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King Coal by Upton Sinclair

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one thing he's got the say about, and that is who works in his mine.
It's the easiest thing to weed out--weed out--" Hal never forgot the
motion of beefy hands with which Alec Stone illustrated these words. As
he went on, the tones of his voice did not seem so good-natured as
usual. "The fellows that don't want to vote my way can go somewhere else
to do their voting. That's all I got to say on politics!"

There was a brief pause, while Stone puffed on his pipe. Then it may
have occurred to him that it was not necessary to go into so much detail
in breaking in a political recruit. When he resumed, it was in a
good-natured tone of dismissal. "That's what you do, kid. To-morrow you
get a sprained wrist, so you can't work for a few days, and that'll give
you a chance to bum round and hear what the men are saying. Meantime,
I'll see you get your wages."

"That sounds all right," said Hal; but showing only a small part of his

The pit-boss rose from his chair and knocked the ashes from his pipe.
"Mind you--I want the goods. I've got other fellows working, and I'm
comparing 'em. For all you know, I may have somebody watching you."

"Yes," said Hal, and grinned cheerfully. "I'll not fail to bear that in


The first thing Hal did was to seek out Tom Olson and narrate this
experience. The two of them had a merry time over it. "I'm the favourite
of a boss now!" laughed Hal.

But the organiser became suddenly serious. "Be careful what you do for
that fellow."


"He might use it on you later on. One of the things they try to do if
you make any trouble for them, is to prove that you took money from
them, or tried to."

"But he won't have any proofs."

"That's my point--don't give him any. If Stone says you've been playing
the political game for him, then some fellow might remember that you did
ask him about politics. So don't have any marked money on you."

Hal laughed. "Money doesn't stay on me very long these days. But what
shall I say if he asks me for a report?"

"You'd better put your job right through, Joe--so that he won't have
time to ask for any report."

"All right," was the reply. "But just the same, I'm going to get all the
fun there is, being the favourite of a boss!"

And so, early the next morning when Hal went to his work he proceeded to
"sprain his wrist." He walked about in pain, to the great concern of Old
Mike; and when finally he decided that he would have to lay off, Mike
followed him half way to the shaft, giving him advice about hot and cold
cloths. Leaving the old Slovak to struggle along as best he could alone,
Hal went out to bask in the wonderful sunshine of the upper world, and
the still more wonderful sunshine of a boss's favour.

First he went to his room at Reminitsky's, and tied a strip of old shirt
about his wrist, and a clean handkerchief on top of that; by this symbol
he was entitled to the freedom of the camp and the sympathy of all men,
and so he sallied forth.

Strolling towards the tipple of Number One, he encountered a wiry,
quick-moving little man, with restless black eyes and a lean,
intelligent face. He wore a pair of common miner's "jumpers," but even
so, he was not to be taken for a workingman. Everything about him spoke
of authority.

"Morning, Mr. Cartwright," said Hal.

"Good morning," replied the superintendent; then, with a glance at Hal's
bandage, "You hurt?"

"Yes, sir. Just a bit of sprain, but I thought I'd better lay off."

"Been to the doctor?"

"No, sir. I don't think it's that bad."

"You'd better go. You never know how bad a sprain is."

"Right, sir," said Hal. Then, as the superintendent was passing, "Do you
think, Mr. Cartwright, that MacDougall stands any chance of being

"I don't know," replied the other, surprised. "I hope not. You aren't
going to vote for him, are you?"

"Oh, no. I'm a Republican--born that way. But I wondered if you'd heard
any MacDougall talk."

"Well, I'm hardly the one that would hear it. You take an interest in

"Yes, sir--in a way. In fact, that's how I came to get this wrist."

"How's that? In a fight?"

"No, sir; but you see, Mr. Stone wanted me to feel out sentiment in the
camp, and he told me I'd better sprain my wrist and lay off."

The "super," after staring at Hal, could not keep from laughing. Then he
looked about him. "You want to be careful, talking about such things."

"I thought I could surely trust the superintendent," said Hal, drily.

The other measured him with his keen eyes; and Hal, who was getting the
spirit of political democracy, took the liberty of returning the gaze.
"You're a wide-awake young fellow," said Cartwright, at last. "Learn the
ropes here, and make yourself useful, and I'll see you're not passed

"All right, sir--thank you."

"Maybe you'll be made an election-clerk this time. That's worth three
dollars a day, you know."

"Very good, sir." And Hal put on his smile again. "They tell me you're
the mayor of North Valley."

"I am."

"And the justice of the peace is a clerk in your store. Well, Mr.
Cartwright, if you need a president of the board of health or a dog
catcher, I'm your man--as soon, that is, as my wrist gets well."

And so Hal went on his way. Such "joshing" on the part of a "buddy" was
of course absurdly presumptuous; the superintendent stood looking after
him with a puzzled frown upon his face.


Hal did not look back, but turned into the company-store. "North Valley
Trading Company" read the sign over the door; within was a Serbian woman
pointing out what she wanted to buy, and two little Lithuanian girls
watching the weighing of a pound of sugar. Hal strolled up to the person
who was doing the weighing, a middle-aged man with a yellow moustache
stained with tobacco-juice. "Morning, Judge."

"Huh!" was the reply from Silas Adams, justice of the peace in the town
of North Valley.

"Judge," said Hal, "what do you think about the election?"

"I don't think about it," said the other. "Busy weighin' sugar."

"Anybody round here going to vote for MacDougall?"

"They better not tell me if they are!"

"What?" smiled Hal. "In this free American republic?"

"In this part of the free American republic a man is free to dig coal,
but not to vote for a skunk like MacDougall." Then, having tied up the
sugar, the "J. P." whittled off a fresh chew from his plug, and turned
to Hal. "What'll you have?"

Hal purchased half a pound of dried peaches, so that he might have an
excuse to loiter, and be able to keep time with the jaws of the Judge.
While the order was being filled, he seated himself upon the counter.
"You know," said he, "I used to work in a grocery."

"That so? Where at?"

"Peterson & Co., in American City." Hal had told this so often that he
had begun to believe it.

"Pay pretty good up there?"

"Yes, pretty fair." Then, realising that he had no idea what would
constitute good pay in a grocery, Hal added, quickly, "Got a bad wrist

"That so?" said the other.

He did not show much sociability; but Hal persisted, refusing to believe
that any one in a country store would miss an opening to discuss
politics, even with a miner's helper. "Tell me," said he, "just what is
the matter with MacDougall?"

"The matter with him," said the Judge, "is that the company's against
him." He looked hard at the young miner. "You meddlin' in politics?" he
growled. But the young miner's gay brown eyes showed only appreciation
of the earlier response; so the "J. P." was tempted into specifying the
would-be congressman's vices. Thus conversation started; and pretty soon
the others in the store joined in--"Bob" Johnson, bookkeeper and
post-master, and "Jake" Predovich, the Galician Jew who was a member of
the local school-board, and knew the words for staple groceries in
fifteen languages.

Hal listened to an exposition of the crimes of the political opposition
in Pedro County. Their candidate, MacDougall, had come to the state as a
"tin-horn gambler," yet now he was going around making speeches in
churches, and talking about the moral sentiment of the community. "And
him with a district chairman keeping three families in Pedro!" declared
Si Adams.

"Well," ventured Hal, "if what I hear is true, the Republican chairman
isn't a plaster saint. They say he was drunk at the convention--"

"Maybe so," said the "J. P." "But we ain't playin' for the prohibition
vote; and we ain't playin' for the labour vote--tryin' to stir up the
riff-raff in these coal-camps, promisin' 'em high wages an' short hours.
Don't he know he can't get it for 'em? But he figgers he'll go off to
Washington and leave us here to deal with the mess he's stirred up!"

"Don't you fret," put in Bob Johnson--"he ain't goin' to no Washin'ton."

The other two agreed, and Hal ventured again, "He says you stuff the

"What do you suppose his crowd is doin' in the cities? We got to meet
'em some way, ain't we?"

"Oh, I see," said Hal, naively. "You stuff them worse!"

"Sometimes we stuff the boxes, and sometimes we stuff the voters." There
was an appreciative titter from the others, and the "J. P." was moved to
reminiscence. "Two years ago I was election clerk, over to Sheridan, and
we found we'd let 'em get ahead of us--they had carried the whole state.
'By God,' said Alf. Raymond, 'we'll show 'em a trick from the
coal-counties! And there won't be no recount business either!' So we
held back our returns till the rest had come in, and when we seen how
many votes we needed, we wrote 'em down. And that settled it."

"That seems a simple method," remarked Hal. "They'll have to get up
early to beat Alf."

"You bet you!" said Si, with the complacency of one of the gang. "They
call this county the 'Empire of Raymond.'"

"It must be a cinch," said Hal--"being the sheriff, and having the
naming of so many deputies as they need in these coal-camps!"

"Yes," agreed the other. "And there's his wholesale liquor business,
too. If you want a license in Pedro county, you not only vote for Alf,
but you pay your bills on time!"

"Must be a fortune in that!" remarked Hal; and the Judge, the
Post-master and the School-commissioner appeared like children listening
to a story of a feast. "You bet you!"

"I suppose it takes money to run politics in this county," Hal added.

"Well, Alf don't put none of it up, you can bet! That's the company's

This from the Judge; and the School-commissioner added, "De coin in dese
camps is beer."

"Oh, I see!" laughed Hal. "The companies buy Alf's beer, and use it to
get him votes!"

