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Might the rogues who had spread these lies be damned to all eternity!Then, he had swallowed them only too willingly; and, leaving the old woman wringing her hands, had taken every farthing of his savings and set sail for Australia. For all he knew, his wife might be dead and buried by this time; or sitting in the almshouse.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.From there, when it was feasible to make a fresh start, they had to be dragged, some blind drunk, the rest blind stupid from their booze.That had been the hardest job of any: keeping the party together.Then, before they had slabbed a depth of three times nine, they had got into water, and in this they worked for the next sixty feet.They were barely rid of it, when the two adjoining claims were abandoned, and in came the flood again—this time they had to fly for their lives before it, so rapid was its rise.
At work in a deep wet hole, he had recklessly omitted to slab the walls of a drive; uprights and tailors yielded under the lateral pressure, and the rotten earth collapsed, bringing down the roof in its train.
She could not write, and only in the early days had an occasional newspaper reached him, on which, alongside the Queen's head, she had put the mark they had agreed on, to show that she was still alive.
He would probably never see her again, but would end his days where he was.
The digger fell forward on his face, his ribs jammed across his pick, his arms pinned to his sides, nose and mouth pressed into the sticky mud as into a mask; and over his defenceless body, with a roar that burst his ear-drums, broke stupendous masses of earth.
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.
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