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    Chapter 28

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    Chapter 29
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    "They cut the ropes! See, here is where it was done, on this jagged rock!"

    As Dave spoke he pointed to a sharp edge of stone. Beneath it were bits of rope, showing how the fetters had been sawed in twain.

    "One of 'em must have got loose and then freed the other," remarked Roger.

    "But who was on guard?" demanded Tom Dillon, sharply. He looked at the boys and then at Abe Blower.

    "I was, but I--I guess I fell asleep," faltered Phil, sheepishly, and grew red in the face.

    "Fell asleep!" cried Abe Blower. "I guess you did!" And his tone of voice showed his disgust.

    "I--I am awfully sorry," continued the shipowner's son. "I--I really don't know how it happened. It wasn't the thing to do."

    "Never mind, it's done and that's the end of it," put in Roger, quickly, for he could see how badly his chum felt over the occurrence. "I guess you were pretty tired."

    "I was, Roger. Just the same, I had no business to fall asleep. I'm mad enough to kick myself full of holes," went on Phil, grimly.

    "Let us see if they took anything with 'em," came from Tom Dillon, as he turned to where their things and the animals were, but they had not been disturbed.

    "I guess they were too scared to touch anything," declared Dave. "They were glad enough to save themselves. I imagine they ran away as soon as they were free." And in this surmise our hero was correct. Link had been the one to sever his bonds and he had untied Job Haskers, and then both of them had lost not an instant in quitting the locality, being afraid that some of the others might awaken before they could make good their escape.

    "Well, I am just as well satisfied," whispered Roger to Dave and Phil. "I didn't want to hold them, anyway. All I want them to do is to leave us alone."

    "But you don't want them to discover the lost mine, Roger," returned our hero.

    "Oh, certainly not! We'll have to keep on the watch for them as well as look for the mine," answered the senator's son.

    A search was made, and it was soon ascertained that their enemies were nowhere in that vicinity. Then breakfast was had, and a little later the search for the lost Landslide Mine was continued.

    As before, the different members of the party separated, and thus the day went by. Several times one or another of the boys or the men thought he had found some landmark, but each time the clew proved a false one.

    "It looks as if we were going to be stumped,--just as those other searching parties were stumped," remarked Roger, dismally. "Maybe the lost mine will remain lost forever!" and he sighed deeply.

    "Oh, I wouldn't give up yet!" cried Dave, cheerfully. "We have still some more ground to cover."

    "Of course, we have," said Phil. "Oh, we are going to find that mine, no two ways about it!"

    "I hope so," and Roger sighed again. He felt that if the mine was not found, matters would look pretty blue at home for all concerned.

    The following morning dawned bright and clear, with no warning at all of what was in store. An early breakfast was had, and once more all hands separated in the hunt for landmarks which might guide them to the lost mine.

    Dave was working his way along a small ridge of outcropping rocks, when he came to one rock that stood out much higher than the rest. From this point he gazed around, to see if he could locate any of the others of the party.

    As a distance he made out Roger and Phil, who had just come together. Then, turning around, he glanced below him and made out several other persons on a lower ridge of the mountainside.

    "Link Merwell and Job Haskers, and that Sol Blugg is with them," he murmured. "Evidently they are not going to give up the hunt."

    Dave watched the party of three for several minutes and then continued his own hunt. Roger and Phil had now disappeared from view, and Abe Blower and Tom Dillon were far away,--almost to the top of the mountain.

    A quarter of an hour passed and Dave discovered something which he considered worth investigating. Just above his head was an opening between the rocks,--an irregular slit fifteen or twenty feet high and two to four feet wide.

    He had seen many openings before, but this was peculiar for the reason that one edge of the rocks looked as if it had been drilled and blasted away. More than this, within the split lay the broken-off handle of a shovel.

    "Oh, what if I have found the lost mine!" he thought. "That shovel-handle proves that somebody has been here, and, yes, that is where somebody bored into the rocks and set off a blast! I must investigate this, and if it looks promising I'll call the others. No use in exciting Roger unless it's worth while."

    Dave climbed up to the split and peered within. All was so dark that he could see but little. Yet he made out what looked to be a fairly level bit of flooring and he swung himself to this, first, however, placing his handkerchief on a rock outside, for it had been agreed that if anybody went into any sort of opening he should leave something behind, so that the others, coming that way, might know where he was.

