Part 7 out of 8
The truth dawned on them, and a great laugh went up. "Sold! Sold! Sold!"
But they set to work with a will, filled the gunny sacks with sand, piled
them on the wagons; and so by morning Fort Gunnybags, as headquarters was
thenceforth called, came into existence. Cannon were mounted, breastworks
piled, embrasures planned.
The five hundred fire-eaters were no myth. They disembarked, greeted the
horde of friends who had come to meet them, marched to Fort Gunnybags,
looked it over, thrust their hands in their pockets, and walked peacefully
away to the nearest barrooms!
Wise men. By now the Vigilante dispositions were so complete that in the
mere interest of examining so sudden yet so thorough an organization, a
paragraph or so may profitably be spent on it. Behind headquarters was a
long shed stable in which were to be found at all hours saddle horses and
artillery horses, all saddled and bridled, ready for instant use. Twenty-
six pieces of artillery, mostly sent in by captains of merchant vessels in
the harbour, were here parked. Other cannon were mounted for the defence of
Fort Gunnybags. Muskets, rifles, and sabres enough to arm 6,000 men had
been accumulated--and there were 6,000 men to use them! A French portable
barricade had been constructed in the event of possible street fighting, a
sort of wheeled framework that could be transformed into litters or scaling
ladders. Sutlers' offices and kitchens could feed a small army. Flags and
painted signs carrying the emblematic open eye of vigilance decorated the
rooms, A huge alarm bell had been mounted on the roof. The mattresses,
beds, cots, blankets, and other furniture necessary to sleep four companies
on the premises had been provided. A completely equipped armourer's shop
and a hospital with all supplies occupied the third story. The forces were
divided into four companies of artillery, one squadron and two troops of
cavalry, four regiments, and thirty-two companies of infantry; besides the
small but efficient police organization. A tap on the bell gathered these
men in an incredibly short space of time. "As a rule," says Bancroft,
"within fifteen minutes from the time the bell was tapped, on any occasion,
seven-tenths of the entire Vigilante forces would be in their places armed
ready for battle."
Another corps, not as heroic, but quite as necessary, it was found
advisable to appoint. The sacking of which Fort Gunnybags was made was of
very coarse texture. When dry, the sand filling tended to run out!
Therefore, those bags had to be kept constantly wet, and somebody had to do
it. Enemies sneeringly remarked that Fort Gunnybags consumed much more
water without than within; but this joke lost its point when it became
known that the committee, decades in advance of its period, had prohibited
Realizing from the two lamentable fiascos just recounted that little could
be accomplished by private initiative, the upholders of the law turned
their attention to Sacramento. Here they had every reason to hope for
success. No matter how well organized the Vigilantes might be, or how
thoroughly they carried the sympathies of the local public, there could be
no doubt that they were acting in defiance of the law, were, in fact, no
better than rebels. It was not only within the power, it was the duty of
the governor of the State to declare the city in a condition of
This being accomplished, it followed logically that the State troops must
put down the insurrection; and if they failed, there was still the immense
power of the republic to call upon. After all, when you look at it that
way, this handful of disturbers amounted to very little.
The first step was to win over the governor. Without him the next step
could not be taken. Accordingly all the big guns of San Francisco took the
_Senator_ for Sacramento. There they met Terry, Volney Howard, and others
of the same ilk. No governor of Johnson's sort could long withstand such
pressure. He promised to issue the proclamation of insurrection as soon as
it was "legally proved" that the committee had acted outside the law. The
mere fact that it had already hanged two men and deported a great number of
others meant nothing. That, apparently, was not legal proof.
In order that all things should be legal, then, Terry issued a writ of
_habeas corpus_ for the body of one William Mulligan, and gave it into the
hands of Deputy-sheriff Harrison for service on the committee. Nobody
expected the latter to deliver over Mulligan.
"But they'll deny the writ," said Terry, "and that will constitute a legal
defiance of the State. The governor will then be legally justified in
issuing his proclamation, and ordering out the State troops to enforce the
If the State troops proved inadequate, the plan was then to call on the
United States--as locally represented by General Wool and Captain David
Farragut--for assistance. With this armed backing three times the Vigilante
force could be quickly subdued. As it was all legal, it could not fail.
Harrison took the writ of _habeas corpus_ and proceeded to San Francisco.
He presented himself at headquarters, produced his writ, and had himself
announced to the Executive Committee then in session.
"Tell him to go to hell!" growled someone.
But a half-dozen members saw through the ruse, and interposed vigorous
"I move," said Dempster solemnly, "that our police be permitted to remove
all prisoners for a few hours."
This was carried, and put into immediate effect. Deputy Harrison was then
politely received, his writ fully acknowledged, and he was allowed to
search the premises. Of course he found nothing, and departed much
crestfallen. The scheme had failed. The committee had in no way denied his
authority or his writ. Harrison was no fool. He saw clearly what he had
been expected to do. On his way back to Sacramento he did some thinking. To
Terry he unblushingly returned the writ endorsed: "Prevented from service
by armed men." For the sake of the cause Harrison had lied!
Johnson immediately issued his proclamation. The leaders turned with
confidence to the Federal authorities for assistance. To their blank dismay
General Wool refused to furnish arms. His position was that he had no
authority to do so without orders from Washington. The sympathies of this
doughty old soldier were not with this attempt. Colonel Baker and Volney
Howard waited on him, and after considerable conversation made the mistake
of threatening to report him to Washington for refusing to uphold the law.
"I think, gentlemen," flashed back the veteran, "I know my duty, and in its
performance dread no responsibility."
So saying he bowed them from the room. Farragut equally could not clearly
see why he should train the guns of his ship on the city. With this fiasco
the opposition for the moment died. The Executive Committee went on
patiently working down through its black list. It announced that after June
24th no new cases would be taken, A few days later it proclaimed an
"adjournment parade" on July 5th. It considered its work done. The city had
But this peaceful outcome did not suit the aristocratic wing of the Law and
Order party in the least. The haughty, supremely individualistic, bold,
forceful, often charming coterie of fire-eaters had, in their opinion, been
insulted, and they wanted reprisal, punishment, blood. Terry, Baker,
Bennett, Miles, Webb, Nugent, Blatchford, Rowlee, Caldwell, Broderick,
Ware, Volney Howard, Black--to mention only a few--chafed intolerably. Such
men were accustomed to have their own way, to cherish an ultra-sensitive
"honour," to be looked up to; had come to consider themselves as especially
privileged, to look upon themselves as direct representatives of the only
proper government and administration of law. This revolt of the "lower
classes," the "smug, psalm-singing Yankees," the "shopkeepers," was
intolerable impudence. Because of a series of accidents, proper resentment
of such impudence, due punishment of such denial of the law had been
postponed. It was not, therefore, abrogated.
When, therefore, the committee announced July 5th as a definite date for
disbanding, the lawful authorities and their upholders, blinded by their
passions, were distinctly disappointed. Where the common citizen perceived
only the welcome end of a necessary job well done, they saw slipping away
the last chance for a clash of arms that should teach these rebels their
place. It was all very well to talk of arresting the ringleaders and
bringing them to justice. In the present lamentable demoralization of the
courts it might not work; and even if it did work, the punishment of
ringleaders was small satisfaction as compared to triumphant vindication in
Sherman had resigned command of the military in disgust when he found that
General Wool and Captain Farragut had no intention of supplying him Federal
arms, thus closing--save for later inaccurate writing in his "Memoirs"--an
unfortunate phase of his career. In his stead had been chosen General
Volney Howard. Howard was a rather fat, very pompous, wholly conceited
bombastes furioso with apparently remarkable lack of judgment or grasp of a
situation. In the committee's action looking toward adjournment he actually
thought he saw a sign of weakening!
"Now is the moment for us to show our power!" he said.
In this he gained the zealous support of Judge Terry and Major Marmaduke
Miles, two others with more zeal than discretion. These three managed to
persuade Governor Johnson to order a parade of State troops in the streets
of San Francisco. Their argument was that such a parade--of legally
organized forces--would overawe the citizens; their secret hope, however,
was that such a show would provoke the desired conflict. This hope they
shared with Howard, after the governor's order had been obtained. Howard's
vanity and inclinations jumped together. He consented. Altogether, it was a
very pretty little plot.
By now the Law and Order forces had become numerically formidable. The
bobtail and rag-tag, ejected either by force or by fright, flocked to the
colours. A certain proportion of the militia remained in the ranks, though
a majority had resigned. A large contingent of reckless, wild young men,
without a care or a tie in the world, with no interest in the rights of the
case, or, indeed, in themselves, avid only for adventure, offered
themselves as soon as the prospects for a real fight became good. And there
were always the five hundred discomfited Texans.
Nor were arms now lacking. Contrary to all expectation, the committee had
scrupulously refrained from meddling with the State armouries. All militia
muskets were available. In addition the State had now the right to a
certain quota of Federal arms, stored in the arsenal at Benicia. These
could be requisitioned.
At this point in the planning weasly little Jimmy Ware had a bright idea.
"Look here!" he cried, "how many of those Benicia muskets are there?"
"About a hundred and fifty stand, sir," Howard told him.
"Now they can't help us a whole lot," propounded Ware. "They are too few.
But why can't we use them for bait, to get those people on the wrong side
of the fence?"
"What do you mean?" asked Terry, who knew Ware intimately.
"Suppose they are shipped from Benicia to the armouries in the city; they
are legally Federal property until they are delivered, aren't they?"
"Well, if the Stranglers should happen to seize them while they're still
Federal property, they've committed a definite offence against the United
States, haven't they?"
"What do we care about that now?" asked Major Marmaduke Miles, to whom this
But Judge Terry's legal mind was struck with the beauty and simplicity of
"Hold on!" he cried. "If we ship them in a boat, the seizure will be
piracy. If they intercept those arms, they're pirates, and we can legally
call on the Federal forces--_and they'll be compelled to respond, egad!_"
"They're pretty smart; suppose they smell a rat?" asked Miles doubtfully.
"Then we'll have the muskets where we want them, anyway. It's worth
trying," replied Ware.
"I know just the man," put in Terry. "I'll send for him."
