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The Young Engineers in Nevada by H. Irving Hancock

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E-text prepared by Jim Ludwig


or, Seeking Fortune on the Turn of a Pick




I. Alf and His "Makings of Manhood"
II. Trouble Brews on the Trail
III. Jim's Army Appears
IV. Sold Out for a Toy Bale!
V. No Need to Work for Pennies
VI. Tom Catches the "Nevada Fever"
VII. Ready to Handle the Pick
VIII. Jim Ferrers, Partner
IX. Harry Does Some Pitching
X. Tom's Fighting Blood Surges
XI. Planning a New Move
XII. New Owners File a Claim
XIII. Jim Tries the New Way
XIV. The Cook Learns a Lesson
XV. Why Reade Wanted Gold
XVI. The Man Who Made Good
XVII. The Miners Who "Stuck"
XVIII. The Goddess of Fortune Smiles Wistfully
XIX. Harry's Signal of Distress
XX. Tom Turns Doctor
XXI. The Wolves on the Snow Crust
XXII. Dolph Gage Fires His Shot
XXIII. Tom Begins to Doubt His Eyes
XXIV. Conclusion



"Say, got the makings?"

"Eh?" inquired Tom Reade, glancing up in mild astonishment.

"Got the makings?" persisted the thin dough-faced lad of fourteen
who had come into the tent.

"I believe we have the makings for supper, if you mean that you're
hungry," Tom rejoined. "But you've just had your dinner."

"I know I have," replied the youngster. "That's why I want my

"Your wha-a-at?" insisted Tom. By this time light had begun to
dawn upon the bronzed, athletic young engineer, but he preferred
to pretend ignorance a little while longer.

"Say, don't you carry the makings?" demanded the boy.

"You'll have to be more explicit," Tom retorted. "Just what are
you up to? What do you want anyway?"

"I want the makings for a cigarette," replied the boy, shifting
uneasily to the other foot. "You said you'd pay me five dollars
a month and find me in everything, didn't you?"

"Yes; everything that is necessary to living," Reade assented.

"Well, cigarettes are necessary to me," continued the boy.

"They are?" asked Tom, opening his eyes wider. "Why, how does
that happen?"

"Just because I am a smoker," returned the boy, with a sickly

"You are?" gasped Tom. "At your age? Why, you little wretch!"

"That's all right, but please don't go on stringing me," pleaded
the younger American. "Just pass over the papers and the tobacco
pouch, and I'll get busy. I'm suffering for a smoke."

"Then you have my heartfelt sympathy," Tom assured him. "I hate
to see any boy with that low-down habit, and I'm glad that I'm
not in position to be able to encourage you in it. How long have
you been smoking, Drew?"

Alf Drew shifted once more on his feet.

"'Bouter year," he answered.

"You began poisoning yourself at the age of thirteen, and you've
lived a whole year? No; I won't say 'lived,' but you've kept
pretty nearly alive. There isn't much real life in you, Drew,
I'll be bound. Come here."

"Do I get the makings?" whined the boy.

"Come here!"

Drew advanced, rather timidly, into the tent.

"Don't shrink so," ordered Tom. "I'm not going to spank you,
though some one ought to. Give me your wrist."

Reade took the thin little wrist between his thumb and finger,
feeling for the pulse.

"Are you a doctor?" sneered Drew.

"No; but generally I've intelligence enough to know whether a
pulse is slow or fast, full or weak."


"Keep quiet," Tom commanded, as he drew out his watch. His face
expressed nothing in particular as he kept the tip of his forefinger
against the radial artery at the boy's wrist.

"Fine," commented the young engineer, a few moments later, as
he let go the captive wrist.

"Good pulse, eh?" questioned Alf Drew.

"Great!" quoth Tom. "Fine and wiry, and almost skips some beats.
I'm not much of an authority on such subjects, but I believe
a boy of your age ought to have a normal pulse. Where do you
expect to wind up with your 'makings' and your cigarettes?"

"They don't hurt me," whined Alf.

"They don't, eh?" demanded Reade, rising and drawing himself up
to his full height of five-feet-eleven. "Drew, do you think you
look as healthy as I do?"

As he stood there, erect as a soldier, with his fine athletic
figure revealed, and the bronze on his face seemingly inches deep,
Tom Reade looked what he was---every inch a man though still a
boy in years.

"Do you think you look as healthy as I do?" Tom repeated.

"No-o-o-o," admitted Alf. "But you're older'n me."

"Not so much, as years go," Tom rejoined. "For that matter, if
you go on with your cigarettes you'll be an old man before I get
through with being a young man. Fill up your chest, Alf; expand
it---like this."

As he expanded his chest Reade looked a good deal more like some
Greek god of old than a twentieth century civil engineer.

Alf puffed and squirmed in his efforts to show "some chest."

"That isn't the right way," Tom informed him. "Breathe deeply
and steadily. Draw in your stomach and expand your chest. Fill
up the upper part of your lungs with air. Watch! Right here
at the top of the chest."

Alf watched. For that matter he seemed unable to remove his gaze
from the splendid chest development that young Reade displayed
so easily. Then the boy tried to fill the upper portions of his
own lungs in the same manner. The attempt ended in a spasm of

"Fine, isn't it?" queried Tom Reade, scornfully. "The upper parts
of your lungs are affected already, and you'll carry the work
of destruction on rapidly. Alf, if you ever live to be twenty you'll
be a wreck at best. Don't you know that?"

"I---I have heard folks say so," nodded the boy.

"And you didn't believe them?"

"I---I don't know."

"Why did you ever take up smoking?"

"All men smoke," argued Alf Drew.

"Lie number one. All men _don't_ smoke," Tom corrected him.
"But I think I catch the drift of your idea. If you smoke you
think men will look upon you as being more manly. That's it, it?"

"It must be manly, if men do it," Alf argued.

"You funny little shaver," laughed Tom, good-humoredly. "So you
think that, when men see you smoking cigarettes, they immediately
imagine you to be one of them? Cigarette-smoking, for a boy of
fourteen, is the short cut to manhood, I suppose."

Tom laughed long, heartily, and with intense enjoyment. At last
he paused, to remark, soberly:

"Answering your first question, Drew, I haven't the 'makings.'
I never did carry them and never expect to."

"What do you smoke then?" queried Alf, in some wonder. "A pipe?"

"No; I never had that vice, either. I don't use tobacco. For
your own sake I'm sorry that you do."

"But a lot of men do smoke," argued Alf. "Jim Ferrers, for instance."

"Ferrers is a grown man, and it would show a lot more respect
on your part if a 'kid' like you would call him 'Mr. Ferrers.'
But I'll wager that Mr. Ferrers didn't smoke cigarettes at your

"I'll bet he did."

"We'll see."

Tom stepped to the doorway of the tent, Alf making way for him,
and called lustily:

"Ferrers! Oh, Mr. Ferrers!"

"Here, sir!" answered the voice of a man who was invisible off under
the trees. "Want me?"

"If you please," Tom called back.

Ferrers soon appeared, puffing at a blackened corn-cob pipe. He was
a somewhat stooped, much bronzed, rather thin man of middle age.
Ferrers had always worked hard, and his body looked slightly the
worse for wear, though he a man of known endurance in rough life.

"Ferrers, do you know what ails this boy?" demanded Tom.

"Laziness," Jim answered, rather curtly. "You hired him for a
chore-boy, to help me. He hasn't done a tap yet. He's no good."

"Don't be too hard on him, Ferrers," pleaded Tom solemnly. "I've
just heard the youngster's sad story. Do you know what really ails
him? Cigarettes!"

"Him? Cigarettes!" observed Ferrers disgustedly. "The miserable
little rascal!"

"You see," smiled Tom, turning to the boy, "just what men think
of a lad who tries to look manly by smoking cigarettes."

"Cigarettes? Manly?" exploded Jim Ferrers, with a guffaw. "_Men_
don't smoke cigarettes. That's left for weak-minded boys."

"Say, how many years you been smoking, Jim Ferrers?" demanded Alf,
rather defiantly.

"Answer him, please," requested Tom, when he saw their guide and
cook frown.

