Frank resented the idea that he was above her. Aleta was good enough for any man.
Bertha was visiting her aunt's home in the East. She had been very restless and capricious just before she went. All women were thus, he supposed. But he missed her.
THE FATEFUL MORN
On the evening of April 17, 1906, Frank and Bertha, who had recently returned, attended the opera. The great Caruso, whose tenor voice had taken the East by storm, and whose salary was reputed to be fabulous, had come at last to San Francisco. Fremsted, almost equally famous, was singing with him in "Carmen" at the Grand Opera House. All the town turned out in broadcloth, diamonds, silks and decollete to hear them—a younger generation of San Franciscans assuming a bit uncomfortably that social importance which had not yet become genealogically sure of itself.
Frank and Bertha drove down in the electric brougham, for which they had with difficulty found a place along the vehicle-lined curb of Mission street. And, as they were early, they halted in the immense and handsome, though old-fashioned, foyer to observe the crowd. The air was heavy with perfume.
"Look at that haughty dame with a hundred-thousand dollar necklace," he smiled. "One would have thought her father was at least a king. Forty years ago he drove a dray.... And that one with the ermine coat and priceless tiara. Wouldn't you take her for a princess? Ah, well, more power to her! But her mother cleaned soiled linen in Washerwoman's Lagoon and her dad renovated cuspidors, swept floors in the Bella Union."
But the girl did not seem interested. "I wonder," she remarked a little later, "why it makes so very much—ah—difference ... who one's parents were?"
There was a curious, half-detached sadness in her tone. Frank wondered suddenly if he had blundered. Bertha had never mentioned her parents. He vaguely understood that they had died abroad and had foreborne to question, fearing to arouse some tragic memory.
"Of course, it really doesn't matter," he said hastily; "it's only when people put on airs that I think of such things." She took his arm with fingers that trembled slightly. "Let us go in. The overture is beginning."
During an intermission she whispered. "I wish I were like Carmen—bold enough to fight the world for lo—for what I wanted."
"Aren't you?" he turned and looked at her.
"No, sometimes I'm overwhelmed ... feel as though I can't look life in the face." He saw that her lips were trembling, that her eyes were winking back the tears.
"What is it, dear?" he questioned. But she did not answer. The curtain rose upon the final act.
Silently they moved out with a throng whose silk skirts swished and rustled. The men were restless, glad of a chance at the open and a smoke; the women gay, exalted, half intoxicated by the musical appeal to their emotions. There was an atmosphere almost of hysteria in the great swiftly emptying auditorium.
"I feel sort of—smothered," Bertha said; "suppose we walk."
"Gladly," answered Frank, "but what about the coupe?"
"There's one of these new livery stables with machine shop attached not far away. They call it a garage.... We'll leave the brougham there," she said.
* * * * *
The night was curiously still—breathless one might have called it. While the temperature was not high, there was an effect of warmth, vaguely disturbing like the presage of a storm. As they traversed a region of hotels and apartment houses, Frank and Bertha noted many open windows; men and women staring out half dreamily. They passed a livery stable, out of which there came a weird uncanny dissonance of horses neighing in their stalls.
"Tell me of your actress friend. Do you see her often?" Bertha asked.
"Not very. She's a good pal. But she's ... well, not like you."
Her eyes searched him. "Do you mean she's not as—pretty, Frank?"
"Oh, I don't know," he answered. "It's because I love you, dear. Aleta's right enough. But she's not—oh, you know—essential."
Bertha squeezed his arm. Was silent for a moment. Then, "Aleta's father was a circus rider?"
"Acrobat. Yes, he was killed when she was quite a child."
"But she remembers him; they were married, her mother" and he."
"Why, yes, I suppose so ... naturally."
There was another silence. Suddenly he turned on her, perplexed. "Bertha, what is wrong with you tonight?"
They were crossing a little park high up above the city whose lights lay, shimmering and misty, below. The stillness was obtrusive here. Not a leaf stirred. There was no one about. They might have been alone upon some tropic peak.
"I—can't tell you, Frank." Her tone of blended longing and despair caught at his heart.
Impetuously his arms went around her. "Dear," he said unsteadily. "Dear, I want you.... Oh, Bertha, I've waited so long! I don't care any more if you're rich ... I'm going to—you've got to promise...."
She tried to protest, to push him away; but Frank held her close. And, after a moment, like a tired child's, her head lay quiet on his shoulder; her arms stole round his neck; she began to weep softly.
* * * * *
The horror came at dawn.
Frank, startled from a late and restless slumber, thought that he was being shaken or attacked by some intruder. He sprang up, sleepily bewildered. The room rocked with a quick, sharp, jerking motion that was strangely terrifying. There was a dull indescribable rumbling, punctuated by a sound of falling things. A typewriter in one end of the room went over on the floor. A shaving mug danced on the shelf and fell. The windows rattled and a picture on the wall swayed drunkenly.
"Damn!" Frank rubbed his eyes. "An earthquake!"
He heard his mother's scream; his father's reassuring answer. Hurriedly he reached for his clothes. Downstairs he found his father endeavoring to calm the frightened servants, one of whom appeared to have hysterics. Presently his mother entered with the smelling salts. Soon the maid's unearthly laughter ceased.
"Anyone hurt?" Frank questioned anxiously.
"No," his father answered. "Thought the house was going over ... but there's little damage done."
Suddenly Frank thought of Bertha. He must go to her. She would be frightened.
He ran into the debris-cluttered street. Cable cars stood here and there, half twisted from the tracks, pavements were littered with bricks from fallen chimneys, bits of window glass. Men and women in various degrees of dishabille, were issuing from doorways. As he mounted higher, Frank saw smoke spirals rising from the southeastern part of town. He heard the strident clang of firegongs.
Automobiles were tearing to and fro, with a great shrieking of siren whistles.
It seemed like a nightmare through which he tore, without a sense of time or movement, arriving finally at the marble vestibule of Bertha's home. It was open and he rushed in, searching, calling. But he got no answer. Bertha, servants, aunt—all apparently had fled.
Frank never knew just why he turned toward the town from Bertha's empty dwelling. It was an involuntary reaction. The excitement of those lower levels seemed to call, and thence he sped. Several times acquaintances—newspaper men and others—accosted him. Everyone was eagerly alert, feverishly interested, as if by some great adventure. Japanese boys were sweeping up the litter in front of stores. In many places things were being put in order, as if the trouble were over. But at other points there was confusion and dread. Half-dressed men and women wandered about, questing for a cup of coffee, but there was none to be had, for the gas mains had broken.
People converged toward parks and open spaces. Union Square was crowded with a strangely varied human mass; opera singers from the St. Francis Hotel, jabbering excitedly in Italian or French, and making many gestures with their jeweled hands; Chinese and Japanese from the Oriental quarter hard by; women-of-the-town, bedraggled, sleepy-eyed and fearful; sailors, clerks, folk from apartment houses.
Near the pansy bed a woman lay. She screamed piercingly at intervals. Frank learned that she was in travail. By and by a doctor came, a nurse. They were putting up tents on the green sward. Automobiles rolled up, sounding their siren alarms. Out of them were carried bandaged men who moaned, silent forms on litters, more screaming women. They were taken to the tents. Extra police appeared to control the crowds that surged hither and thither without seeming reason, swayed by sudden curiosities and trepidation.
San Francisco was burning. The water mains were broken by the quake, Frank learned. The fire department was demoralized. Chief Sullivan was dead. A falling chimney from the California Hotel had crushed him.
There were emergency reservoirs, but no one seemed to know where. They had not been used for years.
Swiftly the fire gained. It ravaged like a fiend in the factory district south and east, toward the bay.
By noon a huge smoke curtain hid the sky; through it the sun gleamed palely like a blood-red disc. Wild rumors were in circulation. Los Angeles was wiped out. St. Louis had been destroyed. New York and Chicago were inundated by gigantic tidal waves.
Frank decided to return home and discover how his people fared. Perhaps there would be a bite for him. He found his father's house surrounded by a cordon of young soldiers—student militiamen from Berkeley, some one said. They ordered him off.
"But—" he cried. "It's my HOME. My father and mother are there."
"They were ordered out two hours since," said a youthful officer, who came up to settle the dispute. "We'll have to dynamite the place.... No water.... Desperate measures necessary...."
He stopped Frank's effort to reply with further stereotyped announcements. "Orders of the Admiral, Mayor, Chief of Police.... Sorry. Can't be helped.... Keep back, everybody. Men have orders to shoot."
He made off tempestuously busy and excited.
Frank shouted after him, "Wait, where have my parents gone? Did they leave any word?"
The young man turned, irritably. "Don't know," he answered, and resumed his vehement activities. Frank, with a strange, empty feeling, retraced his way, fought a path by means of sheer will and the virtue of his police badge across Market street, and struck out toward Lafayette Square. Scarcely realizing it, he was bound for Aleta's apartment.
A warped shaft had incapacitated the automatic elevator, so he climbed three flights of stairs and found Aleta packing.
"Frank!" she cried, and ran to him. "This is good of you." She took both of his hands and clung to them as if she were a little frightened.
"Wait," she said. "I'll bet you've had nothing to eat. I'll make you a cup of coffee and a toasted cracker on the spirit lamp."
Silently he sat on a broken chair and watched her. He was immensely grateful and—he suddenly realized—immensely weary. What a dear girl Aleta was! And he had not thought of her till all else failed him.
Soon the coffee was steaming in two little Dresden cups, one minus a handle. There was a plateful of crackers, buttered and toasted, a bit of Swiss cheese. Frank had never tasted anything so marvelous.
"Where were you going?" he asked, finally.
"To the park ... the panhandle ... everybody's going there."
"Your—mother!" A swift recollection smote him. "Where is she?"