"Sure thing!" said the Post-master.

At this moment he happened to reach into his pocket for a cigar, and Hal
observed a silver shield on the breast of his waistcoat. "That a
deputy's badge?" he inquired, and then turned to examine the
School-commissioner's costume. "Where's yours?"

"I git mine ven election comes," said Jake, with a grin.

"And yours, Judge?"

"I'm a justice of the peace, young feller," said Silas, with dignity.

Leaning round, and observing a bulge on the right hip of the
School-commissioner, Hal put out his hand towards it. Instinctively the
other moved his hand to the spot.

Hal turned to the Post-master. "Yours?" he asked.

"Mine's under the counter," grinned Bob.

"And yours, Judge?"

"Mine's in the desk," said the Judge.

Hal drew a breath. "Gee!" said he. "It's like a steel trap!" He managed
to keep the laugh on his face, but within he was conscious of other
feelings than those of amusement. He was losing that "first fine
careless rapture" with which he had set out to run with the hare and the
hounds in North Valley!


Two days after this beginning of Hal's political career, it was arranged
that the workers who were to make a demand for a check-weighman should
meet in the home of Mrs. David. When Mike Sikoria came up from the pit
that day, Hal took him aside and told him of the gathering. A look of
delight came upon the old Slovak's face as he listened; he grabbed his
buddy by the shoulders, crying, "You mean it?"

"Sure meant it," said Hal. "You want to be on the committee to go and
see the boss?"

"_Pluha biedna_!" cried Mike--which is something dreadful in his own
language. "By Judas, I pack up my old box again!"

Hal felt a guilty pang. Should he let this old man into the thing? "You
think you'll have to move out of camp?" he asked.

"Move out of state this time! Move back to old country, maybe!" And Hal
realised that he could not stop him now, even if he wanted to. The old
fellow was so much excited that he hardly ate any supper, and his buddy
was afraid to leave him alone, for fear he might blurt out the news.

It had been agreed that those who attended the meeting should come one
by one, and by different routes. Hal was one of the first to arrive, and
he saw that the shades of the house had been drawn, and the lamps turned
low. He entered by the back door, where "Big Jack" David stood on guard.
"Big Jack," who had been a member of the South Wales Federation at home,
made sure of Hal's identity, and then passed him in without a word.

Inside was Mike--the first on hand. Mrs. David, a little black-eyed
woman with a never-ceasing tongue, was bustling about, putting things in
order; she was so nervous that she could not sit still. This couple had
come from their birth-place only a year or so ago, and had brought all
their wedding presents to their new home--pictures and bric-a-brac and
linen. It was the prettiest home Hal had so far been in, and Mrs. David
was risking it deliberately, because of her indignation that her husband
had had to foreswear his union in order to get work in America.

The young Italian, Rovetta, came, then old John Edstrom. There being not
chairs enough in the house, Mrs. David had set some boxes against the
wall, covering them with cloth; and Hal noticed that each person took
one of these boxes, leaving the chairs for the later comers. Each one as
he came in would nod to the others, and then silence would fall again.

When Mary Burke entered, Hal divined from her aspect and manner that she
had sunk back into her old mood of pessimism. He felt a momentary
resentment. He was so thrilled with this adventure; he wanted everybody
else to be thrilled--especially Mary! Like every one who has not
suffered much, he was repelled by a condition of perpetual suffering in
another. Of course Mary had good reasons for her black moods--but she
herself considered it necessary to apologise for what she called her
"complainin'"! She knew that he wanted her to help encourage the others;
but here she was, putting herself in a corner and watching this
wonderful proceeding, as if she had said: "I'm an ant, and I stay in
line--but I'll not pretend I have any hope in it!"

Rosa and Jerry had insisted on coming, in spite of Hal's offer to spare
them. After them came the Bulgarian, Wresmak; then the Polacks, Klowoski
and Zamierowski. Hal found these difficult names to remember, but the
Polacks were not at all sensitive about this; they would grin
good-naturedly while he practised, nor would they mind if he gave it up
and called them Tony and Pete. They were humble men, accustomed all
their lives to being driven about. Hal looked from one to another of
their bowed forms and toil-worn faces, appearing more than ever sombre
and mournful in the dim light; he wondered if the cruel persecution
which had driven them to protest would suffice to hold them in line.

Once a newcomer, having misunderstood the orders, came to the front door
and knocked; and Hal noted that every one started, and some rose to
their feet in alarm. Again he recognised the atmosphere of novels of
Russian revolutionary life. He had to remind himself that these men and
women, gathered here like criminals, were merely planning to ask for a
right guaranteed them by the law!

The last to come was an Austrian miner named Huszar, with whom Olson had
got into touch. Then, it being time to begin, everybody looked uneasily
at everybody else. Few of them had conspired before, and they did not
know quite how to set about it. Olson, the one who would naturally have
been their leader, had deliberately stayed away. They must run this
check-weighman affair for themselves!

"Somebody talk," said Mrs. David at last; and then, as the silence
continued, she turned to Hal. "You're going to be the check-weighman.
You talk."

"I'm the youngest man here," said Hal, with a smile. "Some older fellow

But nobody else smiled. "Go on!" exclaimed old Mike; and so at last Hal
stood up. It was something he was to experience many times in the
future; because he was an American, and educated, he was forced into a
position of leadership.

"As I understand it, you people want a check-weighman. Now, they tell me
the pay for a check-weighman should be three dollars a day, but we've
got only seven miners among us, and that's not enough. I will offer to
take the job for twenty-five cents a day from each man, which will make
a dollar-seventy-five, less than what I'm getting now as a buddy. If we
get thirty men to come in, then I'll take ten cents a day from each, and
make the full three dollars. Does that seem fair?"

"Sure!" said Mike; and the others added their assent by word or nod.

"All right. Now, there's nobody that works in this mine but knows the
men don't get their weight. It would cost the company several hundred
dollars a day to give us our weight, and nobody should be so foolish as
to imagine they'll do it without a struggle. We've got to make up our
minds to stand together."

"Sure, stand together!" cried Mike.

"No get check-weighman!" exclaimed Jerry, pessimistically.

"Not unless we try, Jerry," said Hal.

And Mike thumped his knee. "Sure try! And get him too!"

"Right!" cried "Big Jack." But his little wife was not satisfied with
the response of the others. She gave Hal his first lesson in the
drilling of these polyglot masses.

"Talk to them. Make them understand you!" And she pointed them out one
by one with her finger: "You! You! Wresmak, here, and you, Klowoski, and
you, Zam--you other Polish fellow. Want check-weighman. Want to get all
weight. Get all our money. Understand?"

"Yes, yes!"

"Get committee, go see super! Want check-weighman. Understand? Got to
have check-weighman! No back down, no scare."

"No--no scare!" Klowoski, who understood some English, explained rapidly
to Zamierowski; and Zamierowski, whose head was still plastered where
Jeff Cotton's revolver had hit it, nodded eagerly in assent. In spite of
his bruises, he would stand by the others, and face the boss.

This suggested another question. "Who's going to do the talking to the

"You do that," said Mrs. David, to Hal.

"But I'm the one that's to be paid. It's not for me to talk."

"No one else can do it right," declared the woman.

"Sure--got to be American feller!" said Mike.

But Hal insisted. If he did the talking, it would look as if the
check-weighman had been the source of the movement, and was engaged in
making a good paying job for himself.

There was discussion back and forth, until finally John Edstrom spoke
up. "Put me on the committee."

"You?" said Hal. "But you'll be thrown out! And what will your wife do?"

"I think my wife is going to die to-night," said Edstrom, simply.

He sat with his lips set tightly, looking straight before him. After a
pause he went on: "If it isn't to-night, it will be to-morrow, the
doctor says; and after that, nothing will matter. I shall have to go
down to Pedro to bury her, and if I have to stay, it will make little
difference to me, so I might as well do what I can for the rest of you.
I've been a miner all my life, and Mr. Cartwright knows it; that might
have some weight with him. Let Joe Smith and Sikoria and myself be the
ones to go and see him, and the rest of you wait, and don't give up your
jobs unless you have to."


Having settled the matter of the committee, Hal told the assembly how
Alec Stone had asked him to spy upon the men. He thought they should
know about it; the bosses might try to use it against him, as Olson had
warned. "They may tell you I'm a traitor," he said. "You must trust me."

"We trust you!" exclaimed Mike, with fervour; and the others nodded
their agreement.

"All right," Hal answered. "You can rest sure of this one thing--if I
get onto that tipple, you're going to get your weights!"

"Hear, hear!" cried "Big Jack," in English fashion. And a murmur ran
about the room. They did not dare make much noise, but they made clear
that that was what they wanted.

Hal sat down, and began to unroll the bandage from his wrist. "I guess
I'm through with this," he said, and explained how he had come to wear

"What?" cried Old Mike. "You fool me like that?" And he caught the
wrist, and when he had made sure there was no sign of swelling upon it,
he shook it so that he almost sprained it really, laughing until the
tears ran down his cheeks. "You old son-of-a-gun!" he exclaimed.
Meantime Klowoski was telling the story to Zamierowski, and Jerry
Minetti was explaining it to Wresmak, in the sort of pidgin-English
which does duty in the camps. Hal had never seen such real laughter
since coming to North Valley.

