Everywhere one heard the praise of Broderick's astuteness. He had a way of making loyal friends. A train of them had followed him through years of more or less continuous defeat and now they were rejoicing in the prospect of reward.
He was explaining this to Alice. Trying to at least. "One has to pay his debts," he told her. "These men have worked for me as hard as any factory slaves. And without any definite certainty of compensation. Do you remember young Waters who came here last December to congratulate me? Yes, of course, he was Benito's clerk. I'd forgotten that. Well, what did that young rascal do but grow a beard and hire out as a waiter in the Magnolia Hotel. He overheard some plots against me in a corner of the dining room. And thus we were prepared to checkmate all the movements of the enemy.... I call that smart. I'll see that he gets a good berth. A senate clerkship. Something of the sort."
"When do you leave?" asked Alice quickly.
"Tomorrow.... Gwin is going also. I'll stop over in New York." He smiled at her. "When I left there I told my friends I'd not return until I was a senator. Eight years ago that was.... And now I'm making good my promise." He laughed boyishly.
"You're very happy over it, aren't you, Dave?" she said with a shadow of wistfulness.
"Why, yes, to be sure," he answered. His eyes held hers. "I'll miss you, of course.... All of you." He spoke with a touch of restraint.
"And we'll miss YOU." She said more brightly, "I know you will do us much honor ... there in the nation's capital." Her hand went half way out toward him and drew back. "You'll fight always ... for the right alone ... Dave Broderick."
He took a step toward her. "By God! I will promise you that. I'm through with ward politics, with tricks and intriguing. I'm going to fight for Freedom ... against Slavery. They're trying to fasten Slavery onto Kansas. President Buchanan is a Pennsylvanian but he's dominated by the Southern men. Washington is dominated by them. There aren't more than half a dozen who are not afraid of them." He drew himself up. "But I'm one. Douglas of Illinois is another. And Seward of New York. I've heard from them. We stand together."
He laughed a shade bitterly. "It's difficult to fancy, isn't it? Dave Broderick, the son of a stone mason, a former fireman, bartender, ward-boss—fighting for an ideal? Against the Solid South?"
She came closer. "Dave, you must not say such things." She looked about her. They were alone in the room, for Benito had gone out with Robert. "Dave, we're proud of you.... And I—I shall always see you, standing in the Senate Chamber, battling, like a Knight of Old...."
Her face was upturned to his. His hands clenched themselves. With a swift movement he caught up his hat and stick. Fled from the house without a good-bye.
As he went down the hill with long strides, his mind was torn between a fierce pride in his proven strength and a heart-wrecked yearning.
He started the next morning for Washington.
A TRIP TO CHINATOWN
Samuel Brannan brought the first news from Washington. Gwin, who owed his place to Broderick, had after all betrayed him. The bargained-for double patronage was not forthcoming. Broderick was grievously disappointed in Buchanan. There had been a clash between them. No Democratic Senator, the President had said, could quarrel profitably with the Administration. Which meant that Broderick must sustain the Lecompton Resolution or lose face and favor in the nation's forum. Things were at a bitter pass.
"What's the Lecompton Resolution?" Alice asked.
"It's a long story," Brannan answered. "In brief, it means forcing slavery on Kansas, whose people don't want it. And on the Lecompton Resolution hinges more or less the balance of power, which will keep us, here, in the free States, or give us, bound and gagged, to the South."
"And you say Gwin has repudiated his pact?"
"Either that ... or Buchanan has refused to sanction it. The result is the same. David doesn't get his patronage."
"I'm glad! I'm glad!" cried Alice.
Brannan looked at her astonished. "But ... you don't know what it means. His men, awaiting their political rewards! His organization here ... it will be weakened. You don't understand, Mrs. Windham."
"I don't care," she said. "It leaves him—cleaner—stronger!" She turned swiftly and left the room. Brannan shrugged his shoulders. "There's no fathoming women," he thought.
* * * * *
But Broderick, in far Washington, understood when there came to him a letter. It bore neither signature nor salutation:
"When one is stripped of weapons—sometimes it is by the will of God! And He does not fail to give us better ones.
"Truth! Righteousness! Courage to attack all Evil. These are mightier than the weapons of the World.
"Oh, my friend, stand fast! You are never alone. The spirit of another is forever with you. Watching—waiting—knowing you shall win the victory which transcends all price."
He read this letter endlessly while people waited in his ante-room. Then he summoned Herbert Waters, now his secretary, and sent them all away. Among them was a leader of the New York money-powers who never forgave that slight; another was an emissary of the President. Broderick neither knew nor cared. He put the letter in his pocket; walked for hours in the snow, on the banks of the frozen Potomac.
That afternoon he reviewed the situation, was closeted an hour with Douglas of Illinois. The two of them sought Seward of New York, who had just arrived. To their conference came Chase and Wade of Ohio, Trumbull of Illinois, Fessenden of Maine, Wilson of Massachusetts, Cameron of Pennsylvania.
Soon thereafter Volney Howard in San Francisco received an unsigned telegram, supposedly from Gwin:
Unexpected gathering anti-slavery forces. Looks bad for Lecompton Resolution. President worried about California.
In the southeastern part of San Francisco a few tea and silk merchants had, years before, established the nucleus of an Oriental quarter. Gradually it had grown until there were provision shops where queer-looking dried vegetables, oysters strung necklace-wise on rings of bamboo, eggs preserved in a kind of brown mold, strange brown nuts and sweetmeats were displayed; there were drugs-shops with wondrous gold and ebony fret work, temples with squat gods above amazing shrines.
There were stark-odored fish-stalls in alleyways so narrow that the sun touched them rarely, barred upper-windows from which the faces of slant-eyed women peeped in eager wistfulness as if upon an unfamiliar world. Cellar doorways from which slipper-shod, pasty-faced Cantonese crept furtively at dawn; sentineled portals, which gave ingress to gambling houses protected by sheet-iron doors.
On a pleasant Sunday, early in February, Benito, Alice, Adrian and Inez walked in Chinatown with David Broderick. The latter was about to leave for Washington to attend his second session in Congress. Things had fared ill with him politically there and at home.
Just now David Broderick was trying to forget Congress and those battles which the next few weeks were sure to bring. He wanted to carry with him to Washington the memory of Alice Windham as she walked beside him in the mellow Winter sunshine. An odor of fruit blossoms came to them almost unreally sweet, and farther down the street they saw many little street-stands where flowering branches of prune and almond were displayed.
"It's their New Year festival," Adrian explained. "Come, we'll visit some of the shops; they'll give us tea and cakes, for that's their custom."
"How interesting!" remarked Inez. She shook hands cordially with a grave, handsomely gowned Chinese merchant, whose emporium they now entered. To her astonishment he greeted her in perfect English. "A graduate of Harvard College," Broderick whispered in her ear.
Wong Lee brought forward a tray on which was an assortment of strange sweetmeats in little porcelain dishes; he poured from a large tea-pot a tiny bowl of tea for each of his visitors. While they drank and nibbled at the candy he pressed his hands together, moved them up and down and bowed low as a visitor entered; the latter soon departed, apparently abashed by the Americans.
"He would not mingle with the 'foreign devils,'" Broderick smiled. "That was Chang Foo, who runs the Hall of Everlasting Fortune, wasn't it?"
"Yes, the gambling house," Wong Lee answered. "A bad man," his voice sank to a whisper. "Chief of the Hip Lee tong, for the protection of the trade in slave women. He came, no doubt, to threaten me because I am harboring a Christian convert. See," he opened a drawer and took therefrom a rectangle of red paper. "Last night this was found on my door. It reads something like this:
"Withdraw your shelter from the renegade Po Lun, who renounces the gods of his fathers. Send him forth to meet his fate—lest the blade of an avenger cleave your meddling skull."
"Po was a member of the Hip Yees when he was converted; they stole a Chinese maiden—his beloved and Po Sun hoped to rescue her. That is why he joined that band of rascals."
"And did he succeed?" asked Alice.
"No," Wong Lee sighed. "They spirited her away—out of the city. She is doubtless in some slave house at Vancouver or Seattle. Poor Po! He is heartbroken."
"And what of yourself; are you not in danger?" Broderick questioned.
Wong smiled wanly. "Until the New Year season ends I am safe at any rate."
ENTER PO LUN
Broderick returned to Washington; he wrote seldom, but the newspapers printed, now and then, extracts from his speeches. The Democrats were once more a dominating power and their organs naturally attacked the California Senator who defied both President and party; they asserted that Broderick was an ignorant boor, whose speeches were written for him by a journalist named Wilkes. But they did not explain how Broderick more than held his own in extemporaneous debate with the nation's seasoned orators. Many of these would have taken advantage of his inexperience, for he was the second youngest Senator in Congress. But he revealed a natural and disconcerting skill at verbal riposte which made him respected, if not feared by his opponents. One day, being harried by administration Senators, he struck back with a savagery which, for the moment, silenced them.
The San Francisco papers—for that matter, all the journals of the nation—printed Broderick's words conspicuously. And, as they held with North or South, with Abolition or with Slavery, they praised or censured him.
"I hope, in mercy to the boasted intelligence of this age, the historian, when writing the history of these times, will ascribe the attempt of the President to enforce the Lecompton resolution upon an unwilling people to the fading intellect, the petulant passion and the trembling dotage of an old man on the verge of the grave."
"Buchanan will be furious," said Benito. "They say he's an old beau who wears a toupee and knee-breeches. All Washington that dares to do so will be laughing at him, especially the ladies."
