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The Terror

From: Red Butte Western

Engineer John Judson, disappearing at the moment when the superintendent
had sent him back to bully Schleisinger into appointing him constable,
from the ken of those who were most anxious to hear from him, was late
in reporting. But when he finally climbed the stair of the Crow's Nest
to tap at Lidgerwood's door, he brought the first authentic news from
the camp of the enemy.

When McCloskey had come at a push of the call-button, Lidgerwood snapped
the night-latch on the corridor door.

"Let us have it, Judson," he said, when the trainmaster had dragged his
chair into the circle of light described by the green cone shade of the
desk lamp. "We have been wondering what had become of you."

Summarized, Judson's story was the report of an intelligent scout. Since
he was classed with the discharged men, he had been able to find out
some of the enemy's moves in the game of coercion. The strikers had
transferred their head-quarters from the Celestial to Cat Biggs's place,
where the committees, jealously safeguarded, were now sitting "in
permanence" in the back room. Judson had not been admitted to the
committee-room; but the thronged bar-room was public, and the liquor
which was flowing freely had loosened many tongues.

From the bar-room talk Judson had gathered that the strikers knew
nothing as yet of McCloskey's plan to keep the trains moving and the
wires alive. Hence--unless the free-flowing whiskey should precipitate
matters--there would probably be no open outbreak before midnight. As an
offset to this, however, the engineer had overheard enough to convince
him that the Copah wire had been tapped; that Dix, the day operator, had
been either bribed or intimidated, and was now under guard at the
strikers' head-quarters, and that some important message had been
intercepted which was, in Judson's phrase, "raising sand" in the camp of
the disaffected. This recurrence of the mysterious message, of which no
trace could be found in the head-quarters record, opened a fresh field
of discussion, and it was McCloskey who put his finger upon the only
plausible conclusion.

"It is Hallock again," he rasped. "He is the only man who could have
used the private code. Dix probably picked out the cipher; he's got a
weakness for such things. Hallock's carrying double. He has fixed up
some trouble-making message, or faked one, and signed your name to it,
and then schemed to let it leak out through Dix."

"It's making the trouble, all right," was Judson's comment. "When I left
Biggs's a few minutes ago, Tryon was calling for volunteers to come down
here and steal an engine. From what he said, I took it they were aimin'
to go over into the desert to tear up the track and stop somebody or
something coming this way from Copah--all on account of that
make-believe message that you didn't send."

Thus far Judson's report had dealt with facts. But there were other
things deducible. He insisted that the strength of the insurrection did
not lie in the dissatisfied employees of the Red Butte Western, or even
in the ex-employees; it was rather in the lawless element of the town
which lived and fattened upon the earnings of the railroad men--the
saloon-keepers, the gamblers, the "tin-horns" of every stripe. Moreover,
it was certain that some one high in authority in the railroad service
was furnishing the brains. There was a chief to whom all the malcontents
deferred, and who figured in the bar-room talk as the "boss," or "the
big boss."

"And that same 'big boss' is sitting up yonder in Cat Biggs's back room,
right now, givin' his orders and tellin' 'em what to do," was Judson's
crowning guess, and since Hallock had not been visible since the early
afternoon, for the three men sitting under the superintendent's desk
lamp, Judson's inference stood as a fact assured. It was Hallock who had
fomented the trouble; it was Hallock who was now directing it.

"I suppose you didn't see anything of Grady, my stenographer?" inquired
Lidgerwood, when Judson had made an end.

The engineer shook his head. "Reckon they've got him cooped up along
with Dix?"

"I hope not. But he has disappeared. I sent him up to Mrs. Dawson's with
a message late this afternoon, and he hasn't shown up since."

"Of course, they've got him," said McCloskey, sourly. "Does he know
anything that he can tell?"

"Nothing that can make any difference now. They are probably holding him
to hamper me. The boy's loyal."

"Yes," growled McCloskey, "and he's Irish."

"Well, my old mother is Irish, too, for the matter of that," snapped
Judson. "If you don't like the Irish, you'll be finding a chip on my
shoulder any day in the week, except to-day, Jim McCloskey!"

Lidgerwood smiled. It brought a small relaxing of strains to hear these
two resurrecting the ancient race feud in the midst of the trouble
storm. And when the trainmaster returned to his post in the wire office,
and Judson had been sent back to Biggs's to renew his search for the
hidden ring-leader, it was the memory of the little race tiff that
cleared the superintendent's brain for the grapple with the newly
defined situation.

