Francis Lynde.

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necessities."

He let the taunt go unanswered.

"I can't believe that you know what you are facing, any of you, Eleanor.
I'll tell you what I told your mother: there will be battle, murder, and
sudden death let loose here in Angels before to-morrow morning. And it is
so utterly unnecessary for any of you to be involved."

She rose and stood before him, putting a comradely hand on his shoulder,
and looking him fairly in the eyes.

"There was a ring of sincerity in that, Howard. Do you really mean that
there is likely to be violence?"

"I do; it is almost certain to come. The trouble has been brewing for a
long time - ever since I came here, in fact. And there is nothing we can
do to prevent it. All we can do is to meet it when it does come, and
fight it out."

"'We,' you say; who else besides yourself, Howard?" she asked.

"A little handful of loyal ones."

"Then you will be outnumbered?"

"Six to one here in town if the shopmen go out. They have already
threatened to burn the company's buildings if I don't comply with their
demands, and I know the temper of the outfit well enough to give it full
credit for any violence it promises. Won't you go and persuade the
others to consent to run for it, Eleanor? It is simply the height of
folly for you to hold the _Nadia_ here. If I could have had ten words
with your father this morning before he went out to the mine, you would
all have been in Copah, long ago. Even now, if I could get word to him,
I'm sure he would order the car out at once."

She nodded.

"Perhaps he would; quite likely he would - and he would stay here
himself." Then, suddenly: "You may send the _Nadia_ back to Copah on one
condition - that you go with it."

At first he thought it was a deliberate insult; the cruelest indignity
she had ever put upon him. Knowing his weakness, she was good-natured
enough, or solicitous enough, to try to get him out of harm's way. Then
the steadfast look in her eyes made him uncertain.

"If I thought you could say that, realizing what it means - " he began,
and then he looked away.

"Well?" she prompted, and the hand slipped from his shoulder.

His eyes were coming back to hers. "If I thought you meant that," he
repeated; "if I believed that you could despise me so utterly as to
think for a moment that I would deliberately turn my back upon my
responsibilities here - go away and hunt safety for myself, leaving the
men who have stood by me to whatever - - "

"You are making it a matter of duty," she interrupted quite gravely. "I
suppose that is right and proper. But isn't your first duty to yourself
and to those who - " She paused, and then went on in the same steady
tone: "I have been hearing some things to-day - some of the things you
said I would hear. You are well hated in the Red Desert, Howard - hated
so fiercely that this quarrel with your men will be almost a personal
one."

"I know," he said.

"They will kill you, if you stay here and let them do it."

"Quite possibly."

"Howard! Do you tell me you can stay here and face all this without
flinching?"

"Oh, no; I didn't say that."

"But you are facing it!"

He smiled.

"As I told you yesterday - that is one of the things for which I draw my
salary. Don't mistake me; there is nothing heroic about it - the heroics
are due to come to-night. That is another thing, Eleanor - another reason
why I want you to go away. When the real pinch comes, I shall probably
disgrace myself and everybody remotely connected with me. I'd a good bit
rather be torn into little pieces, privately, than have you here to be
made ashamed - again."

She turned away.

"Tell me, in so many words, what you think will be done to-night - what
are you expecting?"

"I told you a few moments ago, in the words of the Prayer Book: battle,
and murder, and sudden death. A strike has been planned, and it will
fail. Five minutes after the first strike-abandoned train arrives, the
town will go mad."

She had come close to him again.

"Mother won't go and leave father; that is settled. You must do the best
you can, with us for a handicap. What will you do with us, Howard?"

"I have been thinking about that. The farther you can get away from the
shops and the yard, which will be the storm-centre, the safer you will
be. I can have the _Nadia_ set out on the Copperette switch, which is a
good half-mile below the town, with Van Lew and Jefferis to stand
guard - - "

"They will both be here, with you," she interrupted.

"Then the alternative is to place the car as near as possible to this
building, which will be defended. If there is a riot, you can all come
up here and be out of the way of chance pistol-shots, at least."

"Ugh!" she shivered. "Is this really civilized America?"

"It's America - without much of the civilization. Now, will you go and
tell the others what to expect, and send Van Lew to me? I want to tell
him just what to do and how to do it, while there is time and an
undisturbed chance."




XXI

THE BOSS MACHINIST


Miss Brewster evidently obeyed her instructions precisely, since Van Lew
came almost immediately to tap on the door of the superintendent's
private room.

