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Great K. and A. Train-Robbery, The

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<SPAN name="CHAPTER_XVI" id="CHAPTER_XVI"></SPAN>CHAPTER XVI</h2> <h3>A GLOOMY GOOD-BY</h3> </div> <p>At that point my importance ceased. Apparently seeing that the game was up, Mr. Camp later in the morning asked Mr. Cullen to give him an interview, and when he was allowed to pass the sentry he came to the steps and suggested,&mdash;</p> <p>"Perhaps we can arrange a compromise between the Missouri Western and the Great Southern?"</p> <p>"We can try," Mr. Cullen assented. "Come into my car." He made way for Mr. Camp, and was about to follow him, when Madge took hold of her father's arm, and, making him stoop, whispered something to him.</p> <p>"What kind of a place?" asked Mr. Cullen, laughing.</p> <p>"A good one," his daughter replied.<!-- Page 187 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_187" id="Page_187">[Pg 187]</SPAN></span></p> <p>I thought I understood what was meant. She didn't want to rest under an obligation, and so I was to be paid up for what I had done by promotion. It made me grit my teeth, and if I hadn't taught myself not to swear, because of my position, I could have given <ins class="TNsilent" title="Transcriber's note: original reads 'sheriff Gunton'"><SPAN name="Sheriff" id="Sheriff">Sheriff Gunton</SPAN></ins> points on cursing. I wanted to speak up right there and tell Miss Cullen what I thought of her.</p> <p>Of the interview which took place inside 218, I can speak only at second-hand, and the world knows about as well as I how the contest was compromised by the K. &amp; A. being turned over to the Missouri Western, the territory in Southern California being divided between the California Central and the Great Southern, and a traffic arrangement agreed upon that satisfied the G. S. That afternoon a Missouri Western board for the K. &amp; A. was elected without opposition, and they in turn elected Mr. Cullen president of the K. &amp; A.; so when my report of the holding-up went in, he had the pleasure of reading it. I closed it with a request for<!-- Page 188 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_188" id="Page_188">[Pg 188]</SPAN></span> instructions, but I never received any, and that ended the matter. I turned over the letters to the special agent at Flagstaff, and I suppose his report is slumbering in some pigeon-hole in Washington, for I should have known of any attempt to bring the culprits to punishment. Mr. Cullen had taken a big risk, but came out of it with a great lot of money, for the Missouri Western bought all his holdings in the K. &amp; A. and C. C. But the scare must have taught him a lesson, for ever since then he's been conservative, and talks about the foolishness of investors who try to get more than five per cent, or who think of anything but good railroad bonds.</p> <p>As for myself, a month after these occurrences I was appointed superintendent of the Missouri Western, which by this deal had become one of the largest railroad systems in the world. It was a big step up for so young a man, and was of course pure favoritism, due to Mr. Cullen's influence. I didn't stay in the position long, for within<!-- Page 189 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_189" id="Page_189">[Pg 189]</SPAN></span> two years I was offered the presidency of the Chicago &amp; St. Paul, and I think that was won on merit. Whether or not, I hold the position still, and have made my road earn and pay dividends right through the panic.</p> <p>All this is getting away ahead of events, however. The election delayed us so that we couldn't couple on to No. 4 that afternoon, and consequently we had to lie that night at Ash Forks. I made the officers my excuse for keeping away from the Cullens, as I wished to avoid Madge. I did my best to be good company to the bluecoats, and had a first-class dinner for them on my car, but I was in a pretty glum mood, which even champagne couldn't modify. Though all necessity of a guard ceased with the compromise, the cavalry remained till the next morning, and, after giving them a good breakfast, about six o'clock we shook hands, the bugle sounded, and off they rode. For the first time I understood how a fellow disappointed in love comes to enlist.