Judson's report was grave enough, but it brought a good hope that the
crucial moment might be postponed until many of the men would be too far
gone in liquor to take any active part. Lidgerwood took the precautions
made advisable by Tryon's threat to steal an engine, sending word to
Benson to double his guards on the locomotives in the yard, and to
Dawson to block the turn-table so that none might be taken from the

Afterward he went out to look over the field in person. Everything was
quiet; almost suspiciously so. Gridley was found alone in his office at
the shops, smoking a cigar, with his chair tilted to a comfortable
angle and his feet on the desk. His guards, he said, were posted in and
around the shops, and he hoped they were not asleep. Thus far, there had
been little enough to keep them awake.

Lidgerwood, passing out through the door opening upon the
electric-lighted yard, surprised a man in the act of turning the knob to
enter. It was the merest incident, and he would not have remarked it if
the door, closing behind Gridley's visitor, had not bisected a violent
outburst of profanity, vocalizing itself in the harsh tones of the
master-mechanic, as thus: "You ---- ---- chuckle-headed fool! Haven't
you any better sense than to come--" At this point the closing door cut
the sentence of objurgation, and Lidgerwood continued his round of
inspection, trying vainly to recall the identity of the chance-met man
whose face, half hidden under the drooping brim of a worn campaign-hat,
was vaguely familiar. The recollection came at length, with the impact
of a blow. The "chuckle-headed fool" of Gridley's malediction was
Richard Rufford, the "Killer's" younger brother.

Lidgerwood said nothing of this incident to Dawson, whom he found
patrolling the roundhouse. Here, as at the shops and in the yard,
everything was quiet and orderly. The crews for the three sections of
the midnight freight were all out, guarding their trains and engines,
and Dawson had only Bradford and the roundhouse night-men for company.

"Nothing stirring, Fred?" inquired the superintendent.

"Less than nothing; it's almost too quiet," was the sober reply. And
then: "I see you haven't sent the Nadia out; wouldn't it be a good
scheme to get a couple of buckboards and have the women and Judge
Holcombe driven up to our place on the mesa? The trouble, when it comes,
will come this way."

Lidgerwood shook his head.

"My stake in the Nadia is precisely the same size as yours, Fred, and
I don't want to risk the buckboard business. We'll do a better thing
than that, if we have to let the president's party make a run for it.
Get your smartest passenger flyer out on the table, head it east, and
when I send for it, rush it over to couple on to the Nadia--with
Williams for engineer. Has Benson had any trouble in the yard?"

"There has been nobody to make any. Tryon came down a few minutes ago,
considerably more than half-seas over, and said he was ready to take
his engine and the first section of the east-bound midnight--which would
have been his regular run. But he went back uptown peaceably when Benson
told him he was down and out."

Lidgerwood did not extend his round to include Benson's post at the yard
office, which was below the coal chutes. Instead, he went over to the
Nadia, thinking pointedly of the two added mysteries: the fact that
Gridley had told a deliberate lie to account for his appearance in
Angels, and the other and more recent fact that the master-mechanic was
conferring, even in terms of profanity, with Rufford's brother, who was
not, and never had been, in his department.

Under the "umbrella roof" of the Nadia's rear platform the young
people of the party were sitting out the early half of the perfect
summer night, the card-tables having been abandoned when Benson had
brought word of the tacit armistice. There was an unoccupied camp-chair,
and Miss Brewster pointed it out to the superintendent.

"Climb over and sit with us, Howard," she said, hospitably. "You know
you haven't a thing in the world to do."

Lidgerwood swung himself over the railing, and took the proffered chair.

"You are right; I haven't very much to do just now," he admitted.

"Has your strike materialized yet?" she asked.

"No; it isn't due until midnight."

"I don't believe there is going to be any."

"Don't you? I wish I might share your incredulity--with reason."

Miss Doty and the others were talking about the curious blending of the
moonlight with the masthead electrics, and the two in the shadowed
corner of the deep platform were temporarily ignored. Miss Brewster took
advantage of the momentary isolation to say, "Confess that you were a
little bit over-wrought this afternoon when you wanted to send us away:
weren't you?"

"I only hope that the outcome will prove that I was," he rejoined

"You still believe there will be trouble?"


