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The Young Engineers in Nevada by H. Irving Hancock

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need to work for copper pennies."

"If you'll allow me to say so, friends," put in Jim Ferrers, "I
believe you two are the original pair with long heads and I'm going
to stick to you as long as you'll let me."

"Me, too," piped up Alf Drew ungrammatically.

The young cigarette fiend was at that instant engaged in rolling
one of his paper abominations.


"Rattlers again!" shivered Alf.

Paper and tobacco fell from his fingers and he fled in terror.



Two nights passed without adventure. On each of these nights
the three campers---for Alf didn't "count" divided the hours
of darkness into three watches, each standing guard in his turn.
On the third morning after the departure of the Bright Hope
group the campers were seated at breakfast around the packing
case that served as table.

"I feel as though we ought to be at work," suggested Hazelton.

"Good!" mocked Tom. "You've been riding every day lately, and
I have remained in camp, testing samples of ore that I've picked
up on my strolls."

"You take the horse today," proposed Harry, "and I'll stay in
camp and work."

"Suppose both of us stay in and work," proposed Reade.

"That'll be all right, too," nodded Harry, pleasantly. "May I
ask, Tom, what you're up to, anyway?"

"Yes," Reade smiled. "If the Bright Hope is a real mine there
must be other good property in this region. I've been looking
about, and making an assay every now and then. Jim, you've prospected
a bit, haven't you?"

"Yes," nodded the guide. "And, gentlemen, in my day I've been
sole owner of three claims, each one of which panned out a fortune."

"Great!" glowed Harry. "But how did you lose your money, Jim!"

"I never got a cent out of any of the mines," rejoined the guide

"How did that happen?"

"Did you ever hear of 'square gamblers'?" inquired Ferrers.

"Some," Tom admitted with a grimace. "We ran up against one of
that brood in Arizona, eh, Harry?"

"You didn't play against him, I hope, hinted Jim soberly.

"Yes, we did," admitted Tom. "Not with his own marked cards,
though, nor with any kind of cards. We met him with men's weapons,
and it is necessary to add that our 'square gambler' lost."

"The 'square gamblers' that I met didn't lose," sighed Jim Ferrers.
"They won, and that's why all three of my mines passed out of my
hands before they began to pay."

"You must know something about ore and croppings, and the like,
Jim?", Tom continued.

"In a prospector's way, yes," Ferrers admitted.

"Then we'll take a walk, now. Alf can wash up the dishes."

"It's all the little wretch is fit for," muttered Ferrers

Jim looked carefully into the magazine of his repeating ride, then
saw to it that his ammunition belt was filled.

"Ready when you gentlemen are," he announced.

"Say, won't you take me with you?" pleaded Alf.

"You wouldn't be of any use to us," Reade answered.

"But I---I am afraid to stay here alone."

"Do you believe yourself to be so valuable that any one will want
to steal you?" Tom laughed.

Alf made a wry face and watched the others depart. Then, filled
with needless alarm, he crawled out into a thicket and hid himself.
He didn't mean to be trapped by prowlers!

Tom led the way for nearly a mile. At last the trio climbed a
slight ascent, halting at the top of the ridge.

"You see, Jim," Tom explained, "this ridge runs southwesterly
from here."

"I see it does?" nodded the guide.

"Now, to the northeastward I don't believe there are any croppings
that look good enough. But just keep along to the southeast,
picking up a specimen here and there. Some of the rock looks
good to me."

Jim Ferrers didn't answer in words, though his eyes gleamed with the
old fever that he had known before.

"Here's a pretty piece of stone," called the guide in a low tone.
He stood holding a fragment about as big as his two fists.

"It's streaked" pretty well with yellow, you see, gentlemen,"
he remarked;

"It is," Tom agreed, taking the specimen.

"Does the vein run with the top of the ridge?" demanded Harry

"It runs a little more to eastward, from this point, I think,"
Tom made answer. "But let us walk along, in three parallel lines,
and see who finds the best indications."

By noon all three were fairly tired out by the steep climbing
over the rocky ground. Each had as many specimens as he could
carry. The result of the exploration had tended to confirm Tom's
notion as to where the vein lay.

"Now, let's see about where we'd stake the claim," Tom proposed.
"Of course, we want to get the best rock obtainable. We don't
want to leave the best part of this slope for some one else to
stake out. It seems to me that the claim ought to start up by
that blasted tree. What do you say, Jim?"

"Well, I don't like to make mistakes where you young gentleman
are concerned," Ferrers answered, taking off his felt hat and
scratching his head. "You see, it isn't my claim."

"The dickens it isn't!" Reade retorted.

"Why, you---you gentlemen didn't plan to take me in, did you,"
asked Ferrers, opening his eyes very wide in his amazement over
the idea. "You see I---I can't contribute my share of the brains,
along with a pair like you," continued the guide. "Look at you
two---engineers already! Then look at me---more'n twice as old
as either of you, and yet I'm only a cook."

"You're an honest man, aren't you, Jim?" demanded Reade.

"Why, there's some folks who say I am," Ferrers slowly admitted.

"And we're among those who believe that way," Tom continued.
"Now, Jim, you're with us, and you've every right to be a partner
if we find anything worth taking up in the mine line."

"But there ain't no sense in it," protested the guide, his voice
shaking with emotion. "You don't need me."

"We need a man of your kind, Jim," Tom rejoined, resting a very
friendly hand on the guide's shoulder. "Listen to me. Hazelton
and I are engineers first of all. We'd sooner be engineers than
kings. Now, the lure of gold is all well enough, and we're human
enough to like money. Yet a really big engineering chance would
take us away from a gold mine almost any day in the year. Eh,

"I'm afraid it would," confirmed Hazelton.

"If we left a paying mine, Jim, what would we want?" Tom continued.
"We'd want an honest partner, wouldn't we---one whom we could
leave for six months or a year and still be able to depend on
getting our share of the profits of the mine. You've gambled
in the past, Jim, but you stopped that years ago. Now you're
honest and safe. Do you begin to see, Jim Ferrers, where you
come in? Another point. How old do you take us to be?"

"Well, you're more than twenty-one, each of you," replied Ferrers.

"Not quite, as yet," Tom answered. "So, you see, in order to
take out a claim we'd need a guardian, and one whom we could depend
upon not to rob us. Jim, if we're to take up a mine we must have
a third man in with us. Do you know a man anywhere who'd use
us more honestly than you would?"

"I don't," exclaimed Jim Ferrers. "At the same time, gentlemen,
I know your kind well enough. Both of you talk of fighting as
though you dreaded it, but I'll tell you, gentlemen, that I wouldn't
_dare_ to try any nasty tricks on either of you."

"We understand each other, then," Tom nodded. "Now, then, let
us try to make up our minds just where we would want to stake
off this claim if the gold assays as well as it looks."

At the beginning Tom and Harry built a little pile of stones.
Then, by mere pacing they laid off what they judged to be the
fifteen hundred feet of length which the government allows to
a single mining claim.

"We can attend to the proper width later," suggested Tom. "Now,
what do you say if we make for camp at once. I'm not hungry;
still, I think I could eat my half of a baked ox."

The instant that the trio reached camp, Jim Ferrers, with an unwonted
mist in his eyes, began to juggle the cooking utensils. Tom busied
himself with building the best fire that he could under the chamber
of the assaying furnace, while Harry Hazelton, rolling up his
sleeves, began to demonstrate his muscle by pulverizing little
piles of ore in a hand-mill.

"Be careful not to mix the lots, Harry," advised Tom, glancing
over from his station by the furnace.

"Thanks for the caution," smiled Hazelton. "But I have just enough
intelligence left to understand the value of knowing from what
section of the slope each particular lot of rock comes."

Dinner was eaten in silence. For one thing the campers were
ravenously hungry. In the second place, though each kept as quiet
as possible, he was deep in the thrall of the fever to dig up
hidden gold.

The meal was nearly over when Alf Drew came into camp.

"Are you leaving anything to eat?" he asked.

"Maybe," said Jim Ferrers grimly, "but you were left to wash the
breakfast dishes, and you haven't done it yet. Now, you'll wash the
breakfast things, and then the dinner things, before you get even a
cold bite to eat."