Shortly appeared a saturnine, lank, bibulous individual known as Rube
Maloney. To him Terry explained. He was to charter a sloop, take the
muskets aboard--and get caught.
"No resistance, mind you!" warned Terry.
"Trust me for that," grinned Rube. "I ain't anxious for no punctured skin,
nor yit a stretched neck."
"Pick your men carefully."
"I'll take Jack Phillips and Jim McNab," said Rube, after a moment's
thought, "and possibly a few refreshments?" he suggested.
Terry reached into his pocket.
"Certainly, certainly," said he. "Treat yourself well."
There remained only to see that the accurate details should get to the
Committee of Vigilance, but in such a manner as to avoid suspicion that the
information had been "planted."
"Is there anybody we can trust on their rolls?" asked Terry.
But it was reluctantly conceded that the Vigilantes had pretty well cleaned
out the doubtful ones. Here again, the resourceful Jimmy Ware came to the
"I know your man--Morrell. He'll get it to them. As far as anybody knows,
he hasn't taken sides at all."
"Will you see him?" asked Terry.
"I'll see him," promised Jimmy Ware.
By this time the Vigilante organization had pretty well succeeded in
eliminating the few Law and Order sympathizers who had been bold enough to
attempt to play the part of spy by signing the rolls. These had not been
many, and their warning had been sufficient. But Morrell had, in a measure,
escaped distrust even if he had not gained confidence. He had had the sense
not to join the organization; and his attitude of the slightly
supercilious, veiledly contemptuous Britisher, scorning all things about
him, was sufficient guarantee of his neutrality. This breed was then very
common. He left his conference with Jimmy Ware thoroughly instructed, quite
acquiescent, but revolving matters in his own mind to see if somehow he
could not turn them to his advantage. For Morrell was, as always, in need
of money. In addition, he had a personal score to settle with Keith for,
although he had apparently forgotten their last interview regarding
"loans," the memory rankled. And Morrell had not forgotten that before all
this Vigilante business broke he had been made a good offer by Cora's
counsel to get Keith out of the way. Cora was now very dead, to be sure;
but on sounding Jimmy Ware, Morrell learned that Keith's removal would
still be pleasant to the powers that pay.
If he could work these things all in together--Cogitating absorbedly, he
glanced up to see Ben Sansome sauntering down the street, his malacca cane
at the proper angle, his cylindrical hat resting lightly on his sleek
locks, his whole person spick with the indescribably complete appointment
of the dandy. Sansome was mixed up with the Keiths--perhaps he could be
used--On impulse Morrell hailed him genially, and invited him to take a
drink. The exquisite brightened, and perceptibly hastened his step.
Morrell's rather ultra-Anglicism always fascinated him. They turned in at
the El Dorado, and there seated themselves at the most remote of the small
"Well," said Morrell cheerfully, after preliminary small talk had been
disposed of, "how goes the fair Nancy?"
Sansome's effeminately handsome face darkened. Things had in reality gone
very badly with the fair Nancy. Her revulsion against Sansome at the time
of the capture of the jail had been complete; and as is the case with real
revulsions, she had not attempted to conceal it. Sansome's careful
structure, which had gained so lofty an elevation, had collapsed like the
proverbial house of cards. His vanity had been cruelly rasped. And what had
been more or less merely a dilettante's attraction had been thereby changed
into a thwarted passion.
"Damn the fair Nancy!" he cried, in answer to Morrell's question.
Morrell's eyes narrowed, and he motioned quietly to the waiting black to
replenish the glasses.
"With all my heart, damn her!" said he. "I agree with you; she's a snippy,
cold little piece. Not my style at all. Not worth the serious attention of
a man like yourself. Who is it now, you sly dog?"
Sansome sipped at his drink; sighed sentimentally.
"Cold--yes--but if the right man could awaken her--" he murmured.
"Look here, Sansome, do you want that woman?"
Sansome looked at his companion haughtily; his eye fell; he drew circles
with the bottom of his glass.
"By gad!" he cried with a sudden queer burst of fire; "I've got to have
And then he turned slowly red, actually started to wriggle, concealed his
embarrassment under cover of his cigar.
"H'm," observed Morrell speculatively, without looking across at Sansome.
"Tell me, Ben, does she still care for her husband?"
"No; that I'll swear!" replied Sansome eagerly.
"If you're sure of that one essential little fact, and you really want her,
why don't you take her?"
"Damn it, ain't I telling you? She won't see me."
"Tell me about it," urged Morrell, settling back, and again motioning for
Sansome, whose soul was ripe for sympathy, needed little more urging. He
poured out his tale, sometimes rushingly and passionately, again, as his
submerged but still conventional self-consciousness straggled to the
surface, with shamefaced bravado. "By Gad!" he finished. "You know, I feel
like a raw schoolboy, talkin' like this!"
Morrell leaned forward, his reserve of manner laid aside, his whole being
radiating sympathetic charm.
"My dear chap, don't," he begged, laying his hand on Sansome's forearm. "A
genuine passion is the most glorious thing on earth even in callow youth!
But when we old men of the world--" The pause was eloquent. "She's a
headstrong filly," he went on in a more matter-of-fact tone, after a
moment, "takes a bit of handling. You'll pardon me, old chap, if I suggest
that you've gone about things a bit wrong."
"How is that?" asked Sansome. Under the influence of drinks, confession,
and sympathy, he was in a glow of fellow-feeling.
"Believe me, I know women and horses! You've ridden this one too much on
the snaffle. Try the curb. That high-spirited sort takes a bit of handling.
They like to feel themselves dominated. You've been too gentle, too
refined. She's gentle and refined for two. What she wants is the brute--
'Rape of the Sabines' principle. Savage her a bit, and she'll come to heel
like a dog. Not at once, perhaps. Give her a week."
"That's all very well," objected Sansome, whose eyes were shining, "but how
about that week? She'll run to that beast of a husband with her story--"
"And be sorry for it afterward--"
Morrell appeared to think.
"There's something in that. But suppose we arranged to get the husband out
of the way, where she couldn't run to him at once--" he suggested.
They had more drinks. At first Morrell was only sardonically amused; but as
his imagination got to working and the creative power awoke, his interest
became more genuine. It was all too wildly improbable for words--and yet,
was anything improbable in this impossible place? At least it was amusing,
the whole thing was amusing--this super-refined exquisite awakened, to an
emotion so genuine that what judgment he had was now obscured by the
eagerness of his passion; the situation apparently so easily malleable; the
beautiful safety of it all for himself. And it did not really matter if the
whole fantastic plot failed!
"I tell you, no," he broke his thoughts to reply to some ill-considered
suggestion, "The good old simple methods are the best--they're all laid out
for us by the Drury Lane melodramas. You leave it to me to get rid of him.
Then we'll send the usual message to her that he is lying wounded
somewhere--say at Jake's road house--"
"Won't that get her to thinking too much of him?" interrupted Sansome
Morrell, momentarily taken aback, gained time for a reply by pouring
Sansome another drink, "He's more sense left than I thought," he said to
himself; and aloud: "All you want is to get her out to Jake's. She'll go
simply as a matter of wifely duty, and all that. Don't worry. Once she's
there, it's your affair; and unless I mistake my man, I believe you'll know
how to manage the situation"--he winked slyly--"she's really mad about you,
but, like most women, she's hemmed in by convention. Boldly break through
the convention, and she'll come around."
Sansome was plainly fascinated by the idea, but in a trepidation of doubt,
"But suppose she doesn't come around?" he objected vaguely.
Morrell threw aside his cigarette and arose with an air of decision.
"I thought you were so crazy mad about her?" he said in tones that cut.
"What are you wasting my time for?"
"No, no! Hold on!" cried Sansome, at once all fire again. "I'll do it--hold
"As a matter of fact," observed Morrell, reseating himself, and speaking as
though there had been no interruption, "I imagine you have little to fear
He went into the street a little later, his vision somewhat blurred, but
his mind clear. Sansome, by now very pot-valiant, swaggered alongside.
"By the way, Ben," said Morrell suddenly, "I hope you go armed--these are
"I have always carried a derringer--and I can use it, too!" boasted
Sansome, swinging his cane.
Morrell, left alone, stood on the corner for some time diligently engaged
in getting control of himself. He laughed a little.
"Regular bally melodrama, conspiracy and all, right off the blood-and-
thunder stage," said he. "Wonder if it works in real life? We'll see."
After his head had cleared, he set to work methodically to find Keith, but
when he finally met that individual it was most casually. Morrell was
apparently in a hurry, but as he saw Keith he appeared to hesitate, then,
making up his mind, he approached the young lawyer.
"Look here, Keith, a word with you," he said. "I have stumbled on some
information which may be important. I was on my way to the committee with
it, but I'm in a hurry. The governor is shipping arms into the city to-
morrow night from Benicia, by a small sloop."
"Are you sure of this?" asked Keith.
"Where did you get the information?"
"That I cannot tell you."
Keith still hesitated; Morrell turned on his heel.
"Well, I've told you. You can do as you please, but you'd better let the
committee decide whether to take the tip or not." He walked away without
once looking back, certain that Keith would end by reporting the
"Chances are he'll go with the capturing party," ran the trend of his
thoughts, "and so he'll be out of reach of this little abduction. But I
don't care much. If he follows them out to Jake's by any chance, Sansome
will shoot him--or he'll shoot Sansome. Doesn't matter which. Shootin's
none too healthy these days _for either side!_ Oh, Lord, most amusin'!"
He thought a while, then turned up the hill toward his own house. A new
refinement of the plot had occurred to the artist's soul too much drink had
released in him.
Mrs. Morrell was vastly surprised to see him. She was clad in a formless
pink silk wrapper, was reclining on a sofa, and was settling down to
relaxation of mind and body by means of French novels and cigarettes,
"Well, what are you doing here at this time of day?" was her greeting.
"Came to bask in the light of your smiles, my dear," he replied with
"Nonsense!" she rejoined sharply, "You've been drinking again!"
"To be sure; but not enough to hurt." His manner suddenly became
businesslike, "Look here," he asked her, "are you game to make a tidy bit
"Always!" she replied promptly, also becoming businesslike.
He explained in detail. She listened in silence at first with a slight
smile of contempt on her lips. As he progressed, however, the smile faded.
