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   Chapter 1 ALF AND HIS MAKINGS OF MANHOOD

The Young Engineers in Nevada; Or, Seeking Fortune on the Turn of a Pick By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 22345

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


"Say, got the makings?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alf Drew shifted once more on his feet.

"'Bouter year," he answered.

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

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

"Come here!"

Drew advanced, rather timidly, into the tent.

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

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

"Are you a doctor?" sneered Drew.

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

"But---"

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

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

"Good pulse, eh?" questioned Alf Drew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As he expanded his chest Reade looked a good deal more like some

Greek god of old than a twentieth century civil engineer.

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

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

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

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

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

"And you didn't believe them?"

"I--I don't know."

"Why did you ever take up smoking?"

"All men smoke," argued Alf Drew.

"Lie number one. All men don't smoke," Tom corrected him. "But I think I catch the drift of your idea. If you smoke you think men will look upon you as being more manly. That's it, it?"

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

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

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

"Answering your first question, Drew, I haven't the 'makings.'

I never did carry them and never expect to."

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

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

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

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

"I'll bet he did."

"We'll see."

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

"Ferrers! Oh, Mr. Ferrers!"

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

"If you please," Tom called back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Say, I don't believe I'm going to like this job," muttered Alf

Drew. "I reckon I'll be pulling my freight outer this camp."

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

With a sniff of scorn Ferrers tramped away.

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

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

It was rough ground along this mountain trail in the Indian Smoke

Range of mountains, in Nevada. Soon the pulses of both began to beat

more heavily. Tom took in great breaths of the life-giving air, but

Alf was soon panting.

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

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

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

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

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

"You talk like a doctor!"

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

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

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

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

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

"Say, I don't want to go down and through that thick brush," objected

Alf Drew, slowing his steps.

"Why not?"

"Snake

s!"

"Are you afraid of snakes, Alf?"

"Some kinds."

"What kinds?"

"Well, rattlers, f'r instance."

"There are none of that kind on this part of the Indian Smoke

Range," Reade rejoined. "Come along with me."

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

Click! cl-cl-click!

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

"What's the matter?" demanded Reade.

Click cl-cl-click!

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

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

Once more the dread sound smote the air.

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

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

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

"But don't you hear the rattlesnake?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"A rattlesnake?" Tom inquired innocently.

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

"But you're going to forget those soul-destroying little coffin-nails,"

Reade suggested. "You're going to become a man and act like one.

You're going to learn how much more fun it is to have your lungs

filled with pure air instead of stifling cigarette smoke."

"Maybe I am!" muttered the boy.

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

Cl-cl-cl-click!

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

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

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

Drew fiercely.

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

Cl-cl-cl-click!

Alf Drew held back, trembling.

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

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

Reade proposed.

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

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

"Hear that snake?" demanded young Drew.

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

Cl-cl-click!

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

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

Tom laughed covertly. The disturbing sound came again.

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

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

Reade queried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No telling, young man, how long the job will last," Tom warned him.

"We may at any hour break camp and get away."

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alf Drew looked uncommonly solemn, but he said nothing.

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

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

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

It certainly looked that way.

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

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

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

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