"Mother died last week," Aleta turned away. "I'm rather thankful—now."
Silently he helped her with the packing. There were a suitcase and a satchel for the choice of her possessions. They required much picking and choosing. Many cherished articles must be abandoned.
Suddenly Aleta ran to Frank. The room was rocking. Plaster fell about them. The girl screamed. To his astonishment, Frank found his arms around her waist. He was patting her dark, rumpled hair. Her hands were on his shoulders, and her piquant, wistful face close to his own. She had sought him like a frightened child. And he, with masculine protective impulse, had responded. That was all. Or was it? They looked into each other's eyes, bewildered, shaken. All was quiet now. The temblor had passed instantly and without harm.
In the street they joined a motley aggregation moving westward in horse-driven vehicles, automobiles, invalid chairs, baby buggies and afoot. Rockers, filled with household goods, tied down and pulled by ropes, were part of the procession. Everyone carried or dragged the maximum load his or her strength allowed.
When they reached that long narrow strip of park called the Panhandle it was close to dusk. They advanced some distance ere they found a vacant space. The first two blocks were covered like a gypsy camp with wagons, trunks and spread-out salvage of a hundred hastily abandoned homes. Improvised tents had been fashioned from blankets or sheets. Before one of these a bearded man was praying lustily for salvation. A neighbor watched him, smiling, and drank deeply from a pocket flask. A stout woman haled Aleta. "You and your husband got any blankets?" she asked.
"No," the girl said, reddening. "No, we haven't ... and he's not ..."
"Well, never mind," the woman answered. "Take these two. It may come cold 'fore morning. And I've got more than I can use. We brung the wagon." She drew the girl aside and nudged her in the ribs.
"We ain't married, either—Jim 'n' me. But what's the diff?"
About daylight the next morning Frank was awakened by a soft pattering sound. He jumped to his feet. Was it raining? All about folk stirred, held forth expectant hands to feel the drops. But they were fine white flakes—ashes from the distant conflagration. Aleta still lay moveless, wrapped in her blanket some ten feet away. They had been up most of the night, watching the flames, had seen them creep across Market street, up Powell, Mason, Taylor, Jones streets to Nob Hill. Finally Frank had persuaded Aleta to seek a little rest. Despite her protest that sleep was impossible, he had rolled her in one of the borrowed blankets, wrapping himself, Indianwise, in the other. Toward morning slumber had come to them both.
Aleta, now awake, smiled at Frank and declared herself refreshed. "What had we better do next?" she questioned.
Frank pondered. "Go to the Presidio, I guess. The army's serving food out there, I hear." He returned the blankets to their owner and the two of them set forth. On Oak street, near the mouth of Golden Gate Park, a broken street main spouted geyser-like out of the asphalt. They snatched a hurried drink, laved their faces and hands and went on, passing a cracker wagon, filled with big tin containers, and surrounded by a hungry crowd. The driver was passing out crackers with both hands, casting aside the tins when they were empty.
"It's like the Millennium," Aleta remarked. "All classes of people herded together in common good will. Do you see that well-fed looking fellow carrying the ragged baby? He's a corporation lawyer. He makes $50,000 a year I'm told. And the fat woman he's helping with her numerous brood is a charwoman at the Alcazar theatre."
Frank looked and laughed. "Why—it's my Uncle Robert!" he exclaimed.
Robert Windham held out his free hand to Frank and Aleta. His family was safe, he told them. So were Francisco and Jeanne, who had joined the Windhams when the Stanley home was dynamited. They had gone to Berkeley and would stay with friends of Maizie's.
Frank wrote down the address. He decided to remain in San Francisco. There was Aleta.... And, somehow, Bertha must be located.
Everyone was bound for the Presidio.
"You may find me there later," said Windham. "I've some—er—business on this side."
* * * * *
At the great military post which slopes back on the green headlands from the Golden Gate, Frank and Aleta found a varied company. The hospitals were filled with men and women burned in the fire or hurt by falling walls. There were scores—perhaps a hundred of them. Frank, with his heart in his mouth, made a survey of the hospitals, after finding tent room for Aleta. His press badge gained admittance for him everywhere and he went through a pretence of taking notes. But he was looking for Bertha. At a large tent they were establishing an identification bureau, a rendezvous for separated families, friends or relatives. Many people crowded this with frantic inquiries.
Soup was being served at the mess kitchens. Great wagons filled with loaves of bread drove in and were apportioned. Men, women and children formed in line to get their shares.
The sky was still covered with smoke. Late comers reported that the fire had crossed Van Ness avenue. There were orders posted all about that one must not build fires indoors nor burn lights at night. Those who disobeyed would be shot. The orders were signed by Mayor Schmitz. Saloons had been closed for an indefinite period. Two men, found looting the dead, had been summarily executed by military order. Hundreds of buildings were being dynamited. The dull roar of these frequent explosions was plainly discernible at the Presidio.
* * * * *
After they had eaten Frank said good-bye to Aleta. He was going back to town. The feverish adventure of it called him. And he had learned that there were many other camps of refugees. In one of these he might find Bertha. A milk wagon, clattering over the cobblestones overtook him and, without an invitation, he climbed aboard. Frank had little sense of destination or purpose. He wanted action. The thought of Bertha tugged at him now like a pain, insistent, quenchless. He tried to stifle it by movement, by absorbing interest in the wondrous drama all about him.
Suddenly he sprang from the wagon. They had reached the park where he had learned of Bertha's love. Frank scarcely recognized the tiny pleasure ground, so covered was it with tents and bedding. It swarmed with people—a fact which Frank resented oddly. In the back of his mind was a feeling that this spot was sacred.
He made his way among the litter of fabrics and humanity. These were mostly people from the valley where a foreign section lay. Loudly and excitedly they chattered in strange tongues, waving their hands about. Children wailed. All was disorder, uncontrol.
Sickened of the place Frank turned to go, but something tugged at his coatsleeve; a haggard, elderly dishevelled man.
Frank looked at the fellow in wonder. Then he gave a cry and took the fellow by the shoulders. He had recognized, despite disguising superficialities of garb and manner, Bertha's once spick-and-span butler.
"God Almighty, Jarvis!" Frank could scarcely speak, his heart was pounding so. "Wh—where is she—Bertha?"
"Come with me, sir," said the old man sadly. He led the way past sheet-hung bushes, over crumb-and-paper sprinkled lawns to a little retreat under sheltering trees. One had to stoop to enter that arbored, leaf encircled nest through which the sun fell like a dappled pattern on the grass. Frank adjusted his eyes to the dimmer light before he took in the picture: a girl lying, very pale and still, upon a gorgeous Indian blanket. She looked at him, cried out and stretched her arms forth feebly.
"Bertha!" He knelt down beside her, pressed his lips to hers. Her arms about his neck were cold but strangely vibrant. For a moment they remained thus. Then he questioned, anxiously, "Bertha? What is wrong?"
"Everything! The world!" she whispered. "When you left me dearest, I was happy! I had never dreamed that one could be so glad! But afterward ... I didn't dare to face the morning—and the truth!" Her lips quivered. "I—I couldn't stand it, Frank," she finished weakly.
"She took morphia," said Jarvis. "When the earthquake came I couldn't wake her. I was scared. I carried her out here."
"You tried to kill yourself!" Frank's tone was shocked, condemning. "After Tuesday night?"
Her eyes craved pardon. She essayed to speak but her lips made wordless sounds. Finally she roused a little, caught his hand and held it to her breast.
"Ask your Uncle Robert, dear?" she whispered. Her eyes looked into his with longing, with renunciation. A certain peace stole into them and slowly the eyelids closed.
Frank, who had half grasped the meaning of her words, leaned forward fearfully. The hand which held his seemed colder, more listless. There was something different. Something that he could not name—that frightened him.
Suddenly he realized its meaning. The heart which had pulsed beneath his fingers was still.
Of the trip to Berkeley which followed, Frank could not afterward recall the slightest detail. Between the time when, like a madman, he had tried to rouse his sweetheart from that final lethargy which knew no waking, and the moment when he burst upon his Uncle Robert with what must have seemed an insane question, Frank lost count of time.
He was in the library of an Alameda county lawyer, host of the Stanley and the Windham families. Across the mahogany table, grasping the back of a chair for support, one hand half outstretched in a supplicating gesture, stood his Uncle Robert—pale, shaken ghost of the self-possessed man that he usually was. Between them, imminent with subtle violence, was the echo of Frank's question, hurled, like an explosive missile at the elder man:
"Why did Bertha Larned kill herself?"
After an interval of silence Windham pulled himself together; looked about him hastily ere he spoke. "Hush! Not here! Not now!" The eyes which sought Frank's were brilliant with suffering. "Is she—dead?"
The young man nodded dumbly. Something like a sob escaped the elder. He was first to speak. "Come. We must get out of here. We must have a talk." He opened the door and went out, Frank following. In the street, which sloped sharply downward from a major elevation, they could see the bay of San Francisco, the rising smoke cloud on the farther shore. They walked together upward, away from the houses, toward a grove of eucalyptus trees. Here Robert halted and sat down. He seemed utterly weary. Frank stood looking down across the valley.
"Bertha Larned was my daughter," said his uncle almost fiercely.
Frank did not turn nor start as Windham had expected. One might have thought he did not hear. At length, however, he said slowly, "I suspected that—a little. But I want to know."
"I—can't tell you more," said the other brokenly.
"Who—who was her mother, Uncle Bob?"
"If you love her, Frank, don't ask that question."
The young man snapped a dry twig from a tree and broke it with a sort of silent concentration into half a dozen bits. "Then—it's true ... the tale heard round town! That you and—"
"Yes, yes," Windham interrupted, "Frank, it's true."