Benito returned from the office one foggy June evening with a copy of The Bulletin that contained a speech by Broderick. It was dusk and Alice had lighted the lamp to read the Washington dispatch as she always did with eager interest, when there came a light, almost stealthy knock at the door. Benito, rather startled, opened it. There stood a Chinese youth of about 18, wrapped in a huge disguising cloak. He bowed low several times, then held forth a letter addressed in brush-fashioned, India-ink letters to "B. Windham Esquire."
Curiously he opened it and read:
"The hand of the 'avenger' has smitten. I have not long to live. Will you, in your honorable kindness, protect my nephew, Po Lun? He will make a good and faithful servant, requiting kindness with zeal. May the Lord of Heaven bless you."
Excitedly and with many gestures Po Lun described the killing of his uncle by a Hip Yee "hatchetman." But even in his dying hour Wong Lee had found means to protect a kinsman. Po Lun wept as he told of Wong Lee's goodness. Suddenly he knelt and touched his forehead three times to the floor at Alice's feet. "Missee, please, you let me stay?" he pleaded. "Po Lun plenty work. Washee, cookee, clean-em house." His glance strayed toward the cradle. "Takem care you' li'l boy."
Benito glanced at Alice questioningly. "Would you—trust him?" he whispered.
"Yes," she said impulsively. "He has a good face ... and we need a servant." She beckoned to Po Lun. "Come, I will show you the kitchen and a place to sleep."
* * * * *
Broderick came back from Washington and entered actively into the State campaign. He found its politics a hodge-podge of unsettled, bitter policies. The Republicans made overtures to him; they sought a coalition with the Anti-Lecompton Democrats as opposed to Chivalry or Solid South Democracy.
Benito and Alice saw little of Broderick. He was here, there, everywhere, making impassioned, often violent speeches. Most of them were printed in the daily papers.
"They'll be duelling soon," said Windham anxiously, as he read of Broderick's accusations of "The Lime Point Swindle," "The Mail-carrying Conspiracy," his reference to Gwin and Latham as "two great criminals," to the former, "dripping with corruption."
Then came Judge Terry with an unprovoked attack on members of the Anti-Lecompton party. "They are the personal chattels of one man," he said, "a single individual whom they are ashamed of. They belong heart, soul, body and breeches to David C. Broderick. Afraid to acknowledge their master they call themselves Douglas Democrats.... Perhaps they sail under the flag of Douglas, but it is the Black Douglas, whose name is Frederick, not Stephen."
Frederick Douglas was a negro. Therefore, Terry's accusation was the acme of insult and contumely, which a Southerner's imagination could devise. Broderick read it in a morning paper as he breakfasted with friends in the International Hotel and, wounded by the thrust from one he deemed a friend, spoke bitterly:
"I have always said that Terry was the only honest man on the bench of a miserably corrupt court. But I take it all back. He is just as bad as the others."
By some evil chance, D.W. Perley overheard that statement—which proceeded out of Broderick's momentary irritation. Perley was a man of small renown, a lawyer, politician and a whilom friend of Terry. Instantly he seized the opportunity to force a quarrel, and, in Terry's name, demanded "satisfaction." Broderick was half amused at first, but in the end retorted angrily. They parted in a violent altercation.
"Dave," said Alice, as he dined with them that evening, "your're not going to fight this man?"
"I shall ignore the fellow. I've written him that I fight with no one but my equal. He can make what he likes out of that. I've been in a duel or two. Nobody will question my courage."
* * * * *
Po Lun proved a model servitor, a careful nurse. Alice often left in his efficient hands her household tasks. Sometimes she and Benito took an outing of a Saturday afternoon, for there was now a pleasant drive down the Peninsula along the new San Bruno turnpike to San Mateo.
The Windhams were returning from such a drive in the pleasant afternoon sunshine when a tumult of newsboys hawking an extra edition arrested them.
"Big duel ... Broderick and Terry!" shrieked the "newsies." Benito stopped the horse and bought a paper, perusing the headlines feverishly. Alice leaned over his shoulder, her face white. Presently Benito faced her. "Terry's forced a fight on Dave," he said huskily. "They're to meet on Monday at the upper end of Lake Merced."
THE "FIELD OF HONOR"
Chief of Police Burke lingered late in his office that Saturday afternoon. Twilight had passed into dusk, through which the street lamps were beginning to glimmer, leaping here and there into sudden luminance as the lamp-lighter made his rounds. Deep in the complexities of police reports Burke had scarcely noted the entrance of a police clerk who lighted the swinging lamp overhead. And he was only dimly aware of faint knocking at his door. It came a second, a third time before he roused himself. "Come in," he called, none too graciously.
The door opened with an inrush of wind which caused his lamp to flicker. Before him stood a slight and well-gowned woman, heavily veiled. She was trembling. He looked at her expectantly, but she did not speak.
"Please be seated, madam," said the chief of police.
But she continued to stand. Presently words came to her. "Can you stop a duel? Will you?" Her hands went out in a gesture of supplication, involuntary, unstudiedly dramatic.
"What do you mean?" he asked. "What duel?"
"Senator Broderick ... Justice Terry," a wealth of hate was in her utterance of the second name. "They fight at sunrise Monday morning."
"It's not our custom to—interfere in such cases," Burke said slowly. "What would you have me do? Arrest them?"
"Anything," she cried. "Oh—ANYTHING!"
He looked at her searchingly. "If you will raise your veil, madam, I will talk with you further. Otherwise I must bid you goodnight."
For a moment she stood motionless. Then her hand went upward, stripped the covering from her features. "Now," she asked him, in a half-shamed whisper, "will you help me?"
"Yes ... Mrs. Windham," said Burke.
* * * * *
At daybreak on a raw, cold Monday morning, Broderick, with his seconds, Joe McKibben and Dave Colton, arrived at the upper end of Lake Merced. Terry and his seconds were already waiting. The principals, clad in long overcoats, did not salute each other. Broderick looked toward the sea. Terry stood implacable and silent, turning now and then to spit into the sun dried grass. The seconds conferred with each other. All seemed ready to begin when an officer, springing from a foam-flecked horse, rushed up to Broderick and shouted, "You are under arrest."
Broderick turned half-bewildered. He was very tired, for he had not slept the night before. "Arrest?" he said blankly.
"You and Justice Terry," said the officer; "I've warrants for ye both. Come along and no nonsense. This duel is stopped."
Terry began an angry denunciation of the officer, but his seconds, Calhoun Benham and Colonel Thomas Hayes, persuaded him at length into a blustering submission. Principals and seconds, feeling like the actors in an ill-considered farce, rode off together. Later they were summoned to appear before Judge Coon.
* * * * *
"The whole thing was a farce," Benito told his wife. "The case was dismissed. Our prosecuting counsel asked the judge to put them under bonds to keep the peace. But he refused."
"Then the fight will go on?" asked Alice. Her face was white.
"Doubtless," said Benito gloomily. "They say that Terry's been practicing with a pair of French pistols during the past two months and hopes to use them at the meeting. Old 'Natchez,' the gunsmith, tells me one's a tricky weapon ... discharges now and then before the trigger's pressed."
"Why—that would be murder," Alice spoke aghast. "You must find David's seconds and warn them."
"I've tried all afternoon to locate them ... they're hidden ... afraid of arrest."
* * * * *
Despite the secrecy with which the second meeting was arranged, some three score spectators were already assembled at the duelling ground when Broderick and Terry arrived. It was not far from where they had met on the previous morning, but no officer appeared to interrupt their combat. Both men looked nervous and worn, especially Broderick, who had spent the night in a flea-infested hut on the ocean shore at the suggestion of his seconds who feared further interference. Terry had fared better, being quartered at the farm house of a friend who provided breakfast and a flask of rum.
The seconds tossed for position and those of Broderick won. The choice of pistols, too, was left to chance, which favored Terry. Joe McKibben thought he saw a smile light the faces of Benham and Hayes, a smile of secret understanding. The French pistols were produced and Hayes, with seeming care, selected one of them. McKibben took the other. He saw Benham whisper something to Terry as the latter grasped his weapon, saw the judge's eyes light with a sudden satisfaction.
"You will fire between the words 'one' and 'two'," Colton announced crisply. "Are you ready, gentlemen?"
Terry answered "Yes" immediately. Broderick, who was endeavoring to adjust the unfamiliar stock of the foreign pistol to his grasp, did not hear. McKibben repeated, "Are you ready, Dave?" in an undertone. Broderick looked up with nervous and apologetic haste, "Yes, yes, quite ready," he replied.
"One," called Colton. Broderick's pistol spoke. Discharged apparently before aim could be taken; his bullet struck the ground at Terry's feet. Broderick, now defenseless, waited quietly. "Two," the word came. Terry, who had taken careful aim, now fired. Broderick staggered, recovered himself. His face was distorted with pain. Slowly he sank to one knee; sidewise upon his elbow, then lay prone.
* * * * *
It was Sunday, September 18th. In the plaza a catafalque had been erected, draped in black. Upon it stood a casket covered with flowers. An immense crowd was about it, strangely silent. Across the platform a constant stream of people filed, each stopping a moment to gaze at a face that lay still and peaceful, seemingly composed in sleep. It was a keen and striking face; the forehead bespoke intellect and high resolve; the jaw and chin indomitable; aggressive bravery. Over all there was a stamp of sadness and of loneliness that caught one's heart. Friends, political compatriots and erstwhile enemies paid David Broderick a final tribute as they passed; few without a twitching of the lips. Tears ran down the faces of both men and women. The crowd murmured. Then the splendid moving voice of Colonel Baker poured forth an oration like Mark Anthony above the bier of Caesar:
"Citizens of California: A Senator lies dead.... It is not fit that such a man should pass into the tomb unheralded; that such a life should steal, unnoticed, to its close. It is not fit that such a death should call forth no rebuke...."
