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   Chapter 19 HARRY'S SIGNAL OF DISTRESS

The Young Engineers in Nevada; Or, Seeking Fortune on the Turn of a Pick By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 9543

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


Through the tunnel a dull boom sounded. Then, as if by a common impulse, all hands rushed back to the heading.

"Hard rock!" muttered Reade. "The blast didn't make much of a dent. Hand me a pick, one of you."

Then Tom swung it with all the force and skill of which he was possessed.

Some of the miners, who thought themselves strong men, looked on admiringly as Tom swung the pick again and again.

Clack! clack! clack!

"Some muscle there," proclaimed Tim Walsh. "I didn't think it was in a slim fellow like you."

"I haven't so much muscle," Tom informed him, "but I have a tremendous amount at stake here. One of you shovelmen come forward and get this stuff back."

Reade went tirelessly on with his pick. Some of the big fellows came forward with their tools and worked beside him. Tom still led.

For half an hour all hands worked blithely. Then Tom, halting, called them off.

"No use to go any further, boys, until we get some dynamite," he declared. "We're striking into harder and harder rock every minute. We are dulling our tools without making any headway."

"Dynamite?" asked Jim Ferrers, who had been looking over the shoveled back rook with Harry. "Where are we going to get any?"

"It's time for a council of war, I reckon," sighed Tom. "At any rate it's no use to work here any longer this morning. Let's go above."

As it was yet too early for dinner, the men congregated in one of the shacks, while the partners went to their own rough one-room abode.

"What's to be done?" asked Harry.

"I'd say quit," muttered Jim Ferrers. "Only, if we do, we lose our title to our claim. Of course, I mean quit only for a while--say until spring--but even that would forfeit our title here."

"Then it's not to be thought of," rejoined Tom, with a vigorous shake of his head. "I haven't lost a bit of my faith that, one of these days, this ridge is going to pay big profits to some one."

"We either have to quit, and give up, or stay and starve," rejoined

Ferrers.

"We've got to stick," Tom insisted. "In the first place, we owe our men a lot of money."

"They offered to take their chances," suggested Jim.

"True, but it's a debt, none the less. I shall see everyone of these men paid, even if I have to wait until I can save money enough at some other job to square the obligations in full. For myself, I don't intend to quit as long as I can swing a dull pick against a granite ledge."

"Then what did you come up for?" asked Harry dryly.

"Because there's nothing the men can do for the present, and I wanted all hands to have a chance to get over their disappointment. Jim, this snow-crust will bear the weight of a pony, won't it?"

"Why?"

"I must get to Dugout City."

"For what?"

"We haven't a big enough ore dump on which to borrow any money. but I've an idea I can sell this nugget for enough to get another good stock of dynamite."

"You don't want to try to get to Dugout today or tomorrow," replied

Ferrers slowly.

"But I must," Tom insisted. "Every hour's delay is worse than wasted time. I must get to Dugout and back again as speedily as possible."

"Hotel living is expensive in Dugout," remarked Jim.

"But I don't intend to stop at a hotel for more than one meal."

"Have you looked at the sky?"

It was Reade's turn to ask:

"Why?"

"Just go to the door and take a look at the sky," suggested Ferrers.

Tom swung the door open and looked.

"Well?" he asked.

"What do you think of the sky?" Jim persisted.

"It looks as though we might have a little snow," Tom admitted.

"A little, and then a whole lot more," nodded Ferrers. "Notice how still the air is? We're going to have a howling blizzard, and I believe it will start in before night."

"Then we'd better turn the men out to fell and chop firewood," declared Harry, jumping up. "We haven't enough on hand to last through a few days of blizzard."

"Will you look after the wood, Harry?" asked Tom. "I want to keep my mind on getting to Dugout."

"We'll knock over a lot of trees between now and dinner-time," promised Hazelton, as he hurried away.

"Now, Reade, you'd better give up your idea of getting to Dugout for the present," resumed Jim Ferrers.

"But the work? We've got to keep the men busy, and we must keep the blasts a-going."

"You'll have to forget it for a week or so," insisted the Nevadan.

"Your freezing to death in a gale of snow wouldn't help matters any."

"But I must get to Dugout," Tom pleaded.

"You won't try it unless you're crazy," Jim retorted. "If you make an attempt to stir from camp this afternoon, Reade, I'll call on the men to hold you down until I can tie you. Do you think I've waited, Reade, all these years to find a partner like you, and t

hen allow him to go off in a blizzard that would sure finish him?"

