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hey could last over
distance, the sound is still harsh but words filtered, jumbled and without confused. And it unites with the meaning: 'a new order — radiator softened szz-z-z of belts on drums. All brass — competition - spot copper.' this is continuous incessant sound. They do not pause anywhere, but There are a lot of intermittent ones on pass on and out of the mill through the top. When a hundred-pound coil drops die department, and leave speculative on the floor twenty yards off, you hear conversations in little groups all over it vaguely; copper bars thrown down the mill. I hear the roller next us say, by the crane go clang. And occasion- 'Lookin' to see who they can lay off, ally a coil sticks for an instant in the I guess. Five fellers dropped last pay rolls; gives a screech and a shudder, day.' But my roller, Bill, comes over and passes through. The steam lifts to the soap-box, and remarks, 'Weller that hang over the pickle-tubs scream is a good scout. My uncle was a roller faintly when the valves open, and in the brass mill when Mr. Weller was trucks loaded with cakes and bar a young college feller learnin' the rumble in and out of hearing.
For some minutes some force seemed III
to have cut across the drone of ma
chines, bar-swabbing, coil-mounting, Suddenly the monotonous routine of stiffened muscles, drip of oil, the interthe mill afternoon was interrupted. I minable ribbon of copper squeezing was not aware what had happened, but between iron. It was possible to think was conscious that a large event had vividly and pleasantly about anything taken place. Helpers began to crane at all. I recalled a hurdle race that I their necks toward the hot rolls, to had won in high school, and the way straighten curved backs if they were the crowd blurred at the tape. I began sitting down, to wake up if like the to think about Leonardo da Vinci and rollers they had fallen asleep. I craned about Mr. Gordon. Somebody had too, and twisted on my soap-box to told me he had one ambition — to sweep the aisle of rolls with my eyes, earn enough to be independent of the and strain them in the direction of mill. He had worked thirty-eight years steam-clouds and the hot rolls. The at it, they said, and was about ready to state of half coma in which I had been cut loose. He owned an apple farm in listening to the noises of the mill left Massachusetts somewhere; in a year or me, and I felt alert, almost eager. two he would put brass behind him
‘Beeg boss come,' whispered the and begin the raising of apples. Lithuanian helper.
But a little later, it became an effort, Mr. Gordon and Mr. Weller walked great and overwhelming, to think of down the aisle of the rolls. Mr. Gordon Gordon any more, or of anything else. was superintendent of the mill, Mr. I mounted a coil —. Weller an officer of the company. Lifting the swab from my pail of Nobody's movements grew hurried or roll-oil, putting it on in regular smears unnatural, but a subtle current of upon the thirty-first coil, watching the consciousness ran through the aisle; metal thicken on the block, winding a no heads were turned, but everyone little to this side, veering to that — knew that everyone else knew that Mr. Sometimes the numbness that a job Gordon and Mr. Weller were coming brings is pleasant, like the sensation down the aisle of the rolls.
before sleep, or like the vagueness that Through the roar of the mill a few rhythm gives. I have had such a
But every Mr.
Soms is ple
pleasant lessening of consciousness, speak the truth, they are without core, such lulling, on an easy shovel job, or one-dimensional, deflated, and wholly piling metal, or heaving easily on a unpromising, like existence, and like rope, or even on this mounting of myself. They are like the mill with its coils, and swabbing of moving metal. dust on the slacking-out tables, and But at other moments, as now, repe- its steam rising from pickle-tubs, seen tition becomes pain, and the growing through the day-weary eye of six and piling monotony an exquisite o'clock. torture. And there are differing ele- Now I try fighting it like an enemy. ments of pain even in monotony. I resolve upon a new thought-groove, There is sometimes a sense of ebbing kick new muscles into play, find a new vitality, of the gradual, inevitable movement for my swab — short quick withdrawal of life and happy energy strokes now, to replace the long and from every centre of nerve and mind; steady. I try the same means that you a substitution of lethargy, — bodily, try to break sleepiness, when you beat mental, – a hopelessness with no point back a resistless wave of lethargy by or poignancy to make it dramatic or pinching your leg, biting your hand, bearable. There is at times a feeling in snapping your head and neck back in the mind and senses, half like the its socket. There are means of waking pressure of a weight, bearing down up through mild pain, as now - grindslowly upon you, and wholly beyond ing my right heel into the toe of my your power to emerge from or cast left boot. off, half like an unbearably stale taste, But an hour later, the fight itself impossible to sweeten or to change. becomes monotonous. I 'm unbeliev
At such times, it is either impossible ably bored, putting up a fight and to think at all, or, if thoughts do get failing, and bored with thinking about into the mind, they find it such a fighting and thinking about failing. smoky, stifling, and ill-smelling place, Areas of personality that used to get that they become dark, choked, and stimulus enough to keep alive seem malodorous themselves. Even the best contracting, going under water. The of thoughts.
