“Perhaps not,” Ferrers grudgingly admitted.
“Then the killing came about through the bad practice of carrying a revolver?”
“Bad practice!” snorted Jim. “Well, if that’s a bad practice more’n half the men in the state have the vice.”
“Popular custom may not make a thing right,” argued Reade.
“But what are you going to do when the men who have a grudge against you pack guns?” Jim queried, opening his eyes very wide.
“I’ve had a few enemies—–bad ones, too, some of them,” Tom answered slowly. “Yet I’ve always refused to carry an implement of murder, even when I’ve been among rough enemies. And yet I’m alive. If I had carried a pistol ever since I came West I’m almost certain that I’d be dead by this time.”
“But if you won’t carry a gun, and let folks suspect you of being a white-flagger, then you get the reputation of being a coward,” argued Ferrers.
“Then I suppose I’ve been voted a coward long ago,” Reade nodded.
“No, by the Great Nugget, you’re not a coward,” retorted Ferrers. “No man who has seen you in a tough place will ever set you down for a coward.”
“Yet I must be, if I don’t tote a gun in a wild country,” smiled Reade.
“But to go back to the case of that good-for-nothing, Dolph Gage,” Jim Ferrers resumed. “You advise me to forget that he shot at me?”
“Oh, no, I don’t,” Tom retorted quietly. “But you don’t have to go out and take your own revenge. There are laws in this state, aren’t there?”
“And officers to execute the laws”
“To be sure.”
“Then why not go back to Dugout City, there to lay information against Gage. That done, the sheriff’s officers will have to do the hunting. Having nothing personal against the officers, Gage will very likely hold up his hands when the officers find him, and then go back with them as peaceable as a lamb. Jim, you want to be even with Gage for shooting your brother and for trying to finish you. Won’t it give you more satisfaction to feel that you’ve put Gage day for his bread and water? I know that is the way I’d want to punish a man that I had cause to hate. At least, I believe it’s the way; I don’t really know, for I can’t recall any man that I hate hard enough to wish him worse than out of my sight.”
“Say, it would be kinder funny to go up to the state ‘pen’ some day, and see Dolph Gage walking lock-step with a lot of rascally Chinamen, drunken Indians, Knife-sticking foreigners and sassy bill-collectors, wouldn’t it?” grinned Jim Ferrers.
“I’m glad your sense of humor is improving,” smiled Tom Reade. “Now, tomorrow, morning, Jim, you take two of the other men, and our ponies, and ride into Dugout. If you run across Gage don’t try to pick up any trouble. Of course, I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t shoot in self-defense if you’re attacked, but try, if possible, to keep out of any trouble with Gage. Just save him for the sheriff. It’s the law’s business to handle such fellows. Let the law have its own way.”