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Below And On Top

Chapter I.

THE Peep-o'-Day had been shut down for a long time now. The grand machinery rusted in the imposing brick engine-house, deserted by all saving the swallows and Dick, who could just squeeze in through the slit in the wall where the beam rode, and who did not share the superstitious fear inspired in his schoolmates by its dim light and silence and loneliness. The rabbits burrowed and bred under the black boilers and about the foundations of the towering stack, and a subduing influence hung around the old mine and touched with reverence the stranger loitering curiously about its many buildings and piled-up tips.

Over young Dick Haddon the mine exerted a peculiar fascination. Most of his spare time after school hours and on Saturday afternoons he spent running at large about the place, washing innumerable prospects in his old fryingpan at the big dam. He

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found his way into the locked offices, and rummaged the blacksmith's shop, the engine-room and boiler-houses; climbed the lightning-rod on the dizzy, rocking smoke-stack, to the imminent risk of his precious neck; scrambled over every part of poppet-legs, brace, and puddling plat, doing monkey on the tie-beams, with sheer falls of a hundred or two hundred feet inviting him to the scattered, clean white boulders below; or taking the air up on the poppet-heads, to the scandal of Brother Bear or Brother Petric or any other pious brother of the little Waddytown Wesleyan chapel, for all believed such devilment to be a certain evidence of evil possession.

The mine had always filled the greater part of the boy's life. He remembered since memory began with him a mighty, smoking, whistling entity, vomiting unending water, and clattering truck-loads of gravel and slate, and curious streams of white mullock, fed with big four-horse waggon-loads of wood that came up the muddy Springs road to the accompaniment of volleying whip-cracks and gorgeous profanity that seemed grand and inspiring and filled him with the same large emotions as a tale of “Arabian Nights” read aloud by his mother before the winter evening fires.

He remembered, too, that night when he was five years old — ages ago it seemed to him now — when he crawled from his bed and found his mother, her white

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nightdress all dabbled with blood, wailing over his father, lying silent and motionless upon the kitchen floor, whilst in the grey shadowy background stood three or four miners, ashen-faced and still, hiding their mouths behind their smirched felt hats. He knew that the mine had killed his father, and thought of it as a living thing taking vengeance. Even now, when he was eleven and almost a man, the illusion was not dispelled, and sometimes took complete possession of him, especially when none other was near and the wind played upon the many vast props and legs of the mine as if they were the strings of a gigantic harp, and crooned mournful songs amongst the timbers, or when he called through the openings between the slabs over the pump shaft, and started the voices whispering in the black, bottomless depths, and the moans and sobs vibrating faintly in the miles of dripping, dark drives, far below there in the centre of the world.

Other children came over the common occasionally during the dinner hour, or on bright afternoons, from the weatherbeaten wooden school in the lazy town-ship, to slide down the tips or ride on the long arms of the capstans, breaking their limbs and their heads indiscriminately, and Dickie resented it as an intrusion. Tinker Smith he didn't mind; the little dry old fossicker was silent and pipeclayed, and seemed to be part of the mine and imbued with its spirit. He had always been there, Dick thought,

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pottering about amongst the tips, sluicing, puddling, and cradling, or crooning over his pan at the water's edge.

The mine had another familiar whom Dickie respected — one, indeed, whom he regarded with a profound reverence as a creature superior to the ordinary run of mortals, gentler and more angelic than mere women were, and one having some wondrous affinity with those sorrowful souls lost in the long drives, in whose existence he so implicitly believed. This was Sim's Idiot, the mad woman who came from the bush beyond the township, and visited the mine by night only — a tall woman, with long, silver-white hair and a pale young face in which her dark eyes shone with lustre that lived in no other eyes the boy had ever seen or dreamed of. Knowing no other form of madness than this, which was ineffably beautiful and mournful and tender, Dick's mind assimilated the term with his highest ideas of beauty, purity, and love, and Agnes Brett became an ideal of his boyish fancy.

Agnes's father, a fairly well-to-do farmer, owned the paddocks where the youngsters of Waddy went to gather sticks and bark, and where they ran wild half their time — nesting or hunting meek 'possums or malicious native cats. She was a widow. Three years ago, twelve months after their marriage, her husband Simon Brett, was killed with three others in a drive of the Peep-o'-Day, almost under the house

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where his wife lay peacefully sleeping. A blundering, screaming fool took the news to her, and came near to killing her on the instant. A baby was born, and for long days the mother was despaired of; but she lived — lived bereft of reason and possessed with many quaint beliefs about the old mine and the spirit of her murdered lover; and this girl, who was handsome and ruddy and commonplace in health and happiness, went home to her parents again a slim, eerie creature wondrously transformed, with a face superhuman in its spirituality. Her hair whitened rapidly, and she was silent save when she spoke of Sim and of the mine that had killed him.

They called her Sim's Idiot, and in the minds of those who had known her from her infancy and had grown up with her Sim's Idiot soon ceased to be connected with Agnes Brett; it seemed as if the latter had died, and a stranger had come amongst them between whom and the woman they had known there was not a passing resemblance or anything in common.

The name was absurdly inappropriate; but Waddy lacked imagination; in common with most bush town-ships it had a lamentable poverty of ideas. Nothing in Agnes's affliction suggested idiocy — indeed, a celestial intellectuality seemed to sit upon her serene countenance. But Waddy did not draw fine distinctions, and the name stuck.

One night, shortly after her return to her father's

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house, Agnes was missed, and was found an hour or so later standing in the moonlight by the post and rail fence surrounding the Peep-o'-Day, gazing upon the mine and calling her husband's name. They led her away, but she came again on other nights, a statuesque figure, waiting and calling in a penetrating voice that carried above the clangour of the engines and the churning roar of the puddlers.

Sometimes she addressed the mine in sweet, plaintive unintelligible speech, and it was a pathetic yet a thrilling sight to see her thus, when the furnace yawned and the rolling steam-clouds caught the ruddy glow and lept like flame, and the radiance fell upon her for a moment, glorifying her tall figure, picking it out of the darkness.

At first she was a wonder in Waddytown, and people, when they heard that Sim's Idiot was out, would walk across from the township, about a quarter of a mile off, and, gathered in small, nervous groups amongst the scattered trees, would watch her curiously as long as she remained, offering abject opinions with the gravity of sages, the women frequently discerning Sim's spirit beckoning amongst the fleeing steam rack, to their delicious terror. Waddy presently lost interest, seeing that nothing happened, and the comings and goings of Sim's Idiot were not considered worthy of remark. Even her father, who was devoted to her, ceased to follow her, knowing that no harm would befall, and the brace-

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men, hearing her voice, were not thrilled, as at first, with irritating fears, or induced to take unworkman-like precautions when moving about the shaft, for the sake of their own wives, who might, some day, be brought to this.

