“I understood, Bob,” said his friend quietly.
AN INVOLUNTARY BATH
Jackpot Number Three hooked its tools the second day after Sanders’s visit to that location. A few hours later its engine was thumping merrily and the cable rising and falling monotonously in the casing. On the afternoon of the third day Bob Hart rode up to the wildcat well where Dave was building a sump hole with a gang of Mexicans.
He drew Sanders to one side. “Trouble to-night, Dave, looks like. At Jackpot Number Three. We’re in a layer of soft shale just above the oil-bearin’ sand. Soon we’ll know where we’re at. Word has reached me that Doble means to rush the night tower and wreck the engine.”
“You’ll stand his crowd off?”
“Sure your information is right?”
“It’s c’rect.” Bob added, after a momentary hesitation: “We got a spy in his camp.”
Sanders did not ask whether the affair was to be a pitched battle. He waited, sure that Bob would tell him when he was ready. That young man came to the subject indirectly.
“How’s yore shoulder, Dave?”
“Doesn’t trouble me any unless something is slammed against it.”
“Interfere with you usin’ a six-shooter?”
“Like to take a ride with me over to the Jackpot?”
“Good enough. I want you to look the ground over with me. Looks now as if it would come to fireworks. But we don’t want any Fourth-of-July stuff if we can help it. Can we? That’s the point.”
At the Jackpot the friends walked over the ground together. Back of the location and to the west of it an arroyo ran from a canon above.
“Follow it down and it’ll take you right into the location where Steelman is drillin’,” explained Bob. “Dug’s gonna lead his gang up the arroyo to the mesquite here, sneak down on us, and take our camp with a rush. At least, that’s what he aims to do. You can’t always tell, as the fellow says.”
“What’s up above?”
“A dam. Steelman owns the ground up there. He’s got several acres of water backed up there for irrigation purposes.”
“Let’s go up and look it over.”
Bob showed a mild surprise. “Why, yes, if you want to take some exercise. This is my busy day, but—”
Sanders ignored the hint. He led the way up a stiff trail that took them to the mouth of the canon. Across the face of this a dam stretched. They climbed to the top of it. The water rose to within about six feet from the rim of the curved wall.
“Some view,” commented Bob with a grin, looking across the plains that spread fanlike from the mouth of the gorge. “But I ain’t much interested in scenery to-day somehow.”
“When were you expectin’ to shoot the well, Bob?”
“Some time to-morrow. Don’t know just when. Why?”