Port O' Gold
Louis John Stellman
Part 2 out of 7
held puzzled incredulity. "There would be Wreckage. Floating bodies--"
"Unless," said Adrian, "they had been hidden--buried secretly, perhaps."
"Adrian, what do you mean?" asked Inez in excitement. "It was about the
"McTurpin left," responded Stanley. "I've heard more than a whisper of
his possible connection with the disappearance. McTurpin didn't leave
alone. He rounded up half a dozen rough-looking fellows and they rode
out of town together."
There was a silence. Then Benito spoke. "We haven't seen the last of
him, I fear."
THE NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS
It was almost a month later that Inez galloped home from San Francisco
with a precious missive from the absent brother. They had outfitted at
Johnson's ranch near Sacramento and, encountered the first expedition
returning with twenty-two starved wretches from the Donner Camp. Many
women and children still remained there.
"We started on the day which is a gringo fete because it is the natal
anniversary of the great George Washington," Benito's chronicle
concluded. "May it prove a good omen, and may we bring freedom, life to
the poor souls engulfed by the snowdrifts. I kiss your hands. BENITO."
A fortnight passed before there came another letter. The second relief
party had reached Donner Camp without mishap but, with seventeen
survivors, had been storm-bound on a mountain summit and returned with
but eleven of the rescued after frightful hardship. Benito was
recuperating in a Sacramento hospital from frozen feet.
* * * * *
"Look, Roberto," exclaimed Senora Windham as they cantered into San
Francisco one morning. "A ship all gay with banners! See the townsfolk
are excited. They rush to the Embarcadero. The band plays. It must be
the festival of some Americano patron saint."
"It is the long expected New York volunteers," replied her husband.
"They've been recruited for the past year for service in California.
Colonel Stevenson, the commander, is a most distinguished man. The
president himself made him an offer of command if he could raise a
regiment of California volunteers." Windham smiled. "I believe it is
for colonization rather than actual military duty that they've been sent
out here ... three shiploads of them with two doctors and a chaplain."
As they picked their way along a narrow footpath toward the beach, the
portly Leidesdorff advanced to greet them. "Would that I had a cloak of
velvet," he said gallantly, "so that I might lay it in the mire at your
feet, fair lady." Anita Windham flashed a smile at him. "Like the
chivalrous Don Walter Raleigh," she responded. "Ah, but I am not a Queen
Elizabeth. Nor is this London." She regarded with a shrug of distaste
the stretch of mud-flats reaching to the tide-line, rubbish--littered
and unfragrant. Knee-deep in its mire, bare-legged Indians and booted
men drove piles for the superstructure of a new pier.
Lieutenant Bryant joined them, brisk and natty in his naval garb. He was
the new alcalde, Bartlett having been displaced and ordered to
rejoin his ship.
"No, it's not London," he took up Anita's statement, "but it's going to
be a better San Francisco if I have my way. We'll fill that bog with
sand and lay out streets between Fort Montgomery and the Rincon, if the
governor'll cede the tide-flats to the town. Jasper O'Farrell is
making a map."
"See, they are landing," cried the Dona Windham, clapping her hands.
A boat put off amid hails from the shore. Soon four officers and a
boat's crew stood upon the landing pier and gazed about them curiously.
"That's Colonel Stevenson," said Bryant, nodding toward the leader. On
the verge of fifty, statesmanlike of mien and manner, stood the man who
had recruited the first volunteer company which came around The Horn. He
fingered his sword a bit awkwardly, as though unused to military dress
formalities. But his eyes were keen and eager and commanding.
More boats put off from the anchored vessel. By and by the parade
began, led by Captain Stevenson. It was a straggling military formation
that toiled up-hill through the sand toward Portsmouth Square. These men
were from the byways and hedges of life. Some of them had shifty eyes
and some bold, predatory glances which forebode nothing good for San
Francisco's peace. Adventurers for the most part, lured to this new
land, some by the wander spirit, others by a wish to free themselves
from the restraints of law. Certain of them were to die upon the
gallows; others were to be the proud and honored citizens of a raw,
potential metropolis. They talked loudly, vehemently, to one another as
they marched like school boys seeing strange sights, pointing eagerly at
all that aroused their interest. The officers marched more stiffly as
though conscious of official noblesse oblige.
"I wish that Inez might have seen it," Mrs. Windham said a little
wistfully. "But she must help the Indian seamstress with her gown for
the dance. Don Adrian is to be there."
"He has decided that there are other ways of serving God than in the
pulpit," remarked Stanley. "They talk of making him the master of the
school ... if our committee can ever decide on a location and what's to
pay for it."
* * * * *
In the full regimentals of his rank, Colonel Stevenson graced
Leidesdorff's ballroom that evening, cordially exchanging smiles and
bows with San Francisco's citizenry. Besides him was his quartermaster,
Captain Joseph Folsom who, though less than thirty, had seen active
service in a Florida campaign against the Seminoles. He held himself
slightly aloof with the class consciousness of the West Pointer.
Nearby stood a lanky surgeon of the volunteers discussing antiseptics
with Dr. Jones. Leidesdorff was everywhere, pathetically eager to
please, an ecstatic, perspiring figure, making innumerable inquiries as
to the comfort of his guests.
"He's like a mother hen worried over a brood of new chicks," said
Brannan to Jasper O'Farrell.
"And a damned fine little man," the Irishman answered. "Oh--I beg your
Inez Windham smiled forgiveness, nodding when he asked her for a dance.
"Tell me," she asked eagerly, "of the grand new map you make for San
"Ah," O'Farrell said, "they laugh at it because I have to change
Vioget's acute and obtuse angles. They call it 'O'Farrell's Swing.' You
see, I've had to change the direction of some streets. There are many
more now. Eight hundred acres laid out like a city."
As the music stopped he led her to a bench and fumbled in his pocket for
a drawing which he straightened on his knees. "See, here is a new road
through the center, a broad way, straight as an arrow from the bay to
the foot of Twin Peaks. It parallels the Mission camino, and Bryant
wants to call it Market street."
"But how is this?" asked Inez puzzled, "streets where there is only mud
"They will be reclaimed with the waste from our leveled sand hills,"
said O'Farrell. He glanced about him searchingly, then whispered:
"Tonight Governor Mason told me confidentially he would cede the tide
flats to our local government, provided they are sold at auction for the
benefit of San Francisco. They'll go cheap; but some day they'll be
worth thousands. Tell your father--"
He broke off hastily. Toward them stalked Benito Windham, covered with
dust as though from a long ride. There was trouble in his eyes. With a
swift apology he drew his sister aside. "McTurpin," he panted. "He is
back ... with a dozen men ... riding toward the rancho."
THE "SYDNEY DUCKS"
Dazed with the suddenness of Benito's announcement and its menacing
augury, Inez sought her father and Adrian. The latter acted instantly.
"Do not tell your wife," he said to Windham. "There may be nothing
amiss. And if there should be, she will find no profit in knowing. Tell
her you are called away and follow me to the square. We will ride at
once to the rancho."
He pressed Inez' hand and was gone. "Take care of your mother," he said
over his shoulder, an admonition which Don Roberto repeated a moment
later as he hurried out. She was left alone in a maze of doubts, fears,
speculations. What was McTurpin doing in San Francisco? Why had he and
his companions ridden toward the Windham rancho? There was only one
answer. Most of the vaqueros were at a fandango in the Mission. Only the
serving women and a few men too old for dancing remained at home.
Meawhile her brother, father, lover were speeding homeward, into what? A
trap? An ambush? Certainly to battle with a foe out-numbering them
four to one.
At the Mission were a dozen of their servants; men whose fathers and
grandfathers had ridden herd for her family. Any one of them would give
his life to serve a Windham.
Inez looked about her feverishly. Should she ask O'Farrell to accompany
her? He was dancing with one of the Mormon women. Brannan and Spear were
not to be seen. Leidesdorff was impossible in such an emergency.
Besides, she could not take him from his guests. She would go alone,
decided Inez. Quietly she made her way to the cloak-room, in charge of
an Indian servant, caught up her mantilla and riding crop and fled. On
the square her horse whinnied at her approach as if eager to be gone.
Swiftly she climbed into the saddle and spurred forward.
Far ahead gleamed the lights of the Mission. They were making merry
there with the games and dance of old Spain. And to the south Benito,
Adrian, her father, rode toward a battle with treacherous men.
Breathlessly she spurred her horse to greater effort. Trees flashed by
like witches in the dark. Presently she heard the music of the fandango.
Another picture framed itself before her vision. Excited faces round
her. A sudden stoppage of the music, a frocked priest making anxious
inquiries. Her own wild words; a jingle of spurs. Then many hoofs
pounding on the road beside her.
She never knew just what had happened, what she had said. But now she
felt the sting of the bay breeze in her face and Antonio's steady hand
upon her saddle pommel.
"Caramba!" he was muttering. "The pig of a gringo once more. And your
father; the little Benito. Hurry, comrades, faster! faster! To
Came a third picture, finally more clear, more disconcerting. The
entrance to her father's ranch barred by armed riders. McTurpin smiling
insolent in the moonlight, bowing to her while Antonio muttered in
"We have three hostages here, senorita ... relatives of yours and ah--a
friend." His voice, cold, threatening, spoke on. "They are
"I don't believe you," Inez stormed at him.
"Tell them, Senor Windham," said McTurpin, "that I speak the truth."
"Inez, it is true," her father spoke out of some shadowed darkness. "We
were ambushed. Taken by surprise."
"What do you propose?" asked Antonio, unable longer to restrain himself.
"To turn them loose ... upon their word not to trouble us further,"
said McTurpin. "I have merely assumed control of my property. I hold the
conveyance of Benito Windham. It is all quite regular," he
Antonio moved uneasily. His hand upon the lariat itched for a cast.
McTurpin saw it. "You'll do well to sit still in the saddle," he
reminded, "all of you. We have you covered."
"What are your orders, master?" said the chief vaquero tensely. "Say the
word and we will--"
"No," commanded Windham. "There shall be no fighting now. We will go.
Tomorrow we shall visit the Alcalde. I can promise no more than this."
