Jesse James, the Outlaw
Pass Out That Treasure
The houses that we passed after entering the gloomy by-road were few and far
between, and of an exceptionally lonely and forlorn appearance.
I remarked that with the rough occupants of all of them, so far as there
were any signs of life at all, my terrible companions were in signal
At last we struck off from even the apology for a road we had been
following. A difficult jaunt of ten minutes longer through the scarcely broken
forest brought us to a large clearing, in which there was one of the largest and
most comfortable-looking cabins I had ever seen.
Among others who came out to meet us were two beautiful, even
refined-looking, young women, whom I discovered, to my astonishment, to be the
wives of my companions. I was introduced to them and the rest, after a fashion,
simply as "doe" Jesse not having thus far seen fit to ask me for any
It was now sunset. I was greatly exhausted in body, mind, and nerve,
especially the latter. It was, therefore, not long after the ample supper with
which we were regaled that I was glad enough to accept the bed that was offered
me in a little room in the back of the house.
I slept soundly, but nevertheless awoke several times during the night.
Whenever I did so I became intuitively conscious that I was watched. Of course,
I could not conjecture by whom, and the sense itself was an indefinable one at
best. But it was, nevertheless, strong, and I knew instinctively just as well as
if I had been told so in as many words that any attempt just then to escape from
my terrible environment would inevitably result in my violent death.
"Don't worry, sis. Just wait till I make one more big tenstrike, either
on a passenger train or with a rich bank, that's all. Then hey for the Panhandle
of Texas, and for peace and quiet with my darling. Run into the house now, and I
will soon join you."
Such were the words I overheard spoken in the garden just outside of my
window when I awoke for the last time, and in broad daylight. The voice was that
of Jesse James, and the words were finished by a sound very like a kiss, which I
doubted not was bestowed on the lips of a wifely listener. I heard a happy
little laugh a moment afterward, followed by a sharp rustle, as of a woman's
skirts being whisked into the house, and then the receding footsteps of a man.
Wonderingly thinking of many things, I arose, dressed, and went in search of
Jesse, whose protege I was generally thought to be.
As I passed through the rooms on my way to the open air, hardly any one paid
the slightest attention to me, expect Frank James, who looked up and nodded
surlily as I passed him in the kitchen.
It appeared to be a cleanly, well-ordered household, but an air of
suspicious sadness -- a sense of isolation -- an unmistakable consciousness of
criminality -- overhung it like a pall. It was as though the house was a man,
with the indelible brand of Cain upon its brow.
"Good-morning, Mr. James," said I, as I came upon the outlaw
leader, somewhat unawares, in a little nook at the farther side of the clearing.
He stared up confusedly, and hastily hid in his bosom
something that he had been earnestly contemplating -- perhaps the packet of
tokens I had given him on the preceding day. He was himself again in a moment,
however. After exchanging a few remarks, he said:
"Doe, I believe I can trust you."
"I know you can," said I.
"How would you like to go into Independence to-day, to find out for me
the drift of public thought concerning Frank and me?"
"Just as you say," said I. "You know the solemn obligation
that I feel in being here with you."
"Yes, yes; but will you promise to come back here -- alone -- say at
this time to-morrow morning, and report?"
"All right, I believe you. Go ahead, then, as soon as you've got your
breakfast. By the way, to-day is the last of the big county fair. I may meet you
either on or near the grounds this afternoon, if you happen to be on hand."
"I never went disguised in my life," said Jesse, coolly.
"But, good Heavens! you wouldn't take such a risk?"
"Yes, I would, by --! and a thundering sight bigger one, for a
sufficient stake, and with this at hand!" he exclaimed, clapping his hand
on one of his revolvers. "Pshaw, man! my reputation alone carries me
through more than half my adventures. Come; there's the breakfast-bell."
Directly after breakfast I mounted and rode away. But little attention was
paid to me as I quitted the house. A boy piloted me to the road, and then an
hour's gallop brought me in sight of Independence.
But during that hour's ride enough bewildering thoughts occurred to me to
make my head whirl. For months I had been praying for just this sort of intimacy
with the dreaded James brothers, and now that I had achieved it, I was half
appalled at the risk upon which I had entered.
But half of my Booneville story was true, although the lovetokens from the
dying Blanche Rideau were genuine. I had never practiced as a physician, but had
received the letters and other little things from Judge Rideau himself, soon
after his daughter's death. He was a friend of mine, and gave the things to me
in the furtherance of my plans, and in the honest hope that they would aid me in
bringing these desperate criminals to justice.
