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Chapter 17

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 planning.

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."

Upton Sinclair