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    Chapter 29

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    Chapter 30
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    ANOTHER LANDSLIDE

    It was another landslide, crashing and roaring down the side of the mountain, carrying rocks, dirt, and brushwood before it. The earth roared and shook, and it was said afterwards that the slide could be heard many miles away.

    Down in the mine that he had but just discovered, Dave remained crouching against a wall of rock, murmuring a prayer for his safe deliverance from the peril that encompassed him. Every moment he expected would be his last--that those rocky walls would crash in on him and become his tomb. Roar followed roar, as the landslide continued and more rocks fell. Then the air around him seemed to be compressed, until he could scarcely breathe.

    "Oh, if I were only out of this!" he thought, and at that moment he would have gladly given all he was worth to have been in the outer air once more.

    Gradually the roaring and the quaking ceased, and Dave breathed a little more freely. He groped around in the darkness and managed to locate the fallen torch, which still glowed faintly. He swung it into a blaze with nervous energy.

    Was the landslide at an end? Fervidly he prayed that it was. Torch in hand, he tried to make his way to the spot where he had entered the mine.

    He soon found this impossible, for the reason that the passageway had shifted, and huge rocks blocked his way. Several times he tried to climb over the rocks, only to fall back helplessly. He cut his hands and broke his finger-nails, but this availed him nothing.

    "But I've got to get out! I've got to!" he told himself, over and over again. "I can't stay here!" And then he tried to climb the rocks in front of him once more.

    It was hard work, especially with the torch in hand. Once Dave tried to carry the torch between his teeth, but it was too short, and his face was scorched, while the smoke almost strangled him.

    Suddenly he slipped on some wet rocks and went down and down, he knew not whither. He was stunned by the fall, and the precious light slid from his grasp and rolled several yards away.

    "Oh!" he murmured as he gathered his scattered senses and arose slowly to his feet. Then he saw that the torch was on the point of going out and he made a dash for it, and swung it once again into a faint blaze.

    As he stepped around he noticed something else that added to his dismay. In his fall he had twisted his left ankle, which gave a twitch that made him shut his teeth hard, to keep from crying out with pain.

    "Oh, I hope I haven't broken it!" he muttered. "However am I going to walk on it, even if it is broken?"

    In sheer desperation he commenced to climb up the wet rocks down which he had tumbled. The ankle hurt not a little, yet in his excitement the youth scarcely noticed the pain. His one thought was to get out of the cave before another landslide or earthquake occurred.

    A few minutes later found Dave on the level from which he had fallen. As he scrambled over the rocks something caught the glare of the torchlight. The youth picked up the object.

    "Another nugget!" he told himself. "The place must be full of them!"

    But what good would these nuggets be to him or his friends if he could not get out of the mine-cave? He was deep underground and this new landslide or earthquake might bury him and the contents of the mine forever!

    "I've got to get out!" he repeated over and over again. "I've got to get out somehow!"

    Trying to pierce the gloom ahead, Dave swung his torch behind him. Was he mistaken, or was that a glimmer of daylight in the distance? He stumbled forward, over some loose stones, and presently came to a split in the narrow passageway.

    From overhead came a faint ray of daylight! He almost felt like giving a shout of joy, so welcome was the sight. But then his heart sank once more as he realized that the thin shaft of light came from a split in some rocks which were fifty or sixty feet above his head. The walls were so steep and slippery that to scale them was utterly out of the question.

    In front of Dave was now a solid wall of rock, so the youth knew that he could not get out in that direction. With a heavy heart he retraced his steps, trying to locate the opening by which he had entered the cave. But the landslide, or earthquake, had changed the surroundings to such an extent that he hardly knew how to turn to make the next move.

    A youth less stout of heart than Dave might have sat down and given up the case as hopeless. But our hero was not made of such stuff. He moved on slowly, in one direction and then another, trying out what looked as if they might be passages to the outer air.

    And then came another distant rumble, showing that the earthquake, or landslide, was not yet at an end. The boy held his breath, wondering if it would come closer and annihilate him. But the rumble remained at a distance, and in less than a minute passed away completely.

    "Thank fortune, that didn't come here!" he murmured, and passed his hand over his forehead, upon which the thick beads of cold perspiration had gathered. He strained his ears for several seconds longer, but all around him was now as silent as a tomb.

