The Young Engineers in Colorado
or, At Railwood Building in Earnest
By H. Irving Hancock
I. The Cub Engineers Reach Camp
II. Bad Pete Becomes Worse
III. The Day of Real Work Dawns
IV. "Trying Out" the Gridley Boys
V. Tom Doesn't Mind "Artillery"
VI. The Bite from the Bush
VII. What a Squaw Knew
VIII. 'Gene Black, Trouble-Maker
IX. "Doctored" Field Notes?
X. Things Begin to go Down Hill
XI. The Chief Totters from Command
XII. From Cub to Acting Chief
XIII. Black Turns Other Colors
XIV. Bad Pete Mixes in Some
XV. Black's Plot Opens With a Bang
XVI. Shut Off from the World
XVII. The Real Attack Begins
XVIII. When the Camp Grew Warm
XIX. Sheriff Grease Drops Dave
XX. Mr. Newnham Drops a Bomb
XXI. The Trap at the Finish
XXII. "Can Your Road Save Its Charter Now?"
XXIII. Black's Trump Card
THE CUB ENGINEERS REACH CAMP
"Look, Tom! There is a real westerner!" Harry Hazelton's eyes
sparkled, his whole manner was one of intense interest.
"Eh?" queried Tom Reade, turning around from his distant view
of a sharp, towering peak of the Rockies.
"There's the real thing in the way of a westerner," Harry Hazelton
insisted in a voice in which there was some awe.
"I don't believe he is," retorted Tom skeptically.
"You're going to say, I suppose, that the man is just some freak
escaped from the pages of a dime novel?" demanded Harry.
"No; he looks more like a hostler on a leave of absence from a
stranded Wild West show," Tom replied slowly.
There was plenty of time for them to inspect the stranger in question.
Tom and Harry were seated on a mountain springboard wagon drawn
by a pair of thin horses. Their driver, a boy of about eighteen,
sat on a tiny make-believe seat almost over the traces. This
youthful driver had been minding his own business so assiduously
during the past three hours that Harry had voted him a sullen
fellow. This however, the driver was not.
"Where did that party ahead come from, driver?" murmured Tom,
leaning forward. "Boston or Binghamton?"
"You mean the party ahead at the bend of the trail?" asked the
"Yes; he's the only stranger in sight."
"I guess he's a westerner, all right," answered the driver, after
a moment or two spent in thought.
"There! You see?" crowed Harry Hazelton triumphantly.
"If that fellow's a westerner, driver," Tom persisted, "have you
any idea how many days he has been west?"
"He doesn't belong to this state," the youthful driver answered.
"I think he comes from Montana. His name is Bad Pete."
"Pete?" mused Tom Reade aloud. "That's short for Peter, I suppose;
not a very interesting or romantic name. What's the hind-leg
of his name?"
"Meaning his surnames" drawled the driver.
"Yes; to be sure."
"I don't know that he has any surname, friend," the Colorado boy
"Why do they call him 'Bad'?" asked Harry, with a thrill of pleasurable
As the driver was slow in finding an answer, Tom Reade, after
another look at the picturesque stranger, replied quizzically:
"I reckon they call him bad because he's counterfeit."
"There you go again," remonstrated Harry Hazelton. "You'd better
be careful, or Bad Pete will hear you."
"I hope he doesn't," smiled Tom. "I don't want to change Bad
Pete into Worse Pete."
There was little danger, however, that the picturesque-looking
stranger would hear them. The axles and springs of the springboard
wagon were making noise enough to keep their voices from reaching
the ears of any human being more than a dozen feet away.
Bad Pete was still about two hundred and fifty feet ahead, nor
did he, as yet, give any sign whatever of having noted the vehicle.
Instead, he was leaning against a boulder at the turn in the
road. In his left hand he held a hand-rolled cigarette from which
he took an occasional reflective puff as he looked straight ahead
of him as though he were enjoying the scenery. The road—-trail—-ran
close along the edge of a sloping precipice. Fully nine hundred
feet below ran a thin line of silver, or so it appeared. In reality
it was what was left of the Snake River now, in July, nearly dried
Over beyond the gulch, for a mile or more, extended a rather flat,
rock-strewn valley. Beyond that were the mountains, two peaks
of which, even at this season, were white-capped with snow. On
the trail, however, the full heat of summer prevailed.
"This grand, massive scenery makes a human being feel small, doesn't
it?" asked Tom.
Harry, however, had his eyes and all his thoughts turned toward
the man whom they were nearing.
"This—-er—-Bad Pete isn't an—-er—-that is, a road agent, is
he?" he asked apprehensively.
"He may be, for all I know," the driver answered. "At present
he mostly hangs out around the S.B. & L. outfit."
"Why, that's our outfits—-the one we're going to join, I mean,"
"I hope Pete isn't the cook, then," remarked Tom fastidiously.
"He doesn't look as though he takes a very kindly interest in
"Sh-h-h!" begged Harry. "I'll tell you, he'll hear you."
"See here," Tom went on, this time addressing the driver, "you've
told us that you don't know just where to find the S.B. & L. field
camp. If Mr. Peter Bad hangs out with the camp then he ought
to be able to direct us."
"You can ask him, of course," nodded the Colorado boy.
Soon after the horses covered the distance needed to bring them
close to the bend. Now the driver hauled in his team, and, blocking
the forward wheels with a fragment of rock, began to give his
attention to the harness.
Bad Pete had consented to glance their way at last. He turned
his head indolently, emitting a mouthful of smoke. As if by instinct
his right hand dropped to the butt of a revolver swinging in a
holster over his right hip.
"I hope he isn't bad tempered today!" shivered Harry under his
"I beg your pardon, sir," galled Tom, "but can you tell us——-"
"Who are ye looking at?" demanded Bad Pete, scowling.
"At a polished man of the world, I'm sure," replied Reade smilingly.
"As I was saying, can you tell us just where we can find the
S.B. & L.'s field camp of engineers?"
"What d'ye want of the camp?" growled Pete, after taking another
whiff from his cigarette.
"Why, our reasons for wanting to find the camp are purely personal,"
"Now, tenderfoot, don't get fresh with me," warned Pete sullenly.
"I haven't an idea of that sort in the world, sir," Tom assured
him. "Do you happen to know the hiding-place of the camp?"
"What do you want of the camp?" insisted Pete.
"Well, sir, since you're so determined to protect the camp from
questionable strangers," Tom continued, "I don't know that it
will do any harm to inform you that we are two greenhorns—-tenderfeet,
I believe, is your more elegant word—-who have been engaged to
join the engineers' crowd and break in at the business."
"Cub engineers, eh, tenderfoot?"
"That's the full size of our pretensions, sir," Tom admitted.
"Rich men's sons, coming out to learn the ways of the Rookies?"
questioned Bad Pete, showing his first sign of interest in them.
"Not quite as bad as that," Tom Reade urged. "We're wholly respectable,
sir. We have even had to work hard in order to raise money for
our railway fare out to Colorado."
Bad Pete's look of interest in them faded.
"Huh!" he remarked. "Then you're no good either why."
"That's true, I'm afraid," sighed Tom. "However, can you tell
us the way to the camp?"
From one pocket Bad Pete produced a cigarette paper and from another
tobacco. Slowly he rolled and lighted a cigarette, in the meantime
seeming hardly aware of the existence of the tenderfeet. At last,
however, he turned to the Colorado boy and observed:
"Pardner, I reckon you'd better drive on with these tenderfeet
before I drop them over the cliff. They spoil the view. Ye know
where Bandy's Gulch is?"
"Sure," nodded the Colorado boy.
"Ye'll find the railroad outfit jest about a mile west o' there,
camped close to the main trail."
"I'm sure obliged to you," nodded the Colorado boy, stepping up
to his seat and gathering in the reins.
"And so are we, sir," added Tom politely.
"Hold your blizzard in until I ask ye to talk," retorted Bad Pete
haughtily. "Drive on with your cheap baggage, pardner."
"Cheap baggage, are we?" mused Tom, when the wagon had left Bad
Pete some two hundred feet to the rear. "My, but I feel properly
"How many men has Bad Pete killed?" inquired Harry in an awed
"Don't know as he ever killed any," replied the Colorado boy,
"but I'm not looking for trouble with any man that always carries
a revolver at his belt and goes around looking for someone to
give him an excuse to shoot. The pistol might go off, even by
"Are there many like Mr. Peter Bad in these hills nowadays?" Tom
"You'll find the foothills back near Denver or Pueblo," replied
the Colorado youth coldly "You're up in the mountains now."
"Well, are there many like Peter Bad in these mountains?" Tom
"Not many," admitted their driver. "The old breed is passing.
You see, in these days, we have the railroad, public schools,
newspapers, the telegraph, electric light, courts and the other
things that go with civilization."
"The old days of romance are going by," sighed Harry Hazelton.
"Do you call murder romantic?" Reade demanded. "Harry, you came
west expecting to find the Colorado of the dime novels. Now we've
traveled hundreds of miles across this state, and Mr. Bad wore
the first revolver that we've seen since we crossed the state
line. My private opinion is that Peter would be afraid to handle
his pistol recklessly for fear it would go off."
"I wouldn't bank on that," advised the young driver, shaking his
"But you don't carry a revolver," retorted Tom Reade.
"Pop would wallop me, if I did," grinned the Colorado boy. "But
then, I don't need firearms. I know enough to carry a civil tongue,
and to be quiet when I ought to."
"I suppose people who don't possess those virtues are the only
people that have excuse for carrying a pistol around with their
keys, loose change and toothbrushes," affirmed Reade. "Harry,
the longer you stay west the more people you'll find who'll tell
you that toting a pistol is a silly, trouble-breeding habit."
They drove along for another hour before a clattering sounded
"I believe it's Bad Pete coming," declared Harry, as he made out,
a quarter of a mile behind them, the form of a man mounted on
a small, wiry mustang.
"Yep; it is," nodded the Colorado boy, after a look back.
The trail being wider here Bad Pete whirled by them with a swift
drumming of his pony's hoofs. In a few moments more he was out
"Tom, you may have your doubts about that fellow," Hazelton remarked,
"but there's one thing he can do—-ride!"
"Humph! Anyone can ride that knows enough to get into a saddle
and stick there," observed the Colorado boy dryly.
Readers of the "Grammar School Boys Series" and of the "High School
Boys Series", have already recognized in Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton
two famous schoolboy athletes.
Back in old Gridley there had once been a schoolboy crowd of six,
known as Dick & Co. Under the leadership of Dick Prescott, these
boys had made their start in athletics in the Central Grammar
School, winning no small amount of fame as junior schoolboy athletes.
Then in their High School days Dick & Co. had gradually made
themselves crack athletes. Baseball and football were their especial
sports, and in these they had reached a degree of skill that had
made many a college trainer anxious to obtain them.
None of the six, however, had gone to college. Dick Prescott
and Greg Holmes had secured appointments as cadets at the United
States Military Academy, at West Point. Their adventures are
told in the "West Point Series." Dave Darrin and Dan Dalzell,
feeling the call to the Navy, had entered the United States Naval
Academy at Annapolis. Their further doings are all described
in the "Annapolis Series."
Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton, however, had found that their aspirations
pointed to the great constructive work that is done by the big-minded,
resourceful American civil engineer of today. Bridge building,
railroad building, the tunneling of mines—-in a word, the building
of any of the great works of industry possessed a huge fascination
Tom was good-natured and practical, Harry at times full of mischief
and at others dreamy, but both longed with all their souls to
place themselves some day in the front ranks among civil engineers.
At high school they had given especial study to mathematics.
At home they had studied engineering, through correspondence courses
and otherwise. During more than the last year of their home life
our two boys had worked much in the offices of a local civil engineer,
and had spent part of their school vacations afield with him.
Finally, after graduating from school both boys had gone to New
York in order to look the world over. By dint of sheer push,
three-quarters of which Tom had supplied, the boys had secured
their first chance in the New York offices of the S.B. & L. Not
much of a chance, to be sure, but it meant forty dollars a month
and board in the field, with the added promise that, if they turned
out to be "no good," they would be promptly "bounced."
"If 'bounced' we are," Tom remarked dryly, "we'll have to walk
home, for our money will just barely take us to Colorado."
So here they were, having come by rail to a town some distance
west of Pueblo. From the last railway station they had been obliged
to make thirty miles or more by wagon to the mountain field camp
of the S.B. & L.
Since daybreak they had been on the way, eating breakfast and
lunch from the paper parcels that they had brought with them.
"How much farther is the camp, now that you know the way." Reade
inquired an hour after Bad Pete had vanished on horseback.
"There it is, right down there," answered the Colorado youth,
pointing with his whip as the raw-boned team hauled the wagon
to the top of a rise in the trail.
Of the trail to the left, surrounded by natural walls of rock,
was an irregularly shaped field about three or four acres in extent.
Here and there wisps of grass grew, but the ground, for the most
part, was covered by splinters of rock or of sand ground from
At the farther end of the camp stood a small wooden building,
with three tents near try. At a greater distance were several
other tents. Three wagons stood at one side of the camp, though
horses or mules for the same were not visible. Outside, near
the door of one tent, stood a transit partially concealed by the
enveloping rubber cover. Near another tent stood a plane table,
used in field platting (drawing). Signs of life about the camp
there were none, save for the presence of the newcomers.
"I wonder if there's anyone at home keeping house," mused Tom
Reade, as he jumped down from the wagon.
"There's only one wooden house in this town. That must be where
the boss lives," declared Harry.
"Yes; that's where the boss lives," replied the Colorado youth,
with a wry smile.
"Let's go over and see whether he has time to talk to us," suggested
"Just one minute, gentlemen," interposed the driver. "Where do
you want your kit boxes placed? Are you going to pay me now?"
"Drop the kit boxes on the ground anywhere," Tom answered. "We're
strong enough to carry 'em when we find where they belong."
And—-yes: we are going to pay you now. Eighteen dollars, isn't it?"
"Yes," replied the young driver, with the brevity of the mountaineer.
Tom and Harry went into their pockets, each producing nine dollars
as his share of the fare. This was handed over to the Colorado
"'Bliged to you, gentlemen," nodded the Colorado boy pocketing
the money. "Anything more to say to me?"
"Nothing remains to be said, except to thank you, and to wish
you good luck on your way back," said Reade.
"I wish you luck here, too, gentlemen. Good day."
With that, the driver mounted his seat, turned the horses about
and was off without once looking back.
"Now let's go over to the house and see the boss," murmured Tom.
Together the chums skirted the camp, going up to the wooden building.
As the door was open, Tom, with a sense of good manners, approached
from the side that he might not appear to be peeping in on the
occupants of the building. Gaining the side of the doorway, with
Harry just behind him, Reade knocked softly.
"Quit yer kidding, whoever it is, and come in," called a rough
Tom thereupon stepped inside. What he saw filled him with surprise.
Around the room were three or four tables. There were many utensils
hanging on the walls. There were two stoves, with a man bending
over one of them and stirring something in a pot.
"Oh, I beg your pardon," said Tom. "I thought I'd find Mr. Timothy
Thurston, the chief engineer, here."
"Nope," replied a stout, red-faced man of forty, in flannel shirt
and khaki trousers. "Mr. Thurston never eats between meals, and
when he does eat he's served in his own mess tent. Whatcher want
"We're under orders to report to him," Tom answered politely.
"New men in the chain gang?" asked the cook, swinging around to
look at the newcomers.
"Maybe," Reade assented. "That will depend on the opinion that
Mr. Thurston forms of us after he knows us a little while. I
believe the man in New York said we were to be assistant engineers."
"There's only one assistant engineer here," announced the cook.
"The other engineers are Just plain surveyors or levelers."
"Well, we won't quarrel about titles," Tom smilingly assured the
cook. "Will you please tell us where Mr. Thurston is?"
"He's in his tent over yonder," said the cook, pointing through
the open doorway.
"Shall we step over there and announce ourselves?" Tom inquired.
"Why, ye could do it," rejoined the red-faced cook, with a grin.
"If Tim Thurston happens to be very busy he might use plain talk
and tell you to git out of camp."
"Then do you mind telling us just how we should approach the chief
"Whatter yer names?"
"Reade and Hazelton."
"Bob, trot over and tell Thurston there's two fellows here, named
Reade and Hazelnut. Ask him what he wants done with 'em."
The cook's helper, who, so far, had not favored the new arrivals
with a glance, now turned and looked them over. Then, with a
nod, the helper stepped across the ground to the largest tent
in camp. In a few moments he came back.
"Mr. Thurston says to stay around and he'll call you jest as soon
as he's through with what he's doing," announced Bob, who, dark,
thin and anemic, was a decrepit-looking man of fifty years or
"Ye can stand about in the open," added the cook, pointing with
his ladle. "There's better air out there."
"Thank you," answered Tom briskly, but politely. Once outside,
and strolling slowly along, Reade confided to his chum:
"Harry, you can see what big fellows we two youngsters are going
to be in a Rocky Mountain railroad camp. We haven't a blessed
thing to do but play marbles until the chief can see us."
"I can spare the time, if the chief can," laughed Harry. "Hello—-look
Bad Pete, now on foot, had turned into the camp from the farther
side. Espying the boys he swaggered over toward them.
"How do you do, sir?" nodded Tom.
"Can't you two tenderfeet mind your own business?" snarled Pete,
halting and scowling angrily at them.
"Now, I come to think of it," admitted Tom, "it was meddlesome
on my part to ask after your health. I beg your pardon."
"Say, are you two tenderfeet trying to git fresh with me?" demanded
Bad Pete, drawing himself up to his full height and gazing at
them out of flashing eyes.
Almost unconsciously Tom Reade drew himself up, showing hints
of his athletic figure through the folds of his clothing.
"No, Peter," he said quietly. "In the first place, my friend
hasn't even opened his mouth. As for myself, when I do try
to get fresh with you, you won't have to do any guessing. You'll
be sure of it."
Bad Pete took a step forward, dropping his right hand, as though
unconsciously, to the butt of the revolver in the holster. He
fixed his burning gaze savagely on the boy's face as he muttered,
in a low, ugly voice:
"Tenderfoot, when I'm around after this you shut your mouth and
keep it shut! You needn't take the trouble to call me Peter again,
either. My name is Bad Pete, and I am bad. I'm poison! Understand?
"Poison?" repeated Tom dryly, coolly. "No; I don't believe I'd
call you that. I think I'd call you a bluff—-and let it go at
Bad Pete scowled angrily. Again his hand slid to the butt of
his revolver, then with a muttered imprecation he turned and stalked
away, calling back threateningly over his shoulder:
"Remember, tenderfoot. Keep out of my way."
Behind the boys, halted a man who had just stepped into the camp
over the natural stone wall. This man was a sun-browned, smooth-faced,
pleasant-featured man of perhaps thirty-two or thirty-three years.
Dressed in khaki trousers, with blue flannel shirt, sombrero
and well-worn puttee leggings, he might have been mistaken for
a soldier. Though his eyes were pleasant to look at, there was
an expression of great shrewdness in them. The lines around his
mouth bespoke the man's firmness. He was about five-feet-eight
in height, slim and had the general bearing of a strong man accustomed
to hard work.
"Boys," he began in a low voice, whereat both Tom and Harry faced
swiftly about, "you shouldn't rile Bad Pete that way. He's an
ugly character, who carries all he knows of law in his holsters,
and we're a long way from the sheriff's officers."
"Is he really bad?" asked Tom innocently.
"Really bad?" laughed the man in khaki. "You'll find out if you
try to cross him. Are you visiting the camp?"
"Reade! Hazelton!" called a voice brusquely from the big tent.
"That's Mr. Thurston calling us, I guess," said Tom quickly.
"We'll have to excuse ourselves and go and report to him."
"Yes, that was Thurston," nodded the slim man. "And I'm Blaisdell,
the assistant engineer. I'll go along with you."
Throwing aside the canvas flap, Mr. Blaisdell led the boys inside
the big tent. At one end a portion of the tent was curtained
off, and this was presumably the chief engineer's bedroom. Near
the centre of the tent was a flat table about six by ten feet.
Just at present it held many drawings, all arranged in orderly
piles. Not far from the big table was a smaller one on which
a typewriting machine rested.
The man who sat at the large table, and who wheeled about in a
revolving chair as Tom and Harry entered, was perhaps forty-five
years of age. His head was covered with a mass of bushy black
hair. His face was as swarthy, in its clean-shaven condition,
as though the owner had spent all of his life under a hot sun.
His clothing like that of all the rest of the engineers in camp
was of khaki, his shirt of blue flannel, with a long, flowing
"Mr. Thurston," announced the assistant engineer, "I have just
encountered these young gentlemen, who state that they are under
orders from the New York offices to report to you for employment."
Mr. Thurston looked both boys over in silence for a few seconds.
His keen eyes appeared to take in everything that could possibly
concern them. Then he rose, extending his hand, first to Reade,
next to Hazelton.
"From what technical school do you come?" inquired the engineer
as he resumed his chair.
"From none, sir," Tom answered promptly "We didn't have money
enough for that sort of training."
Mr. Thurston raised his eyebrows in astonished inquiry.
"Then why," he asked, "did you come here? What made you think
that you could break in as engineers?"
BAD PETE BECOMES WORSE
Timothy Thurston's gaze was curious, and his voice a trifle cold.
Yet he did not by any means treat the boys with contempt. He
appeared simply to wonder why these young men had traveled so
far to take up his time.
"We couldn't afford to take a college course in engineering, sir,"
Tom Reade continued, reddening slightly. "We have learned all
that we possibly could in other ways, however."
"Do you expect me, young men, to detail an experienced engineer
to move about with you as instructor until you learn enough to
be of use to us?"
"No, indeed, we don't, sir," Tom replied, and perhaps his voice
was sharper than usual, though it rang with earnestness. "We
believe, sir, that we are very fair engineers. We are willing
to be tried out, sir, and to be rated exactly where you find that
we belong. If necessary we'll start in as helpers to the chainmen,
and we have pride enough to walk back over the trail at any moment
when you decide that we're no good. We have traveled all the
way from the east, and I trust, sir, that you'll give us a fair
chance to show if we know anything."
"It won't take long to find that out," replied Mr. Thurston gravely.
"Of course you both understand that we are doing real engineering
work and haven't any time to instruct amateurs or be patient with
"We don't want instruction, Mr. Thurston," Hazelton broke in.
"We want work, and when we get it we'll do it."
"I hope your work will be as good as your assurance," replied
the chief engineer, with a slight twinkle in his eyes. "What
can you do?"
"We know how to do ordinary surveying, sir," Tom replied quickly.
"We can run our courses and supervise the chaining. We know
how to bring in field notes that are of some use. We can do our
work well within the limits of error allowed by the United States
Government. We also consider ourselves competent at leveling.
Give us the profile plan and the notes on an excavation, and we
can superintend the laborers who have to make an excavation.
We have a fair knowledge of ordinary road building. We have the
strength of usual materials at our finger's ends, and for beginners
I think we may claim that we are very well up in mathematics.
We have had some all-around experience. Here is a letter, sir,
from Price & Conley, of Gridley, in whose offices we have done
quite a bit of work."
Mr. Thurston took the letter courteously, though he did not \
immediately glance at it.
"Country surveyors, these gentlemen, I suppose?" he asked, looking
into Tom's eyes.
"Yes, sir," nodded Reade, "though Mr. Price is also the engineer for
our home county. Both Mr. Price and Mr. Conley paid us the
compliment of saying that we were well fitted to work in a railway
"Well, we'll try you out, until you either make good or convince
us that you can't," agreed the chief engineer, without any show
of enthusiasm. "You may show them where they are to live, Mr.
Blaisdell, and where they are to mess. In the morning you can
put these young men at some job or other."
The words sounded like a dismissal, but Blaisdell lingered a moment.
"Mr. Thurston," he smiled, "our young men ran, first thing, into
"Yes?" inquired the chief. "Did Pete show these young men his
Blaisdell repeated the dialogue that had taken place between Tom
and Bad Pete.
The chief listened to his assistant in silence. Tom flushed slightly
under the penetrating glance Mr. Thurston cast upon him during
When the assistant had finished, the chief merely remarked: "Blaisdell,
I wish you could get rid of that fellow, Bad Pete. I don't like
to have him hanging about the camp. He's an undesirable character,
and I'm afraid that some of our men will have trouble with him.
Can't you get rid of him?"
"I'll do it if you say so, Mr. Thurston," Blaisdell answered quietly.
"How?" inquired his chief.
"I'll serve out firearms to five or six of the men, and the next
time Pete shows his face we'll cover him and march him miles away
"That wouldn't do any good," replied Mr. Thurston, with a shake
of his head. "Pete would only come back, uglier than before,
and he'd certainly shoot up some of our men."
"You asked me, a moment ago, Mr. Thurston, what I could do," Tom
broke in. "Give me a little time, and I'll agree to rid the camp
"How?" asked the chief abruptly. "Not with any gun-play! Pete
would be too quick for you at anything of that sort."
"I don't carry a pistol, and don't wish to do so," Tom retorted.
"In my opinion only a coward carries a pistol."
"Then you think Bad Pete is a coward, young man?" returned the
"If driven into a corner I'm pretty sure he'd turn out to be one,
sir," Tom went on earnestly. "A coward is a man who's afraid.
If a fellow isn't afraid of anything, then why does he have to
carry firearms to protect himself?"
"I don't believe that would quite apply to Pete," Mr. Thurston
went on. "Pete doesn't carry a revolver because he's afraid of
anything. He knows that many other men are afraid of pistols,
and so he carries his firearms about in order that he may enjoy
himself in playing bully."
"I can drive him out of camp," Tom insisted. "All I'll wait for
will be your permission to go ahead."
"If you can do it without shooting," replied the chief, "try your
hand at it. Be careful, however, Reade. There are plenty of
good natural lead mines in these mountains."
"Yes—-sir?" asked Reade, looking puzzled.
"Much as we'd like to see Pete permanently out of this camp, remember
that we don't want you to give the fellow any excuse for turning
you into a lead mine."
"If Peter tries anything like that with me," retorted Tom solemnly,
"I shall be deeply offended."
"Very good. Take the young men along with you, Blaisdell. I'll
hear your report on them tomorrow night."
The assistant engineer took Tom and Harry over to a seven by nine
"You'll bunk in here," he explained, "and store your dunnage here.
There are two folding cots in the tent, as you see. Don't shake
'em out until it's time to turn in, and then you'll have more
room in your house. Now, come on over and I'll show you the mess
tent for the engineers."
This Blaisdell also showed them. There was nothing in the tent
but a plain, long table, with folding legs, and a lot of camp
chairs of the simplest kind.
"What's that tent, Mr. Blaisdell?" inquired Harry, pointing to
the next one, as they came out of the engineers' mess.
"Mess tent for the chainmen and rod men laborers, etc.," replied
their guide. "Now, the fellows will be in soon, and supper will
be on in half an hour. After you get your dunnage over to your
tent amuse yourselves in any way that you care to. I'll introduce
you to the crowd at table."
Tom and Harry speedily had their scanty dunnage stored in their
own tent. Then they sat down on campstools just outside the door.
"Thurston didn't seem extremely cordial, did he?" asked Hazelton
"Well, why should he be cordial?" Tom demanded. "What does he
know about us? We're trying to break in here and make a living,
but how does he know that we're not a pair of merely cheerful
"I've an idea that Mr. Thurston is always rather cool with his
staff," pursued Harry.
"Do your work, old fellow, in an exceptionally fine way, and I
guess you'll find that he can thaw out. Mr. Thurston is probably
just like other men who have to employ folks. When he finds that
a man can really do the work that he's paid to do I imagine that
Thurston is well satisfied and not afraid to show it."
"What's that noise?" demanded Harry, trying to peer around the
corner of their tent without rising.
"The field gang coming in, I think," answered Tom.
"Let's get up, then, and have a look at our future mates," suggested
"No; I don't believe it would be a good plan," said Tom. "We might
be thought fresh if we betrayed too much curiosity before the
crowd shows some curiosity about us."
"Reade!" sounded Blaisdell's voice, five minutes later. "Bring
your friend over and inspect this choice lot of criminals."
Tom rose eagerly, followed by Harry. As they left the tent and
hurried outside they beheld two rows of men, each before a long
bench on which stood agate wash basins. The toilet preceding
the evening meal was on.
"Gentlemen," Mr. Blaisdell, as the two chums drew near, "I present
two new candidates for fame. One is named Reade, the other Hazelton.
Take them to your hearts, but don't, at first, teach them all
the wickedness you know. Reade, this is Jack Rutter, the spotted
hyena of the camp. If he ever gets in your way just push him
over a cliff."
A pleasant-faced young man in khaki hastily dried his face and
hands on a towel, then smilingly held out his right hand.
"Glad to know you, Reade," he laughed. Hope you'll like us and
decide to stay."
"Hazelton," continued the announcer, "shake hands with Slim Morris,
whether he'll let you or not. And here's Matt Rice. We usually
call him 'Mister' Rice, for he's extremely talented. He knows
how to play the banjo."
The assistant engineer then turned away, while one young man,
at the farther end of the long wash bench stood unpresented.
"Oh, on second thoughts," continued Blaisdell, "I'll introduce
you to Joe Grant."
The last young man came forward.
"Joe used to be a good fellow—-once," added the assistant engineer.
"In these days, however, you want to keep your dunnage boxes
locked. Joe's specialty is stealing fancy ties—-neckties, I
Joe laughed good-humoredly as he shook hands, adding:
"We'll tell you all about Blaisdell himself, boys, one of these
days, but not now. It's too far from pay day, and old Blaze stands
in too thickly with the chief."
