BOOK THE FIRST - SOWING
11. Chapter Xi - No Way Out
THE Fairy palaces burst into illumination, before pale morning
showed the monstrous serpents of smoke trailing themselves over
Coketown. A clattering of clogs upon the pavement; a rapid ringing
of bells; and all the melancholy mad elephants, polished and oiled
up for the day's monotony, were at their heavy exercise again.
Stephen bent over his loom, quiet, watchful, and steady. A special
contrast, as every man was in the forest of looms where Stephen
worked, to the crashing, smashing, tearing piece of mechanism at
which he laboured. Never fear, good people of an anxious turn of
mind, that Art will consign Nature to oblivion. Set anywhere, side
by side, the work of GOD and the work of man; and the former, even
though it be a troop of Hands of very small account, will gain in
dignity from the comparison.
So many hundred Hands in this Mill; so many hundred horse Steam
Power. It is known, to the force of a single pound weight, what
the engine will do; but, not all the calculators of the National
Debt can tell me the capacity for good or evil, for love or hatred,
for patriotism or discontent, for the decomposition of virtue into
vice, or the reverse, at any single moment in the soul of one of
these its quiet servants, with the composed faces and the regulated
actions. There is no mystery in it; there is an unfathomable
mystery in the meanest of them, for ever. - Supposing we were to
reverse our arithmetic for material objects, and to govern these
awful unknown quantities by other means!
The day grew strong, and showed itself outside, even against the
flaming lights within. The lights were turned out, and the work
went on. The rain fell, and the Smoke-serpents, submissive to the
curse of all that tribe, trailed themselves upon the earth. In the
waste-yard outside, the steam from the escape pipe, the litter of
barrels and old iron, the shining heaps of coals, the ashes
everywhere, were shrouded in a veil of mist and rain.
The work went on, until the noon-bell rang. More clattering upon
the pavements. The looms, and wheels, and Hands all out of gear
for an hour.