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The Sand-Hog
by [?]

“Interesting story, this fight between the Five-Borough and the Inter-River Transit,” I remarked to Kennedy as I sketched out the draft of an expose of high finance for the Sunday Star.

“Then that will interest you, also,” said he, throwing a letter down on my desk. He had just come in and was looking over his mail.

The letterhead bore the name of the Five-Borough Company. It was from Jack Orton, one of our intimates at college, who was in charge of the construction of a new tunnel under the river. It was brief, as Jack’s letters always were. “I have a case here at the tunnel that I am sure will appeal to you, my own case, too,” it read. “You can go as far as you like with it, but get to the bottom of the thing, no matter whom it hits. There is some deviltry afoot, and apparently no one is safe. Don’t say a word to anybody about it, but drop over to see me as soon as you possibly can.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “that does interest me. When are you going over?”

“Now,” replied Kennedy, who had not taken off his hat. “Can you come along?”

As we sped across the city in a taxicab, Craig remarked: “I wonder what is the trouble? Did you see in the society news this morning the announcement of Jack’s engagement to Vivian Taylor, the daughter of the president of the Five-Borough?”

I had seen it, but could not connect it with the trouble, whatever it was, at the tunnel, though I did try to connect the tunnel mystery with my expose.

We pulled up at the construction works, and a strapping Irishman met us. “Is this Professor Kennedy?” he asked of Craig.

“It is. Where is Mr. Orton’s office?”

“I’m afraid, sir, it will be a long time before Mr. Orton is in his office again, sir. The doctor have just took him out of the medical lock, an’ he said if you was to come before they took him to the ‘orspital I was to bring you right up to the lock.”

“Good heavens, man, what has happened?” exclaimed Kennedy. “Take us up to him quick.”

Without waiting to answer, the Irishman led the way up and across a rough board platform until at last we came to what looked like a huge steel cylinder, lying horizontally, in which was a floor with a cot and some strange paraphernalia. On the cot lay Jack Orton, drawn and contorted, so changed that even his own mother would scarcely have recognised him. A doctor was bending over him, massaging the joints of his legs and his side.

“Thank you, Doctor, I feel a little better,” he groaned. “No, I don’t want to go back into the lock again, not unless the pain gets worse.”

His eyes were closed, but hearing us he opened them and nodded.

“Yes, Craig,” he murmured with difficulty, “this is Jack Orton. What do you think of me? I’m a pretty sight. How are you? And how are you, Walter? Not too vigorous with the hand-shakes, fellows. Sorry you couldn’t get over before this happened.”

“What’s the matter?” we asked, glancing blankly from Orton to the doctor.

Orton forced a half smile. “Just a touch of the ‘bends’ from working in compressed air,” he explained.

We looked at him, but could say nothing. I, at least, was thinking of his engagement.

“Yes,” he added bitterly, “I know what you are thinking about, fellows. Look at me! Do you think such a wreck as I am now has any right to be engaged to the dearest girl in the world?”

“Mr. Orton,” interposed the doctor, “I think you’ll feel better if you’ll keep quiet. You can see your friends in the hospital to-night, but for a few hours I think you had better rest. Gentlemen, if you will be so good as to postpone your conversation with Mr. Orton until later it would be much better.”