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    Chapter 19

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    Chapter 20
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    "Do you think he'll catch that fellow?"

    It was Phil who asked the question, as he and Dave and Roger watched the old miner disappear around a bend of the back trail.

    "I don't know about that," returned Dave. "But if he gets the horses back it will be something."

    "I should say yes!" cried the senator's son. "Why, we won't be able to go on unless we get them back!" he added, his face showing his worry.

    "Listen!" exclaimed Roger a minute later. "Somebody is shooting!"

    It was true--a shot had sounded out on the morning air. Soon it was followed by another, at a greater distance--showing that pursued and pursuer were drawing farther from the boys.

    The boys walked slowly back to the campfire and commenced to stir it up, and then they finished their morning toilet. Dave heaved a deep sigh.

    "I must say I don't feel much like eating," he observed.

    "Oh, we might as well fix breakfast," came from Phil. "It will help to pass the time. It won't do any good to just sit around."

    Fortunately their provisions were at hand, so it was an easy matter to prepare the morning meal. Before eating, however, Roger and Dave climbed the tall rock behind the camp and looked for some sign of Tom Dillon and the man he was pursuing.

    "I can't see a thing," announced Roger, after a long look through the field-glasses. "Here, you try," and he handed the glasses to our hero.

    For several minutes Dave surveyed the distant landscape in vain. Then he uttered a cry.

    "I see them, Roger! There they go!" And he pointed excitedly with his finger.

    At a distance they could not calculate they saw Tom Dillon and the rascal he was after, and also the flying horses. They were all bounding along a rocky trail, the would-be horse thief well in advance. Suddenly they saw this individual make a turn and disappear around some rocks. The free horses kept on, with the old miner after them.

    "That rascal has gotten away!" announced Dave. "He has given Mr. Dillon the slip."

    "Dave, do you think Mr. Dillon will catch our horses?"

    "Yes--sooner or later. They are bound to stop running, to feed or to drink, and then he'll round them up. I guess all we can do is to go down and wait for him to get back."

    "But those shots! What if he is wounded!"

    "I hope he isn't, Roger."

    They climbed down to the camp and told Phil about what they had witnessed. Then all ate breakfast slowly, meanwhile discussing the adventure from all possible standpoints.

    "It was one of the Blugg crowd, I feel certain of that," said Dave. "Perhaps it was Sol Blugg himself."

    Slowly the morning wore away. When the sun came up it was very hot and the youths were glad enough to draw into the shade of the rocks. Just before noon all three climbed the tall rock again, to look not only for Tom Dillon and the horses, but also for Abe Blower and those with him.

    But not a soul was in sight, nor did any horses show themselves. At a distance they made out some mule deer and several goats, but that was all.

    "Do you think we ought to walk along the back trail?" asked Roger, when they were getting lunch. "Mr. Dillon may need our services."

    "I'll go if you want me to, Roger," answered our hero. "But he was a good distance away when we saw him through the glasses."

    "Let us wait awhile--until the awful heat of the midday sun is over," suggested Phil. "The sunshine just now is enough to give one a sun-stroke."

    It was a little after three o'clock when the three lads prepared to walk along the back trail, on the lookout for the old miner. But just as they started Dave put up his hand.


    All did so, and from a distance heard the clatter of horses' hoofs on the rocky trail. Then came a cheery call.

    "It's Mr. Dillon!" cried Roger, and let out a call in return, and the others did likewise.

    Soon the old miner appeared around a bend of the trail. He was seated on his own steed and driving the others in front of him. He looked tired out, and the horses looked the same.

    "Are you all right, Mr. Dillon?" sang out Dave, as he ran forward to stop the nearest horse.

    "All right, boys!" was the answer. "That is, I will be as soon as I've rested a bit. I've had some ride, believe me!"

    Roger and Phil helped Dave to secure the free horses and tether them, and our hero held the old miner's steed while he fairly tumbled to the ground. The horse was in a heavy lather, and Mr. Dillon was covered with dust.

    "You weren't shot, were you?" questioned the senator's son, anxiously.

    "No, although I come putty nigh to it," was the answer, and the old miner pointed to a hole through the brim of the hat he wore. "The skunk fired twict at me!"

    "We heard two shots," said Dave. "We were afraid you might be in trouble. If we had had horses we would have followed you."

    "I did better nor he did," went on the old miner, with a satisfied ring in his voice. "I plugged him in the arm."

    "You did!" exclaimed Phil. "We heard only two shots!"

    "I fired later on, after he left the trail. He was just gittin' ready to aim his gun ag'in when I caught him. His arm went down like lead, an' the gun dropped to the ground; so I know I winged him. He didn't shoot no more, only got into the timber quick as he could. Then I rounded up the hosses an' started back."

    "Who was it, do you know?" questioned Dave.