But conspirators cannot lend themselves long to merriment. They came
back to business again. It was agreed that the hour for the committee's
visit to the superintendent should be quitting-time on the morrow. And
then John Edstrom spoke, suggesting that they should agree upon their
course of action in case they were offered violence.

"You think there's much chance of that?" said some one.

"Sure there be!" cried Mike Sikoria. "One time in Cedar Mountain we go
see boss, say air-course blocked. What you think he do them fellers? He
hit them one lick in nose, he kick them three times in behind, he run
them out!"

"Well," said Hal, "if there's going to be anything like that, we must be

"What you do?" demanded Jerry.

It was time for Hal's leadership. "If he hits me one lick in the nose,"
he declared, "I'll hit him one lick in the nose, that's all."

There was a bit of applause at this. That was the way to talk! Hal
tasted the joys of his leadership. But then his fine self-confidence met
with a sudden check--a "lick in the nose" of his pride, so to speak.
There came a woman's voice from the corner, low and grim: "Yes! And get
ye'self killed for all your trouble!"

He looked towards Mary Burke, and saw her vivid face, flushed and
frowning. "What do you mean?" he asked. "Would you have us turn and run

"I would that!" said she. "Rather than have ye killed, I would! What'll
ye do if he pulls his gun on ye?"

"Would he pull his gun on a committee?"

Old Mike broke in again. "One time in Barela--ain't I told you how I
lose my cars? I tell weigh-boss somebody steal my cars, and he pull gun
on me, and he say, 'Get the hell off that tipple, you old billy-goat, I
shoot you full of holes!'"

Among his class-mates at college, Hal had been wont to argue that the
proper way to handle a burglar was to call out to him, saying, "Go
ahead, old chap, and help yourself; there's nothing here I'm willing to
get shot for." What was the value of anything a burglar could steal, in
comparison with a man's own life? And surely, one would have thought,
this was a good time to apply the plausible theory. But for some reason
Hal failed even to remember it. He was going ahead, precisely as if a
ton of coal per day was the one thing of consequence in life!

"What shall we do?" he asked. "We don't want to back out."

But even while he asked the question, Hal was realising that Mary was
right. His was the attitude of the leisure-class person, used to having
his own way; but Mary, though she had a temper too, was pointing the
lesson of self-control. It was the second time to-night that she had
injured his pride. But now he forgave her in his admiration; he had
always known that Mary had a mind and could help him! His admiration was
increased by what John Edstrom was saying--they must do nothing that
would injure the cause of the "big union," and so they must resolve to
offer no physical resistance, no matter what might be done to them.

There was vehement argument on the other side. "We fight! We fight!"
declared Old Mike, and cried out suddenly, as if in anticipation of the
pain in his injured nose. "You say me stand that?"

"If you fight back," said Edstrom, "we'll all get the worst of it. The
company will say we started the trouble, and put us in the wrong. We've
got to make up our mind to rely on moral force."

So, after more discussion, it was agreed; every man would keep his
temper--that is, if he could! So they shook hands all round, pledging
themselves to stand firm. But, when the meeting was declared adjourned,
and they stole out one by one into the night, they were a very sober and
anxious lot of conspirators.


Hal slept but little that night. Amid the sounds of the snoring of eight
of Reminitsky's other boarders, he lay going over in his mind various
things which might happen on the morrow. Some of them were far from
pleasant things; he tried to picture himself with a broken nose, or with
tar and feathers on him. He recalled his theory as to the handling of
burglars. The "G. F. C." was a burglar of gigantic and terrible
proportions; surely this was a time to call out, "Help yourself!" But
instead of doing it, Hal thought about Edstrom's ants, and wondered at
the power which made them stay in line.

When morning came, he went up into the mountains, where a man may wander
and renew his moral force. When the sun had descended behind the
mountain-tops, he descended also, and met Edstrom and Sikoria in front
of the company office.

They nodded a greeting, and Edstrom told Hal that his wife had died
during the day. There being no undertaker in North Valley, he had
arranged for a woman friend to take the body down to Pedro, so that he
might be free for the interview with Cartwright. Hal put his hand on the
old man's shoulder, but attempted no word of condolence; he saw that
Edstrom had faced the trouble and was ready for duty.

"Come ahead," said the old man, and the three went into the office.
While a clerk took their message to the inner office, they stood for a
couple of minutes, shifting uneasily from one foot to the other, and
turning their caps in their hands in the familiar manner of the lowly.

At last Mr. Cartwright appeared in the doorway, his small sparely-built
figure eloquent of sharp authority. "Well, what's this?" he inquired.

"If you please," said Edstrom, "we'd like to speak to you. We've
decided, sir, that we want to have a check-weighman."

"_What_?" The word came like the snap of a whip.

"We'd like to have a check-weighman, sir."

There was a moment's silence. "Come in here." They filed into the inner
office, and he shut the door.

"Now. What's this?"

Edstrom repeated his words again.

"What put that notion into your heads?"

"Nothing, sir; only we thought we'd be better satisfied."

"You think you're not getting your weight?"

"Well, sir, you see--some of the men--we think it would be better if we
had the check-weighman. We're willing to pay for him."

"Who's this check-weighman to be?"

"Joe Smith, here."

Hal braced himself to meet the other's stare. "Oh! So it's you!" Then,
after a moment, "So that's why you were feeling so gay!"

Hal was not feeling in the least gay at the moment; but he forebore to
say so. There was a silence.

"Now, why do you fellows want to throw away your money?" The
superintendent started to argue with them, showing the absurdity of the
notion that they could gain anything by such a course. The mine had been
running for years on its present system, and there had never been any
complaint. The idea that a company as big and as responsible as the "G.
F. C." would stoop to cheat its workers out of a few tons of coal! And
so on, for several minutes.

"Mr. Cartwright," said Edstrom, when the other had finished, "you know
I've worked all my life in mines, and most of it in this district. I am
telling you something I know when I say there is general dissatisfaction
throughout these camps because the men feel they are not getting their
weight. You say there has been no public complaint; you understand the
reason for this--"

"What is the reason?"

"Well," said Edstrom, gently, "maybe you don't know the reason--but
anyway we've decided that we want a check-weighman."

It was evident that the superintendent had been taken by surprise, and
was uncertain how to meet the issue. "You can imagine," he said, at
last, "the company doesn't relish hearing that its men believe it's
cheating them--"

"We don't say the company knows anything about it, Mr. Cartwright. It's
possible that some people may be taking advantage of us, without either
the company or yourself having anything to do with it. It's for your
protection as well as ours that a check-weighman is needed."

"Thank you," said the other, drily. His tone revealed that he was
holding himself in by an effort. "Very well," he added, at last. "That's
enough about the matter, if your minds are made up. I'll give you my
decision later."

This was a dismissal, and Mike Sikoria turned humbly, and started to the
door. But Edstrom was one of the ants that did not readily "step one
side"; and Mike took a glance at him, and then stepped back into line in
a hurry, as if hoping his delinquency had not been noted.

"If you please, Mr. Cartwright," said Edstrom, "we'd like your decision,
so as to have the check-weighman start in the morning."

"What? You're in such a hurry?"

"There's no reason for delay, sir. We've selected our man, and we're
ready to pay him."

"Who are the men who are ready to pay him? Just you two"

"I am not at liberty to name the other men, sir."

"Oh! So it's a secret movement!"

"In a way--yes, sir."

"Indeed!" said the superintendent, ominously. "And you don't care what
the company thinks about it!"

"It's not that, Mr. Cartwright, but we don't see anything for the
company to object to. It's a simple business arrangement--"

"Well, if it seems simple to you, it doesn't to me," snapped the other.
And then, getting himself in hand, "Understand me, the company would not
have the least objection to the men making sure of their weights, if
they really think it's necessary. The company has always been willing to
do the right thing. But it's not a matter that can be settled off hand.
I will let you know later."

Again they were dismissed, and again Old Mike turned, and Edstrom also.
But now another ant sprang into the ditch. "Just when will you be
prepared to let the check-weighman begin work, Mr. Cartwright?" asked

The superintendent gave him a sharp look, and again it could be seen
that he made a strong effort to keep his temper. "I'm not prepared to
say," he replied. "I will let you know, as soon as convenient to me.
That's all now." And as he spoke he opened the door, putting something
into the action that was a command.

"Mr. Cartwright," said Hal, "there's no law against our having a
check-weighman, is there?"

The look which these words drew from the superintendent showed that he
knew full well what the law was. Hal accepted this look as an answer,
and continued, "I have been selected by a committee of the men to act as
their check-weighman, and this committee has duly notified the company.
That makes me a check-weighman, I believe, Mr. Cartwright, and so all I
have to do is to assume my duties." Without waiting for the
superintendent's answer, he walked to the door, followed by his somewhat
shocked companions.


At the meeting on the night before it had been agreed to spread the news
of the check-weighman movement, for the sake of its propaganda value. So
now when the three men came out from the office, there was a crowd
waiting to know what had happened; men clamoured questions, and each one
who got the story would be surrounded by others eager to hear. Hal made
his way to the boarding-house, and when he had finished his supper, he
set out from place to place in the camp, telling the men about the
check-weighman plan and explaining that it was a legal right they were
demanding. All this while Old Mike stayed on one side of him, and
Edstrom on the other; for Tom Olson had insisted strenuously that Hal
should not be left alone for a moment. Evidently the bosses had given
the same order; for when Hal came out from Reminitsky's, there was
"Jake" Predovich, the store-clerk, on the fringe of the crowd, and he
followed wherever Hal went, doubtless making note of every one he spoke

They consulted as to where they were to spend the night. Old Mike was
nervous, taking the activities of the spy to mean that they were to be
thugged in the darkness. He told horrible stories of that sort of thing.
What could be an easier way for the company to settle the matter? They
would fix up some story; the world outside would believe they had been
killed in a drunken row, perhaps over some woman. This last suggestion
especially troubled Hal; he thought of the people at home. No, he must
not sleep in the village! And on the other hand he could not go down the
canyon, for if he once passed the gate, he might not be allowed to
repass it.