"If you folks don't come into supper soon," growled the voice
of the cook, Jake Wren, from the doorway of the engineer's mess
tent, "I'll eat your grub myself."
"He'd do it, too," groaned Slim Morris, a young man who nevertheless
weighed more than two hundred pounds. "Blaze, won't you take
us inside and put us in our high chairs?"
There was infinite good humor in this small force of field engineers.
As was afterwards learned, all of them were graduates either
of colleges or of scientific schools but not one of them affected
any superiority over the young newcomers.
Just as the party had seated themselves there was a step outside,
and Bad Pete stalked in looking decidedly sulky.
"Evening," he grunted, and helped himself to a seat at the table.
"Reade and Hazelton, you've had the pleasure of meeting Pete,
I believe?" asked Blaisdell, without the trace of a smile.
"Huh!" growled Pete, not looking up, for the first supply of food
was on the table.
"We've had the pleasure, twice today, of meeting Mr. Peter," replied
Tom, with equal gravity.
"See here, tenderfoot," scowled Bad Pete, looking up from his
plate, "don't you call me 'Peter' again. Savvy?"
"We don't know your other name, sir," rejoined Tom, eyeing the
bad man with every outward sign of courtesy.
"I'm just plain Pete. Savvy that?
"Certainly, Plain Pete," Reade nodded.
Pete dropped his soup spoon with a clatter letting his right hand
fall to the holster.
"Be quiet, Pete," warned Blaisdell, his eyes shooting a cold glance
at the angry man. "Reade is a newcomer, not used to our ways
yet. Remember that this is a gentleman's club."
"Then let him get out," warned Pete blackly.
"He belongs here by right, Pete, and you're a guest. Of course we
enjoy having you here with us, but, if you don't care to take us
as you find us, the fellows in the chainmen's mess will be glad to
have you join them."
"That tenderfoot is only a boy," growled Pete. "If he can't hold
his tongue when men are around, then I'll teach him how."
"Reade hasn't done anything to offend you," returned Blaisdell,
half sternly, half goodhumoredly. "You let him alone, and he'll
let you alone. I'm sure of that."
"Blaisdell, if you don't see that I'm treated right in this mess,
I'll teach you something, too," flared Bad Pete.
"Threatening the president of the mess is a breach of courtesy
on the part of any guest who attempts it," spoke Blaisdell again.
"Gentlemen, what is your pleasure?"
"I move," suggested Slim Morris quietly, "that Pete be considered
no longer a member or guest of this mess."
"Second the motion," cried Rutter, Rice and Grant together.
"The motion appears to have been carried, without the necessity
for putting it," declared Mr. Blaisdell. "Pete, you have heard
the pleasure of the mess."
"Huh!" scowled Bad Pete, picking up his soup plate and draining it.
Jake Wren, at this moment, entered with a big platter of roast
beef, Bob, the helper, following with dishes of vegetables. Then
Bob came in with plates, which he placed before Blaisdell. The
latter counted the plates, finding eight.
"We shan't need this plate, Bob," declared Blaisdell evenly, handing
it back. Then he began to carve.
"Put that plate back with the rest, Bob, you pop-eyed coyote,"
ordered Bad Pete.
Bob, looking uneasy, started to do so, but Blaisdell waved him
away. At that instant Jake Wren came back into the tent.
"For the present, Jake," went on the assistant engineer, "serve
only for seven in this tent. Pete is leaving us."
"Do you mean——-" flared Pete, leaping to his feet and striding
toward the engineer.
"I mean," responded Blaisdell, without looking up, "that we hope
the chainmen's mess will take you on. But if they don't like
you, they don't have to do so."
For ten seconds, while Pete stood glaring at Blaisdell, it looked
as though the late guest would draw his revolver. Pete was swallowing
hard, his face having turned lead color.
"Won't you oblige us by going at once, Pete?" inquired Blaisdell
"Not until I've settled my score here," snarled the fellow. "Not
until I've evened up with you, you——-"
At the same time Pete reached for his revolver in evident earnest.
Both his words and his movement were nipped short.
Morris and Rice were the only men in the engineers' party who
carried revolvers. They carried weapons, in the day time, for
protection against a very real foe, the Rocky Mountain rattlesnakes,
which infested the territory through which the engineers were
Both these engineers reached swiftly for their weapons.
Before they could produce them, however, or ore Pete could finish
what he was saying, Tom Reade leaped up from his campstool, closing
in behind the bad man.
"Ow-ow! Ouch!" yelled Pete. "Let go, you painted coyote."
"Walk right out of the tent, and I shall rejoice to let you depart,"
responded Tom steadily.
Standing behind the fellow, he had, with his strong, wiry fingers,
gripped Pete hard right over the biceps muscle of each arm. Like
many another of his type Pete had developed no great amount of
bodily strength. Though he struggled furiously, he was unable
to wrench himself free from this youth who had trained hard in
football training squads.
"Step outside and cool off, Peter," advised Tom, thrusting the
bad man through the doorway. "Have too much pride, man, to force
yourself on people who don't want your company."
Reade ran his foe outside a dozen feet, then released him, turning
and reentering the tent.
"No, you don't! Put up your pistol," sounded the warning voice
of Cook Jake Wren outside. "You take a shot at that young feller,
Pete, and I'll never serve you another mouthful as long as I'm
in the Rockies!"
Bad Pete gazed fiercely toward the engineers' tent, hesitated
a moment, and then walked wrathfully away.
THE DAY OF REAL WORK DAWNS
The meal was finished in peace after that. It was so hearty a
meal that Tom and Harry, who had not yet acquired the keen edge
of appetite that comes to hard workers in the Rockies, had finished
long before any one else.
"You fellers had better hurry up," commanded Jake Wren finally.
"It'll soon be dark, and I'm not going to furnish candles."
As the cook was an autocrat in camp, the engineers meekly called
for more pie and coffee, disposed of it and strolled out of the
mess tent over to their own little village under canvas.
"Bring over your banjo, Matt," urged Joe. "Nothing like the merry
old twang to make the new boys feel at home in our school."
Rice needed no further urging. As darkness came down a volume
of song rang out.
"What time do we turn out in the morning?" Tom asked, as Mr.
Blaisdell brought over a camp stool and sat near them.
"At five sharp," responded the assistant engineer. "An hour later
we hit the long trail in earnest. This isn't an idling camp."
"I'm glad it isn't," Reade nodded.
Then Blaisdell chatted with the boys, drawing out of them what
they knew, or thought they knew, of civil engineering, especially
as applied to railroad building.
"I hope you lads are going to make good," said Blaisdell earnestly.
"We're in something of a fix on this work at best, and we need
even more than we have, of the very best hustling engineers that
can be found."
"I am beginning to wonder," said Tom, "how, when you have such
need of men of long training, your New York office ever came to
pick us out."
"Because," replied the assistant candidly, "the New York office
doesn't know the difference between an engineer and a railroad
tie. Tim Thurston has been making a long yell at the New York
offices of the company for engineers. Knowing the little that
they do, our New York owners take anyone who says he's an engineer,
and unload the stranger on us."
"I hope we prove up to the work," sighed Harry.
"We're going to size up. We've got to, and that's all there is
to it," retorted Tom. "We've been thrown in the water here, Harry,
and we've got to swim—-which means that we're going to do so.
Mr. Blaisdell," turning to the assistant, "you needn't worry
as to whether we're going to make good. We shall!"
"I like your spirit, at any rate, and I've a notion that you're
going to win through," remarked the assistant.
"You try out a lot of men here, don't you?" asked Harry.
"A good many," assented Blaisdell.
"From what I heard at table," Hazelton continued, "Mr. Thurston
drops a good many of the new men after trying them."
"He doesn't drop any man that he doesn't have to drop," returned
Blaisdell. "Tim Thurston wants every competent man that he can
get here. Let me see——-"
Blaisdell did some silent counting on his fingers. Then he went
"In the last eleven weeks, Thurston has dropped just sixteen new
"Whew!" gasped Harry, casting a sidelong glance at his shoes,
with visions of a coming walk at least as far back as Denver or
"Mr. Thurston isn't going to drop us," Tom declared. "Mr. Blaisdell,
Hazelton and I are here and we're going to hang on if we have
to do it with our teeth. We're going to know how to do what's
required of us if we have to stay up all night finding out. We've
just got to make good, for we haven't any money with which to
get home or anywhere else. Besides, if we can't make good here
we're not fit to be tried out anywhere else."
"We're in an especially hard fix, you see," the assistant engineer
explained. "When we got our charter something less than two years
ago we undertook to have every mile of track ballasted and laid
on the S.B. & L., and trains running through, by September 30th
of this year. There are three hundred and fifty-four miles of
road in all. Now, in July, less than three months from the time,
this camp is forty-nine miles from the terminus of the road at
Loadstone, while the constructing engineers and the track-layers
are thirty-eight miles behind us. Do you see the problem?"
"You can get an extension of time, can't you?" asked Tom.
"We can—-not! You see, boys, the S.B. & L. is the popular
road. That is, it's the one that the people of this state backed
in the main. When we got our charter from the legislature there
was a lot of opposition from the W.C. & A. railroad. That organization
wishes to add to their road, using the very locations that our
preliminary engineering force selected for the S.B. & L. The
W.C. & A. folks have such a bewildering number of millions at
their back that they would have won away from us, had they been
an American crowd. The W.C. & A. has only American officers
and a few small stockholders in this country. The W.C. & A.
is a foreign crowd throughout in reality, and back of them they
have about all the money that's loose in London, Paris and Berlin.
The W.C. & A. spent a lot of money at the state capital, I guess,
for it was common report that some of the members of the legislature
had sold out to the foreign crowd. So, though public clamor carried
our charter through the legislature by sheer force, the best concession
we could get was that our road must be built and in operation
over the entire length by September 30th, or the state has the
privilege of taking over our road at an appraised value. Do you
see what that means?"
"Does it mean that the state would then turn around and sell this
road to the W.C. & A. at a good profit?" asked Reade.
"You've hit it," nodded Mr. Blaisdell. "The W.C. & A. would be
delighted to take over our road at a price paid to the state that
would give Colorado quite a few millions in profits. The legislature
would then have a chance to spend those millions on public improvements
in the state. I think you will understand why public clamor now
seems to have swung about in favor of the W.C.& A."
"Yet it seems to me," put in Harry, "that, even if the S.B. & L.
does fail to get the railroad through in time, the stockholders
will get their money back when the state takes the road over."
"That, one can never count on," retorted Blaisdell, shaking his
head. "The state courts would have charge of the appraising of
the value of the road, and one can never tell just what courts
will award. Ten chances to one the appraisal wouldn't cover more
than fifty per cent. of what the S.B. & L. has expended, and
thus our company would be many millions of dollars out of pocket.
Besides, if the courts could be depended upon to appraise this
uncompleted road at twenty per cent. more than has been expended
upon it, our company would still lose, for what the S.B. & L.
really expects to do is to bag the big profits that can be made
out of the section of the state that this road taps. Take it
from me, boys, the officials of this road are crazy with anxiety
to get the road through in time, and not lose the many millions
that are waiting to be earned by the S.B. & L. getting this road
through is all that Tim Thurston dreams of, by night or day.
His reputation—-and he has a big one in railroad building—-is
wholly at stake on his carrying this job through. It'll be a
big prize for all of us, professionally, if we can back Thurston's
fight to win."
"I'll back it to win," glowed Tom ardently "Mr. Blaisdell, I am
well aware that I'm hardly more than the lens cap on a transit
in this outfit, but I'm going to do every ounce of my individual
share to see this road through and running on time, and I'll carry
as much of any other man's burden as I can load onto my shoulders!"
"Good!" chuckled Blaisdell, holding out his hand. "I see that
you're one of us, heart and soul, Reade. What have you to say,
"I always let Tom do my talking, because he can do it better,"
smiled Harry. "At the same time, I've known Tom Reade for a good
many years, and his performance is always as good as his promise.
As for me, Mr. Blaisdell, I've just told you that Tom does my
talking, but I back up all that he promises for me."
"Pinkitty-plank-plink!" twanged Matt Rice's banjo, starting into
another rollicking air.
"I guess it's taps, boys," called Blaisdell in his low but resonant
voice. "Look at the chief's tent; he's putting out his candles now."
A glance at the gradually darkening walls of the chief engineers
big tent showed that this was the case.
"We'll all turn in," nodded Blaisdell.
So Tom and Harry hastened to their tent, where they unfolded their
camp cots and set them up. There was not much bed-making. The
body of the cot was of canvas, and required no mattress. From
out of their baggage each took a small pillow and pair of blankets.
At this altitude the night was already rather chilly, despite
the fact that it was July.
Rapidly undressing in the dark the young engineers crawled in
between their blankets.
"Well, at last," murmured Harry, "we're engineers in earnest.
That is," he added rather wistfully, "if we last."
"We've got to last," replied Tom in a low voice, hardly above
a whisper, "and we're going to. Harry, we've left behind us the
playtime of boyhood, and we're beginning real life! But in that
playtime we learned how to play real football. From now on we'll
apply all of the best and most strenuous rules of football to
the big art of making a living and a reputation. Good night,
old fellow! Dream of the folks back in Gridley. I'm going to."
"And of the chums at West Point and Annapolis," gaped Hazelton.
"God bless them!"
That was not the only short prayer sent up, but within five minutes
both youngsters had fallen sound asleep. The man who can sleep
as they did, when the head touches the pillow, has many successes
still ahead of him!
Nor did they worry about not waking in season in the morning.
Slim Morris had promised to see to it that they were awake on time.
Slam! Bump! Tom Reade was positive he had not been asleep more
than a minute when that rude interruption came. He awoke to find
himself scrambling up from the ground.
Tom had his eyes open in time to see Harry Hazelton hit the ground
with force. Then Slim Morris retreated to the doorway of the tent.
"Are you fellows going to sleep until pay days" Slim demanded jovially.
Tom hustled into his clothes, reached the doorway of the tent
and found the sun already well up in the skies.
"The boys are sitting down to breakfast," called Slim over his
shoulder. "Want any?"
"Do I want any?" mocked Tom. He had laid out his khaki clothing
the night before, and was now in it, save for his khaki jacket,
which he caught up on his arm as he raced along toward the wash bench.
Nor had he gone very far with the soap and water when Harry Hazelton
was beside him.
"Tom, Tom!" breathed Harry in ecstacy. "Do you blame people for
loving the Rocky Mountains? This grand old mountain air is food
"It may be for you. I want some of the real old camp chuck—-plenty
of it," retorted Reade, drawing a pocket comb out and running it
through his damp locks while he gazed into the foot-square camp mirror
hanging from a tree.
"May we come in?" inquired Tom, pausing in the doorway of the
engineers' mess tent.
"Not if you're in doubt about it," replied Mr. Blaisdell, who
was already eating with great relish. The boys slid into their
seats, while Bob rapidly started things their way.
How good it all tasted! Bacon and fried eggs, corn bread and
potatoes, coffee and a big dish of that time-honored standby in
engineers' camp—-baked beans. Then, just as Tom and Harry, despite
their appetites, sat back filled, Bob appeared with a plate of
flapjacks and a pitcher of molasses.
"Ten minutes of six," observed Mr. Blaisdell, consulting his watch
as he finished. "Not much more time, gentlemen."
Tom and Harry followed the assistant engineer out into the open.
"Can you tell us now, Mr. Blaisdell, what we're to do today?"
Reade inquired eagerly.
"See those transits?" inquired Blaisdell, pointing to two of the
telescoped and compassed instruments used by surveyors in running
courses. "One for each of you. Take your choice. You'll go
out today under charge of Jack Rutter. Of course it will be a
little bit slow to you the first two or three days, but between
you, I hope to see you do more than Rutter could do alone. You'll
each have two chainmen. Rutter will give you blank form books
for your field notes. He'll work back and forth between the two
of you, seeing that you each do your work right. Boys, don't
make any mistakes today, will you, So much depends, you know,
upon the way you start in at a new job."
"We'll do the best that's in us," breathed Tom ardently.
"Engineer Rutter," called Blaisdell, "your two assistants are
ready. Get your two sets of chainmen and make a flying start."
Animated by the spirit of activity that pervaded the camp, Tom
and Harry ran to select their instruments, while Rutter hastened
after his chainmen.
Bad Pete had not appeared at either mess this morning. He had
small need to, for, in the still watches of the night, he had
burglarized the cook's stores so successfully that not even that
argus-eyed individual had noticed the loss.
Having breakfasted heartily in a deep thicket, Pete now looked
down over the camp, his eyes twinkling in an evil way.
"I'll get bounced out of mess on account of two pasty-faced tenderfeet
like those boys, will I?" Pete grumbled to himself. "Before
this morning is over I reckon I'll have all accounts squared
with the tenderfeet!"
"TRYING OUT" THE GRIDLEY BOYS
The chainmen picked up the transits, carrying also the chains
and rods. Rutter led the way, Tom and Harry keeping on either
side of him, except when the rough mountain trail narrowed. Then
they were obliged to walk at his heels.
"We are making this survey first," Rutter explained, "and then
the leveling over the same ground follows within a few days.
Both the surveying and the leveling have to be done with great
care. They must tally accurately, or the work will all go wrong,
and the contractors would be thrown out so badly that they'd hardly
know where they stood. A serious mistake in surveying or leveling
at any point might throw the work down for some days. As you've
already heard explained, any delay, now, is going to lose us our
charter as sure as guns."
For more than a mile and a half the brisk walk continued. At
last Rutter halted, pointing to a stake driven in the ground.
"See the nail head in the top of the stake?" he inquired.
"Yes," Tom nodded.
"You'll find a similar nail head in every stake. The exact point
of the plummet of your bog-line must centre on the middle of that
nail head. You can't be too exact about that, remember."
Turning to one of the chainmen, Rutter added:
"Jansen, take a rod and hustle along to the next stake."
"Yes, sir," answered the man, and started on a run. Nor did he
pause until he had located the stake. Then he signaled back with
his right hand. Tom Reade, in the meantime, had quickly set up
his transit over the first stake on his part of the course. He
did some rough shifting, at first, until the point of the plummet
was exactly over the nail head. Then followed some careful adjusting
of the instrument on its supports until two fine spirit levels
showed that the compass of the instrument was exactly level.
"Now, let me see you get your sight," urged Rutter.
Tom did so, coolly, manipulating his instrument as rapidly as
he could with safety, yet not with speed enough to cause himself
confusion or worry.
"I've got a sight on the rod," announced Reade, without emotion.
"Are the cross-hairs, as you see them through the telescope, just
on the mark?" Rutter demanded.
"Let me have a look," ordered Rutter. "A fine, close sight," he
assented, after taking a careful look through the telescope.
"Now, take your reading."
This showed the course by the compass, and was expressed in degrees,
minutes and seconds. The poor reading of a course is one of the
frequent faults of new or careless engineers.
"Here is a magnifier for the vernier," continued Rutter, just
after Tom had started to make his reading.
"Thank you; I have a pretty good one of my own," Tom answered,
diving into one of his pockets and bringing to light a small but
powerful reading glass with an aplanatic lens.
"You carry a better magnifier than I do," laughed Rutter. "Hazelton,
do You carry a pocket glass?"
"Yes, sir," nodded Harry "I have one just like Reade's."
"Good! I can see that you youngsters believe in good tools."
Tom in the meantime was busy with the vernier of his transit.
This is an ingenious device for showing the smaller divisions
into which the circles of the compass are divided. Tom quickly
jotted down his field note in degrees, minutes and seconds. One
chainman now held an end of a hundred-link chain at the nail head
on the stake, while a second man started toward the rodman, unfolding
the chain as he went.
Tom remained over his transit. The traveling chainman frequently
glanced back for directions from Reade whether or not he was off
the course of a straight line to the next stake.
Soon the chain-bearer was a little to the left of the line.
Tom held a hand over the telescope of the transit, moving it very
slowly to the right. The chain-bearer, glancing slowly back,
stepped slowly to the right of the course until Tom's hand fell
abruptly. Then the chain-bearer stopped, knowing that he was
on the right line. A metal stake, having a loop at the top from
which fluttered a marker of red flannel, the man stuck upright
in the ground. Tom took a peep, signaling so gently that the
man moved the stake just half an inch before Reade's hand again
"That stake is right; go ahead," ordered Tom, but he said it not by
word of mouth, but merely with a slight gesture of pushing forward.
"You've been well trained, I'll bet a hat," smiled Butter. "I
can tell that by the practiced way that you signal. O'Brien!"
"Yes, sir," answered another chainman, stepping forward.
"Take Thane with you, and carry Mr. Hazelton's transit to Grizzly
Ledge. Mr. Hazelton and I will be there presently."
Two more chainmen started away.
Now, both of Tom's chainmen started forward, the rear one moving
to the first metal stake that displayed the red marker. Tom still
remained at the transit, motioning to the men whenever they got
the least out of a true straight line to the rodman. It was not
hard work for Reade at this point, but it required his closest
After some time had passed the chainmen had "chained" the whole
distance between Tom's stake and the rod resting on the next stake.
Now the rodman, after making a close measurement, signaled back.
Nine downward sweeps of his right arm signified nine chains;
next the movements of his arm signaled the forty-four links of
a tenth chain. Then seven movements of the left hand across in
front of the eyes, and Reade knew that stood for seven-tenths
of a link. Hence on the page of his field note book Tom wrote
the distance between the stakes as nine chains and forty-four
and seven-tenths links.
"That's good," nodded Rutter, who had been watching every move
closely. The forty-four signaled by the rodman's left arm, instead
of being made up of forty-four downward strokes, had consisted
of four such strokes, followed by a pause, and then four more
"I'll go along and see you get the course and distance to the
third rod," said Rutter.
This course and distance, too, in time, had been measured and
carefully noted by Reade.
"You'll get along all right, if you pay strict attention and don't
become confused or careless," nodded Jack Rutter. "Now, I'll
write 'Reade' on this starting stake of yours, and I'll write
Hazelton on your friend's starting stake. After you've surveyed
to Hazelton's starting stake let your rodman bring you forward
until you overhaul me."
"Very good, sir," nodded Tom coolly.
Rutter and Harry moved along the trail, leaving Tom with his own
"Nothing very mentally wearing in this job," reflected Tom, when
he found himself left to his own resources. "All a fellow has
to do is to keep his head clear, be faithful and exactly honest
with his work, and move with all the speed that good, straight
work will allow."
So Reade moved ahead, getting courses and distances to five more
stakes. Then, as he reached the sixth, he gazed ahead and smiled.
A mountain pond lay right in his straight path to the seventh stake.
"Can that pond be easily forded?" Reade asked the nearer chainman.
"No, sir; it's about ten feet deep in the centre."
Tom smiled grimly to himself.
"Rutter didn't say anything about this to me," Tom muttered to
himself. "He put this upon me, to see how I'd get over an obstacle
like an unfordable pond. Well, it's going to take a lot of time
but I'll show Mr. Jack Rutter!"
Accordingly, Reade allowed his chainmen to proceed measuring until
they were fairly close to the pond. Then he went forward to the
metal stake that had just been driven. From this stake he laid
out a new course to the north and at exact right angles with the
proper course, sending his chainmen forward with markers. When
he had thus passed the end of the pond Reade took another course
at exactly right angles to the northerly course, but now going
westerly. This he extended until it passed the pond by a few
feet. Once more Reade laid out a course, southerly, at exact
right angles with the westerly course, the southerly line being
exactly four chains in length, as the northerly line had been.
Now, the young engineer was able to resume his surveying toward
the seventh stake. The extra route that he had followed made
three sides of a square. Tom was now in line again, with the
pond passed, and the exact distance between the sixth and seventh
"I guess that was where Rutter was sure he'd have me," chuckled
Tom quietly. "He's probe ably waiting ahead to see me come hot-footing
over the trail to ask for orders."
At the tenth stake Tom found "Hazelton" written thereon.
"Men," said the young engineer, "I guess this is where we go forward
and look for the crowd. Get up the stuff and we'll trot along."
Nearly an hour of solid tramping over the trail followed before
Tom and his party, guided by the rodman, came upon Harry Hazelton.
Jack Rutter, chewing a blade of grass, sat under a tree at a
little distance from where Harry was watching and signaling to
two chainmen who were getting a distance.
"Is your own work all done?" asked Rutter.
"Yes, sir," Tom answered.
"Let me see your field notes."
Reade passed over the book containing them. From an inner pocket
Rutter drew out his own field note book. Before another minute
had passed Tom had opened his eyes very wide.
"Your field notes are all straight, my boy. If you've made any
errors, then I've made the same."
"You've already been over this work that we've been doing?" demanded
Tom, feeling somewhat abashed.
"Of course," nodded the older and more experienced engineer.
"You don't for a moment suppose we'd trust you with original work
until we had tried you out, do you? We have all the field notes
for at least three miles more ahead of here. Hazelton!"
"Coming," said Harry, after jotting down his last observations
and the distance.
"Let me see your last notes, Hazelton," directed Rutter. "Yes;
your work is all right."
"What do you know about this, Harry?" laughingly demanded Reade.
"I've suspected for the last two hours that Mr. Rutter was merely
trying us out over surveyed courses," laughed Harry.
"If you don't know how to do anything other than transit work,"
Rutter declared, "the chief can use all your time at that. He'll
be pleased when I tell him that you're at least as good surveyors
as I am. And, Reade, I see from your notes that you knew how
to measure across a pond that your chainmen couldn't ford."
"Mr. Price taught me that trick, back in Gridley," Tom responded.
Suddenly Jack Rutter sprang to his feet sniffing vigorously.
"Boys," he announced, "an adventure is coming our way. Can you
guess what it is?"
Tom and Harry gazed at him blankly.
TOM DOESN'T MIND "ARTILLERY"
"I give it up," Reade replied.
"Well, it's dinner time," declared Rutter, displaying the face
of his watch.
"Do we have to walk all the way back to camp?" queried Harry,
who knew that no provisions had been brought with them.
"No; camp is going to be brought to us," smiled Rutter. "At least,
a part of the camp will be brought here. Look up the trail there,
at that highest rise. Do you see dust near there?"
"Yes," nodded Tom.
"A burro pack-train, conveying our food and that of the other
surveying parties ahead of us," nodded Rutter. "You'll find the
cook's helper, Bob, in charge of it."
"Is that the way the meals are brought out every day?" asked Hazelton.
"No; but now we're getting pretty far from camp, and it would
waste a lot of our time to go back and forth. So our noon meals
will come by burro route. Tomorrow or the day after the camp
will be moved forward."
"How long before that train will be here?" Tom wanted to know.
"Probably ten minutes," guessed Rutter.
"Then I'm going to see if I can't find some little stream such
as I've passed this morning," Tom went on. "I want to wash before
I'm introduced to clean food."
"I'll go along presently," nodded Harry to his chum. "There's
something about the spirit level on this transit of mine that
I want to inspect."
So Tom Reade trudged off into the brush alone. After a few minutes
"That burro outfit in sight?" he called, as he neared the trail.
"No," answered Rutter. "But it's close. Once in a while I can
hear a burro clicking his hoofs against stones."
Harry appeared two minutes later, just as the foremost burro,
with Bob by its head, put in an appearance about fifty yards away.
"All ready for you, Bob," called Rutter good-humoredly.
"You gentlemen of the engineer corps are always ready," grunted
the cook's helper.
A quick stop was made, Bob unloading tin plates, bowls and cups.
"Soup!" cried Rutter in high glee. "This is fine living for buck
"There's even dessert," returned the cook's helper gravely, exposing
an entire apple pie.
There was also meat, still fairly warm, as well as canned vegetables
in addition to potatoes. A pot of hot coffee finished the repast
that Bob unloaded at this point.
"Everything but napkins!" chuckled Rutter, as he and the boys
quickly "set table" on the ground.
"No; something else is missing," answered Tom gravely. "Bob forgot
The helper, beginning to feel that he was being "guyed," took
refuge in cold indifference.
"Just stack the things up at this point when you're through," directed
Bob. "I'll pick 'em up when I come back on the trail."
Rutter, like a good chief, saw to it that his two assistants and
the chainmen were started on their meal ere he himself began.
In half an hour every morsel of food and the final drop of coffee
"Twenty minutes to loaf," advised Rutter, throwing himself on
the ground and closing his eyes. "I'll take a nap. You'd better
follow my example."
"Then who'll call us?" asked Tom.
"I will," gaped Rutter.
"Without a clock to ring an alarm?"
"Humph! Any real backwoods engineer can wake up in twenty minutes
if he sets his mind on it," retorted Jack.
This was a fact, though it was the first that Tom or Harry had
heard of it.
"See the time?" called Rutter, holding out his watch. "Twenty
minutes of one. I'll call you at one o'clock—-see if I don't."
In that fine air, with all the warmth of the noon hour, there
was no difficulty in going to sleep. Truth to tell, Tom and Harry
had tramped so far that forenoon that they were decidedly tired.
Within sixty seconds both "cubs" were sound asleep.
"One o'clock!" called Rutter, sitting up and consulting his watch.
"Fall to, slaves! There is a big batch of work awaiting us.
Hazelton, you can go right on where you left off. Survey along
carefully until you come upon a stake marked 'Reade.' Then come
forward until you find us. Reade, I'll go along with you and
show you where to break in."
Preceded by their chainmen, Rutter and Reade trudged along the
trail for something like a mile.
"Halt," ordered Jack Rutter. "Reade, write your autograph on that
stake and begin."
