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Title: Ralph Gurney's Oil Speculation
Author: Otis, James, 1848-1912
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ralph Gurney's Oil Speculation" ***

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    RALPH GURNEY'S OIL
    SPECULATION

    By JAMES OTIS

    Author of "The Cruise of the Sprite," "The Clown's Protege,"
    "Roy Barton's Adventures on the Mexican Border," Etc.

    [Illustration]

    A. L. BURT COMPANY

    PUBLISHERS    NEW YORK


    Copyright 1883
    BY JAMES ELVERSON

    RALPH GURNEY'S OIL SPECULATION

    Renewal Granted to JAMES OTIS KALER, 1911



RALPH GURNEY'S OIL SPECULATION.



CHAPTER I.

THE "CHUMS."


The puffing, panting engine that dragged the long train of heavy cars
into the busy little city of Bradford, in the State of Pennsylvania, one
day last summer, witnessed through its one white, staring eye, sometimes
called the head-light, many happy meetings between waiting and coming
friends; but none was more hearty than that between two college
mates--one who had graduated the year previous, and the other who hoped
to carry off the honors at the close of the next term.

"Here at last!" exclaimed George Harnett, as he met his old chum with a
hearty clasp of the hand. "In this case, if the hope had been much
longer deferred, the heart would indeed have been sick."

"It was thoughtless in me, old fellow, not to have sent you word when I
concluded to remain at home two days longer, but the fact of the matter
is that I did not think you would be at the depot to meet me, but would
let me hunt you up, for I suppose you do have some kind of an office."

"Yes," laughed the young man, "I have an office; but since my work just
now is several miles from here, I am seldom at home, and was obliged to
come for you, or run the chance of having you spend a good portion of
your vacation hunting for me."

"And are you sorry yet that you chose civil engineering for a
profession?"

"Sorry! Not a bit of it! Up here there is more excitement to it than you
are aware of, and before you have finished your vacation, you will say
that the life of a civil engineer in the oil fields of Pennsylvania is
not by any means monotonous. But come this way. My team is here, and
while we are talking we may as well be riding, for we have quite a
little journey yet before us, over roads so bad, that you can form no
idea of them by even the most vivid description."

"But I thought you lived here in Bradford."

"I live where my work is, my boy, and since it happens just now to be
out of town, my home, for the time being, is in as old and comfortable a
farm-house as city-weary mortals could ask for."

"Well, I can't say that I shall be sorry to live in the country--for
awhile, at least."

"Sorry! Well, I hardly think you will be, when you learn what I have to
offer you in the way of enjoyment. I am locating some oil-producing
lands, in a valley where game is abundant, where the fish prefer an
artificial fly to a natural one, and where the moonlighter revels with
his harmless-looking but decidedly dangerous nitro-glycerine
cartridge."

"What do you mean by moonlighter?" asked Ralph, as he seated himself in
the mud-bespattered carriage which George pointed out as his.

"A moonlighter is one who shoots an oil well regardless of patent rights
or those owning them, save when, by chance, he finds himself gathered in
by the strong arm of the law."

"I thank you, Brother Harnett, for your decidedly clear explanation. I
almost fancy that I know as much about moonlighters now as when I asked
the question, which is saying a good deal, for you very often contrive,
in explaining anything, to leave one even more ignorant than when he
consulted you."

"If you are willing to listen to as long and as dry a dissertation on
oil wells in general, and illegally-opened ones in particular, as ever
Professor Gardner favored us with on topics in which we were not much
interested, I will begin, stopping now and then only to prevent my teeth
from being shaken out of my head as we ride over this road."

The two had hardly got out of the "city," and the thoroughly bad
character of the road was already apparent. Riding over it was very much
like sailing in a small boat on rough water--always down by the head or
up by the stern, but seldom on an even keel.

"Go on with the lecture," said Ralph, "and while I try to hold myself in
the carriage, I will listen."

"Because of my friendship for you, I will make it as brief as
possible. In the first place, you must know that before oil is struck,
the operator finds either a rock formed of sand or of gravel. This is
the strata just above the deposit of petroleum.

"Of course this must be bored through, if possible, and in the pebbly
rock there is no trouble about it. The drills will go through, and the
gravel will be forced to the surface without much difficulty. But when
the sand-rock is met, it clogs the drills, making it almost impossible
to bore through. A heavy charge of nitro-glycerine makes short work of
this rock, and out comes the oil.

"Now, this method of blasting in oil wells has been patented, or, at
least, the cases for the glycerine and the manner of exploding it has,
and the company, which has its office in Bradford, use every effort to
discover infringements of their patent. Like all owners of patent
rights, they charge an extra price for their wares, and the result is
that there are parties who will, for a much smaller amount of money,
shoot a well and infringe the patent at the same time. These people are
called moonlighters, and the risk they run of losing their lives or
their liberty is, to say the least, very great. The lecture-hour has now
been fully, and I hope I may say profitably, employed."

"If it profits one to learn of your friends, the moonlighters, then your
lecture has been a success. But how do you find excitement in anything
they do? Surely they do not make public their unlawful doings."

"Oh, everything save the shooting of the well is done legally, and with
many even that is questionable! The cases are to be tried, and many
believe that the owners of the patent have really no rights in the
premises. The owners or prospective owners of the land whereon the wells
are to be sunk, employ me to survey their tracts, and by that means I
frequently make the acquaintance of those people who, for the almighty
dollar, will peril their lives driving around the country with
nitro-glycerine enough to blow an entire town up."

"Let me trespass once more on you for dry detail, and then I will learn
anything else I may want to know from observation. What is
nitro-glycerine?"

"I will answer your question by quoting as nearly as I can from what I
read the other day. It is composed of:

    Aqueous vapor      20 parts.
    Carbonic acid      58   "
    Oxygen            3.5   "
    Nitrogen         18.5   "

"Until 1864 it found no practical application, except as a homeopathic
remedy for headache, similar to those which it causes. In that year,
Alfred Nobel, a Swede, of Hamburg, began its manufacture on a large
scale, and, though he sacrificed a brother to the terrible agent he
had created, he persevered until in its later and safer forms
nitro-glycerine has come into wide use and popularity. It is a clear,
oily, colorless, odorless, and slightly sweet liquid, and can, with
safety, only be poured into some running stream if one wishes to be rid
of it. Through the pores of the skin, or in the stomach, even in small
quantities, this oil causes a terrible headache and colic, while
headaches also result from inhaling the gases of its combustion. It has
thirteen times the force of gunpowder, exploding so much more suddenly
than that agent does, that in reality it is much more powerful, and it
is this same rapid explosive power that prevents it from being used in
fire-arms."

"You would make a first-rate professor, George," said Ralph, laughing,
"and you may refer to me in case you should desire to procure such a
position. Now I think I am armed with sufficient knowledge to be able to
meet your oily friends, the moonlighters, and have some idea of what
they mean when they speak."

"If I am not mistaken we shall meet some of them very soon, without
trying hard; but if we do not, I will take you to one of their cabins as
soon as we may both feel inclined to go."

"Don't think that I have come here to spend my vacation simply with the
idea that I am at liberty to make drafts at sight on your time," replied
Ralph, as an unusually rough portion of the road necessitated his
exerting all his strength to prevent being thrown out of the wagon. "I
intend to be of every possible assistance to you, and when I cannot do
that, if you are still obliged to labor, I will extract no small amount
of enjoyment out of your farm-house and its surroundings. But at any
time that you have a few hours to spare, I will be only too well pleased
to meet with any adventure, from nitro-glycerine blasts to the perils of
trout-fishing."

By this time the conversation ceased, owing to Ralph's interest in the
scenery around him, and the curious combination of oil-tanks and
derricks with which the landscape was profusely dotted. From Bradford to
Sawyer the road winds along at the base of the hills through a lovely
valley, that seems entirely given over to machinery for the production
and storage of oil. On every hand are the tall, unsightly constructions
of timber that form the derricks, looking not unlike enormous spiders,
as they stand on the sides of the mountains or in the ravines, while the
network of iron pipes, through which the oil is forced by steam-pumps
from the wells to Jersey City, are fitting webs for such spiders.

Huge iron tanks, capable of holding from twenty to forty thousand
barrels of oil, dot the valley quite as thickly as do the blots of ink
on a school-boy's first composition, and form storage places for this
strange product of earth, when the supply is greater than the demand. It
is truly a singular scene, and he who visits this portion of the country
for the first time cannot rid himself of the impression that he has, by
some mysterious combination of circumstances, been transported to some
remote and unknown portion of the globe.

George, to whom this scene was perfectly familiar, did not seem inclined
to allow his friend to remain in silent wonder, for he persisted in
supplying him with a fund of dry detail, which effectually prevented any
indulgence of day-dreams.

Although Ralph would have preferred to gaze about him in silence,
George told him of the Pipe-Line Company, who owned the greater portion
of the huge iron receptacles for oil; who also owned the network of iron
pipes, through which they forced the oil to the market at a charge of
twenty-five cents per barrel.

He also told him that this company connected the main line of pipes with
each tank owned by the oil producers, supplying a small steam-pump at
each connection, and, at stated times, drew off from private tanks the
oil. He even went into the particulars of the work, explaining how each
man could tell exactly the number of barrels the company had taken from
his tank by measuring the depth of the oil before and after the
drawing-off process.

Then he described how these huge receptacles were frequently struck by
lightning, setting fire to the inflammable liquid, and causing
consternation everywhere in the valley; of the firing of solid shot into
the base of the tanks to make a perforation that would allow the oil to
run off, and of the loss of property and danger of life attending such
catastrophes.

So much of dry detail or interesting particulars of the oil business had
the young engineer to tell, that he had hardly finished when the horses
turned sharply into a narrow road, over which the trees formed a perfect
archway, that led to just such a farm-house as suggests by outside
appearance all the good things and comforts of life.

"This is to be home to you for a while," said George, breaking off
abruptly in his dissertation on the price and quality of oil, in which
Ralph was not very much interested, "and I can safely guarantee it to be
a place which you will be sorry to leave after once knowing it."

"It certainly does not seem to be a place around which anything exciting
can be found," thought Ralph; but, since it was only rest from study he
was in search of, he was content with that which he saw.



CHAPTER II.

A NEW ACQUAINTANCE.


Ralph Gurney was one who thoroughly enjoyed everything in which pleasure
could be found, and even while George was caring for his horses, of
which he was very fond, Ralph had already begun a survey of the farm on
which he was to spend his vacation.

The cattle, poultry, horses, dogs, and even the cat, had received some
attention from him, and he was on his way to the sheep-pasture near by
to make the acquaintance of the woolly members of the flock, when the
sharp ping of a bullet was heard as it whistled by his head, while, a
second later, the report of a rifle rang out sharply.

There was something so entirely unexpected and so thoroughly startling
in this mode of salutation in so peaceful a place, that Ralph leaped two
or three feet in his fright, and at the same time saw the hole in the
brim of his hat, which showed how near the deadly missile had come to
him.

Almost any one would be alarmed at such a visitor, even though he might
have been expecting this attention, and Ralph came very near trembling
with fear as he realized how narrow had been his escape from death.

He looked quickly around to see who was using him as a target; but no
one was in sight. The sheep had been quite as much startled by the
report as he had by the proximity of the bullet; therefore, there was no
reason to suspect that they had had anything to do with this decided
frightening of the new boarder.

Ralph was on the point of calling out to George for an explanation of
this apparently reckless shooting, when a voice from amid a small clump
of trees shouted:

"Hold out your hat and I will put a bullet through the center of it."

Even if Ralph had not been angry because of the danger he had been
forced to run, he would not have accepted any such cheerful invitation,
and, instead of replying, he looked carefully around in search of the
speaker.

"Hold out your hat, and I will show you what I can do," continued the
voice, while its owner persistently remained hidden.

"I don't know who you are," said Ralph, speaking sharply; "but from what
I have already seen of your reckless shooting, I consider it to be some
one's duty to teach you how to handle fire-arms."

"And you propose to do it, eh?" was the question, as a boy eighteen or
nineteen years of age, with a face that was the perfect picture of good
humor, walked out of the thicket. On his shoulder he carried a rifle,
and in his left hand some partridges and a fox-skin. "That was a nasty
shave for you," he continued, in a half-apologetic tone; "but, you see,
I hadn't any idea there was any one around. Farmer Kenniston is down on
the meadow, and Harnett went to town this morning; so you see that, by
rights, you ought not have been here."

"And because, in your opinion, I should have been somewhere else, you
concluded to send me away by the most certain and effectual method?"
asked Ralph, having by no means subdued his anger, although it was
vanishing quite rapidly before the pleasant tone and face of the boy
who had come so near killing him.

"Well, you see, I didn't know you or any one else was within a mile of
the place. I had a charge left in my rifle, and I wanted to see if I
could knock a knot out of that second board in the barn. Just as I
pulled the trigger, you came from behind the shed, and then I couldn't
call the bullet back. I am sorry that I startled you so, and I was in
hopes you would hold out your hat, so that you could have seen how handy
I am with a rifle, which would have made you feel easier."

"I must confess that I can't understand how I could be soothed by any
proof of your skill as a marksman," replied Ralph, with a smile, his
anger now almost completely gone. "Of course, I know that you didn't
intend to shoot so near me; but in the future I advise you to empty your
rifle before you come so near to a house."

"But I have wanted to put a bullet into that knot from the trees back
there ever since I have been here, and now let's see if I struck it
fairly."

As if he considered that he had made all necessary apologies for the
shot which had startled Ralph, the boy started towards the barn, and in
another instant he was pointing triumphantly to the offending knot in
the board, which had been completely shattered by the bullet.

"There!" he cried. "Harnett said I couldn't hit it from that dead pine
tree, and that even if I did succeed in hitting it, I couldn't split it.
Now we'll see what he has got to say to that."

Ralph had nothing to say as to the argument between his friend and the
stranger, and in the absence of anything else to say, he asked:

"Do you live here?"

"I am living here just now, and shall for some weeks longer, I suppose.
You are Ralph Gurney, whom Harnett has been expecting, I fancy?"

"Yes; but if George has told you who I am in advance of my coming, he
has not been so liberal to me in regard to yourself."

"That probably arose from the fact that I am no one in particular,
while, on the contrary, you are to become one of the particularly bright
and shining lights in the medical world. I am only Bob Hubbard."

Who Bob Hubbard might be Ralph had no idea; but even though the young
gentleman spoke of himself in such a deprecating way, it was easy to see
that he did not consider himself of slight consequence in the world. He
was a bright, jovial, generous looking boy, with a certain air about
him which made the shot, fired so dangerously near Ralph, seem just such
a reckless act as might be expected of him.

"Do you like hunting and fishing?" he asked, after he found that Ralph
was not disposed to say anything about the profession of medicine he had
chosen, and which George had evidently spoken of.

"Indeed I do," was the decided reply. "Is there much sport around here?"

"All you want. I have only been out about two hours, and I have got
these," he said, as he held up his game. "And as for fishing, you can
catch trout until your arms ache--providing they bite rapidly enough."

"Indeed!" replied Ralph, dryly. "I fancy I have seen as good almost
anywhere. Do you go fishing very often?"

"Nearly every day."

"Then, if George has any business to attend to this afternoon, suppose
you and I see if the fish will bite fast enough to make our arms ache
pulling them in."

Bob hesitated in what Ralph thought a very peculiar way, and said, after
a pause of some moments:

"I'd like to, but I have an important engagement this afternoon, and I
hardly see how I can arrange it."

There was certainly nothing singular in his not being at liberty to
accept the proposition made so suddenly, and Ralph would have thought
his refusal the most natural thing in the world had it not been for his
evident embarrassment when none seemed reasonable. However, the young
pleasure-seeker attached no importance to what seemed like singular
behavior on the part of this newly-made acquaintance, and was about to
make another proposition for a fishing excursion, when Harnett suddenly
made his appearance.

"Hello, Bob!" he cried, "you've been making the acquaintance of my chum,
have you?"

"Yes, after a fashion. I fired at that knot in the barn you said I
couldn't hit from the pine tree, and came near putting a bullet through
his head. But I hit the knot, and what's more, I split it."

"And here is a hole in the brim of my hat, to prove that he did fire at
it," said Ralph, laughing, as he held up his perforated hat to display
the mark of the bullet.

Harnett looked with no small degree of alarm at the evidence of Bob's
shooting, and said, sternly:

"I think it is quite time that you became a trifle more careful with
your fire-arms, Bob. You have already had several narrow escapes, and
will end by killing some one, if you don't stop shooting at every
promising mark you see."

"I'm not half as careless as I might be," said Bob, earnestly. "This is
the first time that I have ever really come near hurting any one."

"What about the time when you came near hitting Farmer Kenniston, and
killed a lamb? Have you forgotten the untimely death of Mrs.
Kenniston's favorite duck, or your adventure with the red calf in the
pasture?"

"Oh, those don't count--at least none except the lamb scrape are worth
talking about, Harnett, so don't read me one of your long-winded
lectures; and, now that I have hit the knot in the barn, I promise not
to shoot at anything within half a mile of the place. I'm going down to
town for a while, and when I get through with what I have on hand, we'll
make some arrangement to show your friend the oil region."

As he spoke Bob went into the stables, and when the two friends were
alone again, George asked:

"Well, Ralph, how do you like what you have seen of the moonlighters?
Not very ferocious, eh?"

"What do you mean? I haven't seen any moonlighters yet."

"Indeed! You have been talking for the last ten minutes with the most
successful of them. Bob Hubbard enjoys the rather questionable
distinction of being the most noted one in this section of the country."

Ralph looked at his friend in speechless astonishment for several
minutes; this careless, good-natured boy was very far from being the
famous moonlighter his fancy had conjured up, and it is barely possible
that he was disappointed at not having seen some more savage looking
party, for he had speculated considerably about these people who explode
nitro-glycerine in an illegal manner.

"If I am not mistaken," continued Harnett, "he is going to shoot a well
to-night, and I guess there will be no difficulty in getting his consent
for you to be present. Wait here, and I will talk with him."

George hurried away toward the stables, leaving Ralph in a curious
condition of mingled wonder and surprise that in this very
peaceful-looking place there could be found such an evident fund for
adventure.

The gaining of Bob's consent for Ralph to be present at the shooting of
the well was not such a difficult matter, judging from the very short
time George found it necessary to talk with him. When Harnett came from
the stable, he told Ralph that the necessary permission had been given,
and that they would start for the cabin of the moonlighters at once, in
order that none of the details of the work might be lost.

While they were speaking, Bob drove out of the stable behind a pair of
small gray horses, which were so spirited that their driver could pay no
attention to anything but them.

"I'll see you again very soon," he shouted; and hardly had he uttered
the words before he was tearing along the rough road at a rate of speed
that threatened a rapid dissolution of the light carriage.

If George had any business to attend to on that day, he evidently made
up his mind to neglect it, for he began to make his arrangements for the
journey with quite as much eagerness and zest as displayed by Ralph.

Since it was by no means certain that the well would be opened that
night, owing to the vigilance of the owners of the torpedo patent,
George made preparations to remain away from Farmer Kenniston's all
night, taking blankets, food, fishing-tackle and rifles, as if their
excursion was to be one simply of a sporting nature.

"It wouldn't do for us to drive out to the moonlighters' cabin as if we
were going to see a well shot," he said, in reply to Ralph's questions
of what he proposed doing with rifles and fishing-rods; "for, if we were
seen, it would be quickly reported in town, and Bob would have the whole
posse of Roberts Brothers' force upon him. Now, there would be nothing
thought of our going out fishing, which fully accounts for my
preparations. I have known Bob to wait for a week before he dared
explode a charge, and I don't care to get mixed up in any encounter
between these two sets of torpedo men."

"I don't want any harm to come to him through me," replied Ralph,
gleefully, "but I should not be at all sorry to see just a little
excitement in the way of a chase of the moonlighters."

"There is every chance that you will be fully satisfied before you leave
this portion of the country," said George, grimly; and then, as his
horses were ready for the road once more, he added: "Get in, and, if
nothing happens, I will show you the cabin of the moonlighters in less
than an hour."



CHAPTER III.

THE CABIN OF THE MOONLIGHTERS.


Bob Hubbard had been away from the Kenniston farm-house nearly half an
hour when Ralph and George left it, but the latter was so well
acquainted with the country that he did not need any guide to the cabin,
and could not have had one, had he so desired, for Bob was far too
cautious to be seen leading any one to his base of operations.

It was well known by the owners of the torpedo patents that Robert
Hubbard was the most skillful of all the moonlighters, and whenever he
was seen traveling toward any of the wells that were being bored, he was
followed, but, thanks to the fleetness of his horses, he had never been
seen at his work by any one who would inform on him.

Bob believed, as did a great many, that the firm holding the patent had
no legal right to prevent any one from exploding nitro-glycerine by the
means of a percussion cap placed in the top of a tin shell or cartridge.
Several cases were before the courts undecided, and until a decision was
reached, the owners of the patent would do all in their power to prevent
any one from interfering in the business which they proposed to make a
monopoly. Therefore, when Bob went about his work, he did so with quite
as much mystery as if he had been engaged in some decidedly unlawful
act.

The ride from Sawyer, among the mountains, was quite as rough a one as
that from Bradford, and Ralph found that he had about as much as he
could attend to in keeping the guns, fishing-rods and himself in the
carriage, without attempting to carry on any extended conversation with
his friend. It was, therefore, almost in silence that the two rode along
until George turned the horses abruptly from the main road into the
woods, saying, as he did so:

"If I am not mistaken, this path will lead us directly to Bob's
headquarters."

He was not mistaken, for before they had ridden a mile into the woods,
they emerged into a clearing, in the midst of which stood a small
log-house and stable.

Instead of windows, the hut had stout plank shutters, which prevented
any one from looking in, even if they did prevent the occupants from
gazing out, and the door had more the appearance of having been made to
resist an attack than simply to keep the wind or cold out.

The stable was in keeping with the hut, so far as an appearance of
solidity went; and as its one door was closely shut, with no bars or
locks on the outside, one could fancy that when it was occupied, a guard
remained on the inside, where the fastenings of the door evidently were.

"I guess we have got here too soon," said Ralph, as George stopped the
horses in front of the hut, without any signs of life having been seen.

"There is a smoke from the chimney," said George, as he pointed to the
clumsy affair of mud and sticks from which a thin, blue curl of smoke
could be dimly seen, "and if they are ready to let us in, we shall soon
see some one."

The two sat patiently in the carriage several moments, and at the end of
that time the door of the hut was opened by a young man standing in the
doorway, to whom George said:

"Well, Dick, hasn't Bob got here yet?"

"Yes, he's here; but we didn't open the door at first because we were
not sure but that you had been followed." Then turning toward the barn,
the young man shouted, "Come out here, Pete, and take care of these
horses!"

In response to this demand the stable door was opened as cautiously as
if the man behind it feared a dozen were ready to pounce upon him, and
then, much as if he were unfolding himself, a tall negro came out,
leading the horses away without speaking, almost before Ralph and George
had time to leap to the ground.

"Get into the hut as quickly as possible," George said to Ralph; and as
the three entered, the door was securely barred behind them with two
heavy beams that would have resisted almost any ordinary force that
might have been used against them.

The hut boasted of but one room, in which were to be seen piles of
blankets that had evidently been used as beds, cooking utensils,
provisions, sheets of tin, tools such as are used by tinsmiths, and, in
fact, as varied an assortment of goods as could well have been gathered
into so small a compass.

In one corner of the room the floor of earth had been excavated, until a
space about six feet square and four deep had been formed, and into this
excavation was packed a number of square tin cans, which Ralph felt
certain contained that powerful agent, nitro-glycerine.

Bob was at work soldering together a long tin shell, about six inches in
diameter and fully ten feet long, and he called out, as his friends
entered:

"Come right in. Don't be afraid that you will be shot at, for we drop
all that kind of business here for fear we might all go up together.
This, Mr. Gurney, is the moonlighters' cabin, and I am free to confess
that it is not the most cheerful place in the world."

"I don't find as much fault with the cabin as I do with what you keep
stored in those innocent-looking tin cans," replied Ralph, as he seated
himself on a pile of blankets at a respectful distance from the
glycerine.

"Oh, that's harmless enough so long as you leave it alone!" replied Bob,
carelessly, and then as he resumed his work of soldering, he asked: "Did
you see anything of Jim as you came in?"

"No; where is he?"

"Out by the road somewhere. We heard that our particular friends in town
had got wind of the fact that we were going to put in a charge to-night,
so Jim is doing guard duty outside, leaving Dick Norton and I to do the
tinker's work. We expected to have gotten our shells all made in town;
but they are looking out so sharp for us just now that it was entirely
too much of a risk to bring them out here."

"How did they learn that you were going to work to-night?" asked George.

"That's more than I can say, unless old Hoxie was fool enough to let it
out that we were going to shoot his well for him," replied Bob, working
savagely with the soldering iron, much as if he would have been pleased
had he been using it on Mr. Hoxie's too ready tongue.

"Do you anticipate _much_ trouble?" asked Ralph, with just a shade of
anxiety, beginning to realize that it would not be the most pleasant
thing in the world to commence his vacation by being arrested as a
moonlighter.

"That's just what I can't say. We may have it, and we may not; but
there's one thing certain, and that is that I'll shoot that well if I
don't get back to the Kenniston farm for three months."

"I don't believe that they are even looking for us. They think we went
out of the business two weeks ago," said Dick Norton, as he, in a very
unworkmanlike manner, attempted to aid Bob. "You see, Jim is nervous,
and the least thing frightens him."

"Something has startled him, at all events!" exclaimed Bob, running to
the door as a low, quick whistle was heard from the outside.

Dick, despite the rather contemptuous way in which he had spoken, also
appeared to think something serious had happened, for he joined Bob at
the door, looking very serious as both of them quickly unfastened the
bars, opening the door just as a young man ran in from the woods,
breathless and excited.

"What is it, Jim? What has happened?" asked Bob, replacing the heavy
bars instantly the newcomer was inside the building.

"Newcombe and five men have just turned into the path, coming down here
as if they knew just what they should find."

For a moment Bob and Dick were silent, and Ralph had an opportunity to
ask George:

"Who is Newcombe?"

"A man in the employ of the owners of the patent, and one who has
threatened several times to secure the arrest of Bob."

Dick's first act, after he fully realized what Jim had said, was to
cover the fire, at which they had been soldering, with ashes, in order
to prevent any smoke from escaping through the chimney, and by that time
Bob had recovered all his presence of mind.

"Even if they have at last found the hut, they will be puzzled to get
into it, or to get us out," he said, as he noted the fastenings of the
window-shutters, and uncovered a small aperture which served as a
loop-hole through which everything that occurred outside could be seen.

"You ought to have warned Pete," said George, not feeling remarkably
well pleased at the chance of being besieged as a moonlighter, but yet
anxious that his friends should elude arrest where the cartridges and
explosive fluid would be sufficient proof against them.

"There is no need of that," replied Bob. "He wouldn't show himself under
any circumstances unless we called him, and from the loft of the stable
he can see all that is going on."

Ralph was the most uncomfortable of the party. Not being so familiar
with the doings of the moonlighters, nor acquainted with the general
feeling of the public against them, the idea of being thus hunted like a
criminal was very repugnant to him.

It was as if his companions were engaged in some crime, instead of
simply infringing a patent, the legality of which had not been fully
tested, and, if he could have had his choice, he would have been miles
away from that spot just then.

"There they come!" exclaimed Bob from his post of observation, and,
looking out for a moment, Ralph saw six men riding into the clearing
directly toward the house.

Almost before he had time to regain his seat, and just as Bob held up
his hand as a signal for silence, a knock was heard at the door, as if
some one was pounding with the butt-end of a whip.

No one made any reply, and it seemed to Ralph as if he could hear the
pulsations of his own heart, so oppressive was the silence.

Again the summons was repeated, and a gruff voice cried:

"Open the door a moment. I wish to speak with Mr. Robert Hubbard."

Then there was a long silence, and, seeing the look of anxiety on
Ralph's face, George said, in a low whisper:

"Don't look so distressed, my boy. Those men have got no more right to
enter here than you have to go into another man's dwelling. If they
should succeed in getting in, however, they would find sufficient to
prove that Bob was about to infringe their patent; but, as it is, they
have no authority to do anything, although Bob will hardly get a chance
to shoot the Hoxie well to-night."

"That's just what I will do," whispered Bob, who had heard George's
remark. "I will put in that charge if they camp where they are all
night."

The men on the outside waited some moments in silence, and then the
request was repeated, while at the same time footsteps could be heard as
if some of them had gone toward the stable.

"They might easily batter in one of the windows," said Ralph, as the
pounding at the door was continued.

"They would hardly try that plan," replied George, with a meaning smile.
"There are a hundred or two quarts of nitro-glycerine stored here,
needing only the necessary concussion to explode them. Those men know
quite as well as we do how unpleasant such liquid may become, and I
assure you that they will strike no very heavy blows on the building."

It was a singular position for any one to be in, and Ralph was far from
being comfortable in his mind, as he awaited the result of this visit to
the cabin of the moonlighters.



CHAPTER IV.

A REGULAR SIEGE.


Ralph, simply a visitor to the cabin of the moonlighters, felt far more
uncomfortable than did his hosts, to whom alone there was any danger.

As the party waited silently for any move by those outside, Ralph had
plenty of time to review his own position, and this review was far from
pleasant or reassuring.

In that section of the country the fact of being arrested as a
moonlighter did not imply either disgrace or crime; but in Ralph's home,
where nothing was known of such an industry, save when occasionally a
newspaper item was read but not understood, the news of his arrest while
trying illegally to "shoot" a well, would cause as much consternation
and sorrow as if he had attempted to shoot a man. It was far from being
a pleasant beginning to his vacation, and he would have been much better
satisfied with himself if he had not made any attempt to penetrate the
mysteries of the moonlighters' dangerous calling.

While these uncomfortable thoughts were presenting themselves to Ralph,
Bob Hubbard was standing on a rudely-constructed table, in order that
he might keep a watch upon Newcombe and his men, and from time to time
he whispered to his companions of that which he saw.

"They've got tired trying to find out anything at the stable, and now
they're coming this way. If we keep perfectly quiet they will begin soon
to believe that no one is here, and then, very likely, they will go
away."

It was in the highest degree necessary that these men should be thrown
off the scent if possible, and each one in the hut remained motionless
as statues, but, as was shown a moment later, their silence was
fruitless, owing to the defective construction of their furniture.

"Now they are gathering close around the door," continued Bob, from his
post of observation; and then, fearing he might betray himself even
through the loop-hole, he began cautiously to descend.

It was as if his very efforts to move without noise hastened the
catastrophe he was trying to avert, for as he started to lower himself
from the table, the entire structure gave way, and he came to the floor
with such a crash as could have been heard many yards away.

There was no need of question as to whether Bob's downfall had been
heard by those outside, for at the moment a low, involuntary cry of
triumph was heard, which did not detract from the unfortunate
moonlighter's discomfiture. Had Bob cried out his name he could not have
proclaimed his presence any more plainly, and as he disentangled himself
from amid the wreck of the table, his face spoke eloquently the anger
he felt, either at his own carelessness or the weakness of the table.

"It's all up now," said Jim, despondently. "There was a chance that they
might get tired in time, and go away; but now they will stay here until
they see us leave."

"Well, let them stay," said Bob, savagely. "I have come here to get
ready to shoot the Hoxie well, and I'll do it before I go home again."

"Perhaps you will, and perhaps you won't," said Jim, doubtingly; "but if
my opinion's worth anything, you won't."

Bob made no reply to this; but attacked the tin cartridges on which he
had been working with an energy that told plainly of his determination;
although how it might be possible for him to do more than to get ready
for the work, no one could imagine. He no longer tried to be silent, but
made so much bustle with his work that George said:

"What makes you so careless, Bob? Even if they did hear you when you
fell, there is no reason why you should advertise the fact that you are
making cartridges."

"What difference does it make what they hear now?" asked Bob, not even
looking up from his work as he spoke. "Do you fancy that Newcombe,
finding us here, does not know just as well as we do what there is
inside here? If we remain quiet, he will say to himself that we are all
ready for the shot, and only waiting for him to get out of the way
before we let it off. If we work, he will know no more, and we may as
well take things comfortable."

"It isn't any use for us to try to do anything," said Dick,
disconsolately. "Newcombe will stay right where he is until we go out,
and the best thing we can do is give the thing up for a while."

"Yes," interrupted Jim, "let's go home, and wait until we can give him
the slip and get out again."

"I'll do nothing of the kind," replied Bob, doggedly. "I agreed to shoot
Hoxie's well to-night, and I'm going to do it."

"You can't without Newcombe's seeing you, and you know that your arrest
would follow as soon after that as he could get out a warrant," said
George, thinking it was high time for him to interfere with advice.
"They have never been able to get any proof against you yet, and you
don't want to give them the chance now just through spite."

"I'm not going to give them the chance," said Bob, calmly. "I am going
to take what I need out of this place while they are guarding it, and
without their seeing me. If any of you fellows are afraid, and want to
go home, you know how to get there; but I am going to stay, and do just
as I have said."

Bob could have used no better argument, if he had been anxious to have
his companions remain with him, than when he proposed they should go
home if they were afraid. Much as Ralph would have liked to, he did not
think of leaving, when to do so was to be considered proof that he was
afraid, and he, as well as the others, settled themselves down to await
the result of Bob's plan, whatever it might be.

Those on the outside, however, were not as contented in their waiting,
as they showed in a short time, when Newcombe's voice could be heard
addressing those whom he believed he had "run to earth."

"Say, boys!" he cried, "you know very well that I shall stay here until
you come out, and the best thing you can do is to give the job up for a
while, for I promise you that you will get no chance to do the work this
time."

It was quite evident that Mr. Newcombe had no more desire to remain
outside of the hut on guard than Ralph and George had to remain inside,
and that he was anxious to put a speedy end to what had every appearance
of being a long job. It was plain to be seen that he neither understood
nor relished this singular behavior on the part of those whom he had no
authority to arrest until they had committed some overt act, and that he
was anxious to bring the case to an issue at once.

The others looked at Bob, expecting he would make some reply to the
proposition, but he made no sign that he had even heard what had been
said. He worked industriously at the long tin tubes, neither speaking
nor looking up.

"You know that I have got wind of what you are going to do to-night,"
continued Newcombe, from the outside, "and you know that I shall stay
right here until you leave; so what's the use of acting so childishly
about it? Come right out like men, and begin the thing over at some
other time."

Even Ralph could understand that, in his eagerness to be away, Mr.
Newcombe was making a great mistake in thus pleading with those over
whom he could have no control until after their work was done, and
Dick's face lightened wonderfully as he began to hope the "torpedo
detective," as Newcombe was called, might tire of his watching and go
away.

All the inmates of the hut appeared to share the same hope, and Jim at
once began to replace the broken table with some empty boxes, in order
that he might have access to the loop-hole.

"What will be the result of all this?" Ralph asked of George, as the two
seated themselves comfortably in one corner of the room, where they
would at the same time be out of Bob's way, and see all that was going
on.

"That I can't say. It may be forty-eight hours before Bob gives up the
scheme he has evidently formed, and in the meanwhile here we are
prisoners, for we cannot ask to leave the hut until the others do. It
promises to be a tedious thing for us; but you remember that you wished
there might be some excitement other than the mere shooting of the
well."

"Yes," replied Ralph, with a laugh, "I remember that I was foolish
enough to make some such remark, and I am in a fair way to get all I
wanted."

By this time Jim had built up a shaky sort of a platform, by which he
was enabled to climb to the loop-hole, and he at once gave the result
of his outlook to his companions.

"They are unharnessing the horses," he cried, in a tone of
disappointment; for he had almost persuaded himself that they would
leave the place at once. "Newcombe's team is directly in front, and the
other two are drawn up on either side, about fifty yards from it. They
are preparing for a regular siege."

"Which is the most fortunate thing for us that could have happened,"
said Bob, contentedly.

"Why? I don't see how we can do anything when they are all ready to
follow us the moment we show ourselves out of doors," said Dick.

"If you can't, I can," replied Bob, working leisurely at his cartridges,
and with as much precision as if the "torpedo detectives" were miles
away.

"Tell me what you intend to do."

"I'll show you when everything is ready, Dick, and not before. You have
said that we couldn't do anything while they were here; therefore,
whatever my plan may be, it is better than giving the whole thing up.
Now, if your fears will permit, suppose you take hold and help me while
Jim watches our friends outside."

It was as if Dick understood for the first time that while they were
bewailing their fate that Newcombe should have found their hiding-place,
Bob was working industriously at the task on hand, and he began to help
him at once, which employment had the effect of dispelling his fears in
a wonderful degree.

"Three of the men are watching the house from the front, while Newcombe
and the other two are going towards the stable," said Jim; and then he
added, excitedly: "I believe that rascal Pete is talking with them, for
they are standing there now, looking up towards the roof as if they saw
or heard some one."

Dick was disposed to leave his work at this startling announcement but
Bob's industry had a quieting effect upon him, and he continued in his
office of helper, although with evident mental anxiety.

"Now they have called one of the other men over, and all four of them
are going through the motions of a conversation. Now Newcombe has taken
some money out of his pocket, and is holding it up in his hand."

There was a moment of silence in the hut, during which all the boys,
even including Bob, awaited in anxiety the result of this evident bribe,
and then Jim said, excitedly:

"Pete has shown himself, and is reaching out with the pitch-fork for the
money. He is selling us to Newcombe, who will know now exactly what we
were going to do."



CHAPTER V.

BOB'S SCHEME.


From what Jim could see from the loop-hole, there was every reason for
the young moonlighters to believe that the negro Pete, whom they hired,
was betraying them to Newcombe, and each one felt more than uneasy when
Jim reported that the detective had fastened some money on one of the
prongs of the hay-fork. But they were somewhat relieved when Bob said:

"If you weren't all a good deal frightened, you would remember that Pete
hasn't been told where we were going. He doesn't know anything more than
Newcombe himself does, and if he can make a few dollars for nothing, why
let him."

"But what are they giving him money for?" asked Jim, who was even more
disturbed by this apparent treachery on the part of their servant than
were the others.

"For an answer to that question, I shall be obliged to refer you to the
worthy Pete himself. At all events, the only harm he could do us would
be to let Newcombe know when we leave here--in case he don't want to
wait--and that is just what I fancy Pete himself won't know."

As soon as the boys realized that Pete had no secrets of theirs worth
the purchasing, they grew more easy in their minds, and were inclined to
look upon this giving of money by Newcombe as a very good joke.

Jim had nothing of interest to report for nearly ten minutes after this,
during all of which time the detective and his men had been engaged in
earnest conversation with the negro, and then he announced that they
were returning to their wagons.

They had not unharnessed their horses, but had slipped the bridles from
them that they might make a dinner from the rich grass, and yet be ready
for a start at a moment's notice.

After their return to the front of the house, one of the men drove away
with one of the teams, after having received some instructions from
Newcombe, and as it was nearly dark, the boys believed that the
detective had sent for food, since there was no longer any doubt about
his having regularly besieged the house.

All this time Bob had continued his work, assisted by Dick, and it was
not until the setting sun had distorted the shadows of the trees into
dark images of giants that he announced its completion.

"There!" he cried, triumphantly, as he laid the last tin tube by the
side of the other two, "we are all ready, and in two hours more we will
start."

"In two hours Newcombe and his men will be there just as they are now,"
said Jim, rather impatiently, for he thought Bob was assuming to be able
to do very much more than was possible.

"I suppose they will," was the quiet reply, "and I should not be very
much surprised if we should see them there twenty-four hours later."

