Chapter 914870

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Chapter NumberII (CONTINUED) / III
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1881-04-02
Page Number3
Word Count2880
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)
Trove TitleFacing Death: A Tale of the Coal Mines
article text

Facing Death.


By G. A. Henty, in the Union Jack.

CiiAJTER IL-(Continued.)

S \TISI ifd now that the boy was m eames1-, Mr Mertou a fun d vys iftei wards took occasion, when Mr Biook, the owner of tho Vaughan mine, cillcd in ou school business, to toll him how one of the pit bojs was stirling to educate himself

" He is reilly in earnest, Merton , it is not a

mero fretk ?

"No, Mr Brook, the lad will stick to it, I m sure He goes by the nick name of Bull dog, and I don't think he is badly mined, ho has both the pluck lud tenacity of one "

"Very well, Mertou , I am j,lad rou spoke to me about it I wish a few more bo}s would try ind educ lie themselves for Mowers and undei

ground mtnigeis , it is difhcult indeed to feet meu who aro anj thing but woiking miners I'll

make a noto of his name "

A few dais ifteiwauls Mi Biook, nftci going thiou(,h tho books, went ovei the mine with the undi» ground man igei

" Do the waggons often get off the metals along this load, El ans ?' he asked, stopping at one of the doois which íegulate the ventilation

' Pretty often, sir , the nils aie not very true, and the sleepeis want lenewing

" It w ould bo 13 m eil if there was au e^tra light somewhote here , it would be handy This is number threo door, is it not7 '

" Yes, su '

" Who is this Î a now hand, is he not ? i -using his lamp so as to ba\o i full look at the hd, who was standing íespectf tilly in the niche m the rock

cut out foi him

"le*, sir, ho is the son of a hand who i\as killed in the pit some ten j eus ago, Simj son '

"Ah, I lemember, ' Mr Biook said "Well, sen o the boy a 1 imp out when he goo3 down of a diy, You 11 be careful v>ith it, lad, and not let

it tall ?

" Oh yes, bu," Jtck said, in a tone of delight , "and, please, eu, may I read when I am not

wanted ? '

"Certainly you may," his master sud, " only you must not ueglect your woik, and theu Mi

Brook went ou, leaving Jick so overjiyed that for that afternoon at le ist his attompts it mental niithmetlc were egiegious failure»

Cmprttt III

It ii Satutday afternoon-a time at which Stokebridge is generally lively The men, dinner over, and the great weekly M ashing done, generally crowd the public house, or pliy bowls ind quoits on a piece of waste land know u as " the common," or set off upon i spree to Birmingham oi Woh er hampton, or sit on low walls or other handy seats, and smoko and talk But upon this special Saturday afternoon no one settled down to his ordinary pursuits, but tho men stood talking in groupB in the street, until, as the hour of 4 approached, there was i general move towards the common Hither, too, cime numbers of men from the colliery villages round, until some four or fiio thousand were gathered m front of an old " waste tip" at one corner of tho common Pre- sently a group of some five or six men cime up together, made their way through the throng, ind took their stand on the edge of the tip, some 20ft above the crowd These were the delegates, the men sent by the Union to persuade the colliers of Stokebridge and its neighbourhood to join in a geneial strike against the reduction of


The women of the village stand at their doors, and watch the men go of? to the meeting, and then comment to each other concerning it

"I ain t no patience wi' 'em, Mrs Haden," said one of a group of neighbours who bad gathered in front of her house , " I don t hold by strikes I have gone through three of 'em, bad uns, be sides a score of small uns, and I never knowed good come on 'em I lost my little Peg in the last-low fever, the doctor called it, but it was starvation and nothing more '

"If I had my way,' Mrs Haden said, "I'd just wring the heids off they delegate« They come here and 'suades our men to go out and clem rather than take a shilling a week less, ] usfc a glass o beer a day, and they gets their pay and lives in comfort, and duuna care nowt if us and th' childer all dies off together "

" Talk o'woman's rights, as one hears about, and woman's having a vote, we ought to have a vote as to strikes It's us as bears the worst o't, and we ought to have a say on't, if we did theie wouldn't be another Btnke in the country "

" It a a burning shame," another said , " here us and the childer will have to starve for weeks, months may be, and all the home3 will be broke up, and the furniture v Inch has took so long to get together put awiy, just because the men won't do with one glass of beer less a day '

