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Chapter 3

Hal Warner started to drag himself down the road, but was unable to make it. He got as far as a brooklet that came down the mountain-side, from which he might drink without fear of typhoid; there he lay the whole day, fasting. Towards evening a thunder-storm came up, and he crawled under the shelter of a rock, which was no shelter at all. His single blanket was soon soaked through, and he passed a night almost as miserable as the previous one. He could not sleep, but he could think, and he thought about what had happened to him. "Bill" had said that a coal mine was not a foot-ball field, but it seemed to Hal that the net impress of the two was very much the same. He congratulated himself that his profession was not that of a union organiser.

At dawn he dragged himself up, and continued his journey, weak from cold and unaccustomed lack of food. In the course of the day he reached a power-station near the foot of the canyon. He did not have the price of a meal, and was afraid to beg; but in one of the group of buildings by the roadside was a store, and he entered and inquired concerning prunes, which were twenty-five cents a pound. The price was high, but so was the altitude, and as Hal found in the course of time, they explained the one by the other--not explaining, however, why the altitude of the price was always greater than the altitude of the store. Over the counter he saw a sign: "We buy scrip at ten per cent discount." He had heard rumours of a state law forbidding payment of wages in "scrip"; but he asked no questions, and carried off his very light pound of prunes, and sat down by the roadside and munched them.

Just beyond the power-house, down on the railroad track, stood a little cabin with a garden behind it. He made his way there, and found a one-legged old watchman. He asked permission to spend the night on the floor of the cabin; and seeing the old fellow look at his black eye, he explained, "I tried to get a job at the mine, and they thought I was a union organiser."

"Well," said the man, "I don't want no union organisers round here."

"But I'm not one," pleaded Hal.

"How do I know what you are? Maybe you're a company spy."

"All I want is a dry place to sleep," said Hal. "Surely it won't be any harm for you to give me that."

"I'm not so sure," the other answered. "However, you can spread your blanket in the corner. But don't you talk no union business to me."

Hal had no desire to talk. He rolled himself in his blanket and slept like a man untroubled by either love or curiosity. In the morning the old fellow gave him a slice of corn bread and some young onions out of his garden, which had a more delicious taste than any breakfast that had ever been served him. When Hal thanked his host in parting, the latter remarked: "All right, young fellow, there's one thing you can do to pay me, and that is, say nothing about it. When a man has grey hair on his head and only one leg, he might as well be drowned in the creek as lose his job."

Hal promised, and went his way. His bruises pained him less, and he was able to walk. There were ranch-houses in sight--it was like coming back suddenly to America!

Upton Sinclair