Whispering Smith (Chapter 6, page 1 of 2)


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Chapter 6

Sinclair's discharge was a matter of comment for the whole country, from the ranch-houses to the ranges. For a time Sinclair himself refused utterly to believe that McCloud could keep him off the division. His determination to get back led him to carry his appeal to the highest quarters, to Glover and to Bucks himself. But Sinclair, able as he was, had passed the limit of endurance and had long been marked for an accounting. He had been a railroad man to whom the West spelled license, and, while a valuable man, had long been a source of demoralization to the forces of the division. In the railroad life clearly defined plans are often too deeply laid to fathom, and it was impossible for even so acute a man as Sinclair to realize that he was not the victim of an accident, but that he must look to his own record for the real explanation of his undoing. He was not the only man to suffer in the shake-out that took place under the new superintendent; but he seemed the only one unable to realize that Bucks, patient and long-suffering, had put McCloud into the mountain saddle expressly to deal with cases such as his. In the West sympathy is quick but not always discerning. Medicine Bend took Sinclair's grievance as its own. No other man in the service had Sinclair's following, and within a week petitions were being circulated through the town not asking merely but calling for his reinstatement. The sporting element of the community to a man were behind Sinclair because he was a sport; the range men were with him because his growing ranch on the Frenchman made him one of them; his own men were with him because he was a far-seeing pirate and divided liberally. Among the railroad men, too, he had much sympathy. Sinclair had always been lavish with presents; brides were remembered by Sinclair, and babies were not forgotten. He could sit up all night with a railroad man that had been hurt, and he could play poker all night with one that was not afraid of getting hurt. In his way, he was a division autocrat, whose vices were varnished by virtues such as these. His hold on the people was so strong that they could not believe the company would not reinstate him. In spite of the appointment of his successor, Phil Hailey, a mountain boy and the son of an old-time bridge foreman, rumor assigned again and again definite dates for Sinclair's return to work; but the dates never materialized. The bridge machinery of the big division moved on in even rhythm. A final and determined appeal from the deposed autocrat for a hearing at last brought Glover and Morris Blood, the general manager, to Medicine Bend for a final conference. Callahan too was there with his pipe, and they talked quietly with Sinclair--reminded him of how often he had been warned, showed him how complete a record they had of his plundering, and Glover gave to him Bucks's final word that he could never again work on the mountain division.

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