“Why, how Mr. Charlton come to go to the State boardin’-house fer takin’ a land-warrant he didn’ take.”
“How did she find out?” said Isa. Her voice seemed to be purer and sweeter than ever—happiness had tuned it.
“By list’nin’ at the key-hole,” said Jim.
“When? What key-hole?”
“When Mr. Lurton and Miss Marlay—I beg your pard’n, Mrs. Charlton—was a-talkin’ about haow to git Mr. Charlton out.”
“Be careful,” said Lurton. “You shouldn’t make such a charge unless you have authority.”
Jim looked at Lurton a moment indignantly. “Thunder and lightnin’,” he said, “Dave tole me so hisself! Said she tole him. And Dave larfed over it, and thought it ‘powerful cute’ in her, as he said in his Hoosier lingo;” and Jim accompanied this last remark with a patronizing look at Gray.
“Charlton, what are you thinking about?” asked Lurton when conversation flagged.
“One year ago to-day I was sentenced, and one year ago to-morrow I started to Stillwater.”
“Bully!” said Jim. “I beg yer pardon, Mrs. Charlton, I couldn’t help it. A body likes to see the wheel turn round right. Ef ’twould on’y put some folks in as well as turn some a-out!”
When Charlton with his bride started in a sleigh the next morning to his new home on his property in the village of “Charlton” a crowd had gathered about the door, moved partly by that curiosity which always interests itself in newly-married people, and partly by an exciting rumor that Charlton was not guilty of the offense for which he had been imprisoned. Mrs. Ferret had told the story to everybody, exacting from each one a pledge of secrecy. Just as Albert started his horses, Whisky Jim, on top of his stage-box, called out to the crowd, “Three cheers, by thunder!” and they were given heartily. It was the popular acquittal.
Metropolisville is only a memory now. The collapse of the land-bubble and the opening of railroads destroyed it. Most of the buildings were removed to a neighboring railway station. Not only has Metropolisville gone, but the unsettled state of society in which it grew has likewise disappeared—the land-sharks, the claim speculators, the town-proprietors, the trappers, and the stage-drivers have emigrated or have undergone metamorphosis. The wild excitement of ’56 is a tradition hardly credible to those who did not feel its fever. But the most evanescent things may impress themselves on human beings, and in the results which they thus produce become immortal. There is a last page to all our works, but to the history of the ever-unfolding human spirit no one will ever write.