Gradually the throng disbanded. Everywhere one heard expressions of sorrow for Ralston; doubt of the story that he had destroyed his life. As a matter of fact a coroner's jury found that death resulted from cerebral attack. An insurance company waived its suicide exemption clause and paid his widow $50,000.
The Bank of California was reopened. Ralston, buried with the pomp and splendor of a sorrowing multitude, was presently forgotten. Few new troubles came upon the land. Overspeculation in the Comstock lode brought economic unrest.
Thousands were unemployed in San Francisco. Agitators rallied them at public meetings into furious and morbid groups. From the Eastern States came telegraphic news of strikes and violence. Adrian returned one evening, tired and harassed.
"I don't know what's got into the working people," he said to Inez.
"Oh, they'll get over that," pronounced Francisco, with the sweeping confidence of youth. "These intervals of discontent are periodical—like epidemics of diseases."
Adrian glanced at the treatise on Political Economy in his son's hand. "And what would you suggest, my boy?" he asked with a faint smile.
"Leave them alone," said Francisco. "It goes through a regular form. They have agitators who talk of Bloodsucking Plutocrats, Rights of the People and all that. But it generally ends in mere words."
"The Paris Commune didn't end in mere words," reminded Adrian.
"Oh, that!" Francisco was a trifle nonplussed. "Well, of course—"
"There have been serious riots in Eastern States."
"But—they had leaders. Here we've none."
"I'm not so sure of that," said Adrian thoughtfully. "D'ye know that Irish drayman, Dennis Kearney?"
"Y-e-s ... the one who used to be a sailor?"
"That's the man. He's clever; knows men like a book.... Has power and a knack for words. He calls our Legislature 'The Honorable Bilks.' Wants to start a Workingmen's Party. And he'll do it, too, or I'm mistaken. His motto is 'The Chinese Must Go!'"
"By Harry! There's a story for the paper," said Francisco. "I must see the fellow."
Robert Windham and Po Lun were out for a morning promenade. They often walked together of a Sunday. Robert, though he was now twenty-six, still retained his childhood friendship for the Chinese servitor; found him an agreeable, often-times a sage companion. Urged by Alice, whose ambitious love included all within her ken, Po Lun attended night school; he could read and write English passably, though the letter "r" still foiled his Oriental tongue. Today they were out to have a look at the new city hall.
On a sand lot opposite several hundred men had gathered, pressing round a figure mounted on a barrel. The orator gesticulated violently. Now and then there were cheers. A brandishing of fists and canes. Po Lun halted in sudden alarm. "Plitty soon they get excited. They don't like Chinese. I think maybe best we go back."
But already Po's "pig-tail" had attracted attention. The speaker pointed to him.
"There's one of them Heathen Chinese," he cried shrilly. "The dirty yaller boys what's takin' bread out of our mouths. Down with them, I say. Make this a white man's country."
An ominous growl came from the crowd. Several rough-looking fellows started toward Robert and Po Lun. The latter was for taking to his heels, but Robert stood his ground.
"What do you fellows want?"
They paused, abashed by his intrepid manner. "No offense, young man. We ain't after you. It's that Yaller Heathen.... The kind that robs us of a chance to live."
"Po Lun has never robbed anyone of a chance to live. He's our cook ... and my friend. You leave him alone."
"He sends all his money back to China," sneered another coming closer, brandishing a stick. "A fine American, ain't he?"
"A better one than you," said Robert hotly. Anger got the better of his judgment and he snatched the stick out of the fellow's hand, broke it, threw it to the ground.
Savagely they fell upon him. He went down, stunned by a blow on the head, a sense of crushing weight that overwhelmed his strength. He was vaguely conscious of a tirade of strange words, of an arm at the end of which was a meat cleaver, lashing about. The vindictive bark of a pistol. Shouts, feet running. A blue-coated form. A vehicle with champing horses that stood by.
"Are you hurt very bad, young feller?"
Robert moved his arms and legs. They appeared intact. He rose, stiffly. "Where's Po Lun?"
"In the wagon."
Robert, turning, observed an ambulance. "Not—dead?"
"Well, pretty near it," said the policeman. "He saved your life though, the yellow devil. Laid out half a dozen of them hoodlums with a hatchet. He's shot through the lungs. But Doc. says he's got a chance."
* * * * *
Late that afternoon William T. Coleman sat closeted with Chief Ellis of the San Francisco police. Coleman bore but scant resemblance to the youth of 1856. He was heavier, almost bald, moustached, more settled, less alert in manner. Yet his eyes had in them still the old invincible gleam of leadership.
"But," he was saying to the man in uniform, "that was twenty years ago. Can't you find a younger chap to head your Citizens' Committee?"
"No," said Ellis shortly. "You're the one we need. You know the way to deal with outlaws ... how to make the citizens respond. Do you know that the gang wrecked several Chinese laundries after the attack on Windham? That they threaten to burn the Pacific Mail docks?"
Chief Ellis drew a little nearer. "General McComb of the State forces has called a mass meeting. He wishes you to take charge...."
THE PICK-HANDLE BRIGADE
Benito found his son awaiting when he returned from the Citizens' Mass Meeting at midnight. Robert, insisting that he was "fit as a fiddle," had nevertheless been put to bed through the connivance of an anxious mother and the family physician, who found him to have suffered some severe contusions and lacerations in the morning's fray. But he was wide awake and curious when his father's latch key grated in the door.
"It must have seemed like old times, didn't it, dad?" he asked with enthusiasm. The Vigilance Committee of the Fifties in his young mind was a knightly company. As a boy he used to listen, eager and excited, to his father's tales of Coleman. Now his hero was again to take the stage.
"Yes, it took me back," said Windham. "I was about your age then and Coleman was just in his thirties." He sat down a trifle wearily. "The years aren't kind. Some of the fellows who were young in '56 seemed old tonight.... But they have the same spirit."
"Tell me what happened," said Robert, after a pause.
Benito's eyes flashed. "You should have heard them cheer when Coleman rose. He called for his old comrades and we stood up. Then there was more cheering. Coleman is all business. He commenced at once enrolling men for his pick-handle brigade; he's refused fire-arms. He has fifteen hundred already, divided into companies of a hundred each—with their own officers."
"And are you an officer, dad?" asked Robert.
"Yes," Benito smiled. "But my company is one man short. We've only ninety-nine."
"How's that?" Robert's tone was puzzled.
Windham rose. "I'm saving it," he answered, "for a wounded hero, who, I rather hope, will volunteer."
"FATHER!" cried the young man rapturously.
* * * * *
At the Mount Zion Hospital Po Lun fought with death on Tuesday. The bullet was removed; but though this brought relief, there came an aftermath of fever and destroying weakness. Alice and her son were at his bedside, but Po Lun did not recognize them.
Mrs. Windham turned a tear-stained face to the physician. "Can nothing be done?" she pleaded. "He saved my boy.... Oh, doctor! You won't let him die."
The young physician's sympathy showed plainly in his eyes. "I've done everything," he said. "He's sinking. If I knew a way to rouse him there might be a chance."
As he spoke Francisco Stanley entered, viewed the silent figure on the cot and shook his head. "Poor Po Lun. At any rate he's been a hero in the papers. I've seen to that ..."
"He was delirious all morning ... stretching out his arms and calling 'Hang Far! Hang Far!' Do you know what it means?"
"I do," Alice answered; "it's the girl from whom he was separated nearly twenty years ago."
"Why—that's funny," said Francisco. "Yesterday a woman by that name was captured by the mission-workers in a raid on Chinatown. I wonder.... Could it be the same one?"
"Not likely," the physician answered. "It's a common name, I think. Still—" he looked at Po Lun.
"Run and get her," Alice urged. "It's a chance. Go quickly."
Half an hour passed; an hour, while the watchers waited at the bedside of Po Lun. Gradually his respiration waned. Several times the nurse called the physician, thinking death had come. But a spark still lingered, growing fainter with the minutes till a mist upon a mirror was the only sign that breath remained.
Suddenly there was a rush of feet, a door flung open and Francisco entered, half dragging a Chinese woman by the arm. She gazed with frantic eyes from Alice to Robert till her glance took in the figure on the bed. She stared at it curiously, incredulously. Then she gave a little cry and flung herself toward Po Lun.
What she said no one there present knew. What strange cabal she invoked is still a mystery. Be that as it may, eyes which had seemed closed forever, opened. Lips white, bloodless, breathed a scarce-heard whisper.
"Come," said Alice. "Let us leave them together."
Half an later, in an ante-room, the doctor told them: "He will live, I think. It's very like a miracle...."
* * * * *
At the foot of Brannan street lay the Pacific Mail docks, where the Chinese laborers were landed. Many thousands of them had been brought there by the steamers from Canton. They had solved vexed problems as house servants, fruit pickers, tillers of the soil; they had done the rough work in the building of many bridges, the stemming of turbulent streams, the construction of highways. And while there was work for all, they had caused little trouble.
Now half a thousand jobless workers, armed and reckless, marched toward the docks. They bore torches, which illuminated fitfully their flushed, impassioned faces. Here and there one carried a transparency described, "The Chinese Must Go."
