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THE GRASP OF A HAND

. The train left me standing upon the platform of a station m a small town m Texas. It was as dark as pi toll and a spiteful rain was falling. ' Though there was a light burning inside, the station was closed ' How far is it to Carson's ranch ? I asked of a one-legged trackman with a lantern i : Five miles sir,' was the answer. 1 Whew I ' i exclaimed, ' there is no chance of my gettiog there to-night ? ' * Not uolesa you walk/ said the trackman , ' You had better not risk it if you are an entire stranger, 1 'Jop, I'm going past there,' some one said from out the black shadows. • I'll drive the gentleman over.' It was a woman's voice, distinct, cheery, musical . I followed the trackman to a carriage near by. 'the tight from his lantern fell upon my face, and a pair of keen, black eyes closely scanned it. ' Get m, sir,' she said, evidently satisfied with her estimate of me A minute later we were spinning along through the rain and darkness My compamon was young, comfortably clad, knew how to haudls the horses, and seemed exceedingly self-possessed. She was talkative, and I was free m responding. • Your voice is familiar to me,' I said, m a puzzled tone. 'I am sure that we have met before.' 1 It may be that we have,' assented she. lAh !' I exclaimed, recognition returning to me. 'We have met before— lf yon are Marion Del mar. ' I knew that the mention of the name bad startled her. • I am—or was,' she replied. •I am now Mru John Crawford, wife of a ranchman who was aa brave as a lion, as strong as a giant, as tender as a woman, as honest as the day is long. We live just beyond Mr Carson's. Bat it Isn't fair that you ehould have the advantage of me.' ( No, it Isn't, 1 1 said, laagblng. ' I knew yon when yon had oharge of a signal tower on the Pennsylvania railroad, near Lancaster. ' ' Oh !' she ejaculated, m t. pleased tone. ' I reoill yon. You loaned me books, and we played cheokers together. Yon must pay ns a visit before you leave the vlolnity.' We chatted about old times, and then I ■eked — ' Will you not tell mo the story of your adventure on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad V * What advontnro was that ?' Inquired she. 'Meagre details of It came over the wire/ I said. ' You figured as the heroine. I refer to the time when the train robbers captured the Leadrllle express 1' ' I had most forgotten it,' she musingly replied. ' I shouldn't, though, for It led to my meeting with the big-hearted ranohman who is now my husband 1' She allowed the horses to slow up, and presented the other side of her face to the rain. 'The train was held up at a waystation, 1 she began, •It was on a night aa dark as this, only it wasn't raining. Almost In a fl ish we were relieved of Our valuables, and almost as qulokly the robbers rode away Into the darkness. We were all frightened, but nobody so muoh so as the conductor, It seemed to me. After It was over he came through the train, swinging bis lantern, hi a f«oa still pallid 'Is there a telegraph operator In this oar V he asked. 'Nobody replied, and then I said, ' I am, sir. ' 'He looked at me In surprise. lam glad to hear you say so, he Bald. 1 want to telegraph to lieadvlHe. These scoundrels mast be headed off. ' Where Is the read operator V I asked. I Poor fellor, he'a about done for,' was the conductor's reply. 'They knooked him. senseless, then tied down the red.' That made me nervous, at firat, for I had Buppoaed that no vlolenoe{hid been committed. I followed the conductor into the telegraph effioe. The operator lay upon the floor blaeding from wounds m his bead, his lips apeeohleas, a film oomlng Into his eyes. He was a mere lad, rugged, handsome, falr-halred, cultured. Oh, how my heart aohed— for-hlm and for those who loved htm ! I 1 bent over him. •« Who did this ?" I asked. He did not reply ; he ooald not ; 1 don't think he heard me ; still, I fancied that a gleam of Intelligence came into his eyei as they met mine, 1 1 took his handland then a thrill went through me that I'll not forget until my dyiqg day. He telegraphed to me with hlo fingers upon the back of my hand. I quickly replied. " Who struok you ?" I asked, by telegraphing on hta hand, remember. He routed himself. ' Joe Barber/ he answered. 'How V I asked, IHe was masked, yet I knew him. I was at the Instrument ; heard his footfall; I turned— he struck me.' ' More than once V I aiked. 'Threq times.' I What with ?' 'An iron bar that stood behind the door. 1 I 1 telegraphed to Leadvllle what the conductor had written out for me; then the train steamed away and I remained at the desolate station,' ' You stayed to attend the Inquest V I asked. 1 Yes,' replied she, • I found the Iron bar. It was bloody, and hairs wereclinging to It. My evidence oreated a sensation. None oJ those who had stood around the dying lad knew what had passed between us. John Crawford— now my husband— was foreman of the jury. My nerve pleased him, and then, you know, I am passably good looking,' she added, with a contagious little laugh. 'Joe Barber was a shiftless farmer and » noisy lcoal politician, not famooi for square dealing, though never suspected of bslng a desperado. He was arrested. My testimony convicted him, together with three others of the gang. The latter are still In prison, while the former suffered the penalty of death.'

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http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18881026.2.13

Bibliographic details

THE GRASP OF A HAND, Ashburton Guardian, Issue 1980, 26 October 1888

Word Count
988

THE GRASP OF A HAND Ashburton Guardian, Issue 1980, 26 October 1888

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