, by which he would return to
Launceston.

Charleston's boat was pressed into service, and, with a couple of his
men, his boat rowed him across.

The day was beautifully fine and the trip a most pleasant one.
Trenoweth could not help contrasting it with the day he saved
Charleston from a watery grave, and the latter was not slow to
appreciate the courageous act of the young man.

"Only for you, my friend, I wonder where I would be now," he said.

"In heaven, perhaps," laughed Trenoweth.

"My bones would be tossing down there," said Charleston, pointing to
where the waves softly lapped the huge cliff.

Mr. and Mrs. Ryan and several of the half-castes were on the pier
awaiting their arrival.

The boat had been descried a long way off, as such visits were expected
and watched for. The greeting was a cordial one, but Trenoweth was
rather disappointed that Miss Ryan was not at home. That young lady was
in Launceston, having gone there in the last trip made by the Flora.
She was not expected back for a couple of months, but Edward reflected
that in a few days at most he would see her in the Tasmanian city.

Charleston returned home the same day, it being understood that
Trenoweth would make his way to Melbourne and return with a yacht, even
if he had to get one built.

He told the Ryans about the finding of the treasure, and the sad fate
of Parsons. The latter had been well known on Cape Barren Island, and
the news of his awful death caused general regret.

The good old couple did not appear much concerned about the gold. That
is, the fact of obtaining such wealth did not affect them, though they
listened in wonder to the strange narrative.

Mrs. Ryan, indeed, rather upset Edward by exhibiting considerable
anxiety to know what had become of the huge king fish which had
startled him in the hold of the Gellibrand.

"Oh, we killed the big fellow and had a portion of him for dinner," he
replied.

"Well, that was better than to let it die a lingering death in the
ship," the sympathetic woman said.

A couple of days later the Flora entered the little harbor and
Trenoweth bade his friends adieu. He did not tell them what his
intention was, as he wanted to give them a pleasant surprise.

He was entrusted with a message to Miss Ryan, and when, a few days
later, he reached Launceston, he had an excellent excuse for calling on
the young lady. In fact, during the three days he was in Launceston he
saw her several times, and at each interview his good opinion of the
fair Nelly was increased.

When he got to Melbourne he went at once to his ever staunch friend and
guide, John Barr, and told him what he was in search of.

The genial Barr was pleased with the notion, and introduced him to a
naval friend of his named Captain Schultz. The latter was a thoroughly
experienced mariner, and just the man to make a wise selection.

An advertisement was inserted in the leading Melbourne papers, setting
forth Trenoweth's want, and in less than a week he found himself
the proprietor of a beautiful little thirty-ton yacht, named The
Flinders.

Captain Schultz also carefully selected a very efficient crew for the
boat, and a fortnight after his arrival in Melbourne Trenoweth was
again ready to sail for the islands.

He did not tarry long in the Victorian metropolis, for after taking
a few friends round the bay he gave his skipper orders to sail for
Clarke's Island.

The yacht was an excellent sea boat and sumptuously appointed, and as
the fortunate young Cornishman reclined on deck as the vessel skimmed
along, he could not help contrasting his ease and luxury with those
dark days of anguish and suffering when he was lost in the parched
interior.

Suddenly he started up, and going to his cabin, opened an old
portmanteau and took from it a carefully wrapped parcel.

Going on deck he opened it and revealed a lump of magnificent silver
ore.

For a full hour he gazed at the specimen, while his face bore a
speculatively-troubled look. What memories did that lump of heavy
ore recall to him? They were evidently no pleasant ones, for the
expressions on his face was not that of pleasure, but rather that of
pain.

Trenoweth knew in a dim, vague way that there was something connected
with the ore that was poignant with consequences, but, for the life of
him, he could not crystalise the thoughts which floated in confusion
through his brain.

What a mystery memory is?

The genius of man can penetrate beyond the solar system into stella
worlds lost in the infinite depths of space; it can harness the
lightning from heaven and make it entirely obedient; but memory is
altogether beyond its reach.