"Frank! For God's sake!" Windham's fingers gripped his nephew's arm. "Don't let Maizie know. I've tried to live it down these twenty years...."
"Damn it, do you think I'd tell Aunt Maizie?"
"It's—I can't believe it yet! That you—"
"Maizie wouldn't leave her mother." With a flicker of defiance Robert answered him. "I was young, rudderless, after my people went East.... A little wild, I guess."
"So you sought consolation?"
"Call it what you like," the other answered. "Some things are too strong for men. They overwhelm one—like Fate."
Frank began pacing back and forth, his fingers opening and shutting spasmodically.
"Uncle Bob," he said at length, "... after you married, what became—"
"Her mother sent the child East—to a sister. She was well raised—educated. If she'd only stayed there, in that Massachusetts town!"
"Then—Bertha didn't know?"
"Not till she came to San Francisco, after her mother's death. She had to come to settle the estate. The mother left her everything—a string of tenements. She was rich."
"Bertha came to you, then, I suppose."
"Yes, she came to me," said Robert Windham.
Suddenly, as though the memory overwhelmed him, Windham's face sank forward in his hands.
"She was very sweet," his voice broke pitifully. "I—loved her."
* * * * *
Several days later Frank and his father paid a visit to the ruined city. One had to get passes in Oakland and wear them on one's hat. Sightseers were not admitted nor carried on ferry boats, trains.
Already Telegraph Hill was dotted with new habitations. It was rumored that Andrea Sbarbora, banker and patron of the Italian Colony, was bringing a carload of lumber from Seattle which he would sell to fire sufferers on credit and at cost. The spirit of rehabilitation was strong.
Frank was immensely cheered by it. But Francisco was overwhelmed by the desolation. "I am going South," he told his son. "I can't bear to see this. I don't even know where I am."
It was true. One felt lost in those acres of ashes and debris. Familiar places seemed beyond memorial reconstruction, so smitten was the mind by this horror of leveled buildings, gutted walls and blackened streets.
Francisco and Jeanne went to San Diego. There the former tried to refashion the work of many months—two hundred pages of a novel which the flames destroyed. Robert Windham and his family journeyed to Hawaii. Frank did not see his uncle after that talk in the Berkeley Hills.
Parks and public spaces were covered with little green cottages in orderly rows. Refugee camps one termed then and therein lived 20,000 of the city's homeless.
Street cars were running. Passengers were carried free until the first of May. Patrick Calhoun was trying to convert the cable roads into electric lines in spite of the objection of the improvement clubs. He was negotiating with the Supervisors for a blanket franchise to electrize all of his routes.
"And he'll get it, too," Aleta told Frank as they dined together. "It's arranged, I understand, for quarter of a million dollars."
Frank pondered. "What'll Langdon say to that?"
William H. Langdon was the district attorney, a former superintendent of schools, whom Ruef had put on his Union Labor ticket to give it tone. But Langdon had refused to "take program." He had even raided the "protected" gamblers, ignoring Ruef's hot insinuations of "ingratitude."
"Oh, Ruef's too smart for Langdon," said Aleta. "Every Sunday night he, Schmitz and Big Jim Gallagher hold a caucus. Gallagher is Ruef's representative on the Board. They figure out what will occur at Monday's session of the Supervisors. It's all cut and dried."
"It can't last long," Frank mused. "They're getting too much money. Those fellows who used to earn from $75 to $100 a month are spending five times that amount. Schmitz is building a palace. He rides around in his automobile with a liveried chauffeur. He's going to Europe they say."
The girl glanced up at him half furtively. "Perhaps I'll go to Europe, too."
"What?" Frank eyed her startled. "Not with—"
"Yes, my friend, the Supervisor." Her tone was defiant. "Why shouldn't I?"
"But, why not?"
He was silent. But his eyes were on her, pleadingly.
"Would you care, Frank? Would you care—at all?"
"You know I would," he spoke half angrily. The girl traced patterns with her fork upon the table cloth.
On May 21, the United Railway Company received a franchise to electrize any of its street-car routes, "where grades permitted."
At once ensued a public uproar. From the press, the pulpit and the rostrum issued fiery accusations that the city was betrayed. In the midst of it Mayor Schmitz departed for Europe.
Frank met Ruef at the Ferry, where the former had gone to see Aleta off on a road tour with her company. The little boss was twisting his moustache and muttering to himself.
"So His Honor's off on a lark," said the newsman, meaningly.
Ruef glared at him, but made no answer.
Afterward Frank heard that they had quarreled. Ruef, he learned, had charged the mayor with ingratitude; had threatened, pleaded, warned—without success.
Schmitz had gone; his was the dogged determination which easily-led men sometimes manifest at unexpected moments. One heard of him through the press dispatches, staying at the best hotels of European capitals, making speeches when he had a chance. He was like a boy on a holiday. But at home Ruef sensed the stirring of an outraged mass and trembled. He could no longer control his minions. And, worst of all, he could not manage Langdon. "Big Jim" Gallagher, now the acting mayor, was docile to a fault, however. He would have put his hand into the fire for this clever little man, whom he admired so immensely. Once they discussed the ousting of Langdon.
"It would be quite legal," Ruef contended. "The Mayor and Board have power to remove a district attorney and select his successor."
Henry Ach, advisor of the boss, looked dubious. "I'm not sure of that. Moreover, it's bad politics. It would be better seemingly to cooperate with Langdon. He has the public confidence. We've not.... Besides, whom would we put in Langdon's place?"
"Ruef," said "Big Jim," with his ready admiration. "He's the man."
"Hm!" the little boss exclaimed, reflectively. "Well we shall see."
* * * * *
Frank liked Langdon. He was rather a slow-thinking man; not so clever at expedient as Ruef. But he was grounded in the Law—and honest. Moreover, he had courage. Powerful enemies and their machinations only stirred his zest.
Single-handed Langdon might have been outwitted by the power and astuteness of his foes. But another mind, a keener one was soon to add its force to Langdon's. Francis J. Heney, special investigator of the Roosevelt government, who had unmasked and overthrown corruption in high places, was in town.
Frank knew that he had come to San Francisco for a purpose. He met this nervous, wiry, sharp-eyed man in the managing editor's office now and again. Once he had entered rather unexpectedly upon a conference of Heney, former Mayor James D. Phelan, Rudolph Spreckels, son of the sugar nabob, and William J. Burns. Frank, who guessed he was intruding, made a noiseless exit; not, however, till he heard that there would be a thorough, secret search into the trolley franchise and some other actions of the Ruef administration. Spreckels and Phelan guaranteed to raise $100,000 for this purpose. Burns and his detectives had for several months been quietly at work.
On October 24 District Attorney Langdon publicly announced the appointment of Francis J. Heney as his assistant, stating that a thorough and fearless search into the actions of the city government would ensue.
On October 25 the Supervisors met. Frank, himself, went to the council chamber to learn what was afoot. He suspected a sensation. But the Board met quietly enough at 2:30 o'clock, with Jim Gallagher in the chair. At 2:45 a special messenger called the acting Mayor to Ruef's office. Three hours later he was still absent from the angry and impatient Board.
That some desperate move was imminent Frank realized. Here was Ruef between two bodeful dates. Yesterday had come the news that Langdon had appointed Heney—the relentless enemy of boodlers—to a place of power. Tomorrow would begin the impaneling of a Grand Jury, whose avowed purpose it was to "investigate municipal graft."
"What would I do if I were Ruef?" Frank asked himself. But no answer came. He paced up and down the corridor, pondering the situation. At intervals he paused before the Supervisors' chamber. Once he found the door slightly ajar and listened shamelessly. He saw Big Jim Gallagher, red-faced, excited, apparently much flustered, reading a paper. He thought he heard Langdon's name and Heney's. There seemed to be dissension in the board. But before he learned anything definite a watchful attendant closed the portal with an angry slam. Frank resumed his pacing.
Finally he went out for a bite to eat.
Frank returned half an hour later to find the reporters' room in an uproar. Big Jim Gallagher had dismissed Langdon from office with the corroboration of the Board of Supervisors, as a provision of the city ordinance permitted him to do. Ruef had been appointed district attorney.
Langdon's forces were not disconcerted by the little boss's coup. Late that evening Frank advised his paper of a counterstroke. Heney had aroused Judge Seawell from his slumbers and obtained an order of the court enjoining Ruef from actual assumption of the title he had arrogated to himself.
Judge Graham upheld it. Langdon remained the district attorney. Though Ruef imposed every possible obstacle, the Grand Jury was impaneled, November 7, and began its work of investigation with such startling celerity that Ruef and Schmitz faced charges of extortion on five counts, a week later.
IN THE TOILS
Meanwhile Schmitz, who had but recently returned from Europe, became officially involved in the anti-Japanese agitation.
"He's summoned East to see the President," said a Burns operative to Frank one morning as they met at Temple Israel. "Lucky devil, that big fellow! Here's the town at sixes and sevens about the 'little brown brother.' Doesn't want him with its white kids in the public schools. The Mikado stirs the devil of a row with Washington about it. And Teddy sends for 'Gene. Just his luck to come back a conquering hero."
But Schmitz fared badly at the Capital, whence Roosevelt dispatched a "big stick" message to the California Legislature. At the same time George B. Keane, the Supervisors' clerk, and a State Senator as well, was working for the "Change of Venus bill," a measure which if passed, would have permitted Ruef to take his case out of the jurisdiction of Judge Dunne. But the bill was defeated. Once more Ruef's straining at the net of Justice had achieved no parting of the strands.
On March 6 Stanley greeted Mayor Schmitz as he stepped from a train at Oakland Mole. Correspondents and reporters gathered round the tall, bearded figure. Schmitz looked tired, discouraged.