Alf didn't protest. Now that he was back safe in camp he felt
much ashamed of himself for having run away and left the camp

As soon as he had eaten his dinner Tom Reade went back to the
assay furnace to improve the fire.

"Now, Harry, we'll get the powdered stuff ready to roast," Reade
remarked. "We've a lot of it to rush through this afternoon."

"And we want to be sure to finish it at least two hours before
dark, too," Larry nodded. "If we decide to file a claim Jim ought
to be riding for Dugout City by dark, ready to file the papers
the first thing in the morning."

"And Jim can bring back half a dozen men to help us sink the first
shaft," proposed Tom.

"That's where I feel like a fool," muttered Ferrers. "I haven't
a blessed dollar to put in as capital."

"We'll take your honesty for a good deal in the way of capital,
Jim," Tom hinted cheerfully.

"Harry, you might get out the transit, the tape, markers and other
things. If we stake out a claim we'll do it so accurately that there
can be no fight, afterward, as to the real boundaries of our claim."

"What shall we call the claim?" inquired Hazelton, as he came
back with the surveying outfit.

"Suppose we wait until the assay is done, and find out whether
the claim is worth anything better than a bad name," laughed Tom.

The crucibles were in the furnace now, and a hot flame going.
Jim Ferrers sat by, puffing reflectively at his pipe as he squatted
on the ground nearby. Alf Drew was smoking, too, somewhere, but
he had taken his offensive cigarettes to some place of concealment.

Harry anxiously watched the course of the sun, while Tom kept
his gaze, most of the time, near the furnace.

"Come on, Harry!" called Tom at last. "We'd rake out the crucibles.
My, but I hope the buttons are going to be worth weighing."

A withering blast of hot air reached the young engineers as the
oven door of the portable assay furnace was thrown open. The
crucibles were raked out and set in the air to cool.

"Would fanning the crucibles with my hat do any good?" asked Hazelton

"Some," yawned Tom, "if you're impatient."

Reade strolled off under the trees, whistling softly to himself.
Jim Ferrers smoked a little faster, the only sign he gave of
the anxiety that was consuming him. Harry frequently sprang to
his feet, walked up and down rapidly, then sat down again. Two
or three times Hazelton burned his fingers, testing to see whether
the crucibles were cool enough to handle. At last Tom strolled
back, his gaze on the dial of his watch.

"Cool enough for a look, now, I think," Reade announced.

Harry bounded eagerly toward the crucibles, feeling them with
his hands.

"Plenty cool enough," he reported. "But how did you guess, Tom?"

"I didn't guess," Reade laughed. "I've timed the crucibles before
this, and I know to a minute how long it ought to take."

"What a chump I am!" growled Harry, in contempt for self. "I
never think of such things as that."

Tom now carefully emptied the crucibles. In the bottom of each
was found a tiny bead of half-lustrous metal, which miners and
assayers term the "button."

"The real stuff!" glowed Hazelton.

"Ye-es," said Tom slowly. "But the next question is whether the
buttons will weigh enough to hint at good-paying ore. Even at
that, these buttons are only from surface ore."

"But the ore underneath is always better than the surface ore,"
contended Hazelton.

"Usually is," Tom corrected. "If we get good enough results from
this assay it will at least be worth while to stake a claim and
work it for a while."

Harry waited with feverish impatience. Tom Reade, on the other
hand, was almost provokingly slow and cool as he carefully adjusted
the sensitive assaying balance and finally weighed the buttons.
Then he did some slow, painstaking calculating. At last he looked up.

"Well, sir?" asked Jim Ferrers.

"From this surface ore," replied Tom calmly, "twenty-eight dollars
in gold to the ton; silver, six dollars."

"That's good enough for me!" cried Ferrers, his eyes brightening.

"Wow! Whoop! Oh---whee!" vented Harry, then ran and snatched
up the surveying transit.

"Yes; I guess we'd better go along and do our staking," assented Tom.

"And I'll be ready at daylight to file the claim at Dugout City,"
promised Jim. "I won't sleep until I've seen our papers filed."

"You'll file the claim in your own name, Jim," Tom suddenly suggested.

"No; I won't," retorted Ferrers. "I'll play squarely."

"That will be doing squarely by us, Jim," Tom continued. "We
don't want to use up our claim privileges on one stretch of Nevada

If we can find claims enough we'll stake out three, and then pool
them all together in a gentlemen's agreement."

"That's a good deal of trust you're showing in me, gentlemen," said
Jim huskily.

"Never mind, Jim," returned Reade quietly. "You can show us, you
know, that we didn't waste our confidence."

While they were still talking the three came in sight of the ridge.

"Look there!" gasped Harry suddenly.

"Dolph Gage and his tin-horn crowd!" flared Jim Ferrers, in anger.
"Hang the fellow! This time I'll-----"

"Stop fingering your rifle, Jim," ordered Reade. "Remember, nothing
like fighting! If they haven't filed notice in due form on the claim,
we're safe yet. If they have-----"

"Look!" hissed Ferrers.

At that moment Dolph Gage could be seen nailing a sheet of white
paper to a board driven into the soil.

"We've staked what you want, I reckon!" bellowed Gage laconically.
"Staked it in due form, too, if you want to know."

"I guess we've lost that claim," said Tom slowly.

"Have we?" hissed Jim Ferrers.



"Keep off this ground!" yelled Dolph Gage, snatching up his rifle.

"Stop that nonsense," Tom bellowed back in his own lusty voice.

"You've no right on this ground."

"Yes, we have, if you want to know," Tom continued. "You haven't
filed your papers at Dugout yet."

"How do you know we haven't?"

"I'll take a chance on it," smiled Tom amiably, as he and his
companions continued to walk nearer.

Jim Ferrers held his rifle so that it would take him but an instant
to swing it into action if the need came.

"If you've filed your papers for this claim" Tom continued, lowering
his voice somewhat as they drew nearer to the four rascals. "Have
you any such paper to show us?"

"Perhaps not," growled Dolph Gage, his evil eyes seeming to shoot
flame. "But we've got our notice of claim nailed up here. We
got it here first, and now you can't file any mining entry at
Dugout City for this bit o' ground."

"Not if your notice is written in the prescribed language," Tom

"Well, it is. Now, keep off this ground, or we'll shoot you so
full of holes that you'll all three pass for tolerable lead mines!"

"If you don't shoot and make a good job of it," Reade insisted,
"I'm going to look over your notice of claim and see whether it's
worded in a way that will hold in law."

"Drop 'em, boys! Don't let 'em near!" roared Dolph Gage, swinging
his rifle as though to bring it to his shoulder.

But Jim Ferrers had forestalled him. The guide was gazing at his
enemy through his rifle sights.

"Drop your weapon, Dolph Gage, and do it blazing quick, or I'll
shoot you where you stand!" sounded Jim's voice, low and businesslike.
"If any of you other galoots tries to raise his weapon I'll turn
and drop him."

As Jim Ferrers had a reputation in Nevada as a rifle shot the
others hesitated, then let their rifles drop to the ground.

"Hold them to their present good intentions, Jim," said Tom, with
a smile, as he continued to move forward. "Now, Mr. Gage---I
believe that's your name let me see what kind of notice you know
how to draw up."

"There 'tis," muttered Dolph sullenly, pointing to the board.

Tom read the notice through under his breath, word by word.

"You've done this sort of thing before, I guess, Gage," said Reade

"You bet I have. Find it all reg'lar, too, don't you?"

"As nearly as I can tell, it is," agreed Tom.

"And the claim is ours."

"It's yours if you file the formal papers soon enough."

"They'll be filed first thing tomorrow morning," grunted Dolph
Gage. "Now, try a two-step off the dirt that goes with this claim."

"Not until I've seen the borders that you claim," Tom rejoined.

"Why!" demanded Gage cunningly. "Going to start your claim right
at the corners of ours."

"If you'll pardon me," Reade smiled, "I don't believe I'll tell
you anything about my intentions."

"Maybe you think this claim is a pretty valuable one," Gage insinuated.

"I didn't say so."

"But you would have staked if we hadn't done it first."

"That's what you've got to guess," smiled Reade.

"Say, now you've lost this claim, tell us some thing straight,
won't youth begged Dolph.

