STORY OF A GREAT SIN.
A Political Novel of the Twentieth Century.
By FRANCIS A. ADAMS, Author of "WHO RULES AMERICA?"
Philadelphia: Independence Publishing Company.
HAIL TO THE SHERIFF OF LUZERNE. PAGE.
CHAPTER I. Clouds Gather at Wilkes-Barre 1 " II. Harvey Trueman, Attorney 16 " III. Conflicting Opinions 23 " IV. A Quiet Afternoon at Woodward 32 " V. An Unquiet Day at Hazleton 48 " VI. A Stand For Conscience Sake 63
THE SYNDICATE INCORPORATES. PAGE.
CHAPTER VII. An Anti-Trust Conference 74 " VIII. A Startling Proposal 81 " IX. Arraignment of The Transgressors 89 " X. The Secret Session 110 " XI. Martha's Premonition 124 " XII. Taking the Secret Oath 135 " XIII. The List of Transgressors 150
THE SYNDICATE DECLARES A DIVIDEND. PAGE.
CHAPTER XIV. Birth of a New Party 163 " XV. Choosing a Leader 169 " XVI. Two Points of View 183 " XVII. Opening the Campaign 189 " XVIII. On to New York 197 " XIX. Departure of the Committee 206 " XX. In the Enemy's Stronghold 212 " XXI. The Committee Reports Progress 224 " XXII. Millionaires Sowing the Wind 230 " XXIII. A Day Ahead of Schedule 241
IN FREEDOM'S NAME. PAGE.
CHAPTER XXIV. The Syndicate in Liquidation 256 " XXV. Big News in the Javelin Office 263 " XXVI. On to Wilkes-Barre 276 " XXVII. Sister Martha Averts a Calamity 284 " XXVIII. At the Dead Coal King's Mansion 298 " XXIX. Peace Hath Her Victories 309 " XXX. A Double Funeral 324 " XXXI. The New Era 333
Hail to the Sheriff of Luzerne!
CLOUDS GATHER AT WILKES-BARRE.
There are few valleys to compare with that of the Susquehanna. In point of picturesque scenery and modern alteration attained by the unceasing labor of man, the antithesis between the natural and the artificial is pronounced in many respects; especially at that place in the river where it runs through the steep banks on which is situated the thriving city of Wilkes-Barre. Here may be seen the majestic hills standing as sentinels over the marts of men that crowd the river edge. The verdure of these hills during the greater part of the year is the one sight that gladdens the eyes of the miners whose lives, for the most part, are spent in the coal pits.
The picture would be perfect were it not for the presence of the Coal-Breakers. These sombre, grizzly structures stand in a long line on the west bank of the river, and appear to the eye of one who knows their purpose, as the gibbets that dotted the shores of England and France must have loomed up before the mariners of the Channel during the Seventeenth Century, and when the supply of pirates exceeded the number of gibbets, large as this number was in both lands.
The breaker is a truly modern invention, which, had it existed in the days of the Spanish inquisition, would have placed in the hands of the malevolent fanatics an instrument of exquisite torture. It is constructed to effect a double purpose, the achievement of the maximum of production and the expenditure of the minimum of human effort. It is the acme of inventive genius. To work the breakers, a man need have no more intelligence than the tow-mule that plods a beaten path; and such a man is the ideal laborer from the standpoint of the owners of the breakers.
But such men are not indigenous to America; they must be imported, and that, too, from the most benighted lands of Europe.
What an incubator of warped humanity the breaker has become! It saps even the attenuated manhood of the aliens it attracts, and when they are rendered useless for its ends, emits them to be a scourge on the earth.
But the breakers are the monument of the civilization of the Nineteenth Century, which esteems commercial as superior to mental advancement.
As the drama to be unfolded will be enacted largely in this spot, which nature fashioned on its fairest pattern, and which man has seared with his cruel tool, a description of the town of Wilkes-Barre and its environs is essential. The town is the creation of the Mines. Coal abounds in the valley of the Susquehanna, and from the first impetus given the coal industry by the establishment of railroads, the mines at this place have been worked without intermission. The population of the town has been increasing steadily for the past thirty years, until to-day it reaches the proportions of a populous city. There is little variety in the citizens; but the contrast they present makes up for this deficiency. Broadly speaking there are but two classes, the magnates and their mercenaries. The former live in the mansions on the esplanade and constitute the governing minority. The coal miners and the workers on the breakers, who eke out their lives in slavery, and who sleep in quarters that make the huts of the peasants of Europe seem actually inviting, constitute the vast majority.
The most prosperous business of the town outside of the Coal industry, which is, of course, monopolized by the magnates, is the Undertaking business. There are almost as many establishments for the burial of man as there are saloons to cater to his cheer. In contradistinction to the custom in this country, the business has been taken up by others than the worthy order of sextons. That this condition should be, is accounted for by the fact that there is a paucity of churches in the town, and that the sextons were unable to accomplish the work that devolved upon their craft. Death is not attributable, in the main, to natural causes in Wilkes-Barre; it is brought about by the engines of destruction which the magnates are pleased to term, Modern Machinery.
Association makes the mind incapable of appreciating nice distinctions in regard to familiar objects or persons. Thus to the residents of the town there is nothing abnormal in their condition. It is only to the observer from without that the horrors of the Pennsylvania town are apparent. That such a spot should develop in a State high in rank, and among the oldest of those comprising the greatest republic, seems incomprehensible. In the very State where the Declaration of Independence was sent to the world, proclaiming that men are created free and equal, and that the right of the majority is the supreme law, how comes it that a settlement can be maintained where the rights of the majority can be ignored and suppressed at the point of the bayonet? For an answer to this question, comes the monosyllable—Trusts!
Wilkes-Barre is a typical specimen community which may be taken as the sample unit for a microscopic investigation of the conditions that have created the modern institution of voluntary slavery. The scrutiny of the specimen is given through the eyes of a resident of the town, and the observations are his.
"In a month then, they will shut down three of the mines, and will close the Jumbo Breaker. You know what that means. I have asked the men of Shaft Fifteen if they intend to starve, and they answered to a man that they would sooner be shot than starve like rats in their homes."
"What is that to me? Am I to look after every man who has ever blasted a ton of coal in my pits or crushed in the breakers?
"You tell the men of Shaft Fifteen, and of every other shaft in the valley, that if they make a single move that threatens the property of the Paradise Coal Company I will see that they don't 'starve in their homes.'"
"Then you will not arbitrate?"
"There is nothing to arbitrate. I have no more work for the men. That settles it. The world is big, and if they can find no work in Wilkes-Barre, let them hunt for it elsewhere."
"Mr. Purdy, I give you ample warning. The miners will declare a general strike if you persist in locking out half of them now that the winter weather has set in. The pits and the breakers can stand idle while the demand for coal at an advanced price is created by an artificial coal famine; but the miners have to be fed. They work like machines; but as yet they have not learned the lesson of living without food."
"Metz, I have given you my final answer. The mines and breakers close on the day I stated."
Carl Metz is the foreman of the largest of the Paradise Company's Coal shafts, the "Big Horn." He is in consultation with Mr. Gorman Purdy, the president of the company. Their closing remarks as just quoted are uttered as they stand on the steps leading to the street from the offices on the main square of Wilkes-Barre.
The men nod to each other, and separate.
"What did he say?" a man demands of Metz, in a weak voice. The questioner is a typical miner. Death has placed its irrevocable stamp upon him; he has served his three years in the pits; has been transferred to the breakers when the signs of failing strength are perceived by the mine overseer. In another year he will be in the hands of the mortuary vulture; his last week's earnings will go to pay for the hard earned grave that is grudgingly given "A Miner."
"He says the mines will close."
"Yes, and we will starve. Well, you can tell him that we won't."
"I told him that the men were desperate."
"And he laughed at you. Why wouldn't he? We have threatened to strike for three years. It's getting to be an old story. This time it's our turn to laugh."
"What do you mean, Eric?" is the anxious query of Metz. He detects a hidden significance in the miner's words.
"Mean! Why I mean that we are going to strike this time, and that it will be the biggest fight the coal region has ever seen.
"We can't get the mine owners to arbitrate, but we can get the coal miners to unite. If one man is shut out to starve we will all go out."
"And our places will be filled by imported miners," interjects the foreman.
"Not this time. We will have our pickets out in all directions, and every train will be boarded. The men the mine owners bring on will be told to keep away."
