Mormon Joe – The Robber

“Dick came with a sandwich in one hand and a can of coffee in the other. This reminded Barney of his lunch, and setting his torch down on the top of the cab, he scrambled down on the other side and hurried off to the sand-dryer, where the gang used to eat their dyspepsia insurance and swap lies.

“After listening a moment, to be sure I was alone, I stepped lightly to the cab, and in a minute the two heavy and dangerous packages were side by side again.

“But just here an inspiration struck me. I opened the front door of the cab, stepped out on the running-board, and a second later was holding Barney’s smoking torch down in the dome.

“The throttle occupied most of the space, but there was considerable room each side of it and a good two feet between the top of the boiler shell and the top row of flues. I took one of the bags of gold, held it down at arm’s length, swung it backward and forward a time or two, and let go, so as to drop it well ahead on the flues: the second bag followed at once, and again I held down the light to see if the bags were out of sight; satisfied on this point, I got down, took my clothes under my arm, and jumped off the engine into the arms of the night foreman.”

“‘What did you call me for? That engine is not ready to go out on the extra,’ I demanded, off-hand.

“‘I ain’t called you; you’re dreaming.’

“‘May be I am,’ said I, ‘but I would ‘a swore some one came and called under my window that I got out at 2:10, on a stock-train, extra.’

“Just then, Barney and Dick came back, and I soon had the satisfaction of seeing the cover screwed down on my secret and a fire built under it — then I went home and slept.

“I guess it was four round trips that I made with the old pelter, before Kelly put this and that together, and decided to put me where the dogs wouldn’t bite me.

“I appeared as calm as I could, and set the example since followed by politicians, that of ‘dignified silence.’ Kelly tried to work one of the ‘fellow convict’ rackets on me, but I made no confessions. I soon became a martyr, in the eyes of the women of the town. You boys got to talking of backing up a suit for false imprisonment; election was coming on and the sheriff and county judge were getting uneasy, and the district attorney was awfully unhappy, so they let me out.

“Nixon, the sheriff, pumped me slyly, to see what effect my imprisonment would have on future operations, and I told him I didn’t propose to lose any time over it, and agreed to drop the matter for a little nest-egg equal to the highest pay received by any engineer on the road. Pat Dailey was the worst hog for overtime, and I selected his pay as the standard and took big money, — from the campaign funds. I wasn’t afraid of re-arrest; — I had ’em for bribery.

“Whilst I was in hock, I had cold chills every time I heard the 313’s whistle, for fear they would wash her out and find the dust; but she gave up nothing.

“When I reported for work, the old scrap was out on construction and they were disposed to put me on another mill, pulling varnished cars, but I told the old man I was under the weather and ‘crummy,’ and that put him in a good humor; and I was sent out to a desolate siding, and once again took charge, of the steam ‘fence,’ for the robber of the Black Prince mine.

“On Sunday, by a little maneuvering, I managed to get the crew to go off on a trout-fishing expedition, and under pretext of grinding-in her chronically leaky throttle, I took off her dome-cover and looked in; there was nothing in sight.

“I was afraid that the cooking of two months or more had destroyed the canvas bags; then again the heavy deposit of scale might have cemented the bags to the flues. In either case, rough handling would send the dust to the bottom of the boiler, making it difficult if not impossible to recover; and worse yet, manifest itself sometime and give me dead away.

“I concluded to go at the matter right, and after two hours of hard work, managed to get the upright throttle-pipe out of the dome. I drew her water down below the flue-line, and though it was tolerably warm, I got in.

“Both of my surmises were partially correct; the canvas was rotted, in a measure, and the bags were fastened to the flues. The dust had been put up in buckskin bags, first, and these had been put into shot-sacks; the buckskin was shrunken but intact. I took a good look around, before I dared take the treasure into the sunlight; but the coast was clear, and inside of an hour they were locked in my clothes-box, and the cover was on the kettle again and I was pumping her up by hand.

“I was afraid something would happen to me or the engine, so I buried the packages in a bunch of willows near the track.

“It must have been two weeks after this that a mover’s wagon stopped near the creek within half a mile of the track, and hobbled horses soon began to ‘rustle’ grass, and the smoke of a camp-fire hunted the clouds.

“We saw this sort of thing often, and I didn’t any more than glance at it; but after supper I sauntered down by the engine, smoking and thinking of Rachel Rokesby, when I noticed a woman walking towards me, pail in hand.

“She had on a sunbonnet that hid her face and she got within ten feet of me before she spoke — she asked for a pail of drinking-water from the tank — the creek was muddy from a recent rain.

“Just as soon as she spoke, I knew it was Rachel, but I controlled myself, for others were within hearing. I walked with her to the engine and got the water; I purposely drew the pail full, which she promptly spilled, and I offered to carry it for her.

“The crew watched us walk away and I heard some of them mention ‘mash,’ but I didn’t care, I wanted a word with my girl.

“When we were out of earshot, she asked without looking up:

“‘Well, old coolness, are you all right?’

“‘You bet! darling.’

“‘Papa has sold out his half and we are going away for good. I think if we get rid of the dust without trouble, we may go to England. Just as soon as all is safe, you shall hear from me; can’t you trust me, Joe?’

“‘Yes, Rachel, darling; now and forever.’

“‘Where’s the gold?’

“‘Within one hundred feet of you, in those willows; when it is dark, I will go and get it and put it on that stump by the big tree; go then and get it. But where will you put it?’

“‘I’m going to pack it in the bottom of a jar of butter.’

“‘Good idea, little girl! I think you’d make a good thief yourself. How’s my friend, Sanson?’

“‘He’s gone to Mexico; says yet that papa robbed him, but he knows as well as you or I that all his bluster was because he only found half that he expected; I pride myself on getting ahead of a wicked man once, thanks to our hero, by the name of Hogg.’

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