Part 4 out of 4
"I suppose so, though we have about enough trouble here already.
Why did the men chase you out of their shack?"
"They said they couldn't stand the smell of cigarettes," Drew
"I don't wonder at that," muttered Tom.
"They were all smoking. I don't see why I couldn't smoke, too,"
"That's just the point," Tom returned. "The men were smoking.
Now, as I've told you before, the use of cigarettes isn't smoking
at all. You annoyed men who were minding their own business."
"They're a mean lot," complained young Drew. Being cold he went
over to the fire to warm himself. Then he drew a cigarette from
one of his pockets, and struck a match. Tom Reade, slipping up
behind the youngster, deftly took the cigarette away from him,
tossing it into the fire.
"You'll have to quit that," Tom ordered sternly. "If I catch
you trying to light a cigarette then out you go. We have a man
here sick with lung trouble and with a high fever, and we don't
propose to have any cigarette smoke around here."
"What am I going to do, then?" asked Alf, after a minute or so
spent in a kind of trance.
"Do anything you please, as long as you keep quiet and don't light
any cigarettes," Tom suggested, rummaging in the cupboard for
a medicine chest that he knew was there.
"But I'll go to pieces, if I can't smoke a cigarette or two," whined
Tom had the medicine chest in his lap by this time. His hand
touched a bottle of pellets labeled "quassia."
"Here, chew on one of these, and you won't need your cigarette,"
Tom suggested, passing over a pellet.
Alf mutely took the pellet, crushing it with his teeth.
"Ugh!" he uttered disgustedly.
"Don't spit it out," urged Tom. "It's the best thing possible to
take the place of a cigarette. Keep it in your mouth until it is
Alf made a wry face, but knew he must obey Tom. So he stuck to
the pellet until the last of it had dissolved on his tongue. The
pellet was gone, but the taste wasn't.
"Ugh!" grunted the youngster.
"You said that before," urged Tom. "Try to be original. Want
"No; I don't. I wouldn't touch one again!"
"Don't happen to want a cigarette, either, do you?"
"I don't want anything, now, but just to get that taste out of
my mouth," Alf uttered.
"All right; go over in the corner and keep quiet. Jim, do you
know anything about the use of the medicines in this chest?"
"Not a blessed thing," Ferrers replied regretfully. "I never
took as much as a pinhead of medicine in my life."
"But Harry must have something," Tom insisted. "We can't let
him lie there and die."
It was one of those ready-made medicine chests that are sold to
campers and others who must live at a considerable distance from
medical aid. Finding a small book of instructions in the chest,
Tom moved over under the strong light and settled himself to read
Harry tossed restlessly, unmindful of what was going on around
him. His heavy, rapid breathing filled the place. Once in a
while he moaned slightly, every sound of this kind going through
Tom like a knife.
A particularly deep moan caused Tom to shiver and close the book.
He went over and felt Harry's hot, drier skin.
"Jim," he directed, "I'm sure that, somehow, we should force the
perspiration through his dry, parched skin. Take some of the
blankets out of my bunk and spread them over Harry."
"It'll make his fever worse, won't it?"
"I'm sure I don't know," Tom admitted helplessly. "We'd better
try it for a while, anyway."
Then Tom stood looking down at the flushed face of his chum, muttering
below his breath:
"Harry, old fellow, I wish your mother were here. She'd know
just what to do. And for your mother's sake, as well as my own,
I've just got to blunder into something that will cure you."
Heaving a sigh, Tom went back under the lamp to read with blurted
At last he struck a paragraph that he thought bore on the case in
hand. He read eagerly, praying for light.
"I've got it, at last," he announced, moving over to the bunk, beside
which Ferrers stood.
"Got what?" asked Jim.
"I believe I'm on the track of the right stuff to give poor old Harry."
"What's the name of the stuff you're going to give harry"
"There are three medicines mentioned here," replied Reade, holding
up the book. "They're all to be given."
"_Three_ medicines!" gasped Jim. "By the great Custer three are
enough to kill a horse!"
"I'm going to try 'em," sighed Tom stolidly. "The poor fellow will
die if nothing is done for him."
"Wouldn't it be better," suggested Ferrers, hopelessly, "to try
one medicine on the lad and then wait ten minutes. Then, if that
doesn't work, try one of the others on him! If that doesn't work
then you know that the third kind of stuff is the right sort of
Despite his great anxiety, Reade could not suppress the smile that
Jim's advice brought out. It was plain that Ferrers, good fellow
as he was, would be of no use on the medical end of the fight that
must be waged.
Tom searched the chest and found the medicines. Then he looked
up the doses and started to administer the remedies as directed.
Even over the steadily increasing gale the notes of the supper
horn reached them faintly.
"It's too tough weather to expect the cook to bring the stuff
over here tonight," said Jim. "So, if you can spare me, I'll
go and eat with the boys. Then I'll bring your chuck over to
Alf came out of his corner, pulling on the ragged overcoat that
he had picked up in a trade with an undersized man down at the
Bright Hope Mine.
Left alone, Tom drew a stool up beside the bunk, and sat studying
his chum's face.
Twenty minutes later Hazelton opened his eyes.
"You're feeling better, now, aren't you?" asked Tom hopefully.
"I---I guess so," Harry muttered faintly.
"Where does it hurt you most, chum?"
"In---in my chest."
"Is the pain severe, Harry?"
"It's about all I can---can stand---old fellow."
