“How much do you figure there is in the dump?” queried Jim.
“About two hundred dollars’ worth of metal.”
Ferrers shook his head.
“It would cost us forty dollars to cart the stuff to Dugout in the Spring. Then there’d be the smelter’s charges. We couldn’t borrow more than fifty dollars on such security. No bank is going to bother with such a small item.”
Tom said nothing, but went forward to the heading of the tunnel. Here he made a careful examination ere he ordered the men to go ahead.
One after another five sticks of the dynamite were fired in small blasts, but the ore that came out did not suggest hope.
Then another drilling was made, and the sixth stick put in place, the magneto wires being connected with the charge.
Tom himself seized the magneto handle.
“Now, hold your breaths,” he called, cheerily. “This blast means a lot, and then a bit more, to all of us. This blast may point the path to fortune!”
HARRY’S SIGNAL OF DISTRESS
Through the tunnel a dull boom sounded. Then, as if by a common impulse, all hands rushed back to the heading.
“Hard rock!” muttered Reade. “The blast didn’t make much of a dent. Hand me a pick, one of you.”
Then Tom swung it with all the force and skill of which he was possessed.
Some of the miners, who thought themselves strong men, looked on admiringly as Tom swung the pick again and again.
Clack! clack! clack!
“Some muscle there,” proclaimed Tim Walsh. “I didn’t think it was in a slim fellow like you.”
“I haven’t so much muscle,” Tom informed him, “but I have a tremendous amount at stake here. One of you shovelmen come forward and get this stuff back.”
Reade went tirelessly on with his pick. Some of the big fellows came forward with their tools and worked beside him. Tom still led.
For half an hour all hands worked blithely. Then Tom, halting, called them off.
“No use to go any further, boys, until we get some dynamite,” he declared. “We’re striking into harder and harder rock every minute. We are dulling our tools without making any headway.”
“Dynamite?” asked Jim Ferrers, who had been looking over the shoveled back rook with Harry. “Where are we going to get any?”
“It’s time for a council of war, I reckon,” sighed Tom. “At any rate it’s no use to work here any longer this morning. Let’s go above.”
As it was yet too early for dinner, the men congregated in one of the shacks, while the partners went to their own rough one-room abode.
“What’s to be done?” asked Harry.
“I’d say quit,” muttered Jim Ferrers. “Only, if we do, we lose our title to our claim. Of course, I mean quit only for a while—–say until spring—–but even that would forfeit our title here.”