Part 4 out of 4
It was not long ere Tom reined in, holding up a hand as a signal
to Harry to do the same thing.
"Here, hold my horse, and stay right here," ordered the young chief.
"Tom, what on earth-----"
Tom Reade was already a hundred yards away, running in amid the
brush. At last he halted, studying the ground earnestly. Then
"One thing I know, anyway," muttered the puzzled Hazelton, "Tom
is not crazy, and he doesn't dash off like that unless he has
something real on his mind." The minutes passed. At last Tom
came back, walking energetically. He took his horse's bridle
and leaded into saddle.
"Harry, ride back, hard, and send me two or three of the railroad
detectives, unless you happen to meet some of them this side of
the camp. I want the men on the rush. Don't fail to tell 'em
"Any---er---explanations" queried Hazelton.
"For you---yes---but don't take the time to pass the explanation
on to the men. Just hustle 'em here. When I started my horse
forward it was because I caught sight of 'Gene Black's head over
the bush tops. I found a few of his footprints, then lost the
trail. Send Dave Fulsbee along, too, if you have the luck to
see him. I want 'Gene Black hunted down before he does some big
Harry Hazelton went back over the trail at a gallop.
Not until he reached camp did he come upon Fulsbee's men. These
he hustled out to find Tom.
Two hours later Reade came back over the trail, at a slow jog.
The young chief engineer looked more worried than Hazelton had
ever seen his chum look before.
THE TRAP AT THE FINISH
A number of days passed, days full of worry for the young chief
engineer. Yet, outwardly, Tom Reade was as good-humored and cheery
He was sure that his eyes had played him no trick, and that he
really had seen 'Gene Black in the brush.
The presence of that scoundrel persuaded Tom that someone working
in the interests of the W.C. & A. Railroad Company was still employing
Black in an attempt to block the successful completion of the
S.B. & L.
Moreover, the news that Dave Fulsbee received from Denver showed
that two of the officials of the W.C. & A. were in that city,
apparently ready to proceed to get possession of the rival road.
Politicians asserted that it was a "cinch" that the new road would
fall short of the charter requirement in the matter of time.
"All this confidence on the part of the enemy is pretty fair proof
that the scoundrels are up to something," Tom told Mr. Newnham.
"Or else they're trying to break down our nerve so that we'll
fail through sheer collapse," replied the president of the S.B.
& L., rubbing his hands nervously. "Reade, why should there be
such scoundrels in the world?"
"The president is all but completely gone to pieces," Reade confided
to his chum. "Say, but I'm glad Mr. Newnham himself isn't the
one who has to get the road through in time. If it rested with
him I'm afraid he'd fizzle. But we'll pull it through, Harry,
old chum---we'll pull it through."
"If this thing had to last a month more I'm afraid good old Tom
would go to pieces himself," thought Harry, as he watched his
friend stride away. "Tom never gets to his cot now before eleven
at night, and four thirty in the morning always finds him astir
again. I wonder if he thinks he's fooling me by looking so blamed
cheerful and talking so confidently. Whew! I'd be afraid for
poor old Tom's brain if anything should happen to trip us up."
Harry himself was anxious, but he was not downright nervous.
He did not feel things as keenly as did his chum; neither was
Hazelton directly responsible for the success of the big undertaking.
Mile after mile the construction work stretched. Trains were
running now for work purposes, nearly as far as the line extended.
The telegraph wires ran into the temporary station building at
Lineville, and the several operators along the line were busy
carrying orders through the length of the wire service.
Back at Stormburg, where the railroad line began, three trains
lay on side tracks. These were passenger trains that were to
run the entire length of the road as soon as it was opened.
Back at Stormburg, also, the new general superintendent slept
at his office that he might receive messages from President Newnham
the more quickly.
At Bakerstown a division superintendent was stationed, he, too,
sleeping at his office.
Once more Tom Reade had brought his work within sight of Lineville.
In fact, the track extended all but the last mile of the line.
Ties were down nearly all of the way to the terminal station.
This was the state of affairs at two o'clock in the afternoon.
Before midnight the last rail must be laid, and the first through
train from Stormburg must run in. If, at the stroke of midnight,
the first train had failed to go through, then the charter of
the S.B. & L. would be forfeited and subject to seizure and sale
by the state.
Up from Denver some of the worst politicians had come. They were
quartered at the new little hotel in Lineville. Dave Fulsbee
had detailed three of his men covertly to watch these same politicians.
