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McTeague

CHAPTER 21
"Well," said one of the deputies, as he backed the horse into the shafts of the
buggy in which the pursuers had driven over from the Hill, "we've about as good
as got him. It isn't hard to follow a man who carries a bird cage with him wherever
he goes."
McTeague crossed the mountains on foot the Friday and Saturday of that week,
going over through Emigrant Gap, following the line of the Overland railroad. He
reached Reno Monday night. By degrees a vague plan of action outlined itself in
the dentist's mind.
"Mexico," he muttered to himself. "Mexico, that's the place. They'll watch the
coast and they'll watch the Eastern trains, but they won't think of Mexico."
The sense of pursuit which had harassed him during the last week of his stay at
the Big Dipper mine had worn off, and he believed himself to be very cunning.
"I'm pretty far ahead now, I guess," he said. At Reno he boarded a south-bound
freight on the line of the Carson and Colorado railroad, paying for a passage in
the caboose. "Freights don' run on schedule time," he muttered, "and a conductor
on a passenger train makes it his business to study faces. I'll stay with this train
as far as it goes."
The freight worked slowly southward, through western Nevada, the country
becoming hourly more and more desolate and abandoned. After leaving Walker
Lake the sage-brush country began, and the freight rolled heavily over tracks that
threw off visible layers of heat. At times it stopped whole half days on sidings or
by water tanks, and the engineer and fireman came back to the caboose and
played poker with the conductor and train crew. The dentist sat apart, behind the
stove, smoking pipe after pipe of cheap tobacco. Sometimes he joined in the
poker games. He had learned poker when a boy at the mine, and after a few
deals his knowledge returned to him; but for the most part he was taciturn and
unsociable, and rarely spoke to the others unless spoken to first. The crew
recognized the type, and the impression gained ground among them that he had
"done for" a livery-stable keeper at Truckee and was trying to get down into
Arizona.
McTeague heard two brakemen discussing him one night as they stood outside
by the halted train. "The livery-stable keeper called him a bastard; that's what
Picachos told me," one of them remarked, "and started to draw his gun; an' this
fellar did for him with a hayfork. He's a horse doctor, this chap is, and the livery-
stable keeper had got the law on him so's he couldn't practise any more, an' he
was sore about it."
 
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