Deputy Dave’s assistant was now cleaning out the soot-choked barrels of the machine gun, that the piece might be fit for use again as soon as the barrels had cooled.
“I reckon,” declared Dave, “that our friends have done their worst. It’s my private wager that they’re now doing a foot race for the back trails.”
“Is any one of our fellows hit?” called Tom, striding over to the late firing line. “Anyone hit? If so, we must take care of him at once.”
Tom went the length of the line, only to discover that none of the camp’s defenders had been injured, despite the shower of bullets that had been poured in during the brief but brisk engagement. Three of the engineers displayed clothing that had been pierced by bullets.
“Dave,” called Tom, “how soon will it be safe to send over to the late strongholds and find out whether any of Naughty Peter’s friends have any hurts that demand Doc Gitney’s attention?”
“Huh! If any of the varmints are hit, I reckon they can wait,” muttered Fulsbee.
“Not near this camp!” retorted Reade with spirit. “If any human being around here has been hurt he must have prompt care. How soon will it be safe to start?”
“I don’t know how soon it will be safe,” Dave retorted. “I want to take about a half dozen of the young fellows, on horseback, and ride over just to see if we can draw any fire. That will show whether the rascals have quit their ambushes.”
“If they haven’t,” mocked Tom, “they’ll also show your little party some new gasps in the way of excitement.”
Nevertheless Reade did not object when Fulsbee called for volunteers. If any new firing was to be encountered it was better to risk a small force rather than a large one.
Harry Hazelton was one of the six volunteers who rode out with Deputy Dave. Though they searched the country for miles they did not encounter any of the late raiders. Neither did they find any dead or wounded men.
The abandoned transits and other instruments and implements were found and brought back to camp.
While this party was absent Tom took Mr. Newnham back to headquarters tent, where he explained, in detail, all that had been accomplished and all that was now being done.
Late in the afternoon Dave Fulsbee and his little force returned. Tom listened attentively to the report made by the sheriff’s officer.
“They’ve cheated you out of one day’s work, anyway,” muttered the man from Broadway, rather fretfully.
“We can afford to lose the time,” Tom answered almost carelessly. “Our field work is well ahead. It’s the construction work that is bothering me most. I hope soon to have news as to whether the construction outfit has been attacked.”
“The wires are all up again, sir,” reported the operator, pausing at the doorway of the tent. “The men you sent back have mended all the breaks. I’ve just heard from the construction camp that none of the unknown scoundrels have been heard from there.”