Later, that evening, turned half-past five, he came into yard of Prescott’s foundry. In that shop they were casting now and blast in the cupola roared and made air buzz all round him. From being used to this he took no notice but he did move away from where he had stopped from not watching his step. Because he had halted close to three great coffin shaped lumps of metal sunk in the ground. He thought Alf Igginbotham would be in one of those three, other two did it before no one could remember. With Alf the management had tried to make the men cast with molten metal Alf had suicided in, but of course the men didn’t have that, they dug his coffin for him here, like had been done for those other two and poured into it the metal he was in. (The great heat there would have utterly done away with him.) There he was in that lump of metal, thirty ton to a penny, but then likely as not he’d risen in dross to top of the metal, and like dross does when you ain’t casting, it’d stuck to the sides of the ladle or gone back to the bottom as they poured the metal out. So Alf had got out of it after all, though in different shape to what he’d gone in he thought and Joe chuckled. An’ that’s about all that man ever was, or any on ‘em — dirt, he said in mind.
One or two men that had done pouring their jobs came out through open doorway of the foundry. As they went past Mr Gates they greeted him, as most ironmoulders know one another by sight in Birmingham. Joe asked them if Jim Dale were working in their shop now and they said he was and would be out directly, he was still pouring they said.
Mr Gates looked up to top of the cupola to that intermittent glare which came from it. He thought of all that heat here, where Alf had thrown himself in. He felt cold. He came in closer to that centre of the roar and buzz. More moulders came out, their work done. One asked him had he come for a job as the foreman would be out directly, they was just going to shut off the fan now. After Joe and this man shouted together in midst of the violent vibration they went on, they left Joe. He watched them. He thought all that now is over for me, coming out at night from the shop — and then at that moment the fan was stopped and that roar and buzz stopped. Mr Gates heard voices now inside the foundry. ‘Yes,’ he said in mind, ‘and look at the way they walk, splay-footed bleeders, we always did walk slower an’ more awkward than any other trade. Ah there’s no more of that for me and God bless me,’ he said aloud now, ‘aint I glad to get shut on it.’
Then Mr Dale came out.
‘ ‘Ow do Jim?’ said Mr Gates.
‘O it’s you is it?’ Mr Dale said, not stopping.
‘Ah, it’s I,’ said Mr Gates, ‘the old man sent me.’
‘Well I don’t want to ‘ave nothing to do with you.’
Mr Dale walked so fast Gates almost trotted to keep up with him.
‘Lil’s come back Jim.’
Mr Dale stopped. ‘Is Lil back?’ he said.
‘Ah ‘er’s back and the old man sent me to see if you wouldn’t come back to lodge at our ‘ouse.’
Mr Dale was silent. Then, ‘where ‘ave you been then?’ he said to gain time.
Gates was afraid Mr Dale meant to come now, yet he was afraid to discourage him lest Craigan hear of it
‘I got pinched,’ he said.
‘For raising me eyebrow at a copper, beetlebrow.’
‘What d’you mean,’ said Mr Dale ominously, ‘ ‘oo’s beetlebrow, me or you?’
‘Don’t you take no notice of what I say, it’s me ‘ave got to take back ‘ome what you says. Are you comin’ or is you not?’
‘I’m through with you, not on yer life I’m not coming.’
Mr Gates said nothing, delighted.
‘ ‘Er’s made a fool of me,’ said Mr Dale, ‘I ain’t a’coming back and it’s all along of you,’ he said walking quicker.
‘ ‘Ow’s that Jim?’ Gates said, hoping to find out so as to use it afterwards if he could.
‘Dirty old waster,’ Mr Dale said, having no words again. ‘I aint a’coming back, no I never would, not for money.’ Then he turned round suddenly. ‘Get out before I ‘its you,’ he said, ‘clear off quick, I mightn’t know what I was doing in two minutes time.’
Gates almost ran away. When he was at a distance and could see Mr Dale still standing there under lamplight, when he saw Mr Dale was kicking the wall up at side of the footway he contemplated shouting — ‘ ‘ave a good cry, cry your ‘eart out dovvy wovvy,’ but then he thought Mr Dale could run faster than him and could catch him. So he went off. But when he was quite half mile off he turned and let off one great laugh, for a gesture.
