Francis Lynde.

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account for fuel and oil consumed, the enginemen good-naturedly forged
reports and the storekeepers blandly O.K.'d them. Instructed to keep an
accurate record of all material used, the trackmen jocosely scattered
more spikes than they drove, made fire-wood of the stock cross-ties, and
were not above underpinning the section-houses with new dimension
timbers.

In countless other ways the waste was prodigious and often mysteriously
unexplainable. The company supplies had a curious fashion of
disappearing in transit. Two car-loads of building lumber sent to repair
the station at Red Butte vanished somewhere between the Angels
shipping-yards and their billing destination. Lime, cement, and paint
were exceedingly volatile. House hardware, purchased in quantities for
company repairs, figured in the monthly requisition sheet as regularly
as coal and oil; and the lost-tool account roughly balanced the pay-roll
of the company carpenters and bridge-builders.

In such a chaotic state of affairs, track and train troubles were the
rule rather than the exception, and it was a Red Butte Western boast
that the fire was never drawn under the wrecking-train engine. For the
first few weeks Lidgerwood let McCloskey answer the "hurry calls" to the
various scenes of disaster, but when three sections of an eastbound
cattle special, ignoring the ten-minute-interval rule, were piled up in
the Piñon Hills, he went out and took personal command of the
track-clearers.

This happened when the joke was at flood-tide, and the men of the
wrecking-crew took a ten-gallon keg of whiskey along wherewith to
celebrate the first appearance of the new superintendent in character as
a practical wrecking-boss. The outcome was rather astonishing. For one
thing, Lidgerwood's first executive act was to knock in the head of the
ten-gallon celebration with a striking-hammer, before it was even
spiggoted; and for another he quickly proved that he was Gridley's
equal, if not his master, in the gentle art of track-clearing; lastly,
and this was the most astonishing thing of all, he demonstrated that
clean linen and correct garmentings do not necessarily make for softness
and effeminacy in the wearer. Through the long day and the still longer
night of toil and stress the new boss was able to endure hardship with
the best man on the ground.

This was excellent, as far as it went. But later, with the offending
cattle-train crews before him for trial and punishment, Lidgerwood lost
all he had gained by being too easy.

"We've got him chasin' his feet," said Tryon, one of the rule-breaking
engineers, making his report to the roundhouse contingent at the close
of the "sweat-box" interview. "It's just as I've been tellin' you mugs
all along, he hain't got sand enough to fire anybody."

Likewise Jack Benson, though from a friendlier point of view. The
"sweat-box" was Lidgerwood's private office in the Crow's Nest, and
Benson happened to be present when the reckless trainmen were told to go
and sin no more.

"I'm not running your job, Lidgerwood, and you may fire the inkstand at
me if the spirit moves you to, but I've got to butt in. You can't handle
the Red Desert with kid gloves on. Those fellows needed an artistic
cussing-out and a thirty-day hang-up at the very lightest. You can't
hold 'em down with Sunday-school talk."

Lidgerwood was frowning at his blotting-pad and pencilling idle little
squares on it - a habit which was insensibly growing upon him.

"Where would I get the two extra train-crews to fill in the thirty-day
lay-off, Jack? Had you thought of that?"

"I had only the one think, and I gave you that one," rejoined Benson
carelessly. "I suppose it is different in your department. When I go up
against a thing like that on the sections, I fire the whole bunch and
import a few more Italians. Which reminds me, as old Dunkenfeld used to
say when there wasn't either a link or a coupling-pin anywhere within
the four horizons: what do you know about Fred Dawson, Gridley's shop
draftsman?"

"Next to nothing, personally," replied Lidgerwood, taking Benson's
abrupt change of topic as a matter of course. "He seems a fine fellow;
much too fine a fellow to be wasting himself out here in the desert.
Why?"

"Oh, I just wanted to know. Ever met his mother and sister?"

"No."

"Well, you ought to. The mother is one of the only two angels in Angels,
and the sister is the other. Dawson, himself, is a ghastly monomaniac."

Lidgerwood's brows lifted, though his query was unspoken.

"Haven't you heard his story?" asked Benson; "but of course you haven't.
He is a lame duck, you know - like every other man this side of
Crosswater Summit, present company excepted."

"A lame duck?" repeated Lidgerwood.