"Poor chap. Don't try to talk, now. We're taking good care of
you, and we'll keep on the job day and night. You've had some
medicine, though you didn't know it. Now, try to sleep, if you
But Hazelton couldn't sleep. He tossed restlessly, his face aflame
Jim Ferrers came back with the supper, but Reade could eat very
little of it. Alf Drew did not return. He had made his peace with
Through the night Harry grew steadily worse. When daylight came
in, with the blizzard still raging, the young engineer was delirious.
THE WOLVES ON THE SNOW CRUST
The blizzard lasted for two days. Toward the end the temperature
rose, with the result that three feet of loose snow lay on top
of the harder packed snow underneath.
Harry Hazelton had passed out of the delirium, but he was weak,
and apparently sinking. He was conscious, though he spoke but
little, nor did poor Tom seek to induce him to talk.
By this time Reade knew the little medicine book by heart. He
also knew the label and dose of every drug in the case. But he
had not been able to improve upon his first selection of treatment.
"Do you think he's going to die, Jim?" Tom frequently asked.
"What's the use of a strong young fellow like him dying?" demanded
"Then why doesn't he get better?"
"I don't know. But he'll come around all right. Don't worry
about that. Strong men don't go under from a cold in the head,
or from a bit of wheeze in the lungs."
"But the fever."
"That has to burn itself out, I reckon," replied the Nevadan.
"Reade, you'll be sick yourself next. Lay out the medicines, and
I'll give 'em, to the minute, while you get six hours' sleep."
"No, sir!" was Reade's quick retort.
"Then, before you do cave in, partner, suppose you pick out the
medicines that you want me to give you when you can't do anything
for yourself any longer."
Tom went back to his chair by the side of Harry's bunk.
Outdoors some of the men were clearing a path to the mine-shaft.
Not that it was worth while to try to do any work underground.
The rock at the tunnel heading was too stubborn to be moved by
anything less than dynamite.
"I'd get some lumber together, and make a pair of skis," suggested
Jim, the next day, "but what is the use? We'll have to have
twenty-four hours of freezing weather before we'll have a crust.
As soon as we can see snow that will bear a human being I'll start
for Dugout City."
"But not for dynamite," declared Tom.
"No; for a doctor, I suppose."
"A physician's visit is the only thing I'm interested in now,"
Tom declared, glancing at the bunk. "I'd give up any mine on
earth to be able to pull poor old Harry through."
On the fifth day, while the weather still remained too warm for
the forming of a snow-crust, Harry began to show signs of improvement.
He was gaunt and thin, but his skin felt less hot to the touch.
His eyes had lost some of the fever brightness, and he spoke
of the pain in his chest as being less severe than it had been.
"I've been an awful nuisance here," he whispered, weakly, as his
chum bent over him.
"Stow all that kind of talk," Reade ordered. "Just get your strength
back as fast as you can. Sleep all you can, too. Get a nap, now,
and maybe when you wake up you'll be hungry enough to want a little
something to eat."
"I don't want anything," Harry replied.
"He's a goner, sure!" gasped Tom Reade, inwardly, feeling a great
chill of fear creep up and down his spine. "It's the first time
in his life that I ever knew Harry to refuse to eat."
"The weather is coming on cold," Jim Ferrers reported that evening,
when he came back from the coon shack with Tom's supper.
"Is it going to be cold enough to put a crust on the snow?" Reade
"If it keeps on growing cold we ought to have a good crust by
the day after tomorrow."
"I'll pray for it," said Tom fervently.
Next day the weather continued intensely cold. Jim Ferrers went
to another shack to construct a pair of skis. These are long,
wooden runners on which Norwegians travel with great speed over
hard snow. Jim was positive that he could make the skis and that
he could use them successfully.
Harry still remained weak and ill, caring nothing for food, though
his refusals to eat drove Reads well-nigh frantic.
The morning after the skis were made, Jim Ferrers, who had relieved
worn-out Tom at three in the morning, stepped to the young engineer's
bunk and shook him lightly.
"All right," said Reade, sitting up in bed. "I'll get up."
He was out of the bunk almost instantly.
"I'm going to send Tim Walsh in to help you a bit," Jim whispered.
"The crust is right this morning, and I'm off for Dugout. Before
we forget it give me that nugget."
Tom passed it over, saying solemnly:
"Remember, Jim, you've got to bring a doctor back with you---if
you have to do it at the point of a gun!"
"I'll bring one back with me, if there's one left in Dugout,"
Ferrers promised, fervently.
Fifteen minutes later Jim was on his way. Tim Walsh came in on
tip-toe, and seemed afraid to stir lest he make some slight sound
to disturb the sleeping sick lad.
"A day or two more will tell the tale, Tim," Tom whispered in
the big miner's ear.
"Oh, it isn't as bad as that, sir; it can't be," protested the big
fellow in a hoarse whisper. "I reckon Mr. Hazelton is going to get
well all right."
"He won't eat anything," said Tom.
"He will when he's hungry, sir."
"Tim, have you ever had any practice in looking after sick people?"
"Quite a bit, sir. When I was a younker I was private in the
hospital corps in the Army."
"Why on earth didn't you tell me that before?" Tom gasped.
"Why, because, sir, I allowed that a brainy young man like you
would know just what to do a heap better than I would."
"Tim, do you know anything about temperatures and drugs?"
"Maybe I'd remember a little bit," Walsh answered modestly. "It's
twelve years since I was in the Army."
