In the Mining Regions by Garry Moss
At the Station.
The cars stopped at a rude station. A little girl standing by a cow was
the only human being to be seen. The girl was barefoot; her white hair
looked as if it had not been touched by any comb for a week.
Grandly the hills stretched out, summit after summit. Here and there
could be seen a little home, plain enough and poor enough, but made
beautiful by its emerald setting.
"Do you work in the mills?" I asked the child with the white head. She
stuck her forefinger in her mouth, looked shyly down, and shook her
"Is that your cow?" was the next question. She nodded this time, and
looked up at us with pleasant blue eyes.
"Can you show as where the mine is?"
"Yes, I can," she said, brightening at the small bit of money I held
out, "It's yenter,–coom an' I'll tell ye."
We followed her to a fissure in the side of the hill, a place of rough
beams, and bare of verdure. It seemed singularly deserted, for it wanted
nearly half an hour to working time. We looked into the shaft with a
shudder. It led in a slanting direction into the deep earth, and it
seemed like going into a grave to enter it.
"Poppy goes down ther," said the girl. "He an' the other men are mad
'cause they have to stay there so long."
"Could we got a breakfast round hers, anywhere?" my friend asked of the
"Oh, yes, Aunt Sally, down there;" stud she pointed to a little
clearing, dazzlingly white amidst the pretty garden spots. The girl
volunteered to go with us.
The child led us into a small clean room, where were milk-pans, shining
Aunt Sally was a small, tidy body, with a bright English face of the
best type, straight as an arrow, and with an eye that meant business.
"Them miners is a hard set," she said, as she bustled about us, getting
bread and coffee. "You see, there's so many nations mixed. There's
Irish, and German, and Swiss, and patience knows what else, and they get
among themselves if they think things don't go right, and talk and talk,
and git discontented and ugly.
"I'll 'low it's a hard life, 'specially for the women and children,
though there aint but few o' them work about here. But then, though
they work a good while, yet they have a good bit of daylight, after all.
The men as don't drink are, as a general rule, the easiest to git along
with. There go some of 'em now."
The Murdered Miner.
A group of low-browed, sturdy follows passed the door, laughing and
talking, seemingly contented, and after breaking our fast, we followed
A woman was walking ahead of us, with, a child in her arms, a little
girl of six or seven years tugging at her skirt. They were a very quiet
I noticed that the woman wore a bit of black crape on her hat, and
there was something in her face that inclined me to stop and speak to
"You look young to have two children," I said.
"Yes'm; I aint twenty yet," she said, shifting the great boy to the
"And you are in mourning."
"Yes'm. I've lost Jim. He was a good husband, a real steady man; never
drunk nor nothin'. Him and me'd knowed each other ever sence we were
little uns. We was raised in Edinburgh, miss, and come over when we was
married. Then Jim got sick, and it cost all we brought to cure him. So
we came up here a year ago, and was doing quite well, miss."
"Was it an accident in the mines?" I ventured to ask.
"Oh, no, miss, it was a cruel murder; he was killed by them Molly
Maguires!" and her lips trembled, and the tears started to her eyes.
I was sorry I had asked her, and was silent from sympathy.
"They're all very good to me about here. They've give me something to
do, and Ruby, here, takes care of the baby like a little woman while I'm
in the mine at work."
"Why, what can you possibly do?"
"Oh, a good many little odd jobs,–throwing the lumps out of the
passages, and doing whatever comes to hand,–helping to load sometimes.
I'm very glad to get it.
"They talk of raising me some money to buy a bit shanty," she added. "I
can pick up a little to do, perhaps, then, that'll keep me out of the
mine. It don't seem to be a woman's place, somehow. Not but what they're
all very respectful and kind."
"Are there other women there?"
"Not many in this mine. Over on the hill where the men struck once or
twice, there's a-many, and some of 'em do men's work; but a woman had
better be home if she's got a home."
The sentiment found an echo in my heart as I looked on the pale,
sorrowful face, so commonplace, yet so interesting, from its very
Down in the Mines.
"Wouldn't you like to go in?" she asked. "Ladies do, sometimes."
She placed the child in the arms of the girl,–a quiet little thing, and
I followed her into the side of the hill, already thickly covered with
working men, with the star of light burning on their foreheads, so faint
and blue in the sunshine, so bright in the darkness.
I shall never forget the sensations of that hour. In and on, with a
sense of continually descending; on each side, the great glistening
black walls of anthracite; here and there small streams of water
trickling down; now and then a dull thud of pick; a muffled, low roar,
ringing in one's ears wherever there was a passage in which people were
There were great hollows that looked like caves on one hand, and
precipitous banks on the other; little bursts of sound, coming upon one
suddenly, of miners talking or laughing below the mule tracks; patient
mules, laboring on in the darkness; patient or impatient men, toiling
from morning till night; even women denied the fair sunshine of the
Here were carts being loaded. Here were men making great fissures in the
coal; the air was filled with a shimmering dust, oddly gleaming in
plates as the light struck it. It filled the nostrils and the throat,
and I wondered how the miners dared open their months to talk.
"You can't think how bright it all seems outside, after I get through,"
said the young woman, whose name, I learned, was Matilda Vernon.
"Sometimes I think it's almost worth while to be shut up, things look so
different. You live in two worlds like."
I had a terrible sensation of dread in going out,–more palpably felt
than when I entered. What if these horrible jagged masses should fall on
or in front of me, obstructing my path! I could see myself flying before
me, and my breath grew so short that it was something like agony as I
toiled up and up, led by a miner so bulky that he almost filled the
passage at times.
I could have shouted for joy when at last I saw the faint far glimmer of
the beautiful glad light,–the light of the blessed sun. I could not
wonder that the miners asked for the boon of the eight hours law. It
certainly seems long enough, and too long, to be imprisoned in the
bowels of the earth.
Back again to the station, ready for the journey West,–I could hardly
believe that it was not yet ten o'clock in the morning.