Conscious of his glance, her eyes turned upward and she held out her hand to him. "Father, mine," she said in English, "you have made the roses bloom again in mother's cheeks. And in my heart," she added with a quick, impulsive tenderness.
Robert Windham bent and kissed her wind-tossed hair. "I think another has usurped me in the latter task." He smiled, although not without a touch of sadness. "Ah, well, Adrian is a fine young fellow. You need not blush so furiously."
"I think he comes," said the Senora Anita, and, unconsciously, her arm went around the girl. "Is not that his high-stepping mare and his beanpole of a figure riding beside Benito in yon cloud of dust?"
She smiled down at Inez. "Do not mind your mother's jesting—Go now to smooth your locks and place a rose within them—as I used to do when Don Roberto came."
Inez rose and made her way into the casa. She heard a clatter of hoofs and voices. At the sound of one her heart leaped strangely.
"We have famous news," she heard her brother say. "The name of Yerba Buena has been changed to San Francisco. Here is an account of it in Brannan's California Star." She heard the rustle of a paper then, once more her brother's voice: "San Francisco!" he pronounced it lovingly. "Some day it will be a ciudad grande—perhaps even in my time."
"A great city!" repeated his mother. "Thus my father dreamed of it.... But you will pardon us, Don Adrian, for you have other things in mind than Yerb—than San Francisco's future. See, my little one! Even now she comes to bid you welcome."
Inez as she joined them gave her hand to Stanley. "Ah, Don Adrian, your color is high"—her tone was bantering, mock-anxious. "You have not, perchance, a touch of fever?"
He eyed her hungrily. "If I have," he spoke with that slow gentleness she loved so well, "it is no fever that requires roots or herbs.... Shall I," he came a little closer, "shall I put a name to it, Senorita?" His words were for her ears alone. Her eyes smiled into his. "Come, let us show you the rose garden, Senor Stanley," she said with playful formality and placed her silk-gloved fingers on his arm.
Senora Windham's hand groped for her husband's. There were tears in her eyes, but he bent down and kissed them away. "Anita, mia, do not grieve. He is a good lad."
"It is not that." She hid her face against his shoulder. "It is not that—"
"I understand," he whispered.
After a little time Benito spoke. "Mother, I learned something from the warring of the rancheros aganist Alcalde Bartlett." He came forward and picked up the newspaper which had fallen from his mother's lap. "I learned," his hand fell on his father's shoulder, "that I am an American."
"Benito!" said his mother quickly.
"I am Don Roberto's son, as well as thine, remember, madre mia!" he spoke with unusual gentleness. "Even with Sanchez, Vasquez and Guerrero at my side in battle, I did not shoot to kill. Something said within, 'These men are brothers. They are of the clan of Don Roberto, of thy father.' So I shot to miss. And when the commandante, Senor Hull, dismissed me with kind words—he who might have hanged me as a traitor—my heart was full of love for all his people. And contrition. Mother, you will forgive? You, who have taught me all the pride of the Hidalgo. For I must say the truth, to you and everyone...." He knelt at her feet, impressing a kiss of love and reverence upon her outstretched hand.
"Rise, my son," she said, tremulously. "You are right, and it is well." She smiled. "Who am I to say my boy is no Americano? I, who wed the best and noblest of them all."
There was a little silence. Inez and Don Adrian, returning, paused a moment, half dismayed. "Come, my children," said Anita Windham.
"Ah," cried Inez, teasingly, "we are not the only ones who have been making love." She led her companion forward. "We have come to ask your blessing, mother, father mine," she whispered. "I," her eyes fell, "I am taken captive by a gringo."
"Do not use that name," her mother said reprovingly. But Don Roberto laughed. "You are the second to declare allegiance to the Stars and Stripes." He took Benito's hand. "My son's discovered he's American, Don Adrian."
Presently Benito spoke again. "That is not all, my father. There is soon to be a meeting for relief of immigrants lost in the Sierra Nevada snows. James Reed will organize an expedition from Yerb—from San Francisco. And I wish to go. There are women and children starving, perhaps."
"It is the Donner party. They tried a short cut and the winter overtook them. I, too, will go," said Don Roberto.
"And I," volunteered Stanley.
But the women had it otherwise. "You have been too long gone from me," Anita quavered. "I would fear your loss again." And Inez argued that her Adrian was not recovered from his wound or illness. Finally it was decided that Benito only would accompany the expedition. The talk fell upon other matters. Alcalde Bartlett had been discredited, though not officially, since his return from capture by the rancheros. He was soon to be displaced and there would be no further commandeering of horses and cattle.
"The commandante tells me," Windham said, "that there is still no news of the Warren's launch which was sent last December to pay the garrison at Sutter's Fort. Bob Ridley's men, who cruised the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers, found nothing."
"But—the boat and its crew couldn't vanish completely?" Benito's tone held puzzled incredulity. "There would be Wreckage. Floating bodies—"
"Unless," said Adrian, "they had been hidden—buried secretly, perhaps."
"Adrian, what do you mean?" asked Inez in excitement. "It was about the time that—"
"McTurpin left," responded Stanley. "I've heard more than a whisper of his possible connection with the disappearance. McTurpin didn't leave alone. He rounded up half a dozen rough-looking fellows and they rode out of town together."
There was a silence. Then Benito spoke. "We haven't seen the last of him, I fear."
THE NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS
It was almost a month later that Inez galloped home from San Francisco with a precious missive from the absent brother. They had outfitted at Johnson's ranch near Sacramento and, encountered the first expedition returning with twenty-two starved wretches from the Donner Camp. Many women and children still remained there.
"We started on the day which is a gringo fete because it is the natal anniversary of the great George Washington," Benito's chronicle concluded. "May it prove a good omen, and may we bring freedom, life to the poor souls engulfed by the snowdrifts. I kiss your hands. BENITO."
A fortnight passed before there came another letter. The second relief party had reached Donner Camp without mishap but, with seventeen survivors, had been storm-bound on a mountain summit and returned with but eleven of the rescued after frightful hardship. Benito was recuperating in a Sacramento hospital from frozen feet.
* * * * *
"Look, Roberto," exclaimed Senora Windham as they cantered into San Francisco one morning. "A ship all gay with banners! See the townsfolk are excited. They rush to the Embarcadero. The band plays. It must be the festival of some Americano patron saint."
"It is the long expected New York volunteers," replied her husband. "They've been recruited for the past year for service in California. Colonel Stevenson, the commander, is a most distinguished man. The president himself made him an offer of command if he could raise a regiment of California volunteers." Windham smiled. "I believe it is for colonization rather than actual military duty that they've been sent out here ... three shiploads of them with two doctors and a chaplain."
As they picked their way along a narrow footpath toward the beach, the portly Leidesdorff advanced to greet them. "Would that I had a cloak of velvet," he said gallantly, "so that I might lay it in the mire at your feet, fair lady." Anita Windham flashed a smile at him. "Like the chivalrous Don Walter Raleigh," she responded. "Ah, but I am not a Queen Elizabeth. Nor is this London." She regarded with a shrug of distaste the stretch of mud-flats reaching to the tide-line, rubbish—littered and unfragrant. Knee-deep in its mire, bare-legged Indians and booted men drove piles for the superstructure of a new pier.
Lieutenant Bryant joined them, brisk and natty in his naval garb. He was the new alcalde, Bartlett having been displaced and ordered to rejoin his ship.
"No, it's not London," he took up Anita's statement, "but it's going to be a better San Francisco if I have my way. We'll fill that bog with sand and lay out streets between Fort Montgomery and the Rincon, if the governor'll cede the tide-flats to the town. Jasper O'Farrell is making a map."
"See, they are landing," cried the Dona Windham, clapping her hands.
A boat put off amid hails from the shore. Soon four officers and a boat's crew stood upon the landing pier and gazed about them curiously.
"That's Colonel Stevenson," said Bryant, nodding toward the leader. On the verge of fifty, statesmanlike of mien and manner, stood the man who had recruited the first volunteer company which came around The Horn. He fingered his sword a bit awkwardly, as though unused to military dress formalities. But his eyes were keen and eager and commanding.
More boats put off from the anchored vessel. By and by the parade began, led by Captain Stevenson. It was a straggling military formation that toiled up-hill through the sand toward Portsmouth Square. These men were from the byways and hedges of life. Some of them had shifty eyes and some bold, predatory glances which forebode nothing good for San Francisco's peace. Adventurers for the most part, lured to this new land, some by the wander spirit, others by a wish to free themselves from the restraints of law. Certain of them were to die upon the gallows; others were to be the proud and honored citizens of a raw, potential metropolis. They talked loudly, vehemently, to one another as they marched like school boys seeing strange sights, pointing eagerly at all that aroused their interest. The officers marched more stiffly as though conscious of official noblesse oblige.
"I wish that Inez might have seen it," Mrs. Windham said a little wistfully. "But she must help the Indian seamstress with her gown for the dance. Don Adrian is to be there."
"He has decided that there are other ways of serving God than in the pulpit," remarked Stanley. "They talk of making him the master of the school ... if our committee can ever decide on a location and what's to pay for it."
* * * * *
In the full regimentals of his rank, Colonel Stevenson graced Leidesdorff's ballroom that evening, cordially exchanging smiles and bows with San Francisco's citizenry. Besides him was his quartermaster, Captain Joseph Folsom who, though less than thirty, had seen active service in a Florida campaign against the Seminoles. He held himself slightly aloof with the class consciousness of the West Pointer.