His majestic voice rolled on, telling of Broderick's work, his character, devotion to the people. He assailed the practice of duelling, the bitter hatreds of a slave-impassioned South. His voice shook with emotion as he ended:
"Thus, O brave heart! we bear thee to thy rest. As in life no other voice so rung its trumpet blast upon the ear of freemen, so in death its echoes will reverberate amid our valleys and mountains until truth and valor cease to appeal to the human heart.
"Good friend! True hero! Hail and farewell."
THE SOUTHERN PLOT
America stood on war's threshold. Even in the West one felt its imminence. The Republican victory had been like a slap in the face to slave-holding democracy. Its strongholds were secretly arming, mobilizing, drilling. And though Lincoln wisely held his peace—warned all the States which hummed with wild secession talk that their aggression alone could disrupt the Union—the wily Stanton, through the machinery of the War Department, prepared with quiet grimness for the coming struggle.
Herbert Waters, after Broderick's death, returned to Windham's office. He was a full-fledged lawyer now, more of a partner than an employee. Waters was of Southern antecedents, a native of Kentucky, a friend, almost a protege, of General Albert Sydney Johnson, commanding the military district of the Pacific.
One evening in January, 1861, he dined with the Windhams. Early in the evening Benito was called out to the bedside of an ailing client, who desired him to write a will. After he was gone, young Waters turned to Alice.
"You were a friend of Mr. Broderick's," he said impulsively. "He often spoke of you ... and once, not long before he died, he said to me: 'Herbert, when your soul's in trouble, go to Alice Windham ...'"
Mrs. Windham put aside her knitting rather hastily, rose and walked to the window. She made no answer.
Presently the boy continued: "That time has come—now—Mrs. Windham."
Alice crossed the room and laid a hand upon his shoulder. "Herbert! What's the matter?"
His voice sank almost to a whisper. "There's a plot to overthrow the government in California. I'm a part of it.... I don't know what to do."
"You don't mean ... you're a traitor?" she asked unbelievably.
"I suppose I am or must be—to some one," he said wearily. "I'm caught in a net, Mrs. Windham. Will you help me get out? Advise me ... as you did him. Oh, I know what you meant to Mr. Broderick. Your faith, your counsel!"
"Please," said Alice sharply. "We won't speak of that. What can I do for YOU?"
"I beg your pardon. I'm a thoughtless ass ... that's why I got into the pickle probably. They asked me to join...."
"They? Who?" she asked. "Is he—Benito—?"
"Oh, no, Benito's out of it completely. I'm a Southern boy, you know. That's why they let me in; a lot of them have money. A man we call 'The President' is our chief. And there's a committee of thirty, each of whom is pledged to organize a fighting force; a hundred men."
Waters hesitated. "I took an oath to keep this all a secret ... but I'll trust you, Mrs. Windham. You've got to know something about it.... These men are hired desperadoes or adventurers. They know there's fighting to be done; they've no scruples.... Meanwhile they're well paid, ostensibly engaged in various peaceful occupations all around the bay. When our President gives the order they'll be massed—three thousand of 'em; well armed, drilled—professional fighters. You can see what'll happen...."
"You mean they'll seize the forts ... deliver us to the enemy?" she spoke aghast.
"I'm afraid you're right, Mrs. Windham."
"Has your—ah—society approached General Johnson?"
"Not yet—they're a little afraid of him."
Alice Windham thought a moment. "When is your next meeting?"
"Tomorrow. We are called by word of mouth. I've just received my summons."
"Well, then," Alice told him, "make a motion—or whatever you call it—that the General be approached, sounded. They'll appoint a committee. They'll put you on it, of course. Thus you can apprise him of the plot without violating your oath. I don't believe he will aid you, for that means betraying his trust.... But if he should—come back to me. We will have to act quickly."
* * * * *
A fortnight passed. Alice had learned by adroit questioning that the federal army was a purely negligible defensive force.
An attack would result in the easy plundering of this storehouse as well as the militia armories of San Francisco. Thus equipped, an army could be organized out of California's Southern sympathizers, who would beat down all resistance, loot the treasury of its gold and perhaps align the State with Slavery's Cause.
Rebellion, civil warfare loomed with all its horrors. If the plot that Waters had described were carried through there would be bloodshed in the city. Her husband had gone to Sacramento on business. Suppose it came tonight!
Anxiously Alice hovered near the cot where ten-year Robert slept.
There came a knock at the door.
"Who's there?" she asked, hand upon the bolt. Then, with an exclamation of relief, she opened it. Admitted Herbert Waters.
He was smiling. "I took your advice.... It worked."
She pushed a chair toward the hearth. "Sit there," she ordered. "Tell me all about it."
Waters gazed into the fire half abstractedly. "Three of us were named," he said, "to have a conference with General Johnson." He turned to her, his eyes aglow, "I'll never forget that meeting. He asked us to be seated with his usual courtesy. Then he said, quite matter-of-factly ... in an off-hand sort of way, 'There's something I want to mention before we go further. I've heard some foolish talk about attempts to seize the strongholds of the government under my charge. So I've prepared for all emergencies.' His eyes flashed as he added, 'I will defend the property of the United States with every resource at my command, with the last drop of blood in my body. Tell that to your Southern friends.'"
"And your plot?"
"It's been abandoned."
"Thank God," Alice exclaimed fervently.
"And thank yourself a little," he commented, smiling.
"General Johnson is a brave and honorable gentleman," Alice said. "I wonder—who could have informed him?"
Waters looked at her quickly. But he did not voice the thought upon his tongue.
* * * * *
April 24 General E.V. Sumner arrived with orders to take charge of the department of the Pacific. General Johnson's resignation was already on its way to Washington.
On the following morning came the news that Southern forces had attacked Fort Sumpter.
SOME WAR REACTIONS
San Francisco adjusted itself to war conditions with its usual impulsive facility. Terry, who had resigned from the Supreme bench following Broderick's death, and who had passed through the technicalities of a farcical trial, left for Texas. He joined the Southern forces and for years California knew him no more. Albert Sydney Johnson, after being displaced by General Sumner, offered his services to Jefferson Davis and was killed at Shiloh. Edward Baker, now a Senator from Oregon, left the halls of Congress for a Union command. At the head of the California volunteer regiment he charged the enemy at Ball's Bluff and fell, his body pierced by half a dozen bullets. Curiously different was the record of Broderick's old foeman, William Gwin. In October, 1861, he started East via the Isthmus of Panama, accompanied by Calhoun Benham, one of Terry's seconds in the fateful duel. On the same steamer was General Sumner, relieved of his command in San Francisco, en route to active service. Convinced that Gwin and Benham plotted treason, he ordered their arrest, but not before they threw overboard maps and other papers. They escaped conviction. But Gwin found Paris safer than America—until the war had reached its close.
When the first call came for volunteers by way of the pony express, Benito and Adrian talked of enlisting. Even thirteen-year Francisco, to his mother's horror, spoke of going as a drummer boy.
"One would think you men asked nothing better than to kill each other," Inez Windham stormed.
Yet she was secretly proud. She would have felt a mite ashamed had Adrian displayed less martial ardor. And to her little son she showed the portrait of Francisco Garvez, who had ridden with Ortega and d'Anza in the days of Spanish glory.
Lithographs of President Lincoln appeared in household and office. Flags flew from many staffs and windows. News was eagerly awaited from the battle-front.
Adrian had been rejected by a recruiting board because of a slight limp. He had never quite recovered from a knife wound in the groin inflicted by McTurpin. Benito had been brusquely informed that his family needed him more than the Union cause at present. Still unsatisfied he found a substitute, an Englishman named Dart, who fell at Gettysburg, and to whose heirs in distant Liverpool he gladly paid $5000.
But Herbert Waters went to war. Alice kissed the lad good-by and pinned a rosebud on his uniform as he departed on the steamer. Little Robert clung to him and wept when they were separated. Adrian, Benito and a host of others shook his hand.
A whistle blew; he had to scamper for the gang-plank. The vessel moved slowly, turning in her course toward the Golden Gate. Men were waving their hats and weeping women their handkerchiefs. Alice stood misty eyed and moveless, till the steamer passed from sight.
* * * * *
Though one heard loud-chorused sentiments of Unionism, there were many secret friends of slavery in San Francisco. One felt them like an undercurrent, covert and disquieting. To determine where men stood, a public meeting had been called for May 11. Where Post ran into Market street, affording wide expanse for out-door gathering, a speaker's stand was built. Here the issues of war, it was announced, would be discussed by men of note.
"Starr King, our pulpit Demosthenes, is to talk," Benito told his wife. "They tell me King's a power for the Union. He's so eloquent that even Southerners applaud him."
They were interrupted by Po Lun, their Chinese servitor, who entered, leading Robert by the hand. The boy had a soldier cap, fashioned from newspaper by the ingenious celestial; it was embellished with plumes from a feather duster. A toy drum was suspended from his neck; the hilt of a play-time saber showed at his belt. The Chinaman carried a flag and both were marching in rhythmic step, which taxed the long legs of Po Lun severely by way of repression.
"Where in the world are you two going?" Alice laughed.
"We go public meeting, Missee," said Po Lun. "We hea' all same Miste' Stah King pleach-em 'bout Ablaham Lincoln."
"Hurrah!" cried Benito with enthusiasm. "Let's go with them, Alice." He caught her about the waist and hurried her onward. Bareheaded, they ran out into the morning sunshine.
