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: 15934

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

"Haul away!" called Jim, from the bottom of the shaft.

Up came the tub, filled with chunks of ore, each about the size of a man's head.

At the top stood Harry Hazelton, on the crust of two feet of frozen snow.

Tom thrust his head out through the doorway of the nearby shack in which the partners lived.

"Is Jim sending up any bricks" he inquired.

"He's sending up ore, but I don't know whether it's any good,"

Harry answered.

"Why don't you look the stuff over?"

"I haven't had the heart to look at it."

Close to the shaft stood a wagon. The horses were resting in the stable shack, for by this time the weather averaged only a few degrees above zero and the horses were brought out only when they could be used.

"Take a good look at the stuff, Harry," called Tom, as soon as he saw two of the workmen dumping it.

Then Reade closed the door, and went back to the furnace that he had rigged up under the chimney at one end of the shack.

"Oh, what's the use?" sighed Hazelton, to himself, as he paused, irresolute. "In weeks and weeks we haven't brought up enough gold to pay for the keep of the horses."

Still, as Tom had asked him to do so, Hazelton presently walked over to the little pile that had just been dumped.

"You men up there work faster," sounded Jim's voice. "We want to send up a tub every five minutes."

"Want the team yet?" bawled the teamster, from another shack.

"No," Harry answered. "Not for a half an hour yet."

That question was enough to cause the young engineer to forget that he had intended to inspect the tub-load of ore. He strolled back to the head of the shaft. The wind was biting keenly today. Harry was dressed in the warmest clothing he had, yet his feet felt like lumps of lead in his shoes.

"Arizona may be hot, but I'd rather do my mining down there, anyway," thought the young engineer. "If I could move about more, this wouldn't be so bad."

Just off of the shaft was a rough shack several feet square which contained a small cylinder of a wood stove. There was a fire going in the stove, now, but Harry knew from experience that if he went in to the stove to get warm, he would only feel the cold more severely when he came out again.

"Say, I don't know why I couldn't run that furnace as well as

Tom, and he likes this cold stuff better than I do," murmured

Hazelton. "I am going to see if he won't swap jobs for a couple

of hours."

"Getting anything out of those ore-tests of yesterday's dump?"

Harry demanded, entering their shack.

"Not so much," Tom replied cheerily. "We're in a bad streak of stuff, Harry. But I thought you were watching the dump. What's the matter? Too cold out there?"

"Yes," nodded Harry. "I feel like a last year's cold storage egg. Don't you want to spell me a bit out there, Tom? I can run the furnace in here."

"Certainly," Reade agreed, leaping up. "There's nothing to do, now, but weigh the button when it cools."

"Did you really get a button?" Harry asked, casually, as he drew off his heavy overcoat.

"Yes; a small one."

"How much ore did you take it from?"

"About two tons, I should say."

"Then, if the button is worth sixty cents," mocked Harry, "it will show that our ore is running thirty cents to the ton."

"Oh, we'll have better ore, after a while," Tom laughed.

"We've got to have," grunted Hazelton, "or else we'll have to walk all the way to our next job."

"Just weigh the button, when it cools, and enter the weight on this page of the notebook," directed Reade, then went for his own outdoor clothing. "Have you been inspecting the dump as the stuff came up?"

"You'll think me a fool," cried Harry, "but I totally forgot it."

"No matter," Tom answered cheerily. "I've been doing bench work so long in here that I need exercise. I can run over all the stuff."

After Reade had pulled on his overcoat and buttoned it he fastened a belt around his waist. Through this he thrust a geologist's hammer.

"Don't go to sleep, Harry, old fellow, until you've cooled and weighed the button. Then you may just as well take a nap as not."

"There he goes," muttered Hazelton, as the door closed briskly. "Faith and enthusiasm are keeping Tom up. He could work twenty-four hours and never feel it. I wish I had some of his faith in this ridge. I could work better for it. Humph! I'm afraid the ridge will never yield anything better than clay for brick-making!"

Harry did succeed in keeping his eyes open long enough to attend to the button. That tiny object weighed, and the weight entered, Hazelton sat back in his chair. Within a minute his eyes had closed and he was asleep.

Tom Reade, out at the ore dump, looked anything but sleepy. With tireless energy he turned over the pieces of rock, pausing, now and then, to hold up one for inspection.

In reaching for a new piece his foot slipped. Glancing down, to see just where the object was on which he had slipped, Tom suddenly became so interested that he dropped down on his knees in the snow.

It was a piece of rock that had come up in the first tubful. At one point on the piece of rock there was a small, dull yellow glow.

Reads pawed the rock over in eager haste. Then he drew the hammer from his belt, striking the rock sharply. Piece after piece fell away until a solid yellow mass, streaked here and there faintly with quartz, lay in his hand.

