The Long Chance by Peter B. Kyne
Mr. Hennage turned slowly and walked out of the drug-store, for he had accomplished his mission. Once again, without recourse to violence, he had maintained his reputation as the worst man in San Pasqual, for his power lay, not in a clever bluff, but in his all-too-evident downright honesty of purpose. Had Doc Taylor presumed to fly in the face of Providence, after that warning, Mr. Hennage felt that the responsibility must very properly rest on the doctor, for the gambler would have killed him as surely as he had the strength to work his trigger finger.
"Well, that's over" he muttered as he returned to his room. "She's woman enough to cover the rest o' the trail herself now, poor girl, an' in about a week I'll pull the big sting that's hurtin' her most."
Hastily he packed a suit-case with his few simple belongings, for in his haste he was forced to abandon his old rawhide trunk that had accompanied him in his wanderings for twenty years. But one article did Mr. Hennage remove from his trunk. It was an old magazine. He opened it tenderly, satisfied himself that the faded old rose that lay between the leaves was still intact, and packed this treasure into the suit- case; then, while waiting for the north-bound train to whistle for San Pasqual, he sat down at a little table and wrote a note to Donna:
Dear Miss Donnie:
I am sending you a thousand by Sam Singer. You might need it. Am in trouble and must get out quick. Will stay away until things blow over. Hoping these few lines will find you feeling well, as they leave me at present, I am,
H. P. HENNAGE.
P. S. I came to say good-by a little while ago and was sorry you wasn't feeling well.
This note Mr. Hennage sealed carefully in an envelope, together with a compact little roll of bills, just as the train whistled for San Pasqual. He seized his suit-case and hurried down stairs, and on the way down he met Sam Singer coming up.
"Give this to Miss Donna" said Mr. Hennage, and thrust the envelope into the Indian's hand. "Ain't got no time to talk to you, Sam. This is my busy day," and then, for the last time, he gave Sam Singer the inevitable half dollar and a cigar.
"Good-by, Sam" he called as he descended the stairs. "Be a good Injun till I see you again."
He went to the ticket window, purchased a ticket to San Francisco and climbed aboard the train. Two minutes later it pulled out. As it plunged into Tehachapi Pass, Mr. Hennage, standing on the platform of the rear car, glanced back across the desert at San Pasqual.
"Nothin' like mystery to keep that rotten little camp up on its toes" he muttered. "I'll just leave that mess to stew in its own juices for a while."
He went into the smoker and lit a cigar. His plans were well matured now and he was content; in this comfortable frame of mind he glanced idly around at his fellow-passengers.
Seated two seats in front of him and on the opposite side of the coach, Mr. Hennage observed a gray-haired man reading a newspaper. The gambler decided that there was something vaguely familiar about the back of this passenger's head, and on the pretense of going to the front of the car for a drink of water he contrived, on his way back to his seat, to catch a glimpse of the stranger's face. At the same instant the man glanced up from his paper and nodded to Mr. Hennage.
"How" said Harley P., and paused beside the other's seat. "Mr. T. Morgan Carey, if I ain't mistaken?"
"The same" replied Carey in his dry, precise tones. "And you are--Mr.-- Mr.--Mr. Hammage."
"Hennage" corrected the gambler.
"I beg your pardon. Mr. Hennage. Quite so. Pray be seated, Mr. Hennage. You're the very man I wanted to see."
He moved over and made room for Mr. Hennage beside him. The gambler sat down and sighed.
"Hot, ain't it?" he remarked, rather inanely.
"Rather. By the way, Mr. Hennage, have you, by any chance, seen that young man for whom I was inquiring on the day I first had the pleasure of making your acquaintance? His name is McGraw--Robert McGraw. You will recollect that I left with you one of my cards, with the request that you give it to McGraw, should you meet him, and inform him that I desired to communicate with him."
"Yes" replied Mr. Hennage calmly. "I met him one day in San Pasqual an' gave him your card."
"You gave him my registered letter, also?"
So Carey had been talking with Miss Pickett again! Mr. Hennage nodded.
"Tell me, Mr. Hennage" purred Carey. "Why did the man, McGraw, send you to the post-office with an order for that registered letter?"
"Oh, he was in a little trouble at the time an' didn't care to show in public" lied Mr. Hennage glibly.
