Part 3 out of 7
Up the broad and muddy path to Market street, thence west again to
Third, he made his way. Now south to Mission and once more west, a
favored route for caballeros. Benito had never traveled it before afoot.
But his horse had succumbed to the rigors of that frantic ride in
pursuit of Alice and McTurpin several months ago. Mounts were a
He skirted the edge of a lagoon that stretched from Sixth to Eighth
streets and on the ascent beyond observed a tiny box-like habitation,
brightly painted, ringed with flowers and crowned with an imposing
flagpole from which floated the Star-Spangled Banner. It was a note of
gay melody struck athwart the discordant monotony of soiled tent houses,
tumble-down huts and oblong, flat-roofed buildings stretching their
disorderly array along the road. Coming closer he saw the name,
"Pipesville," printed on the door, and knew that this must be the
"summer home," as it was called, of San Francisco's beloved minstrel,
Stephen Massett, otherwise "Jeems Pipes of Pipesville," singer, player,
essayist and creator of those wondrous one-man concerts dear to all the
"Jeems" himself appeared in the doorway to wave a greeting and Benito
went on oddly cheered by the encounter. In front of the Mansion House,
adjoining Mission Dolores, stood Bob Ridley, talking with his partner.
"You look warm, son," he remarked paternally to Windham, "let me mix you
up a milk punch and you'll feel more like yourself. Where's your boss
and whither are ye bound?"
"Died," Benito answered. "Going to my--to the ranch."
"Thought so," Ridley said. "I hear there's no one on it. Why not steal a
march on that tin-horn gambler and scallawag. Rally up some friends and
take possession. That's nine points of the law, my boy, and a half-dozen
straight-shooting Americans is nine hundred more, now that Geary's
alcalde and that weak-kneed psalm-singing Leavenworth's resigned
"You're sure--there's no one at the place?" Benito questioned.
"Pretty sure. But what's it matter? Everybody knows it's yours by
rights. Wait," he cried, excitedly. "I'll get horses. Stuart and I will
go along. We'll pick up six or seven bully boys along the way. Is it
"A go!" exclaimed Benito, his eyes ashine. "You--you're too good, Bob
Ridley." He pressed the other's hand. "My wife," he mused, "among the
roses in the patio! The old home, Dear God! Let it come true!"
An hour later ten men galloped through the gate of the Windham rancho.
No one offered them resistance. It had the look of a place long
abandoned. Dead leaves and litter everywhere. All of the animals had
been driven off--sold, no doubt. The hacienda had been ransacked of its
valuables. It was almost bare of furniture. The rose court, neglected,
unkempt, brought back a surge of memories. A chimney had fallen; broken
adobe bricks lay scattered on the grass.
But to Benito it spelled home. For him and for Alice. This should be his
Christmas gift. Old Antonio, his former major-domo, lingered still in
San Francisco. He would send him out this very day to set the place in
order. Tomorrow he and Alice would ride--his brow clouded. He should
have to borrow two horses. No matter. Tomorrow they would ride--
A startled exclamation from Bob Ridley roused him from his rhapsody.
"Benito, come here! Look! What the devil is that?"
From their eminence the town of San Francisco was plainly visible; tall,
thin shafts of smoke rising straight and black from many chimneys; the
blue bay shimmering in the morning sunshine; the curious fretwork
shadows of that great flotilla of deserted ships. But there was
something more; something startlingly unnatural; a great pillar of black
vapor--beneath it a livid red thing that leaped and grew.
"Good God! The town's afire!" cried Benito.
FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!
Benito's first thought was of Alice. He had left her sleeping. Perhaps
she had not yet awakened, for the morning was young. Adrian had gone to
San Jose the previous afternoon. His wife, his sister and her child
would be alone.
Benito sprang upon his horse; the others followed. In less than half an
hour they crossed Market street and were galloping down Kearny toward
the Square. At California street they were halted by a crowd, pushing,
shouting, elbowing this way and that without apparent or concerted
purpose. Above the human babel sounded a vicious crackle of burning wood
like volleys of shots from small rifles. Red and yellow flames shot high
and straight into the air. Now and then a gust of wind sent the licking
fire demon earthward, and before its hot breath people fled in panic.
Benito flung his reins to a bystander. He was scarcely conscious of his
movements; only that he was fighting for breath in a surging,
suffocating press of equally excited human beings. From this he finally
emerged, hatless, disheveled, into a small cleared space filled with
flying sparks and stifling heat. Across it men rushed feverishly
carrying pails of water. Dennison's Exchange on Kearny street, midway of
the block facing Portsmouth Square, was a roaring furnace. Flame sprang
like red, darting tongues from its windows and thrust impertinent
fingers here and there through the sloping roof.
Somewhere--no one seemed to know precisely--a woman screamed, "My baby!
Save my baby!" The sound died to a moan, was stilled. Benito, passing a
bucket along the line, stared, white faced, at his neighbor. "What was
that?" he asked.
"Quien sabe?" said the other, "hurry along with that pail. The roof's
It was true. The shingle-covered space above the burning building
stirred gently, undulating like some wind-ruffled pond. The mansard
windows seemed to bow to the watchers, then slowly sink forward. With a
roar, the whole roof sprang into fire, buckled, collapsed; the veranda
toppled. Smoke poured from the eight mansard windows of the Parker
House, next door. South of the Parker House were single-storied
buildings, one of wood, another of adobe; the first was a restaurant;
over its roof several foreign-looking men spread rugs and upon them
poured a red liquid.
"It's wine," Bob Ridley said. "But they'll never save it. Booker's store
is going, too. Looks like a clean sweep of the block."
Broderick's commanding figure could be seen rushing hither and thither.
"No use," Benito heard him say to one of his lieutenants. "Water won't
stop it. Not enough.... Is there any powder hereabouts?"
"Powder!" cried the other with a blanching face. "By the Eternal, yes! A
store of it is just around the corner. Mustn't let the fire reach--"
Broderick cut him short. "Go and get it. You and two others. Blow up or
pull down that building," he indicated a sprawling ramshackle structure
on the corner.
"But it's mine," one of the fire-fighters wailed. "Cost me ten thousand
Fiercely Broderick turned upon him. "It'll cost the town ten millions if
you don't hurry," he bellowed. "You can't save it, anyhow. Do you want
the whole place to burn?"
[Illustration: Broderick's commanding figure was seen rushing hither and
thither.... "You and two others. Blow up or pull down that building," he
indicated a sprawling, ramshackle structure.]
"All right, all right, Cap. Don't shoot," the other countered with a
sudden laugh. "Come on, boys, follow me." Benito watched him and the
others presently returning with three kegs. They dived into the building
indicated. Presently, with the noise of a hundred cannon, the corner
building burst apart. Sticks and bits of plaster flew everywhere. The
crowd receded, panic-stricken.
"Good work!" cried the fire marshal.
It seemed, indeed, as though the flames were daunted. The two small
structures were blazing now. The Parker House, reeling drunkenly,
Unexpectedly a gust of wind sent fire from the ruins of Dennison's
Exchange northward. It reached across the open space and flung a rain of
sparks down Washington street toward Montgomery. Instantly there came an
answering crackle, and exasperated fire-fighters rushed to meet the
latest sortie of their enemy. Once more three men, keg laden, made their
way through smoke and showering brands. Again the deafening report
reverberated and the crowd fell back, alarmed.
Someone grasped Benito's arm and shook it violently. He turned and
looked into the feverishly questioning eyes of Adrian Stanley.
"I've just returned," the other panted. "Tell me, is all well--with
Inez? The women?"
"Don't know," said Benito, half bewildered. The woman's wail for a lost
child leaped terrifyingly into his recollection. His hand went up as if
to ward off something. "Don't know," he repeated. "Wasn't home
It came to him weirdly that he was talking like a drunken man; that
Adrian eyed him with a sharp disfavor. "Where the devil were you, then?"
"At the ranch," he answered. Suddenly he laughed. It all seemed very
funny. He had meant to give his wife a Christmas present; later he had
ridden madly to her rescue, yet here he was passing buckets in a fire
brigade. And Adrian, regarding him with suspicion, accusing him silently
with his eyes.
"You take the pail," he cried. "You fight the fire." And while Stanley
looked puzzledly after him, Benito charged through a circle of
spectators up the hill. He did not know that his face was almost black;
that his eyebrows and the little foreign moustache of which they had
made fun at the mines was charred and grizzled. He knew only that Alice
might be in danger. That the fire might have spread west as well as east
As he sped up Washington street another loud explosion drummed against
his ears. A shout followed it. Benito neither knew nor cared for its
significance. Five minutes later he stumbled across his own doorsill,
calling his wife's name. There was no answer. Frenziedly he shouted
"Alice! Alice!" till at last a neighbor answered him.
"She and Mrs. Stanley and the baby went to Preacher Taylor's house. Is
the fire out?"
"No," returned Benito. Once more he plunged down hill, seized a bucket
and began the interminable passing of water. He looked about for Adrian
but did not see him. He became a machine, dully, persistently,
desperately performing certain ever-repeated tasks.
Hours seemed to pass. Then, of a sudden, something interrupted the
accustomed trend. He held out his hands and no bucket met it. With a
look of stupid surprise he stared at the man behind him. He continued to
hold out his hand.
"Wake up," cried the other, and gave him a whack across the shoulders.
"Wake up, Benito, man. The fire's out."
Robert Parker, whose hotel was a litter of smoking timbers, and Tom
Maguire, owner of what once had been the Eldorado gambling house, were
discussing their losses.
"Busted?" Parker asked.
"Cleaned!" Maguire answered.
"Goin' to rebuild?"
"Yep. And you?"
"Sartin. Sure. Soon as I can get the lumber and a loan."
"Put her there, pard."
Their hands met with a smack.
"That's the spirit of San Francisco," Ridley remarked. "Well we've
learned a lesson. Next time we'll be ready for this sort of thing.
Broderick's planning already for an engine company."
"I reckon," Adrian commented as he joined the group, "a vigilance
committee is what we need even more."
To this Benito made no answer. Into his mind flashed a memory of the
trio that had left Thieves' Hollow at daybreak.
