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The Day's Work








From: Still Jim

"Women know a loyalty that men scorn while they use it. This
is the sex stamp of women."

MUSINGS OF THE ELEPHANT.


With a quick glance at Sara, Jim rose. "Give Mr. Saradokis and his
friend a chance to talk, of course, Bill. But shut Murphy up tonight and
bring him round to me in the morning."

Bill essayed a salute that was so curiously like bringing his thumb to
his nose that Pen had to turn a laugh into a cough and Jim smiled as he
hurried out of the tent. As soon as the murder trouble was settled, Jim
thought, he would have some sort of a settlement with Sara. His calm
effrontery was becoming unbearable.

After a hurried supper Jim went back to the lower town to keep his eye
on the moving picture show. As he mounted the steps of the little sheet
iron building, a girlish figure hurried to meet him from the shadow of
the ticket office.

"Pen!" cried Jim. "This is no place for you!"

"Oh, lots of women have gone in," protested Pen. "Please, Jim! Sara was
so ugly this evening I just walked out and left him alone and I'm crazy
to see what goes on down here."

Jim glanced in at the open door. The hall was nearly full. "If anything
goes wrong, Penny, I would have my hands full and you might be hurt."

Pen gave a little shiver of anticipation. "Oh, please let me stay,
Still! Just think how shut in I've been all these years."

Even though his common sense protested, Jim was an easy victim to Pen's
pleading eyes and voice. He led the way into the hall. It was an
enthusiastic crowd, that crunched peanuts and pinons and commented
audibly on the pictures. Pictures of city life were the most popular.

"God! That's Fulton street, Brooklyn!" cried a man's voice as a street
scene glided across the screen. "Wish I'd never left it."

"Gee! Look at the street car!" called another man. "I'd give a year of
my life for a trolley ride."

"Look at them trees!" said someone as a view of a middle west farm
followed. "Them are trees, boys, not cable way towers! How'd you like to
shake the sand out of your eyes and see something green?"

"What are you peeved about?" exclaimed another voice. "Ain't you working
for our great and glorious government that'll kick you out like a dead
dog whenever it wants to? Look what it's doing to the Big Boss!"

"Hi! Man-o'-War at San Diego!" screamed a boy. "See all that wet water!
Me for the navy! See how pretty that sailor looks in his cute white
panties!"

Hartman held the crowd for a good two hours, then he called, "That's
all, boys! Come again!"

"All? Nothing stirring," answered several voices. "Begin over again,
Hartman. You can collect another nickel from us as we go out."

There was laughter and applause and not a soul offered to leave. In the
darkness Hartman was heard to laugh in return and shortly the first film
appeared again. Fields of corn shimmered in the wind. Cows grazed in
quiet meadows. The audience stared again, breathlessly. Suddenly from
without was heard a long-drawn cry. It was like the lingering shriek of
a coyote. Few in the hall had heard the call before, yet no one mistook
it for anything but human.

"An Apache yell!" exclaimed an excited voice.

There was a sudden overturning of benches and Pen and Jim were forced
out into the street with the crowd.

An arc light glowed in front of the hall. Under this the crowd swayed
for a moment, uncertain whither to move. Jim held Pen's arm and looked
about quickly.

"I don't know where you will be safest, Pen. I wish I'd heeded the
itching of my thumb and taken you home an hour ago."

"Jim," said Pen, "I certainly like your parties. They are full of
surprises."

"You are a good little sport," said Jim, "but that doesn't make me less
worried about you. Hang onto my arm now like a little burr."

He began to work his way through the crowd. "I don't want to attract
their attention," he said. "They will follow me like sheep."

"Was it an Apache cry, Jim?" asked Pen.

"Yes! Old Suma-theek, with a bunch of his Indians has been riding the
upper mesa for me tonight. Just to watch Mexico City. I told him to
keep things quiet, so there must have been some imperative reason for
the cry. I'll take you to the upper camp and get my horse."

Jim breathed a sigh of relief as they cleared the crowd and could
quicken their pace. But they were scarcely out of the range of the arc
light when a dark group ran hurriedly down from the mesa back of the
town. It was old Suma-theek with four of his Indians. They held, tightly
bound with belts and bandanas, two disheveled little hombres.

"Take 'em to jail, Boss?" panted Suma-theek. "I find 'em trying get back
to lower town!"

"No! No! Back up into the mountains. I'll get horses to you and you must
take them to Cabillo. Lord, I forgot to warn you!"

Suma-theek turned quickly but not quickly enough. A man ran up to the
little group then plunged back toward the hall.