Chief Ellis and a squad of mounted policemen watched them as they marched down Second street, shouting threats and waving their firebrands. "They're a hell-bent crew," he said to William Coleman. "Is your posse ready?"
"Yes," he answered, "they've assembled near the dock. I've twenty companies."
"Good.... You'll need 'em all."
As he spoke a tongue of flame leaped upward from the darkness. Another and another.
"They've fired the lumber yards," the chief said. "I expected that. There is fire apparatus on the spot.... It's time to move."
He spurred forward, rounding up his officers. Coleman rode silently toward the entrance of the docks. Very soon a bugle sounded. There were staccato orders; then a tramp of feet.
The Citizens' army moved in perfect unison toward the fires. Already engines were at work. One blaze was extinguished. Then came sounds of battle. Cries, shots. Coleman and his men rushed forward.
Stones and sticks flew through the air. Now and then a pistol barked. The mounted police descended with a clatter, clubbing their way into the throng. But they did not penetrate far, so dense was the pack; it hemmed them about, pulling officers from their horses. The fire engines had been stopped. One of them was pushed into the bay.
More fires leaped from incendiary torches. The rioters seemed triumphant. Then Coleman's brigade fell upon them.
Whack, whack, whack, fell the pick-handles upon the backs, shoulders, sometimes heads of rioters. It was like a systematic tattoo. Coleman's voice was heard directing, here and there, cool and dispassionate. A couple of locomotive headlights threw their glare upon the now disordered gangsters. Whack! Whack! Whack!
Suddenly the rioters, bleating, panic-stricken, fled like frightened sheep. They scattered in every direction leader*-less, completely routed. The fire engines resumed work. An ambulance came up and the work of attending the wounded began. The fight was over.
Weeks went by and brought no further outbreak. Chinatown which, for a time, was shuttered, fortified, almost deserted, once again resumed its feverish activities. In the theaters, funny men made jokes about the labor trouble. In the East strikes had abated. All seemed safe and orderly again.
But San Francisco had yet to deal with Dennis Kearney.
Dennis, born in County Cork just thirty years before, filled adventurous roles since his eleventh year, mostly on the so-called "hell-ships" which beat up and down the mains of trade. In 1868 he first set foot in San Francisco as an officer of the clipper "Shooting Star." Tiring of the sea he put his earnings in a draying enterprise. This, for half a dozen years, had prospered.
Suddenly he cast his business interests to the winds. Became a labor agitator.
Francisco Stanley, who had sought him, questing for an interview since morning, cornered him at last in Bob Woodward's What Cheer House at Sacramento and Leidesdorff streets. It was one of those odd institutions found only in this vividly bizarre metropolis of the West. For "two bits" you could get a bed and breakfast at the What Cheer House, both clean and wholesome enough for the proudest. If you had not the coin, it made little difference. One room was fitted out as a museum and contained the many curious articles which had found their way into Woodward's hands. Another room was the hotel library; the first free reading room in San Francisco.
At the What Cheer House all kinds of people gathered. Stanley, as he peeped into the library, noted a judge of the Superior Court poring over a volume of Dickens. He waved a salute to tousle-haired, eagle-beaked Sam Clemens, whose Mark Twain articles were beginning to attract attention from the Eastern publishers. Near him, quietly sedate, absorbed in Macaulay, was Bret Harte. He had been a Wells-Fargo messenger, miner, clerk and steam-boat hand, so rumor said, and now he was writing stories of the West. Stanley would have liked to stop and chat ... but Kearney must be found and interviewed before The Chronicle went to press.
Presently a loud, insistent voice attracted his attention. It was penetrating, violent, denunciatory. Francisco knew that voice. He went into an outer room where perhaps a dozen rough-clad men were gathered about a figure of medium height, compactly built, with a broad head, shifting blue eyes and a dynamic, nervous manner.
"Don't forget," he pounded fist on palm for emphasis, "on August 18 we organize the party. Johnny Day will be the prisident. We'll make thim bloody plutocrats take notice." He paused, catching sight of Stanley. Instantly his frowning face became all smiles. "Ah, here's me young friend, the reporter," he said. "Come along Misther Stanley, and I'll give yez a yarn for the paper. Lave me tell ye of the Workingmen's Trade and Labor Union."
He kept Francisco's pencil busy.
"There ain't no strings on us. We're free from all political connections. We're for oursilves. Get that."
"Our password's 'The Chinese Must Go.'"
"How do you propose to accomplish this?" asked Stanley.
"Aisy enough," returned the other with supreme confidence. "We'll have the treaty wid Chiny changed. We'll sind back all the yellow divils if they interfere wid us Americans."
Stanley could not repress a smile. Kearney himself had been naturalized only a year before.
For an hour he unfolded principles, threatened men of wealth, pounded Stanley's knee until it was sore and finally stalked off, highly pleased with himself.
"He's amusing enough," said Francisco to his father that evening. "But we mustn't underrate him as you said. The fellow has force. He knows the way to stir up human passion and he'll use his knowledge to the full. Also he knows equity and law. Some of his ideas are altruistic."
"What is he going to do to the Central Pacific nabobs if they don't discharge their Chinese laborers?" asked Adrian.
Young Stanley laughed. "He threatens to dynamite their castles on the hill."
His father did not answer immediately. "It may not be as funny as you think," he commented.
* * * * *
With the weeks Po Lun mended rapidly. Hang Far was at his bedside many hours each day. Alice often found them chatting animatedly.
"When I get plenty well, we mally," Po informed her. "Maybeso go back to China. What you say, Missee Alice?"
"I think you'd better stay with me," she countered. "As for Hang Far, we'll find room for her." She smiled dolefully. "I'm getting to be an old lady, Po Lun ... I need more help in the house."
"You nebbeh get old, Missee Alice," said the sick man. "Twenty yea' I know you—always like li'l gi'l."
"Nonsense, Po!" cried Alice. Nevertheless she was pleased. "Will you and Hang Far stay with me?"
"I t'ink so, Missee," Po replied. "By 'n' by we take one li'l tlip fo' honeymoon. But plitty soon come back."
* * * * *
The labor movement grew and Dennis with it—both in self-importance and in popularity. He went about the State making speeches, threatening the "shoddy aristocrats who want an emperor and a standing army to shoot down the people."
Every Sunday he harangued a crowd of his adherents on a sand-lot near the city hall and owing to this fact his followers were dubbed "The Sand-Lot Party." One day Robert, after hearing them discourse, returned home shaken and angry.
"The man's a maniac," he told his father; "he talked of nothing but lynching railroad magnates and destroying their property. He wants to blow up the Pacific Mail docks and burn the steamers ... to drop dynamite from balloons on Chinatown."
Young Stanley joined them, smiling, and dropped into a chair. "Whew!" he exclaimed, "it's been a busy day down at the office. Have you heard that Dennis Kearney's been arrested?"
THE WOMAN REPORTER
Francisco stayed for tea and chatted of events. Yes, Dennis Kearney was in jail and making a great hullabaloo about it. He and five of his lieutenants had been arrested after an enthusiastic meeting on the Barbary Coast.
"And what's the Workingmen's Trade and Labor Union doing?" Robert asked.
"Oh, muttering and threatening as usual," Francisco laughed. "They'll not do anything—with the memory of Coleman's 1500 pick-handles fresh in their minds...."
"Well, I'm glad those murderous ruffians are behind the bars," said Alice. But Francisco took her up. "That's rather hard on them, Aunt Alice," he retorted. "They're only a social reaction of the times ... when railroad millionaires have our Legislature by the throat and land barons refuse to divide their great holdings and give the small farmer a chance.... Kearney, aside from his rant of violence, which he doesn't mean, is advocating much-needed reforms.... I was talking with Henry George today...."
"He's the new city gas and water inspector, isn't he?" asked Benito. "They tell me he's writing a book."
"Yes, 'Progress and Poverty.' George believes the single tax will cure all social wrongs. But Jean...." He hesitated, flushing.
"Jean?" His aunt was quick to sense a mystery. "Who is Jean?"
"Oh, she's the new woman reporter," said Francisco hastily. He rose, "Well, I'll be going now."
His aunt looked after him in silent speculation. "So!" she spoke half to herself. "Jean's the woman reporter." And for some occult reason she smiled.
* * * * *
Robert saw them together some days later, talking very earnestly as they walked through "Pauper Alley." Such was the title bestowed upon Leidesdorff street between California and Pine streets, where the "mudhens"—those bedraggled, wretched women speculators who still waited hungrily for scanty crumbs from Fortune's table—chatted with broken-down and shabby men in endless reminiscent gabble of great fortunes they had "almost won."
"Miss Norwall's going to do some 'human interest sketches,' as they call 'em," Francisco explained as he introduced his cousin. "Our editor believes in a 'literary touch' for the paper. Something rather new."
Jean Norwall held out her hand. She was an attractive, bright-eyed girl in her early twenties, with a searching, friendly look, as though life were full of surprises which she was eager to probe. "So you are Robert," she remarked. "Francisco's talked a lot about you."
"That was good of him," the young man answered. "He's talked a deal of you as well, Miss Norwall."
