“Some came shuffling tearfully in their carpet slippers, still wearing aprons and their morning curlers.”
“There they stood, desolate in the golden sunshine, their faces blank with the dread of disaster.”
“Smoke from the holocaust down below seeped from the shaft past the two great pit-head wheels turning ceaselessly in vain attempts at rescue.”
“They had probably been dead, these miners of Aunchengeich, long before the womenfolk arrived.”
“But still the women came and waited, agonised by fear and hope, while the dandelion seeds swirled off the grass-grown railway embankment and the fumes of death spread high over the surrounding fields.”
“And still the crowd grew - this astonishingly disciplined crowd of mining women who felt their widowhood before they knew it.”
“No other community, one feels, could show such iron self control, such patience in this long wait.”
“At most the long-submerged resentment at the mine would well up to the surface - a woman muttering bitterly:”
“They shouldn’t let them down the pit. It’s only fit for rats.”
But no-one screamed or wailed or had hysterics. Occasionally a short spasm of tears would shake a bowed pair of shoulders.
Like all mining communities, the womenfolk had been daily steeled for eventualities like this and they took it with the typical stoicism of their breed. But that did not make the pain any the less hurtful to bear.