The Parson of Jackman's Gulch
by A. Conan Doyle
He was known in the Gulch as the Reverend Elias
B. Hopkins, but it was generally understood that
the title was an honorary one, extorted by his
many eminent qualities, and not borne out by
any legal claim which he could adduce. "The
Parson" was another of his sobriquets, which was
sufficiently distinctive in a land where the flock
was scattered and the shepherds few. To do
him justice, he never pretended to have received
any preliminary training for the ministry or any
orthodox qualification to practise it. "We're all
working in the claim of the Lord," he remarked
one day, "and it don't matter a cent whether
we're hired for the job or whether we waltzes in
on our own account," a piece of rough imagery
which appealed directly to the instincts of Jackman's
Gulch. It is quite certain that during the
first few months his presence had a marked effect
in diminishing the excessive use both of strong
drinks and of stronger adjectives which had been
characteristic of the little mining settlement.
Under his tuition, men began to understand that
the resources of their native language were less
limited than they had supposed, and that it was
possible to convey their impressions with accuracy
without the aid of a gaudy halo of profanity.
We were certainly in need of a regenerator
at Jackman's Gulch about the beginning of '53.
Times were flush then over the whole colony, but
nowhere flusher than there. Our material prosperity
had had a bad effect upon our morals.
The camp was a small one, lying rather better
than a hundred and twenty miles to the south
of Ballarat, at a spot where a mountain torrent
finds its way down a rugged ravine on its way
to join the Arrowsmith River. History does not
relate who the original Jackman may have been,
but at the time I speak of the camp it contained a
hundred or so adults, many of whom were men
who had sought an asylum there after making
more civilised mining centres too hot to hold
them. They were a rough, murderous crew,
hardly leavened by the few respectable members
of society who were scattered among them.
Communication between Jackman's Gulch and
the outside world was difficult and uncertain. A
portion of the bush between it and Ballarat was
infested by a redoubtable outlaw named Conky
Jim, who, with a small gang as desperate as
himself, made travelling a dangerous matter. It
was customary, therefore, at the Gulch, to store
up the dust and nuggets obtained from the mines
in a special store, each man's share being placed
in a separate bag on which his name was marked.
A trusty man, named Woburn, was deputed to
watch over this primitive bank. When the amount
deposited became considerable, a waggon was
hired, and the whole treasure was conveyed to
Ballarat, guarded by the police and by a certain
number of miners, who took it in turn to perform
the office. Once in Ballarat, it was forwarded on
to Melbourne by the regular gold waggons. By
this plan, the gold was often kept for months in
the Gulch before being despatched, but Conky Jim
was effectually checkmated, as the escort party
were far too strong for him and his gang. He
appeared, at the time of which I write, to have
forsaken his haunts in disgust, and the road could
be traversed by small parties with impunity.
Comparative order used to reign during the
daytime at Jackman's Gulch, for the majority of
the inhabitants were out with crowbar and pick
among the quartz ledges, or washing clay and
sand in their cradles by the banks of the little
stream. As the sun sank down, however, the
claims were gradually deserted, and their unkempt
owners, clay-bespattered and shaggy, came lounging
into camp, ripe for any form of mischief.
Their first visit was to Woburn's gold store, where
their clean-up of the day was duly deposited, the
amount being entered in the store-keeper's book,
and each miner retaining enough to cover his
evening's expenses. After that all restraint was
at an end, and each set to work to get rid of his
surplus dust with the greatest rapidity possible.
The focus of dissipation was the rough bar, formed
by a couple of hogsheads spanned by planks,
which was dignified by the name of the "Britannia
drinking saloon." Here, Nat Adams, the burly
bar-keeper, dispensed bad whisky at the rate of
two shillings a noggin, or a guinea a bottle, while
his brother Ben acted as croupier in a rude wooden
shanty behind, which had been converted into a
gambling hell, and was crowded every night.