"Oh, indeed!"' She reddened slightly. "Well, we must be getting on."
Robert raised his hat and watched them disappear around the corner. There was a vaguely lonesome feeling somewhere in the region of his heart. He went on past the entrance of the San Francisco Stock Exchange and almost collided with a bent-over, shrewd-faced man, whose eagle-beak and penetrating eyes were a familiar sight along California street.
He was E.J. (better known as "Lucky") Baldwin, who had started the Pacific Stock Exchange.
Baldwin had a great ranch in the South, where he bred blooded horses. He owned the Baldwin theater and the Baldwin Hotel, which rivaled the Palace. Women, racing and stocks were his hobbies. Benito had done some legal work for Baldwin and Robert knew him casually. Rather to his surprise Baldwin stopped, laid a hand on the young man's shoulder.
"Hello, lad," he greeted; "want a tip on the stock market?"
Tips from "Lucky" were worth their weight in gold. Robert was astonished. "Why—yes, thank you, sir," he stammered.
"Well, don't play it ... that's the best tip in the world." The operator walked off chuckling.
* * * * *
Robert continued his walk along Montgomery street to Market, where he turned westward. It was Saturday and his father's office, where he was now studying law, had been closed since noon. It had become a custom—almost an unwritten law—to promenade San Francisco's lordly thoroughfare on the last afternoon of the week, especially the northern side. For Market street was now a social barrier. South of it were smaller, meaner shops, saloons, beer-swilling "cafe chantants," workmen's eating houses and the like, with, of course, the notable exceptions of the Grand and Palace Hotels.
On the northern side were the gay haberdasheries, millinery stores, cafes and various business marts, where fashionable San Francisco shopped. Where men with top hats, walking sticks and lavender silk waistcoats ogled the feminine fashion parade.
As he passed the Baldwin Hotel with its broadside of bow-windows, Robert became aware of some disturbance. A large dray drawn by four horses, plumed and flower garlanded, was wending a triumphal course up Market street. A man stood in the center of it waving his hat—a stocky fellow in soiled trousers and an old gray sweater. Shouts of welcome hailed him as the dray rolled on; most of them came from the opposite or southern side.
"It's Dennis Kearney," said a man near Robert. "He and his gang were released from custody today.... Now we'll have more trouble."
Robert followed the dray expectantly. But Kearney made no overt demonstration. He seemed much subdued by his fortnight in jail.
The swift California dusk was falling. The afternoon was gone. And Robert, realizing that it was past the dinner hour at his home, decided to find his evening meal at a restaurant. One of these, with a display of shell-fish grouped about a miniature fountain in its window, confronted him ere long and he entered a rococo interior of mirrored walls. What caught his fancy more than the ornate furnishings, however, was a very pretty girl sitting within a cashier's cage of iron grill-work.
It happened that she was smiling as he glanced her way. She had golden hair with a hint of red in it, a dainty oval face, like his mother's; eyes that were friendly and eager with youth. Robert smiled back at her involuntarily.
The smile still lingered as a man came forward to adjust his score. A keen, dynamic-looking man of middle years and an imposing presence. Robert watched him just a little envious of his assured manner as he threw down a gold-piece. While the fair cashier was making change he grinned at her. "How's my little girl tonight?" Reaching through the aperture, he chucked her suddenly beneath the chin. Tears of mortification sprang into her eyes. Impulsively Robert stepped forward, crowding the other aside none too gently.
"I beg your pardon," he was breathless, half astounded by his own temerity. "But—can I be of any—ah—service?"
"Puppy!" stormed the elder man and stalked out haughtily. The girl's eyes encountered Robert's, shining, grateful for an instant. Then they fell. Her face grew grave. "You shouldn't have ... really.... That was Isaac J. Kalloch."
"Oh, the preacher that's running for Mayor," Robert's tone was abashed. "But I don't care," he added, "I'm glad I did."
Once again the girl's eyes met his, shyly. "So am I," she whispered.
A NEW GENERATION
Isaac S. Kalloch was the labor candidate for mayor. People said he was the greatest pulpit orator in San Francisco since Starr King. His Sunday sermons at the Metropolitan Temple were crowded; as a campaign orator he drew great throngs.
Robert's dislike for the man was mitigated by a queer involuntary gratitude. Without that bit of paternal familiarity, which had goaded the young lawyer to impulsive protective championship, he and Maizie Carter, the little golden-haired cashier, might have found the road to comradeship much longer.
For comrades they had become almost at once. At least so they fondly fancied. Robert's mother wondered why he missed so many meals from home. The rococo restaurant gained a steady customer. And the host of cavaliers who lingered in the hope of seeing Maizie home each evening diminished to one. He was often invited into the vine-clad cottage at the top of Powell street hill. Sometimes he sat with Maizie on a haircloth sofa and looked at Mrs. Carter's autograph album. It contained some great names that were now no longer written. James Lick, David Broderick, Colonel E.D. Baker and the still lamented Ralston, of whom Maizie's mother never tired of talking. He, it seems, was wont to give her tips on mining stocks. Acting on them, she had once amassed $10,000.
"But I lost it all after the poor, dear man passed away," she would say, with a tear in her eye. "Once that fellow Mills—I hate his fishy eyes!—looked straight at me and said, 'See the poor old mud-hen'!"
She began to weep softly. Maizie sprang to comfort her, stroking the stringy gray hair with tender, youthful fingers. "Mother quit the market after that. She hasn't been near Pauper Alley for a year ... not since I've been working at the Mineral Cafe. And we've three hundred dollars in the bank."
"Ah, yes," said the mother, fondly. "Maizie's a brave girl and a thrifty one. We're comfortable—and independent, even though the rich grind down the poor." Her eyes lighted. "Wait till Kalloch is elected ... then we'll see better times, I'll warrant."
Robert was too courteous to express his doubts.
Later he discussed the situation with Francisco. His paper had printed an "expose" of Kalloch, who struck back with bitter personal denunciation of his editorial foes. "It's a nasty mess," Francisco said disgustedly.
"Broderick used to tell my father that politics had always been a rascal's paradise because decent men wouldn't run for office—nor vote half of the time.... I'm going to write an article about it for The Overland. And Pixley of the Argonaut has given me a chance to do some stories. I shall be an author pretty soon—like Harte and Clemens."
"Or a poet like this Cincinnatus Heinie Miller, whom one hears about. Fancy such a name. I should think he'd change it."
"He has already," laughed Francisco. "Calls himself Joaquin—after Marietta, the bandit. Joaquin Miller—rather catchy, isn't it? And he's written some really fine lines. Showed me one the other day that's called 'Columbus.' It's majestic. I tell you that fellow will be famous one day."
"Pooh!" scoffed Robert; "he's a poseur—ought to be an actor, with his long hair and boots and sash.... How is the fair Jeanne?"
Francisco's face clouded. "I want her to leave newspaper work and try literature," he said, "but Jeanne's afraid to cut loose. She's earning her living ... and she's alone in the world. No one to fall back on, you know."
"But she'd make more money at real writing, wouldn't she?" asked Robert. "Ever since Harte wrote that thing about 'The Luck of Roaring Camp,' which the lady proofreader said was indecent, he's had offers from the Eastern magazines. John Carmony's paying him $5,000 a year to edit the Overland and $100 for each poem or story he writes."
"Ah, yes, but Bret Harte is a genius."
"Maybe Jeanne's another," Robert ventured.
Francisco laughed ruefully. "I've told her that ... but she says no.... 'I'm just a woman,' she insists, 'and not a very bright one at that.' She has all kinds of faith in me, but little in herself." He made an impatient gesture. "What can a fellow do?"
Robert looked at him a moment thoughtfully. "Why not—marry Jeanne?"
Dull red crept into Francisco's cheeks. Then he laughed. "Well—er—probably she wouldn't have me."
"There's only one way to find out," his cousin persisted. "She's alone ... and you're soon going to be. When do your folks start on their 'second honeymoon,' as they call it?"
"Oh, that trip around the world—why, in a month or two. As soon as father closes out his business."
"You could have the house then—you and Jeanne."
"Say!" exclaimed Francisco suddenly, "you're such a Jim Dandy to manage love affairs! Why don't you get married yourself?"
It was Robert's turn to flush. "I'm quite willing," he said shortly.
"Won't she have you?" asked his cousin sympathetically.
"'Tisn't that ... it's her mother. Maizie won't leave her ... and she won't bring her into our home. Mrs. Carter's peculiar ... and Maizie says we're young. Young enough to be unselfish."
"She's a fine girl," returned Francisco. "Well, good bye." He held out a cordial hand.
"I—I'll think over what you said."
"Good luck, then," Robert answered as they gripped.
* * * * *
Adrian Stanley was closing up his affairs. As a contractor he had prospered; his reclaimed city lots had realized their purchase price a hundred fold and his judiciously conservative investments yielded golden fruit. Adrian was not a plunger. But in thirty years he had accumulated something of a fortune.... And now they were to travel, he and Inez, for a year or so.