"It's enough," McTurpin answered. "I've possession. I've a deed with
your son's signature. And a dozen good friends to uphold me." He turned.
"Take their pistols, friends, and let them go."
* * * * *
George Hyde looked up from a sheaf of drawing which lay on the table
before him and which represented the new survey of San Francisco. A boy
with a bundle of papers under his arm entered unannounced, tossed a copy
of "The California Star" toward him and departed. Hyde picked it up
"GREAT SALE OF VALUABLE REAL ESTATE IN THE TOWN OF SAN
FRANCISCO, UPPER CALIFORNIA.
"By the following decree of His Excellency, General S.W.
Kearny, Governor of California, all the right, title and
interest of the United States and of the territory of
California to the BEACH AND WATER lots on the east front of
the town of San Francisco have been granted, conveyed and
released to the people or corporate authorities of said
Hyde read on. There was a post-script by Edwin Bryant, his predecessor
as alcalde, calling a public sale for June 29. That was rather soon.
But he would see. Hyde had an antipathy to any rule or circumstance
fixed by another. His enemies called him "pig-headed"; his friends
"forceful," though with a sigh. There was something highhanded in the
look and manner of him, though few men had better intent. Now his glance
fell on another, smaller item in the newspaper.
"SYDNEY DUCKS ARRIVE."
"In recent vessels from the antipodes have come numerous men
from Australia who, according to rumor, are deported English
criminals, known as 'Sydney Ducks.' It is said that the
English government winks at the escape of these birds of ill
omen, who are lured hither by tales of our lawlessness
carried by sailormen. It is high time we had a little more
law in San Francisco."
That was another of his problems, Hyde reflected irritably. "Sydney
Ducks." There would be many more no doubt, for San Francisco was
growing. It had 500 citizens, irrespective of the New York volunteers;
157 buildings. He would need helpers in the task of city-governing. Half
idly he jotted down the names of men that would prove good henchmen:
"William A. Leidesdorff, Robert A. Parker, Jose P. Thompson, Pedro
Sherreback, John Rose, Benjamin Buckalew."
It had a cosmopolitan smack, though it ignored some prominent and
capable San Franciscans. William Clark, for instance, with whom
Washington Bartlett had quarreled over town lots, Dr. Elbert Jones and
William Howard. Hyde was not certain whether they would be amenable to
his program. Well, he would see.
A shadow loomed in his doorway. He looked up to see Adrian Stanley and
"Come in. Come in." He tried to speak cordially, but there was a shade
of irritation in his tone. They, too, were a problem.
"Be seated," he invited, as the two men entered. But they stood before
him rather stiffly.
"Is there any--news?" asked Adrian.
"Nothing favorable," said Hyde uneasily. He made an impatient gesture.
"You can see for yourselves, gentlemen, that my hands are tied. The
man--what's-his-name?--McTurpin, has a perfectly correct conveyance
signed by your son. Benito, I understand, does not deny his signature.
And his right is unquestioned, for the property came to him direct from
his uncle, who was Francisco Garvez' only son."
"But--" began Adrian hotly.
"Yes, yes, I know," Hyde interrupted. "The man is a rascal. But what of
that? It does not help us; I have no power to aid you, gentlemen."
THE AUCTION ON THE BEACH
It was the morning of July 20. Fog drifts rode the bay like huge white
swans, shrouding the Island of Alcatraz with a rise and fall of
impalpable wings and casting many a whilom plume over the tents and
adobe houses nestling between sandhills and scrub-oaks in the cove of
Robert and Benito Windham, on the hill above Clark's Point, looked down
toward the beach, where a crowd was gathering for the auction of
tidewater lots. The Windhams, since their dispossession by McTurpin, had
been guests of hospitable Juana Briones. Through the Alcalde's order
they had secured their personal effects. But the former gambler still
held right and title to the Windham acres. Adrian Stanley made his home
at the City Hotel and had been occupied with an impromptu school where
some four score children and half a dozen illiterates were daily taught
the mysteries of the "Three Rs."
"Adrian has determined to buy some of these mud-lots," said Windham to
his son. "He believes some day they will be valuable and that he will
make his fortune." He sighed. "I fear my son-to-be is something of a
Benito gave his father a quick, almost furtive glance. "Do not condemn
him for that," he said, with a hint of reproach. "Adrian is far-sighted,
yes; but not a dreamer."
"What can he do with a square of bog that is covered half of the time by
water?" asked Windham.
"Ah," Benito said, "we've talked that over, Adrian and I. Adrian has a
plan of reclamation. An engineering project for leveling sandhills by
contract and using the waste to cover his land. He has already arranged
for ox-teams and wagons. It is perfectly feasible, my father."
Robert Windham smiled at the other's enthusiasm. "Perhaps you are
right," he said. "God grant it--and justify your faith in that huddle of
Below them a man had mounted an improvised platform. He was waving his
arms, haranguing an ever-growing audience. Benito stirred uneasily. "I
must go," he said. "I promised Adrian to join him."
"Very well," returned his father. He watched the slight and supple
figure riding down the slope.
Slowly he made his way back to the Rancho Briones. His wife met him at
"Juana and Inez have gone to the sale," she announced. "Shall we join
them in the pueblo later on?"
"Nay, Anita," he said, "unless you wish it.... I have no faith in mire."
She looked up at him anxiously. "Roberto! I grieve to hear it. They--"
she checked herself.
"They--what, my love?" he asked curiously.
"They have gone to buy," said Anita. "Juana has great faith. She has
considerable money. And Inez has taken her jewels--even a few of mine.
The Senor O'Farrell whispered to her at the ball that the lots would
sell for little and their value would increase immensely."
"So, that is why Benito has his silver-mounted harness," Windham spoke
half to himself. He smiled a little ruefully. "You are all gamblers,
dreamers.... You dear ones of Spanish heritage."
* * * * *
On the beach a strangely varied human herd pressed close around a
platform upon which stood Samuel Brannan and Alcalde Hyde. The former
had promised to act as auctioneer and looked over a sheaf of notes while
Hyde in his dry, precise and positive tone read the details of the
forthcoming sale. It would last three days, Hyde informed his hearers,
and 450 lots would be sold. North of the broad street paralleling the
Mission Camino lots were sixteen and a half varas wide and fifty varas
deep. All were between the limits of low and high water mark.
"What's a vara?" shouted a new arrival.
"A Spanish yard," explained Hyde, "about thirty-three and a third inches
of English measure. Gentlemen, you are required to fence your lots and
build a house within a year. The fees for recording and deed will be
$3.62, and the terms of payment are a fourth down, the balance in equal
payments during a period of eighteen months."
"How about the lots that lie south?" cried a voice.
"They are one hundred varas square, same terms, same fees," replied
Hyde. He stepped down and Brannan began his address.
"The site of San Francisco is known to all navigators and mercantile men
to be the most commanding commercial position on the entire eastern
coast of the Pacific Ocean," he shouted, quoting from former Alcalde
Bryant's announcement of three months previous. "The town itself is
destined to become the commercial emporium of western America."
"Bravo!" supplemented the Dona Briones, waving her fan. She was the
center of a little group composed of Benito and Inez Windham, Adrian
Stanley and Nathan Spear. Near them, keeping out of their observance,
stood Aleck McTurpin.
"The property offered for sale is the most valuable in or belonging to
the town," Brannan went on, enthusiastically; "it will require work to
make it tenable. You'll have to wrest it from the waves, gentlemen ...
and ladies," he bowed to Juana and her companion, "but, take my word for
it--and I've never deceived you--everyone who buys will bless my memory
half a dozen years from now...."
"Why don't ye get in yerself and practice what ye preach?" cried a
Brannan looked him up and down. "Because I'm trying to serve the
commonwealth--which is more than a drunken deserter from his ship can
claim," he shot back hotly, "but I'm going to buy my share, never fear.
Bill Leidesdorff's my agent. He has $5,000 and my power of attorney.
That's fair enough, isn't it boys? Or, shall we let the sailor act as
"No! No!" a dozen cried. "'Rah for Sam. Go on! You're doin' fine!"
"Thank you," Brannan acknowledged. "Who's to make the first bid? Speak
up, now, don't be bashful."
"Twenty-five dollars," called Juana Briones.
"Thirty," said a voice behind her, a voice that caused young Windham and
his sister to start, involuntarily. "McTurpin," whispered Inez
"Thirty-five," spoke Juana, imperturbably.
Brannan looked straight into McTurpin's eyes. "Sold to Juana Briones for
thirty-five dollars," he said, as his improvised gavel fell on the table
"I bid forty!" stormed McTurpin. All eyes turned to him. But Brannan
paid him no attention. Someone laughed.
"Next! Who bids?" invited the auctioneer.
"Twenty-five," began Benito.
This time there were other bidders, all of whom Brannan recognized
courteously and promptly. Finally, Benito's bid of fifty seemed to win.
Then McTurpin shouted, "Fifty-five!"
Brannan waited for a moment. There were no more bids. "Sold to Benito
Windham for fifty dollars," he announced.
"Curse you!" cried the gambler, pushing forward, "you heard me bid
higher, Sam Brannan!"
Into his path stepped the tall figure of Robert Windham. "We are not
taking bids from convicts," he said, loudly and distinctly.
THE BEGINNING OF LAW
McTurpin's look of blind astonishment at Windham's words was succeeded
by a whitehot fury. Two eyes gleamed with snake-like venom and two spots
of red glowed in his cheeks, as though each had felt the impact of a
sudden blow. For a moment he neither moved nor spoke. Then a hand, which
trembled slightly, made a lightning move toward his hip.
"I wouldn't," drawled the voice of Robert Windham. His right hand,
loosely in a pocket of his coat, moved slightly. "I've got you covered,
Sydney Duck McTurpin ... if that's your real name."
The other's hand fell at his side. The two men's glances countered, held
each other, one calm, dignified, unafraid; the other, murderous,
searching, baffled. Presently, McTurpin turned and strode away. Windham
looked after the departing gambler. "'Fraid I've spoiled his morning,"
he remarked to Nathan Spear.