Tom, inwardly consumed with fever, outwardly as cheery as human
being might be, stood watching the laying of the rails over that
last stretch. The men who could be prevented from dropping in
their tracks must work until the last rail had been spiked into
place. Away up in Lineville Harry Hazelton was personally superintending
the laying of the last ties.
The honk of an automobile horn caused Tom Reade to glance up.
Approaching him was President Newnham, himself driving the runabout
that he had had forwarded.
"Reade!" called the president of the S.B. & L., stopping his car,
and Tom went over to him.
"The suspense is over, at last, Reade," exclaimed Mr. Newnham,
smiling broadly. "Look! the road is all but completed. Hundreds
of men are toiling. The first train left Stormburg this morning.
By seven tonight you'll have the last rails in place. Between eight
and nine this evening the first through train will have rolled into
Lineville and we shall have won the fight that has brought me many
gray hairs. At last the worry is over!"
"Of course, sir," nodded Tom.
"Reade, don't you really believe that the stress is over---that
we shall triumph tonight?"
"Of course we shall, sir," Tom responded. "I have predicted,
all along, that we'd have the road through in time, haven't I?"
"And the credit is nearly all yours, Reade," admitted Mr. Newnham
gleefully. "Nearly all yours, lad!"
Honk! honk! Unable to remain long at one spot, Mr. Newnham started
his car again.
Reade felt a depression that he could not shake off.
"It's just the reaction following the long train," Tom tried to
tell himself. "Whew! Until within the last two or three days
I haven't half realized how much the strain was taking out of
me! I'll wager I'll sleep, tonight, after I once have the satisfaction
of seeing the first train roll in!"
By six o'clock Tom felt as though he could hardly stand up. Be
wondered if his teeth were really chattering, or whether he merely
To take up his time Tom tried a brisk canter, away from the railroad.
At seven o'clock he rode into Lineville.
"Tom, Tom!", bawled Harry, from the centre of a group of workmen.
"We've been looking for you! Come here quickly!"
Tom urged his pony forward to the station from which Hazelton had
"Watch this---just watch it!" begged Harry.
Clank! clank! clank! Tom Reade, gazing in fascination, saw
the last spike of the last rail being driven into place.
"Two sidetracks and switches already up!" called Harry.
Tom threw his bridle to one of the workmen, then sprang from his
horse. Out of the station came Mr. Newnham, waving a telegram.
"Our first train, with passengers, has just left the station at
Brand's Ranch junction, a hundred and ten miles away," shouted
the president of the road. "The train should be here long before
From the crowd a cheer greeted the announcement.
"There's nothing left but to wait to win," continued Mr. Newnham.
Five hundred voices in the crowd cheered the announcement. A
group of five Denver politicians smiled sardonically.
Tom pushed his way gently through the crowd, glancing inside the
station. There was no one there, save an operator. Closing the
door behind him, Tom crossed to a seat and sank wearily upon it.
Here he sat for some minutes, to be discovered by the telegraph
operator when the latter came out to light the lamps in the waiting
"Mr. Reade is all in, I guess," thought the operator. "I don't
wonder. I hope he goes to sleep where he sits."
Ten minutes later the receiver of one of the up the terminal station.
The operator broke in, sending back his response. Then a telegram
came, which he penned on paper.
"Mr. Reade," called the operator, "this is for you."
Tom sat up, brushing his eyes, and read:
"If you can spare time wish you would ride down track to point
about two miles west of Miller's where brook crosses under roadbed.
Have something to show you that will interest you. Nothing serious,
but will fill you with wonder. My men all along line report all
safe and going well. Come at once." (signed) "Dave Fulsbee."
Tom's first instinct was to start and tremble. He felt sure that
Fulsbee had bad news and was trying to conceal the fact until
he could see the young chief engineer in person.
"But that's really not Dave's way," Reade told himself in the
next breath. "Fulsbee talks straight out from the shoulder.
What has he to show me, I wonder! Gracious, how tired I am!
If Fulsbee knew just how I feel at this moment he wouldn't send
for me. But of course he doesn't know."
Stepping outside, Tom looked about, espying his pony standing
where it had been tied to one of the porch pillars of the station.
"I'll get Harry to ride with me," Reade thought, but he found
his chum engaged in testing a stretch of rails near the station,
a dozen of the college students with him.
"Pshaw! I'm strong enough to ride five miles alone," muttered
Tom. "Thank goodness my horse hasn't been used up. Never mind,
Tom Reade. To-morrow you can ride as far as you like on the railroad,
with never a penny of fare to pay, either!"
