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  ― 281 ―

Chapter XXVII. The Meeting of Jack and Rosa.

AS might be supposed, the captain and Barney did not waste any time at Kalgourlie after they had secured their own miners' rights with those of their comrades by proxy. The more rights they had, the more ground they would be able to prospect and purchase. The quicker also they were on the ground, the better for the security of their property.

They hired twenty camels with their Afghan drivers meantime, as a preliminary piece of business; and as they had ready money to pay for what they ordered, they were treated with corresponding complaisance and respect—for ready cash is always the visible sign of a man's respectability and worth in the eyes of people who have wares to sell, no matter how much poverty - stricken and debt-laden Robert Burns declaimed against it! “The man is not a man for a' that,” unless he possesses the gold, stamped or otherwise. In fact, he becomes a very poor and abject tool without it when his creditors begin the hunting-down game, and his butcher, grocer, baker and milkman refuse to let him have any more credit. The fine and poetic sentiment of being “a man for a' that,” may be sung over the drink his friend treats him


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to, but it is difficult to feel it while he has to borrow.

Independence would be a very noble kind of feeling if it could only be carried out, but alas! for poor humanity, it is utterly impossible to keep it up and live. Burns was far from it all his life, although he wrote so much about it; and as he was, so are we all, abject slaves to circumstances. Man is a borrower from the hour he first indulges in the luxury of living; the very air he breathes being an obligation which he accepts from his Creator. He has only two courses left open to him from his birth to his death. To be a debtor or to be a robber, in spite of all his protests and foolish pride. Which is the most degrading and unmanly is beyond me to decide. I only know that the possession of money is the nearest approach to that condition which all men court and respect.

Barney and the captain, flashing their stolen sovereigns, commanded the position, and when they set out with their caravan, they were sent off with a hearty God-speed, and their return looked for with eager expectation.

Meantime, while they had been absent, Jack Milton and the others settled down in the gully. They raised a branch-and-leaf hut in front of the mine entrance, which completely covered and protected that secret. They also pegged out the ground and broke the surface in several different places, under the Professor's instructions, to serve as blinds to inquisitive people, keeping the half-dozen natives with them as outposts to warn them


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of the approach of any strangers. The main body of the tribe had stopped a couple of hundred miles to the east, and only Jack's friend, the son of the chief, with a few of the adventurous young men, had accompanied him so far.

After building the hut and storing their provisions, Jack Milton and the Professor explored the mine, while waiting on the return of their emissaries, and found enough there to comfort them after all their privations.

The other passages had been merely experimental borings, and not carried to any great extent, yet in each of these were indications of interbedded lodes and cross veins, which in some places were particularly promising. The original miners, whoever they were, evidently must not have had crushing appliances, and therefore looked for “off-shoots,” “blows,” and “alluvial deposits.”

The first passage which they had discovered was where the original miners had found what they could extract easily from the decomposition of the rocks and the mixing of clay, which permitted them to extract the ore almost purely and easily. They had reached a “show” of extraordinary richness, and had contented themselves with working that at the time they were interrupted or left off.

That this lode had only as yet been broached was clear to the Professor after a careful investigation.

“I tell ye what, mates,” he exclaimed joyfully.


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“Them lost tribes left off afore they got to the best part of their discovery. They only got the thin end of the wedge so far, the heavy part lies below. I reckon we'll get enough out of this dip to make us all dooks if we want to, and leave plenty in the mountain to float the biggest mine in the West arterwards. Lor'! this rock is saturated with it; meanwhile our game is to make what we can out of the gravel gold fust.”

Jack knew he could trust the Professor's geological knowledge, and indeed, soon picked out sufficient specimens to satisfy his mind that they need go prospecting no farther, but on the second day he made a discovery which nearly sent every member off his head.

That portion of the wall where the lettering was engraved fascinated him so greatly that he devoted most of his attention to it, with the result that on this second day he saw what appeared like a cut division in one portion of it. That was quite enough to set this professional safe-opener's sharp wits at work.

“I'm going to try a little gunpowder blasting here, Professor. Are the walls safe to stand a mild charge?”

“Yes,” replied the Professor, “they'll stand all the powder you have in the camp without shaking the tunnel.”

“All right, we'll do it at once then, for I'm mighty mistaken if this ain't a door which a little powder will open for us.”

Together they set to work and soon bored a


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hole between the crack at the bottom, then charging it, they made a running train to the chamber outside, and lighted it. In less than a minute the explosion occurred, and the sulphur smoke came pouring out towards them.

As soon as the atmosphere was cleared they went forward with their lighted candles, and saw that Jack had been correct in his surmise. The rock on which the hieroglyphics, or writing, had been, was broken and lying in the passage on a mound of débris, while beyond lay a dark cutting.

With eager steps Jack plunged into the cavity, holding his candle in front of him, the Professor following as quickly as he could after the young man.