"What is it you propose doing, Bob?" asked George, who, thoroughly tired
of the inactivity as was Ralph, was only anxious to know when their
irksome captivity would come to an end.

"I'll tell you. In the first place, how far is Hoxie's well from here in
a straight line?"

"Directly through the woods, I suppose it is not more than half a mile.
I surveyed the next tract to it, and I fancy that is about the
distance."

"And if we should start from the back of the hut, traveling in a
straight line, we should come to it?"

"Yes; there would be no difficulty about that."

"Then I propose that we simply go out through the back window, unless
Newcombe has sufficient wits about him to station one of his men there.
We can, by making two trips, carry enough glycerine to shoot the well in
good style, and by midnight we should be all ready for the work."

The plan was so simple, and with so many elements of success about it,
that Bob's audience testified to their appreciation of it by vigorous
applause, which must have mystified the worthy Mr. Newcombe
considerably.

"In an hour from now we can begin work. Ralph, who might possibly have
some compunctions about carrying a couple of cans of glycerine through
the woods, where to strike one against a tree might result in his
immediate departure from the world, shall carry the cartridges. Then
there will be four of us, each of whom can carry eight quarts. Two trips
will give us sixty-four quarts, and that will be enough to start the oil
from Mr. Hoxie's well, if there is any there."

Bob's plan was quite as dangerous as it was simple. To carry eight
quarts of glycerine through the woods when a mis-step might explode it,
was such a task as any one might well fear to undertake. But the desire
to leave the detective on a weary vigil while they pursued their work
unmolested was such an inducement, as caused each one, even Ralph, to be
anxious to try it.

The night was not as favorable for the scheme as it might have been, for
the moon was nearly full, and objects could be distinguished almost as
readily as at noonday, save when under the veil cast by the shadows.

This moonlight, Bob thought, would not interfere with their plan, since
from the back of the house to the forest was but a few yards, and unless
Newcombe should station one of his men there, the building would screen
them from view.

In case they got safely away from the house, the light would aid them,
both in their journey through the woods and in their work after they
arrived at the well.

For some time the boys enjoyed thoroughly the anticipation of fooling
Mr. Newcombe, and they might have continued to do so until it would have
been too late to accomplish the work, had not Bob reminded them that
they had no time to lose.

Then they made their preparations for the journey or flight, whichever
it might be called. The long, tin cartridges were tied together
securely, with wads of paper between to prevent them from rattling; the
cans of nitro-glycerine were placed by the window, where they could be
gotten at readily, and Bob produced a three-cornered piece of iron,
about four feet long, which weighed twenty or thirty pounds.

"It will be quite an addition to your load; but I fancy you will feel
safer carrying it than you would one of the cans," he said to Ralph.

"What is it?"

And the tone in which the question was asked showed that the newcomer to
the oil fields looked upon this carrying a useless piece of iron through
the woods as very unnecessary work.

"That's the go-devil," replied Bob; and then, as he saw that Ralph did
not understand, he added: "It is to drop through the hole to explode the
cartridges after they are placed in position."

Still Ralph could not fully understand its importance; but he stationed
himself by the window, resolved to carry the go-devil and the cartridges
any distance, rather than take the chances of being obliged to burden
himself with the dangerous oil which the others appeared to regard with
so little fear.

Everything was in readiness for the start, and Bob clambered up to the
peep-hole that he might be sure the enemy were yet in their position,
which was so favorable to the plans of the moonlighters.

"They are all there except the one who drove away some time ago,
and--here comes the other now. He had been for food, and they are
pitching into it as if they were hungry. Now is our time to start. They
will be at their supper for the next half hour, and by the end of that
time we shall be ready to come back for a second load."

Bob looked once more to the fastenings of the doors and windows to be
certain that they could not be loosened by any one from the outside, and
then he cautiously unbarred the window at the back of the house.

Knowing that the detective and all his force were in front, he spent no
time in looking around; but, leaping out, was soon busily engaged in
taking out the cans of glycerine which Jim and Dick handed him.

Less than ten minutes sufficed for this work, and then each member of
the party was out of doors, Ralph with the cartridges over his shoulder
and the go-devil under his arm, while the others carried a can of the
dangerous liquid in each hand.

It had been decided that George, being accustomed to traveling through
the woods in straight lines by his work as engineer, should lead the
party, as the one most likely to keep a direct course, and Ralph had
decided that he would remain as far in the rear as possible; for, when
he saw the boys swinging the terrible explosive around so carelessly, he
felt that the further away one could get from that party the safer they
were.

George was not as much at his ease as he might have been, for he had not
grown familiar with the explosive, as the others had, and he uttered
many a word of caution when they came to those portions of the woods
where the trees stood more thickly together.

Their progress was necessarily slow, owing to the care they were obliged
to use in walking; but before Mr. Newcombe and his friends had finished
their supper, the moonlighters were at Mr. Hoxie's well, where they
found their arrival had long been expected.

Mr. Hoxie could understand, from the manner in which the moonlighters
had come, that they had run some risk of detection in getting there, and
when he learned that they were obliged to make a second trip for more
glycerine, he offered either to accompany them or send some of his men
with them, as they should prefer.

Bob refused all these offers of assistance, however, for he believed
that it was owing to Mr. Hoxie's incautious remarks that the detectives
had paid them a visit, and he did not propose to run any more risks than
were absolutely necessary.

Since four of them could carry all the glycerine needed to make up the
charge, and since Ralph had such a wholesome fear of the dangerous
compound, Bob insisted that Ralph remain at the well, while the others
paid a second visit to the hut in the forest, a proposition which Ralph
eagerly accepted, for carrying nitro-glycerine through the woods in the
night was a task he was not at all anxious to perform.

The return through the woods was made in a very short time, the boys
walking on at full speed until they were near the hut, when the utmost
caution was used. By making quite a detour through the woods, Bob was
able to get a full view of the watchful detectives, all of whom were
seated on the grass in front of the hut, gazing at it so intently that
there was no question that any suspicion had been aroused in their
minds.

Before they had left the hut Bob had placed the glycerine near the
window, so that it could be reached from the outside, and, after it was
learned that the enemy were still in blissful ignorance, but little time
was lost in getting ready to return to Mr. Hoxie's well.

Perhaps the boys were no more careless in carrying the glycerine this
second time than they were the first, but they certainly walked faster,
and when they arrived at their destination, they had been away such a
short time that Ralph could hardly believe they had been to the hut in
the woods and back.

Everything was now in readiness for the important work, and the question
that troubled the young moonlighters was whether the worthy Mr. Newcombe
and his assistants would remain looking at the empty hut until the
charge was exploded.



CHAPTER VI

TORPEDOING AN OIL-WELL.


It is safe to say that Ralph, who was interested in the shooting of the
well only as a spectator, was the most nervous one of all that party who
were about to show Mr. Hoxie whether he had "struck oil" or not.

Bob set about the work with the air of one perfectly familiar with what
he was doing, and the others aided him whenever it was possible, George
alone remaining inactive, since he considered himself entitled to a seat
with the spectator.

The well had, of course, been bored down as far as the bed-rock, leaving
an opening from eight to ten inches in diameter and quite twelve hundred
feet deep, which was nearly filled with the water that had flowed in and
the oil that had been poured in to give some slight resistance at the
top of the cartridge.

Over this, grim and weird-looking in the moonlight, rose the framework
of the derrick, formed of heavy timbers, and apparently solid enough to
resist any pressure that might be brought to bear upon it. Near by were
scattered pieces of machinery, tools and such debris as would naturally
accumulate around a place of the kind.

A large reel, wound with heavy cord, capable of sustaining a hundred
pounds' weight, and with a shallow hook, which would easily become
detached when the pressure was removed, was fastened at one of the
uprights of the derrick, while directly over the well was a block for
the cord to pass through. This was to be used to lower the cartridges
into the well.

After this portion of the work had been completed--and all three of the
moonlighters moved as rapidly as possible, lest Mr. Newcombe should put
in an appearance--the task of filling the shells was begun. The tops of
the long tin tubes were removed, and into these rather frail shells the
glycerine was poured, Bob handling it as if it was no more dangerous
than the petroleum they hoped to find.

As fast as each tube or cartridge was filled it was lowered into the
well by the stout wire bail that was fastened to the top, and just under
the cover was the hammer which would explode the percussion cap when
struck. These cartridges were pointed at the head, and since the point
of the second would rest on the top of the first, and the third on the
second, the blow which exploded the first would naturally be
communicated to the other two.

It was in lowering these cartridges into the well that Bob showed his
first signs of caution in handling the explosive liquid, for the least
jar or concussion, as the tin tubes were being let down into the well,
would have resulted in a premature explosion, which might have had the
most deplorable results.

Ralph, seeing that at this point even Bob was willing to admit that
there might be some danger in the work he was doing, proposed to George
that they move a short distance further away, lest there should be an
accident, and the reply he received was not well calculated to soothe
his nervousness.

"If one of those tubes should explode on the surface here, we should
stand as good a chance of being killed a quarter of a mile away, as
here. So we might just as well stay where we are."

And Ralph remained, although he was far from feeling as comfortable as
he would have felt at a more respectful distance.

"All ready, now," said Bob, as the last cartridge was lowered into
position, and the reel removed from the derrick. "Now in order to honor
Harnett's guest, I am going to allow him the distinction of exploding
the charge."

For a moment Ralph thought of what an experience it would be, to explode
sixty-four quarts of nitro-glycerine, and what an adventure would be his
to relate when he returned to college; therefore he marched boldly up to
the well, at the bottom of which was such a dangerous agent ready to do
its work. But when he saw the others seeking places of safety from the
gases, and possibly fragments that would follow the explosion, and when
he stood upon the platform of the derrick which afforded so insecure a
foot-hold, because of the oil upon it, his courage failed him.

"It may be a big thing," he said to Bob, "to drop this piece of iron
through the hole, and be the remote cause of such a powerful effect. But
if, when I attempt to get out of the way, my foot should slip, I should
hardly be in a condition to care for glory. I am greatly obliged to you
for the proposed honor; but think I had better decline it."

"Just as you please, my dear boy," replied Bob, carelessly. "Just find a
good place where you can see her when she shoots, and I'll drop the
go-devil."

Ralph lost no time in obeying the young moonlighter's instructions,
seeking a refuge near the corner of a small tool-house to the windward
of the well, and about a hundred yards from it.

"Look out for your mouth and nose just after the explosion," cautioned
George, "for the gases which will come first to the surface are very
poisonous."

"All ready!" shouted Bob, as he looked around to see that every one was
in a safe position, and then approached the well with the go-devil in
his hands.

There was an instant's pause as the boy stood with the heavy iron poised
over the aperture, and then dropping it, he sought shelter by the side
of Ralph and George.

Perfect silence reigned for what seemed a long time while the go-devil
was falling through twelve hundred feet of oil and water; but the time
was hardly more than a minute, and then Ralph, who had expected to hear
a deafening noise, simply heard a crackling sound, much as if two small
fire-crackers had been exploded. It had not occurred to him that but
little could be heard from such a distance beneath the surface.

"Look out for the gases!" cried George.

And as Ralph covered his nose and mouth with his handkerchief, he could
see a black vapor, almost like smoke, arising from the mouth of the
well.

"There is no oil there," he said to himself, as second after second went
by and there was no appearance of anything save the gases of combustion.
He was almost as disappointed as Mr. Hoxie would have been at finding a
"dry well;" for after all his tedious waiting he hoped to have been
rewarded by seeing the "shoot" of the oil.

He was rather surprised that Bob's face showed no signs of
disappointment, for he surely must have wanted to see oil after his
dangerous work. But Bob simply looked expectant, with his gaze fixed on
the mouth of the well, and Ralph turned again just in time to see a most
wonderful sight.

From out of the mouth of the well arose what appeared to be a solid
column of greenish yellow, rising slowly in the air like one of the
pillars of Aladdin's palace as it was formed by the genii. The top was
rounded, and the sides of this marvelous column, held together only by
some mighty force, shone in the moonlight like a polished surface of
marble, while all the time it arose inch by inch without fret or check,
until the top wavered in the night wind. Then one or two drops could be
seen rolling off from the summit, and in an instant the entire
appearance changed.

With a mighty bound the oil leaped into the air, tearing asunder the
summit of the derrick as if it had been of veriest gossamer, dashing the
heavy timbers aside like feathers, and spouting in the pale light drops
as of molten gold.

For a radius of twenty feet around the well the air seemed filled with
this liquid gold that was coming from the very bowels of the earth.

The oil poured out in torrents with a sharp, hissing noise that told how
great was the volume of gas imprisoned beneath the rock, which was
sending this oily deluge out, and the question of the value of the well
was decided.

"It's good for two hundred barrels a day!" cried Bob.

And Mr. Hoxie, who would reap this rich harvest, insisted that it would
produce very much more than that.

The damage done to the derrick was not heeded by the owner since the
destructive agent was worth just so much money per barrel to him.

After spouting to a height of fully two hundred feet, for nearly ten
minutes, the volume of oil, or, rather, of the gas that was forcing it
to the surface, appeared to be exhausted, and lower and lower sank the
torrent, spreading out in a fan-shape as it lessened, until finally it
ceased entirely.

"What is the matter?" asked Ralph, who fancied that oil-wells flowed
incessantly. "Your two-hundred-barrel well will hardly produce as much
as you thought."

"Indeed it will," replied Bob. "You don't think wells go on flowing like
that all the time, do you? They have breathing spells, like men. They
spout anywhere from five to fifteen minutes, and then remain quiet
about the same time, or longer. You see the gas in the reservoir of oil
forces it to the surface; the escape of the oil lessens the pressure
under the rock, and it remains inactive until sufficient gas has
gathered again to force more up. This well is as good a one as I have
ever shot."

Then Bob and his partners began to make their preparations for
departure, since, for them to be found with their tools near a
newly-opened well, would have been almost as dangerous as to have been
caught in the very act of "shooting it."

Ralph would have been only too well pleased if he could have waited long
enough to see the second spout, but being a guest of the moonlighters,
he could not offer any objection to their movements, and he also made
ready for the journey back to the hut.

Bob had settled his business with Mr. Hoxie, which was simply to get the
agreed amount for the work performed, and was just getting the reel into
shape to carry, when the clatter of hoofs was heard far down the road.

"The detectives!" shouted Mr. Hoxie, as he started toward the
tool-house, where, in a very few seconds, he would be counterfeiting the
most profound slumber.

"The detectives!" shouted the workmen, as they sought convenient places
for hiding; and the moonlighters were left to dispose of themselves as
best they could.

"Come this way!" cried Bob, as he caught up the reel, which might be
recognized as his, regardless of how he carried it, and dashed off into
the woods at full speed, followed by his partners and guests.

It was a flight which would be presumptive guilt, if they were
overtaken, but, under the circumstances, it was the only course the
moonlighters could pursue.



CHAPTER VII.

MR. NEWCOMBE'S CERTAINTY.


Varied and many were Ralph's thoughts, as he followed his friends at
full speed through the woods, and none of them were complimentary to the
business of the moonlighters. He had hoped there would be some
excitement attending the shooting of the well, other than that incident
to the regular work, and he had every reason to be satisfied; but he had
seen a trifle more than was necessary to his comfort or happiness, and
this race through the woods was quite sufficient to take the last bit of
romance from the business. The work had been done; but if those who had
been heard on the road were the officers, the chances were that they
might succeed in finding sufficient proof as to who had done the job.

Ralph understood fully that by aiding the moonlighters, even in the
slight way he had, he was, for the time being, one of them, and this
thought was far from reassuring. Without any reason, other than to see
the sport, he had, perhaps, infringed the rights of those who were using
every effort to protect them, and what the result might be perplexed him
in no slight degree.

But one thing was certain, and that was, now that he had become involved
with his new acquaintances to a certain extent, it was necessary for him
to continue with them until he could leave without either compromising
himself or injuring them.

Of course, every one believed that the noise made on the road
immediately after the well was shot was occasioned by Newcombe's men,
who, having discovered that the hut was empty, had started at once for
the probable scene of operations.

Under this belief, Bob dashed on toward the hut at full speed, never
thinking of making any investigations to learn whether they were correct
in their surmises, until, when they were but a short distance from the
clearing in the woods, George called out:

"Before we show ourselves, it would be well to find out whether Newcombe
has really left."

"That would be only a waste of time," objected Jim, "for, of course, it
was he whom we heard."

"I believe it was," replied George; "but, at the same time, it is well
to be sure. It will only take a few moments longer, and, since Ralph and
I have got mixed up in this thing, I insist that you find out whether
any one is there before you attempt to go into the hut."

Bob thought, as did both Dick and Jim, that Harnett was foolishly
particular; but, since the young engineer was so decided about the
matter, he thought it best to do as he was requested.

When, therefore, they arrived at the edge of the clearing, the party
waited within the shadow of the trees, while Bob stole cautiously
around as before, with no idea that he should see any one in front of
the hut.

While he was absent, Dick and Jim were disposed to make sport of what
they termed George's caution, and this merriment caused so much noise
that Harnett found it necessary to remind them very sharply that both he
and Ralph, without any interest, other than curiosity in the matter, and
after they had been of no slight service, might be obliged to pay
dearly for the part they had taken; in consideration of which, the least
that could be done would be to follow out this very reasonable request.

After this, the boys quieted down considerably, and when Bob returned,
they were thankful that they had done so.

Bob startled them all, even George and Ralph, by the information that
Newcombe and his men were still on guard in front of the hut, and that,
to all appearances, they had not left the stations they were occupying
when the party started out to shoot Mr. Hoxie's well.

If this was the case, who, then, was the party that had disturbed them
at the completion of their work? This was the question that agitated
them decidedly, and they were beginning a very animated discussion on
the subject, when George said:

"It can make no particular difference just at this moment who they were.
Some one was coming, probably other torpedo detectives, and we ran away.
Newcombe and his men are still here on guard. Now the most important
thing for us to do is to get into the hut as quickly and silently as
possible, and if those others were detectives, perhaps our friend, Mr.
Newcombe, will be able to swear that we have not been outside during the
night."

There could be no answer to such an argument as this, save in action,
and each one started for the hut, Dick and Jim feeling decidedly ashamed
of the sport they had made of George's excess of caution.

To enter the building silently was as easy as to leave it, and in five
minutes more the party were inside, with the shutters of the back window
carefully barred.

Then they gave way without restraint to their mirth at having
accomplished their work, while Newcombe watched their hut for them, and
they might have continued at this amusing occupation during the
remainder of the night, if sounds from the outside had not told them
that other visitors were arriving.

"Now we shall find out who it was that disturbed us," said Bob,
gleefully, as he clambered upon the improvised platform, that he might
see what was going on outside from the peep-hole.

The boys, believing as Bob did, that these newcomers were the same ones
whose arrival at Mr. Hoxie's lately-opened well was the cause of their
hasty flight, awaited expectantly the result of Bob's survey.

"Three men are riding up," said Bob, "and now they are stopping their
horses as Newcombe goes toward them. They all appear to be talking
excitedly, and every few seconds Newcombe points this way. Now they are
coming right toward the door."

There was no longer any need for Bob to describe the proceedings, for
the noise made by the carriage could be plainly heard by all as it came
toward the house, and in a very few moments even the conversation of the
men could be distinguished.

"The well had just been shot as we got there," one of the newcomers
could be heard to say, "and you know that Bob Hubbard was to do the
work. You have allowed the boy to fool you, Newcombe, and while you have
been here, he has been working at Hoxie's."

"But I tell you that I heard him in here early in the afternoon, and the
darkey told me his team was in the stable. Now, how could he have gotten
the glycerine or cartridges out of here while six of us have been on
duty all the time?"

And from the tone of Newcombe's voice it was easy to understand that he
was very angry with these colleagues of his for doubting his ability to
watch three boys.

"Are you certain it was Bob whom you heard?" asked the first speaker.
"He may have left some one here, and been at Hoxie's before you
arrived."

"I am certain there was some one here," said Newcombe, speaking less
decidedly than before, "and I would be willing to bet everything I own
that it was Bob Hubbard."

"Betting is a very bad way to settle disputes, Mr. Newcombe," said Bob,
laughingly, shouting so that every one outside could hear his voice,
"and I would advise you to give it up in the future; but in this
particular case you would win the money."

"There! What did I tell you?" cried the detective to his visitors; and
it is very probable that just at that moment he looked upon Bob as a
true friend.

"Yes, Bob is there," said the man, reluctantly; "but Jim and Dick were
at the well."

"Here's Dick!" shouted that young gentleman; "and when you two want to
hold an animated conversation about either one of us, try not to start
it at night, nor so near the door of a sleeping-room as to disturb those
who may need a little rest."

"And here is Jim!" shouted that young moonlighter. "So now that you know
we are here, where Brother Newcombe has been watching for the last dozen
hours, suppose the whole posse of you drive back to Bradford, where you
belong."

For a moment there was a profound silence outside, as if this last
astute detective was too much surprised to be able to speak, and then
Mr. Newcombe burst into an uncontrollable fit of triumphant laughter. He
knew that it was impossible for any number of boys to fool him, and very
likely he almost pitied his brother-detective for being so simple.

From the sounds, the boys judged that the men were moving away from the
hut, and Bob once more had access to the peep-hole as a point of
observation.

"They are harnessing their horses now," he said, after he had looked out
a few moments, "and I guess Newcombe has convinced his friend that we
must have been innocent of the shooting of Hoxie's well."

"The question among them now will be as to who the other moonlighters
are," laughed Dick.

And all of them found no little cause for merriment in the idea of
Newcombe and his friends pursuing these imaginary moonlighters.

"They have started for the stable again," continued Bob. "I suppose they
want to make sure that there is no chance for us to get the horses out
by any way other than the front door. What muffs they are not to think
how easy it would be for us to do just as we did! They have walked
entirely around the stable, and are now coming back again."

It was evident that Mr. Newcombe's friend needed some further proof to
assure himself that it was not the boys whom he had disturbed, for
Newcombe said, as he came near the hut:

"Bob, I don't suppose you have any especial love for any of us, but you
know that what we are doing is all fair in the way of business, and
nothing as especially against you. Now, just as a favor to me, I want
you to tell us what we have done since we came here."

It was apparent to Bob, as it was to all in the hut, that the question
was asked simply to convince the newcomers that the boys could not have
left the hut during the night, and Bob, after having descended from his
perch, in order that his voice might not betray the fact that he had
been on the lookout, answered, readily:

"I didn't know that you had been doing much of anything. You paid Pete
for some information which could hardly have been worth the money, and
passed it up to him on the hay-fork, for he wouldn't open the door to
you. Then you sent one of your party somewhere for food, and since you
had your supper, you have amused us by sitting in front of the hut. Is
that enough?"

"Plenty, and thank you!" was the reply, made in such a cheery tone that
there was no question but that it had been sufficiently convincing.

Then Bob scrambled upon his rather shaky perch once more, in order to
give full information to his companions of the movements of those
outside.

He reported from time to time as to what they were doing in the way
getting their teams ready, looking around the premises, but without
taking more than a casual glance at the rear of the house, however, and
then he said:

"Now they are getting into their wagons. Now they are driving out on the
road, and now," he added, as he leaped down with a loud shout, "they
have disappeared to find the parties who shot the Hoxie well, perfectly
content that we could have had no hand in the business, since it is a
certainty in Newcombe's mind that we have not left the hut since he
drove up here. Hurrah for Bob Hubbard's scheme, and Newcombe's belief in
his own ability as a detective!"



CHAPTER VIII.

NEW QUARTERS.


Until nearly daylight the boys remained awake, laughing over Newcombe's
credulity, or congratulating each other on the success of that night's
work, and then Bob, who for half an hour had been studying some plan,
said:

"It isn't best for us to spend all our time laughing at Newcombe, or we
may find out that he's smarter than we give him credit of being. If we
expect to shoot any more wells in this vicinity, we must change our
quarters, for we can safely count on this being watched."

"What if it is?" cried Dick, their success having made him very bold.
"Wasn't it watched to-night, and didn't we shoot the Hoxie well in spite
of them all?"

"Yes, we fooled Newcombe well; but we might find it difficult to do so
the second time. Then again, all our work would not be as convenient to
the hut as this was, and if it had been necessary for us to get our
horses out, you must admit that Newcombe had us very foul."

And Bob, while he felt thoroughly elated by their victory, did not want
that his partners should come to believe that all difficulties could be
surmounted as readily.

"But what do you mean about changing our quarters?" asked Jim, who
looked upon their hut as something particularly convenient and well
located.

"I mean that we have got to build another shanty somewhere, if we can't
find one ready-made."

"Nonsense! there's no more use of our leaving this place than there is
of our trying to fly!" said Dick. "I ain't afraid that Newcombe will
come here again very soon."

"But I _know_ he will," persisted Bob. "Just as soon as he suspects that
we are about to do any work, he will have so many men around here that
we can't show our noses out of doors without being seen. You think I'm
right, don't you, Harnett?"

"Well, now, see here," replied George, with a laugh, "I think Ralph and
I have had all the moonlighting that is good for us, without going still
further by aiding and abetting you with advice."

"But you can tell us what you think," persisted Bob.

"Well, I suppose I may venture that far, after having participated in
the shooting of the Hoxie well. I don't think that this place is safe
for you any longer, and if I was a member of this firm, I should move
everything from here as soon as possible."

It was plain to be seen that Dick and Jim had great faith in Harnett's
advice on any subject, for as soon as he had spoken all argument was at
an end, and, after a brief pause, Dick asked:

"But where could we go?"

"I think I know of a place as good as this, about five miles up the
valley, where by working a couple of days we could fix things up as well
as we have them here."

"Then let's see to it at once," said Jim, who thought, if they were
obliged to move, the sooner the disagreeable job was over the better.

"I'm ready to start now, if George and Gurney will help us," replied
Bob, quietly.

"If we will help you!" echoed George. "You believe in using your friends
for your benefit, don't you?"

"Well, in this case, it seems as if you might be of great assistance to
us, and yet not do very much violence to your own feelings. You know as
well as I do that the chances are Newcombe or his men are or will be
scouring the country to-day for those who shot Hoxie's well. Now, if
Dick, Jim and I start out alone, and they see us driving about the
country where we presumably have no business, they will follow us, and
good-by to our chances of getting settled very soon. But if you and
Gurney will take your fishing-tackle, Pete and I will go with you in our
double wagon, and while he and I are attending to work, I will show you
as good trout fishing as you ever saw."

It was a skillfully-prepared bait, as he intended it should be, for he
knew that the two friends were fond of fishing, and they knew that he
was an authority on the subject of trout streams.

At first George attempted to excuse himself on the score of having
business to attend to, but it was easy to see that he wanted to go, and
equally plain that Ralph had forgotten all the unpleasant experiences of
the night, in his desire for sport.

"You see, you won't be doing anything in the way of moonlighting," said
Bob, persuasively, "for you will honestly be going out fishing. You need
know nothing whatever about what Pete and I are doing, and since we have
a supply of food sufficient to last at least two days longer, you will
have no better chance than this."

Whether George really had any work to which he should have attended or
not, he evidently put all consideration of everything save sport aside,
for he asked:

"Well, what do you think of it, Ralph?"

"I think it is just as Bob says. We shan't be doing anything but that
which we have a perfect right to do, and if you can remain away from
your business so long, I say let's go."

Bob waited only long enough to hear this decision, and then he went at
once to the stable, where he ordered Pete to harness his horses into the
double wagon, in which they carried their materials when out on
professional business.

The old negro did not hesitate to tell his employer all that Newcombe
had said to him. The detective had offered him ten dollars if he would
answer certain questions, and, understanding that he did not know
anything which could compromise those who hired him, had not thought it
a breach of confidence to take the money.

Newcombe had asked who were in the hut, and Pete had told him, for he
knew the detective was quite as well informed as he was; but when
Newcombe questioned him as to what the boys were about to do, where or
when they were going, he was truly unable to give the desired
information.

This was all the detective had received for his expenditure of ten
dollars, and the old darkey chuckled greatly over the ease with which he
had earned the money.

When the team was ready, Dick and Jim started out for the purpose of
having their horses harnessed, since they had no idea but that they were
to accompany the expedition, but such was not a portion of Bob's plan.

"You must stay here and get the traps ready to be moved," he said, "for
if we should all go, it would be quite as bad, if we were seen, as if we
hadn't George and Ralph with us. Besides, your horses must be fresh for
to-night, for we will hitch them into the torpedo wagon, and it is
necessary that they should be able to get away from anything on the
road, in case Newcombe should take it into his head to chase us."

Both the boys knew Bob was right, and, much as they disliked remaining
at the hut while the others were enjoying themselves fishing, they
quietly submitted to what could not be avoided.

Pete put a few tools into the wagon, Bob added enough in the way of
eatables to last the party twenty-four hours, and, just as the sun was
rising, the real and pretended fishermen started.

The road led directly back through Sawyer, and on the opposite side of
the creek, a fact which showed how necessary it was for Bob to have some
one with him who would give to the journey the semblance of sport,
rather than business.

The horses were driven at a brisk trot, despite the roughness of the
roads, and in less than an hour from the time of leaving the hut Bob
turned his horse into what apparently was the thick woods, but in which
a road, that was hardly more than a path, could just be discerned after
the thicket by the side of the highway had been passed through.

Over logs, stumps and brushwood Bob drove, with a calm disregard to the
difficulties of the way, or to the comfort of himself and his
companions, until a small hut, or, rather, shanty, was reached, when he
announced that they were at the end of their journey.

"Well," said George, as he alighted from the wagon, "so far as being
hidden from view goes, this is a good place; but I fancy it will be
quite a different matter when you try to bring a load of glycerine here.
It would be a job that I should hesitate to undertake."

"We can make the road all right with a few hours' work, and then we will
put up some kind of a shelter for a stable. But just now fishing, not a
roadway for torpedo wagons, is your aim, and, if you and Ralph will
follow right up on this path, you will come to a stream, from which you
can catch as many trout as you want."

Taking a generous lunch with them, and wishing Bob success in his work,
George and Ralph set out for a day's fishing, believing that their
connection with the moonlighters was very nearly at an end.

After leaving Bob, neither of the boys had very much to say about their
adventure of the previous night, for it had terminated so happily that
it no longer worried them, and the thought of the enjoyment they were to
have drove everything else from their minds.

The stream was as promising a one as the most ardent disciple of Walton
could have desired, and but little time was spent, after they arrived at
its banks, before they had made their first cast.

The fish were as plenty as Bob had promised, and, when the time came for
their noon-day lunch, they had nearly full baskets of speckled beauties,
that would weigh from a quarter to three-quarters of a pound each.

During the forenoon they had fished up stream, and, when their lunch was
finished, they started down with the idea that they would reach the path
they had started from just about the time Bob would be ready to return
to the other hut.

On the way down, there was no necessity that they should fish in
company; therefore, each went along as he chose, with the understanding
that the one who reached the path first should wait for the other.

Ralph walked on ahead of George, dropping his line at every
promising-looking place in the stream, but meeting with very poor luck,
as compared with the forenoon's work. He only succeeded in catching
four while returning, when he had captured fully thirty on the way up,
and, owing to the absence of fish, or their disinclination to bite at
his hook, he arrived at the point from which he had started, fully two
hours before he had expected to be there.

But early as he was, he found Bob impatiently awaiting his arrival, and
the moonlighter's first inquiry was for the absent engineer.

"We agreed to fish leisurely down stream, expecting to be here about
sunset," replied Ralph. "I fancy he is meeting with better luck than I
did, and that it will be some time before he gets here."

"Well, we can't wait for him," said Bob, quickly. "We have got
everything so that we can move in to-night, and I want to be off. It
won't do for me to show myself without at least one of you, so we will
send Pete back here to wait for George, and you and I will go on."

"But how shall I meet him?" asked Ralph, not by any means pleased at
this idea of leaving his friend.

"That's easy enough to manage. Go back with me, get Harnett's team, come
back here behind us, get him and drive home to Kenniston's. You will be
there by ten o'clock, and we shall see you at breakfast time."

"But I don't like to leave George, for I promised him I would wait for
him here."

"Ah, that will be all right, for Pete will explain matters to him."

And, as he spoke, Bob dragged Ralph along, regardless alike of his
remonstrances or his struggles.

On arriving at the shanty the old negro was given his instructions, and
without further delay the two started, Ralph feeling decidedly
uncomfortable, for it seemed to him that, in some way, he had no idea
how, he was being forced to take part in another of Bob's schemes.



CHAPTER IX.

THE NIGHT DRIVE OF THE TORPEDO WAGON.


Bob was in such good spirits as he drove along toward the hut he was
about to abandon, that if Ralph had been in the least degree suspicious,
he would have believed that it was a portion of the young moonlighter's
plan to separate him from his friend. Although, if such an idea had
presented itself to Ralph, he would have been at a loss to understand
how such a separation could have affected Bob's interest.

Had the young student been more acquainted with the work of the
moonlighters, however, he would have understood that another wagon
behind the one containing the tools and materials for well-shooting
would aid very decidedly in allowing the first team to escape, in case
it was pursued.

Then again, Ralph did not know that it was against the laws of any town
to convey nitro-glycerine through its streets, and that, in thus moving
his quarters, Bob not only ran the chance of being pursued by the
torpedo detectives, but also by the authorities of the town through
which he must pass in order to get to his new camp.

Had George been with Ralph, the two would simply have driven back to
the hut in the woods, and from there to Farmer Kenniston's home. But, in
his absence, it would be necessary for Ralph to follow Bob back in
Harnett's team for the purpose of taking his friend home.

However earnestly the young student had resolved not to have anything
more to do with the moonlighters, either actively or as a spectator, he
was, by chance and Bob's scheming, aiding them in a more active and more
dangerous way than ever before.

"We shall come right back," said Bob, in a reassuring tone, as he saw
how ill at ease Ralph felt, "and George won't have any longer time to
wait than will be pleasant, because of his weariness."

"Still I had much rather waited for him," replied Ralph.

And then, when it was too late, he began to blame himself for not having
insisted on staying behind as George proposed.

"It is much better this way, because it will be a saving of time for
him," replied Bob.

And then he began to tell stories and make himself generally agreeable,
in order to allay any suspicions that might arise in his companion's
mind.

In this, Bob was so far successful that when they arrived at the hut
where Jim and Dick were waiting, Ralph had nearly forgotten his vexation
at having left George, and believed that no better fellow or more
agreeable companion than Bob Hubbard could be found in all the oil
region.

Dick and Jim had not been idle while the others had been away, and
everything in the hut was made ready for immediate removal.

Bob told them briefly of the hiding-place he had found, and then the
work of loading the wagons was begun, Ralph noting with a slight feeling
of resentment, that George's team was to be loaded as well as the
others.

The torpedo wagon was already laden with its dangerous load, and Bob
showed it to him as a new feature of the oil business which he had not
seen in operation the night previous because of Newcombe's vigilance.

To all outward appearance it was a long-bodied box buggy, with a much
deeper seat than is usually seen, and with a double set of
finely-tempered springs to prevent, as much as possible, any jolting of
the load. When the seat was turned over, working on hinges placed in
front, the peculiar formation of the vehicle was seen. That portion of
the carriage usually covered by the seat, was divided into sixteen
compartments, each padded over springs, and formed with as much care as
a jewel casket. In each of these compartments was a can of
nitro-glycerine, protected from any undue-concussion or jolting by the
springs within as well as without.

At each end, on the left side of the wagon, rose a slender iron rod,
fashioned at the top like the letter U, which was used as a
resting-place for the tin cartridges, and rising high enough to be out
of the way of the driver.

"There are one hundred and twenty-eight quarts of glycerine in that
little cart," said Bob, as he gazed at it admiringly, "and if any one
chooses to chase us through Sawyer, they'll take precious good care that
they don't get very near. You see, the officers must keep up a show of
activity in trying to prevent us from driving through the town; but they
are careful not to run us down too sharply."

Ralph had not the slightest idea of what Bob meant when he spoke of
officers in the town chasing them, and would have asked for an
explanation then had not the moonlighter hurried away to get the other
teams ready.

It was then dark, and the boys were anxious to make the journey as
quickly as possible, for it was a task about which even they did not
feel wholly at ease.

In the carriage Bob and Ralph had just come in, were packed the tools,
provisions, sheet-tin, and such material as made a heavy load, while in
George's buggy, was the bedding and other light articles, which made up
a bulky load, but one in which there was but little weight.

After the three teams had been loaded, the house locked and barred as
carefully as if the inmates were yet within, and the stable door secured
by Jim, who barred it from the interior and then clambered out of the
window in the loft, Bob called his two partners one side for a private
consultation.

Without knowing why, Ralph felt decidedly uncomfortable at this secrecy.
It was true that he had no desire to be told all the details of this
somewhat questionable business, but it seemed to him as if he was in
some way the subject of their conversation--as if he had been and was
again to be duped, and Bob was explaining the scheme to his partners.

It was some time before the private portion of their consultation was
over, and then Bob said, sufficiently loud for Ralph to hear, much as if
that had been all they were talking of:

"Now remember. We are to keep close together until we get through
Sawyer. Then, if we are followed, you are to give me a chance to get
ahead, and you will keep straight on until you tire them out, if you
drive all night. Ralph," he added, "Jim knows the road and you don't, so
I am going to let him drive for you."

Then Bob got into the torpedo-wagon, Dick mounted the one that had come
from the new camp, Jim and Ralph clambered into George's team, and in
that order they started toward the highway, Bob driving leisurely, as if
to keep his horses fresh, in case they were called upon for any unusual
exertion.

The orders Bob had given aroused in Ralph's mind, now that it was too
late to make any objection, the suspicions that his pleasing manner had
lulled. He began to see why it was he had been hurried away before
George came.

The torpedo-wagon was the one that the authorities would attempt to
capture, if they saw it, and George's team, being in the rear, would be
the one that would most likely stand the brunt of the pursuit, in case
one was made. The other two teams being ahead, could turn from the road
into the woods, at a favorable opportunity, while George's horses would
lure the officers away from the tell-tale loads.

Ralph knew perfectly well that had Harnett come from the stream at the
same time he did, his team would not have been used as a "cover," for he
had no desire to implicate himself with the moonlighters, even if they
were his friends, and would possibly have refused to act, or allow his
team to act, any such part.

But while all these ideas passed through Ralph's mind, he was not
certain he was correct in his suppositions, and it was, so he thought,
not advisable for him to say anything until the time came when Bob's
plans were made apparent. Besides, he hoped that the officers would not
see them, that there would be no necessity for flight, and that George's
horses would be restored to their owner, fresh and in good condition.

During the first two miles of their journey, there was nothing to which
the most careful person could have taken objection, unless, indeed, it
was the fact of riding behind a carriage loaded with nitro-glycerine,
which was by no means a pleasant thing to do, and then the little town
of Sawyer was reached.

Up to this time the horses had trotted slowly; but on entering the town,
Bob set the example of driving faster, and all three teams were urged
along at full speed.

It surely seemed as if the moving of the moonlighters' property was to
be accomplished without difficulty, for the outskirts of Sawyer had
nearly been passed before any sign was made that they had been
observed, and then the clattering of horses' hoofs was heard, at the
same time that a voice cried:

"Halt!"

The time had come when Ralph was to learn whether Bob was making a
cat's-paw of him or not, and the suspicions he had had fast became
certainties.

No reply was made by the moonlighters; but the horses were urged to
still greater speed, and the race had begun.

"Don't drive so fast!" said Ralph, believing the time had come for him
to act in George's behalf.

"Why not?" asked Jim, coolly. "They'll overhaul us if we don't put on
all steam."

"And what if they do? This is Harnett's team, and there is no reason why
we should run away."

"What about all these things that are in here?"

