Page images
PDF
EPUB

DRAWING OUT STEEL

By ANNE PARTLAN

LANG-tilli-ing-clang-clang rang, C rang the anvil in Martin Harvey's forge. The air was heavy with soft coal smoke and the odor of burning hoofs. Bernard Carroll wilted before the fire while one limp arm operated the bellows which sent blue, yellow and vermillion flames bursting Vesuvius-like through the soft black mound. While the mass grew slowly red, his mind recalled the day, three months before, when he had reluctantly accompanied his mother to the blacksmith's door, where, clear through the din of rasps and the snorting of uneasy animals, her soft tones had voiced their appeal: “Martin, 1 come to ask a favor from ye. Make a mechanic of my son " The Vulcan of Pavington had brushed a scale of iron from his cheek with one brown knuckle, eyed him, and turned to his mother. “He’s light for the work, Missis Carroll, but I’ll do me best by him " He would never forget that day and his own reluctance in yielding to his mother's wish. Her years of toil to care for him and retain the little house and strip of land at the bend of the creek were vivid in his mind and his own desires must not matter. He would please her. All the days that followed were filled with keenest suffering for him. Continual hammering and the lifting of weighty and reluctant horses' feet strained new sets of muscles which sent him limping slowly home at night. He felt sometimes that he could not endure the pressure much longer. It was evening at the forge. The pale glow of the sinking sun was reflected in minature by the smithy fire. The shop was at last clear of snorting animals and Bernard sought out the nail bench for a moment's rest, but

Martin's severe voice cut the stray fragment of silence with this command : “There's steel to be drawn to-day !” Bernard dragged his lame body back to the forge to take his part in the testing of the metal. His aching eyes watched the black bars grow red and white under the pressure of the intense heat. The bars that bent and the bars that remained rigid stirred within him a mental rebellion. Why should men have to writhe before a flaming forge in order to prove the character of the ore that the earth should have produced flawless and ready for use? Martin Harvey was singing to the beat of the hammer. Bernard shuddered at the joy in his master's voice and resolved to leave the sooty place that week. One of the boats that moored in the Pavington dock would bear him away to some distant spot where a more congenial field of labor awaited him. His mother would hear this decision with keen disappointment. All this was fast making the ring of the anvil seem like a death knell to her hopes of his ever becoming a man of the forge. Then, too, there was someone else. On a certain vine-clad porch a slender

soft-haired girl had often promised him

that she would wait until he was master of his craft. That night he would tell her of his decision. Nellie Doane would be content until he could prepare a home better, brighter than the brown and yellow cottage with the morning glory vines—he would build one finer than that some day—were his reckless thoughts. So he planned as the work of the day went on. “Mamsey dear, wherever did you get this pretty gingham o' Nellie Doane held the fabric at arm's length and it

fell from its accustomed folds in ripples to the floor. “I bought it at Kline's. Ain't it grand? I'm going to make a guimpe dress of it for you—the lawn for the guimpe is here, too. Walter . Clay waited on me. He says that guimpes are the latest fashion and that kind of gingham is all the rage in New York. Walter is so accommodating. He asked for you, Nellie, and when I invited him to call he just jumped at it and said he'd be here this evening.” The girl crumpled the gingham in five nervous fingers. “But, mother, Bernard is coming this evening!” Mrs. Doane tossed her head violently —so violently that one of her ladder earrings caught in her hair. “Now, Nellie! This has gone far enough ' If you think I will let you make a fool of yourself over a blacksmith's helper, you're mistaken. The very idea!” The earring was freed and the active woman, seizing the crumpled gingham, began to refold it. “The idea of slighting a young man that's so refined for a poor . Oh, I don't know what to make of you!” There was a pathetic droop of Nellie's frail shoulders as she left the living room and climbed the narrow flight of stairs to the second floor, where the shoulders drooped some more and salt tears fell upon the pineapple coverlet of the spare bed. When, a few hours later, Bernard Carroll raised the latch of the Doane's gate Mrs. Doane was on the porch. “Nellie ain't home. She went out walking with Mr. Clay !” The woman's

mouth set hard, and she rocked the

willow chair until the back of it struck the window shutter. As Bernard turned back to the street Nellie raised the sash of the upper story window. He caught sight of her. “Bernard ” she quivered, but her voice did not reach him. Bernard walked down the narrow street, his head well back in order to resist the choking in his throat. Blindly, almost numbly, he reached the gate and felt for the latch, then shuffled into the living room of his home. There, under the lamplight sat his mother,

