“Some,” yawned Tom, “if you’re impatient.”
Reade strolled off under the trees, whistling softly to himself. Jim Ferrers smoked a little faster, the only sign he gave of the anxiety that was consuming him. Harry frequently sprang to his feet, walked up and down rapidly, then sat down again. Two or three times Hazelton burned his fingers, testing to see whether the crucibles were cool enough to handle. At last Tom strolled back, his gaze on the dial of his watch.
“Cool enough for a look, now, I think,” Reade announced.
Harry bounded eagerly toward the crucibles, feeling them with his hands.
“Plenty cool enough,” he reported. “But how did you guess, Tom?”
“I didn’t guess,” Reade laughed. “I’ve timed the crucibles before this, and I know to a minute how long it ought to take.”
“What a chump I am!” growled Harry, in contempt for self. “I never think of such things as that.”
Tom now carefully emptied the crucibles. In the bottom of each was found a tiny bead of half-lustrous metal, which miners and assayers term the “button.”
“The real stuff!” glowed Hazelton.
“Ye-es,” said Tom slowly. “But the next question is whether the buttons will weigh enough to hint at good-paying ore. Even at that, these buttons are only from surface ore.”
“But the ore underneath is always better than the surface ore,” contended Hazelton.
“Usually is,” Tom corrected. “If we get good enough results from this assay it will at least be worth while to stake a claim and work it for a while.”
Harry waited with feverish impatience. Tom Reade, on the other hand, was almost provokingly slow and cool as he carefully adjusted the sensitive assaying balance and finally weighed the buttons. Then he did some slow, painstaking calculating. At last he looked up.
“Well, sir?” asked Jim Ferrers.
“From this surface ore,” replied Tom calmly, “twenty-eight dollars in gold to the ton; silver, six dollars.”
“That’s good enough for me!” cried Ferrers, his eyes brightening.
“Wow! Whoop! Oh—–whee!” vented Harry, then ran and snatched up the surveying transit.
“Yes; I guess we’d better go along and do our staking,” assented Tom.
“And I’ll be ready at daylight to file the claim at Dugout City,” promised Jim. “I won’t sleep until I’ve seen our papers filed.”
“You’ll file the claim in your own name, Jim,” Tom suddenly suggested.
“No; I won’t,” retorted Ferrers. “I’ll play squarely.”
“That will be doing squarely by us, Jim,” Tom continued. “We don’t want to use up our claim privileges on one stretch of Nevada dirt.”
If we can find claims enough we’ll stake out three, and then pool them all together in a gentlemen’s agreement.”
“That’s a good deal of trust you’re showing in me, gentlemen,” said Jim huskily.