WHAT THE GIRLS HAD TO TELL

It was two o’clock in the afternoon when Dave rode into Orella. This was
a typical mining town of Montana, containing but a single street with
stores, the majority of which were but one story in height. Back of this
street were probably half a hundred cabins standing at all sorts of
angles toward the landscape; and beyond these were the mines.

Just previous to entering the town Dave had stopped at a wayside spring
and there washed up. Before that he had brushed himself off as well as
he was able, so that when he entered the place the only evidences he
carried of the encounter with Nick Jasniff were some scratches on the
back of his hand and a small swelling on his left cheek.

The first person he met directed him to the offices of the Orella Mining
Company, of which Mr. Raymond Carson was the general manager.

“Is Mr. Carson in?” he questioned of the clerk who came forward to
interview him.

“He is,” was the answer. “Who shall I say wants to see him?”

“My name is Porter, and I was sent here to see him by Mr. Obray of the
Mentor Construction Company.”

“Oh, then I guess you can go right in,” returned the clerk, and showed
the way to a private office in the rear of the building.

Here Mr. Raymond Carson sat at his desk writing out some telegrams. Dave
quickly introduced himself and brought forth the legal-looking envelope
which had been intrusted to him. The manager of the mining company tore
it open and looked over the contents with care.

“Very good—just what I was waiting for,” he announced. “You can tell Mr.
Obray I am much obliged for his promptness.”

“Would you mind giving me a receipt for the papers?” questioned the
young civil engineer.

“Not at all.” The mining company manager called in one of the clerks.
“Here, take down a receipt,” and he dictated what he wished to say.

Dave at first thought he might tell of how close he had come to losing
the documents, but then considered that it might not be wise to mention
the occurrence. The receipt was written out and signed and passed over.

“How are matters coming along over at your camp?” questioned Mr. Raymond
Carson with a smile.

“Oh, we are doing very well, everything considered,” was Dave’s reply.
“We are having a little trouble on account of some of the rocks in
Section Six. They are afraid of a landslide. We’ve got to build two
bridges there, and our engineers are going to have their own troubles
getting the proper foundations.”

“Yes, that’s a great section for landslides. I was out there mining
once, and we had some of the worst cave-ins I ever heard about.”

“There is practically no mining around there now,” ventured Dave.

“No. The returns were not sufficient to warrant operations. Some time,
however, I think somebody will open up a vein there that will be worth
while.”

A few words more passed concerning the work of the construction company,
and then Dave prepared to leave. Just as he was about to step out of the
office, however, he turned.

“By the way, Mr. Carson, may I ask if there was a young fellow about my
own age here during the past week or two looking for a job—a fellow who
said his name was Jasper Nicholas?”

“A young fellow about your age named Nicholas?” mused the mine manager.
“Let me see. Did he have a cast in one eye?”

“The fellow I mean squints a good deal with one of his eyes. He is
rather tall and lanky.”

“Yes, he was here. He wanted a job in the mines. Said he didn’t think he
was cut out for office work. But somehow or other I didn’t like his
looks. Is he a friend of yours?”

“He is not!” declared Dave quickly. “In fact, he is just the opposite.
And what is more, he is a thief and has served a term in prison.”

“You don’t say!” exclaimed the mine manager. “Are you sure of this?”

“Positive, sir. His real name is Nicholas Jasniff. Some years ago he and
another fellow stole some valuable jewels from a jewelry works. I aided
in capturing him and sending him to prison.”

“Humph! If that’s the case I am glad I didn’t hire him. As I said
before, I didn’t like his looks at all, and out here we go about as much
on looks as we do on anything.”

“He came to our camp, but Mr. Obray soon sent him about his business,”
said Dave.

After talking the matter over for a few minutes longer, but without
mentioning the attack on the trail, Dave rode away. At the end of the
street he stopped at a general store, which contained a drug department,
and while giving his horse a chance to feed, there obtained some
liniment with which he rubbed his lame shoulder and his hurt ankle.
Then, having obtained a bottle of lemon-soda with which to quench his
thirst, and help along his supper when he should stop to eat it, our
hero set off on the return to the construction camp.

