“Make who give it back?” I asked.
“Who?” said he. “Why old DeWitt Clinton Wade, the old thief! Who else had the key to the office or knew how to open that safe? Come on, Jake, and bring your pistol!”
I handed him the pistol.
“I agreed to guard you and the county’s money,” I said, “and that’s all. You hain’t got the county’s money, it seems, and my job’s over. I’ve got to break prairie to-day, and I guess I’d better be going!”
I passed out of the door, and as I went I heard them—the judge and his wife, and I thought Virginia joined in—condemning me for deserting them. But I needed to think this thing over before I could see into it. It looked pretty dark for some one then, and I saw it was a matter to see N.V. about before taking any further part.
I never have seen through it. There it was: The money in the treasury, and supposed to be in the bag, and placed in Governor Wade’s safe. There were the two men, both supposed to be rich. There was the time, when the kissing games were going on, when the governor was not seen by any of his guests. The governor was rich always afterward, while the judge struggled along with adversity and finally went away from the county poor as a church mouse. Then there was the jingle I seemed to remember at starting, and Judge Stone’s twice speaking of it—the jingle Virginia did not hear. Salt does not jingle.
For a long time it appeared to me that these things seemed to prove that the governor got the money; but lately, since both the men have passed away, I have had my doubts. Judge Stone was a much nicer man than the governor to meet up with, but—well, what’s the use? It is long past. It was past for me, too, as I walked out to my farm that morning as the dawn broadened into day, with the prairie-chickens singing their wonderful morning song, and the blue-joint grass soaking me with dew to my knees.
At that moment, or soon after, in a stormy encounter at the Wade farm, with witnesses that the judge took with him, began the great Wade-Stone feud of Monterey County, Iowa. It lasted until the flood of new settlers floated it away in a freshet of new issues during and after the great Civil War.
I took the story to N.V. as soon as I went to town. He sat looking at me with a mysterious grin on his face, as I told him of the loss of the county funds.
“Well,” said he, “this will make history. I venture the assertion that the case will be compromised. I can’t see this close corporation of a county government making Stone’s bondsmen pay the loss. Or Stone either. And I can’t see any one getting that amount of money out of old Wade, whether it was in the bag when it went into his safe or not. Your testimony on the jingle feature ain’t worth a cuss. The Bunker boys had that bag marked for their own; for we know now that they were out on a raid that night and cleaned up several good horses. I must