Part 6 out of 8
"I'm more in hopes," persisted Johnny. "I'll bet there are ten thousand men
here, armed and angry, and getting angrier every minute. They could fairly
eat up that lot at the jail."
"They won't," said Keith.
"I'll bet one good man could turn them loose in a minute."
Suddenly Keith's dour taciturnity broke. "You're perfectly right," he
conceded; "but the point is that good men won't lead a rabble. If we're to
have good leaders we must have something for them to lead. If we're to cure
these conditions, we must do things in due order. This cannot be remedied
by mere excitement nor by deeds done under excitement. I have not yet seen
anything that promises either satisfaction or reform."
"What do you propose doing, then?" asked Johnny, his intuitions again
satisfying him that here was the man to tie to.
"Walk about," replied Keith.
They walked about. In the course of the evening they looked in on a dozen
meetings of which they had news--in the Pioneer Club, in rooms over the old
Bella Union, in a saloon off Montgomery Street, at the offices of various
merchants. Keith looked carefully over the personnel of each of these
various meetings, listened a minute or so, and went out. By some of the men
so gathered Johnny was quite impressed, but Keith shook his head.
"These meetings are being held by clubs or cliques," he explained his
disbelief in them. "They influence a certain following, but not a general
following. This must be a general movement or none at all. The right people
haven't taken hold."
About midnight he unexpectedly announced that he was going home and to
bed. Johnny was frankly scandalized,
"I think nothing will happen in this matter," said Keith,
"The time for mob violence has passed. If an attack were now to be made, I
should consider it unfortunate, and should not want to be mixed up in it,
anyway. A mob attack is nothing but a manifestation of sheer lawlessness."
"And you're keen for the dear law, of course," said Johnny with sarcasm.
"There is a difference between mere laws and the law. There is a time--
either here or coming soon--when laws may be broken that justice may be
done. But no popular movement will succeed unless it has behind it the
solemn, essential human law. Good-night."
On this same afternoon of King's assassination Nan Keith, was expecting
Sansome in for tea. Afternoon tea was then an exotic institution,
practically unknown in California society. Ben Sansome was about the only
man of Nan's acquaintance who took it as a matter of course, without either
awkwardness, embarrassment, or ill-timed jest. The day had been fine, and
several times she had regretted her promise as she cast an eye at the glow
over the gilt-edged tops of the western hills. The sunset through the
Golden Gate must to-day be very fine.
And Ben Sansome had failed her! She had made certain little especial
preparations--picked flowers, herself cut the sandwiches thin, put on her
most becoming tea gown. As time passed she became more and more annoyed.
She was disappointed not so much at the absence of Ben Sansome as a person
as at the waste of her efforts.
But at six o'clock, when she had given him up, and was about to change from
her tea gown, he came in, full of apologies, very flustered, and bursting
"King was shot on the street by Casey," he told her, trying not
unsuccessfully for his habitual detached manner. "I stopped to get the news
for you. King is not dead, but probably fatally wounded. Casey is in jail.
There is a great public excitement--a mob is forming. I've been expecting
something of the sort. King has been pretty free with his comments."
At seven o'clock Nan jumped to her feet in a sudden panic.
"Why, I wonder where Milton is!" she cried. "He's never been so late as
"He's probably stayed downtown to follow the course of the excitement.
Naturally he would. He may not get home to supper at all."
Wing Sam announced supper. He was unheeded. Even Gringo, his ears cocked,
watched the door, getting up uneasily, whining, sniffing inquiringly, and
lying down again. At half-past seven Sansome firmly intervened.
"You're going to make yourself ill," he insisted, "if you don't eat
something. I am hungry, anyway, and I'm not going to leave you until he
"Oh, you must be starved! How thoughtless I am!" she cried.
Sansome, who, it must be confessed, had been somewhat chagrined at the
apparent intensity of her anxiety, was, within the next two hours,
considerably reassured. Nan never did things halfway. For the moment she
had forgotten her guest. He was certainly very kind, very thoughtful--as
always--to stay here with her. She must not oppress his spirits. But the
inner tension was terrible. She felt that shortly something must snap. And
after supper, when they had returned to the drawing-room, a queer, low,
growling, distant roar, borne on a chance shift of wind, broke one of her
sentences in the middle.
"What's that?" she cried, but before Sansome had replied, she knew what It
was, the roar of the mob! And Milton was somewhere there!
Suddenly a wave of reaction swept her, of anger. Why was he there? Why
wasn't he at home? Why had he made no attempt to relieve her cruel anxiety?
A messenger--it would have been very simple! And Ben Sansome was so kind--
as always. She turned to him with a new decision.
"I know you are dying to go see what is going on," she said. "You simply
must not stay here any longer on my account. I insist! Indeed, I think I'll
go to bed." But Ben Sansome, his manner becoming almost caressingly
protective, would not listen.
"It isn't safe to leave you alone," he told her. "All the worst elements of
the city will be out. No woman should be left alone in times of such
danger. I should feel most uneasy at leaving you before your husband comes
His words were correct enough, but he managed to convey his opinion that he
was only fulfilling what should have been Keith's first and manifest duty.
She made no reply. The conversation languished and died. They sat in the
lamplight opposite each other, occasionally exchanging a word or so.
Sansome was content and enjoying himself. He conceived that the stars were
fighting for him, and he was enjoying the hour. Nan, a prey alternately to
almost uncontrollable fits of anxiety and flaming resentment, could hardly
About midnight Gringo pricked up his ears and barked sharply. A moment
later Keith came in.
He was evidently dead tired and wholly preoccupied. He hung up his hat
absently. Nan had sprung to her feet.
"Oh, how could you!" she cried, the pent exasperation in her voice. "I've
been so anxious! I didn't know what might have happened!"
"I'm all right," replied Keith briefly. "Sorry you were worried. No chance
to send you word."
His apparent indifference added fuel to Nan's irritation.
"If it hadn't been for Ben, I should have been stark, staring crazy, here
Keith for the first time appeared to notice Sansome's presence. He nodded
at him wearily.
"Mighty good of you," said he. "I appreciate it."
"I thought _some_ man ought to be in the house at a time of such public
excitement," rejoined Sansome significantly.
Keith failed to catch, or elected not to notice, the implication. Nan's
cheeks turned red.
Without further remark Keith walked across to lock the window; returning,
he extinguished a small lamp on the side table. He was tired out, knew he
must be up early, and wanted above everything to get to bed. The hint was
sufficiently obvious. Sansome rose. Nan's flush deepened with
"Well, I'll just run along," said Sansome cheerfully. He did not ask for
news of the evening, nor did Keith volunteer it. Keith nodded at him
briefly and indifferently. He did not mean to be rude, but his wearied mind
was filled to the exclusion of everything else with the significance of
Nan, feeling that she must make amends, followed Sansome into the hall. Her
anxiety for Keith's safety relieved, her whole reaction was indignantly
"I'm sorry to have you go," she said, with a feeling that other
circumstances could not have called out, "I don't know what I'd have done
Sansome's sensitive intuitions thrilled to the feeling.
"Your husband is here to take care of you--now," he murmured. "I must be
off." He took her hand, and bent over her, gazing into her eyes with the
concentration of a professional hypnotist, "Good-night," he said, with a
world of unexpressed meaning. "Try to get some sleep--Nan," He said her
name in a lower tone, almost lingeringly, then turned abruptly and went
Nan stood looking for a moment at the closed door. The effect of his
personality was on her spirit, the mantle of his care for her, his
consideration for her every mood, wrapped her about gratefully.
She found the lights all out, and Keith already half undressed.
"I must say, Milton," she said, "you might have been a little less rude to
Mr. Sansome. It would have only been decent after he had sat up here until
Keith, whose wide eyes would have showed him to be wholly preoccupied with
some inner vision or problem, answered impatiently from the surface of his
"What in the world did I do to Sansome?"
"You didn't do anything, that's the trouble. Do you realize he waited here
over six hours for you to come in?"
"Oh, I guess he'll pull through," said Keith a little contemptuously.
Nan became indignant.
"At least," she retorted, "you ought to be grateful that he stayed to
protect the place!"
"The place was in no danger," said Keith, yawning.
She checked herself, and made a fresh start.
"What's it all about? What's happened? Where have you been?" she asked.
Keith roused himself with an effort.
"I've been a little of everywhere. Lord, I'm tired! There's a mob about
trying to get up nerve to hang Casey. I suppose you've heard that Casey
shot King this afternoon?"
"Yes, I heard that."
"Well, when I saw nothing was going to happen, I came home, though I'm not
sure the trouble is over."
Having said this, Keith fell gratefully to his pillow. Nan was nervous,
wide-awake, curious. She asked a number of questions. Keith answered with
extreme brevity. He was temporarily exhausted. Shortly he fell asleep
between two sentences.
The following morning Keith woke early, slipped to the kitchen where he was
fed by Wing Sam, and was downtown before Nan, who had not so promptly
fallen asleep, had yet stirred. Even at that hour the streets were crowded.
Many--and the majority of these were "considerably tight," or otherwise
looking the worse for wear--had been up all night, unable to tear
themselves away from the fascinating centres of excitement. The majority,
however, had, like Keith, snatched some repose, and now were out eager to
discover what a new day might bring forth.
The morning newspapers had been issued. Each man held a copy of one of them
open at the editorial column, and others tucked away under his arm. Never
had there been such a circulation; and in the case of the _Herald_ never
would so many be sold again. For that ill-starred sheet, mistaking utterly
the times, held boldly along the way of its sympathies. It spoke of the
assassination as an "affray"; held forth violently against the mob spirit
of the evening before; and stated vehemently its opinion that, now that
"Justice is regularly administered" there was no excuse for even the threat
of public violence. If there had been any doubt as to the depth to which
public opinion was at last stirred, the reception of the _Herald's_
editorial would have settled it. Actually, for the moment, indignation
seemed to run more strongly against that sheet than against Casey himself.
Keith glanced over this editorial with a half smile, tossed the paper in
the gutter, and opened the _Alta_ for news. King, still living, had been
removed from the office of the Express Company to a room in the Montgomery
Block. There, attended by his wife, Dr. Beverly Cole, and a whole corps of
volunteer physicians, he was making a fight for life. The bullet had
penetrated his left breast. That was all that was to be reported at
present. Keith glanced at the third page. His eye was caught by this
THE VIGILANCE COMMITTEE
The members of the Vigilance Committee in good standing will please meet at
No. 105-1/2 Sacramento Street, this day, Thursday, 15th instant, at nine
By order of the
COMMITTEE OF THIRTEEN.
