The Passing of Black Eagle

For some months of a cer­tain year a grim ban­dit in­fested the Texas bor­der along the Rio Grande. Pe­cu­liarly strik­ing to the optic nerve was this no­to­ri­ous ma­rauder. His per­son­al­ity se­cured him the title of “Black Eagle, the Ter­ror of the Bor­der.” Many fear­some tales are on record con­cern­ing the do­ings of him and his fol­low­ers. Sud­denly, in the space of a sin­gle minute, Black Eagle van­ished from earth. He was never heard of again. His own band never even guessed the mys­tery of his dis­ap­pear­ance. The bor­der ranches and set­tle­ments feared he would come again to ride and rav­age the mesquite flats. He never will. It is to dis­close the fate of Black Eagle that this nar­ra­tive is writ­ten.

The ini­tial move­ment of the story is fur­nished by the foot of a bar­tender in St. Louis. His dis­cern­ing eye fell upon the form of Chicken Rug­gles as he pecked with avid­ity at the free lunch. Chicken was a “hobo.” He had a long nose like the bill of a fowl, an in­or­di­nate ap­petite for poul­try, and a habit of grat­i­fy­ing it with­out ex­pense, which ac­counts for the name given him by his fel­low va­grants.

Physi­cians agree that the par­tak­ing of liq­uids at meal times is not a healthy prac­tice. The hy­giene of the sa­loon pro­mul­gates the op­po­site. Chicken had ne­glected to pur­chase a drink to ac­com­pany his meal. The bar­tender rounded the counter, caught the in­ju­di­cious diner by the ear with a lemon squeezer, led him to the door and kicked him into the street.

Thus the mind of Chicken was brought to re­al­ize the signs of com­ing win­ter. The night was cold; the stars shone with un­kindly bril­liancy; peo­ple were hur­ry­ing along the streets in two ego­tis­tic, jostling streams. Men had donned their over­coats, and Chicken knew to an exact per­cent­age the in­creased dif­fi­culty of coax­ing dimes from those but­toned-in vest pock­ets. The time had come for his an­nual ex­o­dus to the south.

A lit­tle boy, five or six years old, stood look­ing with cov­etous eyes in a con­fec­tioner’s win­dow. In one small hand he held an empty two-ounce vial; in the other he grasped tightly some­thing flat and round, with a shin­ing milled edge. The scene pre­sented a field of op­er­a­tions com­men­su­rate to Chicken’s tal­ents and dar­ing. After sweep­ing the hori­zon to make sure that no of­fi­cial tug was cruis­ing near, he in­sid­i­ously ac­costed his prey. The boy, hav­ing been early taught by his house­hold to re­gard al­tru­is­tic ad­vances with ex­treme sus­pi­cion, re­ceived the over­tures coldly.

Then Chicken knew that he must make one of those des­per­ate, nerve-shat­ter­ing plunges into spec­u­la­tion that for­tune some­times re­quires of those who would win her favour. Five cents was his cap­i­tal, and this he must risk against the chance of win­ning what lay within the close grasp of the young­ster’s chubby hand. It was a fear­ful lot­tery, Chicken knew. But he must ac­com­plish his end by strat­egy, since he had a whole­some ter­ror of plun­der­ing in­fants by force. Once, in a park, dri­ven by hunger, he had com­mit­ted an on­slaught upon a bot­tle of pep­tonized in­fant’s food in the pos­ses­sion of an oc­cu­pant of a baby car­riage. The out­raged in­fant had so promptly opened its mouth and pressed the but­ton that com­mu­ni­cated with the welkin that help ar­rived, and Chicken did his thirty days in a snug coop. Where­fore he was, as he said, “leary of kids.”

Be­gin­ning art­fully to ques­tion the boy con­cern­ing his choice of sweets, he grad­u­ally drew out the in­for­ma­tion he wanted. Mamma said he was to ask the drug store man for ten cents’ worth of pare­goric in the bot­tle; he was to keep his hand shut tight over the dol­lar; he must not stop to talk to any­one in the street; he must ask the drug-store man to wrap up the change and put it in the pocket of his trousers. In­deed, they had pock­ets—two of them! And he liked choco­late creams best.

Chicken went into the store and turned plunger. He in­vested his en­tire cap­i­tal in C.A.N.D.Y. stocks, sim­ply to pave the way to the greater risk fol­low­ing.

