Chapter XXX. The Landslide--Conclusion
 

"Dick, are you badly hurt?" cried Tom.

"No -- it's only a scratch. But it was a close call."

"To cover!" came from Jack Wumble. "Quick, all of you!"

There was no need to call out, for all realized that they were in a dangerous position. It was Arnold Baxter who fired on Dick. Now Tom fired in return, and so true was his aim that the elder Baxter was hit in the left shoulder.

As soon as our friends were under cover they held a council of war.

"We ought to round 'em up," muttered Jack Wumble. "Don't you think so, Jim?"

"I am with ye on it," answered the old trapper. "We air five to three, although one o' the crowd is wounded."

"It's not much -- only a scratch," said Dick, as he showed the wound. "Yes, let us surround them if we can. Anyway, it will be better if we get on the high ground above them. It's useless to think of staking off the claim while they are in the vicinity. They'll pull up our stakes, and shoot us in the bargain."

Their talk was interrupted by a crashing of the bushes, and looking up they saw that their enemies were beginning to roll rocks down toward them. One rock, weighing several tons, tumbled within two yards of them.

"All right, we'll try some o' that when we're on top," said Slim Jim.

It had threatened rain, and now the drops began to come down, at first scatteringly, and then in a steady downpour. In this rain they moved off through the brush, leading their horses and following the old hunter, who knew more of the old Indian trails than did even Jack Wumble.

It was necessary to make a long detour, for the rocks at one point were so steep that mounting them was all out of the question. This took them an eighth of a mile to the northward of the claim.

It was now raining so hard that the water seemed to come down in sheets, and they felt compelled to seek temporary shelter. It had also begun to lightning, and the thunder roared and rumbled among the mountains in a manner that was deafening.

"This is about as bad as that tornado we encountered in Africa," observed Sam, as he crouched close to his brothers. "Don't you remember it and how the lightning struck that baobab tree?"

Yes, both remembered it well. "It was awful," said Tom. "I hope the lightning doesn't come near us here."

If anything, the rain now came down heavier than before, until Jack Wumble declared it to be the greatest downpour he had ever witnessed in that section of the country. The water leaped over the rocks in tiny waterfalls, and soon Larkspur Creek became a raging torrent. The sky was inky black, and they could not see a dozen paces in any direction.

Suddenly a strange rumble reached their ears, a rumble that made both Wumble and Slim Jim turn pale and look at each other with faces full of fear. The rumble rose and fell, shaking the earth beneath them, and mingling with a grinding and crashing and ripping that seemed to strike each one to the very heart.

"What is it? The end of the world?" gasped Sam.

"A landslide," answered Wumble. "Please God, it doesn't come this way!"

They waited, and the next half-minute seemed an eternity. The ground continued to tremble beneath them, and the rumble kept coming closer and closer. "We are doomed!" wailed Tom, but then the rumble and crashing passed them by and was slowly lost in the distance, until with one last crash it came to a sudden end.

"It's over!" said Slim Jim. "Thank Heaven, we escaped it!"

"You are sure it was a landslide?" asked Dick, when he felt able to speak.

"Yes, my lad, and a putty big one, too. Somewhar along this mountain side you will find a furrow cut down to the creek, an' find thet tons an' tons o' stone and dirt have slid down fer quarter o' a mile or more. Perhaps the slide has filled up the creek entirely."

The rain continued to come down, now drowning out every other sound. But wet as it was, Wumble urged that they go still higher up the mountain, to escape any other landslide that might be imminent.

So up they toiled until a large table rock was gained. At this point a second rock gave them shelter, and here they remained throughout the, whole of one of the most disagreeable nights the Rover boys had ever encountered.

The storm and the landslide had driven away all thoughts of surrounding the Baxters and Roebuck, but with the coming of morning the skies cleared, and they felt as if they must do as originally planned.

"Unless the landslide paid 'em off," said Jack Wumble.

"Do you think they were caught in it?" asked Dick.

"No tellin', lad, until we locate the slide."

To locate the landslide was not difficult, since it had passed to their right. They soon made out its trail, which moved down to the creek in a zigzag fashion. Sure enough the creek was partly filled with the debris, and here the opposite bank was overflowed to the extent of several acres.

