“How are you making out, Hunter?” asked Bradley.
“Pretty well. I have made more here in six months than I did by three years’ practise of law before I came out here.”
“Do you like it as well, Mr. Hunter?” Ben could not help asking curiously.
“No, I don’t; but then, it’s only for a time, as I say to myself when I get tired of the rough life I am leading. When I’ve made a respectable pile I shall start for ’Frisco, and take passage home, put up my shingle again, and wait for clients with money enough to pay my board while I’m waiting. A young lawyer needs that always.”
“Perhaps you’ll be Judge Hunter, in time,” said Bradley.
“I’ve served in that capacity already,” said Hunter unexpectedly, “and that not longer ago than yesterday. Do you see that poor wretch up there?” and he pointed to the suspended body already referred to.
“Yes; what did he do?”
“He was a notorious thief-served a term in the penitentiary East for stealing, and came out here to practise his profession. But this climate is unhealthy for gentlemen in that line of business.”
“Did he rob anybody here?”
“Yes; you remember Johnson?”
“Is he still here?”
“He is about ready to go home, with money enough to lift the mortgage from his farm. We all knew it, for Johnson was so happy that he took everybody into his confidence. He had all his money tied up in a bag which he kept in his tent.
“Imprudent, of course, but we haven’t any banks or safes here,” added Hunter, meeting the question in Ben’s eyes. “Well, this rascal, Ross, wormed himself into his confidence, found out exactly where the bag was kept, and night before last, in the middle of the night, he crept to the tent, and was in the act of carrying off the bag, when, as luck would have it, my friend, the mayor, who was taking a night walk in the hope of curing a severe headache, came upon him.
“Ross showed fight, but was overpowered, and tied securely till morning. When morning came we tried him, I being judge. He was found guilty, and sentenced to be hung. The sentence was carried into effect in the afternoon. He won’t steal any more, I reckon.”
Ben took another hasty look at the dangling criminal whose end had been so sudden and horrible, and he shuddered.
“Why don’t you take him down?” he asked.
“It was ordered that he hang for twenty-four hours, as a warning to any others in camp who might be tempted to steal. The time isn’t up yet.
“You are a young gold-hunter,” said Hunter, scanning over hero’s youthful face.
“Yes, I am,” Ben confessed; “but I had to earn a living, and I thought I could do it better here than at home.”
“Are you from the East?”
“I am from Hampton, in New York State.”
“I know something of Hampton,” said Hunter. “I have never been there; but I have a distant relative living there.”