King Coal/Book III/Chapter 6
The district court was in session and Hal sat for a while in the court-room, watching Judge Denton. Here was another prosperous and well-fed appearing gentleman, with a rubicund visage shining over the top of his black silk robe. The young miner found himself regarding both the robe and the visage with suspicion. Could it be that Hal was becoming cynical, and losing his faith in his fellow man? What he thought of, in connection with the Judge's appearance, was that there was a living to be made sitting on the bench, while one's partner appeared before the bench as coal-company counsel!
In an interval of the proceedings, Hal spoke to the clerk, and was told that he might see the judge at four-thirty; but a few minutes later Pete Hanun came in and whispered to this clerk. The clerk looked at Hal, then he went up and whispered to the Judge. At four-thirty, when the court was declared adjourned, the Judge rose and disappeared into his private office; and when Hal applied to the clerk, the latter brought out the message that Judge Denton was too busy to see him.
But Hal was not to be disposed of in that easy fashion. There was a side door to the court-room, with a corridor beyond it, and while he stood arguing with the clerk he saw the rubicund visage of the Judge flit past.
He darted in pursuit. He did not shout or make a disturbance; but when he was close behind his victim, he said, quietly, "Judge Denton, I appeal to you for justice!"
The Judge turned and looked at him, his countenance showing annoyance. "What do you want?"
It was a ticklish moment, for Pete Hanun was at Hal's heels, and it would have needed no more than a nod from the Judge to cause him to collar Hal. But the Judge, taken by surprise, permitted himself to parley with the young miner; and the detective hesitated, and finally fell back a step or two.
Hal repeated his appeal. "Your Honour, there are a hundred and seven men and boys now dying up at the North Valley mine. They are being murdered, and I am trying to save their lives!"
"Young man," said the Judge, "I have an urgent engagement down the street."
"Very well," replied Hal, "I will walk with you and tell you as you go." Nor did he give "His Honour" a chance to say whether this arrangement was pleasing to him; he set out by his side, with Pete Hanun and the other two men some ten yards in the rear.
Hal told the story as he had told it to Mr. Richard Parker; and he received the same response. Such matters were not easy to decide about; they were hardly a Judge's business. There was a state official on the ground, and it was for him to decide if there was violation of law.
Hal repeated his statement that a man who made a complaint to this official had been thrown out of camp. "And I was thrown out also, your Honour."
"Nobody told me what for."
"Tut, tut, young man! They don't throw men out without telling them the reason!"
"But they _do_, your Honour! Shortly before that they locked me up in jail, and held me for thirty-six hours without the slightest show of authority."
"You must have been doing something!"
"What I had done was to be chosen by a committee of miners to act as their check-weighman."
"Yes, your Honour. I am informed there's a law providing that when the men demand a check-weighman, and offer to pay for him, the company must permit him to inspect the weights. Is that correct?"
"It is, I believe."
"And there's a penalty for refusing?"
"The law always carries a penalty, young man."
"They tell me that law has been on the statute-books for fifteen or sixteen years, and that the penalty is from twenty-five to five hundred dollars fine. It's a case about which there can be no dispute, your Honour--the miners notified the superintendent that they desired my services, and when I presented myself at the tipple, I was refused access to the scales; then I was seized and shut up in jail, and finally turned out of the camp. I have made affidavit to these facts, and I think I have the right to ask for warrants for the guilty men."
"Can you produce witnesses to your statements?"
"I can, your Honour. One of the committee of miners, John Edstrom, is now in Pedro, having been kept out of his home, which he had rented and paid for. The other, Mike Sikoria, was also thrown out of camp. There are many others at North Valley who know all about it."
There was a pause. Judge Denton for the first time took a good look at the young miner at his side; and then he drew his brows together in solemn thought, and his voice became deep and impressive. "I shall take this matter under advisement. What is your name, and where do you live?"
"Joe Smith, your Honour. I'm staying at Edward MacKellar's, but I don't know how long I'll be able to stay there. There are company thugs watching the place all the time."
"That's wild talk!" said the Judge, impatiently.
"As it happens," said Hal, "we are being followed by three of them at this moment--one of them the same Pete Hanun who helped to drive me out of North Valley. If you will turn your head you will see them behind us."
But the portly Judge did not turn his head.
"I have been informed," Hal continued, "that I am taking my life in my hands by my present course of action. I believe I'm entitled to ask for protection."
"What do you want me to do?"
"To begin with, I'd like you to cause the arrest of the men who are shadowing me."
"It's not my business to cause such arrests. You should apply to a policeman."
"I don't see any policeman. Will you tell me where to find one?"
His Honour was growing weary of such persistence. "Young man, what's the matter with you is that you've been reading dime novels, and they've got on your nerves!"
"But the men are right behind me, your Honour! Look at them!"
"I've told you it's not my business, young man!"
"But, your Honour, before I can find a policeman I may be dead!"
The other appeared to be untroubled by this possibility.
"And, your Honour, while you are taking these matters under advisement, the men in the mine will be dead!"
Again there was no reply.
"I have some affidavits here," said Hal. "Do you wish them?"
"You can give them to me if you want to," said the other.
"You don't ask me for them?"
"I haven't yet."
"Then just one more question--if you will pardon me, your Honour. Can you tell me where I can find an honest lawyer in this town--a man who might be willing to take a case against the interests of the General Fuel Company?"
There was a silence--a long, long silence. Judge Denton, of the firm of Denton and Vagleman, stared straight in front of him as he walked. Whatever complicated processes might have been going on inside his mind, his judicial features did not reveal them. "No, young man," he said at last, "it's not my business to give you information about lawyers." And with that the judge turned on his heel and went into the Elks' Club.