Roads of Destiny
Part 3 out of 6
"We've come now," said he, "to the question of how far you're willing
to go in a little matter of the sort."
"I told you why I came down here," said the Kid simply.
"A good answer," said the consul. "But you won't have to go that far.
Here's the scheme. After I get the trademark tattooed on your hand
I'll notify old Urique. In the meantime I'll furnish you with all of
the family history I can find out, so you can be studying up points to
talk about. You've got the looks, you speak the Spanish, you know the
facts, you can tell about Texas, you've got the tattoo mark. When I
notify them that the rightful heir has returned and is waiting to know
whether he will be received and pardoned, what will happen? They'll
simply rush down here and fall on your neck, and the curtain goes down
for refreshments and a stroll in the lobby."
"I'm waiting," said the Kid. "I haven't had my saddle off in your camp
long, pardner, and I never met you before; but if you intend to let it
go at a parental blessing, why, I'm mistaken in my man, that's all."
"Thanks," said the consul. "I haven't met anybody in a long time that
keeps up with an argument as well as you do. The rest of it is simple.
If they take you in only for a while it's long enough. Don't give 'em
time to hunt up the strawberry mark on your left shoulder. Old Urique
keeps anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 in his house all the time in a
little safe that you could open with a shoe buttoner. Get it. My skill
as a tattooer is worth half the boddle. We go halves and catch a tramp
steamer for Rio Janeiro. Let the United States go to pieces if it
can't get along without my services. /Que dice, senor/?"
"It sounds to me!" said the Kid, nodding his head. "I'm out for the
"All right, then," said Thacker. "You'll have to keep close until we
get the bird on you. You can live in the back room here. I do my own
cooking, and I'll make you as comfortable as a parsimonious Government
will allow me."
Thacker had set the time at a week, but it was two weeks before the
design that he patiently tattooed upon the Kid's hand was to his
notion. And then Thacker called a /muchacho/, and dispatched this note
to the intended victim:
El Senor Don Santos Urique,
La Casa Blanca,
My Dear Sir:
I beg permission to inform you that there is in my house as a
temporary guest a young man who arrived in Buenas Tierras from the
United States some days ago. Without wishing to excite any hopes
that may not be realized, I think there is a possibility of his
being your long-absent son. It might be well for you to call and
see him. If he is, it is my opinion that his intention was to
return to his home, but upon arriving here, his courage failed him
from doubts as to how he would be received. Your true servant,
Half an hour afterward--quick time for Buenas Tierras--Senor Urique's
ancient landau drove to the consul's door, with the barefooted
coachman beating and shouting at the team of fat, awkward horses.
A tall man with a white moustache alighted, and assisted to the ground
a lady who was dressed and veiled in unrelieved black.
The two hastened inside, and were met by Thacker with his best
diplomatic bow. By his desk stood a slender young man with clear-cut,
sun-browned features and smoothly brushed black hair.
Senora Urique threw back her black veil with a quick gesture. She was
past middle age, and her hair was beginning to silver, but her full,
proud figure and clear olive skin retained traces of the beauty
peculiar to the Basque province. But, once you had seen her eyes, and
comprehended the great sadness that was revealed in their deep shadows
and hopeless expression, you saw that the woman lived only in some
She bent upon the young man a long look of the most agonized
questioning. Then her great black eyes turned, and her gaze rested
upon his left hand. And then with a sob, not loud, but seeming to
shake the room, she cried "/Hijo mio/!" and caught the Llano Kid to
A month afterward the Kid came to the consulate in response to a
message sent by Thacker.
He looked the young Spanish /caballero/. His clothes were imported,
and the wiles of the jewellers had not been spent upon him in vain. A
more than respectable diamond shone on his finger as he rolled a shuck
"What's doing?" asked Thacker.
"Nothing much," said the Kid calmly. "I eat my first iguana steak
to-day. They're them big lizards, you /sabe/? I reckon, though, that
frijoles and side bacon would do me about as well. Do you care for
"No, nor for some other kinds of reptiles," said Thacker.
It was three in the afternoon, and in another hour he would be in his
state of beatitude.
"It's time you were making good, sonny," he went on, with an ugly look
on his reddened face. "You're not playing up to me square. You've been
the prodigal son for four weeks now, and you could have had veal for
every meal on a gold dish if you'd wanted it. Now, Mr. Kid, do you
think it's right to leave me out so long on a husk diet? What's the
trouble? Don't you get your filial eyes on anything that looks like
cash in the Casa Blanca? Don't tell me you don't. Everybody knows
where old Urique keeps his stuff. It's U.S. currency, too; he don't
accept anything else. What's doing? Don't say 'nothing' this time."
"Why, sure," said the Kid, admiring his diamond, "there's plenty of
money up there. I'm no judge of collateral in bunches, but I will
undertake for to say that I've seen the rise of $50,000 at a time in
that tin grub box that my adopted father calls his safe. And he lets
me carry the key sometimes just to show me that he knows I'm the real
Francisco that strayed from the herd a long time ago."
"Well, what are you waiting for?" asked Thacker, angrily. "Don't you
forget that I can upset your apple-cart any day I want to. If old
Urique knew you were an imposter, what sort of things would happen to
you? Oh, you don't know this country, Mr. Texas Kid. The laws here
have got mustard spread between 'em. These people here'd stretch you
out like a frog that had been stepped on, and give you about fifty
sticks at every corner of the plaza. And they'd wear every stick out,
too. What was left of you they'd feed to alligators."
"I might just as well tell you now, pardner," said the Kid, sliding
down low on his steamer chair, "that things are going to stay just as
they are. They're about right now."
"What do you mean?" asked Thacker, rattling the bottom of his glass on
"The scheme's off," said the Kid. "And whenever you have the pleasure
of speaking to me address me as Don Francisco Urique. I'll guarantee
I'll answer to it. We'll let Colonel Urique keep his money. His little
tin safe is as good as the time-locker in the First National Bank of
Laredo as far as you and me are concerned."
"You're going to throw me down, then, are you?" said the consul.
"Sure," said the Kid cheerfully. "Throw you down. That's it. And now
I'll tell you why. The first night I was up at the colonel's house
they introduced me to a bedroom. No blankets on the floor--a real
room, with a bed and things in it. And before I was asleep, in comes
this artificial mother and tucks in the covers. 'Panchito,' she says,
'my little lost one, God has brought you back to me. I bless His name
forever.' It was that, or some truck like that, she said. And down
comes a drop or two of rain and hits me on the nose. And all that
stuck by me, Mr. Thacker. And it's been that way ever since. And it's
got to stay that way. Don't you think that it's for what's in it for
me, either, that I say so. If you have any such ideas, keep 'em to
yourself. I haven't had much truck with women in my life, and no
mothers to speak of, but here's a lady that we've got to keep fooled.
Once she stood it; twice she won't. I'm a low-down wolf, and the devil
may have sent me on this trail instead of God, but I'll travel it to
the end. And now, don't forget that I'm Don Francisco Urique whenever
you happen to mention my name."
"I'll expose you to-day, you--you double-dyed traitor," stammered
The Kid arose and, without violence, took Thacker by the throat with a
hand of steel, and shoved him slowly into a corner. Then he drew from
under his left arm his pearl-handled .45 and poked the cold muzzle of
it against the consul's mouth.
"I told you why I come here," he said, with his old freezing smile.
"If I leave here, you'll be the reason. Never forget it, pardner. Now,
what is my name?"
"Er--Don Francisco Urique," gasped Thacker.
From outside came a sound of wheels, and the shouting of some one, and
the sharp thwacks of a wooden whipstock upon the backs of fat horses.
The Kid put up his gun, and walked toward the door. But he turned
again and came back to the trembling Thacker, and held up his left
hand with its back toward the consul.
"There's one more reason," he said slowly, "why things have got to
stand as they are. The fellow I killed in Laredo had one of them same
pictures on his left hand."
Outside, the ancient landau of Don Santos Urique rattled to the door.
The coachman ceased his bellowing. Senora Urique, in a voluminous gay
gown of white lace and flying ribbons, leaned forward with a happy
look in her great soft eyes.
"Are you within, dear son?" she called, in the rippling Castilian.
"/Madre mia, yo vengo/ [mother, I come]," answered the young Don
THE PASSING OF BLACK EAGLE
For some months of a certain year a grim bandit infested the Texas
border along the Rio Grande. Peculiarly striking to the optic nerve
was this notorious marauder. His personality secured him the title of
"Black Eagle, the Terror of the Border." Many fearsome tales are on
record concerning the doings of him and his followers. Suddenly, in
the space of a single minute, Black Eagle vanished from earth. He was
never heard of again. His own band never even guessed the mystery of
his disappearance. The border ranches and settlements feared he would
come again to ride and ravage the mesquite flats. He never will. It is
to disclose the fate of Black Eagle that this narrative is written.
The initial movement of the story is furnished by the foot of a
bartender in St. Louis. His discerning eye fell upon the form of
Chicken Ruggles as he pecked with avidity at the free lunch. Chicken
was a "hobo." He had a long nose like the bill of a fowl, an
inordinate appetite for poultry, and a habit of gratifying it without
expense, which accounts for the name given him by his fellow vagrants.
Physicians agree that the partaking of liquids at meal times is not a
healthy practice. The hygiene of the saloon promulgates the opposite.
Chicken had neglected to purchase a drink to accompany his meal. The
bartender rounded the counter, caught the injudicious diner by the ear
with a lemon squeezer, led him to the door and kicked him into the
Thus the mind of Chicken was brought to realize the signs of coming
winter. The night was cold; the stars shone with unkindly brilliancy;
people were hurrying along the streets in two egotistic, jostling
streams. Men had donned their overcoats, and Chicken knew to an exact
percentage the increased difficulty of coaxing dimes from those
buttoned-in vest pockets. The time had come for his annual exodus to
A little boy, five or six years old, stood looking with covetous eyes
in a confectioner's window. In one small hand he held an empty two-
ounce vial; in the other he grasped tightly something flat and round,
with a shining milled edge. The scene presented a field of operations
commensurate to Chicken's talents and daring. After sweeping the
horizon to make sure that no official tug was cruising near, he
insidiously accosted his prey. The boy, having been early taught by
his household to regard altruistic advances with extreme suspicion,
received the overtures coldly.
Then Chicken knew that he must make one of those desperate, nerve-
shattering plunges into speculation that fortune sometimes requires of
those who would win her favour. Five cents was his capital, and this
he must risk against the chance of winning what lay within the close
grasp of the youngster's chubby hand. It was a fearful lottery,
Chicken knew. But he must accomplish his end by strategy, since he had
a wholesome terror of plundering infants by force. Once, in a park,
driven by hunger, he had committed an onslaught upon a bottle of
peptonized infant's food in the possession of an occupant of a baby
carriage. The outraged infant had so promptly opened its mouth and
pressed the button that communicated with the welkin that help
arrived, and Chicken did his thirty days in a snug coop. Wherefore he
was, as he said, "leary of kids."