"Miss Eleanor said you wanted to see me," he began, when Lidgerwood had
admitted him; adding: "I was just about to chase out to see what had
become of her."

The frank confession of solicitude was not thrown away upon Lidgerwood,
and it cost him an effort to put the athlete on a plane of brotherly
equality as a comrade in arms. But he compassed it.

"Yes, I asked her to send you up," he replied. Then: "I suppose you know
what we are confronting, Mr. Van Lew?"

"Mrs. Brewster told us as soon as we came back from the hills. Is it
likely to be serious?"

"Yes. I wish I could have persuaded Mrs. Brewster to order the _Nadia_
out of it. But she has refused to go and leave Mr. Brewster behind."

"I know," said Van Lew; "we have all refused."

"So Miss Brewster has just told me," frowned Lidgerwood. "That being the
case, we must make the best of it. How are you fixed for arms in the
president's car?"

"I have a hunting rifle - a forty-four magazine; and Jefferis has a small
armory of revolvers - boy-like."

"Good! The defense of the car, if a riot materializes, will fall upon
you two. Judge Holcombe can't be counted in. I'll give you all the help
I can spare, but you'll have to furnish the brains. I suppose I don't
need to tell you not to take any chances?"

Van Lew shook his head and smiled.

"Not while the dear girl whom, God willing, I'm going to marry, is a
member of our car-party. I'm more likely to be over-cautious than
reckless, Mr. Lidgerwood."

Here, in terms unmistakable, was a deep grave in which to bury any poor
phantom of hope which might have survived, but Lidgerwood did not
advertise the funeral.

"She is altogether worthy of the most that you can do for her, and the
best that you can give her, Mr. Van Lew," he said gravely. Then he
passed quickly to the more vital matter. "The _Nadia_ will be placed on
the short spur track at this end of the building, close in, where you
can step from the rear platform of the car to the station platform. I'll
try to keep watch for you, but you must also keep watch for yourself. If
any firing begins, get your people out quietly and bring them up here.
Of course, none of you will have anything worse than a stray bullet to
fear, but the side walls of the _Nadia_ would offer no protection
against that."

Van Lew nodded understandingly.

"Call it settled," he said. "Shall I use my own judgment as to the
proper moment to make the break, or will you pass us the word?"

Lidgerwood took time to consider. Conditions might arise under which the
Crow's Nest would be the most unsafe place in Angels to which to flee
for shelter.

"Perhaps you would better sit tight until I give the word," he directed,
after the reflective pause. Then, in a lighter vein: "All of these
careful prefigurings may be entirely beside the mark, Mr. Van Lew; I
hope the event may prove that they were. And until the thing actually
hits us, we may as well keep up appearances. Don't let the women worry
any more than they have to."

"You can trust me for that," laughed the athlete, and he went his way
to begin the keeping up of appearances.

At seven o'clock, just as Lidgerwood was finishing the luncheon which
had been sent up to his office from the station kitchen, Train 203
pulled in from the east; and a little later Dawson's belated
wrecking-train trailed up from the west, bringing the "cripples" from
the Little Butte disaster. Not to leave anything undone, Lidgerwood
summoned McCloskey by a touch of the buzzer-push connecting with the
trainmaster's office.

"No word from Judson yet?" he asked, when McCloskey's homely face
appeared in the doorway.

"No, not yet," was the reply.

"Let me know when you hear from him; and in the meantime I wish you
would go downstairs and see if Gridley came in on 203. If he did, bring
him and Benson up here and we'll hold a council of war. If you see
Dawson, send him home to his mother and sister. He can report to me
later, if he finds it safe to leave his womankind."

The door of the outer office had barely closed behind McCloskey when
that opening into the corridor swung upon its hinges to admit the
master-mechanic. He was dusty and travel-stained, but nothing seemed to
stale his genial good-humor.

"Well, well, Mr. Lidgerwood! so the hoboes have asked to see your hand,
at last, have they?" he began sympathetically. "I heard of it over in
Copah, just in good time to let me catch 203. You're not going to let
them make you show down, are you?"

"No," said Lidgerwood.

"That's right; that's precisely the way to stack it up. Of course, you
know you can count on me. I've got a beautiful lot of pirates over in
the shops, but we'll try to hold them level." Then, in the same even
tone: "They tell me we went into the hole again last night, over at
Little Butte. Pretty bad?"

