That was it, Tommy and Myles were inseparable from that moment, they went to school together and shared everything. Myles even tutored the younger lads as he had been tutored privately in London and was advanced compared to those in Tommy’s school. Tommy looked at his friend months later, “Myles how come you ain’t like that nasty old git you call a granddad and your mam?”
“Easy, they were always at parties and their clubs. I was raised by Nanny Whitmore and she were lass from Wath-upon-Dearne just a few miles from here. I ain’t stuck up like them and I don’t intend becoming like them just to please the old git.
“They think I don’t see them just because I’m young. I know mam’s fucking the chauffeur and the butler; most likely any other man she can get her hands on. I know dad has taken to fucking Uncle Gerry or any young lad that he can get the trousers off, bell hops in hotels are his favorite! He’s a great big poofter and mother knows it. That’s why he never comes here as he knows pops would kill him, if he did. They did their duty, I popped out and now they do what they want. Though if you look closely at the butler…”
“No, look at what they were like when they bought you here. The old git is the one that she likes to role in the hay with.”
Myles thought, “I still adore my dad and always will.”
“You know m’ da likes men too.”
“Tommy don’t fret it; some women just don’t like to have more than one or two kids. Liking men lets you have the fun every man needs without the risk of a baby at the end of it.”
“No, it ain’t that. They just never connect these day… not since they had me.”
Myles looked at him, “Think about it. Your dad’s down in hell for ten or twelve hours a day. When he comes home, he’s exhausted; has his bath, eats his dinner, falls asleep. Most nights we’re still helping your mam and he’s gone to bed. He doesn’t want that though, but he knows getting up for the morning six o’clock shift don’t leave him that much time to sleep. No sleep and he’s in danger down in the pit, so he has to sleep or else. I dare say he’d like a jar, but he never does.
“Ma’s up for sending him off to work, but then sits and dozes until we get up at 7:00 for school. Okay maybe her day’s longer, but she can stop when she wants to and have a nap in the afternoon she can. By the time he comes home ma’s running the sewing and has ladies visiting to be measured or she designing new styles. You know darn well you sorts his bath for him and I cook his tea.” Myles looked at Tommy and hoped that he understood. He desperately wanted to tell Tommy that he understood how his dad could go with men as he sure had them feelings for Tommy.
* * * * * * * * * *
The school got them to write the soldiers that were serving in the army as they had heard that not everyone had someone to write home to.
When Billy heard about it, they decided that each week they, as a family, would write to a soldier to boost his morale while he was fighting. The war office supported Tommy and Myles’ idea and gave them a list of names of boys that needed someone to write to.
Tommy smiled every week as it was like writing to his teacher as he was called Fred. For a few weeks he never had a reply and they thought that the project was a waste of time. That is until one Wednesday, the mail man delivered Tommy a letter from France.
As he opened it, he read…
My Dearest Tommy
What a joy it has been to receive your letters this last week or so. I enlisted when the war started in an effort to escape the oppressive life that I had to endure. My father is a mean chapel elder down Cornwall and believed that a man should be whipped to beat him out of his sinful ways.
So, I left home when I was young and have been in service in Yorkshire ever since. I actually think your letter is the first kind thing that has ever happened in my life......
Tommy was in shock as he red Fred's life and handed the letter to Myles to read, as he was struggling with tears. They all received a letter eventually and continued to write their pen pals. Myles though, was gradually learning what life had been like in service as Tommy always let him read Fred’s letters. He was horrified to think that the people that worked for his parents or Grandfather could think like Alfred obviously did.
As the letters continued Myles also wrote Alfred just once and promised that once the war was over, if he wanted to move to the USA for a better life then he would purchase the ticket for him and personally sponsor him. As Alfred wrote back, he had tears in his eyes as he replied that he would love that if the Lord would grant that he was still alive at the end of the war.
Myles did sponsor Alfred with his father’s blessing. Alfred was injured and though it wasn’t too serious he was officially out of the army and back in civvies. As the boys wandered back home after school Ma was sat at the table feeding this soldier. They knew it was Fred, as he liked to be called, because he had sent them his army photo.
He looked at Myles, “Look son I won’t hold you to what you said…”
“Nonsense! Of course, I’ll get you a ticket and I’ll give you two hundred and fifty quid to help you get established over there. As long as you write once a month to let us know how you get on.”
Fred had tears running down his face and Tommy was the first to hug him, “Don’t cry Mr. Fred you deserve something nice. Let Myles help ya.” Fred looked at him in the eyes and nodded.
That was it, he stayed with them a month and worked with Ma helping with the washing and cleaning that the factory took in. At the end of the month Jimmy from Myles Granddad’s house took him to the train station for the train for Liverpool. Though Myles would see him again, Tommy never would.
