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CHAPTER XV. A SHOT FROM BEHIND
 Mr. Schofield filed his affidavit1 before the probate judge without delay, but, when the officer of the court went to look for Reddy, he was nowhere to be found. From his wife it was learned that he had not been home for two days, nor was he to be discovered in any of his accustomed haunts around the yards or in the shops, and the quest for him was finally given up in despair. Allan concluded that Reddy had recognized him that morning, as he came out from under the engine which he had tampered2 with, and knew that he was found out at last; but, whether this was the case, or whether he had got wind of the proceedings3 against him in some other way, certain it is that Reddy disappeared from Wadsworth, and nothing more was seen of him there for many days.  
Word was quietly passed around among the trainmen to be on the watch for him, as he was probably the one who had recently caused the road so much annoyance4; and this came to be pretty well proved in time, for, with Reddy’s disappearance5, the annoyances6 ceased, in so far, at least, as they originated in the yards at Wadsworth. Out on the line, indeed, they still continued,—switches were spiked7, fish-plates were loosened,—and then, of a sudden, even these ceased, and everything ran as smoothly8 as in the old days. But this very quiet alarmed the chief of detectives more than anything else had done, for he believed it was the calm preceding a storm, and he redoubled his precautions. Some of the officers were rather inclined to laugh at his fears, but not the superintendent9.
 
“You are right, Preston,” he said to the chief. “There’s something in the wind. We’ll look sharp till after the pay-car gets here, anyway. After that, if nothing happens, we can let up a bit.”
 
“When will the pay-car get here?” questioned Preston.
 
“I don’t know yet; probably the night of the twenty-fourth.”
 
“You’d better order a double guard with it, sir,” suggested the detective.
 
“I will,” assented10 the superintendent. “More than that, Mr. Schofield and I will accompany it. If there’s any excitement, we want to be there to see it.”
 
The detective nodded and went away, while the superintendent turned back to his desk. It had occurred to him some days before that an attempt to hold up the pay-car might be the culminating point of the series of outrages11 under which the road was suffering, and the more he had thought of it the more likely it appeared. The pay-car would be a rich prize, and any gang of men who could get away with its contents would be placed beyond the need of working, begging, or stealing for a long time to come. The pay-car, which always started from general headquarters at Cincinnati, went over the road, from one end to the other, every month, carrying with it the money with which the employés of the road were paid. To Wadsworth alone it brought monthly nearly two hundred thousand dollars, for Wadsworth was division headquarters. Nearly all the trainmen employed on the division lived there, and besides, there were the hundreds of men who laboured in the division shops. Yes, the pay-car would be a rich prize, and, as the money it carried was all in small denominations13, it would be impossible to trace it, once the robbers got safely away with it.
 
Let it be said in passing that on most roads the pay-car is now a thing of the past. Payment is now usually made by checks, which are sent out in registered packages from general headquarters, and distributed by the division officials. This method is safe and eminently14 satisfactory to the road, but some of the employés object occasionally because of the difficulty they sometimes experience in getting their checks cashed immediately.
 
The road had never suffered any attack upon its pay-car, primarily, no doubt, because it was well-known that there were always half a dozen well-armed men with it, who would not hesitate to use their weapons. In fact, every man, as he stood at the little grated cashier’s window, waiting for his money, could see the row of rifles in the rack against the wall and the brace15 of pistols lying upon the desk, ready to the cashier’s hand. Besides, even if the car were broken into and the money secured, the difficulty of getting away safely with the booty was enormous. The road, for the most part, ran through a thickly settled country, and the moment the alarm was given, posses could be set in motion and the wires set humming in every direction, in the effort to run the robbers down. So, with whatever hungry greed would-be highwaymen had eyed the piles of bills and gold visible through the little grated window, none of them had ever dared to make a forcible attempt to gain possession of them.
 
Perhaps no one would dare attempt it now, thought the superintendent; perhaps he had been merely alarming himself without cause. At least, the most effective defensive17 measure would be to keep secret the hour of the pay-car’s arrival. If no one knew exactly when to look for it, no attempt could be made to hold it up. Such an attempt, at the best, would be foolhardy, and the superintendent turned back to his work with a little sigh of relief at the thought. In a few moments, immersed in the pile of correspondence before him, he had quite forgotten his uneasiness.
 
