The business begins by reading over what is called a general article, or set of rules and conditions subject to which every contract is made, and which article prescribes fines for fraud or neglect in the performance of the work.
When this is read the managing captain generally begins with the tutwork, and puts up a shaft or level, declaring the number of men required; and sometimes limiting the extent of the bargain to a certain depth or length. The men who worked it last usually put it up, asking frequently double what they mean to take; this they do, not so much in the expectation that it will influence the agents, as with the view of deterring other men from opposing them. Offers are then made at lower prices, which go on until no one is inclined to bid less, when the captain throws up a small stone, and declares who is the last offerer. It seldom happens that the price bid is so low as the agents deem equivalent, therefore it is understood that the last man is only entitled to the option of closing the contract upon the terms to be named by the captain; these are therefore immediately proposed, and if refused, are tendered to the others in the order of their offers.
This plan reserves the power to the agents of withholding, in case of combination, while the men, though they may not in the first instance bid down to the price they mean to work for, seldom risk a refusal when the captain's offer is made, if they think it near the mark, least others should instantly accept it.
The tribute pitches are set in the same way, the place intended to be worked being described, with a stated number of men, and the offer being made at so much in the pound, that is, a certain sum out of every twenty shillings worth of ore raised and sold. The tribute may vary from threepence in the pound to fourteen or fifteen shillings.