Here I was in their confidence at last. But, should they discover my
duplicity in this respect, or obtain the first inkling of a suspicion that I was
in correspondence with the authorities -- well, from the cruelly murderous
scenes that I had already witnessed where detectives were concerned, the reader
can judge whether or not I could have any hopes of retaining my own life for a
single instant. I was literally carrying my life in my hands. However, I had
placed my life upon a die, and there was nothing for it but to stand the hazard
of the cast.
I found the town of Independence in a great state of excitement over the
previous day's doings of the James brothers.
The first person I met to recognize me was Jewell, the sole remaining
Chicago detective. It was on a sidestreet, soon after I put up my horse at the
He was still shaky from his escape of the preceding day. As soon as he saw
me he shrank up against a fence,
his eyes starting out of his head, as though he were beholding a ghost.
"Great guns, stranger! you here and alive?" he ejaculated.
"It looks like it," I replied.
"But how did those James devils come to let you off?"
"Am I a detective?"
"But think of Hawes and Whittaker! And it was only last evening that
Langman's riddled body was found fastened to the tree."
"What of that?"
"Why, I should think they would have murdered you, too."
"Not at all. They had nothing against an inoffensive, old, country
doctor like me. They merely kept me a prisoner all day and night, and then
dismissed me -- with a caution. It's a caution I'm not likely to forget."
"Good Lord, I should think not."
"What is to be your next move?" I asked.
"Holy smoke, can you ask? Why, to quit Independence and Missouri as
soon as I can muster up the nerve to do so!"
"Nerve? Muster up nerve merely to take passage out of a locality!"
"That's it, stranger. Blast me, if I ain't even afraid to get aboard a
railroad train, lest the James boys should gobble me up on the way, locomotive,
cowcatcher, and all. I've a wife and three young ones in Chicago -- only let
me get back there again, without a hide full of bullets, that's all."
And with that the decidedly demoralized detective meandered off, looking
this way and that, as if he dreaded to see a James brother sprout out of every
I spent the morning in picking up such items of information as I thought
would be likely to interest Jesse James when I should meet him again on the
following day, in accordance with my promise. I determined to consider myself as
being on parole for the time being.
In the course of my sauntering I observed both Cutts and Larry the Lamb in
the crowds thronging the streets incidental to the great fair. I pretended to
have no knowledge of their whereabouts, though morally sure that one of their
chief objects was to spy upon my movements. Doubtless there were other
confederates of the outlaws scattered through the crowds for a similar purpose.
However, their presence did not make me lose confidence in myself.
Toward noon, hot and thirsty, I strolled into one of the temporary saloons
on the fair grounds, and ordered a lemonade. Two sorry negro minstrels were
apparently trying to be comical, in the hope of-a few gratuitous quarters, at
the rear of the saloon, with a battered banjo and a pair of bones as the
accessories. While I was sipping my lemonade at a small table near them, the
fellow with the bones began a series of antics around me, and wound up by
significantly extending his open palm.
"Not much," I exclaimed, with a countryman's indignation. "I
wouldn't pay a cent for your ridiculous monkey shines -- not one cent, sir.
Better wash the black off your face and enter upon some honest occupation."
"Gimme a drink, at all events, old hoss," pleaded the mountebank,
kicking up another antic or two, while bawling out the fag-end of a cheap ballad
at the top of his voice.
Finally, after a good deal of chaffing, I reluctantly allowed him to
persuade me to order him a glass of beer. A crowd of loafers and sightseers had
in the meantime gathered in the saloon. They stood near the bar, and were
doubtless greatly amused at the altercation for the paltry price of a drink
between Bones and the stingy old countryman, as they considered me.
Nevertheless, as Bones blew the froth from his beer, and bowed his thanks to
me, with a squirming contortion of the body that set the crowd in a roar, he
eyed me with a flashing look of intelligence. I recognized him for my man just
"What about the Youngers?" I whispered, over my lemonade.
"They are to have a conference with the Jameses at the end of next
week, to plan a colossal train or bank robbery," was the swift reply over
the beer. "And you, colonel?
"I am now fairly living with the James boys, and rapidly learning all
their plans," was my rejoinder. "Will try and talk with you again
to-night. Quick! do something. I'm being watched."
At this juncture Bones "downed" the beer at a gulp, spun the glass
in the air and caught it again, shouted out the first lines of a song, and,
dashing into the contortions of an original breakdown, wound up by waving one
foot in the air and bringing it down on the top of my new hat with crushing and
Red and excited, I arose- with a roar of simulated rage, and was about to
precipitate myself upon him, when the barkeeper interfered. He said I mustn't
hurt the musicians, and smilingly advised me to take- myself and my custom in
the neighborhood of cheaper refreshments.