"Then I'm afraid you are still overwrought," she countered lightly.
"Why, the very atmosphere of this beautiful night breathes peace."

Before he could reply, a man came up to the platform railing, touched
his cap, and said, "Is Mr. Lidgerwood here?"

Lidgerwood answered in person, crossing to the railing to hear Judson's
latest report, which was given in hoarse whispers. Miss Brewster could
distinguish no word of it, but she heard Lidgerwood's reply. "Tell
Benson and Dawson, and say that the engine I ordered had better be sent
up at once."

When Lidgerwood had resumed his chair he was promptly put upon the
question rack of Miss Eleanor's curiosity.

"Was that one of your scouts?" she asked.


"Did he come to tell you that there wasn't going to be any strike?"


"How lucidly communicative you are! Can't you see that I am fairly
stifling with curiosity?"

"I'm sorry, but you shall not have the chance to say that I was
overwrought twice in the same half-day."

"Howard! Don't be little and spiteful. I'll eat humble pie and call
myself hard names, if you insist; only--gracious goodness! is that
engine going to smash into our car?"

The anxious query hinged itself upon the approach of a big,
eight-wheeled passenger flyer which was thundering down the yard on the
track occupied by the Nadia. Within half a car-length of collision,
the air-brake hissed, the siderods clanked and chattered, and the
shuddering monster rolled gently backward to a touch coupling with the
president's car.

Eleanor's hand was on her cousin's arm. "Howard, what does this mean?"
she demanded.

"Nothing, just at present; it is merely a precaution."

"You are not going to take us away from Angels?"

"Not now; not at all, unless your safety demands it." Then he rose and
spoke to the others. "I'm sorry to have to shut off your moon-vista with
that noisy beast, but it may be necessary to move the car, later on.
Don't get out of touch with the Nadia, any of you, please."

He had vaulted the hand-rail and was saying good-night, when Eleanor
left her chair and entered the car. He was not greatly surprised to find
her waiting for him at the steps of the forward vestibule when he had
gone so far on his way to his office.

"One moment," she pleaded. "I'll be good, Howard; and I know that there
is danger. Be very careful of yourself, won't you, for my sake."

He stopped short, and his arms went out to her. Then his self-control
returned and his rejoinder was almost bitter.

"Eleanor, you must not! you tempt me past endurance! Go back to Van--to
the others, and, whatever happens, don't let any one leave the car."

"I'll do anything you say, only you must tell me where you are going,"
she insisted.

"Certainly; I am going up to my office--where you found me this
afternoon. I shall be there from this on, if you wish to send any word.
I'll see that you have a messenger. Good-by."

He left her before her sympathetic mood should unman him, his soul
crying out at the kindness which cut so much more deeply than her
mockery. At the top of the corridor stair McCloskey was waiting for him.

"Judson has told you what's due to happen?" queried the trainmaster.

"He told me to look for swift trouble; that somebody had betrayed your
strike-breaking scheme."

"He says they'll try to keep the east-bound freights from going out."

"That would be a small matter. But we mustn't lose the moral effect of
taking the first trick in the game. Are the sections all in line on the
long siding?"


"Good. We'll start them a little ahead of time; and let them kill back
to schedule after they get out on the road. Send Bogard down with their
clearance orders, and 'phone Benson at the yard office to couple them up
into one train, engine to the caboose in front, and send them out solid.
When they have cleared the danger limit, they can split up and take the
proper time intervals--ten minutes apart."

"Call it done," said the trainmaster, and he went to carry out the
order. Two minutes later Bogard, the night-relief operator off duty,
darted out of the despatcher's room with the clearance-cards for the
three sections. Lidgerwood stopped him in mid-flight.

"One second, Robert: when you have done your errand, come back to the
president's car, ask for Miss Brewster, and say that I sent you. Then
stay within call and be ready to do whatever she wants you to do."

Bogard did the first part of his errand swiftly, and he was taking the
duplicate signatures of the engineer and conductor of the third and last
section when Benson came up to put the solid-train order into effect.
The couplings were made deftly and without unnecessary stir. Then Benson
stepped back and gave the starting signal, twirling his lantern in rapid
circles. Synchronized as perfectly as if a single throttle-lever
controlled them all, the three heavy freight-pullers hissed, strained,
belched fire, and the long train began to move out.

