The wash was carried along in the trucks from the top of the shaft to the puddlers, which were large circular vats into which water was constantly gushing. The wash dirt being put into these, there was an iron ring held up by chains, having blunt spikes to it, which was called a harrow. Two of these being attached to beams laid crosswise were dragged round and round among the wash by the constant revolution of the cross-pieces. This soon reduced all the wash dirt to a kind of fine, creamy-looking syrup, with heavy white stones in it, which were removed every now and then by the man in charge of the machine. Descending to the second story of the framework, Vandeloup found himself in a square chamber, the roof of which was the puddler. In this roof was a trap-door, and when the wash dirt had been sufficiently mixed the trap-door was opened, and it was precipitated through on to the floor of the second chamber. A kind of broad trough, running in a slanting direction and called a sluice, was on one side, and into this a quantity of wash was put, and a tap at the top turned on, which caused the water to wash the dirt down the sluice. Another man at the foot, with a pitchfork, kept shifting up the stones which were mixed up with the gravel, and by degrees all the surplus dirt was washed away, leaving only these stones and a kind of fine black sand, in which the gold being heavy, had stayed. This sand was carefully gathered up with a brush and iron trowel into a shallow tin basin, and then an experienced miner carefully manipulated the same with clear water. What with blowing with the breath, and allowing the water to flow gently over it, all the black sand was soon taken away, and the bottom of the tin dish was then covered with dirty yellow grains of gold interspersed with little water-worn nuggets. Archie took the gold and carried it down to the office, where it was first weighed and then put into a little canvas bag, which would be taken to the bank in Ballarat, and there sold at the rate of four pounds an ounce or thereabouts.
‘Sae this, ye ken,’ said Archie, when he had finished all his explanations, ‘is the way ye get gold.’
‘My faith,’ said Vandeloup, carelessly, with a merry laugh, ’gold is as hard to get in its natural state as in its artificial.’
“An’ harder,” retorted Archie, “forbye there’s nae sic wicked wark aboot it.”
“Madame will be rich some day,” remarked Vandeloup, as they left the office and walked up towards the house.
“Maybe she will,” replied the other, cautiously. “Australia’s a gran’ place for the siller, ye ken. I’m no verra far wrang but what wi’ industry and perseverance ye may mak a wee bit siller yersel’, laddie.”
“It won’t be my fault if I don’t,” returned M. Vandeloup, gaily; “and Madame Midas,” he added, mentally, “will be an excellent person to assist me in doing so.”