PORT O' GOLD
A History-Romance of the San Francisco Argonauts
LOUIS J. STELLMAN
TO THE CITY OF MY ADOPTION AND REBIRTH SAN FRANCISCO
Oft from my window have I seen the day Break o'er thy roofs and towers like a dream In mystic silver, mirrored by the Bay, Bedecked with shadow craft ... and then a gleam Of golden sunlight cleaving swiftly sure Some narrow cloud-rift—limning hill or plain With flecks of gypsy-radiance that endure But for the moment and are gone again.
Then I have ventured on thy strident streets, Mid whir of traffic in the vibrant hour When Commerce with its clashing cymbal greets The mighty Mammon in his pomp of power.... And in the quiet dusk of eventide, As wearied toilers quit the marts of Trade, Have I been of their pageant—or allied With Passion's revel in the Night Parade.
Oh, I have known thee in a thousand moods And lived a thousand lives within thy bounds; Adventured with the throng that laughs or broods, Trod all thy cloisters and thy pleasure grounds, Seen thee, in travail from the fiery torch, Betrayed by Greed, smirched by thy sons' disgrace— Rise with a spirit that no flame can scorch To make thyself a new and honored place.
Ah, Good Gray City! Let me sing thy song Of western splendor, vigorous and bold; In vice or virtue unashamed and strong— Stormy of mien but with a heart of gold! I love thee, San Francisco; I am proud Of all thy scars and trophies, praise or blame And from thy wind-swept hills I cry aloud The everlasting glory of thy name.
This is the story of San Francisco. When a newspaper editor summoned me from the mountains to write a serial he said:
"I've sent for you because I believe you love this city more than any other writer of my acquaintance or knowledge. And I believe the true story of San Francisco will make a more dramatic, vivid, human narrative than any fiction I've ever read.
"Take all the time you want. Get everything straight, and put all you've got into this story. I'm going to wake up the town with it."
To the best of my ability, I followed the editor's instructions. He declared himself satisfied. The public responded generously. The serial was a success.
But, ah! I wish I might have written it much better ... or that Robert Louis Stevenson, for instance, might have done it in my stead.
"Port O' Gold" is history with a fiction thread to string its episodes upon. Most of the characters are men and women who have lived and played their parts exactly as described herein. The background and chronology are as accurate as extensive and painstaking research can make them.
People have informed me that my fictional characters, vide Benito, "took hold of them" more than the "real ones" ... which is natural enough, perhaps, since they are my own brain-children, while the others are merely adopted. Nor is this anything to be deplored. The writer, after all, is first an entertainer. Indirectly he may edify, inform or teach. My only claim is that I've tried to tell the story of the city that I love as truly and attractively as I was able. My only hope is that I have been worthy of the task.
Valuable aid in the accumulation of historical data for this volume was given by:
Robert Rea, librarian, San Francisco Public Library;
Mary A. Byrne, manager Reference Department, San Francisco Public Library;
John Howell and John J. Newbegin, booksellers and collectors of Californiana, for whose cheerful interest and many courtesies the author is sincerely grateful.
I Yerba Buena. II The Gambled Patrimony. III The Gringo Ships. IV American Occupation. V An Offer and a Threat. VI The First Election. VII The Rancheros Revolt. VIII McTurpin's Coup. IX The Elopement. X Hull "Capitulates". XI San Francisco is Named. XII The New York Volunteers. XIII The "Sydney Ducks". XIV The Auction on the Beach. XV The Beginning of Law. XVI Gold! Gold! Gold! XVII The Quest of Fortune. XVIII News of Benito. XIX The Veiled Woman. XX A Call in the Night. XXI Outfacing the Enemy. XXII Shots in the Dark. XXIII The New Arrival. XXIV The Chaos of '49. XXV Retrieving a Birthright. XXVI Fire! Fire! Fire! XXVII Politics and a Warning. XXVIII On the Trail of McTurpin. XXIX The Squatter Conspiracy. XXX "Growing Pains". XXXI The Vigilance Committee. XXXII The People's Jury. XXXIII The Reckoning. XXXIV The Hanging of Jenkins. XXXV The People and the Law. XXXVI Fevers of Finance. XXXVII "Give Us Our Savings". XXXVIII King Starts the Bulletin. XXXIX Richardson and Cora. XL The Storm Gathers. XLI The Fateful Encounter. XLII The Committee Organizes. XLIII Governor Johnson Mediates. XLIV The Truce is Broken. XLV The Committee Strikes. XLVI Retribution. XLVII Hints of Civil War. XLVIII Sherman Resigns. XLIX Terry Stabs Hopkins. L The Committee Disbands. LI Senator Broderick. LII A Trip to Chinatown. LIII Enter Po Lun. LIV The "Field of Honor". LV The Southern Plot. LVI Some War Reactions. LVII Waters Pays the Price. LVIII McTurpin Turns Informer. LIX The Comstock Furore. LX The Shattered Bubble. LXI Desperate Finance. LXII Adolph Sutro's Tunnel. LXIII Lees Solves a Mystery. LXIV An Idol Topples. LXV Industrial Unrest. LXVI The Pick-Handle Parade. LXVII Dennis Kearney. LXVIII The Woman Reporter. LXIX A New Generation. LXX Robert and Maizie. LXXI The Blind Boss. LXXII Fate Takes a Hand. LXXIII The Return. LXXIV The "Reformer". LXXV A Nocturnal Adventure. LXXVI Politics and Romance. LXXVII Aleta's Problem. LXXVIII The Fateful Morn. LXXIX The Turmoil. LXXX Aftermath. LXXXI Readjustment. LXXXII At Bay. LXXXIII In the Toils. LXXXIV The Net Closes. LXXXV The Seven Plagues. LXXXVI A New City Government. LXXXVII Norah Finds Out. LXXXVIII The Shooting of Heney. LXXXIX Defeat of the Prosecution. XC The Measure of Redemption. XCI Conclusion.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
As they looked, the sunlight triumphed, scattering the fog into queer, floating shapes, luminous and fraught with weird suggestions.... One might have thought a splendid city lay before them, ... impalpable, yet triumphant, with its hint of destiny.
"Ah, Senor," Inez' smile had faded, ... "they have cause for hatred".
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.
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".
Passersby who laughed at the inscription witnessed simultaneously the rescue of an almost submerged donkey by means of an improvised derrick.
Broderick's commanding figure was seen rushing hither and thither.... "You and two others. Blow up or pull down that building," he indicated a sprawling, ramshackle structure.
There sat the redoubtable captain, all the ... austerity of his West Point manner melted in the indignity of sneezes and wheezes.... "Money! God Almighty! Sherman, there's not a loose dollar in town".
"Draw and defend yourself," he said loudly. He shut his eyes and a little puff of smoke seemed to spring from the end of his fingers, followed ... by a sharp report.
In front of the building on a high platform, two men stood.... A half-suppressed roar went up from the throng.
Terry, who had taken careful aim, now fired. Broderick staggered, recovered himself. Slowly he sank to one knee.
The concourse broke into applause. Then it was hysteria, pandemonium. Fifty thousand knew their city was safe for Anti-Slavery.
Half a thousand jobless workers, armed and reckless, marched toward the docks. They bore torches.... "A hell-bent crew," said Ellis.
"My boy ... you're wasting your time as a reporter. Listen," he laid a hand upon Francisco's knee. "I've a job for you.... The new Mayor will need a secretary".
"Perhaps I shall find me a man—big, strong, impressive—with a mind easily led.... Then I shall train him to be a leader.... I shall furnish the brain".
"I am going South," Francisco told his son. "I cannot bear this".
All at once he stepped forward.... Tears were streaming down his face. Then the judge's question, clearly heard, "What is your plea?" "Guilty!" Ruef returned.