Perfunctorily, uneasily, Schmitz answered the reporter's queries. He had done his level best for San Francisco. As for the charges pending against him, they would soon be disproved. No one had anything on him. All his acts were open to investigation.
"Do you know that Ruef has skipped?" Frank asked.
"Wh-a-a-t!" the Mayor set down his grip. He seemed struck all of a heap by the announcement.
"Fact!" another newsman corroborated. "Abie's jumped his bond. He's the well-known 'fugitive from justice.'"
Without a word the Mayor left them. He walked aboard the ferry boat alone. They saw him pacing back and forth across the forward deck, his long overcoat flapping in the wind, one hand holding the dark, soft hat down on his really magnificent head.
"A ship without a rudder," said Frank. The others nodded.
* * * * *
Over the municipal administration was the shadow of Ruef's flight. The shepherd had deserted his flock. And the wolves of the law were howling.
Frank was grateful to the Powers for this rushing pageant of political events. It gave him little chance to grieve. Now and then the tragedy of Bertha gripped him by the throat and shook him with its devastating loneliness. He found a certain solace in Aleta's company. She was always ready, glad to walk or dine with him. She knew his silences; she understood.
But there were intervals of grief beyond all palliation; days when he worked blindly through a grist of tasks that seemed unreal. And at night he sought his room, to sit in darkness, suffering dumbly through the hours. Sometimes Dawn would find him thus.
Robert Windham and his family had returned from the Hawaiian Islands. They had found a house in Berkeley; Windham opened offices on Fillmore street. Robert and his nephew visited occasionally a graveyard in the western part of town. The older man brought flowers and his tears fell frankly on a mound that was more recent than its neighbors. But Stanley did not join in these devotions.
"She is not here," he said one day. "You know that, Uncle Robert."
"She's up above," returned the other, brokenly. "My poor, wronged child!"
Frank stared at him a moment. "Do you believe in the conventional Heaven?"
"Why—er—yes," said Windham, startled. "Don't you, Frank?"
"No," said Stanley, doggedly. "Not in that ... nor in a God that lets men suffer and be tempted into wrongs they can't resist ... makes them suffer for it."
"What do you mean? Are you an atheist?" asked Windham, horrified.
"No ... but I believe that God is Good. And knows no evil. Sometimes in the night when I've sat thinking, Bertha seems to come to me; tells me things I can't quite understand. Wonderful things, Uncle Robert."
The other regarded him silently, curiously. He seemed at a loss.
"I've learned to judge men with less harshness," Frank spoke on. "Ruef and Schmitz, for instance.... Every now and then I see the Mayor pacing on the ferryboat. It's rather pathetic, Uncle Robert. Did God raise him up from obscurity just to torture him? He's had wealth and honor—adoration from the people. Now he's facing prison. And those poor devils of Supervisors; they've known luxury, power. Now they're huddled like a pack of frightened sheep; everybody thinks they're guilty. Ruef's forsaken them. Ruef, with his big dream shattered, fleeing from the law...."
He faced his uncle fiercely, questioning. "Is that God's work? And Bertha's body lying there, because of the sins of her forebears! Forgive me, Uncle Robert. I'm just thinking aloud."
Windham placed a hand upon his nephew's shoulder. "I'm afraid I can't answer you, Frank," he said slowly. "You're a young man. You'll forget. The world goes on. And our griefs do not matter. We fall and we get up again ... just as Ruef and the others will."
"Do you suppose they'll catch him—Ruef, I mean?"
"Not if the big fellows can prevent it. If he's caught there'll be the deuce to pay. Our Pillars of Finance will topple.... No, I think Ruef is safe."
"I don't quite understand," said Stanley.
"Ruef, himself, is nothing; a political boss, a solicitor of bribes. But our corporation heads. The town will shake when they're accused, perhaps indicted. I know what's been going on. We're close to scandals that'll echo round the world."
Frank looked at his uncle wonderingly. Windham was a corporation lawyer. Doubtless he knew. Silently the two men made their way out of the graveyard. Frank determined to ride down town with his uncle, and then telephone to Aleta. He hadn't seen her for a week.
As the car passed the Call building they noted a crowd at Third and Market streets, reading a bulletin. People seemed excited. Frank jumped from the moving car and elbowed his way forward. In the newspaper window was a sheet of yellow paper inscribed in large script: "BURNS ARRESTS RUEF AT THE TROCADERO ROADHOUSE."
THE NET CLOSES
Frank discussed the situation with Aleta one evening after Ruef's capture. Her friend, the Supervisor, had brought news of the alarm.
"He says no one of them will trust the other; they're afraid of Gallagher; think he'll turn State's evidence, or whatever you call it. 'Squeal,' was what he said."
"Burns and Heney must be putting on the screws," commented Frank.
"Frank," Aleta laid a hand impulsively upon his arm, "I don't suppose there's any way to save this man ... I—oh, Frank, it would be awful if he went to prison."
He stared at her. "What do you mean, Aleta?"
"I mean," she answered, "that he's done things for me ... because he loves me ... hopes to win me. He's sincere in that.... Oh, can't you see how it would hurt if—"
"If he gets caught—stealing," Frank spoke harshly. "Well, you should have thought of that before, my dear."
A touch of anger tinctured the appeal with which her eyes met his. "One doesn't always reason when the heart is sore. When one is bitter with—well—yearning."
He did not answer. He was rather startled by that look. Finally she said, more gently: "Frank, you'll help him if you can—I know." He nodded.
It was late. Aleta had to hurry to the theatre. Frank left her there and walked down Sutter street.
He turned south toward Heney's office. It was in a little house between Geary and O'Farrell, up a short flight of stairs. Above were the living quarters of Heney and his companion, half clerk, half bodyguard.
There was a light in the office, but the shades of the bay-window were tightly drawn. Frank rang the bell, which was not immediately answered. Finally the bodyguard came to the door. "Mr. Heney's very busy, very busy." He seemed tremendously excited.
"Very well," said Frank; "I'll come tomorrow."
"We'll have big news for you," the man announced. He shut the door hastily and double-locked it.
Frank decided to remain in the neighborhood. He might learn something. The morning papers had been getting the best of it recently in the way of news.
It proved a tiresome vigil. And the night was chilly. Frank began to walk briskly up and down the block. A dozen times he did this without result. Then the sudden rumble of a motor car spun him about. He saw two men hasten down the steps of Heney's office, almost leap into the car. Instantly it drove off. Frank, who followed to the corner, saw it traveling at high speed toward Fillmore street. He looked about for a motor cab in which to follow. There was none in sight. Reluctantly he turned toward home. He had been outwitted, doubtless by a watcher. But not completely. For he was morally certain that one of the men who left Heney's office was Big Jim Gallagher. That visit was significant. From his hotel Frank tried to locate the editor of his paper by telephone. He was not successful. He went to bed, disgusted, after leaving a daylight call.
It was still dark when he dressed the next morning, the previous evening's events fresh in his thought.
He had scarcely reached the street before a newsboy thrust a morning paper toward him. Frank saw that the upper half of the front page was covered with large black headlines. He snatched it, tossing the boy a "two-bit piece," and, without waiting or thinking of the change, became absorbed in the startling information it conveyed.
Sixteen out of the eighteen Supervisors had confessed to taking bribes from half a dozen corporations. Wholesale indictments would follow, it was stated, involving the heads of public service companies—men of unlimited means, national influence. Many names were more than hinted at.
Ruef, according to these confessions, had been the arch-plotter. He had received the funds that corrupted an entire city government. Gallagher had been the go-between, receiving a part of the "graft funds" to be divided among his fellow Supervisors.
Each of the crooked sixteen had been guaranteed immunity from imprisonment in consideration of their testimony.
"Well, that saves Aleta's friend, at any rate," thought Frank. He recalled his uncle's prediction that Ruef's capture would result in extraordinary revelations. But it had not been Ruef, after all, who "spilled the beans." Ruef might confess later. They would need his testimony to make the case complete.
As a matter of fact, Ruef had already begun negotiations with Langdon and Heney looking toward a confession.
* * * * *
The Grand Jury acted immediately upon the wholesale confessions of Ruef's Supervisors. They summoned before them the heads of many corporations, uncovering bribery so vast and open that they were astounded. They found that $200,000 had been paid for the trolley franchise and enormous sums for permits to raise gas rates, for telephone franchises, for prize-fight privileges and in connection with a realty transaction.
The trolley bribe funds had been carried in a shirt box to Ruef by the company's attorney. Other transactions had been more or less "covered." But all were plain enough for instant recognition. San Francisco, which had suspected Ruef and his Supervisors with the easy tolerance of a people calloused to betrayal, was aroused by the insolent audacity of these transactions. It demanded blood.
And Heney was prepared to furnish sanguine vengeance. He was after the "higher-ups," he stated. Like a passionate evangel of Mosaic law, he set out to secure it. Louis Glass, acting president of the telephone company, was indicted on a charge of felony, which made a great hallabaloo, for he was a personable man, a clubman, popular and generally esteemed.
A subtle change—the primary index of that opposition which was to develop into a stupendous force—was noted by the prosecution. Heney and Langdon had been welcomed hitherto in San Francisco's fashionable clubs. Men of wealth and standing had been wont to greet them as they lunched there, commending their course, assuring them of cooperation.
But after the telephone indictment there came a cooling of the atmosphere. Glass seemed more popular than ever. Langdon and Heney were often ignored. People failed to recognize them on the street. Even Spreckels and Phelan, despite their wealth and long established standing, suffered certain social ostracisms.
Wealthy evildoers found themselves as definitely threatened by the law as were the Supervisors. But wealth is made of sterner stuff. It did not cringe nor huddle; could not seek immunity through the confessional. Famous lawyers found themselves in high demand. From New York, where he had fought a winning fight for Harry Thaw, came Delphin Delmas. T.C. Coogan, another famous pleader, entered the lists against Heney in defense of Glass.