He gave the sweets to the young­ster, and had the sat­is­fac­tion of per­ceiv­ing that con­fi­dence was es­tab­lished. After that it was easy to ob­tain lead­er­ship of the ex­pe­di­tion; to take the in­vest­ment by the hand and lead it to a nice drug store he knew of in the same block. There Chicken, with a parental air, passed over the dol­lar and called for the med­i­cine, while the boy crunched his candy, glad to be re­lieved of the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the pur­chase. And then the suc­cess­ful in­vestor, search­ing his pock­ets, found an over­coat but­ton—the ex­tent of his win­ter trousseau—and, wrap­ping it care­fully, placed the os­ten­si­ble change in the pocket of con­fid­ing ju­ve­nil­ity. Set­ting the young­ster’s face home­ward, and pat­ting him benev­o­lently on the back—for Chicken’s heart was as soft as those of his feath­ered name­sakes—the spec­u­la­tor quit the mar­ket with a profit of 1,700 per cent. on his in­vested cap­i­tal.

Two hours later an Iron Moun­tain freight en­gine pulled out of the rail­road yards, Texas bound, with a string of emp­ties. In one of the cat­tle cars, half buried in ex­cel­sior, Chicken lay at ease. Be­side him in his nest was a quart bot­tle of very poor whisky and a paper bag of bread and cheese. Mr. Rug­gles, in his pri­vate car, was on his trip south for the win­ter sea­son.

For a week that car was trun­dled south­ward, shifted, laid over, and ma­nip­u­lated after the man­ner of rolling stock, but Chicken stuck to it, leav­ing it only at nec­es­sary times to sat­isfy his hunger and thirst. He knew it must go down to the cat­tle coun­try, and San An­to­nio, in the heart of it, was his goal. There the air was salu­bri­ous and mild; the peo­ple in­dul­gent and long-suf­fer­ing. The bar­tenders there would not kick him. If he should eat too long or too often at one place they would swear at him as if by rote and with­out heat. They swore so drawl­ingly, and they rarely paused short of their full vo­cab­u­lary, which was co­pi­ous, so that Chicken had often gulped a good meal dur­ing the process of the vi­tu­per­a­tive pro­hi­bi­tion. The sea­son there was al­ways spring-like; the plazas were pleas­ant at night, with music and gai­ety; ex­cept dur­ing the slight and in­fre­quent cold snaps one could sleep com­fort­ably out of doors in case the in­te­ri­ors should de­velop in­hos­pitabil­ity.

At Texarkana his car was switched to the I. and G. N. Then still south­ward it trailed until, at length, it crawled across the Col­orado bridge at Austin, and lined out, straight as an arrow, for the run to San An­to­nio.

When the freight halted at that town Chicken was fast asleep. In ten min­utes the train was off again for Laredo, the end of the road. Those empty cat­tle cars were for dis­tri­b­u­tion along the line at points from which the ranches shipped their stock.

When Chicken awoke his car was sta­tion­ary. Look­ing out be­tween the slats he saw it was a bright, moon­lit night. Scram­bling out, he saw his car with three oth­ers aban­doned on a lit­tle sid­ing in a wild and lone­some coun­try. A cat­tle pen and chute stood on one side of the track. The rail­road bi­sected a vast, dim ocean of prairie, in the midst of which Chicken, with his fu­tile rolling stock, was as com­pletely stranded as was Robin­son with his land-locked boat.

A white post stood near the rails. Going up to it, Chicken read the let­ters at the top, S. A. 90. Laredo was nearly as far to the south. He was al­most a hun­dred miles from any town. Coy­otes began to yelp in the mys­te­ri­ous sea around him. Chicken felt lone­some. He had lived in Boston with­out an ed­u­ca­tion, in Chicago with­out nerve, in Philadel­phia with­out a sleep­ing place, in New York with­out a pull, and in Pitts­burg sober, and yet he had never felt so lonely as now.

Sud­denly through the in­tense si­lence, he heard the whicker of a horse. The sound came from the side of the track to­ward the east, and Chicken began to ex­plore tim­o­rously in that di­rec­tion. He stepped high along the mat of curly mesquit grass, for he was afraid of every­thing there might be in this wilder­ness—snakes, rats, brig­ands, cen­tipedes, mi­rages, cow­boys, fan­dan­goes, taran­tu­las, tamales—he had read of them in the story pa­pers. Round­ing a clump of prickly pear that reared high its fan­tas­tic and men­ac­ing array of rounded heads, he was struck to shiv­er­ing ter­ror by a snort and a thun­der­ous plunge, as the horse, him­self star­tled, bounded away some fifty yards, and then re­sumed his graz­ing. But here was the one thing in the desert that Chicken did not fear. He had been reared on a farm; he had han­dled horses, un­der­stood them, and could ride.