As the men speak they are unconscious of the approach of the Sheriff of Luzerne County. He has apparently been watching the movements of Metz. All the morning he has shadowed the mine foreman, now he steals up behind the two and stands within earshot. He overhears their words.
"Let me tell you one thing," he calls out in a shrill voice, as he steps up to them, "you don't want to forget that there is a Sheriff in Luzerne County when you count on winning out in this strike."
"We will do nothing that will require your attention," sententiously retorts the miner. "We have had one taste of Pennsylvania justice, at Homestead, and don't want another."
"I have my eye on you two, and if there is any trouble I'll know whom to hold responsible," continues the Sheriff. Then he walks on towards the office of the Paradise Coal Company. He enters the building and is soon in the private office of the President.
The miners walk on in silence towards their homes in the East End of the town across the Bridge. It is not a time to talk. These sturdy men have a reverence for words; they use them only when the occasion requires. At the door of the ramshackle hut that serves as the abode of Eric Neilson, the men halt.
"Eric!" says Metz, "I hope you will let me know of any steps that are to be taken by the miners in your section. I have been in this region for twenty years, and know where the rights of the miners end and the rights of the mine owners begin. To back our rights we have nothing but our bare fists; the mine owners have the city, state and Federal authorities."
"If there is anything to be done that will be of importance to us all, you will hear from me," are Eric's reassuring words.
Carl Metz knows the value of a promise from his fellow-workman. He is satisfied.
In the homely parlance of the mines, these men agreed "to keep tabs for each other on the square." They will let no event of importance go by without reporting it to each other, and in this way give each full particulars of the movements of the miners.
Metz turns back towards the centre of the city. He is bent on seeing Purdy again, and of appealing to him to reconsider his "shut down" orders.
Hardly has he reached Market Street when he runs across the Attorney of the Paradise Coal Company, a young and brilliant man who is one of the products of the town school and academy, Harvey Trueman.
"Good day, Mr. Trueman," is his salutation.
"How now, Metz?" responds the preoccupied lawyer. "Have you some trouble on your hands?"
"It's the same old story, sir, only this time the men are determined to strike. I have spoken to Mr. Purdy to-day. He refuses to yield a single inch.
"I thought it might be a wise thing to see him again and make the truth clear to him, that the men will unquestionably resort to violence if they are locked out at the opening of winter."
"You let this matter stand as it is. I shall see Mr. Purdy in an hour or so, and shall make it my duty to explain the situation. I know what the men are likely to do, and what concessions will satisfy them. Metz, I assure you we do not want trouble. If I have any influence with the Company, matters will be satisfactorily settled."
"When can the men have an answer?"
"Not for a day or two, I suppose."
"But they must know immediately, Mr. Trueman. You are aware that they are dependent upon the Company Stores for their food. Well, the notice has been posted that no more credit shall be extended after next Saturday. This means that, for the men who are laid off, there is nothing left but starvation."
Trueman is troubled at this statement. He has always been an opponent of the "Company Store" system; now he sees that it is likely to be the potent factor in exciting the miners to revolt.
"All I can promise you, is that I shall work in your interests and get as speedy a reply as possible," he repeats. "By the by," he adds, "will you come with me to my office now, I want you to go over some of the details of the 'Homestead Strike' with me. I want to see what lessons I can gather from it which will help me to advise Purdy in the present trouble. You were in the Homestead strike, were you not?"
By a nod of his head, Metz answers in the affirmative.
They are seated in the office of the young attorney for the next hour, during which period they review the events of the great iron strike of '92; the reasons that led to it, and the similarity of the conditions that exist in Wilkes-Barre.
Having given Trueman the details of the Homestead affair, Metz explains the existing grievances of the miners of Wilkes-Barre as follows:
"The question raised by the miners is not one for advanced wages; it is not one of reduced hours; it is not a demand for proper protection for themselves in the mines. These things they have asked for time and again—little enough for men who wear out their lives in the darkness and damp of the mines. But these things they have never been able to obtain.
"A bare living is all that the mine owners would concede to the miners. This living, meagre as it was, sufficed to keep life in the miners and their families.
"Now the miners are to be deprived of the crust of bread. You cannot snatch the bone from a hungry dog, without danger. Do you imagine that a man has less spirit than a beast?
"The whole trouble, Mr. Trueman, arises from the formation of the Coal Trust. I have all the facts in regard to this matter. And so far as that goes, there is not a man in the labor organizations of this country who does not keep in touch with the events of the day. The education of the masses is a dangerous thing in a land that is ruled by force, fraud and finesse, as the United States is to-day.
"It is the Coal Trust that has brought on this threatened strike.
"When there were independent coal companies, the condition of the miners was better by far than it is to-day. The unrestricted operation of mines made it impossible for any two, or even a considerable number, of the mine owners to unite for the purpose of reducing the wages of the mine operatives, and of increasing the price of the coal to the consumer.
"But with the Trust in operation all restraints are removed.
"The illegal traffic rates that the Trust secures, make it impossible for any mine to be successfully worked that is out of the combine.
"The first step that the Coal Trust took was to limit the supply of coal at the height of the summer season, when big shipments are ordinarily made. This afforded a pretext for an advance in the retail price.
"To limit the supply, the Trust shut down work in half of the mines.
"For the past seven years this practice has been followed. Now the simple miners know what to expect. They have been submissive, because the suspension of work came in the summer time when they could live on little, and did not have to withstand the rigor of a Pennsylvania winter.
"Now the Paradise Coal Company announces that it will close down the work on three of the mines next Saturday. This throws the men out in the cold of November. If this plan is carried out it will bring on a long and bitter strike."
"I quite agree with you," assents Trueman. He puffs meditatively at a cigar.
"You are too young a man to remember the days of the Molly Maguires, those awful days when murderers lurked on every road in the anthracite coal field of this state. It was back in 1876 that the last of the Maguires was hunted down. Of course there is no excuse for murder; yet the Maguires were the result of a pernicious condition of wage depression and degradation of humanity.
"When the just demands of the miners were recognized the reign of terror ceased.
"But the Trusts have produced another organization of societies in this state, bent on murder and arson. The Irish, English and Welsh miners, who predominated in the region twenty years ago, are now supplanted by Poles, Hungarians, Italians and the worst types of Lithuanians and Slavs. These newcomers have brought with them the racial prejudices and institutions that caused them to be enemies in their native lands; they constitute a dangerous element in the population of this country. So long as they are able to get food they remain passive, except for the feuds they carry on amongst themselves. These immigrants are not inspired to come to this land by reason of an appreciation of the liberty that our Constitution vouchsafes to all mankind. They have been brought here by the agents of the Trusts, because they are willing to work for pauper wage.
"I can tell you, Mr. Trueman, that in the strike that I feel will follow the lock-out, there will be bloodshed. It may not be at the initiative of the miners. But the fear of the magnates is now aroused and they will not hesitate to employ force. Once the appeal to force is made, where is it to end?"
"All that you have told me, I shall report to Mr. Purdy," Trueman says, as he extends his hand to grasp that of the plain, earnest miner.
Metz departs, well satisfied with the progress he has made in advancing the cause of the miners.
Harvey Trueman goes at once to the private office of the President of the Paradise Coal Company.
He brings the strike matter up for consideration at once; and also the case of a widow who is bringing suit against the company for the recovery of damages for the loss of her husband who had been killed in the mines.
"You are to press the defence of this case for damages to a successful termination for the company," are Mr. Purdy's last words, supplemented by the remark, "I shall attend to the strike in person."
HARVEY TRUEMAN, ATTORNEY.
Harvey Trueman steps from the County Clerk's office into the corridor, on the second floor of the Court House at Wilkes-Barre, with the absolute knowledge that the case in hand is won.
As he pushes his way down the stairway to the first floor where the courtroom is located, he elbows through a throng of rough dressed miners—Polaks, Magyars, and here and there a man of half-Irish parentage, whose Irish name is all that is left from the Molly Maguire days to indicate the one-time ascendency of that race in the lands of the coal region.
Certain victory within his grasp—a minor victory in the long line of legal fights he has conducted for the Paradise Coal Company—he does not smile. It is a cruel thing he is about to do. Cruel? He asks himself if the sanctity of the law does not make the contemplated move right. Harvey Trueman has a code of morals, an austere code, that has made him enemies even among the people whose champion he has grown to be in three years' practice of the law in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.
He is a tall, slender, square-jawed man of thirty-six. His forehead is high and broad and his hair is worn longer than that of other young men—parted on the side and brushed back. He has thin lips and a mouth of unusual width. His mouth-line is as straight as a bowstring, and when he speaks, which is often, or smiles, which is not so frequent, he shows an even line of large white teeth.
