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   Chapter 11 PLANNING A NEW MOVE

The Young Engineers in Nevada; Or, Seeking Fortune on the Turn of a Pick By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 10615

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


Barely were the young engineers astir the following morning when

Alf Drew came racing back with news.

"There's a whole slew of men coming, on horseback and on foot!"

Alf reported. "And a whole train of wagons!"

"Good enough!" nodded Tom. "I hope the new folks camp right close to here. We need good neighbors more than anything else."

"But they may belong to Gage's crowd," Alf insisted.

"Don't you believe it, lad. Dolph Gage hasn't money enough to finance a crowd like that."

"It may be Dunlop's crowd," suggested Hazelton.

"That's more likely," said Tom. "Well we'll be glad enough to see Dunlop back here with a outfit. This part of the woods will soon be a town, at that rate."

"Come out where you can get a look a new crowd," urged Alf.

"If it's any one who wants to be neighborly," Reade answered with a shake of his head, "he's bound to stop in and say 'howdy.' We're going to get breakfast now."

"Then I'll be back soon, and tell you anything I can find out about the new folks," cried Alf, darting away.

But Tom raced after the lad, collaring him.

"Alf, listen to me. We're not paying you to come in on time to get your meals. You get over there by Jim's cooking outfit and be ready to take orders."

"Humph!" grunted young Drew, but he went as directed, for there was nothing else to do.

Five minutes later Mr. Dunlop turned his horse's head and rode down into the camp.

"Howdy, boys!" called the mine promoter.

"Glad to see you back, Mr. Dunlop," Tom nodded, while Harry smiled a welcome.

"I've sent my outfit around by the other trail," explained Mr.

Dunlop. "I've brought back men enough to start work in earnest.

There will be a mule train here by tomorrow with donkey engines

and machinery enough to start the work of mine-digging in earnest.

Here, boy, take my horse and tie him."

As Alf led the animal away, Mr. Dunlop turned to the young engineers with a smile of great amiability.

"Boys, I'm glad to say that I wired the two railroad presidents you mentioned to me. Both wired back, in effect, that my mine was bound to be a success if I turned the engineering problem over to you. So I'm going to accept your offers--hire you at your own figures. I want you to come over to the Bright Hope claim as soon as you've had breakfast."

Tom glanced at his chum, then answered, slowly:

"I'm sorry, Mr. Dunlop, sorry indeed, if---"

"What are you trying to say?" demanded the mine promoter sharply.

"When you left here, Mr. Dunlop, we told you that we couldn't agree to hold our offer open."

"Oh, that's all right. I've come right back and taken up your terms with you," replied the promoter easily.

"But I'm sorry to say, sir, that you are too late."

"Too late? What are you talking about, Reade? You haven't entered the employ of any one else not in this wilderness."

"We've formed a partnership with Ferrers, sir," Reade gravely informed Mr. Dunlop, "and we're going into the mining business on our own account."

"Nonsense! Where's your claim?"

"Somewhere, sir, in this part of Nevada."

"You haven't found the claim yet, then?" asked the promoter, with a tinge of relief in his voice.

"No, sir. We located a promising claim, but the Gage gang tricked us out of it. We'll find another, though."

"Then you'll prove yourselves very talented young men," scoffed Mr. Dunlop. "Lad, don't you know that I've been all over this country with old-time prospectors? There isn't any claim left that will pay you for the trouble of locating and working it."

"We're going to hope for better luck than your words promise us, sir," Harry hinted.

"You'll have your labor for your pains, then, and the satisfaction of finding yourselves fools," exclaimed Dunlop testily. "You'd better drop all that nonsense, and report to me after breakfast."

"It's not to be thought of, Mr. Dunlop," Tom replied gravely. "We are here in the land of gold. We think we see our chance to work for ourselves for a while, and we're going to make the most of our chance."

"Then you're a pair of idiots," quivered indignant Dunlop.

"We'll be our own fools, then," smiled Harry.

"I beg your pardon for getting out of patience," spoke Mr. Dunlop, more gently. "I'm disappointed in you. All the way here I have been planning to get you both at work early. The stockholders in the Bright Hope are all looking for early results."

"Couldn't you get hold of an engineer at Dugout?" Tom inquired.

"Not one."

"Then you'll have to go farther--Carson City," Reade suggested. "There must be plenty of mining engineers in Nevada, where their services are so much in demand."

"A lot of new claims are being filed these days," explained Mr. Dunlop. "The best I could learn in Dugout was that I'd have to wait until some other mine could spare its man."

"I'm sorry we can't help you, sir," Tom went on thoughtfully.

"I shall feel it a personal grievance, if you don't," snapped the mine promoter.

"We can't do anything for you, Mr. Dunlop," spoke Reade decisively.

"Just as soon as Ferrers returns, so that our camp can be taken

care of, we three partners are going to hustle out on the prospect.