He had provided, too, for Francisco. The latter, though he did not know it, would have $20,000 to his credit in the Bank of California. Adrian planned to hand his son the bank deposit book across the gang plank as the ship cast off. They were going first to the Sandwich Islands. Then on to China, India, the South Seas. Each evening, sometimes until midnight, they perused the illustrated travel-folders, describing routes, hotels, trains, steamships.
"You're like a couple of children," smiled Francisco on the evening before their departure. He was writing a novel, in addition to the other work for Carmony and Pixley. Sometimes it was hard work amid this unusual prattle by his usually sedate and silent parents. He tried to imagine the house without them; his life, without their familiar and cherished companionship.... It would be lonely. Probably he would rent the place, when his novel was finished ... take lodgings down town.
ROBERT AND MAIZIE
Francisco saw his parents to the steamer in a carriage packed with luggage—shiny new bags and grips which, he reflected, would one day return much buffeted and covered with foreign labels. He had seen such bags in local households. The owners were very proud of them. Shakenly he patted his mother's arm and told her how young she was looking, whereat, for some reason, she cried. Adrian coughed and turned to look out of the window. None of the trio spoke till they reached the dock.
There Mrs. Stanley gave him many directions looking to his health and safety. And his father puffed ferociously at a cigar. They had expected Jeanne to bid them good-bye, but she no doubt was delayed, as one so often was in newspaper work.
At last it was over. Francisco stood with the bank book in his hand, a lump in his throat, waving a handkerchief. The ship was departing rapidly. He could no longer distinguish his parents among the black specks at the stern of the vessel. Finally he turned, swallowing hard and put the bank book in his pocket. What a thoughtful chap his father was! How generous! And how almost girlish his mother had looked in her new, smart travel suit! Well, they would enjoy themselves for a year or two. Some day he would travel, too, and see the world. But first there was work to do. Work was good. And Life was filled with Opportunity. He thought of Jeanne.
Suddenly he determined to test Robert's advice. Now, if ever, was the time to challenge Providence. He had in his pocket Adrian's check for $20,000. The Stanley home was vacant. But more than all else, Jeanne was being courted by a new reporter on the Chronicle—a sort of poet with the dashing ways that women liked. He had taken Jeanne to dinner several times of late.
With a decisive movement Francisco entered a telephone booth. Five minutes later he emerged smiling. Jeanne had broken an engagement with the poet chap to dine with him.
Later that evening he tipped an astonished French waiter with a gold-piece. He and Jeanne walked under a full moon until midnight.
* * * * *
Two months after the Stanleys' departure Francisco and Jeanne were married and took up their abode in the Stanley home. Francisco worked diligently at his novel. Now and then they had Robert and Maizie to dinner. Both Jeanne and Francisco had a warm place in their hearts for little Maizie Carter. It was perfectly plain that she loved Robert; sometimes her eyes were plainly envious when they fell on Jeanne in her gingham apron, presiding over the details of her household with, a bride's new joy in domestic tasks. But Maizie was a knowing little woman, too wise to imperil her dream of Love's completeness with a disturbing element like her mother, growing daily more helpless, querulous, dependent.
And she had a fine pride, this little working girl. From Robert she would accept no aid, despite his growing income as the junior partner in his father's law firm. Benito's health had not of recent months been robust, and Robert found upon his shoulders more and more of the business of the office, which acted as trustee for several large estates. Robert now had his private carriage, but Maizie would not permit his calling thus, in state, for her at the Mineral Cafe.
"It would not look well," she said, half whimsically, yet with a touch of gravity, "to have a famous lawyer in his splendid coach call for a poor little Cinderella of a cashier." And so Robert came afoot each night to take her home. When it was fine they walked up the steep Powell street hill, gazing back at the scintillant lights of the town or down on the moonlit bay, with its black silhouetted islands, the spars of great ships and the moving lights of tugboats or ferries.
If it were wet they rode up on the funny little cable cars, finding a place, whenever possible, on the forward end, which Maizie called the "observation platform." As they passed the Nob Hill mansions of Hopkins, Stanford and Crocker, and the more modest adobe of the Fairs, Maizie sometimes fancied herself the chatelaine of such a castle, giving an almost imperceptible sigh as the car dipped over the crest of Powell street toward the meaner levels just below where she and her mother lived. Their little yard was always bright with flowers, and from the rear window one had a marvelous view of the water. She seldom failed to walk into the back room and feast her eyes on that marine panorama before she returned to listen to her mother's fretful maunderings over vanished fortunes.
Tonight as they sat with Jeanne and Francisco in front of the crackling fire, Maizie's hunger for a home of her own and the man she loved was so plain that Jeanne arose impulsively and put an arm about her guest. She said nothing, but Maizie understood. There was a lump in her throat. "I should not think such things," she told herself. "I am selfish ... unfilial."
Robert was talking. She smiled at him bravely and listened. "Mother's planning to go East," she heard him say. "She's always wanted to, and as she grows older it's almost an obsession. So father's finally decided to go, too, and let me run the business ... I'll be an orphan soon, like you, Francisco."
"Oh," said Maizie. "Do you mean that you'll be all alone?"
Robert smiled, "Quite.... Po Lun and Hang Far plan a trip to China ... want to see their parents before they die. The Chinese are great for honoring their forebears.... Sometimes I think," he added, whimsically, "that Maizie is partly Chinese."
The girl flushed. Jeanne made haste to change the subject. "How is your friend, Dennis Kearney?" she asked Francisco.
"Oh, he's left the agitator business ... he's a grain broker now. But Dennis started something. Capital is a little more willing to listen to labor. And Chinese immigration will be restricted, perhaps stopped altogether. The Geary Exclusion Act is before Congress now, and more or less certain to pass."
"He's a strange fellow," said Jeanne, reminiscently. "I wonder if he still hates everyone who disagrees with him. Loring Pickering was one of his pet enemies."
"Oh, Dennis is forgiving, like all Irishmen," said Robert. Impulsively he laid a hand on Maizie's.
"Maizie is part Irish, too," he added, meaningly. The girl smiled at him star-eyed. For she understood.
THE BLIND BOSS
Francisco met the erstwhile agitator on the street one day. He had made his peace with many former foes, including Pickering."
"Politics is a rotten game, me b'y," he said, by way of explanation. "And I've a family, two little girruls at home. I want thim to remimber their father as something besides a blatherskite phin they grow up. So I'm in a rispictible business again.... There's a new boss now, bad cess to him! Chris Buckley.
"Him your Chinese friends call 'The Blind White Devil?' Yes, I've heard of Chris."
"He keeps a saloon wid a gossoon name o' Fallon, on Bush street.... Go up and see him, Misther Stanley.... He's a fair-speakin' felly I'm told.... Ask him," Dennis whispered, nudging the writer's ribs with his elbow, "ask him how his gambling place in Platt's Hall is coming on?"
* * * * *
Several days later Francisco entered the unpretentious establishment of Christopher Buckley. He found it more like an office than a drinking place; people sat about, apparently waiting their turn for an interview with Buckley.
A small man, soft of tread and with a searching glance, asked Stanley's business and, learning that the young man was a writer for the press, blinked rapidly a few times; then he scuttled off, returning ere long with the information that Buckley would "see Mr. Stanley." Soon he found himself facing a pleasant-looking man of medium height, a moustache, wiry hair tinged with gray, a vailed expression of the eyes, which indicated some abnormality of vision, but did not reveal the almost total blindness with which early excesses had afflicted Christopher Buckley.
"Sit down, my friend," spoke the boss. His tone held a crisp cordiality, searching and professionally genial. "What d'ye want ... a story?"
"Yes," said Stanley.
"About the election?"
Stanley hesitated. "Tell me about the gambling concession at Platt's Hall," he said suddenly.
Buckley's manner changed. It became, if anything, more cordial.
"My boy," his tone was low, "you're wasting time as a reporter. Listen," he laid a hand upon Francisco's knee. "I've got a job for you.... The new Mayor will need a secretary ... three hundred a month. And extras!"
"What are they?" asked Francisco curiously.
"Lord! I don't have to explain that to a bright young man like you.... People coming to the Mayor for favors. They're appreciative ... understand?"
"Well," Francisco seemed to hesitate, "let me think it over.... Can I let you know," he smiled, "tomorrow?"
Buckley nodded as Francisco rose. As soon as the latter's back was turned the little sharp-eyed man came trotting to his master's call. "Follow him. Find out what's his game," he snapped. The little man sped swiftly after. Buckley made another signal. The top-hatted representative of railway interests approached.
* * * * *
Francisco stopped at Robert's office on his way home. Windham had moved into one of the new buildings, with an elevator, on Kearney street. In his private office was a telephone, one of those new instruments for talking over a wire which still excited curiosity, though they were being rapidly installed by the Pacific Bell Company. Hotels, newspapers, the police and fire departments were equipped with them, but private subscribers were few, Francisco had noticed one of the instruments in Buckley's saloon.
Robert had not returned from court, but was momentarily expected. His amanuensis ushered Francisco into the private office. He sat down and picked up a newspaper, glancing idly over the news.
A bell tinkled somewhere close at hand. It must be the telephone. Rather gingerly, for he had never handled one before, Francisco picked up the receiver, put it to his ear. It was a man's voice insisting that a probate case be settled. Francisco tried to make him understand that Robert was out. But the voice went on. Apparently the transmitting apparatus was defective. Francisco could not interrupt the flow of words.