"Very bad; six killed outright, and as many more to bury later on, I am
told by the Red Butte doctors."

"Heavens and earth! The men are calling it a broken rail; was it?"

"A loosened rail," corrected Lidgerwood.

The master-mechanic's eyes narrowed.

"Natural?" he asked.

"No, artificial."

Gridley swore savagely.

"This thing's got to stop, Lidgerwood! Sift it, sift it to the bottom!
Whom do you suspect?"

It was a plain truth, though an unintentionally misleading one, that the
superintendent put into his reply.

"I don't suspect any one, Gridley," he began, and he was going on to say
that suspicion had grown to certainty, when the latch of the door
opening from the outer office clicked again and McCloskey came in with
Benson. The master-mechanic excused himself abruptly when he saw who the
trainmaster's follower was.

"I'll go and get something to eat," he said hurriedly; "after which I'll
pick up a few men whom we can depend upon and garrison the shops. Send
over for me if you need me."

Benson looked hard at the door which was still quivering under Gridley's
outgoing slam. And when the master-mechanic's tread was no longer
audible in the upper corridor, the young engineer turned to the man at
the desk to say: "What tickled the boss machinist, Lidgerwood?"

"I don't know. Why?"

Benson looked at McCloskey.

"Just as we came in, he was standing over you with a look in his eyes as
if he were about to murder you, and couldn't quite make up his mind as
to the simplest way of doing it. Then the look changed to his usual
cast-iron smile in the flirt of a flea's hind leg - at some joke you were
telling, I took it."

Being careful and troubled about many things, Lidgerwood missed the
point of Benson's remark; could not remember, when he tried, just what
it was that he had been saying to Gridley when the interruption came.
But the matter was easily dismissed. Having his two chief lieutenants
before him, the superintendent seized the opportunity to outline the
plan of campaign for the night. McCloskey was to stay by the wires, with
Callahan to share his watch. Dawson, when he should come down, was to
pick up a few of the loyal enginemen and guard the roundhouse. Benson
was to take charge of the yards, keeping his eye on the _Nadia_. At the
first indication of an outbreak, he was to pass the word to Van Lew, who
would immediately transfer the private-car party to the second-floor
offices in the head-quarters building.

"That is all," was Lidgerwood's summing up, when he had made his
dispositions like a careful commander-in-chief; "all but one thing. Mac,
have you seen anything of Hallock?"

"Not since the middle of the afternoon," was the prompt reply.

"And Judson has not yet reported?"

"No."

"Well - this is for you, Benson - Mac already knows it: Judson is out
looking for Hallock. He has a warrant for Hallock's arrest."

Benson's eyes narrowed.

"Then you have found the ringleader at last, have you?" he asked.

"I am sorry to say that there doesn't seem to be any doubt of Hallock's
guilt. The arrest will be made quietly. Judson understands that. There
is another man that we've got to have, and there is no time just now to
go after him."

"Who is the other man?" asked Benson.

"It is Flemister; the man who has the stolen switching-engine boxed up
in a power-house built out of planks sawed from your Gloria
bridge-timbers."

"I told you so!" exclaimed the young engineer. "By Jove! I'll never
forgive you if you don't send him to the rock-pile for that,
Lidgerwood!"

"I have promised to hang him," said the superintendent soberly - "him and
the man who has been working with him."

"And that's Rankin Hallock!" cut in the trainmaster vindictively, and
his scowl was grotesquely hideous. "Can you hang them, Mr. Lidgerwood?"

"Yes. Flemister, and a man whom Judson has identified as Hallock, were
the two who ditched 204 at Silver Switch last night. The charge in
Judson's warrant reads,'train-wrecking and murder.'"

The trainmaster smote the desk with his fist.

"I'll add one more strand to the rope - Hallock's rope," he gritted
ferociously. "You remember what I told you about that loosened rail that
caused the wreck in the Crosswater Hills? You said Hallock had gone to
Navajo to see Cruikshanks; he did go to Navajo, but he got there just
exactly four hours after 202 had gone on past Navajo, and he came on
foot, walking down the track from the Hills!"

"Where did you get that?" asked Lidgerwood quickly.

"From the agent at Navajo. I wasn't satisfied with the way it shaped up,
and I did a little investigating on my own hook."

