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- The Winning of Barbara Worth - 50/75 -


why he should desire to make Kingston the junction point of the road he was now forced to build. James Greenfield was not backward in letting Worth understand that he would need to pay well for a right- of-way with terminal facilities in the Company town.

For two weeks Jefferson Worth tried to bring the Company president to some reasonable settlement but his efforts only served to make Greenfield more determined to exact royal tribute. "I tell you," said the president triumphantly to his Manager, "he's forced to build that line or go to smash with his town and district. No one will settle away off there from the railroad as long as they can locate in reach of Kingston or Frontera, and he has got to connect with the S. & C. branch at Kingston, for we are the only place between the main line and the terminal."

When Mr. Worth reminded them that the proposed road would benefit Kingston and that in view of its value to their town it would be only just for them to give him the privileges he needed but for which he was quite ready to pay a reasonable price, Greenfield declared that his Company had already given Worth quite enough. Of course, if they could find some basis upon which to unite their interests that would be another matter.

Then the evening mail brought to Mr. Worth certain legal looking papers and the next morning he called again upon Mr. Greenfield. In a spring wagon in front of the Company office Texas Joe and Abe Lee waited with a prosperous looking stranger who also had arrived the evening before.

"Mr. Greenfield, I have come for your final answer on this railroad deal."

On Greenfield's face there was a smile of satisfaction and triumph. There were several reasons why he enjoyed seeing Jefferson Worth in a corner. "I am ready to listen to any other proposition you have to make, Mr. Worth."

"You have the only proposition I shall make."

"Really, I fear that we can do nothing this morning."

The visitor turned on his heel and left the office.

Later, in describing the interview to Willard Holmes, Burk commented thoughtfully: "I very much fear your festive Uncle Jim played the game a little too fine. You can take some things and most men for granted; but a railroad, now, and Jefferson Worth----" he shifted his cigar to the corner of his mouth and cocked his head in the opposite direction. "I think, Willard, that something is going to happen."

What happened was this: When Jefferson Worth left the Company's office he stepped into the waiting rig beside the stranger. "Go ahead, Abe," he said. Then the surveyor giving Texas the direction, the team sped away. Once in the desert they stopped occasionally while the surveyor examined the four by four redwood stakes. At a point on the S. & C. four miles north of Kingston and therefore between the Company town and the main line, Abe directed Texas to stop.

The surveyor, taking a note book from his pocket, went to a corner stake and indicated with outstretched hands the direction of the boundary lines of a tract of land owned by his employer. "Here we are, Mr. Worth."

The place was raw desert and except for the railroad without sign of life save the life of the hard, desolate land; though in the distance could be seen the improved ranches, with Kingston in their midst. Standing on the slight elevation of the railroad grade Jefferson Worth looked around silently. Then, followed by the stranger and Abe, he walked some distance west of the track.

Pausing and striking his boot-heel into the soft earth, he said with much less show of emotion than is exhibited by the average school boy in laying out a ball-ground: "We will build a hotel here; over there a bank. The main street will run toward the railroad. The Basin Central from Barba will come in from the southeast."

And this was the beginning of Republic, the town that was built on a barren desert almost in the time it would have taken to prepare the land, plant and grow a crop of corn.

The stranger was the president of a townsite company organized by Jefferson Worth while James Greenfield was congratulating himself that he at last had that gentleman in a trap. Worth had given the company the land and had entered into an agreement whereby he was to build a hotel and several business blocks and furnish them, rent free, for one year.

With the railroad to deliver material in any desired quantity, work was begun in a few days. The King's Basin Messenger and the papers in Frontera and Barba, all owned by Worth, gave full accounts of the birth of the new town and the reason why The King's Basin Central would not be built into Kingston, with glowing accounts of Worth's plans for the future of the Company's rival town. The Worth Electric Company moved its plant from Kingston to Republic; the ice-plant, the bank, the telephone office and every enterprise controlled by Worth followed; while many merchants, lured by the success of the Wizard of the Desert in every undertaking and by the promise of rent free, went with the Worth industries; and from the world outside many, who had hesitated to enter the new country before the railroad, rushed in to locate in the new town. The first building completed in Republic was a cottage for Barbara and her father.

