It was intentionally late in the day when we reached Dodge. My horse, which I was leading, gave considerable trouble while returning, compelling us to drive slow. The buyers repeatedly complained that dinner would be over at their hotel, but the detective knew of a good restaurant and promised all of us a feast. On reaching town, we drove to the stable where the rig belonged, and once free of the horses, Siringo led the way to a well-known night-and-day eating-house on a back street. No sooner had we entered the place than I remembered having my wagon in town, and the necessity of its reaching camp before darkness made my excuse imperative. I hurried around to the outfitting house and found the order filled and all ready to load into the wagon. But Parent was missing, and in skirmishing about to locate him, I met my brother Bob. Tolleston had arrived, but his presence had not been discovered until after Seay reached town. Archie was fairly well "organized" and had visited the hotel where the buyers were stopping, leaving word for them of his arrival. My brother and Seay had told him that they had met, down the trail that morning, two cattle buyers by the name of Field and Radcliff; that they were inquiring for a herd belonging to Tom Coleman, which was believed to be somewhere between Dodge and the Cimarron River. The two had assured Tolleston that the buyers might not be back for a week, and suggested a few drinks in memory of old times. As Archie was then three sheets in the wind, his effacement, in the hands of two rounders like Dorg Seay and Bob Quirk, was an easy matter.
Once the wagon was loaded and started for camp, I returned to the restaurant. The dinner was in progress, and taking the vacant seat, I lifted my glass with great regularity as toast after toast was drunk. Cigars were ordered, and with our feet on the table, the fiscal agent said: "Gentlemen, this is a mere luncheon and don't count. But if I'm able to sell you my other two beef herds, why, I'll give you a blow-out right. We'll make it six-handed--the three trail foremen and ourselves--and damn the expense so long as the cattle are sold. Champagne will flow like water, and when our teeth float, we'll wash our feet in what's left."
At a late hour the dinner ended. We were all rather unsteady on our feet, but the pock-marked detective and myself formed a guard of honor in escorting the buyers to their hotel, when an officious clerk attempted to deliver Tolleston's message. But anticipating it, I interrupted his highness and informed him that we had met the party; I was a thousand times obliged to him for his kindness, and forced on him a fine cigar, which had been given me by Bob Wright of the outfitting store. While Siringo and the buyers passed upstairs, I entertained the office force below with an account of the sale of my herd, constantly referring to my new employers. The fiscal agent returned shortly, bought some cigars at the counter, asked if he could get a room for the night, in case he was detained in town, and then we passed out of the hotel. This afforded me the first opportunity to notify Siringo of the presence of Tolleston, and I withheld nothing which was to his interest to know. But he was impatient to learn if the draft had been accepted, and asking me to bring my brother to his room within half an hour, he left me.
It was growing late in the day. The sun had already set when I found my brother, who was anxious to return to his camp for the night. But I urged his seeing Siringo first, and after waiting in the latter's room some time, he burst in upon us with a merry chuckle. "Well, the draft was paid all right," said he; "and this is Bob Quirk. Boys, things are coming nicely. This fellow Tolleston is the only cloud in the sky. If we can keep him down for a week, and the other herds come in shortly, I see nothing to thwart our plans. Where have you picketed Tolleston?" "Around in Dutch Jake's crib," replied Bob.
"That's good," continued the fiscal agent, "and I'll just drop in to-night and see the madam. A little money will go a long way with her, and in a case like this, the devil himself would be a welcome ally. You boys stay in town as much as you can and keep Tolleston snowed deep, and I'll take the buyers down the trail in the morning and meet the herds coming up."
My brother returned to his camp, and Siringo and I separated for the time being. In '84 Dodge, the Port Said of the plains, was in the full flower of her wickedness. Literally speaking, night was turned into day in the old trail town, for with the falling of darkness, the streets filled with people. Restaurants were crowded with women of the half-world, bar-rooms thronged with the wayfaring man, while in gambling and dance halls the range men congregated as if on special invitation. The familiar bark of the six-shooter was a matter of almost nightly occurrence; a dispute at the gaming table, a discourteous word spoken, or the rivalry for the smile of a wanton was provocation for the sacrifice of human life. Here the man of the plains reverted to and gave utterance to the savagery of his nature, or, on the other hand, was as chivalrous as in the days of heraldry.
