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Great K. and A. Train-Robbery, The

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<SPAN name="CHAPTER_VII" id="CHAPTER_VII"></SPAN>CHAPTER VII</h2> <h3>A CHANGE OF BASE</h3> </div> <p>We did not reach Flagstaff till seven, and I told the stage-load to take possession of their car, while I went to my own. It took me some time to get freshened up, and then I ate my breakfast; for after riding seventy-two miles in one night even the most heroic purposes have to take the side-track. I think, as it was, I proved my devotion pretty well by not going to sleep, since I had been up three nights, with only such naps as I could steal in the saddle, and had ridden over a hundred and fifty miles to boot. But I couldn't bear to think of Miss Cullen's anxiety, and the moment I had made myself decent, and finished eating, I went into 218.</p> <p>The party were all in the dining-room, but it was a very different-looking crowd from the one with which that first breakfast<!-- Page 83 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_83" id="Page_83">[Pg 83]</SPAN></span> had been eaten, and they all looked at me as I entered as if I were the executioner come for victims.</p> <p>"Mr. Cullen," I began, "I've been forced to do a lot of things that weren't pleasant, but I don't want to do more than I need. You're not the ordinary kind of road agents, and, as I presume your address is known, I don't see any need of arresting one of our own directors as yet. All I ask is that you give me your word, for the party, that none of you will try to leave the country."</p> <p>"Certainly, Mr. Gordon," he responded. "And I thank you for your great consideration."</p> <p>"I shall have to report the case to our president, and, I suppose, to the Postmaster-General, but I sha'n't hurry about either. What they will do, I can't say. Probably you know how far you can keep them quiet."</p> <p>"I think the local authorities are all I have to fear, provided time is given me."<!-- Page 84 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_84" id="Page_84">[Pg 84]</SPAN></span></p> <p>"I have dismissed the sheriff and his posse, and I gave them a hundred dollars for their work, and three bottles of pretty good whiskey I had on my car. Unless they get orders from elsewhere, you will not hear any further from them."</p> <p>"You must let me reimburse what expense we have put you to, Mr. Gordon. I only wish I could as easily repay your kindness."</p> <p>Nodding my head in assent, as well as in recognition of his thanks, I continued, "It was my duty, as an official of the K. &amp; A., to recover the stolen mail, and I had to do it."</p> <p>"We understand that," said Mr. Cullen, "and do not for a moment blame you."</p> <p>"But," I went on, for the first time looking at Madge, "it is not my duty to take part in a contest for control of the K. &amp; A., and I shall therefore act in this case as I should in any other loss of mail."</p> <p>"And that is&mdash;?" asked Frederic.<!-- Page 85 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_85" id="Page_85">[Pg 85]</SPAN></span></p> <p>"I am about to telegraph for instructions from Washington," I replied. "As the G. S. by trickery has dishonestly tied up some of your proxies, they ought not to object if we do the same by honest means; and I think I can manage so that Uncle Sam will prevent those proxies from being voted at Ash Forks on Friday."</p> <p>If a galvanic battery had been applied to the group about the breakfast table, it wouldn't have made a bigger change. Madge clapped her hands in joy; Mr. Cullen said "God bless you!" with real feeling; Frederic jumped up and slapped me on the shoulder, crying, "Gordon, you're the biggest old trump breathing;" while Albert and the captain shook hands with each other, in evident jubilation. Only Lord Ralles remained passive.</p> <p>"Have you breakfasted?" asked Mr. Cullen, when the first joy was over.</p> <p>"Yes," I said. "I only stopped in on my way to the station to telegraph the Postmaster-General."<!-- Page 86 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_86" id="Page_86">[Pg 86]</SPAN></span></p> <p>"May I come with you and see what you say?" cried Fred, jumping up.</p> <p>I nodded, and Miss Cullen said, questioningly, "Me too?" making me very happy by the question, for it showed that she would speak to me. I gave an assent quite as eagerly and in a moment we were all walking towards the platform. Despite Lord Ralles, I felt happy, and especially as I had not dreamed that she would ever forgive me.</p> <p>I took a telegraph blank, and, putting it so that Miss Cullen could see what I said, wrote,&mdash;</p> <p>"Postmaster-General, Washington, D. C. I hold, awaiting your instructions, the three registered letters stolen from No. 3 Overland Missouri Western Express on Monday, October fourteenth, loss of which has already been notified you."</p> <p>Then I paused and said, "So far, that's routine, Miss Cullen. Now comes the help for you," and I continued:&mdash;</p> <p>"The letters may have been tampered<!-- Page 87 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_87" id="Page_87">[Pg 87]</SPAN></span> with, and I recommend a special agent. Reply Flagstaff, Arizona. <span class="smcap">Richard Gordon</span>, Superintendent K. &amp; A. R. R."</p> <p>"What will that do?" she asked.</p> <p>"I'm not much at prophecy, and we'll wait for the reply," I said.</p> <p>All that day we lay at Flagstaff, and after a good sleep, as there was no use keeping the party cooped up in their car, I drummed up some ponies and took the Cullens and Ackland over to the Indian cliff-dwellings. I don't think Lord Ralles gained anything by staying behind in a sulk, for it was a very jolly ride, or at least that was what it was to me. I had of course to tell them all how I had settled on them as the criminals, and a general history of my doings. To hear Miss Cullen talk, one would have inferred I was the greatest of living detectives.