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Great K. and A. Train-Robbery, The

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<SPAN name="CHAPTER_XV" id="CHAPTER_XV"></SPAN>CHAPTER XV</h2> <h3>THE SURRENDER OF THE LETTERS</h3> </div> <p>If the letters were safe, that was a good deal more than I was. The moment the station-master had made his agreed-upon announcement, he said to the walkers,&mdash;</p> <p>"Had any news of Mr. Gordon?"</p> <p>"No," replied Lord Ralles. "And, as the lights keep moving in the town, they must still be hunting for him."</p> <p>"I reckon they'll do considerable more huntin' before they find him up there," chuckled the man, with a self-important manner. "He's hidden away under this ere platform."</p> <p>"Not right here?" I heard Madge cry, but I had too much to do to take in what followed. I was lying close to the loose plank, and even before the station-master<!-- Page 176 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_176" id="Page_176">[Pg 176]</SPAN></span> had completed his sentence I was squirming through the crack. As I freed my legs I heard two shots, which I knew was the signal given by the cowboys, followed by a shriek of fright from Madge, for which she was hardly to be blamed. I was on my feet in an instant and ran down the tracks at my best speed. It wasn't with much hope of escape, for once out from under the planking I found, what I had not before realized, that day was dawning, and already outlines at a distance could be seen. However, I was bound to do my best, and I did it.</p> <p>Before I had run a hundred feet I could hear pursuers, and a moment later a revolver cracked, ploughing up the dust in front of me. Another bullet followed, and, seeing that affairs were getting desperate, I dodged round the end of some cars, only to plump into a man running at full speed. The collision was so unexpected that we both fell, and before I could get on my feet one of my pursuers plumped down on top of me and I felt something cold on the back of my neck.<!-- Page 177 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_177" id="Page_177">[Pg 177]</SPAN></span></p> <p>"Lie still, yer sneakin' coyote of a road agent," said the man, "or I'll blow yer so full of lead that yer couldn't float in Salt Lake."</p> <p>I preferred to take his advice, and lay quiet while the cowboys gathered. From all directions I heard them coming, calling to each other that "the skunk that shot the woman is corralled," and other forms of the same information. In a moment I was jerked to my feet, only to be swept off them with equal celerity, and was half carried, half dragged, along the tracks. It wasn't as rough handling as I have taken on the football-field, but I didn't enjoy it.</p> <p>In a space of time that seemed only seconds, I was close to a telegraph-pole; but, brief as the moment had been, a fellow with a lariat tied round his waist was half-way up the post. I knew the mob had been told that I had killed a woman in the hold-up, for the cowboy, bad as he is, has his own standards, beyond which he won't go. But I might as well have tried to tell my innocence<!-- Page 178 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_178" id="Page_178">[Pg 178]</SPAN></span> to the moon as to get them to listen to denials, even if I could have made my voice heard.</p> <p>The lariat was dropped over the crosspiece, and as a man adjusted the noose a sudden silence fell. I thought it was a little sense of what they were doing, but it was merely due to the command of Baldwin, who, with Camp, stood just outside the mob.</p> <p>"Let me say a word before you pull," he called, and then to me he said, "Now will you give up the property?"</p> <p>I was pretty pale and shaky, but I come of stiffish stock, and I wouldn't have backed down then, it seemed to me, if they had been going to boil me alive. I suppose it sounds foolish, and if I had had plenty of time I have no doubt my common-sense would have made me crawl. Not having time, I was on the point of saying "No," when the door of 218, which lay about two hundred yards away, flew open, and out came Mr. Cullen, Fred, Albert, Lord Ralles, and Captain Ackland, all with rifles. Of course it was per<!-- Page 179 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_179" id="Page_179">[Pg 179]</SPAN></span>fect desperation for the five to tackle the cowboys, but they were game to do it, all the same.</p> <p>How it would have ended I don't know, but as they sprang off the car platform Miss Cullen came out on it, and stood there, one hand holding on to the door-way, as if she needed support, and the other covering her heart. It was too far for me to see her face, but the whole attitude expressed such suffering that it was terrible to see. What was more, her position put her in range of every shot the cowboys might fire at the five as they charged. If I could have stopped them I would have done so, but, since that was impossible, I cried,&mdash;</p> <p>"Mr. Camp, I'll surrender the letters."</p> <p>"Hold on, boys," shouted Baldwin; "wait till we get the property he stole." And, coming through the crowd, he threw the noose off my neck.</p> <p>"Don't shoot, Mr. Cullen," I yelled, as my friends halted and raised their rifles, and, fortunately, the cowboys had opened up<!-- Page 180 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_180" id="Page_180">[Pg 180]</SPAN></span> enough to let them hear me and see that I was free of the rope.</p> <p>Escorted by Camp, Baldwin, and the cowboys, I walked towards them. On the way Baldwin said, in a low voice, "Deliver the letters, and we'll tell the boys there has been a mistake. Otherwise&mdash;"</p> <p>When we came up to the five, I called to them that I had agreed to surrender the letters. While I was saying it, Miss Cullen joined them, and it was curious to see how respectfully the cowboys took off their hats and fell back.