A HISTORY-ROMANCE OF THE SAN FRANCISCO ARGONAUTS
"Blessed be the Saints. It is the Punta de Los Reyes." The speaker was a bearded man of middle years. A certain nobleness about him like an ermine garment of authority was purely of the spirit, for he was neither of imposing height nor of commanding presence. His clothing hung about him loosely and recent illness had drawn haggard lines upon his face. But his eyes flashed like an eagle's, and the hand which pointed northward, though it trembled, had the fine dramatic grace of one who leads in its imperious gesture. He swept from his head the once magnificent hat with its scarred velour and windtorn plume, bending one knee in a movement of silent reverence and thanksgiving. This was Gaspar de Portola, October 31,1769.
Near him stood his aides. All of them were travel-stained, careworn with hardship and fatigue. Following their chieftain they uncovered and knelt. To one side and a little below the apex of a rocky promontory that contained the little group, Christian Indians, muleteers and soldados crossed themselves and looked up questioningly. In a dozen litters sick men tossed and moaned. A mule brayed raucously, startling flocks of wild geese to flight from nearby cliffs, a herd of deer on a mad stampede inland.
Portola rose and swept the horizon with his half-fevered gaze. To the south lay the rugged shore line with its sea-corroded cliffs, indented at one point into a half-moon of glistening beach and sweeping on again into vanishing and reappearing shapes of mist.
Far to the northwest a giant arm of land reached out into the water, high and stark and rocky; further on a group of white farallones lay in the tossing foam and over them great flocks of seabirds dipped and circled. Finally, along the coast to the northward, they descried those chalk cliffs which Francis Drake had aptly named New Albion, and still beyond, what seemed to be the mouth of an inlet.
Dispute sprang up among them. Since July 14th they had been searching between this place and San Diego for the port of Monterey. "Perhaps this is the place," said Crespi, the priest, reluctantly. "Vizcaino may have been amiss when he located it in 37 degrees."
"Yes," spoke Captain Fernando de Rivera, "these explorers are careless dogs. One seldom finds the places they map out so gaily. And what do they care who dies of the hunger or scurvy—drinking their flagons in Mexico or Madrid? A curse, say I, on the lot of them."
Portola turned an irritated glance of disapproval on his henchmen. "What say you, my pathfinder?" he addressed Sergeant Jose Ortega, chief of Scouts.
"That no one may be certain, your excellency," the scout-chief answered. "But," his eyes met those of his commander with a look of grim significance, "one may learn."
Portola laid a hand almost affectionately on the other's leather-covered shoulder. Here was a man after his heart. Always he had been ahead of the van, selecting camp sites, clearing ways through impenetrable brush, fighting off hostile savages. Now, ill and hungry as he was, for rations had for several days been down to four tortillas per man, Ortega was ready to set forth again.
"You had better rest, Saldado. You are far from well. Start to-morrow."
Ortega shrugged. "Meanwhile they mutter," his eyes jerked to the indiscriminate company below.
"When men march and have a motive, they forget their grievances. When they lie in camp the devil stalks about and puts mischief into their thought. I have been a soldier for fourteen years, your excellency."
"And I for thirty," said the other dryly, but he smiled. "You are right, my sergeant. Go. And may your patron saint, the reverend father of Assisi, aid you."
Ortega saluted and withdrew. "I will require three days with your excellency's grace," he said. Portola nodded and observed Ortega's sharp commands wheel a dozen mounted soldados into line. They galloped past him, their lances at salute and dashed with a clatter of hoofs into the valley below.
Young Francisco Garvez spurred his big mare forward till he rode beside the sergeant. A tall, half-lanky lad he was with the eager prescience of youth, its dreams and something of its shyness hidden in the dark alertness of his mien.
"Whither now, my sergeant?" he inquired with a trace of pertness as he laid a hand upon the other's pommel. "Do we search again for that elusive Monterey? Methinks Vizcaino dreamed it in his cups." He smiled, a flash of strong, white teeth relieving the half-weary relaxation of his features, and Ortega turning, answered him:
"Perhaps the good St. Francis hid it from our eyes—that we might first discover this puerto christened in his honor. We have three days to reach the Punta de los Reyes, which Vizcaino named for the kings of Cologne."
For a time the two rode on in silence. Then young Garvez muttered: "It is well for Portola that your soldados love you.... Else the expedition had not come thus far." The sergeant looked at his companion smolderingly, but he did not speak. He knew as well as anyone that the Governor's life was in danger; that conspiracy was in the air. And it was for this he had taken with him all the stronger malcontents. Yes, they loved him—whatever treachery might have brooded in their minds. His eyes kindled with the knowledge. He led them at a good pace forward over hill and dale, through rough and briery undergrowth, fording here and there a stream, spurring tired horses over spans of dragging sand until darkness made further progress impossible. But with the break of day he was on again after a scanty meal. Just at sunrise he led his party up to a commanding headland where he paused to rest. His winded mount and that of Garvez panted side by side upon the crest while his troopers, single file, picked their way up the narrow trail. Below them was the Bay of San Francisco guarded by the swirling narrows of the Golden Gate. And over the brown hilltops of the Contra Costa a great golden ball of sunlight battled with the lacy mists of dawn.
It was a picture to impress one with its mystery and magnificence. The two men gazed upon it with an oddly blended sense of awe and exultation. And as they looked the sunlight triumphed, scattering the fog into queer floating shapes, luminous and fraught with weird suggestions of castle, dome, of turret, minaret and towering spire. One might have thought a splendid city lay before them in the barren cove of sand-dunes, a city impalpable, yet triumphant, with its hint of destiny; translucent silver and gold, shifting and amazing—gone in a flash as the sun's full radiance burst forth through the vapor-screen.
"It was like a sign from Heaven!" Garvez breathed.
Ortega crossed himself. The younger man went on, "Something like a voice within me seemed to say 'Here shall you find your home—you and your children and their children's children.'"
Ortega looked down at the dawn-gold on the waters and the tree-ringed cove. Here and there small herds of deer drank from a stream or browsed upon the scant verdure of sandy meadows. In a distant grove a score of Indian tepees raised their cone shapes to the sky; lazy plumes of blue-white smoke curled upward. Canoes, rafts of tules, skillfully bound together, carried dark-skinned natives over wind-tossed waters, the ends of their double paddles flashing in the sun.
"One may not know the ways of God." Ortega spoke a trifle bruskly. "What is plain to me is that we cannot journey farther. This estero cuts our path in two. And in three days we cannot circle it to reach the Contra Costa. We must return and make report to the commander."
He wheeled and shouted a command to his troopers. The cavalcade rode south but young Francisco turning in the saddle cast a farewell glance toward the shining bay. "Port O' Gold!" he whispered raptly, "some day men shall know your fame around the world!"
PORT O' GOLD
It was 1845. Three quarters of a century had passed since young Francisco Garvez, as he rode beside Portola's chief of Scouts, glimpsed the mystic vision of a city rising from the sandy shores of San Francisco Bay.
Garvez, so tradition held, had taken for his spouse an Indian maiden educated by the mission padres of far San Diego. For his service as soldado of old Spain he had been granted many acres near the Mission of Dolores and his son, through marriage, had combined this with another large estate. There a second generation of the Garvez family had looked down from a palatial hacienda upon spreading grain-fields, wide-reaching pastures and corrals of blooded stock. They had seen the Mission era wax and wane and Mexico cast off the governmental shackles of Madrid. They had looked askance upon the coming of the "Gringo" and Francisco Garvez II, in the feebleness of age, had railed against the destiny that gave his youngest daughter to a Yankee engineer. He had bade her choose between allegiance to an honored race and exile with one whom he termed an unknown, alien interloper. But in the end he had forgiven, when she chose, as is the wont of women, Love's eternal path. Thus the Garvez rancho, at his death became the Windham ranch and there dwelt Dona Anita with her children Inez and Benito, for her husband, "Don Roberto" Windham lingered with an engineering expedition in the wilds of Oregon.
