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:
One Dollar's Worth - O'henry - İngilizce ÖyküForum Alev
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.
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 mat- ter 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.
"Oh, Bob, didn't court adjourn at twelve to-day until to-morrow?" she asked of Littlefield.
"It did," said the district attorney, "and I'm very glad of it. I've got a lot of rulings to look up, and -- "
"Now, that's just like you. I wonder you and father don't turn to law books or rulings or something! I want you to take me out plover-shooting this afternoon. Long Prairie is just alive with them. Don't say no, please! I want to try my new twelve-bore hammerless. I've sent to the livery stable to engage Fly and Bess for the buckboard; they stand fire so nicely. I was sure you would go."
They were to be married in the fall. The glamour was at its height. The plovers won the day -- or, rather, the afternoon -- over the calf-bound authorities. Littlefield began to put his papers away.
There was a knock at the door. Kilpatrick answered it. A beautiful, dark-eyed girl with a skin tinged with the faintest lemon colour walked into the room. A black shawl was thrown over her head and wound once around her neck.
She began to talk in Spanish, a voluble, mournful stream of melancholy music. Littlefield did not under- stand Spanish. The deputy did, and he translated her talk by portions, at intervals holding up his hand to check the flow of her words.
"She came to see you, Mr. Littlefield. Her name's Joya Treviñas. She wants to see you about -- well, she's mixed up with that Rafael Ortiz. She's his -- she's his girl. She says he's innocent. She says she made the money and got him to pass it. Don't you believe her, Mr. Little-field. That's the way with these Mexi- can girls; they'll lie, steal, or kill for a fellow when they get stuck on him. Never trust a woman that's in love!"
Nancy Derwent's indignant exclamation caused the deputy to flounder for a moment in attempting to explain that he had misquoted his own sentiments, and then he event on with the translation:
"She says she's willing to take his place in the jail if you'll let him out. She says she was down sick with the fever, and the doctor said she'd die if she didn't have medicine. That's why he passed the lead dollar on the drug store. She says it saved her life. This Rafal. seems to be her honey, all right; there's a lot of stuff in her talk about love and such things that you don't want to hear."
It was an old story to the district attorney.
"Tell her," said he, "that I can do nothing. The case comes up in the morning, and he will have to make his fight before the court."
Nancy Derwent was not so hardened. She was look- ing with sympathetic interest at Joya Treviñas and at Littlefield alternately. The deputy repeated the dis- trict attorney's words to the girl. She spoke a sentence or two in a low voice, pulled her shawl closely about her face, and left the room.
"What did she say then?" asked the district attorney.
"Nothing special," said the deputy. "She said: 'If the life of the one' -- let's see how it went -- 'Si la vida de ella a quien tu amas -- if the life of the girl you love is ever in danger, remember Rafael Ortiz.'"
Kilpatrick strolled out through the corridor in the direction of the marshal's office.
"Can't you do anything for them, Bob?" asked Nancy. "It's such a little thing -- just one counterfeit dollar -- to ruin the happiness of two lives! She was in danger of death, and he did it to save her. Doesn't the law know the feeling of pity?"
"It hasn't a place in jurisprudence, Nan," said Little- field, "especially in re the district attorney's duty. I'll promise you that the prosecution will not be vindictive; but the man is as good as convicted when the case is called. Witnesses will swear to his passing the bad dollar which I have in my pocket at this moment as 'Exhibit A.' There are no Mexicans on the jury, and it will vote Mr. Greaser guilty without leaving the box."