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: 8516

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

"I've attended to the firm's business," exclaimed Jim Ferrers, wrathfully, on his return to camp. "I filed the papers at Dugout City, and the claim now stands in my name, though it belongs to the firm. And now, having attended to the firm's business, I'm going out to settle some of my own."

"What business is that!" Tom inquired over the supper table.

It was three days after the morning on which Ferrers had ridden away.

"That mongrel dog, Dolph Gage, took a shot at me this afternoon!" Ferrers exploded wrathfully. "I'd ought to have gotten him years ago. Now I'm going to drop all other business and find the fellow."

"What for?" Tom inquired innocently.

"What for?" echoed Jim, then added, ironically: "Why, I want to do the hyena a favor, of course."

"If you go out to look for him, you're not going armed, are you?"

Reade pursued.

"Armed?" repeated Ferrers, with withering sarcasm. "Oh, no, of course not. I'm going to ride up to him with my hands high in the air and let him take a shot at me."

"Jim," drawled Tom, "I'm afraid there's blood in your eye--and not your own blood, either."

"Didn't that fellow kill my brother in a brawl?" demanded Ferrers. "Hasn't he pot-shotted at me? And didn't he do it again this afternoon?"

"Why didn't the law take up Gage's case when your brother was killed?" Tom inquired.

"Well, you see, Mr. Reade," Ferrers admitted, "my brother had a hasty temper, and he drew first--but Gage fired the killing shot."

"So that the law would say that Gage fired in self-defense, eh?"

"That's what a coroner's jury did say," Jim admitted angrily.

"But my brother was a young fellow, and hot-headed. Gage knew

he could provoke the boy into firing, and then, when the boy missed,

Gage drilled him through the head."

"I don't want to say anything unkind, Jim," Reade went on, thoughtfully. "Please don't misunderstand me. But, as I understand the affair, if your brother hadn't been carrying a pistol he wouldn't have been killed?"

"Perhaps not," Ferrers grudgingly admitted.

"Then the killing came about through the bad practice of carrying a revolver?"

"Bad practice!" snorted Jim. "Well, if that's a bad practice more'n half the men in the state have the vice."

"Popular custom may not make a thing right," argued Reade.

"But what are you going to do when the men who have a grudge against you pack guns?" Jim queried, opening his eyes very wide.

"I've had a few enemies--bad ones, too, some of them," Tom answered slowly. "Yet I've always refused to carry an implement of murder, even when I've been among rough enemies. And yet I'm alive. If I had carried a pistol ever since I came West I'm almost certain that I'd be dead by this time."

"But if you won't carry a gun, and let folks suspect you of being a white-flagger, then you get the reputation of being a coward," argued Ferrers.

"Then I suppose I've been voted a coward long ago," Reade nodded.

"No, by the Great Nugget, you're not a coward," retorted Ferrers. "No man who has seen you in a tough place will ever set you down for a coward."

"Yet I must be, if I don't tote a gun in a wild country," smiled


"But to go back to the case of that good-for-nothing, Dolph Gage,"

Jim Ferrers resumed. "You advise me to forget that he shot at me?"

"Oh, no, I don't," Tom retorted quietly. "But you don't have to go out and take your own revenge. There are laws in this state, aren't there?"

"Of course."

"And officers to execute the laws"

"To be sure."

"Then why not go back to Dugout City, there to lay information against Gage. That done, the sheriff's officers will have to do the hunting. Having nothing personal against the officers, Gage will very likely hold up his hands when the officers find him, and then go back with them as peaceable as a lamb. Jim, you want to be even with Gage for shooting your brother and for trying to finish you. Won't it give you more satisfaction to feel that you've put Gage day for his bread and water? I know that is the way I'd want to punish a man that I had cause to hate. At least, I believe it's the way; I don't really know, for I can't recall any man that I hate hard enough to wish him worse than out of my sight


"Say, it would be kinder funny to go up to the state 'pen' some day, and see Dolph Gage walking lock-step with a lot of rascally Chinamen, drunken Indians, Knife-sticking foreigners and sassy bill-collectors, wouldn't it?" grinned Jim Ferrers.

"I'm glad your sense of humor is improving," smiled Tom Reade. "Now, tomorrow, morning, Jim, you take two of the other men, and our ponies, and ride into Dugout. If you run across Gage don't try to pick up any trouble. Of course, I don't mean to say that you shouldn't shoot in self-defense if you're attacked, but try, if possible, to keep out of any trouble with Gage. Just save him for the sheriff. It's the law's business to handle such fellows. Let the law have its own way."

"I'll do it," promised Ferrers. "Putting it the way you've done, Mr. Reade, it doesn't seem like such a baby trick to use the sheriff instead of killing the hyena, myself. Yes; I'll sure leave it to the law. If Dolph Gage gets caught and sent to the 'pen' I'll sure go there on some visiting day and see how he looks in his striped suit!"

Instead of being offended, it was plain that Ferrers was in high good humor. He went about camp whistling that night, and with a cheery word for everyone.

Camp had been moved over to the ridge, and the young engineers were ready to begin blasting operations the following morning. Ferrers was no longer concerned with cooking, he having engaged a man to do that work. The new man kept a sharp eye on Alf Drew, making that youngster do a really honest day's work every day in the week.

"I hate to take two men from you, Mr. Reade right at the start of operations," complained Jim, the next morning at breakfast. "I don't need two men, either, to protect me."

"I don't need the two men here, either, Jim for a few days. As for you, you don't know how many men you are going to need. All three of Gage's partners have vanished, and I'm sure that they're together somewhere out on the Range. They undoubtedly have rifles again, at that, and if you meet them, three men won't be any too many to stand off those four rascals."

Tom watched the trio of horsemen out of sight in the morning.

"If Jim doesn't lose his head that trip will mean that we shall see the last of Dolph Gage," mused the young engineer.

For once Tom Reade was in grave error, as subsequent events proved.

"It's ten minutes of seven," Harry reminded him.

"Get ready, men," Tom shouted to their few laborers, who were enjoying a few minutes leisure after breakfast.

At seven o'clock the young engineers and their handful of toilers moved over to the point in the outcropping vein of ore that Reade had selected for their first blast.

A small portable engine had already been fired, and all was ready for turning on the steam drill.

Twenty minutes later a satisfactory boring had been made.

"Bring up the dynamite," called Tom.

"Are you going to pack the charge?" Harry inquired.

"Yes," nodded Tom, and received the stick of dynamite from the miner who brought it.

While this was being made ready, Hazelton superintended the laying of the wires to the magneto battery. All was soon in readiness.

"The red flag is up," Tom shouted.

The dynamite had been rather loosely tamped home, for young Reade wanted to begin with light rending force and work up, through successive blasts, to just the proper amount of force.

"Get back, everybody!" Reade called, and there was a flying of feet. Tom was last to leave the spot. He ran over to where Harry stood at a safe distance.

"Pump her up, Harry," nodded the young chief engineer.

"You watch me, and see just how I run this magneto," Hazelton said to one of their men who stood near by. "This will be your job after we've fired a few charges. I want you to get the hang of the trick."

Harry worked the handle of the magneto up and down.

Bang! Over where the drilling had been done a mass of dirt and rock was shot up into the air.

"What are you running so fast for, Harry?" laughed Tom, as he pursued his chum back to the scene of the blast.

"I want to see if we stirred up any real ore. I want to know if our claim is worth the grub it takes to feed the men," was Hazelton's almost breathless response.

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