Though the field outfit now presented a lively appearance, all was kept as quiet as possible in and near the camp, for neither Mr. Thurston nor Mr. Blaisdell knew what was going on about them. Both were still delirious, and very ill.
“Now I see why you could afford to ‘fire’ me and let the work slack up for a while,” sneered Black, meeting Reade after dark.
“Do you?” asked Tom.
“These boys will spoil the whole business. You don’t seem to have any idea of the numbers of fool mistakes that boys can make.”
“They’re good fellows, anyway, and honest,” Tom rejoined.
“Give some of ’em leveling work out on Section Nineteen,” suggested ’Gene, apparently seized with a sudden thought. “Then compare their field notes with mine, and see how far out they are.”
“I happen to know all about your leveling notes on Nineteen,” Reade retorted rather significantly.
“What do you mean?” flared Black.
“Just before Mr. Thurston was taken ill, as it happened, Hazelton and I took a leveling instrument out on Nineteen one day and ran your sights over after you.”
“So that’s why you ’fired’-----” began Black, his thoughts moving swiftly. Then, realizing that he was about to say too much, he went on: “What did you find wrong with my sights on Nineteen?”
“I didn’t say that anything was wrong with your work,” Reade rejoined. “What I was about to say was that, if I put any of the students at leveling on Nineteen, by way of test, I shall have my own notes with which to compare theirs.”
“Humph!” muttered the fellow. Then shaking with anger, he walked away from the young chief.
“Now, Black knows that much against himself,” smiled Reade inwardly. “He doesn’t yet know, however, that I heard him talking with Bad Pete.”
Though he was pretending to take things easily, Tom’s head was all but whirling with the many problems that presented themselves to him. To get away from it all for a while Tom strolled a short distance out of camp, seating himself on the ground under a big tree not far from the trail.
Five minutes later the young chief heard halting footsteps that struck his ear as being rather stealthy. Someone, from camp, was heading that way. Stealth in the other’s movements made Reade draw himself back into the shadow.
’Gene Black halted not far from the tree. Turning back toward the camp, the fellow shook his fist violently in that direction.
“He’s certainly thinking of me,” grimaced Reade.
“You young cub, you may laugh for a day or two more!” muttered Black, with another shake of his fist.
“If that’s meant for me, I’m much obliged, I’m sure,” thought Reade. “Laughing is always a great pleasure for me.”
“It’s your turn now,” continued Black, in the same low, passionate tone, “but I’ll soon have you blocked—–or else under the sod!”