There had been a third brother, but an unfortunate
misunderstanding with a customer had shortened
his existence. "He was too soft to live long,"
his brother Nathaniel feelingly observed on the
occasion of his funeral. "Many's the time I've
said to him, 'If you're arguin' a pint with a
stranger, you should always draw first, then argue,
and then shoot, if you judge that he's on the
shoot.' Bill was too purlite. He must needs
argue first and draw after, when he might just as
well have kivered his man before talkin' it over
with him." This amiable weakness of the deceased
Bill was a blow to the firm of Adams, which
became so short-handed that the concern could
hardly be worked without the admission of a
partner, which would mean a considerable decrease
in the profits.
Nat Adams had had a roadside shanty in the
Gulch before the discovery of gold, and might,
therefore, claim to be the oldest inhabitant.
These keepers of shanties were a peculiar race,
and, at the cost of a digression, it may be interesting
to explain how they managed to amass considerable
sums of money in a land where travellers
were few and far between. It was the custom of
the "bushmen," i.e. bullock drivers, sheep tenders,
and the other white hands who worked on the
sheep-runs up country, to sign articles by which
they agreed to serve their master for one, two, or
three years at so much per year and certain daily
rations. Liquor was never included in this agreement,
and the men remained, per force, total
abstainers during the whole time. The money
was paid in a lump sum at the end of the engagement.
When that day came round, Jimmy, the
stockman, would come slouching into his master's
office, cabbage-tree hat in hand.
"Morning, master!" Jimmy would say. "My
time's up. I guess I'll draw my cheque and ride
down to town."
"You'll come back, Jimmy."
"Yes, I'll come back. Maybe I'll be away three
weeks, maybe a month. I want some clothes,
master, and my bloomin' boots are well-nigh off
"How much, Jimmy?" asks his master, taking
up his pen.
"There's sixty pound screw," Jimmy answers
thoughtfully; "and you mind, master, last March,
when the brindled bull broke out o' the paddock.
Two pound you promised me then. And a pound
at the dipping. And a pound when Millar's
sheep got mixed with ourn;" and so he goes
on, for bushmen can seldom write, but they have
memories which nothing escapes.
His master writes the cheque and hands it
across the table. "Don't get on the drink,
Jimmy," he says.
"No fear of that, master," and the stockman
slips the cheque into his leather pouch, and within
an hour he is ambling off upon his long-limbed
horse on his hundred mile journey to town.
Now Jimmy has to pass some six or eight of
the above-mentioned roadside shanties in his day's
ride, and experience has taught him that if he
once breaks his accustomed total abstinence, the
unwonted stimulant has an overpowering effect
upon his brain. Jimmy shakes his head warily as
he determines that no earthly consideration will
induce him to partake of any liquor until his
business is over. His only chance is to avoid
temptation; so, knowing that there is the first
of these houses some half mile ahead, he plunges
into a by-path through the bush which will lead
him out at the other side.
Jimmy is riding resolutely along this narrow
path, congratulating himself upon a danger
escaped, when he becomes aware of a sunburned,
black-bearded man who is leaning unconcernedly
against a tree beside the track. This is none
other than the shanty-keeper, who, having observed
Jimmy's manœuvre in the distance, has
taken a short cut through the bush in order to
"Morning, Jimmy!" he cries, as the horseman
comes up to him.
"Morning, mate; morning!"
"Where are ye off to to-day then?"
"Off to town," says Jimmy sturdily.
"No, now—are you though? You'll have bully
times down there for a bit. Come round and have
a drink at my place. Just by way of luck."
"No," says Jimmy, "I don't want a drink."
"Just a little damp."
"I tell ye I don't want one," says the stockman
"Well, ye needn't be so darned short about it.
It's nothin' to me whether you drinks or not.
"Good mornin'," says Jimmy, and has ridden on
about twenty yards when he hears the other
calling on him to stop.
"See here, Jimmy!" he says, overtaking him
again. "If you'll do me a kindness when you're
up in town I'd be obliged."
"What is it?"
