Part 6 out of 7
Robert Windham and Po Lun were out for a morning promenade. They often
walked together of a Sunday. Robert, though he was now twenty-six, still
retained his childhood friendship for the Chinese servitor; found him an
agreeable, often-times a sage companion. Urged by Alice, whose ambitious
love included all within her ken, Po Lun attended night school; he could
read and write English passably, though the letter "r" still foiled his
Oriental tongue. Today they were out to have a look at the new
On a sand lot opposite several hundred men had gathered, pressing round
a figure mounted on a barrel. The orator gesticulated violently. Now and
then there were cheers. A brandishing of fists and canes. Po Lun halted
in sudden alarm. "Plitty soon they get excited. They don't like Chinese.
I think maybe best we go back."
But already Po's "pig-tail" had attracted attention. The speaker pointed
"There's one of them Heathen Chinese," he cried shrilly. "The dirty
yaller boys what's takin' bread out of our mouths. Down with them, I
say. Make this a white man's country."
An ominous growl came from the crowd. Several rough-looking fellows
started toward Robert and Po Lun. The latter was for taking to his
heels, but Robert stood his ground.
"What do you fellows want?"
They paused, abashed by his intrepid manner. "No offense, young man. We
ain't after you. It's that Yaller Heathen.... The kind that robs us of a
chance to live."
"Po Lun has never robbed anyone of a chance to live. He's our cook ...
and my friend. You leave him alone."
"He sends all his money back to China," sneered another coming closer,
brandishing a stick. "A fine American, ain't he?"
"A better one than you," said Robert hotly. Anger got the better of his
judgment and he snatched the stick out of the fellow's hand, broke it,
threw it to the ground.
Savagely they fell upon him. He went down, stunned by a blow on the
head, a sense of crushing weight that overwhelmed his strength. He was
vaguely conscious of a tirade of strange words, of an arm at the end of
which was a meat cleaver, lashing about. The vindictive bark of a
pistol. Shouts, feet running. A blue-coated form. A vehicle with
champing horses that stood by.
"Are you hurt very bad, young feller?"
Robert moved his arms and legs. They appeared intact. He rose, stiffly.
"Where's Po Lun?"
"In the wagon."
Robert, turning, observed an ambulance. "Not--dead?"
"Well, pretty near it," said the policeman. "He saved your life though,
the yellow devil. Laid out half a dozen of them hoodlums with a hatchet.
He's shot through the lungs. But Doc. says he's got a chance."
* * * * *
Late that afternoon William T. Coleman sat closeted with Chief Ellis of
the San Francisco police. Coleman bore but scant resemblance to the
youth of 1856. He was heavier, almost bald, moustached, more settled,
less alert in manner. Yet his eyes had in them still the old invincible
gleam of leadership.
"But," he was saying to the man in uniform, "that was twenty years ago.
Can't you find a younger chap to head your Citizens' Committee?"
"No," said Ellis shortly. "You're the one we need. You know the way to
deal with outlaws ... how to make the citizens respond. Do you know that
the gang wrecked several Chinese laundries after the attack on Windham?
That they threaten to burn the Pacific Mail docks?"
Chief Ellis drew a little nearer. "General McComb of the State forces
has called a mass meeting. He wishes you to take charge...."
THE PICK-HANDLE BRIGADE
Benito found his son awaiting when he returned from the Citizens' Mass
Meeting at midnight. Robert, insisting that he was "fit as a fiddle,"
had nevertheless been put to bed through the connivance of an anxious
mother and the family physician, who found him to have suffered some
severe contusions and lacerations in the morning's fray. But he was wide
awake and curious when his father's latch key grated in the door.
"It must have seemed like old times, didn't it, dad?" he asked with
enthusiasm. The Vigilance Committee of the Fifties in his young mind was
a knightly company. As a boy he used to listen, eager and excited, to
his father's tales of Coleman. Now his hero was again to take the stage.
"Yes, it took me back," said Windham. "I was about your age then and
Coleman was just in his thirties." He sat down a trifle wearily. "The
years aren't kind. Some of the fellows who were young in '56 seemed old
tonight.... But they have the same spirit."
"Tell me what happened," said Robert, after a pause.
Benito's eyes flashed. "You should have heard them cheer when Coleman
rose. He called for his old comrades and we stood up. Then there was
more cheering. Coleman is all business. He commenced at once enrolling
men for his pick-handle brigade; he's refused fire-arms. He has fifteen
hundred already, divided into companies of a hundred each--with their
"And are you an officer, dad?" asked Robert.
"Yes," Benito smiled. "But my company is one man short. We've only
"How's that?" Robert's tone was puzzled.
Windham rose. "I'm saving it," he answered, "for a wounded hero, who, I
rather hope, will volunteer."
"FATHER!" cried the young man rapturously.
* * * * *
At the Mount Zion Hospital Po Lun fought with death on Tuesday. The
bullet was removed; but though this brought relief, there came an
aftermath of fever and destroying weakness. Alice and her son were at
his bedside, but Po Lun did not recognize them.
Mrs. Windham turned a tear-stained face to the physician. "Can nothing
be done?" she pleaded. "He saved my boy.... Oh, doctor! You won't
let him die."
The young physician's sympathy showed plainly in his eyes. "I've done
everything," he said. "He's sinking. If I knew a way to rouse him there
might be a chance."
As he spoke Francisco Stanley entered, viewed the silent figure on the
cot and shook his head. "Poor Po Lun. At any rate he's been a hero in
the papers. I've seen to that ..."
"He was delirious all morning ... stretching out his arms and calling
'Hang Far! Hang Far!' Do you know what it means?"
"I do," Alice answered; "it's the girl from whom he was separated nearly
twenty years ago."
"Why--that's funny," said Francisco. "Yesterday a woman by that name was
captured by the mission-workers in a raid on Chinatown. I wonder....
Could it be the same one?"
"Not likely," the physician answered. "It's a common name, I think.
Still--" he looked at Po Lun.
"Run and get her," Alice urged. "It's a chance. Go quickly."
Half an hour passed; an hour, while the watchers waited at the bedside
of Po Lun. Gradually his respiration waned. Several times the nurse
called the physician, thinking death had come. But a spark still
lingered, growing fainter with the minutes till a mist upon a mirror was
the only sign that breath remained.
Suddenly there was a rush of feet, a door flung open and Francisco
entered, half dragging a Chinese woman by the arm. She gazed with
frantic eyes from Alice to Robert till her glance took in the figure on
the bed. She stared at it curiously, incredulously. Then she gave a
little cry and flung herself toward Po Lun.
What she said no one there present knew. What strange cabal she invoked
is still a mystery. Be that as it may, eyes which had seemed closed
forever, opened. Lips white, bloodless, breathed a scarce-heard whisper.
"Come," said Alice. "Let us leave them together."
Half an later, in an ante-room, the doctor told them: "He will live, I
think. It's very like a miracle...."
* * * * *
At the foot of Brannan street lay the Pacific Mail docks, where the
Chinese laborers were landed. Many thousands of them had been brought
there by the steamers from Canton. They had solved vexed problems as
house servants, fruit pickers, tillers of the soil; they had done the
rough work in the building of many bridges, the stemming of turbulent
streams, the construction of highways. And while there was work for all,
they had caused little trouble.
Now half a thousand jobless workers, armed and reckless, marched toward
the docks. They bore torches, which illuminated fitfully their flushed,
impassioned faces. Here and there one carried a transparency described,
"The Chinese Must Go."
[Illustration: Half a thousand jobless workers, armed and reckless,
marched toward the docks. They bore torches.... "A hell-bent crew'"
Chief Ellis and a squad of mounted policemen watched them as they
marched down Second street, shouting threats and waving their
firebrands. "They're a hell-bent crew," he said to William Coleman. "Is
your posse ready?"
"Yes," he answered, "they've assembled near the dock. I've twenty
"Good.... You'll need 'em all."
As he spoke a tongue of flame leaped upward from the darkness. Another
"They've fired the lumber yards," the chief said. "I expected that.
There is fire apparatus on the spot.... It's time to move."
He spurred forward, rounding up his officers. Coleman rode silently
toward the entrance of the docks. Very soon a bugle sounded. There were
staccato orders; then a tramp of feet.
The Citizens' army moved in perfect unison toward the fires. Already
engines were at work. One blaze was extinguished. Then came sounds of
battle. Cries, shots. Coleman and his men rushed forward.
Stones and sticks flew through the air. Now and then a pistol barked.
The mounted police descended with a clatter, clubbing their way into the
throng. But they did not penetrate far, so dense was the pack; it hemmed
them about, pulling officers from their horses. The fire engines had
been stopped. One of them was pushed into the bay.
More fires leaped from incendiary torches. The rioters seemed
triumphant. Then Coleman's brigade fell upon them.
Whack, whack, whack, fell the pick-handles upon the backs, shoulders,
sometimes heads of rioters. It was like a systematic tattoo. Coleman's
voice was heard directing, here and there, cool and dispassionate. A
couple of locomotive headlights threw their glare upon the now
disordered gangsters. Whack! Whack! Whack!
Suddenly the rioters, bleating, panic-stricken, fled like frightened
sheep. They scattered in every direction leader*-less, completely
routed. The fire engines resumed work. An ambulance came up and the work
of attending the wounded began. The fight was over.
Weeks went by and brought no further outbreak. Chinatown which, for a
time, was shuttered, fortified, almost deserted, once again resumed its
feverish activities. In the theaters, funny men made jokes about the
labor trouble. In the East strikes had abated. All seemed safe and
But San Francisco had yet to deal with Dennis Kearney.