It was Lidgerwood's challenge to the outlaws, and as if the blasts of
the three tearing exhausts had been the signal it was awaiting, the
strike storm broke with the suddenness and fury of a tropical hurricane.
From a hundred hiding-places in the car-strewn yard, men came running,
some to swarm thickly upon the moving engines and cabooses, others
swinging by the drawheads to cut the air-brake hose.

Benson was swept aside and overpowered before he could strike a blow.
Bogard, speeding across to take his post beside the Nadia, was struck
down before he could get clear of the pouring hornet swarm. Shots were
fired; shrill yells arose. Into the midst of the clamor the great siren
whistle at the shops boomed out the fire alarm, and almost at the the
same instant a red glow, capped by a rolling nimbus of sooty oil smoke,
rose to beacon the destruction already begun in the shop yards. And
while the roar of the siren was still jarring upon the windless night
air, the electric-light circuits were cut out, leaving the yards and the
Crow's Nest in darkness, and the frantic battle for the trains to be
lighted only by the moon and the lurid glow of destruction spreading
slowly under its black canopy of smoke.

In the Crow's Nest the sudden coup of the strikers had the effect which
its originator had doubtless counted upon. It was some minutes after the
lights were cut off, and the irruption had swept past the captured and
disabled trains to the shops, before Lidgerwood could get his small
garrison together and send it, with McCloskey for its leader, to

reinforce the shop guard, which was presumably fighting desperately for
the control of the power plant and the fire pumps.

Only McCloskey's protest and his own anxiety for the safety of the
Nadia's company, kept Lidgerwood from leading the little relief column
of loyal trainmen and head-quarters clerks in person. The lust of battle
was in his blood, and for the time the shrinking palsy of physical fear
held aloof.

When the sally of the trainmaster and his forlorn-hope squad had left
the office-story of the head-quarters building almost deserted, it was
the force of mere mechanical habit that sent Lidgerwood back to his room
to close his desk before going down to order the Nadia out of the zone
of immediate danger. There was a chair in his way, and in the darkness
and in his haste he stumbled over it. When he recovered himself, two
men, with handkerchief masks over their faces, were entering from the
corridor, and as he turned at the sound of their footsteps, they sprang
upon him.

For the first rememberable time in his life, Howard Lidgerwood met the
challenge of violence joyfully, with every muscle and nerve singing the
battle-song, and a huge willingness to slay or be slain arming him for
the hand-to-hand struggle. Twice he drove the lighter of the two to the
wall with well-planted blows, and once he got a deadly wrestler's hold
on the tall man and would have killed him if the free accomplice had not
torn his locked fingers apart by main strength. But it was two against
one; and when it was over, the conflagration light reddening the
southern windows sufficed for the knotting of the piece of hemp lashing
with which the two masked garroters were binding their victim in his

Meanwhile, the pandemonium raging at the shops was beginning to surge
backward into the railway yard. Some one had fired a box-car, and the
upblaze centred a fresh fury of destruction. Up at the head of the
three-sectioned freight train a mad mob was cutting the leading
locomotive free.

Dawson, crouching in the roundhouse door directly opposite, knew all
that Judson could tell him, and he instantly divined the purpose of the
engine thieves. They were preparing to send the freight engine eastward
on the Desert Division main line to collide with and wreck whatever
coming thing it was that they feared.

The threatened deed wrought itself out before the draftsman could even
attempt to prevent it. A man sprang to the footboard of the freed
locomotive, jerked the throttle open, stayed at the levers long enough
to hook up to the most effective cut-off for speed, and jumped for his

Dawson was deliberate, but not slow-witted. While the abandoned engine
was, as yet, only gathering speed for the eastward dash, he was dodging
the straggling rioters in the yard, racing purposefully for the only
available locomotive, ready and headed to chase the runaway--namely, the
big eight-wheeler coupled to the president's car. He set the switch to
the main line as he passed it, but there was no time to uncouple the
engine from the private car, even if he had been willing to leave the
woman he loved, and those with her, helpless in the midst of the

So there was no more than a gasped-out word to Williams as he climbed to
the cab before the eight-wheeler, with the Nadia in tow, shot away
from the Crow's Nest platform. And it was not until the car was
growling angrily over the yard-limit switches that Van Lew burst into
the central compartment like a man demented, to demand excitedly of the
three women who were clinging, terror-stricken, to Judge Holcombe:

"Who has seen Miss Eleanor? Where is Miss Eleanor?"

Next: The Crucible

Previous: The Boss Machinist

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