Part 7 out of 8
Hal descended from his rostrum, and the crowds made way for him, and
with his brother at his side he went down the street to the office
building, upon the porch of which the guards were standing. His progress
was a triumphal one; rough voices shouted words of encouragement in his
ears, men jostled and fought to shake his hand or to pat him on the
back; they even patted Edward and tried to shake his hand, because he
was with Hal, and seemed to have his confidence. Afterwards Hal thought
it over and was merry. Such an adventure for Edward!
The younger man went up the steps of the building and spoke to the
guards. "I want to see Mr. Cartwright."
"He's inside," answered one, not cordially. With Edward following, Hal
entered, and was ushered into the private office of the superintendent.
Having been a working-man, and class-conscious, Hal was observant of the
manners of mine-superintendents; he noted that Cartwright bowed politely
to Edward, but did not include Edward's brother. "Mr. Cartwright," he
said, "I have come to you as a deputation from the workers of this
The superintendent did not appear impressed by the announcement.
"I am instructed to say that the men demand the redress of four
grievances before they return to work. First--"
Here Cartwright spoke, in his quick, sharp way. "There's no use going
on, sir. This company will deal only with its men as individuals. It
will recognise no deputations."
Hal's answer was equally quick. "Very well, Mr. Cartwright. In that
case, I come to you as an individual."
For a moment the superintendent seemed nonplussed.
"I wish to ask four rights which are granted to me by the laws of this
state. First, the right to belong to a union, without being discharged
The other had recovered his manner of quiet mastery. "You have that
right, sir; you have always had it. You know perfectly well that the
company has never discharged any one for belonging to a union."
The man was looking at Hal, and there was a duel of the eyes between
them. A cold anger moved Hal. His ability to endure this sort of thing
was at an end. "Mr. Cartwright," he said, "you are the servant of one of
the world's greatest actors; and you support him ably."
The other flushed and drew back; Edward put in quickly: "Hal, there's
nothing to be gained by such talk!"
"He has all the world for an audience," persisted Hal. "He plays the
most stupendous farce--and he and all his actors wearing such solemn
"Mr. Cartwright," said Edward, with dignity, "I trust you understand
that I have done everything I can to restrain my brother."
"Of course, Mr. Warner," replied the superintendent. "And you must know
that I, for my part, have done everything to show your brother
"Again!" exclaimed Hal. "This actor is a genius!"
"Hal, if you have business with Mr. Cartwright--"
"He showed me consideration by sending his gunmen to seize me at night,
drag me out of a cabin, and nearly twist the arm off me! Such humour
Cartwright attempted to speak--but looking at Edward, not at Hal. "At
"He showed me consideration by having me locked up in jail and fed on
bread and water for two nights and a day! Can you beat that humour?"
"At that time I did not know--"
"By forging my name to a letter and having it circulated in the camp!
Finally--most considerate of all--by telling a newspaper man that I had
seduced a girl here!"
The superintendent flushed still redder. "_No!_" he declared.
"_What?_" cried Hal. "You didn't tell Billy Keating of the _Gazette_
that I had seduced a girl in North Valley? You didn't describe the girl
to him--a red-haired Irish girl?"
"I merely said, Mr. Warner, that I had heard certain rumours--"
"_Certain_ rumours, Mr. Cartwright? The certainty was all of your
making! You made a definite and explicit statement to Mr. Keating--"
"I did not!" declared the other.
"I'll soon prove it!" And Hal started towards the telephone on
"What are you going to do, Hal?"
"I am going to get Billy Keating on the wire, and let you hear his
"Oh, rot, Hal!" cried Edward. "I don't care anything about Keating's
statement. You know that at that time Mr. Cartwright had no means of
knowing who you were."
Cartwright was quick to grasp this support. "Of course not, Mr. Warner!
Your brother came here, pretending to be a working boy--"
"Oh!" cried Hal. "So that's it! You think it proper to circulate
slanders about working boys in your camp?"
"You have been here long enough to know what the morals of such boys
"I have been here long enough, Mr. Cartwright, to know that if you want
to go into the question of morals in North Valley, the place for you to
begin is with the bosses and guards you put in authority, and allow to
prey upon women."
Edward broke in: "Hal, there's nothing to be gained by pursuing this
conversation. If you have any business here, get it over with, for God's
Hal made an effort to recover his self-possession. He came back to the
demands of the strike--but only to find that he had used up the
superintendent's self-possession. "I have given you my answer," declared
Cartwright, "I absolutely decline any further discussion."
"Well," said Hal, "since you decline to permit a deputation of your men
to deal with you in plain, business-like fashion, I have to inform you
as an individual that every other individual in your camp refuses to
work for you."
The superintendent did not let himself be impressed by this elaborate
sarcasm. "All I have to tell you, sir, is that Number Two mine will
resume work in the morning, and that any one who refuses to work will be
sent down the canyon before night."
"So quickly, Mr. Cartwright? They have rented their homes from the
company, and you know that according to the company's own lease they are
entitled to three days' notice before being evicted!"
Cartwright was so unwise as to argue. He knew that Edward was hearing,
and he wished to clear himself. "They will not be evicted by the
company. They will be dealt with by the town authorities."
"Of which you yourself are the head?"
"I happen to have been elected mayor of North Valley."
"As mayor of North Valley, you gave my brother to understand that you
would put me out, did you not?"
"I asked your brother to persuade you to leave."
"But you made clear that if he could not do this, you would put me out?"
"Yes, that is true."
"And the reason you gave was that you had had instructions by telegraph
from Mr. Peter Harrigan. May I ask to what office Mr. Harrigan has been
elected in your town?"
Cartwright saw his difficulty. "Your brother misunderstood me," he said,
"Did you misunderstand him, Edward?"
Edward had walked to the window in disgust; he was looking at
tomato-cans and cinder-heaps, and did not see fit to turn around. But
the superintendent knew that he was hearing, and considered it necessary
to cover the flaw in his argument. "Young man," said he, "you have
violated several of the ordinances of this town."
"Is there an ordinance against organising a union of the miners?"
"No; but there is one against speaking on the streets."
"Who passed that ordinance, if I may ask?"
"The town council."
"Consisting of Johnson, postmaster and company-store clerk; Ellison,
company book-keeper; Strauss, company pit-boss; O'Callahan, company
saloon-keeper. Have I the list correct?"
Cartwright did not answer.
"And the fifth member of the town council is yourself, ex-officio--Mr.
Enos Cartwright, mayor and company-superintendent."
Again there was no answer.
"You have an ordinance against street-speaking; and at the same time
your company owns the saloon-buildings, the boarding-houses, the church
and the school. Where do you expect the citizens to do their speaking?"
"You would make a good lawyer, young man. But we who have charge here
know perfectly well what you mean by 'speaking'!"
"You don't approve, then, of the citizens holding meetings?"
"I mean that we don't consider it necessary to provide agitators with
opportunity to incite our employes."
"May I ask, Mr. Cartwright, are you speaking as mayor of an American
community, or as superintendent of a coal-mine?"
Cartwright's face had been growing continually redder. Addressing
Edward's back, he said, "I don't see any reason why this should
And Edward was of the same opinion. He turned. "Really, Hal--"
"But, Edward! A man accuses your brother of being a law-breaker! Have
you hitherto known of any criminal tendencies in our family?"
Edward turned to the window again and resumed his study of the
cinder-heaps and tomato-cans. It was a vulgar and stupid quarrel, but he
had seen enough of Hal's mood to realise that he would go on and on, so
long as any one was indiscreet enough to answer him.
"You say, Mr. Cartwright, that I have violated the ordinance against
speaking on the street. May I ask what penalty this ordinance carries?"
"You will find out when the penalty is exacted of you."
Hal laughed. "From what you said just now, I gather that the penalty is
expulsion from the town! If I understand legal procedure, I should have
been brought before the justice of the peace--who happens to be another
company store-clerk. Instead of that, I am sentenced by the mayor--or is
it the company superintendent? May I ask how that comes to be?"
"It is because of my consideration--"
"When did I ask consideration?"
"Consideration for your brother, I mean."
"Oh! Then your ordinance provides that the mayor--or is it the
superintendent?--may show consideration for the brother of a
law-breaker, by changing his penalty to expulsion from the town. Was it
consideration for Tommie Burke that caused you to have his sister sent
down the canyon?"
Cartwright clenched his hands. "I've had all I'll stand of this!"
He was again addressing Edward's back; and Edward turned and answered,
"I don't blame you, sir." Then to Hal, "I really think you've said
"I hope I've said enough," replied Hal--"to convince you that the
pretence of American law in this coal-camp is a silly farce, an insult
and a humiliation to any man who respects the institutions of his
"You, Mr. Warner," said the superintendent, to Edward, "have had
experience in managing coal-mines. You know what it means to deal with
ignorant foreigners, who have no understanding of American law--"
Hal burst out laughing. "So you're teaching them American law! You're
teaching them by setting at naught every law of your town and state,
every constitutional guarantee--and substituting the instructions you
get by telegraph from Peter Harrigan!"
Cartwright turned and walked to the door. "Young man," said he, over his
shoulder, "it will be necessary for you to leave North Valley this
morning. I only hope your brother will be able to persuade you to leave
without trouble." And the bang of the door behind him was the
superintendent's only farewell.
Edward turned upon his brother. "Now what the devil did you want to put
me through a scene like that for? So undignified! So utterly uncalled
for! A quarrel with a man so far beneath you!"
Hal stood where the superintendent had left him. He was looking at his
brother's angry face. "Was that all you got out of it, Edward?"
"All that stuff about your private character! What do you care what a
fellow like Cartwright thinks about you?"
"I care nothing at all what he thinks, but I care about having him use
such a slander. That's one of their regular procedures, so Billy Keating
Edward answered, coldly, "Take my advice, and realise that when you deny
a scandal, you only give it circulation."
"Of course," answered Hal. "That's what makes me so angry. Think of the
girl, the harm done to her!"
"It's not up to you to worry about the girl."
"Suppose that Cartwright had slandered some woman friend of yours. Would
you have felt the same indifference?"