Whilst the Peep-o'-Day continued working the mad woman ventured no nearer than the rail fence, but at length, long after the mine was shut down, and when rust and decay had taken full advantage of the law's delay, Dickie saw her, one bright night, sitting alone by the pump shaft. Over the mouth of each of the two winding shafts stood a heavy cage, and the pump shaft was covered with slabs securely spiked, so that she was in no danger of falling into either.

The old mine in its most mysterious humours had no terrors for young Dick. His superstitious beliefs were many, but without terror. Of late he came often at night, with his horsehair nooses, trapping the rabbits that bred miraculously about the top workings and fattened on the profuse milk thistles and the wild corn, and so the sight of Agnes Brett was no unusual thing to him. But to him she never lost interest; a wonderful pity for her grew in his heart, and touched his life with a melancholy utterly at variance with his healthy boyhood and his natural heartiness — a melancholy that for many weeks gave his brave, busy little mother much concern about his digestion and othex matters, and led to his being afflicted with superfluous flannels, and plied with home-brewed medicines with

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a camomile basis, all equally atrocious to taste and smell.

Dick would follow Agnes to the mine, and, creeping near her in the darkness, would crouch in one of the cages, watching her and listening as she called the one name down the echoing shaft, and spoke strange mad words to the mysteries that whispered and flitted below, in a voice so soft, so piteous in its pleading, that, without comprehending, he found himself sobbing aloud, and filled with a passionate longing to do something to help this poor white woman with the starlike eyes, who was always waiting and praying for the thing that never came. He tried to understand her, to know what it was she sought, and he grew to believe that it was in her poor ruined mind that her husband's spirit was imprisoned with the rest, deep, deep down in the black shaft or the blacker drives, and that some night he would answer her — perhaps escape from the powers of darkness again and come up to her and be free and happy. To Dick it was a rational belief, and he wondered that it evoked no response.

One night, listening to her supplicating tones, thrilled by their magical tenderness, he conceived a bright idea. For days and nights it haunted him, and then resolution came. He would do the thing he had thought upon, and see if it were not possible to give peace to this fairy woman.

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Chapter II.

AFTER school, on the day on which Dick determined upon taking action, he sauntered into Tinker Smith's vicinity, at the Peep-o'-Day, with his hands in his pockets, his hat set on the back of his head, and whistling affectedly. Tinker was somewhat an identity of Waddy, and Dick wanted information; but there was a matter of a broken shovel to be settled between him and the old fossicker, and he had to proceed warily. He selected a strategical position that offered facilities for a hurried retreat and commenced insinuatingly:

“Any luck t'day, Tink'?”

The old man grunted without looking up from his tub, and Dickie edged off a bit. He had little faith in Tinker Smith, a little old pipeclayed man with a ferrety face and ferrety hair and thin dry whiskers. He was full of surprises, and had a way of falling upon a victim when least expected, and taking summary vengeance in the most convenient manner that offered itself, preserving all the time an expressionless face and a calmness quite contrary to nature. He had clipped Dick with a pick handle, tipped him head over heels into the dam, and had bitten his ear till it bled, and the boy had learned the value of eternal vigilance.

“Sim's Idiot was here again lars night,” ventured Dickie, after a strained silence.

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Tinker was indifferent.

“Say, Tinker, them Finny kids come here yes'dee. Teddy broke your shovel, diggin' out a bunny, an' I licked him.”

The fossicker turned his dull little eyes doubtingly on the boy, but continued puddling.

Dickie tried another tack.

“I can lay you onter a bit o' pay dirt if you want it.”

Tinker knew the boy sometimes hit upon decent patches of dirt, and had profited by several of his discoveries. This interested him.

“Where to?” he asked.

“Where to's tellin's,” responded Dick.

Tinker churned in his tub with an air of utter obliviousness to anything beyond, and Dick, suspicious of the symptoms, edged away a few paces.

“See here,” he said presently, “you tell me about Sim — her husban', you know — an' I'll show you the stuff. Got ten grains in two han'fuls Satterdee.”

“S'welp yer bob?”

“True's death.”

Tinker was convinced. He ceased puddling, leaned on his shovel, and commenced awkwardly, and with great labour — conversation was difficult to him, coherent narrative impossible:

“Well, this here Simon Brett, he was the feller what fought Hoppy Hoffman up on the pound, eighteen rounds, and licked him, got killed in a fall

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in Number 3 — him, an' Ryan, an' Bowden, an' Kit Stevens — Collard's shift. I was platman. Strappin' chap, Sim; alwiz smilin'; he'd work smilin', an' fight smilin'. Happy sorter man. She was his missus, this idjit.”

Dickie wanted further particulars, and, as Tinker had evidently agreed to an armistice, he abandoned his defences and approached the fossicker.

“But you knew him an' his wife; you went ter their house sometimes, didn't you? What 'id he call her? How'd he talk when he was bein' lovin' like? Was they sweethearts long, an' did they walk in the wattle paddocks, an' sit on the rocks on Bullock Hill?”

Dick had a riotous fancy, and Tinker was as unimaginative as a wombat, but by dint of close questioning he managed to get out of the old man much of the information he needed, and after that he waited his opportunity.

Agnes did not visit the mine for nearly two weeks, and when Dick saw her again it was too late to effect his purpose; she was already crouched at the mouth of the shaft. Her face was pressed to one of the narrow openings, and she wept with a low moaning sound. Dick touched her thin, pale hand, and spoke to her.

“Who's there, please?” His heartbeat heavily and erratically, and he trembled, although he did not fear the mad woman in the least.

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She arose, and stood regarding him for a moment. The boy pointed to the shaft.

“Won't he come?” he asked eagerly, but she moved away without appearing to have heard him, and he followed her slowly, and from the top of the big gates watched her dark figure across the moonlit flat.

After that he waited for her, and when she came again he was ready. He hastened to the shaft and pulled away one end of the side slab, having found some days previously that the spike was loose. Then he squeezed his body through the opening, and stood in the pump shaft on the topmost rung of the ladder that ran straight down the wall of the shaft. Grasping the ladder with his left hand, with the other he dragged the slab — still secured with one spike — into its place again, and, clinging to the rungs in the tomb-like silence, he waited.