"Lemme see," replied the Nevada man, doing some mental arithmetic
on his fingers. "I reckon I've been smoking twenty-three years,
because I began when I was twenty-four years old. Hang the stuff,
I wish I had never begun, either. But I didn't smoke at your
age, papoose. If I had done so, the men in the camps would have
kicked me out. Don't let me catch you smoking around any of the
work you're helping me on! Is that all, Mr. Reade? 'Cause I've
got a power of work to do."

"That's all, thank you," Tom assured him. "But, Ferrers, we'll
have to take young Drew in hand and try to win him back to the
path of brains and health."

"Say, I don't believe I'm going to like this job," muttered Alf
Drew. "I reckon I'll be pulling my freight outer this camp."

"Don't go until tomorrow, anyway," urged Tom. "You'll have to go
some distance to find other human beings, and grub doesn't grow on
trees in Nevada."

With a sniff of scorn Ferrers tramped away.

"I guess, perhaps, what you need, Drew is a friend," remarked Tom,
resting a hand on the boy's nearer shoulder. "Make up your mind
that you can't have a cigarette this afternoon, take a walk with me,
in this fresh air and the good old sunshine. Let's drop all talk of
cigarettes, and give a little thought to brains and a strong body.
They don't flourish where you find boys smoking cigarettes. Come
along! I'm going to show you how to step out right, and just how to
breathe like a human being. Let's try it."

Tom had almost to drag the boy, to make him start. But Reade
had no intention of hectoring the, dough-faced little fellow.

It was rough ground along this mountain trail in the Indian Smoke
Range of mountains, in Nevada. Soon the pulses of both began to beat
more heavily. Tom took in great breaths of the life-giving air, but
Alf was soon panting.

"Let's stop, now," proposed Tom, in a kindly voice. "After you've
rested a couple of minutes I'm going to show you how to breathe
right and fill your lungs with air."

Soon they were trying this most sensible "stunt." Alf, however,
didn't succeed very well. Whenever he tried hard it set him to

"You see, it's mostly due to the cigarettes," said Tom gravely.
"Alf, you've simply got to turn over a new leaf. You're headed
just right to have consumption."

"Cigarettes don't give a fellow consumption!" retorted the younger
boy sullenly.

"I don't believe they do," Tom admitted, thoughtfully. "Consumption
is caused by germs, I've heard. But germs take hold best in a
weakened part of the body, and your lungs, Alf, are weak enough
for any germ to find a good place to lodge. What you've got to do is
to make your lungs so strong that they'll resist germs."

"You talk like a doctor!"

"No; I'm trying to talk like an athlete. I used to be a half-way
amateur athlete, Drew, and I'm still taking care of my body.
That's why I've never allowed any white-papered little 'coffin-nails'
to fool around me. Bad as your lungs are, Alf, they're not one
whit worse than your nerves. You'll go to pieces if you find
yourself under the least strain. You'll get to shivering and crying,
if you don't stop smoking cigarettes."

"Don't you believe it," muttered the boy, sullenly.

"Alf," smiled Tom, laying a hand gently on the boy's shoulder,
"you don't know me yet. You haven't any idea how I can hang to
a thing until I win. I'm going to keep hammering at you until
I make you throw your cigarettes away."

"I'm never going to stop smoking 'em," retorted Drew. "There
wouldn't be any comfort in life if I stopped."

"Is it as bad as that?" queried Tom, with ready sympathy. "Then
all the more reason for stopping. Come; let's finish our walk."

"Say, I don't want to go down and through that thick brush," objected
Alf Drew, slowing his steps.

"Why not?"


"Are you afraid of snakes, Alf?"

"Some kinds."

"What kinds?"

"Well, rattlers, f'r instance."

"There are none of that kind on this part of the Indian Smoke
Range," Reade rejoined. "Come along with me."

There was something mildly though surely compelling in Tom's
manner. Alf Drew went along, though he didn't wish to. The two
were just at the fringe of the thick underbrush when there came
a warning sound just ahead of them.

Click! cl-cl-click!

"Whee! Me for outer this!" gasped Alf, going whiter than ever
as he turned. But Tom caught him by the shoulder.

"What's the matter?" demanded Reade.

Click cl-cl-click!

"There it is again," cried Alf, in fear.

"What on earth are you talking about?" Tom demanded.

Once more the dread sound smote the air.

"Rattlers!" wailed Drew, perspiring from fear. "Lemme get away
from this."

"Nonsense!" retorted Reade, retaining a strong clutch on the boy's
shoulder, though once more the sound reached their ears.

"It's all your nerves, Alf," Tom insisted. "You just imagine such
things. That's what cigarettes do to your nerves."

"But don't you hear the rattlesnake?"

"I don't," Tom gravely informed him, though once more the
nerve-disturbing sound rose clearly on the air. "See here, Alf,
rattlers, whatever their habits, certainly don't climb trees. I'll
put you up on that limb."

Tom's strong young arms lifted Alf easily until he could clutch
at the lowest limb of a tree.

"Climb up there and sit down," Reade ordered. Drew sat on the limb,
shaking with terror.

"Now, I'll show you that there isn't a snake anywhere in that
clump of brush," Tom proposed, and forthwith stepped into the
thicket, beating about lustily with his heavy boots.

"L-l-l-look out!" shivered Drew. "You'll be bitten!"

"Nonsense, I tell you. There isn't a rattler anywhere on this
part of the Range. It's your nerves, Alf. Cigarettes are destroying
'em. There! I've beaten up every bit of this brush and you see
that I've not been bitten. Now I'll help you down to the ground,
and you want to get a good, steadying grip on your nerves."

Alf Drew permitted himself to be helped to the ground. No sooner,
however, had his feet touched the earth than there came that ominous
rattling sound.

"There, you big idiot!" howled Alf. "There it is again!"

"Just your bad nerves, Alf," Tom smiled. "They're so bad that I'll
overlook your lack of respect calling me an idiot!"

"Don't you s'pose I know rattlers when I hear 'em?" asked Drew,
sullenly. "I was almost bitten by one once, and that's why I'm so
afraid of 'em."

"I _was_ bitten once," Tom replied. "Yet you see that I'm not very
nervous about them, especially in a part of the country where
none are ever found. It's your nerves, Alf---and cigarettes!"

"I wish I had one now," sighed the younger boy.

"A rattlesnake?" Tom inquired innocently.

"No---of course not! A cigarette."

"But you're going to forget those soul-destroying little coffin-nails,"
Reade suggested. "You're going to become a man and act like one.
You're going to learn how much more fun it is to have your lungs
filled with pure air instead of stifling cigarette smoke."

"Maybe I am!" muttered the boy.

"Oh, yes; I'm sure of it," said Reade cheerfully.


"O-o-o-ow!" shrilled Alf, jumping at least two feet.

"Now, what's the matter with you?" inquired Tom in feigned astonishment.

"Don't tell me you didn't hear the rattler just now," cried young
Drew fiercely.

"No; I didn't," Tom assured him. "And how could we find a
rattler--_here_? We're crossing open ground now. There is no place
within three hundred feet of us for a rattlesnake to move without our
seeing him."


Alf Drew held back, trembling.

"I'm not going forward another step," he insisted. "This ground
is full of rattlers."

"Let's go back to camp, then, if your nerves are so unstrung,"
Reade proposed.

They turned, starting backward. Again the warning rattle sounded,
seemingly just in front of Alf, though there was no place for a snake
to conceal itself nearby.

Alf, however, turned paler still, halted and started off at right
angles to his former course. Again the rattle sounded.

"Hear that snake?" demanded young Drew.

"No; and there isn't one," Tom assured him. "Why will you be so
foolish---so nervous? In other words, why do you destroy your five
senses with cigarettes in this fashion?"


Alf Drew halted, trembling so that he could hardly stand.

"I'm going to quit camp---going to get out of this place," he
shivered. "The ground is full of rattlers. O-o-o-oh! There's
another tuning up."

Tom laughed covertly. The disturbing sound came again.

"I never saw a place like this part of the range," Alf all but
sobbed, his breath catching. "Oh, won't I be glad to see a city

"Just so you can find a store where you can buy cigarettes?" Tom
Reade queried.

