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Master Tales of Mystery, Volume 3 by Collected and Arranged by Francis J. Reynolds

Part 4 out of 8

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hadn't put my hand against her shoulder. I longed to put it about her,
but by this time I didn't want to please myself, but to do only what I
thought she would wish, and so restrained myself.

Before I had time to finish an apology to Miss Cullen, the fellow was
up on his feet, and came at me with an exclamation of anger. In my
surprise at recognizing the voice as that of Lord Ralles, I almost
neglected to take care of myself; but, though he was quick with his
fists, I caught him by the wrists as he closed, and he had no chance
after that against a fellow of my weight.

"Oh, don't quarrel!" cried Miss Cullen.

Holding him, I said, "Lord Ralles, I overheard what Miss Cullen was
saying, and, supposing some man was insulting her, I acted as I did."
Then I let go of him, and, turning, I continued, "I am very sorry,
Miss Cullen, if I did anything the circumstances did not warrant,"
while cursing myself for my precipitancy and for not thinking that
Miss Cullen would never have been caught in such a plight with a man
unless she had been half willing; for a girl does not merely threaten
to call for help if she really wants aid.

Lord Ralles wasn't much mollified by my explanation. "You're too
much in a hurry, my man," he growled, speaking to me as if I were a
servant. "Be a bit more careful in the future."

I think I should have retorted--for his manner was enough to make a
saint mad--if Miss Cullen hadn't spoken.

"You tried to help me, Mr. Gordon, and I am deeply grateful for that,"
she said. The words look simple enough set down here. But the tone in
which she said them, and the extended hand and the grateful little
squeeze she gave my fingers, all seemed to express so much that I was
more puzzled over them than I was over the robbery.



"You had better come back to the car, Miss Cullen," remarked Lord
Ralles, after a pause.

But she declined to do so, saying she wanted to know what I was going
to telegraph; and he left us, for which I wasn't sorry. I told her of
the good news I had to send, and she wanted to know if now we would
try to catch the road agents. I set her mind at rest on that score. "I
think they'll give us very little trouble to bag," I added, "for they
are so green that it's almost pitiful."

"In not cutting the wires?" she asked.

"In everything," I replied. "But the worst botch is their waiting till
we had just passed the Arizona line. It they had held us up an hour
earlier, it would only have been State's prison."

"And what will it be now?"


"What?" cried Miss Cullen.

"In New Mexico train-robbing is not capital, but in Arizona it is," I
told her.

"And if you catch them they'll be hung?" she asked.


"That seems very hard."

The first signs of dawn were beginning to show by this time, and as
the sky brightened I told Miss Cullen that I was going to look for the
trail of the fugitives. She said she would walk with me, if not in the
way, and my assurance was very positive on that point. And here I want
to remark that it's saying a good deal if a girl can be up all night
in such excitement and still look fresh and pretty, and that she did.

I ordered the crew to look about, and then began a big circle around
the train. Finding nothing, I swung a bigger one. That being equally
unavailing, I did a larger third. Not a trace of foot or hoof within a
half-mile of the cars! I had heard of blankets laid down to conceal a
trail, of swathed feet, even of leathern horse-boots with cattle-hoofs
on the bottom, but none of these could have been used for such a
distance, let alone the entire absence of any signs of a place where
the horses had been hobbled. Returning to the train, the report of the
men was the same.

"We've ghost road agents to deal with, Miss Cullen," I laughed. "They
come from nowhere, bullets touch them not, their lead hurts nobody,
they take nothing, and they disappear without touching the ground."

"How curious it is!" she exclaimed. "One would almost suppose it a

"Hold on," I said. "We do have something tangible, for if they
disappeared they left their shells behind them." And I pointed to
some cartridge-shells that lay on the ground beside the mail-car. "My
theory of aerial bullets won't do."

"The shells are as hollow as I feel," laughed Miss Cullen.

"Your suggestion reminds me that I am desperately hungry," I said.
"Suppose we go back and end the famine."

Most of the passengers had long since returned to their seats or
berths, and Mr. Cullen's party had apparently done the same, for 218
showed no signs of life. One of my darkies was awake, and he broiled a
steak and made us some coffee in no time, and just as they were ready
Albert Cullen appeared, so we made a very jolly little breakfast. He
told me at length the part he and the Britishers had borne, and only
made me marvel the more that any one of them was alive, for apparently
they had jumped off the car without the slightest precaution, and
had stood grouped together, even after they had called attention to
themselves by Lord Ralles's shots. Cullen had to confess that he heard
the whistle of the four bullets unpleasantly close.

"You have a right to be proud, Mr. Cullen," I said. "You fellows did
a tremendously pluckly thing, and, thanks to you, we didn't lose

"But you went to help too, Mr. Gordon," added Miss Cullen.

That made me color up, and, after a moment's hesitation, I said--

"I'm not going to sail under false colors, Miss Cullen. When I went
forward I didn't think I could do anything. I supposed whoever had
pitched into the robbers was dead, and I expected to be the same
inside of ten minutes."

"Then why did you risk your life," she asked, "if you thought it was

I laughed, and, though ashamed to tell it, replied, "I didn't want you
to think that the Britishers had more pluck than I had."

She took my confession better than I hoped she would, laughing with
me, and then said, "Well, that was courageous, after all."

"Yes," I confessed, "I was frightened into bravery."

"Perhaps if they had known the danger as well as you, they would have
been less courageous," she continued; and I could have blessed her for
the speech.

While we were still eating, the mail clerk came to my car and reported
that the most careful search had failed to discover the three
registered letters, and they had evidently been taken. This made me
feel sober, slight as the probable loss was. He told me that his
list showed they were all addressed to Ash Fork, Arizona, making
it improbable that their contents could be of any real value. If
possible, I was more puzzled than ever.

At six-ten the runner whistled to show he had steam up. I told one of
the brakemen to stay behind, and then went into 218. Mr. Cullen was
still dressing, but I expressed my regrets through the door that I
could not go with his party to the Grand Canon, told him that all the
stage arrangements had been completed, and promised to join him there
in case my luck was good. Then I saw Frederic for a moment, to see how
he was (for I had nearly forgotten him in the excitement), to find
that he was gaining all the time, and preparing even to get up. When I
returned to the saloon, the rest of the party were there, and I bade
good-bye to the captain and Albert. Then I turned to Lord Ralles, and,
holding out my hand, said--

"Lord Ralles, I joked a little the other morning about the way you
thought road agents ought to be treated. You have turned the joke very
neatly and pluckily, and I want to apologize for myself and thank you
for the railroad."

"Neither is necessary," he retorted airily, pretending not to see my

I never claimed to have a good temper, and it was all I could do to
hold myself in. I turned to Miss Cullen to wish her a pleasant trip,
and the thought that this might be our last meeting made me forget
even Lord Ralles.

"I hope it isn't good-bye, but only _au revoir_," she said. "Whether
or no, you must let us see you some time in Chicago, so that I may
show you how grateful I am for all the pleasure you have added to our
trip." Then, as I stepped down off my platform, she leaned over the
rail of 218, and added, in a low voice, "I thought you were just as
brave as the rest, Mr. Gordon, and now I think you are braver."

I turned impulsively, and said, "You would think so, Miss Cullen, if
you knew the sacrifice I am making." Then, without looking at her, I
gave the signal, the bell rang, and No. 3 pulled off. The last thing I
saw was a handkerchief waving off the platform of 218.

When the train dropped out of sight over a grade, I swallowed the lump
in my throat and went to the telegraph instrument. I wired Coolidge to
give the alarm to Fort Wingate, Fort Apache, Fort Thomas, Fort Grant,
Fort Bayard, and Fort Whipple, though I thought the precaution a mere
waste of energy. Then I sent the brakeman up to connect the cut wire.

"Two of the bullets struck up here, Mr. Gordon," the man called from
the top of the pole.

"Surely not!" I exclaimed.

"Yes, sir," he responded. "The bullet-holes are brand-new."

