Have Gun - Will Travel

Season 3 Episode 9

The Black Hankerchief

Aired Saturday 9:30 PM Nov 14, 1959 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
7 votes

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Episode Summary

The Black Hankerchief
Paladin is hired by the Deverall family to clear their son, Pierre. He has been sentenced to hang for robbery and murder. But Pierre doesn't think they will really hang a "Deverall".

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  • A powerful episode, with a few light touches, this one has several unique points.

    Hey Boy has changed considerably from the time when Paladin was merely his favorite (and high-tipping) hotel guest, who frequently disappeared on mysterious junkets, only to return with plenty of cash. Hey Boy finally learned the truth when he himself needed Paladin's aid. After that, he was even more interested in Paladin's doings, reading his telegrams and watching to see how Paladin would react to potential jobs. Here, he goes one step further, cutting out an advertisement to present to Paladin. Unfortunately, he chose to do so before Paladin had had a chance at the paper himself. Paladin was more amused than irritated, and more interested in the notice on the back of the clipping Hey Boy had chosen.

    Paying a visit to the "lady in distress", Paladin found that she was a professional perfumer, and, of course, demonstrated his knowledge of the art. (Is there ANYTHING this man doesn't have a working knowledge of?) The lady is worried about her nephew, Pierre Deverell, who is in some sort of trouble. The boy's father is apparently fed up with his son's wild behavior, and refuses to investigate. The aunt doesn't have too much in the way of cash, but she does have some bottles of old cognac....

    Paladin arrives in a tense, watchful town. Coming up to the office of the sheriff--which has its door locked--Paladin nearly has a shotgun rammed up his nose. The sheriff is being very cautious. Paladin explains his errand, and the story comes out. A stagecoach had been held up, with only one survivor, Fitzgerald. Pierre (known as Pete) had pulled the man aside, but acted as though he didn't really want to rob him. Fitzgerald took advantage of his hesitation to knock the boy out and run. The sheriff found the boy, unconcious, with the other people on the coach dead. Since then, there have been attempts on Fitzgerald's life, and someone tried to poison Pete in his cell.

    Paladin's mission is hampered by the fact that Pete confessed to the crime. A wild, self-centered brat, rebelling against his father, he thought that confessing would get his name in all the papers and thereby embarrass his family--but of course, they won't let him actually hang! Paladin breaks it to him that the crime, while heinous, is a local affair and no one outside the town really knows much about it, let alone that a Deverell (gasp!) is accused of the crime. (Actually, one statement by Pete made it sound as though he had confessed because that was the only way he could get permission to send word to his family, but the sheriff doesn't seem like that sort of man.) Pete explains that he had joined up with the three real criminals only a day or two before the robbery (probably thinking that this was exactly the sort of company his family would object to.) He describes them as bearded and smelling "funny". Paladin theorizes that they are buffalo hunters.

    Paladin questions the sheriff and Fitzgerald, and the answers make the sheriff realize that his case against Pete Deverell isn't as tight as he thought. Pete had been knocked unconcious before the others were killed, and he was found in the same place. Paladin does make what would be a bad error in a courtroom, asking the sheriff a leading question. He asks if the bullet holes in the bodies were large ones, of the sort made by a buffalo gun. The proper way would have been to ask about the size of the bullet wounds, and then deduce that they could not have been made with Pete's handgun. Without more proof, however, Pete's confession will stand, and he will hang.

    Having registered at the hotel (writing on two lines to ensure himself a double bed) Paladin parks himself ouside to watch the world go by. The three killers have disguised themselves by the simple expedient of shaving their beards. They're not too worried about Pete--he's to hang tomorrow--but they still want to get Fitzgerald, the last witness. And now here's this stranger in black. Better get him, too. Dink, who acts like the leader, walks up to Paladin and, without finesse, tries to find out what Paladin is doing. Paladin quickly guesses who he must be, and fends off his questions. He has his derringer out and ready when Dink whips around with his own gun. One down, but Paladin isn't pleased--he needs a live man to talk to. He settles back in his chair, hoping to draw out the other two. The next morning, a weary Paladin (probably stiff from sitting in that chair all night) returns to the sheriff's office. The unique points that I mentioned pop up one after another. Paladin first acknowledges the possibility that his mission will fail, quietly asking the sheriff if he can arrange the hanging so that the light-weight Pete will die instantly, rather than slowly strangling in the noose. (They don't use a gallows in this town.) Meeting with Pete, who has lost all his arrogance and is realizing that he might actually die, Paladin tells him that he himself has been frightened, waiting all night for a bullet to come out of nowhere. He also, for the first time, acknowledges the possibility--or probability--that his chosen lifestyle will get him killed eventually.