"I perceive. I believe you mentioned something about his reputation as a hard citizen when I first spoke to you about him."
"Tougher'n a bob-cat" Mr. Hennage assured him, for no earthly reason except a desire to be perverse and not contradict his former statements.
"Hu-u-m-m! I presume you know where Mr. McGraw may be found at present. Is he liable to communicate with you?"
Mr. Hennage was on guard. "Well, I ain't sayin' nothin'" he replied evasively. It was in his mind to discover, if possible, the details of the business which this man of vast emprise could have with a penniless desert rat like Bob McGraw.
"Is this McGraw a friend of yours, Mr. Hennage?" pursued Carey.
"Well," the gambler fenced, "I've loaned him money."
"Ever get it back?" Carey smiled a thin sword-fish smile.
"Certainly. Why do you ask?"
"You consider McGraw honest?"
"Sure shot--between friends. Yes."
Carey turned his head slowly and gazed at the gambler in mean triumph. "Well, I'm sorry I can't agree with you" he said. "Your friend McGraw robbed me of fifteen hundred dollars on the San Pasqual-Keeler stage a few days ago."
The fact that Carey had been a victim of Bob McGraw's felonious activities was news to Mr. Hennage, but he would not permit Carey to suspect it.
"Yes" he replied calmly, "I heard he'd taken to road work."
"He held up the stage" Carey repeated, in the flat tone of finality which the foreman of a jury might have employed when repeating the verbal formula: "We, the jury, find the defendant guilty, as charged."
"Then you recognized McGraw" ventured the gambler.
"The moment I saw him."
"That's funny" echoed Harley P. "I gathered from what you told me in San Pasqual that you two'd never met up, an' they tell me that durin' the hold-up McGraw was behind a wall an' wearin' a mask. You're sure some recognizer, Mr. Carey."
"We had met prior to the hold-up and subsequent to my conversation with you in San Pasqual."
"Still the bet goes as she lays" repeated Mr. Hennage. "For a near- sighted gent you're sure some recognizer."
"I recognized his voice."
Mr. Hennage was silent for a minute. Carey continued.
"If the sheriff gets him, I'll see to it that McGraw doesn't rob another stage for some time to come."
Still Mr. Hennage was silent. He was digesting the conversation, and this much he gathered:
There was some mysterious business afoot wherein Carey and Bob McGraw were jointly interested, and they had met and quarreled over it, as evidenced by T. Morgan Carey's all too apparent animosity. Mr. Hennage had a haunting suspicion that Carey's animus did not arise from the fact that McGraw had robbed him of fifteen hundred dollars. He felt that there was a deeper, more vital reason than that. All of his days Mr. Hennage had lived close to the primitive; he was a shrewd judge of human impulses and it had been his experience that men quarrel over two things--women and money. The possible hypothesis of a woman, in the suspected quarrel between Bob McGraw and T. Morgan Carey, Harley P. dismissed as untenable. Remained then, only money--and Bob McGraw had no money. His finances were at so low an ebb as to be beneath the notice of such a palpable commercial wolf as T. Morgan Carey; consequently, and in the final analysis, Mr. Hennage concluded that Bob McGraw possessed something which Carey coveted. Whether his spiteful attitude toward the unfortunate Bob arose from this, or the loss of the fifteen hundred dollars, Mr. Hennage now purposed discovering. He leaned toward Carey confidentially and lowered his voice.
"Say, looky-here, Mr. Carey. This boy, McGraw, is a friend o' mine. A little wild? Yes. But what young feller now-a-days ain't? I know he's robbed you o' fifteen hundred dollars, an' I'm sorry for that, but I can fix you up all right. I'm goin' to get into communication with our young friend before long, if he ain't beefed by the sheriff first, or captured alive--but it's ten to one they get him, an' he'll be brought to trial. Well, now, here's what I'm drivin' at. If the boy's nabbed, an' you'll agree to sorter, as the feller says, tangle the woof o' memory an' refuse to swear that you recognize the said defendant as the hereinbefore mentioned stage-robber, I'll see that you get your fifteen hundred back. This is his first serious job, Mr. Carey, an' I wish you'd go easy on him. He ain't really bad."
