“And, pray, what might that be?”
“Want me to tell you, eh? Want to be sure that I know, do you? Want to see if Oliver Swinnerton is a fool, blind in both eyes? All right.” His voice dropped yet lower, and he blinked with cunning eyes as he finished. “You are up to the same game I am! You are going to slip the knife into John Crawford clean up to the hilt. You are going to make a bluff at getting work done until the last minute, and then you are going to have nothing done. You are going to throw him into my hands like I would throw a sick pup into a ditch.”
“Am I?” asked Conniston, coolly, mastering the sudden desire to take this little fat man into his two hands and choke him. “You know a great deal about what I intend to do, Mr. Swinnerton. And now, if you are not through talking your infernal nonsense, I am through listening to it. There is room to turn right here. Understand?”
“But—” began Swinnerton, only to be cut short with:
“There are no buts about it!”
He stooped, seized the bit of one of Swinnerton’s horses, and jerked it about into the road.
“I tell you,” yelled Swinnerton, “Conniston or no Conniston, you can’t bluff me. Do you hear?”
Conniston made no reply as he jerked the horses farther around. When their heads were turned toward the way which Swinnerton had come he lifted his quirt high above his head. Oliver Swinnerton went suddenly white and raised his arm to protect his face. But only Conniston’s laugh stung him as the quirt fell heavily across the horses’ backs. The buggy lurched, the horses leaped forward; Oliver Swinnerton’s surprised torrent of curses was lost in the rattle of wheels, his red face obscured in the swirling dust.
“I wonder what he was driving at?” muttered Conniston as he watched the horses race down the road.
Jimmie Kent, reining his horse aside as Swinnerton swept by him, smiled and called, pleasantly:
“Good-by, Oliver. Seem to be in a hurry!”
Conniston and Kent, riding swiftly, side by side, overtook the wagons conveying the three hundred men to the Valley, and, passing them, arrived at Brayley’s camp before the men there had quit work for the day. Brayley was more than half expecting them, as Kent had telephoned to the office from Bolton to learn where Conniston was and had told Tommy Garton of his errand.
“An’ now,” proclaimed Brayley, with deep satisfaction, “we’ll have the big ditch clean through Valley City an’ the cross-ditches growin’ real fast before a week’s up.”