Tom stepped over to the transit, adjusting it carefully and setting
the hanging plummet on dead centre with the nail head in the top
of the short stake.
"Never set up a transit again," directed Rutter, "without making
sure that your levels are absolutely true, and that your vernier
arrangement is in order."
"I don't believe you'll ever catch me at that, Mr. Rutter," Tom
answered, busying himself with the finer adjustments of the transit.
"Mr. Price pounded that into me every time that he took me out
in the field."
"Nevertheless," went on Rutter, "I have known older engineers
than you, Reade, who became careless, and their carelessness cost
their employers a lot of wasted time and money. Now, you——-"
At this juncture Jack Rutter suddenly crouched behind a low ledge
at the right.
"Get behind here, quickly, Reade!" called Rutter. "Bad Pete is
up the hillside, about two hundred yards from you——-"
"I haven't time to bother with him, now," Tom broke in composedly.
"Duck fast, boy! Pete has an ugly grin on his face, and he's
reaching for his pistol. He's got it out—-he's going to shoot!"
whispered Rutter, drawing his head down where it would be safe
from flying bullets.
The chainmen, lounging nearby, had wasted no time in getting safely
"Going to shoot, is he?" murmured Tom, without glancing away from
the instrument. "Does Peter really know how to shoot,"
"You'll find out! Jump—-like a flash, boy!"
Tom went calmly on tinkering with the mechanism of his instrument.
Bang! sounded up the trail. Tom's fingers didn't falter as he
adjusted a small, brass screw.
Bang! came the second shot. Tom betrayed no more annoyance than
before. Bad Pete was aiming to drive bullets into the ground close
to the young engineer's feet, making him skip about. The sixth shot
Pete was saving for clipping Reade's hat from his head.
The shots continued to ring out. Tom, though he appeared to be
absorbed in his instrument, counted. When he had counted the
sixth shot Reade dropped suddenly, picked up a stone that lay
at his feet, and whirled about.
Tom Reade hadn't devoted years to ball-playing without knowing
how to throw straight. The stone left his hand, arching upward,
and flew straight toward Bad Pete, who had advanced steadily as
Whiff! Though Pete tried, too late, to dodge the stone, it landed
against his sombrero, carrying that away without injuring the
"Kindly clear out!" called Tom coolly. "You and your noise annoy me
when I'm trying to do a big afternoon's work."
Snatching up his sombrero, Bad Pete vanished into a clump of brush.
Jack Rutter leaped up from his haven of safety, advancing swiftly
to his cub assistant.
"Reade," he exclaimed, with ungrudging admiration, "you're the
coolest young fellow I ever met, without exception. But you're
foolhardy, boy. Bad Pete is a real shot. One of these days,
when you're just as cool, he'll fill you full of lead!"
"If he does?" retorted Tom, again bending over his transit, "and
if I notice it, I'll throw a bigger stone at him than I did that
time, and it'll land on him a few inches lower down."
"But, boy, don't you understand that the days of David and Goliath
are gone by," remonstrated Rutter. "It's true you're turned the
laugh on Pete, but that fellow won't forgive you. He may open
on you again within two minutes."
"I don't believe he will," replied Tom, with his quiet smile.
"At the same time, I'll be prepared for him."
Bending to the ground, and rummaging about a bit, Reade selected
three stones that would throw well. These he dropped into one
of his pockets.
"Now, let the bad man trot himself on, if he has to," added the
cub engineer, waving a signal to the rodman, who had just halted
at the next stake.
"Well, of all the cool ones!" grunted Rutter, under his breath.
"But, then, Reade's a tenderfoot. He doesn't understand just
how dangerous a fellow like Pete can be."
The chainman started away to measure the distance. From up the
hillside came sounds of smothered but very bad language.
"There's our friend Peter again," Tom chuckled to Rutter.
"Yes, and the ruffian may open on you again at any moment," warned
Jack, keeping an anxious glance turned in the direction whence
came the disturbing voice of Bad Pete.
"Oh, I don't think he will," drawled Tom, making a hand signal
to the leading chainman to step a little more to the left. "I
hope not, anyway, for the noise of revolver shots takes my thoughts
away from my work."
Jack Rutter said no more after that, though through the rest of
the afternoon he kept an alert lookout for signs of Pete. There
were none, however. Rather earlier than usual, on account of
the distance back to camp, Rutter knocked off work for the entire
party and the start on the return to camp was made.
Harry Hazelton was considerably excited when he heard the news
of the firing on his chum. Reade, however, appeared to be but
little interested in the subject.
Pete was not in camp that evening.
Rutter went at once to the tent of the chief, to tell him how
well the "cubs" had done during the day. Nor did Jack forget
to relate the encounter with Bad Pete.
Just as the underlings of the staff were seating themselves around
the table in their mess, Mr. Thurston thrust his head in at the
"Reade," called the chief engineer, "I have heard about your trouble
with Pete today."
"There wasn't any real trouble, sir," Tom answered.
"Fortunately for you, Reade, Pete didn't intend to hit you. If
he had meant to do so, he'd have done it. I've seen him shoot
all the spots out of a ten of clubs. Don't provoke the fellow,
Reade, or he'll shoot you full of fancy holes. Of course it showed
both grit and coolness on your part in keeping steadily on with
your work all the time the fellow was firing at you. Still, it
was unwise to expose yourself needlessly to danger."
"I didn't consider Bad Pete particularly dangerous," Tom rejoined.
"A lawless man with a loaded revolver is hardly a safe person
to trifle with," retorted Mr. Thurston dryly.
"I see that I shall have to make a confession," smiled Tom. "It
was this way, sir. When Hazelton and I were on our way west Harry
insisted that we were coming into a dangerous country and that
we'd need firearms. So Harry bought two forty-five six-shooters
and several boxes of cartridges, too. I was provoked when I heard
about it, for we hadn't any too much money, and Harry had bought
the revolvers out of our joint treasury."
"I felt sure we'd need the pistols," interrupted Hazelton. "Today's
affair shows that I was right. Tom, you'll have to carry one
of the revolvers after this."
"I'm no gun-packer," retorted Tom scornfully. "Young men have
no business carting firearms about unless they're hunting or going
to war. Any fellow who carries a pistol as he would a lead pencil
is either a coward or a lunatic."
"I'm glad to hear you say that, Reade," nodded Mr. Thurston approvingly.
"Two of my staff carry pistols, but they do so under my orders.
In the first place they're grown men, not boys. In the second
place, they're working over a stretch of ground where rattlesnakes
are thick. Your coolness today served you better than a pistol
would have done. If you had had a revolver, and had drawn it,
Pete would have drilled you through the head."
"Drilled me through the head—-with what?" asked Tom, smiling.
"With a bullet, of course, young man," retorted Mr. Thurston.
"I don't believe he would have gone as far as that," laughed Tom.
"You see, sir, it was like this: When I found Harry so set on
carrying a pistol, I went down deep in my own pocket and bought
two boxes of blank cartridges to fit the forty-fives. I thought
if Harry were going to do some shooting, it would be the part
of friendship to fix him so that he could do it in safety to himself
Harry's face turned decidedly red. He was beginning to feel foolish.
"Now, this morning," Tom continued, "when I got the khaki out
of my dunnage, I ran across the blanks. I don't know what made
me do it, but I dropped the box of blanks into one of my pockets.
This noon, when I went off to find a stream where I could wash
up, I almost stepped on our friend Peter, asleep under a bush.
For greater comfort he had taken off his belt and holster. Somehow,
I didn't like the idea of his being there. As softly as I could
I crept close. I emptied his revolver and fitted in blanks from
my own box. Then I took about twenty cartridges out of Peter's
belt and replaced them with blanks."
"Do you mean to tell me," broke in Rutter, "that Bad Pete, when
he turned his revolver loose on you, was shooting nothing but
"That was all he had to shoot," Tom returned coolly. "And blanks
were all he had in his belt to reload with. Don't you remember
when we heard him making a noise up the hillside, and talking
in dots and dashes!"
"I do," nodded Rutter, looking half dazed.
"That," grinned Reade, "was when he started in to reload? and
discovered that he had nothing on hand but temperance cartridges.
Here——-" Tom began to unload one of his pockets upon the wooden
table before the astonished eyes of the others. There was a mixture
of his own blank cartridges with the real ammunition that he had
stealthily abstracted from Bad Pete's revolver and belt.
Such a whoop of glee ascended that the head chainman came running
from the other nearby mess tent to see what was up.
"Just a little joke among our youngsters, my man," explained Mr.
Thurston. "The young gentlemen are going to keep the joke to
themselves for the present, though."
So the mystified and disappointed chainman returned to his own
"Let me see, Reade," continued Mr. Thurston, turning once more
to Tom, "what is your salary?"
"I was taken on, sir, at forty dollars a month, as a starter,"
"A young man with your size of head is worth more than that to
the company. We'll call it fifty a month, Reade, and keep our
eyes on you for signs of further improvement," said the chief
engineer, as he turned to go back to his own waiting dinner.
THE BITE FROM THE BUSH
From the time that they parted in the morning, until they started
to go back to camp in the afternoon, Tom and Harry did not meet
the next day. Each, with his chainmen, was served from Bob's
burro train at noon.
"Did you see Bad Pete today?" was Harry's greeting, as they Started
back over the trail.
"Did you hear from him or of him in any way?" pressed Hazelton.
"Not a sign of any sort from Peter," Tom went on. "I've a theory
as to what's keeping him away. He's on a journey."
"Yes; between you and me, I believe that Peter has gone in search
of someone who can sell him, or give him, a few forty-five cartridges."
"He'd better apply to you, then, Tom," grinned Harry.
"Why, I couldn't sell him any," Tom replied.
"What did you do with those you had last night?"
"You remember the unfordable pond that came in one of my courses
"To-day I threw all of Peter's .45's into the middle of the pond.
They must have sunk a foot into the mud by this time."
"Seriously, Tom, don't you believe that you'd better take one
of the revolvers that I bought and wear it on a belt?"
"Not I," retorted Reade. "Harry, I wish you could get that sort
of foolishness out of your head. A revolver is of no possible
use to a man who hasn't any killing to do. I'm trying to learn
to be a civil engineer, not a man-killer."
"Then I believe that Bad Pete will 'get' you one of these days,"
"Wait until he does," smiled Tom. "Then you can have the fun
of coming around and saying 'I told you so.'"
Their chainmen were ahead of the "cub" engineers on the trail.
Tom and Harry were talking earnestly when they heard a pony's
hoofs behind them. Hazelton turned with a start.
"Oh, it's Rutter mounted," Hazelton said, with a sigh of relief.
"I was afraid it was Bad Pete."
"Take my word for it, Harry. Peter is a good deal of a coward.
He won't dare to show up until he has some real cartridges.
The temperance kind do not give a man like Peter any real sense
of security in the world."
Rutter rode along on his sure-footed mountain pony at a rapid
jog. When he came close, Tom and Harry stepped aside into the
brush to let him go by on the narrow trail.
"Don't get off into the brush that way," yelled Rutter from the
"We're trying to give you room," Tom called.
"I don't need the room yet. I won't run over you, anyway. Stand out
of the brush, I tell you."
Tom good-humoredly obeyed, Harry moving, too, though starting
an instant later.
Prompt as he was, however, Tom Reade was a fraction of a second
Behind them there was a half-whirring, half-clicking sound.
Then Reade felt a stinging sensation in his left leg three or
four inches from the heel.
"Look out!" yelled Rutter, more excitedly than before. "Get away
Tom ran some distance down the trail. Then he halted, laughing.
"I wonder what's on Rut's mind," he smiled, as Hazelton joined
Jack Rutter came at a gallop, reining up hard as he reached where
Tom had stood.
Again that whirring, clicking sound. Rutter's pony reared.
"Still, you brute!" commanded Rutter sternly. Then, without waiting
to see whether his mount would stand alone, Rutter leaped from
saddle, going forward with his quirt—-a rawhide riding whip—-uplifted.
Into the brush from which Tom had stepped Rutter went cautiously,
though he did not lose much time about it.
Swish! swish! swish! sounded the quirt, as Rutter laid it on
the ground ahead of him. Then he stepped out. The pony had drawn
back thirty or forty feet and now stood trembling, nostrils distended.
"Is that the way you take your exercise?" Reade demanded.
Rutter, however, came running along the trail, his face white
as though from worry.
"Reade," he demanded, "Did that thing strike you?"
"What thing," asked Tom in wonderment.
"The rattler that I killed!"
"Rattler?" gasped both cub engineers.
"Yes. From the distance I thought I saw it strike out at you.
There's a nest of the reptiles at some point near that brush.
That's why I warned you to get away from there. Never stand
in brush, in the Rockies, unless you've looked before stepping.
Were you struck?"
"I believe something did sting me," Reade admitted, remembering
that smarting sensation in his left leg.
"Which leg was it? demanded Rutter, halting beside the cub.
"Left—-a little above the ankle," replied Tom.
"Take off your legging. I must have a look. Hazelton, call to
one of your chainmen and send him back to make sure of my pony."
Harry hastened to obey, then came back breathless. Rutter, in
the meantime, had turned up enough of Tom's left trousers' leg
to bare a spot on the flesh that was red. There were fang marks
in the centre of this reddened surface.
"You got it, boy," spoke Rutter huskily. "Now we'll have to go
to work like lightning to save you."
"How are you going to do it?" asked Tom coolly, though he felt
decidedly queer over the startling news.
"Hazelton," demanded Rutter, turning upon the other cub engineer,
"have you nerve enough to put your lips to that wound, and draw,
draw draw as hard as you can, and keep on until you've drawn all
the poison out?"
"I have," nodded Harry, sinking to his knees beside his chum.
"I'll draw all the poison out if I have to swallow enough to
"You won't poison yourself, Hazelton," replied Rutter quickly,
as one of the chainmen came near with the recaptured pony. "Snake
venom isn't deadly in the stomach—-only when it gets into the
blood direct. There's no danger unless you've a cut or a deep
scratch in your mouth. Spit the stuff out as you draw."
Having given these directions, Jack Rutter turned, with the help
of one of the chainmen to fasten a blanket behind the saddle to
make a sort of extra saddle. The blanket had been lying rolled
at the back of the saddle.
Harry, in the meantime, without flinching, performed his task
well. Had he but known it, Rutter's explanation of the lack of
danger was true; but in that moment, with his chum's life at stake,
Harry didn't care a fig whether the explanation were true or not.
All he thought of was saving Tom.
"I reckon that part of the job has been done well," nodded Rutter,
turning back from the horse. "Now, Reade, I want you to mount
behind me and hold on tightly, for we're going to do some hard,
swift riding. The sooner we get you to camp the surer you will
be of coming out of this scrape all right."
"I've never had much experience in horsemanship, and I may out
a sorry figure at it," laughed Reade, as, with Harry's help he
got up behind Rutter.
"Horsemanship doesn't count—-speed does," replied Rutter tersely.
"Hold on tightly, and we'll make as good time as possible. I'm
going to start now."
Away they went, at a hard gallop, Tom doing his best to hold on,
but feeling like a jumping-jack.
"It won't take us more than twenty minutes," promised Jack Rutter.
WHAT A SQUAW KNEW
All the way to camp Rutter kept the pony at a hard gallop.
"Thurston! Mr. Thurston!" he shouted. "Be quick, please!"
Even as the young man called, Mr. Thurston ran out of his tent.
"You know something about rattlesnake bites, I believe?" Rutter
went on hurriedly, as Tom Reade slipped to the ground. "The boy
has been bitten by one and we'll have to work quickly."
"Don't bring any liquor, though," objected Reade, leaning up against
a tree. "If liquor is your cure for snakebites I prefer to take
my chances with the bite."
"Get the shoe off and roll up the trousers," directed the chief
engineer, without loss of words. "Fortunately, I believe we have
someone here who knows more about treating the bites than I do.
An Indian woman who had been sitting on the grass before the chief's
tent, a medley pack of Indian baskets arranged before her, glanced up.
"Snake! You know what to do," went on Mr. Thurston hurriedly. "You
know what to do——eh? Pay you well."
At the last three magic words the aged squaw rose and hobbled quickly
"Take boy him tent," directed the Indian woman.
"I can walk," remarked Tom.
"No; they take you. Heap better," commanded the woman.
Instantly Mr. Thurston and Rutter took hold of Tom, raising him
into their arms. Through the flap of his tent they bore him,
depositing him on his cot. The Indian woman followed them inside.
"Now you go out," she ordered, with a sweep of her hand. "Send
him cookman. Hot water—-heap boil."
Thus ordered, Jake Wren came on the run with a kettle of boiling
water. The Indian squaw received it with a grunt, ordering that
bowls and cups be also brought. When Wren came the second time
he lingered curiously.
"You go out; no see what do," said the squaw.
So Jake departed, the squaw tying the flap of the tent after he
had gone. Then, from the bosom of her dress she drew out a few
small packages of herbs. The contents of these she distributed
in different bowels and cups.
"I'd like to see what the old witch is doing, and how she's doing
it," declared Rutter in a whisper.
"She'll stop short if she catches you looking in on her," replied
the chief, with a smile. "For some reason these Indians are very
jealous of their secrets in treating snakebites. They're wizards,
though, these same red-skinned savages."
"You believe, then, that she can pull Reade through?" asked Rutter
"If she knows her business, and if there's any such thing as saving
the boy she'll do it," declared Mr. Thurston, as they reached
the door of the chief's tent. "Will you come inside, Rutter!
You look badly broken up."
"I am, and I shall be, just as long as Reade is in any danger,"
Rutter admitted. "Reade is a mighty fine boy and I'm fond of
him. Besides, more than a little of our success in getting the
road through on time depends on the boy."
"Is Reade really so valuable, then?"
"He goes over the course, Mr. Thurston, as rapidly as any man
in our corps, and his work is very accurately done. Moreover,
he never kicks. If you told him to work half the night, on top
of a day's work, he'd do it."
"Then Reade, if he recovers, must be watched and rewarded for
anything he does for us," murmured Mr. Thurston.
"Don't say, 'if he recovers,' chief," begged Jack. "I hate to
think of his not pulling through from this snakebite."
"What became of the reptile that did the trick?" asked Mr. Thurston.
"That crawler will never bite anything else," muttered Rutter.
"I got the thing with my riding quirt."
Not very long after Harry Hazelton reached camp, well in advance
of the chainmen, for Harry, good school athlete that he was, had
jog-trotted every step of the way in.
"Where's Tom?" Hazelton demanded.
"Here," called a voice from Reade's tent.
Hazelton turned in that direction, but Mr. Thurston looked out
from the large tent, calling:
"Don't go there now, Hazelton. You wouldn't be admitted. Come here."
Despite his long run, Harry's face displayed pallor as he came
breathlessly into Mr. Thurston's field abode. In a few words,
however, the lad was acquainted with the situation as far as it
In the meantime what was the squaw doing with Tom? It must be
admitted that Reade hadn't any too clear an idea. The gaunt old
red woman poured hot water, small quantities at a time, into the
bowls and cups in which she had distributed the herbs. Then she
stirred vigorously, in the meantime muttering monotonously in
her own language.
"She isn't relying on the herbs alone," muttered Tom curiously
to himself. "She's working up some kind of incantation. I wonder
what effect she expects an Indian song to have on snake poison?"
Presently the squaw turned, bringing one of the cupfuls to the
"Sit up," she ordered. "Drink!"
Tom nearly dropped it, it was so hot.
"Drink!" repeated the squaw.
"But it's so hot it'll burn my gullet out," remonstrated Reade.
"You know more I do?" demanded the squaw stolidly. "Drink!"
Tom took a sip, and shuddered from the intense heat of the stuff.
"Humph! White man him heap papoose!" muttered the squaw, scornfully.
"You want live, drink!"
Tom took a longer swallow of the hot stuff. Whew, but it was
"The bronze lady is trying to turn me inside out!" gasped the
boy to himself.
"Drink—-all down!" commanded the squaw with scarcely less scorn
than before in her voice.
This time Tom took a hard grip on himself and swallowed all the
liquid. For a moment, he thought the nauseating stuff would kill him.
"Now, eat grass," ordered the squaw.
"Meaning eat these herbs," demanded Tom, glancing up.
"Yes. Heap quick."
"To make a fellow eat these herbs after drinking the brew from
them is what I call rubbing it in," grimaced Reade.
"Now, this," continued the squaw, calmly handing a second cup
"It's all right for you to be calm," thought Tom, as he took
the cup from her. "All you have to do is to stand by and watch
me. You don't have to drink any of these fearful messes."
However, Tom brought all his will power into play, swallowing
a second brew, compared with which the first had been delicious.
"Eat this grass, too"? inquired Tom, gazing at the squaw.
"I shall be very, very careful not to meet any more snakes," he
shuddered, after getting the second dose down.
Now the squaw busied herself with spreading soaked herbs on a
piece of cloth that she had torn from one of Tom's white shirts'
to which she had helped herself from his dunnage box.
"What's a dollar shirt, anyway, when an interesting young man's
life is at stake" mused Reade. "Ow—-ow—-ooch!"
"You baby—-papoose?" inquired the squaw calmly. She had slapped
on Tom's leg, over the bite, a poultice that, to his excited mind,
was four hundred degrees hotter than boiling water.
"Oh, no," grimaced Tom. "That's fine and soothing. But it's
growing cool. Haven't you something hotter?"
Just five seconds later Reade regretted his rashness, for, snatching
off the first poultice, the squaw slapped on a second that seemed,
in some way, ten times more powerful—-and twenty times hotter.
"It's queer what an awful amount of heat a squaw can get out of
a kettle of hot water, thought the suffering boy. I'll wager
some of the heat is due to the herbs themselves. O-o-o-o-ow! Ouch!"
For now the third poultice, most powerful of all, was in place,
and Mrs. Squaw was binding it on as though she intended it never
to come off.
Two minutes after that Tom Reade commenced to retch violently.
With a memory of the messes that he had swallowed he didn't wonder.
The squaw now stepped outside, calling for coffee. This was
brought. Tom was obliged to drink several cupfuls, after which
he began to feel decidedly more comfortable.
"Now, take nap," advised the squaw, and quitted the tent.
"The bronze lady seems to know what she's doing," thought Tom.
"I guess I'll take the whole of her course of treatment." Thereupon
he turned his face to the wall. Within sixty seconds he slept.
"How's Reade?" demanded Harry, rising eagerly as the squaw stepped
inside the chief's tent.
"He sleep," muttered the squaw.
"He—-he—-isn't dead!" choked Harry, turning deathly pale.
"You think I make death medicine?" demanded the squaw scornfully.
"You think me heap fool?"
"The young man will be all right, squaw?" asked Mr. Thurston.
"Humph! Maybe," grunted the red woman. "Yes, I think so. You
"That's the Indian contempt for death," explained the chief engineer,
turning to Harry. "I imagine that Reade is doing all right, or
she wouldn't have left him."
However, Hazelton was not satisfied with that. He slipped out,
crossed camp and stealthily peeped inside of the tent. Then
Hazelton slipped back to Mr. Thurston to report.
"If Tom doesn't swallow some of those big snores of his, and choke
to death, I think he'll get well," said Harry, with a laugh that
testified to the great relief that had come to his feelings. With
that all hands had to be content for the time being.
'GENE BLACK, TROUBLE-MAKER
In the morning Tom Reade declared that he was all right. The
old Indian squaw had pronounced him safe, and had gone on her way.
"You'll stay in camp today, Reade," announced Mr. Thurston, dropping
into the mess tent.
"With all the work there is ahead of us, sir?" cried Reade aghast.
"That's why you'll stay," nodded Mr Thurston. "Your life has
been saved, but after the shock you had yesterday you're not as
strong as you may feel. One day of good rest in camp will fit
you for what's ahead of us in the days to come. The strain of
tramping miles and working like a steam engine all day is not
to be thought of for you today. Tomorrow you'll go out with the
Tom sighed. True, he did not feel up to the mark, and was eating
a very light breakfast. Still he chafed at the thought of inaction
for a whole day.
"The chief wouldn't order you to stay in," remarked Blaisdell,
after Mr. Thurston had gone, "unless he knew that to be the best
thing for you."
So, after the engineers, their chainmen and rodmen had left camp
Tom wandered about disconsolately. He tried to talk to the cook,
but Jake and his helper were both rushed in getting the meal that
was to be taken out over the trail by burro train.
"Lonely, Reade?" called the chief from his tent.
"Yes, sir," Tom nodded. "I wish I had something to do."
"Perhaps I can find work for you in here. Come in."
Tom entered eagerly. Mr. Thurston was seated at the large table,
a mass of maps and field notes before him.
"How are you on drawing, Reade?" queried his chief.
"Never had any training in that line?"
"I can draw the lines of a map, sir, and get it pretty straight,
as far as the mathematics of map-drawing goes," Tom answered.
"But another man has to go over my work and put in the fine touches
of the artist. You know what I mean, sir; the fancy fixings of
"Yes, I know," nodded Mr. Thurston. "I can sympathize with you,
too, Reade, for, though I always longed to do artistic platting
(map-work) I was always like yourself, and could do only the mathematical
part of it. You can help me at that, however, if you are careful
enough. Take a seat at that drawing table; and I'll see what
you can do."
First, Reade stepped to a box that held map paper. Taking out
a sheet, he placed it on the surface of the drawing table, then
stuck in thumb-tacks at each of the four corners.
"All ready, sir," he announced.
Mr. Thurston stepped over with an engineer's field note book.
"See if these notes are all clear," directed the chief engineer.
"Yes, sir; I know what the notes call for," Tom answered confidently.
"Then I'll show you just what's wanted Reade," continued the chief.
After some minutes of explanation Tom picked up the T-square,
placing the top at the side of the drawing surface. Then against
the limb of the "T" Tom laid the base of a right-angled triangle.
Along this edge he drew his perpendicular north-and-south line
in the upper left-hand corner. He crossed this with a shorter
line at right angles, establishing his east-and-west line. Mr.
Thurston, standing at the cub engineer is back, looked on closely.
Tom now settled on his beginning point, and made the dot with
his pencil. From that point he worked rapidly, making all his
measurements and dotting his points. Then he began to draw in.
The chief engineer went back to his table.
After Tom had worked an hour the chief interrupted him.
"Now, Reade, get up and let me sit down there for a little while.
I want to go over your work."
For some minutes Mr. Thurston checked off the lad's work.
"You really know what you are doing, Reade," he said at last.
"Your line measurements are right, and your angles tally faultlessly,
I'm glad I kept you back today. You can help me here even more
than in the field. Tomorrow, however, I shall have to keep Rice
back. He's our ornamental draughtsman, and puts in the fine,
flowery work on our maps. Here's some of his work."
Tom gazed intently at the sheet that Mr. Thurston spread for his
"Rice does it well," remarked Reade thoughtfully. "You've one
other man in the corps who can do the pretty draughting about as well."
"Who is he?"
"Hazelton. Harry doesn't do the mathematical part as easily as
I do, but he has a fine talent for fancy drawing, sir."
"Then I'll try Hazelton tonight," decided Mr. Thurston aloud.
"You may go on with your drawing now, Reade. Hello; someone
is coming into camp."
Mr. Thurston stepped over to the doorway in time to see a young
man riding up on a pony.
"Where's the chief engineer?" called the newcomer.
"You're looking at him," replied Mr. Thurston.
The young man, who appeared to be about twenty-eight years of
age, rode his horse to a near-by tree, then dismounted gracefully
and tied his mount.
The young man was well-built, dark-haired and smooth-faced, with
snapping black eyes. There was an easy, half-swaggering grace
about him suggesting one who had seen much of free life in the
open air. For one attired for riding in saddle over mountain
trails the stranger was not a little of a dandy in appearance.
His khaki trousers and leggings, despite his probably long ride,
were spotless. His dark-blue flannel shirt showed no speck of
dust; his black, flowing tie was perfection; his light-hued sombrero
looked as though it had just left the store.
"If you are Mr. Thurston, I have the honor to present a letter,"
was the stranger's greeting as he entered the large tent.
Mr. Thurston glanced at the envelope, reading: "Mr. Eugene Black."
"Be seated, Mr. Black," requested the chief, then opened the letter.
"Oh, you're a new engineer, sent out from the offices in New York,"
continued the chief.
"Yes," smiled the newcomer.
"An experienced engineer, the vice-president of the company informs
"Six years of experience," smiled the newcomer, showing his white,
Tom glanced up just in time to see that smile. "Somehow, I don't
quite like the looks of Mr. Black," Reade decided.
"What is your especial line of work, Mr. Black?" Thurston continued.
"Anything in usual field work, sir."
"This letter states that you expect one hundred and twenty-five
dollars a month."
"Then the letter is correct, sir."
"All right, Mr. Black; we'll put you at work and let you prove
that you're worth it," smiled Mr. Thurston pleasantly.
"How soon shall I go to work, sir?" asked Black.
"I expect my assistant, Mr. Blaisdell, here in about an hour.
I'll send you out with him when he returns to field."
"Then, if you're through with me at present, sir, I'll step outside
and be within call."
Tom and his chief were again alone. Reade kept steadily on with
his work, and no word was spoken for half an hour. Then there
came a commotion in camp, for four drovers came in with two dozen
horses that had been ordered for the use of the engineering party.
"Step outside, Reade, and see the horses, if you care to do so,"
suggested Mr. Thurston, reaching for his sombrero.
"Thank you, sir; but the horses will keep, and I'm greatly interested
in finishing my drawing so that I can take up more work."
"That young cub, Reade, is no idler." thought the chief, as he
stepped into the open.
