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Chapter 6

How long could a man expect to stand on the steps of a company building, with a super and a pit-boss at his back, and organise a union of mine-workers? Hal realised that he must move the crowd from that perilous place.

"You'll do what I say, now?" he demanded; and when they agreed in chorus, he added the warning: "There'll be no fighting! And no drinking! If you see any man drunk to-night, sit on him and hold him down!"

They laughed and cheered. Yes, they would keep straight. Here was a job for sober men, you bet!

"And now," Hal continued, "the people in the hospital. We'll have a committee go in and see about them. No noise--we don't want to disturb the sick men. We only want to make sure nobody else is disturbing them. Some one will go in and stay with them. Does that suit you?"

Yes, that suited them.

"All right," said Hal. "Keep quiet for a moment."

And he turned to the superintendent. "Cartwright," said he, "we want a committee to go in and stay with our people." Then, as the superintendent started to expostulate, he added, in a low voice, "Don't be a fool, man! Don't you see I'm trying to save your life?"

The superintendent knew how bad it would be for discipline to let Hal carry his point with the crowd; but also he saw the immediate danger--and he was not sure of the courage and shooting ability of book-keepers and stenographers.

"Be quick, man!" exclaimed Hal. "I can't hold these people long. If you don't want hell breaking loose, come to your senses."

"All right," said Cartwright, swallowing his dignity.

And Hal turned to the men and announced the concession. There was a shout of triumph.

"Now, who's to go?" said Hal, when he could he heard again; and he looked about at the upturned faces. There Were Tim and Wauchope, the most obvious ones; but Hal decided to keep them under his eye. He thought of Jerry Minetti and of Mrs. David--but remembered his agreement with "Big Jack," to keep their own little group in the back-ground. Then he thought of Mary Burke; she had already done herself all the harm she could do, and she was a person the crowd would trust. He called her, and called Mrs. Ferris, an American woman in the crowd. The two came up the steps, and Hal turned to Cartwright.

"Now, let's have an understanding," he said. "These people are going in to stay with the sick men, and to talk to them if they want to, and nobody's going to give them any orders but the doctors and nurses. Is that right?"

"All right," said the superintendent, sullenly.

"Good!" said Hal. "And for God's sake have a little sense and stand by your word; this crowd has had all it can endure, and if you do any more to provoke it, the consequences will be on you. And while you're about it, see that the saloons are closed and kept closed until this trouble is settled. And keep your people out of the way--don't let them go about showing their guns and making faces."

Without waiting to hear the superintendent's reply, Hal turned to the throng, and held up his hand for silence. "Men," he said, "we have a big job to do--we're going to organise a union. And we can't do it here in front of the hospital. We've made too much noise already. Let's go off quietly, and have our meeting on the dump in back of the power-house. Does that suit you?"

They answered that it suited them; and Hal, having seen the two women passed safely into the hospital, sprang down from the porch to lead the way. Jerry Minetti came to his side, trembling with delight; and Hal clutched him by the arm and whispered, excitedly, "Sing, Jerry! Sing them some Dago song!"

Upton Sinclair