</p> <p>"The mistake we made," she asserted, "was not securing Mr. Gordon's help to begin with, for then we should never have needed to hold the train up, or if we had we should never have been discovered."<!-- Page 88 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_88" id="Page_88">[Pg 88]</SPAN></span></p> <p>What was more to me than this ill-deserved admiration were two things she said on the way back, when we two had paired off and were a bit behind the rest.</p> <p>"The sandwiches and the whiskey were very good," she told me, "and I'm so grateful for the trouble you took."</p> <p>"It was a pleasure," I said.</p> <p>"And, Mr. Gordon," she continued, and then hesitated for a moment,&mdash;"my&mdash;Frederic told me that you&mdash;you said you honored me for&mdash;?"</p> <p>"I do," I exclaimed energetically, as she paused and colored.</p> <p>"Do you really?" she cried. "I thought Fred was only trying to make me less unhappy by saying that you did."</p> <p>"I said it, and I meant it," I told her.</p> <p>"I have been so miserable over that lie," she went on; "but I thought if I let you have the letters it would ruin papa. I really wouldn't mind poverty myself, Mr. Gordon, but he takes such pride in success that I couldn't be the one to do it. And then,<!-- Page 89 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_89" id="Page_89">[Pg 89]</SPAN></span> after you told me that train-robbers were hung, I had to lie to save them. I ought to have known you would help us."</p> <p>I thought this a pretty good time to make a real apology for my conduct on the trail, as well as to tell her how sorry I was at not having been able to repack her bag better. She accepted my apology very sweetly, and assured me her belongings had been put away so neatly that she had wondered who did it. I knew she only said this out of kindness, and told her so, telling also of my struggles over that pink-beribboned and belaced affair, in a way which made her laugh. I had thought it was a ball gown, and wondered at her taking it to the Ca&ntilde;on; but she explained that it was what she called a "throw"&mdash;which I told her accounted for the throes I had gone through over it. It made me open my eyes, thinking that anything so pretty could be used for the same purposes for which I use my crash bath-gown, and while my eyes were open I saw the folly of thinking that a girl who<!-- Page 90 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_90" id="Page_90">[Pg 90]</SPAN></span> wore such things would, or in fact could, ever get along on my salary. In that way the incident was a good lesson for me, for it made me feel that, even if there had been no Lord Ralles, I still should have had no chance.</p> <p>On our return to the cars there was a telegram from the Postmaster-General awaiting me. After a glance at it, as the rest of the party looked anxiously on, I passed it over to Miss Cullen, for I wanted her to have the triumph of reading it aloud to them. It read,&mdash;</p> <p>"Hold letters pending arrival of special agent Jackson, due in Flagstaff October twentieth."</p> <p>"The election is the eighteenth," Frederic laughed, executing a war dance on the platform. "The G. S.'s dough is cooked."</p> <p>"I must waltz with some one," cried Madge, and before I could offer she took hold of Albert and the two went whirling about, much to my envy. The Cullens<!-- Page 91 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_91" id="Page_91">[Pg 91]</SPAN></span> were about the most jubilant road agents I had ever seen.</p> <p>After consultation with Mr. Cullen, we had 218 and 97 attached to No. 1 when it arrived, and started for Ash Forks. He wanted to be on the ground a day in advance, and I could easily be back in Flagstaff before the arrival of the special agent.</p> <p>I took dinner in 218, and they toasted me, as if I had done something heroic instead of merely having sent a telegram. Later four sat down to poker, while Miss Cullen, Fred, and I went out and sat on the platform of the car while Madge played on her guitar and sang to us. She had a very sweet voice, and before she had been singing long we had the crew of a "dust express"&mdash;as we jokingly call a gravel train&mdash;standing about, and they were speedily reinforced by many cowboys, who deserted the medley of cracked pianos or accordions of the Western saloons to listen to her, and who, not being over-careful in the terms with which they expressed their approval,<!-- Page 92 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_92" id="Page_92">[Pg 92]</SPAN></span> finally by their riotous admiration drove us inside. At Miss Cullen's suggestion we three had a second game of poker, but with chips and not money. She was an awfully reckless player, and the luck was dead in my favor, so Madge kept borrowing my chips, till she was so deep in that we both lost account. Finally, when we parted for the night she held out her hand, and, in the prettiest of ways, said,&mdash;</p> <p>"I am so deeply in your debt, Mr. Gordon, that I don't see how I can ever repay you."</p> <p>I tried to think of something worth saying, but the words wouldn't come, and I could only shake her hand. But, duffer as I was, the way she had said those words, and the double meaning she had given them, would have made me the happiest fellow alive if I could only have forgotten the existence of Lord Ralles.</p> <hr /> <div class="chapter"> <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_93" id="Page_93">[Pg 93]</SPAN></span> <h2>
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