* * * * *
At Post and Market streets, thousands waited, though the day was young. Constantly the crowd increased. From all directions came pedestrians, horsemen, folks in carriages, buggies—all manner of vehicles, even farm wagons from the outlying districts. Most of them looked upon attendance as a test of loyalty. When it was learned that Governor Downey had sent his regrets a murmur of disapproval ran through the throng. He had been very popular in San Francisco, for he had vetoed the infamous Bulkhead bill, which planned to give private interests the control of the waterfront. He also pocketed a libel measure aimed at San Francisco's independent press. But in the national crisis—a time when political temporizing was not tolerated—he "did not believe that war should be waged upon any section of the Confederacy, nor that the Union should be preserved by a coercive policy."
"I saw the letter," Adrian told Benito. "They were going to read it at first, but they decided not to. After all, the little Governor's not afraid to utter his thoughts."
"I've more respect for him than for Latham," Windham answered. "He's to make a speech today. Only a few weeks ago he damned us up and down in Congress. Now he's for the Union. I despise a turn-coat."
They were interrupted by a voice that made announcements from the platform.
Starr King arose amid cheers. The preacher was a man of marvelous enthusiasm. His slight, frail figure gave small hint of his dynamic talents. He had come to California for rest and health. But in the maelstrom of pre-war politics, he found neither "dolce far niente" nor recuperation. He plunged without a thought of self into the fight for California.
As he began to talk the crowd pressed forward, packed itself into a smaller ring. Medlied sounds of converse died into a silence, which was almost breathless.
For an hour King went on discussing clearly, logically and deeply, all the issues of the Civil War; the attitude, responsibilities and influences of California, particularly San Francisco. He made no great emotional appeals; he dealt in no impassioned oratory nor invective.
At the close there was a little pause, so deep the concentration of their listening, before the concourse broke into applause. Then it was hysteria, pandemonium. Hats flew in the air; whistles, cheers and bravos mingled. The striking of palm against palm was like a great volley. Again and again the preacher rose, bowed, retired. Finally he thanked them, called the meeting closed, and bade them a good afternoon. Only then the crowd began to melt. Fifty thousand people knew their city—and their State no doubt—were safe for anti-slavery.
WATERS PAYS THE PRICE
Months passed to a tune of fifes and drums. Everywhere men were drilling. At more or less regular intervals one saw them marching down Montgomery street, brave in their new uniforms, running a gauntlet of bunting, flags and cheers. Then they passed from one's ken. Each fortnight the San Francisco papers published a column of Deaths and Casualties.
In due time a letter came from Herbert Waters, now a sergeant of his troop. Benito promptly closed his office for the afternoon and ran home with it; he read the missive, while Alice, Robert and Po Lun listened, eager-eyed and silent:
"We have marched over historic ground, the trail of d'Anza, which Benito's forefathers broke in 1774. They say it is the hardest march that volunteer troops ever made and I can well believe it. There are no railroads; it was almost like exploring. Sometimes water holes are ninety miles apart. The desert is so hot that you in temperate San Francisco can't imagine it unless you think of Hell; and in the mountains we found snow up to our waists; were nearly frozen.
"Apaches, Yumas, Navajos abound; they are cruel, treacherous fighters. We had some lively skirmishes with them. I received a poisoned arrow in my arm. But I sucked the wound and very soon, to everyone's surprise, it healed. There comes to me oft-times a strange conceit that I cannot be killed or even badly hurt ... until I have met Terry."
There was a postscript written on a later date, proceeding from Fort Davis, Texas. Though the handwriting was less firm than the foregoing, there was a jubilance about the closing lines which even the Chinese felt. His eyes glowed with a battle spirit as Benito read:
"My prayer has been answered. At least in part. I have met and fought with Broderick's assassin. It was in the battle for Fort Davis, which we wrested from the enemy, that he loomed suddenly before me, a great hulk of a man in a captain's uniform swinging his sword like a demon. I saw one of our men go down before him and then the battle press brought us together. It seemed almost like destiny. His sword was red and dripping, his horse was covered with foam. He looked at me with eyes that were insane—mad with the lust of killing; tried to plunge the blade into my neck. But I caught his wrist and held it. I shouted at him, for the noise was hideous, 'David Terry, I am Broderick's friend.' He went white at that. I let his wrist go and drew my own saber. I struck at him and the sparks flew from his countering weapon. My heart was leaping with a kind of joy. 'No trick pistols this time,' I cried. And I spat in his face.
"But another's ball came to his rescue. I felt it, cold as ice and hot as fire in my lung. I made a wild slash at him as I fell; saw him wince, but ride away.... So, now I lie in a camp hospital. It has seemed a long time. But it is the fortune of war. Perhaps I shall see you soon."
"It isn't signed," Benito seemed a trifle puzzled. Then he found, in back of Waters' lines, a final sheet in a strange handwriting. Hurriedly he rose, walked to the open door. Below, upon the bay, storm was brewing; it seemed mirrored in his eyes.
"What is it, dear?" asked Alice following. He handed her the single sheet of paper.
"Dead!" her tone was stunned, incredulous.
Benito's arm around her, dumbly, they went out together. Rain was beginning to fall, but neither knew it.
* * * * *
Several years of war made little change in San Francisco. The city furnished more than its quota of troops. The California Hundred, trained fighters and good horsemen, went to Massachusetts in 1862 and were assigned to the Second Cavalry. Later the California Battalion joined them. Both saw terrific fighting.
But California furnished better than "man-power" to the struggle. Money, that all-important war-essential, streamed uninterruptedly from the coast-state mines to Washington. More than a hundred millions had already been sent—a sum which, in Confederate hands, might have turned the destiny of battle. California was loyal politically as well. Though badly treated by a remote, often unsympathetic government, she had scorned the plot to set up a "Pacific Republic" as the South had planned and hoped.
Her secret service men were busy and astute, preventing filibustering plots and mail robberies. There was a constant feeling of uneasiness. San Francisco still housed too many Southern folk.
Benito and Alice were dining with the Stanleys. Francisco and Robert were squatted on the hearth, poring over an illustrated book that had come from New York. It showed the uniforms of United States soldiers, the latest additions to the navy.
"See," said Francisco, "here are pictures of Admiral Farragut and General Sherman." He was fifteen now and well above his father's shoulders. Robert, three years younger, looked up to admire his cousin. A smaller, more intellectual type of boy was Robert, with his mother's quiet sweetness and his father's fire.
"Here's a picture of the fight between the Monitor and Merrimac," he cried interestedly, "When I grow up I shall join the navy and wear a cap with gold braid, like Farragut."
"And I shall be a lawyer ... maybe a Senator or President," said Francisco, with importance.
The men, talking politics over their cigars, did not hear this converse, but the women looked down at their sons, smiling fondly. "Yesterday Robert announced that he would be a poet," Alice confided. "He saw his father writing verses in a book."
"And tomorrow he will want to be an inventor or a steam-boat captain," Inez answered. "'Tis the way with boys.... Mine is getting so big—I'm afraid he'll be going to war."
Po Lun interrupted their further confidences. He rushed in breathless, unannounced. "Misstah Windham," he spoke to Benito. "One man wanchee see you quick in Chinatown.... He allee same plitty soon die. He say you sabe him. His name McTu'pin."
McTURPIN TURNS INFORMER
Benito stared, bewildered, at the Chinaman. "McTurpin dying? Wants to see me?"
Po Lun nodded. "He send-um China boy you' house. He wait outside."
Benito rose. Alice laid detaining fingers on his arm. "Don't go ... it's just a ruse. You know McTurpin."
"The time is past when he can injure me," he answered gravely. "Something tells me it is right—to go." He kissed her, disengaged her arms about him gently, and went out. Adrian signaled to the Chinese. "Follow him...."
Po Lun nodded understandingly.
A shuffling figure, face concealed beneath a broad-brimmed hat, hands tucked each within the opposite sleeve, awaited Windham just outside the door. He set out immediately in an easterly direction, glancing over his shoulder now and again to make certain that Benito followed. Down the steep slope of Washington street he went past moss-grown retaining walls; over slippery brick pavements, through which the grass-blades sprouted, to plunge at length into the eddying alien mass of Chinatown's main artery, Dupont street. Here rushing human counter-currents ebbed and flowed ceaslessly. Burdens of all sizes and of infinite variety swept by on swaying shoulder yokes.
Benito's guide paused momentarily on the farther side of Dupont street. Then, with a beckoning gesture, he dived into a narrow alley. Benito, following, found himself before the entrance of a cellarway. As he halted, iron trapdoors opened toward him, revealing a short flight of steps. The Chinese motioned him to descend, but the lawyer hesitated with a sudden sense of trepidation. Beneath the pavement in this cul-de-sac of Chinatown, he would be hidden from the world, from friends or rescue, as securely as though he were at the bottom of the bay.
But he squared his shoulders and went down. A door opened noiselessly and closed, leaving him in total darkness. A lantern glimmered and he followed it along a narrow passage that had many unexpected turns. An odor, pungent, acrid, semi-aromatic troubled his nostrils. It increased until the lantern-bearing Chinese ushered him into a large square room, lined with bunks, three-deep, like the forecastle of a ship. In each lay two Chinese, face to face. They drew at intervals deep inhalations from a thick bamboo pipe, relaxing, thereupon into a sort of stupored dream. The place reeked with the fumes that had assailed Benito in the passage. Intuitively he knew that it was opium.
A voice in English, faint and dreamy, reached him. "This way ... Mr. Windham.... Please."
A white almost-skeleton hand stretched toward him from a lower bunk. A bearded face, cadaverously sunken, in which gleamed bright fevered eyes, was now discernible.
