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Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express
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BIG JIM DIES
A HALF-BREED filled with the lust, the savagery of the redskin, combined with the worst traits of the white man -- Big Jim -- was raising his voice for war, Comanche and Sioux had invited the Kiowas to join them in the attempt to stamp out the hated oppressor. Big Jim knew something of the war between the North and the South and with great cunning was showing the advantage of striking now. The Kiowas had hesitated to join in battle. Not that they were friendly to the white man, for they were not. They hated these strangers who had taken their land and who were pushing them further and further west. But their wise men had seen the folly of resisting -- it was a hopeless and hapless undertaking.
So now, despite the soft word's which sounded good to the bucks and to those who had not been in many wars with the men, the Kiowas argued against the words of Big Jim. But for once, their words had no weight.
"If we are strong in numbers we can capture the big, strong house of the white man, for their big chief has called many long-swords to the land where the sun rises. They are weak now and we can take from them many big sticks and powder and shot. Now is the time, brothers, to drive this, scourge from our land."
Long he spoke, as did the emissaries of the Comanche and the Sioux. The voices of the wise men were weak and the young men, swayed by the seeming ease of victory, swept the council of the Kiowas for war.
Big Jim volunteered to go to the Fort to find out the number of soldiers and settlers left to guard it. Being a half-breed he would not arouse suspicion as would a full-blooded redskin.
So he started off. He hit the trail on which Johnson was working east to meet his relay, Drose. Big Jim hated the white man.
Half white himself, he had always been considered an Indian and he had never forgiven the accident of birth which had made him neither Indian nor white man. Then, too, he had a strong, overpowering desire for whiskey, and he could never get enough.
Johnson met him. Unconscious of the half-breed, for there were many such at the settlements, he greeted him pleasantly and the two journeyed on together. Johnson carried some liquor with him as a stimulant.
Oftentimes it was needed. He prepared to make his evening meal and invited Big Jim to join him. The half-breed had no hesitancy about accepting.
But Johnson's showing the flask in which he carried the stimulant was his undoing. It fired the appetite of the half-breed; He could not get his thoughts away from it. His whole body craved it.
All of a sudden the crazed beast, without any warning, struck. Johnson never knew what happened for the knife of the murderer brought instant death with it. Fiendishly Big Jim sought the liquor. Though the bottle was half full, he drained it without a pause and then craved more and more.
Then his cunning Indian instinct told him that the relay would carry liquor too. So he finished the trail of Johnson, carrying the latter's pouch to offset suspicion and make his own story more plausible.
Drose met him at the post. The half breed told how Johnson had been killed by two Indians who had fled when Big Jim had appeared. He wanted to take Drose and show him. Drose, not entirely unsuspicious, started off with the half-breed.
This white man was entirely too watchful, the half-breed decided as he rode ahead. Very soon they would arrive at the scene and perhaps it would then be hard to explain. Though Big Jim had drunk a great amount of liquor it had merely made him doubly treacherous and cunning. He must get the relay's liquor before they reached the spot where the lead man lay. Well, then, he would strike at once.
As the half-breed dismounted Drose came up. Quick as a flash Jim fired. The shot struck Drose, shattering his shoulder.
But even as the half-breed fired, Drose's gun also spoke. The white man's gun spoke death even as its owner fell unconscious to the ground.
How long Drose was unconscious he never knew. What saved his life was that such was the nature of the wound that the flow of blood was clogged. The dawn was breaking when he came to. There was a fearful ache in his left shoulder and when he tried to move, the pain sent him back into unconsciousness.
When he rallied again he slowly dragged himself to his horse. He never knew how, he made himself rise and mount his horse. Every move was torture but there stayed with him a great determination to reach the post, no matter how slight the chance of holding on to life.
As Bill made his way westward, wondering at the reason for the delay of Drose, he saw Drose's horse making its way slowly toward him. On its back was a figure which only a miracle had saved from being thrown. It was Drose, unconscious, weak, and with just a flicker of life left in him.