Each man round Scorrier was listening with a different motion of the hands—one rubbed them, one clenched them, another moved his closed fist, as if stabbing some one in the back. A grisly-bearded, beetle-browed, twinkling-eyed old Cornishman muttered: “A’hm not troublin’ about that.” It seemed almost as if Pippin’s object was to get the men to kill him; they had gathered closer, crouching for a rush. Suddenly Pippin’s voice dropped to a whisper: “I’m disgraced Men, are you going back on me?”
The old miner next Scorrier called out suddenly: “Anny that’s Cornishmen here to stand by the superintendent?” A group drew together, and with murmurs and gesticulation the meeting broke up.
In the evening a deputation came to visit Pippin; and all night long their voices and the superintendent’s footsteps could be heard. In the morning, Pippin went early to the mine. Before supper the deputation came again; and again Scorrier had to listen hour after hour to the sound of voices and footsteps till he fell asleep. Just before dawn he was awakened by a light. Pippin stood at his bedside. “The men go down to-morrow,” he said: “What did I tell you? Carry me home on my shield, eh?”
In a week the mine was in full work.
Two years later, Scorrier heard once more of Pippin. A note from Hemmings reached him asking if he could make it convenient to attend their Board meeting the following Thursday. He arrived rather before the appointed time. The secretary received him, and, in answer to inquiry, said: “Thank you, we are doing well—between ourselves, we are doing very well.”
The secretary frowned. “Ah, Pippin! We asked you to come on his account. Pippin is giving us a lot of trouble. We have not had a single line from him for just two years!” He spoke with such a sense of personal grievance that Scorrier felt quite sorry for him. “Not a single line,” said Hemmings, “since that explosion—you were there at the time, I remember! It makes it very awkward; I call it personal to me.”
“But how—” Scorrier began.
“We get—telegrams. He writes to no one, not even to his family. And why? Just tell me why? We hear of him; he’s a great nob out there. Nothing’s done in the colony without his finger being in the pie. He turned out the last Government because they wouldn’t grant us an extension for our railway—shows he can’t be a fool. Besides, look at our balance-sheet!”
It turned out that the question on which Scorrier’s opinion was desired was, whether Hemmings should be sent out to see what was the matter with the superintendent. During the discussion which. ensued, he was an unwilling listener to strictures on Pippin’s silence. “The explosion,” he muttered at last, “a very trying time!”
Mr. Booker pounced on him. “A very trying time! So it was—to all of us. But what excuse is that—now, Mr. Scorrier, what excuse is that?”