"Yes--to chance a knife or bullet in the back," retorted Spear,
uneasily. Their further confidence was drowned in Brannan's
exhortations: "On with the sale, boys," he shouted. "The side show's
over ... with nobody hurt, thank Heaven! What'll you bid for a lot in
the southern part of town? They're a hundred varas square--four times as
big as the others. Not as central, maybe, but in ten years I bet they'll
bring a thousand dollars. What's bid for a south lot, my hearties?"
"Twenty-five dollars," said Inez Windham.
"Oh, come, now, Senorita," cried the auctioneer, intriguingly,
"twenty-five dollars for a hundred-vara lot. Have you no more faith in
"Its--all I have...." the girl spoke almost in a whisper.
Brannan frowned. He looked about him threateningly. "Does anyone bid
higher than Miss Windham?" he demanded. There was no response. Brannan's
gavel fell, decisively. "Sold!" he cried, and half a dozen
Inez Windham made her way to the auctioneer's stand and handed three
banknotes to Alcalde Hyde. "But, my dear young lady," he expostulated,
"you need only pay a fourth of the money down. Six dollars and a quarter
"Oh," said Inez, "then I could have bought more, couldn't I!" She turned
to Brannan, eagerly. "I could have bought four lots--if I'd only known."
Brannan smiled at her. Then he turned to the crowd. "What d'ye say,
boys, shall we let her have 'em?" he inquired. Instantly the answer
came: "Yes, yes, give her the four. God bless her. She'll bring
Impulsively, Inez mounted the platform; astonished at her own temerity,
at the exuberance of some new freedom, springing from the barriers of a
shielded life, she shouted at these strange, rough men about her: "Thank
you, gentlemen!" Then her mother's look of horrified, surprise brought a
sudden red into her cheeks. She turned and fled. Her father smiled,
indulgently; Anita's frown changed presently into a look of whimsical,
perplexed affection. "I am always forgetting, Inez mia," she said,
softly, "that this is a new day--the day of the Americano."
She watched Benito shouting bids at the side of Adrian, vying with such
men as Howard, Mellus, Clark and Leidesdorff in the quest for lots.
"Fifty of them have been sold already," Windham told her. "The auction
will last three days because there are four hundred more."
Suddenly, Anita Windham put forth a hand and touched that of her
husband. "Buy one, for me, Roberto," she pleaded.
"But--" he hesitated, "Anita carissima, what will you do with a
rectangle of mire in this rough, unsettled place?"
"For sentiment," she answered, softly, "in memory of my father, who had
such abundant faith in San Francisco.... And, perhaps, Don Samuel is
right. We may yet bless his name."
* * * * *
The summer of 1847 had passed. Inez Windham was the wife of Adrian
Stanley. He had given up his school for larger matters. Every day his
ox-teams struggled over sandy bottoms to the tune of snapping whips and
picturesque profanity by Indian drivers. Men with shovels leveling the
sand hills, piled the wagons high with shimmering white grains which
were carried to the shore and dumped into pile-surrounded bogs till the
tides left them high and dry. San Francisco reached farther and farther
into the bay, wresting irregular nooks and corners from the
ebbing-flowing waters, building rickety, improvised piers, sometimes
washed out by the northers which unexpectedly came down with tempestuous
fury. Quaint, haphazard buildings made their appearance, strange
architectural mushrooms grown almost over night, clapboarded squares
with paper or muslin partitions for inner walls. Under some the tides
washed at their full and small craft discharged cargoes at their back
doors. Ships came from Boston, Bremen, Sitka, Chile, Mexico, the
Sandwich Islands, bringing all manner of necessities and luxuries.
Monthly mails had been established between San Francisco and San Diego,
as well as intermediate points, and there was talk of a pony express to
* * * * *
There were many crimes of high and low degree, from rifled tills to dead
men found half buried in the sands. Rumor told of thieves and murderers
encamped in the hollow bowl of a great sandhill, where they slept or
caroused by day, venturing forth only at night. Aleck McTurpin's name
was now and then associated with them as a leader. Men were importing
safes from the States and carrying derringers at night--even the
peaceful Mormons. At this time Governor Mason addressed to Alcalde Hyde
an order for the election of a Town Council.
Adrian was full of these doings when he came home from an executive
session before which he had appeared as an expert on reclamation. "They
are good men, Inez," he declared, enthusiastically. "They'll bring law
to San Francisco. And law is what we need more than all else, my dear."
"And how will they go about it, with no prison-house, no courts or
judges?" asked Inez, wonderingly.
"Oh, those will soon be provided," he assured, "When there is a will for
law the machinery comes." He smiled grimly. "McTurpin and his ilk had
better look to themselves.... We are going after the gamblers."
Men with shovels, leveling the sand-hills, piled the wagons high with
shimmering grains which were dumped into pile-surrounded bogs. San
Francisco reached farther and farther out into the bay.]
GOLD! GOLD! GOLD!
San Francisco never could remember when the first rumor of gold reached
it. Gold was to mean its transformation from a struggling town into a
turbulent, riotous city, a mecca of the world's adventurers.
Benito Windham, early in the spring of '48 brought home an echo of it
from San Jose. One of Sutter's teamsters had exchanged a little pouch of
golden grains for a flask of aguardiente. Afterward he had told of
finding it in the tail-race of Marshall's mill on the south fork of the
American River. Little credence had been given his announcements. In the
south, near San Fernando Mission, gold had long ago been found, but not
in sufficient quantities to allure the fortune hunter.
"See, is it not pretty?" asked Benito, pouring out a handful of the
shining stuff which he had purchased from the teamster.
"Pretty, yes, but what's it worth?" asked Adrian, dubiously.
"Some say it's true value is $16 for an ounce," responded Inez, her eyes
shining. "Samuel Brannan had a letter from a member of his band who says
they wash it from the river sand in pans."
"Sam's skeptical, though," retorted Stanley. "And, as for me, I've a
mine right here in San Francisco." He spoke enthusiastically. "Moving
sandhills into the bay. Making a new city front out of flooded bogs!
That's realism. Romance. And what's better, fortune! Isn't it, my girl?"
Inez' eyes were proud. "Fortune, yes, and not a selfish one. For it is
making others richer, San Francisco better."
"Which is well enough for you," returned Benito with a hint of
sullenness. "But I am tired of clerking for Ward & Smith at two dollars
a day. There's no romance in that." With a quick, restless motion he ran
the golden dust through his fingers again. "I hope they are true, these
stories. And if they are--" he looked at the others challengingly, "then
I'm off to the mines, muy pronto."
"Come," said Stanley, "let us have a game of chess together." But
Benito, with a muttered apology, left them and went out. San Francisco
had streets now, since the O'Farrell survey's adoption by the council.
The old Calle de Fundacion had become Dupont street and below it was
Kearny street, named after the General and former Governor. To the west
were parallel roads, scarcely worthy of the name of thoroughfares,
christened in honor of Commodore Stockton, Surgeon Powell of the
sloop-of-war Warren, Dr. Elbert Jones, Governor Mason, Chaplain
Leavenworth, the present Alcalde, and George Hyde, the former one.
Thomas Larkin, former counsel at Monterey, was also to be distinguished.
East and west the streets had more haphazard names. Broadway and
California were the widest, aside from the projected Market street,
which would have a lordly breadth of 120 feet. Some were named after
Presidents--Jackson, Washington and Clay.
The council had authorized two long wharves, one at the foot of Clay
street, 547 feet long. This was a great undertaking and had caused much
discussion pro and con. But now it was almost completed and a matter of
much civic pride. Large ships, anchored at its terminus, were
discharging cargo, and thither Benito bent his course, head bent, hat
pulled well down on his forehead, until a rousing slap on the back spun
him around almost angrily. He looked into the wise and smiling eyes of
Edward C. Kemble.
"Well, lad," the editor of the _Californian Star_ accosted, "I hear
you've been to San Jose. What's new up there, if I may ask you?"
"Very little ... nothing," said Benito, adding, "save the talk of gold
at Marshall's mill."
"Pooh!" exclaimed the editor. "Marshall's mill, and Mormon island! One
would think the famous fairy tale of El Dorado had come true."
"You place no credence in it, then?" asked Benito, disappointed.
"Not I," said Kemble. "See here," he struck one fist into the palm of
another. "All such balderdash is bad for San Francisco. We're trying to
get ahead, grow, be a city. Look at the work going on. That means
progress, sustained stimulus. And along come these stories of gold
finds. It's the wrong time. The wrong time, I tell you. It'll interfere.
If we get folks excited they'll pull out for the hills, the wilderness.
Everything'll stop here.... Then, bye and bye, they'll come
back--busted! Mark my words, BUSTED! Is that business? No."
He went off shaking his head sagely. Benito puzzled, half resentful,
gazed after him. He abandoned the walk to the dock and returned with
low-spirited resignation to his tasks at Ward & Smith's store.
* * * * *
For several months gold rumors continued to come. Citizens, fearing
ridicule, perhaps, slipped unobtrusively out of town, to test their
truth. Kemble was back from a trip to the so-called gold fields.
Editorially, he made sport of his findings. He had seen feather-brained
fortune-seekers gambling hopelessly with fate, suffering untold
hardships for half the pay they could have gained from "honest labor."
Now and then a miner, dirty and disheveled, came in ragged clothes to
gamble or drink away the contents of a pouch of "dust." It was at first
received suspiciously. Barkeepers took "a pinch for a drink," meaning
what they could grasp with their fingers, and one huge-fisted man
estimated that this method netted him three dollars per glass.
San Francisco awoke to a famine in butcher-knives, pans and candles.
Knives at first were used to gouge out auriferous rock, and soon these
common household appurtenances brought as high as twenty-five dollars
each. Candles ere long were the equivalent of dollars, and pans were
cheap at five dollars each.
Still San Francisco waited, though a constant dribble of departures made
at last perceptible inroads on its population. Then, one May afternoon,
the fat was in the fire.
Samuel Brannan, who had been at his store in New Helvetia, rode through
the streets, holding a pint flask of gold-dust in one hand, swinging his
hat with the other, and whooping like a madman:
"Gold! Gold! Gold! From the American River!"