Unnoticed, the young chief engineer untied his horse in the dark,
mounted and rode away.
How dark and long the way seemed. Truth to tell, Tom Reade was
very close to the collapse that seemed bound to follow the reaction
once his big task was safely over. Only his strength of will
sustained him. He gripped the pony's sides with his knees.
"I wouldn't want anyone to see me riding in this fashion!" muttered
the lad. "I must look worse than a tenderfoot. Why, I'll be
really glad if Dave Fulsbee can ride back with me. I had no idea
he was so near. I believed him to be at least fifty or sixty
miles down the line."
Tom was nearing the place appointed when a sudden whistle rang
out from the brush beside the track.
Then half a dozen men leaped out into view in the darkness, two
of them seizing the bridle of his horse.
"Good evening, Reade!" called the mocking voice of 'Gene Black.
"Down this way to see your first train go through? Stay with
us, and we'll show you how it doesn't get through---not tonight!"
"CAN YOUR ROAD SAVE ITS CHARTER NOW?"
"Oh, I guess the train will go through, all right," replied Tom
Reade, with much more confidence expressed in his tone than he
"Stay with us and see it go through," mocked 'Gene Black.
"If it's just the same to you I'd rather ride on," Tom proposed.
"But it isn't all the same to us," Black chuckled.
"Then I guess I prefer to ride on, anyway."
"You won't, though," snapped Black. "You'll get off that horse
and do as we tell you."
"Eh?" demanded the young chief engineer. He appeared astonished,
though he was not.
"You came down the line to meet your railroad detective, Fulsbee,"
Black continued sneeringly. "You'd better give it up."
"You seem to think you know a good deal about my business," Tom
"I know all about the telegram," 'Gene retorted. "I sent it---or
ordered it sent."
Tom started in earnest this time.
"Did you ever hear of ways of cutting out a telegraph wire and
then attaching one of the cut ends to a box relay?" queried the
"I---I believe I have heard of some such thing," Reade hesitated.
"Was that the trick you played on me?"
"Yes," nodded Gene Black. "We cut the wire just below here.
We've got a box relay on the wire going both ways. Your operators
can't use the wire much tonight. Your company can't use it from
Lineville at all."
Tom's face showed his dismay. 'Gene Black laughed in intense
"So you cut the wire, oh, and attached box relays?"
"Surely," Black nodded.
"I'm glad you confess it," replied Tom slowly. "Cutting telegraph
wires, or attaching box relays without proper authority is a felony.
The punishment is a term in state's prison."
"Bosh!" sneered Black. "With all the political pull our crowd
has behind it do you suppose we fear a little thing like that?"
"I'll talk the crime over with Dave Fulsbee," Tom continued.
"A lot of good Fulsbee will do you," jeered 'Gene. "We have him
attended to as well as we have you."
"That's a lie," Reade declared coolly.
"Do you want us to show him to you?"
"Yes," nodded Tom. "You'd have to show me Dave Fulsbee before
I'd believe you."
"Yank the cub off that horse!" ordered 'Gene Black harshly.
Three or four men seized Reade, dragging him out of the saddle
and throwing him to earth. Tom did not resist, for he saw other
men standing about with revolvers in their hands. He did not
believe that this desperate crew of worthless characters would
hesitate long about drilling holes through him.
"Take the horse, you, and ride it away," directed Black, turning
to one of the men, who promptly mounted and rode off into the
darkness. "Tie that cub's hands behind him," was Black's next
order. "Now, bring him along."
'Gene Black led the way back from the track and into the woods
for a few rods. Then the party wheeled, going eastward in a line
parallel with the track.
Tom did not speak during the journey. It was not his nature to
use words where they would be worse than wasted.
After proceeding a quarter of a mile or so, Black parted the bushes
of a dense thicket and led the way inside. At the centre the
brush had been cleaned out, clearing a circular space about twenty
feet in diameter and dimly lighted by a lantern placed in the
centre of the inclosure.
"A snug little place, Reade," chuckled the scoundrel, turning about
as Reade was piloted into the retreat. "How do you like it?"
"I like the place a whole lot better than the company," Tom answered
"What's the matter with the company?" jeered Black.
"A hangman would feel more at home in a crowd like this."
"See here, cub! Don't you try to get funny," warned Black, his
eyes snapping dangerously. "If you attempt any of your impudence
here you'll soon find out who's master."
