Part 4 out of 8
Jeff Cotton sprang forward. "Stop!" he cried.
But Hal did not stop.
"See here, young man!" cried the marshal. "Don't carry this joke too
far!" And he sprang to the door, just ahead of his prisoner. His hand
moved toward his hip.
"Draw your gun, Cotton," said Hal; and, as the marshal obeyed, "Now I
will stop. If I obey you in future, it will be at the point of your
The marshal's mouth was dangerous-looking. "You may find that in this
country there's not so much between the drawing of a gun and the firing
"I've explained my attitude," replied Hal. "What are your orders?"
"Come back and sit in this chair."
So Hal sat, and the marshal went to his desk, and took up the telephone.
"Number seven," he said, and waited a moment. "That you, Tom? Bring the
car right away."
He hung up the receiver, and there followed a silence; finally Hal
inquired, "I'm going to Pedro?"
There was no reply.
"I see I've got on your nerves," said Hal. "But I don't suppose it's
occurred to you that you deprived me of my money last night. Also, I've
an account with the company, some money coming to me for my work? What
The marshal took up the receiver and gave another number. "Hello,
Simpson. This is Cotton. Will you figure out the time of Joe Smith,
buddy in Number Two, and send over the cash. Get his account at the
store; and be quick, we're waiting for it. He's going out in a hurry."
Again he hung up the receiver.
"Tell me," said Hal, "did you take that trouble for Mike Sikoria?"
There was silence.
"Let me suggest that when you get my time, you give me part of it in
scrip. I want it for a souvenir."
Still there was silence.
"You know," persisted the prisoner, tormentingly, "there's a law against
paying wages in scrip."
The marshal was goaded to speech. "We don't pay in scrip."
"But you do, man! You know you do!"
"We give it when they ask their money ahead."
"The law requires you to pay them twice a month, and you don't do it.
You pay them once a month, and meantime, if they need money, you give
them this imitation money!"
"Well, if it satisfies them, where's your kick?"
"If it doesn't satisfy them, you put them on the train and ship them
The marshal sat in silence, tapping impatiently with his fingers on the
"Cotton," Hal began, again, "I'm out for education, and there's
something I'd like you to explain to me--a problem in human psychology.
When a man puts through a deal like this, what does he tell himself
"Young man," said the marshal, "if you'll pardon me, you are getting to
be a bore."
"Oh, but we've got an automobile ride before us! Surely we can't sit in
silence all the way!" After a moment he added, in a coaxing tone, "I
really want to learn, you know. You might be able to win me over."
"No!" said Cotton, promptly. "I'll not go in for anything like that!"
"But why not?"
"Because, I'm no match for you in long-windedness. I've heard you
agitators before, you're all alike: you think the world is run by
talk--but it isn't."
Hal had come to realise that he was not getting anywhere in his duel
with the camp-marshal. He had made every effort to get somewhere; he had
argued, threatened, bluffed, he had even sung songs for the marshal! But
the marshal was going to ship him out, that was all there was to it.
Hal had gone on with the quarrel, simply because he had to wait for the
automobile, and because he had endured indignities and had to vent his
anger and disappointment. But now he stopped quarrelling suddenly. His
attention was caught by the marshal's words, "You think the world is run
by talk!" Those were the words Hal's brother always used! And also, the
marshal had said, "You agitators!" For years it had been one of the
taunts Hal had heard from his brother, "You will turn into one of these
agitators!" Hal had answered, with boyish obstinacy, "I don't care if I
do!" And now, here the marshal was calling him an agitator, seriously,
without an apology, without the license of blood relationship. He
repeated the words, "That's what gets me about you agitators--you come
in here trying to stir these people up--"
So that was the way Hal seemed to the "G. F. C."! He had come here
intending to be a spectator, to stand on the deck of the steamer and
look down into the ocean of social misery. He had considered every step
so carefully before he took it! He had merely tried to be a
check-weighman, nothing more! He had told Tom Olson he would not go in
for unionism; he had had a distrust of union organisers, of agitators of
all sorts--blind, irresponsible persons who went about stirring up
dangerous passions. He had come to admire Tom Olson--but that had only
partly removed his prejudices; Olson was only one agitator, not the
whole lot of them!
But all his consideration for the company had counted for nothing;
likewise all his efforts to convince the marshal that he was a
leisure-class person. In spite of all Hal's "tea-party manners," the
marshal had said, "You agitators!" What was he judging by, Hal wondered.
Had he, Hal Warner, come to look like one of these blind, irresponsible
persons? It was time that he took stock of himself!
Had two months of "dirty work" in the bowels of the earth changed him
so? The idea was bound to be disconcerting to one who had been a
favourite of the ladies! Did he talk like it?--he who had been "kissing
the Blarney-stone!" The marshal had said he was "long-winded!" Well, to
be sure, he had talked a lot; but what could the man expect--having shut
him up in jail for two nights and a day, with only his grievances to
brood over! Was that the way real agitators were made--being shut up
with grievances to brood over?
Hal recalled his broodings in the jail. He had been embittered; he had
not cared whether North Valley was dominated by labour unions. But that
had all been a mood, the same as his answer to his brother; that was
jail psychology, a part of his summer course in practical sociology. He
had put it aside; but apparently it had made a deeper impression upon
him than he had realised. It had changed his physical aspect! It had
made him look and talk like an agitator! It had made him
Yes, that was it! All this dirt, ignorance, disease, this knavery and
oppression, this maiming of men in body and soul in the coal-camps of
America--all this did not exist--it was the hallucination of an
"irresponsible" brain! There was the evidence of Hal's brother and the
camp-marshal to prove it; there was the evidence of the whole world to
prove it! The camp-marshal and his brother and the whole world could not
be "blind!" And if you talked to them about these conditions, they
shrugged their shoulders, they called you a "dreamer," a "crank," they
said you were "off your trolley"; or else they became angry and bitter,
they called you names; they said, "You agitators!"
The camp-marshal of North Valley had been "agitated" to such an extent
that he could not stay in his chair. All the harassments of his troubled
career had come pouring into his mind. He had begun pacing the floor,
and was talking away, regardless of whether Hal listened or not.
"A campful of lousy wops! They can't understand any civilised language,
they've only one idea in the world--to shirk every lick of work they
can, to fill up their cars with slate and rock and blame it on some
other fellow, and go off to fill themselves with booze. They won't work
fair, they won't fight fair--they fight with a knife in the back! And
you agitators with your sympathy for them--why the hell do they come to
this country, unless they like it better than their own?"
Hal had heard this question before; but they had to wait for the
automobile--and being sure that he was an agitator now, he would make
all the trouble he could! "The reason is obvious enough," he said.
"Isn't it true that the 'G. F. C.' employs agents abroad to tell them of
the wonderful pay they get in America?"
"Well, they get it, don't they? Three times what they ever got at home!"
"Yes, but it doesn't do them any good. There's another fact which the
'G. F. C.' doesn't mention--that the cost of living is even higher than
the wages. Then, too, they're led to think of America as a land of
liberty; they come, hoping for a better chance for themselves and their
children; but they find a camp-marshal who's off in his geography--who
thinks the Rocky Mountains are somewhere in Russia!"
"I know that line of talk!" exclaimed the other. "I learned to wave the
starry flag when I was a kid. But I tell you, you've got to get coal
mined, and it isn't the same thing as running a Fourth of July
celebration. Some church people make a law they shan't work on
Sunday--and what comes of that? They have thirty-six hours to get soused
in, and so they can't work on Monday!"
"Surely there's a remedy, Cotton! Suppose the company refused to rent
buildings to saloon-keepers?"
"Good God! You think we haven't tried it? They go down to Pedro for the
stuff, and bring back all they can carry--inside them and out. And if we
stop that--then our hands move to some other camps, where they can spend
their money as they please. No, young man, when you have such cattle,
you have to drive them! And it takes a strong hand to do it--a man like
Peter Harrigan. If there's to be any coal, if industry's to go on, if
there's to be any progress--"
"We have that in our song!" laughed Hal, breaking into the
"He keeps them a-roll, that merry old soul--
The wheels of industree;
A-roll and a-roll, for his pipe and his bowl
And his college facultee!"
"Yes," growled the marshal. "It's easy enough for you smart young chaps
to make verses, while you're living at ease on the old man's bounty. But
that don't answer any argument. Are you college boys ready to take over
his job? Or these Democrat politicians that come in here, talking
fool-talk about liberty, making labour laws for these wops--"
"I begin to understand," said Hal. "You object to the politicians who
pass the laws, you doubt their motives--and so you refuse to obey. But
why didn't you tell me sooner you were an anarchist?"
"Anarchist?" cried the marshal. "_Me_ an anarchist?"
"That's what an anarchist is, isn't it?"
"Good God! If that isn't the limit! You come here, stirring up the
men--a union agitator, or whatever you are--and you know that the first
idea of these people, when they do break loose, is to put dynamite in
the shafts and set fire to the buildings!"
"Do they do that?" There was surprise in Hal's tone.
"Haven't you read what they did in the last big strike? That dough-faced
old preacher, John Edstrom, could tell you. He was one of the bunch."
"No," said Hal, "you're mistaken. Edstrom has a different philosophy.
But others did, I've no doubt. And since I've been here, I can
understand their point of view entirely. When they set fire to the
buildings, it was because they thought you and Alec Stone might be
The marshal did not smile.
"They want to destroy the properties," continued Hal, "because that's
the only way they can think of to punish the tyranny and greed of the
owners. But, Cotton, suppose some one were to put a new idea into their
heads; suppose some one were to say to them, 'Don't destroy the
The other stared. "Take them! So that's your idea of morality!"
"It would be more moral than the method by which Peter got them in the
"What method is that?" demanded the marshal, with some appearance of
indignation. "He paid the market-price for them, didn't he?"
"He paid the market-price for politicians. Up in Western City I happen
to know a lady who was a school-commissioner when he was buying
school-lands from the state--lands that were known to contain coal. He
was paying three dollars an acre, and everybody knew they were worth
"Well," said Cotton, "if you don't buy the politicians, you wake up some
fine morning and find that somebody else has bought them. If you have
property, you have to protect it."