Dennis, born in County Cork just thirty years before, filled adventurous
roles since his eleventh year, mostly on the so-called "hell-ships"
which beat up and down the mains of trade. In 1868 he first set foot in
San Francisco as an officer of the clipper "Shooting Star." Tiring of
the sea he put his earnings in a draying enterprise. This, for half a
dozen years, had prospered.
Suddenly he cast his business interests to the winds. Became a labor
Francisco Stanley, who had sought him, questing for an interview since
morning, cornered him at last in Bob Woodward's What Cheer House at
Sacramento and Leidesdorff streets. It was one of those odd institutions
found only in this vividly bizarre metropolis of the West. For "two
bits" you could get a bed and breakfast at the What Cheer House, both
clean and wholesome enough for the proudest. If you had not the coin, it
made little difference. One room was fitted out as a museum and
contained the many curious articles which had found their way into
Woodward's hands. Another room was the hotel library; the first free
reading room in San Francisco.
At the What Cheer House all kinds of people gathered. Stanley, as he
peeped into the library, noted a judge of the Superior Court poring over
a volume of Dickens. He waved a salute to tousle-haired, eagle-beaked
Sam Clemens, whose Mark Twain articles were beginning to attract
attention from the Eastern publishers. Near him, quietly sedate,
absorbed in Macaulay, was Bret Harte. He had been a Wells-Fargo
messenger, miner, clerk and steam-boat hand, so rumor said, and now he
was writing stories of the West. Stanley would have liked to stop and
chat ... but Kearney must be found and interviewed before The Chronicle
went to press.
Presently a loud, insistent voice attracted his attention. It was
penetrating, violent, denunciatory. Francisco knew that voice. He went
into an outer room where perhaps a dozen rough-clad men were gathered
about a figure of medium height, compactly built, with a broad head,
shifting blue eyes and a dynamic, nervous manner.
"Don't forget," he pounded fist on palm for emphasis, "on August 18 we
organize the party. Johnny Day will be the prisident. We'll make thim
bloody plutocrats take notice." He paused, catching sight of Stanley.
Instantly his frowning face became all smiles. "Ah, here's me young
friend, the reporter," he said. "Come along Misther Stanley, and I'll
give yez a yarn for the paper. Lave me tell ye of the Workingmen's Trade
and Labor Union."
He kept Francisco's pencil busy.
"There ain't no strings on us. We're free from all political
connections. We're for oursilves. Get that."
"Our password's 'The Chinese Must Go.'"
"How do you propose to accomplish this?" asked Stanley.
"Aisy enough," returned the other with supreme confidence. "We'll have
the treaty wid Chiny changed. We'll sind back all the yellow divils if
they interfere wid us Americans."
Stanley could not repress a smile. Kearney himself had been naturalized
only a year before.
For an hour he unfolded principles, threatened men of wealth, pounded
Stanley's knee until it was sore and finally stalked off, highly pleased
"He's amusing enough," said Francisco to his father that evening. "But
we mustn't underrate him as you said. The fellow has force. He knows the
way to stir up human passion and he'll use his knowledge to the full.
Also he knows equity and law. Some of his ideas are altruistic."
"What is he going to do to the Central Pacific nabobs if they don't
discharge their Chinese laborers?" asked Adrian.
Young Stanley laughed. "He threatens to dynamite their castles on the
His father did not answer immediately. "It may not be as funny as you
think," he commented.
* * * * *
With the weeks Po Lun mended rapidly. Hang Far was at his bedside many
hours each day. Alice often found them chatting animatedly.
"When I get plenty well, we mally," Po informed her. "Maybeso go back to
China. What you say, Missee Alice?"
"I think you'd better stay with me," she countered. "As for Hang Far,
we'll find room for her." She smiled dolefully. "I'm getting to be an
old lady, Po Lun ... I need more help in the house."
"You nebbeh get old, Missee Alice," said the sick man. "Twenty yea' I
know you--always like li'l gi'l."
"Nonsense, Po!" cried Alice. Nevertheless she was pleased. "Will you and
Hang Far stay with me?"
"I t'ink so, Missee," Po replied. "By 'n' by we take one li'l tlip fo'
honeymoon. But plitty soon come back."
* * * * *
The labor movement grew and Dennis with it--both in self-importance and
in popularity. He went about the State making speeches, threatening the
"shoddy aristocrats who want an emperor and a standing army to shoot
down the people."
Every Sunday he harangued a crowd of his adherents on a sand-lot near
the city hall and owing to this fact his followers were dubbed "The
Sand-Lot Party." One day Robert, after hearing them discourse, returned
home shaken and angry.
"The man's a maniac," he told his father; "he talked of nothing but
lynching railroad magnates and destroying their property. He wants to
blow up the Pacific Mail docks and burn the steamers ... to drop
dynamite from balloons on Chinatown."
Young Stanley joined them, smiling, and dropped into a chair. "Whew!" he
exclaimed, "it's been a busy day down at the office. Have you heard that
Dennis Kearney's been arrested?"
THE WOMAN REPORTER
Francisco stayed for tea and chatted of events. Yes, Dennis Kearney was
in jail and making a great hullabaloo about it. He and five of his
lieutenants had been arrested after an enthusiastic meeting on the
"And what's the Workingmen's Trade and Labor Union doing?" Robert asked.
"Oh, muttering and threatening as usual," Francisco laughed. "They'll
not do anything--with the memory of Coleman's 1500 pick-handles fresh in
"Well, I'm glad those murderous ruffians are behind the bars," said
Alice. But Francisco took her up. "That's rather hard on them, Aunt
Alice," he retorted. "They're only a social reaction of the times ...
when railroad millionaires have our Legislature by the throat and land
barons refuse to divide their great holdings and give the small farmer a
chance.... Kearney, aside from his rant of violence, which he doesn't
mean, is advocating much-needed reforms.... I was talking with Henry
"He's the new city gas and water inspector, isn't he?" asked Benito.
"They tell me he's writing a book."
"Yes, 'Progress and Poverty.' George believes the single tax will cure
all social wrongs. But Jean...." He hesitated, flushing.
"Jean?" His aunt was quick to sense a mystery. "Who is Jean?"
"Oh, she's the new woman reporter," said Francisco hastily. He rose,
"Well, I'll be going now."
His aunt looked after him in silent speculation. "So!" she spoke half
to herself. "Jean's the woman reporter." And for some occult reason
* * * * *
Robert saw them together some days later, talking very earnestly as they
walked through "Pauper Alley." Such was the title bestowed upon
Leidesdorff street between California and Pine streets, where the
"mudhens"--those bedraggled, wretched women speculators who still waited
hungrily for scanty crumbs from Fortune's table--chatted with
broken-down and shabby men in endless reminiscent gabble of great
fortunes they had "almost won."
"Miss Norwall's going to do some 'human interest sketches,' as they call
'em," Francisco explained as he introduced his cousin. "Our editor
believes in a 'literary touch' for the paper. Something rather new."
Jean Norwall held out her hand. She was an attractive, bright-eyed girl
in her early twenties, with a searching, friendly look, as though life
were full of surprises which she was eager to probe. "So you are
Robert," she remarked. "Francisco's talked a lot about you."
"That was good of him," the young man answered. "He's talked a deal of
you as well, Miss Norwall."
"Oh, indeed!"' She reddened slightly. "Well, we must be getting on."
Robert raised his hat and watched them disappear around the corner.
There was a vaguely lonesome feeling somewhere in the region of his
heart. He went on past the entrance of the San Francisco Stock Exchange
and almost collided with a bent-over, shrewd-faced man, whose eagle-beak
and penetrating eyes were a familiar sight along California street.
He was E.J. (better known as "Lucky") Baldwin, who had started the
Pacific Stock Exchange.
Baldwin had a great ranch in the South, where he bred blooded horses.
He owned the Baldwin theater and the Baldwin Hotel, which rivaled the
Palace. Women, racing and stocks were his hobbies. Benito had done some
legal work for Baldwin and Robert knew him casually. Rather to his
surprise Baldwin stopped, laid a hand on the young man's shoulder.
"Hello, lad," he greeted; "want a tip on the stock market?"
Tips from "Lucky" were worth their weight in gold. Robert was
astonished. "Why--yes, thank you, sir," he stammered.
"Well, don't play it ... that's the best tip in the world." The operator
walked off chuckling.
* * * * *
Robert continued his walk along Montgomery street to Market, where he
turned westward. It was Saturday and his father's office, where he was
now studying law, had been closed since noon. It had become a
custom--almost an unwritten law--to promenade San Francisco's lordly
thoroughfare on the last afternoon of the week, especially the northern
side. For Market street was now a social barrier. South of it were
smaller, meaner shops, saloons, beer-swilling "cafe chantants,"
workmen's eating houses and the like, with, of course, the notable
exceptions of the Grand and Palace Hotels.
On the northern side were the gay haberdasheries, millinery stores,
cafes and various business marts, where fashionable San Francisco
shopped. Where men with top hats, walking sticks and lavender silk
waistcoats ogled the feminine fashion parade.
As he passed the Baldwin Hotel with its broadside of bow-windows, Robert
became aware of some disturbance. A large dray drawn by four horses,
plumed and flower garlanded, was wending a triumphal course up Market
street. A man stood in the center of it waving his hat--a stocky fellow
in soiled trousers and an old gray sweater. Shouts of welcome hailed him
as the dray rolled on; most of them came from the opposite or
"It's Dennis Kearney," said a man near Robert. "He and his gang were
released from custody today.... Now we'll have more trouble."
Robert followed the dray expectantly. But Kearney made no overt
demonstration. He seemed much subdued by his fortnight in jail.