"Master?" scoffed Tom, his own eyes flashing. "Black, do you
draw any comfort from feeling that you're boss of such an outfit?
Though I daresay that the outfit is better than its boss. However,
you asked my opinion, and you got it. I'll give you a little
more of my opinion, Black, and it won't cost you a cent."
He looked steadily into his enemy's eyes as he continued:
"Black, a good, clean dog wouldn't willingly stand by this crowd!"
Thump! 'Gene Blacks clenched fist landed in Reade's face, knocking
"Thank you," murmured Reade, as he sat up.
"Much obliged, are you?" jeered Black.
"Yes," admitted Tom. "As far as it goes. That was a coward's
act---to have a fellow's hands tied before daring to hit him."
Black's face now turned livid with passion.
"Lift the fool to his feet, if he wants to stand," ordered Black
savagely. "He's trying to make me waste my time talking to him.
Operator, call up Brewster's and ask if he held the train as
ordered by wire."
"Oho!" thought Tom. "So that's your trick? You have the wire
in your control, and you're sending supposed train orders holding
the train at a station so that it can't get through You're a worse
scoundrel than I thought!"
Off at the edge of the brush, on the inner side, a telegraph instrument
had been set up on a barrel. From the instrument a wire ran toward
In another moment the sounder of the sender was clicking busily.
There was a pause, then the answer came back:
The operator, a seedy-looking fellow over whose whole appearance
was written the word "worthless," swung a lantern so that the light
fell on a pad of paper before him. Pencil in hand, he took off the
message as it came.
"Come over here and read it, sir?" inquired the operator.
Black crossed, bending over the sheet. Despite himself the scoundrel
started. Then he moved so that the light should not fall across
his face. Plainly Black was greatly disappointed. He swallowed
hard, then strolled back to the main group, of which Tom was one.
"That's the way to do business," announced 'Gene Black, with a
chuckle. "We sent fake train orders from the top of that barrel,
and your own railroad operator handed the orders to the conductor
of your through train. Therefore the train is switched off on
to the side track at Brewster's, and the engineer, under the false
orders, is allowing his steam to cool. Now, do you believe you
will get your train through tonight?"
"Oh, yes!" yawned Tom coolly. "For you are lying. The message
that came back over the wire from our operator at Brewster's read
in these words: 'Showed your order to train conductor. He refused
order, saying that it was not signed properly. Train has proceeded.'"
It was an incautious speech for Tom Reade Black fairly glared into
"So you can pick up telegraph messages by the sounds" 'Gene demanded.
"'Most anyone can who has ever worked over a telegraph key," Tom
Now that the secret was out, Black plainly showed his anger over
the fact that the conductor had refused train orders at Brewster's.
"You S.B. & L. fellows have put up some trick to beat us off!" he
declared, looking accusingly into Tom's face.
"What of it?" Reade inquired. "It's our railroad, isn't it? Can't
we do what we please with our own road?"
"It won't be your road after tonight!" Black insisted, grinding
his teeth in his rage. "Fortunately, we have other ways of stopping
that train from getting through. You'll soon know it, too."
Black called to the tramp operator.
"My man, call up the box relay fellow below here."
The sounder clicked busily for some moments. "I have the other
box relay man," declared the operator.
"Then send this, very carefully," Black continued hoarsely:
The operator repeated it. Black nodded. Once more the instrument
"The other box relay man signals that he has it," nodded Black's
"Listen! Everyone of you! Not a sound in this outfit," commanded
For fully three minutes the intense silence continued. Then Black
turned again to the operator, saying:
"Ask the other box relay man if anything has happened near him?"
A minute later Black's operator reported:
"He says: 'Yes; happened successfully.'"
"Good!" laughed Black, a look of fierce Joy lighting up his eyes.
"Now, Reade, I guess you'll admit yourself beaten. An electric
spark has touched off a charge of giant powder under the roadbed.
The rails have been blown skyward and a big hole torn out of
the roadbed itself. Even if you had a wrecking crew at the spot
at this moment the road couldn't be prepared for traffic inside
of twenty-four hours. NOW, will your through train reach Lineville
tonight? Can your road save its charter _now_?"
Tom Reade's face turned deathly white.
'Gene Black stood before him, gazing tauntingly into the eyes
of the Young Chief engineer.
BLACK'S TRUMP CARD
"You scoundrel---you unhung imitation of Satan himself!" gasped
Reade, great beads of perspiration standing out on his face.