Just nineteen was young Benito, straight and slim, combining in his fledgling soul the austere heritage of Anglo-Saxons with the leaping fires of Castile. Fondly, yet with something anxious in her glance, his mother watched the boy as he sprang nimbly to the saddle of his favorite horse. He was like her husband, strong and self-reliant. Yet,—she sighed involuntarily with the thought,—he had much of the manner of her handsome and ill-fated brother, Don Diego, victim of a duel that had followed cards and wine.
"Why so troubled, madre mia?" The little hand of Inez stole into her mother's reassuringly. "Is it that you fear for our Benito when he rides among the Gringos of the puebla?"
Her dark crowned and exquisite head rose proudly and her eyes flashed as she watched her brother riding with the grace of splendid horsemanship toward the distant town of Yerba Buena. "He can take care of himself," she ended with, a toss of her head.
"To be sure, my little one," the Dona Windham answered smiling. No doubt it was a foolish apprehension she decided. If only the Dona Briones who lived on a ranchita near the bay-shore did not gossip so of the Americano games of chance. And if only she might know what took Benito there so frequently.
* * * * *
Benito spurred his horse toward the puebla. A well-filled purse jingled in his pocket and now and then he tossed a silver coin to some importuning Indian along the road. As he passed the little ranch-house of Dona Briones he waved his hat gaily in answer to her invitation to stop. Benito called her Tia Juana. Large and motherly she was, a woman of untiring energy who, all alone cultivated the ranchito which supplied milk, butter, eggs and vegetables to ships which anchored in the cove of Yerba Buena. She was the friend of all sick and unfortunate beings, the secret ally of deserting sailors whom she often hid from searching parties. Benito was her special favorite and now she sighed and shook her head as he rode on. She had heard of his losses at the gringo game called "pokkere." She mistrusted it together with all other alien machinations.
Benito reached the little hamlet dreaming in the sun, a welter of scrambled habitations. There was the little ship's cabin, called Kent Hall, where dwelt that genial spirit, Nathan Spear, his father's friend. Nearby was the dwelling, carpenter and blacksmith shop of Calvert Davis; the homes of Victor Pruden, French savant and secretary to Governor Alvarado; Thompson the hide trader who married Concepcion Avila, reigning beauty of her day; Stephen Smith, pioneer saw-miller, who brought the first pianos to California.
Where a spring gushed forth and furnished water to the ships, Juan Fuller had his washhouse. Within a stone's throw was the grist mill of Daniel Sill where a mule turned, with the frequent interruptions of his balky temperament, a crude and ponderous treadmill. Grain laden ox-carts stood along the road before it.
Farther down was Finch's, better known as John the Tinker's bowling alley; Cooper's groggery, nicknamed "Jack the Sailor's," Vioget's house, later to be Yerba Buena's first hotel. The new warehouse of William Leidesdorff stood close to the waterline and, at the head of the plaza, the customs house built by Indians at the governor's order looked down on the shipping.
Benito reined his horse as he reached the Plaza where a dozen other mounts were tethered and left his steed to crop the short grass without the formality of hitching. He remembered how, nine years ago, Don Jacob Primer Leese had given a grand ball to celebrate the completion of his wooden casa, the first of its kind in Yerba Buena. There had been music and feasting with barbecued meats and the firing of guns to commemorate the fourth of July which was the birth of Americano independence. Long ago Leese had moved his quarters farther from the beach and sold his famous casa to the Hudson's Bay company. Half perfunctorily, young Windham made his way there, entered and sat down in the big trading room where sailormen were usually assembled to discourse profanely of the perils of the sea. Benito liked to hear them and to listen to the drunken boasts of Factor William Rae, who threatened that his company would drive all Yankee traders out of California. Sometimes Spear would be there, sardonically witty, drinking heavily but never befuddled by his liquor. But today the place was silent, practically deserted so Benito, after a glass of fiery Scotch liquor with the factor, made his way into the road again. There a hand fell on his shoulder and Spear's hearty voice saluted him:
"How fares it at the ranch, Camerado?"
"Moderately," the young man answered, "for my mother waits impatiently the coming of my father. She is very lonely since my uncle died. Though Inez tries to comfort her, she, too, is apprehensive. The time set by my father for home-coming is long past."
"It is the way of women," Spear said gently. "Give them my respects. If you ride toward home I will accompany you a portion of the way."
Benito turned an almost furtive glance on his companion. "Not yet," ... he answered hastily, "a thousand pardons, senor. I have other errands here."
He nodded half impatiently and made his way along the embarcadero. Spear saw him turn into the drinking place of Cooper.
A stranger caught Spear's glance and smiled significantly. "I saw the lad last night at poker with a crowd that's not above a crooked deal.... Someone should stop him." In the voice was tentative suggestion.
"I've no authority," Spear answered shortly. He turned his back upon the other and strode toward the plaza.
THE GAMBLED PATRIMONY
The stranger took his way toward the waterfront and into "Jack the Sailor's." Cooper, who had earned this nickname, stood behind a counter of rough boards polishing its top with a much soiled towel. He hailed the newcomer eagerly. "Hello, Alvin Potts! What brought you here? And how is all at Monterey?"
"All's well enough," said Potts, concisely. He glanced about. Several crude structures, scarcely deserving the name of tables, were centers of interest for rings of rough and ill-assorted men. There were loud-voiced, bearded fellows from the whaler's crew. In tarpaulins and caps pulled low upon their brows; swarthy Russians with oily, brutish faces and slow movements—relics of the abandoned colony at Fort Ross; suave, soft-spoken Spaniards in broad-brimmed hats, braided short coats and laced trousers tucked into shining boots; vaqueros with colored handkerchiefs about their heads and sashes around their middles. A few Americans were sprinkled here and there. Usually one player at each table was of the sleek and graceful type, which marks the gambler. And usually he was the winner. Now and then a man threw down his cards, pushed a little pile of money to the center of the table and shuffled out. Cooper passed between them, serving tall, black bottles from which men poured their potions according to impulse; they did not drink in unison. Each player snatched a liquid stimulus when the need arose. And one whose shaky nerves required many of these spurs was young Benito.
Potts observed the pale face and the hectic, burning eyes with a frowning disapproval. Presently he drew John Cooper to one side.
"He's no business here, that lad ... you know it, Jack," Potts said, accusingly. The saloon keeper threw wide his arms in a significant gesture.
"He won't stay away ... I've told him half a dozen times. No one can reason with that headstrong fool."
"Who's that he's playing with?" asked Potts. "I mean the dark one with a scar."
An impressive and outstanding figure was the man Potts designated. Stocky, sinister of eye and with a mouth whose half-sardonic smile drew the lips a little out of line, he combed his thick black hair now and then with delicate, long-fingered hands. They had a deftness and a lightning energy, those fingers with their perfectly groomed nails, which boded little good to his opponents. He sat back calmly in strange contrast to the feverish uncontrol of other players. Now and then he flashed a swift glance round the circle of his fellow players. Before him was a heap of gold and silver. They watched him deal with the uncanny skill of a conjurer before Jack Cooper answered.
"That's Aleck McTurpin from Australia. Thought you knew him."
"One of the Sydney coves?"
"Not quite so loud," the other cautioned hastily. "They call him that—behind his back. But who's to tell? I'd like to get the lad out of his clutches well enough."
"Think I'll watch the game," Potts said, and sauntered to the table. He laid a friendly hand on Windham's shoulder. Benito's pile of coin was nearly gone. McTurpin dealt. It was a jack-pot, evidently, for a heavy stake of gold and silver was upon the center of the board. Benito's hand shook as he raised his cards. He reached forth and refilled his glass, gulping the contents avidly.
