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HOME > Classical Novels > For the Allinson Honor > CHAPTER VII THE AMATEUR MINER
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 It was afternoon, and hot sunshine poured down into the little valley. Andrew stood at the foot of a low range, looking about with keen interest. The strip of level ground between rock and river was strewn with small fir stumps1, among which lay half-burned logs and branches. On the edge of the clearing stood two log shacks2 and a smith's shop, with an unsightly heap of empty cans, broken boots and discarded clothing in front of them. A bank of shattered stone stretched toward the stream, and on a scarped slope of the hillside where the rocks shone a warm pink there was a black hole. A stream of water flowing out of it ran down a trench3. This was the Rain Bluff4 Mine. Andrew felt disappointed. There was not much to show for the capital that had been subscribed6. He supposed, however, that the pieces of machinery7 which lay in disorder8 about the waterside were expensive, and he meant to ascertain9 their cost.  
"Why don't they get those things fitted up and working?" he asked Carnally, who stood near him.
"They're not complete. We're waiting until the Mappin people bring the rest of them."
Andrew pointed5 to several stacks of small logs.
"I suppose those are props10? You seem to use a good many. Do you cut them on the spot?"
"The Mappin boys do. The Company pays for them by the foot."
[Pg 67]"It strikes me that Mappin's doing a good deal of the Company's work. However, it looks as if we meant to dig the ore out."
Carnally saw impatience12 and suspicion in his face.
"I'm asking a good many questions, Jake," Andrew went on: "but I'm in the unfortunate position of having to look after matters I know nothing about. That's a rather remarkable13 qualification for a director."
"It isn't altogether unusual," Carnally replied. "I could point out one or two men who couldn't tell a pump from a rock drill, and control mining concerns."
"It sounds surprising. How's it done?"
"By hiring subordinates with brains and keeping a careful eye on them."
"I'm serious, Jake. The Company pays my expenses and two hundred dollars a month while I'm in Canada. It's the shareholders14' money; I feel that I ought to earn it."
"You may have trouble."
"That won't matter. I've had only a few words with the mine boss, Watson. What kind of man is he?"
"He's straight; a smart manager underground, good at timbering and getting ore out; but that's as far as he goes."
"Well, we'll look at the workings."
As they approached the adit Watson came to meet them. He was a short, wiry man, clad in wet, soil-stained overalls15. Andrew indicated the drainage trench.
"There seems to be a good deal of water in the mine."
"That's so," said Watson. "We want to get rid of it. I've several boys in the sump, baling it up with coal-oil cans."
[Pg 68]"You mean the five-gallon drums you get your kerosene16 in?" Andrew asked in surprise. "Why don't you order a pump?"
"We've got half of one and the engine's fixed17. Guess we'll get the rest when Mappin's ready."
"I'll send down word about it to the Landing."
"You needn't. One of the river bosses is up here; he's getting his dinner now."
"But dinner has been finished some time."
"That don't count. We had pork to-day and the Mappin man figured he'd like trout18, so I had to tell Yan Li to cook him some. If you want your plant brought up, you have to be civil to the transport people."
The color swept into Andrew's face.
"Bring the fellow here!"
Watson grinned and called to a miner at work on the dump. The miner disappeared and presently came back with a man.
"You sent for me, Mr. Allinson?" he said, as if he resented it.
"I did," answered Andrew curtly19. "You have a pump of ours which has been in your hands some time. I want it delivered here immediately."
The man looked surprised at his tone.
"We'll do what we can, but most of the boys are busy on the road."
"Then you had better send them back to the canoes. Our supplies must not be stopped."
"It's awkward," said the other. "You don't quite understand yet how things are run here, Mr. Allinson. You want to give and take."
"I expect to understand them better soon," Andrew dryly rejoined. "What we want at present is the[Pg 69] pump, and if it isn't here by next week I'll charge your employer with the extra expense we're being put to."
"The office wouldn't allow your claim."
"I won't make one," said Andrew. "I'll knock it off your bill. No accounts will be paid without my sanction."
"Oh, well," said the other, "since you make a point of it, I'll get down the river right away and see where that pump is."
He left them, and Watson looked at Carnally as they entered the mine.
"And I thought he was an English sucker!" he remarked.
"You were wrong," said Carnally. "You'll know Mr. Allinson better in a little while."
Seeing that Andrew was waiting, Watson gave him a small flat lamp to hook in his hat, and they went down a narrow gallery. By the uncertain smoky light Andrew could see that it was strongly timbered: stout20 props were ranged along its sides, and beams, some cracked and sagging21, spanned the roof between. The floor was wet and strewn with large fragments, which seemed to have fallen lately. Watson explained that they were working through treacherous22 rocks. Presently they stopped at the top of a dark hole, where a man was busy at a primitive23 windlass.