"He'd not have slandered any friend of mine; I choose my friends more
"Yes, of course. What that means is that you choose them among the rich.
But I happen to be more democratic in my tastes--"
"Oh, for heaven's sake!" cried Edward. "You reformers are all alike--you
talk and talk and talk!"
"I can tell you the reason for that, Edward--a man like you can shut his
eyes, but he can't shut his ears!"
"Well, can't you let up on me for awhile--long enough to get out of this
place? I feel as if I were sitting on the top of a volcano, and I've no
idea when it may break out again."
Hal began to laugh. "All right," he said; "I guess I haven't shown much
appreciation of your visit. I'll be more sociable now. My next business
is in Pedro, so I'll go that far with you. There's one thing more--"
"What is it?"
"The company owes me money--"
"Some I've earned."
It was Edward's turn to laugh. "Enough to buy you a shave and a bath?"
He took out his wallet, and pulled off several bills; and Hal, watching
him, realised suddenly a change which had taken place in his own
psychology. Not merely had he acquired the class-consciousness of the
working-man, he had acquired the money-consciousness as well. He was
actually concerned about the dollars the company owed him! He had earned
those dollars by back- and heart-breaking toil, lifting lumps of coal
into cars; the sum was enough to keep the whole Rafferty family alive
for a week or two. And here was Edward, with a smooth brown leather
wallet full of ten- and twenty-dollar bills, which he peeled off without
counting, exactly as if money grew on trees, or as if coal came out of
the earth and walked into furnaces to the sound of a fiddle and a flute!
Edward had of course no idea of these abnormal processes going on in his
brother's mind. He was holding out the bills. "Get yourself some decent
things," he said. "I hope you don't have to stay dirty in order to feel
"No," answered Hal; and then, "How are we going?"
"I've a car waiting, back of the office."
"So you had everything ready!" But Edward made no answer; afraid of
setting off the volcano again.
They went out by the rear door of the office, entered the car, and sped
out of the village, unseen by the crowd. And all the way down the canyon
Edward pleaded with Hal to drop the controversy and come home at once.
He brought up the tragic question of Dad again; when that did not avail,
he began to threaten. Suppose Hal's money-resources were to be cut off,
suppose he were to find himself left out of his father's will--what
would he do then? Hal answered, without a smile, "I can always get a job
as organiser for the United Mine-Workers."
So Edward gave up that line of attack. "If you won't come," he declared,
"I'm going to stay by you till you do!"
"All right," said Hal. He could not help smiling at this dire threat.
"But if I take you about and introduce you to my friends, you must agree
that what you hear shall be confidential."
The other made a face of disgust. "What the devil would I want to talk
about your friends for?"
"I don't know what might happen," said Hal. "You're going to meet Peter
Harrigan and take his side, and I can't tell what you might conceive it
your duty to do."
The other exclaimed, with sudden passion, "I'll tell you right now! If
you try to go back to that coal-camp, I swear to God I'll apply to the
courts and have you shut up in a sanitarium. I don't think I'd have much
trouble in persuading a judge that you're insane."
"No," said Hal, with a laugh--"not a judge in this part of the world!"
Then, after studying his brother's face for a moment, it occurred to him
that it might be well not to let such an idea rest unimpeached in
Edward's mind. "Wait," said he, "till you meet my friend Billy Keating,
of the _Gazette_, and hear what he would do with such a story! Billy is
crazy to have me turn him loose to 'play up' my fight with Old Peter!"
The conversation went no farther--but Hal was sure that Edward would
"put that in his pipe and smoke it."
They came to the MacKellar home in Pedro, and Edward waited in the
automobile while Hal went inside. The old Scotchman welcomed him warmly,
and told him what news he had. Jerry Minetti had been there that
morning, and MacKellar at his request had telephoned to the office of
the union in Sheridan, and ascertained that Jack David had brought word
about the strike on the previous evening. All parties had been careful
not to mention names, for "leaks" in the telephone were notorious, but
it was clear who the messenger had been. As a result of the message,
Johann Hartman, president of the local union of the miners, was now at
the American Hotel in Pedro, together with James Moylan, secretary of
the district organisation--the latter having come down from Western City
on the same train as Edward.
This was all satisfactory; but MacKellar added a bit of information of
desperate import--the officers of the union declared that they could not
support a strike at the present time! It was premature, it could lead to
nothing but failure and discouragement to the larger movement they were
Such a possibility Hal had himself realised at the outset. But he had
witnessed the new birth of freedom at North Valley, he had seen the
hungry, toil-worn faces of men looking up to him for support; he had
been moved by it, and had come to feel that the union officials must be
moved in the same way. "They've simply got to back it!" he exclaimed.
"Those men must not be disappointed! They'll lose all hope, they'll sink
into utter despair! The labour men must realise that--I must make them!"
The old Scotchman answered that Minetti had felt the same way. He had
flung caution to the winds, and rushed over to the hotel to see Hartman
and Moylan. Hal decided to follow, and went out to the automobile.
He explained matters to his brother, whose comment was, Of course! It
was what he had foretold. The poor, mis-guided miners would go back to
their work, and their would-be leader would have to admit the folly of
his course. There was a train for Western City in a couple of hours; it
would be a great favour if Hal would arrange to take it.
Hal answered shortly that he was going to the American Hotel. His
brother might take him there, if he chose. So Edward gave the order to
the driver of the car. Incidentally, Edward began asking about
clothing-stores in Pedro. While Hal was in the hotel, pleading for the
life of his newly-born labour union, Edward would seek a costume in
which he could "feel like a human being."
Hal found Jerry Minetti with the two officials in their hotel-room: Jim
Moylan, district secretary, a long, towering Irish boy, black-eyed and
black-haired, quick and sensitive, the sort of person one trusted and
liked at the first moment; and Johann Hartman, local president, a
grey-haired miner of German birth, reserved and slow-spoken, evidently a
man of much strength, both physical and moral. He had need of it, any
one could realise, having charge of a union headquarters in the heart of
this "Empire of Raymond"!
Hal first told of the kidnapping of the committee. This did not surprise
the officials, he found; it was the thing the companies regularly did
when there was threat of rebellion in the camps. That was why efforts to
organise openly were so utterly hopeless. There was no chance for
anything but a secret propaganda, maintained until every camp had the
nucleus of an organisation.
"So you can't back this strike!" exclaimed Hal.
Not possibly, was Moylan's reply. It would be lost as soon as it was
begun. There was no slightest hope of success until a lot of
organisation work had been done.
"But meantime," argued Hal, "the union at North Valley will go to
"Perhaps," was the reply. "We'll only have to start another. That's what
the labour movement is like."
Jim Moylan was young, and saw Hal's mood. "Don't misunderstand us!" he
cried. "It's heartbreaking--but it's not in our power to help. We are
charged with building up the union, and we know that if we supported
everything that looked like a strike, we'd be bankrupt the first year.
You can't imagine how often this same thing happens--hardly a month
we're not called on to handle such a situation."
"I can see what you mean," said Hal. "But I thought that in this case,
right after the disaster, with the men so stirred--"
The young Irishman smiled, rather sadly. "You're new at this game," he
said. "If a mine-disaster was enough to win a strike, God knows our job
would be easy. In Barela, just down the canyon from you, they've had
three big explosions--they've killed over five hundred men in the past
Hal began to see how, in his inexperience, he had lost his sense of
He looked at the two labour leaders, and recalled the picture of such a
person which he had brought with him to North Valley--a hot headed and
fiery agitator, luring honest workingmen from their jobs. But here was
the situation exactly reversed! Here was he in a blaze of
excitement--and two labour leaders turning the fire-hose on him! They
sat quiet and business-like, pronouncing a doom upon the slaves of North
Valley. Back to their black dungeons with them!
"What can we tell the men?" he asked, making an effort to repress his
"We can only tell them what I'm telling you--that we're helpless, till
we've got the whole district organised. Meantime, they have to stand the
gaff; they must do what they can to keep an organisation."
"But all the active men will be fired!"
"No, not quite all--they seldom get them all."
Here the stolid old German put in. In the last year the company had
turned out more than six thousand men because of union activity or
suspicion of it.
"_Six thousand!_" echoed Hal. "You mean from this one district?"
"That's what I mean."
"But there aren't more than twelve or fifteen thousand men in the
"I know that."
"Then how can you ever keep an organisation?"
The other answered, quietly, "They treat the new men the same as they
treated the old."
Hal thought suddenly of John Edstrom's ants! Here they were--building
their bridge, building it again and again, as often as floods might
destroy it! They had not the swift impatience of a youth of the
leisure-class, accustomed to having his own way, accustomed to thinking
of freedom and decency and justice as necessities of life. Much as Hal
learned from the conversation of these men, he learned more from their
silences--the quiet, matter-of-fact way they took things which had
driven him beside himself with indignation. He began to realise what it
would mean to stand by his pledge to those poor devils in North Valley.
He would need more than one blaze of excitement; he would need brains
and patience and discipline, he would need years of study and hard work!
Hal found himself forced to accept the decision of the labour-leaders.
They had had experience, they could judge the situation. The miners
would have to go back to work, and Cartwright and Alec Stone and Jeff
Cotton would drive them as before! All that the rebels could do was to
try to keep a secret organisation in the camp.
Jerry Minetti mentioned Jack David. He had gone back this morning,
without having seen the labour-leaders. So he might escape suspicion,
and keep his job, and help the union work.
"How about you?" asked Hal. "I suppose you've cooked your goose."
Jerry had never heard this phrase, but he got its meaning. "Sure thing!"
said he. "Cooked him plenty!"
"Didn't you see the 'dicks' down stairs in the lobby?" inquired Hartman.
"I haven't learned to recognise them yet."
"Well, you will, if you stay at this business. There hasn't been a
minute since our office was opened that we haven't had half a dozen on
the other side of the street. Every man that comes to see us is followed
back to his camp and fired that same day. They've broken into my desk at
night and stolen my letters and papers; they've threatened us with death
a hundred times."
"I don't see how you make any headway at all!"