"McTurpin!" he spoke incredulously.
"What's left of me," the tone was hollow, grim. "Please sit down here, close to me.... I've something to tell you.... Something that will—"
He sank back weakly, but his eyes implored. Benito took a seat beside the bunk. For a moment he thought the man was dead. He lay so limp, so silent!
Then McTurpin whispered. "Bend closer. I will tell you how to serve your country.... There's a schooner called the 'J.M. Chapman.' Do you know where it lies?"
"No," Benito answered, "but that's easily discovered. If you've anything to say—go on."
McTurpin's bony fingers clutched Benito's sleeve. "Listen," he said. "Bend nearer."
His voice droned on, at times imperceptible, again hoarse with excitement. Benito sat moveless, absorbed.
Above the iron-trap doors Po Lun waited patiently.
* * * * *
In an unlighted alley back of the American Exchange Hotel two figures waited, as if by appointment on the night of March 14. One was Ashbury Harpending, a young Southerner, and one of the Committee of Thirty which, several years before, had hatched an unsuccessful plot to capture California for the hosts of slavery. The other was an English boy named Alfred Rubery, large, good-looking, adventurous, nephew of the great London publicist, John Bright. It was he who spoke first in a guarded undertone:
"Is everything ready—safe?"
"Far as I can tell," responded Harpending.
"How many men d'you get?" asked Rubery.
"Twenty ... that's enough. We'll pick up more at Manzanillo. There we'll dress the Chapman into fighting trim, set up our guns aboard and capture the first Pacific Mail liner with gold out of California."
"You're a clever fellow, Harpending. How'd you get those guns aboard without suspicion?"
"Through a Mexican friend," replied Harpending. "He said he needed them to protect his mine in South America. Besides, we've a large assortment of rifles, revolvers, cutlasses. They're boxed and marked 'machinery.'"
Further talk was interrupted by a group of men who approached, saluted, gave a whispered countersign. Others came, still others till the quota of a full score had arrived. At Harpending's command they separated to avoid attention. Silently they slipped through dimly-lighted streets, past roaring saloons and sailors' boarding houses to an unfrequented portion of the waterfront. There the trim black silhouetted shape of the schooner Chapman loomed against a cloudy sky.
At the rail stood Ridgely Greathouse, big, florid, his burnside whiskers twitching.
"Where the devil's Law?" he bellowed. "Lord Almighty! Here it's nearly midnight and no captain."
"He's not with us," said Harpending quietly. But his face paled. Navigator William Law was the only one of whom he had a doubt. But the men must not suspect. "Law will be along soon," he added. "Let us all get aboard and make ready to sail."
The men followed him and went below. Harpending, Greathouse and Rubery paced the deck. "He's drunk probably," commented Greathouse savagely.
"Tut! Tut!" cried Rubery, "let us have no croaking." But at two o'clock, the navigator had not shown his face. They could not sail without a captain. Wearily they went below and left a sentinel on watch. He was a young man who had eaten heavily and drunk to even more excess. For a time he paced the deck conscientiously. Then he sat down, leaned against a spar and smoked. After a while the pipe fell from his listless fingers.
* * * * *
"Ahoy, schooner Chapman!"
The sleeping sentinel stirred languidly. He stretched himself, yawned, rose in splendid leisure. Then a shout broke from him. Like a frightened rabbit he dived through the hatchway, yelling at the top of his lungs.
"The police! The police!"
Harpending was up first. Pell mell, Rubery and Greathouse followed. A couple of hundred yards away they looked into the trained guns of the Federal warship Cyane. Several boatloads of officers and marines were leaving her side. From the San Francisco waterfront a police tug bore down on the Chapman.
Greathouse stumbled back into the cabin. "Quick, destroy the evidence," he shouted.
THE COMSTOCK FURORE
Press reports gave full and wide sensation to the capture of the "Chapman." Chief Lees took every credit for the thwarting of a "Plot of Southern Pirates" who "Conspired to Prey Upon the Golden Galleons From California." Thus the headlines put it. And Benito was relieved to find no mention of himself. Harpending he knew and liked, despite his Southern sympathies; Rubery he had met; an English lad, high-spirited and well connected. In fact, John Bright soon had his errant nephew out of jail. And when, a few months later, Harpending and Greathouse were released, Benito deemed the story happily ended. He heard nothing from McTurpin. No doubt the fellow was dead.
That troublesome proclivity of wooing chance was uppermost again in Windham's mind. It was only natural perhaps, for all of San Francisco gambled now in mining stocks. The brokers swarmed like bees along Montgomery street; every window had its shelf of quartz and nuggets interspersed with pictures of the "workings" at Virginia City. It was Nevada now that held the treasure-seeker's eye.
Within a year it had produced six millions. Scores of miners staked their claims upon or near the Comstock lode and most of them sought capital in San Francisco. Washerwomen, bankers, teamsters—every class was bitten by the microbe of hysterical investment. Some had made great fortunes; none apparently thus far had lost.
In front of Flood and O'Brien's saloon a hand fell heartily upon Benito's shoulder. "Come in and have a drink," James Lick invited.
Lick had "made a pile" of late. He was building a big hotel on Montgomery street; was recognized as one of San Francisco's financiers. He took Benito by the arm. "We've got to celebrate. I've made ten thousand on my Ophir shares. Carrying any mining stock, Benito?"
"No," retorted Windham. He suffered Lick to lead him to the bar. Will O'Brien, a shrewd-faced merry Irishman, took their orders. He and Flood had bought an interest in Virginia City ... "a few fate only, but it's goin' t' make us rich, me lad," he said enthusiastically as he set their glasses out upon the bar. "We'll all be nabobs soon. Ain't that the God's truth, Mr. Ralston?"
"Sure, my boy," a deep voice answered heartily. Windham turned and saw a man of forty, tall, well-molded, with a smiling forceful countenance. He seemed to smack of large affairs.
Benito sipped his liquor, listening absorbedly while Ralston rattled off facts, figures, prospects in connection with the Comstock lode.
"The Nevada mines will pay big," Benito heard him tell a group of bearded men who hung upon his utterances. "BIG! You can bet your bottom dollar on it. If you've money, don't let it stay idle."
Benito bade his friend good-bye and went out, thinking deeply. He wondered what Alice would say if....
Nesbitt of The Bulletin interrupted his musing. "Heard the news, Benito? We're to have a stock exchange next month."
"The brokers are opposed to it. They don't want staple values, because, now and then, they can pick up a bargain or drive a hard trade. And they can peddle 'wildcat' stocks to tenderfeet.... We must stop that sort of thing."
"Quite so," said Windham vaguely comprehending. Nesbitt babbled on. "There are to be forty charter members, with a fund of $2000."
He took a pencil from his pocket. Tapped Benito's shirt front with it. "Buy a little Gould and Curry.... I've just had a tip that it will rise." He hurried on.
* * * * *
Windham let his clients wait that afternoon. He took a walk toward Twin Peaks on Market street. That lordly, though neglected, thoroughfare began to make pretensions toward commercial activity. Opposite Montgomery street was St. Ignatius Church. Farther down toward the docks were lumber yards and to the west were little shops, mostly one-storied, widely scattered. Chinese laundries, a livery stable or two. The pavements were stretches of boardwalk interspersed with sand or mud, trodden into passable trails. Down the broad center ran a track on which for years a dummy engine had labored back and forth, drawing flat cars laden with sand. Now most of the sand hills were leveled above Kearny street. Benito picked his way along the northern side of Market street till he came to Hayes. There the new horse car line ran to Hayes park. One was just leaving as he reached the corner, so he hopped aboard. As the driver took his fare he nodded cordially. Benito recognized him as a former client.
"Listen," said the fellow, "you did me a good turn once, Mr. Windham. Now I'll return the compliment." He leaned nearer, whispered. "Buy some Hale and Norcross mining stock. I've got a tip straight from the president. It's going up."
* * * * *
In the spring of '64, Virginia City mines still yielded treasure harvests unbelievable. Windham's bank account had risen to the quarter-million mark. Month by month he watched his assets grow by leaps more marvelous than even his romantic fancy could fore-vision. Stocks were climbing at a rate which raised the value of each share $100 every thirty days.
San Francisco's Stock and Exchange Board, the leading of the three such institutions, had quarters in the Montgomery block. Electric telegraphs, which flashed its stock quotations round the world, made it a money power in London, Paris and New York.
Benito had a home now in South Park, the city's new, exclusive residence section. From there the Omnibus Street Railway Company, in which he was a large stockholder, operated horse cars to North Beach. He wore a high hat now and spectacles. There were touches of gray in his hair.
As he entered the exchange, a nimble-fingered Morse-operator was marking figures on a blackboard.
Windham heard his name called; turning, met the outstretched hand of William Ralston. They chatted for a time on current matters. There was to be a Merchants' Exchange. Already ground was broken for the building. The Bank of California, one of Ralston's enterprises, would soon open its doors. Ralston was in a dozen ventures, all of them constructive, public spirited. He counted his friends by the hundreds. Suddenly he turned from contemplation of the blackboard to Benito.
"Carrying much Virginia City nowadays?"
Benito told him. Ralston knit his brow, deliberating. Then he said with crisp decision, "Better start unloading soon, my son."
Benito was surprised; expostulated. Ophir, Gould and Curry, Savage were as steady as a rock. He didn't want to lose a "bag of money." Ralston heard him, nodded curtly, walked away. Disturbed, rebellious, Benito quit the place. He wanted quiet to digest the older man's advice. Ralston had the name of making few mistakes. Restlessly Benito sought an answer to his problem. In the end he went home undecided and retired dinnerless, explaining that he had a headache. He awoke with a fever the next morning. Alice, frightened by his haggard eyes, sent Po Lun for a doctor.