    "Oh, I must get out!" he muttered, despairingly. "I must! There must be some kind of an opening somewhere!"

    Again he stumbled onward, into one passageway after another. Once the place was so narrow that he became fairly wedged fast and had all he could do to draw back. Then a sudden chill swept through his body, making his teeth chatter.

    Must he give up? Was that cave to become his tomb?

    The thought forced itself upon Dave in spite of his effort to take a more cheerful view of the situation. He was hemmed in--not an avenue of escape seemed open.

    "I won't give up! I won't! I won't!" he muttered, half savagely, and got up from the rock on which he had sunk down to rest. Climbing around in that place where the footing was so uncertain had taken both his wind and his strength, and he was panting, and his knees shook beneath him. Only a short time had elapsed since that dreadful first shock had come, yet to the youth it seemed an age.

    He looked at the torch. It had burned well down and would not last much longer. And when it was gone he would be left in total darkness!

    This was a new cause for fear, and it made Dave move around faster than ever.

    Suddenly he stopped short. A new sound had reached his ears--a strange, weird sound that made his flesh creep and his hair stand on end.

    It was the cry of a wildcat--shrill and uncanny in that pent-up space. Slowly it came nearer, although from what direction our hero could not at first make out.

    He waited behind a spur of rocks and the cry--it was more a whine of fright than anything else--came closer. Then, on a shelf of rocks but a short distance away, Dave caught sight of the beast.

    It was limping along on three feet, dragging a bleeding hind leg and a bleeding tail behind it. Evidently it had been caught between the falling stones as in a trap and had pulled itself loose in a mad effort to save its life.

    For the moment Dave forgot his other perils as he faced the beast. Evidently the wildcat had scented the youth, for it gave a savage cry as of defiance. Perhaps it thought that Dave was responsible in some way for the pain it was suffering.

    The youth's hand was on the rocks and almost unconsciously it closed on a sharp stone about as big as his fist. Raising the stone, he took quick aim and threw it at the wildcat.

    As my old readers know, Dave was a good baseball player and, at Oak Hall, had often filled the pitcher's box with credit. He threw the stone with accuracy and vigor, and it landed fairly and squarely on the head of the wildcat.

    There was a weird screech, and the beast whirled around and around on the rocks, coming closer and closer to our hero. Once it clawed savagely at Dave, but he shoved the creature off before any damage was done. Then it fell down in a cleft of some rocks, where it snapped and snarled until Dave sent down a heavy boulder on top of it, thus ending its misery.

    "Phew!" gasped the youth, after the excitement was over. "That was almost as bad as when we shot the mountain lioness!"

    He had dropped the end of his torch, but now picked it up once more and commenced to move around as before. He proceeded blindly, not knowing in what direction to turn to reach the outer air.

    "Where can the others be?" was a question he asked himself more than once. Were they, too, caught underground, or had the awful landslide carried them down into the valley and buried them?

    In the course of his climbings Dave presently came to a new turn, one which had before escaped his attention. This turn led upward and gave him fresh hope. But, just as he fancied that he was getting close to the outer air, he reached a flat wall, and further progress in that direction was out of the question.

    His heart sank like lead in his bosom, and he walked slowly back to the point from which he had started. How to turn next he did not know.

    Half an hour passed, and Dave was almost in despair. His torch had reached its end and was on the point of going out. Then, not knowing what else to do, he set up a cry for help.

    There came no reply, and he cried again. Then he pulled out his pistol and fired a shot.

    The discharge of the weapon echoed and reechoed throughout the cave and brought down several small stones. Then, to Dave's intense surprise and joy, an answering shot came back.

    "Who is it?" he yelled. "I am here! This way! This way!"

    "Hello!" was the long-drawn-out answer, coming from some point that appeared to be over his head. "Where--are--you?"

    And then, as Dave's torch gave a final flicker and went out, our hero saw a shaft of light move over the rocks above his head.

    "It's Roger's flashlight!" he told himself, and then he set up another cry.

    The rays of the flashlight became stronger and of a sudden they shot downward, directly in Dave's face.

    "It's Dave!" came in Roger's voice. "Are you all right?"

    "Yes," was the ready reply. "That you, Roger?"

    "Yes. Phil is with me."