"Cotton," said Hal, "you sell Old Peter your time--but surely you might
keep part of your brains! Enough to look at your monthly pay-check and
realise that you too are a wage-slave, not much better than the miners
The other smiled. "My check might be bigger, I admit; but I've figured
over it, and I think I have an easier time than you agitators. I'm
top-dog, and I expect to stay on top."
"Well, Cotton, on that view of life, I don't wonder you get drunk now
and then. A dog-fight, with no faith or humanity anywhere! Don't think
I'm sneering at you--I'm talking out of my heart to you. I'm not so
young, nor such a fool, that I haven't had the dog-fight aspect of
things brought to my attention. But there's something in a fellow that
insists he isn't all dog; he has at least a possibility of something
better. Take these poor under-dogs sweating inside the mountain, risking
their lives every hour of the day and night to provide you and me with
coal to keep us warm--to 'keep the wheels of industry a-roll'--"
These were the last words Hal spoke. They were obvious enough words, yet
when he looked back upon the coincidence, it seemed to him a singular
one. For while he was sitting there chatting, it happened that the poor
under-dogs inside the mountain were in the midst of one of those
experiences which make the romance and terror of coal-mining. One of the
boys who were employed underground, in violation of the child labour
law, was in the act of bungling his task. He was a "spragger," whose
duty it was to thrust a stick into the wheel of a loaded car to hold it;
and he was a little chap, and the car was in motion when he made the
attempt. It knocked him against the wall--and so there was a load of
coal rolling down grade, pursued too late by half a dozen men. Gathering
momentum, it whirled round a curve and flew from the track, crashing
into timbers and knocking them loose. With the timbers came a shower of
coal-dust, accumulated for decades in these old workings; and at the
same time came an electric light wire, which, as it touched the car,
produced a spark.
And so it was that Hal, chatting with the marshal, suddenly felt, rather
than heard, a deafening roar; he felt the air about him turn into a
living thing which struck him a mighty blow, hurling him flat upon the
floor. The windows of the room crashed inward upon him in a shower of
glass, and the plaster of the ceiling came down on his head in another
When he raised himself, half stunned, he saw the marshal, also on the
floor; these two conversationalists stared at each other with horrified
eyes. Even as they crouched, there came a crash above their heads, and
half the ceiling of the room came toward them, with a great piece of
timber sticking through. All about them were other crashes, as if the
end of the world had come.
They struggled to their feet, and rushing to the door, flung it open,
just as a jagged piece of timber shattered the side-walk in front of
them. They sprang back again, "Into the cellar!" cried the marshal,
leading the way to the back-stairs.
But before they had started down these stairs, they realised that the
crashing had ceased. "What is it?" gasped Hal, as they stood.
"Mine-explosion," said the other; and after a few seconds they ran to
the door again.
The first thing they saw was a vast pillar of dust and smoke, rising
into the sky above them. It spread before their dazed eyes, until it
made night of everything about them. There was still a rain of lighter
debris pattering down over the village; as they stared, and got their
wits about them, remembering how things had looked before this, they
realised that the shaft-house of Number One had disappeared.
"Blown up, by God!" cried the marshal; and the two ran out into the
street, and looking up, saw that a portion of the wrecked building had
fallen through the roof of the jail above their heads.
The rain of debris had now ceased, but there were clouds of dust which
covered the two men black; the clouds grew worse, until they could
hardly see their way at all. And with the darkness there fell silence,
which, after the sound of the explosion and the crashing of debris,
seemed the silence of death.
For a few moments Hal stood dazed. He saw a stream of men and boys
pouring from the breaker; while from every street there appeared a
stream of women; women old, women young--leaving their cooking on the
stove, their babies in the crib, with their older children screaming at
their skirts, they gathered in swarms about the pit-mouth, which was
like the steaming crater of a volcano.
Cartwright, the superintendent, appeared, running toward the fan-house.
Cotton joined him, and Hal followed. The fan-house was a wreck, the
giant fan lying on the ground a hundred feet away, its blades smashed.
Hal was too inexperienced in mine-matters to get the full significance
of this; but he saw the marshal and the superintendent stare blankly at
each other, and heard the former's exclamation, "That does for us!"
Cartwright said not a word; but his thin lips were pressed together, and
there was fear in his eyes.
Back to the smoking pit-mouth the two men hurried, with Hal following.
Here were a hundred, two hundred women crowded, clamouring questions all
at once. They swarmed about the marshal, the superintendent, the other
bosses--even about Hal, crying hysterically in Polish and Bohemian and
Greek. When Hal shook his head, indicating that he did not understand
them, they moaned in anguish, or shrieked aloud. Some continued to stare
into the smoking pit-mouth; others covered the sight from their eyes, or
sank down upon their knees, sobbing, praying with uplifted hands.
Little by little Hal began to realise the full horror of a
mine-disaster. It was not noise and smoke and darkness, nor frantic,
wailing women; it was not anything above ground, but what was below in
the smoking black pit! It was men! Men whom Hal knew, whom he had worked
with and joked with, whose smiles he had shared; whose daily life he had
come to know! Scores, possibly hundreds of them, they were down here
under his feet--some dead, others injured, maimed. What would they do?
What would those on the surface do for them? Hal tried to get to Cotton,
to ask him questions; but the camp-marshal was surrounded, besieged. He
was pushing the women back, exclaiming, "Go away! Go home!"
What? Go home? they cried. When their men were in the mine? They crowded
about him closer, imploring, shrieking.
"Get out!" he kept exclaiming. "There's nothing you can do! There's
nothing anybody can do yet! Go home! Go home!" He had to beat them back
by force, to keep them from pushing one another into the pit-mouth.
Everywhere Hal looked were women in attitudes of grief: standing rigid,
staring ahead of them as if in a trance; sitting down, rocking to and
fro; on their knees with faces uplifted in prayer; clutching their
terrified children about their skirts. He saw an Austrian woman, a
pitiful, pale young thing with a ragged grey shawl about her head,
stretching out her hands and crying: "Mein Mann! Mein Mann!" Presently
she covered her face, and her voice died into a wail of despair: "O,
mein Mann! O, mein Mann!" She turned away, staggering about like some
creature that has received a death wound. Hal's eyes followed her; her
cry, repeated over and over incessantly, became the leit-motif of this
symphony of horror.
He had read about mine-disasters in his morning newspaper; but here a
mine-disaster became a thing of human flesh and blood. The unendurable
part of it was the utter impotence of himself and of all the world. This
impotence became clearer to him each moment--from the exclamations of
Cotton and of the men he questioned. It was monstrous, incredible--but
it was so! They must send for a new fan, they must wait for it to be
brought in, they must set it up and get it into operation; they must
wait for hours after that while smoke and gas were cleared out of the
main passages of the mine; and until this had been done, there was
nothing they could do--absolutely nothing! The men inside the mine would
stay. Those who had not been killed outright would make their way into
the remoter chambers, and barricade themselves against the deadly "after
damp." They would wait, without food or water, with air of doubtful
quality--they would wait and wait, until the rescue-crew could get to
At moments in the midst of this confusion, Hal found himself trying to
recall who had worked in Number One, among the people he knew. He
himself had been employed in Number Two, so he had naturally come to
know more men in that mine. But he had known some from the other
mine--Old Rafferty for one, and Mary Burke's father for another, and at
least one of the members of his check-weighman group--Zamierowski. Hal
saw in a sudden vision the face of this patient little man, who smiled
so good-naturedly while Americans were trying to say his name. And Old
Rafferty, with all his little Rafferties, and his piteous efforts to
keep the favour of his employers! And poor Patrick Burke, whom Hal had
never seen sober; doubtless he was sober now, if he was still alive!
Then in the crowd Hal encountered Jerry Minetti, and learned that
another man who had been down was Farenzena, the Italian whose
"fanciulla" had played with him; and yet another was Judas
Apostolikas--having taken his thirty pieces of silver with him into the
People were making up lists, just as Hal was doing, by asking questions
of others. These lists were subject to revision--sometimes under
dramatic circumstances. You saw a woman weeping, with her apron to her
eyes; suddenly she would look up, give a piercing cry, and fling her
arms about the neck of some man. As for Hal, he felt as if he were
encountering a ghost when suddenly he recognised Patrick Burke, standing
in the midst of a group of people. He went over and heard the old man's
story--how there was a Dago fellow who had stolen his timbers, and he
had come up to the surface for more; so his life had been saved, while
the timber-thief was down there still--a judgment of Providence upon
Presently Hal asked if Burke had been to tell his family. He had run
home, he said, but there was nobody there. So Hal began pushing his way
through the throngs, looking for Mary, or her sister Jennie, or her
brother Tommie. He persisted in this search, although it occurred to him
to wonder whether the family of a hopeless drunkard would appreciate the
interposition of Providence in his behalf.
He encountered Olson, who had had a narrow escape, being employed as a
surface-man near the hoist. All this was an old story to the organiser,
who had worked in mines since he was eight years old, and had seen many
kinds of disaster. He began to explain things to Hal, in a matter of
fact way. The law required a certain number of openings to every mine,
also an escape-way with ladders by which men could come out; but it cost
good money to dig holes in the ground.
At this time the immediate cause of the explosion was unknown, but they
could tell it was a "dust explosion" by the clouds of coke-dust, and no
one who had been into the mine and seen its dry condition would doubt
what they would find when they went down and traced out the "force" and
its effects. They were supposed to do regular sprinkling, but in such
matters the bosses used their own judgment.
Hal was only half listening to these explanations. The thing was too raw
and too horrible to him. What difference did it make whose fault it was?
The accident had happened, and the question was now how to meet the
emergency! Underneath Olson's sentences he heard the cry of men and boys
being asphyxiated in dark dungeons--he heard the wailing of women, like
a surf beating on a distant shore, or the faint, persistent
accompaniment of muted strings: "O, mein Mann! O, mein Mann!"