The mighty black depths seemed to drag at the boy as he stood, drawing and drawing him down into the abyss at his feet, and, as if irritated at his bold intrusion, the mysteries muttered and moaned and eddied impatiently, and an ominous threatening seemed to murmur in the hollow workings. But the boy was too full of his purpose to give any heed to these when Agnes came, and he saw the light of her eyes as she bent her face to the crevice just above his head. He felt her breath upon his cheek as she called the name of her dead lover, repeating the word again and again in the mournful chant so familiar to him.

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There was no coherency in the words that followed. They sounded like an inarticulate prayer, instinct with intensest emotion, but softly spoken.

Dick listened for a time, absorbed, and presently, when she seemed awaiting a reply, he brought his lips close to her face, and whispered a few words:

“Aggie, dear wife!”

The boy had not anticipated the full effect of his action. A wild cry of joy rang out upon the night and awakened eddying echoes in the deep shaft, and the woman flung herself upon the slabs, beating them with her thin hands, plucking at their edges with long, white fingers, sobbing, laughing, and calling upon the dead in an ecstasy of madness that appalled him, and he clung to the ladder, trembling in every limb.

Dick had never before succeeded in winning a reply from the woman. When he met her at the mine or wandering in the bush, and spoke to her, feeling that she pleaded for something in that strange language of hers, and hoping that he might be able to help her, since none of the men and women of Waddy gave heed to her sorrow, she regarded him with great unmeaning eyes that did not see; in their gaze he seemed to have no existence; and if she spoke it was only in the tangled speech of madness. He expected she would hear and understand the voice in the shaft, and believe her husband had answered her at last.

It was long ere Dick found courage to speak again,

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but when Agnes was silent, save for the faint sobbing that escaped her, he leant back his head and whispered close to her face, and her hot tears fell upon his cheek. She did not shriek this time, but babbled a few words, and finished laughing softly.

Dickie addressed her with expressions of endearment and pet names learned from the old fossicker, and finding her calm and rapt, he wove quaint fancies from fairy tales into his talk, as he had planned it, and at times his words were almost as mad as her own, but he remembered always to dwell upon visions of joy and beauty. He had escaped from the desolation of the old mine, and was going up out of the darkness to light and beatitude, to dwell with the angels in a boyish paradise. The talk was jumbled; it was spoken in the quaint diction peculiar to bush boys; but there was a flavour of inspiration in it, and the mad woman clinging to the slabs above was awakened to some understanding, and laughed a soft, low laugh, and murmured like a happy child.

At length Dickie was recalled to himself by the numbness of his extended arms, and the pain throbbing in his neck.

“I'm goin' now,” he whispered. “Good-bye, dear wife.”

Pressing his face to the slabs where her white face shone faintly, he kissed her mouth.

She cried out again at the contact — a cry of exultation.

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Dick, standing on the ladder, waited till she should leave before climbing out of the shaft. She remained prone upon the slabs, silent, for a long time, but at length she talked, talked almost inaudibly, but with no trace of the anguish that was wont to make her voice like the moaning of a dumb beast in pain. The boy's limbs ached, and fear began to creep into his heart. Still he was true to his purpose, and after twenty minutes, that seemed half a night to him, Agnes arose and moved slowly away. Dick waited for a few minutes, and then with a great effort, painful to his stiffened limbs, he shifted the slab aside and drew himself out of the shaft. He was replacing the long spike, when, looking up, he saw the mad woman standing erect within a few yards of the shaft, regarding him fixedly. When he faced her she took a step forward, threw out her hands, and with a cry that seemed to the boy to echo among the clouds overhead and in every hollow of the earth, she fell forward upon the stones and lay still. Dick ran to her, and turned her face to the moonlight; it was rigid, the half-closed eyes were glazed. He believed her dead, and fled like a hunted hare.

Houten and Winter returned with Dick to the mine, and found Agnes as he had left her. They took her up and carried her to her father's home, the boy going after, with a quaking heart. Then followed a long illness for Agnes and a troublous time for little Mrs. Haddon, who became more and more precautious

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in the matter of flannel, and doubled the doses of camomile tea, without effecting any visible improvement in Dick's condition. The boy had become strangely morbid; he grew pale and thin, and whilst his mother fretted, imagining him to be the victim of some wasting disease, he was beset with a fear that Agnes Brett was going to die, and that he would be her murderer. He kept his secret religiously within his own breast, and in his spare time he haunted her father's farm, sometimes venturing to ask after the sick woman, but usually skulking about as if dreading observation.

At length, to Dick's immeasurable relief, Agnes was reported out of danger, and Waddy was electrified by the news that Sim's Idiot had recovered her reason. With the restoration of her health her mind had been restored, and she was now as she had been before the news of her husband's death struck her down. Happiness returned to the breast of Dickie Haddon, but he still kept to himself the story of his escapade at the mine, waiting for a chance to see Agnes, wondering if she remembered. When at length he saw her face to face he was sadly disillusioned. She sat in an easy chair under the verandah at the farmhouse; the beautiful white hair was done up in a hard, ungainly knot. She looked ordinary — not at all the gentle, spiritual creature he had known. Dick was vaguely troubled. He felt that the responsibility of this deplorable

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change rested upon his shoulders, and was surprised that no-body seemed to regret the alteration in Mrs. Brett.

Chapter III.

DICK was as mischievous an imp as the township was afflicted with — and the boys of Waddy were even more prone than boys of other places to the evil that is dear to the young heart everywhere; but the other boys did not take their pranks seriously, as he did. His exuberant fancy invested his absurdest escapades with a high purpose and a most tremendous dignity. If he led a moonlight raid upon Jock Summer's pear trees it was in the character of a mediæval knight of spotless honour and god-like beauty, and the purpose was to rescue from an ungainly, gross, and remorseless baron some fair, distressful damsel. He stole the pears all the same, and was careful to secure his share of the loot, but for the time being imagination held sway. To his mates it was all entertaining make-believe — to Dick Haddon it was all actual, and, as the knight of old, Thunderbolt the bushranger, or Jacky Jacky, the chief of a bloodthirsty band of blacks, the boy's romanticism helped largely to keep the lives of the housewives and housefathers of Waddy from sinking into an enervating monotony of peaceful dulness.

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But Dick had not enlisted the co-operation of the mates who usually shared in his boyish pranks in this, his most wonderful adventure. For some time now he had deserted the haunts of his youthful companions, and there was comparative calm in Waddy. The boys were very well as subordinate blacks or inferior banditti, but in a matter of pure sentiment Dick felt instinctively that he could expect no sympathy from them — they would not understand. The radiant unearthliness of the mad woman had never appealed to them; they were indifferent to her white beauty, like that of the shining angels pictured in the Haddon family bible. They were just plain boys, and the plain boy is perilously near to the brute at times in the entire absence of motive and thought that characterizes his cruelties. Dick's fiercest battle was fought with Fod Carroll, who led an attack with sods on Agnes Brett on the Back Flat, and Fod, bewildered by the impetuosity of his small enemy, collapsed miserably in the third round. That fight was long remembered in Waddy; it created a new respect for Dickie among the boys, and fixed his status as the natural leader in any matter of common interest in which he chose to interfere.