As if he had applied a torch to the hayrick of popular interest, San
Francisco flamed with fortune-seeking ardor. Next morning many stores
remained unopened. There were neither clerks nor proprietors. Soldiers
fled from the garrison, and Lieutenant William T. Sherman was seen
galloping northward with a provost guard to recapture a score of
deserters. Children found no teacher at the new schoolhouse and for
months its doors were barred. Cargoes, half-discharged, lay on the
wharves, unwarehoused. Crews left en masse for the mines, and ships
floated unmanned at anchor. Many of them never went to sea again.
On every road a hegira of the gold-mad swept northward, many afoot, with
heavy burdens, the more fortunate with horses and pack animals. Men,
old, young, richly dressed and ragged--men of all conditions,
The end of May, in 1848, found San Francisco a manless Eden. Stanley,
struggling with a few elderly Indians and squaws to carry on his work,
bemoaned the madcap folly bitterly.
[Illustration: Samuel Brannan rode through the streets, holding a pint
flask of gold-dust in one hand ... and whooping like a madman: "Gold!
Gold! Gold! From the American River!"]
But Benito, with shining eyes, rode on to what seemed Destiny and
Fortune. Ward & Smith's little shop lay far behind him. Even his sister
and her busy husband. Before him beckoned Gold! The lure, adventure,
danger of it, like a smiling woman. And his spirit stretched forth
THE QUEST OF FORTUNE
By the end of June more than half of San Francisco's population had
departed for the mines. They went by varied routes, mostly on horseback.
Rowboats, which a month ago had sold for $50, were now bringing ten
times that sum, for many took the river route to the gold fields. Others
toiled their way through the hills and the Livermore Valley. The ferry
across Carquinez Straits at Benicia, was thronged to the danger
Those who stayed at home awaited eagerly the irregular mails which
straggled in from unsettled, unorganized, often inaccessible regions
where men cut and slashed the bowels of the earth for precious metal, or
waded knee-deep in icy torrents, washing their sands in shallow
containers for golden residue. No letter had come from Benito to Inez or
Adrian. But Robert Windham wrote from Monterey as follows:
"My Children: Monterey is mad with the gold-lust, and our citizens are
departing with a haste that threatens depopulation. Until recently we
had small belief in the tales of sudden fortune started by the finds at
Marshall's mill. Alcalde Colton dispatched a messenger to the American
River on the 6th of June, and, though he has not returned, others have
brought the news he was sent to gain. On the 12th a man came into town
with a nugget weighing an ounce and all Monterey Buzzed with excitement.
Everyone wanted to test it with acids and microscopes. An old woman
brought her ring and when placed side by side, the metal seemed
identical; it was also compared with the gold knob of a cane. Some
declare it a humbug, but it is generally believed to be genuine gold.
"Governor Mason, who has been messing with Alcalde Colton and a naval
officer named Lieutenant Lanman, is now compelled to bake his own bread.
The trio roast their coffee and cook what meals they eat. Even the negro
who blacked their boots went gold hunting and returned after a few weeks
"Yesterday I met a rough-looking fellow who appeared to be starving. He
had a sack on his shoulder in which was gold-dust and nuggets worth
$15,000. You should have seen him a few hours later--all perfumed and
barbered, with shiny boots; costly, ill-fitting clothes and a marvelous
display of jewelry.
"Alcalde Colton is going to the mines next month. He laughed when he
told me of Henry Bee, the alguacil or jailor of San Jose. This man had
charge of ten prisoners, some of whom were Indians, charged with murder.
He tried to turn them over to the alcalde, but the latter was at the
mines. So Bee took his prisoners with him. It is said their digging has
already made him rich and that he'll let them loose. There is no one to
chide him. And no one to care."
Later in the day Sam Brannan and Editor Kemble looked in on the
Stanleys. "It's sheer insanity!" exploded Kemble. "The soldiers have
gone--left their wives and their children to starve. Even the church is
locked. Governor Mason has threatened martial law in the mining regions,
which are filled with cutthroats and robbers. It's said he contemplates
giving furloughs of two or three months to the gold-fevered troops which
remain. Was there ever such idiocy?"
"You're wrong, Ed," Brannan told him. "This gold boom is the biggest
thing that's ever happened. It'll bring the world to our door. Why,
Mason has reported that gold enough's been taken from the mines already
to pay for the Mexican war."
"Bah!" cried Kemble, and stalked out muttering. Brannan laughed. "He's
riding his hobby consistently. But he'll come down. So you've had no
news from Benito?"
"No," said Inez gloomily. "Perhaps it is too soon. Perhaps he has had no
luck to tell us of as yet. But I wish he would write just a line."
"Well, well, cheer up, my dear," said Brannan, reassuringly. "Benito can
take care of himself. Next week I return to my store in the gold lands,
and I'll have an eye out for the lad. How does your work go, Adrian?"
"Poorly," answered Stanley. "Labor's too high to make money. Why, the
common laborers who were satisfied with a dollar a day, now ask ten, and
mechanics twenty. Even the Indians and the immigrants learn at once the
crazy price of service."
"San Francisco. Port o' Gold!" apostrophized the Mormon gaily. He went
on his way with a friendly wave of the hand. His steps were bent toward
Alcalde Hyde's headquarters. Hyde had made many enemies by his set,
opinionated ways. There was talk of putting Rev. Thaddeus Leavenworth in
his place. But Brannan was by no means certain this would solve the
problem. He missed Leidesdorff sadly. The latter's sudden death had left
a serious hiatus. He was used to talking problems over with the genial,
hospitable Dane, whose counsel was always placid, well considered.
Congress had failed to provide a government for California. San
Francisco grumbled; more than all other towns she needed law.
Stevenson's regiment had been disbanded; its many irresponsibles, held
previously in check by military discipline, now indulged their bent for
lawlessness, unstinted. Everything was confusion. Gold-dust was the
legal tender, but its value was unfixed. The government accepted it at
$10 per ounce, with the privilege of redemption in coin.
The problem of land grants was becoming serious. There were more than
hints of the alcalde's speculation; of illegal favors shown to friends,
undue restrictions placed on others. Brannan shook his head as he
climbed Washington street hill toward the alcalde's office. In the plaza
stood a few mangy horses, too decrepit for sale to gold seekers.
Gambling houses and saloons ringed the square and from these proceeded
drunken shouts, an incessant click of poker chips; now and then a
burst of song.
The sound of a shot swung him swiftly about. It came from the door of a
noisy and crowded mart of chance recently erected, but already the scene
of many quarrels. The blare of music which had issued from it swiftly
ceased. There was a momentary silence; then a sound of shuffling feet,
of whispering voices.
A man ran out into the street as if the devil were after him; another
followed, staggering, a pistol in his hand. He fired one shot and then
collapsed with horrid suddenness at Brannan's feet. The other man ran
into Portsmouth Square, vaulted to the saddle of a horse and spurred
Brannan stooped over the fallen figure. It was that of a brawny, bearded
man, red-shirted, booted, evidently a miner. That he was mortally
wounded his gazing eyes gave evidence. Yet such was his immense vitality
that he muttered, clutching at his throat--staving off dissolution with
the mighty passionate vehemence of some dominating purpose. Brannan bent
"Write," he gasped, and Brannan, with an understanding nod, obeyed. "I
bequeath my claim ... south fork ... American River ... fifty feet from
end of Lone Pine's shadow ... sunset ... to my pard ... Benito Wind--"
His voice broke, but his eyes watched Brannan's movements as the latter
wrote. Dying hands grasped paper, pencil ... signed a scrawling
signature, "Joe Burthen." Then the head dropped back, rolled for a
moment and lay still.
NEWS OF BENITO
Brannan turned from contemplation of the dead to find himself surrounded
by a curious, questioning group. A bartender, coatless, red-faced,
grasping in one hand a heavy bung-starter as if it were a weapon of
defense; a gambler, sleeves rolled up, five cards clutched in nervous
fingers; half a dozen sailors, vaqueros, a ragged miner or two and
several shortskirted young women of the class that had recently drifted
into the hectic night-life of San Francisco. All were whispering
excitedly. Some of the men, with a show of reverence, removed
"Do you know who did this?" Brannan asked.
"I saw it," cried one of the women. She was dressed as a Spanish dancer
and in one hand held a tambourine and castanets. "They fight," she gave
a little smirk of vanity, "about me."
Brannan recognized her as Rosa Terranza, better known as Ensenada Rose.
She had been the cause of many rivalries and quarrels.
"Dandy" Carter, the gambler, let down his sleeves and thrust the cards
into his pocket.
"Rose was dealin' faro," he explained, "and this galoot here bucks the
game.... He lose. You un'erstan'. He lose a lot o' dust ... as much as
forty ounces. Then--just like that--he stops." The gambler snapped his
fingers. "He says, 'My little gal; my partner! God Almighty! I'm
a-wrongin' them!' He starts to go, but Rose acts mighty sympathetic and
he tells her all about the kid."
"Hees little girl," the dancer finished. "I say we dreenk her health
together, and he tell me of the senorita. He draw a picture of his claim
with trees and river and a mountain--ver' fine, like an artist. And he
say, 'You come and marry me and be a mother to my child'." She laughed
grimly. "He was ver' much drunk ... and then--"
"That Sydney Duck comes in," said Dandy Carter. "He sits down at the
table with 'em. They begins to quarrel over Rose. And the fust I knows
there was a gun went off; the girl yells and the other man vamooses,
with this feller staggerin' after."
"He shot from under the table," a sailor volunteered. "'Twas murder.
Where I come from they'd a-hanged him for't."
"But who was he?" Brannan asked the question in another form. The girl
and Dandy Carter looked at one another, furtively. "I--don't know his
name," the girl said, finally.
"Don't any of you?" Brannan's tone was searching. But it brought no
answer. Several shook their heads. Ensenada Rose shivered. "It's cold. I
go back in," she said, and turned from them. Brannan stopped her with a
sudden gesture. "Wait," he ordered. "Where's the map ... the paper this
man showed you ... of his mine?"
Ensenada Rose's eyes looked into Brannan's, with a note of challenge her
chin went up. "Quien sabe?" she retorted. Brannan watched the slender,
graceful figure vanish through the lighted door. In her trail the
gambler and bartender followed. Presently a burst of music issued from
the groggery; a tap-tap-tap of feet in rhythm to the click of castanets.