" The union's the curse of us a'," Mrs Haden said " I know what it'll be-fifteen bob a week for the first formght, and then twelve for» week, and then ten, and then eight, and then fix, and then after we've clemmed on that for a month or two the Union '11 say as the funda is dry, and the men had best go to work on the reduction. I knows their ways, and they re a cuss to us

women "

" Here be'st thy Jack He grows a proper lad


"Ay," Jane Haden said, "he's i good lad, none better , and as for learning, the books that hoy knows is awesome, there s shelves upon shelves on 'em upstairs, and I do believe he's read 'em all a dozen times Wfll, Jack, have ee cum from meeting 1 '

"Ay, mother , I heard them talk nonsenee till I was mgh Bick, and then I corned away "

" And will they go for the strike, Jack *

"Ay, they'll go like sheep through a gate There s half a dozen or eo would go t'other way, but the rest won t listen to them So for the sake of a shilling a week we're going to loia

thirty shillings a week for perhaps twenty weeks ; so if wo win we shan't get the money we've throwd away for twenty times thirty weeks, mother, and that makes eleven years and twenty

eight weeks."

Jack Simpson was now sixteen years old, not very tall for his nge, but square and sot. His face was a pleasant one, iu spite of his closely cropped hair. Ho had a bright fearless oye, nnd a pleasant smile ; but the square chin, and tho firm determined lines of the mouth when in rest, showed that his old appellation of Bull-dog still suited him woll. After working for four years a* a gate-boy and two years with the waggons, he had just gone into work with his adopted father in the stall, filling the coal in the waggon as it was got down, helping to drive tho wedges, aud

l'tues to use the pick. Ab the getters-as the

working at bringing down tho coal are

.u'd by tho ton, many of the rneu have . working with them as assistant.

1 Is t' uu '"'< at home soon, Jack 1" Mrs. Haden new '-''owed him into tho


"Not ho, mother. Thoy (.. '1 all will be getting themselves in order for u... -lothing by getting drunk to-night, and dad's uot ". -'-. at that. Havo you got tea ready, mother?"

" Ay, lad."

"I've made up my mind, mother," the boy said, as he ate his slice of bacon and bread, " that I shall go over to Birmingham to-morrow, and try to get work there. John Katcliff, tho engine man, is going to write n letter for mo to some mates of his there. Tho last two years when I've been on tho night shift I have gouo in nud helped bim a hit pretty often in the day, so as to get to know something about au eugiuo, and to be able to do a job of smith's work ; anyhow, he thinks I can get a berth as a btriker or something of that sort. I'd rather go at once, for thero will bo plenty of hands looking out for a job before long, when the pinch begins, and I don't want to bo

idle here at home."

"They've promised to giro some sort o' allow- ance to non-unionists, Jack."

" Yes, mother, but I'd rather earn it honestly. I'm too young to join the Union yet, but I havo mide up my mina long ago never to do it. I mean to be my own master, and I ain't going to bo told by a pack of fellows at Stafford or Bir- mingham whether I um to work or not, and how much I am to do, aud how many tubs I am to lill. No, mother, I wasn't bom a slavo that I know of, and certainly don't uieau to become one


" Lor, how thou dost talk, Jack. Who'd take ee to be a pit-mau ?"

"I don't want to be taken for anything thatll am not, mother. What with reading and with going two hours twico a week of au evoniug for six years, to talk and work with Mr. Merton, I hope I can express myself properly when I chooso. As you know, when I'm away from you I talk as others do, for I hate anyone to make re maiks. If tho time ever comes when I am to take a step up, it will bo time enough for them to talk ; at present, all that tho other lads think of mo is, that I am fond of reading, and that I can lick any fellow of my own age in the mine," and he laughed lightly. " And now, mother, I shall go in and tell Mr. Merton what I have niado up my mind to do."