An idea occurred to him. Why not go _up_ the canyon? There was no
stockade at the upper end of the village--nothing but wilderness and
rocks, without even a road.

"But where we sleep?" demanded Old Mike, aghast.

"Outdoors," said Hal.

"_Pluha biedna_! And get the night air into my bones?"

"You think you keep the day air in your bones when you sleep inside?"
laughed Hal.

"Why don't I, when I shut them windows tight, and cover up my bones?"

"Well, risk the night air once," said Hal. "It's better than having
somebody let it into you with a knife."

"But that fellow Predovich--he follow us up canyon too!"

"Yes, but he's only one man, and we don't have to fear him. If he went
back for others, he'd never be able to find us in the darkness."

Edstrom, whose notions of anatomy were not so crude as Mike's, gave his
support to this suggestion; so they got their blankets and stumbled up
the canyon in the still, star-lit night. For a while they heard the spy
behind them, but finally his footsteps died away, and after they had
moved on for some distance, they believed they were safe till daylight.
Hal had slept out many a night as a hunter, but it was a new adventure
to sleep out as the game!

At dawn they rose, and shook the dew from their blankets, and wiped it
from their eyes. Hal was young, and saw the glory of the morning, while
poor Mike Sikoria groaned and grumbled over his stiff and aged joints.
He thought he had ruined himself forever, but he took courage at
Edstrom's mention of coffee, and they hurried down to breakfast at their

Now came a critical time, when Hal had to be left by himself. Edstrom
was obliged to go down to see to his wife's funeral; and it was obvious
that if Mike Sikoria were to lay off work, he would be providing the
boss with an excuse for firing him. The law which provided for a
check-weighman had failed to provide for a check-weighman's body-guard!

Hal had announced his programme in that flash of defiance in
Cartwright's office. As soon as work started up, he went to the tipple.
"Mr. Peters," he said, to the tipple-boss, "I've come to act as

The tipple-boss was a man with a big black moustache, which made him
look like the pictures of Nietzsche. He stared at Hal, frankly
dumbfounded. "What the devil?" said he.

"Some of the men have chosen me check-weighman," explained Hal, in a
business-like manner. "When their cars come up, I'll see to their

"You keep off this tipple, young fellow!" said Peters. His manner was
equally business-like.

So the would-be check-weighman came out and sat on the steps to wait.
The tipple was a fairly public place, and he judged he was as safe there
as anywhere. Some of the men grinned and winked at him as they went
about their work; several found a chance to whisper words of
encouragement. And all morning he sat, like a protestant at the
palace-gates of a mandarin in China, It was tedious work, but he
believed that he would be able to stand it longer than the company.


In the middle of the morning a man came up to him--"Bud" Adams, a
younger brother of the "J. P.," and Jeff Cotton's assistant. Bud was
stocky, red-faced, and reputed to be handy with his fists. So Hal rose
up warily when he saw him.

"Hey, you," said Bud. "There's a telegram at the office for you."

"For me?"

"Your name's Joe Smith, ain't it?"


"Well, that's what it says."

Hal considered for a moment. There was no one to be telegraphing Joe
Smith. It was only a ruse to get him away.

"What's in the telegram?" he asked.

"How do I know?" said Bud.

"Where is it from?"

"I dunno that."

"Well," said Hal, "you might bring it to me here."

The other's eyes flew open. This was not a revolt, it was a revolution!
"Who the hell's messenger boy do you think I am?" he demanded.

"Don't the company deliver telegrams?" countered Hal, politely. And Bud
stood struggling with his human impulses, while Hal watched him
cautiously. But apparently those who had sent the messenger had given
him precise instructions; for he controlled his wrath, and turned and
strode away.

Hal continued his vigil. He had his lunch with him; and was prepared to
eat alone--understanding the risk that a man would be running who showed
sympathy with him. He was surprised, therefore, when Johannson, the
giant Swede, came and sat down by his side. There also came a young
Mexican labourer, and a Greek miner. The revolution was spreading!

Hal felt sure the company would not let this go on. And sure enough,
towards the middle of the afternoon, the tipple-boss came out and
beckoned to him. "Come here, you!" And Hal went in.

The "weigh-room" was a fairly open place; but at one side was a door
into an office. "This way," said the man.

But Hal stopped where he was.

"This is where the check-weighman belongs, Mr. Peters."

"But I want to talk to you."

"I can hear you, sir." Hal was in sight of the men, and he knew that was
his only protection.

The tipple-boss went back into the office; and a minute later Hal saw
what had been intended. The door opened and Alec Stone came out.

He stood for a moment looking at his political henchman. Then he came
up. "Kid," he said, in a low voice, "you're overdoing this. I didn't
intend you to go so far."

"This is not what you intended, Mr. Stone," answered Hal.

The pit-boss came closer yet. "What you looking for, kid? What you
expect to get out of this?"

Hal's gaze was unwavering. "Experience," he replied.

"You're feeling smart, sonny. But you'd better stop and realise what
you're up against. You ain't going to get away with it, you know; get
that through your head--you ain't going to get away with it. You'd
better come in and have a talk with me."

There was a silence.

"Don't you know how it'll be, Smith? These little fires start up--but we
put 'em out. We know how to do it, we've got the machinery. It'll all be
forgotten in a week or two, and then where'll you be at? Can't you see?"

As Hal still made no reply, the other's voice dropped lower. "I
understand your position. Just give me a nod, and it'll be all right.
You tell the men that you've watched the weights, and that they're all
right. They'll be satisfied, and you and me can fix it up later."

"Mr. Stone," said Hal, with intense gravity, "am I correct in the
impression that you are offering me a bribe?"

In a flash, the man's self-control vanished. He thrust his huge fist
within an inch of Hal's nose, and uttered a foul oath. But Hal did not
remove his nose from the danger-zone, and over the fist a pair of angry
brown eyes gazed at the pit-boss. "Mr. Stone, you had better realise
this situation. I am in dead earnest about this matter, and I don't
think it will be safe for you to offer me violence."

For a moment or two the man continued to glare at Hal; but it appeared
that he, like Bud Adams, had been given instructions. He turned abruptly
and strode back into the office.

Hal stood for a bit, until he had made sure of his composure. After
which he strolled over towards the scales. A difficulty had occurred to
him for the first time--that he did not know anything about the working
of coal-scales.

But he was given no time to learn. The tipple-boss reappeared. "Get out
of here, fellow!" said he.

"But you invited me in," remarked Hal, mildly.

"Well, now I invite you out again."

And so the protestant resumed his vigil at the mandarin's palace-gates.


When the quitting-whistle blew, Mike Sikoria came quickly to join Hal
and hear what had happened. Mike was exultant, for several new men had
come up to him and offered to join the check-weighman movement. The old
fellow was not sure whether this was owing to his own eloquence as a
propagandist, or to the fine young American buddy he had; but in either
case he was equally proud. He gave Hal a note which had been slipped
into his hand, and which Hal recognised as coming from Tom Olson. The
organiser reported that every one in the camp was talking
check-weighman, and so from a propaganda standpoint they could count
their move a success, no matter what the bosses might do. He added that
Hal should have a number of men stay with him that night, so as to have
witnesses if the company tried to "pull off anything." "And be careful
of the new men," he added; "one or two of them are sure to be spies."

Hal and Mike discussed their programme for the second night. Neither of
them were keen for sleeping out again--the old Slovak because of his
bones, and Hal because he saw there were now several spies following
them about. At Reminitsky's, he spoke to some of those who had offered
their support, and asked them if they would be willing to spend the
night with him in Edstrom's cabin. Not one shrank from this test of
sincerity; they all got their blankets, and repaired to the place, where
Hal lighted the lamp and held an impromptu check-weighman meeting--and
incidentally entertained himself with a spy-hunt!

One of the new-comers was a Pole named Wojecicowski; this, on top of
Zamierowski, caused Hal to give up all effort to call the Poles by their
names. "Woji" was an earnest little man, with a pathetic, tired face. He
explained his presence by the statement that he was sick of being
robbed; he would pay his share for a check-weighman, and if they fired
him, all right, he would move on, and to hell with them. After which
declaration he rolled up in a blanket and went to snoring on the floor
of the cabin. That did not seem to be exactly the conduct of a spy.

Another was an Italian, named Farenzena; a dark-browed and
sinister-looking fellow, who might have served as a villain in any
melodrama. He sat against the wall and talked in guttural tones, and Hal
regarded him with deep suspicion. It was not easy to understand his
English, but finally Hal managed to make out the story he was
telling--that he was in love with a "fanciulla," and that the
"fanciulla" was playing with him. He had about made up his mind that she
was a coquette, and not worth bothering with, so he did not care any
curses if they sent him down the canyon. "Don't fight for fanciulla,
fight for check-weighman!" he concluded, with a growl.