Ap­proach­ing slowly and speak­ing sooth­ingly, he fol­lowed the an­i­mal, which, after its first flight, seemed gen­tle enough, and se­cured the end of the twenty-foot lar­iat that dragged after him in the grass. It re­quired him but a few mo­ments to con­trive the rope into an in­ge­nious nose-bri­dle, after the style of the Mex­i­can bor­sal. In an­other he was upon the horse’s back and off at a splen­did lope, giv­ing the an­i­mal free choice of di­rec­tion. “He will take me some­where,” said Chicken to him­self.

It would have been a thing of joy, that un­tram­melled gal­lop over the moon­lit prairie, even to Chicken, who loathed ex­er­tion, but that his mood was not for it. His head ached; a grow­ing thirst was upon him; the “some­where” whither his lucky mount might con­vey him was full of dis­mal per­ad­ven­ture.

And now he noted that the horse moved to a def­i­nite goal. Where the prairie lay smooth he kept his course straight as an arrow’s to­ward the east. De­flected by hill or ar­royo or im­prac­ti­cal spin­ous brakes, he quickly flowed again into the cur­rent, charted by his un­err­ing in­stinct. At last, upon the side of a gen­tle rise, he sud­denly sub­sided to a com­pla­cent walk. A stone’s cast away stood a lit­tle mott of coma trees; be­neath it a jacal such as the Mex­i­cans erect—a one-room house of up­right poles daubed with clay and roofed with grass or tule reeds. An ex­pe­ri­enced eye would have es­ti­mated the spot as the head­quar­ters of a small sheep ranch. In the moon­light the ground in the nearby cor­ral showed pul­ver­ized to a level smooth­ness by the hoofs of the sheep. Every­where was care­lessly dis­trib­uted the para­pher­na­lia of the place—ropes, bri­dles, sad­dles, sheep pelts, wool sacks, feed troughs, and camp lit­ter. The bar­rel of drink­ing water stood in the end of the two-horse wagon near the door. The har­ness was piled, promis­cu­ous, upon the wagon tongue, soak­ing up the dew.

Chicken slipped to earth, and tied the horse to a tree. He hal­loed again and again, but the house re­mained quiet. The door stood open, and he en­tered cau­tiously. The light was suf­fi­cient for him to see that no one was at home. The room was that of a bach­e­lor ranch­man who was con­tent with the nec­es­saries of life. Chicken rum­maged in­tel­li­gently until he found what he had hardly dared hope for—a small, brown jug that still con­tained some­thing near a quart of his de­sire.

Half an hour later, Chicken—now a game­cock of hos­tile as­pect—emerged from the house with un­steady steps. He had drawn upon the ab­sent ranch­man’s equip­ment to re­place his own ragged at­tire. He wore a suit of coarse brown duck­ing, the coat being a sort of rak­ish bolero, jaunty to a de­gree. Boots he had donned, and spurs that whirred with every lurch­ing step. Buck­led around him was a belt full of car­tridges with a big six-shooter in each of its two hol­sters.

Prowl­ing about, he found blan­kets, a sad­dle and bri­dle with which he ca­parisoned his steed. Again mount­ing, he rode swiftly away, singing a loud and tune­less song.

Bud King’s band of des­per­a­does, out­laws and horse and cat­tle thieves were in camp at a se­cluded spot on the bank of the Frio. Their depre­da­tions in the Rio Grande coun­try, while no bolder than usual, had been ad­ver­tised more ex­ten­sively, and Cap­tain Kin­ney’s com­pany of rangers had been or­dered down to look after them. Con­se­quently, Bud King, who was a wise gen­eral, in­stead of cut­ting out a hot trail for the up­hold­ers of the law, as his men wished to do, re­tired for the time to the prickly fast­nesses of the Frio val­ley.

Though the move was a pru­dent one, and not in­com­pat­i­ble with Bud’s well-known courage, it raised dis­sen­sion among the mem­bers of the band. In fact, while they thus lay in­glo­ri­ously perdu in the brush, the ques­tion of Bud King’s fit­ness for the lead­er­ship was ar­gued, with closed doors, as it were, by his fol­low­ers. Never be­fore had Bud’s skill or ef­fi­ciency been brought to crit­i­cism; but his glory was wan­ing (and such is glory’s fate) in the light of a newer star. The sen­ti­ment of the band was crys­tal­liz­ing into the opin­ion that Black Eagle could lead them with more lus­tre, profit, and dis­tinc­tion.