Already the tragedy was forgotten. Brannan found himself face to face
with the sailor. "I'll help you carry him--somewhere," he said. He
raised the dead man's shoulders from the ground, and Brannan, following
his suggestion, took the other end of the grim burden, which they bore
to the City Hotel. Brannan, in the presence of Alcalde Hyde, searched
Burthen's clothing for the plan which Rosa had described. But they did
not find it; only a buckskin bag with a few grains of gold-dust at the
bottom, a jackknife, a plug of tobacco, a scratched daguerreotype of a
young girl with corkscrew curls and friendly eyes.
* * * * *
Next evening Nathan Spear chanced in to see the Stanleys. "Sam Brannan's
gone," he told them. "Said he'd let you know about Benito. And here's a
letter from Alcalde Colton of Monterey--who's at the gold-fields now."
"Has he seen my brother?" Inez questioned, eagerly.
Spear began to read: "Young Benito Windham has been near here for a
fortnight. I am told, without much luck, He had to sell his horse and
saddle, for the price of living is enormous; finally he paired off with
a man named Burthen--strapping, bearded Kansan with a little daughter,
about 17. They struck a claim, and Burthen's on the way to San Francisco
for supplies. I'll tell you more when I have seen the lad and had a talk
with him. The girl, I understand, was keeping house for them. A pretty,
wistful little thing, they tell me, so I'd better keep an eye on
"Have you seen this Burthen? Is he here?" asked Stanley.
"He was robbed--and killed last night at the Eldorado."
"Sanctissima!" cried the girl, and crossed herself. "Then the little
one's an orphan. And Benito--"
"Her guardian, no doubt."
Spear laughed. "He writes that a miner gave $24 in gold-dust for a box
of seidlitz powders; another paid a dollar a drop for laudanum to cure
his toothache. Flour is $400 per barrel, whisky $20 for a quart bottle,
and sugar $4 a pound. 'It's a mad world, my masters,' as Shakespeare
puts it, but a golden one. By and by this wealth will flow into your
coffers down in San Francisco. Just now there is little disturbance, but
it is bound to come. Several robberies and shootings have already taken
place. There is one man whom I'd call an evil genius--a gambler, a
handsome ruffian and a dead shot, so they tell me. It's rumored that he
has a fancy for the little Burthen girl. Lord save her! Perhaps you
know the rascal, for he hails, I understand, from San Francisco, one
The three surveyed each other in a startled silence.
"Benito and he are sure to quarrel," Inez whispered. "Madre Dolores!
What can we do?"
"Perhaps I'd better run up to the mines," said Adrian. "I've my own
affair, you know, to settle with this fellow."
"No, no, you must not," cried his wife in quick alarm.
Spear smiled. "I wouldn't fret," he spoke assuringly. "Sam's gone up to
see this fellow ... on a little business of his own."
THE VEILED WOMAN
Several months went by with no news from Benito. James Burthen had been
buried in the little graveyard on a hill overlooking the bay. And that
ended the matter in so far as San Francisco was concerned.
In the Alta California, a consolidation of two rival papers, appeared a
brief notice chronicling the death of an unidentified miner, whose
assassin, also nameless, had escaped. Ensenada Rose, described as an
exotic female of dubious antecedents and still more suspicious motives,
had left the Eldorado on the morning after the shooting "for parts
unknown." She was believed to hold some "key to the tragic mystery which
it was not her purpose to reveal."
But killings were becoming too familiar in the growing town to excite
much comment. San Francisco's population had quadrupled in the past half
year and men were streaming in by the hundreds from all quarters of the
globe. Flimsy bunk-houses were hastily erected, springing up as if by
magic overnight. Men stood in long lines for a chance at these sorry
accommodations and the often sorrier meals which a score of enterprising
culinary novices served at prices from one dollar up. Lodging was $30
per month and at this price men slept on naked boards like sailors in a
forecastle, one above the other. Often half a dozen pairs of blankets
served a hundred sleepers. For as soon as a guest of these palatial
hostelries began to snore the enterprising landlord stripped his body of
its covering and served it to a later arrival.
"If the town grows much faster it will be a tragedy," remarked Adrian
to James Lick that afternoon. Lick had bought a city lot at Montgomery
and Jackson streets and had already sold a portion of it for $30,000. He
was a believer in San Francisco's future, and at San Jose his flour
mill, once contemptuously called "Lick's folly," was grinding grain
which at present prices brought almost its weight in gold.
"Things always right themselves, my boy," he said. "Don't worry. Keep
pegging away at your sand lots. Some day you'll be a millionaire."
"But half of these people are homeless. And every day they come faster.
In our neighborhood are a dozen ramshackle tents where these poor devils
keep 'bachelors' hall' with little more than a skillet and a coffee pot.
They call it 'ranching.'" He laughed. "What would our old land barons
have thought of a rancho four by six feet, which the first of our trade
winds will blow into the bay?"
"The Lord," said Lick, devoutly, "tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.
And also to the homeless squatter on our sandy shores."
"I hope you're right," responded Stanley. "It does me good to hear
someone speak of God in this godless place. It is full of thieves and
cut-throats; they've a settlement at the base of the hill overlooking
Clark's Point. No man's life is safe, they tell me, over there."
Lick frowned. "They call it Sydney Town because so many Australian
convicts have settled in it. Some day we'll form a citizens' committee
and run them off."
"Which reminds me," Lick retorted, "that McTurpin came to town this
morning. With a veiled woman ... or girl. She looks little more than
Adrian surveyed the other, startled. "Child?" His mind was full of vague
"Well, she didn't weigh more than a hundred. Yes, they came--both on one
horse, and the fellow's companion none too well pleased, I should say.
Frightened, perhaps, though why she should be is a puzzle." Lick
shrugged his shoulders.
"Has he taken the girl to his--the ranch?" asked Adrian.
"Don't know. I reckon not," Lick answered. "They ate at the City Hotel.
He'd a bag full of dust, so he'll gamble and guzzle till morning most
likely." He regarded his friend keenly, a trifle uneasily. "Come, Adrian
... I'll walk past your door with you."
"I'm not going home just yet, thanks," Stanley's tone was nervously
"Well, good-night, then," said the other with reluctance. He turned
south on Kearny street toward his home. Stanley, looking after him,
stood for a moment as if undetermined. Then he took his way across the
Plaza toward the City Hotel.
In the bar, a long and low-ceiling room, talk buzzed and smoke from many
pipes made a bluish, acrid fog through which, Adrian, standing in the
doorway, saw, imperfectly, a long line of men at the bar. Others sat at
tables playing poker and drinking incessantly, men in red-flannel
shirts, blue denim trousers tucked into high, wrinkled boots. They wore
wide-brimmed hats, and cursed or spat with a fervor and vehemence that
indicated enjoyment. Adrian presently made out the stocky form of
McTurpin, glass upraised. Before him on the bar were a fat buckskin bag
and a bottle. He was boasting of his luck at the mines.
A companion "hefted" the treasure admiringly. "Did you make it gamblin',
Alec?" he inquired.
"No, by Harry!" said the other, tartly. "I'm no gambler any more. I'm a
respectable gentleman with a mine and a ranch," he emptied his glass
and, smacking his lips, continued, "and a beautiful young girl that
loves me ... loves me. Understand?" His hand came down upon the other's
shoulder with a sounding whack.
"Where is she?" asked the other, coaxingly. "You're a cunning hombre,
Alec. Leave us have a look at her, I say."
"Bye and bye," McTurpin spoke more cautiously. "Bye and bye ... then you
can be a witness to the marriage, Dave." He drew the second man aside
across the room, so near to Adrian that the latter stepped back to avoid
"She's a respectable lass," he heard McTurpin whisper. "Yes, it's marry
or nothing with her ... and I'm willing enough, the Lord knows. Can ye
find me a preacher, old fellow?"
He could not make out the other's reply. Their voices died down to an
imperceptible whisper as they moved farther away. Stanley thought they
argued over something. Then the man called Dave passed him and went
swiftly up the hill.
Vaguely troubled, Stanley returned to the veranda. It was unoccupied for
chilly evening breezes had driven the loungers indoors. Absently he
paced the creaking boards and, having reached a corner of the building,
continued his promenade along what seemed to be the rear of the
building. Here a line of doors opened on the veranda like the upper
staterooms of a ship.
Why should he trouble his mind about McTurpin and a paramour? thought
Adrian. Yet his thought was curiously disturbed. Something Spear had
read from a letter vexed him dimly like a memory imperfectly recalled.
What was there about McTurpin and a child? Whose child? And what had it
to do with the veiled woman who had ridden with the gambler from the
mines. Impishly the facts eluded him. Inez would know. But Inez must not
be bothered just now--at this time.
He paused and listened. Was that a woman sobbing? Of course not. Only
his nerves, his silly sentiment. He would go home and forget the
There it was again. This time he could not be mistaken. Noiselessly he
made his way toward the sound. It stopped. But presently it came again.
From where? Ah, yes, the window with a broken pane.
Soft, heartbroken, smothered wailing. Spasms of it. Then an interlude of
silence. Adrian's heart beat rapidly. He tip-toed to the window, tried
the door beside it. Locked. After a moment's hesitation he spoke,
softly: "Is someone in trouble?"
A CALL IN THE NIGHT
There was no answer. For a second time Adrian's mind fought a belief
that sense had tricked him. Now and then a shout from the bar-room
reached him as he waited, listening. The wind whistled eerily through
the scant-leaved scrub-oaks on the slopes above.
But from the room at the window of which he listened there came no
Adrian felt like one hoaxed, made ridiculous by his own sentimentality.
He strode on. But when he reached the farther corner some involuntary
impulse turned him back. And again the sound of muffled sobbing came to
him from the open window--fainter now, as though an effort had been made
to stifle it.
Once more he spoke: "I say, what's the trouble in there? Can I help?"
Almost instantly a face appeared against the pane--a tear-stained face,
terrified and shrinking.
"Oh!" said a voice unsteady with weeping. "Oh! sir, if there is a heart
in your breast you will help me to escape--to find my father."
