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Chapter 16

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 says."

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 carefully."

"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--"

"What 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 democratic?"

"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.

Upton Sinclair