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Chapter 13

When the quitting-whistle blew, Mike Sikoria came quickly to join Hal and hear what had happened. Mike was exultant, for several new men had come up to him and offered to join the check-weighman movement. The old fellow was not sure whether this was owing to his own eloquence as a propagandist, or to the fine young American buddy he had; but in either case he was equally proud. He gave Hal a note which had been slipped into his hand, and which Hal recognised as coming from Tom Olson. The organiser reported that every one in the camp was talking check-weighman, and so from a propaganda standpoint they could count their move a success, no matter what the bosses might do. He added that Hal should have a number of men stay with him that night, so as to have witnesses if the company tried to "pull off anything." "And be careful of the new men," he added; "one or two of them are sure to be spies."

Hal and Mike discussed their programme for the second night. Neither of them were keen for sleeping out again--the old Slovak because of his bones, and Hal because he saw there were now several spies following them about. At Reminitsky's, he spoke to some of those who had offered their support, and asked them if they would be willing to spend the night with him in Edstrom's cabin. Not one shrank from this test of sincerity; they all got their blankets, and repaired to the place, where Hal lighted the lamp and held an impromptu check-weighman meeting--and incidentally entertained himself with a spy-hunt!

One of the new-comers was a Pole named Wojecicowski; this, on top of Zamierowski, caused Hal to give up all effort to call the Poles by their names. "Woji" was an earnest little man, with a pathetic, tired face. He explained his presence by the statement that he was sick of being robbed; he would pay his share for a check-weighman, and if they fired him, all right, he would move on, and to hell with them. After which declaration he rolled up in a blanket and went to snoring on the floor of the cabin. That did not seem to be exactly the conduct of a spy.

Another was an Italian, named Farenzena; a dark-browed and sinister-looking fellow, who might have served as a villain in any melodrama. He sat against the wall and talked in guttural tones, and Hal regarded him with deep suspicion. It was not easy to understand his English, but finally Hal managed to make out the story he was telling--that he was in love with a "fanciulla," and that the "fanciulla" was playing with him. He had about made up his mind that she was a coquette, and not worth bothering with, so he did not care any curses if they sent him down the canyon. "Don't fight for fanciulla, fight for check-weighman!" he concluded, with a growl.

Another volunteer was a Greek labourer, a talkative young chap who had sat with Hal at lunch-time, and had given his name as Apostolikas. He entered into fluent conversation with Hal, explaining how much interested he was in the check-weighman plan; he wanted to know just what they were going to do, what chance of success they thought they had, who had started the movement and who was in it. Hal's replies took the form of little sermons on working-class solidarity. Each time the man would start to "pump" him, Hal would explain the importance of the present issue to the miners, how they must stand by one another and make sacrifices for the good of all. After he had talked abstract theories for half an hour, Apostolikas gave up and moved on to Mike Sikoria, who, having been given a wink by Hal, talked about "scabs," and the dreadful things that honest workingmen would do to them. When finally the Greek grew tired again, and lay down on the floor, Hal moved over to Old Mike and whispered that the first name of Apostolikas must be Judas!

Upton Sinclair