Tom brought the medicine case with trembling hands.
"To think that, all the time," he muttered, "I've been longing
for a doctor's visit, and yet I've had a man in camp who's almost
"No, sir; a long way from that," protested Tim Walsh. "And, besides,
I've forgotten a whole lot that I used to know."
Tom rapidly explained how he had been treating Hazelton, according
to the directions in the little medicine book. Tim listened gravely.
"Was that all right, Tim?" Tom asked, breathlessly, when he had
"I should say about all right, sir."
"Tim, what shall I do next?"
"Do you want me to tell you, sir?"
"Yes, yes, yes!"
"Then I might as well do it, sir, as tell you," Tim drawled out.
"Mr. Reade, you're worn to pieces. You get into your bunk and
I'll take charge for an hour."
"I want to see you do the things you know how to do."
"Not a thing will I do, Mr. Reade, unless you get into your bunk
for an hour," declared Walsh, sturdily.
"Will you call me in an hour, if I lie down?"
"You'll call me in an hour?"
"On my honor, Mr. Reade."
Tim Walsh thereupon bundled the young engineer into another bunk,
covered him up, and then watched until Tom Reade, utterly exhausted,
fell into a deep sleep that was more like a trance.
"But I didn't say in which hour I'd call him," muttered Walsh
under his breath, his eyes twinkling. Then he tip-toed over to
look at Harry Hazelton, who, also, was asleep. Through the whole
day Tom slept nor did the ex-Army nurse once quit the shack.
When dark came Tim Walsh had just finished lighting the lamp and
shading it when he turned to find Tom Reade glaring angrily into
"Tim, what does this treachery mean?" Reade questioned in a
"It means, sir, that you had tired yourself out so that you were
no longer fit to nurse your partner. He was in bad hands, taking
his medicines and his care from a man as dog-tired as you were,
Mr. Reade. It also means, sir, that I've been looking after Mr.
Hazelton all day, and he's a bit better this evening. Him and
me had a short chat this afternoon, and you never heard us. Mr.
Hazelton went to sleep only twenty minutes ago. When he wakes
up you can feel his skin and take his pulse, and you'll find him
"Tim, I know you meant it for the best, and that I ought to be
thankful to you," Tom murmured, "but, man, I've a good notion
to skin you alive!"
"You'd better not try anything like that, sir," grinned Walsh.
"Remember that I'm in charge here, now, and that you're only
a visitor. If you interfere between me and my patient, Mr. Reade,
I'll put you out of here and bar the door against you."
Tom, though angry at having been allowed to sleep for so long,
had the quick good sense to see that the big miner was quite right.
"All right, Tim Walsh," he sighed. "If you can take better care
of my chum than I can then you're the new boss here. I'll be good."
"First of all," ordered Walsh, "go over to the cook shack and
get some supper. Don't dare to come back inside of an hour, so
you'll have time to eat a real supper."
Tom departed obediently. Once out in the keen air he began to
understand how much good his day's sleep had done him. He was
alive and strong again. Taking in deep breaths, he tramped along
the path over to the shaft ere he turned his steps toward the
"Come right in, Mr. Reade, and eat something," urged Cook Leon.
"This is the first time I've seen you in days. You must be hungry."
"There's a fellow ten times smarter than I who's looking after
Hazelton," spoke Tom cheerily, "so I believe I am hungry. Yes;
you may set me out a good supper."
"Who's the very smart man that's looking after your friend?" Leon
"Why, he's nothing but a miner!"
"You're wrong there, Leon. Walsh has been a soldier, and a hospital
corps man at that. He knows more about nursing in a minute than
I do in a month. Oh, why didn't I hear about Walsh earlier?"
Leon soon had a steaming hot supper on the table. First of all,
Reade swallowed a cupful of coffee. Then he began his supper.
"I wonder if Ferrers can get back tonight?" Tom mused, after the
"He might, but a doctor couldn't get here tonight, unless he,
too, could move fast on skis," Leon replied.
"Anyway, I'm not as worried as I was," sighed Reade.
The door opened, and Alf Drew entered. That youngster rarely
came to the cook shack alone, but the lad learned that Tom Reade
"Sit down and keep quiet, if you're going to stay here," ordered
Alf went to the corner of the shack furthest from the other two.
Tom, watching covertly, saw Alf furtively draw out cigarette
Very softly Drew scratched a match. He was standing, his back
turned to the others, over a wood-box.
Click-ick-ick! sounded a warning note.
"Ow-ow-ow-ow!" howled Alf, jumping back, dropping both match and
"What's the matter, youngster?" demanded Tom placidly.
"There's a rattlesnake in there under the wood," wailed the boy,
his face ashen.
"How do you know?"
"I heard him rattle!"
Leon, too, had heard the sound, and would have started after a
poker, intent on killing the reptile, had he not seen Tom shake
his head, a twinkle in his eye.
"There are no rattlesnakes about in the dead of winter on this
Range," Tom declared positively.
"That one has been keeping hisself warm in the bottom of the wood-box,"
"There, didn't you hear it?" quivered the cigarette fiend.
"I heard no rattler," declared Tom, innocently. "Did you, Leon?"
The cook thought, to be sure that he had heard one, but he caught
the cue from Reade and answered in the negative.
"Go and turn the wood-box out, Leon, to show the young man that
there's no snake there," Tom requested.
