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   Chapter 8 JIM FERRERS, PARTNER

The Young Engineers in Nevada; Or, Seeking Fortune on the Turn of a Pick By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 7925

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


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

"I never meant anything more in my life!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"A feller usually can," Ferrers replied.

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

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

"The street corner where you're to find the money, eh, Jim?" smiled

Tom. "Yes; I believe I can do that, too. You know the map of

Dugout, don't you?"

"'Course."

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

Street?"

"Sure."

"On one of those four corners," Tom continued, "you'll find the

Dugout City Bank."

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

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

"What's this?" queried the guide.

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

Ferrers stared at the piece of paper incredulously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

e book to me."

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

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

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

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

"Yes."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Please do," asked Tom.

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

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

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

"You're going to stop him?"

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

Alf came back, looking much pleased.

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

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

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

"I feel fine," asserted Alf stolidly.

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

Click-ick-ick!

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

Click-ick-ick-ick!

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

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

"Not a rattle," said Hazelton soberly.

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

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

I'm afraid of rattlers."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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