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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesJoe's Luck; Or, Always Wide Awake - Chapter 31. Judge Lynch Pronounces Sentence
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Joe's Luck; Or, Always Wide Awake - Chapter 31. Judge Lynch Pronounces Sentence Post by :waytogo-store Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :1269

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Joe's Luck; Or, Always Wide Awake - Chapter 31. Judge Lynch Pronounces Sentence

CHAPTER XXXI. JUDGE LYNCH PRONOUNCES SENTENCE

The gentleman from Pike was sitting on a log, surrounded by miners, to whom he was relating his marvelous exploits. The number of Indians, grizzly bears, and enemies generally, which, according to his account, he had overcome and made way with, was simply enormous. Hercules was nothing to him. It can hardly be said that his listeners credited his stories. They had seen enough of life to be pretty good judges of human nature, and regarded them as romances which served to while away the time.

"It seems to me, my friend," said Kellogg, who, it will be remembered, had been a schoolmaster, "that you are a modern Hercules."

"Who's he?" demanded the Pike man suspiciously, for he had never heard of the gentleman referred to.

"He was a great hero of antiquity," exclaimed Kellogg, "who did many wonderful feats."

"That's all right, then," said the Pike man. "If you're friendly, then I'm friendly. But if any man insults me he'll find he's tackled the wrong man. I can whip my weight in wildcats------"

Here he was subjected to an interruption.

Mr. Bickford could no longer suppress his indignation when at a little distance he saw his mustang, which this treacherous braggart had robbed him of, quietly feeding.

"Look here, old Rip-tail, or whatever you call yourself, I've got an account to settle with you."

The Pike man started as he heard Mr. Bickford's voice, which, being of a peculiar nasal character, he instantly recognized. He felt that the meeting was an awkward one, and he would willingly have avoided it. He decided to bluff Joshua off if possible, and, as the best way of doing it, to continue his game of brag.

"Who dares to speak to me thus?" he demanded with a heavy frown, looking in the opposite direction. "Who insults the Rip-tail Roarer?"

"Look this way if you want to see him," said Joshua. "Put on your specs if your eyes ain't good."

The man from Pike could no longer evade looking at his late comrade. He pretended not to know him.

"Stranger," said he, with one hand on the handle of his knife, "are you tired of life?"

"I am neither tired of life nor afraid of you," said Joshua manfully.

"You don't know me, or------"

"Yes, I do. You're the man that says he can whip his weight in wildcats. I don't believe you dare to face your weight in tame cats."

"Sdeath!" roared the bully. "Do you want to die on the spot?"

"Not particularly, old Rip-tail. Don't talk sech nonsense. I'll trouble you to tell me why you stole my horse on the way out here."

"Let me get at him," said the Pike man in a terrible voice, but not offering to get up from the log.

"Nobody henders your gettin' at me," said Mr. Bickford composedly. "But that ain't answerin' my question."

"If I didn't respect them two gentlemen too much, I'd shoot you where you stand," said the Pike man.

"I've got a shootin'-iron myself, old Rip-tail, and I'm goin' to use it if necessary."

"What have you to say in answer to this man's charge?" asked one of the miners, a large man who was looked upon as the leader of the company. "He charges you with taking his horse."

"He lies!" said the man from Pike.

"Be keerful, old Rip-tail," said Mr. Bickford in a warning tone. "I don't take sass any more than you do."

"I didn't steal your horse."

"No, you didn't exactly steal it, but you took it without leave and left your own bag of bones in his place. But that wasn't so bad as stealin' all our provisions and leavin' us without a bite, out in the wilderness. That's what I call tarnation mean."

"What have you to say to these charges?" asked the mining leader gravely.

"Say? I say that man is mistaken. I never saw him before in my life."

"Well, that's cheeky," said Joshua, aghast at the man's impudence. "Why, I know you as well as if we'd been to school together. You are the Rip-tail Roarer. You are from Pike County, Missouri, you are. You can whip your weight in wildcats. That's he, gentlemen. I leave it to you."

In giving the description, Joshua imitated the boastful accents of his old comrade with such success that the assembled miners laughed and applauded.

"That's he! You've got him!" they cried.

"Just hear that, old Rip-tail," said Mr. Bickford. "You see these gentlemen here believe me and they don't believe you."

"There's a man in this here country that looks like me," said the Pike man, with a lame excuse. "You've met him, likely."

"That won't go down, old Rip-tail. There ain't but one man can whip his weight in wildcats and tell the all-firedest yarns out. That's you, and there ain't no gettin' round it."

"This is a plot, gentlemen," said the man from Pike, glancing uneasily at the faces around him, in which he read disbelief of his statements. "My word is as good as his."

"Maybe it is," said Mr. Bickford. "I'll call another witness. Joe, jest tell our friends here what you know about the gentleman from Pike. If I'm lyin', say so, and I'll subside and never say another word about it."

"All that my friend Bickford says is perfectly true," said Joe modestly. "This man partook of our hospitality and then repaid us by going off early one morning when we were still asleep, carrying off all our provisions and exchanging his own worn-out horse for my friend's mustang, which was a much better animal."

The man from Pike had not at first seen Joe. His countenance fell when he saw how Mr. Bickford's case was strengthened, and for the moment he could not think of a word to say.

"You are sure this is the man, Joe?" asked, the leader of the miners.

"Yes, I will swear to it. He is not a man whom it is easy to mistake."

"I believe you. Gentlemen," turning to the miners who were sitting or standing about him, "do you believe this stranger or our two friends?"

The reply was emphatic, and the man from Pike saw that he was condemned.

"Gentlemen," he said, rising, "you are mistaken, and I am the victim of a plot. It isn't pleasant to stay where I am suspected, and I'll bid you good evening."

"Not so fast!" said the leader, putting his hand heavily on his shoulder. "You deserve to be punished, and you shall be. Friends, what shall we do with him?"

"Kill him! String him up!" shouted some.

The Rip-tail Roarer's swarthy face grew pale as he heard these ominous words. He knew something of the wild, stern justice of those days. He knew that more than one for an offense like his had expiated his crime with his life.

"It seems to me," said the leader, "that the man he injured should fix the penalty. Say you so?"

"Aye, aye!" shouted the miners.

"Will you two," turning to Joe and Bickford, "decide what shall be done with this man? Shall we string him up?"

The Pike man's nerve gave way.

He flung himself on his knees before Joshua and cried:

"Mercy! mercy! Don't let them hang me!"

Joshua was not hard-hearted. He consulted with Joe and then said:

"I don't want the critter's life. If there was any wild-cats round, I'd like to see him tackle his weight in 'em, as he says he can. As there isn't, let him be tied on the old nag he put off on me, with his head to the horse's tail, supplied with one day's provisions, and then turned loose!"

This sentence was received with loud applause and laughter.

The horse was still in camp and was at once brought out. The man from Pike was securely tied on as directed, and then the poor beast was belabored with whips till he started off at the top of his speed, which his old owner, on account of his reversed position, was unable to regulate. He was followed by shouts and jeers from the miners, who enjoyed this act of retributive justice.

"Mr. Bickford, you are avenged," said Joe,

"So I am, Joe. I'm glad I've got my hoss back; but I can't help pityin' poor old Rip-tail, after all. I don't believe he ever killed a wildcat in his life."

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