"They can never stop us. They thought when they broke into my desk,
they'd get a list of our organisers. But you see, I carry the lists in
"No small task, either," put in Moylan. "Would you like to know how many
organisers we have at work? Ninety-seven. And they haven't caught a
single one of them!"
Hal heard him, amazed. Here was a new aspect of the labour movement!
This quiet, resolute old "Dutchy," whom you might have taken for a
delicatessen-proprietor; this merry-eyed Irish boy, whom you would have
expected to be escorting a lady to a firemen's ball----they were
captains of an army of sappers who were undermining the towers of Peter
Harrigan's fortress of greed!
Hartman suggested that Jerry might take a chance at this sort of work.
He would surely be fired from North Valley, so he might as well send
word to his family to come to Pedro. In this way he might save himself
to work as an organiser; because it was the custom of these company
"spotters" to follow a man back to his camp and there identify him. If
Jerry took a train for Western City, they would be thrown off the track,
and he might get into some new camp and do organising among the
Italians. Jerry accepted this proposition with alacrity; it would put
off the evil day when Rosa and her little ones would be left to the
mercy of chance.
They were still talking when the telephone rang. It was Hartman's
secretary in Sheridan, reporting that he had just heard from the
kidnapped committee. The entire party, eight men and Mary Burke, had
been taken to Horton, a station not far up the line, and put on the
train with many dire threats. But they had left the train at the next
stop, and declared their intention of coming to Pedro. They were due at
the hotel very soon.
Hal desired to be present at this meeting, and went downstairs to tell
his brother. There was another dispute, of course. Edward reminded Hal
that the scenery of Pedro had a tendency to monotony; to which Hal could
only answer by offering to introduce his brother to his friends. They
were men who could teach Edward much, if he would consent to learn. He
might attend the session with the committee--eight men and a woman who
had ventured an act of heroism and been made the victims of a crime. Nor
were they bores, as Edward might be thinking! There was blue-eyed Tim
Rafferty, for example, a silent, smutty-faced gnome who had broken out
of his black cavern and spread unexpected golden wings of oratory; and
Mary Burke, of whom Edward might read in that afternoon's edition of the
Western City _Gazette_--a "Joan of Arc of the coal-camps," or something
equally picturesque. But Edward's mood was not to be enlivened. He had a
vision of his brother's appearance in the paper as the companion of this
Hal went off with Jerry Minetti to what his brother described as a
"hash-house," while Edward proceeded in solitary state to the
dining-room of the American Hotel. But he was not left in solitary
state; pretty soon a sharp-faced young man was ushered to a seat beside
him, and started up a conversation. He was a "drummer," he said; his
"line" was hardware, what was Edward's? Edward answered coldly that he
had no "line," but the young man was not rebuffed--apparently his "line"
had hardened his sensibilities. Perhaps Edward was interested in
coal-mines? Had he been visiting the camps? He questioned so
persistently, and came back so often to the subject, that at last it
dawned over Edward what this meant--he was receiving the attention of a
"spotter!" Strange to say, the circumstance caused Edward more
irritation against Peter Harrigan's regime than all his brother's
eloquence about oppression at North Valley.
Soon after dinner the kidnapped committee arrived, bedraggled in body
and weary in soul. They inquired for Johann Hartman, and were sent up to
the room, where there followed a painful scene. Eight men and a woman
who had ventured an act of heroism and been made the victims of a crime
could not easily be persuaded to see their efforts and sacrifices thrown
on the dump-heap, nor were they timid in expressing their opinions of
those who were betraying them.
"You been tryin' to get us out!" cried Tim Rafferty. "Ever since I can
remember you been at my old man to help you--an' here, when we do what
you ask, you throw us down!"
"We never asked you to go on strike," said Moylan.
"No, that's true. You only asked us to pay dues, so you fellows could
have fat salaries."
"Our salaries aren't very fat," replied the young leader, patiently.
"You'd find that out if you investigated."
"Well, whatever they are, they go on, while ours stop. We're on the
streets, we're done for. Look at us--and most of us has got families,
too! I got an old mother an' a lot of brothers and sisters, an' my old
man done up an' can't work. What do you think's to become of us?"
"We'll help you out a little, Rafferty--"
"To hell with you!" cried Tim. "I don't want your help! When I need
charity, I'll go to the county. They're another bunch of grafters, but
they don't pretend to be friends to the workin' man."
Here was the thing Tom Olson had told Hal at the outset--the workingmen
bedevilled, not knowing whom to trust, suspecting the very people who
most desired to help them. "Tim," he put in, "there's no use talking
like that. We have to learn patience--"
And the boy turned upon Hal. "What do you know about it? It's all a joke
to you. You can go off and forget it when you get ready. You've got
money, they tell me!"
Hal felt no resentment at this; it was what he heard from his own
conscience. "It isn't so easy for me as you think, Tim. There are other
ways of suffering besides not having money--"
"Much sufferin' you'll do--with your rich folks!" sneered Tim.
There was a murmur of protest from others of the committee.
"Good God, Rafferty!" broke in Moylan. "We can't help it, man--we're
just as helpless as you!"
"You say you're helpless--but you don't even try!"
"_Try?_ Do you want us to back a strike that we know hasn't a chance?
You might as well ask us to lie down and let a load of coal run over us.
We can't win, man! I tell you we can't _win_! We'd only be throwing away
Moylan became suddenly impassioned. He had seen a dozen sporadic strikes
in this district, and many a dozen young strikers, homeless, desolate,
embittered, turning their disappointment on him. "We might support you
with our funds, you say--we might go on doing it, even while the company
ran the mine with scabs. But where would that land us, Rafferty? I seen
many a union on the rocks--and I ain't so old either! If we had a bank,
we'd support all the miners of the country, they'd never need to work
again till they got their rights. But this money we spend is the money
that other miners are earnin'--right now, down in the pits, Rafferty,
the same as you and your old man. They give us this money, and they say,
'Use it to build up the union. Use it to help the men that aren't
organised--take them in, so they won't beat down our wages and scab on
us. But don't waste it, for God's sake; we have to work hard to make it,
and if we don't see results, you'll get no more out of us.' Don't you
see how that is, man? And how it weighs on us, worse even then the fear
that maybe we'll lose our poor salaries--though you might refuse to
believe anything so good of us? You don't need to talk to me like I was
Peter Harrigan's son. I was a spragger when I was ten years old, and I
ain't been out of the pits so long that I've forgot the feeling. I
assure you, the thing that keeps me awake at night ain't the fear of not
gettin' a living, for I give myself a bit of education, working nights,
and I know I could always turn out and earn what I need; but it's
wondering whether I'm spending the miners' money the best way, whether
maybe I mightn't save them a little misery if I hadn't 'a' done this or
had 'a' done that. When I come down on that sleeper last night, here's
what I was thinking, Tim Rafferty--all the time I listened to the train
bumping--'Now I got to see some more of the suffering, I got to let some
good men turn against us, because they can't see why we should get
salaries while they get the sack. How am I going to show them that I'm
working for them--working as hard as I know how--and that I'm not to
blame for their trouble?'"
Here Wauchope broke in. "There's no use talking any more. I see we're up
against it. We'll not trouble you, Moylan."
"You trouble me," cried Moylan, "unless you stand by the movement!"
The other laughed bitterly. "You'll never know what I do. It's the road
for me--and you know it!"
"Well, wherever you go, it'll be the same; either you'll be fighting for
the union, or you'll be a weight that we have to carry."
The young leader turned from one to another of the committee, pleading
with them not to be embittered by this failure, but to turn it to their
profit, going on with the work of building up the solidarity of the
miners. Every man had to make his sacrifices, to pay his part of the
price. The thing of importance was that every man who was discharged
should be a spark of unionism, carrying the flame of revolt to a new
part of the country. Let each one do his part, and there would soon be
no place to which the masters could send for "scabs."
There was one member of this committee whom Hal watched with especial
anxiety----Mary Burke. She had not yet said a word; while the others
argued and protested, she sat with her lips set and her hands clenched.
Hal knew what rage this failure must bring to her. She had risen and
struggled and hoped, and the result was what she had always said it
would be--nothing! Now he saw her, with eyes large and dark with
fatigue, fixed on this fiery young labour-leader. He knew that a war
must be going on within her. Would she drop out entirely now? It was the
test of her character--as it was the test of the characters of all of
"If only we're strong enough and brave enough," Jim Moylan was saying,
"we can use our defeats to educate our people and bring them together.
Right now, if we can make the men at North Valley see what we're doing,
they won't go back beaten, they won't be bitter against the union,
they'll only go back to wait. And ain't that a way to beat the
bosses--to hold our jobs, and keep the union alive, till we've got into
all the camps, and can strike and win?"
There was a pause; then Mary spoke. "How're you meanin' to tell the
men?" Her voice was without emotion, but nevertheless, Hal's heart
leaped. Whether Mary had any hope or not, she was going to stay in line
with the rest of the ants!
Johann Hartman explained his idea. He would have circulars printed in
several languages and distributed secretly in the camp, ordering the men
back to work. But Jerry met this suggestion with a prompt no. The people
would not believe the circulars, they would suspect the bosses of having
them printed. Hadn't the bosses done worse than that, "framing up" a
letter from Joe Smith to balk the check-weighman movement? The only
thing that would help would be for some of the committee to get into the
camp and see the men face to face.
"And it got to be quick!" Jerry insisted. "They get notice to work in
morning, and them that don't be fired. They be the best men, too--men we
want to save."
Other members of the committee spoke up, agreeing with this. Said
Rusick, the Slav, slow-witted and slow-spoken, "Them fellers get mighty
damn sore if they lose their job and don't got no strike." And Zammakis,
the Greek, quick and nervous, "We say strike; we got to say no strike."
What could they do? There was, in the first place, the difficulty of
getting away from the hotel, which was being watched by the "spotters."
Hartman suggested that if they went out all together and scattered, the
detectives could not follow all of them. Those who escaped might get
into North Valley by hiding in the "empties" which went up to the mine.
But Moylan pointed out that the company would be anticipating this; and
Rusick, who had once been a hobo, put in: "They sure search them cars.
