Read CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR of Deep Down‚ a Tale of the Cornish Mines , free online book, by R.M. Ballantyne, on ReadCentral.com.

EXHIBITS THE MANAGING DIRECTOR AND THE SECRETARY OF WHEAL DOOEM IN CONFIDENTIAL CIRCUMSTANCES, AND INTRODUCES THE SUBJECT OF “LOCALS.”

About this time that energetic promoter of mining operations, Mr George Augustus Clearemout, found it necessary to revisit Cornwall.

He was seated in an easy-chair in a snug little back-office, or board-room, in one of the airiest little streets of the City of London, when this necessity became apparent to him.  Mr Clearemout did not appear to have much to do at that particular time, for he contented himself with tapping the arm of his easy-chair with the knuckles of his right hand, while he twirled his gold watch-key with his left, and smiled occasionally.

To judge from appearances it seemed that things in general were prospering with George Augustus.  Everything about him was new, and, we might almost say, gorgeous.  His coat and vest and pantaloons had a look and a cut about them that told of an extremely fashionable tailor, and a correspondingly fashionable price.  His rings, of which he wore several, were massive, one of them being a diamond ring of considerable value.  His boots were faultlessly made, quite new, and polished so highly that it dazzled one to look at them, while his linen, of which he displayed a large quantity on the breast, was as white as snow ­not London snow, of course!  Altogether Mr G.A.  Clearemout was a most imposing personage.

“Come in,” he said, in a voice that sounded like the deep soft whisper of a trombone.

The individual who had occasioned the command by tapping at the door, opened it just enough to admit his head, which he thrust into the room.  It was a shaggy red head belonging to a lad of apparently eighteen; its chief characteristics being a prolonged nose and a retracted chin, with a gash for a mouth, and two blue holes for eyes.

“Please, sir, Mr Muddle,” said the youth.

“Admit Mr Muddle.”

The head disappeared, and immediately after a gentleman sauntered into the room, and flung himself lazily into the empty armchair which stood at the fireplace vis-a-vis to the one in which Mr Clearemout sat, explaining that he would not have been so ceremonious had he not fancied that his friend was engaged with some one on business.

“How are you, Jack?” said George Augustus.

“Pretty bobbish,” replied Jack. (He was the same Jack whom we have already introduced as being Mr Clearemout’s friend and kindred spirit.)

“Any news?” inquired Mr Clearemout.

“No, nothing moving,” said Jack languidly.

“H’m, I see it is time to stir now, Jack, for the wheel of fortune is apt to get stiff and creaky if we don’t grease her now and then and give her a jog.  Here is a little pot of grease which I have been concocting and intend to lay on immediately.”

He took a slip of paper from a large pocket-book which lay at his elbow on the new green cloth-covered table, and handed it to his friend, who slowly opened and read it in a slovenly way, mumbling the most of it as he went on: ­

“`WHEAL DOOEM, in St. Just, Cornwall ­mumble ­m ­m ­in 10,000 shares.  An old mine, m ­m ­every reason to believe ­m ­m ­splendid lodes visible from ­m ­m.  Depth of Adit fifty fathoms ­m ­depth below Adit ninety fathoms.  Pumps, whims, engines, etcetera, in good working order ­m ­ little expense ­Landowners, Messrs. ­m ­Manager at the Mine, Captain Trembleforem ­m ­thirteen men, four females, and two boys ­m ­water ­ wheels ­stamps ­m ­Managing Director, George Augustus Clearemout, Esquire, 99 New Gull Street, London ­m ­Secretary, John Muddle, Esquire ­ahem ­’”

“But, I say, it won’t do to publish anything of this sort just yet, you know,” said Secretary Jack in a remonstrative tone, “for there’s nothing doing at all, I believe.”

“I beg your pardon,” replied the managing director, “there is a good deal doing.  I have written to St. Just appointing the local manager, and it is probable that things are really under way by this time; besides, I shall set out for Cornwall to-morrow to superintend matters, leaving my able secretary in charge here in the meantime, and when he hears from me this paper may be completed and advertised.”

“I say, it looks awful real-like, don’t it?” said Jack, with a grin.  “Only fancy if it should turn out to be a good mine after all ­what a lark that would be! and it might, you know, for it was a real one once, wasn’t it?  And if you set a few fellows to sink the what-d’ye-call-’ems and drive the thingumbobs, it is possible they may come upon tin and copper, or something of that sort ­wouldn’t it be jolly?”