Nearby stood a lanky surgeon of the volunteers discussing antiseptics with Dr. Jones. Leidesdorff was everywhere, pathetically eager to please, an ecstatic, perspiring figure, making innumerable inquiries as to the comfort of his guests.
"He's like a mother hen worried over a brood of new chicks," said Brannan to Jasper O'Farrell.
"And a damned fine little man," the Irishman answered. "Oh—I beg your pardon, Senorita."
Inez Windham smiled forgiveness, nodding when he asked her for a dance. "Tell me," she asked eagerly, "of the grand new map you make for San Francisco."
"Ah," O'Farrell said, "they laugh at it because I have to change Vioget's acute and obtuse angles. They call it 'O'Farrell's Swing.' You see, I've had to change the direction of some streets. There are many more now. Eight hundred acres laid out like a city."
As the music stopped he led her to a bench and fumbled in his pocket for a drawing which he straightened on his knees. "See, here is a new road through the center, a broad way, straight as an arrow from the bay to the foot of Twin Peaks. It parallels the Mission camino, and Bryant wants to call it Market street."
"But how is this?" asked Inez puzzled, "streets where there is only mud and water—"
"They will be reclaimed with the waste from our leveled sand hills," said O'Farrell. He glanced about him searchingly, then whispered: "Tonight Governor Mason told me confidentially he would cede the tide flats to our local government, provided they are sold at auction for the benefit of San Francisco. They'll go cheap; but some day they'll be worth thousands. Tell your father—"
He broke off hastily. Toward them stalked Benito Windham, covered with dust as though from a long ride. There was trouble in his eyes. With a swift apology he drew his sister aside. "McTurpin," he panted. "He is back ... with a dozen men ... riding toward the rancho."
THE "SYDNEY DUCKS"
Dazed with the suddenness of Benito's announcement and its menacing augury, Inez sought her father and Adrian. The latter acted instantly. "Do not tell your wife," he said to Windham. "There may be nothing amiss. And if there should be, she will find no profit in knowing. Tell her you are called away and follow me to the square. We will ride at once to the rancho."
He pressed Inez' hand and was gone. "Take care of your mother," he said over his shoulder, an admonition which Don Roberto repeated a moment later as he hurried out. She was left alone in a maze of doubts, fears, speculations. What was McTurpin doing in San Francisco? Why had he and his companions ridden toward the Windham rancho? There was only one answer. Most of the vaqueros were at a fandango in the Mission. Only the serving women and a few men too old for dancing remained at home.
Meawhile her brother, father, lover were speeding homeward, into what? A trap? An ambush? Certainly to battle with a foe out-numbering them four to one.
At the Mission were a dozen of their servants; men whose fathers and grandfathers had ridden herd for her family. Any one of them would give his life to serve a Windham.
Inez looked about her feverishly. Should she ask O'Farrell to accompany her? He was dancing with one of the Mormon women. Brannan and Spear were not to be seen. Leidesdorff was impossible in such an emergency. Besides, she could not take him from his guests. She would go alone, decided Inez. Quietly she made her way to the cloak-room, in charge of an Indian servant, caught up her mantilla and riding crop and fled. On the square her horse whinnied at her approach as if eager to be gone. Swiftly she climbed into the saddle and spurred forward.
Far ahead gleamed the lights of the Mission. They were making merry there with the games and dance of old Spain. And to the south Benito, Adrian, her father, rode toward a battle with treacherous men. Breathlessly she spurred her horse to greater effort. Trees flashed by like witches in the dark. Presently she heard the music of the fandango.
Another picture framed itself before her vision. Excited faces round her. A sudden stoppage of the music, a frocked priest making anxious inquiries. Her own wild words; a jingle of spurs. Then many hoofs pounding on the road beside her.
She never knew just what had happened, what she had said. But now she felt the sting of the bay breeze in her face and Antonio's steady hand upon her saddle pommel.
"Caramba!" he was muttering. "The pig of a gringo once more. And your father; the little Benito. Hurry, comrades, faster! faster! To the rescue!"
Came a third picture, finally more clear, more disconcerting. The entrance to her father's ranch barred by armed riders. McTurpin smiling insolent in the moonlight, bowing to her while Antonio muttered in suppressed wrath.
"We have three hostages here, senorita ... relatives of yours and ah—a friend." His voice, cold, threatening, spoke on. "They are unharmed—as yet."
"I don't believe you," Inez stormed at him.
"Tell them, Senor Windham," said McTurpin, "that I speak the truth."
"Inez, it is true," her father spoke out of some shadowed darkness. "We were ambushed. Taken by surprise."
"What do you propose?" asked Antonio, unable longer to restrain himself.
"To turn them loose ... upon their word not to trouble us further," said McTurpin. "I have merely assumed control of my property. I hold the conveyance of Benito Windham. It is all quite regular," he laughed shortly.
Antonio moved uneasily. His hand upon the lariat itched for a cast. McTurpin saw it. "You'll do well to sit still in the saddle," he reminded, "all of you. We have you covered."
"What are your orders, master?" said the chief vaquero tensely. "Say the word and we will—"
"No," commanded Windham. "There shall be no fighting now. We will go. Tomorrow we shall visit the Alcalde. I can promise no more than this."
"It's enough," McTurpin answered. "I've possession. I've a deed with your son's signature. And a dozen good friends to uphold me." He turned. "Take their pistols, friends, and let them go."
* * * * *
George Hyde looked up from a sheaf of drawing which lay on the table before him and which represented the new survey of San Francisco. A boy with a bundle of papers under his arm entered unannounced, tossed a copy of "The California Star" toward him and departed. Hyde picked it up and read:
"GREAT SALE OF VALUABLE REAL ESTATE IN THE TOWN OF SAN FRANCISCO, UPPER CALIFORNIA.
"By the following decree of His Excellency, General S.W. Kearny, Governor of California, all the right, title and interest of the United States and of the territory of California to the BEACH AND WATER lots on the east front of the town of San Francisco have been granted, conveyed and released to the people or corporate authorities of said town—"
Hyde read on. There was a post-script by Edwin Bryant, his predecessor as alcalde, calling a public sale for June 29. That was rather soon. But he would see. Hyde had an antipathy to any rule or circumstance fixed by another. His enemies called him "pig-headed"; his friends "forceful," though with a sigh. There was something highhanded in the look and manner of him, though few men had better intent. Now his glance fell on another, smaller item in the newspaper.
"SYDNEY DUCKS ARRIVE."
"In recent vessels from the antipodes have come numerous men from Australia who, according to rumor, are deported English criminals, known as 'Sydney Ducks.' It is said that the English government winks at the escape of these birds of ill omen, who are lured hither by tales of our lawlessness carried by sailormen. It is high time we had a little more law in San Francisco."
That was another of his problems, Hyde reflected irritably. "Sydney Ducks." There would be many more no doubt, for San Francisco was growing. It had 500 citizens, irrespective of the New York volunteers; 157 buildings. He would need helpers in the task of city-governing. Half idly he jotted down the names of men that would prove good henchmen:
"William A. Leidesdorff, Robert A. Parker, Jose P. Thompson, Pedro Sherreback, John Rose, Benjamin Buckalew."
It had a cosmopolitan smack, though it ignored some prominent and capable San Franciscans. William Clark, for instance, with whom Washington Bartlett had quarreled over town lots, Dr. Elbert Jones and William Howard. Hyde was not certain whether they would be amenable to his program. Well, he would see.
A shadow loomed in his doorway. He looked up to see Adrian Stanley and Robert Windham.
"Come in. Come in." He tried to speak cordially, but there was a shade of irritation in his tone. They, too, were a problem.
"Be seated," he invited, as the two men entered. But they stood before him rather stiffly.
"Is there any—news?" asked Adrian.
"Nothing favorable," said Hyde uneasily. He made an impatient gesture. "You can see for yourselves, gentlemen, that my hands are tied. The man—what's-his-name?—McTurpin, has a perfectly correct conveyance signed by your son. Benito, I understand, does not deny his signature. And his right is unquestioned, for the property came to him direct from his uncle, who was Francisco Garvez' only son."
"But—" began Adrian hotly.
"Yes, yes, I know," Hyde interrupted. "The man is a rascal. But what of that? It does not help us; I have no power to aid you, gentlemen."
THE AUCTION ON THE BEACH
It was the morning of July 20. Fog drifts rode the bay like huge white swans, shrouding the Island of Alcatraz with a rise and fall of impalpable wings and casting many a whilom plume over the tents and adobe houses nestling between sandhills and scrub-oaks in the cove of San Francisco.
Robert and Benito Windham, on the hill above Clark's Point, looked down toward the beach, where a crowd was gathering for the auction of tidewater lots. The Windhams, since their dispossession by McTurpin, had been guests of hospitable Juana Briones. Through the Alcalde's order they had secured their personal effects. But the former gambler still held right and title to the Windham acres. Adrian Stanley made his home at the City Hotel and had been occupied with an impromptu school where some four score children and half a dozen illiterates were daily taught the mysteries of the "Three Rs."
"Adrian has determined to buy some of these mud-lots," said Windham to his son. "He believes some day they will be valuable and that he will make his fortune." He sighed. "I fear my son-to-be is something of a visionary."
Benito gave his father a quick, almost furtive glance. "Do not condemn him for that," he said, with a hint of reproach. "Adrian is far-sighted, yes; but not a dreamer."