Meanwhile the drawing of jurors for Ruef's trial progressed, inexorably.
THE SEVEN PLAGUES
Several weeks passed. Politics were in a hectic state, and people grumbled. Frank discussed the situation with his Uncle Robert. "Why don't they oust these grafters from office?" he asked.
Windham smiled. "Because they daren't, Frank," he answered. "If the prosecution forced the Supervisors to resign, which would be easy enough, do you know what would happen?"
"Why, they'd fill their posts with better men, of course."
"Not so fast, my boy. The Mayor has the power to fill all vacancies due to resignations. Don't you see what would happen? Schmitz could select another board over whom the prosecution would hold no power. Then, if necessary, he'd resign and his new board would fill the Mayor's chair with some one whom Ruef or the Mayor could trust. Then the city government would once more be independent of the law."
"Lord! What a tangle," Frank ruminated. "How will they straighten it out?"
"Remove the Mayor—if they can convict him of felony."
"Suppose they do. What then?"
"The prosecution forces can then use their power over the boodlers—force them to appoint a Mayor who's to Langdon's liking. Afterward they'll force the Supervisors to resign and the new Mayor will put decent people in their stead."
"Justice!" apostrophized Frank, "thy name is Red Tape!"
Heney alone was to enter the lists against Delmas and Coogan in the trial of Louis Glass. The charge was bribing Supervisor Boxton to vote against the Home telephone franchise.
Frank had seen Glass at the Press Club, apparently a sound and honest citizen. A little doubt crept into Frank's mind. If men like that could stoop to the bribing of Supervisors, what was American civilization coming to?
He looked in at the Ruef trial to see if anything had happened. For the past two months there had been nothing but technical squabbles, interminable hitches and delays.
Ruef was conferring with his attorneys. All at once he stepped forward, holding a paper in his hand. Tears were streaming down his face. He began to read in sobbing, broken accents.
The crowd was so thick that Frank could not get close enough to hear Ruef's words. It seemed a confession or condonation. Scattered fragments reached Frank's ears. Then the judge's question, clearly heard, "What is your plea?"
"Guilty!" Ruef returned.
* * * * *
Ruef's confession served to widen the breach between Class and Mass. He implicated many corporation heads and social leaders in a sorry tangle of wrongdoing. Other situations added fuel to the flame of economic war. The strike of the telephone girls had popular support, a sympathy much strengthened by the charges of bribery pending against telephone officials.
Ten thousand ironworkers were on strike at a time when their service was imperative, for San Francisco was rebuilding feverishly. Capital made telling use of this to bolster its impaired position in the public mind. While "pot called kettle black," the city suffered. The visitation of some strange disease, which certain physicians hastened to classify as bubonic plague, very nearly brought the untold evils of a quarantine. A famous sanitarian from the East decided it was due to rats. He came and slew his hundred-thousands of the rodents. Meanwhile the malady had ceased. But there were other troubles.
Fire had destroyed the deeds and titles stored in the Recorder's office, as well as other records. Great confusion came with property transfer and business contracts. But, worst of all, perhaps, was the street car strike.
"It seems as though the Seven Plagues of Egypt were being repeated," remarked Frank to his uncle as they lunched together. They had come to be rather good companions, with the memory of Bertha between them. For Frank, within the past twelve months, had passed through much illuminating experience.
Robert Windham, too, was a changed man. He cared less for money. Frank knew that he had declined big fees to defend some of the "higher ups" against impending charges of the graft prosecution. Windham smiled as he answered Frank's comment about the Seven Plagues.
"We'll come out of it with flying colors, my boy. A city is a great composite heart that keeps beating, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but the healthy blood rules in the main; it conquers all passing distempers."
* * * * *
Market street was queer and unnatural without its rushing trolley cars. All sorts of horse-drawn vehicles rattled up and down, carrying passengers to and from the ferry. Many of the strikers were acting as Jehus of improvised stages. Autotrucks, too, were impressed into service. They rumbled along, criss-crossed with "circus seats," always crowded.
Frank made his way northward and east through the ruins. Here and there little shops had opened; eating houses for the army of rehabilitation. They seemed to Frank symbols of renewed life in the blackened waste, like tender, green shoots in a flame-ravaged forest. Sightseers were beginning to swarm through the burned district, seeking relics.
A large touring car honked raucously almost in Frank's ear as he was crossing Sutter street, and he sprinted out of its lordly course, turning just in time to see the occupant of the back seat, a large man, rather handsome, in a hard, iron-willed way. He sat stiffly erect, unbending and aloof, with a kind of arrogance which just escaped being splendid. This was Patrick Calhoun, president of the United Railroads, who had sworn to break the Carmen's Union. It was said that Calhoun had sworn, though less loudly, to break the graft prosecution as well.
* * * * *
On Montgomery street several financial institutions were doing business in reclaimed ruins. One of these was the California Safe Deposit and Trust Company, which had made spectacular history of late. It was said that spiritualism entered into its affairs. Frank had been working on the story, which promised a sensation.
As he neared the corner of California and Montgomery streets, where the crumbled bank walls had been transformed into a temporary habitation, he saw a crowd evidently pressing toward it. The bank doors were closed, though it was not yet three o'clock. Now and then people broke from the throng and wandered disconsolately away. One of these, a gray-haired woman, came in Frank's direction. He asked her what was wrong.
"They're busted ... and they've got me money," she wailed.
Hastily Frank verified her statement. Then he hurried to the office, found his notes and for an hour wrote steadily, absorbedly a spectacular tale of superstition, extravagance and financial chaos. As he turned in his copy the editor handed him a slip of paper on which was written: "Call Aleta Boice at once." He sought a telephone, but there was no response. He tried again, but vainly. A third attempt, however, and Aleta's voice, half frantic, answered his.
"He's killed himself," she cried. "Oh, Frank, I don't know what to do."
"He? Who?" Frank asked startled.
"Frank, you know! The man who wanted me to—"
"Do you mean the Supervisor?"
"Yes.... They say it was an accident. But I know better. He lost his money in the safe deposit failure.... Oh, Frank, please come to me, quick."
A NEW CITY GOVERNMENT
Frank found Aleta, dry-eyed, frantic, pacing up and down her little sitting room which always looked so quaintly attractive with its jumble of paintings and bric-a-brac, its distinctive furniture and draperies—all symbolic of the helter-skelter artistry which was a part of Aleta's nature. She took Frank's hand and clung to it.
"I'm so glad you've come," she whispered. "I'm so glad you've come."
It was a little time ere she could tell him of the tragedy. The man had been run over, quickly killed. Witnesses had seen him stagger, fall directly in the path of an advancing car. A doctor called it apoplexy.
"But I know better," sobbed Aleta, for the tears had come by now. "He never was sick in his life. He thought he'd lost me when the money went ... his money in the California Safe Deposit Company."
Frank took a seat beside her on the couch, whose flaming, joyous colors seemed a mockery just then. "Aleta," he said, "I wish I could help you. I wish I knew how, but I don't."
She lifted her tear-stained eyes to his with a curious bitterness. "No ... you don't. But thank you. Just your coming's helped me, Frank. I'm better. Go—and let me think things over." She tried to smile, but the tears came.
"Life's a hideous puzzle. Perhaps if I'd gone with him, all would have come right.... I'd have made him happy."
"But what about yourself?"
Again that bitter, enigmatic look came to her eyes. "I guess ... that doesn't matter, Frank."
He left her, a queer ache in his heart. Was she right about the man's committing suicide. Poor devil! He had stolen for a woman. Others had filched his plunder. Then God had taken his misguided life.
But had He? Was God a murderer? A passive conniver at theft? No, that were blasphemy! Yet, if He permitted such things—? No, that couldn't be, either. It was all an abominable enigma, as Aleta said. Unless—the thought came startlingly—it were all a dream, a nightmare. Thus Kant, the great philosopher, believed. Obsessed by the idea, he paused before a book-store. Its show window prominently displayed Francisco Stanley's latest novel.
Frank missed the mellow wisdom of his father's counsel seriously. He entered the shop, found a volume of Kant and scanned it for some moments till he read:
"This world's life is only an appearance, a sensuous image of the pure spiritual life, and the whole of Sense is only a picture swimming before our present knowing faculty like a dream and having no reality in itself."
Acting upon a strange impulse, he bought the book, marked the passage and ordered it sent to Aleta.
A week after Ruef's confession the trial of Mayor Schmitz began. It dragged through the usual delays which clever lawyers can exact by legal technicality. Judge Dunne, sitting in the auditorium of the Bush Street synagogue, between the six-tinned ceremonial candlesticks and in front of the Mosiac tablets of Hebraic law, dispensed modern justice.
Meanwhile the Committee of Seven sprang suddenly into being. A morning paper announced that Schmitz had handed the reins of the city over to a septette of prominent citizens. Governor Gillette lauded this action. But Rudolph Spreckels disowned the Committee. Langdon and Heney were suspicious of its purpose. So the Committee of Seven resigned.
At this juncture the Schmitz trial ended in conviction of the Mayor which was tantamount to his removal from office. It left a vacancy which, nominally, the Supervisors had the power to fill. But they were under Langdon's orders. Actually, therefore, the District Attorney found himself confronted by the task of naming a new mayor.
Unexpectedly the man was found in Edward Robeson Taylor, doctor of medicine and law, poet and Greek scholar. The selection was hailed with relief. Frank hastened to the Taylor home, a trim, white dwelling on California street near Webster. He found a genial, curly-haired old gentleman sitting in a room about whose walls were thousands of books. He was reading Epictetus.
Stanley found the new mayor likeable and friendly. He seemed a man of simple thought. Frank wondered how he would endure the roiling passions of this city's politics. Dr. Taylor seemed undaunted by the prospect, though.