POLITICS AND A WARNING
Benito Windham rose reluctantly and stretched himself. It was very
comfortable in the living-room of the ranch house, where a fire crackled
in the huge stone grate built by his grandfather's Indian artisans. Many
of the valuable tapestries imported from Spain had been removed by
McTurpin during his tenure, but even bare adobe walls were cheerful in
the light of blazing logs, and rugs of native weave accorded well with
the simple mission furniture. In a great chair that almost swallowed her
sat Alice, gazing dreamily into the embers. Family portraits hung upon
the wall, and one of these, stiff and haughty in the regimentals of a
soldado de cuero, seemed to look down upon the domestic picture with a
certain austere benignity. This was the painting of Francisco Garvez of
hidalgo lineage, who had stood beside Ortega, the Pathfinder, when that
honored scout of Portola had found the bay of San Francisco and the
"Carissima, how he would have loved you, that old man!" Benito's tone
Alice Windham turned. "You are like him, Benito," she said fondly.
"There is the same flash in your eye. Come, sit for awhile by the fire.
It's so cosy when it storms."
Benito kissed her. "I would that I might, but today there is an election
in the city," he reminded. "I must go to vote. Perhaps I can persuade
the good Broderick to dine with us this evening; or Brannan--though he
is so busy nowadays. Often I look about unconsciously for Nathan Spear.
It seems impossible that he is dead."
"He was 47, but he seemed so young," commented Alice. She rose hastily.
"You must be very careful, dear," she cautioned, with a swift anxiety,
"of the cold and wet--and of the hoodlums. They tell me there are many.
Every week one reads in the _Alta_ that So-and-So was killed at the
Eldorado or the Verandah. Never more than that. In my home in the East
they would call it murder. There would be a great commotion; the
assassin would be hanged."
"Ah, yes; but this is a new country," he said, a little lamely.
"Will there never be law in San Francisco?" Alice asked him,
passionately. "I have not forgotten--how my father died."
Benito's face went suddenly white. "Nor I," he said, with an odd
intensity; "there are several things ... that you may trust me ... to
"You mean," she queried in alarm, "McTurpin?"
Benito's mood changed. "There, my dear." He put an arm about her
shoulders soothingly. "Don't worry. I'll be careful; neither storm nor
bullets shall harm me. I will promise you that."
* * * * *
Early as it was in the day's calendar--for San Francisco had no knack of
rising with the sun--Benito found the town awake, intensely active when
he picked his way along the edge of those dangerous bogs that passed for
business streets. Several polling places had been established. Toward
each of them, lines of citizens converged in patient single-file
detachments that stretched usually around the corner and the length of
another block. Official placards announced that all citizens of the
United States were entitled to the ballot and beneath one of these, a
wag had written with white chalk in a large and sprawling hand:
"No Chinese Coolies in Disguise Need Apply."
No one seemed to mind the rain, though a gale blew from the sea, causing
a multitude of tents to sway and flap in dangerous fashion. Now and
then a canvas habitation broke its moorings and went racing down the
hill, pursued by a disheveled and irate occupant, indulging in the most
At Kearny and Sacramento streets Benito, approaching the voting station,
was told to get in line by Charley Elleard, the town constable. Elleard
rode his famous black pony. This pony was the pet of the town and had
developed a sagacity nearly human. It was considered wondrous sport to
give the little animal a "two-bit" piece, which it would gravely hold
between its teeth and present to the nearest bootblack, placing its
forefeet daintily upon the footrests for a "shine."
As he neared the polls in the slow succession of advancing voters,
Benito was beset by a rabble of low-voiced, rough-dressed men, who
thrust their favorite tickets into his hands and bade him vote as
indicated, often in a threatening manner. Raucously they tried to cry
each other down. "Here's for Geary and the good old council," one would
shout. "Geary and his crowd forever."
"We've had the old one too long," a red-shirted six-footer bellowed.
"Fresh blood for me. We want sidewalks and clean streets."
This provoked a chorus of "Aye! Aye! That's the ticket, pard," until a
satirical voice exclaimed, "Clean streets and sidewalks! Gor a'mighty.
He's dreamin' o' Heaven!"
A roar of laughter echoed round the town at this sally. It was repeated
everywhere. The campaign slogan was hastily dropped.
At the polling desk Benito found himself behind a burly Kanaka sailor,
dark as an African.
"I contest his vote," cried one of the judges. "If he's an American, I'm
"Where were you born?" asked the challenging judge of election.
"New York," whispered a voice in the Kanaka's ear, and he repeated the
word stammeringly. "Where was your father born?" came the second
question, and again the word was repeated. "What part of New York?"
"New York, New York." The answer was parrot-like. Someone laughed.
"Ask him what part of the Empire State he hails from?" suggested
another. The question was put in simpler form, but it proved too much
for the Islander. He stammered, stuttered, waved his hand uncertainly
toward the ocean. Perceiving that he was the butt of public jest, he
broke out of the line and made off as fast as his long legs could
The man whose whispered promptings had proved unavailing, fell sullenly
into the background, after venomous glance at the successful objector.
Benito caught his eyes under the dripping crown of a wide-brimmed slouch
hat. They seemed to him vaguely familiar. Almost instinctively his hand
sought the pocket in which his derringer reposed. Then, with a laugh, he
dismissed the matter. He had no quarrel with the fellow; that murderous
look was aimed at Henry Mellus, not at him. So he cast his ballot
and went out.
Opposite the Square he paused to note the progress of rehabilitation in
the burned area. It was less than a fortnight since he had stood there
feverishly passing buckets of water in a fight against the flames, but
already most of the evidences of conflagration were hidden behind the
framework of new buildings. The Eldorado announced a grand opening in
the "near future"; Maguire's Jenny Lind Theater notified one in
conspicuous letters, "We Will Soon Be Ready for Our Patrons, Bigger and
Grander Than Ever."
Benito nodded to Robert Parker, whose hotel was rising, phoenix-like
from its ashes.
"Things are coming along," he said with a gesture toward the buildings.
"Have you seen anything of Dave Broderick?"
Parker shook the rain-drops from his hat. "Saw him going toward the
Bella Union," he replied. "They say he's as good as elected. A fine
State senator he'll make, too." Taking Benito's arm, he walked with him
out of earshot of those nearby.
"Benito," his tone was grave. "They tell me you've resumed possession of
"Yes," confirmed the younger. "Half a dozen of my old servants are there
with Mrs. Windham and myself. I've bought a little stock on credit and
all's going well."
For a moment Parker said nothing; then, almost in Benito's ear, he spoke
a warning: "Do you know that McTurpin is back?"
ON THE TRAIL OF McTURPIN
Benito, in a mood of high excitement, strode uphill toward the Bella
Union, pondering the significance of Parker's startling information.
So McTurpin had come back.
He had been about to ask for further details when one of the hurrying
workmen called his informant away. After all it did not matter much just
how or when the gambler had returned. They were sure to meet sooner or
later. Once more Windham's hand unconsciously sought the pistol in his
pocket. At the entrance of the Bella Union he halted, shook the rain
from his hat, scraped the mud from his feet upon a pile of gunnysacks
which served as doormats, and went into the brilliant room. Since the
temporary closing of the Eldorado, this place had become the most
elegant and crowded of the city's gaming palaces. A mahogany bar
extended the length of the building; huge hanging lamps surrounded by
ornate clusters of prisms lent an air of jeweled splendor which the
large mirrors and pyramids of polished glasses back of the counter
enhanced. On a platform at the rear were several Mexican musicians in
rich native costumes twanging gaily upon guitars and mandolins. Now and
then one of them sang, or a Spanish dancer pirouetted, clicking her
castanets and casting languishing glances at the ring of auditors about
her. These performers were invariably showered with coins. Tables of all
sizes filled the center of the room from the long roulette board to the
little round ones where drinks were served. Faro, monte, roulette, rouge
et noir, vingt-un, chuck-a-luck and poker: each found its disciples;
now and then a man went quietly out and another took his place; there
was nothing to indicate that he had lost perhaps thousands of dollars,
the "clean-up" of a summer of hardships at the mines. A bushy bearded
miner boasted that he had won $40,000 and lost it again in an hour and a
half. Henry Mellus offered him work as a teamster and the
"Easy come, easy go," he commented philosophically and, lighting his
pipe from one of the sticks of burning punk placed at intervals along
the bar, he went out.
In an out-of-the-way corner, where the evening's noise and activity
ebbed and flowed a little more remotely, Benito discovered Broderick
chewing an unlighted cigar and discussing the probabilities of election
with John Geary. They hailed him cordially, but in a little while Geary
drifted off to learn further news of the polls.
"And how is the charming Mrs. Windham?" asked Broderick.
"Well and happy, thank you," said Benito. "She loves the old place.
Cannot you dine with us there tonight?"
"With real pleasure," Broderick returned. "In this raw, boisterous place
a chance to enjoy a bit of home life, to talk with a high-bred woman is
more precious than gold."
Benito bowed. "It is not often that we have a Senator for a guest," he
Broderick placed a hand upon his shoulder almost paternally. "I hope
that is prophetic, Benito," he said. "I'm strangely serious about it.
This town has taken hold of me--your San Francisco."
They turned to greet Sam Brannan, now a candidate for the ayuntamiento
or town council. "How goes it, Sam?" asked Broderick.
"Well enough," responded Brannan. He looked tired, irritated. "There's
been a conspiracy against us by the rowdy element, but I think we've
beaten them now."
Broderick's brow clouded. "We need a better government; a more
effective system of police, Sam," he said, striking his first against
"What we need," said Brannan, "is a citizens' society of public safety;
a committee of vigilance. And, mark my word, we're going to have 'em.
There's more than one who suspects the town was set afire last
"But," said Broderick, "mob rule is dangerous. The constituted
authorities must command. They are the ones to uphold the law."
"But what if they don't?" Brannan's aggressive chin was thrust forward.
"They must be made to; but authority should not be overthrown. That's
"And where, may I ask, would human liberty be today if there'd never
been a revolution?" Brannan countered.
Benito left them. He had no stomach for such argument, though he was to
hear much more of it in years to come. Suddenly he recalled the man who
had tried to coach the Kanaka; who had glared so murderously at Mellus.
