Lidgerwood asked a single question.
“Did Williams find that anything had been tampered with?”
“Nothing that you could shoot up the back-shop man for. One of the truck safety-chains—the one on the left side, back—was loose. But it couldn’t have hurt anything if it had been taken off. We ain’t runnin’ on safety-chains these days.”
“Safety-chain loose, you say?—so if the truck should jump and swing it would keep on swinging? You tell Williams when you go up ahead that I want that machinist’s name.”
“H’m,” said Bradford; “reckon it was meant to do that?”
“God only knows what isn’t meant, these times, Andy. Hold on a minute before you give Williams the word to go.” Then he turned to young Jefferis, who had come out on the car platform to light a cigarette. “Will you ask Miss Brewster to step out here for a moment?”
Eleanor came at the summons, and Jefferis gave the superintendent a clear field by dropping off to ask Bradford for a match.
“You sent for me, Howard?” said the president’s daughter, and honey could not have matched her tone for sweetness.
“Yes. I shall have to anticipate the Angels gossips a little by telling you that we are in the midst of a pretty bitter labor fight. That is why people go gunning for me. I can’t take you and your friends over the road to-night.”
“Why not?” she inquired.
“Because it may not be entirely safe.”
“Nonsense!” she flashed back. “What could happen to us on a little excursion like this?”
“I don’t know, but I wish you would reconsider and go back to the Nadia.”
“I shall do nothing of the sort,” she said, wilfully. And then, with totally unnecessary cruelty, she added: “Is it a return of the old malady? Are you afraid again, Howard?”
The taunt was too much. Wheeling suddenly, Lidgerwood snapped out a summons to Jefferis: “Get aboard, Mr. Jefferis; we are going.”
At the word Bradford ran forward, swinging his lantern, and a moment later the special train shot away from the Crow’s Nest platform and out over the yard switches, and began to bore its way into the westward night.
Forty-two miles south-west of Angels, at a point where all further progress seems definitely barred by the huge barrier of the great mountain range, the Red Butte Western, having picked its devious way to an apparent cul-de-sac among the foot-hills and hogbacks, plunges abruptly into the echoing canyon of the Eastern Timanyoni.
For forty added miles the river chasm, throughout its length a narrow, tortuous crevice, with sheer and towering cliffs for its walls, affords a precarious footing for the railway embankment, leading the double line of steel with almost sentient reluctance, as it seems, through the mighty mountain barrier. At its western extremity the canyon forms the gate-way to a shut-in valley of upheaved hills and inferior mountains isolated by wide stretches of rolling grassland. To the eastward and westward of the great valley rise the sentinel peaks of the two enclosing mountain ranges; and across the shut-in area the river plunges from pool to pool, twisting and turning as the craggy and densely forested lesser heights constrain it.