Meanwhile the work on the road to Barba and the South Central District was begun. The "something" prophesied by Mr. Burk had happened.

CHAPTER XXIV.

JEFFERSON WORTH GOES FOR HELP.

The winter following the birth of Republic witnessed the greatest activities that had been seen in the new country. The freighters' wagons that had once seemed so pitifully inadequate, as they crept feebly away into the mysterious silences, were replaced now by long trains, heavily loaded with building material and goods of every kind and drawn by laboring engines that puffed and roared and clanged and screamed their stirring answer to the challenge of the silent, age-old, desolate land. And still the work that had been done was small in comparison with that which was yet to do before the reclamation of Barbara's Desert would be complete. The acres of land untouched by grader's Fresno or rancher's plow were many more than the acres that were producing crops. The miles of canals and ditches that were to be built were many more than the miles already carrying water. The tent houses and shacks of the pioneers were yet to be replaced by more comfortable homes. The frontier towns--big in that new country--were yet to grow into cities. From the top of any building in any one of the four towns one could look into the barren desert.

Tourists on the main line that skirted the rim of the Basin, from the car windows saw only the mighty reaches of the dun plain, with its thirsty vegetation, stretching away to the distant purple mountain wall. Curiously the overland passengers looked at the crowds of settlers waiting for the Basin train at the Junction, wondering at their hardihood. Curiously they followed with their eyes the thin line of rails and telegraph poles leading southward until it was lost in the mystic depths of color. To the tourists it was a fantastic dream that out there, somewhere in the barren waste, people were building towns, cultivating fields, transacting business and engaging in all the Good Business activities of the race. It was as impossible to them as it had been to Willard Holmes when Barbara first introduced him to her Desert and tried to make him see, as she saw, the greatness of the work of which he was to become a part.

The latter part of that winter found Jefferson Worth again with his back to the wall. James Greenfield, in his attempt to hold up his rival in the matter of the King's Basin Central junction, had wrought better than he knew. While Worth's enterprises were barely as yet paying their way, the railroad, which he was forced to build in order to protect his own interests in the town of Barba and in the South Central District, would require practically all he had realized on the sale of the other line that had so nearly exhausted his resources. The Company president, in forcing him to build the town of Republic in addition to his heavy outlay on his new railroad, forced him to take another desperate chance. For the first time he was unable to pay the men, and in thirty days large obligations for material would be due; while certain rumors, carefully started by Greenfield, made it almost impossible for him to raise the funds he must have.

"I'm sorry, Jeff," said his friend the railroad man. "But with present unsafe conditions we can't load up with any more property in The King's Basin. You know as well as I that if the river comes in we will have to get in there to protect our interests, for if those ranchers were wiped out our road wouldn't sell for scrap iron. You couldn't do it and the Greenfield crowd wouldn't. Why, that New York bunch, outside of Greenfield, don't know whether the Colorado is a trout stream or a mill pond. Their actual investment doesn't amount to half what you have put into your work, for the sale of water rights to the settlers is paying all the expense of their extensions and they won't put up a cent to rebuild their shaky old structures. And look where we stand! We have put more money into that country now than the Company and you together, and we won't pay operating expenses until the land is developed. And still the public is roaring about our rates. We don't want another desert line on our hands."

Quietly Jefferson Worth sold his interest in the banks in Frontera, Barba and Republic; and as quietly Greenfield, who was watching, set about gaining control of these institutions. His South Central District water stock was already sold and most of his property in Barba. Even his little home in Republic was mortgaged.

Thus Worth held on for a while longer. He dared not stop his work, for such a move would not only ruin his chances of negotiating the loans he needed, but by bringing upon him a swarm of creditors, would make it impossible for him ever to recover his standing in the financial world.

Another pay day passed without the men receiving their pay and the third was drawing near. Already there was grumbling and complaining among the men over the delayed pay checks. It would take but little more to start serious trouble.


The Winning of Barbara Worth - 50/75

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