"By the great Custer!" quivered Tom.

"What's the matter, boss?" called one of the workmen. "Got a sliver in your hand?"

"Have I?" retorted Tom joyously. "Come here and take a look."

"Haul away!" sounded Ferrers's hoarse voice from below.

"Tell Jim to stop sending and come up a minute," nodded Tom.

"Do you often see a finer lump than this?" Tom wanted to know as the two workmen came to him. He held up a nugget. Shaped somewhat like a horn-of-plenty, it weighed in the neighborhood of three ounces.

"Say, if there are many more like that down at the foot of the shaft this old hole-in-the-ridge will be a producer before another week is out!" answered one of the workmen. "How much is it worth, boss?"

"Allowing for the quartz that streaks this little gold-piece, it ought to be worth from forty to fifty dollars," Tom responded thoughtfully.

"Fifty dollars?" broke in Jim Ferrers, as he sprang from the top ladder to the ground. "Is there that much money on the Indian Smoke?"

"Not minted, of course," laughed Tom. "But here's something as good as money."

"Where did you get it?" Jim demanded, tersely, after one look at the nugget.

"In this ore-dump."

"Today's send-up, then?"

"Of course."

Without a word Ferrers fell at work on the pile of rocks, turning them over fast.

Tom helped him. The two men, released from hoisting duty, also aided.

"Nothing more like that sticking out of the rock," Jim grunted, turning to one of the men. "Bring me a sledge."

With that larger hammer, held in both hands, Jim placed ore pieces with his feet, swiftly bringing down sharp blows that reduced the rocks to nearly the size of pebbles.

"I don't see any more nuggets coming," mused! Tom. "But wait

a minute. Look at the yellow streak through some of these fragments."

"We're getting into the vein, I believe," spoke Jim solemnly.

"Look at the stuff! But wait! I've a little more hammering to do."

Back of them stood the teamster, who had just come up with the horses.

"Am I to take that stuff and dump it down the ravine?" he asked slowly.

"If you do," retorted Ferrers heatedly, "I'll hammer in the top of your head, Andy! Reade, won't you pick out what you want for the site of the ore-dump. We've got some real ore at last!" One of the two hoist-men now ran to the shaft, shouting down the great news.

"Hold on there, Bill," Tom called dryly. "Don't get the boys excited over what may turn out to be nothing. Don't tell 'em any more than that we have---"

"Tell 'em yourself, boss,"

retorted Bill. "Here they come!"

From the ladder a steady stream of men discharged itself until the last one was up.

"Where are you going, Tim?" called Tom, turning just in time to note big Walsh's movements.

"Going to call Mr. Hazelton, sir."

"Don't do it. Don't get him stirred up for nothing."

"For nothing, boss?"

"Don't bother Hazelton until we can tell him something more definite. Boys, with all my heart I hope that we have something as good as we appear to have. But every man of you knows that, once in a while, gold is found abundantly in a few hundred pounds of rock, and then, from that point on, no more yellow is found. We won't get excited until we get our first thousand dollars' worth out of the ground and have the smelter's check in hand. We'll hope--and pray--but we won't cheer just yet."

"Humph! If you don't want us to cheer, then what shall we do?" demanded big Walsh.

"We'll work!" Tom retorted energetically. "We'll work as we never did before. We'll keep things moving every minute of the time. Back with you into the shaft and out into the tunnel! You hoist-men stand by for a big performance with the tub. Jennison, you may stay up from below and tote specimens for me. I shall be at the furnace until midnight at the least."

"I'll tote for you till daylight, if the good streak only holds out," laughed Jennison, with glowing eyes.

"Come softly into the shack when you do come," Tom directed. "I'm going to put Mr. Hazelton to bed, and I don't want any one to wake him. When I play out tonight he'll have to be fresh enough to take my place at the assay bench and furnace."

Softly Tom entered their shack.

Harry lay fast asleep, breathing heavily.

"This won't do, old fellow," spoke Tom gently, shaking his chum's shoulder. "No; don't wake up. Just get into bed. I may want to turn in later, and, when I do, I may have some work left over that I'll want you to do."

"Anything up?" asked Harry drowsily.

"I'm going to be busy for a while, and then I want you to be,"

Tom answered.

He half pushed his chum toward the narrow bunk against the wall. Drowsy Hazelton needed no urging, but stretched himself out in his bunk.

Tom drew the blankets up over him, adding:

"Don't stir until I call you."

Hour after hour the men below in the mine sent up tub-lots of rock. Jim spent half of his time above ground, the rest below. Jennison was busy bringing the best samples in to Reade, but he walked so softly that Harry slept peacefully on.