"We may find some rich deposits down thar," said Wumble. "A landslide sometimes provides a harvest for prospectors."

They moved on cautiously until they came to the spot where the Baxters and Roebuck had been seen last. Here the landslide had been at its worst, and rocks and trees had been torn up and cast down as by a giant's hand. Not a trace of the enemy was to be discovered, until Jack Wumble at last made out a part of a man's coat lying a hundred feet away. They ran to the spot, and soon uncovered the lifeless form of Roebuck. The man had been literally mauled to death by the fury of the elements.

"Poor fellow!" murmured Tom, as he gazed at the remains. "It was a dreadful death to die!"

"Yes, and he probably wasn't prepared for it," said Dick soberly. "I wonder if the Baxters were caught, too?"

"More'n likely," put in Wumble. "Look, here is a man's hat."

"Arnold Baxter's hat," cried Tom. "I noted it particularly when I was their prisoner. Where can the man be?"

"There are tons an' tons o' loose dirt just be low here," said Slim Jim. "Ye see the ground turned over and over as it rolled. Probably both o' the Baxters are under that dirt, mebbe twenty or thirty foot down."

At this all of the Rover boys shuddered. Very likely the old hunter spoke the truth. What a terrible fate for their old enemies!

"Let us go away," whispered Sam. "I can't stand this any longer!" And he rushed off with the tears standing in his eyes. The others were also affected, and glad enough to leave the place, once and forever. Wumble and Slim Jim threw Roebuck's body into a hollow and placed some dirt over it, and then built up a little mound of stones to mark the spot.

It was not until the next day that the party returned to the creek and began to look up the Eclipse Mine once more. The landslide had cut across this, and it was not long before both Wumble and Slim Jim declared the ground to be full of good paying "dirt," to use their own term. The claim was staked out to the boys' satisfaction, and then Wumble staked out a claim just above Discovery, as it is called in mining laws, while Slim Jim staked out one for himself just below Discovery. All three claims ran to both sides of the creek, so that no one would suffer for water when mining operations should begin.

"And those claims will yield us thousands of dollars!" said Jack Wumble. "Boys, we will all be rich."

"Hurrah!" shouted Tom. "I'm glad I came West, after all."

"And so am I," said Sam. "Dick, what do you say?"

"I say hurrah for the Eclipse Mine, and all the gold it will bring us," answered Dick. "Won't father be pleased when he learns the news?"

Here let us bring to a close the story of the Rover boys' trip out West. They had faced many grave perils, but one after another these perils bad been surmounted, and now, when success had finally crowned their efforts, all the hardships were forgotten.

In due course of time the title to the Eclipse Mine was established in law, and later on Anderson Rover sent out a body of skilled miners to work the claim for all it was worth. It proved to be as valuable as anticipated, and the Rovers were, of course, correspondingly happy.

The claims staked out by Jack Wumble and by Slim Jim proved also to be good payers from the start.

When the boys got home they found that the story of the Baxters' fate had preceded them. Many folks were inclined to think that the wrongdoers deserved the catastrophe which had overtaken them. As nothing was heard of either father or son for a long while, it was presumed that both were dead beyond a doubt.

But they were not dead, although terribly bruised and unable to do much for themselves for a long while. The landslide threw both into the creek, and when they came to their senses they were fully a mile from the scene of the disaster. Here they fell in with a body of miners from Canada, and these men took them to a settlement still further West, where Arnold Baxter hovered between life and death for many weeks. Dan recovered more quickly.

"It's the Rovers' fault," growled Dan Baxter, when he was able to sit up. "I'll fix them yet."

He had still many plans for the future, and what some of them were will be told in the next volume of the series, to be entitled "The Rover Boys on the Great Lakes; or, The Secret of the Island Cave." In this volume we will meet all of our old friends again, and also learn what was done by the Rover boys to outwit their old enemy.

Yet all went well for the present. Randolph Rover had quite recovered, so the boys' Aunt Martha was happy. Anderson Rover could now walk around again as well as ever.

"Never saw such boys in my life!" declared Martha Rover. "No matter what scrape they get into, they always come out with colors flying. God bless 'em every one!"

And to this, kind reader, let us say Amen, and bid each other good-by.

THE END