THE SHATTERED BUBBLE
Benito looked up from his pillows, tried to rise and found that he had not the strength. Someone was holding his wrist. Oh, yes, Dr. Beverly Cole. Behind him stood Alice and Robert.... How tall the boy looked beside his little mother! They seemed to be tired, worried. And Alice had tears in her eyes.
He heard the doctor's voice afar off, saying, "Yes, he'll live. The danger's over—barring complications." Once more his senses drifted, slept.
* * * * *
In the morning Po Lun brought a cup of broth and fed him with a spoon.
"Long time you been plenty sick," the Chinaman replied to his interrogation.
"She go 'sleep 'bout daylight.... She plenty ti'ed. Ebely night she sit up while you talk clazy talk."
"You mean I've been delirious, Po Lun?"
The Chinese nodded. "You get well now plitty soon," he said soothingly and, with the empty cup, stole softly out. After a time Alice came, rejoiced to find him awake. The boy, on his way to school, poked a bright morning face in at the door and called out, "Hello, dad! Better, ain't you?"
"Yes, Robert," said Benito. When the boy had gone he turned to Alice. "How long have I been ill?"
"Less than a fortnight—though it seems an age." She took his hand and cried a little. But they were happy tears. He stroked her hair with a hand that seemed strangely heavy.
* * * * *
Three weeks later, hollow-eyed, a little shaky, but eager to be back at work, Benito returned to his office. A press of work engaged him through the morning hours. But at noon, he wandered out into the bright June sunshine, walking about and greeting old friends. At the Russ House Cafe, where he lunched, William Ralston greeted him cordially.
"How is the war going?" Windham asked. "I've been laid up for a month—rather out of the running."
"Well, they're devilish hard fighters, those Confederates. And Lee's a master strategist.... But we've the money, Windham. That's what counts. The Union owes a lot to California and Nevada."
"Nevada!" with the word came sudden recollection. "That reminds me, Ralston.... How are stocks?"
But the banker, with a muttered excuse hastened off.
Benito finished his coffee, smoked a cigarette and made his way again into the street.
Presently he went into the stock exchange, almost deserted now, after the close of the morning session. O'Brien was there, smoking a long black cigar and chatting in his boisterous, confidential way with Asbury Harpending. The latter was babbling in real estate.
"Hullo, Windham!" he greeted. "You don't look very fit.... Been ill?"
"Yes," Benito told him. "Laid up since the last of May. What's new?"
"Nothing much—since the bottom dropped out of Comstock."
Instinctively Benito's hand went out toward a chair. He sank into it weakly. So that was the explanation of Ralston's swift departure.
He felt the men's eyes upon him as he walked unsteadily to the files and scanned them. Ophir stock had dropped 50 per cent. Gould and Curry was even lower. Benito closed the book and walked blindly out of the exchange.
After a time he heard footsteps following. Harpending's voice came, "Hey, there, Windham." Benito turned.
"Cleaned out?" asked the other sympathetically.
"Then forget the stocks. They're tricky things at best.... I've a proposition that's a winner. Positively.... There's law work to be done. We need you."
"Montgomery Street Straight" was the plan. It was to be extended across Market street either in a straight line or at an easy angle—over all obstructions to the bay.
"But such a scheme would involve millions," Benito objected. "It would cut through the Latham and Parrott homes for instance.... Old Senator Latham would hold you up for a prohibitive price. And Parrott would fight you to a finish."
"Quite right," returned Harpending. "That's where you come in, Benito. We want you to draw us a bill and lobby it through the Legislature...."
"The thing is to make it a law. Then the Governor must appoint a commission. The Latham and Parrott properties will be condemned and we can acquire them at a fair price."
"Very well," Benito answered. "It's a go."
Several days after his talk with Harpending, Benito met Adrian and Francisco, the latter a tall, gangling lad of sixteen. Father and son were talking animatedly, discussing some point on which Francisco seemed determined to have his way.
"What d'ye think of this youngster of mine?" Stanley questioned. "Scarcely out of short pants and wants to be a newspaper man! I say he should go to school a few years more ... to one of those Eastern colleges you hear so much about. I've the money. He doesn't need to work.... Talk to him, Benito. Make him listen to sense."
"I don't wish to go East, Uncle Ben," said Francisco. "What good will it do me to learn Latin and Greek.... Higher mathematics and social snobbery? I want to get to work. Calvin McDonald's offered me a job on The American Flag."
"What will you do? Write editorials or poetry?" his father asked.
Francisco flushed. "I'll be a copy boy to start with.... And there's no harm in writing poetry. Uncle Ben does it himself."
It was Benito's turn to redden. "Better let the boy have his way," he said hastily. "Journalism's quite an education in itself."
"So, you're against me, too! Well, well. I'll see about it."
They shook hands good-humoredly, the boy beaming. Afterward news reached Benito that young Stanley was a member of McDonald's staff.
* * * * *
In 1865 there came the joyous news of victory and peace. The Democratic Press accepted Lee's surrender sullenly, printing now and then a covert sneer at Grant or Lincoln. Enmity died hard in Southern breasts.
One morning as he came to town Benito saw a crowd of angry and excited men running down Montgomery street. Some of them brandished canes. "Down with Copperheads," they were shouting. Presently he heard a crash of glass, a cry of protest. Then a door gave with a splintering sound. The crowd rushed through, into the offices and print rooms of the Democratic Press.
There was more noise of wreckage and destruction. Broken chairs, tables, typecases, bits of machinery hurtled into the street. Benito grasped the arm of a man who was hurrying by. "What's wrong?" he asked.
The other turned a flushed and angry mien toward him. "God Almighty! Haven't you heard? President Lincoln was shot last night ... by a brother of Ed Booth, the actor.... They say he's dying." He picked up a stone and hurled it at an upper window of the Press.
"We'll show these traitor-dogs a thing or two," he called. "Come on, boys, let's wreck the place!"
The publishers of the Democratic Press had their lesson. In a city draped with black for a beloved President, they swept up the glass of their shattered windows, picked up what remained of scattered type, reassembled machinery and furniture—and experienced a change of heart. Presently The Examiner burgeoned from that stricken journalistic root.
Francisco was now a member of the Alta staff, the aggressive but short-lived American Flag, having ceased publication several years after the war. Adrian admitted to Benito that the boy had justified his bent for journalistic work.
"The young rascal's articles are attracting attention. He even signs some of them; now and then they print one of his verses—generally a satire on local events. And he gets passes to all of the theaters. Inez and I are going to 'Camille' tonight."
"So are Alice and myself, by a coincidence." Benito lighted a cigar and puffed a moment; then he added, "Do you know what that boy of mine proposes to do?"
"No," said Adrian. "Become an actor—or a politician?"
"Well, it's almost as bad.... He wants to be a letter carrier.... The new free delivery routes will be established soon, you know."
"Yes, the town's growing," commented Stanley. "Well, you'd better let young Robert have his way. He's almost as big as you.... How is 'Montgomery Straight' progressing?"
"Fairly well," returned Benito. "Latham and Parrott are fighting us as we expected. But Harpending's acquired Selim Woodworth's lot on Market street, just where Montgomery will cut through." He laughed. "Selim wanted half a million for it.... He'd have got it in a day or two because we had to have the property. But along comes an earthquake and literally shakes $350,000 out of Woodworth's pockets. Frightened him so badly that he sold for $150,000 and was glad to get it."
"Well, even earthquakes have their uses," Adrian smiled. "Here comes Francisco. I'll have him see Maguire and arrange it so that we can sit together at the show."
"Who is the lanky fellow with him?" asked Benito. "Looks as if he would appreciate a joke."
"Oh, that's his friend, Sam Clemens," Adrian answered. "An improvident cuss but good company. He writes for the Carson Appeal under the name of Mark Twain."
* * * * *
Benito, that afternoon, was closeted with Harpending and Ralston in the Bank of California. The financier, who was backing the Montgomery street venture, regarded Harpending a trifle quizzically. "Once," he said, "you tried to be a pirate, Asbury.... Oh, no offense," he laid a soothing hand upon the other's knee. "But tonight I need a desperate man such as you. Another like Benito. We're going to raid the Mint."
"What?" cried Windham, startled.
"You'll need steadier nerves than that for our enterprise." Ralston passed his cigar case to the two men, saw them puffing equably ere he continued. "You know how tight the money situation has become because President Grant declines to let us exchange our gold bars for coin. With eight tons of gold in our vault we almost had a run this afternoon.... Now, that's ridiculous." His fist smote the table. "Grant doesn't know the ropes.... But that's no reason why Hell should break loose tomorrow morning."
"What are you going to do?" Benito asked.
"Use my common sense—and save the banks," said Ralston shortly. "You two must meet me here this evening. Soon as it's dark. You'll have a hard night's work. My friend Dore will be there also. Can you suggest anyone else—absolutely to be trusted, who will ask no questions?"
"My son," Benito answered; "Robert likes work. He wants to be a postal-carrier."
"Bring him by all means," said Ralston. "If he helps us out tonight, I'll see that he gets anything he wants in San Francisco."
He was boyishly eager; full of excited plans for his daring scheme. The two men left him chuckling as he bit the end off a fresh cigar.
* * * * *
It was nearly nine o'clock when they left the Bank of California. Theater-going crowds were housed at the play; the streets were extraordinarily silent as the quintet made their way toward the Mint. Robert was breathing hard. The dark streets, the mysterious Empire ahead, the hint of danger and a mighty stake distilled a toxic and exhilarating fever in his blood. As the pillared front of the federal treasure house loomed up before them, Ralston made a sign for them to halt, advancing cautiously. With astonishment they saw him pass through the usually guarded door and disappear. Presently he emerged with two sacks.