This Black Eagle—sub-ti­tled the “Ter­ror of the Bor­der”—had been a mem­ber of the gang about three months.

One night while they were in camp on the San Miguel wa­ter-hole a soli­tary horse­man on the reg­u­la­tion fiery steed dashed in among them. The new­comer was of a por­ten­tous and dev­as­tat­ing as­pect. A beak-like nose with a preda­tory curve pro­jected above a mass of bristling, blue-black whiskers. His eye was cav­ernous and fierce. He was spurred, som­breroed, booted, gar­nished with re­volvers, abun­dantly drunk, and very much un­afraid. Few peo­ple in the coun­try drained by the Rio Bravo would have cared thus to in­vade alone the camp of Bud King. But this fell bird swooped fear­lessly upon them and de­manded to be fed.

Hos­pi­tal­ity in the prairie coun­try is not lim­ited. Even if your enemy pass your way you must feed him be­fore you shoot him. You must empty your larder into him be­fore you empty your lead. So the stranger of un­de­clared in­ten­tions was set down to a mighty feast.

A talk­a­tive bird he was, full of most mar­vel­lous loud tales and ex­ploits, and speak­ing a lan­guage at times ob­scure but never colour­less. He was a new sen­sa­tion to Bud King’s men, who rarely en­coun­tered new types. They hung, de­lighted, upon his vain­glo­ri­ous boast­ing, the spicy strange­ness of his lingo, his con­temp­tu­ous fa­mil­iar­ity with life, the world, and re­mote places, and the ex­trav­a­gant frank­ness with which he con­veyed his sen­ti­ments.

To their guest the band of out­laws seemed to be noth­ing more than a con­gre­ga­tion of coun­try bump­kins whom he was “string­ing for grub” just as he would have told his sto­ries at the back door of a farm­house to whee­dle a meal. And, in­deed, his ig­no­rance was not with­out ex­cuse, for the “bad man” of the South­west does not run to ex­tremes. Those brig­ands might justly have been taken for a lit­tle party of peace­able rus­tics as­sem­bled for a fish-fry or pecan gath­er­ing. Gen­tle of man­ner, slouch­ing of gait, soft-voiced, un­pic­turesquely clothed; not one of them pre­sented to the eye any wit­ness of the des­per­ate records they had earned.

For two days the glit­ter­ing stranger within the camp was feasted. Then, by com­mon con­sent, he was in­vited to be­come a mem­ber of the band. He con­sented, pre­sent­ing for en­roll­ment the prodi­gious name of “Cap­tain Mon­tres­sor.” This name was im­me­di­ately over­ruled by the band, and “Piggy” sub­sti­tuted as a com­pli­ment to the awful and in­sa­tiate ap­petite of its owner.

Thus did the Texas bor­der re­ceive the most spec­tac­u­lar brig­and that ever rode its chap­ar­ral.

For the next three months Bud King con­ducted busi­ness as usual, es­cap­ing en­coun­ters with law of­fi­cers and being con­tent with rea­son­able prof­its. The band ran off some very good com­pa­nies of horses from the ranges, and a few bunches of fine cat­tle which they got safely across the Rio Grande and dis­posed of to fair ad­van­tage. Often the band would ride into the lit­tle vil­lages and Mex­i­can set­tle­ments, ter­ror­iz­ing the in­hab­i­tants and plun­der­ing for the pro­vi­sions and am­mu­ni­tion they needed. It was dur­ing these blood­less raids that Piggy’s fe­ro­cious as­pect and fright­ful voice gained him a renown more wide­spread and glo­ri­ous than those other gen­tle-voiced and sad-faced des­per­a­does could have ac­quired in a life­time.

The Mex­i­cans, most apt in nomen­cla­ture, first called him The Black Eagle, and used to frighten the babes by threat­en­ing them with tales of the dread­ful rob­ber who car­ried off lit­tle chil­dren in his great beak. Soon the name ex­tended, and Black Eagle, the Ter­ror of the Bor­der, be­came a rec­og­nized fac­tor in ex­ag­ger­ated news­pa­per re­ports and ranch gos­sip.

