On our return to the cars there was a telegram from the Postmaster-General awaiting me. After a glance at it, as the rest of the party looked anxiously on, I passed it over to Miss Cullen, for I wanted her to have the triumph of reading it aloud to them. It read—
“Hold letters pending arrival of special agent Jackson, due in Flagstaff October twentieth.”
“The election is the eighteenth,” Frederic laughed, executing a war dance on the platform. “The G.S.’s dough is cooked.”
“I must waltz with some one,” cried Madge, and before I could offer she took hold of Albert and the two went whirling about, much to my envy. The Cullens were about the most jubilant road agents I had ever seen.
After consultation with Mr. Cullen, we had 218 and 97 attached to No. 1 when it arrived, and started for Ash Fork. He wanted to be on the ground a day in advance, and I could easily be back in Flagstaff before the arrival of the special agent.
I took dinner in 218, and they toasted me, as if I had done something heroic instead of merely having sent a telegram. Later four sat down to poker, while Miss Cullen, Fred and I went out and sat on the platform of the car while Madge played on her guitar and sang to us. She had a very sweet voice, and before she had been singing long we had the crew of a “dust express”—as we jokingly call a gravel train—standing about, and they were speedily reinforced by many cowboys, who deserted the medley of cracked pianos or accordions of the Western saloons to listen to her, and who, not being overcareful in the terms with which they expressed their approval, finally by their riotous admiration drove us inside. At Miss Cullen’s suggestion we three had a second game of poker, but with chips and not money. She was an awfully reckless player, and the luck was dead in my favor, so Madge kept borrowing my chips, till she was so deep in that we both lost account. Finally, when we parted for the night she held out her hand, and, in the prettiest of ways, said—
“I am so deeply in your debt, Mr. Gordon, that I don’t see how I can ever repay you.”
I tried to think of something worth saying, but the words wouldn’t come, and I could only shake her hand. But, duffer as I was, the way she had said those words, and the double meaning she had given them, would have made me the happiest fellow alive if I could only have forgotten the existence of Lord Ralles.
HOW DID THE SECRET LEAK OUT?
I made up for my three nights’ lack of sleep by not waking the next morning till after ten. When I went to 218, I found only the chef, and he told me the party had gone for a ride. Since I couldn’t talk to Madge, I went to work at my desk, for I had been rather neglecting my routine work. While I still wrote, I heard horses’ hoofs and, looking up, saw the Cullens returning.