"Then, if you're sure about this, Jim, I won't attempt to go until the weather moderates."

"When the time's right I'll go," proposed Ferrers. "A pony is no good on this white stuff. From some of the Swedes we've had working out in this country I've learned how to make a pair of skis. You can travel on skis where a pony would cut his legs in two against the snow crust."

"Then, if I'm not going to Dugout, I'll go out and swing an axe for a while," Tom suggested. "I want to be of some use, and I can't sit still anyway."

"Oh, sit down," urged Ferrers, almost impatiently, as he filled his pipe and lighted it. "I'll amuse you with some stories about blizzards on this Range in years past."

Outside they could hear axes ringing against the trees. Then the dinner-horn called the men in. Soon after the meal was over all the horses in camp were hitched and employed in bringing in the wood. Harry was out again to superintend the men.

By half-past two the first big flakes began to come down. There was still no wind to speak of.

Tom had lain down in a bunk, leaving Jim to brighten the fire.

Ferrers, too, nodded in his chair. It was the howling of the wind that awoke Tom.

"Where's Harry?" he asked, sitting up.

"Eh?" queried! Ferrers, opening his eyes.

"Where's Harry! Is he out in this storm?"

"I've been dozing," Jim confessed. "I don't know where he is."

"Hear the wind howl," cried Tom, leaping from his bunk and pulling on his shoes. Then he rapidly finished dressing, Jim, in the meantime, lighting the reflector lamp.

"Where on earth can Harry be?" Tom again demanded.

"Maybe in one of the other shacks, with some of the men."

Tom threw open the door. The snow-laden gale, sweeping in on him, nearly took away his breath. Then, after filling his lungs, he started resolutely for the nearest shack.

"Mr. Hazelton in here?" Tom called, swinging open the door.

"No, sir; thought he was with you."

Tom fought his way through the gale to the next shack. Here Tim

Walsh had news.

"We came in, sir, when the blizzard got too bad," Walsh explained, "but we found we'd left one of the teams behind in the woods. Mr. Hazelton said he'd go back and get the team. Half an hour later one of the boys here noticed that the team was standing up against the door of the stable shack. So I went out and put up the team."

"Didn't it occur to you to wonder where Mr. Hazelton was?" Tom asked, rather sharply.

"Why, no, sir; we thought he had gone to your shack."

"Mr. Hazelton wouldn't leave horses out in a storm like this one,"

Tom rapped out briskly. "As a matter of fact he isn't in camp.

You men get out lanterns and be ready to go into the woods.

We've got to find Mr. Hazelton at the earliest possible moment!"

Twenty minutes later the beams of light from lanterns carried by the men revealed the form of Harry Hazelton, in the woods and nearly covered with snow.

"Pick him up," ordered Tom. "Make the fastest time you can to our shack."

In the shack the fire was allowed to burn low. Harry, still unconscious, was stripped and put to bed.

"Anything you want, let us know, sir," said Tim Walsh, as the men tramped out again.

Then Tom and Ferrers sat down to try to think out the best thing to do for Harry Hazelton.

He was still alive, his pulse going feebly. He had been briskly rubbed and warmly wrapped, and a quantity of hot, strong coffee forced gently down his throat.

After a while Hazelton came to, but his eyes had a glassy look in them.

"You're a great one, old fellow, to go out into the snow and get lost," Tom chided him gently.

"Did--I get--lost?" Harry asked drowsily.

"Yes. Here, drink some more of this coffee. Jim, make a fresh pot. You can stir the fire up a bit now."

"I--want to sleep," Harry protested, but Tom forced him to drink more coffee. Then Hazelton sank into a deep slumber, breathing more heavily.

"He's all right, now, or will be when he has slept," declared

Jim Ferrers.

"Is he?" retorted Tom, who held one hand against Harry's flushed face, then ran the fingers down under his chum's shirt. "Jim, he's burning up with fever. That's all that ails him!"

Then Tom placed one ear over Hazelton's heart.

"None too strong," Reade announced, shifting his head. "And here's a wheezy sound in his right lung that I don't like at all."

"You don't suppose it's pneumonia?" asked Jim gravely.

It was congestion of the right lung that ailed Harry Hazelton. But Tom knew nothing of that. Jim Ferrers, who had never been ill in his life, knew even less about sickness.

As for Harry, he lay dangerously ill, with a doctor's help out of the question!

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