“From the agent at Navajo. I wasn’t satisfied with the way it shaped up, and I did a little investigating on my own hook.”
“Pass him up,” said Benson briefly, “and let’s go over this lay-out for to-night again. I shall be out of touch down in the yards, and I want to get it straight in my head.”
Lidgerwood went carefully over the details again, and again cautioned Benson about the Nadia and its party. From that the talk ran upon the ill luck which had projected the pleasure-party into the thick of things; upon Mrs. Brewster’s obstinacy—which Lidgerwood most inconsistently defended—and upon the probability of the president’s return from the Copperette—also in the thick of things, and it was close upon eight o’clock when the two lieutenants went to their respective posts.
It was fully an hour farther along, and the tense strain of suspense was beginning to tell upon the man who sat thoughtful and alone in the second-floor office of the Crow’s Nest, when Benson ran up to report the situation in the yards.
“Everything quiet so far,” was the news he brought. “We’ve got the Nadia on the east spur, where the folks can slip out and make their get-away, if they have to. There are several little squads of the discharged men hanging around, but not many more than usual. The east and west yards are clear, and the three sections of the mid-night freight are crewed and ready to pull out when the time comes. The folkses are playing dummy whist in the Nadia; and Gridley is holding the fort at the shops with the toughest-looking lot of myrmidons you ever laid your eyes on.”
Once again Lidgerwood was making tiny squares on his desk blotter.
“I’m thankful that the news of the strike got to Copah in time to bring Gridley over on 203,” he said.
Benson’s boyish eyes opened to their widest angle.
“Did he say he came in on Two-three?” he asked.
“Well, that’s odd—devilish odd! I was on that train, and I rambled it from one end to the other—which is a bad habit I have when I’m trying to kill travel-time. Gridley isn’t a man to be easily overlooked. Reckon he was riding on the brake-beams? He was dirty enough to make the guess good. Hello, Fred”—this to Dawson, who had at that moment let himself in through the deserted outer office—“we were just talking about your boss, and wondering how he got here from Copah on Two-three without my seeing him.”
“He didn’t come from Copah,” said the draftsman briefly. “He came in with me from the west, on the wrecking-train. He was in Red Butte, and he had an engine bring him down to Silver Switch, where he caught us just as we were pulling out.”
Engineer John Judson, disappearing at the moment when the superintendent had sent him back to bully Schleisinger into appointing him constable, from the ken of those who were most anxious to hear from him, was late in reporting. But when he finally climbed the stair of the Crow’s Nest to tap at Lidgerwood’s door, he brought the first authentic news from the camp of the enemy.