Just then that task was hardly welcome to the cook, but he was
a man of nerve, and, in addition, he reasoned that Reade must
know what he was talking about. So Leon crossed the room with
an air of unconcern.
"Here's your rattlesnake, I reckon," growled the cook, picking
up Alf's dropped cigarette and tossing it toward the boy.
"That's the only rattlesnake on the Range," Tom pursued. "I've
been trying to tell Alf that cigarettes are undermining his nerves
and making him hear and see things."
Leon unconcernedly overturned the wood-box. Alf, with a yell,
ran and jumped upon a stool, standing there, his eyes threatening
to pop out from sheer terror.
Leon began to stir the firewood about with his foot.
Alf howled with terror, and seemed in danger of falling from the
"You'll keep on hearing rattlers, I expect," grunted Reade, "when
all the time it's nothing but the snapping of your nerves from
smoking cigarettes. The next thing you know your brain will snap
Click-ick-ick! On his stool Alf danced a mild war-dance from
"Come, be like a man, and give up the pests," advised Tom.
"I---I---be-believe I will," half agreed the lad.
"Didn't you hear that?" quavered the youngster.
"I hear your voice, but no rattlers," Reade went on. "Are you
still hearing the snakes? Be a man, Alf! Come, empty your pockets
of cigarettes and throw them in the fire."
Like one in a dream Alf Drew obeyed. Then he sat down, and presently
he began to recover from the worst of his fright.
When his hour was up, Tom Reade went back to the other shack.
Harry was awake, and feeling rather comfortable under big Walsh's
Soon after nine that night, the camp lay wrapped in slumber, save
in the partner's shack, where the shaded light burned. Tim Walsh
was still on duty, while Tom sat half dozing in a chair.
For the first time in days the young chief engineer was fairly
contented in mind. He now believed that his chum would surely
Had Tom been outside, hidden and keeping alert watch over the
surroundings, his content would have vanished into action.
In the deep darkness of the night, Dolph Gage glided about on
the firm snow crust at the further side of the mine shaft. With
him, looking more like two evil shadows or spectres, were his
two remaining companions.
Most of the time since they had been seen last, Gage and his
confederates had been within a mile or so of Reade's camp. They
had found a cave in which they had been passably comfortable.
For food they had depended upon the fact that the commissary at
the Bright Hope Mine was easily burglarized, and that no very
strict account was kept of the miners' food. Thus the three
scoundrels had managed not only to hide themselves from the law's
officers, but to keep themselves comfortable as well.
"Now we can fix these youngsters, and slide back to our hiding
place during the excitement," Gage whispered to his two friends.
"This crowd is broke. If we fix the mine in earnest tonight
they won't be able to open it again. With the dynamite we brought
up from the Bright Hope on this sled we can fire a blast that
will starve and drive Reade and Hazelton away from the Indian
Smoke Range for good and all!"
DOLPH GAGE FIRES HIS SHOT
"Yes, if we don't blow ourselves to kingdom come in the effort,"
growled the man known as Josh.
"You're talking bosh!" grunted Dolph. "Why should we blow ourselves
up? Is this the first time we've used dynamite!"
"But there's such a lot of the stuff," grunted Josh. "We must
have a hundred and fifty sticks on the sled."
"All of that," nodded Gage.
"If the stuff goes oh accidentally, when we're near-----"
"Then our troubles will be over," said Gage grimly.
"I'm not so all-fired anxious to have my troubles over that way,"
grumbled Josh. The other man said nothing, but he looked extremely
"The best way to make the thing sure," Gage went on, "is to get
to work before some one comes prowling this way."
"Who's going to prowl?" queried Josh. "The camp is asleep."
"Reade is up; we know that," Dolph insisted.
"Humph! We saw through the window that he's too drowsy to stir."
"Don't be too sure," warned Gage. "He may be only a boy, but
he's a sure terror, the way he finds out things! He may be out
at any time. Come, we'll hustle, and then get away from here."
"I'm ready," said the third man.
"Then get on to the top ladder," ordered Dolph. "When you're
down about fifteen feet, then stop and light your lantern. We'll
each do the same."
Dolph waited until the other two had reached the bottom of the
shaft and he could see their lanterns. Then he, too, descended,
lighting two more lanterns after he reached firm ground.
"Where are you going to set the stuff off?" Josh asked.
"In two places," Gage answered. "One big pile in the tunnel,
half-way between the heading and the shaft, and the other at the
bottom of the shaft. Get picks and a couple of shovels, and we'll
soon lay mines and tamp 'em."
While the men were obeying, Gage reclimbed the ladders. Roping
about a third of the dynamite sticks, and passing a loop over
one shoulder, he succeeded in carrying the dynamite below. In
two more trips he brought down the rest. The fourth trip he came
down with a magneto and several coils of light firing wire.
On account of their industry the time slipped by rapidly. As
a matter of fact their wicked task occupied them for nearly four
hours. However, no sound of what went on underground reached
the ears of those who slept in the shacks.
"We're ready for the wiring," announced Josh at last.
"I'll do that myself," said Gage. "I want it well done. Each
of you hold a lantern here."
By the light thus provided Dolph attached the light wires so that
the electric spark would be communicated to each stick in this
"mine." This was done by looping a circuit wire around each separate
stick, and connecting the wire with each detonating cap. The
dynamite, frozen on the snow crust, had thawed again at this
"Now, for the last tamping," ordered Gage.
While the others worked, Dolph carefully superintended their operations.
At last the tamping was done, and the connecting wires were carried
back to the bottom of the shaft.
