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The Young Engineers in Nevada by H. Irving Hancock

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"Perhaps not," Ferrers grudgingly admitted.

"Then the killing came about through the bad practice of carrying a

"Bad practice!" snorted Jim. "Well, if that's a bad practice
more'n half the men in the state have the vice."

"Popular custom may not make a thing right," argued Reade.

"But what are you going to do when the men who have a grudge against
you pack guns?" Jim queried, opening his eyes very wide.

"I've had a few enemies---bad ones, too, some of them," Tom answered
slowly. "Yet I've always refused to carry an implement of murder,
even when I've been among rough enemies. And yet I'm alive.
If I had carried a pistol ever since I came West I'm almost certain
that I'd be dead by this time."

"But if you won't carry a gun, and let folks suspect you of being
a white-flagger, then you get the reputation of being a coward,"
argued Ferrers.

"Then I suppose I've been voted a coward long ago," Reade nodded.

"No, by the Great Nugget, you're not a coward," retorted Ferrers.
"No man who has seen you in a tough place will ever set you down
for a coward."

"Yet I must be, if I don't tote a gun in a wild country," smiled

"But to go back to the case of that good-for-nothing, Dolph Gage,"
Jim Ferrers resumed. "You advise me to forget that he shot at me?"

"Oh, no, I don't," Tom retorted quietly. "But you don't have to go
out and take your own revenge. There are laws in this state,
aren't there?"

"Of course."

"And officers to execute the laws"

"To be sure."

"Then why not go back to Dugout City, there to lay information
against Gage. That done, the sheriff's officers will have to
do the hunting. Having nothing personal against the officers,
Gage will very likely hold up his hands when the officers find
him, and then go back with them as peaceable as a lamb. Jim,
you want to be even with Gage for shooting your brother and for
trying to finish you. Won't it give you more satisfaction to
feel that you've put Gage day for his bread and water? I know
that is the way I'd want to punish a man that I had cause to hate.
At least, I believe it's the way; I don't really know, for I
can't recall any man that I hate hard enough to wish him worse
than out of my sight."

"Say, it would be kinder funny to go up to the state 'pen' some
day, and see Dolph Gage walking lock-step with a lot of rascally
Chinamen, drunken Indians, Knife-sticking foreigners and sassy
bill-collectors, wouldn't it?" grinned Jim Ferrers.

"I'm glad your sense of humor is improving," smiled Tom Reade.
"Now, tomorrow, morning, Jim, you take two of the other men,
and our ponies, and ride into Dugout. If you run across Gage
don't try to pick up any trouble. Of course, I don't mean to say
that you shouldn't shoot in self-defense if you're attacked, but
try, if possible, to keep out of any trouble with Gage. Just
save him for the sheriff. It's the law's business to handle such
fellows. Let the law have its own way."

"I'll do it," promised Ferrers. "Putting it the way you've done,
Mr. Reade, it doesn't seem like such a baby trick to use the sheriff
instead of killing the hyena, myself. Yes; I'll sure leave it
to the law. If Dolph Gage gets caught and sent to the 'pen' I'll
sure go there on some visiting day and see how he looks in his
striped suit!"

Instead of being offended, it was plain that Ferrers was in high
good humor. He went about camp whistling that night, and with
a cheery word for everyone.

Camp had been moved over to the ridge, and the young engineers
were ready to begin blasting operations the following morning.
Ferrers was no longer concerned with cooking, he having engaged
a man to do that work. The new man kept a sharp eye on Alf Drew,
making that youngster do a really honest day's work every day
in the week.

"I hate to take two men from you, Mr. Reade right at the start
of operations," complained Jim, the next morning at breakfast.
"I don't need two men, either, to protect me."

"I don't need the two men here, either, Jim for a few days. As
for you, you don't know how many men you are going to need. All
three of Gage's partners have vanished, and I'm sure that they're
together somewhere out on the Range. They undoubtedly have rifles
again, at that, and if you meet them, three men won't be any too
many to stand off those four rascals."

Tom watched the trio of horsemen out of sight in the morning.

"If Jim doesn't lose his head that trip will mean that we shall
see the last of Dolph Gage," mused the young engineer.

For once Tom Reade was in grave error, as subsequent events proved.

"It's ten minutes of seven," Harry reminded him.

"Get ready, men," Tom shouted to their few laborers, who were
enjoying a few minutes leisure after breakfast.

At seven o'clock the young engineers and their handful of toilers
moved over to the point in the outcropping vein of ore that Reade
had selected for their first blast.

A small portable engine had already been fired, and all was ready
for turning on the steam drill.

Twenty minutes later a satisfactory boring had been made.

"Bring up the dynamite," called Tom.

"Are you going to pack the charge?" Harry inquired.

"Yes," nodded Tom, and received the stick of dynamite from the
miner who brought it.

While this was being made ready, Hazelton superintended the laying
of the wires to the magneto battery. All was soon in readiness.

"The red flag is up," Tom shouted.

The dynamite had been rather loosely tamped home, for young Reade
wanted to begin with light rending force and work up, through
successive blasts, to just the proper amount of force.

"Get back, everybody!" Reade called, and there was a flying of
feet. Tom was last to leave the spot. He ran over to where Harry
stood at a safe distance.

"Pump her up, Harry," nodded the young chief engineer.

"You watch me, and see just how I run this magneto," Hazelton
said to one of their men who stood near by. "This will be your
job after we've fired a few charges. I want you to get the hang
of the trick."

Harry worked the handle of the magneto up and down.

Bang! Over where the drilling had been done a mass of dirt and
rock was shot up into the air.

"What are you running so fast for, Harry?" laughed Tom, as he pursued
his chum back to the scene of the blast.

"I want to see if we stirred up any real ore. I want to know if our
claim is worth the grub it takes to feed the men," was Hazelton's
almost breathless response.



Arrived on the spot it took Tom only a moment to estimate that
considerably less than a quarter of a ton of ore had been loosened
from the rock bed by the blast.

"We'll drill six inches deeper next time, and put in fifty per
cent. more dynamite," Reade decided.

The men brought up the drill and set it, after which the engineer
was signaled.

Harry, in the meantime, was down on his hands and knees, curiously
turning over the small, loose bits of rock.

"Stung, if this stuff proves anything," sighed Hazelton.

"You can't judge by one handful, Harry," Tom told him. "Besides,
we may have to get down twenty, or even fifty feet below surface
before we strike any pay-stuff. Don't look for dividends in the
first hour. I've been told that gold-mining calls for more sporting
blood than any other way in which wealth can be pursued."

"But I don't find a bit of color in this stuff," Harry muttered.
"If we're on the top of a vein of gold it seems to me that we
ought to find a small speck of yellow here and there."

A dozen blasts were made that morning. When the men knocked off
at noon Harry Hazelton's face bore a very serious expression.

"Tom," he murmured to his partner, "I'm afraid we have a gold brick
of a gold mine."

"It's an even chance," nodded Reade.

"And think of all the money---out of our savings---we've sunk
in this thing."

"I hope you're not going to get scared as early as this," protested
Tom. "Why, before we even get in sight of pay-rock we may have
to sink every dollar of our savings."

"Then hadn't we better get out of it early, and go to work for
some one who pays wages?" questioned Hazelton.

"Yes," Tom shot out, quickly, "if that's the way you feel about it."

"But do you feel differently, Tom?"

"I'm willing to risk something, for the sake of drawing what may
possibly turn out to be the big prize in the mining lottery."

"But all our savings," cried Harry, aghast. "That seems like
a foolish risk, doesn't it?"

"If you say so, I'll draw out now," Tom proposed.

"What do you think about it?"

"If all the money at stake were mine," Reade said slowly, "then
I'd hang on as long as I had a penny left to invest."

"Tom Reade, I believe you're turning gambler at heart!"

"I intend to be a good, game business man, if that's what you
mean by gambling. But see here, Harry, I don't want to pull your
money into this scheme if you feel that you'd rather hold on to
what you have."

"If you're going to stay in, Tom, then so am I. I'm not the kind
of fellow to go back on a chum's investment."

