Henry sat down awhile, and pored over the sanguinary scrawl, and glanced from it with a shudder at the glittering knife. And, while he was in this state of temporary collapse, the works filled, the Power moved, the sonorous grindstones revolved, and every man worked at his ease, except one, the best of them all beyond comparison.
He went to his friend Bayne, and said in a broken voice, "They have put me in heart for work; given me a morning dram. Look here." Bayne was shocked, but not surprised. "It is the regular routine," said he. "They begin civil; but if you don't obey, they turn it over to the scum."
"Do you think my life is really in danger?"
"No, not yet; I never knew a man molested on one warning. This is just to frighten you. If you were to take no notice, you'd likely get another warning, or two, at most; and then they'd do you, as sure as a gun."
"Oh, that is the Hillsborough word. It means to disable a man from work. Sometimes they lie in wait in these dark streets, and fracture his skull with life-preservers; or break his arm, or cut the sinew of his wrist; and that they call DOING him. Or, if it is a grinder, they'll put powder in his trough, and then the sparks of his own making fire it, and scorch him, and perhaps blind him for life; that's DOING him. They have gone as far as shooting men with shot, and even with a bullet, but never so as to kill the man dead on the spot. They DO him. They are skilled workmen, you know; well, they are skilled workmen at violence and all, and it is astonishing how they contrive to stop within an inch of murder. They'll chance it though sometimes with their favorite gunpowder. If you're very wrong with the trade, and they can't DO you any other way, they'll blow your house up from the cellar, or let a can of powder down the chimney, with a lighted fuse, or fling a petard in at the window, and they take the chance of killing a houseful of innocent people, to get at the one that's on the black books of the trade, and has to be DONE."
"The beasts! I'll buy a six-shooter. I'll meet craft with craft, and force with force."
"What can you do against ten thousand? No; go you at once to the Secretary of the Edge-Tool Grinders, and get your trade into his Union. You will have to pay; but don't mind that. Cheetham will go halves."
"Because," said Henry, with a candor all his own, "I'm getting over my fright a bit, and my blood is beginning to boil at being threatened by a sneak, who wouldn't stand before me one moment in that yard, knife or no knife."