"I wish I had one, now," moaned the young victim. "It would steady

"The last ones that you smoked didn't appear to steady you," the
young engineer retorted. "Just see how unstrung you are. Every
step you take you imagine you hear rattlers sounding their warning."

"Do you tell me, on your sacred honor," proposed Alf, "that you
haven't heard a single rattler this afternoon?"

"I give you my most solemn word that I haven't," Tom answered.
"Come, come, Alf! What you want to do is to shake off the trembles.
Let me take your arm. Now, walk briskly with me. Inflate your
chest with all the air you can get in as we go along. Just wait
and see if that isn't the way to shake off these horrid cigarette

Something in Reade's vigorous way of speaking made Alf Drew obey.
Tom put him over the ground at as good a gait as he judged the
cigarette victim would be able to keep up.

Readers of the preceding volumes of this series, and of other,
earlier series, need not the slightest introduction to Tom Reade
and Harry Hazelton. Our readers of the "_Grammar School Series_"
know Tom and Harry as two of the members of that famous sextette
of schoolboy athletes who, under the leadership of Dick Prescott,
were known as Dick & Co.

In the "_High School Boys Series_," too, our readers have followed
the fortunes of Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton, through all their
triumphs on football fields, on baseball diamonds and in all the
school sports.

Dick Prescott and Greg Holmes succeeded in winning appointments
to the United States military Academy, and their adventures are
fully set forth in the "_West Point Series_."

Dave Darrin and Dan Dalzell "made" the United States Naval Academy
at Annapolis, and what befell them there has been fully set forth
in the "_Annapolis Series_."

Reade and Harry Hazelton elected to go through life as civil engineers.
In "_The Young Engineers in Colorado_" has been fully set forth
the extraordinary work of these young men at railroad building
through the mountains wilds. In "_The Young Engineers in Arizona_"
we have followed Tom and Harry through even more startling adventures,
and have seen how they handled even greater problems in engineering.

Up to date the careers of these two bright young men had not been
humdrum ones. The surroundings in which their professional lives
had been passed had been such as to supply them with far more
startling adventures than either young man had ever looked for.

And now they were in Nevada, the state famous for its gold and silver
mines. Yet they had come ere solely in search of a few weeks of rest.
Rest? There was anything but rest immediately ahead of the young
engineers, but the curtain had not been lifted.

Immediately after the completion of their great work in Arizona,
Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton had gone back east to the good old
home town of Gridley. While there they had encountered Dick Prescott
and Greg Holmes, their old school chums, at that time cadets at
the United States Military Academy. The doings of the four old
chums at that time in Gridley are set forth fully in "_Dick Prescott's
Third Year At West Point_."

During the weeks spent East, Tom and Harry had taken almost their
first steps in the study of metallurgy. They had succeed in mastering
the comparatively simple art of assaying gold and silver.

So now, with the summer past, we find our young engineers out in
Nevada, taking a little more rest just because no new engineering
task of sufficient importance had presented itself.

"If we're going to be engineers out West, though, Harry, we simply
must know a good deal about assaying precious metals," Tom had

So, though the chums were "taking a rest," as they phrased it, they
had brought with them a small furnace and the rest of the outfit for
assaying minerals in small quantities.

Today, however, was altogether too fine for thoughts of work. Just
after breakfast Harry Hazelton had borrowed the only horse in camp,
belonging to Jim Ferrers, their cook and guide, and had ridden away
for the day.

Barely had Hazelton departed when Alf Drew, hungry, lonely and
wistful, had happened along. He asked for "a job." There really
wasn't one for him, but good-natured Reade created one, offering
five dollars a month and board.

"No telling, young man, how long the job will last," Tom warned him.
"We may at any hour break camp and get away."

But Alf had taken the job and gratefully. Not until after the noon
meal had the little fellow revealed his unfortunate vice for
cigarette smoking.

"You've simply got to give up that habit, Alf" Tom urged, as they
walked along.

"You can't make me," retorted young Drew. "You've no right to."

"No, I haven't," Tom admitted soberly. "If I had any real rights
over you I'm afraid I'd turn you over my knee and spank you, three
times a day, until you gave up the beastly habit."

"You're not going to bounce me, are you?" asked Alf.

"No; I'll keep you here as long as we can use a boy. But, mark
me, Alf, somehow, and before very long, I'm going to break you
from your cigarettes. I don't know how I'm going to do it, but I'm
going to do it just the same!"

Alf Drew looked uncommonly solemn, but he said nothing.

For five minutes more they walked on, then came suddenly out from
under a line of trees and stood at the edge of a low cliff, gazing
down in astonishment at the gully below them.

"What on earth-----" began Tom Reade, in amazement.

"Let's scoot!" begged Alf tremulously. "There's going to be some
killing right down there!"

It certainly looked that way.

In the gully three automobiles, showing the effects of long travel
over hard roads, stood close together. More than a dozen people,
all but two of whom were dressed in "eastern" clothes, stood by the
machines. Two of the party were women, and one a girl of twelve.

The two men who belonged to the party, but did not appear to be
"eastern," had drawn revolvers, and now stood facing four
sullen-looking men who stood with the butts of their rifles resting
on the ground.

"Gracious! We can't have any shooting with women and children
standing around to get hit!" gasped Tom Reade.



So silent had been the approach of Tom and his waif companion
that those below had not perceived them.

Moreover, judging from the expressions on the faces of the people
almost at Reade's feet, they were all too deeply absorbed in their
own business to have any eyes or ears for outside matters.

Through the scene below was one of armed truce that might, at any
moment, break into hostilities, with human lives at stake, Tom
glanced coolly downward for a few seconds after his first startled,
unheard remark.

"I'm going, to duck out of this," whispered Alf Drew, whose slim
little figure was shaking in a way suggestive of chills.

"Don't be in a hurry," Tom murmured. "We may be of some use to
some of these people."

"Tote those guns away, friends," spoke one of the revolver-armed
men with the automobile party, "and march yourselves under the
guns. Remember, we have women here."

"They can get away," returned one of the sullen-faced men with rifles.
"We won't hinder 'em. We'll give 'em two full minutes to get where
it's safe. Then we're going to turn our talking machines loose."

From the top of the low cliff came Tom Meade's drawling voice:

"Oh, I say, friends!"

Startled, all below glanced quickly upward.

"There seems to be trouble down there," Tom suggested.

"There sure is," nodded one of the armed men with the automobile

"Now, it's too glorious a day to spoil it with fighting," Reade
went on. "Can't we arbitrate?"

"The first move for you, young man," warned one of the four men,
raising his rifle, "is to face about and git outer here."

"Not while there are women and children present who might get hurt,"
Tom dissented, with a shake of his head.

"Git, I tell you!" shouted the man, now aiming his rifle full at
Tom's chest. Git---before I count five."

"Save your cartridge," proposed Tom. "I'm too poor game, and
I'm not armed, either. Surely you wouldn't shoot a harmless orphan
like me." Saying which the young engineer, having found a path down
the cliff nearby, started slowly to descend.

"Get back there! Another step, and I'll put a ball through you!"
roared the man who had Reade covered with his rifle.

"That wouldn't prove anything but your marksmanship," Suggested Tom,
and coolly continued to descend.

"Going to get back?" howled the man behind the gun.

Without further answer Reade quickened his pace somewhat, reaching
the flat bottom of the gully on a run.

Though he felt that the chances were eight out of ten that he would
be shot at any second, Tom didn't betray any outward fear. The
truth was that even if he wanted to stop, he would have found it
somewhat difficult on that steep incline.

Where he landed, on his feet, Tom stood between the hostile parties.
Had hostilities opened at that moment he would have been in a bad
position between the two fires.

"Great Scott!" gasped the frightened Alf, peering down.

That youngster had thrown himself flat on his stomach his head
behind a bush. He was trying to make himself as small as possible.
"Whew! But Reade has the real grit!"

First of all Tom gazed curiously at the four men, who glared back at
him with looks full of hate.

"Who are you, anyway?" demanded the spokesman of the sullen four.

"I might be the sheriff," Tom replied placidly.

"Huh!" retorted the spokesman.