"A rope!" he yelled. "Bring a rope. They've got the two hombres."

Men seemed to spring up out of the ground.

"Run, Pen, toward the upper camp!" cried Jim.

"I won't!" exclaimed Pen. "They won't shoot while a woman is standing
here."

She plunged away from Jim and caught Suma-theek's arm. The old Indian
smiled and shoved her behind him. Jim turned and stood shoulder to
shoulder with the Apache chief. "Now work back until we're against the
power house with the hombres back of us," he said.

By the time the crowd was massed, yelling and gesticulating on three
sides of it, the little group was backed up against the concrete wall
of the little substation.

Jim waved his arm. "Go home, boys; go home! You can't do any lynching
while the Apaches are here!"

"Give us the hombres, Boss!" shouted a threatening voice, "or we'll have
to be rough on you."

"Send the lady home," called someone else. "This is no job for a lady to
see."

"Boss," said Suma-theek in Jim's ear, "you send your squaw out. She go
up mountain back of town, find Apache there, tell all Apaches bring
guns, come here, help take hombres to jail."

Jim looked at Pen and his face whitened. But Pen's nostrils dilated and
her eyes sparkled. Pen was Irish.

"I'll go," said Pen. "Where is Henderson?"

"He ought to be back," said Jim. "Try to find him after you get the
Apaches. Send anybody down you can reach." Then he shouted to the crowd,
"Let the lady out!"

Jim and Suma-theek stood well above most of the mob. Jim was unarmed and
the crowd knew it. But even had any man there been inclined to prevent
Pen's exit he would rather have done so under a cocked gun than under
the look in Jim's white face as he watched Pen's progress through the
crowd. The men gave back respectfully. As soon as she was free of the
crowd, Pen broke into a run. She darted back behind the line of tents up
onto the mountainside.

There for an instant she paused and looked back. The five Indians were
as motionless as the crouching black heaps they guarded. They held their
guns in the hollow of their arms, while Jim, with raised arm, was
speaking. Pen sobbed in her excitement. If Uncle Denny could see his
boy!

She turned and ran up the trail like a little rabbit. It seemed to her
that she never would reach the top. The camp sounds were faint and far
before she reached the upper mesa and saw dimly a figure on a horse. It
was an Indian who covered her with a gun as she panted up to him.

"Suma-theek and the Big Boss say for you to call in all the other
Indians and come help them at the little power house. The whites are
trying to lynch the hombres."

The Indian peered down into her face and grunted as he recognized her.
Then he suddenly stood in his stirrups and raised the fearful cry that
had emptied the moving picture hall.

"Ke-theek! Ke-theek! Ke-theek! (To me! To me! To me!)"

Pen stood by the pony's head, trembling yet exultant. This, then, she
thought was the life men knew. No wonder Jim loved his job!

Up on the mesa top, the night wind rushed against the encircling stars.
The Indian chuckled.

"Mexicans, they no bother whites tonight. They know Apache call, it heap
devil."

The sound of hoofs began to beat in about the waiting two. "You go,"
said the Indian. "Back along upper trail, it safe."

Pen started on a run toward the upper camp.

The surging crowd round Jim and the Indians heard the wild cry from the
mesa top and the shouts and threats were stilled as if by magic. There
was a moment of restless silence. That cry was a primordial thing, as
well understood by every man in the mob as if he had heard it always. It
was the cry of the hunted and the hunter. It was the night cry of
forests. It was war with naked hands, death under lonely skies.

Jim called: "Some one is bound to get killed if you boys don't clear
out. I'm not armed but a number of you are and the Indians are. If there
are any of my Makon boys here, I want them to come over here and help
me."

"Coming, Boss!" called a voice. "Only a few of the best of us here."

"You'll stay where you are," roared a big Irishman.

"Rush 'em, boys! Rush 'em! They don't dare to shoot!"

Old Suma-theek absent-mindedly sighted his gun in the direction of the
last remark.

"Get a ladder! Get on top of the station. Altogether, boys!"

Fighting through the mob, half a dozen men suddenly ranged themselves
with the Indians.

"Come into us!" one of them shrieked. "I ain't had a fight since I
killed six Irishmen on the Makon and ate 'em for breakfast."

There was a swaying, a sudden closing of the crowd, when down from the
mesa rushed old Suma-theek's bucks. They swept the mob aside like flying
sand and closed about the little group against the wall. They were a
very splendid picture in the arc light, these forty young bucks with
their flying hair and plunging ponies. The moment must have been one of
unmixed joy to them as the whites gave back, leaving them the street
width.

