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   Chapter 15 WHY READE WANTED GOLD

The Young Engineers in Nevada; Or, Seeking Fortune on the Turn of a Pick By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 9752

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


Four weeks moved on rapidly. All too rapidly, in some respects, to please Engineer Harry Hazelton.

Sheriff's officers had ridden into camp, and had scoured that part of the country, in an effort to locate Dolph Gage and that worthy's friends. Just where the four vagabonds were now no man knew, save themselves.

However, another spectre had settled down over the camp. The truth was that the young engineers were now using up the last thousand dollars of their combined savings.

By way of income, less than fifty dollars' worth of gold and silver had been mined. Every few days some promising-looking ore was turned out, but it never came in sufficient quantities. None of this ore had yet been moved toward Dugout City. There wasn't enough of it to insure good results. Brilliant in streaks, still the mine looked like a commercial fizzle.

"Hang it, the gold is down there!" grunted Tom, staring gloomily at the big cut that had been blasted and dug out along the top of the ridge.

"I'll be tremendously happy when you show me a little more of it," smiled Hazelton weakly.

"It's lower down," argued Tom. "We've got to dig deeper--and then a lot deeper."

"On the capital that we have left?" ventured Harry.

"Oh, we may strike enough, any day, to stake us for a few weeks longer," urged Tom.

"We'll soon have to be working in covered outs, where the frost won't put up trouble for us, you know," Hazelton hinted.

"Yes; I know that, of course. What we must begin to do, soon, is to sink the shaft deeper and then tunnel."

"That will cost a few thousand dollars, Tom."

"I know it. Come on, Harry. Get a shovel."

Tom himself snatched up a pick.

"What are you going to do, Tom?"

"Work. You and I are strong and enduring. We can save the wages of two workmen."

Both young engineers worked furiously that afternoon. Yet, when knocking-off time came, they had to admit that they had no better basis for hope.

"I wonder, Tom, if we'd better get out and hustle for Jobs?" Harry asked.

"You might, Harry. I'm going to stick."

Mr. Dunlop dropped in at camp, that evening, after dark.

"You young men are doing nothing," said the mine promoter. "I can use you a couple of months, if you'll stop this foolishness here and come over to me."

"Why, I suppose Hazelton could go over and work for you, Mr. Dunlop,"

Tom suggested.

"That would be of no use. I need you both, but you, Reade, most of all."

"I can't go to you now, Mr. Dunlop," Tom replied regretfully. "I'm committed to the development of this piece of property, which is only a third my property."

"Bosh! A decent farm would be worth more to you than this claim," argued Mr. Dunlop derisively.

"Perhaps. But neither of my partners has quit, Mr. Dunlop, and I'm not going to quit, either."

"This is the last chance I can give you, Reade. You'd better take it."

"No; though I beg you to accept my best thanks, Mr. Dunlop. However,

Hazelton can go over and help you."

"Both, or neither," returned Mr. Dunlop firmly.

Harry looked half eagerly at Reade, but Tom shook his head.

"What do you say, Mr. Reade?" pressed the promoter. "Last call to the dining car. With your funds running low, and a hard winter coming on you'll soon know what it means to be hungry."

"I'm much obliged, sir but I'm going to stick here at my own work."

"What do you say, Hazelton?" coaxed the promoter.

"Nothing," Harry replied loyally. "You heard what my partner had to say. In business matters he talks for both of us."

"Good night, then," grunted Mr. Dunlop, rising. "If you should change your minds in the morning, after breakfast, come and tell me."

After Dunlop had gone Tom and Harry walked up and down the trail together under the stars.

"Sixteen hundred dollars a month Dunlop is offering the two of us," half sighed Hazelton. "Two months of that would mean thirty-two hundred dollars. How much money have we now, Tom?"

"Six hundred and forty-two dollars and nineteen cents," Reade answered dryly.

"That won't last us long, will it?"

"No; especially as we owe some of it on bills soon due at Dugout."

"Then--what?"

"I don't know," Tom answered almost fiercely. "Yes; I do know! As soon as our present few pennies are gone it means a future of fight and toil, on empty stomachs. But it's worth it, Harry--if we live through the ordeal."

"And for what are we fighting?" inquired Harry musingly.

"First of all, then, for gold."

"Tom, I never knew you to be so crazy about gold before. What are we going to do with it--if we get it?"