There is something very earnest in the expression of Harvey Trueman's face—a soberness that is seldom found in men under fifty. A straight, strong nose, large nostrils and clean shaven upper lip that is abnormally long; cheek bones that stand out prominently; gray eyes set rather deep in his head for so young a man; a square chin protruding slightly; and wearing a frock coat that falls to his knees in limp folds, Trueman is a commanding figure, full of character.
He is an inch over six feet in height. Among the miners who look straight into the eye to read character, Harvey Trueman has been pronounced an unflinching tool of the coal barons—one whose unbending will means the ultimate accomplishment of any undertaking.
Not one of the miners employed by the Paradise Coal Company has ever known the young lawyer to take an unfair advantage. But he has upheld the law for the proprietors of the mines when the men have made a fight against the "company stores," where they are forced to spend the wages made by the sweat of their brows down in the mines or on the breakers.
Trueman is looked upon by all the miners of the region as a part and parcel of the law, and all law is regarded by them as a thing made to oppress the poor and aggrandize the wealthy.
A simple investigation on the eve of the present battle has placed in the hands of the young lawyer ammunition which will rout the enemy on the first volley.
But such an enemy! Above all things, Harvey Trueman is a magnanimous foe. Now that he has his case won, he feels half humiliated. In the court room, occupying a front seat while she awaits the arrival of her lawyer, sits the widow of Marcus Braun, the Magyar miner.
The miner was killed in Shaft Fifteen of the Paradise Company, which is three miles down the river from the wagon bridge at Wilkes-Barre. Standing at the bottom of the shaft when an elevator cage fell, upon which were two loaded coal cars, he was crushed to a pulp. His widow is suing for damages for the death of her husband. In the front seat with her, in the court room, is her five-year-old boy, whom she must support, perhaps by taking boarders at the mines, if the mine superintendent will permit her to go in debt for the rent of a house in case her litigation against the company is not successful.
True, the rope by which the cage had been lifted and lowered had worn thin, and the foreman had warned the superintendent the morning of the accident that a new one was needed. But the poor Magyar at the bottom of the shaft did not know it. He had in no way contributed to the negligence which brought about his death. He knew his work was perilous. In the law, it is a question whether or not the case can be successfully defended by the coal company.
Trueman's trip to the Clerk's office has been for the purpose of ascertaining the miner's standing with reference to his citizenship at the time of his death. With his experience in the practice, the lawyer surmised that the Magyar was never naturalized. If he was not naturalized, his widow has no standing in the court where the suit has been brought. In that case, it belongs to the Federal Court, and his widow and orphan, as well as the impecunious lawyer who has taken the widow's case on a contingent fee, will not have the means nor the fortitude to begin action in the higher court.
Trueman discovers after a few moments of investigation in the Clerk's office that his suspicion is well founded. The miner had never taken out naturalization papers.
Cruel? In the concrete, perhaps. The law is made for the multitude.
"It is a legitimate defense!" Trueman murmurs to himself, as he passes down the stairs. "The Magyar bore none of the burdens of citizenship. Neither should he or his, share in the protection which the State of Pennsylvania affords her citizens."
"Will the Magyar's widow get anything?" asks O'Connor, one of the half-Irish, half-Italian miners, whose elbow Trueman brushes as he walks towards the court room.
Trueman befriended O'Connor once in the matter of rent.
"No. He was not naturalized!"
"His blood be on old Purdy's head, then!" says O'Connor. "The mine boss has said he will put her out in the street. She's already months back in her rent."
Trueman passes on as if he has not heard O'Connor, who is at the Court House as one of the witnesses.
As the young lawyer pushes his way into the court room his quick glance catches the bent form of the woman in the front seat, clad in the cheapest of black, and the open-eyed boy at her side.
The proceedings are short. Trueman sits down at one of the tables inside the bar enclosure and hastily dashes off an affidavit containing the facts he has discovered, and a formal motion to dismiss. The Judge hears the motion, which is opposed to in a half-hearted way by the lawyer on the other side. The suit is dismissed.
When she is finally made to understand what has happened, the widow burst into tears. The boy, at sight of his mother's distress, sets up a wailing that echoes through the whole Court House. In the hallway, the bunch of miners from Shaft Fifteen gather about the weeping woman as she comes out. One more instance of the heartlessness of the law which is made by the men elected by the Coal Barons, is brought home to them.
To these ignorant men, to whom the first principle of self-preservation is that limit of erudition set by the coal barons themselves, whose first and last lessons in life are to read correctly the checks of the time-keeper and the figures on the "company store" checks which they receive in payment for their work, what difference does it make that the dead miner was a Magyar—not a full fledged American?
He lost his life down in a coal mine where he went to dig coal that some American, way off beyond the hills, might toast his toes on a winter's evening. His life's work was to help keep the American public warm. In return, all he asked was very poor food, a straw bed in a hovel, and a crust for his wife should he be killed in the undertaking.
There is much grumbling already on account of the company stores. The walking delegate of the miners' union has ordered a strike in Carbon County, adjoining, unless the Paradise Company shall reduce the price of blasting powder sold to the miners, fifteen cents a pound.
The miners leave the Court House grumbling. Soothing the Magyar's widow in their rough way, they form a grim procession and trudge back over the dusty road to the breaker and the row of hovels on either side of it.
An hour afterward Trueman is seated in his office, in the Commerce building, on the public square of Wilkes-Barre, in the middle of which is situated the Court House. On the same floor with his office are the general offices of the Paradise Coal Company.
Besides giving him distinction as a "corporation lawyer," which has its effect in drawing outside clients, this proximity to the general offices of the Coal Barons' syndicate relieves the young lawyer from the payment of rent. For the convenience of having a shrewd attorney always at his beck and call, Gorman Purdy, president of the company, is willing that Trueman shall occupy the office rent free in addition to the liberal salary which is paid him.
While Trueman is successfully managing the legal affairs of the Paradise Coal Company and achieving a brilliant reputation at the bar of Pennsylvania, Gorman Purdy is "trying him out" with an entirely different object in view. He desires to test the young man's mettle as a man even more than as a lawyer. To accomplish this end it is most important that Trueman shall occupy the office next the suite of the great coal corporation.
Lying on the lawyer's desk is an open envelope, by the side of which is a check for one thousand dollars, being the amount of his salary from the coal company for two months. In his ears still ring the plaintive sobs of the Magyar's widow and the denunciation of O'Connor.
"The mine boss will put her in the street!"
In his mind's eye he pictures the dusty road separating the two rows of miners' huts, down around the bend in the Susquehanna. He sees the mountain beyond and the column of steam rising from a more distant breaker, half way up the slope—a beautiful vision from the distance, but how squalid in its dull gray misery to those who spend their lives in its midst.
At this moment the miners who were in attendance at court are trudging along this highway, chattering their grievances to one another. The widow and her boy bring up the rear, while the men march solemnly on ahead, talking of their right to live—just to live.
Across these mountains, in the city of Philadelphia, six score years and more ago a convention once uttered the identical sentiments being voiced by these serfs of the coal seams. Harvey Trueman has been a deep student of the teachings of that convention. On the shelves of his library are the well-thumbed writings of Washington and the Adamses and Thomas Jefferson. He is a firm believer of the doctrines enunciated at Faneuil Hall, and by Henry in Virginia.
To-morrow, perhaps to-night, the widow's paltry chattels will be set in the middle of that road by the sheriff. She will be dispossessed by the Paradise Coal Company. A frail woman, pale with poverty of the blood, shrinking with every breath she draws, because she knows the very air she breathes comes to her over the lands of the Coal Barons—a haggard widow of the mines will be deprived of her miserable shelter, not fit for a beast of burden, by the richest coal corporation on earth. Why? Because her abject misery is a lesson too graphic in its horrible details to be constantly before the miners. Allowed to remain there, the widow will breed trouble among the men who are all risking their lives every minute of every working day, even as her husband risked his. Dispossess proceedings do not come under the supervision of Harvey Trueman, but he has ever been observant. A blind man may not remain in ignorance of the human suffering in the coal regions of Pennsylvania. Men in the general offices of the Paradise Coal Company see only the papers and receive the returns. They ask not "Who put the widow of our latest victim in the street?"
The sheriff sees to the rest. All hail to the Sheriff of Luzerne! But Harvey Trueman knows of these things. He has a mind that pierces the thin walls of the miners' cabins and sees beyond the papers placed in the sheriff's hands.
