“Your friend, then, is in peril, is it not so?”
“You’ve said it. He’s shooting dice with death. That’s the way I size it up. If the wall holds till it’s blown up, Dick has got to get back along the crosscut, lower himself down the upraise, and travel nearly a mile through tunnelings before he reaches a shaft to git out. That don’t leave them any too much time at the best. But if the water breaks through on them, it’s Heaven help Dick, and good-by to this world.”
“Then Mr. Gordon is what you call brave?”
“He’s the gamest man that ever walked into this camp. There ain’t an inch of him that ain’t clear grit through and through. Get into a tight place, and he’s your one best bet to tie to.”
“Mr. Gordon is fortunate in his friend,” bowed the New Mexican politely.
The little miner looked at him with shining eyes.
“Nothing like that. Me, I figure the luck’s all on my side. Onct you meet Dick you’ll see why we boost for him. Hello, here’s where we get off at. If you’re looking for Dick, stranger, you better follow me. I’m going right up to the mine. Dick had ought to be coming up from below any minute now.”
Pesquiera checked his suitcase at the depot newsstand and walked up a steep hill trail with his guide. The miner asked no questions of the New Mexican as to his business with Gordon, nor did the latter volunteer any information. They discussed instead the output of the camp for the preceding year, comparing it with that of the other famous gold districts of the world.
Just as they entered the shafthouse the cage shot to the surface. From it stepped two men.
Several miners crowded toward them with eager greetings, but they moved aside at sight of Pesquiera’s companion, who made straight for those from below.
“What’s new, Tregarth?” he asked of one of them, a huge Cornishman.
“The drill have brook into the Last Dollar tunnel. The watter of un do be leaking through, Measter Davis. The boss sent us oop while Tom and him stayed to put the charges in the drill holes to blow oot the wall. He wouldna coom and let me stay.”
Davis thought a moment.
“I’ll go down the shaft and wait at the foot of it. There’ll be something doing soon. Keep your eye peeled for signals, Smith, and when you git the bell to raise, shoot her up sudden. If the water’s coming, we’ll be in a hurry, and don’t you forget it. Want to come down with me, Tregarth?”
“I do that, sir.” The man stepped into the cage and grinned. “We’ll bring the byes back all right. Bet un we do, lads.”
The cage shot down, and the New Mexican sat on a bench to wait its return. Beside him was a young doctor, who had come prepared for a possible disaster. Such conversation as the men carried on was in low tones, for all felt the strain of the long minutes. The engineer’s eye was glued to his machinery, his hand constantly on the lever.