MoboReader > Literature > The Young Engineers in Nevada; Or, Seeking Fortune on the Turn of a Pick


The Young Engineers in Nevada; Or, Seeking Fortune on the Turn of a Pick By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 6728

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

Dolph Gage, after his richly deserved battering of the day before, presented a sorry-looking sight as he stood near the notice of his claim location.

In his right hand he gripped the only rifle there now was in his outfit, the one brought back by the man who had been to Dugout.

Jim Ferrers, rifle resting across the front of his saddle, rode at the head of the Reade-Hazelton party as that outfit reached the edge of the claim.

On either side of the guide, just to the rear, rode Tom and Harry. Behind them tramped four men armed with rides, the other two men carrying a board, stakes and a hammer.

"The first man who sets foot on this claim dies!" shouted Dolph

Gage hoarsely.

"Same thing for any man who raises a rifle against us," Ferrers called back. "Gage, I want only a good excuse for taking one honest shot at you!"

The moment was tense with danger. Heedless of the black looks of Dolph, Tom dug his heels into his pony's flanks, moving forward at a trot.

"Gage," called the young engineer, steadily, "I think you have been in wrong often enough. This time I am sure that you will want to keep on the right side."

"You keep on the right side by staying off the claim!" Gage ordered, but at that instant Reade rode over the boundary.

For an instant no man could guess who would fire the first shot.

Gage was angry and desperate enough to fire and take great chances.

Had he fired at that moment there was no doubt that he would have

been killed at the next breath.

Something stuck in Gage's throat. He did not raise his rifle, but instead he growled:

"You're a fine lot, to bring a small army against one man!"

"We have as much right here, Gage, as you have, spoke Tom, steadily.

"What do you want here!"

"We have come to look this claim over."

"Get off, then. You have no right here."

"You know, quite well, Gage, that we have as much right here as you have," Tom rejoined easily. "We are quite well aware that your man failed to file the claim because all of you have exhausted your mineral rights under the law.

"So you think you can come here and take it from us, do you?" glared

Gage, his face livid with passion.

"We have just the same right to this claim now that any man has who has any mineral rights left under the law," Reade made answer.

"But you haven't. I'm going to get this claim yet," Gage insisted.

"I've sent for a friend who hasn't taken up any mineral rights yet.

He will file the claim. See here!"

Gage moved aside, displaying a new board, on which a notice had been written.

"That's signed with the name of the man the claim belongs to now," declared Gage, triumphantly.

Tom handed his bridle to Harry, then dismounted, bending over to scan the new notice. It was a duplicate of the former one, except that the new signature was that of one, Joseph Pringle.

"Where is Pringle?" Tom demanded.

"None of your business."

"But you see," explained the young engineer dryly, "it happens to be my business."

From under his coat Reade drew forth a folding camera. Quickly opening and focussing he held the camera close, pressing the bulb.

"That photograph will enlarge to almost any size," Tom declared. "Now, then, Gage, do you claim that this strip has been claimed by one, Pringle?"

"I do," scowled Gage, "and Pringle is our partner.

We're going to work this claim with him, and you're trespassing."

"Is that Pringle's own signature?" Tom insisted.

"None of your business!"

"You've given me that same kind of an answer before," Tom smiled. "As it happens, this is our business. Gage, the writing of that notice looks exactly like your writing, and Pringle's alleged signature is in the same hand-writing. If you've signed Pringle's name--and I charge that you have--then that notice has no legal value whatever. Recollect, I have a photograph of the notice and signature, and that this notice in turn, so that you may remember that the writing throughout is the same that my photograph is going to reveal."

Jim Ferrers quickly came forward. Gage stepped squarely in front of the board holding the notice. But Tom took a swift step forward. Gage, shaking, drew back out of possible reach of Reade's fists.

Then, one after the other, the other members of Tom's party inspected the writing.

"Much good may it do you!" jeered Dolph Gage harshly. "You'll find that this claim is ours!"

"Look at what that cub is doing!" broke in Eb excitedly, pointing to Harry.

Unobserved at first by others, Hazelton had slipped back of the crowd. Now he was placing a board in position, and that board announced the fact that Jim Ferrers had staked out this strip for himself.

"Take that down!" raged Gage, as soon as he saw the new board and paper. "It won't do you any good."

"We'll take a chance on it, anyway, and watch it for a few days,"

Jim declared. "Are you through with me now, Mr. Reade?"

"Certainly," nodded Tom.

Mounting his horse, Jim Ferrers rode away at an easy gait.

"This is a mean trick to try to play on us, Reade," snarled Gage.

"If you hadn't played a mean trick on us, and staked this place off while you knew we were making the assay of ore taken from here," rejoined Tom, "then we might be inclined to waive the purely legal side of the case and give you a fair chance to get your friend Pringle here. But you must remember that you tricked us out of this claim in the first place, and now you have no right at all to complain. This claim now stands in Jim Ferrers's name, and so it will continue to stand."

"Go ahead," snarled Gage. "Try to take ore out of here. No man shall be a partner in this claim and live to spend any of the money he gets out of this mine! I've said it, and I'll pledge myself to back it up."

"And you've made that threat before witnesses, also, Gage. Remember that," Tom advised sternly.

"And all the time you're chinning, Dolph," broke in Josh, "Jim

Ferrers is riding hard for Dugout City to file the new claim entry!"

"If he is, something may happen to him on the way!" raged Dolph, wheeling about like a flash. His saddle horse, ready for action, stood tied to a tree near by. Gage leaped into his saddle after he had freed the horse.

"Boss, he's going after Ferrers, to do him harm on the road," hoarsely whispered one of Tom's new miners. "Are you going to let the scoundrel start?"

"Yes," nodded Tom coolly, "at Ferrers's special request. He didn't want Gage stopped from trying to overtake him."

Gage was now galloping away.

"You've seen the last of Ferrers," jeered Josh, after Gage had vanished in the distance.

"Perhaps we've seen the last of one of the men," replied Reade coldly.

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