“Then it’s not to be thought of,” rejoined Tom, with a vigorous shake of his head. “I haven’t lost a bit of my faith that, one of these days, this ridge is going to pay big profits to some one.”
“We either have to quit, and give up, or stay and starve,” rejoined Ferrers.
“We’ve got to stick,” Tom insisted. “In the first place, we owe our men a lot of money.”
“They offered to take their chances,” suggested Jim.
“True, but it’s a debt, none the less. I shall see everyone of these men paid, even if I have to wait until I can save money enough at some other job to square the obligations in full. For myself, I don’t intend to quit as long as I can swing a dull pick against a granite ledge.”
“Then what did you come up for?” asked Harry dryly.
“Because there’s nothing the men can do for the present, and I wanted all hands to have a chance to get over their disappointment. Jim, this snow-crust will bear the weight of a pony, won’t it?”
“I must get to Dugout City.”
“We haven’t a big enough ore dump on which to borrow any money. but I’ve an idea I can sell this nugget for enough to get another good stock of dynamite.”
“You don’t want to try to get to Dugout today or tomorrow,” replied Ferrers slowly.
“But I must,” Tom insisted. “Every hour’s delay is worse than wasted time. I must get to Dugout and back again as speedily as possible.”
“Hotel living is expensive in Dugout,” remarked Jim.
“But I don’t intend to stop at a hotel for more than one meal.”
“Have you looked at the sky?”
It was Reade’s turn to ask:
“Just go to the door and take a look at the sky,” suggested Ferrers.
Tom swung the door open and looked.
“Well?” he asked.
“What do you think of the sky?” Jim persisted.
“It looks as though we might have a little snow,” Tom admitted.
“A little, and then a whole lot more,” nodded Ferrers. “Notice how still the air is? We’re going to have a howling blizzard, and I believe it will start in before night.”
“Then we’d better turn the men out to fell and chop firewood,” declared Harry, jumping up. “We haven’t enough on hand to last through a few days of blizzard.”
“Will you look after the wood, Harry?” asked Tom. “I want to keep my mind on getting to Dugout.”
“We’ll knock over a lot of trees between now and dinner-time,” promised Hazelton, as he hurried away.
“Now, Reade, you’d better give up your idea of getting to Dugout for the present,” resumed Jim Ferrers.
“But the work? We’ve got to keep the men busy, and we must keep the blasts a-going.”
“You’ll have to forget it for a week or so,” insisted the Nevadan. “Your freezing to death in a gale of snow wouldn’t help matters any.”