The swift California dusk was falling. The afternoon was gone. And
Robert, realizing that it was past the dinner hour at his home, decided
to find his evening meal at a restaurant. One of these, with a display
of shell-fish grouped about a miniature fountain in its window,
confronted him ere long and he entered a rococo interior of mirrored
walls. What caught his fancy more than the ornate furnishings, however,
was a very pretty girl sitting within a cashier's cage of iron
It happened that she was smiling as he glanced her way. She had golden
hair with a hint of red in it, a dainty oval face, like his mother's;
eyes that were friendly and eager with youth. Robert smiled back at her
The smile still lingered as a man came forward to adjust his score. A
keen, dynamic-looking man of middle years and an imposing presence.
Robert watched him just a little envious of his assured manner as he
threw down a gold-piece. While the fair cashier was making change he
grinned at her. "How's my little girl tonight?" Reaching through the
aperture, he chucked her suddenly beneath the chin. Tears of
mortification sprang into her eyes. Impulsively Robert stepped forward,
crowding the other aside none too gently.
"I beg your pardon," he was breathless, half astounded by his own
temerity. "But--can I be of any--ah--service?"
"Puppy!" stormed the elder man and stalked out haughtily. The girl's
eyes encountered Robert's, shining, grateful for an instant. Then they
fell. Her face grew grave. "You shouldn't have ... really.... That was
Isaac J. Kalloch."
"Oh, the preacher that's running for Mayor," Robert's tone was abashed.
"But I don't care," he added, "I'm glad I did."
Once again the girl's eyes met his, shyly. "So am I," she whispered.
A NEW GENERATION
Isaac S. Kalloch was the labor candidate for mayor. People said he was
the greatest pulpit orator in San Francisco since Starr King. His Sunday
sermons at the Metropolitan Temple were crowded; as a campaign orator he
drew great throngs.
Robert's dislike for the man was mitigated by a queer involuntary
gratitude. Without that bit of paternal familiarity, which had goaded
the young lawyer to impulsive protective championship, he and Maizie
Carter, the little golden-haired cashier, might have found the road to
comradeship much longer.
For comrades they had become almost at once. At least so they fondly
fancied. Robert's mother wondered why he missed so many meals from home.
The rococo restaurant gained a steady customer. And the host of
cavaliers who lingered in the hope of seeing Maizie home each evening
diminished to one. He was often invited into the vine-clad cottage at
the top of Powell street hill. Sometimes he sat with Maizie on a
haircloth sofa and looked at Mrs. Carter's autograph album. It contained
some great names that were now no longer written. James Lick, David
Broderick, Colonel E.D. Baker and the still lamented Ralston, of whom
Maizie's mother never tired of talking. He, it seems, was wont to give
her tips on mining stocks. Acting on them, she had once amassed $10,000.
"But I lost it all after the poor, dear man passed away," she would say,
with a tear in her eye. "Once that fellow Mills--I hate his fishy
eyes!--looked straight at me and said, 'See the poor old mud-hen'!"
She began to weep softly. Maizie sprang to comfort her, stroking the
stringy gray hair with tender, youthful fingers. "Mother quit the market
after that. She hasn't been near Pauper Alley for a year ... not since
I've been working at the Mineral Cafe. And we've three hundred dollars
in the bank."
"Ah, yes," said the mother, fondly. "Maizie's a brave girl and a thrifty
one. We're comfortable--and independent, even though the rich grind down
the poor." Her eyes lighted. "Wait till Kalloch is elected ... then
we'll see better times, I'll warrant."
Robert was too courteous to express his doubts.
Later he discussed the situation with Francisco. His paper had printed
an "expose" of Kalloch, who struck back with bitter personal
denunciation of his editorial foes. "It's a nasty mess," Francisco said
"Broderick used to tell my father that politics had always been a
rascal's paradise because decent men wouldn't run for office--nor vote
half of the time.... I'm going to write an article about it for The
Overland. And Pixley of the Argonaut has given me a chance to do some
stories. I shall be an author pretty soon--like Harte and Clemens."
"Or a poet like this Cincinnatus Heinie Miller, whom one hears about.
Fancy such a name. I should think he'd change it."
"He has already," laughed Francisco. "Calls himself Joaquin--after
Marietta, the bandit. Joaquin Miller--rather catchy, isn't it? And he's
written some really fine lines. Showed me one the other day that's
called 'Columbus.' It's majestic. I tell you that fellow will be
famous one day."
"Pooh!" scoffed Robert; "he's a poseur--ought to be an actor, with his
long hair and boots and sash.... How is the fair Jeanne?"
Francisco's face clouded. "I want her to leave newspaper work and try
literature," he said, "but Jeanne's afraid to cut loose. She's earning
her living ... and she's alone in the world. No one to fall back on,
"But she'd make more money at real writing, wouldn't she?" asked Robert.
"Ever since Harte wrote that thing about 'The Luck of Roaring Camp,'
which the lady proofreader said was indecent, he's had offers from the
Eastern magazines. John Carmony's paying him $5,000 a year to edit the
Overland and $100 for each poem or story he writes."
"Ah, yes, but Bret Harte is a genius."
"Maybe Jeanne's another," Robert ventured.
Francisco laughed ruefully. "I've told her that ... but she says no....
'I'm just a woman,' she insists, 'and not a very bright one at that.'
She has all kinds of faith in me, but little in herself." He made an
impatient gesture. "What can a fellow do?"
Robert looked at him a moment thoughtfully. "Why not--marry Jeanne?"
Dull red crept into Francisco's cheeks. Then he laughed.
"Well--er--probably she wouldn't have me."
"There's only one way to find out," his cousin persisted. "She's alone
... and you're soon going to be. When do your folks start on their
'second honeymoon,' as they call it?"
"Oh, that trip around the world--why, in a month or two. As soon as
father closes out his business."
"You could have the house then--you and Jeanne."
"Say!" exclaimed Francisco suddenly, "you're such a Jim Dandy to manage
love affairs! Why don't you get married yourself?"
It was Robert's turn to flush. "I'm quite willing," he said shortly.
"Won't she have you?" asked his cousin sympathetically.
"'Tisn't that ... it's her mother. Maizie won't leave her ... and she
won't bring her into our home. Mrs. Carter's peculiar ... and Maizie
says we're young. Young enough to be unselfish."
"She's a fine girl," returned Francisco. "Well, good bye." He held out a
"I--I'll think over what you said."
"Good luck, then," Robert answered as they gripped.
* * * * *
Adrian Stanley was closing up his affairs. As a contractor he had
prospered; his reclaimed city lots had realized their purchase price a
hundred fold and his judiciously conservative investments yielded golden
fruit. Adrian was not a plunger. But in thirty years he had accumulated
something of a fortune.... And now they were to travel, he and Inez, for
a year or so.
He had provided, too, for Francisco. The latter, though he did not know
it, would have $20,000 to his credit in the Bank of California. Adrian
planned to hand his son the bank deposit book across the gang plank as
the ship cast off. They were going first to the Sandwich Islands. Then
on to China, India, the South Seas. Each evening, sometimes until
midnight, they perused the illustrated travel-folders, describing
routes, hotels, trains, steamships.
"You're like a couple of children," smiled Francisco on the evening
before their departure. He was writing a novel, in addition to the other
work for Carmony and Pixley. Sometimes it was hard work amid this
unusual prattle by his usually sedate and silent parents. He tried to
imagine the house without them; his life, without their familiar and
cherished companionship.... It would be lonely. Probably he would rent
the place, when his novel was finished ... take lodgings down town.
ROBERT AND MAIZIE
Francisco saw his parents to the steamer in a carriage packed with
luggage--shiny new bags and grips which, he reflected, would one day
return much buffeted and covered with foreign labels. He had seen such
bags in local households. The owners were very proud of them. Shakenly
he patted his mother's arm and told her how young she was looking,
whereat, for some reason, she cried. Adrian coughed and turned to look
out of the window. None of the trio spoke till they reached the dock.
There Mrs. Stanley gave him many directions looking to his health and
safety. And his father puffed ferociously at a cigar. They had expected
Jeanne to bid them good-bye, but she no doubt was delayed, as one so
often was in newspaper work.
At last it was over. Francisco stood with the bank book in his hand, a
lump in his throat, waving a handkerchief. The ship was departing
rapidly. He could no longer distinguish his parents among the black
specks at the stern of the vessel. Finally he turned, swallowing hard
and put the bank book in his pocket. What a thoughtful chap his father
was! How generous! And how almost girlish his mother had looked in her
new, smart travel suit! Well, they would enjoy themselves for a year or
two. Some day he would travel, too, and see the world. But first there
was work to do. Work was good. And Life was filled with Opportunity. He
thought of Jeanne.
Suddenly he determined to test Robert's advice. Now, if ever, was the
time to challenge Providence. He had in his pocket Adrian's check for
$20,000. The Stanley home was vacant. But more than all else, Jeanne was
being courted by a new reporter on the Chronicle--a sort of poet with
the dashing ways that women liked. He had taken Jeanne to dinner several
times of late.
With a decisive movement Francisco entered a telephone booth. Five
minutes later he emerged smiling. Jeanne had broken an engagement with
the poet chap to dine with him.
Later that evening he tipped an astonished French waiter with a
gold-piece. He and Jeanne walked under a full moon until midnight.
* * * * *
Two months after the Stanleys' departure Francisco and Jeanne were
married and took up their abode in the Stanley home. Francisco worked
diligently at his novel. Now and then they had Robert and Maizie to
dinner. Both Jeanne and Francisco had a warm place in their hearts for
little Maizie Carter. It was perfectly plain that she loved Robert;
sometimes her eyes were plainly envious when they fell on Jeanne in her
gingham apron, presiding over the details of her household with, a
bride's new joy in domestic tasks. But Maizie was a knowing little
woman, too wise to imperil her dream of Love's completeness with a
disturbing element like her mother, growing daily more helpless,
And she had a fine pride, this little working girl. From Robert she
would accept no aid, despite his growing income as the junior partner in
his father's law firm. Benito's health had not of recent months been
robust, and Robert found upon his shoulders more and more of the
business of the office, which acted as trustee for several large
estates. Robert now had his private carriage, but Maizie would not
permit his calling thus, in state, for her at the Mineral Cafe.
