A NIGHT’S WORK ON THE ALKALI PLAINS
I hurried Miss Cullen into the car, and, after bolting the rear door, took down my Winchester from its rack.
“I’m going forward,” I told her, “and will tell my darkies to bolt the front door: so you’ll be as safe in here as in Chicago.”
In another minute I was on my front platform. Dropping down between the two cars, I crept along beside—indeed, half under—Mr. Cullen’s special. After my previous conclusion, my surprise can be judged when at the farther end I found the two Britishers and Albert Cullen, standing there in the most exposed position possible. I joined them, muttering to myself something about Providence and fools.
“Aw,” drawled Cullen, “here’s Mr. Gordon, just too late for the sport, by Jove.”
“Well,” bragged Lord Ralles, “we’ve had a hand in this deal, Mr. Superintendent, and haven’t been potted. The scoundrels broke for cover the moment we opened fire.”
By this time there were twenty passengers about our group, all of them asking questions at once, making it difficult to learn just what had happened; but, so far as I could piece the answers together, the poker-players’ curiosity had been aroused by the long stop, and, looking out, they had seen a single man with a rifle standing by the engine. Instantly arming themselves, Lord Ralles let fly both barrels at him, and in turn was the target for the first four shots I had heard. The shooting had brought the rest of the robbers tumbling off the cars, and the captain and Cullen had fired the rest of the shots at them as they scattered, I didn’t stop to hear more, but went forward to see what the road agents had got away with.
I found the express agent tied hand and foot in the corner of his car, and, telling a brakeman who had followed me to set him at liberty, I turned my attention to the safe. That the diversion had not come a moment too soon was shown by the dynamite cartridge already in place, and by the fuse that lay on the floor, as if dropped suddenly. But the safe was intact.
Passing into the mail-car, I found the clerk tied to a post, with a mail-sack pulled over his head, and the utmost confusion among the pouches and sorting-compartments, while scattered over the floor were a great many letters. Setting him at liberty, I asked him if he could tell whether mail had been taken, and, after a glance at the confusion, he said he could not know till he had examined.
Having taken stock of the harm done, I began asking questions. Just after we had left Sanders, two masked men had entered the mail-car, and while one covered the clerk with a revolver the other had tied and “sacked” him. Two more had gone forward and done the same to the express agent. Another had climbed over the tender and ordered the runner to hold up. All this was regular programme,