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Chapter 10

So Hal hurried off, and climbed the street which led to the superintendent's house, a concrete bungalow set upon a little elevation overlooking the camp. He rang the bell, and the door opened, and in the entrance stood his brother.

Edward Warner was eight years older than Hal; the perfect type of the young American business man. His figure was erect and athletic, his features were regular and strong, his voice, his manner, everything about him spoke of quiet decision, of energy precisely directed. As a rule, he was a model of what the tailor's art could do, but just now there was something abnormal about his attire as well as his manner.

Hal's anxiety had been increasing all the way up the street. "What's the matter with Dad?" he cried.

"Dad's all right," was the answer--"that is, for the moment."

"Then what--?"

"Peter Harrigan's on his way back from the East. He's due in Western City to-morrow. You can see that something will be the matter with Dad unless you quit this business at once."

Hal had a sudden reaction from his fear. "So that's all!" he exclaimed.

His brother was gazing at the young miner, dressed in sooty blue overalls, his face streaked with black, his wavy hair all mussed. "You wired me you were going to leave here, Hal!"

"So I was; but things happened that I couldn't foresee. There's a strike."

"Yes; but what's that got to do with it?" Then, with exasperation in his voice, "For God's sake, Hal, how much farther do you expect to go?"

Hal stood for a few moments, looking at his brother. Even in a tension as he was, he could not help laughing. "I know how all this must seem to you, Edward. It's a long story; I hardly know how to begin."

"No, I suppose not," said Edward, drily.

And Hal laughed again. "Well, we agree that far, at any rate. What I was hoping was that we could talk it all over quietly, after the excitement was past. When I explain to you about conditions in this place--"

But Edward interrupted. "Really, Hal, there's no use of such an argument. I have nothing to do with conditions in Peter Harrigan's camps."

The smile left Hal's face. "Would you have preferred to have me investigate conditions in the Warner camps?" Hal had tried to suppress his irritation, but there was simply no way these two could get along. "We've had our arguments about these things, Edward, and you've always had the best of me--you could tell me I was a child, it was presumptuous of me to dispute your assertions. But now--well, I'm a child no longer, and we'll have to meet on a new basis."

Hal's tone, more than his words, made an impression. Edward thought before he spoke. "Well, what's your new basis?"

"Just now I'm in the midst of a strike, and I can hardly stop to explain."

"You don't think of Dad in all this madness?"

"I think of Dad, and of you too, Edward; but this is hardly the time--"

"If ever in the world there was a time, this is it!"

Hal groaned inwardly. "All right," he said, "sit down. I'll try to give you some idea how I got swept into this."

He began to tell about the conditions he had found in this stronghold of the "G. F. C." As usual, when he talked about it, he became absorbed in its human aspects; a fervour came into his tone, he was carried on, as he had been when he tried to argue with the officials in Pedro. But his eloquence was interrupted, even as it had been then; he discovered that his brother was in such a state of exasperation that he could not listen to a consecutive argument.

It was the old, old story; it had been thus as far back as Hal could remember. It seemed one of the mysteries of nature, how she could have brought two such different temperaments out of the same parentage. Edward was practical and positive; he knew what he wanted in the world, and he knew how to get it; he was never troubled with doubts, nor with self-questioning, nor with any other superfluous emotions; he could not understand people who allowed that sort of waste in their mental processes. He could not understand people who got "swept into things."

In the beginning, he had had with Hal the prestige of the elder brother. He was handsome as a young Greek god, he was strong and masterful; whether he was flying over the ice with sure, strong strokes, or cutting the water with his glistening shoulders, or bringing down a partridge with the certainty and swiftness of a lightning stroke, Edward was the incarnation of Success. When he said that one's ideas were "rot," when he spoke with contempt of "mollycoddles"--then indeed one suffered in soul, and had to go back to Shelley and Ruskin to renew one's courage.

The questioning of life had begun very early with Hal; there seemed to be something in his nature which forced him to go to the roots of things; and much as he looked up to his wonderful brother, he had been made to realise that there were sides of life to which this brother was blind. To begin with, there were religious doubts; the distresses of mind which plague a young man when first it dawns upon him that the faith he has been brought up in is a higher kind of fairy-tale. Edward had never asked such questions, apparently. He went to church, because it was the thing to do; more especially because it was pleasing to the young lady he wished to marry to have him put on stately clothes, and escort her to a beautiful place of music and flowers and perfumes, where she would meet her friends, also in stately clothes. How abnormal it seemed to Edward that a young man should give up this pleasant custom, merely because he could not be sure that Jonah had swallowed a whale!

But it was when Hal's doubts attacked his brother's week-day religion--the religion of the profit-system--that the controversy between them had become deadly. At first Hal had known nothing about practical affairs, and it had been Edward's duty to answer his questions. The prosperity of the country had been built up by strong men; and these men had enemies--evil-minded persons, animated by jealousy and other base passions, seeking to tear down the mighty structure. At first this devil-theory had satisfied the boy; but later on, as he had come to read and observe, he had been plagued by doubts. In the end, listening to his brother's conversation, and reading the writings of so-called "muck-rakers," the realisation was forced upon him that there were two types of mind in the controversy--those who thought of profits, and those who thought of human beings.

Edward was alarmed at the books Hal was reading; he was still more alarmed when he saw the ideas Hal was bringing home from college. There must have been some strange change in Harrigan in a few years; no one had dreamed of such ideas when Edward was there! No one had written satiric songs about the faculty, or the endowments of eminent philanthropists!

In the meantime Edward Warner Senior had had a paralytic stroke, and Edward Junior had taken charge of the company. Three years of this had given him the point of view of a coal-operator, hard and set for a life-time. The business of a coal-operator was to buy his labour cheap, to turn out the maximum product in the shortest time, and to sell the product at the market price to parties whose credit was satisfactory. If a concern was doing that, it was a successful concern; for any one to mention that it was making wrecks of the people who dug the coal, was to be guilty of sentimentality and impertinence.

Edward had heard with dismay his brother's announcement that he meant to study industry by spending his vacation as a common labourer. However, when he considered it, he was inclined to think that the idea might not be such a bad one. Perhaps Hal would not find what he was looking for; perhaps, working with his hands, he might get some of the nonsense knocked out of his head!

But now the experiment had been made, and the revelation had burst upon Edward that it had been a ghastly failure. Hal had not come to realise that labour was turbulent and lazy and incompetent, needing a strong hand to rule it; on the contrary, he had become one of these turbulent ones himself! A champion of the lazy and incompetent, an agitator, a fomenter of class-prejudice, an enemy of his own friends, and of his brother's business associates!

Never had Hal seen Edward in such a state of excitement. There was something really abnormal about him, Hal realised; it puzzled him vaguely while he talked, but he did not understand it until his brother told how he had come to be here. He had been attending a dinner-dance at the home of a friend, and Percy Harrigan had got him on the telephone at half past eleven o'clock at night. Percy had had a message from Cartwright, to the effect that Hal was leading a riot in North Valley; Percy had painted the situation in such lurid colours that Edward had made a dash and caught the midnight train, wearing his evening clothes, and without so much as a tooth-brush with him!

Hal could hardly keep from bursting out laughing. His brother, his punctilious and dignified brother, alighting from a sleeping-car at seven o'clock in the morning, wearing a dress suit and a silk hat! And here he was, Edward Warner Junior, the fastidious, who never paid less than a hundred and fifty dollars for a suit of clothes, clad in a "hand-me-down" for which he had expended twelve dollars and forty-eight cents in a "Jew-store" in a coal-town!

Upton Sinclair