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Their shouts drawing no response, the younger and nimbler of the two—he was a mere boy, for all his amazing growth of beard—put his foot in the bucket and went down on the rope, kicking off the sides of the shaft with his free foot.A group of diggers, gathering round the pit-head, waited for the tug at the rope.At the present claim he and his mates had toiled for months, overcoming one difficulty after another.The slabbing, for instance, had cost them infinite trouble; it was roughly done, too, and, even after the pins were in, great flakes of earth would come tumbling down from between the joints, on one occasion nearly knocking silly the man who was below.Might the rogues who had spread these lies be damned to all eternity!

His mates at the windlass went staggering back from the belch of violently discharged air: it tore the wind-sail to strips, sent stones and gravel flying, loosened planks and props.All but one: a lean and haggard-looking man of some five and forty, who was known to his comrades as Long Jim.On hearing his mate's report he had sunk heavily down on a log, and there he sat, a pannikin of raw spirit in his hand, the tears coursing ruts down cheeks scabby with yellow mud, his eyes glassy as marbles with those that had still to fall. This accident was the last link in a chain of ill-luck that had been forging ever since he first followed the diggings.He only needed to put his hand to a thing, and luck deserted it.In all the sinkings he had been connected with, he had not once caught his pick in a nugget or got the run of the gutter; the "bottoms" had always proved barren, drives been exhausted without his raising the colour.

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