I took in the lay of the land, the embers of the fire showing me how
the train had lain. "I don't wonder nobody was hit," I exclaimed, "if
that's a sample of their shooting. Some one was a worse rattled man
than I ever expect to be. Dig the bullets out, Douglas, so that we can
have a look at them."

He brought them down in a minute. They proved to be Winchesters, as I
had expected, for they were on the side from which the robbers must
have fired.

"That chap must have been full of Arizona tangle-foot, to have fired
as wild as he did," I ejaculated, and walked over to where the
mail-car had stood, to see just how bad the shooting was. When I got
there and faced about, it was really impossible to believe any man
could have done so badly, for raising my own Winchester to the pole
put it twenty degrees out of range and nearly forty degrees in the
air. Yet there were the cartridge-shells on the ground, to show that I
was in the place from which the shots had been fired.

While I was still cogitating over this, the special train I had
ordered out from Flagstaff came in sight, and in a few moments was
stopped where I was. It consisted of a string of three flats and a box
car, and brought the sheriff, a dozen cowboys whom he had sworn in as
deputies, and their horses. I was hopeful that with these fellows'
greater skill in such matters they could find what I had not, but
after a thorough examination of the ground within a mile of the
robbery they were as much at fault as I had been.

"Them cusses must have a dugout nigh abouts, for they couldn't 'a' got
away without wings," the sheriff surmised.

I didn't put much stock in that idea, and told the sheriff so.

"Waal, round up a better one," was his retort.

Not being able to do that, I told him of the bullets in the telegraph
pole, and took him over to where the mail-car had stood.

"Jerusalem crickets!" was his comment as he measured the aim. "If
that's where they put two of their pills, they must have pumped the
other four inter the moon."

"What other four?" I asked.

"Shots," he replied sententiously.

"The road agents only fired four times," I told him.

"Them and your pards must have been pretty nigh together for a minute,
then," he said, pointing to the ground.

I glanced down, and sure enough, there were six empty
cartridge-shells. I stood looking blankly at them, hardly able to
believe what I saw; for Albert Cullen had said distinctly that the
train-robbers had fired only four times, and that the last three
Winchester shots I had heard had been fired by himself. Then, without
speaking, I walked slowly back, searching along the edge of the
road-bed for more shells; but, though I went beyond the point where
the last car had stood, not one did I find. Any man who has fired a
Winchester knows that it drops its empty shell in loading, and I could
therefore draw only one conclusion--namely, that all seven discharges
of the Winchesters had occurred up by the mail-car. I had heard of men
supposing they had fired their guns through hearing another go off;
but with a repeating rifle one has to fire before one can reload. The
fact was evident that Albert Cullen either had fired his Winchester up
by the mail-car, or else had not fired it at all. In either case he
had lied, and Lord Ralles and Captain Ackland had backed him up in it.



I stood pondering, for no explanation that would fit the facts seemed
possible. I should have considered the young fellow's story only an
attempt to gain a little reputation for pluck, if in any way I could
have accounted for the appearance and disappearance of the robbers.
Yet to suppose--which seemed the only other horn to the dilemma--that
the son and guests of the vice-president of the Missouri Western, and
one of our own directors, would be concerned in train-robbery was to
believe something equally improbable. Indeed, I should have put the
whole thing down as a practical joke of Mr. Cullen's party, if it had
not been for the loss of the registered letters.

Even a practical joker would hardly care to go to the length of
cutting open government mail-pouches; for Uncle Sam doesn't approve of
such conduct.

Whatever the explanation, I had enough facts to prevent me from
wasting more time on that alkali plain. Getting the men and horses
back onto the cars, I jumped up on the tailboard and ordered the
runner to pull out for Flagstaff. It was a run of seven hours, getting
us in a little after eight, and in those hours I had done a lot of
thinking which had all come to one result--that Mr. Cullen's party was
concerned in the hold-up.

The two private cars were on a siding, but the Cullens had left for
the Grand Canon the moment they had arrived, and were about reaching
there by this time. I went to 218 and questioned the cook and waiter,
but they had either seen nothing or else had been primed, for not
a fact did I get from them. Going to my own car, I ordered a quick
supper, and while I was eating it I questioned my boy. He told me that
he had heard the shots, and had bolted the front door of my car, as I
had ordered when I went out; that as he turned to go to a safer place,
he had seen a man, revolver in hand, climb over the off-side gate of
Mr. Cullen's car, and for a moment he had supposed it a road agent,
till he saw that it was Albert Cullen.

"That was just after I had got off?" I asked.

"Yis, sah.

"Then it couldn't have been Mr. Cullen, Jim," I declared, "for I found
him up at the other end of the car."

"Tell you it wuz, Mr. Gordon," Jim insisted. "I done seen his face
clar in de light, and he done go into Mr. Cullen's car whar de old
gentleman wuz sittin'."

That set me whistling to myself, and I laughed to think how near I
had come to giving nitroglycerin to a fellow who was only shamming
heart-failure; for that it was Frederic Cullen who had climbed on the
car I hadn't the slightest doubt, the resemblance between the two
brothers being quite strong enough to deceive any one who had never
seen them together. I smiled a little, and remarked to myself, "I
think I can make good my boast that I would catch the robbers; but
whether the Cullens will like my doing it, I question. What is more,
Lord Ralles will owe me a bottle." Then I thought of Madge, and didn't
feel as pleased over my success as I had felt a moment before.

By nine o'clock the posse and I were in the saddle and skirting the
San Francisco peaks. There was no use of pressing the ponies, for our
game wasn't trying to escape, and, for that matter, couldn't, as the
Colorado River wasn't passable within fifty miles. It was a lovely
moonlight night, and the ride through the pines was as pretty a one as
I remember ever to have made. It set me thinking of Madge and of our
talk the evening before, and of what a change twenty-four hours
had brought. It was lucky I was riding an Indian pony, or I should
probably have landed in a heap. I don't know that I should have cared
particularly if a prairie-dog burrow had made me dash my brains out,
for I wasn't happy over the job that lay before me.

We watered at Silver Spring at quarter-past twelve. From that point we
were clear of the pines and out on the plain, so we could go a better
pace. This brought us to the half-way ranch by two, where we gave the
ponies a feed and an hour's rest. We reached the last relay station
just as the moon set, about three-forty; and, as all the rest of the
ride was through coconino forest, we held up there for daylight,
getting a little sleep meanwhile.

We rode into the camp at the Grand Canon a little after eight, and the
deserted look of the tents gave me a moment's fright, for I feared
that the party had gone. Tolfree explained, however, that some had
ridden out to Moran Point, and the rest had gone down Hance's trail.
So I breakfasted and then took a look at Albert Cullen's Winchester.
That it had been recently fired was as plain as the Grand Canon
itself; throwing back the bar, I found an empty cartridge shell still
oily from the discharge. That completed the tale of seven shots. I
didn't feel absolutely safe till I had asked Tolfree if there had been
any shooting of echoes by the party, but his denial rounded out my
chain of evidence.

Telling the sheriff to guard the bags of the party carefully, I took
two of the posse and rode over to Moran's Point. Sure enough there
were Mr. Cullen, Albert, and Captain Ackland. They gave a shout at
seeing me, and even before I had reached them they called to know how
I could come so soon, and if I had caught the robbers. Mr. Cullen
started to tell his pleasure at my rejoining the party, but my
expression made him pause, and it seemed to dawn on all three that
the Winchester across my saddle, and the cowboys' hands resting
nonchalantly on the revolvers in their belts, had a meaning.

"Mr. Cullen," I explained, "I've got a very unpleasant job on hand,
which I don't want to make any worse than need be. Every fact points
to your party as guilty of holding up the train last night and
stealing those letters. Probably you weren't all concerned, but I've
got to go on the assumption that you are all guilty, till you prove

"Aw, you're joking," drawled Albert.

"I hope so," I said, "but for the present I've got to be English and
treat the joke seriously."

"What do you want to do?" asked Mr. Cullen.

"I don't wish to arrest you gentlemen unless you force me to," I said,
"for I don't see that it will do any good. But I want you to return to
camp with us."