"But if we lose all we've saved then you'll feel-----"

"Don't argue any more, Tom," begged Hazelton. "I'm going to be
game. You've voted, old fellow, to stay by this claim as long
as you can, and that's enough for me."

"But if we lose all our savings," Tom urged. He had now become
the cautious one.

"If we lose them, we lose them," declared Hazelton. "And we're
both of us young enough to be able to save more before we're
seventy-five or eighty years old. Go ahead, Tom. I'm one of the
investors here, but the whole game is in your hands. Go as far
as you like and I'll stand back of you."


"Say no more. Tom, I shall try never again to be a quitter.
Whoop! Let the money slip! We'll make the old mine a dividend
payer before we are through with it."

That afternoon about a dozen and a half more blasts were laid
and fired. Some five hundred feet of the surface of the vein
had been lightly blasted, and several tons of ore thrown up.

"I wouldn't call it ore, though," muttered Harry to himself.
"I don't believe this rook holds gold enough to put a yellow plating
on a cent."

"It does look rather poor, doesn't it, Harry?" Tom asked, trying
to speak blithely.

"Humph! We've got to go deeper than this before we can expect
to loosen rock worth thirty dollars to the ton," Harry declared

"Oh, we'll surely strike pay-rock in big lots after a while,"
predicted Reade, smiling happily and whistling merrily as he strode
away. "I'm glad Harry has his courage with him and his hopes high,"
Reade added to himself.

"I'm glad Tom is so cheerful and positive," thought Hazelton.
"I'll do my best to help him keep in that frame of mind; though,
for myself, I believe we would make more money if we stood on
a cliff and tossed pennies into the ocean."

"I'm glad to see that all your high hopes have returned," declared
Tom, at supper that evening.

"Oh, I've got the gold fever for fair," laughed Hazelton. "Tom, how
are we going to spend the money when we get it?"

"A new house for the folks at home will take some of my money, when
I get it," Tom declared, his eyes glowing.

"Any old thing that the folks take a fancy to will catch my share
of the gold," Harry promised.

"But, of course, we'll wait until we get it."

"You haven't any doubts about getting the gold, have you?"

"Not a doubt. Have you?"

"I'm an optimist," Harry asserted.

"What's your idea of an optimist, anyway?" laughed Tom.

"An optimist is a fellow who believes that banknotes grow on potato
vines," laughed Harry.

"Oh, we'll get our gold all right," Reade predicted.

"We will, and a lot more. Tom, you and I still have mineral rights
that we can file, with Ferrers as trustee."

"We'll go prospecting for two more bully claims just as soon as
we begin to see pay-rock coming out of this vein," Tom planned.
"Alf, you lazy cigarette fiend, hurry up and bring me some more
of the canned meat."

"Bring me another cup of coffee on the jump," called Harry. "While
you're about it make it two cups of coffee."

As soon as he had brought the required things Alf tried slyly to
slip away by himself, for he had already had his own supper.

"Here, you son of the shiftless one, get back here and drag the
grub to this table," yelled one of the men at the miners' table.

After that Alf remained on duty until all hands had been fed.
Then he tried to slip away again, only to be roped by a lariat in
the hands of the new cook.

"Let me catch you trying to sneak away from work again, and I'll
cowhide you with this rope," growled the cook. "Why are you trying
to sneak away before your work is finished?"

"I'm almost dead for a smoke," said Alf.

"Smoke, is it? You stay here and wash the dishes. Don't try
to get away again until I tell you you can go. If you do---but
you won't," finished the cook grimly.

Alf worked away industriously. At last this outdoor kitchen work
was finished.

"Now I can go, can't I?" spoke up Alf, hopefully. "Say, I'm perishing
for want of a smoke."

"Stay and have a man's smoke with me," said the cook. "Here,
hold this between your teeth."

Alf drew back, half-shuddering from the blackened clay pipe, filled
with strong tobacco, which the cook passed him.

"You're always itching to be a man," mocked the cook. "And now's
your chance. A pipe is a man's smoke. Them cigs are fit only
for 'sheeters."

"I don't wanter smoke it," pleaded Alf, drawing back from the
proffered pipe.

"You take matches, light that pipe and smoke it," insisted the
cook, a man named Leon, in a tone that compelled obedience.

Poor Alf smoked wretchedly away. Finally, when he thought Leon
wasn't looking, he tried to hide the pipe.

"Here, you keep that a-going!" ordered the cook wrathfully, wheeling
upon the miserable youngster.

So Alf puffed up, feebly, and, when the pipe went out, he lighted
the tobacco again.

"Here!" he protested, three minutes later, handing back the pipe.

"Smoke it!" gruffed Leon.

"I---I don't wanter."

"Smoke it!"

"I---I can't," pleaded Alf Drew, the ghastly pallor of his face
bearing out his assertion.

"You smoke that pipe, or I'll-----"

"You can kill me, if you wanter," gasped, Alf, feeling far more
ill than he had ever felt in his life before. "I don't care---but
I won't smoke that pipe. There!"

He flung it violently to the ground, smashing the pipe.

"You little-----" began the cook, making a leap after the youngster.

But Alf, his sense of self-preservation still being strong, fled
with more speed than might have been looked for in one so ill.

Tom Reade, passing a clump of bushes, and hearing low moans, stopped
to investigate. He found the little cigarette fiend stretched
out on the ground, his face drawn and pale.

"What on earth is the matter, mosquito?" inquired Reade, with
more sympathy than his form of speech attested.

"Oh, dear!" wailed Alf.

"So I gathered," said Tom dryly. "But who got behind you and scared
you in that fashion?"

"O-o-oh, dear!"

"You said that before; but what's up?"

"At first I was afraid I was going to die," Alf declared tremulously.


"And now I'm afraid I won't die!"

Alf sat up shivering convulsively.

"Now, Alf," Tom pursued, "tell me just what happened."

By degrees the young engineer extracted the information that he
was after. Bit by bit Alf told the tale, interspersing his story
with dismal groans.

"I always told you, Alf, that smoking would do you up if you ever
tackled it," Reade said gravely.

"But I have smoked for a year," Alf protested.

"Oh, no," Tom contradicted him. "The use of cigarettes isn't
smoking. It's just mere freshness on the part of a small boy.
But smoking---that's a different matter, as you've found out.
Now, Alf, I hope you've learned a needed lesson, and that after
this you'll let tobacco alone. While you're about it you might
as well quit cigarettes, too. But I'm going to change your job.
Don't go back to the cook. Instead, report to me in about an

Then Tom strode forward. After he had left young Drew there was
an ominous flash in the young engineer's eyes. He strode into
camp and went straight to the cook's shack.

"Leon," Tom demanded, "what have you been doing to that poor little
shrimp of a helper?"

The cook turned around, grinning.

"I've been teaching him something about smoking," the man admitted.

"So I've heard," said Tom. "That's why I've dropped in here---to
tell you what I think about it."

"If you're going to get cranky," warned the cook, angrily, "you
needn't take the trouble."

"Punishing Alf isn't your work, Leon," Tom went on quietly. "I'm
one of the heads here, and the management of this camp has been
left more or less in my hands. I gave you a weak, deluded, almost
worthless little piece of humanity as a helper. I'll admit that
he isn't much good, but yet he's a boy aged fourteen, at any rate,
and therefore there may be in that boy the makings of a man.
Your way of tackling the job is no good. It's a fool way, and,
besides, it's a brutal, unmanly way."

"I guess you'd better stop, right where you are, Mister Reade!"
snapped Leon, an ugly scowl coming to his face. "I don't have
to take any such talk as that from you, even if you are the boss.
You may be the boss here, but I'm older and I've seen more of
the world. So you may pass on your way, Mister Reade, and I'll
mind my own business while you mind yours."

"Good!" smiled Tom amiably. "That's just the arrangement I've
been trying to get you to pledge yourself to. Mind your own business,
after this, just as you've promised. Don't play the brute with
small boys."

"You needn't think you can boss me, Mister Reade," sneered Leon,
a dangerous look again coming into his eyes. "I've told you that
I won't take that kind of talk from you."

