Empire Builders
105 Pages
English

Empire Builders

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Published 08 December 2010
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, Empire Builders, by Francis Lynde, Illustrated by Jay Hambidge This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: Empire Builders Author: Francis Lynde Release Date: August 31, 2005 [eBook #16630] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 ***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK EMPIRE BUILDERS*** E-text prepared by Suzanne Shell, Janet Blenkinship, and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team (http://www.pgdp.net/) EMPIRE BUILDERS By FRANCIS LYNDE Author of The Quickening, The Grafters A Fool for Love, etc. With Illustrations by JAY HAMBIDGE INDIANAPOLIS THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY PUBLISHERS 1907 AUGUST PRESS OF BRAUNWORTH & CO. BOOKBINDERS AND PRINTERS BROOKLYN, N.Y . CONTENTS I A MASTER OF MEN II A SPIKED SWITCH III LOSS AND DAMAGE IV COLD STORAGE V WANTED: THIRTY-FIVE MILLIONS VI THE AWAKENING OF CHARLES EDWARD VII HAMMER AND TONGS VIII THE AUTOMATIC AIR IX THE RACE TO THE SLOW X THE SINEWS OF WAR XI HURRY ORDERS XII THE ENTERING WEDGE XIII THE BARBARIANS XIV THE DRAW-BAR PULL XV AN UNWILLING HOST XVI THE TRUTHFUL ALTITUDES XVII A NIGHT OF ALARMS XVIII THE MORNING AFTER XIX THE RELUCTANT WHEELS XX THE CONSPIRATORS XXI THE MILLS OF THE GODS XXII THE MAN ON HORSEBACK XXIII THE DEADLOCK XXIV RUIZ GREGORIO XXV THE SIEGE OF THE NADIA XXVI THE STAR OF EMPIRE "I wont attempt to apologise—it's beyond all that" EMPIRE BUILDERS I. A MASTER OF MEN Engine Number 206, narrow gauge, was pushing, or rather failing to push, the old-fashioned box-plow through the crusted drifts on the uptilted shoulder of Plug Mountain, at altitude ten thousand feet, with the mercury at twelve below zero. There was a wind—the winter day above timber-line without its wind is as rare as a thawing Christmas—and it cut like knives through any garmenting lighter than fur or leather. The cab of the 206 was old and weather-shaken, and Ford pulled the collar of his buffalo coat about his ears when the grunting of the exhaust and the shrilling of the wheels on the snow-shod rails stopped abruptly. "Gar-r-r!" snarled Gallagher, the red-headed Irish engineer, shutting off the steam in impotent rage. "The power is not in this dommed ould camp-kittle sewin' machine! 'Tis heaven's pity they wouldn't be givin' us wan man-sized, fightin' lokimotive on this ind of the line, Misther Foord." Ford, superintendent and general autocrat of the Plug Mountain branch of the Pacific Southwestern, climbed down from his cramped seat on the fireman's box and stood scowling at the retracting index of the steamgauge. When he was on his feet beside the little Irishman, you saw that he was a young man, well-built, square-shouldered and athletic under the muffling of the shapeless fur greatcoat; also, that in spite of the scowl, his clean-shaven face was strong and manly and good to look upon. "Power!" he retorted. "That's only one of the hundred things they don't give us, Mike. Look at that steamgauge—freezing right where she stands!" "'Tis so," assented Gallagher. "She'd be dead and shtiff in tin minutes be the clock if we'd lave her be in this drift." Ford motioned the engineer aside and took the throttle himself. It was the third day out from Cherubusco, the station at the foot of the mountain; and in the eight-and-forty hours the engine, plow and crew of twenty shovelers had, by labor of the cruelest, opened eleven of the thirteen blockaded miles isolating Saint's Rest, the mining-camp end-of-track in the high basin at the head of the pass. The throttle opened with a jerk under the superintendent's hand. There was a snow-choked drumming of the exhaust, and the driving-wheels spun wildly in the flurry beneath. But there was no inch of forward motion, and Ford gave it up. "We're against it," he admitted. "Back her down and we'll put the shovelers at it again while you're nursing her up and getting more steam. We're going to make it to Saint's Rest to-day if the Two-six has to go in on three legs." Gallagher pulled the reversing lever into the back gear and sent the failing steam whistling into the chilled cylinders with cautious little jerks at the throttle. The box-plow came out of the clutch of its snow vise with shrillings as of a soul in torment, and the bucking outfit screeched coldly down over the snowy rails to the "letup," where the shovelers' box-car had been uncoupled. Ford swung off to turn out the shoveling squad; and presently the laborers, muffled to the eyes, were filing past the 206 to break a path for the plow. Gallagher was on the running-board with his flare torch, thawing out an injector. He marked the cheerful swing of the men and gave credit where it was due. "'Tis a full-grown man, that," he commented, meaning Ford. "Manny's the wan would be huggin' the warm boiler-head these times, and shtickin' his head out of the windy to holler, 'G'wan, boys; pitch it out lively now, and be dommed to yez!' But Misther Foord ain't built the like o' that. He'll be as deep in that freezin' purgatory up yander in th' drift as the foremist wan of thim." The Irishman's praise was not unmerited. Whatever his failings, and he groaned under his fair human share of them, Stuart Ford had the gift of leadership. Before he had been a month on the branch as its "old man" and autocrat, he had won the good-will and loyalty of the rank and file, from the office men in the headquarters to the pick-and-shovel contingent on the sections. Even the blockade-breaking laborers—temporary helpers as they were—stood by him manfully in the sustained battle with the snow. Ford spared them when he could, and they knew it. "Warm it up, boys!" he called cheerily, climbing to the top of the frozen drift to direct the attack. "It's been a long fight, but we're in sight of home now. Come up here with your shovels, Olsen, and break it down from the top. It's the crust that plugs Mike's wedge." He looked the fighting leader, standing at the top of the wind-swept drift and crying on his shovelers. It was the part he had chosen for himself in the game of life, and he quarreled only when the stake was small, as in this present man-killing struggle with the snowdrifts. The Plug Mountain branch was the sore spot in the Pacific Southwestern system; the bad investment at which the directors shook their heads, and upon which the management turned the coldest of