Part 2 out of 4
"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."