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Great K. and A. Train-Robbery, The

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<SPAN name="CHAPTER_XIV" id="CHAPTER_XIV"></SPAN>CHAPTER XIV</h2> <h3>"LISTENERS NEVER HEAR ANYTHING GOOD"</h3> </div> <p>Before I had ceased chuckling over the sheriff's indignant declaration of the canons of etiquette, I heard Mr. Cullen's voice demanding to know what the trouble was, and it was quickly explained to him that I had escaped. He at once gave them permission to search his car, and went in with the sheriff and the cowboys. Apparently Madge went in too, for in a moment I heard Camp say, in a low voice,&mdash;</p> <p>"Two of you fellows get down below the car and crawl in under the truck where you can't be seen. Evidently that cuss isn't here, but he's likely to come by and by. If so, nab him if you can, and if you can't, fire two shots. Mosely, are you heeled?"</p> <p>"Do I chaw terbaccy?" asked Mosely,<!-- Page 166 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_166" id="Page_166">[Pg 166]</SPAN></span> ironically, clearly insulted at the suggestion that he would travel without a gun.</p> <p>"Then keep a sharp lookout, and listen to everything you hear, especially the whereabouts of some letters. If you can spot their lay, crawl out and get word to me at once. Now, under you go before they come out."</p> <p>I heard two men drop into the gravel close alongside of where I lay, and then crawl under the truck of 218. They weren't a moment too soon, for the next instant I heard two or three people jump on to the platform, and Albert Cullen's voice drawl, "Aw, by Jove, what's the row?" Camp not enlightening them, Lord Ralles suggested that they get on the car to find out, and the three did so. A moment later the sheriff came to the door and told Camp that I was not to be found.</p> <p>"I told yer this was the last place to look for the cuss, Mr. Camp," he said. "We've just discomforted the lady for nothin'."</p> <p>"Then we must search elsewhere," spoke up Camp. "Come on, boys."<!-- Page 167 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_167" id="Page_167">[Pg 167]</SPAN></span></p> <p>The sheriff turned and made another elaborate apology for having had to trouble the lady.</p> <p>I heard Madge tell him that he hadn't troubled her at all, and then, as the cowboys and Camp walked off, she added, "And, Mr. Gunton, I want to thank you for reproving Mr. Camp's dreadful swearing."</p> <p>"Thank yer, miss," said the sheriff. "We fellers are a little rough at times, but &mdash;&mdash; me if we don't know what's due to a lady."</p> <p>"Papa," said Madge, as soon as he was out of hearing, "the sheriff is the most beautiful swearer I ever heard."</p> <p>For a while there was silence round the station; I suppose the party in 218 were comparing notes, while the two cowboys and I had the best reasons for being quiet. Presently, however, the men came out of the car and jumped down on the platform. Madge evidently followed them to the door, for she called, "Please let me know the moment something happens or you learn anything."<!-- Page 168 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_168" id="Page_168">[Pg 168]</SPAN></span></p> <p>"Better go to bed, Madgy," Albert called. "You'll only worry, and it's after three."</p> <p>"I couldn't sleep if I tried," she answered.</p> <p>Their footsteps died away in a moment, and I heard her close the door of 218. In a few moments she opened it again, and, stepping down to the station platform, began to pace up and down it. If I had only dared, I could have put my finger through the crack of the planks and touched her foot as she walked over my head, but I was afraid it might startle her into a shriek, and there was no explaining to her what it meant without telling the cowboys how close they were to their quarry.</p> <p>Madge hadn't walked from one end of the platform to the other more than three or four times, when I heard some one coming. She evidently heard it also, for she said,&mdash;</p> <p>"I began to be afraid you hadn't understood me."</p> <p>"I thought you told me to see first if I were needed," responded a voice that even the distance and the planks did not<!-- Page 169 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_169" id="Page_169">[Pg 169]</SPAN></span> prevent me from recognizing as that of Lord Ralles.</p> <p>"Yes," said she. "You are sure you can be spared?"</p> <p>"I couldn't be of the slightest use," asserted Ralles, getting on to the platform and joining Madge. "It's as black as ink everywhere, and I don't think there's anything to be done till daylight."</p> <p>"Then I'm glad you came back, for I really want to say something,&mdash;to ask the greatest favor of you."</p> <p>"You only have to tell me what it is," said his lordship.</p> <p>"Even that is very hard," murmured Madge. "If&mdash;if&mdash;Oh! I'm afraid I haven't the courage, after all."</p> <p>"I'll be glad to do anything I can."</p> <p>"It's&mdash;well&mdash;Oh, dear, I can't. Let's walk a little, while I think how to put it."</p> <p>They began to walk, which took a weight off my mind, as I had been forced to hear every word thus far spoken, and was dread<!