The half-open door discovered a party of workmen, unfortunately by no means numerous, but with countenances full of resolution. They had armed themselves hastily with forks, iron bars, and clubs. Agricola, who was their leader, held in his hand a heavy sledge-hammer. The young workman was very pale; but the fire of his eye, his menacing look, and the intrepid assurance of his bearing, showed that his father’s blood boiled in his veins, and that in such a struggle he might become fear-inspiring. Yet he succeeded in restraining himself, and challenged the quarryman, in a firm voice: “What do you want?”
“A fight!” thundered the blaster.
“Yes, yes! a fight!” repeated the crowd.
“Silence, my Wolves!” cried the quarryman, as he turned round, and stretched forth his large hand towards the multitude. Then addressing Agricola, he said: “The Wolves have come to ask for a fight.”
“With the Devourers.”
“There are no Devourers here,” replied Agricola; “we are only peaceable workmen. So begone.”
“Well! here are the Wolves, that will eat your quiet workmen.”
“The Wolves will eat no one here,” said Agricola, looking full at the quarryman, who approached him with a threatening air; “they can only frighten little children.”
“Oh! you think so,” said the quarryman, with a savage sneer. Then raising his weapon, he shook it in Agricola’s face, exclaiming: “Is that any laughing matter?
“Is that?” answered Agricola, with a rapid movement, parrying the stone sledge with his own hammer.
“Iron against iron—hammer against hammer—that suits me,” said the quarryman.
“It does not matter what suits you,” answered Agricola, hardly able to restrain himself. “You have broken our windows, frightened our women, and wounded—perhaps killed—the oldest workman in the factory, who at this moment lies bleeding in the arms of his son.” Here Agricola’s voice trembled in spite of himself. “It is, I think, enough.”
“No; the Wolves are hungry for more,” answered the blaster; “you must come out (cowards that you are!), and fight us on the plain.”
“Yes! yes! battle!—let them come out!” cried the crowd, howling, hissing, waving their sticks and pushing further into the small space which separated them from the door.
“We will have no battle,” answered Agricola: “we will not leave our home; but if you have the misfortune to pass this,” said Agricola, throwing his cap upon the threshold, and setting his foot on it with an intrepid air, “if you pass this, you attack us in our own house, and you will be answerable for all that may happen.”
“There or elsewhere we will have the fight! the Wolves must eat the Devourers. Now for the attack!” cried the fierce quarryman, raising his hammer to strike Agricola.
But the latter, throwing himself on one side by a sudden leap, avoided the blow, and struck with his hammer full at the chest of the quarryman, who staggered for a moment, but instantly recovering his legs, rushed furiously on Agricola, crying: “Follow me, Wolves!”