Here the second mine was connected in the same manner, and the wires
joined so that the circuit should be complete.
"One spark from the magneto, now," chuckled Dolph, "and both blasts
will go on at once. Whew! This old ridge will rock for a few
For a few moments he stood surveying his work with huge satisfaction.
"Now, get up with you," he ordered. "Remember, at the bottom of the
last ladder, blow out your lanterns."
"The wires?" queried Josh.
"I'll carry 'em. All you have to do is to get out of here."
In quivering silence the three evil-doers ascended. The light
of their lanterns extinguished, they stepped out of the shaft
and once more on the hard snow crust.
"Now, take the magneto back about two hundred feet, leaving the
wires stretched on the snow," whispered Dolph.
"Who's that coming?" Josh demanded, in sudden alarm, clutching
his leader's sleeve.
For an instant all three men quailed. But they remained silent,
"Don't get any more dreams, Josh," Dolph ordered sharply. "There's
no one coming. It's all in your nerves."
"I was sure I heard some one coming." Josh insisted in a whisper.
"But you didn't"
"What if some one comes now?"
"No one is coming."
"But if some one should?"
"All the more reason for getting our work done with speed. Once
we've connected the magneto and fired the blast our whole job
will be done."
Josh, only half-convinced, drew a revolver and cocked the weapon.
"Now, be mighty careful!" snarled Dolph. "Don't get rattled and
shoot at any shadows! A shot might spoil our plans tonight, for
it would bring men tumbling out this way as soon as they could
get out of their bunks and into some clothes. Give me that pistol!"
Josh, hesitating, obeyed, whereupon Dolph Gage let down the hammer
noiselessly, next dropping the weapon into a pocket of his own
"Now, get the magneto back, as I told you. I'll take care of
the wires and see that they don't snap or get tangled."
This latter part of the work was quickly executed. Dolph deftly
attached the wires to the magneto, then seized the handle, prepared
"All ready, now!" he whispered gleefully. "Two or three pumps,
and damage will be done that it would cost at least fifteen thousand
dollars' worth of material and labor to remedy. The kid engineers
haven't the money and can't raise it. They'll have to give up---be
driven out. Then we'll send our own man, who has his mineral rights,
in here to take possession, and the mine will be ours once more---as
it always has been by rights."
"Let us get a little way to the rear before you fire the blasts,"
"Go back a couple of hundred feet, if you want," assented Dolph.
"But don't you run away! Remember that part of your job is to
stand by me if we're followed and fired upon."
Josh and his companion carefully made their way back over the crust.
Dolph Gage waited until he saw them to be a sufficient distance away.
"Now, work away, my magneto beauty" muttered Gage, exultantly.
"Do your work, straight and true. Drive these upstarts off of
Indian Smoke Range and bring my mine back into my own hands!
These fool engineers have found no gold in the ridge, but it's
there---waiting for me. And---now!"
He pumped the handle of the magneto vigorously. In another instant
the spark traveled.
From underground there came a sudden rocking, followed, after
a breathless interval, by a loud, crashing boom.
Both blasts had exploded in the same instant, and the dynamite
had done its work!
TOM BEGINS TO DOUBT HIS EYES
When the shock came it shook the shacks so that nearly all of the
sleeping miners became instantly alert.
Harry Hazelton, dozing lightly, sat up in bed, then felt dizzy and
lay down again.
"You keep on your pillow, Mr. Hazelton," Tim Walsh ordered, gently.
"It isn't your time to sit up yet, sir."
"What was the racket?" asked Harry, anxiously.
"A blast in the mine," Tom Reade answered, truthfully enough.
"I didn't know we had any dynamite left," persisted Harry.
"You haven't been in a condition to know all that has been going
on for the last few days," Tom retorted, gently. "Now, don't
ask me any more questions, for I've got to go out and see how
the blast came along."
As he spoke Tom was hustling into his coat and pulling his cap
down over his ears.
Then, full of the liveliest anxiety, the young chief engineer
His instant conclusion had been that some treachery was afoot,
but whence it came he had no idea. Just now Tom Reade wanted
facts, not conjectures.
As he closed the door and hurried across the camp, Tom found the
aroused miners flocking out. Several of them bore rifles, for
they, too, had guessed treachery.
"Here's the boss!"
"What's happened, Mr. Reade?"
"Men," Tom called softly, "I don't know what's up. But don't
talk loudly or excitedly, for Hazelton has been aroused by the
noise and the shake, and I've tried to turn it off. Don't let
him hear your voices."
"It was in the mine, sir, wasn't it?" asked one man, hurrying
to Reade's side.
"It must have been, Hunter. Come along, all of you. We'll go
over to the shaft and take a look."
Several of the men were carrying lighted lanterns. At the shaft
one of the first evidences they discovered was the wires running
back to the magneto.
"Trickery, here!" muttered one of the men. "Mr. Reade, shall
we try to pick up a trail and follow it?"
"No," answered Tom, after a moment's thought. "It would be wasted
time. Even if you pick up a trail on this frozen crust, which
is hardly likely, you couldn't follow it except by lantern light.
That would be slow work. Besides, it would show the rascals
where you were and how fast you were moving. They could fire
at you easily. No; let's have a look at the damage."
Looking down the shaft, with their rim light, from the top, all
looked as usual about the shaft.
"Hand me one of the lanterns," called Tom. "Hunter, you take
another and come with me."