"There is nothing here but what we have a perfect right to carry, and I
know that George will be angry by running away from the officers with
his team, which is probably well known. We seem to be doing something
which we have no right to do," said Ralph, sternly, at the same time
that he endeavored to get possession of the reins.

"Look out! Don't make a fool of yourself!" cried Jim, sharply.

And he urged the horses on until he had worked them up into such a state
that it required all his strength to hold them.

To have attempted to seize the reins then would simply have been to
capsize the buggy, for the road was so rough that the least deviation
from the beaten track, at the pace the horses were then going, would
have been fatal, and Ralph was obliged to acquiesce in the flight by
remaining perfectly quiet.

On the horses dashed as if bent on the destruction of the carriage.
Behind could be heard the clatter of hoofs, as the pursuers did their
best to overtake the violators of the law, and in the advance was the
carriage, with its deadly load, that the least concussion would liberate
in all its dreadful power.



CHAPTER X.

THE RETURN.


In the excitement of the flight, and the sorrow caused by the thought of
the injury which was being done his friend, in which he was forced,
unwillingly, to take part, Ralph almost entirely forgot the dangerous
load in advance, until an exclamation of triumph from Jim caused him to
look ahead, when he discovered that Bob was no longer in sight.

Ralph was almost certain that they had just passed the road that led to
the new camp, and equally positive that Bob had driven in at that point,
but there was nothing to show that the torpedo-wagon had been driven in
there, and Jim was too much occupied with his efforts to keep in advance
of his pursuers to answer a question, or even to speak.

George's horses, of whom he was so fond that he would never allow them
to be forced to full speed, were urged by both whip and word until they
could no longer trot, but were running madly on, while the light
carriage swayed from one side of the road to the other, until it seemed
certain it would be overturned.

Ralph was powerless to prevent such use of his friend's property, but
he entered his protest against it by saying:

"This matter of using George's team to permit your own to escape is
something on which I have not been consulted, nor have I been permitted
to say anything about it. I think I understand why Hubbard got me away
from the stream before George came down, and I say to you now, as I
shall say to both of your friends, that it is a mean piece of business,
and one which I would do all in my power to prevent if it was possible
for me to do so without running the risk of doing more harm than good."

"Oh, that's all right," replied Jim, as he tried to urge the already
nearly-exhausted horses to still greater exertions.

But Ralph had no idea as to what he meant by "all right." If he meant
that there was no harm in driving at such a mad pace, Ralph was certain
he was wrong, and if he wished to convey the impression that Harnett
would not be angry, the young student was equally certain he was
mistaken.

The sounds made by the pursuers seemed to be dying away in the distance,
as if the pace was too fast for them, and as Dick guided his team
skillfully into the woods, two miles beyond where Bob had disappeared;
Jim gave vent to another yell of triumph.

The moonlighters' property was safe, and it only remained to be seen how
much Harnett was to suffer by the flight.

The now thoroughly maddened horses were dashing along the rough road at
a most reckless pace, and Ralph shuddered at the thought of what the
result might be if they should meet any teams either coming or going.
But, fortunately, it was so late in the night that thus far they had
seen no travelers, and the only hope was that they would be equally
successful until the wild flight was ended.

On and on Jim urged the horses, with no signs of checking their speed,
until finally, when it was no longer possible to hear any sounds from
the rear, Ralph said:

"I don't hear any one behind, and if you do not pull the horses up soon,
you will ruin them, if, indeed, you have not done so already."

As near as Ralph could judge, they were fully ten miles beyond the place
where Bob had left the road, when Jim began to quiet the frightened
animals, and before another mile had been traveled, he had succeeded so
far as to make them sober down to a walk.

Guiding them to one side of the road, where it chanced to be very broad,
Jim brought them to a full stop, and Ralph leaped out to examine them.

The glossy coats of the beautiful animals were wet with perspiration,
and covered with foam until they looked like white horses marked with
small patches of black; their red, dilating nostrils and heaving flanks
told of the effect the mad pace had had upon them, and they looked as if
it would have been impossible for them to have run another mile.

Ralph even believed that they were already exhausted, and that they were
utterly ruined; but Jim treated his fears as childish, being hardly
willing to follow out the suggestions made.

"If they are not foundered already they will be unless we do something
for them at once. Let's rub them down thoroughly, and then start them
back at a walk."

Jim objected to doing what he considered useless work, and would have
started the exhausted animals on the return at once, if Ralph had not
assumed a tone that startled him.

"During the ride I held my peace, because I could do no good; but now I
want you distinctly to understand that you will do as I say in regard to
caring for these horses, or there will be trouble between us. I should
not hesitate for a moment, after what you have done, to leave you here
and drive back alone."

"You might not hesitate, providing you could get me out of the
carriage," replied Jim, pertly; "but I might have something to say if
you should attempt any interference."

"Look here, Mr. James Lansel," said Ralph, decidedly, trying not to
betray by his voice the anger he felt, "you will please understand now
that I have interfered, and that I shall do exactly what I say. You will
come out here and help me to care for these horses you have abused, or I
shall endeavor to prove to your entire satisfaction which one of us is
master."

While Ralph had been speaking he had unfastened the traces of the
horses, and by the time he concluded, one of the animals was clear from
the carriage. Had he not done so it is extremely probable that Jim
might have tried to run away and leave him, instead of being left. As it
was, however, he apparently did not think it either a pleasant or a safe
operation to measure strength with a boy fresh from school, and after a
moment's hesitation, in a very sulky sort of way he alighted, doing as
Ralph had commanded.

The gallant little steeds were rubbed down well with dried grass; Ralph
rinsed their mouths out as cleanly as possible with water from the side
of the road, but taking good care not to allow them any to drink, and
for an hour the two boys--one through fear, and the other because of his
care for his friend's property--did all they could for the comfort of
the animals.

During all this time Jim had not spoken once, and Ralph was quite
content to let him sulk as much as he wished; he felt as though Jim and
his partners had done him a grievous wrong in placing him in such a
position as made it seem that he had aided in the abusing and temporary
theft of George's horses, and if the entire party of moonlighters chose
to be angry with him he did not care.

At the end of the hour Ralph said to the still angry, injured Jim:

"We will harness them now, and I will drive on the way back."

"You can do just as you please," replied Jim, "I've got nothing to do
with it, and I wash my hands of the whole affair."

"You may wash your hands of this portion of the affair as much as you
please; but you'll take the full share of responsibility for having
driven out here."

Jim made no reply, which was a matter of but little moment, so Ralph
thought; but he assisted in harnessing the horses, and when that was
done, he took his seat in the carriage like a martyr.

Ralph followed him, and, gathering up the reins, he allowed the horses
to choose their own gait going back, a tenderness towards animals that
Jim looked upon with the most supreme contempt.

As a matter of course, their progress was very slow, for the animals
were so weary that they had no desire to go faster than a walk; and
still, without speaking, the two boys rode on, occupying three hours in
returning over the same distance they had come in one.

To find in the night the place into which Bob had driven was an
extremely difficult task, and more than once did Ralph stop the horses
by the side of the road, calling vigorously to George, in the belief
that they had reached the new quarters of the moonlighters.

It was not until after they had made four such mistakes that they heard
George's voice in reply, and then he and Pete came out to lead the
horses in through the thicket of bushes that screened the entrance of
the road.

Ralph saw at once by the look on his friend's face, and the solicitude
with which he examined his horses, that Bob had told the first portion
of the story, which had been more than displeasing to him.

"Did you drive all the way, Ralph?" he asked.

And his tone was far from being as friendly as usual.

"I had nothing whatever to do with the horses or the trip, except to
help rub them down when we stopped, and to drive home," replied Ralph,
almost indignant that George should think even for a moment that he
would have countenanced such a thing.

Harnett said no more then, but busied himself in caring for the animals
by unharnessing and feeding them.

Jim soon joined his partners in the hut, and after he had gone, George
asked Ralph for the particulars of the chase, which were given minutely.

After he had finished the story, not without several interruptions from
George, he asked:

"How long are you going to stay here?"

"Only until morning. I would have gone home to-night if the horses had
not had such a long and hard drive; but as it is, we can do no better
than to stay here a while, and early in the morning we will say good-by
to Mr. Bob Hubbard and his partners, trying to get out of the trouble
they have placed us in as cheaply as possible."

"Why, is there anything new?" asked Ralph, anxiously.

"Nothing save this last scheme of Bob's, and that is quite enough. I
don't consider shooting wells as anything really illegal, for I do not
believe that the patent can be held. But when it comes to violating a
town ordinance by carrying a large quantity of nitro-glycerine through
it in the manner Bob did, I consider a great wrong has been done, for
it endangers the lives of every one living there. We shall probably hear
from it very soon, for my team is well known in Sawyer. Then again, Bob
knew that such a thing would injure me seriously in my business. I set
myself up as civil engineer, and thereby ask people to employ me. That
they will have every reason to refuse to do when they see me mixed up
with Bob Hubbard's mad actions."

Ralph had thought the matter serious enough before; but now he
understood from what George had said just how much trouble might grow
out of it, and all the anger he had felt during the ride was revived.

"I wish I had stopped the horses, as I had a mind to do during the
drive, regardless of whether I smashed the carriage or not," he said,
bitterly. "I felt that things were going wrong in some way when I first
left here with Bob, but I didn't know in what way, and what he said was
so practical that I couldn't give a single good reason as to why I
should not do as he said."

"I'm not blaming you, Ralph, for I know as well as you do that it was
not your fault. It was a portion of one of Bob's schemes, and, without
caring how much he has injured us, he is probably congratulating himself
on its perfect success. But come, let's go and lie down for a little
while, and when we do get away from here in the morning, we will be
careful not to place ourselves where Bob can use us again."



CHAPTER XI.

THE STORM IN THE VALLEY.


Judging from appearances, when they entered the new cabin of the
moonlighters, Ralph concluded that George had said some hard things to
Bob because of the part he had obliged him to play. When the two went in
to get the few hours of sleep they needed so sadly, for they had been
awake during all of the previous night, no one spoke. They were all
having what Ralph afterward described as a grand sulking match; but
neither one of their guests paid the slightest attention to their ill
humor.

It was then very late in the night, and, tired as each one was, it was
but a few moments before the camp was in a state of complete repose,
from which neither moonlighter, engineer nor student awakened until the
sun had been looking in upon them nearly an hour.

If Bob had been cross the previous evening, his sleep had restored him
to his usual good humor, and he greeted Ralph and George with the
cheeriest of smiles.

"I say, old fellow," he began, when Harnett returned from making his
toilet at the brook-side, "I realize that we played you a dirty kind of
a trick in using your team as we did last night; but at the time I was
so anxious to get everything over here all right that I did not stop to
think about it. Of course, I can't undo what has been done, but if any
money trouble comes to you because of last night's work, neither you nor
Gurney shall lose a cent. Try to forget it, won't you, George? Shake
hands with me, and say that you will."

Very few could withstand Bob Hubbard when he spoke as he did then, and
Harnett's anger began to vanish immediately his moonlighting friend
spoke.

"We'll say no more about it, Bob; and I'll believe you wouldn't have
done such a thing to me if you had taken time to think it over," replied
George, as he shook hands not only with Bob, but with the other two.

"Now, Gurney, come right up, and say that you bear no grudge against
Jim. He knows that you were in the right when you insisted on having the
horses cared for, and he would have known it last night if he hadn't got
excited, as he always does when anything is up."

Jim came up with outstretched hand as Bob spoke, and in a few moments
the party were friendly once more, although the determination which
Ralph and George had formed, relative to not visiting the moonlighters
in their haunts again, was still as strong as ever.

With the provisions they had on hand, and the fish that had been caught
the day before, Pete served up such a breakfast as would have tempted
an epicure, and it may be imagined with what zest these hungry boys
attacked it.

Bob and his party intended to remain where they were during that day, at
least, for it would be necessary to do many things to the shanty before
it would be even a secure hiding-place for their goods, and although
they urged that their visitors remain with them, George was still firm
in his determination to return to the Kenniston farm as soon as he had
finished breakfast.

It was not until after Bob had exhausted every other argument in vain
that he said:

"I think it would be much better, George, if you should stay here
to-day, and give the people a chance to cool off in regard to last
night's proceedings. If you go through Sawyer this morning, they
may make it disagreeable for you."

"That is one reason why I am determined to go at once. If any trouble is
to come of your drive, I want it over as soon as possible, and the
sooner I show myself in Sawyer, the more satisfied I shall feel."

"But the chances are that the matter will drop through if you keep out
of sight for a day or two," persisted Bob, almost entreatingly.

"And I don't want it to drop through. If they propose to make any
trouble, I prefer to meet them rather than wait around in the hope that
it will be forgotten. I am obliged to earn my living, and from these
people here, for the time being. Therefore, they will be doing me a very
great favor if they find out exactly how far I am responsible for last
night's work."

It was useless to attempt to persuade George to do other than that which
he had decided upon, and Bob recognized that fact. He said nothing more
against the departure of his guests, but did all in his power to aid
them in getting ready for the journey.

The horses did not appear to be affected in the least by their hard
drive on the previous night, and this, more than anything else, caused
George to feel less hard toward his friends, the moonlighters.

It was nine o'clock in the morning before Ralph and George were ready to
set out, and as they were starting, Bob called out:

"Remember, we shall stand whatever my drive may cost you, and this
evening we will meet you at home."

There was a feeling of positive relief in Ralph's heart when they drove
out into the road, the trees behind shutting out the moonlighters from
view. It was as if he had been suffering from some disagreeable
nightmare, and he would have been thankful it was ended if it was not
for the awakening in the form of driving through Sawyer, liable to be
arrested at any moment.

"George," he asked, at length, "do you really think that what was done
last night will injure your business prospects?"

"I feel so certain of it that I shall begin to make preparations to
leave here as soon as I finish what I have on hand. I certainly know
that I would not employ a man who would deliberately assist in carrying
a large quantity of glycerine through a town, and at the same time drive
in the most reckless manner."

"But you can prove that you were not with the party, and that you knew
nothing of what was being done."

"Yes, I can prove that, if they give me the opportunity, and I am now in
the position of a man who longs most ardently to be arrested, but yet
who does not dare to appear too eager about it."

"I can't say that I want to be arrested," said Ralph, dubiously, "for
father and mother would think I had been doing something terrible; but I
would be perfectly willing to stand it if it would do you any good."

"It is about the only thing that can do me any good," replied George,
decidedly; and then he added, quickly: "But we won't talk any more about
it. Let us enjoy this ride thoroughly, for we have just escaped from the
moonlighters' den. I can't say, however, that our troubles are entirely
over; for, by the looks of those black clouds, we shall stand a chance
of getting a drenching."

It was as George had said. The sky, which had been cloudless when they
started, was now being obscured by black, angry-looking clouds, which
threatened at any moment to break and pour their burden of water upon
the parched earth.

Had they been riding where no shelter could be found, both the boys
would have been alarmed, for there was every indication of a heavy
shower; but since there were houses along the road in which they could
take shelter at almost any moment, they rode on, determined to get as
near as possible to their destination before the storm burst.

George urged the horses along, hoping that they might reach the town of
Sawyer before the rain came; but in this he was mistaken, for, before
they had ridden five minutes from the time he first spoke, the great
drops that acted as _avant couriers_ to the large body of water,
descended, and the boys had just time to drive under a rude shed before
the storm was upon them.

A vivid flash of lightning, followed immediately by a deafening peal of
thunder, was the prelude to as terrific a thunder-storm as the boys had
ever seen, and, as the rain descended in what seemed to be sheets of
water rather than drops, the lightning flashed almost incessantly, while
the thunder roared until it seemed as if the very earth was shaken.

Even George had never passed a summer in this section of the country
before, and he knew no more than did Ralph the destruction often caused
by the electric current where so much inflammable material is stored.

Without a thought of the possible catastrophe that might occur, they
remained under their apology for a shelter, through which the water
poured in anything but tiny streams, looking out at the majestic
spectacle, fearing only that the wind might throw the frail shed down
upon them.

"Look there!" cried Ralph, as an unusually brilliant flash was seen. "It
almost appeared as if the lightning ran entirely around that oil-tank.
I wonder if those are ever struck?"

"It must make sad work if they are," replied George, thinking for the
first time of such a possibility. "In that tank alone there must be
fully thirty-five thousand barrels of oil, and the conflagration would
be something terrible."

He had hardly ceased speaking, when there came a flash that almost
blinded them as it descended directly on the top of a huge derrick,
crackling and hissing as it came, and in what seemed to be the slightest
possible fraction of time, the air was filled with fragments of the
heavy timbers, while, despite the pouring rain, a sulphurous odor was
perceptible.

The derrick had been struck, and its thousand fragments strewed the
earth in every direction.

"How terrible!" cried Ralph, as he covered his face with is hands in
affright, for never before had he witnessed the terrific force of the
lightning's bolt.

George stood at the door of the shed, restless, regardless alike of the
deluge of water that fell upon him, and of the neighing and stamping of
the frightened horses; he was like one fascinated by the awful majesty
of that which he saw everywhere around him.

His gaze was directed toward the largest oil tank in the valley, while
it seemed as if some will stronger than his own impelled him to look at
this enormous construction of iron, filled with its easily ignited
contents; and as he thus stood, awed into silence, it seemed to him that
the largest cloud was rent entirely asunder, while from its very center
a torrent of fire was poured on to the tank, from which the flames
appeared to leap to meet the shaft from heaven.

In an instant the entire body of oil was a seething mass of flames,
while the very rain seemed to add to their fury. One of the largest
tanks in the valley had been struck, and the destruction threatened
every living thing that could not flee to the mountains from the river
of fire that poured out over the shattered iron sides of the tank.



CHAPTER XII.

THE CONFLAGRATION.


The grandeur of the scene upon which George and Ralph looked was
indescribable, the slightest detail of which once seen could never be
forgotten.

The lurid flames, surmounted by the thick, black smoke, towered upward
as if to meet the lightning's flash, and then, as the wind and rain beat
it down for a moment, the heavy clouds of smoke rolled down the valley
like some funereal pall sent in advance of the death and destruction
that was to come.

"What can we do?" cried Ralph, when the awe which the scene had brought
with it gave place to fear for others, and a desire to avert suffering
and destruction.

"We can do nothing," replied George, in a low tone. "We do not even know
how to fight the burning oil, and are powerless to do anything, at least
until others shall come to direct the work."

"But we can surely give the alarm and arouse the people," cried Ralph,
as he attempted to rush out of the shed, but was prevented by George.

"Do you think there is any one within two miles of here who cannot see
that blaze?" asked George, as he pointed to the mountain of flame. "We
can accomplish nothing, therefore we will remain here quiet until those
who are familiar with such scenes shall come."

Ralph recognized the common sense of George's suggestion even when it
seemed impossible that he could remain idle, and while the two stood
outside the shed, regardless of the furious rain, waiting for those to
come who could direct their labor, they witnessed another scene, fitting
companion to the one already pictured.

The lightning flashes were as vivid and rapid as ever, save that the
glare may have seemed a trifle less blinding because of the flames, and
there was no sign that the storm was decreasing. Suddenly, even while it
appeared as if a small whirlwind enveloped a derrick that stood on the
hill on the opposite side of the valley, another storm of fire descended
from the sky, wrapping the heavy timbers in flames without shattering
them, and flinging angry tongues of fire on nearly every timber in the
towering pile.

For a few moments this lofty beacon burned as if trying to outshine the
larger conflagration, and then, as the heat grew more intense, the small
tank at its base became a receptacle for flames, which, overflowing,
poured an angry stream of fire down the side of the mountain, igniting
the various deposits of oil in its course.

In an incredibly short space of time, the valley, which had but a few
moments before been deluged with water, was covered with flames and
burning streams, which the rain appeared to feed rather than
extinguish.

Then, as rapidly as they had come, the storm-clouds cleared away, the
rain ceased, and the sun came out, clear and hot, but unable to send its
rays through the impenetrable clouds of smoke which overhung the
lowland, and wrapped the hills with a sable shroud.

Others besides Ralph and George had seen the first damage done by the
lightning, for, living where such scenes were not infrequent, they
feared, at each threatened storm, just that catastrophe which had
occurred, and a small army of men were already on the scene by the time
the two boys had recovered from the awe which had come upon them with
this second danger that was pouring down upon the valley from the
mountain-side.

It seemed a useless, because impossible, task to attempt to check the
progress of or extinguish the burning oil, and yet the assembled
multitude attacked it with a will that seemed all the more heroic
because of the well-nigh hopelessness of the labor.

Fastening the now thoroughly frightened horses so that they could not
release themselves from the shed, which was situated on ground
sufficiently high to prevent the burning torrent from flowing around it,
Ralph and George threw off their coats and vests, preparatory to doing
what they could to check the course of this servant of man, now become
master.

Quantities of shovels and pickaxes had been brought at the first alarm,
and, armed with one of these, Ralph and George joined the others in
throwing up embankments to check the course of the streams of burning
oil, in order to hold them confined until the liquid should be consumed.

Then women and children were aiding in the work, for it was to save
their homes from destruction that they labored, and foremost among them
ever was George, struggling against the fire-fiend, as if everything the
world held dear to him was in danger of destruction.

Then came the call for volunteers to get the cannon, which were nearly
two miles away, that solid shot might be fired into the tank to open a
passage for the oil not yet ignited, and Ralph was the first to offer
his services.

He had already had some considerable experience in artillery practice,
and when George explained this to some of those who were directing the
work, Ralph was gladly accepted to take charge of the guns.

He was a gunner without any artillery, but twice as many men as were
necessary started at full speed toward the town, and in a short time the
only two cannon that could be procured, without going to Bradford, were
on the ground, while Ralph was hastily preparing the charges of powder.

It may be thought that it would not require much skill to hit, at short
range, such a large object as an oil-tank capable of holding thirty-five
thousand barrels; but since, in order to send the ball through the iron
plates it was necessary to hit it full at the place aimed for, otherwise
the projectile would glance off, it can be seen that Ralph was obliged
to exhibit considerable skill.

While this was being done, the others were throwing up earthworks to
divert the course of the blazing streams, or to dam the oil in such
places as it could burn without damage to other property; and it can
safely be imagined that but little time was spent in watching what the
others were doing.

After George had announced that Ralph had had experience in the use of
artillery pieces, and after the cannon had been brought from the town,
he was left to superintend the work, a sufficient number of men
remaining near to follow his instructions.

The day was a hot one, and the heat from the fire, together with that
from the sun, was almost insupportable; but, stripped of all clothing
that could conveniently be cast aside, each one continued at his
self-imposed task of averting the threatened destruction from the town.

Each moment, despite all that was being done, the flames were creeping
closer and closer to the town, which seemed doomed, and, as the time
passed, every one saw how useless their efforts would be unless the iron
tank could be pierced, allowing a portion of the oil to run off before
it could be ignited.

Many were the entreaties to Ralph to hurry with his work; but, fully
believing the old adage that "haste makes waste," he completed his
operations with deliberation, only hurrying when he could do so without
running any risk of a failure.

"Be quick, Ralph," cried George, as he came up, smoke begrimed, and
bearing many traces of his severe work. "Every moment is more than
precious now; and, even after you begin, you may have to fire several
shots."

"I shall fire only one at each tank," replied Ralph, calmly. "The pieces
were dirty and rusty, and it would have been a waste of both time and
ammunition to have shot with them before they were cleaned. I am ready
now. Both pieces are loaded, and you shall see both balls count."

Ralph had been working as near the blazing tanks as the heat would
permit, and as he finished speaking with George, he shouted for those
near by to stand back. Already had the weapons been aimed, and, with a
blazing stick in his hand, he stood ready to show either his skill or
his ignorance.

Quickly the crowd separated, knowing only too well the value of time,
and Ralph applied the torch.

The explosion was almost deadened by the roar of the flames and the
sharp reports of the iron plates, as they were broken by the heat, but
above all could be heard the crashing of the iron, as the ball, aimed
perfectly true to the mark, made its way into the oil, allowing it to
spout forth in torrents.

"Hurrah! hurrah!" burst from the crowd, as they realized that the boy,
whose skill a moment before they had doubted, had done that which would
have required hours for them to do so successfully, and then on every
side arose the demand that another outlet be opened.

Ralph was perplexed for a moment, since the other cannon was aimed at
the smaller tank, and he had believed that one opening would be
sufficient.

"You will have to put another shot in," cried George. "It will take too
long for the oil to run out of that one hole."

While the crowd were engaged in digging a ditch for the oil that Ralph's
shot had let out, in order that it should not be set on fire by that
which was already blazing, the young student aimed the second cannon.

Again the word was passed for the people to stand back, and a second
ball was sent crashing into the tank with as true an aim as the first.

Then, while all save those who were at work on the dam or helping at the
cannon worked at ditches to carry off the unlighted oil, Ralph made
ready for another volley.

Two perforations were made in the small tank, and two more in the large
one, which admitted of such a discharge of the contents, that all hands
could hasten to the relief of those who were working at the dams.

Already was the day nearly spent, and yet the fire-fiend was raging with
fury hardly abated. The trees had long since fallen before the fiery
blast; the derricks and buildings of the adjacent wells were consumed,
while inch by inch the oil-fed fire crept nearer the town.

George had paid no attention to his horses all this time; in fact, he
had hardly thought of them until, almost exhausted, he was obliged to
rest a few moments, or be entirely overcome by the heat.

Then the recollection of his team, in which he took so much pride, came
to him, and he started towards the shed where he had left them.

One glance back at the fiery torrent, which even the children were
trying to turn from the town, and he realized how important was even one
man's labor in this battle with the flames.

A man on crutches was standing near him as he paused irresolutely, and
to him George said, hurriedly:

"I left a pair of horses in a light carriage in that shed up yonder when
the fire first broke out. Not even one man can be spared from here now,
and yet my team must be attended to. Crippled as you are, you can be of
no service here; therefore, if you will go there and get them, and then
drive them to some stable in town, I will pay you well for your
trouble."

"I'll see that they are well taken care of, and come back here to tell
you where they are," said the cripple, as he started towards the shed.

And George returned to the fight once more.

Had the men been working where it was cool, by their very numbers they
could have checked the advance of the flames; but hot as it was, fully
half who entered the conflict were overpowered by the heat in a very
short time, or obliged to cease their exertions for a while, as George
had done. Therefore, although fresh recruits were arriving each hour,
not one-third of all the force there could be counted upon as able
workers.

It was an hour after George had cared for his horses, as he supposed,
that the cripple whom he had engaged to do the work, approached where he
was, by the side of Ralph, strengthening the banks of the ditch that
carried off the escaping oil.

"I went up to the shed," shouted the man, "but there wasn't any horses
there, nor carriage either."

"Where are they?" asked George, in bewilderment.

"How should I know?" was the reply, in an angry tone.

And then, before anything more could be said, a shout, almost of
despair, arose from those who were working nearer the town--

"The waste oil has caught fire!"

The oil which had been drawn off from the tanks, through the
perforations made by the cannon balls, had been set on fire by the heat
of the blazing stream by its side, and the flames were moving rapidly
toward the two other large tanks in the immediate vicinity.



CHAPTER XIII.

A FRUITLESS SEARCH.


Many conflagrations, caused by the lightning striking an oil-tank, have
been known since the discovery of petroleum; but none had ever been so
disastrous as the one of which the reader has had but an imperfect
account.

Forty-five thousand barrels of oil had been consumed or wasted up to the
time as narrated in the previous chapter, and fully as much more was now
threatened by the overflow, which had taken fire, and was shooting forth
flames most dangerously near the other two large tanks.

At the first alarm the entire force present left whatever they were
working at to combat the new danger, when George and several of those
who, with him, were directing the work, saw at once the peril to which
the town was exposed by this sudden abandonment of the labor which had
been performed for the purpose of presenting an impassable barrier to
the angry flames.

It was impossible that the now nearly exhausted workers could prevent
the flames from attacking the two tanks upon which they were sweeping,
and if vain labor was spent upon that quarter, the enemy would, beyond
a doubt, gain possession of the town.

To keep the men from neglecting the safety of their homes to try
uselessly to save property which could easily be replaced, was
absolutely necessary, and the length of time required to persuade them
to return to the work they had first been engaged in would decide the
fate of the village.

Leaping directly in front of what had almost become an unreasoning mob,
George and Ralph tried by their strength to resist the impulsive dash
forward, at the same time that they shouted at the full strength of
their lungs the reason why the work nearer the town should not be
neglected.

For some moments it seemed as if they would be trampled under the feet
of the frightened multitude, and then their coolness won the victory
over unreasoning fear, as it always will whenever displayed.

The people returned to the more important labor the moment they
understood how fruitless would have been their work in the other
direction, and George aided them by his efforts and advice, while Ralph,
with a dozen assistants, began a cannonading of the other two tanks that
were just beginning to add their fuel to the fearful blaze.

The breeze, which, caused by the heated air, always springs up during a
conflagration, now rolled the thick, black smoke first in one direction
and then in another, until those who had not already succumbed to the
heat were nearly suffocated, and it seemed impossible that any one could
continue at his work.

The sun had set, although that fact was hardly noticed, since for
several hours the heavy smoke had veiled the scene as with the mantle of
night, through which the flames glowed and flashed luridly.

In the struggle between the men and the flames, first one and then the
other gained a victory; but neither had made any progress.

Ralph and his assistants had opened vent-holes for the oil in the
last-attacked tanks, thereby preventing fully half the oil from
combustion, although it was entirely lost.

The female portion of the workers had long since desisted from any
effort to check the flames, and had continued their work by preparing
food for the laborers, carrying it to them that they might not be
obliged to spend any more time than was absolutely necessary in getting
it.

During all that long night the people worked in relays, that each might
have an opportunity for rest, and when morning came the flames were
well-nigh subdued--not so much through the exertions of those who fought
against them, as because of the fact that there was nothing more
remaining for them to feed upon.

By that time a small body of watchers, in order to see that the
remaining flames did not overleap the boundaries set, was all that was
necessary at the place where ninety thousand barrels of oil had been
consumed or wasted, and for the first time since the thunderstorm had
cleared away, Ralph and George felt that they were at liberty to go
where they chose. Both were begrimed by the smoke until it would have
puzzled their best friends to tell whether they were white men or
negroes, and both were in a very dilapidated condition, so far as
clothing was concerned.

The garments they had cast off when the work of fighting fire was begun,
had been tossed about, trampled on, or scorched until they could no
longer be called serviceable, and, half-clothed, dirty and
disreputable-looking generally as they were, they started wearily for
the town in search of rest, and, what was quite as important, a bath.

Many times during the night had George thought about his missing horses;
but it was not until he was relieved from all care which the
conflagration had caused, that he began to grow seriously alarmed. It
did not seem possible that any one could have stolen them, and he
cheered himself with the thought that they had simply broken loose and
run away, or that some one living near by had cared for them.

A visit to the shed where the team had been left dissipated this first
supposition, for there was every indication that the horses had been
taken by some one, since no broken harness was there to tell of flight,
and the door was carefully closed behind them, showing an excess of
precaution on the part of some one, since both doors had been left wide
open when George drove in.

"Some one must have recognized them as yours, and taken them away
thinking they were not safe while the fire was raging so furiously,"
said Ralph, after the survey of the shed was completed, and George
believed such was the case.

"At all events, we will get a bath and borrow some clothes first; then
we can soon find out where they are," said George.

And in pursuance of this plan the boys started towards Sawyer, so weary
that it seemed almost impossible for them to walk.

It was not a difficult matter for two who had worked as hard and done as
much service as George and Ralph, to get all they required at the town,
once they arrived there, and the bath had revived them so much that both
were in favor of finding the team at once, in order that they might get
what else they required at the Kenniston farm.

Under ordinary circumstances they could have hired a team with which to
search for their own; but now, with every one in that state of
excitement or prostration which follows such scenes as the inhabitants
of Sawyer had just passed through, it was almost impossible to find any
one sufficiently calm to transact the most ordinary business.

Twice George made the attempt to hire a horse, and then he gave up what
promised to be a useless effort, both he and Ralph thinking it better to
pursue their inquiries on foot than waste their time by trying to hire a
team, and being obliged to walk after all.

They began the search by making inquiries in town, of any one whom they
met, and by going to each stable or even barn, looking in each place
large enough to shelter the team; but without seeing any signs of it
whatever.

Then they started up the road in the direction from which they had just
come, and at the dwelling nearest the shed where the team had been
left, they heard the first tidings.

The lady living in this house knew George's team, and said that while
the fire was at its height, when she had come to her house for the
purpose of getting food to carry to her husband, she had seen two men
drive toward Sawyer in it. The men were entire strangers to her, she
said, and they were driving at full speed, but whether that was due to
the fear the horses had of the flames, or to a liberal use of the whip,
she was unable to say. She described the men as being young and well
dressed, and was quite positive that she had never seen them before.

George's first thought was that his friends, the moonlighters, had taken
the horses away, as a favor to him, and this belief was strengthened
when, on questioning the woman closely, he learned that she did not know
either Jim or Dick even by sight.

"They probably came down when they saw the smoke," said George,
confidently, to Ralph, "and on finding the team here, knowing we were at
work, have carried it to Farmer Kenniston's."

"I should have thought they would have tried to find us first, so as to
let us know what they were going to do," said Ralph.

"In order to have found us, they would have been obliged to meet some of
the people here, and they probably did not think that safe, even though
everyone had so much to attend to."

"But they would have left word with someone," insisted Ralph.

"That would have been as bad as to show themselves. Bob probably wants
to make it appear that he hasn't even been in this section of the
country, and if any trouble comes of carrying the glycerine through the
town, he will insist that he hasn't been here."

Ralph was far from being as positive that they would find the horses at
the Kenniston farm as his friend was, but he contented himself with
waiting until it could be proven, rather than to provoke an argument
when it seemed that, under any circumstances, they had better return
there.

After some considerable difficulty, the boys found a man who, for a
generous consideration, would carry them to the farm in his wagon, drawn
by a slow, methodical-moving horse, and they set out, George's fears for
the safety of his team entirely allayed, and Ralph's increasing each
moment.

In order to make sure that the horses had been driven toward the farm,
and not in the direction of Jim's home, George made inquiries of all he
met on the road, as well as at several of the houses.

Quite a number of people had seen the team, driven along at full speed
by two young men, and had noticed it particularly because they believed
it had been sent to Bradford to get assistance in extinguishing the
fire.

This continued news caused George to be positive that his horses were
safe at the farm, and in the rapid driving he recognized, or thought he
did, Jim's presence, for that young gentleman was always anxious to get
over the road as fast as possible.

But when they had arrived within a mile of Farmer Kenniston's home,
they received information of the team which had the effect of arousing
George from his dream of fancied security, so far as his horses were
concerned.

A farmer who was well acquainted with all three of the moonlighters, had
seen the horses as they were driven past his home on the afternoon of
the previous day, and he was positive that neither Bob, Jim nor Dick was
in the carriage. The men were young, well dressed, and strangers, so far
as George's informant knew, and he was certain that they had not been in
Sawyer, nor in the vicinity, any length of time.

This aroused all of George's fears, and it was with the greatest
difficulty that he could restrain his impatience until the farm-house
was reached, when the first question asked was as to whether the horses
were there.

Farmer Kenniston was surprised that such a question should be asked, for
he had seen the team going toward Bradford the day previous, and, as it
was in advance of him at the time, he had no doubt but that it was
George who was driving.

That the horses had been stolen there could no longer be any doubt, and
how they could be recovered was just what neither of the boys could
decide.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE PURSUIT.


It was some time before the boys, even with the aid of Farmer
Kenniston's not very valuable advice, could decide upon what course to
pursue for the recovery of the stolen property. The plan which met with
the most favor, however, was that they should take one of the farmer's
teams, and follow in the direction the men had been seen to drive, which
was evidently through Bradford. By making inquiries on the road, they
might be able to track the thieves and overtake them, although this
seemed hardly probable, because of the start of nearly twenty-four hours
which the men had.

If the trail led through Bradford, they could there notify the
authorities, and also telegraph to the different towns near by; and if
it did not, it was decided that Ralph should leave George, going by
himself to try to intercept the thieves by the aid of the electric
current.

Farmer Kenniston's best horse, which, by-the-way, was not a very
valuable animal, was soon harnessed into a stout wagon, and the boys set
out, having but little faith in the success of their journey.

George had taken with him all the money he had, which was a trifle over
two hundred dollars, since they might not only be gone a long while, but
it was quite possible that if they did recover the team, they would be
obliged to incur some heavy expenses.

Ralph had one hundred dollars, which his father had given him for the
necessary bills while on his vacation, and this he offered to George, in
case he should need on the journey any more than he had. Thus the boys
were, as they believed, amply provided with money, and they intended to
follow the thieves just as long as they could track them.

On the road to Bradford, George met two men who had seen the team the
day before, and they drove into the town, confident that the men they
were in pursuit of had entered there the day previous.

Before trying to learn who had seen the horses, George went directly to
the chief of police, told his story, and was assured that before morning
at least the direction in which the men had gone should be made known.

Under the officer's direction, telegrams were sent to different points
where it was thought probable the thieves might go, and, so far as the
boys were concerned, nothing more could be done until the officers, who
had been sent out to find some news of the team during the time it had
been in Bradford, should return.

George was not by any means in the mood to remain idle while waiting for
the policemen's report; for the loss of his team, in which he had taken
so much pride, weighed heavily upon him. Instead of waiting in the
police office for some news, he insisted on going out to make inquiries
on his own account, and, as a matter of course, Ralph accompanied him.

It is an easy matter in the country to stop at each house and inquire if
the occupants have seen a team pass; but the boys found that such a
system could hardly be pursued in the city, since a gentleman might feel
insulted if any one should stop him in the street to ask if he had seen
a pair of horses, attached to a light wagon, pass there twenty-four
hours before.

This difficulty had not presented itself either to George or Ralph,
until they were on the street, ready to pursue their investigations, and
then they were sadly puzzled to know what to do.

While they were standing irresolutely in front of the police quarters,
trying to make up their minds how they should proceed, George was
accosted by a rough, but pleasant-looking old gentleman, who appeared
very glad to see him, and at the same time acted as if he was in deep
trouble about something.

"I am powerful glad to see yer, Mr. Harnett; for I conclude that you've
forgotten all about the promise you made to drive out an' see us every
time you had the chance."

"And I'm glad to see you, Mr. Simpson," replied George, as he introduced
Ralph to Mr. David Simpson. "I have by no means forgotten my promise to
call upon you, for I spent too many happy hours while I was boarding
with you, when I was surveying the Walters' property, to ever forget
that I should like to go again. I have been at work near Farmer
Kenniston's, and have not had the time to pay you a visit. But now that
I shall have more leisure, I will drive out some day and bring Ralph
with me."

"I would be powerful glad to see you, Mr. Harnett," said the old man,
sadly; "but it won't be in the old home, and the good Lord only knows
where the remainder of my old life will be spent."

"What do you mean, Mr. Simpson?" asked George, in surprise; for the
sadness visible on the old man's face astonished him quite as much as
the singular words did.

"It means, Mr. Harnett, that I've lost the old place I was raised on,
and all for the lack of a little money. You know that I helped poor Tom
set himself up in business by mortgaging the farm. If the poor boy had
lived, he would have paid it all; but jest when we thought he was
gettin' along so famously, he died. I've walked the streets of this town
all day, hopin' I could find some one who would help me make up the
balance I owe; but the fire yesterday makes everybody feel poor, I
s'pose, an' I couldn't borrow a dollar; so I'm goin' home now to tell
mother that we've got to leave the home where all our babies were born,
and where they all died."

The old man could not prevent the tears from gathering in his eyes as he
spoke, and both the boys felt an uncomfortably hard lump rise in their
throats as he finished.

"Can't you persuade your creditor to give you longer time?" asked
George.

