|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||Facing Death: A Tale of the Coal Mines|
A TALE OF TE COAL MINES.
BY G.A. HENTY, in the Union Jack.
THE distress grew daily more intense at Stoke bridge and in the surrounding districts. The small traders could no longer give credit; the pawnbrokers were so overburdened with house-
hold goods that they were obliged absolutely to decline to receive more ; the doctors were worn out with work ; the guardians of the poor were nearly beside themselves in their efforts to face the frightful distress prevailing ; and the charit able committee, aided as they were by subscrip tions from without, could still do but little in comparison to the great need. Jane Haden, and the other women without families, did their best to help nurse in the houses where sickness was rife. The children were mere shadows; and the men and womeu, although far less reduced, were yet worn and wasted by want of food. And still the strike went on, still the men held out against the reduction. Some of the masters had brought men from other parts, and these had to be guarded to and from their work by strong bodies of police, and several serious encounters had taken place. Some of the hands were wavering now, but the party of resistance grew more and more violent, and the waverers dared not raise their voices. The delegates of the Union went about holding meetings, and assuring their hearers that the masters were on the point of being beaten, and must give way; but they were listened to in sullen and gloomy silence by the meu. Then came muttered threats and secret gatherings; and then Jane Haden, obedient to her promise, but very doubtful as to its wisdom, posted the letter Jack had left with her. It was 3 o'clock next day before he arrived, for he had not received the letter until he went out for his breakfast, and he had to go back to his work, and ask to be allowed to go away for the afternoon on particular business, for which he was wanted at home. "Well, mother, what is it?" was his first question on entering. "I oughtn't to tell 'cc, Jack; and I do believe Bill would kill me if he knew." "He won't know, mother, and you munt tell me," Jaok said quietly. " Well, my boy, yesterday afternoon Bill came in here with eight or ten others. I were upstairs, but I suppose they thought I were out, and as I did not want to disturb 'em, and was pretty nigh worn out—l had been up three nights with Betsy Mullin's girl—l sat down and nigh doeed off. The door was open, and I could hear what they Maid downstairs when they spoke loud. At first they talked low, and I didn't heed what they were Maying ; then I heard a word or two which frightened me, and then I got up and went quiet to my door and listened. Jack, they are going to wreck the engines, so as to stop the pumping, and drown the mines. They are going to do for the' Vaughan,' and the 'Hill Side,' and r Thorns,' and the 'Little Shaft,' and ' Vale.' It's to be done to-night, and they begin with the Vaughan, 1 at ten o'clock, 'cause it's closest, I suppose." " They are mad," Jaok said, sternly. " How are they to earn bread if they flood the mines ? and it will end by a lot of them being sent to gaol for yean. But I'll stop it if it costs me my life." "Oh, Jack I don't 'cc do anything rash," Mrs. Haden said, piteously. " What can one lad do against two or three hundred men?" "Now,mother," Jack said promptly,not heed ing her appeal, "what police are there within reach?" "The police were all sent away yesterday to Bampton. There were riots there, I heard say. Thafo why they chose to-night." "Now the first thing, mother, is to prevent dad from going out to-night. He must be kept out oi it, whatever others do. I've brought a bottle of gin from Birmingham. Tell him I've oome over for an hour or two to see schoolmaster about some books, and I'm going straight back again, but I've brought him this as a present. Get the cork out; he's sure to drink a glass or two, anyhow, perhaps more, but it will send him off to sleep, sure enough. It's the strongest I could get, and he*B out of the way of drink now. I don't suppose they'll miss him when they start; but if anyone comes round for him you toll 'em I brought him some Old Tom over, and that he's so drunk he can't move. Later on, if you can, get some woman or child to come io, and let them see him, so that there'll be a witness he was at home when the thing came off; that'll make him safe. I've thought it all over." " But what be'est thou going to do, Jack ?" " Don't mind me, mother. I'm going to save the Vaughan colliery. Don't you fret about me; all you've got to do is to make dad drunk, which ain't a difficult job, and to Btick to the story that I have been over for an hour to see schoolmaster. Good-bye, mother. Don't fret; it will all come right." As Jack went down the street he tapped at the door of his friend's house. "Ib Harry in?" Harry was in, and came out at once. " How's Annie?" was Jack's first question. "Better, much better, Jack ; the doctor thinks Bhe'll do now. The broth put fresh life into her; we're all better, Jack, thanks to you." " That's all right, Harry. Put on your cap, and walk with me to the schoolroom. Now," he went on, as his friend rejoined him, and they turned up the street," will you do a job for me?" " Anything in the world, Jack—leastways, any thing I can." " You may risk your life, Harry." " All right, Jack, I'll risk it willing for you." "Dost know what's going to be done to-night, Harry ?" " I've heard suramat about it." 11 It must be stopped, Harry, if it coats you and me our lives. What's that when the whole distriot depends upon it I If they wreok the
engines, and flood the mines, there will be no work for months ; and what's to become of the women and children then ? I'm going to Mr. Merton to tell him, and to get him to write a letter to Sir John Butler—he's the nearest magistrate, and the moat active about here, and won't let the grass grow under hia feet, by all accounts. The letter must tell him of the attack that is to be made to-night, and ask him to send for the soldiers, if no police can be had. I want you to take the letter, Harry. Go out the other side of the village, and make a long Bweep round. Don't get into the road till you get a full mile out of the place. Then go as hard as you can till you get to Butler's. Insist on seeing him yourself; say it's a question of life and death. If he's out, you must go on to Hooper —he's the next magistrate. When you have delivered the letter slip off home and go to bed, and never let out all your life that you took that letter." "All right, Jack ; but what beest thou going to do ?" " I'm going another way, lad; I've got my work too. You'd best stop here, Harry ; I will bring the letter to you. It may get out some day that Merton wrote it, and it's as well you shouldn't be seen near his place." [TO BE CONTINinED.]