-- Page 170 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_170" id="Page_170">[Pg 170]</SPAN></span>ing what might follow, since I was perfectly helpless to warn them. The platform was built around the station, and in a moment they were out of hearing.</p> <p>Before many seconds were over, however, they had walked round the building, and I heard Lord Ralles say,&mdash;</p> <p>"You really don't mean that he's insulted you?"</p> <p>"That is just what I do mean," cried Madge, indignantly. "It's been almost past endurance. I haven't dared to tell any one, but he had the cruelty, the meanness, on Hance's trail to threaten that&mdash;"</p> <p>At that point the walkers turned the corner again, and I could not hear the rest of the sentence. But I had heard more than enough to make me grow hot with mortification, even while I could hardly believe I had understood aright. Madge had been so kind to me lately that I couldn't think she had been feeling as bitterly as she spoke. That such an apparently frank girl was a consummate actress wasn't to be thought, and yet&mdash;I<!-- Page 171 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_171" id="Page_171">[Pg 171]</SPAN></span> remembered how well she had played her part on Hance's trail; but even that wouldn't convince me. Proof of her duplicity came quickly enough, for, while I was still thinking, the walkers were round again, and Lord Ralles was saying,&mdash;</p> <p>"Why haven't you complained to your father or brothers?"</p> <p>"Because I knew they would resent his conduct to me, and&mdash;"</p> <p>"Of course they would," cried her companion, interrupting. "But why should you object to that?"</p> <p>"Because of the letters," explained Madge. "Don't you see that if we made him angry he would betray us to Mr. Camp, and&mdash;"</p> <p>Then they passed out of hearing, leaving me almost desperate, both at being an eavesdropper to such a conversation, and that Madge could think so meanly of me. To say it, too, to Lord Ralles made it cut all the deeper, as any fellow who has been in love will understand.</p> <p>Round they came again in a moment, and<!-- Page 172 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_172" id="Page_172">[Pg 172]</SPAN></span> I braced myself for the lash of the whip that I felt was coming. I didn't escape it, for Madge was saying,&mdash;</p> <p>"Can you conceive of a man pretending to care for a girl and yet treating her so? I can't tell you the grief, the mortification, I have endured." She spoke with a half-sob in her throat, as if she was struggling not to cry, which made me wish I had never been born. "It's been all I could do to control myself in his presence, I have come so utterly to hate and despise him," she added.</p> <p>"I don't wonder," growled Lord Ralles. "My only surprise is&mdash;"</p> <p>With that they passed out of hearing again, leaving me fairly desperate with shame, grief, and, I'm afraid, with anger. I felt at once guilty and yet wronged. I knew my conduct on the trail must have seemed to her ungentlemanly because I had never dared to explain that my action there had been a pure bluff, and that I wouldn't have really searched her for&mdash;well, for anything; but though she might think badly of me for that, yet I had done my<!-- Page 173 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_173" id="Page_173">[Pg 173]</SPAN></span> best to counterbalance it, and was running big risks, both present and eventual, for Madge's sake. Yet here she was acknowledging that thus far she had used me as a puppet, while all the time disliking me. It was a terrible blow, made all the harder by the fact that she was proving herself such a different girl from the one I loved,&mdash;so different, in fact, that, despite what I had heard, I couldn't quite believe it of her, and found myself seeking to extenuate and even justify her conduct. While I was doing this, they came within hearing, and Lord Ralles was speaking.</p> <p>"&mdash;with you," he said. "But I still do not see what I can do, however much I may wish to serve you."</p> <p>"Can't you go to him and insist that he&mdash;or tell him what I really feel towards him&mdash;or anything, in fact, to shame him? I really can't go on acting longer."</p> <p>That reached the limit of my endurance, and I crawled from my burrow, intending to get out from under that platform, whether I was caught or not. I know it was a foolish<!-- Page 174 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_174" id="Page_174">[Pg 174]</SPAN></span> move; after having heard what I had, a little more or less was quite immaterial. But I entirely forgot my danger, in the sting of what Madge had said, and my one thought was to stand face to face with her long enough to&mdash;I'm sure I don't know what I intended to say.</p> <p>Just as I reached the plank, however, I heard Lord Ralles ask,&mdash;</p> <p>"Who's that?"</p> <p>"It's me," said a voice,&mdash;"the station agent." Then I heard a door close. Some one walked out to the centre of the platform and remarked,&mdash;</p> <p>"That 'ere way freight is late."</p> <p>At least the letters were recovered.</p> <hr /> <div class="chapter"> <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_175" id="Page_175">[Pg 175]</SPAN></span> <h2>
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