“If he is, something may happen to him on the way!” raged Dolph, wheeling about like a flash. His saddle horse, ready for action, stood tied to a tree near by. Gage leaped into his saddle after he had freed the horse.
“Boss, he’s going after Ferrers, to do him harm on the road,” hoarsely whispered one of Tom’s new miners. “Are you going to let the scoundrel start?”
“Yes,” nodded Tom coolly, “at Ferrers’s special request. He didn’t want Gage stopped from trying to overtake him.”
Gage was now galloping away.
“You’ve seen the last of Ferrers,” jeered Josh, after Gage had vanished in the distance.
“Perhaps we’ve seen the last of one of the men,” replied Reade coldly.
JIM TRIES THE NEW WAY
“I’ve attended to the firm’s business,” exclaimed Jim Ferrers, wrathfully, on his return to camp. “I filed the papers at Dugout City, and the claim now stands in my name, though it belongs to the firm. And now, having attended to the firm’s business, I’m going out to settle some of my own.”
“What business is that!” Tom inquired over the supper table.
It was three days after the morning on which Ferrers had ridden away.
“That mongrel dog, Dolph Gage, took a shot at me this afternoon!” Ferrers exploded wrathfully. “I’d ought to have gotten him years ago. Now I’m going to drop all other business and find the fellow.”
“What for?” Tom inquired innocently.
“What for?” echoed Jim, then added, ironically: “Why, I want to do the hyena a favor, of course.”
“If you go out to look for him, you’re not going armed, are you?” Reade pursued.
“Armed?” repeated Ferrers, with withering sarcasm. “Oh, no, of course not. I’m going to ride up to him with my hands high in the air and let him take a shot at me.”
“Jim,” drawled Tom, “I’m afraid there’s blood in your eye—–and not your own blood, either.”
“Didn’t that fellow kill my brother in a brawl?” demanded Ferrers. “Hasn’t he pot-shotted at me? And didn’t he do it again this afternoon?”
“Why didn’t the law take up Gage’s case when your brother was killed?” Tom inquired.
“Well, you see, Mr. Reade,” Ferrers admitted, “my brother had a hasty temper, and he drew first—–but Gage fired the killing shot.”
“So that the law would say that Gage fired in self-defense, eh?”
“That’s what a coroner’s jury did say,” Jim admitted angrily. “But my brother was a young fellow, and hot-headed. Gage knew he could provoke the boy into firing, and then, when the boy missed, Gage drilled him through the head.”
“I don’t want to say anything unkind, Jim,” Reade went on, thoughtfully. “Please don’t misunderstand me. But, as I understand the affair, if your brother hadn’t been carrying a pistol he wouldn’t have been killed?”