Those eyes had been familiar; something about them had made him grip his
pistol, an impulse at which afterward he had laughed. But now he knew
the reason for that half-involuntary action. Despite the beard and
mustache covering the lower portion of his face completely; despite the
low-pulled hat, the disguising ulster, he knew the man.
The hot Spanish temper which he had never entirely mastered, flamed like
a scorching blast across Benito's mind. He saw again McTurpin smiling as
he won by fraud the stake at cards which he had laid against Benito's
ranch; he seemed to hear again the gambler's sneering laugh as he, his
father and Adrian had been ambushed at the entrance of his home; in his
recollection burned the fellow's insult to his sister; the abduction of
Alice, his wife; the murder of his partner. He was certain that
McTurpin had somehow been at the bottom of it. Swiftly he was lost to
all reason. He took the weapon from his pocket, examined it carefully to
make certain that the caps were unimpaired by moisture. Then he
At the polling station he made casual inquiries, but the ballot-box
stuffer for some time had not been seen.
"Charley Elleard ran him off, I think," said Frank Ward, laughing. "He'd
have voted Chinamen and Indians if he'd had his way. But if you're
looking for the rascal try the gambling house at Long Wharf and
Montgomery street; that's where his kind hang out."
Later in the spring of 1850 Montgomery street was graded. Now it was a
sloping streak of mud, the western side of which was several feet above
the other. Where Long Wharf, which was to be cut through and called
Commercial street, intersected, or rather bisected Montgomery, stood a
large building with a high, broad roof. Its eaves projected over a row
of benches, and here, sheltered somewhat from the rain, a group of
Mexicans and Chilenos lounged in picturesque native costumes, smoking
cigarettes. Through the door came a rollicking melody--sailor tunes
played by skillful performers--and a hum of converse punctuated by the
click of chips and coin. Benito entered. The room was blue with
cigarette smoke, its score of tables glimpsed as through a fog. Sawdust
covered the floor and men of all nationalities mingled quietly enough at
play of every kind. A stream of men came and went to and from the gaming
boards and bar.
Benito ordered a drink, and surveyed the room searchingly. The man he
sought was not in evidence. "Is McTurpin here?" he asked the bartender.
If that worthy heard, he made no answer; but a slight, agile man with
sly eyes looked up from a nearby table, "What d'ye want of him,
An arrogant retort sprang to Benito's lips, but he checked it. He bent
toward the questioner confidentially. "I've news for Alec," he
whispered; "news he ought to know--and quickly."
THE SQUATTER CONSPIRACY
Instantly the slight man rose. He had narrow eyes, shrewd and
calculating and the sinuous motions of a contortionist. Linking his arm
with Benito's, he smiled, disclosing small, discolored teeth. There was
something ratlike about him, infinitely repellant. "Come, I'll tyke ye
to 'im," he volunteered.
But this did not suit Benito's purpose. "I must go alone," he said
The other eyed him with suspicion. "Then find him alone," he countered,
sullenly. But a moment later he was plucking at Benito's elbow. "What's
it all abaout, this 'ere news? Cawn't ye tell a fellow? Give me an
inklin'; trust me and I'll trust you; that's business."
Benito hesitated. "It's about the ranch," he returned at a venture.
"Ow, the rawnch. Well, you needn't 'ave been so bloody sly about it.
Alec isn't worried much abaout the rawnch. 'E's bigger fish to fry. But
you can see 'im if you wants. 'E's at the Broken Bottle Tavern up in
They had a drink together; then Benito parted from his informant,
ruminating over what the little man, so palpably a "Sydney Duck,"
had told him.
Benito surveyed his reflection in a glass. In his rain-bedraggled attire
he might pass for one of the Sydney Ducks himself. His boots were
splashed with mud, his scrape wrinkled and formless. He pulled the
dripping hat into a disheveled slouch, low down on his forehead.
McTurpin had not seen him with a beard, had failed to recognize him at
the polling station. Benito decided to risk it.
* * * * *
One of the largest and most pretentious of Sydney Town's "pubs," or
taverns, was The Broken Bottle, kept by a former English pugilist from
Botany Bay. He was known as Bruiser Jake, could neither read nor write
and was shaped very much like a log, his neck being as large as his
head. It was said that the Australian authorities had tried to hang him
several times, but failed because the noose slipped over his chin and
ears, refusing its usual function. So he finally had been given a
"ticket of leave" and had come to California. Curiously enough the
Bruiser never drank. He prided himself on his sobriety and the great
strength of his massive hands in which he could squeeze the water out of
a potato. Ordinarily he was not quarrelsome, though he fought like a
tiger when aroused.
Benito found this worthy behind his bar and asked for a drink of English
ale, a passable quality of which was served in the original imported
bottles at most public houses.
The Bruiser watched him furtively with little piglike eyes. "And who
might ye be, stranger?" he asked when Benito set down his glass.
"'Awkins--that's as good a nyme as another," said Benito, essaying the
cockney speech. "And what ye daon't know won't 'urt you, my friend." He
threw down a silver piece, took the bottle and glass with him and sat
down at a table near the corner. Hard by he had glimpsed the familiar
broad back of McTurpin.
At first the half-whispered converse of the trio at the adjoining table
was incomprehensible to his ears, but after a time he caught words,
First the word "squatters" reached him, several times repeated; then,
"at Rincon." Finally, "the best lots in the city can be held."
After that for a time he lost the thread of the talk. An argument
arose, and, in its course, McTurpin's voice was raised incautiously.
"Who's to stop us?" he contended, passionately. "The old alcalde grants
aren't worth the paper they're written on. Haven't squatters
dispossessed the Spaniards all over California? Didn't they take the San
Antonio ranch in Oakland, defend it with cannon, and put old Peralta in
jail for bothering them with his claims of ownership?" He laughed. "It's
a rare joke, this land business. If we squat on the Rincon, who'll
dispossess us? Answer me that."
"But it's government ground. It's leased to Ted Shillaber," one
"To the devil with Shillaber," McTurpin answered. "He won't know we're
going to squat till we've put up our houses. And when he comes we'll
quote him squatter law. He can buy us off if he likes. It'll cost him
uncommon high. He can fight us in the courts and we'll show him squatter
justice. We've our friends in the courts, let me tell you."
"Aye, mayhap," returned a lanky, red-haired sailor, "but there's them o'
us, like you and me and Andy, yonder, what isn't hankerin' for courts."
McTurpin leaned forward, and his voice diminished so that Benito could
scarcely hear his words. "Don't be afraid," he said. "I've got my men
selected for the Rincon business, a full dozen of 'em ... all with clean
records, mind ye. Nothing against them." He pounded the table with his
fist by way of emphasis. "And when we've done old Shillaber, we'll come
in closer. We'll claim lots that are worth fifty thou--" He paused. His
tone sank even lower, so that some of his sentence was lost.
It was at this juncture that Benito sneezed. He had felt the approach of
that betraying reflex for some minutes, but had stifled it. Those who
have tried this under similar circumstances know the futility of such
attempts; know the accumulated fury of sound with which at length
bursts forth the startling, terrible and irrepressible
McTurpin and his two companions wheeled like lightning. "Who's this?"
the gambler snarled. He took a step toward the Bruiser. "Who the devil
let him in to spy on us?"
"Aw, stow it, Alec!" said the former fighter. "'E's no spy. 'E's one o'
our lads from the bay. Hi can tell by 'is haccent."
Benito rose. His hand crept toward the derringer, but McTurpin was
before him. "Don't try that, blast you!" he commanded. "Now, my friend,
let's have a look at you.... By the Eternal! It's young Windham!"
"The cove you don hout o' his rawnch?" asked the Bruiser, curiously.
"Shut up, you fool!" roared the gambler. His face was white with fury.
"What are you doing here?" he asked Benito.
"Getting some points on--er--land holding," said Windham. He was
perfectly calm. Several times this man had overawed, outwitted, beaten
him. Now, though he was in the enemy's country, surrounded by cutthroats
and thieves, he felt suddenly the master of the situation. Perhaps it
was McTurpin's dismay, perhaps the spur of his own danger. He knew that
there was only one escape, and that through playing on McTurpin's anger.
"A most ingenious scheme, but it'll fail you!"
"And why'll it fail, my young jackanapes?" the gambler blazed at him.
"Do you reckon I'll let you go to give the alarm?"
It was then Benito threw his bombshell. It was but a shrewd guess. Yet
it worked amazingly. "Your plan will fail," he said with slow
distinctness, "because Sam Brennan and Alcalde Geary know you set the
town afire. Because they're going to hang you."
Rage and terror mingled in McTurpin's face. Speechless, paralyzing
wrath that held him open-mouthed a moment. In that moment Windham acted
quickly. He hurled the bottle, still half full of ale, at his
antagonist, missed him by the fraction of an inch and sent the missile
caroming against the Bruiser's ear, thence down among a pyramid of
glasses. There was a shivering tinkle; then the roar as of a maddened
bull. The Bruiser charged. Windham shot twice into the air and fled. He
heard a rending crash behind him, a voice that cried aloud in mortal
pain, a shot. Then, silence.
On the morning of February 28, 1850, Theodore Shillaber, with a number
of friends, made a visit to the former's leased land on the Rincon,
later known as Rincon Hill. Here, on the old government reserve, whose
guns had once flanked Yerba Buena Cove, Shillaber had secured a lease on
a commanding site which he planned to convert into a fashionable
residence section. What was his surprise, then, to find the scenic
promontory covered with innumerable rickety and squalid huts. A tall and
muscular young fellow with open-throated shirt and stalwart, hirsute
chest, swaggered toward him, fingering rather carelessly, it seemed to
Shillaber, the musket he held.
"Lookin' for somebody, stranger?" he inquired, meaningly.
Shillaber, somewhat taken aback, inquired by what right the members of
this colony held possession.
"Squatter's rights," returned the large youth, calmly, and spat
uncomfortably near to Shillaber's polished boots.
"And what are squatter's rights, may I ask?" said Shillaber, striving to
control his rising temper.
The youth tapped his rifle barrel. "Anyone that tries to dispossess
us'll soon find out," he returned gruffly, and, turning his back on the
visitors, he strode back toward his cabin.