There was one boy, indeed, in whom he might have confided — Dolf Belman, a youngster of about his own age, who provided most of his books and was his lieutenant in many adventures; but Dick, in his sick unrest, wanted no companionship. The more he saw

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of Mrs. Brett — and she rapidly grew plump and ruddy — the more bitterly he lamented the act of his that had so altered her. He who had been most anxious to serve her had been the one to bring about this deplorable change, this transformation of an ethereal creature into a giggling dairymaid.

One evening Dick Haddon saw Agnes Brett walking with Peter Kiley in the wattle paddock, and Peter — the long, ungainly son of a long, ungainly dairyman up the creek — was making awkward and bashful love to Mrs. Brett, whilst the buxom widow made a great pretence of resisting his elephantine blandishments, with shrill laughter and coy protestations.

Dickie fled from the sight, filled with bitterness and, seeking the seclusion of the Peep-o'-Day, blubbered miserably on the slabs over the pump shaft for twenty minutes.

How would Sim bear it? was a question that now presented itself to his active mind. Agnes had not been seen near the mine since her recovery — she never seemed to think of it or of her dead husband now. Did the spirit imprisoned in the old mine miss her? Was it waiting to hear her calling again in the early evening hours? The boy's faith was absolute; he knew that the drives were peopled with the spirits of the mine's victims, and that his father's ghost, and the ghosts of Brett, and Bowden, and Ryan, and the rest walked the drives, and talked in strange, low, monotonous voices. He had heard them talking, had

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distinguished words, he thought, when all was still. How could he doubt? But he thought only of Brett, the forsaken husband, the neglected lover, the poor spirit whom his act had deprived of its only companionship and consolation, and he spent much time peering down through the cracks and harassing his young soul with most extravagant conjecture.

The morbid condition induced by these truly preposterous problems was the occasion of many more doses of camomile tea, extra strong, and Mrs. Haddon, in her perplexity, called in elderly female experts, who, having reared large families in spite of all the ills that are the heritage of youth, believed themselves to be, and were generally believed to be, capable of diagnosing every ailment and prescribing innumerable infallible cures. These old women gravely considered Dickie's symptoms, and suggested many remedies, with most of which he was duly afflicted at one time or another; but the boy refused to brighten up and resume his old, healthy, careless, impish courses under the influence of either pill, potion, plaster, or unction, or the lot together.

Meanwhile, however, Dick had resolved to speak to Mrs. Brett at the first opportunity. He was curious to know her thoughts on the matter uppermost in his mind. He had the idea that her present condition of mind and body was abnormal, and that she might be brought back to her former romantic state if she were

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made to understand that the spirit of her dead husband wandered in the Peep-o'-Day workings and yearned to hear her voice again.

Later the boy saw Mrs. Brett at the Sunday-school anniversary picnic. She was now ruddy-cheeked and full-breasted. Clad in a tight town-made dress, and with her wonderful hair dyed a common brown, she was romping with a shrieking crowd playing kiss-in-the-ring, and a sense of hopelessness took possession of Dickie as he watched; but presently, when she had taken a seat on a log apart from the rest, and was fanning herself after her exertions, he approached her, and straddling the same butt, commenced, with a boy's abruptness:

“Ain't you never goin' ter the Peep-o'-Day no more?”

Agnes Brett turned upon him, astonished and indignant. Her father had told her of her doings during the time of her affliction, and she hated any allusion to that time from the lips of others.

“If you're cheeky, little boy, I'll box your ears for you,” she said, with a threatening gesture.

Dicky did not wince, but sat looking up at her, like a small, red-headed cherub in rather indifferent health, and Agnes, who was as soft of heart as any breathing creature, was touched by the wan expression of the ailing imp.

“Ain't meanin' it fer cheek,” said Dick, picking nervously at the bark; “I jes wanter know.”

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“Well, I am not going — I am well now — an' you mus' never talk about it.”

“Why?” Dick moved nearer. “I say, d' you know me?”

“The boy Haddon.”

“Yes, but d' you remember me before you was like this” — he suggested everything in a gesture — “when you was tall, an' white, an' beautiful?”

“No,” she said, “I do not, an' you mus'n't talk about it, don't I tell you?”

“Say, it was me what did this!” — again he indicated the change with a motion of the hands, as if it were a deplorable thing.

“Whatever is the boy meanin'?”

“'Twas me what did it. You useter go to the shaft of nights, an' once I frightened you, an' — an' then it happened.”

“What happened?” There was none other within earshot, and Agnes was curious.

“Everythin' happened. You wanted him to come up outer the mine, an' went callin', callin' fer him. So once I got into the shaft, and when you called I spoke like him, and kissed you, an' you cried out. An' then, when I climbed up again, you saw me, and fell down on the stones. An' when you was well you was like this, an' it was all my fault.”

Dick looked utterly woebegone. It had occurred to him that his confession might provoke trouble, but he was quite unprepared for the demonstration that

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followed. Agnes Brett took him unawares, and he found himself caught up in her strong arms and half smothered in a long, pillowy embrace, whilst rapturous kisses were rained upon the top of his head. When at length he escaped, and stood off regarding Agnes resentfully, he was quite bedewed with her grateful tears.

“Oh! Dickie Haddon!” she gasped. “Oh! Dickie Haddon!” and she could gasp nothing else but “Oh! Dickie Haddon!” for quite a minute, during which time her ample bosom was disturbed by most strenuous emotions, and Dickie stood at a distance ready for flight should she betray any desire to repeat that overwhelming hug.

“You — you — you dear boy!” stammered Mrs. Brett, when she gained a little control over her feelings. “It was you who saved me, an' I'll love you all my life.”

Dick fled to the other side of the log to escape a threatened advance.

“Ain't you comin' t' the mine again some o' these nights?” he asked, doggedly. He could not appreciate her raptures — they were quite uncalled for, it seemed to him.

“No,” she said, “I wouldn't dare. Don't you see I am quite well now. I only went because I didn't know what I was doin'.”

“But Sim! He is down in the drive where he died. He will want you sometimes. Come an' talk to him,

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won't you?” he went on, eagerly. “Come to-night — Just for a little while. I don't think he hears me, an' it mus' be dreadful lonely below, don't you think, with no one t' talk to ever?”

Agnes regarded the boy curiously for a few moments.

