For fully five minutes the cartridges continued to explode, in ragged volleys.
“It’s a regular Fourth of July,” Harry laughed, back in camp. “Tom, who’s going to take the first trick of watch tonight?”
“Neither one of us,” Reade replied. “We’ll both get a sound sleep.”
But the enemy?”
“It would take four mules apiece to drag them over here tonight,” laughed Reade, as he rolled himself up in his blanket. “Good night!”
PLANNING A NEW MOVE
Barely were the young engineers astir the following morning when Alf Drew came racing back with news.
“There’s a whole slew of men coming, on horseback and on foot!” Alf reported. “And a whole train of wagons!”
“Good enough!” nodded Tom. “I hope the new folks camp right close to here. We need good neighbors more than anything else.”
“But they may belong to Gage’s crowd,” Alf insisted.
“Don’t you believe it, lad. Dolph Gage hasn’t money enough to finance a crowd like that.”
“It may be Dunlop’s crowd,” suggested Hazelton.
“That’s more likely,” said Tom. “Well we’ll be glad enough to see Dunlop back here with a outfit. This part of the woods will soon be a town, at that rate.”
“Come out where you can get a look a new crowd,” urged Alf.
“If it’s any one who wants to be neighborly,” Reade answered with a shake of his head, “he’s bound to stop in and say ‘howdy.’ We’re going to get breakfast now.”
“Then I’ll be back soon, and tell you anything I can find out about the new folks,” cried Alf, darting away.
But Tom raced after the lad, collaring him.
“Alf, listen to me. We’re not paying you to come in on time to get your meals. You get over there by Jim’s cooking outfit and be ready to take orders.”
“Humph!” grunted young Drew, but he went as directed, for there was nothing else to do.
Five minutes later Mr. Dunlop turned his horse’s head and rode down into the camp.
“Howdy, boys!” called the mine promoter.
“Glad to see you back, Mr. Dunlop,” Tom nodded, while Harry smiled a welcome.
“I’ve sent my outfit around by the other trail,” explained Mr. Dunlop. “I’ve brought back men enough to start work in earnest. There will be a mule train here by tomorrow with donkey engines and machinery enough to start the work of mine-digging in earnest. Here, boy, take my horse and tie him.”
As Alf led the animal away, Mr. Dunlop turned to the young engineers with a smile of great amiability.
“Boys, I’m glad to say that I wired the two railroad presidents you mentioned to me. Both wired back, in effect, that my mine was bound to be a success if I turned the engineering problem over to you. So I’m going to accept your offers—–hire you at your own figures. I want you to come over to the Bright Hope claim as soon as you’ve had breakfast.”