"Lode24 dips sharply here," Watson explained. "We had to go down a bit, but we'll push on this heading. Pay dirt's badly broken up, but we'll fix things different when we strike it fair. It's pretty wet in the lower level; do you feel like going down?"
Andrew put on the waterproof25 jacket that had been given him, and looked at the pit. A rough ladder ran down its side, but the man at the windlass turned[Pg 70] to him as he emptied a big can into the drainage trench.
"The rope's quicker and quite as safe," he said. "One of the Mappin boys made that ladder and fixed it wrong. Catch hold here and get a turn round your foot; you don't want to go through the bottom of the can."
Andrew having done as he was directed, the man called a warning to somebody beneath and then let him go. When he had descended26 a short distance, the rope was checked, and a man seizing it swung him across a murky27 pool, in which the reflection of faint lights quivered; then springing down, he found himself in a short gallery. A smoky lamp burned here and there among the timbering, and shadowy figures were busy in recesses28 with hammer and drill. The floor was strewn with broken rock, damming back the stream that ran along it, and water freely trickled29 in. Near at hand three or four men were building up a square pillar of timber and rock toward the roof. They wore no clothing above the waist, and the drips from the stone splashed on their wet skin. Watson spoke30 to one of them before he turned to Andrew.
"Ore's pretty good, here," he said. "We had to make a show for the people in Montreal to do some figuring on—that is why I cut so much stuff without leaving more support, though I didn't know the roof was quite so bad. We'll have her shored up in a day or two, but the worst trouble's the water."
Andrew asked him a few questions, and presently went back to the surface, where he sat down in the sunshine and lighted his pipe. A good deal of capital had already been expended31, and the result looked discouragingly small. The Company owned a short tunnel,[Pg 71] driven into what was evidently inferior ore, and another at the bottom of a pit, which might be choked up by a fall of roof and was threatened with inundation32. Still, Andrew supposed that success depended upon the quality of the main body of the ore, which they had hardly reached as yet. When he had finished his pipe, he joined Carnally, who was busy among the machinery by the river.
"Jake," he said, "I want you to go to the Landing and see that the Mappin people send up the plant Watson expects as soon as it's off the cars. I shall stay here a while and try to learn something about my business."
"Well," drawled Carnally with signs of amusement, "there is a good deal to learn."
He set off early the next morning, and Andrew, putting on a suit of overalls, went down into the mine and insisted on being given practical instruction in the use of the drill. It was a painful process: he was forced to kneel on sharp stones and sometimes in water while he held the steel bar, which jarred his hands when his companion struck it. Nor did he find the work easier when he came to strike, standing33 in a cramped34 position without room to swing the hammer, his eyes fixed upon the end of the drill, which must be squarely hit. To miss might result in the other man's knuckles35 being smashed. The inch of metal which glimmered37 in the lamplight formed a perplexing mark. Andrew had an accurate eye, however, and did not often miss; and he forgave his instructor38 for hitting him on the wrist, though this necessitated39 its being bound up for several days. He learned the quick twist of the drill which brings the cutting edge to bear, and how to wedge up the roof by setting a[Pg 72] prop11, sawed a little too long for the position, slantwise beneath a beam and hammering it straight; and then he turned his attention to more advanced subjects.
"Watson," he commented one morning, "this mine strikes me as being badly arranged. The best ore's on the lower level, the lode dips, and having the shaft40 underground must give you extra trouble in getting the stone and water out."
"It does," Watson assented41. "You want to remember that we took over Rain Bluff after work had been begun, and the fellows who locate these bush mines often don't know much about their job. If they think the ore's there, they start to get it out the best way they can. I've seen that we'll have to drive a lower adit right in from outside sooner or later, but I'm shy of the expense."
"It seems to me that the money will be profitably spent," Andrew said when they had discussed it for a while. "You'll get it back by saving labor42 and pumping, while the extra cost you're put to now would probably increase. You'd better start the work at once; I'll be responsible."
Watson was beginning to understand that the resident director possessed43 abilities which he had by no means suspected at first. He did as he was told, and for the next few weeks Andrew was pleasantly occupied. He learned to nip detonators on to fuses, and how a stick of giant-powder should be inserted into a firing hole. He studied the lines of cleavage in the rock, calculated the cost in labor and explosives of the stone brought down, and found it all interesting. As a matter of fact, it was the first time he had seriously interested himself in anything except sport, and there was encouragement in feeling that he possessed some[Pg 73] useful powers. Watson spoke to him as to one who could understand; the miners did not seem to notice his clumsiness. He had expected some banter44 from them, but none was offered, and he remembered that it was Leonard and his relatives who had shown an amused disbelief in his capabilities45.