"It would not look well," she said, half whimsically, yet with a touch
of gravity, "to have a famous lawyer in his splendid coach call for a
poor little Cinderella of a cashier." And so Robert came afoot each
night to take her home. When it was fine they walked up the steep Powell
street hill, gazing back at the scintillant lights of the town or down
on the moonlit bay, with its black silhouetted islands, the spars of
great ships and the moving lights of tugboats or ferries.
If it were wet they rode up on the funny little cable cars, finding a
place, whenever possible, on the forward end, which Maizie called the
"observation platform." As they passed the Nob Hill mansions of Hopkins,
Stanford and Crocker, and the more modest adobe of the Fairs, Maizie
sometimes fancied herself the chatelaine of such a castle, giving an
almost imperceptible sigh as the car dipped over the crest of Powell
street toward the meaner levels just below where she and her mother
lived. Their little yard was always bright with flowers, and from the
rear window one had a marvelous view of the water. She seldom failed to
walk into the back room and feast her eyes on that marine panorama
before she returned to listen to her mother's fretful maunderings over
Tonight as they sat with Jeanne and Francisco in front of the crackling
fire, Maizie's hunger for a home of her own and the man she loved was so
plain that Jeanne arose impulsively and put an arm about her guest. She
said nothing, but Maizie understood. There was a lump in her throat. "I
should not think such things," she told herself. "I am selfish ...
Robert was talking. She smiled at him bravely and listened. "Mother's
planning to go East," she heard him say. "She's always wanted to, and as
she grows older it's almost an obsession. So father's finally decided to
go, too, and let me run the business ... I'll be an orphan soon, like
"Oh," said Maizie. "Do you mean that you'll be all alone?"
Robert smiled, "Quite.... Po Lun and Hang Far plan a trip to China ...
want to see their parents before they die. The Chinese are great for
honoring their forebears.... Sometimes I think," he added, whimsically,
"that Maizie is partly Chinese."
The girl flushed. Jeanne made haste to change the subject. "How is your
friend, Dennis Kearney?" she asked Francisco.
"Oh, he's left the agitator business ... he's a grain broker now. But
Dennis started something. Capital is a little more willing to listen to
labor. And Chinese immigration will be restricted, perhaps stopped
altogether. The Geary Exclusion Act is before Congress now, and more or
less certain to pass."
"He's a strange fellow," said Jeanne, reminiscently. "I wonder if he
still hates everyone who disagrees with him. Loring Pickering was one of
his pet enemies."
"Oh, Dennis is forgiving, like all Irishmen," said Robert. Impulsively
he laid a hand on Maizie's.
"Maizie is part Irish, too," he added, meaningly. The girl smiled at him
star-eyed. For she understood.
THE BLIND BOSS
Francisco met the erstwhile agitator on the street one day. He had made
his peace with many former foes, including Pickering."
"Politics is a rotten game, me b'y," he said, by way of explanation.
"And I've a family, two little girruls at home. I want thim to remimber
their father as something besides a blatherskite phin they grow up. So
I'm in a rispictible business again.... There's a new boss now, bad cess
to him! Chris Buckley.
"Him your Chinese friends call 'The Blind White Devil?' Yes, I've heard
"He keeps a saloon wid a gossoon name o' Fallon, on Bush street.... Go
up and see him, Misther Stanley.... He's a fair-speakin' felly I'm
told.... Ask him," Dennis whispered, nudging the writer's ribs with his
elbow, "ask him how his gambling place in Platt's Hall is coming on?"
* * * * *
Several days later Francisco entered the unpretentious establishment of
Christopher Buckley. He found it more like an office than a drinking
place; people sat about, apparently waiting their turn for an interview
A small man, soft of tread and with a searching glance, asked Stanley's
business and, learning that the young man was a writer for the press,
blinked rapidly a few times; then he scuttled off, returning ere long
with the information that Buckley would "see Mr. Stanley." Soon he found
himself facing a pleasant-looking man of medium height, a moustache,
wiry hair tinged with gray, a vailed expression of the eyes, which
indicated some abnormality of vision, but did not reveal the almost
total blindness with which early excesses had afflicted
"Sit down, my friend," spoke the boss. His tone held a crisp cordiality,
searching and professionally genial. "What d'ye want ... a story?"
"Yes," said Stanley.
"About the election?"
Stanley hesitated. "Tell me about the gambling concession at Platt's
Hall," he said suddenly.
Buckley's manner changed. It became, if anything, more cordial.
"My boy," his tone was low, "you're wasting time as a reporter. Listen,"
he laid a hand upon Francisco's knee. "I've got a job for you.... The
new Mayor will need a secretary ... three hundred a month. And extras!"
"What are they?" asked Francisco curiously.
"Lord! I don't have to explain that to a bright young man like you....
People coming to the Mayor for favors. They're appreciative ...
"Well," Francisco seemed to hesitate, "let me think it over.... Can I
let you know," he smiled, "tomorrow?"
Buckley nodded as Francisco rose. As soon as the latter's back was
turned the little sharp-eyed man came trotting to his master's call.
"Follow him. Find out what's his game," he snapped. The little man sped
swiftly after. Buckley made another signal. The top-hatted
representative of railway interests approached.
* * * * *
Francisco stopped at Robert's office on his way home. Windham had moved
into one of the new buildings, with an elevator, on Kearney street. In
his private office was a telephone, one of those new instruments for
talking over a wire which still excited curiosity, though they were
being rapidly installed by the Pacific Bell Company. Hotels,
newspapers, the police and fire departments were equipped with them,
but private subscribers were few, Francisco had noticed one of the
instruments in Buckley's saloon.
Robert had not returned from court, but was momentarily expected. His
amanuensis ushered Francisco into the private office. He sat down and
picked up a newspaper, glancing idly over the news.
A bell tinkled somewhere close at hand. It must be the telephone. Rather
gingerly, for he had never handled one before, Francisco picked up the
receiver, put it to his ear. It was a man's voice insisting that a
probate case be settled. Francisco tried to make him understand that
Robert was out. But the voice went on. Apparently the transmitting
apparatus was defective. Francisco could not interrupt the flow
"See Buckley.... He has all the judges under his thumb. Pay him what he
asks. We must have a settlement at once."
Francisco put back the receiver. So Buckley controlled the courts as
well. He would be difficult to expose. The little plan for getting
evidence with Robert's aid did not appear so simple now.
Francisco waited half an hour longer, fidgeting about the office. Then
he decided that Robert had gone for the day and went out. At the corner
of Powell street he bumped rather unceremoniously into a tall figure,
top-hatted, long-coated, carrying a stick.
"I beg your pardon," he apologized. "Oh--why it's Mr. Pickering."
"Where are you bound so--impetuously?"
"Home," smiled Stanley. "Jeanne and I are going to the show tonight." He
was about to pass on when a thought struck him. "Got a minute to spare,
"Always to you, my boy," returned the editor of the Bulletin, with his
[Illustration: "My boy ... you're wasting your time as a reporter.
Listen," he laid a hand upon Francisco's knee. "I've a job for you....
The new Mayor will need a secretary."]
"Then, come into the Baldwin Cafe.... I want to tell you something."
In an unoccupied corner, over a couple of glasses, Francisco unfolded
his plan. He was somewhat abashed by Pickering's expression. "Very
clever, Stanley ... but quite useless. It's been tried before. You'd
better have taken the job, accumulated evidence; then turned it over to
us. That would be the way to trap him ... but it's probably too late.
Ten to one his sleuth has seen us together. Buckley's very--bright,
He put a hand kindly on the crestfallen young man's shoulder.... "Go
back tomorrow and see if he'll make you secretary to the Mayor. Then get
all the 'extras' you can. Label each and bring it to me. I'll see that
you're not misunderstood." He rose. "But I fear Buckley will withdraw
his offer ... if so, we'll print the story of his Platt's Hall
FATE TAKES A HAND
Francisco found that Pickering's prophecy had been a true one. On a
subsequent visit to the Bush street saloon he found the Blind Boss
unapproachable. After waiting almost an hour and seeing several men who
had come after him, led to the rear room for a conference, word was
brought him by the little, keen-eyed man that the position of Mayor's
secretary was already filled. He was exceedingly polite, expressing "Mr.
Buckley's deep regret," about the matter. But there was in his eye a
furtive mockery, in his tight-lipped mouth a covert sneer.
Francisco went directly to the office of The Bulletin, relating his
experience to the veteran editor. "I supposed as much," said Pickering.
He tapped speculatively on the desk with his pencil. "What's more, I
think there's little to be done at present. Printing the story of
Platt's Hall will only be construed as a bit of political recrimination.
San Francisco rather fancies gambling palaces."
"Jack!" he called to a reporter. "See if you can locate Jerry Lynch." He
turned to Stanley. "There's the fellow for you: Senator Jeremiah Lynch.
Know him? Good. You get evidence on Buckley. Consult with Lynch
concerning politics. He'll tell you ways to checkmate Chris you wouldn't
Pickering smiled and picked up a sheet of manuscript. Francisco took the
hint. From that day he camped on Buckley's trail. Bit by bit he gathered
proofs, some documentary, some testimonial. No single item was of great
importance. But, as a whole, Robert had assured him, it was weaving a
net in which the blind boss might one day find himself entrapped.
Perhaps he felt its meshes now and then. For overtures were made to
Stanley. He was offered the position of secretary to Mayor Pond, but he
declined it. Word reached him of other opportunities; tips on the stock
market, the races; he ignored them and went on.