"Where do I come in?" she asked finally.
"You must be there when the message comes to her. She might not go out to
Jake's alone--probably wouldn't. I don't know her well enough to judge.
Hurry her into it."
"I see." She laughed suddenly. "Lord, she'll be surprised when I call on
her! Take some doing, that!" She thought a few moments. "My appearance will
connect us with it. Won't do."
"If the thing goes through we won't be here," he pointed out. "If it
doesn't go through all right, we'll arrange a little comedy. Have you bound
and gagged--before her eyes--or something like that."
"Thanks," she replied to this.
Morrell was not entirely open. He did not tell her that money or no money,
plot or no plot, he had resolved to flee the city, at least for a time.
Investigations were getting too close to some of his past activities. He
did not offer in words what he nevertheless knew to be the most potent of
his arguments--namely, the implacable hate Mrs. Morrell bore Keith.
Morrell's knowledge of this hate was accurate, though his analysis of its
cause was faulty. He thought his wife to be Keith's discarded mistress, and
did not greatly care. Nor did he mention the possibility which, however,
Mrs. Morrell now voiced.
"Suppose Keith follows them out to Jake's?" she suggested.
"One of them will kill, and the Stranglers will hang the other," he said
She looked up.
"I don't care for that!"
"In that event, you will not be present. Your job will be to duck out." He
paused, then went on slowly: "Would you grieve at the demise of either--or
Her face hardened.
"But," he went on slowly, "the chances of it are very remote. If there is
any killing, it will come later. Keith will be kept out of the way."
"You hint of an assignation. I will arrange for witnesses."
"Where does the money come in?" she demanded. Morrell floundered for a
moment. He had lost sight of the money.
"It comes from certain parties who want Keith put out of the way," he said.
"And suppose Keith is not put out of the way?" she began, her facile mind
pouncing on the weakness of this statement. "Never mind," she interrupted
herself. "I'll do it!" Her face had hardened again, "Can you depend on
Sansome to go through with it?"
"Only if he's fairly drunk."
"I'll attend to that. That is my job. You may not see me to-morrow; but go
in the evening to call on her."
"It looks absolutely preposterous," she said at last, "but it may work.
And, if any part of it works, that'll be enough."
"Yes," said he.
They had both forgotten the money.
As Morrell had surmised, Keith decided to pass on the news for what it was
worth. The committee believed it, and was filled with consternation at the
incredible folly of the projected show of armed force.
"This is not peace, but war," said Coleman, "which we are trying to avert!"
The Executive Committee went into immediate session. It was now evident
that the disbanding would have to be indefinitely postponed. An
extraordinary program to meet the emergency was discussed piecemeal. One of
its details had to do with the shipment of arms from Benicia. The committee
here fell neatly into the trap prepared for it. In all probability no one
clearly realized the legal status of the muskets, but all supposed them
already to belong to the State that was threatening to use them. Charles
Doane, instructed to take the steps necessary to their capture, called to
him the chief of the harbour police.
"Have you a small vessel ready for immediate service?" he asked this man.
"Yes, a sloop, at the foot of this street."
"Be ready to sail in half an hour."
Doane then turned the job over to a trustworthy, quick-witted man named
John Durkee. The latter selected twelve to assist him, among whom was
Keith, at the latter's especial request. Morrell, loitering near, saw this
band depart for the water front, and followed them far enough to watch them
embark, to witness the hoisting of the sloop's sails, and to see the craft
heel to the evening breeze and slip away around the point. All things were
going well. The committee suspected nothing of the plot to fasten the crime
of piracy on it; Keith was out of the way. Morrell turned on his heel and
walked rapidly to his rendezvous with Sansome.
Durkee and his sloop beat for some hours against wind and tide; but
finally, so strong were both, he was forced to anchor in San Pablo Bay
until conditions had somewhat modified. Finally, he was able to get under
way again, A number of craft were sailing about, and one by one these were
overhauled, commanded to lay to, and boarded in true piratical style. It
was fun for everybody. The breeze blew in strongly from the Golden Gate,
the waves chopped and danced merrily, the little sloop dipped her rail and
flew along at a speed that justified her reputation as a racer, gulls
followed curiously. But there were no practical results. Every sailing
craft they overhauled proved innocent, and either indignant or sarcastic.
The sun dipped, and the short twilight of this latitude was almost
immediately succeeded by a brilliant night. Slowly the breeze died, until
the little sloop could just crawl along. It grew chilly, and there was no
food aboard. A less persistent man than John Durkee would have felt
justified in giving it up and heading for home; but John had been
instructed to cruise until he captured the arms; and he profanely announced
his intention of so doing.
In this he was more faithful to his superiors than the notorious Rube
Maloney to his employers. It was to the interest of the Law and Order party
that Rube and his precious crew should be promptly and easily captured.
They had been instructed to carry boldly and flagrantly, in full daylight,
down the middle of the bay. But Terry's permission, to lay in
"refreshments" at cost of the conspirators had been liberally interpreted.
By six o'clock Rube had just sense enough left to drop anchor off Pueblo
Point. There the three jolly mariners proceeded to celebrate; and there
they would probably have lain undiscovered had less of a bulldog than
Durkee been sent after them.
As it was, midnight had passed before Durkee's keen eyes caught the loom of
some object in the black mist close under the point. Quietly he eased off
the sheet and bore down on it. As soon as he ascertained definitely that
the object was indeed a boat, he ran alongside. The twelve men boarded with
a rush: they found themselves in possession of an empty deck. From the
hatch came the reek of alcohol and the sound of hearty snoring. The capture
In a half hour the transfer of the muskets and the three prisoners was
accomplished. The latter offered no resistance, but seemed cross at being
awakened. Leaving the vessel anchored off the point, the little sloop stood
away again for San Francisco, reaching the California Street wharf shortly
after daylight. Here she was moored, and one of the crew was dispatched to
the committee for further instructions and grub. He returned after an hour,
but was preceded somewhat by the grub.
"They say to deliver the muskets at headquarters," he reported, "but to
turn the prisoners loose."
"Turn them loose!" cried Durkee, astonished.
"That's what they said," repeated the messenger. "And here's written
orders," and he displayed a paper signed by the well-known "33, Secretary,"
and bearing the Vigilante seal of the open eye.
"All right," acquiesced Durkee. "Now, you mangy hounds, you've got just
about twenty-eight seconds to make yourselves as scarce as your virtues.
Rube and his two companions had several of the twenty-eight seconds to
spare; but once they had lost sight of their captors, they moderated their
pace. They had been much depressed, but now they cheered up and swaggered.
A few drinks restored them to normal, and they were able to put a good face
on the report they now made to their employers, all of whom, including
Terry, had gathered thus early to receive them. After all, things had gone
well: they had been actually captured, which was the essential thing, and
it did not seem necessary to go into extraneous details.
"Good!" cried Terry, who had come down from Sacramento personally to
superintend the working out of this latest ruse.
He was illegally absent from his court, meddling illegally with matters not
in his jurisdiction. "Now we must get a warrant for piracy into the hands
of the United States Marshal. Send him alone, with no deputies. When he
makes his deposition of resistance, then we shall see!"
The marshal found Durkee still at the wharf, seated on an upturned cask.
"I have this warrant for your arrest!" he proclaimed in a voice purposely
"Yes? Let's see it," rejoined Durkee, lazily reaching out his hand.
He read the document through leisurely. His features betrayed no hint of
his thoughts, but nevertheless his brain was very active. He read that he
was accused of piracy against the might and majesty of the United States
Government; and as his eyes slowly followed the involved and redundant
legal phraseology, he reviewed the situation. The nature, of the trap
became to him, partly evident. There was no doubt that technically he was a
pirate, if these arms--as it seemed--belonged to the Government and not to
the State. The punishment of piracy was death. Without appreciation of the
fact, the committee had made him liable to the death penalty. And he had no
doubt that the Federal Courts of California, as then constituted, would
visit that penalty on him. He raised his head and looked about him. Within
call were lounging a dozen resolute men belonging to the Committee of
Vigilance. He had but to raise his voice to bring them to his assistance.
Once inside Fort Gunnybags he knew that the committee would stand behind
him to the last man.
But John Durkee had imagination as well as bulldog persistency. His mind
flashed ahead into the future, envisaging the remoter consequences. He saw
the majesty of the law's forces invoked to back this warrant which the
tremendous power of the disciplined Vigilantes would repulse; he saw
reinforcements, summoned. What reinforcements? A smile flitted across his
lips, and he glanced up at the warship _John Adams_ riding at anchor
outside, her guns, their tampons in place, staring blackly at the city. He
saw the whole plot.
"That's all right," he told the waiting marshal, folding the warrant and
returning it to him. "Put your paper in your pocket. I'll go with you."
By this quietly courageous and intelligent deed John Durkee completely
frustrated the fourth and most dangerous effort of the Law and Order party.
There was no legal excuse for calling on Federal forces to take one man--
who peaceably surrendered!
Undoubtedly, had not matters taken the decided and critical turn soon to be
detailed, Durkee would have been immediately brought to trial, and perhaps
executed. As it was, even the most rabid of the Law and Order party agreed
it was inexpedient to press matters. The case was postponed again and
again, and did not come to trial until several months, by which time the
Vigilantes had practically finished their work. The law finally saved its
face by charging the jury that "if they believed the prisoners took the
arms with the intention of appropriating them to their own use and
permanently depriving the owner of them, then they were guilty. But if they
took them only for the purpose of preventing their being used against
themselves and their associates, then they were not guilty." Under which
hair-splitting and convenient interpretation the "pirates" went free, and
everybody was satisfied!
After leaving the office where they had made their report to their
employers, Rube Maloney and his two friends visited all the saloons. There
they found sympathetic and admiring audiences. They reviled the committee
collectively and singly; bragged that they would shoot Coleman, Truett,
Durkee, and some others at sight; flourished weapons, and otherwise became
so publicly and noisily obstreperous that the committee decided they needed
a lesson. Accordingly they instructed Sterling Hopkins, with four others,
to rearrest the lot and bring them in. Hopkins was a bulldog, pertinacious,
rough, a faithful creature.
