“I ain’t a bettin’ man,” said the deacon, “but I’d risk our white-faced cow that them thirty thousand dollars preached the greatest sermon ever heerd in Californy—ur in Crankett either.”
Miss Peekin threw a withering glance at the deacon; it was good he was not on trial for heresy, with Miss Peekin for judge and jury. She continued:
“Eben says there was a fellow named Weasel that hid close by, an’ heerd all ‘twas said, and when he went to the rum-shop an’ told the miners, they hooray’d for Jim ez ef they wuz mad. Just like them crazy fellers—they hain’t no idee when money’s wasted.”
“The Lord waste all the money in the world that way!” devoutly exclaimed the deacon.
“An’ that feller Weasel,” continued Miss Peekin, giving the deacon’s pet cat a vicious kick, “though he’d always been economical, an’ never set a bad example before by persuadin’ folk to be intemprit, actilly drored a pistol, and fit with a feller they called Colonel Two—fit for the chance of askin’ the crowd to drink to Jim Hockson, an’ then went aroun’ to all the diggins, tellin’ about Jim, an’ wastin’ his money treatin’ folks to drink good luck to Jim. Disgraceful!”
“It’s what I’d call a powerful conversion,” remarked the deacon.
“But ther’s more,” said Miss Peekin, with a sigh, and yet with an air of importance befitting the bearer of wonderful tidings.
“What?” eagerly asked Mrs. Crankett.
“Jim’s back,” said Miss Peekin.
“Mercy on us!” cried Mrs. Crankett.
“The Lord bless and prosper him!” earnestly exclaimed the deacon.
“Well,” said Miss Peekin, with a disgusted look, “I s’pose He will, from the looks o’ things; fur Eben sez that when Weasel told the fellers how it all wuz, they went to work an’ put gold dust in a box fur Jim till ther wus more than he giv fur Brown, an’ fellers from all round’s been sendin’ him dust ever since. He’s mighty sight the richest man anywhere near this town.”
“Good—bless the Lord!” said the deacon, with delight.
“Ye hain’t heerd all of it, though,” continued Miss Peekin, with a funereal countenance. “They’re going to be married.”
“Sakes alive ’” gasps Mrs. Crankett.
“It’s so,” said Miss Peekin; “an’ they say she sent for him, by way of the Isthmus, an’ he come back that way. Bad enough to marry him, when poor Brown hain’t been dead six months, but to send for him—”
“Wuz a real noble, big-hearted, womanly thing to do,” declared Mrs. Crankett, snatching off her spectacles; “an’ I’d hev done it myself ef I’d been her.”
The deacon gave his old wife an enthusiastic hug; upon seeing which Miss Peekin hastily departed, with a severely shocked expression of countenance and a nose aspiring heavenward.
Black Hat was, in 1851, about as peaceful and well-regulated a village as could be found in the United States.