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The Young Engineers in Nevada; Or, Seeking Fortune on the Turn of a Pick By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 10983

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

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

"Not necessary," spoke Tom, dryly. "The shots were fired by Jim

Ferrers's army."

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

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

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

With that explanation Ferrers slid rather than walked down into the gully.

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

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

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

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

"Then, indeed, we must look out for an ambush," said one of Mr.

Dunlop's companions, a man of thirty.

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

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

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

"I had provocation," Ferrers answered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Was your brother killed?" Tom inquired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Then," said Mr. Dunlop, "the next step will be to get in touch with a satisfactory engineer. You see, Mr. Reade, it's either a tunneling or a boring claim. We must either sink a shaft or drive a tunnel--whichever operation can be done at the least cost. Either way will be expensive, and we must find out for a certainty which will be the cheaper. There's a lot of refractory rock in the slope yonder. In the m

orning our party will get all the ore we can from the surface croppings, then start for Dugout, going from there to Carson City. At Carson we hope to find an honest engineer and a capable metallurgist."

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

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

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

Reade proposed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Dunlop.

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

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

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

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

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

Ferrers leading.

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

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

"I didn't notice which way he went, sir," returned the guide.

"He looked plumb scared, and I reckon he ducked into cover somewhere.

Maybe he headed for Dugout City and hasn't stopped running yet."

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

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

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

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

"Then who---"

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

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

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

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

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