Part 6 out of 12
Magnus had kept to his house, refusing to be seen, alleging that
he was ill, which was not far from the truth. The shame of the
business, the loathing of what he had done, were to him things
unspeakable. He could no longer look Harran in the face. He
began a course of deception with his wife. More than once, he
had resolved to break with the whole affair, resigning his
position, allowing the others to proceed without him. But now it
was too late. He was pledged. He had joined the League. He was
its chief, and his defection might mean its disintegration at the
very time when it needed all its strength to fight the land
cases. More than a mere deal in bad politics was involved.
There was the land grab. His withdrawal from an unholy cause
would mean the weakening, perhaps the collapse, of another cause
that he believed to be righteous as truth itself. He was
hopelessly caught in the mesh. Wrong seemed indissolubly knitted
into the texture of Right. He was blinded, dizzied, overwhelmed,
caught in the current of events, and hurried along he knew not
where. He resigned himself.
In the end, and after much ostentatious opposition on the part of
the railroad heelers, Lyman was nominated and subsequently
When this consummation was reached Magnus, Osterman, Broderson,
and Annixter stared at each other. Their wildest hopes had not
dared to fix themselves upon so easy a victory as this. It was
not believable that the corporation would allow itself to be
fooled so easily, would rush open-eyed into the trap. How had it
Osterman, however, threw his hat into the air with wild whoops of
delight. Old Broderson permitted himself a feeble cheer. Even
Magnus beamed satisfaction. The other members of the League,
present at the time, shook hands all around and spoke of opening
a few bottles on the strength of the occasion. Annixter alone
"It's too easy," he declared. "No, I'm not satisfied. Where's
Shelgrim in all this? Why don't he show his hand, damn his
soul? The thing is yellow, I tell you. There's a big fish in
these waters somewheres. I don't know his name, and I don't know
his game, but he's moving round off and on, just out of sight.
If you think you've netted him, I DON'T, that's all I've got to
But he was jeered down as a croaker. There was the Commission.
He couldn't get around that, could he? There was Darrell and
Lyman Derrick, both pledged to the ranches. Good Lord, he was
never satisfied. He'd be obstinate till the very last gun was
fired. Why, if he got drowned in a river he'd float upstream
just to be contrary.
In the course of time, the new board was seated. For the first
few months of its term, it was occupied in clearing up the
business left over by the old board and in the completion of the
railway map. But now, the decks were cleared. It was about to
address itself to the consideration of a revision of the tariff
for the carriage of grain between the San Joaquin Valley and
Both Lyman and Darrell were pledged to an average ten per cent.
cut of the grain rates throughout the entire State.
The typewriter returned with the letters for Lyman to sign, and
he put away the map and took up his morning's routine of
business, wondering, the while, what would become of his practice
during the time he was involved in the business of the Ranchers'
But towards noon, at the moment when Lyman was drawing off a
glass of mineral water from the siphon that stood at his elbow,
there was an interruption. Some one rapped vigorously upon the
door, which was immediately after opened, and Magnus and Harran
came in, followed by Presley.
"Hello, hello!" cried Lyman, jumping up, extending his hands,
"why, here's a surprise. I didn't expect you all till to-night.
Come in, come in and sit down. Have a glass of sizz-water,
The others explained that they had come up from Bonneville the
night before, as the Executive Committee of the League had
received a despatch from the lawyers it had retained to fight the
Railroad, that the judge of the court in San Francisco, where the
test cases were being tried, might be expected to hand down his
decision the next day.
Very soon after the announcement of the new grading of the
ranchers' lands, the corporation had offered, through S. Behrman,
to lease the disputed lands to the ranchers at a nominal figure.
The offer had been angrily rejected, and the Railroad had put up
the lands for sale at Ruggles's office in Bonneville. At the
exorbitant price named, buyers promptly appeared--dummy buyers,
beyond shadow of doubt, acting either for the Railroad or for S.
Behrman--men hitherto unknown in the county, men without
property, without money, adventurers, heelers. Prominent among
them, and bidding for the railroad's holdings included on
Annixter's ranch, was Delaney.
The farce of deeding the corporation's sections to these
fictitious purchasers was solemnly gone through with at Ruggles's
office, the Railroad guaranteeing them possession. The League
refused to allow the supposed buyers to come upon the land, and
the Railroad, faithful to its pledge in the matter of
guaranteeing its dummies possession, at once began suits in
ejectment in the district court in Visalia, the county seat.
It was the preliminary skirmish, the reconnaisance in force, the
combatants feeling each other's strength, willing to proceed with
caution, postponing the actual death-grip for a while till each
had strengthened its position and organised its forces.
During the time the cases were on trial at Visalia, S. Behrman
was much in evidence in and about the courts. The trial itself,
after tedious preliminaries, was brief. The ranchers lost. The
test cases were immediately carried up to the United States
Circuit Court in San Francisco. At the moment the decision of
this court was pending.
"Why, this is news," exclaimed Lyman, in response to the
Governor's announcement; "I did not expect them to be so prompt.
I was in court only last week and there seemed to be no end of
business ahead. I suppose you are very anxious?"
Magnus nodded. He had seated himself in one of Lyman's deep
chairs, his grey top-hat, with its wide brim, on the floor beside
him. His coat of black broad-cloth that had been tightly packed
in his valise, was yet wrinkled and creased; his trousers were
strapped under his high boots. As he spoke, he stroked the
bridge of his hawklike nose with his bent forefinger.
Leaning-back in his chair, he watched his two sons with secret
delight. To his eye, both were perfect specimens of their class,
intelligent, well-looking, resourceful. He was intensely proud
of them. He was never happier, never more nearly jovial, never
more erect, more military, more alert, and buoyant than when in
the company of his two sons. He honestly believed that no finer
examples of young manhood existed throughout the entire nation.
"I think we should win in this court," Harran observed, watching
the bubbles break in his glass. "The investigation has been much
more complete than in the Visalia trial. Our case this time is
too good. It has made too much talk. The court would not dare
render a decision for the Railroad. Why, there's the agreement
in black and white--and the circulars the Railroad issued. How
CAN one get around those?"
"Well, well, we shall know in a few hours now," remarked Magnus.
"Oh," exclaimed Lyman, surprised, "it is for this morning, then.
Why aren't you at the court?"
"It seemed undignified, boy," answered the Governor. "We shall
know soon enough."
"Good God!" exclaimed Harran abruptly, "when I think of what is
involved. Why, Lyman, it's our home, the ranch house itself,
nearly all Los Muertos, practically our whole fortune, and just
now when there is promise of an enormous crop of wheat. And it
is not only us.
There are over half a million acres of the San Joaquin involved.
In some cases of the smaller ranches, it is the confiscation of
the whole of the rancher's land. If this thing goes through, it
will absolutely beggar nearly a hundred men. Broderson wouldn't
have a thousand acres to his name. Why, it's monstrous."
"But the corporations offered to lease these lands," remarked
Lyman. "Are any of the ranchers taking up that offer--or are any
of them buying outright?"
"Buying! At the new figure!" exclaimed Harran, "at twenty and
thirty an acre! Why, there's not one in ten that CAN. They are
land-poor. And as for leasing--leasing land they virtually own--
no, there's precious few are doing that, thank God! That would
be acknowledging the railroad's ownership right away--forfeiting
their rights for good. None of the LEAGUERS are doing it, I
know. That would be the rankest treachery."
He paused for a moment, drinking the rest of the mineral water,
then interrupting Lyman, who was about to speak to Presley,
drawing him into the conversation through politeness, said:
"Matters are just romping right along to a crisis these days.
It's a make or break for the wheat growers of the State now, no
mistake. Here are the land cases and the new grain tariff
drawing to a head at about the same time. If we win our land
cases, there's your new freight rates to be applied, and then all
is beer and skittles. Won't the San Joaquin go wild if we pull
it off, and I believe we will."
"How we wheat growers are exploited and trapped and deceived at
every turn," observed Magnus sadly. "The courts, the
capitalists, the railroads, each of them in turn hoodwinks us
into some new and wonderful scheme, only to betray us in the end.
Well," he added, turning to Lyman, "one thing at least we can
depend on. We will cut their grain rates for them, eh, Lyman?"
Lyman crossed his legs and settled himself in his office chair.
"I have wanted to have a talk with you about that, sir," he said.
"Yes, we will cut the rates--an average 10 per cent. cut
throughout the State, as we are pledged. But I am going to warn
you, Governor, and you, Harran; don't expect too much at first.
The man who, even after twenty years' training in the operation
of railroads, can draw an equitable, smoothly working schedule of
freight rates between shipping point and common point, is capable
of governing the United States. What with main lines, and leased
lines, and points of transfer, and the laws governing common
carriers, and the rulings of the Inter-State Commerce Commission,
the whole matter has become so confused that Vanderbilt himself
couldn't straighten it out. And how can it be expected that
railroad commissions who are chosen--well, let's be frank--as
ours was, for instance, from out a number of men who don't know
the difference between a switching charge and a differential
rate, are going to regulate the whole business in six months'
time? Cut rates; yes, any fool can do that; any fool can write
one dollar instead of two, but if you cut too low by a fraction
of one per cent. and if the railroad can get out an injunction,
tie you up and show that your new rate prevents the road being
operated at a profit, how are you any better off?"
"Your conscientiousness does you credit, Lyman," said the
Governor. "I respect you for it, my son. I know you will be
fair to the railroad. That is all we want. Fairness to the
corporation is fairness to the farmer, and we won't expect you to
readjust the whole matter out of hand. Take your time. We can
afford to wait."
"And suppose the next commission is a railroad board, and
reverses all our figures?"
The one-time mining king, the most redoubtable poker player of
Calaveras County, permitted himself a momentary twinkle of his
"By then it will be too late. We will, all of us, have made our
fortunes by then."
The remark left Presley astonished out of all measure He never
could accustom himself to these strange lapses in the Governor's
character. Magnus was by nature a public man, judicious,
deliberate, standing firm for principle, yet upon rare occasion,
by some such remark as this, he would betray the presence of a
sub-nature of recklessness, inconsistent, all at variance with
his creeds and tenets.
At the very bottom, when all was said and done, Magnus remained
the Forty-niner. Deep down in his heart the spirit of the
Adventurer yet persisted. "We will all of us have made fortunes
by then." That was it precisely. "After us the deluge." For
all his public spirit, for all his championship of justice and
truth, his respect for law, Magnus remained the gambler, willing
to play for colossal stakes, to hazard a fortune on the chance of
winning a million. It was the true California spirit that found
expression through him, the spirit of the West, unwilling to
occupy itself with details, refusing to wait, to be patient, to
achieve by legitimate plodding; the miner's instinct of wealth
acquired in a single night prevailed, in spite of all. It was in
this frame of mind that Magnus and the multitude of other
ranchers of whom he was a type, farmed their ranches. They had
no love for their land. They were not attached to the soil.
