He turned directly to Dan.
“But all this is aside from the point, which is that the whole country is full of these silent partners of the outlaws. The law plays a lone hand in the mountain-desert.”
“You’ve played the lone hand and won twenty times,” said Dan.
“Ay, but the twenty-first time I may fail. The difference between success and failure in this country is just the length of time it takes to pull a trigger—and Silent is fast with a gun. He’s the root of the outlaw power. We may kill a hundred men, but till he’s gone we’ve only mowed the weeds, not pulled them. But what’s the use of talking? One second will tell the tale when I stand face to face with Jim Silent and we go for our six-guns. And somewhere between that rising sun and those mountains I’ll find Jim Silent and the end of things for one of us.”
He started his cattle-pony into a sudden gallop, and they drove on into the bright morning.
Hardly a score of miles away, Jim Silent and his six companions topped a hill. He raised his hand and the others drew rein beside him. Kate Cumberland shifted her weight a little to one side of the saddle to rest and looked down from the crest on the sweep of country below. A mile away the railroad made a streak of silver light across the brown range and directly before them stood the squat station-house with red-tiled roof. Just before the house, a slightly broader streak of that gleaming light showed the position of the siding rails. She turned her head towards the outlaws. They were listening to the final directions of their chief, and the darkly intent faces told their own story. She knew, from what she had gathered of their casual hints, that this was to be the scene of the train hold-up.
It seemed impossible that this little group of men could hold the great fabric of a train with all its scores of passengers at their mercy. In spite of herself, half her heart wished them success. There was Terry Jordan forgetful of the wound in his arm; Shorty Rhinehart, his saturnine face longer and more calamitous than ever; Hal Purvis, grinning and nodding his head; Bill Kilduff with his heavy jaw set like a bull dog’s; Lee Haines, with a lock of tawny hair blowing over his forehead, smiling faintly as he listened to Silent as if he heard a girl tell a story of love; and finally Jim Silent himself, huge, solemn, confident. She began to feel that these six men were worth six hundred.
She hated them for some reasons; she feared them for others; but the brave blood of Joe Cumberland was thick in her and she loved the danger of the coming moment. Their plans were finally agreed upon, their masks arranged, and after Haines had tied a similar visor over Kate’s face, they started down the hill at a swinging gallop.
In front of the house of the station-agent they drew up, and while the others were at their horses, Lee Haines dismounted and rapped loudly at the door. It was opened by a grey-bearded man smoking a pipe. Haines covered him. He tossed up his hands and the pipe dropped from his mouth.