The coun­try from the Nue­ces to the Rio Grande was a wild but fer­tile stretch, given over to the sheep and cat­tle ranches. Range was free; the in­hab­i­tants were few; the law was mainly a let­ter, and the pi­rates met with lit­tle op­po­si­tion until the flaunt­ing and gar­ish Piggy gave the band undue ad­ver­tise­ment. Then Kin­ney’s ranger com­pany headed for those precincts, and Bud King knew that it meant grim and sud­den war or else tem­po­rary re­tire­ment. Re­gard­ing the risk to be un­nec­es­sary, he drew off his band to an al­most in­ac­ces­si­ble spot on the bank of the Frio. Where­fore, as has been said, dis­sat­is­fac­tion arose among the mem­bers, and im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings against Bud were pre­med­i­tated, with Black Eagle in high favour for the suc­ces­sion. Bud King was not un­aware of the sen­ti­ment, and he called aside Cac­tus Tay­lor, his trusted lieu­tenant, to dis­cuss it.

“If the boys,” said Bud, “ain’t sat­is­fied with me, I’m will­ing to step out. They’re buckin’ against my way of han­dlin’ ’em. And ‘spe­cially be­cause I con­cludes to hit the brush while Sam Kin­ney is ridin’ the line. I saves ’em from bein’ shot or sent up on a state con­tract, and they up and says I’m no good.”

“It ain’t so much that,” ex­plained Cac­tus, “as it is they’re plum lo­coed about Piggy. They want them whiskers and that nose of his to split the wind at the head of the col­umn.”

“There’s some­thin’ mighty sel­dom about Piggy,” de­clared Bud, mus­ingly. “I never yet see any­thing on the hoof that he ex­actly grades up with. He can shore holler a plenty, and he strad­dles a hoss from where you laid the chunk. But he ain’t never been smoked yet. You know, Cac­tus, we ain’t had a row since he’s been with us. Piggy’s all right for skearin’ the greaser kids and layin’ waste a cross-roads store. I reckon he’s the finest canned oys­ter buc­ca­neer and cheese pi­rate that ever was, but how’s his ap­petite for fightin’? I’ve knowed some cit­i­zens you’d think was starvin’ for trou­ble get a bad case of dys­pepsy the first dose of lead they had to take.”

“He talks all sprad­dled out,” said Cac­tus, “’bout the rookuses he’s been in. He claims to have saw the ele­phant and hearn the owl.”

“I know,” replied Bud, using the cow­puncher’s ex­pres­sive phrase of skep­ti­cism, “but it sounds to me!”

This con­ver­sa­tion was held one night in camp while the other mem­bers of the band—eight in num­ber—were sprawl­ing around the fire, lin­ger­ing over their sup­per. When Bud and Cac­tus ceased talk­ing they heard Piggy’s for­mi­da­ble voice hold­ing forth to the oth­ers as usual while he was en­gaged in check­ing, though never sat­is­fy­ing, his raven­ing ap­petite.

“Wat’s de use,” he was say­ing, “of chasin’ lit­tle red cowses and hosses ’round for t’ou­sands of miles? Dere ain’t nut­tin’ in it. Gal­lopin’ t’rough dese bushes and briers, and get­tin’ a t’irst dat a brew­ery couldn’t put out, and missin’ meals! Say! You know what I’d do if I was main fin­ger of dis bunch? I’d stick up a train. I’d blow de ex­press car and make hard dol­lars where you guys get wind. Youse makes me tired. Dis sook-cow kind of cheap sport gives me a pain.”

Later on, a dep­u­ta­tion waited on Bud. They stood on one leg, chewed mesquit twigs and cir­cum­lo­cuted, for they hated to hurt his feel­ings. Bud fore­saw their busi­ness, and made it easy for them. Big­ger risks and larger prof­its was what they wanted.

The sug­ges­tion of Piggy’s about hold­ing up a train had fired their imag­i­na­tion and in­creased their ad­mi­ra­tion for the dash and bold­ness of the in­sti­ga­tor. They were such sim­ple, art­less, and cus­tom-bound bush-rangers that they had never be­fore thought of ex­tend­ing their habits be­yond the run­ning off of live-stock and the shoot­ing of such of their ac­quain­tances as ven­tured to in­ter­fere.

Bud acted “on the level,” agree­ing to take a sub­or­di­nate place in the gang until Black Eagle should have been given a trial as leader.

