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   Chapter 10 TOM'S FIGHTING BLOOD SURGES

The Young Engineers in Nevada; Or, Seeking Fortune on the Turn of a Pick By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 14693

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


"Take another hitch of rope around that young steer," Dolph ordered, after he had flung Harry violently to the ground.

"He wont get away as he is," replied one of the other two men.

"Maybe not, but take an extra roping, as I told you," was Gage's tart retort.

So another length of line was passed around Hazelton, until he felt as though he had been done up in network.

"Now; we'll give your partner a chance to show up," muttered Gage, throwing himself on the ground. "You young fellers will have to learn the lesson that you're thirty miles from anywhere, and that we rule matters around here. We're going to keep on ruling, too, in this strip of Nevada."

"Are you?" grimaced Hazelton. "Then, my friend, allow me to tell you that you are making the mistake of trying to reckon without Tom Reade!"

"Is that your partner's name?" jeered Dolph Gage. "A likely enough boy, from what I've heard of him. But he isn't old enough to understand Nevada ways."

"No, perhaps not," Harry admitted ironically. "So far Tom has gotten his training only in Colorado and in Arizona. I begin to realize that he isn't bright enough to have his own way among the bright men of Nevada. But Reade learns rapidly--don't forget that!"

"Huh!" growled Gage. "The young cub seems to think that he has come out here to take charge of the Range. According to his idea he has only to pick out what he wanted here; and take it. He never seems to understand that gold belongs to the first man who finds it. I was on this Range long before Reade was out of school."

"And he doesn't object to your staying here," remarked Hazelton calmly.

"That's good of him, I'm sure," snapped Gage. "I've no objection to his staying here, either. Fact is, I'm going to encourage both of you to stay here."

"Encourage us?" grinned Harry.

"Well, then, I'm going to make you stay here, if you like that word any better."

"That will be more difficult," suggested Hazelton.

"First of all, we're going to tote your assay outfit over to our camp. You won't be able to do much without that. Look around a bit, Eb," added Dolph, turning to one of his companions. "Perhaps you'd better get the furnace out first. Two of you can carry it. I wish we had our other man back from Dugout. We need hands here."

"Can't you use some of my muscle in helping you to loot our camp?" suggested Hazelton, ironically. "I'm fairly strong, you know."

"Yes; I know you are. That's why we've tied you up," growled

Gage.

The man addressed as Eb had taken the other fellow aside, and they were now lifting the assay furnace in order to decide how heavy it was.

"It doesn't weigh much over a hundred and fifty pounds," called out Dolph Gage. "Two men like you can get it over to camp. And bring over our guns, too. It was a mistake to leave 'em over in camp."

Gage watched until the pair were out of sight among the trees.

"Hurry, you men!" Gage roared after them.

Then he started in to nose around the camp.

As he passed a clump of bushes there was a slight stir among them.

Then Tom Reade leaped forth.

In a twinkling Dolph Gage had been caught up. He was in the grip of a strong, trained football player.

"Drop me!" ordered Gage, with a slight quiver in his voice.

"I'm going to," agreed Tom, hurling the fellow fully a dozen feet.

With an oath Gage leaped to his feet. Before he was fairly Tom Reade's fist caught him in the left eye, sending him to earth once more.

"Is that the way you fight, you young cub?" roared Gage hoarsely.

"I can fight harder if you want me to," Tom retorted, as the other again got to his feet. "Now, put your hands up, and I'll show you."

Tom went at it hammer and tongs. He was a splendidly built young athlete, and boxing was one of his strong points, though he rarely allowed himself to get into a fight. Indeed, his usually abounding good nature made all fighting disagreeable to him. Now, however, he drove in as though Dolph Gage were a punching-bag.

"Stand up, man, and fight as though you had some sand in you!" Tom ordered. "Get up steam, and defend yourself."

"I have had enough," Gage gasped. Indeed, his face looked as though he had.

"Are you a baby?" Reade demanded contemptuously. "Can't you fight with anything but your tongue!"

"You wait and I'll show you," snarled the badly battered man.

"What's the need of waiting?" Tom jeered, and swung in another blow that sent Gage to the ground.

"Eh! Josh!" bellowed Gage, with all the breath he had left.

"Hustle o-o-o-over here!"

"Let 'em come!" vaunted Reade. "You'll be done for long before they can get here."

"I'll have you killed when they get here with the guns!" cried

Gage hoarsely.