"Careful, sir," warned another man. "The blasts may not be all
over as yet."
Tom Reade smiled.
"The blasts were fired by magneto," he explained. "There can't
be any more blasts, unless some enemy should sneak back and adjust
the magneto to some other 'mine.' You won't let any one down the
shaft for that purpose, I know."
There was a laugh, amid which Tom and Hunter descended. Near
the bottom of the third ladder Reade found that the rest of the
way down the shaft had been blocked by the smashing of the ladders.
"Go up, Hunter," the young engineer directed, "and start the men
to knotting ropes and splicing 'em. We want at least a hundred
feet of knotted rope."
Tom waited on the last solid rung while this order was being carried
out. By and by Hunter reached him with one end of a long, knotted
"Don't pass down any more," Tom called, "until I have made this
This was soon done, and the rest of the rope was lowered.
"Hunter," Tom asked, "are you good for going down a hundred feet
or so on a knotted rope?"
"I don't believe I am, sir."
"Then don't try it. Go up and send down two or three men who
feel sure they can do it. But urge every man against taking the
risk foolishly. For a man who can't handle himself on a knotted
rope it's a fine and easy way to break his neck."
"Are you going down now, sir?"
"Then I'll stay here and hold a lantern for you," replied Hunter,
doggedly. "I won't stir until I know you're safe at the bottom
of the shaft."
"Go ahead up," ordered Tom. "I'm tying a lantern to my coat."
This he was even then doing, in fact, making the knot with a
handkerchief passed through one of the button-holes of the garment.
"Why don't you go up, with my message, Hunter?" Tom demanded.
"I'm afraid I can't stir, sir, until I know that you're safe at
"Nonsense! What could you do to save me if I lost my hold and fell?"
"Nothing at all, sir; but I'll feel a heap easier when I know you're
safe at the bottom."
"All right, then," called Reade. "Watch me!"
He swung off into space with the skill and sureness of the practiced
athlete. A little later Tom touched bottom, calling up:
"Now, get busy, Hunter. I'm all right."
"Are you at the bottom of the shaft, sir?"
"I'm on solid ground, but I'm not sure about being at the bottom
of the shaft. I'm afraid the opening to the tunnel has been blocked.
Send down two or three men, and then some tools. The tools can
come down in the tub, but forbid any men to try that way. The
tub is too uncertain and likely to tip over."
"If the tub tips out a pick or two, they might fall on you, sir,
and wind up your life," Hunter objected.
"That's a chance to which no good sport can object," laughed Tom.
"Go ahead and see that my instructions are carried out."
One of the men came down the rope first. He landed safely, but
looked at his hands in the dim light.
"That's a hard road to travel, Mr. Reade," he remarked. "I'll
not be much pleased with the trip back."
"It's easy to any one who has had enough practice," Tom observed,
Then two other men came down in turn.
"We've enough men here," shouted Reade. "Now send tools."
Before long the young engineer had his little force busily engaged.
Of course, many of the timbers had been blown out of the walling
of the shaft. There was danger of the dirt caving in on the few
"Now, you four can keep going, digging straight down and to the
eastward," said Tom. "I'm going up to get some more men at work,
putting in temporary walling. I don't want any of you men hurt
by saving dirt from the sides of the shaft."
All four men stopped work at once.
"What's the matter!" asked Reade.
"Coming down's easy, sir; we're waiting to see you go _up_
"Then I'll endeavor not to keep you long away from your tasks,"
smiled the young engineer athlete.
Grasping the rope just above a knot over his head, Tom gave a
slight heave, then went rapidly up, hand over hand. He was soon
lost from the little circle of light thrown by the lanterns at
the shaft's bottom.
"Not many men like him," remarked one of the miners named Tibbets,
"I've been told that's what young fellers learn at college," said
another miner, as he spat on his hands and raised his pick.
For two hours Reade attended to the mending of the walling, as
the system of laying walls in shafts is termed. Ladders had to
be rebuilt even in order to put temporary walling in place.
Then the young chief engineer deemed it time to run over to the
partners' shack. He opened the door softly, peeping in. Feeling
the draught Tim Walsh turned and came to the door.
"Mr. Hazelton is doing all right, sir."
"Has he asked for me?"
"If he does, tell him that I'm putting in all night at the mine.
If he gets worse run over and get me."
Then Tom went back to his labors.
Dolph Gage and his fellow rascals, owing to their haste, and also
to the fact that they did not know as much as they thought they
did about laying and tamping blasts, had not done as much harm
as they had planned.
By the time that the miners had dug down some four feet, sending
up the dirt in the hoist-tub, they came to the opening of the
tunnel. Thus encouraged, they worked faster than ever, until
a new shift was sent down the repaired ladders to relieve them.
By daylight the men, changing every two hours for fresher details,
were well into the tunnel.
Here, for some yards, the tunnel was somewhat choked. After this
semi-obstruction had been cleared away, Tom Reade was able to
lead his men for some distance down the tunnel. Then they came
upon the scene of the late big blast.
Here the rock had been hurled about in masses. A scene of apparent
wreck met the eyes of the miners and their leader, though even
here the damage was not as great as had been expected by Gage
and his rascals.
To the north of the tunnel lay a great, gaping, jagged tear in
the wall of rock. This tear, or hole, extended some ten feet
to the north of the tunnel proper.
As Tom entered, a glint caught his eye. Something in the aspect
of that dull illumination, reflected back to him, made his pulses
He passed his left hand over his eyes, wondering if he were dreaming.
