“Take your hand away from the butt of your pistol,” came Tom’s next command.
Something in the look of the young engineer’s eyes compelled the angry cook to obey.
“Now, unbuckle your belt and hand it to me, revolver and all.”
“I’ll-----” Leon flared up, but Tom interrupted him.
“Exactly, my friend. You’ll be very wise if you do, and very sorry if you don’t!”
White with rage Leon unbuckled his belt. Then he handed it out, slowly. He was prepared to leap upon the young engineer like a panther, but Tom was watching alertly. He received the belt with his left hand, holding his right hand clenched ready for “business.”
“Thank you,” said Tom quietly. “Now, you may return to your work. I’m ready to forget this, Leon, if you are.”
Leon glared speechlessly at his conqueror. This cook had lived in some of the roughest of mining camps, and had the reputation of being dangerous when angry.
From outside came an appreciative chuckle. Then Jim Ferrers stepped into the shack.
“So you were hanging about, ready to back up the kid?” demanded the cook.
“I? Oh, no,” chuckled Jim. “Leon, when you’ve known Mr. Reade as long and as well as I do you’ll understand that he doesn’t ask or need any backing. Mr. Reade wants only what’s right—–but he’s going to have it if he has to move a township.”
Tom departed, swinging the belt and revolver from his right hand.
“I’m through here,” muttered Leon, snatching off his apron. “That is, just as soon as I’ve squared up accounts with that kid.”
“Then you’d better put your apron on again,” Jim drawled, humorously. “It takes longer than you’ve got left to live when any one goes after Tom Reade to get even.”
“Jim Ferrers, you know me well enough,” remarked Leon, reaching for his hat. “Most times I’m peaceable, but when I get started I’m a bad man.”
“Exactly,” nodded Jim undisturbed. “That’s why you can never hope to come out on top in a row with Mr. Reade. While you may be a bad man, he’s a good man—–and ALL MAN! You don’t stand any show with that kind. Hang up your hat, Leon. Here’s your apron. Put it on and stay with us. When you cool down you can stay right along here and take lessons in the art of being a real man!”
Jim Ferrers strolled out of the shack, leaving the vanquished cook in a towering rage. By degrees the expression on the fellow’s face altered. Ten minutes later he was at work—–at cook’s duties.
WHY READE WANTED GOLD
Four weeks moved on rapidly. All too rapidly, in some respects, to please Engineer Harry Hazelton.
Sheriff’s officers had ridden into camp, and had scoured that part of the country, in an effort to locate Dolph Gage and that worthy’s friends. Just where the four vagabonds were now no man knew, save themselves.