* * * * *
One night his house was broken into and his desk ransacked most
thoroughly. Twice he was set upon at night, his pockets rifled. Threats
came to him of personal violence. Finally the blind boss sent for him.
"Is there anything you want--that I can give you?" Buckley minced no
Stanley shook his head. Then, remembering Buckley's blindness, he said
Buckley took a few short paces up and down the room, then added: "I'll
talk plain to you, my friend--because you're smart; too smart to be a
catspaw for an editor and a politician who hate me. Let me tell you
this, you'll do no good by keeping on." He spun about suddenly,
threateningly, "You've a wife, haven't you?"
"We'll not discuss that, Mr. Buckley," said Francisco stiffly.
"Nevertheless it's true ... and children?"
"N-not yet," said Francisco in spite of himself.
"Oh, I see. Well, that's to be considered.... It's not what you'd call a
time for taking chances, brother."
"What d'ye mean?" Francisco was a trifle startled.
"Nothing; nothing!" said the blind boss unctuously. "Think it over....
And remember, I'm your friend. If there's anything you wish, come to me
for it. Otherwise--"
Stanley looked at him inquiringly, but did not speak. Nor did Buckley
close his sentence. It was left suspended like the Damoclesian blade.
Francisco went straight home and found Jeanne busied with her needle and
some tiny garments, which of late had occupied her days. He was rather
silent while they dined, a bit uneasy.
* * * * *
Francisco usually went down town for lunch. There was a smart club
called the Bohemian, where one met artists, actors, writers. Among them
were young Keith, the landscape painter, who gave promise of a vogue;
Charley Stoddard, big and bearded; they called him an etcher with words;
and there were Prentice Mulford, the mystic; David Belasco of the
Columbia Theater. Francisco got into his street clothes, kissed Jeanne
and went out. It was a bright, scintillant day. He strode along
At the club he greeted gaily those who sat about the room. Instead of
answering, they ceased their talk and stared at him. Presently Stoddard
advanced, looking very uncomfortable.
"Let's go over there and have a drink," he indicated a secluded corner.
"I want a chat with you."
"Oh, all right," said Francisco. He followed Stoddard, still softly
whistling the tune which had, somehow, caught his fancy. They sat down,
Charley Stoddard looking preternaturally grave.
"Well, my boy," Francisco spoke, "what's troubling you?"
"Oh--ah--" said the other, "heard from your folks lately, Francisco?"
"Yes, they're homeward bound. Ought to be off Newfoundland by now."
The drinks came. Stanley raised his glass, drank, smiling. Stoddard
followed, but he did not smile. "Can you bear a shock, old chap?" He
blurted. "I--they--dammit man--the ship's been wrecked."
Francisco set his glass down quickly. He was white. "The--The
Stoddard nodded. There was silence. Then, "Was any-body--drowned?"
Stanley did not need an answer. It was written large in Stoddard's
grief-wrung face. He got up, made his way unsteadily to the door. A page
came running after with his hat and stick and he took them absently.
Nearby was a newspaper office, crowds about it, bulletins announcing the
Raratonga's total destruction with all on board.
Francisco began to walk rapidly, without a definite sense of direction.
He found relief in that. The trade-wind was sharp in his face and he
pulled his soft hat down over his eyes. Presently he found himself in an
unfamiliar locality--the water-front--amid a bustling rough-spoken
current of humanity that eddied forward and back. There were many
sailors. From the doors of innumerable saloons came the blare of
orchestrions; now and then a drunken song.
Entering one of the swinging doors, Francisco called for whisky. He felt
suddenly a need for stimulant. The men at the long counter looked at him
curiously. He was not of their kind. A little sharp-eyed man who was
playing solitaire at a table farther back, looked up interested. He
pulled excitedly at his chin, rose and signed to a white-coated
servitor. They had their heads together.
It was almost noon the following day when Chief Mate Chatters of the
whaleship Greenland, en route for Behring Sea, went into the forecastle
to appraise some members of a crew hastily and informally shipped.
"Shanghaiing," it was called. But one had to have men. One paid the
waterfront "crimps" a certain sum and asked no questions.
"Who the devil's this?" He indicated a man sprawled in one of the bunks,
who, despite a stubble of beard and ill-fitting sea clothes, was
unmistakably a gentleman.
"Don't know--rum sort for a sailor. Got knocked on the head in a
scrimmage. Cawnt remember nothing but his name, Francisco."
In the fall of 1898 a man of middle years walked slowly down the stairs
which plunged a traveler from the new Ferry building's upper floor into
the maelstrom of Market street's beginning. Cable cars were whirling on
turn-tables, newsboys shouted afternoon editions; hack drivers, flower
vendors, train announcers added their babel of strident-toned outcries
to the clanging of gongs, the clatter of wheels and hoofs upon
cobblestone streets. Ferry sirens screamed; an engine of the Belt Line
Railroad chugged fiercely as it pulled a train of freight cars toward
the southern docks.
The stranger paused, apparently bewildered by this turmoil.
He was a stalwart, rather handsome man, bearded and bronzed as if
through long exposure. And in his walk there was a suggestion of that
rolling gait which smacks of maritime pursuits. He proceeded aimlessly
up Market street, gazing round him, still with that odd, half-doubting
and half-troubled manner. In front of the Palace Hotel he paused, seemed
about to enter, but went on. He halted once again at Third street,
surveying a tall brick building with a clock tower.
"What place is that?" he queried of a bystander.
"That? Why, the Chronicle building."
The stranger was silent for a moment. Then he said, in a curious,
detached tone, "I thought it was at Bush and Kearney."
"Oh, not for eight years," said the other. "Did you live here,
"I? No." He spoke evasively and hurried on. "I wonder what made me say
that?" he mumbled to himself.
Down Kearney street he walked. Now and then his eyes lit as if with some
half-formed memory and he made queer, futile gestures with his hands.
Before a stairway leading to an upper floor, he stopped, and, with the
dreamy, passive air of a somnambulist, ascended, entering through
swinging doors a large, pleasant room, tapestried, ornamented with
paintings and statuary. Half a dozen men lounging in large leathern
chairs glanced up and away with polite unrecognition. The stranger was
made aware of a boy in a much-buttoned uniform holding a silver tray.
"Who do you wish to see, sir?"
"Oh--ah--" spoke the stranger, "this is the Bohemian Club, isn't it?"
"Yes, sir. Shall I call the house manager, sir?"
At the other's nod he vanished to return with a spectacled man who
"I beg your pardon--for intruding," said the bearded man slowly. "But--I
couldn't help it.... I was once a member here."
"Indeed?" said the spectacled man, tentatively cordial, still inquiring.
"And you're name--"
From the bearded lips there came a gutteral sound--as if speech had
failed him. He gazed at the spectacled personage helplessly. "I--don't
know." Sudden weakness seemed to seize him. Still with the helpless
expression in his eyes, he retreated, found a chair and sank into it. He
passed a hand feverishly before his eyes.
The spectacled man acted promptly.
"Garrison, you're one of the ancients round this club," he addressed a
smiling, gray-haired man of plump and jovial mien. "Come and talk to the
Mysterious Stranger.... Says he was a member ten or fifteen years
ago.... Can't recollect who he is."
"What do you wish me to do?" asked Garrison.
"Pretend to recognize him. Talk to him about the Eighties.... Get him
oriented. It's plainly a case of amnesia."
He watched Garrison approach the bearded man with outstretched hand; saw
the other take it, half reluctantly. The two retired to an alcove, had a
drink and soon were deep in conversation. The stranger seemed to unfold
at this touch of friendliness. They heard him laugh. Another drink was
ordered. After half an hour Garrison returned. He seemed excited. "Hold
him there till I return," he urged. "I'm going to a newspaper office to
look at some files."
Fifteen minutes later he was back. "Come," he said, "I've got a cab ...
want you to meet a friend of mine." He took the still-dazed stranger's
arm. They went out, entered a carriage and were driven off. As they
passed the City Hall the stranger said, as though astonished. "Why--it's
finished, isn't it?"
"Yes, at last," Garrison smiled. "Even Buckley couldn't hold it back
"Buckley ... he's the one who promised me a job, Is Pond the Mayor now?"
"No," returned the other. "Phelan." As he spoke the carriage stopped
before a rather ornate dwelling, somewhat out of place amid surrounding
offices and shops. The stranger started violently as they approached it.
Again the gutteral sound came from his lips.
The door opened and a woman appeared; a woman tall, sad-faced and
eager-eyed. Beside her was a lad as tall as she. They stared at the
bearded stranger, the boy wide-eyed and curious; the woman with a
piercing, concentrated hope that fears defeat.
The man took a stumbling step forward. "Jeanne!" He halted half abashed.
But the woman sobbing, ran to him and put her arms about his neck. For
an instant he stood, stiffly awkward, his face very red. Then something
snapped the shackles of his prisoned memory. A cry burst from him,
inarticulately joyous. His arms went round her.
* * * * *
It required weeks for Stanley to recover all his memories. It was a new
world; Jeanne the one connecting link between the present and that still
half-shadowy past from which he had been cast by some unceremonial jest
of Fate into a strange existence. From the witless, nameless unit of a
whaler's crew he had at last arisen to a fresh identity. Frank Starbird,
they christened him, he knew not why. And when they found that he had
clerical attainments, the captain, who was really a decent fellow, had
befriended him; found him a berth in a store at Sitka.... Since then he
had roamed up and down the world, mostly as purser of ships, forever
haunted by the memory of some previous identity he could not fathom. He
had been to Russia, India, Europe's seaports, landing finally at
Baltimore. Thence some mastering impulse took him Westward. And here he
was again, Francisco Stanley.