"I've just come from his office, where I begged harder of him than I
ever begged of man before to take what money I had and wait a year
longer; but he wants my back pasture to piece on to his own, and says he
will foreclose to-morrow," replied the old man.

And then, as if conscious that he was obtruding his own sorrows on one
whom he had no right to burden with them, he would have changed the
conversation; but George prevented him by asking:

"How much did you owe him, Mr. Simpson?"

"Well, you see, I'd kept the interest paid up reg'lar, an' it come to
jest the face of the mortgage, five hundred dollars. I'd managed to
scrape up two hundred an' twenty-five, an' up to this mornin' I'd
reckoned on sellin' the wood lot for enough to make up the balance. But
when the fire come yesterday, the man who was to buy it--'Siah Rich--had
lost so much that he couldn't take it."

"Was you to sell him the wood-lot for two hundred and seventy-five
dollars?"

"Yes, an' I think it was well worth that. I didn't really need it, an'
if I could only have sold it I'd been all right, but now the whole
thing's got to go. I don't care so much for myself, but it'll come
powerful hard on the wife, for she does set a store by the old place, if
it is rough-lookin'."

George beckoned to Ralph to step aside with him, but there was no need
of any consultation just then, for the latter said, quickly:

"I know what you mean, George, and here is all I have got."

As he spoke Ralph handed his friend the roll of bills which was to
enable him to spend a long vacation, and then turned away, as if not
wanting to embarrass the old gentleman by his presence.

"Mr. Simpson," said George, as he added his own money to that which
Ralph had given him, "between the two of us we have got enough to buy
your wood-lot, and here is the money. Pay the mortgage this afternoon,
and then you can make out a deed to these two names."

George wrote his own and Ralph's name on a slip of paper, which he
handed to the old man at the same time he gave him the money.

"But I can't take this, Mr. Harnett," he said, while at the same time
his face showed how delighted he would be to keep it. "You and your
friend don't want my wood-lot, an' you only offer me this money because
I have been tellin' you of my troubles, like a beggar, an' an old fool
that I am. Take it back, Mr Harnett, an' mother an' I won't feel half so
bad about goin' away when we've once left."

"But suppose I tell you that we want to buy the land on a speculation?"
said George, with a smile. "There may be oil there, and we may want to
sink a well."

"You wouldn't buy that land if it was oil you were after. One time I did
think we might strike it, but those as know told me there wasn't any
there, after they'd looked the property over," replied the old man, as
with trembling hand he held the money toward George.

"Well, we'll buy the land, anyway," said the young engineer, with a
smile. "You have said that it was worth that amount of money, and we may
be able to sell it for more than we paid you, even if there isn't any
oil. So have the deed made out, and leave it for me at Farmer
Kenniston's."

Then, before the old man could make any further reply, George walked
swiftly on, followed by Ralph, and Mr. Simpson was left to enjoy the
generosity which enabled him still to retain the home that was made dear
both to him and his wife by so many pleasant, and at the same time sad,
recollections.

"Well?" he said, inquiringly, when he and Ralph had left Mr. Simpson
some distance behind, wondering if the good fortune which had come to
him was real or not.

"Well?" repeated Ralph, laughing. "I suppose you mean to ask if I am
sorry for what I have done? Not a bit of it, for I can get father to
give me money enough to pay for my ticket home, while, simply at the
expense of a little enjoyment, we have made that old man happy. But how
will it affect you, George? How can you search for your horses if you
have no money?"

"From the united funds we have twenty-three dollars left, and if that is
not enough then the horses must remain lost, for I would willingly have
given them up rather than that Mr. Simpson and his wife should have been
turned homeless into the world."

"If you think that way, then I think we have done a good thing, and we
certainly ought to feel that we are of considerably more importance in
the world, since we are landed proprietors. But we must look at the
property before I go home, for I want to see it; and now come with me
where I can write a letter to father, for the longer I stay now, the
more deeply in debt shall I be."

"You're not going to shorten your vacation because of lending this
money, Ralph, for you shall live with me, and the only inconvenience you
will suffer will be the lack of money to spend."

Ralph was not so certain that he would become a burden on George simply
because he had expended some money in charity; but just at that moment
there was no need of discussing it; and he proposed that they return to
the police head-quarters in order to find out if the detectives had
learned anything about the team.

Greater good fortune awaited them here than they had thought possible,
for when they returned the officers furnished them with the complete
description of the men, and reported that they had, indeed, driven into
Bradford the afternoon before, but, during the night, had returned by
the same road they had come, stating that they were going to Babcock.



CHAPTER XV.

THE ARREST.


It was evident, from the information brought by the police, that the men
who had stolen Harnett's team had driven to Bradford simply for the
purpose of deceiving any one who might search for them, and that they
would push on into New York State, where they might find a better
opportunity of disposing of their ill-gotten property.

Under the circumstances there was nothing the boys could do save return
by the road they had come, and, since it was necessary to do this, it
was as well that they should sleep that night in the Kenniston
farm-house as in Bradford, where they would be obliged to spend some of
their small store of money for lodging and breakfast.

As soon, therefore, as they had received from the chief of police all
the information he could impart, they started toward home, neither
nearer nor further from the object of their search.

All that they had done on the way down would have necessarily to be done
over again, in the hope of learning of the thieves on their return, and
no time was to be lost in this second search.

Of course, if the men had started from Bradford in the night, there
would be no use in inquiring for them anywhere between there and some
distance from Sawyer; therefore, the boys decided that they would sleep
at the Kenniston farm that night, recommencing the pursuit at an early
hour next morning.

When they reached the farm-house they found Bob Hubbard awaiting their
arrival; he had come there two hours before, and when, on asking for
George, he was told that the engineer had gone in search of his horses,
had told the farmer that, while he did not intend to remain there during
the night, he would wait for George's arrival, which he was certain
would not be long delayed.

Not knowing Bob's reason for expecting George's return, when it seemed
certain he would be away some time, Farmer Kenniston was considerably
mystified by his guest's manner; but the reason for his thus speaking
was soon explained when, at a late hour in the evening, George and Ralph
did arrive.

"I knew you would come back to-night," said Bob, as he rushed out to
meet the friends whom he had not treated exactly as it would seem
friendship demanded, "for I knew, if you learned anything at all, you
would find it necessary to come back this way."

"Why, what do you know?" asked George, quickly.

"When I tell you that I knew your team had been stolen even before you
did, you must admit that I know something about it," replied Bob,
feeling fully how important he was just then.

"Don't be long-winded now, Bob," said George, sharply; "for you know how
anxious I am."

"I'll tell you all I know, and I think I may be able to make amends for
the trick we played upon you in using your team the other night, unless
you think it was because of that that you had your horses where they
could be stolen."

"Tell me what you have heard of my team!" exclaimed George, impatiently.

"Jack Roberts told me, this afternoon, that he saw two fellows in your
carriage about midnight, and that they stopped all night, or at least
the remainder of it, in the woods just above our camp. I went up there
with him about five o'clock, and it didn't seem as if they could have
been gone more than an hour before we got there."

"Did you find out which way they went?"

"As near as could be told by the tracks, they kept straight on toward
Babcock."

"That's where they said they were going," said Ralph, excitedly,
delighted at this confirmation of the policeman's story.

"From the looks of the place where they stayed last night, I should say
that they don't know very much about camping out," continued Bob. "They
just hitched the horses to a tree, and laid down on the ground, with a
few boughs under them, instead of putting up a shelter, which wouldn't
have taken ten minutes. I found pieces of newspaper, in which had been
food, scattered around. So I fancy their arrangements for the journey
were made very hurriedly and incompletely. I don't think they had hay
or grain for the horses, for I couldn't find any signs of either."

It was evident that Bob had examined the ground thoroughly in
expectation of a chase, and as he gave what was really valuable
information, gathered simply from a desire to aid his friend, George was
perfectly willing to forgive him for any and everything he had ever done
against him.

"Then we won't stop here to-night," said the owner of the stolen horses,
hurriedly. "If they left there this afternoon, we may stand a chance of
overtaking them to-night. You needn't take the horse out, Mr. Kenniston,
for we will start right off again."

"Do you think there is any chance of overtaking your horses, even if
they haven't had any grain, with this poor old nag of the farmer's,
whose greatest speed has been shown in front of a plow?"

And Bob laughed gleefully at the idea.

"It is the best horse I can get just now," said George, fretfully; for
he could not see anything very comical in the fact of being thus
hampered in the pursuit.

"There's where you are mistaken, my dear boy," replied Bob, in his old,
lofty way. "My horses are as fast, and I'm inclined to think a little
faster, than yours. When Jack told me what he had seen, I thought there
was a chance to pay off old scores. So I harnessed into the light double
wagon, put in some blankets, and come here. While I have been waiting
for you, I have got a good-sized lunch from Mrs. Kenniston, a bag of
grain from the farmer, and now we are ready to start, even if we drive
to the lake."

"Bob, you are a good fellow," exclaimed George, as he grasped the
moonlighter by the hand, and made a mental vow that he would never speak
harshly to him again.

While they had been talking, Farmer Kenniston had backed Bob's horses
out of the shed, where their master had left them, that the journey
might be commenced as quickly as possible, and the boys got into the
wagon at once, George and Ralph on the back seat, and Bob in front.

That the chase would be an exciting one, in case they should get within
sight of the thieves, was shown by the way Bob's horses started off,
and, for the first time since he was convinced of his loss, George began
to have some hopes of regaining his property.

"There is one danger in our chasing those fellows in the night," said
Bob, after they had started, "and as to whether you will take the risk,
you must decide. They will probably spend this night as they did last
night--in the woods. Of course, we could not see in the dark if an
ox-cart had driven into the woods, and we run every chance of driving
past them. Then again, if we wait until morning, we are just so much
further behind. Now, what will you do?"

"I hardly know," replied George, after considerable thought. "What is
your advice?"

"Well," and Bob spoke like one who has already decided the matter in his
own mind, "my idea is that they won't stop this side of Babcock, and I
am certain they won't stop in the town. So I think we shall be safe to
drive as far as there. The chances are that the thieves will drive
through the town in the night, and stop in the first likely place they
come to on the other side. We can start in the morning again, about as
early as they can."

"Then that is what we will do," said George, satisfied that Bob had
deliberated upon this plan until he was convinced it was the best that
could be done.

"Do you believe we shall catch them?" asked Ralph, speaking for the
first time since he had met Bob.

"Catch them!" echoed the moonlighter. "I wish I was as sure of striking
a thousand-barrel well as I am that we shall be interviewing the young
gentlemen before to-morrow night."

But if Bob's hopes of striking a big well had been dependent upon
catching the thieves before the next night, he would never have made a
success in the oil region, save as a moonlighter.

"There is our wood-lot," said George, as he pointed to a grove on the
opposite side of the creek, near which a very old and a very dilapidated
house could be seen.

Bob was curious, of course, to know what George meant, and, after the
story had been told him, he said:

"It was a big thing for you to do, boys, and Simpson probably
appreciates it as much as any man could; but I tell you for a fact that
you will get your reward for that good deed sooner than you expect.
There's oil in that same wood-lot, and I've sort of reckoned on buying
it myself some day. If I had known how Simpson was fixed, it would have
been mine before now, for two hundred and seventy-five dollars is cheap
for ten acres, even if there is nothing there but rocks."

"But Simpson says he has had oil men examine the place, and there's
nothing there," said George, half believing Bob had some good reason for
speaking as he did.

"Yes, he had a lot of old fogies there who couldn't tell the difference
between oil and a tallow candle. They walked around ten minutes,
collected twenty-five dollars from the old man, and then walked away.
Simpson was probably paying ten per cent to old Massie, for I've heard
he was the one who held the mortgage, and if he could have got half the
amount loaned, don't you suppose he would have waited any length of time
if he hadn't seen a chance to make more? Massie knows the oil is there
as well as I do, and the old miser thought he was going to get the whole
farm for his five hundred dollars. Why, the old fellow would choke both
of you boys if he could get hold of you just now."

Bob laughed long and loud at the way in which the money-lender had
over-reached himself, and it is hard to say just how long his merriment
would have lasted, since it received a sudden check.

They were then just entering the town of Sawyer, and a man had stepped
into the road, as if to speak to the party, seizing one of the horses
by the bridle as they approached him, to make sure of being heard.

"Hello! What's the matter now?" asked Bob, who had not noticed the man,
and was surprised at the sudden stopping of his team.

"I wished to speak with you for a moment," said the man, as he fumbled
in his pocket with his disengaged hand, and then as he produced some
papers, he said: "I arrest you, Mr. Robert Hubbard, and you, Mr. George
Harnett, for violating a town ordinance by carrying nitro-glycerine
through the streets."

George had said he hoped he would be arrested, in order that he might
show he had not been guilty of such a violation, but when he expressed
the wish, he could have had no idea that the arrest would be made just
at the moment when, in order to recover his team, it was necessary for
him to be free.



CHAPTER XVI.

PLEADING FOR LIBERTY.


This arrest, coming just when it did, was a complete surprise to George.
He had hoped a few hours before that it would come, in order that he
might have an opportunity of showing that he was innocent of that which
was charged against him, simply because his team had been the one the
officers had chased. But to be deprived of his liberty now, when every
moment was precious, seemed to be doubly disastrous.

To be prevented from chasing the thieves when he was at last on the
track of them, was to lose his horses beyond any probable chance of
recovery, while to have forty-eight hours of liberty just then, was, as
he thought, almost a guarantee that he could recover his stolen team.

Bob was even more excited by the arrest than George. He had the pleasing
thought that he was guilty of the offense charged, added to the
disappointment at not being able to aid his friend in recovering the
property which he was the remote cause of being lost.

He knew, as well as did George, that at the worst they would only be
fined for violating the town ordinance; but it was the loss of time
just then that made the matter a serious one, and he resolved to do his
best to secure their liberty for a short while longer, at all events.

"I won't say anything about myself," said Bob, with a laugh, "for I
don't suppose my reputation as a steady young man is first-class; but
you, Mr. Constable, as well as nearly every one in Sawyer, know Harnett,
and you know he will keep his word. While he was helping extinguish the
fire yesterday, his pair of horses and carriage were stolen. We have
just got on the track of the thieves, and if we are obliged to remain
here now, there will be no chance of recovering the property. Now, if
you will give us our liberty, Harnett will give you his word that we
will return here at any time you shall set."

"That is hardly a regular way of doing business, Mr. Hubbard," said the
man, with a smile, that showed he had no hard feelings against those
whom he was obliged to arrest; "and if it was your word alone that I was
asked to take, I am afraid I should be obliged to refuse. I'm doubtful
as to whether I ought to even consider the matter."

"Of course you ought," said Bob, quickly. "Now, if we should be
convicted, the penalty is only a fine, and we can leave you as much
money as would be required to pay those as security that we will
return."

"I suppose in that case, and if Mr. Harnett promises that both you and
he will come here a week from to-day, I might take the risk of any
accident that would prevent you from appearing."

"Now that's what I call acting squarely," said Bob, in a satisfied way;
and George asked:

"How much money will be necessary to satisfy you that we will appear for
trial?"

"Well, I don't suppose the fines will be over fifty dollars. So, if you
leave that amount with me, you can keep on in search of the thieves,
whom I hope you will catch."

Ralph's heart, which had been very light when he saw that there was a
chance they might continue their journey, sank again when the officer
mentioned the amount of security he demanded, for he knew that the
united funds of his and George's fell far short of the sum, and what
little they had would be actually necessary for their expenses on the
road.

"How much money have you got, Bob?" asked George, speaking in a low,
determined tone, that told plainly how anxious he was to be in pursuit
once more, and of the sacrifice he would be willing to make in order to
be released from the meshes of the law, even if it was only for a few
days.

"I can't say exactly, but I'll promise you it isn't very much," replied
Bob, carelessly, as if he did not think the amount of any great
importance.

And, after rummaging in all his pockets, he succeeded in producing one
very ragged-looking twenty-dollar bill.

"That's the size of my fortune," he said, as he handed the money to
George, as if the matter was already ended.

George had twenty-three dollars, all of which he would undoubtedly need
before he returned; but, willing to run any risk rather than be longer
delayed, he said to the officer:

"It happens very unfortunately, but we have not got fifty dollars
between us. If you will take my solemn promise that both Bob and myself
will meet you here a week from to-day, and also that I will report to
you on our return, together with this forty dollars, you will be doing
us a favor which shall not be forgotten."

The man hesitated for a moment, and Bob said, impatiently:

"Oh, take the money, and let us go. You have got really more than the
fine will amount to, for I promise you that Harnett can prove by us all
that he had nothing to do with violating the ordinance. I simply got
possession of his team to deceive you."

"I shall be here when the case is called," said George, quietly; "for I
am very anxious to show that I had nothing whatever to do with the
matter; so please let us get on."

"Well, I guess there's no trouble about it, and I don't believe any one
will blame me for accommodating you, in view of all the circumstances,"
said the officer, as he stepped back from the wagon in order that they
might drive on. "I hope you will succeed in getting your team, Mr.
Harnett. Good-night, gentlemen!"

"Good-night!" cried Bob, as he started the horses with a jerk that
nearly threw his passengers from their seats.

And in another instant they were riding at full speed in the direction
of Babcock.

"I hardly know what we had better do," said George, thoughtfully. "Here
we are starting out on what may be a long journey, with only three
dollars in our pockets, and I am not sure but that we ought to go back
to town to try to get some more."

"That would never do," replied Bob, decidedly. "If we should do that we
could not get to Babcock to-night, and that we must do, if we expect to
catch the thieves. We have got food and grain enough to last a day and a
half or two days, and we can rough it in the woods, as the men we are
chasing are doing."

George would have preferred decidedly to be able to go to a hotel at
night, rather than to camp in the woods; but Bob and Ralph were only too
well pleased at the idea of living a gipsy life, therefore it was
decided to keep on, or, more properly speaking, since no one made any
objection to the plan, Bob continued to urge the horses on in the
direction the thieves were supposed to have gone.

The night was not so dark but that they could drive a good pace, but had
it been daylight there is no question but that Bob's horses would have
shown considerably better speed, for their driver was anxious to reach
Babcock early, in order that the animals might have as long a rest as
possible, before starting on their journey next day, which would likely
be a hard one.

Bob sang, laughed, and acted generally as if he was in the best of
spirits, while Ralph joined in with him, for he enjoyed this night-drive
immensely; but George remained silent, his great desire to get on faster
causing the speed at which they were traveling to seem very slow.

It was some time past midnight when they arrived at Babcock, and much as
they liked to camp out, both Ralph and Bob would have been better
satisfied, just then, if they could have remained all night at the
hotel, for they were so tired that sleeping in the open air had not as
many charms for them as usual.

"Here's where we would have stopped if we had not been obliged to give
up all our money," said Bob, as they drove past the hotel. "But now that
we are nothing more nor less than three-dollar paupers, we shall be
obliged to do as the thieves are probably doing--make up our bed under
the greenwood, or some other kind of a tree."

"It might be worse," said George, who was beginning to recover some of
his cheerfulness as his companions lost theirs, "and we will stop at the
next clump of trees."

"There will be no doubt about our finding accommodations," laughed Bob,
"unless our friends who are the cause of this excursion have engaged all
the promising-looking groves."

Above half a mile from the town the road ran through a piece of dense
woods, which shut out even the faint rays of the moon, and Bob stopped
the horses, while George and Ralph explored, as well as possible in the
darkness, for a chance to make a camp.

A small, open space, surrounded by bushes, about ten yards from the
road, was the best place they could find, and preparations for the night
began at once.

The horses were unharnessed and the carriage backed in among the trees,
where it would not be seen by any one who might pass during the night.

The horses were fastened to a couple of trees, where they could feed
without danger of getting their halters entangled among the bushes, and
each was given a generous supply of grain.

Among other things which Bob had placed into the carriage while waiting
at the Kenniston farm was a water-pail, and with this on his arm he
started out in search of water for the horses, while George and Ralph
attended to the making of what could only be an apology for a camp.

The blankets, cushions and rug were taken from the carriage, and were
spread on the ground over a small pile of brush, for the boys were too
tired to make any elaborate arrangements for the night.

The carriage cushions formed the pillow to this one bed which was to
serve for all three, and with the rug and one blanket under them, and
the other blanket over them, George thought they would get along very
comfortably.

Bob was not long in finding plenty of water for the horses, and when he
returned with it, after it was decided to go supperless to bed, in order
to save the provisions, all three lay down on the hastily-improvised
bed, little dreaming that they were within but a few rods of those whom
they were pursuing.



CHAPTER XVII.

NEAR NEIGHBORS.


As may be imagined, the sleep which visited the three boys was not as
profound as it would have been had they been in bed at Kenniston farm.
In the first place, the bed of brush, which had seemed so soft when they
first lay down, seemed suddenly to have developed a great number of hard
places, while the ends of the boughs, which had seemed so small when
they were cut, apparently increased in size after they had served as a
bed for an hour.

Many times during the night did Bob get up to see if the horses were all
right, and, while he would not admit that the bed had anything to do
with his wakefulness, he knew, as well as did his companions, that when
sleeping at home, he hardly opened his eyes once during the entire
night.

It was at a very early hour, therefore, that the boys were up, and ready
to continue the chase. As a matter of course, after having gone to bed
supperless, they were ready for a hearty breakfast, and, since they
would have plenty of time to eat it before sunrise, they at once made
preparations for breaking their fast.

Thanks to the cooked food they had with them, these preparations did
not consume very much time, since they were only obliged to take the
paper packages from the carriage, and eat such portions of Mrs.
Kenniston's samples of cookery as they desired.

Bob gave his horses food and water before he satisfied his own hunger,
and, just as he finished this work, he cried, as he held his hand up,
warningly:

"Hark! what was that?"

The boys listened intently several moments, but nothing could be heard
save the rustling of the leaves, as they were moved back and forth by
the morning breeze, or the twitter of birds, as they started out in
search of breakfast, and George said, with a laugh:

"This is the first time I ever knew you to betray any caution, my dear
boy, and you should be commended for it; but just now I think it is
thrown away, for I hardly believe there is any one within half a mile of
us who is awake so early."

"I thought I heard some one coming through the bushes," replied Bob, as
he began a vigorous attack on the food; "but I guess it was nothing but
the wind."

Five minutes passed, during which each one was so busy with his
breakfast that he had no time for conversation, and then George motioned
his companions to be silent. The warning was useless, for all had heard
a sound in the bushes, as if some heavy body was moving through the
underbrush, and all paused to listen.

There was evidently some person or animal near by, and moving directly
away from them; but it seemed so reasonable to suppose that it was a
cow, or some other domestic animal, who had slept out of doors all
night, that it was some moments before any one of the three thought of
learning the cause of the noise.

Even though they had every reason to believe that those whom they were
pursuing would spend the night as they had spent it, each one of that
party was so certain the thieves were a long distance away, that the
thought that it might be those they were in pursuit of which were making
the noise never occurred to them.

It was not until some time after the sounds had died away that George
realized how important it was that he should know what had caused them,
and then he started up at once, dashing through the underbrush toward
the direction from which the noise had come.

Ralph and Bob started impulsively to follow him, and then the latter
said, as he pulled his companion back:

"One is enough to find the cow, for that is probably what we have been
hearing, and we might as well be eating our breakfast while he is
hunting."

Ralph thought, as did Bob, that they had no occasion to disturb
themselves simply at a rustling of leaves in the woods, and he willingly
followed his companion's suggestion.

But, before either of them could begin their breakfast again, a loud
shout was heard from George, which caused them to start to their feet
in dismay, for they understood that something serious had caused it.

"Harness the horses quickly!" George shouted again.

And without trying to understand the reason for this peremptory command,
Bob and Ralph sprang toward the animals.

It was not an order that could be obeyed very quickly, owing to the lack
of facilities in their stable.

The horses were quietly eating their breakfast; the harness was hanging
on a tree some distance away, and the carriage had been pulled into the
woods so far that it would require at least ten minutes before it could
be gotten on to the road.

Bob began to harness one horse, while Ralph attended to the other, and
while they were thus employed, George came out of the woods in a very
excited condition.

"We have been camping within five rods of the thieves!" he cried. "The
noise we heard was probably made by the horses as they led them out into
the road, and I got there just in time to see them drive away."

Haste surely made waste then, for all the party were so excited by what
they had seen and heard, and so anxious to start in pursuit quickly,
that they retarded their own progress by the bungling manner in which
they went to work.

Ralph, in his eagerness, got the harness so mixed up that he was obliged
to undo all he had done and begin all over again before he could
accomplish anything, while Bob searched five minutes for the bridle,
which, in the first excitement, he had flung some distance from him
among the bushes.

So far as coolness and presence of mind was concerned, George was no
better off than his companions. He attempted to pull the carriage into
the road, and got it so fastened among the small trees that Ralph was
obliged to come to his assistance, lifting it bodily out before it could
be extricated.

In this confused way of doing things fully ten minutes of time was
wasted, and the thieves had a start of nearly twenty minutes before
their pursuers were ready for the chase.

It was useless for them now to reproach themselves with carelessness in
not examining the woods when they first awoke, as they should have done,
since they knew the thieves would spend the night in some such place,
and quite as useless to complain, because they did not attempt to
discover the cause of the noise when they first heard it. Had they done
either one of these things, which it seemed the most inexperienced in
this kind of work would have done, they would have discovered the team
and had it then in their possession.

As it was, however, they could only try to atone for their carelessness
by being more cautious in the future, which each mentally resolved to be
as he clambered into the carriage as soon as the horses were harnessed.
This time George sat on the front seat with Bob, where he could more
readily leap from the wagon if necessary.

Bob started his horses at full speed, and George was satisfied that
there would be no necessity of urging him to drive faster, for he held
his steeds well in hand, requiring of them the best possible gait.

"They have got quite a start of us," Bob said, after they had been on
the road a few moments, and while Ralph was regretting the absence of a
comb, which would enable him to feel so much more comfortable, "but I do
not think your horses have had any grain since they stole them, and if
that is so, I don't think we shall have any trouble in overtaking them
within an hour."

Perhaps, if Bob had spoken exactly as he thought, he would have insisted
that his horses were so much faster, that the twenty minutes' advantage
which the thieves had could be more than compensated for in speed; but
just then he refrained from saying anything which might make his
troubled friend feel uncomfortable or disagreeable.

"Did you see the place where they slept last night?" Ralph asked of
George, for as yet he had not told them of what he had seen when he ran
through the woods.

"Yes; I came right upon it when I first left you. They had made a sort
of hut of boughs near a clearing, in which I should judge the horses had
been feeding. The instant I saw the camp, and so near ours that a stone
could have been thrown from one to the other, I thought it had been made
by the thieves, and I ran at full speed for the road, following a trail
that looked as if a carriage had but just passed that way. I got out of
the woods just as they turned the bend in the road, and simply had the
satisfaction of seeing my team driven away at a gallop, when, if I had
done what almost any child would have thought of doing, it would have
been in my possession."

"Could you see the men?"

"No; the top of the carriage was up, and I could see no one. They were
probably looking out through the window and saw me, for if they stayed
so near us since we stopped last night, they must know who we are, and
will try to escape, even if they kill the horses."

"I'm not so sure that they could have known who we were," said Bob, "for
I have been trying to think if we said anything about the team, or what
we were there for, and I do not believe we did."

If the men whom they were pursuing did not know that this party who had
encamped so near them were the ones in search of the team, it would be a
great point in favor of our boys, for the others would not be likely to
push their horses so hard. Therefore, each one tried to recall the
conversation, and the result of this thought relieved George's mind
somewhat, for no one could remember that a thing had been said which
might betray their errand.

The road over which they were traveling was a good one, and the horses
were urged along by Bob at a lively rate, save on ascending ground, when
they were allowed to choose their own pace, in order that they might not
become "blown."

At no one place, owing to the trees on each side, could they see very
far ahead on the road, which prevented them from knowing whether they
were gaining on the fugitives or not, although Bob firmly believed they
were, for his horses had never shown better speed, nor been more in the
humor for traveling.

"We shall be on our way home in less than two hours," he said,
triumphantly, as the horses dashed down a long hill at a pace that would
be hard to beat; and then, as they began the ascent of the next hill,
all their hopes were dashed.

During the last ten minutes, it had seemed to Ralph that the
easy-running carriage dragged, and as the horses neared the top of the
hill, he discovered the trouble.

"The hind axle is heated," he shouted, "and the wheel no longer turns."

It surely seemed as if everything was conspiring in favor of the
thieves, for the pursuers were now seriously crippled by a "hot box."



CHAPTER XVIII.

IN A TRAP.


It seemed so impossible to Bob that such a misfortune could overtake
them just when success appeared certain, that he could not believe what
Ralph had said was true until he had jumped out and examined the axle.

There was no doubt then but that they would be delayed for a long time,
for the axle was already so hot that it was smoking, and they had
neither oil nor water with which to cool it.

In the valley or ravine through which they had just ridden there was no
stream, and the only thing which could be done was to look for one
further ahead, since they had passed the last house fully three miles
behind.

"It's no use crying about it," said Bob, with an assumption of
cheerfulness he was far from feeling, "for here we are, and the sooner
we mend matters the sooner we shall be riding on again."

"But what can we do?" asked Ralph, feeling thoroughly discouraged at
this accident, which, however quickly it might be repaired, would give
the thieves a chance of making good their escape. "Even if we had a
whole ocean of water, you haven't got any oil after the axle is cool,
nor even a wrench with which to take the wheel off."

"One of us must walk on ahead until he comes to some house, where oil
and a wrench can be borrowed. Bob must drive his horses on at a walk,
and halt at the first water he sees. It's an unlucky accident for us,
and it seems strange that it should have happened just when it did."

"It isn't so very strange," said Bob, as he started his team along at a
walk, "and, as usual, it's all my fault. When we moved the other day, we
left our oil behind in the stable, and I knew the wagon needed oiling
when I got down to Kenniston's. I was just going to do it when you drove
up, and then, like an idiot, I forgot it."

It would do no good to discuss the causes of the accident after it had
occurred. The only question was as to how the damage could be repaired,
and, after that was decided, to set about doing it at once.

"I will go on ahead for the oil," said Ralph, starting out at a run as
he spoke, and in few moments he was lost to view, as he disappeared
behind the trees, where the road made a decided curve.

Bob and George walked, while the horses dragged the carriage with its
one useless wheel, and in this fashion the boys, who a few moments
before had believed that in two hours they would have overtaken the
thieves and recovered the property, continued on their journey, as sad
and dispirited as before they had been happy and confident.

"If this hadn't happened," said Bob, bitterly, "we should have caught
the men before noon; but now it is an open question as to whether they
won't get away."

"It will be strange if they don't escape," and George's voice sounded no
more cheerful than did Bob's; "for even if they were not sure who their
neighbors were last night, they must have been suspicious, and will do
all they can to throw us off the scent. But there," he added, with a
shrug of the shoulder indicative of resolution; "what's the use of
mourning over what can't be helped? All we can say or do won't change
matters, and we might as well look cheerful as cry."

"I know that," replied Bob, with a grimace; "but when a fellow is
disabled, in the woods, and probably two or three miles from any house,
the most appropriate thing is to cry, even if the tears don't do any
good."

At this moment, as if in answer to Bob's assertion that they were
probably a long distance from any house, and very much to their
surprise, Ralph was seen coming down the road waving his hands
triumphantly.

"What is the matter?" cried George, not daring to believe that Ralph had
already seen a house.

"There's a farm-house just around the bend here, with everything we need
in the stable," shouted Ralph, while he was yet some distance away. "I
told the owner that we had a hot axle, and were anxious to get on as
quickly as possible, and he says we can borrow one of his wagons, or
take anything we need to fix ours."

It is needless to say how delighted George and Bob were by the
information Ralph had brought. Instead of losing nearly the whole of
that day, as they had feared they should, by walking several miles
before finding a stable, they could repair damages in a comparatively
short time, and could, perhaps, yet overtake the men before night.

"Hurrah!" shouted Bob, as he urged his horses into a trot, the party
running behind.

And in a few moments they were in the stable-yard of a large farm, where
the proprietor was awaiting their arrival, ready to lend them any
assistance in his power.

Both he, as well as they, knew exactly what to do for this outgrowth of
carelessness, and pail after pail of water was dashed on to the hub of
the wheel to cool it off, even while he was yet repeating his offer to
loan them one of his wagons if they were in a hurry to be on their
journey again.

Leaving Bob and Ralph to continue the cold-water application, since not
more than two could work at a time advantageously, George went with the
farmer to see what sort of a vehicle they could borrow in exchange for
their own.

He returned very shortly, however, with the word that he thought it best
for them to get their own carriage into working order, since those
belonging to the farmer were all so heavy that they would probably gain
in speed, if they waited for their own, more than they would lose in
time.

This decision was about what Bob had expected, and he continued his
work, which had not been delayed during George's absence, until it was
thought that they could remove the wheel.

It was a hard, and quite a long job; but it was accomplished finally,
and then, when the iron was nearly cold, a plentiful amount of oil was
applied; the other wheels were lubricated, and the boys were ready to
continue their journey again, having lost by this accident not more than
an hour's time.

"You are all right now," said the farmer, after he had positively
refused to take any payment for his own time or for the use of his
tools, "an' I reckon the waiting here won't make much of any difference
to you."

"It wouldn't have been of any account if we hadn't been chasing a pair
of horses of mine that were stolen at Sawyer. We were close behind them,
and should have overtaken them by this time if it hadn't been for this
delay."

"What is the color of your horses?" asked the man, evincing such a
sudden interest that it seemed certain he knew something about the
missing property.

"A pair of small, dark chestnut horses, in a box buggy, driven by two
young men," replied Bob, quickly, confident that they were about to hear
some good news, and answering all possible questions at once, in order
that they might not be delayed any longer than necessary.

"Then it is fortunate for you that you had trouble which made you stop
here, or else you would have gone on and missed them," replied the man,
speaking slowly, as if there was no possible reason why the boys should
hurry on in pursuit.

"When did you see them?" asked George, hurriedly. "Tell us at once, so
that we needn't lose any more time."

"There's no need for you to rush," drawled the man, much as if he
enjoyed keeping the boys in suspense, "for if you stay right where you
are, you will see them. They've got to come back this way, sure."

The boys looked around as if they expected to see the thieves pop out
from some hiding-place near by, and after waiting a moment to enjoy the
effect his words had produced, the farmer asked, as he pointed nearly
opposite the house to where a road branched off from the highway,
leading, apparently, into the woods:

"Do you see that road?" And then, as if realizing how useless such a
question was when the road was so well defined, he continued: "Wa-al, I
reckon that the same team you are huntin' after was driv up that road
about an hour or so ago. It was a small pair of dark chestnut hosses,
an' good ones, with a fancy buggy, an' two young fellers drivin'."

"Where does that road lead to?" asked Bob, excitedly.

"That's the joke of it," said the farmer, with a laugh. "It don't lead
nowhere 'cept inter my wood-lot, an' that's what made me notice ther
team so perticularly, 'cause I couldn't make out what they wanted up
there. I tell you what it is, boys, you've got your hoss-thieves in a
trap, an' you kin pull 'em out whenever you want to."

"Are you sure that there isn't any way out of that? Can't they strike
the main road by driving across some field?" asked George.

"Wa-al, I've driv over that road as many as forty times every year for
the last thirty, haulin' down wood, an' I wouldn't undertake to git a
wheel-barrer out any other way than I went in. You kin stay here an'
ketch 'em when they come out, or go in after 'em--_they'll be there_!"



CHAPTER XIX.

CLOSE QUARTERS.


It hardly seemed possible to the boys that, after the mishap which it
seemed would give the thieves all the time they needed to make good
their escape, they could be so near to them that their capture seemed
certain.

But the farmer insisted that there was no outlet to the road; that a
team answering to the description of the one George had lost had been
driven in there, and that it had not come out. Therefore, there could be
no question but that they had the thieves in a trap, as the farmer had
said, and all that was necessary was to go and get them or the team.

At first they were about to start out without any plan whatever, intent
only on getting the horses as quickly as possible; but George realized
in time that, secure as the thieves appeared to be against escape, all
might be changed by too much precipitation.

If they should rush in recklessly, the men might get past them by
concealing the team in the bushes until they had passed that particular
point, and then the road would be clear before them, unless the farmer
could succeed in stopping them.

It was necessary, therefore, that, in going up this road, which they
were told was about two miles long, they should not only see where the
thieves had gone in, but where it would be possible for them to come
out, in case they should succeed in making a detour through the woods.

The farmer, after listening to the discussion which the boys were
having, suggested that they block up the road near its entrance with his
heavy carts, and then, if the thieves should get past them, they would
be obliged to leave the team at the obstruction in order to make good
their own escape.

This suggestion was so good that they followed it at once. Bob using his
horses to haul a hay-rack, a heavy ox-cart and two dump-carts into the
road, about two hundred yards from the highway, overturning and wedging
them in in such a way that a passage through could not be made in less
than half an hour.

The farmer, having work that forenoon, which kept him near the house,
promised to keep a sharp lookout while the boys went after the team, and
to give the alarm in case the men should come down towards the
barricade.

Then, all the preparations having been completed, there was nothing to
prevent them from going into the trap the thieves had voluntarily
entered.

Bob thought they ought to have weapons in case the men should attempt to
fight for the possession of their ill-gotten booty; but George refused
to consider the idea even for a moment. He had no thought that the men
would do anything of the kind, and, even though he was going after his
own property, he was not willing to go in such a way as might endanger
the life of any one.

"If you want any weapons, take a good stout club," he said, "and I think
you will find even that unnecessary, for as soon as the men see us, they
will do their best to get away."

Bob was by no means satisfied to start up the road unarmed; but since it
was George's property they were in search of, he thought his orders
should be obeyed, even though the attempt should be unsuccessful because
of it.

"If I was in your place, I should make sure of the men as well as the
team," the farmer called out, as they started, "for there's a good many
more horse-thieves in the country than are needed, an' it's doin' a good
turn to honest people to put 'em where they can't run off other people's
property."

George made no reply, but at the same time he did not propose to make an
amateur detective of himself, unless the men should attempt to prevent
him from taking his own, and then he would have no hesitation about
causing their arrest.

There was no difficulty in following the track of the carriage, for
there had been so little travel on the road that the impress of the
wheels was distinctly seen, and there could be no question but that it
would be an easy matter to see where it was taken into the woods in case
the men should attempt to hide.

"I guess we had our labor for nothing in blocking up the road," said
Bob, as they walked along, "for there is no chance of our passing the
team so long as we can see the tracks as plain as this."

"We certainly didn't hurt ourselves piling up the carts, and the time
was well spent, if only for the sake of the precaution," said George;
and then, stopping suddenly, after they had walked nearly a mile, he
pointed to a second track, which led directly into the woods a few yards
ahead of them. "They have been to the end of the road, and come back,"
he whispered. "Perhaps they have just turned in here after hearing us."

For a moment the three boys stood looking at the trail made by those
they had been so anxious to meet, and then George said, in a low tone:

"We mustn't lose any time here, and when we do start it must be quickly.
We will follow this track in, and keep right on in it; for we shall
either find the team now in the bushes, or else the men will have done
as I feared--passed us while we were on the road."

There was still a chance that the men might get away with the team if
they had succeeded in reaching the road in the rear of the boys, for it
might be possible for them to clear away the obstructions near the main
road before the boys could run a mile, unless the farmer could prevent
them.

George dashed into the bushes, followed closely by Ralph and Bob, and
before they had gone very far, it was evident to all that the men were
trying to do just as George had suggested.

The track made by the carriage could be followed very readily, and there
was no longer any question, after the boys had run a hundred yards, but
that they were traveling in a half circle, the end of which would be at
the road.

