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Chapter 11

They had been sitting upstairs in MacKellar's room. Now they rose, and were starting for the stairs, when suddenly there came a ring at the front door bell. They stopped and stared at one another. "There they are!" whispered Keating.

And MacKellar sat down suddenly, and held out his crutches to Hal. "The hat and coat are in the front hall," he exclaimed. "Make a try for it!" His words were full of vigour, but like Edstrom, his voice was trembling. He was no longer young, and could not take adventure gaily.

Hal and Keating ran downstairs, followed by Edstrom. Hal put on the coat and hat, and they went to the back door, while at the same time Edstrom answered the bell in front.

The back door opened into a yard, and this gave, through a side gate, into an alley. Hal's heart was pounding furiously as he began to hobble along with the crutches. He had to go at MacKellar's slow pace--while Keating, at his side, started talking. He informed "Mr. MacKellar," in a casual voice, that the _Gazette_ was a newspaper which believed in the people's cause, and was pledged to publish the people's side of all public questions. Discoursing thus, they went out of the gate and into the alley.

A man emerged from the shadows and walked by them. He passed within three feet of Hal, and peered at him, narrowly. Fortunately there was no moon; Hal could not see the man's face, and hoped the man could not see his.

Meantime Keating was proceeding with his discourse. "You understand, Mr. MacKellar," he was saying, "sometimes it's difficult to find out the truth in a situation like this. When the interests are filling their newspapers with falsehoods and exaggerations, it's a temptation for us to publish falsehoods and exaggerations on the other side. But we find in the long run that it pays best to publish the truth, Mr. MacKellar--we can stand by it, and there's no come-back."

Hal, it must be admitted, was not paying much attention to this edifying sermon. He was looking ahead, to where the alley debouched onto the street. It was the street behind MacKellar's house, and only a block from the railroad-track.

He dared not look behind, but he was straining his ears. Suddenly he heard a shout, in John Edstrom's voice. "Run! Run!"

In a flash, Hal dropped the two crutches, and started down the alley, Keating at his heels. They heard cries behind them, and a voice, sounding quite near, commanded, "Halt!" They had reached the end of the alley, and were in the act of swerving, when a shot rang out and there was a crash of glass in a house beyond them on the far side of the street.

Farther on was a vacant lot with a path running across it. Following this, they dodged behind some shanties, and came to another street--and so to the railroad tracks. There was a long line of freight-cars before them, and they ran between two of these, and climbing over the couplings, saw a great engine standing, its headlight gleaming full in their eyes. They sprang in front of it, and alongside the train, passing a tender, then a baggage-car, then a parlour-car.

"Here we are!" exclaimed Keating, who was puffing like a bellows.

Hal saw that there were only three more cars to the train; also, he saw a man in a blue uniform standing at the steps. He dashed towards him. "Your car's on fire!" he cried.

"What?" exclaimed the man. "Where?"

"Here!" cried Hal; and in a flash he had sprung past the other, up the steps and into the car.

There was a long, narrow corridor, to be recognised as the kitchen portion of a dining-car; at the other end of this corridor was a swinging door, and to this Hal leaped. He heard the conductor shouting to him to stop, but he paid no heed. He slipped off his over-coat and hat; and then, pushing open the door, he entered a brightly lighted apartment--and the presence of the Coal King's son.

Upton Sinclair