“I don’t care a farthin’ dip for yer looks and sounds,” cried Burke, interrupting the other. “No man is goin’ for to tell me that anybody can trust to looks and sounds. Why, I’ve know’d the greatest villain that ever chewed the end of a smuggled cigar look as innocent as the babe unborn. An’ is there a man here wot’ll tell me he hasn’t often an’ over again mistook the crack of a big gun for a clap o’ thunder?”
This was received with much approval by the crowd, which had evidently more than half-forgotten the terrible purpose for which it had assembled there, and was now much interested in what bade fair to be a keen dispute. When the noise abated, Dan raised his voice and said:
“If Burke had not interrupted me, I was going to have said that another thing which proves the letter to be no forgery is, that the postmark of San Francisco is on the back of it, with the date all right.”
This statement delighted the crowd immensely, and caused Burke to look disconcerted for a few seconds; he rallied, however, and returned to the charge.
“Postmarks! wot do I care for postmarks? Can’t a man forge a postmark as easy as any other mark?”
“Ah! that’s true,” from a voice in the crowd.
“No, not so easily as any other mark,” retorted Dan; “for it’s made with a kind of ink that’s not sold in shops. Everything goes to prove that the letter is no forgery. But, Mr. Burke, will you answer me this. If it was a forgery, got up for the purpose of saving this man’s life, at what time was it forged? for Bumpus could not know that he would ever need such a letter until yesterday afternoon, and between that time and this there was but little time to forge a letter from San Francisco, postmark and all, and make it soiled and worn at the edges like an old letter. [’Hear!’ and sensation.] More than that,” cried Dan, waxing eager and earnest, “if it was a forgery, got up for the purpose, why was it not produced at the trial? [’Hear! hear!’ and cheers] And, last of all why, if this forgery was so important to him, did John Bumpus forget all about it until he stood on this table; aye, until the rope was round his neck?”
A perfect storm of cheers and applause followed this last sentence, in the midst of which there were cries of “You’re floored, Burke! Hurrah for Bumpus! Cut the ropes!”
But although John’s life was now safe, his indignation at Susan’s letter having been laughed at was not altogether allayed.
“I’ll tell ye wot it is,” said he, the instant there was a lull in the uproar of voices. “If you think that I’ll stand here and see my Susan’s letter insulted before my eyes, you’re very far out o’ your reckoning. Just cut them ropes, an’ put any two o’ yer biggest men, black or white, before me, an’ if I don’t show them a lot o’ new stars as hasn’t been seed in no sky wotiver since Adam was a little boy, my name’s—”