T. Morgan Carey pounded the back of the seat in front of him.
"Not for fifty thousand dollars" he said. "The suggestion is preposterous. The man is a menace to society and it is my duty to testify against him if he is apprehended."
"Then it ain't a question with you o' money back an' no questions asked?"
Carey shook his head emphatically. "It's principle" he said.
Mr. Hennage appeared chopfallen. In reality he was amused. Never before had Mr. Hennage met a man to whom the abandonment of such "principle" would have been impossible under the terms suggested. Clearly there was something wrong here. Mr. Hennage had met men to whom vengeance would have been cheap at fifty thousand, but principle--the gambler shook his head. He had lived long enough to learn that principle is a marketable commodity, and he was not deceived in T. Morgan Carey's attitude of civic righteousness.
"Well, it's too bad you won't listen to reason, Mr. Carey" he said regretfully. "I thought you might be willin' to go easy on the young feller. It's too durned bad," and he rose abruptly and returned to his own seat. Carey resumed the perusal of his newspaper. He was not anxious to continue the conversation, and he believed he had Mr. Hennage intimidated, and for reasons of his own he was desirous of permitting the gambler to think matters over.
Mr. Hennage proceeded at once to think matters over. "Now, I wonder what that kid-glove crook has against the boy!" he mused. "I can see right off that Bob has an ace coppered, an' this sweet-scented burglar would like to see Bob tucked away in the calaboose while he goes huntin' for the ace. What in Sam Hill can them two fellers have between them? Here's Bob, just a plain young desert rat, a-dreamin' an' a- romancin' over the country, while this Carey is a solid citizen. He's president o' the Inyo Land & Irrigation Company, according to his card. Bob ain't got no money--Carey has a carload of it. Bob ain't got no water--Carey's in the irrigation business. Bob ain't got no real estate, 'ceptin' what he accumulates on his person wanderin' around, and Carey's got land--"
Mr. Hennage emitted a low soft whistle through the slit between two of his gold teeth.
Land! That was it. Land! And government land at that!
Mr. Hennage suddenly recollected the letter which Bob McGraw had written him from Sacramento, requesting a loan of fifty dollars, and enclosing, without comment, a typewritten contract form for the acquisition of state lieu lands. Mr. Hennage had read this contract at the time of its receipt, little thinking that Bob was wholly unconscious of the fact that he had enclosed it with his letter. Mr. Hennage had marveled at the time that Bob should have made no reference to it in his letter.
He took Bob's letter from his breast pocket now, and carefully perused once more this typewritten contract form. To him it conveyed little information, save that Bob had been endeavoring to induce Tom, Dick and Harry to acquire state lieu lands by engaging him as their attorney, and without the disagreeable necessity putting up any money. A very queer proceeding, concluded Mr. Hennage, in view of the fact that Bob apprehended litigation in order to establish the rights of his clients. At the first reading of this document two weeks previous, the gambler had merely looked upon it as evidence of another of Bob McGraw's harebrained schemes for acquiring a quick fortune--a scheme founded on optimism and predestined to failure; but in the light of recent events the meager information gleaned from the contract form had now a deeper, a more significant meaning.
Here was a conundrum. Carey (according to his card, at any rate) had the water, while Bob McGraw (according to this contract form) was endeavoring to acquire the land. Both were operating in Owens valley. Mr. Hennage smiled. No wonder they had quarreled, for without the land, of what use was the water to Carey? and without the water, of what value could the land be to Bob McGraw?
"I wouldn't give a white chip for a hull county o' such land" mused the gambler, "unless I could set in the game with the chap that had the water, an' Carey bein' a human hog, it stands to reason Bob's a chump to tie up with Him, unless--unless--he's got water of his own!"