They give us plenty hell, too, when they catch us."
Yes, it would be a dangerous mission. Mary spoke again. "Maybe a lady
could do it better."
"They'd beat a lady," said Minetti.
"I know, but maybe a lady might fool them. There's some widows that came
to Pedro for the funerals, and they're wearin' veils that hide their
faces. I might pretend to be one of them and get into the camp."
The men looked at one another. There was an idea! The scowl which had
stayed upon the face of Tim Rafferty ever since his quarrel with Moylan,
gave place suddenly to a broad grin.
"I seen Mrs. Zamboni on the street," said he. "She had on black veils
enough to hide the lot of us."
And here Hal spoke, for the first time since Tim Rafferty had silenced
him. "Does anybody know where to find Mrs. Zamboni?"
"She stay with my friend, Mrs. Swajka," said Rusick.
"Well," said Hal, "there's something you people don't know about this
situation. After they had fired you, I made another speech to the men,
and made them swear they'd stay on strike. So now I've got to go back
and eat my words. If we're relying on veils and things, a man can be
fixed up as well as a woman."
They were staring at him. "They'll beat you to death if they catch you!"
"No," said Hal, "I don't think so. Anyhow, it's up to me"--he glanced at
Tim Rafferty--"because I'm the only one who doesn't have to suffer for
the failure of our strike."
There was a pause.
"I'm sorry I said that!" cried Tim, impulsively.
"That's all right, old man," replied Hal. "What you said is true, and
I'd like to do something to ease my conscience." He rose to his feet,
laughing. "I'll make a peach of a widow!" he said. "I'm going up and
have a tea-party with my friend Jeff Cotton!"
Hal proposed going to find Mrs. Zamboni at the place where she was
staying; but Moylan interposed, objecting that the detectives would
surely follow him. Even though they should all go out of the hotel at
once, the one person the detective would surely stick to was the
arch-rebel and trouble-maker, Joe Smith. Finally they decided to bring
Mrs. Zamboni to the room. Let her come with Mrs. Swajka or some other
woman who spoke English, and go to the desk and ask for Mary Burke,
explaining that Mary had borrowed money from her, and that she had to
have it to pay the undertaker for the burial of her man. The hotel-clerk
might not know who Mary Burke was; but the watchful "spotters" would
gather about and listen, and if it was mentioned that Mary was from
North Valley, some one would connect her with the kidnapped committee.
This was made clear to Rusick, who hurried off, and in the course of
half an hour returned with the announcement that the women were on the
way. A few minutes later came a tap on the door, and there stood the
black-garbed old widow with her friend. She came in; and then came looks
of dismay and horrified exclamations. Rusick was requesting her to give
up her weeds to Joe Smith!
"She say she don't got nothing else," explained the Slav.
"Tell her I give her plenty money buy more," said Hal.
"Ai! Jesu!" cried Mrs. Zamboni, pouring out a sputtering torrent.
"She say she don't got nothing to put on. She say it ain't good to go no
"Hasn't she got on a petticoat?"
"She say petticoat got holes!"
There was a burst of laughter from the company, and the old woman turned
scarlet from her forehead to her ample throat. "Tell her she wrap up in
blankets," said Hal. "Mary Burke buy her new things."
It proved surprisingly difficult to separate Mrs. Zamboni from her
widow's weeds, which she had purchased with so great an expenditure of
time and tears. Never had a respectable lady who had borne sixteen
children received such a proposition; to sell the insignia of her
grief--and here in a hotel room, crowded with a dozen men! Nor was the
task made easier by the unseemly merriment of the men. "Ai! Jesu!" cried
Mrs. Zamboni again.
"Tell her it's very, very important," said Hal. "Tell her I must have
them." And then, seeing that Rusick was making poor headway, he joined
in, in the compromise-English one learns in the camps. "Got to have!
Sure thing! Got to hide! Quick! Get away from boss! See? Get killed if
So at last the frightened old woman gave way. "She say all turn backs,"
said Rusick. And everybody turned, laughing in hilarious whispers,
while, with Mary Burke and Mrs. Swajka for a shield, Mrs. Zamboni got
out of her waist and skirt, putting a blanket round her red shoulders
for modesty's sake. When Hal put the garments on, there was a foot to
spare all round; but after they had stuffed two bed pillows down in the
front of him, and drawn them tight at the waist-line, the disguise was
judged more satisfactory. He put on the old lady's ample if ragged
shoes, and Mary Burke set the widow's bonnet on his head and adjusted
the many veils; after that Mrs. Zamboni's own brood of children would
not have suspected the disguise.
It was a merry party for a few minutes; worn and hopeless as Mary had
seemed, she was possessed now by the spirit of fun. But then quickly the
laughter died. The time for action had come. Mary Burke said that she
would stay with what was left of Mrs. Zamboni, to answer the door in
case any of the hotel people or the detectives should come. Hal asked
Jim Moylan to see Edward, and say that Hal was writing a manifesto to
the North Valley workers, and would not be ready to leave until the
These things agreed upon, Hal shook hands all round, and the eleven men
left the room at once, going down stairs and through the lobby,
scattering in every direction on the streets. Mrs. Swajka and the
pseudo-Mrs. Zamboni followed a minute later--and, as they anticipated,
found the lobby swept clear of detectives.
Bidding Mrs. Swajka farewell, Hal set out for the railroad station. But
before he had gone a block from the hotel, he ran into his brother,
coming straight towards him.
Edward's face wore a bored look; his very manner of carrying the
magazine under his arm said that he had selected it in a last hopeless
effort against the monotony of Pedro. Such a trick of fate, to take a
man of important affairs, and immure him at the mercy of a maniac in a
God-forsaken coal-town! What did people do in such a hole? Pay a nickel
to look at moving pictures of cow-boys and counterfeiters?
Edward's aspect was too much for Hal's sense of humour. Besides, he had
a good excuse; was it not proper to make a test of his disguise, before
facing the real danger in North Valley?
He placed himself in the path of his brother's progress, and in Mrs.
Zamboni's high, complaining tones, began, "Mister!"
Edward stared at the interrupting black figure. "Mister, you Joe Smith's
The question had to be repeated before Edward gave his grudging answer.
He was not proud of the relationship.
"Mister," continued the whining voice, "my old man got blow up in mine.
I get five pieces from my man what I got to bury yesterday in
grave-yard. I got to pay thirty dollar for bury them pieces and I don't
got no more money left. I don't got no money from them company fellers.
They come lawyer feller and he say maybe I get money for bury my man, if
I don't jay too much. But, Mister, I got eleven children I got to feed,
and I don't got no more man, and I don't find no new man for old woman
like me. When I go home I hear them children crying and I don't got no
food, and them company-stores don't give me no food. I think maybe you
Joe Smith's brother you good man, maybe you sorry for poor widow-woman,
you maybe give me some money, Mister, so I buy some food for them
"All right," said Edward. He pulled out his wallet and extracted a bill,
which happened to be for ten dollars. His manner seemed to say, "For
heaven's sake, here!"
Mrs. Zamboni clutched the bill with greedy fingers, but was not
appeased. "You got plenty money, Mister! You rich man, hey! You maybe
give me all them moneys, so I got plenty feed them children? You don't
know them company-stores, Mister, them prices is way up high like
mountains; them children is hungry, they cry all day and night, and one
piece money don't last so long. You give me some more piece moneys,
"I'll give you one more," said Edward. "I need some for myself." He
pulled off another bill.
"What you need so much, Mister? You don't got so many children, hey? And
you got plenty more money home, maybe!"
"That's all I can give you," said the man. He took a step to one side,
to get round the obstruction in his path.
But the obstruction took a step also--and with surprising agility.
"Mister, I thank you for them moneys. I tell them children I get moneys
from good man. I like you, Mister Smith, you give money for poor
widow-woman--you nice man."
And the dreadful creature actually stuck out one of her paws, as if
expecting to pat Edward on the cheek, or to chuck him under the chin. He
recoiled, as from a contagion; but she followed him, determined to do
something to him, he could not be sure what. He had heard that these
foreigners had strange customs!
"It's all right! It's nothing!" he insisted, and fell back--at the same
time glancing nervously about, to see if there were spectators of this
"Nice man, Mister! Nice man!" cried the old woman, with increasing
cordiality. "Maybe some day I find man like you, Mr. Edward Smith--so I
don't stay widow-woman no more. You think maybe you like to marry nice
Slavish woman, got plenty nice children?"
Edward, perceiving that the matter was getting desperate, sprang to one
side. It was a spring which should have carried him to safety; but to
his dismay the Slavish widow sprang also--her claws caught him under the
arm-pit, and fastening in his ribs, gave him a ferocious pinch. After
which the owner of the claws went down the street, not looking back, but
making strange gobbling noises, which might have been the weeping of a
bereaved widow in Slavish, or might have been almost anything else.
The train up to North Valley left very soon, and Hal figured that there
would be just time to accomplish his errand and catch the last train
back. He took his seat in the car without attracting attention, and sat
in his place until they were approaching their destination, the last
stop up the canyon. There were several of the miners' women in the car,
and Hal picked out one who belonged to Mrs. Zamboni's nationality, and
moved over beside her. She made place, with some remark; but Hal merely
sobbed softly, and the woman felt for his hand to comfort him. As his
hands were clasped together under the veils, she patted him reassuringly
on the knee.
At the boundary of the stockaded village the train stopped, and Bud
Adams came through the car, scrutinising every passenger. Seeing this,
Hal began to sob again, and murmured something indistinct to his
companion--which caused her to lean towards him, speaking volubly in her
native language. "Bud" passed by.
When Hal came to leave the train, he took his companion's arm; he sobbed
some more, and she talked some more, and so they went down the platform,
under the very eyes of Pete Hanun, the "breaker of teeth." Another woman
joined them, and they walked down the street, the women conversing in
Slavish, apparently without a suspicion of Hal.
He had worked out his plan of action. He would not try to talk with the
men secretly--it would take too long, and he might be betrayed before he
had talked with a sufficient number. One bold stroke was the thing. In
half an hour it would be supper-time, and the feeders would gather in
Reminitsky's dining-room. He would give his message there!
