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In fifteen minutes the emigrant train on the Union Pacific railroad was to leave the depot at Omaha, going west.
Two men, evidently waiting for the train, might have been seen pacing to and fro upon the station platform in close conversation.
The eldest of the two was apparently forty years of age. He was of medium hight and build, with steel-gray eyes, sharp and brilliant. His hair, which was cut closely to a well-shaped head, was of a dark brown, as was also his heavy mustache and whiskers. He was dressed in light gray clothes, after the prevailing fashion of the day (1869).
The other individual was a man of some thirty years. He was much taller than his companion, but not so compactly built. His hair was black as the raven’s wing, and hung about his shoulders long and straight. His eyes were black, but small and evil-like. His face was smoothly shaven, and bore the unmistakable evidence of a dissipated character. He was dressed in a suit of dark clothes that fitted him stiffly and made him appear ill at ease.
No one in Omaha knew these two individuals, yet their names were spoken daily in connection with their crimes, for the former was Duval Dungarvon, the notorious robber-captain of the Black Hills, and the latter Blufe Brandon, the renegade Cheyenne chief known as Black Bear.
Having glanced about them to see that no one was near, the robber-chief asked, in a low tone:
“Well, Brandon, have you made up your mind about that matter?”
“Not exactly,” added Brandon, “for, since I have considered that you have oceans of gold stowed away in the ‘Hills,’ I think you can afford to say ten thousand dollars.”
“Ten thousand furies!” replied the robber-captain; “what would such a notorious cutthroat as you are do with ten thousand dollars? You couldn’t spend it among your accursed Indians, and you dare not attempt to spend it among white people. But, however, I suppose I must submit, as the game is in your own hands. But, mind you, the girl has got to be placed in my hands at the Devil’s Tarn, forty miles south of Cheyenne, and if one hair of her head is injured I will not give you one cent!” and the eyes of the robber-captain glowed like living coals of fire.
“How soon will Sanford—I believe that’s what you called him—start for San Francisco?”
“Within the next ten days, I understand; however, I will telegraph you at Julesburg on the morning they start, using, of course, our hotel nom de plumes. Now remember.”
At this juncture the conductor’s call of, “All aboard” ended the two villains’ conversation, and bidding his companion adieu, Blufe Brandon entered the cars, and in another moment he was rolling toward the mountains.
Duval Dungarvon entered an omnibus and ordered the driver to drive him to the Wyoming hotel.
And thus in a few minutes two villains—one a robber and the other a renegade—both from the fastnesses of the Black Hills—had planned and plotted a dark and perhaps bloody crime.
Five days later and Duval Dungarvon was again pacing the depot-platform. He was alone, but, from the impatient look upon his face and the occasional glance up the street, it was evident that he was expecting some one.
Presently his face brightened as he saw a carriage, drawn by four horses, rolling down toward the depot, and as it drove up alongside the platform he walked to the opposite side and mingled with some men collected there, but all the while kept a close watch upon the carriage.
When the vehicle stopped, a tall, noble, gray-haired man of some fifty years stepped out and assisted a young and beautiful girl to the platform. These were followed by four young
men dressed in sportsmen’s garbs, each carrying a new Spencer rifle and a game-bag.
The elderly gentleman was Colonel Wayland Sanford, and the young girl his daughter Silvia. They were just about to start on a visit to friends in San Francisco. Two of the young men, Willis and Frank Armond, were the colonel’s nephews and men of means and leisure. The other two, Walter Lyman, attorney, and Ralph Rodman, physician and surgeon, were Willis’ and Frank’s intimate friends, who, like themselves, did not have to depend entirely upon their profession for a livelihood; so the four young gentlemen had concluded to accompany the colonel and daughter as far as the mountains, where they could spend the summer in hunting as recreation from the dust and heat of city life.
As soon as Duval Dungarvon saw the party enter the cars that stood awaiting their load of human freight, he turned and entered the telegraph office, and taking up a blank seated himself at a desk and wrote the following message, which he at once dispatched:
“Omaha, June 15th, 1869.
“William Bates, Esqr., Julesburg, W. T.—Sanford and daughter leave on morning train for San Francisco.
Paying for the dispatch, the robber-captain went out upon the platform. The cars were just rolling away, and from one of the windows he beheld the eyes of Colonel Sanford fixed upon him like one in a trance; but in an instant the train was gone, and, turning on his heel, he strode away, muttering to himself:
“By furies! he recognized me! It’s a good thing he’s gone, Duval Dungarvon, alias Clifton Payson, for he might have given you trouble, and the best thing for you is to get out of here yourself.”
And so he did. The next day the villain took the train west.
