It was broken by the voice of the judge addressing the constable.
“What do you know of the deputy’s attentions to Mrs. Beasley? Were they enough to justify the husband’s jealousy? Did he make love to her?”
The constable hesitated. He was a narrow man, with a crude sense of the principles rather than the methods of justice. He remembered the deputy’s admiration; he now remembered, even more strongly, the object of that admiration, simulating with her pretty arms the gestures of the barkeeper, and the delight it gave them. He was loyal to his dead leader, but he looked up and down, and then said, slowly and half-defiantly: “Well, judge, he was a man.”
Everybody laughed. That the strongest and most magic of all human passions should always awake levity in any public presentment of or allusion to it was one of the inconsistencies of human nature which even a lynch judge had to admit. He made no attempt to control the tittering of the court, for he felt that the element of tragedy was no longer there. The foreman of the jury arose and whispered to the judge amid another silence. Then the judge spoke:—
“The prisoner and his witness are both discharged. The prisoner to leave the town within twenty-four hours; the witness to be conducted to his own house at the expense of, and with the thanks of, the Committee.”
They say that one afternoon, when a low mist of rain had settled over the sodden Bolinas Plain, a haggard, bedraggled, and worn-out woman stepped down from a common “freighting wagon” before the doorway where Beasley still sat; that, coming forward, he caught her in his arms and called her “Sue;” and they say that they lived happily together ever afterwards. But they say—and this requires some corroboration—that much of that happiness was due to Mrs. Beasley’s keeping forever in her husband’s mind her own heroic sacrifice in disappearing as a witness against him, her own forgiveness of his fruitless crime, and the gratitude he owed to the fugitive.
He was a “cowboy.” A reckless and dashing rider, yet mindful of his horse’s needs; good-humored by nature, but quick in quarrel; independent of circumstance, yet shy and sensitive of opinion; abstemious by education and general habit, yet intemperate in amusement; self-centred, yet possessed of a childish vanity,—taken altogether, a characteristic product of the Western plains, which he never should have left.
But reckless adventure after adventure had brought him into difficulties, from which there was only one equally adventurous escape: he joined a company of Indians engaged by Buffalo Bill to simulate before civilized communities the sports and customs of the uncivilized. In divers Christian arenas of the nineteenth century he rode as a northern barbarian of the first might have disported before the Roman populace, but harmlessly, of his own free will, and of some little profit to himself. He threw his lasso under the curious eyes of languid men and women of the world, eager for some new sensation, with admiring plaudits from them and a half contemptuous egotism of his own. But outside of the arena he was lonely, lost, and impatient for excitement.