    "Were you hurt?"

    "Shaken up a bit, that's all," replied Phil, and now Dave saw his chums standing in an opening that was about eight feet above his head.

    "We had better get out of here," went on Roger, quickly. "Another landslide may bury us alive!"

    "I've found the mine!" cried Dave. "I've got some nuggets from it--and a pick, a crowbar, and a broken lantern, all with your uncle's initials on them!"

    "Good for you!" cried the senator's son. "Phil and I found some evidences of the mine up here--an old coat of my uncle's and some of his stakes. But we had better get out now--we can talk this thing over later."

    "I can't get out down here--the passageway is blocked with rocks."

    "Did you get in from below?" cried Phil. "We got in from up here."

    A few words more passed, and the two boys on the upper ledge of rocks passed down a length of rope they carried, and by that means Dave was soon enabled to climb up and join them. There were no more quakes, so all began to breathe more freely. Yet they felt that it would be advisable to leave the cave-mine without delay.

    "It certainly is the lost Landslide Mine!" exclaimed Roger. "Oh, how glad I am that it has been found! And how glad my folks will be to get the welcome news!" Even the peril of the present situation could not rob him of his joy over the discovery that had been made.

    He and Phil had picked up several small nuggets, so that all were sure they had really discovered the lost mine.

    "But they will have to be careful how they work this mine," said Dave, as he walked along with his chums. "They can't work it from below--it will be too dangerous."

    "Oh, they'll find some way, don't fear," answered Roger. "As long as they know the gold is there, they'll find a way to get it."

    "Where are the others?" went on Dave, as he saw daylight ahead, much to his satisfaction.

    "That we don't know," answered Phil. "But we are hoping they are safe."

    "By the way, did you see Merwell and Haskers?" cried Dave, suddenly.

    "Why, no--not since they ran away from our camp," returned Roger.

    "I saw them--just before I found this opening. They were below me, the two of them and Sol Blugg."

    "Maybe they got caught," muttered Phil.

    No more was said just then, for the boys had to do some climbing over several big rocks, and needed their breath. Then they made a turn, and a moment later came out into the sunlight.

    "Oh, how good it seems to be out in the air once more!" murmured Dave.

    "Thank heaven, none of us were killed," added Roger.

    "No more underground exploring for me," avowed Phil. "More than once I thought we would be buried alive!"

    "That is what I was afraid would happen to me," said Dave, seriously. "Yes, we can all thank heaven we are out of it."

    "And now to hunt up Blower and Mr. Dillon," came from the senator's son.

    "If only they are safe!" murmured Dave. For the time being those who had been on the mountainside below them were forgotten.

    It was hard work to make their way from rock to rock. All the trails were gone, and they had to proceed with extreme care, for fear of dislodging some rock and rolling down into the valley with it.

    "There they are!"

    It was Dave who gave utterance to the cry, about half an hour later. He pointed to a distant spur, and there, sure enough, they beheld Abe Blower and Tom Dillon. The old miners had the horses with them.

    "I wonder if they were hurt?" queried Phil.

    "They seem to be all right," returned Roger. "I wish they would look this way."

    "We'll have to signal to them," said Dave.

    "How are you going to do it?" asked the shipowner's son. "You can't call to them at such a distance. They wouldn't hear you."

    "We can give 'em a pistol shot, Phil."

    "Why, to be sure! How foolish I was, not to think of it!"

    "I'll fire a shot," said Roger, and brought out his weapon.

    To the first shot there was no reply, but when a second was discharged both Abe Blower and Tom Dillon were seen to turn around. Then the boys commenced to wave their hands vigorously.

    "They see us!" exclaimed Dave, half a minute later. They saw the two old miners wave their hands in return, and Abe Blower discharged his pistol.

    "See, they are doing some kind of signalling!" cried Phil, a little later.

    All watched with interest. They saw that Abe Blower had taken up a long bit of brushwood and was waving it in a circle to the northwestward.

    "They want us to come around in that direction!" said Roger. "Don't you think so, Dave?"

    "That's the way it strikes me," was our hero's reply. "See, what is left of the trail is in that direction. But, my! how the whole face of the mountain is changed!"

    "Not much trail left!" grumbled Phil. "If we are not careful we'll break our necks reaching them!"

