“Won’t you oblige us by going at once, Pete?” inquired Blaisdell coolly.
“Not until I’ve settled my score here,” snarled the fellow. “Not until I’ve evened up with you, you-----”
At the same time Pete reached for his revolver in evident earnest. Both his words and his movement were nipped short.
Morris and Rice were the only men in the engineers’ party who carried revolvers. They carried weapons, in the day time, for protection against a very real foe, the Rocky Mountain rattlesnakes, which infested the territory through which the engineers were then working.
Both these engineers reached swiftly for their weapons.
Before they could produce them, however, or ore Pete could finish what he was saying, Tom Reade leaped up from his campstool, closing in behind the bad man.
“Ow-ow! Ouch!” yelled Pete. “Let go, you painted coyote.”
“Walk right out of the tent, and I shall rejoice to let you depart,” responded Tom steadily.
Standing behind the fellow, he had, with his strong, wiry fingers, gripped Pete hard right over the biceps muscle of each arm. Like many another of his type Pete had developed no great amount of bodily strength. Though he struggled furiously, he was unable to wrench himself free from this youth who had trained hard in football training squads.
“Step outside and cool off, Peter,” advised Tom, thrusting the bad man through the doorway. “Have too much pride, man, to force yourself on people who don’t want your company.”
Reade ran his foe outside a dozen feet, then released him, turning and reentering the tent.
“No, you don’t! Put up your pistol,” sounded the warning voice of Cook Jake Wren outside. “You take a shot at that young feller, Pete, and I’ll never serve you another mouthful as long as I’m in the Rockies!”
Bad Pete gazed fiercely toward the engineers’ tent, hesitated a moment, and then walked wrathfully away.
THE DAY OF REAL WORK DAWNS
The meal was finished in peace after that. It was so hearty a meal that Tom and Harry, who had not yet acquired the keen edge of appetite that comes to hard workers in the Rockies, had finished long before any one else.
“You fellers had better hurry up,” commanded Jake Wren finally. “It’ll soon be dark, and I’m not going to furnish candles.”
As the cook was an autocrat in camp, the engineers meekly called for more pie and coffee, disposed of it and strolled out of the mess tent over to their own little village under canvas.
“Bring over your banjo, Matt,” urged Joe. “Nothing like the merry old twang to make the new boys feel at home in our school.”
Rice needed no further urging. As darkness came down a volume of song rang out.
“What time do we turn out in the morning?” Tom asked, as Mr. Blaisdell brought over a camp stool and sat near them.