"But I'm not," Tom went on, rather genially. "I'm just an inquisitive

"Heard o' Bald Knob?" demanded the leader of the four.

"No," admitted Reade, opening his eyes with interest. "Who is he,
and how did he become bald?"

"Bald Knob is a place," came the information. "It's the place where
inquisitive tourists are buried in these parts."

"I'll look it up some day," Tom promised, good-humoredly.

"You'll look it up before dark if we have time to pack you there,"
growled the leader of the men. "Now, are you going to stand aside?"

Tom shook his head.

"Let's shake hands all around and then sit down for a nice little
talk," the young engineer suggested.

"There's been too much talk already," snarled Tom's antagonist.

The men of the automobile party were silent. They had scented
in Tom an ally who would help their cause materially.

"Then you won't be sociable?" Reade demanded, as if half offended.

"Git out and go about your business," ordered the leader of the
four men.

"It's always my business when women and children appear to be in
danger," returned Tom. He turned on his heel, presenting his
broad back as a target to the rifles as he stepped over to automobile

Oddly the four men, though they had the look of being desperate, did
not offer to shoot.

Tom's audacity had almost cowed them for the moment.

"I hope I can be of some use to you," suggested Tom, raising his
hat out of respect to the women.

"I reckon you can, if you're a good hand with a gun," replied the
older of the two armed men with the motor party. "Got any shooting
irons about you?"

"Nothing in that line," Tom admitted.

"Then reach under the cushion, left-hand front seat of that car,"
returned the same speaker. "You'll find an automatic revolver

Reade, however, chose to ignore the advice. He had small taste for
the use of firearms.

Seeing, the young engineer's reluctance the younger of the two
armed men went himself to the car, taking out the revolver and
offering it to this cool young stranger.

"Thank you," was Tom's smiling reply. "But that tool is not for
me. I'm the two-hundred-and-thirteenth vice president of the
Peace Society."

"You'd better fight, or hike," advised the older of the two men.
"This isn't going to be a safe place for just nothing but chin.
And, ladies, I ask you to get behind one of the cars, since you
won't leave here. Throw yourselves flat on your faces. We don't
want any good women hit by any such mean rascals as that crowd
over there."

The men with the rifles scowled dangerously.

"Now, listen to me---all hands," begged Tom, raising his right hand.
"It's none of my business, as I very well know, but may I inquire
what all this trouble is about?"

A rather portly, well dressed and well-groomed man of sixty, who
had been leaning against the side of one of the cars, now spoke
up promptly enough:

"I am head of the company that has legally staked out a claim
here, young man. Ours is a mining company. The men yonder say
that they own the claim---that they found it first, and that it
is theirs. However, they never staked it off---never filed their

"It's our claim, just the same," spoke up the at the four men.
"And we won't have it jumped by any gang of tenderfeet on earth.
So get out of here, all of you, or the music will start at once.
We don't want to hit any woman or children, but we're going to
hold our own property. If the women and the child won't get out
of here, then they'll have to take their chances."

"That's the case, and the line of action!" growled another of
the men.

"But let me ask you men," continued Tom, facing the quartette, "do
you claim that you ever made legal entry of your asserted title here?"

"Maybe we didn't," grunted the spokesman. But we've known of
this place for 'most a year Today we came to settle here, stake
off our claims, file our entry and begin living here. But we
found these benzine trotters on the ground.

"But these people state that they have made legal claim here," Tom

"We have," insisted the portly man in black.

"If there is any dispute over the facts, my friends," Tom continued,
turning once more to the four men, "then it looks like a case for the
courts to settle. But if these people, who appear to be from the
East, have acquired legal title here then they'll be able to hold it,
and you four men are only intruders here. Why, the matter begins to
look rather clear---even for a Nevada dispute."

"These folks are going to move, or we'll topple 'em over and move
'em ourselves," insisted the leader.

"Men," rejoined Reade, "I'm afraid you're not cool enough to settle
this case fairly. We'll call in a few of the neighbors and try to
get the facts of the case. We'll-----"

"Neighbors?" jeered the leader of the quartette. "Where are you
going to find any?"

"Right near at hand," Tom proposed. "Much nearer than you think.

Alf still lay behind the bush near the edge of the cliff. He
was still present mainly because he had not courage enough to
run away.

"Drew!" Tom repeated, this time speaking sharply, for he guessed
that the cigarette fiend was shaking in his boots.

"Yes, sir," piped the faltering voice of Alf.

"Drew, run to camp as fast as you can. Tell Ferrers to bring
the whole crowd over at once."

Alf was astounded by this staggering command, which sounded like
an order to rush an army to the spot. Yet he managed to gasp:

"Yes, sir."

"Now, go! Make fast time. Don't let any of this outfit catch
you and hinder you."

"No, sir!"

This time Alf Drew's voice sounded faintly, over his shoulder
from a considerable distance, for the boy was running fast, fear
lending speed his feet.

"You see," Tom went on coolly, standing so that he could face
both factions in this quarrel, "I don't know much about the merits
of the case, and I'm a stranger here. I don't want to be accused
of being too fresh, so I've sent for some of the natives. They'll
know, better than just what to advise here. It won't take 'em
long to get here."

Tom wound up this last statement with a cheerful smile.

"So Jim Ferrers is over in your camp, is he?" demanded the leader
of the four men.

"Yes," Tom assented affably. "Do you know him?"


"Jim is a fine fellow," Reade went on warmly. "He knows all about
Nevada, too, and he's a man of good judgment. He'll be a lot of
use to us in getting at the rights of this case."

"There's only one right side," insisted the leader of the quartette.

"So my friend here has informed me," answered Reade, nodding in
the direction of the stout man in black. "Yet there seems to
be a good deal of difference in opinion as to which is really
the right side. But just wait until Jim and his friends get here.
They'll be able to set us all straight and there won't be any
need for doing any rough work like shooting."

"Dolph, we'd better shoot up the whole crowd, including the cheeky
young one, before Jim Ferrers and his crowd gits here," propose
one of the quartette.

"Jim Ferrers will be awfully displeased, you do," drawled Tom.
"Do you know Jim? He has a reputation, I believe, for being
rather sore on folks who shoot up his friends."

"I'll do it for you, anyway, kid!" growled one of the four, leveling
his rifle.

But their leader struck the weapon up angrily just before the
shot barked out.

"Who's having Fourth of July around here?" called a laughing voice
from some distance down the rising path at the rear of the quartette.
The four men turned quickly, but Tom had recognized joyfully
the tones of Harry Hazelton's voice.

"You keep out of here, stranger!" ordered one of the quartette

"Don't you do anything of the sort, Harry!" roared Reade's voice.
"You keep right on an join us."

"Did you hear my advice?" insisted the leader of the four, holding
his rifle as though would throw the butt to his shoulder.

"Yes," said Hazelton, calmly, "but I also heard my senior partner's
order. He and I stick together. Gangway, please."

Harry was cool enough as he rode his horse at a walk past the
men. Hazelton will never understand how near death he was at
that moment. But there had been a few whispered words between
the men, and they had allowed him to ride by.

"What's the game here, Tom?" Harry called cheerily. "Any real
excitement going on?"

"No." Tom shook his head. "Just a little misunderstanding over
a question of fact."

"Then I see that the lie hasn't been passed," grinned Hazelton.
"The ground isn't littered at all."

He rode up to his chum, displaying no curiosity.

That the automobile party had been much cheered by the arrival
of the young engineers was wholly apparent. For the same reason
the four men appeared to be a good deal less certain of themselves.

"I guess there isn't going to be any real trouble," spoke Reade
carelessly. "But there's a question at issue that I feel it would
be impertinent in me to try to settle, so I've sent for Jim Ferrers
to bring over the whole crowd."

Though Harry couldn't imagine where Ferrers's "crowd" was, he wisely
held his tongue.

At the same time an earnest conference was going on among the
four men. They spoke in low whispers.

"Jim Ferrers, alone, we could handle," declared the leader. "But
if Jim has a crowd back of him things won't go our way when it come
to the shooting."

"Let's start it before Ferrers's party gets here," growled another
of the sullen ones.