“Come here, an' sit near me,” she said. “I want to talk to you about him. Do you think he is down in the mine — always there?”

“Not himself, jest his ghost.”

“You think so because you heard me talkin' to him. Well, that was all wrong; I went because somethin' was the matter with my head, an' I fancied strange things. There is no ghost in the mine, an' you must never say so any more, or you will make me very wretched, an' remind people of the time when I was” — she dropped her voice to an impressive whisper — “when I was mad.” “But he is there, I've heard him myself,” said Dick, to whom Mrs. Brett's confessions were only further proof of the completeness of her pitiful fall from grace, and sweetness, and truth.

A terrified light crept into the woman's eyes, and her cheek paled. She was intensely superstitious, and the boy's earnestness impressed her; but at this stage Peter Kiley shambled up and captured Mrs. Brett for his partner in one of the osculatory games always popular at Waddy picnics, and Dickie retired into the sapling scrub to indulge in rueful cogitation and contemplate his great hatred for long Pete Kiley.

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“It was a rotten picnic!” was Dick's opinion, as imparted to Dolf next day.

Chapter IV.

TIME served to soften young Haddon's great regret, but Sim was remembered still, and the boy's compassion for the poor lonely spirit was a genuine grief, and, with a dim notion of making all the reparation in his power, he continued to visit the shaft after nightfall, and would call down the reverberating mine, or whistle or sing. If he neglected this duty for three nights running self-reproach attacked him in his bed, and on one occasion impelled him to get up and dress, while his mother slept, and creep out of the house to steal away in the moonlight and do his duty by the wronged ghost.

Then came the news of the approaching marriage of Peter Kiley and Agnes Brett, and that revived the boy's keenest regrets. His goddess had parted with her last shred of divinity; and was become the commonest of clay, and now she betrayed a callousness that was hardly human. It had come to this: Sim had no one who cared to think of him now but Richard Haddon; his wife had deserted him, his friends had forgotten him, and amongst all the ghosts below and on top there was not one so wretched as the ghost of Agnes's faithful and devoted lover and husband, poor Brett.

  ― 26 ―
One night about a week after the announcement of the betrothal of Pete and Agnes, Dick and his mate, Dolf Belman, were sitting on the slabs over the pump shaft at the Peep-o'-Day. Dolf had been artfully inveigled to the mine under the pretence of assisting Dick to spread traps for the exceedingly circumspect rabbits that infested the tips, but Dickie had an ulterior motive, and had cunningly shaped the conversation with that motive in view. He had talked of the old mine and its murders, and Dolf was worked up; he crept very close to his mate, and his face glowed palely in the shadow of the cage.

“Say, Dickie,” he murmured, “d'you believe in — you know?” He pointed down into the shaft.

“Ghosts?”said Dick. “No — o — o! D'you?”

Dolf compressed his lips, and nodded his head slowly.

“Yah, that's rot!” said Dick.

“But don't they say that some of the men what was killed moves about down there sometimes? An' what's that we hear when we listen very quiet?”

“Dunno, but it ain't no ghosts. Think I ought to know?”

“Why, Dick?”

“Oh,” said Dick in a careless tone, “bin down, that's all.”

Dolf regarded him with wide-open, wondering eyes.

“What,” he murmured, “right down inter the dark?”

  ― 27 ―
Dick nodded.

“All by yerself?”

Again Dick nodded his head. It will be seen that Richard Haddon was not absolutely truthful. The decalogue was not made for diplomatists.

“Gum!” said Dolf admiringly, “I wouldn't 've.”

“Course you wouldn't” — this very casually — “you ain't game.”

This was an unfriendly aspersion; Dolf reddened under it.

“Game's you any day!”

“Talk's easy stuff.”

“Climbed the smoke stack ez high ez you, Ginger, see!”

“Ginger” was an epithet that usually provoked battle, but just now Dick was too busy to think of his private honour.

“Pooh! what's climbin' a lightnin' rod. Y'ain't game t' go down the ladders t' the second level.”

“Neither 'r you; don' b'lieve you went down far.”

“Don't you? Well if you're so plucky come down with me. I'm on; an' I'll get the candles an' I'll go first. Now who's game?”

“I am!” said Dolf defiantly.

So it was all arranged for the following night, and Dolf was sworn to secrecy with the magical rite of the wet and dry finger and the usual dread incantation, and Dick had secured his object. He wished to go down into the mine, but although he had not

  ― 28 ―
Dolf's fear of the ghosts, a strange awe, not altogether painful, possessed him at the thought of meeting Sim alone below in the long drive. With human companionship he felt that he could dare all, and the longing to investigate was strong upon him. Even if Sim was not to be seen, the adventure had attractions apart from his interest in the forlorn ghost. For one thing, boys were forbidden to go near an open shaft, and to the youthful mind, inquisitive and acquisitive, what is forbidden is never wholly forbidding. The weakness of Mother Eve is visited upon her sons, even unto the present generation.

“What's it like below?” asked Dolf, when the arrangements had been agreed upon.

“Spiffen!” said Dick with enthusiasm. “It ain't dark, y'know, when the candles is burnin', an' the drives is just like a pirate's lair.”

“My word!” murmured Dick. “An' no spirits ner nothin'!”

“No-o-o! D'yer think spirits 'd be sich fools ez t' stay down there. Look here, Dolf, we might find some nuggets. We'll be miners, an' I'll be underground boss, an' this is our mine. That'll be all right.”

“My word!” said the other, brightening up, “an' if we get a pound's wo'th we can join the lib'ry.”

Dickie nodded cheerfully, and the boys left the mine, forgetting rabbits and everything else in the new venture.

  ― 29 ―
On the following evening at about eight o'clock Dick and Dolf crossed the common together to the mine, and Dick, who was determined that his companion should have no time for repentance, hastily removed the loose slab, and let himself down on to the ladder.

“I'll go down a bit, an' then light my candle. Then you come down an' light yours. We mus'n't let no one see us.”

Each boy had half a candle fixed to the front of his hat with a lump of clay, and Dick had other pieces in his pocket in case of accident. Both were dressed as nearly like grown miners as they could contrive, and Dick assumed the authoritative tone and manner of the boss of the shift.

“Now,” he said, when Dolf had followed him, and the two stood upon the iron-runged ladder running perpendicularly down the side of the shaft, “cling tight to the ladder whatever you do, an' keep yer body close to it. Come on.”

