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The Gold-Stealers A Story of Waddy   By: (1865-1931)

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THE GOLD STEALERS

By Edward Dyson

CHAPTER I.

THE schoolhouse at Waddy was not in the least like any of the trim State buildings that now decorate every Victorian township and mark every mining or agricultural centre that can scrape together two or three meagre classes; it was the result of a purely local enthusiasm, and was erected by public subscription shortly after Mr. Joel Ham, B.A., arrived in the district and let it be understood that he did not intend to go away again. Having discovered that it was impossible to make anything else of Mr. Joel Ham, Waddy resolved to make a schoolmaster of him. A meeting was held in the Drovers' Arms, numerous speeches, all much more eloquently expressive of the urgent need of convenient scholastic institutions than the orators imagined, were delivered by representative men, and a resolution embodying the determination of the residents to erect a substantial building and install Mr. J. Ham, B.A., as headmaster was carried unanimously.

The original contributors were not expected to donate money towards the good cause; they gave labour and material. The work of erection was commenced next day. Neither plans nor specifications were supplied, and every contributor was his own architect. Timber of all sorts and shapes came in from fifty sources. The men of the day shift at the mines worked at the building in the evening; those on the four o'clock shift put in an hour or two in the morning, and mates off the night shift lent a hand at any time during the day, one man taking up the work where the other left off. Consequently and as there was no ruling mind and no general design the school when finished seemed to lack continuity, so to speak. As an architectural effort it displayed evidence of many excellent intentions, but could not be called a brilliant success as a whole although one astute Parliamentary candidate did secure an overwhelming majority of votes in Waddy after declaring the schoolhouse to be an ornament to the township. The public spirited persons who contributed windows, it was tacitly agreed, were quite justified in putting in those windows according to the dictates of their own fancy, even if the result was somewhat bizarre. Jock Summers gave a bell hung in a small gilded dome, and this was fixed on the roof right in the centre of the building, mainly for picturesque effect; but as there was no rope attached and no means of reaching the bell and it never occurred to anybody to rectify the deficiency Jock's gift remained to the end merely an ornamental adjunct. So also with Sam Brierly's Gothic portico. Sam expended much time and ingenuity in constructing the portico, and it was built on to the street end of the schoolhouse, although there was no door there, the only entrance being at the back.

The building was opened with a tea fight and a dance, and answered its purpose very well up to the time of the first heavy rains; then studies had to be postponed indefinitely, for the floor was a foot under water. A call was made upon the united strength of the township, and the building was lifted bodily and set down again on piles. When the open space between the ground and the floor was boarded up, the residents were delighted to find that the increased height had given the structure quite an imposing appearance. Alas! before six months had passed the place was found to be going over on one side. Waddy watched this failing with growing uneasiness. When the collapse seemed inevitable, the male adults were again bidden to an onerous public duty; they rolled up like patriots, and with a mighty effort pushed the school up into the perpendicular propping it there with stout stays. That answered excellently for a time, but eventually the wretched house began to slant in the opposite direction. Once more the men of Waddy attended in force, and spent an arduous half day hoisting it into an upright position, and securing it there with more stays. It took the eccentric building a long time to decide upon its next move; then it suddenly lurched forward a foot or more, and after that slipped an inch or two farther out of plumb every day... Continue reading book >>




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