“They’ll keep quiet for a little while,” declared Tom, after a look at each.
Dolph Gage had by this time painfully risen to his feet and came limping slowly down the trail.
“You might look after your friends, Gage,” Tom called, pointing. “They need attention.”
“How did they come to be here?” gasped Dolph.
“They’ll give you full particulars when they have time,” Tom laughed.
“You boys won’t feel quite so smart when our turn comes,” snarled Gage.
“Not a bit,” Reade answered. “If you fellows have any sense you’ll conclude that you’ve had about all the settlement that you can stand.”
Gage didn’t make any answer. Doubtless he concluded that it wouldn’t be wise to talk back So he began working over Eb and Josh, until they showed signs of reviving.
“Did ye—–did ye kill ’em for us, Dolph?” gasped Josh, as he opened his eyes and beheld the face of his comrade.
“No,” said Gage curtly.
Not many minutes more had passed when Eb became conscious.
“You fellows can go over to your camp, any time you want,” suggested Tom.
Slowly, painfully, the trio started.
“I feel almost ashamed of myself,” Harry muttered.
“So do I,” Tom agreed. “Yet what else was there for us to do! We’ve stood all the nonsense we can from that crowd. They’d have killed us if we hadn’t done something to bring them to their senses. Now, I believe they’ll let us alone.”
“They’ll ambush us,” predicted Hazelton
“Well, they won’t have any guns to do it with,” Tom grinned.
“Why, what became of their guns”
“I’m the only fellow on earth who knows,” Tom laughed.
“Then you were at their camp?”
“Of course. My telling you to stone any prowler who visited this place was only a trap. I thought that he’d run off and get the rest of the crew. Knowing you to be alone and unarmed, and believing me to be far away prospecting, they didn’t imagine that they’d need their rifles. As soon as they left their camp I dropped in and borrowed the rifles and all their ammunition.”
“Where is the stuff now?”
“Come on and I’ll show you.”
“Hold on a minute,” begged Harry, as Tom leaped up. “Do you miss anything?”
“Our assay furnace. Eb and Josh carted it away.”
“Then we’ll go after that, first,” Tom smiled. “Our friends are so sore that it would be hardly fair to ask them to return the furnace.”
That missing article was found about halfway between the two camps. Tom and Harry picked it up, carrying it back to where it had been taken from. “Going after the guns, now?” Hazelton inquired.
“First of all,” Tom suggested, “I think we had better start a roaring good campfire.”
“What do we want such a thing as that for?” Harry protested. “The day is warm enough.”