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Chapter 20

Percy wanted Hal to come away with the party. He suggested this tactfully at first, and then, as Hal did not take the hint, he began to press the matter, showing signs of irritation. The mine was open now--what more did Hal want? When Hal suggested that Cartwright might order it closed again, Percy revealed the fact that the matter was in his father's hands. The superintendent had sent a long telegram the night before, and an answer was due at any moment. Whatever the answer ordered would have to be done.

There was a grim look upon Hal's face, but he forced himself to speak politely. "If your father orders anything that interferes with the rescuing of the men--don't you see, Percy, that I have to fight him?"

"But how _can_ you fight him?"

"With the one weapon I have--publicity."

"You mean--" Percy stopped, and stared.

"I mean what I said before--I'd turn Billy Keating loose and blow this whole story wide open."

"Well, by God!" cried young Harrigan. "I must say I'd call it damned dirty of you! You said you'd not do it, if I'd come here and open the mine!"

"But what good does it do to open it, if you close it again before the men are out?" Hal paused, and when he went on it was in a sincere attempt at apology. "Percy, don't imagine I fail to appreciate the embarrassments of this situation. I know I must seem a cad to you--more than you've cared to tell me. I called you my friend in spite of all our quarrels. All I can do is to assure you that I never intended to get into such a position as this."

"Well, what the hell did you want to come here for? You knew it was the property of a friend--"

"That's the question at issue between us, Percy. Have you forgotten our arguments? I tried to convince you what it meant that you and I should own the things by which other people have to live. I said we were ignorant of the conditions under which our properties were worked, we were a bunch of parasites and idlers. But you laughed at me, called me a crank, an anarchist, said I swallowed what any muck-raker fed me. So I said: 'I'll go to one of Percy's mines! Then, when he tries to argue with me, I'll have him!' That was the way the thing started--as a joke. But then I got drawn into things. I don't want to be nasty, but no man with a drop of red blood in his veins could stay in this place a week without wanting to fight! That's why I want you to stay--you ought to stay, to meet some of the people and see for yourself."

"Well, I can't stay," said the other, coldly. "And all I can tell you is that I wish you'd go somewhere else to do your sociology."

"But where could I go, Percy? Somebody owns everything. If it's a big thing, it's almost certain to be somebody we know."

Said Percy, "If I might make a suggestion, you could have begun with the coal-mines of the Warner Company."

Hal laughed. "You may be sure I thought of that, Percy. But see the situation! If I was to accomplish my purpose, it was essential that I shouldn't be known. And I had met some of my father's superintendents in his office, and I knew they'd recognise me. So I _had_ to go to some other mines."

"Most fortunate for the Warner Company," replied Percy, in an ugly tone.

Hal answered, gravely, "Let me tell you, I don't intend to leave the Warner Company permanently out of my sociology."

"Well," replied the other, "all I can say is that we pass one of their properties on our way back, and nothing would please me better than to stop the train and let you off!"

Upton Sinclair