While he was still gazing thoughtfully at this Johnny Fairfax, fresh as the
morning, appeared at his elbow.
"Hello, wise man," he greeted him cheerily. "You were a good prophet--and
you got some sleep. I hung around all night, but nothing new was done."
"Look here," said Keith, placing his finger on the notice, "do you suppose
Johnny read the notice.
"Because if this is actually the old Committee of '51, it means business."
"There's one way to find out."
"Go and see," advised Johnny.
Number 105-1/2 Sacramento Street proved to be a big three-storied barnlike
structure that had been built by a short-lived political party called the
Know Nothings. Already the hall was packed to its full capacity, the
entrance ways jammed, and a big crowd had gathered in the streets.
"Fine chance we have here!" observed Johnny ruefully.
They stood well free of the press for a few moments, watching. More men
were coming from all directions. But Johnny was resourceful, and likewise
"Let's prowl around a little," he suggested to his companion.
They prowled to such good purpose that they discovered, at the rear of the
building, opening into a blind alley, a narrow wooden stairway. It was
unguarded and untenanted.
"Here we are," pronounced Johnny.
They ascended it, and immediately found themselves In a small room back of
the stage or speaker's platform, It contained about a score of men. Their
aspect was earnest, serious, grave. Although there was a sufficiency of
chairs, they were all afoot, gathered in a loose group, in whose centre
stood William Coleman, his massive shoulders squared, his large bony, hands
clenched at his side, his florid complexion even more flushed than usual,
his steady eye travelling slowly from one face to another, Again the
strange contradictions in, his appearance struck Keith with the impact of a
distinct shock--the low smoothed hair, the sweeping blue-black moustache,
the vivid colour, and high cheek bones of the typical gambler--the clear
eye, firm mouth, incisive, deliberate speech, the emanation of personality
that inspired confidence. Next him, talking earnestly, stood Clancey
Dempster, a small man, mild of manner, blue eyed, with light, smooth hair,
the last man in the room one would have picked for great firmness and
courage, yet destined to play one of the leading roles in this crisis. The
gigantic merchant, Truett, towered above him, he who had calmly held two
fighting teamsters apart by their collars; and homely, stubborn, honest
Farwell, direct, uncompromising, inspired with tremendous single-minded
earnestness, but tender as a girl to any under dog; and James Dows, rough
and ready, humorous, blasphemous, absolutely direct, endowed with "horse
sense," eccentric, but of fundamentally good judgment: Hossfros of '51; Dr.
Beverly Cole, high spirited, distinguished looking, courtly; the excitable,
active, nervous, talkative, but staunch Tom Smiley, Isaac Blucome whose
signature as "33, Secretary" was to become terrible; fiery little George
Ward, willing--but unable--to whip his weight in wild cats. As Keith
recognized these men, and others of their stamp, he nodded his head
Johnny Fairfax must have caught the same impression, for he leaned across
to whisper to Keith, his eyes shining:
"We've hit it!"
Their entrance had passed unnoticed in the absorption of discussion.
Coleman was speaking, evidently in final decision.
"It is a serious business," said he. "It is no child's play. It may prove
very serious. We may get through quickly, so safely, or we may so involve
ourselves as never to get through."
"The issue is not of choice, but of expediency," urged Dempster. "Shall we
have vigilance with order or a mob with anarchy?"
Coleman pondered a moment, then threw up his head.
"On two conditions I will accept the responsibility--absolute obedience,
Without waiting for a reply to this he threw open a door, and followed by
the others, stepped out on the platform. A roar greeted their appearance.
Johnny and Keith, remaining modestly in the background, lingered near the
The hall was filled to its utmost capacity. Every inch of floor space was
occupied, and men perched on sills, clung to beams. Coleman raised his hand
and obtained an immediate dead silence.
"In view of the miscarriage of justice in the courts," he announced
briefly, "it has been thought expedient to revive the Vigilance Committee.
An Executive Council was chosen by a representative of the whole body. I
have been asked to take charge. I will do so, but must stipulate that I am
to be free to choose the first council myself. Is that agreed?"
A roar of assent answered him.
"Very well, gentlemen. I shall request you to vacate the hall. In a short
time the books will be open for enrollment."
He turned and reentered the anteroom followed by the others. In so doing he
came face to face with the intruders.
"This is not your place, gentlemen," he told them courteously.
They retired down the narrow back stairs and joined the huge throng that
filled the streets, waiting patiently and quietly, its eyes fixed on the
closed doors of the hall. In a remarkably short time these doors were
thrown open. Those nearest surged forward. Inside the passage were twelve
men, later to be known as the Executive Committee. These held back the
rush, admitting but one man at a time. The crowd immediately caught the
idea. There was absolutely no excitement. Every man was grimly in earnest.
Cries of "Order! Order! Line up!" came from different parts of the throng.
A rough quadruple queue was formed extending down the street. There was no
talk nor smiles, none of the usual rough joking. Each waited his turn
Johnny Fairfax and Keith, owing to the chance that they had, entered the
crowd from the nearby alley and found themselves close to the head of the
line. As they neared the entrance, and so could hear what was there going
on, they found that each applicant was being closely scrutinized and
interrogated. The great majority passed this ordeal, but several men were
peremtorily turned back with a warning not to try again.
Keith's turn came. He was conscious of the scrutiny of many eyes; he heard
the word "pass" pronounced by some one in the background, and climbed the
stairs. At the top he was directed to an anteroom at the left. Here behind
a table sat Coleman, Dempster, and a third man unknown to him. To them he
repeated the words of an oath of secrecy, and then was passed into another
room where Isaac Bluxome sat behind a ledger. In this he wrote his name.
"Your number is 178," said Bluxome to him, "By that number, and not by your
name, you are henceforth to be known here. Never use names, always their
numbers, in referring to other members."
Thence Keith was directed to the main hall where were those already
admitted. These were gathered in groups discussing the situation. In a
moment Johnny Fairfax joined him.
"179, I am," said Johnny. His eyes swept the hall. "Not much mob spirit
about this; it looks like business."
They hung around for an hour. The hall slowly filled. Finally, learning
that nothing further was to be done until the enrollment had finished, they
wandered out again into the street. The unbroken lines of applicants
extended as far down the street as the eye could see.
All that day the applicants, orderly and grim with purpose, were passed
through in line. By mid-day it was seen that the Know-Nothing Hall was
going to be too small for the meeting that would later take place.
Therefore, a move was made to the Turnverein Hall. After enrolling, no man
departed from the vicinity for long. Short absences for hastily snatched
meals were followed by hurried returns lest something be missed. From time
to time reports were circulated as to the activities of the Executive
Committee, which had been in continuous session since its appointment. Thus
it was said that an Examining Committee had been appointed to scrutinize
the applicants; that the members of the Executive Committee had been raised
to twenty-six, that Oscar Smith had been appointed chief of police. The
latter rumour was immediately verified by the energetic activities of that
able citizen. He, or his messengers, darted here and there searching for
individuals wanted as doorkeepers, guards, or police officers. His
regulations also began to be felt. By evening only registered members of
the committee were allowed on the floor of the hall, even the expostulating
reporters being gently but firmly ejected.
Nobody manifested the least excitement or impatience. At eight o'clock
Coleman came out of one of the side rooms, and, mounting a table, called
"A military organization is deemed necessary," he said crisply. "Numbers
one to one hundred will please assemble in the southwest corner of the
room; numbers one hundred and one to two hundred will take the first
window; numbers two hundred and one to three hundred the second window, and
so on." He hesitated and looked over the assembly. "_Que les Francais, se
mettent au centre_," he ended.
This command in a foreign language was made necessary by the extraordinary
number of Frenchmen who had first answered the call of gold in the El
Dorado of '49; and then with equal enthusiasm responded to this demand for
Coleman waited while the multitude shifted here and there. When the
component parts had again come to rest he made his next announcement:
"Now each company will elect its own officers, but those officers are
subject to the orders of the Executive Committee."
Numbers one hundred and one to two hundred inclusive, the company in which
Keith and Johnny Fairfax found themselves, were for the most part strangers
to one another, They exchanged glances, hesitating as to how to begin. Then
a small, spectacled, man spoke up.
"Gentlemen," said he, "we must get organized as rapidly as possible, Mr,
Coleman is waiting. We need for a leader a man who is experienced in active
life. I nominate John Fairfax as captain of this company."
Johnny gasped and turned red.
"Who's your little friend?" Keith whispered.
"Never saw him before in my life," replied Johnny.
The announcement was received with indecision. Nobody immediately replied
or commented aloud on the nomination, but men were asking each other in
undertones. The little spectacled man saw this, and spoke up again:
"Perhaps I should say that Mr. Fairfax is better known as Diamond Jack."
Faces cleared, heads nodded. A murmur of recognition replaced the puzzled
frowning, "Good man," "The express rider," "Danny Randall's man," they told
"I do not know Mr. Fairfax," the spectacled man was saying, "but I saw his
name just before mine on the register."
"This is Fairfax," said Keith, thrusting the reluctant Johnny forward.
He was elected to the post by acclamation.
"Nominations for a lieutenant?" suggested the spectacled man, but Keith
"If you all have as much confidence in Mr. Fairfax as I have," said he,
"perhaps you'll give him free hand and let him pick his own officers."
This seemed a good idea, and was instantly adopted.
"Well, I thank you, gentlemen," said Johnny, "and we'll do our best to
become efficient. Report your names and addresses to this gentleman here--"
"Willey," supplied the little man.
"We shall drill to-morrow at eight sharp. Bring whatever weapons----"
But Coleman was again speaking and on this very subject:
"The committee have arranged with George Law," he was saying, "to supply or
hire muskets to the number of several thousands. These weapons will be at
this hall to-morrow morning early. Company captains can then make their
A murmur of inquiry swept the hall. "George Law? Where did _he_ get several
thousand muskets?" And the counter current of information making its way
slowly--they were only flintlocks, perfectly efficient though, had
bayonets--superseded government arms--brought out some time ago by Law to
arm some mysterious filibustering expedition that had fizzled.
In this manner, without confusion, an organization of two thousand men was
formed, sixteen military companies officered and armed.
Shortly after Coleman dismissed the meeting. Its members dispersed to their
homes. Absolute quiet descended on the city, which slept under the moon.