"Come on as fast as you can," shouted George, when he thus saw his
suspicions verified; and, regardless of whether he was followed or not,
he dashed ahead at full speed, perfectly satisfied that when he saw his
team again it would be at the barricade.

When he reached the road up which they had just come, the second track
of wheels could be seen, and he half expected to hear the farmer's
warning cry, forgetting for the time that any ordinary pair of lungs
could hardly be heard a mile away.

Close behind George came Ralph and Bob, both excited by the thought that
there was yet a possibility the men might escape with the team, and both
running as fast as they could.

"They've come this way!" shouted George, "and now it only remains to be
seen whether we can get there in time."

There was no need to say anything to urge either of the boys on to
greater speed, for they were making every effort, and George himself was
really the one who would be left behind if the race was continued very
long.

Bent only on reaching a given point as quickly as possible, the boys
paid no attention to anything else save getting over the ground rapidly,
and the farmer's voice rang out long and loud before they realized that
they heard it.

"Hello! Hello-o-o! Hello-o-o-o!" was the cry.

And when finally the boys did hear it, they understood by the tone that
there was urgent reason for them to make haste, for now, beyond a doubt,
the thieves were trying hard to remove the barricade.

Panting, almost breathless, but not realizing how nearly exhausted they
were, the boys rushed on, intent only on noting the way, that they might
lose no time or vantage by a misstep, until they emerged from the woods
at a point where they could see that which was causing such an outcry
from the farmer, who was taking quite as much interest in the saving of
their property as he would have done in his own.

George could see his team halted in front of the barricade they had
piled up with so much, and what at the time Bob had thought useless,
labor, while the men were straining every nerve to remove it, the farmer
standing at a safe distance, screaming at the top of his voice, even
though he must have seen the boys coming towards him as rapidly as they
could run.

Already had the two men succeeded in removing the two dump-carts, and
were now at work upon the hay-rack, with every prospect of pulling it
sufficiently out of the way to admit of their driving past; but when
they saw the three boys coming down the road, they evidently concluded
that they had worked quite as long as was safe, for they began to look
out for their own welfare, instead of trying longer to get away with the
team.

After one look at the boys, probably to make sure they were the same
ones whom they had seen coming up the road, the thieves ceased their
efforts to move the hay-rack, and sought safety in flight, running down
the road towards Babcock, instead of trying to escape in the opposite
direction.

The farmer, who was anxious that all horse-thieves should be placed
beyond the possibility of carrying on their business, at once started in
pursuit, probably without thought as to how he could make prisoners of
two men whom he had not dared to grapple with when they were trying to
tear down the barrier which prevented them from getting away with their
booty.

George, who still continued to lead the party, stopped when he reached
the side of the carriage. He had gained possession of his team once
more, and he was content.



CHAPTER XX.

A SOUVENIR OF THE THIEVES.


Even had they been so disposed, neither Bob nor Ralph could have joined
the farmer in the pursuit of the men, because by the time they arrived
at the carriage they were so nearly exhausted that it would have been a
matter of impossibility for them to run fifty yards further, whatever
the inducement.

All three stood by the side of the recovered property, panting and
breathless, but watching eagerly the unequal race, where the two men
could run a trifle more than twice as fast as their pursuer.

The farmer, seeing how sadly he was being distanced, looked behind for
an instant, to see if any of the boys were going to aid him, and then,
seeing that they had all halted, gave up the contest by hobbling back to
his stable, looking quite as red in the face and panting quite as hard
as if he had run a thousand yards instead of twenty.

"If you'd only followed me we could have caught 'em all," he said, in a
half-reproachful tone, as he came up to the boys.

"I don't believe you could have overtaken them if all of us had been
close at your heels," replied George, speaking with considerable
difficulty because of the shortness of his breath. "But, as a matter of
fact, I don't think we could have followed those men even if the team
itself had been ours only in consideration of our catching them. You
see, we have run a mile at full speed, and we're about used up."

"Wall, it's a pity to let 'em go, for they'll be lookin' 'round for some
other team, now they've lost your'n, an' jest as likely as not I'll be
the one that'll have to furnish it for 'em," said the farmer,
mournfully, as he fanned himself vigorously with his broad-brimmed straw
hat. "But I've seen them chaps before, I'm pretty sure. I b'lieve
they're the same ones that was nosin' 'round here four or five weeks
ago, lookin' for oil signs over my pasture."

"Oh, we'll hope not!" exclaimed Bob, with a laugh. "For the sake of
those who are really engaged in the oil business, we'll hope they do not
number horse-thieves among them."

"But I'm sure they're the same ones," persisted the farmer, "an' they
talked as if they knowed all about the business."

As soon as the boys had recovered somewhat from the effects of their
exertions they began to think of returning, and Bob started to get his
team, which had been left in the stable-yard, when an exclamation from
George caused him to pause.

The obstructions had not been cleared away from the road, and Harnett
was fastening his horses to the fence, in order to help remove that
which had been of so much service in stopping the flight of the
horse-thieves, when some papers in the buggy arrested his attention.

Taking them up carelessly he glanced over two or three quickly when
something caught his eye which caused the cry of surprise that had
stopped Bob.

"They were oil prospectors, after a fashion," said George, "and if they
knew what they professed to, they have left us a valuable souvenir."

"A souvenir!" repeated Bob. "What have they done--left an empty
pocket-book?"

"It may prove to be quite as valueless as one, and probably will; but it
looks queer, for it is made out in proper form, and only verifies what
Bob said last night."

"What I said last night!" repeated Bob, now thoroughly mystified. "In
mercy to me tell me what you mean, and don't stand there mooning away
like that."

"Well," said George, who had glanced over the contents of the particular
paper which had caused him so much surprise, "listen to me. In the first
place, here is what I should judge to be an accurate survey of the
wood-lot Ralph and I bought of Simpson. It states the price for which
the land was mortgaged, and the probable price for which it could be
bonded or purchased. Here is a description of the entire property, and
here is given the exact spot, by measurement, where they have found
satisfactory evidences of oil. It would be singular if, in helping Mr.
Simpson, we had helped ourselves, and still more singular that we should
learn of it through those who stole my team, and put us to so much
trouble."

"The only thing singular about it would be that there wasn't any oil
there," replied Bob, quickly. "I've looked over that place some, and I
know it's there; but other people haven't seen fit to believe me when I
said so."

"We didn't say whether we doubted you or not," said Ralph, who was
inclined to believe fully the information contained in the paper George
had found. "When you made the statement, we said nothing, one way nor
the other."

"Then why were you surprised when you found the same thing written
there?" asked Bob, somewhat sulkily, as he pointed to the paper George
held.

"We were surprised to find it in the possession of such men," replied
Harnett, with a laugh, "and perhaps also a little surprised to learn
that we could have put so much faith in any one of your assertions. But
now, with such eminent authority on the subject, I am anxious to get
back, and look at the land for myself."

"What are the other papers?" asked Bob.

"They refer to land near Simpson's, which the men have examined and
reported upon carefully, but without finding so many favorable evidences
that a well should be sunk. What puzzles me is, how these men could be
oil prospectors, and at the same time steal a team."

"I think that is simple enough," said Bob, carelessly. "They were
probably prospecting on their own account, expecting to sell their
information after they obtained it. They hadn't any capital of their
own, but when they saw a fine team alone in a shed, at a time when there
was a terrible fire raging, they thought they could steal it without
running any risk. If they had got away with your horses, they could have
raised money enough on them to buy the Simpson property, and once they
struck oil, they would become honest men."

"That's nigh enough to the truth of it," said the farmer, solemnly; and
all the party agreed to accept that as the explanation of what otherwise
would have seemed very singular.

All three of the boys were now more than anxious to return to Sawyer,
that they might learn whether the statement contained in the paper they
had found was true or not.

Considerable labor had to be done, however, in the way of clearing the
farmer's carts from the road, and all the boys went to work at once,
while the owner sat on a rock near by, bemoaning his misfortune in not
having caught the thieves, and in not having signs of oil on his
wood-lot.

By the time the boys had replaced his carts as they had found them, he
came out of his sorrow sufficiently to invite them to remain to dinner,
and he urged the invitation so strongly that they concluded to accept
it, especially since the horses, more particularly George's, needed
dinner even more than they did.

It was a real country dinner they sat down to in the farm-house, half an
hour later, while the horses stood before mangers, in which was a
plentiful supply of grain, and the boys did full justice to it, eating
until their hostess could have no cause for complaining that her food
had not been duly appreciated.

During dinner, Mr. Folsom, the host, learned that George and Bob were
indirectly concerned in the oil business, and also heard some of the
moonlighter's wonderful stories as to the famous wells he had discovered
when others had said there was no oil in the vicinity. This was
sufficient to revive all the farmer's hopes, which had been slumbering
for a while, that he might be one of the lucky ones who are made rich by
the discovery of oil on their lands, and he urged the boys to remain
with him several days, or, at least, long enough to locate a well on his
farm.

It seemed all in vain for the boys to urge that they did not know enough
about prospecting to make a thorough examination of the farmer's lands,
or if they did, that it would be impossible for them to remain because
of business.

The old gentleman insisted so strongly, basing his claims to receive
them as guests on what he had done to aid them in recovering George's
property, that they were obliged to promise that they would return very
soon, and examine, as far as they were able, his entire farm, which he
was now very certain was situated directly on the oil-belt, even though
wells had been sunk near him unsuccessfully.

It was quite late in the afternoon when the boys did finally succeed in
getting away from the too hospitably inclined farmer, and then they
started down the road leisurely, for they had a long journey before
them if they expected to reach the Kenniston farm that night.

Bob rode alone and in advance, while Ralph rode with George, the two
teams driving along side by side whenever the width of the road would
permit, in order that the occupants might talk over and over again the
prospects of finding oil on the Simpson wood-lot.

And this conversation was continued by Ralph and George when Bob was
obliged to drive ahead, both very much excited about it, and both
building air-castles on the strength of the idea, even until the weary
horses trotted up the lane to the Kenniston farm-house.



CHAPTER XXI.

PROSPECTING.


It was not until a late hour on the morning after the boys arrived at
the Kenniston farm after their pursuit of the horse-thieves that any one
of the three made their appearance, and even then they would not have
gotten up so early as they did, had not Jim and Dick paid them a visit
for the purpose of hearing the particulars of the chase.

Bob's partners paid no attention to Farmer Kenniston when he proposed
that they wait until the boys should awaken, since the chances were that
they needed a considerable amount of sleep; but insisted on paying a
visit to their partner in bed, which effectually prevented him from
enjoying another morning nap.

When Ralph and George made their appearance half an hour later, Bob had
told his friends all the particulars of the chase, including the finding
of the report on the Simpson property, and the moonlighters were quite
as much excited about it as if they had been the owners of the land.
They insisted that George and Ralph should verify the truth of the
statement at once, and, without waiting for an invitation, proposed to
accompany them.

Just then, owing to the unusual vigilance of the torpedo detective, the
moonlighter's business was virtually at a standstill, and they had
plenty of spare time in which to prospect for oil, or to prove the truth
of the statement that had so singularly come into George's possession.

Both the owners of the Simpson wood-lot would have much preferred to
make their investigations alone; but since they could give no good
reason as to why the boys should not be allowed to accompany them, nor
none as to why the work should not be begun at once, they were obliged
once more to start out with the moonlighters.

During the ride home the night before, George and Ralph had discussed
the question of what they should do in case oil was found on the
property, and they both felt that in such case they should consider that
Mr. Simpson still had a claim upon the land, even though they had paid
him all he had said he considered it worth.

They would have willingly loaned him the money to pay off the mortgage
if it could have been done as well; but that they thought at the time he
would not accept, and George had purchased the wood-lot. Now, however,
if it should be found that the land was very valuable, neither of the
boys thought it right that they should reap the entire benefit, although
they were legally entitled to do so.

They had feared that, by advancing the money to pay for the land, they
would be seriously hampered in the search for the horses, and when they
were obliged to give up the small amount which they had left, to the
constable at Sawyer, it seemed certain that they would travel under many
disadvantages. But this very lack of money had aided them. If they had
had sufficient to pay for their lodging at the hotel at Babcock, the
chances are that Bob would have remembered that the carriage needed
oiling; they would not have been able to follow the men so closely next
morning, nor would they have stopped at Mr. Folsom's, the only place
where they could have learned of the whereabouts of those whom they were
pursuing.

The purchase of this land, made as it was in pure charity, had been a
great advantage to them, and if it should prove a valuable piece of
property, they intended that Mr. Simpson should be equally benefited.

The title deeds had been left with Farmer Kenniston, while the boys were
away, and there could be no question as to their proprietorship.

The only thing now was to learn whether there really was any oil on the
land, and this they were about to do, although it would have pleased
them much more if they were to go alone, rather than in company with the
moonlighters who had caused them so much trouble.

Jim and Dick had their own team, and Bob proposed to use his horses in
the double wagon, so that in case he wanted to return home before George
and Ralph did, he could do so, and they could get Mr. Simpson to bring
them down.

Since this was to be a regular prospecting trip, which might necessitate
their remaining out of doors all night, blankets and provisions were
packed into the wagon as before, while, in addition, George carried his
surveyor's instruments, that he might be able to locate exactly the spot
marked on the paper, in case they should have any difficulty in finding
it.

On starting out, George insisted that they should first drive through
Sawyer, in order that he might report to the constable, as he had
promised; and, although the moonlighters did not fancy paying this
visit, they were obliged to do so if they wanted to accompany the
fortunate owners of the Simpson wood-lot on their prospecting trip.

There was no difficulty in finding the man who had arrested them on the
night when time was of so much value to them, and by the reception which
he gave George it was easy to see that he had changed his mind somewhat
regarding his guilt, or had heard of the valuable assistance he had
rendered during the conflagration.

"I will report to you at the time appointed," said George, after he had
told the story of finding his horses; "and then I shall have no
difficulty in proving that I knew nothing whatever about the
transportation of the glycerine."

"And I believe that you will not, Mr. Harnett," replied the officer.
"Since it is uncertain as to whether the case will be heard on the day
set, you need not take the trouble to come here until I send you word.
But I should like to see Mr. Hubbard once in a while, for he is so apt
to fly off from one point to another that I shall never feel really
certain of him until he appears."

"Now, see what it is to have a bad name," said Bob, with a grimace. "I
ought to be trusted as entirely as George is, and yet I am not. Don't
worry, Mr. Constable; I will be here in time for the examination, and I
will also call upon you whenever I am in town."

Then Bob drove on toward the Simpson place, Jim and Dick having preceded
the others, for they had no desire to meet a constable even in a
friendly way.

Mr. Simpson was at home when the boys arrived at his farm, and the
reception which both he and his wife gave Ralph and George was something
to be remembered with pleasure by them for many a day.

Had he been allowed to do so, he would have placed everything he owned
at the disposal of the two who had so generously aided him to keep the
home he loved so well; but George stopped the show of gratitude, which
was really becoming embarrassing, by saying:

"You will please us more, Mr. Simpson, by saying nothing about what we
did, for we are likely to be repaid in a very substantial way; and if we
are, you will get more for your wood-lot than you ever dreamed of."

"Is it something in regard to those two men who just left here?" asked
Mr. Simpson, not in the least surprised by what George had said.

"What men do you mean?"

"There were two here when you first came in sight, but they left at once
on account of some business, as I understood. They told me that they
wanted to buy my wood-lot, and when I said that I had already sold it,
they offered to show good signs of oil if they could be paid for the
prospecting they had done."

George, Ralph and Bob looked at each other in surprise. It seemed
certain that Mr. Simpson's visitors must have been the men who had
stolen the team, and yet it was hardly reasonable to suppose that they
would venture back there so soon after having committed the crime.

"Can you describe them, Mr. Simpson?" asked George, feeling ill at ease
because of the coming of these strangers, and yet not understanding why
he did so.

"I can't say I can," replied the old man, slowly; "for, you see, I
hain't much of a hand at that sort of thing, an' I didn't look at 'em
sharp enough. It seems to me that they were youngish, not much older
than you, an' they looked as if they had been havin' a pretty hard
tramp."

"What time did they come here?"

"About an hour ago. They said they had jest come from Babcock, an' got
mother to give 'em some breakfast."

"It don't seem as if there could be any question but that they are the
same ones," said George, speaking slowly to his companions, and looking
worried. "I can't tell why, but it troubles me to have them come back
here."

"Don't be foolish, George," said Bob, speaking rather sharply. "What
harm can they do you? Besides, if they should go to cutting up any
capers, it would be the easiest thing in the world to have them
arrested for stealing your team, and I fancy that would settle them."

The boys had come, believing they should surprise Mr. Simpson by telling
him there was a chance that oil might be found on the land he had sold
so cheaply; but instead of doing so, the old man had startled them
considerably.

"Well," said George, after a short pause, "we are going to leave our
teams here with you, Mr. Simpson, while we start out prospecting the
wood-lot. We believe those men who have just left are the ones who stole
my team, and if you still feel that you would like to do me a favor, you
will keep a sharp lookout over the stable while we are gone, for I do
not think they would hesitate to steal it again if they got the chance."

Mr. Simpson promised to remain within sight of the stable-door all the
time the boys were away, and as proof that he was able to defend the
horses against any number of men, he brought out an old army musket,
minus almost everything save the stock, which he held carefully and
timidly in his hands, thereby causing his wife no little fear.

"If we should find oil, Mr. Simpson," said Ralph, lingering behind after
the others had started, "George and I have agreed that you shall own an
equal share of the lot with us."

Then he hurried away, joining the others quickly, in order that he might
not hear the old gentleman's thanks or expostulations.

George, as well as Bob, believed they could find the place where the
men claimed to have seen signs of oil without any difficulty, and they
started out on what proved to be a vain search; for, after they had
walked several hours, they were no wiser than when they started.

It was plainly of no use to search in this way, and George started back
to the house for his instruments, that he might locate the spot from the
directions on the paper, which he still held in his hand.

The boys, glad of a rest, waited for his return, until, after he had
been absent nearly an hour, when he could easily walk the distance in
twenty minutes, Bob and Ralph started in search of him, leaving Jim and
Dick there in case he should return.

Mr. Simpson both astonished and alarmed them by saying that George had
not been to the house since he first left it, and then they began a
hurried search, which resulted in nothing. They called him by name,
started Jim and Dick out even to the remote portions of the lot; but
without success.

Strange as it seemed, it was nevertheless true that George had
mysteriously disappeared.



CHAPTER XXII.

A CRUEL DEED.


When the boys met in the wood-lot at the spot where George had left
them, after they had made the first hurried survey of the place,
consternation was imprinted on every face. They knew that Harnett would
not voluntarily have gone away without telling them, and an undefined
but a very great fear took possession of them.

Each looked at the other as if fearing to speak that which was in his
mind, and yet all were conscious that whatever was done to find their
missing friend should be done at once.

It seemed so improbable that anything could have happened to him there
without their knowing it, that no one ventured to put his suspicions
into words, and each waited for the other to speak.

"It can do no good for us to stand here," said Ralph, after he had
waited some time for a suggestion from Bob. "George is either not here,
or else some accident has happened which prevents him from answering. If
he had been here, and as he was when he left us, he must have heard us
when we called. Now, what shall we do?"

All three of the moonlighters stood looking at him in silent dismay.
They were bewildered by the sudden disappearance, and Ralph understood
that whatever steps were taken toward finding George must be directed by
him, for his companions seemed incapable even of connected thought.

"In the first place," he said, "let's make a thorough search of the
wood-lot, beginning from this point and working toward the house in the
direction he disappeared. If we don't find him here, we will try to make
up our minds what to do."

There was no dissenting voice raised against this proposition, and Ralph
began the search by directing the boys to stand in a row, about ten feet
apart, and then walk straight down to the fence, carefully examining
every place in which George could have hidden.

In this way a lane, at least forty feet wide, was examined thoroughly,
and as nothing was found by the time they reached the fence, the line
was formed again ten feet further on, the march continuing until they
reached a point abreast of the one they had started from.

No one spoke during this search, for it seemed as though they were
hunting for the lifeless body of their friend, and when again they
arrived at the fence, they ranged along in a new line, silently, afraid
almost to look at the ground because of that which they might see.

And at least a portion of their fears were to be realized, for as they
walked along on this third sad journey, they first found a place where
the bushes and ferns had been trampled down as if some desperate
struggle had taken place, and then, a few feet further on, almost hidden
in a pile of brushwood, they saw that for which they sought.

It was the body of George, looking as if all life had departed, the face
beaten by cruel blows until it was nearly unrecognizable, the clothing
torn, and lying still as death.

Even then no one spoke; no cry of alarm or of astonishment was given,
for this was what they had been expecting to find during all the search.

Neither of the moonlighters had recovered from their first bewilderment,
and, as if this show of helplessness on the part of his companions
nerved him up, Ralph still preserved his presence of mind.

Kneeling down by the apparently lifeless body, Ralph unfastened or tore
apart the clothing, until he could lay his hand over his friend's heart.
After an instant's silence, during which it seemed to each boy that he
could hear the pulsations of his own heart, Ralph said in a hard,
unnatural voice, which no one would have recognized as his:

"He is not dead, for I can feel his heart beat feebly. One of you go for
a physician, while the others help me carry him to the house."

"You take my horses, and drive first to Sawyer and then to Bradford for
three or four of the best doctors you can find, and drive faster than
you ever drove before," said Bob to Jim.

The latter, finding actual relief in having something definite to do,
started off at full speed towards the farm-house, while Ralph began to
make a rude kind of a litter.

Two fence-rails with limbs of trees laid across them, the whole covered
by the coats and vests of the boys, was the best that could be
improvised in a short time, and on this George was laid as tenderly as
possible.

It seemed to all the boys as if he must be reviving somewhat, for they
fancied they could see him breathe as they moved him, and Bob was
certain he had lifted one of his hands as if to touch his head.

It was a mournful procession they formed as they moved slowly towards
the farm-house, Ralph and Bob carrying the litter, while Dick stood
ready to help them whenever he might be needed.

At the fence they were met by both Mr. and Mrs. Simpson, who had, of
course, learned the sad news from Jim, and had hurried out with almost
as much sorrow in their hearts as if he had been a son of theirs, for
they had learned to love George even before he had been the means of
saving their homestead to them.

Thanks to the help which the old people were able to give, the wounded
boy was carried much more quickly and easily along, and in a short time,
which seemed very long to the anxious ones, he was lying on a bed in the
farm-house.

Every effort was made to revive him as soon as he was placed in a
comfortable position on the bed in the room, sweet-scented with herbs,
and with such success that in a short time there was a movement of the
eyelids, followed by a low moan which, though piteous, was welcomed by
the boys gladly, for it told of life.

From the time they had found him stricken down by some murderous hand,
Ralph had noticed that George still held tightly clutched in his left
hand a piece of paper.

He had hoped from the first that it might afford some clue to the
murderous assailants, and had tried to remove it, but without success.

Now, however, when it seemed as if consciousness was returning, the
hands unclasped from what had probably been a clutch at those who had
attacked him, and the paper fell to the floor.

The first physician whom Jim had found entered at this moment, and,
picking the paper up, Ralph held it until he should hear the medical
man's decision.

He was disappointed in getting this very speedily, however, for the
physician began a long and careful examination of the injured boy, in
which he was assisted by the second doctor, who arrived ten minutes
later.

George was in good hands now, and since they could do nothing to aid
him, Ralph beckoned to Bob to leave the room, for he was anxious to
learn what was contained in the paper, and wished that some one should
share the secret with him.

"This is what George had in his hand when we found him," he said, when
they were out of the house, "and I think it will, perhaps, explain who
it was who tried to murder him."

Bob stood breathlessly waiting for Ralph to open the paper which was
crumpled tightly up in that almost death clutch, and as he saw it, he
uttered a cry of surprise and anger.

It was a fragment of the description of the wood-lot which had been
found in the carriage when the thieves left it.

"Those men have done this," cried Bob, as he clenched his hands in
impotent rage--"the ones whom George would not help catch after they had
stolen his team. They knew he had this paper, and when they saw him,
they either tried simply to get possession of it, George resisting, or
at the first attempted to kill him."

"They can't be very far from here," said Ralph, as if wondering what
other crime they would attempt to commit before they left.

"No, and they shan't get very far, either. I'll send Dick over to Sawyer
for the officers, and if it is possible, we'll have those fellows where
they can't do any more mischief."

Dick was only too willing to go when he heard what Bob had to tell him,
and in the team he had driven over in he started at nearly as rapid a
pace as Jim had.

Very shortly after he had gone, Jim returned. The first physician was
from Bradford, and he had met him on the road, while the second he had
found in Sawyer, having gone there to visit a patient. Both were said to
be very skillful, and Jim had sensibly concluded that there was no
necessity of getting any more.

To him the boys told of the discovery they had made regarding the scrap
of paper, and had they followed his advice, they would have started in
search of the villains then and there, without waiting the tardy
movements of the officers.

But both Ralph and Bob thought their place just then was with their
friend, rather than searching for those who had assaulted him, and they
persuaded Dick to forego his idea of making a personal search for the
men.

It was not long that the boys were in suspense as to the report of the
physicians, for hardly had they finished discussing the discovery they
had made as to who had done the cruel deed, when one of the medical
gentlemen came from George's room.

Unless, he said, there were internal injuries, of which they were then
unable to learn, George's condition was not one of imminent danger. That
he had been severely injured there could be no doubt; but there was
every reason to believe that he would recover, unless some more serious
wound than those already found had been given.

He had not recovered consciousness yet, and there was hardly any chance
that he would for some time, while the physician barely intimated that
it was possible, owing to the wounds on his head, that he might never
fully recover his mental powers.

It was just such a report as medical men often make--one which leaves
the anxious ones in quite as much suspense as before, and neither Ralph
nor Bob was just certain whether it was favorable to their friend or
not.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE TOWN ORDINANCE.


The news which Dick carried to Sawyer was sufficient to create a great
excitement in that naturally quiet little town. In addition to what
looked like an attempted murder, was the fact that George Harnett, whom
they had all respected before the conflagration, and admired after it,
was the intended victim.

There was no need for Dick to urge that officers be sent to try to
effect the capture of the scoundrels, for almost before he had finished
telling the story, a large party of citizens started in search of the
men, determined that they should answer for their crime.

Therefore, when Dick returned, it was with so large a following that the
physicians rushed out in the greatest haste to insist on their keeping
at a respectful distance from the house, lest the noise might affect
their patient.

Bob and his partners were anxious to join in the search, and urged Ralph
to accompany them, since he could do no good to George by remaining; but
he refused to leave his friend, even though he could not aid him, and
the party started without him, a look of determination on their faces
that boded no good to the professed oil prospectors in case they should
be caught.

During all of that night Ralph remained with George, listening to his
delirious ravings, as he supposed he was still battling for his life
with the men, and just at daybreak Bob returned alone. The search had
been even more successful than any of the party had dared to hope for
when they set out, for the men had been captured in the woods about four
miles from the place where the assault had been made and in the pocket
of one of them was the paper from which one corner had been left in
George's hand.

They had evidently believed that they would be securely hidden in the
woods, for they had built a camp, and were in it asleep when they were
found.

Bob had been one of the first to rush in upon them, and, seeing him, the
men had shown fight; but the sight of the crowd behind him prevented any
serious demonstrations, and after that their only fear had been that
some one would attempt to do them an injury, a fear for which, at one
time, it seemed as if there were very good grounds.

When the prisoners had been carried back to Sawyer, Bob had left the
party, in order to report their success to Ralph, as well as to learn
George's condition.

Until Harnett's friends could be informed of his situation, Ralph and
Bob were looked upon as the only ones having a right to dictate as to
what should be done for him, and Ralph was anxious to have the course
they should pursue decided. With this in view, he had a long discussion
with Bob as to what should be done, and the result of it was that he
started at once for Bradford, to telegraph to George's mother, and to
hire a nurse to take care of him.

Mrs. Harnett, George's mother, lived in Maine, and it would necessarily
be quite a long time before she could reach her son, even if she got the
telegram as soon as it was sent. Therefore, it was important that a
nurse should be procured, at least until she could arrive, and decide
what should be done with the patient.

After this was done, Ralph started to return, not wanting to be away any
longer from his friend than possible, and as he neared Sawyer, he met
the officer who had arrested George and Bob for violation of the town
ordinance.

"Where is Mr. Hubbard?" asked the officer, after Ralph had given him all
the particulars of George's condition.

"He is now at Mr. Simpson's, waiting there until I shall get back."

"Is he particularly needed there?"

"Oh, no. As for the matter of that, neither one of us will be actually
needed after this forenoon, for I have just been to Bradford to engage a
nurse for George until his mother shall get here. Why did you ask?"

"Well, you see before this assault was committed, it was decided to
call the case one of carrying glycerine through the town, to-day. Now
it has been decided, in view of the service Harnett rendered at the
conflagration, to drop the case against him, and only proceed against
Hubbard. But if his presence was necessary to Harnett, we could postpone
it easily enough."

"But George would feel very badly if the case against him was dropped,"
said Ralph, earnestly. "Before the arrest was made, his only hope was
that it would be made, so that he might prove he had nothing to do with
it. Isn't it possible to proceed against him, even if he isn't there?"

"And what if it is?" asked the officer, with a smile.

"If it is I would urge you to call the case against George at the same
time as that against Bob, for I know, beyond a doubt, that he will be
proven not guilty."

"I'll see what can be done; and if you and Hubbard can leave, come over
about two o'clock this afternoon."

"We will be there," replied Ralph.

And then he drove on, rejoiced at the thought that even while his friend
was sick, he could remove one cause of trouble from him.

When Bob was told of the interview Ralph had had, he was by no means so
well pleased that the case was to be opened so soon.

"Why didn't you tell the officer that I couldn't be spared from George's
side for a moment?" he asked. "That would have settled it, for just now
every one is sympathizing with him."

"In the first place, it wouldn't have been true," replied Ralph, "and
then again, if it has got to come, the sooner it's over the better, I
should think."

Bob made a wry face over the matter, for he had hoped that in the
excitement caused by the attack on George, both the cases would be
dropped, and since there could be no doubt about his conviction, that
would have been the most pleasant way out of it, so far as he was
concerned.

Ralph used all the arguments he could think of to persuade Bob to look
at the matter in a philosophical light, and it was not until he urged
the satisfaction it would give George, when he recovered, to know that
he was cleared of the charge, that Bob would even admit that he was
willing to go, although he knew he must do so.

As soon as the professional nurse arrived and began her duties, Bob and
Ralph harnessed the former's team, and started first for the
moonlighters' hut, where Jim had said he would be that day, for the
purpose of getting him to testify in George's behalf.

This young moonlighter was quite as averse to appearing at court as his
partner had been, for he feared the charge might be altered to include
him, but Ralph persuaded him that such would hardly be probable, at the
same time that he urged him to accompany them, for George's sake.

On arriving at Sawyer it was found that the authorities were willing to
call George's case in consideration of the fact that his innocence could
be easily proven, and the trial began.

Of course, with Bob, Jim and Ralph to testify in George's behalf, there
was no doubt as to his innocence in the matter, and quite as naturally,
the testimony which cleared one convicted the other, for Bob had told
the story exactly as the matter had happened.

George was found "not guilty," and public opinion being in favor just
then of any of the friends of the injured man, Bob was let off with a
reprimand and a fine of ten dollars.

Bob was in high glee over this easy settlement of the matter, as was
Ralph, and when the constable handed them the forty dollars which he had
taken as security for their appearance, the young moonlighter insisted
on presenting him with five dollars of his twenty, as a "token of his
appreciation."

During the ride back to the Simpson farm, and Jim accompanied them in
order to remain there over-night in case he should be needed, Bob
unfolded a scheme which he declared he had been maturing for some time,
although Ralph insisted that it had only occurred to him after his
fortunate escape from the clutches of the law.

"We shall have no business for two or three weeks at least," he said;
"and while George is so sick there is really nothing we can do for him.
Now I propose that you and I find the signs of oil that those fellows
claim to have found, and when George gets well the work will be all done
for him."

"But can we do it?" asked Ralph, thinking that he would be of but little
service, since his knowledge of the oil business was confined to what
he had seen of the moonlighters' operations.

"Of course we can. I have done a good deal of prospecting, and, except
that I couldn't find the place they describe by measurements, I can do
the work better than George, for he has had no experience whatever."

"I am willing to do it if I can," said Ralph, "for surely we can be
doing no harm in trying to prove whether the property is valuable or
not."

"No harm! Of course there wouldn't be any!" cried Bob, growing
enthusiastic over his scheme. "And if we do find things as plain as I
believe we shall, there will be no trouble in borrowing money enough to
sink the well at once, so that when George gets out we could surprise
him with a little oil property that would make his eyes stick out."

Ralph felt almost as if he was losing his breath at the "size" Bob's
scheme was assuming, and he said, faintly:

"Oh, we wouldn't do that!"

"Indeed, but we would, and I reckon Harnett wouldn't feel very badly
about it either."

"If you were sure of striking oil, I'm not sure but that father would
advance the necessary money to do it," he said, falling in at once with
Bob's scheme, he was so dazzled by it.

"That would be all the better," cried Bob, excitedly; "and I tell you
what it is, Gurney, if I don't show you a five-hundred-barrel well in
that same wood-lot, you shall have my head for a football."

Ralph was hardly in need of such a plaything, but Bob's scheme had so
excited him that when he did finally succeed in getting to sleep that
night, it was only to dream of wonderful wells spouting wonderfully pure
oil.



CHAPTER XXIV.

BOB'S INDUSTRY.


Bob Hubbard was not one to give up anything he had once decided upon
without a trial, and when he told Ralph that between them they would
find the oil and sink the well before George recovered, he intended to
do it if it was within the range of possibilities.

Very many operators in the oil region looked upon Bob as one of the best
prospectors there, and while they fully understood his reckless manner,
and agreed that it could not be said that he was strictly truthful, they
had the most perfect confidence in his reports on land.

Therefore, it was no vain boast when Bob said that if there were good
signs of oil on the Simpson wood-lot, he could easily borrow money
enough to sink a well, for almost any one of the capitalists of Bradford
would have been willing to make the loan upon his representations.

This wood-lot of Simpson's had attracted Bob's attention some time
before, as the reader already knows, and, despite the assertions of some
oil prospectors to the contrary, he had always maintained that a good
paying well would be found there.

It had been his intention to buy the land; but he had neglected to do
so, as he was in the habit of neglecting his own business until it was
too late. But he would be satisfied to prove that he had been correct in
his views by striking oil there, even if he was opening the property for
some one else, and just then he saw the opportunity of doing a favor for
his friend at the same time that he proved the truth of his own
statements.

On the morning after he had spoken of his "scheme" to Ralph, he was up
some time before the sun was, even though he had watched by George's
side until midnight, and was only waiting for the professional nurse to
relieve Ralph from his duty of watcher, before beginning the work he had
proposed to do.

During the night it had seemed as if George had recovered consciousness
for a few moments, although he had not spoken, and the physician, who
had remained at the farm-house, was called to the patient's side.

This brief revival of consciousness, to be followed immediately by a
fever, was what the medical man had predicted, and he then said that
George would appear to be very much worse in the morning; but that it
was the turning of the fever which would show whether he was ever to
regain the full possession of all his faculties.

Therefore, when the morning came, and George, in a high fever, seemed
to be very near death his friends were much less alarmed for his safety
than they would have been, had the change not been expected.

It was unfortunate that he could not have been removed to the Kenniston
farm, where he would have been nearer medical aid in case he should need
it suddenly; but he could not have been taken where he would have
received more tender or devoted care then he did from Mr. Simpson and
his wife.

The only possible aid which either Ralph or Bob could have given, after
they had relieved the nurse of the care of watching during the night,
would have been in case they were needed to go to town for anything
which the patient might require. Except for that, they might as well be
out prospecting as remaining at the farm-house.

Therefore, in order that they might both be away, and feel perfectly at
ease, Bob had arranged with Dick to come over and remain during the day
with Jim, to act as messenger in case there was any necessity for it.

Bob's horses were there, and after breakfast, when Jim had arrived, and
the nurse had resumed her duties, there was really nothing to prevent
them from going where they pleased.

Much as he wanted to go with Bob, Ralph was uncertain as to whether he
should leave his friend until after he had spoken with the physician
regarding it, and then, learning that he could be of no possible
assistance by remaining, he announced that he was ready to begin the
work of prospecting again, which had been brought to such a sad end the
day previous.

Bob started out excited by the thought of what they would accomplish,
and so intent upon his scheme that he rattled on with explanations of
how this or that might be accomplished, until Ralph began to look upon
sinking an oil well as mere child's play, and quite convinced that it
could easily be done, even without capital.

Both the boys were satisfied that there were no signs of oil in such
localities as they had examined the day previous, therefore there was no
occasion for them to do that work over again, and Bob began his labors
by starting through the wood-lot in an entirely different direction,
which brought them to a small stream, or marsh, which ran directly
across the land.

The water-course, if such it could be called, was nearly dried up, but
Bob showed every signs of delight at finding it so easily, and said to
Ralph, as he began to wade along its course, regardless alike of wet
feet or mud-plashed clothing:

"Here is where we shall find the first signs, if there is any oil around
here. Follow me, and sing out when you see any greasy-looking water in
these little pools."

It is quite probable that Ralph would have waded in streams which were
almost entirely covered with oil, and yet never have "sung out" once,
for he was at a loss to know how oil-covered water should look; but
before they had traveled twenty yards, Bob said, excitedly:

"Why don't you say something? I thought you would like to be the first
one to discover signs on your own land, so I have held my tongue for the
last five minutes, expecting to hear you shout."

"But what shall I say?" asked Ralph, in surprise. "I haven't seen any
oil yet."

"Well, you're a fine prospector, you are!" and Bob looked at his
companion as if in the most perfect amazement that he did not understand
fully the business which he had had no experience in. "What do you call
_that_?" and Bob pointed to the water-pools that were covered with
something which showed different colors, not unlike a soap-bubble.

"I've seen that queer-looking water for some time," replied Ralph,
innocently; "but that isn't oil."

"You may think so," said Bob, with a laugh, "but you let some of these
oil operators from Bradford see that, and then it would do your heart
good to hear them offer you big prices for the land. That's oil, my boy,
and it shows up as plain as the nose on your face. We'll follow this
swale up until we find where the oil ceases, and then I'll show you a
place where you can sink a well without a possibility of losing any
money by the operation."

Ralph was now quite as eager and excited as his companion was, and the
two splashed on through the mud and water, feeling much as gold-seekers
do when they believe they are following up the leads to that precious
metal.

Up the marshy land they walked until they were very nearly in the
center of the lot, and then Bob stopped, with a gesture of satisfaction.

At this point the difference in the water was very marked, the line of
oil, as it oozed out from a little bank, showing clearly, while above
the water was pure.

"There's one thing certain," said Bob, triumphantly, as he stood upon
the sponge-like bank which afforded him so much satisfaction to see.
"Those who have laughed at me because I insisted that the oil belt
extended in this direction would feel kind of foolish if they could see
this, wouldn't they?"

"But is it what you might call a good showing?" asked Ralph, still
incredulous that this land, which they had purchased only through
charity for Mr. Simpson, should prove so valuable.

It seemed to him that Bob must be mistaken, or those living in the
vicinity would have discovered it some time before.

"Well, I should say it was a good showing," cried Bob, excitedly. "Why,
Gurney, there isn't one well out of twenty that are sunk which looms up
like this. It will yield a thousand barrels if it yields a pint."

The only question, then, as to whether it was really valuable property,
it would seem, was whether it would yield the pint; and, if one could
judge from Bob's face, there was no doubt about that.

