THE LETTERS CHANGE HANDS AGAIN
What seemed at the moment an incomprehensible puzzle had, as we afterward learned, a very simple explanation. One of the G.S. directors, Mr. Baldwin, who had come in on Mr. Camp’s car, was the owner of a great cattle-ranch near Rock Butte. When the train had been held at that station for a few minutes, Camp went to the conductor, demanded the cause for the delay, and was shown my telegram. Seeing through the device, the party had at once gone to this ranch, where the owner, Baldwin, mounted them, and it was their dust-cloud we had seen as they rode up to Ash Fork. To make matters more serious, Baldwin had rounded up his cowboys and brought them along with him, in order to make any resistance impossible.
I made no objection to the sheriff serving the paper, though it nearly broke my heart to see Madge’s face. To cheer her I said, suggestively, “They’ve got me, but they haven’t got the letters, Miss Cullen. And, remember, it’s always darkest before the dawn, and the stars in their courses are against Sisera.”
With the sheriff and Mr. Camp I then walked over to the saloon, where Judge Wilson was waiting to dispose of my case. Mr. Cullen and Albert tried to come too, but all outsiders were excluded by order of the “court.” I was told to show cause why I should not forthwith produce the letters, and answered that I asked an adjournment of the case so that I might be heard by counsel. It was denied, as was to have been expected; indeed, why they took the trouble to go through the forms was beyond me. I told Wilson I should not produce the letters, and he asked if I knew what that meant. I couldn’t help laughing and retorting—
“It very appropriately means ‘contempt of the court,’ your honor.”
“I’ll give you a stiff term, young man,” he said.
“It will take just one day to have habeas corpus proceedings in a United States court, and one more to get the papers here,” I rejoined pleasantly.
Seeing that I understood the moves too well to be bluffed, the judge, Mr. Camp, and the lawyer held a whispered consultation. My surprise can be imagined when, at its conclusion, Mr. Camp said—
“Your honor, I charge Richard Gordon with being concerned in the holding up of the Missouri Western Overland No. 3 on the night of October 14, and ask that he be taken into custody on that charge.”
I couldn’t make out this new move, and puzzled over it, while Judge Wilson ordered my commitment. But the next step revealed the object, for the lawyer then asked for a search-warrant to look for stolen property. The judge was equally obliging, and began to fill one out on the instant.
This made me feel pretty serious, for the letters were in my breast-pocket, and I swore at my own stupidity in not having put them in the station safe when I had first arrived at Ash Fork. There weren’t many moments in which to think while the judge scribbled away at the warrant, but in what time there was I did a lot of head-work, without, however, finding more than one way out of the snarl. And when I saw the judge finish off his signature with a flourish, I played a pretty desperate card.