if any larger than a water bucket, attached to wire rope the thickness of one’s finger, was suspended over this awful chasm; into this the affable manager, with the utmost sang froid, invited one of us at a time to step, showing us how to do it, by standing upright one foot in the bucket, the other to be left dangling outside, to keep the instrument of torture from the sides of the shaft, I perspired, the capitalist looked grave, Nimrod smiled grimly; we had not bargained for this, The cidevant commanding officer of volunteers, our capitalist, was not to be deterred, however, and to his everlasting credit be it stated, that after a moment’s hesitation, throwing off his coat, he gaily stepped forward, planted his foot in the tiny vessel, grasped the rope, and in a moment was lost to our agonised gaze! What awful minutes of fearful suspense those were to me gave the signal “all right” came up, who can describe. I would not pass through them again to become the possessor of Thomas’ Reef.
The rest of the party, gathering courage from the audacity of our chief, were soon down and up again safely.
The shaft shows good and careful mining, as do the two drives of 30 feet each at the bottom; the reef shows from eight to ten feet width, and the quartz all good, A tunnel from the side of the hill facing the river has been driven in 185 feet and is to be continued till it taps the down shaft, when not only will ventilation be perfect, but the stone can be taken out thence instead of being hauled up the shaft.
A tramline, already partly laid for 700 yards, will then connect the workings with the stampers, and economise much labour. This company is in a flourishing condition, as since the erection of the machinery in August, 1885, they have received seven dividends of 5 per cent each, and have shipped up till June £14.000 worth of refined gold.
The last assay of the tailings showed 3 dwts. to the ton, and means are being taken to save this to the proprietor. The company is to be congratulated on its success and future prospects.
The country around the mine is wild and forbidding, covered with masses of rock, and certainly not a place one would select for a home, and yet we found here a snug house with all surroundings of an English home, and were entertained by the manager’s lady in the most charming fashion.
The hills around the Sheba are penetrated by kloofs and dongas running up at a steep incline, during the summer months these were watercourses and the inference would follow that gold released by disintegration in the course of ages must have been washed down into the plain below, forming alluvial deposits, but as yet no payable diggings have been discovered.
Mr. Knox unearthed a 60oz. and a 14oz. nugget and other ones have found smaller ones from time to time, but not in quantity to pay. One cannot help feeling that with ripened experience in the art of gold seeking this must follow and give what is called a poor man’s diggings. The unhealthiness of the flats has hitherto retarded too much systematic search.
I found here a dandelion (Gerbera jamesonii?) new to me, a large and handsome flower of a rich scarlet, quite a welcome addition our garden treasures, and also a very handsome scarlet “Bauhinia” both of’ which I