    "It was Ham Staver. I suppose Sol Blugg and Larry Jaley sent him ahead to steal the hosses. They thought it would be easy, with us asleep."

    "It came pretty near being so," answered Dave, gravely.

    Tom Dillon was glad enough to rest, and to partake of the hearty meal the boys prepared for him. The horses were cared for, and the boys were pleased to learn that they had not suffered through the wild run along the rocky trail.

    "If that Staver shows himself around Butte I'll settle accounts with him," said the old miner, while eating. "But I reckon he'll stay away for a while."

    After an hour's rest the old miner announced that he was ready to go forward once more. The sun was now well in the west, and it was not near so hot as it had been in the middle of the day.

    "I wish we could catch up to the Blower party by to-night," said Roger, earnestly. "Mr. Dillon, do you think we can do it?"

    "We can try, lad. But you must remember, we'll have to favor the hosses a leetle. They have had a mighty hard run on't."

    "I know. Well, don't go any further than you deem wise."

    For the distance of half a mile the trail was comparatively good. But then they came to an uneven locality, filled with dangerous holes and pitfalls.

    "Careful here, boys!" cried Tom Dillon. "We don't want none o' the hosses to break a leg."

    He was in the lead, and under his guidance they advanced slowly. At the top of a short rise of ground he came to a halt.

    "Here is where part o' that landslide occurred," he announced, pointing with his hand. "I think myself it was somethin' of an earthquake, although the scientific sharps say not. But if it wasn't an earthquake it was mighty queer that it hit this spot and the other at the same time--both bein' miles apart."

    "Perhaps the shock of the falling rocks at one place shook the other," suggested Dave.

    "Perhaps, lad. It's a mystery--an' I suppose it will remain a mystery. We know some things about Nater, but there's others she keeps putty well hid."

    They went down on the other side of the rise, and then commenced to mount an even larger hill--the last but one, so the old miner told the boys. Far in the distance they could make out the railroad tracks, winding along through the mountains. The sun was setting, and the western sky was aflame with varied colors of most gorgeous hues.

    "What a beautiful sunset!" murmured Dave.

    Soon the gloom of evening commenced to settle about them. All had their eyes ahead, but so far they had seen no trace of the Blower party.

    "Wait a minute!" cried Dave, presently. He had seen something white fluttering among the rocks on the side of the trail.

    "What do you see?" asked Phil.

    "A newspaper."

    "Oh, let it go, Dave. We have all the old newspapers we want."

    "I want to see how recent it is," was our hero's reply.

    He got down, walked to where the paper rested in a crevice, and drew it forth.

    "It's a copy of a mining journal," he announced, as he looked the sheet over. "The issue for last week," he added, gazing at the date. "It's full of grease, too,--that's why they threw it away."

    "Do you suppose it belonged to Abe Blower?" questioned Roger, coming up.

    "It did!" cried Dave. He had turned to the front page of the paper. "See, here is Abe Blower's name and address, stamped on for mailing purposes. He got it through the mail just before he left and took it along to wrap something in."

    "Then that proves we are on the right trail!" cried Roger, joyfully. "I wonder how long ago it was when he threw the paper away?"

    "I'm not detective enough to tell you that, Roger," answered Dave, with a grin. "But it's something to know we are on the right trail. They might have taken to that cross trail, you know. We'll catch up to them sooner or later."

    Once more our friends went forward, this time along the very edge of the new ridge that had shown itself after the great landslide. They had to advance with caution, for loose stones were numerous and so were dangerous holes.

    "We can't go much further to-night," announced Tom Dillon; presently. "This trail ain't safe in the dark."

    "All right, Mr. Dillon, we'll stop when you say so," returned Roger, with a bit of a sigh. "How much further to where the Landslide Mine was located?"

    "Not over two miles, as the crows fly, lad; but four to five miles by the trail."

    They went into camp in the very midst of the rocks. Strange as it may seem, there was water there, coming from a tiny spring under a huge boulder. It had a somewhat unpleasant odor, and the horses at first refused it, but the old miner said it was drinkable.

    "Only you don't want to live on it all the year around," he added, with a grin. "A doctor onct tole me if you did that you might turn into stone!"

    "I know what I am going to do, as soon as it gets dark enough," said Dave to his chums, while they were preparing supper.

    "What?" asked the other boys.

    "I am going to look for the campfire of that crowd ahead."

    "Of course!" cried Roger. "And, Dave, if it isn't too far off, maybe we can walk to it!" he added, quickly.

    "So I was thinking."

    Eagerly the three boys waited for the darkness of night to fall, in the meanwhile getting supper and tidying up the camp. Then they climbed to the top of the highest rock that was at hand and looked around them.

    "I see a fire!" cried Dave, and pointed it out.

    "Yes, and it looks to be less than a mile away!" returned Roger.

    "Let's walk to it!" put in Phil.

    And on this plan the three chums quickly agreed.
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