Tom kept steadily at work.
Ten minutes later, Thurston still being absent, Eugene Black strolled
into the tent. He glanced at Tom's drawing with some contempt,
"Why, not?" laughed Tom. "I'm only one of the stable boys, and,
as you can see, I'm currying a horse."
"Stop that sort of nonsense with me, right at the start," flashed
Black angrily, striding closer. "I don't allow boys to be fresh
"Where's the boy?" drawled Tom, turning slightly, for a better view \
of the stranger's face.
"You're one," snapped Black.
"What are you?" Tom asked curiously.
"I'm an engineer."
"If that is anything to be chesty about, then I'm an engineer also,"
Reade replied, rising.
"Sit down, boy!" commanded Black angrily.
The trace of frown on Reade's face disappeared. He smiled
good-humoredly as he observed.
"Black, I'm a bit uncertain about you."
"Mister Black, boy!" warned the other, his dark eyes snapping.
"Why are you uncertain about me?"
"I'm wondering," purred Tom gently, "whether you are just trying
to be offensive, or whether you don't know any better than to talk
and act the way you do?"
"You young puppy, I'll teach you something right now," cried Black,
stepping closer and raising a clenched fist.
"Look out," begged Tom. "You'll upset my drawing table."
Eugene Black closed in, striking out. Reade who felt that the
situation didn't call for any fighting, retreated, still smiling.
Whether by accident or design, Black, as he made a half turn to
start after the cub engineer anew, brushed a corner of the unstable
drawing table hard enough to tip it over. A bottle of drawing
ink fell, too, splashing ugly black blotches over Tom's carefully
drawn outlines of a map.
"Now, you've done it!" exclaimed Tom.
"I haven't quite finished," snapped the stranger, rushing after Reade.
"I'm going to box your ears soundly, boy!"
"Are you, indeed?" demanded Tom, halting. He was still smiling,
but there was a stern look in his eyes. Tom no longer retreated,
but stood awaiting Black's assault.
Blanks fist shot out straight, but Reade didn't stop the blow.
Instead, he ducked low. When he came up his arms enveloped Black's
legs in one of the swift football tackles that Tom had learned
with the Gridley High School football team.
"You annoy me," drawled Tom, and hurled the fellow ten feet away.
Black landed on his back with an angry roar, followed by cursing.
"Profanity is always objectionable to a gentleman," declared Tom
dryly, running over ere the newcomer could regain his feet. Once
more Reade bent and rose. As he did so, Eugene Black shot through
the tent doorway, landing on the ground a dozen feet beyond.
Tom stood in the doorway, smiling. Black leaped to his feet.
"You puppy!" gasped Black, sending his right hand back to his
hip pocket. Tom didn't wait to see what he would bring out, but
darted forward. This time he seized the stranger in a dead tackle,
dropping him over on his back without throwing him.
"Now, roll over," ordered Reade grimly. "I'm curious to see what
you have in your pocket. Ah! So—-this is it! You're another
Peter Bad, are you?"
Tom held in one hand a silver-plated revolver with ivory handle
that he had snatched out of Black's pocket.
"I wonder why it is," mocked Tom, grinning, "that nine out of
every ten dude tenderfeet from the east come west with one of
Black charged the cub, intent on recapturing his pistol, but Reade
shot out a foot, tripping him. Then Tom ran nimbly over to the
cook tent. Here he halted, breaking the weapon at the breech
and allowing the cartridges to drop into his hand. He transferred
them to his pocket, then wheeled and picked up Jake's kitchen
With a few swift strokes from the head of the hatchet Tom put
that firearm on the retired list for good.
"Give me my pistol, boy!" choked Black, running up.
"Certainly," rejoined Reade, wheeling and politely offering the
ruined firearm. "I don't want it. I've no use for such things"
Black took his weapon, gasped, then, seizing it by the barrel,
leaped at Tom, intent on battering his head.
"Here, what's the trouble?" cried Mr. Thurston, appearing around
the corner of the cook house and promptly seizing Black by the
collar of his flannel shirt.
"Nothing much, sir," laughed Tom. "Mr. Black has just been showing
me how bad men behave out in this part of the country."
"This boy is a troublesome cub, Mr. Thurston," declared Black
hotly. "Do you see what he has done to my revolvers"
"How did Reade come to have it?" inquired Mr. Thurston.
"He snatched it away from me."
"Reade, is this true?" demanded the chief engineer, turning to
"Yes, sir; as far as the story goes."
"Tell me the whole truth of this affair," ordered Mr. Thurston
Tom started to do so, modestly, but Black broke in angrily at
points in the narrative.
"The principal thing that I have against Mr. Black," Tom said,
"is that he spoiled all my drawing work of this morning."
"Yes; but how did I come to do it?" insisted the newcomer. "You
pushed me against your drawing table."
Tom started with astonishment.
"My friend," he remarked, "Baron Munchausen never had anything
"Careful, Reade! Don't pass the lie," ordered the chief engineer
sternly. "I shall look fully into this matter, but at present
I'm inclined to believe that you're more at fault than is Black.
Return to the tent and start your drawing over again."
There was a smile again on Tom's face as he turned back to make
his spoiled work good.
Mr. Thurston went back to his inspection of the ponies. Later,
the chief engineer was able to pick up some details of the trouble
from Jake Wren, who had seen Black reach for his revolver.
"Understand two things, Mr. Black," said the chief briskly. "In
the first place, it is not expected that the engineers of this
corps will find any real cause for fighting. Second, I will tolerate
no pistol nonsense here."
Then he went back to Tom Reade and spoke to him more quietly.
"Reade, if Black doesn't turn out to be a valuable man here he
won't last long. If he is a good man, then you will find it necessary,
perhaps, to use a little tact in dealing with him. Did you notice
what snapping black eyes the man has? Men with such black eyes
are usually impulsive. Remember that."
"I never thought of that before, sir," Tom admitted dryly. "I
really didn't know that people with black eyes are impulsive.
This I do know, however, people who are too impulsive generally
get black eyes!"
"DOCTORED" FIELD NOTES?
There was no more trouble—-immediately. When the other engineers
heard of the row—-which news they obtained through Jake, not
from Reade—-they soon made it plain to 'Gene Black that Tom Reade
was a favorite in the corps. Black was therefore treated with
a coldness that he strove hard to overcome.
In the matter of being a capable civil engineer 'Gene Black speedily
proved himself efficient. Assistant Chief Engineer Blaisdell
soon reported at headquarters that the new member of the corps
was an exceedingly valuable man. Black was therefore placed at
the head of a leveling squad that obtained the field notes from
which were to be estimated the cost of making excavations in several
cuts that must be made ere the coming tracks could be laid.
In the days that passed Tom and Harry saw little of the field
work. They were kept at the chief's tent. Hence Reade had but
little to do with 'Gene Black, which may have been fortunate,
as Tom still retained his first instinctive dislike for the black-eyed
* * * * * * * * *
"Reade and Hazelton, you two young men are going to forge ahead
rapidly, and you are sure to earn good salaries, if you don't
make the too common mistake of young engineers first starting
out," Mr. Thurston told the cubs one forenoon.
"And what is that mistake, sir, if you please?" Tom queried.
"Don't make the mistake of getting too large an idea of the value
of your services," replied the chief. "Just work hard all the
time and be wholly unassuming.
"I think we can follow that advice, sir," Tom replied, with a
"If you can, you'll get along rapidly. I have already written
to our officers in New York, thanking them for having sent you
two young men."
"Here's the map I have just finished, sir," said Harry, rising
from his drawing table on which were arranged the various draughtsman's
inks and washes—-the latter being thin solutions of water colors
with which some parts of the maps were colored.
"Very handsomely done, Hazelton. Reade, what are you doing?"
"I'm at work on Black's field notes of the leveling," Tom answered.
"I am very much pleased with Black's work," replied Mr. Thurston.
"His notes show that we are going to get out of the excavating
in the cuts at about one third of the trouble and expense that
I had looked for."
"Black's field notes certainly do look good, sir, for they show
that you can get the work through on this division in much less
time than you had supposed."
As he turned around to speak, Tom sat where he could easily see
the colored field map that Harry had just turned in to the chief.
"Hold on, there, Harry," Tom objected.
"You've lined in a pretty high hill on Section Nineteen. You'll
have to cut that down a bit."
"The surveyor's field notes call for that hill," Hazelton retorted.
"But, as it happens," objected Tom, "I'm just working out the
profile drawing of Section Nineteen from Black's notes. See here——-"
Tom rested a pencil point on a portion of the hill depicted on
Hazelton's map. "You've drawn that pretty steep. Now, as you'll
see by Black's notes, the upgrade at that point is only a three
per cent. grade."
"Humph! It's all of an eight per cent. grade," grunted Hazelton.
"See, here are the surveyor's field notes."
"Three per cent. grade," insisted Tom, holding forward Black's
"There's a difference there, then, that must be reconciled," broke
in Mr. Thurston, rising, a look of annoyance on his face. "We
can't have any such disagreement as that between the field map
and the profile sheet. Let us find out, at once, where the trouble
Yet the more the three pondered over the matter the greater became
the puzzle. The notes of the surveyor, Matt Rice, and of the
leveler, 'Gene Black, were at utter variance.
"We must get hold of these men as soon as they come in tonight,"
exclaimed Mr. Thurston, much disturbed. "We must find out just
which one is at fault."
"Rice is a very reliable man, sir," spoke up Tom.
"Yes; but Blaisdell reports that Black thoroughly understands
his work, too," grumbled the chief. "We must settle this tonight."
"May I make a suggestion, sir?" asked Tom.
"Certainly. Go ahead."
"There is no use, sir, in my going ahead with this profile drawing,
if there's a chance that the sights turned in by Black are wrong.
Until we know, my time at this drawing board may all be wasted.
Trotter, one of the rodmen, is in camp today. I might take him,
and a level along, and go over the foresights and backsights myself.
All of the stakes will be in place. In two hours I ought to
have a very good set of leveling notes. Then I can bring them
back and compare them with Black's sights."
"Can you run a level well?" inquired Mr. Thurston.
"Of course I can, sir. It's simple enough work, and I've done
a good bit of it in the east."
"Go along, then, and see if you can throw any light on this,"
sighed the disturbed chief.
"Reade really ought to have two rodmen," broke in Harry eagerly.
"May I go along, sir, to serve as the other rodman?"
"Run along," assented Mr. Thurston. "Remember, boys, I can't
go any further until this tangle is settled. Come back as speedily
as you can."
Tom and Harry snatched up their sombreros, hurrying forth. Trotter
was found readily, and was ordered to saddle three ponies. Tom
busied himself in picking out the best leveling instrument in
camp, while Hazelton secured the rods and a chain. Then the party
set forth in Indian file, Tom riding in advance.
A trot of half an hour brought them to Section Nineteen. Here
Tom speedily adjusted his instrument, taking up his post over
the first stake at the bottom of the hill.
Leveling is not difficult work, though it calls for some judgment
and a good deal of care. For instance, when Tom set his telescope
exactly level and took a reading of the rod at the second stake,
which Harry held, he read the height as eight feet and four inches.
Then he trudged forward, carrying his instrument, while Trotter
held his rod exactly perpendicular over the first stake. From
the second stake Tom sighted back through his telescope, reading
two feet three inches. The difference between these two readings
was six feet and one inch, showing that, for the distance between
first and second stakes the rise in the hillside was six feet
one inch. Thereupon Reade turned and sighted, from stake number
two to stake number three, noting in his book the reading he secured
from the rod at number three. Once at number three he turned
his telescope backward, taking a reading from Trotter's rod at
number two. Ten stakes were thus covered, and not only were the
foresights and backsights read and recorded, but the distance
between each pair of stakes was measured with the chain and the
distances entered on the record.
At stake number ten Tom halted.
"Harry," he directed, "you take Black's leveling notes and hold
them while I read my own notes. Stop me every time that you note
a difference between the two records."
After that Harry steadily stopped his chum at every reading.
By the time that they had finished the comparisons Hazelton's
face looked blank from sheer astonishment.
"Why, every single one of Blacks foresights and backsights is
wrong!" gasped Harry. "And yet Mr. Blaisdell reported that 'Gene
Black is such a fine engineer."
Tom turned to make sure that Trotter was resting out of hearing
before he replied:
"Harry, Black isn't such a fool as to bring in an absolutely wrong
record of sights, and yet do it innocently. If he didn't do it
unintentionally, then he must have tangled the record purposely."
"But why should he do it purposely?" Harry insisted. "He would
know that, sooner or later, his blunders or lies would be discovered,
and that he would be discharged. Now, Black really wants to hold
his job with this outfit."
"Does he?" asked Tom bluntly.
"Why, what do you mean?"
"I don't know," Reade confessed. "I never heard of any such bungle
as this before by an engineer. Why, Harry, this hillside averages
an eight and a third grade, yet Black's field notes show it to
be only a three per cent. grade. Hang it, the fellow must have
played the trick purposely!"
"Yet why?" pressed Hazelton.
"I'll admit that I can't understand. Unless, well—-unless——-"
"Unless Black joined this outfit with the express purpose of
queering all the work of the entire corps as he could easily
do. Harry, do you think that Black could possibly be serving
with this outfit as the paid tool of the rival road, the W.C.
& A.? Can he be the enemy's spy within our lines—-sent to prevent
our finishing the road on time?"
THINGS BEGIN TO GO DOWN HILL
"I suppose I'm thick," Harry murmured. "How would Black, by turning
in some wrong backsights and foresights, expect to delay the building
of the road, even if he wanted to do it?"
"How?" repeated Tom Reade, showing an amount of heat and excitement
that he rarely displayed. "Why, Harry, this same old Section
Nineteen is one of the hard spots on the road. A lot of excavating
has to be done before the tracks can be laid here. It's not a
mere matter of scooping up dirt and removing it, either. A large
amount of solid rock has to be blasted out here before the roadbed
can be laid."
"I know it," Harry nodded.
"Well, then, at the present moment our chief, Mr. Thurston, is
preparing the estimates for the work that must be done. On his
estimates will be based the strength of the laboring gangs that
must come forward to do the work."
"Then, suppose that Mr. Thurston has been misled into making a
certain estimate as to the number of thousand cubic yards of stuff
that must be taken out of the outs that are to be made. After
he gets his laborers here, and at work, he finds that he has at
least three times as much rock and dirt to get out——-"
"I see," cried Hazelton. "Before the chief could get men and
wagons, and make all necessary changes in the work, the time would
have slipped by so far that the finishing of the road would be
"And the S.B. & L. would lose its charter," finished Tom grimly.
"It's mighty lucky that we came out here today, then," exclaimed
Hazelton, now fully alive to the danger that menaced their employers.
"Come, we must hustle back to camp and show Mr. Thurston how
he has been imposed on. There can't be a doubt that 'Gene Black
has been deliberately crooked."
"Go slowly," advised Tom. "Don't be in a rush to call any other
man a crook. Mr. Thurston can hear our report. Then he can look
into it himself and form his own opinion. That's as far as we
have any right to go in the matter."
"Thurston is at fault in not having come out here himself," Harry
continued. "The chief engineer in charge of a job should know
every foot of the way."
"Thurston, from the nature of his own work, is obliged to leave
much of the detail to his assistant, Mr. Blaisdell," Tom explained.
"Then why doesn't Blaisdell look out that no such treacherous
work is done by any member of the engineer corps?" flared Harry.
"'Gene Black is plainly a very competent man," Reade argued.
"The work has had to be rushed of late, and, on so simple a matter
as leveling, I don't suppose Blaisdell has thought it at all necessary
to dig into Black's field notes."
"I hope Black is fired out of this outfit, neck and crop!" finished
"That's something with which we have nothing to do," Reade retorted.
"Harry, we'll confine ourselves to doing our work well and reporting
our results. Mr. Thurston is intelligent enough to form all his
own conclusions when he has our report. Come, it's high time
for us to be putting the ponies to real speed on the trail back."
Not long afterwards the young engineers rode into the engineer
camp. Harry dismounted, seating himself on the ground, while
Tom hurried toward the chief's big tent.
It was Blaisdell who sat in the chief's chair when Tom entered.
"Oh, hello, Reade," was the assistant's pleasant greeting.
"Where's the chief?"
"Gone back to the track builders. You know, they're within fourteen
miles of us now."
"When will Mr. Thurston be back?"
"I don't know," Blaisdell answered. "In the meantime, Reade, you
know, I'm acting chief here."
"I beg your pardon," Tom murmured hastily.
"The chief told me, just before leaving, that you thought some of
Black's sights on Section Nineteen are wrong," Blaisdell pursued.
"They're all wrong," Reade rejoined quietly.
"All?" echoed Blaisdell, opening his eyes very wide.
"Yes, sir; everyone of them."
"Come, come, Reade!" remonstrated the acting chief. "Don't try
to amuse yourself with me. All of the sights can't be wrong."
"But they are, sir. Hazelton and I have been over them most carefully
in the field. Here are our notes, sir. Look them over and
you'll find that Section Nineteen calls for three or four times
as much excavating as Black's notes show."
"This is strange!" mused Blaisdell, after comparing the two sets
of notes. "I can't credit it. Reade, you and Hazelton are very
young—-mere cubs, in fact. Are you sure that you know all you
owlet to know about leveling?"
"Mr. Blaisdell, I'll answer you by saying, sir, that though Hazelton
and I are nothing but cubs, we have the success of this railroad
building game at heart. We're deeply in earnest. We'll work
ourselves to our very bones in order to see this road get through
in time. I don't ask you, sir, to take our word about these sights,
but we both beg you, sir, to go out with a gang of men and go
over some of the work yourself. Keep on surveying, sir, until
you're satisfied that Black is wrong and that Hazelton and I are
right. You know what it would mean, sir, if we're right and you
don't find it out in time. Then you simply couldn't get the cut
through Section Nineteen in time and the S.B. & L. would lose
"By Jove, you're right," muttered Blaisdell uneasily, as he slowly
stood up. "Reade, I'm going to take men and go out, carrying
your notes and Black's. Let me warn you, however, that if I find
that Black is right and you're wrong, then it will give you two
cubs such a black eye that the chief will run you out of camp."
"If we had made any such gigantic blunder as that," returned Tom
firmly, "then we'd deserve to be run out. We wouldn't have the
nerve to put in another night in camp."
"Hey, you, don't unsaddle those ponies. Hold yourselves ready
to go out," called Blaisdell from the doorway of the tent.
"Will you give us our orders on drawing before you go, sir?" asked
"No," smiled Blaisdell. "If you've made a blunder out on Nineteen,
then you're not to be trusted with drawing. Wait until I return.
Take it easy until then."
"Neither you nor Hazelton are to let a word cross your lips regarding
the disagreement over Section Nineteen."
"You'll never have any trouble, sir, over our talking when we ought
not to do it," promised Reade.
Two minutes later the assistant engineer rode out with a pair of
rodmen whom he picked up on the way to Nineteen.
"What happened?" asked Harry, coming into the big tent.
Tom told him all that had taken place, adding the caution that
nothing was to be said about the matter for the present.
"Whew! I wish Mr. Blaisdell had let me go along," murmured Hazelton.
"I'd like to have seen his face when he finds out!"
Hearing footsteps approaching outside, Reade signaled for silence.
Then the flap of the tent was pulled back and Bad Pete glanced in.
"Howdy, pardners?" was the greeting from the bad man, that caused
Tom Reade almost to fall from his campstool.
"How are you, Peter?" returned Tom. "This is, indeed, a pleasure."
"Where's the boss?" continued Bad Pete.
"If you mean Mr. Thurston, he's away."
"Where's Blaisdell, then?"
"He hit the trail, just a few minutes ago," Tom responded.
"Then I suppose you have no objections if I sit in here a while?"
"Peter," replied Tom solemnly, "you'll be conferring a great honor
The bad man's present mood was so amiable that Harry did not deem
it desertion to go outside. Bad Pete had his cartridge belt restocked
with sure-enough cartridges, and his revolver swung as jauntily
in its holster as ever. Pete seemed to have no idea, however, of
trying to terrify anyone with his hardware.
"You've been away?" suggested Tom, by way of making conversation,
after an awkward silence had endured for nearly two minutes.
"Yep," admitted the bad one. "Pardner, it seems like home to
get back. Do you know, Reade, I've taken a big liking to you?"
"Peter," protested Tom, "if you don't look out you'll make me
the vainest cub on earth."
"I mean it," asserted Pete. "Pardner, I've a notion me and you
are likely to become big friends."
"I never dared to hope for so much," breathed Tom, keeping back
"'Cause," continued Bad Pete, "I reckon you're one of the kind
that never goes back on a real pardner."
"I should hope not," Tom assured him.
"Have a cigar?" urged Pete, doffing his sombrero and taking out
a big, black weed that he tendered the cub.
"What's the matter with it?" asked Tom curiously.
For just a second Bad Pete's eyes flashed. Then he choked back
all signs of anger as he drawled:
"The only matter with this cigar, pardner, is that it's a gen-u-wine
"I couldn't tell it from a genuine Baltimore," asserted Tom.
"But I suppose that is because I never smoked."
"You never smoked? Pardner, you've got a lot to learn," replied
Bad Pete, as he put the cigar back in his hat and replaced the
latter on his head. "And, while we're talking about such matters,
pardner, you might just hand me a twenty for a few days."
"Twenty dollars?" returned Tom. "Peter, until payday gets around
I won't have twenty cents."
Bad Pete gazed at the cub keenly.
"Fact!" Tom assured him.
"Huh!" grunted Pete, rising. "I've been wasting my time on a pauper!"
Saying which, he stalked out.
Tom discreetly repressed his desire to laugh. Hazelton glided
into the tent, grinning.
"Tom, be careful not to string Bad Pete so hard, or, one of these
days, you'll get him so mad that he won't be able to resist drilling
you through with lead."
"Let's go over to the cook tent and either beg or steal something
to eat," proposed Reade.
It was two hours later when a rodman rode hurriedly into camp.
"Hey, you cubs," he called, "come and help me get Mr. Blaisdell's
bed ready for him. He's coming back sick."
"Sick?" demanded Reade, thunderstruck. "Why, he looked healthy
enough when he went out of camp a little while ago."
"He's sick enough, now," retorted the rodman.
"What ails Mr. Blaisdell?" asked Harry.
"It's mountain fever, I reckon," rejoined the rodman. "Blaisdell
must have been off color for days, and didn't really know it."
All three worked rapidly getting everything in readiness for the
coming of the assistant engineer. Then Mr. Blaisdell was brought
in, on a stretcher rigged between two ponies. The acting chief
is face was violently flushed, his eyes seemed bright as diamonds.
"Reade," said the acting chief thickly, as they lifted him from
the litter to his cot, "if I'm not better by morning you'll have
to get word to the chief."
"Yes, sir," assented Reade, placing a hand on Blaisdell's forehead.
It felt hot and feverish. "May I ask, sir, if you verified any
of the sights on Nineteen?"
"I—-I took some of 'em," replied the acting chief hesitatingly.
"Reade, I'm not sure that I remember aright, but I think—-I
think—-you and Hazelton were correct about that. I—-wish I
Bill Blaisdell closed his eyes, and his voice trailed off into
murmurs that none around him could understand. Even Reade, with
his very slight experience in such matters, realized that the
acting chief was a very sick man.
"You cubs better clear out of here now," suggested one of the
rodmen. "I know better how to take care of men with mountain fever."
"I hope you do know more about nursing than I do, Carter," replied
Tom very quietly. "In the future, however, don't forget that,
though I may be a cub, I am an engineer, and you are a rodman.
When you speak to me address me as Mr. Reade. Come, men, all
out of here but the nurse."
Once in the open Tom turned to Harry with eyes ablaze.
"Harry, could anything be tougher? The chief away, the acting
chief down with fever and on the verge of delirium—-and a crooked
engineer in our crowd who's doing his best to sell out the S.B.
& L.—-bag, baggage and charter!"
THE CHIEF TOTTERS FROM COMMAND
It was not like Tom Reade to waste time in wondering what to do.
"Harry," he continued, once more turning upon his chum, "I want
you to get a pony saddled as fast as you can. You know that the
telegraph wire is being brought along as fast as it can be done.
This morning I heard Rutter say that it was hardly five miles
back of us on the trail. Get into saddle, wire the chief at the
construction camp, and bring back his orders as fast as you can
Hazelton replied only with a nod, then broke into a sprint for
the spot where the saddle animals were tethered. Two minutes
later Harry, though not a crack horseman, left camp at a gallop.
In Blaisdell's tent matters dragged along. Ice was needed, but
none was to be had. Cloths were wrung out in spring water and
applied to the sick man's head. Within half an hour Tom received
word that the acting chief was "out of his head."
Later on Hazelton galloped back into camp bearing this despatch:
"Reade, Engineer Corps.
Take charge of camp until Rutter returns. Then turn over charge
to him. Rush for the nearest physician; engage him to remain
at camp and look after Blaisdell. I return tonight.
(Signed) Thurston, Chief Engineer."
"Men," called Tom striding over to the little party of rodmen,
"tell me where the nearest physician is to be found."
"Doe Jitney, at Bear's Cave," replied one of the men.
"How far is that?"
"Fourteen miles, by the trail."
"Get on to a pony, then, and go after Dr. Gitney. Bring him here
and tell him we'll want him here for the present. Tell the doctor
to bring all the medicines he'll need, and both of you ride fast."
"I'm not going on your orders," retorted the man sullenly.
"Yes, you are," Tom informed him promptly. "I'm in charge, for
the present, and acting under Mr. Thurston's orders. If you don't
go, you won't eat any more in this camp, or draw any more pay
here. It's work or jump for you—-and discharge if you lose or
waste any time on the way. Mr. Blaisdell's life is at stake.
The man so ordered scowled, but he rose, went over and saddled
a pony and rode out of camp.
"That part is attended to," sighed Tom. "Hang it, I wish we could
get hold of some ice. I don't know much, but I do know that ice
is needed in high fevers. I wonder if anyone here knows where
ice can be had? By Jove, there's Peter! He knows more about
this country than anyone else around here."
It was now within an hour of the time when the engineer parties
might be expected hack into camp. Reade, however, was not of
the sort to lose an hour needlessly.
Tom had just caught sight of Bad Pete as the latter stepped through
a little gully an eighth of a mile below the trail and vanished
into some green brush.
"I'll run after him," Tom decided. "Pete wants a little money,
and this will be a chance for him to earn it—-if he can find
some man to drive a load of ice to camp."
Being a trained runner, Tom did not consume much time in nearing
the spot where he had last seen Bad Pete. The lad put two fingers
up to his mouth, intending to whistle, when he heard a twig snap
behind him. Tom turned quickly, then, warned by some instinct,
stepped noiselessly behind high brush. The newcomer was 'Gene
"Pete!" called Black softly.
"Oy!" answered a voice some distance away.
"That you, Pete?" called the engineer.
"Then close in here. I have doings for you."
Tom Reade should have stepped out into sight. He was neither
spy nor eavesdropper. For once, something within urged him to
keep out of sight and silent.
"Where be you, pardner?" called Pete's voice, nearer at hand now.
"Right here, Pete," called Black.
"What do you want, pardner?" demanded the bad man, coming through
"Lend me a couple of hundred dollars, Pete," laughed 'Gene Black.
"Did you call me here for any such fool talk as that?" scowled Pete.
"No," Black admitted. "Pete, I don't believe you have two hundred
dollars. But you'd like to have. Now, wouldn't you!"
"Two hundred silver bricks," retorted Bad Pete, his eyes gleaming,
"is the price of shooting up a whole town. Pardner, just get me an
extra box of cartridges and lead me to that town! But have you got
"Yes," laughed Black, holding up a roll of greenbacks. "This
and more, too!"
Bad Pete surveyed the money hungrily.
"Some men who know me," he muttered thickly, "would be afraid
to show me a whole bankful of money when there was no one else
"I'm not afraid of you, Pete," replied Black quietly. "You might
shoot me, if you felt you could get away with it. Do you notice
that my left hand is in my pocket! I'm a left-handed shooter,
Pete glanced covertly at that bulging left trousers' pocket of
"You won't have to do anything like that to get the money, Pete.
Save your cartridges for other people. There, I've let go of
my gun. Come close and listen to what I have to say—-but only
in your ear."
There followed some moments of whisperings Try as he would, Reade
could not make out a word of what was being said until at last
Bad Pete muttered audibly, in a low, hoarse voice:
"You're not doing that on your own account, Black?"
"No, Pete; I'm not."
"Then you must really be working for the road that wants to steal
the charter away—-the W.C. & A.?"
"Perhaps so, Pete. You don't need to know that. All you have
to know is what I want done. I'm a business man, Pete, and money
is the soul of business. Here!"
Black peeled some banknotes from his roll.
"Ten twenties, Pete. That makes the two hundred I was talking
to you about. Understand, man, that isn't your pay. That's simply
your expense money, for you to spend while you're hanging about.
Stick to me, do things just as I want them done, and your pay
will run several times as high as your expense money."
"Do you know how long I've been looking for this sort o' thing,
pardner?" Pete inquired huskily.
"No; of course not," rejoined 'Gene Black rather impatiently.
"All my life," returned Bad Pete solemnly. "Pardner, I'll sell
myself to you for the money you've been talking about."
"Come along, then. We're too near the camp. I want to talk with
you where we're not so likely to be interfered with by people who
have too much curiosity."
