THEY played cards in the canteen, or held an impromptu cricket match in an open space sheltered by the walls of the fitting shop and pattern shop. When in the foundry they made country jobs. And Lu, the foreman, closed his eyes to it all.
He appeared to enjoy the breathing space the slump had afforded him. His responsibilities were lessened now that there was not much work to be done, and instead of arriving at the foundry in the early morning he never came before nine.
The coreshop became a rest-house. What cores Abraham gave his employees to make were all for stock. The standing orders that remained had been completed within the first week after the men's meeting with the directors.
The charge-hand occupied his time in forging new tools. Old Isaiah had found a corner under the furnace arch where he would content himself for hours, smoking his pipe. In the steel shop the men took a busman's holiday, casting tools for their own use at the trade, or hammer-heads, bakestones, door-knockers, which they carried out under their coats when the day was over.
The improvers found much to divert them from the daily routine they had been used to. One morning Ieuan saw a crowd of men and boys gathered round a small culvert behind the pattern shop. It had been raining heavily the previous night, and the culvert had overflowed into the yard.
Drawn there by curiosity, he discovered the object of their interest. Charlie, the improver, was on his knees over the culvert, his arms elbow-deep in the dank water.
"Is he still there?" someone asked.
"Yes-yes, I think I've got him now." The crowd edged nearer. All at once Charlie withdrew his arms. In his cupped hands he held a large, brown-backed frog.
Pushing through the ring, he raced towards the coreshop, with Bull and the other improvers following excitedly.
"What's happening?" Ieuan inquired.
"Charlie's going to make a lead frog," Thomas said.
> Farewell Innocence by William Glynne-Jones is published by Parthian, Library of Wales, at PS8.99 www.parthianbooks.com CONTINUES TOMORROW
Farewell Innocence by William Glynne-Jones