</p> <p>"You are quite right," Mr. Cullen called. "Give them the letters at once."</p> <p>"Oh, do, Mr. Gordon," said Madge, still white and breathless with emotion. "The money is nothing. Don't think&mdash;" It was all she could say.</p> <p>I felt pretty small, but with Camp and Baldwin, now reinforced by Judge Wilson, I went to the station, ordered the agent to open the safe, took out the three letters, and handed them to Mr. Camp, realizing how<!-- Page 181 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_181" id="Page_181">[Pg 181]</SPAN></span> poor Madge must have felt on Hance's trail. It was a pretty big take down to my pride I tell you, and made all the worse by the way the three gloated over the letters and over our defeat.</p> <p>"We've taught you a lesson, young man," sneered Camp, as after opening the envelopes, to assure himself that the proxies were all right, he tucked them into his pocket. "And we'll teach you another one after to-day's election."</p> <p>Just as he concluded, we heard outside the first note of a bugle, and as it sounded "By fours, column left," my heart gave a big jump, and the blood came rushing to my face. Camp, Baldwin, and Wilson broke for the door, but I got there first, and prevented their escape. They tried to force their way through, but I hadn't blocked and interfered at football for nothing, and they might as well have tried to break through the Sierras. <ins class="TNsilent" title="Transcriber's note: original reads 'Discoving'"><SPAN name="Disc" id="Disc">Discovering</SPAN></ins> this, Camp whipped out his gun, and told me to let them out. Being used to the West, I recognized the goodness of the argu<!-- Page 182 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_182" id="Page_182">[Pg 182]</SPAN></span>ment and stepped out on the platform, giving them free passage. But the twenty seconds I had delayed them had cooked their goose, for outside was a squadron of cavalry swinging a circle round the station; and we had barely reached the platform when the bugle sounded "Halt," quickly followed by "Forward left." As the ranks wheeled, and closed up as a solid line about us, I could have cheered with delight. There was a moment's dramatic hush, in which we could all hear the breathing of the winded horses, and then came the clatter of sword and spurs, as an officer sprang from his saddle.</p> <p>"I want Richard Gordon," the officer called.</p> <p>I responded, "At your service, and badly in need of yours, Captain Singer."</p> <p>"Hope the delay hasn't spoilt things," said the captain. "We had a cursed fool of a guide, who took the wrong trail and ran us into Limestone Ca&ntilde;on, where we had to camp for the night."</p> <p>I explained the situation as quickly as I<!-- Page 183 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_183" id="Page_183">[Pg 183]</SPAN></span> could, and the captain's eyes gleamed. "I'd have given a bad quarter to have got here ten minutes sooner and ridden my men over those scoundrels," he muttered. "I saw them scatter as we rode up, and if I'd known what they'd been doing we'd have given them a volley." Then he walked over to Mr. Camp and said, "Give me those letters."</p> <p>"I hold those letters by virtue of an order&mdash;" Camp began.</p> <p>"Give me those letters," the captain interrupted.</p> <p>"Do you intend a high-handed interference with the civil authorities?" Judge Wilson demanded.</p> <p>"Come, come," said the captain, sternly. "You have taken forcible possession of United States property. Any talk about civil authorities is rubbish, and you know it."</p> <p>"I will never&mdash;" cried Mr. Camp.</p> <p>"Corporal Jackson, dismount a guard of six men," rang the captain's voice, interrupting him.<!-- Page 184 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_184" id="Page_184">[Pg 184]</SPAN></span></p> <p>Evidently something in the voice or order convinced Mr. Camp, for the letters were hastily produced and given to Singer, who at once handed them to me. I turned with them to the Cullens, and, laughing, quoted, "'All's well that ends well.'"</p> <p>But they didn't seem to care a bit about the recovery of the letters, and only wanted to have a hand-shake all round over my escape. Even Lord Ralles said, "Glad we could be of a little service," and didn't refuse my thanks, though the deuce knows they were badly enough expressed, in my consciousness that I had done an ungentlemanly trick over those trousers of his, and that he had been above remembering it when I was in real danger. I'm ashamed enough to confess that when Miss Cullen held out her hand I made believe not to see it. I'm a bad hand at pretending, and I saw Madge color up at my act.</p> <p>The captain finally called me off to consult about our proceedings. I felt no very strong love for Camp, Baldwin, or Wilson,<!-- Page 185 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_185" id="Page_185">[Pg 185]</SPAN></span> but I didn't see that a military arrest would accomplish anything, and after a little discussion it was decided to let them alone, as we could well afford to do, having won.</p> <p>This matter decided, I said to the captain, "I'll be obliged if you'll put a guard round my car. And then, if you and your officers will come inside it, I have a&mdash;something in a bottle, recommended for removing alkali dust from the tonsils."</p> <p>"Very happy to test your prescription," responded Singer, genially.</p> <p>I started to go with him, but I couldn't resist turning to Mr. Camp and his friends and saying,&mdash;</p> <p>"Gentlemen, the G. S. is a big affair, but it isn't quite big enough to fight the U. S."</p> <hr /> <div class="chapter"> <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_186" id="Page_186">[Pg 186]</SPAN></span> <h2>
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