I knew the town well, this being my third trip over the trail, and mingled with the gathering throng. Near midnight, and when in the Lady Gay dance-hall, I was accosted by Dorg Seay and the detective. They had just left Dutch Jake's, and reported all quiet on the Potomac. Seay had not only proved himself artful, but a good fellow, and had unearthed the fact that Tolleston had been in the employ of Field and Radcliff for the past three months. "You see," said Dorg, "Archie never knew me except the few days that I was about headquarters in Medina before we started. He fully believes that I've been discharged--and with three months' pay in my hip-pocket. The play now is that he's to first help me spend my wages, and then I'm to have a job under him with beeves which he expects to drive to the Yellowstone. He has intimated that he might be able to give me a herd. So, Tom, if I come out there and take possession of your cattle, don't be surprised. There's only one thing to beat our game--I can't get him so full but what he's over-anxious to see his employers. But if you fellows furnish the money, I'll try and pickle him until he forgets them."
The next morning Siringo and the buyers started south on the trail, and I rode for my camp on the Saw Log. Before riding many miles I sighted my outfit coming in a long lope for town. They reported everything serene at camp, and as many of the boys were moneyless, I turned back with them. An enjoyable day was before us; some drank to their hearts' content, while all gambled with more or less success. I was anxious that the outfit should have a good carouse, and showed the lights and shadows of the town with a pride worthy of one of its founders. Acting the host, I paid for our dinners; and as we sauntered into the street, puffing vile cigars, we nearly ran amuck of Dorg Seay and Archie Tolleston, trundling a child's wagon between them up the street. We watched them, keeping a judicious distance, as they visited saloon after saloon, the toy wagon always in possession of one or the other.
While we were amusing ourselves at the antics of these two, my attention was attracted by a four-mule wagon pulling across the bridge from the south. On reaching the railroad tracks, I recognized the team, and also the driver, as Quince Forrest's. Here was news, and accordingly I accosted him. Fortunately he was looking for me or my brother, as his foreman could not come in with the wagon, and some one was wanted to vouch for him in getting the needed supplies. They had reached the Mulberry the evening before, but several herds had mixed in a run during the night, though their cattle had escaped. Forrest was determined not to risk a second night on that stream, and had started his herd with the dawn, expecting to camp with his cattle that night west on Duck Creek. The herd was then somewhere between the latter and the main Arkansaw, and the cook was anxious to secure the supplies and reach the outfit before darkness overtook him. Sponsilier was reported as two days behind Forrest when the latter crossed the Cimarron, since when there had been no word from his cattle. They had met the buyers near the middle of the forenoon, and when Forrest admitted having the widow Timberlake's beef herd, they turned back and were spending the day with the cattle.
The situation demanded instant action. Taking Forrest's cook around to our outfitting store, I introduced and vouched for him. Hurrying back, I sent Wayne Outcault, as he was a stranger to Tolleston, to mix with the two rascals and send Seay to me at once. Some little time was consumed in engaging Archie in a game of pool, but when Dorg presented himself I lost no time in explaining the situation. He declared that it was no longer possible to interest Tolleston at Dutch Jake's crib during the day, and that other means of amusement must be resorted to, as Archie was getting clamorous to find his employers. To my suggestion to get a livery rig and take him for a ride, Dorg agreed. "Take him down the river to Spearville," I urged, "and try and break into the calaboose if you can. Paint the town red while you're about it, and if you both land in the lock-up, all the better. If the rascal insists on coming back to Dodge, start after night, get lost, and land somewhere farther down the river. Keep him away from this town for a week, and I'll gamble that you boss a herd for old man Don next year."
The afternoon was waning. The buyers might return at any moment, as Forrest's herd had no doubt crossed the river but a few miles above town.
I was impatiently watching the boys, as Dorg and Wayne cautiously herded Tolleston around to a livery stable, when my brother Bob rode up. He informed me that he had moved his camp that day across to the Saw Log; that he had done so to accommodate Jim Flood and The Rebel with a camp; their herds were due on the Mulberry that evening. The former had stayed all night at Bob's wagon, and reported his cattle, considering the dry season, in good condition. As my brother expected to remain in town overnight, I proposed starting for my camp as soon as Seay and his ward drove out of sight. They parleyed enough before going to unnerve a saint, but finally, with the little toy wagon on Tolleston's knee and the other driving, they started. Hurrahing my lads to saddle up, we rode past the stable where Seay had secured the conveyance; and while I was posting the stable-keeper not to be uneasy if the rig was gone a week, Siringo and the buyers drove past the barn with a flourish. Taking a back street, we avoided meeting them, and just as darkness was falling, rode into our camp some twelve miles distant.
