“Never mind, Jim,” returned Reade quietly. “You can show us, you know, that we didn’t waste our confidence.”
While they were still talking the three came in sight of the ridge.
“Look there!” gasped Harry suddenly.
“Dolph Gage and his tin-horn crowd!” flared Jim Ferrers, in anger. “Hang the fellow! This time I’ll-----”
“Stop fingering your rifle, Jim,” ordered Reade. “Remember, nothing like fighting! If they haven’t filed notice in due form on the claim, we’re safe yet. If they have-----”
“Look!” hissed Ferrers.
At that moment Dolph Gage could be seen nailing a sheet of white paper to a board driven into the soil.
“We’ve staked what you want, I reckon!” bellowed Gage laconically. “Staked it in due form, too, if you want to know.”
“I guess we’ve lost that claim,” said Tom slowly.
“Have we?” hissed Jim Ferrers.
READY TO HANDLE THE PICK
“Keep off this ground!” yelled Dolph Gage, snatching up his rifle.
“Stop that nonsense,” Tom bellowed back in his own lusty voice.
“You’ve no right on this ground.”
“Yes, we have, if you want to know,” Tom continued. “You haven’t filed your papers at Dugout yet.”
“How do you know we haven’t?”
“I’ll take a chance on it,” smiled Tom amiably, as he and his companions continued to walk nearer.
Jim Ferrers held his rifle so that it would take him but an instant to swing it into action if the need came.
“If you’ve filed your papers for this claim” Tom continued, lowering his voice somewhat as they drew nearer to the four rascals. “Have you any such paper to show us?”
“Perhaps not,” growled Dolph Gage, his evil eyes seeming to shoot flame. “But we’ve got our notice of claim nailed up here. We got it here first, and now you can’t file any mining entry at Dugout City for this bit o’ ground.”
“Not if your notice is written in the prescribed language,” Tom admitted.
“Well, it is. Now, keep off this ground, or we’ll shoot you so full of holes that you’ll all three pass for tolerable lead mines!”
“If you don’t shoot and make a good job of it,” Reade insisted, “I’m going to look over your notice of claim and see whether it’s worded in a way that will hold in law.”
“Drop ’em, boys! Don’t let ’em near!” roared Dolph Gage, swinging his rifle as though to bring it to his shoulder.
But Jim Ferrers had forestalled him. The guide was gazing at his enemy through his rifle sights.
“Drop your weapon, Dolph Gage, and do it blazing quick, or I’ll shoot you where you stand!” sounded Jim’s voice, low and businesslike. “If any of you other galoots tries to raise his weapon I’ll turn and drop him.”
As Jim Ferrers had a reputation in Nevada as a rifle shot the others hesitated, then let their rifles drop to the ground.