“Nothing much, sir,” laughed Tom. “Mr. Black has just been showing me how bad men behave out in this part of the country.”
“This boy is a troublesome cub, Mr. Thurston,” declared Black hotly. “Do you see what he has done to my revolvers”
“How did Reade come to have it?” inquired Mr. Thurston.
“He snatched it away from me.”
“Reade, is this true?” demanded the chief engineer, turning to the youth.
“Yes, sir; as far as the story goes.”
“Tell me the whole truth of this affair,” ordered Mr. Thurston sternly.
Tom started to do so, modestly, but Black broke in angrily at points in the narrative.
“The principal thing that I have against Mr. Black,” Tom said, “is that he spoiled all my drawing work of this morning.”
“Yes; but how did I come to do it?” insisted the newcomer. “You pushed me against your drawing table.”
Tom started with astonishment.
“My friend,” he remarked, “Baron Munchausen never had anything on you!”
“Careful, Reade! Don’t pass the lie,” ordered the chief engineer sternly. “I shall look fully into this matter, but at present I’m inclined to believe that you’re more at fault than is Black. Return to the tent and start your drawing over again.”
There was a smile again on Tom’s face as he turned back to make his spoiled work good.
Mr. Thurston went back to his inspection of the ponies. Later, the chief engineer was able to pick up some details of the trouble from Jake Wren, who had seen Black reach for his revolver.
“Understand two things, Mr. Black,” said the chief briskly. “In the first place, it is not expected that the engineers of this corps will find any real cause for fighting. Second, I will tolerate no pistol nonsense here.”
Then he went back to Tom Reade and spoke to him more quietly.
“Reade, if Black doesn’t turn out to be a valuable man here he won’t last long. If he is a good man, then you will find it necessary, perhaps, to use a little tact in dealing with him. Did you notice what snapping black eyes the man has? Men with such black eyes are usually impulsive. Remember that.”
“I never thought of that before, sir,” Tom admitted dryly. “I really didn’t know that people with black eyes are impulsive. This I do know, however, people who are too impulsive generally get black eyes!”
“DOCTORED” FIELD NOTES?
There was no more trouble—–immediately. When the other engineers heard of the row—–which news they obtained through Jake, not from Reade—–they soon made it plain to ’Gene Black that Tom Reade was a favorite in the corps. Black was therefore treated with a coldness that he strove hard to overcome.
In the matter of being a capable civil engineer ’Gene Black speedily proved himself efficient. Assistant Chief Engineer Blaisdell soon reported at headquarters that the new member of the corps was an exceedingly valuable man. Black was therefore placed at the head of a leveling squad that obtained the field notes from which were to be estimated the cost of making excavations in several cuts that must be made ere the coming tracks could be laid.