"What can he do with a square of bog that is covered half of the time by water?" asked Windham.
"Ah," Benito said, "we've talked that over, Adrian and I. Adrian has a plan of reclamation. An engineering project for leveling sandhills by contract and using the waste to cover his land. He has already arranged for ox-teams and wagons. It is perfectly feasible, my father."
Robert Windham smiled at the other's enthusiasm. "Perhaps you are right," he said. "God grant it—and justify your faith in that huddle of huts below."
Below them a man had mounted an improvised platform. He was waving his arms, haranguing an ever-growing audience. Benito stirred uneasily. "I must go," he said. "I promised Adrian to join him."
"Very well," returned his father. He watched the slight and supple figure riding down the slope.
Slowly he made his way back to the Rancho Briones. His wife met him at the gate.
"Juana and Inez have gone to the sale," she announced. "Shall we join them in the pueblo later on?"
"Nay, Anita," he said, "unless you wish it.... I have no faith in mire."
She looked up at him anxiously. "Roberto! I grieve to hear it. They—" she checked herself.
"They—what, my love?" he asked curiously.
"They have gone to buy," said Anita. "Juana has great faith. She has considerable money. And Inez has taken her jewels—even a few of mine. The Senor O'Farrell whispered to her at the ball that the lots would sell for little and their value would increase immensely."
"So, that is why Benito has his silver-mounted harness," Windham spoke half to himself. He smiled a little ruefully. "You are all gamblers, dreamers.... You dear ones of Spanish heritage."
* * * * *
On the beach a strangely varied human herd pressed close around a platform upon which stood Samuel Brannan and Alcalde Hyde. The former had promised to act as auctioneer and looked over a sheaf of notes while Hyde in his dry, precise and positive tone read the details of the forthcoming sale. It would last three days, Hyde informed his hearers, and 450 lots would be sold. North of the broad street paralleling the Mission Camino lots were sixteen and a half varas wide and fifty varas deep. All were between the limits of low and high water mark.
"What's a vara?" shouted a new arrival.
"A Spanish yard," explained Hyde, "about thirty-three and a third inches of English measure. Gentlemen, you are required to fence your lots and build a house within a year. The fees for recording and deed will be $3.62, and the terms of payment are a fourth down, the balance in equal payments during a period of eighteen months."
"How about the lots that lie south?" cried a voice.
"They are one hundred varas square, same terms, same fees," replied Hyde. He stepped down and Brannan began his address.
"The site of San Francisco is known to all navigators and mercantile men to be the most commanding commercial position on the entire eastern coast of the Pacific Ocean," he shouted, quoting from former Alcalde Bryant's announcement of three months previous. "The town itself is destined to become the commercial emporium of western America."
"Bravo!" supplemented the Dona Briones, waving her fan. She was the center of a little group composed of Benito and Inez Windham, Adrian Stanley and Nathan Spear. Near them, keeping out of their observance, stood Aleck McTurpin.
"The property offered for sale is the most valuable in or belonging to the town," Brannan went on, enthusiastically; "it will require work to make it tenable. You'll have to wrest it from the waves, gentlemen ... and ladies," he bowed to Juana and her companion, "but, take my word for it—and I've never deceived you—everyone who buys will bless my memory half a dozen years from now...."
"Why don't ye get in yerself and practice what ye preach?" cried a scoffing sailor.
Brannan looked him up and down. "Because I'm trying to serve the commonwealth—which is more than a drunken deserter from his ship can claim," he shot back hotly, "but I'm going to buy my share, never fear. Bill Leidesdorff's my agent. He has $5,000 and my power of attorney. That's fair enough, isn't it boys? Or, shall we let the sailor act as auctioneer?"
"No! No!" a dozen cried. "'Rah for Sam. Go on! You're doin' fine!"
"Thank you," Brannan acknowledged. "Who's to make the first bid? Speak up, now, don't be bashful."
"Twenty-five dollars," called Juana Briones.
"Thirty," said a voice behind her, a voice that caused young Windham and his sister to start, involuntarily. "McTurpin," whispered Inez to Adrian.
"Thirty-five," spoke Juana, imperturbably.
Brannan looked straight into McTurpin's eyes. "Sold to Juana Briones for thirty-five dollars," he said, as his improvised gavel fell on the table before him.
"I bid forty!" stormed McTurpin. All eyes turned to him. But Brannan paid him no attention. Someone laughed.
"Next! Who bids?" invited the auctioneer.
"Twenty-five," began Benito.
This time there were other bidders, all of whom Brannan recognized courteously and promptly. Finally, Benito's bid of fifty seemed to win. Then McTurpin shouted, "Fifty-five!"
Brannan waited for a moment. There were no more bids. "Sold to Benito Windham for fifty dollars," he announced.
"Curse you!" cried the gambler, pushing forward, "you heard me bid higher, Sam Brannan!"
Into his path stepped the tall figure of Robert Windham. "We are not taking bids from convicts," he said, loudly and distinctly.
THE BEGINNING OF LAW
McTurpin's look of blind astonishment at Windham's words was succeeded by a whitehot fury. Two eyes gleamed with snake-like venom and two spots of red glowed in his cheeks, as though each had felt the impact of a sudden blow. For a moment he neither moved nor spoke. Then a hand, which trembled slightly, made a lightning move toward his hip.
"I wouldn't," drawled the voice of Robert Windham. His right hand, loosely in a pocket of his coat, moved slightly. "I've got you covered, Sydney Duck McTurpin ... if that's your real name."
The other's hand fell at his side. The two men's glances countered, held each other, one calm, dignified, unafraid; the other, murderous, searching, baffled. Presently, McTurpin turned and strode away. Windham looked after the departing gambler. "'Fraid I've spoiled his morning," he remarked to Nathan Spear.
"Yes—to chance a knife or bullet in the back," retorted Spear, uneasily. Their further confidence was drowned in Brannan's exhortations: "On with the sale, boys," he shouted. "The side show's over ... with nobody hurt, thank Heaven! What'll you bid for a lot in the southern part of town? They're a hundred varas square—four times as big as the others. Not as central, maybe, but in ten years I bet they'll bring a thousand dollars. What's bid for a south lot, my hearties?"
"Twenty-five dollars," said Inez Windham.
"Oh, come, now, Senorita," cried the auctioneer, intriguingly, "twenty-five dollars for a hundred-vara lot. Have you no more faith in San Francisco?"
"Its—all I have...." the girl spoke almost in a whisper.
Brannan frowned. He looked about him threateningly. "Does anyone bid higher than Miss Windham?" he demanded. There was no response. Brannan's gavel fell, decisively. "Sold!" he cried, and half a dozen voices cheered.
Inez Windham made her way to the auctioneer's stand and handed three banknotes to Alcalde Hyde. "But, my dear young lady," he expostulated, "you need only pay a fourth of the money down. Six dollars and a quarter is enough."
"Oh," said Inez, "then I could have bought more, couldn't I!" She turned to Brannan, eagerly. "I could have bought four lots—if I'd only known."
Brannan smiled at her. Then he turned to the crowd. "What d'ye say, boys, shall we let her have 'em?" he inquired. Instantly the answer came: "Yes, yes, give her the four. God bless her. She'll bring us luck."
Impulsively, Inez mounted the platform; astonished at her own temerity, at the exuberance of some new freedom, springing from the barriers of a shielded life, she shouted at these strange, rough men about her: "Thank you, gentlemen!" Then her mother's look of horrified, surprise brought a sudden red into her cheeks. She turned and fled. Her father smiled, indulgently; Anita's frown changed presently into a look of whimsical, perplexed affection. "I am always forgetting, Inez mia," she said, softly, "that this is a new day—the day of the Americano."
She watched Benito shouting bids at the side of Adrian, vying with such men as Howard, Mellus, Clark and Leidesdorff in the quest for lots. "Fifty of them have been sold already," Windham told her. "The auction will last three days because there are four hundred more."
Suddenly, Anita Windham put forth a hand and touched that of her husband. "Buy one, for me, Roberto," she pleaded.
"But—" he hesitated, "Anita carissima, what will you do with a rectangle of mire in this rough, unsettled place?"
"For sentiment," she answered, softly, "in memory of my father, who had such abundant faith in San Francisco.... And, perhaps, Don Samuel is right. We may yet bless his name."
* * * * *
The summer of 1847 had passed. Inez Windham was the wife of Adrian Stanley. He had given up his school for larger matters. Every day his ox-teams struggled over sandy bottoms to the tune of snapping whips and picturesque profanity by Indian drivers. Men with shovels leveling the sand hills, piled the wagons high with shimmering white grains which were carried to the shore and dumped into pile-surrounded bogs till the tides left them high and dry. San Francisco reached farther and farther into the bay, wresting irregular nooks and corners from the ebbing-flowing waters, building rickety, improvised piers, sometimes washed out by the northers which unexpectedly came down with tempestuous fury. Quaint, haphazard buildings made their appearance, strange architectural mushrooms grown almost over night, clapboarded squares with paper or muslin partitions for inner walls. Under some the tides washed at their full and small craft discharged cargoes at their back doors. Ships came from Boston, Bremen, Sitka, Chile, Mexico, the Sandwich Islands, bringing all manner of necessities and luxuries. Monthly mails had been established between San Francisco and San Diego, as well as intermediate points, and there was talk of a pony express to Independence, Missouri.