Mr. Hennage slapped his fat thigh. "By Jupiter," he murmured, "he's got the water! He must have it. He might be fool enough to hold up a stage, but he ain't fool enough to face a lawsuit, without a dollar in the world, tryin' to make people take up land so he can sell 'em water for irrigation, unless he has the water. The boy ain't plumb crazy by no means. That's the ace he's got coppered! He's got the water, and if Carey can put him across for that hold-up job, who's to protect the boy's bet? Not a soul, unless it's me, an' I'm only shootin' at the moon. Bob ain't the man to put up a fight for worthless land, an' besides, wasn't Donnie askin' me a lot o' questions about water an' water rights, an' showin' a whole lot of interest, now that I come to think on't? By the Nine Gods o' War! I smell a rat as big as a kangaroo. Bob's been buttin' in on Carey's game; Carey's been tryin' to buy him out, but Bob has Carey on the floor with his shoulders touchin', so he won't sell an' he won't consolidate. If she don't 'tack up that-a-way, I'm an Injun. Carey wouldn't compromise with me an' take back his fifteen hundred. Why! There's a reason. He'd sooner see young Bob in the penitentiary because it'd mean more money to him. He wants Bob out o' the way, so he won't be on hand to draw cards, an' then this Carey person 'll just reach out his soft little mitt and rake in the jack-pot. All right, T. Morgan Carey! Bob's out of it, but even if he is a crook I'll string a bet with him, for Donnie's sake, an' I'll deal you a brace game an' you'll never know that the deck's been sanded."
And having thus, to his entire satisfaction, solved the mystery of the hitherto unaccountable actions of T. Morgan Carey and Bob McGraw, Mr. Hennage dismissed the matter from his mind, lit a fresh cigar and permitted the peanut butcher to inveigle him into a friendly little game of whist with three traveling salesmen.
Harley P. Hennage had purchased a ticket for San Francisco, but when the train reached Bakersfield and he observed T. Morgan Carey leaving the car, bag in hand, the gambler suddenly decided that he, also, would honor Bakersfield with his presence. He excused himself, hastily quitted his innocent game of whist, seized his suit-case and rode up town in the same hotel bus with Carey.
Carey registered first, sent his bag and overcoat up to his room, and then walked over to the telegraph desk. Harley P. Hennage, standing in line to register, noticed that Carey had filed a telegram; consequently, when he had registered and T. Morgan Carey had disappeared into the barber shop, Mr. Hennage, following up a strong winning "hunch," walked over to the telegraph desk and laid a ten- dollar piece on the railing.
"I'm goin' to open a book, young lady" he announced. "I'm willin' to bet ten dollars that the respectable old party that just give you a telegram signed Carey is wirin' about a friend o' mine. If I don't guess right, you get the ten bucks. Fair?"
The young lady operator dimpled and admitted that it was eminently fair. She had no illusions (although her position required her to have them) regarding the sacredness of privacy in a telegram, and Mr. Hennage had not as yet asked her to violate a confidence.
"I'm a-bettin' ten bucks" repeated Mr. Hennage, "that the name McGraw occurs in that telegram."
"You win" the operator replied. "How did you guess it?"
"I was born with a veil" he replied. "I got the gift o' second sight, an' I'm just a-tryin' it out. The ten is yours for a copy o' that telegram."
The operator seized a scratch-pad, copied the telegram and cautiously "slipped" it to Mr. Hennage, who as cautiously "slipped" her the ten- dollar bill. He was rewarded for his prodigality by the following:
R. P. McKeon, Mills Building, Sacramento, Calif.
Advise our friend approve McGraw applications at once. Letter follows.
The gambler smiled his thanks and walked across the hotel lobby to the public-telephone operator. On this young lady's desk he laid a five- dollar bill.
"I want you to call up Sacramento on the long distance an' ask the central there to find out who Mr. R. P. McKeon is an' what he does for a livin'."
"We have copies of the telephone directories of the principal cities in the state" came the quick reply. "It makes it easier if we ask for the number direct."
"Five bucks for a look in the book" announced Mr. Hennage. He got the book, with the information that he might have his look for nothing, but being a generous soul he declined. He ascertained that R. P. McKeon was an attorney-at-law.
"As the feller says, I believe I see the light" murmured the gambler. "Now please get me the agent for Wells Fargo & Company at San Pasqual."
When the operator informed him that San Pasqual was on the line, Mr. Hennage went into a sound-proof booth and told a lie. He informed the agent at San Pasqual that he was the Bakersfield representative of the Associated Press, and demanded the latest information regarding the hunt for the Garlock bandit. He was informed that there was no news.
"I gotta get some news" he bellowed into the receiver. "What's the exact loss o' your company?"
"Twenty-one hundred eighty-three forty."
"Serves you right. How about the passengers? Got their names an' addresses an' the amounts they lost?"
