'ELEANOR WEBBER' (Con't)
She Wanted A Husband. He Wanted Gold!
The fresh team broke into a gallop, red dust flying about the huge wooden
wheels. Eleanor caught at her bonnet and choked with surprise. Certainly
it wasn't at all like the train ride. Soon the stagecoach was rolling down
the curving road to the Bear River. A thick screen of pines and cedars
shielded the mountains from view. Inside, the passengers were enjoying the
merriment of Ryan who, after getting comfortable by a window, had broken
into a repertoire of Irish songs. His lovely tenor voice delighted all.
Eleanor, with thoughts of wedded bliss bracing her mind, consented to join
in also. Her voice was true and sweet.
Beyond the Bear River, the pace slowed for the long climb up the
manzanita-covered slopes. The horses snorted and bobbed their heads. The
singing inside continued despite the heat and dust, and Ryan passed his
bottle to the other men.
The stage had reached the lower acres of Sheet's Ranch, only five miles from
the Grass Valley station, when four masked men stepped into the road.
Seeing the road blocked, the driver quickly hauled back on the reins and
slammed the brake with his foot. The team skidded and reared, tossing
several of the passengers onto the floor.
"By golly, if it isn't a holdup," Ryan bellowed in his rich tenor.
Eleanor tried to look outside the coach, but the dust and the other
passengers blocked her view. But she did hear the highwaymen yell for all
the passengers to climb out.
"What does this mean?" she asked.
"Never you worry, little lady," Ryan said, taking her arm. "Soon as they
what they want we'll be on our way again."
Outside the coach, Eleanor immediately saw the four double-barreled shotguns
aimed at the driver. Scott was silent, keenly aware of what could happen
if the wrong moves were made.
"Everyone out," the bandit leader shouted," and unhitch the team."
"What do you want?" the driver asked, although it was all too certain what
"The strong box with the gold," came the answer.
"But it's on the other stage," Scott replied, attempting to thwart the
"You know better than that," the leader shouted. "Everyone out. It's
here. You know there aren't two coaches running on Sunday."
Eleanor's legs were cramped anyway, and she shook her shoulders, trying to
regain her natural good posture. Despite the threatening situation she did
not feel frightened. Instead, she was very curious about these men whose
faces were covered by masks.
The leader pointed to two of his men. They leveled their shotguns, knowing
what to do next. "Over there," one shouted, using his gun to point out a
clearing some thirty yards down the road. "Get over there and sit down,
cross-legged, in a row." Eleanor, however, was allowed to remain standing,
so as not to dirty her skirts.
Meanwhile, the leader and one of his men had quickly uncovered the iron
strongbox, attacking it with a miner's pick. They broke the outer lock, but
were stopped from stripping it of its contents by a second padlock.
"Going to take more than this pick," one masked man said to the leader.
"Then get the blasting powder."
A third man produced a canister of powder and some fuse. Suddenly Eleanor
realized what was happening and nervously spoke up. "Gentlemen," she said.
It is evident that you are going to use powder to blow open the safe. My
trunk, which is on the deck of the stage, will in all probability be blown
to pieces. It contains all that I own in this world. And while its
destruction will not benefit you in the least, it will be an irreplaceable
loss to me. Please, I beg you, take it down first."
The masked bandit leader gallantly reassured her. "Certainly, Miss, with
the greatest pleasure." Setting the canister down, he climbed up onto the
deck of the stagecoach and carefully slid the trunk down over the boot to
his waiting companion. The other masked man carefully carried it to safety.
As the leader hefted the trunk, the wind tugged at his mask and Eleanor
momentarily had a glimpse of the man's face. She smiled thinly, saying
Two men resumed tamping powder around the lock. After there was a sufficient
amount inserted, they attached a long fuse and lit it cautiously. Rejoining
the rest of the gang and the passengers seated on the ground, they waited
quietly, flinching in anticipation of the explosion. There was no blast,
however. After a full minute, the impatient leader walked up to the
strongbox to see what had gone wrong. He glanced inside the coach and then
jerked around, taking off at a dead run. The warning hiss of the burning
fuse was swallowed up by a brilliant flash of fire and a great roar, which
echoed off the immovable Sierras.
To Be Continued . . . Quickly the bandits moved in...
Copied by Nancee(McMurtrey)Seifert
September 28, 2005
'A Closed Mouth Gathers No Foot.'