“Hold them to their present good intentions, Jim,” said Tom, with a smile, as he continued to move forward. “Now, Mr. Gage—–I believe that’s your name let me see what kind of notice you know how to draw up.”
“There ’tis,” muttered Dolph sullenly, pointing to the board.
Tom read the notice through under his breath, word by word.
“You’ve done this sort of thing before, I guess, Gage,” said Reade quietly.
“You bet I have. Find it all reg’lar, too, don’t you?”
“As nearly as I can tell, it is,” agreed Tom.
“And the claim is ours.”
“It’s yours if you file the formal papers soon enough.”
“They’ll be filed first thing tomorrow morning,” grunted Dolph Gage. “Now, try a two-step off the dirt that goes with this claim.”
“Not until I’ve seen the borders that you claim,” Tom rejoined.
“Why!” demanded Gage cunningly. “Going to start your claim right at the corners of ours.”
“If you’ll pardon me,” Reade smiled, “I don’t believe I’ll tell you anything about my intentions.”
“Maybe you think this claim is a pretty valuable one,” Gage insinuated.
“I didn’t say so.”
“But you would have staked if we hadn’t done it first.”
“That’s what you’ve got to guess,” smiled Reade.
“Say, now you’ve lost this claim, tell us some thing straight, won’t youth begged Dolph.
“Tell you something straight?” repeated Tom. “Certainly. I’ll tell you something just as straight as I know how,”
“Well,” he said, at last, “you said you’d tell us something straight.”
“And so I will,” laughed Tom. “It’s just this: Go to blazes!”
“Come, now, don’t get fresh, kid!” warned Dolph angrily. “If we’re going to be on neighboring claims you may find it a heap to your advantage to use us about half-way decent and polite.”
Tom didn’t answer at once. He was rapidly covering the statement of location from the paper nailed to the board.
“You fellows picked up a lot of ore stuff around here,” continued Dolph Gage.
“Yes?” Tom inquired. “Did you see us?”
“Yes, and we also saw you making an assay.”
“Of course we did. Say, friend, how did that assay come out?”
“It came out of the furnace,” Tom answered still writing.
“’Course it did. But say, how did that assay read?”
“Read?” repeated Tom. “Why, bless me, I never knew that an assay could read.”
“You know what I meant, younker. How did it figger?”
“To the best of my belief,” said Tom, “an assay is as much unable to figure as it is to read.”
“Don’t waste any more time on the kid, Dolph,” growled another of the group. “He won’t tell you anything that you want to know.”
“If he doesn’t” rejoined Gage, “maybe he’ll miss something. See here—–Reade’s your name, isn’t it?”