"Scab!" he yelled. "Scab!"
Hurstwood heard it, but tried to make no comment, even to himself. He knew he would get that, and much more of the same sort, probably.
At a corner farther up a man stood by the track and signaled the car to stop.
"Never mind him," said one of the officers. "He's up to some game."
Hurstwood obeyed. At the corner he saw the wisdom of it. No sooner did the man perceive the intention to ignore him, than he shook his fist.
"Ah, you bloody coward!" he yelled.
Some half dozen men, standing on the corner, flung taunts and jeers after the speeding car.
Hurstwood winced the least bit. The real thing was slightly worse than the thoughts of it had been.
Now came in sight, three or four blocks farther on, a heap of something on the track.
"They've been at work, here, all right," said one of the policemen.
"We'll have an argument, maybe," said the other.
Hurstwood ran the car close and stopped. He had not done so wholly, however, before a crowd gathered about. It was composed of ex-motormen and conductors in part, with a sprinkling of friends and sympathizers.
"Come off the car, pardner," said one of the men in a voice meant to be conciliatory. "You don't want to take the bread out of another man's mouth, do you?"
Hurstwood held to his brake and lever, pale and very uncertain what to do.
"Stand back," yelled one of the officers, leaning over the platform railing. "Clear out of this, now. Give the man a chance to do his work."
"Listen, pardner," said the leader, ignoring the policeman and addressing Hurstwood. "We're all working men, like yourself. If you were a regular motorman, and had been treated as we've been, you wouldn't want any one to come in and take your place, would you? You wouldn't want any one to do you out of your chance to get your rights, would you?"
"Shut her off! shut her off!" urged the other of the policemen, roughly. "Get out of this, now," and he jumped the railing and landed before the crowd and began shoving. Instantly the other officer was down beside him.
"Stand back, now," they yelled. "Get out of this. What the hell do you mean? Out, now."
It was like a small swarm of bees.
"Don't shove me," said one of the strikers, determinedly. "I'm not doing anything."
"Get out of this!" cried the officer, swinging his club. "I'll give ye a bat on the sconce. Back, now."
"What the hell!" cried another of the strikers, pushing the other way, adding at the same time some lusty oaths.
Crack came an officer's club on his forehead. He blinked his eyes blindly a few times, wobbled on his legs, threw up his hands, and staggered back. In return, a swift fist landed on the officer's neck.
Infuriated by this, the latter plunged left and right, laying about madly with his club. He was ably assisted by his brother of the blue, who poured ponderous oaths upon the troubled waters. No severe damage was done, owing to the agility of the strikers in keeping out of reach. They stood about the sidewalk now and jeered.
"Where is the conductor?" yelled one of the officers, getting his eye on that individual, who had come nervously forward to stand by Hurstwood. The latter had stood gazing upon the scene with more astonishment than fear.
"Why don't you come down here and get these stones off the track?" inquired the officer. "What you standing there for? Do you want to stay here all day? Get down."
Hurstwood breathed heavily in excitement and jumped down with the nervous conductor as if he had been called.
"Hurry up, now," said the other policeman.
Cold as it was, these officers were hot and mad. Hurstwood worked with the conductor, lifting stone after stone and warming himself by the work.
"Ah, you scab, you!" yelled the crowd. "You coward! Steal a man's job, will you? Rob the poor, will you, you thief? We'll get you yet, now. Wait."
Not all of this was delivered by one man. It came from here and there, incorporated with much more of the same sort and curses.
"Work, you blackguards," yelled a voice. "Do the dirty work. You're the suckers that keep the poor people down!"
"May God starve ye yet," yelled an old Irish woman, who now threw open a nearby window and stuck out her head.
"Yes, and you," she added, catching the eye of one of the policemen. "You bloody, murtherin' thafe! Crack my son over the head, will you, you hardhearted, murtherin' divil? Ah, ye — — "
But the officer turned a deaf ear.
"Go to the devil, you old hag," he half muttered as he stared round upon the scattered company.
Now the stones were off, and Hurstwood took his place again amid a continued chorus of epithets. Both officers got up beside him and the conductor rang the bell, when, bang! bang! through window and door came rocks and stones. One narrowly grazed Hurstwood's head. Another shattered the window behind.
"Throw open your lever," yelled one of the officers, grabbing at the handle himself.
Hurstwood complied and the car shot away, followed by a rattle of stones and a rain of curses.
"That — — — — -hit me in the neck," said one of the officers. "I gave him a good crack for it, though."
"I think I must have left spots on some of them," said the other.
"I know that big guy that called us a — — — — — " said the first. "I'll get him yet for that."
"I thought we were in for it sure, once there," said the second.
Hurstwood, warmed and excited, gazed steadily ahead. It was an astonishing experience for him. He had read of these things, but the reality seemed something altogether new. He was no coward in spirit. The fact that he had suffered this much now rather operated to arouse a stolid determination to stick it out. He did not recur in thought to New York or the flat. This one trip seemed a consuming thing.
They now ran into the business heart of Brooklyn uninterrupted. People gazed at the broken windows of the car and at Hurstwood in his plain clothes. Voices called "scab" now and then, as well as other epithets, but no crowd attacked the car. At the downtown end of the line, one of the officers went to call up his station and report the trouble.
"There's a gang out there," he said, "laying for us yet. Better send some one over there and clean them out."
The car ran back more quietly — hooted, watched, flung at, but not attacked. Hurstwood breathed freely when he saw the barns.
"Well," he observed to himself, "I came out of that all right."
The car was turned in and he was allowed to loaf a while, but later he was again called. This time a new team of officers was aboard. Slightly more confident, he sped the car along the commonplace streets and felt somewhat less fearful. On one side, however, he suffered intensely. The day was raw, with a sprinkling of snow and a gusty wind, made all the more intolerable by the speed of the car. His clothing was not intended for this sort of work. He shivered, stamped his feet, and beat his arms as he had seen other motormen do in the past, but said nothing. The novelty and danger of the situation modified in a way his disgust and distress at being compelled to be here, but not enough to prevent him from feeling grim and sour. This was a dog's life, he thought. It was a tough thing to have to come to.
The one thought that strengthened him was the insult offered by Carrie. He was not down so low as to take all that, he thought. He could do something — this, even — for a while. It would get better. He would save a little.
A boy threw a clod of mud while he was thus reflecting and hit him upon the arm. It hurt sharply and angered him more than he had been any time since morning.
"The little cur!" he muttered.