Beginning artfully to question the boy concerning his choice of
sweets, he gradually drew out the information he wanted. Mamma said he
was to ask the drug store man for ten cents' worth of paregoric in the
bottle; he was to keep his hand shut tight over the dollar; he must
not stop to talk to anyone in the street; he must ask the drug-store
man to wrap up the change and put it in the pocket of his trousers.
Indeed, they had pockets--two of them! And he liked chocolate creams
Chicken went into the store and turned plunger. He invested his entire
capital in C.A.N.D.Y. stocks, simply to pave the way to the greater
He gave the sweets to the youngster, and had the satisfaction of
perceiving that confidence was established. After that it was easy to
obtain leadership of the expedition; to take the investment by the
hand and lead it to a nice drug store he knew of in the same block.
There Chicken, with a parental air, passed over the dollar and called
for the medicine, while the boy crunched his candy, glad to be
relieved of the responsibility of the purchase. And then the
successful investor, searching his pockets, found an overcoat button--
the extent of his winter trousseau--and, wrapping it carefully, placed
the ostensible change in the pocket of confiding juvenility. Setting
the youngster's face homeward, and patting him benevolently on the
back--for Chicken's heart was as soft as those of his feathered
namesakes--the speculator quit the market with a profit of 1,700 per
cent. on his invested capital.
Two hours later an Iron Mountain freight engine pulled out of the
railroad yards, Texas bound, with a string of empties. In one of the
cattle cars, half buried in excelsior, Chicken lay at ease. Beside him
in his nest was a quart bottle of very poor whisky and a paper bag of
bread and cheese. Mr. Ruggles, in his private car, was on his trip
south for the winter season.
For a week that car was trundled southward, shifted, laid over, and
manipulated after the manner of rolling stock, but Chicken stuck to
it, leaving it only at necessary times to satisfy his hunger and
thirst. He knew it must go down to the cattle country, and San
Antonio, in the heart of it, was his goal. There the air was
salubrious and mild; the people indulgent and long-suffering. The
bartenders there would not kick him. If he should eat too long or too
often at one place they would swear at him as if by rote and without
heat. They swore so drawlingly, and they rarely paused short of their
full vocabulary, which was copious, so that Chicken had often gulped a
good meal during the process of the vituperative prohibition. The
season there was always spring-like; the plazas were pleasant at
night, with music and gaiety; except during the slight and infrequent
cold snaps one could sleep comfortably out of doors in case the
interiors should develop inhospitability.
At Texarkana his car was switched to the I. and G.N. Then still
southward it trailed until, at length, it crawled across the Colorado
bridge at Austin, and lined out, straight as an arrow, for the run to
When the freight halted at that town Chicken was fast asleep. In ten
minutes the train was off again for Laredo, the end of the road. Those
empty cattle cars were for distribution along the line at points from
which the ranches shipped their stock.
When Chicken awoke his car was stationary. Looking out between the
slats he saw it was a bright, moonlit night. Scrambling out, he saw
his car with three others abandoned on a little siding in a wild and
lonesome country. A cattle pen and chute stood on one side of the
track. The railroad bisected a vast, dim ocean of prairie, in the
midst of which Chicken, with his futile rolling stock, was as
completely stranded as was Robinson with his land-locked boat.
A white post stood near the rails. Going up to it, Chicken read the
letters at the top, S. A. 90. Laredo was nearly as far to the south.
He was almost a hundred miles from any town. Coyotes began to yelp in
the mysterious sea around him. Chicken felt lonesome. He had lived in
Boston without an education, in Chicago without nerve, in Philadelphia
without a sleeping place, in New York without a pull, and in Pittsburg
sober, and yet he had never felt so lonely as now.
Suddenly through the intense silence, he heard the whicker of a horse.
The sound came from the side of the track toward the east, and Chicken
began to explore timorously in that direction. He stepped high along
the mat of curly mesquit grass, for he was afraid of everything there
might be in this wilderness--snakes, rats, brigands, centipedes,
mirages, cowboys, fandangoes, tarantulas, tamales--he had read of them
in the story papers. Rounding a clump of prickly pear that reared high
its fantastic and menacing array of rounded heads, he was struck to
shivering terror by a snort and a thunderous plunge, as the horse,
himself startled, bounded away some fifty yards, and then resumed his
grazing. But here was the one thing in the desert that Chicken did not
fear. He had been reared on a farm; he had handled horses, understood
them, and could ride.
Approaching slowly and speaking soothingly, he followed the animal,
which, after its first flight, seemed gentle enough, and secured the
end of the twenty-foot lariat that dragged after him in the grass. It
required him but a few moments to contrive the rope into an ingenious
nose-bridle, after the style of the Mexican /borsal/. In another he
was upon the horse's back and off at a splendid lope, giving the
animal free choice of direction. "He will take me somewhere," said
Chicken to himself.
It would have been a thing of joy, that untrammelled gallop over the
moonlit prairie, even to Chicken, who loathed exertion, but that his
mood was not for it. His head ached; a growing thirst was upon him;
the "somewhere" whither his lucky mount might convey him was full of
And now he noted that the horse moved to a definite goal. Where the
prairie lay smooth he kept his course straight as an arrow's toward
the east. Deflected by hill or arroyo or impractical spinous brakes,
he quickly flowed again into the current, charted by his unerring
instinct. At last, upon the side of a gentle rise, he suddenly
subsided to a complacent walk. A stone's cast away stood a little mott
of coma trees; beneath it a /jacal/ such as the Mexicans erect--a one-
room house of upright poles daubed with clay and roofed with grass or
tule reeds. An experienced eye would have estimated the spot as the
headquarters of a small sheep ranch. In the moonlight the ground in
the nearby corral showed pulverized to a level smoothness by the hoofs
of the sheep. Everywhere was carelessly distributed the paraphernalia
of the place--ropes, bridles, saddles, sheep pelts, wool sacks, feed
troughs, and camp litter. The barrel of drinking water stood in the
end of the two-horse wagon near the door. The harness was piled,
promiscuous, upon the wagon tongue, soaking up the dew.
Chicken slipped to earth, and tied the horse to a tree. He halloed
again and again, but the house remained quiet. The door stood open,
and he entered cautiously. The light was sufficient for him to see
that no one was at home. The room was that of a bachelor ranchman who
was content with the necessaries of life. Chicken rummaged
intelligently until he found what he had hardly dared hope for--a
small, brown jug that still contained something near a quart of his
Half an hour later, Chicken--now a gamecock of hostile aspect--emerged
from the house with unsteady steps. He had drawn upon the absent
ranchman's equipment to replace his own ragged attire. He wore a suit
of coarse brown ducking, the coat being a sort of rakish bolero,
jaunty to a degree. Boots he had donned, and spurs that whirred with
every lurching step. Buckled around him was a belt full of cartridges
with a big six-shooter in each of its two holsters.
Prowling about, he found blankets, a saddle and bridle with which he
caparisoned his steed. Again mounting, he rode swiftly away, singing a
loud and tuneless song.
* * * * *
Bud King's band of desperadoes, outlaws and horse and cattle thieves
were in camp at a secluded spot on the bank of the Frio. Their
depredations in the Rio Grande country, while no bolder than usual,
had been advertised more extensively, and Captain Kinney's company of
rangers had been ordered down to look after them. Consequently, Bud
King, who was a wise general, instead of cutting out a hot trail for
the upholders of the law, as his men wished to do, retired for the
time to the prickly fastnesses of the Frio valley.
Though the move was a prudent one, and not incompatible with Bud's
well-known courage, it raised dissension among the members of the
band. In fact, while they thus lay ingloriously /perdu/ in the brush,
the question of Bud King's fitness for the leadership was argued, with
closed doors, as it were, by his followers. Never before had Bud's
skill or efficiency been brought to criticism; but his glory was
wandering (and such is glory's fate) in the light of a newer star. The
sentiment of the band was crystallizing into the opinion that Black
Eagle could lead them with more lustre, profit, and distinction.
This Black Eagle--sub-titled the "Terror of the Border"--had been a
member of the gang about three months.
One night while they were in camp on the San Miguel water-hole a
solitary horseman on the regulation fiery steed dashed in among them.
The newcomer was of a portentous and devastating aspect. A beak-like
nose with a predatory curve projected above a mass of bristling, blue-
black whiskers. His eye was cavernous and fierce. He was spurred,
sombreroed, booted, garnished with revolvers, abundantly drunk, and
very much unafraid. Few people in the country drained by the Rio Bravo
would have cared thus to invade alone the camp of Bud King. But this
fell bird swooped fearlessly upon them and demanded to be fed.
Hospitality in the prairie country is not limited. Even if your enemy
pass your way you must feed him before you shoot him. You must empty
your larder into him before you empty your lead. So the stranger of
undeclared intentions was set down to a mighty feast.
A talkative bird he was, full of most marvellous loud tales and
exploits, and speaking a language at times obscure but never
colourless. He was a new sensation to Bud King's men, who rarely
encountered new types. They hung, delighted, upon his vainglorious
boasting, the spicy strangeness of his lingo, his contemptuous
familiarity with life, the world, and remote places, and the
extravagant frankness with which he conveyed his sentiments.
To their guest the band of outlaws seemed to be nothing more than a
congregation of country bumpkins whom he was "stringing for grub" just
as he would have told his stories at the back door of a farmhouse to
wheedle a meal. And, indeed, his ignorance was not without excuse, for
the "bad man" of the Southwest does not run to extremes. Those
brigands might justly have been taken for a little party of peaceable
rustics assembled for a fish-fry or pecan gathering. Gentle of manner,
slouching of gait, soft-voiced, unpicturesquely clothed; not one of
them presented to the eye any witness of the desperate records they
For two days the glittering stranger within the camp was feasted.
Then, by common consent, he was invited to become a member of the
band. He consented, presenting for enrollment the prodigious name of
"Captain Montressor." This name was immediately overruled by the band,
and "Piggy" substituted as a compliment to the awful and insatiate
appetite of its owner.
Thus did the Texas border receive the most spectacular brigand that
ever rode its chaparral.
For the next three months Bud King conducted business as usual,
escaping encounters with law officers and being content with
reasonable profits. The band ran off some very good companies of
horses from the ranges, and a few bunches of fine cattle which they
got safely across the Rio Grande and disposed of to fair advantage.
Often the band would ride into the little villages and Mexican
settlements, terrorizing the inhabitants and plundering for the
provisions and ammunition they needed. It was during these bloodless
raids that Piggy's ferocious aspect and frightful voice gained him a
renown more widespread and glorious than those other gentle-voiced and
sad-faced desperadoes could have acquired in a lifetime.
The Mexicans, most apt in nomenclature, first called him The Black
Eagle, and used to frighten the babes by threatening them with tales
of the dreadful robber who carried off little children in his great
beak. Soon the name extended, and Black Eagle, the Terror of the
Border, became a recognized factor in exaggerated newspaper reports
and ranch gossip.
