Because if he is the fellow

Fortunately for the two chums, the flash of lightning which had revealed
the two horses to them was followed by something of a lull in the storm
and this served to keep the steeds from stampeding again.

“Be careful, Roger,” cautioned Dave, as they separated to do as our hero
had advised.

“Do you want me to take my own horse or the one which happens to be
nearest to me?” questioned the senator’s son.

“Take the nearest, by all means—and be sure to hold on tight!”

In the darkness, and with the rain still coming down steadily, the two
approached closer and closer to the horses. One animal gave a low snort,
but whether of fear or recognition of his master could not be
ascertained.

“I guess we’ve got them, all right enough,” sang out Roger, as he made a
dash to cover the dozen feet that separated him from the nearest steed.

Dave was a few steps farther away from the other horse. At that instant
came another clap of thunder, followed almost instantly by the
lightning. Then came a crash in the forest, showing that a tree close by
had been struck.

The nervous horses wheeled around and reared up. Then one started in one
direction and the other in another.

“Grab him, Roger! Don’t let him get away!” yelled Dave, and made a wild
leap for the animal nearest him. He caught the loose rein, and an
instant later had a firm hold on the steed. The horse did considerable
prancing, but the youth, who some seasons before had tamed a bronco at
Star Ranch, was not daunted. He brought the animal to a standstill, and
then, seeing that it was his own mount, leaped lightly into the saddle.

“Now behave yourself, old boy,” he said soothingly, patting the animal
on the neck. “You’re all right. Take it easy.”

In the meanwhile, Roger was having an exciting experience with his own
horse. The animal had tried to back away from him, and had gotten a hind
leg fast between two trees. Now he began to kick out wildly, hitting one
of the trees several resounding blows.

“Whoa there! Whoa!” cried the senator’s son; but his horse continued to
kick out until, with a wrench, he got the other foot free. Then he began
to prance around once more, showing every evidence of wanting to run
away.

“Wait! I’ll hold him while you get into the saddle!” cried Dave, riding
up. And then he placed himself directly in front of Roger’s mount.

Taking advantage of this opportunity, the senator’s son made a leap and
got safely into the saddle; and then the two runaway horses settled down
to behaving themselves decently.

“This was luck, all right,” remarked Dave, when the brief excitement was
over.

“Right you are,” was the ready reply. “I didn’t fancy walking back to
the camp.”

“Nor losing two such valuable horses,” added our hero. “If they had
failed to return perhaps Mr. Obray would have made us pay for them, and
that would make a big hole in our salaries.”

Making sure that the horses should not get away from them again, the two
young civil engineers rode back to the road, and then with caution
picked their way along on the right-hand side of some ever-increasing
ponds of water. This was slow and dangerous work, the horses slipping
and sliding among the wet rocks and loose stones, and more than once
getting into mud and water up to their knees. But at last that peril was
left behind, and once again the youths found themselves on comparatively
solid ground and headed in the direction of the construction camp.

“We’ll sure have a story to tell when we get back,” remarked Roger, as
they rode along side by side.

“Yes. But we’ll want to change our togs before we start to tell it,”
returned Dave grimly. “I feel as if I had jumped overboard with all my
clothing on.”

“It looks to me as if the storm was passing away,” continued the
senator’s son, gazing up at the sky.

“Oh, more than likely it will stop raining as soon as we get back,
Roger. It would be just our luck.”

It was true that the storm was passing, and they were still some
distance from the construction camp when the rain practically ceased. A
portion of the clouds rolled away, making the sky much clearer.

“I’ll bet the sun comes out as brightly as ever before it sets,”
ventured Roger. “Hang it all! why couldn’t we have found some shelter
during this awful downpour? Then we wouldn’t have got wet to the skin.”

“Never mind, Roger. There is no use in crying over spilt milk. Don’t
forget how thankful we are that we got our horses back.”

The chums were still out of sight of the construction camp when they
heard a clatter of hoofs on the stony roadway ahead of them. In a minute
more a figure, clad in a semi-cowboy outfit, came galloping toward them.

“Hello! who can that be?” cried Roger.

“Maybe it’s one of our men coming out to look for us,” answered Dave.
“Perhaps Mr. Obray or Frank Andrews got worried when it began to blow so
and lighten so hard.”

The two young civil engineers slackened their pace, expecting that the
newcomer would halt as soon as he saw them. They drew up to one side of
the road, and were somewhat surprised to see the person on horseback go
by without paying any attention to them. He was a fellow about their own
age and had his head bent down over his horse’s neck as if he was in
deep thought.

