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3 corrections, most recently by InstituteOfAustralianCulture - Show corrections

A DOUBLEt CATA8TIOPBE. (By V.J.) A row of white dumps like monster and-hills straggling tmrough a belt of mulga scrub. The dumps were mostly stripped of working gear and deserted by their owners. These shafts are called, by the initiated, duffers, having failed to di- vulge the secret entrance to Nature's treasure-troves. Two alone were in active possession. One was surmounted by an old cart- wheel, evidently an ingenious contri- ance to pump water from below. Two men clad in loose working flan nels and dungarees sat at eas,smoking, on the largest dump of all. Presently they returned to their shaft and one prepared to descend. "Wait on, Bill!" cried the other, as he strug gled to turn the handle of the windlass. "Somethin' cronk; can't get a move out of 'erl" Bill caught the oppeose handle adder and flung his strength into the breach. Still the windlass would not yield. With the perspiration of effort rolling in heavy beads from their faces the two men gazed at:ach other in dinmay. "She's bust 'er bloomin' sides!" said Bill, "and there's a few ton o' earth atop o' that bucketl" "Better that thana corfinl" obeerved the other. "Eh?" "Five minutes ago you was workin' there. S'pose it 'appened five minutes ago?" "'Uml" muttered Bill reflectively, and lit his pi?e. Then* gliding cautiously over the side he went below to investi gate, his mate. urging caution tie while. A few seconds and he was once more safely on the surface. "Just as I thought," he teported; "the place I passed, to save timber, it seemed as sound as a bell. There's about six ton of earth to shift, and the risk' of losin' the bottom of the shaft. 'Nnff to make us chuc, it, eh, SasidyP Shall we chuck itP" "Seems a. pity," sari Sandy dismally. This is our third shaft, and the ..&e liest of the lot. Splendid indications in that last prospect." . "Yes," replied Bill in brighter tones; "I'm pretty certain we ain't far off th run, but this means a couple of months 'dead, an' we ain't too financial, y" know. But we've sunk our capital in the bloomin' lead. and, if there's a pos sible chance to get some return, I say stick to 'er." "Right oh, Bill " said Sandy. "We'll stick to 'er while we've got a bean. Hellol Where's the Noah's ark bound for?. It's Crutty,from the Four-mile." A man drivingla reluctant horse and Slight dray, loaded with household gds, hailed them from the road. "thBey, Dixon! What am I to do with these?" The articles, freely coated with mud, were not at first recognised by their owner, who replied: "Blowed if Iknow; sa me somethin' easyl" 'Sandy pointed meaningly to toe deserted shafts. 'I guess you'll have to know, said quick tool" said the driver, scooping perspiration from his brow with hollow ed palm, "or I'lldump the bloomin' lot in the bush. The wife told ine to fetch 'em to the old 'umpy by the Colac. I've' peased the Colac, but I reckon the cyclone got there first, cos there ain't no.'umpy by the Colac." "Eh whatP" exelaimed Bill, "cy clone?"' Then taxing a closer survey of the damaged furniture he gasped, "Is this the work of the cyclone?" "Some of it," replied Crutty, as though he were,.pioud of it.. '"It sint left many whole roofs at the Four-mile; smashed your 'ouse into a cockbi hat." Bill's face. paled visibly' as hik rut tered, "The missisP?" ".Oh,. she's all right," said the driver reassuringly. "She were in the.baker's shop when. it 'appened by the; will .o' Providence; that held fast to its u?,?r ings; but gummy you should see: the rest of the town-fairly turnin' somer ?aults. It got a passage through the draper's shop and hung all .the fal-lals hnd frippery on the bloomiw verandah pists. But I .mustn't stop gabbin'; there's other jobs waitin'." ""Plenty emptyT 'ouses at the Two mile," said Bill; 'we'll drive up an' take the first. Any. port in a storm." The driver niged thehorse forward. Bill hung on precariously and called to his mate, "rll be back when I get the wife fixed up." The house selected by Bill was soundly built of iron and wood, but shockingly dirty. Former reidents had added frames for hessian blinds above the win dows. Shreds of hessian fluttered from these skeleton frames giving an un pleasant aspect without. SBut Bill's observation was limited to the roof and stove. A roof tha~ would withstand the sudden onslaught of tem .estuous gales, and aArst-class stove.

"or tif convenience or ma rair-nareat wife. Soon, with the driver's assis tance, he conveyed the damaged furni ture within. Meanwhile, a woman, slenderly built and daintily clad, walked across from the Four-mile road. With one hand shading her eyes she scrutinised the house. A dejected look betokened dissatis faction. Her:husband, in his clay-tained work ing clothes, moved busily in and out. "Hello, Nance!" he said, as she came nearer ; "got a splendid kipsy. Only five bob a week.' Nance made no reply, but her ex pression clearly showed she did n6t ap prove of the bargain. As she entered and viewed the floors and walls, thick-grimed with dust, the grey festoons of numerous spiders pend ing from the ceiling, and the muddied condition of her own cherished posses- sions, the corners of her mouth drooped pitifully. "Dirt, dirt ; nothing but dirt, "she moaned. "Never mind, dear," said her hus- band ; "we'll soon shift the dirt. It will take a bonzer cyclone to move this kipsy." But dainty Nance felt adrift in the chaos of dirt and disorder. It settled on her mind like a pall, and. yielding to tee pressure of over-tried nerves, she broke into a fit of weeping. Bill gazed at her in helpless dismay. In an effort to mend matters he seized a broom from the conglomerate mass of goods and commenced to sweep energeti cally, raising the dust in suffocating volumes, while his young wife crouched dn an old cane lounge and indulged her sobs. Bill's mind was in a tumult. He was anxious to return to his damaged shaft and set about the work of reclamauon, and his wife's distress over such a triv ial matter as dirt annoyea him. The over-wrought condition of high ly-strung nerves had no place in meu consideration. His own nerves were of steeled fibres, and his sensibilities blunted by a career of perilous labour. At last. in sheer exasperation, he ex claimed, "I thought awhile ago I had a lucky escape, out it seems now I missed the best luck of all. Dead trou bles is better than live once." Comprehending from these remarks that there were otiwer causes for such bitter philosophy Nance checked her self-pitying tears to ask : "Anythine wrone with the shaft?" "Lost the bottom for about two months, I reckon. One of the sides cracked and let six ton of earth down." "Ol" gasped Nance, running for word to throw her arms round the sun browned neck. "Thank God, you are safe. How wicked I am to fret over trifles when you are risking your prec ious life. Ill never grumble again. See!" rolun- the sleexes of her slender arms high above the elbows; "I'm go ins to work hard now to make up for it. Bill kissed the nenitent face tenderly, and, hugely relieved at this promising change of mood, shouldered the chief incubus of anxiety and returned-to his damaged shaft,