Weighed down by the load he carried, his harsh breath coming in white plumes, panting, struggling to keep up with Johnson, Zachariah didnít notice as a single coil of rope slipped off his shoulder, trailed behind, then tangled in his feet. Tripping, he fell at the place the dirt road ended and the cobblestone street began.
The Climbing Boy can now also be purchased as a Kindle Ebook.
THE CHIMNEY SWEEPS
December 24, 1843
Two figures trudged up the dirt road.
The man taking long, purposeful strides.
Weighed down by the load he carried, his harsh breath coming in white plumes, panting, struggling to keep up with Johnson, Zachariah didn’t notice as a single coil of rope slipped off his shoulder, trailed behind, then tangled in his feet. Tripping, he fell at the place the dirt road ended and the cobblestone street began.
Paces ahead, looking over his shoulder, stopping with a sound of disgust, going back to the fallen boy, Johnson lifted him bodily onto his feet and with a slap to the back of his head, sent him stumbling forward again.
Through shame, anger, the cold, or all three, continuing on, struggling under the weight he carried on his shoulders and in his arms, Zachariah hunched his head even deeper into the collar of his coat.
Finally, ahead a half mile or so, the glow of the factory’s furnaces could be seen through the diminishing pre-morning darkness.
Soon, the noise of men at work came softly, then, as they walked closer, the sounds became louder, the voices pronounced.
As the boy and man entered the massive brick and block barn of a factory, sounds assailed their ears: the irritating noise of grinding, the tortured whine of cutting steel, the nerve-jarring din of steel hammering onto steel. Thick, black, greasy smoke hung beneath the three-story rafters. Dozens of workers could be seen moving, milling, hauling, straining. Men wearing gloves and aprons made of leather were removing strips of white-hot metal with steel tongs from three of four huge, coal-fed furnaces. The fourth, its stack having already been cleaned two-thirds of the way, was shut down awaiting to be finished.
John Archibald was standing behind his tall, battered foreman’s desk. The desk, on a raised platform, gave the plant foreman a commanding view of the entire factory.
As the two entered, he saw Johnson first, then, paces behind, the boy. Putting the quill down, watching as they made their way around boxes, barrels, machinery and work benches, Lord ‘elp ‘im! Archibald thought as he saw the boy struggle beneath the weight he carried.