"I---I can't believe it!" he stammered. "Look, boys, and tell
me what you see!"
"It's the gleam of the real metal in the rock, sir---what's what
it is," gasped one of the miners, as he held up a lantern to aid
him in his quest.
It lay there, in streaks and rifts, a dull gleaming here and there.
To be sure, it was nothing at all like a solid golden wall, but
Tom Reade could be contented with less than Golconda.
In spots the precious metal showed in darkish streaks, instead
of yellow. But these dark streaks showed admixtures of silver.
"Run and get me a hammer, one of you," cried Tom, breathing fast.
When the miner returned with the chisel-nosed hammer he found
the young engineer eagerly exploring the whole length of the new
wall thus laid bare.
"I knew that a real vein lay here," Tom went on, as he took the
hammer. "The only trouble with us, men, was that we were working
eight or ten feet south of where the true vein lay. Now, by the
great Custer, we've hit it---thanks to the enemy!"
Eagerly Tom chipped off specimens of the rich gold and silver
bearing rock. He loaded down two men and carried more himself.
Every piece of rock was a specimen of rich ore.
Up the shaft they went, emerging into the sunlight.
"I'd like to know who the scamps were that fired the blasts in
the mine," Tom muttered joyously. "I'd like to reward them."
"Party coming, sir," reported a miner, pointing to the southward.
Over the snow came a cutter, drawn by two horses, slipping fast
over the snow. From one side of the cutter a pair of skis hung
"That's Jim Ferrers and the doctor from Dugout," Tom breathed.
"But who can the other lot of people be."
A pung, drawn also by a pair of horses, contained five men.
Jim was quickly on hand to explain matters.
"I've brought Dr. Scott. He'll have to see Hazelton quickly, and
then get back to Dugout," Jim declared. "The doctor is afraid the
crust may melt, and then he'll be stalled here with his outfit.
"Those men over there?" inquired Reade, as the pung stopped, and
the five men got out "Two of them look familiar to me."
"I reckon," nodded Jim Ferrers. "They're officers---all of 'em.
They've come over here to hunt the rocks to the south of here.
Up at the jail the keepers worried out of Eb some information
about a cave where Dolph Gage hangs out. It seems that Gage and
his pals have been stealing supplies at the Bright Hope Mine."
Jim introduced Dr. Scott, who said:
"I must see my patient and be away in an hour. I don't want to
get stalled here by a thaw."
So Tom led the way to the shack, and did not see the departure of
the law's five officers.
Outside Reade carefully dropped the ore he had brought along and
made a sign to his workmen to do the same. Then the partners
and the physician went inside.
Tom watched closely while the physician placed a thermometer in
Harry's mouth and felt his pulse. Respiration was also counted,
after which Dr. Scott produced a stethoscope and listened at Harry's
chest and back. A little more, and the examination was completed.
"Gentlemen," announced Dr. Scott, "you've brought me all this
distance over the snow-crust to see a patient who is just about
convalescent. This young man may have some nourishment today,
and by day after tomorrow he will be calling loudly for the cook."
"What has been the trouble, doc?" Hazelton asked.
"Congestion of the right lung, my son, but the congestion has
almost wholly disappeared."
A mist came before Tom Reade's eyes. Now that his chum was out
of danger Reade realized how severe on him the whole ordeal had
As soon as Tom found a chance he asked Dr. Scott:
"Will a little excitement of the happiest kind hurt Hazelton any?"
"Just what kind of excitement?"
"We've had a disappointing mine that has turned over night into
a bonanza. I've a lot of the finest specimens outside."
"Bring them in," directed the physician.
Tom came in with an armful.
"Harry," he called briskly, "we were right in thinking we had
a rich vein. The only trouble was that we were working eight
or ten feet south of the real vein. Look over these specimens."
Tom ranged half a dozen on the top blanket. When Harry's glistening
eyes had looked them all over, Tom produced other specimens of
ore. Dr. Scott examined them, too, with a critical eye.
"If you've got much of this stuff in your mine, Reade," said the
medical man, "you won't need to work much longer."
"Won't need to work much longer?" gasped Tom Reade. "Man alive,
we don't want to stop working. When a man stops working he may
as well consult the undertaker, for he's practically dead anyway.
What we want gold for is so that we can go on working on a bigger
scale than ever! And now, Harry, the name for our mine has come
"What are you going to call it?" Hazelton asked.
"With your consent, and Ferrers's, we'll name it the Ambition
Mine. That's just what the mine stands for with us, you know."
"The best name in the world," Harry declared.
"And now, young man," said Dr. Scott, addressing Hazelton, "I
want you to rest quietly while Tim Walsh sponges you off and the
cook is busy making some thin gruel for you. Reade, in order
to get you out of here I'll agree to go down in your mine with you."
Dr. Scott proved more than an interested spectator when he reached
the tunnel. He possessed considerable knowledge of ores.
"Yes; you have your bonanza here, Reade," declared the physician.
"Almost any ambition that money will gratify will soon be yours.
From the very appearance of this newly-opened vein I don't believe
it is one that will give out in a hurry."
"By the way, Doe," called Ferrers, joining them, "here's that
nugget that you wouldn't take when I offered it to you in Dugout.
You've made your visit, and now the nugget is yours."
