“Feel any better, Billy?” said Mose, stopping the prayer for a moment.
“A little,” said Billy, feebly; “but you want to tell the whole yarn. I’m sorry for all the wrong I’ve done.”
“He’s sorry for all his deviltry, Lord—”
“An’ I ain’t got nothin’ agin the Judge,” continued the sufferer.
“An’ he don’t bear no malice agin the Judge, which he shouldn’t, seein’ he generally gin as good as he took. An’ the long an’ short of it, Lord, is jest this—he’s a dyin’, an’ he wants a chance to die with his mind easy, an’ nobody else can make it so, so we leave the whole job in your hands, only puttin’ in, fur Billy’s comfort, thet we recollect hearing how yer forgiv’ a dyin’ thief, an’ thet it ain’t likely yer a-goin’ to be harder on a chap thet’s alwas paid fur what he got. Thet’s the whole story. Amen.”
Billy’s hand, rapidly growing cold, reached for that of Mose, and he said, with considerable effort:
“Mose, yer came in ez handy as a nugget in a gone-up claim. God bless yer, Mose. I feel better inside. Ef I get through the clouds, an’ hev a livin’ chance to say a word to them as is the chiefs dar, thet word’ll be fur you, Mose. God bless yer, Mose, an’ ef my blessin’s no account, it can’t cuss yer, ennyhow. This claim’s washed out, fellers, an’ here goes the last shovelful, to see ef ther’s enny gold in it er not.”
And Billy departed this life, and the boys drank to the repose of his soul.
He suited the natives exactly. What they would have done had he not been available, they shuddered to contemplate. The county was so new a one that but three men had occupied the sheriff’s office before Charley Mansell was elected. Of the three, the first had not collected taxes with proper vigor; the second was so steadily drunk that aggrieved farmers had to take the law in their own hands regarding horse-thieves; the third was, while a terrible man on the chase or in a fight, so good-natured and lazy at other times, that the county came to be overrun with rascals. But Charley Mansell fulfilled every duty of his office with promptness and thoroughness. He was not very well known, to be sure, but neither was any one else among the four or five thousand inhabitants of the new county. He had arrived about a year before election-day, and established himself as repairer of clocks and watches—an occupation which was so unprofitable at Bunkerville, the county town, that Charley had an immense amount of leisure time at his disposal. He never hung about the stores or liquor-shop after dark; he never told doubtful stories, or displayed unusual ability with cards; neither did he, on the other hand, identify himself with either of the Bunkerville churches, and yet every one liked him. Perhaps it was because, although short, he was straight and plump, whereas the other