"Tell you something straight?" repeated Tom. "Certainly. I'll tell
you something just as straight as I know how,"

"Well," he said, at last, "you said you'd tell us something straight."

"And so I will," laughed Tom. "It's just this: Go to blazes!"

"Come, now, don't get fresh, kid!" warned Dolph angrily. "If
we're going to be on neighboring claims you may find it a heap
to your advantage to use us about half-way decent and polite."

Tom didn't answer at once. He was rapidly covering the statement
of location from the paper nailed to the board.

"You fellows picked up a lot of ore stuff around here," continued
Dolph Gage.

"Yes?" Tom inquired. "Did you see us?"

"Yes, and we also saw you making an assay."

"You did."

"Of course we did. Say, friend, how did that assay come out?"

"It came out of the furnace," Tom answered still writing.

"'Course it did. But say, how did that assay read?"

"Read?" repeated Tom. "Why, bless me, I never knew that an assay
could read."

"You know what I meant, younker. How did it figger?"

"To the best of my belief," said Tom, "an assay is as much unable
to figure as it is to read."

"Don't waste any more time on the kid, Dolph," growled another
of the group. "He won't tell you anything that you want to know."

"If he doesn't" rejoined Gage, "maybe he'll miss something. See
here---Reade's your name, isn't it?"

"You've got that much of your information straight," assented
Tom, looking up with a smile.

"Well, Reade, maybe you'd better be a bit more polite and sociable.
You've missed staking this claim, but I think we can fix it to give
you a job here as engineer."

"That would be very kind of you, I'm sure," nodded Tom. "But I
can't undertake any work for you."

"Then you'll lose some money."

"I'm used to losing money," smiled Tom. "As for my partner, he's a
real wonder in the way of losing money. He lost ten cents yesterday."

"We've got a fine claim," asserted Dolph Gage. It's right under
our feet, and there isn't another such claim in Nevada. Now,
if you two want to make any real money you'd better begin to be
decent with us right now. Otherwise, you won't get the job.
Now, what do you say?"

"I vote for 'otherwise,'" laughed Reade, turning on his heel.

"Oh, you run along and be independent, then," called Dolph Gage
after him. "If you're going to stick the winter through on this
Range you'll be hungry once or twice between now and spring, if
you don't take the trouble to get in right with us."

"Why?" questioned Reade, halting and looking squarely back. "Do
you steal food, too?"

Once More Tom turned on his heel. Harry walked along with him.
Jim Ferrers all but walked backward, holding his rifle ready
and keeping a keen eye over the claim stealers.

"Come along, Jim," called Tom at last. "Those fellows won't do
any shooting. Their minds are now set on their new claim. They
expect to dig out gold enough to enable them to buy two or three
banks. They won't shoot unless they're driven to it."

Jim Ferrers turned and walked with the boys.

Fifteen seconds later a rifle cracked out behind them, the bullet
striking the dirt well to the left of Tom's party.

"It's a bluff, Jim, and-----" began Reade.

Crack! spoke Ferrers's ride.

"I knocked Gage's hat off," said the guide dryly. "Now, if he
fires again, it'll show that he's looking for trouble."

"The fellow who goes looking for trouble is always a fool," Tom

"Because trouble is the most worthless thing in the world, yet
a fellow who goes looking for it is always sure to find twice
as much as he thought he wanted."

By the time the young engineers had reached their own camp, Harry,
whose face had been growing gradually "longer" on the walk, sank
to the ground in an attitude of dejection.

"Just our luck!" he growled. "Gage is right when he says that
claim is the best in this part of Nevada. And, just because we
were too slow, we lost it. Fortune, you know, Tom, knocks but
once at any man's door."

"I don't believe that," said Tom stoutly. "Harry, now that we've
made a start and lost, my mind is made up as to our course now.
I hope you'll agree with me."

"What is it?" Hazelton asked.

"Harry, old fellow, we'll turn mining engineers in earnest for
the present. We'll engineer our own mines, with Jim for a partner.
Harry, we'll get up our muscle with pickaxes. We'll stake our
fortunes on the turn of a pick!"



"You mean it, do you?" asked Hazelton, after a pause of a few moments.

"I never meant anything more in my life!"

"Then, of course, I'll agree to it, Tom. If I go astray, it'll be
the first time that I ever went wrong through following your advice."

"And you're with us, Ferrers?" inquired Tom, looking around.

"Gentlemen," spoke the guide feelingly, "after the way you've
used me, and the way you've talked to me, I'm with you in anything,
and I can wait a month, any time, to find out what that 'anything'
means. Just give me your orders."

"Orders are not given to partners," Tom told him.

"Orders go with _this_ partner," Jim asserted gravely. "And,
gentlemen, if we make any money, just hand me what you call my
share and I'll never ask any questions."

"Jim, we're going in for mining," Tom continued. "I can speak
for Mr. Hazelton now, for he has authorized me to do so. Mining
it is, Jim, but we three are young and tender, and not expert
with pickaxes. We'd better have some experts. Can you pick up
at least six real miners at Dugout City?"

"A feller usually can," Ferrers replied.

"Then if you'll put in a good part of tonight riding, tomorrow
you can do your best to pick up the men. Get the kind, Jim, who
don't balk at bullets when they have to face 'em, for we've a
hornets' nest over yonder. Get sober, level-headed fellows who
know how to fight---men of good judgment and nerve. Pay 'em what's
right. You know the state of wages around here. While you're
at Dugout, Jim, pick out a two-mule team and a good, dependable
wagon for carting supplies. Put all the chuck aboard that you
think we'll need for the next two or three weeks. I'll give you,
also, a list of digging tools and some of the explosives that
we'll need in shaft sinking. While you're in Dugout, Jim, pick
up two good ponies, with saddles and bridles. I guess I'd better
write down some of these instructions, hadn't I?"

"And write down the street corner where I'm to pick up the money,
Mr. Reade," begged Ferrers dryly. "You can't do much in the credit
line in Nevada."

"The street corner where you're to find the money, eh, Jim?" smiled
Tom. "Yes; I believe I can do that, too. You know the map of
Dugout, don't you?"


"You know where to find the corner of Palace Avenue and Mission


"On one of those four corners," Tom continued, "you'll find the
Dugout City Bank."

"I've seen the place," nodded Ferrers, "but I never had any money
in it."

"You will have, one of these days," smiled Tom, taking out a fountain
pen and shaking it. Next he drew a small, oblong book from an
inside pocket, and commenced writing on one of the pages. This
page he tore out and handed Ferrers.

"What's this?" queried the guide.

"That's an order on the Dugout City Bank to hand you one thousand

Ferrers stared at the piece of paper incredulously.

"What'll the feller pay me in?" he demanded. "Lead at twelve cents
a pound? And say, will he hand me the lead out of an automatic gun?"

"If the paying teller serves you that way," rejoined Reade, "you'll
have a right to feel peevish about it. But he won't. Hazelton
and I have the money in bank to stand behind that check."

"You have?" inquired Ferrers, opening his eyes wide. "Fellers
at your age have that much money in banks"

"And more, too," Tom nodded. "Did you think, Jim, that we had
never earned any money?"

"Well, I didn't know that you probably made more'n eighteen or
twenty dollars a week," Ferrers declared.

"We've made slightly more than that, with two good railroad jobs
behind us," Tom laughed. "And here's our firm pass-book at the
bank, Jim. You'll see by it that we have a good deal more than
a thousand dollars there. Now, you draw the thousand that the
check calls for. When you're through you may have some money
left. If you do, turn the money in at the bank, have it entered
on the pass-book and then bring the book to me."

"I'll have to think this over," muttered Ferrers, "and you'd better
set down most of it in writing so that I won't forget."

The smoke from the cook fire brought Alf Drew in from hiding, his
finger-tips stained brown as usual.

"Now, see here, young man," said Tom gravely, "there is no objection
to your taking some of your time off with your 'makings,' but
Ferrers is going away, and you must stay around more for the next
two or three days. Otherwise, there won't be any meals or any
payday coming to you."

"Is Mr. Ferrers going to Dugout City?" asked Alf, with sudden


"Say, I'll work mighty hard if you'll advance me fifty cents and
let me get an errand done by Mr. Ferrers."