Hal's two companions were puzzled that he passed the Zamboni cabin,
where presumably the Zamboni brood were being cared for by neighbours.
But he let them make what they could of this, and went on to the Minetti
home. To the astonished Rosa he revealed himself, and gave her husband's
message--that she should take herself and the children down to Pedro,
and wait quietly until she heard from him. She hurried out and brought
in Jack David, to whom Hal explained matters. "Big Jack's" part in the
recent disturbance had apparently not been suspected; he and his wife,
with Rovetta, Wresmak, and Klowoski, would remain as a nucleus through
which the union could work upon the men.
The supper-hour was at hand, and the pseudo-Mrs. Zamboni emerged and
toddled down the street. As she passed into the dining-room of the
boarding-house, men looked at her, but no one spoke. It was the stage of
the meal where everybody was grabbing and devouring, in the effort to
get the best of his grabbing and devouring neighbours. The black-clad
figure went to the far end of the room; there was a vacant chair, and
the figure pulled it back from the table and climbed upon it. Then a
shout rang through the room: "Boys! Boys!"
The feeders looked up, and saw the widow's weeds thrown back, and their
leader, Joe Smith, gazing out at them. "Boys! I've come with a message
from the union!"
There was a yell; men leaped to their feet, chairs were flung back,
falling with a crash to the floor. Then, almost instantly, came silence;
you could have heard the movement of any man's jaws, had any man
continued to move them.
"Boys! I've been down to Pedro and seen the union people. I knew the
bosses wouldn't let me come back, so I dressed up, and here I am!"
It dawned upon them, the meaning of this fantastic costume; there were
cheers, laughter, yells of delight.
But Hal stretched out his hands, and silence fell again. "Listen to me!
The bosses won't let me talk long, and I've something important to say.
The union leaders say we can't win a strike now."
Consternation came into the faces before him. There were cries of
dismay. He went on:
"We are only one camp, and the bosses would turn us out, they'd get in
scabs and run the mines without us. What we must have is a strike of all
the camps at once. One big union and one big strike! If we walked out
now, it would please the bosses; but we'll fool them--we'll keep our
jobs, and keep our union too! You are members of the union, you'll go on
working for the union! Hooray for the North Valley union!"
For a moment there was no response. It was hard for men to cheer over
such a prospect! Hal saw that he must touch a different chord.
"We mustn't be cowards, boys! We've got to keep our nerve! I'm doing my
part--it took nerve to get in here! In Mrs. Zamboni's clothes, and with
two pillows stuffed in front of me!"
He thumped the pillows, and there was a burst of laughter. Many in the
crowd knew Mrs. Zamboni--it was what comedians call a "local gag." The
laughter spread, and became a gale of merriment. Men began to cheer:
"Hurrah for Joe! You're the girl! Will you marry me, Joe?" And so, of
course, it was easy for Hal to get a response when he shouted, "Hurrah
for the North Valley union!"
Again he raised his hands for silence, and went on again. "Listen, men.
They'll turn me out, and you're not going to resist them. You're going
to work and keep your jobs, and get ready for the big strike. And you'll
tell the other men what I say. I can't talk to them all, but you tell
them about the union. Remember, there are people outside planning and
fighting for you. We're going to stand by the union, all of us, till
we've brought these coal-camps back into America!" There was a cheer
that shook the walls of the room. Yes, that was what they wanted--to
live in America!
A crowd of men had gathered in the doorway, attracted by the uproar; Hal
noticed confusion and pushing, and saw the head and burly shoulders of
his enemy, Pete Hanun, come into sight.
"Here come the gunmen, boys!" he cried; and there was a roar of anger
from the crowd. Men turned, clenching their fists, glaring at the guard.
But Hal rushed on, quickly:
"Boys, hear what I say! Keep your heads! I can't stay in North Valley,
and you know it! But I've done the thing I came to do, I've brought you
the message from the union. And you'll tell the other men--tell them to
stand by the union!"
Hal went on, repeating his message over and over. Looking from one to
another of these toil-worn faces, he remembered the pledge he had made
them, and he made it anew: "I'm going to stand by you! I'm going on with
the fight, boys!"
There came more disturbance at the door, and suddenly Jeff Cotton
appeared, with a couple of additional guards, shoving their way into the
room, breathless and red in the face from running.
"Ah, there's the marshal!" cried Hal. "You needn't push, Cotton, there's
not going to be any trouble. We are union men here, we know how to
control ourselves. Now, boys, we're not giving up, we're not beaten,
we're only waiting for the men in the other camps! We have a union, and
we mean to keep it! Three cheers for the union!"
The cheers rang out with a will: cheers for the union, cheers for Joe
Smith, cheers for the widow and her weeds!
"You belong to the union! You stand by it, no matter what happens! If
they fire you, you take it on to the next place! You teach it to the new
men, you never let it die in your hearts! In union there is strength, in
union there is hope! Never forget it, men--_Union_!"
The voice of the camp-marshal rang out. "If you're coming, young woman,
Hal dropped a shy curtsey. "Oh, Mr. Cotton! This is so sudden!" The
crowd howled; and Hal descended from his platform. With coquettish
gesturing he replaced the widow's veils about his face, and tripped
mincingly across the dining-room. When he reached the camp-marshal, he
daintily took that worthy's arm, and with the "breaker of teeth" on the
other side, and Bud Adams bringing up the rear, he toddled out of the
dining-room and down the street.
Hungry men gave up their suppers to behold that sight. They poured out
of the building, they followed, laughing, shouting, jeering. Others came
from every direction--by the time the party had reached the depot, a
good part of the population of the village was on hand; and everywhere
went the word, "It's Joe Smith! Come back with a message from the
union!" Big, coal-grimed miners laughed till the tears made streaks on
their faces; they fell on one another's necks for delight at this trick
which had been played upon their oppressors.
Even Jeff Cotton could not withhold his tribute. "By God, you're the
limit!" he muttered. He accepted the "tea-party" aspect of the affair,
as the easiest way to get rid of his recurrent guest, and avert the
possibilities of danger. He escorted the widow to the train and helped
her up the steps, posting escorts at the doors of her car; nor did the
attentions of these gallants cease until the train had moved down the
canyon and passed the limits of the North Valley stockade!
Hal took off his widow's weeds; and with them he shed the merriment he
had worn for the benefit of the men. There came a sudden reaction; he
realised that he was tired.
For ten days he had lived in a whirl of excitement, scarcely stopping to
sleep. Now he lay back in the car-seat, pale, exhausted; his head ached,
and he realised that the sum-total of his North Valley experience was
failure. There was left in him no trace of that spirit of adventure with
which he had set out upon his "summer course in practical sociology." He
had studied his lessons, tried to recite them, and been "flunked." He
smiled a bitter smile, recollecting the careless jesting that had been
on his lips as he came up that same canyon:
"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!"
The train arrived in Pedro, and Hal took a hack at the station and drove
to the hotel. He still carried the widow's weeds rolled into a bundle.
He might have left them in the train, but the impulse to economy which
he had acquired during the last ten weeks had become a habit. He would
return them to Mrs. Zamboni. The money he had promised her might better
be used to feed her young ones. The two pillows he would leave in the
car; the hotel might endure the loss!
Entering the lobby, the first person Hal saw was his brother, and the
sight of that patrician face made human by disgust relieved Hal's
headache in part. Life was harsh, life was cruel; but here was weary,
waiting Edward, that boon of comic relief!
Edward demanded to know where the devil he had been; and Hal answered,
"I've been visiting the widows and orphans."
"Oh!" said Edward. "And while I sit in this hole and stew! What's that
you've got under your arm?"
Hal looked at the bundle. "It's a souvenir of one of the widows," he
said, and unrolled the garments and spread them out before his brother's
puzzled eyes. "A lady named Mrs. Swajka gave them to me. They belonged
to another lady, Mrs. Zamboni, but she doesn't need them any more."
"What have _you_ got to do with them?"
"It seems that Mrs. Zamboni is going to get married again." Hal lowered
his voice, confidentially. "It's a romance, Edward--it may interest you
as an illustration of the manners of these foreign races. She met a man
on the street, a fine, fine man, she says--and he gave her a lot of
money. So she went and bought herself some new clothes, and she wants to
give these widow's weeds to the new man. That's the custom in her
country, it seems--her sign that she accepts him as a suitor."
Seeing the look of wonderment growing on his brother's face, Hal had to
stop for a moment to keep his own face straight. "If that man wasn't
serious in his intention, Edward, he'll have trouble, for I know Mrs.
Zamboni's emotional nature. She'll follow him about everywhere--"
"Hal, that creature is insane!" And Edward looked about him nervously,
as if he thought the Slavish widow might appear suddenly in the hotel
lobby to demonstrate her emotional nature.
"No," replied Hal, "it's just one of those differences in national
customs." And suddenly Hal's face gave way. He began to laugh; he
laughed, perhaps more loudly than good form permitted.
Edward was much annoyed. There were people in the lobby, and they were
staring at him. "Cut it out, Hal!" he exclaimed. "Your fool jokes bore
me!" But nevertheless, Hal could see uncertainty in his brother's face.
Edward recognised those widow's weeds. And how could he be sure about
the "national customs" of that grotesque creature who had pinched him in
the ribs on the street?
"Cut it out!" he cried again.
Hal, changing his voice suddenly to the Zamboni key, exclaimed: "Mister,
I got eight children I got to feed, and I don't got no more man, and I
don't find no new man for old woman like me!"
So at last the truth in its full enormity began to dawn upon Edward. His
consternation and disgust poured themselves out; and Hal listened, his
laughter dying. "Edward," he said, "you don't take me seriously even
"Good God!" cried the other. "I believe you're really insane!"
"You were up there, Edward! You heard what I said to those poor devils!
And you actually thought I'd go off with you and forget about them!"
Edward ignored this. "You're really insane!" he repeated. "You'll get
yourself killed, in spite of all I can do!"
But Hal only laughed. "Not a chance of it! You should have seen the
tea-party manners of the camp-marshal!"