"I suppose she will be hungry for three or four days," he tells himself, "except for the crusts the other women give her. But in a month she will be married again. If she had recovered a thousand dollars damages for the life of her husband, one of the other miners would have had it in a week."
He picks up the check and glances at it for the third time. Then he folds it and places it in his pocketbook.
"I am paid the thousand dollars," he continues, "for keeping her from getting it—for two months of my life spent in throwing up legal barricades to prevent the miners from approaching too near to the coffers of the Paradise Coal Company. If the Magyar's widow had collected damages for her husband's death, there would be twenty more suits filed in a fortnight."
And so he appeases his conscience. He tries to be flippant, as he has seen the officers of the great corporation flippant about such matters, but in spite of himself his heartstrings tighten. Harvey Trueman is acting a lie, and his heart knows it, though his brain has not yet found it out.
The office door swings open. A man of fifty-five enters—a short man with a stubby red beard, a round face, and hair well sprinkled with gray. He is dressed in a gray cutaway business suit and wears a silk hat. His neckscarf is of English make, his collar is of the thickest linen and neatest pattern, and his general appearance that of the aristocratic business man whose evenings in a provincial city are spent at a club, and in the metropolis at the opera.
It is Gorman Purdy. Trueman's fondest hope—next to the one that at some distant day, say ten or fifteen years in the future, he may sit in the United States Senate—is that this man's daughter, Ethel Purdy, renowned in more than one city for her beauty, may become his wife. Indeed, the hope of the Senate and of Ethel go hand in hand. With either, he would not know what to do without the other, and without the one he would not want the other.
"Trueman, we are going to have trouble with the men." Purdy draws a chair up to Trueman's desk.
"I've just been talking over the telephone to the mine boss at Harleigh. The men there and at Hazleton hold a meeting to-night to decide whether or not they will strike in sympathy with the Carbon County miners, because of the shut-down.
"Now, we've got to strike the first blow! The men over at Pittsfield and at the Woodward mines will join the strikers if the Harleigh and Hazleton men go out. We must get an injunction to prevent the committee from the affected mines from visiting the other men. If they come it is for the sole purpose of inducing the men to strike. Isn't that sufficient grounds for an injunction?"
"You can get your injunction, Mr. Purdy," Trueman replies, "but what effect will it have if you haven't a regiment to back it up?"
"We have the regiment! The Coal and Iron Police have been drilling in the Hazleton armory. We can put three hundred men in the field from the offices of the several works, armed with riot guns."
"You may rely on me to get the injunction, Mr. Purdy," the younger man says, after a moment's pause, "but I would not advise calling out the Coal and Iron Police until some act of violence is committed by the miners themselves. It may lead to bloodshed, may it not?"
"Lead to bloodshed? Why not? For what have we been training the Coal and Iron Police? The miners of the Pennsylvania coal region need a wholesome lesson. They have no respect for property rights. Let them be incited to a strike by the walking delegates and their battle cry is 'Burn! Destroy!'
"We want no repetition of the Homestead and Latimer riots. They were too costly to the employers! Coal breakers and company stores are no playthings for the whimsical notions of so-called labor leaders who do not know the conditions prevailing in this region. They are too expensive to be made the food of the strikers' torch.
"Stop the strikers before they have a chance to blacken Luzerne County with the charred ruins of the breakers! They'll be sacking our homes next. Already their attitude is almost insufferable. People beyond these hills do not understand the reign of terror under which these foreign-born men hold the Wyoming Valley!
"It has come a time when we must shoot first, if there is to be any shooting! I've had a talk to-day with Sheriff Marlin. It is fortunate that we have a sheriff who has the grit to stand his ground. He says a telegram or telephone message will summon him to Harleigh or Hazleton at a moment's notice, and he will swear our Coal and Iron Policemen in as deputies.
"Whatever they do then will be legal—Understand?"
Trueman looks straight at Purdy several seconds before he replies.
"No," he says, flushing, "not every thing they do. I do not set my judgment against yours, but I do counsel great caution in placing Sheriff Marlin in command of the Coal and Iron Police. While you may be correct in saying we must administer a quick and salutary lesson to the miners, as deputy sheriffs your men might be tempted to shoot too soon."
"Shoot too soon? If these men gather on mischief bent, we can't shoot too soon!"
Purdy in turn flushes, as he carefully scrutinizes Trueman's serious face, which has grown suddenly pale. It is the first time his talented young protege has ever shown the white feather.
"Oh, yes, yes, Mr. Purdy—they—they can shoot too soon. Even deputy sheriffs cannot commit murder with impunity. Fight these men with the law. It's all in your favor! Sheriff Marlin could not step out there in the street and shoot my fox terrier unless he could show someone's life was in danger."
With a show of impatience Gorman Purdy arises from his chair. He is displeased beyond measure with the attitude assumed by Trueman.
"Well, sir!" he says, "you should know there is a difference between Harvey Trueman's fox terrier, so long as you are general counsel for the Paradise Coal Company, and a man who marches along the highway with a revolver in one hand and a torch in the other, his cowardly heart filled with murder and arson! I am greatly disappointed with your views. Perhaps it were better that I place the injunction proceedings in other hands!"
A sharp retort is on Trueman's lips, words not sarcastic, but stinging in their earnest truthfulness, and wise beyond the years of the man about to utter them. Each man has discovered that which is repugnant to him in the other—that which has remained hidden through years of friendship.
The door of the office is unceremoniously opened, and a girlish voice says:
"Ah, father—I thought you must be keeping Mr. Trueman. Don't you remember you promised me at breakfast you would not? Our ride was fixed for three o'clock. It is now nearly four. Why, you both look positively serious!"
Ethel Purdy, gowned in a black riding habit which displays a dainty, enamelled bootleg, and wearing a gray felt hat of the rough rider type, gracefully poised on one side of her head, smiles incredulously as she stands, one hand on the knob, looking in through the door at the two men.
A QUIET AFTERNOON AT WOODWARD.
Ethel enters Harvey's office just in time to avert a quarrel between the Coal King and his attorney. In her presence both men resume their normal reserve of manner.
"So you have come for your afternoon ride?" Purdy inquires, in a pleasant tone.
"Well, my dear, you shall not be disappointed. The matter Harvey and I were discussing can be deferred. Go and enjoy an hour's exercise. I shall be home when you arrive."
"Won't you go with us, papa?"
"Not to-day. I have a Board meeting to attend."
"I do wish you would pay as much attention to your health as you do to business. You are not looking well. Have you forgotten what the doctor told you about over-working?"
"No, my dear; I remember his advice; but he does not know what a responsibility rests upon me as the President of the Paradise Coal Company. If I did not attend to the details of this business, there would be a dozen competitors in the coal industry within a year. Even if I cannot go with you every day, you have Harvey as an escort. You two will not miss me. When I courted your mother, I should not have insisted upon a third party accompanying us on our rambles."
"Then we will join you at dinner," says Harvey, as he walks towards the door.
At the curb in front of the entrance of the office building, a groom stands holding the bridles of three magnificent hunters.
Harvey assists Ethel to her saddle and springs on to his horse. "Take Nero back to the stables," Harvey instructs the groom. "Mr. Purdy will not use him this afternoon."
The riders are soon out on the turnpike that leads to Woodward. For a November afternoon, the weather is delightful. The prospects of a bracing canter over the mountain roads could not be brighter. The high color on the cheeks of Harvey and Ethel show that they are not strangers to outdoor exercise. Indeed they are types of perfect physical condition.
Since the day Harvey Trueman became the attorney of the Paradise Coal Company, and the protege of Gorman Purdy, the young couple have been constant companions. They have been encouraged to seek each other's company by Mr. Purdy, who appreciated the worth of Harvey and who secretly hoped that the brilliant young lawyer would become one of his household.
"I have spoken to your father," Harvey says, as the horses climb slowly up one of the rough hills on the pike. "He has given his consent to our engagement."
"He's such a dear, good fellow, I knew he would not stand in the light of making me happy!" exclaims Ethel.
"Tell me all he said?" she inquires eagerly.
"He told me that he was glad you thought enough of me to wish to have me as your partner in life; that he had never had but one fear that you might fall in love with some worthless snob, who would make you unhappy and seek only the fortune which you would bring him.
"Your father was kind enough to say that he believed I would continue to be attentive to my business, and to his interests. What do you think he is going to give you as a marriage dot?"
"Don't make me guess. You know I am never able to guess a riddle."
"He is going to present you with his new villa at Newport."
