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My alarm has a knob on top that Oatmeal — a North of Ireland landbrings silence when pressed down. I lady - a door that blows open and struck it a blow just now, with my won't catch. palm reached from under the bed . 'Come pretty near not gettin' any clothes, and slid out of bed. In a sort breakfast this morning — know that — of stumble I moved to the bathroom, I slept two hours last night, between lit the gas-jet, - which shrieked in- four and six — I can't stand it, I stantly — and got my face with breath- won't stand it — rheumatism 's all less haste into cold water. Dim figures through that side — if it keeps bothof men with dinner-buckets were erin' like this, I 'll give up boarders — visible through a frosted window, I won't stand it! - Have some butter?' slipping down Factory Hill, and I The faces of several hundred brass blinked at them through watery eyes. and copper employees met every morn“That alarm has lost another five ing in the quarter-mile between boardminutes, I decided. All hope of a ing-house and rolling mill are unshave evaporated, and I made a rapid changing. The same look and gait, descent of the back stairs, buttoning with minor substitutions in walking the last three vest buttons as I went groups — a new feller for a new girl; over stone steps into the street.
a girl who once walked alone, now arm Outside there was a paling starlight, in arm with three others. Those faces, and hard cold that made my limbs empty, lined, careful, reckless, surshrink to each other for comfort, and rendered, are drawn and tinted clearer shot my coat collar around my ears. in my brain than my own cousins'; I Down Factory Hill I went in a half- have spent more hours of my life run, passing slow-paced hunkies and looking into them, and putting them nervous machinists returning from the into consciousness. I meet them in night shift at Page's. At this hour slightly different spots each morning, there are no noises in Martinsberg, as they or I vary our leaving times, and only the faint shriek and grind of the many, with a miraculous invariability, foundry crane that runs all night. It beside the same tenement or post in is a sound that to me has an eerie and the brass-mill fence. There is an old infernal quality in its vibrations. It Irishman, whom I met this morning at suggests an ageless continuance of the space where Factory Hill spreads foundry labor: slow, grinding, unin- into Main, from whom the mill must teresting, and eternal. I toughen a have exacted thirty- or forty-odd years weakened morale by blowing my nose, of daily passage here. He is lame and and thinking very fixedly upon break- as crudely clothed a man as I have fast.
ever seen. Like Cruikshank's drawings of English laborers — shapeless baggy There's a box - a soap-box a footpants, jagged cuffs, black coat, ragged and-a-half high — that I sit on. At my like a stage pauper's; safety-pin at the right hand, hung on a wire from the neck; black hat — felt, without band roll-stand, is my bucket of roll-oil. or shape. Gray hair over part of his I dip into the oil in my pail, using a forehead; a mill complexion, a stiffened swab half the size of your fist, and knee. There were all the wrinkles and streak on — not too much — upper lines of strain, anxiety, and age in his side, lower side, of that moving ribbon. face, coupled with a curious look of It takes fifteen minutes for this bar boyishness. It was as if the environ- alone to grind through. Sweep your ment compelled his body to endure the swab like a paint-brush on the moving cares and labors of a responsible life metal, top side, bottom side, and then without any corresponding growth or meeting — or almost meeting — the hardening of spiritual muscle.
oil-smear of your last stroke. Greeks, Portuguese, Syrians, Rus- Fifteen minutes pass. I get up from sians, Poles, Italians, and Americans; my box; my Portuguese helper, who laborers, skilled workmen, the whole came in ten minutes ago, slides a new hierarchy of bosses — the muffles' 300-pound coil on the reel, lying on its chief in the brass mill, the shipping- side. We right it together — I know room foremen, the bosses of the wire about the knee-bend now, that puts mill and casting shop — moving into your back under the load. the mill between 6.55 and 7.
Then for new oil — a green stream, I opened my locker, and pulled out a finger-size, from the tap, sunlight color torn newspaper to stand on with into it; and McCarthy's helper is stocking feet, while climbing into army behind me waiting. field shoes. They are joyously com- 'Oop!' Half a cup slithering to the fortable to stand in, and resist the mill floor beside his foot. He gives me a grin environment better than any known of white teeth, and says something in footwear. I balance on one foot and Polish English. I worked with him on draw on blue overalls, till three scalp- Mac's rolls last month. ing-machine operators brush by and Back to the soap-box, - a long tumble me into a locker. The whistle stroke, top-side and bottom-side,
fifteen minutes to go. I watch the I 'm on the ‘pony' rolls with Bill grain in the metal, — stained as it Hartley, roller, who is there now cut is from the pickle-tubs, — thinking, ting a sample with immense shears. How 'd you like to be an inspector? The blocker and helper are beside him, Watch for blister, cracks, humps, putting on their gloves.