Edward would have endeavoured to carry his brother away forthwith, but
there was no train until late at night; so Hal went upstairs, where he
found Moylan and Hartman with Mary Burke and Mrs. Zamboni, all eager to
hear his story. As the members of the committee, who had been out to
supper, came straggling in, the story was told again, and yet again.
They were almost as much delighted as the men in Reminitsky's. If only
all strikes that had to be called off could be called off as neatly as
Between these outbursts of satisfaction, they discussed their future.
Moylan was going back to Western City, Hartman to his office in
Sheridan, from which he would arrange to send new organisers into North
Valley. No doubt Cartwright would turn off many men--those who had made
themselves conspicuous during the strike, those who continued to talk
union out loud. But such men would have to be replaced, and the union
knew through what agencies the company got its hands. The North Valley
miners would find themselves mysteriously provided with union literature
in their various languages; it would be slipped under their pillows, or
into their dinner-pails, or the pockets of their coats while they were
Also there was propaganda to be carried on among those who were turned
away; so that, wherever they went, they would take the message of
unionism. There had been a sympathetic outburst in Barela, Hal
learned--starting quite spontaneously that morning, when the men heard
what had happened at North Valley. A score of workers had been fired,
and more would probably follow in the morning. Here was a job for the
members of the kidnapped committee; Tim Rafferty, for example--would he
care to stay in Pedro for a week or two, to meet such men, and give them
literature and arguments?
This offer was welcome; for life looked desolate to the Irish boy at
this moment. He was out of a job, his father was a wreck, his family
destitute and helpless. They would have to leave their home, of course;
there would be no place for any Rafferty in North Valley. Where they
would go, God only knew; Tim would become a wanderer, living away from
his people, starving himself and sending home his pitiful savings.
Hal was watching the boy, and reading these thoughts. He, Hal Warner,
would play the god out of a machine in this case, and in several others
equally pitiful. He had the right to sign his father's name to checks, a
privilege which he believed he could retain, even while undertaking the
role of Haroun al Raschid in a mine-disaster. But what about the
mine-disasters and abortive strikes where there did not happen to be any
Haroun al Raschid at hand? What about those people, right in North
Valley, who did not happen to have told Hal of their affairs? He
perceived that it was only by turning his back and running that he would
escape from his adventure with any portion of his self-possession.
Truly, this fair-seeming and wonderful civilisation was like the floor
of a charnel-house or a field of battle; anywhere one drove a spade
beneath its surface, he uncovered horrors, sights for the eyes and
stenches for the nostrils that caused him to turn sick!
There was Rusick, for example; he had a wife and two children, and not a
dollar in the world. In the year and more that he had worked, faithfully
and persistently, to get out coal for Peter Harrigan, he had never once
been able to get ahead of his bill for the necessities of life at Old
Peter's store. All his belongings in the world could be carried in a
bundle on his back, and whether he ever saw these again would depend
upon the whim of old Peter's camp-marshal and guards. Rusick would take
to the road, with a ticket purchased by the union. Perhaps he would find
a job and perhaps not; in any case, the best he could hope for in life
was to work for some other Harrigan, and run into debt at some other
There was Hobianish, a Serbian, and Hernandez, a Mexican, of whom the
same things were true, except that one had four children and the other
six. Bill Wauchope had only a wife--their babies had died, thank heaven,
he said. He did not seem to have been much moved by Jim Moylan's
pleadings; he was down and out; he would take to the road, and beat his
way to the East and back to England. They called this a free country! By
God, if he were to tell what had happened to him, he could not get an
English miner to believe it!
Hal gave these men his real name and address, and made them promise to
let him know how they got along. He would help a little, he said; in his
mind he was figuring how much he ought to do. How far shall a man go in
relieving the starvation about him, before he can enjoy his meals in a
well-appointed club? What casuist will work out this problem--telling
him the percentage he shall relieve of the starvation he happens
personally to know about, the percentage of that which he sees on the
streets, the percentage of that about which he reads in government
reports on the rise in the cost of living. To what extent is he
permitted to close his eyes, as he walks along the streets on his way to
the club? To what extent is he permitted to avoid reading government
reports before going out to dinner-dances with his fiancee? Problems
such as these the masters of the higher mathematics have neglected to
solve; the wise men of the academies and the holy men of the churches
have likewise failed to work out the formulas; and Hal, trying to obtain
them by his crude mental arithmetic, found no satisfaction in the
Hal wanted a chance to talk to Mary Burke; they had had no intimate talk
since the meeting with Jessie Arthur, and now he was going away, for a
long time. He wanted to find out what plans Mary had for the future,
and--more important yet--what was her state of mind. If he had been able
to lift this girl from despair, his summer course in practical sociology
had not been all a failure!
He asked her to go with him to say good-bye to John Edstrom, whom he had
not seen since their unceremonious parting at MacKellar's, when Hal had
fled to Percy Harrigan's train. Downstairs in the lobby Hal explained
his errand to his waiting brother, who made no comment, but merely
remarked that he would follow, if Hal had no objection. He did not care
to make the acquaintance of the Hibernian Joan of Arc, and would not
come close enough to interfere with Hal's conversation with the lady;
but he wished to do what he could for his brother's protection. So there
set out a moon-light procession--first Hal and Mary, then Edward, and
then Edward's dinner-table companion, the "hardware-drummer!"
Hal was embarrassed in beginning his farewell talk with Mary. He had no
idea how she felt towards him, and he admitted with a guilty pang that
he was a little afraid to find out! He thought it best to be cheerful,
so he started to tell her how fine he thought her conduct during the
strike. But she did not respond to his remarks, and at last he realised
that she was labouring with some thoughts of her own.
"There's somethin' I got to say to ye!" she began, suddenly. "A couple
of days ago I knew how I meant to say it, but now I don't."
"Well," he laughed, "say it as you meant to."
"No; 'twas bitter--and now I'm on my knees before ye."
"Not that I want you to be bitter," said Hal, still laughing, "but it's
I that ought to be on my knees before you. I didn't accomplish anything,
"Ye did all ye could--and more than the rest of us. I want ye to know
I'll never forget it. But I want ye to hear the other thing, too!"
She walked on, staring before her, doubling up her hands in agitation.
"Well?" said he, still trying to keep a cheerful tone.
"Ye remember that day just after the explosion? Ye remember what I said
about--about goin' away with ye? I take it back."
"Oh, of course!" said he, quickly. "You were distracted, Mary--you
didn't know what you were saying."
"No, no! That's not it! But I've changed my mind; I don't mean to throw
"I told you you'd see it that way," he said. "No man is worth it."
"Ah, lad!" said she. "'Tis the fine soothin' tongue ye have--but I'd
rather ye knew the truth. 'Tis that I've seen the other girl; and I hate
They walked for a bit in silence. Hal had sense enough to realise that
here was a difficult subject. "I don't want to be a prig, Mary," he said
gently; "but you'll change your mind about that, too. You'll not hate
her; you'll be sorry for her."
She laughed--a raw, harsh laugh. "What kind of a joke is that?"
"I know--it may seem like one. But it'll come to you some day. You have
a wonderful thing to live and fight for; while she"--he hesitated a
moment, for he was not sure of his own ideas on this subject--"she has
so many things to learn; and she may never learn them. She'll miss some
"I know one of the fine things she does not mean to miss," said Mary,
grimly; "that's Mr. Hal Warner." Then, after they had walked again in
silence: "I want ye to understand me, Mr. Warner--"
"Ah, Mary!" he pleaded. "Don't treat me that way! I'm Joe."
"All right," she said, "Joe ye shall be. 'Twill remind ye of a pretty
adventure--bein' a workin' man for a few weeks. Well, that's a part of
what I have to tell ye. I've got my pride, even if I'm only a poor
miner's daughter; and the other day I found out me place."
"How do you mean?" he asked.
"Ye don't understand? Honest?"
"No, honest," he said.
"Ye're stupid with women, Joe. Ye didn't see what the girl did to me!
'Twas some kind of a bug I was to her. She was not sure if I was the
kind that bites, but she took no chances--she threw me off, like that."
And Mary snapped her hand, as one does when troubled with a bug.
"Ah, now!" pleaded Hal. "You're not being fair!"
"I'm bein' just as fair as I've got it in me to be, Joe. I been off and
had it all out. I can see this much--'tis not her fault, maybe--'tis her
class; 'tis all of ye--the very best of ye, even yeself, Joe Smith!"
"Yea," he replied, "Tim Rafferty said that."
"Tim said too much--but a part of it was true. Ye think ye've come here
and been one of us workin' people." But don't your own sense tell you
the difference, as if it was a canyon a million miles across--between a
poor ignorant creature in a minin' camp, and a rich man's daughter, a
lady? Ye'd tell me not to be ashamed of poverty; but would ye ever put
me by the side of her--for all your fine feelin's of friendship for them
that's beneath ye? Didn't ye show that at the Minettis'?"
"But don't you see, Mary--" He made an effort to laugh. "I got used to
obeying Jessie! I knew her a long time before I knew you."
"Ah, Joe! Ye've a kind heart, and a pleasant way of speakin'. But
wouldn't it interest ye to know the real truth? Ye said ye'd come out
here to learn the truth!"
And Hal answered, in a low voice, "Yes," and did not interrupt again.
Mary's voice had dropped low, and Hal thought how rich and warm it was
when she was deeply moved. She went on:
"I lived all me life in minin' camps, Joe Smith, and I seen men robbed
and beaten, and women cryin' and childer hungry. I seen the company,
like some great wicked beast that eat them up. But I never knew why, or
what it meant--till that day, there at the Minettis'. I'd read about
fine ladies in books, ye see; but I'd never been spoke to by one, I'd
never had to swallow one, as ye might say. But there I did--and all at
once I seemed to know where the money goes that's wrung out of the
miners. I saw why people were robbin' us, grindin' the life out of
us--for fine ladies like that, to keep them so shinin' and soft! 'Twould
not have been so bad, if she'd not come just then, with all the men and
boys dyin' down in the pits--dyin' for that soft, white skin, and those
soft, white hands, and all those silky things she swished round in. My
God, Joe--d'ye know what she seemed to me like? Like a smooth, sleek cat
that has just eat up a whole nest full of baby mice, and has the blood
of them all over her cheeks!"
