“From what technical school do you come?” inquired the engineer as he resumed his chair.
“From none, sir,” Tom answered promptly “We didn’t have money enough for that sort of training.”
Mr. Thurston raised his eyebrows in astonished inquiry.
“Then why,” he asked, “did you come here? What made you think that you could break in as engineers?”
BAD PETE BECOMES WORSE
Timothy Thurston’s gaze was curious, and his voice a trifle cold. Yet he did not by any means treat the boys with contempt. He appeared simply to wonder why these young men had traveled so far to take up his time.
“We couldn’t afford to take a college course in engineering, sir,” Tom Reade continued, reddening slightly. “We have learned all that we possibly could in other ways, however.”
“Do you expect me, young men, to detail an experienced engineer to move about with you as instructor until you learn enough to be of use to us?”
“No, indeed, we don’t, sir,” Tom replied, and perhaps his voice was sharper than usual, though it rang with earnestness. “We believe, sir, that we are very fair engineers. We are willing to be tried out, sir, and to be rated exactly where you find that we belong. If necessary we’ll start in as helpers to the chainmen, and we have pride enough to walk back over the trail at any moment when you decide that we’re no good. We have traveled all the way from the east, and I trust, sir, that you’ll give us a fair chance to show if we know anything.”
“It won’t take long to find that out,” replied Mr. Thurston gravely. “Of course you both understand that we are doing real engineering work and haven’t any time to instruct amateurs or be patient with them.”
“We don’t want instruction, Mr. Thurston,” Hazelton broke in. “We want work, and when we get it we’ll do it.”
“I hope your work will be as good as your assurance,” replied the chief engineer, with a slight twinkle in his eyes. “What can you do?”
“We know how to do ordinary surveying, sir,” Tom replied quickly. “We can run our courses and supervise the chaining. We know how to bring in field notes that are of some use. We can do our work well within the limits of error allowed by the United States Government. We also consider ourselves competent at leveling. Give us the profile plan and the notes on an excavation, and we can superintend the laborers who have to make an excavation. We have a fair knowledge of ordinary road building. We have the strength of usual materials at our finger’s ends, and for beginners I think we may claim that we are very well up in mathematics. We have had some all-around experience. Here is a letter, sir, from Price & Conley, of Gridley, in whose offices we have done quite a bit of work.”
Mr. Thurston took the letter courteously, though he did not \ immediately glance at it.