To the thoughtful bystander all this preparation had its significance and
its portent, which became the stronger when he contemplated the
dispositions of the Law and Order party. The latter had been not less
vigorous, and its strength could not be doubted. The same day that marked
the organization of the Vigilantes saw the regular police force largely
increased. In addition, the sheriff issued thousands of summonses to
citizens, calling on them for service on a _posse_. These were in due form
of the law. To refuse them meant to put one's self outside the law. A great
many of them were responded to, for this reason only, by men not wholly in
sympathy with either side. Once the oath was administered, these new
deputies were confronted by the choice between perjury and service. To be
sure the issuance of these summonses forced many of the neutral minded into
the ranks of the Vigilantes. The refusal to act placed them on the wrong
side of the law; and they felt that joining a party pledged to what
practically amounted to civil war was only a short step farther. The
various military companies were mustered, reminded of their oaths, called
upon solemnly to fulfil their sworn duty, and marched to various strategic
points about the jail and elsewhere. Parenthetically, their every
appearance on the streets was well hissed by the populace. The governor was
informally notified of a state of insurrection, and requested to send in
the State militia. By evening all the forces of organized society were
under arms. The leaders of the Law and Order party were jubilant. Their
position appeared to be impregnable. They felt that back of them was all
the weight of constituted authority, reaching, if need be, to the Federal
Government at Washington. Opposed to them was lawlessness. Lawlessness had
occasionally become dignified revolution, to be sure, but only when a race
took its stand on a great issue; never when a handful espoused a local
quarrel. Civil war it might be; but civil war, the wise politicians argued,
must spread to become effective; and how could a civil war based on the
shooting of an obscure editor in a three-year-old frontier town spread
anywhere? Especially such an editor as James King of William.
For King had made many bitter enemies. In attacking individual members of a
class he had often unreasonably antagonized the whole class. Thus he had
justly castigated the _Times_ and other venal newspapers; but in so doing
had by his too general statements drawn the fire of every other journal in
town. He had with entire reason attacked a certain scalawag of a Roman
Catholic priest--a man the church itself must soon have taken in hand--but
had somehow managed to offend all Roman Catholics in doing so; likewise,
there could be no question that his bitter scorn for "the chivalry" was
well justified, but the manner of its expression offended also the decent
Southerners. And all these people saw the Vigilantes, not as a protest
against a condition that had become intolerable, but as the personal
champions of King. The enemies of King, many of them worthy citizens, quite
out of sympathy with the present methods of administering the law, became
the enemies of the Vigilantes.
No wonder the Law and Order party felt no uneasiness. They did not
underestimate the determination of their opponents. It was felt that
fighting, severe fighting, was perhaps inevitable. The Law and Order party
loved fighting. They had chosen as their commander William Tecumseh
Sherman, later to gain his fame as a great soldier. His greatness in a
military capacity seems to have been exceeded only by his inability to
remember facts proved elsewhere by original historical documents. This is
the only possible explanation for the hash of misstatements comprising
those chapters in his "Memoirs" dealing with this time. In writing them the
worthy general evidently forgot that original documents existed, or that
statements concerning historical events can often be checked.
And as a final source of satisfaction, the Vigilantes had placed themselves
on record. Every man could be apprehended and made to feel the weight of
the law. A mob is irresponsible and anonymous. These fools had written down
their names in books!
Now a new element was injected into the situation in the person of the
governor of the State, one J. Neely Johnson, a politician who would long
since have been utterly forgotten had not his unlucky star risen just at
this unlucky time. A more unfortunate man for a crisis it would have been
difficult to find. His whole life had been one of trimming; he had made his
way by trimming; he had gained the governor's chair by yielding to the
opinions of others. This training combined perfectly with the natural
disposition of a chameleon. He was, or became, a sincere trimmer, taking
his colour and his temporary beliefs from those with whom he happened to
be. His judgment often stuck at trifles, and his opinions were quickly
heated but as quickly cooled. His private morals were none of the best,
which gave certain men an added hold.
On receipt of the message sent by the Law and Order party--but not, be it
noted, by the proper authorities--requesting the State militia, Governor
Johnson came down post-haste from Sacramento. Immediately on arriving in
the city he sent word to Coleman requesting an interview. Coleman at once
followed the messenger to the Continental Hotel. He was shown to a private
room where he found Johnson pacing up and down alone. Coleman bowed gravely
in response to the governor's airy greeting. Johnson sat down, offered
cigars, made every effort to appear amiable and conciliatory.
"This is bad; this is bad, Coleman," he began the interview. "What is it
"Peace," replied Coleman, "and if possible without a struggle."
"That's all very well," said Johnson pettishly, "to talk about peace with
an army of insurrection newly raised. But what is it you actually wish to
Coleman looked at him steadily, then leaned forward.
"The law is crippled," he told the governor in measured tones. "We want
merely to accomplish what the crippled law should do but cannot. This done,
we will gladly retire. Now, Governor, you have been asked by the mayor, and
certain others, to bring out the militia and crush this movement. I assure
you, it cannot be done; and if you attempt it, it will cause you and us
great trouble. Do as Governor McDougall did in '51. See in this movement
what he saw in that: a local movement for a local reform, in which the
State is not concerned. We are not a mob; we demand no overthrow of
institutions. We ask not a single court to adjourn; we ask not a single
officer to vacate his position; we demand only the enforcement of the law--
which, after all, we have made!" He extended his strong fist and laid it on
the table. "If you deem it the conscientious duty of your office to
discountenance these proceedings--as perhaps you well may--then let your
opposition be in appearance only. In your heart you must know the necessity
of this measure; you know the standing of the men managing it, You know
that this is no mob, no distempered faction. It is San Francisco herself
who speaks! Let California stand aside; let her leave us to our shame and
sorrow; for, as God lives, we will cleanse this city of her corruption or
perish with her! So we have sworn!"
This long speech, delivered with the solemnity of absolute conviction,
profoundly impressed Johnson's volatile nature.
"But," he objected uncertainly, "Coleman, you must understand! This is
against the law--and I have sworn to uphold the law!"
"That is a matter for your own conscience," rejoined Coleman a little
impatiently. "Issue your proclamation, if you feel that the dignity of the
law may be best maintained by frowning on justice--but confine yourself to
that! Leave us alone in our righteous purposes!"
Johnson, his chameleon soul aglow with enthusiasm, leaped to his feet and
seized Coleman's two hands. In his eye stood a tear.
"Sir," he cried, "go on with your work! Let it be done as speedily as
possible! You have my best wishes!"
Coleman did not relax his formal gravity.
"I am glad you feel that way, and that we understand each other," he
contented himself with saying.
The heroic moment past, Johnson's restless mind began to glance among
"But hasten the undertaking as much as you can," he begged. "The opposition
is stronger than you suppose. The pressure on me is going to be terrible.
What about the prisoners in the jail?" asked Johnson anxiously. "What is
your immediate plan?"
"That is in the hands of the committee," evaded Coleman.
He left the governor, again pacing up and down.
Coleman returned at once to the hall to resume his interrupted labours with
the committee. The results of his conference with the governor seemed very
"We can now go ahead with free minds," said Clancey Dempster.
The business was astonishingly varied in scope. Charles Doane--not to be
confused with Duane, the ex-fire chief--was appointed military commander-
in-chief; Colonel Johns, captain of artillery; Olney was given the task of
guarding the jail from the outside "with a force numerous enough to prevent
escape." After considerable discussion Aaron Burns was made head of a
civilian committee to take charge of all prisoners. It was moved and
carried that no city or county official should be admitted to membership, a
striking commentary on the disesteem in which such men were held. Permanent
headquarters were arranged for; committees appointed for the solicitation
of funds. A dozen other matters of similar detail were taken up,
intelligently discussed, and provided for with the celerity of men trained
in crises of business or life. At length it was moved the "committee, as a
body, shall visit the county jail at such time as the Executive Committee
might direct; and take thence James P. Casey and Charles Cora, give them a
fair trial, and administer such punishment as justice shall demand."
This was the real business, for the transaction of which all these lesser
businesses had been prepared. A slight pause followed its introduction, as
though each member present were savouring the significance of the moment.
"Are you ready for the question?" asked Coleman in grave tones. "Those in
"Aye," came the instant response from every man present.
A messenger opened the door to announce that Governor Johnson was in the
anteroom requesting speech with Coleman. The latter, handing his gavel to
Dempster, immediately answered the summons.
He found Johnson, accompanied by Sherman, Garrison, and two strangers,
lounging in the anteroom. The governor sprawled in a chair, his hat pulled
over his eyes, a cigar in the corner of his mouth. His companions arose and
bowed gravely as Coleman entered the room, but he remained seated, nodding
at Coleman with an air of cavalier bravado that was plainly intended to
conceal his nervousness. Without waiting for the exchange of spoken
greetings, he burst out:
"We have come to ask what you intend to do," he demanded truculently of
Coleman, as though he had never seen or talked to him before.
Coleman stared at him for an instant, completely surprised; read him; set
his mouth grimly.
"Outrages are of constant occurrence," he recited briefly; "our suffrages
are profaned, our fellow-citizens shot down in the street, our courts
afford us no redress, we will endure it no longer."
"I agree with you as to the grievances," rejoined the governor, almost as
though reciting a learned lesson; "but I think the courts are the proper
remedy. The judges are good men, and there is no necessity for the people
to turn themselves into a mob and obstruct the execution of the laws."
A flush mounted Coleman's cheek.
"Sir!" he cried indignantly, "this is no mob! You know this is no mob!"
Johnson looked at him from between half-closed lids, as though from a great
"The opposition is stronger than you imagine," he said. "There is danger to
the city--great danger of bloodshed--which should be prevented if
possible." He paused, focussed his whole attention on Coleman, and went on
with deliberate significance: _"It may be necessary to bring out all the
force at my command._ I strongly advise you to leave the case of Casey to
the courts; and I pledge myself to his fair and speedy trial."
Although realizing fully what a formidable element this change of front
threw into the situation, Coleman's expression did not change: Sherman,
watching him closely, could not see that his eyes even flickered,
"That will not satisfy the people," he told the governor, coldly and
formally. "However they might consider your intention, they will doubt your
ability to keep such a promise," He was going to say more, but checked,
himself abruptly. The silent but intent attitude of the governor's four
companions had struck his attention. "They are present as witnesses!" he
told himself. Aloud he said, "Sir, I will report your remarks to my
associates," Coleman wanted witnesses, too.