The country from the Nueces to the Rio Grande was a wild but fertile
stretch, given over to the sheep and cattle ranches. Range was free;
the inhabitants were few; the law was mainly a letter, and the pirates
met with little opposition until the flaunting and garish Piggy gave
the band undue advertisement. Then McKinney's ranger company headed
for those precincts, and Bud King knew that it meant grim and sudden
war or else temporary retirement. Regarding the risk to be
unnecessary, he drew off his band to an almost inaccessible spot on
the bank of the Frio. Wherefore, as has been said, dissatisfaction
arose among the members, and impeachment proceedings against Bud were
premeditated, with Black Eagle in high favour for the succession. Bud
King was not unaware of the sentiment, and he called aside Cactus
Taylor, his trusted lieutenant, to discuss it.
"If the boys," said Bud, "ain't satisfied with me, I'm willing to step
out. They're buckin' against my way of handlin' 'em. And 'specially
because I concludes to hit the brush while Sam Kinney is ridin' the
line. I saves 'em from bein' shot or sent up on a state contract, and
they up and says I'm no good."
"It ain't so much that," explained Cactus, "as it is they're plum
locoed about Piggy. They want them whiskers and that nose of his to
split the wind at the head of the column."
"There's somethin' mighty seldom about Piggy," declared Bud, musingly.
"I never yet see anything on the hoof that he exactly grades up with.
He can shore holler a plenty and he straddles a hoss from where you
laid the chunk. But he ain't never been smoked yet. You know, Cactus,
we ain't had a row since he's been with us. Piggy's all right for
skearin' the greaser kids and layin' waste a cross-roads store. I
reckon he's the finest canned oyster buccaneer and cheese pirate that
ever was, but how's his appetite for fightin'? I've knowed some
citizens you'd think was starvin' for trouble get a bad case of
dyspepsy the first dose of lead they had to take."
"He talks all spraddled out," said Cactus, "'bout the rookuses he's
been in. He claims to have saw the elephant and hearn the owl."
"I know," replied Bud, using the cowpuncher's expressive phrase of
skepticism, "but it sounds to me!"
This conversation was held one night in camp while the other members
of the band--eight in number--were sprawling around the fire,
lingering over their supper. When Bud and Cactus ceased talking they
heard Piggy's formidable voice holding forth to the others as usual
while he was engaged in checking, though never satisfying, his
"Wat's de use," he was saying, "of chasin' little red cowses and
hosses 'round for t'ousands of miles? Dere ain't nuttin' in it.
Gallopin' t'rough dese bushes and briers, and gettin' a t'irst dat a
brewery couldn't put out, and missin' meals! Say! You know what I'd do
if I was main finger of dis bunch? I'd stick up a train. I'd blow de
express car and make hard dollars where you guys get wind. Youse makes
me tired. Dis sook-cow kind of cheap sport gives me a pain."
Later on, a deputation waited on Bud. They stood on one leg, chewed
mesquit twigs and circumlocuted, for they hated to hurt his feelings.
Bud foresaw their business, and made it easy for them. Bigger risks
and larger profits was what they wanted.
The suggestion of Piggy's about holding up a train had fired their
imagination and increased their admiration for the dash and boldness
of the instigator. They were such simple, artless, and custom-bound
bush-rangers that they had never before thought of extending their
habits beyond the running off of live-stock and the shooting of such
of their acquaintances as ventured to interfere.
Bud acted "on the level," agreeing to take a subordinate place in the
gang until Black Eagle should have been given a trial as leader.
After a great deal of consultation, studying of time-tables, and
discussion of the country's topography, the time and place for
carrying out their new enterprise was decided upon. At that time there
was a feedstuff famine in Mexico and a cattle famine in certain parts
of the United States, and there was a brisk international trade. Much
money was being shipped along the railroads that connected the two
republics. It was agreed that the most promising place for the
contemplated robbery was at Espina, a little station on the I. and
G.N., about forty miles north of Laredo. The train stopped there one
minute; the country around was wild and unsettled; the station
consisted of but one house in which the agent lived.
Black Eagle's band set out, riding by night. Arriving in the vicinity
of Espina they rested their horses all day in a thicket a few miles
The train was due at Espina at 10.30 P.M. They could rob the train and
be well over the Mexican border with their booty by daylight the next
To do Black Eagle justice, he exhibited no signs of flinching from the
responsible honours that had been conferred upon him.
He assigned his men to their respective posts with discretion, and
coached them carefully as to their duties. On each side of the track
four of the band were to lie concealed in the chaparral. Gotch-Ear
Rodgers was to stick up the station agent. Bronco Charlie was to
remain with the horses, holding them in readiness. At a spot where it
was calculated the engine would be when the train stopped, Bud King
was to lie hidden on one side, and Black Eagle himself on the other.
The two would get the drop on the engineer and fireman, force them to
descend and proceed to the rear. Then the express car would be looted,
and the escape made. No one was to move until Black Eagle gave the
signal by firing his revolver. The plan was perfect.
At ten minutes to train time every man was at his post, effectually
concealed by the thick chaparral that grew almost to the rails. The
night was dark and lowering, with a fine drizzle falling from the
flying gulf clouds. Black Eagle crouched behind a bush within five
yards of the track. Two six-shooters were belted around him.
Occasionally he drew a large black bottle from his pocket and raised
it to his mouth.
A star appeared far down the track which soon waxed into the headlight
of the approaching train. It came on with an increasing roar; the
engine bore down upon the ambushing desperadoes with a glare and a
shriek like some avenging monster come to deliver them to justice.
Black Eagle flattened himself upon the ground. The engine, contrary to
their calculations, instead of stopping between him and Bud King's
place of concealment, passed fully forty years farther before it came
to a stand.
The bandit leader rose to his feet and peered through the bush. His
men all lay quiet, awaiting the signal. Immediately opposite Black
Eagle was a thing that drew his attention. Instead of being a regular
passenger train it was a mixed one. Before him stood a box car, the
door of which, by some means, had been left slightly open. Black Eagle
went up to it and pushed the door farther open. An odour came forth--a
damp, rancid, familiar, musty, intoxicating, beloved odour stirring
strongly at old memories of happy days and travels. Black Eagle
sniffed at the witching smell as the returned wanderer smells of the
rose that twines his boyhood's cottage home. Nostalgia seized him. He
put his hand inside. Excelsior--dry, springy, curly, soft, enticing,
covered the floor. Outside the drizzle had turned to a chilling rain.
The train bell clanged. The bandit chief unbuckled his belt and cast
it, with its revolvers, upon the ground. His spurs followed quickly,
and his broad sombrero. Black Eagle was moulting. The train started
with a rattling jerk. The ex-Terror of the Border scrambled into the
box car and closed the door. Stretched luxuriously upon the excelsior,
with the black bottle clasped closely to his breast, his eyes closed,
and a foolish, happy smile upon his terrible features Chicken Ruggles
started upon his return trip.
Undisturbed, with the band of desperate bandits lying motionless,
awaiting the signal to attack, the train pulled out from Espina. As
its speed increased, and the black masses of chaparral went whizzing
past on either side, the express messenger, lighting his pipe, looked
through his window and remarked, feelingly:
"What a jim-dandy place for a hold-up!"
A RETRIEVED REFORMATION
A guard came to the prison shoe-shop, where Jimmy Valentine was
assiduously stitching uppers, and escorted him to the front office.
There the warden handed Jimmy his pardon, which had been signed that
morning by the governor. Jimmy took it in a tired kind of way. He had
served nearly ten months of a four year sentence. He had expected to
stay only about three months, at the longest. When a man with as many
friends on the outside as Jimmy Valentine had is received in the
"stir" it is hardly worth while to cut his hair.
"Now, Valentine," said the warden, "you'll go out in the morning.
Brace up, and make a man of yourself. You're not a bad fellow at
heart. Stop cracking safes, and live straight."
"Me?" said Jimmy, in surprise. "Why, I never cracked a safe in my
"Oh, no," laughed the warden. "Of course not. Let's see, now. How was
it you happened to get sent up on that Springfield job? Was it because
you wouldn't prove an alibi for fear of compromising somebody in
extremely high-toned society? Or was it simply a case of a mean old
jury that had it in for you? It's always one or the other with you
"Me?" said Jimmy, still blankly virtuous. "Why, warden, I never was in
Springfield in my life!"
"Take him back, Cronin!" said the warden, "and fix him up with
outgoing clothes. Unlock him at seven in the morning, and let him come
to the bull-pen. Better think over my advice, Valentine."
At a quarter past seven on the next morning Jimmy stood in the
warden's outer office. He had on a suit of the villainously fitting,
ready-made clothes and a pair of the stiff, squeaky shoes that the
state furnishes to its discharged compulsory guests.
The clerk handed him a railroad ticket and the five-dollar bill with
which the law expected him to rehabilitate himself into good
citizenship and prosperity. The warden gave him a cigar, and shook
hands. Valentine, 9762, was chronicled on the books, "Pardoned by
Governor," and Mr. James Valentine walked out into the sunshine.
Disregarding the song of the birds, the waving green trees, and the
smell of the flowers, Jimmy headed straight for a restaurant. There he
tasted the first sweet joys of liberty in the shape of a broiled
chicken and a bottle of white wine--followed by a cigar a grade better
than the one the warden had given him. From there he proceeded
leisurely to the depot. He tossed a quarter into the hat of a blind
man sitting by the door, and boarded his train. Three hours set him
down in a little town near the state line. He went to the cafe of one
Mike Dolan and shook hands with Mike, who was alone behind the bar.
"Sorry we couldn't make it sooner, Jimmy, me boy," said Mike. "But we
had that protest from Springfield to buck against, and the governor
nearly balked. Feeling all right?"
"Fine," said Jimmy. "Got my key?"
He got his key and went upstairs, unlocking the door of a room at the
rear. Everything was just as he had left it. There on the floor was
still Ben Price's collar-button that had been torn from that eminent
detective's shirt-band when they had overpowered Jimmy to arrest him.
Pulling out from the wall a folding-bed, Jimmy slid back a panel in
the wall and dragged out a dust-covered suit-case. He opened this and
gazed fondly at the finest set of burglar's tools in the East. It was
a complete set, made of specially tempered steel, the latest designs
in drills, punches, braces and bits, jimmies, clamps, and augers, with
two or three novelties, invented by Jimmy himself, in which he took
pride. Over nine hundred dollars they had cost him to have made at
----, a place where they make such things for the profession.
In half an hour Jimmy went down stairs and through the cafe. He was
now dressed in tasteful and well-fitting clothes, and carried his
dusted and cleaned suit-case in his hand.
"Got anything on?" asked Mike Dolan, genially.
"Me?" said Jimmy, in a puzzled tone. "I don't understand. I'm
representing the New York Amalgamated Short Snap Biscuit Cracker and
Frazzled Wheat Company."
