THE KIST

“Aw noa!”
The lid o ma kist wor wide-open, dust frev ivry airt o the pit free tiv enter – jes wipe yor feet on ma saw en settle any pliace ye pleese.
“Ha ye bin at ma kist?”
Aa'd spun arund en gollered that at the putter that was bannagin his knee.
“Me? Na, man,” he sez, gie'in' a canny convincin wince.
“Weel, whe's left the lid up? Aa'd like te knaa that.”
“Aw thot ye did.”
“Ye what?”
“Theer Aa woz, hobblin alang, en Aa thot Aa did see thee the'sell, hovrin ower the thing… but itz ower-easy ti gan off-track i'the mirk.”
This lasst bit he added on, seein Aa woz aboot to clag him one.
“It wos summun short, anygates,” he finished, nut makkin' me eny better pleesed. Aa'm stocky, Aa admit, but dinnot ciare ti be miade gam ov. Like when Aa raised the lid yance, en a fox lowpt oot.
Se Aa lent him a hand ti hap up his knee, but aal he cud say woz he thot he gorra glint ova short gadjee – or a bairn, mebbe – stannin fornenst the kist as he cum up, but then the so-caa'd summum musta ta'en his skite. Vanisht like a bogle.
Weel, thor's nut that menny yung'uns doon the pit th'day; thor at skiul, larnin ti be menseful en industrious, Aa whope. Wheerfore Aa cudna help but jaloos sum sconse or ither. En dangerous that cud be, when Aa need ma gear ti see ti the safety ov aal in the pit. Hammers, saws, mells, drills, chizzels, box-planes – thor aal kept in the deppity's kist, that's god's truth. Let alane the bannages en siklike safety gear. Borrowin – why thet's maist as bad as leavin the lid open, fer the dust ti gerrin – bluntin en fowlin the edges, mixin en messin th whole box o' tricks an endin up lossin the gear, like as not. Then thor's an emergency, en ye cannut finnd the reet teul, or itz jammed, or the heft's aal clarty n slippy.
Fer itz ma job to owersee the runnin o this part o th pit, ti test thet th chocks en props is aareet, ti keep a watch on the flo-or en th roof, when the yan heaves or tuther lowers. Ti warn folk away fre the empty mine, the goaf, thats riddy ti collapse on itsell. Fer mines are nut stiable endurin stiates ov affairs, like a city or a mountain, but iz mainly access – get the co-al en then gerraway. The tub-ways are used, then abandoned, en let faa', as we move on ti new zones fer co-al. On'y a varry few permanent ways' kept in good fettle, maistly roon the shafts thessells, and that's wheer the deppity's kist is allus set, shud ye ivvor need it.
Or – likelier – need me. Why, thor like bairns some o these, ivvor wantin advice en a bit sympathy. Sum job mine is.
“Maw workin gear's the axe an saw
An pockits myed fer nails;
Fer its maw bisness doon belaw
Te timmor an lay the rails”
That's the sang, ye knaw. Forbye Aa serve as dominee, en check thor work tallies, en dee a manager's task fer free:
“Te watch an keep the wark away
To order lads aboot…”
Aye, en sum o thim'ld challenge me tiv a fight if they could wi'out riskin thor jobs. Ignorant obstinate as weans, them sum.
“Aw'm duty-bound inbye te be
An oor before the men
For Aw've got ivory place te see
Before they start…”
En its true, Aa've ti be in early each shift en check th gannin-bords en th' props. Lay a bit roadway or fettle an aud sexshun. It can be eerie, Aa knaw it, waakin roon i'th dark on a non-coalin shift, or a Sunda liate, when its varnigh desertid doon here, wi on'y yer ahn lamp ti gie a low en leet up th' workins. En thet ye hev ti set doon, time ti time, en squeeze thru a hitch ti test fer heave outbye, or fer gas. Sumtimes Aa bring th'bairn wi me, for company, but Aa nivvor did this nex time Aa'se gan ti tell of. Aa mean, when the kist was leff wopen en naeboddy but me i'the pit.

It happend me like this. Aa'd diun ma roond, en fettled a few rails that wor oot o kilter, en woz returnin a bag o tools ti th kist missell. When Aa keeked it: sum sort o figger, a bairn like as nut, glowerin ower the contents o th kist, as tho huntin fer summat, like. Aa thot it wor sum thief, sum lowp-heed up te nae gud, en Aa thot o ma gear, that he wor set to plote, en Aa gollered oot: How! Ye hevvent ti touch that!