"How could he have known that I was wishing for just that one thing? O, won't it be jolly to go there and spend our honeymoon," Ethel exclaims gleefully.
"We will make your father come there and spend the summer. He really must take better care of his health."
Discussing the details of their cloudless future, the lovers enter the dingy mining town of Woodward. The weather-beaten cottages, which never have known a coat of paint, do not attract their attention. The groups of ragged children playing in the dusty road, scurry out of the path of the horses. On the hillside to the left stands the Jumbo Breaker, the largest coal crusher in the world. Its rambling walls rise to a height of several hundred feet up a steep incline. The noise of the machinery within can be heard distinctly from the roadway. The grind, grind, grind of the mammoth crushers, which sound as a perpetual monotone to the townspeople, is lost on the ears of Ethel and Harvey.
Not until they reach the center of the town do they realize they are at the end of their ride.
"We never rode those five miles so quickly before," says Ethel.
"O, yes we have. Why, it has taken us longer to-day than ever," Harvey replies, as he looks at his watch.
"But of course it has not seemed long. We have had so much to talk about. We must make good time on the ride home or we will be late for dinner."
They turn their horses and are off at a brisk trot back toward Wilkes-Barre.
On passing through the upper end of Woodward they have not noticed a clump of men and women standing at the doorway of a miserable hovel, setting back from the road.
Now the men and women are in the road and block the way.
"I wonder what can have happened," exclaims Ethel.
"Another accident, I presume," is Harvey's answer. "It does seem as though the Jumbo Breaker injures more men than any other in the district. It's all through using the new crusher. It's dangerous. I said so from the moment I inspected the model. But it saves a hundred men's labor; the company will not abolish its use."
They are now so near the crowd that the horses have to be reigned in.
"Who's hurt?" Harvey asks of a miner.
"Nobody hurt, sir, only the Sheriff putting out Braun's widow."
The scene in the court room looms up before Harvey. He sees the bent form of the miners' widow as she had bent over her little boy, weeping at the decision of the Judge who had said that she could not claim damages for the killing of her husband. He thinks of the check that is in his pocket—the reward he has gained for winning the case for the Paradise Company. A blush comes to his cheeks; his inner conscience is awakened.
In the doorway of the hovel stands Sheriff Marlin. He is superintending the eviction.
There are several miners in the group who had been at the court house. They look at Harvey with glances which speak the thoughts they dare not utter.
Then, as a hunted fawn which will seek shelter of the huntsmen who are to slay her, the widow rushes from the house. She runs to the head of Ethel's horse and falls prostrate at the animal's feet.
"In mercy's name, don't let them put me out to freeze," she wails. "It is not for myself. I don't mind the cold; but little Eric, he will freeze to death.
"You give your horses shelter; will you let a child die on the roadside? It is not my fault that the rent is not paid. My husband never owed a cent in his life. He was killed in the mines, and the company will give me nothing—nothing. I won't ask for charity. All I ask for is a chance to work. I can break coal. I can dig it. I am willing to work even in the Jumbo, till it kills me. Anything to get food and a roof for my child."
This tragic scene is enacted, before Sheriff Marlin and his deputies grasp the situation. They do not long stand idly by and see the daughter of the great Purdy subjected to this annoyance. With a bound the sheriff, himself, is upon the woman.
"What do you mean by stopping this lady?" he shouts, at the same time grabbing the poor creature by the throat. "Back to your house and take out your goods, or I'll burn them on the road."
"Take your hands off that woman," cries Harvey. He stands in his saddle and waves his hand menacingly at the sheriff.
"Stop choking her! Do you hear!"
With savage energy Marlin hurls the widow to the ground.
"Do not be frightened, Miss Purdy," he says, in obsequious tone. "This woman will not annoy you again." "You must excuse me, Mr. Trueman," he adds, turning to Harvey. "But these mining folk cannot be handled like ordinary people."
The blush of shame has passed from Harvey's face; he is ashen.
"Are you evicting this woman for non-payment of rent?" he asks.
"She has not paid a cent since her husband's death, ten months ago. I received orders from the company to turn her out to-day. She has been making trouble here for the past month, and now that she has lost her suit it's time she got out."
"Mamma, mamma," cries the five year old boy, as he runs to his mother, laying prostrate in the weeds at the side of the road.
"Are you hurt, mamma, tell me?" and then he bursts into a flood of tears.
"Take that brat away," Sheriff Marlin says under his breath to a man. As the deputy starts to pick up the child, it utters a piercing shriek.
"Don't let them hurt the child!" cries Ethel, in utter horror. She has till now been a mute witness to the heartless acts of the agents of the law.
Harvey jumps from his saddle, and is at the deputy's side.
"Put that child down. I shall see that it is taken care of," he declares.
"Excuse me, Mr. Trueman," interposes Sheriff Marlin, "you must not interfere with us in the execution of our duty."
"Execution of your duty! You mean the execution of a woman and her child. I shall not stand by and see the law violated. You have authority to evict the widow for her debts; but you have no authority to assault her.
"How much does she owe?"
"Eighty dollars," is the surly reply.
"Here is the money," says Harvey, as he takes a roll of bills from his pocket.
"I cannot accept the money now," protests the sheriff.
Then stepping up to Harvey he says in an undertone:
"Mr. Trueman, the fact is, I have been told to put this woman out of town; she will cause trouble if she remains. The miners are all in sympathy with her because she lost the suit."
"Who gave you such orders?"
"This afternoon. I saw him just after you left the office. He told me to get the widow out of town this very day, so I took the switch engine and came out here."
"Well, you will let the matter stand as it is. I intend to pay the rent for the woman and see that she is placed back in the house."
"You will be opposing Mr. Purdy. He explained the case to me and asked my advice. We decided that with the widow in the town, the miners would be more likely to carry out their threat than with her out of sight. You had better let me carry out my orders."
"I have made up my mind to see the widow restored to her home," Harvey repeats. "Here is the rent money. I know the spirit of the miners better than either you or Mr. Purdy."
The sheriff takes the money reluctantly.
Widow Braun is now sitting up, vainly trying to comfort her child.
"You may go back to your home," says Trueman, as he bends over and helps her to arise. "I have paid your rent and here is some money for food, and for your next month's rent. I shall see that you get work."
"May God bless you," cries the widow, bursting into tears.
"You are my prisoner," Sheriff Marlin declares, as he places his hand on the trembling figure.
"On what charge," Trueman demands.
"For getting goods from the company's store on her husband's card when he was dead, and she had no money to pay for them," the sheriff asserts, triumphantly.
"But she has money to pay for the food she bought. And her husband's card is valid until cancelled. You had better take care that you do not overstep your authority. It is not the Widow Braun you have to deal with now. I am interested in this case. I am the widow's counsel. She has one thousand dollars to her credit on the books of the company's store."
Sheriff Marlin is in a fury. He realizes that he cannot serve two masters and he decides to be faithful to Gorman Purdy.
"It is not my will that you are opposing, Mr. Trueman," he says with emphasis. "It is your employer's."
The word "employer's" grates on Harvey's ears.
"Mr. Purdy is my employer, but he is not my master. I shall serve my conscience before I do any man. But I do not believe that Mr. Purdy would countenance this outrage."
"What do you mean by saying that the widow has a thousand dollars to her credit?" the sheriff asks.
"I mean that she has this thousand dollars," and Trueman drew the check from his pocket. "It is to be placed to her credit. I have something to say about the company stores."
"I shall take this business direct to Mr. Purdy," the sheriff threatens as he walks off.
The miners and their wives who have witnessed the quarrel between Trueman and Marlin give expression to their feelings in whispered words of praise for the young lawyer who bid defiance to the Sheriff of Luzerne County, the most dreaded man in that part of Pennsylvania.
The widow grasps Harvey's hand and before he can withdraw it she covers it with kisses. Her tears of gratitude fall on his hand. He appreciates that it is but tardy justice that he is doing to the poor woman.
"You need have no fear of being turned out of your home," he tells her. Then he springs back into the saddle.
"Come, Ethel, let us start for home."
The ride is finished in silence. Neither Harvey nor Ethel feels in the mood to talk. On reaching the Purdy mansion the riders dismount, and go at once to the library, where Gorman Purely is waiting for them.
"Harvey, I am surprised that you should interfere with my orders," is Mr. Purdy's salutation. "Sheriff Marlin has just telephoned me. He tells me that you opposed his evicting the widow, and that the miners are now likely to make serious trouble. This is the second time to-day you have attempted to defeat my plans. I cannot understand what object you have in antagonizing me."