Another volunteer was a Greek labourer, a talkative young chap who had
sat with Hal at lunch-time, and had given his name as Apostolikas. He
entered into fluent conversation with Hal, explaining how much
interested he was in the check-weighman plan; he wanted to know just
what they were going to do, what chance of success they thought they
had, who had started the movement and who was in it. Hal's replies took
the form of little sermons on working-class solidarity. Each time the
man would start to "pump" him, Hal would explain the importance of the
present issue to the miners, how they must stand by one another and make
sacrifices for the good of all. After he had talked abstract theories
for half an hour, Apostolikas gave up and moved on to Mike Sikoria, who,
having been given a wink by Hal, talked about "scabs," and the dreadful
things that honest workingmen would do to them. When finally the Greek
grew tired again, and lay down on the floor, Hal moved over to Old Mike
and whispered that the first name of Apostolikas must be Judas!


Old Mike went to sleep quickly; but Hal had not worked for several days,
and had exciting thoughts to keep him awake. He had been lying quiet for
a couple of hours, when he became aware that some one was moving in the
room. There was a lamp burning dimly, and through half-closed eyes he
made out one of the men lifting himself to a sitting position. At first
he could not be sure which one it was, but finally he recognised the

Hal lay motionless, and after a minute or so he stole another look and
saw the man crouching and listening, his hands still on the floor.
Through half opened eye-lids Hal continued to steal glimpses, while the
other rose and tip-toed towards him, stepping carefully over the
sleeping forms.

Hal did his best to simulate the breathing of sleep: no easy matter,
with the man stooping over him, and a knife-thrust as one of the
possibilities of the situation. He took the chance, however; and after
what seemed an age, he felt the man's fingers lightly touch his side.
They moved down to his coat-pocket.

"Going to search me!" thought Hal; and waited, expecting the hand to
travel to other pockets. But after what seemed an interminable period,
he realised that Apostolikas had risen again, and was stepping back to
his place. In a minute more he had lain down, and all was still in the

Hal's hand moved to the pocket, and his fingers slid inside. They
touched something, which he recognised instantly as a roll of bills.

"I see!" thought he. "A frame-up!" And he laughed to himself, his mind
going back to early boyhood--to a dilapidated trunk in the attic of his
home, containing story-books that his father had owned. He could see
them now, with their worn brown covers and crude pictures: "The Luck and
Pluck Series," by Horatio Alger; "Live or Die," "Rough and Ready," etc.
How he had thrilled over the story of the country-boy who comes to the
city, and meets the villain who robs his employer's cash-drawer and
drops the key of it into the hero's pocket! Evidently some one connected
with the General Fuel Company had read Horatio Alger!

Hal realised that he could not be too quick about getting those bills
out of his pocket. He thought of returning them to "Judas," but decided
that he would save them for Edstrom, who was likely to need money before
long. He gave the Greek half an hour to go to sleep, then with his
pocket-knife he gently picked out a hole in the cinders of the floor and
buried the money as best he could. After which he wormed his way to
another place, and lay thinking.


Would they wait until morning, or would they come soon? He was inclined
to the latter guess, so he was only slightly startled when, an hour or
two later, he heard the knob of the cabin-door turned. A moment later
came a crash and the door was burst open, with the shoulder of a heavy
man behind it.

The room was in confusion in a second. Men sprang to their feet, crying
out; others sat up bewildered, still half asleep. The room was bright
from an electric torch in the hands of one of the invaders. "There's the
fellow!" cried a voice, which Hal instantly recognised as belonging to
Jeff Cotton, the camp-marshal. "Stick 'em up, there! You, Joe Smith!"
Hal did not wait to see the glint of the marshal's revolver.

There followed a silence. As this drama was being staged for the benefit
of the other men, it was necessary to give them time to get thoroughly
awake, and to get their eyes used to the light. Meantime Hal stood, his
hands in the air. Behind the torch he could make out the faces of the
marshal, Bud Adams, Alec Stone, Jake Predovich, and two or three others.

"Now, men," said Cotton, at last, "you are some of the fellows that want
a check-weighman. And this is the man you chose. Is that right?"

There was no answer.

"I'm going to show you the kind of fellow he is. He came to Mr. Stone
here and offered to sell you out."

"It's a lie, men," said Hal, quietly.

"He took some money from Mr. Stone to sell you out!" insisted the

"It's a lie," said Hal, again.

"He's got that money now!" cried the other.

And Hal cried, in turn, "They are trying to frame something on me, boys!
Don't let them fool you!"

"Shut up," commanded the marshal; then, to the men, "I'll show you. I
think he's got that money on him now. Jake, search him."

The store-clerk advanced.

"Watch out, boys!" exclaimed Hal. "They will put something in my
pockets." And then to Old Mike, who had started angrily forward, "It's
all right, Mike! Let them alone!"

"Jake, take off your coat," ordered Cotton. "Roll up your sleeves. Show
your hands."

It was for all the world like the performance of a prestidigitator. The
little Jew took off his coat and rolled up his sleeves above his elbows.
He exhibited his hands to the audience, turning them this way and that;
then, keeping them out in front of him, he came slowly towards Hal, like
a hypnotist about to put him to sleep.

"Watch him!" said Cotton. "He's got that money on him, I know."

"Look sharp!" cried Hal. "If it isn't there, they'll put it there."

"Keep your hands up, young fellow," commanded the marshal. "Keep back
from him there!" This last to Mike Sikoria and the other spectators, who
were pressing nearer, peering over one another's shoulders.

It was all very serious at the time, but afterwards, when Hal recalled
the scene, he laughed over the grotesque figure of Predovich searching
his pockets while keeping as far away from him as possible, so that
every one might know that the money had actually come out of Hal's
pocket. The searcher put his hands first in the inside pockets, then in
the pockets of Hal's shirt. Time was needed to build up this climax!

"Turn around," commanded Cotton; and Hal turned, and the Jew went
through his trouser-pockets. He took out in turn Hal's watch, his comb
and mirror, his handkerchief; after examining them and holding them up,
he dropped them onto the floor. There was a breathless hush when he came
to Hal's purse, and proceeded to open it. Thanks to the greed of the
company, there was nothing in the purse but some small change. Predovich
closed it and dropped it to the floor.

"Wait now! He's not through!" cried the master of ceremonies. "He's got
that money somewhere, boys! Did you look in his side-pockets, Jake?"

"Not yet," said Jake.

"Look sharp!" cried the marshal; and every one craned forward eagerly,
while Predovich stooped down on one knee, and put his hand into one coat
pocket and then into the other.

He took his hand out again, and the look of dismay upon his face was so
obvious that Hal could hardly keep from laughing. "It ain't dere!" he

"What?" cried Cotton, and they stared at each other. "By God, he's got
rid of it!"

"There's no money on me, boys!" proclaimed Hal. "It's a job they are
trying to put over on us."

"He's hid it!" shouted the marshal. "Find it, Jake!"

Then Predovich began to search again, swiftly, and with less
circumstance. He was not thinking so much about the spectators now, as
about all that good money gone for nothing! He made Hal take off his
coat, and ripped open the lining; he unbuttoned the trousers and felt
inside; he thrust his fingers down inside Hal's shoes.

But there was no money, and the searchers were at a standstill. "He took
twenty-five dollars from Mr. Stone to sell you out!" declared the
marshal. "He's managed to get rid of it somehow."

"Boys," cried Hal, "they sent a spy in here, and told him to put money
on me." He was looking at Apostolikas as he spoke; he saw the man start
and shrink back.

"That's him! He's a scab!" cried Old Mike. "He's got the money on him, I
bet!" And he made a move towards the Greek.

So the camp-marshal realised suddenly that it was time to ring down the
curtain on this drama. "That's enough of this foolishness," he declared.
"Bring that fellow along here!" And in a flash a couple of the party had
seized Hal's wrists, and a third had grabbed him by the collar of his
shirt. Before the miners had time to realise what was happening, they
had rushed their prisoner out of the cabin.

The quarter of an hour which followed was an uncomfortable one for the
would-be check-weighman. Outside, in the darkness, the camp-marshal was
free to give vent to his rage, and so was Alec Stone. They poured out
curses upon him, and kicked him and cuffed him as they went along. One
of the men who held his wrists twisted his arm, until he cried out with
pain; then they cursed him harder, and bade him hold his mouth. Down the
dark and silent street they went swiftly, and into the camp-marshal's
office, and upstairs to the room which served as the North Valley jail.
Hal was glad enough when they left him here, slamming the iron door
behind them.


It had been a crude and stupid plot, yet Hal realised that it was
adapted to the intelligence of the men for whom it was intended. But for
the accident that he had stayed awake, they would have found the money
on him, and next morning the whole camp would have heard that he had
sold out. Of course his immediate friends, the members of the committee,
would not have believed it; but the mass of the workers would have
believed it, and so the purpose of Tom Olson's visit to North Valley
would have been balked. Throughout the experiences which were to come to
him, Hal retained his vivid impression of that adventure; it served to
him as a symbol of many things. Just as the bosses had tried to bedevil
him, to destroy his influence with his followers, so later on he saw
them trying to bedevil the labour-movement, to confuse the intelligence
of the whole country.