* * * * *
There were many crimes of high and low degree, from rifled tills to dead men found half buried in the sands. Rumor told of thieves and murderers encamped in the hollow bowl of a great sandhill, where they slept or caroused by day, venturing forth only at night. Aleck McTurpin's name was now and then associated with them as a leader. Men were importing safes from the States and carrying derringers at night—even the peaceful Mormons. At this time Governor Mason addressed to Alcalde Hyde an order for the election of a Town Council.
Adrian was full of these doings when he came home from an executive session before which he had appeared as an expert on reclamation. "They are good men, Inez," he declared, enthusiastically. "They'll bring law to San Francisco. And law is what we need more than all else, my dear."
"And how will they go about it, with no prison-house, no courts or judges?" asked Inez, wonderingly.
"Oh, those will soon be provided," he assured, "When there is a will for law the machinery comes." He smiled grimly. "McTurpin and his ilk had better look to themselves.... We are going after the gamblers."
GOLD! GOLD! GOLD!
San Francisco never could remember when the first rumor of gold reached it. Gold was to mean its transformation from a struggling town into a turbulent, riotous city, a mecca of the world's adventurers.
Benito Windham, early in the spring of '48 brought home an echo of it from San Jose. One of Sutter's teamsters had exchanged a little pouch of golden grains for a flask of aguardiente. Afterward he had told of finding it in the tail-race of Marshall's mill on the south fork of the American River. Little credence had been given his announcements. In the south, near San Fernando Mission, gold had long ago been found, but not in sufficient quantities to allure the fortune hunter.
"See, is it not pretty?" asked Benito, pouring out a handful of the shining stuff which he had purchased from the teamster.
"Pretty, yes, but what's it worth?" asked Adrian, dubiously.
"Some say it's true value is $16 for an ounce," responded Inez, her eyes shining. "Samuel Brannan had a letter from a member of his band who says they wash it from the river sand in pans."
"Sam's skeptical, though," retorted Stanley. "And, as for me, I've a mine right here in San Francisco." He spoke enthusiastically. "Moving sandhills into the bay. Making a new city front out of flooded bogs! That's realism. Romance. And what's better, fortune! Isn't it, my girl?"
Inez' eyes were proud. "Fortune, yes, and not a selfish one. For it is making others richer, San Francisco better."
"Which is well enough for you," returned Benito with a hint of sullenness. "But I am tired of clerking for Ward & Smith at two dollars a day. There's no romance in that." With a quick, restless motion he ran the golden dust through his fingers again. "I hope they are true, these stories. And if they are—" he looked at the others challengingly, "then I'm off to the mines, muy pronto."
"Come," said Stanley, "let us have a game of chess together." But Benito, with a muttered apology, left them and went out. San Francisco had streets now, since the O'Farrell survey's adoption by the council. The old Calle de Fundacion had become Dupont street and below it was Kearny street, named after the General and former Governor. To the west were parallel roads, scarcely worthy of the name of thoroughfares, christened in honor of Commodore Stockton, Surgeon Powell of the sloop-of-war Warren, Dr. Elbert Jones, Governor Mason, Chaplain Leavenworth, the present Alcalde, and George Hyde, the former one. Thomas Larkin, former counsel at Monterey, was also to be distinguished. East and west the streets had more haphazard names. Broadway and California were the widest, aside from the projected Market street, which would have a lordly breadth of 120 feet. Some were named after Presidents—Jackson, Washington and Clay.
The council had authorized two long wharves, one at the foot of Clay street, 547 feet long. This was a great undertaking and had caused much discussion pro and con. But now it was almost completed and a matter of much civic pride. Large ships, anchored at its terminus, were discharging cargo, and thither Benito bent his course, head bent, hat pulled well down on his forehead, until a rousing slap on the back spun him around almost angrily. He looked into the wise and smiling eyes of Edward C. Kemble.
"Well, lad," the editor of the Californian Star accosted, "I hear you've been to San Jose. What's new up there, if I may ask you?"
"Very little ... nothing," said Benito, adding, "save the talk of gold at Marshall's mill."
"Pooh!" exclaimed the editor. "Marshall's mill, and Mormon island! One would think the famous fairy tale of El Dorado had come true."
"You place no credence in it, then?" asked Benito, disappointed.
"Not I," said Kemble. "See here," he struck one fist into the palm of another. "All such balderdash is bad for San Francisco. We're trying to get ahead, grow, be a city. Look at the work going on. That means progress, sustained stimulus. And along come these stories of gold finds. It's the wrong time. The wrong time, I tell you. It'll interfere. If we get folks excited they'll pull out for the hills, the wilderness. Everything'll stop here.... Then, bye and bye, they'll come back—busted! Mark my words, BUSTED! Is that business? No."
He went off shaking his head sagely. Benito puzzled, half resentful, gazed after him. He abandoned the walk to the dock and returned with low-spirited resignation to his tasks at Ward & Smith's store.
* * * * *
For several months gold rumors continued to come. Citizens, fearing ridicule, perhaps, slipped unobtrusively out of town, to test their truth. Kemble was back from a trip to the so-called gold fields. Editorially, he made sport of his findings. He had seen feather-brained fortune-seekers gambling hopelessly with fate, suffering untold hardships for half the pay they could have gained from "honest labor."
Now and then a miner, dirty and disheveled, came in ragged clothes to gamble or drink away the contents of a pouch of "dust." It was at first received suspiciously. Barkeepers took "a pinch for a drink," meaning what they could grasp with their fingers, and one huge-fisted man estimated that this method netted him three dollars per glass.
San Francisco awoke to a famine in butcher-knives, pans and candles. Knives at first were used to gouge out auriferous rock, and soon these common household appurtenances brought as high as twenty-five dollars each. Candles ere long were the equivalent of dollars, and pans were cheap at five dollars each.
Still San Francisco waited, though a constant dribble of departures made at last perceptible inroads on its population. Then, one May afternoon, the fat was in the fire.
Samuel Brannan, who had been at his store in New Helvetia, rode through the streets, holding a pint flask of gold-dust in one hand, swinging his hat with the other, and whooping like a madman:
"Gold! Gold! Gold! From the American River!"
As if he had applied a torch to the hayrick of popular interest, San Francisco flamed with fortune-seeking ardor. Next morning many stores remained unopened. There were neither clerks nor proprietors. Soldiers fled from the garrison, and Lieutenant William T. Sherman was seen galloping northward with a provost guard to recapture a score of deserters. Children found no teacher at the new schoolhouse and for months its doors were barred. Cargoes, half-discharged, lay on the wharves, unwarehoused. Crews left en masse for the mines, and ships floated unmanned at anchor. Many of them never went to sea again.
On every road a hegira of the gold-mad swept northward, many afoot, with heavy burdens, the more fortunate with horses and pack animals. Men, old, young, richly dressed and ragged—men of all conditions, races, nations.
The end of May, in 1848, found San Francisco a manless Eden. Stanley, struggling with a few elderly Indians and squaws to carry on his work, bemoaned the madcap folly bitterly.
But Benito, with shining eyes, rode on to what seemed Destiny and Fortune. Ward & Smith's little shop lay far behind him. Even his sister and her busy husband. Before him beckoned Gold! The lure, adventure, danger of it, like a smiling woman. And his spirit stretched forth longing arms.
THE QUEST OF FORTUNE
By the end of June more than half of San Francisco's population had departed for the mines. They went by varied routes, mostly on horseback. Rowboats, which a month ago had sold for $50, were now bringing ten times that sum, for many took the river route to the gold fields. Others toiled their way through the hills and the Livermore Valley. The ferry across Carquinez Straits at Benicia, was thronged to the danger of sinking.
Those who stayed at home awaited eagerly the irregular mails which straggled in from unsettled, unorganized, often inaccessible regions where men cut and slashed the bowels of the earth for precious metal, or waded knee-deep in icy torrents, washing their sands in shallow containers for golden residue. No letter had come from Benito to Inez or Adrian. But Robert Windham wrote from Monterey as follows:
"My Children: Monterey is mad with the gold-lust, and our citizens are departing with a haste that threatens depopulation. Until recently we had small belief in the tales of sudden fortune started by the finds at Marshall's mill. Alcalde Colton dispatched a messenger to the American River on the 6th of June, and, though he has not returned, others have brought the news he was sent to gain. On the 12th a man came into town with a nugget weighing an ounce and all Monterey Buzzed with excitement. Everyone wanted to test it with acids and microscopes. An old woman brought her ring and when placed side by side, the metal seemed identical; it was also compared with the gold knob of a cane. Some declare it a humbug, but it is generally believed to be genuine gold.
"Governor Mason, who has been messing with Alcalde Colton and a naval officer named Lieutenant Lanman, is now compelled to bake his own bread. The trio roast their coffee and cook what meals they eat. Even the negro who blacked their boots went gold hunting and returned after a few weeks with $2000.
"Yesterday I met a rough-looking fellow who appeared to be starving. He had a sack on his shoulder in which was gold-dust and nuggets worth $15,000. You should have seen him a few hours later—all perfumed and barbered, with shiny boots; costly, ill-fitting clothes and a marvelous display of jewelry.
"Alcalde Colton is going to the mines next month. He laughed when he told me of Henry Bee, the alguacil or jailor of San Jose. This man had charge of ten prisoners, some of whom were Indians, charged with murder. He tried to turn them over to the alcalde, but the latter was at the mines. So Bee took his prisoners with him. It is said their digging has already made him rich and that he'll let them loose. There is no one to chide him. And no one to care."
