“You seem to be mightily interested in the work,” Conniston smiled.
“I am. I am in love with it! A man can’t live here ten days and be a part of it without loving it or hating it. It’s the greatest work in the world; it’s big—bigger than we can see with our noses jammed up against it! It’s a man’s work. And thank God we’ve got the right man at the head of it!”
“Meaning the man who is the brain of it and the brawn of it; the heart and soul and glorious spirit of it; yes, and the pocket-book of it! That’s John Crawford, a big man—the biggest man I ever knew. Who else would have the nerve to tackle a thing like this, to tackle it lone-handed? And to hold on to it in the face of opposition which would crush another man, and with the risk of utter financial ruin looming as big as a house, like a glorious, grim old bulldog! Oh, you don’t know what it means yet; you can’t know. Wait until you’ve been here a week, seeing every day of it a thousand dollars poured into the sand, a few square yards of sand leveled, a few yards of canal dug, and you’ll begin to understand. Why, the whole thing as it stands is as dangerous as a dynamite bomb—and John Crawford is as cool about it as an anarchist!”
“You speak of opposition. I didn’t know—”
Garton rumpled his upstanding yellow hair and laughed softly.
“I guess none of us know a great deal about it excepting John Crawford. And John Crawford doesn’t talk much. Oh, you will learn fast enough all that we know about it. And now I suppose you’ll be wanting to know where you fit into the machine. Bring any things with you—any personal effects?”
“A tooth-brush and an extra suit,” Conniston laughed. “They’re tied to my saddle outside.”
“You can bring ’em in here. I have a room in the back of this shack. You’re to share it with me, if you care to. You’ll find a shed in the back yard where you can leave your horse. There’s a barrel of water out there, too. And, by the way, you might as well learn right now not to throw away a drop of the stuff; it’s worth gold out here. When you get back I’ll go over things with you. Your first day’s work, the better part of it, will be to listen while I talk.”
Conniston unsaddled and tied his horse in the little shed, coming back into the office with his roll of clothes. Garton swung about upon his stool and pointed out the room at the back of the house which was to serve for the present as the sleeping-room for both men. There were two cots along opposite walls, a chair, and no other furniture. Conniston threw down his things upon the cot which Garton called to him was to be his, and came back into the office. Pulling a stool up to the table alongside of Garton, he began his first day’s work for the reclamation project.
Tommy Garton spoke swiftly, clearly, concisely, explaining those essentials of the work in hand which Conniston must grasp at the beginning. Filled with an ardor no whit less than Mr. Crawford’s, there seemed to be no single detail which he did not have at his fingers’ ends.