Jack Henderson rushed up in Jim's automobile just as the street cleared.
Jim hurried to the machine. "Jack, did you see Mrs. Saradokis?"

"Took her home in the machine. Had to argue with her to make her go.
That's why I'm late. Just got back from delivering the committee."

The color came back under Jim's tan. "Get up to the wall there, Jack,
with the machine and put the two hombres into the tonneau with two
Indians and Suma-theek in front. The mounted Indians will act as your
guard for a few miles out. Hit the high places to Cabillo. I guess you'd
better keep the guard all the way. I wouldn't like you to meet a posse
without one."

Jack nodded and began to work his way among the ponies. In a moment's
time the touring car, with the cowering human bundles in the tonneau,
had crossed the river. The crowd disappeared rather precipitately into
the tents, no one courting conversation with Jim. He walked quietly up
the road home.

Early the next morning, Billy Underwood brought Murphy up to Jim's
house.

"Sorry my posse didn't get there in time to help you out, Boss," said
Bill regretfully. "We didn't hear of it till it was all over."

Jim nodded. "Keep up your quarantine for a while, Bill. We won't risk
booze for several days. Now, Murphy, who backed you in the saloon
business?"

"Fleckenstein's crowd."

"How long have you known Mr. Saradokis?"

"Met him for the first time last night," replied the ex-saloonkeeper.

Jim eyed the man skeptically and Murphy spoke with sudden heat. "That's
on the level. I heard he was backing Fleckenstein and so I thought he'd
help me get back at you. But he cursed me as I'll stand from no man
because Underwood made a monkey of me by lugging me up there before you.
No wonder his wife left the tent before he began, if that's his usual
style. I'll get even with that dirty Greek."

Bill nodded. "Boss, that friend of yours has a vocabulary that'd turn a
mule into a race horse."

"Murphy," said Jim, "you are Irish. My stepfather is an Irishman. He is
the whitest gentleman that ever lived. It's hard for me to realize after
knowing him that an Irishman can be doing the dirty work you are. But I
suppose Ireland must breed men like you or Tammany would die."

Murphy hitched from one foot to the other. Jim went on in his quiet,
slow way.

"I suppose you know pretty well what I'm up against on this Project.
What would you do with Murphy if you were Manning?"

"I'd beat three pounds of dog meat off his face," replied Murphy,
succinctly.

Jim shrugged his shoulders. "That would do neither of us any good. If I
let you go, Murphy, will you give me your word of honor to let the
Project absolutely alone?"

The Irishman gave Jim a quick look. "And would you take my word?"

"Not as a saloonkeeper, but as Irish, I would."

Murphy drew a long breath. "Thank you, Mr. Manning. I'll get off the
Project if you say so. But I think you'd be wiser to give me a job below
on the diversion dam where I can keep track of Fleckenstein and his
crowd for you. I'll show you what it means to trust an Irishman, sir."

Jim suddenly flashed his wistful smile. "I knew you had the makings of a
friend in you as soon as I saw how you took the cleaning up I gave you
yesterday. I'll give you a note to my irrigation engineer. He needs a
good man."

Bill and Murphy went out the door together. "I'll bet you the drinks,
Bill," said Murphy, "that he never made you his friend."

"I ain't drinking. I'm his trusted officer," said Bill. "Get me? If you
try any tricks on him----"

Bill stopped abruptly, for Murphy's fist was under his nose. "Did you
hear him take my word like a gentleman?" he shouted. "I'd rather be dead
than double cross him!"

"Aw, go on down to the diversion dam," said Bill, irritably. "I've got
no time to listen to your talk. You heard him tell me to guard the
place!"

A part of Jim's day's work, after his letters were answered and written
in the morning, was to tramp over every portion of the job. The quarry,
in the mountain to the north of the dam whence were being taken the
giant rock for embedding in the concrete was his first care. The stone
must be of the right quality and of proper weight and contour to bind
well with the cement. The quarrying itself must be going forward rapidly
and without waste. Then came the giant sand dump, where the dinkies had
filled a canyon with the sand from the river bed. This was the supply
that fed the always hungry mixer. After this the warehouse and the power
house, the laboratories and the concrete mixer, the cableway towers and
the superintendent's office, with all the thousand and one details,
expected and unexpected, that made or marred the success of the dam,
must be looked over. The last visit was always at the dam itself, where
Jim spent most of the day.

On the afternoon after Jim had hired Murphy he stood on the section of
the dam which now showed no signs of old Jezebel's strenuous visit. Jim
was watching the job with his outer mind, while with his inner mind he
turned over and over the things that Pen had said to him the night
before the mask ball. Even in the excitement that followed the ball,
Pen's scolding, as he called it, had never been entirely out of his
thoughts. In spite of their sting, Jim realized that Pen's words had
cleared his vision, had given him a sense of content that was comparable
only to the feeling he had had on the night so many years ago that he
had discovered his profession.

