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Chapter 2

When Hal came to himself again he was in darkness, and was conscious of agony from head to toe. He was lying on a stone floor, and he rolled over, but soon rolled back again, because there was no part of his back which was not sore. Later on, when he was able to study himself, he counted over a score of marks of the heavy boots of his assailants.

He lay for an hour or two, making up his mind that he was in a lock-up, because he could see the starlight through iron bars. He could hear somebody snoring, and he called half a dozen times, in a louder and louder voice, until at last, hearing a growl, he inquired, "Can you give me a drink of water?"

"I'll give you hell if you wake me up again," said the voice; after which Hal lay in silence until morning.

A couple of hours after daylight, a man entered his cell. "Get up," said he, and added a prod with his foot. Hal had thought he could not do it, but he got up.

"No funny business now," said his jailer, and grasping him by the sleeve of his coat, marched him out of the cell and down a little corridor into a sort of office, where sat a red-faced personage with a silver shield upon the lapel of his coat. Hal's two assailants of the night before stood nearby.

"Well, kid?" said the personage in the chair. "Had a little time to think it over?" "Yes," said Hal, briefly.

"What's the charge?" inquired the personage, of the two watchmen.

"Trespassing and resisting arrest."

"How much money you got, young fellow?" was, the next question.

Hal hesitated.

"Speak up there!" said the man.

"Two dollars and sixty-seven cents," said Hal--"as well as I can remember."

"Go on!" said the other. "What you givin' us?" And then, to the two watchmen, "Search him."

"Take off your coat and pants," said Bill, promptly, "and your boots."

"Oh, I say!" protested Hal.

"Take 'em off!" said the man, and clenched his fists. Hal took 'em off, and they proceeded to go through the pockets, producing a purse with the amount stated, also a cheap watch, a strong pocket knife, the tooth-brush, comb and mirror, and two white handkerchiefs, which they looked at contemptuously and tossed to the spittle-drenched floor.

They unrolled the pack, and threw the clean clothing about. Then, opening the pocket-knife, they proceeded to pry about the soles and heels of the boots, and to cut open the lining of the clothing. So they found the ten dollars in the belt, which they tossed onto the table with the other belongings. Then the personage with the shield announced, "I fine you twelve dollars and sixty-seven cents, and your watch and knife." He added, with a grin, "You can keep your snot-rags."

"Now see here!" said Hal, angrily. "This is pretty raw!"

"You get your duds on, young fellow, and get out of here as quick as you can, or you'll go in your shirt-tail."

But Hal was angry enough to have been willing to go in his skin. "You tell me who you are, and your authority for this procedure?"

"I'm marshal of the camp," said the man.

"You mean you're an employé of the General Fuel Company? And you propose to rob me--"

"Put him out, Bill," said the marshal. And Hal saw Bill's fists clench.

"All right," he said, swallowing his indignation. "Wait till I get my clothes on." And he proceeded to dress as quickly as possible; he rolled up his blanket and spare clothing, and started for the door.

"Remember," said the marshal, "straight down the canyon with you, and if you show your face round here again, you'll get a bullet through you."

So Hal went out into the sunshine, with a guard on each side of him as an escort. He was on the same mountain road, but in the midst of the company-village. In the distance he saw the great building of the breaker, and heard the incessant roar of machinery and falling coal. He marched past a double lane of company houses and shanties, where slattern women in doorways and dirty children digging in the dust of the roadside paused and grinned at him--for he limped as he walked, and it was evident enough what had happened to him.

Hal had come with love and curiosity. The love was greatly diminished--evidently this was not the force which kept the wheels of industry a-roll. But the curiosity was greater than ever. What was there so carefully hidden inside this coal-camp stockade?

Hal turned and looked at Bill, who had showed signs of humour the day before. "See here," said he, "you fellows have got my money, and you've blacked my eye and kicked me blue, so you ought to be satisfied. Before I go, tell me about it, won't you?"

"Tell you what?" growled Bill.

"Why did I get this?"

"Because you're too gay, kid. Didn't you know you had no business trying to sneak in here?"

"Yes," said Hal; "but that's not what I mean. Why didn't you let me in at first?"

"If you wanted a job in a mine," demanded the man, "why didn't you go at it in the regular way?"

"I didn't know the regular way."

"That's just it. And we wasn't takin' chances with you. You didn't look straight."

"But what did you think I was? What are you afraid of?"

"Go on!" said the man. "You can't work me!"

Hal walked a few steps in silence, pondering how to break through. "I see you're suspicious of me," he said. "I'll tell you the truth, if you'll let me." Then, as the other did not forbid him, "I'm a college boy, and I wanted to see life and shift for myself a while. I thought it would be a lark to come here."

"Well," said Bill, "this ain't no foot-ball field. It's a coal-mine."

Hal saw that his story had been accepted. "Tell me straight," he said, "what did you think I was?"

"Well, I don't mind telling," growled Bill. "There's union agitators trying to organise these here camps, and we ain't taking no chances with 'em. This company gets its men through agencies, and if you'd went and satisfied them, you'd 'a been passed in the regular way. Or if you'd went to the office down in Pedro and got a pass, you'd 'a been all right. But when a guy turns up at the gate, and looks like a dude and talks like a college perfessor, he don't get by, see?"

"I see," said Hal. And then, "If you'll give me the price of a breakfast out of my money, I'll be obliged."

"Breakfast is over," said Bill. "You sit round till the pinyons gets ripe." He laughed; but then, mellowed by his own joke, he took a quarter from his pocket and passed it to Hal. He opened the padlock on the gate and saw him out with a grin; and so ended Hal's first turn on the wheels of industry.

Upton Sinclair