They came upon Jeff Cotton again. With half a dozen men to help him, he
was pushing back the crowd from the pit-mouth, and stretching barbed
wired to hold them back. He was none too gentle about it, Hal thought;
but doubtless women are provoking when they are hysterical. He was
answering their frenzied questions, "Yes, yes! We're getting a new fan.
We're doing everything we can, I tell you. We'll get them out. Go home
But of course no one would go home. How could a woman sit in her house,
or go about her ordinary tasks of cooking or washing, while her man
might be suffering asphyxiation under the ground? The least she could do
was to stand at the pit-mouth--as near to him as she could get! Some of
them stood motionless, hour after hour, while others wandered through
the village streets, asking the same people, over and over again, if
they had seen their loved ones. Several had turned up, like Patrick
Burke; there seemed always a chance for one more.
In the course of the afternoon Hal came upon Mary Burke on the street.
She had long ago found her father, and seen him off to O'Callahan's to
celebrate the favours of Providence. Now Mary was concerned with a
graver matter. Number Two Mine was in danger! The explosion in Number
One had been so violent that the gearing of the fan of the other mine,
nearly a mile up the canyon, had been thrown out of order. So the fan
had stopped; and when some one had gone to Alec Stone, asking that he
bring out the men, Stone had refused. "What do ye think he said?" cried
Mary. "What do ye think? 'Damn the men! Save the mules!'"
Hal had all but lost sight of the fact that there was a second mine in
the village, in which hundreds of men and boys were still at work.
"Wouldn't they know about the explosion?" he asked.
"They might have heard the noise," said Mary. "But they'd not know what
it was; and the bosses won't tell them till they've got out the mules."
For all that he had seen in North Valley, Hal could hardly credit that
story. "How do you know it, Mary?"
"Young Rovetta just told me. He was there, and heard it with his own
He was staring at her. "Let's go and make sure," he said, and they
started up the main street of the village. On the way they were joined
by others--for already the news of this fresh trouble had begun to
spread. Jeff Cotton went past them in an automobile, and Mary exclaimed,
"I told ye so! When ye see him goin', ye know there's dirty work to be
They came to the shaft-house of Number Two, and found a swarm of people,
almost a riot. Women and children were shrieking and gesticulating,
threatening to break into the office and use the mine-telephone to warn
the men themselves. And here was the camp-marshal driving them back. Hal
and Mary arrived in time to see Mrs. David, whose husband was at work in
Number Two, shaking her fist in the marshal's face and screaming at him
like a wild-cat. He drew his revolver upon her; and at this Hal started
forward. A blind fury seized him--he would have thrown himself upon the
But Mary Burke stopped him, flinging her arms about him, and pinning him
by main force. "No, no!" she cried. "Stay back, man! D'ye want to get
He was amazed at her strength. He was amazed also at the vehemence of
her emotion. She was calling him a crazy fool, and names even more
harsh. "Have ye no more sense than a woman? Running into the mouth of a
revolver like that!"
The crisis passed in a moment, for Mrs. David fell back, and then the
marshal put up his weapon. But Mary continued scolding Hal, trying to
drag him away. "Come on now! Come out of here!"
"But, Mary! We must do something!"
"Ye can do nothin', I tell ye! Ye'd ought to have sense enough to know
it. I'll not let ye get yeself murdered! Come away now!" And half by
force and half by cajoling, she got him farther down the street.
He was trying to think out the situation. Were the men in Number Two
really in danger? Could it be possible that the bosses would take such a
chance in cold blood? And right at this moment, with the disaster in the
other mine before their eyes! He could not believe it; and meantime
Mary, at his side, was declaring that the men were in no real danger--it
was only Alec Stone's brutal words that had set her crazy.
"Don't ye remember the time when the air-course was blocked before, and
ye helped to get up the mules yeself? Ye thought nothin' of it then, and
'tis the same now. They'll get everybody out in time!"
She was concealing her real feelings in order to keep him safe; he let
her lead him on, while he tried to think of something else to do. He
would think of the men in Number Two; they were his best friends, Jack
David, Tim Rafferty, Wresmak, Androkulos, Klowoski. He would think of
them, in their remote dungeons--breathing bad air, becoming sick and
faint--in order that mules might be saved! He would stop in his tracks,
and Mary would drag him on, repeating over and over, "Ye can do nothin'!
Nothin'!" And then he would think, What could he do? He had put up his
best bluff to Jeff Cotton a few hours earlier, and the answer had been
the muzzle of the marshal's revolver in his face. All he could
accomplish now would be to bring himself to Cotton's attention, and be
thrust out of camp forthwith.
They came to Mary's home; and next door was the home of the Slav woman,
Mrs. Zamboni, about whom in the past she had told him so many funny
stories. Mrs. Zamboni had had a new baby every year for sixteen years,
and eleven of these babies were still alive. Now her husband was trapped
in Number One, and she was distracted, wandering about the streets with
the greater part of her brood at her heels. At intervals she would emit
a howl like a tortured animal, and her brood would take it up in various
timbres. Hal stopped to listen to the sounds, but Mary put her fingers
into her ears and fled into the house. Hal followed her, and saw her
fling herself into a chair and burst into hysterical weeping. And
suddenly Hal realised what a strain this terrible affair had been upon
Mary. It had been bad enough to him--but he was a man, and more able to
contemplate sights of horror. Men went to their deaths in industry and
war, and other men saw them go and inured themselves to the spectacle.
But women were the mothers of these men; it was women who bore them in
pain, nursed them and reared them with endless patience--women could
never become inured to the spectacle! Then too, the women's fate was
worse. If the men were dead, that was the end of them; but the women
must face the future, with its bitter memories, its lonely and desolate
struggle for existence. The women must see the children suffering, dying
by slow stages of deprivation.
Hal's pity for all suffering women became concentrated upon the girl
beside him. He knew how tenderhearted she was. She had no man in the
mine, but some day she would have, and she was suffering the pangs of
that inexorable future. He looked at her, huddled in her chair, wiping
away her tears with the hem of her old blue calico. She seemed
unspeakably pathetic--like a child that has been hurt. She was sobbing
out sentences now and then, as if to herself: "Oh, the poor women, the
poor women! Did ye see the face of Mrs. Jonotch? She'd jumped into the
smoking pit-mouth if they'd let her!"
"Don't suffer so, Mary!" pleaded Hal--as if he thought she could stop.
"Let me alone!" she cried. "Let me have it out!" And Hal, who had had no
experience with hysteria, stood helplessly by.
"There's more misery than I ever knew there was!" she went on. "'Tis
everywhere ye turn, a woman with her eyes burnin' with suffering
wondering if she'll ever see her man again! Or some mother whose lad may
be dying and she can do nothin' for him!"
"And neither can you do anything, Mary," Hal pleaded again. "You're only
sorrowing yourself to death."
"Ye say that to me?" she cried. "And when ye were ready to let Jeff
Cotton shoot ye, because you were so sorry for Mrs. David! No, the
sights here nobody can stand."
He could think of nothing to answer. He drew up a chair and sat by her
in silence, and after a while she began to grow calmer, and wiped away
her tears, and sat gazing dully through the doorway into the dirty
Hal's eyes followed hers. There were the ash-heaps and tomato-cans,
there were two of Mrs. Zamboni's bedraggled brood, poking with sticks
into a dump-heap--looking for something to eat, perhaps, or for
something to play with. There was the dry, waste grass of the road-side,
grimy with coal-dust, as was everything else in the village. What a
scene!--And this girl's eyes had never a sight of anything more
inspiring than this. Day in and day out, all her life long, she looked
at this scene! Had he ever for a moment reproached her for her "black
moods"? With such an environment could men or women be cheerful--could
they dream of beauty, aspire to heights of nobility and courage, to
happy service of their fellows? There was a miasma of despair over this
place; it was not a real place--it was a dream-place--a horrible,
distorted nightmare! It was like the black hole in the ground which
haunted Hal's imagination, with men and boys at the bottom of it, dying
Suddenly it came to Hal--he wanted to get away from North Valley! To get
away at all costs! The place had worn down his courage; slowly, day
after day, the sight of misery and want, of dirt and disease, of hunger,
oppression, despair, had eaten the soul out of him, had undermined his
fine structure of altruistic theories. Yes, he wanted to escape--to a
place where the sun shone, where the grass grew green, where human
beings stood erect and laughed and were free. He wanted to shut from his
eyes the dust and smoke of this nasty little village; to stop his ears
to that tormenting sound of women wailing: "O, mein Mann! O, mein Mann!"
He looked at the girl, who sat staring before her, bent forward, her
arms hanging limply over her knees.
"Mary," he said, "you must go away from here! It's no place for a
tenderhearted girl to be. It's no place for any one!"
She gazed at him dully for a moment. "It was me that was tellin' _you_
to go away," she said, at last. "Ever since ye came here I been sayin'
it! Now I guess ye know what I mean."
"Yes," he said, "I do, and I want to go. But I want you to go too."
"D'ye think 'twould do me any good, Joe?" she asked. "D'ye think 'twould
do me any good to get away? Could I ever forget the sights I've seen
this day? Could I ever have any real, honest happiness anywhere after
He tried to reassure her, but he was far from reassured himself. How
would it be with him? Would he ever feel that he had a right to
happiness after this? Could he take any satisfaction in a pleasant and
comfortable world, knowing that it was based upon such hideous misery?
His thoughts went to that world, where careless, pleasure-loving people
sought gratification of their desires. It came to him suddenly that what
he wanted more than to get away was to bring those people here, if only
for a day, for an hour, that they might hear this chorus of wailing
Mary made Hal swear that he would not get into a fight with Cotton; then
they went to Number Two. They found the mules coming up, and the bosses
promising that in a short while the men would be coming. Everything was
all right--there was not a bit of danger! But Mary was afraid to trust
Hal, in spite of his promise, so she lured him back to Number One.