Certainly, as day after day went smoothly by, there seemed less and less cause for apprehension19. The tramps were evidently making southward, like the birds, before the approach of winter. And nothing more was seen of Dan Nolan. A watch had been kept upon the hut on the hillside, but he had not returned there, so the hut was finally demolished20 and the tunnel in the cliff closed up. Every effort had been made to discover his whereabouts, but in vain. The detectives of the road declared that he was nowhere in the neighbourhood; but Jack21 Welsh was, as always, skeptical22.
 
Just east of Wadsworth, beyond the river, the country rose into a series of hills, sparsely23 settled and for the most part covered by virgin24 forest. These hills extended for many miles to the eastward25, and among them, Jack told himself, Nolan could easily find a secure hiding-place for himself and half a dozen men.
 
“An’ that’s jest where he is,” said Jack to Allan one evening, when they were talking the matter over. “That’s jest what Nolan’d love t’ do—put hisself at th’ head of a gang o’ bandits. He was allers talkin’ about highwaymen an’ train-robbers an’ desperadoes when he was on th’ gang; but we only laughed at him then. Now, I see it would have been a good thing if I’d ’a’ taken a stout26 stick an’ beat that foolishness out o’ him.”
 
“But Reddy,” said Allan; “where’s Reddy?”
 
“Reddy’s with him,” answered Jack, decidedly. “An’ there’s no tellin’ what scrape that reptile’ll git him into. I dare say, Reddy thinks Nolan’s his best friend. That’d be natural enough, since he’s got to thinkin’ that all his old friends are his worst enemies.”
 
“If we could only find him!” said Allan, wistfully “and bring him home again. The poor fellow will never get well if he’s left to wander about like that.”
 
But there seemed no way of finding him. Allan was the last person who had seen him. That was at the moment, in the early morning, when he had slunk away from under the engine. Some warning of the search for him must certainly have reached him, for he had never again appeared at home. His wife, nearly heart-broken by the suspense27, imagining him suffering all sorts of hardships, yet went about her work with a calm persistence28 which concealed29 in some degree the tumult30 which raged within her. The children must be fed and cared for, and she permitted nothing to stand between her and that duty. The division offices had never been so clean as they were since Mrs. Magraw had taken charge of them.
 
A day or two later, Allan fancied he saw something which proved the truth of Jack’s theory. It was one morning as he was returning from his regular trip that he reached the embankment along the river and glanced over at the willows31 on the farther side, as he always did when he passed the place, for it was there that he and Jack had first seen Reddy in Nolan’s company. His heart gave a leap as he saw two men there. He stopped and looked at them, but the early morning mist rising from the river hid them so that he could discern nothing beyond the mere16 outline of their forms. He stared long and earnestly, until they passed behind the clump32 of willows and disappeared from sight. Something told him that it was Reddy and Nolan again, but he could not be sure, and at last he went slowly on his way. Perhaps they had a place of concealment33 somewhere in the woods that stretched eastward from the river-bank.
 
He mentioned his suspicion to Jack, as soon as he reached home, and the latter was all on fire in a minute.
 
“I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” he said. “Next Sunday we’ll take a walk through th’ woods over there, an’ it’s jest possible we’ll run on to ’em. Mebbe we kin12 save Reddy from that rascal34 yet!”
 
So, bright and early the next Sunday morning, they started out, taking with them a lunch, for they did not expect to return until evening. They crossed the river by the bridge which they had used on the night when they had tried to capture Nolan, and struck at once into the woods.
 
“It’s like huntin’ a needle in a haystack,” said Jack, “but my idea is that they’ve got a hut somewheres back in th’ hollers behind this first range o’ hills. They’s mighty35 few houses back there,—nothin’ but woods. So mebbe we’ll run on to ’em, if we have good luck.”
 
They scrambled36 up the first low range of hills which looked down upon the broad river, and paused for a moment on the summit for a look about them. Beyond the river lay the level valley which, twelve decades before, had been one of the favourite dwelling-places of the red man. The woods abounded37 with game of every sort, and the river with fish, while in the fertile bottom his corn would grow to ripe luxuriance with little cultivation38. More than one fierce battle for the possession of this smiling valley had been fought with the
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