“I don’t know. I hardly knew what to expect. It seems a rough place.”
“And I suppose the people seem rough, too?”
“So they are in appearance; but you can’t tell what a man has been, by his looks here. Why, the man that worked the next claim to me was a college graduate, and not far away was another who had been mayor of a Western city.”
“And were they dressed like these men here?” asked Ben.
“Quite as roughly. It won’t do to wear store-clothes at the mines.”
“No, I suppose not; but these men look like immigrants just come over.”
“Wait till we have been at work a little while, and we shall look no better,” he said, laughing.
“What is that?” asked Ben suddenly, stopping short while an expression of horror came over his face.
Bradley followed the direction of his finger, and saw suspended from a tree the inanimate body of a man, the features livid and distorted, and wearing an expression of terror and dismay, as if his fate had come upon him without time for preparation.
“I reckon that’s a thief,” answered Bradley unconcernedly.
“A thief! Do they hang people for stealing out here?”
“Yes, they have to. You see, my lad, there ain’t any laws here, nor courts. If a man steals, the miners just take the matter into their own hands, and if there ain’t a doubt of it, they hang him as soon as they catch him.”
“It’s horrible!” said Ben, who had never before seen the victim of a violent death.
“Maybe it is, but what can we do?”
“Put him in prison,” suggested Ben.
“There ain’t any prisons, and, if there were, there would be nobody to keep them.”
Just then Bradley was hailed by a rough-looking man, whom at home Ben would have taken for a tramp.
“What, Bradley, back again? I didn’t expect to see you here?”
“I didn’t expect to come, Hunter, but I fooled away my money in ’Frisco, and have come back for more.”
“And who’s this boy-your son, or nephew?”
“No; he’s no kin to me. I ran across him down to ’Frisco. Ben, let me make you acquainted with my old chum, Frank Hunter. He isn’t much to look at, but-”
“I have seen better days,” interrupted Hunter, smiling. “I was rather a dandy in my college days at old Yale, though I don’t look like it now.”
Ben regarded him with surprise. He had not dreamed that this sun-brown, bearded man, in the roughest of mining-garbs, had ever seen the inside of a college.
Hunter smiled at the boy’s evident surprise.
“I don’t look like a college graduate, do I? But I assure you I am not the worst-dressed man in camp. My friend, the mayor, is rougher-looking than I. Some time I hope to return to the haunts of civilization, and then I will try to conform to habits which I have almost forgotten.”