News of these orders ran ahead of their performance. Rube and his
satellites dropped everything and fled to their masters like threatened
dogs. Their masters, who included Terry, Bowie, Major Marmaduke Miles, and
a few others, happened to be discussing the situation in the office of
Richard Ashe, a Texan, and an active member of "the chivalry." The three
redoubtables burst in on this gathering, wild-eyed, scared, with, the
statement that a thousand stranglers were at their heels.
"Better hide 'em," suggested Bowie.
But hot-headed Terry, seconded by equally hot-headed Ashe, would have none
"By gad, let them try it!" cried the judge. "I've been aching for this
Therefore when Hopkins, having left his small _posse_ at the foot of the
stairs, knocked and entered, he was faced by the muzzles of half a dozen
pistols, and profanely told to get out of there. He was no fool, so he
obeyed. If Terry had possessed the sense of a rooster, or a single quality
of leadership, he would have seen that this was not the moment to
precipitate a crisis. The forces of his own party were neither armed nor
ready. But here, as in all other important actions of his career, he was
governed by the haughty and headstrong passions of the moment--as when
later he justified himself in attempting to shoot down an old and unarmed
man. Hopkins left his men at the foot of the stairs, borrowed a horse from
Dr. Beverly Cole, who was passing, and galloped to headquarters. There he
was instructed to return, to keep watch, that reinforcements would follow.
He arrived at the building in which Ashe's office was located, in time to
see Maloney, Terry, Ashe, McNabb, Bowie, and Rowe all armed with shotguns,
just turning the far corner. He dismounted and called on his men to follow.
The little _posse_ dogged the judge's party for some distance. For a time
no attention was paid to them, but as they pressed closer Terry, Ashe, and
Maloney whirled and presented their shotguns. The movement was probably
intended only as a threat; but Hopkins, always bold to the point of
rashness, made a sudden rush at Maloney. Judge Terry thrust his gun at the
Vigilante officer who seized it by the barrel. At the same instant Ashe
pressed the muzzle of his weapon against one Bovee's breast, but hesitated
to pull the trigger. It was getting to be unhealthy to shoot men in the
"Are you a friend?" he faltered.
"Yes," replied Bovee, and by a rapid motion struck the barrel aside.
Another of the Vigilantes named Barry covered Rowe with a pistol. Rowe's
"chivalry" oozed. He dropped his gun and fled toward the armoury. The
others struggled for possession of weapons, but nobody fired. Suddenly
Terry whipped out a knife and plunged it into Hopkins's neck. Hopkins
relaxed his hold on Terry's shotgun and staggered back.
"I am stabbed! Take them, Vigilantes!" he cried.
He sank to the pavement. Terry and his friends dropped everything and ran
toward the armoury. Of the Vigilante _posse_ only Bovee and Barry remained,
but these two pursued the fleeing Law and Order men to the very portals of
the armoury itself. When the door was slammed in their faces, they took up
their stand outside, they two holding within several hundred men! At the
end of ten minutes a pompous, portly individual came up under full sail,
cast a detached and haughty glance at the two quiet men lounging
unwarrantedly in his path, and attempted to pass inside.
"You cannot enter here," said Bovee grimly, as they barred his way.
The pompous man turned purple.
"Do you know who I am?" he demanded.
"I don't give a damn who you are," replied Bovee, still quietly.
"I am Major-General Volney E. Howard!"
"You cannot enter here," repeated Bovee, and this time he said it in a tone
of voice that sent the major-general scurrying away.
After a short interval another man dashed up very much in a hurry.
Mistaking Bovee and Barry for sentinels, he cried as he ran up:
"I am a lieutenant in Calhoun Bennett's company, and I have been sent here
"I am a member of the Committee of Vigilance," interrupted Barry, "and you
"What!" cried the officer, in astonishment. "Have the Vigilance Committee
possession of this building?"
"They have," was the reply of the dauntless two.
The lieutenant rolled up his eyes and darted away faster than he had come.
A few moments later, doubtless to the vast relief of the "outside garrison"
of the armoury within which five or six hundred men were held close by this
magnificent bluff, the great Vigilante bell boomed out: _one, two, three_,
rest; then _one, two, three_, rest; and repeat.
Immediately the streets were alive with men. Merchants left their
customers, clerks their books, mechanics their tools. Dray-men stripped
their horses of harness, abandoned their wagons where they stood, and rode
away to their cavalry. Clancey Dempster's office was only four blocks from
headquarters. At the first stroke of the bell he leaped from his desk, ran
down the stairs, and jumped into his buggy. Yet he could drive only three
of the four blocks, so dense already was the crowd. He abandoned his rig in
the middle of the street and forced his way through afoot. Two days later
he recovered his rig. In the building he found the companies, silently,
without confusion, falling into line.
"All right!" he called encouragingly. "Keep cool! Take your time about it!"
"Ah, Mr. Dempster," they replied, "we've waited long! This is the clean
James Olney was lying in bed with a badly sprained ankle when the alarm
bell began to toll. He commandeered one boot from a fellow-boarder with
extremely large feet, and hobbled to the street. There he seized by force
of arms the passing delivery wagon of a kerosene dealer, climbed to the
seat, and lashed the astonished horse to a run. San Francisco streets ran
to chuck holes and ruts in those days, and the vehicle lurched and banged
with a grand rattle and scatteration of tins and measures. The terrified
driver at last mustered courage to protest.
"You are spilling my kerosene!" he wailed.
"Damn your kerosene, sir!" bellowed the general; then relenting: "I will
pay you for your kerosene!"
Up to headquarters he sailed full tilt, and how he got through the crowd
without committing manslaughter no one tells. There he was greeted by wild
cheering, and was at once lifted bodily to the back of a white horse, the
conspicuous colour of which made it an excellent rallying point.
Within an incredibly brief space of time they were off for the armoury; the
military companies marching like veterans; the artillery rumbling over the
rude pavements; the cavalry jogging along to cover the rear. A huge roaring
mob accompanied them, followed them, raced up the parallel streets to
arrive before the armoury at the same moment as the first files.
The armoury square was found to be deserted except for the intrepid Barry
and Bovee, who still marched back and forth before the closed door. No one
had entered or left the building.
Inside the armoury the first spirit of bravado and fight-to-the-last-ditch
had died to a sullen stubbornness. Nobody had much, to say. Terry was very
contrite as well he might be. A judge of the Supreme Court, who had no
business being in San Francisco at all, sworn to uphold the law, had
stepped out from his jurisdiction to commit as lawless and idiotic a deed
of passion as could have been imagined! Whatever chances the Law and Order
party might have had, could they have mobilized their forces, were
dissipated. Their troops were scattered in small units; their rank and file
were heaven knew where; their enemies, fully organized, had been mustered
by the alarm bell to full alertness and compactness. And Terry's was the
hand that had struck that bell! For the only time in his recorded history
David Terry's ungoverned spirit was humbled. Until he found that nothing
immediate was going to happen to him, and while under the silent but
scathing disapprobation of his companions, he actually talked of resigning!
Parenthetically, the fit did not last long, and he soon reared, his haughty
crest as high as ever. But now, listening to the roar of the mob outside,
peeping at the grim thousands of armed men deploying before the armoury, he
regretted his deed.
"This is very unfortunate; very unfortunate!" he said, "But you shall not
imperil your lives for me. It is I they want. I will surrender to them."
Instead of the prompt expostulation he expected, a dead silence greeted
"There is nothing else to do," agreed Ashe at last.
An officer was sent to negotiate.
"We will deliver up the armoury if you will agree not to give us over to
the mob," he told the committee.
"We hold, and intend to hold, the mob under absolute control. We have
nothing in common with mobs," was Coleman's reply.
The doors were then thrown open, and a company of the Vigilante troops
marched in. Within ten minutes, the streets were cleared. The six hundred
prisoners, surrounded by a solid body of infantry with cavalry on the
flanks, were marched to headquarters. The city was jubilant. This, at last,
was the clean sweep! Men went about with shining faces, slapping each other
on the back. And Coleman, the wise general, realizing that compromises were
useless, peace impossible, came to a decision. Shortly from headquarters
the entire Vigilante forces moved in four divisions toward the cardinal
points of the compass. From them small squads were from time to time
detached and sent out to right or left. The main divisions surrounded the
remaining four big armouries; the smaller squads combed the city house by
house for arms. In the early morning the armouries capitulated. By sun-up
every weapon in the city had been taken to Fort Gunnybags.
Up to this time Nan Keith had undergone the experience of nine out of ten
married women in early California: that is, she had been neglected. Neglect
in some form or other was the common lot of the legally attached feminine.
How could it logically be otherwise? In the turbulent, varied, restless,
intensely interesting, deeply exciting life of the pioneer city only a
poor-spirited, bloodless, nerveless man would have thought to settle down
to domesticity. A quiet evening at home stands small chance, even in an
old-established community, against a dog fight on the corner or a fire in
the next block; and here were men fights instead, and a great, splendid,
conflagration of desires, appetites, and passions, a grand clash of
interests and wills that burned out men's lives in the space of a few
years. It was a restless time, full of neglected women. This neglect varied
in degree to be sure. Nan was lucky there. No other woman had thrust her
way in, no other attraction lured Keith from her, as had happened to so
many others. She possessed all his interest. But at present that interest
seemed so attenuated, so remote!
After her revulsion of feeing the afternoon the Vigilantes first rose in
their might, she withdrew within her pride. Nan was no meek and humble
spirit. But the scales had dropped from her eyes as to affairs about her.
San Francisco suddenly became something besides a crude collection of
buildings. For the first time she saw it as a living entity, strong in the
throes of growth. She devoured eagerly all the newspapers, collected avidly
all the rumours. Whenever possible, she discussed the state of affairs; but
this was difficult, for nearly every one was strongly partisan for one side
or another, and incapable of anything but excitement and vituperation. The
Sherwoods were a great comfort to her here. While approving of the new
movement, they nevertheless refused to become heated, and retained a spirit
of humour. Sherwood was not a member of the Committee of Vigilance, but he
had subscribed heavily--and openly--to its funds; he had assisted it with
his counsels; and it was hinted that, sub-rosa, he had taken part in some
of the more obscure but dangerous operations.