"See Buckley.... He has all the judges under his thumb. Pay him what he asks. We must have a settlement at once."
Francisco put back the receiver. So Buckley controlled the courts as well. He would be difficult to expose. The little plan for getting evidence with Robert's aid did not appear so simple now.
Francisco waited half an hour longer, fidgeting about the office. Then he decided that Robert had gone for the day and went out. At the corner of Powell street he bumped rather unceremoniously into a tall figure, top-hatted, long-coated, carrying a stick.
"I beg your pardon," he apologized. "Oh—why it's Mr. Pickering."
"Where are you bound so—impetuously?"
"Home," smiled Stanley. "Jeanne and I are going to the show tonight." He was about to pass on when a thought struck him. "Got a minute to spare, Mr. Pickering?"
"Always to you, my boy," returned the editor of the Bulletin, with his old-fashioned courtesy.
"Then, come into the Baldwin Cafe.... I want to tell you something."
In an unoccupied corner, over a couple of glasses, Francisco unfolded his plan. He was somewhat abashed by Pickering's expression. "Very clever, Stanley ... but quite useless. It's been tried before. You'd better have taken the job, accumulated evidence; then turned it over to us. That would be the way to trap him ... but it's probably too late. Ten to one his sleuth has seen us together. Buckley's very—bright, you know."
He put a hand kindly on the crestfallen young man's shoulder.... "Go back tomorrow and see if he'll make you secretary to the Mayor. Then get all the 'extras' you can. Label each and bring it to me. I'll see that you're not misunderstood." He rose. "But I fear Buckley will withdraw his offer ... if so, we'll print the story of his Platt's Hall gambling house."
FATE TAKES A HAND
Francisco found that Pickering's prophecy had been a true one. On a subsequent visit to the Bush street saloon he found the Blind Boss unapproachable. After waiting almost an hour and seeing several men who had come after him, led to the rear room for a conference, word was brought him by the little, keen-eyed man that the position of Mayor's secretary was already filled. He was exceedingly polite, expressing "Mr. Buckley's deep regret," about the matter. But there was in his eye a furtive mockery, in his tight-lipped mouth a covert sneer.
Francisco went directly to the office of The Bulletin, relating his experience to the veteran editor. "I supposed as much," said Pickering. He tapped speculatively on the desk with his pencil. "What's more, I think there's little to be done at present. Printing the story of Platt's Hall will only be construed as a bit of political recrimination. San Francisco rather fancies gambling palaces."
"Jack!" he called to a reporter. "See if you can locate Jerry Lynch." He turned to Stanley. "There's the fellow for you: Senator Jeremiah Lynch. Know him? Good. You get evidence on Buckley. Consult with Lynch concerning politics. He'll tell you ways to checkmate Chris you wouldn't dream of...."
Pickering smiled and picked up a sheet of manuscript. Francisco took the hint. From that day he camped on Buckley's trail. Bit by bit he gathered proofs, some documentary, some testimonial. No single item was of great importance. But, as a whole, Robert had assured him, it was weaving a net in which the blind boss might one day find himself entrapped. Perhaps he felt its meshes now and then. For overtures were made to Stanley. He was offered the position of secretary to Mayor Pond, but he declined it. Word reached him of other opportunities; tips on the stock market, the races; he ignored them and went on.
* * * * *
One night his house was broken into and his desk ransacked most thoroughly. Twice he was set upon at night, his pockets rifled. Threats came to him of personal violence. Finally the blind boss sent for him.
"Is there anything you want—that I can give you?" Buckley minced no words.
Stanley shook his head. Then, remembering Buckley's blindness, he said "No."
Buckley took a few short paces up and down the room, then added: "I'll talk plain to you, my friend—because you're smart; too smart to be a catspaw for an editor and a politician who hate me. Let me tell you this, you'll do no good by keeping on." He spun about suddenly, threateningly, "You've a wife, haven't you?"
"We'll not discuss that, Mr. Buckley," said Francisco stiffly.
"Nevertheless it's true ... and children?"
"N-not yet," said Francisco in spite of himself.
"Oh, I see. Well, that's to be considered.... It's not what you'd call a time for taking chances, brother."
"What d'ye mean?" Francisco was a trifle startled.
"Nothing; nothing!" said the blind boss unctuously. "Think it over.... And remember, I'm your friend. If there's anything you wish, come to me for it. Otherwise—"
Stanley looked at him inquiringly, but did not speak. Nor did Buckley close his sentence. It was left suspended like the Damoclesian blade. Francisco went straight home and found Jeanne busied with her needle and some tiny garments, which of late had occupied her days. He was rather silent while they dined, a bit uneasy.
* * * * *
Francisco usually went down town for lunch. There was a smart club called the Bohemian, where one met artists, actors, writers. Among them were young Keith, the landscape painter, who gave promise of a vogue; Charley Stoddard, big and bearded; they called him an etcher with words; and there were Prentice Mulford, the mystic; David Belasco of the Columbia Theater. Francisco got into his street clothes, kissed Jeanne and went out. It was a bright, scintillant day. He strode along whistling.
At the club he greeted gaily those who sat about the room. Instead of answering, they ceased their talk and stared at him. Presently Stoddard advanced, looking very uncomfortable.
"Let's go over there and have a drink," he indicated a secluded corner. "I want a chat with you."
"Oh, all right," said Francisco. He followed Stoddard, still softly whistling the tune which had, somehow, caught his fancy. They sat down, Charley Stoddard looking preternaturally grave.
"Well, my boy," Francisco spoke, "what's troubling you?"
"Oh—ah—" said the other, "heard from your folks lately, Francisco?"
"Yes, they're homeward bound. Ought to be off Newfoundland by now."
The drinks came. Stanley raised his glass, drank, smiling. Stoddard followed, but he did not smile. "Can you bear a shock, old chap?" He blurted. "I—they—dammit man—the ship's been wrecked."
Francisco set his glass down quickly. He was white. "The—The Raratonga?"
Stoddard nodded. There was silence. Then, "Was any-body—drowned?"
Stanley did not need an answer. It was written large in Stoddard's grief-wrung face. He got up, made his way unsteadily to the door. A page came running after with his hat and stick and he took them absently. Nearby was a newspaper office, crowds about it, bulletins announcing the Raratonga's total destruction with all on board.
Francisco began to walk rapidly, without a definite sense of direction. He found relief in that. The trade-wind was sharp in his face and he pulled his soft hat down over his eyes. Presently he found himself in an unfamiliar locality—the water-front—amid a bustling rough-spoken current of humanity that eddied forward and back. There were many sailors. From the doors of innumerable saloons came the blare of orchestrions; now and then a drunken song.
Entering one of the swinging doors, Francisco called for whisky. He felt suddenly a need for stimulant. The men at the long counter looked at him curiously. He was not of their kind. A little sharp-eyed man who was playing solitaire at a table farther back, looked up interested. He pulled excitedly at his chin, rose and signed to a white-coated servitor. They had their heads together.
It was almost noon the following day when Chief Mate Chatters of the whaleship Greenland, en route for Behring Sea, went into the forecastle to appraise some members of a crew hastily and informally shipped. "Shanghaiing," it was called. But one had to have men. One paid the waterfront "crimps" a certain sum and asked no questions.
"Who the devil's this?" He indicated a man sprawled in one of the bunks, who, despite a stubble of beard and ill-fitting sea clothes, was unmistakably a gentleman.
"Don't know—rum sort for a sailor. Got knocked on the head in a scrimmage. Cawnt remember nothing but his name, Francisco."
In the fall of 1898 a man of middle years walked slowly down the stairs which plunged a traveler from the new Ferry building's upper floor into the maelstrom of Market street's beginning. Cable cars were whirling on turn-tables, newsboys shouted afternoon editions; hack drivers, flower vendors, train announcers added their babel of strident-toned outcries to the clanging of gongs, the clatter of wheels and hoofs upon cobblestone streets. Ferry sirens screamed; an engine of the Belt Line Railroad chugged fiercely as it pulled a train of freight cars toward the southern docks.
The stranger paused, apparently bewildered by this turmoil.
He was a stalwart, rather handsome man, bearded and bronzed as if through long exposure. And in his walk there was a suggestion of that rolling gait which smacks of maritime pursuits. He proceeded aimlessly up Market street, gazing round him, still with that odd, half-doubting and half-troubled manner. In front of the Palace Hotel he paused, seemed about to enter, but went on. He halted once again at Third street, surveying a tall brick building with a clock tower.
"What place is that?" he queried of a bystander.
"That? Why, the Chronicle building."
The stranger was silent for a moment. Then he said, in a curious, detached tone, "I thought it was at Bush and Kearney."
"Oh, not for eight years," said the other. "Did you live here, formerly?"
"I? No." He spoke evasively and hurried on. "I wonder what made me say that?" he mumbled to himself.