"You'll have to listen to it, just as long as you stay in camp,"
Reade answered. "I don't want to be disagreeable with any man, and
never am when I can avoid it. But there are certain things I won't
have done here. One of them is the bullying of small boys by big
fellows like you. Do I make myself plain?"

"So plain," Leon answered, very quietly, as one hand traveled
back to the butt of the revolver hanging over his right hip, "that
I give you just ten seconds, Mister Reade, to get away and do
your talking in another part of the camp."

Tom saw the motion of the hand toward the weapon, though no change
in his calm face or steady eyes denoted the fact.

"I believe I've just one thing more to say to you, Leon. I've
told young Drew that he needn't bother about coming back as your
helper. He is to report to me, and I shall find him another job."

"Are you going to get away from here?" snarled the angry cook.


"I'll give you only until I count ten," Leon snapped, his hand still
resting on the butt of his revolver.

"You're not threatening me with your pistol, are you?" Tom inquired
in a mild tone.

"You'll find out, if you don't vamoose right along. One---two---"

"Stop it," Tom commanded, without raising his voice. "You may
think you could get your pistol out in time to use it. Try it,
and you'll learn how quickly I can jump on you and grab you.
Try to draw your weapon, or even to shift your position ever so
little, and I'll show you a trick that may possibly surprise you."

There was no trace of braggadocio in Tom Reade's quiet voice, but
Leon knew, instantly, that the young engineer could and would be as
good as his word.

"Take your hand away from the butt of your pistol," came Tom's
next command.

Something in the look of the young engineer's eyes compelled the
angry cook to obey.

"Now, unbuckle your belt and hand it to me, revolver and all."

"I'll-----" Leon flared up, but Tom interrupted him.

"Exactly, my friend. You'll be very wise if you do, and very
sorry if you don't!"

White with rage Leon unbuckled his belt. Then he handed it out,
slowly. He was prepared to leap upon the young engineer like
a panther, but Tom was watching alertly. He received the belt
with his left hand, holding his right hand clenched ready for

"Thank you," said Tom quietly. "Now, you may return to your work.
I'm ready to forget this, Leon, if you are."

Leon glared speechlessly at his conqueror. This cook had lived
in some of the roughest of mining camps, and had the reputation
of being dangerous when angry.

From outside came an appreciative chuckle. Then Jim Ferrers stepped
into the shack.

"So you were hanging about, ready to back up the kid?" demanded
the cook.

"I? Oh, no," chuckled Jim. "Leon, when you've known Mr. Reade
as long and as well as I do you'll understand that he doesn't ask
or need any backing. Mr. Reade wants only what's right---but he's
going to have it if he has to move a township."

Tom departed, swinging the belt and revolver from his right hand.

"I'm through here," muttered Leon, snatching off his apron. "That
is, just as soon as I've squared up accounts with that kid."

"Then you'd better put your apron on again," Jim drawled, humorously.
"It takes longer than you've got left to live when any one goes
after Tom Reade to get even."

"Jim Ferrers, you know me well enough," remarked Leon, reaching for
his hat. "Most times I'm peaceable, but when I get started I'm a
bad man."

"Exactly," nodded Jim undisturbed. "That's why you can never
hope to come out on top in a row with Mr. Reade. While you may
be a bad man, he's a good man---and ALL MAN! You don't stand
any show with that kind. Hang up your hat, Leon. Here's your
apron. Put it on and stay with us. When you cool down you can
stay right along here and take lessons in the art of being a real

Jim Ferrers strolled out of the shack, leaving the vanquished
cook in a towering rage. By degrees the expression on the fellow's
face altered. Ten minutes later he was at work---at cook's duties.



Four weeks moved on rapidly. All too rapidly, in some respects,
to please Engineer Harry Hazelton.

Sheriff's officers had ridden into camp, and had scoured that
part of the country, in an effort to locate Dolph Gage and that
worthy's friends. Just where the four vagabonds were now no man
knew, save themselves.

However, another spectre had settled down over the camp. The
truth was that the young engineers were now using up the last
thousand dollars of their combined savings.

By way of income, less than fifty dollars' worth of gold and silver
had been mined. Every few days some promising-looking ore was
turned out, but it never came in sufficient quantities. None
of this ore had yet been moved toward Dugout City. There wasn't
enough of it to insure good results. Brilliant in streaks, still
the mine looked like a commercial fizzle.

"Hang it, the gold is down there!" grunted Tom, staring gloomily
at the big cut that had been blasted and dug out along the top
of the ridge.

"I'll be tremendously happy when you show me a little more of it,"
smiled Hazelton weakly.

"It's lower down," argued Tom. "We've got to dig deeper---and then
a lot deeper."

"On the capital that we have left?" ventured Harry.

"Oh, we may strike enough, any day, to stake us for a few weeks
longer," urged Tom.

"We'll soon have to be working in covered outs, where the frost
won't put up trouble for us, you know," Hazelton hinted.

"Yes; I know that, of course. What we must begin to do, soon, is to
sink the shaft deeper and then tunnel."

"That will cost a few thousand dollars, Tom."

"I know it. Come on, Harry. Get a shovel."

Tom himself snatched up a pick.

"What are you going to do, Tom?"

"Work. You and I are strong and enduring. We can save the wages of
two workmen."

Both young engineers worked furiously that afternoon. Yet, when
knocking-off time came, they had to admit that they had no better
basis for hope.

"I wonder, Tom, if we'd better get out and hustle for Jobs?" Harry

"You might, Harry. I'm going to stick."

Mr. Dunlop dropped in at camp, that evening, after dark.

"You young men are doing nothing," said the mine promoter. "I
can use you a couple of months, if you'll stop this foolishness
here and come over to me."

"Why, I suppose Hazelton could go over and work for you, Mr. Dunlop,"
Tom suggested.

"That would be of no use. I need you both, but you, Reade, most
of all."

"I can't go to you now, Mr. Dunlop," Tom replied regretfully. "I'm
committed to the development of this piece of property, which is
only a third my property."

"Bosh! A decent farm would be worth more to you than this claim,"
argued Mr. Dunlop derisively.

"Perhaps. But neither of my partners has quit, Mr. Dunlop, and I'm
not going to quit, either."

"This is the last chance I can give you, Reade. You'd better take it."

"No; though I beg you to accept my best thanks, Mr. Dunlop. However,
Hazelton can go over and help you."

"Both, or neither," returned Mr. Dunlop firmly.

Harry looked half eagerly at Reade, but Tom shook his head.

"What do you say, Mr. Reade?" pressed the promoter. "Last call
to the dining car. With your funds running low, and a hard winter
coming on you'll soon know what it means to be hungry."

"I'm much obliged, sir but I'm going to stick here at my own work."

"What do you say, Hazelton?" coaxed the promoter.

"Nothing," Harry replied loyally. "You heard what my partner had
to say. In business matters he talks for both of us."

"Good night, then," grunted Mr. Dunlop, rising. "If you should
change your minds in the morning, after breakfast, come and tell me."

After Dunlop had gone Tom and Harry walked up and down the trail
together under the stars.

"Sixteen hundred dollars a month Dunlop is offering the two of
us," half sighed Hazelton. "Two months of that would mean thirty-two
hundred dollars. How much money have we now, Tom?"

"Six hundred and forty-two dollars and nineteen cents," Reade
answered dryly.

"That won't last us long, will it?"

"No; especially as we owe some of it on bills soon due at Dugout."


"I don't know," Tom answered almost fiercely. "Yes; I do know!
As soon as our present few pennies are gone it means a future of
fight and toil, on empty stomachs. But it's worth it, Harry---if
we live through the ordeal."

"And for what are we fighting?" inquired Harry musingly.

"First of all, then, for gold."

"Tom, I never knew you to be so crazy about gold before. What
are we going to do with it---if we get it?"

"There are the folks at home."

"Of course, Tom, and they would be our first thought---if we had
the gold. But we can do all we want to for the home folks out
of the pay that we are able to earn at steady jobs."


"Then why are we fooling around here? We are nearly broke, but
we can honestly settle all the debts we owe. Then we could get
back to work and have bank accounts again within a few months."

"Yes; but only pitiful bank accounts---a few hundreds of dollars,
or a few thousands."