They found that a rescue-car had just arrived from Pedro, bringing
doctors and nurses, also several "helmets." These "helmets" were strange
looking contrivances, fastened over the head and shoulders, air-tight,
and provided with oxygen sufficient to last for an hour or more. The men
who wore them sat in a big bucket which was let down the shaft with a
windlass, and every now and then they pulled on a signal-cord to let
those on the surface know they were alive. When the first of them came
back, he reported that there were bodies near the foot of the shaft, but
apparently all dead. There was heavy black smoke, indicating a fire
somewhere in the mine; so nothing more could be done until the fan had
been set up. By reversing the fan, they could draw out the smoke and
gases and clear the shaft.
The state mine-inspector had been notified, but was ill at home, and was
sending one of his deputies. Under the law this official would have
charge of all the rescue work, but Hal found that the miners took no
interest in his presence. It had been his duty to prevent the accident,
and he had not done so. When he came, he would do what the company
Some time after dark the workers began to come out of Number Two, and
their women, waiting at the pit-mouth, fell upon their necks with cries
of thankfulness. Hal observed other women, whose men were in Number One,
and would perhaps never come out again, standing and watching these
greetings with wistful, tear-filled eyes. Among those who came out was
Jack David, and Hal walked home with him and his wife, listening to the
latter abuse Jeff Cotton and Alec Stone, which was an education in the
vocabulary of class-consciousness. The little Welsh woman repeated the
pit-boss's saying, "Damn the men, save the mules!" She said it again and
again--it seemed to delight her like a work of art, it summed up so
perfectly the attitude of the bosses to their men! There were many other
people repeating that saying, Hal found; it went all over the village,
in a few days it went all over the district. It summed up what the
district believed to be the attitude of the coal-operators to the
Having got over the first shock of the disaster, Hal wanted information,
and he questioned Big Jack, a solid and well-read man who had given
thought to every aspect of the industry. In his quiet, slow way, he
explained to Hal that the frequency of accidents in this district was
not due to any special difficulty in operating these mines, the
explosiveness of the gases or the dryness of the atmosphere. It was
merely the carelessness of those in charge, their disregard of the laws
for the protection of the men. There ought to be a law with "teeth" in
it--for example, one providing that for every man killed in a coal-mine
his heirs should receive a thousand dollars, regardless of who had been
to blame for the accident. Then you would see how quickly the operators
would get busy and find remedies for the "unusual" dangers!
As it was, they knew that no matter how great their culpability, they
could get off with slight loss. Already, no doubt, their lawyers were on
the spot, and by the time the first bodies were brought out, they would
be fixing things up with the families. They would offer a widow a ticket
back to the old country; they would offer a whole family of orphaned
children, maybe fifty dollars, maybe a hundred dollars--and it would be
a case of take it or leave it. You could get nothing from the courts;
the case was so hopeless that you could not even find a lawyer to make
the attempt. That was one reform in which the companies believed, said
"Big Jack," with sarcasm; they had put the "shyster lawyer" out of
There followed a night and then another day of torturing suspense. The
fan came, but it had to be set up before anything could be done. As
volumes of black smoke continued to pour from the shaft, the opening was
made tight with a board and canvas cover; it was necessary, the bosses
said, but to Hal it seemed the climax of horror. To seal up men and boys
in a place of deadly gases!
There was something peculiarly torturing in the idea of men caught in a
mine; they were directly under one's feet, yet it was impossible to get
to them, to communicate with them in any way! The people on top yearned
to them, and they, down below, yearned back. It was impossible to forget
them for even a few minutes. People would become abstracted while they
talked, and would stand staring into space; suddenly, in the midst of a
crowd, a woman would bury her face in her hands and burst into tears,
and then all the others would follow suit.
Few people slept in North Valley during those two nights. They held
mourning parties in their homes or on the streets. Some house-work had
to be done, of course, but no one did anything that could be left
undone. The children would not play; they stood about, silent, pale,
like wizened-up grown people, over-mature in knowledge of trouble. The
nerves of every one were on edge, the self-control of every one balanced
upon a fine point.
It was a situation bound to be fruitful in imaginings and rumours,
stimulated to those inclined to signs and omens--the seers of ghosts, or
those who went into trances, or possessed second sight or other
mysterious gifts. There were some living in a remote part of the village
who declared they had heard explosions under the ground, several blasts
in quick succession. The men underground were setting off dynamite by
way of signalling!
In the course of the second day Hal sat with Mary Burke upon the steps
of her home. Old Patrick lay within, having found the secret of oblivion
at O'Callahan's. Now and then came the moaning of Mrs. Zamboni, who was
in her cabin with her brood of children. Mary had been in to feed them,
because the distracted mother let them starve and cry. Mary was worn
out, herself; the wonderful Irish complexion had faded, and there were
no curves to the vivid lips. They had been sitting in silence, for there
was nothing to talk of but the disaster--and they had said all there was
to say about that. But Hal had been thinking while he watched Mary.
"Listen, Mary," he said, at last; "when this thing is over, you must
really come away from here. I've thought it all out--I have friends in
Western City who will give you work, so you can take care of yourself,
and of your brother and sister too. Will you go?"
But she did not answer. She continued to gaze indifferently into the
dirty little street.
"Truly, Mary," he went on. "Life isn't so terrible everywhere as it is
here. Come away! Hard as it is to believe, you'll forget all this.
People suffer, but then they stop suffering; it's nature's way--to make
"Nature's way has been to beat me dead," said she.
"Yes, Mary. Despair can become a disease, but it hasn't with you. You're
just tired out. If you'll try to rouse yourself--" And he reached over
and caught her hand with an attempt at playfulness. "Cheer up, Mary!
You're coming away from North Valley."
She turned and looked at him. "Am I?" she asked, impassively; and she
went on studying his face. "Who are ye, Joe Smith? What are ye doin'
"Working in a coal-mine," he laughed, still trying to divert her.
But she went on, as gravely as before. "Ye're no working man, that I
know. And ye're always offering me help! Ye're always sayin' what ye can
do for me!" She paused and there came some of the old defiance into her
face. "Joe, ye can have no idea of the feelin's that have got hold of me
just now. I'm ready to do something desperate; ye'd best be leavin' me
"I think I understand, Mary. I would hardly blame you for anything you
She took up his words eagerly. "Wouldn't ye, Joe? Ye're sure? Then what
I want is to get the truth from ye. I want ye to talk it out fair!"
"All right, Mary. What is it?"
But her defiance had vanished suddenly. Her eyes dropped, and he saw her
fingers picking nervously at a fold of her dress. "About us, Joe," she
said. "I've thought sometimes ye cared for me. I've thought ye liked to
be with me--not just because ye were sorry for me, but because of _me_.
I've not been sure, but I can't help thinkin' it's so. Is it?"
"Yes, it is," he said, a little uncertainly. "I _do_ care for you."
"Then is it that ye don't care for that other girl all the time?"
"No," he said, "it's not that."
"Ye can care for two girls at the same time?"
He did not know what to say. "It would seem that I can, Mary."
She raised her eyes again and studied his face. "Ye told me about that
other girl, and I been wonderin', was it only to put me off? Maybe it's
me own fault, but I can't make meself believe in that other girl, Joe!"
"You're mistaken, Mary," he answered, quickly. "What I told you was
"Well, maybe so," she said, but there was no conviction in her tone. "Ye
come away from her, and ye never go where she is or see her--it's hard
to believe ye'd do that way if ye were very close to her. I just don't
think ye love her as much as ye might. And ye say you do care some for
me. So I've thought--I've wondered--"
She stopped, forcing herself to meet his gaze: "I been tryin' to work it
out! I know ye're too good a man for me, Joe. Ye come from a better
place in life, ye've a right to expect more in a woman--"
"It's not that, Mary!"
But she cut him short. "I know that's true! Ye're only tryin' to save my
feelin's. I know ye're better than me! I've tried hard to hold me head
up, I've tried a long time not to let meself go to pieces. I've even
tried to keep cheerful, telling meself I'd not want to be like Mrs.
Zamboni, forever complainin'. But 'tis no use tellin' yourself lies! I
been up to the church, and heard the Reverend Spragg tell the people
that the rich and poor are the same in the sight of the Lord. And maybe
'tis so, but I'm not the Lord, and I'll never pretend I'm not ashamed to
be livin' in a place like this."
"I'm sure the Lord has no interest in keeping you here--" he began.
But she broke in, "What makes it so hard to bear is knowin' there's so
many wonderful things in the world, and ye can never have them! 'Tis as
if ye had to see them through a pane of glass, like in the window of a
store. Just think, Joe Smith--once, in a church in Sheridan, I heard a
lady sing beautiful music; once in my whole lifetime! Can ye guess what
it meant to me?"
"Yes, Mary, I can."
"But I had that all out with meself--years ago. I knew the price a
workin' girl has to pay for such things, and I said, I'll not let meself
think about them. I've hated this place, I've wanted to get away--but
there's only one way to go, to let some man take ye! So I've stayed;
I've kept straight, Joe. I want ye to believe that."
"Of course, Mary!"
"No! It's not been 'of course'! It means ye have to fight with
temptations. It's many a time I've looked at Jeff Cotton, and thought
about the things I need! And I've done without! But now comes the thing
a woman wants more than all the other things in the world!"
She paused, but only for a moment. "They tell ye to love a man of your
own class. Me old mother said that to me, before she died. But suppose
ye didn't happen to? Suppose ye'd stopped and thought what it meant,
havin' one baby after another, till ye're worn out and drop--like me old
mother did? Suppose ye knew good manners when ye see them--ye knew
interestin' talk when ye heard it!" She clasped her hands suddenly
before her, exclaiming, "Ah, 'tis something different ye are, Joe--so
different from anything around here! The way ye talk, the way ye move,
the gay look in your eyes! No miner ever had that happy look, Joe; me
heart stops beatin' almost when ye look at me!" She stopped with a sharp
catching of her breath, and he saw that she was struggling for
self-control. After a moment she exclaimed, defiantly: "But they'd tell
ye, be careful, ye daren't love that kind of man; ye'd only have your
There was silence. For this problem the amateur sociologist had no
solution at hand--whether for the abstract question, or for its concrete
Mary forced herself to go on. "This is how I've worked it out, Joe! I
said to meself, 'Ye love this man; and it's his _love_ ye want--nothin'
else! If he's got a place in the world, ye'd only hold him back--and
ye'd not want to do that. Ye don't want his name, or his friends, or any
of those things--ye want _him_!' Have ye ever heard of such a thing as
Her cheeks were flaming, but she continued to meet his gaze. "Yes, I've
heard of it," he answered, in a low voice.