foreign impurities, gauge – The ColI grab the end of the coil. It has gate ribbon of metal swerves a little, already been mounted on the reel, and coming from the rolls; reels a little to at Bill's nod I shove the end, with this side, a little to that; what of it? something of a lunge, between the Swab top and bottom - a long stroke two revolving rolls. Several thousand and even. pounds' pressure are applied instantly, There are four more coils in this and the copper ribbon shoots through, order. In the middle of the third, the a thirty-second thinner and flat as a bar sticks in the rolls, stutters, jerks on strip of Colgate's. Speedily I relapse for an inch or two, shrieks, and stops. into one of the oil-swabbing automata I don't know why kerosene prevents of which there are twelve in the mill. sticking; but it does, and I squirt it
toriking feet, whes are joyous the mill A
from an oil-can near my left hand. four minutes, five, maybe, before the The stutter has waked Bill from a light fingers ceased grinding! Drop it for nap, and he relapses into it again when the Lord's sake! — An even stroke, the metal takes to moving. He sleeps long-top-side and bottom. in a tilted chair against his locker. Bill went to the drinking fountain The sixth coil —
near the clock, and coming back said Swab - top and bottom - a long quickly, 'It's seven minutes of — sweep - even but not too much — last bar. The order is finished.
So we watched it curl through, imNow you ’re truck-horses — Bill tak- patiently, wishing we could speed the ing the handle of the truck with all the unvarying rate of the rolls, and hoping finished coils on it, piled three high it would pull out by five minutes of and sloping like steps of a pyramid. twelve — which it did. We push it over to the annealing Kerosene will cut away grease, and furnaces to soften the coils for more we all washed hands in it, put the rolling.
shears and wrench in Bill's locker And now for a fresh order, with a to prevent neighborly thieving, and quite new adjustment of the rolls, and rushed for the sink. There was sullenof the guides which lead the metal in ness and cold water. I borrowed sand The minutely different circumstances soap from Zalinski, an old Pole who bring their flood of relief..
inspects copper. Bill helps me mount the next reel; the Portuguese has retired for a drink
II of water. A wrestling to untwist and bend into the guides — all your I wish I could tell all there is to tell strength. Then the rolls bite; the about Mrs. Badger's boarding house.
swabbing from my soap-box. This time I look at rolls and not metal — smooth cylinders of chilled iron, evenly
long book, and it has only indirectly — though importantly — to do with copper and brass. It was there I learned
$600 a pair. Look flat, but they ’re not. religion — the hatreds of Catholics for Covered with 'humps and valleys' – Protestants and Protestants for Cathoa fraction of a thousandth of an inch lics, and a good deal about people's high or deep. A roller worth his salt ancestry and the complicated way they can tell them by touching with sen- had intermarried. It was there also that sitive finger-tips.
I was told that Mrs. Bertran, who lived I apply my hand, pass my fingers on the hill and went to Cape Cod sumover the oily tops of the rolls, and try mers, began life by 'accommodatin':' to imagine I feel the ‘humps.' Fingers With Mrs. Badger's advancing age get caught sometimes, ésticker's' fin. and rheumatism, she slowly cut off the gers, roller's fingers. The hand may heads of her boarders. She now had break, either at the knuckles or the left Mr. Lampson, a clerk, Mr. Benny, wrist. What would happen if mine a foundry workman, Mr. Steffens, a caught? I think it through with a draughtsman, Miss Packard, a schoolmorbid intensity. Some one would run teacher, and myself. to the engineer, in the centre of the To-day we had a boiled dinner, and mill. The mill engine would ease politics. slowly and stop at length — three or “Why should n't the mayor sell
monit? I think it thrpen if mine a foundruampson, a clerk, Mr. R
bottles if he wants to?' inquired Mr. bringing a new pail of oil. He smiled Lampson.
at me and pointed to a supersaturated 'Because it 's a disgrace for a mayor apron. of the town to be carryin' on trade up 'It goes into the skin,' he said, and down the street, overalls 'n' all, tapping his legs. while he's mayor.'
Which was a truth. I had found Mrs. Badger invariably discussed my own legs growing discolored since the mayor at the top of her lungs. I began sticking. It soaked easily
'It 's honest,' observed Mr. Benny, through all protections. but without conviction.
Bill made an adjustment on the rolls 'What have you really got against for thin metal, – a delicate job, — the Mayor Shane?' I asked.
squeezing of bars .015 of an inch thick 'Look at him!' burst from Mrs. down to .010. Badger.
'Plenty of oil this time.' What else?'
The one o'clock whistle blew. I 'He's a Mick.'
stood close to the moving ribbon of “Yes?'
thin metal and drowned it in roll-oil. A dirty Mick,' she continued.