No scientist, no inspired investigator has yet been able to explain the
mysterious workings of that godlike faculty we call memory. The old man
can sit on the brink of the grave and unfold from his mental treasury
the panorama which stretches in a long vista to the cradle. He can
conjure up in a moment all the events of his life, yet he knows not how
it is done.

And so with Trenoweth.

He was puzzled to think why he could recollect the finding of the piece
of ore in the dead man's hand and the face of Kallakoo looking down
on him, and yet not be able to fill up the short gap between the two
events.

He was certain that there was a gap.

Something in his inner consciousness told him so, but he could get no
further. With a sigh he got up and, going back to his cabin, replaced
the piece of ore.

When Clarke's Island was reached no time was lost in placing the boxes
of gold on board the yacht and, with Charleston as passenger, sail was
made for Cape Barren Island.

The residents of this out-of-the-way place were somewhat surprised to
see a stately yacht steering into the little bay, and their surprise
turned to pleasure when they found who was owner of the pretty craft.

It had been many years since a pleasure boat had touched at the place,
and they felt it somewhat of an honor to entertain those on board.

To Trenoweth's extreme pleasure, he found, as the boat came near the
pier, that Nelly Ryan was standing beside her mother, waiting the
approach of the strange sail.

When anchor was cast he insisted on showing all hands over his
purchase, and he felt more than repaid when he saw the delight which
appeared in the bright eyes of Nelly Ryan.

A week was spent on the island and, when leaving for Melbourne,
Trenoweth insisted on Mr. Ryan and Nelly going with him to the southern
metropolis. He argued in the most eloquent fashion that the old
schoolmaster must need a change of scene, and a rest from his routine
labors.

Ryan said he had been already in Melbourne; but, as he admitted that it
was fully a quarter of a century previous, Edward brushed the objection
aside as being valueless.

Mrs. Ryan favored the young man's suggestion, and between them it was
decided as Trenoweth wished.

The trip across was a delightful one, and the schoolmaster had not been
an hour at sea when he mentally congratulated himself on having been
persuaded to fall in with his friend's desire.

As for the fair Nelly, she was more than delighted, not so much with
the sea trip, as she was used to that in her frequent visits to
Launceston, but with the prospect of seeing Melbourne.

She had never yet been across the straits, and her wish was to see the
city of which she had heard so much.

When Barr heard of his friend's arrival he insisted that he and those
with him should all stop at Essendon, and he unceremoniously removed
them from the hotel where they had put up.




CHAPTER XXXI.--THE OLD STORY.

As soon as Charleston had disposed of his share of the gold, Trenoweth
decided to deal with his portion.

He went to the Victorian Treasurer and laid all the facts before him,
and the reply he got reassured him.

"Divide the money amongst the charities, my friend. The Government
could not claim it, and it would be practically impossible to find the
rightful owners. If you make it public you will have a lot of bogus
claims sent in and no end of trouble."

The authorities at the Melbourne Mint were considerably surprised at
the large quantity of the precious metal which was offered them by the
islander, but beyond a formal question or two the surprise was not
manifested.

The gold was assayed and found pure, the regulation price paid, and the
transaction ended.

Various of the charities benefited by Trenoweth's generosity, and a
large sum was kept for similar purposes to be expended in Tasmania.

Neither was Charleston a niggard with his new-found wealth. His tastes
were simple and his wants, on Clarke's Island, few. The fact that he
was now a comparatively wealthy man did not seem to have the slightest
effect on him. He was one of those few men whom riches does not
demoralise.

It occurred to Edward at this time to try and ascertain what had become
of the parents of the Nortons.

He knew that Grey had no relatives in the colony, but he felt
particularly anxious to know if the old couple who had been so suddenly
bereaved of their sons were still alive.

The "missing friends" columns of the leading colonial papers were
laid under contribution, and in less than a week the advertiser was
surprised to be waited on by the couple he wished to see.

The story they told was an exceedingly affecting one.

When intelligence reached them at Inglewood of the supposed tragic fate
of their sons they realised the little money they could and set off for
Adelaide.