    Having failed to locate the two remaining killers, Paladin opts to make use of his hotel room. There's an amusing moment when the clerk doesn't recognize him, and Paladin is in no mood to be charitable. Another moment comes when Paladin opens his door to request some breakfast, causing the startled clerk to jump and drop the tray he was carrying back. Paladin's mood has improved, and he starts to help clear up the mess--and then notices the funny smell. The clerk tells him that the whole room where he had collected the tray smells that way. All weariness gone, Paladin bursts into the room and quickly overcomes Luss, wrapping him thoroughly in a rope and threatening to hang him if he doesn't talk. The third man, Waller, jumps in at this point, knocking Luss off balance in the process, but of course Paladin gets him, although Waller takes a lot of getting before he finally tumbles down the stairs. Paladin belatedly runs back to the room, leaping up and severing the rope before Luss strangles. Now, of course, Luss can be tried and hung all proper and legal. Hopefully Pete will return to his family a sadder and wiser man.moreless
Ed Nelson

Ed Nelson

Pierre Deverall

Guest Star

Joseph V. Perry

Joseph V. Perry


Guest Star

Gordon Polk

Gordon Polk


Guest Star

Kam Tong

Kam Tong

Hey Boy

Recurring Role

Olan Soule

Olan Soule


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • (Nitpick) If you watch closely when Paladin discovers the hole cut in his newspaper, you will note that the hole at first corresponds with the size of the clipping Hey Boy has. However, when Paladin pushes his fingers through the hole, it has almost doubled in size.

  • QUOTES (8)

    • Paladin: Very few damsels in distress are so charming.
      Michelle: It's for someone very dear to me.
      Paladin: Oh?
      Michelle: My nephew. He ran away from home and I have a wire that he's in a little trouble in Filito. He's Pierre Deverell. He wears trouble like a...boutonierre. He's disinheirit by his father, a strong and wealthy man. He will not permit the boy's mother, my sister, to help their son. So she talk to me, and I talk to you.
      Paladin: Well, I'm delighted you have.
      Michelle: M'sieu Deverell gives my sister very little, and I have, uh, not much.
      Paladin: Well, money is one of the lesser endowments.
      Michelle: I have some, very fine old...cognac.
      Paladin: That's an excellent beginning.

    • (Knocking at the door of the sheriff's office, Paladin has the barrel of a gun shoved in his face.)
      Sheriff: State yer business!
      Paladin: I want to see the sheriff?
      Sheriff: Hand me your gunbelt. (Paladin does so, and enters to find another man aiming a gun at him.)
      Fitzgerald: Ah, could be one of them.
      Sheriff: What do you want?
      Paladin: I want to see about one of your prisoners.
      Sheriff: Yeah, I suspected that. Who are ya?
      Paladin: My name's Paladin. (Reaches inside his jacket; Fitzgerald jerks up his gun. Paladin gingerly extracts his billfold and hands it to the sheriff)
      Sheriff: These are all letters of credit. San Francisco banks seem to trust you. Guess I can, too.
      Paladin: Thank you, Sheriff.
      Sheriff: Our, uh, welcome mat must have seemed full of cockleburs, but, we gotta be very careful.

    • Luss: Wha-wha-whatya doing?
      Paladin: I'm hanging you.
      Luss: Why, that, that's murder.
      Paladin: No, it isn't. It's a lynching.
      Luss: But you're only one man.
      Paladin: Well, given time, I could collect a crowd.

    • (The Sheriff comes rushing up after the altercation with Dink)
      Sheriff: Mr. Paladin, you kinda sneak into town like a Chinese stampede.

    • Sheriff: What are you going to do now?
      Paladin: Nothing much I can do, except make myself the biggest and easiest target I know how, and hope that they come after me--and miss.

    • Pete: All right, I was a fool, I admit it. But do I owe my life to some stupid kid trick? If they start hanging all the fools, this world will be a lonely place to live in.
      Paladin: There'll be fools at both ends of the rope, believing that they move the winds and control the tides and sentence men to die.

    • Pete: You're scared?
      Paladin: You think I hold my life in so little regard that I'm not afraid to lose it?
      Pete: I've got the taste of death in my mouth, Paladin. Like cold iron.
      Paladin: It's always been there. It's just the first time you've noticed it.
      Pete: You, too?
      Paladin: All my life. Just a little stronger now.

    • (Paladin has cut Luss down from the rope that was strangling him)
      Paladin: Well, get up! Get up, son, it was only a rehearsal.

  • NOTES (0)