Mary paused, breathing hard. Hal kept silence, and she went on again: "I
had it out with meself, Joe! I don't want ye to think I'm any better
than I am, and I asked meself this question--Is it for the men in the
pits that ye hate her with such black murder? Or is it for the one man
ye want, and that she's got? And I knew the answer to that! But then I
asked meself another question, too--Would ye be like her if ye could?
Would ye do what she's doin' right now--would ye have it on your soul?
And as God hears me, Joe, 'tis the truth I speak--I'd not do it! No, not
for the love of any man that ever walked on this earth!"
She had lifted her clenched fist as she spoke. She let it fall again,
and strode on, not even glancing at him. "Ye might try a thousand years,
Joe, and ye'd not realise the feelin's that come to me there at the
Minettis'. The shame of it--not what she done to me, but what she made
me in me own eyes! Me, the daughter of a drunken old miner, and her--I
don't know what her father is, but she's some sort of princess, and she
knows it. And that's the thing that counts, Joe! 'Tis not that she has
so much money, and so many fine things; that she knows how to talk, and
I don't, and that her voice is sweet, and mine is ugly, when I'm ragin'
as I am now. No--'tis that she's so _sure!_ That's the word I found to
say it; she's sure--sure--_sure!_ She has the fine things, she's always
had them, she has a right to have them! And I have a right to nothin'
but trouble, I'm hunted all day by misery and fear, I've lost even the
roof over me head! Joe, ye know I've got some temper--I'm not easy to
beat down; but when I'd got through bein' taught me place, I went off
and hid meself, I ground me face in the dirt, for the black rage of it!
I said to meself, 'Tis true! There's somethin' in her better than me!
She's some kind of finer creature.--Look at these hands!" She held them
out in the moonlight, with a swift, passionate gesture. "So she's a
right to her man, and I'm a fool to have ever raised me eyes to him! I
have to see him go away, and crawl back into me leaky old shack! Yes,
that's the truth! And when I point it out to the man, what d'ye think he
says? Why, he tells me gently and kindly that I ought to be sorry for
her! Christ! did ye ever hear the like of that?"
There was a long silence. Hal could not have said anything now, if he
had wished to. He knew that this was what he had come to seek! This was
the naked soul of the class-war!
"Now," concluded Mary, with clenched hands, and a voice that
corresponded, "now, I've had it out. I'm no slave; I've just as good a
right to life as any lady. I know I'll never have it, of course; I'll
never wear good clothes, nor live in a decent home, nor have the man I
want; but I'll know that I've done somethin' to help free the workin'
people from the shame that's put on them. That's what the strike done
for me, Joe! The strike showed me the way. We're beat this time, but
somehow it hasn't made the difference ye might think. I'm goin' to make
more strikes before I quit, and they won't all of them be beat!"
She stopped speaking; and Hal walked beside her, stirred by a conflict
of emotions. His vision of her was indeed true; she would make more
strikes! He was glad and proud of that; but then came the thought that
while she, a girl, was going on with the bitter war, he, a man, would be
eating grilled beefsteaks at the club!
"Mary," he said, "I'm ashamed of myself--"
"That's not it, Joe! Ye've no call to be ashamed. Ye can't help it where
ye were born--"
"Perhaps not, Mary. But when a man knows he's never paid for any of the
things he's enjoyed all his life, surely the least he can do is to be
ashamed. I hope you'll try not to hate me as you do the others."
"I never hated ye, Joe! Not for one moment! I tell ye fair and true, I
love ye as much as ever. I can say it, because I'd not have ye now; I've
seen the other girl, and I know ye'd never be satisfied with me. I don't
know if I ought to say it, but I'm thinkin' ye'll not be altogether
satisfied with her, either. Ye'll be unhappy either way--God help ye!"
The girl had read deeply into his soul in this last speech; so deeply
that Hal could not trust himself to answer. They were passing a
street-lamp, and she looked at him, for the first time since they had
started on their walk, and saw harassment in his face. A sudden
tenderness came into her voice. "Joe," she said; "ye're lookin' bad.
'Tis good ye're goin' away from this place!"
He tried to smile, but the effort was feeble.
"Joe," she went on, "ye asked me to be your friend. Well, I'll be that!"
And she held out the big, rough hand.
He took it. "We'll not forget each other, Mary," he said. There was a
catch in his voice.
"Sure, lad!" she exclaimed. "We'll make another strike some day, just
like we did at North Valley!"
Hal pressed the big hand; but then suddenly, remembering his brother
stalking solemnly in the rear, he relinquished the clasp, and failed to
say all the fine things he had in his mind. He called himself a rebel,
but not enough to be sentimental before Edward!
They came to the house where John Edstrom was staying. The labouring
man's wife opened the door. In answer to Hal's question, she said, "The
old gentleman's pretty bad."
"What's the matter with him?"
"Didn't you know he was hurt?"
"They beat him up, sir. Broke his arm, and nearly broke his head."
Hal and Mary exclaimed in chorus, "Who did it? When?"
"We don't know who did it. It was four nights ago."
Hal realised it must have happened while he was escaping from
MacKellar's. "Have you had a doctor for him?"
"Yes, sir; but we can't do much, because my man is out of work, and I
have the children and the boarders to look after."
Hal and Mary ran upstairs. Their old friend lay in darkness, but he
recognised their voices and greeted them with a feeble cry. The woman
brought a lamp, and they saw him lying on his back, his head done up in
bandages, and one arm bound in splints. He looked really desperately
bad, his kindly old eyes deep-sunken and haggard, and his face--Hal
remembered what Jeff Cotton had called him, "that dough-faced old
They got the story of what had happened at the time of Hal's flight to
Percy's train. Edstrom had shouted a warning to the fugitives, and set
out to run after them; when one of the mine-guards, running past him,
had fetched him a blow over the eye, knocking him down. He had struck
his head upon the pavement, and lain there unconscious for many hours.
When finally some one had come upon him, and summoned a policeman, they
had gone through his pockets, and found the address of this place where
he was staying written on a scrap of paper. That was all there was to
the story--except that Edstrom had refrained from sending to MacKellar
for help, because he had felt sure they were all working to get the mine
open, and he did not feel he had the right to put his troubles upon
Hal listened to the old man's feeble statements, and there came back to
him a surge of that fury which his North Valley experience had generated
in him. It was foolish, perhaps; for to knock down an old man who had
been making trouble was a comparatively slight exercise of the functions
of a mine-guard. But to Hal it seemed the most characteristic of all the
outrages he had seen; it was an expression of the company's utter
blindness to all that was best in life. This old man, who was so gentle,
so patient, who had suffered so much, and not learned to hate, who had
kept his faith so true! What did his faith mean to the thugs of the
General Fuel Company? What had his philosophy availed him, his
saintliness, his hopes for mankind? They had fetched him one swipe as
they passed him, and left him lying--alive or dead, it was all the same.
Hal had got some satisfaction out of his little adventure in widowhood,
and some out of Mary's self-victory; but there, listening to the old
man's whispered story, his satisfaction died. He realised again the grim
truth about his summer's experience--that the issue of it had been
defeat. Utter, unqualified defeat! He had caused the bosses a momentary
chagrin; but it would not take them many hours to realise that he had
really done them a service in calling off the strike for them. They
would start the wheels of industry again, and the workers would be just
where they had been before Joe Smith came to be stableman and buddy
among them. What was all the talk about solidarity, about hope for the
future; what would it amount to in the long run, the daily rolling of
the wheels of industry? The workers of North Valley would have exactly
the right they had always had--the right to be slaves, and if they did
not care for that, the right to be martyrs!
Mary sat holding the old man's hand and whispering words of passionate
sympathy, while Hal got up and paced the tiny attic, all ablaze with
anger. He resolved suddenly that he would not go back to Western City;
he would stay here, and get an honest lawyer to come, and set out to
punish the men who were guilty of this outrage. He would test out the
law to the limit; if necessary, he would begin a political fight, to put
an end to coal-company rule in this community. He would find some one to
write up these conditions, he would raise the money and publish a paper
to make them known! Before his surging wrath had spent itself, Hal
Warner had actually come out as a candidate for governor, and was
overturning the Republican machine--all because an unidentified
coal-company detective had knocked a dough-faced old miner into the
gutter and broken his arm!
In the end, of course, Hal had to come down to practical matters. He sat
by the bed and told the old man tactfully that his brother had come to
see him and had given him some money. This brother had plenty of money,
so Edstrom could be taken to the hospital; or, if he preferred, Mary
could stay near here and take care of him. They turned to the landlady,
who had been standing in the doorway; she had three boarders in her
little home, it seemed, but if Mary could share a bed with the
landlady's two children, they might make out. In spite of Hal's protest,
Mary accepted this offer; he saw what was in her mind--she would take
some of his money, because of old Edstrom's need, but she would take
just as little as she possibly could.
John Edstrom of course knew nothing of events since his injury, so Hal
told him the story briefly--though without mentioning the transformation
which had taken place in the miner's buddy. He told about the part Mary
had played in the strike; trying to entertain the poor old man, he told
how he had seen her mounted upon a snow-white horse, and wearing a robe
of white, soft and lustrous, like Joan of Arc, or the leader of a
"Sure," said Mary, "he's forever callin' attention to this old dress!"
Hal looked; she was wearing the same blue calico. "There's something
mysterious about that dress," said he. "It's one of those that you read
about in fairy-stories, that forever patch themselves, and keep
themselves new and starchy. A body only needs one dress like that!"
"Sure, lad," she answered. "There's no fairies in coal-camps--unless
'tis meself, that washes it at night, and dries it over the stove, and
irons it next mornin'."
She said this with unwavering cheerfulness; but even the old miner lying
in pain on the cot could realise the tragedy of a young girl's having
only one old dress in her love-hunting season. He looked at the young
couple, and saw their evident interest in each other; after the fashion
of the old, he was disposed to help along the romance. "She may need
some orange blossoms," he ventured, feebly.