They assented to that, and, single file, we rode back. When there I
told each that he must be searched, to which they submitted at once.
After that we went through their baggage. I wasn't going to have the
sheriff or cowboys tumbling over Miss Cullen's clothes, so I looked
over her bag myself. The prettiness and daintiness of the various
contents were a revelation to me, and I tried to put them back as
neatly as I had found them, but I didn't know much about the articles,
and it was a terrible job trying to fold up some of the things. Why,
there was a big pink affair, lined with silk, with bits of ribbon and
lace all over it, which nearly drove me out of my head, for I would
have defied mortal man to pack it so that it shouldn't muss. I had a
funny little feeling of tenderness for everything, which made fussing
over it all a pleasure, even while I felt all the time that I was
doing a sneak act and had really no right to touch her belongings. I
didn't find anything incriminating, and the posse reported the same
result with the other baggage. If the letters were still in existence,
they were either concealed somewhere or were in the possession of the
party in the Canon. Telling the sheriff to keep those in the camp
under absolute surveillance, I took a single man, and saddling a
couple of mules, started down the trail.

We found Frederic and "Captain" Hance just dismounting at the Rock
Cabin, and I told the former he was in custody for the present, and
asked him where Miss Cullen and Lord Ralles were. He told me they were
just behind; but I wasn't going to take any risks, and, ordering the
deputy to look after Cullen, I went on down the trail. I couldn't
resist calling back--

"How's your respiration, Mr. Cullen?"

He laughed, and called, "Digitalis put me on my feet like a flash."

"He's got the most brains of any man in this party," I remarked to

The trail at this point is very winding, so that one can rarely see
fifty feet in advance, and sometimes not ten. Owing to this, the first
thing I knew I plumped round a curve on to a mule, which was patiently
standing there. Just back of him was another, on which sat Miss
Cullen, and standing close beside her was Lord Ralles. One of his
hands held the mule's bridle; the other held Madge's arm, and he was
saying, "You owe it to me, and I will have one. Or if--"

I swore to myself, and coughed aloud, which made Miss Cullen look up.
The moment she saw me she cried, "Mr. Gordon! How delightful!" even
while she grew as red as she had been pale the moment before. Lord
Ralles grew red too, but in a different way.

"Have you caught the robbers?" cried Miss Cullen.

"I'm afraid I have," I answered.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

I smiled at the absolute innocence and wonder with which she spoke,
and replied, "I know now, Miss Cullen, why you said I was braver than
the Britishers."

"How do you know?"

I couldn't resist getting in a side-shot at Lord Ralles, who had
mounted his mule and sat scowling. "The train-robbers were such
thoroughgoing duffers at the trade," I said, "that if they had left
their names and addresses they wouldn't have made it much easier. We
Americans may not know enough to deal with real road agents, but we
can do something with amateurs."

"What are we stopping here for?" snapped Lord Ralles.

"I'm sure I don't know," I responded. "Miss Cullen, if you will kindly
pass us, and then if Lord Ralles will follow you, we will go on to the
cabin. I must ask you to keep close together."

"I stay or go as I please, and not by your orders," asserted Lord
Ralles, snappishly.

"Out in this part of the country," I said calmly, "it is considered
shocking bad form for an unarmed man to argue with one who carries
a repeating rifle. Kindly follow Miss Cullen." And, leaning over, I
struck his mule with the loose ends of my bridle, starting it up the

When we reached the cabin the deputy told me that he had made Frederic
strip and had searched his clothing, finding nothing. I ordered Lord
Ralles to dismount and go into the cabin.

"For what?" he demanded.

"We want to search you," I answered.

"I don't choose to be searched," he protested. "You have shown no
warrant, nor--"

I wasn't in a mood toward him to listen to his talk. I swung my
Winchester into line and announced, "I was sworn in last night as a
deputy-sheriff, and am privileged to shoot a train-robber on sight.
Either dead or alive, I'm going to search your clothing inside of ten
minutes; and if you have no preference as to whether the examination
is an ante or post-mortem affair, I certainly haven't."

That brought him down off his high horse--that is, mule--and I sent
the deputy in with him with directions to toss his clothes out to me,
for I wanted to keep my eye on Miss Cullen and her brothers, so as to
prevent any legerdemain on their part.

One by one the garments came flying through the door to me. As fast as
I finished examining them I pitched them back, except--Well, as I have
thought it over since then, I have decided that I did a mean thing,
and have regretted it. But just put yourself in my place, and think of
how Lord Ralles had talked to me as if I was his servant, had refused
my apology and thanks, and been as generally "nasty" as he could, and
perhaps, you won't blame me that, after looking through his trousers,
I gave them a toss which, instead of sending them back into the hut,
sent them over the edge of the trail. They went down six hundred feet
before they lodged in a poplar, and if his lordship followed the trail
he could get round to them, but there would then be a hundred feet of
sheer rock between the trail and the trousers. "I hope it will
teach him to study his Lord Chesterfield to better purpose, for if
politeness doesn't cost anything, rudeness can cost considerable," I
chuckled to myself.

My amusement did not last long, for my next thought was, "If those
letters are concealed on any one, they are on Miss Cullen." The
thought made me lean up against my mule, and turn hot and cold by

A nice situation for a lover!



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--

"Miss Cullen, I want those letters."

"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.

"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."

"Mr. Gordon!" she exclaimed, but she put such surprise and grief and
disbelief into the four syllables that I wanted the earth to swallow
me then and there.

"Why, Miss Cullen," I cried, "look at my position. I'm being paid to
do certain things, and--"

"But that needn't prevent your being a gentleman," she interrupted.

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."

"But how can I give you what I haven't?" she cried, indignantly,
assuming again her innocent expression.

"Will you give me your word of honor that those letters are not
concealed in your clothes?"

"I will," she answered.

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.

"And do you give me your word?"

"I do," she affirmed, but she didn't look me in the face as she said

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.

"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."

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

"I'll do everything in my power," I promised. Then he and Hance went
into the cabin, and I walked back to the culprit.

"Miss Cullen," I said gravely, "you have those letters, and must give
them to me."

"But I told you--" she began.

To spare her a second untruth, I interrupted her by saying, "I trapped
your brother into acknowledging that you have them."

"You must have misunderstood him," she replied, calmly, "or else he
didn't know that the arrangement was changed."

Her steadiness rather shook my conviction, but I said, "You must give
me those letters, or I must search you."

"You never would!" she cried, rising and looking me in the face.

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--only an awful complication of hooks or some
other feminine method for keeping things together--and I grew red and
trembled thinking what might have happened had I, by bad luck, made
anything come undone. If Miss Cullen had been noticing me, she would
have seen a terribly scared man.

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--" 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.

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 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.

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--

"Our positions have been so difficult, Miss Cullen, that I don't think
we either of us are quite responsible for our actions."

She said nothing, and, after a pause, I continued--

"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."

Cullen joined us at this point, and, knowing that every moment we
remained would 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.

As soon as we started I took a look at the three letters. They were
all addressed to Theodore E. Camp, Esq., Ash Fork, Arizona--one of the
directors of the K. & 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--

"The letters contain proxies for the K. & A. election next Friday?"

He nodded his head. "The Missouri Western and the Great Southern are
fighting for control," he explained, "and we should have won but for
the 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--that was what kept me behind--and then to hold up
the train that carried them."

"Was it worth the risk?" I ejaculated.

"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

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.

"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
thousand shares of K. & 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."

"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.

"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."

"And those Englishmen," I inquired, "are they real?"

"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 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.

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

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 laughter. Even Miss Cullen had to laugh for a moment.
And as his lordship bolted for his tent, I said to myself, "Honors are

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.
& 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.

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. 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.

"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."

I screwed the cover on the traveling-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."

"She thought she had to lie for father's sake, but she's nearly
broken-hearted over it," he continued. I looked Frederic in the face
as I said, "I honor her for it," and in that moment he and I became

"Just see how pretty she is!" he whispered, with evident affection and
pride, turning back the flap of the rug in which she was wrapped.