By the time Dave reached the spot where the encounter with Jasniff had
occurred, it was growing somewhat dark on the trail. Over to the
westward the mountains were much taller than those where the trail ran,
and the deep shadows were creeping upward from the valley below. Soon
the orb of day sank out of sight, and then the darkness increased.

So far on the return Dave had met but two men—old prospectors who had
paid scant attention to him as he passed. He had stopped at a convenient
point to eat what remained of the lunch he had brought along, washing it
down with the lemon-soda. Presently he came to a fork in the trail, and
by a signboard placed there knew that he was now less than four miles
from the construction camp.

The hard ride had tired the young civil engineer greatly, and he was
glad enough to let Sport move forward on a walk. The horse, too, had
found the journey a hard one, and was well content to progress at a
reduced rate of speed.

The narrow portion of the footway having been left behind, horse and
rider came out into something of a hollow on the mountainside. Here and
there were a number of loose rocks and also quite a growth of scrub
timber. Dave was just passing through the densest of the timber when an
overhanging branch caught his hat and sent it to the ground.

“Whoa there, Sport!” he cried, and bringing his horse to a halt, he
leaped down to recover the hat.

Dave had just picked up the head covering when he heard a low sound
coming from some bushes close at hand. It was not unlike the cry of a
cat, and the youth was instantly on the alert. He remembered only too
well how, when he had been at Star Ranch, a wildcat, commonly called in
that section a bobcat, had gotten among the horses belonging to himself
and his chums and caused no end of trouble.

The cry was followed by several seconds of intense silence, and then
came the unmistakable snarl of a bobcat, followed instantly by a leap on
the part of Sport.

“Whoa there!” cried Dave, and was just in time to catch the horse by the
bridle. Then Sport veered around and kicked out viciously at the
brushwood.

The bobcat was there, and evidently had no chance to retreat farther,
the bushes being backed up by a number of high rocks. With a snarl, it
leaped out into the open directly beside the horse and Dave. Then, as
the horse switched around again and let fly with his hind hoofs, the
bobcat made a flying leap past Dave, landing in the branches of a nearby
tree.

“Whoa there, Sport!” cried the youth, and now lost no time in leaping
into the saddle. In the meanwhile the bobcat sprang from one limb of the
tree to another and disappeared behind some dense foliage.

Had our hero had a rifle or a shotgun, he might have gone on a hunt for
the beast. But he carried only his small automatic, and he did not
consider this a particularly good weapon with which to stir up the
bobcat. He went on his way, and now Sport set off on a gallop, evidently
glad to leave such a dangerous vicinity behind. Although horses are much
larger, bobcats are such vicious animals that no horses care to confront
them.

“I sure am having my fill of adventures to-day,” mused Dave grimly.
“First Nick Jasniff, and now that bobcat! I’ll have to tell the others
about the cat, and maybe we can organize a hunt and lay the beast low.
The men won’t want to face a bobcat while at work any more than they
would care to face that rattlesnake I shot.”

It was not long after this when the lights of the construction camp came
into view, and soon Dave was riding down among the buildings. Roger was
on the watch, and came forward to greet him.

“Had a safe trip, I see!” called out the senator’s son. “Good enough!”

“I had a safe trip in one way if not in another,” announced Dave. “Two
things didn’t suit me at all. I met Nick Jasniff, and then I also met a
bobcat.”

“You don’t say!” ejaculated Roger. “Tell me about it.”

“I want to report to Mr. Obray first, Roger. If you want to go along you
can.”

Dave found the construction camp manager at the doorway of the cabin he
occupied, reading a newspaper which was several days old. He, as well as
Roger, listened with keen interest to what our hero had to relate.

“And so that rascal took your forty-odd dollars, did he?” exclaimed
Ralph Obray, when Dave was telling the story. “He certainly is a bad
egg.”

“I’m mighty glad he didn’t get away with your papers, Mr. Obray,”
answered our hero soberly. “Of course, I don’t know how valuable they
were, but I presume they were worth a good deal more than the contents
of my pocketbook.”

“You are right there, Porter. The documents would be hard to duplicate.
And I’m mighty glad they are safe in Mr. Carson’s hands and that we have
the receipt for them. Now, in regard to your losing your money: If we
can’t get it back from this fellow Jasniff, I’ll see what the company
can do toward reimbursing you.”