"What would ye say to it? Is it honest? The Reverend Spragg would say
'twas the devil, no doubt; Father O'Gorman, down in Pedro, would call it
mortal sin; and maybe they know--but I don't! I only know I can't stand
it any more!"
Tears sprang to her eyes, and she cried out suddenly, "Oh, take me away
from here! Take me away and give me a chance, Joe! I'll ask nothing,
I'll never stand in your way; I'll work for ye, I'll cook and wash and
do everything for ye, I'll wear my fingers to the bone! Or I'll go out
and work at some job, and earn my share. And I'll make ye this
promise--if ever ye get tired and want to leave me, ye'll not hear a
word of complaint!"
She made no conscious appeal to his senses; she sat gazing at him
honestly through her tears, and that made it all the harder to answer
What could he say? He felt the old dangerous impulse--to take the girl
in his arms and comfort her. When finally he spoke it was with an effort
to keep his voice calm. "I'd say yes, Mary, if I thought it would work."
"It _would_ work! It would, Joe! Ye can quit when ye want to. I mean
"There's no woman lives who can be happy on such terms, Mary. She wants
her man, and she wants him to herself, and she wants him always; she's
only deluding herself if she believes anything else. You're over-wrought
now, what you've seen in the last few days has made you wild--"
"No!" she exclaimed. "'Tis not only that! I been thinkin' about it for
"I know. You've been thinking, but you wouldn't have spoken if it hadn't
been for this horror." He paused for a moment, to renew his own
self-possession. "It won't do, Mary," he declared. "I've seen it tried
more than once, and I'm not so old either. My own brother tried it once,
and ruined himself."
"Ah, ye're afraid to trust me, Joe!"
"No, it's not that; what I mean is--he ruined his own heart, he made
himself selfish. He took everything, and gave nothing. He's much older
than I, so I've had a chance to see its effect on him. He's cold, he has
no faith, even in his own nature; when you talk to him about making the
world better he tells you you're a fool."
"It's another way of bein' afraid of me," she insisted. "Afraid you'd
ought to marry me!"
"But, Mary--there's the other girl. I really love her, and I'm promised
to her. What can I do?"
"'Tis that I've never believed you loved her," she said, in a whisper.
Her eyes fell and she began picking nervously again at the faded blue
dress, which was smutted and grease-stained, perhaps from her recent
effort with Mrs. Zamboni's brood. Several times Hal thought she was
going to speak, but she shut her lips tightly again; he watched her, his
When finally she spoke, it was still in a whisper, and there was a note
of humility he had never heard from her before. "Ye'll not be wantin' to
speak to me, Joe, after what I've said."
"Oh, Mary!" he exclaimed, and caught her hand, "don't say I've made you
more unhappy! I want to help you! Won't you let me be your friend--your
real, true friend? Let me help you to get out of this trap; you'll have
a chance to look about, you'll find a way to be happy--the whole world
will seem different to you then, and you'll laugh at the idea that you
ever wanted me!"
The two of them went back to the pit-mouth. It had been two days since
the disaster, and still the fan had not been started, and there was no
sign of its being started. The hysteria of the women was growing, and
there was a tension in the crowds. Jeff Cotton had brought in a force of
men to assist him in keeping order. They had built a fence of barbed
wire about the pit-mouth and its approaches, and behind this wire they
walked--hard-looking citizens with policemen's "billies," and the bulge
of revolvers plainly visible on their hips.
During this long period of waiting, Hal had talks with members of his
check-weighman group. They told what had happened while he was in jail,
and this reminded him of something which had been driven from his mind
by the explosion. Poor old John Edstrom was down in Pedro, perhaps in
dire need. Hal went to the old Swede's cabin that night, climbed through
a window, and dug up the buried money. There were five five-dollar
bills, and he put them in an envelope, addressed them in care of General
Delivery, Pedro, and had Mary Burke take them to the post office and
The hours dragged on, and still there was no sign of the pit-mouth being
opened. There began to be secret gatherings of the miners and their
wives to complain at the conduct of the company; and it was natural that
Hal's friends who had started the check-weighman movement, should take
the lead in these. They were among the most intelligent of the workers,
and saw farther into the meaning of events. They thought, not merely of
the men who were trapped under ground at this moment, but of thousands
of others who would be trapped through years to come. Hal, especially,
was pondering how he could accomplish something definite before he left
the camp; for of course he would have to leave soon--Jeff Cotton would
remember him, and carry out his threat to get rid of him.
Newspapers had come in, with accounts of the disaster, and Hal and his
friends read these. It was evident that the company had been at pains to
have the accounts written from its own point of view. There existed some
public sensitiveness on the subject of mine-disasters in this state. The
death-rate from accidents was seen to be mounting steadily; the reports
of the state mine inspector showed six per thousand in one year, eight
and a half in the next, and twenty-one and a half in the next. When
fifty or a hundred men were killed in a single accident, and when such
accidents kept happening, one on the heels of another, even the most
callous public could not help asking questions. So in this case the "G.
F. C." had been careful to minimise the loss of life, and to make
excuses. The accident had been owing to no fault of the company's; the
mine had been regularly sprinkled, both with water and adobe dust, and
so the cause of the explosion must have been the carelessness of the men
in handling powder.
In Jack David's cabin one night there arose a discussion as to the
number of men entombed in the mine. The company's estimate of the number
was forty, but Minetti and Olson and David agreed that this was absurd.
Any man who went about in the crowds could satisfy himself that there
were two or three times as many unaccounted for. And this falsification
was deliberate, for the company had a checking system, whereby it knew
the name of every man in the mine. But most of these names were
unpronounceable Slavish, and the owners of the names had no friends to
mention them--at least not in any language understood by American
It was all a part of the system, declared Jack David: its purpose and
effect being to enable the company to go on killing men without paying
for them, either in money or in prestige. It occurred to Hal that it
might be worth while to contradict these false statements--almost as
worth while as to save the men who were at this moment entombed. Any one
who came forward to make such a contradiction would of course be giving
himself up to the black-list; but then, Hal regarded himself as a man
already condemned to that penalty.
Tom Olson spoke up. "What would you do with your contradiction?"
"Give it to the papers," Hal answered.
"But what papers would print it?"
"There are two rival papers in Pedro, aren't there?"
"One owned by Alf Raymond, the sheriff-emperor, and the other by
Vagleman, counsel for the 'G. F. C.' Which one would you try?"
"Well then, the outside papers--those in Western City. There are
reporters here now, and some one of them would surely take it."
Olson answered, declaring that they would not get any but labour and
Socialist papers to print such news. But even that was well worth doing.
And Jack David, who was strong for unions and all their activities, put
in, "The thing to do is to take a regular census, so as to know exactly
how many are in the mine."
The suggestion struck fire, and they agreed to set to work that same
evening. It would be a relief to do something, to have something in
their minds but despair. They passed the word to Mary Burke, to Rovetta,
Klowoski, and others; and at eleven o'clock the next morning they met
again, and the lists were put together, and it was found that no less
than a hundred and seven men and boys were positively known to be inside
As it happened, however, discussion of this list and the method of
giving it to the world was cut short by a more urgent matter. Jack David
came in with news of fresh trouble at the pit-mouth. The new fan was
being put in place; but they were slow about it, so slow that some
people had become convinced that they did not mean to start the fan at
all, but were keeping the mine sealed to prevent the fire from
spreading. A group of such malcontents had presumed to go to Mr.
Carmichael, the deputy state mine-inspector, to urge him to take some
action; and the leader of these protestants, Huszar, the Austrian, who
had been one of Hal's check-weighman group, had been taken into custody
and marched at double-quick to the gate of the stockade!
Jack David declared furthermore that he knew a carpenter who was working
in the fan-house, and who said that no haste whatever was being made.
All the men at the fan-house shared that opinion; the mine was sealed,
and would stay sealed until the company was sure the fire was out.
"But," argued Hal, "if they were to open it, the fire would spread; and
wouldn't that prevent rescue work?"
"Not at all," declared "Big Jack." He explained that by reversing the
fan they could draw the smoke up through the air-course, which would
clear the main passages for a time. "But, you see, some coal might catch
fire, and some timbers; there might be falls of rock so they couldn't
work some of the rooms again."
"How long will they keep the mine sealed?" cried Hal, in consternation.
"Nobody can say. In a big mine like that, a fire might smoulder for a
"Everybody be dead!" cried Rosa Minetti, wringing her hands in a sudden
access of grief.
Hal turned to Olson. "Would they possibly do such a thing?"
"It's been done--more than once," was the organiser's reply.
"Did you never hear about Cherry, Illinois?" asked David. "They did it
there, and more than three hundred people lost their lives." He went on
to tell that dreadful story, known to every coal-miner. They had sealed
the mine, while women fainted and men tore their clothes in frenzy--some
going insane. They had kept it sealed for two weeks, and when they
opened it, there were twenty-one men still alive!
"They did the same thing in Diamondville, Wyoming," added Olson. "They
built up a barrier, and when they took it away they found a heap of dead
men, who had crawled to it and torn their fingers to the bone trying to
"My God!" cried Hal, springing to his feet. "And this man
Carmichael--would he stand for that?"
"He'd tell you they were doing their best," said "Big Jack." "And maybe
he thinks they are. But you'll see--something'll keep happening; they'll
drag on from day to day, and they'll not start the fan till they're
"Why, it's murder!" cried Hal.
"It's business," said Tom Olson, quietly.
Hal looked from one to another of the faces of these working people. Not
one but had friends in that trap; not one but might be in the same trap
"You have to stand it!" he exclaimed, half to himself.
"Don't you see the guards at the pit-mouth?" answered David. "Don't you
see the guns sticking out of their pockets?"
"They bring in more guards this morning," put in Jerry Minetti. "Rosa,
she see them get off."