"It's a letter, Jim, as I wants posted. It's an
important one too, an' I wouldn't trust it with every
one; but I knows you, and if you'll take charge on
it it'll be a powerful weight off my mind."
"Give it here," Jimmy says laconically.
"I hain't got it here. It's round in my caboose.
Come round for it with me. It ain't more'n
quarter of a mile."
Jimmy consents reluctantly. When they reach
the tumble-down hut the keeper asks him cheerily
to dismount and to come in.
"Give me the letter," says Jimmy.
"It ain't altogether wrote yet, but you sit down
here for a minute and it'll be right," and so the
stockman is beguiled into the shanty.
At last the letter is ready and handed over.
"Now, Jimmy," says the keeper, "one drink at my
expense before you go."
"Not a taste," says Jimmy.
"Oh, that's it, is it?" the other says in an
aggrieved tone. "You're too damned proud to
drink with a poor cove like me. Here—give us
back that letter. I'm cursed if I'll accept a favour
from a man whose too almighty big to have a
drink with me."
"Well, well, mate, don't turn rusty," says Jim.
"Give us one drink an' I'm off."
The keeper pours out about half a pannikin of
raw rum and hands it to the bushman. The
moment he smells the old familiar smell his
longing for it returns, and he swigs it off at
a gulp. His eyes shine more brightly, and his
face becomes flushed. The keeper watches him
narrowly. "You can go now, Jim," he says.
"Steady, mate, steady," says the bushman. "I'm
as good a man as you. If you stand a drink, I
can stand one too, I suppose." So the pannikin is
replenished, and Jimmy's eyes shine brighter still.
"Now, Jimmy, one last drink for the good of
the house," says the keeper, "and then it's time
you were off." The stockman has a third gulp
from the pannikin, and with it all his scruples and
good resolutions vanish for ever.
"Look here," he says somewhat huskily, taking
his cheque out of his pouch. "You take this,
mate. Whoever comes along this road, ask 'em
what they'll have, and tell them it's my shout.
Let me know when the money's done."
So Jimmy abandons the idea of ever getting to
town, and for three weeks or a month he lies
about the shanty in a state of extreme drunkenness,
and reduces every wayfarer upon the road
to the same condition. At last one fine morning
the keeper comes to him. "The coin's done,
Jimmy," he says; "it's about time you made some
more." So Jimmy has a good wash to sober him,
straps his blanket and his billy to his back, and
rides off through the bush to the sheep-run, where
he has another year of sobriety, terminating in
another month of intoxication.
All this, though typical of the happy-go-lucky
manners of the inhabitants, has no direct bearing
upon Jackman's Gulch, so we must return to that
Arcadian settlement. Additions to the population
there were not numerous, and such as came about
the time of which I speak were even rougher and
fiercer than the original inhabitants. In particular,
there came a brace of ruffians named Phillips and
Maule, who rode into camp one day and started
a claim upon the other side of the stream. They
outgulched the Gulch in the virulence and fluency
of their blasphemy, in the truculence of their
speech and manner, and in their reckless disregard
of all social laws. They claimed to have
come from Bendigo, and there were some
amongst us who wished that the redoubted
Conky Jim was on the track once more, as long
as he would close it to such visitors as these.
After their arrival the nightly proceedings at the
"Britannia Bar" and at the gambling hell behind
became more riotous than ever. Violent quarrels,
frequently ending in bloodshed, were of constant
occurrence. The more peaceable frequenters of
the bar began to talk seriously of lynching the
two strangers who were the principal promoters of
disorder. Things were in this unsatisfactory condition
when our evangelist, Elias B. Hopkins,
came limping into the camp, travel-stained and
footsore, with his spade strapped across his back
and his Bible in the pocket of his moleskin jacket.
His presence was hardly noticed at first, so
insignificant was the man. His manner was quiet
and unobtrusive, his face pale, and his figure
fragile. On better acquaintance, however, there
was a squareness and firmness about his clean-shaven
lower jaw, and an intelligence in his
widely-opened blue eyes, which marked him as
a man of character. He erected a small hut for
himself, and started a claim close to that occupied
by the two strangers who had preceded him.