"Pass him up," said Benson briefly, "and let's go over this lay-out for
to-night again. I shall be out of touch down in the yards, and I want to
get it straight in my head."

Lidgerwood went carefully over the details again, and again cautioned
Benson about the _Nadia_ and its party. From that the talk ran upon the
ill luck which had projected the pleasure-party into the thick of
things; upon Mrs. Brewster's obstinacy - which Lidgerwood most
inconsistently defended - and upon the probability of the president's
return from the Copperette - also in the thick of things, and it was
close upon eight o'clock when the two lieutenants went to their
respective posts.

It was fully an hour farther along, and the tense strain of suspense was
beginning to tell upon the man who sat thoughtful and alone in the
second-floor office of the Crow's Nest, when Benson ran up to report the
situation in the yards.

"Everything quiet so far," was the news he brought. "We've got the Nadia
on the east spur, where the folks can slip out and make their get-away,
if they have to. There are several little squads of the discharged men
hanging around, but not many more than usual. The east and west yards
are clear, and the three sections of the mid-night freight are crewed
and ready to pull out when the time comes. The folkses are playing dummy
whist in the Nadia; and Gridley is holding the fort at the shops with
the toughest-looking lot of myrmidons you ever laid your eyes on."

Once again Lidgerwood was making tiny squares on his desk blotter.

"I'm thankful that the news of the strike got to Copah in time to bring
Gridley over on 203," he said.

Benson's boyish eyes opened to their widest angle.

"Did he say he came in on Two-three?" he asked.

"He did."

"Well, that's odd - devilish odd! I was on that train, and I rambled it
from one end to the other - which is a bad habit I have when I'm trying
to kill travel-time. Gridley isn't a man to be easily overlooked. Reckon
he was riding on the brake-beams? He was dirty enough to make the guess
good. Hello, Fred" - this to Dawson, who had at that moment let himself
in through the deserted outer office - "we were just talking about your
boss, and wondering how he got here from Copah on Two-three without my
seeing him."

"He didn't come from Copah," said the draftsman briefly. "He came in
with me from the west, on the wrecking-train. He was in Red Butte, and
he had an engine bring him down to Silver Switch, where he caught us
just as we were pulling out."




XXII

THE TERROR


Engineer John Judson, disappearing at the moment when the superintendent
had sent him back to bully Schleisinger into appointing him constable,
from the ken of those who were most anxious to hear from him, was late
in reporting. But when he finally climbed the stair of the Crow's Nest
to tap at Lidgerwood's door, he brought the first authentic news from
the camp of the enemy.

When McCloskey had come at a push of the call-button, Lidgerwood snapped
the night-latch on the corridor door.

"Let us have it, Judson," he said, when the trainmaster had dragged his
chair into the circle of light described by the green cone shade of the
desk lamp. "We have been wondering what had become of you."

Summarized, Judson's story was the report of an intelligent scout. Since
he was classed with the discharged men, he had been able to find out
some of the enemy's moves in the game of coercion. The strikers had
transferred their head-quarters from the Celestial to Cat Biggs's place,
where the committees, jealously safeguarded, were now sitting "in
permanence" in the back room. Judson had not been admitted to the
committee-room; but the thronged bar-room was public, and the liquor
which was flowing freely had loosened many tongues.

From the bar-room talk Judson had gathered that the strikers knew
nothing as yet of McCloskey's plan to keep the trains moving and the
wires alive. Hence - unless the free-flowing whiskey should precipitate
matters - there would probably be no open outbreak before midnight. As an
offset to this, however, the engineer had overheard enough to convince
him that the Copah wire had been tapped; that Dix, the day operator, had
been either bribed or intimidated, and was now under guard at the
strikers' head-quarters, and that some important message had been
intercepted which was, in Judson's phrase, "raising sand" in the camp of
the disaffected. This recurrence of the mysterious message, of which no
trace could be found in the head-quarters record, opened a fresh field
of discussion, and it was McCloskey who put his finger upon the only
plausible conclusion.

"It is Hallock again," he rasped. "He is the only man who could have
used the private code. Dix probably picked out the cipher; he's got a
weakness for such things. Hallock's carrying double. He has fixed up
some trouble-making message, or faked one, and signed your name to it,
and then schemed to let it leak out through Dix."