"I am an elderly, peace-loving, respectable citizen," he told Nan, "and I
stand unequivocably for law and order and for justice, for the orderly
doing of things; and against violence, mob spirit, and high-handedness."
"Why, John Sherwood!" cried Nan, up in arms at once. "I'd never have
believed you could be on the side of Judge Terry and that stripe."
"Oho!" cried Sherwood, delighted to have drawn her. "Now we have it! But
what made you think I was on that side?"
"Why--didn't you just say--"
"Oh," said Sherwood comfortably, "I was using real meanings, not just word
tags. In my opinion real law and order, orderly doing of things, _et
cetera_, are all on the other side."
"And the men--" cried Nan, aglow.
"The men are of course all noble, self-sacrificing, patriotic, immaculate
demigods who--" He broke off, chuckling at Nan's expression. "No,
seriously, I think they are doing a fine work, and that they'll go down in
"You're an old dear!" cried Nan, impulsively kissing his cheek.
"Take care," he warned, "you're endangering my glasses and making my wife
Nan drew back, a little ashamed at having shown her feelings; and rather
astonished herself at their intensity.
In the course of these conversations the pendulum with her began again to
quiver at the descent. Through the calmly philosophical eye of the ex-
gambler, John Sherwood, she partly envisaged the significance of what was
happening--the struggling forth of real government from the sham. Her own
troubles grew small by comparison. She began to feel nearer Keith in spirit
than for some time past, to understand him better, even--though this was
difficult--to get occasionally a glimpse of his relations toward herself.
It was all very inchoate, instinctive, unformed; rather an instinct than a
clear view. She became restless; for she had no outlet either for her own
excitement or the communicated excitement of the times. It was difficult to
wait, and yet wait she must. For what? She did not know!
On the crucial June evening she sat by the lamp trying in vain to
concentrate her attention on a book. The sound of the door bell made her
jump. She heard Wing Sam's shuffle, and his cheerful greeting which all her
training had been unable to eliminate. Wing Sam always met every caller
with a smiling "Hello!" A moment later she arose in some surprise as Mrs.
Morrell entered the room.
Relations between the women had never been broken off, though the pretence
of ordinary cordiality had long since been dropped. When Mrs. Morrell found
it expedient to make this call, she spent several hours trying to invent a
plausible excuse. She was unable to do so. Finally she gave it up in angry
"As long as it is not too bald, what difference does it make?" she said to
And out of this desperation, and by no means from cleverness, she hit on
the cleverest thing possible. Instead of coming to make a friendly call,
she pretended to be on an errand of protest.
"It's about your dog," she told Nan, "he's a dear good dog, and a great
friend of ours. But cannot you shut him up nights? He's inclined to prowl
around under my windows, and just the sound of him there keeps me awake. I
know it's foolish; but I am so nervous these days--"
"Why, of course," said Nan with real contrition. "I'd no idea--"
Gringo was at the moment ingratiating himself with Wing Sam _in re_ one
soup bone of no use to anybody but dogs. If he could have heard Mrs.
Morrell's indictment, he would have been both grieved and surprised: Gringo
never prowled anywhere. Like most rather meaty individuals, he was a very
sound sleeper; and in the morning he often felt a little uneasy in his
conscience as to the matter of stray trespassing cats or such small fry. He
had every confidence that his instincts would warn him of really important
things, like burglars. Still, the important things are not all of life, nor
burglars all the duty of a dog.
Having slandered the innocent Gringo, Mrs. Morrell stayed for a chat.
Apparently she was always just on the point of departure, but never went.
Nan, being, as she thought, in the wrong as to the worthy Gringo, tried her
best to be polite, but was miserably conscious of being snippy.
At the end of an hour the door bell rang again. If Nan had been watching,
she might have seen Mrs. Morrell's body relax as though from a tension.
After a moment Wing Sam shuffled into the room carrying a soiled folded
"Man he tell you lead this chop-chop," said he.
Murmuring an apology, Nan opened the paper. With a cry she sprang to her
feet. Her face had gone white.
"What is it?" cried Mrs. Morrell in apparent anxiety.
Without a word Nan extended the paper. Written in pencil were these words:
MADAM: Your husband has been injured in an attempt at arrest. He wants
me to tell you he is at Jake's Place hurt bad. With respects. JOHN Q.
For an instant Mrs. Morrell did not dare look up. She was thoroughly angry
at what she thought to be her husband's stupidity.
"Why, that wouldn't deceive a child!" she thought contemptuously.
"How dreadful! Who is Alder?" she said, merely to say something.
Nan shook her head.
"I don't know," she replied rather wildly. "One of the Vigilantes, I
suppose. I must go out there. At once!"
She ran to the hall where she began to rummage for cloaks. Mrs. Morrell
followed her in wonderment. She was going to take this crude bait after
all! Mrs. Morrell had not the slightest idea Nan still loved her husband.
"You can't go alone!" she cried in apparent sympathy. "You poor child!
Jake's Place--at this time of night!"
"I'd go to hell if he needed me there!" cried Nan.
Mrs. Morrell became suddenly capable and commanding.
"Then I shall go with you," she announced firmly.
"Oh, you're good to me!" cried Nan, full of contrition, and feeling,
beneath her anxiety, that she had misjudged her neighbour's heart.
Mrs. Morrell took charge. She lit the lantern, led the way to the stable,
did the most toward harnessing the horse. They made rather a mess of it,
but the horse was gentle and reliable. When they had backed the buggy out
of the barn, she insisted on driving.
"You're in no fit condition," she told Nan, and Nan obediently climbed in
The drive was made in silence, except that occasionally Nan urged hurry.
She sat bolt upright, her hands clasped in her lap, her figure rigid,
trying to keep hold of herself. At Jake's Place a surly hostler appeared
and led away their horse. Jake's Place was in darkness save for one lighted
room on the ground floor and a dimly illuminated bar at the other end.
It is but just to a celebrated resort that had seen and was still to see
much of life to say that it knew nothing of the plot. Sansome had engaged
the ground-floor parlour, and ordered a fire and drinks. Morrell had
commanded a little supper for later. Now two ladies appeared. This was all
normal. Without drinks, little suppers, and the subsequent appearance of
ladies, Jake's Place would soon have languished.
Nan leaped over the wheel to the ground as soon as the buggy had stopped,
and before the dilatory hostler had cramped aside the wheel.
"Where is he?" she demanded breathlessly. The hostler jerked a thumb at the
lighted windows. Without a word Nan ran up the steps and to the door. The
hostler looked after her flying figure, then grinned up at Mrs. Morrell.
"Yum! yum!" said he, "but she's the eager little piece!"
Mrs. Morrell gave him a coin, and as he moved away with the horse, she,
too, ran up the steps. Nan had entered the parlour door, leaving it open
behind her. Mrs. Morrell closed it again, and locked it. Then, with a
certainty that proved her familiarity with the place, she walked down the
length of the veranda to a hall, which she entered.
Nan had burst into a parlour with an open fire. Before it stood a small
table crowded with bottles and glasses. Sansome rose, rather unsteadily,
from one of the easy chairs. Nan uttered an exclamation of relief as she
"Oh, I'm glad you're here!" she cried. "This is kind! How is he? Where is
Morrell had no easy day with Ben Sansome. He had been forced to spend the
whole of it with his protege, save for the hour he had devoted to seeing
Keith off on the piratical expedition. It was a terrible bore. In turn he
had played on the youth's pique, the supposed insult to his manhood, his
desire for the woman. Sansome was not naturally a valiant adventurer; but
he had an exceedingly touchy vanity, which, with a little coddling,
answered nearly as well. Morrell took the confident attitude that, of
course, Sansome was not afraid; therefore Sansome was ashamed to be afraid.
"For the moment," said the Englishman, "she's carried away by the glamour
of this Vigilante movement. They seem to her strong men. She contrasts them
with us men of the world, and as she cannot see that a polished exterior is
not incompatible with strength, she has a faint growing contempt for us.
Women like strength, masterfulness. It is the chance of your life to show
her that a man _comme il faut_ is the equal of these squalid brutes in that
respect. She is in love with you already, but she doesn't know it. All that
is necessary is a show of masterfulness to make her realize it." He stifled
a yawn. "Lord, what dreary piffle!" he confided to himself. He painted
Keith as a contemptible renegade from his own class, currying favour with
those below him, a cheap demagogue, a turncoat avid for popular power.
"At heart he's a coward--all such men are. And he's so wrapped up in his
ambition that his wife is a small matter to him. There's no danger from
him, for he's away; and after the first flare-up we'll be able to handle
him among us, never fear!" But after impressing this point, Morrell always
was most careful to interpose the warning: "If it should come to trouble,
don't let him get near you! He's absolutely rotten with a gun--you saw him
in that farce of a duel--but he's a strong beggar. Don't let him get his
hands on you!"
"I won't," promised Sansome, a trifle shakily.
Then Morrell, lighting a fresh cigar and fortifying his bored soul with
another drink, skilfully outlined a portrait of Sansome himself as a hero,
a dashing man of the world, a real devil among the ladies, the haughty and
proud exponent of aristocratic high-handedness. He laid this on pretty
thick, but Sansome had by now consumed a vast number of drinks, and was
ready to swallow almost anything in addition. Morrell's customary demeanour
was rather stolid, silent, and stupid; but when he was really interested
and cared to exert himself, he became unexpectedly voluble and plausible.
Mid-evening he drove this creature of his own fashioning out to Jake's
Place, and deposited him in the parlour with the open fire, the table of
drinks, and the easy chairs.
His plans from this point on were based on the fact that he had started
Keith out on an expedition that should last all night. Had there been the
slightest chance that the injured husband could appear, you may be sure
Morrell would not have been present. Of course witnesses were necessary to
the meeting at the road house. With Keith imminent, hirelings would have
been arranged for. With Keith safety away, Morrell saw no reason why he
should not enjoy the situation himself. Therefore he had arranged a little
supper party. Teeny McFarlane and Jimmy Ware were his first thought. Then
he added Pop McFarlane. If he wanted Teeny as a witness, the party must be
At the sound of wheels outside Morrell arose and slipped out the back door
of the parlour.