He was radiantly triumphant--not that he had discovered the oil, for
others had done that before him, but that his views on the location of
the oil belt had proved correct, and he was determined that by his
efforts the supply should be made to yield, even though he could have no
pecuniary interest in the matter.

"We'll sink the well here, and I'll begin the work this very afternoon,"
he said. "But first we must go back to the house, and we'll mark our
way, so that there'll be no difficulty about finding the spot again."

Then Bob started toward the farm-house, walking rapidly, as if his feet
could hardly be made to keep pace with his thoughts, and breaking off
the tops of the bushes to mark the way.

"But how are you going to work without money?" asked Ralph, almost
doubting if his companion was quite right in his mind.

"Do you think that a sight of that place isn't as good as a big bank
account? Why, we only need about three thousand dollars to do it all."

"Three--thousand--dollars!" echoed Ralph.

"That's all. You write to your father, tell him what we have found, and
ask him to send the money right on," said Bob, in a matter-of-fact tone.

"And do you suppose he would send such an amount of money simply for the
asking?"

And Ralph's doubts in regard to the moonlighter's sanity increased each
moment.

"It don't make much difference whether he does or not," was the careless
reply. "I can get everything we need to go to work with on the strength
of that showing, and I tell you that we'll have that well flowing just
as soon as possible. But you write to your father, ask him to come on
and see what we have got, and, after he has talked with those who are in
the business here, he won't hesitate about the money."

"Yes, I can do that," said Ralph, slowly, but doubting very much whether
he could accomplish anything by it. "But it will take three or four days
at least before we can hear from him."

"That don't make any difference, for it won't delay us. I'm going to
start right out to buy the engine, and by the time we hear from him, we
shall be at work."

By this time they were at the stable, and Bob began harnessing his
horses, in proof of what he said.

"I wouldn't do that," expostulated Ralph. "It may not be as good as you
think it is, and you may get into an awful lot of trouble about it."

"Look here, Gurney," said Bob, impressively. "There's oil there--plenty
of it--and I know what I'm about. You just let me alone, and by the time
Harnett is able to understand anything, I'll be ready to prove to him
that both he and you are rich, all through your charitable idea of
buying Simpson's wood-lot."



CHAPTER XXV.

THE WORK BEGUN.


After deciding in his own mind that he would sink a well in the place he
had found, taking the work and debts upon himself when it was all to be
for the pecuniary advantage of his friend, Bob was not one to lose any
time.

As soon as he got back to the house and could harness his horses, he had
started for Bradford to make arrangements for the purchase, on credit,
of such machinery as was needed, and all this had been done so quickly
that Jim and Dick were not aware he had returned from prospecting until
they saw him driving away.

As a matter of course they questioned Ralph as to why their partner had
left so hurriedly, and his reply excited them wonderfully.

He told them of what Bob had found, and then he realized how good the
evidences of oil were, for the boys were in a perfect fever of delight
as he explained what they had seen. Then he told them of what he thought
was a mad scheme on Bob's part, his intention to begin sinking a well
even before he had any money to carry on the work, and instead of being
surprised at their partner's rashness, as he had expected they would be,
they seemed to think it a very natural course for him to pursue.

They had quite as "wild" an attack as Bob had had, and although Ralph
was surprised at it then, he soon grew accustomed to such phases of the
"oil fever," after he had seen more of the business.

Jim and Dick insisted on going out to see what their partner had
discovered, not satisfied with Ralph's description, and while they were
gone he tried to convince himself that this possibility of his becoming
rich, even before he had been obliged to struggle with the world, was
true, and not a dream.

He was sitting on the wood-pile, arguing to himself as to whether Bob
might not be mistaken, when Mr. Simpson came out of the house with the
report that George was sleeping, and he decided to tell him the news, to
see if he would be as confident as the others.

But before he could speak, Jim and Dick came up, panting, but
triumphant.

"That's the biggest thing I ever saw!" said Jim, as he wiped the
perspiration from his face, and then turning to Mr. Simpson, he added,
"That wood-lot is worth about a thousand times as much as you got for
it."

"Eh? What's that?" asked the old man, with his hand to his ear, as if
distrustful that it had performed its duty correctly.

"Why, Bob has found the oil."

"Yes," added Dick, "and it shows up better than anything I ever saw
around here."

"It is true, Mr. Simpson," said Ralph, as the old man still looked
incredulous. "Bob found signs of oil this morning, which he says are
wonderfully good. I don't wonder that you can't believe it, for I
haven't succeeded yet, and I was with Bob when he found it."

"Oil on the wood-lot!" repeated Mr. Simpson, in a dazed sort of way.

"Yes, sir, and tanks of it!" replied Jim.

"I am more glad than I can say," replied the old man, fervently, "for
now you and Mr. Harnett will be rewarded for your generosity to an old
man whom you hardly knew or cared for. It was not to be that I should
have it, and it wouldn't have done me much good if I had, for mother an'
I are most ready to leave this world, an' we haven't a child or a chick
to be gladdened by the money. Why, Mr. Gurney, I'm as pleased for you as
if it was all mine."

And Mr. Simpson shook the boy by the hand in a hearty way that left no
doubt of the truth of what he said.

"But if there is oil there, Mr. Simpson, you own as much as George and I
do, for we settled on that yesterday."

"No, no!" and the old man shook his head decidedly. "When I sold the
land, I believed I was getting the full value for it, and you didn't
care whether it was worth what you paid or not. What you bought is
yours, and there's no gainsaying that. I suspected there was somethin'
more'n wood on that land when I went to pay Massie the money, for when
he found that I had the full amount, he offered to pay me my price for
the wood-lot, and when I told him I'd sold it, he offered to give me the
whole mortgage just for that piece of land."

"There!" exclaimed Ralph, as if Mr. Simpson had just told him something
which it was to his advantage to hear. "Now you can see why we should
give you one-third of the land. If you had come to us then, and told us
that you had a better offer for it, we should have been only too well
pleased to give it up. Now, if what Bob says is true, you shall still
own a third of the lot."

Mr. Simpson shook his head, to show he would not permit of such
generosity, and Ralph did not care to discuss the matter any further,
for he and George had already decided what to do.

"If what Bob says is true!" cried Jim. "Why, there's no question about
it, for there the oil is where you can see it for yourself."

"Still, it may not turn out as he expects," objected Ralph, as if
determined not to believe in his good fortune; and the moonlighters,
really angry at such obstinacy, refused to argue with him any longer.

They insisted that Mr. Simpson should go with them to see the fortune
that had been his, without his being aware of the fact, and while they
were away Bob returned.

He had two men with him, who appeared as intent on business as Bob did,
for all three walked past Ralph without speaking, going directly into
the wood-lot.

During fully an hour, Ralph sat on the wood-pile, wondering if it could
be possible that he was wrong in refusing to believe what all the others
seemed so certain of, and then Bob and the men came back, accompanied by
Mr. Simpson and the two moonlighters, all looking as if they could
hardly contain themselves because of joy.

"We will start the engine and lumber right up here, Mr. Hubbard," said
one of the men, as he passed Ralph, "and you can send for what you want,
with the understanding that the owners of the land will ratify all your
bargains."

"Well, as for that, you can judge for yourselves, so far as one of the
owners is concerned; the other is not able to transact any business,"
said Bob, turning suddenly toward Ralph, and, greatly to that young
gentleman's surprise, saying, "Gentlemen, this is Mr. Ralph Gurney, who
owns one-half the property, as Mr. Simpson has told you."

"You are a very fortunate young man," said the gentleman who had been
speaking with Bob. "You authorize Mr. Hubbard to act for you, I
suppose?"

"Yes, sir," replied Ralph, too much dazed to know exactly what he was
saying.

"There! what did I tell you?" cried Bob, as Jim drove away with the men,
in order to bring the team back. "They will supply everything we need to
open the well, and simply because they have seen what you did not think
was of very much account. I have hired the men to build the derrick, and
before you go to bed to-night you will have seen the work begun on your
oil well."

"But, Bob," asked Ralph, in a tone that was almost piteous, and which
sounded so comical, under the circumstances, that even Mr. Simpson
laughed heartily at it, "do they think the same about it that you do?"

"Well, you heard what was said about supplying anything we needed, and
people don't say such things, even up this way, unless they mean them.
Now we shall need some considerable money, and I advise you to write to
your father, telling him of what you own, and asking him to come on here
prepared to help you. If he won't do it I can get all the money we need;
but we shall have to pay considerable for the use of it."

Ralph made no objection, nor advanced any further argument; he was in
that condition of mind when he was not capable of any resistance, and he
obeyed Bob's orders as meekly as if there was no way by which he could
refuse.

Ralph's letter was by no means one of such glowing description as Bob
would have written. It was a plain statement of facts, begun by an
account of how he and George came to buy the property, of the chase for
the thieves, when they had their first intimation of the value of the
property, of the accident to George, of Bob's discovery, and lastly of
the opinion of the Bradford merchants, who were ready to supply, on
credit, everything which was necessary for the opening of the well.

When the letter was read to Bob in its entirety, he did not disapprove
of it, nor was he very much pleased. All he ventured to say was:

"It is lucky for you, Gurney, that the oil showed up so plainly that
those who know a gold dollar when they see it were not so frightened
about giving credit as you are about stating facts."

Then Dick was sent to Sawyer to post the letter, and while he was away
the workmen whom Bob had engaged had arrived.

Ralph went with him when he directed them to clear away for the erection
of the derrick and engine-house, and by the time the first load of
lumber had arrived, he had begun to feel the effects of the oil fever.

The preparations going on everywhere around, the comments of the workmen
as they saw the show of oil, the ringing blows of axes, and shouts of
the teamsters, all lent an air of realism to Bob's words which Ralph had
failed to see or feel before.

It was for him, even though it had been against his wishes, that all
these men were working, and for him would accrue the profits, if indeed
there were any.

Bob had been as good as his word; before Ralph went to bed that night he
had seen the work begun, and already was he beginning to feel that
perhaps all Bob's predictions might be verified.



CHAPTER XXVI.

DRILLING AN OIL WELL.


There was no material change in George's condition on the morning after
work had been begun on the oil well. The physicians declared that he was
getting along as well as could be hoped for, and the nurse gave it as
her opinion that he would recover much sooner than any one had believed.
Therefore, the boys were not troubled about their friend more than might
be expected.

On this day, work was begun on the derrick, and, as may be imagined, all
the boys were on the spot to see it, Ralph's belief in the success of
the venture growing stronger and stronger as the framework arose in the
air.

On the third day George's mother arrived, and the boys were thus
relieved of all responsibility, so far as the care of their friend was
concerned.

It was on the evening of the same day that Mrs. Harnett came that
Ralph's father arrived.

After receiving his son's letter, he had thought the matter of
sufficient importance, somewhat to Ralph's surprise, to warrant his
paying a visit to the oil fields, and had written to Ralph to meet him
at Bradford.

Despite the fact that Bob could borrow on the strength of the property
as much money as he needed to carry on the work, he was very anxious to
convince Mr. Gurney of the value of his scheme, and on the day when that
gentleman was to arrive, insisted that Ralph should go to Bradford with
him early in the afternoon, in order that he might be able to arrange
with the gentlemen of whom they were purchasing their supplies to meet
Mr. Gurney, and tell him exactly what they thought of the proposed well.

Thanks to Bob's activity, Mr. Gurney was able to see all those who had
inspected the property on that same evening, and was considerably
surprised by these interviews.

After receiving Ralph's letter, he had thought that possibly the boys
might have a site for a well which would pay to open, and he had come on
believing that it was not a matter of very great importance.

When he had been introduced to Bob, and had heard that young gentleman's
flowery description of the vast amount of wealth which was only waiting
to be brought to the surface of the earth, he was disposed to look upon
it as a visionary scheme, the value of which only existed in the
moonlighter's mind.

Bob had been accustomed to have his statements received in that same
way, and for that reason had arranged for Mr. Gurney to meet those whose
judgment he could fully rely upon.

These gentlemen assured him that the well promised to be a rich one;
that the signs of oil were remarkably good, and that they had no
hesitation in agreeing with Bob, as they had done, to supply anything
which might be needed to open the well.

Thus, even before he had seen the property, Mr. Gurney believed that his
son was in a fair way to enrich himself through his deed of charity.

In the present crowded condition of the Simpson farm-house Mr. Gurney
could find no accommodations for living there, and, since he was to
remain in Bradford, the boys had made their arrangements to remain there
also over night, in order that they might take him out to the oil-well
early in the morning.

On the following day, Mr. Gurney drove out to look at the property. He
saw that the work was well under way, and heard sufficient from the
workmen to convince him of the fact that every one who had seen the
place believed a well would yield plentifully.

Mr. Gurney's business would not permit of his remaining in the oil
region but one day, and when Ralph drove him to the depot that night, he
gave him formal permission to draw on him at sight for all necessary
expenses.

After this, had it been possible, Bob would have hurried the work still
faster along, but he had already urged matters on as fast as possible,
and all he could do was to insist on Ralph, Jim and Dick doing as much
work as one of the laborers, he setting the example.

The days went on all too short for the work that each one wanted to see
done, and wearily for the invalid, who was beginning slowly to recover.
The fever had abated, and with the doctor's permission, the boys had an
interview with their friend, who had descended within the shadows of the
Valley of Death.

On the night when the derrick was completed, the engine placed and
housed, and the drills in position, ready for work, Bob and Ralph had a
long and heated discussion as to whether George should be told of what
was being done.

Bob insisted that he should know nothing about it until the day on which
they struck oil, while Ralph argued that if it was such a certainty that
oil would be found, George should be allowed to share in the pleasure of
digging for it.

Already had the young engineer begun to worry about the loss his
business would sustain because of his illness, and although he had not
spoken of it, Ralph fancied he could see that he was also troubled about
the expense which he must necessarily be under.

All this, Ralph argued, would be taken from George's mind if he was told
of what was being done, and after a long discussion, Bob agreed that the
important news should be told on the following day, provided the
physician agreed that the patient would not suffer from the excitement.

On the following morning, all the boys were at the proposed well before
any of the workmen arrived, in order that they might see the drills
enter the ground, and by the time that important ceremony was over, it
was time for the physician to make his morning call.

When he did come, Ralph told him just what he thought George had on his
mind, in the way of trouble, and then stated what it was he proposed
doing, in case there was no objection to it.

"Not the slightest objection, my boy," said the medical gentleman,
heartily. "Good news seldom kills, and from what I learn, it is only
that which you have to tell. I think, as you do, that it will benefit
the patient, and you have my permission to unfold your budget of news
after I have dressed his wounds."

Half an hour later, the doctor had left the house, and Ralph and Bob
entered the invalid's room, as they had every morning since he had been
able to recognize them.

In reply to their usual inquiry as to how he felt, George said,
gloomily:

"I should feel all right if I only had a little more strength. It is
hard to know that I shall have to lie here a long time, simply waiting
to get strong, and all the business I had succeeded in getting, done by
some one else. But perhaps I couldn't have kept what I had after that
scrape about the glycerine."

"All that is settled, George," said Ralph. "I persuaded them to call
your case the next day after you were hurt, when Bob's case came on. He
and Jim and I told the story exactly as it was, and you were acquitted,
while he was fined ten dollars. I should have told you before, but that
we were afraid of exciting you."

"Such excitement would do me good rather than harm," said George, with a
smile, "for I have worried about that every day I have been here."

"Then I will give you more of the same sort, only better," replied
Ralph, with a meaning look at Bob. "The day after you were hurt, we
hunted for the oil, and Bob found it just----"

"I should say we did find it," interrupted Bob, excitedly, and despite
Ralph's warning looks. "It is the richest spot you ever saw, and there's
a thousand-barrel well there, if there's a drop."

George opened his eyes wide with astonishment, and then closing them
wearily, he said:

"I'm willing to take your word for it that you found signs of oil; but I
would rather hear what some one else thought as to the size of the
well."

"You shall hear," cried Bob, growing more excited, and forgetting all
caution. "I brought Dodd and Mapleson out here, and after they had
looked at it, they said they were willing to advance everything for the
opening. Then we commenced work----"

"You commenced work?" cried George, attempting to raise himself in the
bed, and falling back from sheer exhaustion.

"Yes, George," said Ralph, as he motioned Bob to remain quiet. "Every
one said we'd be sure to strike oil, and Bob has started it for you. He
had nothing to do for a while, and he wanted to surprise you. I sent for
father, and after he had talked with some of the men, he told us we
might draw on him for what money we needed."

George lay perfectly still and looked at Ralph as if he could not
believe that which he heard, and Bob, forgetting himself again, cried
out:

"The derrick's already built, the engine's up, and we commenced drilling
this morning. I tell you what it is, Harnett, before you're able to get
around again, we'll have a thousand-barrel well flowing that you can
call your own; and, as for engineering, why, you needn't worry your head
about that any more, for you'll have all the money you want."



CHAPTER XXVII.

"THE HARNETT."


It surely seemed as if the good news which Ralph and Bob had imparted to
him was all that was needed to cause George's rapid improvement. From
the day when they had told him of what they had done and were doing, his
recovery was so rapid that at the end of a week he was sufficiently
strong to sit up a short time each day, and the physician predicted that
in another week he would be able to take a walk out of doors.

Meantime, the work at the well had progressed most favorably. There had
been no serious breakages, no vexatious delays, no trouble of any
important character. In fact, the workmen expressed it as their
conviction that it would be a "lucky well," because of the singular
freedom from accidents with which the entire work had been attended. Bob
was in the highest possible state of excitement all the time. Each
morning he anticipated that they would have some trouble which would
delay them, when he was anxious to have the work completed as soon as
possible, and each night, after matters had gone on smoothly, he held
forth to George and Ralph of the wonderful "luck" they had had, which
must be taken as an augury of that which was to come.

Ralph divided his time equally between George and the scene of
operations. In the early morning, he would walk out to the well, stay
there an hour, and then return to report progress, continuing his
alternate visits to the well and the invalid, until George knew as much
of what was going on as if he had superintended it.

Now, every oil well is christened with some name, which is supposed to
be suggestive of the manner in which it has been discovered, or to do
honor to some person who may or may not be interested in it; therefore,
it is not to be supposed that a name for this pet of Bob's had not been
discussed even before work had been begun on it.

Each one of the boys had proposed some appellation, Bob's favorite being
"The Invalid," in honor of George, and because, as he said, it had
really had a chance of an existence through Harnett's illness, for he
stoutly contended that had the senior owner been well, he would have
been so cautious about opening it on credit, that all of them would have
grown gray-headed before they saw it flowing.

Jim and Dick thought that, since Bob had really been the one to open it,
in case oil was struck, it should be called "The Moonlighter," in honor
of the one who had done all the work, when there was no chance that he
could be benefited by its success.

George wanted to call it "The Gurney," and his suggestion gave to Bob
and Ralph just the name the well should bear in case it answered their
expectations in regard to its yield.

"We will call it 'The Harnett,'" said Ralph, more decidedly than he had
yet said anything in regard to the "scheme," and since Bob was in favor
of this, it came to be considered a settled fact that that should be the
name. After that conversation, old Mr. Simpson never spoke of it save as
"The Harnett," and the boys soon learned to follow his example, until
even George gave it that title.

Work went on rapidly, until the drills were boring eight hundred feet
below the surface, and it was hourly expected that bed-rock would be
struck, when George broached to Ralph a matter he had had on his mind
from the hour he first learned that "The Harnett" was being opened.

"Do you remember, Ralph, what we said about giving Mr. Simpson a share
in the land if oil was found there?" he asked, when Ralph came in to
tell him that the rock had not been struck, but that Bob believed it
would be before night.

"Yes, and I still think we ought to do so," replied the junior partner,
quickly. "After he had taken our money, Massie offered to give up the
whole of the mortgage for a deed of the wood-lot, and he refused, for he
considered himself bound to us, even though he knew we only bought it to
help him along."

"And what about Bob?" asked George, meaningly. "What he says about our
hesitating to begin work before we had money of our own to carry it
through, is nearly true, and if oil is struck there we shall have him to
thank for it."

"I know that, and I have been meaning to talk with you about it. Why
can't we give Mr. Simpson and him an equal share with us? I think they
really ought to have it."

"So do I, and my proposition is that we give to each of them an
undivided fourth of the entire property, they to share equally with us
in everything."

"And I agree to that fully," replied Ralph, quickly. "I have wanted to
propose something of the kind, but was afraid you wouldn't agree to it,
because of Bob's being a moonlighter, and having given you so much
trouble."

"But if 'The Harnett' is a success, we must attribute it all to the
trouble Bob made for us. If the team hadn't been stolen we should not
have been in Bradford to meet Mr. Simpson, and if it hadn't been for the
theft we never should have imagined that there was any oil on the
property. Besides, if Bob owns an interest here, you'll find that he
won't do any more moonlighting."

"Well," said Ralph, anxious that their good intentions should be carried
into effect as soon as possible, "when shall we give them their share?
Now, or after we find whether there is oil in 'The Harnett?'"

"Now. You drive right into town, have the deeds made out, and bring them
here so that I can sign them with you."

It was early in the day, and Ralph would have plenty of time to make all
the arrangements and yet be back before the drilling ceased, unless, of
course, the rock was struck almost immediately. Therefore he started at
once, refusing to answer any of the questions which Mr. Simpson and Bob
put to him as to what had called him in town so suddenly.

Of course neither of those whom he had left in an aggravated suspense
could have any idea of his errand, and his sudden reticence after he had
been in the habit of telling them all he was going to do, mystified them
considerably, Bob in particular being greatly exercised over it.

"I hope Gurney hasn't got on his ear about anything," he said, to
George, after he had watched Ralph drive away. "He's gone into town as
glum as a judge, and won't say a word."

"What makes you think there is anything the matter?" asked George, with
a smile. "Have you and he been having any trouble?"

"Not that I know of, except that he might have got cross when he was at
the well, and thought I ought to have treated one of the proprietors
with a little more deference. I was helping set the drills when he came
out last, and I'm not sure but that I spoke sharply when I answered his
questions; but I didn't intend to."

"I guess there's nothing the matter with him," said George, rather
enjoying the moonlighter's perplexity, knowing how soon it would be
ended. "You probably were a trifle cross, when he was there, and, being
guilty, fancied that he spoke or acted differently from usual."

"I didn't fancy it, for he was queer. I asked him where he was going,
and so did Mr. Simpson; but he wouldn't answer either of us."

"I'll find out what the trouble is when he comes back, and let you
know," replied George.

And with this answer, Bob went back to his work, thinking it very
singular that Ralph, who had always been so good-natured, should have
suddenly become so crusty.

Twice during the remainder of the forenoon, Bob came to the house with
some trifling excuse for so doing, but really to learn if Ralph had
returned; and while he was there the last time, talking with George
about the probabilities of striking sand or gravel rock, the junior
partner returned.

He had with him some official-looking documents, and, as he entered the
house, he said to Bob, speaking quite sharply without any intention of
so doing, and yet resolving all the moonlighter's suspicions into
certainties:

"I want some witnesses to George's signature. Will you bring Mr.
Simpson, Jim and Dick here?"

Bob arose silently to comply with the request, looked at Ralph
wonderingly and reproachfully an instant, and then left the room.

While he was absent, George told his friend of the moonlighter's
trouble, and the two were making merry over it, when he returned with
the witnesses Ralph had asked for.

The papers were handed to George, who signed both of them, and then
asked Jim and Dick to sign their names as witnesses to his signature.
Ralph had already signed them while in town.

Then, purposely taking considerable time about it, Ralph examined the
documents as if to make sure that all was correct, and said:

"Mr. Simpson, after George and I learned there was a chance that oil
would be found on your wood-lot, we agreed that you should share equally
with us in whatever might come of it. For that purpose I went into town,
and have had a deed drawn up, giving you an equal share with us."

"But I don't want none of it," said the old man, in a trembling voice,
while there was a suspicious moisture in his eyes. "I sold the land to
you as I'd a' sold it to anybody else, and whatever's there you own."

"But the deed is made out now, and there is no use for you to protest
against it," said George; and, without giving the old man time to reply,
he added, as he turned to Ralph: "Now I understand that there has been
some trouble between you and Bob, or he fancies there has."

Bob motioned to George to be silent; but it was too late, and Ralph
said:

"The only trouble is that I chose to go away this morning without
telling him where I was going. Then I owned one-half of the wood-lot,
with all there is or may be on it, and since it was the last time I
should have the right to do anything regarding it without his knowledge,
I refused to tell him where I was going. But now that he owns an equal
share with you, Mr. Simpson and me, he will have a perfect right to
question me."

Bob looked up in blank amazement, but made no attempt to speak, and
after waiting several moments, during which no one save the two original
partners seemed to understand the situation, Ralph said, as he handed
Bob one of the documents:

"Believing that but for you 'The Harnett' would not have been opened, at
least for some time, we have thought it best to divide the property into
fourths, one of which belongs to you."

Perhaps for the first time in his life, Bob was unable to make any
reply, and he walked quickly out of the room to the wood-pile, where he
sat for some time as if trying to make himself believe that what Ralph
had said was true.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

RED ROCK.


The idea that Ralph and George would voluntarily give him a portion of
what he considered to be very valuable property, was the farthest
thought from Bob's mind. He had gone to work to open the well simply
because he was anxious to prove to those who had declared he knew
nothing about it, that there was a large deposit of oil where he had
always insisted there must be. If any one had said to him that he was
entitled to any considerable reward because he had given up his own
business to improve the value of his friend's property, he would have
said truly that he had not neglected his own business, since just at
that time there was no work for moonlighters to do.

He had started in on the work with no idea of being paid for his
services, although if oil was found, and he had needed any small amount
of money, he would not have hesitated to ask for it. The work had been
begun by him upon the impulse of the moment, and this making him an
equal owner in the well, simply because of what he had done, surprised
him even more than it did any one else.

It was after he had been sitting on the wood-pile long enough to
understand why this property had been given him, reading first the deed,
and then looking toward the wood-lot, where he could hear the sounds of
activity, that he entered the house, where both his old and his new
partners were discussing, as they had ever since the work had begun, the
probabilities of finding oil.

"I tell you what it is, boys," he said to George and Ralph, "this thing
ain't just straight. You've got no right, in the first place, to give
away a quarter of that property before you know what it's worth, and
then, again, if you paid me ten times over for what I've done, it
wouldn't amount to this. Now, if you think you'd feel better to pay me
for my work, take back this deed, and so long as I have charge of 'The
Harnett,' give me one barrel in every twenty you take out. That will be
mighty big pay, and a good deal more than I am worth."

"But I suppose you'd be glad to own a portion of a well, Bob, and
especially as big a one as you insist this is going to be," said George.

"So I would like to own one, and I'd rather have this one quarter, so
far as money goes, than half of any well I know of. But you see this
don't belong to me, for I haven't earned it, and you haven't the right
to give away so much."

"But we have given it away, and you can't insist upon the size of the
gift, because none of us know whether, instead of being a benefit, it
will not saddle a debt on you of one quarter of the expense of sinking
the well," said Ralph.

"I know that it won't!" cried Bob, earnestly, "and so do we all, for
we're sure of striking a big flow."

"Well, Bob, you've got the deed," interrupted George, "and since we want
to make you one of the owners of 'The Harnett,' we'll say to you as we
did to Mr. Simpson--you've got the deed, and you can't help yourself."

Bob made no further reply; but five minutes later the boys saw him and
Mr. Simpson perched high up on the wood-pile, talking very earnestly
about something, which they quite naturally concluded was the gift they
had just received, and on commenting upon it, Mrs. Harnett, although she
knew there was very little necessity for it, advised the boys to insist
upon the acceptance of the gift, for she believed both the recipients
deserved what they considered such good fortune.

Both Ralph and George were perfectly satisfied with what they had done,
and in an hour after the presentation, all the partners were discussing
the chances of striking oil, much as they had every day before when two
of them had no idea they were to become part owners.

The doctor's visits had grown less frequent since George had begun to
recover so rapidly, and it had been three days since he had seen the
patient.

George had insisted that he was perfectly able to walk as far as "The
Harnett," and would have done so had not his mother and his friends
urged so strongly for him to wait until he should see the doctor again.

It was on this day, just after George had eaten what any one would
consider a hearty dinner for an invalid, that the physician called, and
almost as soon as he appeared, George asked his opinion about his taking
a little out-door exercise.

"I see no reason why you should not do so," replied the doctor,
"providing you may be trusted to act as your own physician, and come in
before you get tired."

This George was positive he would be able to do, and almost before the
doctor had left the house, he was planning a visit to "The Harnett," but
that his mother objected to at once, since it would be impossible for
him to ride, and it would be much too long a walk.

He was anxious to see the work, but, under the pressure of advice from
all his friends, he consented to defer seeing "The Harnett" until later,
and take a ride with Ralph instead. The horses were harnessed into his
own carriage, which was made even more comfortable than ever by a
profusion of Mrs. Simpson's pillows, and, assisted by all, the invalid
started for his first out-door exercise since the murderous assault upon
him.

George wanted to drive through Sawyer, for since he had been cleared of
the charge against him, he was anxious to meet his friends there, and
Ralph willingly drove in that direction.

Upon arriving at the town, there was every reason to fear that he would
not get as his own physician, as the doctor advised, for he was warmly
welcomed by every one, whether stranger or friend, until his reception
was a perfect ovation. Over and over again was he thanked for the
assistance he had rendered during the conflagration, and the
congratulations on his recovery poured in on every side.

Among the cordial welcomes he received, none was more hearty than that
from the officer who had arrested him the night he was starting in
pursuit of the horse-thieves, and from him Ralph and George heard some
news which interested them.

The men who had committed the assault were in the jail at Bradford,
awaiting their examination, which was to take place as soon as their
victim's recovery was certain, and the officer asked when George would
be able to appear as a witness.

The senior owner of "The Harnett" had no desire, even then, that these
men should be punished, but since the matter was one in which he could
have no choice, and since he would be obliged to attend the examination,
he declared that he could go at as early a date as might be set.

Evidently anxious to have the matter off his hands as soon as possible,
the officer said:

"Then if you feel able to drive into town to-morrow, we will hold the
examination. It will not take very much of your time, and if in the
morning you do not feel able to attempt it, don't hesitate to send me
word, and it shall be postponed."

"I don't think there is any doubt but that I shall be here," said
George.

And then, after bidding the kindly-disposed officer good-by, he
confessed to Ralph that he should be obliged to return home.

The meeting with so many in town had tired him more than the ride of two
hours could have done, and Ralph began to blame himself for having
permitted him to stay so long, even though he could hardly have
prevented it if he had tried.

But during the ride back, the weary look on the invalid's face
disappeared under the refreshing influence of the quiet drive, and by
the time they turned into the lane which led to the Simpson farm-house,
he looked quite as bright as when he started.

The lane was nearly a quarter of a mile long, and when they first
entered it, Ralph was aware that something unusual had occurred, and he
trembled lest some accident had happened, but as soon as he could
distinguish them more plainly, he understood that the gathering was
caused by joy more than sorrow.

Bob, Jim and Dick were standing in front of the house, surrounded by
some of the workmen from the well, and Mr. and Mrs. Simpson were
hurrying from one to the other, much as if they were serving out
refreshments.

"What can be the matter?" asked Ralph, anxiously, as he hurried the
horses along. "Do you suppose they have struck oil already?"

"No, that couldn't be possible," replied George. "I rather fancy that
Bob and Mr. Simpson are celebrating the happy event of being admitted to
the ownership of the well."

Ralph was satisfied that such was the case, and he pulled the horses in,
unwilling to arrive at a scene where he feared he might be obliged to
listen to thanks for what they had done.

Before many minutes, however, the boys could see that those at the house
were shouting to them, and when they arrived within hearing distance,
they recognized Bob's voice, as he shouted:

"Bed-rock! bed-rock!"

And then went up a shout from all that was nearly deafening.

"They have got through to the rock," cried George, his pale face
flushing with excitement.

And in a moment the carriage was surrounded by partners and workmen, as
each one tried to tell the good news that the drills had struck the rock
at a depth of eight hundred and forty feet.

"What have you found?" asked George, as soon as he could make himself
heard.

"Sandstone," replied Bob, "and we shall be obliged to try glycerine."

"The moonlighters will open the moonlighter's well!" cried Dick, as if
an immense amount of sport was to be had from such an operation.

"Indeed the moonlighters shall have nothing to do with it," replied Bob,
with no small show of dignity, and to the great surprise of all.
"There'll be no sneaking around to shoot this well, I can promise you
that, for we'll have her opened in the daylight, squarely, or not at
all."

Jim and Dick could hardly believe that which they heard. That their old
partner, one of the most successful moonlighters in the oil regions,
should object to having a well, in which he had a quarter interest,
opened as he had opened wells for others, was something too incredible
to be true. There must have been some mistake about it, they thought,
and they would shoot the well by moonlight as soon as Bob should
consider the matter more fully.

But all this time George was still in the carriage, and as soon as the
boys realized this, they began to make arrangements for helping him out,
content to wait to tell the good news more fully after he should be in
his room once more.



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE EXAMINATION.


Beyond the fact that the drills had struck the rock, and that it was of
such a nature that they could not work in it, but would necessitate the
use of glycerine, but little more remained to be told after that first
announcement.

But yet all the boys crowded into George's room and insisted on trying
to tell him something new regarding the important fact.

The drills had struck the rock very shortly after Ralph and George had
started out, and in their rejoicing that the work was so nearly over,
Mr. and Mrs. Simpson had insisted that all hands should come to the
house, where a generous luncheon of preserves and bread and butter was
passed around in honor of the happy event.

That was all any of them could tell, and then came the question of
shooting the well, Jim and Dick looking anxiously at their former
partner to hear him retract those words so traitorous to moonlighting
generally.

Both Ralph and George were as glad as they were surprised to hear Bob
exclaim against having moonlighters open "The Harnett." They would have
opposed any such proposition had he made it; but since he himself
objected to it, the matter was simple enough.

"I will drive down to town to-night and arrange with Roberts Brothers to
send a man up here to-morrow," said Bob, "and before to-morrow night we
will know just what 'The Harnett' is worth."

"But, Bob," cried Dick, "you don't mean to say that after we have shot
the well that you're goin' to pay them more than it's worth for doin' it
no better than any of them can."

"That's just what I do mean to tell them, my son," replied Bob, with a
mingled air of authority and patronage.

"Why?"

"Well, in the first place, it will avoid any trouble. In the second
place, it don't look well to be sneakin' 'round as moonlighters have to
do, and in the third place, we want 'The Harnett' opened square."

"But you always said moonlighting was square, and that you wouldn't even
let the regular men come near a well of yours," urged Jim.

And from his tone it was easy to understand that this opening of "The
Harnett" was a matter upon which he and Dick had quite set their hearts.

"That was before I owned an interest in a well myself, boys," replied
Bob. "Mind you, I don't say now that moonlightin' isn't square, for I
believe it is; but when it's such a stunner of a well as this that's to
be shot, I say that it hain't best to give anybody a chance to raise a
question about it."

It was evident to all from that moment that Bob Hubbard, the oil
producer, was to be a very different sort of a party from Bob Hubbard,
the moonlighter, and all save his old partners were delighted at the
change.

"Then have you given up moonlightin' entirely, Bob?" asked Dick, with a
world of reproach in his voice.

"Indeed I have," was the emphatic reply. "I'm still ready to say that
it's all right and legitimate; but I'm through with it."

"Then, just for the sake of old times, Bob, an' seein's how we haven't
come into possession of quarter of an oil-well, let us open your well
for you," pleaded Jim.

And all present understood that he and Dick, having been interested in
the well from the time it was first discovered, were anxious to do
something toward opening it.

"I'll tell you how it can be done," said George, desirous of granting
Jim and Dick the very slight favor which they asked, and yet quite as
unwilling as was Bob that the work should be done in any way which could
be called illegal. "Bob can go to the torpedo people, pay them for the
charge, get the cartridges and glycerine, with the express understanding
that he is to do the work himself. That would make matters right all
around, and you can fancy that you are moonlighting again."

It was a happy thought, this one of George's, and every one present,
even including Mr. Simpson, hailed it with joy. It was an arrangement
which would please all of them very much better than to have any
strangers doing the work, and Bob would have started at once to attend
to it, if Ralph had not stopped him by telling him of the examination
which he would be obliged to attend next day.

"Since you will be obliged to go with us, you had better wait until
to-morrow. You can have the tubing started on the road at the same time,
and on the next day we can shoot the well," suggested George.

Bob was not at all inclined to wait forty-eight hours when half that
time would suffice to decide whether "The Harnett" was a wonderful
success or a dismal failure; but since he would be obliged to be present
at the examination, which would occupy a portion of the day, he tried to
content himself as best he could.

The remainder of that day was spent in discussing plans for the future,
Bob entering into a profound calculation of the amount of material they
would need to build a tank, for he was so certain they would strike oil,
that he would have had no hesitation in beginning work on the tank even
before the well was opened.

On the following morning, George was feeling so well and looking so
bright that there could no longer be any fear he had over-exerted
himself the day before, and preparations were begun at once for the ride
into town.

Ralph and George were to drive in with the latter's team, while the old
firm of moonlighters, with Mr. Simpson, were to go in Bob's
double-seated wagon. Everything was taken which it was thought the
invalid might need, and the party started, all of them wishing the
journey had some other motive than that of assuring punishment to
others, even though they were guilty.

On arriving in town, they were met by the officer whom they had spoken
with the day before, and he told them, after they had found a
comfortable seat in the court-room, of all that had been learned of the
prisoners.

Their names were William Dean and Henry Ramsdell, and they had worked
for some time in Oil City for a civil engineer there. By this means they
had learned the oil business, and had shown an especial aptitude for
prospecting. There they committed what may or may not have been their
first crime, for no one knew where they had lived before they appeared
in Oil City. They robbed their employer of nearly two hundred dollars,
and it is probable that it was after that money was spent that they had
stolen George's team.

The examination did not last very long. George told of the theft of his
team, of his pursuing the thieves, in company with Ralph and Bob, and of
all that occurred up to the time he left his companions to go to Mr.
Simpson's for his instruments.

"Then," he said, "when I had got nearly half way from where I had left
my friends at the house, these men stepped from among the bushes
directly in front of me, and one demanded the paper which I held in my
hand. I refused to give it to him, and as I did so, before I had time to
act on the defensive, the elder of the men struck me full in the face.
I at once began to defend myself, but it was two to one, and in a very
short time a blow on the head from some hard substance felled me to the
ground, unconscious."

That was all George could tell, and Ralph and Bob were both called to
the stand to testify to what they knew, both of the theft of the team
and of the finding of George.

Mr. Simpson, Jim and Dick were also ready to testify as to the condition
of George when they found him and when they carried him into the house,
but their evidence was not needed then, nor was the doctor's, who had
examined and attended the wounded youth.

Beyond asking one or two unimportant questions of each witness, the
accused had nothing to say for themselves, or in contradiction of what
had been testified to, and the judge committed them without bail for
trial at the next term of court.

As soon as the examination was over, Bob went to the office of the
torpedo works, and there contracted for the necessary amount of material
to "shoot" the well, and also stipulated that he be given permission to
do the work.

At first this was refused peremptorily, on the ground that it was a
dangerous operation, and that he would probably succeed only in killing
himself.

Bob understood at once that he was not recognized, and he asked if Mr.
Newcombe was in the building. That gentleman was in, and appeared very
shortly after he was sent for, greeting Bob as heartily as if they had
always been the best of friends rather than enemies.

"Mr. Newcombe, I have come for an eighty-quart charge, with the
stipulation that I can work it myself in the well on the Simpson farm,
of which I own one quarter. This gentleman refuses, because he is afraid
I may kill myself. Won't you vouch for my skill in the matter?"