Down Kearney street he walked. Now and then his eyes lit as if with some half-formed memory and he made queer, futile gestures with his hands. Before a stairway leading to an upper floor, he stopped, and, with the dreamy, passive air of a somnambulist, ascended, entering through swinging doors a large, pleasant room, tapestried, ornamented with paintings and statuary. Half a dozen men lounging in large leathern chairs glanced up and away with polite unrecognition. The stranger was made aware of a boy in a much-buttoned uniform holding a silver tray.
"Who do you wish to see, sir?"
"Oh—ah—" spoke the stranger, "this is the Bohemian Club, isn't it?"
"Yes, sir. Shall I call the house manager, sir?"
At the other's nod he vanished to return with a spectacled man who looked inquiring.
"I beg your pardon—for intruding," said the bearded man slowly. "But—I couldn't help it.... I was once a member here."
"Indeed?" said the spectacled man, tentatively cordial, still inquiring. "And you're name—"
From the bearded lips there came a gutteral sound—as if speech had failed him. He gazed at the spectacled personage helplessly. "I—don't know." Sudden weakness seemed to seize him. Still with the helpless expression in his eyes, he retreated, found a chair and sank into it. He passed a hand feverishly before his eyes.
The spectacled man acted promptly.
"Garrison, you're one of the ancients round this club," he addressed a smiling, gray-haired man of plump and jovial mien. "Come and talk to the Mysterious Stranger.... Says he was a member ten or fifteen years ago.... Can't recollect who he is."
"What do you wish me to do?" asked Garrison.
"Pretend to recognize him. Talk to him about the Eighties.... Get him oriented. It's plainly a case of amnesia."
He watched Garrison approach the bearded man with outstretched hand; saw the other take it, half reluctantly. The two retired to an alcove, had a drink and soon were deep in conversation. The stranger seemed to unfold at this touch of friendliness. They heard him laugh. Another drink was ordered. After half an hour Garrison returned. He seemed excited. "Hold him there till I return," he urged. "I'm going to a newspaper office to look at some files."
Fifteen minutes later he was back. "Come," he said, "I've got a cab ... want you to meet a friend of mine." He took the still-dazed stranger's arm. They went out, entered a carriage and were driven off. As they passed the City Hall the stranger said, as though astonished. "Why—it's finished, isn't it?"
"Yes, at last," Garrison smiled. "Even Buckley couldn't hold it back forever."
"Buckley ... he's the one who promised me a job, Is Pond the Mayor now?"
"No," returned the other. "Phelan." As he spoke the carriage stopped before a rather ornate dwelling, somewhat out of place amid surrounding offices and shops. The stranger started violently as they approached it. Again the gutteral sound came from his lips.
The door opened and a woman appeared; a woman tall, sad-faced and eager-eyed. Beside her was a lad as tall as she. They stared at the bearded stranger, the boy wide-eyed and curious; the woman with a piercing, concentrated hope that fears defeat.
The man took a stumbling step forward. "Jeanne!" He halted half abashed. But the woman sobbing, ran to him and put her arms about his neck. For an instant he stood, stiffly awkward, his face very red. Then something snapped the shackles of his prisoned memory. A cry burst from him, inarticulately joyous. His arms went round her.
* * * * *
It required weeks for Stanley to recover all his memories. It was a new world; Jeanne the one connecting link between the present and that still half-shadowy past from which he had been cast by some unceremonial jest of Fate into a strange existence. From the witless, nameless unit of a whaler's crew he had at last arisen to a fresh identity. Frank Starbird, they christened him, he knew not why. And when they found that he had clerical attainments, the captain, who was really a decent fellow, had befriended him; found him a berth in a store at Sitka.... Since then he had roamed up and down the world, mostly as purser of ships, forever haunted by the memory of some previous identity he could not fathom. He had been to Russia, India, Europe's seaports, landing finally at Baltimore. Thence some mastering impulse took him Westward. And here he was again, Francisco Stanley.
It was difficult to realize that fifteen years had flown. Jeanne seemed so little older. But the tall young son was startling evidence of Time's passage. Stanley used to sit gazing at him silently during those first few days, as though trying to drink in the stupendous fact of his existence. Old friends called to hear his adventures; he was given a dinner at the club where he learned, with some surprise, that he was not unfamous as an author. Jeanne had finished his book and found a publisher. Between the advertisement of his mysterious disappearance and its real merits, the volume had a vogue.
Robert had married Maizie after her mother's death. They lived in the Windham house in Old South Park, for Benito and Alice had never returned from the East. Po Lun and Hang Far had gone to China.
Slowly life resumed its formed status for Francisco.
Francisco loved to wander round the town, explore its nooks and corners and make himself, for the time being, a part of his surroundings. A smattering of European languages aided him in this. He rubbed elbows with coatless workmen in French, Swiss, Spanish and Italian "pensions," sitting at long tables and breaking black bread into red wine. He drank black coffee and ate cloying sweetmeats in Greek or Turkish cafes; hobnobbed with Sicilian fishermen, helping them to dry their nets and sometimes accompanying them in their feluccas into rough seas beyond the Heads. Now and then he invaded Chinatown and ate in their underground restaurants, disdaining the "chop suey" and sweets invariably served to tourists for the more palatable and engaging viands he had learned to like and name in Shanghai and Canton. Fortunately, he could afford to indulge his bent, for the value of his inheritance had increased extraordinarily in the past decade. Stanley's income was more than sufficient to insure a life of leisure.
* * * * *
At Market and Fourth streets stood a large and rather nondescript gray structure built by Flood, the Comstock millionaire. It had served for varied purposes, but now it housed the Palais Royal, an immense saloon and gambling rendezvous. In the massive, barn-like room, tile-floored and picture-ornamented, were close to a hundred tables where men of all descriptions drank, played cards and talked. Farther to the rear were private compartments, from which came the incessant click of poker chips.
Francisco and Robert sometimes lunched at the Palais Royal. The former liked its color and the vital energy he always found there. Robert "sat in" now and then at poker. He had a little of his father's love for Chance, but a restraining sanity left him little the loser in the long run. Robert had three children, the eldest a girl of twelve. Petite and dainty Maizie had become a plump and bustling mother-hen.
It was in the Palais Royal that Francisco met Abraham Ruef, a dapper and engaging gentleman of excellent address, greatly interested in politics. He was a graduate of the State University, where he had specialized in political economy.
Francisco liked him, and they often sat for long discussions of the local situation after lunching at the Palais Royal. Ruef, in a small way, was a rival of Colonel Dan Burns, the Republican boss. Burns, they said, was jealous of Ruef's reform activites.
"If one could get the laboring class together," Ruef told Stanley, "one could wield a mighty power. Some day, perhaps, I shall do it. The laborer is a giant, unconscious of his strength. He submits to Capital's oppression, unwitting of his own capacity to rule. For years we've had nothing but strikes, which have only strengthened employers."
"Yes, they're always broken," said Francisco.
"The strike is futile. Organization—political unity; that's the thing."
"A labor party, eh?" Francisco spoke, a trifle dubiously.
"Yes, but not the usual kind. It must be done right." His eyes shone. "Ah, I can see it all so plainly. If I could make it clear to others—"
"Why don't you try?" asked Stanley.
But Ruef shook his head. "I lack the 'presence.' Do you know what I mean? No matter how smart I may be, they see in me only a small man. So they think I have small ideas. That is human nature. And they say, 'He's a Jew.' Which is another drawback."
He was silent a moment. "I have thought it all out.... I must borrow the 'presence.'"
"What do you mean?" Francisco was startled.
"We shall see," Ruef responded. "Perhaps I shall find me a man—big, strong, impressive—with a mind easily led.... Then I shall train him to be a leader. I shall furnish the brain."
"What a curious thought!" said Francisco. Ruef, smiling, shook his head. "It is not new at all," he said. "If you read political history you will soon discover that."
* * * * *
Francisco worked at his novel. Word came of Alice Windham's death in Massachusetts. Robert urged his father to return to San Francisco, but Benito sought forgetfulness in European travel.
Frank had finished high school; was a cub reporter on The Bulletin. Pickering was dead; his widow and her brother, R.A. Crothers, had taken over the evening paper; John D. Spreckels, sugar nabob, now controlled the Call.
Newspaper policies were somewhat uncertain in these days of economic unrest. Strike succeeded strike, and with each there came a greater show of violence. Lines were more sharply drawn. Labor and capital organized for self-protection and offense.
"I hear that Governor Gage is coming down to settle the teamsters' strike," said Francisco to his son as they lunched together one sultry October day in 1901. "I can't understand why he's delayed until now."
"Probably wanted to keep out of it as long as possible," responded Frank. "There are strong political forces on each side ... but the story goes that Colonel 'Montezuma' Burns is jealous of Ruef's overtures to workingmen. So he's ordered the Governor to make a grandstand play."
Stanley looked at his son in astonishment. He was not yet nineteen and he talked like a veteran of forty. Francisco wondered if these were his own deductions or mere parroted gossip of the office.
Later that afternoon he met Robert and told him of Frank's comment. Robert thought the situation over ere he answered.
"The employing class is fearful," he said. "They've controlled things so long they don't know what may happen if they lose the reins. It's plain that Phelan can't be re-elected. And it's true that if the labor men effect a real organization they may name the next Mayor. Rather a disturbing situation."