This statement delighted Mike to such an extent that Jimmy had to take
a seltzer-and-milk on the spot. He never touched "hard" drinks.
A week after the release of Valentine, 9762, there was a neat job of
safe-burglary done in Richmond, Indiana, with no clue to the author. A
scant eight hundred dollars was all that was secured. Two weeks after
that a patented, improved, burglar-proof safe in Logansport was opened
like a cheese to the tune of fifteen hundred dollars, currency;
securities and silver untouched. That began to interest the rogue-
catchers. Then an old-fashioned bank-safe in Jefferson City became
active and threw out of its crater an eruption of bank-notes amounting
to five thousand dollars. The losses were now high enough to bring the
matter up into Ben Price's class of work. By comparing notes, a
remarkable similarity in the methods of the burglaries was noticed.
Ben Price investigated the scenes of the robberies, and was heard to
"That's Dandy Jim Valentine's autograph. He's resumed business. Look
at that combination knob--jerked out as easy as pulling up a radish in
wet weather. He's got the only clamps that can do it. And look how
clean those tumblers were punched out! Jimmy never has to drill but
one hole. Yes, I guess I want Mr. Valentine. He'll do his bit next
time without any short-time or clemency foolishness."
Ben Price knew Jimmy's habits. He had learned them while working on
the Springfield case. Long jumps, quick get-aways, no confederates,
and a taste for good society--these ways had helped Mr. Valentine to
become noted as a successful dodger of retribution. It was given out
that Ben Price had taken up the trail of the elusive cracksman, and
other people with burglar-proof safes felt more at ease.
One afternoon Jimmy Valentine and his suit-case climbed out of the
mail-hack in Elmore, a little town five miles off the railroad down in
the black-jack country of Arkansas. Jimmy, looking like an athletic
young senior just home from college, went down the board side-walk
toward the hotel.
A young lady crossed the street, passed him at the corner and entered
a door over which was the sign, "The Elmore Bank." Jimmy Valentine
looked into her eyes, forgot what he was, and became another man. She
lowered her eyes and coloured slightly. Young men of Jimmy's style and
looks were scarce in Elmore.
Jimmy collared a boy that was loafing on the steps of the bank as if
he were one of the stockholders, and began to ask him questions about
the town, feeding him dimes at intervals. By and by the young lady
came out, looking royally unconscious of the young man with the suit-
case, and went her way.
"Isn' that young lady Polly Simpson?" asked Jimmy, with specious
"Naw," said the boy. "She's Annabel Adams. Her pa owns this bank.
Why'd you come to Elmore for? Is that a gold watch-chain? I'm going to
get a bulldog. Got any more dimes?"
Jimmy went to the Planters' Hotel, registered as Ralph D. Spencer, and
engaged a room. He leaned on the desk and declared his platform to the
clerk. He said he had come to Elmore to look for a location to go into
business. How was the shoe business, now, in the town? He had thought
of the shoe business. Was there an opening?
The clerk was impressed by the clothes and manner of Jimmy. He,
himself, was something of a pattern of fashion to the thinly gilded
youth of Elmore, but he now perceived his shortcomings. While trying
to figure out Jimmy's manner of tying his four-in-hand he cordially
Yes, there ought to be a good opening in the shoe line. There wasn't
an exclusive shoe-store in the place. The dry-goods and general stores
handled them. Business in all lines was fairly good. Hoped Mr. Spencer
would decide to locate in Elmore. He would find it a pleasant town to
live in, and the people very sociable.
Mr. Spencer thought he would stop over in the town a few days and look
over the situation. No, the clerk needn't call the boy. He would carry
up his suit-case, himself; it was rather heavy.
Mr. Ralph Spencer, the phoenix that arose from Jimmy Valentine's ashes
--ashes left by the flame of a sudden and alterative attack of love--
remained in Elmore, and prospered. He opened a shoe-store and secured
a good run of trade.
Socially he was also a success, and made many friends. And he
accomplished the wish of his heart. He met Miss Annabel Adams, and
became more and more captivated by her charms.
At the end of a year the situation of Mr. Ralph Spencer was this: he
had won the respect of the community, his shoe-store was flourishing,
and he and Annabel were engaged to be married in two weeks. Mr. Adams,
the typical, plodding, country banker, approved of Spencer. Annabel's
pride in him almost equalled her affection. He was as much at home in
the family of Mr. Adams and that of Annabel's married sister as if he
were already a member.
One day Jimmy sat down in his room and wrote this letter, which he
mailed to the safe address of one of his old friends in St. Louis:
Dear Old Pal:
I want you to be at Sullivan's place, in Little Rock, next
Wednesday night, at nine o'clock. I want you to wind up some
little matters for me. And, also, I want to make you a present of
my kit of tools. I know you'll be glad to get them--you couldn't
duplicate the lot for a thousand dollars. Say, Billy, I've quit
the old business--a year ago. I've got a nice store. I'm making an
honest living, and I'm going to marry the finest girl on earth two
weeks from now. It's the only life, Billy--the straight one. I
wouldn't touch a dollar of another man's money now for a million.
After I get married I'm going to sell out and go West, where there
won't be so much danger of having old scores brought up against
me. I tell you, Billy, she's an angel. She believes in me; and I
wouldn't do another crooked thing for the whole world. Be sure to be
at Sully's, for I must see you. I'll bring along the tools with me.
Your old friend,
On the Monday night after Jimmy wrote this letter, Ben Price jogged
unobtrusively into Elmore in a livery buggy. He lounged about town in
his quiet way until he found out what he wanted to know. From the
drug-store across the street from Spencer's shoe-store he got a good
look at Ralph D. Spencer.
"Going to marry the banker's daughter are you, Jimmy?" said Ben to
himself, softly. "Well, I don't know!"
The next morning Jimmy took breakfast at the Adamses. He was going to
Little Rock that day to order his wedding-suit and buy something nice
for Annabel. That would be the first time he had left town since he
came to Elmore. It had been more than a year now since those last
professional "jobs," and he thought he could safely venture out.
After breakfast quite a family party went downtown together--Mr.
Adams, Annabel, Jimmy, and Annabel's married sister with her two
little girls, aged five and nine. They came by the hotel where Jimmy
still boarded, and he ran up to his room and brought along his suit-
case. Then they went on to the bank. There stood Jimmy's horse and
buggy and Dolph Gibson, who was going to drive him over to the
All went inside the high, carved oak railings into the banking-room--
Jimmy included, for Mr. Adams's future son-in-law was welcome
anywhere. The clerks were pleased to be greeted by the good-looking,
agreeable young man who was going to marry Miss Annabel. Jimmy set his
suit-case down. Annabel, whose heart was bubbling with happiness and
lively youth, put on Jimmy's hat, and picked up the suit-case.
"Wouldn't I make a nice drummer?" said Annabel. "My! Ralph, how heavy
it is? Feels like it was full of gold bricks."
"Lot of nickel-plated shoe-horns in there," said Jimmy, coolly, "that
I'm going to return. Thought I'd save express charges by taking them
up. I'm getting awfully economical."
The Elmore Bank had just put in a new safe and vault. Mr. Adams was
very proud of it, and insisted on an inspection by every one. The
vault was a small one, but it had a new, patented door. It fastened
with three solid steel bolts thrown simultaneously with a single
handle, and had a time-lock. Mr. Adams beamingly explained its
workings to Mr. Spencer, who showed a courteous but not too
intelligent interest. The two children, May and Agatha, were delighted
by the shining metal and funny clock and knobs.
While they were thus engaged Ben Price sauntered in and leaned on his
elbow, looking casually inside between the railings. He told the
teller that he didn't want anything; he was just waiting for a man he
Suddenly there was a scream or two from the women, and a commotion.
Unperceived by the elders, May, the nine-year-old girl, in a spirit of
play, had shut Agatha in the vault. She had then shot the bolts and
turned the knob of the combination as she had seen Mr. Adams do.
The old banker sprang to the handle and tugged at it for a moment.
"The door can't be opened," he groaned. "The clock hasn't been wound
nor the combination set."
Agatha's mother screamed again, hysterically.
"Hush!" said Mr. Adams, raising his trembling hand. "All be quite for
a moment. Agatha!" he called as loudly as he could. "Listen to me."
During the following silence they could just hear the faint sound of
the child wildly shrieking in the dark vault in a panic of terror.
"My precious darling!" wailed the mother. "She will die of fright!
Open the door! Oh, break it open! Can't you men do something?"
"There isn't a man nearer than Little Rock who can open that door,"
said Mr. Adams, in a shaky voice. "My God! Spencer, what shall we do?
That child--she can't stand it long in there. There isn't enough air,
and, besides, she'll go into convulsions from fright."
Agatha's mother, frantic now, beat the door of the vault with her
hands. Somebody wildly suggested dynamite. Annabel turned to Jimmy,
her large eyes full of anguish, but not yet despairing. To a woman
nothing seems quite impossible to the powers of the man she worships.
"Can't you do something, Ralph--/try/, won't you?"
He looked at her with a queer, soft smile on his lips and in his keen
"Annabel," he said, "give me that rose you are wearing, will you?"
Hardly believing that she heard him aright, she unpinned the bud from
the bosom of her dress, and placed it in his hand. Jimmy stuffed it
into his vest-pocket, threw off his coat and pulled up his shirt-
sleeves. With that act Ralph D. Spencer passed away and Jimmy
Valentine took his place.
"Get away from the door, all of you," he commanded, shortly.
He set his suit-case on the table, and opened it out flat. From that
time on he seemed to be unconscious of the presence of any one else.
He laid out the shining, queer implements swiftly and orderly,
whistling softly to himself as he always did when at work. In a deep
silence and immovable, the others watched him as if under a spell.
In a minute Jimmy's pet drill was biting smoothly into the steel door.
In ten minutes--breaking his own burglarious record--he threw back the
bolts and opened the door.
Agatha, almost collapsed, but safe, was gathered into her mother's
Jimmy Valentine put on his coat, and walked outside the railings
towards the front door. As he went he thought he heard a far-away
voice that he once knew call "Ralph!" But he never hesitated.
At the door a big man stood somewhat in his way.
"Hello, Ben!" said Jimmy, still with his strange smile. "Got around at
last, have you? Well, let's go. I don't know that it makes much
And then Ben Price acted rather strangely.
"Guess you're mistaken, Mr. Spencer," he said. "Don't believe I
recognize you. Your buggy's waiting for you, ain't it?"
And Ben Price turned and strolled down the street.