One day he descended to the lower level, where the men were having trouble in the manager's absence. A number of lamps were burning and the place looked wetter than usual in the unsteady light. Water trickled down the end wall, the rows of props were dripping, and the half-naked men splashed through pools when they moved to and fro. They were feverishly46 busy: one group building a massive pillar, others putting up fresh props; only two or three were breaking out ore at the working face. Then Carnally came toward him, and his wet face showed tense and anxious in the light of Andrew's lamp.
"The blamed roof's very shaky," he said. "We've had two ugly cave-ins. I wish Watson was back. And I'm getting scared about the water; expect we're tapping a tank-pot in the hill, but there's nothing to help us in locating it. You might give the boys a hand with the pillar."
Andrew stripped to shirt and overall trousers, and hurried toward the spot. He saw that the men needed help, for the cracked roof was bulging47 downward ominously48 and there were several heaps of freshly fallen stones. They were constructing a square frame of logs, crossed at the ends, and filling it in with broken rock as fast as they could; but there remained a wide gap between its top and the roof it was meant to support. For an hour he worked savagely49, wet with falling water and dripping with perspiration50, passing up heavy beams[Pg 74] and stones to the men who laid them in place. He grew breathless and tore his hand, but the flakes51 of rock which fell at intervals52 urged him on. Once or twice there was a crash farther down the tunnel and he saw shadowy figures scatter53 and others run in with props, but for the most part he fixed his attention on his task, because it looked as if they had no time to lose. When a gush54 of water flowing down the heading splashed about his boots, he called Carnally.
"Is this tunnel going to cave in?" he asked.
"That's more than I can tell," Carnally replied. "We may be able to shore her up, but if it's not done soon, the chances of her crushing in are steep."
"I see," said Andrew, and turned to his companions. "Boys, I'll stand for a ten-dollar bonus if this job's finished in half an hour."
One of them laughed, but there was no other response and they did not seem to increase their exertions55 much. This suggested that they had been doing their utmost already, with a clear recognition of the risk they ran. Their pay was good, but something besides their interest urged them to keep the mine open. These were men who would not easily be beaten by inpouring water or crushing rock: they had braced56 themselves for a grapple with their treacherous natural foes57.
Andrew, however, was feeling the strain. His injured hand was painful, the stones he had to lift were heavy, his arms and back ached; but he meant to hold out, for the gap between roof and pillar was getting narrow. He had raised a ponderous58 piece of rock and was holding it up to a man who reached for it when there was a smashing sound above and a dark mass rushed past him. The tunnel echoed with a crash, and Andrew received a violent blow on his head. The pain of it[Pg 75] turned him dizzy, but he heard a clamor of voices and harsh warning cries. They were followed by a smashing of timber; he saw two or three props crush in; and then half the lights went out and he felt the water washing past his boots.
The next moment his legs were wet, and he set off for the shaft, knee-deep in a rushing flood. There was a confused uproar59 behind him: stones falling, timber breaking; and then the last of the lamps went out. It cost him an effort to keep his head. Hurrying men jostled him; he struck his feet against sharp stones and was thankful that he did not fall. While he battled with a growing horror, he made for the feeble glimmer36 which marked the bottom of the shaft. It was a short distance, and he presently stood in the gathering60 water among a group of half-seen men, watching one being slowly drawn61 up toward the brighter light above. Another was hurriedly climbing the ladder, while a comrade waited to follow as soon as he was high enough. Then Andrew felt a hand on his arm.
"I was looking for you," Carnally said. "You had better get up. Take the rope as soon as it drops."
Andrew felt a strong desire to do so, but he mastered it.
"No," he returned calmly; "not yet. In a sense, it's my mine; I must see the boys out."
A man near him raised a shout.
"What's the matter with the winch! Can't you heave on it?"
A deepening rush of water swirled62 about them and there were sharp cries:
"You above, get on to the handles! When's that rope coming? She ought to carry two!"
[Pg 76]A man clutched at the rope, which fell among them but when another grasped it Andrew interfered63.
"Steady, boys!" he said. "The winch won't lift you both. Being heaved up is too slow. Tell them to make the rope fast, and then climb; it's strong enough to carry two or three."
There was a growl64 of approval; instructions were shouted up; and while the water rapidly deepened, the group at the foot of the shaft decreased. Andrew, however, was above his waist before he clutched the ladder, while Carnally seized the rope. There was a man above him whose feet he must avoid, and he felt the timber shake, but it was with vast relief that he climbed out of the flood. He was near the top when a cross-batten broke and Grennan, the fellow above him, slipping down a foot or two, bruised65 Andrew's fingers with his heavy boot. For a brief moment Andrew clung by one hand, and then, his overtired arm suddenly relaxing, his fingers loosed their grasp and he fell, half dazed from pain and horror, into the swirling66 flood below. A crash of the timbers somewhere in the shaft preceded a fresh onrush of water. The flood was neck-deep and rapidly rising.

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