Monday night and Mr Craigan with Joe Gates went out to public house.
So they began again as they had been before Mr Craigan had fallen ill, Lily gone off, and Gates locked up. You might think they were very different now to what they had been, but they weren’t, they were only quieter. Once Mr Craigan had really lost grip he never tried to get it back again, he grew remote in the memory of his young days. For the moment he had all power necessary, the money to feed them, so, once his grip was gone, he did not trouble to try any other authority over them. Gates was only too thankful anything he had said might be forgotten. Lily asked for herself that anything she had done might be forgotten, now she sat very quiet at home through evenings. She was like anyone getting better after long sickness who has taken ship. She cruised across that well charted ocean towards that land from which birds landed on her decks. She thought Mr Jones leaving her like he had done was more and more right and proper, only she was not now interested in him — she was sure she would never set eyes on him again. That land round which she steamed was every inch of it her own, her case still enchanted her as she kept watch on it. And Mr Craigan’s youth, where he had to go looking through the lanes to find Lily in her aunt Ellie as they both of them had once been, enchanted him like noise of bells.
In evenings, all three were so thankful to be back together where they had been that they couldn’t find two words to say of what they’d done when they were On their own. Perhaps Mr Craigan was sad, but Gates wasn’t, nor his daughter. Mr Gates could never be sad. Even now, as he tapped on the bar with florin Craigan had given him, he yelled and laughed. For bar tender, with histrionic gesture, and from some earlier reason with tears of laughing running down his cheeks, snatched up a spade he had hidden there and made to cleave Mr Gates in two if he should go on tapping on the bar.
‘That’ll land you where I just come from,’ said Mr Gates, delighted.
‘ ‘Ow did you find it in there, Joe?’ said bar tender.
‘They didn’t ‘ave no beer in there,’ Mr Gates said ‘and I said to the superintendent I says I can’t understand your not having no beer, water’s what lions an’ gorillas, rhinocerosses, donkeys, birds, tarts and eagles drinks, but moulders must ‘ave beer I said. Two ‘alves Reuben, I brought my mate along with me tonight’
Bar tender called out good evening to Mr Craigan who nodded to him. Craigan sat by himself, his eyes on the floor. Bar tender said to Joe how his mate had aged in the last month or two, since he’d been in last, and Joe said ah, old man had been ill, he said.
Mr Connolly came in then.
‘An’ what about your team, Aaron,’ cried Mr Gates, for Aaron was very keen on football.
‘I sent me shilling last Saturday Joe, I dain’t go.’
‘No, you dain’t like to go, that was it, not the way they’re playing now. Villa supporter! You ain’t no more’n a newspaper supporter shoutin’ goal at the page.’
‘It am a bleeder,’ Mr Connolly said, ‘I be frighted to go down to the Villa ground, I can’t abide to see ‘em beaten, not a grand team like they used to be. Why if it ain’t Mr Craigan’ he cried, ‘and ‘ow would you be feelin’ now mister?’ he said to him.
‘It passed Aaron’ said Mr Craigan.
‘What ailed you?’
‘It were a chill I reckon Aaron.’
‘Well it am a grand sight to see you back,’ Mr Connolly said. His cheerfulness was forced.
‘Did they give you the sack too?’ said Mr Craigan.
‘Ah’ Gates said, ‘they give us all the sack.’
‘It weren’t Bridges,’ said Mr Craigan, ‘who was it then?’
‘Why, the young chap of course,’ said Mr Gates and Craigan said that he’d give something to know what went on in his mind. Then all three were silent till bar tender took it up, asking if it was true, and Mr Gates took that up, with oaths, and answered him.
Door opened and Tupe stood in doorway, holding door open.
‘This way sir, come in sir,’ cried he.
Who was it but Mr Bridges?
Gates, when he saw Tupe, came from where he was standing by the bar and sat down by Mr Craigan. Mr Connolly stood by the bar.