“Of course it would, and that is the very thing that gives zest to it.  It’s a speculation, not a swindle by any means, and admirably suits our easy consciences.  But, I say, Jack, you must break yourself off talking slang.  It will never do to have the secretary of the Great Wheal Dooem Mining Company talk like a street boy.  Besides, I hate slang even in a blackguard ­not to mention a black-leg ­so you must give it up, Jack, you really must, else you’ll ruin the concern at the very beginning.”

Secretary Jack started into animation at this.

“Why, George,” he said, drawing himself up, “I can throw it off when I please.  Look here ­suppose yourself an inquiring speculator ­ahem!  I assure you, sir, that the prospects of this mine are most brilliant, and the discoveries that have been made in it since we commenced operations are incredible ­absolutely incredible, sir.  Some of the lodes (that’s the word, isn’t it?) are immensely rich, and upwards of a hundred feet thick, while the part that runs under the sea, or is to run under the sea, at a depth of three thousand fathoms, is probably as rich in copper ore as the celebrated Botallack, whose majestic headland, bristling with machinery, overhangs the raging billows of the wide Atlantic, etcetera, etcetera.  O George, it’s a great lark entirely!”

“You’ll have to learn your lesson a little better, else you’ll make a great mess of it,” said Clearemout.

“A muddle of it ­according to my name and destiny, George,” said the secretary; “a muddle of it, and a fortune by it.”

Here the secretary threw himself back in the easy-chair, and grinned at the opposite wall, where his eye fell on a large picture, which changed the grin into a stare of surprise.

“What have we here, George,” he said, rising, and fitting a gold glass in his eye ­“not a portrait of Wheal Dooem, is it?”

“You have guessed right,” replied the other.  “I made a few sketches on the spot, and got a celebrated artist to put them together, which he has done, you see, with considerable effect.  Here, in the foreground, you observe,” continued the managing director, taking up a new white pointer, “stands Wheal Dooem, on a prominent crag overlooking the Atlantic, with Gurnard’s Head just beyond.  Farther over, we have the celebrated Levant Mine, and the famous Botallack, and the great Wheal Owles, and a crowd of other more or less noted mines, with Cape Cornwall, and the Land’s End, and Tolpedenpenwith in the middle-distance, and the celebrated Logan Rock behind them, while we have Mounts Bay, with the beautiful town of Penzance, and St. Michael’s Mount, and the Lizard in the background, with France in the remote distance.”

“Dear, dear me! quite a geographical study, I declare,” exclaimed Secretary Jack, examining the painting with some care.  “Can you really see all these places at once from Wheal Dooem?”

“Not exactly from Wheal Dooem, Jack, but if you were to go up in a balloon a few hundred yards above the spot where it stands, you might see ’em all on a very clear day, if your eyes were good.  The fact is, that I regard this picture as a triumph of art, exhibiting powerfully what is by artists termed `bringing together’ and great `breadth,’ united with exceedingly minute detail.  The colouring too, is high ­very high indeed, and the chiaroscuro is perfect ­”

“Ha!” interposed Jack, “all the chiar being on the surface, and the oscuro down in the mine, eh?”

“Exactly so,” replied Clearemout.  “It is a splendid picture.  The artist regards it as his chef d’oeuvre, and you must explain it to all who come to the office, as well as those magnificent geological sections rolled-up in the corner, which it would be well, by the way, to have hung up without delay.  They arrived only this morning.  And now, Jack, having explained these matters, I will leave you, to study them at your leisure, while I prepare for my journey to Cornwall, where, by the way, I have my eye upon a sweet little girl, whose uncle, I believe, has lots of tin, both in the real and figurative sense of the word.  Something may come of it ­who knows?”

Next morning saw the managing director on the road, and in due time he found his way by coach, kittereen, and gig to St. Just, where, as before, he was hospitably received by old Mr Donnithorne.

That gentleman’s buoyancy of spirit, however, was not quite so great as it had been a few months before, but that did not much affect the spirits of Clearemout, who found good Mrs Donnithorne as motherly, and Rose Ellis as sweet, as ever.

