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Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express
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THE SURPRISE ATTACK
WHOEVER the guilty man was, he gave no indication of his identity while McCarthy was away. Bill cudgeled his brains trying to remember the voice and to whom it belonged, but he could not place it. Some of the twenty men he knew but slightly and it must be one of these men. By a process of elimination, he brought the number down to six. They were almost the same build and Bill could not place any of their voices from recollection. He made no attempt at trying to discover the owner, since he had no wish to arouse any suspicion in the guilty man's mind that there was a clue as to his identity.
McCarthy soon returned. He lost no time but set out at once on the task of discovering the culprit.
"Men, there is one of you who has informed Robinson of the purpose of this expedition so that the latter could carry the information to James. I hope you all realize the importance of discovering the man now, before any action takes place. I am able to tell who the man is through one or two channels. I promise you this -- before I am through, we will have the guilty man."
He asked each man several questions. He gave no indication of the trend or the purpose of these and let none of the men know whether he had answered satisfactorily or not. Bill also came under the category of questions.
But McCarthy was asking these questions so that Bill could place the voice.
When McCarthy started to question Williams who was next to last, Bill realized, even before the man answered that he was the man wanted. Williams, however, seemed anxious to answer all questions and Bill gave no indication as to his discovery.
When McCarthy had finished questioning all the men, there was a pause.
"Well, Dawson, we have you, haven't we?" said Bill as he turned to Williams.
That worthy never stopped to argue. He made one wild dash for cover. But McCarthy was even quicker. His aim was true and Williams, alias Dawson, toppled over, a dead man.
"It's a better death than he deserved," said McCarthy, while the men breathed sighs of relief. Although none of the men felt guilty each man was naturally glad to have the guilty one brought to light.
Sometime in the night, the outlaws arrived. The leaders felt certain that the surprise of their attack would make it comparatively easy to overcome the small garrison of eight men left to guard the stores. James and Younger had more than forty men and had no anxiety on that score. Yet with all that, the outlaws moved cautiously. That was one of the reasons for Jesse James' success, he never allowed himself to become careless.
The attack was made with the suddenness of lightning. But James, much to his surprise, found the eight men prepared. Then he settled his men down to a quick siege.
Just as suddenly and without any warning, McCarthy and his men struck. The outlaws gave a wild yell. There was, however, no intention of retreating. Doggedly they turned to meet the new enemy.
In the surprise of that attack McCarthy's men had done fearful execution. About fifteen of the outlaws had been either killed or wounded. The rest, however, fought back.
Two of the attackers had been killed. Bill's own hat had been shot from his head. McCarthy had been wounded but not seriously and he was still able to lead his men.
There was nothing left for the James boys to do but retreat. The leader showed his generalship in managing to do this without loss. While he, his brother Frank, and Younger held McCarthy and his men off for more than five minutes, the rest of the men made their escape. A bullet from Bill's rifle wounded Frank James, but not seriously enough to put him out of the fight.
The three outlaws then managed to retreat without fatalities. They seemed to bear a charmed life. Younger's hat was nicked by McCarthy's bullet but Jesse was untouched.
"I certainly admire those boys," said Bill. "They don't seem to know what fear is."
"They ought to be fighting for a better cause," McCarthy added. "Even then, they couldn't stand another scrimmage like this." McCarthy left ten men behind him and the rest returned to Leavenworth.
"Too bad about Smith and Arnold, but I suppose it is the fortune of war." McCarthy was referring to the dead men. He had been careful in picking only such men as were without families or dependents.
McCarthy had a long report to make to Davison and Bill was with him when he made it. Robinson had been turned over to the Fort as a prisoner.
"There's something about Bill that acts like a charm," Davison commented. "He certainly has been fortunate in discovering things for us."
"What are you going to do with Robinson?" Bill asked.
"I suppose we'll put him on trial as a spy. What do you think, Bill?"
"If I had my way, I'd forget some things and hold him only as a prisoner."
McCarthy agreed with Bill. He felt that the important man to have done away with was Dawson.
"All right, boys, I shall make it a point, however, to tell Robinson just how and why he is treated with such consideration."