The gadgie musta heered, for it turned roon, cast a pleadin, dowly leuk toward me, desp'rate en tearfu' it wor, en plain vanisht. Aa mean it. Yan second thor, ennither – he'd went. Naw, th illumination i' pits is nut brilliant, Aa admit, but Aa cudna be mista'en. Thet wor nae eorthly body, up ti sum eorthly evil. It was – weel – a mazer, an apparition, a phantom o sum sort; en itz nut offens ye heer aboot such, i-the hugger-mugger o pit life. It's genrally ower busy en loud ti be spirituel, Aa finnd.
Exackly, Aa didna panic – thet's fatal as like as nut, inna pit. But Aa went up, giv th'gear a quick inspecshun, shut the lid – en then it struck me, this woz th'second occasion Aa'd been obleeged ti shut th'lid fer sum person unkennt. The putter lad, afore, he'd sed aboot a bairn, at th' kist. Aa minnd that. Naw, Aa'd hev thot it aal in the coorse o Nature – jis' summun fishin in th'kist fer funnin on or ti fetch a wrench or a mell to fettle sum jam or mebbies lowse sum marra that woz trapp'd – but then the way he purely vanished! (En Aa nivvor tiuk ma een off him). Yet if he wor actin oot sum passt tragedy, he wor sum unfendy ghostie, fer nowt was moved, nut a brush tip shifted, on'y th forst specks o dust cummin ti settle unner the lid.
Aa picked up th'saw, en set to wipin it. In auden days, naw, th saw wor th on'y handy writin surface i-the pit, en men used it ti cast lots fer thor wark-pliaces, cavvels, they caa'd them. Ye knaa, thors nae polished flo-or, nae whitewash waa's, nae biooks nor sliates liggin aboot; nowt as gud as the smooth lenth o a saw en a bit chawk. That's gannin back a bit, but then this was nigh th'auder parts o th'pit, when Aa thot ov it. Wheer roads wiz kep wopen fer th sake o ventilashun, we caa'd the 'returns'. But Aa nivvor heered o a tragedy jes here, tho thor wos sum terruble trubble lang since, i'the aud workins, noo bricked up. That wor when the stithe killed sum, en th ithers wor trapped; then thor was need fer teuls aareet; but what possible use woz a sho'ul or an adze naw, fer an axident lang passt?
It woz a puzzle Aa cud nut reetly wark oot, se Aa finished ma inspeckshun double-sharp en rang ti ride ti bank. Aa didnut say owt aboot it then. Aa didnut ciare ti. It woz ma problem, en Aa dinnut say that Aa wazzint a tadge shiakey an' femmer sum oors. But th'lad wanted me ti tak him te th hop at Whoreden, en Aa cudnut refuse. Aa needed a bit relief, ti be honest. En them dances wor summat like what it shud be, fer Aa siun gormed whee was whee, en finnt a lass ti play wi behint th haa'. Me son was inbye, courtin th mensefu' way, Aa reckon. Gud luck tiv im. A wifey's fine, but love ootside o th stiale pairin's a wonder. Different. En chance-gi'en, wi'oot calculashun or obligashun.
Fer if ivvor Aa needed a bit cheeryin, then wor it. Aa even went fer th'lasst bus, ti keep fre waakin hiame i'th dark. Draggin th lad wi me. He'll nut miake a bonny pitman, mind; he's ower-big o th biane, uncomfortish in th rat-runs en griave-tunnels ov a pit-way. En slaa he is. Nut the sort at aa'.

Nor de ye ushully gerra gentleman, or eny but a mine offishal, cummin doon ti leuk roond. But Lord Lop, he hez these marras o hiz, en yan is keen as radish ti see inti th workins. Nowt'll dee but doon he rides, wi this en that under-manager en owerkeeker ti set him reet, en balance him on his to-or. Th men is warned ti keep thor sarks o thor backs, en nivvor to sweer an oath throo-oot the day. Mesell Aa hed a clean sark en a neck-chief, but Aa noaticed how he nivvor shiuk ma hand. He wazzint smilin much when he cam doon, en eftor he'd bin on th' stravage, he wor e'en less sonsy. Pits can hev that effeck, en sum folk will nivvor mak pitmen, ye knaa. They gen'rally enlist as sailors, in thet ciase. But this chep woz a grandee, en nut inclined to fash hissell wi froatin on, bar a lal bit observashun, like. He sat doon, nut hunkered, but sat – if ye pleese – on ma kist, as tho it wor a handy sort of settle, en taks oot his snotter-clout en mops his forr'ed. It can get reet maftin on a wark-shiff like his'n. Aa offerred a pot o watter, but he nivvor e'en replied. Thet sort o Aa'm-speshul gob-tightness that's ony gud ti ax questions.
