She sprang up and at the same time there was a great boom from within the car. The side bulged out—a section of the top lifted and fell back with a crash—and Silent ran back into the smoke. Haines, Purvis, and Kilduff were instantly at the car, taking the ponderous little canvas sacks of coin as their chief handed them out.
Within two minutes after the explosion ten small sacks were deposited in the saddlebags on the horses which stood before the station-house. Silent’s whistle called in Terry Jordan and Shorty Rhinehart—a sharp order forced Kate to climb into her saddle—and the train robbers struck up the hillside at a racing pace. A confused shouting rose behind them. Rifles commenced to crack where some of the passengers had taken up the weapons of the dead guards, but the bullets flew wide, and the little troop was soon safely out of range.
On the other side of the hill-top they changed their course to the right. For half an hour the killing pace continued, and then, as there was not a sign of immediate chase, the lone riders drew down to a soberer pace. Silent called: “Keep bunched behind me. We’re headed for the old Salton place—an’ a long rest.”
Some people pointed out that Sheriff Gus Morris had never made a single important arrest in the ten years during which he had held office, and there were a few slanderers who spoke insinuatingly of the manner in which the lone riders flourished in Morris’s domain. These “knockers,” however, were voted down by the vast majority, who swore that the sheriff was the finest fellow who ever threw leg over saddle. They liked him for his inexhaustible good-nature, the mellow baritone in which he sang the range songs at any one’s request, and perhaps more than all, for the very laxness with which he conducted his work. They had had enough of the old school of sheriffs who lived a few months gun in hand and died fighting from the saddle. The office had never seemed desirable until Gus Morris ran for it and smiled his way to a triumphant election.
Before his career as an office-holder began, he ran a combined general merchandise store, saloon, and hotel. That is to say, he ran the hostelry in name. The real executive head, general manager, clerk, bookkeeper, and cook, and sometimes even bartender was his daughter, Jacqueline. She found the place only a saloon, and a poorly patronized one at that. Her unaided energy gradually made it into a hotel, restaurant, and store. Even while her father was in office he spent most of his time around the hotel; but no matter how important he might be elsewhere, in his own house he had no voice. There the only law was the will of Jacqueline.