"They know what they doin'!" said Rosa. "They only fraid we find it out!
They told Mrs. Zamboni she keep away or they send her out of camp. And
old Mrs. Jonotch--her husband and three sons inside!"
"They're getting rougher and rougher," declared Mrs. David. "That big
fellow they call Pete, that came up from Pedro--the way he's handling
the women is a shame!"
"I know him," put in Olson; "Pete Hanun. They had him in Sheridan when
the union first opened headquarters. He smashed one of our organisers in
the mouth and broke four of his teeth. They say he has a jail-record."
All through the previous year at college Hal had listened to lectures
upon political economy, filled with the praises of a thing called
"Private Ownership." This Private Ownership developed initiative and
economy; it kept the wheels of industry a-roll, it kept fat the
pay-rolls of college faculties; it accorded itself with the sacred laws
of supply and demand, it was the basis of the progress and prosperity
wherewith America had been blessed. And here suddenly Hal found himself
face to face with the reality of it; he saw its wolfish eyes glaring
into his own, he felt its smoking hot breath in his face, he saw its
gleaming fangs and claw-like fingers, dripping with the blood of men and
women and children. Private Ownership of coal-mines! Private Ownership
of sealed-up entrances and non-existent escape-ways! Private Ownership
of fans which did not start, of sprinklers which did not sprinkle.
Private Ownership of clubs and revolvers, and of thugs and ex-convicts
to use them, driving away rescuers and shutting up agonised widows and
orphans in their homes! Oh, the serene and well-fed priests of Private
Ownership, chanting in academic halls the praises of the bloody Demon!
Suddenly Hal stopped still. Something had risen in him, the existence of
which he had never suspected. There was a new look upon his face, his
voice was deep as a strong man's when he spoke: "I am going to make them
open that mine!"
They looked at him. They were all of them close to the border of
hysteria, but they caught the strange note in his utterance. "I am going
to make them open that mine!"
"How?" asked Olson.
"The public doesn't know about this thing. If the story got out, there'd
be such a clamour, it couldn't go on!"
"But how will you get it out?"
"I'll give it to the newspapers! They can't suppress such a thing--I
don't care how prejudiced they are!"
"But do you think they'd believe what a miner's buddy tells them?" asked
"I'll find a way to make them believe me," said Hal. "I'm going to make
them open that mine!"
In the course of his wanderings about the camp, Hal had observed several
wide-awake looking young men with notebooks in their hands. He could see
that these young men were being made guests of the company, chatting
with the bosses upon friendly terms; nevertheless, he believed that
among them he might find one who had a conscience--or at any rate who
would yield to the temptation of a "scoop." So, leaving the gathering at
Mrs. David's, Hal went to the pit-mouth, watching out for one of these
reporters; when he found him, he followed him for a while, desiring to
get him where no company "spotter" might interfere. At the first chance,
he stepped up, and politely asked the reporter to come into a side
street, where they might converse undisturbed.
The reporter obeyed the request; and Hal, concealing the intensity of
his feelings, so as not to repel the other, let it be known that he had
worked in North Valley for some months, and could tell much about
conditions in the camp. There was the matter of adobe-dust, for example.
Explosions in dry mines could be prevented by spraying the walls with
this material. Did the reporter happen to know that the company's claim
to have used it was entirely false?
No, the reporter answered, he did not know this. He seemed interested,
and asked Hal's name and occupation. Hal told him "Joe Smith," a
"buddy," who had recently been chosen as check-weighman. The reporter, a
lean and keen-faced young man, asked many questions--intelligent
questions; incidentally he mentioned that he was the local correspondent
of the great press association whose stories of the disaster were sent
to every corner of the country. This seemed to Hal an extraordinary
piece of good fortune, and he proceeded to tell this Mr. Graham about
the census which some of the workers had taken; they were able to give
the names of a hundred and seven men and boys who were inside the mine.
The list was at Mr. Graham's disposal if he cared to see it. Mr. Graham
seemed more interested than ever, and made notes in his book.
Another thing, more important yet, Hal continued; the matter of the
delay in getting the fan started. It had been three days since the
explosion, but there had been no attempt at entering the mine. Had Mr.
Graham seen the disturbance at the pit-mouth that morning? Did he
realise that a man had been thrown out of camp merely because he had
appealed to the deputy state mine-inspector? Hal told what so many had
come to believe--that the company was saving property at the expense of
life. He went on to point out the human meaning of this--he told about
old Mrs. Rafferty, with her failing health and her eight children; about
Mrs. Zamboni, with eleven children; about Mrs. Jonotch, with a husband
and three sons in the mine. Led on by the reporter's interest, Hal began
to show some of his feeling. These were human beings, not animals; they
loved and suffered, even though they were poor and humble!
"Most certainly!" said Mr. Graham. "You're right, and you may rest
assured I'll look into this."
"There's one thing more," said Hal. "If my name is mentioned, I'll be
fired, you know."
"I won't mention it," said the other.
"Of course, if you can't publish the story without giving its source--"
"I'm the source," said the reporter, with a smile. "Your name would not
He spoke with quiet assurance; he seemed to know so completely both the
situation and his own duty in regard to it, that Hal felt a thrill of
triumph. It was as if a strong wind had come blowing from the outside
world, dispelling the miasma which hung over this coal-camp. Yes, this
reporter _was_ the outside world! He was the power of public opinion,
making itself felt in this place of knavery and fear! He was the voice
of truth, the courage and rectitude of a great organisation of
publicity, independent of secret influences, lifted above corruption!
"I'm indebted to you," said Mr. Graham, at the end, and Hal's sense of
victory was complete. What an extraordinary chance--that he should have
run into the agent of the great press association! The story would go
out to the great world of industry, which depended upon coal as its
life-blood. The men in the factories, the wheels of which were turned by
coal--the travellers on trains which were moved by coal--they would hear
at last of the sufferings of those who toiled in the bowels of the earth
for them! Even the ladies, reclining upon the decks of palatial
steamships in gleaming tropic seas--so marvellous was the power of
modern news-spreading agencies, that these ladies too might hear the cry
for help of these toilers, and of their wives and little ones! And from
this great world would come an answer, a universal shout of horror, of
execration, that would force even old Peter Harrigan to give way! So Hal
mused--for he was young, and this was his first crusade.
He was so happy that he was able to think of himself again, and to
realise that he had not eaten that day. It was noon-time, and he went
into Reminitsky's, and was about half through with the first course of
Reminitsky's two-course banquet, when his cruel disillusioning fell upon
He looked up and saw Jeff Cotton striding into the dining-room, making
straight for him. There was blood in the marshal's eye, and Hal saw it,
and rose, instinctively.
"Come!" said Cotton, and took him by the coat-sleeve and marched him
out, almost before the rest of the diners had time to catch their
Hal had no opportunity now to display his "tea-party manners" to the
camp-marshal. As they walked, Cotton expressed his opinion of him, that
he was a skunk, a puppy, a person of undesirable ancestry; and when Hal
endeavoured to ask a question--which he did quite genuinely, not
grasping at once the meaning of what was happening--the marshal bade him
"shut his face," and emphasised the command by a twist at his
coat-collar. At the same time two of the huskiest mine-guards, who had
been waiting at the dining-room door, took him, one by each arm, and
assisted his progress.
They went down the street and past Jeff Cotton's office, not stopping
this time. Their destination was the railroad-station, and when Hal got
there, he saw a train standing. The three men marched him to it, not
releasing him till they had jammed him down into a seat.
"Now, young fellow," said Cotton, "we'll see who's running this camp!"
By this time Hal had regained a part of his self-possession. "Do I need
a ticket?" he asked.
"I'll see to that," said the marshal.
"And do I get my things?"
"You save some questions for your college professors," snapped the
So Hal waited; and a minute or two later a man arrived on the run with
his scanty belongings, rolled into a bundle and tied with a piece of
twine. Hal noted that this man was big and ugly, and was addressed by
the camp-marshal as "Pete."
The conductor shouted, "All aboard!" And at the same time Jeff Cotton
leaned over towards Hal and spoke in a menacing whisper: "Take this from
me, young fellow; don't stop in Pedro, move on in a hurry, or something
will happen to you on a dark night."
After which he strode down the aisle, and jumped off the moving train.
But Hal noticed that Pete Hanun, the breaker of teeth, stayed on the car
a few seats behind him.
THE HENCHMEN OF KING COAL
It was Hal's intention to get to Western City as quickly as possible to
call upon the newspaper editors. But first he must have money to travel,
and the best way he could think of to get it was to find John Edstrom.
He left the train, followed by Pete Hanun; after some inquiry, he came
upon the undertaker who had buried Edstrom's wife, and who told him
where the old Swede was staying, in the home of a labouring-man nearby.
Edstrom greeted him with eager questions: Who had been killed? What was
the situation? Hal told in brief sentences what had happened. When he
mentioned his need of money, Edstrom answered that he had a little, and
would lend it, but it was not enough for a ticket to Western City. Hal
asked about the twenty-five dollars which Mary Burke had sent by
registered mail; the old man had heard nothing about it, he had not been
to the post-office. "Let's go now!" said Hal, at once; but as they were
starting downstairs, a fresh difficulty occurred to him. Pete Hanun was
on the street outside, and it was likely that he had heard about this
money from Jeff Cotton; he might hold Edstrom up and take it away.
"Let me suggest something," put in the old man. "Come and see my friend
Ed MacKellar. He may be able to give us some advice--even to think of
some way to get the mine open." Edstrom explained that MacKellar, an old
Scotchman, had been a miner, but was now crippled, and held some petty
office in Pedro. He was a persistent opponent of "Alf" Raymond's
machine, and they had almost killed him on one occasion. His home was
not far away, and it would take little time to consult him.
"All right," said Hal, and they set out at once. Pete Hanun followed
them, not more than a dozen yards behind, but did not interfere, and
they turned in at the gate of a little cottage. A woman opened the door
for them, and asked them into the dining-room where MacKellar was
sitting--a grey-haired old man, twisted up with rheumatism and obliged
to go about on crutches.