"Here's the money," smiled Tom, passing over the half dollar.

Alf was in such haste that he forgot to express his thanks. Racing
over to Jim the little fellow said something in a very low voice.

"No; I won't!" roared Ferrers. "Nothing of the sort!"

"Does he want you to get the 'makings,' Jim!" called Tom.

"Yes; but I won't do it," the guide retorted.

"Please do," asked Tom.

"What? _You_ ask me to do it, sir? Then all right. I will."

"What do you want to do that for?" murmured Harry.

"Let the poor little runt have his 'makings,' if he wants," Tom
proposed. "But I don't believe that Alf will smoke the little white
pests very much longer."

"You're going to stop him?"

"I'm going to make him want to stop it himself," Tom rejoined,
with a slight grin.

Alf came back, looking much pleased.

"Let me feel your pulse," requested Reade. "Now, let me see your

This much accomplished, Tom next turned down the under lid of
one of young Drew's eyes and gazed at the lack of red there displayed.

"I see," remarked Reade gravely, "that your nerves are going all
to pieces."

"I feel fine," asserted Alf stolidly.

"You must, with your nerves in the state I now find them," retorted
the young engineer. "Next thing I know you'll be hearing things."


"Wow-ow-wow!" shrieked Alf Drew, bounding some ten feet away from the
low bush near which he had been standing.


"Get away from that bush, Mr. Reade!" howled the young cigarette
fiend. "That rattler will bite you, if you don't."

"I didn't hear any rattler," said Tom gravely. "Did you, Harry?"

"Not a rattle," said Hazelton soberly.

Jim Ferrers looked on and grinned behind Alf's back. The youngster
was trembling. As Tom came near him the "rattle" sounded again.
Within five minutes two more warning "rattles" had been heard near
the boy.

"The camp must be full of 'em," wailed the terrified boy. "And
I'm afraid of rattlers."

"So am I, Alf," Tom assured him, "but I haven't heard one of the
reptiles. The trouble is with your nerves, Drew. And your nerves
are in league with your brain. If you go on smoking cigarettes
you won't have any brain. Or, if you do, it will be one that
will have you howling with fear all the time. Why don't you drop
the miserable things when you find they're driving you out of
your heads"

"Perh-h-h-haps I will," muttered the boy.

After an early supper, Jim Ferrers rode away. He offered to leave
his rifle in camp, but Tom protested.

"I'd feel responsible for the thing if you left it here, you know,
Jim. And I don't want to have to keep toting it around all the
time you're away."

"But suppose Dolph Gage and his crew come over here, and you're
not armed?"

"Then I'll own up that we haven't anything to shoot with, and
ask him to call again," Tom laughed. "But don't be afraid, Jim.
Gage and his crew will be anxious, for the next few days, to
see whether they can coax us into serving them. They need an
engineer over at their stolen claim, and they know it."

So Ferrers rode away, carrying his rifle across his saddle.

Alf spent an evening of terror, for the ground around the camp
appeared to be full of "rattlers".



As Tom had surmised, Dolph Gage was anxious to become friends with
the young engineers.

"They're only kids," Dolph explained to his comrades, "but I've
heard that they know their business. If we can get their help
for a month, then when they hand in their bill we can give them
a wooden check on a cloud bank."

"Their bill would be a claim against our mine wouldn't it?" asked
one of the other men.

"Maybe," Dolph assented. "But, if they try to press it, we can
pay it with lead coin."

The morning after Jim had gone, one of Gage's companions stalked
into camp.

"The boss wants to see you," said this messenger.

"Whose boss?" Tom inquired.

"Well, maybe he's yours," scowled the messenger. "And maybe you'll
be sorry if you fool with him."

"I? Fool with Gage?" inquired Reade, opening his eyes in pretended
astonishment. "My dear fellow, I've no intention of doing anything
of the sort."

"Then you'll come over to our camp, right away?"

"Nothing like it," Tom replied. "Kindly present my compliments
to your boss, and tell him that I have another appointment for

"You'd better come over," warned the fellow.

"You heard what I said, didn't you?" Reade inquired.

"There'll sure be trouble," insisted the fellow, scowling darkly.

"There's always trouble for those who are looking for it," Tom
rejoined smilingly. "Is Dolph Gage hunting it?"

"You'll find out, if you don't come over!"

"Really," argued Reade, "we've disposed of that subject, my dear
fellow. Have you any other business here! If not, you'll excuse
us. Mr. Hazelton and I are to be gone for the day."

"Going prospecting?"

"We're going minding," smiled Reade.

"Mining?" repeated the visitor. "Mining what?"

"We are going off to mind our own business," Tom drawled. "Good

"Then you're not coming over to our place?"

"No!" shouted Harry Hazelton, losing patience. "What do you want?"

"As you will observe, friend," suggested Tom, smiling at the messenger,
"my partner has well mastered the lesson that a soft answer is
a soother."

"Are you going to leave our camp?" Harry demanded, as the visitor
squatted on the ground.

"If you two are going away," scowled the other, "you'll need some one
to stay and watch the camp. I'll stay for you."

"Come on, Harry!" Tom called, starting away under the trees.
Alf Drew had already gone. Breakfast being over the young cigarette
fiend had no notion of staying in camp for a share in any trouble
that might be brewing.

"Why on earth are you leaving the camp at that fellow's mercy?"
quivered Harry indignantly, as he and Tom got just out of earshot
of the visitor.

"Because I suspect," Reade returned, "that he and his crowd want
to steal our assaying outfit."

"And you're leaving the coast clear for that purpose?" Hazelton
gasped in high dudgeon.

"Now, Harry, is that all you know about me?" questioned his partner,
reproachfully. "Listen. Around here you'll find plenty of stones
of a throwing size. Just fill your pockets, your hands---your
hat. Creep in close to camp and hide. If you see 'Mr. Sulky'
poking his nose into anything in our camp---the furnace, for instance,
or the assay balance, then just drop a stone so near to him that
it will make him jump. Be careful that you don't drop a stone
on that balance. You used to be a pretty fair pitcher, and I
believe you can drop a stone where you want."

"And what will you be doing?" asked Harry curiously.

"Oh, I'll be keeping out of harm's way, I promise you," laughed
Tom Reade.

"Humph! Yes, it would be like you to put me into danger and to
leave yourself out of it, wouldn't it?" mocked Harry Hazelton,

"Well, I'll try to make good use of my time, Harry, old fellow.
For one thing, if you haunt camp and keep Gage's crowd busy,
then you'll keep them from following or watching me. Don't you

"No; I don't see," grunted Hazelton. "But what I do suspect is
that you have something up your sleeve that I may not find out
for two or three days to come. Yet, whatever it is, it will be
for our mutual good. I can depend upon you, Tom Reade! Go ahead;
go as far as you like."

"Get the stones gathered up, then, and get back to camp," counseled
Reade. "Don't lose too much time about it, for Gage's rascal
may be able to do a lot of harm in the two or three minutes that
you might be late in getting back."

Harry industriously picked up stones. Hardly had he started when
Tom Reade silently vanished.

"Well, I'm glad, anyway, that Tom doesn't want us both away from
camp while he's doing something," reflected Hazelton, as he began
to move cautiously back. "There wouldn't be any camp by noon
if we were both away."

Even before he secured his first glimpse of camp, Harry heard
some one moving about there.

"The rascal must feel pretty sure that we're both fools enough
to be away," quivered Hazelton indignantly. "What on earth is
he doing, anyway?"

Then the young engineer crawled in close enough to get an excellent
view of what was going on.

"Well, of all the impudence!" choked Harry, balancing a stone
nicely in his right hand.

First of all the visitor had rounded up all the firewood into
one heap. Now, to this combustible material the fellow was bringing
a side of bacon and a small bag of flour. These he dropped on
the firewood, then went back for more of the camp's food supply.

"Just wait," scowled Hazelton. "Oh, my fine fellow, I'll make
your hands too hot for holding other people's property!"

Over the brush arched a stone. Hazelton had been a pitcher in
his high school days, and no mistake. The descending stone fell
smack across the back of the fellow's right hand.

"That's right! Howl!" cried Harry, exultantly. "Now, for a surprise."

The second stone flew with better speed, carrying away the fellow's
hat without hitting his head.