It was difficult to realize that fifteen years had flown. Jeanne seemed
so little older. But the tall young son was startling evidence of Time's
passage. Stanley used to sit gazing at him silently during those first
few days, as though trying to drink in the stupendous fact of his
existence. Old friends called to hear his adventures; he was given a
dinner at the club where he learned, with some surprise, that he was not
unfamous as an author. Jeanne had finished his book and found a
publisher. Between the advertisement of his mysterious disappearance and
its real merits, the volume had a vogue.
Robert had married Maizie after her mother's death. They lived in the
Windham house in Old South Park, for Benito and Alice had never returned
from the East. Po Lun and Hang Far had gone to China.
Slowly life resumed its formed status for Francisco.
Francisco loved to wander round the town, explore its nooks and corners
and make himself, for the time being, a part of his surroundings. A
smattering of European languages aided him in this. He rubbed elbows
with coatless workmen in French, Swiss, Spanish and Italian "pensions,"
sitting at long tables and breaking black bread into red wine. He drank
black coffee and ate cloying sweetmeats in Greek or Turkish cafes;
hobnobbed with Sicilian fishermen, helping them to dry their nets and
sometimes accompanying them in their feluccas into rough seas beyond the
Heads. Now and then he invaded Chinatown and ate in their underground
restaurants, disdaining the "chop suey" and sweets invariably served to
tourists for the more palatable and engaging viands he had learned to
like and name in Shanghai and Canton. Fortunately, he could afford to
indulge his bent, for the value of his inheritance had increased
extraordinarily in the past decade. Stanley's income was more than
sufficient to insure a life of leisure.
* * * * *
At Market and Fourth streets stood a large and rather nondescript gray
structure built by Flood, the Comstock millionaire. It had served for
varied purposes, but now it housed the Palais Royal, an immense saloon
and gambling rendezvous. In the massive, barn-like room, tile-floored
and picture-ornamented, were close to a hundred tables where men of all
descriptions drank, played cards and talked. Farther to the rear were
private compartments, from which came the incessant click of
Francisco and Robert sometimes lunched at the Palais Royal. The former
liked its color and the vital energy he always found there. Robert "sat
in" now and then at poker. He had a little of his father's love for
Chance, but a restraining sanity left him little the loser in the long
run. Robert had three children, the eldest a girl of twelve. Petite and
dainty Maizie had become a plump and bustling mother-hen.
It was in the Palais Royal that Francisco met Abraham Ruef, a dapper and
engaging gentleman of excellent address, greatly interested in politics.
He was a graduate of the State University, where he had specialized in
Francisco liked him, and they often sat for long discussions of the
local situation after lunching at the Palais Royal. Ruef, in a small
way, was a rival of Colonel Dan Burns, the Republican boss. Burns, they
said, was jealous of Ruef's reform activites.
"If one could get the laboring class together," Ruef told Stanley, "one
could wield a mighty power. Some day, perhaps, I shall do it. The
laborer is a giant, unconscious of his strength. He submits to Capital's
oppression, unwitting of his own capacity to rule. For years we've had
nothing but strikes, which have only strengthened employers."
"Yes, they're always broken," said Francisco.
"The strike is futile. Organization--political unity; that's the thing."
"A labor party, eh?" Francisco spoke, a trifle dubiously.
"Yes, but not the usual kind. It must be done right." His eyes shone.
"Ah, I can see it all so plainly. If I could make it clear to others--"
"Why don't you try?" asked Stanley.
But Ruef shook his head. "I lack the 'presence.' Do you know what I
mean? No matter how smart I may be, they see in me only a small man. So
they think I have small ideas. That is human nature. And they say,
'He's a Jew.' Which is another drawback."
He was silent a moment. "I have thought it all out.... I must borrow the
"What do you mean?" Francisco was startled.
"We shall see," Ruef responded. "Perhaps I shall find me a man--big,
strong, impressive--with a mind easily led.... Then I shall train him to
be a leader. I shall furnish the brain."
"What a curious thought!" said Francisco. Ruef, smiling, shook his head.
"It is not new at all," he said. "If you read political history you will
soon discover that."
* * * * *
Francisco worked at his novel. Word came of Alice Windham's death in
Massachusetts. Robert urged his father to return to San Francisco, but
Benito sought forgetfulness in European travel.
Frank had finished high school; was a cub reporter on The Bulletin.
Pickering was dead; his widow and her brother, R.A. Crothers, had taken
over the evening paper; John D. Spreckels, sugar nabob, now
controlled the Call.
Newspaper policies were somewhat uncertain in these days of economic
unrest. Strike succeeded strike, and with each there came a greater show
of violence. Lines were more sharply drawn. Labor and capital organized
for self-protection and offense.
"I hear that Governor Gage is coming down to settle the teamsters'
strike," said Francisco to his son as they lunched together one sultry
October day in 1901. "I can't understand why he's delayed until now."
"Probably wanted to keep out of it as long as possible," responded
Frank. "There are strong political forces on each side ... but the story
goes that Colonel 'Montezuma' Burns is jealous of Ruef's overtures to
workingmen. So he's ordered the Governor to make a grandstand play."
[Illustration: "Perhaps I shall find me a man--big, strong,
impressive--with a mind easily led.... Then I shall train him to be a
leader. I shall furnish the brain."]
Stanley looked at his son in astonishment. He was not yet nineteen and
he talked like a veteran of forty. Francisco wondered if these were his
own deductions or mere parroted gossip of the office.
Later that afternoon he met Robert and told him of Frank's comment.
Robert thought the situation over ere he answered.
"The employing class is fearful," he said. "They've controlled things so
long they don't know what may happen if they lose the reins. It's plain
that Phelan can't be re-elected. And it's true that if the labor men
effect a real organization they may name the next Mayor. Rather a
"Have you heard any talk about a man named Schmitz? A labor candidate?"
"Yes, I think I have. The chap's a fiddler in a theater orchestra. Big,
fine looking. But I can't imagine that he has the brains to make a
"Big! Fine looking! Hm!" repeated Stanley.
"Meaning--what?" asked Robert.
"Nothing much.... I just remembered something Ruef was telling me." He
walked on thoughtfully. "Might be a story there for the boy's paper," he
Ruef's offices were at the corner of Kearney and California streets.
Thither, with some half-formed mission in his mind, Francisco took his
way. A saturnine man took him up in a little box-like elevator, pointing
out a door inscribed:
The reception-room was filled. Half a dozen men and two women sat in
chairs which lined the walls. A businesslike young man inquired
Francisco's errand. "You'll have to wait your turn," he said. "I can't
go in there now ... he's in conference with Mr. Schmitz."
Francisco decided not to wait. After all, he had learned what he came
Abe Ruef had borrowed a "presence."
A NOCTURNAL ADVENTURE
Stanley was to learn much more of Eugene Schmitz. It was in fact the
following day that he met Ruef and the violinist at Zinkand's. Schmitz
was a man of imposing presence. He stood over six feet high; his curly
coal-black hair and pointed beard, his dark, luminous eyes and a certain
dash in his manner, gave him a glamor of old-world romance. In a red cap
and ermine-trimmed robe, he might have been Richelieu, defying the
throne. Or, otherwise clad, the Porthos of Dumas' "Three Musketeers."
Francisco could not help reflecting that Ruef had borrowed a very fine
Ruef asked Francisco to his table. He talked a great deal about
politics. Schmitz listened open-eyed; Stanley more astutely. All at once
Ruef leaned toward Francisco.
"What do you think of Mr. Schmitz--as a candidate for Mayor?" he asked.
"I think," Francisco answered meaningly, "that you have chosen well."
They rose, shook hands. To Francisco's surprise Schmitz left them. "I
have a matinee this afternoon," he said. Ruef walked down Market street
"He's leader of the Columbia orchestra.... I met him through my dealings
with the Musicians' Union." Impulsively he grasped Francisco's arm.
"Isn't he a wonder? I'll clean up the town with him. Watch me!"
"And, are you certain you can manage this chap?"
Ruef laughed a quiet little laugh of deep content. "Oh, Gene is
absolutely plastic. Just a handsome musician. And of good, plain people.
His father was a German band leader; his mother is Irish--Margaret
Hogan. That will help. And he is a Native Son."
Ruef babbled on. He had a great plan for combining all political
factions--an altruistic dream of economic brotherhood. Francisco
listened somewhat skeptically. He was not certain of the man's
sincerity, but he admired Ruef. Of his executive ability there could
be no doubt.
Yet there was something vaguely wrong about the wondrous fitness of
Ruef's plan. Mary Godwin Shelley's tale of "Frankenstein" came to
* * * * *
That evening Frank said to his father, with a wink at Jeanne, "Want to
go slumming with me tonight, father? I'm going to do my first signed
story: 'The Night-Life of This Town'."
"Do you think I ought to, Jeanne?" asked her husband whimsically. He
glanced at his son. "This younger generation is a trifle--er--vehement
for old fogies like me."
Jeanne came over and sat on the arm of his chair. "Nonsense," she said,
"you are just as young as ever, Francisco.... Yes, go with the boy, by
all means. I'll run up to Maizie's for the evening. She's making a dress
for Alice's birthday party. She will be sixteen next month."
* * * * *
Francisco and his son went gaily forth to see their city after dark.
Truth to tell, the father knew more of it than the lad, who acted as
conductor. Francisco's wanderings in search of 'local color' had
included some nocturnal quests. However, he kept this to himself and let
Frank do the guiding.
They went, first, to a large circular building called the Olympia, at
Eddy and Mason streets. It was the heart of what was called the
Tenderloin, a gay and hectic region frequented by half-world folk, but
not unknown to travelers nor to members of society, Slumming parties
were both fashionable and frequent. Two girls were capering and
carolling behind the footlights.