"Yes, a man with a past. Don't tell me you haven't caught onto the
hall-mark of the Red Desert. It's notorious. The blacklegs and tin-horns
and sure-shots go without saying, of course, but they haven't a
monopoly on the broken records. Over in the ranch country beyond the
Timanyonis they lump us all together and call us the outlaws."

"Not without reason," said Lidgerwood.

"Not any," asserted Benson with cheerful pessimism. "The entire Red
Butte Western outfit is tarred with the same stick. You haven't a dozen
operators, all told, who haven't been discharged for incompetence, or
worse, somewhere else; or a dozen conductors or engineers who weren't
good and comfortably blacklisted before they climbed Crosswater. Take
McCloskey: you swear by him, don't you? He was a chief despatcher back
East, and he put two passenger-trains together in a head-on collision
the day he resigned and came West to grow up with the Red Desert."

"I know," said Lidgerwood, "and I did not have to learn it at
second-hand. Mac was man enough to tell me himself, before I had known
him five minutes." Then he suggested mildly, "But you were speaking of
Dawson, weren't you?"

"Yes, and that's what makes me say what I'm saying; he is one of them,
though he needn't be if he weren't such a hopelessly sensitive ass. He's
a B.S. in M.E., or he would have been if he had stayed out his senior
year in Carnegie, but also he happened to be a foot-ball fiend, and in
the last intercollegiate game of his last season he had the horrible
luck to kill a man - and the man was the brother of the girl Dawson was
going to marry."

"Heavens and earth!" exclaimed Lidgerwood. "Is he _that_ Dawson?"

"The same," said the young engineer laconically. "It was the sheerest
accident, and everybody knew it was, and nobody blamed Dawson. I happen
to know, because I was a junior in Carnegie at the time. But Fred took
it hard; let it spoil his life. He threw up everything, left college
between two days, and came to bury himself out here. For two years he
never let his mother and sister know where he was; made remittances to
them through a bank in Omaha, so they shouldn't be able to trace him.
Care to hear any more?"

"Yes, go on," said the superintendent.

"_I_ found him," chuckled Benson, "and I took the liberty of piping his
little game off to the harrowed women. Next thing he knew they dropped
in on him; and he is just crazy enough to stay here, and to keep them
here. That wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for Gridley, Fred's boss and
your peach of a master-mechanic."

"Why 'peach'? Gridley is a pretty decent sort of a man-driver, isn't
he?" said Lidgerwood, doing premeditated and intentional violence to
what he had come to call his unjust prejudice against the handsome
master-mechanic.

"You won't believe it," said Benson hotly, "but he has actually got the
nerve to make love to Dawson's sister! and he a widow-man, old enough to
be her father!"

Lidgerwood smiled. It is the privilege of youth to be intolerant of age
in its rival. Gridley was, possibly, forty-two or three, but Benson was
still on the sunny slope of twenty-five. "You are prejudiced, Jack," he
criticized. "Gridley is still young enough to marry again, if he wants
to - and to live long enough to spoil his grandchildren."

"But he doesn't begin to be good enough for Faith Dawson," countered the
young engineer, stubbornly.

"Isn't he? or is that another bit of your personal grudge? What do you
know against him?"

Pressed thus sharply against the unyielding fact, Benson was obliged to
confess that he knew nothing at all against the master-mechanic, nothing
that could be pinned down to day and date. If Gridley had the weaknesses
common to Red-Desert mankind, he did not parade them in Angels. As the
head of his department he was well known to be a hard hitter; and now
and then, when the blows fell rather mercilessly, the railroad colony
called him a tyrant, and hinted that he, too, had a past that would not
bear inspection. But even Benson admitted that this was mere gossip.

Lidgerwood laughed at the engineer's failure to make his case, and asked
quizzically, "Where do I come in on all this, Jack? You have an axe to
grind, I take it."

"I have. Mrs. Dawson wants me to take my meals at the house. I'm
inclined to believe that she is a bit shy of Gridley, and maybe she
thinks I could do the buffer act. But as a get-between I'd be chiefly
conspicuous by my absence."

"Sorry I can't give you an office job," said the superintendent in mock
sympathy.

"So am I, but you can do the next best thing. Get Fred to take you home
with him some of these fine evenings, and you'll never go back to Maggie
Donovan and the Celestial's individual hash-holders; not if you can
persuade Mrs. Dawson to feed you. The alternative is to fire Gridley out
of his job."