Later in the day Sam Brannan and Editor Kemble looked in on the Stanleys. "It's sheer insanity!" exploded Kemble. "The soldiers have gone—left their wives and their children to starve. Even the church is locked. Governor Mason has threatened martial law in the mining regions, which are filled with cutthroats and robbers. It's said he contemplates giving furloughs of two or three months to the gold-fevered troops which remain. Was there ever such idiocy?"
"You're wrong, Ed," Brannan told him. "This gold boom is the biggest thing that's ever happened. It'll bring the world to our door. Why, Mason has reported that gold enough's been taken from the mines already to pay for the Mexican war."
"Bah!" cried Kemble, and stalked out muttering. Brannan laughed. "He's riding his hobby consistently. But he'll come down. So you've had no news from Benito?"
"No," said Inez gloomily. "Perhaps it is too soon. Perhaps he has had no luck to tell us of as yet. But I wish he would write just a line."
"Well, well, cheer up, my dear," said Brannan, reassuringly. "Benito can take care of himself. Next week I return to my store in the gold lands, and I'll have an eye out for the lad. How does your work go, Adrian?"
"Poorly," answered Stanley. "Labor's too high to make money. Why, the common laborers who were satisfied with a dollar a day, now ask ten, and mechanics twenty. Even the Indians and the immigrants learn at once the crazy price of service."
"San Francisco. Port o' Gold!" apostrophized the Mormon gaily. He went on his way with a friendly wave of the hand. His steps were bent toward Alcalde Hyde's headquarters. Hyde had made many enemies by his set, opinionated ways. There was talk of putting Rev. Thaddeus Leavenworth in his place. But Brannan was by no means certain this would solve the problem. He missed Leidesdorff sadly. The latter's sudden death had left a serious hiatus. He was used to talking problems over with the genial, hospitable Dane, whose counsel was always placid, well considered.
Congress had failed to provide a government for California. San Francisco grumbled; more than all other towns she needed law. Stevenson's regiment had been disbanded; its many irresponsibles, held previously in check by military discipline, now indulged their bent for lawlessness, unstinted. Everything was confusion. Gold-dust was the legal tender, but its value was unfixed. The government accepted it at $10 per ounce, with the privilege of redemption in coin.
The problem of land grants was becoming serious. There were more than hints of the alcalde's speculation; of illegal favors shown to friends, undue restrictions placed on others. Brannan shook his head as he climbed Washington street hill toward the alcalde's office. In the plaza stood a few mangy horses, too decrepit for sale to gold seekers. Gambling houses and saloons ringed the square and from these proceeded drunken shouts, an incessant click of poker chips; now and then a burst of song.
The sound of a shot swung him swiftly about. It came from the door of a noisy and crowded mart of chance recently erected, but already the scene of many quarrels. The blare of music which had issued from it swiftly ceased. There was a momentary silence; then a sound of shuffling feet, of whispering voices.
A man ran out into the street as if the devil were after him; another followed, staggering, a pistol in his hand. He fired one shot and then collapsed with horrid suddenness at Brannan's feet. The other man ran into Portsmouth Square, vaulted to the saddle of a horse and spurred furiously away.
Brannan stooped over the fallen figure. It was that of a brawny, bearded man, red-shirted, booted, evidently a miner. That he was mortally wounded his gazing eyes gave evidence. Yet such was his immense vitality that he muttered, clutching at his throat—staving off dissolution with the mighty passionate vehemence of some dominating purpose. Brannan bent to listen.
"Write," he gasped, and Brannan, with an understanding nod, obeyed. "I bequeath my claim ... south fork ... American River ... fifty feet from end of Lone Pine's shadow ... sunset ... to my pard ... Benito Wind—" His voice broke, but his eyes watched Brannan's movements as the latter wrote. Dying hands grasped paper, pencil ... signed a scrawling signature, "Joe Burthen." Then the head dropped back, rolled for a moment and lay still.
NEWS OF BENITO
Brannan turned from contemplation of the dead to find himself surrounded by a curious, questioning group. A bartender, coatless, red-faced, grasping in one hand a heavy bung-starter as if it were a weapon of defense; a gambler, sleeves rolled up, five cards clutched in nervous fingers; half a dozen sailors, vaqueros, a ragged miner or two and several shortskirted young women of the class that had recently drifted into the hectic night-life of San Francisco. All were whispering excitedly. Some of the men, with a show of reverence, removed their hats.
"Do you know who did this?" Brannan asked.
"I saw it," cried one of the women. She was dressed as a Spanish dancer and in one hand held a tambourine and castanets. "They fight," she gave a little smirk of vanity, "about me."
Brannan recognized her as Rosa Terranza, better known as Ensenada Rose. She had been the cause of many rivalries and quarrels.
"Dandy" Carter, the gambler, let down his sleeves and thrust the cards into his pocket.
"Rose was dealin' faro," he explained, "and this galoot here bucks the game.... He lose. You un'erstan'. He lose a lot o' dust ... as much as forty ounces. Then—just like that—he stops." The gambler snapped his fingers. "He says, 'My little gal; my partner! God Almighty! I'm a-wrongin' them!' He starts to go, but Rose acts mighty sympathetic and he tells her all about the kid."
"Hees little girl," the dancer finished. "I say we dreenk her health together, and he tell me of the senorita. He draw a picture of his claim with trees and river and a mountain—ver' fine, like an artist. And he say, 'You come and marry me and be a mother to my child'." She laughed grimly. "He was ver' much drunk ... and then—"
"That Sydney Duck comes in," said Dandy Carter. "He sits down at the table with 'em. They begins to quarrel over Rose. And the fust I knows there was a gun went off; the girl yells and the other man vamooses, with this feller staggerin' after."
"He shot from under the table," a sailor volunteered. "'Twas murder. Where I come from they'd a-hanged him for't."
"But who was he?" Brannan asked the question in another form. The girl and Dandy Carter looked at one another, furtively. "I—don't know his name," the girl said, finally.
"Don't any of you?" Brannan's tone was searching. But it brought no answer. Several shook their heads. Ensenada Rose shivered. "It's cold. I go back in," she said, and turned from them. Brannan stopped her with a sudden gesture. "Wait," he ordered. "Where's the map ... the paper this man showed you ... of his mine?"
Ensenada Rose's eyes looked into Brannan's, with a note of challenge her chin went up. "Quien sabe?" she retorted. Brannan watched the slender, graceful figure vanish through the lighted door. In her trail the gambler and bartender followed. Presently a burst of music issued from the groggery; a tap-tap-tap of feet in rhythm to the click of castanets. Already the tragedy was forgotten. Brannan found himself face to face with the sailor. "I'll help you carry him—somewhere," he said. He raised the dead man's shoulders from the ground, and Brannan, following his suggestion, took the other end of the grim burden, which they bore to the City Hotel. Brannan, in the presence of Alcalde Hyde, searched Burthen's clothing for the plan which Rosa had described. But they did not find it; only a buckskin bag with a few grains of gold-dust at the bottom, a jackknife, a plug of tobacco, a scratched daguerreotype of a young girl with corkscrew curls and friendly eyes.
* * * * *
Next evening Nathan Spear chanced in to see the Stanleys. "Sam Brannan's gone," he told them. "Said he'd let you know about Benito. And here's a letter from Alcalde Colton of Monterey—who's at the gold-fields now."
"Has he seen my brother?" Inez questioned, eagerly.
Spear began to read: "Young Benito Windham has been near here for a fortnight. I am told, without much luck, He had to sell his horse and saddle, for the price of living is enormous; finally he paired off with a man named Burthen—strapping, bearded Kansan with a little daughter, about 17. They struck a claim, and Burthen's on the way to San Francisco for supplies. I'll tell you more when I have seen the lad and had a talk with him. The girl, I understand, was keeping house for them. A pretty, wistful little thing, they tell me, so I'd better keep an eye on Friend Benito."
"Have you seen this Burthen? Is he here?" asked Stanley.
"He was robbed—and killed last night at the Eldorado."
"Sanctissima!" cried the girl, and crossed herself. "Then the little one's an orphan. And Benito—"
"Her guardian, no doubt."
Spear laughed. "He writes that a miner gave $24 in gold-dust for a box of seidlitz powders; another paid a dollar a drop for laudanum to cure his toothache. Flour is $400 per barrel, whisky $20 for a quart bottle, and sugar $4 a pound. 'It's a mad world, my masters,' as Shakespeare puts it, but a golden one. By and by this wealth will flow into your coffers down in San Francisco. Just now there is little disturbance, but it is bound to come. Several robberies and shootings have already taken place. There is one man whom I'd call an evil genius—a gambler, a handsome ruffian and a dead shot, so they tell me. It's rumored that he has a fancy for the little Burthen girl. Lord save her! Perhaps you know the rascal, for he hails, I understand, from San Francisco, one Alexander McTurpin."
The three surveyed each other in a startled silence.
"Benito and he are sure to quarrel," Inez whispered. "Madre Dolores! What can we do?"
"Perhaps I'd better run up to the mines," said Adrian. "I've my own affair, you know, to settle with this fellow."
"No, no, you must not," cried his wife in quick alarm.
Spear smiled. "I wouldn't fret," he spoke assuringly. "Sam's gone up to see this fellow ... on a little business of his own."