CHERCHEZ LA FEMME
Robbins, reporter for the /Picayune/, and Dumars, of /L'Abeille/--the
old French newspaper that has buzzed for nearly a century--were good
friends, well proven by years of ups and downs together. They were
seated where they had a habit of meeting--in the little, Creole-
haunted cafe of Madame Tibault, in Dumaine Street. If you know the
place, you will experience a thrill of pleasure in recalling it to
mind. It is small and dark, with six little polished tables, at which
you may sit and drink the best coffee in New Orleans, and concoctions
of absinthe equal to Sazerac's best. Madame Tibault, fat and
indulgent, presides at the desk, and takes your money. Nicolette and
Meme, madame's nieces, in charming bib aprons, bring the desirable
Dumars, with true Creole luxury, was sipping his absinthe, with half-
closed eyes, in a whirl of cigarette smoke. Robbins was looking over
the morning /Pic./, detecting, as young reporters will, the gross
blunders in the make-up, and the envious blue-pencilling his own stuff
had received. This item, in the advertising columns, caught his eye,
and with an exclamation of sudden interest he read it aloud to his
Public Auction.--At three o'clock this afternoon there will be
sold to the highest bidder all the common property of the Little
Sisters of Samaria, at the home of the Sisterhood, in Bonhomme
Street. The sale will dispose of the building, ground, and the
complete furnishings of the house and chapel, without reserve.
This notice stirred the two friends to a reminiscent talk concerning
an episode in their journalistic career that had occurred about two
years before. They recalled the incidents, went over the old theories,
and discussed it anew from the different perspective time had brought.
There were no other customers in the cafe. Madame's fine ear had
caught the line of their talk, and she came over to their table--for
had it not been her lost money--her vanished twenty thousand dollars--
that had set the whole matter going?
The three took up the long-abandoned mystery, threshing over the old,
dry chaff of it. It was in the chapel of this house of the Little
Sisters of Samaria that Robbins and Dumars had stood during that
eager, fruitless news search of theirs, and looked upon the gilded
statue of the Virgin.
"Thass so, boys," said madame, summing up. "Thass ver' wicked man,
M'sieur Morin. Everybody shall be cert' he steal those money I plaze in
his hand for keep safe. Yes. He's boun' spend that money, somehow."
Madame turned a broad and contemplative smile upon Dumars. "I
ond'stand you, M'sieur Dumars, those day you come ask fo' tell
ev'ything I know 'bout M'sieur Morin. Ah! yes, I know most time when
those men lose money you say '/Cherchez la femme/'--there is somewhere
the woman. But not for M'sieur Morin. No, boys. Before he shall die,
he is like one saint. You might's well, M'sieur Dumars, go try find
those money in the statue of Virgin Mary that M'sieur Morin present at
those /p'tite soeurs/, as try find one /femme/."
At Madame Tibault's last words, Robbins started slightly and cast a
keen, sidelong glance at Dumars. The Creole sat, unmoved, dreamily
watching the spirals of his cigarette smoke.
It was then nine o'clock in the morning and, a few minutes later, the
two friends separated, going different ways to their day's duties. And
now follows the brief story of Madame Tibault's vanished thousands:
* * * * *
New Orleans will readily recall to mind the circumstances attendant
upon the death of Mr. Gaspard Morin, in that city. Mr. Morin was an
artistic goldsmith and jeweller in the old French Quarter, and a man
held in the highest esteem. He belonged to one of the oldest French
families, and was of some distinction as an antiquary and historian.
He was a bachelor, about fifty years of age. He lived in quiet
comfort, at one of those rare old hostelries in Royal Street. He was
found in his rooms, one morning, dead from unknown causes.
When his affairs came to be looked into, it was found that he was
practically insolvent, his stock of goods and personal property barely
--but nearly enough to free him from censure--covering his
liabilities. Following came the disclosure that he had been entrusted
with the sum of twenty thousand dollars by a former upper servant in
the Morin family, one Madame Tibault, which she had received as a
legacy from relatives in France.
The most searching scrutiny by friends and the legal authorities
failed to reveal the disposition of the money. It had vanished, and
left no trace. Some weeks before his death, Mr. Morin had drawn the
entire amount, in gold coin, from the bank where it had been placed
while he looked about (he told Madame Tibault) for a safe investment.
Therefore, Mr. Morin's memory seemed doomed to bear the cloud of
dishonesty, while madame was, of course, disconsolate.
Then it was that Robbins and Dumars, representing their respective
journals, began one of those pertinacious private investigations
which, of late years, the press has adopted as a means to glory and
the satisfaction of public curiosity.
"/Cherchez la femme/," said Dumars.
"That's the ticket!" agreed Robbins. "All roads lead to the eternal
feminine. We will find the woman."
They exhausted the knowledge of the staff of Mr. Morin's hotel, from
the bell-boy down to the proprietor. They gently, but inflexibly,
pumped the family of the deceased as far as his cousins twice removed.
They artfully sounded the employees of the late jeweller, and dogged
his customers for information concerning his habits. Like bloodhounds
they traced every step of the supposed defaulter, as nearly as might
be, for years along the limited and monotonous paths he had trodden.
At the end of their labours, Mr. Morin stood, an immaculate man. Not
one weakness that might be served up as a criminal tendency, not one
deviation from the path of rectitude, not even a hint of a
predilection for the opposite sex, was found to be placed in his
debit. His life had been as regular and austere as a monk's; his
habits, simple and unconcealed. Generous, charitable, and a model in
propriety, was the verdict of all who knew him.
"What, now?" asked Robbins, fingering his empty notebook.
"/Cherchez la femme/," said Dumars, lighting a cigarette. "Try Lady
This piece of femininity was the race-track favourite of the season.
Being feminine, she was erratic in her gaits, and there were a few
heavy losers about town who had believed she could be true. The
reporters applied for information.
Mr. Morin? Certainly not. He was never even a spectator at the races.
Not that kind of a man. Surprised the gentlemen should ask.
"Shall we throw it up?" suggested Robbins, "and let the puzzle
department have a try?"
"/Cherchez la femme/," hummed Dumars, reaching for a match. "Try the
Little Sisters of What-d'-you-call-'em."
It had developed, during the investigation, that Mr. Morin had held
this benevolent order in particular favour. He had contributed
liberally toward its support and had chosen its chapel as his
favourite place of private worship. It was said that he went there
daily to make his devotions at the altar. Indeed, toward the last of
his life his whole mind seemed to have fixed itself upon religious
matters, perhaps to the detriment of his worldly affairs.
Thither went Robbins and Dumars, and were admitted through the narrow
doorway in the blank stone wall that frowned upon Bonhomme Street. An
old woman was sweeping the chapel. She told them that Sister Felicite,
the head of the order, was then at prayer at the altar in the alcove.
In a few moments she would emerge. Heavy, black curtains screened the
alcove. They waited.
Soon the curtains were disturbed, and Sister Felicite came forth. She
was tall, tragic, bony, and plain-featured, dressed in the black gown
and severe bonnet of the sisterhood.
Robbins, a good rough-and-tumble reporter, but lacking the delicate
touch, began to speak.
They represented the press. The lady had, no doubt, heard of the Morin
affair. It was necessary, in justice to that gentleman's memory, to
probe the mystery of the lost money. It was known that he had come
often to this chapel. Any information, now, concerning Mr. Morin's
habits, tastes, the friends he had, and so on, would be of value in
doing him posthumous justice.
Sister Felicite had heard. Whatever she knew would be willingly told,
but it was very little. Monsieur Morin had been a good friend to the
order, sometimes contributing as much as a hundred dollars. The
sisterhood was an independent one, depending entirely upon private
contributions for the means to carry on its charitable work. Mr. Morin
had presented the chapel with silver candlesticks and an altar cloth.
He came every day to worship in the chapel, sometimes remaining for an
hour. He was a devout Catholic, consecrated to holiness. Yes, and also
in the alcove was a statue of the Virgin that he had himself modeled,
cast, and presented to the order. Oh, it was cruel to cast a doubt
upon so good a man!
Robbins was also profoundly grieved at the imputation. But, until it
was found what Mr. Morin had done with Madame Tibault's money, he
feared the tongue of slander would not be stilled. Sometimes--in fact,
very often--in affairs of the kind there was--er--as the saying goes--
er--a lady in the case. In absolute confidence, now--if--perhaps--
Sister Felicite's large eyes regarded him solemnly.
"There was one woman," she said, slowly, "to whom he bowed--to whom he
gave his heart."
Robbins fumbled rapturously for his pencil.
"Behold the woman!" said Sister Felicite, suddenly, in deep tones.
She reached a long arm and swept aside the curtain of the alcove. In
there was a shrine, lit to a glow of soft colour by the light pouring
through a stained-glass window. Within a deep niche in the bare stone
wall stood an image of the Virgin Mary, the colour of pure gold.
Dumars, a conventional Catholic, succumbed to the dramatic in the act.
He bowed his head for an instant and made the sign of the cross. The
somewhat abashed Robbins, murmuring an indistinct apology, backed
awkwardly away. Sister Felicite drew back the curtain, and the
On the narrow sidewalk of Bonhomme Street, Robbins turned to Dumars,
with unworthy sarcasm.
"Well, what next? Churchy law fem?"
"Absinthe," said Dumars.
With the history of the missing money thus partially related, some
conjecture may be formed of the sudden idea that Madame Tibault's
words seemed to have suggested to Robbins's brain.
Was it so wild a surmise--that the religious fanatic had offered up
his wealth--or, rather, Madame Tibault's--in the shape of a material
symbol of his consuming devotion? Stranger things have been done in
the name of worship. Was it not possible that the lost thousands were
molded into that lustrous image? That the goldsmith had formed it of
the pure and precious metal, and set it there, through some hope of a
perhaps disordered brain to propitiate the saints and pave the way to
his own selfish glory?
That afternoon, at five minutes to three, Robbins entered the chapel
door of the Little Sisters of Samaria. He saw, in the dim light, a
crowd of perhaps a hundred people gathered to attend the sale. Most of
them were members of various religious orders, priests and churchmen,
come to purchase the paraphernalia of the chapel, lest they fall into
desecrating hands. Others were business men and agents come to bid
upon the realty. A clerical-looking brother had volunteered to wield
the hammer, bringing to the office of auctioneer the anomaly of choice
diction and dignity of manner.
A few of the minor articles were sold, and then two assistants brought
forward the image of the Virgin.
Robbins started the bidding at ten dollars. A stout man, in an
ecclesiastical garb, went to fifteen. A voice from another part of the
crowd raised to twenty. The three bid alternately, raising by bids of
five, until the offer was fifty dollars. Then the stout man dropped
out, and Robbins, as a sort of /coup de main/, went to a hundred.
"One hundred and fifty," said the other voice.
"Two hundred," bid Robbins, boldly.
"Two-fifty," called his competitor, promptly.
The reporter hesitated for the space of a lightning flash, estimating
how much he could borrow from the boys in the office, and screw from
the business manager from his next month's salary.
"Three hundred," he offered.
"Three-fifty," spoke up the other, in a louder voice--a voice that
sent Robbins diving suddenly through the crowd in its direction, to
catch Dumars, its owner, ferociously by the collar.