He returned to the committee, interrupting the proceedings,
"The governor has flopped over the fence." he informed them. "He is out
there with Sherman and some others threatening to bring in the State troops
unless we turn Casey over to the courts and disband. He personally
guarantees a fair and speedy trial."
"What did you tell him?" demanded Hossfros.
"I haven't told him anything. It suddenly occurred to me that I ought to
have witnesses for my side of the conversation, What do you think?"
"Same as I've always thought," replied Ward.
A murmur of assent greeted this.
After a remarkably brief discussion, considering the delicacy of the
crisis, Coleman with others returned to the anteroom.
"Sorry to have kept you waiting," he said blandly, "but some consideration
of the question was necessary. Let us understand each other clearly. As I
understand your proposal, it is that, if we make no move, you guarantee no
escape, immediate trial, and instant execution?"
"That is it," agreed Johnson, after a moment's focussing of his mind. For
the first time it became evident to Coleman that the man had a trifle too
"We doubt your ability to do this," went on Coleman, "but we are ready to
meet you halfway. This is what we will promise: we will take no steps
without first giving you notice. But in return we insist that ten men of
our own selection shall be added to the sheriff's force within the jail."
"And," added Isaac Bluxome, "that they be fed and kept and treated well.
That's part of the bargain."
"Why, that sounds fair and reasonable, gentlemen!" the governor cried
heartily. "I see no objection to that! I was sure we could come to an
He was suddenly all cordiality, all smiles, shaking each man's hand in
turn. His companions retained their manner of glacial formality, however.
He shortly withdrew, full of spirits, very much relieved at the lifting of
what seemed to him a cloud of unjust oppression for a poor official who
merely wanted peace. The real situation, evident enough to the keener
brains on either side, was veiled to him. For poor Johnson had thus far
stepped from one blunder into another. If Coleman were completely outside
the law, then he, as an executive of the law, had no business treating or
making agreements with him at all. Furthermore, as executive of the State,
he had no legal right to interfere with city affairs unless formally
summoned by the authorities--a procedure that had not been adopted. And to
cap it all, he had for the second time treated with "rebels" and to their
advantage. For, as the astute Coleman well knew, the final agreement was
all to the benefit of the committee. They gained the right to place a
personal guard over the prisoners; they gave, practically, only a promise
to withdraw that guard before attacking the jail--a procedure eminently
sensible if they cared anything for the guard.
This little weakness was immediately and vigorously pointed out to Johnson
when he returned triumphantly to his hotel. Keen minds were plenty in the
Law and Order party. Johnson was crestfallen. Like all men of little
calibre elevated by expediency to high office, he wanted above everything
to have peace, to leave things as they were, to avoid friction.
"Upon my word, gentlemen!" cried the governor, dismayed, "I did it for the
best; and I assure you I am still convinced that this agreement--entered
into in all faith, and sincerity----"
"Bosh!" boomed Judge Caldwell.
"I beg your pardon!" said Johnson, flushing.
"I said 'bosh,'" repeated the judge, bringing the point of his cane against
the floor. "You've muddied it, as every sensible man can see. Best thing is
to put a bold face on it. Take it for granted that the committee has
promised to surrender all right of action, and that they have promised
definitely to leave the case to the courts."
"I hardly think they intended that," murmured Johnson.
"Meant!" snorted the judge. "The words will bear that interpretation, won't
they? Who cares what they meant!"
The following morning this version was industriously passed about. When
Coleman heard of it he pulled his long moustache,
"The time has come," he said with decision. "After that, it is either
ourselves or a mob."
He went immediately to the hall.
"Call Olney," he told a messenger. The head of the guard was soon before
"Olney," said his chief, "will you accept the command of a picked company
in an important but somewhat perilous movement?"
Olney's tall form stiffened with pleasure.
"I will--with thanks!"
"Well, then, pick out from all the forces, of whatever companies, sixty
men. Accept none but men--of the very highest bravery. Let them know that
they are chosen for the post of danger, which is the post of honour, and
permit none to serve who does not so esteem it."
Olney saluted, and went at once to the main floor, which, for drilling
purposes, was shared by four companies. He stood still until his eye fell
on Johnny Fairfax--him he called aside.
"You can get the whole sixty right here if you want to," Johnny told him.
"But if you want to distribute things----"
"I do," said Olney.
"Then I'd take Keith, Carter, that teamster McGlynn, and Salisbury."
Together they went the rounds of the impromptu armouries, going carefully
over the rolls, picking a man here and there. By eight o'clock the sixty,
informed, equipped, and ready, were gathered at the hall. Olney dismissed
all others, and set himself to drilling his picked body.
"I don't care whether you can do 'shoulder arms' or not," he said, "but
you've got to learn simple evolutions so I can handle you. And you must
learn one another's faces. Now, come on!"
At two o'clock in the morning he expressed himself as satisfied. From the
stock of blankets with which the headquarters were already provided they
selected, bedding, and turned in on the floor. At six o'clock Olney began
to send out detachments for breakfast.
"Feed up," he advised them. "I don't know what this is all about, but it
pays to eat well."
By eight o'clock every man was in his place, lined up to rigid attention as
Coleman entered the building.
"There they are!" said Olney proudly. "Every man of them of good, tough
courage, and you can handle them as well as any old soldiers!"
Other men came into the hall, some of them in ranks, as they had fallen in
at their own company headquarters outside, others singly or in groups.
Doorkeepers prevented all exit; once a man was in, he was not permitted to
go out. Some of the leaders and captains, among whom were Doane, Olney, and
Talbot Ward, were summoned to Coleman's room. Shortly they emerged, and
circulated through the hall giving to each captain of a company detailed
and explicit directions. Each was instructed as to what hour he and his
command were to start; from what given point; along exactly what route; and
at exactly what time he was to arrive at another given point--not a moment
sooner or later. Each was ignorant as to the instructions given the others.
Never was a plan better laid out for concerted action, and probably never
before had such a plan been so well carried out. Each captain listened
attentively, returned to head his company, thoughtful with responsibility.
Olney gave the orders to his picked, company in person. They were told to
leave their muskets. Armed only with pistols, they were to make their way
by different routes to the jail.
Keith, and Johnny Fairfax started out together, "This is a mistake, as far
as I am concerned," observed Keith to his companion. "I can't shoot a
pistol. I ought to be in the rank and file, not with this picked lot. They
chose me merely because I was your friend."
"You can make a noise, anyway," replied Johnny, whose eyes were alight with
excitement. "I wonder what's up? This looks like business! I wouldn't miss
it for a million dollars!"
Apparently the general populace had no inkling that anything was forward.
The streets were much as usual except that an inordinate amount of street-
corner discussion seemed to be going on; but that in view of the
circumstances was normal. A broad-beamed Irish woman, under full sail alone
accosted them. Her face Keith vaguely recognized, but he could not have
told where he had seen it.
"I hear Mr. King, God rest him, is better," she said. "And what are the men
going to do with that villain, Casey? If the men don't hang him, the women
A little farther Keith stopped short at sight of two men hurrying by.
"Hold on, Watkins!" he called.
The four of them drew aside a little, out of the way.
"Weren't you in the jail guard?" asked Keith.
"How does it happen you're outside?"
"The committee sent notice that the truce was over."
Johnny uttered an exultant yell, which he cut short shamefacedly when a
dozen passersby looked around.
It happened on this day that Nan Keith had refused an invitation to ride
with Ben Sansome, but had agreed as a compromise to give him a cup of tea
late in the afternoon. Nan's mood was latterly becoming more and more
restless. It was an unconscious reflection of the times, unconscious
because she had no real conception of what was going on. In obedience to
Keith's positively expressed request she had kept away from the downtown
districts, leaving the necessary marketing to Wing Sam. For the moment, as
has been explained, her points of touch with society were limited. It
happened that before the trouble began the Keiths had been subscribers to
the Bulletin and the Herald, and these two journals continued to be
delivered. Neither of them gave her much idea of what was really going on.
For a moment her imagination was touched by the blank space of white paper
the Bulletin left where King's editorials had usually been printed, but
Thomas King's subsequent violence had repelled her. The Herald, after
rashly treating the "affray" as a street brawl, lost hundreds of
subscribers and most of its advertising. It shrunk to a sheet a quarter of
its usual size. Naturally, its editor, John Nugent, was the more solidly
and bitterly aligned with the Law and Order party. The true importance of
the revolt, either as an ethical movement or merely as regards its
physical size, did not get to Nan at all. She knew the time was one of
turmoils and excitements. She believed the city in danger of mobs. Her
attitude might be described as a mixture of fastidious disapproval and a
About the middle of the afternoon Mrs. Sherwood came up the front walk and
rang the bell. Nan, sitting behind lace curtains, was impressed by her air
of controlled excitement. Mrs. Sherwood hurried. She hurried gracefully,
to be sure, and with a reminiscence of her usual feline indolence; but she
hurried, nevertheless. Therefore, Nan herself answered the bell, instead
of awaiting the deliberate Wing Sam.
"My dear," cried Mrs. Sherwood, "get your mantle, and come with me.
There's something going to happen-something big!"
She refused to answer Nan's questions.
"You'll see," was all the reply she vouchsafed. "Hurry!"
They crossed by the new graded streets where the sand hills had been, and
soon found themselves on the low elevations above the county jail. Mrs.
Sherwood led the way to the porch of a onestory wooden house that appeared
to be unoccupied.
"This is fine!" she said with satisfaction.
The jail was just below them, and they looked directly across the open
square in front of it and the convergence of two streets. The jail was
buzzing like a hive: men were coming and going busily, running away as
though on errands, or darting in through the open door. Armed men were
taking their places on the flat roof.
In contrast to this one little spot of excited activity, the rest of the
scene was almost superlatively peaceful. People were drifting in from all
the side streets, but they were sauntering slowly, as though without
particular interest; they might have been going to or coming from church.
A warm, basking, Sunday feel was in the sunshine. There was not the
faintest breeze. Distant sounds carried clearly, as the barking of a dog--
it might have been Gringo shut up at home--or the crowing of a distant
cock. From the square below arose the murmur of a multitude talking. The
groups of people increased in frequency, in numbers. Black forms began to
appear on roof tops all about; white faces at windows. It would have been
impossible to say when the scattered groups became a crowd; when the side
of the square filled; when the converging streets became black with
closely packed people; when the windows and doors and balconies, the
copings and railings, the slopes of the hills were all occupied, but so it
was. Before she fairly realized that many were gathering, Nan looked down
on twenty thousand people. They took their positions quietly, and waited.
