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Great K. and A. Train-Robbery, The

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<SPAN name="CHAPTER_II" id="CHAPTER_II"></SPAN>CHAPTER II</h2> <h3>THE HOLDING-UP OF OVERLAND NO. 3</h3> </div> <p>On the third day a despatch came from Frederic Cullen telling his father he would join us at Lamy on No. 3 that evening. I at once ordered 97 and 218 coupled to the connecting train, and in an hour we were back on the main line. While waiting for the overland to arrive, Mr. Cullen asked me to do something which, as it later proved to have considerable bearing on the events of that night, is worth mentioning, trivial as it seems. When I had first joined the party, I had given orders for 97 to be kicked in between the main string and their special, so as not to deprive the occupants of 218 of the view from their observation saloon and balcony platform. Mr. Cullen came to me now and asked me to reverse the arrange<!-- Page 18 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_18" id="Page_18">[Pg 18]</SPAN></span>ment and make my car the tail end. I was giving orders for the splitting and kicking in when No. 3 arrived, and thus did not see the greeting of Frederic Cullen and his family. When I joined them, his father told me that the high altitude had knocked his son up so, that he had to be helped from the ordinary sleeper to the special and had gone to bed immediately. Out West we have to know something of medicine, and my car had its chest of drugs: so I took some tablets and went into his state-room. Frederic was like his brother in appearance, though not in manner, having a quick, alert way. He was breathing with such difficulty that I was almost tempted to give him nitroglycerin, instead of strychnine, but he said he would be all right as soon as he became accustomed to the rarefied air, quite pooh-poohing my suggestion that he take No. 2 back to Trinidad; and while I was still urging, the train started. Leaving him the vials of digitalis and strychnine, therefore, I went back, and dined <i>solus</i> on my own car, indulg<!-- Page 19 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_19" id="Page_19">[Pg 19]</SPAN></span>ing at the end in a cigar, the smoke of which would keep turning into pictures of Miss Cullen. I have thought about those pictures since then, and have concluded that when cigar-smoke behaves like that, a man might as well read his destiny in it, for it can mean only one thing.</p> <p>After enjoying the combination, I went to No. 218 to have a look at the son, and found that the heart tonics had benefited him considerably. On leaving him, I went to the dining-room, where the rest of the party were still at dinner, to ask that the invalid have a strong cup of coffee, and after delivering my request Mr. Cullen asked me to join them in a cigar. This I did gladly, for a cigar and Miss Cullen's society were even pleasanter than a cigar and Miss Cullen's pictures, because the pictures never quite did her justice, and, besides, didn't talk.</p> <p>Our smoke finished, we went back to the saloon, where the gentlemen sat down to poker, which Lord Ralles had just learned, and liked. They did not ask me to take a<!-- Page 20 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_20" id="Page_20">[Pg 20]</SPAN></span> hand, for which I was grateful, as the salary of a railroad superintendent would hardly stand the game they probably played; and I had my compensation when Miss Cullen also was not asked to join them. She said she was going to watch the moonlight on the mountains from the platform, and opened the door to go out, finding for the first time that No. 97 was the "ender." In her disappointment she protested against this, and wanted to know the why and wherefore.</p> <p>"We shall have far less motion, Madge," Mr. Cullen explained, "and then we sha'n't have the rear-end man in our car at night."</p> <p>"But I don't mind the motion," urged Miss Cullen, "and the flagman is only there after we are all in our rooms. Please leave us the view."</p> <p>"I prefer the present arrangement, Madge," insisted Mr. Cullen, in a very positive voice.</p> <p>I was so sorry for Miss Cullen's disappointment that on impulse I said, "The platform of 97 is entirely at your service, Miss Cullen." The moment it was out I realized<!-- Page 21 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_21" id="Page_21">[Pg 21]</SPAN></span> that I ought not to have said it, and that I deserved a rebuke for supposing she would use my car.