"You unconverted idiot!" hissed Robbins, close to his ear--"pool!"
"Agreed!" said Dumars, coolly. "I couldn't raise three hundred and
fifty dollars with a search-warrant, but I can stand half. What you
come bidding against me for?"
"I thought I was the only fool in the crowd," explained Robbins.
No one else bidding, the statue was knocked down to the syndicate at
their last offer. Dumars remained with the prize, while Robbins
hurried forth to wring from the resources and credit of both the
price. He soon returned with the money, and the two musketeers loaded
their precious package into a carriage and drove with it to Dumars's
room, in old Chartres Street, nearby. They lugged it, covered with a
cloth, up the stairs, and deposited it on a table. A hundred pounds it
weighed, if an ounce, and at that estimate, according to their
calculation, if their daring theory were correct, it stood there,
worth twenty thousand golden dollars.
Robbins removed the covering, and opened his pocket-knife.
"/Sacre/!" muttered Dumars, shuddering. "It is the Mother of Christ.
What would you do?"
"Shut up, Judas!" said Robbins, coldly. "It's too late for you to be
With a firm hand, he chipped a slice from the shoulder of the image.
The cut showed a dull, grayish metal, with a thin coating of gold
"Lead!" announced Robbins, hurling his knife to the floor--"gilded!"
"To the devil with it!" said Dumars, forgetting his scruples. "I must
have a drink."
Together they walked moodily to the cafe of Madame Tribault, two
It seemed that madame's mind had been stirred that day to fresh
recollections of the past services of the two young men in her behalf.
"You mustn't sit by those table," she interposed, as they were about
to drop into their accustomed seats. "Thass so, boys. But no. I mek
you come at this room, like my /tres bon amis/. Yes. I goin' mek for
you myself one /anisette/ and one /cafe royale/ ver' fine. Ah! I lak
treat my fren' nize. Yes. Plis come in this way."
Madame led them into the little back room, into which she sometimes
invited the especially favoured of her customers. In two comfortable
armchairs, by a big window that opened upon the courtyard, she placed
them, with a low table between. Bustling hospitably about, she began
to prepare the promised refreshments.
It was the first time the reporters had been honoured with admission
to the sacred precincts. The room was in dusky twilight, flecked with
gleams of the polished, fine woods and burnished glass and metal that
the Creoles love. From the little courtyard a tiny fountain sent in an
insinuating sound of trickling waters, to which a banana plant by the
window kept time with its tremulous leaves.
Robbins, an investigator by nature, sent a curious glance roving about
the room. From some barbaric ancestor, madame had inherited a
/penchant/ for the crude in decoration.
The walls were adorned with cheap lithographs--florid libels upon
nature, addressed to the taste of the /bourgeoisie/--birthday cards,
garish newspaper supplements, and specimens of art-advertising
calculated to reduce the optic nerve to stunned submission. A patch of
something unintelligible in the midst of the more candid display
puzzled Robbins, and he rose and took a step nearer, to interrogate it
at closer range. Then he leaned weakly against the wall, and called
"Madame Tibault! Oh, madame! Since when--oh! since when have you been
in the habit of papering your walls with five thousand dollar United
States four per cent. gold bonds? Tell me--is this a Grimm's fairy
tale, or should I consult an oculist?"
At his words, Madame Tibault and Dumars approached.
"H'what you say?" said madame, cheerily. "H'what you say, M'sieur
Robbin? /Bon/! Ah! those nize li'l peezes papier! One tam I think
those w'at you call calendair, wiz ze li'l day of mont' below. But,
no. Those wall is broke in those plaze, M'sieur Robbin', and I plaze
those li'l peezes papier to conceal ze crack. I did think the couleur
harm'nize so well with the wall papier. Where I get them from? Ah,
yes, I remem' ver' well. One day M'sieur Morin, he come at my houze--
thass 'bout one mont' before he shall die--thass 'long 'bout tam he
promise fo' inves' those money fo' me. M'sieur Morin, he leave thoze
li'l peezes papier in those table, and say ver' much 'bout money thass
hard for me to ond'stan. /Mais/ I never see those money again. Thass
ver' wicked man, M'sieur Morin. H'what you call those peezes papier,
"There's your twenty thousand dollars, with coupons attached," he
said, running his thumb around the edge of the four bonds. "Better get
an expert to peel them off for you. Mister Morin was right. I'm going
out to get my ears trimmed."
He dragged Dumars by the arm into the outer room. Madame was screaming
for Nicolette and Meme to come and observe the fortune returned to her
by M'sieur Morin, that best of men, that saint in glory.
"Marsy," said Robbins, "I'm going on a jamboree. For three days the
esteemed /Pic./ will have to get along without my valuable services. I
advise you to join me. Now, that green stuff you drink is no good. It
stimulates thought. What we want to do is to forget to remember. I'll
introduce you to the only lady in this case that is guaranteed to
produce the desired results. Her name is Belle of Kentucky, twelve-
year-old Bourbon. In quarts. How does the idea strike you?"
"/Allons/!" said Dumars. "/Cherchez la femme/."
FRIENDS IN SAN ROSARIO
The west-bound train stopped at San Rosario on time at 8.20 A.M. A man
with a thick black-leather wallet under his arm left the train and
walked rapidly up the main street of the town. There were other
passengers who also got off at San Rosario, but they either slouched
limberly over to the railroad eating-house or the Silver Dollar
saloon, or joined the groups of idlers about the station.
Indecision had no part in the movements of the man with the wallet. He
was short in stature, but strongly built, with very light, closely-
trimmed hair, smooth, determined face, and aggressive, gold-rimmed
nose glasses. He was well dressed in the prevailing Eastern style. His
air denoted a quiet but conscious reserve force, if not actual
After walking a distance of three squares he came to the centre of the
town's business area. Here another street of importance crossed the
main one, forming the hub of San Rosario's life and commerce. Upon one
corner stood the post-office. Upon another Rubensky's Clothing
Emporium. The other two diagonally opposing corners were occupied by
the town's two banks, the First National and the Stockmen's National.
Into the First National Bank of San Rosario the newcomer walked, never
slowing his brisk step until he stood at the cashier's window. The
bank opened for business at nine, and the working force was already
assembled, each member preparing his department for the day's
business. The cashier was examining the mail when he noticed the
stranger standing at his window.
"Bank doesn't open 'til nine," he remarked curtly, but without
feeling. He had had to make that statement so often to early birds
since San Rosario adopted city banking hours.
"I am well aware of that," said the other man, in cool, brittle tones.
"Will you kindly receive my card?"
The cashier drew the small, spotless parallelogram inside the bars of
his wicket, and read:
National Bank Examiner
"Oh--er--will you walk around inside, Mr.--er--Nettlewick. Your first
visit--didn't know your business, of course. Walk right around,
The examiner was quickly inside the sacred precincts of the bank,
where he was ponderously introduced to each employee in turn by Mr.
Edlinger, the cashier--a middle-aged gentleman of deliberation,
discretion, and method.
"I was kind of expecting Sam Turner round again, pretty soon," said
Mr. Edlinger. "Sam's been examining us now, for about four years. I
guess you'll find us all right, though, considering the tightness in
business. Not overly much money on hand, but able to stand the storms,
sir, stand the storms."
"Mr. Turner and I have been ordered by the Comptroller to exchange
districts," said the examiner, in his decisive, formal tones. "He is
covering my old territory in Southern Illinois and Indiana. I will
take the cash first, please."
Perry Dorsey, the teller, was already arranging his cash on the
counter for the examiner's inspection. He knew it was right to a cent,
and he had nothing to fear, but he was nervous and flustered. So was
every man in the bank. There was something so icy and swift, so
impersonal and uncompromising about this man that his very presence
seemed an accusation. He looked to be a man who would never make nor
overlook an error.
Mr. Nettlewick first seized the currency, and with a rapid, almost
juggling motion, counted it by packages. Then he spun the sponge cup
toward him and verified the count by bills. His thin, white fingers
flew like some expert musician's upon the keys of a piano. He dumped
the gold upon the counter with a crash, and the coins whined and sang
as they skimmed across the marble slab from the tips of his nimble
digits. The air was full of fractional currency when he came to the
halves and quarters. He counted the last nickle and dime. He had the
scales brought, and he weighed every sack of silver in the vault. He
questioned Dorsey concerning each of the cash memoranda--certain
checks, charge slips, etc., carried over from the previous day's work
--with unimpeachable courtesy, yet with something so mysteriously
momentous in his frigid manner, that the teller was reduced to pink
cheeks and a stammering tongue.
This newly-imported examiner was so different from Sam Turner. It had
been Sam's way to enter the bank with a shout, pass the cigars, and
tell the latest stories he had picked up on his rounds. His customary
greeting to Dorsey had been, "Hello, Perry! Haven't skipped out with
the boodle yet, I see." Turner's way of counting the cash had been
different, too. He would finger the packages of bills in a tired kind
of way, and then go into the vault and kick over a few sacks of
silver, and the thing was done. Halves and quarters and dimes? Not for
Sam Turner. "No chicken feed for me," he would say when they were set
before him. "I'm not in the agricultural department." But, then,
Turner was a Texan, an old friend of the bank's president, and had
known Dorsey since he was a baby.
While the examiner was counting the cash, Major Thomas B. Kingman--
known to every one as "Major Tom"--the president of the First
National, drove up to the side door with his old dun horse and buggy,
and came inside. He saw the examiner busy with the money, and, going
into the little "pony corral," as he called it, in which his desk was
railed off, he began to look over his letters.
Earlier, a little incident had occurred that even the sharp eyes of
the examiner had failed to notice. When he had begun his work at the
cash counter, Mr. Edlinger had winked significantly at Roy Wilson, the
youthful bank messenger, and nodded his head slightly toward the front
door. Roy understood, got his hat, and walked leisurely out, with his
collector's book under his arm. Once outside, he made a bee-line for
the Stockmen's National. That bank was also getting ready to open. No
customers had, as yet, presented themselves.
"Say, you people!" cried Roy, with the familiarity of youth and long
acquaintance, "you want to get a move on you. There's a new bank
examiner over at the First, and he's a stem-winder. He's counting
nickles on Perry, and he's got the whole outfit bluffed. Mr. Edlinger
gave me the tip to let you know."
Mr. Buckley, president of the Stockmen's National--a stout, elderly
man, looking like a farmer dressed for Sunday--heard Roy from his
private office at the rear and called him.
"Has Major Kingman come down to the bank yet?" he asked of the boy.
"Yes, sir, he was just driving up as I left," said Roy.
"I want you to take him a note. Put it into his own hands as soon as
you get back."
Mr. Buckley sat down and began to write.
Roy returned and handed to Major Kingman the envelope containing the
note. The major read it, folded it, and slipped it into his vest
pocket. He leaned back in his chair for a few moments as if he were
meditating deeply, and then rose and went into the vault. He came out
with the bulky, old-fashioned leather note case stamped on the back in
gilt letters, "Bills Discounted." In this were the notes due the bank
with their attached securities, and the major, in his rough way,
dumped the lot upon his desk and began to sort them over.