It would be steady and growing."

"Yes; but it would take years to pile up a fortune, Harry."

"What do we really want with fortunes?"

"We want them, Harry," Tom went on, almost passionately, "because
we have ambitions. Look out upon the great mountains of this
Range. Think of the rugged bits of Nature in any part of the
world, waiting for the conquering hand and the constructive brain
of the engineer! Harry, don't you long to do some of the big
things that are done by engineers? Don't you want to get into
the real---the big performances of our profession?"

"Of course," nodded Hazelton. "For that reason, aren't we doubly
wasting our time here?"

"That's just as it turns out," Reade went on, with a vehemence
that astonished his chum. "Harry, what's our office address?
Where are our assistant engineers---where our draftsmen? Where
are our foremen that we could summon to great undertakings? Where
is the costly equipment that we would need as a firm of really
great engineers? You know that we must these things before we
can climb to the top of our profession. The gold that's hidden
somewhere under that ridge would give us the offices, the assistants,
the draftsmen, the equipment and the bank account that we need
before we can launch ourselves into first class engineering feats
of the great civilization that rules the world today. Harry,
I've firm faith in our claim, and I can go on working on a meal
every third day."

"Then now, as always, you can count on me to stand by you without
limit or complaint," said Harry generously.

"But, just the same, you haven't my faith in the mine, have you?"
Tom queried half-disappointedly.


"Out with it, chum!"

"So far I have been disappointed in the claim. But I am well
aware that I may be wrong. Listen, Tom, old fellow. This isn't
a matter of faith in the mine; it's one of faith in you. Go as
far as you like, and, whichever way it turns out, remember that
I regard your judgment as being many times as good as my own."

"Yet you'd drop out if the decision rested solely with you, wouldn't
you, Harry,"

"You'll never again get my opinion of this claim of ours," laughed
Hazelton. "You'll have to be contented with my good opinion of
you and your judgment."

"But see here, Harry, I wish you'd get out of here for a while.
Go back into the world; take a position that will support you
and provide the luxuries and savings as well. I'll work here
faithfully and work for both of us at the same time."

"You must have a mighty small opinion of me, Tom Reade, to think
I'd leave you in the lurch like that."

"But I ask it as a favor, Harry."

"If you ever ask that sort of a favor again, Tom Reade, you and
I will be nearer to fighting than we've ever been yet in our lives!"

It was plain that Hazelton intended to stick to the mine, even
to the starving point, if Reade did. After some further talk
the two went back to their tent and lay down on their cots.

Five minutes later Harry's quiet, regular breathing betrayed the
fact that he was asleep. With a stealthy movement, Tom Reade
threw down the blankets, reached for his shoes, his coat and hat
and stole out into the quiet and darkness.

From other tents and shacks nearby came snores that showed how
soundly miners could sleep.

"I believe this is the first night that I ever failed to sleep
on account of business worries," muttered Reade grimly, as he
strode away. "This may be a fine start toward becoming a nervous
wreck. In time I may become as shattered as poor little Alf Drew.
I wonder if I shall ever fall so low as to smoke cigarettes!"

For some minutes Tom plodded on through the darkness. He did
not go toward the claim, but in the opposite direction. He walked
like one who felt the need of physical exhaustion. Presently
coming to a steep trail winding along among boulders he took to
the trail, striding on at barely diminished speed.

At last, out of breath from the rapid climb, Tom halted and gazed
down over the rugged landscape. "The gold is there," he muttered.
"I'm sure of it. Oh, if we could only find it!"

As Tom stood, deep in thought, the face of his patient friend
rose before him.

"I don't mind going to smash for myself, in a good, hard fight,"
Reade went on audibly. "But it seems a crime to drag Harry down
to poverty with me. If I could only get him to go away I'd give
up my own life, if need be, to prove what's under our ridge of
Nevada dirt."

"Ye'll give up your life for less'n that, I reckon!" sounded
another voice, close at hand.

Around a boulder Dolph Gage stepped into view, followed by two of
his men.



"Good evening, Gage," Tom responded pleasantly, after a slight
start of alarm. "What brings you in this section again?"

"Wanter know?" sneered Gage, while his companions scowled.

"That was my object in inquiring," Tom smiled.

"We're hiding---that's what we're doing here," Gage volunteered
harshly, though he spoke in a low voice.

"Hiding here---with the officers looking for you?"

"Well, what could be a safer place than right where we're wanted?"
demanded Dolph. "The officers are scouring other counties for
us, and they have handbills up offering rewards for us. Right
here, overlooking your claim, they'd never think of looking for
men who have a price set on their capture."

"Well, you needn't be afraid of me," offered Reade, with mock
generosity. "I'm short of money, but I'm not looking for blood
money. You had better travel fast from here. I'll give you until
daylight before I send word to the law's officers."

"Daylight? You'll never see daylight again," Gage retorted.
"You will be lying here, looking up at the stars, but you won't
see anything!"

"Your words have a mysterious ring to them," laughed Tom.

He wasn't in any doubt as to what the rascals meant to do with
him. It was a rule with Tom Reade, however, that he wasn't dead
until he had actually been killed. Even while he spoke so lightly,
Tom, through his half-closed eyes, was taking in every detail
of the situation.

None of the trio had yet drawn their weapons, though all wore
them in plain sight. If they started to draw their pistols Tom
decided that he would leap forward holding to Gage, kicking one
of the latter's companions so as to render the fellow helpless,

"But the third man will get me with his pistol," Tom decided.
"That is, unless they become flustered when I show fight. It's
a slim chance for me---a mighty slim chance, but I'll do my best
as soon as these wretches start something!"

"Lost your money in your claim, haven't you?" jeered Gage, who
was plainly playing with his intended victim. "Serves you right,
after jumping us out of the property just because the law said
you could! But the gold's there, and we've got a man with mineral
rights to nab the claim as soon as you give up."

"That will be a long while, I imagine," Tom smiled back at the rascal.

"Not as long as you may think," laughed Gage harshly. "We've
got you now, and we'll get Hazelton and Jim Ferrers, next thing
you know. Then our claim will be established through our friend,
and we'll protect him from being jumped by any one else."

"If you live," Tom reminded the fellow.

"Oh, we'll live!" Gage retorted grimly. "We're hunted, now, and
we'll kill every man that comes near enough."

"Begin with this cub!" spoke up Eb, gruffly. "Don't play with
him until he tricks us and gets away."

"Perhaps you don't realize how close help is to me," Tom broke in
quickly. It was a "bluff," but he hoped that it might have its

"If there's help near you," quivered Gage, his anger rising, "we'll
make sure that it doesn't get here in time to do you any good.
Draw and finish him boys!"

Before Reade could tense his muscles for a spring, a shot rang
out behind them. Eb fell, with a swift, smothered groan of pain.

"Duck!" panted Dolph Gage. "Out of this! To cover, and then
we'll reckon with any one who tries to follow us!"

In the same instant Tom turned, bounding down the trail in the
direction from which the shot had come.

"Good! Keep on going, boss!" whispered a calm voice. "Don't
let 'em catch you again."

"Who are you?" Tom demanded, halting and trying to make out the
man's face in the intense shadow under a ledge of rock.

"Duck!" commanded the same voice. "I'll follow close. I'm alone,
and some of that crew may pluck up heart and follow us. Vamoose!"

"I'll go at your side, but I won't run ahead of you," Tom whispered
back. "I know you, now. Thank you, Leon!"

In the darkness, in lieu of shaking hands Tom gripped one of the
man's elbows in sign of thanks.

"We'd better get out of this," Tom went on, in a barely louder whisper.
"But how did you come to be on hand, Leon?"

"Followed you," was the terse reply.

"From the camp?"



"Wanted to get even with you."

"You're talking in riddles," Reade protested, in a puzzled tone.
"At the same time I'm greatly obliged to you."

"Thought you'd be," grunted Leon. "That's how I got even."

"What do you mean?" Tom wanted to know. "You got even by placing
me under a great obligation?"

"Just that," nodded the cook, "we had trouble, once, and you
came out on top, didn't you?"