"Indeed I will," was the hearty reply; "and if you will buy all your
charges in the same manner, I shall have very much less work to do."

"I've stopped all that work now," said Bob, solemnly, "and so far as I
am concerned, you won't have another night's drive for moonlighters."

Of course, after Mr. Newcombe's introduction, Bob had no difficulty in
gaining the desired permission, and he joined those who were waiting for
him outside, happy in the thought that, as he expressed it, "'The
Harnett' would have a chance next day to show what she could do."



CHAPTER XXX.

LEGAL MOONLIGHTERS.


When the boys arrived at the Simpson farm-house, after the close of the
examination, there was very little they could do save talk over that
which was to be done on the morrow, when the value of "The Harnett" was
to be decided.

A portion of the tubing to be used in case there was any flow of oil,
was already on the ground, and the remainder would be hauled by noon of
the next day at the latest. There were no cartridges to prepare, for the
Torpedo Company's workmen would attend to all that, delivering both the
tin cases and the glycerine ready for use.

Everything was done that could be, and in a few hours more the casing of
rock, which might or might not cover a large deposit of oil, would be
blown out.

As sanguine as Bob had been from the first that a large yield of oil
would be found, he was exceedingly nervous now that the time for the
question to be settled was near at hand. Not but that he was still as
positive as ever that they should strike oil, but he began to fear that
it might not be found in such quantity as he had imagined.

He would talk for a few moments with the boys, then find some pretext
for going to the well, over which a guard had been set to prevent any
evil-disposed parties from tampering with it, and once there he was
quite as eager to get back to his partners as he had been to leave them.
In fact, he was in the highest degree nervous, and had not the others
been afflicted in a similar way, they would have noticed his condition.

Mr. Simpson was in such a disturbed mental condition that he went about
his work in a dazed sort of way, until his wife insisted on his sitting
on the wood-pile, where if he did no good he could at least do no harm,
while she did the chores for him.

On hearing Bob say, for at least the tenth time since he returned from
town, that everything was all right at the well, the old man did "pull
himself together" sufficiently to do the milking, and then no sooner had
he performed that task than he forgot what he had done, and tried to do
the whole work over again, remembering his previous accomplishment only
when one of the cows kicked the empty pail over, and very nearly served
him in the same way.

Jim and Dick were not as anxious regarding the yield of the well;
therefore, they were in a state of excitement only because they were to
be at what would be very nearly their old moonlighting tricks again, and
were simply impatient for the time to come when they could be at work.

They spent their time sitting on a rather sharp rail of the fence,
bemoaning Bob's obstinacy in not having the well shot in regular
moonlighter's fashion, without being so weak-kneed as to buy the right
to do simply what no one ought to be allowed to prevent him from doing.

Ralph and George were inwardly as excited as any one else, but outwardly
very much more calm. They sat in the latter's room, talking over the
prospects of striking a goodly quantity of oil, while, despite all they
could do, the conversation would come around to what the result would be
in case "The Harnett" proved to be a dry well. They knew that all the
bills had been contracted in their names, since they were the sole
owners at the time the work was commenced, and in case of a failure,
they would find themselves burdened with such a load of debt that it
would take them a very long time to clear it off.

Even at that late hour they regretted that Bob had commenced to sink the
well, and it is extremely probable that if it had been possible to undo
all that had been done, leaving the land exactly as it was before the
signs of oil were discovered, they would gladly have agreed to forego
all their dream of wealth.

Whether Mrs. Harnett and Mrs. Simpson also suffered from suspense that
evening it is hard to say; but certain it is that they were more silent
than usual, and the former sewed remarkably fast, while the latter's
knitting-needles clicked with unusual force.

It was a trying time for all in that house. Had it been daylight, when
they could have been at work, the hours would not have seemed nearly as
long; but, in the evening, the time passed so slowly that it almost
seemed as if there was a conspiracy of the clocks, and that their hands
were only moving about half as fast as they should have done.

Then came the night, when every one went to bed and tried to sleep; but
three in that household succeeded very badly, and who those three were
may be very easily imagined.

Next morning, every one was up so early that the hens were frightened
from their roosts half an hour before their regular time, and the
breakfast had been eaten fully an hour before it was customary to begin
to prepare it.

George showed the effects of his anxiety very plainly, and had his
mother not feared the suspense would be worse for him than the fatigue,
she would have tried to induce him to remain in the house instead of
going to the well as had been agreed upon.

Bob, who had visited the scene of operations before breakfast, again
announced that "everything was all right," and that one more load of
tubing would give them sufficient.

Under the pretext that there were a great many things which it was
necessary for him to attend to, while everyone knew he was simply
inventing work for the purpose of hiding his anxiety, he insisted that
Ralph, Jim and Dick should help George out to the well when he was ready
to come, and then he hurried away.

The charge would not be exploded until nearly noon, and on the night
before it had been agreed that George should not venture out until a
short time before the decisive moment; but now that the time was so near
at hand, he could not remain in the house, and the result was that his
mother and Ralph agreed he should go at once.

An easy chair was carried out in the grove, and placed at a safe
distance from the well, but where he could have a good view of what was
going on. Then, with Ralph at one side, Dick at the other, Mrs. Simpson
ahead, carrying a foot-stool and a fan, and his mother in the rear, with
a bottle of salts and an umbrella, the cortege started, its general
dignity sadly marred when the party were obliged to climb the fence.

Bob was nowhere to be seen when the invalid and his attendants arrived
at the reserved seat, but before he was comfortably seated the
superintendent came up with another announcement that "everything was
all right," and aided them in disposing of George.

He was comfortably seated under a large tree, with Mrs. Harnett and Mrs.
Simpson on either side of him, and, so far as could be judged, was quite
as well off there as he would have been in the house. Once he was where
he could see what was going on, and viewing the works for the first
time, the haggard look left his face, thus showing the wisdom of his
friends in not preventing him from coming when he wanted to.

The first arrival, after the spectators had assembled, was the last load
of tubing, and Bob's only trouble was, or he professed that it was, that
they would lose so much oil before they could make arrangements for
storing it.

As the time went on, Bob was the only one who had anything to do, and
those who watched him insisted that he simply did the same work over and
over again.

Finally, when every one began to fear that the Torpedo Company had
entirely forgotten their contract, a wagon, similar to the one owned by
Bob, drove up with the long tin tubes on the uprights, and the box
evidently stored with the dangerous liquid.

In an instant the moonlighters were changed boys. All their nervousness
or listlessness was gone, and in its place a bustling, consequential air
that was almost ludicrous.

All three of the boys helped unload the wagon, and when the driver
attempted to do his share, they plainly told him that all he would be
allowed to do was to fasten his horses, if he wanted to see the
operation, or to drive away if he was not interested in it. He chose the
latter course, and, save for the workmen, the party most interested in
"The Harnett" were left alone.

Bob critically examined the cartridges, making many unfavorable
comparisons between them and the ones he had been in the habit of
making, and then began the work of fastening the reel to the derrick, as
well as setting the upright in position, which served as a guide to the
rope that was to lower the cartridges in position.

When that was done--and the moonlighters did not hurry in their work,
anxious as they had been before, for they were determined that this last
shot of theirs should be a perfect success--the more delicate task of
filling the cartridges was begun.

There were four of these, each capable of holding twenty quarts, and the
spectators were not wholly at their ease, as can after can of the
explosive fluid was poured into these frail-looking vessels, even though
the moonlighters handled it much more carefully than Ralph had seen them
handle that which had been used at the Hoxie well, on the famous night
when Mr. Newcombe guarded their hut for them.

As each tube was filled, the boys lowered it into position in the well,
and the nervous anxiety which had assailed them the night before again
took possession of Ralph and George.

At last everything was ready for the launching of the iron bolt, which
was to call into activity the explosive mass, that was to shatter the
rock under which it was hoped the oil was concealed. The moment had come
when the value or worthlessness of "The Harnett" was to be decided.



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE SHOT.


It is barely possible that when Bob stood over the aperture with the
iron poised in his hands which was to be the means of opening to them
the mystery of the well, there was just a shade of fear at his heart
that he had been mistaken in the signs, and that an upward rush of
water, would be all that would follow the explosion.

His partners noted a look of almost painful hesitation on his face for
an instant, and, then, as it vanished, he dropped the go-devil,
retreating to where the group of anxious watchers were gathered around
George's chair.

The seconds that followed the dropping of the iron were wonderfully long
ones, and it seemed as if each one present ceased to breathe, as the
time had come when the value or worthlessness of the well was to be
decided.

Then was heard three distinct reports, somewhat louder than had been
heard at the Hoxie well, because of the charge being nearer the surface
of the earth, and this was followed by the black, noisome vapor that
wreathed slowly around the aperture as if sent by the demons of the
earth to keep back those venturesome mortals who would seek to penetrate
their secrets.

No one spoke, and each eye was riveted upon the mouth of the well, to
read there the story which was soon told. First came a shower of water,
breaking into drops as it reached the surface, sparkling in the sun like
diamonds, and then uprose, not slowly and waveringly as Ralph had seen
it once before, but shooting quickly in the air, a transparent, greenish
column of oil, that broke amid the timbers of the derrick, shattering
into splinters the smaller joists and scattering them in every
direction.

It was clearly and unmistakably oil, not in any small quantity, or sent
with any slight force; but a discharge which, from its volume and
intensity, showed how vast was the reservoir from which it had come, how
great the strength of confined gas that sent it heavenward.

For nearly five minutes the spectators sat watching the flow of oil
which told of the value of "The Harnett," until Bob broke the spell that
bound them, by shouting:

"Hurrah for 'The Harnett!' Hurrah for petroleum!"

In an instant all present, even including George, burst into loud shouts
of welcome to the long-confined and valuable product of the earth which
was theirs.

During the thirty minutes that the new well spouted, congratulations
were poured in on Bob from all sides, for through his efforts had this
work been done, and without him it might have been many years before
such a scene would have been witnessed on the Simpson wood-lot.

The partners hardly knew how to express their joy. George was quietly
happy; but the unusual brilliancy of his eyes and the flush on his
cheeks told of the deep but suppressed excitement under which he was
laboring. In that steady upward flow of oil he saw a competency for
himself and his mother, which he had not dreamed he should secure during
many long years of toil, and as he clasped her fervently by the hand,
she knew that it was of the many things this well would produce which
would add to her comfort that he was thinking.

Old Mr. Simpson and his wife stood with clasped hands, looking at the
representation of wealth which was pouring out before them, and in their
eyes, even as they gazed, was a far-away look, as if they were thinking
of their loved ones who, when on this earth, had been deprived of many
of the necessaries of life, while wealth beyond their wildest imaginings
lay beneath their very feet.

Ralph was laboring under the most intense excitement, which he strove
vainly to suppress. He had not, like George, been obliged to battle with
the world for those things which money can buy; but he saw before him a
course already marked out, which he had believed he would be obliged to
struggle very hard to reach.

Now he was rich, and all those things he had desired could be his.

Jim and Dick were loud in their demonstrations of joy that their last
shot had produced such magnificent results; but their old partner, Bob,
outstripped them all in loud rejoicings. He had demonstrated beyond the
possibility of an argument that his location of the oil belt in the
vicinity was correct, and he had done so even as against the theories of
those older and more experienced in the business than himself.

In addition, one-quarter of all this was his, and he was what he had
long dreamed of being--an oil producer.

The length of time which the well flowed demonstrated the fact that, if
it would not produce a thousand barrels of oil per day, the yield would
not fall far short of that, and when it finally ceased flowing, Bob was
transformed into the steady, hard-working superintendent he had been
since the work was first commenced.

It was necessary that something be done at once to save all this oil
which was now going to waste, and he directed the workmen at once how
they should begin.

Unknown to his partners, Bob had already made arrangements for the
building of a tank, and, as soon as the workmen were engaged with the
tubing, he started Jim off to town with a message to the contractors
that no time might be lost in getting at the work.

Before Jim left, Ralph gave him a message which he wanted him to send to
his father. It was short, containing only these words:

    "Well just opened. Good for eight hundred barrels per day."

On reading it, Bob insisted that the eight hundred should be changed to
one thousand, since that would probably be nearer the actual yield; but
Ralph let it remain as it was, preferring to be two hundred barrels
short of the actual yield rather than two hundred barrels over.

Mrs. Harnett persuaded George to return to the house as soon as the
first flow had ceased; and, aided by Ralph and Mr. Simpson--for the
others were too busy to be able to help him--he went back, fancying, as
soon as he was away from the well, that he had dreamed of the wonderful
things he had seen, and that it could not be a reality.

His friends were not certain whether he had been injured or benefited by
the excitement; but he was so thoroughly tired out when he reached his
room that he was obliged to go to bed at once, and there he fell into a
long, sweet sleep, from which he did not awaken until evening.

As may be imagined, everything was in the greatest state of activity
around "The Harnett" during the remainder of that day and all the night,
making ready to save the oil which then was being lost, and before the
morning came, those who were working at the well decided that even Bob's
estimate of a thousand barrels was too small.

"The Harnett" was flowing at the rate of twelve hundred barrels of oil
per day, and that represented at least as many dollars, although the
price of oil might fall much lower than it then was, when the supply
exceeded the demand.

"If there is anybody that thinks now that the oil-belt don't extend up
this way, I should like to have them come up and take a squint at 'The
Harnett.' She's spouting like a daisy, and I knew she would, from the
first," said Bob, as he came in to breakfast next morning, after having
worked all night, his joy so great that he did not even feel the
fatigue.

George seemed almost well on this morning, and he took his seat with the
others at the breakfast-table, much as if he was as strong as any of
them, while his looks did not belie his actions.

"I knew you'd be well this morning," said Bob, gleefully, "for no matter
how weak you were, such a sight as you saw yesterday would put the
strength into you."

And then the ex-moonlighter's tongue rattled on as if it had, as motive
power, a greater force than that which sent the oil up through "The
Harnett."

Bob was as full of business as ever on this morning. By common consent,
and without the necessity of any conversation on the matter, he had been
tacitly accepted as superintendent, and it was not possible for him,
just then, to spend many idle moments.

Already had the work on the tank been begun, and until it was finished,
"The Harnett" would be connected with an empty one, about two miles
away, the tubing being already nearly in position.

Bob had sent, the night before, for more workmen, and he confidently
expected that by night all the product of "The Harnett" could be saved.

Old Pete, who had acted as a sort of watchman and guard for Bob when he
was a moonlighter, had been sent for to fill a similar position at the
well, and very many schemes were in progress.

A house was to be built for the accommodation of the workmen, and this
Bob insisted Ralph should attend to at once, as it was needed sadly.

Mr. Simpson was charged with making a road to lead from the highway to
the well, and since George was not strong enough to do any other work,
he was made book-keeper and cashier, as well as general financier.

Jim and Dick were both hired by the owners of "The Harnett," one to act
as general messenger and clerk to George, and the other for such
important duties as the partners might not be able to attend to.

In fact, before sunset of the day after the well had been opened, each
one of the owners was hard at work, and when they had ceased their
labors for the day, gathering in George's room, now turned office, for a
chat, Bob rather startled them by the information that it was his
purpose to sink another well close by the house, as soon as he should
get matters straightened out at "The Harnett."



CHAPTER XXXII.

MASSIE'S SCHEME.


During the following week, matters went on very smoothly at the well
newly opened on Mr. Simpson's wood-lot.

George had continued steadily to improve, and looked quite like his old
self, so much good had prosperity done for him. His mother, recognizing
the fact that she could no longer be of service to him, and feeling not
exactly at home in the rather limited accommodations which the Simpson
house afforded, had gone home, while the three boys had settled down as
regular boarders, or, rather, guests at the Simpson farm.

The road had been built, the house for the workmen was well under way,
and the tank completed. By having this storage place near at hand, the
value of "The Harnett" could be definitely settled, and it was found
that the well was producing a trifle over twelve hundred barrels of oil
every twenty-four hours.

The money which Mr. Gurney had advanced had already been repaid, and it
was George's intention to settle for the machinery and tools in a few
days more, for they were all anxious to be free from debt.

Ralph's father had replied to the telegram by a letter of
congratulation, and had promised to come up there to see the property
before Ralph's vacation had expired, for it was by no means the young
oil producer's intention to neglect his studies. While the other
partners attended to the work at the well, it was his purpose to return
to college to finish the regular course he had started on.

It did not seem possible that, now the well was open and flowing so
freely, anything could happen to prevent them from becoming wealthy, and
that in a comparatively short time; but from this dream of fancied
security they were destined to be rather rudely awakened.

One morning, when they were all at the well, while Bob was trying, as he
had every day since he first saw oil from "The Harnett," to convince
them of the wisdom of boring another well just outside the limits of
their own property, but on that of Mr. Simpson's, which was entirely at
their service, two men drove up directly in front of them.

Visitors had been so plenty at the well, that neither of the partners
paid much attention to these new arrivals. Every one near there had
heard Bob Hubbard's predictions that the oil belt embraced Mr. Simpson's
property, but without believing him, and when the news went out that he
had struck a twelve-hundred-barrel well just where every one believed
there was no oil, it seemed as if the people must see it before they
could be convinced it was really there.

Almost a constant stream of visitors had been at the well from the day
it was opened, and Bob, believing these two men had come simply to
assure themselves that what others had said was true, paid no attention
to them, but continued his argument with George, as showing how they
could open another well further down the gully that should pay as well
as this one.

"Can we see Mr. George Harnett and Mr. Ralph Gurney?" asked one of the
men, as both advanced toward the lucky owners of "The Harnett."

"Those are the gentlemen," said Bob, carelessly, as he pointed to George
and Ralph, and then turned away to attend to some work, believing the
visitors had only idle questions to ask.

"And are you Robert Hubbard?" asked the second man, stepping in front of
Bob in such a manner as to prevent his leaving the place.

"I am."

"And this, I presume, is Mr. Daniel Simpson?" continued the man, as he
pointed to the fourth partner, who had not yet gotten over his surprise
at seeing oil flow on his land.

"It is," said Bob, sharply. "Is there any one else around here you wish
to see? If there is, call the roll now, for we have nothing else to do
but stand up for inspection."

"You four are all we have any business with just now, although in a few
moments we shall want to see all who are at work here," said the man who
had first spoken; and then, as he produced an official-looking document
from his pocket, he added, "Here is an injunction from the court,
restraining you from trespassing any further on this property, and from
removing anything from it. Here, also, are summonses for you to appear
in a suit for ten thousand dollars damages, brought against you by
Marcus Massie."

"Massie!" exclaimed Bob, while the others looked at the documents in
speechless astonishment. "What have we got to do with him? We don't owe
him any money."

"He claims that you have damaged him to the amount named by opening this
well without his knowledge or consent," replied the man.

"Well, I like that!" cried Bob, angrily. "Of course we opened it without
his knowledge or consent, and perhaps you can tell us why it would have
been necessary to consult him about it. What has he got to do with us?"

"Since the well is on his land, and since you have been converting the
oil to your own use, he thinks he has a great deal to do with it,"
replied the second man, who looked very much like a lawyer, while the
other was evidently an officer of some kind.

"His land!" cried George; and then all four of the partners looked at
each other in a dazed way, as if they had suddenly been deprived of the
power of speech.

"Yes, his land," replied the lawyer. "He had a mortgage on all this
property, which he foreclosed, and he proposes to take possession of
the house at once."

"But--but I paid that mortgage!" cried Mr. Simpson, in a trembling
voice. "I paid that mortgage, and have got it now."

"Yes," was the quiet reply. "I understand that by some means you have
got the instrument itself in your possession, but if you had got it
because you had paid the amount due, you would have received and had
recorded a release from Mr. Massie. Have you got that?"

"A release!" repeated the old man, in bewilderment. "I don't rightly
understand you. I paid my money and got the mortgage. Wasn't that
enough?"

"_If_ you had paid the money," replied the lawyer, with a decided
emphasis on the first word, "you would have received a release, and that
would have been recorded with the mortgage, otherwise that instrument is
in full force."

"But I paid it! I paid it!" wailed the old man.

"I know you did, Mr. Simpson," said George, sternly, "and so does
Massie. This is a sharp trick on his part to force us into buying his
imaginary claim off, for he tried very hard to get hold of this property
in the first place, and would have succeeded if he had not tried to get
too much. We will consult a lawyer at once."

"In the meantime, gentlemen," said the lawyer, "I warn you against
removing any more oil, or interfering in any way with my client's
property."

"I don't suppose you have got an order of the court to prevent the well
from flowing, have you?" asked Bob, angrily, making what seemed such
unnecessary movements with his hands, that the lawyer stepped several
paces backward very quickly.

"This officer will remain in charge of such property as you may own
here, since it is attached by Mr. Massie," said the lawyer, evidently
thinking it best for him to depart, and getting into the carriage with a
celerity that hardly seemed possible in one of his age.

"Oh, he will, will he?" cried Bob, savagely. "Well, I shall stay here in
charge of him, and I promise you he won't do anything more here than the
law permits him to."

"What _can_ we do?" asked Ralph, as the lawyer drove away, and the
officer sauntered around the premises like one who already owned them.

"I don't know what we can do now, except to go into town and consult a
lawyer. There is no question but that Massie is trying a little sharp
practice, and if it is a possible thing, he will get the best of us,"
said George. "Ralph, you and I will go into town, while Bob stays here.
I suppose we had better take Mr. Simpson with us, so that he can tell
all the particulars of paying the money."

"We will telegraph for father," cried Ralph, as if the thought has just
occurred to him. "He is a lawyer, and he will help us through with it."

"That's a good idea," replied George; "but we will also see a lawyer in
town, so as to know exactly what we ought to do now."

Mr. Simpson followed Ralph and George as they went to the stable, and
from time to time he repeated half to himself, as he passed his hand
over his forehead, as if to collect his scattered senses:

"I paid the mortgage--I paid the mortgage."

"We know you did, Mr. Simpson, and it will be hard if we can't prove it.
At all events, he has not got possession of the property yet, and I do
not believe he ever will."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

HOLDING POSSESSION.


It was a mournful-looking superintendent Bob made when his partners had
left him alone with the officer who was acting as keeper of the property
Massie had attached in pursuance of his swindling scheme.

Bob had a wholesome dread of openly defying the law. In a case like
moonlighting, where the question of legality had never been definitely
settled, he had been prompt enough to take his chances as to whether he
was proceeding in strict accordance with, or directly against, the law;
but in the present case, where the man whom he would have been most
pleased to forcibly eject from the premises was armed with all the
powers of the court, Bob was obliged to content himself with thinking
what he would like to do.

As the officer sat there near the engine-house, doing no more than was
absolutely his duty, Bob looked upon him as simply Mr. Massie's
representative, and the temptation to vent his anger by some act of
violence was very great.

He restrained himself, however, from saying or doing anything that
would entangle him in the meshes of the law; but in order to preserve
this outward tranquility, he was obliged to ease his mind in some way,
which he did by actually glowering at the innocent officer as though he
would "wither him with a glance."

Of course there was a certain amount of work which it was absolutely
necessary to do, such as caring for the oil, attending to the engine
which forced the oil into the tank, and such things as even the law
might not be able to restrain. But the work on the buildings, the
sinking of pipes in order to get a supply of gas for illuminating
purposes, extending the road from the well to the house, and all that
labor which was for the purpose of improvement of the property, was
necessarily at an end.

Had George remained, his prudence would have dictated the discharge of
all their force of workmen who were not employed exclusively on the
well, until the question at law had been settled. But to Bob such a
course seemed too much like submitting to what was a deliberate wrong,
perpetrated under the guise of justice, and he preferred the expense,
rather than even the semblance of "backing down."

The officer may or may not have had a disagreeable time in the pursuance
of his duty while Ralph and George were in town; but to Bob it was
certainly anything but pleasant, since he had great difficulty in not
coming to an open conflict with this personification of law, brought in
to aid fraud.

It seemed to the ex-moonlighter as if his companions would never return,
and once at least during every ten minutes he walked toward the house,
in the hope of seeing them as they came up the lane.

It was not until quite two hours past noon that his vigil was rewarded,
and then he saw them coming toward the house with a fourth party in the
wagon, whom he rightly conjectured was the lawyer whom they had been to
consult.

"Well," he cried, even before they had had time to alight from the
wagon; "how have you made out?"

"I haven't got time to tell you now," said George, hurriedly; "but you
will hear it all when we are through with what we have to do. Mr.
Hillman, the lawyer whom we consulted, and who has come out with us,
says that the first and main thing to do is to hold possession, not only
of the wood-lot, but of the farm. Massie will attempt this very
afternoon to get his men in here, as his lawyer threatened, and if he
succeeds we shall be the ones who will have to sue him, instead of his
being the outside party, as he is now."

"Can we prevent any one from coming here?" asked Bob, quickly.

"Certainly you can, and must," replied the lawyer. "No one can come here
without your permission until after the matter has been decided in
court, and you must be careful that no one does."

"That settles it, then," said Bob, gleefully, as he started towards the
well. "The first thing I'll do will be to fire out that fellow Massie
has got here, and he won't be handled very tenderly either."

"Stop!" cried the lawyer, obliged to speak very loudly, for Bob was some
distance away before he had ceased speaking. "That man has a perfect
right to be here, for he represents the court in the matter of holding
certain movable property until the suit can be decided. What you are to
do is simply to prevent unauthorized persons from gaining admittance."

"But how is that going to help matters?"

And Bob was again disconsolate because this revenge had been denied him.

"I prefer to wait until Mr. Gurney can get here before I decide fully on
just what shall be done," replied Mr. Hillman. "He stands very high as a
lawyer, and his advice in the matter will be worth much more than mine."

"Well," asked the moonlighter, impatiently, "how are we going to prevent
any one from coming on the land?"

"That is a very easy matter. With your workmen and yourselves, you ought
to form a regular patrol at those few points at which a person could
enter, and the law will sustain you in keeping any one away, who does
not come armed with an order from the court, even though you use force."

That was sufficient for Bob. Legally entitled to act on the offensive,
under certain circumstances, and to defend his and Mr. Simpson's
property against all save those coming in the name of the law, there was
an opportunity for him to work off some of the anger which he had found
so difficult to restrain during the forenoon.

George and Ralph were perfectly willing to let him attend to the
defenses, they acting under his orders, and Bob set to work with a
feverish energy that boded ill for the perfecting of Mr. Massie's
scheme.

Pete was ordered to take up his position at the entrance of the lane
which led to the Simpson house, and Mr. Simpson was detailed to see that
the negro did his duty. A stout club was all he was allowed as a weapon;
but this would be sufficient, it was thought.

Four of the workmen, under the immediate supervision of Jim, were
stationed at the road leading to the well, and their orders were
peremptory against allowing any one to enter unless with the express
permission of Mr. Hillman, who, if any papers purporting to be orders
from the court were presented, would first examine them to learn if they
were correct.

Four more men, under Dick, were stationed along the front of the
property, with orders to patrol the entire line, and three others were
stationed around the house, under Ralph's charge.

Bob intended to have a personal supervision of all the points of
defense, and in order that he might move about more readily, he had one
of his horses saddled, by which means of locomotion he could visit each
of his sentries at least once every half hour.

The officer who had been stationed at the works as keeper of the
property Massie had attached, was informed that he would be considered a
trespasser, and treated as such, if he attempted to go anywhere except
just where those articles were which he was expected to guard.

George and the lawyer were thus left free from any duty of guarding the
place, and this Bob very wisely concluded was necessary, since they
might be obliged to go to town at any moment.

Mrs. Simpson was set at work cooking up a quantity of food for the
defenders of the castle, and this Bob proposed to carry to them himself,
for he did not intend that one of his men should leave his post, even
for a moment.

After all this was done, Bob had time to talk with George and Mr.
Hillman relative to the interview that had been held in town.

Mr. Simpson had remained in the same dazed condition he had fallen into
when Massie's attorney first appeared, and had been unable to repeat a
single word of the interview he had had with the money-lender when he
paid off the mortgage, or to remember what had been done at the time.

The records had been searched, however, and no release had been found;
therefore, it was plain that Mr. Simpson's ignorance of such matters had
caused him to neglect to ask for one.

The probabilities were that Mr. Massie, after learning of the valuable
well which had been found on this property which might have been his had
he not tried to gain possession of the whole farm, had taken advantage
of this oversight on the part of his debtor, and, although he had been
repaid the borrowed money, intended to deny that he had ever received
it.

That Mr. Hillman had fears of the ultimate result was shown by his
desire to consult with Mr. Gurney before taking any steps in the matter,
other than to hold possession of the property, and all the partners save
Mr. Simpson, who did not seem to be able to understand anything just
then, felt that there was a possibility that they might lose "The
Harnett" after all their labor and rejoicing.

Bob was by no means easy in his mind when he left Mr. Hillman and George
to begin his rounds of the outposts; but he was determined that, since
all they could do was to hold possession, no one not legally entitled to
it should gain admittance to the place.

For two hours, during which Bob had made his rounds four times, nothing
had been seen to indicate that any one had even a desire to enter the
Simpson farm, and then, while Bob was talking with the old man, trying
to force him to remember all he had done while at Mr. Massie's office,
three wagons filled with men were seen down the road coming directly
toward the place.

There could be no question but that this was the money-lender's party
coming to take possession, and they were in larger force than any one
had anticipated.

Riding quickly to the house, Bob ordered Ralph and his men to join Pete
and Mr. Simpson, and then he called in Dick and his men, giving these
last orders to proceed at once to support Jim, in case any of the
newcomers attempted to go that way.

He thought, however, that the greatest trouble would be had at the lane,
and he believed he was fully prepared for it.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE MISSING WITNESS.


Bob had hardly called the main portion of his men to the point which was
threatened by the money-lender's party, when the wagons reached the
entrance to the lane, and the occupants began to get out.

"You cannot enter here!" cried Bob, as the first man started toward the
lane, as if he would force his way past those who were guarding the
entrance.

"I am sent here by the owner of the property, and it is my intention not
only to go in, but to drive away those who are intruding here," replied
the man, in an offensive tone.

"Well," cried Bob, the anger which he had kept under control with
greatest difficulty during the day now gaining the ascendancy, "it may
first be necessary for you to get in before you drive any one out, and I
warn you that you attempt to enter at your peril. I am here by the
orders of the true owner of the property, and it will be a mighty hard
show for you to get in, since my instructions are to keep every one
out."

By this time Mr. Hillman had arrived at the scene of the threatened
trouble, and he said, loudly, so that all might hear him:

"Gentlemen, the owner of this property is Mr. Daniel Simpson, my client.
Acting under my advice, he refuses to allow any one to enter on his
farm, and for that purpose has a body of men here to defend his rights.
I warn you that you will be rendering yourselves liable to prosecution
if you attempt to enter here against his express orders to the
contrary."

For a moment those who had been sent by Massie retreated to the wagons,
as if unwilling to do anything which might bring them in conflict with
the majesty of the law, and it seemed very much as if they were going to
leave the place, when the lawyer who had first visited the well, and who
had accompanied them, called out:

"You know very well that this is Mr. Massie's property, since he has
foreclosed the mortgage he held upon it, and if, in obeying his orders,
you do anything which renders you liable to the law, it will be him, not
you, who will be obliged to answer for your actions. I insist upon your
going into the lane."

"It will be their heads which will get cracked, at all events, if they
attempt to come in here!" cried Bob, almost beside himself with rage;
"and if you think we haven't the right or the inclination to knock down
the first man who tries to come in, why don't you lead the way, to shew
that you are not frightened?"

Although Mr. Hillman would have prevented Bob from speaking, if he had
been able to do so, the speech had had its effect, for the men cried out
to the lawyer:

"Yes, you lead the way, and we will follow you!"

Leaping from his horse and seizing Pete's club, Bob cried out:

"Show your men that you have a right to come in here, and I will show
them what they may expect if they try to follow, by an example on your
own head."

The legal gentleman was not as eager to lead the way as he was to urge
the men on, and instead of going boldly up to Bob, he tried to induce
his men to go in. But none of them would make the attempt, because of
the formidable array before them, and seeing how useless his efforts
would be in this direction, the lawyer called one of the men to him,
talking to him in a low tone.

Bob, divining just what was being said, and fearful lest he should be
outwitted finally, went to each one of his men, and ordered them to
start for the road that led to the well the instant they should see the
intruders get into their wagons.

This order was given none too quickly, for almost before Bob had given
his directions to the last man, Massie's party clambered into their
wagons, and started down the road at a sharp gallop.

"Come on, every one of you!" shouted Bob, as he forced his horse to leap
the fence.

By, riding at full speed, he succeeded in getting ahead of those who
would take possession of that to which their employer had no rights.

Of course, it was not possible for Bob's force to get over the ground as
quickly as he did; but they ran as fast as possible, leaving only Mr.
Hillman, Mr. Simpson, George and Pete to guard the entrance to the lane.

Bob arrived at the place where Jim and his men were stationed a few
seconds before the would-be invaders did, and in as few words as
possible, told them what had occurred at the lane.

"Strike the first man who attempts to enter," he shouted, "and strike
him hard!"

By that time the lawyer and his party had alighted and were marching in
a solid body up to the road, evidently believing they could force their
way through before the others could arrive.

Instead of dismounting from his horse this time, Bob grasped a club that
was being raised by one of the men, and urged his horse at full speed
among those who were attempting to force an entrance.

They had come out there in Mr. Massie's employ, believing that there
might be some little difficulty about entering, which their very numbers
would dispel at once, but by no means anticipating such a vigorous
resistance. It did not suit them to measure strength with these who at
last _appeared_ to have right on their side, and they fled before Bob's
charge with the greatest precipitation.

Bob was careful not to follow them into the highway; for, though he had
no very extensive acquaintance with the law, he rightly conjectured that
if he did this, he might be exceeding the powers Mr. Hillman had said
were his; but he stood on the very line of his property, swinging his
club in a fashion that would make it uncomfortable for anyone who might
get within its reach.

"You should be ashamed of yourselves," he cried, anxious to hold them in
check by any means until the remainder of his army could arrive upon the
scene, "to attempt even to aid Massie in depriving an old man of his
hard-earned rights. Mr. Simpson paid the money-lender all the money he
had borrowed; but not knowing anything of the beautiful intricacies of
the law, which gives a semblance of legality to such a theft as this,
neglected to ask for a release of the property. After oil was discovered
here, Massie saw a chance to steal the property, and he has hired you to
do what he doesn't dare to do himself. If I so much as thought I was as
contemptible as you show yourselves to be by trying to do this dirty
work, I would go and drown myself in the most stagnant pool I could
find."

Bob's speech had quite as much effect upon the men as the sight of the
clubs had had, and they retreated toward their teams, protesting that
they did not know the facts of the case when they started out.

It was in vain that the lawyer who had accompanied them insisted that
they were only doing what his client had a legal right to ask them to
do; in vain that he urged them to enter on the property regardless of
those who tried to prevent them.

Bob had made them feel ashamed of the part they were playing, and
before Ralph, who had outstripped the others in the race, arrived, they
were in their wagons, insisting that they would have nothing more to do
with the matter.

The lawyer scolded and shouted himself hoarse, trying to oblige them to
do as he coaxed and commanded, but all to no purpose. They were
determined to return, and they plainly told him that unless he came with
them, they should drive away without him.

Under this pressure, which he could not control, the lawyer was obliged
to obey those whom he had vainly attempted to command, and the party
drove away, leaving Bob the well-earned title of conqueror in this first
battle of Mr. Massie's.

But after all danger, so far as this party was concerned, had
disappeared, Bob was by no means inclined to relax his vigilance. He
stationed his men in the positions he had originally intended they
should occupy, supplied each of them with a generous lunch, with the
addition of hot coffee, and even gave a portion to the solitary officer
at the well, when he had originally intended that he should go hungry.

After that was done, and after he had cautioned them to be watchful,
impressing on the minds of Ralph, Jim and Dick the necessity of
mistrusting every one whom they might see approaching the farm, Bob went
back to the house to consult with Mr. Hillman and George.

There some especially good news awaited him. It seemed as if this direct
attack on Massie's part had restored Mr. Simpson to something near his
presence of mind, and, aided by his wife, who had always found scolding
efficacious when he relapsed into absent-mindedness, had succeeded in
recalling the events on the afternoon when he paid the money-lender the
five hundred dollars which he had had so much difficulty to raise.

He now distinctly remembered that when he entered Massie's office a man
by the name of Jared Thompson, formerly an old neighbor of his, was
there, and that his first words were to the effect that he had brought
the money to pay off the mortgage.

The old man was equally positive that he had laid the amount on the
money-lender's desk in the presence of this same man, and that Massie
had then offered to buy the wood-lot. How much more might have been said
while Thompson was there he was not certain, but of that much he was
positive.

Mr. Hillman was overjoyed at the news that there had been a witness to
the repayment of the money, but when he asked where the man could be
found, he was disappointed in the reply.

Mr. Thompson had lived on the next farm to Mr. Simpson's, but when he
left it, he went to Bradford, and from there it had been said that he
had gone to Babcock. Where he was living at that time Mr. Simpson
neither knew nor did he know of any one else who might be acquainted
with Mr. Thompson's whereabouts.

"If we can find this man, and if he heard what Mr. Simpson thinks he
did, then the case will be clear enough, for we shall have a witness to
the payment of the money, which, I think, will be sufficient to explode
Massie's claim."

"We _must_ find him," was Bob's reply.

And just then he felt able to find any man, however hard he might try to
hide.

"Yes, but how?" asked Ralph, who had come in at the close of the
conversation.

"I don't know exactly," said Bob; "but there must be a way. George can
be spared better than any one else. Let him harness his horses and start
out. He can stay away until he finds him."

"I think the best way would be to make inquiries at Bradford, and from
there you might be able to track him," suggested Mr. Hillman. "Just
remember that with this man everything will be plain sailing, and that
without him Massie may get the best of us, and I am confident you will
bring him back with you."

"And above all things, George, don't give up the chase because you think
we may need you here. Just remember that we can get along as well
without you and spare neither time nor expense in the search," said Bob.

George was perfectly willing to start in pursuit of the missing witness,
and at once made his preparations for the journey.

Fortunately he had with him as much money as he would be likely to want,
and to harness his horses and to gather up such things as he might need
was but the work of a few moments.

"Don't come back without your man!" shouted Bob, as George drove away.

And the defenders of "The Harnett" and the Simpson farm were left alone
to await the coming of Mr. Gurney, and of George with the missing
witness.

All of them feared that Massie's next attempt to gain admittance would
be made under the cover of darkness, and to prevent this from being
successful Bob went to work.

First he sent one of the men on his horse to Sawyer to purchase a number
of lanterns, and while the messenger was gone he got from Mrs. Simpson
all the blankets and comfortables she had.

It was his purpose that half his men should sleep at their posts during
the night, while the others watched, in order that they might be able to
continue sentry duty for any length of time, and he also proposed that
each one on guard should carry a lantern, that both he and any one who
might meditate an attack, would know those in possession of the property
were still on the alert.

This done, the inmates and guardians of the farm were ready for the
coming of the night.



CHAPTER XXXV.

MASSIE'S FAILURE.


Although Bob had taken so many precautions against the coming of the
enemy during the night, they were all useless, since neither Mr. Massie
nor any one in his employ appeared at the Simpson farm.

"Well," said Bob, next morning, while he was waiting for Mrs. Simpson to
prepare the breakfast for the sentinels, "since they didn't come during
the night they'll most likely be here to-day, so it won't do for us to
grow careless."

As the day wore on, and nothing was seen of the force which it was
believed would appear, Ralph said to Bob:

"If father started as soon as he got my telegram, he ought to be here on
the train to-night, and some of us must drive into town for him."

