After a time Bob joined him. Faintly there came to them the sound of an engine thumping.
“Steelman’s outfit,” said Hart gloomily. “His li’l’ old engine goes right on kickin’ all the darned time. If he gets to oil first we lose. Man who makes first discovery on a claim wins out in this country.”
“How’s that? Didn’t you locate properly?”
“Had no time to do the assessment work after we located. Dug a sump hole, maybe. Brad jumps in when the field here began to look up. Company that shows oil first will sure win out.”
“How deep has he drilled?”
“We’re a li’l’ deeper—not much. Both must be close to the sands. We were showin’ driller’s smut when we lost our string.” Bob reached into his hip pocket and drew out “the makings.” He rolled his cigarette and lit it. “I reckon Steelman’s a millionaire now—on paper, anyhow. He was about busted when he got busy in oil. He was lucky right off, and he’s crooked as a dawg’s hind laig—don’t care how he gets his, so he gets it. He sure trimmed the suckers a-plenty.”
“He and Crawford are still unfriendly,” Dave suggested, the inflection of his voice making the statement a question.
“Onfriendly!” drawled Bob, leaning back against the step and letting a smoke ring curl up. “Well, tha’s a good, nice parlor word. Yes, I reckon you could call them onfriendly.” Presently he went on, in explanation: “Brad’s goin’ to put Crawford down and out if it can be done by hook or crook. He’s a big man in the country now. We haven’t been lucky, like he has. Besides, the ol’ man’s company’s on the square. This business ain’t like cows. It takes big money to swing. You make or break mighty sudden.”
“And Steelman won’t stick at a thing. Wouldn’t trust him or any one of his crowd any further than I could sling a bull by the tail. He’d blow Crawford and me sky high if he thought he could get away with it.”
Sanders nodded agreement. He hadn’t a doubt of it.
With a thumb jerk toward the beating engine, Bob took up again his story. “Got a bunch of thugs over there right now ready for business if necessary. Imported plug-uglies and genuwine blown-in-the-bottle home talent. Shorty’s still one of the gang, and our old friend Dug Doble is boss of the rodeo. I’m lookin’ for trouble if we win out and get to oil first.”
“You think they’ll attack.”
A gay light of cool recklessness danced in the eyes of the young oilman. “I’ve a kinda notion they’ll drap over and pay us a visit one o’ these nights, say in the dark of the moon. If they do—well, we certainly aim to welcome them proper.”
DOBLE PAYS A VISIT
“Hello, the Jackpot!”
Out of the night the call came to the men at the bunkhouse.
Bob looked at his companion and grinned. “Seems to me I recognize that melojious voice.”