Hal told his story. As the Scotchman had been brought up in the mines,
it was not necessary to go into details about the situation. When Hal
told his idea of appealing to the newspapers, the other responded at
once, "You won't have to go to Western City. There's a man right here
who'll do the business for you; Keating, of the _Gazette_."
"The Western City _Gazette?_" exclaimed Hal. He knew this paper; an
evening journal selling for a cent, and read by working-men. Persons of
culture who referred to it disposed of it with the adjective "yellow."
"I know," said MacKellar, noting Hal's tone. "But it's the only paper
that will publish your story anyway."
"Where is this Keating?"
"He's been up at the mine. It's too bad you didn't meet him."
"Can we get hold of him now?"
"He might be in Pedro. Try the American Hotel."
Hal went to the telephone, and in a minute was hearing for the first
time the cheery voice of his friend and lieutenant-to-be, "Billy"
Keating. In a couple of minutes more the owner of the voice was at
MacKellar's door, wiping the perspiration from his half-bald forehead.
He was round-faced, like a full moon, and as jolly as Falstaff; when you
got to know him better, you discovered that he was loyal as a
Newfoundland dog. For all his bulk, Keating was a newspaper man, every
inch of him "on the job."
He started to question the young miner as soon as he was introduced, and
it quickly became clear to Hal that here was the man he was looking for.
Keating knew exactly what questions to ask, and had the whole story in a
few minutes. "By thunder!" he cried. "My last edition!" And he pulled
out his watch, and sprang to the telephone. "Long distance," he called;
then, "I want the city editor of the Western City _Gazette_. And,
operator, please see if you can't rush it through. It's very urgent, and
last time I had to wait nearly half an hour."
He turned back to Hal, and proceeded to ask more questions, at the same
time pulling a bunch of copy-paper from his pocket and making notes. He
got all Hal's statements about the lack of sprinkling, the absence of
escape-ways, the delay in starting the fan, the concealing of the number
of men in the mine. "I knew things were crooked up there!" he exclaimed.
"But I couldn't get a lead! They kept a man with me every minute of the
time. You know a fellow named Predovich?"
"I do," said Hal. "The company store-clerk; he once went through my
Keating made a face of disgust. "Well, he was my chaperon. Imagine
trying to get the miners to talk to you with that sneak at your heels! I
said to the superintendent, 'I don't need anybody to escort me around
your place.' And he looked at me with a nasty little smile. 'We wouldn't
want anything to happen to you while you're in this camp, Mr. Keating.'
'You don't consider it necessary to protect the lives of the other
reporters,' I said. 'No,' said he; 'but the _Gazette_ has made a great
many enemies, you know.' 'Drop your fooling, Mr. Cartwright,' I said.
'You propose to have me shadowed while I'm working on this assignment?'
'You can put it that way,' he answered, 'if you think it'll please the
readers of the _Gazette_.'"
"Too bad we didn't meet!" said Hal. "Or if you'd run into any of our
"Oh! You know about that check-weighman business!" exclaimed the
reporter. "I got a hint of it--that's how I happened to be down here
to-day. I heard there was a man named Edstrom, who'd been shut out for
making trouble; and I thought if I could find him, I might get a lead."
Hal and MacKellar looked at the old Swede, and the three of them began
to laugh. "Here's your man!" said MacKellar.
"And here's your check-weighman!" added Edstrom, pointing to Hal.
Instantly the reporter was on his job again; he began to fire another
series of questions. He would use that check-weighman story as a
"follow-up" for the next day, to keep the subject of North Valley alive.
The story had a direct bearing on the disaster, because it showed what
the North Valley bosses were doing when they should have been looking
after the safety of their mine. "I'll write it out this afternoon and
send it by mail," said Keating; he added, with a smile, "That's one
advantage of handling news the other papers won't touch--you don't have
to worry about losing your 'scoops'!"
Keating went to the telephone again, to worry "long distance"; then,
grumbling about his last edition, he came back to ask more questions
about Hal's experiences. Before long he drew out the story of the young
man's first effort in the publicity game; at which he sank back in his
chair, and laughed until he shook, as the nursery-rhyme describes it,
"like a bowlful of jelly."
"Graham!" he exclaimed. "Fancy, MacKellar, he took that story to
The Scotchman seemed to find it equally funny; together they explained
that Graham was the political reporter of the _Eagle_, the paper in
Pedro which was owned by the Sheriff-emperor. One might call him Alf
Raymond's journalistic jackal; there was no job too dirty for him.
"But," cried Hal, "he told me he was correspondent for the Western press
"He's that, too," replied Billy.
"But does the press association employ spies for the 'G. F. C.'?"
The reporter answered, drily, "When you understand the news game better,
you'll realise that the one thing the press association cares about in a
correspondent is that he should have respect for property. If respect
for property is the back-bone of his being, he can learn what news is,
and the right way to handle it."
Keating turned to the Scotchman. "Do you happen to have a typewriter in
the house, Mr. MacKellar?"
"An old one," said the other--"lame, like myself."
"I'll make out with it. I'd ask this young man over to my hotel, but I
think he'd better keep off the streets as much as possible."
"You're right. If you take my advice, you'll take the typewriter
upstairs, where there's no chance of a shot through the window."
"Great heavens!" exclaimed Hal. "Is this America, or mediaeval Italy?"
"It's the Empire of Raymond," replied MacKellar. "They shot my friend
Tom Burton dead while he stood on the steps of his home. He was opposing
the machine, and had evidence about ballot-frauds he was going to put
before the Grand Jury."
While Keating continued to fret with "long distance," the old Scotchman
went on trying to impress upon Hal the danger of his position. Quite
recently an organiser of the miners' union had been beaten up in broad
day-light and left insensible on the sidewalk; MacKellar had watched the
trial and acquittal of the two thugs who had committed this crime--the
foreman of the jury being a saloon-keeper one of Raymond's heelers, and
the other jurymen being Mexicans, unable to comprehend a word of the
"Exactly such a jury as Jeff Cotton promised me!" remarked Hal, with a
feeble attempt at a smile.
"Yes," answered the other; "and don't make any mistake about it, if they
want to put you away, they can do it. They run the whole machine here. I
know how it is, for I had a political job myself, until they found they
couldn't use me."
The old Scotchman went on to explain that he had been elected justice of
peace, and had tried to break up the business of policemen taking money
from the women of the town; he had been forced to resign, and his
enemies had made his life a torment. Recently he had been candidate for
district judge on the Progressive ticket, and told of his efforts to
carry on a campaign in the coal-camps--how his circulars had been
confiscated, his posters torn down, his supporters "kangarooed." It was
exactly as Alec Stone, the pit-boss, had explained to Hal. In some of
the camps the meeting-halls belonged to the company; in others they
belonged to saloon-keepers whose credit depended upon Alf Raymond. In
the few places where there were halls that could be hired, the machine
had gone to the extreme of sending in rival entertainments, furnishing
free music and free beer in order to keep the crowds away from
All this time Billy Keating had been chafing and scolding at "long
distance." Now at last he managed to get his call, and silence fell in
the room. "Hello, Pringle, that you? This is Keating. Got a big story on
the North Valley disaster. Last edition put to bed yet? Put Jim on the
wire. Hello, Jim! Got your book?" And then Billy, evidently talking to a
stenographer, began to tell the story he had got from Hal. Now and then
he would stop to repeat or spell a word; once or twice Hal corrected him
on details. So, in about a quarter of an hour, they put the job through;
and Keating turned to Hal.
"There you are, son," said he. "Your story'll be on the street in
Western City in a little over an hour; it'll be down here as soon
thereafter as they can get telephone connections. And take my advice, if
you want to keep a whole skin, you'll be out of Pedro when that
When Hal spoke, he did not answer Billy Keating's last remark. He had
been listening to a retelling of the North Valley disaster over the
telephone; so he was not thinking about his skin, but about a hundred
and seven men and boys buried inside a mine.
"Mr. Keating," said he, "are you sure the _Gazette_ will print that
"Good Lord!" exclaimed the other. "What am I here for?"
"Well, I've been disappointed once, you know."
"Yes, but you got into the wrong camp. We're a poor man's paper, and
this is what we live on."
"There's no chance of its being 'toned down'?"
"Not the slightest, I assure you."
"There's no chance of Peter Harrigan's suppressing it?"
"Peter Harrigan made his attempts on the _Gazette_ long ago, my boy."
"Well," said Hal, "and now tell me this--will it do the work?"
"In what way?"
"I mean--in making them open the mine."
Keating considered for a moment. "I'm afraid it won't do much."
Hal looked at him blankly. He had taken it for granted the publication
of the facts would force the company to move. But Keating explained that
the _Gazette_ read mainly by working-people, and so had comparatively
little influence. "We're an afternoon paper," he said; "and when people
have been reading lies all morning, it's not easy to make them believe
the truth in the afternoon."
"But won't the story go to other papers--over the country, I mean?"
"Yes, we have a press service; but the papers are all like the
_Gazette_--poor man's papers. If there's something very raw, and we keep
pounding away for a long time, we can make an impression; at least we
limit the amount of news the Western press association can suppress. But
when it comes to a small matter like sealing up workingmen in a mine,
all we can do is to worry the 'G. F. C.' a little."
So Hal was just where he had begun! "I must find some other plan," he
"I don't see what you can do," replied the other.
There was a pause, while the young miner pondered. "I had thought of
going up to Western City and appealing to the editors," he said, a
"Well, I can tell you about that--you might as well save your car-fare.
They wouldn't touch your story."
"And if I appealed to the Governor?"
"In the first place, he probably wouldn't see you. And if he did, he
wouldn't do anything. He's not really the Governor, you know; he's a
puppet put up there to fool you. He only moves when Harrigan pulls a
"Of course I knew he was Old Peter's man," said Hal. "But then"--and he
concluded, somewhat lamely, "What _can_ I do?"
A smile of pity came upon the reporter's face. "I can see this is the
first time you've been up against 'big business.'" And then he added,
"You're young! When you've had more experience, you'll leave these
problems to older heads!" But Hal failed to get the reporter's sarcasm.