"Go along with ye!" laughed Mary, still unwavering.
"Sure," put in Hal, with hasty gallantry, "'tis a blossom she is
herself! A rose in a mining-camp--and there's a dispute about her in the
poetry-books. One tells you to leave her on her stalk, and another says
to gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a-flying!"
"Ye're mixin' me up," said Mary. "A while back I was ridin' on a white
"I remember," said Old Edstrom, "not so far back, you were an ant,
Her face became grave. To jest about her personal tragedy was one thing,
to jest about the strike was another. "Yes, I remember. Ye said I'd stay
in the line! Ye were wiser than me, Mr. Edstrom."
"That's one of the things that come with being old, Mary." He moved his
gnarled old hand toward hers. "You're going on, now?" he asked. "You're
a unionist now, Mary?"
"I am that!" she answered, promptly, her grey eyes shining.
"There's a saying," said he--"once a striker, always a striker. Find a
way to get some education for yourself, Mary, and when the big strike
comes you'll be one of those the miners look to. I'll not be here, I
know--the young people must take my place."
"I'll do my part," she answered. Her voice was low; it was a kind of
benediction the old man was giving her.
The woman had gone downstairs to attend to her children; she came back
now to say that there was a gentleman at the door, who wanted to know
when his brother was coming. Hal remembered suddenly--Edward had been
pacing up and down all this while, with no company but a "hardware
drummer!" The younger brother's resolve to stay in Pedro had already
begun to weaken somewhat, and now it weakened still further; he realised
that life is complex, that duties conflict! He assured the old miner
again of his ability to see that he did not suffer from want, and then
he bade him farewell for a while.
He started out, and Mary went as far as the head of the stairway with
him. He took the girl's big, rough hand in his--this time with no one to
see. "Mary," he said, "I want you to know that nothing will make me
forget you; and nothing will make me forget the miners."
"Ah, Joe!" she cried. "Don't let them win ye away from us! We need ye so
"I'm going back home for a while," he answered, "but you can be sure
that no matter what happens in my life, I'm going to fight for the
working people. When the big strike comes, as we know it's coming in
this coal-country, I'll be here to do my share."
"Sure lad," she said, looking him bravely in the eye, "and good-bye to
ye, Joe Smith." Her eyes did not waver; but Hal noted a catch in her
voice, and he found himself with an impulse to take her in his arms. It
was very puzzling. He knew he loved Jessie Arthur; he remembered the
question Mary had once asked him--could he be in love with two girls at
the same time? It was not in accord with any moral code that had been
impressed upon him, but apparently he could!
He went out to the street, where his brother was pacing up and down in a
ferment. The "hardware drummer" had made another effort to start a
conversation, and had been told to go to hell--no less!
"Well, are you through now?" Edward demanded, taking out his irritation
"Yes," replied the other. "I suppose so." He realised that Edward would
not be concerned about Edstrom's broken arm.
"Then, for God's sake, get some clothes on and let's have some food."
"All right," said Hal. But his answer was listless, and the other looked
at him sharply. Even by the moonlight Edward could see the lines in the
face of his younger brother, and the hollows around his eyes. For the
first time he realised how deeply these experiences were cutting into
the boy's soul. "You poor kid!" he exclaimed, with sudden feeling. But
Hal did not answer; he did not want sympathy, he did not want anything!
Edward made a gesture of despair. "God knows, I don't know what to do
They started back to the hotel, and on the way Edward cast about in his
mind for a harmless subject of conversation. He mentioned that he had
foreseen the shutting up of the stores, and had purchased an outfit for
his brother. There was no need to thank him, he added grimly; he had no
intention of travelling to Western City in company with a hobo.
So the young miner had a bath, the first real one in a long time. (Never
again would it be possible for ladies to say in Hal Warner's presence
that the poor might at least keep clean!) He had a shave; he trimmed his
finger-nails, and brushed his hair, and dressed himself as a gentleman.
In spite of himself he found his cheerfulness partly restored. A strange
and wonderful sensation--to be dressed once more as a gentleman. He
thought of the saying of the old negro, who liked to stub his toe,
because it felt so good when it stopped hurting!
They went out to find a restaurant, and on the way one last misadventure
befell Edward. Hal saw an old miner walking past, and stopped with a
cry: "Mike!" He forgot all at once that he was a gentleman; the old
miner forgot it also. He stared for one bewildered moment, then he
rushed at Hal and seized him in the hug of a mountain grizzly.
"My buddy! My buddy!" he cried, and gave Hal a prodigious thump on the
back. "By Judas!" And he gave him a thump with the other hand. "Hey! you
old son-of-a-gun!" And he gave him a hairy kiss!
But in the very midst of these raptures it dawned over him that there
was something wrong about his buddy. He drew back, staring. "You got
good clothes! You got rich, hey?"
Evidently the old fellow had heard no rumour concerning Hal's secret.
"I've been doing pretty well," Hal said.
"What you work at, hey?"
"I been working at a strike in North Valley."
"What's that? You make money working at strike?"
Hal laughed, but did not explain. "What you working at?"
"I work at strike too--all alone strike."
"I work two days on railroad. Got busted track up there. Pay me
two-twenty-five a day. Then no more job."
"Have you tried the mines?"
"What? Me? They got me all right! I go up to San Jose. Pit-boss say,
'Get the hell out of here, you old groucher! You don't get no more jobs
in this district!'"
Hal looked Mike over, and saw that his dirty old face was drawn and
white, belying the feeble cheerfulness of his words. "We're going to
have something to eat," he said. "Won't you come with us?"
"Sure thing!" said Mike, with alacrity. "I go easy on grub now."
Hal introduced "Mr. Edward Warner," who said "How do you do?" He
accepted gingerly the calloused paw which the old Slovak held out to
him, but he could not keep the look of irritation from his face. His
patience was utterly exhausted. He had hoped to find a decent restaurant
and have some real food; but now, of course, he could not enjoy
anything, with this old gobbler in front of him.
They entered an all-night lunch-room, where Hal and Mike ordered
cheese-sandwiches and milk, and Edward sat and wondered at his brother's
ability to eat such food. Meantime the two cronies told each other their
stories, and Old Mike slapped his knee and cried out with delight over
Hal's exploits. "Oh, you buddy!" he exclaimed; then, to Edward, "Ain't
he a daisy, hey?" And he gave Edward a thump on the shoulder. "By Judas,
they don't beat my buddy!"
Mike Sikoria had last been seen by Hal from the window of the North
Valley jail, when he had been distributing the copies of Hal's
signature, and Bud Adams had taken him in charge. The mine-guard had
marched him into a shed in back of the power-house, where he had found
Kauser and Kalovac, two other fellows who had been arrested while
helping in the distribution.
Mike detailed the experience with his usual animation. "'Hey, Mister
Bud,' I say, 'if you going to send me down canyon, I want to get my
things.' 'You go to hell for your things,' says he. And then I say,
'Mister Bud, I want to get my time.' And he says, 'I give you plenty
time right here!' And he punch me and throw me over. Then he grab me up'
again and pull me outside, and I see big automobile waiting, and I say,
'Holy Judas! I get ride in automobile! Here I am, old fellow fifty-seven
years old, never been in automobile ride all my days. I think always I
die and never get in automobile ride!' We go down canyon, and I look
round and see them mountains, and feel nice cool wind in my face, and I
say, 'Bully for you, Mister Bud, I don't never forget this automobile. I
don't have such good time any day all my life.' And he say, 'Shut your
face, you old wop!' Then we come out on prairie, we go up in Black
Hills, and they stop, and say, 'Get out here, you sons o' guns.' And
they leave us there all alone. They say, 'You come back again, we catch
you and we rip the guts out of you!' They go away fast, and we got to
walk seven hours, us fellers, before we come to a house! But I don't
mind that, I begged some grub, and then I got job mending track; only I
don't find out if you get out of jail, and I think maybe I lose my buddy
and never see him no more."
Here the old man stopped, gazing affectionately at Hal. "I write you
letter to North Valley, but I don't hear nothing, and I got to walk all
the way on railroad track to look for you."
How was it? Hal wondered. He had encountered naked horror in this
coal-country--yet here he was, not entirely glad at the thought of
leaving it! He would miss Old Mike Sikoria, his hairy kiss and his
He struck the old man dumb by pressing a twenty-dollar bill into his
hand. Also he gave him the address of Edstrom and Mary, and a note to
Johann Hartman, who might use him to work among the Slovaks who came
down into the town. Hal explained that he had to go back to Western City
that night, but that he would never forget his old friend, and would see
that he had a good job. He was trying to figure out some occupation for
the old man on his father's country-place. A pet grizzly!
Train-time came, and the long line of dark sleepers rolled in by the
depot-platform. It was late--after midnight; but, nevertheless, there
was Old Mike. He was in awe of Hal now, with his fine clothes and his
twenty-dollar bills; but, nevertheless, under stress of his emotion, he
gave him one more hug, and one more hairy kiss. "Good-bye, my buddy!" he
cried. "You come back, my buddy! I don't forget my buddy!" And when the
train began to move, he waved his ragged cap, and ran along the platform
to get a last glimpse, to call a last farewell. When Hal turned into the
car, it was with more than a trace of moisture in his eyes.
From previous experiences the writer has learned that many people,
reading a novel such as "King Coal," desire to be informed as to whether
it is true to fact. They write to ask if the book is meant to be so
taken; they ask for evidence to convince themselves and others. Having
answered thousands of such letters in the course of his life, it seems
to the author the part of common-sense to answer some of them in
"King Coal" is a picture of the life of the workers in unorganised
labour-camps in many parts of America, The writer has avoided naming a
definite place, for the reason that such conditions are to be found as
far apart as West Virginia, Alabama, Michigan, Minnesota, and Colorado.
Most of the details of his picture were gathered in the last-named
state, which the writer visited on three occasions during and just after
the great coal-strike of 1913-14. The book gives a true picture of
conditions and events observed by him at this time. Practically all the
characters are real persons, and every incident which has social