Amongst the other leaders, was a small, dry pale man, with the face of a ferret, and a black beard all round the chin; he wore a scarlet Greek cap, and beneath his long blouse, perfectly new, appeared a pair of neat cloth trousers, strapped over thin boots. This man was evidently of a different condition of life from that of the other persons in the troop; it was he, in particular, who ascribed the most irritating and insulting language to the workmen of the factory, with regard to the inhabitants of the neighborhood. He howled a great deal, but he carried neither stick nor stone. A full-faced, fresh-colored man, with a formidable bass voice, like a chorister’s, asked him: “Will you not have a shot at those impious dogs, who might bring down the Cholera on the country, as the curate told us?”
“I will have a better shot than you,” said the little man, with a singular, sinister smile.
“And with what, I’d like to see?”
“Probably, with this,” said the little man, stooping to pick up a large stone; but, as he bent, a well-filled though light bag, which he appeared to carry under his blouse, fell to the ground.
“Look, you are losing both bag and baggage,” said the other; “it does not seem very heavy.”
“They are samples of wool,” answered the man with the ferret’s face, as he hastily picked up the bag, and replaced it under his blouse; then he added: “Attention! the big blaster is going to speak.”
And, in fact, he who exercised the most complete ascendency over this irritated crowd was the terrible quarryman. His gigantic form towered so much above the multitude, that his great head, bound in its ragged handkerchief, and his Herculean shoulders, covered with a fallow goat skin, were always visible above the level of that dark and swarming crowd, only relieved here and there by a few women’s caps, like so many white points. Seeing to what a degree of exasperation the minds of the crowd had reached, the small number of honest, but misguided workmen, who had allowed themselves to be drawn into this dangerous enterprise, under the pretext of a quarrel between rival unions, now fearing for the consequences of the struggle, tried, but too late, to abandon the main body. Pressed close, and as it were, girt in with the more hostile groups, dreading to pass for cowards, or to expose themselves to the bad treatment of the majority, they were forced to wait for a more favorable moment to effect their escape. To the savage cheers, which had accompanied the first discharge of stones, succeeded a deep silence commanded by the stentorian voice of the quarryman.
“The Wolves have howled,” he exclaimed; “let us wait and see how the Devourers will answer, and when they will begin the fight.”
“We must draw them out of their factory, and fight them on neutral ground,” said the little man with the ferret’s face, who appeared to be the thieves’ advocate; “otherwise there would be trespass.”