Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/58

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47
HALKET AND COMPANY

of but one dull gray as it spread and merged above the chimney line. At the farther end towered the stacks of the blast furnaces, dull red monsters with bloated bodies tapering up to sloping shoulders and narrow throats; even while Floyd looked towards them a car ascended spider-like the webby strands of the incline, pitched forward, and vomited its load of ore into the funnel. Then it slid down again deftly, complacently, scuttling with an apparent human intelligence for another load. Here and there through openings in the sheds appeared the dull cruel glow of red-hot iron; and from a tower that capped the sloping roof of one of the mills blazed an intermittent flame. The clash of great hammers, the shriek of the blast, the throb of mighty engines, the rattle of huge chains, the trundling and jarring of locomotives and cars mingled in discordant, varying, but always continuous clamor.

Under the canopy of smoke that spread high above the mills, the opposite shore of the river revealed itself—hilly as this, but thinly settled and descending almost bare to the water's edge. On the ridge there were a few scattering trees; and an occasional frame house enjoyed a prominence to which neither its size nor its architecture would have entitled it. These houses were the outlying edge of the city of Avalon, eight miles down the river, a city of workshops and forges, indicated by the smoky blur that limited the view' in that direction. Below the works a bridge crossed the river, and Floyd saw a trolley car passing slowly over it.

For all that was squalid and grimy in the aspect of the place, there was little that was human; and this fact commanded in Floyd a kind of awe. The reverberating noises of the mills, the scream of steam, the slow, perpetual unfurling of smoke, the trundling cars of stone and ore without visible hand to guide or control, the swinging of huge cranes and beams,—and then in comparison the tininess, the unimportance of the scattering human forms passing in the mill-yards, made it seem as if mighty forces