THE VEILED WOMAN
Several months went by with no news from Benito. James Burthen had been buried in the little graveyard on a hill overlooking the bay. And that ended the matter in so far as San Francisco was concerned.
In the Alta California, a consolidation of two rival papers, appeared a brief notice chronicling the death of an unidentified miner, whose assassin, also nameless, had escaped. Ensenada Rose, described as an exotic female of dubious antecedents and still more suspicious motives, had left the Eldorado on the morning after the shooting "for parts unknown." She was believed to hold some "key to the tragic mystery which it was not her purpose to reveal."
But killings were becoming too familiar in the growing town to excite much comment. San Francisco's population had quadrupled in the past half year and men were streaming in by the hundreds from all quarters of the globe. Flimsy bunk-houses were hastily erected, springing up as if by magic overnight. Men stood in long lines for a chance at these sorry accommodations and the often sorrier meals which a score of enterprising culinary novices served at prices from one dollar up. Lodging was $30 per month and at this price men slept on naked boards like sailors in a forecastle, one above the other. Often half a dozen pairs of blankets served a hundred sleepers. For as soon as a guest of these palatial hostelries began to snore the enterprising landlord stripped his body of its covering and served it to a later arrival.
"If the town grows much faster it will be a tragedy," remarked Adrian to James Lick that afternoon. Lick had bought a city lot at Montgomery and Jackson streets and had already sold a portion of it for $30,000. He was a believer in San Francisco's future, and at San Jose his flour mill, once contemptuously called "Lick's folly," was grinding grain which at present prices brought almost its weight in gold.
"Things always right themselves, my boy," he said. "Don't worry. Keep pegging away at your sand lots. Some day you'll be a millionaire."
"But half of these people are homeless. And every day they come faster. In our neighborhood are a dozen ramshackle tents where these poor devils keep 'bachelors' hall' with little more than a skillet and a coffee pot. They call it 'ranching.'" He laughed. "What would our old land barons have thought of a rancho four by six feet, which the first of our trade winds will blow into the bay?"
"The Lord," said Lick, devoutly, "tempers the wind to the shorn lamb. And also to the homeless squatter on our sandy shores."
"I hope you're right," responded Stanley. "It does me good to hear someone speak of God in this godless place. It is full of thieves and cut-throats; they've a settlement at the base of the hill overlooking Clark's Point. No man's life is safe, they tell me, over there."
Lick frowned. "They call it Sydney Town because so many Australian convicts have settled in it. Some day we'll form a citizens' committee and run them off."
"Which reminds me," Lick retorted, "that McTurpin came to town this morning. With a veiled woman ... or girl. She looks little more than a child."
Adrian surveyed the other, startled. "Child?" His mind was full of vague suspicions.
"Well, she didn't weigh more than a hundred. Yes, they came—both on one horse, and the fellow's companion none too well pleased, I should say. Frightened, perhaps, though why she should be is a puzzle." Lick shrugged his shoulders.
"Has he taken the girl to his—the ranch?" asked Adrian.
"Don't know. I reckon not," Lick answered. "They ate at the City Hotel. He'd a bag full of dust, so he'll gamble and guzzle till morning most likely." He regarded his friend keenly, a trifle uneasily. "Come, Adrian ... I'll walk past your door with you."
"I'm not going home just yet, thanks," Stanley's tone was nervously evasive.
"Well, good-night, then," said the other with reluctance. He turned south on Kearny street toward his home. Stanley, looking after him, stood for a moment as if undetermined. Then he took his way across the Plaza toward the City Hotel.
In the bar, a long and low-ceiling room, talk buzzed and smoke from many pipes made a bluish, acrid fog through which, Adrian, standing in the doorway, saw, imperfectly, a long line of men at the bar. Others sat at tables playing poker and drinking incessantly, men in red-flannel shirts, blue denim trousers tucked into high, wrinkled boots. They wore wide-brimmed hats, and cursed or spat with a fervor and vehemence that indicated enjoyment. Adrian presently made out the stocky form of McTurpin, glass upraised. Before him on the bar were a fat buckskin bag and a bottle. He was boasting of his luck at the mines.
A companion "hefted" the treasure admiringly. "Did you make it gamblin', Alec?" he inquired.
"No, by Harry!" said the other, tartly. "I'm no gambler any more. I'm a respectable gentleman with a mine and a ranch," he emptied his glass and, smacking his lips, continued, "and a beautiful young girl that loves me ... loves me. Understand?" His hand came down upon the other's shoulder with a sounding whack.
"Where is she?" asked the other, coaxingly. "You're a cunning hombre, Alec. Leave us have a look at her, I say."
"Bye and bye," McTurpin spoke more cautiously. "Bye and bye ... then you can be a witness to the marriage, Dave." He drew the second man aside across the room, so near to Adrian that the latter stepped back to avoid discovery.
"She's a respectable lass," he heard McTurpin whisper. "Yes, it's marry or nothing with her ... and I'm willing enough, the Lord knows. Can ye find me a preacher, old fellow?"
He could not make out the other's reply. Their voices died down to an imperceptible whisper as they moved farther away. Stanley thought they argued over something. Then the man called Dave passed him and went swiftly up the hill.
Vaguely troubled, Stanley returned to the veranda. It was unoccupied for chilly evening breezes had driven the loungers indoors. Absently he paced the creaking boards and, having reached a corner of the building, continued his promenade along what seemed to be the rear of the building. Here a line of doors opened on the veranda like the upper staterooms of a ship.
Why should he trouble his mind about McTurpin and a paramour? thought Adrian. Yet his thought was curiously disturbed. Something Spear had read from a letter vexed him dimly like a memory imperfectly recalled. What was there about McTurpin and a child? Whose child? And what had it to do with the veiled woman who had ridden with the gambler from the mines. Impishly the facts eluded him. Inez would know. But Inez must not be bothered just now—at this time.
He paused and listened. Was that a woman sobbing? Of course not. Only his nerves, his silly sentiment. He would go home and forget the whole thing.
There it was again. This time he could not be mistaken. Noiselessly he made his way toward the sound. It stopped. But presently it came again. From where? Ah, yes, the window with a broken pane.
Soft, heartbroken, smothered wailing. Spasms of it. Then an interlude of silence. Adrian's heart beat rapidly. He tip-toed to the window, tried the door beside it. Locked. After a moment's hesitation he spoke, softly: "Is someone in trouble?"
A CALL IN THE NIGHT
There was no answer. For a second time Adrian's mind fought a belief that sense had tricked him. Now and then a shout from the bar-room reached him as he waited, listening. The wind whistled eerily through the scant-leaved scrub-oaks on the slopes above.
But from the room at the window of which he listened there came no sound.
Adrian felt like one hoaxed, made ridiculous by his own sentimentality. He strode on. But when he reached the farther corner some involuntary impulse turned him back. And again the sound of muffled sobbing came to him from the open window—fainter now, as though an effort had been made to stifle it.
Once more he spoke: "I say, what's the trouble in there? Can I help?"
Almost instantly a face appeared against the pane—a tear-stained face, terrified and shrinking.
"Oh!" said a voice unsteady with weeping. "Oh! sir, if there is a heart in your breast you will help me to escape—to find my father."
Her tone, despite agitation, was that of extreme youth. She was not of the class that frequent gambling halls. Both her dress and her manner proclaimed that. Adrian was perplexed. "Are you—" he hesitated, fearing to impart offense, "are you the girl who came with McTurpin?"
"Yes, yes," she spoke hurriedly. "He told me my father was ill. He promised to take me to him. Instead, he locked me in this room. He threatened—oh! he is a monster! Will you help me? Do you know my father, sir?"
"What is his name?" asked Stanley.
"Burthen, sir, James Burthen," she replied, and fell once more to sobbing helplessly. "Oh, if I were only out of here."
Stanley pressed his weight against the door. He was thinking rapidly. So this was the daughter of Benito's partner—the murdered miner of the Eldorado tragedy. He recalled the letter from Colton; the hint of McTurpin's infatuation and its menace. Things became clear to him suddenly. The door gave as he pressed his knee against it. Presently the flimsy lock capitulated and he walked into the room. The girl shrank back against the farther wall at his approach.
"Oh, come," he said, a trifle testily, "I'm not going to hurt you. Get on your hat. I'll see you're taken care of. I'll place you in charge of my wife."
"And my father," she begged. "You'll take me to him?"
"Yes, yes, your father," he agreed in haste. "But first you'll come home with me."
She snatched up a hat and shawl from the commode, and, with hurried movements rearranged her hair; then she followed him submissively into the gathering dusk, shrinking close as if to efface herself whenever they passed anyone. The streets were full of men now, mostly bound from hotels, lodging houses and tents to the Eldorado and kindred resorts. Many of them ogled her curiously, for a female figure was a rarity in nocturnal San Francisco.
They passed dimly lighted tents in which dark figures bulked grotesquely against canvas walls. In one a man seemed to be dancing with a large animal which Stanley told her was a grizzly bear.
"They have many queer pets," he said. "One of my neighbors keeps a pet coon, and in another tent there are a bay horse, two dogs, two sheep and a pair of goats. They sleep with their master like a happy family."
"It is all so strange," said the girl, faintly. "In the East my father was a lawyer; we had a good house and a carriage; everything was so different from—this. But after my mother died, he grew restless. He sold everything and came to this rough, wild country. None of his old friends would know him now, with his beard, his boots and the horrible red flannel shirt."