"We would be tracked down and shot at by Ferrers and a crowd,"
argued the leader. "Things are too warm for us here, just now.
In a case like this remember that a fellow lasts longer when
he does his shooting from ambush and at his own time. We won't
let this Dunlop crowd fool us out of our rights, but we'll have
to choose a better time---and fight from ambush at that."

It was soon plain that this view prevailed among the quartette.
As they turned to move away, the leader remarked:

"We'll leave you for a while, Dunlop, but don't image you've won.
Don't get any notion that you'll ever win. You'll hear from us

"And you'll hear a plenty as long as your hearing remains good,"
snarled another of the men.

The four disturbers, turning their backs, started down the sloping

"Oh, but I'm glad we've seen the last of them!" shuddered one
of the women of the Dunlop party.

"Don't be deceived into thinking that the last has been seen of
that crew, madam," spoke Tom Reade gently. "Those fellows will
be heard from again, and at no very distant hour, either. Mr.
Dunlop---I believe that is your name, sir?"

The stout man bowed.

"Mr. Dunlop," Reade went on, earnestly, "I urge you to get these
women and the child away from here as soon as you can. Also any
of the men who may happen to have no taste for fighting. I don't
believe you'll see those four men in the open any more, but there'll
be more than one shot fired from ambush. You surely won't expose
these women and the child any further!"

"But, Father," broke in one of the women, tremulously, "if we leave,
it will take one of your two fighting men to run the car. Think how
weak that will leave your defense."

"You forget, my dear," spoke Mr. Dunlop, gently, "that our newly-found
young friends have just sent for other men."

Tom smiled grimly as he thought of Jim Ferrers's "crowd"---consisting
of poor, frighten little Alf with the cigarette-stained fingers.

"At any cost or risk, sir," Tom went on, after a moment, "you must
get the women and the child away from here. But---why, where is
the child?"

There was an instant of dismay. The little girl had vanished.

"Gladys!" spoke Dr. Dunlop's daughter in alarm.

From under one of the cars a muffled voice answered, "Here I am."
Then Gladys, sobbing and shaking, emerged into view.

"I was so frightened!" cried the child. "I just had to hide."

"The men have gone away, dear," explained her mother soothingly.
"And now we're going too. We'll be safe after this."

At that instant three shots, fired in rapid succession, rang out.



"Down on your faces!" called the older of the armed men with the
motor party.

"Not necessary," spoke Tom, dryly. "The shots were fired by Jim
Ferrers's army."

"And I missed the pesky critter, too!" spoke Jim's voice, resentfully,
as he showed his head over the edge of the cliff, where three puffs
of smoke slowly ascended.

"Don't show yourself, Jim! Careful!" Reade warned their guide.

"It's all right," declared Ferrers indifferently, as he rose to his
full height, then discovered the path by which Tom had descended.
"The critters took to cover as soon as they heard me making a noise."

With that explanation Ferrers slid rather than walked down into the

"Where are the rest of your men?" questioned Mr. Dunlop, eagerly.

"I'm all there are," explained Jim, "except one pesky little puffer
of cigarettes. He's hiding his stained fingers somewhere in the
brush half a mile from here."

"There are no more men to your crowd?" spoke Dr. Dunlop anxiously.

"None," Tom broke in. "My order to the boy, Drew, was intended
by way of conversation to interest your four callers."

"Then, indeed, we must look out for an ambush," said one of Mr.
Dunlop's companions, a man of thirty.

"And you will be in real danger every minute of the time," said
Dunlop's daughter, fearfully. "Father, why can't you come out
of this wild country? Is the money that you may make out here worth
all the risk?"

"Yes," answered Mr. Dunlop, with a firmness that seemed intended
to settle the matter.

"Why did you fire on those men without provocation?" Tom asked,
aside, of Jim Ferrers, who stood stroking his rifle barrel with one

"I had provocation," Ferrers answered.

"Oh," said Reade, who was none the wiser.

"I'll 'get' Dolph Gage yet, if I ever have a fair chance without
running my neck into the noose of the law," added Ferrers, with
silent fury in his tone.

"Is there a story behind it all, eh" queried Tom mildly.

"Yes, Mr. Reade. Too long a story to tell in a minute."

"I didn't mean to pry into your affairs, Ferrers," Tom made haste
to say.

"Well, for one thing, Dolph Gage shot the only brother I ever
had---and got cleared of the charge in the court!" muttered Ferrers.

"Was your brother killed?" Tom inquired.

"Didn't I state that Dolph Gage shot him?" demanded Jim in a
semi-injured tone. "Men don't often waste ammunition out in this
county, even if I did send in three wild shots just now. But that
was because I was excited, and couldn't see straight. I'll try to
do better next time."

Mr. Dunlop was now engaged in making his daughter, her child and
the other woman comfortable in one of the touring cars.

Several of the men in the party, also, had decided that they did not
care to remain if they were to be exposed to shooting at all hours
of the day.

In the end Mr. Dunlop had but three of the men in his party left
with him.

The younger of the two armed men was sent to drive the car containing
the women. One of the guests of the Dunlop party drove a second
car. In this order they started for Dugout City, thirty miles
away. As the roads hardly deserved the name the motor cars would
not be likely to reach Dugout before dark.

"Look out for ambushes," exclaimed Mr. Dunlop, to the armed driver
of the women's car.

"Yes, sir; but there isn't much danger of our being fired on. Gage's
gang will be only too glad to see the women folks leaving here. We
won't be troubled."

Mr. Dunlop stood anxiously gazing after the two touring cars as
long as they could be seen. Then he stepped briskly back, holding
out his hand to Tom Reade.

"Permit me, now, to thank you for your timely aid," said the stout
man. "You know my name. Will you kindly introduce your friends?"

This Tom did at once, after which Mr. Dunlop presented his three
companions. One was his nephew, Dave Hill, the second, George
Parkinson, Mr. Dunlop's secretary, and the third a man named John
Ransome, an investor in Mr. Dunlop's mining enterprise. The elder
of the armed men who remained behind was Joe Timmins, both guide
and chauffeur. The young man who had gone with one of the cars
was Timmins's son.

"You have a mining claim hereabouts, Mr. Dunlop?" Tom inquired.

"Yes; but not exactly at this point," added the older man, with
a smile as he noted Reade staring about him with a quizzical smile.
"The claim stands over there on that slope"--- pointing to the

"Has it been prospected, sir?" asked Hazelton.

"Yes: it's a valuable property, all right. I brought my party
out here to show it to them. The friends who have returned to
Dugout, and Mr. Ransome here, have the money ready to put up the
needed capital as soon as they are satisfied."

"I'm satisfied now," spoke up Ransome, "and I'm sure that the
others are, after what Mr. Dunlop showed us this morning."

"How soon do you begin operations?" Tom asked with interest.

"As soon as my men have talked it over and have concluded to put
up the money, replied Mr. Dunlop.

"We're ready, now---all of us," Ransome broke in.

"Then," said Mr. Dunlop, "the next step will be to get in touch
with a satisfactory engineer. You see, Mr. Reade, it's either
a tunneling or a boring claim. We must either sink a shaft or
drive a tunnel---whichever operation can be done at the least
cost. Either way will be expensive, and we must find out for
a certainty which will be the cheaper. There's a lot of refractory
rock in the slope yonder. In the morning our party will get all
the ore we can from the surface croppings, then start for Dugout,
going from there to Carson City. At Carson we hope to find an
honest engineer and a capable metallurgist."

"Then you haven't engaged any engineer?" Reade asked, almost eagerly.

"Not yet. There was no need, until we had satisfied the investors."

"Perhaps Hazelton and I can make some deal with you, Mr. Dunlop,"
Reade proposed.

"In what line?" inquired Dunlop. "Are you miners---or machinists?"

"When we want to be really kind to ourselves," smiled Tom, "we call
ourselves engineers."

"Mining engineers?" demanded Mr. Dunlop, gazing at the two youths
in astonishment.

"No, sir. Neither Hazelton nor myself ever handled a mine yet," Tom
answered. "But we have done a lot of railroad work."

"Railroad work isn't mine digging," objected Mr. Dunlop.