Now Hal was in jail. He went to the window and tried the bars--but found
that they had been made for such trials. Then he groped his way about in
the darkness, examining his prison, which proved to be a steel cage
built inside the walls of an ordinary room. In one corner was a bench,
and in another corner another bench, somewhat broader, with a mattress
upon it. Hal had read a little about jails--enough to cause him to avoid
this mattress. He sat upon the bare bench, and began to think.

It is a fact that there is a peculiar psychology incidental to being in
jail; just as there is a peculiar psychology incidental to straining
your back and breaking your hands loading coal-cars in a five foot vein;
and another, and quite different psychology, produced by living at ease
off the labours of coal-miners. In a jail, you have first of all the
sense of being an animal; the animal side of your being is emphasised,
the animal passions of hatred and fear are called into prominence, and
if you are to escape being dominated by them, it can only be by intense
and concentrated effort of the mind. So, if you are a thinking man, you
do a great deal of thinking in a jail; the days are long, and the nights
still longer--you have time for all the thoughts you can have.

The bench was hard, and seemed to grow harder. There was no position in
which it could be made to grow soft. Hal got up and paced about, then he
lay down for a while, then got up and walked again; and all the while he
thought, and all the while the jail-psychology was being impressed upon
his mind.

First, he thought about his immediate problem. What were they going to
do to him? The obvious thing would be to put him out of camp, and so be
done with him; but would they rest content with that, in their
irritation at the trick he had played? Hal had heard vaguely of that
native American institution, the "third degree," but had never had
occasion to think of it as a possibility in his own life. What a
difference it made, to think of it in that way!

Hal had told Tom Olson that he would not pledge himself to organise a
union, but that he would pledge himself to get a check-weighman; and
Olson had laughed, and seemed quite content--apparently assuming that it
would come to the same thing. And now, it rather seemed that Olson had
known what he was talking about. For Hal found his thoughts no longer
troubled with fears of labour union domination and walking delegate
tyranny; on the contrary, he became suddenly willing for the people of
North Valley to have a union, and to be as tyrannical as they knew how!
And in this change, though Hal had no idea of it, he was repeating an
experience common among reformers; many of whom begin as mild and
benevolent advocates of some obvious bit of justice, and under the
operation of the jail-psychology are made into blazing and determined
revolutionists. "Eternal spirit of the chainless mind," says Byron.
"Greatest in dungeons Liberty thou art!"

The poet goes on to add that "When thy sons to fetters are confined--"
then "Freedom's fame finds wings on every wind." And just as it was in
Chillon, so it seemed to be in North Valley. Dawn came, and Hal stood at
the window of his cell, and heard the whistle blow and saw the workers
going to their tasks, the toil-bent, pallid faced creatures of the
underworld, like a file of baboons in the half-light. He waved his hand
to them, and they stopped and stared, and then waved back; he realised
that every one of those men must be thinking about his imprisonment, and
the reason for it--and so the jail-psychology was being communicated to
them. If any of them cherished distrust of unions, or doubt of the need
of organisation in North Valley--that distrust and that doubt were being

--There was only one thing discouraging about the matter, as Hal thought
it over. Why should the bosses have left him here in plain sight, when
they might so easily have put him into an automobile, and whisked him
down to Pedro before daylight? Was it a sign of the contempt they felt
for their slaves? Did they count upon the sight of the prisoner in the
window to produce fear instead of resentment? And might it not be that
they understood their workers better than the would-be check-weighman?
He recalled Mary Burke's pessimism about them, and anxiety gnawed at his
soul; and--such is the operation of the jail-psychology--he fought
against this anxiety. He hated the company for its cynicism, he clenched
his hands and set his teeth, desiring to teach the bosses a lesson, to
prove to them that their workers were not slaves, but men!


Toward the middle of the morning, Hal heard footsteps in the corridor
outside, and a man whom he did not know opened the barred door and set
down a pitcher of water and a tin plate with a hunk of bread on it. When
he started to leave, Hal spoke: "Just a minute, please."

The other frowned at him.

"Can you give me any idea how long I am to stay in here?"

"I cannot," said the man.

"If I'm to be locked up," said Hal, "I've certainly a right to know what
is the charge against me."

"Go to blazes!" said the other, and slammed the door and went down the

Hal went to the window again, and passed the time watching the people
who went by. Groups of ragged children gathered, looking up at him,
grinning and making signs--until some one appeared below and ordered
them away.

As time passed, Hal became hungry. The taste of bread, eaten alone,
becomes speedily monotonous, and the taste of water does not relieve it;
nevertheless, Hal munched the bread, and drank the water, and wished for

The day dragged by; and late in the afternoon the keeper came again,
with another hunk of bread and another pitcher of water. "Listen a
moment," said Hal, as the man was turning away.

"I got nothin' to say to you," said the other.

"I have something to say to you," pleaded Hal. "I have read in a book--I
forget where, but it was written by some doctor--that white bread does
not contain the elements necessary to the sustaining of the human body."

"Go on!" growled the jailer. "What yer givin' us?"

"I mean," explained Hal, "a diet of bread and water is not what I'd
choose to live on."

"What would yer choose?"

The tone suggested that the question was a rhetorical one; but Hal took
it in good faith. "If I could have some beefsteak and mashed potatoes--"

The door of the cell closed with a slam whose echoes drowned out the
rest of that imaginary menu. And so once more Hal sat on the hard bench,
and munched his hunk of bread, and thought jail-thoughts.

When the quitting-whistle blew, he stood at the window, and saw the
groups of his friends once again, and got their covert signals of
encouragement. Then darkness fell, and another long vigil began.

It was late; Hal had no means of telling how late, save that all the
lights in the camps were out. He made up his mind that he was in for the
night, and had settled himself on the floor with his arm for a pillow,
and had dozed off to sleep, when suddenly there came a scraping sound
against the bars of his window. He sat up with a start, and heard
another sound, unmistakably the rustling of paper. He sprang to the
window, where by the faint light of the stars he could make out
something dangling. He caught at it; it seemed to be an ordinary
note-book, such as stenographers use, tied on the end of a pole.

Hal looked out, but could see no one. He caught hold of the pole and
jerked it, as a signal; and then he heard a whisper which he recognised
instantly as Rovetta's. "Hello! Listen. Write your name hundred times in
book. I come back. Understand?"

The command was a sufficiently puzzling one, but Hal realised that this
was no time for explanations. He answered, "Yes," and broke the string
and took the notebook. There was a pencil attached, with a piece of
cloth wrapped round the point to protect it.

The pole was withdrawn, and Hal sat on the bench, and began to write,
three or four times on a page, "Joe Smith--Joe Smith--Joe Smith." It is
not hard to write "Joe Smith," even in darkness, and so, while his hand
moved, Hal's mind was busy with this mystery. It was fairly to be
assumed that his committee did not want his autograph to distribute for
a souvenir; they must want it for some vital purpose, to meet some new
move of the bosses. The answer to this riddle was not slow in coming:
having failed in their effort to find money on him, the bosses had
framed up a letter, which they were exhibiting as having been written by
the would-be check-weigh-man. His friends wanted his signature to
disprove the authenticity of the letter.

Hal wrote a free and rapid hand, with a generous flourish; he felt sure
it would be different from Alec Stone's idea of a working-boy's scrawl.
His pencil flew on and on--"Joe Smith--Joe Smith--" page after page,
until he was sure that he had written a signature for every miner in the
camp, and was beginning on the buddies. Then, hearing a whistle outside,
he stopped and sprang to the window.

"Throw it!" whispered a voice; and Hal threw it. He saw a form vanish up
the street, after which all was quiet again. He listened for a while, to
see if he had roused his jailer; then he lay down on the bench--and
thought more jail-thoughts!


Morning came, and the mine-whistle blew, and Hal stood at the window
again. This time he noticed that some of the miners on their way to work
had little strips of paper in their hands, which strips they waved
conspicuously for him to see. Old Mike Sikoria came along, having a
whole bunch of strips in his hands, which he was distributing to all who
would take them. Doubtless he had been warned to proceed secretly, but
the excitement of the occasion had been too much for him; he capered
about like a young spring lamb, and waved the strips at Hal in plain
sight of all the world.

Such indiscreet behaviour met the return it invited. As Hal watched, he
saw a stocky figure come striding round the corner, confronting the
startled old Slovak. It was Bud Adams, the mine-guard, and his hard
fists were clenched, and his whole body gathered for a blow. Mike saw
him, and was as if suddenly struck with paralysis; his toil-bent
shoulders sunk together, and his hands fell to his sides--his fingers
opening, and his precious strips of paper fluttering to the ground. Mike
stared at Bud like a fascinated rabbit, making no move to protect

Hal clutched the bars, with an impulse to leap to his friend's defence.
But the expected blow did not fall; the mine-guard contented himself
with glaring ferociously, and giving an order to the old man. Mike
stooped and picked up the papers--the process taking him some time, as
he was unable or unwilling to take his eyes off the mine-guard's. When
he got them all in his hands, there came another order, and he gave them
up to Bud. After which he fell back a step, and the other followed, his
fists still clenched, and a blow seeming about to leap from him every
moment. Mike receded another step, and then another--so the two of them
backed out of sight around the corner. Men who had been witnesses of
this little drama turned and slunk off, and Hal was given no clue as to
its outcome.

A couple of hours afterwards, Hal's jailer came up, this time without
any bread and water. He opened the door and commanded the prisoner to
"come along." Hal went downstairs, and entered Jeff Cotton's office.