</p> <p>Miss Cullen took it better than I hoped for, and was declining the offer as kindly as my intention had been in making it, when, much to my astonishment, her father interrupted by saying,&mdash;</p> <p>"By all means, Madge. That relieves us of the discomfort of being the last car, and yet lets you have the scenery and moonlight."</p> <p>Miss Cullen looked at her father for a moment as if not believing what she had heard. Lord Ralles scowled and opened his mouth to say something, but checked himself, and only flung his discard down as if he hated the cards.</p> <p>"Thank you, papa," responded Miss Cullen, "but I think I will watch you play."</p> <p>"Now, Madge, don't be foolish," said Mr. Cullen, irritably. "You might just as well have the pleasure, and you'll only disturb the game if you stay here."</p> <p>Miss Cullen leaned over and whispered<!-- Page 22 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_22" id="Page_22">[Pg 22]</SPAN></span> something, and her father answered her. Lord Ralles must have heard, for he muttered something, which made Miss Cullen color up; but much good it did him, for she turned to me and said, "Since my father doesn't disapprove, I will gladly accept your hospitality, Mr. Gordon," and after a glance at Lord Ralles that had a challenging "I'll do as I please" in it, she went to get her hat and coat. The whole incident had not taken ten seconds, yet it puzzled me beyond measure, even while my heart beat with an unreasonable hope; for my better sense told me that it simply meant that Lord Ralles disapproved, and Miss Cullen, like any girl of spirit, was giving him notice that he was not yet privileged to control her actions. Whatever the scene meant, his lordship did not like it, for he swore at his luck the moment Miss Cullen had left the room.</p> <p>When Miss Cullen returned we went back to the rear platform of 97. I let down the traps, closed the gates, got a camp-stool for her to sit upon, with a cushion to lean back on,<!-- Page 23 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_23" id="Page_23">[Pg 23]</SPAN></span> and a footstool, and fixed her as comfortably as I could, even getting a travelling-rug to cover her lap, for the plateau air was chilly. Then I hesitated a moment, for I had the feeling that she had not thoroughly approved of the thing and therefore she might not like to have me stay. Yet she was so charming in the moonlight, and the little balcony the platform made was such a tempting spot to linger on, while she was there, that it wasn't easy to go. Finally I asked,&mdash;</p> <p>"You are quite comfortable, Miss Cullen?"</p> <p>"Sinfully so," she laughed.</p> <p>"Then perhaps you would like to be left to enjoy the moonlight and your meditations by yourself?" I questioned. I knew I ought to have just gone away, but I simply couldn't when she looked so enticing.</p> <p>"Do you want to go?" she asked.</p> <p>"No!" I ejaculated, so forcibly that she gave a little startled jump in her chair. "That is&mdash;I mean," I stuttered, embarrassed by my own vehemence, "I rather thought you might not want me to stay."<!-- Page 24 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_24" id="Page_24">[Pg 24]</SPAN></span></p> <p>"What made you think that?" she demanded.</p> <p>I never was a good hand at inventing explanations, and after a moment's seeking for some reason, I plumped out, "Because I feared you might not think it proper to use my car, and I suppose it's my presence that made you think it."</p> <p>She took my stupid fumble very nicely; laughing merrily while saying, "If you like mountains and moonlight, Mr. Gordon, and don't mind the lack of a chaperon, get a stool for yourself, too." What was more, she offered me half of the lap-robe when I was seated beside her.</p> <p>I think she was pleased by my offer to go away, for she talked very pleasantly, and far more intimately than she had ever done before, telling me facts about her family, her Chicago life, her travels, and even her thoughts. From this I learned that her elder brother was an Oxford graduate, and that Lord Ralles and his brother were classmates, who were visiting him for the first time since<!-- Page 25 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_25" id="Page_25">[Pg 25]</SPAN></span> he had graduated. She asked me some questions about my work, which led me to tell her pretty much everything about myself that I thought could be of the least interest; and it was a very pleasant surprise to me to find that she knew one of the old team, and had even heard of me from him.