live part of me is an island, with salt I tried pungent ones, with rich sug- water advancing upon its beaches, regestions floating and dangling from ducing the green centre of me to a them, like my next visit home with a coral shoal. And each hour that I whole happy past to reëxplore, and repeat the colorless motions, recovery personalities loved but not seen for becomes more impossible, the edges of long. And I tried the idea of adapting personality quite irrevocably sunk. steel inventions and instruments of I have noticed other men in the mill, production to the old-fashioned areas facing the same thing, making a fight of the brass business - an idea which, against it, winning through or surrenwith the optimism of ignorance, I dering. And I am confident that the loved to speculate upon. No luck at men who have gone through into more this time. They grow gray or twist intelligent jobs have either worked at themselves into notions of discourage twenty things or, if tied to a routine ment. And the fact that they seem job, have kept themselves alive only lifeless now makes me think that they through the most heroic measures. will always be valueless. I remember I stood up and kicked my legs, bitterly how I dreamed that there was which were going stiff from long sitting life and value in them, whereas, to on the soap-box. Thought hard for a
few minutes on supper — thought hard the coil off. I mounted a new one on the on those noises of the mill, and picked reel, dragged the end over to the rolls, them apart. Why not speak to Bill? shoved it in till the rolls bit, took up It seemed a gigantic, an heroic effort to the swab, and began smearing oil again. raise my voice to say, 'Hey, Bill.' And Bill went on. 'We thought we 'd what use if I did: we talked our heads get married, 'n' we told our folks we empty the first week.
thought we would. Her people took it In ten minutes Bill spoke to me. He all right, but my mother was sore as came over to my side of the rolls, hell, 'n' said I was a fool, 'n' if I did, slowly, looked at me, and looked away. I need n't come back. She meant it
‘Monday is a long day,' he said, all right. Father did n't care. ‘always.'
“So we decided to get married anyHe spat very carefully into the gutter way. I took pop's car. Hell, how sore that carries the oil away, and spoke ma got over that! I thought she'd with his head still lowered.
kill me. Well, I took the car, and 'Did I ever tell you how I met my we got married by the Swarthmore wife the first time?'
minister — Congregational. A very ‘No-0-0,' said I.
nice wedding; all my wife's people ‘Feller named Compton, chum of were there and some of my friends. mine, 'n' I used to go to the movies About pop and ma I was sorry, but every night at Swarthmore, 'n' then I did n't care much. dance — town hall. Worked in the 'Of course I was scared to go home,
m oved of mu wito policeman Swarthmore branch then — good place 'n' so we stayed at my wife's folks. I too. Now listen to this. One night, we was plannin' to get a rent, but they saw a coupla dames come outer the were high as hell and scarce. Finally I theatre — good-lookin' as hell. I said said we might as well go 'n' see mothto Cal, - that 's Compton, —
er and tell her about it. We went over ““Let 's follow the dames."
one Sunday, 'n' tried to be nice about 'He says, “All right”; so we followed it, but she would n't let us in, though ’em. They knew it, and were sore as my father ast her to. He said she hell 'n' tried to walk away, but we could n't make us unmarried by keepwalked up on 'em. And off on a street ing us out. We went back to my wife's where they'd turned in, we ast if folks. they 'd mind if we'd walk home with The end of the bar passed through ’em. And one of 'em — who 's my the rolls and wound on the block. I wife — said she did n't think so, 'n' the mounted a new coil on the reel, lugged other girl says, “We don't know you”; the end to the rolls, shoved it into the but she looked as if she 'd like to, so I bite, and took up my swab. took the one by the arm who 's my 'It 's funny the way things happen wife now, and we walked the way hell sometimes. I met my wife by following 'n' gone out in the country with 'em, those dames. And we came together past fields 'n' fields, 'n' finally they ast with my people in a queer way too. us our names, 'n' I says Rogers. Which I'd been living at my wife's people's got me in wrong when she found out. for a couple of weeks, when they had But at any rate I went with her every a fire - a darn bad one; nobody knows night for most of that summer.
now how it started, but it was probably The end of the bar came out of sparks on the roof — and the house the rolls with a snap, and Bill went to burned down. They had a little inthe other side to help the blocker take surance but not a hell of a lot. Of course, all of us were out in the street. an uneven floor; attention sharpened My wife's uncle took in her father and for turns and bad floor – and muscles mother, but there was n't really room prepared from old practice to slow for us. I think this is pretty good; what down at the muffle furnace. happened was this. When my mother I walk back — ten minutes of six — found out about it, she came over and slowly, muscles loosening, arms danast us both, my wife and me, to come gling. I shake them a little to relax all and live with her until we got a rent. I can, and scuffle my field shoes through So we did, of course, and my mother torn bits of copper in the aisle of the likes my wife now better than my rolls. father does. It 's funny the way things 'Call it a day,' Bill says. happen.'