"It's making the trouble, all right," was Judson's comment. "When I left
Biggs's a few minutes ago, Tryon was calling for volunteers to come down
here and steal an engine. From what he said, I took it they were aimin'
to go over into the desert to tear up the track and stop somebody or
something coming this way from Copah - all on account of that
make-believe message that you didn't send."

Thus far Judson's report had dealt with facts. But there were other
things deducible. He insisted that the strength of the insurrection did
not lie in the dissatisfied employees of the Red Butte Western, or even
in the ex-employees; it was rather in the lawless element of the town
which lived and fattened upon the earnings of the railroad men - the
saloon-keepers, the gamblers, the "tin-horns" of every stripe. Moreover,
it was certain that some one high in authority in the railroad service
was furnishing the brains. There was a chief to whom all the malcontents
deferred, and who figured in the bar-room talk as the "boss," or "the
big boss."

"And that same 'big boss' is sitting up yonder in Cat Biggs's back room,
right now, givin' his orders and tellin' 'em what to do," was Judson's
crowning guess, and since Hallock had not been visible since the early
afternoon, for the three men sitting under the superintendent's desk
lamp, Judson's inference stood as a fact assured. It was Hallock who had
fomented the trouble; it was Hallock who was now directing it.

"I suppose you didn't see anything of Grady, my stenographer?" inquired
Lidgerwood, when Judson had made an end.

The engineer shook his head. "Reckon they've got him cooped up along
with Dix?"

"I hope not. But he has disappeared. I sent him up to Mrs. Dawson's with
a message late this afternoon, and he hasn't shown up since."

"Of course, they've got him," said McCloskey, sourly. "Does he know
anything that he can tell?"

"Nothing that can make any difference now. They are probably holding him
to hamper me. The boy's loyal."

"Yes," growled McCloskey, "and he's Irish."

"Well, my old mother is Irish, too, for the matter of that," snapped
Judson. "If you don't like the Irish, you'll be finding a chip on my
shoulder any day in the week, except to-day, Jim McCloskey!"

Lidgerwood smiled. It brought a small relaxing of strains to hear these
two resurrecting the ancient race feud in the midst of the trouble
storm. And when the trainmaster returned to his post in the wire office,
and Judson had been sent back to Biggs's to renew his search for the
hidden ring-leader, it was the memory of the little race tiff that
cleared the superintendent's brain for the grapple with the newly
defined situation.

Judson's report was grave enough, but it brought a good hope that the
crucial moment might be postponed until many of the men would be too far
gone in liquor to take any active part. Lidgerwood took the precautions
made advisable by Tryon's threat to steal an engine, sending word to
Benson to double his guards on the locomotives in the yard, and to
Dawson to block the turn-table so that none might be taken from the
roundhouse.

Afterward he went out to look over the field in person. Everything was
quiet; almost suspiciously so. Gridley was found alone in his office at
the shops, smoking a cigar, with his chair tilted to a comfortable
angle and his feet on the desk. His guards, he said, were posted in and
around the shops, and he hoped they were not asleep. Thus far, there had
been little enough to keep them awake.

Lidgerwood, passing out through the door opening upon the
electric-lighted yard, surprised a man in the act of turning the knob to
enter. It was the merest incident, and he would not have remarked it if
the door, closing behind Gridley's visitor, had not bisected a violent
outburst of profanity, vocalizing itself in the harsh tones of the
master-mechanic, as thus: "You - - - - chuckle-headed fool! Haven't
you any better sense than to come - " At this point the closing door cut
the sentence of objurgation, and Lidgerwood continued his round of
inspection, trying vainly to recall the identity of the chance-met man
whose face, half hidden under the drooping brim of a worn campaign-hat,
was vaguely familiar. The recollection came at length, with the impact
of a blow. The "chuckle-headed fool" of Gridley's malediction was
Richard Rufford, the "Killer's" younger brother.

Lidgerwood said nothing of this incident to Dawson, whom he found
patrolling the roundhouse. Here, as at the shops and in the yard,
everything was quiet and orderly. The crews for the three sections of
the midnight freight were all out, guarding their trains and engines,
and Dawson had only Bradford and the roundhouse night-men for company.

"Nothing stirring, Fred?" inquired the superintendent.

"Less than nothing; it's almost too quiet," was the sober reply. And
then: "I see you haven't sent the _Nadia_ out; wouldn't it be a good
scheme to get a couple of buckboards and have the women and Judge
Holcombe driven up to our place on the mesa? The trouble, when it comes,


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