"Yes; but that little affair needn't have prevented us from being

"It did, until I had done something to make you needed me as a
friend," the cook declared.

Tom laughed at this statement of the case. It accorded quite closely,
however, with the cook's generally sulky disposition. Even a
friendship Leon would offer or accept grudgingly.

"But why did you follow me?" Tom continued, as they neared the camp.
"Did you think I was going to run into danger?"

Leon hesitated.

"Well," he admitted, finally, "when I saw you stealing off, soft
like, I had a queer notion come over me that, maybe, you were
discouraged, and that you were going off to put an end to yourself."

Tom started, stared in amazement, then spoke in a tone of pretended

"Much obliged for your fine opinion of me, Leon," he declared.
"Only cowards and lunatics commit suicide."

"That's all right," nodded the cook doggedly. "I've seen men
lose their minds out here in these gold fields."

They were now in camp.

"Wait, and I'll call Ferrers and a few of the men, Leon," Tom

"What for? To stand guard?"

"No; we must send back a few of the men to find that man you wounded.
It was Eb. He fell in a heap. If his own companions didn't
carry him away he was left in a bad fix."

"You'll be going back to nurse rattlesnakes yet!" almost exploded
the cook.

"That's all right, but we're going to find that wounded man if
he's in need of help," Tom stoutly maintained.

He called Jim Ferrers, who roused five more men. Then the party
returned to the place on the trail where Eb had been left. There
were still blood spots on the ground, but Eb had vanished. The
party spent some minutes in searching the vicinity, then concluded
that Gage had rescued and carried away the wounded man.

It may be said, in passing, that Eb was subsequently found, by
officers, lying in a shack not far from Dugout City. The fellow
was nearly dead, when found, from careless handling of his wound.
At Dugout the surgeons amputated his wounded leg, and Eb finally
wound up in prison.

During all the excitement Hazelton had not been aroused. He knew
nothing of what had happened until morning came.

Before Tom Reade turned in that night he shook hands with the
sullen cook.

"I think you and I are going to be good friends, after this, Leon,"
Tom smiled. "I hope so, anyway."

"And I'm glad you gave me back my gun," grunted Leon. "It gave
me a chance to do something for you. Yes; I reckon we'll be good
friends after this."



"Hey, Tom!" Harry called down, from the top of their shaft, now
one hundred and thirty feet down into the ground.

"Yes!" Reade answered from below, making a trumpet of his hands.

"Doing anything?" Harry bawled.

"Not much. Why?"

"If you want to come up I'll show you something."


"The first snow of winter is falling." Harry tried to speak jovially,
but his tone was almost sepulchral.

"Yes, I'll come up, then," Tom Reade answered. "It's high time
for us to see to building a shelter that will keep out of the
shaft the big snows that are coming."

"The big snows are likely to be here, now, within a week," remarked
one of the miners who had paused to rest from digging for a moment.
"Men!" bawled Tom, stepping from the long into the short tunnel.
"All hands knock off and go up to the surface."

There was a tub hand-hoist for carrying up ore, but the men always
used the series of ladders that had been built in on the side
of the shaft. Two minutes later these ladders swarmed with men
going above.

As they stepped out into the world the first soft flakes of winter
floated into their faces.

"Reade, we'll have to start building the cover to the shaft," spoke
Jim Ferrers, who stood beside Hamilton.

"I know it," Tom nodded. "However, first of all, I want a few words
with you and Harry."

The three partners stepped aside, waiting in silence while a whispered
consultation went on around Tom.

At length Reade stepped back.

"Men" he began, and every eye was turned in his direction. "You
are waiting for orders to start on shedding over the shaft, and the
lumber is ready. However, we mean to be fair with you. You all
know that this claim has been going badly. When my partners and I
started we had some capital. Before we do any more work here it
is only fair to tell you something. We now have money enough left
so that we can pay you your wages up to Saturday. When we've paid
that we shall have a few dollars left. If you men want to quit
now we'll pay you up to Saturday, and you'll have time to be in
Dugout before your time here is up."

"Do you want us to go, Mr. Reade?" asked Tim Walsh."

"Why, no, of course not," Tom smiled. "If we had the money we'd
want to keep you here all winter. But we haven't, and so we've no
right to ask you to stay."

Walsh glanced around him, as though to inquire whether the men were
willing that he be their spokesman. Receiving their nods the big
miner went on:

"Mr. Reade, sir, we've seen this coming, though, of course, we
didn't know just how big your pile was. We've talked it over
some, and I know what the fellows think. If you don't pay us
our wages, but put the money into grub only, you can keep a-going
here some weeks yet."

"Yes," Tom nodded. "But in that case, if the mine didn't pan out,
we wouldn't have a cent left out of which to pay you off. At least,
not until Reade and I had been at work for months, perhaps a year,
on some salaried job. So you see that we can't fairly encourage you
men to remain here."

"Mr. Reade," Walsh declared, this time without glancing at the
other men, and there was a slight huskiness in the big miner's
voice, "we wouldn't feel right if we went anywhere else to work.
We've never worked under men as fair and square as you three
men have been. You've treated all of us white. Now, what kind
of fellows would we be if we cleared out and left you just because
the snow had come and the money had gone. No, sir! By your leave,
gentlemen, we'll stay here as long as you do, and the money can
take care of itself until it shows up again. Mr. Reade, and gentlemen,
we stick as long as you'll let us!"

Tom felt slightly staggered, as his face showed it.

"Men," he protested, "this is magnificent on your part. But it
wouldn't be fair to let you do it. You are all of you working for
your living."

"Well, aren't you three working for your living, too?" grinned Walsh.

"Yes; but we stand to make the big stake here, in case of victory
at last."

"And I reckon we stand a show of having a little extra coming to
us, if we do right by you at this minute," laughed Walsh.

"Yes, you do---if we strike the rich vein for which we're hunting.
Yet have you men any idea a how little chance we may have of
striking that vein? Men, the mine may---perhaps I would better
say probably will---turn out a fizzle. I am afraid you men are
voting for some weeks of wasted work and a hungry tramp back to
Dugout City at the end. As much as we want to go on with the work,
we hate to see you all stand to lose so much."

"You're no fool, Mr. Reade. Neither is Mr. Hazelton," returned
Walsh bluntly. "You're both engineers, and not green ones, either.
You've been studying mines and mining, and it isn't just guess-work
with you when you say that you feel sure of striking rich ore."

"Only one of us is sure," smiled Tom Reade wistfully. "I'm the
sure one. As for my partners, I'm certain that they're sticking
to me just because they're too loyal to desert a partner. For
myself, I wouldn't blame them if they left me any day. As for
you men, I shall be glad to have you stay and stand by us, now
that you know the state of affairs, but I won't blame you if you
decide to take your money and the path back to Dugout City."

"It's no use, Mr. Reade," laughed Walsh, shaking his shaggy head.
"You couldn't persuade one of us to leave you now."

"And I'd thrash any man who tried to," declared another miner.

"Men, I thank you," Tom declared, his eyes shining, "and I hope
that we shall all win out together."

"Now, what do you want us to do?" asked Walsh.

"We have timbers and boards here," Tom replied. "If the big snows
are likely to be upon us within a week, then we can't lose any time
in getting our shaft protected. At the same time we must use other
timber for putting up two or three more shacks. The tents will
have to come down until spring."

Harry immediately took eight of the men and started the erection
of three wooden shacks not far from the mine shaft. Ferrers took
the rest of the men and speedily had timbers going up in place
over the mouth of the shaft.

For three hours the snow continued to float lightly down. Then
the skies cleared, but the wind came colder and more biting.

Jim Ferrers and one of the men started for Dugout City with a
two-horse wagon, that the camp might be kept well-supplied with

By night of the day following all of the carpenter work had been
finished, though not an hour too soon, for now the weather was
becoming colder.

"Never put in a winter on the Indian Smoke Range, did you, Mr.
Reade?" Walsh inquired.


"Then you'll find out what cold weather is like. A winter on
this Range isn't much worse, though, than what I've heard about
cold weather in Alaska."

"It'll be a relief to see six feet of snow, after living on the
hot desert of Arizona," Harry muttered.