‘ ‘Ow do Aaron,’ Tupe said.
Mr Connolly took no notice of him.
Mr Bridges then took no notice of Connolly, remembering he’d had trouble with him and Jones. Bridges was quiet. He was poorly dressed. Then he saw Mr Craigan. He moved across through crowd of people standing about and said ‘ ‘ow d’you do Craigan?’ Mr Craigan nodded merely, though Gates smiled and said ‘you’ll ‘ave a drink with me sir later in the evening.’ Mr Bridges was about answering this when up came Tupe with two glasses.
‘ ‘Ere you are, sir, ‘ere we are then,’ cried he. ‘Well if it ain’t Joe.’
‘You got someone again as’ll pay for you I see,’ Mr Craigan said. He hated Tupe so, it made him feel younger. Mr Gates took hint.
‘Did ‘e sack you as well, strike, what’s the world coming to?’ said Mr Gates.
Mr Connolly came up to them then and as he passed by Tupe he jogged his arm like accidentally. ‘Sorry’ said he.
‘That’s all right mate’ Tupe said to him ‘accidental is as accidental does.’
‘Mate’ screamed Mr Gates, ‘God strike, did you ‘ear that. Why what is ‘e but a man what snatches the bread from other people’s mouths. And ‘e’s not content with that, oh no, ‘e gets them pinched with provocating them.’
‘Now then, now then what’s this?’ said Mr Bridges.
‘Would you still be working for ‘em?’ said Mr Craigan to Tupe nodding his head back towards factory.
Mr Craigan laughed.
Then Craigan looked Bridges in his eyes. Mr Bridges felt like he was being hauled up before someone and when Mr Craigan looked at him he stepped forward like he was the next now. He felt frightened even.
‘An’ ‘ave they sacked you?’ Mr Craigan said, his eyes on his eyes.
‘Yes,’ said Bridges ‘ten years at the O.K. gas plant, fifteen years with his father, but ‘e ‘ad no more use for me more’n a bit of shit on ‘is shoe,’ he screamed and noticed Craigan was laughing at him. He stopped and drew in breath for long speech he would make now, but Joe Gates was before him.
‘ ‘Tis ‘im, ‘tis ‘im,’ cried Mr Gates, crowing. ‘To listen to ‘im you’d think ‘e was the only one in the world, but there’s more’n ‘im thrown out ‘omeless, penniless, ah, more’n ‘im by a million.’ He jumped up. Then he began screaming. ‘Listen to me,’ shrieked he, ‘listen to me.’
And Joe was about to draw attention of all the world to Mr Bridges, and bar tender was already saying with appeal Joe, Joe when Craigan got up and butted him in the stomach with his head. Both being so old this looked very silly, Mr Gates more so where he lay trying to get back his wind.
Mr Craigan turned round then and laughed and grinned at Bridges. This one put down his glass of beer and went away out of public house, with Tupe trotting after him. Mr Connolly went and talked in low voice to bar tender; Rest of those in this public house turned round now to each other as if nothing had happened.
Mr Craigan took up glass of beer which Bridges had left half drunk.
‘You get this for nowt’ he said to Joe who was sitting up now, ‘what ‘e left won’t cost you nothin’. But what d’you want to go and get excited for,’ he said ‘you’m no better than Tupe and you knows it.’
‘It weren’t Tupe, it’s that Bridges.’
‘Well what about ‘im?’ said Mr Craigan. ‘No it was Tupe you was after. Come along back Joe,’ Mr Craigan said. When they were outside they looked older still as they walked back slowly.
‘To ‘ave the coppers come in an’ take you for disorderly be’aviour, and when you ain’t even tight, it’s loony, Joe. But you’m be getting quite a lad as you gets older,’ said Mr Craigan, strangely pleased.
And now time is passing now.
Mr Craigan had gone to bed again. He did not get out of bed any more, and gave no reason for it.
Joe Gates was always out again now. He could not drink because he had no money. He stood about in high streets, on the corners.
