Then softly the door opened, and a hoarse voice said:
“Joe? You there?”
Sally and Joe turned around. It was Izon, dark, handsome, fiery, muffled up to his neck, his hat drawn low on his face, and the thin snow scattering from his shoulders and sleeves.
“Yes, I’m here,” Joe said in a low voice. “What is it?”
Izon came over.
“Joe!”—his voice was passionate—“there’s trouble brewing at Marrin’s.”
“Marrin? Why, he was here only to-day!”
Izon clutched the back of a chair and leaned over.
“Marrin is a dirty scoundrel!”
His voice was hoarse with helplessness and passion.
“Tell me about this! Put it in a word!”
Tears sprang to Izon’s eyes.
“You know the cloak-makers’ strike—well!
Some manufacturer has asked
Marrin to help him out—to fill an order of cloaks for him.”
“And Marrin—” Joe felt himself getting hot.
“Has given the job to us men.”
“How many are there?”
“And the women?”
“They’re busy on shirtwaists.”
“And what did the men do?”
“As they were told.”
“So you fellows are cutting under the strikers—you’re scabs.”
Izon clutched the chair harder.
“I told them so—I said, ’For God’s sake, be men—strike, if this isn’t stopped.’”
“And what did they say?”
“They’d think it over!”
Sally arose and spoke quietly.
“Make them meet here. I’ll talk to them!”
Izon muttered darkly:
“Marrin’s a dirty scoundrel!”
Joe smote his hands together.
“We’ll fix him. You get the men down here! You just get the men!”
And then Joe understood that his work was not child’s play; that the fight was man-size; that it had its dangers, its perils, its fierce struggles. He felt a new power rise within him—a warrior strength. He was ready to plunge in and give battle—ready for a hand-to-hand conflict. Now he was to be tested in the fires; now he was to meet and make or be broken by a great moment. An electricity of conflict filled the air, a foreboding of disaster. His theories at last were to meet the crucial test of reality, and he realized that up to that moment he had been hardly more than a dreamer.
FORTY-FIVE TREACHEROUS MEN
Out of the white, frosty street the next night, when every lamp up and down shone like a starry jewel beneath the tingling stars, forty-five men emerged, crowding, pushing in the hall, wedging through the doorway, and filling the not-too-large editorial office. Joe had provided camp-stools, and the room was soon packed with sitting and standing men, circles of shadowy beings, carelessly clothed, with rough black cheeks and dark eyes—a bunch of jabbering aliens, excited, unfriendly, curious, absorbed in their problem—an ill-kempt lot and quite unlovely.