    Each of the party had provided himself with a dry stick of wood, to use for a torch if one was required, and Dave now lit the stick he carried and swung it into a blaze. With this in hand he commenced an inspection of the opening he had discovered.

    The cave, if such it can be called, proved to be long and narrow,--little more than a split in the rocks. At some points the roofing was out of sight. The flooring, too, was irregular, and our hero had to proceed with care, for pitfalls were numerous and he had no desire to tumble into one of these.

    "This mountainside is a good deal like Cave Island," he muttered, as he advanced. "That was honeycombed with caves and so is this. No wonder they have landslides here. The ground and rocks are bound to settle, with so many openings to fill up."

    He had gone forward about a hundred and fifty feet when he found the opening leading upward. Then of a sudden he gave a cry of wonder and delight.

    Just ahead of him were a number of heavy timbers, such as are used for shoring in mines. And among the timbers lay a pick and a crowbar and the remains of a smashed lantern.

    At that instant Dave remembered one thing that Roger had told him, which was that Maurice Harrison had always branded all of his tools with his initials. Eagerly, our hero caught up the pick and held the handle in the light of his torch. There, on the broad part of the pick's handle, were the initials:

    M. H.

    "It's the lost mine!" shouted the youth. "The lost mine as sure as fate! Oh, I must get out and tell Roger and the others of this!"

    But then he hesitated. What if this should prove to be only some abandoned "prospect" and not the real mine at all?

    "I'd better look around a little first and make sure," he reasoned. "If I can only find some of the gold Mr. Harrison spoke about, I'd be sure."

    He looked at the lantern and the crowbar and saw that both contained the initials found on the pick. He placed the three articles in a heap, and then climbed over the broken timbers to the opening beyond. As he did this a current of pure, cold air struck him.

    "There must be other openings to this cave or mine," he reasoned. "Otherwise it wouldn't be so well ventilated. Well, I'm glad to have the fresh air. Where is that gold? If this is really the mine I ought to see some of it in the rocks."

    He walked along, throwing the light of his torch on the rocks as he did so. For several minutes he saw nothing that looked like gold, and his heart sank. But suddenly he gave a low whistle and in his excitement almost dropped his torch.

    For in a crack of the rocks he had come across a small "pocket," as it is termed by miners. In the pocket lay a quantity of sand, and on top of this an irregular object about as large as a small hen's egg.

    "A nugget! A nugget of gold!" cried Dave, as he rubbed it off and inspected it by the light of the torch. "A nugget of gold just as sure as sure can be! Oh, this must be the lost mine!"

    In feverish haste he set his torch up in a crack of the rocks and commenced to scoop the sand from the pocket with his hands. Out came another nugget and then another, and then half a dozen, all about the size of hickory nuts. Then the pocket grew so deep and narrow he could not reach down into it. He took up the crowbar, and with it ascertained that the opening with the sand and nuggets was of unknown depth.

    "It's the lost Landslide Mine!" said Dave to himself. "The lost mine beyond a doubt, and all this gold belongs to Mrs. Morr! Oh, won't Roger be glad when I tell him the glorious news!"

    Gathering up the nuggets he had found, Dave placed them in his pocket to show to the others, and then started to leave the place.

    As he did this, he heard a peculiar rumbling sound, coming from a distance. He stopped to listen, and the rumble grew louder and louder.

    "What in the world can that be?" he asked himself. "Sounds like a train of cars rushing through a tunnel. I wonder----Oh!"

    Dave stopped short, and it is no wonder that a sudden chill passed over him. The very rocks on which he was standing had begun to quake. Then from overhead several stones fell, one so close that it brushed his shoulder.

    "It's an earthquake, or another landslide!" he gasped. "I must get out of this, or I'll be buried alive!"

    And then, torch in hand, he started for the opening to the mine.

    He had hardly covered half the distance to the outer air when there came another quaking, and more rocks fell, one hitting him on the arm. The torch was knocked from his hand and he tripped and fell. Then came a crash and a roar, and to Dave it seemed as if the end of the world had come. He was more than half-stunned, and he fell against a wall of rocks, wondering what would happen next.
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