From there they started into the interior, and actually travelled as
far as Mulwa station, determined to set at rest all doubts as to the
fate of their sons.

At Mulwa they saw manager Anderson, and from the information given by
him, and also by the remnant of clothes and articles found near the
skeletons, they knew that death had swept the loved ones for ever from
them.

The kind-hearted manager drove them out to the grave on the plain, and
they had the melancholy satisfaction of knowing that at least decent
burial had been given to the dead.

Broken in heart and with almost empty pockets, they managed to get back
to Melbourne, where they were making a precarious livelihood.

Trenoweth told them the story of the fatal expedition, as far as he
knew; and he took care that the childless old couple should never want
again as long as life lasted. He made a provision for them that placed
them in an independent position, and he felt that never had he derived
more pleasure from the expenditure of money.

The days went swiftly by after this with Trenoweth.

In the society of Miss Ryan he seemed to forget all the troubles of his
life, and he became again the happy youth he had been when he worked
the Wheal Merlin and his life sky had never a cloud to mar its sunshine.

It seemed as if he had quite forgotten his promise to Mrs. Ryan to
bring her husband and daughter back to the island in a couple of weeks'
time.

The old man himself, it must be confessed, did not appear in a hurry to
return, and his daughter took an almost childish delight in seeing the
sights of the city.

She never seemed to weary, and she taxed the ingenuity of her friends
to find her new places and scenes.

How long this blissful state might have continued it is difficult to
say, had not an untoward event happened which caused Edward to bring
his Melbourne visit to an end.

It was the month of November, and the beauty and fashion of Australia
was gravitating to the Victorian metropolis to assist in the great
racing carnival of the year.

Usually staid people seemed for the month to be afflicted with a mania
in the direction of horse-racing. They spoke of little else than the
Melbourne Cup, and the universal topic of conversation was betting.
The secular newspapers were filled with quotations of the "odds," and
minute descriptions of the last fast gallop.

One day it would be announced that the favorite had a bad leg, and a
thousand times more interest was manifested over the condition of that
horse then if it had been the most powerful crowned head of Europe.

The religious journals thought the time opportune to denounce in
scathing terms the frightful vice of gambling, which seemed to have
fixed its demoralising grip fast on the hearts of the people.

Reverend editors wrote columns of those denunciatory articles, and
then they actively assisted at their church bazaar and encouraged the
begging young ladies in their monetary assaults on the purses of the
bachelors. It was, indeed, a strange time altogether. For the period
man bowed down in worship to the horse and forgot aught else.

Of course, it was arranged that Trenoweth and his friends should go to
the Melbourne Cup, as half the population of the colony was going to do
likewise.

A select party was formed, consisting of Barr and his family with
Trenoweth and his guests.

The young man, it must be said, took but little interest in
horse-racing; and, had he consulted his individual taste, he would not
have gone to the Flemington course at all. The weather for the great
racing event of the year was all that could be desired, and the course
alone was well worth going to see.

The schoolmaster, used to the quietude of the isolated island, was
driven almost bewildered by the rush and roar of the mighty crowd
in which he found himself at Flemington. He had never in his life
seen anything to approach the excited multitude, and it took Barr a
considerable portion of his time to look after his elderly friend.

Trenoweth, of course, devoted himself to Miss Ryan, and was extremely
assiduous in his attentions.

The operations of the "Ring" at last attracted their notice.

They had been on the course for a little more than an hour when the
brass-throated gentry, who make a living by "laying the odds," caused
the pair to pause in their peregrinations.

The Cup was the next race to be run, and it was on this event that the
wagering was being made.

The din of voices resembled the confusion that must have prevailed at
the Tower of Babel, and it was quite incomprehensible to both Trenoweth
and Miss Ryan, at the first.

As they listened it became more intelligible, and gradually they were
able to distinguish what all the shouting was about.

One man in particular was particular for his brazen throat, and
Trenoweth gave a start as he heard him called Simpson by a gentleman
who had just taken the odds from him. Why he felt any surprise at the
mention of that name he could not tell at the moment.