He had heard these exact words in such deadly seriousness from his
brother! Besides, he had just come from scenes of horror.
"But don't you see, Mr. Keating?" he exclaimed. "It's impossible for me
to sit still while those men die?"
"I don't know about your sitting still," said the other. "All I know is
that all your moving about isn't going to do them any good."
Hal turned to Edstrom and MacKellar. "Gentlemen," he said, "listen to me
for a minute." And there was a note of pleading in his voice--as if he
thought they were deliberately refusing to help him! "We've got to do
something about this. We've _got_ to do something! I'm new at the game,
as Mr. Keating says; but you aren't. Put your minds on it, gentlemen,
and help me work out a plan!"
There was a long silence. "God knows," said Edstrom, at last. "I'd
suggest something if I could."
"And I, too," said MacKellar. "You're up against a stone-wall, my boy.
The government here is simply a department of the 'G. F. C.' The
officials are crooks--company servants, all of them."
"Just a moment now," said Hal. "Let's consider. Suppose we had a real
government--what steps would we take? We'd carry such a case to the
District Attorney, wouldn't we?"
"Yes, no doubt of it," said MacKellar.
"You mentioned him before," said Hal. "He threatened to prosecute some
mine-superintendents for ballot-frauds, you said."
"That was while he was running for election," said MacKellar.
"Oh! I remember what Jeff Cotton said--that he was friendly to the
miners in his speeches, and to the companies in his acts."
"That's the man," said the other, drily.
"Well," argued Hal, "oughtn't I go to him, to give him a chance, at
least? You can't tell, he might have a heart inside him."
"It isn't a heart he needs," replied MacKellar; "it's a back-bone."
"But surely I ought to put it up to him! If he won't do anything, at
least I'll put him on record, and it'll make another story for you,
won't it, Mr. Keating?"
"Yes, that's true," admitted the reporter. "What would you ask him to
"Why, to lay the matter before the Grand Jury; to bring indictments
against the North Valley bosses."
"But that would take a long time; it wouldn't save the men in the mine."
"What might save them would be the threat of it." MacKellar put in. "I
don't think any threat of Dick Barker's would count for that much. The
bosses know they could stop him."
"Well, isn't there somebody else? Shouldn't I try the courts?"
"I don't know. You tell me."
"Well," said the Scotchman, "to begin at the bottom, there's a justice
of the peace."
"Jim Anderson, a horse-doctor. He's like any other J.P. you ever
knew--he lives on petty graft."
"Is there a higher court?"
"Yes, the district court; Judge Denton. He's the law-partner of
Vagleman, counsel for the 'G. F. C.' How far would you expect to get
"I suppose I'm clutching at straws," said Hal. "But they say that's what
a drowning man does. Anyway, I'm going to see these people, and maybe
out of the lot of them I can find one who'll act. It can't do any harm!"
The three men thought of some harm it might do; they tried to make Hal
consider the danger of being slugged Or shot. "They'll do it!" exclaimed
MacKellar. "And no trouble for them--they'll prove you were stabbed by a
drunken Dago, quarrelling over some woman."
But Hal had got his head set; he believed he could put this job through
before his enemies had time to lay any plans. Nor would he let any of
his friends accompany him; he had something more important for both
Edstrom and Keating to do--and as for MacKellar, he could not get about
rapidly enough. Hal bade Edstrom go to the post-office and get the
registered letter, and proceed at once to change the bills. It was his
plan to make out affidavits, and if the officials here would not act, to
take the affidavits to the Governor. And for this he would need money.
Meantime, he said, let Billy Keating write out the check-weighman story,
and in a couple of hours meet him at the American Hotel, to get copies
of the affidavits for the _Gazette_.
Hal was still wearing the miner's clothes he had worn on the night of
his arrest in Edstrom's cabin. But he declined MacKellar's offer to lend
him a business-suit; the old Scotchman's clothes would not fit him, he
knew, and it would be better to make his appeal as a real miner than as
a misfit gentleman.
These matters being settled, Hal went out upon the street, where Pete
Hanun, the breaker of teeth, fell in behind him. The young miner at once
broke into a run, and the other followed suit, and so the two of them
sped down the street, to the wonder of people on the way. As Hal had had
practice as a sprinter, no doubt Pete was glad that the District
Attorney's office was not far away!
Mr. Richard Parker was busy, said the clerk in toe outer office; for
which Hal was not sorry, as it gave him a chance to get his breath.
Seeing a young man flushed and panting, the clerk stared with curiosity;
but Hal offered no explanation, and the breaker of teeth waited on the
Mr. Parker received his caller in a couple of minutes. He was a well-fed
gentleman with generous neck and chin, freshly shaved and rubbed with
talcum powder. His clothing was handsome, his linen immaculate; one got
the impression of a person who "did himself well." There were papers on
his desk, and he looked preoccupied.
"Well?" said he, with a swift glance at the young miner.
"I understand that I am speaking to the District Attorney of Pedro
"Mr. Parker, have you given any attention to the circumstances of the
North Valley disaster?"
"No," said Mr. Parker. "Why?"
"I have just come from North Valley, and I can give you information
which may be of interest to you. There are a hundred and seven people
entombed in the mine, and the company officials have sealed it, and are
sacrificing those lives."
The other put down the correspondence, and made an examination of his
caller from under his heavy eyelids. "How do you know this?"
"I left there only a few hours ago. The facts are known to all the
workers in the camp."
"You are speaking from what you heard?"
"I am speaking from what I know at first hand. I saw the disaster, I saw
the pit-mouth boarded over and covered with canvas. I know a man who was
driven out of camp this morning for complaining about the delay in
starting the fan. It has been over three days since the explosion, and
still nothing has been done."
Mr. Parker proceeded to fire a series of questions, in the sharp,
suspicious manner customary to prosecuting officials. But Hal did not
mind that; it was the man's business to make sure.
Presently he demanded to know how he could get corroboration of Hal's
"You'll have to go up there," was the reply.
"You say the facts are known to the men. Give me the names of some of
"I have no authority to give their names, Mr. Parker."
"What authority do you need? They will tell me, won't they?"
"They may, and they may not. One man has already lost his job; not every
man cares to lose his job."
"You expect me to go up there on your bare say-so?"
"I offer you more than my say-so. I offer an affidavit."
"But what do I know about you?"
"You know that I worked in North Valley--or you can verify the fact by
using the telephone. My name is Joe Smith, and I was a miner's helper in
But that was not sufficient, said Mr. Parker; his time was valuable, and
before he took a trip to North Valley he must have the names of
witnesses who would corroborate these statements.
"I offer you an affidavit!" exclaimed Hal. "I say that I have knowledge
that a crime is being committed--that a hundred and seven human lives
are being sacrificed. You don't consider that a sufficient reason for
even making inquiry?"
The District Attorney answered again that he desired to do his duty, he
desired to protect the workers in their rights; but he could not afford
to go off on a "wild goose chase," he must have the names of witnesses.
And Hal found himself wondering. Was the man merely taking the first
pretext for doing nothing? Or could it be that an official of the state
would go as far as to help the company by listing the names of
In spite of his distrust, Hal was resolved to give the man every chance
he could. He went over the whole story of the disaster. He took Mr.
Parker up to the camp, showed him the agonised women and terrified
children crowding about the pit-mouth, driven back with clubs and
revolvers. He named family after family, widows and mothers and orphans.
He told of the miners clamouring for a chance to risk their lives to
save their fellows. He let his own feelings sweep him along; he pleaded
with fervour for his suffering friends.
"Young man," said the other, breaking in upon his eloquence, "how long
have you been working in North Valley?"
"About ten weeks."
"How long have you been working in coal-mines?"
"That was my first experience."
"And you think that in ten weeks you have learned enough to entitle you
to bring a charge of 'murder' against men who have spent their lives in
learning the business of mining?"
"As I have told you," exclaimed Hal, "it's not merely my opinion; it's
the opinion of the oldest and most experienced of the miners. I tell you
no effort whatever is being made to save those men! The bosses care
nothing about their men! One of them, Alec Stone, was heard by a crowd
of people to say, 'Damn the men! Save the mules!'"
"Everybody up there is excited," declared the other. "Nobody can think
straight at present--you can't think straight yourself. If the mine's on
fire, and if the fire is spreading to such an extent that it can't be
"But, Mr. Parker, how can you say that it's spreading to such an
"Well, how can you say that it isn't?"
There was a pause. "I understand there's a deputy mine-inspector up
there," said the District Attorney, suddenly. "What's his name?"
"Carmichael," said Hal.
"Well, and what does _he_ say about it?"
"It was for appealing to him that the miner, Huszar, was turned out of
"Well," said Mr. Parker--and there came a note into his voice by which
Hal knew that he had found the excuse he sought--"Well, it's
Carmichael's business, and I have no right to butt in on it. If he comes
to me and asks for indictments, I'll act--but not otherwise. That's all
I have to say about it."
And Hal rose. "Very well, Mr. Parker," said he. "I have put the facts
before you. I was told you wouldn't do anything, but I wanted to give
you a chance. Now I'm going to ask the Governor for your removal!" And
with these words the young miner strode out of the office.
Hal went down the street to the American Hotel, where there was a public
stenographer. When this young woman discovered the nature of the
material he proposed to dictate, her fingers trembled visibly; but she
did not refuse the task, and Hal proceeded to set forth the
circumstances of the sealing of the pit-mouth of Number One Mine at
North Valley, and to pray for warrants for the arrest of Enos Cartwright
and Alec Stone. Then he gave an account of how he had been selected as
check-weighman and been refused access to the scales; and with all the
legal phraseology he could rake up, he prayed for the arrest of Enos
Cartwright and James Peters, superintendent and tipple-boss at North
Valley, for these offences. In another affidavit he narrated how Jeff
Cotton, camp-marshal, had seized him at night, mistreated him, and shut
him in prison for thirty-six hours without warrant or charge; also how
Cotton, Pete Hanun, and two other parties by name unknown, had illegally
driven him from the town of North Valley, threatening him with violence;
for which he prayed the arrest of Jeff Cotton, Pete Hanun, and the two