"Wait," called Shillaber, red with wrath, "I notify you now, in the
presence of witnesses that if you and all your scurvy crew are not gone
bag and baggage within twentyfour hours, I'll have the authorities
dispossess you and throw you into jail for trespassing."
The large young man halted and presented a grinning face to his
threatener. He did not deign to reply, but, as though he had given a
signal, shrill cackles of laughter broke out in a dozen places.
Shillaber, who was a choleric man, shook his fist at them. He was too
angry for speech.
Shillaber had more than his peck of trouble with the Sydney Ducks that
roosted on his land. He sent the town authorities to dispossess them,
but without result. There were too many squatters and too few police.
Next he sent an agent to collect rents, but the man returned with a sore
head and bruised body, minus coin. Shillaber was on the verge of
insanity. He appealed to everyone from the prefect to the governor. In
Sydney Town his antics were the sport of a gay and homogeneous
population and at the public houses one might hear the flouted landlord
rave through the impersonations of half a dozen clever mimics. At The
Broken Bottle a new boniface held forth. Bruiser Jake had mysteriously
disappeared on the evening of election. And with him had vanished Alec
McTurpin, though a sly-eyed little man now and then brought messages
from the absent leader.
In the end Shillaber triumphed, for he persuaded Captain Keyes,
commander at the Presidio, that the squatters were defying Federal law.
Thus, one evening, a squad of cavalry descended upon the Rincon
squatters, scattering them like chaff and demolishing their flimsy
habitations in the twinkling of an eye. But this did not end
squatterism. Some of the evicted took up claims on lots closer in. A
woman's house was burned and she, herself, was driven off. Another woman
was shot while defending her husband's home during his absence.
Meanwhile, San Francisco's streets had been graded and planked. The old
City Hall, proving inadequate, was succeeded by a converted hotel. The
Graham House, a four-story wooden affair of many balconies, at Kearny
and Pacific streets, was now the seat of local government.
For it the council paid the extraordinary sum of $150,000, thereby
provoking a storm of newspaper discussion. Three destructive fires had
ravaged through the cloth and paper districts, and on their ashes more
substantial structures stood.
There was neither law nor order worthy of the name. Only feverish
activity. A newsboy who peddled Altas on the streets made $40,000 from
his operations; another vendor of the Sacramento Union, boasted $30,000
for his pains. A washerwoman left her hut on the lagoon and built a
"mansion." Laundering, enhanced by real estate investments, had given
her a fortune of $100,000.
Social strata were not yet established. Caste was practically unknown.
Former convicts married, settled down, became respected citizens.
Carpenters, bartenders, laborers, mechanics from the East and Middle
West, became bankers, Senators, judges, merchant princes and promoters.
White linen replaced red flannel, bowie knives and revolvers were
sedately hidden beneath frock coats, the vicuna hat was a substitute for
slouch and sombrero.
But, under it all, the fierce, restless heart of San Francisco beat on
unchanged. In it stirred the daring, the lawless adventure, the feverish
ambition and the hair-trigger pride of argonauts from many lands. And in
it burned the deviltry, brutality, licentiousness and greed of criminal
elements freed from the curb of legal discipline.
David Broderick discussed it frequently with Alice Windham. He had
fallen into a habit of coming to the ranch when wearied by affairs of
state. He was a silent, brooding man, robbed somehow of his national
heritage, a sense of humor, for he had Irish blood. He was a man of
fire, implacable as an enemy, inalienable as a friend. And to Alice, as
she sat embroidering or knitting before the fire, he told many of his
dreams, his plans. She would nod her head sagely, giving him her eyes
now and then--eyes that were clear and calm with understanding.
Thus Alice came to know what boded for the town of San Francisco.
"Benito," she said one night, when Broderick had gone, "Benito, my
dearest, will you let me stir you--even if it wounds?" She came up
behind him quickly; put her arms about his neck and leaned her golden
head against his own. "We are sitting here too quietly ... while life
goes by," her tone was wistful. "You, especially, Benito. Outside teems
the world; the gorgeous, vibrant world of which our David speaks."
"What do you want me to do?" he asked, stirring restlessly, "go into
business? Make money--like Adrian?"
"No, no," she nestled closer. "It isn't money that I crave. We are happy
here. But"--she looked up at the portrait of Francisco Garvez, and
Benito followed her glance. "What would he have you do?"
"I promised him in thought," her husband said, "that I would help to
build the city he loved. It was a prophecy," his tone grew dreamy, "a
prophecy that he and his--the Garvez blood--should always stir in San
Francisco's heart." Swiftly he rose and, standing very straight before
the picture, raised his right hand to salute. "You are right," he said.
"He would have wanted me to be a soldier."
But Alice shook her head. "The conquest is over," she told him. "San
Francisco needs no gun nor saber now. In our courts and legislatures lie
the future battlegrounds for justice. You must study law, Benito.... I
want"--quick color tinged her face--"I want my--son to have a
"Alice!" cried Benito. But she fled from him. The door of her bedroom
closed behind her. But it opened again very softly--"who makes his
country's laws," she finished, fervently.
THE VIGILANCE COMMITTEE
About 8 o'clock on the evening of February 19, 1851, two men entered the
store of C.J. Jansen & Co., a general merchandise shop on Montgomery
street. The taller and older presented a striking figure. He was of such
height that, possibly from entering many low doorways, he had acquired a
slight stoop. His beard was long and dark, his hair falling to the
collar, was a rich and wavy brown. He had striking eyes, an aquiline
nose and walked with a long, measured stride. Charles Jansen, alone in
the store, noted these characteristics half unconsciously and paid
little attention to the smaller man who lurked behind his companion in
"Show me some blankets," said the tall man peremptorily. Jansen did not
like his tone, nor his looks for that matter, but he turned toward a
shelf where comforters, sheets and blankets were piled in orderly array.
As he did so he heard a quick step behind him; the universe seemed to
split asunder in a flash of countless stars. And then the world
Hours afterward his partner found him prone behind the counter, a great
bleeding cut on his head. The safe stood open and a hasty examination
revealed the loss of $2,000 in gold dust and coin. Jansen was revived
with difficulty and, after a period of delirium, described what had
occurred. The next morning's Alta published a sensational account of the
affair, describing Jansen's assailant and stating that the victim's
recovery was uncertain.
As Adrian, Benito and Samuel Brannan passed the new city hall on the
morning of February 22, they noticed that a crowd was gathering. People
seemed to be running from all directions. Newsboys with huge armfuls of
morning papers, thrust them in the faces of pedestrians, crying, "Extra!
Extra! Assassins of Jansen caught." Adrian tossed the nearest lad a
two-bit piece and grasped the outstretched sheet. It related in heavy
blackfaced type the arrest of "two scoundrelly assassins," one of whom,
James Stuart, a notorious "Sydney Duck," was wanted in Auburn for the
murder of Sheriff Moore. This was the man identified by Jansen. He
claimed mistaken identity, however, insisting that his name was
"They'll let him go on that ridiculous plea, no doubt," remarked
Brannan, wrathfully. "There are always a dozen alibis and false
witnesses for these gallows-birds. It's time the people were doing
"It looks very much as though we _were_ doing something," said Benito,
with a glance at the gathering crowd.
There were shouts of "Lynch them! Bring them out and hang them to a
tree!" Someone thrust a handbill toward Benito, who grasped it
mechanically. It read:
CITIZENS OF SAN FRANCISCO
The series of murders and robberies that have been committed
in the city seems to leave us entirely in a state of anarchy.
Law, it appears, is but a nonentity to be sneered at; redress
can be had for aggression but through the never-failing
remedy so admirably laid down in the Code of Judge Lynch.
All those who would rid our city of its robbers and murderers
will assemble on Sunday at 2 o'clock on the Plaza.
"This means business," commented Adrian grimly. "It may mean worse
unless their temper cools. I've heard this Stuart has a double. They
should give him time--"
"Bosh!" cried Brannan, "they should string him up immediately." He
waved the handbill aloft. "Hey, boys," he called out loudly, "let us go
and take them. Let us have a little justice in this town."
"Aye, aye," cried a score of voices. Instantly a hundred men rushed up
the stairs and pushed aside policemen stationed at the doors. They
streamed inward, hundreds more pushing from the rear until the court
room was reached. There they halted suddenly. Angry shouts broke from
the rear. "What's wrong ahead? Seize the rascals. Bring them out!"
But the front rank of that invading army paused for an excellent reason.
They faced a row of bayonets with determined faces behind them. Sheriff
Hayes had sensed the brewing troubles and had brought the Washington
Guards quietly in at a rear entrance.
So the crowd fell back and the first mob rush was baffled. Outside the
people still talked angrily. At least a thousand thronged the court
house, surrounding it with the determined and angry purpose of letting
no one escape. Mayor Geary made his way with difficulty through the
press and urged them to disperse. He assured them that the law would
take its proper course and that there was no danger of the prisoners'
release or escape. They listened to him respectfully but very few left
their posts. Here and there speakers addressed the multitude.
The crowd, the first fever abated, had resolved itself into a
semi-parliamentary body. But no real leader had arisen. And so it
arrived at nothing save the appointment of a committee to confer with
the authorities and insure the proper guarding of the prisoners. Brannan
was one of these and Benito another.
"Windham's getting to be a well-known citizen," said a bystander to
Adrian, "I hear he's studying law with Hall McAllister. Used to be a
dreamy sort of chap. He's waking up."
"Yes, his wife is at the bottom of it," Stanley answered.
Sunday morning 8,000 people surrounded the courthouse. Less turbulent
than on the previous day, their purpose was more grimly certain.
Mayor Geary's impressive figure appeared on the balcony of the court
house. He held out a hand for silence and amid the hush that followed,
spoke with brevity and to the point.
"The people's will is final," he conceded, "but this very fact entails
responsibility, noblesse oblige! What we want is justice, gentlemen.
Now, I'll tell you how to make it sure. Appoint a jury of twelve men
from among yourselves. Let them sit at the trial with the presiding
judge. Their judgment shall be final. I pledge you my word for that."