"If that means me," quoth Tom Reade inwardly, "the shoe fits to
Tom followed the pair for a little way, with a stealth that was
born in him for the present need. Then the plotters stepped into
a rocky, open gully, where the cub engineer could not have followed
without being seen.
"Oh, dear! I never wanted to follow anyone as much in my life!"
groaned Reade in his disappointment.
There was nothing to do but to go back. Then, too, with a guilty
start, Tom remembered the great need of ice for poor, fever-tossed,
big-hearted Bill Blaisdell, who had been so kind to the two cubs
from the hour of their arrival in the field camp.
Just as he stepped into the camp area Tom espied Jack Rutter,
who also saw him and came quickly forward.
"I've been looking everywhere for you, Reade," said Rutter, in
a tone that was close to carrying reproach with it.
"I've been absent on real business, Rutter," Tom answered, with
a flush, nevertheless. "Mr. Blaisdell must have ice a lot of it."
"Great Scott! Where shall we find it in these mountains in midsummer?"
"We've got to have it, haven't we?" Tom urged. "It will be the
first thing that the doctor will call for."
"Then he should bring it with him," returned Rutter.
"Would you want the doctor to be hampered with a ton or so of
ice!" asked Reade.
"Would we need that much?" Rutter seemed hopelessly ignorant in
"I imagine we'd want a lot of it," Tom answered. "By the way,
"Well?" Jack inquired.
Tom was on the point of giving a hint of what he had heard in
the gully during the meeting between Black and Bad Pete. Then,
on second thought, the cub engineer decided to hold that news
for the ear of Mr. Thurston alone.
"What were you going to say?" pressed Rutter.
"Probably Hazelton has told you," Tom continued, "that you're
in charge here until Mr. Thurston arrives."
"Yes; and I'm mighty glad that the chief will be here before daylight
tomorrow," returned Jack. "I may be a fair sort of engineer, but I'm
not cut out for a chief engineer."
Later, one of the rodmen was sent to guide Harry to the nearest
small town, twenty-eight miles away, for ice. If they succeeded
in obtaining it they might be back by dark of the following day.
Supper in camp was a gloomy meal. No one felt light-hearted.
"Mr. Rutter," asked Tom, approaching the temporary chief, soon
after the evening meal, "what do you want Hazelton and myself
to do this evening?"
"Don't ask me," returned Jack, with a shrug of his shoulders.
"What have you been doing? Drawing?"
"Why don't you go on with it?"
"We're at a point where we need orders, for we've had to lay down
one part of the work while waiting for further instructions."
"I can't help you any, then," replied Rutter. "Sorry, but before
I could give any orders I'd need a few myself."
At eleven o'clock that night Dr. Gitney arrived, with saddle-bags
full of medicines and other necessaries. He saw Blaisdell, and
pronounced the assistant engineer a very sick man.
Shortly after midnight Mr. Thurston rode into camp. He tottered
from saddle and reeled until Tom, on the lookout for him, ran
forward and supported the chief engineer to his tent.
Then Dr. Gitney was sent for and came.
"Your chief has mountain fever, too," said the medical attendant
to Tom, after stepping outside the tent.
"How long will it take them to get well?" asked Wade anxiously.
"Weeks! Hard to say," replied the physician vaguely.
"Weeks!" groaned Tom Reade. "And the camp now in charge of Jack
Rutter, who's a fine workman but no leader! Doc Gitney doesn't
know it, but he has sentenced the S.B. & L. railroad to death!"
It was a trying situation. The cub engineer felt it keenly, for
he had set his heart on seeing the S.B. & L. win out over its rival.
Then, too, all in a flash, the memory of 'Gene Black's treachery
to his employers came back to the mind of Tom Reade.
FROM CUB TO ACTING CHIEF
Tom didn't sleep that night. He sat by, silently, in the big
tent, nursing the patient as Dr. Gitney directed.
In the morning, at five, Matt Rice came. Tom gladly surrendered
the post to him and took a scant hour of deep slumber on the bare
"Wake up, Reade," ordered Rutter, at last shaking the cub and
hauling him to his feet. "This is no place to sleep. Go to your
tent and stretch out full length on your cot."
"On my cot?" demanded Tom, rubbing his eyes fiercely. "You can't
spare me from the day's work?"
"I don't believe there will be any day's work," Rutter answered.
"You're in charge, man! You must put us to work," Tom insisted.
"I don't know just what ought to be done," complained Rutter.
"I shall have to wait for orders."
"Orders?" repeated Tom, in almost breathless scorn. "From whom
can you get orders?"
"Howe is Thurston's assistant at the lower camp," Rutter rejoined.
"He'll have to come over here and take real charge. I'm going
to send a messenger to the telegraph station and wire Mr. Howe
to come here at once."
"See here, Rutter," blazed Tom insistently, "Mr Howe is in charge of
the construction forces. He's laying the bed and the tracks. He
can't be spared from the construction work for even a day, or the
road will fail to get through, no matter what we do here. Man,
you've simply got to be up and doing! Make some mistakes, if you
have to, but don't lie down and kill the S.B. & L. with inaction."
"Cub," laughed Rutter good-humoredly, "you speak as if this were
a big personal matter with you."
"Oh, isn't it, thought" retorted Tom Reade with spirit. "My whole
heart is centered on seeing the S.B. & L. win out within the time
granted by its charter. Rutter, if you don't take hold with a
rush and make a live, galloping start with your new responsibilities,
I'm afraid I'll go wild and assault you violently!"
"Ha, ha, ha!" Jack laughed loudly.
"Here, stop that cackling," ordered Reade in the same low voice
that he had been using. "Let's get away from the chief's tent.
We'll disturb him with our noise."
Dr. Gitney, entering the big tent five minutes later, found Mr.
Thurston very much awake, for he had heard the low-voiced conversation
outside the tent. Mr. Thurston was not quite as ill as was Blaisdell,
and had not as yet reached the stage of delirium.
"Doctor, I want you to summon the engineer corps here," begged
"When you're better," replied the doctor, with a hand on the sick
"Doc, you'd better let me have my way," insisted Mr. Thurston
in a weak voice. "If you don't, you'll make me five times more
ill than I am at present."
Watching the fever glow in the man's face deepen, and feeling
the pulse go up several beats per minute, Dr. Gitney replied:
"There, there, Thurston. Be good, and I'll let you have three
minutes with your engineers."
"That's all I ask," murmured the sick man eagerly.
Dr. Gitney went outside and rounded them up. All were present
except 'Gene Black, who, according to Matt Rice, had taken a little
walk outside of camp.
"I hope you'll soon be better, sir," began Rutter, as the engineers
gathered at the cot of their stricken chief.
"Don't say anything unnecessary, and don't waste my time," begged
Mr. Thurston. "Rutter, do you feel equal to running this field
corps until either Blaisdell or I can take charge again?"
"No, I don't chief," replied Jack. "I've sent a wire to Howe, urging
him to come here and take charge."
"Howe can't come," replied the chief. "If he does, the construction
work will go to pieces. This corps will have to be led by someone
Morris and Rice gazed eagerly at their chief. Butter showed his
relief at being allowed to hack out from full control.
As for Timothy Thurston, he let his gaze wander from face to face.
"Reade!" he almost whispered.
"Yes, sir!" answered Tom, stepping gently forward. "What can
I do for you, sir?"
"Reade," came in another whisper, "can you—-have you the courage
to take the post of acting chief?"
Several gasps of astonishment broke on the air, but the greatest
gasp of all came from Reade himself.
"I think you need a little sleep now, sir," urged Tom.
"I'm not out of my head," smiled Timothy Thurston wanly. "Doc
Gitney will tell you that. Come—-for I'm growing very tired.
Can you swing this outfit and push the S.B. & L. through within
"I—-I—-hardly know what to say," stammered Tom, who felt dizzy
from the sudden rush of blood to his head.
"Have you the courage to try?"
"Yes, sir—-I have!" came, without further hesitation from Tom
Reade. "I believe I'll succeed, at that, for I'll stake health,
and even life, on winning out!"
"That's what I like to hear," breathed Mr. Thurston, an added flush
coming to his own face.
"Gentlemen, it's time to leave," warned Dr. Gitney, watching his
"One moment more, Doc," insisted the chief engineer feebly.
"Gentlemen, you've heard what has just been said. Will everyone of
you pledge himself on his honor to drop all feeling that might
interfere? Will you all stand loyally by Reade, take his orders
and help boost him and all the rest of us through to victory in this
"I will!" spoke Jack Rutter earnestly and with a deep sigh of relief.
The others added their promises.
"Reade, you will take full charge here," continued Timothy Thurston.
"Notify Mr. Howe, too, at once. You and he will not need to
conflict with each other in any way. Also notify the president
of the road, at the New York offices. Wire him at once. Now—-thank
you all, gentlemen. I believe I shall have to stop and go to sleep."
"Get out, all of you," came firmly from bearded, middle-aged Dr.
Gitney. "You fellows now have your acting chief to look to, and
you don't need to bother a sick man any more."
When Tom Reade stepped outside, on the heels of the others, he
certainly didn't feel as though treading on air. Instead, he
wondered if he were going to reel and totter, so dizzy did he
feel over the sudden realization of the responsibilities he had
taken upon himself.
"Give us our orders, chief," begged Matt Rice, with a grin, when Tom
joined the others over by the mess tent.
"Wait a few moments," urged Reade. "I don't really know whether
I am chief or a joke."
"Great Scott! After lecturing me the way you did, you are not going
to get cold feet, are you?" gasped Jack Rutter.
"You'll know what I mean before long," Tom murmured. "I signaled
to Dr. Gitney to follow me as soon as he could."
"How does it seem to know that you have only to beckon and that men
must follow?" laughed Joe Grant. It is doubtful whether Tom, gazing
at the chief's big tent, even heard.
Presently Dr. Gitney stepped outside and came toward them.
"Doctor," began Tom, "will you give me your word of honor that
Mr. Thurston is in his right mind?"
"He certainly impresses me as being so," the physician replied.
"You fully believe that he knew just what he was doing?" Tom insisted.
"I do, Reade. But why should you care? You have the reins in your
own hands now."
"I wish to keep the reins there," Tom returned quickly. "Still
I don't want to hold the power for an instant if there is reason
to believe that Mr. Thurston didn't know what he was doing."
"If that is all you required of me, Reade, rest easy and go ahead
with the big trust that has been placed in your hands," replied
"Then help me to get a few things out of the chief's tent that we
shall need," replied Tom.
"Tell me what the things are," rejoined the physician, "and I'll pass
them out. I don't want one of you in there, or Thurston will soon be
as delirious as Blaisdell is, poor fellow."
By stealth, drawing tables and instruments, several boxes of maps,
books and papers and other necessary articles were taken from
Mr. Thurston tent without awaking the sick man.
These were removed to a tent that was not occupied at the moment.
"Supper's ready, folks," announced Bob, the cook's helper, stepping
softly through camp.
Tom joined the other engineers, taking a few hasty mouthfuls.
Hardly had the party gathered in the mess tent when 'Gene Black,
bright and cheery, stepped in swiftly, nodding here and there.
"Well, Rutter, I take it you are running the camp from now on?"
"Guess just once more," replied Jack.
"Who is, then?"
Black gulped, then grinned.
"The cub? That's good!"
Black leaned back on his stool, laughing loudly.
"But who is going to boss the camp?" insisted Black, after he had
had his laugh.
"Mr. Reade!" flung back the other engineers in one voice.
"What have you to say to this, cub?" asked 'Gene Black, turning
"Mr. Thurston placed me in charge because no one else would assume
the responsibility," smiled Tom good-humoredly.
"Then you're going to stay boss for the present?"
"Unless Mr. Thurston changes his mind."
"Oh, what a fool I was to be away this afternoon!" groaned Black
to himself. "I could have gotten this chance away from a cub like
Reade. Oh, but my real task would have been easy if I had been here
on deck, and had got Thurston to turn matters over to me. Reade
will be easy! He's only a cub—-a booby. Even if he proved
shrewd—-well, I have at my disposal several ways of getting rid
Then, aloud, Black went on:
"Reade, I'm a candidate for the post of acting assistant chief
"That goes to Rutter, if he'll take it," replied Tom, with a smile.
"Oh, I'll take it," nodded Jack Rutter. "I can follow orders, when
I have someone else to give them."
Tom was intentionally pleasant with 'Gene Black. He intended
to remain pleasant—-until he was quite ready to act.
Immediately after supper Tom ordered one of the chainmen to saddle
a pony and be ready to take a message back to the telegraph service
that was rapidly overtaking them.
"I want you to be sure to get a receipt for the message from the
operator," Tom explained. "Direct the operator to get the message
through to New York at once."
"What's the use?" demanded the chainman. "It's night in New York,
the same as it is here. If the message goes through at any time
tonight it will do."
"I didn't ask you that," Tom replied quietly. "I told you to
instruct the operator, from me, to send the message at once.
Then, if there is any delay on the way, the message will still
be in New York in the morning when the company's offices open."
Then Tom Reade went to the new headquarters' tent, seated himself
at the desk and picked up a pen.
"Whew!" he muttered suddenly. "This message is going to be harder
to write than I thought! When the president of the S.B. & L. gets
my telegram, informing him that a cub is in command here, he'll blow
up! If he recovers he'll wire me that he's sending a grown man for
BLACK TURNS OTHER COLORS
Through the night Tom Reade managed to get some sound sleep.
Had he been less exhausted physically the excitement caused by
his sudden and dizzying promotion might have interfered with his
rest. As it was, he slept like a log, though, by his own orders,
he was called twice in the night to be informed as to the condition
of the two sick men.
In the morning a male nurse for whom Dr. Gitney had arranged arrived
in camp. Thereafter the physician had a little opportunity for rest.
Mr. Thurston reached the delirium stage in his illness that forenoon.
"Reade, I don't feel like going out this morning," announced 'Gene
Black, approaching the young head of the camp after early breakfast.
"What's the matter?" Tom asked pleasantly.
"I have rather a bad headache," complained Black.
"That's a woman's complaint," smiled Tom.
"Just the same, I'm not fit for duty," retorted Black rather testily.
"I hope I'm not going to come down with the fever, but I can't be
"You'd better stay in camp, then," nodded Reade. "Don't go out into
the field again until you feel like work."
"Humph! He takes it easily enough," grunted Black to himself
as the young chief strode away to confer with Butter. "I wonder
if the cub suspects the game I'm playing here? Oh, pshaw! Of
course he doesn't suspect. Why should he? The truth is that
Cub Reade doesn't realize how much every man is needed in the
field. Reade doesn't understand the big need for hustle here.
Well, that all helps to make my task the easier."
Within five minutes Rutter and the other engineers had their full
instructions. As they started away Tom called after them:
"Gentlemen, if there is any possible way of putting fifty per cent.
more work into each day, now, I know I can rely upon you all to do
it. The S.B. & L. must run its first train over the completed road
within charter time."
Now, Tom had opportunity to wonder what had happened to Harry
Hazelton, who should have been back in camp the preceding evening.
"He must have had to go farther for ice than we imagined,"
was the only conclusion Reade could form. "At any rate, Harry
won't come back until he has it. He won't bring back merely an
excuse when his commission was for a ton of ice."
Tom wandered into the new headquarters' tent, heaved a big sigh
as the weight of his new responsibilities struck him with full
force, and began a systematic examination of all the piles of
papers and maps now under his charge.
By nine o'clock Harry Hazelton and his guide returned, followed
by a four-mule transport wagon.
Tom, hearing the approach, came out and beckoned. Harry rode
"Well, I got the ice, you see," announced Hazelton.
"Did you have to go very far for it?"
"No; but you and I forgot to allow for the time that mules would
need for rest on such a steep, uphill climb. Where is the ice to go?"
"Send the man over to Jake Wren. Jake knows more about such things
than you or I will know within the next ten years."
Harry carried the order to the driver, then hurried back.
"How are our sick men?" he asked.
"Both alive, but delirious. Doc Gitney has a man nurse to help
"Did Mr. Rutter leave any orders for me?" pressed Harry.
"No; Rutter is in charge of the actual field work only."
"Who gives the main orders?"
"I do—-unless New York changes the plan."
Tom hastily narrated what had taken place in Mr. Thurston's tent
the day before. Harry listened, his eyes growing larger as he
"Tom! I'm mighty glad!" he cried delightedly. "You're going
to do the trick, too! You're going to put the S.B. & L. through
within the time allowed by the charter!"
"I'm going to do it or wear myself out," replied Reade, with a
glint of determination in his eyes. "But, Harry, the road isn't
going to go through on mere wind. We've got to work—-not talk!
Come into the new headquarters' tent. Throw the front of your
shirt open, take a few deep breaths, tie down the safety valve
and get ready to make the steam fly. I'm going over the maps
and documents, the field notes, the reports and what not. I want
you to help me untangle them and set all matters straight."
For two hours the cub engineers worked as they had never toiled
before. Then a horseman drew up before their tent.
"Telegram for Reade, acting chief engineer," called the man from
saddle. "The czar over at the cook house told me I'd find my
"I'm Reade," admitted Tom, stepping outside and receiving the
envelope. "Do you belong with the telegraph construction crowd?"
"Yes, sir," replied the young horseman.
"How long before you expect to have the line up with the camp?"
"By tomorrow night, unless you move the camp forward again."
"That's good news," nodded Reade. "Wait until I see whether there
is to be an answer to this message."
Tom stepped inside, breaking the flap of the envelope. From head
to foot he trembled as his eyes took in the following message:
"Reade, Acting Chief Engineer.
"Relying upon Thurston's judgment, and from your satisfactory
wire, conclude that Thurston chose right man for post. Assume
all responsibilities. Advise New York offices daily as to condition
of work, also condition Thurston and Blaisdell. Spare no expense
in their care. Shall join you within five days."
(Signed) "Newnham, President S.B. & L. R.R."
Having read the telegram, Tom turned to pick up a sheet of paper.
After jotting down the address of President Newnham, he added:
"Shall hustle job through rapidly if there is any way of doing
it. Shall engage extra engineers in this state. Hope to be able
to show you, on arrival, things moving at speed."
(Signed) Reade, "Acting Chief Engineer."
Then Tom shoved both despatches under his chum's eyes. Naturally
Hazelton read the one from New York first.
"Whew! The president seems to trust you," murmured Harry.
"No; he doesn't," Tom retorted. "He doesn't know anything about
me. His wire shows that he knows and trusts Mr. Thurston, the
man who picked me out for this job."
Then Tom wrote a second despatch, addressed to the State University.
It ran as follows:
"Have heard that your university has party from engineering school
in field this summer. Can you place me in immediate wire communication
with professor in charge of party? Have practical work to offer
This also Tom showed briefly to his chum. Then, picking up the
two telegrams, Tom stepped outside, turning them over to the rider.
"Ask your operator to rush both of these, the one to New York
As the pony's hoofs clicked against the gravel, Reade stepped
inside the tent.
"What are you going to do with the State University students?"
asked Harry curiously.
"Put 'em at work on the smaller jobs here," Tom answered. "At
least, as many of them as the professor will vouch for."
Three hours later Tom received an answer to his local despatch.
It was from Professor Coles, sixty miles away, in camp with a
party of thirty engineering students. The professor asked for
further particulars. Tom wired back:
"Can use your entire lot of students in practical railroad work,
if they want experience and can do work. Will you bring them
here with all speed and let us try them out? For yourself, we
offer suitable pay for a man of your attainments. Students engaged
will be paid all they are worth."
"Gracious, but you're going in at wholesale! What will President
Newnham say to you for engaging men at such a wholesale rate!"
"By the time he reaches here," replied Tom in a tone that meant
business, "either he will see results that will force him to
approve—-or else he'll give me my walking papers."
"Now, what shall we do?" inquired Hazelton.
"Nothing. It's nearly time for the field force to be back in camp."
"We'd better work every minute of the time," urged Harry.
"We're going to take things more easily after this," Tom yawned.
"Is that what you mean by hustling?"
"In a way, yes," Tom nodded. "See here, Harry, in the field we
tried to do the work of a man and a half each, didn't we? And
here at the drawing tables, too."
"Now there is need of hustling, and, if we work too hard, we simply
won't have time to plan for others, or even to know what they're
doing. There are a lot of students coming, Harry. Most of them
will be good men, for they're young, full of enthusiasm, and just
crazy to show what they can do. Some of them will doubtless be
good draughtsmen. You'll take these men and see to it that the
drawing is pushed forward. But you won't work too hard yourself.
You'll see to it that the force under you is working, and in
that way you'll be three times as useful as if you merely ground
and dug hard by yourself. I shall go light on real work, just
in order that I may have my eyes and brains where they will do
the most good every minute of the time."
Someone was approaching. Tom threw open the flap of the tent,
thus discovering that the man was Black.
"Howdy, Reade," was the greeting of the idle engineer. "I'm glad
to say that my headache is better. I'm not going to have the
fever, after all. Tomorrow I'll be out on the leveling job."
Tom shook his head.
"I want you to rest up tomorrow, Black."
"I won't do it," retorted the other flatly. "Tomorrow I go out
and continue running my levels."
"Then I may as well tell you," Tom continued, "what I would have
preferred to break to you more easily later on."
"What do you mean?" questioned the other sharply, an uneasy look
creeping into his face.
"You're not going to do any more work for us, Black," replied the
young chief coolly.
"Not do any more work, What do you mean, Reade? Am I discharged
from this corps?"
"Not yet, Black, for I haven't the money at hand to pay you to
date. So you may stay here until the paymaster comes. Then, when
you have your full amount of pay, you can leave us."
"What does this mean?" demanded 'Gene Black angrily, as he stepped
closer, his eyes blazing.
Some young men would have shrunk back before Black's menacing
manner. Tom had never yet met the man who could make him really
"I've already told you the whole story, Black."
"Why am I discharged?"
"I am not obliged to give you my reasons."
"You'll find you'll have to do so!" stormed 'Gene Black.
"Well, then," Tom answered, "you get through here because you kicked
one of the tripod legs of your leveling instrument the other day, and
left a mark on the wood."
"Don't you try to be funny with me, you young hound!" hissed Black,
stepping so close that Tom gently pushed him back. "You young
idiot! Do you think you can fire me—-and get away with it?"
"We won't talk about it any more," Tom answered. "Your time will
be all your own until the paymaster arrives. After you've received
your money you will leave camp."
"Are any of the others going?"
"Then you're discharging me for personal reasons!" snarled 'Gene
Black. "However, you can't do it! I'll wire the president of
the road, at New York."
"He won't receive your wire," Tom assured the irate one. "President
Newnham is on his way here. Probably he'll arrive here before
the paymaster does. You may take your case to President Newnham
in person if you wish."
"That's what I'll do, then!" breathed 'Gene Black fiercely.
"And I'll take your place in charge here, cub! If I don't, you
shall never finish the S.B. & L!"
BAD PETE MIXES IN SOME
Forty-Eight hours later Professor Coles arrived in camp with thirty
healthy, joyous young students of engineering.
It didn't take Tom half an hour to discover that he had some excellent
material here. As for the professor himself, that gentleman was
a civil engineer of the widest experience.
"I shall need you to advise me, professor," Tom explained. "While
I had the nerve to take command here, I'm only a boy, after all,
and you'll be surprised when you find out how much there is that
I don't know."
"It's very evident, Mr. Reade," smiled the professor, "that you
know the art of management, and that's the important part in any
line of great work."
The student party had brought their own tents and field equipment
with them. Their arrival had been a total surprise in camp, as
none of the other engineers, save Harry, had known what was in
"If these boys don't make mistakes by wholesale," declared Jack
Butter, "we'll just boost the work along after this. I wonder
why Mr. Thurston never hit upon the idea of adding such a force?"
"It's very likely he has been thinking of it all along," Tom rejoined.
"The main point, however, is that we seem to have a bully field
Four of the students had been selected to serve as map-making
force under Harry Hazelton. The rest were going out into the
field, some of them as engineers in embryo, the rest as chainmen
Though the field outfit now presented a lively appearance, all
was kept as quiet as possible in and near the camp, for neither
Mr. Thurston nor Mr. Blaisdell knew what was going on about them.
Both were still delirious, and very ill.
"Now I see why you could afford to 'fire' me and let the work
slack up for a while," sneered Black, meeting Reade after dark.
"Do you?" asked Tom.
"These boys will spoil the whole business. You don't seem to
have any idea of the numbers of fool mistakes that boys can make."
"They're good fellows, anyway, and honest," Tom rejoined.
"Give some of 'em leveling work out on Section Nineteen," suggested
'Gene, apparently seized with a sudden thought. "Then compare
their field notes with mine, and see how far out they are."
"I happen to know all about your leveling notes on Nineteen,"
Reade retorted rather significantly.
"What do you mean?" flared Black.
"Just before Mr. Thurston was taken ill, as it happened, Hazelton
and I took a leveling instrument out on Nineteen one day and ran
your sights over after you."
"So that's why you 'fired'——-" began Black, his thoughts moving
swiftly. Then, realizing that he was about to say too much, he
went on: "What did you find wrong with my sights on Nineteen?"
"I didn't say that anything was wrong with your work," Reade rejoined.
"What I was about to say was that, if I put any of the students
at leveling on Nineteen, by way of test, I shall have my own notes
with which to compare theirs."
"Humph!" muttered the fellow. Then shaking with anger, he walked
away from the young chief.
"Now, Black knows that much against himself," smiled Reade inwardly.
"He doesn't yet know, however, that I heard him talking with
Though he was pretending to take things easily, Tom's head was
all but whirling with the many problems that presented themselves
to him. To get away from it all for a while Tom strolled a short
distance out of camp, seating himself on the ground under a big
tree not far from the trail.
Five minutes later the young chief heard halting footsteps that
struck his ear as being rather stealthy. Someone, from camp,
was heading that way. Stealth in the other's movements made Reade
draw himself back into the shadow.
'Gene Black halted not far from the tree. Turning back toward
the camp, the fellow shook his fist violently in that direction.
"He's certainly thinking of me," grimaced Reade.
"You young cub, you may laugh for a day or two more!" muttered
Black, with another shake of his fist.
"If that's meant for me, I'm much obliged, I'm sure," thought
Reade. "Laughing is always a great pleasure for me."
"It's your turn now," continued Black, in the same low, passionate
tone, "but I'll soon have you blocked—-or else under the sod!"
"Oho!" reflected the young acting chief engineer, not without
a slight shudder. "Is assassination in the plans of the people
behind 'Gene Black's treachery? Or is putting me under the sod
merely an addition that Black has made for his own pleasure?"
The plotter, still unaware of the eavesdropper, had now turned
and was walking down the trail. He was now so far from camp that
he did not need to be soft-footed.
Out of the shadow, after a brief pause, stole Tom Reade.
"If Black is going to meet anyone tonight I'd better be near to
the place of meeting. I might hear something that would teach
me just what to do to checkmate the plotters against us."
For fully half a mile the chase continued. Two or three times Reade
stepped against some slight obstacle in the darkness, making a
sound which, he feared, would travel to the ears of Black. But
the latter kept on his way.
Finally 'Gene Black halted where three trees grew in the form
of a triangle and threw a dense shadow. In the same instant the
young chief engineer dropped out of sight behind a boulder close
to the path.
Black's low, thrilling whistle sounded. A night bird's call answered.
Soon afterwards, another form appeared, and Tom, peering anxiously,
was sure that he recognized the man whom he expected to see—-Bad
What Tom heard came disjointedly—-a few words here and there,
but enough to set him thinking "at the rate of a mile a minute,"
as he told himself.
Up the trail came the pair, after some minutes. Tom crouched
flat behind his boulder.
"Great! I hope they'll halt within a few feet and go on talking
about the things that I want to hear—-must hear!" quivered Reade.
It was provoking! Black and Bad Pete passed so close, yet the
only sound from either of them, while within earshot, was a chuckle
"That's right! Laugh," gritted disappointed Tom. "Laughing is in
your line! You're planning, somehow, to put the big laugh over the
whole line of the S.B. & L. railroad. If I could only hear a little
more I might be able to turn the laugh on you!"
The pair went on out of sight. Tom waited where he was for more
than half an hour.
"Now, the coast is surely clear," thought Reade at last. He rose
and started campward.
"The soft-foot, the rubber shoe won't work now," Tom decided.
"If I were to go along as if trying not to run into anyone, and
that pair got first sight of me, it would make them suspicious.
I haven't been eavesdropping—-oh, no! I'm merely out taking
a night stroll to ease my nerves."
Therefore the cub chief puckered his lips, emitting a cheery whistling
as he trudged along up the trail.
As it happened the pair whom Tom sought had not yet parted. From
behind a boulder a man stepped out in his path. From the other
side of the boulder another man moved in behind him.
"Out for the air, Reade?" asked the sneering voice of 'Gene Black.
"Hello, Black—-is that you?"
"Now, Black," broke in the voice of Bad Pete, "you wanted this
cub, and he's all yours! What are you going to do with him?"
BLACK'S PLOT OPENS WITH A BANG
"Some mistake here, gentlemen," interjected Tom Reade coolly.
"Unless I'm very badly informed I don't belong to either of you.
If anyone owns me, then I belong to the S.B. & L."
"I told you I'd make you settle with me for throwing me out of
the camp," remarked Black disagreeably.
"You're not out yet—-more's the pity," Tom retorted. "You will
be, however, as soon as the paymaster arrives."
"You're wrong," jeered 'Gene. "You're out—-from this minute!"
"What do you mean?" Tom inquired, looking Black steadily in the eye.
