“If you’ll allow me to say so, friends,” put in Jim Ferrers, “I believe you two are the original pair with long heads and I’m going to stick to you as long as you’ll let me.”
“Me, too,” piped up Alf Drew ungrammatically.
The young cigarette fiend was at that instant engaged in rolling one of his paper abominations.
“Rattlers again!” shivered Alf.
Paper and tobacco fell from his fingers and he fled in terror.
TOM CATCHES THE “NEVADA FEVER”
Two nights passed without adventure. On each of these nights the three campers—–for Alf didn’t “count” divided the hours of darkness into three watches, each standing guard in his turn. On the third morning after the departure of the Bright Hope group the campers were seated at breakfast around the packing case that served as table.
“I feel as though we ought to be at work,” suggested Hazelton.
“Good!” mocked Tom. “You’ve been riding every day lately, and I have remained in camp, testing samples of ore that I’ve picked up on my strolls.”
“You take the horse today,” proposed Harry, “and I’ll stay in camp and work.”
“Suppose both of us stay in and work,” proposed Reade.
“That’ll be all right, too,” nodded Harry, pleasantly. “May I ask, Tom, what you’re up to, anyway?”
“Yes,” Reade smiled. “If the Bright Hope is a real mine there must be other good property in this region. I’ve been looking about, and making an assay every now and then. Jim, you’ve prospected a bit, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” nodded the guide. “And, gentlemen, in my day I’ve been sole owner of three claims, each one of which panned out a fortune.”
“Great!” glowed Harry. “But how did you lose your money, Jim!”
“I never got a cent out of any of the mines,” rejoined the guide grimly.
“How did that happen?”
“Did you ever hear of ’square gamblers’?” inquired Ferrers.
“Some,” Tom admitted with a grimace. “We ran up against one of that brood in Arizona, eh, Harry?”
“You didn’t play against him, I hope, hinted Jim soberly.
“Yes, we did,” admitted Tom. “Not with his own marked cards, though, nor with any kind of cards. We met him with men’s weapons, and it is necessary to add that our ‘square gambler’ lost.”
“The ‘square gamblers’ that I met didn’t lose,” sighed Jim Ferrers. “They won, and that’s why all three of my mines passed out of my hands before they began to pay.”
“You must know something about ore and croppings, and the like, Jim?”, Tom continued.
“In a prospector’s way, yes,” Ferrers admitted.
“Then we’ll take a walk, now. Alf can wash up the dishes.”
“It’s all the little wretch is fit for,” muttered Ferrers contemptuously.