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Great K. and A. Train-Robbery, The

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<SPAN name="CHAPTER_VI" id="CHAPTER_VI"></SPAN>CHAPTER VI</h2> <h3>THE HAPPENINGS DOWN HANCE'S TRAIL</h3> </div> <p>Miss Cullen was sitting on a rock apart from her brother and Hance, as I had asked her to do when I helped her dismount. I went over to where she sat, and said, boldly,&mdash;</p> <p>"Miss Cullen, I want those letters."</p> <p>"What letters?" she asked, looking me in the eyes with the most innocent of expressions. She made a mistake to do that, for I knew her innocence must be feigned, and so didn't put much faith in her face for the rest of the interview.</p> <p>"And what is more," I continued, with a firmness of manner about as genuine as her innocence, "unless you will produce them at once, I shall have to search you."</p> <p>"Mr. Gordon!" she exclaimed, but she put such surprise and grief and disbelief into<!-- Page 70 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_70" id="Page_70">[Pg 70]</SPAN></span> the four syllables that I wanted the earth to swallow me then and there.</p> <p>"Why, Miss Cullen," I cried, "look at my position. I'm being paid to do certain things, and&mdash;"</p> <p>"But that needn't prevent your being a gentleman," she interrupted.</p> <p>That made me almost desperate. "Miss Cullen," I groaned, hurriedly, "I'd rather be burned alive than do what I've got to, but if you won't give me those letters, search you I must."</p> <p>"But how can I give you what I haven't?" she cried, indignantly, assuming again her innocent expression.</p> <p>"Will you give me your word of honor that those letters are not concealed in your clothes?"</p> <p>"I will," she answered.</p> <p>I was very much taken aback, for it would have been so easy for Miss Cullen to have said so before that I had become convinced she must have them.</p> <p>"And do you give me your word?"<!-- Page 71 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_71" id="Page_71">[Pg 71]</SPAN></span></p> <p>"I do," she affirmed, but she didn't look me in the face as she said it.</p> <p>I ought to have been satisfied, but I wasn't, for, in spite of her denial, something forced me still to believe she had them, and looking back now, I think it was her manner. I stood reflecting for a minute, and then requested, "Please stay where you are for a moment." Leaving her, I went over to Fred.</p> <p>"Mr. Cullen," I said, "Miss Cullen, rather than be searched, has acknowledged that she has the letters, and says that if we men will go into the hut she'll get them for me."</p> <p>He rose at once. "I told my father not to drag her in," he muttered, sadly. "I don't care about myself, Mr. Gordon, but can't you keep her out of it? She's as innocent of any real wrong as the day she was born."</p> <p>"I'll do everything in my power," I promised. Then he and Hance went into the cabin, and I walked back to the culprit.<!-- Page 72 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_72" id="Page_72">[Pg 72]</SPAN></span></p> <p>"Miss Cullen," I said, gravely, "you have those letters, and must give them to me."</p> <p>"But I told you&mdash;" she began.</p> <p>To spare her a second untruth, I interrupted her by saying, "I trapped your brother into acknowledging that you have them."</p> <p>"You must have misunderstood him," she replied, calmly, "or else he didn't know that the arrangement was changed."</p> <p>Her steadiness rather shook my conviction, but I said, "You must give me those letters, or I must search you."</p> <p>"You never would!" she cried, rising and looking me in the face.</p> <p>On impulse I tried a big bluff. I took hold of the lapel of her waist, intending to undo just one button. I let go in fright when I found there was no button,&mdash;only an awful complication of hooks or some other feminine method for keeping things together,&mdash;and I grew red and trembled, thinking what might have happened had I,<!-- Page 73 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_73" id="Page_73">[Pg 73]</SPAN></span> by bad luck, made anything come undone. If Miss Cullen had been noticing me, she would have seen a terribly scared man.</p> <p>But she wasn't, luckily, for the moment my hand touched her dress, and before she could realize that I snatched it away, she collapsed on the rock, and burst into tears. "Oh! oh!" she sobbed, "I begged papa not to, but he insisted they were safest with me. I'll give them to you, if you'll only go away and not&mdash;" Her tears made her inarticulate, and without waiting for more I ran into the hut, feeling as near like a murderer as a guiltless man could.