They worked their ranches as a quarter of a century before they
had worked their mines. To husband the resources of their
marvellous San Joaquin, they considered niggardly, petty,
Hebraic. To get all there was out of the land, to squeeze it
dry, to exhaust it, seemed their policy. When, at last, the land
worn out, would refuse to yield, they would invest their money in
something else; by then, they would all have made fortunes. They
did not care. "After us the deluge."
Lyman, however, was obviously uneasy, willing to change the
subject. He rose to his feet, pulling down his cuffs.
"By the way," he observed, "I want you three to lunch with me to-
day at my club. It is close by. You can wait there for news of
the court's decision as well as anywhere else, and I should like
to show you the place. I have just joined."
At the club, when the four men were seated at a small table in
the round window of the main room, Lyman's popularity with all
classes was very apparent. Hardly a man entered that did not
call out a salutation to him, some even coming over to shake his
hand. He seemed to be every man's friend, and to all he seemed
equally genial. His affability, even to those whom he disliked,
"See that fellow yonder," he said to Magnus, indicating a certain
middle-aged man, flamboyantly dressed, who wore his hair long,
who was afflicted with sore eyes, and the collar of whose velvet
coat was sprinkled with dandruff, "that's Hartrath, the artist, a
man absolutely devoid of even the commonest decency. How he got
in here is a mystery to me."
Yet, when this Hartrath came across to say "How do you do" to
Lyman, Lyman was as eager in his cordiality as his warmest friend
could have expected.
"Why the devil are you so chummy with him, then?" observed Harran
when Hartrath had gone away.
Lyman's explanation was vague. The truth of the matter was, that
Magnus's oldest son was consumed by inordinate ambition.
Political preferment was his dream, and to the realisation of
this dream popularity was an essential. Every man who could
vote, blackguard or gentleman, was to be conciliated, if
possible. He made it his study to become known throughout the
entire community--to put influential men under obligations to
himself. He never forgot a name or a face. With everybody he
was the hail-fellow-well-met. His ambition was not trivial. In
his disregard for small things, he resembled his father.
Municipal office had no attraction for him. His goal was higher.
He had planned his life twenty years ahead. Already Sheriff's
Attorney, Assistant District Attorney and Railroad Commissioner,
he could, if he desired, attain the office of District Attorney
itself. Just now, it was a question with him whether or not it
would be politic to fill this office. Would it advance or
sidetrack him in the career he had outlined for himself? Lyman
wanted to be something better than District Attorney, better than
Mayor, than State Senator, or even than member of the United
States Congress. He wanted to be, in fact, what his father was
only in name--to succeed where Magnus had failed. He wanted to
be governor of the State. He had put his teeth together, and,
deaf to all other considerations, blind to all other issues, he
worked with the infinite slowness, the unshakable tenacity of the
coral insect to this one end.
After luncheon was over, Lyman ordered cigars and liqueurs, and
with the three others returned to the main room of the club.
However, their former place in the round window was occupied. A
middle-aged man, with iron grey hair and moustache, who wore a
frock coat and a white waistcoat, and in some indefinable manner
suggested a retired naval officer, was sitting at their table
smoking a long, thin cigar. At sight of him, Presley became
animated. He uttered a mild exclamation:
"Why, isn't that Mr. Cedarquist?"
"Cedarquist?" repeated Lyman Derrick. "I know him well. Yes, of
course, it is," he continued. "Governor, you must know him. He
is one of our representative men. You would enjoy talking to
him. He was the head of the big Atlas Iron Works. They have
shut down recently, you know. Not failed exactly, but just
ceased to be a paying investment, and Cedarquist closed them out.
He has other interests, though. He's a rich man--a capitalist."
Lyman brought the group up to the gentleman in question and
"Mr. Magnus Derrick, of course," observed Cedarquist, as he took
the Governor's hand. "I've known you by repute for some time,
sir. This is a great pleasure, I assure you." Then, turning to
Presley, he added: "Hello, Pres, my boy. How is the great, the
very great Poem getting on?"
"It's not getting on at all, sir," answered Presley, in some
embarrassment, as they all sat down. "In fact, I've about given
up the idea. There's so much interest in what you might call
'living issues' down at Los Muertos now, that I'm getting further
and further from it every day."
"I should say as much," remarked the manufacturer, turning
towards Magnus. "I'm watching your fight with Shelgrim, Mr.
Derrick, with every degree of interest." He raised his drink of
whiskey and soda. "Here's success to you."
As he replaced his glass, the artist Hartrath joined the group
uninvited. As a pretext, he engaged Lyman in conversation.
Lyman, he believed, was a man with a "pull" at the City Hall. In
connection with a projected Million-Dollar Fair and Flower
Festival, which at that moment was the talk of the city, certain
statues were to be erected, and Hartrath bespoke Lyman's
influence to further the pretensions of a sculptor friend of his,
who wished to be Art Director of the affair. In the matter of
this Fair and Flower Festival, Hartrath was not lacking in
enthusiasm. He addressed the others with extravagant gestures,
blinking his inflamed eyelids.
"A million dollars," he exclaimed. "Hey! think of that. Why,
do you know that we have five hundred thousand practically
pledged already? Talk about public spirit, gentlemen, this is
the most public-spirited city on the continent. And the money is
not thrown away. We will have Eastern visitors here by the
thousands--capitalists--men with money to invest. The million we
spend on our fair will be money in our pockets. Ah, you should
see how the women of this city are taking hold of the matter.
They are giving all kinds of little entertainments, teas, 'Olde
Tyme Singing Skules,' amateur theatricals, gingerbread fetes, all
for the benefit of the fund, and the business men, too--pouring
out their money like water. It is splendid, splendid, to see a
community so patriotic."
The manufacturer, Cedarquist, fixed the artist with a glance of
"And how much," he remarked, "will they contribute--your
gingerbread women and public-spirited capitalists, towards the
blowing up of the ruins of the Atlas Iron Works?"
"Blowing up? I don't understand," murmured the artist,
"When you get your Eastern capitalists out here with your
Million-Dollar Fair," continued Cedarquist, "you don't propose,
do you, to let them see a Million-Dollar Iron Foundry standing
idle, because of the indifference of San Francisco business men?
They might ask pertinent questions, your capitalists, and we
should have to answer that our business men preferred to invest
their money in corner lots and government bonds, rather than to
back up a legitimate, industrial enterprise. We don't want
fairs. We want active furnaces. We don't want public statues,
and fountains, and park extensions and gingerbread fetes. We
want business enterprise. Isn't it like us? Isn't it like us?"
he exclaimed sadly. "What a melancholy comment! San Francisco!
It is not a city--it is a Midway Plaisance. California likes to
be fooled. Do you suppose Shelgrim could convert the whole San
Joaquin Valley into his back yard otherwise? Indifference to
public affairs--absolute indifference, it stamps us all. Our
State is the very paradise of fakirs. You and your Million-
Dollar Fair!" He turned to Hartrath with a quiet smile. "It is
just such men as you, Mr. Hartrath, that are the ruin of us. You
organise a sham of tinsel and pasteboard, put on fool's cap and
bells, beat a gong at a street corner, and the crowd cheers you
and drops nickels into your hat. Your ginger-bread fete; yes, I
saw it in full blast the other night on the grounds of one of
your women's places on Sutter Street. I was on my way home from
the last board meeting of the Atlas Company. A gingerbread fete,
my God! and the Atlas plant shutting down for want of financial
backing. A million dollars spent to attract the Eastern
investor, in order to show him an abandoned rolling mill, wherein
the only activity is the sale of remnant material and scrap
Lyman, however, interfered. The situation was becoming strained.
He tried to conciliate the three men--the artist, the
manufacturer, and the farmer, the warring elements. But
Hartrath, unwilling to face the enmity that he felt accumulating
against him, took himself away. A picture of his--"A Study of
the Contra Costa Foot-hills"--was to be raffled in the club rooms
for the benefit of the Fair. He, himself, was in charge of the
matter. He disappeared.
Cedarquist looked after him with contemplative interest. Then,
turning to Magnus, excused himself for the acridity of his words.
"He's no worse than many others, and the people of this State and
city are, after all, only a little more addle-headed than other
Americans." It was his favourite topic. Sure of the interest of
his hearers, he unburdened himself.
"If I were to name the one crying evil of American life, Mr.
Derrick," he continued, "it would be the indifference of the
better people to public affairs. It is so in all our great
centres. There are other great trusts, God knows, in the United
States besides our own dear P. and S. W. Railroad. Every State
has its own grievance. If it is not a railroad trust, it is a
sugar trust, or an oil trust, or an industrial trust, that
exploits the People, BECAUSE THE PEOPLE ALLOW IT. The
indifference of the People is the opportunity of the despot. It
is as true as that the whole is greater than the part, and the
maxim is so old that it is trite--it is laughable. It is
neglected and disused for the sake of some new ingenious and
complicated theory, some wonderful scheme of reorganisation, but
the fact remains, nevertheless, simple, fundamental, everlasting.
The People have but to say 'No,' and not the strongest tyranny,
political, religious, or financial, that was ever organised,
could survive one week."
The others, absorbed, attentive, approved, nodding their heads in
silence as the manufacturer finished.
"That's one reason, Mr. Derrick," the other resumed after a
moment, "why I have been so glad to meet you. You and your League
are trying to say 'No' to the trust. I hope you will succeed.
If your example will rally the People to your cause, you will.
Otherwise--" he shook his head.
"One stage of the fight is to be passed this very day," observed
Magnus. "My sons and myself are expecting hourly news from the
City Hall, a decision in our case is pending."
"We are both of us fighters, it seems, Mr. Derrick," said
Cedarquist. "Each with his particular enemy. We are well met,
indeed, the farmer and the manufacturer, both in the same grist
between the two millstones of the lethargy of the Public and the
aggression of the Trust, the two great evils of modern America.
Pres, my boy, there is your epic poem ready to hand."