Her tone, despite agitation, was that of extreme youth. She was not of
the class that frequent gambling halls. Both her dress and her manner
proclaimed that. Adrian was perplexed. "Are you--" he hesitated, fearing
to impart offense, "are you the girl who came with McTurpin?"
"Yes, yes," she spoke hurriedly. "He told me my father was ill. He
promised to take me to him. Instead, he locked me in this room. He
threatened--oh! he is a monster! Will you help me? Do you know my
"What is his name?" asked Stanley.
"Burthen, sir, James Burthen," she replied, and fell once more to
sobbing helplessly. "Oh, if I were only out of here."
Stanley pressed his weight against the door. He was thinking rapidly. So
this was the daughter of Benito's partner--the murdered miner of the
Eldorado tragedy. He recalled the letter from Colton; the hint of
McTurpin's infatuation and its menace. Things became clear to him
suddenly. The door gave as he pressed his knee against it. Presently the
flimsy lock capitulated and he walked into the room. The girl shrank
back against the farther wall at his approach.
"Oh, come," he said, a trifle testily, "I'm not going to hurt you. Get
on your hat. I'll see you're taken care of. I'll place you in charge
of my wife."
"And my father," she begged. "You'll take me to him?"
"Yes, yes, your father," he agreed in haste. "But first you'll come home
She snatched up a hat and shawl from the commode, and, with hurried
movements rearranged her hair; then she followed him submissively into
the gathering dusk, shrinking close as if to efface herself whenever
they passed anyone. The streets were full of men now, mostly bound from
hotels, lodging houses and tents to the Eldorado and kindred resorts.
Many of them ogled her curiously, for a female figure was a rarity in
nocturnal San Francisco.
They passed dimly lighted tents in which dark figures bulked grotesquely
against canvas walls. In one a man seemed to be dancing with a large
animal which Stanley told her was a grizzly bear.
"They have many queer pets," he said. "One of my neighbors keeps a pet
coon, and in another tent there are a bay horse, two dogs, two sheep
and a pair of goats. They sleep with their master like a happy family."
"It is all so strange," said the girl, faintly. "In the East my father
was a lawyer; we had a good house and a carriage; everything was so
different from--this. But after my mother died, he grew restless. He
sold everything and came to this rough, wild country. None of his old
friends would know him now, with his beard, his boots and the horrible
red flannel shirt."
Adrian made no reply. He was thinking of the tragic news which must ere
long be told to Burthen's daughter. For a time they strode along in
silence--until Stanley paused before an open door. Against the inner
light which streamed through it into the darkness of the street a
woman's figure was outlined.
"Well, here we are, at last," said Adrian. "And my wife's in the doorway
waiting to scold me for being so late."
Inez ran to meet him. "I have been anxious," she declared. She noted her
husband's companion, and stepped back, startled. "Adrian, who is this?"
"A daughter of the mur----" Adrian began. He broke the telltale word in
two: "Of James Burthen--Benito's partner."
"Ah, then you know my brother," Inez hailed her eagerly. She took the
girl's hands in her own and pressed them. "You must tell us all about
him--quickly. We have waited long for news."
"You are--Mr. Windham's sister?" cried the girl almost incredulously.
Then, with a swift abandonment to emotion she threw her arms about the
elder woman's neck and sobbed.
Stanley followed them into the house. He saw Inez supporting her
companion, soothing her in those mysterious ways which only women know.
His mind was stirred with grave perplexities.
A peremptory knock aroused him from his cogitations. Could it be the
gambler so soon? He thought there were voices. Several men, no doubt.
Inez called out in a whisper, "Who is there?"
"Go back," her husband ordered. "It's all right, dear. They're friends
Inez came out quickly and stood beside him, looking up into his face.
"You're sure? There's no--no danger?"
Again the rat-tat-tat upon the panel, more peremptory than before.
Stanley forced a laugh. "Danger! Why, of course not. Just a business
talk. But go back and look after the girl. I don't want her coming out
here while I've visitors." He patted her hand. His arm about her
shoulder he ushered her across the threshold of the inner chamber and
closed the door. Then he extinguished the lamp. Hand on pistol he felt
his way toward the outer portal and, with a sudden movement flung it
wide. Three men stood on the threshold. They seemed puzzled by the
darkness. Out of it the host's voice spoke: "Who are you? What do
William Henry Brown was first to answer him. "We want you, Adrian, at
the hotel. Can you come now--quickly?"
"What for?" he asked suspiciously. "Who sent you here?"
"Nobody," came the cheery voice of Dr. Jones. "There's a friend of yours
at Brown's who needs you."
"Damn McTurpin!" spoke the third voice. It was Nathan Spear's. "Light
your lamp. Nobody's going to shoot you, Stanley.... It's young Benito
from the mines and down with fever. He's calling for you ... and for a
girl named Alice.... If you can pacify him--that will help a lot. He's
OUTFACING THE ENEMY
"Wait," said Adrian, hurriedly. He relighted the lamp and, going to the
inner door, called softly. There was an agitated rustle; then the door
swung back and Stanley saw the figure of his wife, beside whom stood the
"What is it, Adrian?"
"There's someone sick at Brown's Hotel," said Adrian, "a friend of mine.
I'm going over there." He made a sign imposing silence on the men.
Inez came close. "You're certain it's no trick," she whispered, "it's
not McTurpin's scheme to--"
"No, no," he assured her hastily. "I'm sure of that." He seized his hat
and coat. "Put down the window shades and answer no one's knock till I
return." He kissed her and without more ado joined the men outside. He
heard the door shut and lock click into place.
For a time the quartette strode along in silence; then Brown spoke, as
if the thought had been long on his lips, "Wasn't that--the girl
McTurpin brought to town?"
"Yes," said Adrian tersely, "it was she."
Brown made no immediate response; he seemed to be digesting Adrian's
remark. Finally he burst out, "If it's any of my business, what's she
"She asked for help," retorted Stanley. He related the incident of the
veranda. Spear laughed meaningly. "That's the second one you've taken
from McTurpin; he'll be loving you a heap, old man."
"He doesn't know it yet," Brown said. "But keep out of his way
Stanley's teeth met with a little click. "When I've seen Benito, Alec
McTurpin and I will have a showdown. But tell me of the boy. What
brought him here?"
"The missing girl, of course," said Dr. James. "He's daft about her.
Alice Burthen ... that's her name, isn't it?"
Stanley was about to make some rejoinder when they passed two men, one
of whom looked at them curiously. He was McTurpin's companion of the
bar-room episode. "Who's that?" asked Spear as Brown saluted the pair.
"That's Reverend Wheeler, the new Baptist parson."
"Yes, yes, I know. But the other one?"
"Ned Gasket ... he's a friend of Dandy Carter's at the Eldorado."
"And a Sydney Duck, I guess," the doctor added.
"Do your own guessing, friend," said Brown, impatiently.
Spear sighed. "We'll have to do more than guess about that stripe of
citizen if we want law and order. It will take a rope I fear," he
Brown led them round the back to a room not far from the one which had
held Alice Burthen.
"It's quieter here," he explained. "They get noisy sometimes along about
midnight." He opened the door and struck a sulphur match by whose weird
flicker they made out a bed with a tossing figure upon it. Adrian
crossed over and took the nervous clutching hands within his own
"Benito," he said. "Don't you know me? It's Adrian!"
Brown with a lighted lamp came nearer, so that Stanley saw the
sufferer's eyes. They were incognizant of realities. The murmuring voice
droned on, fretfully, "I've looked for her everywhere. She's
Suddenly he cried out: "Alice! Alice!" half rising. But he tumbled back
upon the pillow with a swift collapse of weakness and his words waned
into mumbled incoherence.
"Benito," Adrian addressed him earnestly, "Alice is with me. With me and
Inez. She's safe. I'll bring her to you in the morning. Do you
"With you--with Inez?" the sick man repeated. "Then tell her to come. I
want her. Tell Alice to come--"
"Tomorrow," Dr. Jones said, soothingly, "when you've had a chance to
"No, tonight," the fevered eyes stared up at them imploringly. Jones
drew Adrian aside. "Pretend you'll do it or hell wear himself out. Then
go. I'll give him something that will make him sleep." He emptied a
powder in a tumbler of water and held it out to the sick man. "Drink
this," he ordered, "it'll give you strength to see Miss Burthen."
Benito's lips obediently quaffed the drink. His head lay quieter upon
the pillow. Slowly, as they watched, the eyelids closed.
"And now," said Adrian when he had assured himself that Benito slept,
"I'm going for McTurpin."
"Don't be a confounded fool," Dr. Jones said quickly.
But Stanley paid no heed. He went directly into the saloon and looked
about him. At a table, back toward him, sat a stocky figure, playing
cards and reaching for the rum container at his side. Adrian stood a
moment, musing; then his right hand slid down to his hip; a forward
stride and the left hand fell on the player's shoulder.
"We meet once more, McTurpin."
The gambler rose so suddenly that the stool on which he sat rolled over.
His face was red with wine and rage. His fingers moved toward an
"Don't," said Adrian meaningly. The hand fell back.
"What do you want?" the gambler growled.
"A quiet talk, my friend. Come with me."
"And, suppose I refuse?" the other sneered.
"Oh, if you're afraid--" began Adrian.
McTurpin threw his cards upon the table. Between him and a man across
the board flashed a swift, unspoken message. "I'm at your service,
He led the way out, and Adrian following, gave a quick glance backward,
noting that the man across the table had arisen. What he did not see was
that Spear hovered in the offing, following them with watchful eyes.
Toward the north they strolled, past a huddle of tents, for the most
part unlighted. From some came snores and through many a windblown flap,
the searching moonlight revealed sleeping figures. On a waste of
sand-dunes McTurpin paused.
"Now tell me what ye want," he snarled, "and be damned quick about it.
I've small time to waste with meddlers."
