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    Chapter 17

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    Chapter 18
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    The boys had expected some such answer as this, so they were not greatly surprised. They were introduced to the storekeeper by Tom Dillon, who then asked if Abe Blower had been alone.

    "No, he had two others with him--strangers to me," answered Dick Logan.

    "Was one of the strangers an elderly man and the other a young fellow like ourselves?" asked Roger.

    "Yes, a tall, thin man. The young feller called him Haskers, I think."

    "What name did the young man go by?" asked Dave.

    "Morse, I think--or something like that."

    "Morr?" put in Phil.

    "Yes, I reckon that was it. Then you know 'em?" questioned the storekeeper, with interest.

    "Yes, we know them, and we'd like to meet them," answered Roger, dryly.

    "Well, I dunno where they went--Abe didn't say an' it wasn't my business to question 'em," returned Dick Logan. "Looked to me like the elderly gent was some kind o' a school sharp."

    "He used to be," answered Dave. "And we all were under him."

    "Oh, I see. Well, I dunno where they went, 'ceptin' they struck out along the Billy Rodman trail," said the storekeeper.

    "Abe took his regular outfit, I reckon," remarked Tom Dillon.

    "Sure--he never goes up in the mountains without it, Tom; you know that."

    "And the three were alone?"

    "I didn't see nobody else."

    "Can you put us up for the night, Dick?"

    "I can if the young fellers will sleep in one room. I got a little room fer you an' a big one I can put three cots in."

    "That will do for us," answered Roger. "We have been out in such places as this before," he added, with a faint smile.

    "We ain't got no bathrooms, nor electric elevators," returned Dick Logan, with a chuckle. "But we kin give you clean beds an' blankets, and good grub."

    "You don't have to tell me that, Dick," put in Tom Dillon. He turned to the others. "It's all right, boys; just make yourselves at home. We'll get a good night's rest here, and follow Abe and the others fust thing in the mornin'."

    The room the boys occupied was on the second story, at the corner of the building. Under the side window was a driveway leading back to the stables attached to the establishment. The apartment had two cots already in it and a third was speedily forthcoming, being put in place by a negro man-of-all-work.

    "Well, that long ride to-day certainly made me tired," remarked Phil, as he started to undress. "I could sleep standing up, as the saying goes."

    "I'm tired myself," answered Roger.

    "Wonder how the folks are making out in the Park," came from Dave. "I hope they have better accommodations than this," and he glanced around at the bare walls and bare floor.

    "Oh, Yellowstone Park has some fine hotels," declared Roger. "I read all about them in one of the tourists' guides. They have just erected a new one that they say is a dandy."

    "Never mind those hotels now!" cried Dave, as he slipped off one shoe after another. "It's get to bed now and an early start in the morning to see if we can't catch Blower, Haskers, and--Morr!" and he grinned.

    "The cheek of Link Merwell using my name!" murmured the senator's son. "I'll--I'll knock him down for that, if I get the chance!" And his eyes blazed for the moment.

    Soon the boys were abed and it did not take them long to drop into profound slumber. In the next room was Tom Dillon, also sleeping peacefully.

    Dave was the first to awaken and he slid off of his cot to look out of the window, to see what kind of weather it was. The window had been left wide open, to let in the fresh air, and as our hero stuck out his head and glanced down in the alleyway leading to the stables, he uttered an exclamation of surprise.

    "What is it?" questioned Roger, rousing up, followed by Phil.

    "Those men!" murmured Dave. "Look, fellows!"

    The others came to his side and looked out of the window. Just emerging from the alleyway were three men on horseback, all equipped for camping out. The three men were Blugg, Jaley, and Staver.

    "Well, I declare! What are those fellows doing here?" cried the senator's son.

    "Can they be following us?" questioned Phil.

    "I don't know. They came from the stables," answered our hero. "Most likely they had their horses there over night. We can find out when we go down."

    "Where are they going?" asked the shipowner's son.

    All watched for a minute or two and saw the Blugg crowd pass down the main street of the camp and around a warehouse corner. Then they were lost to view.

    Tom Dillon had heard the boys rising and was now up himself and getting dressed. He listened with interest to what they had to relate.

    "It's queer that crowd should be here, after what happened in Butte," he said. "I'll ask Dick Logan about 'em, when we go to breakfast."

    When questioned, the proprietor of the place stated that Blugg and the others had come in late, after the Morr party were abed. As the place was full they had accepted a room in the building across the street, but had put up their horses in the Logan stable. They had paid in advance, stating they were going to leave at daybreak.

    "Let us ask the stable man about this," suggested Dave, in a whisper, to his chums, and as soon as breakfast was over, they went out and hunted up that individual.

    "Nobody teched your outfit, I dun see to that," said the colored man. "I slept right by your hosses an' things."

    "Did you talk to those men who came in late last night?" asked Dave.

    "They did most of the talkin', boss. They wanted to know all about your party--whar you was a-gwine, an' all that. But I didn't give 'em no satisfaction, I didn't. Boss Dillon tole me las' night to keep my trap-doah closed, an' when Boss Dillon sez a thing I dun know he means it,--so I didn't tell 'em nuffin'."

