“We don’t know your other name, sir,” rejoined Tom, eyeing the bad man with every outward sign of courtesy.
“I’m just plain Pete. Savvy that?
“Certainly, Plain Pete,” Reade nodded.
Pete dropped his soup spoon with a clatter letting his right hand fall to the holster.
“Be quiet, Pete,” warned Blaisdell, his eyes shooting a cold glance at the angry man. “Reade is a newcomer, not used to our ways yet. Remember that this is a gentleman’s club.”
“Then let him get out,” warned Pete blackly.
“He belongs here by right, Pete, and you’re a guest. Of course we enjoy having you here with us, but, if you don’t care to take us as you find us, the fellows in the chainmen’s mess will be glad to have you join them.”
“That tenderfoot is only a boy,” growled Pete. “If he can’t hold his tongue when men are around, then I’ll teach him how.”
“Reade hasn’t done anything to offend you,” returned Blaisdell, half sternly, half goodhumoredly. “You let him alone, and he’ll let you alone. I’m sure of that.”
“Blaisdell, if you don’t see that I’m treated right in this mess, I’ll teach you something, too,” flared Bad Pete.
“Threatening the president of the mess is a breach of courtesy on the part of any guest who attempts it,” spoke Blaisdell again. “Gentlemen, what is your pleasure?”
“I move,” suggested Slim Morris quietly, “that Pete be considered no longer a member or guest of this mess.”
“Second the motion,” cried Rutter, Rice and Grant together.
“The motion appears to have been carried, without the necessity for putting it,” declared Mr. Blaisdell. “Pete, you have heard the pleasure of the mess.”
“Huh!” scowled Bad Pete, picking up his soup plate and draining it.
Jake Wren, at this moment, entered with a big platter of roast beef, Bob, the helper, following with dishes of vegetables. Then Bob came in with plates, which he placed before Blaisdell. The latter counted the plates, finding eight.
“We shan’t need this plate, Bob,” declared Blaisdell evenly, handing it back. Then he began to carve.
“Put that plate back with the rest, Bob, you pop-eyed coyote,” ordered Bad Pete.
Bob, looking uneasy, started to do so, but Blaisdell waved him away. At that instant Jake Wren came back into the tent.
“For the present, Jake,” went on the assistant engineer, “serve only for seven in this tent. Pete is leaving us.”
“Do you mean-----” flared Pete, leaping to his feet and striding toward the engineer.
“I mean,” responded Blaisdell, without looking up, “that we hope the chainmen’s mess will take you on. But if they don’t like you, they don’t have to do so.”
For ten seconds, while Pete stood glaring at Blaisdell, it looked as though the late guest would draw his revolver. Pete was swallowing hard, his face having turned lead color.