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Chapter 12

Hal sat staring in front of him, silent. Was it a fact that every man had something in his life which palsied his arm, and struck him helpless in the battle for social justice?

When he spoke again, it was in a low voice. "Edward, I'm thinking about a young Irish boy who works in these mines. He, too, has a father; and this father was caught in the explosion. He's an old man, with a wife and seven other children. He's a good man, the boy's a good boy. Let me tell you what Peter Harrigan has done to them!"

"Well," said Edward, "whatever it is, it's all right, you can help them. They won't need to starve."

"I know," said Hal, "but there are so many others; I can't help them all. And besides, can't you see, Edward--what I'm thinking about is not charity, but _justice_. I'm sure this boy, Tim Rafferty, loves his father just exactly as much as I love my father; and there are other old men here, with sons who love them--"

"Oh, Hal, for Christ's sake!" exclaimed Edward, in a sort of explosion. He had no other words to express his impatience. "Do you expect to take all the troubles in the world on your shoulders?" And he sprang up and caught the other by the arm. "Boy, you've got to come away from here!"

Hal got up, without answering. He seemed irresolute, and his brother started to draw him towards the door. "I've got a car here. We can get a train in an hour--"

Hal saw that he had to speak firmly. "No, Edward," he said. "I can't come just yet."

"I tell you you _must_ come!"

"I can't. I made these men a promise!"

"In God's name--what are these men to you? Compared with your own father!"

"I can't explain it, Edward. I've talked for half an hour, and I don't think you've even heard me. Suffice it to say that I see these people caught in a trap--and one that my whole life has helped to make. I can't leave them in it. What's more, I don't believe Dad would want me to do it, if he understood."

The other made a last effort at self-control. "I'm not going to call you a sentimental fool. Only, let me ask you one plain question. What do you think you can _do_ for these people?"

"I think I can help to win decent conditions for them."

"Good God!" cried Edward; he sighed, in his agony of exasperation. "In Peter Harrigan's mines! Don't you realise that he'll pick them up and throw them out of here, neck and crop--the whole crew, every man in the town, if necessary?"

"Perhaps," answered Hal; "but if the men in the other mines should join them--if the big union outside should stand by them--"

"You're dreaming, Hal! You're talking like a child! I talked to the superintendent here; he had telegraphed the situation to Old Peter, and had just got an answer. Already he's acted, no doubt."

"Acted?" echoed Hal. "How do you mean?" He was staring at his brother in sudden anxiety.

"They were going to turn the agitators out, of course."

"_What?_ And while I'm here talking!"

Hal turned toward the door. "You knew it all the time!" he exclaimed. "You kept me here deliberately!"

He was starting away, but Edward sprang and caught him. "What could you have done?"

"Turn me loose!" cried Hal, angrily.

"Don't be a fool, Hal! I've been trying to keep you out of the trouble. There may be fighting."

Edward threw himself between Hal and the door, and there was a sharp struggle. But the elder man was no longer the athlete, the young bronzed god; he had been sitting at a desk in an office, while Hal had been doing hard labour. Hal threw him to one side, and in a moment more had sprung out of the door, and was running down the slope.

Upton Sinclair