"You certainly misunderstand my motives," replies Trueman. "It is because I have your interests at heart that I cannot see you pursue a course that will lead to disastrous consequences."
"Do you put your judgment above mine?" asks the Coal King, sarcastically.
"In ordinary business matters, in affairs of finance and in the conduct of the mines I should not presume to dispute your judgment. But on the propriety of assembling the Coal and Iron Police and of evicting a woman who has the sympathy of the entire mining district I believe that I am better able to judge of the effect these acts will have than you are, for I come into close contact with the people."
"The sheriff tells me you have placed a thousand dollars to the credit of the widow at the Company's store. Is this so?"
"I intend to do so."
"It shall not be done, sir, not if I have the power to prevent it," declares the Coal King emphatically, rising and pacing the floor. "You must be out of your mind to make such a move, now, of all times, to offer encouragement to the lawless element."
"He did nothing wrong," interposes Ethel. "He prevented the sheriff and his men from injuring the woman and her child."
"Not another word!" Gorman Purdy speaks in a tone he has never employed when addressing his daughter.
"This matter must be settled, once and for all," he continues, addressing Harvey. "There can be but one head of the Paradise Coal Company. I wish to know if you will cease interfering with my orders?"
"I have never objected to carrying out any order of yours that was legal. As long as I am in your employ I shall continue to do as I have done. But to tell you that I will do your bidding, whether legal or not, that is something I cannot bring myself to do," Trueman replies, looking the Coal King squarely in the eye.
"I shall have no one in my employ who cannot obey me," Purdy says. He then rehearses what he has done for Trueman; how he has advanced him to the position of counsel to the company. "And all the thanks I receive is your opposition, now that I need your support," he states, and without waiting for a reply hurries from the room.
When Ethel and Harvey go to the dining room they find that the irate Coal King has gone to his private apartment, where his dinner is being served.
Harvey spends the evening at the mansion.
As he and Ethel sit in the drawing room they discussed the events of the day, and speculate on the result that will follow the quarrel with her father.
"My father will regret his hasty words," Ethel says. "He admires you and places absolute confidence in you. Only yesterday he told me that there was not another man in the world to whom he would confide his business secrets as he has done to you."
The lovers go to the music room. Harvey's voice is a remarkably rich baritone. At Ethel's request he sings a ballad which he has recently composed.
Standing at her side as she plays the accompaniment, he sings.
"THE SEA OF DREAMS.
"Sing me of love and dear days gone; Sing me of joys that are fled; Strike no chord of the now forlorn; None of the future dread,
Ah, let thy music ring with tone That speaks the budding year; The Winter's blast too soon will moan Through the forest bleak and drear.
Then sing but a line from the dear old days We sang 'neath the moon's soft beams, When we were young, in those gladsome days, While we sailed on the sea of dreams.
There are no songs that reach the heart, Like those sung long ago. New singers and their songs depart; The old ones ne'er shall go.
Nor is it strange that they should be As balm to the sad heart; They tell of love when it was young, And all its joys impart."
At eleven o'clock Trueman leaves the Purdy mansion and goes to his hotel. To him it is clear that an irreparable breach has been made in the relations between himself and Gorman Purdy. He knows the unrelenting character of the President of the Paradise Coal Company.
"It was a question of right and wrong," he muses. "I could not see a woman and her child thrown out in the highway, when I knew that it was through my skill as a lawyer that just damages were kept from them. The law was on the side of the company; but justice was certainly on the side of the widow.
"Every day I have some nasty work of this kind to perform. It is making a heartless wretch of me. A man can make money sometimes that comes too dear."
The next day, at the office, Purdy and Trueman have a long talk. It results in Trueman withdrawing his objections to the assembling of the Coal and Iron Police. As to the widow, a compromise is effected. She is to be set up in business in a neighboring town where her case is unknown.
The thought that to break with Purely would mean to lose Ethel, turns Harvey's decision when the moment comes to choose between duty and policy.
The work of preparing to defeat the pending strike is at once taken up, Purdy and Trueman working in perfect accord.
AN UNQUIET DAY AT HAZLETON.
Nearly two months have passed, and a mantle of snow covers the ground. The rigorous December weather has come and is causing widespread distress among the mining population of Pennsylvania. Forty per cent of the operatives of the Paradise Coal Company have been laid off, as Purdy declared they would be. This means that starvation is the grim spectre in six thousand homes.
The anomaly of miners in one town working at full time, and those of an adjacent town shut out, must be explained as one of the insidious methods of the Trust to create an artificial coal famine.
Gorman Purdy, whose word is law in the Paradise Company, had determined to exact an advance of twenty-five cents a ton from the retail coal dealers. To do this he had to make it appear that the supply of coal was scarce. This led him to close the mines in Hazleton. The miners in the town sought to force the opening of the mines by bringing about a sympathetic strike in the neighboring towns. To prevent this, the Coal and Iron Police have been brought to Hazleton to intimidate the miners and to suppress them by force if they make any concerted move looking toward bringing on a strike.
Preliminary to enforcing the order that debars such an army of men of the means of support, the Coal Magnates, at Purdy's suggestion, have massed three hundred of the Coal and Iron Police in the town of Hazleton. This mercenary force occupies the armory, built two years before by the benevolent multi-millionaire Iron King of Pennsylvania, whose immense mills and foundries are situated some two hundred miles distant.
Sheriff Marlin is in command of the Coal and Iron Police. He has sworn them in as deputies, and each bears on his breast the badge of authority.
The propinquity of Woodward and the other small towns to Wilkes-Barre saved them from suffering the effects of a close-down. The Magnates did not desire to have the scenes of distress brought too near their own homes. So Hazleton and the outlying districts were selected to be sacrificed to the arbitrary coal famine. Day after day the idle miners congregate in the Town Hall to discuss their situation and to devise some means of relieving the starving families. These meetings are under the strict surveillance of Sheriff Marlin. Every letter that is sent from the hall is subjected to his scrutiny.
There will be no incendiary appeals addressed to the miners of other districts.
The newspaper correspondents, though they send accurate stories of the awful condition of the miners and their families, are disappointed to receive copies of their respective papers with their articles revamped, and the essential points expurgated, to meet the approval of the "conservative reader."
"The committee on rations reports that the allowance for each miner and his family must henceforth be reduced to two loaves of black bread a day. As some of the miners have eight and ten children, an idea of the actual need of relief from some source may be formed."
Paragraphs like the above never reach the printed page of a newspaper that has sworn allegiance to or is bound to support the Magnates.
It is now December twentieth. The miners resolve to make a final appeal to the Paradise Coal Company to at least start the mines on half time. If the company grants this appeal, there will be joy in the miners' homes for Christmas.
Christmas is no more to the Magnates than any other calender day. The necessary time for the creation of the coal famine has not elapsed, and until it has there will not be another ton of coal taken from the pits.
Harvey Trueman is expected to confer with the leaders in the afternoon. He will deliver the appeal to the company, and the following day, Sunday, the miners will know if they are to go back to work.
"In the event of Purdy, the final arbiter, refusing to start up on half time," says Metz, who is now the leader of the Miner's Union, "we can go to Latimer and Harleigh, to-morrow. The mines will be closed; they are only working them six days a week now. We will appeal to the men to quit work unless the Paradise Company gives us a chance to earn our bread."
"If the Harleigh men won't go out, they will at least give us some food for a Christmas dinner," says a miner whose hollow cheeks tell of long fasting.
"Peter Gick died last night," a miner states as he enters the hall. "He went to the ash dumps to pick a basket of cinders; on his way back to his house he fell. He was so weak that he could not get up. The snow is two feet deep on the road, and it was drifting then; it soon covered him up. This morning his son, Ernst, found him. Of course he was frozen stiff."
"Where is his body?" Metz asks.
"Sheriff ordered it buried by the police."
"A public funeral might prove dangerous to the Magnates," observes Metz. "Our modern rulers have profited by the experience of the ancients."
Promptly at two o'clock Trueman arrives at the hall.
The committee on resolutions present him with their petition.
"I shall do all that I can to make the Company appreciate the condition in which you are placed. You may depend upon it, there will be work for you before Christmas," Trueman assures them at parting.
"We shall want an answer by to-morrow morning at ten o'clock," the miners urge in chorus.
Harvey Trueman leaves for Wilkes-Barre on the mission of appealing to the humanity of the Coal Magnates.
Miners' wives and children stream to the Town Hall, to receive their bread and rations.