"They are Darlton and Boice," explained young Stanley. "The one with the
perpetual smile is a great favorite. She's Boice. She's got a daughter
old as I, they say."
They visited the Thalia, a basement "dive" of lower order, and returned
to the comparative respectability of the Oberon beer hall on O'Farrell
street, where a plump orchestra of German females played sprightly airs;
thence back to Market street and the Midway. "Little Egypt," tiny,
graceful, sensually pretty, performed a "danse du ventre," at the
conclusion of a long program of crude and often ribald "turns." When
"off-stage" the performers, mostly girls, drank with the audience in a
tier of curtained boxes which lined the sides of the auditorium. At
intervals the curtains parted for a moment and faces peered down. A
drunken sailor in a forward box was tossing silver coins to a dancer.
They made their exit, Francisco frankly weary and the young reporter
bored by the unrelieved crudity of it all. A smart equipage, with
champing horses, stood before the entrance. They paused to glance at it.
"Looks like Harry Bear's carriage," Frank commented. "You know the young
society blood who's had so many larks." He turned back. "Wait a minute,
father, I'm going in. If Bear has a party upstairs in those boxes it'll
make good copy."
"It'll make a scandal, you mean," returned Francisco rather crisply.
"You can't print the women's names."
"Bosh!" the younger man retorted pertly. "Everyone's doing this sort of
thing now. Come along, dad. See the fun." He caught his father's arm and
they re-entered, taking the stairs, this time, to the boxes above. From
one came a man's laughing banter. "That's he," Frank whispered, Hastily
he drew his half reluctant father into a vacant box. A waiter brought
them beer, collected half a dollar and inquired if they wanted
"Company." Francisco shook his head.
The man in the adjoining box was drunk, the girl was frightened. Their
voices filtered plainly through the thin partition. He was urging her to
drink and she was protesting. Finally she screamed. Stanley and his son
sprang simultaneously to the rescue. They found a young man in an
evening suit trying to kiss a very pretty girl.
His ears were red where she had boxed them and as he turned a rather
foolish face surprisedly toward the intruders, a scratch showed livid on
one cheek. The girl's hair streamed disheveled by the struggle. She
caught up, hastily, a handsome opera cloak to cover her torn corsage.
"Please," she said, "get me out of here quickly.... I'll pay you well."
Then she flushed as young Stanley stiffened. "I ... I beg your pardon."
He offered her his arm and they passed from the box together. The
befuddled swain, after a dazed interval, attempted to follow, but
Francisco flung him back. He heard the carriage door shut with a snap,
the clatter of iron-shod hoofs. Then he went out to look for Frank, but
did not find him. Evidently he had gone with the lady. Francisco smiled.
It was quite an adventure. Thoughtfully he gazed at the banners flung
across Market street:
"VOTE FOR EUGENE SCHMITZ,
"The Workingman's Friend."
That was Abraham Ruef's adventure. He wondered how each of them would
POLITICS AND ROMANCE
Ruef swept the field with his handsome fiddler. All "South of Market
street" rallied to his support. The old line parties brought their
trusty, well-oiled election machinery into play, but it availed
Robert and Francisco met one day soon after the election. "Everyone is
laughing at our fiddler Mayor," said the former. "He's like a king
without a court; for all the other offices were carried by Republicans
Francisco smoked a moment thoughtfully. "Union Labor traded minor
offices for Mayoralty votes, I understand. Meanwhile Ruef is building
his machine. He has convinced the labor people that he knows the game.
They've given him carte blanche."
"And how does the big fellow take it?"
"I was talking with him yesterday," Francisco answered. "Schmitz is shy
just yet. But feels his dignity. Oh, mightily!" He laughed. "Little Abe
will have his hands full with big 'Gene, I'm thinking."
"But Ruef's not daunted by the prospect."
"Heavens, no. The man has infinite self-confidence. And it's no fatuous
egotism, either. A sort of suave, unshakable trust in himself. Abe
Ruef's the cleverest politician San Francisco's known in many
years--perhaps since Broderick. He makes such men as Burns and Buckley
look like tyros--"
Robert looked up quickly. "By the way, I've often wondered whether
Buckley wasn't guilty of your disappearance. He meant you no good."
"No," Francisco answered. "I've looked into that. Chris, himself, had
no connection with it. Once he threatened me ... but I've since learned
what he meant.... Just a little blackmail which concerned a woman.
But--" he hesitated.
Robert moved uneasily. "But--what?"
"Oh, well, it didn't work. The girl he planned to use told him the
truth." Francisco, too, seemed ill at ease. "It was so long ago ... it's
"I trust so," said the other. Rather abruptly he rose. "Must be getting
back to work."
* * * * *
Once a week Frank donned his evening clothes and was driven to a certain
splendid home on Pacific Heights. Bertha Larned met him always with a
smile--and a different gown. Each successive one seemed more splendid,
becoming, costly. And ever the lady seemed more sweet as their intimacy
grew. Once when Frank had stammered an enthusiastic appreciation of her
latest gown--a wondrous thing of silk and lace that seemed to match the
changing fires in her eyes--she said suddenly: "What a fright I must
have looked that evening--in the Midway! And what you must have thought
of me--in such a place!"
"Do you wish to know just what I thought?" Frank asked her, reddening.
"Yes." Her eyes, a little shamed, but brave, met his.
"Well," he said, "you stood there with your hair all streaming and
your--and that splendid fire in your eyes. The beauty of you struck me
like a whip. You seemed an angel--after all the sordid sights I'd
"Go on--please;" her eyes were shining.
"Then--it's sort of odd--but I wanted to fight for you!"
She came a little closer.
"Some day, perhaps," she spoke with sudden gravity, "I may ask you to do
"What? Fight for you?"
* * * * *
It was after the Olympia had been made over into a larger Tivoli Opera
House that Frank met Aleta Boice. She was a member of the chorus. Their
acquaintance blossomed from propinquity, for both had a fashion of
supping on the edge of midnight at a little restaurant, better known by
its sobriquet of "Dusty Doughnut," than by its real name, which long ago
had been forgotten.
Frank had formed the habit of sitting at a small table somewhat isolated
from the others where now and then he wrote an article or editorial.
Hitherto it had unvaryingly been at his disposal, for the hour of
Frank's reflection was not a busy one. Therefore he was just a mite
annoyed to find his table tenanted by a woman. Perhaps his irritation
was apparent; or, perchance, Aleta had a knack for reading faces, for
"I--I beg your pardon. Have I got your place?"
"N-no," protested Frank. "I sit here often ... that's no matter."
"Well," she said; "don't let me drive you off. I'll not be
comfortable.... Let's share it, then," she smiled; "tonight, at least."
They did. Frank found her very like her mother--the smiling one of
Darlton and Boice, Olympia entertainers of past years. One couldn't call
her pretty, when her face was in repose. But that was seldom, so it
didn't matter. Her smile was like a spring, a fountain of perennial good
nature. And her eyes were trusting, like a child's. Frank often wondered
how she had maintained that look of eager innocence amid the life
Frank learned much of her past. She could barely remember the father,
who was a circus acrobat and had been killed by a fall from a trapeze.
Her mother had retired from the stage; she was doing needlework for the
department stores and the Woman's Exchange.
"Every morning she teaches me grammar," said Aleta. "Mother's never
wanted me to talk slang like the other girls. She says if you're
careless with your English you get careless of your principles. Mother's
got a lot of quaint ideas like that."
Again came her rippling laugh. Frank grew to enjoy her; look forward to
the nightly fifteen minutes of companionship. They never met anywhere
else. But when an illness held Aleta absent for a week the Dusty
Doughnut seemed a lonesome place.
Bertha twitted Frank upon his absent-mindedness one evening as he dined
with her. By an effort he shook off his vagary of the other girl. He
loved Bertha. But, for some unfathomed cause, she held him off. Never
had she let him reach a declaration.
"We're such marvelous friends!... Can't we always be that--just that?"
* * * * *
Things drifted on. Schmitz, as a Mayor, caused but small remark. He
reminded Frank of a rustic, sitting at a banquet board and watching his
neighbors before daring to pick up a fork or spoon. But Ruef went on
building his fences. Union Labor was now a force to deal with. And Ruef
was Union Labor.
One of Robert's clients desired to open a French restaurant, with the
usual hotel appurtenances. He made application in the usual manner. But
the license was denied.
Robert was astonished for no reason was assigned and all requests for
explanation were evaded.
A week or so later, Robert met the restaurateur. "Well, I've done it,"
said the latter, jovially. "Open Monday, Come around and eat with me."
"But--how did you manage it?"
"Oh, I took a tip. I made Ruef my attorney. Big retaining fee," he
sighed. "But--well, it's worth the price."
By the end of Schmitz' second term the Democrats and Republicans were
thoroughly alarmed. They saw a workingmen's control of city government
loom large and imminent, with all its threat of overturned political
So the old line parties got together. They made it a campaign of
Morality against imputed Vice. They selected as a fusion standard-bearer
George S. Partridge, a young lawyer of unblemished reputation--and of
"If Ruef succeeds a third time," Frank said to his father, "he'll
control the town. He'll elect a full Board of Supervisors ... that is
freely prophesied if Union Labor wins. You ought to see his list of
candidates--waffle bakers, laundry wagon drivers--horny-fisted sons of
toil and parasites of politics. Heaven help us if they get in power!"
"But there's always a final reckoning ... like the Vigilance Committee,"
said Francisco, slowly. "Somehow, I feel that there's a shakeup coming."
"A moral earthquake, eh?" laughed Jeanne. "I wouldn't want to have a
real one, with all of our new skyscrapers."
* * * * *
After dinner Stanley and his son strolled downtown together. Exercise
and diet had been recommended, Francisco was acquiring embonpoint. Frank
was enthusiastic over the new motor carriages called automobiles.