"No, but the express messenger has and he's in town. Hold the line a minute and I'll go call him."
So Mr. Hennage waited. Five minutes later, when he hung up, he had secured the information and made careful note of it, after which he sought an arm-chair in the hotel window, planted his feet on the window sill and gave himself up to reflection. He was occupied thus when T. Morgan Carey came out of the barber shop, and seeing Mr. Hennage, came over and sat down beside him. Mr. Hennage decided that the financier must have something on his mind, and he was not wrong.
"Mr. Hennage" said Carey unctuously, "I have been thinking over the proposition which you made me coming up from San Pasqual this afternoon, and if you still feel inclined to act as intermediary in this unfortunate affair, I will submit a proposition. Mr. McGraw may retain the fifteen hundred dollars which he stole from me, and I will agree to give him, say, five thousand more, through you, for a relinquishment to me of a water right which he has filed upon in the Sierra overlooking Owens valley. There is also another matter of which McGraw has cognizance, and he must agree to drop that too. His money will be delivered to you, for delivery to him. In return, I will agree to be absent when his case comes to trial, should he be captured. I will agree not to recognize him."
"But suppose he refuses this programme, Mr. Carey. Then what?"
"In that event, my dear Mr. Hennage" replied Carey coldly, "you may tell him from me that I will spend a hundred thousand dollars to run him down. I will have this state combed by Pinkertons, and when I land Mr. Robert McGraw I'll land him high and dry and it will be too late for him to make me a proposition then. I have the power and the money necessary to get him--and I know how."
"Well, what a long tail our cat's developing!" drawled Mr. Hennage. "Carey, you give me a pain where I never knew it to ache me before. Now, you just sit still while I submit you a little proposition. An' remember I ain't pleadin' with you to accept it. No, indeed. I'm just a-orderin' you to. Bob McGraw can't prove that he didn't rob that stage, but a child could make a monkey out o' you on the witness stand. Talked to him once an' recognized his voice, eh? Pooh! Met him once an' recognized him masked. Rats! I happen to know, Carey, that you didn't recognize the stage robber until after the messenger returned to the stage with his hat an' showed you his name on the sweat-band. Then you remembered, because the wish was father to the thought, an' you wanted the boy in jail. Now, looky here. I happen to be mighty heavily interested in this here water right you're plannin' to blackmail McGraw out of. But you ain't got nothin' on me, an' you can't buy me out for a million dollars, an' you ain't got money enough--there ain't money enough in the world--to make me double-cross Bob McGraw just because he's a outlaw from justice."
He tapped Carey on the knee with his fat forefinger. "I'm playin' look- out on this game, an' it's hands off for you. You can't make a bet. You don't get that water right an' you won't get the land; if Bob McGraw ain't on hand to sue for his rights, by the Nine Gods o' War, I'll sue for him, an' I'll put up the money, an' I'll match you an' your gang for your shoe-strings, and you're whipped to a frazzle, an' get that into your head--understand? You're figurin' now on gettin' them applications approved, eh? Well, you just cut it out. If them applications are approved before I'm ready to have 'em approved, you know what I'll do to you, Carey. I'll cut your heart out. Don't you figure for a minute that there ain't somebody protectin' that boy's bet. You scatter his chips an' see what happens to you. Understand? You try upsettin' the Hennage apple-cart one o' these bright days, an' there'll be a rush order for a new tombstone. The motto o' the Hennage family has allers been 'Hands Off Or Take The Consequences.' Of course, if you insist, you can go to it with your private detectives, but you won't get far. You're up against a double-jointed play, Carey. Look out for snags."
T. Morgan Carey stared hard at Harley P. Hennage while the worst man in San Pasqual was delivering his ultimatum. He continued to stare when Mr. Hennage had finished, smiling, for to Carey that golden smile was more deadly than a scowl. Carey knew too well the kind of eyes that were gazing into his; they were the eyes of an honest man, and by the cut of Mr. Hennage's jaw Carey knew that here was a man who would "stay put."
Mr. Hennage laughed boldly, as he realized on what a slender foundation his gigantic bluff was resting, and what an impression his words had made upon Carey. The latter pulled himself together and favored the gambler with a wintry grin.
