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Prowlers In Camp








From: Dave Porter In The Gold Fields

"Huh! so it's you, is it!" cried Link Merwell, in surly tones.

"So you are after my mine!" cried Roger, sharply. "Well, I'll tell you
right now, if you locate it, it won't do you any good."

"Bah! We know what we are doing," retorted the youth who in the past had
caused Dave and his chums so much trouble. "You can't scare us."

"Link, you ought to be in jail!" burst out Phil.

"You'll never put me there," was the quick retort.

"We have as much right to look for a mine up here as you have," put in
Sol Blugg. "If you own a mine, where are your stakes or other
landmarks?"

"You know very well that they were carried away by that landslide,"
answered the senator's son.

"We don't know nuthin' of the kind," came from Larry Jaley. "Your uncle
claimed to have a mine up here, but I never seen no proof of it--nor
did anybuddy else see any proof. Any of us kin locate a claim, an' you
can't stop us."

"This is free land, so far as locatin' a claim is concerned," added Sol
Blugg.

"Well, if you locate that mine before we do, don't you dare to remove
any of my uncle's landmarks," returned Roger.


REMOVE ANY OF MY UNCLE'S LANDMARKS."]

"Ha! wot kind o' talk is thet!" burst out Larry Jaley.

"Oh, we know you," put in Dave. "We know just what sort of a bunch you
are."

"Porter, do you include me in that remark?" demanded Job Haskers,
drawing himself up as had been his fashion when an instructor at Oak
Hall.

"I certainly do," replied Dave.

"You are impertinent!"

"It won't do you any good to act in that way, Job Haskers," returned our
hero. "We know you for the rascal that you are. You committed a crime at
Oak Hall, and you did what you could to swindle Mr. Fordham. It's
useless for you to deny it. Now, let me say this: If you and those with
you try to do the Morrs out of their property here, we'll do all we can
to put you and Link Merwell in prison for your crimes. And more than
that, we'll do what we can to have those men arrested, for that land
swindle they tried to pull off when Abe Blower blocked them, and for
stealing our horses."

"You--you----" stammered the former teacher, and for the moment knew not
what to say.

"Don't you call us hoss-thieves!" burst out Sol Blugg, savagely.

"I can and I will," replied Dave, firmly. "Your crowd tried to take our
horses, and the fellow called Staver got shot doing it. I guess that is
why he isn't with you now."

"Bah! I won't talk with you," growled Sol Blugg. He knew not what else
to say.

"I--I will--will settle with you for this another time," came tartly
from Job Haskers.

"Oh, come on, what's the use of talking to them?" growled Link Merwell.
"Some day I'll show them what I can do!" And he moved on along the
ledge.

"Some day I shall square up for this gross insult!" stormed Job Haskers,
and then he followed Merwell, and Blugg and Jaley came behind them. Soon
a turn in the ledge hid them from view of our friends.

"What nerve!" burst out Phil.

"That proves they are after the mine," came from Dave.

"Yes, and if they locate it they will try to prove that it wasn't my
uncle's mine at all!" burst out Roger, bitterly. "I suppose they'll
destroy all the landmarks--that is, if the landslide left any of them
standing--and then what will I be able to do?"

"I think we had better go back and tell the others of this," said Dave.
"After this, it may pay us to keep an eye on that other crowd."

"That's so," returned the senator's son.

With care the three chums retraced their steps, and half an hour later
found them with Tom Dillon and Abe Blower. The two old miners listened
with close attention to the tale of their encounter with the other
party.

"You are right; we must watch 'em," said Tom Dillon. "They are a bad lot
and will do what they can to make trouble for us, and keep us from
locating the lost mine."

"I wonder where they are camping?" said Phil.

"It can't be very far from here," replied Dave. "We can look for their
campfire to-night, if you wish."

"If they don't hide it," remarked Abe Blower. "And by that same token,
wouldn't it be a good idee to hide our own fire?" he continued, turning
to Tom Dillon.

"Sure!" was the prompt answer.

That night the three boys climbed several tall rocks in the vicinity of
their camp and looked around with care. But the only lights that they
could make out were miles away, and those Abe Blower stated were on the
distant railroad. Nothing like a campfire came to view.

"They are foxy and have put it in a hollow," said the old miner. "Wall,
we've done the same thing," he added, chuckling.

"Oh, if only we could locate that lost mine and put up our stakes!"
sighed Roger. "But it looks like next to a hopeless task, doesn't it,
Dave."

"Oh, I don't know, Roger," answered our hero, as cheerfully as possible,
for he saw that his chum was much downcast. "We haven't covered the
whole of the ground yet. I wouldn't give up hope, if I were you."

"I didn't think it was going to be such a job when we started," went on
the senator's son. "My, what rocks we have climbed over!" And he rubbed
a shin from which some skin had been scraped that afternoon.