"Oho! We're fools, are we?" sneered Black "We're people whom
you can beat with your cheap little tricks about a different signature
for each station on the line, are we? For that was why the conductor
refused the false order at Brewster's. He has a code of signatures
for train orders---a different signature to be used for messages
at each station?"
Black's keen mind had solved the reason for the conductor's refusal
to hold his train on a siding. The conductor _had_ been supplied
with a code list of signatures---a different one for each station
along the line.
"Now, you know," mocked Black, enjoying every line of anxiety
written on Tom Reade's face, "that we have you knocked silly.
You know, now, that your train can't get through by tonight---probably
not even by tomorrow night. You realize at last---eh?---that
you've lost your train and your charter---your railroad?"
"I wasn't thinking of the train, or of the road," Tom groaned.
"What I'm thinking of is the train, traveling at high speed,
running into that blown-out place. The train will be ditched
and the crew killed. A hundred and fifty passengers with them---many
of them state officials. Oh, Black, I wouldn't dare stand in
your shoes now! The whole state---the entire country---will unite
in running you down. You can never hope to escape the penalty
of your crime!"
"What are you talking about?" sneered Black. "Do you think I'm
fool enough to ditch the train? No, sir! Don't believe it.
I'm not running my neck into a noose of that kind. A cluster
of red lights has been spread along the track before the blow-out.
The engineer will see the signals and pull his train up---he
has to, by law! No one on the train will be hurt, but the train
simply can't get through!"
"Oh, if the train is safe, I don't care so much," replied Reade,
the color slowly returning to his face. "As for getting through
tonight, the S.B. & L. has a corps of engineers and a full staff
in other departments. Black, you'll lose after all your trouble."
"Humph!" muttered Black unbelievingly. "Your train will have
to get through in less than three hours, Reade!"
"It'll do it, somehow," smiled Tom.
"Yes; your engineers will bring it through, somehow," taunted
Black. "We have the chief of that corps with us right now."
"That's all right," retorted Tom. "You're welcome to me, if I
can be of any real comfort to you. But you forget that you haven
it my assistant. Harry Hazelton is at large, among his own friends.
Harry will see the train through tonight. Never worry."
Click-click-click-click! sounded the machine on the barrel.
"It's the division superintendent at Lineville, calling up Brewster's,"
announced the operator.
"Answer for Brewster, then," directed Black. "Let us see what the
division super wants, anyway."
More clicking followed, after which the operator explained:
"Division super asks Brewster if through train has passed there."
"Answer, 'Yes; twelve minutes ago,'" directed Black.
The instrument clicked furiously for a few moments.
"The division super keeps sending, 'Sign, sign, sign!'" explained
the operator at the barrel. "So I've kept on signing 'Br,' 'Br,'
over and over again. That's the proper signature for Brewster's."
Again the machine clicked noisily.
"Still insisting on the signature," grinned the operator uneasily.
"Do you know the name of the operator at Brewster's?" demanded
"Yes," nodded the man at the barrel. "The operator at Brewster's
is a chap named Havens."
"Then send the signature, 'Havens, operator, Brewster's," ordered Black.
Still the machine clicked insistently.
"Super still yells for my signature," explained the man at the
barrel desk. "He demands to know whether I'm really the operator
at Brewster's, or whether I've broken in on the wire at some other
"Don't answer the division super any further, then," snorted Black
Tom, with his ability to read messages, was enjoying the whole
situation until Black, with a sudden flash of his eyes, turned upon
the cub chief engineer.
"Reade," he hissed, "you must know the proper signature for tonight
for the operator at Brewster's to use."
"Nothing doing," grunted Tom.
"Give us that signature the right one for Brewster's."
"Nothing doing," Tom repeated.
"Put a pistol muzzle to his ear and see his memory brighten,"
snarled the scoundrel.
One of the hard-looking men behind Tom obeyed. Reade, it must
be confessed, shivered slightly when he felt the cold touch of
steel behind his ear.
"Give us the proper signature!" insisted 'Gene.
"Nothing doing," Tom insisted.
"Give us the right signature, or take the consequences!"
"I can't give it to you," Tom replied steadily. "I don't know
Tom had gotten his drawl back.
"Do you want to have the trigger of that pistol pulled?" cried
'Gene Black hoarsely.
"I certainly don't," Tom confessed. "Neither do I doubt that
you fellows are scoundrels enough to do such a trick. However,
I can't help you, even though I have to lose my life for my ignorance.
I honestly don't know the right signature for Brewster's tonight.