"I'm aware of that, sir," Tom agreed. "Yet boring is largely
excavation work; so is tunneling. We've had charge of considerable
excavating in our services to railroads."

"Very likely," nodded Dunlop, reflectively. But how about the
assays for gold and silver? Sometimes, when searching for drifts
and runs of the metal we may need a dozen assays in a single week."

"We have the furnace with us, sir; the assay balance and all the
tools and chemicals that are used in an ordinary assay."

"You have?" asked Mr. Dunlop. "Then you must have come prepared
to go into this line of work."

"We thought it more than likely that we'd amuse ourselves along
that line of work for a while," Tom explained truthfully. "Yet
mining attracts us. We'd stay here and go into the thing in earnest
if we could make good enough terms with you."

"Would seventy-five dollars a month for each of you be satisfactory?"
asked Mr. Dunlop keenly.

"No, sir," replied Reade with emphasis. "Nor would we take a
hundred and seventy-five dollars, either. When I said that we
would consider a good proposition I meant just that, sir."

"Hm-m-m-m!" murmured Mr. Dunlop. "I shall have to give this matter
thought, and question you a good deal more on your qualifications.
I suppose you would be willing to let this matter remain open for
a few days?"

"Certainly, sir; we are in no hurry. However, until we are definitely
engaged we do not bind ourselves to be ready for your work."

"Where is your camp?" said Mr. Dunlop.

Jim Ferrers explained the easiest way of reaching the camp in a motor

"And I'd advise you to come to our camp, too," Tom added. "You'll
be safer there than here."

"But we would; expose you to danger, too," Mr. Dunlop objected.

"We're rather used to danger," smiled Tom placidly. "In fact, just
a little of danger makes us feel that we're getting more enjoyment
out of life."

"Do you think it a good plan to take up the invitation of these
gentlemen, Timmins?" inquired Mr. Dunlop.

"It's the safest thing you can do, sir," answered Joe Timmins.

"We'll start back, now," proposed Tom. "If you don't drive too
fast you'll give us a chance to reach our camp in time to welcome

"You start now, and we'll start within ten minutes," proposed
Mr. Dunlop.

This being agreed to, Tom, Harry and Ferrers began the task of
climbing the cliff path. At last they reached the top, then started
at long strides toward camp, Ferrers's horse having been surrendered
by Harry to Dave Hill.

"Who knows," laughed Tom, "we may become mining engineers here
in Nevada"

"Small chance of it," Harry rejoined. "In opinion Mr. Dunlop is
a good enough fellow, but he's accustomed to making all the money
himself. He'd want us at about a hundred dollars a month apiece."

"He can want, then," Tom retorted. "Yet, somehow, I've an idea
That Mr. Dunlop will turn to be generous if he decides that we're
the engineers for him."

For some minutes the trio tramped on silently, in Indian file,
Ferrers leading.

"Hello, Alf!" bellowed Tom through the woods, as they neared their
camp site. No answer came.

"Where did you leave the little fellow, Jim?" inquired Reade.

"I didn't notice which way he went, sir," returned the guide.
"He looked plumb scared, and I reckon he ducked into cover somewhere.
Maybe he headed for Dugout City and hasn't stopped running yet."

Then a turn of the path under the trees brought them in sight of
their camp.

Rather, where the camp had been. Jim Ferrers rubbed his eyes for
an instant, for the tents had been spirited away as though by magic.
Nor were the cots to be seen. Blankets lay strewn about on the
ground. A quarter the camp's food supplies was still left, and
that was all.

"Is it magic, Jim?" gasped puzzled Tom Reade.

"No, sir; just plain stealing," Ferrers responded grimly.

"Then who-----"

"Dolph Gage's crew, I'll be bound, sir. They don't want you two
hanging around in this country, and they want me a heap sight
less. But maybe we'll show 'em! The trail can't be hard to find.
We'll have to start at once."

"After we've seen and spoken to Mr. Dunlop," Tom amended. "We
can't run off without explanation to the guests that we have invited
to share the camp that we thought had."

Barely a hundred yards away four men lay on their stomachs, heads
concealed behind a low fringe of brush under which the muzzles
of their rifles peeped.

"Remember," whispered Dolph Gage faintly, "all of you fire your first
shot into Jim Ferrers. After that we'll take charge of the
youngsters! Get a close bead on Jim. Ready!"



Jim Ferrers had stated a plain truth when he remarked that Nevada
men did not often waste ammunition.

With four rifles aimed at him, at that short, point-blank range,
it would seem that Jim's last moment had come.

Yet at that instant the sound of an approaching motor ear was heard.

Then the car, moving at twelve miles an hour mounted the crest at a
point less than seventy yards from where the four ambushed men lay.

Joe Timmins caught sight of them.

"Take the wheel!" muttered Timmins, forcing Parkinson's nearer
hand to the wheel.

In an instant Joe was upon his feet, drawing his revolver. He
fired at the men in ambush, but a lurch of the car on the rough
ground destroyed his aim.

"Dolph Gage and his rascals at the ridge," bellowed Joe, in a
fog-horn voice, pointing.

Jim Ferrers dropped to the ground, hugging it flat. Harry followed
suit. Tom Reade hesitated an instant, then away he flew at a
dead run.

Close to a tree Tom stopped, thrusting right hand in among the
bushes. Up and down his hand moved.

"Shoot and duck!" snarled Dolph, in a passion because of their
having been discovered.


Over by the ridge where Gage and his fellow rascals lay it looked
as though a volcano had started in operation on a small scale.

Fragments of rock, clouds of dirt, splinters and bits of brush
shot up in the air.

Following the report came a volley of terrific yells from Dolph
and his fellows.

They had been on the instant of firing when the big explosion
came. Jim Ferrers, too, was taking careful aim at the moment.

It is a law of Nature that whatever goes up debris, mixed with
larger pieces of rock and clots of earth, descended on the scene
of the explosion. Yet little of this flying stuff reached Dolph
Gage and his companions, for they were up and running despite
the mark that they thus presented to Ferrers.

Nor did the rascals stop running until they had reached distant cover.

"Stop it, Jim---don't shoot!" gasped Tom Reade, choking with laughter,
as Ferrers leaped to his feet, taking aim after the fugitives.

"I want Dolph Gage, while I've got a good, legal excuse," growled
Ferrers, glancing along rifle barrel at the forward sight.

"Don't think of shooting," panted Tom, darting forward and laying
a hand on the rifle barrel to spoil the guide's aim. "Jim, it
isn't sportsmanlike to shoot a fleeing enemy in the back! Fight
fair and square, Jim---if you must fight."

There was much in this to appeal to the guide's sense of honor and
fair play. Though scowled, he lowered the rifle.

"Tom, you everlasting joker, what happened?" demanded Harry Hazelton.

"You saw for yourself, didn't you?" retorted Reade.

"Yes; but-----"

"Are you so little of an engineer that you don't know a _mine_
when you see one, Harry?"

"But how did that mine come to be there?"

"I planted it."


"Today, when you started on your ride."


"You see, Harry, I was pondering away over mining problems this
morning. As you had the only horse, that was all that there was
left for me to do. Now, you must have noticed that most of the
outcropping rock around here is of a very refractory kind?"

"Yes," nodded Hazelton.

"Then, of course, you realize that for at least a hundred feet down
in the mine the rock that would be found would be the same."


"So, Harry, I was figuring on a way to blast ore rock out whenever
we should find refractory stuff down a shaft or in the galleries
or tunnels of a mine."

"Fine, isn't it?" retorted Hazelton. "A great scheme! You blast
out the rock and the force of the explosion shoots all the fine
particle of gold into the walls of the mine---just the way you'd
pepper a tree with birdshot!"

Mr. Dunlop had drawn close and now stood smiling broadly.

"That appears to be one on you, Reade," suggested the mine promoter.

"That's what I want to find out," returned Tom soberly; "whether
I'm a discoverer, or just a plain fool."

"What do you think about it?"

"Let's go and look at the ledge, and then I can tell you, sir,"
Reade answered, striding forward.

"Look out!" cautioned Joe Timmins. "Those hyenas will shoot.
They'll be sore over the trick you played on them, and they'll
be hiding waiting for a chance for a shot."

