The preacher paused over a knot in one of the cords on the prisoner’s legs, and said:
“Say you were a circuit-rider—that’s more near the literal truth.”
The sheriff seemed to demur somewhat, and he said, at length:
“Without meanin’ any disrespect, parson, don’t you think ’twould tickle the old man and the citizens more to think he’d been a sheriff? They wouldn’t dare to ask him so many questions then, either. And it might be onhandy for him if he was asked to preach, while a smart horse-thief has naturally got some of the p’ints of a real sheriff about him.”
“You insist upon it that he’s my prisoner,” said the preacher, tugging away at his knot, “and I insist upon the circuit-rider story. And,” continued the young man, with one mighty pull at the knot, “he’s got to be a circuit-rider, and I’m going to make one of him. Do you hear that, young man? I’m the man that’s setting you free and giving you to your father!”
“You can make anything you please out of me,” said the prisoner. “Only hurry!”
“As you say, parson,” remarked the sheriff, with admirable meekness; “he’s your prisoner, but I could make a splendid deputy out of him if you’d let him take my advice. And I’d agree to work for his nomination for my place when my term runs out. Think of what he might get to be!—there has sheriffs gone to the Legislature, and I’ve heard of one that went to Congress.”
“Circuit-riders get higher than that, sometimes,” said the preacher, leading his prisoner toward old Wardelow’s cabin; “they get as high as heaven!”
“Oh!” remarked the sheriff, and gave up the contest.
Both men accompanied the prisoner toward his father’s house. The preacher began to deliver some cautionary remarks, but the young man burst from him, threw open the door, and shouted:
The old man started from his bed, shaded his eyes, and exclaimed:
The father and son embraced, seeing which the sheriff proved that even sheriffs are human by snatching the circuit-rider in his arms and giving him a mighty hug.
* * * * *
The father recovered and lived happily. The son and the preacher fulfilled their respective promises, and the sheriff, always, on meeting either of them, so abounded in genial winks and effusive handshakings, that he nearly lost his next election by being suspected of having become religious himself.
“Luck? Why, I never seed anything like it! Yer might give him the sweepin’s of a saloon to wash, an’ he’d pan out a nugget ev’ry time—do it ez shure as shootin’!”
This rather emphatic speech proceeded one day from the lips of Cairo Jake, an industrious washer of the golden sands of California; but it was evident to all intelligent observers that even language so strong as to seem almost figurative did not fully express Cairo Jake’s conviction, for he shook his head so positively that his hat fell off into the stream, which found a level only an inch or two below Jacob’s boottops, and he stamped his right foot so vigorously as to endanger his equilibrium.