"Kinder game little pup, after all" thought Mr. Hennage. "He thinks he's licked, but he's goin' to bluff it out to the finish. I believe if this feller was on the level I'd like him. He's no slouch at whatever he tackles, you bet."
"Very well, Mr. Hennage" said Carey quietly, "I think I understand you. See that you understand me, in order that we may both understand each other. You've declared war, on behalf of your felon of a partner. Very well, I accept. It's war."
In turn, T. Morgan Carey tapped Mr. Hennage on the knee with his forefinger.
"I'll keep my hands off your business in the state land office. Your applications can pass through for approval, for all I care, but I'll enter a contest, alleging fraud, against you in the General Land Office at Washington, and I'll hold you up for ten years in a mass of red tape. Hennage, you and McGraw have brains, I'll admit, but you can't play my game and beat me at it. If I'm not in on this melon-cutting, I'll spend a million dollars to delay the banquet. Let me tell you something. The day will come when you'll come scraping your feet at my office door, begging for a compromise. I'm a business man, and I tell you before you're half through with this fight, you'll come to the conclusion that half a loaf is better than none at all-- particularly in the matter of extra large loaves. You'll come to me and compromise."
"Gosh, I'm dry with argument" taunted Mr. Hennage. "Now that we understand each other, let's be friends. We can be friends out o' business hours, can't we, Carey? Come an' have a drink."
"With all my heart" Carey retorted, with genuine pleasure. "I must confess to a liking for you, Mr. Hennage. I could kill you and then weep at your funeral, for upon my word you are the most amusing and philosophical opponent I have ever met. I really have hopes that ultimately you will listen to reason."
"There is no hope" said Mr. Hennage, as he took T. Morgan Carey by the arm--almost, as Mrs. Dan Pennycook would have expressed it, "friendly like," and escorted him to the hotel bar. Here Mr. Hennage produced a thousand-dollar bill from his vest pocket (he had carried that bill for ten years and always used it as a flash during his peregrinations outside San Pasqual) and calmly laid it on the bar.
"Wine" he said. Mr. Hennage's order, when doing the handsome thing, was always "wine." The barkeeper set out a pint of champagne and filled both glasses. The gambler raised his to the light, eyed it critically and then flashed his three gold teeth at T. Morgan Carey.
"Here's damnation to you, Mr. Carey" he said. "May you live unhappily and die in jail."
"The sentiment, my dear Hennage, is entirely reciprocal" Carey flashed back at him. They drank, gazing at each other over the rims of their glasses.
Despite the knock-out which Harley P. had given him, T. Morgan Carey was enjoying the gambler's society. Mr. Hennage was a new note in life. Carey had never met his kind before, and he was irresistibly attracted toward the man from San Pasqual.
"Upon my word, Hennage" he said, as he set down his glass, "if your liquor could only be metamorphosed into prussic acid, I'd gladly shoulder your funeral expenses. You're a thorn in my side."
"We understand each other, Carey. Any time you're meditatin' suicide drop around to San Pasqual an' I'll buy you a pistol."
Carey laughed long and loud. "Hennage" he said, "do you know I think I should grow to like you? By George, I think I should. If you should ever come to Los Angeles, look me up," and he presented the gambler with his card.
Mr. Hennage smiled, tore the card into little bits and dropped them to the floor.
"Do I look like a tin-horn?" he queried.
A momentary frown crossed Carey's face; then he, too, smiled. He was finding it hard to take offense at the gambler's bluntness.
"I think you're a dead-game sport, Hennage" he said, and there was no doubt that he meant it. "But I shall not despair. You have brains. Some day, I feel assured, we shall sit down together like sensible men and do business."
"And in the meantime" replied Mr. Hennage, raising an admonitory forefinger, "our motto is 'Keep off the grass.'"
"Oh, I won't walk on your darned old grass" Carey retorted. "I'll just step between it."
They shook hands in friendly fashion, and Carey hurried away. Mr. Hennage stared after him.
"Sassy as a badger" he murmured. "I can't bluff that hombre. He'll go as far as he can, an' be ready to jump in the first chance he sees. Bob, my boy, you're up against it."