"Oh, bother the hyenas," Tom retorted, impatiently. "I'm out
for business today. Coming, Mr. Dunlop?" The mine operator showed
signs of hanging back.

Harry promptly joined his chum at what was left of the little ledge.
After a few moments Mr. Dunlop, seeing that no shots were fired,
stepped over there also, followed by his nephew. Jim Ferrers climbed
a tree, holding his rifle and keeping his eyes open for a shot,
while Timmins threw himself behind a rock, watching in the direction
that the four men had taken.

"This looks even better than I had expected," Tom explained, his
eyes glowing as he held up fragments of rock. "You see, the dynamite
charge was a low-power one. It just splintered the rock. There
wasn't so very much driving force to the explosion. Another time
I could make the force even lower."

"Here's gold in this bit of rock!" cried Harry, turning, his eyes

"Yes; but not enough to look promising," replied Mr. Dunlop, after
examining the specimen. "But we'll look through the rest of the
stuff that's loose."

The two men who had hung back soon joined them.

"I wouldn't care about filing a claim to it," Mr. Dunlop, shaking
his head after some further exploration. "This rock wouldn't
yield enough to the ton to make the work profitable."

"Just a little, outcropping streak, possibly from the claim that
I have below," was Mr. Dunlop's conclusion "By the way, Reade,
how did you explode the mine?"

"With a magneto," Tom explained, then ran and took the battery
from behind the tree from which he had fired it. "I buried the
wire, of course, so that no one would trip over it," he added.
"Just after I got it attended to Alf Drew happened along, looked
forlorn, and wanted a job. So I had almost forgotten the mine,
until I realized that the thing was planted right in front of
where Dolph Gage's crew were hidden. By the way, Jim, where is

"All the information I've got wouldn't send you two feet in the right
direction," the guide reported gruffly.

"And where are our tents and the other stuff?" Harry demanded.
"Gage's crew couldn't get far with them in the time they've had.
Shall we hustle after our property?"

"Yes," nodded Tom.

"At the momentary risk of being shot to pieces," added Mr. Dunlop,

"Those little chances go with being involved in a Nevada mining
dispute, don't they?" queried Reade.

"Where can we begin to look?" Harry pressed. "Let's scurry about
a bit. Surely men can't get away with tents without leaving some

Within two minutes they had the trail. Marks were discovered
that plainly had been made by dragging canvas and guy-ropes along
over the ground.

"We'll find our stuff soon," predicted Tom, striding along over
a rough trail. "The scoundrels didn't have a team, and they wouldn't
take the stuff far without other transportation than their own backs.
Hello! What's in there?"

Tom had detected some motions in a clump of brush.

"Look out!" warned Jim Ferrers, bringing his rifle to "ready."

But Tom darted straight into the brush.

"Then this is where you are?" demanded Tom dryly. He glanced down
at the cowering form of Alf Drew.

"So you've got the 'makings,' have you?" Reade demanded, seizing
Alf by the collar and yanking him up to his feet.

Paper and tobacco fell from young Drew's nerveless grasp to the

"You made me drop the makings of a good one," whined Alf resentfully.

"You didn't have that stuff two hours ago. Where did you get
it?" Reade demanded.

"Found it," half whimpered Drew.

"Do you expect me to believe any such fairy tales as that?" insisted
Tom Reade.

"If you have tobacco and cigarette papers," Tom continued, "then
some one gave the stuff to you. It was Dolph Gage, or one of
his rascals, wasn't it?"

"Don't know him," replied the boy, with a shake of his head.

"Now, don't try to fool me, Drew," warned Tom, with a mild shake
administered to the youngster's shoulders. "How much tobacco
have you?"

"A whole package," admitted Alf reluctantly, feeling that it would
be of no use to try to deceive his employer.

"And plenty of papers to go with it?"


"You got it from four men?"

"No; I didn't."

"Well, from one of four men, then? Tell me the truth."


"What did you do to please the four men?"

Alf Drew shifted uneasily from one foot to the other, and then back

"Come! Speak up!" Reade insisted sternly.

"You're wasting our time. What did you do for the four men?"

"I didn't do anything," Alf evaded.

"What did you tell them, then?" Reade wanted to know.

"They asked me a few questions."

"Of course; and you answered the questions."

"Well, I-----"

"What did the men want to know about?" pressed Tom, the look in his
eyes growing sterner still.

"They wanted to know how many men Jim Ferrers had," admitted the
Drew boy.

"Oh, I see," pondered Tom aloud, a half smile creeping into his
face. "They were guessing the size of Ferrers's army, were they?"

"I---I guess so," Alf replied.

"And you told them-----?"

"I told 'em the camp was made up of you and Mr. Hazelton, Jim
Ferrers and myself."

"And then they gave you the tobacco for cigarettes, did they?"

"I made 'em gimme that first," Alf retorted, a look of cunning
in his eyes.

"So, my bright little hero, you sold us out for a toy bale of
cigarettes, did you?" demanded Tom Reade, staring coldly down
at the shame-faced youngster.



"I---I didn't see how it could do any harm," sniveled young Drew.

"Perhaps it didn't," Tom admitted. "So far, it has resulted only
in our being ambushed and all but murdered. Now, where did they
take our tents and the other stuff?"

"I don't know," declared Alf. "Are the tents gone?" He answered
so promptly that Reade believed him.

"Very much so," replied Reade, releasing his grip on Drew's shoulder.
"Come on, friends, we'll hunt further."

"Say, what was that big explosion?" asked Alf, running after the
party when he found himself being left alone.

"No time to talk until we find our camp stuff," Tom called back
over his shoulder.

"I'll help you," proposed Alf eagerly.

"You're full of helpfulness," Reade jibed.

But Alf evidently preferred to stick to them. He ran along at
the heels of the last rapidly striding man. Joe Timmins was the
only one absent, he having remained at the camp site to keep a
watchful eye over the automobile.

Jim Ferrers was in the lead, his trained eyes searching the ground
for the trail of the tents.

Within five minutes the party came upon the tents and the food
supplies, all of which had been dumped into a thicket in confused

"We'll sort this out and get it back to camp," Tom proposed.
"Alf, little hero, redeem yourself by buckling down to a good
load. Come here; let me load you down."

Alf meekly submitted, cherishing a half hope that he would not
be discharged from his new position after all.

At the end of an hour the stuff had all been taken back and the
camp looked a good deal as it had looked that morning.

"Now, Alf," directed Tom in a milder, kinder tone, "you hustle
over and break your back helping Mr. Ferrers to get supper ready.
We're a famished lot. Understand?"

Alf was only too glad to be able to understand that his part in
the dismantling of the camp had been overlooked. While Tom and
Harry led their guests into one of the tents, young Drew hastened
over to where Jim Ferrers was starting a fire in the camp stove.

"Now, put that stuff back in your pockets, or I'll throw it in
the fire!" sounded the angry voice of Ferrers. "You can't use
any of that stuff when you're working around me."

"The poor little cigarette pest must have been trying to use his
newly acquired 'makings,'" grinned Tom.

While Ferrers was thus busied with preparation of the meal, Joe
Timmins had taken the guide's rifle and was keeping a watchful
eye over the approaches to the neighborhood.

"So you young men think you could serve me satisfactorily as engineers,"
questioned Mr. Dunlop.

"I think we could," Tom answered.

"But I am afraid you young men have a rather large notion as to the
pay you're worth," continued the mine promoter.

"That's right, sir," Reade nodded. "We have a good-sized idea
on the pay question. Now, when you go to Dugout City next you
might wire the president of the S.B. & L. railroad, at Denver,
or the president of the A.G. & N.M., at Tucson, Arizona, and
ask those gentlemen whether we are in the habit of making good on
large pay."

"How much will you young men want?"

"For work of this character," replied Tom, after a few moments
of thought, during which Harry Hazelton was silent, "we shall
want six hundred dollars a month, each, with two hundred dollars
apiece added for the fighting risk."

"The fighting risk?" questioned Mr. Dunlop.

"Well, we shall have Dolph Gage and his crowd to guard against, won't
we?" Reads counter-questioned.