<!-- Page 190 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_190" id="Page_190">[Pg 190]</SPAN></span></p> <p>When I turned about to go into my car, I found Madge standing on the platform of 218 waving a handkerchief. I paid no attention to her, and started up my steps.</p> <p>"Mr. Gordon," she said,&mdash;and when I looked at her I saw that she was flushing,&mdash;"what is the matter?"</p> <p>I suppose most fellows would have found some excuse, but for the life of me I couldn't. All I was able to say was,&mdash;</p> <p>"I would rather not say, Miss Cullen."</p> <p>"How unfair you are!" she cried. "You&mdash;without the slightest reason you suddenly go out of your way to ill-treat&mdash;insult me, and yet will not tell me the cause."</p> <p>That made me angry. "Cause?" I cried. "As if you didn't know of a cause! What you don't know is that I overheard your conversation with Lord Ralles night before last."</p> <p>"My conversation with Lord Ralles?" exclaimed Madge, in a bewildered way.</p> <p>"Yes," I said bitterly, "keep up the acting. The practice is good, even if it deceives no one."<!-- Page 191 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_191" id="Page_191">[Pg 191]</SPAN></span></p> <p>"I don't understand a word you are saying," she retorted, getting angry in turn. "You speak as if I had done wrong,&mdash;as if&mdash;I don't know what; and I have a right to know to what you allude."</p> <p>"I don't see how I can be any clearer," I muttered. "I was under the station platform, hiding from the cowboys, while you and Lord Ralles were walking. I didn't want to be a listener, but I heard a good deal of what you said."</p> <p>"But I didn't walk with Lord Ralles," she cried. "The only person I walked with was Captain Ackland."</p> <p>That took me very much aback, for I had never questioned in my mind that it wasn't Lord Ralles. Yet the moment she spoke, I realized how much alike the two brothers' voices were, and how easily the blurring of distance and planking might have misled me. For a moment I was speechless. Then I replied coldly,&mdash;</p> <p>"It makes no difference with whom you were. What you said was the essential part."<!-- Page 192 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_192" id="Page_192">[Pg 192]</SPAN></span></p> <p>"But how could you for an instant suppose that I could say what I did to Lord Ralles?" she demanded.</p> <p>"I naturally thought he would be the one to whom you would appeal concerning my 'insulting' conduct."</p> <p>Madge looked at me for a moment as if transfixed. Then she laughed, and cried,&mdash;</p> <p>"Oh, you idiot!"</p> <p>While I still looked at her in equal amazement, she went on, "I beg your pardon, but you are so ridiculous that I had to say it. Why, I wasn't talking about you, but about Lord Ralles."</p> <p>"Lord Ralles!" I cried.</p> <p>"Yes."</p> <p>"I don't understand," I exclaimed.</p> <p>"Why, Lord Ralles has been&mdash;has been&mdash;oh, he's threatened that if I wouldn't&mdash;that&mdash;"</p> <p>"You mean he&mdash;?" I began, and then stopped, for I couldn't believe my ears.</p> <p>"Oh," she burst out, "of course you couldn't understand, and you probably de<!-- Page 193 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_193" id="Page_193">[Pg 193]</SPAN></span>spise me already, but if you knew how I scorn myself, Mr. Gordon, and what I have endured from that man, you would only pity me."</p> <p>Light broke on me suddenly. "Do you mean, Miss Cullen," I cried hotly, "that he's been cad enough to force his attentions upon you by threats?"</p> <p>"Yes. First he made me endure him because he was going to help us, and from the moment the robbery was done, he has been threatening to tell. Oh, how I have suffered!"</p> <p>Then I said a very silly thing. "Miss Cullen," I groaned, "I'd give anything if I were only your brother." For the moment I really meant it.</p> <p>"I haven't dared to tell any of them," she explained, "because I knew they would resent it and make Lord Ralles angry, and then he would tell, and so ruin papa. It seemed such a little thing to bear for his sake, but, oh, it's been&mdash;I suppose you despise me!"<!