Both of the young civil engineers stared at the rider as if he were a
ghost. Neither of them said a word, but they both looked after the
passer-by as if they could not believe the evidence of their senses.

“Dave, did you see him?” came at last in an excited tone from Roger.

“I certainly did, Roger!”

“It was Nick Jasniff!”

“So it was!”

“But how in the world did he get here?”

“I don’t know. I thought he was in prison!”

“So he was—we saw him sentenced ourselves, after we caught him on Cave
Island.”

“And his sentence can’t be up yet. The time is too short.”

“Maybe he broke jail or got out sooner on account of good behavior. You
know they give prisoners some time off if they behave themselves well.”

“You don’t think we could be mistaken?”

“I don’t think so. If that fellow was not Nick Jasniff, it was his
double.”

“Oh, don’t say anything about doubles!” cried Dave quickly. “I had all I
want of that sort of thing with Ward Porton. I’m quite sure that fellow
was Nick Jasniff himself. He had that same hang-dog, slouching way about
him he had when he went to Oak Hall.”

“But what can he be doing out here in Montana?”

“I don’t know,—unless he may have thought that some of the Merwells were
still out here. He, of course, must know about Mr. Merwell disposing of
the Three X Ranch.”

“You don’t suppose he came out here to see us, do you?”

“To see us? Not on your life! Why should he want to see us? He knows
well enough that we have no use for him.”

“But maybe he wants to get square with us. You know he threatened us in
all sorts of ways after we had him arrested. And you know what an awful
wicked fellow he is, Dave. Didn’t he try once in the Oak Hall gym to
brain you with an Indian club?”

“Yes; I remember that only too well, Roger. Just the same, I don’t think
a fellow like Jasniff would come away out here to square accounts with
us. It’s more likely he came out here to get away from the people who
know him. Maybe he thought he could start life over again in a place
like this, where nobody knew him.”

“Humph! possibly you’re right. But if that’s the case, I don’t want him
to come around where I am. I have no use for a jailbird,” grumbled the
senator’s son.

The youths had resumed their journey, and a few minutes later they came
into sight of the construction camp. This consisted of a rudely-built
office, backed up by a score or more of smaller buildings used as
bunk-houses. At the end of a row was a large, low building in which was
located the kitchen and also the mess hall, or “Palace of Eats,” as some
of the engineers had christened it. Still further away was a small shed
for horses, with a corral attached.

“Hello! I was wondering what had become of you two chaps,” cried Frank
Andrews, as they rode up to the building wherein they and the assistant
and some others had their quarters. “Some let-down you got caught in.”

“I should say so!” cried Roger. “We came within an ace of being
drowned.”

“Be thankful that you weren’t struck by lightning,” returned the older
engineer, with a twinkle in his eyes. “I suppose you’ll want to get some
dry duds on before you make any report about those marks.”

“The marks are all there, just as Mr. Obray expected they would be,”
answered Dave. “I’ve got a list of them here in my notebook.”

“By the way, Mr. Andrews, was there a stranger here a little while ago—a
fellow about our age?” questioned Roger.

“There was somebody here. I don’t know who it was,” answered the
assistant. “He was over at the main office, talking to Mr. Obray.”

“And you don’t know who he was?”

“No.” Frank Andrews gazed at the two chums questioningly. “Anything
wrong about him?”

“That is what we want to find out,” answered the senator’s son. “We
thought we knew him; and if so he isn’t the kind of fellow that any one
would want around here.”

“Why, how is that?” questioned Frank Andrews. And thereupon, in a few
brief words, Roger and Dave told about Nick Jasniff and his doings.

“You’re right! We don’t want any jailbirds around this camp!” cried the
assistant. “When you go up to the office you had better tell Mr. Obray
about this.”

Dave and Roger were glad enough to get under shelter. They lost no time
in taking a good rub-down and in changing their apparel. Then they
hurried over to the office of the construction camp, where they found
the manager and several of his assistants going over various papers and
blue-prints.

“Got back, eh?” said Mr. Obray, with a smile. “You certainly didn’t have
a very nice day for the trip.”

“Oh, well, it’s all in the day’s work, Mr. Obray,” answered Dave
lightly.

“And we had one advantage coming back,” put in Roger. “We didn’t suffer
the least bit from dust;” and at this sally a smile lit up the features
of all present. They liked Dave and Roger very much, and the fact that
Dave’s chum was the son of a United States Senator added something to
the importance of both of the young men.