There is almost a technique in roll'Did not his wife's sister keep a ing 'thin stuff.' Thin copper, hardly saloon once?' put in the German thicker than thick paper, will tear, draughtsman.
crumple, and go crooked, if you 're not ‘Besides,' — Mrs. Badger's tone considerate. As I drown the metal grew hoarse; she had not heard Mr. with oil, — this is the ninth bar, Steffens's evidence, — 'he 's a Dem- I 'll go over in my head little things ocrat!'
caught from Bill. 'Anything else?'
Bar has to pass over several things 'Yes!' she concluded, her voice break- before it goes to rolls and gets squeezed: ing; ‘he 's a Catholic!'
first, a round rod — and see that it 's I went down-town before they smooth and won't scratch the copper, finished, to buy a can of machinist's which is delicate. (Rub it with emery soap, and returned to the mill by 12.50. paper.) Then over a brass plate under (It seemed reasonable to enter by the a wooden peg. (See that they both are ‘rivet-and-bolt' door, which is just as smooth - emery and sandpaper.) near as the front way by the hot rolls, Have the guides fit the bar tight. and I ran a chance of seeing the rivet. Have the reel from which the bar and-bolt stock clerk, who is the pretti- unwinds, directly back of guides, so est girl in the north mill. But she she won't go into the rolls crooked. had n't come.)
If the rolls squeeze too much, the By the time I put myself into over- metal comes out 'snaky,' they say. alls and field shoes, and the black It 's like a piece of cloth where the canvas cap with green visor that I had edges have shrunk and the middle kept over from steel days on the open has n't. Watch for that. hearth, gangs were coming in by the What else? I 'll think when this bar hot rolls. The men who ate out of goes through. What time is it? Early dinner buckets were putting them I guess — may be quarter of two. back into lockers and moving with Put on a lot of oil. Um — very great leisure toward their ma- Gauge every bar. Bill is doing it — chines. On the rolls next mine, the Examine edges to see they have n't sticker -a fat Slav — turned up been roughed up by the guides. Yes.
Look at the surface for scratches, engineer's cap. With an air of inmarks, or blisters.
calculable leisure he gauges his bars Finished — twelve bars of 'thin between puffs. stuff.'
The last pair of rolls are mighty We push the truck to the annealing ones, grinding long thick bars which furnace, and bring a towering one back take three men to manipulate. The from the hot rolls. A whale of an order, blocker is a high-shouldered fellow in a 45 coils, an eleven-hour job, with blue shirt, who stands close and grabs nothing to it, after the set is made, but the bar when it first shows an edge shoving a bar in one side of devouring through the iron rolls. Over the tops of rolls, swabbing on oil for fifteen the stands I can make out a small minutes, and watching it automatic- overhead crane, moving industriously ally wind up on the other side.
in a cloud of steam from hot tubs. Bill makes the set. It 's guessing I turn back to the moving copper, done with weird accuracy. The upper and find my pail all but empty. I 'll roll is screwed up or down, and two fill after this bar. Instead of half iron bars, sticking from the top of the turning as I did to see the aisle of rolls, stand, achieve that adjustment. I look straight ahead at eye-level.
Space between the rolls widens from There are ‘draw benches' hauling .010 of an inch to .175.
copper through dies into special shapes. A short little bar is gobbled through I can't see them well, and my ignorance for a try. Gauged with a micrometer of their mechanics is complete. A Found to be .170.
little to the left is the square box of a The iron control-bars are jarred a mill office. Through the window of it little by Bill's hand; space between I can see a man with arms on his desk, rolls opens imperceptibly.
and a head with a thin patch of hair, Another little bar is passed through. buried in them. The boss, Halsey. Gauged with the micrometer — .175. 'He sleeps all day, but by God, he Ah-h!
knows copper.' This is what Bill says. First big bar. 'Shoot! Coil is For some reason the mill noises mounted on reel, end tugged up, rolls break into my attention suddenly with bite. I sit on my soap-box and begin all their different layers and divisions on the job again: swab on oil, regular — of sound. I have been too much given top and bottom — not too much. to the technique of rolling, or to the · I won't watch any longer this moving numbing regularity of a sticker's belt of copper slipping by under my strokes, to notice them before. I swab with the greenish oil dripping on. listen now and hear them all. UnderMy eyes go for rest to the gang on the neath is the fundamental engine rumble next rolls. A Portuguese Negro is and the sound of heavy machinery there as sticker's helper, at this in- turning in its bearings. Above that the stant fishing with a stick for small local grind of my own copper strip coils in a great tub of blue pickle. going through the pony rolls, and one Near him is the sticker, a man with a of our couplings banging a loose board great stomach and a small head, who of the sheathing at each turnover. treats his metal to great slushes of oil for the scalping machines, buzz is which run off the edges to the top of too soft a word. It is a compound his boots and the floor. By twisting sound, the rapid clawing of copper I can see the roller. He is thin-faced, surfaces by six talons of steel. Close to, with glasses, a short pipe, and an you catch the individual scrape; at my