"Now, remember!" he told Sansome from the doorway. "Now's the chance of
your life! You've got her love, and you must keep her. She'll cut up rough
at first. That's when you must show what's in you. Go right after her!"
As Nan burst into the room by one door he softly closed--and locked--the
other behind him.
But Sansome, although he had put up a brave front to the last moment, was
not in reality feeling near the hero of romance he looked. In spite of
Morrell's cleverness, the Englishman had failed to observe that Sansome had
touched the fringe of that second stage of semi-drunkenness when the
"drinks were dying on him." While outwardly fairly sober, inwardly he was
verging toward the incoherent. First one phase or mood would come to the
top, then another, without order; sequence, or logical reason. He was
momentarily dangerous or harmless. Nan's abrupt entrance scattered his last
coherences. For the moment he fell back on habit, and habit was with him
conventional He smiled his best smile.
"Do sit down," he urged in his most society manner.
This immediately convinced Nan that Keith must be badly hurt.
"Tell me at once!" she demanded "Where is Milton? Is he--is--"
"As far as I know," replied Sansome, still in his courtly manner, "Mr.
Keith is in perfect health. As to where he is"--he waved an airy hand--"I
do not know. It does not matter, does it? The point is we are cozy here
together. Do sit down."
"I don't understand," said she, advancing a step nearer, her brows knit,
"Don't put me off. I got a note saying--"
"I know; I wrote it," boasted Sansome fatuously.
The blood mounted her face, her fists clenched, she advanced several steps
"I don't, quite understand," she repeated, in hard, crisp tones. "You wrote
it?' Isn't it true? What did you do such a thing for?"
"To get you here, my dear, of course," rejoined Sansome gallantly. "I knew
your puritanical scruples--I love them every one--but--"
"Do you mean to say you dared decoy me here!" challenged Nan, all aflame.
Her whole emotion was one of rage. It did not occur to her to be afraid of
Ben Sansome, the conventional, the dilettante exquisite, without the
gumption to say boo to a goose!
This Sansome answered her, the habit of society strong within him. He
became deprecatory, pleading, almost apologetic. His manners were on top
and his rather weak nature quailed before the blaze of her anger.
"I know it was inexcusable," he babbled, "but what could I do? I am mad
about you! Do forgive me! Just sit down for a few moments. I don't blame
you for being angry--any one is angry at being deceived--but do forgive me.
If you'll only consider why I did it, you won't be angry. That's right," he
ended soothingly, seeing that she neither spoke nor moved, "Just sit right
down here and be comfortable. It must be cold driving. Let me give you a
glass of sherry." He fussed about, shoving forward an armchair, arranging
pillows, unstopping the decanter.
"You fool!" she ejaculated in a low voice. She looked him all up and down,
and turned to go.
The door was locked! For the first time she noticed that Mrs. Morrell had
not followed her in. Her heart fluttered in sudden panic, which she
subdued. She moved toward the other door.
The words, and especially the frustration of her intention, brought another
mood to the surface of Sansome's intoxication. The polished society man
with the habit of external unselfishness disappeared. Another Sansome, whom
Nan did not recognize, sprang to take his place.
"No, you don't!" he snarled. "That door's locked, too. You don't get out of
here until I choose to let you out!"
"You'll let me out; and you'll let me out right now, or I'll call for
help," said Nan determinedly.
Sansome deliberately seated himself, stretching his legs out straight
before him, his hands in his pockets. This was the masterful role he had
seen himself playing, and he instinctively took the attitude approved by
the best melodramatic masters.
"Call all you please," he sneered. "Nobody's going to pay any attention to
your calls at Jake's Place!"
Nan's heart went cold as she realized the complete truth of this. She was
beginning to know fear. This was a new sort of creature before her, one
with which she was acquainted only by instinct. She did not know what to do
next, except that she saw surely that open opposition would only aggravate
"I must gain time!" she told herself, though to what end she could not have
Her pulses beat wildly, but she forced herself to a specious calmness.
"But Ben," she said as naturally as she could, "why did you do so foolish a
thing as this? It might make all kinds of trouble. You can always see me at
the house; you know that. Why did you get me out on this mad expedition? If
we were to be seen here by anybody we would be deeply compromised."
The words reminded her of Mrs. Morrell; but out of sheer terror she
resolutely thrust that idea from her mind. At this appeal Sansome suddenly
"You've treated me like a dog lately--a yellow dog!" he mourned. "What good
did it do to go to your house and be treated like a yellow dog?"
Nan's faculties were beginning to rally after the first panic. Her heart
was still thumping violently, but her eyes were bright, and her fighting
courage was flowing back. For the first time his obvious condition
registered on her brain.
"He's drunk!" she thought.
This discovery at first induced in her another, small panic. Then her
courage boldly took it as a point of attack. The man was drunk and
dangerous; very well, let us make him more drunk and less dangerous. That
was a desperate enough expedient, but at least it was definite. She crossed
deliberately to the other easy chair, and sat down.
"Well, let's sit down," she agreed. "No!" more decidedly, "you sit there,
on the other side. It's more cozy," she continued, at just the right moment
to get her effect on his instinct of good manners. "Now, I will have that
sherry. No, don't bother; it is next my hand. You must drink with me. Let
me pour it for you--with my own hands--aren't you flattered?"
She smiled across at him. This sudden reversion to an easy every-day plane
had brought Sansome's first mood again to the surface. In this atmosphere
of orderly tete-a-tete he was again the society man. Nan breathed freer. He
murmured something inane and conventional about Hebe.
"Meaning you're a little tin god?" she chaffed.
He said something still more involved, to the effect that her presence
would make a god out of the most unworthy mortal. It was all vapid, unreal,
"If I can only keep him at this!" thought she desperately.
She had drunk her glass of sherry because she felt she needed it. Now she
poured another, and without comment, refilled Sansome's whiskey glass.
"Here's to us!" she cried, lifting her glass.
Nan's plan of getting him so drunk that he would not interfere with her
escape had the merit of simplicity, and also of endorsement by such
excellent authority as melodrama and the novel. It had the defect of being
entirely theoretical. Nan's innocence of the matter in hand had not taken
into account the intermediate stages of drunkenness, nor did she realize
the strength inherent in the association of ideas. As she leaned forward to
fill the glasses, Sansome's eyes brightened. He had seen women pouring wine
many times before. The picture before him reminded him of a dozen similar
pictures taken from the gallery of his rather disreputable past. His
elaborate complimentary mood vanished. He pledged her ardently, and deep in
his eyes began to burn a secret covetous flame. Nan poured her, sherry
under the table.
"This really is a cozy party!" she cried. "Will you have another with me?"
The third glass of neat whiskey whirled in Sansome's head. He was verging
toward complete drunkenness, but in the meantime became amorous. His eyes
burned, his lips fell apart. Nan tried in desperation to keep on a plane of
light persiflage, to hold him to his chair and to the impersonal. Deep fear
entered her. She urged more drink on him, hoping that he would be
overpowered. It was like a desperate race between this man's passions and
the deep oblivion that reached for them. Her mouth was dry, and her brain
whirled. Only by the greatest effort could she prevent herself from flying
to pieces. Sansome hardly appeared to hear her. He wagged his head at her,
looking upon her with swimming, benevolent eyes. Suddenly, without warning,
he sprang up, overturning with a crash the small table and the bottles and
"By God, you're the most beautiful woman I ever saw!" he cried. "Come
He advanced on her, his eyes alight. She saw that the crisis had come, and
threw aside all pretence.
"Keep away! Keep away!" she warned him through, gritted teeth; then, as he
continued to stumble toward her, she struck at him viciously again and
again with one of the small light chairs.
For a moment or so she actually managed to beat him off; but he lunged
through the blows and seized her around the shoulders.
"Reg'lar little tiger cat!" he murmured with fond admiration.
His reeking breath was on her neck as he sought her mouth. She threw her
head back and to one side, fighting desperately and silently, tearing at
him with her hands, writhing her body, lowering her head as he forced her
around, kicking at his shin. The man's strength was as horrible as it was
unexpected. The efforts to which she was giving her every ounce did not
appear to have the slightest effect on him, His handsome weak face
continued to smile foolishly and fondly down on her.
"Reg'lar little tiger cat!" he repeated over and over.
The terrible realization dawned on her that he was too much for her. Her
body suddenly went lax. She threw back her and screamed.
The plot which Morrell had first suggested idly and as sort of a joke, but
which later he had entered into with growing belief, was quite perfect in
all details but one: he assumed that Keith had accompanied Durkee's
expedition, and was sure that he had seen the young lawyer off. As a matter
of fact, Keith had been recalled. A messenger had at the very last moment
handed him an order sealed with the well-known open eye, and signed "33
Secretary." It commanded him to proceed with certain designated men to the
arrest of certain others inscribed on the black list. This was a direct
order, whereas the present expedition was wholly a voluntary affair. Keith
had no alternative but to obey, though he did so reluctantly, for this
search for arms had promised sport. Therefore, he stepped ashore at the
last instant; a proceeding unobserved by Morrell, who was surveying the
scene from a distance, and who turned away once the sails were hoisted.
The duty to which Keith had been assigned took some time. The men had to be
searched out one by one, escorted to headquarters, and the usual
formalities there accomplished. It was late in the evening before he was
free to go home. He let himself in with his latchkey, and had just turned
up the low-burning gas in the hall when the sound of hurrying feet brought
him back to the door. He flung it open to confront Mrs. Sherwood and
Krafft. They were both panting as though they had run some distance and
Krafft's usually precise attire was dishevelled and awry, as though it had
been hastily put on.
"Nan!" gasped Mrs. Sherwood. "Is she here?"
Keith, with instant decision, asking no questions, threw open the parlour
door, glanced within, ran upstairs three steps at a time, but almost
immediately returned after a hasty inspection of the upper story. His face
had gone very pale, but he had himself in perfect control.
"Well?" he demanded crisply, looking from one to the other.
But Mrs. Sherwood did not stop to answer. With a stifled exclamation she
darted from the house. Krafft looked after her, bewildered. Keith shook him
savagely by the shoulder.
"Speak up, man! Quick! What is it?" demanded Keith. His voice was vibrant
with suppressed excitement, but he held himself outwardly calm, and waited
immobile until the end of Krafft's story. It was characteristic of him as
of all strong men in a crisis that he made no move whatever until he was
sure he had grasped the whole situation.
