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One Dollar’s Worth
by [?]

The judge of the United States court of the district lying along the Rio Grande border found the following letter one morning in his mail:

When you sent me up for four years you made a talk.
Among other hard things, you called me a rattlesnake.
Maybe I am one–anyhow, you hear me rattling now.
One year after I got to the pen, my daughter died of–
well, they said it was poverty and the disgrace together.
You’ve got a daughter, Judge, and I’m going to make
you know how it feels to lose one. And I’m going to
bite that district attorney that spoke against me. I’m
free now, and I guess I’ve turned to rattlesnake all right.
I feel like one. I don’t say much, but this is my rattle.
Look out when I strike.

Yours respectfully,

Judge Derwent threw the letter carelessly aside. It was nothing new to receive such epistles from desperate men whom he had been called upon to judge. He felt no alarm. Later on he showed the letter to Littlefield, the young district attorney, for Littlefield’s name was included in the threat, and the judge was punctilious in matters between himself and his fellow men.

Littlefield honoured the rattle of the writer, as far as it concerned himself, with a smile of contempt; but he frowned a little over the reference to the Judge’s daughter, for he and Nancy Derwent were to be married in the fall.

Littlefield went to the clerk of the court and looked over the records with him. They decided that the letter might have been sent by Mexico Sam, a half-breed border desperado who had been imprisoned for manslaughter four years before. Then official duties crowded the matter from his mind, and the rattle of the revengeful serpent was forgotten.

Court was in session at Brownsville. Most of the cases to be tried were charges of smuggling, counterfeiting, post-office robberies, and violations of Federal laws along the border. One case was that of a young Mexican, Rafael Ortiz, who had been rounded up by a clever deputy marshal in the act of passing a counterfeit silver dollar. He had been suspected of many such deviations from rectitude, but this was the first time that anything provable had been fixed upon him. Ortiz languished cozily in jail, smoking brown cigarettes and waiting for trial. Kilpatrick, the deputy, brought the counterfeit dollar and handed it to the district attorney in his office in the court-house. The deputy and a reputable druggist were prepared to swear that Ortiz paid for a bottle of medicine with it. The coin was a poor counterfeit, soft, dull-looking, and made principally of lead. It was the day before the morning on which the docket would reach the case of Ortiz, and the district attorney was preparing himself for trial.

“Not much need of having in high-priced experts to prove the coin’s queer, is there, Kil?” smiled Littlefield, as he thumped the dollar down upon the table, where it fell with no more ring than would have come from a lump of putty.

“I guess the Greaser’s as good as behind the bars,” said the deputy, easing up his holsters. “You’ve got him dead. If it had been just one time, these Mexicans can’t tell good money from bad; but this little yaller rascal belongs to a gang of counterfeiters, I know. This is the first time I’ve been able to catch him doing the trick. He’s got a girl down there in them Mexican jacals on the river bank. I seen her one day when I was watching him. She’s as pretty as a red heifer in a flower bed.”

Littlefield shoved the counterfeit dollar into his pocket, and slipped his memoranda of the case into an envelope. Just then a bright, winsome face, as frank and jolly as a boy’s, appeared in the doorway, and in walked Nancy Derwent.