It was, as the reader knows, a man named Simpson who married Inez
Jasper, but since that event Edward had met a number of people bearing
the name.

He looked at the fellow in front of him with considerable curiosity,
and the more he scrutinised him the more confident he got that he had
met with some one who had crossed his life. The face of the bookmaker
was not a pleasant one, by any means. The skilled physiognomist would
have no difficulty in reading evil in that face, and vice had marked it
in no uncertain manner.

He was evidently betting heavily, as he could scarce find time to book
the numerous wagers which were flowing in on him. The description given
by Mrs. Trenoweth in her last letter to her son rose up in Trenoweth's
mind, and to a great extent it corresponded with that of the man he was
looking at. The difference could easily be accounted for by the lapse
of time and the wild and dissipated life which the bookmaker had led.

Then Trenoweth recollected that his mother had said that Charles
Simpson was a squatter, or had represented himself to be such.

It was quite feasible, though not at all probable, that the former
squatter had, by reverse of fortune, retrograded into a bookmaker; but
it was still more likely that the Simpson of St. Columb's Cove had
falsely represented himself to Mrs. Trenoweth and Inez.

If his object was to win the latter it was morally certain that had
been done to gain his point.

He was so engrossed in his study that Nelly Ryan spoke to him twice
before he answered her, and he had to apologise for his fit of
abstraction, as he called it.

He reflected that if Simpson were really the man he suspected him to
be, his wife, if alive, would almost certainly be on the course.

In a crowd of sixty thousand persons it would not be easy to pick out a
single individual, but if Inez Jasper was anywhere about Trenoweth felt
sure he would see her--even if the crowd numbered more than a million.

When the race was run the young man noticed that bookmaker Simpson
appeared ill at ease. His face was decidedly pale, and his lips
twitched nervously, as though something unforeseen had happened.

For a wonder, a red-hot favorite had won and there was a settled gloom
on the faces of a good many bookmakers. Their boisterous demeanor was
now subdued, and it was apparent that many of them had been heavily hit
by the result of the Cup race.

Trenoweth and Miss Ryan strolled on to the lawn, and the young lady
could not help enquiring what made her companion look so serious.

He was fain to protest that nothing was the matter with him, but his
face belied his assertion.

They met Barr and the old schoolmaster on the lawn and had just turned
away from them, when Edward came face to face with one that caused him
to stop suddenly and utter an exclamation of surprise.

Not ten feet away stood Inez Jasper, or rather Mrs. Charles Simpson.
She was staring full at him, with a peculiarly sarcastic smile on her
lips. She had altered somewhat, but not for the better. There was that
indefinable expression in her looks which spoke of unhappiness, and
care sat heavily on her.

For half a minute Trenoweth returned the stare of the woman who had
jilted him, whilst his companion regarded him with silent surprise.

Then, with an abrupt apology for conduct, he offered Miss Ryan his arm
and, with a muttered excuse, turned back with her towards the spot
where her father and Barr were standing.

"I believe I have seen ghosts today," he said, with a sad smile, to his
companion. "Twice this afternoon I have been startled by seeing people
I thought I knew, but it was only fancy."

As the young couple turned away Mrs. Simpson regarded them with an
eager look, and remained motionless for several minutes. Then, with a
half suppressed sigh, she turned and went off towards the grandstand.

Trenoweth had quite lost his spirits for the afternoon, though he made
a brave effort to be cheerful. Before the last race was run the party
left the course to avoid the great crush of the homeward crowd.

Trenoweth did not breathe a word to his friends concerning the
unexpected meeting he had. Nothing could be gained by it, but he
made a mental determination to leave Melbourne as soon as he could
conveniently do so.

On the Tuesday following the Cup race Barr drew his attention to some
prominent sporting paragraphs in one of the daily newspapers.

These were to the effect that the "Ring" had been heavily hit during
the Spring Meeting and that more than one bookmaker had proved a
defaulter. The worst case was that of a man named Charles Simpson,
who had bet very heavily and, losing, had taken French leave of his
creditors.