-- Page 194 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_194" id="Page_194">[Pg 194]</SPAN></span></p> <p>"I never dreamed of despising you," I said. "I only thought, of course&mdash;seeing what I did&mdash;and&mdash;that you were fond&mdash;No&mdash;that is&mdash;I mean&mdash;well&mdash;The beast!" I couldn't help exclaiming.</p> <p>"Oh," said Madge, blushing, and stammering breathlessly, "you mustn't think&mdash;there was really&mdash;you happened to&mdash;usually I managed to keep with papa or my brothers, or else run away, as I did when he interrupted my letter-writing,&mdash;when you thought we had&mdash;but it was nothing of the&mdash;I kept away just&mdash;but the night of the robbery I forgot, and on the trail his mule blocked the path. He never&mdash;there really wasn't&mdash;you saved me the only times he&mdash;he&mdash;that he was really rude; and I am so grateful for it, Mr. Gordon."</p> <p>I wasn't in a mood to enjoy even Miss Cullen's gratitude. Without stopping for words, I dashed into 218, and, going straight to Albert Cullen, I shook him out of a sound sleep, and before he could well<!-- Page 195 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_195" id="Page_195">[Pg 195]</SPAN></span> understand me I was alternately swearing at him and raging at Lord Ralles. Finally he got the truth through his head, and it was nuts to me, even in my rage, to see how his English drawl disappeared, and how quick he could be when he really became excited.</p> <p>I left him hurrying into his clothes, and went to my car, for I didn't dare to see the exodus of Lord Ralles, through fear that I couldn't behave myself. Albert came into 97 in a few moments to say that the Englishmen were going to the hotel as soon as dressed, the captain having elected to stay by his brother.</p> <p>"I wouldn't have believed it of Ralles. I feel jolly cut up, you know," he drawled.</p> <p>I had been so enraged over Lord Ralles that I hadn't stopped to reckon in what position I stood myself towards Miss Cullen, but I didn't have to do much thinking to know that I had behaved about as badly as was possible for me. And the worst of it was that she could not know that right through<!-- Page 196 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_196" id="Page_196">[Pg 196]</SPAN></span> the whole I had never quite been able to think badly of her. I went out on the platform of the station, and was lucky enough to find her there alone.</p> <p>"Miss Cullen," I said, "I've been ungentlemanly and suspicious, and I'm about as ashamed of myself as a man can be and not jump into the Grand Ca&ntilde;on. I've not come to you to ask your forgiveness, for I can't forgive myself, much less expect it of you. But I want you to know how I feel, and if there's any reparation, apology, anything, that you'd like, I'll&mdash;"</p> <p>Madge interrupted my speech there by holding out her hand.</p> <p>"You don't suppose," she said, "that, after all you have done for us, I could be angry over what was merely a mistake?"</p> <p>That's what I call a trump of a girl, worth loving for a lifetime.</p> <p>Well, we coupled on to No. 2 that morning and started East, this time Mr. Cullen's car being the "ender." All on 218 were wildly jubilant, as was natural,<!-- Page 197 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_197" id="Page_197">[Pg 197]</SPAN></span> but I kept growing bluer and bluer. I took a farewell dinner on their car the night we were due in Albuquerque, and afterwards Miss Cullen and I went out and sat on the back platform.</p> <p>"I've had enough adventures to talk about for a year," Madge said, as we chatted the whole thing over, "and you can no longer brag that the K. &amp; A. has never had a robbery, even if you didn't lose anything."</p> <p>"I have lost something," I sighed sadly.</p> <p>Madge looked at me quickly, started to speak, hesitated, and then said, "Oh, Mr. Gordon, if you only could know how badly I have felt about that, and how I appreciate the sacrifice."</p> <p>I had only meant that I had lost my heart, and, for that matter, probably my head, for it would have been ungenerous even to hint to Miss Cullen that I had made any sacrifice of conscience for her sake, and I would as soon have asked her to pay for it in money as have told her.</p> <p>"You mustn't think&mdash;" I began.<!