Robert had one of them--the gasoline type--with a _chauffeur_, as the
French called the drivers of such machines. Bertha Larned had an
"electric coupe," very handsome and costly, with plate-glass windows on
three sides. She drove it herself. Frank sometimes encountered it
downtown, looking like a moving glass cage, with the two women in it.
Mrs. Larned, the aunt, always had a slightly worried expression, and
Bertha, as she steered the thing through a tangle of horse-drawn
traffic, wore a singularly determined look.
There were cable cars on most of the streets; a few electric lines which
ran much more swiftly. But people deemed the latter dangerous. There was
much popular sentiment against electrizing Market street. The United
Railways, which had succeeded the old Market Street Railway Company, was
in disfavor. There were rumors of illicit bargains with the Supervisors
for the granting of proposed new franchises. Young Partridge made much
of this. He warned the public that it was about to be "betrayed." But
his prophetic eloquence availed him little. Schmitz and all the Union
Labor candidates won by a great majority.
* * * * *
Frank sought Aleta at the Dusty Doughnut some months later. He was very
tired, for the past few days had brought a multitude of tasks. He had
counted on Aleta's smile. It seldom failed to cheer him, to restore the
normal balance of his mind. But, though she came, the smile was absent.
There was a faint ghost of it now and again; a harried look about the
eyes. Frank thought there was a mistiness which hinted recent tears.
He laid a hand sympathetically on hers. "What is it, little girl?"
She would not tell him. Her mother was ill. But the trouble did not lie
there. Frank was sure. She had borne that burden long and
uncomplainingly. Aleta had an ingenue part now at the Alcazar. Only once
or twice a week did she keep the tacit tryst at the little nocturnal
cafe. Frank saw her at the Techau, at Zinkand's, the St. Germain, with
the kind of men that make love to actresses. She knew all about the
stock market and politics, for some of Ruef's new Supervisors were among
her swains. Once or twice, as the jargon of the journals has it, she had
"tipped off" a story to Frank.
She said at last, "I'll tell you something ... but you mustn't print it:
This new city government is running wild.... They're scheming to hold up
the town. They've made a list of all the corporations--the United
Railways, the telephone company.... Everyone that wants a favor of the
city must pay high. The man who told me this said that his share will
total $30,000. Ruef and Schmitz will probably be millionaires."
"But how's it to be done? They're being watched, you know. They've lots
of enemies. Bribery would land them in the penitentiary."
The girl leaned forward. "Ah, this isn't ordinary bribery. Anyone that
wants a franchise or a license hires Ruef as his attorney. They say he
gets as high at $10,000 for a retaining fee ... and they expect to clean
the street car company out of a quarter million."
Prank stared. "Why--in God's name!--did he tell you this?"
"He loves me." There was something like defiance in her answer. "He
wants me to accompany him to Europe--when he gets the coin. He says it
won't be long."
"So"--Frank was a little nonplussed--"he wants you to marry him?"
"No," the girl's face reddened. "No, I can't ... he's got a wife."
For a moment there was silence. Then. "What did you tell the--hound,
"He's not a hound," she said evenly. "The wife won't care. She runs with
other men...." Her eyes would not meet Frank's. "I--haven't answered."
"Mother's mind is gone," Aleta answered, bitterly. "She doesn't even
recognize me now.... But she's happy." Her laugh rang, mirthless.
"Aleta," he said, sternly, "do you love this man?"
"No," she said and stared at him. "I--I--"
"I love another--if you must know all about it."
"Can't you--marry _him?_ Is he too poor?" asked Stanley.
"Poor?" Her eyes were stars; "that wouldn't matter. No, he's not my
"Does he know?"
"No," Aleta answered, hastily. "No, he doesn't ... and he never will."
* * * * *
Frank told his father something of the conversation.
"Its an open secret," said Francisco, "that Ruef and his crew are out
for the coin. I'll tell you something else you mustn't print, your paper
is determined to expose Ruef. The managing editor is on his way to
Washington to confer with President Roosevelt.... The plan is to borrow
Francis Heney and William J. Burns."
"What? The pair that has been exposing Senators and land frauds up in
His father nodded. "Phew!" The young man whistled. "You were right when
you predicted that there was a shakeup coming."
* * * * *
Frank, expecting startling things to happen, kept his mind alert. But
the months passed uneventfully. The editor returned from Washington. No
sensational announcement followed the event. Later it was rumored that
Burns had sent operatives to the city. They were gathering evidence, one
understood, but if they did, naught seemed to come of it. Frank was
vaguely disappointed. Now and then he saw Aleta, but the subject of
their former talk was not resumed. Vaguely he wondered what manner of
man was her beloved.
Frank resented the idea that he was above her. Aleta was good enough
for any man.
Bertha was visiting her aunt's home in the East. She had been very
restless and capricious just before she went. All women were thus, he
supposed. But he missed her.
THE FATEFUL MORN
On the evening of April 17, 1906, Frank and Bertha, who had recently
returned, attended the opera. The great Caruso, whose tenor voice had
taken the East by storm, and whose salary was reputed to be fabulous,
had come at last to San Francisco. Fremsted, almost equally famous, was
singing with him in "Carmen" at the Grand Opera House. All the town
turned out in broadcloth, diamonds, silks and decollete to hear them--a
younger generation of San Franciscans assuming a bit uncomfortably that
social importance which had not yet become genealogically sure
Frank and Bertha drove down in the electric brougham, for which they had
with difficulty found a place along the vehicle-lined curb of Mission
street. And, as they were early, they halted in the immense and
handsome, though old-fashioned, foyer to observe the crowd. The air was
heavy with perfume.
"Look at that haughty dame with a hundred-thousand dollar necklace," he
smiled. "One would have thought her father was at least a king. Forty
years ago he drove a dray.... And that one with the ermine coat and
priceless tiara. Wouldn't you take her for a princess? Ah, well, more
power to her! But her mother cleaned soiled linen in Washerwoman's
Lagoon and her dad renovated cuspidors, swept floors in the
But the girl did not seem interested. "I wonder," she remarked a little
later, "why it makes so very much--ah--difference ... who one's
There was a curious, half-detached sadness in her tone. Frank wondered
suddenly if he had blundered. Bertha had never mentioned her parents. He
vaguely understood that they had died abroad and had foreborne to
question, fearing to arouse some tragic memory.
"Of course, it really doesn't matter," he said hastily; "it's only when
people put on airs that I think of such things." She took his arm with
fingers that trembled slightly. "Let us go in. The overture is
During an intermission she whispered. "I wish I were like Carmen--bold
enough to fight the world for lo--for what I wanted."
"Aren't you?" he turned and looked at her.
"No, sometimes I'm overwhelmed ... feel as though I can't look life in
the face." He saw that her lips were trembling, that her eyes were
winking back the tears.
"What is it, dear?" he questioned. But she did not answer. The curtain
rose upon the final act.
Silently they moved out with a throng whose silk skirts swished and
rustled. The men were restless, glad of a chance at the open and a
smoke; the women gay, exalted, half intoxicated by the musical appeal to
their emotions. There was an atmosphere almost of hysteria in the great
swiftly emptying auditorium.
"I feel sort of--smothered," Bertha said; "suppose we walk."
"Gladly," answered Frank, "but what about the coupe?"
"There's one of these new livery stables with machine shop attached not
far away. They call it a garage.... We'll leave the brougham there,"
* * * * *
The night was curiously still--breathless one might have called it.
While the temperature was not high, there was an effect of warmth,
vaguely disturbing like the presage of a storm. As they traversed a
region of hotels and apartment houses, Frank and Bertha noted many open
windows; men and women staring out half dreamily. They passed a livery
stable, out of which there came a weird uncanny dissonance of horses
neighing in their stalls.
"Tell me of your actress friend. Do you see her often?" Bertha asked.
"Not very. She's a good pal. But she's ... well, not like you."
Her eyes searched him. "Do you mean she's not as--pretty, Frank?"
"Oh, I don't know," he answered. "It's because I love you, dear. Aleta's
right enough. But she's not--oh, you know--essential."
Bertha squeezed his arm. Was silent for a moment. Then, "Aleta's father
was a circus rider?"
"Acrobat. Yes, he was killed when she was quite a child."
"But she remembers him; they were married, her mother" and he."
"Why, yes, I suppose so ... naturally."
There was another silence. Suddenly he turned on her, perplexed.
"Bertha, what is wrong with you tonight?"
They were crossing a little park high up above the city whose lights
lay, shimmering and misty, below. The stillness was obtrusive here. Not
a leaf stirred. There was no one about. They might have been alone upon
some tropic peak.
"I--can't tell you, Frank." Her tone of blended longing and despair
caught at his heart.
Impetuously his arms went around her. "Dear," he said unsteadily. "Dear,
I want you.... Oh, Bertha, I've waited so long! I don't care any more if
you're rich ... I'm going to--you've got to promise...."
She tried to protest, to push him away; but Frank held her close. And,
after a moment, like a tired child's, her head lay quiet on his
shoulder; her arms stole round his neck; she began to weep softly.
* * * * *
The horror came at dawn.
Frank, startled from a late and restless slumber, thought that he was
being shaken or attacked by some intruder. He sprang up, sleepily
bewildered. The room rocked with a quick, sharp, jerking motion that was
strangely terrifying. There was a dull indescribable rumbling,
punctuated by a sound of falling things. A typewriter in one end of the
room went over on the floor. A shaving mug danced on the shelf and fell.
The windows rattled and a picture on the wall swayed drunkenly.
"Damn!" Frank rubbed his eyes. "An earthquake!"
He heard his mother's scream; his father's reassuring answer. Hurriedly