My brother Bob's camp was just above us on the creek, and a few miles nearer town. As his wagon expected to go in after supplies the next morning, a cavalcade of fifteen men from the two outfits preceded it. My horse-wrangler had made arrangements with the cook to look after his charges, and in anticipation of the day before him, had our mounts corralled before sun-up. Bob's wrangler was also with us, and he and Levering quarreled all the way in about the respective merits of each one's remuda. A match was arranged between the two horses which they were riding, and on reaching a straight piece of road, my man won it and also considerable money. But no matter how much we differed among ourselves, when the interests of our employer were at stake, we were a unit. On reaching town, our numbers were augmented by fully twenty more from the other Lovell outfits, including the three foremen. My old bunkie, The Rebel, nearly dragged me from my horse, while Forrest and I forgot past differences over a social glass. And then there was Flood, my first foreman, under whom I served my apprenticeship on the trail, the same quiet, languid old Jim. The various foremen and their outfits were aware of the impending trouble over the Buford delivery, and quietly expressed their contempt for such underhand dealings. Quince Forrest had spent the evening before in town, and about midnight his herd of "Drooping T's" were sold at about the same figures as mine, except five thousand more earnest-money, and the privilege of the buyers placing their own foreman in charge thereafter. Forrest further reported that the fiscal agent and the strangers had started to meet Sponsilier early that morning, and that the probability of all the herds moving out in a few days was good.
Seay and his charge were still absent, and the programme, as outlined, was working out nicely. With the exception of Forrest and myself, the other foremen were busy looking after their outfits, while Bob Quirk had his wagon to load and start on its return. Quince confided to me that though he had stayed on Duck Creek the night before, his herd would noon that day on Saw Log, and camp that evening on the next creek north. When pressed for his reasons, he shrugged his shoulders, and with a quiet wink, said: "If this new outfit put a man over me, just the minute we get out of the jurisdiction of this county, off his horse he goes and walks back. If it's Tolleston, the moment he sees me and recognizes my outfit as belonging to Lovell, he'll raise the long yell and let the cat out. When that happens, I want to be in an unorganized country where a six-shooter is the highest authority." The idea was a new one to me, and I saw the advantage of it, but could not move without Siringo's permission, which Forrest had. Accordingly about noon, Quince summoned his men together, and they rode out of town. Looking up a map of Ford County, I was delighted to find that my camp on Saw Log was but a few miles below the north line.
Among the boys the day passed in riotousness. The carousing was a necessary stimulant after the long, monotonous drive and exposure to the elements. Near the middle of the forenoon, Flood and The Rebel rounded up their outfits and started south for the Mulberry, while Bob Quirk gathered his own and my lads preparatory to leaving for the Saw Log. I had agreed to remain on guard for that night, for with the erratic turn on Tolleston's part, we were doubly cautious. But when my outfit was ready to start, Runt Pickett, the feisty little rascal, had about twenty dollars in his possession which he insisted on gambling away before leaving town. Runt was comfortably drunk, and as Bob urged humoring him, I gave my consent, provided he would place it all at one bet, to which Pickett agreed. Leaving the greater part of the boys holding the horses, some half-dozen of us entered the nearest gambling-house, and Runt bet nineteen dollars "Alce" on the first card which fell in a monte lay-out. To my chagrin, he won. My brother was delighted over the little rascal's luck, and urged him to double his bet, but Pickett refused and invited us all to have a drink. Leaving this place, we entered the next gaming-hall, when our man again bet nineteen dollars alce on the first card. Again he won, and we went the length of the street, Runt wagering nineteen dollars alce on the first card for ten consecutive times without losing a bet. In his groggy condition, the prospect of losing Pickett's money was hopeless, and my brother and I promised him that he might come back the next morning and try to get rid of his winnings.
Two whole days passed with no report from either Seay or the buyers. Meanwhile Flood and The Rebel threaded their way through the other herds, crossing the Arkansaw above town, their wagons touching at Dodge for new supplies, never halting except temporarily until they reached the creek on which Forrest was encamped. The absence of Siringo and the buyers, to my thinking, was favorable, for no doubt when they came in, a deal would have been effected on the last of the Buford herds. They returned some time during the night of the third day out, and I failed to see the detective before sunrise the next morning. When I did meet him, everything seemed so serene that I felt jubilant over the outlook. Sponsilier's beeves had firmly caught the fancy of the buyers, and the delay in closing the trade was only temporary. "I can close the deal any minute I want to," said Siringo to me, "but we mustn't appear too anxious. Old man Don's idea was to get about one hundred thousand dollars earnest-money in hand, but if I can get five or ten more, it might help tide us all over a hard winter. My last proposition to the buyers was that if they would advance forty-five thousand dollars on the 'Apple' beeves-- Sponsilier's cattle--they might appoint, at the seller's expense, their own foreman from Dodge to the point of delivery. They have agreed to give me an answer this morning, and after sleeping over it, I look for no trouble in closing the trade."