This claim was chosen with a ludicrous disregard
for all practical laws of mining, and at once
stamped the new-comer as being a green hand
at his work. It was piteous to observe him every
morning as we passed to our work, digging and
delving with the greatest industry, but, as we
knew well, without the smallest possibility of any
result. He would pause for a moment as we went
by, wipe his pale face with his bandanna handkerchief,
and shout out to us a cordial morning
greeting, and then fall to again with redoubled
energy. By degrees we got into the way of
making a half-pitying, half-contemptuous inquiry
as to how he got on. "I hain't struck it yet,
boys," he would answer cheerily, leaning on his
spade, "but the bed-rock lies deep just hereabouts,
and I reckon we'll get among the pay gravel
to-day." Day after day he returned the same
reply with unvarying confidence and cheerfulness.
It was not long before he began to show us
the stuff that was in him. One night the
proceedings were unusually violent at the drinking
saloon. A rich pocket had been struck
during the day, and the striker was standing
treat in a lavish and promiscuous fashion, which
had reduced three parts of the settlement to a
state of wild intoxication. A crowd of drunken
idlers stood or lay about the bar, cursing, swearing,
shouting, dancing, and here and there firing
their pistols into the air out of pure wantonness.
From the interior of the shanty behind there
came a similar chorus. Maule, Phillips, and the
roughs who followed them were in the ascendant,
and all order and decency was swept away.
Suddenly, amid this tumult of oaths and
drunken cries, men became conscious of a quiet
monotone which underlay all other sounds and
obtruded itself at every pause in the uproar.
Gradually first one man and then another paused
to listen, until there was a general cessation of
the hubbub, and every eye was turned in the
direction whence this quiet stream of words
flowed. There, mounted upon a barrel, was
Elias B. Hopkins, the newest of the inhabitants
of Jackman's Gulch, with a good-humoured smile
upon his resolute face. He held an open Bible
in his hand, and was reading aloud a passage
taken at random—an extract from the Apocalypse,
if I remember right. The words were entirely
irrelevant, and without the smallest bearing upon
the scene before him; but he plodded on with
great unction, waving his left hand slowly to the
cadence of his words.
There was a general shout of laughter and
applause at this apparition, and Jackman's Gulch
gathered round the barrel approvingly, under the
impression that this was some ornate joke, and
that they were about to be treated to some mock
sermon or parody of the chapter read. When,
however, the reader, having finished the chapter,
placidly commenced another, and having finished
that rippled on into another one, the revellers
came to the conclusion that the joke was somewhat
too long-winded. The commencement of
yet another chapter confirmed this opinion, and an
angry chorus of shouts and cries, with suggestions
as to gagging the reader, or knocking him off the
barrel, rose from every side. In spite of roars and
hoots, however, Elias B. Hopkins plodded away at
the Apocalypse with the same serene countenance,
looking as ineffably contented as though the
babel around him were the most gratifying
applause. Before long an occasional boot pattered
against the barrel, or whistled past our parson's
head; but here some of the more orderly of the
inhabitants interfered in favour of peace and
order, aided curiously enough by the afore-mentioned
Maule and Phillips, who warmly espoused
the cause of the little Scripture-reader. "The
little cuss has got grit in him," the latter explained,
rearing his bulky red-shirted form between the
crowd and the object of its anger. "His ways
ain't our ways, and we're all welcome to our
opinions, and to sling them round from barrels
or otherwise, if so minded. What I says, and
Bill says, is, that when it comes to slingin' boots
instead o' words it's too steep by half; an' if
this man's wronged we'll chip in an' see him
righted." This oratorical effort had the effect of
checking the more active signs of disapproval,
and the party of disorder attempted to settle
down once more to their carouse, and to ignore
the shower of Scripture which was poured upon
them. The attempt was hopeless. The drunken
portion fell asleep under the drowsy refrain, and
the others, with many a sullen glance at the
imperturbable reader, slouched off to their huts,
leaving him still perched upon the barrel. Finding
himself alone with the more orderly of the
spectators, the little man rose, closed his book,
after methodically marking with a lead pencil the
exact spot at which he stopped, and descended
from his perch. "To-morrow night, boys," he
remarked in his quiet voice, "the reading will
commence at the 9th verse of the 15th chapter
of the Apocalypse," with which piece of information,
disregarding our congratulations, he walked
away with the air of a man who has performed
an obvious duty.