He ceased and again the crowd began murmuring. A tall, smooth-shaven
youth began to talk with calm distinctness.
There was about him the aspect of command. People ceased their talk to
listen. "I move you, gentlemen," he shouted, "that a committee of twelve
men be appointed from amongst us to retire and consider this situation
calmly. They shall then report and if their findings are approved, they
shall be law."
"Good! Good!" came a chorus of voices. "Hurray for Bill Coleman. Make
Coleman bowed. "I thank you, gentlemen," he said, then crisply, like so
many whip-cracks, he called the names of eleven men. One by one they
answered and the crowd made way for them. Silently and in a body
"There's a leader for you," exclaimed Adrian to his brother-in-law.
Benito nodded, eyes ashine with admiration. Presently there was a stir
among the crowd. The jury was returning. "Well, gentlemen," the mayor
raised his voice, "what is the verdict?"
Coleman answered: "We recommend that the prisoners be tried by the
people. If the legal courts wish to aid they're invited. Otherwise we
shall appoint a prosecutor and attorney for the prisoners. The trial
will take place this afternoon."
"Hurray! Hurray!" the people shouted. The cheers were deafening.
THE PEOPLE'S JURY
Benito, as he elbowed his way through a crowd which ringed the city hall
that afternoon, was impressed by the terrific tight-lipped determination
of those faces all about him. It was as though San Francisco had but one
thought, one straight, relentless purpose--the punishment of crime by
Mosaic law. The prisoners in the county jail appeared to sense this wave
of retributive hatred, for they paced their cells like caged beasts.
It was truly a case of "The People vs. Stuart (alias Berdue) and
Windred," charged with robbery and assault. Coleman and his Committee of
Twelve were in absolute charge. They selected as judges, three popular
and trusted citizens, J.R. Spence, H.R. Bowie and C.L. Ross. W.A. Jones
was named the judge's clerk and J.E. Townes the whilom sheriff.
While the jury was impaneling, Brannan spoke to Benito: "Twelve good men
and true; the phrase means something here. Lord, if we could have such
jurymen as these in all our American courts."
Benito nodded. "They've appointed Bill Coleman as public prosecutor;
that's rather a joke on Bill."
Judge Spence, who sat between his two colleagues, presiding on the
bench, now spoke:
"I appoint Judge Shattuck and--er--Hall McAllister as counsel for the
There was a murmur of interest. Judge Shattuck, dignified, a trifle
ponderous, came forward, spectacles in hand. He put them on, surveyed
his clients with distaste, and took his place composedly at the table.
Hall McAllister, dapper, young and something of a dandy, advanced with
less assurance. He would have preferred the other side of the case, for
he did not like running counter to the people.
Amid a stir the prisoners were led forward to the dock. Judge Spence,
looking down at them over his spectacles, read the charges. "Are you
guilty or not guilty?" he asked.
Windred, the younger, with a frightened glance about the court room,
murmured almost inaudibly, "Not guilty." The other, in a deep and
penetrating voice, began a sort of speech. It was incoherent, agonized.
Benito thought it held a semblance of sincerity.
"Always, your honor," he declared, "I am mistaken for that scoundrel;
that Stuart.... I am a decent man ... but what is the use? I say it's
"Judge" Spence removed his eyeglasses and wiped them nervously; "does
anyone in the courtroom recognize this man as Thomas Berdue?"
There was silence. Then a hand rose. "I do," said the voice of a
waterfront merchant. "I've done business with him under that name."
Immediately there was an uproar. "A confederate," cried voices. "Put him
out." A woman's voice in the background shrieked out shrilly, "Hang
McAllister rose. "There must be order here," he said, commandingly and
the tumult subsided. McAllister addressed Berdue's sponsor. "Can you
bring anyone else to corroborate your testimony?"
The merchant, red and angry, cried: "It's nothing to me; hang him and be
damned--if you don't want the truth. I'm not looking for trouble." He
turned away but the prisoner called to him piteously. "Don't desert me.
Find Jones or Murphy down at the long wharf. They'll identify me....
Hurry! Hurry! ... or they'll string me up!"
"All right," agreed the other reluctantly. He left the court room and
Judge Shattuck moved a postponement of the case.
"Your honor," William Coleman now addressed the court, "this is no
ordinary trial. Ten thousand people are around this courthouse. They are
there because the public patience with legal decorum is exhausted;
however regular and reasonable my colleague's plea might be in ordinary
circumstances, I warn you that to grant it will provoke disorder."
Judge Shattuck, startled, glanced out of the window and conferred with
"I withdraw my petition," he said hurriedly. The case went on.
Witnesses who were present when the prisoners were identified by Jansen
gave their testimony. There was little cross-examination, though
McAllister established Jansen's incomplete recovery of his mental
faculties when the men were brought before him. Coleman pointed out the
striking appearance of the older prisoner; there was little chance to
err he claimed in such a case. The record of James Stuart was then dwelt
upon; a history black with evil doing, red with blood. The jury retired
with the sinister determined faces of men who have made up their minds.
Meanwhile, outside, the crowd stood waiting, none too patiently. Now and
then a messenger came to the balcony and shouted out the latest aspect
of the drama being enacted inside. The word was caught up by the first
auditor, passed along to right and left until the whole throng knew and
speculated on each bit of information.
Adrian, caught in the outer eddies of that human maelstrom, found
himself beside Juana Briones. "The jury's out," she told him. "Jury's
out!" the word swept onward. Then there came a long and silent wait.
Once again the messenger appeared. "Still out," he bellowed, "having
trouble." "What's the matter with them?" a score of voices shouted.
Presently the messenger returned. His face was angry, almost apoplectic.
One could see that he was having difficulty with articulation. He waved
his hands in a gesture of impotent wrath. At last he found his voice and
shouted, "Disagreed. The jury's disagreed."
An uproar followed. "Hang the jury!" cried an irate voice. A rush was
made for the entrance. But two hundred armed, determined men opposed the
onslaught. The very magnitude of the human press defeated its own ends.
Men cried aloud that they were being crushed. Women screamed.
Soon or late the defenders must have fallen. But now a strange diversion
occurred. On the balcony appeared General Baker, noted as the city's
greatest orator. In his rich, sonorous tones, he began a political
speech. It rang even above the excited shouts of the mob. Instantly
there was a pause, an almost imperceptible let-down of the tension.
Those who could not see asked eagerly of others, "What's the matter now?
"It's Ed Baker making a speech."
Someone laughed. A voice roared. "Rah for Ed Baker." Others took it up.
Impulsive, variable as the wind, San Francisco found a new adventure. It
listened spellbound to golden eloquence, extolling the virtues of a
favored candidate. Meanwhile Acting Sheriff Townes rushed his prisoners
to the county jail without anyone so much as noticing their departure.
Presently three men came hurrying up and with difficulty made their way
into the court room.
"Good God! Are we too late?" the leader of the trio asked, excitedly. He
was the waterfront merchant who had recognized Berdue.
"Too late for the trial," returned Coleman; "it's over; the jury's
"And what are they doing outside?" cried the other, "are they hanging
"No, the prisoners are safe," returned Coleman, "though they had a
close enough shave, I'll admit." He laid a hand upon Benito's shoulder
and there came a twinkle to his eyes. "Our young friend here had an
inspiration--better than a hundred muskets. He sent Ed Baker out to
charm them with his tongue."
It was June on the rancho Windham. Roses and honeysuckle climbed the
pillars and lattices of the patio; lupin and golden poppies dotted the
hillsides. Cloud-plumes waved across the faultless azure of a California
summer sky and distant to the north and east, a million spangled flecks
of sunlight danced upon the bay.
David Broderick sat on a rustic bench, his eyes on Alice Windham. He
thought, with a vague stirring of unrecognized emotion that she seemed
the spirit of womanhood in the body of a fay.
"A flower for your thoughts," she paraphrased and tossed him a rose.
Instinctively he pressed it to his lips. He saw her color rise and
turned away. For a moment neither spoke.
"My thoughts," he said at length, "have been of evil men and trickery
and ambition. I realize that, always, when I come here--when I see you,
Alice Windham. For a little time I am uplifted. Then I go back to my
devious toiling in the dark."
A shadow crossed her eyes, but a smile quickly chased it away. "You are
a fine man, David Broderick," she said, "brave and wonderful and strong.
Why do you stoop to--"
"To petty politics?" his answering smile was rueful. "Because I must--to
gain my ends. To climb a hill-top often one must go into a valley.
That is life."
"No, that is sophistry," her clear, straight glance was on him
searchingly. "You tell me that a statesman must be first a politician;
that a politician must consort with rowdies, ballot-box stuffers,
gamblers--even thieves. David Broderick, you're wrong. Women have their
intuitions which are often truer than men's logic." She leaned forward,
laid a hand half shyly on his arm. "I know this much, my friend: As
surely as you climb your ladder with the help of evil forces, just so
surely will they pull you down."
It was thus that Benito came upon them. "Scolding Dave again?" He
questioned merrily, "What has our Lieutenant-Governor been doing now?"
"Consorting with rowdies, gamblers, ballot-box stuffers--not to mention
thieves, 'twould seem," said Broderick with a forced laugh. Alice
Windham's eyes looked hurt. "He has accused himself," she said
"You're always your own worst critic, Dave," Benito said. "I want to
tell you something: The Vigilance Committee forms this afternoon."
The other's eyes flashed. "What is that to me?" he asked, with some
"Only this," retorted Windham. "The committee means business; it's going
to clean up the town--" Broderick made as if to speak but checked his
utterance. Benito went on: "I tell you, Dave, you had better cut loose
from your crowd. Some of them are going to get into trouble. You can't
afford to have them running to you--calling you their master."
He took from his pocket a folded paper. "We've been drafting a
constitution, Hall McAllister and I." He read the rather stereotyped
beginning. Broderick displayed small interest until Benito reached the
WE ARE DETERMINED THAT NO THIEF, BURGLAR, INCENDIARY OR
ASSASSIN SHALL ESCAPE PUNISHMENT EITHER BY THE QUIBBLES OF
THE LAW, THE INSECURITY OF PRISONS, THE CARELESSNESS AND
CORRUPTION OF POLICE OR A LAXITY OF THOSE WHO PRETEND TO
"And do you mean," asked Broderick, "that these men will take the law
into their own hands; that they'll apprehend so-called criminals and
presume to mete out punishment according to their own ideas of justice?"
