The instant Charley noticed this, he spoke to the man. The others, scenting trouble, stopped work to look on. Charley sensed the situation and set himself for a tussle. “Let them know you’re boss,” he remembered Mr. Marlin had said to him. So he stepped toward the man and said quietly, “I neglected to say that I want this trail cleared to its original width. Just take out those bushes you have missed.”
“The trail’s wide enough,” said the man, sulkily. “Lots of trails aren’t half as wide as that.”
“It isn’t a question of how wide other trails are,” said Charley good-naturedly, “or of how wide this ought to be. All I can do is to obey orders. Mr. Marlin told me to clear the trail just as it was originally.”
The man looked angrily at Charley and sudden passion lighted up his eyes. “If Mr. Marlin wants this trail that wide, he can say so himself. But nobody’s goin’ to make me take orders from a high school boy. I know how this trail ought to be brushed.”
Charley saw that it had come to a show-down. Inwardly he was greatly agitated. His heart beat so fast and the pulse in his temples throbbed so violently that he was afraid the men would see how excited he was. But he took a grip on himself and answered slowly, thinking hard all the time, and trying not to betray his real feelings. Again he recalled what his chief had said about letting the men know he was boss.
“You are quite right,” said Charley slowly. “Nobody can make you take orders from a high school boy. This is a free country and you do not have to take orders from anybody if you don’t want to. You are free to quit this job at any time you like and nobody can stop you. But as long as you stay on the job you will have to obey orders. I’ll give you your time and you can get your pay at the office if you want to quit. If you want to stay, just brush out that trail as Mr. Marlin wants it brushed.”
Without waiting for a reply Charley turned away and returned to his place at the head of the line. The men about him resumed their work with a will. In a moment the tall laborer picked up his axe and began clearing out the bushes he had missed. Charley had won.
Charley Finds Another Clue
As he trudged homeward that evening, Charley pondered over the events of the day. At first he did not know whether to rejoice or be sorry over the outcome of his encounter with the laborer. He was sure the man would hate him, and if he did, he might try to make more trouble for him. On the other hand, he realized that if he had let the man get the better of him, he could never have hoped to maintain discipline; and Charley was old enough to know that without discipline he could not succeed in any post of authority.