The camp-marshal sat at his desk with a cigar between his teeth. He was
writing, and he went on writing until the jailer had gone out and closed
the door. Then he turned his revolving chair and crossed his legs,
leaning back and looking at the young miner in his dirty blue overalls,
his hair tousled and his face pale from his period of confinement. The
camp-marshal's aristocratic face wore a smile. "Well, young fellow,"
said he, "you've been having a lot of fun in this camp."

"Pretty fair, thank you," answered Hal.

"Beat us out all along the line, hey?" Then, after a pause, "Now, tell
me, what do you think you're going to get out of it?"

"That's what Alec Stone asked me," replied Hal. "I don't think it would
do much good to explain. I doubt if you believe in altruism any more
than Stone does."

The camp-marshal took his cigar from his mouth, and flicked off the
ashes. His face became serious, and there was a silence, while he
studied Hal. "You a union organiser?" he asked, at last.

"No," said Hal.

"You're an educated man; you're no labourer, that I know. Who's paying

"There you are! You don't believe in altruism."

The other blew a ring of smoke across the room. "Just want to put the
company in the hole, hey? Some kind of agitator?"

"I am a miner who wants to be a check-weighman."


"That depends upon developments here."

"Well," said the marshal, "you're an intelligent chap, that I can see.
So I'll lay my hand on the table and you can study it. You're not going
to serve as check-weighman in North Valley, nor any other place that the
'G. F. C.' has anything to do with. Nor are you going to have the
satisfaction of putting the company in a hole. We're not even going to
beat you up and make a martyr of you. I was tempted to do that the other
night, but I changed my mind."

"You might change the bruises on my arm," suggested Hal, in a pleasant

"We're going to offer you the choice of two things," continued the
marshal, without heeding this mild sarcasm. "Either you will sign a
paper admitting that you took the twenty-five dollars from Alec Stone,
in which case we will fire you and call it square; or else we will prove
that you took it, in which case we will send you to the pen for five or
ten years. Do you get that?"

Now when Hal had applied for the job of check-weighman, he had been
expecting to be thrown out of the camp, and had intended to go, counting
his education complete. But here, as he sat and gazed into the marshal's
menacing eyes, he decided suddenly that he did not want to leave North
Valley. He wanted to stay and take the measure of this gigantic
"burglar," the General Fuel Company.

"That's a serious threat, Mr. Cotton," he remarked. "Do you often do
things like that?"

"We do them when we have to," was the reply.

"Well, it's a novel proposition. Tell me more about it. What will the
charge be?"

"I'm not sure about that--we'll put it up to our lawyers. Maybe they'll
call it conspiracy, maybe blackmail. They'll make it whatever carries a
long enough sentence."

"And before I enter my plea, would you mind letting me see the letter
I'm supposed to have written."

"Oh, you've heard about the letter, have you?" said the camp-marshal,
lifting his eyebrows in mild surprise. He took from his desk a sheet of
paper and handed it to Hal, who read:

"Dere mister Stone, You don't need worry about the check-wayman. Pay me
twenty five dollars, and I will fix it right. Yours try, Joe Smith."

Having taken in the words of the letter, Hal examined the paper, and
perceived that his enemies had taken the trouble, not merely to forge a
letter in his name, but to have it photographed, to have a cut made of
the photograph, and to have it printed. Beyond doubt they had
distributed it broadcast in the camp. And all this in a few hours! It
was as Olson had said--a regular system to keep the men bedevilled.


Hal took a minute or so to ponder the situation. "Mr. Cotton," he said,
at last. "I know how to spell better than that. Also my handwriting is a
bit more fluent."

There was a trace of a smile about the marshal's cruel lips. "I know,"
he replied. "I've not failed to compare them."

"You have a good secret-service department!" said Hal.

"Before you get through, young fellow, you'll discover that our legal
department is equally efficient."

"Well," said Hal, "they'll need to be; for I don't see how you can get
round the fact that I'm a check-weighman, chosen according to the law,
and with a group of the men behind me."

"If that's what you're counting on," retorted Cotton, "you may as well
forget it. You've got no group any more."

"Oh! You've got rid of them?"

"We've got rid of the ring-leaders."

"Of whom?"

"That old billy-goat, Sikoria, for one."

"You've shipped him?"

"We have."

"I saw the beginning of that. Where have you sent him?"

"That," smiled the marshal, "is a job for _your_ secret-service

"And who else?"

"John Edstrom has gone down to bury his wife. It's not the first time
that dough-faced old preacher has made trouble for us, but it'll be the
last. You'll find him in Pedro--probably in the poor-house."

"No," responded Hal, quickly--and there came just a touch of elation in
his voice--"he won't have to go to the poor-house at once. You see, I've
just sent twenty-five dollars to him."

The camp-marshal frowned. "Really!" Then, after a pause, "You _did_ have
that money on you! I thought that lousy Greek had got away with it!"

"No. Your knave was honest. But so was I. I knew Edstrom had been
getting short weight for years, so he was the one person with any right
to the money."

This story was untrue, of course; the money was still buried in
Edstrom's cabin. But Hal meant for the old miner to have it in the end,
and meantime he wanted to throw Cotton off the track.

"A clever trick, young man!" said the marshal. "But you'll repent it
before you're through. It only makes me more determined to put you where
you can't do us any harm."

"You mean in the pen? You understand, of course, it will mean a jury
trial. You can get a jury to do what you want?"

"They tell me you've been taking an interest in politics in Pedro
County. Haven't you looked into our jury-system?"

"No, I haven't got that far."

The marshal began blowing rings of smoke again.

"Well, there are some three hundred men on our jury-list, and we know
them all. You'll find yourself facing a box with Jake Predovich as
foreman, three company-clerks, two of Alf Raymond's saloon-keepers, a
ranchman with a mortgage held by the company-bank, and five Mexicans who
have no idea what it's all about, but would stick a knife into your back
for a drink of whiskey. The District Attorney is a politician who
favours the miners in his speeches, and favours us in his acts; while
Judge Denton, of the district court, is the law partner of Vagleman, our
chief-counsel. Do you get all that?"

"Yes," said Hal. "I've heard of the 'Empire of Raymond'; I'm interested
to see the machinery. You're quite open about it!"

"Well," replied the marshal, "I want you to know what you're up against.
We didn't start this fight, and we're perfectly willing to end it
without trouble. All we ask is that you make amends for the mischief
you've done us."

"By 'making amends,' you mean I'm to disgrace myself--to tell the men
I'm a traitor?"

"Precisely," said the marshal.

"I think I'll have a seat while I consider the matter," said Hal; and he
took a chair, and stretched out his legs, and made himself elaborately
comfortable. "That bench upstairs is frightfully hard," said he, and
smiled mockingly upon the camp-marshal.


When this conversation was continued, it was upon a new and unexpected
line. "Cotton," remarked the prisoner, "I perceive that you are a man of
education. It occurs to me that once upon a time you must have been what
the world calls a gentleman."

The blood started into the camp-marshal's face. "You go to hell!" said

"I did not intend to ask questions," continued Hal. "I can well
understand that you mightn't care to answer them. My point is that,
being an ex-gentleman, you may appreciate certain aspects of this case
which would be beyond the understanding of a nigger-driver like Stone,
or an efficiency expert like Cartwright. One gentleman can recognise
another, even in a miner's costume. Isn't that so?"

Hal paused for an answer, and the marshal gave him a wary look. "I
suppose so," he said.

"Well, to begin with, one gentleman does not smoke without inviting
another to join him."

The man gave another look. Hal thought he was going to consign him to
hades once more; but instead he took a cigar from his vest-pocket and
held it out.

"No, thank you," said Hal, quietly. "I do not smoke. But I like to be

There was a pause, while the two men measured each other.

"Now, Cotton," began the prisoner, "you pictured the scene at my trial.
Let me carry on the story for you. You have your case all framed up,
your hand-picked jury in the box, and your hand-picked judge on the
bench, your hand-picked prosecuting-attorney putting through the job;
you are ready to send your victim to prison, for an example to the rest
of your employes. But suppose that, at the climax of the proceedings,
you should make the discovery that your victim is a person who cannot be
sent to prison?"

"Cannot be sent to prison?" repeated the other. His tone was thoughtful.
"You'll have to explain."

"Surely not to a man of your intelligence! Don't you know, Cotton, there
are people who cannot be sent to prison?"

The camp-marshal smoked his cigar for a bit. "There are some in this
county," said he. "But I thought I knew them all."

"Well," said Hal, "has it never occurred to you that there might be some
in this _state_?"

There followed a long silence. The two men were gazing into each other's
eyes; and the more they gazed, the more plainly Hal read uncertainty in
the face of the marshal.

"Think how embarrassing it would be!" he continued. "You have your drama
all staged--as you did the night before last--only on a larger stage,
before a more important audience; and at the _denouement_ you find that,
instead of vindicating yourself before the workers in North Valley, you
have convicted yourself before the public of the state. You have shown
the whole community that you are law-breakers; worse than that--you have
shown that you are jack-asses!"

This time the camp-marshal gazed so long that his cigar went out. And
meantime Hal was lounging in his chair, smiling at him strangely. It was
as if a transformation was taking place before the marshal's eyes; the
miner's "jumpers" fell away from Hal's figure, and there was a suit of
evening-clothes in their place!

"Who the devil are you?" cried the man.

