Maraton smiled carelessly as he bade them good night.
“The one thing in the world,” he reminded them, “worse than having no friends, is to have no enemies.”
Eight days later, Maraton delivered his preliminary address to the ironworkers of Sheffield, and at six o’clock the next morning the strike had been unanimously proclaimed. The columns of the daily newspapers, still hopelessly bound over to the interests of the capitalist, were full of solemn warnings against this new and disturbing force in English sociology. The Daily Oracle alone paused to present a few words of appreciation of the splendid dramatic force wielded by this revolutionary.
“If this man is sincere,” the Oracle declared, “the country needs him. If he is a charlatan, then for heaven’s sake, even at the expense of all the laws that were ever framed, away with him! There is no man breathing to-day who is developing a more potent, a more wide-reaching influence upon the destinies of our country.”
Maraton’s first address had been delivered to a great multitude, but there was no building whose roof could cover the hordes of men who had made up their minds to hear his last words at Sheffield. From far and wide, the people came that night in countless streams. A platform had been arranged in the middle of the principal pleasure park of the town, and around this, from early in the afternoon, they began to take up their places. When night fell, so far as the eye could see, the ground was covered with a black mass of humanity. The multitude filled the park and crowded up the encircling streets. As the darkness deepened, they lit torches. Beyond, down in the valley and up on the hillside, were rows of lights and the flare of furnaces soon to be quenched. Even that little group of hard, unimaginative men who stood with Maraton upon the platform felt the strange thrill of the tense and swelling throng gathered together with this inspiring background.
It seemed to Maraton himself, as he stood there listening to the roar of welcoming voices, as though all their white faces were gathered into one, the prototype of suffering humanity, the sad, hollow-checked, hollow-eyed victim of birth and heritage. His voice seemed to swell that night to something greater than its usual volume; some peculiar gift of penetration seemed to have been accorded him. A hundred thousand men heard his passionate prayer to them. They were hard-featured, hard-minded Yorkshiremen, most of them, but they never forgot.
“You will get the half a crown a week which your leaders demand,” Maraton told them. “Your masters—may God forgive me for using the word!—will pay to that extent. But—if there is any justice beyond this world, how, indeed, will they meet the debt built upon your sufferings, your cramped lives, and the graves of your little children. That half a crown a