“That photograph will enlarge to almost any size,” Tom declared. “Now, then, Gage, do you claim that this strip has been claimed by one, Pringle?”
“I do,” scowled Gage, “and Pringle is our partner. We’re going to work this claim with him, and you’re trespassing.”
“Is that Pringle’s own signature?” Tom insisted.
“None of your business!”
“You’ve given me that same kind of an answer before,” Tom smiled. “As it happens, this is our business. Gage, the writing of that notice looks exactly like your writing, and Pringle’s alleged signature is in the same hand-writing. If you’ve signed Pringle’s name—–and I charge that you have—–then that notice has no legal value whatever. Recollect, I have a photograph of the notice and signature, and that this notice in turn, so that you may remember that the writing throughout is the same that my photograph is going to reveal.”
Jim Ferrers quickly came forward. Gage stepped squarely in front of the board holding the notice. But Tom took a swift step forward. Gage, shaking, drew back out of possible reach of Reade’s fists.
Then, one after the other, the other members of Tom’s party inspected the writing.
“Much good may it do you!” jeered Dolph Gage harshly. “You’ll find that this claim is ours!”
“Look at what that cub is doing!” broke in Eb excitedly, pointing to Harry.
Unobserved at first by others, Hazelton had slipped back of the crowd. Now he was placing a board in position, and that board announced the fact that Jim Ferrers had staked out this strip for himself.
“Take that down!” raged Gage, as soon as he saw the new board and paper. “It won’t do you any good.”
“We’ll take a chance on it, anyway, and watch it for a few days,” Jim declared. “Are you through with me now, Mr. Reade?”
“Certainly,” nodded Tom.
Mounting his horse, Jim Ferrers rode away at an easy gait.
“This is a mean trick to try to play on us, Reade,” snarled Gage.
“If you hadn’t played a mean trick on us, and staked this place off while you knew we were making the assay of ore taken from here,” rejoined Tom, “then we might be inclined to waive the purely legal side of the case and give you a fair chance to get your friend Pringle here. But you must remember that you tricked us out of this claim in the first place, and now you have no right at all to complain. This claim now stands in Jim Ferrers’s name, and so it will continue to stand.”
“Go ahead,” snarled Gage. “Try to take ore out of here. No man shall be a partner in this claim and live to spend any of the money he gets out of this mine! I’ve said it, and I’ll pledge myself to back it up.”
“And you’ve made that threat before witnesses, also, Gage. Remember that,” Tom advised sternly.
“And all the time you’re chinning, Dolph,” broke in Josh, “Jim Ferrers is riding hard for Dugout City to file the new claim entry!”