He had, of course, been "posted," but that was little satisfaction
to those he owed money to. It was broadly hinted, also, that the man
Simpson had been guilty of practices that might bring him within the
pale of the criminal law. In fact, it was stated that steps were being
taken by certain persons, who felt that they had been swindled, to
bring Simpson to book; and it was expected that a warrant would be
immediately issued for his apprehension.

And this was the man for whom Inez had cast off the friends of her
life! Trenoweth thought.

From private enquiries he made he ascertained beyond a doubt that
Charles Simpson, the bookmaker, was identical with the Simpson of St.
Columb's Cove. He also found that the man had lived by his wits all
his life, and never at any time had followed pastoral pursuits. The
nearest approach he had made to that line of life was his occasional
indulgence in that work known as "fleecing the lamb," but this animal
was invariably a two-legged one.

Edward could not help feeling a pang of regret when he thought that the
girl he had once loved was linked to such a man as Simpson evidently
was; but it was of her own free choice, and against the advice of her
foster-mother.

Towards the end of the week it was agreed to return home on the
following Monday. Already the old schoolmaster had out-stopped the
allotted time, though it had passed briefly with them.

In answer to enquiries from his friend Barr, Trenoweth could not say
what his future course of action would be.

He would stop a few days with his friends of Cape Barren Island. From
thence he would take a run over to Launceston and also to Emu Bay,
when he could go to Bischoff. After that he might perhaps return to
Melbourne, but he could say nothing for certain. His movements would be
irregular, he thought, as he had no fixed plan.

On the Monday the party left Melbourne for the islands, and, after
putting Charleston off at Clarke's Island, the little bay near Ryan's
was reached once more and the anchor dropped.

Mrs. Ryan was mollified for the prolonged absence of her relatives by
an abundance of useful and ornamental presents which had been brought
from Melbourne for her. She was exceedingly pleased at the thought
which prompted Trenoweth to take such an interest in her.

Day after day the yacht remained in the bay, and it seemed to the crew
as if the owner was determined to make the desolate place his permanent
home. There were, indeed, few attractions on the Island, but the men
amused themselves by catching mutton birds and fishing.

Meanwhile Trenoweth was busy with his own affairs, or rather,
interesting himself in the affairs of Nelly Ryan. It was scarcely a
surprise to any one when it became known--how none could tell--that
Edward Trenoweth was engaged to marry Nelly Ryan.

Three months afterwards quite an imposing ceremony took place on Cape
Barren Island.

Trenoweth would not hear of the marriage taking place in Melbourne or
Launceston, but for a couple of weeks the yacht was kept busy bringing
visitors from those places.

Prominent amongst them were Mr. and Mrs. Barr, and when the imported
clergyman gave the united couple his blessing, there were no more
sincere congratulations than by Edward's shipmate friend and his worthy
wife.




CHAPTER XXXII.--UPS AND DOWNS.

The course of Mr. and Mrs. Trenoweth's life, when they started along it
together, did not appear to have many thorns upon it.

Fortune had undoubtedly been kind to the young man, and the worst
trials of his life were apparently past. He was exceedingly wealthy,
and his home--or rather, his chief home--at Launceston was one of the
finest in the whole island. A good deal of their time was occupied in
visits to Melbourne and to Cape Barren Island.

Nothing would induce Mr. and Mrs. Ryan to leave that bleak spot. It had
become endeared to them in some unaccountable fashion, and there they
decided to live and die.

One year succeeded another without being marked by any event of unusual
import.

The first cloud--if it could be called a cloud--took place in the
latter end of the year 1880.

This was the death of the old schoolmaster.

It had been expected for some time, for the old man had been gradually
fading out of life. The hours of his existence ebbed slowly away, and
those he loved best were gathered round his deathbed.

For weeks previously The Flinders was at anchor in the little bay,
and his daughter, with her husband and family, were with him.

His end, as might have been expected, was peace; and when they laid him
in the little rude cemetery overlooking the Southern Ocean every person
on the island knew that they had lost their best and most disinterested
friend.

Trenoweth and his wife tried hard to induce the widow to accompany them
to their Launceston home, but she would not go.