But Cedarquist was full of another idea. Rarely did so
favourable an opportunity present itself for explaining his
theories, his ambitions. Addressing himself to Magnus, he
"Fortunately for myself, the Atlas Company was not my only
investment. I have other interests. The building of ships--
steel sailing ships--has been an ambition of mine,--for this
purpose, Mr. Derrick, to carry American wheat. For years, I have
studied this question of American wheat, and at last, I have
arrived at a theory. Let me explain. At present, all our
California wheat goes to Liverpool, and from that port is
distributed over the world. But a change is coming. I am sure
of it. You young men," he turned to Presley, Lyman, and Harran,
"will live to see it. Our century is about done. The great word
of this nineteenth century has been Production. The great word
of the twentieth century will be--listen to me, you youngsters--
Markets. As a market for our Production--or let me take a
concrete example--as a market for our WHEAT, Europe is played
out. Population in Europe is not increasing fast enough to keep
up with the rapidity of our production. In some cases, as in
France, the population is stationary. WE, however, have gone on
producing wheat at a tremendous rate.
The result is over-production. We supply more than Europe can
eat, and down go the prices. The remedy is NOT in the curtailing
of our wheat areas, but in this, we MUST HAVE NEW MARKETS,
GREATER MARKETS. For years we have been sending our wheat from
East to West, from California to Europe. But the time will come
when we must send it from West to East. We must march with the
course of empire, not against it. I mean, we must look to China.
Rice in China is losing its nutritive quality. The Asiatics,
though, must be fed; if not on rice, then on wheat. Why, Mr.
Derrick, if only one-half the population of China ate a half
ounce of flour per man per day all the wheat areas in California
could not feed them. Ah, if I could only hammer that into the
brains of every rancher of the San Joaquin, yes, and of every
owner of every bonanza farm in Dakota and Minnesota. Send your
wheat to China; handle it yourselves; do away with the middleman;
break up the Chicago wheat pits and elevator rings and mixing
houses. When in feeding China you have decreased the European
shipments, the effect is instantaneous. Prices go up in Europe
without having the least effect upon the prices in China. We
hold the key, we have the wheat,--infinitely more than we
ourselves can eat. Asia and Europe must look to America to be
fed. What fatuous neglect of opportunity to continue to deluge
Europe with our surplus food when the East trembles upon the
verge of starvation!"
The two men, Cedarquist and Magnus, continued the conversation a
little further. The manufacturer's idea was new to the Governor.
He was greatly interested. He withdrew from the conversation.
Thoughtful, he leaned back in his place, stroking the bridge of
his beak-like nose with a crooked forefinger.
Cedarquist turned to Harran and began asking details as to the
conditions of the wheat growers of the San Joaquin. Lyman still
maintained an attitude of polite aloofness, yawning occasionally
behind three fingers, and Presley was left to the company of his
There had been a day when the affairs and grievances of the
farmers of his acquaintance--Magnus, Annixter, Osterman, and old
Broderson--had filled him only with disgust. His mind full of a
great, vague epic poem of the West, he had kept himself apart,
disdainful of what he chose to consider their petty squabbles.
But the scene in Annixter's harness room had thrilled and
uplifted him. He was palpitating with excitement all through the
succeeding months. He abandoned the idea of an epic poem. In
six months he had not written a single verse. Day after day he
trembled with excitement as the relations between the Trust and
League became more and more strained. He saw the matter in its
true light. It was typical. It was the world-old war between
Freedom and Tyranny, and at times his hatred of the railroad
shook him like a crisp and withered reed, while the languid
indifference of the people of the State to the quarrel filled him
with a blind exasperation.
But, as he had once explained to Vanamee, he must find
expression. He felt that he would suffocate otherwise. He had
begun to keep a journal. As the inclination spurred him, he
wrote down his thoughts and ideas in this, sometimes every day,
sometimes only three or four times a month. Also he flung aside
his books of poems--Milton, Tennyson, Browning, even Homer--and
addressed himself to Mill, Malthus, Young, Poushkin, Henry
George, Schopenhauer. He attacked the subject of Social
Inequality with unbounded enthusiasm. He devoured, rather than
read, and emerged from the affair, his mind a confused jumble of
conflicting notions, sick with over-effort, raging against
injustice and oppression, and with not one sane suggestion as to
remedy or redress.
The butt of his cigarette scorched his fingers and roused him
from his brooding. In the act of lighting another, he glanced
across the room and was surprised to see two very prettily
dressed young women in the company of an older gentleman, in a
long frock coat, standing before Hartrath's painting, examining
it, their heads upon one side.
Presley uttered a murmur of surprise. He, himself, was a member
of the club, and the presence of women within its doors, except
on special occasions, was not tolerated. He turned to Lyman
Derrick for an explanation, but this other had also seen the
women and abruptly exclaimed:
"I declare, I had forgotten about it. Why, this is Ladies' Day,
"Why, yes," interposed Cedarquist, glancing at the women over his
shoulder. "Didn't you know? They let 'em in twice a year, you
remember, and this is a double occasion. They are going to
raffle Hartrath's picture,--for the benefit of the Gingerbread
Fair. Why, you are not up to date, Lyman. This is a sacred and
religious rite,--an important public event."
"Of course, of course," murmured Lyman. He found means to survey
Harran and Magnus. Certainly, neither his father nor his brother
were dressed for the function that impended. He had been stupid.
Magnus invariably attracted attention, and now with his trousers
strapped under his boots, his wrinkled frock coat--Lyman twisted
his cuffs into sight with an impatient, nervous movement of his
wrists, glancing a second time at his brother's pink face,
forward curling, yellow hair and clothes of a country cut. But
there was no help for it. He wondered what were the club
regulations in the matter of bringing in visitors on Ladies' Day.
"Sure enough, Ladies' Day," he remarked, "I am very glad you
struck it, Governor. We can sit right where we are. I guess
this is as good a place as any to see the crowd. It's a good
chance to see all the big guns of the city. Do you expect your
people here, Mr. Cedarquist?"
"My wife may come, and my daughters," said the manufacturer.
"Ah," murmured Presley, "so much the better. I was going to give
myself the pleasure of calling upon your daughters, Mr.
Cedarquist, this afternoon."
"You can save your carfare, Pres," said Cedarquist, "you will see
No doubt, the invitations for the occasion had appointed one
o'clock as the time, for between that hour and two, the guests
arrived in an almost unbroken stream. From their point of
vantage in the round window of the main room, Magnus, his two
sons, and Presley looked on very interested. Cedarquist had
excused himself, affirming that he must look out for his women
Of every ten of the arrivals, seven, at least, were ladies. They
entered the room--this unfamiliar masculine haunt, where their
husbands, brothers, and sons spent so much of their time--with a
certain show of hesitancy and little, nervous, oblique glances,
moving their heads from side to side like a file of hens
venturing into a strange barn. They came in groups, ushered by a
single member of the club, doing the honours with effusive bows
and polite gestures, indicating the various objects of interest,
pictures, busts, and the like, that decorated the room.
Fresh from his recollections of Bonneville, Guadalajara, and the
dance in Annixter's barn, Presley was astonished at the beauty of
these women and the elegance of their toilettes. The crowd
thickened rapidly. A murmur of conversation arose, subdued,
gracious, mingled with the soft rustle of silk, grenadines,
velvet. The scent of delicate perfumes spread in the air, Violet
de Parme, Peau d'Espagne. Colours of the most harmonious blends
appeared and disappeared at intervals in the slowly moving press,
touches of lavender-tinted velvets, pale violet crepes and cream-
coloured appliqued laces.
There seemed to be no need of introductions. Everybody appeared
to be acquainted. There was no awkwardness, no constraint. The
assembly disengaged an impression of refined pleasure. On every
hand, innumerable dialogues seemed to go forward easily and
naturally, without break or interruption, witty, engaging, the
couple never at a loss for repartee. A third party was
gracefully included, then a fourth. Little groups were formed,--
groups that divided themselves, or melted into other groups, or
disintegrated again into isolated pairs, or lost themselves in
the background of the mass,--all without friction, without
embarrassment,--the whole affair going forward of itself,
decorous, tactful, well-bred.
At a distance, and not too loud, a stringed orchestra sent up a
pleasing hum. Waiters, with brass buttons on their full dress
coats, went from group to group, silent, unobtrusive, serving
salads and ices.
But the focus of the assembly was the little space before
Hartrath's painting. It was called "A Study of the Contra Costa
Foothills," and was set in a frame of natural redwood, the bark
still adhering. It was conspicuously displayed on an easel at
the right of the entrance to the main room of the club, and was
very large. In the foreground, and to the left, under the shade
of a live-oak, stood a couple of reddish cows, knee-deep in a
patch of yellow poppies, while in the right-hand corner, to
balance the composition, was placed a girl in a pink dress and
white sunbonnet, in which the shadows were indicated by broad
dashes of pale blue paint. The ladies and young girls examined
the production with little murmurs of admiration, hazarding
remembered phrases, searching for the exact balance between
generous praise and critical discrimination, expressing their
opinions in the mild technicalities of the Art Books and painting
classes. They spoke of atmospheric effects, of middle distance,
of "chiaro-oscuro," of fore-shortening, of the decomposition of
light, of the subordination of individuality to fidelity of
One tall girl, with hair almost white in its blondness, having
observed that the handling of the masses reminded her strongly of
Corot, her companion, who carried a gold lorgnette by a chain
around her neck, answered:
"Ah! Millet, perhaps, but not Corot."
This verdict had an immediate success. It was passed from group
to group. It seemed to imply a delicate distinction that carried
conviction at once. It was decided formally that the reddish
brown cows in the picture were reminiscent of Daubigny, and that
the handling of the masses was altogether Millet, but that the
general effect was not quite Corot.
Presley, curious to see the painting that was the subject of so
much discussion, had left the group in the round window, and
stood close by Hartrath, craning his head over the shoulders of
the crowd, trying to catch a glimpse of the reddish cows, the
milk-maid and the blue painted foothills. He was suddenly aware
of Cedarquist's voice in his ear, and, turning about, found
himself face to face with the manufacturer, his wife and his two
There was a meeting. Salutations were exchanged, Presley shaking
hands all around, expressing his delight at seeing his old
friends once more, for he had known the family from his boyhood,
Mrs. Cedarquist being his aunt. Mrs. Cedarquist and her two
daughters declared that the air of Los Muertos must certainly
have done him a world of good. He was stouter, there could be no
doubt of it. A little pale, perhaps. He was fatiguing himself
with his writing, no doubt. Ah, he must take care. Health was
everything, after all. Had he been writing any more verse? Every
month they scanned the magazines, looking for his name.
Mrs. Cedarquist was a fashionable woman, the president or
chairman of a score of clubs. She was forever running after
fads, appearing continually in the society wherein she moved with
new and astounding proteges--fakirs whom she unearthed no one
knew where, discovering them long in advance of her companions.