There have been four months of it, After that Bill felt better, and I I think; seven to six, hour out for know I did. Most of the poisons had lunch. Hardly a taste though. Harry gone out of my mind. Of course it was Pickering on the 'breaking-down' rolls only 4.30, and still hard to finish the has been at it thirty-eight years. turn; but there was nothing deadening Whistle: kerosene to cut the dirt and hopeless about the afternoon. I from knuckles, cold water. I change had lost the stale taste in my mind. into street boots, putting my oily ones
There was no fun in the last twelve in the corner of my locker. bars we did, but I could get my will Going out of the mill past the hot into it. It seemed as if there was some rolls, I enter the copper-mill yard and thing to push against. I liked to put breathe suddenly a sharp winter gust. one hand on the top of the reel, the The ten hours fall away and no longer other on a spoke, and with my Portu- exist. Easily the mill slips off — the guese helper stiffen my back and legs mounting of coils and swabbing roll-oil, and right the thing. I did n't like it, the bump of the coupling against a but I was willing. I clenched my teeth sheathing board, and the quiver of the a little and was willing. Besides, mill engine. Even the numbness of ‘Everybody's job is hard when he does stiffened brain and nerve lifts as I go it all day — a man goes through with through the mill gate. And a glow, it — nothing was ever accomplished in made up of relief and thoughts of this world without hard work. These supper, tenses every man's leg muscles moralities jolted into my brain.
and pumps his blood hard. Then there were no thoughts, but At the space where Factory Hill just a movement of muscles. We descends and widens into Main Street, shoved the last coil off the gauging- I meet the Irishman with face cut into table to the truck. I helped the blocker lines, disorderly gray hair, and the look do it. Tired muscles, but a changed of boyish bewilderment in his face. movement, refreshment. If you shove I forget my supper and for a few wasted quickly, the coil will slide from the seconds think of to-morrow's quota of table flat and find the right place on ten hours and next week's. the load without unwinding.
Then I push up Factory Hill with Pulling truck — no thoughts, or feel my eyes and my mind on Mrs. Badger's ings — the mill held as if in your fist, side door, and on the supper, which to finish the day; the truck jolting on comes on hot at 6.10.
THE MAJOR WANTS A STABLEBOY
BY JOHN ADAMS JOHNSON
No one thought of the Major as a reli- per,' he would say to a guest, 'the best gious man. His large frame, gray perch you ever ate.' whiskers, and long coat were never seen ‘No, Major, they ain't nothing but within the walls of a church, and he was cat.' known to swear with ardor when hard 'Well, I'm glad Stephen sent cat. pressed. Nevertheless, his philosophy The Arkansas River channel cat is the of life expressed itself in religious terms. topmost fish food of the world. It gives 'The Old Marster did it and He knows,' strength like pork.' he would say. According to this phi- The Major also believed in Zeke. losophy all things happened as they “Zeke is such a trifling nigger,' Mrs. should. It was so with the ups and Pope would say. downs in money matters. It was the 'Yes, he is,' the Major would reply. same, and but the natural working out 'He's so ornery and hateful. Ther's of the laws of life, when his children no telling what he takes. He don't married and went away, one by one. never hit the truth.' It was the same, finally, when an old ‘Yes,' the Major would agree, 'but face turned on her pillow and left him then Zeke is a good boy. He is affecalone.
tionate. He hangs around me and does Not only did all things happen for everything I tell him.' the best, but all people were doing as One day Mrs. Pope came to the well as they could under the circum- Major, who was sitting in the open stances. The Major believed in all hallway that ran through the house, men, but particularly in the Pope and said: family, who occupied the White House 'I got to get a girl. What with cookon his plantation. He believed in Abner ing and cleaning and milking and getPope as a faithful and efficient assist- ting Abner off to work and darning ant, and when the taciturn Abner came your socks and — back from town on Saturday night in ‘Well, if you have to have one — a talkative condition, the Major de- 'I can get Melissa. The only trouble clared that it was only right and nat is she lives over on the bayou on the ural for a man to have a bender after back side of the place. She's got to live a week of hard work. He likewise ap- here. I been aiming to tell you this. proved when next day Mrs. Pope bore You can have that room in the yard Abner off to the Baptist Sunday School fixed up for her. It used to be a servat Benson.
ant's house.' The Major considered that Mrs. “Mrs. Pope,' said the Major, goodPopecoruld prepare meals with the best, humoredly, stretching out his legs on in spite of what some might consider the chair in front, 'it's just natural for evidence to the contrary.
you to lie awake at night and think up “We are going to have fish for sup- some way to interfere with my plans.
came your sell, if you have. The only trou the