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but one place to the south where a robber would ride, and he has not had
sufficient start of us that he can reach safety before we overhaul him.
Forward! March!" and the detachment moved down the narrow street. "Trot!
March!" And as they passed the store: "Gallop! March!"
Bridge almost ran the length of the street to the corral. His pony must be
rested by now, and a few miles to the north the gringo whose capture meant
a thousand dollars to Bridge was on the road to liberty.
"I hate to do it," thought Bridge; "because, even if he is a bank robber,
he's an American; but I need the money and in all probability the fellow is
a scoundrel who should have been hanged long ago."
Over the trail to the north rode Captain Billy Byrne, secure in the belief
that no pursuit would develop until after the opening hour of the bank in
the morning, by which time he would be halfway on his return journey to
Pesita's camp.
"Ol' man Pesita'll be some surprised when I show him what I got for him,"
mused Billy. "Say!" he exclaimed suddenly and aloud, "Why the devil should
I take all this swag back to that yellow-faced yegg? Who pulled this thing
off anyway? Why me, of course, and does anybody think Billy Byrne's boob
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enough to split with a guy that didn't have a hand in it at all. Split! Why
the nut'll take it all!
"Nix! Me for the border. I couldn't do a thing with all this coin down in
Rio, an' Bridgie'll be along there most any time. We can hit it up some in
lil' ol' Rio on this bunch o' dough. Why, say kid, there must be a million
here, from the weight of it."
A frown suddenly clouded his face. "Why did I take it?" he asked himself.
"Was I crackin' a safe, or was I pullin' off something fine fer poor,
bleedin' Mexico? If I was a-doin' that they ain't nothin' criminal in what
I done--except to the guy that owned the coin. If I was just plain crackin'
a safe on my own hook why then I'm a crook again an' I can't be that-- no,
not with that face of yours standin' out there so plain right in front of
me, just as though you were there yourself, askin' me to remember an' be
decent. God! Barbara--why wasn't I born for the likes of you, and not just
a measly, ornery mucker like I am. Oh, hell! what is that that Bridge sings
of Knibbs's:
There ain't no sweet Penelope somewhere that's longing much for me,
But I can smell the blundering sea, and hear the rigging hum;
And I can hear the whispering lips that fly before the out-bound ships,
And I can hear the breakers on the sand a-calling "Come!"
Billy took off his hat and scratched his head.
"Funny," he thought, "how a girl and poetry can get a tough nut like me. I
wonder what the guys that used to hang out in back of Kelly's 'ud say if
they seen what was goin' on in my bean just now. They'd call me Lizzy, eh?
Well, they wouldn't call me Lizzy more'n once. I may be gettin' soft in the
head, but I'm all to the good with my dukes."
Speed is not conducive to sentimental thoughts and so Billy had
unconsciously permitted his pony to drop into a lazy walk. There was no
need for haste anyhow. No one knew yet that the bank had been robbed, or at
least so Billy argued. He might, however, have thought differently upon the
subject of haste could he have had a glimpse of the horseman in his
rear--two miles behind him, now, but rapidly closing up the distance at a
keen gallop, while he strained his eyes across the moonlit flat ahead in
eager search for his quarry.
So absorbed was Billy Byrne in his reflections that his ears were deaf to
the pounding of the hoofs of the pursuer's horse upon the soft dust of the
dry road until Bridge was little more than a hundred yards from him. For
the last half-mile Bridge had had the figure of the fugitive in full view
and his mind had been playing rapidly with seductive visions of the
one-thousand dollars reward--one-thousand dollars Mex, perhaps, but still
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quite enough to excite pleasant thoughts. At the first glimpse of the
horseman ahead Bridge had reined his mount down to a trot that the noise of
his approach might thereby be lessened. He had drawn his revolver from its
holster, and was upon the point of putting spurs to his horse for a sudden
dash upon the fugitive when the man ahead, finally attracted by the noise
of the other's approach, turned in his saddle and saw him.
Neither recognized the other, and at Bridge's command of, "Hands up!"
Billy, lightning-like in his quickness, drew and fired. The bullet raked
Bridge's hat from his head but left him unscathed.
Billy had wheeled his pony around until he stood broadside toward Bridge.
The latter fired scarce a second after Billy's shot had pinged so
perilously close--fired at a perfect target but fifty yards away.
At the sound of the report the robber's horse reared and plunged, then,
wheeling and tottering high upon its hind feet, fell backward. Billy,
realizing that his mount had been hit, tried to throw himself from the
saddle; but until the very moment that the beast toppled over the man was
held by his cartridge belt which, as the animal first lunged, had caught
over the high horn of the Mexican saddle.
The belt slipped from the horn as the horse was falling, and Billy
succeeded in throwing himself a little to one side. One leg, however, was
pinned beneath the animal's body and the force of the fall jarred the
revolver from Billy's hand to drop just beyond his reach.
His carbine was in its boot at the horse's side, and the animal was lying
upon it. Instantly Bridge rode to his side and covered him with his
revolver.
"Don't move," he commanded, "or I'll be under the painful necessity of
terminating your earthly endeavors right here and now."
"Well, for the love o' Mike!" cried the fallen bandit "You?"
Bridge was off his horse the instant that the familiar voice sounded in his
ears.
"Billy!" he exclaimed. "Why--Billy--was it you who robbed the bank?"
Even as he spoke Bridge was busy easing the weight of the dead pony from
Billy's leg.
"Anything broken?" he asked as the bandit struggled to free himself.
"Not so you could notice it," replied Billy, and a moment later he was on
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