Now it was a Russian Countess, with dirty finger nails, who
travelled throughout America and borrowed money; now an Aesthete
who possessed a wonderful collection of topaz gems, who submitted
decorative schemes for the interior arrangement of houses and who
"received" in Mrs. Cedarquist's drawing-rooms dressed in a white
velvet cassock; now a widow of some Mohammedan of Bengal or
Rajputana, who had a blue spot in the middle of her forehead and
who solicited contributions for her sisters in affliction; now a
certain bearded poet, recently back from the Klondike; now a
decayed musician who had been ejected from a young ladies'
musical conservatory of Europe because of certain surprising
pamphlets on free love, and who had come to San Francisco to
introduce the community to the music of Brahms; now a Japanese
youth who wore spectacles and a grey flannel shirt and who, at
intervals, delivered himself of the most astonishing poems,
vague, unrhymed, unmetrical lucubrations, incoherent, bizarre;
now a Christian Scientist, a lean, grey woman, whose creed was
neither Christian nor scientific; now a university professor,
with the bristling beard of an anarchist chief-of-section, and a
roaring, guttural voice, whose intenseness left him gasping and
apoplectic; now a civilised Cherokee with a mission; now a female
elocutionist, whose forte was Byron's Songs of Greece; now a high
caste Chinaman; now a miniature painter; now a tenor, a pianiste,
a mandolin player, a missionary, a drawing master, a virtuoso, a
collector, an Armenian, a botanist with a new flower, a critic
with a new theory, a doctor with a new treatment.
And all these people had a veritable mania for declamation and
fancy dress. The Russian Countess gave talks on the prisons of
Siberia, wearing the headdress and pinchbeck ornaments of a Slav
bride; the Aesthete, in his white cassock, gave readings on
obscure questions of art and ethics. The widow of India, in the
costume of her caste, described the social life of her people at
home. The bearded poet, perspiring in furs and boots of reindeer
skin, declaimed verses of his own composition about the wild life
of the Alaskan mining camps. The Japanese youth, in the silk
robes of the Samurai two-sworded nobles, read from his own works--
"The flat-bordered earth, nailed down at night, rusting under
the darkness," "The brave, upright rains that came down like
errands from iron-bodied yore-time." The Christian Scientist, in
funereal, impressive black, discussed the contra-will and pan-
psychic hylozoism. The university professor put on a full dress
suit and lisle thread gloves at three in the afternoon and before
literary clubs and circles bellowed extracts from Goethe and
Schiler in the German, shaking his fists, purple with vehemence.
The Cherokee, arrayed in fringed buckskin and blue beads, rented
from a costumer, intoned folk songs of his people in the
vernacular. The elocutionist in cheese-cloth toga and tin
bracelets, rendered "The Isles of Greece, where burning Sappho
loved and sung." The Chinaman, in the robes of a mandarin,
lectured on Confucius. The Armenian, in fez and baggy trousers,
spoke of the Unspeakable Turk. The mandolin player, dressed like
a bull fighter, held musical conversaziones, interpreting the
peasant songs of Andalusia.
It was the Fake, the eternal, irrepressible Sham; glib, nimble,
ubiquitous, tricked out in all the paraphernalia of imposture, an
endless defile of charlatans that passed interminably before the
gaze of the city, marshalled by "lady presidents," exploited by
clubs of women, by literary societies, reading circles, and
culture organisations. The attention the Fake received, the time
devoted to it, the money which it absorbed, were incredible. It
was all one that impostor after impostor was exposed; it was all
one that the clubs, the circles, the societies were proved beyond
doubt to have been swindled. The more the Philistine press of
the city railed and guyed, the more the women rallied to the
defence of their protege of the hour. That their favourite was
persecuted, was to them a veritable rapture. Promptly they
invested the apostle of culture with the glamour of a martyr.
The fakirs worked the community as shell-game tricksters work a
county fair, departing with bursting pocket-books, passing on the
word to the next in line, assured that the place was not worked
out, knowing well that there was enough for all.
More frequently the public of the city, unable to think of more
than one thing at one time, prostrated itself at the feet of a
single apostle, but at other moments, such as the present, when a
Flower Festival or a Million-Dollar Fair aroused enthusiasm in
all quarters, the occasion was one of gala for the entire Fake.
The decayed professors, virtuosi, litterateurs, and artists
thronged to the place en masse. Their clamour filled all the air.
On every hand one heard the scraping of violins, the tinkling of
mandolins, the suave accents of "art talks," the incoherencies of
poets, the declamation of elocutionists, the inarticulate
wanderings of the Japanese, the confused mutterings of the
Cherokee, the guttural bellowing of the German university
professor, all in the name of the Million-Dollar Fair. Money to
the extent of hundreds of thousands was set in motion.
Mrs. Cedarquist was busy from morning until night. One after
another, she was introduced to newly arrived fakirs. To each
poet, to each litterateur, to each professor she addressed the
"How long have you known you had this power?"
She spent her days in one quiver of excitement and jubilation.
She was "in the movement." The people of the city were awakening
to a Realisation of the Beautiful, to a sense of the higher needs
of life. This was Art, this was Literature, this was Culture and
Refinement. The Renaissance had appeared in the West.
She was a short, rather stout, red-faced, very much over-dressed
little woman of some fifty years. She was rich in her own name,
even before her marriage, being a relative of Shelgrim himself
and on familiar terms with the great financier and his family.
Her husband, while deploring the policy of the railroad, saw no
good reason for quarrelling with Shelgrim, and on more than one
occasion had dined at his house.
On this occasion, delighted that she had come upon a "minor
poet," she insisted upon presenting him to Hartrath.
"You two should have so much in common," she explained.
Presley shook the flaccid hand of the artist, murmuring
conventionalities, while Mrs. Cedarquist hastened to say:
"I am sure you know Mr. Presley's verse, Mr. Hartrath. You
should, believe me. You two have much in common. I can see so
much that is alike in your modes of interpreting nature. In Mr.
Presley's sonnet, 'The Better Part,' there is the same note as in
your picture, the same sincerity of tone, the same subtlety of
touch, the same nuances,--ah."
"Oh, my dear Madame," murmured the artist, interrupting Presley's
impatient retort; "I am a mere bungler. You don't mean quite
that, I am sure. I am too sensitive. It is my cross. Beauty,"
he closed his sore eyes with a little expression of pain, "beauty
But Mrs. Cedarquist was not listening. Her eyes were fixed on
the artist's luxuriant hair, a thick and glossy mane, that all
but covered his coat collar.
"Leonine!" she murmured--" leonine! Like Samson of old."
However, abruptly bestirring herself, she exclaimed a second
"But I must run away. I am selling tickets for you this
afternoon, Mr. Hartrath. I am having such success. Twenty-five
already. Mr. Presley, you will take two chances, I am sure, and,
oh, by the way, I have such good news. You know I am one of the
lady members of the subscription committee for our Fair, and you
know we approached Mr. Shelgrim for a donation to help along.
Oh, such a liberal patron, a real Lorenzo di' Medici. In the
name of the Pacific and Southwestern he has subscribed, think of
it, five thousand dollars; and yet they will talk of the meanness
of the railroad."
"Possibly it is to his interest," murmured Presley. "The fairs
and festivals bring people to the city over his railroad."
But the others turned on him, expostulating.
"Ah, you Philistine," declared Mrs. Cedarquist. "And this from
YOU!, Presley; to attribute such base motives----"
"If the poets become materialised, Mr. Presley," declared
Hartrath, "what can we say to the people?"
"And Shelgrim encourages your million-dollar fairs and fetes,"
said a voice at Presley's elbow, "because it is throwing dust in
the people's eyes."
The group turned about and saw Cedarquist, who had come up
unobserved in time to catch the drift of the talk. But he spoke
without bitterness; there was even a good-humoured twinkle in his
"Yes," he continued, smiling, "our dear Shelgrim promotes your
fairs, not only as Pres says, because it is money in his pocket,
but because it amuses the people, distracts their attention from
the doings of his railroad. When Beatrice was a baby and had
little colics, I used to jingle my keys in front of her nose, and
it took her attention from the pain in her tummy; so Shelgrim."
The others laughed good-humouredly, protesting, nevertheless, and
Mrs. Cedarquist shook her finger in warning at the artist and
"The Philistines be upon thee, Samson!"
"By the way," observed Hartrath, willing to change the subject,
"I hear you are on the Famine Relief Committee. Does your work
"Oh, most famously, I assure you," she said. "Such a movement as
we have started. Those poor creatures. The photographs of them
are simply dreadful. I had the committee to luncheon the other
day and we passed them around. We are getting subscriptions from
all over the State, and Mr. Cedarquist is to arrange for the
The Relief Committee in question was one of a great number that
had been formed in California--and all over the Union, for the
matter of that--to provide relief for the victims of a great
famine in Central India. The whole world had been struck with
horror at the reports of suffering and mortality in the affected
districts, and had hastened to send aid. Certain women of San
Francisco, with Mrs. Cedarquist at their head, had organised a
number of committees, but the manufacturer's wife turned the
meetings of these committees into social affairs--luncheons,
teas, where one discussed the ways and means of assisting the
starving Asiatics over teacups and plates of salad.
Shortly afterward a mild commotion spread throughout the
assemblage of the club's guests. The drawing of the numbers in
the raffle was about to be made. Hartrath, in a flurry of
agitation, excused himself. Cedarquist took Presley by the arm.
"Pres, let's get out of this," he said. "Come into the wine room
and I will shake you for a glass of sherry."
They had some difficulty in extricating themselves. The main
room where the drawing was to take place suddenly became densely
thronged. All the guests pressed eagerly about the table near
the picture, upon which one of the hall boys had just placed a
ballot box containing the numbers. The ladies, holding their
tickets in their hands, pushed forward. A staccato chatter of
excited murmurs arose.
"What became of Harran and Lyman and the Governor?" inquired
Lyman had disappeared, alleging a business engagement, but Magnus
and his younger son had retired to the library of the club on the
floor above. It was almost deserted. They were deep in earnest
"Harran," said the Governor, with decision, "there is a deal,
there, in what Cedarquist says. Our wheat to China, hey, boy?"
"It is certainly worth thinking of, sir."
"It appeals to me, boy; it appeals to me. It's big and there's a
fortune in it. Big chances mean big returns; and I know--your
old father isn't a back number yet, Harran--I may not have so
wide an outlook as our friend Cedarquist, but I am quick to see
my chance. Boy, the whole East is opening, disintegrating before
the Anglo-Saxon. It is time that bread stuffs, as well, should
make markets for themselves in the Orient. Just at this moment,
too, when Lyman will scale down freight rates so we can haul to
tidewater at little cost."