"Robert and Benito, take these to the bank," he whispered. "The watchmen there will give you the equivalent in gold bars to bring back." He turned to Harpending and Dore. "I'll have yours ready in a minute." Once more he vanished within.
Robert picked up the bag allotted to him. It was very heavy. As he lifted it to his shoulder, the contents clinked.
"Gold coin," said his father, significantly.
"What if we're caught?" asked the boy, half fearfully. Ralston, reappearing, heard the question.
"You won't be," he said. "I've attended to that."
His assurance proved correct. All night the four men toiled between the Mint and the Bank of California sweating, puffing, fatigued to the brink of exhaustion. With the first streak of dawn, Ralston dismissed them.
"You've brought five ton of gold coin to the vault," he said, his eyes agleam. "You've saved San Francisco the worst financial panic that ever a short-sighted federal government unwittingly precipitated." Suddenly he laughed and threw his arms wide. "At ten o'clock the frightened sheep will come running for their deposits.... Well, let 'em come."
"And now you boys go home and get some sleep. By the Eternal, you deserve it!"
ADOLPH SUTRO'S TUNNEL
William C. Ralston's Bank of California had become the great financial institution of the West. Ralston was the Rothschild of America. Through him Central Pacific Railway promoters borrowed $3,000,000 with less formality than a country banker uses in mortgaging of a ten-acre farm. Two millions took their unobtrusive wing to South America, financing mines he had never seen. In Virginia City William Sharon directed a branch of the Bank of California and kept his eye on mineral investment. Benito sat in Ralston's office one morning, smoking and discussing the Montgomery street problem when a clerk tapped at the door.
"A fellow's out here from Virginia City," he said nervously. "Wants to see you quickly 'and no bones about it.' That's what he told me."
"All right, send him in," said Ralston laughing. "Stay, Benito. He won't take a minute...." Ere he finished there stalked in a wild-eyed individual clad in boots, the slouch hat of the mining man, a suit of handsome broadcloth, mud-bespattered and a heavy golden watch chain with the usual nugget charm. He was a clean-cat type of mining speculator from Nevada.
"Sit down," invited Ralston. "Have a smoke."
The intruder glared at Windham; then he eased himself uncomfortably into a spacious leather-covered seat, bit off the end of a cigar, half-viciously and, having found the cuspidor, began.
"I've something for your ear alone, Bill Ralston...."
"Meet Benito Windham," Ralston introduced. "Speak out. I have no secrets from my friends."
The other hemmed and hawed. He seemed averse to putting into words some thought which troubled him beyond repression. "Do you know," he burst out finally, "that your partner, Sharon, has become the most incurable and dissolute gambler in Nevada?"
"You don't say." Ralston did not seem as shocked as one might have expected. "Well, my friend, that sounds quite serious.... What's poor Bill's particular kind of—vice?"
"Poker," said the visitor. "By the Eternal, that man Sharon would stake his immortal soul on a four-card flush and never bat an eye. Time and time again I've seen it."
Ralston leaned back comfortably, his folded hands across his middle. His speculative stare was on a marble statue. At length he spoke. "Does Sharon win or lose?"
"Well," the other man admitted, "I must say he wins...."
"Then he's just the man I want," Ralston spoke with emphasis. He rose, held out his hand toward the flustered visitor. "Thanks for telling me.... And now we'll all go for a drink together."
* * * * *
"That's Bill Ralston!" said Benito to his wife. They laughed about the anecdote which Windham had related at the dinner table. Robert, in his new letter-carrier's uniform, spoke up. "I saw him at the bank this afternoon.... There was a letter from Virginia City and he kept me waiting till he opened it. Then he slapped me on the shoulder. 'If the contents of that letter had been known to certain people, son,' he told me, 'they'd have cleaned up a fortune on the information.' Then he handed me a gold-piece. But I wouldn't take it. 'Don't be proud,' he said and poked me in the ribs. 'And don't forget that Bill Ralston's your friend.'"
"Everybody calls him 'Bill,'" his mother added. "Washerwomen, teamsters, beggars, millionaires. If ever there was a friend of the people it is he."
"Some day, though, he'll overplay his game," Benito prophesied.
Ralston had been euchered out of a railroad to Eureka, planned by Harpending and himself and opposed by the Big Four; "Montgomery to the Bay" was meeting with a host of difficulties; the Grand Hotel was building and Kearny street, where he owned property, was being widened. Ralston's genial countenance showed sometimes a little strained pucker between the eyes.
* * * * *
Now and then Benito met a man named Adolph Sutro. They called him "The Man With a Dream." Stocky, under average height, intensely businesslike, he was—a German Burgomeister type, with Burnside whiskers and a purpose. He proposed to drive a tunnel four miles long from Carson valley, and strike the Comstock levels 1800 feet below the surface.
An English syndicate was backing him. The work was going on.
Much of Sutro's time was spent in Virginia City, superintending the work on his tunnel. But he fell into the habit of finding Benito whenever he came to town—dragging him from home with awkward but sincere apologies to Alice.
"You will lend me your husband, Hein?" he would say. "I like to tell him of my fancies, for he understands ... the others laugh at me."
Alice smiled into his broad, good humored face. "That's very silly of them."
"Donnerwetter! Some day they will laugh the other way around," he threatened.
* * * * *
Benito and Sutro usually drove or rode through the Presidio and out along a road which skirted cliffs and terminated at the Seal Rock House. There they dined and watched the seals disporting on some sea-drenched rocks, a stone's throw distant. And there Sutro indulged in more dreams.
"Some day I shall purchase that headland and build me a home ... and farther inland I shall grow a forest out of eucalyptus trees. They come from Australia.... One can buy them cheap enough.... They grow fast like bamboo in the Tropics." He clapped a hand upon Benito's knee. "I shall call it Mount Parnassus."
Benito tried to smile appreciatively. He felt rather dubious about the scheme. But he liked to see the other's quiet eyes flash with an unexpected fire. Perhaps his genius might indeed reclaim this desolate region. Inward from the beach lay the waste of sand-hills known as Golden Gate Park. There was talk among the real estate visionaries of making it a pleasure ground.
So regularly did they end their outings with a dinner at the Seal Rock House that Alice always knew where to find her husband in case some clamorous client sought Benito's aid. And tonight as an attendant called his name he answered with no other thought than that he would be asked to make a will or soothe some jealous and importunate wife who wanted a divorce without delay. They usually did want them that way. He rose, leisurely enough, and made his way to the door. There, instead of the usual messenger boy, stood Alice.
"You must come at once," she panted. "Robert has been robbed of an important letter to the bank. They talk of arresting him.... Ralston wants you at his office."
LEES SOLVES A MYSTERY
In the president's office at the Bank of California, Benito found his son, pale but intrepid. He was being questioned by William Sharon and a postoffice inspector. Ralston, hands crammed into trousers pockets, paced the room disturbedly.
"You admit, then, that the envelope was given you?" Sharon was asking truculently as Benito entered.
"Yes," said Robert, "I remember seeing such a letter as I packed my mail."
"Humph!" exclaimed Sharon. He seemed about to ask another question, but the postal official anticipated him. "Explain what happened after you left the mail station."
"Nothing much ... I walked up Washington street as usual. On the edge of Chinatown a woman stopped me ... asked me how to get to Market street."
"Is that all?"
"Yes, that's all," said Robert. "She seemed confused by our criss-cross streets. I had to tell her several times ... to point the way before she understood."
"And nothing else happened?"
"Nothing else—except that Mr. Ralston asked me for the letter. Said he was expecting it.... I searched my bag but couldn't find it."
"Tell us more about this woman. Give us a description of her."
"Spanish type," said Robert tersely. "Very pleasant; smiled a lot and had gold fillings in her teeth. Must have been quite handsome when she was young."
The inspector stroked his chin reflectively. "Didn't set the bag down, did you? ... when you pointed out the way, for instance?"
"Let me see.... Why, yes—I did. I hadn't thought of that...."
* * * * *
Captain of Detectives I.W. Lees was making a record for himself among the nation's crime-detectors. He was a swarthy little man, implacable as an Indian and as pertinacious on a trail. He never forgot a face and no amount of disguise could hide its identity from his penetrating glance. Without great vision or imagination, he knew criminals as did few other men; could reason from cause to effect within certain channels, unerringly. He was heartless, ruthless—some said venal. But he caught and convicted felons, solved the problems of his office by a dogged perseverance that ignored defeat. For, with a mind essentially tricky, he anticipated tricksters—unless their operations were beyond his scope.
It was 10 o'clock at night, but he was still at work upon a case which, up to now, had baffled him—a case of opium smuggling—when Robert and Benito entered. At first he listened to them inattentively. But at Robert's story of the woman, he became electrified.
"Rose Terranza! Dance hall girl back in the Eldorado days! Queen of the Night Life under half a dozen names! Smiling Rose, some called her. Good clothes and gold in her teeth! I've her picture—wait a minute." He pulled a cord; a bell jangled somewhere. An officer entered.
* * * * *
Chinatown at midnight. Dark and narrow streets; fat, round paper lanterns here and there above dim doorways; silent forms, soft-shuffling, warily alert.
"Wait one minee," said Po Lun. "I find 'em door."
Following the Chinaman were Captain Lees, with his half a dozen "plain clothes men," Benito, Robert and the mail inspector. Presently Po spoke again. "Jus' alound co'ne'" (corner), he whispered. "Me go ahead. Plitty soon you come. You hea' me makem noise ... allee same cat."