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."



We did not reach Flagstaff till seven, and I told the stageload 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.

The party were all in the dining-room, but it was a very
different-looking crowd from the one with which that first breakfast
had been eaten, and they all looked at me as I entered as if I were
the executioner come for victims.

"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."

"Certainly, Mr. Gordon," he responded. "And I thank you for your great

"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

"I think the local authorities are all I have to fear, provided time
is given me."

"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.

"You must let me reimburse what expense we have put you to, Mr.
Gordon. I only wish I could as easily repay your kindness."

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. & A., to recover
the stolen mail, and I had to do it."

"We understand that," said Mr. Cullen, "and do not for a moment blame

"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. & A., and I shall
therefore act in this case as I should in any other loss of mail."

"And that is--?" asked Frederic.

"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 Fork on Friday."

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.

"Have you breakfasted?" asked Mr. Cullen, when the first joy was over.

"Yes," I said. "I only stopped in on my way to the station to
telegraph the Postmaster-General."

"May I come with you and see what you say?" cried Fred, jumping up.

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
toward the platform. Despite Lord Ralles, I felt happy, and especially
as I had not dreamed that she would ever forgive me.

I took a telegraph blank, and, putting it so that Miss Cullen could
see what I said, wrote--

"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."

Then I paused and said, "So far, that's routine, Miss Cullen. Now
comes the help for you," and I continued--

"The letters may have been tampered with, and I recommend a special
agent. Reply Flagstaff, Arizona. RICHARD GORDON, Superintendent K. &

"What will that do?" she asked.

"I'm not much at prophecy, and we'll wait for the reply," I said.

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

"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."

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.

"The sandwiches and the whiskey were very good," she told me, "and I'm
so grateful for the trouble you took."

"It was a pleasure," I said.

"And, Mr. Gordon," she continued, and then hesitated for a
moment--"my--Frederic told me that you--you said you honored me

"I do," I exclaimed energetically, as she paused and colored.

"Do you really?" she cried. "I thought Fred was only trying to make me
less unhappy by saying that you did."

"I said it, and I meant it," I told her.

"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, 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."

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
Canon; but she explained that it was what she called a "throw"--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 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

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--

"Hold letters pending arrival of special agent Jackson, due in
Flagstaff October twentieth."

"The election is the eighteenth," Frederic laughed, executing a war
dance on the platform. "The G.S.'s dough is cooked."

"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 were about the most jubilant road agents I had ever

After consultation with Mr. Cullen, we had 218 and 97 attached to No.
1 when it arrived, and started for Ash Fork. 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.

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"--as we jokingly call a gravel
train--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 overcareful
in the terms with which they expressed their approval, 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--

"I am so deeply in your debt, Mr. Gordon, that I don't see how I can
ever repay you."

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.



I made up for my three nights' lack of sleep by not waking the next
morning till after ten. When I went to 218, I found only the _chef_,
and he told me the party had gone for a ride. Since I couldn't talk to
Madge, I went to work at my desk, for I had been rather neglecting my
routine work. While I still wrote, I heard horses' hoofs and, looking
up, saw the Cullens returning. I went out on the platform to wish
them good-morning, arriving just in time to see Lord Ralles help
Miss Cullen out of her saddle; and the way he did it, and the way he
continued to hold her hand after she was down, while he said something
to her, made me grit my teeth and look the other way. None of the
riders had seen me, so I slipped into my car and went back to work.
Fred came in presently to see if I was up yet, and to ask me to lunch,
but I felt so miserable and down-hearted that I made an excuse of my
late breakfast for not joining them.

After luncheon the party in the other special all came out and walked
up and down the platform, the sound of their voices and laughter only
making me feel the bluer. Before long I heard a rap on one of my
windows, and there was Miss Cullen peering in at me. The moment I
looked up, she called--

"Won't you make one of us, Mr. Misanthrope?"

I called myself all sorts of a fool, but out I went as eagerly as if
there had been some hope. Miss Cullen began to tease me over my sudden
access of energy, declaring that she was sure it was a pose for their
benefit, or else due to a guilty conscience over having slept so late.

"I hoped you would ride with us, though perhaps it wouldn't have paid
you. Apparently there is nothing to see in Ash Fork."

"There is something that may interest you all," I suggested, pointing
to a special that had been dropped off No. 2 that morning.

"What is it?" asked Madge.

"It's a G.S. special," I said, "and Mr. Camp and Mr. Baldwin and two
G.S. officials came in on it."

"What do you think he'd give for those letters?" laughed Fred.

"If they were worth so much to you, I suppose they can't be worth any
less to the G.S.," I replied.

"Fortunately, there is no way that he can learn where they are," said
Mr. Cullen.

"Don't let's stand still," cried Miss Cullen. "Mr. Gordon, I'll run
you a race to the end of the platform." She said this only after
getting a big lead, and she got there about eight inches ahead of me,
which pleased her mightily. "It takes men so long to get started," was
the way she explained her victory. Then she walked me beyond the end
of the boarding to explain the working of a switch to her. That it was
only a pretext she proved to me the moment I had relocked the bar, by

"Mr. Gordon, may I ask you a question?"

"Certainly," I assented.

"It is one I should ask papa or Fred, but I am afraid they might not
tell me the truth. You will, won't you?" she begged, very earnestly.

"I will," I promised.

"Supposing," she continued, "that it became known that you have those
letters? Would it do our side any harm?"

I thought for a moment, and then shook my head. "No new proxies could
arrive here in time for the election," I said, "and the ones I have
will not be voted."

She still looked doubtful, and asked, "Then why did papa say just now,

"He merely meant that it was safer they shouldn't know."

"Then it is better to keep it a secret?" she asked, anxiously.

"I suppose so," I said, and then, added, "Why should you be afraid of
asking your father?"

"Because he might--well, if he knew, I'm sure he would sacrifice
himself; and I couldn't run the risk."

"I am afraid I don't understand?" I questioned.

"I would rather not explain," she said, and of course that ended the

Our exercise taken, we went back to the Cullens' car, and Madge left
us to write some letters. A moment later Lord Ralles remembered he had
not written home recently, and he too went forward to the dining-room.
That made me call myself--something, for not having offered Miss
Cullen the use of my desk in 97. Owing to this the two missed part of
the big game we were playing; for barely were they gone when one
of the servants brought a card to Mr. Cullen, who looked at it and
exclaimed, "Mr. Camp!" Then, after a speaking pause, in which we all
exchanged glances, he said, "Bring him in."

On Mr. Camp's entrance he looked so much surprised as we had all done
a moment before. "I beg your pardon for intruding, Mr. Cullen," he
said. "I was told that this was Mr. Gordon's car, and I wish to see

"I am Mr. Gordon."

"You are traveling with Mr. Cullen?" he inquired, with a touch of
suspicion in his manner.

"No," I answered. "My special is the next car, and I was merely
enjoying a cigar here."

"Ah!" said Mr. Camp. "Then I won't interrupt your smoke, and will only
relieve you of those letters of mine."

I took a good pull at my cigar, and blew the smoke out in a cloud
slowly to gain time. "I don't think I follow you," I said.

"I understand that you have in your possession three letters addressed
to me."

"I have," I assented.

"Then I will ask you to deliver them to me."

"I can't do that."

"Why not?" he challenged. "They're my property."

I produced the Postmaster-General's telegram and read it to him.

"Why, this is infamous!" Mr. Camp cried. "What use will those letters
be after the eighteenth? It's a conspiracy."

"I can only obey instructions," I said.

"It shall cost you your position if you do," Mr. Camp threatened.

As I've already said, I haven't a good temper, and when he told me
that I couldn't help retorting--

"That's quite on a par with most G.S. methods."

"I'm not speaking for the G.S., young man," roared Mr. Camp. "I speak
as a director of the Kansas & Arizona. What is more, I will have those
letters inside of twenty-four hours."