After a great deal of con­sul­ta­tion, study­ing of time-ta­bles, and dis­cus­sion of the coun­try’s topog­ra­phy, the time and place for car­ry­ing out their new en­ter­prise was de­cided upon. At that time there was a feed­stuff famine in Mex­ico and a cat­tle famine in cer­tain parts of the United States, and there was a brisk in­ter­na­tional trade. Much money was being shipped along the rail­roads that con­nected the two re­publics. It was agreed that the most promis­ing place for the con­tem­plated rob­bery was at Es­pina, a lit­tle sta­tion on the I. and G. N., about forty miles north of Laredo. The train stopped there one minute; the coun­try around was wild and un­set­tled; the sta­tion con­sisted of but one house in which the agent lived.

Black Eagle’s band set out, rid­ing by night. Ar­riv­ing in the vicin­ity of Es­pina they rested their horses all day in a thicket a few miles dis­tant.

The train was due at Es­pina at 10.30 p.m. They could rob the train and be well over the Mex­i­can bor­der with their booty by day­light the next morn­ing.

To do Black Eagle jus­tice, he ex­hib­ited no signs of flinch­ing from the re­spon­si­ble ho­n­ours that had been con­ferred upon him.

He as­signed his men to their re­spec­tive posts with dis­cre­tion, and coached them care­fully as to their du­ties. On each side of the track four of the band were to lie con­cealed in the chap­ar­ral. Gotch-Ear Rodgers was to stick up the sta­tion agent. Bronco Char­lie was to re­main with the horses, hold­ing them in readi­ness. At a spot where it was cal­cu­lated the en­gine would be when the train stopped, Bud King was to lie hid­den on one side, and Black Eagle him­self on the other. The two would get the drop on the en­gi­neer and fire­man, force them to de­scend and pro­ceed to the rear. Then the ex­press car would be looted, and the es­cape made. No one was to move until Black Eagle gave the sig­nal by fir­ing his re­volver. The plan was per­fect.

At ten min­utes to train time every man was at his post, ef­fec­tu­ally con­cealed by the thick chap­ar­ral that grew al­most to the rails. The night was dark and low­er­ing, with a fine driz­zle falling from the fly­ing gulf clouds. Black Eagle crouched be­hind a bush within five yards of the track. Two six-shoot­ers were belted around him. Oc­ca­sion­ally he drew a large black bot­tle from his pocket and raised it to his mouth.

A star ap­peared far down the track which soon waxed into the head­light of the ap­proach­ing train. It came on with an in­creas­ing roar; the en­gine bore down upon the am­bush­ing des­per­a­does with a glare and a shriek like some aveng­ing mon­ster come to de­liver them to jus­tice. Black Eagle flat­tened him­self upon the ground. The en­gine, con­trary to their cal­cu­la­tions, in­stead of stop­ping be­tween him and Bud King’s place of con­ceal­ment, passed fully forty yards far­ther be­fore it came to a stand.

The ban­dit leader rose to his feet and peered through the bush. His men all lay quiet, await­ing the sig­nal. Im­me­di­ately op­po­site Black Eagle was a thing that drew his at­ten­tion. In­stead of being a reg­u­lar pas­sen­ger train it was a mixed one. Be­fore him stood a box car, the door of which, by some means, had been left slightly open. Black Eagle went up to it and pushed the door far­ther open. An odour came forth—a damp, ran­cid, fa­mil­iar, musty, in­tox­i­cat­ing, beloved odour stir­ring strongly at old mem­o­ries of happy days and trav­els. Black Eagle sniffed at the witch­ing smell as the re­turned wan­derer smells of the rose that twines his boy­hood’s cot­tage home. Nos­tal­gia seized him. He put his hand in­side. Ex­cel­sior—dry, springy, curly, soft, en­tic­ing, cov­ered the floor. Out­side the driz­zle had turned to a chill­ing rain.

The train bell clanged. The ban­dit chief un­buck­led his belt and cast it, with its re­volvers, upon the ground. His spurs fol­lowed quickly, and his broad som­brero. Black Eagle was moult­ing. The train started with a rat­tling jerk. The ex-Ter­ror of the Bor­der scram­bled into the box car and closed the door. Stretched lux­u­ri­ously upon the ex­cel­sior, with the black bot­tle clasped closely to his breast, his eyes closed, and a fool­ish, happy smile upon his ter­ri­ble fea­tures Chicken Rug­gles started upon his re­turn trip.

Undis­turbed, with the band of des­per­ate ban­dits lying mo­tion­less, await­ing the sig­nal to at­tack, the train pulled out from Es­pina. As its speed in­creased, and the black masses of chap­ar­ral went whizzing past on ei­ther side, the ex­press mes­sen­ger, light­ing his pipe, looked through his win­dow and re­marked, feel­ingly:

“What a jim-dandy place for a hold-up!”


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