Part 3 out of 4
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.