I woke up groggily, and could immediately tell I had slept in. I pulled my clothes on, slowly, and I could feel a bruise on my back, that I had obviously not felt from when Bernard pushed me over. As I went outside, It was very bright, and I blinked several times trying to get my eyes to adjust, I saw Andrew was still sitting by Bernard. I wasn’t sure if he had stayed at his side all night, or woke up before me, but he was rewrapping a bandage around Bernard’s arm. I walked over to Doc.
“How is he?”
“He awoke last night and asked for some water, but he passed out a little later. Am running low on bandages so Walt is going to town to get some. You slept in, how do you feel?”
“I have a bruise on my back, and my leg is still sore, but not as bad as last night. I don’t think I rebroke it thankfully.”
“That is good. Bernard, here I don’t think is so lucky. He has a complicated break in his arm, and his hip has a crack. But his leg is not going to be difficult, and I have it set well. In the short time, he was conscious, he groaned quite a bit.”
“Thank you for staying with him. But you must be tired. If you like I can watch him, while you get some rest.”
“Thank you, Fred, I will.”
I sat reading while I waited, but after around an hour, I heard him talk.
“What are you waiting for. You heal me just to hang me, so why prolong my suffering.”
“I don’t mean to hang you”
“What then? Shoot me? Tie me to a horse and let it run wild? Why wait”
“No, I don’t mean to harm you in any way. I plan to let you go once I hear a sincere apology, and you are fully healed. You didn’t make it away with the gold you were stealing, and I have no proof that you were the one that stole the large vein of gold that we found, so I can’t make you give it back unless you do it out of your own free will, and I can’t force that. And you took enough pain from your injuries that you don’t need any more” He looked at me very scared. I looked less scared when he thought I was going to kill him, but it seemed like the prospect of forgiveness had never crossed his mind. He looked but said nothing for quite some time. Still turning what I said over and over in his mind. I truly felt sorry for him, as men like that were led by hate and fear, and the devil has a strong grasp on their hearts. He didn’t reply, but I saw as he was about to when he tried to get up, but he clenched his body in pain, then fainted. I continued reading when Thomas climbed out of the mine.
“Everything down there is in order for the buyers, and if you like, I can go to town and sell the ore, or get it smelted, with your permission. It will probably take several dozen loads, so if we can rent or buy another cart, it would drastically quicken our pace.”
“That is wonderful, we shall do that. I think we will smelt the gold dust into bricks, but sell the ore, as the process is much longer, and we can melt the dust ourselves. Shall I help you load a cart with ore?”
“If you like. As long as that man there is alright.”
“Bernard should be fine for a little bit.” We loaded a wagon with the ore. Thankfully, there was a gold smelter in the town, and he would buy ore, then do the dirty work in refining it, then sell it for a good-sized profit.
Thomas took the cart to town, I would have gone with him, and rented a cart then drive it back, but as I was the only one left to watch bernard I had to stay. So I was the only one awake on our property. I sat back down my the bench where Bernard was, and put my leg up, because the work loading the cart, had made it smart. Bernard woke up again, but just lay still, and didn’t talk. He was probably very confused, based on the reaction he gave me earlier, so I didn’t want to trouble him. Andrew came over after a while to check on him, and I left to pack some of our equipment and get it ready to pack or sell. Walt arrived back around lunchtime, and he gave the bandages to Doc, then came over to me.
“Fred, I saw the buyers in town, and they said that they had the finances in order and that if you could meet them, they would happily pay you.” Walt seemed very excited
“Oh that is wonderful, I guess we will be heading back in a few days.”
“Yes, how does your leg feel for the journey? I remember it was just awful when my horse fell on my ankle. If you like we could set you up in a cart, and pull you back.”
“I think it will be fine, thank you chap, that is a kind offer. But it would only slow us down”. Walt nodded and walked off. It was wonderful to see the physical transformation that has taken place in Walter. When we left he had poor posture and walked slowly, and would often moan and groan when sitting up or down. But from the riding and exercise, he stood at least two inches taller and was walking away like he was ten years younger. And he was over seventy. I hoped that I would be in good shape when I reached his age. I saw Andrew walk over to me.