</p> <p>Lord Ralles by this time was making almost as much noise as an engine pulling a heavy freight up grade under forced draft, swearing over his trousers, and was offering the cowboy and Hance money to recover them. When they told him this was impossible he tried to get them to sell or hire a pair, but they didn't like the idea of riding into camp minus those essentials any better than he did. While I waited they settled the difficulty by<!-- Page 74 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_74" id="Page_74">[Pg 74]</SPAN></span> strapping a blanket round him, and by splitting it up the middle and using plenty of cord they rigged him out after a fashion; but I think if he could have seen himself and been given an option he would have preferred to wait till it was dark enough to creep into camp unnoticed.</p> <p>Before long Miss Cullen called, and when I went to her she handed me, without a word, three letters. As she did so she crimsoned violently, and looked down in her mortification. I was so sorry for her that, though a moment before I had been judging her harshly, I now couldn't help saying,&mdash;</p> <p>"Our positions have been so difficult, Miss Cullen, that I don't think we either of us are quite responsible for our actions."</p> <p>She said nothing, and, after a pause, I continued,&mdash;</p> <p>"I hope you'll think as leniently of my conduct as you can, for I can't tell you how grieved I am to have pained you."</p> <p>Cullen joined us at this point, and, knowing that every moment we remained would<!-- Page 75 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_75" id="Page_75">[Pg 75]</SPAN></span> be distressing to his sister, I announced that we would start up the trail. I hadn't the heart to offer to help her mount, and after Frederic had put her up we fell into single file behind Hance, Lord Ralles coming last.</p> <p>As soon as we started I took a look at the three letters. They were all addressed to Theodore E. Camp, Esq., Ash Forks, Arizona,&mdash;one of the directors of the K. &amp; A. and also of the Great Southern. With this clue, for the first time things began to clear up to me, and when the trail broadened enough to permit it, I pushed my mule up alongside of Cullen and asked,&mdash;</p> <p>"The letters contain proxies for the K. &amp; A. election next Friday?"</p> <p>He nodded his head. "The Missouri Western and the Great Southern are fighting for control," he explained, "and we should have won but for three blocks of Eastern stock that had promised their proxies to the G. S. Rather than lose the fight, we arranged to learn when those proxies were mailed,&mdash;that was what kept me behind,<!-- Page 76 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_76" id="Page_76">[Pg 76]</SPAN></span>&mdash;and then to hold up the train that carried them."</p> <p>"Was it worth the risk?" I ejaculated.</p> <p>"If we had succeeded, yes. My father had put more than was safe into Missouri Western and into California Central. The G. S. wants control to end the traffic agreements, and that means bankruptcy to my father."</p> <p>I nodded, seeing it all as clear as day, and hardly blaming the Cullens for what they had done; for any one who has had dealings with the G. S. is driven to pretty desperate methods to keep from being crushed, and when one is fighting an antagonist that won't regard the law, or rather one that, through control of legislatures and judges, makes the law to suit its needs, the temptation is strong to use the same weapons one's self.</p> <p>"The toughest part of it is," Fred went on, "that we thought we had the whole thing 'hands down,' and that was what made my father go in so deep. Only the death of one of the M. W. directors, who held eight<!-- Page 77 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_77" id="Page_77">[Pg 77]</SPAN></span> thousand shares of K. &amp; A., got us in this hole, for the G. S. put up a relation to contest the will, and so delayed the obtaining of letters of administration, blocking his executors from giving a proxy. It was as mean a trick as ever was played."</p> <p>"The G. S. is a tough customer to fight," I remarked, and asked, "Why didn't you burn the letters?" really wishing they had done so.