Without delay he was elected by the Supervisors. Then began the farcical procedure of their resignations. One by one the new chief named good citizens as their successors.
But the real fight was now beginning. Halsey's testimony had not incriminated Glass beyond a peradventure. There remained a shade of doubt that he had authorized the outlay of a certain fund for the purposes of bribery. The jury disagreed. The Prosecution's first battle against the "higher-ups" had brought no victory.
Ruef was failing Heney as a witness for the people. After months of bargaining the special prosecutor withdrew his tacit offer of immunity. Heney's patience with the wily little Boss, who knew no end of legal subterfuge, was suddenly exhausted. Frank heard that Ruef was to be tried on one of the three hundred odd indictments found against him. Schmitz had been sentenced to five years in San Quentin. He had appealed.
* * * * *
Several times Frank tried to reach Aleta on the telephone. But she did not respond to calls, a fact which he attributed to disorganized service. But presently there came a letter from Camp Curry in the Yosemite Valley.
"I am here among the everlasting pines and cliffs," she wrote, "thinking it all out. I thank you for the book, which has helped me. If only we might waken from our 'dream'! But here one is nearer to God. It is very quiet and the birds sing always in the golden sunshine.
"I shall come back saner, happier, to face the world.... Perhaps I can forget myself in service, I think I shall try settlement work.
"Meanwhile I am trying not to think of what has happened ... what can never happen. I am reading and painting. Yesterday a dog came up and licked my hand. I cried a little after that, I don't know why."
In his room that evening, Frank re-read the letter. It brought a lump to his throat.
NORAH FINDS OUT
Very soon after the appointment of Mayor Taylor, the second trial of Louis Glass ended in his conviction. He was remanded to the county jail awaiting an appeal. The trial of an official of the United Railways began. Meanwhile the politicians rallied for election.
Schmitz had been elected at the end of 1905. His term, which Dr. Taylor was completing, would be terminated with the closing of the present year. And now the Graft Prosecution was to learn by public vote how many of the people stood behind it.
Union Labor, ousted and discredited by venal representatives, was not officially in favor of the Taylor-Langdon slate. P.H. McCarthy, labor leader and head of the Building Trades Council, was Labor's nominee for Mayor.
Frank met McCarthy now and then. He posed as "a plain, blunt man," but back of the forthright handgrip, the bluff directness of manner, Frank scented a massive and wily self-interest. He respected the man for his power, his crude but undeniable executive talents.
The two opponents for the Mayoralty were keenly contrasted. Taylor was quiet, suavely cultured, widely read but rather passive. Some said he lacked initiative.
Frank MacGowan was Langdon's foeman in the struggle for the district attorneyship. Little could be said for or against him. A lawyer of good reputation who had made his way upward by merit and push, he had done nothing big. He was charged with no wrong.
The "dark horse" was Daniel Ryan.
Ryan was a young Irishman, that fine type of political leader who approximates what has sometimes been called a practical idealist. He had set out to reform the Republican Party and achieved a certain measure of success, for he had beaten the Herrin or Railroad forces at the Republican Convention. Ryan was avowedly pro-prosecution. It was believed that he would deliver his party's nomination to Taylor and Langdon.
But he astonished San Francisco voters by becoming a candidate for mayor.
* * * * *
Aleta had returned from Camp Curry. There was a certain quiet in her eyes, a greater self-control, a better facing of Life's problems. They spoke of Kant and his philosophy. "The Nightmare is less turbulent," she said.
One evening at her apartment Frank met a young woman named France, a fragile, fine-haired, dreamy sort of girl, and he was not surprised to learn that she wrote poetry.
"Norah's been working as a telephone operator," explained Aleta. "She's written a story about it—the working girl's wrongs.... Oh, not the ordinary wail-and-whine," she added hastily. "It's real meat. I've read it. The Saturday Magazine's considering it."
Miss France smiled deprecatingly. "I have high hopes," she said. "I need the money."
"It will give you prestige, too," Frank told her, but she shook her head.
"Norah hasn't signed her name to it," Aleta disapproved. "Just because a friend, a well known writer in Carmel, has fixed it up for her a little."
"It doesn't seem like mine," the girl remarked. Aleta rose. "This is election night," she said; "let's go down and watch the returns."
They did this, standing on the fringe of a crowd that thronged about the newspaper offices, watching, eager, but patient, the figures which were flashed on a screen.
The crowd was less demonstrative than is usual on such occasions. A feeling of anxiety prevailed, a consciousness of vital issues endangered and put to the test. Toward midnight the crowd grew thicker. But it was more joyous now. Taylor and Langdon were leading. It became evident that they must win.
Suddenly the restless stillness of the throng was broken by spontaneous cheering. It was impressive, overwhelming, like a great burst of relieved emotion.
Norah France caught Frank's arm as the celebrants eddied round them. The press was disbanding with an almost violent haste. "Where's Aleta?" asked the girl.
Frank searched amid the human eddies, but in vain. "She got separated from us somehow," he said rather helplessly. They searched farther, without result. Aleta doubtless had gone home.
"I wonder if you'd take me somewhere ... for a cup of coffee," said Miss France. The hand upon his arm grew heavy. "I'm a little faint."
"Surely." He suggested a popular cafe, but she shook her head. "Just some quiet little place ... a 'chop house.' That's what the switch-girls call them."
So they entered a pair of swinging doors inscribed "Ladies" on one side and "Gents" on the other. Miss France laughingly insisted that they pass each on the proper side of this divided portal. She was a creature of swift moods; one moment feverishly gay, the next brooding, with a penchant for satire. He wondered how she endured the hard work of a telephone switch-operator. But one felt that whatever she willed she would do. Eagerly she sipped her steaming coffee from a heavy crockery cup, nibbling at a bit of French bread. Then she said to him so suddenly that he almost sprang out of his chair.
"Do you know that Aleta Boice loves you?"
He looked at her annoyed and disturbed by the question.
"No, I don't," he answered slowly. "Nor do I understand just what you're driving at, Miss France."
"If you'll forgive me," her eyes were upon him, "I am driving at masculine obtuseness ... and Aleta's happiness."
"Then you're wasting your time," he spoke sharply. "Aleta loves another.... She's told me so."
"Did she tell you his name?"
"No, some prig of a professor, probably.... Thinks he's 'not her kind.'"
"Yes ... let's have another cup of coffee. Yes, Aleta told me that."
Frank signalled to the waiter. "She's anybody's kind," he said, forcibly.
"But not yours, Mr. Stanley."
"Mine? Why not?"
"Because you don't love her." Norah's tone was sad, half bitter. "Will you forgive me? I'm sorry I provoked you.... But I had to know.... Aleta's such a dear. She's been so good to me."
The Christmas holidays brought handsome stock displays to all the stores. San Francisco was still flush with insurance money but there was a pinch of poverty in certain quarters. The Refugee Camps had been cleared, public parks and squares restored to their normal state.
Langdon and Heney worked on. Another jury brought a verdict of "not guilty" at the second trial of a trolley-bribe defendant. Some of the newspapers had changed by almost imperceptible degrees, were veering toward the cause of the defense.
Then, like a thunderbolt, in January, 1908, came news that the Appellate Court had set aside the conviction of Ruef and Schmitz. Technical errors were assigned as the cause of this decision. The people gasped. But some of the newspapers defended the Appellate Judges' decree.
THE SHOOTING OF HENEY
Heney and Langdon, who had had, perhaps, some inkling of an adverse decision, went grimly on. Enemies of Prosecution, backed by an enormous fund, were setting innumerable obstacles in their way. Witnesses disappeared or changed their testimony. Jurors showed evidence of having been tampered with. Through a subsidized press an active propaganda of Innuendo and Slander was begun.
Calhoun's trial still loomed vaguely in the distance. Heney, overworked and harassed in a multitude of ways—keyed to a battle with ruffians, gun-men and shysters as well as the ablest exponents of law, developed a nervousness of manner, a bitterness of mind which sometimes led him to extremes.
"He isn't sleeping well," his faithful bodyguard confided to Frank one afternoon when they met on Van Ness avenue. "He comes down in the morning trying to smile but I know he feels as though he'd like to bite my head off. I can see it in his eyes. He needs a rest."
"Mr. Calhoun evidently thinks so, too," retorted Stanley. "The Honorable Pat is trying to retire him."
"He'll never succeed," said the other explosively. "Frank Heney's not that kind. He'll fight on till he drops.... But I hate to see those boughten lawyers ragging him in court."
Langdon, more phlegmatic of temperament, stood the gaff with less apparent friction. Hiram Johnson gave aid now and then which was always of value. There was a dauntless quality about the man, a rugged double-fisted force which made him feared by his opponents.
Frank Stanley looked in at the second Ruef trial. He found it a kaleidoscope of dramatic and tragic events. Heney, who had been the target for a volley of insinuations from Ruef's attorneys, was nervous and distraught. Several times he had been goaded into altercation; had struck back with a bitterness that showed his mounting anger. Stanley noted that he was "on edge," and rather looked for "fireworks," as the reporters called these verbal duels of the Prosecution trials. But he was astonished to see Heney turn upon an unoffending juryman in sudden fury. The man had a fat, good-natured Teuton face with small eyes and a heavy manner. His name was Morris Haas. He had asked to be excused but the judge had not granted his plea.
Now he seemed to cower in exaggerated fright before the Prosecutor's pointed finger. A little hush ensued. A tense dramatic pause. Then Heney branded Haas before the court-room as a former convict.
The man broke down utterly. Many years before he had served a short term in prison. After his release he had married, raised a family, "lived a respectable life," as he pleaded in hysterical extenuation. He kept a grocery store.
