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Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express
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OFF TO MEET THE OUTLAWS
IN the dead of the night, McCarthy and about twenty picked men started for Preston. It was hazardous duty and yet each of the men gloried in the fact that he was chosen. It was an indication of merit, ability. One had to be more than brave for Davison and McCarthy to pick him. He had to be keen of wit and be ready to meet any emergency.
Davison had welcomed the news Bill had brought. What Bill had overheard was also important, although, as they soon found out, there was no man at the Fort who went under the name of Dawson. But with such a clue it made the discovery of the spy comparatively easy.
"And when we do find out who he is, he'll hang, sure as gospel," Davison had added grimly.
McCarthy had been careful to inform each man of the risks entailed, Jesse James and Younger were both foemen worthy any man's steel. They were shrewd and under any circumstances able to cope with twice their number.
"And in all likelihood, we shall be out-numbered, in this particular instance," he was careful to add.
But not one of the men who had been selected had hesitated. The James boys had left in their path many a score which had to be settled. Many of these very men had suffered through their depredations and were anxious for the opportunity to even up the score.
It was a long ride. The men did little talking and to have seen these men pass, grim and silent as the night itself, must have been an awesome sight.
McCarthy called Bill to him as the dawn was breaking through the eastern sky.
"Bill, I intend to camp at Williamson's. We are to rest for four hours, then continue. I'm going to keep watch for two hours, will you take the other two?"
The boy agreed, glad of the fact that of all these men, McCarthy had selected him for the second watch.
Some of the men decided that they did not need rest. McCarthy instructed each of them as they went their separate ways, not to let any information leak.
Bill wandered away to the nearby woods. He preferred the open for such rest as he took. He had the trick of all men of the plains -- he could time his sleep which was always so light that the slightest of disturbances was sure to awaken him.
He had no idea of how long he had slept, when he heard a voice. Instantly he was alert.
"I'm glad you came, Robinson," one man was speaking. The voice sounded familiar to him, but he could not place it.
"McCarthy and twenty men are on the way to Preston. You will only have about three hours start of us. Be sure you get the information to Younger or Jesse."
"I don't know whether I will be able. I've been following all of you ever since you left Leavenworth."
"I suspected you were. But there was no opportunity for me to drop behind without creating suspicion."
"Well, I'll do my best. Anything to get these Yankees," Robinson replied.
There was some more talk, then Robinson started off. The other man also disappeared. Bill tried hard to discover who he was without himself being seen but it was impossible. The voice, however, was familiar; he had heard it before.
He hurried to McCarthy. It took him but a few seconds to acquaint the leader with what he had heard.
"When I come back, we'll pick out the spy. I’ll meet you all at Turner's Falls," he hurriedly concluded.
Robinson had had about fifteen minutes' start but as Bill mounted his own horse, he had no doubt but that he could make up that time.
"Come, Banister, show some speed." The horse needed no second urging. He was in fine mettle. Never had he made better time.
At the end of two hours, Bill felt he must be close to Robinson. His gun was ready. lie realized how important it was for Robinson not to reach the outlaws, for McCarthy counted on the surprise of his attack as much as on anything else.
Soon he saw his quarry. The man looked behind. He saw the approaching rider and halted with his gun ready.
The boy decided on a bold stroke.
"Dawson sent me. I have important news for you."
Robinson hesitated, uncertain. In that same instant Bill had him covered.
"Throw up your hands, Robinson. The game's up."
Up went the man's hands. "Why, what do you mean?" He blustered.
"Only this, friend. If you make the slightest move or attempt to escape, I'm going to shoot. And I warn you, I'll shoot to kill."
The riders made their way to Turner's Palls.
They had only a little while to wait for McCarthy. The latter had started his men on the march at once.
Bill brought his prisoner before him.
"Now, Robinson, which of these men do you know?" McCarthy asked.
Robinson refused to tell. First, he pretended he did not know what McCarthy meant; when he could no longer maintain that attitude, he took refuge in silence.
"All right, then. Tie him up and let Watson, who lives here, keep him until we return."
They were soon on their way. Late in the afternoon, the men arrived at Preston. "Now, Bill, while I go over to see Swanson, who is in charge of the guards here, you keep your weather eye open. As soon as I get back, we'll lay plans to discover who the traitor is. We must know that before tonight, otherwise we cannot be sure of anything."
Bill nodded his head in assent.