As the weeks went by, they noticed that they had to work to keep the letters upbeat to raise the men’s spirits. Tommy cried when they were notified that the men Myles and his father were writing had been killed. It knocked everything out of Billy as he had been to school with man that he was writing to. As he was reading his telegraph, he heard a scream and knew it was his friend’s mother, Ma Sykes having just gotten the news. Edward was her fourth son or grandson that had been killed.
* * * * * * * * * *
Just as they thought everything was going well in the village, news came to the cottage that there had been an accident in the pit. Lizzy was told that there had been an explosion and the whole surface of the mine shuddered on top from what happened below. It was as if the mine had been violently sick. The pit secretary looked at Lizzy, “Miss Lizzy the Manager says that gases on pit face must have exploded.”
By now all of the women from the factory had gathered behind Lizzy. Lizzy turned to Maggy, “We need all of the spare linen and material we don’t use and we’ll take it to the church to use for bandages just in case. We need all of the girls and ladies down there with cups and plates to feed those helping, we don’t know how long it will be…” Lizzy stopped and looked in the distance.
Maggy hugged her. “It’s okay to let go…”
“No. Not now...” She paused. “Not at the moment, thems our men down there and we need to make sure they’re looked after. After…” She paused, “Maggy I can’t feel him. I can always feel him even when he’s down there. I can’t…”
“Shush now, as you said we need to be strong.”
At that moment all of the boys from the school ran in with Myles and Tommy and their teachers from the school. “Mam, what’s happened?” asked Myles.
Maggy looked at the boys. “Explosion in the pit. Remember how Tommy’s dad went through things he’d want you to do if there was an accident? Well get to it boys your dads and brother need you.” Lizzy quickly closed the factory and all of the girls and ladies headed to the church to wait for news.
“Sure thing ma,” said a few of the boys.
Maggy continued, “Well we need to do them now. Myles you and Tommy are the gaffers of the kids. Get going!”
“On it Maggy…” Myles looked at Lizzy and then Maggy. “Take care of her…”
Tommy looked at Myles as they ran to the church. “Did you see mam?”
“She knows it’s not good. They say some married people are connected. I reckon your mam and dad are.”
“I know. Get the guys and teachers going, I need to talk to the big guy in the church.”
Fred the boy’s teacher smiled at Myles. “You get the others organized, I’ll stay with him for you.” Myles nodded as they walked into the church a tear rolled down his face. By the time Tommy came out of the church the ladies had arrived and a tea and food station up in the church hall for all that were helping to save their men. The ladies just felt that they had to keep busy.
* * * * * * * * * *
As time crawled by, word come up with the first team of men that had gone down to get the survivors of the extent of the carnage that the explosion had caused. A deadly silence enveloped those fighting to help as they realized what they were facing. By now, police, ambulance and fire service, as well as local army men on leave had all arrived and were fighting to get to their friends to save them. Doctors and nurses were even going down the shaft to help save the men trapped inside.
Myles had now been joined by Tommy and was directing the kids and teachers to be the runners helping anyone that needed help. Still no one knew the true extent of the damage or those that had been lost if any to the mistress of the black gold. Tommy and Myles kept everyone organized, even directing adults as to what should be happening as the ladies handed out tea and sandwiches to help. Lizzy and some of the ladies were even bathing the dirt of those that had been lucky to come out of the pit first and helping the doctors assess their needs.
Just as the shifts were changing, the unthinkable happened and the whole place shuddered as another explosion ripped through the mine. Tommy literally stopped and everyone heard, “FUCKING HELL!”
* * * * * * * * * *
Minutes raced into hours and slowly people started coming to the top. Out of nineteen people trapped, twelve came up slightly injured, and the worse for wear but all were walking. All of them were talking about the hero at the coal face after the second explosion had ripped through the pit.
Charlie, Maggy’s sixteen your old son that had been on Billy’s team looked at Tommy as he talked about the hero and just mouthed “Sorry!” Tommy collapsed to his knees wailing in agony as Myles raced to his side and just hugged until they could cry no more.
In all of this time no one came from the big house, Myles Grandfather. He was furious as the old man could have prevented this if he had cared.
Three hours later and four more came up in the cage, all on stretchers but they were alive. Now the men fought to go down in the cage knowing that it was only Billy that was down there. Alone. Myles tried to get down to the pit face to help save the man that he respected when the last cage went down, but the Manager had to pull him out kicking and screaming due to his age.
When he had been refused Tommy held on to him and said quietly, “I can’t lose you as well M.” Lizzy had come out to the boys and knelt with them willing the cage to come up with the man that she had always loved.
The first team came up hours later only for a second to go down and then the cage came up and there was Billy covered in a sheet with the Pit Manager kneeling at his side crying like a baby. Tommy raced forward and pulled the sheet aside and looked at his daddy. Looking at Myles they nodded and Tommy turned to the boys of the village and said, “Take him home, he needs a wash and in his Sunday best before he meets Mr. Jesus.”
Myles looked at Lizzy’s best friend Maggy, “Take mam home and look after her. We’ll send for you when da’s ready.”
