But Alf evidently preferred to stick to them. He ran along at the heels of the last rapidly striding man. Joe Timmins was the only one absent, he having remained at the camp site to keep a watchful eye over the automobile.
Jim Ferrers was in the lead, his trained eyes searching the ground for the trail of the tents.
Within five minutes the party came upon the tents and the food supplies, all of which had been dumped into a thicket in confused piles.
“We’ll sort this out and get it back to camp,” Tom proposed. “Alf, little hero, redeem yourself by buckling down to a good load. Come here; let me load you down.”
Alf meekly submitted, cherishing a half hope that he would not be discharged from his new position after all.
At the end of an hour the stuff had all been taken back and the camp looked a good deal as it had looked that morning.
“Now, Alf,” directed Tom in a milder, kinder tone, “you hustle over and break your back helping Mr. Ferrers to get supper ready. We’re a famished lot. Understand?”
Alf was only too glad to be able to understand that his part in the dismantling of the camp had been overlooked. While Tom and Harry led their guests into one of the tents, young Drew hastened over to where Jim Ferrers was starting a fire in the camp stove.
“Now, put that stuff back in your pockets, or I’ll throw it in the fire!” sounded the angry voice of Ferrers. “You can’t use any of that stuff when you’re working around me.”
“The poor little cigarette pest must have been trying to use his newly acquired ‘makings,’” grinned Tom.
While Ferrers was thus busied with preparation of the meal, Joe Timmins had taken the guide’s rifle and was keeping a watchful eye over the approaches to the neighborhood.
“So you young men think you could serve me satisfactorily as engineers,” questioned Mr. Dunlop.
“I think we could,” Tom answered.
“But I am afraid you young men have a rather large notion as to the pay you’re worth,” continued the mine promoter.
“That’s right, sir,” Reade nodded. “We have a good-sized idea on the pay question. Now, when you go to Dugout City next you might wire the president of the S.B. & L. railroad, at Denver, or the president of the A.G. & N.M., at Tucson, Arizona, and ask those gentlemen whether we are in the habit of making good on large pay.”
“How much will you young men want?”
“For work of this character,” replied Tom, after a few moments of thought, during which Harry Hazelton was silent, “we shall want six hundred dollars a month, each, with two hundred dollars apiece added for the fighting risk.”
“The fighting risk?” questioned Mr. Dunlop.
“Well, we shall have Dolph Gage and his crowd to guard against, won’t we?” Reads counter-questioned.
“But such pay is absurd!” he protested.
“From your view-point, very likely, sir. From our view-point it will be very ordinary compensation, and nothing but our desire to learn more about mining will tempt us to go into it at the figure we have named.”