It is at such times as these, where the miners are ruthlessly shut out of the mines, that the highest value of the Miner's Union is demonstrated. From the slender treasury, which is enriched only by the pennies of the miners during their weeks of employment, the money is drawn to purchase the rations that must be had to keep the miners and their families from actually starving when they can no longer buy from the company store.
To supplement the rations distributed by the Union, the Hazleton miners have a small supply of medicine. This is as important as food. The medicine chest was given them by Sister Martha, the ministering angel of the mines.
Martha Densmore was the daughter of Hiram Densmore, who had owned great tracts of the coal lands. He had been forced out of the industry by refusing to enter the combine which resulted in the formation of the Coal Trust. At the time of his death, of all his fortune there remained but a small part. Mrs. Densmore had not survived her husband a year. Martha was left an orphan.
She has an income of $6000, and could live a life of idleness did she so desire. But it was her purpose from girlhood to be always on missions of charity. She had loved Harvey Trueman. They had been schoolmates, and would undoubtedly have wed had not the wreck of Densmore's fortune been accomplished just as Trueman was leaving college. Gorman Purdy had been quick to perceive the calibre of the young man and had brought him into the Paradise Company. With father and mother dead, and with her heart's longing unappeased, Martha determined to join a sisterhood, and devote her entire time to ministering to the poor and the sick.
The suffering of the miners of Hazleton attracts her sympathy and she has come to the town from Wilkes-Barre.
It is her presence in the town hall that makes even Sheriff Marlin curb his blasphemous tongue.
Her calm face, which wears an expression of contentment, if not of happiness, is a solace to the miserable men and women who come to ask for medicine. She always has a word of cheer.
The life she has led for eight years has not aged her, and to judge from her manner she would not be taken for a woman more than thirty. She is, however, six and thirty; her natal day being in the month of March, the same as Trueman's. And they are both the same age. In the school days they celebrated their birthdays together.
There is not a miner or one of his family who would not give up their life, if such a sacrifice were necessary, to keep Sister Martha from being injured. They have seen her enter a mine where an explosion had occurred, when even the bravest of the rescuing party hesitated. They have seen her in their own hovels, bending over the forms of their sick and dying children. The yellow flag of pestilence never makes her hesitate.
By her practical acts of charity and humanity, she has come to exert a wonderful influence over the humble citizens of Luzerne County. In this present crisis Sister Martha is the central figure.
In the Armory the Coal and Iron Police are playing cards and enjoying themselves as men always can in comfortable barracks.
So the winter night closes. The hearths of the miners are cold, their larders empty; but the armory is warm, the police are well fed.
"The Company refused to open the mines. They will, however, send thirty barrels of flour to be distributed for Christmas." This is the message returned by Trueman, on Sunday morning.
There are sixty miners in the Hall. They decide to go at once to Harleigh, to exert "moral suasion" on their fellow miners there.
They start from the Hall unarmed, walking two by two. At the head of the line of sixty men, one carries the Stars and Stripes; another a white flag. There is nothing revolutionary about the procession. It is a sharp contrast to the armed force of the Culpepper Minute Men, who, under the leadership of Patrick Henry, marched to Williamsburg, Virginia, to demand instant restoration of powder to an old magazine, or payment for it by the Colonial Governor, Dunmore. The Minute Men carried as their standard a flag bearing the celebrated rattlesnake, and the inscription "Liberty or Death: Don't tread on me."
The route to Harleigh is in an opposite direction to the armory. The little column passes out of the town of Hazleton and is a mile distant when the Coal and Iron Police learn of their departure.
Instantly there is a bustle in the armory.
"Form your company, Captain Grout," the sheriff orders.
"Give each man twenty rounds. Tell them not to fire until I give the order. When they do open fire, have them shoot to kill."
The company is formed on the floor of the armory. It receives the orders; one-third of the force is left to guard the armory.
In column of fours the main body marches out, Captain Grout and Sheriff Marlin in the lead.
To catch up with the miners the column marches in route step.
"We will head them off at the cross roads this side of Harleigh," the sheriff explains. "There is a cut in the road there, and we can put our men on either side. When the miners come within range I shall challenge them. If they do not turn back, it will be your duty to compel them to do so."
Unconscious of the approach of the sheriff and his posse, the miners march on. The road is heavy and they are so much run down by long weeks of short rations that they cannot make rapid headway.
Sheriff Marlin and his men are now at the cut near the cross roads.
Captain Grout stations his men to command either side of the road. The banks of the cut are fringed with brush, which affords a complete cover for the men.
"You keep out of sight, too, Captain," Sheriff Marlin orders. "I will stop the miners. If they see you and the Coal and Iron Police they may scatter, and some of them reach Harleigh."
The ambuscade is complete. Five minutes passes. There is no sign of the miners.
"Can they have been told of our plan to head them off?" asks the sheriff.
At this moment the head of the procession of miners turns the corner of the road. The American Flag and the White Flag are still in the van.
The sheriff takes up a position on the side of the road. As the miners come up to him, he calls them to "halt."
"Where are you going?" he demands.
"To Harleigh," replies Metz.
"Who gave you permission to parade?"
"We are exercising our rights as freemen."
"Well, you cannot march in a body on the highways of Pennsylvania."
"Then we can break up our procession and walk individually."
"In the direction of Hazelton," Sheriff Marlin says, significantly. "I know what you are up to; do you think that I am going to let you cause a sympathetic strike in Harleigh because you are locked out? Not if I know myself."
When the miners come to a halt, the men in advance cluster about Metz and the sheriff.
Now thirty men surround the sheriff.
Some of them are, of course, in advance of him.
"Get back to Hazleton," Sheriff Marlin cries, at the same time raising his arms above his head and waving them.
He pushes his way through the crowd of miners to the edge of the road.
Off comes his hat
It is the signal which Captain Grout has been expecting.
Two hundred Coal and Iron Police jump to their feet.
"Get back to Hazleton or I'll take you prisoners," shouts the sheriff.
But his words are lost. The miners are terror-stricken. The sight of the police, armed with deadly rifles, has made the miners insensible to every thought and impulse but that of self-preservation.
They scatter up and down the road.
"Don't let them escape to Harleigh," shouts the sheriff. Taking this as an order, the police open fire on the men who have passed the sheriff.
Crack! crack! go the rifles.
Each shot fells a miner. They are practically at the muzzles of the weapons.
A miner rushes up the bank on the left to get out of the range of the police on that side. He is riddled by the bullets from the opposite side.
Another dives into a snow bank; it affords him no protection. "Pot that woodchuck," shouts Captain Grout to one of his men.
A bullet is sent into the hole. The miner springs to his feet; then drops dead.
The line of carnage is now stretched out for two hundred yards.
There is no return fire. So the armed police come out from cover and pursue their victims.
The police have lost all self-control. Each man is acting on his own responsibility.
Of the ten miners who run toward Harleigh, not one is spared. Three lie in the road; the snow about them tinged with their life's blood. Another is clinging with a death grip to a stunted tree, which he caught as he staggered forward, with three bullets in the back.
"Mercy! mercy!" cry several of the miners. But their wail is lost on the ears of the Coal and Iron Police. The police are there to kill, not to grant mercy.
Now a miner falls on his knees and prays to God for protection.
This attitude of submission is not heeded; a bullet topples him over.
With their hands above their head, some of the men walk deliberately toward the deputies. Indians will recognize this as the sign of surrender, and will give quarter. But the deputies, with unerring aim, shoot down the voluntary captive.
It would not be so terrible if the miners were returning the fire, if they were offering any resistance. But they are absolutely unarmed. Their mission has been to present a petition to the miners of Harleigh. The slaves of the South had enjoyed the right of petition. How could these twentieth century miners anticipate that the sheriff would massacre them on the highway for seeking to present a petition?
"Have you shot any one?" asks one of the deputies of his nearest companion.
"Shot any one! Well, I should think I had. I've seen four drop. Here goes a fifth."
To stand, to run, to fall to the ground, all are equally futile as means of escape. Extermination is all that will stay the fire of the police.
Sheriff Marlin and Captain Grout stand in the middle of the road. Metz, O'Connor, and Nevins, a mine foreman, are standing beside them.
O'Connor carries the white flag; Nevins the National emblem.
"Disarm those men," Marlin directs the Captain.
"Disarm them?" Captain Grout repeats, inquiringly.
"Certainly. They have sticks in their hands."
Two deputies, who have exhausted their supply of cartridges in their magazine rifles, stop reloading and rush upon Nevins. They beat him over the head with their rifle butts. The flag is snatched out of his hands.
