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 our organisation!"
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."
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