"I don't want it," smiled Dr. Scott. "I want real money, in place
of the nugget, and I'll be content to wait for it. The owners
of this mine will be welcome to run up a very considerable bill
"Then can you stay a few days?" queried Tom eagerly. "Until good
old Harry is wholly out of danger."
"Yes; I'll stay a few days, if you wish it, Mr. Reade."
Finally Jim had the presence of mind to pilot the physician to
the cook shack.
Quietly enough the officers from Dugout had reentered camp. With
them they had borne one long, covered object---the remains of
Dolph Gage, who had been shot and killed while resisting arrest.
Gage's two remaining companions had been brought in, handcuffed.
These expert sheriff's officers from Dugout had been able to
find a trail, even on the hard-frozen snow crust, and had tracked
the criminals directly to their cave.
Jim Ferrers went over to where the body of Gage lay on the snow.
Gently he turned down the cloth that covered the dead man's face.
For a few moments Ferrers gazed at the still face; then, awkwardly,
after hesitating, he lifted his hat from his head.
"That man killed your brother, Jim," murmured Tom, stepping up
to his Nevada partner. "You had other reasons for hating him.
In the old days you would have run Dolph Gage down and killed
him yourself. In these newer days you have left Gage to the hands
of the law. It is a much better way, and you will never even have
to wonder whether you have done any wrong."
"The law's way is always best, I reckon," returned Jim Ferrers,
That same day, after the officers had gone with their men, Jim
Ferrers, finding that the crust was holding, drove fresh horses
to the doctor's cutter. The physician remained behind to take
care of Harry Hazelton, but Jim went fast toward Dugout City.
He was armed with letters from Dr. Scott that told certain dealers
in Dugout what unlimited credit the partners ought to have on
account of their mine.
Before Harry was sitting up vehicles had been employed to bring
to Ambition Mine considerable supplies of dynamite, food and all
else that was needed, including half a dozen of the latest books
for the amusement of the invalid engineer.
Everything went on swiftly now. More miners, too, were brought
over, while the hard crust lasted, and a score of carpenters.
Lumber camp also. There was a constant procession of vehicles
between Dugout and Ambition Mine. Tom did not hesitate to avail
himself of his sudden credit, for every day's work showed that
the vein was not giving out. An ore dump was piling up that meant
big returns when the ore could be hauled to the smelter.
Ambition Mine proved a steady "payer." No; our young men did
not become multi-millionaires. Mines that will do that for three
partners are scarce, indeed. Ambition, however, did pay enough
so that, by spring, Tom and Harry, after looking over their bank
account, found that they could go ahead and furnish their engineer
offices on a handsome scale. Some thousands, too, found their
way to their families in the good old home town of Gridley.
The mine was turned into a stock company. Tom, Harry and Jim
each retained one-fourth interest. The remaining fourth of the
stock was divided evenly between Cook Leon and the twenty-four
miners who had stood by so loyally, so that now each of the original
miners, in addition to his day's pay, owned one per cent. of the
gold and silver that went up in the new elevator that replaced
Alf Drew did not receive one of the small shares in the mine property.
His cigarette smoking had made him lazy and worthless, and he had
done nothing to promote the success of the once desperate
However, there was hope for Alf. At the time when he threw his
remaining "coffin nails" in the cook's fire he really did "swear
off," and he afterwards was able to refrain from the use of tobacco
in any form. He grew taller and stouter and developed his muscles.
Tom and Harry employed him at the mine as a checking clerk, where
he actually earned his money, and saved a goodly amount of it
"Tom, you rascal, you promised some day to show me how you scared
that boy stiff with your rattlesnake click," Harry reminded his
"Nothing very difficult about it," laughed Tom. "Can you make
a noise by grinding your molars together---your grinding teeth?
Harry did. The noise came forth from his mouth, though it didn't
sound exactly like the rattle of a rattler.
"Keep on practicing, and you'll get that rattle down to
perfection---that's all," nodded Tom.
Spring found the young engineers restless for new fields. They
longed to tackle other big feats of engineering. Jim Ferrers
understood, and said to them:
"You youngsters know, now, that you can trust me to run this mine."
"We always knew that we could trust you," Tom corrected him.
"Well, you know it now, anyway. You want to get back into the
world. You are restless for new fields to conquer. Go ahead;
only come back once in a while and shake hands with old Jim.
While you're away I'll send you a monthly statement of your earnings
and see that the money is placed to your credit."
On their ride to Dugout, Tom and Harry were favored with the company
of Mr. Dunlop, promoter of the Bright Hope Mine.
"I suppose it's a lucky thing for you boys that you stuck to your
own mine," said Dunlop. "you've come out a good deal better.
I wish I had secured your services, though. We're making some
money over at the Bright Hope, but we'd make a lot more with the
right engineers in charge. I'm on my way to Dugout to use the
telegraph wires in earnest. I've learned that the real way to
make money out of a mine is to have a real engineer in charge."
Tom and Harry delayed but a couple of hours at Dugout. Then-----
However, their further adventures must be delayed in the narration
until they appear between the covers of the next volume in this
series. It will be published at once under the title, "_The Young
Engineers In Mexico; Or, Fighting the Mine Swindlers_."
In this new volume will be described what Tom and Harry did in
a land of mystery and romance; a land where the sharp contrasts
of wealth and squalor have fostered the development of many noble
characters and have created some of the vilest among men. The
forthcoming story is one filled with the glamour and the fascination
of that neighbor-country of hot-blooded men. In Mexico, Tom and
Harry encountered their most startling adventures of all.