"Dos cartos," he replied in Spanish to the dealer's inquiry. Potts glanced at the three cards which Benito had retained. Each was a king.
The young man eyed his first draw with a slight frown and seemed to hesitate before he lifted up the second. Then a little sucking gasp came from his throat.
"Senor," he began as McTurpin eyed him curiously, "I have little left to wager. Luck has been my enemy of late. Yet," he smiled a trembling little smile, "I hold certain cards which give me confidence. I should like to play a big stake—once, before I leave—"
"How big?" asked McTurpin, coldly, but his eye was eager.
The Spanish-American faced him straightly. "As big as you like, amigo ... if you will accept my note."
McTurpin's teeth shut with a click. "What security, young fellow?" he demanded.
"My ranch," replied Benito. "It is worth, they say, ten thousand of your dollars."
McTurpin covered his cards with his hands. "You want to lay me this ranch against—what?"
"Five thousand dollars—that is fair enough," Benito answered. He was trembling with excitement. McTurpin watched him hawk-like, seeming to consider. "Bring us ink and paper, Jack," he called to Cooper, and when the latter had complied, he wrote some half a dozen lines upon a sheet.
"Sign that. Get two witnesses ... you, Jack, and this fellow here," he indicated Potts imperiously. He laid his cards face down upon the table and extracted deftly from some inner pocket a thick roll of greenbacks. Slowly, almost meticulously, he counted them before the gaping tableful of players. Fifty hundred-dollar bills.
"American greenbacks," he spoke crisply. "A side bet with our friend, the Senor Windham." He shoved the money toward the center of the table, slightly apart from the rest.
Benito waveringly picked up the pen. It shook in his unsteady fingers. "Wait," Potts pleaded. But the young man brooked no intervention. With a flourish he affixed his signature. McTurpin picked up the pen as Benito dropped it. "Put your name on as a witness," he demanded of the host. "Jack the Sailor" shook his head. "I've no part in this," he said, and turned his back upon them. "Nor I," Potts answered to a similar invitation.
McTurpin took the paper. "Well, it doesn't matter. You've all seen him sign it: You ... and you ... and you." His finger pointed to a trio of the nearest players, and their nods sufficed him, evidently. He weighted the contract with a gold-piece from his own plethoric pile.
"Show down! Show down!" cried the others. Triumphantly Benito laid five cards upon the table. Four of them were kings. A little cry of satisfaction arose, for sympathy was with the younger player. McTurpin sat unmoved. Then he threw an ace upon the table. Followed it with a second. Then a third. And, amid wondering murmurs, a fourth.
He reached out his hand for the stakes. Benito sat quite still. The victorious light had gone out of his eyes, but not a muscle moved. One might have thought him paralyzed or turned to stone by his misfortune. McTurpin's hand closed almost stealthily upon the paper. There was a smile of cool and calculating satisfaction on his thin lips as he drew the stake toward him.
Then with an electrifying suddenness, Benito sprang upon him. "Cheat!" he screamed. "You fleeced me like a robber. I knew. I understood it when you looked at me like that."
Quick as McTurpin was in parrying attack—for he had frequent need of such defense—the onslaught of Benito found him unprepared. He went over backward, the young man's fingers on his throat. From the overturned table money rattled to the floor and rolled into distant corners. Hastily the non-combatants sought a refuge from expected bullets. But no pistol barked. McTurpin's strength far overmatched that of the other. Instantly he was on his feet. Benito's second rush was countered by a blow upon the jaw. The boy fell heavily.
McTurpin smoothed his ruffled plumage and picked up the scattered coins. "Take the young idiot home," he said across his shoulder, as he strode out. "Pour a little whisky down his throat. He isn't hurt."
THE GRINGO SHIPS
Government was but a name in Yerba Buena. A gringo engineer named Fremont with a rabble of adventurers had overthrown the valiant Vallejo at Sonora and declared a California Republic. He had spiked the cannon at the Presidio. And now a gringo sloop-of-war was in the bay, some said with orders to reduce the port. Almost simultaneously an English frigate came and there were rumors of a war between the Anglo-Saxon nations.
The prefect, Don Rafael Pinto, had already joined the fleeing Governor Castro. Commandante Francisco Sanchez, having sent his soldiers to augment the Castro forces in the south, was without a garrison and had retired to his rancho.
Nevertheless, had the Senora Windham, with her son and daughter, called upon Sub-prefect Guerrero in hope of justice. Her rancho was being taken from her. Already McTurpin had pre-empted a portion of the grant and only the armed opposition of the Windham vaqueros prevented an entire dispossession.
Though Guerrero listened, courteous and punctilious, he had obviously no power to afford relief. He was a curiously nervous man of polished manners whose eyelids twitched at intervals with a sort of slow St. Vitus' dance.
"What can I do, Senora?" with a blend of whimsicality and desperation. "I am an official without a staff. And Sanchez a commander stripped of his soldados." He stepped to the door with them and looked down upon the dancing, rippling waters of the bay, where two ships rode.
"Let these gringos fight it out together. This McTurpin is an Inglese, I am told, from their far colony across the sea. If the Americanos triumph take your claim to them. If not, God save you, my senora. I cannot."
Don Guillermo Richardson, the former harbormaster, came up the hill as Dona Anita emerged from the Alcalde's office. He was a friend of her husband—a gringo—but trusted by the Spanish Californians, many of whom he had befriended. To him Mrs. Windham turned half desperately, confessing in a rush of words her family's plight. "What is to become of us?" she questioned passionately. "Ah, that my Roberto were here! He would know how to deal with these desperadoes." She gestured angrily toward the sloop-of-war which rode at anchor in the Bay.
"You have nothing to fear, my friend," returned Richardson with a trace of asperity. "Commodore Sloat is a gentleman. He is, I understand, to seize Monterey and raise the the American flag there tomorrow. Yet his instructions are that Californians are to be shown every courtesy."
"And our rancho?" cried the boy. "Will the Americano Capitan restore it to us, think you, Don Guillermo?"
"I know not," said the other sadly. "You should have thought of that before you gambled it away, my son."
Benito hung his head. Richardson passed on and the trio made their way toward the beach. There they found Nathan Spear in excited converse with John Cooper and William Leidesdorff.
They were discussing the probability of an occupation by the American marines. "If they come ashore," said Leidesdorff, "I'll invite them to my new house. There's plenty of rum for all, and we'll drink a toast to Fremont and the California Republic as well."
"Hurrah! Hurrah!" came a cheer from several bystanders.
"I invite you all," cried Leidesdorff, waving his hands and almost dancing in his eagerness. "Every man-jack of you in all Yerba Buena."
"How about the ladies, Leidesdorff?" called out a sailor.
"Ah, forgive me, Senora, Senorita!" cried the Dane remorsefully. He swept off his wide-brimmed hat with an effort, for he had a fashion of jamming it very tightly upon his head. He laid a hand enthusiastically upon the shoulders of both Spear and Cooper. "It grows better and better. Tomorrow, if the Captain is willing," he jerked his head toward the Portsmouth, "tomorrow evening we shall have a grand ball. It shall celebrate the day of independence."
"But tomorrow is the eighth of July," said Cooper.
"What matter?" Leidesdorff exclaimed, now thoroughly enthusiastic. "It's the spirit of the thing that counts, my friends."
A crowd was assembling. Mrs. Windham and her daughter drew instinctively aside. Benito stood between them and the growing throng as if to shield them from a battery of curious glances.
"Will the ladies accept?" asked Leidesdorff with another exaggerated salute.
Senora Windham, haughty and aloof, had framed a stiff refusal, but her daughter caught her hand. "Do not antagonize them, mother," she said in an undertone. "Let us meet this Gringo Commandante of the ship. Perhaps," she smiled archly, "it is not beyond the possibilities I may persuade him into giving aid."