By evening of the following day, when Jim and his companion returned
with the wagon-load of provisions, another day's work had been
done in the mine.

"Any color today?" was Ferrers's first question.

"No signs of gold," sighed Harry.

"I heard a new one over at Dugout City," Jim remarked carelessly.

"Heard a new one?" echoed Tom. "What was it?"

"A baby," Jim answered dryly.

"What are you talking about?" Harry demanded. "What has a baby
to do with a 'new one'?"

When the men began to laugh Harry suddenly discovered the joke.

"That's all right, Jim," growled Harry. "But I know something
that would tickle you."

"A feather, or a straw," mocked Ferrers.

"No! A crowbar!" grunted Hazelton making a reach for a tool of
that description.

Jim hastily jumped out of the way as Harry balanced the bar.

"Go and tell the men about the 'new one' you heard, Jim," laughed
Tom. "By the time you get back Harry will have the joke pried loose
with that bar of his."

"'Heard a new one'!" grunted Harry. But his look of disgust was
because it had taken him so long to penetrate the "sell."



"Haul away!" called Jim, from the bottom of the shaft.

Up came the tub, filled with chunks of ore, each about the size
of a man's head.

At the top stood Harry Hazelton, on the crust of two feet of frozen

Tom thrust his head out through the doorway of the nearby shack
in which the partners lived.

"Is Jim sending up any bricks" he inquired.

"He's sending up ore, but I don't know whether it's any good,"
Harry answered.

"Why don't you look the stuff over?"

"I haven't had the heart to look at it."

Close to the shaft stood a wagon. The horses were resting in
the stable shack, for by this time the weather averaged only a
few degrees above zero and the horses were brought out only when
they could be used.

"Take a good look at the stuff, Harry," called Tom, as soon as
he saw two of the workmen dumping it.

Then Reade closed the door, and went back to the furnace that
he had rigged up under the chimney at one end of the shack.

"Oh, what's the use?" sighed Hazelton, to himself, as he paused,
irresolute. "In weeks and weeks we haven't brought up enough
gold to pay for the keep of the horses."

Still, as Tom had asked him to do so, Hazelton presently walked
over to the little pile that had just been dumped.

"You men up there work faster," sounded Jim's voice. "We want
to send up a tub every five minutes."

"Want the team yet?" bawled the teamster, from another shack.

"No," Harry answered. "Not for a half an hour yet."

That question was enough to cause the young engineer to forget
that he had intended to inspect the tub-load of ore. He strolled
back to the head of the shaft. The wind was biting keenly today.
Harry was dressed in the warmest clothing he had, yet his feet
felt like lumps of lead in his shoes.

"Arizona may be hot, but I'd rather do my mining down there, anyway,"
thought the young engineer. "If I could move about more, this
wouldn't be so bad."

Just off of the shaft was a rough shack several feet square which
contained a small cylinder of a wood stove. There was a fire
going in the stove, now, but Harry knew from experience that if
he went in to the stove to get warm, he would only feel the cold
more severely when he came out again.

"Say, I don't know why I couldn't run that furnace as well as
Tom, and he likes this cold stuff better than I do," murmured
Hazelton. "I am going to see if he won't swap jobs for a couple
of hours."

"Getting anything out of those ore-tests of yesterday's dump?"
Harry demanded, entering their shack.

"Not so much," Tom replied cheerily. "We're in a bad streak of
stuff, Harry. But I thought you were watching the dump. What's
the matter? Too cold out there?"

"Yes," nodded Harry. "I feel like a last year's cold storage
egg. Don't you want to spell me a bit out there, Tom? I can
run the furnace in here."

"Certainly," Reade agreed, leaping up. "There's nothing to do,
now, but weigh the button when it cools."

"Did you really get a button?" Harry asked, casually, as he drew
off his heavy overcoat.

"Yes; a small one."

"How much ore did you take it from?"

"About two tons, I should say."

"Then, if the button is worth sixty cents," mocked Harry, "it
will show that our ore is running thirty cents to the ton."

"Oh, we'll have better ore, after a while," Tom laughed.

"We've got to have," grunted Hazelton, "or else we'll have to
walk all the way to our next job."

"Just weigh the button, when it cools, and enter the weight on
this page of the notebook," directed Reade, then went for his
own outdoor clothing. "Have you been inspecting the dump as the
stuff came up?"

"You'll think me a fool," cried Harry, "but I totally forgot it."

"No matter," Tom answered cheerily. "I've been doing bench work
so long in here that I need exercise. I can run over all the

After Reade had pulled on his overcoat and buttoned it he fastened
a belt around his waist. Through this he thrust a geologist's

"Don't go to sleep, Harry, old fellow, until you've cooled and
weighed the button. Then you may just as well take a nap as not."

"There he goes," muttered Hazelton, as the door closed briskly.
"Faith and enthusiasm are keeping Tom up. He could work twenty-four
hours and never feel it. I wish I had some of his faith in this
ridge. I could work better for it. Humph! I'm afraid the ridge
will never yield anything better than clay for brick-making!"

Harry did succeed in keeping his eyes open long enough to attend
to the button. That tiny object weighed, and the weight entered,
Hazelton sat back in his chair. Within a minute his eyes had
closed and he was asleep.

Tom Reade, out at the ore dump, looked anything but sleepy. With
tireless energy he turned over the pieces of rock, pausing, now
and then, to hold up one for inspection.

In reaching for a new piece his foot slipped. Glancing down,
to see just where the object was on which he had slipped, Tom
suddenly became so interested that he dropped down on his knees
in the snow.

It was a piece of rock that had come up in the first tubful.
At one point on the piece of rock there was a small, dull yellow

Reads pawed the rock over in eager haste. Then he drew the hammer
from his belt, striking the rock sharply. Piece after piece fell
away until a solid yellow mass, streaked here and there faintly
with quartz, lay in his hand.

"By the great Custer!" quivered Tom.

"What's the matter, boss?" called one of the workmen. "Got a sliver
in your hand?"

"Have I?" retorted Tom joyously. "Come here and take a look."

"Haul away!" sounded Ferrers's hoarse voice from below.

"Tell Jim to stop sending and come up a minute," nodded Tom.

"Do you often see a finer lump than this?" Tom wanted to know
as the two workmen came to him. He held up a nugget. Shaped
somewhat like a horn-of-plenty, it weighed in the neighborhood
of three ounces.

"Say, if there are many more like that down at the foot of the
shaft this old hole-in-the-ridge will be a producer before another
week is out!" answered one of the workmen. "How much is it worth,

"Allowing for the quartz that streaks this little gold-piece,
it ought to be worth from forty to fifty dollars," Tom responded

"Fifty dollars?" broke in Jim Ferrers, as he sprang from the top
ladder to the ground. "Is there that much money on the Indian

"Not minted, of course," laughed Tom. "But here's something as
good as money."

"Where did you get it?" Jim demanded, tersely, after one look
at the nugget.

"In this ore-dump."

"Today's send-up, then?"

"Of course."

Without a word Ferrers fell at work on the pile of rocks, turning
them over fast.

Tom helped him. The two men, released from hoisting duty, also

"Nothing more like that sticking out of the rock," Jim grunted,
turning to one of the men. "Bring me a sledge."

With that larger hammer, held in both hands, Jim placed ore pieces
with his feet, swiftly bringing down sharp blows that reduced
the rocks to nearly the size of pebbles.

"I don't see any more nuggets coming," mused! Tom. "But wait
a minute. Look at the yellow streak through some of these fragments."
"We're getting into the vein, I believe," spoke Jim solemnly.
"Look at the stuff! But wait! I've a little more hammering to do."

Back of them stood the teamster, who had just come up with the horses.

"Am I to take that stuff and dump it down the ravine?" he asked

"If you do," retorted Ferrers heatedly, "I'll hammer in the top
of your head, Andy! Reade, won't you pick out what you want for
the site of the ore-dump. We've got some real ore at last!"
One of the two hoist-men now ran to the shaft, shouting down the
great news.

