Paladin is riding back to San Francisco and comes across Sarah Gibbs, sitting by her dying mule and singing to it. He offers to help and she explains that she's going to Dunbar. Paladin tells her that the mule is going to die and shoots it to put it out of its misery. Afterward, he warns that there's no pointing in buying the corpse. Sarah says that it doesn't matter but a man should get a proper burial. She offers a Paladin a $10 gold piece to take her into Dunbar, and explains that her husband Aaron is being hung there. Sarah has come to get his body afterward. She has a letter that says that her husband Aaron was found guilty. No persons are allowed any contact with the prisoner, but Sarah figures that it doesn't mean her. Paladin isn't so sure but says that they'll see. She offers Paladin a comb that Aaron carved for her in addition to the $10, and Paladin assures her that the money will be adequate.
Paladin takes Sarah's buggy into Dunbar and goes over to the Marshal. He presents his card and two deputies watching notice. One of them, Jim Harden, limps over and asks what Paladin wants and says that they have a rule that gunfighters stay one night and move on. The marshal says that they're hanging three men, and Paladin tells him that Aaron's wife is there to see him. The man warns that no one can see the prisoners, and Harden says that fourteen men died in the pit and they all had families, and none of them got to say goodbye to their men. The marshal tells Harden to go check the changeover tent and Harden reluctantly moves off.
The marshal explains that Harden's brother Frank was in the mines when Aaron and the other two tried to grab the payroll and set off some dynamite. Harden saved his brother two years ago after pulling him out of his mine. Paladin understands but says that he can also understand how a wife feels about her husband. The marshal warns that the only reason Aaron and the other two weren't torn apart by the townspeople three years ago is that he sent for the Rangers, and even then they barely avoided a lynching. When Paladin demands that the marshal tell it to Sarah, the marshal caves and agrees to let her see Aaron.
When the marshal takes Sarah over to the stockade, the deputy Ed reminds him of what the court order said. The marshal overrides him, and Sarah wonders if she can face her husband knowing the truth. Harden comes over and tells Ed to let him over, and Ed does so. He orders Paladin to stay out and Paladin agrees but coldly advises him to take the gun off of him.
Inside the stockade, Harden tells the marshal that he never worked the mine and doesn't understand. The marshal insists that it's the least he can do for a human being. He takes Aaron out, and he tells Sarah that she shouldn't have come. They kiss and Aaron gives Sarah a carving that he hasn't finished as a keepsake. When Sarah wonders what her husband did, a widow speaks up and says that Aaron killed her husband and thirteen others. Aaron explains that he didn't intend to kill anyone, and they just set off the charge to close off the pulley. The townspeople protest and Paladin tells them that the couple only has two minutes left and it belongs to them, and orders them to back off. They do so, and Aaron tells Sarah to tell his boss what happened and he'll make sure she gets work. The marshal leads Aaron and the other two men to the gallows. Sarah calls to Aaron, and he asks her to bury her next to his son. She tells Paladin about how Aaron had to watch his son die, and they watch as the men are executed. Paladin goes to bring her buggy up so that she can take Aaron home to be buried.
When Sarah and Paladin go forward to collect Aaron's body, the marshal refuses to let them. Harden says that no there is giving Sarah the right, and demands to know if she can give bring Frank back. He reminds the others that they can't bury their kin, and Paladin calls Harden out. He asks if Harden wants Sarah did as well, and asks if that's what Frank would have wanted. Undeterred, Harden yells at the townspeople to load the bodies up so he can dump them into the sluice pit. No one responds, and Harden admits that he couldn't go down with his bad leg. However, he's going to make sure that their killers get what they deserve.
Paladin steps forward and Harden explains that his leg was crushed in a cave-in. He insists that it's not his fault people have been nice to him since, and Paladin tells him that he's lucky because he wasn't much of a man before the accident and not much of a man now. Harden takes offense, but Paladin tells him that he's not the only human being in the world that faced hardship. After a moment, Harden limps away and Paladin gestures Sarah forward.
The widow that spoke earlier steps forward and Sarah tells her that Aaron didn't mean much to anyone except herself. The woman offers Sarah a blanket and together they help wrap up Aaron's body. Other townsmen come forward and join Paladin in putting Aaron's body in the buggy. Ed suggests to the marshal that they bury the other two men because it's the right thing to do, and the marshal agrees. The townspeople take them away, and Sarah sings a gospel as she and Paladin ride off in the buggy.
Written by Gadfly on Mar 19, 2017