Tom continued to punish his opponent. Then Dolph, on regaining his feet, sought to run. Tom let him go a few steps, then bounded after him with the speed of the sprinter. Gage was caught by the shoulders, swung squarely around, and soundly pummelled.

"Let up! Let up!" begged Gage. "I'm beaten. I admit it."

"Beaten, perhaps, but not punished enough," retorted Tom. As Dolph would no longer stand up, Reade threw himself upon the fellow and pummelled him fearfully.

"This is no fair fight," protested Gage, now fairly sobbing in his pain and terror, for good-humored Reade seemed to him now to be the impersonation of destroying, fury.

"Fair fight?" echoed Reade. "Of course it isn't. This is a chastisement. You villain, you've done nothing but annoy us and shoot at us ever since we've met you. You've got to stop it after this; do you understand?"

"I'll stop it--I'll stop it. Please stop yourself," begged Gage, now thoroughly cowed.

"I'll wager you'll stop," gritted Tom. "I've never hammered a man before as I've hammered you, and I'm not half through with you. By the time I am through with you you'll slink into a corner every time you see me coming near. You scoundrel, you bully!"

Tom's fists continued to descend. Dolph's tone changed from one of entreaty to one of dire threats. He would spend the rest of his life, he declared, in dogging Reade's tracks until he succeeded in killing the boy.

"That doesn't worry me any. You'll experience a change of heart--see if you don't," Tom rejoined grimly, as he added to the pounding that the other was receiving.

Harry Hazelton had struggled to his feet, though he had been unable

to free his hands from the cords that held them behind his back.

"You're not talking quite the way you did a few minutes ago, Gage,"

Harry put in dryly.

"You'll see--both of you young pups!" moaned the battered wretch. "Ask any one, and they'll tell you that Dolph Gage never overlooks a pounding such as I've had."

"And you got it from the boy that you were going to teach something," jeered Hazelton, "Gage, you know a little more about Tom Reade, now, don't your?"

Then Harry straightened up, as he caught sight of moving objects in the distance.

"Get through with him, Tom" advised the other young engineer.

"I see Eb and Josh coming on the run. They'll have the guns.

We've got to look out for ourselves."

Tom flung the badly beaten man from him where he lay on the ground moaning over his hurts and vowing vengeance on Tom.

"Stand still, Harry, and I'll have you free in a jiffy," Tom proposed, hauling out his

pocket knife.

"It won't do for us to stand still too long," urged Hazelton, as his chum began to slash at the cords. "The other scoundrels will kill us when they see what's been going on here."

"No, they won't," Tom promised calmly. "We'll take care of 'em both. You wait and see which one I take. Then you take the other. We'll handle 'em to the finish."

This seemed like foolhardy talk when it was considered that the other two men would return armed. But Harry had unlimited confidence in his friend, and so followed Tom, crouching, until they had hidden behind bushes along the trail.

"Where be you, Dolph?" called the voice of Eb, as the pair drew near.

"He's over there," spoke Reade, springing out of the bushes.

"You'll join him after a bit."

Neither Eb nor Josh was armed. Tom sailed into Eb, while Harry sprang at Josh. For a few minutes the trail was a scene of swift action, indeed. Shortly Eb and Josh tried to run away, as Gage had done, but each time the young engineers caught them and compelled them to renew the fight.

"My man's going to sleep, now, Harry!" Tom called, and drove in a knockout blow with his left.

Josh swiftly followed Eb to the ground.

"They'll keep quiet for a little while," declared Tom, after a look at each.

Dolph Gage had by this time painfully risen to his feet and came limping slowly down the trail.

"You might look after your friends, Gage," Tom called, pointing.

"They need attention."

"How did they come to be here?" gasped Dolph.

"They'll give you full particulars when they have time," Tom laughed.

"You boys won't feel quite so smart when our turn comes," snarled

Gage.

"Not a bit," Reade answered. "If you fellows have any sense you'll conclude that you've had about all the settlement that you can stand."

Gage didn't make any answer. Doubtless he concluded that it wouldn't be wise to talk back So he began working over Eb and Josh, until they showed signs of reviving.

"Did ye--did ye kill 'em for us, Dolph?" gasped Josh, as he opened his eyes and beheld the face of his comrade.

"No," said Gage curtly.

"Why not?"

"Shut up!"

Not many minutes more had passed when Eb became conscious.

"You fellows can go over to your camp, any time you want," suggested

Tom.

Slowly, painfully, the trio started.

