Suddenly realizing that something was wrong in his end of the car, Buck stood up, gripping the top of the piano-box. The scream of the engine startled him. The car crashed over the switch-frog at Curecanti, and Curecanti’s Needle stabbed the starry vault above. The car swayed strangely and the lights grew dim.
Suddenly the awful truth flashed through his bewildered brain.
“O-o-o-oh, the wench!” he hissed, pulling his guns.
* * * * *
Cassidy, absorbed in the photo, heard a door slam; and it came to him instantly that Nora had boarded the train at Gunnison, and that some one was showing her over to the head end. As he turned to meet her, he saw Buck staggering toward him, holding a murderous gun in each hand. Instantly he reached for his revolver, but a double flash from the guns of the enemy blinded him and put out the bracket-lamps. As the messenger sprang forward to find his foe, the desperado lunged against him. Cassidy grabbed him, lifted him bodily, and smashed him to the floor of the car; but with the amazing tenacity and wonderful agility of the trained gun-fighter, Buck managed to fire as he fell. The big bullet grazed the top of Cassidy’s head, and he fell unconscious across the half-dead desperado.
Buck felt about for his gun, which had fallen from his hand; but already the “bug-dust” was getting in its work. Sighing heavily, he joined the messenger in a quiet sleep.
At Cimarron they broke the car open, revived the sleepers, restored the outlaw to the Ohio State Prison, from which he had escaped, and the messenger to Nora O’Neal.
When Bill Ross romped up over the range and blew into Edmonton in the wake of a warm chinook, bought tobacco at the Hudson’s Bay store, and began to regale the gang with weird tales of true fissures, paying placers, and rich loads lying “virgin,” as he said, in Northern British Columbia, the gang accepted his tobacco and stories for what they were worth; for it is a tradition up there that all men who come in with the Mudjekeewis are liars.
That was thirty years ago.
The same chinook winds that wafted Bill Ross and his rose-hued romances into town have winged them, and the memory of them, away.
In the meantime Ross reformed, forgot, the people forgave and made him Mayor of Edmonton.
* * * * *
When Jack Ramsey called at the capital of British Columbia and told of a territory in that great Province where the winter winds blew warm, where snow fell only once in a while and was gone again with the first peep of the sun; of a mountain-walled wonderland between the Coast Range and the Rockies, where flowers bloomed nine months in the year and gold could be panned on almost any of the countless rivers, men said he had come down from Alaska, and that he lied.