Mr. Hennage's business in Bakersfield was now completed. He felt certain that a battle between Bob McGraw and T. Morgan Carey was inevitable, should Bob decide to remain in the background and send an ally out to fight for him. However, despite his horror of Bob's crime, the gambler unconsciously extended him his sympathy, and if there was to be a battle, either its commencement had been delayed or its duration prolonged by the little bluff which he had just worked on T. Morgan Carey, and that was all Mr. Hennage was striving for.
"I must find Bob" mused the gambler, "an' I must have time to find him before these people euchre him out o' that valuable water right o' his. An' when I find that young man, I'll bet six-bits he sells that water right to me; then I'll sell it to my friend Carey an' the proceeds o' that sale 'll go to Donnie. A woman can get along without a man, if she's got the price to get along on."
The gambler's line of reasoning was a wise one. In the chain of powerful circumstantial evidence that linked Donna Corblay to Bob McGraw, Mr. Hennage was the most powerful link, and if he was to remove himself beyond the jurisdiction of a subpoena from the Superior Court of Kern county, and thus evade answering embarrassing questions when Bob should be brought to trial (as the gambler felt certain he would be), it behooved Mr. Hennage to travel far and fast.
He went down to the station and purchased a ticket for Goldfield, Nevada. Goldfield was in the zenith of her glory about that time and Harley P. felt certain of a plethora of easy money in any booming mining camp. Indeed, it behooved him to seek pastures where the grass was long and green, for in the removal from Donna's heart of what he termed "the big sting," Harley P. planned to play havoc with his bank- roll.
He proceeded about this delicate task as befits one who has a horror of appearing presumptuous. A week after his arrival in Goldfield he rented a typewriter for a day, took it to his room in the Goldfield hotel and battled manfully with it for several hours. After much toil he evolved the following form letter:
A short time ago I robbed the San Pasqual stage at Garlock. I took ------ dollars of your money, which I return to you now; with many thanks, for the reason that I don't need it no more and am sorry I took it.
I notice by the papers that they found my hat with my name in it, which serves me right. I did not have no business doing that job in the first place. It was my first and it will be my last. I am going to start fresh again and hope you won't bear me no grudge for what I done.
Trusting that the same has not caused you any inconvenience, and with best wishes I am
In the blank space left for the purpose Mr. Hennage inserted in lead-pencil the figures representing the exact amount of coin which he had been informed by the express agent had been taken from each passenger. Next he inserted the exact amount in paper money, together with his letters, in envelopes which he also addressed on the typewriter, stamped them and walked down to the post-office.
"Now, that fixes everything up lovely" he soliloquized, as he watched the envelopes disappear down the main chute. "Wells Fargo & Co. get theirs back, so they'll pull off their detective force an' withdraw the reward; every passenger gets his back, an' if he's called to testify it's a cinch he'll ask the judge to be merciful on the defendant, because he made restitution an' showed sorrer for what he went an' done. Everybody gets fixed up except T. Morgan Carey, an' I work too dog-gone hard for my money to throw it away on him. When folks find Bob has sent back the money he stole he won't be anything like the evil cuss he is now an' the whole thing 'll simmer down to a big joke. When that poor broken-hearted little wife o' his hears about it she'll think it ain't so bad after all. She'll figure that they can go somewhere else an' live it down an' that'll ease the ache a heap. Suppose she does meet some o' them San Pasqual cattle in the years to come? What's the odds? Nobody in San Pasqual knows him or ever seen him, 'ceptin' Doc Taylor--an' what's in a name? Nothin'. There's hundreds o' McGraws in California right now, an' more arrivin' on every train."
Thus reasoned the artful Harley P. When his task was completed he stood outside the door of the post-office whimsically surveying the ruin of his fortune. Less than two thousand dollars was all he had to show for a life-time of endeavor, and one thousand of that was contained in a single bill and was Mr. Hennage's pocket-piece. He must never change that bill. It was his little nest-egg against a rainy day, and hereafter he would have to carry it where it could not readily be reached when under the spell of sudden temptation.
He returned to his room, wrapped the bill into a compact little wad and tucked it far into the toe of one of his congress gaiters.
"It's a blessin'" he muttered plaintively, as he replaced his shoe, "that the lives us gamblers leads generally tends to choke off our wind around the fifty-mark at the latest. I'm forty-five an' here in the mere shank o' old age, after runnin' my own game for twenty years, I got to go to work for somebody else."