“After we’ve seen and spoken to Mr. Dunlop,” Tom amended. “We can’t run off without explanation to the guests that we have invited to share the camp that we thought had.”
Barely a hundred yards away four men lay on their stomachs, heads concealed behind a low fringe of brush under which the muzzles of their rifles peeped.
“Remember,” whispered Dolph Gage faintly, “all of you fire your first shot into Jim Ferrers. After that we’ll take charge of the youngsters! Get a close bead on Jim. Ready!”
SOLD OUT FOR A TOY BALE!
Jim Ferrers had stated a plain truth when he remarked that Nevada men did not often waste ammunition.
With four rifles aimed at him, at that short, point-blank range, it would seem that Jim’s last moment had come.
Yet at that instant the sound of an approaching motor ear was heard.
Then the car, moving at twelve miles an hour mounted the crest at a point less than seventy yards from where the four ambushed men lay.
Joe Timmins caught sight of them.
“Take the wheel!” muttered Timmins, forcing Parkinson’s nearer hand to the wheel.
In an instant Joe was upon his feet, drawing his revolver. He fired at the men in ambush, but a lurch of the car on the rough ground destroyed his aim.
“Dolph Gage and his rascals at the ridge,” bellowed Joe, in a fog-horn voice, pointing.
Jim Ferrers dropped to the ground, hugging it flat. Harry followed suit. Tom Reade hesitated an instant, then away he flew at a dead run.
Close to a tree Tom stopped, thrusting right hand in among the bushes. Up and down his hand moved.
“Shoot and duck!” snarled Dolph, in a passion because of their having been discovered.
Over by the ridge where Gage and his fellow rascals lay it looked as though a volcano had started in operation on a small scale.
Fragments of rock, clouds of dirt, splinters and bits of brush shot up in the air.
Following the report came a volley of terrific yells from Dolph and his fellows.
They had been on the instant of firing when the big explosion came. Jim Ferrers, too, was taking careful aim at the moment.
It is a law of Nature that whatever goes up debris, mixed with larger pieces of rock and clots of earth, descended on the scene of the explosion. Yet little of this flying stuff reached Dolph Gage and his companions, for they were up and running despite the mark that they thus presented to Ferrers.
Nor did the rascals stop running until they had reached distant cover.
“Stop it, Jim—–don’t shoot!” gasped Tom Reade, choking with laughter, as Ferrers leaped to his feet, taking aim after the fugitives.
“I want Dolph Gage, while I’ve got a good, legal excuse,” growled Ferrers, glancing along rifle barrel at the forward sight.