“It’s him, all right,” said he; “that’s Cal.” Franklin nodded.
Curly picked up a bit of stick and began to stir among the ashes, but as he did so both he and Franklin uttered an exclamation of surprise. By accident he had touched one of the limbs. The stick passed through it, leaving behind but a crumbled, formless heap of ashes. Curly essayed investigation upon the other side of the fire. A touch, and the whole ghastly figure was gone! There remained no trace of what had lain there. The shallow, incrusting shell of the fickle ash broke in and fell, all the thin exterior covering dropping into the cavern which it had inclosed! Before them lay not charred and dismembered remains, but simply a flat table of ashes, midway along it a slightly higher ridge, at which the wind, hitherto not conspiring, now toyed, flicking away items here and there, carrying them, spreading them, returning them unto the dust. Cal Greathouse had made his charge, and left it with the Frontier to cast the reckoning.
“Your Honour,” said Franklin to the Court, “I appear to defend this man.”
The opening sentence of the young advocate might have been uttered in burlesque. To call this a court of justice might have seemed sheer libel. There was not the first suggestion of the dignity and solemnity of the law.
Ellisville had no hall of justice, and the court sat at one place or another, as convenience dictated. This being an important case, and one in which all the populace was interested, Judge Bristol had selected the largest available assembly room, which happened to be the central hall of Sam Poston’s livery barn. The judge sat behind a large upturned box, which supported a few battered books. At his right the red-nosed prosecuting attorney shuffled his papers. Along the sides of the open hall-way, through whose open doors at each end the wind passed freely, sat jury and audience, indiscriminately mingled. The prisoner himself, ignorant of the meaning of all this, sat on an upturned tub, unshackled and unguarded. Back of these figures appeared the heads of a double row of horses. The stamp of an uneasy hoof, the steady crunch of jaws upon the hay, with now and then a moist blowing cough from a stall, made up a minor train of intermittent sound. Back of the seated men others were massed, standing in the doorways. Outside the building stood crowds, now and then increased or lessened by those who passed in or out of the room where the court was in session. These interested spectators were for the most part dark, sunburned men, wearing wide hats and narrow boots with spurs. They all were armed. Leaning against the sides of the mangers, or resting a hand upon the shoulders of another, they gazed calmly at the bar of justice. The attitude of Ellisville was one of sardonic calm. As a function, as a show, this trial might go on.