“Oh, I sha’n’t expect that, Mr. Obray!” cried the youth. “It was no
concern of yours that I was robbed.”

“I don’t know about that. If you hadn’t taken that trip for us, this
Jasniff might not have gotten the chance to take your money. In one way,
I think it is up to the company to make the loss good; and I’ll put it
up to the home office in my next report.”

“You certainly ought to let the people at Double Eight Ranch know what
sort Jasniff is!” cried Roger.

“Of course, I can’t prove that he took the money,” returned Dave. “There
were no witnesses to what occurred, and I suppose he would claim that
his word was as good as mine.”

“But we know it isn’t!” burst out the senator’s son indignantly. “He’s a
rascal, and I intend that everybody around here shall know it!”

“You certainly had your share of happenings,” was Mr. Obray’s comment.
“It was bad enough to have the fight with Jasniff without running afoul
of that wildcat. You ought to have brought him down with your pistol, as
you did that rattlesnake,” and he smiled broadly.

“I didn’t get a chance for a shot,” explained Dave. “I had to grab the
horse for fear he would run away and leave me to walk to the camp. And
besides, the wildcat moved about as quickly as I can tell about it.”

“Maybe we can form a party and round the wildcat up,” put in Roger
eagerly.

“I was thinking of that, Roger.”

Of course Dave had to tell Frank Andrews about the encounter with
Jasniff and also about meeting the wildcat. Several others were present
when the story was retold, and soon nearly everybody in the camp was
aware of what had taken place.

“I certainly hope you get your money back,” remarked Larry Bond.
“Gracious! I wouldn’t like to lose forty-odd dollars out of my pay! I
couldn’t afford it.”

“We’ll have to round up that bobcat some day,” said old John Hixon. “If
we manage to kill him off, it will discourage others from coming to this
neighborhood.”

“Well, any time you say so, I’ll go out with you to try to lay the
bobcat low,” answered Dave.

Two days later Dave was hard at work with the others on the mountainside
when a gang of six cowboys rode up. They were curious to know some
particulars concerning the new railroad spur which was to be put through
in that vicinity, and stopped to watch proceedings and to ask a number
of questions.

“What ranch do you hail from, boys?” questioned Frank Andrews of the
leader of the crowd, a tall, leathery-looking man of about forty.

“We’re from the Double Eight outfit,” was the answer, as the fellow
pulled a sheet from a book of papers he carried, filled it with some
loose tobacco from a pouch, and proceeded to roll himself a cigarette.

“The Double Eight, eh?” exclaimed the civil engineer. “That is
interesting. I think one of my young men here would like to ask you a
few questions, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“All right, pard, shoot away,” answered the cowboy calmly, as he began
to puff at his cigarette.

Frank Andrews lost no time in summoning Dave, who was some distance up
the trail, and told our hero where the cowboy hailed from.

“I believe you have a fellow staying with you who calls himself Jasper
Nicholas,” began Dave.

“We did have a feller with that handle down to our outfit,” responded
the cowboy. “But he got fired some days ago.”

“Fired!” cried Dave and Roger simultaneously.

“That’s the size on it, son. He got kind o’ fresh with the boss, and Jim
wouldn’t stand for it nohow. I don’t know exactly wot the rumpus was
about, but that feller didn’t lose no time vamoosin’.”

“I wish you would tell me some of the particulars about him,” went on
Dave. “Then I’ll tell you something that may interest you.”

“I ain’t got much to tell, ’cause I didn’t like the feller, and
consequently didn’t have much to do with him. Fact is, he wasn’t in
cahoots with nobody around the ranch. He had a hang-dog way about him
none of us cottoned to.”

“But I wish you would tell me what you do know,” insisted our hero.

Thereupon the cowboy, who said his name was Pete Sine, told how Nick
Jasniff had come to the Double Eight Ranch some weeks before with a
hard-luck story and had been given a job as an all-around handy man.

