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Chapter 15

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 camp."

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 for it."

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 faces!"

"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 consideration."

"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 never was!"

Cartwright attempted to speak--but looking at Edward, not at Hal. "At that time--"

"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 Cartwright's desk.

"What are you going to do, Hal?"

"I am going to get Billy Keating on the wire, and let you hear his statement."

"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 are."

"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 sake!"

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, crossly.

"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 employés."

"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 continue."

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 enough!"

"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 country."

"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.

Upton Sinclair