The elder woman hesitated, glanced inquiringly at Nathan Spear who stood beside them. He nodded. "The ladies will be pleased," he answered in their stead. Another cheer met this announcement.
Yerba Buena awoke to the sunrise of July 8, 1846, with a spirit of festive anticipation and a certain relief.
Today the American sloop-of-war would land its sailors and marines to take possession of the port. Today the last remaining vestige of the Latin's dominance would end. A strange flag, curiously gay with stripes and stars, would fly above the customs house; strange men in uniforms of blue, and golden braid, would occupy the seats of power. Even the name of Yerba Buena would be altered, it was said. New Boston probably would be its title.
Early morning brought ox-carts laden with gay, curious Spanish ladies from surrounding ranches, piquant eager senoritas with vivacious gestures of small hands and fluttering fans; senoras plump and placid, slower in their movements and with brooding eyes. They wore their laciest mantillas, silkiest gowns and daintiest footwear to impress the alien invader. And, beside their equipages, like outriders in the cortege of a queen, caballeros and vaqueros sat their caracoling steeds.
Sailors from the trade and whaling ships, trappers, hunters and the motley populace of Yerba Buena made a colorful and strangely varied picture, as they gathered with the rancheros about the Plaza.
At 8 o'clock four boats descended simultaneously from the Portsmouth's sides. They were greeted by loud cheers from the Americans on shore and watched with excited interest by the others. The boats landed their crews near the spring where a sort of wharf had been constructed. They returned for more and finally assembled seventy marines, a smaller number of sailors and the ship's band. Captain Montgomery, in the full dress uniform of a naval commander, reviewed his forces. Beside him stood Lieutenant John S. Misroon, large, correct and rather awkward, with long, restless arms; a youthful, rosy complexion and serious blue eyes. Further back, assembling his marines in marching order, was Lieutenant Henry Watson, a smaller man of extraordinary nervous energy. Montgomery gave the marching order. Fife and drum struck up a lively air and to its strains the feet of Yerba Buena's first invading army kept uncertain step as sailors and marines toiled through the sand. Half a thousand feet above them stood the quaint adobe customs house, its red-tiled roof and drab adobe walls contrasting pleasantly with the surrounding greenery of terraced hills. Below it lay the Plaza with its flagpole, its hitching racks for horses and oxen.
Here the commander halted his men. "Lieutenant Watson," he addressed the senior subaltern, "be so good as to request attendance by the prefect or alcalde.... And for heaven's sake, fasten your coat, sir," he added in a whispered aside.
Saluting with one hand, fumbling at his buttons with the other, Watson marched into the customs house, while the populace waited agape; but he returned very soon to report that the building was untenanted. Captain Montgomery frowned. He had counted on the pomp and punctilio of a formal surrender—a spectacular bit of history that would fashion gallant words for a report. "Haul down the flag of Mexico," he said to Lieutenant Misroon. "Run up the Stars and Stripes!"
Lieutenant Misroon gazed aloft, then down again, embarrassed. "There is no flag, sir," he responded, and Montgomery verified his statement with a frowning glance. "Where the devil is it, then?" he asked explosively.
A frightened clerk appeared now at the doorway of the custom house. He bowed and scraped before the irate commander. "Pardon, Senor Commandante," he said, quaveringly, "the flag of Mexico reposes in a trunk with the official papers of the port. I, myself, have seen the receiver of customs, Don Rafael Pinto, place it there."
"And where is Don Rafael?"
"Some days ago he joined the Castro forces in the South, Senor."
"Well, well!" Montgomery's tone was sharp; "there must be someone in command. Who is he?"
"The Sub-Prefect has ridden to his rancho, Commandante."
"That disposes of the civil authorities," Montgomery reflected, "since Port-Captain Ridley is in jail with Fremont's captives." He turned to the clerk again. "Is there not a garrison at the Presidio?"
"They have joined the noble Castro," sighed the clerk, recovering his equanimity. "There is only the commander Sanchez, Senor. He is also at his rancho."
Despite his irritation, Captain Montgomery could not miss the humor of the situation. A dry chuckle escaped him. "Run up the flag," he said to Lieutenant Misroon, and the latter hastened to comply. An instant later the starry banner floated high above their heads. A cheer broke out. Hats flew into the air and from the ship's band came the stirring strains of America's national air. Then, deep and thunderous, a gun spoke on the Portsmouth. Another and another.
Captain Montgomery, stiff and dignified, lifted his hand and amid an impressive silence read the proclamation of Commodore Sloat, in which all citizens of captured ports were assured of fair and friendly treatment and invited to become subjects of the United States. He suggested the immediate formation of a town militia. Leidesdorff came bustling forward.
"My house is at your service, gentlemen," he said. "And tonight," he removed his hat and bowed toward the ladies, "tonight I bid you all to be my guests and give our new friends welcome." He saluted Montgomery and his aids, who, somewhat nonplussed, returned the greeting.
Nathan Spear elbowed his way to the commander's side. With him came Senora Windham and the smiling Senorita Inez. Benito lingered rather diffidently in the background with a group of Spanish Californians, but was finally induced to bring them forward. There were general handshakings. Many other rancheros, now that the ice was broken, brought their wives and daughters for an introduction to the gringo commandante, and Montgomery, his good humor restored, kissed many a fair hand in response to a languishing smile. It seemed a happy and a friendly seizure. Inez said, eyes a-sparkle, "We shall see you at the ball this evening, Senor Commandante."
"I shall claim the first dance, Senorita," said the sailor, bowing low. Her heart leaped as they left him, and she squeezed her brother's arm. "He is a kindly man, Benito mio. I shall tell him of this interloper—this McTurpin. Have no fear."
Benito smiled a little dubiously. He had less faith than Inez in the future government of the Americans.
AN OFFER AND A THREAT
Aleck McTurpin, tired but exhilarated, rode toward the Windham rancho on the morning after Leidesdorff's ball. He had made a night of it and he was in high fettle. The Senorita Windham had granted him a dance despite her brother's scowling disapproval. Out of the charm of that brief association there had come into the gambler's mind a daring plan. To the Senorita Inez he had spoken of his claim upon the Windham rancho through her brother's note won on the gambling table. He had touched the matter very gently, for McTurpin knew the ways of women and was not without engaging qualities when they stood him in good stead.
Now he rode toward a tryst with Inez Windham and his heart leaped at the prospect of another sight of her; within him like a heady wine there was the memory of her sparkling eyes, the roguish, mischievous, half-pouting mouth. The consciousness of something finer than his life had known aroused in him strange devotional impulses, unfamiliar yearnings.
He and the Senorita were to meet and plan a settlement of McTurpin's claim against the rancho. He had asked her to come alone, and, after a swift look, half fearful, half desperate, she consented. It was an unheard-of thing in Spanish etiquette. But he believed she would fulfill the bargain. And if she did, he asked himself, what should he say—or do? For, perhaps, the first time in his life McTurpin was uncertain.
Suddenly the road turned and he came upon her. She stood beside her horse, the morning sunlight in her wondrous dark hair. The ride had brought fresh color to her face and sparkle to her eyes. McTurpin caught his breath before the wonder and beauty of her. Then he sprang from his horse and bowed low. The Senorita Inez nodded almost curtly.
"I have little time, Senor," she said, uneasily. "You are late. I may be missed." Her smile was all the more alluring for its hint of panic. "Can we not come to the point at once? I have here certain jewels which will pay a portion of the debt." She unclasped from her throat a necklace of pearls he had noted at the ball. She held them out toward him. "And here is a ring. Have you brought the paper?"
McTurpin held up a protesting hand. "You wrong me, Senorita," he declared. "I am a gambler. Yes ... I take my chance with men and win or lose according to the Fates. But I have yet to rob a woman of her trinkets."
