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Chapter 6

The first thing Hal did was to seek out Tom Olson and narrate this experience. The two of them had a merry time over it. "I'm the favourite of a boss now!" laughed Hal.

But the organiser became suddenly serious. "Be careful what you do for that fellow."

"Why?"

"He might use it on you later on. One of the things they try to do if you make any trouble for them, is to prove that you took money from them, or tried to."

"But he won't have any proofs."

"That's my point--don't give him any. If Stone says you've been playing the political game for him, then some fellow might remember that you did ask him about politics. So don't have any marked money on you."

Hal laughed. "Money doesn't stay on me very long these days. But what shall I say if he asks me for a report?"

"You'd better put your job right through, Joe--so that he won't have time to ask for any report."

"All right," was the reply. "But just the same, I'm going to get all the fun there is, being the favourite of a boss!"

And so, early the next morning when Hal went to his work he proceeded to "sprain his wrist." He walked about in pain, to the great concern of Old Mike; and when finally he decided that he would have to lay off, Mike followed him half way to the shaft, giving him advice about hot and cold cloths. Leaving the old Slovak to struggle along as best he could alone, Hal went out to bask in the wonderful sunshine of the upper world, and the still more wonderful sunshine of a boss's favour.

First he went to his room at Reminitsky's, and tied a strip of old shirt about his wrist, and a clean handkerchief on top of that; by this symbol he was entitled to the freedom of the camp and the sympathy of all men, and so he sallied forth.

Strolling towards the tipple of Number One, he encountered a wiry, quick-moving little man, with restless black eyes and a lean, intelligent face. He wore a pair of common miner's "jumpers," but even so, he was not to be taken for a workingman. Everything about him spoke of authority.

"Morning, Mr. Cartwright," said Hal.

"Good morning," replied the superintendent; then, with a glance at Hal's bandage, "You hurt?"

"Yes, sir. Just a bit of sprain, but I thought I'd better lay off."

"Been to the doctor?"

"No, sir. I don't think it's that bad."

"You'd better go. You never know how bad a sprain is."

"Right, sir," said Hal. Then, as the superintendent was passing, "Do you think, Mr. Cartwright, that MacDougall stands any chance of being elected?"

"I don't know," replied the other, surprised. "I hope not. You aren't going to vote for him, are you?"

"Oh, no. I'm a Republican--born that way. But I wondered if you'd heard any MacDougall talk."

"Well, I'm hardly the one that would hear it. You take an interest in politics?"

"Yes, sir--in a way. In fact, that's how I came to get this wrist."

"How's that? In a fight?"

"No, sir; but you see, Mr. Stone wanted me to feel out sentiment in the camp, and he told me I'd better sprain my wrist and lay off."

The "super," after staring at Hal, could not keep from laughing. Then he looked about him. "You want to be careful, talking about such things."

"I thought I could surely trust the superintendent," said Hal, drily.

The other measured him with his keen eyes; and Hal, who was getting the spirit of political democracy, took the liberty of returning the gaze. "You're a wide-awake young fellow," said Cartwright, at last. "Learn the ropes here, and make yourself useful, and I'll see you're not passed over."

"All right, sir--thank you."

"Maybe you'll be made an election-clerk this time. That's worth three dollars a day, you know."

"Very good, sir." And Hal put on his smile again. "They tell me you're the mayor of North Valley."

"I am."

"And the justice of the peace is a clerk in your store. Well, Mr. Cartwright, if you need a president of the board of health or a dog catcher, I'm your man--as soon, that is, as my wrist gets well."

And so Hal went on his way. Such "joshing" on the part of a "buddy" was of course absurdly presumptuous; the superintendent stood looking after him with a puzzled frown upon his face.

Upton Sinclair