"I mean just that," returned Benito.
"Why--it's extraordinary," Broderick objected. "It's mob law--organized
"You'll find it nothing of the sort," cried Windham hotly.
"How can it be otherwise?' asked Broderick. What's to prevent rascals
taking advantage of such a movement--running it to suit themselves?
They're much cleverer than honest, men; more powerful.... Else do you
think I'd use my political machine? No, no, Benito, this is
"Read this, then," urged Benito, and he thrust into the other's hand a
list of some two hundred names. Broderick perused it with growing
gravity. It represented the flower of San Francisco's business and
professional aristocracy, men of all political creeds, religious, social
* * * * *
A few days afterward Broderick conferred with his lieutenants. Word went
forth that he had cut his leading strings to city politics. Rumors of a
storm were in the air. When it would break no one could say with
certainty. The Committee of Vigilance had quietly established quarters
on Battery street near Pine, where several secret meetings had been held
and officers elected. These were not made known. Members were designated
by numerals instead of names. Some said they wore masks but this was an
Broderick, brooding on these things one afternoon, was suddenly aware of
many people running. He descried a man hastening down Long Wharf toward
the bay. "Stop thief!" some one shouted. Others took it up. Broderick
found himself running, too, over the loose boards of the wharf, in
pursuit of the fleeing figure. The fugitive ran rapidly, despite a large
burden slung over his shoulder. Presently he disappeared from view. But
soon they glimpsed him in a boat, rowing lustily away.
A dozen boats set out in chase. Shots rang out. "He's thrown his bundle
in the water," someone cried. "He's diving," called another. A silence,
then "We've got him," came a hail exultingly.
Ere long a dripping figure surrounded by half a dozen captors, was
brought upon the wharf. "He stole a safe from Virgin & Co.," Broderick
was told. "The Vigilantes have him. They'll hang him probably. Come
along and see the show."
"But where are the police?" asked Broderick. The man laughed
contemptuously. "Where they always are--asleep," he answered, and
Others brought the news that John Jenkins, an Australian convict, was
the prisoner. He had several times escaped the clutches of the "law." He
seemed to treat the whole proceeding as a bit of horseplay, joking
profanely with his captors, boasting of his crimes.
At 10 o'clock the Monumental fire bell struck several deep-toned notes
and fifteen minutes later eighty members of the Vigilance Committee had
assembled. The door was locked. A constable from the police department
knocked upon it long without avail. Everything was very still about the
building; even the crowd which gathered there to await developments
conversed in whispers.
At midnight several cloaked forms emerged, walking rapidly up the
street. Then the California fire engine bell began to toll. James King
of William, a local banker, leaving Vigilante quarters almost collided
with Broderick. "What does that mean?" the latter asked; he pointed to
the tolling bell.
"It means," King answered, solemnly, "that Jenkins is condemned to
death. He'll be executed on the Plaza in an hour."
THE HANGING OF JENKINS
Mayor Brenham pushed his way forward. "Did I understand you rightly, Mr.
King?" he questioned. "This committee means to lynch a man--to
King turned upon him fiery-eyed. "I might accuse you of a hundred
murders, sir, with much more justice. Where are your police when our
citizens are slain? What are your courts but strongholds of political
iniquity?" He raised his arm and with a dramatic gesture, pointed toward
the city hall. "Go, Mayor Brenham, rouse your jackals of pretended
law.... The people have risen. At the Plaza in an hour you shall see
what Justice means."
Several voices cheered. Brenham, overwhelmed, inarticulate before this
outburst, turned and strode away. Broderick walked on thoughtfully. It
was evident that the people were aroused past curbing. As he neared the
city hall, Constable Charles Elleard approached him anxiously.
"There's going to be trouble, isn't there?" he asked. "What shall we do?
We've less than a hundred men, Mr. Broderick. Perhaps we could get
"Whatever happens, don't use firearms," Broderick cautioned. "One shot
will set the town afire tonight." He came closer to the officer and
whispered, "Make a show of interference, that's all.... If possible see
that Sheriff Hayes' pistols don't go off.... You understand? I know
Elleard nodded. Broderick went on. Soon he heard the tramp of many feet.
A procession headed by men bearing torches, was proceeding down the
street toward the Plaza. As they neared he saw Jenkins, hands tied
behind his back, striding along in the midst of his captors. A rope was
about his neck; it extended for a hundred feet behind him, upheld by
Diagonally across the Plaza the procession streamed. At the flagstaff a
halt was made. Samuel Brannan mounted a sand-heap and addressed
"I have been deputed by the Vigilance Committee," he began, "to tell you
that John Jenkins has been fairly tried; he was proven guilty of grand
larceny and other crimes." He paused dramatically. "The sentence of the
People's Court is death through hanging by the neck. It will be executed
here at once, with your approval. All who are in favor of the
committee's action, will say 'Aye.'"
"Aye! Aye!" came a thunder of voices, mingled with a few desultory
"noes." Sheriff Jack Hayes rode up importantly on his prancing black
charger. "In the name of the law I command this proceeding to cease."
"In the name of what law?" mocked Brannan, "the law you've been giving
us for six months past?"
A roar of laughter greeted this retort. The sheriff, red-faced, held up
a hand for silence. "I demand the prisoner," he shouted.
Instantly there was a quiet order. Fifty men in soldierly formation
surrounded Jenkins. "Take him, then," a voice said pleasantly. It was
William Coleman's. The guards of the forward ranks threw back their
cloaks, revealing a score of business-like short-barrelled shotguns.
Before this show of force, the gallant Hayes retreated, baffled. He was
a former Texan ranger, fearless to a fault; but he was wise enough to
know when he was beaten.
"I've orders not to shoot," he said, "but I warn you that all who
participate in this man's hanging will be liable for murder."
Again came Brannan's sneer. "If we're as safe as the last hundred men
that took human life in this town, we've nothing to fear." Again a
chorus of derision. The sheriff turned, outraged, on his tormentor. "You
shall hear from me, sir," he said indignantly, and wheeling his horse,
he rode off.
"String him up on the flagpole," suggested a bystander. But this was
cried down with indignation. Several members who had been investigating
now advanced with the recommendation that the hanging take place at the
south-end of the old Custom House.
"We can throw the rope over a beam," cried a tall man. He was one of
those who had pursued and caught Jenkins on the bay. Now he seized the
rope and called, "Come on, boys."
There was a rush toward the southwest corner of the Plaza, so sudden
that the hapless prisoner was jerked off his feet and dragged over the
ground. When the improvised gallows was reached he was half strangled,
could not stand. Several men supported him while others tossed the rope
across the beam. Then, with a shout, he was jerked from his feet into
space. His dangling figure jerked convulsively for a time, hung limp.
* * * * *
After the inquest Brannan met William Coleman at Vigilante headquarters.
"They were very hostile," he declared; "the political gang is hot on our
trail. They questioned me as to the names on our committee. I told them
we went by numbers only," he laughed.
"There have been threats, veiled and open," said Coleman, soberly. "King
has lost several good banking accounts and my business has fallen off
noticeably. Friends have advised me to quit the committee--or worse
things might happen."
Brannan took a folded paper from his pocket; it was a printed scrawl
unsigned, which read:
"Beware; or your house will be burned. We mean business."
A newsboy hurried down the street crying an extra on the inquest.
Brannan snatched one from his hand and the two men perused it eagerly.
The finding, couched in usual verbiage, recited the obvious facts that
Jenkins, alias Simpson, perished by strangulation and that "an
association of citizens styling themselves a Committee of Vigilance,"
"Eight of us are implicated, besides myself," said Brannan finally,
"they'll start proceedings probably at once."
"And they'll have the courts to back their dirty work," added Coleman,
thoughtfully. "That will never do," his teeth shut with a little click.
"I'm going to the _Herald_ office."
"What for?" asked Brannan, quickly.
"To publish the full list of names," Coleman responded. "We're all in
this together; no group must bear the brunt."
"But," objected Brannan, "is that wise?"
"Of course.... in union there is strength. These crooks will hesitate to
fight two hundred leading citizens; if they know them all they can't
pick out a few for persecution."
"Well, I'll go along," said Brannan. "Eh, what's that? What's happened
The Monumental engine bell was tolling violently. Coleman listened. "Its
not a fire," he declared, "it's the Vigilante signal. We'll wait here."
A man came running toward them from the bay. "They've captured James
Stuart," he shouted. "Bludgeoned a captain on his ship but the man's
wife held on to him and yelled till rescue came."
"But Stuart's in the Auburn jail, awaiting execution for the murder of
the sheriff," Coleman said bewildered.
"No," cried the man, "this is the real one. The other's Tom Berdue, his
"Then there'll be another hanging," Coleman muttered.
THE PEOPLE AND THE LAW
Frightened, desperate, angered by the usurpation of their power, varied
forces combined in opposition to the Vigilance Committee. Political
office-holders, good and bad, were naturally arrayed against it, and for
the first time made a common cause. Among the politicians were many men
of brains, especially those affiliated with the "Chivalry" faction, as
it was known--Southern men whose object it was to introduce slavery into
California. These were fiery, fearless, eloquent and quick at stratagem.
There was also Broderick's Tammany organization, an almost perfect
political machine, though as yet in the formative stage. There was the
tacit union of the underworld; gamblers, thieves, plug-uglies, servitors
of or parasites upon the stronger factions. Each and all they feared and
hated this new order of the Vigilantes.
Coleman's scheme of publishing the names of the entire committee was
carried out after a meeting of the executive committee. It had the
effect of taking the wind out of their opponents' sails for a time. But
it also robbed committee members of a certain security. In a dozen dark
and devious ways the Vigilantes were harassed, opposed; windows of shops
were broken; men returning to their homes were set upon from ambush;
long-standing business accounts were diverted or withdrawn. Even
socially the feud was felt. For the Southerners were more or less the
arbiters of society. Wives of Vigilante members were struck from
invitation lists in important affairs. Whispers came to them that if
their husbands were persuaded to withdraw, all would be well.