So Miss Gates was alone when she sat down, with housework done, and sewed. Often she sat upstairs with Mr Craigan. After going to that public house he had altogether sunk again into himself. She did not notice he was there as she sat by his bed. She noticed him only when Mrs Eames’ new baby cried next door. Walls between their houses were thin and she would wonder then if baby’s crying did not worry grandad. When it was angry, which it always seemed to be at first, it raucously cried out with loud rasping shrieks, only Mr Craigan did not seem to take much notice. Then after three weeks or so it began sometimes to be amused and sound would come through the wall of its strange burbling.
When she sat sewing, always thinking of her mistake, then sometimes this baby would be amused. Sound it made then was like the fluttering of the hands, palms out, which Charleston dancers used to make, or like cymbals, in her heart. Because she was young. Because he was old, thought she, that meant nothing to him.
She never went out, why should I go out, she said in mind, who have done so wrong, so all through her days and nights she heard all the noises Mrs Eames’ daughter made. Even when now and again the sun showed out she now listened to hear if it would begin to sneeze like Mr Eames did at the sun. Only what she did not like at first was Mrs Eames making noises to her baby, this was too near to her, but gradually, she had feeling of guilt about it, she came to listening for them too.
Sitting at window-sill of her grandad’s window she overlooked Birmingham and the sky over it. This was filled with pigeon flocks. Thousands of pigeon wavered there in the sky, and that baby’s raucous cry would come to her now and again. So day after day and slowly her feelings began to waver too and make expeditions away from herself, though like on a string. And disturbed her hands at sewing.
Friday evening and Miss Gates was sitting by Mr Craigan’s bed. She was sewing. Then getting up on elbow he fetched out purse from under his pillows. He took 6d from it and said for her to go to the movies. She said what alone, and to leave him! He said she’d better go, she was in too much he said. So that night she went.
Saturday morning Gates was sitting downstairs when Mr Connolly called in. He explained he had called to ask after Mr Craigan. Lily heard their voices in kitchen so she came downstairs from where she was, she sat on chair opposite to Mr Connolly and answered his questions for Mr Craigan. She said yes he’d been to bed before, for a week or two, and now he was gone back there again and wouldn’t see a doctor. Yes it was silly in him, she said, but it did seem difficult with people as they got older to move them from what they decided on. Yes he’d said so to speak in his mind to himself, yes I won’t get up, I’ll stay in bed. In a man of his age, she said, you couldn’t go and tell Mm to get up, yes and there might be something the matter with Mm, really.
‘It am a bleeder,’ said Mr Connolly, ‘an’ when ‘e went for you in the boozer that night I thought to myself well ‘e am back to what ‘e were when ‘e was secretary of the Club. D’you mind Joe the road ‘e used to manage ‘em meetings, ‘e were a proper business man.’
‘Ah,’ Mr Gates said.
‘Well if you’ll excuse me,’ said Miss Gates, ‘I’ll go an’ do a bit more as they say.’
‘Yes missus, a woman’s work am never done,’ said Mr Connolly and she said yes that’s right and went out. She had glowing feeling over her for someone had called and had been sociable, to sympathize over Mr Craigan’s illness.
Connolly and Gates sat. Mr Connolly picked his teeth.
‘Would the Villa be at ‘ome today Aaron?’ Mr Gates said.
‘I ain’t been down to the Villa ground in years,’ Mr Gates said.
‘Cardiff they’ll ‘ave against them today Joe.’
‘It’ll be glorious football,’ Mr Gates said, like he was musing.
‘They am the best two teams in the League, and those two with the finest record,’ said Mr Connolly.
‘Only being out o’ work—’ said Mr Connolly.
‘That’s right,’ said Mr Gates.
‘Without I get a couple o’ bob out of the old man,’ said Mr Gates, audacious.’ ‘E sent our wench to the movies last night.’
‘I dain’t mean that Joe,’ said Mr Connolly, ‘you knows I dain’t.’
‘That’s all right mate, that’s all right, no need to worry your ‘ead about that. Why, if he ‘as the doings well then it’s right enough ain’t it?’
‘I don’t like it.’
