“Keep goin’! This is the tough one—we’ve got to go on—we’ve got to go on!”
And on they went. The streaking rays of dawn played for a moment upon an untroubled mound of white, smooth and deep upon the eastern end of Sni-a-bend. Then, as though from some great internal upheaval, the mass began to tremble. Great heaps of snow broke from their place and tumbled down the embankment. From farther at the rear, steam, augmented by the vapours of melting snow and the far-blown gushes of spitting smoke, hissed upward toward the heights of the white-clad hill. Then a bulging break—the roar of machinery, and a monster came grinding forth, forcing its way hungrily onward, toward the next and smaller contest. Within the giant auger a man turned to Garrity.
“Guess it’s over, Boss. They said up at Glen Echo—”
A silent nod. Then Garrity turned, and reaching into the telegram-blank holder at the side of the cab, brought forth paper and an envelope. Long he wrote as the rotary clattered along, devouring the smaller drifts in steady succession, a letter of the soul, a letter which told of an effort that had failed, of a decision that could not hold. And it told, too, of the return of all that Martin had worked for—Mr. Barstow had been good to him, and he, Martin Garrity, could not take his money and disobey him. He’d pay him back.
Whistles sounded, shrieking in answer to the tooting of others from far away, the wild eerie ones of yard engines, the deeper, throatier tones of factories. It was the end. Montgomery City!
Slowly Martin addressed the envelope, and as the big bore came to a stop, evaded the thronging crowds and sought the railroad mail box. He raised the letter....
“Mr. Garrity!” He turned. The day agent was running toward him. “Mr. Garrity, Mr. Barstow wants to see you. He’s here—in the station. He came to see the finish.”
So the execution must be a personal one! The letter was crunched into a pocket. Dimly, soddenly, Martin followed the agent. As through a haze he saw the figure of Barstow, and felt that person tug at his sleeve.
“Come over here, where we can talk in private!” There was a queer ring in the voice and Martin obeyed. Then—“Shake, Old Kid!”
Martin knew that a hand was clasping his. But why?
“You made it! I knew you would. Didn’t I tell you we’d get our pound of flesh?”
“But—but the contract——”
“To thunder with the contract!” came the happy answer of Barstow. “If you had only answered the ’phone, you wouldn’t be so much in the dark. What do I care about mail contracts now—with the best two lines in Missouri under my supervision? Don’t you understand? This was the hole that I had prayed for this O.R. & T. bunch to get into from the first minute I saw that snow. They would have been tied up for a week longer—if it hadn’t been for us. Can’t you see? It was the argument