He made an angry exit, and I said to Fred, "I wish you would stroll
about and spy out the proceedings of the enemy's camp. He may
telegraph to Washington, and if there's any chance of the
Postmaster-General revoking his order I must go back to Flagstaff on
No. 4 this afternoon."

"He sha'n't do anything that I don't know about till he goes to bed,"
Fred promised. "But how the deuce did he know that you had those

That was just what we were all puzzling over, for only the occupants
of No. 218 and myself, so far as I knew, were in a position to let Mr.
Camp hear of that fact.

As Fred made his exit he said, "Don't tell Madge that there is a new
complication, for the dear girl has had worries enough already."

Miss Cullen not rejoining us, and Lord Ralles presently doing so, I
went to my own car, for he and I were not good furniture for the same
room. Before I had been there long, Fred came rushing in.

"Camp and Baldwin have been in consultation with a lawyer," he said,
"and now the three have just boarded those cars," pointing out the
window at the branch-line train that was to leave for Phoenix in two

"You must go with them," I urged, "and keep us informed as to what
they do, for they evidently are going to set the law on us, and the
G.S. has always owned the Territorial judges, so they'll stretch a
point to oblige them."

"Have I time to fill a bag?"

"Plenty," I assured him, and, going out, I ordered the train held till
I should give the word.

"What does it all mean?" asked Miss Cullen, joining me.

I laughed, and replied, "I'm doing a braver thing even than your party
did; I'm holding up a train all by my lonesome."

"But my brother came dashing in just now and said he was starting for

"Let her go," I called to the conductor, as Fred jumped aboard; and
the train pulled out.

"I hope there's nothing wrong?" Madge questioned, anxiously.

"Nothing to worry over," I laughed. "Only a little more fun for our
money. By the way, Miss Cullen," I went on, to avoid her questions,
"if you have your letters ready, and will let me have them at once, I
can get them on No. 4, so that they'll go East to-night."

Miss Cullen blushed as if I had said something I ought not to have,
and stammered, "I--I changed my mind, and--that is--I didn't write
them, after all."

"I beg your pardon--I ought to have known; I mean, it's very natural,"
I faltered and stuttered, thinking what a dunce I had been not to
understand that both hers and Lord Ralles's letters had been only a
pretext to get away from the rest of us.

My blundering apology and evident embarrassment deepened Miss Cullen's
blush five-fold, and she explained, hurriedly, "I found I was tired,
and so, instead of writing, I went to my room and rested."

I suppose any girl would have invented the same yarn, yet it hurt me
more than the bigger one she had told on Hance's trail. Small as the
incident was, it made me very blue, and led me to shut myself up in my
own car for the rest of that afternoon and evening. Indeed, I couldn't
sleep, but sat up working, quite forgetful of the passing hours, till
a glance at my watch startled me with the fact that it was a quarter
of two. Feeling like anything more than sleep, I went out on the
platform, and, lighting a cigar, paced up and down, thinking of--well,

The night agent was sitting in the station, nodding, and after I had
walked for an hour I went in to ask him if the train to Phoenix had
arrived on time. Just as I opened the door, the telegraph instrument
began clicking, and called Ash Fork. The man, with the curious ability
that operators get of recognizing their own call, even in sleep, waked
up instantly and responded, and, not wishing to interrupt him, I
delayed asking my question till he should be free. I stood there
thinking of Madge, and listening heedlessly as the instrument ticked
off the cipher signature of the sending operator, and the "twenty-four
paid." But as I heard the clicks ..... .... which meant ph, I suddenly
became attentive, and when it completed "Phoenix" I concluded Fred was
wiring me, and listened for what followed the date. This is what the
instrument ticked:--

... .... . . .. .. .-. .-. .. .. .- ...- .- ..... .- .. ..
. . . .. ..- -. - .. .. .- ... .... .-. . . . .. -.- ... .- .
.. .. ... . . . -. .- -... . .- - . .. .- .. - .. . . .- -..
...- . - - .. . . - . - .... . .. . . .-. . . . .. - .. .. .-.
.. ...- . - . . -.. .- .. .. -. . - - . . - - . .. .- ..
-. .- .- .. . .. .. ...- .. -. - -. .-. . .. . . - - .....
.... . . . -. .. .-.. ..... . .. . ..... .- .- - . -.. - . .
.. -- -- . - .. .- - . - .. .. ... . . .. ...- . .....
. . .. . - - ..... - . . . .. .. .. - - .- -. -.. .- - - ..-
... .. ... ... ..- . -.. -... .. .. -.-. ..- - .. -.. - -. .- -
..-... . . -. ... .. - -. - .... . . . -.. . . . .. . . ..
. .- - - .....

That may not look particularly intelligible, but if the Phoenix
operator had been talking over the 'phone to me he couldn't have said
any plainer--

"Sheriff yavapai county ash forks arizona be at rail road station
three forty-five today to meet train arriving from phoenix prepared to
immediately serve peremptory mandamus issued tonight by judge wilson
sig theodore e camp."

My question being pretty thoroughly answered, I went back and
continued my walk; but before five minutes had passed, the operator
came out, and handed me a message. It was from Fred, and read thus:--

"Camp, Baldwin, and lawyer went at once to house of Judge Wilson,
where they stayed an hour. They then returned with judge to station,
and after despatching a telegram have taken seats in train for Ash
Fork, leaving here at three twenty-five. I shall return with them."

A bigger idiot than I could have understood the move. I was to be
hauled before Judge Wilson by means of mandamus proceedings, and, as
he was notoriously a G.S. judge, and was coming to Ash Fork solely
to oblige Mr. Camp, he would unquestionably declare the letters the
property of Mr. Camp and order their delivery.

Apparently I had my choice of being a traitor to Madge, of going to
prison for contempt of court, or of running away, which was not far
off from acknowledging that I had done something wrong. I didn't like
any one of the options.



Looking at my watch, I found it was a little after three, which meant
six in Washington: allowing for transmission, a telegram would reach
there in time to be on hand with the opening of the Departments. I
therefore wired at once to the following effect:--

"Postmaster-General, Washington, D.C. A peremptory mandamus has been
issued by Territorial judge to compel me to deliver to addressee the
three registered letters which by your directions, issued October
sixteenth, I was to hold pending arrival of special agent Jackson.
Service of writ will be made at three forty-five to-day unless
prevented. Telegraph me instructions how to act."

That done I had a good tub, took a brisk walk down the track, and felt
so freshened up as to be none the worse for my sleepless night. I
returned to the station a little after six, and, to my surprise, found
Miss Cullen walking up and down the platform.

"You are up early!" we both said together.

"Yes," she sighed. "I couldn't sleep last night."

"You're not unwell, I hope?"

"No--except mentally."

I looked a question, and she went on: "I have some worries, and then
last night I saw you were all keeping some bad news from me, and so I
couldn't sleep."

"Then we did wrong to make a mystery of it, Miss Cullen," I said, "for
it really isn't anything to trouble about. Mr. Camp is simply taking
legal steps to try to force me to deliver those letters to him."

"And can he succeed?"


"How will you stop him?"

"I don't know yet just what we shall do, but if worse comes to worse I
will allow myself to be committed for contempt of court."

"What would they do with you?"

"Give me free board for a time."

"Not send you to prison?"


"Oh!" she cried, "that mustn't be. You must not make such a sacrifice
for us."

"I'd do more than that for _you_," I said, and I couldn't help putting
a little emphasis on the last word, though I knew I had no right to do

She understood me, and blushed rosily, even while she protested, "It
is too much--"

"There's really no likelihood," I interrupted, "of my being able to
assume a martyr's crown, Miss Cullen; so don't begin to pity me till
I'm behind the bars."

"But I can't bear to think--"

"Don't," I interrupted again, rejoicing all the time at her evident
anxiety, and blessing my stars for the luck they had brought me. "Why,
Miss Cullen," I went on, "I've become so interested in your success
and the licking of those fellows that I really think I'd stand about
anything rather than that they should win. Yesterday, when Mr. Camp
threatened to--" Then I stopped, as it suddenly occurred to me that it
was best not to tell Madge that I might lose my position, for it would
look like a kind of bid for her favor, and, besides, would only add to
her worries.