"Hey, you, stop that!" roared the fellow.

From behind the bushes all was quiet. The camp prowler stood
up straight, staring to see whence the next stone would come.
After nearly two minutes he bent to pick up the case of biscuit
that he had dropped.

Smack! Even as his nearer hand touched the box a sharp stone
struck the back of that hand, cutting a gash and causing the blood
to spurt.

"I'll have your scalp for that!" howled the enraged man. Making
a pretty good guess at the direction from which the stone had
come, the fellow started toward the brush on a run.

"Here's where you get all of yours!" chuckled Harry Hazelton.
Still crouching he let three stones fly one after the other.
The first struck the prowler in the mouth, the second on the
end of the nose and the third over the pit of his stomach.

"You two-legged Gatling gun!" howled the fellow, shaking with
rage and pain. He halted, shaking his fist in the direction from
which the stones had come.

Another lot of stones flew toward him. The prowler waited no
longer, but turned, making for Gage's camp as fast as he could go.

"That ought to hold those rascals for a little while," speculated
Harry. "But, of course, there'll be a come-back. What'll they
do to me now, I wonder?"

By way of precaution Hazelton cautiously shifted to another hiding
place. Within fifteen minutes he saw the same prowler stealing
back into camp. When the fellow was near enough, Harry let fly
a stone that dropped near the rascal's toes.

"Hey, you stop that, or I'll make you wish you had!" roared the
fellow, shaking his fist.

Harry's answer was to drive two more stones in, sending them close
to the fellow, yet without hitting him.

Again the man shouted at him, though he did not attempt to come
any nearer to so expert a thrower of stones.

Then, suddenly, just behind him, Harry Hazelton heard a sound.
In the next instant two men hurled themselves upon the young
engineer, pinning him to the ground.

"I ought to have suspected this!" grunted Harry inwardly, as he
fought back with all his strength. He might have succeeded in
slipping away from the two men who sought to pin him down, but
the third man, still aching from contact with Harry's missiles,
now darted into the scrimmage, striking several hard blows. Harry
was presently conquered and tied.

"Take the cub to his own camp!" sounded the exultant voice of
Dolph Gage. "With one of the pair tied, it won't be hard to
handle the other whenever he happens along."



"Take another hitch of rope around that young steer," Dolph ordered,
after he had flung Harry violently to the ground.

"He wont get away as he is," replied one of the other two men.

"Maybe not, but take an extra roping, as I told you," was Gage's
tart retort.

So another length of line was passed around Hazelton, until he
felt as though he had been done up in network.

"Now; we'll give your partner a chance to show up," muttered Gage,
throwing himself on the ground. "You young fellers will have
to learn the lesson that you're thirty miles from anywhere, and
that we rule matters around here. We're going to keep on ruling,
too, in this strip of Nevada."

"Are you?" grimaced Hazelton. "Then, my friend, allow me to tell
you that you are making the mistake of trying to reckon without
Tom Reade!"

"Is that your partner's name?" jeered Dolph Gage. "A likely enough
boy, from what I've heard of him. But he isn't old enough to
understand Nevada ways."

"No, perhaps not," Harry admitted ironically. "So far Tom has
gotten his training only in Colorado and in Arizona. I begin
to realize that he isn't bright enough to have his own way among
the bright men of Nevada. But Reade learns rapidly---don't forget

"Huh!" growled Gage. "The young cub seems to think that he has
come out here to take charge of the Range. According to his idea
he has only to pick out what he wanted here; and take it. He
never seems to understand that gold belongs to the first man who
finds it. I was on this Range long before Reade was out of school."

"And he doesn't object to your staying here," remarked Hazelton

"That's good of him, I'm sure," snapped Gage. "I've no objection
to his staying here, either. Fact is, I'm going to encourage both
of you to stay here."

"Encourage us?" grinned Harry.

"Well, then, I'm going to make you stay here, if you like that word
any better."

"That will be more difficult," suggested Hazelton.

"First of all, we're going to tote your assay outfit over to our
camp. You won't be able to do much without that. Look around
a bit, Eb," added Dolph, turning to one of his companions. "Perhaps
you'd better get the furnace out first. Two of you can carry
it. I wish we had our other man back from Dugout. We need hands

"Can't you use some of my muscle in helping you to loot our camp?"
suggested Hazelton, ironically. "I'm fairly strong, you know."

"Yes; I know you are. That's why we've tied you up," growled

The man addressed as Eb had taken the other fellow aside, and
they were now lifting the assay furnace in order to decide how
heavy it was.

"It doesn't weigh much over a hundred and fifty pounds," called
out Dolph Gage. "Two men like you can get it over to camp. And
bring over our guns, too. It was a mistake to leave 'em over
in camp."

Gage watched until the pair were out of sight among the trees.

"Hurry, you men!" Gage roared after them.

Then he started in to nose around the camp.

As he passed a clump of bushes there was a slight stir among them.
Then Tom Reade leaped forth.

In a twinkling Dolph Gage had been caught up. He was in the grip
of a strong, trained football player.

"Drop me!" ordered Gage, with a slight quiver in his voice.

"I'm going to," agreed Tom, hurling the fellow fully a dozen feet.

With an oath Gage leaped to his feet. Before he was fairly Tom
Reade's fist caught him in the left eye, sending him to earth
once more.

"Is that the way you fight, you young cub?" roared Gage hoarsely.

"I can fight harder if you want me to," Tom retorted, as the other
again got to his feet. "Now, put your hands up, and I'll show you."

Tom went at it hammer and tongs. He was a splendidly built young
athlete, and boxing was one of his strong points, though he rarely
allowed himself to get into a fight. Indeed, his usually abounding
good nature made all fighting disagreeable to him. Now, however,
he drove in as though Dolph Gage were a punching-bag.

"Stand up, man, and fight as though you had some sand in you!" Tom
ordered. "Get up steam, and defend yourself."

"I have had enough," Gage gasped. Indeed, his face looked as
though he had.

"Are you a baby?" Reade demanded contemptuously. "Can't you fight
with anything but your tongue!"

"You wait and I'll show you," snarled the badly battered man.

"What's the need of waiting?" Tom jeered, and swung in another blow
that sent Gage to the ground.

"Eh! Josh!" bellowed Gage, with all the breath he had left.
"Hustle o-o-o-over here!"

"Let 'em come!" vaunted Reade. "You'll be done for long before
they can get here."

"I'll have you killed when they get here with the guns!" cried
Gage hoarsely.

Tom continued to punish his opponent. Then Dolph, on regaining
his feet, sought to run. Tom let him go a few steps, then bounded
after him with the speed of the sprinter. Gage was caught by
the shoulders, swung squarely around, and soundly pummelled.

"Let up! Let up!" begged Gage. "I'm beaten. I admit it."

"Beaten, perhaps, but not punished enough," retorted Tom. As
Dolph would no longer stand up, Reade threw himself upon the fellow
and pummelled him fearfully.

"This is no fair fight," protested Gage, now fairly sobbing in his
pain and terror, for good-humored Reade seemed to him now to be the
impersonation of destroying, fury.

"Fair fight?" echoed Reade. "Of course it isn't. This is a
chastisement. You villain, you've done nothing but annoy us and
shoot at us ever since we've met you. You've got to stop it after
this; do you understand?"

"I'll stop it---I'll stop it. Please stop yourself," begged Gage,
now thoroughly cowed.

"I'll wager you'll stop," gritted Tom. "I've never hammered a man
before as I've hammered you, and I'm not half through with you. By
the time I am through with you you'll slink into a corner every time
you see me coming near. You scoundrel, you bully!"

Tom's fists continued to descend. Dolph's tone changed from one
of entreaty to one of dire threats. He would spend the rest of
his life, he declared, in dogging Reade's tracks until he succeeded
in killing the boy.

"That doesn't worry me any. You'll experience a change of
heart---see if you don't," Tom rejoined grimly, as he added to the
pounding that the other was receiving.

Harry Hazelton had struggled to his feet, though he had been unable
to free his hands from the cords that held them behind his back.
"You're not talking quite the way you did a few minutes ago, Gage,"
Harry put in dryly.