The doctor that had worked on him stepped up to them, “We need to…”
Myles looked at him. “Can you save his life?”
“No, I’m sorry, but…”
Maggy looked at the man, “Leave Billy to his family and friends to look after. You’ve done your part. Now we get him ready for his final trip to glory.” Maggy looked at the boys and then at her sons who were already with them with Billy on their shoulders and nodded. “I’ll look after your mam, look after Billy for us all boys.”
Silently the boys carried Billy home as the teachers from school walked with them. The headmistress stayed with the girls in the kitchen boiling water and getting soap and clothes ready for Fred the boy’s teacher to collect and take to Tommy and the boys when they needed them.
It was sun up by the time that they had cleaned Billy and dressed him. Lizzy then came home and they welcomed the minister and the village to mourn with them. The boys were exhausted.
As mother came inside, they saw Myles’ Grandfather’s car pulling up outside. He shut the door. As he did, he simply said as he looked out, “It had better be the old man that talks to me because if it is the driver, I’ll be fit to fucking kill that man!”
A while later there came a knock at the door and Tommy answered it. “Tommy, I have come for my grandson.”
Myles looked at the man, “It’s all about you isn’t it, granddad?”
“You never even gave Tommy’s mum here your condolences and it is your fucking mine that killed her husband. You never even sent anyone to help with the disaster!”
“That is enough! Come home now! As soon as the funeral is done, they’ll be evicted for a new mining family to move in.”
“No - they - will - not! Their rent is paid up to date and the cottages were mining cottages at one time, but now they are part of the village owned by your estate. You throw them out and I’ll travel to London and tell the Times how a man in a reserved occupation gave his life because you couldn’t be bothered reviewing the way your mine is run. You knew it’s prone to gas and explosions and yet you have done nothing to improve the situation for years. I wonder what people will say grand - father? Two fucking explosions! Two…”
The old man looked at him and said, “Young man, I could force you to come with me… Two explosions?”
“Yes grandfather two, I felt the second rip through the earth. Tommy get Mr. Lawson from the front room.” Moments passed and a man appeared, “Mr. Lawson as instructed please take the action we discussed this morning.”
Lawson look at the Marquis, “Lord Vimbaston, Mr. Tommy Baden and his mother have lodged a claim against you for the unlawful killing of their father and husband.”
“They have what?” the old man almost screamed and it could be heard right across the village.
Myles smiled, “You heard. Now you’ll make sure that the injured men are looked after and get the care that they need. You’ll sign the deeds to this cottage over to Lizzy Baden and pay her ten thousand quid as compensation for the death of her husband. If you do that, we will instruct Mr. Lawson to drop the claim against the estate. Otherwise, we’ll see you in court grand - father.”
“You can’t do this.”
The headmistress smiled, “The boys are quite within their rights actually sir. They have discussed this with their teachers throughout the night and Mr. Lawson has been hired as he is the brother of their class teacher. Now I suggest you take note, because I will tell you that I am very proud of those boys.”
The old man looked at her and then Lawson, “Is this right.”
“I am their lawyer, but I can tell you it will be a lot more if it goes to court and we will insist that the mine’s closed for safety reasons until action is taken to prevent this from happening again. As it is, if you agree, all we insist on is that there is an investigation in to the cause of the accident and action taken to protect the men that work for you.”
“Five thousand quid not ten.”
Myles laughed “The price of a life? Really Granddad, I wonder what the courts will think it is Tommy. Eleven thousand quid maybe.”
“Fifteen! What do you say Tommy?”
The old man looked at them, “Alright ten thousand, plus the deeds to this cottage.”
Tommy smiled “Plus all of the costs incurred by the injured men in getting the medical care they need to get better.”
Myles smiled, “Now tell mum and dad that I love them and to piss off as I live in Piswell now with Lizzy and Tommy Baden!”
As the old man was leaving, he looked at Lawson. “I will make sure that you are ruined young man.”
“That maybe sir, but I only work down your pit, so you can try if you want to waste your time. Make sure to get the money and the deeds over to the bank with Lizzy no later than tomorrow or we will pull in the authorities to check the mine.”
“Don’t worry, it will happen. Myles you are one hell of man! I’m proud of you.” The old man nodded and left.
Lizzy smiled, “We would love you to come to dinner on Sunday sir with the boys, but I’m afraid that it would spoil all of our appetites.”
The man glared at her, “Madam my car will be here by eleven in the morning. Be ready!”
“I’m not sure if I can leave my ladies unsupervised.”
“My housekeeper will be with me and will stand in for you while we head to the bank. She’s a good woman and will help.”
That’s all for now folks ... Chapter 3 will follow soon. I'll continue to try to get at least one chapter posted per week as promised...
Let me have your comments and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org ... All suggestions considered.
Though I have read through the chapters many times since they were written, an editor never goes adrift, please let me know if you are interested.