‘That’s all nonsense,’ said Dick, catching hold of him.
‘You put your swag down,’ said Caldigate, also catching hold of the other shoulder.
’What am I to put my swag down for? I’m a-going back to Nobble. Crinkett’ll give me work.’
‘You’re not going to leave us in that way,’ said Dick.
‘Stop and make the shaft straight,’ said Caldigate. The man looked irresolute. ‘Friends are not to part like that.’
‘Friends!’ said the poor fellow. ’Who’ll be friends to such a beast as I be? But I’ll stay out the month if you’ll find me my grub.’
’You shall have your grub and your money, too. Do you think we’ve forgotten the potatoes?’
‘—— the potatoes,’ said the man, bursting into tears. Then he chucked away his swag, and threw himself under the tent upon the straw. The next day he was making things as straight as he could down the shaft.
When they had been at work about five weeks there was a pole stuck into their heap of dirt, and on the top of the pole there was a little red flag flying. At about thirty feet from the surface, when they had already been obliged to insert transverse logs in the shaft to prevent the sides from falling in, they had come upon a kind of soil altogether different from the ordinary clay through which they had been working. There was a stratum of loose shingle or gravelly earth, running apparently in a sloping direction, taking the decline of the very slight hill on which their claim was situated. Mick, as soon as this was brought to light, became an altered man. The first bucket of this stuff that was pulled up was deposited by him separately, and he at once sat down to wash it. This he did in an open tin pan. Handful after handful he washed, shifting and teasing it about in the pan, and then he cast it out, always leaving some very small residuum. He was intent upon his business to a degree that Caldigate would have thought to be beyond the man’s nature. With extreme patience he went on washing handful after handful all the day, while the other two pulled up fresh buckets of the same stuff. He would not pause to eat, or hardly to talk. At last there came a loud exclamation. ‘By------, we’ve got it!’ Then Dick and Caldigate, stooping down, were shown four or five little specks in the angle of the pan’s bottom. Before the sun had set they had stuck up their little red flag, and a crowd of neighbours was standing round them asking questions as to their success.
After three days of successful washing, when it became apparent that a shed must be built, and that, if possible, some further labour must be hired, Mick said that he must go. ‘I ain’t earned nothing,’ he said, ’because of that bout, and I ain’t going to ask for nothing, but I can’t stand this any longer. I hope you’ll make your fortins.’ Then came the explanation.