One Sunday afternoon three boys sat on a log on the side of the hill that looked
down into Coal Creek. From where they sat they could see the workers of the
night shift idling in the sun on Main Street. From the coke ovens a thin line of
smoke rose into the sky. A freight train heavily loaded crept round the hill at the
end of the valley. It was spring and over even that hive of black industry hung a
faint promise of beauty. The boys talked of the life of people in their town and as
they talked thought each of himself.
Although he had not been out of the valley and had grown strong and big there,
Beaut McGregor knew something of the outside world. It isn't a time when men
are shut off from their fellows. Newspapers and magazines have done their work
too well. They reached even into the miner's cabin and the merchants along Main
Street of Coal Creek stood before their stores in the afternoon and talked of the
doings of the world. Beaut McGregor knew that life in his town was exceptional,
that not everywhere did men toil all day black and grimy underground, that not all
women were pale bloodless and bent. As he went about delivering bread he
whistled a song. "Take me back to Broadway," he sang after the soubrette in a
show that had once come to Coal Creek.
Now as he sat on the hillside he talked earnestly while he gesticulated with his
hands. "I hate this town," he said. "The men here think they are confoundedly
funny. They don't care for anything but making foolish jokes and getting drunk. I
want to go away." His voice rose and hatred flamed up in him. "You wait," he
boasted. "I'll make men stop being fools. I'll make children of them. I'll----"
Pausing he looked at his two companions.
Beaut poked the ground with a stick. The boy sitting beside him laughed. He was
a short well--dressed black--haired boy with rings on his fingers who worked in
the town poolroom, racking the pool balls. "I'd like to go where there are women
with blood in them," he said.
Three women came up the hill toward them, a tall pale brown-haired woman of
twenty-seven and two fairer young girls. The black-haired boy straightened his tie
and began thinking of a conversation he would start when the women reached
him. Beaut and the other boy, a fat fellow, the son of a grocer, looked down the
hill to the town over the heads of the newcomers and continued in their minds the
thoughts that had made the conversation.
"Hello girls, come and sit here," shouted the black-haired boy, laughing and
looking boldly into the eyes of the tall pale woman. They stopped and the tall
woman began stepping over the fallen logs, coming to them. The two young girls
followed, laughing. They sat down on the log beside the boys, the tall pale