“It was getting dusk and we were out of sight, so I sat down the pail and asked:
“‘Do I get a kiss, this evening?’
“‘If you want one.’
“‘There’s only one thing I want worse.’
“‘What is that, Joe?’
“My arm was around her waist now, and the sunbonnet was shoved back from the face. I took a couple of cream-puffs where they were ripe, and answered:
“That message to come and have that talk about matrimony.’
“Here a man’s voice was heard calling: ‘Rachel! Rachel!’ and throwing her arms around my neck, she gave me one more kiss, snatched up her pail and answered:
“‘Yes; I’m coming.’
“Then to me, hurriedly:
“‘Good-by, dear; wait patiently, you shall hear from me.’
“I went back and put the dangerous dust on the stump and returned to the bunk-car. The next morning when I turned out, the outlines of the wagon were dimly discernible away on a hill in the road; it had been gone an hour.
“I walked down past my stump — the gold was gone.
“Well, John, I settled down to work and to wait for that precious letter that would summon me to the side of Rachel Rokesby, wherever she was; but it never came. Uncle Sam never delivered a line to me from her from that day to this.”
Joe kicked the burning sticks in our fire closer together, lit his pipe and then proceeded:
“I was hopeful for a month or two; then got impatient, and finally got angry, but it ended in despair. A year passed away before I commenced to hunt, instead of waiting to be hunted; but after another year I gave it up, and came to the belief that Rachel was dead or married to another. But the very minute that such a treasonable thought flashed through my mind, my heart held up the image of her pure face and rebuked me.
“I was discharged finally, for forgetting orders — I was thinking of something else — then I commenced to pull myself together and determined to control myself. I held the job in Arizona almost a year, but the mill company busted; then I drifted down on to the Mexican National, when it was building, and got a job. A few months later, it came to my ears that one of our engineers, Billy Gardiner, was in one of their damnable prisons, for running over a Greaser, and I organized a relief expedition. I called on Gardiner, and talked over his trouble fully; he was in a loathsome dobie hole, full of vermin, and dark. As I sat talking to him, I noticed an old man, chained to the wall in a little entry on the other side of the room. His beard was grizzly white, long and tangled. He was hollow-cheeked and wild-eyed, and looked at me in a strange, fascinated way.
“‘What’s he in for,’ I whispered to Gardiner.
“‘Murdered his partner in a mining camp. Got caught in the act. He don’t know it yet, but he’s condemned to be shot next Friday — to-morrow. Poor devil, he’s half crazy, anyhow.’
“As I got up to go, the old man made a sharp hiss, and as I turned to look at him, he beckoned with his finger. I took a step or two nearer, and he asked, in an audible whisper:
“‘Mr. Hogg, don’t you know me?’
“I looked at him long and critically, and then said:
“‘No; I never saw you before.’
“‘Yes; that’s so,’ said he; ‘but I have seen you, many times. You remember the Black Prince robbery?’
“‘Yes, indeed; then you are Sanson?’
“‘Rokesby! My God, man, where’s Rachel?’
“‘I thought so,’ he muttered. ‘Well, she’s in England, but I’m here.’
“‘What part of England?’
“‘Sit down on that box, Mr. Hogg, and I will tell you something.’
“‘Is she married?’ I asked eagerly.
“‘No, lad, she ain’t, and what’s more, she won’t be till she marries you, so be easy there.’
“Just here a pompous Mexican official strode in, stepped up in front of the old man and read something in Spanish.
“‘What in hell did he say?’ asked the prisoner of Gardiner.
“‘Something about sentence, pardner.’
“‘Well, it’s time they was doing something; did he say when it was?’
“‘Good enough; I’m dead sick o’ this.