"You'll see---both of you young pups!" moaned the battered wretch.
"Ask any one, and they'll tell you that Dolph Gage never overlooks
a pounding such as I've had."

"And you got it from the boy that you were going to teach something,"
jeered Hazelton, "Gage, you know a little more about Tom Reade, now,
don't your?"

Then Harry straightened up, as he caught sight of moving objects
in the distance.

"Get through with him, Tom" advised the other young engineer.
"I see Eb and Josh coming on the run. They'll have the guns.
We've got to look out for ourselves."

Tom flung the badly beaten man from him where he lay on the ground
moaning over his hurts and vowing vengeance on Tom.

"Stand still, Harry, and I'll have you free in a jiffy," Tom
proposed, hauling out his pocket knife.

"It won't do for us to stand still too long," urged Hazelton,
as his chum began to slash at the cords. "The other scoundrels
will kill us when they see what's been going on here."

"No, they won't," Tom promised calmly. "We'll take care of 'em
both. You wait and see which one I take. Then you take the other.
We'll handle 'em to the finish."

This seemed like foolhardy talk when it was considered that the
other two men would return armed. But Harry had unlimited confidence
in his friend, and so followed Tom, crouching, until they had
hidden behind bushes along the trail.

"Where be you, Dolph?" called the voice of Eb, as the pair drew

"He's over there," spoke Reade, springing out of the bushes.
"You'll join him after a bit."

Neither Eb nor Josh was armed. Tom sailed into Eb, while Harry
sprang at Josh. For a few minutes the trail was a scene of swift
action, indeed. Shortly Eb and Josh tried to run away, as Gage
had done, but each time the young engineers caught them and compelled
them to renew the fight.

"My man's going to sleep, now, Harry!" Tom called, and drove in
a knockout blow with his left.

Josh swiftly followed Eb to the ground.

"They'll keep quiet for a little while," declared Tom, after a look
at each.

Dolph Gage had by this time painfully risen to his feet and came
limping slowly down the trail.

"You might look after your friends, Gage," Tom called, pointing.
"They need attention."

"How did they come to be here?" gasped Dolph.

"They'll give you full particulars when they have time," Tom laughed.

"You boys won't feel quite so smart when our turn comes," snarled

"Not a bit," Reade answered. "If you fellows have any sense you'll
conclude that you've had about all the settlement that you can stand."

Gage didn't make any answer. Doubtless he concluded that it wouldn't
be wise to talk back So he began working over Eb and Josh, until
they showed signs of reviving.

"Did ye---did ye kill 'em for us, Dolph?" gasped Josh, as he opened
his eyes and beheld the face of his comrade.

"No," said Gage curtly.

"Why not?"

"Shut up!"

Not many minutes more had passed when Eb became conscious.

"You fellows can go over to your camp, any time you want," suggested

Slowly, painfully, the trio started.

"I feel almost ashamed of myself," Harry muttered.

"So do I," Tom agreed. "Yet what else was there for us to do!
We've stood all the nonsense we can from that crowd. They'd have
killed us if we hadn't done something to bring them to their senses.
Now, I believe they'll let us alone."

"They'll ambush us," predicted Hazelton

"Well, they won't have any guns to do it with," Tom grinned.

"Why, what became of their guns"

"I'm the only fellow on earth who knows," Tom laughed.

"Then you were at their camp?"

"Of course. My telling you to stone any prowler who visited this
place was only a trap. I thought that he'd run off and get the
rest of the crew. Knowing you to be alone and unarmed, and believing
me to be far away prospecting, they didn't imagine that they'd need
their rifles. As soon as they left their camp I dropped in and
borrowed the rifles and all their ammunition."

"Where is the stuff now?"

"Come on and I'll show you."

"Hold on a minute," begged Harry, as Tom leaped up. "Do you miss


"Our assay furnace. Eb and Josh carted it away."

"Then we'll go after that, first," Tom smiled. "Our friends are
so sore that it would be hardly fair to ask them to return the

That missing article was found about halfway between the two camps.
Tom and Harry picked it up, carrying it back to where it had
been taken from. "Going after the guns, now?" Hazelton inquired.

"First of all," Tom suggested, "I think we had better start a
roaring good campfire."

"What do we want such a thing as that for?" Harry protested.
"The day is warm enough."

"The fire will be just the thing," laughed Tom quietly. "Come
on and gather the wood with me. Alf! Oh, you Alf Drew!"

But the cigarette fiend was not in evidence If he heard, he did
not answer.

"We might as well pay that imitation boy for his time and let
him go," muttered Harry.

"Oh, I hardly think so," dissented Reade. "It's worth some time
and expense to see if we can't make something more nearly resembling
a man out of him."

The fire was soon crackling merrily. Tom led the way to a thicket
an eighth of a mile from camp. Here he produced from hiding three
repeating rifles and several boxes of ammunition.

"We'll hold on to these," Hazelton said.

"For what reason?"

"They'll come in handy to steer off that other crowd."

"I wouldn't be bothered with keeping the rifles about camp," Tom
retorted, as they started backward.

"But say! Gage's man that went to Dugout will soon be back.
Do you forget that he carries a rifle?"

"Jim Ferrers will be back at about the same time," Tom rejoined.
"They'll have rifles until the camp will look like an outdoor
arsenal. We don't want these added rifles around camp. Besides,
if we kept 'em we'd soon begin to feel like thieves with other
folks' property."

"What are you going to do with these guns, then?"

"By tomorrow," Reade proposed, "I rather expect to put these guns
out where Gage's crew can find them again."

"Well, you're full of faith in human nature, then!" gasped Harry.

"Wait and see what happens," begged Tom.

When they stepped back into camp Tom threw the magazine of one
of the rifles open, extracting the cartridges. Then he stepped
over and carefully deposited the rifle across the middle of the

"I might have known!" cried Hazelton.

The other two rifles were soon disposed of in the same manner.

"Let the rifles cook in the fire for an hour," smiled Reade,"
and the barrels will be too crooked for a bullet ever to get through
one again."

"What are you going to do with the cartridges, though?"

"Fire a midnight salute with them," Tom answered briefly. "Wait
and you'll hear some noise."

Alf Drew cautiously approached camp when he felt the pangs of
hunger. The cigarette fiend must have been satisfied, for Tom
and Harry had already gotten the meal. But Reade, without a word
of rebuke to their supposed helper, allowed young Drew to help
himself to all he wanted in the way of hot food and coffee.

Bringing midnight two hours nearer---that is to say, at ten o'clock,
Tom and Harry, aided this time by Alf, built a large fire-pile
in a gully at a safe distance from camp. The wood was saturated
with oil, a powder flash laid, then Tom laid a fuse-train. Lighting
the fuse, the three speedily decamped.

Presently they saw the flames of the newly kindled fire shooting
up through the trees. Then the volleying began, for Tom had carefully
deposited through the fire-pile all the captured cartridges.

For fully five minutes the cartridges continued to explode, in
ragged volleys.

"It's a regular Fourth of July," Harry laughed, back in camp. "Tom,
who's going to take the first trick of watch tonight?"

"Neither one of us," Reade replied. "We'll both get a sound sleep."

But the enemy?"

"It would take four mules apiece to drag them over here tonight,"
laughed Reade, as he rolled himself up in his blanket. "Good



Barely were the young engineers astir the following morning when
Alf Drew came racing back with news.

"There's a whole slew of men coming, on horseback and on foot!"
Alf reported. "And a whole train of wagons!"

"Good enough!" nodded Tom. "I hope the new folks camp right close
to here. We need good neighbors more than anything else."

"But they may belong to Gage's crowd," Alf insisted.

"Don't you believe it, lad. Dolph Gage hasn't money enough to
finance a crowd like that."

"It may be Dunlop's crowd," suggested Hazelton.

"That's more likely," said Tom. "Well we'll be glad enough to
see Dunlop back here with a outfit. This part of the woods will
soon be a town, at that rate."

"Come out where you can get a look a new crowd," urged Alf.

"If it's any one who wants to be neighborly," Reade answered with
a shake of his head, "he's bound to stop in and say 'howdy.' We're
going to get breakfast now."

"Then I'll be back soon, and tell you anything I can find out
about the new folks," cried Alf, darting away.

But Tom raced after the lad, collaring him.