“But he wasn’t handy at all,” announced Pete Sine. “Fact is, he was the
most unhandy critter I ’most ever met up with. But he told such a
pitiful story, the boss and some of the fellers felt sorry for him, so
they all done the best they knowed how for him—that is at the start. But
he soon showed the yellow streak that was in him, and then, as I said
before, the boss got wise to him and fired him. Now what do you know
about him?”

Dave, aided by Roger, gave many of the particulars concerning Nick
Jasniff’s past doings, and our hero related the details of the fight on
the road, and how he had lost the contents of his pocketbook.

“Snortin’ buffaloes!” ejaculated Pete Sine, giving his thigh a
resounding slap with his hand. “I knew it! I sized that feller up from
the very start. I warned Jim Dackley about him, but Jim was too
tender-hearted to see it—that is at first. Now when did this happen?”
went on the cowboy. And after Dave had mentioned the day, he continued:
“That was the very day the boss fired him!”

“And have you any idea where he went to?” questioned our hero quickly.

“Not exactly, son. But Fred Gurney, one of our gang who ain’t here just
now, got it from the agent over to the railroad depot that the feller
took the seven-thirty train that night for Chicago.”

“He must have left Montana for good!” cried Roger. “Dave, I’m afraid you
can whistle your forty-odd dollars good-bye.”

“So it would seem, Roger. It’s too bad! But I’m mighty glad Nick Jasniff
has cleared out. I’d hate to think he was around here. He would be sure
to try to do us some harm.”

“You might send on to Chicago and have him arrested on his arrival
there,” suggested Frank Andrews. “That is, if he hasn’t gotten there
already.”

“I don’t think it would be worth bothering about,” answered Dave. “It
would make a lot of trouble all around; and maybe I would have to go on
to Chicago to identify him, and then stay around and push the charge
against him. I’d rather let him go and pocket my loss.”

“Maybe you’ll meet up with him some day,” suggested Pete Sine. “And if
you do——Well, I know what I’d do to him,” and he tapped his pistol
suggestively.

The other cowboys had listened with interest to the talk, and every one
of them intimated that he had distrusted Nick Jasniff from the start.
Evidently the fellow who had been in prison had not created a favorable
impression, even though his hard-luck story had brought him some
sympathy.

After this occurrence matters moved along quietly for a few days. On
Sunday, there being no work to do, old John Hixon and several of the
other men went out to look for the bobcat Dave had met on the trail. But
though they spent several hours in beating around through the brushwood
and the scrub timber, they failed to find the animal.

“Guess he got strayed away from his regular haunts, and then went back,”
was Hixon’s comment. “Wild animals do that once in a while. I remember
years ago an old hunter told me about a she bear he had met here in
Montana. Some time later another hunter, a friend of his’n, told about
meetin’ the same bear over in Wyoming. Then, less than a month later,
this old hunter I first mentioned met the same bear and killed her. He
always wondered how it was that bear got so far away from home and then
got back again.”

On Monday morning came more letters from home, and also communications
from Phil Lawrence, Ben Basswood and Shadow Hamilton. The letters from
Crumville were, as usual, two communications from Laura and Jessie; and
in each of these the girls mentioned the fact that Dave’s Uncle Dunston,
as well as Mr. Wadsworth and Mr. Basswood, had had more trouble with the
gypsies who had formerly occupied the vacant land on the outskirts of
the town.

“Uncle Dunston says the gypsies were very forward,” wrote Laura.
“They said all kinds of mean things and made several threats. One of
the old women, who is called Mother Domoza, came here to the house
and frightened Jessie and me very much. The folks were away at the
time, and I don’t know what we would have done had it not been for
dear old Mr. Potts. He was in the library, where, as you know, he
spends most of his time, and when he heard the old gypsy denouncing
us he came out with his cane in his hand and actually drove her
away.”

“Good for Professor Potts!” cried Dave, when Roger read this portion of
the letter to him. “I’m glad he sent the old hag about her business.”

The letter from Jessie also contained some references to the gypsies,
but had evidently been mailed previous to the trouble with Mother
Domoza. Jessie said she was glad that the vacant ground was to be cut up
into town lots and built upon, and she sincerely trusted that none of
the gypsies would ever come to camp near Crumville again.