"I feel almost ashamed of myself," Harry muttered.

"So do I," Tom agreed. "Yet what else was there for us to do!

We've stood all the nonsense we can from that crowd. They'd have

killed us if we hadn't done something to bring them to their senses.

Now, I believe they'll let us alone."

"They'll ambush us," predicted Hazelton

"Well, they won't have any guns to do it with," Tom grinned.

"Why, what became of their guns"

"I'm the only fellow on earth who knows," Tom laughed.

"Then you were at their camp?"

"Of course. My telling you to stone any prowler who visited this place was only a trap. I thought that he'd run off and get the rest of the crew. Knowing you to be alone and unarmed, and believing me to be far away prospecting, they didn't imagine that they'd need their rifles. As soon as they left their camp I dropped in and borrowed the rifles and all their ammunition."

"Where is the stuff now?"

"Come on and I'll show you."

"Hold on a minute," begged Harry, as Tom leaped up. "Do you miss anything?"

"What?"

"Our assay furnace. Eb and Josh carted it away."

"Then we'll go after that, first," Tom smiled. "Our friends are so sore that it would be hardly fair to ask them to return the furnace."

That missing article was found about halfway between the two camps. Tom and Harry picked it up, carrying it back to where it had been taken from. "Going after the guns, now?" Hazelton inquired.

"First of all," Tom suggested, "I think we had better start a roaring good campfire."

"What do we want such a thing as that for?" Harry protested.

"The day is warm enough."

"The fire will be just the thing," laughed Tom quietly. "Come on and gather the wood with me. Alf! Oh, you Alf Drew!"

But the cigarette fiend was not in evidence If he heard, he did not answer.

"We might as well pay that imitation boy for his time and let him go," muttered Harry.

"Oh, I hardly think so," dissented Reade. "It's worth some time and expense to see if we can't make something more nearly resembling a man out of him."

The fire was soon crackling merrily. Tom led the way to a thicket an eighth of a mile from camp. Here he produced from hiding three repeating rifles and several boxes of ammunition.

"We'll hold on to these," Hazelton said.

"For what reason?"

"They'll come in handy to steer off that other crowd."

"I wouldn't be bothered with keeping the rifles about camp," Tom retorted, as they started backward.

"But say! Gage's man that went to Dugout will soon be back.

Do you forget that he carries a rifle?"

"Jim Ferrers will be back at about the same time," Tom rejoined. "They'll have rifles until the camp will look like an outdoor arsenal. We don't want these added rifles around camp. Besides, if we kept 'em we'd soon begin to feel like thieves with other folks' property."

"What are you going to do with these guns, then?"

"By tomorrow," Reade proposed, "I rather expect to put these guns out where Gage's crew can find them again."

"Well, you're full of faith in human nature, then!" gasped Harry.

"Wait and see what happens," begged Tom.

When they stepped back into camp Tom threw the magazine of one of the rifles open, extracting the cartridges. Then he stepped over and carefully deposited the rifle across the middle of the fire.

"I might have known!" cried Hazelton.

The other two rifles were soon disposed of in the same manner.

"Let the rifles cook in the fire for an hour," smiled Reade," and the barrels will be too crooked for a bullet ever to get through one again."

"What are you going to do with the cartridges, though?"

"Fire a midnight salute with them," Tom answered briefly. "Wait and you'll hear some noise."

Alf Drew cautiously approached camp when he felt the pangs of hunger. The cigarette fiend must have been satisfied, for Tom and Harry had already gotten the meal. But Reade, without a word of rebuke to their supposed helper, allowed young Drew to help himself to all he wanted in the way of hot food and coffee.

Bringing midnight two hours nearer--that is to say, at ten o'clock, Tom and Harry, aided this time by Alf, built a large fire-pile in a gully at a safe distance from camp. The wood was saturated with oil, a powder flash laid, then Tom laid a fuse-train. Lighting the fuse, the three speedily decamped.

Presently they saw the flames of the newly kindled fire shooting up through the trees. Then the volleying began, for Tom had carefully deposited through the fire-pile all the captured cartridges.

For fully five minutes the cartridges continued to explode, in ragged volleys.

"It's a regular Fourth of July," Harry laughed, back in camp. "Tom, who's going to take the first trick of watch tonight?"

"Neither one of us," Reade replied. "We'll both get a sound sleep."

But the enemy?"

"It would take four mules apiece to drag them over here tonight," laughed Reade, as he rolled himself up in his blanket. "Good night!"

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