Getting out his notebook, Dave lost no time in turning in his report,
which was supplemented by what Roger had to say. Then the two young
civil engineers were asked a number of questions, to which they replied
as clearly as possible.

“I guess that’s about all,” said Mr. Obray finally. “I think that makes
it pretty clear. Don’t you, Mr. Chase?” he continued, turning to one of
the other men present.

“I think so,” answered Mr. Chase. “But we’ll still have to make an
investigation up there at Number Six. I’m not satisfied about the
formation of that rock. I think we’re due for a lot of trouble.”

“Well, we’ll meet it as it comes—there is no use in anticipating it,”
answered Ralph Obray briefly.

He was a man who was never daunted, no matter how great the obstacles
that confronted him. It was his clear-headedness that had won more than
one engineering victory for the Mentor Construction Company when all the
other engineers had given up a task as impossible.

“Mr. Obray, we would like to ask you a few questions in private if you
don’t mind,” said Dave in a low voice, when he saw the other civil
engineers turn away to consult a map that hung on one of the office
walls.

“All right, Porter. Come right in here,” answered the manager, and led
the way to a corner, where he had a small private office.

“I wish to ask you about a fellow we met on the road just before we got
back to camp about half an hour ago,” explained our hero. “He was a
fellow about our own age. He was on horseback, and I thought he might
have been here.”

“There was a fellow here, and he left less than an hour ago,” answered
the manager. “I should think he was about your age, or maybe a year or
two older.”

“Was he a tall, lanky sort of fellow with a rather slouchy air about
him?” questioned Roger.

“Yes, that description would fit him pretty well.”

“And did he have a squint in one eye?” questioned Dave suddenly,
remembering a peculiarity about Nick Jasniff which he had almost
forgotten.

“Yes, there certainly was something the matter with one of his eyes. The
upper lid seemed to droop considerably.”

“Might I ask what that fellow was doing here?”

“He came here looking for a job. He said he was working on one of the
ranches in this vicinity but that he preferred to work for us and learn
civil engineering if we would give him a chance. I told him we were
pretty well filled up as far as our engineering corps was concerned, but
said he might call some other time. You see, Barry and Lundstrom are
thinking of leaving, and if they do we might have a chance for one or
two outsiders, provided they were of the right sort.”

“Well, if this fellow is the person we think he is, he isn’t any one you
would care to have around here, Mr. Obray,” cried Roger.

“And why not?” demanded the manager of the construction camp.

“Because if he is the fellow we think he is, he is a thief and a
jailbird!”

Mr. Ralph Obray was much surprised at the statement made by Roger, and
his face showed it.

“That is a pretty strong statement to make against anybody,” he said
slowly. “Perhaps you had better explain.”

“I can do that easily enough,” returned the senator’s son. “And Dave
here can tell you even more than I can.”

“By the way,” broke in Dave, “may I ask if the fellow left any name?”

“Oh, yes.” The manager of the construction camp glanced at a slip of
paper lying on his desk. “Jasper Nicholas.”

“Jasper Nicholas!” cried Roger. “What do you know about that?”

“It sounds a good deal like Nicholas Jasniff turned around,” answered
our hero. He looked at the manager. “The fellow we have in mind was
named Nicholas Jasniff,” he explained.

“Tell me what you know about the fellow,” returned Mr. Obray shortly.

Thereupon the two chums related how they had been schoolmates with Nick
Jasniff and Link Merwell at Oak Hall and how Jasniff had one day
attacked Dave in the gymnasium with an Indian club and how the fellow
had run away. Then they told of the robbery of the Wadsworth jewelry
works, and of how Jasniff and Merwell had been followed to Cave Island
and captured.

“At the last minute Merwell got away,” continued Dave, “but the
authorities hung on to Jasniff and he was tried and sent to prison for a
long term of years. How he got out I don’t know.”

“That is certainly an interesting story,” said Mr. Obray. “But if that
fellow Jasniff is in prison he can’t be the fellow that called here.”

“But look at the similarity in names!” broke in Roger. “Oh, I am sure he
is the same fellow.”

“If he is, we won’t want him around here even if he has a right to his
liberty,” declared the manager. “Our men are all honest—or at least we
think they are—and we can not take chances with a man who has been
convicted of a crime. Of course, such a fellow has a right to do his
best to get along in the world; but he had better go to some place where
nobody knows him.”

“Don’t you think we had better try to find out whether Jasniff has
really served his full term and been properly discharged from prison?”
remarked Dave. “If he is a fugitive we ought to capture him and send him
back to the authorities.”

