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Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express
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KANSAS and Colorado were definitely swinging to the North. There was ac growing Majority which believed that it was all important to preserve the Union. What happened was most natural. As the Northern sentiment grew, the Southerners departed in increasing numbers to more congenial climes.
Both sides had reckless groups which believed that the only worth-while solution was extermination of those who disagreed. There were many instances in which bands of desperate outlaws would attack, in the least provocation, men whose only crime was that they differed in their beliefs.
Stanton and Carruthers, two of the Express riders, had come into Leavenworth, which was a strong Northern town. It was common belief that they intended to make their way to a point where they could join the Southern army. Bill, McCarthy and the rest of the riders had discussed this point and had unanimously decided that they should be given the opportunity.
"If Stanton and Carruthers were in our place," said Simpson, "we would expect them to act the same way."
"And they would," said Bill. "It's up to us to give them the chance to get to their homes."
"I feel as you all do," said Woods, while the discussion was on, "but it does savor of false sentimentality to let these men get away. It almost seems as if we were helping the South by doing so."
"On the other hand, consider it from this angle, Woods. These men came here in time of peace. Suddenly, a misunderstanding flares into a bitter struggle. They came among us peaceably, now they are going to leave us in the same way. We, who have been their comrades, owe them that much -- to let them go. We must not put this big war on a personal issue. Fight, yes -- but for a far bigger thing than our own little selves -- our country."
But there were others in Leavenworth whose sense of chivalry and fair dealing was not quite so high. There was a strong feeling that it was ridiculous to let these men get away, the thing to do was to make them prisoners.
On his way home from Majors' office a half hour after this discussion, Bill had occasion to pass through a rather lawless part of Leavenworth -- close by the Fort. Drose had just come from it with final instructions as to when his regiment was to move to the front. The two, after exchanging greetings, stopped for a few minutes, as it was Bill's intention to continue homeward, while Drose was bound for the office of the Service.
Drose had just finished imparting the information he had obtained and there was that short pause which always comes when people take leave of each other.
Close by stood a small dilapidated cabin. Standing in the shadow of a big tree neither Drose nor Bill could be easily seen.
Two men who had come up the road stopped at the entrance of this cabin.
"The boys are going to meet tonight, Ben. We mustn't let those two Rebels get away," said one.
Bill and Drose exchanged quick glances. "From what I know of Jim Carruthers and Art Stanton you will have a fight trying to stop them," the other commented.
"Well, it's a choice we will give them -- if they fight they'll get no mercy. If they come peaceably it means they will be merely placed in the war-prison."
"Better not let any of the riders know about this, Saunders. If they have any inkling of it you will have more than a handful of trouble."
"They won't know. There are just twenty of us and we are going after them late tonight. Come over to Benson's tonight."
"I will. So long, Saunders."
As one of the men went into the cabin, the other went on his way. Bill turned to Drose with a great grin on his face.
"Aren't Ben and Saunders in for a surprise tonight? Come on, Drose, I've changed my mind about going home. There is too much promise of fun and excitement."
"Do you know those men, Bill?" asked Drose.
"Of course," the boy replied. "Saunders has an idea he is a very important individual hereabouts. He is strongly for the Union and he thinks that a man is forever doomed if he is from the South. He is a good deal of a politician, too."
"Do you suppose we can get our men together in time?" the man asked.
"Not that it matters," he added, "for we really won't need them all. But it would be a pity to keep any of them out of the fun."
"Well, most of them were at Majors' office when I left. They are waiting for Majors who is away for two days. I imagine they are still there as Alcock had just started a funny story when I left. I didn't wait to hear it because he had already told it to me one night, when I was his relay."
"Well, here we are," Drose offered as they entered the office.