"Hold on there, Bill," Tom called dryly. "Don't get the boys excited
over what may turn out to be nothing. Don't tell 'em any more than
that we have-----"

"Tell 'em yourself, boss," retorted Bill. "Here they come!"

From the ladder a steady stream of men discharged itself until the
last one was up.

"Where are you going, Tim?" called Tom, turning just in time to
note big Walsh's movements.

"Going to call Mr. Hazelton, sir."

"Don't do it. Don't get him stirred up for nothing."

"For nothing, boss?"

"Don't bother Hazelton until we can tell him something more definite.
Boys, with all my heart I hope that we have something as good
as we appear to have. But every man of you knows that, once in
a while, gold is found abundantly in a few hundred pounds of rock,
and then, from that point on, no more yellow is found. We won't
get excited until we get our first thousand dollars' worth out
of the ground and have the smelter's check in hand. We'll hope---and
pray---but we won't cheer just yet."

"Humph! If you don't want us to cheer, then what shall we do?"
demanded big Walsh.

"We'll work!" Tom retorted energetically. "We'll work as we never
did before. We'll keep things moving every minute of the time.
Back with you into the shaft and out into the tunnel! You hoist-men
stand by for a big performance with the tub. Jennison, you may
stay up from below and tote specimens for me. I shall be at the
furnace until midnight at the least."

"I'll tote for you till daylight, if the good streak only holds
out," laughed Jennison, with glowing eyes.

"Come softly into the shack when you do come," Tom directed.
"I'm going to put Mr. Hazelton to bed, and I don't want any one
to wake him. When I play out tonight he'll have to be fresh enough
to take my place at the assay bench and furnace."

Softly Tom entered their shack.

Harry lay fast asleep, breathing heavily.

"This won't do, old fellow," spoke Tom gently, shaking his chum's
shoulder. "No; don't wake up. Just get into bed. I may want
to turn in later, and, when I do, I may have some work left over
that I'll want you to do."

"Anything up?" asked Harry drowsily.

"I'm going to be busy for a while, and then I want you to be,"
Tom answered.

He half pushed his chum toward the narrow bunk against the wall.
Drowsy Hazelton needed no urging, but stretched himself out in
his bunk.

Tom drew the blankets up over him, adding:

"Don't stir until I call you."

Hour after hour the men below in the mine sent up tub-lots of
rock. Jim spent half of his time above ground, the rest below.
Jennison was busy bringing the best samples in to Reade, but
he walked so softly that Harry slept peacefully on.

Still the yellow rock came up. None of it looked like the richest
sort of ore, but it was good gold-bearing stuff, none the less.
Tom made many assays. It was seven in the evening ere the excited
miners would agree to knock off work for the day.

Then Tom quit and had supper with them. There was excitement
in the air, but Tom still counseled patience.

"We'll know more in a week than we do now," he urged.

"That's all right, Mr. Reade," laughed Tim Walsh. "As long as
you were hopeful we didn't bring up enough yellow to pay for the
dynamite we used in blasting. Now, boss, you're begging us not
to be hopeful, and the luck is changing."

"I'm not kicking against hopefulness," Tom objected, smiling.
"All I ask of you men is not to spend the whole year's profits
from the mine before we get even one load fit to haul to the smelter."

"We've got the ore dump started," retorted Jennison, "and we don't
have to haul stuff to the smelter. Boss, you can raise money
enough without hauling a single load before spring."

"How?" Tom wanted to know.

"The banks at Dugout will lend you a small fraction of the value
of the dump as soon as they're satisfied that it has any value,"
Jim Ferrers explained.

"I didn't know that," Tom admitted.

"Now you can understand why the boys are excited tonight. They
know you'll outfit the camp liberally enough if the yellow streak
holds out."

"Outfit the camp liberally?" repeated Tom. "I'll go just as far
in that line as my partners will stand for."

"We want a bang-up Christmas dinner, you see, boss," Tim Walsh
explained. "We wouldn't have spoken of it if this streak hadn't
panned today. Now, we know we're going to have doings on the
ridge this winter."

"If the yellow rook holds out," Tom urged.

"Don't say anything more in that strain, just now, Reade," whispered
Jim. "If you do, and things go badly, the boys will think you've
been the camp's Jonah."

Tom went back to work in the partners' shack. Jim came in at ten
and went to bed. It was midnight when Tom shook Harry by the shoulder.

"Time to get up, young man, and give me a rest," Tom announced.

Harry got drowsily out of his bunk.

"Why didn't you call me before, Tom?"

"Well, to tell the truth, I was too busy. But now you may have
a few hours' work all by yourself, while I turn in," drawled Reade.

"Tom, old fellow, there's something up," discovered Hazelton,
now studying his chum's face keenly. "Out with it."

Then Tom told of the day's luck, though he cautioned Harry against
too soon growing elated.

"We'll just wait and hope," Reade finished. "Now I'll show you
the work that's on the bench."

The gold news had waked up Hazelton. He examined eagerly the
assay reports that Tom had filled out, then turned to the specimens
that awaited his attention.

At six in the morning Reade was up again, nor did Harry turn in.
Both were present to inspect the first tub-lot of ore that came
up the shaft. The yellow streak was continuing.

By the middle of the afternoon, however, the streak played out.
Though the men worked an hour overtime they did not succeed in
sending up any more ore.

"Just one pocket?" wondered Tom. "Or does our vein run in scattered

"Oh, we'll find more pockets soon," predicted Harry cheerily.
"Our luck has turned again. It's running in the old channels."

A feverish week passed. Towards its end the first big snow of
the winter came, and the ridge was shut off from the rest of the
world. It would have been all but impossible to get over even
to the Bright Hope Mine.

The week of brisk work was using up the stock of dynamite, while
the rock was too hard to work much with picks. Moreover, the
money of the partners was gone. To seek credit at Dugout would
be a dangerous proceeding, for those who granted the accommodation
of credit would be sure to want a high price for it, even to a
goodly share in the output of the mine. More than one mine has
been taken over by creditors, and the original owners have gone
out into the world again, poor men.

Saturday morning of this week Tom and Harry descended the shaft
together. Jim was already there with the men.

"I thought we had two more boxes of dynamite, Reade," explained
Ferrers. "I find that we have just six sticks left."

"Then may the Fates favor us with some lucky blasts!", muttered Tom.

"We can borrow money on our ore dump," suggested Harry.

"How about that?" asked Tom, looking intently at Ferrers.

"How much do you figure there is in the dump?" queried Jim.

"About two hundred dollars' worth of metal."

Ferrers shook his head.

"It would cost us forty dollars to cart the stuff to Dugout in
the Spring. Then there'd be the smelter's charges. We couldn't
borrow more than fifty dollars on such security. No bank is going
to bother with such a small item."

Tom said nothing, but went forward to the heading of the tunnel.
Here he made a careful examination ere he ordered the men to go

One after another five sticks of the dynamite were fired in small
blasts, but the ore that came out did not suggest hope.

Then another drilling was made, and the sixth stick put in place,
the magneto wires being connected with the charge.

Tom himself seized the magneto handle.

"Now, hold your breaths," he called, cheerily. "This blast means
a lot, and then a bit more, to all of us. This blast may point
the path to fortune!"



Through the tunnel a dull boom sounded. Then, as if by a common
impulse, all hands rushed back to the heading.

"Hard rock!" muttered Reade. "The blast didn't make much of a
dent. Hand me a pick, one of you."

Then Tom swung it with all the force and skill of which he was

Some of the miners, who thought themselves strong men, looked on
admiringly as Tom swung the pick again and again.

Clack! clack! clack!

"Some muscle there," proclaimed Tim Walsh. "I didn't think it
was in a slim fellow like you."

"I haven't so much muscle," Tom informed him, "but I have a tremendous
amount at stake here. One of you shovelmen come forward and get
this stuff back."

Reade went tirelessly on with his pick. Some of the big fellows
came forward with their tools and worked beside him. Tom still led.

For half an hour all hands worked blithely. Then Tom, halting,
called them off.

"No use to go any further, boys, until we get some dynamite,"
he declared. "We're striking into harder and harder rock every
minute. We are dulling our tools without making any headway."