So they started the perilous journey down into the bowels of the earth. To go up or down three hundred feet of ladders is a wearisome task for a grown man. To a strong boy, accustomed to climbing, and trusting much to his sturdy limbs, it is not a matter of great difficulty, and the lads made good progress. Below them was densest darkness, about them the faint glow of the candles, above, a pale streak of moonlight, shone the opening they had made. At occasional

  ― 30 ―
intervals there were scanty stagings fixed across the shaft to facilitate work in connection with the “lifts” — the pipes up through which water is pumped from a mine — and on these Dickie and his mate rested. Dick talked to keep his mate's spirits from ebbing, and his words rang strangely and lingered in the walled shaft.

At length the boys came upon a wide staging filling half the shaft, and here several of the centres and strong timbers dividing the pump shaft from the working shaft had been knocked away, and the staging was continued through to where the mouth of the drive loomed in the feeble light.

“That's the drive,” said Dick. “I don' know what level we're at, but we mus' be a awful way down. What yer doin?”

Dolf was clinging to his arm, and pointing downwards, too horrified to speak. Dick peered over the edge of the staging, and saw two white, ghostly faces glaring up at them out of the blackness, and above the foreheads of these two faces burned yellow stars. For an instant Dick was stricken with pulseless fear, then he remembered.

“Water!” he said.

They were looking at their own reflections in the black waters that filled the rest of the shaft and flooded the lower levels. Dick dropped some bits of reef and the faces were drawn into gruesome distortions and bobbed about fantastically in the ripples.

  ― 31 ―
“I say, y' ain't frightened, Dolf, are you?” murmured Dick.

Dolf shook his head, but his face was white, and his teeth chattered painfully as Dick led the way through the opening in the centres and into the great drive.

“There ain't no sense in being scared by a feller's own face in the water, is there, Dolf?” said Dickie.

“N-n-no,” said Dolf.

The two small boys stood on the plat peering into the main drive, but their candles illumined only a few yards before them, and beyond that was black night.

“Heaps of gold along there, I bet,” said Dick.

“My oath!” said Dolf, falteringly.

Dickie took the other's hand.

“Come on,” he said, “let's go 'n see. Ain't this grand? Wouldn't the other fellows be mad if they knew they was out of this?”

Holding hands, the boys pushed forward. The drive was high and wide, and almost dry, and in a little while Dolf recovered sufficiently to feel quite an interest in Dickie's exuberant fiction. Their feet made no sound upon the soft floor of the drive, and gradually Dickie drifted into silence. He was thinking of Sim, and a great excitement possessed him as they advanced along the apparently interminable tunnel.

Then, as they turned a curve, with the suddenness

  ― 32 ―
of a lime-light picture flashed upon a screen the two boys saw the apparition of a man start out of the darkness. The figure stood by the left-hand side of the drive, in a pale light, the origin of which Dick could not discover. It was dressed like a miner, and was tall and thin, and the pallid face was thrust forward in a listening attitude, the mouth open, the eyes staring.

Dolf uttered a choking cry, and fell upon his knees, clinging wildly to his companion, watching the vision with round, unblinking eyes. Dick had expected something like this. He was disappointed in details; his idea of a ghost was quite conventional, and he particularly admired white flowing draperies; but he was prepared for a spectre of some kind, and as he had never for a moment thought of the disembodied inhabitants of the old mine as evil spirits, or anything but sorrowing, suffering victims, the emotion that now thrilled him had nothing in common with the sickening terror that prostrated his mate. Besides, the ghost was evidently very much more afraid of him than he of it; its whole attitude and expression indicated fear, and it was partly with the hope of reassuring the poor spirit that Dickie spoke:

“Please, 're you Sim's ghost?”

The ghost did not answer, but maintained its terrified, listening attitude. Dickie's mouth was parched, but he made another effort, and adopted a more respectful manner of address.

  ― 33 ―
“Please, are you the ghost of Simon Brett?”

The ghost thought for a moment, and then nodded a slow affirmative; thought again, and nodded twice.

“Oh, please! oh, please!” whispered Dolf in piteous appeal.

“Who're you, an' what d' yer want?” The ghost seemed to be disguising its voice.

“I'm Dickie — Richard Haddon.” Dick approached a step, but the ghost threw out its hand with a commanding gesture.

“Don't come no nearer,” it said.

Richard Haddon's idea of a ghost was undergoing a process of rapid reconstruction. He knew that “Don't come no nearer” was a most ungrammatical expression, and he understood that whatever latitude might be given mere mortals, ghosts were always expected to be absolutely correct in speech.

“Are there any more of you?” asked the ghost.

“On'y me an' Alfred Belman,” said Dick.

“Oh! ghost, let us go, won't you?” moaned Dolf. “Let us go, an' we'll never come again — never, never, never!”

“I ain't goin' t' hurt you,” said the ghost. “Why d' yer come here?”

“Jist to see,” answered Dick.

The ghost seemed very much astonished, and looked at them for some time as if confronted with a difficult problem. Meanwhile, Dick was thirsting for information.

  ― 34 ―
“Why d' you stay down here alwiz?” he asked.

“Gotter!” answered the ghost briefly.

“But why?” persisted the mortal.

This was another problem for the ghost, and he gave it due consideration. Evidently Sim's ghost was a spirit of very limited mental resource. The explanation was a long time coming. At length he said:

“It's like this, yer see: I mus' stay till someone dies what cares for me, an' then the spirit of the one what's dead will come an' take me away.”

This was an inspiration. Dickie nodded approvingly; it quite coincided with his cherished convictions. He knew who the someone must be, and a thought of the impending marriage flitted across his mind.

“But there ain't nobody t' know, 'r else I'll have t' stay on here fer ever,” continued the ghost in a mournful voice. “P'raps youse two won't count, 'cause yer sich little fellers, but yer mus' swear solemn never t' say a word to a livin' soul, 'r I'll lock yer both up in a shoot an' keep yer fer ever an' ever. Amen.”

“We swear! we swear!” moaned Dolf. “Never a word — never a blessed word, true 's death!”

“I take me oath I'll never speak,” said Dick firmly.

“Wha's a good oath t' swear with?” asked the ghost.

Manifestly a satisfactory ghost should have been well up in such things, but Dick was not disposed to be hypercritical, remembering that at the best Sim's

  ― 35 ―
ghost could have had few opportunities down there of acquiring experience and enlarging its mind. He readily suggested the familiar formula much venerated by the boys of Waddy, and the ghost made the two boys kneel down in the drive, and administered the oath to them very solemnly and with great deliberation.

“Now,” he said, when the ceremony was ended, “d' yer know what'll happen to the boy what breaks a hoath like that?”

The boys shook their heads dumbly, and Dolf, who had regained his feet, began to quake.