O'Connor is dealt a blow an instant later.
The subjugation of the unarmed miners is accomplished.
One by one the Coal and Iron Police return.
Some of them bring in captives who have escaped death, but who still have felt the sting of the bullets.
Of the sixty miners, twenty-three are killed outright; ten are mortally wounded; twenty-one have less serious wounds.
Six have run the gauntlet and are fleeing back to Hazleton.
The triumphant march of the police to Hazleton is begun.
"We will carry the wounded," says the sheriff. "They might get through to Harleigh and Latimer."
"We will round up the six who escaped," Captain Grout assures the sheriff. He then details ten men to run down the miners who have eluded capture.
This is an easy matter, as the footprints of the miners are perfectly distinct in the soft snow. On the six trails the men set off, as a pack of hounds on the scent of game.
This man-hunt results in an addition of six to the list of the slain.
Gorman Purdy's orders have been carried out.
His police have been sworn in as deputies; they have met the miners and have "fired first."
The sanctity of the law enveloped their act. They shot as Deputies.
They dispersed a band of miners who were on the highway, armed, according to the sheriff's version, "with sticks," and bent on creating trouble in Harleigh.
Did it matter that the "sticks" were flag staffs on which were displayed the White Flag of truce, and the Emblem of Liberty?
A STAND FOR CONSCIENCE SAKE.
News of the massacre on the highway can not be suppressed. A wave of indignation sweeps over the country. Newspapers, clergymen, statesmen, ordinary citizens are of one opinion, that the sheriff and his deputies should be made to suffer for their dastardly acts. The result of the agitation is a call for trial for a case of murder. The Grand Jury of Luzerne County find an indictment against Sheriff Marlin and Captain Grout. These men are placed on trial.
Gorman Purdy at first is highly elated over the result of the sheriff's summary action against the miners. "It has taught the miners a good lesson," he asserts openly.
The morning after the Grand Jury returns its indictment, Purdy enters Harvey Trueman's office.
The relationship between Purdy and Trueman is no longer strained. In three months time Harvey will marry Ethel. He is to live at the Purdy mansion until his own house can be built.
"You have read the papers this morning?" Purdy asks.
"Yes. It begins to look serious for the sheriff and Grout. I understand that they are to be imprisoned to-day."
"Now I want to have a talk with you about defending them."
"Defending them!" exclaims Trueman. "You want me to defend them?"
"It was in our interests that they acted," says Purdy, "and the least we can do is to defend them."
"It was not in my interests, nor was it at my suggestion that the Coal and Iron Police were sent to Hazleton. You must remember that I deprecated that step."
"Well, we won't go over that matter anew, Harvey; the defense of the Sheriff and Captain Grout is essential to the interests of the Paradise Coal Company. You are the chief counsel of the Company, and I look to you to secure their acquittal."
"But you cannot want me to defend two men who are guilty of cold blooded murder," protests Trueman. "I am the last man in the world to ignore the sanctity of the law. When I see the highest law of the land trodden under foot by an ignorant and arrogant sheriff, I wish to see the law enforced against him as it should be against the commonest offender."
"It's all very well to have high ideals of law and justice," Purdy observes, with a cynical smile, "but you cannot be guided by them when a commercial interest is involved. The conviction of the sheriff would lay us open to the violence of the mob."
"You can find a more capable man than I to defend the prisoners."
"There is no one who is as familiar with the mining life as you are; I have thought the matter over carefully before broaching it to you. There is no way out of it, Harvey, you must take the case in hand. It is not the company's request. I make it personal. I want you to do your best to get these men off."
"Mr. Purdy, I cannot comply with your request."
"You refuse to oblige me?"
"I refuse to defend men who I believe have committed murder."
"I am an older man than you, Harvey Trueman, and I caution you to think twice before you refuse to obey the request of the man who has made you what you are." Purdy is white with rage, for he feels that Trueman will remain obdurate.
"It may seem an act of ingratitude, but I cannot suffer my conscience to be outraged by defending the perpetrators of an atrocious crime."
"Your conscience will cost you dear. If you do not defend this case you may consider your connection with the Paradise Coal Company at an end. You sever all bonds that have united us, and your marriage to my daughter will be impossible. Is the gratification of a supersensitive conscience to be bought at such a price?"
"There must be something back of your demand," Trueman declares.
"There is only the just claim that I have on you to work for my interests."
"Mr. Purdy, I was a man before I met you. I am indebted to you for my present position; yet I am not willing to pay for its retention by forfeiting my honor. If you insist on me defending the case, I tell you I would sooner pay the penalty you name."
Trueman's voice is tremulous. He realizes that his decision has cost him not alone a position of great value, but all chance of wedding Ethel Purdy.
"You will live to regret this day, Harvey Trueman," Purdy cries menacingly. "Whatever is due you from the Paradise Coal Company will be paid you to-day. Henceforth you will find office room elsewhere. Remember, sir, I forbid you to have any communication with my daughter."
With these words Purdy walks out of Trueman's office.
"It may be better for me to get out of this damnable atmosphere while I still have a spark of manhood left," Trueman muses, as he sits at his desk. "If I remained here many years more I should be as heartless as Purdy himself.
"I wonder how Ethel will act in this crisis? She loves me, that I would swear to with my life, but can she sacrifice her fortune to marry me? I cannot expect her to do so. No, it would be too much. I have money enough to live but I could not support her in the style to which she has been accustomed from her birth."
For an hour he sits intently thinking. He reviews the past. At the recollection of his school days and the first love he had experienced for Martha Densmore, a sigh escapes his lips.
"I might have been happy, had I married her," he says to himself.
"But then I should not have become a lawyer. What good have I done in the law? I have been the buffer for a heartless corporation. The president of the corporation demands of me to do an act that is against my manhood. I refuse and I am turned out like a worthless old horse.
"I shall henceforth use my talents to some good. The Paradise Coal Company and every other concern that is waxing rich at the expense of the people will find that I can be as formidable an antagonist as I have been defender. How could I have been blind to my duty so long?"
Trueman arises and walks from his office. A thought is forming in his mind.
"I'll do it," he says aloud, as he reaches the elevator.
"The miners have no one who is capable of prosecuting the case of the people. The District Attorney and his staff have been bought off. Any one of the injured miners has standing in the court, and can be represented by counsel. Yes, there is O'Connor, I shall be his counsel."
Trueman hurries to the east side of the town and hunts up the quarters of Patrick O'Connor. The miner is still in bed; the fractured skull he had received by the blow from the rifle barrel nearly proved fatal.
In a few words Trueman explains how he had been driven to leave the Paradise Coal Company; and how he is now determined to be the champion of the people.
"I believe you, sir," says O'Connor, feebly, "for you have always been kind to me. But the rest of the miners think you are to blame for all of their troubles; especially when they face you in court."
"You will tell them to put faith in me, won't you, O'Connor?"
"Indeed I will, sir."
The door opens to admit Sister Martha.
Harvey Trueman has not been face to face with Martha for eight years.
"You here, Martha!" he exclaims.
"I am here every day. My duty brings me among the sick."
The two playmates of the happy school days walk over to the window and talk in low tones for half an hour. Trueman tells of his determination to be an antagonist of the Magnates, one of whom has attempted to buy his soul for the sordid interests of a corporation.
"You may be sure I shall be pleased to help you all I can," Sister Martha assures him. "And I have many friends among the miners. It will be some time before they will accept your protestations in good faith. You must know that your masterful knowledge of the law has kept many of them from winning their suit for damages against the Paradise Company. If you do something to prove your sincerity it will win you many friends."
"If I appear as the counsel of one of the miners and prosecute the Sheriff of Luzerne County, will that be sufficient to demonstrate my sincerity?" Trueman asks.
"It will make you their champion."
"Well, you may tell the miners of Wilkes-Barre that I am to appear as counsel for Patrick O'Connor in the coming trial. We will meet often now, I hope?" Harvey asks as he leaves the room.
"Whenever you come to this quarter of the city you will be able to find me," Sister Martha responds.
Events move rapidly. The trial is set for February first. Between the day Harvey Trueman left the employ of the Paradise Company and the opening of the trial he wins the name of "Miner's Friend." Eight damage suits against the Paradise Coal Company are won for miners by his sagacity and eloquence.
He has been able to learn of the effect of the break in the friendship between the Purdy's and himself. Ethel had been prostrated by the event. For many days she had been actually ill. As soon as her health permitted she had been sent abroad. She is now in the south of France.