"There are the folks at home."

"Of course, Tom, and they would be our first thought--if we had the gold. But we can do all we want to for the home folks out of the pay that we are able to earn at steady jobs."

"True."

"Then why are we fooling around here? We are nearly

broke, but we can honestly settle all the debts we owe. Then we could get back to work and have bank accounts again within a few months."

"Yes; but only pitiful bank accounts--a few hundreds of dollars, or a few thousands."

It would be steady and growing."

"Yes; but it would take years to pile up a fortune, Harry."

"What do we really want with fortunes?"

"We want them, Harry," Tom went on, almost passionately, "because we have ambitions. Look out upon the great mountains of this Range. Think of the rugged bits of Nature in any part of the world, waiting for the conquering hand and the constructive brain of the engineer! Harry, don't you long to do some of the big things that are done by engineers? Don't you want to get into the real--the big performances of our profession?"

"Of course," nodded Hazelton. "For that reason, aren't we doubly wasting our time here?"

"That's just as it turns out," Reade went on, with a vehemence that astonished his chum. "Harry, what's our office address? Where are our assistant engineers--where our draftsmen? Where are our foremen that we could summon to great undertakings? Where is the costly equipment that we would need as a firm of really great engineers? You know that we must these things before we can climb to the top of our profession. The gold that's hidden somewhere under that ridge would give us the offices, the assistants, the draftsmen, the equipment and the bank account that we need before we can launch ourselves into first class engineering feats of the great civilization that rules the world today. Harry, I've firm faith in our claim, and I can go on working on a meal every third day."

"Then now, as always, you can count on me to stand by you without limit or complaint," said Harry generously.

"But, just the same, you haven't my faith in the mine, have you?"

Tom queried half-disappointedly.

"Er--er--"

"Out with it, chum!"

"So far I have been disappointed in the claim. But I am well aware that I may be wrong. Listen, Tom, old fellow. This isn't a matter of faith in the mine; it's one of faith in you. Go as far as you like, and, whichever way it turns out, remember that I regard your judgment as being many times as good as my own."

"Yet you'd drop out if the decision rested solely with you, wouldn't you, Harry,"

"You'll never again get my opinion of this claim of ours," laughed Hazelton. "You'll have to be contented with my good opinion of you and your judgment."

"But see here, Harry, I wish you'd get out of here for a while. Go back into the world; take a position that will support you and provide the luxuries and savings as well. I'll work here faithfully and work for both of us at the same time."

"You must have a mighty small opinion of me, Tom Reade, to think

I'd leave you in the lurch like that."

"But I ask it as a favor, Harry."

"If you ever ask that sort of a favor again, Tom Reade, you and

I will be nearer to fighting than we've ever been yet in our lives!"

It was plain that Hazelton intended to stick to the mine, even to the starving point, if Reade did. After some further talk the two went back to their tent and lay down on their cots.

Five minutes later Harry's quiet, regular breathing betrayed the fact that he was asleep. With a stealthy movement, Tom Reade threw down the blankets, reached for his shoes, his coat and hat and stole out into the quiet and darkness.

From other tents and shacks nearby came snores that showed how soundly miners could sleep.

"I believe this is the first night that I ever failed to sleep on account of business worries," muttered Reade grimly, as he strode away. "This may be a fine start toward becoming a nervous wreck. In time I may become as shattered as poor little Alf Drew. I wonder if I shall ever fall so low as to smoke cigarettes!"

For some minutes Tom plodded on through the darkness. He did not go toward the claim, but in the opposite direction. He walked like one who felt the need of physical exhaustion. Presently coming to a steep trail winding along among boulders he took to the trail, striding on at barely diminished speed.

At last, out of breath from the rapid climb, Tom halted and gazed down over the rugged landscape. "The gold is there," he muttered. "I'm sure of it. Oh, if we could only find it!"

As Tom stood, deep in thought, the face of his patient friend rose before him.

"I don't mind going to smash for myself, in a good, hard fight," Reade went on audibly. "But it seems a crime to drag Harry down to poverty with me. If I could only get him to go away I'd give up my own life, if need be, to prove what's under our ridge of Nevada dirt."

"Ye'll give up your life for less'n that, I reckon!" sounded another voice, close at hand.

Around a boulder Dolph Gage stepped into view, followed by two of his men.

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