A few, indeed, did hand their resignations to the committee, but more
set their names with eagerness upon its roster.
The hanging of James Stuart was impressive and conducted with extreme
decorum. Stuart, tried before twelve regularly impaneled talesmen and
defended by an advocate, cut matters short by a voluntary confession of
his crimes. In fact, he boasted of them with a curious pride. Arson,
murder, robbery, he admitted with a lavishness which first aroused a
doubt as to his sanity and truth, but when in many of the cases he
recited details which were later verified, all doubt as to his evil
On the morning of July 11 he was sentenced. In the afternoon his body
swung from a waterfront derrick at Battery and Market streets.
"Get it over with," he urged his executioners, "this 'ere's damned
tiresome business for a gentleman." He begged a "quid o' terbacker" from
one of the guards and chewed upon it stolidly until the noose tightened
about his neck. He did not struggle much. A vagrant wind blew off his
hat and gently stirred his long and wavy hair.
When Benito next saw Broderick he asked the latter anxiously if all were
well with him. The latter answered with a wry smile, "I suppose so. I
have not been ordered to leave town so far."
"You've remembered what we told you--Alice and I?"
"Yes," said Broderick, "and it was good advice. Tell your wife for me
that woman's intuition sometimes sees more clearly than man's
cunning.... It is nearer God and truth," he added, softly.
"I shall tell her that. 'Twill please her," Benito replied. "You must
come to see us soon."
Brannan joined them rather anxiously and drew Benito aside with a
brusque apology. "Do you know that Governor McDougall has issued a
proclamation condemning the Vigilance Committee?... I happen to know
that Broderick inspired this." He gave a covert glance over his
shoulder, but the Lieutenant-Governor had wandered off. "So far he's
taken no part against us. And we've left him alone. Now we shall
"I shall advise against it," Windham objected. "Dave is honest. He's
"If you think we're going to let this pass, you're quite mistaken,"
Brannan answered, hotly. "Why, its not long ago that Governor McDougall
came to our committee room and commended our work. Said he hoped we'd
"Exactly," said Benito, "in the presence of witnesses. Let us see if
King and Coleman are inside. I have a plan."
They found their tall and quiet leader with James King of William and
half a dozen others already in session. Brannan, in fiery anger, read
the Governor's proclamation. There was silence when he finished.
Possibly a shade of consternation. "Windham's got a scheme to answer
him," said Brannan.
That day the _Evening Picayune_ printed the Committee's defn. It was as
San Francisco, Aug. 20, 1851.
"We, the undersigned, do hereby aver that Governor McDougall
asked to be introduced to the executive committee of the
Committee of Vigilance, which was allowed and hour fixed. The
Governor, upon being introduced, states THAT HE APPROVED OF
THE ACTS OF THE COMMITTEE and that much good had taken place.
He HOPED THEY WOULD GO ON and endeavor to act in concert with
the authorities, AND IN CASE ANY JUDGE WAS GUILTY OF
MAL-ADMINISTRATION TO HANG HIM and he would appoint others."
To this was appended the names of reputable citizens--men whose
statements no one doubted. It was generally conceded, with a laugh, that
Governor McDougall's private opinion differed from his sense of
That afternoon representatives of the Committee met an incoming vessel
and examined the credentials of all passengers. Several of these not
proving up to standard, they were denied admittance to the port. The
outraged captain blustered and refused to take them back to Sydney. But
in the end he agreed. There was nothing else to do. A guard was placed
on the non-desirables and maintained until the vessel cleared--until the
pilot boat returned in fact. San Francisco applauded.
But all the laurels were not with the Committee. On Thursday morning,
August 21, Sheriff Hayes surprised Vigilante Headquarters at dawn and
captured Samuel Whitaker and Robert McKenzie both convicted of murder by
the Committee and sentenced to hang.
The City Government was much elated but the victory was short. For, on
the following Sunday, Vigilantes gained an entrance to the jail and took
their prisoners back without a struggle.
* * * * *
Broderick and Windham, en route to the latter's ranch that afternoon,
heard the Monumental bell toll slowly, solemnly. "What's up?" asked
"It means," Benito answered, "that the Vigilance Committee still rules.
Two more scoundrels have been punished."
FEVERS OF FINANCE
Four years had passed since the Vigilance Committee ceased active
labors. Some said they preserved a tacit organization; theirs was still
a name to conjure with among evil doers, but San Francisco, grown into a
city of some 50,000, was more dignified and subtle in its wickedness.
Politics continued notoriously bad. Comedians in the new Metropolitan
Theatre made jokes about ballot-boxes said to have false bottoms, and
public officials who had taken their degrees in "political economy" at
"Honest Harry" Meiggs and his brother, the newly-elected City
Controller, had sailed away on the yacht "American," leaving behind them
an unpaid-for 2000-foot wharf and close to a million in debts; forged
city warrants and promissory notes were held by practically every large
business house in San Francisco.
It was concerning this urbane and gifted prince of swindlers that Adrian
Stanley talked with William Sherman, manager of the banking house of
Turner, Lucas & Company.
Sherman, once a lieutenant in the United States Army, had returned,
after an Eastern trip, as a civilian financier. In behalf of St. Louis
employers, he had purchased of James Lick a lot at Jackson and
Montgomery streets, erecting thereon a $50,000 fire-proof building. The
bank occupied the lower floor; a number of professional men had their
offices on the second floor; on the third James P. Casey, Supervisor,
journalist and politician, maintained the offices of _The Sunday Times_.
He passed the two men as they stood in front of the bank and shouted a
boisterous "hello." Adrian, ever courteous and good-natured, responded
with a wave of the hand while Sherman, brusk and curt, as a habit of
nature and military training, vouchsafed him a short nod.
"I have small use for that fellow," he remarked to Stanley, "even less
than I had for Meiggs." The other had something impressive about him,
something almost Napoleonic, in spite of his dishonesty. If business had
maintained the upward trend of '51 and '52, Meiggs would have been a
millionaire and people would have honored him--"
"You never trusted 'Honest Harry,' did you?" Stanley asked.
"No," said Sherman, "not for the amount he asked. I was the only banker
here that didn't break his neck to give the fellow credit. I rather
liked him, though. But this fellow upstairs," he snapped his fingers,
"some day I shall order him out of my building."
"Why?" asked Adrian curiously. "Because of his--"
"His alleged prison record?" Sherman finished. "No. For many a good
man's served his term." He shrugged. "I can't just tell you why I feel
like that toward Jim Casey. He's no worse than the rest of his clan; the
city government's rotten straight through except for a few honest judges
and they're helpless before the quibbles and intricacies of law." He
took the long black cigar from his mouth and regarded Adrian with his
curious concentration--that force of purpose which was one day to list
William Tecumseh Sherman among the world's great generals. "There's
going to be the devil to pay, my young friend," he said, frowning,
"between corruption, sectional feuds and business depression ..."
"What about the report that Page, Bacon & Company's St. Louis house has
failed?" said Stanley in an undertone. Sherman eyed him sharply.
"Where'd you hear that?" he shot back. And then, ere Adrian could
answer, he inquired, "Have you much on deposit there?"
"Ten thousand," replied the young contractor.
For a moment Sherman remained silent, twisting the long cigar about
between grim lips. Then he put a hand abruptly on the other's shoulder.
"Take it out," he said, "today."
* * * * *
Somewhat later Sherman was summoned to a conference with Henry Haight,
manager of the banking house in question, and young Page of the
Sacramento branch. He emerged with a clouded brow, puffing furiously at
his cigar. As he passed through the bank, Sherman noted an unusual line
of men, interspersed with an occasional woman, waiting their turn for
the paying teller's service. The man was counting out gold and silver
feverishly. There was whispering among the file of waiters. To him the
thing had an ominous look.
He stopped for a moment at the bank of Adams & Company. There also the
number of people withdrawing deposits was unusual; the receiving
teller's window was neglected. James King of William, who, since the
closing of his own bank, had been Adams & Company's manager, came
forward and drew Sherman aside. "What do you think of the prospect?" he
asked. "Few of us can stand a run. We're perfectly solvent, but if this
excitement spreads it means ruin for the house--for every bank in
"Haight's drunk," said Sherman tersely. "Page is silly with fear. I went
over to help them ... but it's no use. They're gone."
King's bearded face was pale, but his eyes were steady. "I'm sorry," he
said, "that makes it harder for us all." He smiled mirthlessly. "You're
better off than we ... with our country branches. If anything goes wrong
here, our agents will be blamed. There may be bloodshed even." He held
out his hand and Sherman gripped it. "Good luck," the latter said,
"we'll stand together, far as possible."
As Sherman left the second counting house, he noted how the line had
grown before the paying teller's window. It extended now outside the
door. At Palmer, Cook & Company's and Naglee's banks it was the same.
The human queue, which issued from the doors of Page, Bacon & Company,
now reached around the corner. It was growing turbulent. Women tried to
force themselves between the close-packed file and were repelled. One of
these was Sherman's washwoman. She clutched his coat-tails as he
"My God, sir!" she wailed, "they've my money; the savings of years. And
now they say it's gone ... that Haight's gambled ... spent it on
Sherman tried to quiet her and was beset by others. "How's your bank?"
people shouted at him. "How's Lucas-Turner?"
"Sound as a dollar," he told them; "come and get your money when you
please; it's there waiting for you."
But his heart was heavy with foreboding as he entered his own bank. Here
the line was somewhat shorter than at most of the others, but still
sufficiently long to cause dismay. Sherman passed behind the counter and
conferred with his assistant.
"We close in half an hour--at three o'clock," he said. "That will give
us a breathing spell. Tomorrow comes the test. By then the town will
know of Page-Bacon's failure ..."
He beckoned to the head accountant, who came hurriedly, a quill pen
bobbing behind his ear, his tall figure bent from stooping over ledgers.
"How much will we require to withstand a day's run?" Sherman flung the
question at him like a thunderbolt. And almost as though the impact of
some verbal missile had deprived him of speech, the man stopped,
"I--I--I think, s-s-sir," he gulped and recovered himself with an
effort, "f-forty thousand will do it."
