At stake number ten Tom halted.
“Harry,” he directed, “you take Black’s leveling notes and hold them while I read my own notes. Stop me every time that you note a difference between the two records.”
After that Harry steadily stopped his chum at every reading. By the time that they had finished the comparisons Hazelton’s face looked blank from sheer astonishment.
“Why, every single one of Blacks foresights and backsights is wrong!” gasped Harry. “And yet Mr. Blaisdell reported that ’Gene Black is such a fine engineer.”
Tom turned to make sure that Trotter was resting out of hearing before he replied:
“Harry, Black isn’t such a fool as to bring in an absolutely wrong record of sights, and yet do it innocently. If he didn’t do it unintentionally, then he must have tangled the record purposely.”
“But why should he do it purposely?” Harry insisted. “He would know that, sooner or later, his blunders or lies would be discovered, and that he would be discharged. Now, Black really wants to hold his job with this outfit.”
“Does he?” asked Tom bluntly.
“Why, what do you mean?”
“I don’t know,” Reade confessed. “I never heard of any such bungle as this before by an engineer. Why, Harry, this hillside averages an eight and a third grade, yet Black’s field notes show it to be only a three per cent. grade. Hang it, the fellow must have played the trick purposely!”
“Yet why?” pressed Hazelton.
“I’ll admit that I can’t understand. Unless, well---unless-----”
“Unless Black joined this outfit with the express purpose of queering all the work of the entire corps as he could easily do. Harry, do you think that Black could possibly be serving with this outfit as the paid tool of the rival road, the W.C. & A.? Can he be the enemy’s spy within our lines—–sent to prevent our finishing the road on time?”
THINGS BEGIN TO GO DOWN HILL
“I suppose I’m thick,” Harry murmured. “How would Black, by turning in some wrong backsights and foresights, expect to delay the building of the road, even if he wanted to do it?”
“How?” repeated Tom Reade, showing an amount of heat and excitement that he rarely displayed. “Why, Harry, this same old Section Nineteen is one of the hard spots on the road. A lot of excavating has to be done before the tracks can be laid here. It’s not a mere matter of scooping up dirt and removing it, either. A large amount of solid rock has to be blasted out here before the roadbed can be laid.”
“I know it,” Harry nodded.
“Well, then, at the present moment our chief, Mr. Thurston, is preparing the estimates for the work that must be done. On his estimates will be based the strength of the laboring gangs that must come forward to do the work.”