Magnus paused again, his frown beetling, and in the silence the
excited murmur from the main room of the club, the soprano
chatter of a multitude of women, found its way to the deserted
"I believe it's worth looking into, Governor," asserted Harran.
Magnus rose, and, his hands behind him, paced the floor of the
library a couple of times, his imagination all stimulated and
vivid. The great gambler perceived his Chance, the kaleidoscopic
shifting of circumstances that made a Situation. It had come
silently, unexpectedly. He had not seen its approach. Abruptly
he woke one morning to see the combination realised. But also he
saw a vision. A sudden and abrupt revolution in the Wheat. A
new world of markets discovered, the matter as important as the
discovery of America. The torrent of wheat was to be diverted,
flowing back upon itself in a sudden, colossal eddy, stranding
the middleman, the ENTRE-PRENEUR, the elevator-and mixing-house
men dry and despairing, their occupation gone. He saw the farmer
suddenly emancipated, the world's food no longer at the mercy of
the speculator, thousands upon thousands of men set free of the
grip of Trust and ring and monopoly acting for themselves,
selling their own wheat, organising into one gigantic trust,
themselves, sending their agents to all the entry ports of China.
Himself, Annixter, Broderson and Osterman would pool their
issues. He would convince them of the magnificence of the new
movement. They would be its pioneers. Harran would be sent to
Hong Kong to represent the four. They would charter--probably
buy--a ship, perhaps one of Cedarquist's, American built, the
nation's flag at the peak, and the sailing of that ship, gorged
with the crops from Broderson's and Osterman's ranches, from
Quien Sabe and Los Muertos, would be like the sailing of the
caravels from Palos. It would mark a new era; it would make an
With this vision still expanding before the eye of his mind,
Magnus, with Harran at his elbow, prepared to depart.
They descended to the lower floor and involved themselves for a
moment in the throng of fashionables that blocked the hallway and
the entrance to the main room, where the numbers of the raffle
were being drawn. Near the head of the stairs they encountered
Presley and Cedarquist, who had just come out of the wine room.
Magnus, still on fire with the new idea, pressed a few questions
upon the manufacturer before bidding him good-bye. He wished to
talk further upon the great subject, interested as to details,
but Cedarquist was vague in his replies. He was no farmer, he
hardly knew wheat when he saw it, only he knew the trend of the
world's affairs; he felt them to be setting inevitably eastward.
However, his very vagueness was a further inspiration to the
Governor. He swept details aside. He saw only the grand coup,
the huge results, the East conquered, the march of empire rolling
westward, finally arriving at its starting point, the vague,
He saw his wheat, like the crest of an advancing billow, crossing
the Pacific, bursting upon Asia, flooding the Orient in a golden
torrent. It was the new era. He had lived to see the death of
the old and the birth of the new; first the mine, now the ranch;
first gold, now wheat. Once again he became the pioneer, hardy,
brilliant, taking colossal chances, blazing the way, grasping a
fortune--a million in a single day. All the bigness of his
nature leaped up again within him. At the magnitude of the
inspiration he felt young again, indomitable, the leader at last,
king of his fellows, wresting from fortune at this eleventh hour,
before his old age, the place of high command which so long had
been denied him. At last he could achieve.
Abruptly Magnus was aware that some one had spoken his name. He
looked about and saw behind him, at a little distance, two
gentlemen, strangers to him. They had withdrawn from the crowd
into a little recess. Evidently having no women to look after,
they had lost interest in the afternoon's affair. Magnus
realised that they had not seen him. One of them was reading
aloud to his companion from an evening edition of that day's
newspaper. It was in the course of this reading that Magnus
caught the sound of his name. He paused, listening, and Presley,
Harran and Cedarquist followed his example. Soon they all
understood. They were listening to the report of the judge's
decision, for which Magnus was waiting--the decision in the case
of the League vs. the Railroad. For the moment, the polite
clamour of the raffle hushed itself--the winning number was being
drawn. The guests held their breath, and in the ensuing silence
Magnus and the others heard these words distinctly:
". . . . It follows that the title to the lands in question is in
the plaintiff--the Pacific and Southwestern Railroad, and the
defendants have no title, and their possession is wrongful.
There must be findings and judgment for the plaintiff, and it is
In spite of himself, Magnus paled. Harran shut his teeth with an
oath. Their exaltation of the previous moment collapsed like a
pyramid of cards. The vision of the new movement of the wheat,
the conquest of the East, the invasion of the Orient, seemed only
the flimsiest mockery. With a brusque wrench, they were snatched
back to reality. Between them and the vision, between the fecund
San Joaquin, reeking with fruitfulness, and the millions of Asia
crowding toward the verge of starvation, lay the iron-hearted
monster of steel and steam, implacable, insatiable, huge--its
entrails gorged with the life blood that it sucked from an entire
commonwealth, its ever hungry maw glutted with the harvests that
should have fed the famished bellies of the whole world of the
But abruptly, while the four men stood there, gazing into each
other's faces, a vigorous hand-clapping broke out. The raffle of
Hartrath's picture was over, and as Presley turned about he saw
Mrs. Cedarquist and her two daughters signalling eagerly to the
manufacturer, unable to reach him because of the intervening
crowd. Then Mrs. Cedarquist raised her voice and cried:
"I've won. I've won."
Unnoticed, and with but a brief word to Cedarquist, Magnus and
Harran went down the marble steps leading to the street door,
silent, Harran's arm tight around his father's shoulder.
At once the orchestra struck into a lively air. A renewed murmur
of conversation broke out, and Cedarquist, as he said good-bye to
Presley, looked first at the retreating figures of the ranchers,
then at the gayly dressed throng of beautiful women and debonair
young men, and indicating the whole scene with a single gesture,
said, smiling sadly as he spoke:
"Not a city, Presley, not a city, but a Midway Plaisance."
Underneath the Long Trestle where Broderson Creek cut the line of
the railroad and the Upper Road, the ground was low and covered
with a second growth of grey green willows. Along the borders of
the creek were occasional marshy spots, and now and then Hilma
Tree came here to gather water-cresses, which she made into
The place was picturesque, secluded, an oasis of green shade in
all the limitless, flat monotony of the surrounding wheat lands.
The creek had eroded deep into the little gully, and no matter
how hot it was on the baking, shimmering levels of the ranches
above, down here one always found one's self enveloped in an
odorous, moist coolness. From time to time, the incessant murmur
of the creek, pouring over and around the larger stones, was
interrupted by the thunder of trains roaring out upon the trestle
overhead, passing on with the furious gallop of their hundreds of
iron wheels, leaving in the air a taint of hot oil, acrid smoke,
and reek of escaping steam.
On a certain afternoon, in the spring of the year, Hilma was
returning to Quien Sabe from Hooven's by the trail that led from
Los Muertos to Annixter's ranch houses, under the trestle. She
had spent the afternoon with Minna Hooven, who, for the time
being, was kept indoors because of a wrenched ankle. As Hilma
descended into the gravel flats and thickets of willows
underneath the trestle, she decided that she would gather some
cresses for her supper that night. She found a spot around the
base of one of the supports of the trestle where the cresses grew
thickest, and plucked a couple of handfuls, washing them in the
creek and pinning them up in her handkerchief. It made a little,
round, cold bundle, and Hilma, warm from her walk, found a
delicious enjoyment in pressing the damp ball of it to her cheeks
For all the change that Annixter had noted in her upon the
occasion of the barn dance, Hilma remained in many things a young
child. She was never at loss for enjoyment, and could always
amuse herself when left alone. Just now, she chose to drink from
the creek, lying prone on the ground, her face half-buried in the
water, and this, not because she was thirsty, but because it was
a new way to drink. She imagined herself a belated traveller, a
poor girl, an outcast, quenching her thirst at the wayside brook,
her little packet of cresses doing duty for a bundle of clothes.
Night was coming on. Perhaps it would storm. She had nowhere to
go. She would apply at a hut for shelter.
Abruptly, the temptation to dabble her feet in the creek
presented itself to her. Always she had liked to play in the
water. What a delight now to take off her shoes and stockings
and wade out into the shallows near the bank! She had worn low
shoes that afternoon, and the dust of the trail had filtered in
above the edges. At times, she felt the grit and grey sand on
the soles of her feet, and the sensation had set her teeth on
edge. What a delicious alternative the cold, clean water
suggested, and how easy it would be to do as she pleased just
then, if only she were a little girl. In the end, it was stupid
to be grown up.
Sitting upon the bank, one finger tucked into the heel of her
shoe, Hilma hesitated. Suppose a train should come! She fancied
she could see the engineer leaning from the cab with a great grin
on his face, or the brakeman shouting gibes at her from the
platform. Abruptly she blushed scarlet. The blood throbbed in
her temples. Her heart beat.
Since the famous evening of the barn dance, Annixter had spoken
to her but twice. Hilma no longer looked after the ranch house
these days. The thought of setting foot within Annixter's
dining-room and bed-room terrified her, and in the end her mother
had taken over that part of her work. Of the two meetings with
the master of Quien Sabe, one had been a mere exchange of good
mornings as the two happened to meet over by the artesian well;
the other, more complicated, had occurred in the dairy-house
again, Annixter, pretending to look over the new cheese press,
asking about details of her work. When this had happened on that
previous occasion, ending with Annixter's attempt to kiss her,
Hilma had been talkative enough, chattering on from one subject
to another, never at a loss for a theme. But this last time was
a veritable ordeal. No sooner had Annixter appeared than her
heart leaped and quivered like that of the hound-harried doe.
Her speech failed her. Throughout the whole brief interview she
had been miserably tongue-tied, stammering monosyllables,
confused, horribly awkward, and when Annixter had gone away, she
had fled to her little room, and bolting the door, had flung
herself face downward on the bed and wept as though her heart
were breaking, she did not know why.
That Annixter had been overwhelmed with business all through the
winter was an inexpressible relief to Hilma. His affairs took
him away from the ranch continually. He was absent sometimes for
weeks, making trips to San Francisco, or to Sacramento, or to
Bonneville. Perhaps he was forgetting her, overlooking her; and
while, at first, she told herself that she asked nothing better,
the idea of it began to occupy her mind. She began to wonder if
it was really so.
She knew his trouble. Everybody did. The news of the sudden
forward movement of the Railroad's forces, inaugurating the
campaign, had flared white-hot and blazing all over the country
side. To Hilma's notion, Annixter's attitude was heroic beyond
all expression. His courage in facing the Railroad, as he had
faced Delaney in the barn, seemed to her the pitch of sublimity.