The buyers were also astir early. I met Mr. Field in the post-office, where he was waiting for it to open. To his general inquiries I reported everything quiet, but suggested we move camp soon or the cattle would become restless. He listened very attentively, and promised that within a few days permission would be given to move out for our final destination. The morning were the quiet hours of the town, and when the buyers had received and gone over their large and accumulated mail, the partners came over to the Dodge House, looking for the fiscal agent, as I supposed, to close the trade on Sponsilier's cattle. Siringo was the acme of indifference, but listened to a different tale. A trusted man, in whom they had placed a great deal of confidence, had failed to materialize. He was then overdue some four or five days, and foul play was suspected. The wily detective poured oil on the troubled waters, assuring them if their man failed to appear within a day or two, he would gladly render every assistance in looking him up. Another matter of considerable moment would be the arrival that morning of a silent partner, the financial man of the firm from Washington, D.C. He was due to arrive on the "Cannon Ball" at eight o'clock, and we all sauntered down to meet the train from the East. On its arrival, Siringo and I stood back among the crowd, but the buyers pushed forward, looking for their friend. The first man to alight from the day coach, coatless and with both eyes blackened, was Archie Tolleston; he almost fell into the arms of our cattle buyers. I recognized Archie at a glance, and dragging the detective inside the waiting-room, posted him as to the arrival with the wild look and blood-shot optics. Siringo cautioned me to go to his room and stay there, promising to report as the day advanced.
Sponsilier had camped the night before on the main river, and as I crossed to the hotel, his commissary pulled up in front of Wright, Beverly & Co.'s outfitting store. Taking the chances of being seen, I interviewed Dave's cook, and learned that his foreman had given him an order for the supplies, and that Sponsilier would not come in until after the herd had passed the Saw Log. As I turned away, my attention was attracted by the deference being shown the financial man of the cattle firm, as the party wended their way around to the Wright House. The silent member of the firm was a portly fellow, and there was no one in the group but did him honor, even the detective carrying a light grip, while Tolleston lumbered along with a heavy one.
My effacement was only temporary, as Siringo appeared at his room shortly afterward. "Well, Quirk," said he, with a smile, "I reckon my work is all done. Field and Radcliff didn't feel like talking business this morning, at least until they had shown the financial member their purchases, both real and prospective. Yes, they took the fat Colonel and Tolleston with them and started for your camp with a two-seated rig. From yours they expect to drive to Forrest's camp, and then meet Sponsilier on the way coming back. No; I declined a very pressing invitation to go along--you see my mixed herds might come in any minute. And say, that man Tolleston was there in a hundred places with the big conversation; he claims to have been kidnapped, and was locked up for the last four days. He says he whipped your man Seay, but couldn't convince the authorities of his innocence until last night, when they set him free. According to his report, Seay's in jail yet at a little town down the road called Kinsley. Now, I'm going to take a conveyance to Spearville, and catch the first train out of there East. Settle my bill with this hotel, and say that I may be out of town for a few days, meeting a herd which I'm expecting. When Tolleston recognizes all three of those outfits as belonging to Don Lovell--well, won't there be hell to pay? Yes, my work is all done."
I fully agreed with the detective that Archie would recognize the remudas and outfits as Lovell's, even though the cattle were road-branded out of the usual "Circle Dot." Siringo further informed me that north of Ford County was all an unorganized country until the Platte River was reached at Ogalalla, and advised me to ignore any legal process served outside those bounds. He was impatient to get away, and when he had put me in possession of everything to our advantage, we wrung each other's hands in farewell. As the drive outlined by the cattle buyers would absorb the day, I felt no necessity of being in a hurry. The absence of Dorg Seay was annoying, and the fellow had done us such valiant service, I felt in honor bound to secure his release. Accordingly I wired the city marshal at Kinsley, and received a reply that Seay had been released early that morning, and had started overland for Dodge. This was fortunate, and after settling all bills, I offered to pay the liveryman in advance for the rig in Seay's possession, assuring him by the telegram that it would return that evening. He refused to make any settlement until the condition of both the animal and the conveyance had been passed upon, and fearful lest Dorg should come back moneyless, I had nothing to do but await his return. I was growing impatient to reach camp, there being no opportunity to send word to my outfit, and the passing hours seemed days, when late in the afternoon Dorg Seay drove down the main street of Dodge as big as a government beef buyer. The liveryman was pleased and accepted the regular rate, and Dorg and I were soon galloping out of town. As we neared the first divide, we dropped our horses into a walk to afford them a breathing spell, and in reply to my fund of information, Seay said:
"So Tolleston's telling that he licked me. Well, that's a good one on this one of old man Seay's boys. Archie must have been crazy with the heat. The fact is that he had been trying to quit me for several days. We had exhausted every line of dissipation, and when I decided that it was no longer possible to hold him, I insulted and provoked him into a quarrel, and we were both arrested. Licked me, did he? He couldn't lick his upper lip."