Author's notes: I tried to be pretty set on time here, things like how long would a letter take to get some place is hard to judge. The name of the Governor of Texas, Lawrence Sullivan Ross, is from a website listing names and dates. Governor Ross, was in office 1889 - 1891.
Vin had been surprised when Mr. Kelly handed him the telegraph two weeks ago, but even though he had expected something more definite than that, he had never expected the Judge to deliver it himself.
But today, when the Judge had gotten off the stage in front of Potter's Mercantile, he had come immediately to find Vin. And he had shook his hand and handed him "THE LETTER."
Now Vin sat inside his wagon, it was dark outside, but the inside was lit by the warm glow of an oil lamp hanging from one of the ribs.
So now in private he pulled "THE LETTER" out and turned it round and round in his hands. He'd never gotten a letter before. But then up until his lessons with Mary, he wouldn't have been able to read it if he had.
He listened to the sounds the paper made in his hands, crinkling and swishing, as it was bent and slipped through leathery calloused hands. He watched the way the light shaded and gleamed brown to cream. At one point he held it up and even sniffed it, inhaling the very faint odor of paper and ink, now heavily overlaid with smells of sweat and tobacco from being carried in Judge Travis' breast pocket.
Finally, he broke the seal, and with shaking hands he held the letter down to the light so he could read it in the light. Then reading it out loud in a breathless whisper...
"Let it be known, that on this day July fourth, in the year of our lord, eighteen hundred and eighty nine, that Vin Tanner is pardoned of all crimes in the sovereign state of Texas, by me the Governor, Lawrence Sullivan Ross."
There was a big gold stamp on one corner. He idly wondered if it were real gold, as he tried to hold the sobs from breaking through as he felt the shadow of death move away from him.
Finally two years of watching his friends get hurt as they tried to keep him from bounty hunters and the noose, had made him break down and ask Judge Travis for help. And while he regretted the fact that he had to sell the Tanner name short of all innocence, he knew it was time to just be free.
Carefully folding the letter and then blowing out the light, Vin climbed down out of his wagon. Within moments he was striding into the busy saloon, where he stopped by the bar and asked Inez for a fresh bottle of her best. He slid over the required bills in payment. When she held up a shot glass, he answered by holding up both hands with all fingers splayed, and nodding his head at the table where the rest of the seven sat.
He crossed the room carefully dodging ranch hands out for their Saturday night fun, to the table where most of his friends sat with Judge Travis. He noticed one chair had been left empty so he quietly sat in it.
He waited for his bottle and the shot glasses to arrive. Seeing Inez on her way over though, he pulled out his letter. "Boys, Inez, Judge, drinks are on me, I got some good news today..."
He went on to read them the letter of pardon. When he was through, he pulled the cork out of the bottle and started to fill the glasses as congratulations fell on his ears and pats fell softly on his back. When all, including Inez and the judge had glasses in hand, he raised his, "to freedom."
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