To find that the cause of his failure lay in himself and not in
intangible forces without that he could not combat was strangely enough
a very real relief. For Jim was taking Pen's review of his weaknesses as
essential truth!

Suddenly, with his eyes fastened critically on a great stone block that
was being carefully bedded on the section, he laughed aloud and
whispered to himself:

"I feel just the way I used to when I got mad because I couldn't get
compound interest and Dad straightened me out, giving me a good calling
down as he did so. Pen! Pen! My dearest!"

Oscar Ames, picking his way carefully among the derricks and stone
blocks, grunted when he saw the smile on Jim's face. Jim did not cease
to smile when he saw Oscar.

"Come up here, Ames! I want your advice!"

Oscar grunted again, but this time as if someone had knocked his breath
out of him. He paused, then came on up to where Jim was standing. Men
were busy preparing the surface on which they stood for the next
pouring. In the excavation below, the channeling machine was gouging out
a trench for the heel of the dam. Pumps were working steadily, drawing
seepage water from the excavation. Men swarmed everywhere, on derricks,
on engines, with guide ropes for cableway loads, scouring and chipping
rock and concrete surfaces, ramming and bolting forms into place,
shifting motors, always hurrying yet always giving a sense of direction
and purpose.

"She's coming along, Oscar," said Jim.

Oscar nodded. Something in Jim's tone made his own less pugnacious than
usual as he said:

"What you using sand-cement for instead of the real stuff?"

"It's stronger," said Jim. "A very remarkable thing! We've been testing
that out five or six years."

Jim's tone was very amiable. Oscar looked at him suspiciously and Jim
laughed. "Thought we were working some kind of a cement graft?" Jim
asked.

"Well, that's the common report!"

"Oh, for heaven's sake, Oscar!" exclaimed Jim disgustedly.

"Well, now," said Ames doggedly, "just why should sand-cement be
stronger than the pure Portland?"

Jim scowled, started to speak with his old impatience, then changed his
mind.

"You come up to the laboratory with me, Oscar. I'll give you a lesson on
cement that will put a stop to this gossip at once. A man of your
experience ought to know better."

Conflicting emotions showed in Oscar's face, boyish despite his fifty
years. This was the first time Jim had used the man to man tone with
Ames. He cleared his throat and followed the Big Boss up the trail to
the little adobe laboratory. The young cement engineer looked curiously
at Jim's companion.

"Mr. Field," said Jim, "this is Mr. Ames. He is one of the most
influential men in the valley. He is giving practically all of his time
to watching our work up here. He tells me the farmers feel that
sand-cement isn't good. We will put in an hour showing Mr. Ames our
tests and their results for the last five years, both here and on the
Makon."

Field did not show his surprise at Jim's about-face. But he did say to
himself as he went into the back room for his old reports, "Evidently
the farmer is no longer to be told to go to Hades when he kicks. I
wonder what's happened."

An hour later Jim and Oscar walked slowly up the trail toward Jim's
house. Jim had invited Ames up for a further talk. Oscar had shown a
remarkable aptitude for the details that Jim and Field had explained.
And his pleasure at finally understanding the whole idea upon which Jim
was basing his concrete work was such that Jim felt a very real remorse.
He recalled almost daily questions from Oscar and other farmers that he
had answered with a shortness that was often contemptuous.

"Now you see," Oscar said as they entered the cottage, "we'll actually
save money on that. Wonderful thing, Mr. Manning, how mixing the sand
and cement intimately enough, as you say, turns the trick. I'll tell the
bunch down at Cabillo about that tomorrow."

Jim shoved a box of cigars at Oscar and surveyed him with his wistful
smile. There were dark circles round Jim's eyes that in his childhood
had told of nerve strain. Jim at that moment wondered what Iron Skull
would have made of the present situation. He was silent so long that
Oscar spoke a little impatiently:

"If you ain't going to talk, Mr. Manning, Jane is waiting for me and I
got to see Mr. Sardox yet."

Jim pulled himself together, and, a little diffidently, handed Ames the
Secretary's letter with the copy of his own.

"Tell me what you think of these," said Jim.

Oscar read the two letters carefully, then said: "I'd think more of 'em
if I had any idea what either of you was driving at."

"It means just this," said Jim, "that unless the engineers and the
farmers work together, the Reclamation Service will get what the water
power trust is trying to give it, and that is, oblivion."