"This time you are trying to make the tail wag the dog," said
Lidgerwood. "Gridley has twice my backing in the P. S-W. board of
directors. Besides, he is a good fellow; and if I go up on the mesa and
try to stand him off for you, it will be only because I hope you are a
better fellow."

"Prop it up on any leg you like, only go," said Benson simply. "I'll
take it as a personal favor, and do as much for you, some time. I
suppose I don't have to warn you not to fall in love with Faith Dawson
yourself - or, on second thought, perhaps I _had_ better."

This time Lidgerwood's laugh was mirthless.

"No, you don't have to, Jack. Like Gridley, I am older than I look, and
I have had my little turn at that wheel; or rather, perhaps I should say
that the wheel has had its little turn at me. You can safely deputize
me, I guess."

"All right, and many thanks. Here's 202 coming in, and I'm going over to
Navajo on it. Don't wait too long before you make up to Dawson. You'll
find him well worth while, after you've broken through his shell."

The merry jest on the Red Butte Western ran its course for another week
after the three-train wreck in the Piñons - for a week and a day. Then
Lidgerwood began the drawing of the net. A new time-card was strung with
McCloskey's cooperation, and when it went into effect a notice on all
bulletin boards announced the adoption of the standard "Book of Rules,"
and promised penalties in a rising scale for unauthorized departure
therefrom.

Promptly the horse-laugh died away and the trouble storm was evoked.
Grievance committees haunted the Crow's Nest, and the insurrectionary
faction, starting with the trainmen and spreading to the track force,
threatened to involve the telegraph operators - threatened to become a
protest unanimous and in the mass. Worse than this, the service,
haphazard enough before, now became a maddening chaos. Orders were
misunderstood, whether wilfully or not no court of inquiry could
determine; wrecks were of almost daily occurrence, and the shop track
was speedily filled to the switches with crippled engines and cars.

In such a storm of disaster and disorder the captain in command soon
finds and learns to distinguish his loyal supporters, if any such there
be. In the pandemonium of untoward events, McCloskey was Lidgerwood's
right hand, toiling, smiting, striving, and otherwise approving himself
a good soldier. But close behind him came Gridley; always suave and
good-natured, making no complaints, not even when the repair work made
necessary by the innumerable wrecks grew mountain-high, and always
counselling firmness and more discipline.

"This is just what we have been needing for years, Mr. Lidgerwood," he
took frequent occasion to say. "Of course, we have now to pay the
penalty for the sins of our predecessors; but if you will persevere,
we'll pull through and be a railroad in fact when the clouds roll by.
Don't give in an inch. Show these muckers that you mean business, and
mean it all the time, and you'll win out all right."

Thus the master-mechanic; and McCloskey, with more at stake and a less
insulated point of view, took it out in good, hard blows, backing his
superior like a man. Indeed, in the small head-quarters staff, Hallock
was the only non-combatant. From the beginning of hostilities he seemed
to have made a pact with himself not to let it be known by any act or
word of his that he was aware of the suddenly precipitated conflict. The
routine duties of a chief clerk's desk are never light; Hallock's became
so exacting that he rarely left his office, or the pen-like contrivance
in which he entrenched himself and did his work.

When the fight began, Lidgerwood observed Hallock closely, trying to
discover if there were any secret signs of the satisfaction which the
revolt of the rank and file might be supposed to awaken in an
unsuccessful candidate for the official headship of the Red Butte
Western. There were none. Hallock's gaunt face, with the loose lips and
the straggling, unkempt beard, was a blank; and the worst wreck of the
three which promptly followed the introduction of the new rules, was
noted in his reports with the calm indifference with which he might have
jotted down the breakage of a section foreman's spike-maul.

McCloskey, being of Scottish blood and desert-seasoned, was a cool
in-fighter who could take punishment without wincing overmuch. But at
the end of the first fortnight of the new time-card, he cornered his
chief in the private office and freed his mind.

"It's no use, Mr. Lidgerwood; we can't make these reforms stick with the
outfit we've got," he asserted, in sharp discouragement. "The next thing
on the docket will be a strike, and you know what that will mean, in a
country where the whiskey is bad and nine men out of every ten go fixed
for trouble."

"I know; nevertheless the reforms have got to stick," returned
Lidgerwood definitively. "We are going to run this railroad as it should
be run, or hang it up in the air. Did you discharge that operator at
Crow Canyon? the fellow who let Train 76 get by him without orders night
before last?"