Yet the young chief engineer had a creepy realization of just
what the pair did mean. Black must have confederates somewhere
in the mountains near. It was evidently the rascal's intention
to seize Tom and carry him away where he would be held a prisoner
until he had lost all hope of regaining his position at the head
of the railroad's field force.
"You say that I'll be thrown out of camp very soon," sneered Black.
"The fact is, you are not going back to camp."
"What's going to stop me?" Reade inquired, with no sign of fear.
"You're not going back to camp!" Black insisted.
"Someone has been giving you the wrong tip," smiled Tom.
He started forward, brushing past Black. It was mainly a pretense,
for Reade had no notion but that he would be stopped.
With a savage cry Black seized him by the shoulders.
Tom made a quick turn, shaking the fellow off. While he was thus
occupied Bad Pete slipped about, and now confronted Reade. The
muzzle of a revolver was pressed against the young engineer's belt.
"Hoist your hands!" ordered Pete warningly.
Tom obeyed, though he hoisted his hands only as far as his mouth.
Forming a megaphone, he gave vent to a loud yell of:
"Roo-rup! roo-rup! roo-rup!"
It was one of the old High School yells of the good old Gridley
days—-one of the yells sometimes used as a signal of distress
by famous old Dick & Co., of which Tom Reade had been a shining
On the still air of the mountain night that yell traveled far
and clearly. It was a call of penetrating power, traveling farther
than its sound would suggest.
"You do that again, you young coyote, and I'll begin to pump!"
growled Bad Pete savagely.
"I won't need to do it again," Tom returned. "Wait a few minutes,
and you'll see."
"Shall I drop him, Black?" inquired Pete.
'Gene Black was about to answer in the affirmative, when a sound
up the trail caught his attention.
"There's someone coming," snarled Black, using his keen powers
"Wait and I'll introduce you," mocked Tom Reade.
"We won't wait. Neither will you," retorted Black. "You'll come
with us. About face and walk fast!"
"I'm not going your way tonight," replied Reade calmly.
"If he doesn't obey every order like a flash, Pete, then you pull
the trigger and wind this cub up."
"All right," nodded Pete. "Cub, you heard what Black said?"
"Yes," replied Tom, looking at Pete with smiling eyes.
"Then come along," ordered Black, seizing Tom by one arm.
"I won't!" Tom declared flatly.
"You know what refusal means. Pete is steady on the trigger."
"Is he?" asked Reade coolly.
Watching like a cat through his sleepy-looking eyes, Reade suddenly
shot his right hand across his abdomen in such fashion as to knock
away the muzzle of the revolver. Bad Pete felt himself seized
in a football tackle that had been the terror of more than one
opposing High School football player.
Crash! Pete struck the ground, Reade on top of him.
'Gene Black darted to the aid of his companion, but shrank back
as he caught the glint of the revolver that Tom had twisted out
of the hand of the bad man.
"Duck, Black!" warned Tom, in a quiet tone that nevertheless had
a deadly note in it.
"Where are you?" called the voice of Harry Hazelton, not two hundred
yards up the trail now.
"Here!" called Tom.
"Wow-ow-ow! Whoop!" yelled a chorus of college boys.
It all took place in a very few seconds. Black, hesitating whether
or not to close with Reade, decided on flight. He turned and
Whizz-zz-zz! The sound was made by the captured revolver as Tom,
leaping to his feet, threw it as far from him as he could. It
sailed through space, next disappearing over the edge of a steep
"What's your hurry, Peter?" drawled Reade, as, jerking Bad Pete
to his feet, he planted a kick that sent the bad man down the
trail a dozen feet.
Tom started after Pete, intent on another kick. Bad Pete sped
down the trail blindly. Like most of his gun-play kind, he had
little courage when deprived of his implement of murder.
"What's up, Tom?" demanded Harry Hazelton, leaping to the spot.
"What's the row, chief?" asked one of the university boys eagerly.
"Anyone you want us to catch? Whoop! Lead the way to the running
track while we show you our best time!"
"There's nothing to be done, I think," laughed Tom. "Do you all
know Black by sight?"
"Yes," came the answer from a score of throats.
"Well," Tom continued, "if any of you ever catch sight of him
in the camp again you are hereby authorized to run him out by
the use of any kind of tactics that won't result fatally."
On the way up the trail Tom told the rescue party something about
the late affair.
However, Reade referred to it only as a personal quarrel, refraining
from making any mention of the treachery of Black and of the plots
of which that treacherous engineer was a part.
"If you've many friends like that one, chief, you had better strap
a gun on to your belt."
"I don't like revolver carrying," Tom replied bluntly. "It always
makes a coward of a fellow."
Two mornings later the telegraph wire, one end of which now rested
in a tent in camp, brought word that President Newnham was at the
construction camp, and would be along in the course of the day.
Tom, Harry and the draughtsmen were the only engineers in camp
at the hour when the message arrived.
"Big doings coming our way!" announced Tom, after he had broken
the news to the others.
"Is Mr. Newnham likely to make much of a shake-up?" asked Watson,
one of the college-boy draughtsmen.
"I've never met him," Tom answered, "and I don't know. We're
going along at grand old speed, and Mr. Newnham had better let
things run just as they're going now, if he wants to see the S.B.
& L. open for traffic within charter time."
"He may give all of us university boys the swift run," laughed
another of the draughtsmen.
"I don't believe it," Tom replied. "The added help that you fellows
have given us has enabled us to double our rush forward. I've a
notion that President Newnham is a man of great common sense."
"How are the sick men this morning," inquired Harry. "Is either
one of them fit to talk with the president?"
"Doc Gitney says he won't allow any caller within a thousand feet
of his patients," Tom smiled. "And Doc seems to be a man of his
Both Mr. Thurston and Mr. Blaisdell were now weakly conscious,
in a half-dazed sort of way. Their cases were progressing favorably
on the whole, though it would be weeks ere either would be fit
to take charge of affairs.
The camp had been moved forward, so as to leave the sick men about
a fifth of a mile away from the scenes of camp activity. This
insured quiet for them until they were able to endure noise once more.
"You'll be amazingly busy until the president gets here, I take
it," remarked Bushrod, another college boy, without glancing up
from his drawing table.
"Yes," drawled Tom, with a smile. "When you get time to breathe
look out of the door and see what I'm doing."
Tom walked over to his favorite seat, a reclining camp chair that
he had placed under a broad shade tree. Seating himself, the
cub chief opened a novel that he had borrowed from one of the
"It looks lazy," yawned Tom, "but what can I do? I've hustled
the corps, but I'm up with them to the last minute of work they've
done. There is nothing more I can do until they bring me more
work. I might ride out and see how the fellows are coming along
in the field, but I was out there yesterday, and I know all they're
doing, and everyone of their problems. Besides, if I rode afield,
I'd miss Mr. Newnham."
So he opened the book and read for an hour. Then he glanced up
as a stranger on horseback rode into camp.
"Tell me where I can find Mr. Reade," said the new arrival.
"You're looking at hire," Tom replied.
"No, son; I want your father," explained the horseman.
"If you go on horseback it will take you months to reach him,"
Tom explained. "My father lives 'way back east."
"But I want the chief engineer of this outfit," insisted the stranger.
"Then you're at the end of your journey."
"Don't tell me, young man, that you're the chief engineer," protested
"No," Tom admitted modestly. "I'm only the acting chief. Hold
on. If you think I'm not responsible for that statement you might
ask any of the fellows over in the headquarters tent."
At that moment Harry Hazelton thrust his head out through the
"Young man," hailed the stranger, "I want to find the chief."
"Reach out your hand, and you can touch him on the shoulder,"
answered Hazelton, and turned back.
"I know I don't look entirely trustworthy," grinned Tom, "but
I've been telling you the truth."
"Then, perhaps," continued the stranger, looking keenly at the
cub engineer, "you'll know why I'm here. I'm Dave Fulsbee."
"You're mighty welcome, then," cried Tom, reaching out his hand.
"I've been wondering where you were."
"I came as soon as I could get the wagon-load of equipment together,"
"Where is the wagon?"
"Coming along up the trail. It will be here in about twenty minutes."
"I'll be glad to see your equipment, and to set you at work as
soon as we're ready," Reade went on. "Harry, show Mr. Fulsbee
the tent we've set aside for himself and his helper."
"Who is that party?" questioned Watson, as Hazelton started off
with the newcomer in tow.
"Oh, just a new expert that we're taking on," Tom drawled.
Ten minutes later all other thoughts were driven from Reade's
mind. A mountain wagon was sighted coming up the trail, drawn
by a pair of grays. The stout gentleman, on the rear seat, dressed
in the latest fashion, even to his highly polished shoes, must
surely be all the way from Broadway.
"Mr. Newnham?" queried Tom, advancing to the wagon as it halted.
"Yes; is Mr. Reade here?"
"You're speaking to him, sir," smiled the cub engineer.
Mr. Newnham took a quick look, readjusted his spectacles, and
looked once more. Tom bore the scrutiny calmly.
"I expected to find a very young man here, Mr. Reade, but you're
considerably younger than I had expected. Yet Howe, in charge
of the construction corps, tells me that you've been hustling
matters at this field survey end. How are you, Reade?"
Mr. Newnham descended from the wagon, at once holding out his hand.
"I'm very comfortable, thank you, sir," Tom smiled.
"You're dreadfully busy, I'm sure," continued the president of
the S.B. & L. "In fact, Reade, I feel almost guilty in coming
here and taking up your time when you've such a drive on. Don't
let me detain you. I can go right on into the field and talk
with you there."
"It won't be necessary, sir," Tom answered, with another smile.
"I'm not doing anything in particular."
"Nothing in particular? Why, I thought——-"
"I don't do any tearing around myself," laughed Reade. "Since
you were kind enough to make me acting chief engineer here I've
kept the other fellows driving pretty hard, and I have every bit
of work done right up to the minute. Yet, as for myself, I have
little to do, most of the day, except to sit in a camp easy chair,
or else I ride a bit over the ground and see just where the fellows
"You take it mighty easily," murmured President Newnham.
"A chief may, if he has the sense to know how to work his
subordinates," Tom continued. "I don't believe, sir, that you'll
find any fault with the way matters have gone forward."
"Let me see the latest reports," urged Mr. Newnham.
"Certainly, sir, if you'll come into the head-quarters tent."
Leading the way into the tent where Harry Hazelton and his draughting
force were at work, Tom announced:
"Gentlemen, Mr. Newnham, president of the S.B. & L., wishes to
look over the reports and the maps with me. You may lay off until
called back to work."
As the others filed out of the tent, Tom made Harry a sign to
remain. Then the three went over the details of what the field
survey party was doing.
"From all I can see," remarked President Newnham, "you have done
wonderfully well, Reade. I can certainly find no fault with Tim
Thurston for recommending that you be placed in charge. Thurston
will certainly be jealous when he gets on his feet again. You
have driven the work ahead in faster time than Thurston himself
was able to do."
"It's very likely, sir," replied Tom Reade, "that I have had an
easier part of the country to work through than Mr. Thurston had.
Then, again, the taking on of the engineer student party from
the State University has enabled us to get ahead with much greater
"I wonder why Thurston never thought to take on the students,"
murmured Mr. Newnham.
Bang! sounded an explosion, a mile or two to the westward.
"I didn't know that you were doing any blasting, Reade," observed
the president of the S.B. & L.
"Neither did I, sir," Tom replied, rising and listening.
Bang! bang! bang! sounded a series of sharp reports.
Tom ran out into the open Mr. Newnham following at a slower gait.
Bang! bang! bang!
"Hi, there, Riley!" roared Tom promptly. "Saddle two horses as
quickly as you can. Harry, make ready to follow with me as soon
as the horses are ready."
"Is anything wrong?" inquired the president. He was answered by more
explosions in the distance.
"I'm afraid so," Tom muttered, showing his first trace of uneasiness.
"However, I don't want to say, Mr. Newnham, until I've investigated."
Before the horses were ready Tom descried, half a mile away, on
a clear bit of trail, a horseman riding in at a furious gallop.
"There comes a messenger, Mr. Newnham," Tom went on. "We'll soon
know just what the trouble is."
"Trouble?" echoed Mr. Newnham, in astonishment. "Then you believe
that is the word, do you?"
"I'm afraid, Mr. Newnham, that you've reached here just in time to
see some very real trouble," was Reade's quick answer. "But wait
just two minutes, sir, and we'll have exact information. Guessing
won't do any good."
Once or twice, through the trees, they caught sight of the on-rushing
rider. Then Jack Rutter, a big splotch of red on the left sleeve
of his shirt, rode hard into camp.
"Reade," he shouted, "we're ambushed! Hidden scoundrels have
been firing on us."
"You've ordered all the men in?" called Tom, as Rutter reined
up beside him.
"Every man of them," returned Jack. "Poor Reynolds, of the student
party, is rather seriously hit, I'm afraid. Some of the fellows
are bringing him in."
"You're hit yourself," Tom remarked.
"What? That little scratch?" demanded Rutter scornfully. "Don't
count me as a wounded man, Reade. There are some firearms in
this camp. I want to get the men armed, as far as the weapons
will go, and then I want to go back and smoke out the miserable
"It won't be wise, Jack," Tom continued coolly. "You'll find
that there are too many of the enemy. Besides, you won't have
to fatigue yourselves by going back over the trail. The scoundrels
will be here, before long. They doubtless intend to wipe out
"Assassins coming to wipe out the camp?" almost exploded President
Newnham. "Reade, this is most extraordinary!"
"It is—-very," Tom assented dryly.
"But who can the villains be?"
"A picked-up gang of gun-fighters, sent here to blow this camp
off the face of the earth, since that is the only way that the
backers of the rival road can find to set us back," Tom rejoined.
"If they drive us away from here, they'll attack the construction
SHUT OFF FROM THE WORLD
Five horsemen belonging to the field party rode in furiously, Matt
Rice at their head.
"It's a shame," yelled Rice, as he threw himself from his horse.
"I'd have stayed behind—-so would the others—-if we had had rifles
with us. The scoundrels kept up a fire at a quarter of a mile range.
Then we passed the men who are carrying Reynolds—-they're almost
here now—-but it wouldn't have done any good for us to stand by them.
We'd have made the other party only a bigger mark. Where are the
revolvers, Reader? We've got to make a stand here. We can't run away
and leave our camp to fall into their hands."
"We're not going to run away," said Reade grimly. "But I'll tell
you what a half dozen of you can do. Hustle for shovels and dig
a deep hole here. This gentleman is Mr. Newnham, president of the
company that employs us. If the camp is attacked we can't afford to
have the president of the road killed."
"Mr. Newnham would do far better to ride down the trail as fast as
he can go, and try to join the construction camp," offered Rutter.
The president of the S.B. & L. had been silent during the last few
exciting moments. But now he opened his mouth long enough to reply
"Mr. Newnham hasn't any thoughts of flight. I am not a fighting
man, and never saw a shot fired in anger in my life, but I'm going
to stand my ground in my own camp."
"Dig the hole, anyway," ordered Tom. "We'll want a safe place to put
young Reynolds. We can't afford to leave him exposed to fire."
"Where are the revolvers?" Rice insisted, as others started to get
shovels and dig in a hurry.
"Oh, never mind the revolvers," replied Tom. "We won't use 'em,
anyway. We can't, for they wouldn't carry far enough to put any of
the enemy in danger."
"Mr. Reade," remarked Mr. Newnham, in a quiet undertone, "does it
occur to you that you are making no preparations to defend the camp!
That, in fact, you seem wholly indolent in the matter?"
"Oh, no; I'm not indolent, sir," smiled Tom. "You'll find me
energetic enough, sir, I imagine, when the need for swift work comes."
"Of course you couldn't foresee the coming of any such outrage
as this," Mr. Newnham continued.
"Oh, I rather guessed that this sort of thing was coming," Tom
"You guessed it—-and yet the camp has been left undefended? You
haven't taken any steps to protect the company's rights and property
at this point?" gasped Mr. Newnham.
"You will find, sir, that I am not wholly unprepared," Reade remarked
dryly, while the corners of his mouth drew down grimly.
Tom was apparently the only one in camp, after the excitement
started, who had noted that Dave Fulsbee, at the first shots, had
leaped to his horse and vanished down the trail to the eastward.
At this moment a party of a dozen, headed by Professor Coles, came
in on foot, bearing young Reynolds with them.
"Harry, mount one of the saddled horses and rush down yonder for
Doc Gitney," Tom ordered. "Give him your horse to come back on.
He must see to young Reynolds promptly."
Some of the field party came in on horseback, followed soon by still
others on foot. Many of the field engineering party, in their haste,
had left their instruments, rods and chains behind.
Tom, after diving into and out of the headquarters tent, held up a
pair of powerful binocular field glasses. With these he took
sweeping views of the near-by hills to the westward.
"The scoundrels haven't gotten in at close quarters yet, sir," Reade
reported to President Newnham. "At least, I can't make out a sign
of them on the high ground that commands this camp."
"This whole business of an armed attack on us is most incomprehensible
to me," remarked Mr. Newnham. "I know, of course, that the W.C.
& A. haven't left a stone unturned to defeat our efforts in getting
our road running within the limits set in the charter. However,
the W.C. & A. people are crazy to send armed assassins against
us in the field in this fashion. No matter, now, whether we finish
the road on time, this rascally work by the opposition will defeat
their hopes of getting the charter away from us."
"It might prevent them from doing so, sir," Tom rejoined quietly,
"if you were able to prove that the scoundrels who fired on our
engineering parties this morning were really employed by the W.C.
& A. railroad crowd."
"Prove it?" snorted the man from Broadway. "Who else would have
any interest in blocking us?"
"Would that statement go in court, or before a legislature?" Tom
"No, it wouldn't," President Newnham admitted thoughtfully. "I see
the point, Reade. After the scoundrels have done their worst against
us, they can disperse, vanishing among the hills, and the W.C. & A.
people will simply deny that they were behind the attack, and will
call upon us to prove it."
"Not only that, sir," continued the cub chief engineer, "but I doubt
if any of the officials of the W.C. & A. have any real knowledge that
such a move is contemplated. This trick proceeds from the fertile
mind of some clever, well-paid scoundrel who is employed in the
opposition railroad's gloom department. It is a cleverly thought-out
scheme to make us lose three or four days of work, which will be
enough to prevent us from finishing the road on time. So, the
enemy think that we must lose the charter, sir."
"That trick will never work," declared Mr. Newnham angrily. "Reade,
there are courts, and laws. If the State of Colorado doesn't protect
us in our work, then we can't be held to am count for not finishing
within a given time."
"That's as the legislature may decide, I imagine, sir," hazarded
the young engineer. "There are powerful political forces working
to turn this road's charter over to the W.C. & A. crowd. Your
company's property, Mr. Newnham, is entitled to protection from the
state, of course. The state, however, will be able to reply that
the authorities were not notified, and could not send protection
"But we have a telegraph running from here out into the world!"
cried the man from Broadway way, wheeling like a flash. "Reade,
we're both idiots not to have remembered, at the first shots,
to send an urgent message to Denver. Where's your operating tent?"
"Over there. I'll take you there, sir," offered Tom, after pointing.
"Still it won't do any good, Mr. Newnham, to think of telegraphing."
"Not do us any good?" echoed the other, aghast. "What nonsense
are you talking, Reade? If we are hindered the feet of our having
wired to the governor of the state will be our first proof of having
appealed to the state for protection. Can't you see that, Reade?"
The pair now turned in at the operator's tent.
"Operator," said Reade, to the young man seated before the keys on
a table, "this gentleman man is President Newnham, of the S.B. & L.
Send any messages that he dictates."
"Get Denver on the wire," commanded Mr. Newnham. "Hustle!"
Click-click-click! rattled the sounder.
"It won't do a particle of good," Tom uttered calmly. "'Gene Black,
the engineer discharged from this camp, is serving the enemy.
Black has brains enough to see that our wire was cut before he
started a thing moving."
Click-click-click! spoke the sounder again.
"I can't get a thing," explained the operator. "I can't even get a
response from the construction camp. Mr. Reade must be right—-our
wire has been cut and we're shut off from the outside world."
THE REAL ATTACK BEGINS
Hearing the moving wheels of a wagon on the trail, Tom looked outside,
then seized Mr. Newnham's arm rather roughly.
"Come along, sir, and come quickly, if you want to see something
that will beat a carload of telegrams," urged the cub engineer.
Having gotten the president of the road outside, Tom let go of
his arm and raced on before that astonished man from Broadway.
"Here, you fellows," called Tom, almost gayly, as he ran to where
engineers and chainmen men were standing in little groups, talking
gloomily over the forenoon's work. "Get in line, here—-a whole
crowd of you!"
Dave Fulsbee was now riding briskly toward the centre of the camp,
ahead of the wagon for which he had gone down the trail. Laughing
quietly, Tom hustled group after group of young men into one long
"Hold up your right hands!" called out the young cub engineer.
Wondering, his subordinates obeyed. Fulsbee reined up, dismounting
before the line.
"They're all ready for you, friend," called Tom gayly.
"Listen, boys!" commanded Dave Fulsbee, as he faced the line on
foot. "You do each and all of you, singly and severally, hereby
swear that you will serve truly and well as special deputy sheriffs,
and obey all lawful orders, so help you God?"
Almost in complete silence the hands fell as their owners nodded.
Both the engineers and rodmen felt a trifle dazed. Why was this
solitary deputy sheriff before them, and with what did he expect
them to fight! Were they to stand and throw rocks at an enemy armed
But just then the wagon was driven in front of them.
"Hustle the cases out, boys! Get 'em open!" commanded Dave, though
he spoke without excitement. "Forty rifles and ten thousand cartridges,
all borrowed from the National Guard of the State. Get busy!
If the coyotes down to the westward try to get busy around here
we will talk back to them!"
"Whoop!" yelled the college boys. They pushed and crowded about
the wooden cases that were now unloaded.
"See here," boomed in the deep voice of Professor Coles, "I wasn't
sworn in, and I now insist that I, too, be sworn."
"Mr. Newnham, tell the professor that fighting is a boy's business,
and that there isn't any call for him to risk himself," appealed
Tom. "There are plenty of youngsters here to do the fighting
and to take the chances."
"Surely, there appear to be enough men," chuckled President Newnham,
who, since he realized that rifles and ammunition were at hand,
appeared to be wonderfully relieved. "Professor, don't think of
running yourself into any danger. Look on, with me."
"Rifles are all given out, now, anyway," called Dave Fulsbee coolly.
"Now, youngsters, I'm going to show you where to station yourselves.
Mr. Reade, have you seen anything through the glasses that looks
"By Jove," Tom admitted, flushing guiltily, "I quite forgot to keep
the lenses turned on the hills to the west."
He now made good for his omission, while Fulsbee led his young men
away, stationing them in hiding places along the westward edge of
the camp. Each man with a rifle was ordered not to rise from the
ground, or to show himself in any way, and not to fire unless orders
were given. Then Dave hurried back to the wagon. Something else
was lifted out, all canvas covered, and rushed forward to a point
just behind a dense clump of bushes.
"Reade, I want to apologize to you," cried the man from Broadway,
moving quickly over to where Tom stood surveying the hills beyond
through his glass. "I thought, for a few minutes, that you had
suspected some such rascally work afoot, and that you had failed
to take proper precautions."
"If I had failed, sir," murmured Tom, without removing the glass
from before his eyes, "you would have arrived just in time, sir,
to turn out of the camp a man who wasn't fit to be in charge.
Yet it was only accident, sir, that led me to suspect what might
be in the air."
Thereupon Tom hastily recounted to the president of the company
the story of how he had accidentally overheard fragments of talk
between 'Gene Black and Bad Pete.
"That gave me a hint of how the wind was blowing," Tom continued,
"though I couldn't make out enough of their talk, on either occasion,
to learn just what was happening. I telegraphed to the nearest
town that had a sheriff in it, and that put me in touch with Fulsbee.
Then Dave, over the wire, offered to bring arms here and to help
us to defend our camp."
"Mr. Reade," exclaimed President Newnham hoarsely, "you are a
wonderful young man! While seeming to be idle yourself, you have
rushed the work through in splendid shape." Even when our enemies
plot in the dark, and plan incredible outrages against us, you fully
inform yourself of their plans. When the cowards strike you are
ready to meet them, force for force. You may be only a cub
engineer, but you have an amazing genius for the work in which
chance has placed you out here."
"You may be guilty, Mr. Newnham, of giving me far more credit than
I deserve," laughed Tom gently. "In the matter of finding out the
enemy's designs, I didn't, and I don't know fully yet what the other
side intends to do to us. What I did learn was by accident."
"Very few other young men would have been equal to making the
greatest and best use of what accident revealed," insisted Mr.
Harry Hazelton came now, from the hole in the ground, to report
that Dr. Gitney had done all he could for the comfort of poor
"Gitney says that Reynolds ought to come along all right, as far
as the mere wound itself is concerned," Hazelton added. "What
will have to be looked out for is suppuration. If pus forms in
and around the wound it may carry Reynolds off, for there are
no hospital conveniences to be had in this wild neck of the woods."
"Is the doctor staying with Reynolds?" Tom asked, still using the
glasses on the hilly country that lay ahead.
"No; he has gone back to Mr. Thurston and Mr. Blaisdell," Hazelton
answered. "Doc says he'll have to be with them to quiet them in
case the firing gets close. He says both men will become excited and
try to jump out of bed and come over here. Doc says he's going to
strap 'em both down."
"Dr. Gitney may be badly needed here, if a fight opens," Tom mused
"He says, if we need him, to send for him."
"Come through a hot fire?" Tom gasped.
"Surely! Doc Gitney is a Colorado man, born and bred. He doesn't
mind a lead shower when it comes in the line of duty," laughed
Harry. "Now, if you're through using me as a messenger, I'm going
to find a rifle."
"You won't succeed," Tom retorted. "Every rifle in camp already
has an amateur soldier behind it."
"Just my luck!" growled Harry.
"You're a good, husky lad," Tom continued. "If you want to be
of real use, just lie down hug the earth, take good care not to
be hit, and——-"
"Fine and manly!" interjected Hazelton with contempt.
"Now, don't try to be a hero," urged Tom teasingly. "There are
altogether too many green, utterly inexperienced heroes here at
present. Be useful, Harry, old chum, and let those who are good
for nothing else be heroes."
"Following your own advice?" asked Hazelton. "Is that why you
haven't a rifle yourself?"
"Why do I need a rifle?" demanded Reade. "I'm a non-combatant."
"Box the chatter, Harry, and ship it east," Tom interposed, showing
signs of interest. Then, in a louder voice, Tom called:
"Here," answered the deputy sheriff from his hiding place in the
"Do you see that bald knob of rock ahead, to your left; about
a quarter of a mile away?"
"I make out figures crawling to the cover of the line of brush
just to the right of the bald knob," Tom continued. "There are
eight of them, I think."
"I see figures moving there," Dave answered. Then, in a low voice,
the deputy instructed the engineers on each side of him.
"I see half a dozen more figures—-heads, rather—-showing just
at the summit line of the rock itself," went on Reade.
"Yes; I make 'em," answered Fulsbee, after a long, keen look.
Again more instructions were given to the engineers.
"Say, I've got to have a rifle," insisted Harry nervously.
"You know, I always have been 'cracked, on target shooting. This
is the best practical chance that I'll ever have."
"You'll have to wait your turn, Harry," Tom urged soothingly.
"Yes; wait until one of our fellows is badly hit. Then you can
take up his rifle and move into his place on the line. When you're
hit, then I can have the rifle."
Hazelton made a face, though he said nothing.
Meanwhile Fulsbee's assistant, the man who had driven the wagon into
camp, stood silent, motionless, behind the canvas-covered object in
the bushes just behind the engineer's fighting line.
"Now, if one of you galoots dares to fire before he gets the word,"
sounded Dave Fulsbee's warning voice in the ominous calm that
followed, "I'll snatch the offender out of the line and give him
a good, sound spanking. The only man for me is the man who has
the nerve to wait when he's being shot at."
Crack! Far up on the bald knob a single shot sounded, and a bullet
struck the ground about six feet from where Tom Reade stood with
the binocular at his eyes.
Then there came a volley from the right of the rock, followed
by one from the rock itself.
"Easy, boys," cautioned Fulsbee, as the bullets tore up the ground
back of the firing line. "I'll give you the word when the time
Another volley sounded. Bullets tore up the ground near President
Newnham, and one leaden pellet carried off that gentleman's soft
"Please lie down, Mr. Newnham," begged Tom, turning around. Now
that the fight had opened the cub chief saw less use for the binocular.
"We can't have you hit, sir. You're the head of the company,
"I don't like this place, but I'm only one human life here," the man
from Broadway replied quietly, gravely. "If other men so readily
risk their lives for the property of my associates and myself, then
I'm going to expose myself at least as much as these young men ahead
of us do."
"Just one shot apiece," sounded Dave Fulsbee's steady voice.
"Fire where you've been told."
It was an irregular volley that ripped out from the defenders
of the camp. Half of the marksmen fired to the right of the rook,
the others at its crest.
Right on top of this came another volley, fired from some new
point of attack. It filled the air at this end of the camp with
"Livin' rattlers!", cried Dave Fulsbee, leaping to his feet. "That's
the real attack. Reade, locate that main body and turn us loose on
'em. If you don't, the fellows in the real ambush will soon make a
sieve of this camp. There must be a regiment of 'em!"
WHEN THE CAMP GREW WARM
President Newnham had prudently decided to lie down flat on the ground.
Nor was it any reflection on his courage that he did so. He was
taking no part in the fight, and the leaden tornado that swept
the camp from some unknown point was almost instantly repeated.