Haas stumbled from the court-room and Frank followed him. He could not help but feel a certain pity for the poor wretch, wailing brokenly that he was "ruined." He could never face his friends again. His customers would leave him. Frank learned the details of his ancient crime; he also ascertained that Haas had lived rightly since. The incident rankled. He wrote a guarded story of the affair. But he did not mention one episode of Haas' exposure. As the man staggered out Frank had heard another whisper sympathetically, "I would kill the man who did that to me."
Justice often has its cruel, relentless aspects. Haas, with his weak, heavy face, stayed in Stanley's memory. An ordinary man might have tried again and won. But Haas was drunken with self-pity and the melancholy of his race. He would brood and suffer. Frank felt sorry for the man, and, somehow, vaguely apprehensive.
Ruef's trial ended in a disagreement of the jury. It was a serious blow. Most of the San Francisco papers heaped abuse upon the Prosecution, its attorneys and its judges.
Matters dragged along until the 13th of November. Gallagher was on the witness stand. He testified with the listlessness of many repetitions to the sordid facts of San Francisco's betrayal by venal public servants. It was all more or less perfunctory. Everyone had heard the tale from one to half a dozen times.
Heney was at the attorneys' table talking animatedly with an assistant. The jury had left the room and Gallagher stepped down from the stand to have a word with the prosecutor. A few feet away was Heney's bodyguard lolling, plainly bored by the testimony. There was the usual buzz of talk which marks a lull in court proceedings.
Into this scene came with covert tread a wild, dramatic figure. No one noted his approach. Morris Haas, glittering of eye, dishevelled, mad with loss of sleep and brooding, had crept into the court-room unheeded. He approached the attorneys' table stealthily.
All at once Frank saw him standing within a foot of Heney. Something glittered in his outstretched hand. Frank shouted, but his warning lost itself in a wild cry of revengeful accusation. There was a sharp report; smoke rose. An acrid smell of exploded powder hung upon the air. Heney, with a cry, fell backward. Blood spurted from his neck.
* * * * *
Once more the city was afire with men's passions. Haas was rushed to the county jail and Heney to a hospital, where it was found, amid great popular rejoicing, that the wound was not a fatal one. Had it been otherwise no human power could have protected Haas from lynching.
A great mass meeting was held. Langdon, Phelan, Mayor Taylor pleaded for order. "Let us see to it," said the last, "that no matter who else breaks the law, we shall uphold it." This became the keynote of the meeting. Rudolph Spreckels, who arrived late, was greeted with tumultuous cheering.
Frank and Aleta were impressed by the spontaneity of the huge popular turnout. "It means," said the girl, as they made their exit, "that San Francisco is again aroused to its danger. What a great, good natured, easy-going body of men and women this town is! We feed on novelty and are easily wearied. That's why so many have back-slid who were strong for the Prosecution at first."
"Yes, you're right," answered Frank. "We alternate between spasms of Virtue and comfortable inertias of Don't-care-a-Damn! That's San Francisco!"
"The Good Gray City," he added after a little silence. "We love it in spite of its faults and upheavals, don't we, Aleta?"
"Perhaps because of them." She squeezed his arm. For a time they walked on without speaking. "How is your settlement work progressing?" he asked at length.
But she did not answer, for a shrieking newsie thrust a paper in her hand. "Buy an extra, lady," he importuned her. "All about Morris Haas' suicide!"
She tossed him a coin and he rushed off, shrilling his tragic revelation. Huge black headlines announced that Heney's assailant had shot himself to death in his cell.
DEFEAT OF THE PROSECUTION
While Heney lay upon the operating table of a San Francisco hospital, three prominent attorneys volunteered to take his place. They were Hiram Johnson, Matt I. Sullivan and J.J. Dwyer. Ruef's trial went on with renewed vigor three days after the attempted killing, though the defendant's attorneys exhausted every expedient for delay. It was a case so thorough and complete that nothing could save the prisoner. He was found guilty of bribing a Supervisor in the overhead trolley transaction and sentenced to serve fourteen years in San Quentin penitentiary.
Frank was in the court-room when Ruef's sentence was imposed. The Little Boss seemed oddly aged and nerveless; the old look of power was gone from his eyes. Frank recalled Ruef's plan of a political Utopia. The man had started with a golden dream, a genius for organization which might have achieved great things. But his lower self had conquered. He had sold his dream for gold. And retribution was upon him.
Frank thought of Patrick Calhoun, large, blustering, arrogant with the pride of an old Southern family; the power of limitless wealth between him and punishment; a masterful figure who had broken a labor union and who scoffed at Law. And Eugene Schmitz, once happy as a fiddler. Schmitz was trying to face it out in the community. Frank could not tell if that was courage or a sort of impudence.
During the holidays Frank visited his parents in San Diego. His granduncle, Benito Windham, had died abroad. And his mother was ailing. Frank and his father discussed the Prosecution.
"It has had its day," the elder Stanley said. "Your public is listless, sick of the whole rotten mess. They've lost the moral perspective. All they want is to have it over."
"I guess I feel the same way." Frank's eyes were downcast.
* * * * *
Sometimes Frank met Norah France at Aleta's apartment, but she carefully avoided further mention of the topic they had talked of on election night. Frank liked her poetry. With a spirit less morbid she would have made a name for herself he thought.
Aleta was doing more and more settlement work. She had been playing second lead at the theater and had had a New York offer. Frank could not understand why she refused it. But Norah did, though she kept the secret from Frank.
"Do you know how many talesmen have been called in the Calhoun trial?" Aleta asked, looking up from the newspaper. "There were nearly 1500 in the Ruef case. They called that a record." She laughed.
"Of course Pat Calhoun would wish to outdo Abe Ruef," said Frank. "That's only to be expected. He's had close to 2500, I reckon."
"Not quite," Aleta referred to the printed sheet. "Your paper says 2370 veniremen were called into court. That's what money can do. If he'd been some poor devil charged with stealing a bottle of milk from the doorstep, how long would it take to convict him?"
"It's a rotten world," the other girl spoke with a sudden gust of bitterness. "A world without honor or justice."
"Or a nightmare," said Frank, with a glance at Aleta.
"Well, if it is, I'm going to wake up soon—in one way or another," said Norah. "I will promise you that." To Frank the words seemed ominous. He left soon afterward.
The Calhoun trial dragged interminably. Heney, not entirely recovered from his wound, but back in court, faced a battery of the country's highest priced attorneys. There were A.A. and Stanley Moore, Alexander King, who was Calhoun's law partner in the South; Lewis F. Byington, a former district attorney; J.J. Barrett, Earl Rogers, a sensationally successful criminal defender from Los Angeles, and Garret McEnerney. Heney had but one assistant, John O'Gara, a deputy in Langdon's office.
For five long months the Prosecution fought such odds. Heney lost his temper frequently in court. He was on the verge of a nerve prostration. Anti-prosecution papers hinted that his faculties were failing. Langdon more or less withdrew from the fight. He was tired of it; had declined to be a candidate for the district attorneyship in the Fall. Heney was the Prosecution's only hope. He consented to run; which added to his legal labors the additional tasks of preparing for a campaign.
It was not to be wondered at that Heney failed to convict Calhoun. The jury disagreed after many ballots. A new trial was set. But before a jury was empanelled the November ballot gave the Prosecution its "coup de grace."
P.H. McCarthy was elected Mayor. Charles Fickert defeated Heney for the district attorneyship. An anti-Prosecution government took office.
"Big Jim" Gallagher, the Prosecution's leading witness, disappeared.
Fickert sought dismissal of the Calhoun case and finally obtained it.
* * * * *
San Francisco heaved a sigh of relief and turned its attention toward another problem. Its people planned a great world exposition to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal.
With the close of the Graft trials, San Francisco put its shoulders in concerted effort to the wheel. There were rivals now. San Diego claimed a prior plan. New Orleans was importuning Congress to support it in an Exposition. The Southern city sent its lobbying delegation to the Capitol. San Francisco seemed about to lose.
But the city was aroused to one of its outbursts of pioneer energy. The Panama-Pacific International Exposition Company was organized. A meeting was called at the Merchants' Exchange. There, in two hours, $4,000,000 was subscribed by local merchants.
THE MEASURE OF REDEMPTION
Frank journeyed East with a party of "Exposition Boosters" after the memorable meeting in the Merchants' Exchange. The import of that afternoon's work had been flashed around the world. It swung the tide of public sentiment from New Orleans toward the Western Coast. Congress heard the clink of Power in those millions. President Taft discerned a spirit of efficiency that would guarantee success. He did not desire another Jamestown fiasco. He had an open admiration for the city which in four years could rebuild itself from ashes, suffer staunchly through disrupting ordeals of political upheaval and unite its forces in a mighty plan to entertain the World.
Frank went to the White House for an interview. He clasped the large, firm hand which had guided so many troubled ships of state for the Roosevelt regime, looked into the twinkling eyes that hid so keen a force behind their kindness. Stanley soon discovered that in this big, bluff President his city had a friend.
"What shall I say to the people at home for you, Mr. President? Will you give me a message?"
The Chief Executive was thoughtful for an instant. Then he said, "Go back, my boy, and tell them this from me, 'SAN FRANCISCO KNOWS HOW!'"
Frank left the White House, eager and enthusiastic; sought a telegraph office. On the following day Market street blazed with the slogan.
In New York, where he went from Washington, Frank heard echoes of that speech. San Francisco's cause gained new and sudden favor. Frank found the Eastern press, which hitherto had favored New Orleans, was veering almost imperceptibly toward the Golden Gate.
He met many San Franciscans in New York. John O'Hara Cosgrave was editing Everybody's Magazine, "Bob" Davis was at the head of the Munsey publications, Edwin Markham wrote world-poetry on Staten Island, "in a big house filled with books and mosquitoes," as a friend described it. "Bill" and Wallace Irwin were there, the former "batching" in a flat on Washington Square. All of them were glad to talk of San Francisco.