Swiftly Sherman turned toward the door. "Where are you going?" the
"To get forty thousand dollars--if I have to turn highwayman," Sherman
flung over his shoulder.
"GIVE US OUR SAVINGS!"
As he left the bank Sherman cast over in his mind with desperate
swiftness the list of men to whom he could go for financial support.
Turner, Lucas & Co. had loaned Captain Folsom $25,000 on his two late
ventures, the Metropolitan Theatre and the Tehama House. Both, under
normal conditions, would have made their promoter rich. But nothing was
at par these days.
Sherman wondered uneasily whether Folsom could help. He was not a man to
save money, and the banker, who made it his business to know what
borrowers of the bank's money did, knew that Folsom liked gambling,
frequented places where the stakes ran high. Of late he had met heavy
losses. However, he was a big man, Sherman reasoned; he should have
large resources. Both of them were former army officers. That should
prove a bond between them. At Captain Folsom's house an old negro
servant opened the door, his wrinkled black face anxious.
"Mars Joe, he ain't right well dis evenin'," he said, evasively, but
when Sherman persisted he was ushered into a back room where sat the
redoubtable captain, all the fierceness of his burnside whiskers, the
austerity of his West Point manner, melted in the indignity of sneezes
Sherman looked at him in frank dismay.
"Heavens, man," he said, "I'm sorry to intrude on you in this condition
... but my errand won't wait...."
"What do you want, Bill Sherman?" the sick man glowered.
"Money," Sherman answered crisply. "You know, perhaps, that Page, Bacon
& Co. have failed. Everyone's afraid of his deposits. We've got to have
cash tomorrow. How about your--?"
With a cry of irritation Folsom threw up his hands. "Money! God
Almighty! Sherman, there's not a loose dollar in town. My agent, Van
Winkle, has walked his legs off, talked himself hoarse.... He can't get
anything. It's impossible."
"Then you can do nothing?"
For answer Folsom broke into a torrent of sneezes and coughs. The old
negro came running. Sherman shook his head and left the room.
There remained Major Hammond, collector of the port, two of whose notes
the bank held.
He and Sherman were not over-friendly; yet Hammond must be asked.
Sherman made his way to the customs house briskly, stated his business
to the doorkeeper and sat down in an anteroom to await Hammond's
pleasure. There he cooled his heels for a considerable period before he
was summoned to an inner office.
"Well, Sherman," he asked, not ungraciously, "what can I do for you?"
"You can take up one of your notes with our bank," replied Sherman,
without ado. "We need cash desperately."
"'Fraid of a run, eh?"
"Not afraid, no. But preparing for it."
The other nodded his approval. "Quite right! quite right!" he said with
unexpected warmth.... "So you'd like me to cash one of my notes,
"Why, yes, sir, if it wouldn't inconvenience you," the banker answered,
"it would aid us greatly." He looked into the collector's keen,
inquiring eyes, then added: "I may as well say quite frankly, Mr.
Hammond, you're our last resort."
"Then why"--the other's smile was whimsical--"then why not both of my
[Illustration: There sat the redoubtable captain, all the ... austerity
of his West Point manner melted in the indignity of sneezes and
wheezes.... "Money! God Almighty! Sherman, there's not a loose dollar
"Do you mean it?" Sherman asked breathlessly.
By way of answer Hammond drew a book of printed forms toward him.
Calmly, leisurely, he wrote several lines; tore a long, narrow strip
from the book and handed it to Sherman.
"Here's my check for $40,000 on the United States Treasurer. He will
cash it in gold. Never mind, don't thank me, this is purely business. I
know what's up, young man. I can't see your people go under. Good day!"
* * * * *
Ten o'clock on the following morning. Hundreds of people lined up before
the doors of San Francisco banks. Men of all classes; top-hatted
merchants rubbed elbows with red-shirted miners, Irish laborers smoking
clay pipes, Mexican vaqueros, roustabouts from the docks, gamblers,
bartenders, lawyers, doctors, politicians. Here and there one saw women
with children in their arms or holding them by the hand. They pressed
shoulder to shoulder. Those at the head had their noses almost against
the glass. Inside of the counting houses men with pale, harried faces
stood behind their grilled iron wickets, wondering how long the pile of
silver and gold within their reach would stay that clamorous human tide.
Doors swung back and it swept in, a great wave, almost overturning
The cashier and assistant manager of Lucas & Co. watched nervously, the
former now and then running his fingers through his sparse hair; the
assistant manager at intervals retired to a back room where he consulted
a decanter and a tall glass. Frequently he summoned the bookkeeper.
"How's the money lasting?" he would inquire almost in a whisper, and the
other answered, "Still holding out."
But now the assistant manager saw that the cash on hand was almost
exhausted. He was afraid to ask the bookkeeper any more questions.
"Where the devil's Sherman?" he snapped at the cashier. That official
started. "Why--er--how should I know?... He was hunting Major Snyder
this morning. He had a check from Hammond, the collector of the port."
"Damnation!" cried the assistant manager. "Sherman ought to be here. He
ought to talk to these people. They think he's skipped."
He broke off hurriedly as the assistant teller came up trembling. "We'll
have to close in ten minutes," he said. "There's less than $500 left."
His mouth twitched. "I don't know what we'll do, sir, when the time
comes ... and God only knows what they'll do."
"Good God! what's that?"
Some new commotion was apparent at the entrance of the bank. The
assistant teller grasped his pistol. The line of waiting men and women
turned, for the moment forgetting their quest. William Sherman, attended
by two armed constables, entered the door. Between them the trio carried
two large canvas bags, each bearing the imprint of the United
Sherman halted just inside the door.
"Forty thousand in gold, boys," he cried, "and plenty more where it came
from. Turner, Lucas & Co. honors every draft."
His face pressed eagerly against the lattice of the paying teller's cage
stood a little Frenchman. His hat had fallen from his pomaded hair; his
waxed moustache bristled.
"Do you mean you have ze monnaie? All ze monnaie zat we wish?" he asked
gesticulating excitedly with his hands.
"Sure," returned the teller. Sherman and his aids were carrying the two
sacks into the back of the cage, depositing them on a marble shelf.
"See!" The teller turned one over and a tinkling flood of shining golden
disks poured forth.
"Ah, bon! bon!" shrieked the little Frenchman, dancing up and down upon
his high-heeled boots. "If you have ze monnaie, zen I do not want heem."
He broke out of the line, happily humming a chanson. Half a dozen
"That's what I say," shouted other voices. "We don't want our money if
KING STARTS THE BULLETIN
After several months of business convalescence, San Francisco found
itself recovered from the financial chaos of February. Many well-known
men and institutions had not stood the ordeal; some went down the
pathway of dishonor to an irretrievable inconsequence and destitution;
others profited by their misfortunes and still others, with the
dauntless spirit of the time, turned halted energies or aspirations to
fresh account. Among them was James King of William.
The name of his father, William King, was, by an odd necessity,
perpetuated with his own. There were many James Kings and to avert
confusion of identities the paternal cognomen was added.
In the Bank Exchange saloon, where the city's powers in commerce,
journalism and finance were wont to congregate, King met, on a rainy
autumn afternoon, R.D. Sinton and Jim Nesbitt. They hailed him jovially.
Seated in the corner of an anteroom they drank to one another's health
and listened to the raindrops pattering against a window.
"Well, how is the auction business, Bob?" asked King.
"Not so bad," the junior partner of Selover and Sinton answered. "Better
probably than the newspaper or banking line.... Here's poor Jim, the
keenest paragrapher in San Francisco, out of work since the
_Chronicle's_ gone to the wall. And here you are, cleaned out by Adams &
Company's careless or dishonest work--I don't know which."
"Let's not discuss it," King said broodingly. "You know they wouldn't
let me supervise the distribution of the money. And you know what my
demand for an accounting brought ..."
"Abuse and slander from that boughten sheet, the Alta--yes," retorted
Sinton. "Well, you have the consolation of knowing that no honest man
King was silent for a moment. Then his clenched hand fell upon the
table. "By the Eternal!" he exclaimed, with a sudden upthrust of the
chin. "This town must have a decent paper. Do you know that there are
seven murderers in our jail? No one will convict them and no editor has
the courage to expose our rotten politics." He glanced quickly from one
to the other. "Are you with me, boys? Will you help me to start a
journal that will run our crooked officials and their hired plug-uglies
out of town?... Sinton, last week you asked my advice about a good
investment ... Nesbitt, you're looking for a berth. Well, here's an
answer to you both. Let's start a paper--call it, say, the Evening
Nesbitt's eyes glowed. "By the Lord Harry! it's an inspiration, King,"
he said and beckoned to a waiter to refill their glasses. "I know enough
about our State and city politics to make a lot of well-known citizens
Sinton smiled at the journalist's ardor. "D'ye mean it, James?" he
asked. "Every word," replied the banker. "But I can't help much
financially," he added. "My creditors got everything."
"You mean the King's treasury is empty," said Sinton, laughing at his
pun. "Well, well, we might make it go, boys. I'm not a millionaire, but
never mind. How much would it take?"
Nesbitt answered with swift eagerness. "I know a print shop we can buy
for a song; it's on Merchant street near Montgomery. Small but
comfortable, and just the thing. $500 down would start us."
Sinton pulled at his chin a moment. "Go ahead then," he urged. "I'll
loan you the money."
King's hand shot out to grasp the auctioneer's. "There ought to be
10,000 decent citizens in San Francisco who'll give us their support.
Let's go and see the owner of that print-shop now."
* * * * *
On the afternoon of October 5th, 1885, a tiny four-page paper made its
first appearance on the streets of San Francisco.
The first page, with its queer jumble of news and advertisements, had a
novel and attractive appearance quite apart from the usual standards of
typographical make-up. People laughed at King's naive editorial apology
for entering an overcrowded and none-too-prosperous field; they nodded
approvingly over his promise to tell the truth with fearless
William Coleman was among the first day's visitors.
"Good luck to you, James King of William," he held forth a friendly
hand. The editor, turning, rose and grasped it with sincere cordiality.
They stood regarding each other silently. It seemed almost as though a
prescience of what was to come lay in that curious communion of
heart and mind.