With that I indignantly quitted the saloon, amid the jeering laughter of the
bystanders, among whom I recognized both Cutts and the Lamb, apparently as
jovial at my expense as any of the rest. But, nevertheless, my temper was in
reality unruffled, and I had exchanged the necessary information with my
confederate just the same.
After dinner at the hotel, I went, with pretty much all the rest of the
world, residents and strangers, into the fair grounds. The exhibition of stock
and agricultural implements, and flowers and fruits, and the like, was good
enough in its way, but I soon wearied of it. Moreover, the crowd in the inclosed
ground was wellnigh suffocating.
While wandering curiously about, wondering what
Jesse James could have meant by saying that I might see him at the fair, I
again ran across Jewell. He had drank so much whisky -- he would probably have
called it "mustering up nerve" -- as to have somewhat overcome his
apprehensions, and informed me that he would leave Independence on the seven
o'clock train of that evening. He was also full of talk about the success of the
"They've taken in twenty-four thousand dollars in three days, sir,"
he maundered. "There goes Sheriff Masters and he told me so. They've just
counted out the amount in the gate-office, there it all stands in a tin box at
the elbow of the treasurer of the fair association. Let's take a drink,
stranger. By Jove! if I had that much money in Chicago -- far, far from the
murdering James devils -- "
Just here I managed to make my escape. I nodded to
Masters, with whom I was
personally and professionally acquainted, as he passed me a few moments later.
At about four o'clock, when the crowded entertainment was at its height, I
grew so tired of the whole thing that I passed out of the inclosure. The
surrounding open space, which was just on the outskirts of the town, was almost
wholly deserted, in view of the attractions afforded by the inclosed grounds.
As I passed the rough-board ticket-office, I looked through the small,
square window at which tickets had been dispensed so profitably for several
days. I saw the treasurer -- a large, fine-looking gentleman, with a magnificent
beard -- sitting on a high stool, and facing the window. He was smoking a cigar,
with the tin moneybox at his elbow, and was apparently in a very contented state
I made these observations without any particular object, and then began
leisurely crossing the deserted grounds, going toward the town.
The sound of hoof-beats in the roadway behind caused me to turn.
To my utter astonishment, I saw Jesse and Frank James riding in from the
direction of the open country at a careless, easy gait. -They were both superbly
mounted, as was their custom, Jesse being on his sorrel favorite, Dancer.
Before I could recover from my astonishment they had halted before the
ticket-office. There Frank took Dancer by the bridle, while Jesse leisurely
dismounted, and approached the office window.
I actually thought the treasurer must be an old personal acquaintance, with
whom he was about to pass the time of day in a pure spirit of braggadocia.
Here is what really happened.
"I say, Mr. Treasurer," said Jesse, urbanely, thrusting his face
into the opening, "what'd you think if I should say that I am Jesse James,
the outlaw and order you to pass me out that tin money-box yonder?"
"What would I think, eh?" exclaimed the treasurer, bursting into a
laugh, and doubtless deeming he was dealing with a lunatic, or a practical
joker. "Why, I should think you a -- fool, and would tell you to go to the
"Well, that's just what I do say, and order you to do," cried
Jesse, thrusting his revolver through the opening, and inconveniently getting "the
drop" on the astounded official. "Hand out that box -- quick, or you're a
"But look here -- hold on -- this money, d'ye see -- "
"Out with it!" roared the robber, with a frightful oath. "Delay
but another instant, and my bullet's in your heart!"
The panic-stricken treasurer handed out the box. But an instant was required
to transfer its precious contents into the inside of Dancer's capacious
A moment more and the empty tin box was on the ground, while the successful
bandit brothers were galloping away with their booty at a tremendous pace.
It all happened almost directly under my eyes, and was an accomplished fact
almost before I realized what had occurred.
The alarm was instantly given. In less than five minutes after the
perpetration of the deed, upward of fifty horsemen were galloping in pursuit of
Anxious to witness the result, I hastily procured a horse, and joined a
small group of excellently equipped pursuers, headed by Sheriff Dick Masters, a
brave and capable official.
In gaining the thickly wooded, hilly country, we chose the worst road to be
found. It led tortuously in and out of the defiles caused by the blending of the
foothills and bold, rocky spurs.
While our party were threading one of these defiles at a breakneck gait, a
shout from far above our heads caused us to draw rein and look up.
There, up and away, where the wild road bordered the edge of a frightful
chasm, we beheld the daring fugitives skimming away on their fleet steeds, like
a pair of-eagles, along the face of the cliff.
"Good-by, Dick Masters," called out the younger but abler villain,
waving his hat triumphantly. "Score down one more red mark for Jesse James,
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