sowing a patch onto his blue flannel shirt. “You’re home early, son!" she said, as he hung his coat on the door. “Yes! I'm tired,” he replied, and felt for the couch. “Were you hard pushed to-day?” she asked, sympathetically. “No, not very hard pushed. I ain't tired that way, mother. It's just my head that's tired.” “Mebbe it's the malaria you're gettin'. That shop of Harvey's ain't healthy. The air don't get in the back part of it at all. Won't it be fine when you've learned your trade and I can build you your own place down where the potato patch is now ! Then you can have the breezes of the river blowing in on you all day. Oh, I'll be glad of that time, Bernard, when it comes!” She patted the patched shirt and folded it, then reached for the stocking basket. Bernard's eyes were on the ceiling. His mother clearly counted on his learning the trade. Ah! well, after all, what was to hinder him 2 No ache or pain or weariness caused by his labor could compare with what he felt that night. He turned his face to the wall and lay there, dry eyed, waiting for sleep. One warm day the doors of Martin Harvey's shop were left open. Passersby gazed curiously and admiringly on the square shouldered, eager youth, who stood answering Harvey's blows on the red iron with his own graceful strokes. When the anvil work was done Bernard happened to look out and saw Walter Clay, the pale dry-goods clerk, standing in front of the shop, stroking his ragged yellow moustache with a thin forefinger. The rage within him prompted Bernard to pick up a rasp, but he dropped it and went on with his work and Clay moved slowly by. Bernard had often met him with Nellie on their Sunday walks over the high road. The first time he turned and would not pass them, but the next time he found it easier to bow to the girl. The pale blue necktie worn by Clay irritated Bernard. All the little dandyisms of the fellow seemed despicable to him.

As he left the shop that evening Nellie Doane came up to him and held out a curious bit of shining metal. “Bernard, won't you please wear this? It's a charm. It will keep you safe from those wicked horses!” He looked down at the delicate outstretched fingers that held the talisman and replied coldly, measuredly. “Better give it to the dude in the dry-goods store!” The girl flushed and stammered: “He doesn't need it, Bernard' He isn't in danger every day.” Bernard squared his shoulders. “Oh, yes he is . The cash carrier might fall on him some time!” He walked away down a side street, smarting under his own unkindness. He was that sort. But then, why did Nellie act as she had 2 Her cut had left a mental scar that was slow to heal. “I’ll show her I can stand it! She needn't feel sorry for me!” “You’re losing your color, boy,” Martin Harvey said to Bernard, who was lifting some heavy drills. “D'ye think ye ought to take a rest?” Bernard swung the drills into a corner and laughed. “I guess not. I rest every night. That's enough for me!” No more was said. Bernard's first year was at a close, and the thought of the other two had no terror for him. He sought out extra work now as he had previously sought the nail bench on which to rest. That evening Bernard was returning from a walk over the high road, when at the bottom of the incline he heard some one call his name. He looked back. At his elbow stood Walter Clay, a smile gleaming through the ragged moustache. The smouldering antagonism of months burst into sudden fury. Before he realized it his arm shot out and the slender figure fell forward on the ground. For an instant Bernard stood rigid, then his muscular arms reached down and raised his halfstunned rival to his feet. “Stand up ! Stand up, for God's sake!. Why did you get in my way? I couldn't help it!” “Let me sit down!” Clay answered, faintly.

Bernard supported him to a rock and, taking his soft hat to the stream a few feet away, filled it with water and asked clumsily: “Will I put some of it on your head?” Without waiting for a reply he opened the collar and loosened the natty tie he had so often cursed. In a short time Clay evived and said, quietly: “Never mind! Maybe you'll listen to me now !” “Well Go on ''' “The Manhattan lace works—of New York—are going to move up here—and they've got their eye on your mother's place. They're getting the Clark Real Estate people to try to buy it for them, just for a blind. Tell your mother to make the price good and steep because they want it bad—on account of the water. There ain't any more for me to say. You're level headed enough to see it through. I don't want to figure in it, because the firm would find fault with me. Give me a lift—I feel all in 1” Bernard took hold of him and led him up the road. Suddenly Clay stopped, and faced his late antagonist. “Nellie Doane didn't drop you. It was her ma!” he burst out abruptly. Bernard interrupted him sharply. “Stop! For God's sake! I—” But Clay was not to be silenced. “Wait !” he cried. “Let me finish Nellie always thought a good deal of you and does now. She's told me so a hundred times. When this deal with the Manhattan Lace Works is put through, Mrs. Doane won't have any fault to find with you. There! Now you know!” Bernard felt himself growing smaller every minute. He was only a bolt of black iron. Here was steel, fine and thin and ready to break—and it had been drawn over a dry-goods counter, through silk and other frail fabrics. When they reached the gate Bernard said: “Come in. I want you to tell mother" He raised the latch with one hand, the other grasped Clay's shoulder. “Come,” he said again, and his strong arm gently forced his reluctant companion into the house.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][graphic]

HUNTING WILD BEES IN THE VERMONT WOODS—I.

By MARSHALL OTIS HOWE

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »