‘As these birds would go
where so where would this child go?’
Two o’clock. Thousands came back from dinner along streets.
‘What we want is go, push,’ said works manager to son of Mr Dupret. ‘What I say to them is — let’s get on with it, let’s get the stuff out.’
Thousands came back to factories they worked in from their dinners.
‘I’m always at them but they know me. They know I’m a father and mother to them. If they’re in trouble they’ve but to come to me. And they turn out beautiful work, beautiful work. I’d do anything for ‘em and they know it.’
Noise of lathes working began again in this factory. Hundreds went along road outside, men and girls. Some turned in to Dupret factory.
Some had stayed in iron foundry shop in this factory for dinner. They sat round brazier in a circle.
‘And I was standing by the stores in the doorway with me back to the door into the pipe shop with a false nose on and green whiskers. Albert inside was laughin’ and laughin’ again when ‘Tis ‘im comes in through the pipe shop and I sees Albert draw up but I didn’t take much notice till I heard, ‘Ain’t you got nothin’ better to do Gates but to make a fool of yourself?’ And ‘e says to Albert, ‘What would you be standin’ there for Milligan?’ And I was too surprised to take the nose off, it was so sudden. I shan’t ever forget that.’
‘And that was all that ‘e said to you Joe?’
‘Not by a mile and a bit. ‘E went on about my being as old as he was, and ‘ow ‘e’d given up that sort of thing when ‘e was a kid, and he told on me to Joe Brown that was foreman in this shop at that time, but ‘e didn’t take much notice I reckon. Yer know I couldn’t take that nose off, I was kinder paralysed. And it was just the same when I see old Tupe fall at me feet this morning, I was that glad I couldn’t move one way or t’other to pick ‘im up.’
‘What does ‘e want to go fallin’ about for at his age?’
‘That’s what I told him. I said “You’ll go hurtin’ yourself falling about one of these days” I said, “and when you do it won’t only be but your deserts. It’s a judgment on you” I said “to be tumbling at my feet, you dirty old man” I said “for all the things you’ve said about me and my mate.” There were several there. They heard it. Then he started cussin’. I laughed! It ‘urt the cheeks in me face.’
‘I can’t see ‘em.’
‘You silly bleeder and ‘ow does your little bit like it when you come ‘ome and lay yer head up against hers on the pillow and her ‘as only been married to you three months and as can’t be used to the dirt.’
‘All right with yer has ‘as’s, all right.’
‘But I’d like to see that Tupe dead and I don’t mind who knows it. So ‘e will be if ‘e goes on fallin’ about. Every bloody thing that ‘appens straightaway ‘e goes and tells Tis ‘im. I shouldn’t wonder if ‘e hadn’t fetched him when I ‘ad the green whiskers on me face. And that was six years ago now. Dirty sod.’
‘Ah. He’s not like the one you work with Joe. ‘E tells too much, Tupe does, always nosing into other people’s doings.’
‘Tis ‘im, who was works manager, and Mr Dupret’s son were going about this factory. They went through engineer’s shop. Sparrows flew by belts that ran from lathes on floor up to shafting above by skylights. The men had thrown crumbs for them on floor. Works manager said they were in the way, it made him mad, he said, to see them about, ‘the men watch them Mr Dupret while God knows what may be up with the job on the lathe. I say to them — don’t throw crumbs to sparrows on the floor, one of these days you’ll get hurt from not watching your job. We pay them while they bet on these sparrows. And you can’t stop it. You can’t keep the sparrows out. I’ve had a man on the roof three weeks now patching holes they come in by. But they find a way.’
Works manager and Mr Dupret’s son went through sliding doors and works manager said this was the iron foundry. Black sand made the floor. Men knelt in it. Young man passed by Mr Dupret and works manager.
‘What a beautiful face.’
‘What? Eh? Well I don’t know. He works for that moulder over in the corner. He’s getting an old man now but there’s no one can beat him for his work. The best moulder in Birmingham Mr Dupret. And he’s a worry. That’s his labourer there by him now. That man gets on my nerves. I’d have sacked him years ago but I didn’t dare. Joe Gates ‘is name is. I’ve seen that man make paper aeroplanes and float them about the shop and I couldn’t do anything for fear I might put Craigan in a rage. He won’t work with no one else Mr Dupret and he’s the best moulder in Birmingham. But then the best engineer I ever met couldn’t see you to talk business with you but he ‘ad his pet spaniel on a chair by him. There’s no accounting for it, none.’
Foreman came up and works manager asked him about stamping frames he would be casting that evening and they talked and Mr Dupret looked at the foundry. He walked over nearer to where Craigan worked. This man scooped gently at great shape cut down in black sand in great iron box. He was grimed with the black sand.
Mr Gates was talking to storekeeper, Albert Milligan. ‘And the old man fell at me toes and I wasn’t goin’ to stretch out me ‘and, “lie there” I said to him, “and serve you right you dirty old man” I said, “that has no right to be falling about at your age. Ye’ll fall once too often,” I said.’
‘Ah, he’ll kill himself one o’ these days. It’ll be a judgment on ‘im. Everything that goes on ‘Tis ‘im hears of it through him. But as! to falling it ain’t healthy for ‘im, there was an old chap in ‘ospital that had done just the same.’
‘That’s what I said to ‘im. But ‘ow would you be feelin’ now Albert?’
‘Middlin’ Joe. I ‘ad it bad again yesterday. I said to myself if you sit yourself down you’ll grow morbid. So I kept on. It worked off in the end. Yes there was a feller opposite my bed that had lengths cut out of his belly and when they brought ‘im in again, an’ he come to after the operation, they told him ‘e could eat anything that took ‘is fancy. So he said a poached egg on toast would suit ‘im for a start but when they took it to ‘im ‘e brought it up. Black it was. And everything they took him after he brought it up just the same till they were givin’ ‘im port, then brandy and champagne at the end.’
‘And one day I couldn’t stick it no longer and I said to the sister, ‘I want to go ‘ome.’ And she said “but you can’t.” And I said “I want to go ‘ome” and she said “but it would kill you Mr Milligan.” And I said I didn’t mind, “I want to go ‘ome” I said. So at last they sent the matron to me. She came and sat by the bed. She could do anything with you, and she said “What’s the trouble Mr Milligan?” and I said “I want to go ‘ome, I want to sleep in my own bed.” And she said “but it’ll kill you” and I asked if there weren’t an ambulance as could take me. “I can’t stick it with that poor feller over there” I said, “what’s the matter with ‘im that ‘e can’t keep nothing down. He’ll die soon, won’t ‘e?” And she said “we can’t keep them ‘ere as God wants to take to himself Mr Milligan.” I reckon that was a fine woman. Well I stayed and I seemed to do better after that. And the next day the chap next me said, “What was the matter with you yesterday Albert that you got jumpy like you did? Stick it, you’ll be out soon.” And I said “yes, I’ll stick it,” and we shook ‘ands on that. But I wouldn’t go back.’
‘Well you can’t expect to get right in a day not after anythin’ like what you ‘ad. Any road yer looking as fat as an egg now, old sow pig.’
‘Out yer go. I got more to do than stand talking to foundry rats. Gor glomey ain’t ‘Tis ‘im about with the governor’s son. Come out now, go on back to yer old man. ‘E’ll be ‘owling for yer. But ‘ere. Joe, you might’ve given the old bleeder a ‘and up, there was one or two came in here this morning that didn’t like your standin’ by Tupey and not doin’ nothing. And there was no one else but you about for a few moments. Though I’m not saying I shouldn’t ‘ve done the same.’
‘ ‘Elp ‘im, I’d be dead before. Look what ‘e’s done to others, what ‘e’s said along ‘o their private lives. Give ‘im a hand, might as well ‘elp the devil shovel coals.’
‘Ah. Well so long Joe.’
‘ ‘Elp that carcase. It was as much as I could do not to wipe me boots on ‘is lying mouth. I’ll be — before I ‘elp ‘is kind.’
‘And that’ll come to you one of these days.’
Mr Gates went back to foundry with chaplets he had fetched from stores shouting against storekeeper’s dirty mind, and laughing, but noise of lathes working made it so what he said could not be heard.
Standing in foundry shop son of Mr Dupret thought in mind and it seemed to him that these iron castings were beautiful and he reached out fingers to them, he touched them; he thought and only in machinery it seemed to him was savagery left now for in the country, in summer, trees were like sheep while here men created what you could touch, wild shapes, soft like silk, which would last and would be working in great factories, they made them with their hands. He felt more certain and he said to himself it was wild incidental beauty in these things where engineers had thought only of the use put to them. He thought, he declaimed to himself this was the life to lead, making useful things which were beautiful, and the gladness to make them, which you could touch; but when he was most sure he remembered, he remembered it had been said before and he said to himself, ‘Ruskin built a road which went nowhere with the help of undergraduates and in so doing said the last word on that.’ And then what had been so plain, stiff and bursting inside him like soda fountains, this died as a small wind goes out, and he felt embarrassed standing as he did in fine clothes.
Works manager gave up talking to foreman of iron foundry shop and said Mr Dupret must be tired of seeing iron foundry now and they must get on. ‘It’s all beautiful work we do Mr Dupret, beautiful work. And we turn it out’ he said.
As Mr Dupret and Bridges walked through the shops Mr Tarver followed them. This man was chief designer in Birmingham factory. He was very clever man at his work.
As they went round he followed, like a poacher, for he had no business to be following them. But above all things he wanted to speak to young Mr Dupret because he was afraid he was being forgotten.
Mr Dupret and works manager came to outside assembling shop. Old man stopped them there, it was Tupe, and told Mr Bridges how he fell that morning. As they talked Mr Dupret began to notice man signalling from behind a big cylinder which had been machined. This man beckoned and waved arm at him, it was Tarver. Mr Dupret turned to works manager but Tupe had got hold of that one’s coat and was passionately saying,’—and there was one there as dain’t make no move to ‘elp me.’
But Mr Dupret interrupted them.
‘Mr Bridges I think there’s someone wants to see you,’ he said, ‘that man behind that thing over there.’
‘Where?’ said Mr Bridges. Tarver had disappeared. Then he saw Mr Tarver walking off behind. ‘Oh that’s Tarver,’ he said, ‘ ‘e can see me any time.’ But Bridges took Mr Dupret away at once, and young Mr Dupret wondered why Bridges seemed displeased.
Afterwards Mr Tarver saw his opportunity. Bridges was called away to look at something and then he came up. He brought it all out in a rush: ‘Mr Dupret sir,’ he said, ‘could I trouble you for a few words with me sir. I figured it out in my own mind that it was my duty and I’ll put it to you in this way sir — would you think it right that any works manager, I don’t mean especially Mr Bridges there, but any works manager in any factory would let you see none but ‘im. Look here Mr Dupret,’ he said and went on about how all of them were old men in this firm except Dupret and he, was no punch in what they did, ‘no shoulder behind it sir,’ he said. Luckily he took strong line with Mr Dupret who at first was surprised, then was beginning to be impressed when works manager came back again.
‘That’s all right John’ said Mr Bridges, ‘you get along now. This way Mr Dupret. Don’t you listen to ‘im, your dad knows ‘im. I keep ‘em from you, those like ‘im. Ah they’re a worry to me. He’s a good man mind you, your dad’s got a great opinion of ‘im and there it is. But ‘e’s a worry to me’ said Mr Bridges and led young Mr Dupret away.
Mr Alf Smith and Mr Jones worked on bench. They were vice hands in the tool room. Both were young men.
Mr Jones said what was the time. Mr Smith went out to where by bending down he could see clock on the wall in shop next to them.
‘It wants a ¼ to 4 Bert.’
‘Then I’ll go and have a sit down,’ said Mr Jones.
He went out of their shop but at the door he knocked against Tupe who was struggling with a trolley.
‘Look out’ he said, ‘you nearly ‘ad me over then.’
‘Over,’ cried Tupe, ‘over, ah an’ I wish you was over an’ all. Ah, and talkin’ of that, why this morning I tripped over meself. Bang on me ‘ead I went and there was Craigan’s nose-wiper by me, Joe Gates, but ‘e dain’t stir, no, ‘e watched me lie. But then he’s tired, ‘e is. Soon as ‘e gets ‘ome — on with ‘is pinney an’ ‘e does the ‘ousework for ‘is daughter, her makes ‘im. ‘Is gaffer’s slops an’ ‘ers. ‘E don’t get much rest in the night time neither as ‘e’s reading fairy stories for the old gaffer to get to sleep by. ‘E’s a wretched poor sort of a man. ‘E ain’t no more’n my age. Where’ll I pull this ‘igh speed stuff Bert?’
‘You’ll go hurtin’ yourself one of these days, you know, falling about at your age. Blimey,’ said Mr Jones, ‘if we picked you up every time one of you old chaps fell down we’d be wore out, regular wore out.’
‘Ssh!’ said Mr Tupe, ‘I ain’t a young wench. In course you wouldn’t pick ‘er up where she’d laid ‘erself down. An’ that reminds me I seen you out with ‘is daughter, only I was forgetting just now. But she ain’t destinated your road. Craigan ‘as picked ‘is young mate for ‘er, Jim Dale.’
‘So he may pick for all I’m bothering. Come on now, put them rods in ‘ere and get out of my road.’
‘Where would you be off to then, hurry?’ said Mr Tupe. ‘Ain’t any tarts in this factory, you know, the more’s the pity’ he said. ‘But you ain’t a bad young feller so you did ought to look ‘igher than Lily Gates. Fly ‘igh’ he said, ‘and you’ll see the birds circling up to yer, the darling little tarts. Then you can pick the ‘ighest as comes to yer fancy.’
Evening. In their house works manager sat with his wife. He said a hard day it had been, with the young fellow down. It wasn’t that he did not mean well young Mr Dupret, ‘but they live different to you and me’ he said. ‘I’ve worked over forty years. I ‘ave been fifteen years manager for Mr Dupret. Then ‘e sends his son down, presumably. I say to myself “where am I?” He’s good intentioned but ‘e’s soft. He never took much notice of the works but then he wouldn’t do, not having been through the shops. Work with the men, do what they have to do or you’ll never be a salesman, I look at it that way. All he wanted was to let our men know the profits. What’d that help them but unsettle them. They wouldn’t understand. They’d not draw more money but it. I’ve worked for ‘is father fifteen years. Ten with the O.K. gas plant before. What’s he send his son for throwing educated stuff at me? He didn’t interfere before. And all through today them others, like crows after sheep’s eyes, trying to get ‘old of ‘im and tell lies. I’m tired. Tired. Takes the use out of you.’
Evening. Was spring. Heavy blue clouds stayed over above. In small back garden of villa small tree was with yellow buds. On table in back room daffodils, faded, were between ferns in a vase. Later she spoke of these saying she must buy new ones and how nice were first spring flowers.