She refused to see any auxiliaries aiding him in his fight. To
her imagination, the great League, which all the ranchers were
joining, was a mere form. Single-handed, Annixter fronted the
monster. But for him the corporation would gobble Quien Sabe, as
a whale would a minnow. He was a hero who stood between them all
and destruction. He was a protector of her family. He was her
champion. She began to mention him in her prayers every night,
adding a further petition to the effect that he would become a
good man, and that he should not swear so much, and that he
should never meet Delaney again.
However, as Hilma still debated the idea of bathing her feet in
the creek, a train did actually thunder past overhead--the
regular evening Overland,--the through express, that never
stopped between Bakersfield and Fresno. It stormed by with a
deafening clamour, and a swirl of smoke, in a long succession of
way-coaches, and chocolate coloured Pullmans, grimy with the dust
of the great deserts of the Southwest. The quivering of the
trestle's supports set a tremble in the ground underfoot. The
thunder of wheels drowned all sound of the flowing of the creek,
and also the noise of the buckskin mare's hoofs descending from
the trail upon the gravel about the creek, so that Hilma, turning
about after the passage of the train, saw Annixter close at hand,
with the abruptness of a vision.
He was looking at her, smiling as he rarely did, the firm line of
his out-thrust lower lip relaxed good-humouredly. He had taken
off his campaign hat to her, and though his stiff, yellow hair
was twisted into a bristling mop, the little persistent tuft on
the crown, usually defiantly erect as an Apache's scalp-lock, was
nowhere in sight.
"Hello, it's you, is it, Miss Hilma?" he exclaimed, getting down
from the buckskin, and allowing her to drink.
Hilma nodded, scrambling to her feet, dusting her skirt with
nervous pats of both hands.
Annixter sat down on a great rock close by and, the loop of the
bridle over his arm, lit a cigar, and began to talk. He
complained of the heat of the day, the bad condition of the Lower
Road, over which he had come on his way from a committee meeting
of the League at Los Muertos; of the slowness of the work on the
irrigating ditch, and, as a matter of course, of the general hard
"Miss Hilma," he said abruptly, "never you marry a ranchman.
He's never out of trouble."
Hilma gasped, her eyes widening till the full round of the pupil
was disclosed. Instantly, a certain, inexplicable guiltiness
overpowered her with incredible confusion. Her hands trembled as
she pressed the bundle of cresses into a hard ball between her
Annixter continued to talk. He was disturbed and excited himself
at this unexpected meeting. Never through all the past winter
months of strenuous activity, the fever of political campaigns,
the harrowing delays and ultimate defeat in one law court after
another, had he forgotten the look in Hilma's face as he stood
with one arm around her on the floor of his barn, in peril of his
life from the buster's revolver. That dumb confession of Hilma's
wide-open eyes had been enough for him. Yet, somehow, he never
had had a chance to act upon it. During the short period when he
could be on his ranch Hilma had always managed to avoid him.
Once, even, she had spent a month, about Christmas time, with her
mother's father, who kept a hotel in San Francisco.
Now, to-day, however, he had her all to himself. He would put an
end to the situation that troubled him, and vexed him, day after
day, month after month. Beyond question, the moment had come for
something definite, he could not say precisely what. Readjusting
his cigar between his teeth, he resumed his speech. It suited
his humour to take the girl into his confidence, following an
instinct which warned him that this would bring about a certain
closeness of their relations, a certain intimacy.
"What do you think of this row, anyways, Miss Hilma,--this
railroad fuss in general? Think Shelgrim and his rushers are
going to jump Quien Sabe--are going to run us off the ranch?"
"Oh, no, sir," protested Hilma, still breathless. "Oh, no,
"Well, what then?"
Hilma made a little uncertain movement of ignorance.
"I don't know what."
"Well, the League agreed to-day that if the test cases were lost
in the Supreme Court--you know we've appealed to the Supreme
Court, at Washington--we'd fight."
"Fight like--like you and Mr. Delaney that time with--oh, dear--
"I don't know," grumbled Annixter vaguely. "What do YOU think?"
Hilma's low-pitched, almost husky voice trembled a little as she
replied, "Fighting--with guns--that's so terrible. Oh, those
revolvers in the barn! I can hear them yet. Every shot seemed
like the explosion of tons of powder."
"Shall we clear out, then? Shall we let Delaney have possession,
and S. Behrman, and all that lot? Shall we give in to them?"
"Never, never," she exclaimed, her great eyes flashing.
"YOU wouldn't like to be turned out of your home, would you, Miss
Hilma, because Quien Sabe is your home isn't it? You've lived
here ever since you were as big as a minute. You wouldn't like
to have S. Behrman and the rest of 'em turn you out?"
"N-no," she murmured. "No, I shouldn't like that. There's mamma
"Well, do you think for one second I'm going to let 'em?" cried
Annixter, his teeth tightening on his cigar. "You stay right
where you are. I'll take care of you, right enough. Look here,"
he demanded abruptly, "you've no use for that roaring lush,
Delaney, have you?"
"I think he is a wicked man," she declared. "I know the Railroad
has pretended to sell him part of the ranch, and he lets Mr. S.
Behrman and Mr. Ruggles just use him."
"Right. I thought you wouldn't be keen on him."
There was a long pause. The buckskin began blowing among the
pebbles, nosing for grass, and Annixter shifted his cigar to the
other corner of his mouth.
"Pretty place," he muttered, looking around him. Then he added:
"Miss Hilma, see here, I want to have a kind of talk with you, if
you don't mind. I don't know just how to say these sort of
things, and if I get all balled up as I go along, you just set it
down to the fact that I've never had any experience in dealing
with feemale girls; understand? You see, ever since the barn
dance--yes, and long before then--I've been thinking a lot about
you. Straight, I have, and I guess you know it. You're about the
only girl that I ever knew well, and I guess," he declared
deliberately, "you're about the only one I want to know. It's my
nature. You didn't say anything that time when we stood there
together and Delaney was playing the fool, but, somehow, I got
the idea that you didn't want Delaney to do for me one little
bit; that if he'd got me then you would have been sorrier than if
he'd got any one else. Well, I felt just that way about you. I
would rather have had him shoot any other girl in the room than
you; yes, or in the whole State. Why, if anything should happen
to you, Miss Hilma--well, I wouldn't care to go on with anything.
S. Behrman could jump Quien Sabe, and welcome. And Delaney could
shoot me full of holes whenever he got good and ready. I'd quit.
I'd lay right down. I wouldn't care a whoop about anything any
more. You are the only girl for me in the whole world. I didn't
think so at first. I didn't want to. But seeing you around
every day, and seeing how pretty you were, and how clever, and
hearing your voice and all, why, it just got all inside of me
somehow, and now I can't think of anything else. I hate to go to
San Francisco, or Sacramento, or Visalia, or even Bonneville, for
only a day, just because you aren't there, in any of those
places, and I just rush what I've got to do so as I can get back
here. While you were away that Christmas time, why, I was as
lonesome as--oh, you don't know anything about it. I just
scratched off the days on the calendar every night, one by one,
till you got back. And it just comes to this, I want you with me
all the time. I want you should have a home that's my home, too.
I want to take care of you, and have you all for myself, you
understand. What do you say?"
Hilma, standing up before him, retied a knot in her handkerchief
bundle with elaborate precaution, blinking at it through her
"What do you say, Miss Hilma?" Annixter repeated. "How about
that? What do you say?"
Just above a whisper, Hilma murmured:
"I--I don't know."
"Don't know what? Don't you think we could hit it off together?"
"I don't know."
"I know we could, Hilma. I don't mean to scare you. What are
you crying for?"
"I don't know."
Annixter got up, cast away his cigar, and dropping the buckskin's
bridle, came and stood beside her, putting a hand on her
shoulder. Hilma did not move, and he felt her trembling. She
still plucked at the knot of the handkerchief. "I can't do
without you, little girl," Annixter continued, "and I want you.
I want you bad. I don't get much fun out of life ever. It,
sure, isn't my nature, I guess. I'm a hard man. Everybody is
trying to down me, and now I'm up against the Railroad. I'm
fighting 'em all, Hilma, night and day, lock, stock, and barrel,
and I'm fighting now for my home, my land, everything I have in
the world. If I win out, I want somebody to be glad with me. If
I don't--I want somebody to be sorry for me, sorry with me,--and
that somebody is you. I am dog-tired of going it alone. I want
some one to back me up. I want to feel you alongside of me, to
give me a touch of the shoulder now and then. I'm tired of
fighting for THINGS--land, property, money. I want to fight for
some PERSON--somebody beside myself. Understand? want to feel
that it isn't all selfishness--that there are other interests
than mine in the game--that there's some one dependent on me, and
that's thinking of me as I'm thinking of them--some one I can
come home to at night and put my arm around--like this, and have
her put her two arms around me--like--" He paused a second, and
once again, as it had been in that moment of imminent peril, when
he stood with his arm around her, their eyes met,--"put her two
arms around me," prompted Annixter, half smiling, "like--like
"I don't know."
"Like what, Hilma?" he insisted.
"Like--like this?" she questioned. With a movement of infinite
tenderness and affection she slid her arms around his neck, still
crying a little.
The sensation of her warm body in his embrace, the feeling of her
smooth, round arm, through the thinness of her sleeve, pressing
against his cheek, thrilled Annixter with a delight such as he
had never known. He bent his head and kissed her upon the nape
of her neck, where the delicate amber tint melted into the thick,
sweet smelling mass of her dark brown hair. She shivered a
little, holding him closer, ashamed as yet to look up. Without
speech, they stood there for a long minute, holding each other
close. Then Hilma pulled away from him, mopping her tear-stained
cheeks with the little moist ball of her handkerchief.
"What do you say? Is it a go?" demanded Annixter jovially.
"I thought I hated you all the time," she said, and the velvety
huskiness of her voice never sounded so sweet to him.
"And I thought it was that crockery smashing goat of a lout of a
"Delaney? The idea! Oh, dear! I think it must always have been
"Since when, Hilma?" he asked, putting his arm around her. "Ah,
but it is good to have you, my girl," he exclaimed, delighted
beyond words that she permitted this freedom. "Since when? Tell
us all about it."
"Oh, since always. It was ever so long before I came to think of
you--to, well, to think about--I mean to remember--oh, you know
what I mean. But when I did, oh, THEN!"
"I don't know--I haven't thought--that way long enough to know."
"But you said you thought it must have been me always."