Krafft was just going to bed--he always retired early--when he was called
to the door by Mex Ryan. Mex had never come to his house before. He was a
shoulder striker and a thug; but he had one sure streak of loyalty in that
nothing could ever induce him to go back on a pal. For various reasons he
considered Krafft a pal. He was very much troubled.
"Look here, boss," he said to Krafft, "It just come to my mind a while ago:
what was the name of that bloke you told me to keep off'n? The Cora trial
man, I mean."
Krafft recalled the circumstance, and named Keith.
Mex slapped his head.
"That's right! It come to me afterward. Well, there's dirty work with his
wife. That's where I see the name, on the outside of the note. I just give
her a fake letter that says her husband is shot, and she's to go to him."
"How did he know what the letter said?" interjected Keith at this point.
"He'd read anything given him, of course. Mex knew the letter was false. I
came up to find your house. I didn't know where you lived, so I stopped at
John Sherwood's to inquire. Mrs. Sherwood was home alone. She came with
"Where did this letter say I was supposed to be?" asked Keith,
"My God!" cried Keith, and leaped for the door. At the same instant Mrs.
Sherwood's voice was heard from the darkness.
"Come here," she cried, "I have a rig."
They found her seated in a buggy. Both climbed in beside her. Keith took
the reins, and lashed the horse with the light whip. The astonished animal
leaped; the buggy jerked forward.
Then began a wild, careering, bumpy ride into the night. The road was
fearful and all but invisible. The carriage swayed and swung dangerously.
Keith drove, every faculty concentrated. No one spoke. The dim and ghostly
half-guessed forms of things at night streamed past.
"Who sent that letter?" demanded Keith finally.
"Mex wouldn't tell me," replied Krafft.
"How long ago did he deliver it?"
"About an hour."
The horse plunged frantically under the lash as this reply reached Keith.
The buggy was all but overturned. He pulled the frantic animal down to a
slower pace, and with an obvious effort regained control of himself.
"Can't afford an accident!" he warned himself.
"Are you armed?" Mrs. Sherwood asked him suddenly.
"Yes--no, I left my gun at headquarters--that doesn't matter."
Mrs. Sherwood made no comment. The wind caught her hair and whipped it
about. In the distance now twinkled the lights of Jake's Place. Keith took
a firmer grip on the reins, and again applied the whip. They swept into the
gravelled driveway on two wheels, righted themselves, and rounded to the
veranda. Keith pulled up and leaped to the ground. Nobody was visible. From
the veranda he turned on them.
"Here, you!" he commanded Mrs. Sherwood sharply, "I can't have you in this
row! Stay here, outside. You take care of her," he told Krafft. "No, I mean
On his words a scream burst from the lighted room. Keith sprang to the
door, found it locked, and drew back. With a low mighty rush he thrust his
shoulder against the panel near the lock. The wood splintered. He sprang
forward into the room.
After turning the key in the lock outside the parlour door Mrs. Morrell
slipped along the dark veranda, passed through a narrow hall, and entered a
small back sitting-room. Jake's Place especially abounded in sitting-rooms.
This particular one was next the parlour, so that one listening intently
could be more or less aware of what was going on in the larger room. Here
Morrell was already seated, a bottle of beer next his hand. He raised his
eyebrows on her entrance, and she nodded back reassuringly. She, too, sat
down and helped herself to beer. Both smoked. For a long time neither said
"Don't hear much in there," observed Mrs. Morrell finally, in a low guarded
"Not a sound," agreed Morrell. "You don't suppose she--"
"No, I don't think so."
"Then I don't see what ails that fool, Sansome! It'd be just like him to
"What does it matter?" observed Mrs. Morrell philosophically, "We don't
care what is happening inside as long as those two doors stay locked until
Teeny and Jimmy Ware get here."
As has been mentioned, Pop McFarlane was also of the party; but,
characteristically, neither would have thought that fact worth mentioning.
"Just the same, as a matter of academic interest, I'd have expected her to
make more of a row," said Morrell. "I'll wager for all her airs she runs
the same gait as all the rest of you."
"Do you mean me?" demanded Mrs. Morrell, her eyes flashing dangerously.
"Moderate your voice, my dear," advised he. "My remark was wholly general
of your charming sex."
From the parlour now they heard faintly the first sounds of struggle.
"That's more like," he said with satisfaction. "I hate to have my ideals
Wheels became audible.
"There's Teeny, now," he observed, arising. He sauntered down the hall and
looked out. "Keith!" he whispered back over his shoulder. "Where in hell
did he come from?" He continued to peer into the darkness. "There's two
others. Well, at any rate, we have plenty of witnesses!" He turned to Mrs.
Morrell. "You'd better make yourself scarce. You locked that door, you
"Scarce!" she repeated, staring at him. "Where? How?"
He looked at her through narrowed lids.
"Get a horse of Jake," he said at last. "I'll meet you--oh, at the house.
We'll arrange later."
He watched her rather opulent figure steal down the dim hallway. A cynical
smile flashed under his moustache. He turned back to the drama before him.
The buggy had disappeared; the veranda was apparently empty.
"Now I wonder who will shoot who?" speculated Morrell.
He stole to the first of the windows. The lower blinds were drawn, but the
upper half of the window was clear. Morrell cautiously placed a stool
nearby, and mounted it so he could see into the room. For several minutes
he watched. Then his hand stole to his pocket. He produced a revolver.
Blinded by the light, Keith stood for a barely appreciable moment in the
wrecked doorway. Sansome, startled by the crash, relaxed his efforts. Nan
thrust him from her so strongly that he staggered back. Keith's vision
cleared. He appreciated the meaning of the tableau, uttered a choked growl,
Immediately Sansome drew and presented his weapon. He was shocked far
toward sobriety, but the residue of the whiskey fumes in combination with a
sudden sick and guilty panic imbued him with a sort of desperation. Sansome
was a bold and dashing villain only as long as things came his way. His
amours had always been of the safe rather than the wildly adventurous sort.
Sansome had no morals; but being found out produced effects so closely
resembling those of conscience that they could not be distinguished. In the
chaotic collapse of this heroic episode he managed to cling to but one
thing. That was Morrell's often reiterated warning: "Don't let Keith get
his hands on you!"
At the sight of his levelled weapon, Nan, who was nearest, uttered a
stifled cry and made as though to throw herself on him.
"Stop!" commanded Keith, without looking toward her. But so quietly
authoritative was his voice and manner that in spite of herself her impulse
was checked. She remained rigid.
Keith advanced steadily on Sansome, his hands clenched at his side, his
eye's fixed frowningly and contemptuously on those of the other man. The
pistol barrel was held on his breast. Sansome fully intended to shoot, but
found himself unable to pull the trigger. This is a condition every
rifleman knows well by experience; he calls it being "frozen on the bull's
eye," when, the alignment perfect, his rifle steady as a rock, he
nevertheless cannot transmit just the little nerve power necessary to crook
the forefinger. Three times Sansome sent the message to his trigger finger;
three times the impulse died before it had compassed the distance between
his brain and his hand. This was partly because his correlations had been
weakened by the drink; partly because his fuddled mind was divided between
fear, guilt, despair, and a rage at himself for having got into such a
mess; but principally because he was hypnotically dominated by the other
man's stronger personality.
So evident was this that a sudden feeling of confidence replaced in Nan the
sick terror at the sight of the weapon. She seemed to know positively that
here was no real peril. A wave of contempt for Sansome, even as a dangerous
creature, mingled with a passionate admiration for the man who thus
dominated him unarmed.
Sansome's nerve broke. He dropped his hand, looked to right and left
frantically like a rat in a corner, uttered a very ratty squeak. Suddenly
he hurled the loaded pistol blindly at Keith, and plunged bodily, with an
immense crash of breaking glass, through the closed window. Keith, with a
snarl of baffled rage, dashed forward.
The sight seemed to touch Nan's sense of humour. She laughed at the
picture, caught her breath, gasped. Keith whirled and snatched her fiercely
in his arms.
"Nan!" he cried in an agony, "are you all right? What did that beast--"
She clung to him, still choking, on the edge of hysterics. In a moment of
illumination she realized that the intangible barrier these past years had
so slowly built between them had gone crashing down before the assault of
the old love triumphant.
"I'm all right, dear," she gasped; "really all right. And I never was so
happy in my life!"
They clung together frantically, he patting her shoulder, her cheek against
his own, murmuring broken, soothing little phrases. The time and the place
did not exist for them.
A scuffle outside, which they had only vaguely sensed, and which had not at
all penetrated to their understandings, came to an end. Mrs. Sherwood
appeared in the doorway. Her dress was torn and dishevelled, a strand of
her smooth hair had fallen across her forehead, an angry red mark showed on
one cheek. But she was in high spirits. Her customary quiet poise had given
place to a vibrant, birdlike, vital, quivering eagerness. To the two in the
centre of the room, still clasped in each other's arms, came the same
thought: that never, in spite of her ruffled plumes, in spite of the cheek
already beginning to swell, had this extraordinary woman looked so
beautiful! Then Keith realized that she was panting heavily, and was
clinging to the doorway. He sprang to her assistance.
"What is it? Where is Krafft?" he asked.
She laughed a little, and permitted him to help her to an armchair into
which she sank. She waved aside Keith's attempts to find a whole glass in
the wreckage of the table.
"I'm all right," she said, "and isn't this a nice little party?"
"What has happened? Where is Krafft?" repeated Keith.
"I sent him to the stable for help. There didn't seem to be anybody about
"But what happened to you? Did that brute Sansome--"
"Sansome? was that Sansome? the one who came through the window?" She
dabbed at her cheek. "You might wet me a handkerchief or a towel or
something," she suggested. "No, he didn't stop!" she laughed again. "Are
you all right?" she asked anxiously of Nan.
