At least two hundred, however, were still stirring in the streets of the camp. Tom led his friends near one of the groups. A warning hiss was heard, and then a man in a remote group, urged by his comrades, rose and staggered toward a shack. Tom was at the man’s side in an instant. He proved to be an Italian.
“My man, you appear to be intoxicated,” Tom remarked, quietly, as he gripped the Italian by the arm.
“No spikka da English,” hiccoughed the laborer. As he spoke he tried to free himself from the engineer’s grasp. He staggered, and would have fallen, had not Tom prevented the fall.
“Where’s this man’s gang-master?” Tom demanded, looking about him sharply, while he still held the drunken man.
None of the Italians addressed appeared to know. For the most part they took refuge in the fact or the pretense that they didn’t understand English.
“Get an Italian gang-master, Harry,” Tom murmured softly.
Hazelton bolted away, but was soon back, followed by a dark-skinned man who came with apparent reluctance.
“You’re a gang-master?” Tom demanded, looking sharply at the man. “This fellow is intoxicated.”
“Is he?” asked the gang-master.
“Yes, he is,” Tom declared, bluntly. “Now, where did the man get the liquor.”
“I do not know,” replied the gang-master, shrugging his shoulders.
“Then it’s your business to know—–if he got his liquor in camp. We won’t allow any of that stuff in camp, and you gang-masters all know that.”
“I can’t stop a man from going to town to get liquor,” argued the gang-master.
“No; you can’t,” Tom admitted. “Neither can I. But it’s your duty, gang-master, to see that no liquor is brought back into camp. This man hasn’t been to town for the stuff either. He hasn’t had time enough to go away over to Blixton and get enough liquor to make him drunk. Moreover, in his present condition, the fellow couldn’t have walked back from town the same evening. This man got his liquor in camp, and it will have to be stopped. Now, put this man in his shack; see that he gets into bed. Then come back to me.”
The gang-master obeyed.
“We’ll see if we can’t put a complete stop to this sort of thing,” Reade muttered.
“Now, do you think it’s going to be well to interfere so much with the movements of the men?” asked President Bascomb, in an undertone. “I am afraid that you’ll only start more dissatisfaction and more treachery among them.”
“This having liquor in camp is going to be stopped, sir,” Tom insisted. “A keg of liquor will demoralize a whole campful of men like these. They are an excitable lot, and they go crazy when there’s any liquor around. If we don’t put a stop to it, then there’ll be fights, and then a few murders are most likely to follow. I’ve had plenty of experience with men such as we have here, and the stopping of liquor in camp means our only safety, and our only chance to have our work well done. Come along; let the gang-master follow us.”