"I know; but that was different--oh, I'm all mixed up. I'm so
nervous and trembly now. Oh," she cried suddenly, her face
overcast with a look of earnestness and great seriousness, both
her hands catching at his wrist, "Oh, you WILL be good to me,
now, won't you? I'm only a little, little child in so many ways,
and I've given myself to you, all in a minute, and I can't go
back of it now, and it's for always. I don't know how it
happened or why. Sometimes I think I didn't wish it, but now
it's done, and I am glad and happy. But NOW if you weren't good
to me--oh, think of how it would be with me. You are strong, and
big, and rich, and I am only a servant of yours, a little nobody,
but I've given all I had to you--myself--and you must be so good
to me now. Always remember that. Be good to me and be gentle
and kind to me in LITTLE things,--in everything, or you will
break my heart."
Annixter took her in his arms. He was speechless. No words that
he had at his command seemed adequate. All he could say was:
"That's all right, little girl. Don't you be frightened. I'll
take care of you. That's all right, that's all right."
For a long time they sat there under the shade of the great
trestle, their arms about each other, speaking only at intervals.
An hour passed. The buckskin, finding no feed to her taste, took
the trail stablewards, the bridle dragging. Annixter let her go.
Rather than to take his arm from around Hilma's waist he would
have lost his whole stable. At last, however, he bestirred
himself and began to talk. He thought it time to formulate some
plan of action.
"Well, now, Hilma, what are we going to do?"
"Do?" she repeated. "Why, must we do anything? Oh, isn't this
"There's better ahead," he went on. "I want to fix you up
somewhere where you can have a bit of a home all to yourself.
Let's see; Bonneville wouldn't do. There's always a lot of yaps
about there that know us, and they would begin to cackle first
off. How about San Francisco. We might go up next week and have
a look around. I would find rooms you could take somewheres, and
we would fix 'em up as lovely as how-do-you-do."
"Oh, but why go away from Quien Sabe?" she protested. "And,
then, so soon, too. Why must we have a wedding trip, now that you
are so busy? Wouldn't it be better--oh, I tell you, we could go
to Monterey after we were married, for a little week, where
mamma's people live, and then come back here to the ranch house
and settle right down where we are and let me keep house for you.
I wouldn't even want a single servant."
Annixter heard and his face grew troubled.
"Hum," he said, "I see."
He gathered up a handful of pebbles and began snapping them
carefully into the creek. He fell thoughtful. Here was a phase
of the affair he had not planned in the least. He had supposed
all the time that Hilma took his meaning. His old suspicion that
she was trying to get a hold on him stirred again for a moment.
There was no good of such talk as that. Always these feemale
girls seemed crazy to get married, bent on complicating the
"Isn't that best?" said Hilma, glancing at him.
"I don't know," he muttered gloomily.
"Well, then, let's not. Let's come right back to Quien Sabe
without going to Monterey. Anything that you want I want."
"I hadn't thought of it in just that way," he observed.
"In what way, then?"
"Can't we--can't we wait about this marrying business?"
"That's just it," she said gayly. "I said it was too soon.
There would be so much to do between whiles. Why not say at the
end of the summer?"
"Our marriage, I mean."
"Why get married, then? What's the good of all that fuss about
it? I don't go anything upon a minister puddling round in my
affairs. What's the difference, anyhow? We understand each
other. Isn't that enough? Pshaw, Hilma, I'M no marrying man."
She looked at him a moment, bewildered, then slowly she took his
meaning. She rose to her feet, her eyes wide, her face paling
with terror. He did not look at her, but he could hear the catch
in her throat.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, with a long, deep breath, and again "Oh!"
the back of her hand against her lips.
It was a quick gasp of a veritable physical anguish. Her eyes
brimmed over. Annixter rose, looking at her.
"Well?" he said, awkwardly, "Well?"
Hilma leaped back from him with an instinctive recoil of her
whole being, throwing out her hands in a gesture of defence,
fearing she knew not what. There was as yet no sense of insult
in her mind, no outraged modesty. She was only terrified. It
was as though searching for wild flowers she had come suddenly
upon a snake.
She stood for an instant, spellbound, her eyes wide, her bosom
swelling; then, all at once, turned and fled, darting across the
plank that served for a foot bridge over the creek, gaining the
opposite bank and disappearing with a brisk rustle of underbrush,
such as might have been made by the flight of a frightened fawn.
Abruptly Annixter found himself alone. For a moment he did not
move, then he picked up his campaign hat, carefully creased its
limp crown and put it on his head and stood for a moment, looking
vaguely at the ground on both sides of him. He went away without
uttering a word, without change of countenance, his hands in his
pockets, his feet taking great strides along the trail in the
direction of the ranch house.
He had no sight of Hilma again that evening, and the next morning
he was up early and did not breakfast at the ranch house.
Business of the League called him to Bonneville to confer with
Magnus and the firm of lawyers retained by the League to fight
the land-grabbing cases. An appeal was to be taken to the
Supreme Court at Washington, and it was to be settled that day
which of the cases involved should be considered as test cases.
Instead of driving or riding into Bonneville, as he usually did,
Annixter took an early morning train, the Bakersfield-Fresno
local at Guadalajara, and went to Bonneville by rail, arriving
there at twenty minutes after seven and breakfasting by
appointment with Magnus Derrick and Osterman at the Yosemite
House, on Main Street .
The conference of the committee with the lawyers took place in a
front room of the Yosemite, one of the latter bringing with him
his clerk, who made a stenographic report of the proceedings and
took carbon copies of all letters written. The conference was
long and complicated, the business transacted of the utmost
moment, and it was not until two o'clock that Annixter found
himself at liberty.
However, as he and Magnus descended into the lobby of the hotel,
they were aware of an excited and interested group collected
about the swing doors that opened from the lobby of the Yosemite
into the bar of the same name. Dyke was there--even at a
distance they could hear the reverberation of his deep-toned
voice, uplifted in wrath and furious expostulation. Magnus and
Annixter joined the group wondering, and all at once fell full
upon the first scene of a drama.
That same morning Dyke's mother had awakened him according to his
instructions at daybreak. A consignment of his hop poles from
the north had arrived at the freight office of the P. and S. W.
in Bonneville, and he was to drive in on his farm wagon and bring
them out. He would have a busy day.
"Hello, hello," he said, as his mother pulled his ear to arouse
him; "morning, mamma."
"It's time," she said, "after five already. Your breakfast is on
He took her hand and kissed it with great affection. He loved
his mother devotedly, quite as much as he did the little tad. In
their little cottage, in the forest of green hops that surrounded
them on every hand, the three led a joyous and secluded life,
contented, industrious, happy, asking nothing better. Dyke,
himself, was a big-hearted, jovial man who spread an atmosphere
of good-humour wherever he went. In the evenings he played with
Sidney like a big boy, an older brother, lying on the bed, or the
sofa, taking her in his arms. Between them they had invented a
great game. The ex-engineer, his boots removed, his huge legs in
the air, hoisted the little tad on the soles of his stockinged
feet like a circus acrobat, dandling her there, pretending he was
about to let her fall. Sidney, choking with delight, held on
nervously, with little screams and chirps of excitement, while he
shifted her gingerly from one foot to another, and thence, the
final act, the great gallery play, to the palm of one great hand.
At this point Mrs. Dyke was called in, both father and daughter,
children both, crying out that she was to come in and look, look.
She arrived out of breath from the kitchen, the potato masher in
"Such children," she murmured, shaking her head at them, amused
for all that, tucking the potato masher under her arm and
clapping her hands.
In the end, it was part of the game that Sidney should tumble
down upon Dyke, whereat he invariably vented a great bellow as if
in pain, declaring that his ribs were broken. Gasping, his eyes
shut, he pretended to be in the extreme of dissolution--perhaps
he was dying. Sidney, always a little uncertain, amused but
distressed, shook him nervously, tugging at his beard, pushing
open his eyelid with one finger, imploring him not to frighten
her, to wake up and be good.
On this occasion, while yet he was half-dressed, Dyke tiptoed
into his mother's room to look at Sidney fast asleep in her
little iron cot, her arm under her head, her lips parted. With
infinite precaution he kissed her twice, and then finding one
little stocking, hung with its mate very neatly over the back of
a chair, dropped into it a dime, rolled up in a wad of paper. He
winked all to himself and went out again, closing the door with
He breakfasted alone, Mrs. Dyke pouring his coffee and handing
him his plate of ham and eggs, and half an hour later took
himself off in his springless, skeleton wagon, humming a tune
behind his beard and cracking the whip over the backs of his
staid and solid farm horses.
The morning was fine, the sun just coming up. He left
Guadalajara, sleeping and lifeless, on his left, and going across
lots, over an angle of Quien Sabe, came out upon the Upper Road,
a mile below the Long Trestle. He was in great spirits, looking
about him over the brown fields, ruddy with the dawn. Almost
directly in front of him, but far off, the gilded dome of the
court-house at Bonneville was glinting radiant in the first rays
of the sun, while a few miles distant, toward the north, the
venerable campanile of the Mission San Juan stood silhouetted in
purplish black against the flaming east. As he proceeded, the
great farm horses jogging forward, placid, deliberate, the
country side waked to another day. Crossing the irrigating ditch
further on, he met a gang of Portuguese, with picks and shovels
over their shoulders, just going to work. Hooven, already
abroad, shouted him a "Goot mornun" from behind the fence of Los
Muertos. Far off, toward the southwest, in the bare expanse of
the open fields, where a clump of eucalyptus and cypress trees
set a dark green note, a thin stream of smoke rose straight into
the air from the kitchen of Derrick's ranch houses.
But a mile or so beyond the Long Trestle he was surprised to see
Magnus Derrick's protege, the one-time shepherd, Vanamee, coming
across Quien Sabe, by a trail from one of Annixter's division
houses. Without knowing exactly why, Dyke received the
impression that the young man had not been in bed all of that
As the two approached each other, Dyke eyed the young fellow. He
was distrustful of Vanamee, having the country-bred suspicion of
any person he could not understand. Vanamee was, beyond doubt,
no part of the life of ranch and country town. He was an alien,
a vagabond, a strange fellow who came and went in mysterious
fashion, making no friends, keeping to himself. Why did he never
wear a hat, why indulge in a fine, black, pointed beard, when
either a round beard or a mustache was the invariable custom?
Why did he not cut his hair? Above all, why did he prowl about
so much at night? As the two passed each other, Dyke, for all
his good-nature, was a little blunt in his greeting and looked
back at the ex-shepherd over his shoulder.