    "Good for Mr. Dillon!" cried Roger. "They didn't say what brought them here?"

    "No, sah. When they see I didn't have nuffin' to tell they jest closed up, too," and the negro grinned, broadly. He had been liberally tipped by Tom Dillon and, besides, he considered it an honor to serve such a well-known personage and one who had "made his pile," as it is often expressed in that part of our country.

    The lads and the old miner were soon ready for the trail, and, bidding Dick Logan farewell, they set off through the main street of Black Cat Camp in the direction of the Rodman trail, called by a few old-timers Smoky Hill trail. As they rode along they kept a sharp lookout for Sol Blugg and his cohorts, but that gang did not show itself.

    "But they must be watching us, I am almost certain of that," said Dave. And he was right. They were watching from behind one of the buildings of Black Cat Camp, and as soon as it seemed safe to do so, Sol Blugg ordered those with him to take up the trail.

    "Abe Blower came this way, in a hurry, too," said Blugg, to his cronies. "Now Tom Dillon is going the same way, and also in a hurry. That means that something is in the wind. Maybe it's another big discovery of gold, like when they opened up Big Bear Camp, and Hitchley's, an' if it is, we want to be in on the ground floor."

    "Right you air, Sol," said Larry Jaley. "And if we can cut Abe out o' anything, so much the better, fer the trick he played us in that land deal."

    "The two crowds must be in with each other, otherwise wot was them young fellers as is now with Dillon doin' at Abe's house?"

    "We'll find out their game, sooner or later," muttered Sol Blugg. "We'll keep on their trail--but we mustn't let 'em see us, or they'll take to some side-trail and put us in blind."

    It was another clear day, but the breeze from the mountains was fresher, so that riding was not so tiresome as it had been on the first day out. The trail was wide, in fact often used by wagons and carts, so that our friends could ride two abreast.

    "Not much of a farming country around here," remarked Dave, as he looked at the general barrenness of the aspect. Here and there were clumps of trees and patches of rough grass, and that was all.

    "The farming country is further down, in the valleys," answered Tom Dillon. "Some pretty good soil, too. But up this way it's only good for mining. But that's good enough--if you've got a paying mine," and his kindly eyes twinkled.

    "You bet!" replied Dave, slangily. "Oh, I do hope we find this mine," he added, in a lower tone. "The Morr family need it."

    "I thought the senator was putty well fixed."

    "He was, but he isn't now--and there is danger of his losing his office this fall. If he does lose it, and we don't find the mine, I am afraid it is going to go rather hard with the family."

    "I see. Well, we'll do our best--nobuddy can do more."

    "About how much further is that Landslide district from here?"

    "Not over sixty miles as the crows fly. But by the trails it's every bit o' twice that distance. An' some putty stiff travelin', too, in some spots, believe me!" added the old miner.

    "Do you think you can stand it?"

    "Sure I can. And I like it, too, lad. I git tired o' sittin' around the hotel, doin' nuthin' but readin' the papers and trying to be what they call a gent of leisure. I was brought up on hard work, and outdoor life, and I just have to git back to it onct in a while. If you hadn't come along as you did, most likely I would have dug out for the diggin's alone afore long."

    "It's a grand life to lead--this one in the open air," said Dave, filling his lungs with the ozone from the mountains.

    "Best in the world, lad. It's the only life fer me, too. If I had to sit in an office all day, or around a hotel where I had to wear one of them biled shirts and a coat cut like a tack puller, I'd die, believe me! I'd rather wear a gray shirt, an' eat off a tin plate, any day!"

    By noon they came to a little mountain stream of the freshest and purest of water and there they went into temporary camp. A tiny blaze was kindled, and they made some coffee, which they drank while eating some sandwiches Dick Logan had put up for them.

    "See that ridge?" asked Tom Dillon, just before they were ready to start again, and he pointed to an elevation to the northwest. And as all three lads said they did, he continued: "Well, just back o' that is the deestrict where that big landslide took place and buried the Landslide Mine out o' sight."

    "Why, that doesn't look to be very far away!" cried Roger.

    "No, it don't look so, lad. But you must remember that the air up here is very clear an' you can see for a long distance. You'll find it a long, hard ride afore you reach that ridge, let alone the place behind it where the mine was."

    "Are there any settlements on the way?" asked Phil.

    "None that we will visit. Shaleyville is in that direction, and Tim Dixon's over yonder, with Big Tree back o' it. But we will give them all the go-by an' stick to this trail," concluded Tom Dillon.

    All through the long afternoon they rode forward, up and up, the horses panting for breath as the ascent grew more steep. Many times they had to stop to rest. As they mounted higher, the panorama of hills and mountains grew larger.

    "What a beautiful spot!" cried Dave, when they were resting. "What a grand painting this would make!"

    "You'll find a painting of it--at the capitol building," replied Tom Dillon. "A celebrated painter painted it and sold it to our State government."

    Forward they went again. Phil was now in the rear, looking after the horse that was carrying their camping outfit. Just as those in front had turned a dangerous corner of the rocky trail they heard a sharp cry from the shipowner's son.

    "Help! Quick, somebody help me! Stop that horse from falling over the cliff!"
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