"Aha," said Oscar, "that's why you've been so decent to me today?"

"Yes," replied Jim simply.

Oscar's look of suspicion returned. Jim went on slowly and carefully.
"It will be bad business if the Service fails. It will retard the
government control of water power greatly, and there is enough possible
water power in this country, Oscar, to turn every wheel in it and to
heat and light every home in the land. If the Service fails it will
show just one thing; that the farmers and engineers on the Projects are
too selfish to get together for the country's good, that the farmer is a
stupid cat's paw for the money interests and the engineer a spineless
fool who won't fight."

"Look here, Manning," cried Oscar, "don't you think I'm justified in
thinking about nothing but my own ranch, considering what it's cost me?"

"Don't you think," Jim returned, "that I'm justified in thinking about
nothing but my dam and in letting the water power trust eat it and you
up, considering how hard I work on the building itself?"

Oscar stared and chewed his cigar and Jim smoked in silence for a
moment.

"Ames," he said finally, "I wonder if you will get this idea as quickly
as you did the sand-cement one. America isn't like England or Germany or
France. Over there the citizens of each country are practically of one
race. Fundamentally, they think about the same way and want the same
things. If one man or many neglect public duties it makes no permanent
difference. Someone else will take up the duty some time, and in just
about the same way that the negligent man would have done. But in
America we have become a hodge-podge of every race. We have no national
ideals. You can't tell me now of a single national ideal you and I are
working for or even thinking about. You can't tell me what an American
is, or I you. Get me?"

Oscar nodded, his tanned face keen with interest.

"Now the time has come when if you or I want any particular one of the
old New England ideals to live in this country we have got to fight for
it, start an educational campaign for it. If we don't, the Russian Jews
or the Italians or the Syrians will change things to suit their own
ideals. Now they may be all right. Their ideals may be as good as mine.
They have every right to be here and to rule if they can. But I don't
like the kind of government they stood for in their native countries.

"I'm a pig-headed Anglo-Saxon, full of an egotism that dies hard. I
believe that the Reclamation Service idea is an outgrowth of the fine
democracy that our fathers brought to New England. I believe that the
folks that are going to inherit America can't afford to lose the idea of
the Service and I'm going to fight for it now till they get me. Am I
clear?"

"Sure," said Oscar. "Ain't I of Puritan stock myself?"

"That's why I'm talking to you," said Jim. "Now I take the central idea
of the United States Reclamation Service to be this. It is a return to
the old principle of the people governing themselves directly, of their
assuming individual responsibility for the details and cost of
governing. It is the fine outgrowth of the industrial lessons we have
learned in the past years, combined with the town meeting idea, brought
up to date.

"One central organization can do work better and cheaper, if it will,
than a dozen competing interests. If the central organization is
privately owned it demands a heavy profit. But if it is owned by the
government it takes no profit. On a Project, free individuals
voluntarily combine to do business and to directly administer the
products of that business to themselves. The Service is merely the tool
of the people on the Projects.

"Oscar, it's up to you and me. In antagonizing you farmers, I've opened
the way for the enemies of the Service to reach you. And you, in being
reached, are endangering the Service. Is it true that you are going to
help Saradokis and Fleckenstein get your honest debts repudiated?"

The two men sat and stared at each other, Oscar with his years of
unutterable labor behind him, his traditions that dealt with a constant
hand-to-hand struggle with nature for his own existence; Jim with his
long years of dreaming behind him and his awakening vision of social
responsibility before him. Engineer and desert farmer, they were of
widely differing characteristics, yet they had one fundamental quality
in common. They both were producers. They were not little men. There was
nothing parasitic in their outlook. They had always dealt with
fundamental, primitive forces.

Suddenly Oscar leaned forward. "Are you trying to string me into saying
the increased cost of the dam is all right?"

Jim tapped on the table. "Not five per cent of the increased cost but
comes from the improvements you farmers have asked for. And not one cent
of the cost of the entire Project but will be paid for by the water
power produced and sold. You know that, Ames. Now pay attention."

Jim shook his finger in Oscar's face and said slowly and incisively:

"You farmers will never repudiate your honorable debts while I can
fight. You are going to fight with me, Ames, to help me save the
Service. You are going to put your shoulder to mine and fight as you did
when the old dam was going out under your feet! Do you get that?"

Oscar opened his mouth but no words came. Then both men jumped to their
feet as Mrs. Ames' gentle voice said from the kitchen door:

"Oscar will fight, or I'll leave him."





Next: Jim Gets A Blow

Previous: The Mask Ball



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