</p> <p>"Why," she exclaimed, "how absurd of me not to have thought of it before! But, you see, Mr. Colston always speaks of you by your first name. You ought to hear how he praises you."</p> <p>"Trust Harry to praise any one," I said. "There were some pretty low fellows on the old team,&mdash;men who couldn't keep their word or their tempers, and would slug every chance they got; but Harry used to insist there wasn't a bad egg among the lot."</p> <p>"Don't you find it very lonely to live out here, away from all your old friends?" she asked.</p> <p>I had to acknowledge that it was, and told her the worst part was the absence of pleasant women. "Till you arrived, Miss Cul<!-- Page 26 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_26" id="Page_26">[Pg 26]</SPAN></span>len," I said, "I hadn't seen a well-gowned woman in four years." I've always noticed that a woman would rather have a man notice and praise her frock than her beauty, and Miss Cullen was apparently no exception, for I could see the remark pleased her.</p> <p>"Don't Western women ever get Eastern gowns?" she asked.</p> <p>"Any quantity," I said, "but you know, Miss Cullen, that it isn't the gown, but the way it's worn, that gives the artistic touch." For a fellow who had devoted the last seven years of his life to grades and fuel and rebates and pay-rolls, I don't think that was bad. At least it made Miss Cullen's mouth dimple at the corners.</p> <p>The whole evening was so eminently satisfactory that I almost believe I should be talking yet, if interruption had not come. The first premonition of it was Miss Cullen's giving a little shiver, which made me ask if she was cold.</p> <p>"Not at all," she replied. "I only&mdash;what place are we stopping at?"<!-- Page 27 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_27" id="Page_27">[Pg 27]</SPAN></span></p> <p>I started to rise, but she checked the movement and said, "Don't trouble yourself. I thought you would know without moving. I really don't care to know."</p> <p>I took out my watch, and was startled to find it was twenty minutes past twelve. I wasn't so green as to tell Miss Cullen so, and merely said, "By the time, this must be Sanders."</p> <p>"Do we stop long?" she asked.</p> <p>"Only to take water," I told her, and then went on with what I had been speaking about when she shivered. But as I talked it slowly dawned on me that we had been standing still some time, and presently I stopped speaking and glanced off, expecting to recognize something, only to see alkali plain on both sides. A little surprised, I looked down, to find no siding. Rising hastily, I looked out forward. I could see moving figures on each side of the train, but that meant nothing, as the train's crew, and, for that matter, passengers, are very apt to alight at every stop. What did mean some<!-- Page 28 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_28" id="Page_28">[Pg 28]</SPAN></span>thing was that there was no water-tank, no station, nor any other visible cause for a stop.</p> <p>"Is anything the matter?" asked Miss Cullen.</p> <p>"I think something's wrong with the engine or the road-bed, Miss Cullen," I said, "and, if you'll excuse me a moment, I'll go forward and see."</p> <p>I had barely spoken when "bang! bang!" went two shots. That they were both fired from an English "express" my ears told me, for no other people in this world make a mountain howitzer and call it a rifle.</p> <p>Hardly were the two shots fired when "crack! crack! crack! crack!" went some Winchesters.</p> <p>"Oh! what is it?" cried Miss Cullen.</p> <p>"I think your wish has been granted," I answered hurriedly. "We are being held up, and Lord Ralles is showing us how to&mdash;"</p> <p>My speech was interrupted. "Bang! bang!" challenged another "express," the<!-- Page 29 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_29" id="Page_29">[Pg 29]</SPAN></span> shots so close together as to be almost simultaneous. "Crack! crack! crack!" retorted the Winchesters, and from the fact that silence followed I drew a clear inference. I said to myself, "That is an end of poor John Bull."</p> <hr /> <div class="chapter"> <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_30" id="Page_30">[Pg 30]</SPAN></span> <h2>
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