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Release date: October 5, 2023

Original publication: New York: Street and Smith Corporation, 1923

Credits: Roger Frank and Sue Clark



A small, wiry, red-haired man scrambled through the thick growth of brush, half slid and half plunged down a steep declivity and halted in the middle of the hard, worn road where he drew a deep breath, wiped the sweat from his face and consulted a huge silver watch.

"Quarter past ten and I sure ought to be in time for the down stage. It's seven miles from our camp here by this short cut, and I've done it in one hour and a half, and I win five from Goliath, and then from Hank," he muttered, after which he grinned cheerfully, rolled a cigarette, and planted himself in an attitude of repose on a roadside boulder. He took from his pocket a tiny parcel, unwrapped the newspaper protecting it and scanned the inscriptions on a half dozen letters as if to reassure himself that all had been correctly addressed, after which, for lack of anything further to do he sat and idly stared at the enormous panorama of mountains, forests, ravines and ca?ons that were visible from his perch and which formed a portion of the back edge of the Big Divide. The stillness was so profound that even the trees had lost their almost inaudible whispering and his ears, finely attuned to nature, could distinguish the faint murmuring of the river that, hundreds of feet below, cheerily and busily made its way over and between myriad boulders. For fully fifteen minutes he sprawled listlessly before he lifted his head and listened attentively with his face turned up the white, stony highway.

"Here she comes," he commented, and straightened himself, arose from the boulder and walked into the middle of the road where he stood waiting to intercept the oncoming vehicle. The noise grew louder, gained a crescendo of sound made up of clattering hoofs, a driver's voice admonishing his horses, and the screeching of brake shoes grinding on iron tires, and then the down stage swung round a bend and as the pedestrian waved his arms up and down came to a halt. The driver was using heavy-weather language and beside him on the box a man who had lifted a sawed-off shotgun lowered it with a grunt and stared downward.

"Lord Almighty! David, we didn't recognize you any too soon!" he exclaimed.

"And that's the truth," growled the driver, shifting in his seat. "You certainly did pick a mighty dangerous spot to flag us this time."

"Why, what's the matter with you fellers anyhow?" David demanded. "One of you grabs leather and the other a gun as if you thought you were about to be held up and was ready to shoot on sight."

The driver and the express messenger grinned at each other and the latter rested his shotgun between his legs and as he reached for tobacco remarked, "Reckon you ain't heard the news, pardner. It's just two days ago since this same stage was stuck up almost on this exact spot. Right down there at the next bend, in fact, a hundred yards from here. I wasn't along, but Bill here had no chance to put up a fight. Road agent got away with the treasure box."

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