"My place is here. I promised him I would be with him even unto the
last, and I could not be happy away from the spot," she said.

It was futile to try and shake her determination.

Beyond an occasional visit to Launceston and one to Melbourne, she
would not leave the place that had been her home for so many years.

In the beginning of 1883 a rumor reached Edward Trenoweth which caused
his memory to suddenly awaken from the long trance which had enchained
it.

Away in the far west of New South Wales, near the border of South
Australia, came the news of the finding of silver ore in immense
quantities.

A full description of the locality was given and, as Trenoweth looked
again on his treasured piece of ore, the buried past became revealed
and he saw what had been so long hidden from him. The great silver lode
on which he fainted had been no mere vision, conjured up by a startled
and distorted imagination, but a reality.

He had long since told his wife the story of his wanderings, and when
he read the report of the new find he decided not to be left out of the
discovery. He invested largely in the original Proprietary Company, and
in a few years his income from silver was as large as that from tin.

When Broken Hill was fairly started, he could not resist the temptation
to pay the place a visit.

What a wonderful change there was, to be sure! In place of the
frightful wilderness, tenanted by a handful of blacks, the district
swarmed with bustling life. There were twenty thousand people clustered
around those rugged heights on which he had so nearly perished. The
roar of great machinery sounded day and night, and a pall of smoke from
the furnaces and smokestacks hung darkly over the place.

A city had grown up as if by magic out of the desolation, and a railway
had just been completed, forming through communication with Adelaide.

Three newspapers were being published daily, and all the adjuncts of
civilization were present. Hotels jostled each other at the street
corners, and churches lifted their spires heavenwards.

Trenoweth mounted one of the highest peaks of the range and took a long
survey of the surrounding country. He fancied he could see in the blue
distance the volcanic peak from which he first caught sight of the
Barrier. He almost thought he descried the deep watercourse, on the
banks of which he made the unpleasant discovery of the dead body.

He had brought the piece of ore with him and compared it with that on
the hill. It was identical, and he had no doubt but that the man had
found it on the Barrier Range.

There were some pleasant surprises for him at Broken Hill to compensate
for the sad thoughts which certain associations revived.

The first day in the place he met a grizzled aboriginal, and the
recognition was mutual.

He had no difficulty in telling that it was his friend, Kallakoo,
though how the keen eyes of the latter recognised him Trenoweth could
not say. Yet the moment the black met him he knew who stood before him.
Eagerly he pointed to the particular part of the lode where he had
found Trenoweth lying, and by signs expressed his satisfaction at the
meeting.

Edward was no less pleased to see his dusky friend, and in every
possible way he tried to show his high appreciation of the old man's
great kindness to him in the past.

He elicited from the townspeople that Kallakoo only paid occasional
visits to the place, and then he almost invariably came alone. He had
a sort of intuition that contact with the white man was fatal to his
race, and he kept his handful of followers away from danger.

Trenoweth saw the black many times before he left for his camp, and
though he wished to make him some useful presents the old fellow did
not seem to care for anything save tobacco.

Trenoweth gave him a supply of the best procurable--not
"sheepwash"--and he could do no more.

The third day that Edward was on the Hill he was walking down Argent
Street, when he was hailed by a hearty voice calling:

"Hello, mate!"

The tone had something familiar in it, and, turning round, he was
confronted by "Jack" Long.

The whilholm manager of Poole Station was a little more bronzed than
when Trenoweth last saw him, twelve years previously, but otherwise
there was very little change.

"Mr. Long! How glad I am to see you! How do you do?" Edward gasped,
seizing his hand and shaking it warmly.

"So am I to meet you, old man! But what are you doing up here?" replied
Long.

"I have an interest in the Proprietary, and I thought I should like to
see the district once again. You know I was here once before."

"Yes, by Jingo! Of course, I recollect now. It was here that Kallakoo
picked you up. Pretty different place now to what is was at that time.
What an extraordinary change, eh?"

"Yes; it is extraordinary! Do you know, Long, where our friend Kallakoo
found me?"

