“I’ve told the drivers to stop when they get here, Brayley. Some of the men have blankets with them. We can rush more from Mr. Crawford’s store in Crawfordsville. We can make out as to food. Have you figured out what more horses, what further tools you’ll need? That’s good. Send a man to the Half Moon right now with word to Rawhide Jones to rush us the horses. Put your new men to work in the morning if you have to make them dig ditch with shovels. Also send a hundred of them into Valley City as soon as it’s daylight to begin the cross-ditches. Let Ben go with them. He can get his instructions there from me or from Tommy Garton. How is everything going?”
Brayley reported that the work was running smoothly, that his foremen were as good men as he ever wanted to see, that he had no fault to find anywhere.
“An’ this ol’ ditch is sure growin’, Con,” he finished, with a sudden gleam of pride.
Conniston did not wait for the arrival of the wagons to ride on into Valley City. Kent he left behind him at the camp.
“I’ve a tremendous curiosity to see how you do this sort of thing,” Kent confided to him, as he handed Conniston the message he wished sent from Valley City to Clayton & Paxton, of Denver. “I think that if Mr. Brayley has no objections and can spare me a blanket and some bread and coffee I’ll roost here and watch the ditch grow in the morning.”
Tommy Garton was still perched upon his high stool when Conniston came to the office.
“Just through, though,” he said, as he climbed down and with the aid of his crutches piloted his new legs toward the door, grasping Conniston’s hand warmly. “Good news, eh, Greek?”
“The best, Tommy. If we don’t put this thing across now we ought to be kicked from one end of the desert to the other. By the way, I had a visit from Swinnerton this afternoon.”
He told of what had passed, and ended, thoughtfully:
“What do you suppose was his object, Tommy? Just wanted to get a peek at what we have done?”
Garton laughed softly.
“You poor old innocent. Don’t you know what the little man was after? Didn’t he make it plain that he wanted you to double cross the old man? Didn’t he make it plain that he was in a position to make it worth your while? If our scheme fails, don’t you see that you can go to Swinnerton and demand and get a good job working for his scheme? He has bought many a man, Greek. It is his theory that he can buy any man he wants to buy.”
“And I let him get away without slapping his little red face,” muttered Conniston, disgustedly.
He left Garton a few minutes later, promising to return and spend the night with him, to talk at length with him in the morning, and went down the street to the Crawford cottage. He knew that since Argyl’s father had left for Denver Mrs. Ridley, the wife of the proprietor of the lunch-stand, had been staying with her. It was Mrs. Ridley who answered his knock.