His nacky-mmoth'd marras tactfully suggested it myte be time to resurface, en should they ring fer the cage? Aa teuk the hint, en went ti mak sartin the ciage woz still thor, which of course it woz, for that naebody else wor likely to bargie it the while gentry wor in need ov it. Lork! but when Aa stepped the few piaces back ower, Aa fand a reet confushion. The lord wor liggin o th grund, blarin' fer hilp, en th'lid o the kist (that wor his seat, ye mind) wor thrust up, en tiuls jiggin aboot as if they cud nut quite lift thessells clear. Aa woz ower-freet ti laff, en stood like a fondy as the gentlemen handed th' lord tiv is feet, efter he'd cowped his creels.
“The lid – the lid, “ yan o'them tellt me: “it flew wopen.” Aa saw straite off it wor that kelpie fella, seein th way them tiuls wor stottin aboot i'th kist. It wor a stiff ghost, this, it seemed, and ettled ti get summat deun. But noo aal them things wor still, whiles. Aa teuk the breetest lamp up i'ma hand, ti guard it, less we wor suddenly hoyed inti darkness by sum new sconce o th ghost-lad. Tho he did nut seem a perilous sort o spirit, jes fashed – as a deppity myte be (Aa recognised) if yan o his men woz sairly hurt, an hilp wor needed urgent, like.
They wor aal upreet noo, en pretendin it wor aal an axident (“but someone pushed me!”), en bein soothin aboot it, mild aza humblick, en him blatherin on, when a sho-ul, stacked i'th corner, lifted ov itsell, en travelled a fioot or twee, staggerin-like, ettlin to gan in-bye. Aa miade sure the lamp shone on th miracle, se thet they cud not miss it. Sumhow Aa kenned it hed aal happened them on purpose: they wor to witness it whether they wor willin or noa. They musta bin sair flayed, fer yan turns cruelly on me en spits oot, “Is this sum sort of trick?” Aa did nut answer. Aa felt Aa did nut need to come atwix them en thor psychic fiate, az Aa dooted it wud prove ti be.
In less than a minnit, the sho'ul dropped, ov its ahn accord, ye myte say, en lay still. En then the shiape of a lad began ti form, jes wheer th shiul wor fa'en, stannin' quite as a body wud, if he hed getten haad o th' heft. Frev invisible ti visible, in the time it teuk ti tell yor fingers yance ower. Th'under-manager wud a run then, but th ithers restrained him. The lord he gav a quick How! ov amazement, as if it wor sum new treat, a speshul unnergroon entertainment, common (mebbies) in mining circles.
The lad wor formed, like Aa'd noated him afore. En he spoke, summat like “Help me, help me!” en pointed en run a lal way to a coinin i th ways, en waited fer us ti foller, like. Noo th leet wor i' ma hand, en move Aa didna. The lord it wor speaks up. “Come on, fellow,” he says, “there is someone needs help.” As tho it wor a mortal advencher in a weekly joornal. En off he moves. Then the maistors mak ti follow; en then Aa've ti follow them, seein as how them's the gaffors. At the turn o th ro-ads, the lord gets a new glint o th phantom, en “There!” he gollers, en maks off again, tho Aa knaa en th ithers jaloose, that this is nut a peth much in use. Bits dust rise wi th lord's fleetie footin it, that hed nivvor miade a stour when the kelpie passt aheed. En then we aal saw the lad agyen, this time fornenst a stoppin, as we caa' it – a brickin up ov a former access, that is. En then the lad that woz not a real un passt thru it en inti the waa'. Bit by bit he disappeared, as if thor had been nae bricks in pliace at aa'.
En the lord – God bless im – call'd oot: “Quick! A pickaxe, some tools. We must break through. It izza sign! There is someone needs our help! Hurry yourselves now.”
Th ithers stand en dinnut answer. They knaa, as Aa dee, that the waa' o' bricks hes stood thor fer yeers en yeers, ivvor sin the terruble explosion o th lasst cent'ry. En that ivry body that cud, hez been recovered en gi'en decent burial; en the brix put in ti guard against eny fiery influence dwellin beyont.
“God help us” – he exclaims – “you cannot leave a fellow-workman to perish! Look lively! Break the tools out!”
En they leave it ti me tiv explain.
“Ma lord,” Aa sez, “thet waa' hes nut bin touched for fowerty or feefty 'eer. Nae person livin can be fand behint that waa'. What ye hev seen, is a po-or speerit. He dizzent seem ti ettle us eny harm. Mebbe he yance was liukin fer help ti reach an injured marra, but that emergency - if sae - hes lang sin passt. If ye want ti help him, when ye're nex in chorch, wi th rich-dressed vicar fornenst th shiny altar, en th ither lords en ladies in th early raas, en th managers en thor lasses i th pews ahint, en then the servants en thor fam'lies at the rear, then kneel ye doon, en pray fer the lad, fer that's aal that ye or eny o' us can dee.”
En God help me, forbye.