Adrian made no reply. He was thinking of the tragic news which must ere long be told to Burthen's daughter. For a time they strode along in silence—until Stanley paused before an open door. Against the inner light which streamed through it into the darkness of the street a woman's figure was outlined.
"Well, here we are, at last," said Adrian. "And my wife's in the doorway waiting to scold me for being so late."
Inez ran to meet him. "I have been anxious," she declared. She noted her husband's companion, and stepped back, startled. "Adrian, who is this?"
"A daughter of the mur——" Adrian began. He broke the telltale word in two: "Of James Burthen—Benito's partner."
"Ah, then you know my brother," Inez hailed her eagerly. She took the girl's hands in her own and pressed them. "You must tell us all about him—quickly. We have waited long for news."
"You are—Mr. Windham's sister?" cried the girl almost incredulously. Then, with a swift abandonment to emotion she threw her arms about the elder woman's neck and sobbed.
Stanley followed them into the house. He saw Inez supporting her companion, soothing her in those mysterious ways which only women know. His mind was stirred with grave perplexities.
A peremptory knock aroused him from his cogitations. Could it be the gambler so soon? He thought there were voices. Several men, no doubt.
Inez called out in a whisper, "Who is there?"
"Go back," her husband ordered. "It's all right, dear. They're friends of mine."
Inez came out quickly and stood beside him, looking up into his face. "You're sure? There's no—no danger?"
Again the rat-tat-tat upon the panel, more peremptory than before. Stanley forced a laugh. "Danger! Why, of course not. Just a business talk. But go back and look after the girl. I don't want her coming out here while I've visitors." He patted her hand. His arm about her shoulder he ushered her across the threshold of the inner chamber and closed the door. Then he extinguished the lamp. Hand on pistol he felt his way toward the outer portal and, with a sudden movement flung it wide. Three men stood on the threshold. They seemed puzzled by the darkness. Out of it the host's voice spoke: "Who are you? What do you wish?"
William Henry Brown was first to answer him. "We want you, Adrian, at the hotel. Can you come now—quickly?"
"What for?" he asked suspiciously. "Who sent you here?"
"Nobody," came the cheery voice of Dr. Jones. "There's a friend of yours at Brown's who needs you."
"Damn McTurpin!" spoke the third voice. It was Nathan Spear's. "Light your lamp. Nobody's going to shoot you, Stanley.... It's young Benito from the mines and down with fever. He's calling for you ... and for a girl named Alice.... If you can pacify him—that will help a lot. He's pretty low."
OUTFACING THE ENEMY
"Wait," said Adrian, hurriedly. He relighted the lamp and, going to the inner door, called softly. There was an agitated rustle; then the door swung back and Stanley saw the figure of his wife, beside whom stood the light-haired girl.
"What is it, Adrian?"
"There's someone sick at Brown's Hotel," said Adrian, "a friend of mine. I'm going over there." He made a sign imposing silence on the men.
Inez came close. "You're certain it's no trick," she whispered, "it's not McTurpin's scheme to—"
"No, no," he assured her hastily. "I'm sure of that." He seized his hat and coat. "Put down the window shades and answer no one's knock till I return." He kissed her and without more ado joined the men outside. He heard the door shut and lock click into place.
For a time the quartette strode along in silence; then Brown spoke, as if the thought had been long on his lips, "Wasn't that—the girl McTurpin brought to town?"
"Yes," said Adrian tersely, "it was she."
Brown made no immediate response; he seemed to be digesting Adrian's remark. Finally he burst out, "If it's any of my business, what's she doing—there?"
"She asked for help," retorted Stanley. He related the incident of the veranda. Spear laughed meaningly. "That's the second one you've taken from McTurpin; he'll be loving you a heap, old man."
"He doesn't know it yet," Brown said. "But keep out of his way tomorrow."
Stanley's teeth met with a little click. "When I've seen Benito, Alec McTurpin and I will have a showdown. But tell me of the boy. What brought him here?"
"The missing girl, of course," said Dr. James. "He's daft about her. Alice Burthen ... that's her name, isn't it?"
Stanley was about to make some rejoinder when they passed two men, one of whom looked at them curiously. He was McTurpin's companion of the bar-room episode. "Who's that?" asked Spear as Brown saluted the pair.
"That's Reverend Wheeler, the new Baptist parson."
"Yes, yes, I know. But the other one?"
"Ned Gasket ... he's a friend of Dandy Carter's at the Eldorado."
"And a Sydney Duck, I guess," the doctor added.
"Do your own guessing, friend," said Brown, impatiently.
Spear sighed. "We'll have to do more than guess about that stripe of citizen if we want law and order. It will take a rope I fear," he finished grimly.
Brown led them round the back to a room not far from the one which had held Alice Burthen.
"It's quieter here," he explained. "They get noisy sometimes along about midnight." He opened the door and struck a sulphur match by whose weird flicker they made out a bed with a tossing figure upon it. Adrian crossed over and took the nervous clutching hands within his own firm clasp.
"Benito," he said. "Don't you know me? It's Adrian!"
Brown with a lighted lamp came nearer, so that Stanley saw the sufferer's eyes. They were incognizant of realities. The murmuring voice droned on, fretfully, "I've looked for her everywhere. She's gone! gone!"
Suddenly he cried out: "Alice! Alice!" half rising. But he tumbled back upon the pillow with a swift collapse of weakness and his words waned into mumbled incoherence.
"Benito," Adrian addressed him earnestly, "Alice is with me. With me and Inez. She's safe. I'll bring her to you in the morning. Do you understand?"
"With you—with Inez?" the sick man repeated. "Then tell her to come. I want her. Tell Alice to come—"
"Tomorrow," Dr. Jones said, soothingly, "when you've had a chance to rest."
"No, tonight," the fevered eyes stared up at them imploringly. Jones drew Adrian aside. "Pretend you'll do it or hell wear himself out. Then go. I'll give him something that will make him sleep." He emptied a powder in a tumbler of water and held it out to the sick man. "Drink this," he ordered, "it'll give you strength to see Miss Burthen."
Benito's lips obediently quaffed the drink. His head lay quieter upon the pillow. Slowly, as they watched, the eyelids closed.
"And now," said Adrian when he had assured himself that Benito slept, "I'm going for McTurpin."
"Don't be a confounded fool," Dr. Jones said quickly.
But Stanley paid no heed. He went directly into the saloon and looked about him. At a table, back toward him, sat a stocky figure, playing cards and reaching for the rum container at his side. Adrian stood a moment, musing; then his right hand slid down to his hip; a forward stride and the left hand fell on the player's shoulder.
"We meet once more, McTurpin."
The gambler rose so suddenly that the stool on which he sat rolled over. His face was red with wine and rage. His fingers moved toward an inner pocket.
"Don't," said Adrian meaningly. The hand fell back.
"What do you want?" the gambler growled.
"A quiet talk, my friend. Come with me."
"And, suppose I refuse?" the other sneered.
"Oh, if you're afraid—" began Adrian.
McTurpin threw his cards upon the table. Between him and a man across the board flashed a swift, unspoken message. "I'm at your service, Mr.—ah—Stanley."
He led the way out, and Adrian following, gave a quick glance backward, noting that the man across the table had arisen. What he did not see was that Spear hovered in the offing, following them with watchful eyes.
Toward the north they strolled, past a huddle of tents, for the most part unlighted. From some came snores and through many a windblown flap, the searching moonlight revealed sleeping figures. On a waste of sand-dunes McTurpin paused.
"Now tell me what ye want," he snarled, "and be damned quick about it. I've small time to waste with meddlers."
"On this occasion," Stanley said, "you'll take the time to note the following facts, Mr. McTurpin, Mr. Pillsworth—or whatever your true name may be—I've had a talk with Dandy Carter. He recognized you and Gasket when Burthen was killed, in spite of your beard. So did Rosa, of course, though she skipped the next morning. The Burthen girl is at my house." He paused an instant, thinking that he heard a movement in a bush nearby. "Well, that's all," he finished, "except this: If I find you here tomorrow, Alec McTurpin, murderer, card-sharp and abductor, I'll shoot you down like a dog."
And then, with a splendid piece of bravery, he turned his back on the gambler, walking away with never a backward glance. He did not go directly home, but walked for an indeterminate interval till his spirit was more calm.
The house was dark. Inez had obeyed him by leaving no trace of light. Doubtless by now they had retired. Suddenly he started, peered more closely at the door he was about to enter.
It was slightly ajar. On the threshold, as he threw it open, Adrian found a lace-edged handkerchief. His wife's.
Filled with quick foreboding, he called her name. His voice sounded hollow, strange, as if an empty house. Tremblingly he struck a light and searched the inner room. The bed had not been slept in. There was no one to be seen.
SHOTS IN THE DARK
Frantically Adrian ran out into the darkness, crying his wife's name. His thought went, with swift apprehension, over the events of recent hours. The villainous face of Ned Gasket passed before his memory mockingly; the meaning look McTurpin gave his henchman at the gaming table. Finally, with double force, that movement in the bushes as he told the gambler of his former captive's whereabouts. By what absurd imprudence had he laid himself thus open to the scoundrel's swift attack? What farther whimsy of an unkind Fate had prompted his long walk?
Sudden fury flamed in Stanley's heart; it steadied him. The twitching fingers on the pistol in his pocket relaxed into a calm and settled tension. With long strides he made his way toward Brown's hotel.
There was death in his eyes; men who caught their gleam beneath a lamplight, hastily avoided him. That Inez—at this time—should have been taken from her home, abducted, frightened or harassed, was the sin unpardonable. For it he meant to exact a capital punishment. The law, just then, meant to him nothing; only the primitive instinct of an outraged man controlled his mind.
At the bar he paused. "Where's McTurpin, where's Gasket?" he demanded, harshly.
The bartender observed him with suspicion and uneasiness. "Don't know. Haven't seen 'em since they started out with you," he answered.
Stanley left the room without another word.
He struck across the Plaza, entering the Eldorado gambling house. There he ordered a drink, gulped it, made, more quietly, a survey of the room. He scanned the players carefully. Spear sat at one of the tables, toying with a pile of chips and stroking his chin reflectively as he surveyed three cards.
"Give me two. Hello, there, Adrian. Good Lord! what's up?"
"Have you seen McTurpin or his friend, Ned Gasket?" He tried to speak quietly.
A miner at another table leaned forward. "Try the stalls, pard," he whispered, while his left eyelid descended meaningly.
"Wait," cried Spear and laid his cards down hastily. But Adrian was already on his way. At the rear were half a dozen small compartments where visitors might drink in semi-privacy with women who frequented the place.
Adrian made the round of them, flinging aside each curtain as he went. Some greeted him with curses for intruding; some with invitations. But he did not find the men he sought, until the last curtain was thrown back. There sat Gasket and McTurpin opposite Ensenada Rose. She looked up impudently as Adrian entered. Into the gambler's visage sprang a quick surprise and fear. Instantly he blew out the lamp.
A pistol spoke savagely almost in Adrian's face. He staggered, clasping one hand to his head. Something warm ran down his cheek and the side of his neck. He felt giddy, stunned. But a dominant impulse jerked his own revolver into position and he shot twice—as rapidly as he could operate the weapon. The narrow space was chokingly filled with acrid vapor. Somewhere a woman screamed; then came a rush of feet.
It seemed to Adrian he had stood for hours in a kind of stupor when a light was brought. Gasket lay, his head bowed over on the table and an arm flung forward. He was dead. On the floor was a lace mantilla.
Spear reached Adrian's side ahead of the others. "I heard him shoot first," he said, so that all might hear him. "Are you hit?"
Adrian's hand went once more to his cheek. "Just a furrow," he said and smiled a trifle dazedly. "He fired straight into my face."
"By Harry! He must have. Your cheek's powder-marked," cried Brannan, running up and holding the lamp for a better view. "See that, gentlemen? They tried to murder Mr. Stanley. This is self-defense. Who fired at you?"
"This fellow!" Adrian indicated the sprawled figure. "Must have been. I shot at the flash from his gun; then I aimed at McTurpin. I missed him, probably."
"Not so sure of that," said Brown, who had come running from his hostelry across the square. "Look, here's blood on the floor. A trail—let's follow it. Either McTurpin or the woman was hit."
"I tried to avoid her," Adrian said. "I—hope I didn't—"
"Never mind. You were attacked. They're all of a parcel," cried a man who wore the badge of a constable. "We've had our eyes on the three of them a long time. This fellow," he indicated Gasket, "was one of the crowd suspected of the Warren murders. He's the one who killed old Burthen. Dandy Carter let it out tonight; he's half delirious. We'd have strung him up most probably, if you hadn't—"
"Come," urged Brannan, "let us follow this trail to the wounded. Perhaps he or she needs assistance." He held the lamp low, tracing the dark spots across an intervening space to the rear entrance; thence to a hitching rack where several horses still were tethered. "They mounted here," the constable decided. "One horse probably. No telling which it was that got the bullet."
Adrian was conscious, suddenly, that his hand still held the pistol. He flung it from him with a gesture of repulsion.
"My wife!" he said faintly, "Inez!"
"What d'ye mean?" asked Spear.
"Talk up, man. What's wrong?"
"She's gone—abducted," Stanley answered. "Who'll lend me a horse. I must find McTurpin. He knows—"
Unexpectedly Spear complicated matters. "You're mistaken, Stanley. I followed when you and he took your walk together. I suspected treachery—when Gasket sneaked along behind. I had McTurpin covered when you turned your back on him. He came here after that. Both of them have been here all the evening."
Stanley put his hand to his head with a bewildered gesture.
"Good God! Then where—? What has become of them?"
"Maybe they got wind of Benito's presence. Maybe they're with him. Let's see."
They hurried back to the City Hotel.
"The room's dark," Spear lighted a taper and they softly opened the door. Benito slept; beside him drowsed a red-shirted miner slumped upon a chair. Adrian shook him, whispering, "Where's Doctor Jones?"
"Don't know," muttered the watcher, sleepily. "This yere is his busy night I reckon. Asked me to look after this galoot. Feed him four fingers of that pizen if he woke."
His head drooped forward and a buzzing sound came from his open mouth. Once more Adrian shook him.
"Didn't he say anything about his destination?"
"His which, pard?"
"Where he was bound," the young man said half angrily.
This time the other sat up straighter. For the first time he really awoke and took intelligent cognizance of the situation.
"Now I come to think on it, he's bound for the hill over yonder. Woman named Briones come for him at a double quick. Good lookin' Spanish wench. She took him by the arm commandin' like. 'You come along,' she says and picks up his medicine chest. 'Don't stop for yer hat.' And he didn't." He winked heavily, chuckling at the reminiscence.
"Then it isn't Juana Briones that's ill. Perhaps it's her husband."
"Has she got a husband?" asked the miner, disappointedly. "No, I reckon 'twant him. 'Twas a woman name o' Stanley. I remember now—Goin' to have a bebby."
THE NEW ARRIVAL
"Take my horse," said Brannan, hurriedly. "I'll stay here with Benito." He bundled the excited Stanley and Nathan Spear out of the room, where Benito still slept under the spell of the doctor's opiate. "You, too," he told the miner, "you've had too much red liquor to play the nurse." He closed the door after them.
The young contractor spoke first. "By the eternal, I never thought of that! I'm glad she had a woman with her."
He spurred his horse toward Telegraph, Hill, as it had begun to be known, since signals were flashed from its crest, announcing the arrival of vessels. Down its farther slope was the little rancho of Dona Briones, where Inez in her extremity had sought the good friend of her childhood.
Adrian's thought leaped forward into coming years. Inez and he together, always together as the years passed. And between them a son—intuitively he felt that it would be a son—a successor, taking up their burdens as they laid them down; bearing their name, their ideals, purposes along, down the pageant of time.
He paid little heed as they passed through a huddle of huts, tents and lean-tos on the southern ascent. Though the hour was late, many windows were light and sounds of revelry came dimly, as though muffled, from curtain-hid interiors. There was something furtive and ill-omened about this neighborhood which one sensed rather than perceived. Spear rode close and touched Adrian's arm.
"Sydney town," he whispered, meaningly. "The hang-out of our convict citizens from Australia, those eastern toughs and plug-uglies of the Seventh regiment who came here to feather their nests. Do you know what they've done? Formed a society called The Hounds. Appropriate, isn't it? Your friend McTurpin's one of them. Thanks to you, they've lost a valued member."
"Hounds?" said Adrian. His thought still forged ahead. "Oh, yes, I've heard about them. They are going to drive out the foreigners."
"Loot them, more likely," Spear returned, disgustedly; "then us, if we don't look out. Mark my word, they'll give us trouble. Alcalde Leavenworth's too careless by half."
Stanley, paying scant attention, suddenly leaned forward in his saddle. At one of the windows a curtain was drawn back; a woman's face appeared for a moment silhouetted against inner light; then as swiftly withdrew.
"Who was that?" asked Adrian, involuntarily reining in his mount. "Not—"
"Rosa Terranza," said Spear excitedly.
They listened. From within the tent-house came a sound of hasty movements, whispering. The light winked out. A bolt was shot; then silence.
"I'll bet, by Jupiter, McTurpin's there," cried Adrian.
"And that he's hurt," Spear added. "What shall we do?"
"Let them be," decided Stanley, clucking to his horse. "My duty's ahead." He took the steep pitch of the hillside almost at a gallop and soon they were descending again into that little settlement of waterside and slope called North Beach. Juana Briones' place had been its pioneer habitation. Her hospitable gate stood always invitingly open. Through the branches of a cypress lights could be seen. The front door stood ajar and about it were whispering women. Adrian's heart leaped. Was something amiss? He dismounted impetuously, throwing the reins to an Indian who had come out evidently to do them service. Spear followed as he rushed through the door. There stood Dona Briones, finger on lip, demanding silence. Her face was grave.
"How—how is she? How is Inez?" Adrian stammered.
"The doctor's with her. Everything will be all right, I think. But make no noise. Go in that room and sit down."
Adrian threw up his hands. "My God, woman! How can I sit still when—when—?"
"Walk up and down, then," said Juana, "but take off your shoes."
Which Adrian finally did. It seemed to him that he had paced the tiny chamber a thousand times. He heard movements, voices in the next room; now and then his wife's moan and the elder woman's soothing accents. Then a silence which seemed century long, a silence fraught with unimaginable terror. It was broken by a new sound, high pitched, feeble, but distinct; the cry of a child. Helplessly Adrian subsided into a chair beside Nathan Spear. "Do you hear that?" he asked, mopping his forehead.