“You are right there, Porter. It might be a good idea for you to send a
message to the East to find out about this.”

“Where do you think I ought to send for information?”

“Do you know where he was placed in prison?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Then I would send directly to the prison authorities.”

“Let us send a telegram!” cried Roger. “A letter would be too slow. I’ll
stand half the expense.”

“All right, I’ll go you!” responded our hero quickly. “If Nick Jasniff
got out of prison on the sly, he ought to be returned to the place.”

“Maybe if he did get out, and we captured him, we might get a reward,
Dave.”

“That is true, too—provided a reward has been offered.”

“You seem to be pretty sure that this fellow who called here is the man
you are after,” remarked Mr. Obray. “Don’t you think you may be
mistaken? In that storm, and with the fellow galloping past you on
horseback all hunched up to keep from getting wet, you may have made a
mistake.”

At this remark the face of the senator’s son became clouded.

“It might be so, Dave. To tell the truth, we didn’t get a very good look
at him. And yet I think it was Nick Jasniff.”

“I’m almost certain of it, Roger. I’ll never forget that face of his. I
studied it pretty well when he was up for trial and we testified against
him.”

“You might wait until he comes here again,” suggested the manager.

“Yes. But then we wouldn’t have the information we want,” declared Dave.
“I’d rather pay out my money on that telegram and learn the truth. Then,
if Jasniff was wanted by the authorities, we could make a prisoner of
him right then and there.”

“That is true.”

The matter was discussed for several minutes longer, and then the two
chums walked back to their quarters. Here they talked the matter over
between themselves.

“We can’t send a telegram to-night; the office closes at six o’clock,”
declared Dave. “We can write it out, however, and send it the first
chance we get in the morning. I think Mr. Obray will let you or me ride
down to the telegraph office with it.” The nearest station from which a
telegram could be sent was quite a distance away, and a telephone line
between the two points, while it was being erected, was not yet in
operation.

Of course Frank Andrews wished to know what had taken place, and the
youths told him. He shook his head sadly.

“It’s too bad! Especially with a young fellow,” he declared. “That term
in prison will hang over him like a cloud all the rest of his life.
Kind-hearted people may talk all they please and do all they possibly
can—the fact remains that if a man has once been in prison, unless he
can prove that he was innocent, very few people will care to have
anything to do with him.”

“If Jasniff were a different kind of fellow I’d have a different feeling
for him,” said Dave; and his face showed his earnestness. “If he had
been led into crime by others it would be a different story. But so far
as I can remember, he was always hot-tempered, vicious, and bound to
have his own way. He was the leader in that robbery—not Merwell. And
when he was captured he acted in anything but a penitent mood. On that
account I can’t get up much sympathy for him.”

“He doesn’t deserve any sympathy!” cried Roger. “Why, every time I think
of how he grabbed up that Indian club in the Oak Hall gymnasium and did
his best to brain you with it, it makes my blood run cold!”

“He certainly must have been a pretty wicked boy to attempt anything
like that,” was Frank Andrews’ comment. “It’s bad enough for schoolboys
to fight with their fists; but that at least is a fair way to do.”

The two chums were tired out from their strenuous adventures of the day,
and were glad to retire early. During the night the storm cleared away
entirely, and in the morning the sun shown as brightly as ever.

“If you don’t mind, Dave, I’ll take that telegram down to the office,”
said Roger, while the pair were dressing. “I’m expecting a box that
father said he was sending, and I can ask for that at the same time.”

“All right, Roger. But you had better wait until the mail gets in. There
may be some other message we’ll want to send.”

The mail was brought in while the youths were at breakfast, and was
distributed immediately after that repast was over.

“Hello, here’s a letter from Phil!” cried our hero, as he noticed the
postmark “Philadelphia.”

“I’ve got the box from dad,” returned the senator’s son, “so I won’t
have to ask about that at the express office.”

“I knew it!” exclaimed Dave, who had ripped the letter open and was
scanning its contents. “Phil is coming out here to pay a visit to Star
Ranch; and he says he may bring Shadow Hamilton with him. Isn’t that the
best ever?”

“So it is, Dave! But it’s no more than I expected—at least so far as
Phil is concerned. I knew he couldn’t remain away from Belle Endicott
very long,” and the senator’s son winked suggestively.