"It is no robbery," she demurred, hastily. "Take them, I beseech you, and return the note. If it is not enough, we will pay more ... later ... from the proceeds of the ranch."
"Senorita," said McTurpin eagerly, "let us compromise this matter more adroitly. Should I make no further claim upon your ranch than that which I possess, why may we not be neighbors—friends?"
She tried to protest, but he rushed on, giving her no opportunity. "Senorita, I am not a man devoid of culture. I am not a sailor or a trapper like those ruffians below. Nor a keeper of shops. Senorita, I will give up gambling and become a ranchero. If—" he stammered, "If I—"
Inez Windham took a backward step. Her breath came sharply. In this man's absurd confusion there was written plainer than his uncompleted words could phrase it, what he meant.
"No, no," her little hands went out as if to ward off some repulsive thing. "Senor—that is quite impossible."
McTurpin saw the look of horror, of aversion. He felt as though someone had struck him in the face. There was a little silence. Then he laughed, shortly.
"Impossible?" the tone was cutting. "We shall see.... This is now a white man's country. I have offered to divide the rancho. What if I should take it all? Where would you go? You, the proud Senora and the shiftless young Benito?"
The Senorita Inez' lips curled. "When my father comes he will know how to answer you," she told him, hotly.
"If he were alive he would have come long since," McTurpin answered. "Many perish on the northern trails." He took a step toward her. "Do you know that this morning 200 more Americans arrived on the ship Brooklyn? They are armed and there is talk of 'running out the greasers.' Do you know what that means? It were well to have a friend at court, my little lady."
"Go!" the girl blazed at him. "Go, and quickly—liar that you are. My brother and his vaqueros will know how to protect my mother and me." She sprang upon her horse and galloped toward the rancho. McTurpin, red and angry, watched her disappearing in a whirl of dust.
* * * * *
"Look, my brother! He has spoken truly." Inez and Benito had ridden to the pueblo for a confirmation of McTurpin's words. They hitched their horses at the rack in Portsmouth Square and walked down toward the landing place. A large ship lay in the offing. Between her and the shore many small boats laden with passengers and varied cargoes plied to and fro.
Inez, as they descended, noted many women clad in the exaggerated hoopskirts, the curious, short, gathered bodices and the low hats of the early forties. She thought this apparel oddly ugly, though the faces were not unattractive. They stood in knots, these women, some of them gazing rather helplessly about. The younger ones were surrounded by groups of admirers with whom they were chatting animatedly. There were also many children capering in the sand and pointing out to one another the strange sights of this new place. The men—hundreds of them it seemed to Inez—were busied with constructive tasks. Already there were many temporary habitations, mostly tents of varied shapes and sizes. Bonfires blazed here and there. Stands of arms in ordered, regular stacks, gave the scene a martial air. Piles of bed-clothing, household effects, agricultural implements, lay upon the sand. A curious instrument having a large wheel on one side caught the girl's attention. Near it were square, shallow boxes. A pale, broad-shouldered man with handsome regular features and brooding, poetic eyes stood beside the machine, turning the wheel now and then, and examining the boxes. He seemed to be a leader, for many people came to ask him questions which he answered with decision and authority.
"Who is that?" asked Inez of Nathan Spear and Leidesdorff as the two approached. "And what is the strange contrivance upon which he has his hand?"
"It is a printing press," Spear answered. "Yerba Buena is soon to have a paper for the chronicling of its metropolitan affairs. The man? Oh, that's Sam Brannan, the elder of this band of Mormons."
"Is it true that they have come to drive us from our homes?" asked Inez fearfully.
"Who, the Mormons? Lord forbid," retorted Spear. He beckoned to the elder, who approached and was presented. Inez, as she looked into his kindly eyes, forgot her fears. Brannan eagerly explained his printing press. She left him feeling that he was less enemy than friend.
THE FIRST ELECTION
Captain John J. Vioget's house was the busiest place in Yerba Buena, and John Henry Brown its most important personage. The old frame dwelling built by a Swiss sailor in 1840 had become in turn a billiard hall and groggery, a sort of sailors' lodging house and a hotel. Now it was the scene of Yerba Buena's first election. About a large table sat the election inspectors guarding the ballot box, fashioned hastily from an empty jar of lemon syrup. Robert Ridley, recently released from Sutter's Fort, where he had been imprisoned by the Bear Flag party, was a candidate for office as alcalde. He opposed Lieutenant Washington Bartlett, appointed to officiate pro tem by Captain Montgomery. Brown was busy with his spirituous dispensing. It was made a rule, upon Brannan's advice, that none should be served until he had voted.
Brown kept shouting: "Ship-shape, gents, and reg'lar; that's the word. Place your vote and then you drinks.... Gord bless yer merry hearts."
Thus he harangued them into order and coaxed many a Russian, Spanish, English and American coin across his bar. Suddenly he looked into the eyes of Aleck McTurpin.
"Give me a brandy sling," the gambler ordered. He was in a rough mood, which ensues from heavy and continued drinking.
"Have ye voted, Aleck?" Brown inquired.
"I vote when I please," McTurpin answered sullenly, "and I drink when it suits me." He took from an inner pocket of his coat a derringer with silver mountings, laid it meaningly upon the bar. "I ordered a brandy sling."
Brown paled, but his eye did not waver. Almost casually, he spoke. "Stop your jokin', Aleck. Rules is rules."
McTurpin's fingers closed about the pistol. His eyes were venomous.
Then Benito Windham entered. Just inside the door he paused, uncertainly. "I have come to vote for Senor Bartlett as Alcalde," he declared.
A laugh greeted him. "You should not announce your choice," said Inspector Ward severely. "The ballot is supposedly secret."
McTurpin turned, his quarrel with Brown instantly forgotten. "Throw the little greaser out," he spoke with slow distinctness. "This is a white man's show."
There was a startled silence. "He's drunk," Brown told them soothingly. "Aleck's drunk. Don't listen to him."
"Drunk or not, I back my words." He waved the weapon threateningly. "Sit down there," he ordered Windham. "If you want to vote you'll vote for a gentleman. Write Bob Ridley's name on your ballot, or, by God! I'll fix you." Benito, as if hypnotized, took a seat at the table and dipped his quill in the ink. The others stirred uneasily, but made no move. There was a moment of foreboding silence. Then a hearty voice said from the door: "What's the matter, gentlemen?"
No one answered. McTurpin, the pistol in his hand, still stood above Benito. The latter's fingers held the quill suspended. A drop of ink fell on the ballot slip unnoted. Brannan, with a puzzled frown, came forward, laid a hand upon the gambler's shoulder.
"What's the matter here?" he asked more sharply.
McTurpin turned upon him fiercely. "Go to hell!" he cried. "I'm running this."
Brannan's voice was quiet. "Put the pistol down!" he ordered. Deliberately McTurpin raised his weapon. "Damn you—" But he got no farther. Brannan's fist struck fairly on the chin. One could hear the impact of it like a hammer blow. There was a shot, a bullet spent against the rafters overhead. McTurpin sprawling on the sawdust-covered floor.
* * * * *
On Windham rancho the Senora Windham waited with a faith that knew no end for the coming of her husband. There had been vague reports from vaguer sources that he had been captured by the northern savages. Inez and Benito were forever at her side—save when the boy rode into town to cull news from arriving sailors. The Spanish rancheros had all withdrawn to the seclusion of their holdings and were on the verge of war against the new authorities of Yerba Buena.
Washington Bartlett, recently elected Alcalde, had abused his office by repeated confiscations of fine horses from the camponeras of Spanish-Californians, seizing them by requisition of military authority and giving orders on the government in exchange. This the Spaniards had borne in silence. But abuses had become so flagrant as to pass all bounds.