“Well, I'll tell yer. He'll be haunted. Day an' night he'll be haunted. Little fiends'll stick forks in him all day, an' a big fiend'll chase him o' nights. He'll ——”

Dolf's shaking limbs refused to support him, and Dick had to hold him up. He uttered half-stifled cries of terror, and the ghost broke off suddenly, and regarded the boy anxiously for a few moments.

“That'll on'y happen if yer split, yer know,” he said, relenting. “'Cause if yer split I'll be changed into a bad ghost — a reg'lar out-an'-out bad un'; an' I'll jest delight in scarin' boys a'most t' death. But you fellers ain't goin' t' tell anyone,” he continued, hastily. “You don' wanter ruin a poor ghost, I know. You'll be true t' me, won't yer?”

“Fer ever an' ever,” said Dick, solemnly.

“That's all right. Then ye'll alwiz have good luck. An' now ain't yer best be goin'?”

  ― 36 ―
He had been regarding Dolf critically, anxiously, all the time, and he spoke again as if for his benefit.

“Mind, there ain't no cause to be funky if yer don't blab. 'S long as yer straight an' square ye've got a ghost what's yer bes' friend, recollec' that.”

Sim's ghost had not moved from the spot on which he stood when they first saw him, and it seemed to Dick that the light surrounding him shone from an excavation in the side of the drive. The ghost raised his hand awkwardly as if asking a blessing, and said:

“So long! Time's up.”

Dolf tugged at Dick's arm, and the boys turned away, and hastened down the drive towards the shaft.

“Remember!” the ghost called after them. “No reason t' be afraid so long ez yer don't split. Bes' friend!”

The ghost did more: when they had gone a little distance he started after them, walking gingerly to make no noise, fearing that the knowledge that he was following would add to the terror that afflicted young Belman. When he reached the plat the boys were already far up the shaft, and Dickie's voice could be faintly heard advising and encouraging his mate.

Dolf went first, and he climbed with blind haste. Dick had to hold him to force him to rest upon the staging.

“Grip hard, an' go slow an' careful, Dolf,” was his

  ― 37 ―
constant warning. He had heard that advice given by old miners. “Keep close to the ladder. There's lots o' time, Dolf. Nothin' t' be afraid of, you know. He's a jolly good sort, that ghost. Eh — don't you think?”

But Dolf spoke never a word; his face was white and set; when they stood on the staging his eyes turned up to the light above, and he never ceased to tremble. It was now that Dick experienced real, cold terror. He feared that his mate would fall, and if he fell death was certain.

Dolf did not fall. He reached the top safely, and Dick almost lifted him through the opening, and dragged himself through after, quite exhausted, and down below the ghost mopped his cold, damp forehead with his sleeve, and murmured fervently — “Thank God! thank God!”

Dolf Belman remained for a couple of minutes prostrate on the ground, and then he scrambled to his feet, and started towards home, Dickie walking by his side, doing all he could to reassure him. At the Belmans' gate Dickie held his mate for a moment:

“No tellin's, Dolf,” he said, anxiously.

Dolf shook his head.

“Not even t' yer mother!”

“No, no, not a word. So help me! — never, never, never!”

  ― 38 ―

Chapter V.

NEXT morning whilst Dick was having breakfast he was startled to see Mrs. Belman enter the kitchen. She was seeking sympathy and advice. Her boy had been ill all night, and was “queer” this morning, feverish and wild. Mrs. Haddon, a round, motherly little woman, had sympathy to spare for all the troubled in mind and afflicted in body. She advised the use of camomile tea. Camomile grew everywhere about Waddy, and Mrs. Haddon recommended it in varying shapes for all ailments. Dickie left the mothers discussing physics and diseases, and stole away. He was much concerned about his mate, and a guilty conscience advanced distressing accusations all day. There was another thing to trouble him — Agnes Brett's wedding was to be solemnized on the following Tuesday; and in the meantime Dickie developed a curiosity about marriages and forms of marriage that taxed his mother's knowledge and patience severely. On Tuesday Dolf was still very ill, but that fact did not restrain Dick from creating a most unseemly sensation at the Kiley-Brett wedding. His act provoked much talk and satisfied the wise-acres of Waddy that all their former suspicions as to the complete sanity of “that boy Haddon” were fully justified.

The chapel was crowded for the occasion. The rosy bride was smiling gaily, and perfectly composed in her

  ― 39 ―
abundant orange blossoms and a shiny silk dress, and the groom, in all the unaccustomed glory of a long-tailed coat, new lavender trousers, and gloves, faced her, looking confused and ungainly, and bearing himself like an ill-designed automaton.

Suddenly, at a most impressive point in the service, Dickie moved from his place, and, taking a prominent position in the aisle, cried in a loud, clear voice:

“I forbid this marriage!”

A peculiar hush fell upon the chapel, the minister was silenced, and all eyes turned wonderingly upon the amazing small boy in the aisle. Dick's recent inquiries and his literary knowledge, gleaned from cheap fiction, satisfied him that to stop a marriage it was only necessary for somebody to stand up in the church and forbid the ceremony, and he stood there, prepared to take all the responsibility.

A little girlish giggling was heard from the back seat, and then a voice of authority called:

“Put that boy out!”

Brother Spence captured Dickie from the rear, and led him away. Outside the good brother was strongly moved to administer paternal chastisement, but, recollecting the character and temper of his captive, delivered only a stern admonition in choice Cornish, and let him go.

The marriage ceremony was finished, and the couple departed for a brief honeymoon; and Dick Haddon spent two moody days, with the poor consolation of

  ― 40 ―
knowing that he had done his best for Sim's ghost. Now the spirit's only chance of rescue lay in the possibility of there being somebody else in the world who cared for him. Dolf, they told him, was getting stronger, but he was not allowed to visit his mate, and there were hints of a mystery that filled him with suspicion. Could Dolf have proved false? Would he dare to risk the anger of the spirits by telling what he knew?

On the Friday night, shortly after dark, Dick encountered quite a crowd on the common, and his heart sank within him. The people were making for the Peep-o'-Day, and Brother Tresize, who led the way, carried a long line and some candles. Dickie was seized by one of the women.

“Here's they boy Haddon!” she cried, dragging. her prize along.

Brother Tresize took him by the ear. Mr. Tresize was paid by the company to look after the mine while it was shut down, and he was conscious of having neglected his duty, but now he was full of zeal.

“Wha's all this here sinfulness 'bout ghosts in the ole mine, you?” he asked.

“You le' go 'r I'll kick!” muttered Dick, sullenly.

Brother Tresize shifted his grip to the boy's collar.

“Hows'ever, you're found out, boy, an' I do suppose they p'lice will be lookin' for 'ee. So come along, you.”