"I knew it would be a hard hunt," answered our hero. "And why not? If it
was an easy matter to locate that lost mine, Abe Blower or some of those
old prospectors would have done it long ago. If we do the trick I think
it will be a great feather in our cap--in fact, I think it will be more
of a lucky accident than anything else."

"Just my way of looking at it," agreed Phil. "It's a regular
hide-and-seek game, this locating a mine among these rocks."

For a long time the three boys sat by themselves, talking about days at
Oak Hall, and about the folks left at home and about those now traveling
through Yellowstone Park. It seemed a long time since they had received
letters.

"I suppose there are letters at the hotel in Butte," said Dave, with a
little sigh.

"I'd give something to have them here," added Phil.

"If only I knew how dad was making out," murmured the senator's son. "I
suppose he is waiting every day to hear from me!"

"I hope the folks in the Park are having a good time," said Dave, after
a pause. "I suppose the main body of tourists have started for home by
now."

"Yes, they went yesterday, according to the advertised plan," answered
Phil.

"I've got an idea," said our hero, after another pause. "Do you see that
hollow just below here? Well, we haven't looked around that much. Why
not try it to-morrow?"

"Abe Blower and Mr. Dillon both seem to think the opening to the mine
was above that, Dave," said Roger.

"True, but the landslide changed things, remember. We may now find an
opening down there,--not the opening your uncle made, but another, made
by the slide."

"It won't do any harm to look down there. While we are here I am going
to look in every spot I can reach."

"Sure thing!" cried Phil. "But say, if we are going to climb around
these rocks all day to-morrow I am going to bed and get a good night's
rest."

"I guess we all need a rest, so we'll turn in at once," answered Roger.

Their camp was located between the rocks and not far from the trail by
which they had come to the vicinity. The horses were tethered at a point
where a patch of coarse undergrowth gave them something to nibble at.
The animals were of no use to them, now they were in the district where
the lost mine was supposed to be located.

It was a little after nine o'clock when the boys turned in, and a few
minutes later the two old miners followed them. So far they had not
deemed it necessary to have a guard, for none of their enemies nor wild
beasts had come to annoy them.

Roger and Phil were soon sound asleep, and it was not long before their
snoring told that Abe Blower and Tom Dillon were likewise in the land of
dreams. But Dave, for some reason he could not explain, was restless,
and he turned over several times, sighing heavily.

"If I were at home I should say I had eaten too much supper," he told
himself. "But here rations are too scarce. I don't know what keeps me
awake, unless it is that I'm too tired to go to sleep."

The campfire had burned so low that the spot was almost in total
darkness. There was no moon and only a few stars shone in the sky, which
was partly obscured by clouds. A gentle breeze was stirring, but
otherwise all was quiet.

At last Dave thought that if he had a drink he might go to sleep with
more ease, and he turned over to sit up and get to his feet. A bucket of
water was close at hand, so he would not have to go far for what he
wanted.

Just as Dave sat up he saw something that startled him. A dark figure
was moving at a distance from the camp, coming closer slowly.

At first the youth could not make out if the figure was a man or an
animal. He strained his eyes and then made out the form of a person.

At once our hero thought of Link Merwell and those with him. It must be
one of their enemies, and if so, what had brought him to this spot at
such an hour of the night?

"Maybe he is after our horses," reasoned the youth, and then he dropped
down again and rolled over to where Roger was lying. He shook his chum
and at the same time placed a hand over the other's mouth.

"Roger! Don't make any noise!" he whispered. "Somebody is coming here in
the dark."

The senator's son awoke and heard what was said. Then, as Dave took away
his hand, he whispered:

"Where is he? Who is it?"

"There he is," and Dave pointed with his hand. "I don't know who it is,
but I guess it is one of Link's crowd."

"I'll wake up Phil, and we can watch the rascal," said Roger, and this
was done, although not without difficulty, for the shipowner's son was
inclined to give a yell when aroused from such a sound slumber.

"Who--who is it?" he stammered. "Say, maybe we had better get our
pistols ready!" And he felt for his weapon.

"I've got mine all ready," answered Dave.

"And here is mine," whispered Roger. "If that fellow thinks he is coming
here unseen, won't he be surprised!"

"Hush!" came softly from Dave. "Look behind him! There is a second
fellow coming!"

Our hero was right, a second figure had emerged from the shadow of some
rocks. The two persons were coming along slowly, as if to make certain
that they were not being observed.

"I know that second fellow!" whispered Dave, a moment later. "See how
tall and thin he is. It's old Haskers!"

"Yes, and the other fellow is Link Merwell," replied Roger, a second
later.





Next: The Two Prisoners

Previous: Caught In A Storm



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