"Dick Rufford? Oh yes, I fired him, and he came in on 202 to-day lugging
a piece of artillery and shooting off his mouth about what he was going
to do to me ... and to you. I suppose you know that his brother Bart,
they call him 'the killer', is the lookout at Red-Light Sammy Faro's
game, and the meanest devil this side of the Timanyonis?"

"I didn't know it, but that cuts no figure." Lidgerwood forced himself
to say it, though his lips were curiously dry. "We are going to have
discipline on this railroad while we stay here, Mac; there are no two
ways about that."

McCloskey tilted his hat to the bridge of his nose, his characteristic
gesture of displeasure.

"I promised myself that I wouldn't join the gun-toters when I came out
here," he said, half musingly, "but I've weakened on that. Yesterday,
when I was calling Jeff Cummings down for dropping that new
shifting-engine out of an open switch in broad daylight, he pulled on me
out of his cab window. What I had to take while he had me 'hands up' is
more than I'll take from any living man again."

As in other moments of stress and perplexity, Lidgerwood was absently
marking little pencil squares on his desk blotter.

"I wouldn't get down to the desert level, if I were you, Mac," he said
thoughtfully.

"I'm down there right now, in self-defence," was the sober rejoinder.
"And if you'll take a hint from me you'll heel yourself, too, Mr.
Lidgerwood. I know this country better than you do, and the men in it. I
don't say they'll come after you deliberately, but as things are now you
can't open your face to one of them without taking the chance of a
quarrel, and a quarrel in a gun-country - - "

"I know," said Lidgerwood patiently, and the trainmaster gave it up.

It was an hour or two later in the same day when McCloskey came into the
private office again, hat tilted to nose, and the gargoyle face
portraying fresh soul agonies.

"They've taken to pillaging now!" he burst out. "The 316, that new
saddle-tank shifting-engine, has disappeared. I saw Broderick using the
'95, and when I asked him why, he said he couldn't find the '16."

"Couldn't find it?" echoed Lidgerwood.

"No; nor I can't, either. It's nowhere in the yards, the roundhouse, or
back shop, and none of Gridley's foremen know anything about it. I've
had Callahan wire east and west, and if they're all telling the truth,
nobody has seen it or heard of it."

"Where was it, at last accounts?"

"Standing on the coal track under chute number three, where the night
crew left it at midnight, or thereabouts."

"But certainly somebody must know where it has gone," said Lidgerwood.

"Yes; and by grapples! I think I know who the somebody is."

"Who is it?"

"If I should tell you, you wouldn't believe it, and besides I haven't
got the proof. But I'm going to get the proof," shaking a menacing
forefinger, "and when I do - - "

The interruption was the entrance of Hallock, coming in with the
pay-rolls for the superintendent's approval. McCloskey broke off short
and turned to the door, but Lidgerwood gave him a parting command.

"Come in again, Mac, in about half an hour. There is another matter that
I want to take up with you, and to-day is as good a time as any."

The trainmaster nodded and went out, muttering curses to the tilted hat
brim.




VI

EVERYMAN'S SHARE


"This switching-engine mystery opens up a field that I've been trying to
get into for some little time, Mac," the superintendent began, after the
half-hour had elapsed and the trainmaster had returned to the private
office. "Sit down and we'll thresh it out. Here are some figures showing
loss and expense in the general maintenance account. Look them over and
tell me what you think."

"Wastage, you mean?" queried the trainmaster, glancing at the totals in
the auditor's statement.

"That is what I have been calling it; a reckless disregard for the value
of anything and everything that can be included in a requisition. There
is a good deal of that, I know; the right-of-way is littered from end to
end with good material thrown aside. But I'm afraid that isn't the worst
of it."

The trainmaster was nursing a knee and screwing his face into the
reflective scheme of distortion.

"Those things are always hard to prove. Short of a military guard, for
instance, you couldn't prevent Angels from raiding the company's
coal-yard for its cook-stoves. That's one leak, and the others are
pretty much like it. If a company employee wants to steal, and there
isn't enough common honesty among his fellow-employees to hold him down,
he can steal fast enough and get away with it."

"By littles, yes, but not in quantity," pursued Lidgerwood.

"'Mony a little makes a mickle,' as my old grandfather used to say,"
McCloskey went on. "If everybody gets his fingers into the
sugar-bowl - - "

Lidgerwood swung his chair to face McCloskey.