That information doesn't belong to the engineering department,
"Shall I pull the trigger, Black?" asked the man who held the
weapon to Reade's head.
"Yes; if he doesn't soon come to his senses," snarled Black.
"I've already told you," persisted Tom, "that I couldn't give
you the proper signature, even if I wanted to---which I don't."
"You may be glad to talk before we're through with you tonight,"
threatened Black. "The time for trifling is past. Either give
us that signature or else prepare to take the consequences. For
the last time, are you going to answer my question?"
"I've told you the truth," Reade insisted. "If you won't believe
me, then there is nothing more to be said."
"You lie, if you insist that you don't know the signatures for
tonight!" cried Black savagely.
"All right, then," sighed Tom. "I can't tell you what I don't know."
From off in the distance came the shrill too-oo-oot! of a locomotive.
Tom Reade heard, and, despite his fears for his safety, an exclamation
of joy escaped him.
"Oh, you needn't build any false hopes," sneered Black. "That
whistle doesn't come from the through train. It's one of the
locomotives that the S.B. & L. had delivered over the D.V. & S.,
which makes a junction with your road at Lineville. A locomotive
or a train at the Lineville end won't help your crowd any. That
isn't the through train required by the charter. The S.B. & L.
loses the game, just the same."
"Oh, I don't know," Tom argued. "The S.B. & L. road was finished
within charter time. No railroad can get a train through if the
opposition sends out men to dynamite the tracks."
"Humph!" jeered Black maliciously. "That dynamited roadbed won't
save your crowd. The opposition can make it plain enough that
your crowd dynamited its own roadbed through a well-founded fear
that the tracks clear through weren't strong enough to stand the
passing of a train. Don't be afraid, Reader the enemies of your
road will know how to explain the dynamiting this side of Brewster's."
"That's a question for tomorrow, Black," rejoined Tom Reade.
"No man can ever tell, today, what tomorrow will bring forth."
Too-oo-oot! sounded a locomotive whistle again. One of the men
in the thicket threw himself to the ground, pressing his ear to
"There's a train, or a locomotive, at least, coming this way from
Lineville, boss," reported the fellow.
"A train?" gasped Black. Then his face cleared. "Oh, well, even
if it's a fully equipped wrecking train, it can't get the road
mended in time to bring the through train in before midnight,
as the charter demands."
Now the train from Lineville came closer, and the whirr of its
approach was audible along the steel rails. The engine's bell
was clanging steadily, too, after the manner of the engines of
'Gene Black crowded to the outer edge of the thicket, peering
through intently. The bright headlight of an approaching locomotive
soon penetrated this part of the forest. Then the train rolled
"Humph!" muttered Black. "Only an engine, a baggage car and one
day coach. That kind of train can't carry much in the way of
As the train passed out of sight the engine sent back a screeching
"The engineer is laughing at you, Black," jeered Tom.
"Let him," sneered the other. "I have the good fortune to know
where the laugh belongs."
Toot! toot! too-oot-oot! Something else was coming down the track
from Lineville. Then it passed the beholders in the thicket---a full
train of engine and seven cars.
"Good old Harry Hazelton!" glowed Tom Reade. "I'll wager that
was Harry's thought---a pilot ahead, and then the real train!"
"Small good it will do," laughed 'Gene Black disagreeably.
Then, a new thought striking him, he added:
"Bill Hoskins, you and some of the men get the dynamite under
the track opposite here. You know how to do it! Hustle!"
"You bet I know how," growled Bill eagerly, as he stepped forward,
picking out the fellows he wanted as his helpers. "I'll have
the blast against the roadbed here ready in five minutes, Black."
"Now, you'll have three trains stalled along the line tonight,
Cub Reade," laughed Black sneeringly. "Getting any train as
far as this won't count for a copper's worth! Your road has
to get a through train all the way into Lineville before midnight.
We'll blow out the roadbed here, and then where are you?"
At these words even the brief hope that had been in Tom Reade's
mind, died out.
With the roadbed gone at this point also, he did not see the slightest
chance for the S.B. & L. to save its charter or its property rights.
"Here's the racketty stuff," went on Hoskins, indicating the boxes.
"That small box has the fuses. Get the stuff along, and I'll lay
the magneto wire."
"Not quite so hastily!" sternly broke in a new voice.
Tom Reade fairly yelled for joy, for the new speaker, as he knew
at the first sound, was Dave Fulsbee.
The amazed and dismayed scoundrels huddled closer together for a
moment in the middle of the thicket.