"We must arm and drive these robbers from our California," said Benito passionately. "Sanchez has, in secret, organized one hundred caballeros. Only wait. The day comes when we strike!"
"Benito," said his mother, sadly, "there has been enough of war. We cannot struggle with these Yankees. They are strong and numerous. We must keep the peace and suffer until your father comes."
"There is to be a grand ball at the casa of the Senor Leidesdorff," said Inez. "El Grande Commandante of the Yankee squadron comes amid great ceremony. I will gain his ear. Perchance he will undo the wrongs of this Bartlett, the despoiler."
"Inez mia," said her brother, "do not go. No good will come of it. For they are all alike, these foreigners."
"Ah!" she cried, reproachfully, "you say that of the Senor Brannan? Or of Don Nathan?"
"They are good men," Benito answered, grudgingly. "Have it as you will."
* * * * *
Yerba Buena did honor to Commodore Stockton under Leidesdorff's ever-hospitable roof. Hundreds of candles burned in sconces and chandeliers, festoons of bunting and greenery gave the big room a carnival air; Indian servitors flitted silently about with trays of refreshments, and the gold lace and braid of America's navy mingled picturesquely with the almost spectacular garb of stately Spanish caballeros. The commodore, though undersized, was soldierly and very brisk of manner. Stockton seemed to Inez a gallant figure. While she danced with him, she found his brisk directness not unpleasing. He asked her of the rancheros and of reports that came to him of their dissatisfaction with American authority.
"They seem so cordial," he said, "these Spanish gentlemen. I cannot believe that they hate us, as it is said."
"Ah, Senor." Inez' smile had faded and her deep and troubled eyes held his. "They have cause for hatred, though they come in all good will to welcome you."
As it chanced, they passed just then close to a little group in which Alcalde Bartlett made a central figure. Two of Stockton's aids were hanging on his words.
"Tomorrow, gentlemen, we shall go riding. I will find you each a worthy mount. We raise fine horses on the ranches."
The fiery Sanchez, strolling by, overheard as well. Eyes ablaze, he went on swiftly joining Vasquez and De Haro near the door. They held low converse for an instant with their smouldering glances on the pompous Bartlett. Then they hurried out.
THE RANCHEROS REVOLT
Five horsemen rode into the morning sunshine down El Camino Real toward the south. One was Washington Bartlett, alcalde of Yerba Buena, whose rather pursy figure sat with an ungainly lack of grace the mettled horse which he bestrode. It was none other than Senora Windham's favorite and beloved mare "Diablo," filched from the Windham stables several days before. In compensation she received a bit of paper signifying that the animal was commandeered "for military necessity."
The rancheros were patient fellows, Bartlett reflected. If his conscience smote him sometimes, he took refuge in the knowledge that America was still at war with Mexico and that these horses were the property of alien enemies. Non-combatants, possibly. Yet they had failed in declaration of allegiance to the United States.
"I'll show you some excellent horseflesh today," he promised his companions. "And, what's better, you shall have your pick."
"Well, that's extraordinarily good of you, alcalde," said the man who rode beside him. "But ... do you mean one gets these glorious animals—for love?"
"Not—er—exactly," Bartlett answered. "You see, my deputies and officers, like yourself, must ride about to make their observations and reports. Such are the needs of war."
"Of course," another rider nodded understandingly. "And as alcalde you have many deputies."
"As well as many—er—observation officers like ourselves to supply," a third supplemented, slyly dropping one eyelid.
The fourth man said nothing for a time. Then, rather unexpectedly, he asked: "And what do you give them in exchange, alcalde?"
Bartlett turned in some surprise. "I give them notes of hand," he answered half resentfully. "Notes redeemable in American gold—when the war is over."
"And, are these notes negotiable security? Will your shop-keepers accept them in lieu of coin?"
"At proper discounts—yes," said Bartlett, flushing.
"I have heard," the other remarked almost musingly, "that they are redeemable at from fifteen to twenty per cent. And that the only man who accepts them at even half of their face value is McTurpin the gambler."
"That is not my business," Bartlett answered brusquely. The quintet rode on, absorbed and silent. Below them swept green reaches of ranch land, dotted here and there with cattle and horses or the picturesque haciendas of old Spanish families. The camino stretched white and broad before them, winding through rolling hillocks, shaded sometimes by huge overhanging trees.
"Isn't this Francisco Sanchez, whom we go to visit, a soldier, a former commandante of your town, alcalde?" asked a rider.
"Yes, the same one who ran away when Montgomery came." Bartlett laughed. "It was several days before he dared come out of the brush to take a look at the 'gringo invader.'"
"I met him at the reception to Commodore Stockton," said the man who rode beside Bartlett. "He didn't impress me as a timid chap, exactly. Something of a fire-eater, I'd have said."
"Oh, they're all fire-eaters—on the surface," Bartlett's tone was disdainful. "But you may all judge for yourselves in a moment. For, if I'm not mistaken, he's coming up the road to meet us."
"By jove, he sits his horse like a king," said Bartlett's companion, admiringly. "Who are those chaps with him? Looks like a sort of—reception committee."
"They are Guerrero and Vasquez and—oh, yes, young Benito Windham," Bartlett answered. He spurred his horse and the others followed; there was something about the half careless formation of the four riders ahead which vaguely troubled the alcalde.
"Buenos dias, caballeros," he saluted in his faulty Spanish.
"Buenos dias, senors," Sanchez spoke with unusual crispness. "You have come for horses, doubtless, amigo alcalde?"
"Ah—er—yes," said Bartlett. "The necessities of war are great," he added apologetically.
"And suppose we refuse?" Benito Windham pressed forward, blazing out the words in passionate anger. "Suppose we deny your manufactured requisitions? Whence came the horse you sit like a very clown? I will tell you, tyrant and despoiler. It was stolen from my mother by your thieves."
"Benito, hold your peace," said Sanchez sternly. "I will deal with this good gentleman and his friends. They shall be our guests for a time."
As though the words had been a signal, five lariats descended apparently from a clear sky, each falling over the head of a member of Bartlett's party. They settled neatly and were tightened, pinning the arms of riders helplessly.
"Well done, amigos," commented Sanchez as a quintet of grinning vaqueros rode up from the rear. "As you have so aptly said, the necessities of war are paramount, alcalde."
"What's the meaning of this?" demanded Bartlett. "Release us instantly, or you shall suffer. Do you think," he sneered, "that a handful of greasers can defy the United States?"
"Perchance, with so important an official as the great Alcalde Bartlett for your hostage, we can reach a compromise on certain points," said Sanchez. "Come, you shall suffer no hardship, if you accept the situation reasonably."
"I warn you that this means death or imprisonment to all of you," Bartlett shouted.
"Ah, senor, the risks of war are many." Sanchez' teeth flashed. He clucked to his horse and the little cavalcade wound, single-file, up a narrow horse-trail toward the hills.
They passed many bands of horsemen, all armed, saluting Sanchez as their chief. Among them were owners and vaqueros from a score of ranches. There was something grim, determined in their manner which foreboded serious trouble.
One of Bartlett's fellow-captives leaned toward him, whispering: "Those fellows mean business. They're like hornets if you stir 'em up too far, these greasers."
"Yes, by Jove! And they mean to sting!" said another.
Yerba Buena was in an uproar. Sanchez' capture of Alcalde Bartlett and his party had brought home with a vengeance the war which hitherto was but an echo from far Mexico. Now the peaceful pueblo was an armed camp. Volunteers rode in from San Jose, San Juan and other nearby pueblos, asking for a chance to "fight the greasers." All the ranches of the countryside buzzed with a martial ardor. Vaqueros, spurred with jangling silver-mounted harness, toward Francisco Sanchez' stronghold in the Santa Clara hills to battle with the "gringo tyrants."