We found that his parting words were no empty
threat. Hardly had the crowd begun to assemble
next night before he appeared once more upon
the barrel and began to read with the same
monotonous vigour, tripping over words, muddling
up sentences, but still boring along through chapter
after chapter. Laughter, threats, chaff—every
weapon short of actual violence—was used to deter
him, but all with the same want of success. Soon
it was found that there was a method in his
proceedings. When silence reigned, or when the
conversation was of an innocent nature, the reading
ceased. A single word of blasphemy, however,
set it going again, and it would ramble on for a
quarter of an hour or so, when it stopped, only to
be renewed upon similar provocation. The reading
was pretty continuous during that second night, for
the language of the opposition was still considerably
free. At least it was an improvement upon
the night before.
For more than a month Elias B. Hopkins
carried on this campaign. There he would sit,
night after night, with the open book upon his
knee, and at the slightest provocation off he would
go, like a musical box when the spring is touched.
The monotonous drawl became unendurable, but
it could only be avoided by conforming to the
parson's code. A chronic swearer came to be
looked upon with disfavour by the community,
since the punishment of his transgression fell upon
all. At the end of a fortnight the reader was
silent more than half the time, and at the end of
the month his position was a sinecure.
Never was a moral revolution brought about
more rapidly and more completely. Our parson
carried his principle into private life. I have seen
him, on hearing an unguarded word from some
worker in the gulches, rush across, Bible in hand,
and perching himself upon the heap of red clay
which surmounted the offender's claim, drawl
through the genealogical tree at the commencement
of the New Testament in a most earnest and
impressive manner, as though it were especially
appropriate to the occasion. In time an oath
became a rare thing amongst us. Drunkenness
was on the wane too. Casual travellers passing
through the Gulch used to marvel at our state of
grace, and rumours of it went as far as Ballarat,
and excited much comment therein.
There were points about our evangelist which
made him especially fitted for the work which he
had undertaken. A man entirely without redeeming
vices would have had no common basis on
which to work, and no means of gaining the
sympathy of his flock. As we came to know Elias
B. Hopkins better, we discovered that in spite of
his piety there was a leaven of old Adam in him,
and that he had certainly known unregenerate
days. He was no teetotaler. On the contrary, he
could choose his liquor with discrimination, and
lower it in an able manner. He played a masterly
hand at poker, and there were few who could touch
him at "cut-throat euchre." He and the two ex-ruffians,
Phillips and Maule, used to play for hours
in perfect harmony, except when the fall of the
cards elicited an oath from one of his companions.
At the first of these offences the parson would put
on a pained smile and gaze reproachfully at the
culprit. At the second he would reach for his
Bible, and the game was over for the evening. He
showed us he was a good revolver shot too, for
when we were practising at an empty brandy
bottle outside Adams' bar, he took up a friend's
pistol and hit it plumb in the centre at twenty-four
paces. There were few things he took up that he
could not make a show at apparently, except gold-digging,
and at that he was the veriest duffer alive.
It was pitiful to see the little canvas bag, with his
name printed across it, lying placid and empty
upon the shelf at Woburn's store, while all the
other bags were increasing daily, and some had
assumed quite a portly rotundity of form, for the
weeks were slipping by, and it was almost time
for the gold-train to start off for Ballarat. We
reckoned that the amount which we had stored
at the time represented the greatest sum which
had ever been taken by a single convoy out of
Although Elias B. Hopkins appeared to derive
a certain quiet satisfaction from the wonderful
change which he had effected in the camp, his joy
was not yet rounded and complete. There was
one thing for which he still yearned. He opened
his heart to us about it one evening.
