“Twenty minutes to two,” murmured Tom to himself, glancing at his watch as the “Morton” went laboriously back over the dancing, glinting waves. “There’s a train due at Blixton at 1:30. By the time I get back to the house I ought to find one or more officials of the company impatiently waiting to jump on my devoted neck.”
Nor was Tom disappointed in this expectation. Pacing up and down on the porch of the house occupied by the engineers and superintendent was George C. Bascomb, president of the Melliston Company. Behind him stood Nicolas, respectfully eager to do anything he could for the comfort of the great man.
“Ah, there you are, Reade,” called President Bascomb in an irritated tone, as he caught sight of the young engineer striding forward. “Now, what’s all this row that you wired us about?”
“Will you come down to the water, and go out with me to look at the damage, sir?” asked Tom, as he took the president’s reluctantly offered hand.
“No,” grunted Mr. Bascomb. “Let me hear the story first. Come inside and tell me about it.”
“Our friend is not quite so gracious as he has been on former meetings,” thought Tom, as he led the way inside. “I wonder if he is going to get cranky?”
Inside was a little office room, as in the foremen’s barracks.
“Any decent cigars here?” questioned Mr. Bascomb, after exploring his own pockets and finding them innocent of tobacco.
“No, sir,” Tom answered. “No one here smokes.”
“I’ve got to have a cigar,” the president of the company insisted.
“Then, sir, if you’ll give Nicolas your orders, he’ll run over to Blixton and get you what you want.”
The Mexican departed in haste on the errand.
“Now, first of all, Reade,” began the president, “I am disgusted at learning of one fool mistake that you’ve made.”
“What is that, sir?” Tom asked, coloring.
“I’ve just learned that you discharged Evarts—–one of our best and most useful men.”
“I did discharge him, sir,” Reade admitted.
“Take him back, at once.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t do it. He—–”
“I don’t think you quite understand,” broke in Mr. Bascomb coldly. “I directed you to take Mr. Evarts back on this work.”
“I was about to tell you, sir, why I can’t do anything of the sort. I—–”
“Stop right there, Reade,” ordered President Bascomb, in his most aggressive, bullying manner. “The first point that we have to settle is that Evarts must come back on the pay-roll and have his old position. Be good enough to let that proposition sink in before we take up the second.”
“I am very sorry, sir,” Tom murmured respectfully, “but I can’t and won’t have Evarts back here. I won’t have him around the work at all. Now what is the second proposition, sir?”
As Tom spoke he looked straight into Mr. Bascomb’s eyes. The other glared at him unbelievingly but angrily.