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TEAT! there was heat in Ravenna On the last of the days of July; The streets were as streets in a furnace, As blinding to brain and to eye; The light, how it rain'd from the zenith! To brave it was simply to die. The gables and porches fantastic Their shadows capriciously cast, And, creeping along by the houses, A priest or two silently pass'd,Nothing more, till the noon had departed And sunset and shade came at last. Then to steal down the street to a garden, All black with the sycamore's gloom, Encircling a mansion of granite
As solemn and square as a tomb,-
I could not resist it, that garden,
So gloomy and cool and inviting,
And there at a window, a curtain
By accident only a corner
The brauch of the sycamore raised,
More radiant vision behold,-
She heard not, she saw not my coming,
The grapes she was poising reflected
And the flame of the cheeks of the peaches
A moment, and only a moment,
I linger'd to gaze at the room;
Of the face and the fruit it bent over,
A picture that never will fade,
'The Epergne' is the name that I give it,
This picture that never can fade.
A RAMBLE ROUND THE ROYAL ARSENAL.
SHORT time ago I was sitting over a prolonged breakfast at my club in St. James's, helping my digestion with the morning paper, when my eye was attracted by a grand description of the visit to Woolwich of some distinguished foreign princes, who were the 'lions' of the season, pro tem.
There was the usual grand review, and intricate manoeuvring, helped out, I have no doubt, by clouds of smoke. General This took the command, ably assisted by Captain That, with half a dozen letters after his name. Splendid sight! galloping of Horse Artillery! firing of big guns! thousands of spectators! and so on, followed by a swell lunch at the R.A. mess, and afterwards a 'minute inspection' (that was the term) of the Royal Arsenal.
Now, I had often wished to see the wonderful machinery, and the other attractions of that remarkable place; and, curiously enough, I had that very morning received a most pressing invitation from my old College chum, Bob
—, now quartered at Woolwich, to pay him a visit for that very purpose, and (as) he expressed himself) do the thing entirely.' He begged me to lose no time, as he was about to retire from the service, but to take the one o'clock train from London Bridge that very day. Nothing loth (after a good lunch to prepare me for the labours before me), I took my ticket for the Arsenal Station, by the North Kent railway, and was soon looking down chim
neys and passing through many unpleasant odours, seated in a not over-comfortable carriage.
The open country we reached; and all the way down the line the natives seemed to be busily engaged in bricks and mortar, as if London were not large enough, and no time should be lost in doubling its size. Arrived at my destination, I met my spruce military friend, whose warm greeting was rather too much for my lavender kids, the pipe-clay from his regimental gloves leaving a very decided mark upon them.
(Query, why do military men still so delight in pipe-clay?-can no substitute be found for that obnoxious dust?)
As we emerged from the station, a stream of men and boys were all hurrying in one direction; these were the workmen going back to the Arsenal after their dinner. joined the crowd, which was increasing every moment from every bye-street, like a river making its way to the sea; and proceeding in the direction of a bell which was loudly ringing, we found ourselves in a wide open square, covered by a mass of human beings steering for a pair of large iron gates. Loud cries from itinerant venders of apples, nuts, &c., rang through the air; and my friend seizing me by the arm, we were carried by the throng through the gateway, and emerged almost breathless on the other side.
Here we paused to recover. Bob arranged his uniform, and agreed
with me that another time, perhaps, it would be better to enter either before or after the workmen.
We saw the crowd inside diverging in opposite directions, taking the various roads which led to their several workshops; and, whilst waiting for the men to commence their work, Bob gave me the history of the spot upon which we stood.
'Long, long ago, a dense forest extended from Shooter's Hill down to the river, close to the fishing hamlet of Woolwich, part of which was, by some ancient speculator, turned into a rabbit-warren (the street close by is still called Warren Lane), and no one seems to have had any idea as to its future greatness, till the year 1716, when a sad accident occurred at the Royal Cannon Foundry at Moorfields, in London. Some captured French guns were being melted down and re-cast; and, a short time previous to the furnace being tapped, a Swiss-German officer named Schalch saw that the moulds were damp, and informed the superintendent of it: he was, however, only laughed at for his pains; but the metal on entering the moulds was blown in every direction; the building was destroyed, and several of those present perished at the time. Schalch was now inquired for by the Government, and requested to select a site for a new foundry further from town; and he pitched upon the Warren at Woolwich. Suitable buildings were soon erected, and the successful Schalch placed in charge, where he remained for many years. Such was the beginning of the Royal Arsenal, which has gradually grown so as to cover
300 acres of ground, and to give employment to 5000 men and boys, assisted by the labours of upwards of 100 steam-engines. It was the Crimean war, however, which extended the Arsenal to its present size. Economy had reduced our warlike stores to the lowest possible ebb, and therefore, when the emergency arose, the augmentation was all the greater, and 15,000 men and boys worked day and night to supply the missiles for Sebastopol.