"On this occasion," Stanley said, "you'll take the time to note the
following facts, Mr. McTurpin, Mr. Pillsworth--or whatever your true
name may be--I've had a talk with Dandy Carter. He recognized you and
Gasket when Burthen was killed, in spite of your beard. So did Rosa, of
course, though she skipped the next morning. The Burthen girl is at my
house." He paused an instant, thinking that he heard a movement in a
bush nearby. "Well, that's all," he finished, "except this: If I find
you here tomorrow, Alec McTurpin, murderer, card-sharp and abductor,
I'll shoot you down like a dog."
And then, with a splendid piece of bravery, he turned his back on the
gambler, walking away with never a backward glance. He did not go
directly home, but walked for an indeterminate interval till his spirit
was more calm.
The house was dark. Inez had obeyed him by leaving no trace of light.
Doubtless by now they had retired. Suddenly he started, peered more
closely at the door he was about to enter.
It was slightly ajar. On the threshold, as he threw it open, Adrian
found a lace-edged handkerchief. His wife's.
Filled with quick foreboding, he called her name. His voice sounded
hollow, strange, as if an empty house. Tremblingly he struck a light and
searched the inner room. The bed had not been slept in. There was no one
to be seen.
SHOTS IN THE DARK
Frantically Adrian ran out into the darkness, crying his wife's name.
His thought went, with swift apprehension, over the events of recent
hours. The villainous face of Ned Gasket passed before his memory
mockingly; the meaning look McTurpin gave his henchman at the gaming
table. Finally, with double force, that movement in the bushes as he
told the gambler of his former captive's whereabouts. By what absurd
imprudence had he laid himself thus open to the scoundrel's swift
attack? What farther whimsy of an unkind Fate had prompted his
Sudden fury flamed in Stanley's heart; it steadied him. The twitching
fingers on the pistol in his pocket relaxed into a calm and settled
tension. With long strides he made his way toward Brown's hotel.
There was death in his eyes; men who caught their gleam beneath a
lamplight, hastily avoided him. That Inez--at this time--should have
been taken from her home, abducted, frightened or harassed, was the sin
unpardonable. For it he meant to exact a capital punishment. The law,
just then, meant to him nothing; only the primitive instinct of an
outraged man controlled his mind.
At the bar he paused. "Where's McTurpin, where's Gasket?" he demanded,
The bartender observed him with suspicion and uneasiness. "Don't know.
Haven't seen 'em since they started out with you," he answered.
Stanley left the room without another word.
He struck across the Plaza, entering the Eldorado gambling house. There
he ordered a drink, gulped it, made, more quietly, a survey of the room.
He scanned the players carefully. Spear sat at one of the tables, toying
with a pile of chips and stroking his chin reflectively as he surveyed
"Give me two. Hello, there, Adrian. Good Lord! what's up?"
"Have you seen McTurpin or his friend, Ned Gasket?" He tried to speak
A miner at another table leaned forward. "Try the stalls, pard," he
whispered, while his left eyelid descended meaningly.
"Wait," cried Spear and laid his cards down hastily. But Adrian was
already on his way. At the rear were half a dozen small compartments
where visitors might drink in semi-privacy with women who frequented
Adrian made the round of them, flinging aside each curtain as he went.
Some greeted him with curses for intruding; some with invitations. But
he did not find the men he sought, until the last curtain was thrown
back. There sat Gasket and McTurpin opposite Ensenada Rose. She looked
up impudently as Adrian entered. Into the gambler's visage sprang a
quick surprise and fear. Instantly he blew out the lamp.
A pistol spoke savagely almost in Adrian's face. He staggered, clasping
one hand to his head. Something warm ran down his cheek and the side of
his neck. He felt giddy, stunned. But a dominant impulse jerked his own
revolver into position and he shot twice--as rapidly as he could operate
the weapon. The narrow space was chokingly filled with acrid vapor.
Somewhere a woman screamed; then came a rush of feet.
It seemed to Adrian he had stood for hours in a kind of stupor when a
light was brought. Gasket lay, his head bowed over on the table and an
arm flung forward. He was dead. On the floor was a lace mantilla.
Spear reached Adrian's side ahead of the others. "I heard him shoot
first," he said, so that all might hear him. "Are you hit?"
Adrian's hand went once more to his cheek. "Just a furrow," he said and
smiled a trifle dazedly. "He fired straight into my face."
"By Harry! He must have. Your cheek's powder-marked," cried Brannan,
running up and holding the lamp for a better view. "See that, gentlemen?
They tried to murder Mr. Stanley. This is self-defense. Who fired
"This fellow!" Adrian indicated the sprawled figure. "Must have been. I
shot at the flash from his gun; then I aimed at McTurpin. I missed him,
"Not so sure of that," said Brown, who had come running from his
hostelry across the square. "Look, here's blood on the floor. A
trail--let's follow it. Either McTurpin or the woman was hit."
"I tried to avoid her," Adrian said. "I--hope I didn't--"
"Never mind. You were attacked. They're all of a parcel," cried a man
who wore the badge of a constable. "We've had our eyes on the three of
them a long time. This fellow," he indicated Gasket, "was one of the
crowd suspected of the Warren murders. He's the one who killed old
Burthen. Dandy Carter let it out tonight; he's half delirious. We'd have
strung him up most probably, if you hadn't--"
"Come," urged Brannan, "let us follow this trail to the wounded. Perhaps
he or she needs assistance." He held the lamp low, tracing the dark
spots across an intervening space to the rear entrance; thence to a
hitching rack where several horses still were tethered. "They mounted
here," the constable decided. "One horse probably. No telling which it
was that got the bullet."
Adrian was conscious, suddenly, that his hand still held the pistol. He
flung it from him with a gesture of repulsion.
"My wife!" he said faintly, "Inez!"
"What d'ye mean?" asked Spear.
"Talk up, man. What's wrong?"
"She's gone--abducted," Stanley answered. "Who'll lend me a horse. I
must find McTurpin. He knows--"
Unexpectedly Spear complicated matters. "You're mistaken, Stanley. I
followed when you and he took your walk together. I suspected
treachery--when Gasket sneaked along behind. I had McTurpin covered when
you turned your back on him. He came here after that. Both of them have
been here all the evening."
Stanley put his hand to his head with a bewildered gesture.
"Good God! Then where--? What has become of them?"
"Maybe they got wind of Benito's presence. Maybe they're with him. Let's
They hurried back to the City Hotel.
"The room's dark," Spear lighted a taper and they softly opened the
door. Benito slept; beside him drowsed a red-shirted miner slumped upon
a chair. Adrian shook him, whispering, "Where's Doctor Jones?"
"Don't know," muttered the watcher, sleepily. "This yere is his busy
night I reckon. Asked me to look after this galoot. Feed him four
fingers of that pizen if he woke."
His head drooped forward and a buzzing sound came from his open mouth.
Once more Adrian shook him.
"Didn't he say anything about his destination?"
"His which, pard?"
"Where he was bound," the young man said half angrily.
This time the other sat up straighter. For the first time he really
awoke and took intelligent cognizance of the situation.
"Now I come to think on it, he's bound for the hill over yonder. Woman
named Briones come for him at a double quick. Good lookin' Spanish
wench. She took him by the arm commandin' like. 'You come along,' she
says and picks up his medicine chest. 'Don't stop for yer hat.' And he
didn't." He winked heavily, chuckling at the reminiscence.
"Then it isn't Juana Briones that's ill. Perhaps it's her husband."
"Has she got a husband?" asked the miner, disappointedly. "No, I reckon
'twant him. 'Twas a woman name o' Stanley. I remember now--Goin' to
have a bebby."
THE NEW ARRIVAL
"Take my horse," said Brannan, hurriedly. "I'll stay here with Benito."
He bundled the excited Stanley and Nathan Spear out of the room, where
Benito still slept under the spell of the doctor's opiate. "You, too,"
he told the miner, "you've had too much red liquor to play the nurse."
He closed the door after them.
The young contractor spoke first. "By the eternal, I never thought of
that! I'm glad she had a woman with her."
He spurred his horse toward Telegraph, Hill, as it had begun to be
known, since signals were flashed from its crest, announcing the arrival
of vessels. Down its farther slope was the little rancho of Dona
Briones, where Inez in her extremity had sought the good friend of her
Adrian's thought leaped forward into coming years. Inez and he together,
always together as the years passed. And between them a son--intuitively
he felt that it would be a son--a successor, taking up their burdens as
they laid them down; bearing their name, their ideals, purposes along,
down the pageant of time.
He paid little heed as they passed through a huddle of huts, tents and
lean-tos on the southern ascent. Though the hour was late, many windows
were light and sounds of revelry came dimly, as though muffled, from
curtain-hid interiors. There was something furtive and ill-omened about
this neighborhood which one sensed rather than perceived. Spear rode
close and touched Adrian's arm.
"Sydney town," he whispered, meaningly. "The hang-out of our convict
citizens from Australia, those eastern toughs and plug-uglies of the
Seventh regiment who came here to feather their nests. Do you know what
they've done? Formed a society called The Hounds. Appropriate, isn't it?
Your friend McTurpin's one of them. Thanks to you, they've lost a
"Hounds?" said Adrian. His thought still forged ahead. "Oh, yes, I've
heard about them. They are going to drive out the foreigners."
"Loot them, more likely," Spear returned, disgustedly; "then us, if we
don't look out. Mark my word, they'll give us trouble. Alcalde
Leavenworth's too careless by half."
Stanley, paying scant attention, suddenly leaned forward in his saddle.
At one of the windows a curtain was drawn back; a woman's face appeared
for a moment silhouetted against inner light; then as swiftly withdrew.
"Who was that?" asked Adrian, involuntarily reining in his mount.
"Rosa Terranza," said Spear excitedly.
They listened. From within the tent-house came a sound of hasty
movements, whispering. The light winked out. A bolt was shot;
"I'll bet, by Jupiter, McTurpin's there," cried Adrian.
"And that he's hurt," Spear added. "What shall we do?"
"Let them be," decided Stanley, clucking to his horse. "My duty's
ahead." He took the steep pitch of the hillside almost at a gallop and
soon they were descending again into that little settlement of waterside
and slope called North Beach. Juana Briones' place had been its pioneer
habitation. Her hospitable gate stood always invitingly open. Through
the branches of a cypress lights could be seen. The front door stood
ajar and about it were whispering women. Adrian's heart leaped. Was
something amiss? He dismounted impetuously, throwing the reins to an
Indian who had come out evidently to do them service. Spear followed as
he rushed through the door. There stood Dona Briones, finger on lip,
demanding silence. Her face was grave.
