Taking from the drawer of his table a map which bore his own name in the corner, he pointed out just where their source of water was, and just how it was to be brought down from the mountains into the “valley.” He indicated where the work was being pushed now. He showed where the big dam had already been thrown across a steep-walled, rocky canon; how, when the time came, a second dam (this purely a diversion weir) was to be constructed across a neighboring canon, higher up in the mountains, deflecting the waters which poured down through it into the lower dam, and from it turning them into the main canal at the upper end of Rattlesnake Valley. He pointed out, five miles to the north of these two big dams, the place where a third was to be flung across yet another canon, imprisoning a smaller creek and turning it toward the southwest to join the overflow of the others in the main canal. He ran over blue-print after blue-print, to show the type of construction work being done. He explained where there was leveling called for, where the canal must be turned aside.
“We’d bring her straight through, and d—n the little knolls,” he cried, banging his fist down upon his table in sudden vehemence, “but there is a time-limit on this thing, Conniston. And we’ve got to get water here, right here in Valley City, when the last day is up. Not twenty-four hours late, either. No, not twenty-four minutes!”
He ran the back of his hand across his moist forehead, and sat staring out of the window as though he had forgotten Conniston’s presence.
“What sort of a time-limit? I thought that Mr. Crawford was alone in this thing, that he had the rest of his lifetime to finish it in if he wanted to take that long.”
“He’s got until just exactly twelve o’clock, noon, on the first day of October. If he is five minutes late—yes, five minutes!—there’ll be men right here holding stop-watches on the thing like it was a blooming foot-race!—he’ll be busted, ruined, smashed, and the whole project a miserable abortion!” He paused a moment, biting the end of his pencil. And before he went on he had turned his eyes steadily upon Conniston’s face, studying him. “If you’re going to work with us, to get into it with your sleeves rolled up like Bat Truxton and Billy there and me and a few others of us, you might as well know in the beginning what’s what in this scrap. For it is a scrap—the biggest scrap you ever saw, a fight to the finish, with one man lined up against—do you have any idea what John Crawford is bucking?”
Conniston shook his head. “I know virtually nothing of this thing, Garton.”
“Well, I’ll tell you. Single-handed that man is fighting the desert! And he’d beat it back, too, and conquer it and muzzle it and make it eat out of his hand if they’d only let him alone. But they won’t, the cold-blooded highway robbers! He’s got them to fight with his left hand while he hammers away at the face of the desert with his right! Who are ‘they’? ‘They’ are a syndicate; organized capital. ‘They’ spell many millions of dollars ready to be spent to defeat John Crawford.”