“She has nearly worried herself to death ever since you told her that road agents were hung,” Frederic whispered; “and she’s been crying to-night over that lie she told you, and altogether she’s worn out with travel and excitement.”
I screwed the cover on the traveling-glass, and put it with the sandwiches in the bottom of the stage. “It’s a long and a rough ride,” I said, “and if she wakes up they may give her a little strength. I only wish I could have spared her the fatigue and anxiety.”
“She thought she had to lie for father’s sake, but she’s nearly broken-hearted over it,” he continued. I looked Frederic in the face as I said, “I honor her for it,” and in that moment he and I became friends.
“Just see how pretty she is!” he whispered, with evident affection and pride, turning back the flap of the rug in which she was wrapped.
She was breathing gently, and there was just that touch of weariness and sadness in her face that would appeal to any man. It made me gulp, I’m proud to say; and when I was back on my pony, I said to myself, “For her sake, I’ll pull the Cullens out of this scrape, if it costs me my position.”
A CHANGE OF BASE
We did not reach Flagstaff till seven, and I told the stageload to take possession of their car, while I went to my own. It took me some time to get freshened up, and then I ate my breakfast; for after riding seventy-two miles in one night even the most heroic purposes have to take the side-track. I think, as it was, I proved my devotion pretty well by not going to sleep, since I had been up three nights, with only such naps as I could steal in the saddle, and had ridden over a hundred and fifty miles to boot. But I couldn’t bear to think of Miss Cullen’s anxiety, and the moment I had made myself decent, and finished eating, I went into 218.
The party were all in the dining-room, but it was a very different-looking crowd from the one with which that first breakfast had been eaten, and they all looked at me as I entered as if I were the executioner come for victims.
“Mr. Cullen,” I began, “I’ve been forced to do a lot of things that weren’t pleasant, but I don’t want to do more than I need. You’re not the ordinary kind of road agents, and, as I presume your address is known, I don’t see any need of arresting one of our own directors as yet. All I ask is that you give me your word, for the party, that none of you will try to leave the country.”
“Certainly, Mr. Gordon,” he responded. “And I thank you for your great consideration.”
“I shall have to report the case to our president, and, I suppose, to the Postmaster-General, but I sha’n’t hurry about either. What they will do, I can’t say. Probably you know how far you can keep them quiet.”
“I think the local authorities are all I have to fear, provided time is given me.”