"No, I don't know the spot exactly. Anywhere near?"

"Yes; he found me lying in a fainting fit, just on the big lode there,"
Edward answered, pointing to the Proprietary lease.

"That is a very singular thing. But did you not know there was silver
there at the time? You ought to have known, being a miner."

"I had a sort of dim knowledge of it for all those years, but I could
never get the exact facts into a proper focus until I read of the
finding of the lode; then it all seemed to come back to me. The whole
affair is most singular. But, by-the-bye, what might you be doing here?"
Trenoweth abruptly asked.

"Like yourself, I've got an interest in the big mine. Several of the
station hands around are interested here you know. We did not live in
the wilderness so long without knowing something, and when the news
first reached us about the silver we came down. We were in time to pick
up something good, I can assure you," Long smilingly replied.

"I am very glad to hear it, my friend. A few years' life in the
interior should be quite enough for any ordinarily constituted man."

So the conversation went on, and the two friends decided to make a tour
of the neighborhood next day. Trenoweth particularly wanted to ride
over to the volcanic hill and to the side of the dry creek where he had
got the piece of ore in so tragic a manner.

Long was pleased with the idea, as riding across country was just in
his line.

Next morning they secured a couple off good horses and started. Edward
felt the huge difference between that journey and the one he had made
thirteen years before. Well mounted, and with a companion like Long, it
was a real pleasure trip.

It was noon before they reached the creek which Trenoweth knew so well.
He had often seen it in his dreams.

The tall cliffs, which jutted up at a particular spot, were a guide to
the men, and they soon reached the place where the dead man had lain.
There was no sign of the skeleton, but a little mound close by showed
where burial had been given it.

With the rush that had taken place when the silver was first
discovered, the remains could not have lain long without attracting
attention. The district for fifty miles around had been thoroughly
prospected, and no doubt some one of the parties had decently buried
the skeleton.

Leaving the horses tethered at the foot of the hill, the travellers
made the ascent, and once again Trenoweth had a view from the summit.
The crater still contained water, and, descending to it, the friends
tasted it. It was almost as bitter as gall, and Trenoweth wondered how
he had ever managed to get it down.

It was evening before Broken Hill was reached, and next day Trenoweth
took the train for Adelaide.

He first extracted a promise from Long that he would visit him on the
first favorable opportunity, and then the friends separated.

When Trenoweth reached Melbourne Barr had some information for him in
the shape of a letter.

When Edward broke the seal he was astonished to find that it was from
Mrs. Simpson, who was even then residing in Melbourne.

The letter was a pathetic one, revealing a married life of terrible
misery. Inez had been a widow for more than a year, but the release
had been a happy one for her. Simpson had been killed through falling
down a shaft at the Temora diggings. He had turned out an utter rascal,
leading his wife, whom he had married under false pretences, a terrible
life. She had been left quite penniless, having to earn a precarious
livelihood as a "ladies' companion." She wrote to Trenoweth, not for
sympathy, but to express the feeling that she had been rightly served.

Trenoweth showed the letter to Barr, and then said:

"I think I was somewhat to blame in this matter. I remember you told me
so on shipboard. Don't you think I should help her?"

"How can you do so?"

"If she liked to go back to St. Columb's Cove, the old house is still
there and only John Pengelly and his wife in it. I could settle an
annuity upon her," replied Edward.

"I rather like that idea, Edward," answered Barr.

The latter conducted the negotiations, and so it was decided that
Inez should return--a waif once more--and take possession of the old
Trenoweth home.

Edward settled a competency on her; and, a couple of years after, when
he with his wife and family visited St. Columb's Cove, they found her
thoroughly contented with her lot.

The people of the little village had cause to bless that visit, for the
Silver King was royal in his benefactions.

He visited the little cemetery where his parents were buried, and
breathed a prayer for their happiness.

Edward Trenoweth has long since got out of the Wake of Fortune, and,
blessed with riches, and what is even greater--happiness--he is content
to go down the stream of life holding out the hand of help to all in
need.


THE END.


This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia