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The Octopus, by Frank Norris

Part 9 out of 12

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in himself, knitted forever into the fabric of his being. Though
Genslinger should be silenced, though Lyman should be crushed,
though even the League should overcome the Railroad, though he
should be the acknowledged leader of a resplendent victory, yet
the plague-spot would remain. There was no success for him now.
However conspicuous the outward achievement, he, he himself,
Magnus Derrick, had failed, miserably and irredeemably.

Petty, material complications intruded, sordid considerations.
Even if Genslinger was to be paid, where was the money to come
from? His legal battles with the Railroad, extending now over a
period of many years, had cost him dear; his plan of sowing all
of Los Muertos to wheat, discharging the tenants, had proved
expensive, the campaign resulting in Lyman's election had drawn
heavily upon his account. All along he had been relying upon a
"bonanza crop" to reimburse him. It was not believable that the
Railroad would "jump" Los Muertos, but if this should happen, he
would be left without resources. Ten thousand dollars! Could he
raise the amount? Possibly. But to pay it out to a blackmailer!
To be held up thus in road-agent fashion, without a single means
of redress! Would it not cripple him financially? Genslinger
could do his worst. He, Magnus, would brave it out. Was not his
character above suspicion?

Was it? This letter of Gethings's. Already the murmur of
uneasiness made itself heard. Was this not the thin edge of the
wedge? How the publication of Genslinger's story would drive it
home! How the spark of suspicion would flare into the blaze of
open accusation! There would be investigations. Investigation!
There was terror in the word. He could not stand investigation.
Magnus groaned aloud, covering his head with his clasped hands.
Briber, corrupter of government, ballot-box stuffer, descending
to the level of back-room politicians, of bar-room heelers, he,
Magnus Derrick, statesman of the old school, Roman in his iron
integrity, abandoning a career rather than enter the "new
politics," had, in one moment of weakness. hazarding all, even
honour, on a single stake, taking great chances to achieve great
results, swept away the work of a lifetime.

Gambler that he was, he had at last chanced his highest stake,
his personal honour, in the greatest game of his life, and had

It was Presley's morbidly keen observation that first noticed the
evidence of a new trouble in the Governor's face and manner.
Presley was sure that Lyman's defection had not so upset him.
The morning after the committee meeting, Magnus had called Harran
and Annie Derrick into the office, and, after telling his wife of
Lyman's betrayal, had forbidden either of them to mention his
name again. His attitude towards his prodigal son was that of
stern, unrelenting resentment. But now, Presley could not fail
to detect traces of a more deep-seated travail. Something was in
the wind. the times were troublous. What next was about to
happen? What fresh calamity impended?

One morning, toward the very end of the week, Presley woke early
in his small, white-painted iron bed. He hastened to get up and
dress. There was much to be done that day. Until late the night
before, he had been at work on a collection of some of his
verses, gathered from the magazines in which they had first
appeared. Presley had received a liberal offer for the
publication of these verses in book form. "The Toilers" was to
be included in this book, and, indeed, was to give it its name--
"The Toilers and Other Poems." Thus it was that, until the
previous midnight, he had been preparing the collection for
publication, revising, annotating, arranging. The book was to be
sent off that morning.

But also Presley had received a typewritten note from Annixter,
inviting him to Quien Sabe that same day. Annixter explained
that it was Hilma's birthday, and that he had planned a picnic on
the high ground of his ranch, at the headwaters of Broderson
Creek. They were to go in the carry-all, Hilma, Presley, Mrs.
Dyke, Sidney, and himself, and were to make a day of it. They
would leave Quien Sabe at ten in the morning. Presley had at
once resolved to go. He was immensely fond of Annixter--more so
than ever since his marriage with Hilma and the astonishing
transformation of his character. Hilma, as well, was delightful
as Mrs. Annixter; and Mrs. Dyke and the little tad had always
been his friends. He would have a good time.

But nobody was to go into Bonneville that morning with the mail,
and if he wished to send his manuscript, he would have to take it
in himself. He had resolved to do this, getting an early start,
and going on horseback to Quien Sabe, by way of Bonneville.

It was barely six o'clock when Presley sat down to his coffee and
eggs in the dining-room of Los Muertos. The day promised to be
hot, and for the first time, Presley had put on a new khaki
riding suit, very English-looking, though in place of the
regulation top-boots, he wore his laced knee-boots, with a great
spur on the left heel. Harran joined him at breakfast, in his
working clothes of blue canvas. He was bound for the irrigating
ditch to see how the work was getting on there.

"How is the wheat looking?" asked Presley.

"Bully," answered the other, stirring his coffee. "The Governor
has had his usual luck. Practically, every acre of the ranch was
sown to wheat, and everywhere the stand is good. I was over on
Two, day before yesterday, and if nothing happens, I believe it
will go thirty sacks to the acre there. Cutter reports that
there are spots on Four where we will get forty-two or three.
Hooven, too, brought up some wonderful fine ears for me to look
at. The grains were just beginning to show. Some of the ears
carried twenty grains. That means nearly forty bushels of wheat
to every acre. I call it a bonanza year."

"Have you got any mail?" said Presley, rising. "I'm going into

Harran shook his head, and took himself away, and Presley went
down to the stable-corral to get his pony.

As he rode out of the stable-yard and passed by the ranch house,
on the driveway, he was surprised to see Magnus on the lowest
step of the porch.

"Good morning, Governor," called Presley. "Aren't you up pretty

"Good morning, Pres, my boy." The Governor came forward and,
putting his hand on the pony's withers, walked along by his side.

"Going to town, Pres?" he asked.

"Yes, sir. Can I do anything for you, Governor?"

Magnus drew a sealed envelope from his pocket.

"I wish you would drop in at the office of the Mercury for me,"
he said, "and see Mr. Genslinger personally, and give him this
envelope. It is a package of papers, but they involve a
considerable sum of money, and you must be careful of them. A
few years ago, when our enmity was not so strong, Mr. Genslinger
and I had some business dealings with each other. I thought it
as well just now, considering that we are so openly opposed, to
terminate the whole affair, and break off relations. We came to
a settlement a few days ago. These are the final papers. They
must be given to him in person, Presley. You understand."

Presley cantered on, turning into the county road and holding
northward by the mammoth watering tank and Broderson's popular
windbreak. As he passed Caraher's, he saw the saloon-keeper in
the doorway of his place, and waved him a salutation which the
other returned.

By degrees, Presley had come to consider Caraher in a more
favourable light. He found, to his immense astonishment, that
Caraher knew something of Mill and Bakounin, not, however, from
their books, but from extracts and quotations from their
writings, reprinted in the anarchistic journals to which he
subscribed. More than once, the two had held long conversations,
and from Caraher's own lips, Presley heard the terrible story of
the death of his wife, who had been accidentally killed by
Pinkertons during a "demonstration" of strikers. It invested the
saloon-keeper, in Presley's imagination, with all the dignity of
the tragedy. He could not blame Caraher for being a "red." He
even wondered how it was the saloon-keeper had not put his
theories into practice, and adjusted his ancient wrong with his
"six inches of plugged gas-pipe." Presley began to conceive of
the man as a "character."

"You wait, Mr. Presley," the saloon-keeper had once said, when
Presley had protested against his radical ideas. "You don't know
the Railroad yet. Watch it and its doings long enough, and
you'll come over to my way of thinking, too."

It was about half-past seven when Presley reached Bonneville.
The business part of the town was as yet hardly astir; he
despatched his manuscript, and then hurried to the office of the
"Mercury." Genslinger, as he feared, had not yet put in
appearance, but the janitor of the building gave Presley the
address of the editor's residence, and it was there he found him
in the act of sitting down to breakfast. Presley was hardly
courteous to the little man, and abruptly refused his offer of a
drink. He delivered Magnus's envelope to him and departed.

It had occurred to him that it would not do to present himself at
Quien Sabe on Hilma's birthday, empty-handed, and, on leaving
Genslinger's house, he turned his pony's head toward the business
part of the town again pulling up in front of the jeweller's,
just as the clerk was taking down the shutters.

At the jeweller's, he purchased a little brooch for Hilma and at
the cigar stand in the lobby of the Yosemite House, a box of
superfine cigars, which, when it was too late, he realised that
the master of Quien Sabe would never smoke, holding, as he did,
with defiant inconsistency, to miserable weeds, black, bitter,
and flagrantly doctored, which he bought, three for a nickel, at

Presley arrived at Quien Sabe nearly half an hour behind the
appointed time; but, as he had expected, the party were in no way
ready to start. The carry-all, its horses covered with white
fly-nets, stood under a tree near the house, young Vacca dozing
on the seat. Hilma and Sidney, the latter exuberant with a
gayety that all but brought the tears to Presley's eyes, were
making sandwiches on the back porch. Mrs. Dyke was nowhere to be
seen, and Annixter was shaving himself in his bedroom.

This latter put a half-lathered face out of the window as Presley
cantered through the gate, and waved his razor with a beckoning

"Come on in, Pres," he cried. "Nobody's ready yet. You're hours
ahead of time."

Presley came into the bedroom, his huge spur clinking on the
straw matting. Annixter was without coat, vest or collar, his
blue silk suspenders hung in loops over either hip, his hair was
disordered, the crown lock stiffer than ever.

"Glad to see you, old boy," he announced, as Presley came in.
"No, don't shake hands, I'm all lather. Here, find a chair, will
you? I won't be long."

"I thought you said ten o'clock," observed Presley, sitting down
on the edge of the bed.

"Well, I did, but----"

"But, then again, in a way, you didn't, hey?" his friend

Annixter grunted good-humouredly, and turned to strop his razor.
Presley looked with suspicious disfavour at his suspenders.

"Why is it," he observed, "that as soon as a man is about to get
married, he buys himself pale blue suspenders, silk ones? Think
of it. You, Buck Annixter, with sky-blue, silk suspenders. It
ought to be a strap and a nail."

"Old fool," observed Annixter, whose repartee was the heaving of
brick bats. "Say," he continued, holding the razor from his
face, and jerking his head over his shoulder, while he looked at
Presley's reflection in his mirror; "say, look around. Isn't
this a nifty little room? We refitted the whole house, you know.
Notice she's all painted?"

"I have been looking around," answered Presley, sweeping the room
with a series of glances. He forebore criticism. Annixter was
so boyishly proud of the effect that it would have been unkind to
have undeceived him. Presley looked at the marvellous,
department-store bed of brass, with its brave, gay canopy; the
mill-made wash-stand, with its pitcher and bowl of blinding red
and green china, the straw-framed lithographs of symbolic female
figures against the multi-coloured, new wall-paper; the
inadequate spindle chairs of white and gold; the sphere of tissue
paper hanging from the gas fixture, and the plumes of pampas
grass tacked to the wall at artistic angles, and overhanging two
astonishing oil paintings, in dazzling golden frames.

"Say, how about those paintings, Pres?" inquired Annixter a
little uneasily. "I don't know whether they're good or not.
They were painted by a three-fingered Chinaman in Monterey, and I
got the lot for thirty dollars, frames thrown in. Why, I think
the frames alone are worth thirty dollars."

"Well, so do I," declared Presley. He hastened to change the

"Buck," he said, "I hear you've brought Mrs. Dyke and Sidney to
live with you. You know, I think that's rather white of you."

"Oh, rot, Pres," muttered Annixter, turning abruptly to his

"And you can't fool me, either, old man," Presley continued.
"You're giving this picnic as much for Mrs. Dyke and the little
tad as you are for your wife, just to cheer them up a bit."

"Oh, pshaw, you make me sick."

"Well, that's the right thing to do, Buck, and I'm as glad for
your sake as I am for theirs. There was a time when you would
have let them all go to grass, and never so much as thought of
them. I don't want to seem to be officious, but you've changed
for the better, old man, and I guess I know why. She--" Presley
caught his friend's eye, and added gravely, "She's a good woman,

Annixter turned around abruptly, his face flushing under its

"Pres," he exclaimed, "she's made a man of me. I was a machine
before, and if another man, or woman, or child got in my way, I
rode 'em down, and I never DREAMED of anybody else but myself.
But as soon as I woke up to the fact that I really loved her,
why, it was glory hallelujah all in a minute, and, in a way, I
kind of loved everybody then, and wanted to be everybody's
friend. And I began to see that a fellow can't live FOR himself
any more than he can live BY himself. He's got to think of
others. If he's got brains, he's got to think for the poor ducks
that haven't 'em, and not give 'em a boot in the backsides
because they happen to be stupid; and if he's got money, he's got
to help those that are busted, and if he's got a house, he's got
to think of those that ain't got anywhere to go. I've got a
whole lot of ideas since I began to love Hilma, and just as soon
as I can, I'm going to get in and HELP people, and I'm going to
keep to that idea the rest of my natural life. That ain't much
of a religion, but it's the best I've got, and Henry Ward Beecher
couldn't do any more than that. And it's all come about because
of Hilma, and because we cared for each other."

Presley jumped up, and caught Annixter about the shoulders with
one arm, gripping his hand hard. This absurd figure, with
dangling silk suspenders, lathered chin, and tearful eyes, seemed
to be suddenly invested with true nobility. Beside this
blundering struggle to do right, to help his fellows, Presley's
own vague schemes, glittering systems of reconstruction,
collapsed to ruin, and he himself, with all his refinement, with
all his poetry, culture, and education, stood, a bungler at the
world's workbench.

"You're all RIGHT, old man," he exclaimed, unable to think of
anything adequate. "You're all right. That's the way to talk,
and here, by the way, I brought you a box of cigars."

Annixter stared as Presley laid the box on the edge of the

"Old fool," he remarked, "what in hell did you do that for?"

"Oh, just for fun."

"I suppose they're rotten stinkodoras, or you wouldn't give 'em

"This cringing gratitude--" Presley began.

"Shut up," shouted Annixter, and the incident was closed.

Annixter resumed his shaving, and Presley lit a cigarette.

"Any news from Washington?" he queried.

"Nothing that's any good," grunted Annixter. "Hello," he added,
raising his head, "there's somebody in a hurry for sure."

The noise of a horse galloping so fast that the hoof-beats
sounded in one uninterrupted rattle, abruptly made itself heard.
The noise was coming from the direction of the road that led from
the Mission to Quien Sabe. With incredible swiftness, the hoof-
beats drew nearer. There was that in their sound which brought
Presley to his feet. Annixter threw open the window.

"Runaway," exclaimed Presley.

Annixter, with thoughts of the Railroad, and the "Jumping" of the
ranch, flung his hand to his hip pocket.

"What is it, Vacca?" he cried.

Young Vacca, turning in his seat in the carryall, was looking up
the road. All at once, he jumped from his place, and dashed
towards the window.
"Dyke," he shouted. "Dyke, it's Dyke."

While the words were yet in his mouth, the sound of the hoof-
beats rose to a roar, and a great, bell-toned voice shouted:

"Annixter, Annixter, Annixter!"

It was Dyke's voice, and the next instant he shot into view in
the open square in front of the house.

"Oh, my God!" cried Presley.

The ex-engineer threw the horse on its haunches, springing from
the saddle; and, as he did so, the beast collapsed, shuddering,
to the ground. Annixter sprang from the window, and ran forward,
Presley following.

There was Dyke, hatless, his pistol in his hand, a gaunt terrible
figure the beard immeasurably long, the cheeks fallen in, the
eyes sunken. His clothes ripped and torn by weeks of flight and
hiding in the chaparral, were ragged beyond words, the boots were
shreds of leather, bloody to the ankle with furious spurring.

"Annixter," he shouted, and again, rolling his sunken eyes,
"Annixter, Annixter!"

"Here, here," cried Annixter.

The other turned, levelling his pistol.

"Give me a horse, give me a horse, quick, do you hear? Give me a
horse, or I'll shoot."

"Steady, steady. That won't do. You know me, Dyke. We're
friends here."

The other lowered his weapon.

"I know, I know," he panted. "I'd forgotten. I'm unstrung, Mr.
Annixter, and I'm running for my life. They're not ten minutes
behind me."

"Come on, come on," shouted Annixter, dashing stablewards, his
suspenders flying.

"Here's a horse."

"Mine?" exclaimed Presley. "He wouldn't carry you a mile."

Annixter was already far ahead, trumpeting orders.

"The buckskin," he yelled. "Get her out, Billy. Where's the
stable-man? Get out that buckskin. Get out that saddle."

Then followed minutes of furious haste, Presley, Annixter, Billy
the stable-man, and Dyke himself, darting hither and thither
about the yellow mare, buckling, strapping, cinching, their lips
pale, their fingers trembling with excitement.

"Want anything to eat?" Annixter's head was under the saddle flap
as he tore at the cinch. "Want anything to eat? Want any money?
Want a gun?"

"Water," returned Dyke. "They've watched every spring. I'm
killed with thirst."

"There's the hydrant. Quick now."

"I got as far as the Kern River, but they turned me back," he
said between breaths as he drank.

"Don't stop to talk."

"My mother, and the little tad----"

"I'm taking care of them. They're stopping with me."


"You won't see 'em; by the Lord, you won't. You'll get away.
Where's that back cinch strap, BILLY? God damn it, are you going
to let him be shot before he can get away? Now, Dyke, up you go.
She'll kill herself running before they can catch you."

"God bless you, Annixter. Where's the little tad? Is she well,
Annixter, and the mother? Tell them----"

"Yes, yes, yes. All clear, Pres? Let her have her own gait,
Dyke. You're on the best horse in the county now. Let go her
head, Billy. Now, Dyke,--shake hands? You bet I will. That's
all right. Yes, God bless you. Let her go. You're OFF."

Answering the goad of the spur, and already quivering with the
excitement of the men who surrounded her, the buckskin cleared
the stable-corral in two leaps; then, gathering her legs under
her, her head low, her neck stretched out, swung into the road
from out the driveway disappearing in a blur of dust.

With the agility of a monkey, young Vacca swung himself into the
framework of the artesian well, clambering aloft to its very top.
He swept the country with a glance.

"Well?" demanded Annixter from the ground. The others cocked
their heads to listen.

"I see him; I see him!" shouted Vacca. "He's going like the
devil. He's headed for Guadalajara."

"Look back, up the road, toward the Mission. Anything there?"

The answer came down in a shout of apprehension.

"There's a party of men. Three or four--on horse-back. There's
dogs with 'em. They're coming this way. Oh, I can hear the
dogs. And, say, oh, say, there's another party coming down the
Lower Road, going towards Guadalajara, too. They got guns. I
can see the shine of the barrels. And, oh, Lord, say, there's
three more men on horses coming down on the jump from the hills
on the Los Muertos stock range. They're making towards
Guadalajara. And I can hear the courthouse bell in Bonneville
ringing. Say, the whole county is up."

As young Vacca slid down to the ground, two small black-and-tan
hounds, with flapping ears and lolling tongues, loped into view
on the road in front of the house. They were grey with dust,
their noses were to the ground. At the gate where Dyke had
turned into the ranch house grounds, they halted in confusion a
moment. One started to follow the highwayman's trail towards the
stable corral, but the other, quartering over the road with
lightning swiftness, suddenly picked up the new scent leading on
towards Guadalajara. He tossed his head in the air, and Presley
abruptly shut his hands over his ears.

Ah, that terrible cry! deep-toned, reverberating like the
bourdon of a great bell. It was the trackers exulting on the
trail of the pursued, the prolonged, raucous howl, eager,
ominous, vibrating with the alarm of the tocsin, sullen with the
heavy muffling note of death. But close upon the bay of the
hounds, came the gallop of horses. Five men, their eyes upon the
hounds, their rifles across their pommels, their horses reeking
and black with sweat, swept by in a storm of dust, glinting
hoofs, and streaming manes.

"That was Delaney's gang," exclaimed Annixter. "I saw him."

"The other was that chap Christian," said Vacca, "S. Behrman's
cousin. He had two deputies with him; and the chap in the white
slouch hat was the sheriff from Visalia."

"By the Lord, they aren't far behind," declared Annixter.

As the men turned towards the house again they saw Hilma and Mrs.
Dyke in the doorway of the little house where the latter lived.
They were looking out, bewildered, ignorant of what had happened.
But on the porch of the Ranch house itself, alone, forgotten in
the excitement, Sidney--the little tad--stood, with pale face and
serious, wide-open eyes. She had seen everything, and had
understood. She said nothing. Her head inclined towards the
roadway, she listened to the faint and distant baying of the

Dyke thundered across the railway tracks by the depot at
Guadalajara not five minutes ahead of his pursuers. Luck seemed
to have deserted him. The station, usually so quiet, was now
occupied by the crew of a freight train that lay on the down
track; while on the up line, near at hand and headed in the same
direction, was a detached locomotive, whose engineer and fireman
recognized him, he was sure, as the buckskin leaped across the

He had had no time to formulate a plan since that morning, when,
tortured with thirst, he had ventured near the spring at the
headwaters of Broderson Creek, on Quien Sabe, and had all but
fallen into the hands of the posse that had been watching for
that very move. It was useless now to regret that he had tried
to foil pursuit by turning back on his tracks to regain the
mountains east of Bonneville. Now Delaney was almost on him. To
distance that posse, was the only thing to be thought of now. It
was no longer a question of hiding till pursuit should flag; they
had driven him out from the shelter of the mountains, down into
this populous countryside, where an enemy might be met with at
every turn of the road. Now it was life or death. He would
either escape or be killed. He knew very well that he would
never allow himself to be taken alive. But he had no mind to be
killed--to turn and fight--till escape was blocked. His one
thought was to leave pursuit behind.

Weeks of flight had sharpened Dyke's every sense. As he turned
into the Upper Road beyond Guadalajara, he saw the three men
galloping down from Derrick's stock range, making for the road
ahead of him. They would cut him off there. He swung the
buckskin about. He must take the Lower Road across Los Muertos
from Guadalajara, and he must reach it before Delaney's dogs and
posse. Back he galloped, the buckskin measuring her length with
every leap. Once more the station came in sight. Rising in his
stirrups, he looked across the fields in the direction of the
Lower Road. There was a cloud of dust there. From a wagon? No,
horses on the run, and their riders were armed! He could catch
the flash of gun barrels. They were all closing in on him,
converging on Guadalajara by every available road. The Upper
Road west of Guadalajara led straight to Bonneville. That way
was impossible. Was he in a trap? Had the time for fighting
come at last?

But as Dyke neared the depot at Guadalajara, his eye fell upon
the detached locomotive that lay quietly steaming on the up line,
and with a thrill of exultation, he remembered that he was an
engineer born and bred. Delaney's dogs were already to be heard,
and the roll of hoofs on the Lower Road was dinning in his ears,
as he leaped from the buckskin before the depot. The train crew
scattered like frightened sheep before him, but Dyke ignored
them. His pistol was in his hand as, once more on foot, he
sprang toward the lone engine.

"Out of the cab," he shouted. "Both of you. Quick, or I'll kill
you both."

The two men tumbled from the iron apron of the tender as Dyke
swung himself up, dropping his pistol on the floor of the cab and
reaching with the old instinct for the familiar levers.
The great compound hissed and trembled as the steam was released,
and the huge drivers stirred, turning slowly on the tracks. But
there was a shout. Delaney's posse, dogs and men, swung into
view at the turn of the road, their figures leaning over as they
took the curve at full speed. Dyke threw everything wide open
and caught up his revolver. From behind came the challenge of a
Winchester. The party on the Lower Road were even closer than
Delaney. They had seen his manoeuvre, and the first shot of the
fight shivered the cab windows above the engineer's head.

But spinning futilely at first, the drivers of the engine at last
caught the rails. The engine moved, advanced, travelled past the
depot and the freight train, and gathering speed, rolled out on
the track beyond. Smoke, black and boiling, shot skyward from
the stack; not a joint that did not shudder with the mighty
strain of the steam; hut the great iron brute--one of Baldwin's
newest and best--came to call, obedient and docile as soon as
ever the great pulsing heart of it felt a master hand upon its
levers. It gathered its speed, bracing its steel muscles, its
thews of iron, and roared out upon the open track, filling the
air with the rasp of its tempest-breath, blotting the sunshine
with the belch of its hot, thick smoke. Already it was lessening
in the distance, when Delaney, Christian, and the sheriff of
Visalia dashed up to the station.

The posse had seen everything.

"Stuck. Curse the luck!" vociferated the cow-Puncher.

But the sheriff was already out of the saddle and into the
telegraph office.

"There's a derailing switch between here and Pixley, isn't
there?" he cried.


"Wire ahead to open it. We'll derail him there. Come on;" he
turned to Delaney and the others. They sprang into the cab of
the locomotive that was attached to the freight train.

"Name of the State of California," shouted the sheriff to the
bewildered engineer. "Cut off from your train."

The sheriff was a man to be obeyed without hesitating. Time was
not allowed the crew of the freight train for debating as to the
right or the wrong of requisitioning the engine, and before
anyone thought of the safety or danger of the affair, the freight
engine was already flying out upon the down line, hot in pursuit
of Dyke, now far ahead upon the up track.

"I remember perfectly well there's a derailing switch between
here and Pixley," shouted the sheriff above the roar of the
locomotive. "They use it in case they have to derail runaway
engines. It runs right off into the country. We'll pile him up
there. Ready with your guns, boys."

"If we should meet another train coming up on this track----"
protested the frightened engineer.

"Then we'd jump or be smashed. Hi! look! There he is." As the
freight engine rounded a curve, Dyke's engine came into view,
shooting on some quarter of a mile ahead of them, wreathed in
whirling smoke.

"The switch ain't much further on," clamoured the engineer. "You
can see Pixley now."

Dyke, his hand on the grip of the valve that controlled the
steam, his head out of the cab window, thundered on. He was back
in his old place again; once more he was the engineer; once more
he felt the engine quiver under him; the familiar noises were in
his ears; the familiar buffeting of the wind surged, roaring at
his face; the familiar odours of hot steam and smoke reeked in
his nostrils, and on either side of him, parallel panoramas, the
two halves of the landscape sliced, as it were, in two by the
clashing wheels of his engine, streamed by in green and brown

He found himself settling to the old position on the cab seat,
leaning on his elbow from the window, one hand on the controller.
All at once, the instinct of the pursuit that of late had become
so strong within him, prompted him to shoot a glance behind. He
saw the other engine on the down line, plunging after him,
rocking from side to side with the fury of its gallop. Not yet
had he shaken the trackers from his heels; not yet was he out of
the reach of danger. He set his teeth and, throwing open the
fire-door, stoked vigorously for a few moments. The indicator of
the steam gauge rose; his speed increased; a glance at the
telegraph poles told him he was doing his fifty miles an hour.
The freight engine behind him was never built for that pace.
Barring the terrible risk of accident, his chances were good.

But suddenly--the engineer dominating the highway-man--he shut
off his steam and threw back his brake to the extreme notch.
Directly ahead of him rose a semaphore, placed at a point where
evidently a derailing switch branched from the line. The
semaphore's arm was dropped over the track, setting the danger
signal that showed the switch was open.

In an instant, Dyke saw the trick. They had meant to smash him
here; had been clever enough, quick-witted enough to open the
switch, but had forgotten the automatic semaphore that worked
simultaneously with the movement of the rails. To go forward was
certain destruction. Dyke reversed. There was nothing for it
but to go back. With a wrench and a spasm of all its metal
fibres, the great compound braced itself, sliding with rigid
wheels along the rails. Then, as Dyke applied the reverse, it
drew back from the greater danger, returning towards the less.
Inevitably now the two engines, one on the up, the other on the
down line, must meet and pass each other.

Dyke released the levers, reaching for his revolver. The
engineer once more became the highwayman, in peril of his life.
Now, beyond all doubt, the time for fighting was at hand.

The party in the heavy freight engine, that lumbered after in
pursuit, their eyes fixed on the smudge of smoke on ahead that
marked the path of the fugitive, suddenly raised a shout.

"He's stopped. He's broke down. Watch, now, and see if he jumps

"Broke NOTHING. HE'S COMING BACK. Ready, now, he's got to pass

The engineer applied the brakes, but the heavy freight
locomotive, far less mobile than Dyke's flyer, was slow to obey.
The smudge on the rails ahead grew swiftly larger.

"He's coming. He's coming--look out, there's a shot. He's
shooting already."

A bright, white sliver of wood leaped into the air from the sooty
window sill of the cab.

"Fire on him! Fire on him!"

While the engines were yet two hundred yards apart, the duel
began, shot answering shot, the sharp staccato reports
punctuating the thunder of wheels and the clamour of steam.

Then the ground trembled and rocked; a roar as of heavy ordnance
developed with the abruptness of an explosion. The two engines
passed each other, the men firing the while, emptying their
revolvers, shattering wood, shivering glass, the bullets clanging
against the metal work as they struck and struck and struck. The
men leaned from the cabs towards each other, frantic with
excitement, shouting curses, the engines rocking, the steam
roaring; confusion whirling in the scene like the whirl of a
witch's dance, the white clouds of steam, the black eddies from
the smokestack, the blue wreaths from the hot mouths of
revolvers, swirling together in a blinding maze of vapour,
spinning around them, dazing them, dizzying them, while the head
rang with hideous clamour and the body twitched and trembled with
the leap and jar of the tumult of machinery.

Roaring, clamouring, reeking with the smell of powder and hot
oil, spitting death, resistless, huge, furious, an abrupt vision
of chaos, faces, rage-distorted, peering through smoke, hands
gripping outward from sudden darkness, prehensile, malevolent;
terrible as thunder, swift as lightning, the two engines met and

"He's hit," cried Delaney. "I know I hit him. He can't go far
now. After him again. He won't dare go through Bonneville."

It was true. Dyke had stood between cab and tender throughout
all the duel, exposed, reckless, thinking only of attack and not
of defence, and a bullet from one of the pistols had grazed his
hip. How serious was the wound he did not know, but he had no
thought of giving up. He tore back through the depot at
Guadalajara in a storm of bullets, and, clinging to the broken
window ledge of his cab, was carried towards Bonneville, on over
the Long Trestle and Broderson Creek and through the open country
between the two ranches of Los Muertos and Quien Sabe.

But to go on to Bonneville meant certain death. Before, as well
as behind him, the roads were now blocked. Once more he thought
of the mountains. He resolved to abandon the engine and make
another final attempt to get into the shelter of the hills in the
northernmost corner of Quien Sabe. He set his teeth. He would
not give in. There was one more fight left in him yet. Now to
try the final hope.

He slowed the engine down, and, reloading his revolver, jumped
from the platform to the road. He looked about him, listening.
All around him widened an ocean of wheat. There was no one in

The released engine, alone, unattended, drew slowly away from
him, jolting ponderously over the rail joints. As he watched it
go, a certain indefinite sense of abandonment, even in that
moment, came over Dyke. His last friend, that also had been his
first, was leaving him. He remembered that day, long ago, when
he had opened the throttle of his first machine. To-day, it was
leaving him alone, his last friend turning against him. Slowly
it was going back towards Bonneville, to the shops of the
Railroad, the camp of the enemy, that enemy that had ruined him
and wrecked him. For the last time in his life, he had been the
engineer. Now, once more, he became the highwayman, the outlaw
against whom all hands were raised, the fugitive skulking in the
mountains, listening for the cry of dogs.

But he would not give in. They had not broken him yet. Never,
while he could fight, would he allow S. Behrman the triumph of
his capture.

He found his wound was not bad. He plunged into the wheat on
Quien Sabe, making northward for a division house that rose with
its surrounding trees out of the wheat like an island. He
reached it, the blood squelching in his shoes. But the sight of
two men, Portuguese farm-hands, staring at him from an angle of
the barn, abruptly roused him to action. He sprang forward with
peremptory commands, demanding a horse.

At Guadalajara, Delaney and the sheriff descended from the
freight engine.

"Horses now," declared the sheriff. "He won't go into
Bonneville, that's certain. He'll leave the engine between here
and there, and strike off into the country. We'll follow after
him now in the saddle. Soon as he leaves his engine, HE'S on
foot. We've as good as got him now."

Their horses, including even the buckskin mare that Dyke had
ridden, were still at the station. The party swung themselves
up, Delaney exclaiming, "Here's MY mount," as he bestrode the

At Guadalajara, the two bloodhounds were picked up again. Urging
the jaded horses to a gallop, the party set off along the Upper
Road, keeping a sharp lookout to right and left for traces of
Dyke's abandonment of the engine.

Three miles beyond the Long Trestle, they found S. Behrman
holding his saddle horse by the bridle, and looking attentively
at a trail that had been broken through the standing wheat on
Quien Sabe. The party drew rein.

"The engine passed me on the tracks further up, and empty," said
S. Behrman. "Boys, I think he left her here."

But before anyone could answer, the bloodhounds gave tongue
again, as they picked up the scent.

"That's him," cried S. Behrman. "Get on, boys."

They dashed forward, following the hounds. S. Behrman
laboriously climbed to his saddle, panting, perspiring, mopping
the roll of fat over his coat collar, and turned in after them,
trotting along far in the rear, his great stomach and tremulous
jowl shaking with the horse's gait.

"What a day," he murmured. "What a day."

Dyke's trail was fresh, and was followed as easily as if made on
new-fallen snow. In a short time, the posse swept into the open
space around the division house. The two Portuguese were still
there, wide-eyed, terribly excited.

Yes, yes, Dyke had been there not half an hour since, had held
them up, taken a horse and galloped to the northeast, towards the
foothills at the headwaters of Broderson Creek.

On again, at full gallop, through the young wheat, trampling it
under the flying hoofs; the hounds hot on the scent, baying
continually; the men, on fresh mounts, secured at the division
house, bending forward in their saddles, spurring relentlessly.
S. Behrman jolted along far in the rear.

And even then, harried through an open country, where there was
no place to hide, it was a matter of amazement how long a chase
the highwayman led them. Fences were passed; fences whose barbed
wire had been slashed apart by the fugitive's knife. The ground
rose under foot; the hills were at hand; still the pursuit held
on. The sun, long past the meridian, began to turn earthward.
Would night come on before they were up with him?

"Look! Look! There he is! Quick, there he goes!"

High on the bare slope of the nearest hill, all the posse,
looking in the direction of Delaney's gesture, saw the figure of
a horseman emerge from an arroyo, filled with chaparral, and
struggle at a labouring gallop straight up the slope. Suddenly,
every member of the party shouted aloud. The horse had fallen,
pitching the rider from the saddle. The man rose to his feet,
caught at the bridle, missed it and the horse dashed on alone.
The man, pausing for a second looked around, saw the chase
drawing nearer, then, turning back, disappeared in the chaparral.
Delaney raised a great whoop.

"We've got you now."
Into the slopes and valleys of the hills dashed the band of
horsemen, the trail now so fresh that it could be easily
discerned by all. On and on it led them, a furious, wild
scramble straight up the slopes. The minutes went by. The dry
bed of a rivulet was passed; then another fence; then a tangle of
manzanita; a meadow of wild oats, full of agitated cattle; then
an arroyo, thick with chaparral and scrub oaks, and then, without
warning, the pistol shots ripped out and ran from rider to rider
with the rapidity of a gatling discharge, and one of the deputies
bent forward in the saddle, both hands to his face, the blood
jetting from between his fingers.

Dyke was there, at bay at last, his back against a bank of rock,
the roots of a fallen tree serving him as a rampart, his revolver
smoking in his hand.

"You're under arrest, Dyke," cried the sheriff. "It's not the
least use to fight. The whole country is up."

Dyke fired again, the shot splintering the foreleg of the horse
the sheriff rode.

The posse, four men all told--the wounded deputy having crawled
out of the fight after Dyke's first shot--fell back after the
preliminary fusillade, dismounted, and took shelter behind rocks
and trees. On that rugged ground, fighting from the saddle was
impracticable. Dyke, in the meanwhile, held his fire, for he
knew that, once his pistol was empty, he would never be allowed
time to reload.

"Dyke," called the sheriff again, "for the last time, I summon
you to surrender."

Dyke did not reply. The sheriff, Delaney, and the man named
Christian conferred together in a low voice. Then Delaney and
Christian left the others, making a wide detour up the sides of
the arroyo, to gain a position to the left and somewhat to the
rear of Dyke.

But it was at this moment that S. Behrman arrived. It could not
be said whether it was courage or carelessness that brought the
Railroad's agent within reach of Dyke's revolver. Possibly he
was really a brave man; possibly occupied with keeping an
uncertain seat upon the back of his labouring, scrambling horse,
he had not noticed that he was so close upon that scene of
battle. He certainly did not observe the posse lying upon the
ground behind sheltering rocks and trees, and before anyone could
call a warning, he had ridden out into the open, within thirty
paces of Dyke's intrenchment.

Dyke saw. There was the arch-enemy; the man of all men whom he
most hated; the man who had ruined him, who had exasperated him
and driven him to crime, and who had instigated tireless pursuit
through all those past terrible weeks. Suddenly, inviting death,
he leaped up and forward; he had forgotten all else, all other
considerations, at the sight of this man. He would die, gladly,
so only that S. Behrman died before him.

"I've got YOU, anyway," he shouted, as he ran forward.

The muzzle of the weapon was not ten feet from S. Behrman's huge
stomach as Dyke drew the trigger. Had the cartridge exploded,
death, certain and swift, would have followed, but at this, of
all moments, the revolver missed fire.

S. Behrman, with an unexpected agility, leaped from the saddle,
and, keeping his horse between him and Dyke, ran, dodging and
ducking, from tree to tree. His first shot a failure, Dyke fired
again and again at his enemy, emptying his revolver, reckless of
consequences. His every shot went wild, and before he could draw
his knife, the whole posse was upon him.

Without concerted plans, obeying no signal but the promptings of
the impulse that snatched, unerring, at opportunity--the men,
Delaney and Christian from one side, the sheriff and the deputy
from the other, rushed in. They did not fire. It was Dyke alive
they wanted. One of them had a riata snatched from a saddle-
pommel, and with this they tried to bind him.

The fight was four to one--four men with law on their side, to
one wounded freebooter, half-starved, exhausted by days and
nights of pursuit, worn down with loss of sleep, thirst,
privation, and the grinding, nerve-racking consciousness of an
ever-present peril.

They swarmed upon him from all sides, gripping at his legs, at
his arms, his throat, his head, striking, clutching, kicking,
falling to the ground, rolling over and over, now under, now
above, now staggering forward, now toppling back.
Still Dyke fought. Through that scrambling, struggling group,
through that maze of twisting bodies, twining arms, straining
legs, S. Behrman saw him from moment to moment, his face flaming,
his eyes bloodshot, his hair matted with sweat. Now he was down,
pinned under, two men across his legs, and now half-way up again,
struggling to one knee. Then upright again, with half his
enemies hanging on his back. His colossal strength seemed
doubled; when his arms were held, he fought bull-like with his
head. A score of times, it seemed as if they were about to
secure him finally and irrevocably, and then he would free an
arm, a leg, a shoulder, and the group that, for the fraction of
an instant, had settled, locked and rigid, on its prey, would
break up again as he flung a man from him, reeling and bloody,
and he himself twisting, squirming, dodging, his great fists
working like pistons, backed away, dragging and carrying the
others with him.

More than once, he loosened almost every grip, and for an instant
stood nearly free, panting, rolling his eyes, his clothes torn
from his body, bleeding, dripping with sweat, a terrible figure,
nearly free. The sheriff, under his breath, uttered an

"By God, he'll get away yet."

S. Behrman watched the fight complacently.

"That all may show obstinacy," he commented, "but it don't show
common sense."

Yet, however Dyke might throw off the clutches and fettering
embraces that encircled him, however he might disintegrate and
scatter the band of foes that heaped themselves upon him, however
he might gain one instant of comparative liberty, some one of his
assailants always hung, doggedly, blindly to an arm, a leg, or a
foot, and the others, drawing a second's breath, closed in again,
implacable, unconquerable, ferocious, like hounds upon a wolf.

At length, two of the men managed to bring Dyke's wrists close
enough together to allow the sheriff to snap the handcuffs on.
Even then, Dyke, clasping his hands, and using the handcuffs
themselves as a weapon, knocked down Delaney by the crushing
impact of the steel bracelets upon the cow-puncher's forehead.
But he could no longer protect himself from attacks from behind,
and the riata was finally passed around his body, pinioning his
arms to his sides. After this it was useless to resist.

The wounded deputy sat with his back to a rock, holding his
broken jaw in both hands. The sheriff's horse, with its
splintered foreleg, would have to be shot. Delaney's head was
cut from temple to cheekbone. The right wrist of the sheriff was
all but dislocated. The other deputy was so exhausted he had to
be helped to his horse. But Dyke was taken.

He himself had suddenly lapsed into semi-unconsciousness, unable
to walk. They sat him on the buckskin, S. Behrman supporting
him, the sheriff, on foot, leading the horse by the bridle. The
little procession formed, and descended from the hills, turning
in the direction of Bonneville. A special train, one car and an
engine, would be made up there, and the highwayman would sleep in
the Visalia jail that night.

Delaney and S. Behrman found themselves in the rear of the
cavalcade as it moved off. The cow-puncher turned to his chief:

"Well, captain," he said, still panting, as he bound up his
forehead; "well--we GOT him."


Osterman cut his wheat that summer before any of the other
ranchers, and as soon as his harvest was over organized a jack-
rabbit drive. Like Annixter's barn-dance, it was to be an event
in which all the country-side should take part. The drive was to
begin on the most western division of the Osterman ranch, whence
it would proceed towards the southeast, crossing into the
northern part of Quien Sabe--on which Annixter had sown no wheat--
and ending in the hills at the headwaters of Broderson Creek,
where a barbecue was to be held.

Early on the morning of the day of the drive, as Harran and
Presley were saddling their horses before the stables on Los
Muertos, the foreman, Phelps, remarked:

"I was into town last night, and I hear that Christian has been
after Ruggles early and late to have him put him in possession
here on Los Muertos, and Delaney is doing the same for Quien

It was this man Christian, the real estate broker, and cousin of
S. Behrman, one of the main actors in the drama of Dyke's
capture, who had come forward as a purchaser of Los Muertos when
the Railroad had regraded its holdings on the ranches around

"He claims, of course," Phelps went on, "that when he bought Los
Muertos of the Railroad he was guaranteed possession, and he
wants the place in time for the harvest."

"That's almost as thin," muttered Harran as he thrust the bit
into his horse's mouth. "as Delaney buying Annixter's Home
ranch. That slice of Quien Sabe, according to the Railroad's
grading, is worth about ten thousand dollars; yes, even fifteen,
and I don't believe Delaney is worth the price of a good horse.
Why, those people don't even try to preserve appearances. Where
would Christian find the money to buy Los Muertos? There's no
one man in all Bonneville rich enough to do it. Damned rascals!
as if we didn't see that Christian and Delaney are S. Behrman's
right and left hands. Well, he'll get 'em cut off," he cried
with sudden fierceness, "if he comes too near the machine."

"How is it, Harran," asked Presley as the two young men rode out
of the stable yard, "how is it the Railroad gang can do anything
before the Supreme Court hands down a decision?"

"Well, you know how they talk," growled Harran. "They have
claimed that the cases taken up to the Supreme Court were not
test cases as WE claim they ARE, and that because neither
Annixter nor the Governor appealed, they've lost their cases by
default. It's the rottenest kind of sharp practice, but it won't
do any good. The League is too strong. They won't dare move on
us yet awhile. Why, Pres, the moment they'd try to jump any of
these ranches around here, they would have six hundred rifles
cracking at them as quick as how-do-you-do. Why, it would take a
regiment of U. S. soldiers to put any one of us off our land.
No, sir; they know the League means business this time."

As Presley and Harran trotted on along the county road they
continually passed or overtook other horsemen, or buggies, carry-
alls, buck-boards or even farm wagons, going in the same
direction. These were full of the farming people from all the
country round about Bonneville, on their way to the rabbit drive--
the same people seen at the barn-dance--in their Sunday finest,
the girls in muslin frocks and garden hats, the men with linen
dusters over their black clothes; the older women in prints and
dotted calicoes. Many of these latter had already taken off
their bonnets--the day was very hot--and pinning them in
newspapers, stowed them under the seats. They tucked their
handkerchiefs into the collars of their dresses, or knotted them
about their fat necks, to keep out the dust. From the axle trees
of the vehicles swung carefully covered buckets of galvanised
iron, in which the lunch was packed. The younger children, the
boys with great frilled collars, the girls with ill-fitting shoes
cramping their feet, leaned from the sides of buggy and carry-
all, eating bananas and "macaroons," staring about with ox-like
stolidity. Tied to the axles, the dogs followed the horses'
hoofs with lolling tongues coated with dust.

The California summer lay blanket-wise and smothering over all
the land. The hills, bone-dry, were browned and parched. The
grasses and wild-oats, sear and yellow, snapped like glass
filaments under foot. The roads, the bordering fences, even the
lower leaves and branches of the trees, were thick and grey with
dust. All colour had been burned from the landscape, except in
the irrigated patches, that in the waste of brown and dull yellow
glowed like oases.

The wheat, now close to its maturity, had turned from pale yellow
to golden yellow, and from that to brown. Like a gigantic
carpet, it spread itself over all the land. There was nothing
else to be seen but the limitless sea of wheat as far as the eye
could reach, dry, rustling, crisp and harsh in the rare breaths
of hot wind out of the southeast.
As Harran and Presley went along the county road, the number of
vehicles and riders increased. They overtook and passed Hooven
and his family in the former's farm wagon, a saddled horse tied
to the back board. The little Dutchman, wearing the old frock
coat of Magnus Derrick, and a new broad-brimmed straw hat, sat on
the front seat with Mrs. Hooven. The little girl Hilda, and the
older daughter Minna, were behind them on a board laid across the
sides of the wagon. Presley and Harran stopped to shake hands.
"Say," cried Hooven, exhibiting an old, but extremely well kept,
rifle, "say, bei Gott, me, I tek some schatz at dose rebbit, you
bedt. Ven he hef shtop to run und sit oop soh, bei der hind
laigs on, I oop mit der guhn und--bing! I cetch um."

"The marshals won't allow you to shoot, Bismarck," observed
Presley, looking at Minna.

Hooven doubled up with merriment.

"Ho! dot's hell of some fine joak. Me, I'M ONE OAF DOSE
MAIRSCHELL MINE-SELLUF," he roared with delight, beating his
knee. To his notion, the joke was irresistible. All day long,
he could be heard repeating it. "Und Mist'r Praicelie, he say,
'Dose mairschell woand led you schoot, Bismarck,' und ME, ach
Gott, ME, aindt I mine-selluf one oaf dose mairschell?"

As the two friends rode on, Presley had in his mind the image of
Minna Hooven, very pretty in a clean gown of pink gingham, a
cheap straw sailor hat from a Bonneville store on her blue black
hair. He remembered her very pale face, very red lips and eyes
of greenish blue,--a pretty girl certainly, always trailing a
group of men behind her. Her love affairs were the talk of all
Los Muertos.

"I hope that Hooven girl won't go to the bad," Presley said to

"Oh, she's all right," the other answered. "There's nothing
vicious about Minna, and I guess she'll marry that foreman on the
ditch gang, right enough."

"Well, as a matter of course, she's a good girl," Presley
hastened to reply, "only she's too pretty for a poor girl, and
too sure of her prettiness besides. That's the kind," he
continued, "who would find it pretty easy to go wrong if they
lived in a city."

Around Caraher's was a veritable throng. Saddle horses and
buggies by the score were clustered underneath the shed or
hitched to the railings in front of the watering trough. Three
of Broderson's Portuguese tenants and a couple of workmen from
the railroad shops in Bonneville were on the porch, already very

Continually, young men, singly or in groups, came from the door-
way, wiping their lips with sidelong gestures of the hand. The
whole place exhaled the febrile bustle of the saloon on a holiday

The procession of teams streamed on through Bonneville,
reenforced at every street corner. Along the Upper Road from
Quien Sabe and Guadalajara came fresh auxiliaries, Spanish-
Mexicans from the town itself,--swarthy young men on capering
horses, dark-eyed girls and matrons, in red and black and yellow,
more Portuguese in brand-new overalls, smoking long thin cigars.
Even Father Sarria appeared.

"Look," said Presley, "there goes Annixter and Hilma. He's got
his buckskin back." The master of Quien Sabe, in top laced boots
and campaign hat, a cigar in his teeth, followed along beside the
carry-all. Hilma and Mrs. Derrick were on the back seat, young
Vacca driving. Harran and Presley bowed, taking off their hats.

"Hello, hello, Pres," cried Annixter, over the heads of the
intervening crowd, standing up in his stirrups and waving a hand,
"Great day! What a mob, hey? Say when this thing is over and
everybody starts to walk into the barbecue, come and have lunch
with us. I'll look for you, you and Harran. Hello, Harran,
where's the Governor?"

"He didn't come to-day," Harran shouted back, as the crowd
carried him further away from Annixter. "Left him and old
Broderson at Los Muertos."

The throng emerged into the open country again, spreading out
upon the Osterman ranch. From all directions could be seen
horses and buggies driving across the stubble, converging upon
the rendezvous. Osterman's Ranch house was left to the eastward;
the army of the guests hurrying forward--for it began to be late--
to where around a flag pole, flying a red flag, a vast crowd of
buggies and horses was already forming. The marshals began to
appear. Hooven, descending from the farm wagon, pinned his white
badge to his hat brim and mounted his horse. Osterman, in
marvellous riding clothes of English pattern, galloped up and
down upon his best thoroughbred, cracking jokes with everybody,
chaffing, joshing, his great mouth distended in a perpetual grin
of amiability.