"Threatened what?" asked Miss Cullen.

"Threatened to lose his temper," I answered.

"You know that wasn't what you were going to say," Madge said

"No, it wasn't," I laughed.

"Then what was it?"

"Nothing worth speaking about."

"But I want to know what he threatened."

"Really, Miss Cullen," I began; but she interrupted me by saying

"He can't hurt papa, can he?"

"No," I replied.

"Or my brothers?"

"He can't touch any of them without my help. And he'll have work to
get that, I suspect."

"Then why can't you tell me?" demanded Miss Cullen. "Your refusal
makes me think you are keeping back some danger to them."

"Why, Miss Cullen," I said, "I didn't like to tell his threat, because
it seemed--well, I may be wrong, but I thought it might look like an
attempt--an appeal--Oh, pshaw!" I faltered, like a donkey--"I can't
say it as I want to put it."

"Then tell me right out what he threatened," begged Madge.

"He threatened to get me discharged."

That made Madge look very sober, and for a moment there was silence.
Then she said--

"I never thought of what you were risking to help us, Mr. Gordon. And
I'm afraid it's too late to--"

"Don't worry about me," I hastened to interject. "I'm a long way from
being discharged, and, even if I should be, Miss Cullen, I know my
business, and it won't be long before I have another place."

"But it's terrible to think of the injury we may have caused you,"
sighed Madge, sadly. "It makes me hate the thought of money."

"That's a very poor thing to hate," I said, "except the lack of it."

"Are you so anxious to get rich?" asked Madge, looking up at me
quickly, as we walked--for we had been pacing up and down the platform
during our chat.

"I haven't been till lately."

"And what made you change?" she questioned.

"Well," I said, fishing round for some reason other than the true one,
"perhaps I want to take a rest."

"You are the worst man for fibs I ever knew," she laughed.

I felt myself getting red, while I exclaimed, "Why, Miss Cullen, I
never set up for a George Washington, but I don't think I'm a bit
worse liar than nine men in--"

"Oh," she cried, interrupting me, "I didn't mean that way. I meant
that when you try to fib you always do it so badly that one sees right
through you. Now, acknowledge that you wouldn't stop work if you

"Well, no, I wouldn't," I owned up. "The truth is, Miss Cullen, that
I'd like to be rich, because--well, hang it, I don't care if I do say
it--because I'm in love."

Madge laughed at my confusion, and asked, "With money?"

"No," I said. "With just the nicest, sweetest, prettiest girl in the

Madge took a look at me out of the corner of her eye, and remarked,
"It must be breakfast time."

Considering that it was about six-thirty, I wanted to ask who was
telling a taradiddle now; but I resisted the temptation, and replied--

"No. And I promise not to bother you about my private affairs any

Madge laughed again merrily, saying, "You are the most obvious man I
ever met. Now why did you say that?"

"I thought you were making breakfast an excuse," I said, "because you
didn't like the subject."

"Yes, I was," said Madge, frankly. "Tell me about the girl you are
engaged to."

I was so taken back that I stopped in my walk, and merely looked at

"For instance," she asked coolly, when she saw that I was speechless,
"what does she look like?"

"Like, like--" I stammered, still embarrassed by this bold carrying of
the war into my own camp--"like an angel."

"Oh," said Madge, eagerly, "I've always wanted to know what angels
were like. Describe her to me."

"Well," I said, getting my second wind, so to speak, "she has the
bluest eyes I've ever seen. Why, Miss Cullen, you said you'd never
seen anything so blue as the sky yesterday; but even the atmosphere of
'rainless Arizona' has to take a back seat when her eyes are round.
And they are just like the atmosphere out here. You can look into them
for a hundred miles, but you can't get to the bottom."

"The Arizona sky is wonderful," said Madge. "How do the scientists
account for it?"

I wasn't going to have my description of Miss Cullen sidetracked, for,
since she had given me the chance, I wanted her to know just what I
thought of her. Therefore I didn't follow lead on the Arizona skies,
but went on--

"And I really think her hair is just as beautiful as her eyes. It's
light brown, very curly, and--"

"Her complexion!" exclaimed Madge. "Is she a mulatto? And, if so, how
can a complexion be curly?"

"Her complexion," I said, not a bit rattled, "is another great beauty
of hers. She has one of those skins--"

"Furs are out of fashion at present," she interjected, laughing

"Now look here, Miss Cullen," I cried indignantly, "I'm not going to
let even you make fun of her."

"I can't help it," she laughed, "when you look so serious and

"It's something I feel intense about, Miss Cullen," I said, not a
little pained, I confess, at the way she was joking. I don't mind a
bit being laughed at, but Miss Cullen knew, about as well as I, whom I
was talking about, and it seemed to me she was laughing at my love for
her. Under this impression I went on, "I suppose it is funny to you;
probably so many men have been in love with you that a man's love for
a woman has come to mean very little in your eyes. But out here we
don't make a joke of love, and when we care for a woman we care--well,
it's not to be put in words, Miss Cullen."

"I really didn't mean to hurt your feelings, Mr. Gordon," said Madge,
gently, and quite serious now. "I ought not to have tried to tease

"There!" I said, my irritation entirely gone. "I had no right to lose
my temper, and I'm sorry I spoke so unkindly. The truth is, Miss
Cullen, the girl I care for is in love with another man, and so I'm
bitter and ill-natured in these days."

My companion stopped walking at the steps of 218, and asked, "Has she
told you so?"

"No," I answered. "But it's as plain as she's pretty."

Madge ran up the steps and opened the door of the car. As she turned
to close it, she looked down at me with the oddest of expressions, and

"How dreadfully ugly she must be!"



If ever a fellow was bewildered by a single speech, it was Richard
Gordon. I walked up and down that platform till I was called to
breakfast, trying to decide what Miss Cullen had meant to express,
only to succeed in reading fifty different meanings into her parting
six words. I wanted to think that it was her way of suggesting that
I deceived myself in thinking that there was anything between Lord
Ralles and herself; but, though I wished to believe this, I had seen
too much to the contrary to take stock in the idea. Yet I couldn't
believe that Madge was a coquette; I became angry and hot with myself
for even thinking it for a moment.

Puzzle as I did over the words, I managed to eat a good breakfast, and
then went into the Cullens' car and electrified the party by telling
them of Camp's and Fred's despatches, and how I had come to overhear
the former. Mr. Cullen and Albert couldn't say enough about my
cleverness in what had really been pure luck, and seemed to think I
had sat up all night in order to hear that telegram. The person for
whose opinion I cared the most--Miss Cullen--didn't say anything, but
she gave me a look that set my heart beating like a trip-hammer and
made me put the most hopeful construction on that speech of hers. It
seemed impossible that she didn't care for Lord Ralles, and that she
might care for me; but, after having had no hope whatsoever, the
smallest crumb of a chance nearly lifted me off my feet.

We had a consultation over what was best to be done, but didn't reach
any definite conclusion till the station-agent brought me a telegram
from the Postmaster-General. Breaking it open, I read aloud--

* * * * *

"Do not allow service of writ, and retain possession of letters
according to prior instructions. At the request of this department,
the Secretary of War has directed the commanding officer at Fort
Whipple to furnish you with military protection, and you will call
upon him at once, if in your judgment it is necessary. On no account
surrender United States property to Territorial authorities. Keep
Department notified."

* * * * *

"Oh, splendid!" cried Madge, clapping her hands.

"Mr. Camp will find that other people can give surprise parties as
well as himself," I said cheerfully.

"You'll telegraph at once?" asked Mr. Cullen.

"Instantly," I said, rising, and added, "Don't you want to see what I
say, Miss Cullen?"

"Of course I do," she cried, jumping up eagerly.

Lord Ralles scowled as he said, "Yes; let's see what Mr.
Superintendent has to say."