Lees descried him as he paused before a dimly lighted door. Evidently he was challenged; gave a countersign. For the door swung back. Po Lun passed through. Nothing happened for a time. Then a piercing feline wail stabbed through the night.
Lees sprang forward, pressed his weight against the partly-open portal; flashed his dark lantern on two figures struggling violently. His hand fell on the collar of Po Lun's antagonist; a policeman's "billy" cracked upon his skull. "Tie and gag him," said the captain. "Leave a man on guard.... The rest of you come on."
Po Lun leading, they went, single file through utter blackness. Now and then the white disc of Lees' lantern, now in Po Lun's hand, gleamed like a guiding will-o-wisp upon the tortuous path.
Suddenly Benito felt the presence of new personalities. They seemed to be in a room with other people. Several dark lamps flashed at Po Lun's signal. They revealed a room sumptuously furnished. Teakwood chairs, with red embroidered backs and cushions, stood about the walls. Handsome gilded grillwork screened a boudoir worthy of a queen. Clad in the laciest of robes de chambre, a dark-skinned woman sat on the edge of a canopied bed. She was past her first youth, but still of remarkable beauty. At the foot of the bed stood McTurpin—pale ghost of his former self. He looked like a cornered rat ... and quite as dangerous. Two Chinese were crouched against a lacquered screen.
"What do you want?" asked the woman, her voice shrill with anger.
"Take your hand out from under that pillow!" ordered Lees. "No nonsense, Smiling Rose."
Reluctantly the ringed and tapered fingers that had clutched apparently a hidden weapon came into view. "Light the lamps," said Lees, and one of his men performed this office.
"That's the woman, father," spoke young Robert, unexpectedly.
"Put the bracelets on her," ordered Lees, "and search the place." A man stepped forward.
But they had not counted on McTurpin. "Let her be," he screamed. A pistol flashed. The officer went down at Rose's feet.
Instantly there was confusion. The room was filled with shuffling Oriental figures. The lights went out. Powder-flashes leaped like fireflies in the darkness. Through it all Lees could be heard profanely giving orders.
Then, as swiftly, it was over. Somewhere a door closed. Lees leaped forward just in time to hear an iron bar clang into place.
"Gone," he muttered, as his light searched vainly for the woman.
"Who's that on the bed?" asked Benito.
"The cursed opium-wreck, McTurpin," Lees replied impatiently. "I planted him when I saw Dick go down." He bent above the wounded officer while Benito relighted the lamps and examined curiously the body of his ancient enemy. For McTurpin was dead. He had evidently tried to reach the woman as he fell. His clawlike fingers clutched, in rigor mortis, her abandoned robe. On the floor, where it had fallen from her bosom, doubtless in the hasty flight, there lay a crumpled, bloodstained envelope. Robert springing forward, seized it with an exclamation. It was addressed to William C. Ralston.
AN IDOL TOPPLES
News had come in early spring of Robert Windham senior's death in Monterey; less than two months afterward his wife, Anita, lay beside him in the Spanish cemetery.
The old Californians were passing; here and there some venerable Hidalgo played the host upon broad acres as in ancient days and came to San Francisco, booted, spurred, attended by a guard of vaqueros. But a new generation gazed at him curiously and, after a lonely interval, he departed.
Market street was now a lordly thoroughfare; horse-cars jingled merrily along the leading streets. Up Clay street ran that wonder of the age, a cable-tram invented by old Hallidie, the engineer. They had made game of him for years until he demonstrated his invention for the conquering of hills. Now the world was seeking him to solve its transportation problems.
Ralston, as usual, was riding on the crest of fortune. His was a veritable lust for city building. Each successive day he founded some new enterprise.
"Like a master juggler," said Benito to his wife, "he keeps a hundred interests in the air. Let's see. There are the Mission Woolen Mills, the Kimball Carriage Works, the Cornell Watch Factory—of all things—the West Coast Furniture plant, the San Francisco Sugar Refinery, the Grand Hotel, a dry dock at Hunter's Point, the California Theater, a reclamation scheme at Sherman Island, the San Joaquin Valley irrigating system, the Rincon Hill cut, the extension of Montgomery street ..." he checked them off on his fingers, pausing finally for lack of breath.
"You've forgotten the Palace Hotel," said Alice smiling.
"No," Benito said, "I hadn't got that far. But the Palace is typical. Ralston wants San Francisco to have the best of everything the world can give. He's mad about this town. It's wife and child to him. Why it's almost his God!"
Alice looked into his eyes. "You're fearful for your prince! You Monte Cristo!"
"Yes," he said, "I'm frankly worried. Something's got to drop.... It's too—too splendid."
* * * * *
As he went down Market street toward Montgomery, Benito paused to observe the new Palace Hotel. Hundreds of bricklayers, carpenters and other workmen were raising it with astonishing speed. Hod-carriers raced up swaying ladders, steam-winches puffed and snorted; great vats of lime and mortar blockaded the street. It was to have a great inner court upon which seven galleries would look down. Ralston boasted he would make it a hotel for travelers to talk of round the world. And no one in San Francisco doubted it.
Benito, eyes upraised to view the labors of a bustling human hive, almost collided with two gentlemen, who were strolling westward, arm in arm. He apologized. They roared endearing curses at him and insisted that he join them in a drink.
They were J.C. Flood and W.S. O'Brien, former saloon proprietors now reputed multi-millionaires.
Early in the seventies they had joined forces with Jim Mackey, a blaster, at Virginia City and a mining man named J.G. Fair. Between them they bought up the supposedly depleted Consolidated Virginia Mine, paying from $4 to $9 each for its 10,700 shares. Mining experts smiled good naturedly, forgot the matter. Then the world was brought upstanding by the news of a bonanza hitherto unrivaled.
Con. Virginia had gained a value of $150,000,000.
After he had sipped the French champagne, on which Flood insisted and which Windham disliked, the latter spoke of Ralston and his trouble with the editors. "Some of the newspapers would have us think he's playing recklessly, with other people's money," he said with irritation.
'"Well, well, and maybe he is, me b'y," returned O'Brien. "Don't blame the newspaper fellahs.... They've raison to be suspicious, Hiven knows.... Ralston's a prince. We all love the man. It's not that. But—," he came closer, caught both of Benito's coat lapels in a confidential grasp, "I'm tellin' ye this, me lad: If it should come to a show-down ... if certain enemies should have a chance to call Bill Ralston's hand, I tell ye, it would mean dee-saster!"
* * * * *
At 9 o'clock on the morning of August 25, Francisco Stanley entered the private door of Windham's office. He was now an under-editor on The Chronicle, which had developed from the old Dramatic Chronicle, into a daily newspaper. Benito glanced up from his desk a bit impatiently; it was a busy day.
"What's the matter, Francisco? You're excited."
"I've a right to be," the journalist spoke sharply. He glanced at his uncle's secretary. "I must see you alone."
"Can't you come in later? I've a lot of clients waiting."
"For God's sake, Uncle Ben," the younger man said desperately, "send them off."
Benito gazed at him, astonished. Then convinced by something in Francisco's eyes, he nodded to the secretary who departed.
"It's Ralston ... word has reached the newspapers ... his bank has failed."
Benito sprang to his feet. "You're crazy! It's—impossible!"
"Uncle Ben, IT'S TRUE!" His fingers closed almost spasmodically upon the other's arm.
"How do you know?"
"RALSTON SAYS SO. I've just come from there.... He wants you."
Benito reached dazedly for his hat.
* * * * *
Benito found "Bill" Ralston in his private office, head bowed; eyes dully hopeless. He looked ten years older.
"The Bank of California has failed," he said before the younger man could ask a question. "It will never reopen its doors."
"I—I simply can't believe it!" After a stunned silence Benito spoke. He laid a hand on the banker's shoulder. "All I have is at your service, Ralston."
"Thank you ... but it isn't any use." He looked up misty-eyed. "I tried to make this town the greatest in the world.... I went too far.... I played too big a stake. Now—" he tried to smile. "Now comes the reckoning."
"But, God Almighty! Ralston," cried Benito, "your assets must be enormous.... It's only a matter of time. You'll pull through."
"They won't give me time," he spoke no names, yet Windham knew he meant those who had turned from friends to enemies.
* * * * *
Two days later Francisco met Ralston coming out of the bank. His face was haggard. His eyes had the look of one who has been struck an unexpected blow.
"Will the directors' meeting take place today, Mr. Ralston?"
"It's in session now," he answered dully.
"Ah, I thought, perhaps—since you are leaving—it had been postponed."
Spots of red flamed in the banker's cheeks. "They've barred me from the meeting," he replied and hurried on.
Several hours later newsboys ran through San Francisco's streets: "EXTRA! EXTRA!" they screamed, "ALL ABOUT RALSTON'S SUICIDE."
About the Bank of California was a surging press of men and women. The doors of that great financial institution were closed, blinds drawn, as on the previous day. Now and then an officer or director passed the guarded portals. D.O. Mills was one of these, his stern, ascetic face more severe than usual.
Francisco Stanley pushed his way up to the carriage as it started.
"Will the bank reopen, Mr. Mills?" he asked, walking along beside the moving vehicle.
The financier's eyes glared from the inner shadows. "Yes, yes. Certainly," he snapped. "Very shortly ... as soon as we can levy an assessment" The coachman whipped up his horses; the carriage rolled off. Francisco turned to face his uncle. "What did he say?" asked Benito. Others crowded close to hear the young editor's answer. The word found it way through the crowd. "The bank will reopen.... They'll levy an assessment.... We won't lose a cent."