It happened at this time that Oliver Trembath had occasion to go to London about some matter relating to his deceased mother’s affairs, so the managing director had the field all to himself.  He therefore spent his time agreeably in looking after the affairs of Wheal Dooem during the day, and making love to Rose Ellis in the evening.

Poor Rose was by no means a flirt, but she was an innocent, straightforward girl, ignorant of many of the world’s ways, and of a trusting disposition.  She found the conversation of Mr Clearemout agreeable, and did not attempt to conceal the fact.  Mr Clearemout’s vanity induced him to set this down to a tender feeling, although Rose never consciously gave him, by word or look, the slightest reason to come to such a conclusion.

One forenoon Mr Clearemout was sitting in Mr Donnithorne’s dining-room conversing with Rose and Mrs Donnithorne, when the old gentleman entered and sat down beside them.

“I had almost forgotten the original object of my visit this morning,” said the managing director, with a smile, and a glance at Rose; “the fact is that I am in want of a man to work at Wheal Dooem, a steady, trustworthy man, who would be fit to take charge ­become a sort of overseer; can you recommend one?”

Mr Donnithorne paused for a moment to reflect, but Mrs Donnithorne deeming reflection quite unnecessary, at once replied, ­“Why, there are many such men in St. Just.  There’s John Cock, as good a man as you could find in all the parish, and David Trevarrow, and James Penrose ­ he’s a first-rate man; You remember him, my dear?” (turning to her worse half) ­“one of our locals, you know.”

“Yes, my dear, I remember him perfectly. ­You could not, Mr Clearemout, get a better man, I should say.”

“I think you observed, madam,” said Mr Clearemout, “that this man is a `local.’  Pray, what is a local?”

Rose gave one of her little laughs at this point, and her worthy aunt exclaimed, ­“La!  Mr Clearemout, don’t you know what a local preacher is?”

“Oh! a preacher?  Connected with the Methodist body, I presume?”

“Yes, and a first-rate man, I assure you.”

“But,” said Mr Clearemout, with a smile, “I want a miner, not a preacher.”

“Well, he is a miner, and a good one too ­”

“Allow me to explain, my dear,” said Mr Donnithorne, interrupting his spouse.  “You may not be aware, sir, that many of our miners are men of considerable mental ability, and some of them possess such power of speech, and so earnest a spirit, that the Wesleyan body have appointed them to the office of local preaching.  They do not become ministers, however, nor are they liable to be sent out of the district like them.  They don’t give up their ordinary calling, but are appointed to preach in the various chapels of the district in which they reside, and thus we accomplish an amount of work which could not possibly be overtaken by the ordinary ministry.”

“Indeed! but are they not untrained men, liable to teach erroneous doctrine?” asked Mr Clearemout.

“They are not altogether untrained men,” replied Mr Donnithorne.  “They are subjected to a searching examination, and must give full proof of their Christianity, knowledge, and ability before being appointed.”

“And good, excellent Christian men many of them are,” observed Mrs Donnithorne, with much fervour.

“Quite true,” said her husband.  “This James Penrose is one of our best local preachers, and sometimes officiates in our principal chapel.  I confess, however, that those who have the management of this matter are not always very judicious in their appointments.  Some of our young men are sorely tempted to show off their acquirements, and preach themselves instead of the gospel, and there are one or two whom I could mention whose hearts are all right, but whose brains are so muddled and empty that they are utterly unfit to teach their fellows.  We must not, however, look for perfection in this world, Mr Clearemout.  A little chaff will always remain among the wheat.  There is no system without some imperfection, and I am convinced that upon the whole our system of appointing local preachers is a first-rate one.  At all events it works well, which is one of the best proofs of its excellence.”

“Perhaps so,” said Mr Clearemout, with the air of a man who did not choose to express an opinion on the subject; “nevertheless I had rather have a man who was not a local preacher.”

“You can see and hear him, and judge for yourself,” said Mr Donnithorne; “for he is, I believe, to preach in our chapel to-morrow, and if you will accept of a seat in our pew it will afford my wife and myself much ­”

“Thank you,” interrupted Mr Clearemout; “I shall be very glad to take advantage of your kind offer.  Service, you say, begins at ­”

“Ten precisely,” said Mr Donnithorne.