Still the yellow rock came up. None of it looked like the richest sort of ore, but it was good gold-bearing stuff, none the less. Tom made many assays. It was seven in the evening ere the excited miners would agree to knock off work for the day.

Then Tom quit and had supper with them. There was excitement in the air, but Tom still counseled patience.

"We'll know more in a week than we do now," he urged.

"That's all right, Mr. Reade," laughed Tim Walsh. "As long as you were hopeful we didn't bring up enough yellow to pay for the dynamite we used in blasting. Now, boss, you're begging us not to be hopeful, and the luck is changing."

"I'm not kicking against hopefulness," Tom objected, smiling. "All I ask of you men is not to spend the whole year's profits from the mine before we get even one load fit to haul to the smelter."

"We've got the ore dump started," retorted Jennison, "and we don't have to haul stuff to the smelter. Boss, you can raise money enough without hauling a single load before spring."

"How?" Tom wanted to know.

"The banks at Dugout will lend you a small fraction of the value of the dump as soon as they're satisfied that it has any value," Jim Ferrers explained.

"I didn't know that," Tom admitted.

"Now you can understand why the boys are excited tonight. They know you'll outfit the camp liberally enough if the yellow streak holds out."

"Outfit the camp liberally?" repeated Tom. "I'll go just as far in that line as my partners will stand for."

"We want a bang-up Christmas dinner, you see, boss," Tim Walsh explained. "We wouldn't have spoken of it if this streak hadn't panned today. Now, we know we're going to have doings on the ridge this winter."

"If the yellow rook holds out," Tom urged.

"Don't say anything more in that strain, just now, Reade," whispered Jim. "If you do, and things go badly, the boys will think you've been the camp's Jonah."

Tom went back to work in the partners' shack. Jim came in at ten and went to bed. It was midnight when Tom shook Harry by the shoulder.

"Time to get up, young man, and give me a rest," Tom announced.

Harry got drowsily out of his bunk.

"Why didn't you call me before, Tom?"

"Well, to tell the truth, I was too busy. But now you may have a few hours' work all by yourself, while I turn in," drawled Reade.

"Tom, old fellow, there's something up," discovered Hazelton, now studying his chum's face keenly. "Out with it."

Then Tom told of the day's luck, though he cautioned Harry against too soon growing elated.

"We'll just wait and hope," Reade finished. "Now I'll show you the work that's on the bench."

The gold news had waked up Hazelton. He examined eagerly the assay reports that Tom had filled out, then turned to the specimens that awaited his attention.

At six in the morning Reade was up again, nor did Harry turn in. Both were present to inspect the first tub-lot of ore that came up the shaft. The yellow streak was continuing.

By the middle of the afternoon, however, the streak played out. Though the men worked an hour overtime they did not succeed in sending up any more ore.

"Just one pocket?" wondered Tom. "Or does our vein run in scattered pockets?"

"Oh, we'll find more pockets soon," predicted Harry cheerily.

"Our luck has turned again. It's running in the old channels."

A feverish week passed. Towards its end the first big snow of the winter came, and the ridge was shut off from the rest of the world. It would have been all but impossible to get over even to the Bright Hope Mine.

The week of brisk work was using up the stock of dynamite, while the rock was too hard to work much with picks. Moreover, the money of the partners was gone. To seek credit at Dugout would be a dangerous proceeding, for those who granted the accommodation of credit would be sure to want a high price for it, even to a goodly share in the output of the mine. More than one mine has been taken over by creditors, and the original owners have gone out into the world again, poor men.

Saturday morning of this week Tom and Harry descended the shaft together. Jim was already there with the men.

"I thought we had two more boxes of dynamite, Reade," explained

Ferrers. "I find that we have just six sticks left."

"Then may the Fates favor us with some lucky blasts!", muttered Tom.

"We can borrow money on our ore dump," suggested Harry.

"How about that?" asked Tom, looking intently at Ferrers.

"How much do you figure there is in the dump?" queried Jim.

"About two hundred dollars' worth of metal."

Ferrers shook his head.

"It would cost us forty dollars to cart the stuff to Dugout in the Spring. Then there'd be the smelter's charges. We couldn't borrow more than fifty dollars on such security. No bank is going to bother with such a small item."

Tom said nothing, but went forward to the heading of the tunnel. Here he made a careful examination ere he ordered the men to go ahead.

One after another five sticks of the dynamite were fired in small blasts, but the ore that came out did not suggest hope.

Then another drilling was made, and the sixth stick put in place, the magneto wires being connected with the charge.

Tom himself seized the magneto handle.

"Now, hold your breaths," he called, cheerily. "This blast means a lot, and then a bit more, to all of us. This blast may point the path to fortune!"

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