“What do you think of that, Professor Mortikali?”

“By golly!” gasped the Psychometrist, as he gazed round with starting eyes. “The store-house of the lost tribes.”

Yes, whatever ancient adventurers had been here, and whatever treasure they had taken away, they had locked up sufficient in this cutting to reward handsomely those coming after. There the gold reposed on the quartz floor, as it had been picked and packed ready for transportation. Pure nuggets of all sizes from a few grains up to pounds in weight; lumps of quartz and hornblende veined like black and gold marble, with the dim tinted ore clinging to each piece in delicious filigree tracings. There were camel loads of it, all selected and arranged ready for the packing.

“Hoorah!” cried the Professor. “We don't


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need even to dig this yere mine. The lost tribes have saved us the trouble.”

“Good chaps, these lost tribes were,” responded Jack. “But why didn't they come back for it, I wonder?”

“They was too greedy and kept it all to themselves. I guess they got wrecked with the first shipload they took from here, and so the news never got back to their own country. It's a legacy of the past, that's what it is.”

They troubled no more about the digging out for the time, but carried the nuggets and quartz-lumps to the hut, packing them up carefully and placing them ready to be forwarded to the ship. This occupied them till the arrival of the captain, Barney and the camels.

A fortnight passed and the caravan was sent off loaded to the schooner. Jack went with the load and saw it shipped carefully, while Barney went once more to Kalgourlie, and took out purchase rights for the company.

They were rich already, and could afford now to be generous with their information, therefore, having secured the full rights of the mountain, they took in specimens to the warden, calling their mine “The Lock Up,” after that ready find, and the range Mount Berrima, after a place of seclusion which some of them had tender recollections of. Australia is mostly named in a sentimental fashion of this kind: Mount Hopeless, Cape Desolation, Fly-blown Flats, Gallows Gully, Cold Water Creek, Starvation Scrubbs, etc., etc.


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The time is yet to come when they will fix upon euphonious, or at least, less significant, and more taking titles.

There was such a mad rush to the district of Mount Berrima as had never been to its original namesake, and Jack Milton, or, as he now called himself, John Milroy, as the recognised head of the concern, was now regarded as a man to be courted.

His beard was long enough to serve as a disguise, while the Professor, with a clean shave, a false set of teeth, close-clipped hair, and blue glasses, felt that even his own wife might well have passed him by. Jack then determined to pay a visit to Kalgourlie, and arrange matters for his gang.

He had received splendid offers for shares; already a host of men were working the lodes. Capitalists were haunting him. The caravans were constantly travelling between Kalgourlie and Berrima; therefore, one day, he mounted a camel and rode into the mining centre.

All went well; he arranged his programme, saw the chief men of the place, and according to the custom of the place, put up at the “Chester Hotel.”

Barney had told him about Sarah Hall and her child, yet knowing nothing about Rosa, it was not to be expected that Jack would associate her with the hotel. It was therefore a shock to him when they came face to face, and he knew that his land-lady was his divorced wife.

Rosa recognised him the moment she saw him, for although a mother may forget her child, he was


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too big a man now for his wife who had so lately divorced him, to pass him by.

Sarah, at the moment he called at the hotel, was off duty, so that he didn't see her, but Rosa, who was in the bar, looked up with a gasp as he ordered his drink, then a glance passed between them, and that was all.

“You are Mr. Milroy, I believe?” she said, as soon as she recovered herself.

“Yes,” replied Jack quietly, “and you are Mrs. Chester!”

“The same — come, let me show you your room.”

There were a number of people in the bar at the time, and Jack, after finishing his liquor, followed the hostess inside. She did not take him to his own room, but led him towards hers, and when she got him inside, she shut the door, and then turned towards him with the one word:

“Jack!”

“Yes, Rosa, I've turned up, you see.”

“I'm glad of it, Jack. We are friends, I hope.”

“I trust so, Rosa—you have me in your power, as I have you!

He spoke easily, yet he did not feel so confident, knowing her as he did.

Rosa looked at him with pathetic eyes in which she had thrown her old dove-like witchery.

Chester was gone—she hadn't heard from him since he left, and there was no man so much talked about as John Milroy at present on the diggings. Why shouldn't she win him back and have him


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again as her slave, the richest man about the Coolgardie district?

The room where they were was only a small one but it was well furnished.

The bed was tastefully arranged, and Rosa sat now upon it, as a couch, while Jack stood a little way from her. It was only a few months ago since they had shared one room, surely her task was an easy one—charming woman as she was.

“Don't speak that way, Jack. If you knew how I have regretted my foolishness in the past, you would forgive me. I did not think. I was tempted, but you were my first love, Jack, and I would have died had any ill befallen you.”

“I daresay, Rosa—only since then there has happened a good deal. You have got a divorce and married again. That makes a difference, doesn't it?”

“I don't know—there is no difference in me. I am the same as I ever was, where you are concerned.”

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