"Alf, listen to me. We're not paying you to come in on time to
get your meals. You get over there by Jim's cooking outfit and
be ready to take orders."

"Humph!" grunted young Drew, but he went as directed, for there
was nothing else to do.

Five minutes later Mr. Dunlop turned his horse's head and rode
down into the camp.

"Howdy, boys!" called the mine promoter.

"Glad to see you back, Mr. Dunlop," Tom nodded, while Harry smiled
a welcome.

"I've sent my outfit around by the other trail," explained Mr.
Dunlop. "I've brought back men enough to start work in earnest.
There will be a mule train here by tomorrow with donkey engines
and machinery enough to start the work of mine-digging in earnest.
Here, boy, take my horse and tie him."

As Alf led the animal away, Mr. Dunlop turned to the young engineers
with a smile of great amiability.

"Boys, I'm glad to say that I wired the two railroad presidents
you mentioned to me. Both wired back, in effect, that my mine
was bound to be a success if I turned the engineering problem
over to you. So I'm going to accept your offers---hire you at
your own figures. I want you to come over to the Bright Hope
claim as soon as you've had breakfast."

Tom glanced at his chum, then answered, slowly:

"I'm sorry, Mr. Dunlop, sorry indeed, if-----"

"What are you trying to say?" demanded the mine promoter sharply.

"When you left here, Mr. Dunlop, we told you that we couldn't agree
to hold our offer open."

"Oh, that's all right. I've come right back and taken up your
terms with you," replied the promoter easily.

"But I'm sorry to say, sir, that you are too late."

"Too late? What are you talking about, Reade? You haven't entered
the employ of any one else not in this wilderness."

"We've formed a partnership with Ferrers, sir," Reade gravely
informed Mr. Dunlop, "and we're going into the mining business
on our own account."

"Nonsense! Where's your claim?"

"Somewhere, sir, in this part of Nevada."

"You haven't found the claim yet, then?" asked the promoter, with
a tinge of relief in his voice.

"No, sir. We located a promising claim, but the Gage gang tricked
us out of it. We'll find another, though."

"Then you'll prove yourselves very talented young men," scoffed
Mr. Dunlop. "Lad, don't you know that I've been all over this
country with old-time prospectors? There isn't any claim left
that will pay you for the trouble of locating and working it."

"We're going to hope for better luck than your words promise us,
sir," Harry hinted.

"You'll have your labor for your pains, then, and the satisfaction
of finding yourselves fools," exclaimed Dunlop testily. "You'd
better drop all that nonsense, and report to me after breakfast."

"It's not to be thought of, Mr. Dunlop," Tom replied gravely.
"We are here in the land of gold. We think we see our chance
to work for ourselves for a while, and we're going to make the
most of our chance."

"Then you're a pair of idiots," quivered indignant Dunlop.

"We'll be our own fools, then," smiled Harry.

"I beg your pardon for getting out of patience," spoke Mr. Dunlop,
more gently. "I'm disappointed in you. All the way here I have
been planning to get you both at work early. The stockholders in
the Bright Hope are all looking for early results."

"Couldn't you get hold of an engineer at Dugout?" Tom inquired.

"Not one."

"Then you'll have to go farther---Carson City," Reade suggested.
"There must be plenty of mining engineers in Nevada, where their
services are so much in demand."

"A lot of new claims are being filed these days," explained Mr.
Dunlop. "The best I could learn in Dugout was that I'd have to
wait until some other mine could spare its man."

"I'm sorry we can't help you, sir," Tom went on thoughtfully.

"I shall feel it a personal grievance, if you don't," snapped
the mine promoter.

"We can't do anything for you, Mr. Dunlop," spoke Reade decisively.
"Just as soon as Ferrers returns, so that our camp can be taken
care of, we three partners are going to hustle out on the prospect.
Will you have breakfast with us, sir?"

Mr. Dunlop assented, but his mind was plainly on his disappointment
all through the meal.

Even when Harry Hazelton related how Dolph Gage and his crew had
been served, the mine promoter displayed but little enthusiasm.

"By the way, sir," suggested Tom, "you are not going to use all
of your men today?"

"I cannot use any of them for a day or two."

"Then you might do us a great favor by sending a few of your men
over here. I expect that Gage's absent comrade will return at
any time. He will have his rifle, and one gun in the hands of a
marksman, might be enough to make considerable trouble around

"You ask me a favor, and yet you won't work for me," complained
their guest.

"I think we did you a favor, once upon a time, by helping to chase
off the Gage crowd at a critical time for you," said Tom bluntly.
"However, if you don't wish-----"

"I'll send half a dozen men over here until Ferrers returns,"
interjected Mr. Dunlop hastily.

The men reported to Tom and Harry within half an hour. A few minutes
after their arrival Harry espied Dolph Gage's absent man galloping
over to the Gage claim.

"There would have been trouble, if we hadn't shown a few armed men
here," muttered Hazelton.

"There's some excitement in that camp, as it is," exclaimed Tom,
who had a pair of binoculars at his eyes. "Gage, Eb and Josh
are crowding around the new arrival. Take the glasses, Harry.
Note how excited they are about something."

"Gage is stamping about and looking wild," Harry reported. "He
looks as though, for two cents, he'd tear his hair out. And Eb
has thrown his hat on the ground and is stamping on it. I wonder
what the trouble can be?"

Two hours later Jim Ferrers rode into camp at the head of his
new outfit. He had the two-mule team and wagon, and seven men,
all miners and armed. Two of the men rode the ponies that Reade
had instructed Jim to buy.

"Jim," called Tom, as he ran toward their mining party, "have
you any idea what's wrong with the Gage crowd?"

"I've a small notion," grinned the guide. "The man who was sent
over couldn't file their claim to the ridge."

"Couldn't file it! Why not?"

"Because every man in that crowd has exhausted his mineral land
privileges taking up claims elsewhere."

"Why, then, man alive!" gasped Tom, halting, a look of wonder
on his face, and then a grin of realization, "if they can't file
the claim to that strip, why can't we!"

"We can, if we're quick enough," Ferrers answered. "I tried to
file the claim while I was over in Dugout, but the clerk at the
mining claim office said he 'lowed that we'd have to have our
declaration tacked up on the ridge first of all."

"That'll take us a blessed short time," muttered Reade. "Harry
and I have all the particulars we need for writing out the notice
of claim. Get some breakfast on the jump, Jim, and we'll hustle
over there."

"I had my breakfast before I rode in here," errors answered, his
eyes shining. "I'd a-missed my guess, Mr. Reade, if you hadn't
been ready for prompt action."

"Then there's no reason, Jim, under mining customs, why we shouldn't
ride over there and stake out that claim?"

"Not a reason on earth, Mr. Reade, except that Gage will probably
put up a big fight."

"Let him!" added Tom, in a lower voice. "Take it from me, Jim
Ferrers, that claim on the ridge yonder is worth all kinds of
fight. Here, get the horses saddled again, while Harry and I
write our notice in record-breaking time for legible penmanship."

Tom's eyes were gleaming in a way that they had not done in months.
For, despite his former apparent indifference to the trick Gage
had played on them, Tom Reade would have staked his professional
reputation on the richness of the ridge claim.

"It's gold, Harry---gold!" he exclaimed, hoarsely, in his chum's
ear. "It's gold enough to last us through life if we work it
hard from the start."

"We'll have to kill a few men before we can get Gage off that
ridge, though," Hazelton predicted.

"It's gold, I tell you, Harry. When the gold-craze gets into
a fellow's blood nothing but gold can cure it. We won't kill
any one, and we'll hope not to be killed ourselves. But that
claim was our discovery, and now the way is clear for us to own
that strip of Nevada dirt. Gold, Harry, old chum---gold!"

Then they fell to writing. Harry did the pen work while Reade
dictated rapidly.

If Engineer Tom Reade had been briefly excited he did not betray
the fact when he stepped outside the tent.

"Horses saddled, Mr. Reade," announced Ferrers. "I s'pose you're
going to take some of the boys over with us, in case Gage tries
to put up any shooting bluff?"

"Yes," nodded Tom. "But don't take with us any fellow who is
hot-blooded enough to do any real shooting."