“Bernard, is in some stable condition physically, though he is black and blue all over, and has some healing to do. But even as he rests in the shade of the barn, he is sweating buckets, and can not stop trying to roll over, though he can’t. And just now he asked for you.” I walked over and sat on the stump by his side. He opened his eyes excruciatingly slowly, as they were full of sleep, and when he saw me he spoke.
“You forgive me?”
“If you ask for it yes. Then I do wholeheartedly.”
“I… have never been pardoned before. Men arent like you. They kick and spit. And push you down. And when you fall, they laugh. Why are you different. Why should you show me kindness? While all I have shown you is anger” He said all of this very slowly, and I could hear the inner conflict in his voice
“Some men are like that, and they need help. Punishment often just hardens their hearts, and the more they are hardened the more difficult they are to soften again. But, most men are not like that. I am trying to help you so you aren’t angry. So that you can learn to forgive others. For that is what the Bible says. It says that you should love your neighbour as yourself and love your enemies. And that is what I mean to do.”
“But I am not like that. I can’t.” He clenched his eyes shut, and squeezed every inch of his dirty face.
“Yes you can, it is just very hard. But it gets easier. You can learn to forgive, and love, as long as you let yourself be forgiven, and all you have to do is ask Jesus for that forgiveness and repent of your sins. And it can be hard, and sometimes it hurts to do so. But once you do you will be a new man.”
He did not reply for a while, as he was making some very life-changing decisions.
“Can… you show me?”
“Yes, I can. Just talk to God as he were here beside us. Ask him to forgive you of your sins, and tell him that you are so very sorry, and that you want to do as he wants, and that you will love others, and be kind.” I gave him time, and I watched him. He closed his eyes tight and clenched his hands together. I waited for a while, and Doc who was watching from the corner of the building was also watching silently. After a few minutes, I saw his eyes relax, and his hands relax. He looked up at me.
“Now God has forgiven you!”
“I read the Bible when I was a boy, but never believed it. I always thought that it was a story to make kids want to be good, but I never imagined it as true. But as you spoke, I realized that it was not just that. Do you have a Bible? I want to read it.” I walked to my tent, grabbed my leather-bound bible, and handed it to him. I also rolled up a blanket and placed it under his head. We sat there for several hours, and I would show him different chapters, and parts, that I liked, or parts that I thought would do him good to see. After a while, he started to get quite tired and fell asleep, so Doc watched him, and I went to do some chores.
Thomas had arrived back in the time when Bernard and I were reading to Bible and had taken another full load, to town. I decided to saddle my horse and ride after him, as he couldn’t be far, and I had nothing else to do. I did not ride too fast, even though I wanted to catch up with him, because the posting required can be painful and difficult if you can’t use one leg to its fullest extent. Posting is when you sit up, then sit down with the rhythm of the horse’s movement, when it is doing a fast trot or a canter, It makes it far more comfortable, and once you get on the right beat, it is quite easy. But since I could not, I just had my horse walk. I knew that Thomas wouldn’t be going fast, as he was on a wagon. I caught up to him shortly before we arrived in town, and he brought me to the smelter. We pulled around back, and there was a pile of our ore. A man walked out and motioned Thomas to back up towards a large scale. We then got out and would load baskets, weigh them, then the man would write down their weight.
“Thank you, Thomas. I will pay you once all has gotten here. Fair?”
“Works for me. You Fred?”
“Oh you would know better than me, one question, what will we be getting for the entire load?”
“Probably a little over four thousand dollars!” Thomas smiled as he said that.
“That much! My! I expected half of that.”
“Many places have ore with little gold in it, and would be paid half for the same amount, but ours has a decently high concentration of gold per pound, so we get a better price”
“Very good” I was pleased, so I let Thomas finish the business, and we rode back for several more loads.