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Chapter 5

Hal went down the street to the American Hotel, where there was a public stenographer. When this young woman discovered the nature of the material he proposed to dictate, her fingers trembled visibly; but she did not refuse the task, and Hal proceeded to set forth the circumstances of the sealing of the pit-mouth of Number One Mine at North Valley, and to pray for warrants for the arrest of Enos Cartwright and Alec Stone. Then he gave an account of how he had been selected as check-weighman and been refused access to the scales; and with all the legal phraseology he could rake up, he prayed for the arrest of Enos Cartwright and James Peters, superintendent and tipple-boss at North Valley, for these offences. In another affidavit he narrated how Jeff Cotton, camp-marshal, had seized him at night, mistreated him, and shut him in prison for thirty-six hours without warrant or charge; also how Cotton, Pete Hanun, and two other parties by name unknown, had illegally driven him from the town of North Valley, threatening him with violence; for which he prayed the arrest of Jeff Cotton, Pete Hanun, and the two parties unknown.

Before this task was finished, Billy Keating came in, bringing the twenty-five dollars which Edstrom had got from the post-office. They found a notary public, before whom Hal made oath to each document; and when these had been duly inscribed and stamped with the seal of the state, he gave carbon copies to Keating, who hurried off to catch a mail-train which was just due. Billy would not trust such things to the local post-office; for Pedro was the hell of a town, he declared. As they went out on the street again they noticed that their body-guard had been increased by another husky-looking personage, who made no attempt to conceal what he was doing.

Hal went around the corner to an office bearing the legend, "J.W. Anderson, Justice of the Peace."

Jim Anderson, the horse-doctor, sat at his desk within. He had evidently chewed tobacco before he assumed the ermine, and his reddish-coloured moustache still showed the stains. Hal observed such details, trying to weigh his chances of success. He presented the affidavit describing his treatment in North Valley, and sat waiting while His Honour read it through with painful slowness.

"Well," said the man, at last, "what do you want?"

"I want a warrant for Jeff Cotton's arrest."

The other studied him for a minute. "No, young fellow," said he. "You can't get no such warrant here."

"Why not?"

"Because Cotton's a deputy-sheriff; he had a right to arrest you."

"To arrest me without a warrant?"

"How do you know he didn't have a warrant?"

"He admitted to me that he didn't."

"Well, whether he had a warrant or not, it was his business to keep order in the camp."

"You mean he can do anything he pleases in the camp?"

"What I mean is, it ain't my business to interfere. Why didn't you see Si Adams, up to the camp?"

"They didn't give me any chance to see him."

"Well," replied the other, "there's nothing I can do for you. You can see that for yourself. What kind of discipline could they keep in them camps if any fellow that had a kick could come down here and have the marshal arrested?"

"Then a camp-marshal can act without regard to the law?"

"I didn't say that."

"Suppose he had committed murder--would you give a warrant for that?"

"Yes, of course, if it was murder."

"And if you knew that he was in the act of committing murder in a coal-camp--would you try to stop him?"

"Yes, of course."

"Then here's another affidavit," said Hal; and he produced the one about the sealing of the mine. There was silence while Justice Anderson read it through.

But again he shook his head. "No, you can't get no such warrants here."

"Why not?"

"Because it ain't my business to run a coal-mine. I don't understand it, and I'd make a fool of myself if I tried to tell them people how to run their business."

Hal argued with him. Could company officials in charge of a coal-mine commit any sort of outrage upon their employés, and call it running their business? Their control of the mine in such an emergency as this meant the power of life and death over a hundred and seven men and boys; could it be that the law had nothing to say in such a situation? But Mr. Anderson only shook his head; it was not his business to interfere. Hal might go up to the court-house and see Judge Denton about it. So Hal gathered up his affidavits and went out to the street again--where there were now three husky-looking personages waiting to escort him.

Upton Sinclair