‘It must be our Gwenny’s father,’ she cried; ‘the man who disappeared underground, and whom she has ever been seeking. How grieved the poor little thing will be, if it should turn out, after all, that he left his child on purpose! I can hardly believe it; can you, John?’

‘Well,’ I replied; ‘all men are wicked, more or less, to some extent; and no man may say otherwise.’

For I did not wish to commit myself to an opinion about Simon, lest I might be wrong, and Lorna think less of my judgment.

But being resolved to see this out, and do a good turn, if I could, to Gwenny, who had done me many a good one, I begged my Lorna to say not a word of this matter to the handmaiden, until I had further searched it out. And to carry out this resolve, I went again to the place of business where they were grinding gold as freely as an apothecary at his pills.

Having now true right of entrance, and being known to the watchman, and regarded (since I cracked the boulder) as one who could pay his footing, and perhaps would be the master, when Uncle Ben should he choked with money, I found the corb sent up for me rather sooner than I wished it. For the smell of the places underground, and the way men’s eyes came out of them, with links, and brands, and flambeaux, instead of God’s light to look at, were to me a point of caution, rather than of pleasure.

No doubt but what some men enjoy it, being born, like worms, to dig, and to live in their own scoopings. Yet even the worms come up sometimes, after a good soft shower of rain, and hold discourse with one another; whereas these men, and the horses let down, come above ground never.

And the changing of the sky is half the change our nature calls for. Earth we have, and all its produce (moving from the first appearance, and the hope with infants’ eyes, through the bloom of beauty’s promise, to the rich and ripe fulfilment, and the falling back to rest); sea we have (with all its wonder shed on eyes, and ears, and heart; and the thought of something more)—but without the sky to look at, what would earth, and sea, and even our own selves, be to us?

Do we look at earth with hope? Yes, for victuals only. Do we look at sea with hope? Yes, that we may escape it. At the sky alone (though questioned with the doubts of sunshine, or scattered with uncertain stars), at the sky alone we look with pure hope and with memory.

Hence it always hurt my feelings when I got into that bucket, with my small-clothes turned up over, and a kerchief round my hat. But knowing that my purpose was sound, and my motives pure, I let the sky grow to a little blue hole, and then to nothing over me. At the bottom Master Carfax met me, being captain of the mine, and desirous to know my business. He wore a loose sack round his shoulders, and his beard was two feet long.

‘My business is to speak with you,’ I answered rather sternly; for this man, who was nothing more than Uncle Reuben’s servant, had carried things too far with me, showing no respect whatever; and though I did not care for much, I liked to receive a little, even in my early days.

‘Coom into the muck-hole, then,’ was his gracious answer; and he led me into a filthy cell, where the miners changed their jackets.

‘Simon Carfax, I began, with a manner to discourage him; ‘I fear you are a shallow fellow, and not worth my trouble.’

‘Then don’t take it,’ he replied; ‘I want no man’s trouble.’

‘For your sake I would not,’ I answered; ‘but for your daughter’s sake I will; the daughter whom you left to starve so pitifully in the wilderness.’

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