“Some of them used to come around and tell fortunes,” wrote Jessie.
“But I don’t need to have my fortune told, Dave. I know exactly what
it is going to be, and I would not have it changed for the world!”

And this part of the letter Dave did not show to Roger; but he read it
over many times with great satisfaction.

But all thoughts of the gypsies and of what they might do were forgotten
by our hero and Roger when they came to peruse the letters sent by Phil,
Ben and Shadow.

“Hurrah! They are on their way at last!” cried Dave, his face beaming
with satisfaction. “Ben writes that they were to start within
forty-eight hours after this letter was sent.”

“And that is just what Shadow and Phil say, too,” announced the
senator’s son. “That being so, they ought to arrive here within the next
two days.”

“Right you are, Roger! Oh, say! when they come, won’t we have the best
time ever?” exclaimed Dave.

And then, in the exuberance of their spirits, both youths caught hold of
each other and did an impromptu war-dance.

“Hello! hello! What’s going on here?” cried Frank Andrews, coming up at
that moment. “Have you fellows joined the Hopi Indians?”

“Our three chums are on the way—we expect them here inside of the next
two days!” announced Dave.

“Is that so? I don’t wonder you’re so happy. As I understand it, you
fellows were all very close chums.”

“The closest ever!” answered Roger. And then suddenly his face clouded a
little. “But oh, Mr. Andrews, what are we going to do with them when
they get here? We’ll have to make some sort of arrangements for them.”

“I reckon we can make room one way or another,” answered the older civil
engineer. “You know Barry and Lundstrom have left and that gives us two
vacant bunks, and we can easily fix up an extra cot here if we want to.”

“Then that’s what we’ll do, if you won’t mind,” announced Dave.

He and Roger had already spoken about the matter to Ralph Obray, and the
general manager had given them permission to entertain their chums at
the camp for several days if the visitors wished to stay that long. It
was, of course, understood that their meals should be paid for, since a
report of all expenditures had to be made to the head office.

“I think you fellows have earned a little vacation,” said the manager to
the chums. “You have both worked very hard. And I have not forgotten,
Porter, how you carried those documents to Orella for me and what a
fight you had to get them there in safety.”

“But understand, Mr. Obray, we don’t expect to be paid for the time we
take off,” interposed Roger. “At least I don’t expect to be paid for
it.”

“And that is just the way I feel about it,” added Dave.

“You young fellows leave that to me,” answered the construction company
manager smilingly. “I’ll take care of that. I can remember when I was a
young fellow and had my friends come to see me. You go on and show your
chums all the sights, and have the best time possible, and then, when
they are gone, I’ll expect you to work so much the harder to make up for
it. I think you see what I mean.”

“And we’ll do it—take my word on it!” answered Dave heartily.

“Indeed we will!” echoed Roger.

During the next two days the chums were so anxious awaiting the coming
of the others that they could hardly attend to their work. They saw to
it that quarters were made in readiness for the three who were expected
and that Jeff, the cook, would have room for them at one of the
dining-tables.

Then, on the morning of the third day, when a telegram came in from the
railroad station stating that Phil and the others would arrive by noon,
Dave and Roger, taking a lunch along, set off on horseback, leading
three other horses behind them, to meet the expected visitors.

The ride to the railroad station occurred without mishap, though it was
no easy matter to make the three riderless horses follow them at certain
points where the trail was rough. But the two chums reached the station
with almost an hour to spare.

“And it wasn’t no use for you fellers to hurry,” announced the station
master, when he found out what had brought them. “That train is
generally from one hour to three hours late.”

“Great Scott! have we got to wait around here three hours?” groaned the
senator’s son.

“We might have known the train would be late,” observed Dave. “They
usually are on this line.”

Presently the station master went in to receive a telegram. When he came
out he announced that the train would be there in less than two hours
unless something occurred in the meanwhile to cause a further delay.

The chums put in the time as best they could; but it was slow work, and
they consulted their watches every few minutes. At last, however, the
time came to a close, and soon they heard a long, low whistle.

“Here she comes!” cried Dave, his heart giving a leap.

“Let’s give them a cheer as soon as we see them,” suggested the
senator’s son.

And then the long train rolled into sight around a bend of the mountains
and soon came to a standstill at the little station.