Had one from the grave confronted Colonel Sanford he could not have been more startled than he was on seeing Duval Dungarvon. For fully an hour he sat in profound silence, which his young friends attributed to his feelings on leaving home, and the possible idea that he might never live to return
to it again. Finally, however, he rallied and talked and joked in his usual humorous spirits.
After nearly two days’ ride the train rolled into Julesburg, where it stopped for a few minutes. But one person took the train at this point, and that person was Blufe Brandon, the renegade chief, his face completely disguised in a mass of false, grizzly whiskers.
The renegade passed from coach to coach, and finally seated himself on the seat behind Colonel Sanford, which happened to be vacant. Julesburg was left far behind, and away in the distance westward the dark range of the Black Hills loomed up against the glowing sky.
There being no way-stations, the train rolled rapidly on, never tiring, never halting, gliding into the dark cut, by roaring cañon, over the yawning gorge, beneath the beetling crag, through dismal tunnel—on, on until it had entered the environs of the Black Hills. Then the evil-eyed passenger from Julesburg glanced around, and, seeing no eye upon him, placed his hand in his pocket and drew therefrom a small packet which he at once tossed out at the window with considerable force. A dull report like that of a pistol; a lurid flash like that by a rocket, where the packet struck the earth, followed this act. But one person in the cars saw that flash, and that was he who produced it; but, far away up on a mountain peak, another pair of eyes saw and read the meaning of that flash, and immediately from the same hight a blazing arrow shot far up into the air, described a beautiful curve, and then fell to the earth again. Then, fully three miles further on toward the west, from the summit of another peak, a blue light might have been seen swinging to and fro, then standing still, then rolling through the air like a blazing hoop.
Suddenly, in rounding an abrupt curve, the glowing headlight flashed on a red flag standing in the center of the track. Instantly the wary engineer whistled down brakes, and in a moment the train stopped. At that instant a yell that fairly shook the old hills fell upon the ears of the passengers—a savage, blood-curdling yell, mingled with the clash of firearms.
It required but a single thought for the passengers to realize
the terrible truth. The train had been stopped by a band of Indians!
Simultaneous with the yell of the Indians a loud, coarse voice cried out:
“Put out the lights; the train has been attacked by the Indians!”
It was the voice of Blufe Brandon.
In an instant the lights were put out in that coach. Then followed a confusion that beggars description. The yells of the Indians, the report of pistols, the crashing of glass, the jamming of shutters, the screaming of women, the commands and shouts of men, made the moment awful, terrible.
In the midst of the excitement Brandon sprung to his feet, and, leaning forward, seized Silvia Sanford around the waist—lifted her in his arms as though she had been an infant, and turning, glided out the door and sprung from the car.
“Oh, father, help! Some one is carrying me off!” cried Silvia, as she was borne from the car.
“Great God! what foul treachery is this?” cried Colonel Sanford, springing to his feet. “Willis, Frank, boys, all come, for Heaven’s sake!” and, followed by the four young men, he rushed out and sprung from the car just in time to see the villain disappear down a black defile with his child.
The moment the renegade sprung from the car every Indian turned and followed him, leaving the train to resume its course, which it did, leaving Colonel Sanford and his young friends standing alone in that awful gloom!
It was quite evident that the attack had been carefully arranged, simply for the abduction of Miss Sanford, for no one was killed, nor did the savages attempt to board the train as they had done on previous occasions; but withdrew at a signal of their chief, Blufe Brandon.
A speechless silence fell over the colonel and his party. They stood and gazed into the gloom that seemed impenetrable.
The prospect of recovering the lost girl appeared to the experienced eyes of the father almost as gloomy as were the surroundings.
The remembrance of the face he had seen at Omaha as the cars were leaving, the face of a man whom he knew to be his
bitter, implacable enemy, instantly caused him to connect the man with the disappearance of his daughter.
Under these circumstances it was indeed fortunate that the father was an experienced Indian-fighter. During the gold-fever of 1848, he had crossed the plains twice, and spent many years in the mines of California. Then during the Pike’s Peak excitement he spent a couple of years there, and during the late Indian troubles he had command of a regiment of cavalry upon active duty, their field of operations being in the immediate vicinity of the Black Hills. Thus most of his life had been spent upon the frontier, or among the Indians, whose language, haunts and habits he had learned to perfection; and there was but little of the country in which they now were but what he was intimately acquainted with, though five years had elapsed since he had last traversed it. Knowing that no time was to be lost he shaped their course, and at once set off in the direction taken by the savages, the darkness rendering it impossible to follow the trail.
Thus began the young men’s summer recreation on the plains!