"But such pay is absurd!" he protested.

"From your view-point, very likely, sir. From our view-point
it will be very ordinary compensation, and nothing but our desire
to learn more about mining will tempt us to go into it at the figure
we have named."

"Your price puts your services out of the question for my company,"
replied Mr. Dunlop, with a shake of his head.

"Very good, sir," Tom rejoined pleasantly. "No harm done, and
we need not talk it over any more. We wish you good luck in finding
proper engineers for your work. You will probably motor back to
Dugout tomorrow morning, won't you?"

"We'll have to," Mr. Dunlop answered. "We're not safe here until
we hire a few good men to come out here to keep Gage and his fellows
at a distance."

"That's true, sir," Tom nodded. "As you'll need a good many men
here by the time you start work on your mine you'll do well to
bring at least a score of them down at once. Twenty good, rough
men, used to this life and not afraid of bullets, ought to make
you feel wholly safe and secure on your own property."

There was more talk, but neither Tom nor Harry again referred
to their serving the new company as engineers.

In due course of time Jim Ferrers, with such help as Alf was able
to give, had supper ready to serve. It was a rough meal, of hard
tack, pilot bread, potatoes, canned meats and vegetables, but
outdoor life had given all a good appetite and the meal did not
long remain on the camp table.

For guard duty that night it was arranged that Jim Ferrers and
Joe Timmins should relieve each other. Tom also offered to stay
up with Ferrers, Harry taking the watch trick with Timmins, though
neither of the young engineers was armed or cared to be.

Harry and Timmins were to take the first watch. The others retired
early. Tom Reade was about to begin undressing when Hazelton came
in for a moment.

While the chums were chatting, Alf Drew's forlorn figure showed
at the doorway of the tent.

"Say, boss," complained Alf, "I haven't any place to sleep."

"What?" Reade demanded in pretended surprise, "with nearly all
the ground in Nevada at your disposal?"

"But that isn't a bed," contended Alf.

"Right you are there, lad" agreed Tom.

"Now, see here, boss, only one of you two is going to sleep at a
time tonight. I'm tired---I ache. Why can't I sleep on the other
cot in this tent?"

"Come here," ordered Tom.

Alf wonderingly advanced.

Whiff! whiff! moved the young engineer's nostrils.

"Just as I thought," sighed Reade. "You've been smoking cigarettes
without any let-up ever since supper."

"Well, I have ter," argued Drew.

"And now you smell as fragrant as a gas-house, Alf. Mr. Hazelton
is rather particular about the little matter of cleanliness.
If you were to sleep on his cot the smell of cigarettes would
be so strong that I don't believe Mr. Hazelton could stay on his
cot when it came his time to turn in."

"But say! If you knew how dead, dog-tired I am!" moaned Alf.

"Oh, let him sleep on my cot," interposed Harry, good-heartedly.
"If I can't stand the cot when I come to use it, then it won't
be the first night that I've slept on hard ground and rested well."

"All right, Alf, climb in," nodded Tom. "But see here. Cigarettes
make you as nervous as a lunatic. If you have any bad dreams
tonight, and begin yelling, then I'll rise and throw you outdoors.
Do you understand?"

"Yes," mumbled the boy. "But I won't dream. I'm not nervous
now. It's only when I can't get enough cigs that I'm nervous."

"You should have seen him this afternoon," Tom continued, turning
to his chum. "The lad and I took a walk. At every other step
he kept imagining that he heard rattlesnakes rattling."

"And I did, too," contended Alf stoutly. "You know I did. You
heard 'em yourself, Mr. Reade."

"I didn't hear a single rattler," Tom replied soberly.

"Let the tired little fellow go to bed in peace," urged Harry.

"All right," Tom agreed.

Alf went to the head of the cot, to turn the blanket down from
the head.

Click-ick-ick-ick! came the warning sound.

With a yell of terror Alf Drew bounded back.

"There's another rattler," he screamed. "It's under that blanket."

"It's all your nerves," Tom retorted. "There isn't a rattler
within miles of here."

"Didn't you hear a rattle, Mr. Reade?" wailed the cigarette fiend.

"No; I didn't."

"Didn't you, Mr. Hazelton?"

Harry was on the point of answering "yes," but Tom caught his
eyes, and Harry, knowing that something was up, shook his head.

"You must both be deaf, then," argued Drew.

"Why, see here, you nervous little wreck of a cigarette," said Tom,
grinning good-humoredly, "I'll show you that there is no snake in
that bed. Watch me."

With utmost unconcern, Tom took hold of the blanket, stripping
it from the cot. Then he ran his hands over the under blanket.

"Not a thing in this bed but what belongs here," Tom explained.
"Alf, do you see how cigarettes are taking the hinges off your

Shame-faced, and believing that Tom was right, Alf advanced toward
the cot. As he reached the side of it-----

Click-ick-ick! sounded close to him.

"You can't make me stay in this tent. It's the most dangerous
spot in Nevada," cried Drew, turning and fleeing into flee open.
The two chums could hear his feet as he sped to another part
of the camp.

"Some trick about that rattling?" queried Harry in a whisper.

"Of course," Tom admitted with a wink.

"It's a shame to tease the youngster so."

"It would be," Tom assented rather gravely, "but I'm using that
means to make the lad afraid to smoke cigarettes. If young Drew
goes on smoking the miserable little things he'll become come a
physical wreck inside of a year."

"How do you do the trick, anyway?" asked Harry curiously.

"Does it really sound like the click of a rattler?" asked Tom.

"Does it? I was 'stung' almost as badly as poor Alf was. How
do you do the trick?"

"I'll show you, some time," nodded Tom Reade.

With that promise Harry had to be content, and so must the reader,
for the present.

Hazelton went out to stand first watch with Joe Timmins. Alf
Drew, finding that the Dunlop party had no room for him under
the shelter they had rigged from the rear of the automobile, curled
himself on the ground under a tree and fitfully wooed sleep.
By daylight the little fellow was fretfully awake, his "nerves"
refusing him further rest until he had rolled and smoked two cigarettes.
By the time the smoke was over Jim Ferrers called to him to help
start the breakfast.

Nothing had been seen of the four intruders through the night.

"I think we shall try to get safely through to Dugout City this
morning," suggested Mr. Dunlop.

"You'll make it all right, if you have gasoline enough," remarked
Ferrers, who hovered close at hand with a frying pan filled with
crisp bacon.

"You don't believe Gage will try to attack us on the way?"

"He has no call to," replied Ferrers. "You're obeying him by
leaving the claim, aren't you?"

"Then probably Gage and his companions will settle down on the
claim after we leave," suggested Mr. Dunlop.

"If Gage tries to jump the claim in your absence," proposed Ferrers,
"your course is easy. If you have the legal right to the claim
you'll have to bring back force enough to drive those hyenas off."

"Will you people try to keep an eye over the claim while I'm gone?"
asked Mr. Dunlop.

"That would be a little out of our line," Tom made reply. "Besides,
Mr. Dunlop, I'm not at all sure that we shall be here until you

"But we haven't settled, Reade, whether you and your partner are
to be our engineers at the Bright Hope Mine."

"Quite true, sir," nodded Tom. "On the other hand, you haven't
engaged us, either"

"Won't you keep the matter open until our return?"

"That would be hardly good business, Mr. Dunlop."

"Yet suppose I had engaged you,"

"Then we'd be going back to Dugout City with you."

"Why, Reade?"

"So that we might get in touch with the world and find out whether
you are financially responsible. We wouldn't take an engagement
without being reasonably sure of our money."

"You're a sharp one," laughed Mr. Dunlop.

Yet he made no further reference to engaging the two young engineers,
a fact that Reade was keen enough to note.

Within an hour after breakfast the Dunlop ear pulled out, leaving
Tom Reade with only his own party.

"What our friend wants," smiled Harry, "is a pair of mining engineers
at the salary of one mere surveyor."

"He won't pay any more than he has to," rejoined Reade.

"Do you really want to work for Dunlop?"

"I really don't care a straw whether I do or not," was Tom's answer.
"Harry, we're in the very heart of the gold country and we don't

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