"Have you heard any talk about a man named Schmitz? A labor candidate?"
"Yes, I think I have. The chap's a fiddler in a theater orchestra. Big, fine looking. But I can't imagine that he has the brains to make a winning fight."
"Big! Fine looking! Hm!" repeated Stanley.
"Meaning—what?" asked Robert.
"Nothing much.... I just remembered something Ruef was telling me." He walked on thoughtfully. "Might be a story there for the boy's paper," he cogitated.
Ruef's offices were at the corner of Kearney and California streets. Thither, with some half-formed mission in his mind, Francisco took his way. A saturnine man took him up in a little box-like elevator, pointing out a door inscribed:
A. RUEF, Att'y-at-Law.
The reception-room was filled. Half a dozen men and two women sat in chairs which lined the walls. A businesslike young man inquired Francisco's errand. "You'll have to wait your turn," he said. "I can't go in there now ... he's in conference with Mr. Schmitz."
Francisco decided not to wait. After all, he had learned what he came for.
Abe Ruef had borrowed a "presence."
A NOCTURNAL ADVENTURE
Stanley was to learn much more of Eugene Schmitz. It was in fact the following day that he met Ruef and the violinist at Zinkand's. Schmitz was a man of imposing presence. He stood over six feet high; his curly coal-black hair and pointed beard, his dark, luminous eyes and a certain dash in his manner, gave him a glamor of old-world romance. In a red cap and ermine-trimmed robe, he might have been Richelieu, defying the throne. Or, otherwise clad, the Porthos of Dumas' "Three Musketeers."
Francisco could not help reflecting that Ruef had borrowed a very fine presence indeed.
Ruef asked Francisco to his table. He talked a great deal about politics. Schmitz listened open-eyed; Stanley more astutely. All at once Ruef leaned toward Francisco.
"What do you think of Mr. Schmitz—as a candidate for Mayor?" he asked.
"I think," Francisco answered meaningly, "that you have chosen well." They rose, shook hands. To Francisco's surprise Schmitz left them. "I have a matinee this afternoon," he said. Ruef walked down Market street with Stanley.
"He's leader of the Columbia orchestra.... I met him through my dealings with the Musicians' Union." Impulsively he grasped Francisco's arm. "Isn't he a wonder? I'll clean up the town with him. Watch me!"
"And, are you certain you can manage this chap?"
Ruef laughed a quiet little laugh of deep content. "Oh, Gene is absolutely plastic. Just a handsome musician. And of good, plain people. His father was a German band leader; his mother is Irish—Margaret Hogan. That will help. And he is a Native Son."
Ruef babbled on. He had a great plan for combining all political factions—an altruistic dream of economic brotherhood. Francisco listened somewhat skeptically. He was not certain of the man's sincerity, but he admired Ruef. Of his executive ability there could be no doubt.
Yet there was something vaguely wrong about the wondrous fitness of Ruef's plan. Mary Godwin Shelley's tale of "Frankenstein" came to Francisco's mind.
* * * * *
That evening Frank said to his father, with a wink at Jeanne, "Want to go slumming with me tonight, father? I'm going to do my first signed story: 'The Night-Life of This Town'."
"Do you think I ought to, Jeanne?" asked her husband whimsically. He glanced at his son. "This younger generation is a trifle—er—vehement for old fogies like me."
Jeanne came over and sat on the arm of his chair. "Nonsense," she said, "you are just as young as ever, Francisco.... Yes, go with the boy, by all means. I'll run up to Maizie's for the evening. She's making a dress for Alice's birthday party. She will be sixteen next month."
* * * * *
Francisco and his son went gaily forth to see their city after dark. Truth to tell, the father knew more of it than the lad, who acted as conductor. Francisco's wanderings in search of 'local color' had included some nocturnal quests. However, he kept this to himself and let Frank do the guiding.
They went, first, to a large circular building called the Olympia, at Eddy and Mason streets. It was the heart of what was called the Tenderloin, a gay and hectic region frequented by half-world folk, but not unknown to travelers nor to members of society, Slumming parties were both fashionable and frequent. Two girls were capering and carolling behind the footlights.
"They are Darlton and Boice," explained young Stanley. "The one with the perpetual smile is a great favorite. She's Boice. She's got a daughter old as I, they say."
They visited the Thalia, a basement "dive" of lower order, and returned to the comparative respectability of the Oberon beer hall on O'Farrell street, where a plump orchestra of German females played sprightly airs; thence back to Market street and the Midway. "Little Egypt," tiny, graceful, sensually pretty, performed a "danse du ventre," at the conclusion of a long program of crude and often ribald "turns." When "off-stage" the performers, mostly girls, drank with the audience in a tier of curtained boxes which lined the sides of the auditorium. At intervals the curtains parted for a moment and faces peered down. A drunken sailor in a forward box was tossing silver coins to a dancer.
They made their exit, Francisco frankly weary and the young reporter bored by the unrelieved crudity of it all. A smart equipage, with champing horses, stood before the entrance. They paused to glance at it.
"Looks like Harry Bear's carriage," Frank commented. "You know the young society blood who's had so many larks." He turned back. "Wait a minute, father, I'm going in. If Bear has a party upstairs in those boxes it'll make good copy."
"It'll make a scandal, you mean," returned Francisco rather crisply. "You can't print the women's names."
"Bosh!" the younger man retorted pertly. "Everyone's doing this sort of thing now. Come along, dad. See the fun." He caught his father's arm and they re-entered, taking the stairs, this time, to the boxes above. From one came a man's laughing banter. "That's he," Frank whispered, Hastily he drew his half reluctant father into a vacant box. A waiter brought them beer, collected half a dollar and inquired if they wanted "Company." Francisco shook his head.
The man in the adjoining box was drunk, the girl was frightened. Their voices filtered plainly through the thin partition. He was urging her to drink and she was protesting. Finally she screamed. Stanley and his son sprang simultaneously to the rescue. They found a young man in an evening suit trying to kiss a very pretty girl.
His ears were red where she had boxed them and as he turned a rather foolish face surprisedly toward the intruders, a scratch showed livid on one cheek. The girl's hair streamed disheveled by the struggle. She caught up, hastily, a handsome opera cloak to cover her torn corsage.
"Please," she said, "get me out of here quickly.... I'll pay you well." Then she flushed as young Stanley stiffened. "I ... I beg your pardon."
He offered her his arm and they passed from the box together. The befuddled swain, after a dazed interval, attempted to follow, but Francisco flung him back. He heard the carriage door shut with a snap, the clatter of iron-shod hoofs. Then he went out to look for Frank, but did not find him. Evidently he had gone with the lady. Francisco smiled. It was quite an adventure. Thoughtfully he gazed at the banners flung across Market street:
"VOTE FOR EUGENE SCHMITZ,
"The Workingman's Friend."
That was Abraham Ruef's adventure. He wondered how each of them would end.
POLITICS AND ROMANCE
Ruef swept the field with his handsome fiddler. All "South of Market street" rallied to his support. The old line parties brought their trusty, well-oiled election machinery into play, but it availed them little.
Robert and Francisco met one day soon after the election. "Everyone is laughing at our fiddler Mayor," said the former. "He's like a king without a court; for all the other offices were carried by Republicans and Democrats."
Francisco smoked a moment thoughtfully. "Union Labor traded minor offices for Mayoralty votes, I understand. Meanwhile Ruef is building his machine. He has convinced the labor people that he knows the game. They've given him carte blanche."
"And how does the big fellow take it?"
"I was talking with him yesterday," Francisco answered. "Schmitz is shy just yet. But feels his dignity. Oh, mightily!" He laughed. "Little Abe will have his hands full with big 'Gene, I'm thinking."
"But Ruef's not daunted by the prospect."
"Heavens, no. The man has infinite self-confidence. And it's no fatuous egotism, either. A sort of suave, unshakable trust in himself. Abe Ruef's the cleverest politician San Francisco's known in many years—perhaps since Broderick. He makes such men as Burns and Buckley look like tyros—"
Robert looked up quickly. "By the way, I've often wondered whether Buckley wasn't guilty of your disappearance. He meant you no good."
"No," Francisco answered. "I've looked into that. Chris, himself, had no connection with it. Once he threatened me ... but I've since learned what he meant.... Just a little blackmail which concerned a woman. But—" he hesitated.
Robert moved uneasily. "But—what?"
"Oh, well, it didn't work. The girl he planned to use told him the truth." Francisco, too, seemed ill at ease. "It was so long ago ... it's all forgotten."
"I trust so," said the other. Rather abruptly he rose. "Must be getting back to work."
* * * * *
Once a week Frank donned his evening clothes and was driven to a certain splendid home on Pacific Heights. Bertha Larned met him always with a smile—and a different gown. Each successive one seemed more splendid, becoming, costly. And ever the lady seemed more sweet as their intimacy grew. Once when Frank had stammered an enthusiastic appreciation of her latest gown—a wondrous thing of silk and lace that seemed to match the changing fires in her eyes—she said suddenly: "What a fright I must have looked that evening—in the Midway! And what you must have thought of me—in such a place!"
