Marching Men HTML version
In a cellar-like house driven like a stake into the hillside above Coal Creek lived
Kate Hartnet with her son Mike. Her man had died with the others during the fire
in the mine. Her son like Beaut McGregor did not work in the mine. He hurried
through Main Street or went half running among the trees on the hills. Miners
seeing him hurrying along with white intense face shook their heads. "He's
cracked," they said. "He'll hurt some one yet."
Beaut saw Mike hurrying about the streets. Once encountering him in the pine
woods above the town he walked with him and tried to get him to talk. In his
pockets Mike carried books and pamphlets. He set traps in the woods and
brought home rabbits and squirrels. He got together collections of birds' eggs
which he sold to women in the trains that stopped at Coal Creek and when he
caught birds he stuffed them, put beads in their eyesockets and sold them also.
He proclaimed himself an anarchist and like Cracked McGregor muttered to
himself as he hurried along.
One day Beaut came upon Mike Hartnet reading a book as he sat on a log
overlooking the town. A shock ran through McGregor when he looked over the
shoulder of the man and saw what book he read. "It is strange," he thought, "that
this fellow should stick to the same book that fat old Weeks makes his living by."
Beaut sat on the log beside Hartnet and watched him. The reading man looked
up and nodded nervously then slid along the log to the farther end. Beaut
laughed. He looked down at the town and then at the frightened nervous book-
reading man on the log. An inspiration came to him.
"If you had the power, Mike, what would you do to Coal Creek?" he asked.
The nervous man jumped and tears came into his eyes. He stood before the log
and spread out his hands. "I would go among men like Christ," he cried, pitching
his voice forward like one addressing an audience. "Poor and humble, I would go
teaching them of love." Spreading out his hands like one pronouncing a
benediction he shouted, "Oh men of Coal Creek, I would teach you love and the
destruction of evil."
Beaut jumped up from the log and strode before the trembling figure. He was
strangely moved. Grasping the man he thrust him back upon the log. His own
voice rolled down the hillside in a great roaring laugh. "Men of Coal Creek," he
shouted, mimicking the earnestness of Hartnet, "listen to the voice of McGregor. I
hate you. I hate you because you jeered at my father and at me and because you
cheated my mother, Nance McGregor. I hate you because you are weak and
disorganised like cattle. I would like to come among you teaching the power of