"Hurt you?" asked one of the policemen.
"No," he answered.
At one of the corners, where the car slowed up because of a turn, an ex-motorman, standing on the sidewalk, called to him:
"Won't you come out, pardner, and be a man? Remember we're fighting for decent day's wages, that's all. We've got families to support." The man seemed most peaceably inclined.
Hurstwood pretended not to see him. He kept his eyes straight on before and opened the lever wide. The voice had something appealing in it.
All morning this went on and long into the afternoon. He made three such trips. The dinner he had was no stay for such work and the cold was telling on him. At each end of the line he stopped to thaw out, but he could have groaned at the anguish of it. One of the barn men, out of pity, loaned him a heavy cap and a pair of sheepskin gloves, and for once he was extremely thankful.
On the second trip of the afternoon he ran into a crowd about half way along the line, that had blocked the car's progress with an old telegraph pole.
"Get that thing off the track," shouted the two policemen.
"Yah, yah, yah!" yelled the crowd. "Get it off yourself."
The two policemen got down and Hurstwood started to follow.
"You stay there," one called. "Some one will run away with your car."
Amid the babble of voices, Hurstwood heard one close beside him.
"Come down, pardner, and be a man. Don't fight the poor. Leave that to the corporations."
He saw the same fellow who had called to him from the corner. Now, as before, he pretended not to hear him.
"Come down," the man repeated gently. "You don't want to fight poor men. Don't fight at all." It was a most philosophic and Jesuitical motorman.
A third policeman joined the other two from somewhere and some one ran to telephone for more officers. Hurstwood gazed about, determined but fearful.
A man grabbed him by the coat.
"Come off of that," he exclaimed, jerking at him and trying to pull him over the railing.
"Let go," said Hurstwood, savagely.
"I'll show you — you scab!" cried a young Irishman, jumping up on the car and aiming a blow at Hurstwood. The latter ducked and caught it on the shoulder instead of the jaw.
"Away from here," shouted an officer, hastening to the rescue, and adding, of course, the usual oaths.
Hurstwood recovered himself, pale and trembling. It was becoming serious with him now. People were looking up and jeering at him. One girl was making faces.
He began to waver in his resolution, when a patrol wagon rolled up and more officers dismounted. Now the track was quickly cleared and the release effected.
"Let her go now, quick," said the officer, and again he was off.
The end came with a real mob, which met the car on its return trip a mile or two from the barns. It was an exceedingly poor looking neighborhood. He wanted to run fast through it, but again the track was blocked. He saw men carrying something out to it when he was yet a half-dozen blocks away.
"There they are again!" exclaimed one policeman.
"I'll give them something this time," said the second officer, whose patience was becoming worn. Hurstwood suffered a qualm of body as the car rolled up. As before, the crowd began hooting, but now, rather than come near, they threw things. One or two windows were smashed and Hurstwood dodged a stone.
Both policemen ran out toward the crowd, but the latter replied by running toward the car. A woman — a mere girl in appearance-was among these, bearing a rough stick. She was exceedingly wrathful and struck at Hurstwood, who dodged. Thereupon, her companions, duly encouraged, jumped on the car and pulled Hurstwood over. He had hardly time to speak or shout before he fell.
"Let go of me," he said, falling on his side.
"Ah, you sucker," he heard some one say. Kicks and blows rained on him. He seemed to be suffocating. Then two men seemed to be dragging him off and he wrestled for freedom.
"Let up," said a voice, "you're all right. Stand up."
He was let loose and recovered himself. Now he recognized two officers. He felt as if he would faint from exhaustion. Something was wet on his chin. He put up his hand and felt, then looked. It was red.
"They cut me," he said, foolishly, fishing for his handkerchief.
"Now, now," said one of the officers. "It's only a scratch."
His senses became cleared now and he looked around. He was standing in a little store, where they left him for the moment. Outside, he could see, as he stood wiping his chin, the car and the excited crowd. A patrol wagon was there, and another.
He walked over and looked out. It was an ambulance, backing in.
He saw some energetic charging by the police and arrests being made.
"Come on, now, if you want to take your car," said an officer, opening the door and looking in. He walked out, feeling rather uncertain of himself. He was very cold and frightened.
"Where's the conductor?" he asked.
"Oh, he's not here now," said the policeman.
Hurstwood went toward the car and stepped nervously on. As he did so there was a pistol shot. Something stung his shoulder.
"Who fired that?" he heard an officer exclaim. "By God! who did that?" Both left him, running toward a certain building. He paused a moment and then got down.
"George!" exclaimed Hurstwood, weakly, "this is too much for me."
He walked nervously to the corner and hurried down a side street.
"Whew!" he said, drawing in his breath.
A half block away, a small girl gazed at him.
"You'd better sneak," she called.
He walked homeward in a blinding snowstorm, reaching the ferry by dusk. The cabins were filled with comfortable souls, who studied him curiously. His head was still in such a whirl that he felt confused. All the wonder of the twinkling lights of the river in a white storm passed for nothing. He trudged doggedly on until he reached the flat. There he entered and found the room warm. Carrie was gone. A couple of evening papers were lying on the table where she left them. He lit the gas and sat down. Then he got up and stripped to examine his shoulder. It was a mere scratch. He washed his hands and face, still in a brown study, apparently, and combed his hair. Then he looked for something to eat, and finally, his hunger gone, sat down in his comfortable rocking-chair. It was a wonderful relief.
He put his hand to his chin, forgetting, for the moment, the papers.
"Well," he said, after a time, his nature recovering itself, "that's a pretty tough game over there."
Then he turned and saw the papers. With half a sigh he picked up the "World."
"Strike Spreading in Brooklyn," he read. "Rioting Breaks Out in all Parts of the City."
He adjusted his paper very comfortably and continued. It was the one thing he read with absorbing interest.