“He wont get away as he is,” replied one of the other two men.
“Maybe not, but take an extra roping, as I told you,” was Gage’s tart retort.
So another length of line was passed around Hazelton, until he felt as though he had been done up in network.
“Now; we’ll give your partner a chance to show up,” muttered Gage, throwing himself on the ground. “You young fellers will have to learn the lesson that you’re thirty miles from anywhere, and that we rule matters around here. We’re going to keep on ruling, too, in this strip of Nevada.”
“Are you?” grimaced Hazelton. “Then, my friend, allow me to tell you that you are making the mistake of trying to reckon without Tom Reade!”
“Is that your partner’s name?” jeered Dolph Gage. “A likely enough boy, from what I’ve heard of him. But he isn’t old enough to understand Nevada ways.”
“No, perhaps not,” Harry admitted ironically. “So far Tom has gotten his training only in Colorado and in Arizona. I begin to realize that he isn’t bright enough to have his own way among the bright men of Nevada. But Reade learns rapidly—–don’t forget that!”
“Huh!” growled Gage. “The young cub seems to think that he has come out here to take charge of the Range. According to his idea he has only to pick out what he wanted here; and take it. He never seems to understand that gold belongs to the first man who finds it. I was on this Range long before Reade was out of school.”
“And he doesn’t object to your staying here,” remarked Hazelton calmly.
“That’s good of him, I’m sure,” snapped Gage. “I’ve no objection to his staying here, either. Fact is, I’m going to encourage both of you to stay here.”
“Encourage us?” grinned Harry.
“Well, then, I’m going to make you stay here, if you like that word any better.”
“That will be more difficult,” suggested Hazelton.
“First of all, we’re going to tote your assay outfit over to our camp. You won’t be able to do much without that. Look around a bit, Eb,” added Dolph, turning to one of his companions. “Perhaps you’d better get the furnace out first. Two of you can carry it. I wish we had our other man back from Dugout. We need hands here.”
“Can’t you use some of my muscle in helping you to loot our camp?” suggested Hazelton, ironically. “I’m fairly strong, you know.”
“Yes; I know you are. That’s why we’ve tied you up,” growled Gage.
The man addressed as Eb had taken the other fellow aside, and they were now lifting the assay furnace in order to decide how heavy it was.
“It doesn’t weigh much over a hundred and fifty pounds,” called out Dolph Gage. “Two men like you can get it over to camp. And bring over our guns, too. It was a mistake to leave ’em over in camp.”
Gage watched until the pair were out of sight among the trees.