Will you have breakfast with us, sir?"

Mr. Dunlop assented, but his mind was plainly on his

disappointment all through the meal.

Even when Harry Hazelton related how Dolph Gage and his crew had been served, the mine promoter displayed but little enthusiasm.

"By the way, sir," suggested Tom, "you are not going to use all of your men today?"

"I cannot use any of them for a day or two."

"Then you might do us a great favor by sending a few of your men over here. I expect that Gage's absent comrade will return at any time. He will have his rifle, and one gun in the hands of a marksman, might be enough to make considerable trouble around here."

"You ask me a favor, and yet you won't work for me," complained their guest.

"I think we did you a favor, once upon a time, by helping to chase off the Gage crowd at a critical time for you," said Tom bluntly. "However, if you don't wish---"

"I'll send half a dozen men over here until Ferrers returns," interjected Mr. Dunlop hastily.

The men reported to Tom and Harry within half an hour. A few minutes after their arrival Harry espied Dolph Gage's absent man galloping over to the Gage claim.

"There would have been trouble, if we hadn't shown a few armed men here," muttered Hazelton.

"There's some excitement in that camp, as it is," exclaimed Tom, who had a pair of binoculars at his eyes. "Gage, Eb and Josh are crowding around the new arrival. Take the glasses, Harry. Note how excited they are about something."

"Gage is stamping about and looking wild," Harry reported. "He looks as though, for two cents, he'd tear his hair out. And Eb has thrown his hat on the ground and is stamping on it. I wonder what the trouble can be?"

Two hours later Jim Ferrers rode into camp at the head of his new outfit. He had the two-mule team and wagon, and seven men, all miners and armed. Two of the men rode the ponies that Reade had instructed Jim to buy.

"Jim," called Tom, as he ran toward their mining party, "have you any idea what's wrong with the Gage crowd?"

"I've a small notion," grinned the guide. "The man who was sent over couldn't file their claim to the ridge."

"Couldn't file it! Why not?"

"Because every man in that crowd has exhausted his mineral land privileges taking up claims elsewhere."

"Why, then, man alive!" gasped Tom, halting, a look of wonder on his face, and then a grin of realization, "if they can't file the claim to that strip, why can't we!"

"We can, if we're quick enough," Ferrers answered. "I tried to file the claim while I was over in Dugout, but the clerk at the mining claim office said he 'lowed that we'd have to have our declaration tacked up on the ridge first of all."

"That'll take us a blessed short time," muttered Reade. "Harry and I have all the particulars we need for writing out the notice of claim. Get some breakfast on the jump, Jim, and we'll hustle over there."

"I had my breakfast before I rode in here," errors answered, his eyes shining. "I'd a-missed my guess, Mr. Reade, if you hadn't been ready for prompt action."

"Then there's no reason, Jim, under mining customs, why we shouldn't ride over there and stake out that claim?"

"Not a reason on earth, Mr. Reade, except that Gage will probably put up a big fight."

"Let him!" added Tom, in a lower voice. "Take it from me, Jim Ferrers, that claim on the ridge yonder is worth all kinds of fight. Here, get the horses saddled again, while Harry and I write our notice in record-breaking time for legible penmanship."

Tom's eyes were gleaming in a way that they had not done in months. For, despite his former apparent indifference to the trick Gage had played on them, Tom Reade would have staked his professional reputation on the richness of the ridge claim.

"It's gold, Harry--gold!" he exclaimed, hoarsely, in his chum's ear. "It's gold enough to last us through life if we work it hard from the start."

"We'll have to kill a few men before we can get Gage off that ridge, though," Hazelton predicted.

"It's gold, I tell you, Harry. When the gold-craze gets into a fellow's blood nothing but gold can cure it. We won't kill any one, and we'll hope not to be killed ourselves. But that claim was our discovery, and now the way is clear for us to own that strip of Nevada dirt. Gold, Harry, old chum--gold!"

Then they fell to writing. Harry did the pen work while Reade dictated rapidly.

If Engineer Tom Reade had been briefly excited he did not betray the fact when he stepped outside the tent.

"Horses saddled, Mr. Reade," announced Ferrers. "I s'pose you're going to take some of the boys over with us, in case Gage tries to put up any shooting bluff?"

"Yes," nodded Tom. "But don't take with us any fellow who is hot-blooded enough to do any real shooting."

"It'll take real shooting to get Gage's crew off that ridge," Ferrers warned the young engineer. "All men get gold crazy when they find their feet on a claim. Dolph Gage will fight while he has breath left. Don't try to go over there, sir, if you're not satisfied to have a little shooting done at need."

"We're going over," declared Tom, the lines about his mouth tightening, "and we're going to take the claim for our own, as long as we have the legal right to do so. But I hope there won't have to be any gun-powder burned. Killing belongs only to one line of business--war!"

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