Mr. Merton listened to Jack's report of his

plaus in silence, and then after a long paiiBO

said :

" I have been for some timo iutoudiug to talk seriously to you, Jack, about your future, aud tho present is a good time for broaching the sub- ject. You seo, my boy, you havo worked very hard, aud have thrown your whole strength into it for six years. You have givou no time to tho classics or modern languages, but have put your whole heart into mathematics ; you havo a natural talent for it, aud you havo had tho advautago of a good teacher. I may say so," ho said, "for I was third wrangler at Cambridge"

" You, sir !" Jack exclaimed iu astonishment. "Yes, lad, you may well bo surprised at seeing a third wrangler village schoolmaster, but you might find, if you searched, many men who took as high a degree in even more bumble positions, I took a fellowship, and lived for many years quietly upon it ; then I married, and forfeited my fellowship. I thought, like many other men, that because I had taken a good degreo I could earn my living. Thero is no greater mistake. I had absolutely no knowlcdgo that was useful that way. I tried to vviito ; I tried to get pupils ; I failed all round. Thirteen years ago, after two years of marriage, my wife died ; mid in despair of otherwise earning my bread, and sick of the struggle I had gone through, I applied for this little mastership, obtained it, and came down with Alice, then a baby of a year old. I chafed at first, but I am contented now, and no one knows thot Mr. Merton is au ex-fellow of St.

John's. I had still a littlo property remaining, just enough to havo kept Alice always at a good school. I do not think I shall stay hero much longer. I shall try to get a larger school, in somo town where I may get a few young men to teach of an evening. I am content for myself ; but Alice is growing up, and I should wish, for her sake, to get a step up in the world again. I need not say, my lad, that I don't want this mentioned. Alice and you alone know my story. So you seo," he went on more lightly, " I may say you havo had a good teacher. Now, Jack, you aro very high up in mathematics. Par higher than I was at your ago ; and I havo not the slightest doubt that you will in a couple of years be able to lake the best open scholarship of the year at C'imbridge, if you try for it. That would keep you at college, and you might hope confidently to come out at least as high as I did, and to secure a fellowship, which means three or four hundred a year, till you marry. ? But to go through the University you must havo a certain amount of Latin and Greek, You have a good two years beforo you have to go up, and if you devote yourself as steadily to classics as you have to mathematics you could get up enough to scrape through with, Don't give mo any answer now, Jack. The idea is, of courre, new to you. Think it very quiotly over, and we enn talk about it next time you come over from Bir-


" Yes, sir, thank you very much," Jack said, quietly ; "only, please tell mo, do you yourself

recommend it ?"

Tho schoolmaster was silent for awhile.

" I do not recommend one way or the other, Jack. I would rather leave it entirely to you. You would be certain to do well in one way there. You are, I believe, equally certain to do well here, but your advance may bo very much slower. And now, Jack, let us lay it aside for to-night. I am just going to have tea, I hoj)o you will take a cup with us."

Jack coloured with pleasure ; it was the first time that such an invitation had been given to him, and he felt it as the first recognition yet made that he was something more than an ordi- nary pit-boy ; but, for all that, he felt, when he followed his master into the next room, that ho would have rather boon anywhere else.

It was a tiny room, but daintily furnished

room such as Jack had never seen before ; and by the fire sat a girl reading. She put down her book as her father entered, with a bright smile ¡ but her eyes opened a little wider in surprise as

Jack followed bim in.

" My dear Alice, this is my pupil, Jack Simp- son, who is going to do me great credit, and make a figure in the world some day. Jack, this is my daughter, Miss Merton."

Alice held out her hand.

" I have hoard papa speak of you so often," she said, " and of course I have seen you como in and out sometimes when I have been home for the holidays."

"I have seen you in church," Jack said, making a tremendous effort to shake off his awkwardness,

Jack Simpson will to tho end of his life look back upon that bour as the most uncomfortable he ever spent. Then for the firat time he dis' covered that his boots were very heavy and thick ; then for the first time did his handB and feet seem to get in his way, and to require thought aB to what was to be done with them ; and at the time he concluded that white lace curtains, and a pretty carpet, and tea poured out by a chatty and decidedly pretty young lady were by no means such a comfortable institution as might have been expected.


A minisjer who had been reproving one of his elders for over-indulgence observed a cow go down to a stream, take a drink, and then turn away. " There," said ho to his offending older, "is an example for you. The cow has quenched its thirst, and has retired." " Yes," replied the other, " that is very true. But suppose another cow had come to the other side of the stream

and had said, ' Here'B to you,' there's no saying how long they might have gone on."