“I had my breakfast before I rode in here,” errors answered, his eyes shining. “I’d a-missed my guess, Mr. Reade, if you hadn’t been ready for prompt action.”
“Then there’s no reason, Jim, under mining customs, why we shouldn’t ride over there and stake out that claim?”
“Not a reason on earth, Mr. Reade, except that Gage will probably put up a big fight.”
“Let him!” added Tom, in a lower voice. “Take it from me, Jim Ferrers, that claim on the ridge yonder is worth all kinds of fight. Here, get the horses saddled again, while Harry and I write our notice in record-breaking time for legible penmanship.”
Tom’s eyes were gleaming in a way that they had not done in months. For, despite his former apparent indifference to the trick Gage had played on them, Tom Reade would have staked his professional reputation on the richness of the ridge claim.
“It’s gold, Harry—–gold!” he exclaimed, hoarsely, in his chum’s ear. “It’s gold enough to last us through life if we work it hard from the start.”
“We’ll have to kill a few men before we can get Gage off that ridge, though,” Hazelton predicted.
“It’s gold, I tell you, Harry. When the gold-craze gets into a fellow’s blood nothing but gold can cure it. We won’t kill any one, and we’ll hope not to be killed ourselves. But that claim was our discovery, and now the way is clear for us to own that strip of Nevada dirt. Gold, Harry, old chum—–gold!”
Then they fell to writing. Harry did the pen work while Reade dictated rapidly.
If Engineer Tom Reade had been briefly excited he did not betray the fact when he stepped outside the tent.
“Horses saddled, Mr. Reade,” announced Ferrers. “I s’pose you’re going to take some of the boys over with us, in case Gage tries to put up any shooting bluff?”
“Yes,” nodded Tom. “But don’t take with us any fellow who is hot-blooded enough to do any real shooting.”
“It’ll take real shooting to get Gage’s crew off that ridge,” Ferrers warned the young engineer. “All men get gold crazy when they find their feet on a claim. Dolph Gage will fight while he has breath left. Don’t try to go over there, sir, if you’re not satisfied to have a little shooting done at need.”
“We’re going over,” declared Tom, the lines about his mouth tightening, “and we’re going to take the claim for our own, as long as we have the legal right to do so. But I hope there won’t have to be any gun-powder burned. Killing belongs only to one line of business—–war!”
NEW OWNERS FILE A CLAIM
Dolph Gage, after his richly deserved battering of the day before, presented a sorry-looking sight as he stood near the notice of his claim location.
In his right hand he gripped the only rifle there now was in his outfit, the one brought back by the man who had been to Dugout.