"That's true, and you must be the one to go," replied Bob, decidedly.
"You can take my team, and if any one comes while you are gone, we shall
get rid of them, I guess."

Since Mr. Hillman wished to go to his office for some law-books and
papers before Mr. Gurney arrived, Ralph started off with him about
noon, leaving the farm with the often-expressed wish that nothing would
happen during the absence of three of the defenders.

"If you mean by that that you're afraid some of Massie's men may get in
here, you're mistaken," said Bob, stoutly. "Unless we have a mind to let
them, which isn't at all likely, there won't one of them get a chance to
so much as show his nose inside."

Now that Mr. Simpson had succeeded in gathering his scattered faculties
once more, and understood that everything might yet be well with them,
he seemed suddenly to have grown young again, for he was as eager in
watching for approaching danger as Bob was.

"Don't fear for us!" he shouted, as Mr. Hillman and Ralph drove down the
lane. "We can keep a regiment of them at their distance," and he acted
much as if he believed all he said.

It was about two hours after Ralph and the lawyer drove away, when Bob
was honored with another visit from Mr. Massie's messengers, but this
time they did not come in sufficient force to cause any alarm.

The lawyer and two men drove up to the lane, where Bob, having seen them
while they were yet some distance away, had a force of five men, and the
following conversation took place:

"I am instructed by Mr. Marcus Massie, the rightful owner of this place,
to take possession of it at once, and to order you off the grounds as
trespassers," said the lawyer. "Do you intend to prevent us from an
exercise of our legal rights?"

"I intend to prevent you from coming in here," replied Bob, "and I warn
you now that I will seriously injure the first one who attempts to come
on to this land, which belongs to Mr. Simpson."

"I have made the demand upon you," continued the lawyer, in an unruffled
tone, "and I tell you now that my client will proceed against you if you
thus attempt by force to prevent him from the exercise of his just and
lawful rights."

"Your client may proceed to do whatever he can, and just as soon as he
can, and if my answer has not been sufficiently plain, I tell you again
that none of you can come in here."

And Bob made a demonstration with his club which appeared to convince
the lawyer that he would have no hesitation about using it on his
precious body.

"I have warned you," said the legal gentleman, viciously, "and now you
can take the consequences."

"And I have warned you!" cried Bob, "and I'm certain that you will take
the consequences if you attempt to come here, where neither you nor your
client have any rights."

With this pleasant conversation, the lawyer and his companions drove
away, and once more was Bob master of the situation.

The next arrivals to the disputed property were Mr. Gurney, Mr. Hillman
and Ralph. The former had started as soon as he had received his son's
telegram, and from the look on Ralph's face, it was easy to see that
the two lawyers, after a consultation together, did not consider the
situation a desperate one.

"Father says that even if George doesn't succeed in finding Thompson, he
believes it will be possible to show to the satisfaction of a jury that
Mr. Simpson paid off the mortgage," said Ralph, as the two lawyers
entered the house, leaving the boys alone in the stable-yard. "Of course
if this witness could be found, everything could be settled at once."

Ralph's father was also able to do something for the immediate relief of
the owners of "The Harnett."

On the morning after his arrival, and the guardians of the property had
been undisturbed during the night, Mr. Gurney and Mr. Hillman went into
town, where they succeeded in getting bondsmen for the boys, thus
releasing the property from attachment. They also began a suit against
Mr. Massie, to restrain him from taking any further steps in the matter
until the question of ownership could be decided at law.

While they were absent, George returned, and with him was the missing
witness, Mr. Jared Thompson. He had been found at Babcock, and since he
had no business on hand he was perfectly willing to accompany George,
and all the more so because he had been promised he should be well paid
for his time, which, just then, was of no value to him.

He remembered distinctly seeing Mr. Simpson at Massie's office, and of
seeing him pay over a large roll of money, which he stated was the
amount of the mortgage. He also heard Massie say, after he had counted
the money, that it was "all right," and saw him hand Mr. Simpson the
mortgage, which he took from his safe.

After that Mr. Thompson heard some conversation between the two men
relative to the purchase of the wood-lot; but, since he was not
interested in the matter, he left the office shortly after it had begun.

On the arrival of Mr. Gurney from town--for he returned alone, since
there was no necessity for Mr. Hillman to accompany him after the bonds
had been given for the release of the property--he questioned the
witness George had brought, and then stated that there was no further
cause for anxiety about the matter, since this testimony would answer
also the purpose of a written release of the mortgage.

He also gave Bob an order to the keeper of the property at the well,
recalling him from his disagreeable duties, and the ex-moonlighter had
the pleasure of escorting the officer to the main road, happy that they
were once more in possession of their own.

Then, of course, Mr. Gurney was shown the wonderful well, and listened,
long and attentively to Bob's arguments as to why another well should be
sunk near the house. To the surprise of all the partners except,
perhaps, Bob, Mr. Gurney advised that that scheme be carried out, saying
that Bob's argument seemed to be supported by such facts in the case as
were apparent even to those unfamiliar with the business.

Bob was highly delighted at having convinced Ralph's father of the
feasibility of this scheme, and Mr. Simpson was so impressed by the
celebrated lawyer's advice that he insisted on deeding, that very night,
the strip of land, on which it was proposed to sink the well, to the
firm of Harnett, Gurney, Hubbard & Simpson.

Mr. Gurney insisted that the other three partners should pay to Mr.
Simpson their proportion of the valuation of the land, which would have
been several thousand dollars; but the old man would listen to no such
proposition. He had been presented with a quarter of the wood-lot when
he had no claim upon it, and he urged his right to make the firm a
present of as much land as he owned.

There was no necessity of watching the farm that night, although Bob
thought it was careless to leave it unguarded; but no harm came to it,
nor did they even hear from the worthy Mr. Massie.

Bob lost no time in setting about the work of opening the new well, and
his first duty next morning was to set a portion of the men at work
making ready for the erection of the derrick.

Fortunately for the boys, the court was already in session, and Massie's
claim came up for an early hearing.

It seemed as if the old money-lender must have entirely forgotten that
there had been a witness to the payment of the money, for he came into
court apparently confident that he should be able to call "The Harnett"
his own; but as soon as he saw Thompson, all his confidence vanished,
and he sneaked out of court even before the case was fairly opened.

Of course, there could be but one decision, under the circumstances, and
in less than an hour from the time the case was called, a verdict had
been given in favor of Mr. Simpson, who was advised by the judge to
demand of Massie a written release, and there was no longer any question
as to the ownership of "The Harnett."

So far as Ralph was concerned, the case had been decided none too soon.
It was time for him to return to college, and on the next day, in
company with his father, he bade his partners adieu for a year, as he
returned to his studies. Ralph Gurney's vacation was at an end, as this
story should be, since it promised simply to tell of that time.

       *       *       *       *       *

With the story brought to a close, the work of the author should be
ended, unless, as in this case, he makes brief mention of what has
happened, concerning the principal characters, from that time until the
present.

Ramsdell and Dean were convicted of the assault on George, and sentence
of two years in the State prison pronounced against them, the charge of
stealing the team still hanging over their heads, in case George wants
to press it when their term of imprisonment has ended, which is not
probable.

While Ralph was finishing his collegiate course, Bob worked at the new
well, and when it was opened, he telegraphed to Ralph:

    "New well just shot. Another victory for the moonlighter, for it
    is not more than two hundred barrels less than the other."

And Ralph replied:

    "I claim the right to name it. It shall be called 'The
    Moonlighter.'"

When Ralph graduated, he owned a quarter of three good, paying wells,
and Bob has now an idea that it will pay to open another some distance
away, where he has been prospecting for the past month.

Mr. and Mrs. Simpson still live on the old farm, and George, Ralph and
Bob live with them; but a new house has been built by the side of the
old one, for the old couple would not consent that their first home
should be torn down, and at any time that the readers visit that section
of the country, they should not fail to look at "The Harnett," which
still flows as it did during Ralph Gurney's vacation.

THE END.



A. L. Burt's Catalogue of Books for Young People by Popular Writers,
52-58 Duane Street, New York

       *       *       *       *       *

BOOKS FOR BOYS.


    =Joe's Luck:= A Boy's Adventures in California. By HORATIO
      ALGER, JR. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

    The story is chock full of stirring incidents, while the amusing
    situations are furnished by Joshua Bickford, from Pumpkin
    Hollow, and the fellow who modestly styles himself the "Rip-tail
    Roarer, from Pike Co., Missouri." Mr. Alger never writes a poor
    book, and "Joe's Luck" is certainly one of his best.

    =Tom the Bootblack;= or, The Road to Success. By HORATIO ALGER,
      JR. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   A bright, enterprising lad was Tom the Bootblack. He was not at
   all ashamed of his humble calling, though always on the lookout
   to better himself. The lad started for Cincinnati to look up his
   heritage. Mr. Grey, the uncle, did not hesitate to employ a
   ruffian to kill the lad. The plan failed, and Gilbert Grey, once
   Tom the bootblack, came into a comfortable fortune. This is one
   of Mr. Alger's best stories.

    =Dan the Newsboy.= By HORATIO ALGER, JR. 12mo, cloth,
      illustrated, price $1.00.

   Dan Mordaunt and his mother live in a poor tenement, and the lad
   is pluckily trying to make ends meet by selling papers in the
   streets of New York. A little heiress of six years is confided to
   the care of the Mordaunts. The child is kidnapped and Dan tracks
   the child to the house where she is hidden, and rescues her. The
   wealthy aunt of the little heiress is so delighted with Dan's
   courage and many good qualities that she adopts him as her heir.

    =Tony the Hero:= A Brave Boy's Adventure with a Tramp. By
      HORATIO ALGER, JR. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   Tony, a sturdy bright-eyed boy of fourteen, is under the control
   of Rudolph Rugg, a thorough rascal. After much abuse Tony runs
   away and gets a job as stable boy in a country hotel. Tony is
   heir to a large estate. Rudolph for a consideration hunts up Tony
   and throws him down a deep well. Of course Tony escapes from the
   fate provided for him, and by a brave act, a rich friend secures
   his rights and Tony is prosperous. A very entertaining book.

    =The Errand Boy;= or, How Phil Brent Won Success. By HORATIO
      ALGER, JR. 12mo, cloth illustrated, price $1.00.

   The career of "The Errand Boy" embraces the city adventures of a
   smart country lad. Philip was brought up by a kind-hearted
   innkeeper named Brent. The death of Mrs. Brent paved the way for
   the hero's subsequent troubles. A retired merchant in New York
   secures him the situation of errand boy, and thereafter stands as
   his friend.

    =Tom Temple's Career.= By HORATIO ALGER, JR. 12mo, cloth,
      illustrated, price $1.00.

   Tom Temple is a bright, self-reliant lad. He leaves Plympton
   village to seek work in New York, whence he undertakes an
   important mission to California. Some of his adventures in the
   far west are so startling that the reader will scarcely close the
   book until the last page shall have been reached. The tale is
   written in Mr. Alger's most fascinating style.

    =Frank Fowler, the Cash Boy.= By HORATIO ALGER, JR. 12mo,
      cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   Frank Fowler, a poor boy, bravely determines to make a living for
   himself and his foster-sister Grace. Going to New York he obtains
   a situation as cash boy in a dry goods store. He renders a
   service to a wealthy old gentleman who takes a fancy to the lad,
   and thereafter helps the lad to gain success and fortune.

    =Tom Thatcher's Fortune.= By HORATIO ALGER, JR. 12mo, cloth,
      illustrated, price $1.00.

   Tom Thatcher is a brave, ambitious, unselfish boy. He supports
   his mother and sister on meagre wages earned as a shoe-pegger in
   John Simpson's factory. Tom is discharged from the factory and
   starts overland for California. He meets with many adventures.
   The story is told in a way which has made Mr. Alger's name a
   household word in so many homes.

    =The Train Boy.= By HORATIO ALGER, JR. 12mo, cloth,
      illustrated, price $1.00.

   Paul Palmer was a wide-awake boy of sixteen who supported his
   mother and sister by selling books and papers on the Chicago and
   Milwaukee Railroad. He detects a young man in the act of picking
   the pocket of a young lady. In a railway accident many passengers
   are killed, but Paul is fortunate enough to assist a Chicago
   merchant, who out of gratitude takes him into his employ. Paul
   succeeds with tact and judgment and is well started on the road
   to business prominence.

    =Mark Mason's Victory.= The Trials and Triumphs of a Telegraph
      Boy. By HORATIO ALGER, JR. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price
      $1.00.

   Mark Mason, the telegraph boy, was a sturdy, honest lad, who
   pluckily won his way to success by his honest manly efforts under
   many difficulties. This story will please the very large class of
   boys who regard Mr. Alger as a favorite author.

    =A Debt of Honor.= The Story of Gerald Lane's Success in the
      Far West. By HORATIO ALGER, JR. 12mo, cloth, illustrated,
      price $1.00.

   The story of Gerald Lane and the account of the many trials and
   disappointments which he passed through before he attained
   success, will interest all boys who have read the previous
   stories of this delightful author.

    =Ben Bruce.= Scenes in the Life of a Bowery Newsboy. By HORATIO
      ALGER, JR. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   Ben Bruce was a brave, manly, generous boy. The story of his
   efforts, and many seeming failures and disappointments, and his
   final success, are most interesting to all readers. The tale is
   written in Mr. Alger's most fascinating style.

    =The Castaways;= or, On the Florida Reefs. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo,
      cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   This tale smacks of the salt sea. From the moment that the Sea
   Queen leaves lower New York bay till the breeze leaves her
   becalmed off the coast of Florida, one can almost hear the
   whistle of the wind through her rigging, the creak of her
   straining cordage as she heels to the leeward. The adventures of
   Ben Clark, the hero of the story and Jake the cook, cannot fail
   to charm the reader. As a writer for young people Mr. Otis is a
   prime favorite.

    =Wrecked on Spider Island;= or, How Ned Rogers Found the
      Treasure. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price
      $1.00.

   Ned Rogers, a "down-east" plucky lad ships as cabin boy to earn a
   livelihood. Ned is marooned on Spider Island, and while there
   discovers a wreck submerged in the sand, and finds a considerable
   amount of treasure. The capture of the treasure and the incidents
   of the voyage serve to make as entertaining a story of sea-life
   as the most captious boy could desire.

    =The Search for the Silver City:= A Tale of Adventure in
      Yucatan. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price
      $1.00.

   Two lads, Teddy Wright and Neal Emery, embark on the steam yacht
   Day Dream for a cruise to the tropics. The yacht is destroyed by
   fire, and then the boat is cast upon the coast of Yucatan. They
   hear of the wonderful Silver City, of the Chan Santa Cruz
   Indians, and with the help of a faithful Indian ally carry off a
   number of the golden images from the temples. Pursued with
   relentless vigor at last their escape is effected in an
   astonishing manner. The story is so full of exciting incidents
   that the reader is quite carried away with the novelty and
   realism of the narrative.

    =A Runaway Brig;= or, An Accidental Cruise. By JAMES OTIS.
      12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   This is a sea tale, and the reader can look out upon the wide
   shimmering sea as it flashes back the sunlight, and imagine
   himself afloat with Harry Vandyne, Walter Morse, Jim Libby and
   that old shell-back, Bob Brace, on the brig Bonita. The boys
   discover a mysterious document which enables them to find a
   buried treasure. They are stranded on an island and at last are
   rescued with the treasure. The boys are sure to be fascinated
   with this entertaining story.

    =The Treasure Finders:= A Boy's Adventures in Nicaragua. By
      JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   Roy and Dean Coloney, with their guide Tongla, leave their
   father's indigo plantation to visit the wonderful ruins of an
   ancient city. The boys eagerly explore the temples of an extinct
   race and discover three golden images cunningly hidden away. They
   escape with the greatest difficulty. Eventually they reach safety
   with their golden prizes. We doubt if there ever was written a
   more entertaining story than "The Treasure Finders."

    =Jack, the Hunchback.= A Story of the Coast of Maine. By JAMES
      OTIS. Price $1.00.

   This is the story of a little hunchback who lived on Cape
   Elizabeth, on the coast of Maine. His trials and successes are
   most interesting. From first to last nothing stays the interest
   of the narrative. It bears us along as on a stream whose current
   varies in direction, but never loses its force.

    =With Washington at Monmouth:= A Story of Three Philadelphia
      Boys. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo, ornamental cloth, olivine edges,
      illustrated, price $1.50.

   Three Philadelphia lads assist the American spies and make
   regular and frequent visits to Valley Forge in the Winter while
   the British occupied the city. The story abounds with pictures of
   Colonial life skillfully drawn, and the glimpses of Washington's
   soldiers which are given shown that the work has not been hastily
   done, or without considerable study. The story is wholesome and
   patriotic in tone, as are all of Mr. Otis' works.

    =With Lafayette at Yorktown:= A Story of How Two Boys Joined
      the Continental Army. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo, ornamental
      cloth, olivine edges, illustrated, price $1.50.

   Two lads from Portsmouth, N. H., attempt to enlist in the
   Colonial Army, and are given employment as spies. There is no
   lack of exciting incidents which the youthful reader craves, but
   it is healthful excitement brimming with facts which every boy
   should be familiar with, and while the reader is following the
   adventures of Ben Jaffrays and Ned Allen he is acquiring a fund
   of historical lore which will remain in his memory long after
   that which he has memorized from textbooks has been forgotten.

    =At the Siege of Havana.= Being the Experiences of Three Boys
      Serving under Israel Putnam in 1762. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo,
      ornamental cloth, olivine edges, illustrated, price $1.50.

   "At the Siege of Havana" deals with that portion of the Island's
   history when the English king captured the capital, thanks to the
   assistance given by the troops from New England, led in part by
   Col. Israel Putnam.

   The principal characters are Darius Lunt, the lad who,
   represented as telling the story, and his comrades, Robert
   Clement and Nicholas Vallet. Colonel Putnam also figures to
   considerable extent, necessarily, in the tale, and the whole
   forms one of the most readable stories founded on historical
   facts.

    =The Defense of Fort Henry.= A Story of Wheeling Creek in 1777.
      By JAMES OTIS, 12mo, ornamental cloth, olivine edges,
      illustrated, price $1.50.

   Nowhere in the history of our country can be found more heroic or
   thrilling incidents than in the story of those brave men and
   women who founded the settlement of Wheeling in the Colony of
   Virginia. The recital of what Elizabeth Zane did is in itself as
   heroic a story as can be imagined. The wondrous bravery displayed
   by Major McCulloch and his gallant comrades, the sufferings of
   the colonists and their sacrifice of blood and life, stir the
   blood of old as well as young readers.

    =The Capture of the Laughing Mary.= A Story of Three New York
      Boys in 1776. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo, ornamental cloth,
      olivine edges, price $1.50.

   "During the British occupancy of New York, at the outbreak of the
   Revolution, a Yankee lad hears of the plot to take General
   Washington's person, and calls in two companions to assist the
   patriot cause. They do some astonishing things, and,
   incidentally, lay the way for an American navy later, by the
   exploit which gives its name to the work. Mr. Otis' books are too
   well known to require any particular commendation to the
   young."--Evening Post.

    =With Warren at Bunker Hill.= A Story of the Siege of Boston.
      By JAMES OTIS. 12mo, ornamental cloth, olivine edges,
      illustrated, price $1.50.

   "This is a tale of the siege of Boston, which opens on the day
   after the doings at Lexington and Concord, with a description of
   home life in Boston, introduces the reader to the British camp at
   Charlestown, shows Gen. Warren at home, describes what a boy
   thought of the battle of Bunker Hill, and closes with the raising
   of the siege. The three heroes, George Wentworth, Ben Scarlett
   and an old ropemaker, incur the enmity of a young Tory, who
   causes them many adventures the boys will like to read."--Detroit
   Free Press.

    =With the Swamp Fox.= The Story of General Marion's Spies. By
      JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   This story deals with General Francis Marion's heroic struggle in
   the Carolinas. General Marion's arrival to take command of these
   brave men and rough riders is pictured as a boy might have seen
   it, and although the story is devoted to what the lads did, the
   Swamp Fox is ever present in the mind of the reader.

    =On the Kentucky Frontier.= A Story of the Fighting Pioneers of
      the West. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.

   In the history of our country there is no more thrilling story
   than that of the work done on the Mississippi river by a handful
   of frontiersmen. Mr. Otis takes the reader on that famous
   expedition from the arrival of Major Clarke's force at Corn
   Island, until Kaskaskia was captured. He relates that part of
   Simon Kenton's life history which is not usually touched upon
   either by the historian or the story teller. This is one of the
   most entertaining books for young people which has been
   published.

    =Sarah Dillard's Ride.= A Story of South Carolina in 1780.
      By JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   "This book deals with the Carolinas in 1780, giving a wealth of
   detail of the Mountain Men who struggled so valiantly against the
   king's troops. Major Ferguson is the prominent British officer of
   the story, which is told as though coming from a youth who
   experienced these adventures. In this way the famous ride of
   Sarah Dillard is brought out as an incident of the
   plot."--=Boston Journal.=

    =A Tory Plot.= A Story of the Attempt to Kill General
      Washington. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price
      $1.00.

   "'A Tory Plot' is the story of two lads who overhear something of
   the plot originated during the Revolution by Gov. Tryon to
   capture or murder Washington. They communicate their knowledge to
   Gen. Putnam and are commissioned by him to play the role of
   detectives in the matter. They do so, and meet with many
   adventures and hair-breadth escapes. The boys are, of course,
   mythical, but they serve to enable the author to put into very
   attractive shape much valuable knowledge concerning one phase of
   the Revolution."--=Pittsburgh Times.=

    =A Traitor's Escape.= A Story of the Attempt to Seize Benedict
      Arnold. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price
      $1.00.

   "This is a tale with stirring scenes depicted in each chapter,
   bringing clearly before the mind the glorious deeds of the early
   settlers in this country. In an historical work dealing with this
   country's past, no plot can hold the attention closer than this
   one, which describes the attempt and partial success of Benedict
   Arnold's escape to New York, where he remained as the guest of
   Sir Henry Clinton. All those who actually figured in the arrest
   of the traitor, as well as Gen. Washington, are included as
   characters."--=Albany Union.=

    =A Cruise with Paul Jones.= A Story of Naval Warfare in 1776.
      By JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   "This story takes up that portion of Paul Jones' adventurous life
   when he was hovering off the British coast, watching for an
   opportunity to strike the enemy a blow. It deals more
   particularly with his descent upon Whitehaven, the seizure of
   Lady Selkirk's plate, and the famous battle with the Drake. The
   boy who figures in the tale is one who was taken from a derelict
   by Paul Jones shortly after this particular cruise was
   begun."--=Chicago Inter-Ocean.=

    =Corporal Lige's Recruit.= A Story of Crown Point and
      Ticonderoga. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price
      $1.00.

   "In 'Corporal Lige's Recruit,' Mr. Otis tells the amusing story
   of an old soldier, proud of his record, who had served the king
   in '58, and who takes the lad, Isaac Rice, as his 'personal
   recruit.' The lad acquits himself superbly. Col. Ethan Allen 'in
   the name of God and the continental congress,' infuses much
   martial spirit into the narrative, which will arouse the keenest
   interest as it proceeds. Crown Point, Ticonderoga, Benedict
   Arnold and numerous other famous historical names appear in this
   dramatic tale."--=Boston Globe.=

    =Morgan, the Jersey Spy.= A Story of the Siege of Yorktown in
      1781. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   "The two lads who are utilized by the author to emphasize the
   details of the work done during that memorable time were real
   boys who lived on the banks of the York river, and who aided the
   Jersey spy in his dangerous occupation. In the guise of fishermen
   the lads visit Yorktown, are suspected of being spies, and put
   under arrest. Morgan risks his life to save them. The final
   escape, the thrilling encounter with a squad of red coats, when
   they are exposed equally to the bullets of friends and foes, told
   in a masterly fashion, makes of this volume one of the most
   entertaining books of the year."--=Inter-Ocean.=

    =The Young Scout:= The Story of a West Point Lieutenant. By
      EDWARD S. ELLIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   The crafty Apache chief Geronimo but a few years ago was the most
   terrible scourge of the southwest border. The author has woven,
   in a tale of thrilling interest, all the incidents of Geronimo's
   last raid. The hero is Lieutenant James Decker, a recent graduate
   of West Point. Ambitious to distinguish himself the young man
   takes many a desperate chance against the enemy and on more than
   one occasion narrowly escapes with his life. In our opinion Mr.
   Ellis is the best writer of Indian stories now before the public.

    =Adrift in the Wilds:= The Adventures of Two Shipwrecked Boys.
      By EDWARD S. ELLIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   Elwood Brandon and Howard Lawrence are en route for San
   Francisco. Off the coast of California the steamer takes fire.
   The two boys reach the shore with several of the passengers.
   Young Brandon becomes separated from his party and is captured by
   hostile Indians, but is afterwards rescued. This is a very
   entertaining narrative of Southern California.

    =A Young Hero;= or, Fighting to Win. By EDWARD S. ELLIS. 12mo,
      cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   This story tells how a valuable solid silver service was stolen
   from the Misses Perkinpine, two very old and simple minded
   ladies. Fred Sheldon, the hero of this story, undertakes to
   discover the thieves and have them arrested. After much time
   spent in detective work, he succeeds in discovering the silver
   plate and winning the reward. The story is told in Mr. Ellis'
   most fascinating style. Every boy will be glad to read this
   delightful book.

    =Lost in the Rockies.= A Story of Adventure in the Rocky
      Mountains. By EDWARD S. ELLIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated,
      price $1.

   Incident succeeds incident, and adventure is piled upon
   adventure, and at the end the reader, be he boy or man, will have
   experienced breathless enjoyment in this romantic story
   describing many adventures in the Rockies and among the Indians.

    =A Jaunt Through Java:= The Story of a Journey to the Sacred
      Mountain. By EDWARD S. ELLIS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated,
      price $1.00.

   The interest of this story is found in the thrilling adventures
   of two cousins, Hermon and Eustace Hadley, on their trip across
   the island of Java, from Samarang to the Sacred Mountain. In a
   land where the Royal Bengal tiger, the rhinoceros, and other
   fierce beasts are to be met with, it is but natural that the
   heroes of this book should have a lively experience. There is not
   a dull page in the book.

    =The Boy Patriot.= A Story of Jack, the Young Friend of
      Washington. By EDWARD S. ELLIS. 12mo, cloth, olivine edges,
      illustrated, price $1.50.

   "There are adventures of all kinds for the hero and his friends,
   whose pluck and ingenuity in extricating themselves from awkward
   fixes are always equal to the occasion. It is an excellent story
   full of honest, manly, patriotic efforts on the part of the hero.
   A very vivid description of the battle of Trenton is also found
   in this story."--=Journal of Education.=

    =A Yankee Lad's Pluck.= How Bert Larkin Saved his Father's
      Ranch in Porto Rico. By WM. P. CHIPMAN. 12mo, cloth,
      illustrated, price $1.00.

   "Bert Larkin, the hero of the story, early excites our
   admiration, and is altogether a fine character such as boys will
   delight in, whilst the story of his numerous adventures is very
   graphically told. This will, we think, prove one of the most
   popular boys' books this season."--=Gazette.=

    =A Brave Defense.= A Story of the Massacre at Fort Griswold in
      1781. By WILLIAM P. CHIPMAN. 12mo, cloth, illustrated,
      price $1.00.

   Perhaps no more gallant fight against fearful odds took place
   during the Revolutionary War than that at Fort Griswold, Groton
   Heights, Conn., in 1781. The boys are real boys who were actually
   on the muster rolls, either at Fort Trumbull on the New London
   side, or of Fort Griswold on the Groton side of the Thames. The
   youthful reader who follows Halsey Sanford and Levi Dart and Tom
   Malleson, and their equally brave comrades, through their
   thrilling adventures will be learning something more than
   historical facts; they will be imbibing lessons of fidelity, of
   bravery, of heroism, and of manliness, which must prove
   serviceable in the arena of life.

    =The Young Minuteman.= A Story of the Capture of General
      Prescott in 1777. By WILLIAM P. CHIPMAN. 12mo, cloth,
      illustrated, price $1.00.

   This story is based upon actual events which occurred during the
   British occupation of the waters of Narragansett Bay. Darius Wale
   and William Northrop belong to "the coast patrol." The story is a
   strong one, dealing only with actual events. There is, however,
   no lack of thrilling adventure, and every lad who is fortunate
   enough to obtain the book will find not only that his historical
   knowledge is increased, but that his own patriotism and love of
   country are deepened.

    =For the Temple:= A Tale of the Fall of Jerusalem. By G. A.
      HENTY. With illustrations by S. J. SOLOMON. 12mo, cloth,
      olivine edges, price $1.00.

   "Mr. Henty's graphic prose picture of the hopeless Jewish
   resistance to Roman sway adds another leaf to his record of the
   famous wars of the world. The book is one of Mr. Henty's
   cleverest efforts."--=Graphic.=

    =Roy Gilbert's Search:= A Tale of the Great Lakes. By WM. P.
      CHIPMAN. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   A deep mystery hangs over the parentage of Roy Gilbert. He
   arranges with two schoolmates to make a tour of the Great Lakes
   on a steam launch. The three boys visit many points of interest
   on the lakes. Afterwards the lads rescue an elderly gentleman and
   a lady from a sinking yacht. Later on the boys narrowly escape
   with their lives. The hero is a manly, self-reliant boy, whose
   adventures will be followed with interest.

    =The Slate Picker:= The Story of a Boy's Life in the Coal
      Mines. By HARRY PRENTICE. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price
      $1.00.

   This is a story of a boy's life in the coal mines of
   Pennsylvania. Ben Burton, the hero, had a hard road to travel,
   but by grit and energy he advanced step by step until he found
   himself called upon to fill the position of chief engineer of the
   Kohinoor Coal Company. This is a book of extreme interest to
   every boy reader.

    =The Boy Cruisers;= or, Paddling in Florida. By ST. GEORGE
      RATHBORNE. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   Andrew George and Rowland Carter start on a canoe trip along the
   Gulf coast, from Key West to Tampa, Florida. Their first
   adventure is with a pair of rascals who steal their boats. Next
   they run into a gale in the Gulf. After that they have a lively
   time with alligators and Andrew gets into trouble with a band of
   Seminole Indians. Mr. Rathborne knows just how to interest the
   boys, and lads who are in search of a rare treat will do well to
   read this entertaining story.

    =Captured by Zulus:= A Story of Trapping in Africa. By HARRY
      PRENTICE. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   This story details the adventures of two lads, Dick Elsworth and
   Bob Harvey, in the wilds of South Africa. By stratagem the Zulus
   capture Dick and Bob and take them to their principal kraal or
   village. The lads escape death by digging their way out of the
   prison hut by night. They are pursued, but the Zulus finally give
   up pursuit. Mr. Prentice tells exactly how wild-beast collectors
   secure specimens on their native stamping grounds, and these
   descriptions make very entertaining reading.

    =Tom the Ready;= or, Up from the Lowest. By RANDOLPH HILL.
      12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   This is a dramatic narrative of the unaided rise of a fearless,
   ambitious boy from the lowest round of fortune's ladder to wealth
   and the governorship of his native State. Tom Seacomb begins life
   with a purpose, and eventually overcomes those who oppose him.
   How he manages to win the battle is told by Mr. Hill in a
   masterful way that thrills the reader and holds his attention and
   sympathy to the end.

    =Captain Kidd's Gold:= The True Story of an Adventurous Sailor
      Boy. By JAMES FRANKLIN FITTS. 12mo, cloth, illustrated,
      price $1.00.

   There is something fascinating to the average youth in the very
   idea of buried treasure. A vision arises before his eyes of
   swarthy Portuguese and Spanish rascals, with black beards and
   gleaming eyes. There were many famous sea rovers, but none more
   celebrated than Capt. Kidd. Paul Jones Garry inherits a document
   which locates a considerable treasure buried by two of Kidd's
   crew. The hero of this book is an ambitious, persevering lad, of
   salt-water New England ancestry, and his efforts to reach the
   island and secure the money form one of the most absorbing tales
   for our youth that has come from the press.

    =The Boy Explorers:= The Adventures of Two Boys in Alaska. By
      HARRY PRENTICE. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   Two boys, Raymond and Spencer Manning, travel to Alaska to join
   their father in search of their uncle. On their arrival at Sitka
   the boys with an Indian guide set off across the mountains. The
   trip is fraught with perils that test the lads' courage to the
   utmost. All through their exciting adventures the lads
   demonstrate what can be accomplished by pluck and resolution, and
   their experience makes one of the most interesting tales ever
   written.

    =The Island Treasure;= or, Harry Darrel's Fortune. By FRANK H.
      CONVERSE. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   Harry Darrel, having received a nautical training on a
   school-ship, is bent on going to sea. A runaway horse changes his
   prospects. Harry saves Dr. Gregg from drowning and afterward
   becomes sailing-master of a sloop yacht. Mr. Converse's stories
   possess a charm of their own which is appreciated by lads who
   delight in good healthy tales that smack of salt water.

    =Guy Harris:= The Runaway. By HARRY CASTLEMON. 12mo, cloth,
      illustrated, price $1.00.

   Guy Harris lived in a small city on the shore of one of the Great
   Lakes. He is persuaded to go to sea, and gets a glimpse of the
   rough side of life in a sailor's boarding house. He ships on a
   vessel and for five months leads a hard life. The book will
   interest boys generally on account of its graphic style. This is
   one of Castlemon's most attractive stories.

    =Julian Mortimer:= A Brave Boy's Struggle for Home and Fortune.
      By HARRY CASTLEMON. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.

   The scene of the story lies west of the Mississippi River, in the
   days when emigrants made their perilous way across the great
   plains to the land of gold. There is an attack upon the wagon
   train by a large party of Indians. Our hero is a lad of uncommon
   nerve and pluck. Befriended by a stalwart trapper, a real rough
   diamond, our hero achieves the most happy results.

    =By Pike and Dyke:= A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic.
      By G. A. HENTY. With illustrations by MAYNARD BROWN. 12mo,
      cloth, olivine edges, price $1.00.

   "Boys with a turn for historical research will be enchanted with
   the book, while the rest who only care for adventure will be
   students in spite of themselves."--=St. James's Gazette.=

    =St. George for England:= A Tale of Cressy and Poitiers. By G.
      A. HENTY. With illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 12mo, cloth,
      olivine edges, price $1.00.

   "A story of very great interest for boys. In his own forcible
   style the author has endeavored to show that determination and
   enthusiasm can accomplish marvellous results; and that courage is
   generally accompanied by magnanimity and gentleness."--=Pall Mall
   Gazette.=

    =Captain Bayley's Heir:= A Tale of the Gold Fields of
      California. By G. A. HENTY. With illustrations by H. M.
      PAGET. 12mo, cloth, olivine edges, price $1.00.

   "Mr. Henty is careful to mingle instruction with entertainment;
   and the humorous touches, especially in the sketch of John Holl,
   the Westminster dustman, Dickens himself could hardly have
   excelled."--=Christian Leader.=

    =Budd Boyd's Triumph;= or, The Boy Firm of Fox Island. By
      WILLIAM P. CHIPMAN. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price $1.00.

   The scene of this story is laid on the upper part of Narragansett
   Bay, and the leading incidents have a strong salt-water flavor.
   The two boys, Budd Boyd and Judd Floyd, being ambitious and clear
   sighted, form a partnership to catch and sell fish. Budd's pluck
   and good sense carry him through many troubles. In following the
   career of the boy firm of Boyd & Floyd, the youthful reader will
   find a useful lesson--that industry and perseverance are bound to
   lead to ultimate success.

    =Lost in the Canyon:= Sam Willett's Adventures on the Great
      Colorado. By ALFRED R. CALHOUN. 12mo, cloth, illustrated,
      price $1.

   This story hinges on a fortune left to Sam Willett, the hero, and
   the fact that it will pass to a disreputable relative if the lad
   dies before he shall have reached his majority. The story of his
   father's peril and of Sam's desperate trip down the great canyon
   on a raft, and how the party finally escape from their perils is
   described in a graphic style that stamps Mr. Calhoun as a master
   of his art.

    =Captured by Apes:= The Wonderful Adventures of a Young Animal
      Trainer. By HARRY PRENTICE. 12mo, cloth, illustrated, price
      $1.00.

   Philip Garland, a young animal collector and trainer, sets sail
   for Eastern seas in quest of a new stock of living curiosities.
   The vessel is wrecked off the coast of Borneo, and young Garland
   is cast ashore on a small island, and captured by the apes that
   overran the place. Very novel indeed is the way by which the
   young man escapes death. Mr. Prentice is a writer of undoubted
   skill.

    =Under Drake's Flag:= A Tale of the Spanish Main. By G. A.
      HENTY. With illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 12mo, cloth,
      olivine edges, price $1.00.

   "There is not a dull chapter, nor, indeed, a dull page in the
   book; but the author has so carefully worked up his subject that
   the exciting deeds of his heroes are never incongruous nor
   absurd."--=Observer.=

    =By Sheer Pluck:= A Tale of the Ashanti War. By G. A. HENTY.
      With illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 12mo, cloth, olivine
      edges, price $1.00.

   The author has woven, in a tale of thrilling interest, all the
   details of the Ashanti campaign, of which he was himself a
   witness.

   "Mr. Henty keeps up his reputation as a writer of boys' stories.
   'By Sheer Pluck' will be eagerly read."--=Athenæum.=

    =With Lee in Virginia:= A Story of the American Civil War. By
      G. A. HENTY. With illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 12mo,
      cloth, olivine edges, price $1.00.

   "One of the best stories for lads which Mr. Henty has yet
   written. The picture is full of life and color, and the stirring
   and romantic incidents are skillfully blended with the personal
   interest and charm of the story."--=Standard.=

    =By England's Aid;= or, The Freeing of the Netherlands
      (1585-1604). By G. A. HENTY. With illustrations by ALFRED
      PEARSE. 12mo, cloth, olivine edges, price $1.00.

   "It is an admirable book for youngsters. It overflows with
   stirring incident and exciting adventure, and the color of the
   era and of the scene are finely reproduced. The illustrations add
   to its attractiveness."--=Boston Gazette.=

       *       *       *       *       *

For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
publisher, A. L. BURT, 52-58 Duane Street, New York.



    Transcriber's Note:

    Variations in the use of hyphens and alternative spelling have
    been retained as they appear in the original except as in the
    following changes:

    Page  5 friendship for you. changed to
            friendship for you,

         12 and he was he was on his way changed to
            and he was on his way

         14 I should have have been somewhere changed to
            I should have been somewhere

         55 might he obliged to changed to
            might be obliged to

         88 thay may make it disagreeable changed to
            they may make it disagreeable

        146 in a box-buggy changed to
            in a box buggy

        151 his own propperty changed to
            his own property

        153 Hello! Helo-o-o! changed to
            Hello! Hello-o-o!

        156 A SOUVENIR OF THE THIEVES changed to
            A SOUVENIR OF THE THIEVES.

        180 call the case on of changed to
            call the case one of

        225 said Bob, and before changed to
            said Bob, "and before

        234 an hour bfore it changed to
            an hour before it

        238 this was followd by changed to
            this was followed by

        242 it was, prefering to changed to
            it was, preferring to

        258 they might lose. "The Harnett" changed to
            they might lose "The Harnett"

    And in the advertisements:

    Page  5 South Carolina in in 1780 changed to
            South Carolina in 1780

          6 price $1,00 in Corporal Lige's Recruit changed to
            price $1.00

          8 illustrated, price $1.00 in The Boy Cruisers changed to
            illustrated, price $1.00.

         10 price $1, in Lost in the Canyon changed to
            price $1.

         10 cloth, illustrated. in Captured by Apes changed to
            cloth, illustrated,





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