Dick went willingly enough. He wondered what

  ― 41 ―
was known, and wondered even more what was going to happen. At the mine other men were standing about — Pearce, and Minahan, and Houten, and Spence, and Tinker Smith. The cover was off, and the rope from one of the capstans was rigged over the pulley-wheel, and hung in the pump shaft.

“He's down beyant all right,” said Minahan. “Sure, he ain't shown out since.”

Without further talk, Tresize, Houten, and Minahan equipped themselves with candles and started down the ladders, Tresize carrying the line in a coil about his neck. At the same time others commenced paying out the capstan rope, which travelled slowly down the shaft.

During the long wait that followed the chatter of the women never ceased, and Dickie gathered that Dolf had told the whole truth about their journey into the mine. Mrs. Belman carried the information to Brother Tresize, who set a watch, and to-night a stranger had been seen to come through the bush and make his way down the ladders. These men had gone below to take the mysterious intruder red-handed in whatever iniquity he might he engaged upon, and on top there was much speculation. Some thought the man must be a criminal escaped from justice — a murderer, no less — the artistic verities demanded that; others concluded he was mad. Dickie was questioned, and threatened, and abused, but he shut his lips tight, and said never a word. He stood there as stubborn, unamiable,

  ― 42 ―
and aggravating a little imp as the women had knowledge of.

At length there was a call from Minahan, half-way up the ladders:

“Hello, on top! Someone ride like blazes fer a docthor!”

The people stared blankly into each other's faces for a moment, a woman screamed, and then a young man broke away from the crowd, and fled across the common. There was another call:

“Heave up — man on!”

The men rushed the capstan, and the long arms swept round, but it was necessarily slow work, and the rope came creeping up out of the black depths, whilst the crowd, standing about the shaft, watched it in silence, with grey, expectant faces. There was a good moon, but a lantern was set at the mouth of the shaft, shedding its feeble light upon the tardy rope. The demand for a doctor meant something serious, perhaps a tragedy, and stout, voluble, assertive Mrs. Tresize was subdued, crushed into meekness. Maybe brother Tresize was the victim.

“Easy there!” a warning call to the men on the capstan, and then the figure of a man stole up out of the shadows, and the light of the lantern fell upon it, hanging limply from the rope, to which it was securely bound. One side of the face was deathly white, the other showed black in the dim light. About the head was a rough bandage, and from under that and

  ― 43 ―
through the thick hair crept a sluggish flow of blood, dyeing the whole cheek.

“Phil Houten!” screamed Mrs. Tresize, and then the buildings and the timbers and tips of the big mine echoed and re-echoed the eerie laughter of a woman. Two others seized Mrs. Tresize, and patted, and petted and cajoled her, but she kept up that wild, irrelevant laughter for several minutes. Meantime they had set the unconscious Houten upon the long grass near the office, and the other women were gathered about him, each eager to assist in the work of washing and bandaging. Woman has the keenest sympathies, and she loves to indulge them.

“Down wid the rope once more!” cried Minahan from the depths, and the great wooden capstan was reversed, and again the men ran it at their best speed. Running a capstan is exhausting work, and finds your weak spot sooner than a whole council of doctors, consequently the best speed was a slow trot; but the crowd had a diversion in Houten, who continued in an unconscious condition, and whose head showed several bad wounds. Evidently the stranger below had made a good fight for it.

Dickie's mind was in volcanic condition, throwing up many theories, but he clung to his faith in Sim's ghost, and awaited developments. These people were flying in the face of the supernatural; Houten was there to teach them what they might expect — no one would heed him.

  ― 44 ―
“Ease her!” cried Tinker Smith, and again a face came up out of the darkness of the mine, and Dickie started forward. This time the face was that of the ghost — its eyes fixed on Dick menacingly; and Dick met them bravely, and he shook his head in answer to the accusation he saw there.

Sim's ghost was also bound and tied to the rope.

“Keep a tight grip av him,” said Minahan, who appeared on the surface a moment later; “he's a tearin', howlin' divil t' fight.”

Minahan bore corroborative detail in the shape of a cut forehead, a black eye, and a shirt torn to rags; and Tresize, who next appeared, had not escaped without proofs of the prisoner's prowess in combat.

The ghost was bound hand and foot, and strong hands held him, whilst curious eyes turned upon Tresize.

“Gold stealin'!” said Tresize, with the gratified air of a man who has big news.

This loosened tongues. It was something to have discovered anything worth stealing in the old mine.

“Where?” “How?” “Where 'bouts?” Each man had a question.

“Sthruck a dacent patch this side the incline in Number 2,” said Minahan. “Must have known the place. Opened out off the main droive, an' he's bin workin' there fer weeks. He have a puddlin' tub an' a cradle down there, an' carried water from the

  ― 45 ―
shaft. There's manny a week's work done. Be me sowl, I believe he have been livin' there!”

Brother Tresize held up a pickle bottle, in which there was much coarse gold.

“They man have more'n this somewhere for sure.”

“Who is he, anyhow?” and the light was thrown upon the scowling face of the stranger. “What's yer name, mate?”

The ghost replied with vigorous profanity.

“I know him, I reckerlect!” and Tinker Smith thrust a crooked, accusing finger in the man's face —

“Bill Masters — useter work here 'bout seven year ago. How are yer, Billy?”

Bill Masters cursed the little fossicker with great spirit, and relapsed into sullen silence. Then the party took up its wounded and its prisoner, and carried them to the township, and Dickie followed after, disgusted. He had forgiven much in this ghost, but a ghost cannot be bound with cords and carried into captivity by mere mortals. Whatever spirits might haunt the drives and shoots of the Peep-o'-Day, it was certain that the ghost he and Dolf had interviewed was a shocking impostor. Dick's latest romantic illusion fell from him like a garment, and his faith in Sim perished with the rest. Next day he was back with the boys of Waddy again, fresh and hungry for devilment.

But there followed the trial of Bill Masters, at which Dick was a witness, and throughout which

  ― 46 ―
everybody had a very great deal to say, excepting only the man most concerned, and he said nothing. It was shown that Masters had worked in the Peep-o'-Day, and it was concluded that he had discovered a patch in the main drive, which followed the gutter. The patch was hardly more than a sudden widening of the gutter carrying the gold. He had clayed this over and left it, probably with the connivance of his mate, and with the idea that some day he might have the opportunity of working it. The shutting down of the mine gave him that opportunity. What Bill Masters left of the patch was rich in coarse gold. What he took out of it was known only to himself; but the miners of Waddy were satisfied it was enough to recompense him for the five years' hard labour imposed upon him by the solemn judge.