"Spread, men! Don't let one of 'em get out alive!" sounded Dave
The scurrying steps of Fulsbee's men could be heard apparently
surrounding the thicket.
With an exclamation of rage, Black made a dash for freedom.
"Stand where you are, Black, if you want to live!" warned Dave.
"No use to make a kick you rascals! We've got you covered, and
the first man who makes a move will eat his breakfast in another
world. Now, listen to me. One at a time you fellows step up
to me, drop your weapons on the ground, where I can see you do
it, and then come out here, one at a time. No tricks---for, remember,
you are covered by my men out here. We don't want to shoot the
whole lot of you up unless we have to, but we won't stand for
any fooling. Reade, you come through first. Any man who offers
to hinder Mr. Reade will be sorry he took the trouble---that's
His heart bounding with joy, Tom stepped through the thicket,
going straight toward the sound of Fulsbee's voice.
"I've got a knife in my left hand," announced Fulsbee, as Tom
neared him in the dark. "Turn around so that I can cut the cords
at your wrists."
In a moment this was done.
"You might stay here and help me," whispered Dave. Tom nodded.
"Now, Black, you can be the first," called Dave in a brisk, business-like
tone. "Step up here and drop your weapons on the ground."
Wincing under a bitter sense of defeat, 'Gene Black stepped forward.
He was not really a coward, but he valued his life, little as
it was actually worth. So he dropped a revolver to the ground.
"What I have to say to you, Black, applies to the others," Dave
continued from outside the thicket. "If any man among you doesn't
drop all his weapons, we'll make it lively for him when we get
him out here."
A look of malignant hate crossed his face, then 'Gene Black dropped
also a knife to the ground.
"Come on out, Black," directed Dave Fulsbee. "Mr. Reade, will
you oblige me by running your hands over the fellow's clothing
to see if he, has any more weapons."
Tom promptly complied. A hasty search revealed no other weapons.
"Now, step right along over there, Black, where you'll find two
of my men," nodded Dave Fulsbee.
Again Black obeyed. He saw, dimly, two men some yards further
away in the darkness and joined them.
Click-click! Then the scoundrel cried out in the bitterness of
his rage, for the two railway detectives had handcuffed him.
"You, with the black hair, next," summoned Fulsbee, his vision
aided by the lantern in the centre of the thicket. "You come
here, but first stop and drop your weapons on the pile---all the
trouble-makers you happen to have."
Thus they came, one at a time, the operator being the last of
all. The crowd of prisoners under guard of the two railway detectives
grew steadily, and each was handcuffed as he reached the detectives
after having been searched by Tom Reade.
"Good job," nodded Dave coolly, as he am approached the captives.
"Now, we have you all under lock and key. My, but you're a
"Come on, men. March 'em up the track. Then we'll come back,
or send someone else after the dynamite and other stuff. That'll
be handy as evidence."
Guarded by Fulsbee and his two detectives, the prisoners marched
along a few rods.
"Mr. Reade," called Dave, pointing, "you'll find your horse tied
to that tree yonder. I reckon you'll be glad to get in saddle
Indeed, Tom was glad. He ran over, untying the animal, which
uttered a whinny of recognition. In saddle, Tom joined the marching
"You don't seem to think us a very hard crowd to guard," remarked
'Gene Black curiously. "Why don't you call off the men you posted
around the thickets"
"I didn't post any," Fulsbee answered simply. "I sent these two
men of mine running around the thicket. Then they had to come
together and attend to handcuffing you fellows."
"And were you the only man who had the drop on us?" gasped 'Gene
"I was," Dave Fulsbee responded. "If you fellows hadn't had such
bad nerves, you could have escaped. But it's an old story. When
men go bad their nerves go bad with them."
As for Black's followers, now that they knew the nature of the
trick that had fooled them, several of them hung back.
"You fellows needn't think you can balk now," observed Fulsbee
grimly. "You're all of you handcuffed, and there are enough of
us to handle you. I promise you that, if anyone of you tries
to run away, I won't run after him until I've first tried dropping
him with a shot."
So the party proceeded, and in time reached Lineville. There
was great excitement in that little junction town when the citizens
first heard of the dastardly work that the prisoners had attempted.
Dave marched his captives into the waiting room of the station.
All outsiders were ushered forth politely. Mr. Newnham was hurriedly
summoned, and to him Tom Reade disclosed what he had learned of
the work of enemies along the line. Naturally the president of
the S.B. & L. was greatly excited.
