“I’ll back it to win,” glowed Tom ardently “Mr. Blaisdell, I am well aware that I’m hardly more than the lens cap on a transit in this outfit, but I’m going to do every ounce of my individual share to see this road through and running on time, and I’ll carry as much of any other man’s burden as I can load onto my shoulders!”
“Good!” chuckled Blaisdell, holding out his hand. “I see that you’re one of us, heart and soul, Reade. What have you to say, Hazelton?”
“I always let Tom do my talking, because he can do it better,” smiled Harry. “At the same time, I’ve known Tom Reade for a good many years, and his performance is always as good as his promise. As for me, Mr. Blaisdell, I’ve just told you that Tom does my talking, but I back up all that he promises for me.”
“Pinkitty-plank-plink!” twanged Matt Rice’s banjo, starting into another rollicking air.
“I guess it’s taps, boys,” called Blaisdell in his low but resonant voice. “Look at the chief’s tent; he’s putting out his candles now.”
A glance at the gradually darkening walls of the chief engineers big tent showed that this was the case.
“We’ll all turn in,” nodded Blaisdell.
So Tom and Harry hastened to their tent, where they unfolded their camp cots and set them up. There was not much bed-making. The body of the cot was of canvas, and required no mattress. From out of their baggage each took a small pillow and pair of blankets. At this altitude the night was already rather chilly, despite the fact that it was July.
Rapidly undressing in the dark the young engineers crawled in between their blankets.
“Well, at last,” murmured Harry, “we’re engineers in earnest. That is,” he added rather wistfully, “if we last.”
“We’ve got to last,” replied Tom in a low voice, hardly above a whisper, “and we’re going to. Harry, we’ve left behind us the playtime of boyhood, and we’re beginning real life! But in that playtime we learned how to play real football. From now on we’ll apply all of the best and most strenuous rules of football to the big art of making a living and a reputation. Good night, old fellow! Dream of the folks back in Gridley. I’m going to.”
“And of the chums at West Point and Annapolis,” gaped Hazelton. “God bless them!”
That was not the only short prayer sent up, but within five minutes both youngsters had fallen sound asleep. The man who can sleep as they did, when the head touches the pillow, has many successes still ahead of him!
Nor did they worry about not waking in season in the morning. Slim Morris had promised to see to it that they were awake on time.
Slam! Bump! Tom Reade was positive he had not been asleep more than a minute when that rude interruption came. He awoke to find himself scrambling up from the ground.
Tom had his eyes open in time to see Harry Hazelton hit the ground with force. Then Slim Morris retreated to the doorway of the tent.