“Come on, men!” yelled the sallow-faced fellow.
“Run dem w’ite slave-drivers outah camp!” yelled a score of negroes. Yells in Italian and Portuguese also filled the air.
In an instant it was plain that Tom Reade had stirred up more than a hornet’s nest.
“Come on, Harry,” spoke Tom, firmly. “Let’s run this pair out of camp. Then we’ll come back and look for more trouble-makers and trouble-hunters! Make way there, men!”
One excitable Italian rushed through the crowd, brandishing a revolver. As alarmed men fell back, the Italian confronted Reade, holding the revolver almost in the latter’s face and firing.
THE NIGHT IS NOT OVER
Tom winced slightly, as the pistol was discharged, for some of the powder burned his face.
Mr. Prenter, who stood beside him, had knocked up the barrel so that the bullet sped over the heads of the crowd.
In a twinkling Tom had hold of the Italian’s arm. He wrenched the pistol away, spraining the Italian’s arm. Instantly Tom “broke” the weapon, dropping the cartridges out into his pocket. Then he hurled the weapon as far as he could throw it into the shadows of the night.
“You breaka my arm!” snarled the Italian, showing his white teeth.
“Your face is next!” Tom retorted, letting his fist drive. It caught the Italian on the nose, breaking that member.
“Kill him! Kill Reade!” came the hoarse yell on the night air.
“You’ll find it a tough job, men!” Tom called, warningly. “I won’t die easily, and I’ll take a few men along with me when I go. Now, stand out of the way! I shall consider any man an enemy who blocks my path!”
Tom hit resolutely out, at first. Soon the men crowding about him began to realize that they had taken a large contract on their hands in attempting to cow this young engineer.
Then, too, another element entered into the fight. While there were some wild and troublesome men in camp, there were also many straightforward, excellent fellows among them. There were church-going negroes there, Italians who were thrifty and law-abiding, and Portuguese who loved nothing better than law and order.
The better element among the men came thronging forward, willing and ready to fight under such excellent generalship as they knew they would find with Tom Reade.
Other men, of both stripes, came pouring forth from shanties and tents.
The yells and the shot had alarmed the foremen, who now came along on the run.
“Dill, Johnson!” Tom called, as he saw some of the foremen trying to push or punch their way through the throng. “Help me to run Evarts and this other trouble-hunter out of the camp!”
The menacing yells grew fewer and fainter as the cheers of loyal laborers rose.
The foremen seized both trouble makers and began to run them along with more skill than gentleness.