At the same time the marksmen on and at the right of the bald
knob continued to fire. The camp defenders were in a criss-cross
of fire that might have shaken the nerves of an old and tried
Tom watched the ground as bullets struck, trying to decide their
original course from the directions in which the dust flew. Then
he swung around to the right.
With modern smokeless powder there was no light, bluish haze to
mark the firing line of the new assailants. Tom Reade had to
search and explore with his binocular glass until he could make
out moving heads, waving arms.
"I've found 'em, Fulsbee!" young Reade cried suddenly, above the
noise of rifles within a few yards of where they stood, as the
engineers made the most of their chances to fire. "Turn the same
way that I'm looking. See that blasted pine over there to your
right, about six hundred there to the gully southeast of the tree.
Got the line? Well, along there there's a line of men hidden.
Through the glass I can sometimes make out the flash of their rifles.
Take the glass yourself, and see."
Dave Fulsbee snatched the binoculars, making a rapid survey.
"Reade," he admitted, "you have surely located that crowd."
"Now, go after them with your patent hay rake," quivered Tom,
feeling the full excitement of the thing in this tantalizing cross
fire. Then the cub added, with a sheepish grin:
"I hope you'll scare 'em, instead of hitting 'em, Dave."
Fulsbee stepped over to his assistant. Between them they swung
the machine gun around, the assistant wrenching off the canvas
cover. Fulsbee rapidly sighted the piece for six hundred yards.
The assistant stood by to feed belts of cartridges, while Dave took
his post at the firing mechanism.
Cr-r-r-r-rack! sounded the machine gun, spitting forth a pelting
storm of lead. As the piece continued to disgorge bullets at
the rate of six hundred a minute, Dave, a grim smile on his lips,
swung the muzzle of the piece so as to spread the fire along the
entire line of the main ambush.
"Take the glass," Tom roared in Harry's ear, above the din. "See
how Fulsbee is throwing up dust and bits of rock all along that
Hazelton watched, his face showing an appreciative grin.
"It has the scoundrels scared and going!" Hazelton yelled back.
Fully fifteen hundred cartridges did the machine gun deliver up
and down that line.
Then, suddenly, Dave Fulsbee swung the gun around, delivering
a hailstorm of bullets against the bald knob rock and the bushes
to the right of it.
"There's the answer!" gleefully uttered Hazelton, who had just
handed the glass back to his chum.
The "answer" was a fluttering bit of white cloth tied to a rifle
and hoisted over the bushes at the right of the bald knob.
"Who do you suppose is holding the white cloth?" chuckled Tom.
"I can't guess," Harry confessed.
"Our old and dangerous friend Peter," Tom laughed.
"No; Scared Pete."
There was a sudden twinkle in Hazelton's eyes as he espied Dave
Fulsbee's rifle lying on the ground beside the machine gun.
In another instant Harry had that rifle and was back at Tom's
Harry threw open the magazine, making sure that there were cartridges
in the weapon. Then he dropped to one knee, taking careful sight
in the direction of the white flag.
"You idiot—-what are you doing?" blazed Tom.
The fire from the camp had died out. That from the assailants
beyond had ceased at least thirty seconds earlier.
One sharp report broke the hush that followed.
"Who's doing that work? Stop it!" ordered Fulsbee, turning
"I'm through," grinned Harry meekly.
"What do you mean by shooting at a flag of truce?" demanded the
deputy sheriff angrily.
"I didn't," Harry argued, laying the rifle down on the ground.
"I sent one in with my compliments, to see whether the fellow
with the white rag would get the trembles. I guess he did, for
the white rag has gone out of sight."
"They may start the firing again," uttered Dave Fulsbee. "They'll
feel that you don't respect their flag of truce."
"I didn't feel a heap of respect for the fellow that held up the
white flag," Hazelton admitted, with another grin. "It was Bad
Pete, and I wanted to see what his nerve was like when someone
else was doing the shooting and he was the target."
"Peter simply flopped and dropped his gun, Tom declared.
"Say," muttered Harry, his face showing real concern, "I hope
I didn't hit him."
"Did you aim at him?" demanded Tom.
"I did not."
"Then there is some chance that Peter was hit," Tom confessed.
"Harry, when you're shooting at a friend, and in a purely hospitable
way, always aim straight for him. Then the poor fellow will have
a good chance to get off with a whole skin!"
"Cut out that line of talk," ordered Hazelton, his face growing
red. "Back in the old home days, Tom, you've seen me do some
"With the putty-blower—-yes," Tom admitted, with a chuckle.
"Say, wasn't Old Dut Jones, of the Central Grammar, rough on boys
who used putty-blowers in the schoolroom?"
"If Pete was hit, it wasn't my shot that did it," muttered Harry,
growing redder still. "I aimed for the centre of that white rag.
If we ever come across the rag we'll find my bullet hole through
it. That was what I hit."
Deputy Dave's assistant was now cleaning out the soot-choked barrels
of the machine gun, that the piece might be fit for use again as soon
as the barrels had cooled.
"I reckon," declared Dave, "that our friends have done their worst.
It's my private wager that they're now doing a foot race for the
"Is any one of our fellows hit?" called Tom, striding over to
the late firing line. "Anyone hit? If so, we must take care
of him at once."
Tom went the length of the line, only to discover that none of
the camp's defenders had been injured, despite the shower of bullets
that had been poured in during the brief but brisk engagement.
Three of the engineers displayed clothing that had been pierced
"Dave," called Tom, "how soon will it be safe to send over to
the late strongholds and find out whether any of Naughty Peter's
friends have any hurts that demand Doc Gitney's attention?"
"Huh! If any of the varmints are hit, I reckon they can wait,"
"Not near this camp!" retorted Reade with spirit. "If any human
being around here has been hurt he must have prompt care. How
soon will it be safe to start?"
"I don't know how soon it will be safe," Dave retorted. "I want
to take about a half dozen of the young fellows, on horseback,
and ride over just to see if we can draw any fire. That will
show whether the rascals have quit their ambushes."
"If they haven't," mocked Tom, "they'll also show your little
party some new gasps in the way of excitement."
Nevertheless Reade did not object when Fulsbee called for volunteers.
If any new firing was to be encountered it was better to risk
a small force rather than a large one.
Harry Hazelton was one of the six volunteers who rode out with
Deputy Dave. Though they searched the country for miles they
did not encounter any of the late raiders. Neither did they find
any dead or wounded men.
The abandoned transits and other instruments and implements were
found and brought back to camp.
While this party was absent Tom took Mr. Newnham back to headquarters
tent, where he explained, in detail, all that had been accomplished
and all that was now being done.
Late in the afternoon Dave Fulsbee and his little force returned. Tom
listened attentively to the report made by the sheriff's officer.
"They've cheated you out of one day's work, anyway," muttered the
man from Broadway, rather fretfully.
"We can afford to lose the time," Tom answered almost carelessly.
"Our field work is well ahead. It's the construction work that
is bothering me most. I hope soon to have news as to whether the
construction outfit has been attacked."
"The wires are all up again, sir," reported the operator, pausing
at the doorway of the tent. "The men you sent back have mended
all the breaks. I've just heard from the construction camp that
none of the unknown scoundrels have been heard from there."
"They found you so well prepared here," suggested President Newnham,
"that the rascals have an idea that the construction camp is also
well guarded. I imagine we've heard the last of the opposition."
"Then you're going to be fooled, sir," Tom answered, very decisively.
"For my part, I believe that the tactics of the gloom department
of the W.C. & A. have just been commenced. Fighting men of a sort
are to be had cheap in these mountains, and the W.C. & A. railroad
is playing a game that it's worth millions to win. They're resolved
that we shan't win. And I, Mr. Newnham, am determined that we shall win!"
SHERIFF GREASE DROPS DAVE
Tom's prediction came swiftly true in a score of ways.
The gloom department of the W.C. & A. immediately busied itself
with the public.
The "gloom department" is a comparatively new institution in some
kinds of high finance circles. Its mission is to throw gloom
over the undertakings of a rival concern. At the same time, through
such matter as it can manage to have printed in some sorts of
newspapers the gloom department seeks to turn the public against
its business rivals.
That same day news was flashed all over the country that a party
of railway engineers, led by a mad deputy sheriff had wantonly
fired on a party of travelers who had had the misfortune to get upon
the building railway's right of way.
In many parts of Colorado a genuine indignation was aroused against
the S.B. & L. President Newnham sought to correct the wrong impression,
but even his carefully thought out statements were misconstrued.
The W.C. & A., though owned mainly abroad, had some clever American
politicians of the worst sort in its service. Many of these men
were influential to some extent in Colorado.
The sheriff of the county was approached and inflamed by some of
these politicians, with the result that the sheriff hastened to the
field camp, where he publicly dismissed Dave Fulsbee from his force
of deputies. The sheriff solemnly closed his fiery speech by
demanding Dave's official badge.
"That's funny, but don't mind, Dave," laughed Tom, as he witnessed
the handing over of the badge. "You won't be out of work."
"Won't be out of work, eh?" demanded Sheriff Grease hotly. "Just
let him wait and see. There isn't a man in the county who wants
Dave Fulsbee about now."
"Then what a disappointed crowd they're going to be," remarked
Tom pleasantly, "for Mr. Newnham is going to make Dave chief of
detectives for the company, at a salary of something like six
thousand a year.
"He is, oh?" gulped down Sheriff Grease. "I'll bet he won't. I'll
protest against that, right from the start."
"Dave will be our chief of detectives, if you protest all night
and some more in the morning," returned Tom Reade. "And Dave,
I reckon, is going to need a force of at least forty men under
him. Dave will be rather important in the county, won't he, sheriff,
if he has forty men under him who feel a good deal like voting the
way that Dave believes? A forty-man boss is quite a little figure
in politics, isn't he, sheriff?"
Grease turned nearly purple in the face, choking and sputtering
in his wrath.
"Come along, Dave, and see if that job as chief detective is open
today," urged Tom, drawing one arm through Fulsbee's. "If you're
interested in knowing the news, sheriff, you might wait."
"I'll——-" ground out Grease, gritting his teeth and clenching
one fist. Tom waited patiently for the county officer to finish.
Then, as he didn't go further, Reade rejoined, half mockingly:
"Exactly, sheriff. That's just what I thought you'd do."
Then Tom dragged Dave down to the headquarters tent, where they
found the president of the road.
"Mr. Newnham," began Tom gravely, "the sheriff has just come to
camp and has discharged Fulsbee from his force of deputies, just
because Fulsbee acted as a real law officer and stopped the raid
on the road. I have told Mr. Fulsbee, before Sheriff Grease, that
you are going to make him chief of detectives for the road at a
salary of about six thousand a year."
Mr. Newnham displayed his astonishment very openly, though he
did not speak at first.
"That's all right," replied President Newnham. "Mr. Fulsbee,
do you accept the offer of six thousand as chief detective for
"Does a man accept an invitation to eat when he's hungry?" replied
Dave rather huskily.
"Then it's settled," put in Tom, anxious to clinch the matter,
for he had a very shrewd idea that he would need Dave badly ere
long. "Now, Mr. Newnham, until we get everything running smoothly,
Mr. Fulsbee ought to have a force of about forty men. They will
cost seventy-five dollars a month, per man, with an allowance
for horses, forage, etc. Hadn't Mr. Fulsbee better get his force
together as soon as possible? For I am certain, sir, that the
next move by the opposition will be to tear up and blow up our
tracks at some unguarded points. At the same time, sir, I feel
certain that we can get far more protection from Chief of Detectives
Fulsbee's men than from a man like Sheriff Grease."
"Reade?" returned President Newnham, "it is plain to be seen that
you lose no time in making your plans or in arranging to put them
into execution. I imagine you're right, for you've been right in
everything so far. So arrange with Mr. Fulsbee for whatever you
think may be needed."
"Thank you, sir," murmured Tom. Then he signaled Fulsbee to get
out of the tent, and followed that new official.
"Never hang around, Dave, after you've got what you want," chuckled
Tom. "Hello, Mr. Sheriff! This is just a line to tell you that
Fulsbee has a steady job with the company, and that he'll need
the services of at least forty men, all of whom must be voters
in this county. The pay will be seventy-five a month and keep, with
extra allowance for horses."
Sheriff Grease didn't look much more pleasant than he felt.
"Are you homeward bound—-when you go?" continued Reade.
The sheriff nodded.
"Then you might spread the word that men are needed, and tell
the best men to apply to Dave Fulsbee, at this camp," suggested
Tom. "Be strong on the point that all applicants have to be voters
in this county."
"I will," nodded the sheriff, choking down his wrath by a great
effort. "Dave won't have any trouble in getting good men when
I spread the word. You're a mighty good fellow, Dave. I always
said it," added the sheriff. "I'm sorry I had to be rough with
"Of course we understand here that orders from a political boss
have to be obeyed," Tom added good-naturedly. "We won't over-blame
you, Mr. Grease."
The sheriff rode away, Tom's smiling eyes following him.
"That touch about your having forty voters at your beck and call
must have stuck in the honorable sheriff's crop, Dave," chuckled
the cub chief engineer.
"I reckon it does," drawled Dave. "A man like Grease can't understand
that a man of my kind wouldn't ask any fellow working for him
what ticket he voted for on election day. You certainly hit the
sheriff hard, Mr. Reade. In the first place, six thousand a year
is a lot more money than the sheriff gets himself. Forty voters
are fully as many as he can control, for which reason Grease,
in his mind's eye, sees me winning his office away from him any day
that I want to do so."
Ere three days had passed Sheriff Grease had lost fully half of
his own force, and some of his controlled voters as well, for many
of his deputies flocked to serve under Dave Fulsbee. The rest of
the needed detectives also came in, and Dave was soon busy posting
his men to patrol the S.B. & L. and protect the workers against any
more raids by armed men.
After a fortnight student Reynolds recovered sufficiently to be sent
to Denver, there to complete his work of recovering from his wound.
President Newnham also saw to it that Reynolds was well repaid for
The camp moved on. Soon Lineville was sighted from the advanced
camp of the engineers. As Lineville was to be the western terminus
of the new railroad the work of the field party was very nearly
President Newnham, who was all anxiety to see the first train run
over the road, remained with the field engineers.
"I couldn't sleep at night, if I were anywhere else than here,"
explained the president, "though I feel assured now that the W.C.
& A. will make no more efforts, in the way of violence; to prevent
us from finishing the building of the road."
"Then you're more trustful than I am," smiled Tom Reade. "What's
worrying me most of all is that I can't quite fathom in what way
the W.C. & A's gloom department will plan to stop us. That they
have some plan—-and a rascally one—-I'm as certain, sir, as I am
that I'm now speaking with you."
"Has Fulsbee any suspicions?" inquired Mr. Newnham.
"Loads of 'em," declared Tom promptly.
"What does he think the W.C. & A. will try to do?"
"Dave's suspicions, Mr. Newnham, aren't any more definite than mine.
He feels certain, however, that we're going to have a hard fight
before we get the road through."
"Then I hope the opposition won't be able to prevent us from finishing,"
murmured Mr. Newnham.
"Oh, the enemy won't be able to hinder us," replied Tom confidently.
"You have a Fulsbee and a Reade on the job, sir. Don't worry.
I'm not doing any real worrying, and I promise you that I'm not
going to be beaten."
"It will be a genuine wonder if Reade is beaten," reflected Mr.
Newnham, watching the cub's athletic figure as Tom walked through
the centre of the camp. "I never knew a man of any age who was
more resourceful or sure to win than this same cub, Tom Reade,
whose very name was unknown to me a few weeks ago. Yet I shiver!
I can't help it. Men just as resourceful as Tom Reade are sometimes
beaten to a finish!"
MR. NEWNHAM DROPS A BOMB
The field work was done. Yet the field engineers were not dismissed.
Instead, they were sent back along the line. The construction
gang was still twelve miles out of Lineville, and the time allowed
by the charter was growing short.
At Denver certain politicians seemed to have very definite information
that the S.B. & L. R.R., was not going to finish the building of
the road and the operating of the first through train within charter
Where these politicians had obtained their news they did not take the
trouble to state.
However, they seemed positive that, under the terms of the charter,
the state would take over as much of the railroad as was finished,
pay an appraisal price for it, and then turn the road over to
the W.C. & A. promoters to finish and use as part of their own
These same politicians, by the way, were a handful of keen,
unscrupulous men who derived their whole income from politics, and
who had always been identified with movements that the better
people of the state usually opposed.
Mr. Thurston and his assistant, Blaisdell, were now able to be
up and to move about a little, but were not yet able to travel
forward to the point that the construction force had now reached.
Neither Thurston nor Blaisdell was in fit shape to work, and
would not be for some weeks to come.
Mr. Newnham, who had learned in these weeks to ride a horse, came
along in saddle as Tom and Harry stood watching the field camp
that was now being rapidly taken down by the few men left behind.
"Idling, as usual, Reade?" smiled the president of the road.
"This time I seem to have a real excuse, sir," chuckled Tom.
"My work is finished. There isn't a blessed thing that I could
do, if I wanted to. By tomorrow I suppose you will be paying
me off and letting me go."
"Let you go—-before the road is running?" demanded Mr. Newnham,
in astonishment. "Reade, have you noted any signs of my mind
"I haven't, sir."
"Then why should you imagine that I am going to let my chief engineer
go before the road is in operations"
"But I was acting chief, sir, only of the field work."
"Reade," continued Mr. Newnham, "I have something to tell you.
Thurston has left our employ. So has Blaisdell. They are not
dissatisfied in any way, but neither man is yet fit to work.
Besides, both are tired of the mountains, and want to go east
together as soon as possible and take up some other line of
engineering work. So—-well, Reade, if you want it, you are
now chief engineer of the S.B. & L. in earnest."
"Don't trifle with me, sir!" begged Tom incredulously. "I'm too
far from home."
"No one has ever accused me of being a humorist," replied Mr.
Newnham dryly. "Now tell me, Reade, whether you want the post I
have offered you?"
"Want it?" echoed Tom. "Of course I do. Yet doesn't it seem
too 'fresh' in a cub like myself to take such a post?"
"You've won it," replied the president. "It's also true that
you're only a cub engineer in years, and there are many greater
engineers than yourself in the country. You have executive ability,
however, Reade. You are able to start a thing, and then put it
through on time—-or before. The executive is the type of man who
is most needed in this or any other country."
"Is an executive a lazy fellow who can make others work!" asked
"No; an executive is a man who can choose other men, and can wisely
direct them to big achievements. An executive is a director of
fine team play. That describes you, Reade. However—-you haven't
yet accepted the position as chief engineer of the S.B. & L."
"I'll end your suspense then, sir," smiled the cub. "I do accept,
and with a big capital 'A'."
"As to your salary," continued Mr. Newnham, "nothing has been
said about that, and nothing need be said until we see whether
the road is operating in season to save its charter. If we save
our charter and the road, your salary will be in line with the
size of the achievement."
"If we should lose the charter, sir," Tom retorted, his face clouding,
"I don't believe I'd take any interest in the salary question.
Money is a fine thing, but the game—-the battle—-is twenty
times more interesting. However, I'm going to predict, Mr. Newnham,
that the road WILL operate on time."
"I believe you're going to make good, Reade, no matter what a
small coterie of politicians at Denver may think. I never met
a man who had success stamped more plainly on his face than you
have. By the way, I shall ask you to keep Mr. Howe as an assistant.
You still have the appointment of one other assistant, in place
of Mr. Blaisdell."
"I know the fellow I'd like to appoint," cried Tom eagerly.
"If you're sure about him, then go ahead and appoint him," responded
the president of the S.B. & L. railway.
"Hazelton!" proclaimed Tom. "Good, old dependable Harry Hazelton!"
"Hazelton would be a wise choice," nodded Mr. Newnham.
"Harry!" called Reade, as his chum appeared in the distance.
"Come here hustle!"
Mr. Newnham turned away as Hazelton came forward. Tom quickly
told his chum the news.
"I? Assistant chief engineer?" gasped Harry, turning red. "Whew,
but that's great! However, I'm not afraid of falling down, Tom,
with you to steer me. What's the pay of the new job!"
"Not decided," rejoined Tom. "Wait until we get the road through
and the charter is safe."
"Never mind the wages. The job's the thing, after all!" cried
Harry, his face aglow. "Whew! I'll send a letter home tonight
with the news."
"Make it a small post card, then, concealed under a postage stamp,"
counseled Reade dryly. "We've work ahead of us—-not writing."
"What's the first thing you're going to do?" inquired Hazelton.
"The first thing will be to get on the job."
"You're going back to the construction force?"
"Well, we start within five minutes."
His face still aglow with happiness, Harry Hazelton bounded off
to his tent. Tom called to one of the men to saddle two horses,
and then followed.
"You're going back to the construction camp?" inquired Mr. Newnham,
looking in at the doorway.
"As fast as horses can take us, sir," Tom replied, as he whipped
out a clean flannel shirt and drew it over his head.
"I'm going with you," replied Mr. Newnham.
"You'll ride fast, if you go with us, sir," called Tom.
"I can stand it, if you can, Reade. Your enthusiasm and speed
are 'catching,'" replied the president, with a laugh, as he started
off to give orders about his horse.
"If the president is going with us, then we'll have to take two
of Dave Fulsbee's men with us," mused Tom aloud to his chum.
"It would never do to have our president captured just before
we're ready to open the road to traffic."
The orders were accordingly given. Tom then appointed one of
the chainmen to command the camp until the construction gang came up.
Just seven minutes after he had given the first order, Tom Reade
was in saddle. Hazelton was seated on another horse some thirty
seconds afterward. The two railroad detectives rode forward,
halting near by, and all waited for Mr. Newnham.
Nor did the president of the S.B. & L. delay them long. During
his weeks in camp in the Rockies the man from Broadway had learned
something of the meaning of the word "hustle."
As the party started Tom ordered one of the detectives to ride
two hundred yards in advance of the party, the other the same
distance to the rear.
"Set a good pace, and keep it," called Tom along the trail.
Shortly after dark the party reached the construction camp, which
now numbered about five hundred men.
Assistant Chief Engineer Howe appeared more than a little astonished
when he learned that Tom Reade was the actual chief engineer of
the road. However, the man who had been in charge so far of the
construction work made no fuss about being supplanted.
"Show me what part of the work you want me to handle," offered
Howe, "and you'll find me right with you, Mr. Reade."
"Thank you," responded Tom, holding out his hand. "I'm glad you
feel no jealousy or resentment. There's just one thing in life
for all of us, now, and that is to win the fight."
Howe produced the plans and reports, and the three—-for Hazelton
was of their number—-sat up until long after midnight laying out
plans for pushing the work faster and harder.
At four in the morning, while it was still dark, Tom was up again.
He sat at the desk, going over the work once more until half
past five o'clock. Then he called Harry and Howe, and the trio
of chiefs had a hurried breakfast together.
At six in the morning Mr. Newnham appeared, just in time to find
Tom and Harry getting into saddle.
"Not going to stay behind and sit in an easy chair this morning,
Reade?" called the president.
"Not this, or any other morning, sir," Tom replied.
"You amaze me!"
"This construction work requires more personal attention, sir.
I may have twenty minutes to dream, in the afternoon, but my
mornings are mortgaged each day, from four o'clock on."
An hour later Mr. Howe joined Reade and Hazelton in the field.
Tom had already prodded three or four foremen, showing them how
their gangs were losing time.
"If we get the road through on time, and save the charter," Tom
called, on leaving each working party, "every laborer and foreman
is to have an extra week's pay for his loyalty to us."
In every instance that statement brought forth a cheer.
"Did Mr. Newnham tell you that you could promise that?" inquired
"No," said Tom shortly.
"Then aren't you going a bit far, perhaps!"
"I don't care," retorted Tom. "Victory is the winning of millions;
defeat is the loss of millions. Do you imagine Mr. Newnham will
care about a little thing such as I've promised the men? Harry,
our president is a badly worried man, though he doesn't allow
himself to show it. Once the road is finished, operating and
safe, he won't care what money he has to spend in rewards. He——-"
Tom did not finish his words. Instead he dug his heels into his
pony, bringing his left hand down hard on that animal's flank.
"Yi, yi, yi! Git!" called Tom, bending low over his mount's neck.
He drove straight ahead. Hazelton looked astonished for a space
of five seconds, then started in pursuit of his chum and chief.
It was not long ere Tom reined in, holding up a hand as a signal
to Harry to do the same thing.
"Here, hold my horse, and stay right here," ordered the young chief.
"Tom, what on earth——-"
Tom Reade was already a hundred yards away, running in amid the
brush. At last he halted, studying the ground earnestly. Then
"One thing I know, anyway," muttered the puzzled Hazelton, "Tom
is not crazy, and he doesn't dash off like that unless he has
something real on his mind." The minutes passed. At last Tom
came back, walking energetically. He took his horse's bridle
and leaded into saddle.
"Harry, ride back, hard, and send me two or three of the railroad
detectives, unless you happen to meet some of them this side of
the camp. I want the men on the rush. Don't fail to tell 'em
"Any—-er—-explanations" queried Hazelton.
"For you—-yes—-but don't take the time to pass the explanation
on to the men. Just hustle 'em here. When I started my horse
forward it was because I caught sight of 'Gene Black's head over
the bush tops. I found a few of his footprints, then lost the
trail. Send Dave Fulsbee along, too, if you have the luck to
see him. I want 'Gene Black hunted down before he does some big
Harry Hazelton went back over the trail at a gallop.
Not until he reached camp did he come upon Fulsbee's men. These
he hustled out to find Tom.
Two hours later Reade came back over the trail, at a slow jog.
The young chief engineer looked more worried than Hazelton had
ever seen his chum look before.
THE TRAP AT THE FINISH
A number of days passed, days full of worry for the young chief
engineer. Yet, outwardly, Tom Reade was as good-humored and cheery
He was sure that his eyes had played him no trick, and that he
really had seen 'Gene Black in the brush.
The presence of that scoundrel persuaded Tom that someone working
in the interests of the W.C. & A. Railroad Company was still employing
Black in an attempt to block the successful completion of the
S.B. & L.
Moreover, the news that Dave Fulsbee received from Denver showed
that two of the officials of the W.C. & A. were in that city,
apparently ready to proceed to get possession of the rival road.
Politicians asserted that it was a "cinch" that the new road would
fall short of the charter requirement in the matter of time.
"All this confidence on the part of the enemy is pretty fair proof
that the scoundrels are up to something," Tom told Mr. Newnham.
"Or else they're trying to break down our nerve so that we'll
fail through sheer collapse," replied the president of the S.B.
& L., rubbing his hands nervously. "Reade, why should there be
such scoundrels in the world?"
"The president is all but completely gone to pieces," Reade confided
to his chum. "Say, but I'm glad Mr. Newnham himself isn't the
one who has to get the road through in time. If it rested with
him I'm afraid he'd fizzle. But we'll pull it through, Harry,
old chum—-we'll pull it through."
"If this thing had to last a month more I'm afraid good old Tom
would go to pieces himself," thought Harry, as he watched his
friend stride away. "Tom never gets to his cot now before eleven
at night, and four thirty in the morning always finds him astir
again. I wonder if he thinks he's fooling me by looking so blamed
cheerful and talking so confidently. Whew! I'd be afraid for
poor old Tom's brain if anything should happen to trip us up."
Harry himself was anxious, but he was not downright nervous.
He did not feel things as keenly as did his chum; neither was
Hazelton directly responsible for the success of the big undertaking.
Mile after mile the construction work stretched. Trains were
running now for work purposes, nearly as far as the line extended.
The telegraph wires ran into the temporary station building at
Lineville, and the several operators along the line were busy
carrying orders through the length of the wire service.
Back at Stormburg, where the railroad line began, three trains
lay on side tracks. These were passenger trains that were to
run the entire length of the road as soon as it was opened.
Back at Stormburg, also, the new general superintendent slept
at his office that he might receive messages from President Newnham
the more quickly.
At Bakerstown a division superintendent was stationed, he, too,
sleeping at his office.
Once more Tom Reade had brought his work within sight of Lineville.
In fact, the track extended all but the last mile of the line.
Ties were down nearly all of the way to the terminal station.
This was the state of affairs at two o'clock in the afternoon.
Before midnight the last rail must be laid, and the first through
train from Stormburg must run in. If, at the stroke of midnight,
the first train had failed to go through, then the charter of
the S.B. & L. would be forfeited and subject to seizure and sale
by the state.
Up from Denver some of the worst politicians had come. They were
quartered at the new little hotel in Lineville. Dave Fulsbee
had detailed three of his men covertly to watch these same politicians.
Tom, inwardly consumed with fever, outwardly as cheery as human
being might be, stood watching the laying of the rails over that
last stretch. The men who could be prevented from dropping in
their tracks must work until the last rail had been spiked into
place. Away up in Lineville Harry Hazelton was personally superintending
the laying of the last ties.
The honk of an automobile horn caused Tom Reade to glance up.
Approaching him was President Newnham, himself driving the runabout
that he had had forwarded.
"Reade!" called the president of the S.B. & L., stopping his car,
and Tom went over to him.
"The suspense is over, at last, Reade," exclaimed Mr. Newnham,
smiling broadly. "Look! the road is all but completed. Hundreds
of men are toiling. The first train left Stormburg this morning.
By seven tonight you'll have the last rails in place. Between eight
and nine this evening the first through train will have rolled into
Lineville and we shall have won the fight that has brought me many
gray hairs. At last the worry is over!"