"Stop here, stop here," he vociferated, dashing along in front of
Presley and Harran, waving his crop. The procession came to a
halt, the horses' heads pointing eastward. The line began to be
formed. The marshals perspiring, shouting, fretting, galloping
about, urging this one forward, ordering this one back, ranged
the thousands of conveyances and cavaliers in a long line, shaped
like a wide open crescent. Its wings, under the command of
lieutenants, were slightly advanced. Far out before its centre
Osterman took his place, delighted beyond expression at his
conspicuousness, posing for the gallery, making his horse dance.

"Wail, aindt dey gowun to gommence den bretty soohn," exclaimed
Mrs. Hooven, who had taken her husband's place on the forward
seat of the wagon.

"I never was so warm," murmured Minna, fanning herself with her
hat. All seemed in readiness. For miles over the flat expanse
of stubble, curved the interminable lines of horses and vehicles.
At a guess, nearly five thousand people were present. The drive
was one of the largest ever held. But no start was made;
immobilized, the vast crescent stuck motionless under the blazing
sun. Here and there could be heard voices uplifted in jocular

"Oh, I say, get a move on, somebody."

"ALL aboard."

"Say, I'll take root here pretty soon."

Some took malicious pleasure in starting false alarms.

"Ah, HERE we go."

"Off, at last."

"We're off."

Invariably these jokes fooled some one in the line. An old man,
or some old woman, nervous, hard of hearing, always gathered up
the reins and started off, only to be hustled and ordered back
into the line by the nearest marshal. This manoeuvre never
failed to produce its effect of hilarity upon those near at hand.
Everybody laughed at the blunderer, the joker jeering audibly.

"Hey, come back here."

"Oh, he's easy."

"Don't be in a hurry, Grandpa."

"Say, you want to drive all the rabbits yourself."

Later on, a certain group of these fellows started a huge "josh."

"Say, that's what we're waiting for, the 'do-funny.'"

"The do-funny?"

"Sure, you can't drive rabbits without the 'do-funny.'"

"What's the do-funny?"

"Oh, say, she don't know what the do-funny is. We can't start
without it, sure. Pete went back to get it."

"Oh, you're joking me, there's no such thing."

"Well, aren't we WAITING for it?"

"Oh, look, look," cried some women in a covered rig. "See, they
are starting already 'way over there."

In fact, it did appear as if the far extremity of the line was in
motion. Dust rose in the air above it.

"They ARE starting. Why don't we start?"

"No, they've stopped. False alarm."

"They've not, either. Why don't we move?"

But as one or two began to move off, the nearest marshal shouted

"Get back there, get back there."

"Well, they've started over there."

"Get back, I tell you."

"Where's the 'do-funny?'"

"Say, we're going to miss it all. They've all started over

A lieutenant came galloping along in front of the line, shouting:

"Here, what's the matter here? Why don't you start?"

There was a great shout. Everybody simultaneously uttered a
prolonged "Oh-h."

"We're off."

"Here we go for sure this time."

"Remember to keep the alignment," roared the lieutenant. "Don't
go too fast."

And the marshals, rushing here and there on their sweating horses
to points where the line bulged forward, shouted, waving their
arms: "Not too fast, not too fast....Keep back here....Here, keep
closer together here. Do you want to let all the rabbits run
back between you?"

A great confused sound rose into the air,--the creaking of axles,
the jolt of iron tires over the dry clods, the click of brittle
stubble under the horses' hoofs, the barking of dogs, the shouts
of conversation and laughter.

The entire line, horses, buggies, wagons, gigs, dogs, men and
boys on foot, and armed with clubs, moved slowly across the
fields, sending up a cloud of white dust, that hung above the
scene like smoke. A brisk gaiety was in the air. Everyone was
in the best of humor, calling from team to team, laughing,
skylarking, joshing. Garnett, of the Ruby Rancho, and Gethings,
of the San Pablo, both on horseback, found themselves side by
side. Ignoring the drive and the spirit of the occasion, they
kept up a prolonged and serious conversation on an expected rise
in the price of wheat. Dabney, also on horseback, followed them,
listening attentively to every word, but hazarding no remark.

Mrs. Derrick and Hilma sat in the back seat of the carry-all,
behind young Vacca. Mrs. Derrick, a little disturbed by such a
great concourse of people, frightened at the idea of the killing
of so many rabbits, drew back in her place, her young-girl eyes
troubled and filled with a vague distress. Hilma, very much
excited, leaned from the carry-all, anxious to see everything,
watching for rabbits, asking innumerable questions of Annixter,
who rode at her side.

The change that had been progressing in Hilma, ever since the
night of the famous barn-dance, now seemed to be approaching its
climax; first the girl, then the woman, last of all the Mother.
Conscious dignity, a new element in her character, developed.
The shrinking, the timidity of the girl just awakening to the
consciousness of sex, passed away from her. The confusion, the
troublous complexity of the woman, a mystery even to herself,
disappeared. Motherhood dawned, the old simplicity of her maiden
days came back to her. It was no longer a simplicity of
ignorance, but of supreme knowledge, the simplicity of the
perfect, the simplicity of greatness. She looked the world
fearlessly in the eyes. At last, the confusion of her ideas,
like frightened birds, re-settling, adjusted itself, and she
emerged from the trouble calm, serene, entering into her divine
right, like a queen into the rule of a realm of perpetual peace.

And with this, with the knowledge that the crown hung poised
above her head, there came upon Hilma a gentleness infinitely
beautiful, infinitely pathetic; a sweetness that touched all who
came near her with the softness of a caress. She moved
surrounded by an invisible atmosphere of Love. Love was in her
wide-opened brown eyes, Love--the dim reflection of that
descending crown poised over her head--radiated in a faint lustre
from her dark, thick hair. Around her beautiful neck, sloping to
her shoulders with full, graceful curves, Love lay encircled like
a necklace--Love that was beyond words, sweet, breathed from her
parted lips. From her white, large arms downward to her pink
finger-tips--Love, an invisible electric fluid, disengaged
itself, subtle, alluring. In the velvety huskiness of her voice,
Love vibrated like a note of unknown music.

Annixter, her uncouth, rugged husband, living in this influence
of a wife, who was also a mother, at all hours touched to the
quick by this sense of nobility, of gentleness and of love, the
instincts of a father already clutching and tugging at his heart,
was trembling on the verge of a mighty transformation. The
hardness and inhumanity of the man was fast breaking up. One
night, returning late to the Ranch house, after a compulsory
visit to the city, he had come upon Hilma asleep. He had never
forgotten that night. A realization of his boundless happiness
in this love he gave and received, the thought that Hilma TRUSTED
him, a knowledge of his own unworthiness, a vast and humble
thankfulness that his God had chosen him of all men for this
great joy, had brought him to his knees for the first time in all
his troubled, restless life of combat and aggression. He prayed,
he knew not what,--vague words, wordless thoughts, resolving
fiercely to do right, to make some return for God's gift thus
placed within his hands.

Where once Annixter had thought only of himself, he now thought
only of Hilma. The time when this thought of another should
broaden and widen into thought of OTHERS, was yet to come; but
already it had expanded to include the unborn child--already, as
in the case of Mrs. Dyke, it had broadened to enfold another
child and another mother bound to him by no ties other than those
of humanity and pity. In time, starting from this point it would
reach out more and more till it should take in all men and all
women, and the intolerant selfish man, while retaining all of his
native strength, should become tolerant and generous, kind and

For the moment, however, the two natures struggled within him. A
fight was to be fought, one more, the last, the fiercest, the
attack of the enemy who menaced his very home and hearth, was to
be resisted. Then, peace attained, arrested development would
once more proceed.

Hilma looked from the carry-all, scanning the open plain in front
of the advancing line of the drive.

"Where are the rabbits?" she asked of Annixter. "I don't see any
at all."

"They are way ahead of us yet," he said. "Here, take the

He passed her his field glasses, and she adjusted them.

"Oh, yes," she cried, "I see. I can see five or six, but oh, so
far off."

"The beggars run 'way ahead, at first."

"I should say so. See them run,--little specks. Every now and
then they sit up, their ears straight up, in the air."

"Here, look, Hilma, there goes one close by."

From out of the ground apparently, some twenty yards distant, a
great jack sprang into view, bounding away with tremendous leaps,
his black-tipped ears erect. He disappeared, his grey body
losing itself against the grey of the ground.

"Oh, a big fellow."

"Hi, yonder's another."

"Yes, yes, oh, look at him run."
From off the surface of the ground, at first apparently empty of
all life, and seemingly unable to afford hiding place for so much
as a field-mouse, jack-rabbits started up at every moment as the
line went forward. At first, they appeared singly and at long
intervals; then in twos and threes, as the drive continued to
advance. They leaped across the plain, and stopped in the
distance, sitting up with straight ears, then ran on again, were
joined by others; sank down flush to the soil--their ears
flattened; started up again, ran to the side, turned back once
more, darted away with incredible swiftness, and were lost to
view only to be replaced by a score of others.

Gradually, the number of jacks to be seen over the expanse of
stubble in front of the line of teams increased. Their antics
were infinite. No two acted precisely alike. Some lay
stubbornly close in a little depression between two clods, till
the horses' hoofs were all but upon them, then sprang out from
their hiding-place at the last second. Others ran forward but a
few yards at a time, refusing to take flight, scenting a greater
danger before them than behind. Still others, forced up at the
last moment, doubled with lightning alacrity in their tracks,
turning back to scuttle between the teams, taking desperate
chances. As often as this occurred, it was the signal for a
great uproar.

"Don't let him get through; don t let him get through."

"Look out for him, there he goes."

Horns were blown, bells rung, tin pans clamorously beaten.
Either the jack escaped, or confused by the noise, darted back
again, fleeing away as if his life depended on the issue of the
instant. Once even, a bewildered rabbit jumped fair into Mrs.
Derrick's lap as she sat in the carry-all, and was out again like
a flash.

"Poor frightened thing," she exclaimed; and for a long time
afterward, she retained upon her knees the sensation of the four
little paws quivering with excitement, and the feel of the
trembling furry body, with its wildly beating heart, pressed
against her own.

By noon the number of rabbits discernible by Annixter's field
glasses on ahead was far into the thousands. What seemed to be
ground resolved itself, when seen through the glasses, into a
maze of small, moving bodies, leaping, ducking, doubling, running
back and forth--a wilderness of agitated ears, white tails and
twinkling legs. The outside wings of the curved line of vehicles
began to draw in a little; Osterman's ranch was left behind, the
drive continued on over Quien Sabe.

As the day advanced, the rabbits, singularly enough, became less
wild. When flushed, they no longer ran so far nor so fast,
limping off instead a few feet at a time, and crouching down,
their ears close upon their backs. Thus it was, that by degrees
the teams began to close up on the main herd. At every instant
the numbers increased. It was no longer thousands, it was tens
of thousands. The earth was alive with rabbits.

Denser and denser grew the throng. In all directions nothing was
to be seen but the loose mass of the moving jacks. The horns of
the crescent of teams began to contract. Far off the corral came
into sight. The disintegrated mass of rabbits commenced, as it
were, to solidify, to coagulate. At first, each jack was some
three feet distant from his nearest neighbor, but this space
diminished to two feet, then to one, then to but a few inches.
The rabbits began leaping over one another.

Then the strange scene defined itself. It was no longer a herd
covering the earth. It was a sea, whipped into confusion,
tossing incessantly, leaping, falling, agitated by unseen forces.
At times the unexpected tameness of the rabbits all at once
vanished. Throughout certain portions of the herd eddies of
terror abruptly burst forth. A panic spread; then there would
ensue a blind, wild rushing together of thousands of crowded
bodies, and a furious scrambling over backs, till the scuffing
thud of innumerable feet over the earth rose to a reverberating
murmur as of distant thunder, here and there pierced by the
strange, wild cry of the rabbit in distress.

The line of vehicles was halted. To go forward now meant to
trample the rabbits under foot. The drive came to a standstill
while the herd entered the corral. This took time, for the
rabbits were by now too crowded to run. However, like an opened
sluice-gate, the extending flanks of the entrance of the corral
slowly engulfed the herd. The mass, packed tight as ever, by
degrees diminished, precisely as a pool of water when a dam is
opened. The last stragglers went in with a rush, and the gate
was dropped.

"Come, just have a lock in here," called Annixter.

Hilma, descending from the carry-all and joined by Presley and
Harran, approached and looked over the high board fence.

"Oh, did you ever see anything like that?" she exclaimed.

The corral, a really large enclosure, had proved all too small
for the number of rabbits collected by the drive. Inside it was
a living, moving, leaping, breathing, twisting mass. The rabbits
were packed two, three, and four feet deep. They were in
constant movement; those beneath struggling to the top, those on
top sinking and disappearing below their fellows. All wildness,
all fear of man, seemed to have entirely disappeared. Men and
boys reaching over the sides of the corral, picked up a jack in
each hand, holding them by the ears, while two reporters from San
Francisco papers took photographs of the scene. The noise made
by the tens of thousands of moving bodies was as the noise of
wind in a forest, while from the hot and sweating mass there rose
a strange odor, penetrating, ammoniacal, savouring of wild life.

On signal, the killing began. Dogs that had been brought there
for that purpose when let into the corral refused, as had been
half expected, to do the work. They snuffed curiously at the
pile, then backed off, disturbed, perplexed. But the men and
boys--Portuguese for the most part--were more eager. Annixter
drew Hilma away, and, indeed, most of the people set about the
barbecue at once.

In the corral, however, the killing went forward. Armed with a
club in each hand, the young fellows from Guadalajara and
Bonneville, and the farm boys from the ranches, leaped over the
rails of the corral. They walked unsteadily upon the myriad of
crowding bodies underfoot, or, as space was cleared, sank almost
waist deep into the mass that leaped and squirmed about them.
Blindly, furiously, they struck and struck. The Anglo-Saxon
spectators round about drew back in disgust, but the hot,
degenerated blood of Portuguese, Mexican, and mixed Spaniard
boiled up in excitement at this wholesale slaughter.

But only a few of the participants of the drive cared to look on.
All the guests betook themselves some quarter of a mile farther
on into the hills.

The picnic and barbecue were to be held around the spring where
Broderson Creek took its rise. Already two entire beeves were
roasting there; teams were hitched, saddles removed, and men,
women, and children, a great throng, spread out under the shade
of the live oaks. A vast confused clamour rose in the air, a
babel of talk, a clatter of tin plates, of knives and forks.
Bottles were uncorked, napkins and oil-cloths spread over the
ground. The men lit pipes and cigars, the women seized the
occasion to nurse their babies.

Osterman, ubiquitous as ever, resplendent in his boots and
English riding breeches, moved about between the groups, keeping
up an endless flow of talk, cracking jokes, winking, nudging,
gesturing, putting his tongue in his cheek, never at a loss for a
reply, playing the goat.

"That josher, Osterman, always at his monkey-shines, but a good
fellow for all that; brainy too. Nothing stuck up about him
either, like Magnus Derrick."

"Everything all right, Buck?" inquired Osterman, coming up to
where Annixter, Hilma and Mrs. Derrick were sitting down to their

"Yes, yes, everything right. But we've no cork-screw."

"No screw-cork--no scare-crow? Here you are," and he drew from
his pocket a silver-plated jack-knife with a cork-screw
Harran and Presley came up, bearing between them a great smoking,
roasted portion of beef just off the fire. Hilma hastened to put
forward a huge china platter.

Osterman had a joke to crack with the two boys, a joke that was
rather broad, but as he turned about, the words almost on his
lips, his glance fell upon Hilma herself, whom he had not seen
for more than two months.

She had handed Presley the platter, and was now sitting with her
back against the tree, between two boles of the roots. The
position was a little elevated and the supporting roots on either
side of her were like the arms of a great chair--a chair of
state. She sat thus, as on a throne, raised above the rest, the
radiance of the unseen crown of motherhood glowing from her
forehead, the beauty of the perfect woman surrounding her like a

And the josh died away on Osterman's lips, and unconsciously and
swiftly he bared his head. Something was passing there in the
air about him that he did not understand, something, however,
that imposed reverence and profound respect. For the first time
in his life, embarrassment seized upon him, upon this joker, this
wearer of clothes, this teller of funny stories, with his large,
red ears, bald head and comic actor's face. He stammered
confusedly and took himself away, for the moment abstracted,
serious, lost in thought.

By now everyone was eating. It was the feeding of the People,
elemental, gross, a great appeasing of appetite, an enormous
quenching of thirst. Quarters of beef, roasts, ribs, shoulders,
haunches were consumed, loaves of bread by the thousands
disappeared, whole barrels of wine went down the dry and dusty
throats of the multitude. Conversation lagged while the People
ate, while hunger was appeased. Everybody had their fill. One
ate for the sake of eating, resolved that there should be nothing
left, considering it a matter of pride to exhibit a clean plate.

After dinner, preparations were made for games. On a flat
plateau at the top of one of the hills the contestants were to
strive. There was to be a footrace of young girls under
seventeen, a fat men's race, the younger fellows were to put the
shot, to compete in the running broad jump, and the standing high
jump, in the hop, skip, and step and in wrestling.

Presley was delighted with it all. It was Homeric, this
feasting, this vast consuming of meat and bread and wine,
followed now by games of strength. An epic simplicity and
directness, an honest Anglo-Saxon mirth and innocence, commended
it. Crude it was; coarse it was, but no taint of viciousness was
here. These people were good people, kindly, benignant even,
always readier to give than to receive, always more willing to
help than to be helped. They were good stock. Of such was the
backbone of the nation--sturdy Americans everyone of them. Where
else in the world round were such strong, honest men, such
strong, beautiful women?

Annixter, Harran, and Presley climbed to the level plateau where
the games were to be held, to lay out the courses, and mark the
distances. It was the very place where once Presley had loved to
lounge entire afternoons, reading his books of poems, smoking and
dozing. From this high point one dominated the entire valley to
the south and west. The view was superb. The three men paused
for a moment on the crest of the hill to consider it.

Young Vacca came running and panting up the hill after them,
calling for Annixter.

"Well, well, what is it?"

"Mr. Osterman's looking for you, sir, you and Mr. Harran.
Vanamee, that cow-boy over at Derrick's, has just come from the
Governor with a message. I guess it's important."

"Hello, what's up now?" muttered Annixter, as they turned back.

They found Osterman saddling his horse in furious haste. Near-by
him was Vanamee holding by the bridle an animal that was one
lather of sweat. A few of the picnickers were turning their
heads curiously in that direction. Evidently something of moment
was in the wind.

"What's all up?" demanded Annixter, as he and Harran, followed by
Presley, drew near.

"There's hell to pay," exclaimed Osterman under his breath.
"Read that. Vanamee just brought it."

He handed Annixter a sheet of note paper, and turned again to the
cinching of his saddle.

"We've got to be quick," he cried. "They've stolen a march on

Annixter read the note, Harran and Presley looking over his

"Ah, it's them, is it," exclaimed Annixter.

Harran set his teeth. "Now for it," he exclaimed.
"They've been to your place already, Mr. Annixter," said Vanamee.
"I passed by it on my way up. They have put Delaney in
possession, and have set all your furniture out in the road."

Annixter turned about, his lips white. Already Presley and
Harran had run to their horses.

"Vacca," cried Annixter, "where's Vacca? Put the saddle on the
buckskin, QUICK. Osterman, get as many of the League as are here
together at THIS spot, understand. I'll be back in a minute. I
must tell Hilma this."

Hooven ran up as Annixter disappeared. His little eyes were
blazing, he was dragging his horse with him.

"Say, dose fellers come, hey? Me, I'm alretty, see I hev der

"They've jumped the ranch, little girl," said Annixter, putting
one arm around Hilma. "They're in our house now. I'm off. Go
to Derrick's and wait for me there."

She put her arms around his neck.

"You're going?" she demanded.

"I must. Don't be frightened. It will be all right. Go to
Derrick's and--good-bye."

She said never a word. She looked once long into his eyes, then
kissed him on the mouth.

Meanwhile, the news had spread. The multitude rose to its feet.
Women and men, with pale faces, looked at each other speechless,
or broke forth into inarticulate exclamations. A strange,
unfamiliar murmur took the place of the tumultuous gaiety of the
previous moments. A sense of dread, of confusion, of impending
terror weighed heavily in the air. What was now to happen?

When Annixter got back to Osterman, he found a number of the
Leaguers already assembled. They were all mounted. Hooven was
there and Harran, and besides these, Garnett of the Ruby ranch
and Gethings of the San Pablo, Phelps the foreman of Los Muertos,
and, last of all, Dabney, silent as ever, speaking to no one.
Presley came riding up.

"Best keep out of this, Pres," cried Annixter.

"Are we ready?" exclaimed Gethings.

"Ready, ready, we're all here."

"ALL. Is this all of us?" cried Annixter. "Where are the six
hundred men who were going to rise when this happened?"

They had wavered, these other Leaguers. Now, when the actual
crisis impended, they were smitten with confusion. Ah, no, they
were not going to stand up and be shot at just to save Derrick's
land. They were not armed. What did Annixter and Osterman take
them for? No, sir; the Railroad had stolen a march on them.
After all his big talk Derrick had allowed them to be taken by
surprise. The only thing to do was to call a meeting of the
Executive Committee. That was the only thing. As for going down
there with no weapons in their hands, NO, sir. That was asking a
little TOO much.
"Come on, then, boys," shouted Osterman, turning his back on the
others. "The Governor says to meet him at Hooven's. We'll make
for the Long Trestle and strike the trail to Hooven's there."

They set off. It was a terrible ride. Twice during the
scrambling descent from the hills, Presley's pony fell beneath
him. Annixter, on his buckskin, and Osterman, on his
thoroughbred, good horsemen both, led the others, setting a
terrific pace. The hills were left behind. Broderson Creek was
crossed and on the levels of Quien Sabe, straight through the
standing wheat, the nine horses, flogged and spurred, stretched
out to their utmost. Their passage through the wheat sounded
like the rip and tear of a gigantic web of cloth. The landscape
on either hand resolved itself into a long blur. Tears came to
the eyes, flying pebbles, clods of earth, grains of wheat flung
up in the flight, stung the face like shot. Osterman's
thoroughbred took the second crossing of Broderson's Creek in a
single leap. Down under the Long Trestle tore the cavalcade in a
shower of mud and gravel; up again on the further bank, the
horses blowing like steam engines; on into the trail to Hooven's,
single file now, Presley's pony lagging, Hooven's horse bleeding
at the eyes, the buckskin, game as a fighting cock, catching her
second wind, far in the lead now, distancing even the English
thoroughbred that Osterman rode.

At last Hooven's unpainted house, beneath the enormous live oak
tree, came in sight. Across the Lower Road, breaking through
fences and into the yard around the house, thundered the
Leaguers. Magnus was waiting for them.

The riders dismounted, hardly less exhausted than their horses.

"Why, where's all the men?" Annixter demanded of Magnus.

"Broderson is here and Cutter," replied the Governor, "no one
else. I thought YOU would bring more men with you."

"There are only nine of us."

"And the six hundred Leaguers who were going to rise when this
happened!" exclaimed Garnett, bitterly.

"Rot the League," cried Annixter. "It's gone to pot--went to
pieces at the first touch."

"We have been taken by surprise, gentlemen, after all," said
Magnus. "Totally off our guard. But there are eleven of us. It
is enough."

"Well, what's the game? Has the marshal come? How many men are
with him?"

"The United States marshal from San Francisco," explained Magnus,
"came down early this morning and stopped at Guadalajara. We
learned it all through our friends in Bonneville about an hour
ago. They telephoned me and Mr. Broderson. S. Behrman met him
and provided about a dozen deputies. Delaney, Ruggles, and
Christian joined them at Guadalajara. They left Guadalajara,
going towards Mr. Annixter's ranch house on Quien Sabe. They are
serving the writs in ejectment and putting the dummy buyers in
possession. They are armed. S. Behrman is with them."

"Where are they now?"

"Cutter is watching them from the Long Trestle. They returned to
Guadalajara. They are there now."

"Well," observed Gethings, "From Guadalajara they can only go to
two places. Either they will take the Upper Road and go on to
Osterman's next, or they will take the Lower Road to Mr.

"That is as I supposed," said Magnus. "That is why I wanted you
to come here. From Hooven's, here, we can watch both roads

"Is anybody on the lookout on the Upper Road?"

"Cutter. He is on the Long Trestle."

"Say," observed Hooven, the instincts of the old-time soldier
stirring him, "say, dose feller pretty demn schmart, I tink. We
got to put some picket way oudt bei der Lower Roadt alzoh, und he
tek dose glassus Mist'r Ennixt'r got bei um. Say, look at dose
irregation ditsch. Dot ditsch he run righd across BOTH dose
road, hey? Dat's some fine entrenchment, you bedt. We fighd um
from dose ditsch."

In fact, the dry irrigating ditch was a natural trench, admirably
suited to the purpose, crossing both roads as Hooven pointed out
and barring approach from Guadalajara to all the ranches save
Annixter's--which had already been seized.

Gethings departed to join Cutter on the Long Trestle, while
Phelps and Harran, taking Annixter's field glasses with them, and
mounting their horses, went out towards Guadalajara on the Lower
Road to watch for the marshal's approach from that direction.

After the outposts had left them, the party in Hooven's cottage
looked to their weapons. Long since, every member of the League
had been in the habit of carrying his revolver with him. They
were all armed and, in addition, Hooven had his rifle. Presley
alone carried no weapon.

The main room of Hooven's house, in which the Leaguers were now
assembled, was barren, poverty-stricken, but tolerably clean. An
old clock ticked vociferously on a shelf. In one corner was a
bed, with a patched, faded quilt. In the centre of the room,
straddling over the bare floor, stood a pine table. Around this
the men gathered, two or three occupying chairs, Annixter sitting
sideways on the table, the rest standing.

"I believe, gentlemen," said Magnus, "that we can go through this
day without bloodshed. I believe not one shot need be fired.
The Railroad will not force the issue, will not bring about
actual fighting. When the marshal realises that we are
thoroughly in earnest, thoroughly determined, I am convinced that
he will withdraw."

There were murmurs of assent.

"Look here," said Annixter, "if this thing can by any means be
settled peaceably, I say let's do it, so long as we don't give

The others stared. Was this Annixter who spoke--the Hotspur of
the League, the quarrelsome, irascible fellow who loved and
sought a quarrel? Was it Annixter, who now had been the first
and only one of them all to suffer, whose ranch had been seized,
whose household possessions had been flung out into the road?

"When you come right down to it," he continued, "killing a man,
no matter what he's done to you, is a serious business. I
propose we make one more attempt to stave this thing off. Let's
see if we can't get to talk with the marshal himself; at any
rate, warn him of the danger of going any further. Boys, let's
not fire the first shot. What do you say?"

The others agreed unanimously and promptly; and old Broderson,
tugging uneasily at his long beard, added:

"No--no--no violence, no UNNECESSARY violence, that is. I should
hate to have innocent blood on my hands--that is, if it IS
innocent. I don't know, that S. Behrman--ah, he is a--a--surely
he had innocent blood on HIS head. That Dyke affair, terrible,
terrible; but then Dyke WAS in the wrong--driven to it, though;
the Railroad did drive him to it. I want to be fair and just to

"There's a team coming up the road from Los Muertos," announced
Presley from the door.

"Fair and just to everybody," murmured old Broderson, wagging his
head, frowning perplexedly. "I don't want to--to--to harm
anybody unless they harm me."

"Is the team going towards Guadalajara?" enquired Garnett,
getting up and coming to the door.

"Yes, it's a Portuguese, one of the garden truck men."

"We must turn him back," declared Osterman. "He can't go through
here. We don't want him to take any news on to the marshal and
S. Behrman."

"I'll turn him back," said Presley.

He rode out towards the market cart, and the others, watching
from the road in front of Hooven's, saw him halt it. An excited
interview followed. They could hear the Portuguese expostulating
volubly, but in the end he turned back.

"Martial law on Los Muertos, isn't it?" observed Osterman.
"Steady all," he exclaimed as he turned about, "here comes

Harran rode up at a gallop. The others surrounded him.

"I saw them," he cried. "They are coming this way. S. Behrman
and Ruggles are in a two-horse buggy. All the others are on
horseback. There are eleven of them. Christian and Delaney are
with them. Those two have rifles. I left Hooven watching them."

"Better call in Gethings and Cutter right away," said Annixter.
"We'll need all our men."

"I'll call them in," Presley volunteered at once. "Can I have
the buckskin? My pony is about done up."

He departed at a brisk gallop, but on the way met Gethings and
Cutter returning. They, too, from their elevated position, had
observed the marshal's party leaving Guadalajara by the Lower
Road. Presley told them of the decision of the Leaguers not to
fire until fired upon.

"All right," said Gethings. "But if it comes to a gun-fight,
that means it's all up with at least one of us. Delaney never
misses his man."

When they reached Hooven's again, they found that the Leaguers
had already taken their position in the ditch. The plank bridge
across it had been torn up. Magnus, two long revolvers lying on
the embankment in front of him, was in the middle, Harran at his
side. On either side, some five feet intervening between each
man, stood the other Leaguers, their revolvers ready. Dabney,
the silent old man, had taken off his coat.

"Take your places between Mr. Osterman and Mr. Broderson," said
Magnus, as the three men rode up. "Presley," he added, "I forbid
you to take any part in this affair."

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