"Well now!" laughed Hal. "You boast of the efficiency of your secret
service department! Put them at work upon this problem. A young man, age
twenty-one, height five feet ten inches, weight one hundred and
fifty-two pounds, eyes brown, hair chestnut and rather wavy, manner
genial, a favourite with the ladies--at least that's what the society
notes say--missing since early in June, supposed to be hunting
mountain-goats in Mexico. As you know, Cotton, there's only one city in
the state that has any 'society,' and in that city there are only
twenty-five or thirty families that count. For a secret service
department like that of the 'G. F. C.', that is really too easy."

Again there was a silence, until Hal broke it. "Your distress is a
tribute to your insight. The company is lucky in the fact that one of
its camp-marshals happens to be an ex-gentleman."

Again the other flushed. "Well, by God!" he said, half to himself; and
then, making a last effort to hold his bluff--"You're kidding me!"

"'Kidding,' as you call it, is one of the favourite occupations of
society, Cotton. A good part of our intercourse consists of it--at least
among the younger set."

Suddenly the marshal rose. "Say," he demanded, "would you mind going
back upstairs for a few minutes?"

Hal could not restrain his laughter at this. "I should mind it very
much," he said. "I have been on a bread and water diet for thirty-six
hours, and I should like very much to get out and have a breath of fresh

"But," said the other, lamely, "I've got to send you up there."

"That's another matter," replied Hal. "If you send me, I'll go, but it's
your look-out. You've kept me here without legal authority, with no
charge against me, and without giving me an opportunity to see counsel.
Unless I'm very much mistaken, you are liable criminally for that, and
the company is liable civilly. That is your own affair, of course. I
only want to make clear my position--when you ask me would I _mind_
stepping upstairs, I, answer that I would mind very much indeed."

The camp-marshal stood for a bit, chewing nervously on his extinct
cigar. Then he went to the door. "Hey, Gus!" he called. Hal's jailer
appeared, and Cotton whispered to him, and he went away again. "I'm
telling him to get you some food, and you can sit and eat it here. Will
that suit you better?"

"It depends," said Hal, making the most of the situation. "Are you
inviting me as your prisoner, or as your guest?"

"Oh, come off!" said the other.

"But I have to know my legal status. It will be of importance to my

"Be my guest," said the camp-marshal.

"But when a guest has eaten, he is free to go out, if he wishes to!"

"I will let you know about that before you get through."

"Well, be quick. I'm a rapid eater."

"You'll promise you won't go away before that?"

"If I do," was Hal's laughing reply, "it will be only to my place of
business. You can look for me at the tipple, Cotton!"


The marshal went out, and a few moments later the jailer came back, with
a meal which presented a surprising contrast to the ones he had
previously served. There was a tray containing cold ham, a couple of
soft boiled eggs, some potato salad, and a cup of coffee with rolls and

"Well, well!" said Hal, condescendingly. "That's even nicer than
beefsteak and mashed potatoes!" He sat and watched, not offering to
help, while the other made room for the tray on the table in front of
him. Then the man stalked out, and Hal began to eat.

Before he had finished, the camp-marshal returned. He seated himself in
his revolving chair, and appeared to be meditative. Between bites, Hal
would look up and smile at him.

"Cotton," said he, "you know there is no more certain test of breeding
than table-manners. You will observe that I have not tucked my napkin in
my neck, as Alec Stone would have done."

"I'm getting you," replied the marshal.

Hal set his knife and fork side by side on his plate. "Your man has
overlooked the finger-bowl," he remarked. "However, don't bother. You
might ring for him now, and let him take the tray."

The camp-marshal used his voice for a bell, and the jailer came.
"Unfortunately," said Hal, "when your people were searching me, night
before last, they dropped my purse, so I have no tip for the waiter."

The "waiter" glared at Hal as if he would like to bite him; but the
camp-marshal grinned. "Clear out, Gus, and shut the door," said he.

Then Hal stretched his legs and made himself comfortable again. "I must
say I like being your guest better than being your prisoner!"

There was a pause.

"I've been talking it over with Mr. Cartwright," began the marshal.
"I've got no way of telling how much of this is bluff that you've been
giving me, but it's evident enough that you're no miner. You may be some
newfangled kind of agitator, but I'm damned if I ever saw an agitator
that had tea-party manners. I suppose you've been brought up to money;
but if that's so, why you want to do this kind of thing is more than I
can imagine."

"Tell me, Cotton," said Hal, "did you never hear of _ennui_?"

"Yes," replied the other, "but aren't you rather young to be troubled
with that complaint?"

"Suppose I've seen others suffering from it, and wanted to try a
different way of living from theirs?"

"If you're what you say, you ought to be still in college."

"I go back for my senior year this fall."

"What college?"

"You doubt me still, I see!" said Hal, and smiled. Then, unexpectedly,
with a spirit which only moonlit campuses and privilege could beget, he

"Old King Coal was a merry old soul,
And a merry old soul was he;
He made him a college, all full of knowledge--
Hurrah for you and me!"

"What college is that?" asked the marshal. And Hal sang again:

"Oh, Liza-Ann, come out with me,
The moon is a-shinin' in the monkey-puzzle tree!
Oh, Liza-Ann, I have began
To sing you the song of Harrigan!"

"Well, well!" commented the marshal, when the concert was over. "Are
there many more like you at Harrigan?"

"A little group--enough to leaven the lump."

"And this is your idea of a vacation?"

"No, it isn't a vacation; it's a summer-course in practical sociology."

"Oh, I see!" said the marshal; and he smiled in spite of himself.

"All last year we let the professors of political economy hand out their
theories to us. But somehow the theories didn't seem to correspond with
the facts. I said to myself, 'I've got to check them up.' You know the
phrases, perhaps--individualism, _laissez faire_, freedom of contract,
the right of every man to work for whom he pleases. And here you see how
the theories work out--a camp-marshal with a cruel smile on his face and
a gun on his hip, breaking the laws faster than a governor can sign

The camp-marshal decided suddenly that he had had enough of this
"tea-party." He rose to his feet to cut matters short. "If you don't
mind, young man," said he, "we'll get down to business!"


He took a turn about the room, then he came and stopped in front of Hal.
He stood with his hands thrust into his pockets, with a certain jaunty
grace that was out of keeping with his occupation. He was a handsome
devil, Hal thought--in spite of his dangerous mouth, and the marks of
dissipation on him.

"Young man," he began, with another effort at geniality. "I don't know
who you are, but you're wide awake; you've got your nerve with you, and I
admire you. So I'm willing to call the thing off, and let you go back
and finish that course at college."

Hal had been studying the other's careful smile. "Cotton," he said, at
last, "let me get the proposition clear. I don't have to say I took that

"No, we'll let you off from that."

"And you won't send me to the pen?"

"No. I never meant to do that, of course. I was only trying to bluff
you. All I ask is that you clear out, and give our people a chance to

"But what's there in that for me, Cotton? If I had wanted to run away, I
could have done it any time during the last eight or ten weeks."

"Yes, of course, but now it's different. Now it's a matter of my

"Cut out the consideration!" exclaimed Hal. "You want to get rid of me,
and you'd like to do it without trouble. But you can't--so forget it."

The other was staring, puzzled. "You mean you expect to stay here?"

"I mean just that."

"Young man, I've had enough of this! I've got no more time to play. I
don't care who you are, I don't care about your threats. I'm the marshal
of this camp, and I have the job of keeping order in it. I say you're
going to get out!"

"But, Cotton," said Hal, "this is an incorporated town! I have a right
to walk on the streets--exactly as much right as you."

"I'm not going to waste time arguing. I'm going to put you into an
automobile and take you down to Pedro!"

"And suppose I go to the District Attorney and demand that he prosecute

"He'll laugh at you."

"And suppose I go to the Governor of the state?"

"He'll laugh still louder."

"All right, Cotton; maybe you know what you're doing; but I wonder--I
wonder just how sure you feel. Has it never occurred to you that your
superiors might not care to have you take these high-handed steps?"

"My superiors? Who do you mean?"

"There's one man in the state you must respect--even though you despise
the District Attorney and the Governor. That is Peter Harrigan."

"Peter Harrigan?" echoed the other; and then he burst into a laugh.
"Well, you _are_ a merry lad!"

Hal continued to study him, unmoved. "I wonder if you're sure! He'll
stand for everything you've done."

"He will!" said the other.

"For the way you treat the workers? He knows you are giving short

"Oh hell!" said the other. "Where do you suppose he got the money for
your college?"

There was a pause; at last the marshal asked, defiantly, "Have you got
what you want?"

"Yes," replied Hal. "Of course, I thought it all along, but it's hard to
convince other people. Old Peter's not like most of these Western
wolves, you know; he's a pious high-church man."

The marshal smiled grimly. "So long as there are sheep," said he,
there'll be wolves in sheep's clothing."

"I see," said Hal. "And you leave them to feed on the lambs!"

"If any lamb is silly enough to be fooled by that old worn-out skin,"
remarked the marshal, "it deserves to be eaten."

Hal was studying the cynical face in front of him. "Cotton," he said,
"the shepherds are asleep; but the watch-dogs are barking. Haven't you
heard them?"

"I hadn't noticed."

"They are barking, barking! They are going to wake the shepherds! They
are going to save the sheep!"

"Religion don't interest me," said the other, looking bored; "your kind
any more than Old Peter's."

And suddenly Hal rose to his feet. "Cotton," said he, "my place is with
the flock! I'm going back to my job at the tipple!" And he started
towards the door.


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