"You needn't trouble yourself," I remarked, but he followed us into
the station. I was disgusted, but at the same time it seemed to me
that he had come because he was jealous; and that wasn't an unpleasant
thought. Whatever his motive, he was a third party in the writing of
that telegram, and had to stand by while Miss Cullen and I discussed
and draughted it. I didn't try to make it any too brief, not merely
asking for a guard and when I might expect it, but giving as well a
pretty full history of the case, which was hardly necessary.

"You'll bankrupt yourself," laughed Madge. "You must let us pay."

"I'll let you pay, Miss Cullen, if you want," I offered. "How much is
it, Welply?" I asked, shoving the blanks in to the operator.

"Nothin' for a lady," said Welply, grinning.

"There, Miss Cullen," I asked, "does the East come up to that in

"Do you really mean that there is no charge?" demanded Madge,
incredulously, with her purse in her hand.

"That's the size of it," said the operator.

"I'm not going to believe that!" cried Madge. "I know you are only
deceiving me, and I really want to pay."

I laughed as I said, "Sometimes railroad superintendents can send
messages free, Miss Cullen."

"How silly of me!" exclaimed Madge. Then she remarked, "How nice it is
to be a railroad superintendent, Mr. Gordon! I should like to be one

That speech really lifted me off my feet, but while I was thinking
what response to make, I came down to earth with a bounce.

"Since the telegram's done," said Lord Ralles to Miss Cullen, in a
cool, almost commanding tone, "suppose we take a walk."

"I don't think I care to this morning," answered Madge.

"I think you had better," insisted his lordship, with such a manner
that I felt inclined to knock him down.

To my surprise, Madge seemed to hesitate, and finally said, "I'll walk
up and down the platform, if you wish."

Lord Ralles nodded, and they went out, leaving me in a state of
mingled amazement and rage at the way he had cut me out. Try as I
would, I wasn't able to hit upon any theory that supplied a solution
to the conduct of either Lord Ralles or Miss Cullen, unless they were
engaged and Miss Cullen displeased him by her behavior to me. But
Madge seemed such an honest, frank girl that I'd have believed
anything sooner than that she was only playing with me.

If I was perplexed, I wasn't going to give Lord Ralles the right of
way, and as soon as I had made certain that the telegram was safely
started I joined the walkers. I don't think any of us enjoyed the hour
that followed, but I didn't care how miserable I was myself, so long
as I was certain that I was blocking Lord Ralles; and his grumpiness
showed very clearly that my presence did that. As for Madge, I
couldn't make her out. I had always thought I understood women a
little, but her conduct was beyond understanding.

Apparently Miss Cullen didn't altogether relish her position, for
presently she said she was going to the car. "I'm sure you and Lord
Ralles will be company enough for each other," she predicted, giving
me a flash of her eyes which showed them full of suppressed merriment,
even while her face was grave.

In spite of her prediction, the moment she was gone Lord Ralles and I
pulled apart about as quickly as a yard-engine can split a couple of

I moped around for an hour, too unsettled mentally to do anything but
smoke, and only waiting for an invitation or for some excuse to go
into 218. About eleven o'clock I obtained the latter in another
telegram, and went into the car at once.

"Telegram received," I read triumphantly. "A detail of two companies
of the Twelfth Cavalry, under the command of Captain Singer, is
ordered to Ash Fork, and will start within an hour, arriving at five
o'clock. C.D. OLMSTEAD, Adjutant."

"That won't do, Gordon," cried Mr. Cullen. "The mandamus will be here
before that."

"Oh, don't say there is something more wrong!" sighed Madge.

"Won't it be safer to run while there is still time?" suggested
Albert, anxiously.

"I was born lazy about running away," I said.

"Oh, but please, just for once," Madge begged. "We know already how
brave you are."

I thought for a moment, not so much objecting, in truth, to the
running away as to the running away from Madge.

"I'd do it for you," I said, looking at Miss Cullen so that she
understood this time what I meant, without my using any emphasis, "but
I don't see any need of making myself uncomfortable, when I can make
the other side so. Come along and see if my method isn't quite as

We went to the station, and I told the operator to call Rock Butte;
then I dictated:

"Direct conductor of Phoenix No. 3 on its arrival at Rock Butte to
hold it there till further orders. RICHARD GORDON, Superintendent."

"That will save my running and their chasing," I laughed; "though I'm
afraid a long wait in Rock Butte won't improve their tempers."

The next few hours were pretty exciting ones to all of us, as can
well be imagined. Most of the time was spent, I have to confess, in
manoeuvres and struggles between Lord Ralles and myself as to which
should monopolize Madge, without either of us succeeding. I was so
engrossed with the contest that I forgot all about the passage of
time, and only when the sheriff strolled up to the station did I
realize that the climax was at hand. As a joke I introduced him to
the Cullens and we all stood chatting till far out on the hill to the
south I saw a cloud of dust and quietly called Miss Cullen's attention
to it. She and I went to 97 for my field-glasses, and the moment Madge
looked through them she cried--

"Yes, I can see horses, and, oh, there are the stars and stripes! I
don't think I ever loved them so much before."

"I suppose we civilians will have to take a back seat now, Miss
Cullen?" I said; and she answered me with a demure smile worth--well,
I'm not going to put a value on that smile.

"They'll be here very quickly," she almost sang.

"You forget the clearness of the air," I said, and then asked the
sheriff how far away the dust-cloud was.

"Yer mean that cattle-drive?" he asked. "'Bout ten miles."

"You seem to think of everything," exclaimed Miss Cullen, as if my
knowing that distances are deceptive in Arizona was wonderful. I
sometimes think one gets the most praise in this world for what least
deserves it.

I waited half an hour to be safe, and then released No. 3, just as we
were called to luncheon; and this time I didn't refuse the invitation
to eat mine in 218.

We didn't hurry over the meal, and toward the end I took to looking at
my watch, wondering what could keep the cavalry from arriving.

"I hope there is no danger of the train arriving first, is there?"
asked Madge.

"Not the slightest," I assured her. "The train won't be here for an
hour, and the cavalry had only five miles to cover forty minutes ago.
I must say, they seem to be taking their time."

"There they are now!" cried Albert.

Listening, we heard the clatter of horses' feet, going at a good pace,
and we all rose and went to the windows, to see the arrival. Our
feelings can be judged when across the tracks came only a mob of
thirty or forty cowboys, riding in their usual "show-off" style.

"The deuce!" I couldn't help exclaiming, in my surprise. "Are you sure
you saw a flag, Miss Cullen?"

"Why--I--thought--" she faltered. "I saw something red, and--I
supposed of course--"

Not waiting to let her finish, I exclaimed, "There's been a fluke
somewhere, I'm afraid; but we are still in good shape, for the train
can't possibly be here under an hour. I'll get my field-glasses and
have another look before I decide what--"

My speech was interrupted by the entrance of the sheriff and Mr. Camp!



What seemed at the moment an incomprehensible puzzle had, as we
afterward learned, a very simple explanation. One of the G.S.
directors, Mr. Baldwin, who had come in on Mr. Camp's car, was the
owner of a great cattle-ranch near Rock Butte. When the train had been
held at that station for a few minutes, Camp went to the conductor,
demanded the cause for the delay, and was shown my telegram. Seeing
through the device, the party had at once gone to this ranch, where
the owner, Baldwin, mounted them, and it was their dust-cloud we
had seen as they rode up to Ash Fork. To make matters more serious,
Baldwin had rounded up his cowboys and brought them along with him, in
order to make any resistance impossible.

I made no objection to the sheriff serving the paper, though it nearly
broke my heart to see Madge's face. To cheer her I said, suggestively,
"They've got me, but they haven't got the letters, Miss Cullen. And,
remember, it's always darkest before the dawn, and the stars in their
courses are against Sisera."