"We'd have a blessing on the camp, boys," he
said, "if we only had a service o' some sort on the
Lord's day. It's a temptin' o' Providence to go
on in this way without takin' any notice of it,
except that maybe there's more whisky drunk and
more card-playin' than on any other day."
"We hain't got no parson," objected one of the
"Ye fool!" growled another, "hain't we got a
man as is worth any three parsons, and can splash
texts around like clay out o' a cradle? What more
"We hain't got no church!" urged the same
"Have it in the open air," one suggested.
"Or in Woburn's store," said another.
"Or in Adams' saloon."
The last proposal was received with a buzz of
approval, which showed that it was considered the
most appropriate locality.
Adams' saloon was a substantial wooden building
in the rear of the bar, which was used partly
for storing liquor and partly for a gambling saloon.
It was strongly built of rough-hewn logs, the
proprietor rightly judging, in the unregenerate
days of Jackman's Gulch, that hogsheads of brandy
and rum were commodities which had best be
secured under lock and key. A strong door
opened into each end of the saloon, and the
interior was spacious enough, when the table and
lumber were cleared away, to accommodate the
whole population. The spirit barrels were heaped
together at one end by their owner, so as to make
a very fair imitation of a pulpit.
At first the Gulch took but a mild interest in
the proceedings, but when it became known that
Elias B. Hopkins intended, after reading the
service, to address the audience, the settlement
began to warm up to the occasion. A real sermon
was a novelty to all of them, and one coming from
their own parson was additionally so. Rumour
announced that it would be interspersed with local
hits, and that the moral would be pointed by
pungent personalities. Men began to fear that
they would be unable to gain seats, and many
applications were made to the brothers Adams.
It was only when conclusively shown that the
saloon could contain them all with a margin that
the camp settled down into calm expectancy.
It was as well that the building was of such a
size, for the assembly upon the Sunday morning
was the largest which had ever occurred in the
annals of Jackman's Gulch. At first it was thought
that the whole population was present, but a little
reflection showed that this was not so. Maule
and Phillips had gone on a prospecting journey
among the hills, and had not returned as yet; and
Woburn, the gold-keeper, was unable to leave his
store. Having a very large quantity of the
precious metal under his charge, he stuck to his
post, feeling that the responsibility was too great
to trifle with. With these three exceptions the
whole of the Gulch, with clean red shirts, and such
other additions to their toilet as the occasion
demanded, sauntered in a straggling line along the
clayey pathway which led up to the saloon.
The interior of the building had been provided
with rough benches; and the parson, with his quiet,
good-humoured smile, was standing at the door to
welcome them. "Good morning, boys," he cried
cheerily, as each group came lounging up. "Pass
in! pass in. You'll find this is as good a morning's
work as any you've done. Leave your pistols in
this barrel outside the door as you pass; you can
pick them out as you come out again; but it isn't
the thing to carry weapons into the house of peace."
His request was good-humouredly complied with,
and before the last of the congregation filed in
there was a strange assortment of knives and firearms
in this depository. When all had assembled
the doors were shut and the service began—the
first and the last which was ever performed at
The weather was sultry and the room close, yet
the miners listened with exemplary patience.
There was a sense of novelty in the situation
which had its attractions. To some it was entirely
new, others were wafted back by it to another land
and other days. Beyond a disposition which was
exhibited by the uninitiated to applaud at the end
of certain prayers, by way of showing that they
sympathised with the sentiments expressed, no
audience could have behaved better. There was
a murmur of interest, however, when Elias B.
Hopkins, looking down on the congregation from
his rostrum of casks, began his address.
