Tennessee's Partner

by Bret Harte

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Bret Harte's 1869 short story centers on the friendship of two men in the American West. They remain loyal buddies even after both are betrayed by a woman, who is an unfaithful wife to one and mistress to the other.

Tennessee, a gambler and thief, has a friend who is known as Tennessee's Partner. Such nicknames are used for newcomers in the town. (The judge called "Lynch" is another example.) After the woman rejects first one and then the other man, their friendship resumes.

When Tennessee is apprehended while fleeing after committing a robbery, Partner testifies at his friend's trial, but he then makes a mistake dealing with the judge, trying in vain to give him a bribe. Following the judge's sentence, Tennessee is hanged.

Tennessee's Partner takes his friend's body and buries it in a grave he dug outside his cabin. Eventually, Partner falls ill and dies, calling out to his friend from his deathbed.

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