There was no shouting, no demonstration, so little talking that the low
murmur never rendered inaudible the barking of the dog or the crowing of
the distant cock. The doors of the jail had closed. Men ceased going in
and out. The armed forces on the roof were increased.
Nan had left off asking questions of Mrs. Sherwood, who answered none. The
feeling of tense expectation filled her also. What was forward? Was this a
mob? Why were these people gathered? Somehow they gave her the impression
that they, too, like Mrs. Sherwood and herself, were waiting to see.
After a long time she saw the closely packed crowd down the vista of one
of the converging streets move in the agitation of some disturbance. A
moment later the sun caught files of bayonets. At the same instant the
same thing happened at the end of the other converging street. The armed
columns came steadily forward, the people giving way. Their men were
dressed in sober citizens' clothes. The shining steel of the bayonets
furnished the only touch of uniform. Quietly and steadily they came
forward, the snake of steel undulating and twisting like a living thing.
The two columns reached the convergence of the street together. As they
entered the square before the jail, a third and fourth column debouched
from side streets, and others deployed into view on the hills behind. The
timing was perfect. One minute the prospect was empty of all but
spectators, the next it was filled with grim and silent armed men.
Near the two women and among chance spectators on the piazza of the
deserted house a well-known character of the times leaned against one of
the pillars. This was Colonel Gift. Our chronicler, who has an eye for the
telling phrase, describes him as "a tall, lank, empty-bowelled, tobacco-
spurting Southerner, with eyes like burning black balls, who could talk a
company of listeners into an insane asylum quicker than any man in
California, and whose blasphemy could not be equalled, either in quantity
or quality, by the most profane of any age or nation." In this crisis
Colonel Gift's sympathies may be guessed. He watched the scene below him
with a sardonic eye. As the armed columns wheeled into place and stood at
attention, he turned to a man standing near.
"I tell you, stranger," said he, "when you see those damned psalm-singing
Yankees turn out of their churches, shoulder their guns, and march away of
a Sunday, you may know that hell is going to crack shortly!"
Mrs. Sherwood turned an amused eye in his direction. The colonel, for the
first time becoming aware of her presence, swept off his black slouch hat
and apologized profusely for the "damn."
The armed men stood rigid, four deep all around the square. Behind them
the masses of the people watched. Even the murmur died. Again everybody
Now, at a command, the ranks fell apart and from the side street marched
the sixty men chosen by Olney dragging a field gun at the end of a rope.
Their preliminary task of watching the jail for a possible escape
finished, they had been again gathered. With beautiful military precision
they wheeled and came to rest facing the frowning walls of the jail, the
cannon pointed at the door.
Nan gasped sharply, and seized Mrs. Sherwood's arm with both hands. She
had recognized Keith standing by the right wheel of the cannon. He was
looking straight ahead, and the expression on his face was one she had
never seen there before. Suddenly something swelled up within her breast
and choked her. The tears rushed to her eyes.
Quite deliberately, each motion in plain sight, the cannon was loaded with
powder and ball. A man lit a slow match, blew it painstakingly to a glow,
then took his position at the breech. The slight innumerable sounds of
these activities died. The bustle of men moving imperceptibly fell. Not
even the coughing and sneezing usual to a gathering of people paying
attention was heard, for the intense interest inhibited these nervous
symptoms. Probably never have twenty thousand people, gathered in one
place, made their presence so little evident. A deep, solemn stillness
brooded over them. The spring sun lay warm and grateful on men's
shoulders; the doves and birds, the distant dogs and roosters, cooed and
twittered, barked and crowed.
Nothing happened for full ten minutes. The picked men stood rigid by the
gun in the middle of the square; the slow match burned sleepily, a tiny
thread of smoke rising in the still air; the sunlight gleamed from the
ranks of bayonets; the vast multitude held its breath, the walls of the
jail remained blank and inscrutable.
Then a man on horseback was seen pushing his way through the crowd. He rode
directly up to the jail door, on which he rapped thrice with the handle of
his riding whip. Against the silence these taps, but gently delivered,
sounded sharp and staccato. After a moment the wicket opened. The rider,
without dismounting, handed through it a note; then, with a superb display
of the old-fashioned horsemanship, backed his horse half the length of the
square where he, too, came to rest.
"Who is he?" whispered Nan. Why she whispered she could not have told.
"Charles Doane," answered Mrs. Sherwood, in the same voice.
Another commotion down the street. Again the ranks parted and closed again,
this time to admit three carriages driven rapidly. As they came to a stop
the muskets all around the square leaped to the "present." So disconcerting
was this sudden slap and rattle of arms after the tenseness of the last
half hour, that men dodged back as though from a blow. With admirable
precision, Olney's men, obeying a series of commands, moved forward from
the gun to form a hollow square around the carriages. Only the man with the
burning slow match was left standing by the breech.
From the carriages then descended Coleman, Truett, Talbot Ward, Smiley, and
two other men whom neither Nan nor Mrs. Sherwood recognized. Amid the dead
silence they walked directly to the jail door, Olney's Sixty breaking the
square and deploying close at their heels. A low colloquy through the
wicket now took place. At length the door swung slowly open. The committee
entered. The door swung shut after them. Again the people waited, but now
once more arose the murmur of low-toned conversation.
Up to this day Casey had been very content with his situation. His quarters
were the best the place afforded, and they had been made more comfortable.
Scores of friends had visited him, hailing him as their champion. He had
been made to feel quite a hero. To be sure it was a nuisance to be so
confined; but when he shot King, he had anticipated undergoing some
inconvenience. It was a price to pay. He understood that there was some
public excitement, and that it was well to lie low for a little until that
had died down. The momentary annoyance would be more than offset by later
prestige. Casey did not in the least fear the courts. He had before his
eyes too many reassuring examples. His friends were rallying nobly to his
defence. Over the wines and cigars, with which he was liberally supplied,
they boasted of their strength and their dispositions--the whole police
force of the city, the militia companies sworn, to act in just such
emergencies, hundreds of volunteers, if necessary the whole power of the
State of California called to put down this affronting of duly constituted
But this Sunday morning Casey was uneasy. There seemed to be much
whispering in corners, much bustling to and fro. He paced back and forth,
fretting, interrogating those about him. But they could or would tell him
little--there was trouble;--and they fussed away, leaving Casey alone. As a
matter of fact, the withdrawal of the committee's guard of ten, and the
formal notice that the truce was thus promptly ended, had caught the Law
and Order party unprepared. With five hours' notice--or indeed by next day,
even were no notice given--the jail would have been impregnably defended.
The sudden move of the committee won; as prompt, decisive moves will.
The bustling of the people in the jail suddenly died. Casey heard no
shuffle of feet, no whisper of conversation. The building might have been
empty save for himself. But he did hear outside the steady rhythmic tramp
Sheriff Scannell stood before him, the Vigilantes' written communication in
his hand. Casey, looking up from the bed on which he had fallen in sudden
shrinking, saw on his face an expression that made him cower. For the
first time realization came to him of the straits he was in. His vivid
Irish imagination leaped instantaneously from the complacence of absolute
safety to the depths of terror. He sprang to his feet.
"You aren't going to betray me! You aren't going to give me up!" he cried,
wringing his hands.
"James," replied' Scannell solemnly, "there are three thousand armed men
coming for you, and I have not now thirty supporters around the jail."
"Not thirty!" cried. Casey, astonished. For a moment he appeared crushed;
then leaped to his feet flourishing a long knife he had drawn from his
boot. "I'll, not be taken from this place alive!" he shrieked, beside
himself with hysteria. "Where are all you brave fellows who were going to
see me through this?"
Scannell looked at him sadly. In the pause came a sharp knocking at the
door of the jail. The sheriff turned away. A moment later Casey, listening
intently, heard the door open and close, heard the sound of talking. He
fairly darted to his table, scrawled a paper, and called to attract
attention. Marshal North, answered the summons.
"Give this to them--to the Vigilantes," urged Casey, thrusting the paper
into his hands. North glanced through the note.
TO THE VIGILANT COMMITTEE. Gentlemen: I am willing to go before you if you
will let me speak but ten minutes. I do not wish the blood of any man upon
But after North had gone to deliver this, Casey again sprang to his feet,
again flourished his bowie knife, again ramped up and down, again swore he
would never be taken alive. A deputy passed the door. Casey's demeanour
"Tell them," he begged this man earnestly; "tell them if two respectable
citizens will promise me gentlemanly treatment, I'll go peaceably! I will
not be dragged through the streets like a dog! If they will give me a fair
trial and allow me to summon my witnesses, I'll yield!"
And the deputy left him pacing up and down, waving his knife, muttering
wildly to, himself.
On entering the jail door Coleman and his companions bowed formally to the
"We have come for the prisoner, Casey," said Coleman. "We ask that he be
peaceably delivered us handcuffed, at the door, immediately."
"Under existing circumstances," replied Scannell, "I shall make no
resistance. The prison and its contents are yours."
But Truett interrupted pointedly:
"We want only the man Casey, at present," he said. "For the rest we hold
you strictly accountable."
Scannell bowed without reply. North and the deputy came in succession to
deliver Casey's messages, and to report his apparent determination. The
committee offered no comment. They penetrated to the ulterior of the jail.
Many men, apparently unarmed, idling about as though merely spectators,
looked at them curiously as they passed. Casey heard them, coming and
sprang back from the door, holding his long knife dramatically poised.
Coleman walked directly to the door, where he stopped, looking Casey coldly
in the eye. The seconds, passed. Neither man stirred. At the end of a full
minute Coleman said sharply:
"Lay down that knife!"
As though his incisive tones had broken the spell, Casey moved. He looked
wildly to right and to left; then flung the knife from him and buried his
face in his hands.
"Your requests are granted," said Coleman shortly; then to Marshal North:
"Open the door and bring him out."
On the veranda of the unoccupied house above the jail Nan Keith stood
rigid, her hand upon her heart. During the period of the committee's
absence inside the jail she did not alter her position by a hair's breadth.