"Do you wish to know just what I thought?" Frank asked her, reddening.
"Yes." Her eyes, a little shamed, but brave, met his.
"Well," he said, "you stood there with your hair all streaming and your—and that splendid fire in your eyes. The beauty of you struck me like a whip. You seemed an angel—after all the sordid sights I'd seen. And—"
"Go on—please;" her eyes were shining.
"Then—it's sort of odd—but I wanted to fight for you!"
She came a little closer.
"Some day, perhaps," she spoke with sudden gravity, "I may ask you to do that."
"What? Fight for you?"
* * * * *
It was after the Olympia had been made over into a larger Tivoli Opera House that Frank met Aleta Boice. She was a member of the chorus. Their acquaintance blossomed from propinquity, for both had a fashion of supping on the edge of midnight at a little restaurant, better known by its sobriquet of "Dusty Doughnut," than by its real name, which long ago had been forgotten.
Frank had formed the habit of sitting at a small table somewhat isolated from the others where now and then he wrote an article or editorial. Hitherto it had unvaryingly been at his disposal, for the hour of Frank's reflection was not a busy one. Therefore he was just a mite annoyed to find his table tenanted by a woman. Perhaps his irritation was apparent; or, perchance, Aleta had a knack for reading faces, for she colored.
"I—I beg your pardon. Have I got your place?"
"N-no," protested Frank. "I sit here often ... that's no matter."
"Well," she said; "don't let me drive you off. I'll not be comfortable.... Let's share it, then," she smiled; "tonight, at least."
They did. Frank found her very like her mother—the smiling one of Darlton and Boice, Olympia entertainers of past years. One couldn't call her pretty, when her face was in repose. But that was seldom, so it didn't matter. Her smile was like a spring, a fountain of perennial good nature. And her eyes were trusting, like a child's. Frank often wondered how she had maintained that look of eager innocence amid the life she lived.
Frank learned much of her past. She could barely remember the father, who was a circus acrobat and had been killed by a fall from a trapeze. Her mother had retired from the stage; she was doing needlework for the department stores and the Woman's Exchange.
"Every morning she teaches me grammar," said Aleta. "Mother's never wanted me to talk slang like the other girls. She says if you're careless with your English you get careless of your principles. Mother's got a lot of quaint ideas like that."
Again came her rippling laugh. Frank grew to enjoy her; look forward to the nightly fifteen minutes of companionship. They never met anywhere else. But when an illness held Aleta absent for a week the Dusty Doughnut seemed a lonesome place.
Bertha twitted Frank upon his absent-mindedness one evening as he dined with her. By an effort he shook off his vagary of the other girl. He loved Bertha. But, for some unfathomed cause, she held him off. Never had she let him reach a declaration.
"We're such marvelous friends!... Can't we always be that—just that?"
* * * * *
Things drifted on. Schmitz, as a Mayor, caused but small remark. He reminded Frank of a rustic, sitting at a banquet board and watching his neighbors before daring to pick up a fork or spoon. But Ruef went on building his fences. Union Labor was now a force to deal with. And Ruef was Union Labor.
One of Robert's clients desired to open a French restaurant, with the usual hotel appurtenances. He made application in the usual manner. But the license was denied.
Robert was astonished for no reason was assigned and all requests for explanation were evaded.
A week or so later, Robert met the restaurateur. "Well, I've done it," said the latter, jovially. "Open Monday, Come around and eat with me."
"But—how did you manage it?"
"Oh, I took a tip. I made Ruef my attorney. Big retaining fee," he sighed. "But—well, it's worth the price."
By the end of Schmitz' second term the Democrats and Republicans were thoroughly alarmed. They saw a workingmen's control of city government loom large and imminent, with all its threat of overturned political tradition.
So the old line parties got together. They made it a campaign of Morality against imputed Vice. They selected as a fusion standard-bearer George S. Partridge, a young lawyer of unblemished reputation—and of untried strength.
"If Ruef succeeds a third time," Frank said to his father, "he'll control the town. He'll elect a full Board of Supervisors ... that is freely prophesied if Union Labor wins. You ought to see his list of candidates—waffle bakers, laundry wagon drivers—horny-fisted sons of toil and parasites of politics. Heaven help us if they get in power!"
"But there's always a final reckoning ... like the Vigilance Committee," said Francisco, slowly. "Somehow, I feel that there's a shakeup coming."
"A moral earthquake, eh?" laughed Jeanne. "I wouldn't want to have a real one, with all of our new skyscrapers."
* * * * *
After dinner Stanley and his son strolled downtown together. Exercise and diet had been recommended, Francisco was acquiring embonpoint. Frank was enthusiastic over the new motor carriages called automobiles.
Robert had one of them—the gasoline type—with a chauffeur, as the French called the drivers of such machines. Bertha Larned had an "electric coupe," very handsome and costly, with plate-glass windows on three sides. She drove it herself. Frank sometimes encountered it downtown, looking like a moving glass cage, with the two women in it. Mrs. Larned, the aunt, always had a slightly worried expression, and Bertha, as she steered the thing through a tangle of horse-drawn traffic, wore a singularly determined look.
There were cable cars on most of the streets; a few electric lines which ran much more swiftly. But people deemed the latter dangerous. There was much popular sentiment against electrizing Market street. The United Railways, which had succeeded the old Market Street Railway Company, was in disfavor. There were rumors of illicit bargains with the Supervisors for the granting of proposed new franchises. Young Partridge made much of this. He warned the public that it was about to be "betrayed." But his prophetic eloquence availed him little. Schmitz and all the Union Labor candidates won by a great majority.
* * * * *
Frank sought Aleta at the Dusty Doughnut some months later. He was very tired, for the past few days had brought a multitude of tasks. He had counted on Aleta's smile. It seldom failed to cheer him, to restore the normal balance of his mind. But, though she came, the smile was absent. There was a faint ghost of it now and again; a harried look about the eyes. Frank thought there was a mistiness which hinted recent tears.
He laid a hand sympathetically on hers. "What is it, little girl?"
She would not tell him. Her mother was ill. But the trouble did not lie there. Frank was sure. She had borne that burden long and uncomplainingly. Aleta had an ingenue part now at the Alcazar. Only once or twice a week did she keep the tacit tryst at the little nocturnal cafe. Frank saw her at the Techau, at Zinkand's, the St. Germain, with the kind of men that make love to actresses. She knew all about the stock market and politics, for some of Ruef's new Supervisors were among her swains. Once or twice, as the jargon of the journals has it, she had "tipped off" a story to Frank.
She said at last, "I'll tell you something ... but you mustn't print it: This new city government is running wild.... They're scheming to hold up the town. They've made a list of all the corporations—the United Railways, the telephone company.... Everyone that wants a favor of the city must pay high. The man who told me this said that his share will total $30,000. Ruef and Schmitz will probably be millionaires."
"But how's it to be done? They're being watched, you know. They've lots of enemies. Bribery would land them in the penitentiary."
The girl leaned forward. "Ah, this isn't ordinary bribery. Anyone that wants a franchise or a license hires Ruef as his attorney. They say he gets as high at $10,000 for a retaining fee ... and they expect to clean the street car company out of a quarter million."
Prank stared. "Why—in God's name!—did he tell you this?"
"He loves me." There was something like defiance in her answer. "He wants me to accompany him to Europe—when he gets the coin. He says it won't be long."
"So"—Frank was a little nonplussed—"he wants you to marry him?"
"No," the girl's face reddened. "No, I can't ... he's got a wife."
For a moment there was silence. Then. "What did you tell the—hound, Aleta?"
"He's not a hound," she said evenly. "The wife won't care. She runs with other men...." Her eyes would not meet Frank's. "I—haven't answered."
"Mother's mind is gone," Aleta answered, bitterly. "She doesn't even recognize me now.... But she's happy." Her laugh rang, mirthless.
"Aleta," he said, sternly, "do you love this man?"
"No," she said and stared at him. "I—I—"
"I love another—if you must know all about it."
"Can't you—marry him? Is he too poor?" asked Stanley.
"Poor?" Her eyes were stars; "that wouldn't matter. No, he's not my sort...."
"Does he know?"
"No," Aleta answered, hastily. "No, he doesn't ... and he never will."
* * * * *
Frank told his father something of the conversation.
"Its an open secret," said Francisco, "that Ruef and his crew are out for the coin. I'll tell you something else you mustn't print, your paper is determined to expose Ruef. The managing editor is on his way to Washington to confer with President Roosevelt.... The plan is to borrow Francis Heney and William J. Burns."
"What? The pair that has been exposing Senators and land frauds up in Oregon?"
His father nodded. "Phew!" The young man whistled. "You were right when you predicted that there was a shakeup coming."
* * * * *
Frank, expecting startling things to happen, kept his mind alert. But the months passed uneventfully. The editor returned from Washington. No sensational announcement followed the event. Later it was rumored that Burns had sent operatives to the city. They were gathering evidence, one understood, but if they did, naught seemed to come of it. Frank was vaguely disappointed. Now and then he saw Aleta, but the subject of their former talk was not resumed. Vaguely he wondered what manner of man was her beloved.