    "We'll have to take it slowly," answered Dave.

    The three youths set out, and they were glad to see the two miners do the same. The men were on horseback, and the other steeds came behind them.

    As the boys had surmised, progress was difficult, and often they had to halt, not knowing how to proceed. Here and there they could see a small portion of a trail, but for the most part the way was new and exceedingly rough.

    "If they ever do any mining here they'll have to spend a lot of time first building a roadway," was Phil's comment.

    "If the mining pays it won't take long to get a roadway--and bridges, too," answered Roger. "Money can do almost anything, you know."

    "Oh, I know that."

    "The main thing will be to guard against the landslides," said Dave, grimly. "But I guess they'll know how to do that, too."

    On went the boys, over the rough rocks and across patches of freshly turned up dirt. All were utterly worn out, yet not one of them complained.

    "There they are!" cried Dave, some time after noon, as they made a turn around some rocks; and in a few minutes the friends were together once more.

    "All safe?" asked Abe Blower, anxiously, and then, when assured that no harm had come to the boys, he added: "Mighty glad to know it!"

    "So am I glad!" put in Tom Dillon, heartily. "It was sure some landslide! Almost as bad as the one that wiped out the mine!"

    "We've got good news!" cried Roger. "We have relocated the lost mine! Dave did it!"

    "You and Phil did it, too," said our hero, modestly.

    "Wot! Have ye located the Landslide Mine?" roared Abe Blower.

    "We sure have," returned Phil. "Look here!" And he brought out some of the nuggets he carried. And then Roger and Dave did the same.

    "This is grand!" exclaimed Tom Dillon. "Nuggets, an' pretty big ones, too. But how do you know it's the mine?"

    "We found some landmarks," answered Roger. "And my uncle's coat and a note-book----"

    "And his pick, crowbar, and lantern," added Dave. And then the three boys told their story in detail.

    "It must be the lost mine," said Abe Blower. "An' if it is, I congratulate ye!" And he shook hands all around. "Tom, they got ahead o' us," he added, with a grin.

    "So they did," was the answer. "Well, I'd rather have it that way than have those other fellers locate the mine. By the way, I wonder how they fared in the landslide?" the old miner continued.

    "Three of them, Merwell, Haskers, and Blugg, were below me," answered Dave. "They were over yonder," and he pointed with his hand.

    "Wot! Down on thet ledge?" cried Abe Blower.

    "Yes."

    "Humph! Then I reckon it's all up with 'em," went on the old miner.

    "What do you mean?" asked Roger.

    "I mean it's likely they was wiped out," was the reply. "When the fust quake an' slide came I was lookin' down towards thet ledge. I saw some heavy rocks go down, and a big mass o' dirt, too, an' the ledge was buried out o' sight. If they was down thar, it's more'n likely they was buried alive!"

    "Oh, I'd hate to think that!" cried Dave, with a shudder.

    "Do you think the landslide is at an end?" asked Phil, anxiously.

    "There is no tellin' about that, lad. We'll go up on the mountain, and to the safest place we can find, and then wait," said Tom Dillon.

    This was done, and an hour later, worn out completely, all sat down to rest and to partake of lunch. They could look far along the mountainside and see just where the avalanche of rocks and dirt had swept downward, a portion halting here and there, and the remainder going clear to the valley far below.

    They had been resting about an hour when they saw a figure approaching on foot. It was a man, hatless, and with half his clothes torn from his back. As he came closer they recognized Larry Jaley.

    "Jaley, where are you going?" demanded Tom Dillon.

    At the sound of the miner's voice the man halted and then threw up his hands. Then he staggered forward once more.

    "Save me!" he yelled, wildly. "Save me! Don't shoot me! Save me from the landslide!" And then stumbling, he fell at the feet of Dave and his friends.

    "Are you alone?" asked Abe Blower.

    "Ye--yes! Save me! Oh, save me!" whined Jaley, and he turned a face full of fear on those before him.

    "Where are Merwell and Haskers and Blugg?" asked Dave.

    "All gone--swept away by the landslide!" was the whining reply. "Oh, it was awful! It smashed them all up--and smashed up the horses, too! Oh, save me! Save me!" And then Larry Jaley gave a gasp and fell in a heap, unable to say another word.
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