He had attired himself with care in honour of
the occasion. He wore a velveteen tunic, girt
round the waist with a sash of china silk, a pair of
moleskin trousers, and held his cabbage-tree hat in
his left hand. He began speaking in a low tone,
and it was noticed at the time that he frequently
glanced through the small aperture which served
for a window, which was placed above the heads of
those who sat beneath him.
"I've put you straight now," he said, in the
course of his address; "I've got you in the right
rut, if you will but stick in it." Here he looked
very hard out of the window for some seconds.
"You've learned soberness and industry, and with
those things you can always make up any loss you
may sustain. I guess there isn't one of ye that
won't remember my visit to this camp." He
paused for a moment, and three revolver shots rang
out upon the quiet summer air. "Keep your seats,
damn ye!" roared our preacher, as his audience
rose in excitement. "If a man of ye moves, down
he goes! The door's locked on the outside, so ye
can't get out anyhow. Your seats, ye canting,
chuckle-headed fools! Down with ye, ye dogs, or
I'll fire among ye!"
Astonishment and fear brought us back into
our seats, and we sat staring blankly at our pastor
and each other. Elias B. Hopkins, whose whole
face and even figure appeared to have undergone
an extraordinary alteration, looked fiercely down
on us from his commanding position with a contemptuous
smile on his stern face.
"I have your lives in my hands," he remarked;
and we noticed as he spoke that he held a heavy
revolver in his hand, and that the butt of another
one protruded from his sash. "I am armed and
you are not. If one of you moves or speaks, he is
a dead man. If not, I shall not harm you. You
must wait here for an hour. Why, you fools"
(this with a hiss of contempt which rang in our
ears for many a long day), "do you know who
it is that has stuck you up? Do you know who
it is that has been playing it upon you for months
as a parson and a saint? Conky Jim, the bushranger,
ye apes! And Phillips and Maule were
my two right-hand men. They're off into the
hills with your gold—— Ha! would ye?" This
to some restive member of the audience, who
quieted down instantly before the fierce eye and
the ready weapon of the bushranger. "In an
hour they will be clear of any pursuit, and I advise
you to make the best of it and not to follow, or
you may lose more than your money. My horse
is tethered outside this door behind me. When
the time is up I shall pass through it, lock it on
the outside, and be off. Then you may break
your way out as best you can. I have no more
to say to you, except that ye are the most cursed
set of asses that ever trod in boot-leather."
We had time to endorse mentally this outspoken
opinion during the long sixty minutes which
followed; we were powerless before the resolute
desperado. It is true that if we made a simultaneous
rush we might bear him down at the cost
of eight or ten of our number. But how could
such a rush be organised without speaking, and
who would attempt it without a previous agreement
that he would be supported? There was
nothing for it but submission. It seemed three
hours at the least before the ranger snapped up
his watch, stepped down from the barrel, walked
backwards, still covering us with his weapon, to
the door behind him, and then passed rapidly
through it. We heard the creaking of the rusty
lock, and the clatter of his horse's hoofs as he
It has been remarked that an oath had for the
last few weeks been a rare thing in the camp. We
made up for our temporary abstention during the
next half-hour. Never was heard such symmetrical
and heartfelt blasphemy. When at last we
succeeded in getting the door off its hinges all
sight of both rangers and treasure had disappeared,
nor have we ever caught sight of either the one or
the other since. Poor Woburn, true to his trust,
lay shot through the head across the threshold of
his empty store. The villains, Maule and Phillips,
had descended upon the camp the instant that
we had been enticed into the trap, murdered the
keeper, loaded up a small cart with the booty, and
got safe away to some wild fastness among the
mountains, where they were joined by their wily
Jackman's Gulch recovered from this blow, and
is now a flourishing township. Social reformers
are not in request there, however, and morality is
at a discount. It is said that an inquest has been
held lately upon an unoffending stranger who
chanced to remark that in so large a place it
would be advisable to have some form of Sunday
service. The memory of their one and only pastor
is still green among the inhabitants, and will be for
many a long year to come.