Dyke was right in his suspicion. Vanamee's bed had not been
disturbed for three nights. On the Monday of that week he had
passed the entire night in the garden of the Mission, overlooking
the Seed ranch, in the little valley. Tuesday evening had found
him miles away from that spot, in a deep arroyo in the Sierra
foothills to the eastward, while Wednesday he had slept in an
abandoned 'dobe on Osterman's stock range, twenty miles from his
resting place of the night before.
The fact of the matter was that the old restlessness had once
more seized upon Vanamee. Something began tugging at him; the
spur of some unseen rider touched his flank. The instinct of the
wanderer woke and moved. For some time now he had been a part of
the Los Muertos staff. On Quien Sabe, as on the other ranches,
the slack season was at hand. While waiting for the wheat to
come up no one was doing much of anything. Vanamee had come over
to Los Muertos and spent most of his days on horseback, riding
the range, rounding up and watching the cattle in the fourth
division of the ranch. But if the vagabond instinct now roused
itself in the strange fellow's nature, a counter influence had
also set in. More and more Vanamee frequented the Mission garden
after nightfall, sometimes remaining there till the dawn began to
whiten, lying prone on the ground, his chin on his folded arms,
his eyes searching the darkness over the little valley of the
Seed ranch, watching, watching. As the days went by, he became
more reticent than ever. Presley often came to find him on the
stock range, a lonely figure in the great wilderness of bare,
green hillsides, but Vanamee no longer took him into his
confidence. Father Sarria alone heard his strange stories.
Dyke drove on toward Bonneville, thinking over the whole matter.
He knew, as every one did in that part of the country, the legend
of Vanamee and Angele, the romance of the Mission garden, the
mystery of the Other, Vanamee's flight to the deserts of the
southwest, his periodic returns, his strange, reticent, solitary
character, but, like many another of the country people, he
accounted for Vanamee by a short and easy method. No doubt, the
fellow's wits were turned. That was the long and short of it.
The ex-engineer reached the Post Office in Bonneville towards
eleven o'clock, but he did not at once present his notice of the
arrival of his consignment at Ruggles's office. It entertained
him to indulge in an hour's lounging about the streets. It was
seldom he got into town, and when he did he permitted himself the
luxury of enjoying his evident popularity. He met friends
everywhere, in the Post Office, in the drug store, in the barber
shop and around the court-house. With each one he held a
moment's conversation; almost invariably this ended in the same
"Come on 'n have a drink."
"Well, I don't care if I do."
And the friends proceeded to the Yosemite bar, pledging each
other with punctilious ceremony. Dyke, however, was a strictly
temperate man. His life on the engine had trained him well.
Alcohol he never touched, drinking instead ginger ale,
At the drug store, which also kept a stock of miscellaneous
stationery, his eye was caught by a "transparent slate," a
child's toy, where upon a little pane of frosted glass one could
trace with considerable elaboration outline figures of cows,
ploughs, bunches of fruit and even rural water mills that were
printed on slips of paper underneath.
"Now, there's an idea, Jim," he observed to the boy behind the
soda-water fountain; "I know a little tad that would just about
jump out of her skin for that. Think I'll have to take it with
"How's Sidney getting along?" the other asked, while wrapping up
Dyke's enthusiasm had made of his little girl a celebrity
The ex-engineer promptly became voluble, assertive, doggedly
"Smartest little tad in all Tulare County, and more fun! A
regular whole show in herself."
"And the hops?" inquired the other.
"Bully," declared Dyke, with the good-natured man's readiness to
talk of his private affairs to any one who would listen. "Bully.
I'm dead sure of a bonanza crop by now. The rain came JUST
right. I actually don't know as I can store the crop in those
barns I built, it's going to be so big. That foreman of mine was
a daisy. Jim, I'm going to make money in that deal. After I've
paid off the mortgage--you know I had to mortgage, yes, crop and
homestead both, but I can pay it off and all the interest to
boot, lovely,--well, and as I was saying, after all expenses are
paid off I'll clear big money, m' son. Yes, sir. I KNEW there
was boodle in hops. You know the crop is contracted for already.
Sure, the foreman managed that. He's a daisy. Chap in San
Francisco will take it all and at the advanced price. I wanted
to hang on, to see if it wouldn't go to six cents, but the
foreman said, 'No, that's good enough.' So I signed. Ain't it
"Then what'll you do?"
"Well, I don't know. I'll have a lay-off for a month or so and
take the little tad and mother up and show 'em the city--'Frisco--
until it's time for the schools to open, and then we'll put Sid
in the seminary at Marysville. Catch on?"
"I suppose you'll stay right by hops now?"
"Right you are, m'son. I know a good thing when I see it.
There's plenty others going into hops next season. I set 'em the
example. Wouldn't be surprised if it came to be a regular
industry hereabouts. I'm planning ahead for next year already.
I can let the foreman go, now that I've learned the game myself,
and I think I'll buy a piece of land off Quien Sabe and get a
bigger crop, and build a couple more barns, and, by George, in
about five years time I'll have things humming. I'm going to
make MONEY, Jim."
He emerged once more into the street and went up the block
leisurely, planting his feet squarely. He fancied that he could
feel he was considered of more importance nowadays. He was no
longer a subordinate, an employee. He was his own man, a
proprietor, an owner of land, furthering a successful enterprise.
No one had helped him; he had followed no one's lead. He had
struck out unaided for himself, and his success was due solely to
his own intelligence, industry, and foresight. He squared his
great shoulders till the blue gingham of his jumper all but
cracked. Of late, his great blond beard had grown and the work
in the sun had made his face very red. Under the visor of his
cap--relic of his engineering days--his blue eyes twinkled with
vast good-nature. He felt that he made a fine figure as he went
by a group of young girls in lawns and muslins and garden hats on
their way to the Post Office. He wondered if they looked after
him, wondered if they had heard that he was in a fair way to
become a rich man.
But the chronometer in the window of the jewelry store warned him
that time was passing. He turned about, and, crossing the
street, took his way to Ruggles's office, which was the freight
as well as the land office of the P. and S. W. Railroad.
As he stood for a moment at the counter in front of the wire
partition, waiting for the clerk to make out the order for the
freight agent at the depot, Dyke was surprised to see a familiar
figure in conference with Ruggles himself, by a desk inside the
The figure was that of a middle-aged man, fat, with a great
stomach, which he stroked from time to time. As he turned about,
addressing a remark to the clerk, Dyke recognised S. Behrman.
The banker, railroad agent, and political manipulator seemed to
the ex-engineer's eyes to be more gross than ever. His smooth-
shaven jowl stood out big and tremulous on either side of his
face; the roll of fat on the nape of his neck, sprinkled with
sparse, stiff hairs, bulged out with greater prominence. His
great stomach, covered with a light brown linen vest, stamped
with innumerable interlocked horseshoes, protruded far in
advance, enormous, aggressive. He wore his inevitable round-
topped hat of stiff brown straw, varnished so bright that it
reflected the light of the office windows like a helmet, and even
from where he stood Dyke could hear his loud breathing and the
clink of the hollow links of his watch chain upon the vest
buttons of imitation pearl, as his stomach rose and fell.
Dyke looked at him with attention. There was the enemy, the
representative of the Trust with which Derrick's League was
locking horns. The great struggle had begun to invest the
combatants with interest. Daily, almost hourly, Dyke was in
touch with the ranchers, the wheat-growers. He heard their
denunciations, their growls of exasperation and defiance. Here
was the other side--this placid, fat man, with a stiff straw hat
and linen vest, who never lost his temper, who smiled affably
upon his enemies, giving them good advice, commiserating with
them in one defeat after another, never ruffled, never excited,
sure of his power, conscious that back of him was the Machine,
the colossal force, the inexhaustible coffers of a mighty
organisation, vomiting millions to the League's thousands.
The League was clamorous, ubiquitous, its objects known to every
urchin on the streets, but the Trust was silent, its ways
inscrutable, the public saw only results. It worked on in the
dark, calm, disciplined, irresistible. Abruptly Dyke received
the impression of the multitudinous ramifications of the
colossus. Under his feet the ground seemed mined; down there
below him in the dark the huge tentacles went silently twisting
and advancing, spreading out in every direction, sapping the
strength of all opposition, quiet, gradual, biding the time to
reach up and out and grip with a sudden unleashing of gigantic
"I'll be wanting some cars of you people before the summer is
out," observed Dyke to the clerk as he folded up and put away the
order that the other had handed him. He remembered perfectly
well that he had arranged the matter of transporting his crop
some months before, but his role of proprietor amused him and he
liked to busy himself again and again with the details of his
"I suppose," he added, "you'll be able to give 'em to me.
There'll be a big wheat crop to move this year and I don't want
to be caught in any car famine."
"Oh, you'll get your cars," murmured the other.
"I'll be the means of bringing business your way," Dyke went on;
"I've done so well with my hops that there are a lot of others
going into the business next season. Suppose," he continued,
struck with an idea, "suppose we went into some sort of pool, a
sort of shippers' organisation, could you give us special rates,
cheaper rates--say a cent and a half?"
The other looked up.
"A cent and a half! Say FOUR cents and a half and maybe I'll
talk business with you."
"Four cents and a half," returned Dyke, "I don't see it. Why,
the regular rate is only two cents."
"No, it isn't," answered the clerk, looking him gravely in the
eye, "it's five cents."
"Well, there's where you are wrong, m'son," Dyke retorted,
genially. "You look it up. You'll find the freight on hops from
Bonneville to 'Frisco is two cents a pound for car load lots.
You told me that yourself last fall."
"That was last fall," observed the clerk. There was a silence.
Dyke shot a glance of suspicion at the other. Then, reassured,
"You look it up. You'll see I'm right."
S. Behrman came forward and shook hands politely with the ex-
"Anything I can do for you, Mr. Dyke?"
Dyke explained. When he had done speaking, the clerk turned to
S. Behrman and observed, respectfully:
"Our regular rate on hops is five cents."
"Yes," answered S. Behrman, pausing to reflect; "yes, Mr. Dyke,
that's right--five cents."
The clerk brought forward a folder of yellow paper and handed it
to Dyke. It was inscribed at the top "Tariff Schedule No. 8,"
and underneath these words, in brackets, was a smaller
inscription, "SUPERSEDES NO. 7 OF AUG. 1"
"See for yourself," said S. Behrman. He indicated an item under
the head of "Miscellany."
"The following rates for carriage of hops in car load lots," read
Dyke, "take effect June 1, and will remain in force until
superseded by a later tariff. Those quoted beyond Stockton are
subject to changes in traffic arrangements with carriers by water
from that point."
In the list that was printed below, Dyke saw that the rate for
hops between Bonneville or Guadalajara and San Francisco was five
For a moment Dyke was confused. Then swiftly the matter became