She was in the hypnosis of a portentous waiting. Time fell into the abyss
of eternity: whether it were ten minutes or ten hours did not matter in the
For this was to Nan in the nature of a revelation so sudden and so complete
that it filled her whole soul. Had she known what Mrs. Sherwood was taking
her to see, she would have pre-visualized a drunken, disorderly, howling,
bloodthirsty mob; a huge composite of brawling antagonisms, of blind fury,
of vulgar irrationalisms. Here were men filled with purpose; This was what
caught at her breath--the grim silent purpose of it! The orderly
progression of events, moving with the certainty of a fate, was like the
steady crescendo of solemn music. And this crescendo rose in her as a tide
of emotion that overflowed and drowned her. The right and wrong--as she had
examined them intellectually or through, the darkened glasses of her caste
prejudices--were quite lost. This was merely something primitive,
wonderful, beautiful. The spectacle was at the moment of suspense, yet she
felt so impatience--the wheel must turn in its own majestic circle--but
only an intense expectation. And in this she felt, subconsciously, that she
was one with the multitude.
The jail door swung open. The committee came out. In the middle of their
compact group walked a stranger.
"Casey!" breathed a vast voice from the crowd.
An indescribable burst of grateful relief fluttered across the upturned
faces as a breeze across water. It was almost timid at first, but gathered
strength as it spread. It rolled up the hillside. A great, deep breath
seemed to fill the lungs of the throng. The murmur swelled suddenly, was on
the point of bursting into the frantic cheering of twenty thousand men.
But Coleman, his hat removed, raised his hand. In obedience to the simple
gesture the cheer was stifled. In an instant all was still. The little
group entered the carriages, which immediately wheeled and drove away.
Nan, standing bolt upright, her attitude still unchanged, caught her breath
at the inhibition of the cheer. She did not even try to wink away the tears
that rolled down her cheeks. Through them she saw the troops wheel with the
precision of veterans, and march away after the carriages. The crowd melted
slowly. Soon were left only the inscrutable jail, the gun still pointed at
its door, the rigid ranks of Olney's Sixty, who had evidently been left on
guard, and a few stragglers.
Suddenly she turned and walked away. Mrs. Sherwood followed her as rapidly
as she could, but did not succeed in catching up with her. At the corner
below the Keiths' house she stopped, watched until Nan had gained her own
dooryard, then turned toward home, a smile sketching her lips, a light in
Nan flung open her door and went directly to the parlour. She stood in the
doorway contemplating the scene. It was very cozy. The afternoon sun
slanted through the high-narrow windows of the period, gilding the dust
motes floating lazily to and fro. The tea table, set with a snowy doth,
glittered invitingly, its silver and porcelain, its plates of dainty
sandwiches and thin waferlike cookies--Wing Sam's specialty--enticingly
displayed. Two easy chairs had been drawn close, and, before the unoccupied
one a low footstool had been placed. Ben Sansome sat in the other. He was,
as usual, exquisitely dressed. All his little appointments were not only
correct but worn easily. The varicoloured waistcoat, the sparkling studs
and cravat pins, the bright, soft silk tie, were all subdued from their
ordinary too-vivid effect by the grace with which they were carried. Nan
saw all this, and appreciated it dispassionately, appraising him anew
through clarified vision. Especially she noticed the waxed ends of his
small moustache. He had, at the sound of her entrance, lighted the tea
kettle; and as she came in he smiled up at her brightly.
"You see," he cried gayly, "I am doing your task for you! I have the lamp
She paid no attention to this, but advanced two steps into the room.
"Which side are you on, anyway?" she asked abruptly and a little harshly.
Sansome raised his eyebrows in faint and fastidious surprise.
"Dear lady, what do you mean?"
"The only thing I can mean in these times: are you with the Law and Order,
or with the Committee of Vigilance?"
Sansome shrugged his shoulders whimsically and sank back into his chair.
"How can you ask that, dear lady?" he begged pathetically. "You would not
class me with the rabble, I hope."
But Nan did not in the slightest degree respond to the lightness of his
tone. Her own was cold and detached.
"I do not know how to class you," she said. "But I asked you a question."
Sansome arose to his feet again. His manner now became sympathetic, but
into it had crept the least hint of resentment,
"I don't understand your mood" he told her. "You are overwrought."
Nan's self-control slipped by ever so little. She did not actually stamp
her foot, but her delivery of her next speech achieved that for her.
"Will you answer me?" she demanded. "Which side, are you on?"
"I am on the side every gentleman is on," replied Sansome, a trifle stung.
"The side of the law."
"Then," she cried, with a sudden intensity, "why weren't you there--on your
side--defending the jail?' Why are you here?"
Ben Sansome's knowledge of women was wide, and he therefore imagined it
profound. Here he recognized the symptoms of hysteria; cause unknown. He
adopted the lightly soothing.
"I thought I was asked here!" he cried with quizzical mock pathos.
She stared at him a contemplative instant so steadily that he coloured. She
was not seeing him, however; she was seeing Keith, standing with his
fellows in the open, under the walls of the jail and its hidden guns. With
a short laugh she turned away.
"You were," said she. "Help yourself to tea. As you say, I am overwrought.
I am going to lie down."
Her one compelling instinct now was to get away from him before something
in her brain snapped. He became soothing.
"Won't you have a cup of tea first?" he urged. "It will do you good."
"A cup of tea!" she repeated with deadly calm. It seemed such an ending to
such a day! She tried to laugh, but strangled in her throat; and she bolted
wildly from the room, leaving Ben Sansome staring.
Nan's high exaltation of spirit, which still soared at the altitude to
which the events of the afternoon had lifted it, next expressed itself in a
characteristically feminine manner: she picked flowers in the garden,
arranged them, placed them effectively, set the table herself, lighted the
lamps, touched a match to the wood fire always comfortable in San Francisco
evenings, slightly altered the position of the chairs, visited Wing Sam
with fresh instructions. Gringo, who looked on all this as for his especial
benefit, took his place luxuriously before the grate. It was a cozy,
homelike scene. Then she dressed slowly and carefully in her most becoming
gown--the only gown Keith had ever definitely singled out for individual
praise--took especial pains with her hair, and finally descended to join
Gringo. The latter, as a greeting intended to show his entire confidence,
promptly rolled over to expose his vitals to her should it be her pleasure
to hurt a poor defenceless dog. He was a ridiculous sight, upside down, his
tongue lolling out, his eye rolled up at her adoringly. She laughed at him
a little, then leaned swiftly over to confide something in his ear.
But that evening Keith was late. The clock on the mantel chimed clearly the
hour, then the quarter and the half. Wing Sam came to protest aggreivedly
that "him glub catchum cold--you no wait!" Nan was severe with Wing Sam and
his suggestion--so unwontedly severe that Wing Sam returned to the kitchen
muttering darkly. He had caught the atmosphere of celebration, somehow, and
on his own-initiative had frosted with wonderful white a cake not yet cut,
and on the cake had carefully traced pink legends in Chinese and English
characters. The former was one of those conventional mottoes seen on every
laundry, club, and temple which would have translated "Health, long life,
and happiness"; the other Wing Sam had copied from a lithograph he much
admired. It read "Use Rising Sun Stove Polish." Glowering with resentment,
Wing Sam scraped the frosting from the cake.
At eight o'clock a small boy delivered a note at the door and scuttled back
to the centre of excitement. It was a scrawl from Keith, saying that he was
detained, would not be home to dinner, might not be in at all. Nan sat down
to a cold, belated meal served by a loftily disapproving Chinaman. She
tried to think of her pride in Keith, and the work he, in company with his
fellows, was doing for the city; to recall some of her exaltation of the
afternoon; but it was very difficult. Her little preparations were so much
nearer. The table, the flowers, the shaded lamps, the fire on the hearth,
her gown, the twist of her hair, all mocked her anticipations. In spite of
herself her spirits went down to zero. She could not eat, she could not
even sit at the table through the service of the various courses. Midway in
the meal she threw aside her napkin and returned abruptly to the drawing-
room. The fire was snapping merrily on the hearth. Gringo opened his eyes
at her entrance, recognized his beloved mistress, and rolled over as usual,
all four legs in the air, his tender stomach confidingly exposed, for Who
could be so brutal as to hurt a poor, defenceless dog? Nan kicked him
pettishly in the ribs. Gringo stopped panting, and drew in his tongue, but
otherwise did not shift his posture. This was, of course, a mistake. Nan
kicked him again. Gringo rose deliberately and retired with dignity to the
coldest, darkest, most cheerless corner he could find, where he sat and
"You look such a silly fool!" Nan told him relentlessly.
Thus passed the moment of exaltation and expansion. If Keith had come home
to dine, it is probable that the barrier between them--of which he was only
dimly conscious--would have been broken. But by midnight Nan had, as she
imagined, "thought out" the situation. She was able to see him now through
eyes purged of self-pity or self-thought. She came to full realization,
which she formulated to herself, that she was not now the central point of
his interest--that she was "no longer" the central point, as she expressed
it. She was right also in her conclusion that all day long he hardly gave
her more than a perfunctory thought. So far, her facts were absolutely
correct. But Nan was, in spite of her natural good mind and married
experience, too ignorant of man psychology to draw the true conclusion.
Indeed, very few women ever realize man's possibilities of single-minded
purpose and concentration to the temporary exclusion of other things.
Keith's whole being was carried by this moral movement in which he was
involved. He simply took Nan for granted; and that is something a woman
never gets used to, and always misinterprets.
"He no longer loves me!" she said to herself, in this hour of plain
thinking. She faced it squarely; and her heart sank to the depths; for she
still loved him, and the sight of him that afternoon amid the guns had told
her how much.
But her next thought was not of herself, but of him, and the situation in
which, he was working out his destiny. "How can I best help?" she asked
herself, which showed that the spirit aroused in her that afternoon had not
in reality died. And her intellect relentlessly pointed out to her that her
only aid would come from her self-effacement, her standing one side. When
the great work was done, then, perhaps--
So affairs in the Keith household went on exactly as before. Nobody but
Gringo knew that anything had happened; and he only realized that the
universe had suffered an upheaval, so that now mistresses might kick their
poor defenceless dogs in the stomach.
Casey was safely in custody. Cora also had been taken on a second trip to
the jail. They had been escorted into the headquarters, the doors of which
had closed behind them and behind the armed men who guarded them. The
streets were filled with an orderly crowd. They waited with that same
absence of excitement, impatience, or tumult so characteristic of all the
popular gatherings of that earnest time, save when the upholders of the law
were gathered. After a long interval one of the committeemen, Dows by name,
appeared at an upper window. He did not have to appeal for attention, and
had barely to raise his voice.