"Dynamite?" asked Jim Ferrers, who had been looking over the shoveled
back rook with Harry. "Where are we going to get any?"

"It's time for a council of war, I reckon," sighed Tom. "At any
rate it's no use to work here any longer this morning. Let's
go above."

As it was yet too early for dinner, the men congregated in one of
the shacks, while the partners went to their own rough one-room abode.

"What's to be done?" asked Harry.

"I'd say quit," muttered Jim Ferrers. "Only, if we do, we lose
our title to our claim. Of course, I mean quit only for a while---say
until spring---but even that would forfeit our title here."

"Then it's not to be thought of," rejoined Tom, with a vigorous
shake of his head. "I haven't lost a bit of my faith that, one of
these days, this ridge is going to pay big profits to some one."

"We either have to quit, and give up, or stay and starve," rejoined

"We've got to stick," Tom insisted. "In the first place, we owe
our men a lot of money."

"They offered to take their chances," suggested Jim.

"True, but it's a debt, none the less. I shall see everyone of
these men paid, even if I have to wait until I can save money
enough at some other job to square the obligations in full. For
myself, I don't intend to quit as long as I can swing a dull pick
against a granite ledge."

"Then what did you come up for?" asked Harry dryly.

"Because there's nothing the men can do for the present, and I
wanted all hands to have a chance to get over their disappointment.
Jim, this snow-crust will bear the weight of a pony, won't it?"


"I must get to Dugout City."

"For what?"

"We haven't a big enough ore dump on which to borrow any money.
but I've an idea I can sell this nugget for enough to get another
good stock of dynamite."

"You don't want to try to get to Dugout today or tomorrow," replied
Ferrers slowly.

"But I must," Tom insisted. "Every hour's delay is worse than
wasted time. I must get to Dugout and back again as speedily
as possible."

"Hotel living is expensive in Dugout," remarked Jim.

"But I don't intend to stop at a hotel for more than one meal."

"Have you looked at the sky?"

It was Reade's turn to ask:


"Just go to the door and take a look at the sky," suggested Ferrers.

Tom swung the door open and looked.

"Well?" he asked.

"What do you think of the sky?" Jim persisted.

"It looks as though we might have a little snow," Tom admitted.

"A little, and then a whole lot more," nodded Ferrers. "Notice
how still the air is? We're going to have a howling blizzard,
and I believe it will start in before night."

"Then we'd better turn the men out to fell and chop firewood,"
declared Harry, jumping up. "We haven't enough on hand to last
through a few days of blizzard."

"Will you look after the wood, Harry?" asked Tom. "I want to
keep my mind on getting to Dugout."

"We'll knock over a lot of trees between now and dinner-time,"
promised Hazelton, as he hurried away.

"Now, Reade, you'd better give up your idea of getting to Dugout
for the present," resumed Jim Ferrers.

"But the work? We've got to keep the men busy, and we must keep
the blasts a-going."

"You'll have to forget it for a week or so," insisted the Nevadan.
"Your freezing to death in a gale of snow wouldn't help matters any."

"But I must get to Dugout," Tom pleaded.

"You won't try it unless you're crazy," Jim retorted. "If you
make an attempt to stir from camp this afternoon, Reade, I'll
call on the men to hold you down until I can tie you. Do you
think I've waited, Reade, all these years to find a partner like
you, and then allow him to go off in a blizzard that would sure
finish him?"

"Then, if you're sure about this, Jim, I won't attempt to go until
the weather moderates."

"When the time's right I'll go," proposed Ferrers. "A pony is
no good on this white stuff. From some of the Swedes we've had
working out in this country I've learned how to make a pair of
skis. You can travel on skis where a pony would cut his legs
in two against the snow crust."

"Then, if I'm not going to Dugout, I'll go out and swing an axe
for a while," Tom suggested. "I want to be of some use, and I
can't sit still anyway."

"Oh, sit down," urged Ferrers, almost impatiently, as he filled
his pipe and lighted it. "I'll amuse you with some stories about
blizzards on this Range in years past."

Outside they could hear axes ringing against the trees. Then
the dinner-horn called the men in. Soon after the meal was over
all the horses in camp were hitched and employed in bringing in
the wood. Harry was out again to superintend the men.

By half-past two the first big flakes began to come down. There
was still no wind to speak of.

Tom had lain down in a bunk, leaving Jim to brighten the fire.

Ferrers, too, nodded in his chair. It was the howling of the
wind that awoke Tom.

"Where's Harry?" he asked, sitting up.

"Eh?" queried! Ferrers, opening his eyes.

"Where's Harry! Is he out in this storm?"

"I've been dozing," Jim confessed. "I don't know where he is."

"Hear the wind howl," cried Tom, leaping from his bunk and pulling
on his shoes. Then he rapidly finished dressing, Jim, in the
meantime, lighting the reflector lamp.

"Where on earth can Harry be?" Tom again demanded.

"Maybe in one of the other shacks, with some of the men."

Tom threw open the door. The snow-laden gale, sweeping in on
him, nearly took away his breath. Then, after filling his lungs,
he started resolutely for the nearest shack.

"Mr. Hazelton in here?" Tom called, swinging open the door.

"No, sir; thought he was with you."

Tom fought his way through the gale to the next shack. Here Tim
Walsh had news.

"We came in, sir, when the blizzard got too bad," Walsh explained,
"but we found we'd left one of the teams behind in the woods.
Mr. Hazelton said he'd go back and get the team. Half an hour
later one of the boys here noticed that the team was standing
up against the door of the stable shack. So I went out and put
up the team."

"Didn't it occur to you to wonder where Mr. Hazelton was?" Tom
asked, rather sharply.

"Why, no, sir; we thought he had gone to your shack."

"Mr. Hazelton wouldn't leave horses out in a storm like this one,"
Tom rapped out briskly. "As a matter of fact he isn't in camp.
You men get out lanterns and be ready to go into the woods.
We've got to find Mr. Hazelton at the earliest possible moment!"

Twenty minutes later the beams of light from lanterns carried
by the men revealed the form of Harry Hazelton, in the woods and
nearly covered with snow.

"Pick him up," ordered Tom. "Make the fastest time you can to
our shack."

In the shack the fire was allowed to burn low. Harry, still unconscious,
was stripped and put to bed.

"Anything you want, let us know, sir," said Tim Walsh, as the men
tramped out again.

Then Tom and Ferrers sat down to try to think out the best thing
to do for Harry Hazelton.

He was still alive, his pulse going feebly. He had been briskly
rubbed and warmly wrapped, and a quantity of hot, strong coffee
forced gently down his throat.

After a while Hazelton came to, but his eyes had a glassy look
in them.

"You're a great one, old fellow, to go out into the snow and get
lost," Tom chided him gently.

"Did---I get---lost?" Harry asked drowsily.

"Yes. Here, drink some more of this coffee. Jim, make a fresh
pot. You can stir the fire up a bit now."

"I---want to sleep," Harry protested, but Tom forced him to drink
more coffee. Then Hazelton sank into a deep slumber, breathing more

"He's all right, now, or will be when he has slept," declared
Jim Ferrers.

"Is he?" retorted Tom, who held one hand against Harry's flushed
face, then ran the fingers down under his chum's shirt. "Jim, he's
burning up with fever. That's all that ails him!"

Then Tom placed one ear over Hazelton's heart.

"None too strong," Reade announced, shifting his head. "And here's
a wheezy sound in his right lung that I don't like at all."

"You don't suppose it's pneumonia?" asked Jim gravely.

It was congestion of the right lung that ailed Harry Hazelton.
But Tom knew nothing of that. Jim Ferrers, who had never been
ill in his life, knew even less about sickness.

As for Harry, he lay dangerously ill, with a doctor's help out
of the question!



The door opened almost noiselessly.

"Shut that door," cried Tom, angrily, without looking around.
"Whoever you are, do you know that we have a sick man here"

"Well, the men chased me out of one shack, and wouldn't let me
in the other, and I don't want to go near the cook," complained
a whining young voice.

It was Alf Drew who uttered the words.

"Shut the door," Tom repeated.

"May I stay here?" asked Alf, after obeying.

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