‘What don’t you like? Gor blimey, you a Villa supporter and won’t take the loan of a bob to see ‘em play. I don’t know ‘ow it is but some’ow today I don’t feel I will rest easy till I seen the Villa play.’
Miss Gates came in then. She was thinking in mind what if Mr Connolly should stay to dinner, why she hadn’t anything in, nor the money to buy it with. Yes he couldn’t stay she thought.
‘Lil,’ said Mr Gates, ‘come ‘ere, there’s something I wants to ask yer. Would you reckon the old man’ll lend us a couple o’ bob to go an’ see the Villa play?’
‘Well I don’t know,’ said Miss Gates, serious ‘you’d better go an’ try ‘im.’
‘Will you come with me then?’
‘All right, I’ll come.’
They went upstairs. She went behind her father. She laughed at idea of this, like two kids, her dad and her, going to ask grandad for two shillings.
Mr Craigan gave it to Gates.
Mr Connolly did not stay to dinner and so afterwards, when Gates had gone out to meet him and she had washed up, from relief at Mr Connolly not staying and from the cinema she had been to she laughed and smiled to herself, standing by kitchen window. She thought in feeling of that band, which was playing now in her heart, in the cinema, and even without a pang now she thought of band in that railway train. And at the cinema last night, what a good band that was.
Then Miss Gates remembered words Mr Connolly had spoken this morning. He had been speaking of baby he knew, a little girl — a little wench he called her, she smiled, how nice their old way of talking was she thought in mind, yes, speaking like that made that baby grown up like in time she would be. There was some said ‘it’ to babies. She laughed, ‘the ignorance,’ she said in mind. Then she heard Mrs Eames’ baby next door and she thought today she’d go and see her. She hadn’t been yet but now she would go. She ran upstairs to Mr Craigan and said she was just going to pay a call on Mrs Eames, she’d be back directly she said. Mr Craigan mumbled she didn’t want to sit moping indoors, nor nobody wanted her to.
So she ran round to Mrs Eames.
As Gates and Mr Connolly walked more and more men came out from other roads into street they were walking down to the Villa ground. These formed on each side of street long lines of men walking, many of them still in blue overalls. Day was dark, rain had fallen just before and the roadway was still wet with this and the sky dark, so it dully shone like iron, this time, when it has been machined. The lines of men were dark coloured.
Everyone is very quiet. They walk quickly and quietly. It is early yet. These lines of men come to big red building, they pass in quickly through turnstiles onto the stands. Numbers of policemen. Trams with FOOTBALL SPECIAL showing instead of their numbers draw up every moment and more men get out of them. Men stand about selling the Villa News, always being pushed down along the street by weight of the numbers of men coming down on them. Others sell the teams’ colours in rosettes. Hawkers are selling sweets and the crowd eddies round the barrows. And here, close to the gates, everyone walks faster. Quickly, quietly they pass in onto the stands through turnstiles.
Gates and Connolly pass in and stand on the mound, they go to behind the goalposts and lean against rail there. Silver band in dark blue overcoats is playing in middle of the green, green pitch. Everything but the grass is black with smoke, only thin blue waves of smoke coming up from the dark crowds already waiting gives any colour, and the pink brick.
Band plays and always, at the gates, men are coming in, lines of them coming in are thicker and thicker. Man with a rattle lets this off suddenly, then suddenly stops. Drunk man begins shouting at this. Now as this mound is filling up you see nothing but faces, lozenges, against black shoulders. As time gets nearer so more rattles are let off, part of the crowd begins singing. The drunk man, who has a great voice, roars and shouts and near him hundreds of faces are turned to look at him. The band packs up, it moves off, then over at further corner the whole vast crowd that begins roaring, the Villa team comes out, then everyone is shouting. On face of the two mounds great swaying, like corn before wind, is made down towards the ground, frantic excitement, Gates wailed and sobbed for now his voice had left him. The Villa, the Villa, come on the Villa. Mr Connolly stood like transfixed with passion and 30,000 people waved and shrieked and swayed and clamoured at eleven men who play the best football in the world. These took no notice of the crowd, no notice.