"It is not the intention of the committee to be hasty," he announced.
"Nothing more will be done to-day."
Silence greeted this statement. At last some one spoke up:
"Where are Casey and Cora?" he asked.
"The committee holds possession of the jail; all are safe," replied Dows.
With this assurance the crowd was completely satisfied, as it proved by
dispersing quietly and at once.
Of the three thousand enrolled men, three hundred were retained under arms
at headquarters; a hundred surrounded and watched the jail; the rest were
dismissed. About midnight a dense fog descended on the city. The streets
were deserted. But on the roofs of the jail and the adjacent buildings
indistinct figures stalked to and fro in the misty moonlight.
All next day, which was Monday, headquarters remained inscrutable. Small
activities went forward. Guards and patrols were changed. The cannon was
brought from before the jail. Early in the day a huge crowd gathered,
packing the adjacent streets, watching patiently far into the night to see
what would happen. Nothing happened.
But about the city at large patrols of armed men moved on mysterious
business. Gun shops were picketed, and their owners forbidden to sell
weapons. Evidently the committee was carrying out a considered plan.
Toward evening the weather thickened and a rain came on. It turned colder.
Still the crowd did not disperse. It stood in its sodden shoes, hugging its
sodden cloaks to its shoulders, humped over, waiting. About eight o'clock
several companies in rigid marching formation appeared. A stir of interest,
shivered through the crowd, but died as it became evident that this was
only a general relief for those on duty during the day. At midnight, or
thereabouts, the crowd went home; but again by first daylight the streets
for blocks were jammed full. Still it rained with a sullen, persistence.
Still nothing happened.
And all over the city business was practically at a stand. Knots of men
stood conferring on every corner. Conversation in mixed company was very
wary indeed. No man dared express himself too openly. The courts were
empty. Some actually closed, on one excuse or another, but most went
through a form of business. Some judges took the occasion to go to White
Sulphur Springs on vacations, long contemplated, they said. These things
occasioned lively comment. It was generally known that the Sacramento
steamer of the evening before had carried several hundred passengers, all
with pressing business at the capitol, or somewhere else. As our chronicler
tells it: "A good many who had things on their minds left for the country."
Still it rained; still the crowd waited; still the headquarters of the
Committee of Vigilance remained closed and inscrutable.
During all this time the Executive Committee sat in continuous session, for
it had been agreed that no recess of more than thirty minutes should be
taken until a decision had been reached. The room in which they sat was a
large one, lighted by windows on one side only. Coleman sat behind a raised
desk at one end. Below it stood a small table accommodating two. On either
side six small tables completed three sides of a hollow square. No
ornament, no especial comforts--the desk, the thirteen pine tables, the
twenty-eight pine chairs, the wooden walls, the oil lamps, the four long
windows--that was all.
The prisoners, who, when they had seen the thousands before the jail, had
expected nothing less than instant execution by lynch law, began to take
heart. After a man has faced what he thinks is the prospect of immediate
and unavoidable death, such treatment as this arouses real hope. The
prisoners were strictly guarded and closely confined, it is true, but they
understood they were to have a fair trial "according to law." That last
phrase cheered them immensely. They knew the law. Nor were they entirely
cut off from the outside. Casey was allowed to see several men in regard to
certain pressing business matters, and was permitted to talk to them
freely, although always in the presence of a member of the committee. Cora
received visits from Belle. She had spent thousands in his legal defence;
now she came to see him faithfully, and tried to cheer him, but was plainly
cowed. Her self-control had vanished. She clung to him passionately,
weeping. He was forced to what should have been her role; and in cheering
her he managed to gain a modicum of self-confidence for himself. She left
him at midnight, much reassured.
But on Monday morning Cora's cell door was thrown open, and he was motioned
forth by a grave man, who conducted him through echoing gloomy corridors to
the committee room, where he was left facing the tables and the men who sat
behind them. Cora's natural buoyancy vanished. The men before him met his
gaze with rigid, unbending solemnity. The rain beat mournfully against the
windows, blurring the glass, casting the high apartment in a half gloom.
Nobody moved or spoke. All looked at him. The echo of his footsteps died,
and the room was cast in stillness except for the soft dashing of the
"Charles Cora," at last pronounced Coleman in measured tones, "you are here
on trial for your life, accused with the murder of United States Marshal
Cora, who was a plucky man, had recovered his wits. He must have realized
that he was in a tight place, but he kept his head admirably. His demeanour
took on alertness, his manner throughout was respectful, and his voice low.
"Do I get no counsel?" he inquired.
"Counsel will be given you."
He put in an earnest plea for counsel outside the tribunal--impartial
"Our members are impartial," Coleman told him.
Cora hesitated; locking about him.
"If Mr. Truett will act for me," he suggested; "and I beg you earnestly,
gentlemen, that the excitement of the time may not be prejudicial to my
interests, that I may have a chance for my life!"
"Your trial will be fair," he was assured.
"I shall undertake the defence," Truett agreed briefly; "and petition that
Mr. Smiley be appointed as my assistant."
This being granted, the three men drew one side for a consultation. In a
short time Truett handed to the sergeant-at-arms--the same man who had
conducted Cora to the tribunal--a list of the witnesses Cora wished to
summon. These were at once sought by a subcommittee outside. In the
meantime, witnesses for the prosecution were one by one admitted, sworn,
and examined. All ordinary forms of law were closely followed. All
essential facts were separately brought out. It was the historic Cora trial
over again, with one difference--gone were the technical delays. By dusk
Keith, who had been called at three, had all but completed the long tale of
his testimony, had finished recounting, not only what he had seen of the
quarrel and the subsequent shooting, but also a detailed account of the
trial, the adverse influences brought to bear on the prosecution, and his
investigations into the question of "undue influence." No attempt was made
to confine the investigation to the technical trial.
Keith was the last witness for the prosecution. And the witnesses for the
defence, where were they? Of the list submitted by Cora not one could be
found! In hiding, afraid, the perjurers would not appear!
The dusk was falling in earnest now. The corners of the room were in
darkness. Beneath Coleman's desk Bluxome, the secretary, had lighted an oil
lamp the better to see his notes. In the interest of Keith's testimony the
general illumination had not been ordered. Outside the tiny patch of yellow
light the men of Vigilance sat motionless, listening, their shadows dim and
huge against the wall.
The door opened, and Charles Doane, the Grand Marshal of the Vigilantes,
advanced three steps into the room.
"Mr. President," he said clearly, his voice cutting the stillness, "I am
instructed to announce that James King of William is dead."
Thursday noon was set for the funeral of the man who had given his life
that a city might live. In the room where he had made his brave fight
against death he now lay in state. On Wednesday ten thousand people visited
him there. Early Thursday morning his remains were transferred to the
Unitarian Church where, early as it was, a great multitude had gathered to
do him honour. Now through the long morning hours it sat with him silently.
The church was soon filled to over-flowing; the streets in all directions
became crowded with sober-faced men and women. They knew they would be
unable to get into the church, to attend nearer his last communion with his
fellowmen, but they stayed, feeling vaguely that their mere presence
helped--as, indeed, perhaps it did. Marching bodies from every guild or
society in the city stood in rank after rank, extending down the street as
far as the eye could reach. Hundreds of horsemen, carriages, foot marchers,
quietly, orderly, were already getting into line. They, too, were excluded
from the funeral ceremonies by lack of room; they, too, waited to do honour
to the cortege. This procession was over two miles in length. Each man wore
a band of crepe around his left arm. The time set for the funeral ceremony
was yet hours distant.
It seemed that all the city must be there. But those who, hurrying to the
scene, had occasion to pass near the Vigilante headquarters found the
vacant square guarded on all sides by a triple line of armed men. The side
streets, also, were filled with them. They stood in exact alignment, rigid,
bayonets fixed, their eyes straight ahead. Three thousand of them were
there. Hour after hour they stood, untiring, staring at the building, which
gave no sign; just as the other multitude, only a few squares away, stood
hour after hour, patiently waiting in the bright sun.
At quarter before one the upper windows of the headquarters building were
thrown open, and small platforms, extending about three feet, were thrust
from two of them. An instant later two heavy beams were shoved out from the
flat roof directly over the platforms. From the ends of the beams dangled
nooses of rope. A dead wait ensued. Across the silence could be heard
faintly from the open windows of the distant church the chords of an organ,
the rise and fall of a hymn, then the measured cadence of oration. The
funeral services had begun.
As though this were a signal, the blinds that had partly closed the window
openings were swung back, and Charles Cora was conducted to the end of one
of the little platforms. His face was covered with a white handkerchief,
and his arms and legs were bound with cords. The attendant adjusted the
noose, then left him. An instant later Casey appeared. He had petitioned
not to be blindfolded, so his face was bare. Cora stood bolt upright,
motionless as a stone. Casey's nerve had left him; his face was pale and
his eyes bloodshot. As the attendant placed the noose, the murderer's eyes
darted here and there over the square. Did he still expect that the
boastful promises of his friends would be fulfilled, did he still hope for
rescue? If so, that hope must have died as he looked down on those set,
grim faces staring straight ahead, on that sinister ring of steel. He began
"Gentlemen!" he cried at them, "I am not a murderer! I do not feel afraid
to meet my God on a charge of murder! I have done nothing but what I
thought was right! To-morrow let no editor dare call me a murderer!
Whenever I was injured I have resented it. It has been part of my education
during twenty-nine years! Gentlemen, I forgive you this persecution! O God!
My poor mother! O God!"
Not one word of contrition; not one word for the man who lay yonder in the
church; not one syllable for the heartbroken wife kneeling at the coffin!
He ceased. And his words went out into the void and found no echo against
that wall of steel.
They waited. For what? Across the intervening housetops the sound of
speaking ceased to carry. The last orator had given place. At the door of
the sanctuary was visible a slight, commotion: the coffin was being carried
out. It was placed in the hearse. Every head was bared. There ensued a
slight pause; then from overhead the great bell boomed once. Another bell
in the next block answered. A third, more distant, chimed in. From all
parts of the city tolled the solemn requiem.
At the first stroke the long cortege moved forward toward Lone Mountain; at
the first stroke the Vigilantes, as one man, presented arms; at the first
stroke the platforms dropped and Casey and Cora fell into the abyss of
This execution occasioned a great storm of indignation among the adherents
of law and order. Serious-minded men, like Judge Shattuck, admitted the
essential justice rendered, but condemned strongly the method.
