Life in the Iron-Mills
by Rebecca Harding Davis
"Is this the end?
O Life, as futile, then, as frail!
What hope of answer or redress?"
A cloudy day: do you know what that is in a town of iron-works?
The sky sank down before dawn, muddy, flat, immovable. The air
is thick, clammy with the breath of crowded human beings. It
stifles me. I open the window, and, looking out, can scarcely
see through the rain the grocer's shop opposite, where a crowd
of drunken Irishmen are puffing Lynchburg tobacco in their
pipes. I can detect the scent through all the foul smells
ranging loose in the air.
The idiosyncrasy of this town is smoke. It rolls sullenly in
slow folds from the great chimneys of the iron-foundries, and
settles down in black, slimy pools on the muddy streets. Smoke
on the wharves, smoke on the dingy boats, on the yellow river,--
clinging in a coating of greasy soot to the house-front, the two
faded poplars, the faces of the passers-by. The long train of
mules, dragging masses of pig-iron through the narrow street,
have a foul vapor hanging to their reeking sides. Here, inside,
is a little broken figure of an angel pointing upward from the