"We knew something was wrong, from the nature of the telegraph
messages that came in," cried Mr. Newnham. "It was your friend,
Hazelton, who first suggested the idea of sending a full train
down the line, with a short pilot train ahead."
"Good, great old Harry!" murmured Tom admiringly.
Both Fulsbee and the president of the road tried to question 'Gene
Black. That treacherous fellow, however, steadfastly refused
to talk. Two or three of his gang were willing enough to talk,
but they knew little, as Black had carried all his plans and schemes
in his own head.
"No matter!" muttered Dave Fulsbee. "My two men and I were close
to that thicket for some time before we broke in on the affair.
We heard enough to supply all the evidence that the courts will
want against these worthies."
As the futile questioning was drawing to a close, 'Gene Black
suddenly roused himself to say sneeringly:
"Gentlemen, look at your station clock. It's fifteen minutes
before midnight. A quarter of an hour left! Where's your through
train? If it reaches here fifteen minutes from now it will be
"Send a message down the line quickly," gasped Mr. Newnham, turning
pale. Then he wheeled savagely upon the prisoner, exclaiming:
"I forgot, Black. You rascals cut the wires. We could have
mended them at the nearer point, but the wires were cut, too,
at the scene of the blow-out. Oh, but you have been a thorn in
From the crowd that still lingered outside came a cheer. Tom
Reade sprang to the nearest door, throwing it open.
"Listen!" he shouted.
The sound that had started the crowd to cheering was repeated
"It's the train!" cried Reade joyously. "It can't be more than
two or three miles below here, either. It will get through on
With nine minutes to spare, the train rolled into the station
at Lineville. It was not the same train that had left Stormburg,
for that train had been halted, safely, just before reaching the
scene of the disastrous blow-out. At that point the passengers
had alighted and had been conducted on foot to the other side
of the gap caused by the explosion. Here Hazelton's Lineville
special stood ready to convey them into Lineville. So the road
had been legally opened, since the passengers from Stormburg---among
whom was the lieutenant governor of the state had been brought
all the way through over the line. Within the meaning of the
law a through train had been operated over the new line, and within
The S.B. & L. had won! It had saved its charter. On the morrow,
in Wall Street, the value of the road's stock jumped by some millions
Let us not forget the pilot train. That returned to Lineville
in the rear of the passenger train. Though the pilot train had
a conductor, Harry Hazelton was in real charge.
"Look whom we have here, Tom!" called Harry from the open side
door of the baggage car, as Reade raced up to greet his successful
A man, bandaged, injured and groaning, lay on the floor of the
"Why, it's Naughty Peter, himself!" cried Tom. "Peter, I'm sorry
to find you in this shape. I am afraid you have been misbehaving."
"We found him not far from the track, near the blow-out," Hazelton
explained. "Whether he attended to that bit of bad work all alone,
or whether his companions believed him dead and fled for their
own safety, I can't learn. Bad Pete won't say a word. He was
unconscious when we first discovered him. Now he knows what's
going on around him, but he's too badly hurt to do more than hold
It was only when Bad Pete recovered his health---in jail---and
found himself facing a long term in prison, that he was ready
to open his mouth. He could tell nothing, however, beyond confessing
that he and three other men, including an operator, had attended
to the blow-out. Pete had no knowledge of the real parties behind
the plot. He knew only that he had acted under 'Gene Blanks orders.
So Bad Pete was shown no mercy, but sent behind the bars for
a term of twenty-five years. Owing to Black's stubborn silence
the outrages were never traced back to any official of the W.C.
'Gene Black was sentenced to prison for thirty years. The other
rascals, who had worked under his direction, all received long
The student engineers, wholly happy and well paid, returned to
The S.B. & L. is still under the same management, and is one of
the prosperous independent railroads of the United States. Dave
Fulsbee continues as the head of its detective system.
Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton had made good in their first professional
undertaking. They were paid in proportion to their services, and
given the opportunity to retain their positions at the head of the
railway's engineering corps.
For some time they kept their positions, filling them always with
honor. Yet, in the end, the desire to do other great things in
their chosen profession led them into other fields of venture.
Their greatest adventures, their severest trials and deepest
problems, as well as their gravest perils were still ahead of them
in their path of duty.
The Young Engineers were bound to go on and up, yet their way
was sure to be a stormy one.
We shall meet these fine young Americans again in the next volume
of this series, which is published under the title, "The Young
Engineers in Arizona; Or, Laying Tracks on the Man-killer Quicksand."
It is a rousing narrative of real people and real happenings.