By this time Nettlewick had finished his count of the cash. His pencil
fluttered like a swallow over the sheet of paper on which he had set
his figures. He opened his black wallet, which seemed to be also a
kind of secret memorandum book, made a few rapid figures in it,
wheeled and transfixed Dorsey with the glare of his spectacles. That
look seemed to say: "You're safe this time, but--"
"Cash all correct," snapped the examiner. He made a dash for the
individual bookkeeper, and, for a few minutes there was a fluttering
of ledger leaves and a sailing of balance sheets through the air.
"How often do you balance your pass-books?" he demanded, suddenly.
"Er--once a month," faltered the individual bookkeeper, wondering how
many years they would give him.
"All right," said the examiner, turning and charging upon the general
bookkeeper, who had the statements of his foreign banks and their
reconcilement memoranda ready. Everything there was found to be all
right. Then the stub book of the certificates of deposit. Flutter--
flutter--zip--zip--check! All right. List of over-drafts, please.
Thanks. H'm-m. Unsigned bills of the bank, next. All right.
Then came the cashier's turn, and easy-going Mr. Edlinger rubbed his
nose and polished his glasses nervously under the quick fire of
questions concerning the circulation, undivided profits, bank real
estate, and stock ownership.
Presently Nettlewick was aware of a big man towering above him at his
elbow--a man sixty years of age, rugged and hale, with a rough,
grizzled beard, a mass of gray hair, and a pair of penetrating blue
eyes that confronted the formidable glasses of the examiner without a
"Er--Major Kingman, our president--er--Mr. Nettlewick," said the
Two men of very different types shook hands. One was a finished
product of the world of straight lines, conventional methods, and
formal affairs. The other was something freer, wider, and nearer to
nature. Tom Kingman had not been cut to any pattern. He had been
mule-driver, cowboy, ranger, soldier, sheriff, prospector, and
cattleman. Now, when he was bank president, his old comrades from the
prairies, of the saddle, tent, and trail found no change in him. He
had made his fortune when Texas cattle were at the high tide of value,
and had organized the First National Bank of San Rosario. In spite of
his largeness of heart and sometimes unwise generosity toward his old
friends, the bank had prospered, for Major Tom Kingman knew men as
well as he knew cattle. Of late years the cattle business had known a
depression, and the major's bank was one of the few whose losses had
not been great.
"And now," said the examiner, briskly, pulling out his watch, "the
last thing is the loans. We will take them up now, if you please."
He had gone through the First National at almost record-breaking speed
--but thoroughly, as he did everything. The running order of the bank
was smooth and clean, and that had facilitated his work. There was but
one other bank in the town. He received from the Government a fee of
twenty-five dollars for each bank that he examined. He should be able
to go over those loans and discounts in half an hour. If so, he could
examine the other bank immediately afterward, and catch the 11.45, the
only other train that day in the direction he was working. Otherwise,
he would have to spend the night and Sunday in this uninteresting
Western town. That was why Mr. Nettlewick was rushing matters.
"Come with me, sir," said Major Kingman, in his deep voice, that
united the Southern drawl with the rhythmic twang of the West; "We
will go over them together. Nobody in the bank knows those notes as I
do. Some of 'em are a little wobbly on their legs, and some are
mavericks without extra many brands on their backs, but they'll most
all pay out at the round-up."
The two sat down at the president's desk. First, the examiner went
through the notes at lightning speed, and added up their total,
finding it to agree with the amount of loans carried on the book of
daily balances. Next, he took up the larger loans, inquiring
scrupulously into the condition of their endorsers or securities. The
new examiner's mind seemed to course and turn and make unexpected
dashes hither and thither like a bloodhound seeking a trail. Finally
he pushed aside all the notes except a few, which he arranged in a
neat pile before him, and began a dry, formal little speech.
"I find, sir, the condition of your bank to be very good, considering
the poor crops and the depression in the cattle interests of your
state. The clerical work seems to be done accurately and punctually.
Your past-due paper is moderate in amount, and promises only a small
loss. I would recommend the calling in of your large loans, and the
making of only sixty and ninety day or call loans until general
business revives. And now, there is one thing more, and I will have
finished with the bank. Here are six notes aggregating something like
$40,000. They are secured, according to their faces, by various
stocks, bonds, shares, etc. to the value of $70,000. Those securities
are missing from the notes to which they should be attached. I suppose
you have them in the safe or vault. You will permit me to examine
Major Tom's light-blue eyes turned unflinchingly toward the examiner.
"No, sir," he said, in a low but steady tone; "those securities are
neither in the safe nor in the vault. I have taken them. You may hold
me personally responsible for their absence."
Nettlewick felt a slight thrill. He had not expected this. He had
struck a momentous trail when the hunt was drawing to a close.
"Ah!" said the examiner. He waited a moment, and then continued: "May
I ask you to explain more definitely?"
"The securities were taken by me," repeated the major. "It was not for
my own use, but to save an old friend in trouble. Come in here, sir,
and we'll talk it over."
He led the examiner into the bank's private office at the rear, and
closed the door. There was a desk, and a table, and half-a-dozen
leather-covered chairs. On the wall was the mounted head of a Texas
steer with horns five feet from tip to tip. Opposite hung the major's
old cavalry saber that he had carried at Shiloh and Fort Pillow.
Placing a chair for Nettlewick, the major seated himself by the
window, from which he could see the post-office and the carved
limestone front of the Stockmen's National. He did not speak at once,
and Nettlewick felt, perhaps, that the ice could be broken by
something so near its own temperature as the voice of official
"Your statement," he began, "since you have failed to modify it,
amounts, as you must know, to a very serious thing. You are aware,
also, of what my duty must compel me to do. I shall have to go before
the United States Commissioner and make--"
"I know, I know," said Major Tom, with a wave of his hand. "You don't
suppose I'd run a bank without being posted on national banking laws
and the revised statutes! Do your duty. I'm not asking any favours.
But, I spoke of my friend. I did want you to hear me tell you about
Nettlewick settled himself in his chair. There would be no leaving San
Rosario for him that day. He would have to telegraph to the
Comptroller of the Currency; he would have to swear out a warrant
before the United States Commissioner for the arrest of Major Kingman;
perhaps he would be ordered to close the bank on account of the loss
of the securities. It was not the first crime the examiner had
unearthed. Once or twice the terrible upheaval of human emotions that
his investigations had loosed had almost caused a ripple in his
official calm. He had seen bank men kneel and plead and cry like women
for a chance--an hour's time--the overlooking of a single error. One
cashier had shot himself at his desk before him. None of them had
taken it with the dignity and coolness of this stern old Westerner.
Nettlewick felt that he owed it to him at least to listen if he wished
to talk. With his elbow on the arm of his chair, and his square chin
resting upon the fingers of his right hand, the bank examiner waited
to hear the confession of the president of the First National Bank of
"When a man's your friend," began Major Tom, somewhat didactically,
"for forty years, and tried by water, fire, earth, and cyclones, when
you can do him a little favour you feel like doing it."
("Embezzle for him $70,000 worth of securities," thought the
"We were cowboys together, Bob and I," continued the major, speaking
slowly, and deliberately, and musingly, as if his thoughts were rather
with the past than the critical present, "and we prospected together
for gold and silver over Arizona, New Mexico, and a good part of
California. We were both in the war of 'sixty-one, but in different
commands. We've fought Indians and horse-thieves side by side; we've
starved for weeks in a cabin in the Arizona mountains, buried twenty
feet deep in snow; we've ridden herd together when the wind blew so
hard the lightning couldn't strike--well, Bob and I have been through
some rough spells since the first time we met in the branding camp of
the old Anchor-Bar ranch. And during that time we've found it
necessary more than once to help each other out of tight places. In
those days it was expected of a man to stick to his friend, and he
didn't ask any credit for it. Probably next day you'd need him to get
at your back and help stand off a band of Apaches, or put a tourniquet
on your leg above a rattlesnake bite and ride for whisky. So, after
all, it was give and take, and if you didn't stand square with your
pardner, why, you might be shy one when you needed him. But Bob was a
man who was willing to go further than that. He never played a limit.
"Twenty years ago I was sheriff of this country, and I made Bob my
chief deputy. That was before the boom in cattle when we both made our
stake. I was sheriff and collector, and it was a big thing for me
then. I was married, and we had a boy and a girl--a four and a six
year old. There was a comfortable house next to the courthouse,
furnished by the county, rent free, and I was saving some money. Bob
did most of the office work. Both of us had seen rough times and
plenty of rustling and danger, and I tell you it was great to hear the
rain and the sleet dashing against the windows of nights, and be warm
and safe and comfortable, and know you could get up in the morning and
be shaved and have folks call you 'mister.' And then, I had the finest
wife and kids that ever struck the range, and my old friend with me
enjoying the first fruits of prosperity and white shirts, and I guess
I was happy. Yes, I was happy about that time."
The major sighed and glanced casually out of the window. The bank
examiner changed his position, and leaned his chin upon his other
"One winter," continued the major, "the money for the county taxes
came pouring in so fast that I didn't have time to take the stuff to
the bank for a week. I just shoved the checks into a cigar box and the
money into a sack, and locked them in the big safe that belonged to
the sheriff's office.
"I had been overworked that week, and was about sick, anyway. My
nerves were out of order, and my sleep at night didn't seem to rest
me. The doctor had some scientific name for it, and I was taking
medicine. And so, added to the rest, I went to bed at night with that
money on my mind. Not that there was much need of being worried, for
the safe was a good one, and nobody but Bob and I knew the
combination. On Friday night there was about $6,500 in cash in the
bag. On Saturday morning I went to the office as usual. The safe was
locked, and Bob was writing at his desk. I opened the safe, and the
money was gone. I called Bob, and roused everybody in the court-house
to announce the robbery. It struck me that Bob took it pretty quiet,
considering how much it reflected upon both him and me.
"Two days went by and we never got a clew. It couldn't have been
burglars, for the safe had been opened by the combination in the
proper way. People must have begun to talk, for one afternoon in comes
Alice--that's my wife--and the boy and girl, and Alice stamps her
foot, and her eyes flash, and she cries out, 'The lying wretches--Tom,
Tom!' and I catch her in a faint, and bring her 'round little by
little, and she lays her head down and cries and cries for the first
time since she took Tom Kingman's name and fortunes. And Jack and
Zilla--the youngsters--they were always wild as tiger cubs to rush
over Bob and climb all over him whenever they were allowed to come to
the court-house--they stood and kicked their little shoes, and herded
together like scared partridges. They were having their first trip
down into the shadows of life. Bob was working at his desk, and he got
up and went out without a word. The grand jury was in session then,
and the next morning Bob went before them and confessed that he stole
the money. He said he lost it in a poker game. In fifteen minutes they
had found a true bill and sent me the warrant to arrest the man with
whom I'd been closer than a thousand brothers for many a year.