"How--how is she? How is Inez?" Adrian stammered.
"The doctor's with her. Everything will be all right, I think. But make
no noise. Go in that room and sit down."
Adrian threw up his hands. "My God, woman! How can I sit still
"Walk up and down, then," said Juana, "but take off your shoes."
Which Adrian finally did. It seemed to him that he had paced the tiny
chamber a thousand times. He heard movements, voices in the next room;
now and then his wife's moan and the elder woman's soothing accents.
Then a silence which seemed century long, a silence fraught with
unimaginable terror. It was broken by a new sound, high pitched, feeble,
but distinct; the cry of a child. Helplessly Adrian subsided into a
chair beside Nathan Spear. "Do you hear that?" he asked, mopping
"Yes, I heard it," said the other non-committally.
"I can't stand this any longer," Adrian exclaimed. "I'm going in there.
I--I've got to know--"
He rose, determinedly, shaking off Spear's detaining arm. In the doorway
stood Dr. Jones. Again came the tiny cry. "It's a boy," said the medico,
and held out his hand.
But Adrian caught him by the shoulders. "My wife?" he asked. "How is
she? Is there any--"
"Danger? No, it's over," said the doctor. "Sit down and calm yourself."
Adrian relaxed a trifle. Finally his set face softened; he laughed.
* * * * *
It was the evening of July 14, 1849. Stanley stood over the cradle of
his son, looking worshipfully down at the tiny sleeping face. Inez
Stanley, busied with the varied tasks of motherhood, came and stood for
a moment beside him. She voiced that platitude of wives and mothers in
their pride: "He looks just like you, Adrian."
Stanley put his hands upon her shoulders. "Got your mouth, your big
eyes," he said, and kissed her.
They were wont to quarrel tenderly over this. But tonight Inez looked
seriously up at her husband. Suddenly she hid her face upon
"If only--if only--" she whispered, "he wouldn't grow up. And we
wouldn't grow old."
Stanley's fingers on her hair stroked gently. "Life is life, my dear,"
he said at last. "Let us not question the inexorable too deeply.
Yesterday is gone, you know. Tomorrow never comes.... And here we are
together in the best town in the world. With love, good prospects ...
our little Francisco--"
"He will live to see a great city," said Inez, comforted. "He will help
to make it." Her eyes were prophetic. The child stirred and hastily they
withdrew, lowering the light so that his slumber might be undisturbed. A
light tap sounded at the door and Adrian answered.
Spear and Brannan with Benito stood upon the threshold. The latter
entered, kissed his sister and was shown the sleeping child. "How is
Alice?" Inez asked.
"Well. And the best little wife in the world," Benito answered. His eyes
glowed happily. "The tiny Francisco is growing like a weed. Only ten
"Nine months, two weeks and three days," said his mother, glibly. "Won't
you all come in and see the baby?" she invited.
"No," Spear answered. "We must steal your husband for a' little while.
There's business at the City Hall...."
"Adrian's become a prominent citizen, you know," he added at her look of
She brought her husband's hat. "Don't be long," she urged, and smiled a
good-bye from the threshold. When he heard the door shut, Adrian turned
on Brannan. "What's up?"
"Plenty," said the other meaningly. "The Hounds have broken out. They
looted Little Chili about dark tonight and one of them was shot. They
threaten to burn the foreign quarter. They're arming. There's
"And what do you want of me?" Stanley questioned.
"Damn it! Wake up, man!" cried Spear. "A citizens' committee. We're
going to enforce the law--if it takes a rope."
THE CHAOS OF '49
Inez and Alice were returning from church on Sunday, July 15 when they
encountered a strange, unsabbatical procession; a company of grim and
tight-lipped citizens marching, rifles over shoulder toward the Bay. At
their head was William Spofford. Midway of the parade were a dozen
rough-appearing fellows, manacled and guarded. Among these Inez
recognized Sam Roberts, gaunt and bearded leader of the hoodlum band
known as The Hounds or Regulars. From Little Chili, further to the north
and west, rose clouds of smoke; now and then a leaping tongue of flame.
Presently Benito, musket at shoulder, came marching by and Inez plucked
at his arm.
"Can't stop now," he told her hurriedly. "We're taking these rogues to
the sloop Warren. They're to be tried for arson and assault in the
"By the Eternal!" shouted a bystander enthusiastically. "We've got Law
in San Francisco at last.... Hurrah for Bill Spofford and the Citizens'
"There's Adrian," cried Inez as the rearguard of the pageant passed.
"Isn't it fine? Alice, aren't you proud?"
But Alice was a practical little body. "They'll be hungry when they come
home," she averred. "Let us hurry back and get their dinner ready."
[Illustration: Passersby who laughed at the inscription witnessed
simultaneously the rescue of an almost-submerged donkey by means of an
The affair of The Hounds was already past history when the gold-seekers,
hunted from the heights by early snows, returned to San Francisco in
great numbers. Sara Roberts and his evil band had been deported.
Better government obtained but there were many other civic problems
still unsolved. San Francisco, now a hectic, riotous metropolis of
25,000 inhabitants, was like a muddy Venice, for heavy rains had made
its unpaved streets canals of oozy mud. At Clay and Kearny streets, in
the heart of the business district, some wag had placed a
THIS STREET IS IMPASSABLE
NOT EVEN JACKASSABLE
In which there was both truth and poetry. Passersby who laughed at the
inscription witnessed simultaneously the rescue of an almost-submerged
donkey by means of an improvised derrick.
* * * * *
Benito was showing his friend David Broderick, a recent arrival from New
York, some of San Francisco's sights. "Everything is being used to
bridge the crossings," said the former laughingly ... "stuff that came
from those deserted ships out in the bay. Their masts are like a
forest--hundreds of them."
"You mean their crew deserted during the gold rush?" Broderick inquired.
"Yes, even the skippers and officers in many cases.... See, here is a
cargo of sieves with which some poor misguided trader overwhelmed the
market. They make a fair crossing, planted in the mud. And there are
stepping stones of tobacco boxes--never been opened, mind you--barrels
of tainted pork and beef. On Montgomery street is a row of cook stoves
which make a fine sidewalk, though, sometimes the mud covers them."
"And what are those two brigs doing stranded in the mud?" asked
"Oh, those are the Euphemia and Apollo. They use the first one for a
jail. That's Geary's scheme. He's full of business. And the second's a
tavern.... Let's go up to the new post-office. Alice is always eager
for a letter from her folks in Massachusetts."
They made their way to the new wooden structure at Clay and Pike streets
where several clerks were busily sorting the semi-weekly mail which had
just arrived. Hundreds of people stood in long queues before each of the
windows. "Get in line stranger," said a red-shirted man laughingly.
"Only seventy-five ahead of us. I counted 'em.... Some have been in line
since last night I'm told. They're up near the front and holding places
for others ... getting $20 cash for their time."
Broderick and Benito decided not to wait. They made another journey
round the town, watching Chinese builders erecting long rows of
habitations that had come in sections from Cathay. Everywhere was hasty,
feverish construction--flimsy houses going up like mushrooms over night
to meet the needs of San Francisco's swiftly augmenting populace.
"It's like a house of cards," said Broderick, who had been a fireman in
New York. "Lord help us if it ever starts to burn. Even our drinking
water comes from Sausalito across the Bay."
RETRIEVING A BIRTHRIGHT
Benito Windham stole from his dwelling, closing the door softly after
him so Alice, his wife, might not wake. A faint rose dawn colored the
Contra Costa ridge. From a few of the huts and larger buildings which
sprinkled San Francisco's hills and hollows so haphazardly, curls of
blue white wood smoke rose into the windless air. Here and there some
belated roisterer staggered toward his habitation. But otherwise all was
still, quicscent. San Francisco slept.
It was the morning of December 24, 1849--the first Christmas eve
following the gold rush. Windham, who had lain awake since midnight,
pondered upon this and other things. Events had succeeded each other
with such riotous activity of late that life seemed more like a dream
than a reality. His turbulent months at the mines, his high preliminary
hopes of fortune, their gradual waning to a slow despair; the advent of
James Burthen and his daughter; then love, his partner's murder and the
girl's abduction; his pursuit and illness. Alice's rescue and their
marriage; his return to find the claim covered with snow; finally a
clerical post in San Francisco.
A sudden distaste for the feverish, riotous town assailed him--a longing
for the peace and beauty of those broad paternal acres he had lost upon
the gaming table wrenched his heart.
He pictured Alice in the old rose patio, where his American father had
wooed his Spanish mother.
Involuntarily his steps turned eastward. At Sacramento and Leidesdorff
streets he left solid ground to tread a four-foot board above the water,
to the theoretical line of Sansome street; thence south upon a similar
foothold to the solid ground of Bush street, where an immense sand-*hill
with a hollow in its middle, like a crater, struck across the path. Some
called this depression Thieves Hollow, for in it deserting sailors,
ticket-of-leave men from Botany Bay prison colony and all manner of
human riff-raff consorted for nefarious intrigue.
Benito, mounting the slope, looked down at a welter of tents, shacks,
deck houses and galleys of wrecked ships. He had expected their
occupants to be asleep, for they were nighthawks who reversed man's
usual order in the prosecution of nocturnal and ill-favored trades. He
was astonished to note a general activity. At the portholes of dwellings
retrieved from the wreck of the sea, unkempt bearded faces stared; smoke
leaped from a dozen rickety, unstable chimneys, and in the open several
groups of men and women plied frying pans and coffee pots over
Benito observed them with a covert interest. A black-browed man with a
shaggy beard and something leonine about him, seemed the master of the
chief of this godless band. He moved among them, giving orders, and with
two companions finally ascended to the top. Benito, concealing himself
behind a scrub oak, watched them, animatedly conversing, as they
descended and picked their way inland toward the Square. So swift their
movements and so low their tones he could not make out the tenor of
their discourse. He caught the words, "like tow," but that was all.
Musingly, he went on.
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