A small town in the Old West. A peddler named Sykes arrives and walks into the town jail and goads the prisoner named Luis Gallegos about his imminent hanging. Sykes revels in the strength of the five-strand hemp rope that he sold to the town for the noose. The Sheriff berates Sykes and tells him to stop torturing the condemned man.
Sykes goes outside and watches the funeral procession for a little girl who was run down by a wagon driven by the man about to be hanged. As it comes out in various accounts Gallegos was depressed about his financial difficulties so he got drunk and riding home he struck the child without knowing it.
Sykes loudly celebrates to the girl’s parents the upcoming hanging of their daughter’s killer. They are too devastated to pay him any attention but head to the church for the funeral. Another viewer of the procession is Luis’s father. He apologizes for his son’s action and says that if he could exchange his life for the little girl’s he would gladly do it. But once again they move on thinking only of their lost daughter.
Sykes sees Luis’s father and has an idea. He sends a message to the old man saying that if he can obtain one hundred pesos then Sykes will sell him a bag of magic dust that will turn the hate in the hearts of the townspeople to love and thus save Luis’s life.
The old man begs and borrows the money and Sykes gives him a tobacco sack that he has filled with the dirt he found on the town’s main street. With the hanging about to begin Mr. Gallegos runs to the gallows and pathetically casts the “magic dust” into the air hoping it will sway the crowd. But as he does it, he hears the crack of the trap door opening and winces. But when he opens his eyes and turns around, he sees that the rope snapped and Luis is lying below the gallows alive.
Some of the crowd call out for the hanging to be repeated. The Sheriff asks the girl’s parents if they want it repeated. The father is unsure but his wife says Luis has suffered enough. Her husband agrees and the Sheriff releases Luis to his overjoyed father and they depart.
Now Sykes is looking at the broken rope and is perplexed how a brand new five strand hemp rope could fail on its first use. He concludes that the dust really was magic. And as proof of this he gives the one hundred gold pesos to some poor children who are near him in the street.
This one is a little too arch for me. Sykes is too creepy and Luis and his father are a little too sympathetic. Regardless of whether Sykes is a terrible man, Gallegos is not a blameless victim. Being poor and an outsider doesn’t automatically mean we just sympathize with the negligent killer of a little girl. Serling over did it here. C-.