“Yes; I did,” admitted the president of the company, stiffly.
“Then I’m sorry to say that Evarts has been misinformed,” Tom went on. “He can’t visit this camp. He’s too much of a trouble-maker here.”
“Shut up your talk!” jeered Evarts roughly. “Don’t try to give orders to the president of the company that hires and pays you.”
“Mr. Bascomb is the head of the company that employs me,” Tom assented. “But I am in charge here, and am responsible, with Mr. Hazelton, for the good order of the camp and the success of the work. Therefore, Evarts, you’ll leave camp now, and you won’t come back again under pain of being punished for trespass.”
“Oh, now see here, Reade—–” began Mr. Bascomb angrily, as he started forward. But Treasurer Prenter caught Bascomb by the arm, whispering in his ear.
“Waiting for you, Mr. Bascomb,” called Evarts.
“I guess you’d better go,” called the president, rather shamefacedly, after his talk with Mr. Prenter. “I guess maybe Reade is right. At all events his contract places him in charge of this camp.”
“Humph, Evarts, a lot of good you can do us here, can’t you?” sneered the sallow-faced fellow.
Tom looked first at one, and then at the other of the pair.
“So,” guessed Reade shrewdly, “Evarts has been at the head of this game of unlawful liquor selling in this camp. There are other vendors here, too, are there?”
“You lie!” yelled the discharged foreman.
“You may prove that, at your convenience,” Reade replied, without even a heightening of his color. “For the present, though, you’re going to get out of camp and stay out.”
“I called you a liar,” sneered Evarts, “and you haven’t the sand to fight about it.”
“Fighting with one of your stripe isn’t worth the while,” Tom retorted, shortly. “Come along, Evarts. I’ll show you the way out of camp.”
As Reade spoke he took hold of the ex-foreman’s arm gently.
“Leggo of me!” raged the foreman, clenching and raising one of his fists.
“Don’t make the mistake of touching me,” urged Tom, quietly, “but come along. This way out of camp!”
Evarts swung suddenly, driving a fist straight at Reade’s face. But the young chief engineer was always alert at such times. One of his feet moved in between Evarts’s feet, and the ex-foreman flopped down on his back.
“Come on, now!” commanded Tom, jerking the fallen foe to his feet. “This time you’ll hurry out of camp.”
“Are you going to stand for it, men?” yelled Evarts, his face aflame with anger. “Come on—–all of you! Show that you’re not a pack of cowards and slaves!”
From more than a hundred throats came an ominous yell. The crowd surged around Reade and Hazelton. Mr. Bascomb, seeing his chance, dodged and ran out of the crowd. But Mr. Prenter, with a spring, placed himself at Tom Reade’s side.