"I did it, and then I said to Bob, pointing: 'There's my house, and
here's my office, and up there's Maine, and out that way is
California, and over there is Florida--and that's your range 'til
court meets. You're in my charge, and I take the responsibility. You
be here when you're wanted.'
"'Thanks, Tom,' he said, kind of carelessly; 'I was sort of hoping you
wouldn't lock me up. Court meets next Monday, so, if you don't object,
I'll just loaf around the office until then. I've got one favour to
ask, if it isn't too much. If you'd let the kids come out in the yard
once in a while and have a romp I'd like it.'
"'Why not?' I answered him. 'They're welcome, and so are you. And come
to my house, the same as ever.' You see, Mr. Nettlewick, you can't
make a friend of a thief, but neither can you make a thief of a
friend, all at once."
The examiner made no answer. At that moment was heard the shrill
whistle of a locomotive pulling into the depot. That was the train on
the little, narrow-gauge road that struck into San Rosario from the
south. The major cocked his ear and listened for a moment, and looked
at his watch. The narrow-gauge was in on time--10.35. The major
"So Bob hung around the office, reading the papers and smoking. I put
another deputy to work in his place, and after a while, the first
excitement of the case wore off.
"One day when we were alone in the office Bob came over to where I was
sitting. He looked sort of grim and blue--the same look he used to get
when he'd been up watching for Indians all night or herd-riding.
"'Tom,' says he, 'it's harder than standing off redskins; it's harder
than lying in the lava desert forty miles from water; but I'm going to
stick it out to the end. You know that's been my style. But if you'd
tip me the smallest kind of a sign--if you'd just say, "Bob I
understand," why, it would make it lots easier.'
"I was surprised. 'I don't know what you mean, Bob,' I said. 'Of
course, you know that I'd do anything under the sun to help you that I
could. But you've got me guessing.'
"'All right, Tom,' was all he said, and he went back to his newspaper
and lit another cigar.
"It was the night before court met when I found out what he meant. I
went to bed that night with that same old, light-headed, nervous
feeling come back upon me. I dropped off to sleep about midnight. When
I awoke I was standing half dressed in one of the court-house
corridors. Bob was holding one of my arms, our family doctor the
other, and Alice was shaking me and half crying. She had sent for the
doctor without my knowing it, and when he came they had found me out
of bed and missing, and had begun a search.
"'Sleep-walking,' said the doctor.
"All of us went back to the house, and the doctor told us some
remarkable stories about the strange things people had done while in
that condition. I was feeling rather chilly after my trip out, and, as
my wife was out of the room at the time, I pulled open the door of an
old wardrobe that stood in the room and dragged out a big quilt I had
seen in there. With it tumbled out the bag of money for stealing which
Bob was to be tried--and convicted--in the morning.
"'How the jumping rattlesnakes did that get there?' I yelled, and all
hands must have seen how surprised I was. Bob knew in a flash.
"'You darned old snoozer,' he said, with the old-time look on his
face, 'I saw you put it there. I watched you open the safe and take it
out, and I followed you. I looked through the window and saw you hide
it in that wardrobe.'
"'Then, you blankety-blank, flop-eared, sheep-headed coyote, what did
you say you took it, for?'
"'Because,' said Bob, simply, 'I didn't know you were asleep.'
"I saw him glance toward the door of the room where Jack and Zilla
were, and I knew then what it meant to be a man's friend from Bob's
point of view."
Major Tom paused, and again directed his glance out of the window. He
saw some one in the Stockmen's National Bank reach and draw a yellow
shade down the whole length of its plate-glass, big front window,
although the position of the sun did not seem to warrant such a
defensive movement against its rays.
Nettlewick sat up straight in his chair. He had listened patiently,
but without consuming interest, to the major's story. It had impressed
him as irrelevant to the situation, and it could certainly have no
effect upon the consequences. Those Western people, he thought, had an
exaggerated sentimentality. They were not business-like. They needed
to be protected from their friends. Evidently the major had concluded.
And what he had said amounted to nothing.
"May I ask," said the examiner, "if you have anything further to say
that bears directly upon the question of those abstracted securities?"
"Abstracted securities, sir!" Major Tom turned suddenly in his chair,
his blue eyes flashing upon the examiner. "What do you mean, sir?"
He drew from his coat pocket a batch of folded papers held together by
a rubber band, tossed them into Nettlewick's hands, and rose to his
"You'll find those securities there, sir, every stock, bond, and share
of 'em. I took them from the notes while you were counting the cash.
Examine and compare them for yourself."
The major led the way back into the banking room. The examiner,
astounded, perplexed, nettled, at sea, followed. He felt that he had
been made the victim of something that was not exactly a hoax, but
that left him in the shoes of one who had been played upon, used, and
then discarded, without even an inkling of the game. Perhaps, also,
his official position had been irreverently juggled with. But there
was nothing he could take hold of. An official report of the matter
would be an absurdity. And, somehow, he felt that he would never know
anything more about the matter than he did then.
Frigidly, mechanically, Nettlewick examined the securities, found them
to tally with the notes, gathered his black wallet, and rose to
"I will say," he protested, turning the indignant glare of his glasses
upon Major Kingman, "that your statements--your misleading statements,
which you have not condescended to explain--do not appear to be quite
the thing, regarded either as business or humour. I do not understand
such motives or actions."
Major Tom looked down at him serenely and not unkindly.
"Son," he said, "there are plenty of things in the chaparral, and on
the prairies, and up the canyons that you don't understand. But I want
to thank you for listening to a garrulous old man's prosy story. We
old Texans love to talk about our adventures and our old comrades, and
the home folks have long ago learned to run when we begin with 'Once
upon a time,' so we have to spin our yarns to the stranger within our
The major smiled, but the examiner only bowed coldly, and abruptly
quitted the bank. They saw him travel diagonally across the street in
a straight line and enter the Stockmen's National Bank.
Major Tom sat down at his desk, and drew from his vest pocket the note
Roy had given him. He had read it once, but hurriedly, and now, with
something like a twinkle in his eyes, he read it again. These were the
words he read:
I hear there's one of Uncle Sam's grayhounds going through you,
and that means that we'll catch him inside of a couple of hours,
maybe. Now, I want you to do something for me. We've got just
$2,200 in the bank, and the law requires that we have $20,000. I
let Ross and Fisher have $18,000 late yesterday afternoon to buy
up that Gibson bunch of cattle. They'll realise $40,000 in less
than thirty days on the transaction, but that won't make my cash
on hand look any prettier to that bank examiner. Now, I can't show
him those notes, for they're just plain notes of hand without any
security in sight, but you know very well that Pink Ross and Jim
Fisher are two of the finest white men God ever made, and they'll
do the square thing. You remember Jim Fisher--he was the one who
shot that faro dealer in El Paso. I wired Sam Bradshaw's bank to
send me $20,000, and it will get in on the narrow-gauge at 10.35.
You can't let a bank examiner in to count $2,200 and close your
doors. Tom, you hold that examiner. Hold him. Hold him if you have
to rope him and sit on his head. Watch our front window after the
narrow-gauge gets in, and when we've got the cash inside we'll
pull down the shade for a signal. Don't turn him loose till then.
I'm counting on you, Tom.
Your Old Pard,
/Prest. Stockmen's National/.
The major began to tear the note into small pieces and throw them into
his waste basket. He gave a satisfied chuckle as he did so.
"Confounded old reckless cowpuncher!" he growled, contentedly, "that
pays him some on account for what he tried to do for me in the
sheriff's office twenty years ago."
THE FOURTH IN SALVADOR
On a summer's day, while the city was rocking with the din and red
uproar of patriotism, Billy Casparis told me this story.
In his way, Billy is Ulysses, Jr. Like Satan, he comes from going to
and fro upon the earth and walking up and down in it. To-morrow
morning while you are cracking your breakfast egg he may be off with
his little alligator grip to boom a town site in the middle of Lake
Okeechobee or to trade horses with the Patagonians.
We sat at a little, round table, and between us were glasses holding
big lumps of ice, and above us leaned an artificial palm. And because
our scene was set with the properties of the one they recalled to his
mind, Billy was stirred to narrative.
"It reminds me," said he, "of a Fourth I helped to celebrate down in
Salvador. 'Twas while I was running an ice factory down there, after I
unloaded that silver mine I had in Colorado. I had what they called a
'conditional concession.' They made me put up a thousand dollars cash
forfeit that I would make ice continuously for six months. If I did
that I could draw down my ante. If I failed to do so the government
took the pot. So the inspectors kept dropping in, trying to catch me
without the goods.
"One day when the thermometer was at 110, the clock at half-past one,
and the calendar at July third, two of the little, brown, oily nosers
in red trousers slid in to make an inspection. Now, the factory hadn't
turned out a pound of ice in three weeks, for a couple of reasons. The
Salvador heathen wouldn't buy it; they said it make things cold they
put it in. And I couldn't make any more, because I was broke. All I
was holding on for was to get down my thousand so I could leave the
country. The six months would be up on the sixth of July.
"Well, I showed 'em all the ice I had. I raised the lid of a darkish
vat, and there was an elegant 100-pound block of ice, beautiful and
convincing to the eye. I was about to close down the lid again when
one of those brunette sleuths flops down on his red knees and lays a
slanderous and violent hand on my guarantee of good faith. And in two
minutes more they had dragged out on the floor that fine chunk of
molded glass that had cost me fifty dollars to have shipped down from
"'Ice-y?' says the fellow that played me the dishonourable trick;
'verree warm ice-y. Yes. The day is that hot, senor. Yes. Maybeso it
is of desirableness to leave him out to get the cool. Yes.'
"'Yes,' says I, 'yes,' for I knew they had me. 'Touching's believing,
ain't it, boys? Yes. Now there's some might say the seats of your
trousers are sky blue, but 'tis my opinion they are red. Let's apply
the tests of the laying on of hands and feet.' And so I hoisted both
those inspectors out the door on the toe of my shoe, and sat down to
cool off on my block of disreputable glass.
"And, as I live without oats, while I sat there, homesick for money
and without a cent to my ambition, there came on the breeze the most
beautiful smell my nose had entered for a year. God knows where it
came from in that backyard of a country--it was a bouquet of soaked
lemon peel, cigar stumps, and stale beer--exactly the smell of
Goldbrick Charley's place on Fourteenth Street where I used to play
pinochle of afternoons with the third-rate actors. And that smell
drove my troubles through me and clinched 'em at the back. I began to
long for my country and feel sentiments about it; and I said words
about Salvador that you wouldn't think could come legitimate out of an
"And while I was sitting there, down through the blazing sunshine in
his clean, white clothes comes Maximilian Jones, an American
interested in rubber and rosewood.
"'Great carrambos!' says I, when he stepped in, for I was in a bad
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