Charley Aiken, editor of Sunset Magazine, was with the boosters. Stanley met him in New York. He had a plan for buying the publication from its railroad sponsors; making it an independent organ of the literary West. Things were looking up for San Francisco.
* * * * *
Frank was glad to get back. He had enjoyed his visit to the East. But it was mighty good to ride up Market street again. It looked quite as it did before the fire. One would have found it difficult to believe that this new city with its towering, handsome architecture, had lain, a few years back, the shambles of the greatest conflagration history has known.
On Christmas eve Frank and Aleta went down town to hear Tetrazzini sing in the streets. The famous prima donna faced an audience which numbered upward of a hundred thousand. They thronged—a joyous celebrant, dark mass—on Market, Geary, Third and Kearny streets. Every window was ablaze, alive with silhouetted figures. Frank, who had engaged a window in the Monadnock Block, could not get near the entrance. So he and Aleta stood in the street.
"It's nicer," she whispered happily, "to be here among the people.... I feel closer to them. As if I could sense the big Pulse of Life that makes us all brothers and sisters."
Frank looked down at her understandingly, but did not speak. Tetrazzini had begun her song. Its first notes floated faintly through the vast and unwalled auditorium. Then her voice grew clearer, surer.
Never had those bustling, noisy streets known such a stillness as prevailed this night. The pure soprano which had thrilled a world of high-priced audiences rang out in a wondrous clarion harmony. It moved many people to tears. The response was overwhelming. Something in that vast human pack went out to the singer like a tidal wave. Not the deafening fusilade of hand-clapping nor the shouted "Bravos!" It was something deeper, subtler. Tetrazzini stepped forward. Tears streamed from her eyes. She blew impulsive kisses to the crowd.
* * * * *
The pageant of the months went on. A coal merchant by the name of Rolph had displaced P.H. McCarthy as Mayor of San Francisco. He had installed what was termed "a business administration." San Francisco seemed pleased with the result. Power of government had returned to the "North of Market Street."
San Francisco had been selected by Congress as the site of the exposition. It was scheduled for 1915 and the Panama Canal approached completion.
Frank was living with his father at the Press Club. His mother was dead. He had given up newspaper work, except for an occasional editorial. Through his father's influence he had found publication for a novel. He was something of a public man now, despite his comparative youth.
Occasionally he saw his Uncle Robert. Two of his cousins had married. The third, an engineer, had gone to Colorado. Robert Windham and his wife were planning a year of travel.
Sometimes Windham and his nephew talked of Bertha. It was a calmer, more dispassionate talk as time went on, for years blunt every pain. One day the former said, with tentative defiance, "I suppose you'll think there's something wrong about me, boy.... But I loved her mother deeply. Honestly—if one can call it that. If I'd had a certain kind of—well, immoral—courage, I'd have married her.... Just think how different all our lives would have been. But I hadn't the heart to hurt Maizie; to break with her ... nor the courage to give up my position in life. So we parted. I didn't know then—"
"That you had a daughter?" questioned Frank. His uncle nodded. "Perhaps it would have made a difference ... perhaps not."
* * * * *
Aleta had a week's vacation. They were playing a comedy in which she had no part. So she had gone to Carmel to visit her friend Norah France.
Frank decided to look in on them. He had been oddly shaken by the talk with his uncle. What tragedies men hid beneath the smooth exteriors of successful careers? He had always thought his uncle's home a happy one. Doubtless it was—happy enough. Love perhaps was not essential to successful unions. Frank wondered why he had not asked Aleta Boice to be his wife. They were good comrades, had congenial tastes. They would both be better off; less lonely. A sudden, long-forgotten feeling stirred within his heart. He had missed Aleta in the past few days. Why not go to her now; lay the question before her? Perhaps love might come to them both.
For years thereafter Frank was haunted by the wraiths of vain conjecture—morbid questionings of what might have occurred if he had caught the train for Monterey that afternoon. For he was not to seek Aleta at Carmel. An official of the Exposition Company met Frank on the street. They talked a shade too long. Frank missed the train by half a minute. He shrugged his shoulders petulantly, found his father at the club. That evening they attended a comedy.
He was not yet out of bed when the office telephoned him the next morning. "Didn't he know Norah France rather well?" the City Editor inquired. Frank admitted it sleepily.
Had he a picture of her?
Frank denied this. No. He didn't know where one might be obtained. Had Norah printed a poem or something? W-h-a-a-t!
The voice at the telephone repeated its message. "Norah France was found dead in her room at Carmel this morning. Suicide probably. Empty vial and a letter.... The Carmel authorities haven't come through yet."
Frank began to dress hurriedly. Again the telephone rang. Wire for him. Should they send it up? No, he would be down in a minute.
The telegram was from Aleta. It read: "Am returning noon train. See you at my apartment six P.M."
Stanley did not see his father in the dining room. He gulped a cup of coffee and went down to the office. He had planned an editorial for today. But his mind was full of Norah France just now.
Poor child! How she had loved life in her strangely vivid moods! And how she had brooded upon its injustice in her alternating tempers of depression! He remembered now Aleta's mention of a love affair that turned out badly. Aleta had gone down to hearten her friend from these dolors. And he recalled, with a desperate, tearing remorse, a casual-enough remark of Norah's: "You always cheer me up, Frank, when you come to see me."
He recalled, as well, her comment, months before, that she would awake from her dream in one way or another. Well, she had fulfilled her promise. God grant, he thought passionately, that the awakening had been in a happier world.
At six o'clock he went to Aleta's apartment. She had not yet arrived but presently she came. He saw that she had been crying. She could scarcely speak.
"Frank, let us walk somewhere," she said. "I can't go upstairs; it's too full of memories. And I can't sit still. I've got to keep moving—fast."
They strode off together, taking a favorite walk through the Presidio toward the Beach. From a hill-top they saw the Exposition buildings rising from what once had been a slough.
Aleta paused and looked down.
"It's easier to bear—up here," she spoke in an odd, weary monotone, as if she were thinking aloud. "This morning ... I think, if Norah had left anything in the bottle ... I'd have taken it, too."
"Why did she do it?" Frank asked quickly.
Aleta faced him. "Norah loved a man ... he wasn't worthy. She could see no hope. I wished, Frank, that you might have been there yesterday. You used to cheer her so!"
"Don't!" he cried out sharply.
The Exposition progressed marvelously. Often Frank and Aleta climbed the winding Presidio ascent and gazed upon its growing wonders.
"Beauty will come out of it all," she said one day. "Out of our travail and sorrow and sin. I wish that Norah was here. She loved beauty so!"
"Perhaps she is here.... Who knows?"
She looked at him startled. He was staring off across the Exposition site, toward the Golden Gate, where a great ship, all its sails spread, swam mysteriously luminous with the sunset.
"It's beautiful," he said, a catch in his voice. "It's like life ... coming home in the end ... after long strivings with tempest and wave. I wonder—" he turned to her slowly, "Aleta, will it be like that with us?"
"Home!" she spoke the word tenderly. "I wonder what it's like ... I've never known."
He drew his breath sharply. "Aleta—will you marry me?"
Her eyes filled but she did not answer. Presently she shook her head.
He looked at her dumbly, questioning. "You don't love me, Frank," she said at last.
He could not answer her. His eyes were on the ground. A hundred thoughts came to his mind; thoughts of an almost overwhelming tenderness; thoughts of reverence for her; of affection, comradeship. But they were not the right thoughts. They were not what she wanted.
Presently they turned and went toward the town together.
* * * * *
A Fairyland of gardens and lagoons sprung into existence. Great artists labored with a kind of beauty-madness in its making. Nine years after San Francisco lay in ashes its doors opened to the world. From Ruins had grown a Great Dream, one so beautiful and strong, it seemed unreal.
Aleta and Frank went often. To them the Exposition was a rhapsody of silent music and they seldom broke its harmonies with speech.
Frank had not recurred to the question he had asked on Presidio Hill. But out of it had come an unspoken compact, a comradeship of spirit that was very sweet.
They stood one day on the margin of Fine Arts Lagoon, gazing down at the marvelous reflections of the great dome and its pillared colonnade. "Frank," the girl said almost in a whisper, "I believe that Love is God's heart, beating, beating ... through the Whole of Life." He turned and saw that her eyes were radiant. "And I think that when we feel its rhythm in us, it's like a call. A call to—"
"What?" he asked abashed.
"Service.... Frank," she faced him questioningly, half fearful. "You'll forgive me, won't you? I—I'm going away."
She expected protest, exclamation. Instead he asked her, very quietly: "To Europe, Aleta? The Red Cross?"
"Yes," she said, surprised. "How did you know?"
"I—I'm going, myself. As a stretcher bearer."
"Then—" her eyes were stars, "you've felt it, too?"
* * * * *
On the deck of an outbound steamer stood two figures. The sky was gray. Drifts of fog hung plume-like over Alcatraz, veiled the Exposition domes and turrets in a mystic glory. Sometimes it was like a great white nothingness; then, as if by magic, Color, Forms and Beauty leaped forth like some startling vision from a Land of Make Believe.
The woman at the stern-rail stretched forth her arms. "Goodbye," her words were like a song, a song of heartbreak, mixed with exultation. "Goodbye, Oh my City of Dreams!"
"We will come back," said the man shakily. "We will come with new peace in our hearts."
"Perhaps," she replied, "but it will not matter. San Francisco will go on, big, generous, unafraid in its sins and virtues. Oh, Frank, I love it, don't you? I want it to be the greatest city in the world!"
He made no answer but he caught her hand and pressed it. The fog came down about them like a mantle and shut them in.