"It'll take real shooting to get Gage's crew off that ridge,"
Ferrers warned the young engineer. "All men get gold crazy when
they find their feet on a claim. Dolph Gage will fight while
he has breath left. Don't try to go over there, sir, if you're
not satisfied to have a little shooting done at need."

"We're going over," declared Tom, the lines about his mouth tightening,
"and we're going to take the claim for our own, as long as we
have the legal right to do so. But I hope there won't have to
be any gun-powder burned. Killing belongs only to one line of



Dolph Gage, after his richly deserved battering of the day before,
presented a sorry-looking sight as he stood near the notice of
his claim location.

In his right hand he gripped the only rifle there now was in his
outfit, the one brought back by the man who had been to Dugout.

Jim Ferrers, rifle resting across the front of his saddle, rode
at the head of the Reade-Hazelton party as that outfit reached
the edge of the claim.

On either side of the guide, just to the rear, rode Tom and Harry.
Behind them tramped four men armed with rides, the other two
men carrying a board, stakes and a hammer.

"The first man who sets foot on this claim dies!" shouted Dolph
Gage hoarsely.

"Same thing for any man who raises a rifle against us," Ferrers
called back. "Gage, I want only a good excuse for taking one
honest shot at you!"

The moment was tense with danger. Heedless of the black looks
of Dolph, Tom dug his heels into his pony's flanks, moving forward
at a trot.

"Gage," called the young engineer, steadily, "I think you have been
in wrong often enough. This time I am sure that you will want to keep
on the right side."

"You keep on the right side by staying off the claim!" Gage ordered,
but at that instant Reade rode over the boundary.

For an instant no man could guess who would fire the first shot.
Gage was angry and desperate enough to fire and take great chances.
Had he fired at that moment there was no doubt that he would have
been killed at the next breath.

Something stuck in Gage's throat. He did not raise his rifle, but
instead he growled:

"You're a fine lot, to bring a small army against one man!"

"We have as much right here, Gage, as you have, spoke Tom, steadily.

"What do you want here!"

"We have come to look this claim over."

"Get off, then. You have no right here."

"You know, quite well, Gage, that we have as much right here as
you have," Tom rejoined easily. "We are quite well aware that
your man failed to file the claim because all of you have exhausted
your mineral rights under the law.

"So you think you can come here and take it from us, do you?" glared
Gage, his face livid with passion.

"We have just the same right to this claim now that any man has
who has any mineral rights left under the law," Reade made answer.

"But you haven't. I'm going to get this claim yet," Gage insisted.
"I've sent for a friend who hasn't taken up any mineral rights yet.
He will file the claim. See here!"

Gage moved aside, displaying a new board, on which a notice had
been written.

"That's signed with the name of the man the claim belongs to now,"
declared Gage, triumphantly.

Tom handed his bridle to Harry, then dismounted, bending over
to scan the new notice. It was a duplicate of the former one,
except that the new signature was that of one, Joseph Pringle.

"Where is Pringle?" Tom demanded.

"None of your business."

"But you see," explained the young engineer dryly, "it happens to be
my business."

From under his coat Reade drew forth a folding camera. Quickly
opening and focussing he held the camera close, pressing the bulb.

"That photograph will enlarge to almost any size," Tom declared.
"Now, then, Gage, do you claim that this strip has been claimed
by one, Pringle?"

"I do," scowled Gage, "and Pringle is our partner. We're going
to work this claim with him, and you're trespassing."

"Is that Pringle's own signature?" Tom insisted.

"None of your business!"

"You've given me that same kind of an answer before," Tom smiled.
"As it happens, this is our business. Gage, the writing of that
notice looks exactly like your writing, and Pringle's alleged
signature is in the same hand-writing. If you've signed Pringle's
name---and I charge that you have---then that notice has no legal
value whatever. Recollect, I have a photograph of the notice
and signature, and that this notice in turn, so that you may remember
that the writing throughout is the same that my photograph is going
to reveal."

Jim Ferrers quickly came forward. Gage stepped squarely in front
of the board holding the notice. But Tom took a swift step forward.
Gage, shaking, drew back out of possible reach of Reade's fists.

Then, one after the other, the other members of Tom's party inspected
the writing.

"Much good may it do you!" jeered Dolph Gage harshly. "You'll
find that this claim is ours!"

"Look at what that cub is doing!" broke in Eb excitedly, pointing
to Harry.

Unobserved at first by others, Hazelton had slipped back of the
crowd. Now he was placing a board in position, and that board
announced the fact that Jim Ferrers had staked out this strip
for himself.

"Take that down!" raged Gage, as soon as he saw the new board
and paper. "It won't do you any good."

"We'll take a chance on it, anyway, and watch it for a few days,"
Jim declared. "Are you through with me now, Mr. Reade?"

"Certainly," nodded Tom.

Mounting his horse, Jim Ferrers rode away at an easy gait.

"This is a mean trick to try to play on us, Reade," snarled Gage.

"If you hadn't played a mean trick on us, and staked this place
off while you knew we were making the assay of ore taken from
here," rejoined Tom, "then we might be inclined to waive the purely
legal side of the case and give you a fair chance to get your
friend Pringle here. But you must remember that you tricked us
out of this claim in the first place, and now you have no right
at all to complain. This claim now stands in Jim Ferrers's name,
and so it will continue to stand."

"Go ahead," snarled Gage. "Try to take ore out of here. No man
shall be a partner in this claim and live to spend any of the
money he gets out of this mine! I've said it, and I'll pledge
myself to back it up."

"And you've made that threat before witnesses, also, Gage. Remember
that," Tom advised sternly.

"And all the time you're chinning, Dolph," broke in Josh, "Jim
Ferrers is riding hard for Dugout City to file the new claim entry!"

"If he is, something may happen to him on the way!" raged Dolph,
wheeling about like a flash. His saddle horse, ready for action,
stood tied to a tree near by. Gage leaped into his saddle after
he had freed the horse.

"Boss, he's going after Ferrers, to do him harm on the road,"
hoarsely whispered one of Tom's new miners. "Are you going to
let the scoundrel start?"

"Yes," nodded Tom coolly, "at Ferrers's special request. He didn't
want Gage stopped from trying to overtake him."

Gage was now galloping away.

"You've seen the last of Ferrers," jeered Josh, after Gage had
vanished in the distance.

"Perhaps we've seen the last of one of the men," replied Reade



"I've attended to the firm's business," exclaimed Jim Ferrers,
wrathfully, on his return to camp. "I filed the papers at Dugout
City, and the claim now stands in my name, though it belongs to
the firm. And now, having attended to the firm's business, I'm
going out to settle some of my own."

"What business is that!" Tom inquired over the supper table.

It was three days after the morning on which Ferrers had ridden

"That mongrel dog, Dolph Gage, took a shot at me this afternoon!"
Ferrers exploded wrathfully. "I'd ought to have gotten him years
ago. Now I'm going to drop all other business and find the fellow."

"What for?" Tom inquired innocently.

"What for?" echoed Jim, then added, ironically: "Why, I want to do
the hyena a favor, of course."

"If you go out to look for him, you're not going armed, are you?"
Reade pursued.

"Armed?" repeated Ferrers, with withering sarcasm. "Oh, no, of
course not. I'm going to ride up to him with my hands high in
the air and let him take a shot at me."

"Jim," drawled Tom, "I'm afraid there's blood in your eye---and not
your own blood, either."

"Didn't that fellow kill my brother in a brawl?" demanded Ferrers.
"Hasn't he pot-shotted at me? And didn't he do it again this

"Why didn't the law take up Gage's case when your brother was
killed?" Tom inquired.

"Well, you see, Mr. Reade," Ferrers admitted, "my brother had a hasty
temper, and he drew first---but Gage fired the killing shot."

"So that the law would say that Gage fired in self-defense, eh?"

"That's what a coroner's jury did say," Jim admitted angrily.
"But my brother was a young fellow, and hot-headed. Gage knew
he could provoke the boy into firing, and then, when the boy missed,
Gage drilled him through the head."

"I don't want to say anything unkind, Jim," Reade went on,
thoughtfully. "Please don't misunderstand me. But, as I
understand the affair, if your brother hadn't been carrying a
pistol he wouldn't have been killed?"

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