Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Malachi
by [?]

“He’ll swing just the same to-morrow. Exit Malachi!” said Freddy Tarlton gravely.

The door suddenly opened on the group of gossips, and a man stepped inside and took the only vacant seat near the fire. He glanced at none, but stretched out his hands to the heat, looking at the coals with drooping introspective eyes.

“Exit Malachi,” he said presently in a soft ironical voice, but did not look up.

“By the holy poker, Pierre, where did you spring from?” asked Tarlton genially.

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and–” Pierre responded, with a little turn of his fingers.

“And the wind doesn’t tell where it’s been, but that’s no reason Pierre shouldn’t,” urged the other.

Pierre shrugged his shoulders, but made no answer. “He was a tough,” said a voice from the crowd. “To-morrow he’ll get the breakfast he’s paid for.” Pierre turned and looked at the speaker with a cold inquisitive stare. “Mon Dieu!” he said presently, “here’s this Gohawk playing preacher. What do you know of Malachi, Gohawk? What do any of you know about Malachi? A little of this, a little of that, a drink here, a game of euchre there, a ride after cattle, a hunt behind Guidon Hill!–But what is that? You have heard the cry of the eagle, you have seen him carry off a lamb, you have had a pot-shot at him, but what do you know of the eagle’s nest? Mais non.

“The lamb is one thing, the nest is another. You don’t know the eagle till you’ve been there. And you, Gohawk, would not understand, if you saw the nest. Such cancan!”

“Shut your mouth!” broke out Gohawk. “D’ye think I’m going to stand your–“

Freddy Tarlton laid a hand on his arm. “Keep quiet, Gohawk. What good will it do?” Then he said, “Tell us about the nest, Pierre; they’re hanging him for the lamb in the morning.”

“Who spoke for him at the trial?” Pierre asked.

“I did,” said Tarlton. “I spoke as well as I could, but the game was dead against him from the start. The sheriff was popular, and young; young–that was the thing; handsome too, and the women, of course! It was sure from the start; besides, Malachi would say nothing–didn’t seem to care.”

“No, not to care,” mused Pierre. “What did you say for him to the jury–I mean the devil of a thing to make them sit up and think, ‘Poor Malachi!’–like that.”

“Best speech y’ever heard,” Gohawk interjected; “just emptied the words out, split ’em like peas, by gol! till he got to one place right before the end. Then he pulled up sudden, and it got so quiet you could ‘a heard a pin drop. ‘Gen’lemen of the jury,’ says Freddy Tarlton here–gen’lemen, by gol! all that lot–Lagan and the rest! ‘Gen’lemen of the jury,’ he says, ‘be you danged well sure that you’re at one with God A’mighty in this; that you’ve got at the core of justice here; that you’ve got evidence to satisfy Him who you’ve all got to satisfy some day, or git out. Not evidence as to shootin’, but evidence as to what that shootin’ meant, an’ whether it was meant to kill, an’ what for. The case is like this, gen’lemen of the jury,’ says Freddy Tarlton here. ‘Two men are in a street alone. There’s a shot, out comes everybody, and sees Fargo the sheriff laid along the ground, his mouth in the dust, and a full-up gun in his fingers. Not forty feet away stands Malachi with a gun smokin’ in his fist. It seems to be the opinion that it was cussedness–just cussedness–that made Malachi turn the sheriff’s boots to the sun. For Malachi was quarrelsome. I’ll give you a quarter on that. And the sheriff was mettlesome, used to have high spirits, like as if he’s lift himself over the fence with his bootstraps. So when Malachi come and saw the sheriff steppin’ round in his paten’ leathers, it give him the needle, and he got a bead on him–and away went Sheriff Fargo–right away! That seems to be the sense of the public.’ And he stops again, soft and quick, and looks the twelve in the eyes at once. ‘But,’ says Freddy Tarlton here, ‘are you goin’ to hang a man on the little you know? Or are you goin’ to credit him with somethin’ of what you don’t know? You haint got the inside of this thing, and Malachi doesn’t let you know it, and God keeps quiet. But be danged well sure that you’ve got the bulge on iniquity here; for gen’lemen with pistols out in the street is one thing, and sittin’ weavin’ a rope in a court-room for a man’s neck is another thing,’ says Freddy Tarlton here. ‘My client has refused to say one word this or that way, but don’t be sure that Some One that knows the inside of things won’t speak for him in the end.’ Then he turns and looks at Malachi, and Malachi was standin’ still and steady like a tree, but his face was white, and sweat poured on his forehead. ‘If God has no voice to be heard for my client in this court-room to-day, is there no one on earth–no man or woman–who can speak for one who won’t speak for himself?’ says Freddy Tarlton here. Then, by gol! for the first time Malachi opened. ‘There’s no one,’ he says. ‘The speakin’ is all for the sheriff. But I spoke once, and the sheriff didn’t answer.’ Not a bit of beg-yer-pardon in it. It struck cold. ‘I leave his case in the hands of twelve true men,’ says Freddy Tarlton here, and he sits down.”