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|The Man On The Other Bank||Jack London|
|Page 1 of 5||
"My mind's made up right now. There ain't no doubt but what he killed Kinade. We heard the whole thing last night. What's the good of goin' over it again? I vote guilty."
In such fashion, Smoke's trial began. The speaker, a loose-jointed, hard-rock man from Colorado, manifested irritation and disgust when Harding set his suggestion aside, demanded the proceedings should be regular, and nominated one, Shunk Wilson, for judge and chairman of the meeting. The population of Two Cabins constituted the jury, though, after some discussion, the woman, Lucy, was denied the right to vote on Smoke's guilt or innocence.
While this was going on, Smoke, jammed into a corner on a bunk, overheard a whispered conversation between Breck and a miner.
"You haven't fifty pounds of flour you'll sell?" Breck queried.
"You ain't got the dust to pay the price I'm askin'," was the reply.
"I'll give you two hundred."
The man shook his head.
"Three hundred. Three-fifty."
At four hundred, the man nodded, and said: "Come on over to my cabin an' weigh out the dust."
The two squeezed their way to the door, and slipped out. After a few minutes Breck returned alone.
Harding was testifying, when Smoke saw the door shoved open slightly, and in the crack appear the face of the man who had sold the flour. He was grimacing and beckoning emphatically to one inside, who arose from near the stove and started to work toward the door.
"Where are you goin', Sam?" Shunk Wilson demanded.
"I'll be back in a jiffy," Sam explained. "I jes' got to go."
Smoke was permitted to question the witnesses, and he was in the middle of the cross-examination of Harding, when from without came the whining of dogs in harness, and the grind and churn of sled-runners. Somebody near the door peeped out.
"It's Sam an' his pardner an' a dog-team hell-bent down the trail for Stewart River," the man reported.
Nobody spoke for a long half-minute, but men glanced significantly at one another, and a general restlessness pervaded the packed room. Out of the corner of his eye, Smoke caught a glimpse of Breck, Lucy, and her husband whispering together.
"Come on, you," Shunk Wilson said gruffly to Smoke. "Cut this questionin' short. We know what you're tryin' to prove--that the other bank wasn't searched. The witness admits it. We admit it. It wasn't necessary. No tracks led to that bank. The snow wasn't broke."
"There was a man on the other bank just the same," Smoke insisted.
"That's too thin for skatin', young man. There ain't many of us on the McQuestion, an' we got every man accounted for."
"Who was the man you hiked out of camp two weeks ago?" Smoke asked.
"Alonzo Miramar. He was a Mexican. What's that grub-thief got to do with it?"
"Nothing, except that you haven't accounted for HIM, Mr Judge."
"He went down the river, not up."
"How do you know where he went?"
"Saw him start."
"And that's all you know of what became of him?"
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