Mr Craigan lay in bed in his house. He thought in mind. He thought in mind how he had gone to work when he was eight. He had worked on till no one would give him work. He thought what had he got out of fifty-seven years’ work? Nothing. He thought of Lily. He thought what was there now for him? Nothing, nothing. He lay.
But Miss Gates was not that way inclined. Everything, so she felt, was beginning for her again. Niece of Mrs Eames was there, girl of her own age, and they talked about this baby before its mother in rapturous voices. Then this niece had a story about the likeness to parents in their babies. Miss Gates listened with intentness and knew she would be great friends with her.
‘And then I said to them,’ said niece of Mrs Eames, ‘I said, “well you’re a wonder you are, there’s a child, your own flesh and blood in the manner of speaking, and you can say that, why” I said, “Mrs Pye, how can you, the poor little lamb.”’
‘Yes I should think so!’ said Miss Gates, while Mrs Eames said nothing, being all taken up with her daughter.
‘ “Well” so she said “you won’t never understand dear till you’ve ‘ad one of your own” and I said “maybe I won’t but that doesn’t stop me from knowing what’s right from what’s wrong. No,” I said, “taking that road won’t persuade me from thinking you love the little mite more than,” — and then I couldn’t think of nothing, you know the words kind of left me, well I said “more than anything, your ‘usband or nothing.” She ‘adn’t a word to say to that’
At that moment Mr Eames came in with his son.
‘ ‘Ullo mother,’ he said and greeted Miss Gates and his niece. Then he said why shouldn’t they take baby out between the showers, ‘shall us’ he said and Miss Gates and her new friend were enthusiastic over this. ‘Yes and take the new-old pram for a ride,’ said Mrs Eames who took gaily to this idea.
When Mrs Eames was dressed, her coat was plum coloured, and they started out she let Miss Gates push the pram. She went on ahead with husband and left her niece with Lily. Her niece was great talker, she was saying:
‘So I said to him “well I declare,” I said, “and would you call that a nice way to speak to anyone, with your mouth full and all, what’s the world coming to these days” I said, “but some boys are the dirtiest horrible things in the world.” That’s what I told him,’ she said, and now the story was at an end.
‘Yes,’ Miss Gates said indistinctly. She was torn between listening to what her new friend had to say and at sight of baby blowing bubbles on her mouth. This was moment of utter bliss for her. She was like dazed by it. Then as they walked, Miss Gates exalted, friend of Mr Eames called to him out of alley way which led to his house back of the street. He invited them all in. Lily pushed the pram down alley way and they turned into small yard which was this man’s, who was pigeon fancier. Mr Eames was already talking to this man about them, and both whistled to the pigeon. These were strutting on roof of outhouse in the yard. Baby now woke up and began to make waves at the pigeon with its arms and legs. ‘Why the little love, look at ‘er’ cried Mrs Eames.
‘You wait a second, missis, and we’ll give ‘er a closer sight of ‘em,’ said the pigeon fancier, and hoping to sell a few pigeon to Mr Eames he disappeared into outhouse to fetch some grain.
When he came back he put grain onto hood of the pram and one by one pigeon fluttered off the roof onto hood of this pram. As they did so they fluttered round heads of those people in the yard, who kept heads very still. Then the fancier put grain onto apron of the pram in front of the baby and one pigeon hopped from hood down onto the apron right in front of the baby. This baby made wave with its arm at the pigeon which waddled out of reach. Mrs Eames looked at its fierce red eye and said would it peck at her daughter but fancier said not on your life. Soon all were laughing at way this one pigeon, which alone dared to come onto apron, dodged the baby which laughed and crowed and grabbed at it. Soon also they were bored and went all of them into his house, only Mrs Eames did not go, nor her son who held her skirt. And Lily did not go, but stood like fascinated.
Suddenly with loud raucous cry she rushed at the baby, and with clatter of wings all the pigeon lifted and flew away, she rushed at baby to kiss it. Mrs Eames hid her son’s face in her hand, laughing:
‘You’re too young, that’s too old for you’ she said.