“You bet I’m going,” said Jimmy, “I don’t care if it is only a little compared to what Bright and you fellows are sending. It’s a heap sight to us, and I’m going to see it safe to the city. No more spooks in mine. I got my fingers crossed. Allah skazallalum! I don’t know what a ghost would want with cash assets, but they seemed to use George’s and my little old five hundred, all right.”
Twelve months went by. Two expresses a month toiled up the road. Nothing happened. Finally Jimmy decided that four good working days a month were a good deal to pay for apparently useless supervision. Three men comprised the shot-gun guard. They, with the driver, were considered ample.
“You’ll have to get on without me,” said Jimmy to them in farewell. “Be good boys. We’ve got the biggest clean-up yet aboard you.”
They started on the twenty-fifth trip since the hold-up. After a time, far up the mountain was heard a single shot. Inside of two hours the express drew sorrowfully into camp. The driver appeared to be alone. In the bottom of the wagon were the three guards weak and sick. The gold sacks were very much absent.
“Done it again,” said the driver. “Ain’t more than got started afore the whole outfit’s down with the belly-ache. Too much of that cursed salmon. Told ’em so. I didn’t eat none. That road agent hit her lucky this trip sure. He was all organized for business. Never showed himself at all. Just opened fire. Sent a bullet through the top of my hat. He’s either a damn good shot or a damn poor one. I hung up both hands and yelled we was down and out. What could I do? This outfit couldn’t a fit a bumble bee. And I couldn’t git away, or git hold of no gun, or see anything to shoot, if I did. He was behind that big rock.”
The men nodded. They were many of them hard hit, but they had lived too long in the West not to recognize the justice of the driver’s implied contention that he had done his best.
“He told me to throw out them sacks, and to be damn quick about it,” went on the driver. “Then I drove home.”
“What sort of a lookin’ fellow was he?” asked someone. “Same one as last year?”
“I never seen him,” said the driver. “He hung behind his rock. He was organized for shoot, and if the messengers hadn’t happened to’ a’ been out of it, I believe he could have killed us all.”
“What did his hoss look like?” inquired California John.
“He didn’t have no horse,” stated the driver. “Leastways, not near him. There was no cover. He might have been around a p’int. And I can sw’ar to this: there weren’t no tracks of no kind from there to camp.”
They caught up horses and started out. When they came to the Lost Dog, they stopped and looked at each other.
“Poor old Babes,” said Simmins. “Biggest clean-up yet; and first time one of ’em didn’t go ’long.”
“I’m glad they didn’t,” said Tibbetts. “That agent would have killed ’em shore!”