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Willliam J. Hopkins

The Blacksmith Story

O NCE upon a time there was a wide river that ran into the ocean, and beside it was a little city. And in that city was a wharf where great ships came from far countries. And a narrow road led down a very steep hill to that wharf, and anybody that wanted to go to the wharf had to go down the steep hill on the narrow road, for there wasn't any other way. And because ships had come there for a great many years, and all the sailors and all the captains and all the men who had business with the ships had to go on that narrow road, the flagstones that made the sidewalks were much worn. That was a great many years ago.

The river and the ocean are there yet, as they always have been and always will be; and the city is there, but it is a different kind of a city from what it used to be. And the wharf is slowly falling down, for it is not used now; and the narrow road down the steep hill is all grown up with weeds and grass.

A great many years ago, when the ships still came to the wharf, a man had begun to make a shipyard beside that wide river. First he built a blacksmith shop in one corner of the shipyard. The other things that he did are told about in another story. And in building the blacksmith shop, he didn't make any inside to it, at first, but just the walls and the roof. The floor was the ground, because that wouldn't catch fire.

In the middle of the blacksmith shop he built a chimney straight up through the roof. And on each side of the chimney, on the ground, he built a kind of square table of brick about as high as a regular table. For the chimney and the tables of brick, he dug down into the ground, first, and built a foundation, just like a foundation for a stone wall. Each of these tables had a hollowed-out place in the top, just like a basin, and in the bottom of each hollowed-out place was a hole. In this hole was a pipe that curved around and came out at the back, beside the chimney. And into the end of the pipe, where it came out beside the chimney, the nozzle of a great enormous bellows fitted. The table of brick is called a forge, and a fire is built in the hollowed-out place.

Then, when the blacksmith wants the fire to burn fiercely, he leans on the long wooden bar which makes the bellows blow, and the bellows blows a lot of air through the pipe into the bottom of the hollowed-out place, and the air comes out through the fire and the fire gets very hot. All the smoke is caught by a hood, which sticks out over the forge just above the blacksmith's head, and the smoke is sent into the chimney by the hood, and out at the top. Some forges didn't have hoods, nor even chimneys; but then the blacksmith's shop would be a very smoky place.

While the men were building the brig Industry  in the shipyard, the blacksmith got a lot of iron bars. And these iron bars were almost as long as the blacksmith shop, and some were round and some were square, and some were flat and some were eight sided; and some of each kind were large and some were small, and some were middle sized.

And when the blacksmith was ready, he built a fire in the hollowed-out place of one of the forges. And he made the bellows blow, and the fire got hot, and he stuck into the fire the end of one of the large flat iron bars; but first he had to cut it off, for it was much too long to handle. And, pretty soon, he took the iron bar out of the fire, and the end, where it had been in the fire, was all hot and glowing white, and spitting sparks. And he laid it on his great anvil, and he took his small hammer; and the man who helped him took a great heavy hammer, that he had to hold in his two hands.


He stuck into the fire the end of one of the large flat iron bars.

Then the blacksmith tapped with his small hammer to show the helper where to strike. And the small hammer made a small sound, ting. And the helper struck with his great hammer in exactly that place where the small hammer had struck. And the great hammer made a great sound, TING. And the blacksmith held the iron with a pair of long iron tongs, and turned it when it needed to be turned. And there was a merry sound of the hammers on the hot iron: ting—TING, ting—TING, ting—TING, ting—TING. But at last the iron bar was all black, and too cold to hammer. So the blacksmith put it back into the fire and he made the bellows blow again; and again he took it out, and they hammered it again.

And, at last, it was all done, and when the iron had got black, but was still hot, the blacksmith stuck it into a tub full of water and held it there a minute, and then he threw it on the ground. It was one of the great iron straps that would hold the bowsprit of the brig Industry  in place.

And, in this way, they made all the other straps and the plates to hold the rigging that would hold up the masts and the great iron things that fasten the rudder to the ship, like hinges; and everything that is of iron that belongs to a ship, even to the straps and the rings and the hooks that would fasten the ropes to the yards. But the anchors they did not make, for they are too large to be made easily in a blacksmith shop. But the chains for the anchors they made in the blacksmith shop.


For the anchor chains the blacksmith took round iron, of a middle size, and he bent each link and welded the ends together, taking great care in the heating of the iron not to get it too hot, for that burns the iron, and makes it weak. And the blacksmith remembered that the master of the shipyard had promised Captain Jonathan and Captain Jacob that everything about the Industry  should be strong. And each link, before it was welded, was put through the last link of the chain, so that the chain kept getting longer. To weld the ends together, he heated them in the fire until they were just hot enough, and then he hammered them together until they were like one piece, and they were as strong as one piece.

In this way the blacksmith made three anchor chains; one for each anchor and one to spare. And he made the little short chains that go at the bottom of the rigging, and the chains that go underneath the bowsprit. But the anchor chains he made the last of all.

And the work of the blacksmith for the brig Industry  was done, and the blacksmith was well pleased, for he knew that it was good.

And that's all.