“Just say what you want,” said a voice in the gloom, “and we’ll pass it out to you.”
The sheriff became busy with some curves and reverse curves now, and made no reply.
Presently the Governor came to the window in the rear door again and called up the sheriff.
“We are now nearing the border,” he said to the man on the platform. “They won’t know you over there. Here you stand for law and order, and I respect you, though I don’t care to meet you personally; but over the border you’ll only stand for your sentence,—two years for carrying a cannon on your hip,—and then they’ll take you away to prison.”
The sheriff made no answer.
“Now we’re going to slow down at the line to about twenty miles an hour, more or less; and if you’ll take a little friendly advice, you’ll fall off.”
The train was still running at a furious pace. The whistle sounded,—one long, wild scream,—and the speed of the train slackened.
“Here you are,” the Governor called, and the sheriff stood on the lower step.
The door opened and the Governor stepped out on the platform, followed by his companions.
“I arrest you,” the sheriff shouted, “all of you.”
“But you can’t,—you’re in British Columbia,” the men laughed.
“Let go, now,” said the Governor, and a moment later the deputy picked himself up and limped back over the border.
One Christmas, at least, will live long in the memory of the men and women who hung up their stockings at La Veta Hotel in Gunnison in 18—. Ah, those were the best days of Colorado. Then folks were brave and true to the traditions of Red Hoss Mountain, when “money flowed like liquor,” and coal strikes didn’t matter, for the people all had something to burn.
The Yankee proprietor of the dining-stations on this mountain line had made them as famous almost as the Harvey houses on the Santa Fe were; which praise is pardonable, since the Limited train with its cafe car has closed them all.
But the best of the bunch was La Veta, and the presiding genius was Nora O’Neal, the lady manager. Many an R. & W. excursionist reading this story will recall her smile, her great gray eyes, her heaps of dark brown hair, and the mountain trout that her tables held.
It will be remembered that at that time the main lines of the Rio Grande lay by the banks of the Gunnison, through the Black Canon, over Cerro Summit, and down the Uncompaghre and the Grande to Grand Junction, the gate of the Utah Desert.
John Cassidy was an express messenger whose run was over this route and whose heart and its secret were in the keeping of Nora O’Neal.
From day to day, from week to week, he had waited her answer, which was to come to him “by Christmas.”
And now, as only two days remained, he dreaded it, as he had hoped and prayed for it since the aspen leaves began to gather their gold. He knew by the troubled look she wore when off her guard that Nora was thinking.