-- Page 198 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_198" id="Page_198">[Pg 198]</SPAN></span></p> <p>"I have felt," she continued, "that your wish to serve us made you do something you never would have otherwise done, for&mdash;Well, you&mdash;any one can see how truthful and honest&mdash;and it has made me feel so badly that we&mdash;Oh, Mr. Gordon, no one has a right to do wrong in this world, for it brings such sadness and danger to innocent&mdash;And you have been so generous&mdash;"</p> <p>I couldn't let this go on. "What I did," I told her, "was to fight fire with fire, and no one is responsible for it but myself."</p> <p>"I should like to think that, but I can't," she said. "I know we all tried to do something dishonest, and while you didn't do any real wrong, yet I don't think you would have acted as you did except for our sake. And I'm afraid you may some day regret&mdash;"</p> <p>"I sha'n't," I cried; "and, so far from meaning that I had lost my self-respect, I was alluding to quite another thing."</p> <p>"Time?" she asked.</p> <p>"No."</p> <p>"What?"<!-- Page 199 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_199" id="Page_199">[Pg 199]</SPAN></span></p> <p>"Something else you have stolen."</p> <p>"I haven't," she denied.</p> <p>"You have," I affirmed.</p> <p>"You mean the novel?" she asked; "because I sent it in to 97 to-night."</p> <p>"I don't mean the novel."</p> <p>"I can't think of anything more but those pieces of petrified wood, and those you gave me," she said demurely. "I am sure that whatever else I have of yours you have given me without even my asking, and if you want it back you've only got to say so."</p> <p>"I suppose that would be my very best course," I groaned.</p> <p>"I hate people who force a present on one," she continued, "and then, just as one begins to like it, want it back."</p> <p>Before I could speak, she asked hurriedly, "How often do you come to Chicago?"</p> <p>I took that to be a sort of command that I was to wait, and though longing to have it settled then and there, I braked myself up and answered her question. Now I see what a duffer I was&mdash;Madge told me after<!-- Page 200 --><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_200" id="Page_200">[Pg 200]</SPAN></span>wards that she asked only because she was so frightened and confused that she felt she must stop my speaking for a moment.</p> <p>I did my best till I heard the whistle the locomotive gives as it runs into yard limits, and then rose. "Good-by, Miss Cullen," I said, properly enough, though no death-bed farewell was ever more gloomily spoken; and she responded, "Good-by, Mr. Gordon," with equal propriety.</p> <p>I held her hand, hating to let her go, and the first thing I knew, I blurted out, "I wish I had the brass of Lord Ralles!"</p> <p><ins class="TNsilent" title="Transcriber's note: original lacks comma">"I don't,"</ins> she laughed, "because, if you had, I shouldn't be willing to let you&mdash;"</p> <p>And what she was going to say, and why she didn't say it, is the concern of no one but Mr. and Mrs. Richard Gordon.</p> <p class="center"> <br /><br /><small>THE END</small></p> <hr /> <div class="tnote"> <h3>Transcriber's Note:</h3> <p>The discrepancies of four or seven "years of Western life" on <SPAN href="#Page_7">Page_7</SPAN>, <SPAN href="#Page_15">Page_15</SPAN> and <SPAN href="#Page_26">Page_26</SPAN> have been retained as in the original.</p> <p>Page 49. Changed "good-bye" to "good-by" twice. (... I bade <SPAN href="#goodby1">good-by</SPAN> to the captain and Albert.); ("I hope it isn't <SPAN href="#goodby2">good-by</SPAN>, but only au revoir," she said.)</p> <p>Page 59. Changed "coconino" to "<SPAN href="#Coconino">Coconino</SPAN>".</p> <p>Page 104. Corrected <SPAN href="#morse">American Morse Code</SPAN> (a.k.a. Railroad Morse Code) to accurately reflect transmitted message.</p> <p>Page 105. Changed "rail road" to "<SPAN href="#rroad">railroad</SPAN>".</p> <p>Page 140. Changed "doorway" to "<SPAN href="#dway">door-way</SPAN>".</p> <p>Page 145. Changed "her Majesty" to "<SPAN href="#hmajesty">Her Majesty</SPAN>".</p> <p>Page 181. Changed "Discoving" to "<SPAN href="#Disc">Discovering</SPAN>".</p> <p>Page 187. Changed "sheriff" to "<SPAN href="#Sheriff">Sheriff</SPAN>".</p> </div> <pre> End of Project Gutenberg's The Great K. & A. Robbery, by Paul Liechester Ford
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