“I don’t know. That is my business, and none of yours.”
It was a bid for a renewal of the quarrel which was never more than half veiled between these two. But Gridley did not lift the challenge.
“Let it go at that,” he said placably. “But if you should decide to stay, I want you to let up on Flemister.”
The morose antagonism died out of Hallock’s eyes, and in its place came craft.
“I’d kill Flemister on sight, if I had the sand; you know that, Gridley. Some day it may come to that. But in the meantime——”
“In the meantime you have been snapping at his heels like a fice-dog, Hallock; holding out ore-cars on him, delaying his coal supplies, stirring up trouble with his miners. That was all right, up to yesterday. But now it has got to stop.”
“Not for any orders that you can give,” retorted the chief clerk, once more opening the door for the quarrel.
The master-mechanic got up and flicked the cigar ash from his coat-sleeve with a handkerchief that was fine enough to be a woman’s.
“I am not going to come to blows with you. Rankin—not if I can help it,” he said, with his hand on the door-knob. “But what I have said will have to go as it lies. Shoot Flemister out of hand, if you feel like it, but quit hampering his business.”
Hallock stood up, and when he was on his feet his big frame made him look still more a fair match physically for the handsome master-mechanic.
“Why?” The single word shot out of the loose-lipped mouth like an explosive bullet.
Gridley opened the door and turned upon the threshold.
“I might borrow the word from you and say that Flemister’s business and mine are none of yours. But I won’t do that. I’ll merely say that Flemister may need a little Red Butte Western nursing in the Ute Valley irrigation scheme he is promoting, and I want you to see that he gets it. You may take that as a word to the wise, or as a kicked-in hint to a blind mule; whichever you please. You can’t afford to fight me, Hallock, and you know it. Sleep on it a few hours, and you’ll see it in that way, I’m sure. Good-night.”
A LITTLE BROTHER OF THE COWS
Crosswater Gap, so named because the high pass over which the railroad finds its way is anything but a gap, and, save when the winter snows are melting, there is no water within a day’s march, was in sight from the loopings of the eastern approach. Lidgerwood, scanning the grades as the service-car swung from tangent to curve and curve to tangent up the steep inclines, was beginning to think of breakfast. The morning air was crisp and bracing, and he had been getting the full benefit of it for an hour or more, sitting under the umbrella roof at the observation end of the car.
With the breakfast thought came the thing itself, or the invitation to it. As a parting kindness the night before, Ford had transferred one of the cooks from his own private car to Lidgerwood’s service, and the little man, Tadasu Matsuwari by name, and a subject of the Mikado by race and birth, came to the car door to call his new employer to the table.