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latest mining Act) in a promising claim, which had turned out worthless. His tradespeople, usually forbearing, had suddenly disclosed monetary pressure-requiring to be relieved by cash payment. Altogether, the outlook was overclouded there
even a presage of storm and stress.
The Inspector had departed to dress for dinner, invited thereto by a wandering globe - trotter, known to his family in England. The Commissioner's clerk, newly married, had gone home to his wife the moment the clock struck fourindeed, a few minutes earlier.
It was growing late ; the minor officials had retired to their several quarters. His horse was finishing the corn which had been graciously ordered for him by the Inspector, and, strange to say, though in the centre of a populous goldfield, a feeling of loneliness and silence, almost oppressive, commenced to manifest itself.
He was about to bridle his horse, and depart for his home, a few miles distant from the goldfields 'township’ of Barrawong, where ten thousand miners with their families, tradespeople, officials, and camp-followers generally, had made provisional homes, when his eye was attracted by a man at some distance, walking slowly towards him. A footsore tramp, evidently—ʻremote, unfriended, melancholy, slow.' As he approached, Banneret's experienced eye told him that the man before him had been ill -probably short of food—had broken down on the road, and was now straining every nerve to get to town, probably to be admitted into the Public
Hospital, so often a haven of rest and refreshment to the invalid wayfarer. When the traveller, as a nomadic labourer is termed in Australia, came up to the barrack, the Commissioner was shocked at his emaciated appearance and deathlike pallor. His hollow cheeks and bloodshot eyes proclaimed a struggle with weakness, dangerously protracted. His patched and threadbare garments told a tale of want and absolute poverty, rare in this land of careless plenty and comparative extravagance. It appeared as if the succour might even now come too late, as to sailors stricken with that mysterious malady of the sea, which decimates long-exiled crews, landing them only to die, with the scent in their nostrils of the freshly turned loam. As he came within a few paces of the Commissioner, he staggered and almost fell. That official sprang forward and caught him by the arm. Why, Jack Waters!' he said—I should hardly have
What have you been doing to yourself?'
• It's what's left of me,' said the exhausted man, hardly able to speak, it would seem, and trying as he did so to manage a sickly smile—a most melancholy attempt. Where I've been and what I've gone through's a long story; you might be in it towards the end, so we'd better come into the “Reefer's Arms” (old Bill Barker's alive yet, I suppose) and talk it over a bit. You know me, Mr. Banneret, this years and years, and you always found me straight, didn't you?
Certainly I have; I never thought anything
to the contrary. But what's this great affair you want me to hear about? Won't it do to-morrow? Stay at Barker's to-night ; I'll shout your night's lodging, you know. '
To-morrow mightn't do, sir; and if you'll take a fool's advice, you'll get his back room to sit in, where we can yarn without people hearin' all we say, and do a bit o' business, comfortable like. And it is business, my word! You don't hear the like every day.”
The Commissioner, as became his office, was not in the habit of hobnobbing with miners promiscuously. He was reserved of manner, more affable indeed to the ordinary miners than to his equals, whom he treated with scant courtesyparticularly if his temper was ruffled.
But this man was an exceptional inhabitant of the gold region. Having known him for many years, he was in a position to prove against all comers that he was one of the most energetic, honest, capable workers that he had ever known upon this or other goldfields.
When about to be sold up, through no fault of his own, having gone security for a friend, the Commissioner came forward and provided a guarantee. This prevented the forced sale, after which Jack had a stroke of luck, and repaid every farthing
Since this occurrence he had been what the Commissioner called 'ridiculously grateful.'
Departing from his ordinary custom, and walking into the · Reefer's Arms,' he asked the landlord, a burly ex-miner, popularly known as Bill the
Puddler, if there was any one in the inner parlour?'
• The shareholders in the “Blue Lookout" had it all the morning—a-settling after their last wash-up—but they've just cleared, and you can set there, quiet and comfortable, Commissioner. Why, what's the matter with you, Jack ?' he continued, looking with sudden interest at the worn limbs and sunken features of the digger.
‘Had the fever at Ding Dong. Want the Commissioner to get me into the hospital-going to make my will first. Send us in a bottle o beer, and a bite o' bread and cheese, and don't yabber.'
As he spoke, the exhausted man reeled rather than walked along the passage leading to an inner apartment, and opening the door with a show of familiarity, threw himself upon the well-worn sofa, which, with a few chairs of various patterns, and a serviceable table, made up the furniture of the
Then he closed his eyes as if about to faint.
Mr. Banneret walked quickly towards him, but
put up his hand warningly, and murmured, ' All right directly. Wake up when Bill's a-coming ; that's what's the matter.'
Although the wayfarer closed his eyes and lay as if insensible, he raised himself when the host appeared a few minutes later, and assumed an air of comparative alertness.
That it was a miserable assumption Mr. Barker appeared to divine, as he drew the cork, and poured out two glasses of the bitter beer, departing without
further comment, and casting as he went a searching glance at the miner who was so 'infernally down on his luck, as he would have phrased it. His footsteps had no sooner ceased to be audible, after reaching the end of the corridor, than the miner drained his glass, with a sigh of deepest satisfaction, saying, “Here's luck this time. Would you mind lockin' the door careful, sir? It'll save my bones a bit, and they won't stand much. You'll see my dart directly.
This precaution being duly carried out, he proceeded to unbutton a tattered woollen shirt. Below this was another in rather more careful preservation. Placing his hand in the region of his belt he produced a long canvas package, which had been secured to it, and which fitted closely round his body above the hips.
Blest if I didn't think it was goin' to cut me in two this last week,' he said, throwing it on the table ; ‘it rubbed me awful, and I dursn't take it off and give any one a show to collar it. There was rough coves where it come from, you bet, as would have had a man's life for half the stuff that's there. Please to open it, sir. Take your knife to the stitchin'; it ain't been touched since I put it in.'
The end being ripped open, and part of the side of the twine-stitched casing, the quartz specimens thus released rolled out on the table. They were rich indeed_almost fabulously so.
The Commissioner's experienced eye gleamed, and even the sunken orbs of the miner showed a fresh, though faint glimmer, as the pale stones