When they finally pulled apart, he wondered whether it was even worth him putting the other part of his proposal to Minnie. He knew inside what the answer would be, but he decided to have a go anyway. 'There's something else to sort out. You know how I feel about working down the mine?' He looked towards her for some encouragement, but she was staring fixedly at her lap, where her hands were clasped.
'I hate the mine, Min. Everything about it. Sleeping all winter in bunks in a cramped barrack room that stinks of unwashed feet and stale cabbage. Seeing man after man going down with the black spit. Breaking me back doing work I hate. And much as I hate it, living with the even bigger fear that it all might stop tomorrow. You know as well as I do, the Crag's still employing but we don't know how much longer. It's time for a change, Min. You and me together. A new life while we've got the choice, rather than waiting till the Company shuts us down and I'm one of many on the scrap heap trying to find work.'
She interrupted him. 'I said I'll marry you, but not if it means leaving here.'
'I know how much you love it here, Min. I do too, but the world's changing. I've changed. The war did that. I want to make me own decisions, not have some mine boss down in London make them for me.'
'Our Bill said just last night the Company will keep the Crag open until there's no lead left in the ground.'
'Mebbe they will, but we don't know when that'll be. Might be sooner than you think.'
'Nah! How many men's working there? Go on – tell me,' she said.
'There's forty of us underground and another twenty up top.'
'That's sixty jobs if me sums are right. And you're a good worker, Michael – they'll not be losing you in a hurry. If there's layoffs there's others they'll cut afore you.'
'It's not just about the job. I don't want to be hanging on and hoping and putting me life in the hands of others. I had enough of that in the war. I want to decide things for meself.'
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