With the sheriff and Mr. Camp I then walked over to the saloon, where
Judge Wilson was waiting to dispose of my case. Mr. Cullen and Albert
tried to come too, but all outsiders were excluded by order of the
"court." I was told to show cause why I should not forthwith produce
the letters, and answered that I asked an adjournment of the case so
that I might be heard by counsel. It was denied, as was to have been
expected; indeed, why they took the trouble to go through the forms
was beyond me. I told Wilson I should not produce the letters, and
he asked if I knew what that meant. I couldn't help laughing and

"It very appropriately means 'contempt of the court,' your honor."

"I'll give you a stiff term, young man," he said.

"It will take just one day to have habeas corpus proceedings in a
United States court, and one more to get the papers here," I rejoined

Seeing that I understood the moves too well to be bluffed, the judge,
Mr. Camp, and the lawyer held a whispered consultation. My surprise
can be imagined when, at its conclusion, Mr. Camp said--

"Your honor, I charge Richard Gordon with being concerned in the
holding up of the Missouri Western Overland No. 3 on the night of
October 14, and ask that he be taken into custody on that charge."

I couldn't make out this new move, and puzzled over it, while Judge
Wilson ordered my commitment. But the next step revealed the object,
for the lawyer then asked for a search-warrant to look for stolen
property. The judge was equally obliging, and began to fill one out on
the instant.

This made me feel pretty serious, for the letters were in my
breast-pocket, and I swore at my own stupidity in not having put
them in the station safe when I had first arrived at Ash Fork. There
weren't many moments in which to think while the judge scribbled away
at the warrant, but in what time there was I did a lot of head-work,
without, however, finding more than one way out of the snarl. And when
I saw the judge finish off his signature with a flourish, I played a
pretty desperate card.

"You're just too late, gentlemen," I said, pointing out the side
window of the saloon. "There come the cavalry."

The three conspirators jumped to their feet and bolted for the window;
even the sheriff turned to look. As he did so I gave him a shove
toward the three which sent them all sprawling on the floor in a
pretty badly mixed-up condition. I made a dash for the door, and as I
went through it I grabbed the key and locked them in. When I turned to
do so I saw the lot struggling up from the floor, and, knowing that
it wouldn't take them many seconds to find their way out through the
window, I didn't waste much time in watching them.

Camp, Baldwin, and the judge had left their horses just outside the
saloon, and there they were still patiently standing, with their
bridles thrown over their heads, as only Western horses will stand.
It didn't take me long to have those bridles back in place, and as
I tossed each over the peak of the Mexican saddle I gave two of the
ponies slaps which started them off at a lope across the railroad
tracks. I swung myself into the saddle of the third, and flicked him
with the loose ends of the bridle in a way which made him understand
that I meant business.

Baldwin's cowboys had most of them scattered to the various saloons of
the place, but two of them were standing in the door-way of a store. I
acted so quickly, however, that they didn't seem to take in what I was
about till I was well mounted. Then I heard a yell, and fearing that
they might shoot--for the cowboy does love to use his gun--I turned
sharp at the saloon corner and rode up the side street, just in time
to see Camp climbing through the window, with Baldwin's head in view
behind him.

Before I had ridden a hundred feet I realized that I had a done-up
horse under me, and, considering that he had covered over forty miles
that afternoon in pretty quick time, it was not surprising that there
wasn't very much go left in him. I knew that Baldwin's cowboys could
get new mounts in plenty without wasting many minutes, and that then
they would overhaul me in very short order. Clearly there was no use
in my attempting to escape by running. And, as I wasn't armed, my only
hope was to beat them by some finesse.

Ash Fork, like all Western railroad towns, is one long line of
buildings running parallel with the railway tracks. Two hundred feet,
therefore, brought me to the edge of the town, and I wheeled my pony
and rode down behind the rear of the buildings. In turning, I looked
back, and saw half a dozen mounted men already in pursuit, but I lost
sight of them the next moment. As soon as I reached a street leading
back to the railroad I turned again, and rode toward it, my one
thought being to get back, if possible, to the station, and put the
letters into the railroad agent's safe.

When I reached the main street I saw that my hope was futile, for
another batch of cowboys were coming in full gallop toward me, very
thoroughly heading me off in that direction. To escape them, I headed
up the street away from the station, with the pack in close pursuit.
They yelled at me to hold up, and I expected every moment to hear the
crack of revolvers, for the poorest shot among them would have found
no difficulty in dropping my horse at that distance if they had wanted
to stop me. It isn't a very nice sensation to keep your ears pricked
up in expectation of hearing the shooting begin, and to know that any
moment may be your last. I don't suppose I was on the ragged edge more
than thirty seconds, but they were enough to prove to me that to keep
one's back turned to an enemy as one runs away takes a deal more pluck
than to stand up and face his gun. Fortunately for me, my pursuers
felt so sure of my capture that not one of them drew a bead on me.

The moment I saw that there was no escape, I put my hand in my
breast-pocket and took out the letters, intending to tear them into
a hundred pieces. But as I did so I realized that to destroy United
States mail not merely entailed criminal liability, but was off color
morally. I faltered, balancing the outwitting of Camp against State's
prison, the doing my best for Madge against the wrong of it. I think
I'm as honest a fellow as the average, but I have to confess that I
couldn't decide to do right till I thought that Madge wouldn't want me
to be dishonest, even for her.

I turned across the railroad tracks, and cut in behind some
freight-cars that were standing on a siding. This put me out of view
of my pursuers for a moment, and in that instant I stood up in my
stirrups, lifted the broad leather flap of the saddle, and tucked
the letters underneath it, as far in as I could force them. It was a
desperate place in which to hide them, but the game was a desperate
one at best, and the very boldness of the idea might be its best
chance of success.

I was now heading for the station over the ties, and was surprised to
see Fred Cullen with Lord Ralles on the tracks up by the special, for
my mind had been so busy in the last hour that I had forgotten that
Fred was due. The moment I saw him, I rode toward him, pressing my
pony for all he was worth. My hope was that I might get time to give
Fred the tip as to where the letters were; but before I was within
speaking distance Baldwin came running out from behind the station,
and, seeing me, turned, called back and gesticulated, evidently to
summon some cowboys to head me off. Afraid to shout anything which
should convey the slightest clue as to the whereabouts of the letters,
as the next best thing I pulled a couple of old section reports from
my pocket, intending to ride up and run into my car, for I knew that
the papers in my hand would be taken to be the wanted letters,
and that if I could only get inside the car even for a moment the
suspicion would be that I had been able to hide them. Unfortunately,
the plan was no sooner thought of than I heard the whistle of a
lariat, and before I could guard myself the noose settled over my
head. I threw the papers toward Fred and Lord Ralles, shouting, "Hide
them!" Fred was quick as a flash, and, grabbing them off the ground,
sprang up the steps of my car and ran inside, just escaping a bullet
from my pursuers. I tried to pull up my pony, for I did not want to be
jerked off, but I was too late, and the next moment I was lying on the
ground in a pretty well shaken and jarred condition, surrounded by a
lot of men.



Before my ideas had had time to straighten themselves out, I was
lifted to my feet, and half pushed, half lifted to the station
platform. Camp was already there, and as I took this fact in I saw
Frederic and his lordship pulled through the doorway of my car by the
cowboys and dragged out on the platform beside me. The reports were
now in Lord Ralles's hands.

"That's what we want, boys," cried Camp. "Those letters."

"Take your hands off me," said Lord Ralles, coolly, "and I'll give
them to you."

The men who had hold of his arms let go of him, and quick as a flash
Ralles tore the papers in two. He tried to tear them once more, but,
before he could do so, half a dozen men were holding him, and the
papers were forced out of his hands.

Albert Cullen--for all of them were on the platform of 218 by this
time--shouted, "Well done, Ralles!" quite forgetting in the excitement
of the moment his English accent and drawl.

Apparently Camp didn't agree with him, for he ripped out a string of
oaths which he impartially divided among Ralles, the cowboys, and
myself. I was decidedly sorry that I hadn't given the real letters,
for his lordship clearly had no scruple about destroying them, and I
knew few men whom I would have seen behind prison-bars with as little
personal regret. However, no one had, so far as I could see, paid the
slightest attention to the pony, and the probabilities were that he

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