"Of course they were murderers," cried the judge, "and of course they
should have been hung, and of course the city is better off without either
of them. I'm not afraid of their friends, and I don't care who knows what I
think! And some very worthy citizens, wrongly, are involved in this, some
citizens whom otherwise I greatly respect. It is better that a hundred
criminals should escape than that the whole law of California should be
outraged by an act that denies at once the value and the authority of our
government. The energy, the talent for organization, that this committee
has displayed in the exercise of usurped authority, might have been
directed in aid of the courts, consistently with the constitution and the
laws, with, equal if not greater efficiency."
But very few were able to see it in this calm spirit. The ruling class, the
"chivalry," the best element of the city had been slapped in the face. And
by whom? By a lot of "Yankee shopkeepers," assisted by renegades like
Keith, Talbot Ward, and others. The committee was a lot of stranglers; they
ought to be punished as murderers; they ought to be shot down, egad, as
revolutionaries! It was realized that street shooting had temporarily
become unsafe; otherwise, there is no doubt that the hotheads would have
gone forth deliberately abrawling. There were many threats made against
individuals, many condign--and lawless--punishments promised them.
As an undercurrent, nowhere expressed or even acknowledged, was a strong
feeling of relief. Any Law and Order would have fought at the mere
suggestion; but every one of them felt it. After all, the law had been
surprised and overpowered. It had yielded only to overwhelming odds. With
the execution of Cora and Casey accomplished, the committee might be
expected to disband. And, of course, when it did disband, then the law
would have its innings. Its forces would be better organized and
consolidated, its power assured. It could then apprehend and bring to
justice the ringleaders of this unwarranted undertaking. Like dogs at the
heels of a retreating foe, the hotheads became bolder as this secret
conviction gained strength. They were in favour of using an armed force to
take Coleman and his fellow-conspirators into the custody of the law.
Calmer spirits held this scheme in check.
"Let them have rope," advised Blatchford. "I know mobs. Now that they've
hung somebody, their spirit will die down. Give them a few days."
But to the surprise, and indignation of these people, the Vigilantes showed
no of an intention to disband. On the contrary, their activities extended
and their organization tightened. The various companies drilled daily until
they went through evolutions and the manual of arms with all the perfection
of regular troops. The committee's books remained open; by the last of the
week over seven thousand men had signed the rolls. Vanloads of furniture
and various supplies were backed up before the doors of headquarters, and
were carried within by members of the organization--no non-member ever saw
the inside of the building while it was occupied by the Vigilantes. The
character of these furnishings and supplies would seem to argue an
intention of permanence. Stoves, cooking utensils, cot beds, provisions,
blankets, bulletin boards, arms, chairs, tables, field guns, ammunition,
were only some items. Doorkeepers were always in attendance. Sentinels
patrolled the streets and the roof. The great warehouse took on an
exceedingly animated appearance.
The Executive Committee was in session all of each day. It became known
that a "black list" of some sort was in preparation. On the heels of this
orders came for the Vigilante police, instructing them to arrest certain
men and to warn certain others to leave town immediately. It was evident
that a clean sweep was contemplated.
Among the first of those arrested was the notorious Yankee Sullivan, an ex-
prize fighter, ward heeler, ballot-box staffer, and shoulder striker. He
had always been a pillar of strength to those engaged in corrupt practices.
This man went to pieces completely. He confessed the details of many of his
own crimes but, what was more important, implicated many others as well.
His testimony was invaluable, not necessarily as final proof against those
whom he accused, but as indications for thorough investigations. Finally,
unexpectedly, he committed suicide in his cell. It seems he had been
accustomed to from sixty to eighty drinks of whiskey a day, and the sudden,
complete deprivation had destroyed him. Warned by this, the committee
henceforward issued regular rations of whiskey to its prisoners!
Trials in due order, with counsel for defence and ample opportunity to call
witnesses, went on briskly. Those who anticipated more hangings were
disappointed. It became known that the committee had set for itself the
rule that capital punishment would be inflicted only for crimes so
punishable by the regular law. But each outgoing ship carried crowds of
those on whom had been passed the sentence of banishment. The majority of
these were, of course, low thugs, "Sydney ducks," hangers on; but a very
large proportion were taken from what had been known as the city's best. In
the law courts these men would in many cases have been declared as white as
the driven snow. But they were undesirable citizens; the committee so
decided them; and bade them begone. Charles Duane, Wooley Kearney, William
Carr, Edward Bulger, Philander Brace, William McLean, J.D. Musgrave, and
Peter Wightman were well-known and influential names found on the "black
list," Peter Wightman, James White, and our old friend, Ned McGowan, ran
away. Hundreds of others left the city. A terror spread among the ignorant
and vicious of the underworld. Some of the minor offenders brought in by
the Vigilante police were by the Executive Committee turned over to the
regular law courts. _Every one of such cases was promptly convicted by
This did not look much like disbanding, nor did any opportunity for
wholesale arrest of the anarchists seem imminent. The leaders of the Law
and Order faction were at last aroused.
"This is more than anarchy; it is revolution," said Judge Caldwell. "It is
a successful revolution because it is organized. The people of this city
are scattered and powerless. They in turn should be organized to combat the
forces of disorder."
In pursuance of this belief--that the public at large needed only to be
called together in order to defend its institutions--handbills were printed
and newspaper notices published calling a meeting for June and in
Portsmouth Square. Elaborate secret preparations, involving certain
distributions of armed men were made to prevent what was considered
certain interference. This was useless. Immediately after the appearance of
the notice the Committee of Vigilance issued orders that the meeting was in
no manner to be disturbed, and hung out placards reading:
"Members of the Vigilance Committee: Order must be maintained."
"Friends of the Vigilance Committee: Keep out of the Square," etc.
The meeting was well attended. Enormous crowds gathered, not only in and
around the square itself, but in balconies and windows and on housetops. It
was a ribald, disrespectful crowd, evidently out for a good time, calling
back and forth, shouting question or comment at the men gathered about the
"What kind of a circus do you call this show, anyway?" roared a huge, bare-
armed miner in red shirt.
"This is the Law and Murder meeting," instantly answered some one from a
This phrase tickled the crowd hugely. The words were passed from man to
man. Eventually they became the stereotyped retort. "Stranglers!" sneered
one faction. "Law and Murder!" flung back the other.
On the platform stood or sat the owners of many of the city's proud names--
judges, jurists, merchants, holders of high political office, men whose
influence a month ago had been paramount and irresistible. Among them were
famed orators, men who had never failed to hold and influence a crowd. But
two hundred feet away little could be heard. It early became evident that,
though there would be no interference, the sentiment of the crowd was
against them. And, what was particularly maddening, the sentiment was good-
humoured. Even the compliment of being taken seriously was denied them!
Colonel Ed Baker came forward to speak. The colonel's gift of eloquence was
such that, in spite of his known principles, his lack of scruple, his
insincerity, he won his way to a picturesque popularity and fame. Later he
delivered a funeral oration over the remains of David Broderick that has
gone far to invest the memory of that hard-headed, venal, unscrupulous
politician with an aura of romance. But the crowd would have little of him
this day. An almost continuous uproar drowned his efforts. Catch words such
as liberty, constitution, _ habeas corpus_, trial by jury, freedom, etc.,
occasionally became audible. The people were not interested.
"See Cora's defender!" cried someone, voicing the general suspicion that
Baker had been one of the little gambler's hidden counsel. "Cora!" "Ed
Baker!" "Ten thousand dollars!" "Out of that, you old reprobate!" jeered
the audience. He spoke ten minutes against the storm, then yielded, red
faced and angry. Others tried in vain. A Southerner named Benham, while
deploring passionately the condition of the city which had been seized by a
mob, robbed of its sacred rights, etc., happened inadvertently to throw
back his coat, thus revealing the butt of a Colt's revolver. The bystanders
caught the point at once.
"There's a pretty Law and Order man!" they shrieked. "Hey, Benham! Don't
you know it's against the law to go armed?"
"I carry this weapon," shrieked Benham, passionately shaking his fist, "not
as an instrument to overthrow the law, but to uphold it!"
A clear, steady voice from a nearby balcony made itself distinctly heard:
"In other words, sir, you break the law in order to uphold the law," it
said. "What more are the Vigilantes doing?"
The crowd went wild over this repartee. The confusion became worse. Old
Judge Campbell was thrust forward, in the hope that his age and his senior
judgeship would command respect. He was unable to utter consecutive
"I once thought," he interrupted himself piteously, "that I was the free
citizen of a free country, but recent occurrences have convinced me that I
am a slave; a slave, gentlemen, more a slave than any on a Southern
plantation for they know their masters, but I know not mine!"
But his auditors refused to be affected.
"Oh, yes, you do!" they informed him. "You know your masters as well as
anybody--two of them were hung the other day!"
After this the meeting broke up. The most ardent Law and Order man could
not deny that as a popular demonstration it had been a fizzle.
But if this attempt at home to gain coherence failed, up river the
partisans had better luck. A hasty messenger with tidings for the ear of
the Executive Committee only was followed by rapidly spreading rumours.
Five hundred men with two pieces of artillery were coming down from
Sacramento to liberate the prisoners, especially Billy Mulligan, or die in
the attempt. They were reported to be men from the southeast: Texans,
Carolinians, crackers from Pike County, all fire-eaters, reckless, sure to
make trouble. Their numbers were not in themselves formidable, but every
man knew the city still to be full of scattered warriors needing only
leaders and a rallying point. The materials for a very pretty civil war
were laid for the match. An uneasiness pervaded headquarters, not for the
outcome, but for the unavoidable fighting and bloodshed.
Therefore, when Olney hastily entered the main hall early in the evening,
and in a loud voice called for "two hundred men with side arms for especial
duty," there was a veritable scramble to enlist. Olney picked out the
required number, selecting, it was afterward noticed, only the big men
physically. They fell in, and were marched quickly out Market Street. It
was dark. Expectations were high. Just beyond Second Street, dimly visible
against the sky or in the faint starlight, they saw a mysterious force
opposing them, men on foot, horses, the wheels of guns. Each man gripped
his revolver and set his teeth. Here, evidently, from this ordinarily
deserted and distant part of town, a flanking attack was to have been
delivered. As they drew nearer they made out wagons; and nearer still-bale
upon bale of gunny sacks, and shovels!