“I do, Reade. But why should you care? You have the reins in your own hands now.”
“I wish to keep the reins there,” Tom returned quickly. “Still I don’t want to hold the power for an instant if there is reason to believe that Mr. Thurston didn’t know what he was doing.”
“If that is all you required of me, Reade, rest easy and go ahead with the big trust that has been placed in your hands,” replied Dr. Gitney.
“Then help me to get a few things out of the chief’s tent that we shall need,” replied Tom.
“Tell me what the things are,” rejoined the physician, “and I’ll pass them out. I don’t want one of you in there, or Thurston will soon be as delirious as Blaisdell is, poor fellow.”
By stealth, drawing tables and instruments, several boxes of maps, books and papers and other necessary articles were taken from Mr. Thurston tent without awaking the sick man.
These were removed to a tent that was not occupied at the moment.
“Supper’s ready, folks,” announced Bob, the cook’s helper, stepping softly through camp.
Tom joined the other engineers, taking a few hasty mouthfuls. Hardly had the party gathered in the mess tent when ’Gene Black, bright and cheery, stepped in swiftly, nodding here and there.
“Well, Rutter, I take it you are running the camp from now on?” asked Black.
“Guess just once more,” replied Jack.
“Who is, then?”
Black gulped, then grinned.
“The cub? That’s good!”
Black leaned back on his stool, laughing loudly.
“But who is going to boss the camp?” insisted Black, after he had had his laugh.
“Mr. Reade!” flung back the other engineers in one voice.
“What have you to say to this, cub?” asked ’Gene Black, turning to Tom.
“Mr. Thurston placed me in charge because no one else would assume the responsibility,” smiled Tom good-humoredly.
“Then you’re going to stay boss for the present?”
“Unless Mr. Thurston changes his mind.”
“Oh, what a fool I was to be away this afternoon!” groaned Black to himself. “I could have gotten this chance away from a cub like Reade. Oh, but my real task would have been easy if I had been here on deck, and had got Thurston to turn matters over to me. Reade will be easy! He’s only a cub—–a booby. Even if he proved shrewd—–well, I have at my disposal several ways of getting rid of him!”
Then, aloud, Black went on:
“Reade, I’m a candidate for the post of acting assistant chief engineer.”
“That goes to Rutter, if he’ll take it,” replied Tom, with a smile.
“Oh, I’ll take it,” nodded Jack Rutter. “I can follow orders, when I have someone else to give them.”
Tom was intentionally pleasant with ’Gene Black. He intended to remain pleasant—–until he was quite ready to act.