"Of course, sir," nodded Tom.
"Reade, don't you really believe that the stress is over—-that
we shall triumph tonight?"
"Of course we shall, sir," Tom responded. "I have predicted,
all along, that we'd have the road through in time, haven't I?"
"And the credit is nearly all yours, Reade," admitted Mr. Newnham
gleefully. "Nearly all yours, lad!"
Honk! honk! Unable to remain long at one spot, Mr. Newnham started
his car again.
Reade felt a depression that he could not shake off.
"It's just the reaction following the long train," Tom tried to
tell himself. "Whew! Until within the last two or three days
I haven't half realized how much the strain was taking out of
me! I'll wager I'll sleep, tonight, after I once have the satisfaction
of seeing the first train roll in!"
By six o'clock Tom felt as though he could hardly stand up. Be
wondered if his teeth were really chattering, or whether he merely
To take up his time Tom tried a brisk canter, away from the railroad.
At seven o'clock he rode into Lineville.
"Tom, Tom!", bawled Harry, from the centre of a group of workmen.
"We've been looking for you! Come here quickly!"
Tom urged his pony forward to the station from which Hazelton had
"Watch this—-just watch it!" begged Harry.
Clank! clank! clank! Tom Reade, gazing in fascination, saw
the last spike of the last rail being driven into place.
"Two sidetracks and switches already up!" called Harry.
Tom threw his bridle to one of the workmen, then sprang from his
horse. Out of the station came Mr. Newnham, waving a telegram.
"Our first train, with passengers, has just left the station at
Brand's Ranch junction, a hundred and ten miles away," shouted
the president of the road. "The train should be here long before
From the crowd a cheer greeted the announcement.
"There's nothing left but to wait to win," continued Mr. Newnham.
Five hundred voices in the crowd cheered the announcement. A
group of five Denver politicians smiled sardonically.
Tom pushed his way gently through the crowd, glancing inside the
station. There was no one there, save an operator. Closing the
door behind him, Tom crossed to a seat and sank wearily upon it.
Here he sat for some minutes, to be discovered by the telegraph
operator when the latter came out to light the lamps in the waiting
"Mr. Reade is all in, I guess," thought the operator. "I don't
wonder. I hope he goes to sleep where he sits."
Ten minutes later the receiver of one of the up the terminal station.
The operator broke in, sending back his response. Then a telegram
came, which he penned on paper.
"Mr. Reade," called the operator, "this is for you."
Tom sat up, brushing his eyes, and read:
"If you can spare time wish you would ride down track to point
about two miles west of Miller's where brook crosses under roadbed.
Have something to show you that will interest you. Nothing serious,
but will fill you with wonder. My men all along line report all
safe and going well. Come at once." (signed) "Dave Fulsbee."
Tom's first instinct was to start and tremble. He felt sure that
Fulsbee had bad news and was trying to conceal the fact until
he could see the young chief engineer in person.
"But that's really not Dave's way," Reade told himself in the
next breath. "Fulsbee talks straight out from the shoulder.
What has he to show me, I wonder! Gracious, how tired I am!
If Fulsbee knew just how I feel at this moment he wouldn't send
for me. But of course he doesn't know."
Stepping outside, Tom looked about, espying his pony standing
where it had been tied to one of the porch pillars of the station.
"I'll get Harry to ride with me," Reade thought, but he found
his chum engaged in testing a stretch of rails near the station,
a dozen of the college students with him.
"Pshaw! I'm strong enough to ride five miles alone," muttered
Tom. "Thank goodness my horse hasn't been used up. Never mind,
Tom Reade. To-morrow you can ride as far as you like on the railroad,
with never a penny of fare to pay, either!"
Unnoticed, the young chief engineer untied his horse in the dark,
mounted and rode away.
How dark and long the way seemed. Truth to tell, Tom Reade was
very close to the collapse that seemed bound to follow the reaction
once his big task was safely over. Only his strength of will
sustained him. He gripped the pony's sides with his knees.
"I wouldn't want anyone to see me riding in this fashion!" muttered
the lad. "I must look worse than a tenderfoot. Why, I'll be
really glad if Dave Fulsbee can ride back with me. I had no idea
he was so near. I believed him to be at least fifty or sixty
miles down the line."
Tom was nearing the place appointed when a sudden whistle rang
out from the brush beside the track.
Then half a dozen men leaped out into view in the darkness, two
of them seizing the bridle of his horse.
"Good evening, Reade!" called the mocking voice of 'Gene Black.
"Down this way to see your first train go through? Stay with
us, and we'll show you how it doesn't get through—-not tonight!"
"CAN YOUR ROAD SAVE ITS CHARTER NOW?"
"Oh, I guess the train will go through, all right," replied Tom
Reade, with much more confidence expressed in his tone than he
"Stay with us and see it go through," mocked 'Gene Black.
"If it's just the same to you I'd rather ride on," Tom proposed.
"But it isn't all the same to us," Black chuckled.
"Then I guess I prefer to ride on, anyway."
"You won't, though," snapped Black. "You'll get off that horse
and do as we tell you."
"Eh?" demanded the young chief engineer. He appeared astonished,
though he was not.
"You came down the line to meet your railroad detective, Fulsbee,"
Black continued sneeringly. "You'd better give it up."
"You seem to think you know a good deal about my business," Tom
"I know all about the telegram," 'Gene retorted. "I sent it—-or
ordered it sent."
Tom started in earnest this time.
"Did you ever hear of ways of cutting out a telegraph wire and
then attaching one of the cut ends to a box relay?" queried the
"I—-I believe I have heard of some such thing," Reade hesitated.
"Was that the trick you played on me?"
"Yes," nodded Gene Black. "We cut the wire just below here.
We've got a box relay on the wire going both ways. Your operators
can't use the wire much tonight. Your company can't use it from
Lineville at all."
Tom's face showed his dismay. 'Gene Black laughed in intense
"So you cut the wire, oh, and attached box relays?"
"Surely," Black nodded.
"I'm glad you confess it," replied Tom slowly. "Cutting telegraph
wires, or attaching box relays without proper authority is a felony.
The punishment is a term in state's prison."
"Bosh!" sneered Black. "With all the political pull our crowd
has behind it do you suppose we fear a little thing like that?"
"I'll talk the crime over with Dave Fulsbee," Tom continued.
"A lot of good Fulsbee will do you," jeered 'Gene. "We have him
attended to as well as we have you."
"That's a lie," Reade declared coolly.
"Do you want us to show him to you?"
"Yes," nodded Tom. "You'd have to show me Dave Fulsbee before
I'd believe you."
"Yank the cub off that horse!" ordered 'Gene Black harshly.
Three or four men seized Reade, dragging him out of the saddle
and throwing him to earth. Tom did not resist, for he saw other
men standing about with revolvers in their hands. He did not
believe that this desperate crew of worthless characters would
hesitate long about drilling holes through him.
"Take the horse, you, and ride it away," directed Black, turning
to one of the men, who promptly mounted and rode off into the
darkness. "Tie that cub's hands behind him," was Black's next
order. "Now, bring him along."
'Gene Black led the way back from the track and into the woods
for a few rods. Then the party wheeled, going eastward in a line
parallel with the track.
Tom did not speak during the journey. It was not his nature to
use words where they would be worse than wasted.
After proceeding a quarter of a mile or so, Black parted the bushes
of a dense thicket and led the way inside. At the centre the
brush had been cleaned out, clearing a circular space about twenty
feet in diameter and dimly lighted by a lantern placed in the
centre of the inclosure.
"A snug little place, Reade," chuckled the scoundrel, turning about
as Reade was piloted into the retreat. "How do you like it?"
"I like the place a whole lot better than the company," Tom answered
"What's the matter with the company?" jeered Black.
"A hangman would feel more at home in a crowd like this."
"See here, cub! Don't you try to get funny," warned Black, his
eyes snapping dangerously. "If you attempt any of your impudence
here you'll soon find out who's master."
"Master?" scoffed Tom, his own eyes flashing. "Black, do you
draw any comfort from feeling that you're boss of such an outfit?
Though I daresay that the outfit is better than its boss. However,
you asked my opinion, and you got it. I'll give you a little
more of my opinion, Black, and it won't cost you a cent."
He looked steadily into his enemy's eyes as he continued:
"Black, a good, clean dog wouldn't willingly stand by this crowd!"
Thump! 'Gene Blacks clenched fist landed in Reade's face, knocking
"Thank you," murmured Reade, as he sat up.
"Much obliged, are you?" jeered Black.
"Yes," admitted Tom. "As far as it goes. That was a coward's
act—-to have a fellow's hands tied before daring to hit him."
Black's face now turned livid with passion.
"Lift the fool to his feet, if he wants to stand," ordered Black
savagely. "He's trying to make me waste my time talking to him.
Operator, call up Brewster's and ask if he held the train as
ordered by wire."
"Oho!" thought Tom. "So that's your trick? You have the wire
in your control, and you're sending supposed train orders holding
the train at a station so that it can't get through You're a worse
scoundrel than I thought!"
Off at the edge of the brush, on the inner side, a telegraph instrument
had been set up on a barrel. From the instrument a wire ran toward
In another moment the sounder of the sender was clicking busily.
There was a pause, then the answer came back:
The operator, a seedy-looking fellow over whose whole appearance
was written the word "worthless," swung a lantern so that the light
fell on a pad of paper before him. Pencil in hand, he took off the
message as it came.
"Come over here and read it, sir?" inquired the operator.
Black crossed, bending over the sheet. Despite himself the scoundrel
started. Then he moved so that the light should not fall across
his face. Plainly Black was greatly disappointed. He swallowed
hard, then strolled back to the main group, of which Tom was one.
"That's the way to do business," announced 'Gene Black, with a
chuckle. "We sent fake train orders from the top of that barrel,
and your own railroad operator handed the orders to the conductor
of your through train. Therefore the train is switched off on
to the side track at Brewster's, and the engineer, under the false
orders, is allowing his steam to cool. Now, do you believe you
will get your train through tonight?"
"Oh, yes!" yawned Tom coolly. "For you are lying. The message
that came back over the wire from our operator at Brewster's read
in these words: 'Showed your order to train conductor. He refused
order, saying that it was not signed properly. Train has proceeded.'"
It was an incautious speech for Tom Reade Black fairly glared into
"So you can pick up telegraph messages by the sounds" 'Gene demanded.
"'Most anyone can who has ever worked over a telegraph key," Tom
Now that the secret was out, Black plainly showed his anger over
the fact that the conductor had refused train orders at Brewster's.
"You S.B. & L. fellows have put up some trick to beat us off!" he
declared, looking accusingly into Tom's face.
"What of it?" Reade inquired. "It's our railroad, isn't it? Can't
we do what we please with our own road?"
"It won't be your road after tonight!" Black insisted, grinding
his teeth in his rage. "Fortunately, we have other ways of stopping
that train from getting through. You'll soon know it, too."
Black called to the tramp operator.
"My man, call up the box relay fellow below here."
The sounder clicked busily for some moments. "I have the other
box relay man," declared the operator.
"Then send this, very carefully," Black continued hoarsely:
The operator repeated it. Black nodded. Once more the instrument
"The other box relay man signals that he has it," nodded Black's
"Listen! Everyone of you! Not a sound in this outfit," commanded
For fully three minutes the intense silence continued. Then Black
turned again to the operator, saying:
"Ask the other box relay man if anything has happened near him?"
A minute later Black's operator reported:
"He says: 'Yes; happened successfully.'"
"Good!" laughed Black, a look of fierce Joy lighting up his eyes.
"Now, Reade, I guess you'll admit yourself beaten. An electric
spark has touched off a charge of giant powder under the roadbed.
The rails have been blown skyward and a big hole torn out of
the roadbed itself. Even if you had a wrecking crew at the spot
at this moment the road couldn't be prepared for traffic inside
of twenty-four hours. NOW, will your through train reach Lineville
tonight? Can your road save its charter now?"
Tom Reade's face turned deathly white.
'Gene Black stood before him, gazing tauntingly into the eyes
of the Young Chief engineer.
BLACK'S TRUMP CARD
"You scoundrel—-you unhung imitation of Satan himself!" gasped
Reade, great beads of perspiration standing out on his face.
"Oho! We're fools, are we?" sneered Black "We're people whom
you can beat with your cheap little tricks about a different signature
for each station on the line, are we? For that was why the conductor
refused the false order at Brewster's. He has a code of signatures
for train orders—-a different signature to be used for messages
at each station?"
Black's keen mind had solved the reason for the conductor's refusal
to hold his train on a siding. The conductor had been supplied
with a code list of signatures—-a different one for each station
along the line.
"Now, you know," mocked Black, enjoying every line of anxiety
written on Tom Reade's face, "that we have you knocked silly.
You know, now, that your train can't get through by tonight—-probably
not even by tomorrow night. You realize at last—-eh?—-that
you've lost your train and your charter—-your railroad?"
"I wasn't thinking of the train, or of the road," Tom groaned.
"What I'm thinking of is the train, traveling at high speed,
running into that blown-out place. The train will be ditched
and the crew killed. A hundred and fifty passengers with them—-many
of them state officials. Oh, Black, I wouldn't dare stand in
your shoes now! The whole state—-the entire country—-will unite
in running you down. You can never hope to escape the penalty
of your crime!"
"What are you talking about?" sneered Black. "Do you think I'm
fool enough to ditch the train? No, sir! Don't believe it.
I'm not running my neck into a noose of that kind. A cluster
of red lights has been spread along the track before the blow-out.
The engineer will see the signals and pull his train up—-he
has to, by law! No one on the train will be hurt, but the train
simply can't get through!"
"Oh, if the train is safe, I don't care so much," replied Reade,
the color slowly returning to his face. "As for getting through
tonight, the S.B. & L. has a corps of engineers and a full staff
in other departments. Black, you'll lose after all your trouble."
"Humph!" muttered Black unbelievingly. "Your train will have
to get through in less than three hours, Reade!"
"It'll do it, somehow," smiled Tom.
"Yes; your engineers will bring it through, somehow," taunted
Black. "We have the chief of that corps with us right now."
"That's all right," retorted Tom. "You're welcome to me, if I
can be of any real comfort to you. But you forget that you haven
it my assistant. Harry Hazelton is at large, among his own friends.
Harry will see the train through tonight. Never worry."
Click-click-click-click! sounded the machine on the barrel.
"It's the division superintendent at Lineville, calling up Brewster's,"
announced the operator.
"Answer for Brewster, then," directed Black. "Let us see what the
division super wants, anyway."
More clicking followed, after which the operator explained:
"Division super asks Brewster if through train has passed there."
"Answer, 'Yes; twelve minutes ago,'" directed Black.
The instrument clicked furiously for a few moments.
"The division super keeps sending, 'Sign, sign, sign!'" explained
the operator at the barrel. "So I've kept on signing 'Br,' 'Br,'
over and over again. That's the proper signature for Brewster's."
Again the machine clicked noisily.
"Still insisting on the signature," grinned the operator uneasily.
"Do you know the name of the operator at Brewster's?" demanded
"Yes," nodded the man at the barrel. "The operator at Brewster's
is a chap named Havens."
"Then send the signature, 'Havens, operator, Brewster's," ordered Black.
Still the machine clicked insistently.
"Super still yells for my signature," explained the man at the
barrel desk. "He demands to know whether I'm really the operator
at Brewster's, or whether I've broken in on the wire at some other
"Don't answer the division super any further, then," snorted Black
Tom, with his ability to read messages, was enjoying the whole
situation until Black, with a sudden flash of his eyes, turned upon
the cub chief engineer.
"Reade," he hissed, "you must know the proper signature for tonight
for the operator at Brewster's to use."
"Nothing doing," grunted Tom.
"Give us that signature the right one for Brewster's."
"Nothing doing," Tom repeated.
"Put a pistol muzzle to his ear and see his memory brighten,"
snarled the scoundrel.
One of the hard-looking men behind Tom obeyed. Reade, it must
be confessed, shivered slightly when he felt the cold touch of
steel behind his ear.
"Give us the proper signature!" insisted 'Gene.
"Nothing doing," Tom insisted.
"Give us the right signature, or take the consequences!"
"I can't give it to you," Tom replied steadily. "I don't know
Tom had gotten his drawl back.
"Do you want to have the trigger of that pistol pulled?" cried
'Gene Black hoarsely.
"I certainly don't," Tom confessed. "Neither do I doubt that
you fellows are scoundrels enough to do such a trick. However,
I can't help you, even though I have to lose my life for my ignorance.
I honestly don't know the right signature for Brewster's tonight.
That information doesn't belong to the engineering department,
"Shall I pull the trigger, Black?" asked the man who held the
weapon to Reade's head.
"Yes; if he doesn't soon come to his senses," snarled Black.
"I've already told you," persisted Tom, "that I couldn't give
you the proper signature, even if I wanted to—-which I don't."
"You may be glad to talk before we're through with you tonight,"
threatened Black. "The time for trifling is past. Either give
us that signature or else prepare to take the consequences. For
the last time, are you going to answer my question?"
"I've told you the truth," Reade insisted. "If you won't believe
me, then there is nothing more to be said."
"You lie, if you insist that you don't know the signatures for
tonight!" cried Black savagely.
"All right, then," sighed Tom. "I can't tell you what I don't know."
From off in the distance came the shrill too-oo-oot! of a locomotive.
Tom Reade heard, and, despite his fears for his safety, an exclamation
of joy escaped him.
"Oh, you needn't build any false hopes," sneered Black. "That
whistle doesn't come from the through train. It's one of the
locomotives that the S.B. & L. had delivered over the D.V. & S.,
which makes a junction with your road at Lineville. A locomotive
or a train at the Lineville end won't help your crowd any. That
isn't the through train required by the charter. The S.B. & L.
loses the game, just the same."
"Oh, I don't know," Tom argued. "The S.B. & L. road was finished
within charter time. No railroad can get a train through if the
opposition sends out men to dynamite the tracks."
"Humph!" jeered Black maliciously. "That dynamited roadbed won't
save your crowd. The opposition can make it plain enough that
your crowd dynamited its own roadbed through a well-founded fear
that the tracks clear through weren't strong enough to stand the
passing of a train. Don't be afraid, Reader the enemies of your
road will know how to explain the dynamiting this side of Brewster's."
"That's a question for tomorrow, Black," rejoined Tom Reade.
"No man can ever tell, today, what tomorrow will bring forth."
Too-oo-oot! sounded a locomotive whistle again. One of the men
in the thicket threw himself to the ground, pressing his ear to
"There's a train, or a locomotive, at least, coming this way from
Lineville, boss," reported the fellow.
"A train?" gasped Black. Then his face cleared. "Oh, well, even
if it's a fully equipped wrecking train, it can't get the road
mended in time to bring the through train in before midnight,
as the charter demands."
Now the train from Lineville came closer, and the whirr of its
approach was audible along the steel rails. The engine's bell
was clanging steadily, too, after the manner of the engines of
'Gene Black crowded to the outer edge of the thicket, peering
through intently. The bright headlight of an approaching locomotive
soon penetrated this part of the forest. Then the train rolled
"Humph!" muttered Black. "Only an engine, a baggage car and one
day coach. That kind of train can't carry much in the way of
As the train passed out of sight the engine sent back a screeching
"The engineer is laughing at you, Black," jeered Tom.
"Let him," sneered the other. "I have the good fortune to know
where the laugh belongs."
Toot! toot! too-oot-oot! Something else was coming down the track
from Lineville. Then it passed the beholders in the thicket—-a full
train of engine and seven cars.
"Good old Harry Hazelton!" glowed Tom Reade. "I'll wager that
was Harry's thought—-a pilot ahead, and then the real train!"
"Small good it will do," laughed 'Gene Black disagreeably.
Then, a new thought striking him, he added:
"Bill Hoskins, you and some of the men get the dynamite under
the track opposite here. You know how to do it! Hustle!"
"You bet I know how," growled Bill eagerly, as he stepped forward,
picking out the fellows he wanted as his helpers. "I'll have
the blast against the roadbed here ready in five minutes, Black."
"Now, you'll have three trains stalled along the line tonight,
Cub Reade," laughed Black sneeringly. "Getting any train as
far as this won't count for a copper's worth! Your road has
to get a through train all the way into Lineville before midnight.
We'll blow out the roadbed here, and then where are you?"
At these words even the brief hope that had been in Tom Reade's
mind, died out.
With the roadbed gone at this point also, he did not see the slightest
chance for the S.B. & L. to save its charter or its property rights.
"Here's the racketty stuff," went on Hoskins, indicating the boxes.
"That small box has the fuses. Get the stuff along, and I'll lay
the magneto wire."
"Not quite so hastily!" sternly broke in a new voice.
Tom Reade fairly yelled for joy, for the new speaker, as he knew
at the first sound, was Dave Fulsbee.
The amazed and dismayed scoundrels huddled closer together for a
moment in the middle of the thicket.
"Spread, men! Don't let one of 'em get out alive!" sounded Dave
The scurrying steps of Fulsbee's men could be heard apparently
surrounding the thicket.
With an exclamation of rage, Black made a dash for freedom.
"Stand where you are, Black, if you want to live!" warned Dave.
"No use to make a kick you rascals! We've got you covered, and
the first man who makes a move will eat his breakfast in another
world. Now, listen to me. One at a time you fellows step up
to me, drop your weapons on the ground, where I can see you do
it, and then come out here, one at a time. No tricks—-for, remember,
you are covered by my men out here. We don't want to shoot the
whole lot of you up unless we have to, but we won't stand for
any fooling. Reade, you come through first. Any man who offers
to hinder Mr. Reade will be sorry he took the trouble—-that's
His heart bounding with joy, Tom stepped through the thicket,
going straight toward the sound of Fulsbee's voice.
"I've got a knife in my left hand," announced Fulsbee, as Tom
neared him in the dark. "Turn around so that I can cut the cords
at your wrists."
In a moment this was done.
"You might stay here and help me," whispered Dave. Tom nodded.
"Now, Black, you can be the first," called Dave in a brisk, business-like
tone. "Step up here and drop your weapons on the ground."
Wincing under a bitter sense of defeat, 'Gene Black stepped forward.
He was not really a coward, but he valued his life, little as
it was actually worth. So he dropped a revolver to the ground.
"What I have to say to you, Black, applies to the others," Dave
continued from outside the thicket. "If any man among you doesn't
drop all his weapons, we'll make it lively for him when we get
him out here."
A look of malignant hate crossed his face, then 'Gene Black dropped
also a knife to the ground.
"Come on out, Black," directed Dave Fulsbee. "Mr. Reade, will
you oblige me by running your hands over the fellow's clothing
to see if he, has any more weapons."
Tom promptly complied. A hasty search revealed no other weapons.
"Now, step right along over there, Black, where you'll find two
of my men," nodded Dave Fulsbee.
Again Black obeyed. He saw, dimly, two men some yards further
away in the darkness and joined them.
Click-click! Then the scoundrel cried out in the bitterness of
his rage, for the two railway detectives had handcuffed him.
"You, with the black hair, next," summoned Fulsbee, his vision
aided by the lantern in the centre of the thicket. "You come
here, but first stop and drop your weapons on the pile—-all the
trouble-makers you happen to have."
Thus they came, one at a time, the operator being the last of
all. The crowd of prisoners under guard of the two railway detectives
grew steadily, and each was handcuffed as he reached the detectives
after having been searched by Tom Reade.
"Good job," nodded Dave coolly, as he am approached the captives.
"Now, we have you all under lock and key. My, but you're a
"Come on, men. March 'em up the track. Then we'll come back,
or send someone else after the dynamite and other stuff. That'll
be handy as evidence."
Guarded by Fulsbee and his two detectives, the prisoners marched
along a few rods.
"Mr. Reade," called Dave, pointing, "you'll find your horse tied
to that tree yonder. I reckon you'll be glad to get in saddle
Indeed, Tom was glad. He ran over, untying the animal, which
uttered a whinny of recognition. In saddle, Tom joined the marching
"You don't seem to think us a very hard crowd to guard," remarked
'Gene Black curiously. "Why don't you call off the men you posted
around the thickets"
"I didn't post any," Fulsbee answered simply. "I sent these two
men of mine running around the thicket. Then they had to come
together and attend to handcuffing you fellows."
"And were you the only man who had the drop on us?" gasped 'Gene
"I was," Dave Fulsbee responded. "If you fellows hadn't had such
bad nerves, you could have escaped. But it's an old story. When
men go bad their nerves go bad with them."
As for Black's followers, now that they knew the nature of the
trick that had fooled them, several of them hung back.
"You fellows needn't think you can balk now," observed Fulsbee
grimly. "You're all of you handcuffed, and there are enough of
us to handle you. I promise you that, if anyone of you tries
to run away, I won't run after him until I've first tried dropping
him with a shot."
So the party proceeded, and in time reached Lineville. There
was great excitement in that little junction town when the citizens
first heard of the dastardly work that the prisoners had attempted.
Dave marched his captives into the waiting room of the station.
All outsiders were ushered forth politely. Mr. Newnham was hurriedly
summoned, and to him Tom Reade disclosed what he had learned of
the work of enemies along the line. Naturally the president of
the S.B. & L. was greatly excited.
"We knew something was wrong, from the nature of the telegraph
messages that came in," cried Mr. Newnham. "It was your friend,
Hazelton, who first suggested the idea of sending a full train
down the line, with a short pilot train ahead."
"Good, great old Harry!" murmured Tom admiringly.
Both Fulsbee and the president of the road tried to question 'Gene
Black. That treacherous fellow, however, steadfastly refused
to talk. Two or three of his gang were willing enough to talk,
but they knew little, as Black had carried all his plans and schemes
in his own head.
"No matter!" muttered Dave Fulsbee. "My two men and I were close
to that thicket for some time before we broke in on the affair.
We heard enough to supply all the evidence that the courts will
want against these worthies."
As the futile questioning was drawing to a close, 'Gene Black
suddenly roused himself to say sneeringly:
"Gentlemen, look at your station clock. It's fifteen minutes
before midnight. A quarter of an hour left! Where's your through
train? If it reaches here fifteen minutes from now it will be
"Send a message down the line quickly," gasped Mr. Newnham, turning
pale. Then he wheeled savagely upon the prisoner, exclaiming:
"I forgot, Black. You rascals cut the wires. We could have
mended them at the nearer point, but the wires were cut, too,
at the scene of the blow-out. Oh, but you have been a thorn in
From the crowd that still lingered outside came a cheer. Tom
Reade sprang to the nearest door, throwing it open.
"Listen!" he shouted.
The sound that had started the crowd to cheering was repeated
"It's the train!" cried Reade joyously. "It can't be more than
two or three miles below here, either. It will get through on
With nine minutes to spare, the train rolled into the station
at Lineville. It was not the same train that had left Stormburg,
for that train had been halted, safely, just before reaching the
scene of the disastrous blow-out. At that point the passengers
had alighted and had been conducted on foot to the other side
of the gap caused by the explosion. Here Hazelton's Lineville
special stood ready to convey them into Lineville. So the road
had been legally opened, since the passengers from Stormburg—-among
whom was the lieutenant governor of the state had been brought
all the way through over the line. Within the meaning of the
law a through train had been operated over the new line, and within
The S.B. & L. had won! It had saved its charter. On the morrow,
in Wall Street, the value of the road's stock jumped by some millions
Let us not forget the pilot train. That returned to Lineville
in the rear of the passenger train. Though the pilot train had
a conductor, Harry Hazelton was in real charge.
"Look whom we have here, Tom!" called Harry from the open side
door of the baggage car, as Reade raced up to greet his successful
A man, bandaged, injured and groaning, lay on the floor of the
"Why, it's Naughty Peter, himself!" cried Tom. "Peter, I'm sorry
to find you in this shape. I am afraid you have been misbehaving."
"We found him not far from the track, near the blow-out," Hazelton
explained. "Whether he attended to that bit of bad work all alone,
or whether his companions believed him dead and fled for their
own safety, I can't learn. Bad Pete won't say a word. He was
unconscious when we first discovered him. Now he knows what's
going on around him, but he's too badly hurt to do more than hold
It was only when Bad Pete recovered his health—-in jail—-and
found himself facing a long term in prison, that he was ready
to open his mouth. He could tell nothing, however, beyond confessing
that he and three other men, including an operator, had attended
to the blow-out. Pete had no knowledge of the real parties behind
the plot. He knew only that he had acted under 'Gene Blanks orders.
So Bad Pete was shown no mercy, but sent behind the bars for
a term of twenty-five years. Owing to Black's stubborn silence
the outrages were never traced back to any official of the W.C.
'Gene Black was sentenced to prison for thirty years. The other
rascals, who had worked under his direction, all received long
The student engineers, wholly happy and well paid, returned to
The S.B. & L. is still under the same management, and is one of
the prosperous independent railroads of the United States. Dave
Fulsbee continues as the head of its detective system.
Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton had made good in their first professional
undertaking. They were paid in proportion to their services, and
given the opportunity to retain their positions at the head of the
railway's engineering corps.
For some time they kept their positions, filling them always with
honor. Yet, in the end, the desire to do other great things in
their chosen profession led them into other fields of venture.
Their greatest adventures, their severest trials and deepest
problems, as well as their gravest perils were still ahead of them
in their path of duty.
The Young Engineers were bound to go on and up, yet their way
was sure to be a stormy one.
We shall meet these fine young Americans again in the next volume
of this series, which is published under the title, "The Young
Engineers in Arizona; Or, Laying Tracks on the Man-killer Quicksand."
It is a rousing narrative of real people and real happenings.