"We'll pass up the petty thieveries, for the present, and look a little
higher," he said gravely. "Have you found any trace of those two
car-loads of company lumber lost in transit between here and Red Butte
two weeks ago?"

"No, nor of the cars themselves. They were reported as two
Transcontinental flats, initials and numbers plainly given in the
car-record. They seem to have disappeared with the lumber."

"Which means?" queried the superintendent.

"That the numbers, or the initials, or both, were wrongly reported. It
means that it was a put-up job to steal the lumber."

"Exactly. And there was a mixed car-load of lime and cement lost at
about the same time, wasn't there?"

"Yes."

Lidgerwood's swing-chair "righted itself to the perpendicular with a
snap."

"Mac, the Red Butte mines are looking up a little, and there is a good
bit of house-building going on in the camp just now: tell me, what man
or men in the company's service would be likely to be taking a flyer in
Red Butte real estate?"

"I don't know of anybody. Gridley used to be interested in the camp. He
went in pretty heavily on the boom, and lost out - so they all say. So
did your man out there in the pig-pen desk," with a jerk of his thumb to
indicate the outer office.

"They are both out of it," said Lidgerwood shortly. Then: "How about
Sullivan, the west-end supervisor of track? He has property in Red
Butte, I am told."

"Sullivan is a thief, all right, but he does it openly and brags about
it; carries off a set of bridge-timbers, now and then, for house-sills,
and makes a joke of it with anybody who will listen."

Lidgerwood dismissed Sullivan abruptly.

"It is an organized gang, and it must have its members pretty well
scattered through the departments - and have a good many members, too,"
he said conclusively. "That brings us to the disappearance of the
switching-engine again. No one man made off with that, single-handed,
Mac."

"Hardly."

"It was this gang we are presupposing - the gang that has been stealing
lumber and lime and other material by the car-load."

"Well?"

"I believe we'll get to the bottom of all the looting on this
switching-engine business. They have overdone it this time. You can't
put a locomotive in your pocket and walk off with it. You say you've
wired Copah?"

"Yes."

"Who was at the Copah key - Mr. Leckhard?"

"No. I didn't want to advertise our troubles to a main-line official. I
got the day-despatcher, Crandall, and told him to keep his mouth shut
until he heard of it some other way."

"Good. And what did Crandall say?"

"He said that the '16 had never gone out through the Copah yards; that
it couldn't get anywhere if it had without everybody knowing about it."

Lidgerwood's abstracted gaze out of the office window became a frown of
concentration.

"But the object, McCloskey - what possible profit could there be in the
theft of a locomotive that can neither be carried away nor converted
into salable junk?"

The trainmaster shook his head. "I've stewed over that till I'm
threatened with softening of the brain," he confessed.

"Never mind, you have a comparatively easy job," Lidgerwood went on.
"That engine is somewhere this side of the Crosswater Hills. It is too
big to be hidden under a bushel basket. Find it, and you'll be hot on
the trail of the car-load robbers."

McCloskey got upon his feet as if he were going at once to begin the
search, but Lidgerwood detained him.

"Hold on; I'm not quite through yet. Sit down again and have a smoke."

The trainmaster squinted sourly at the extended cigar-case. "I guess
not," he demurred. "I cut it out, along with the toddies, the day I put
on my coat and hat and walked out of the old F. & P.M. offices without
my time-check."

"If it had to be both or neither, you were wise; whiskey and railroading
don't go together very well. But about this other matter. Some years
ago there was a building and loan association started here in Angels,
the ostensible object being to help the railroad men to own their homes.
Ever hear of it?"

"Yes, but it was dead and buried before my time."

"Dead, but not buried," corrected Lidgerwood. "As I understand it, the
railroad company fathered it, or at all events, some of the officials
took stock in it. When it died there was a considerable deficit,
together with a failure on the part of the executive committee to
account for a pretty liberal cash balance."

"I've heard that much," said the trainmaster.

"Then we'll bring it down to date," Lidgerwood resumed. "It appears that
there are twenty-five or thirty of the losers still in the employ of
this company, and they have sent a committee to me to ask for an
investigation, basing the demand on the assertion that they were coerced
into giving up their money to the building and loan people."

"I've heard that, too," McCloskey admitted. "The story goes that the
house-building scheme was promoted by the old Red Butte Western bosses,
and if a man didn't take stock he got himself disliked. If he did take


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