</p> <p>"We feared duplicate proxies might get through in time, and thought that by keeping these we might cook up a question as to which were legal, and then by injunction prevent the use of either."</p> <p>"And those Englishmen," I inquired, "are they real?"</p> <p>"Oh, certainly," he rejoined. "They were visiting my brother, and thought the whole thing great larks." Then he told me how the thing had been done. They had sent Miss Cullen to my car, so as to get me out of the way, though she hadn't known it. He and his brother got off the train at the<!-- Page 78 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_78" id="Page_78">[Pg 78]</SPAN></span> last stop, with the guns and masks, and concealed themselves on the platform of the mail-car. Here they had been joined by the Britishers at the right moment, the disguises assumed, and the train held up as already told. Of course the dynamite cartridge was only a blind, and the letters had been thrown about the car merely to confuse the clerk. Then while Frederic Cullen, with the letters, had stolen back to the car, the two Englishmen had crept back to where they had stood. Here, as had been arranged, they opened fire, which Albert Cullen duly returned, and then joined them. "I don't see now how you spotted us," Frederic ended.</p> <p>I told him, and his disgust was amusing to see. "Going to Oxford may be all right for the classics," he growled, "but it's destructive to gumption."</p> <p>We rode into camp a pretty gloomy crowd, and those of the party waiting for us there were not much better; but when Lord Ralles dismounted and showed up in his substitute for trousers there was a general shout of<!-- Page 79 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_79" id="Page_79">[Pg 79]</SPAN></span> laughter. Even Miss Cullen had to laugh for a moment. And as his lordship bolted for his tent, I said to myself, "Honors are easy."</p> <p>I told the sheriff that I had recovered the lost property, but did not think any arrests necessary as yet; and, as he was the agent of the K. &amp; A. at Flagstaff, he didn't question my opinion. I ordered the stage out, and told Tolfree to give us a feed before we started, but a more silent meal I never sat down to, and I noticed that Miss Cullen didn't eat anything, while the tragic look on her face was so pathetic as nearly to drive me frantic.</p> <p>We started a little after five, and were clear of the timber before it was too dark to see. At the relay station we waited an hour for the moon, after which it was a clear track. We reached the half-way ranch about eleven, and while changing the stage horses I roused Mrs. Klostermeyer, and succeeded in getting enough cold mutton and bread to make two rather decent-looking sandwiches.<!-- Page 80 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_80" id="Page_80">[Pg 80]</SPAN></span> With these and a glass of whiskey and water I went to the stage, to find Miss Cullen curled up on the seat asleep, her head resting in her brother's arms.</p> <p>"She has nearly worried herself to death ever since you told her that road agents were hung," Frederic whispered; "and she's been crying to-night over that lie she told you, and altogether she's worn out with travel and excitement."</p> <p>I screwed the cover on the travelling-glass, and put it with the sandwiches in the bottom of the stage. "It's a long and a rough ride," I said, "and if she wakes up they may give her a little strength. I only wish I could have spared her the fatigue and anxiety."</p> <p>"She thought she had to lie for father's sake, but she's nearly broken-hearted over it," he continued.</p> <p>I looked Frederic in the face as I said, "I honor her for it," and in that moment he and I became friends.</p> <p>"Just see how pretty she is!" he whis<!-- Page 81 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_81" id="Page_81">[Pg 81]</SPAN></span>pered, with evident affection and pride, turning back the flap of the rug in which she was wrapped.</p> <p>She was breathing gently, and there was just that touch of weariness and sadness in her face that would appeal to any man. It made me gulp, I'm proud to say; and when I was back on my pony, I said to myself, "For her sake, I'll pull the Cullens out of this scrape, if it costs me my position."</p> <hr /> <div class="chapter"> <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_82" id="Page_82">[Pg 82]</SPAN></span> <h2>
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