“Here’s a lot of news about the other fellows, Luke Watson, Polly Vane,
and Jim Murphy. Polly has gone into business with an uncle of his, and
Jim Murphy has a well-paying position up at Yale.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Polly Vane was one of the finest fellows that ever
lived, even if he was somewhat girlish. And as for Jim Murphy—there was
never a better monitor around Oak Hall.”

Dave had turned over to the last sheet of the six-page communication
Phil Lawrence had sent. Here the letter proper came to an end, but there
was a postscript added in lead pencil. This ran as follows:

“You will be interested to know that some time ago Nick Jasniff’s
case was brought up before the Board of Pardons by a Committee on
Prison Reform. The men and women composing the committee made a
strong plea for Jasniff because of his age, and I understand they
made a very favorable impression on the Pardon Board. If Jasniff is
pardoned, he will be getting out without having served even half of
his sentence. I wish I had been there to tell the Board what sort of
a fellow he is.”

“Here’s the milk in the cocoanut, Roger!” cried Dave, and read aloud
what Phil had written.

“Humph, so that’s the truth of it,” murmured the senator’s son. “More
than likely that committee worked on the feelings of the Pardoning Board
so that they gave Jasniff his liberty. Well, if that’s the case, there
won’t be any need for sending that telegram.”

“You’re right. If he was pardoned, that ends it, and he has as much
right to his liberty as we have to ours. Just the same, I think they
made a mistake. When he was tried, I am sure the judge, on account of
his age, gave him as short a sentence as he deemed best.”

“I’m sure of that too, Dave! Why, one of the lawyers told me that if
Jasniff had been ten years older he would have gotten twice as long a
sentence.”

“I think I had better go to Mr. Obray with this news,” said Dave. “You
can tell Andrews if you want to.”

Our hero found the manager of the construction camp just preparing to go
out with several of his assistant engineers. Explaining the situation,
Dave allowed Mr. Obray to read the postscript of Phil’s letter.

“Looks as if you were right after all, and the fellow who was here had
been pardoned,” was Ralph Obray’s comment. “In that case, you can’t do
anything about having him held. Just the same, if he is that sort I
won’t want him around.”

“If he comes again, may we see him to make sure that he is really this
Nick Jasniff?”

“Certainly, Porter. If you are anywhere near, I’ll hold the man at the
office, or wherever we happen to be, and send for you and Morr.”

Dave and Roger were now working under the directions of Frank Andrews.
In the gang were two others—a young man named Larry Bond, and an elderly
engineer named Hixon. All had become well acquainted and were good
friends. Hixon was from the West and had spent many years of his life on
the cattle ranges and in the gold fields.

“I was a prospector for six years,” he once declared. “But, believe me,
it didn’t pay. Sometimes I struck it pretty rich; but then would come
long dry spells when I wouldn’t get a thing. All told, I didn’t do as
well, year in and year out, as I am now doing at regular wages.”

Andrews’ gang, as it was termed, had some work to do at Section Five of
the proposed line, the work, of course, being preliminary to that which
was to be made on the erection of the bridges to be built. This was in a
decidedly rocky part of the territory, and the young civil engineers and
the others had no easy time of it making their survey.

“Some different from sitting in your room at Oak Hall working out a
problem in geometry, eh?” remarked Dave to Roger, after a particularly
hard climb over the rocks.

“I should say so,” panted the senator’s son.

“You look out that that chain doesn’t get away from you,” cried Dave,
pointing to the long coiled-up steel measure which the other was
carrying at his belt. The real civil engineer’s, or surveyor’s, chain is
largely a thing of the past, the steel measure having taken its place.

Frank Andrews and the others were at a distance and young Bond was
wigwagging his signals across a deep cut in the hills. Now Dave prepared
to signal in return, at the same time holding up his leveling-rod as
required. Roger attempted to climb around on the rough rocks, and then
suddenly uttered a cry of dismay.

“What’s the matter?” asked Dave.

“That measure! I just started to fasten it tighter to my belt when it
slipped out of my hands. There it goes—sliding down the rocks out
there,” and the senator’s son pointed to a spot at least fifty feet
below them.

While Dave was still signaling and moving his leveling-rod farther along
as desired, Roger began to scramble down the rocks in the direction
where the steel measure had fallen. He was gone for fully ten minutes
when suddenly Dave heard a yell.

“What’s the matter, Roger?” he called, dropping the leveling-rod and the
signal flag he held.

“It’s a snake—and a big one, too!” screamed the senator’s son. “Oh,
Dave, come here and help me! My leg is caught between the rocks, and
it’s a rattlesnake!”