Mr. Gladstone has now brought the numbers down to barely 5000, many of whom are pensioned soldiers. They are a well-conducted and orderly body of men, never having a strike or combination against their employers, and earning good average wages, mostly by piece-work. They are drawn from all parts of the country; the common labourers being principally Irish, and the more skilled artisans Scotch. They are obliged to be under forty years of age before their admission, and are kept very strictly down to certain rules and regulations. For instance, a man may absent himself from his work for twenty hours in a month, without any fault being found with him, but if he takes more he is liable to be discharged. They have fifty-six working-hours in the week; and when from pressure of business these are extended, they receive half as much pay again for the overtime. During the Crimean war, they often worked throughout two nights in the week in addition to the usual day-labour.
As soon as a man is engaged, three metal tickets, with a number upon each, are given him; thus—
the first one having only his number upon it; the second, one mark additional; the third, two marks: so, on coming to his work at six o'clock in the morning, he leaves his first
ticket on his return after breakfast, the second; after dinner the third; and before going home at night a boy comes round and restores his three tickets again.
The ticket-clerk keeps a record of each man; and in this manner a late-comer or an absentee is easily detected.
By this time there were only a few stragglers to be seen; we followed the direction of the larger stream, and saw them pouring through a doorway into their factory, each man depositing, at a little pay-wicket, the aforesaid ticket.
We first looked into an old-fashioned building, the delight of our friend Schalch, many years ago (where the brass guns were cast before Armstrong was heard of); and a beautiful sight it must have been to see the bronze metal pouring and seething into the upright moulds, changing its colour every minute! Now, alas! the glory of this building is departed. Brass has given way to steel, and nothing but a few insignificant castings mark the spot so much esteemed in bygone days.
Passing on to the next doorway, which was opened to us by a onearmed porter (his other arm having been severed by a shell in the trenches of Sebastopol), we entered a large factory, filled with revolving wheels and bands. There were lathes for about 500 men, driven by two large engines; many of these, however, were at this time unoccupied.
A small side-room first attracted our attention, where lead was being made into coils, ready for the bulletmachine in the large factory. This machine took the leaden rope, bit it into small pieces about an inch long, squeezed them into shape, and rifle bullets made their appearance in a little box on the floor. In this manner, 30,000 bullets a day were made for the Enfield rifle. The men worked hard indeed, losing no time, as they were paid by the piece. Their wages might average twentyfive shillings a week ;. mere labourers receiving their fourteen shillings and upwards, and artisans thirty shillings and more.
As we sauntered down the room, some were busy drilling shot and shell, while others were making metal fuzes of all kinds to explode them. We also noticed at the end
of the room several small cutting lathes, which were fed by boys with long sticks of boxwood. These were soon eaten up; and as a quantity of shavings appeared the only result, I was wondering what had become of all the wood, when a boy pulled open a drawer from underneath, nearly full of little plugs, which fit into the Enfield rifle bullet, to improve its practice. There were about twenty of these machines, and the boy said he thought they could make a million and a half in a week.
Bob explained to me that the Royal Arsenal was divided into three manufacturing departmentsi.e., Laboratory, Gun, and Carriage -each presided over by an officer of the Royal Artillery. There was also the Store Department, which occupied a large space, and employed many hands.
Everywhere we came across fireplugs and boxes on wheels, housed under scarlet-coloured tarpaulin. We were told that there was an abundant supply of water always, at a pressure of 100 lb. to the inch, and so effective were the precautions taken, that no serious fire had ever occurred.
Escaping from the dreadful whirl of these numberless wheels, we mounted some outside stairs, and entered the powder-barrel factory. It was most interesting to see the wood, which was already cut into proper lengths, placed in a circular drum-shaped saw, the teeth of which formed it into staves. The round tops and bottoms were made in another lathe; and then, by hydraulic pressure, these different parts were all compressed into a perfect barrel, ready to receive the hoops, which were easily hammered on afterwards. The workman at the principal machine said he could put a barrel together in four minutes.
We now retraced our steps, and crossed over the road to the paper factory, a very warm and steamy place, containing large tanks full of pulp. This was sucked by exhaustion upon metal fingers, already supplied with woollen gloves; and after being dried by steam, on extracting the glove, the paper cart