"Yes. But tell us--"
"Well, children, I was waiting on the veranda, obeying orders like a good
girl, when, in the dim light I saw a man mount a stool and look into the
room. He was very much interested. I crept up quite close to him without
his knowing it. I heard him mutter to himself something about a 'weak kneed
fool.' Then he drew a revolver. He looked quite determined and heroic"--she
giggled reminiscently--"so I kicked the stool out from under him! About
that time there was a most terrific crash, and somebody came out through
"But your cheek, your hair--"
"I tried to hold him, but he was too strong for me. He hit me in the face,
wrenched himself free, and ran. That was all; except that he dropped the
pistol, and I'm going to keep it as a trophy."
Keith was looking at her, deep in thought.
"I don't understand," he said slowly. "Who could it have been?"
Mrs. Sherwood shook her head.
"Somebody about to shoot a pistol; that's all I know. I couldn't see his
"Whoever it was, you saved one or both of us," said Keith, "there's no
doubt in my mind of that. Let's see the pistol."
It proved to be one of the smaller Colt's models, about 31 calibre, cap and
ball, silver plated, with polished rosewood handles, and heavily engraved
with scrollwork. Turning it over, Keith finally discovered on the bottom of
the butt frame two letters scratched rudely, apparently with the point of a
knife. He took it closer to the light.
"I have it," said he. "Here are the letters C.M."
"Charles Morrell!" cried both women in a breath.
At this moment appeared Krafft, somewhat out of wind, followed by the surly
and reluctant proprietor from whom the place took its name. Jake had been
liberally paid to keep himself and his staff out of the way. Now finding
that he was not wanted, he promptly disappeared.
"Let's get to the bottom of this thing," said Keith decisively. "If those
are really meant for Morrell's initials, what was he doing here?"
"Mrs. Morrell came out with me," put in Nan.
"Jake told me there was to be a supper party later," said Krafft.
"It's clear enough," contributed Mrs. Sherwood. "The whole thing is a plot
to murder or do worse. I've been through '50 and '51, and I know."
"I can't believe yet that Sansome--" said Keith doubtfully.
"Oh, Sansome is merely a tool, I don't doubt," replied Mrs. Sherwood.
"I can find out to-morrow from Mex Ryan who sent the note," said Krafft.
"Let's get out of this horrible place!" cried Nan with a convulsive shiver.
Again they had great difficulty in finding any one to get their rigs, but
finally repeated calls brought the hostler and Jake himself. The latter
made some growl about payment for the entertainment, but at this Keith
turned on him with such concentrated fury that he muttered something and
slouched away. It was agreed that Krafft should conduct Mrs. Sherwood. They
clambered into the two buggies and drove away.
The horse plodded slowly down the gravelled drive of the road house and
turned into the main highway. It was very dark on earth, and very bright in
the heavens. The afternoon fog had cleared away, dissipated in the warm air
from the sand hills, for the day had been hot. Overhead flared thousands of
stars, throwing the world small. Nan, shivering in reaction, nestled
against her husband. He drew her close. She rested her cheek against his
shoulder and sighed happily. Neither spoke.
At first Keith's whole being was filled with rage. His mind whirled with
plans for revenge. On the morrow he would hunt down Morrell and Sansome. At
the thought of what he would do to them, his teeth clamped and his muscles
stiffened. Then he became wholly preoccupied with Nan's narrow escape. His
quick mind visualized a hundred possibilities--suppose he had gone on
Durkee's expedition? Suppose Mex Ryan had not happened to remember his
name? Suppose Mrs. Sherwood and Krafft had not found him? Suppose they had
been an hour later? Suppose--He leaned over tenderly to draw the lap robe
closer about her. She had stopped shivering and was nestling contentedly
But gradually the storm in Keith's soul fell. The great and solemn night
stood over against his vision, and at last he could not but look. The
splendour of the magnificent skies, the dreamy peace of the velvet-black
earth lying supine like a weary creature at rest--these two simple
infinities of space and of promise took him to themselves. An eager glad
chorus of frogs came from some invisible pool. The slithering sound of the
sand dividing before the buggy wheels whispered. Every once in a while the
plodding horse sighed deeply.
With the warm cozy feel of the woman, his woman, in the hollow of his arm,
his spirit stilled and uplifted by the simple yet august and eternal things
before him, Keith fell into inchoate rumination. The fever of activity in
the city, the clash of men's interests, greeds, and passions, the tumult
and striving, the sweat and dust of the arena fell to nothing about his
feet. He cleared his vision of the small necessary unessentials, and stared
forth wide-eyed at the big simplicities of life--truth as one sees it,
loyalty to one's ideal, charity toward one's beaten enemy, a steadfast
front toward one's unbeaten enemy, scorn of pettiness, to be unafraid.
Unless the struggle is for and by these things, it is useless, meaningless.
And one's possessions--Keith's left arm tightened convulsively. He had come
near to losing the only possession worth while. At the pressure Nan stirred
"Are we there, dear?" she inquired, raising her head.
Keith had reined in the horse, and was peering into the surrounding
darkness. He laughed.
"No, we seem to be here," he replied, "And I'm blest if I know where 'here'
is! I've been day-dreaming!"
"I believe I've been asleep," confessed Nan.
They both stared about them, but could discern nothing familiar in the dim
outlines of the hills. Not a light flickered.
"Perhaps if you'd give the horse his head, he'd take us home. I've heard,
they would," suggested Nan.
"He's had his head completely for the last two hours. That theory is
exploded. We must have turned wrong after leaving Jake's Place."
"Well, we're on a road. It must go somewhere."
Keith, with some difficulty, managed to awaken the horse. It sighed and
resumed its plodding.
"I'm afraid we're lost," confessed Keith.
"I don't much care," confessed Nan.
"He seems to be a perfectly safe horse," said he.
By way of answer to this she passed her arms gently about his neck and bent
his lips to hers. The horse immediately stopped.
"Seems a fairly intelligent brute, too," observed Keith, after a few
"Did you ever see so many stars?" said she.
The buggy moved slowly, on through the night. They did not talk.
Explanations and narrative could wait until the morrow--a distant morrow
only dimly foreseen, across this vast ocean of night. All sense of tune or
direction left them; they were wandering irresponsibly, without thought of
why, as children wander and get lost. After a long time they saw a silver
gleam far ahead and below them.
"That must be the bay," said Keith. "If we turn to the right we ought to
get back to town."
"I suppose so," said Nan.
A very long time later the horse stopped short with an air of finality, and
refused absolutely to proceed. Keith descended to see what was the matter.
"The road seems to end here," he told her. "There's a steep descent just
"Nothing," he replied, climbing back into the buggy.
The horse slumbered profoundly. They wrapped the lap robe around
themselves. For a tune they whispered little half-forgotten things to each
other. The pauses grew longer and longer. With an effort she roused herself
to press her lips again to his. They, too, slept. And as dawn slowly
lighted the world, they must have presented a strange and bizarre
silhouette atop the hill against the paling sky--the old sagging buggy, the
horse with head down and ears adroop, the lovers clasped in each other's
Silently all about them the new day was preparing its great spectacle. The
stars were growing dim; the masses of eastern hills were becoming visible.
A full rich life was swelling through the world, quietly, stealthily, as
though under cover of darkness multitudes were stealing to their posts.
Shortly, when the signal was given, the curtain would roll up, the fanfare
of trumpets would resound--A meadow lark chirped low out of the blackness.
And another, boldly, with full throat, uttered its liquid, joyous song.
This was apparently the signal. The east turned gray. Mt. Tamalpais caught
the first ghostly light. And ecstatically the birds and the insects and the
flying and crawling and creeping things awakened, and each in his own voice
and manner devoutly welcomed the brand-new day with its fresh, clean
chances of life and its forgetfulness of old, disagreeable things. The
meadow larks became hundreds, the song sparrows trilled, distant cocks
crowed, and a dog barked exuberantly far away.
Keith stirred and looked about him. Objects were already becoming dimly
visible. Suddenly something attracted his attention. He held his head
sideways, listening. Faintly down the little land breeze came the sound of
a bell. It was the Vigilante tocsin. Nan sat up, blinking and putting her
hair back from her eyes. She laughed a little happily.
"Why, it's the dawn!" she cried, "We've been out all night!"
"The dawn," repeated Keith, his arm about her, but his ear attuned to the
beat of the distant bell. "The gray dawn of better things."
As the Keiths, on the way, drove across what is now Harbour View, they
stopped to watch a bark standing out through the Golden Gate before the
gentle morning land breeze. She made a pretty sight, for the new-risen sun
whitened her sails. Aboard her was the arch-plotter, Morrell. Had they
known of that fact, it is to be doubted whether they would have felt any
great disappointment over his escape, or any deep animosity at all. The
outcome of his efforts had been clarifying. The bark was bound for the
Sandwich Islands. Morrell's dispositions for flight at a moment's notice
had been made long since; in fact, since the first days of Vigilante
activity. He lingered in the islands for some years, at first cutting quite
a dash; then, as his money dwindled and his schemes failed, he degenerated
slowly. His latter end was probably as a small copra trader in the South
Seas; but that is unknown. Mrs. Morrell--if indeed she was the man's legal
wife at all--thus frankly abandoned, put a bold front on the whole matter.
She returned to her house. As the Keiths in no manner molested her, she
took heart. With no resources other than heavily mortgaged real property,
she found herself forced to do something for a living. In the course of
events we see Mrs. Morrell keeping a flashy boarding-house, hanging
precariously on the outer fringe of the lax society of the times, frowned
upon by the respectable, but more or less sought by the fast men and young
girls only too numerous among the idle of that day.
Ben Sansome went south. For twenty years he lived in Los Angeles, where he
cut a figure, but from which he always cast longing eyes back upon San
Francisco. He had a furtive lookout for arrivals from the north. One day,
however, he came face to face with Keith. As the latter did not annihilate
him on the spot, Sansome plucked up courage. He returned to San Francisco,
There in time he attained a position dear to his heart; he became an "old
beau," frequenting the teas and balls, appraising the debutantes, giving
his opinion on vintage wines, leading a comfortable, idle, selfish,
useless, graceful life. His only discomfort was his occasional encounters
with the Keiths. Mrs. Keith never distinguished him from thin air unless
others were present. Keith had always in his eye a gleam of contempt which,
perhaps, Sansome acknowledged, was natural; but it was a contempt with a
dash of amusement in it, and that galled. Still--Ben was satisfied. He
gained the distinction of having discovered the epicurean value of sand-