Commander Hull of the "Warren" had sent a hundred sailors and marines from his sloop, post haste, to quell the rebellion. Couriers rode to and fro between his headquarters in the custom house and the punitive expedition under Captain Ward Marston which was scouting the Santa Clara plains in search of the enemy.
Even now the battle waged, no doubt, for Marston that morning reported a brush with the enemy, had asked for reinforcements. Hull had sent post haste a pack of ill assorted and undrilled adventurers from among the new arrivals. That was 9 o'clock and now the sun had passed its noon meridian—with no courier.
William Leidesdorff came strolling up, his expression placid, smiling as always. He was warm from toiling up the hill and paused, panting, hat in hand, to mop his brow with a large red 'kerchief.
"Ha! Commander!" he saluted. "And how goes it this morning?"
Hull glanced at him half irritated, half amused. One could never quite be angry at this fellow nor in tune with him. Leidesdorff, with his cherubic grin, his plump, comfortable body, the close-cropped hair, side whiskers and moustache, framing and embellishing his round face with an ornate symmetry, was like a bearded cupid. Hull handed him the latest dispatch. "Nothing since then, confound it!" he said gloomily.
"Ah, well," spoke Leidesdorff, with unction, "one should not be alarmed. What is that cloud of dust on the horizon? A courier perhaps."
It proved to be Samuel Brannan, dusty and weary, with dispatches from Captain Ward which Hull almost snatched from his hand. A group of men and women who had watched his arrival, gathered about asking questions. Nathan Spear spoke first. He had been too ill to join the Americans, but had furnished them horses and arms. "How goes it with our 'army,' Sam?" he asked.
"None too well," said Brannan. "Those greasers can fight and they've a good leader. Everyone of them would die for Sanchez. And everyone's a sharpshooter. For a time they amused themselves this morning knocking off our hats—it rather demoralized the recruits."
Hull, with an imprecation, crushed the dispatch and turned to Brannan. "We must have more men and quickly," he announced. "Ward asks for instant reinforcements.... Can you recruit—say fifty—from your colony?"
"Impossible," said Brannan, shortly. "I have sent all who can ride or manage a rifle." He came a little closer and regarded the commander steadily. "Did Ward write anything about a parley?" he inquired.
"Yes," said Hull. "He indicates that peace might be arranged if I will give a guarantee against further horse or cattle commandeering."
"May I suggest that such a course is wise—and just?"
"Damn it, sir! You'd have me treat with these—these brigands!" the other shouted. "Never. They've defied the United States by laying violent hands on an official. They've wounded two of my marines."
He turned to the crowd which had assembled. "Do you hear that? Two Americans wounded. Five held in captivity—including your alcalde. Shall we stand that passively? Shall we let the enemy dictate terms?"
"No, no!" a voice shouted. "Fight to the last ditch. Kill the greasers. Hang them to a tree. I'm with you, horse and gun. Who else?"
"I, I, I," a score made answer. They pressed forward. "Who's to lead us?" asked the first speaker.
Brannan stepped forward but Commander Hull raised a protesting hand. "I shall send a corporal of marines from the Warren. You will rest your horse, since I cannot spare you a fresh mount, and hold yourself in readiness to act as a courier, Mr. Brannan." He summoned an orderly and sent him to the Warren with an order to Corporal Smith. Meanwhile the volunteers assembled in the square, thirty-four in all; men of half a dozen nationalities. One giant Russian loomed above them, a Goliath on a great roan horse. And near him, to accentuate the contrast, an elderly moustached, imperialed Frenchman on a mare as under-sized and spirited as himself.
Brannan and Leidesdorff watched them galloping down the camino ten minutes later under the guidance of a smart young corporal.
"I trust it will soon be over," said the former. "I saw Benito Windham riding beside Sanchez in the battle today."
* * * * *
The Senorita Inez' head was high that afternoon when McTurpin came upon her suddenly in the patio of the Windham hacienda. She rose haughtily. "Senor, this intrusion is unpardonable. If my brother was within call—" McTurpin bowed low. There was a touch of mockery in his eye. "It is about your brother that I've come to talk with you, Miss Inez."
The girl's hand sought her breast. "Benito! He is not—" Words failed her.
"No, not dead—yet," McTurpin answered.
"God in Heaven! Tell me," said the girl, imploringly! "He is wounded? Dying?" McTurpin took a seat beside her on the rustic bench. "Benito isn't dead—nor wounded so far as I know. But," his tone held an ominous meaning, "it might be better if he were."
"I—I do not understand," said Inez, staring.
"Then let me make it clear." McTurpin struck a fist against his palm. "Your brother is American. Very well. And what is an American who takes up arms against his country?"
The girl sprang up. "It is a lie. Benito fights for freedom, justice only—"
"That is not the view of our American Commander," McTurpin rose and faced her. "The law of war is that a man who fights against his country is a traitor." His eyes held hers hypnotically. "When this revolt is over there will be imprisonment or pardon for the Spanish-Californians. But Benito will be hanged."
Inez Windham swayed. One hand grasped at the bench-back for support; the other clutched her bodice near the throat. "Benito," she said almost in a whisper. Then she turned upon McTurpin furiously. "Go," she cried. "I do not believe you. Go!"
But McTurpin did not stir. "It is the law of nations," he declared, "no use denying it, Miss Windham."
"Why did you come to tell me this? To torture me?"
"To save you—and your brother?"
"How?" she asked fiercely.
"I have influence with Alcalde Bartlett." The gambler smiled. "He owes me—more than he can pay. But if that fails ..." he turned toward her eagerly, "I have means to accomplish his escape."
"And the price," she stammered. "There is a price, isn't there?"
His gaze met hers directly, "You, little Inez."
Two riders, a man and a veiled woman evidently young, halted their horses in Portsmouth Square, where the former alighted and offered an arm to his companion. She, however, disdaining his assistance, sprang lightly from the saddle and, turning her back on him, gazed, motionless, toward the bay. There was something arresting and curiously dramatic about the whole performance, something that hinted of impending tragedy. The slight figure with its listless droop and stony immobility caught and clutched the sympathies of Nathan Spear as he was passing by. The man was Alec McTurpin; the girl, no doubt, some light o' love from a neighboring pueblo. Yet there was a disturbing familiarity about her.
Spear watched them go across the square toward the City Hotel, a long, one-story adobe structure built by Leidesdorff as a store and home. On the veranda stood the stocky figure of Proprietor Brown, smoking a long pipe and conversing with half a dozen roughly dressed men who lounged about the entrance. He looked up wonderingly as McTurpin approached. The latter drew him to one side and appeared to make certain demands to which Brown acquiesced by a curt nod, as if reluctant. Then the man and woman passed around a corner of the building, the loungers peering curiously after them.
A little later Spear observed the gambler issue forth alone and journey rapidly toward the landing dock. He noted that a strange ship rode at anchor. It must have come within the hour, he decided. Impelled by curiosity, he descended in McTurpin's wake.
"What ship is that?" he asked of Leidesdorff.
"I haven't learned her name. She's from the north coast with a lot of sick men. They've the scurvy and flux, I'm told. Dr. Jones has gone aboard."
"I wonder what McTurpin's doing at the ship?" said Spear. "He'll get no gambling victims out of ailing seamen."
"It's something else he wants, I fancy," said Bob Ridley, coming from the dock toward them. "He's looking for a preacher—"
"Preacher?" cried the other men in unison.
"Yes," responded Ridley. "Aleck's going to be married, the sly dog. And since the padres will have nothing to do with him, he's hard pressed. Perhaps the wench is a stickler for proprieties," he laughed. "Someone told him there was a sky pilot aboard the ship!"
* * * * *
Inez Windham removed her veil. She was in a small room, almost dark, where McTurpin had left her after locking the door on the outside. It was like a cell, with one small window high and narrow which let in a straggling transmitted light, dimming mercifully the crude outlines of a wooden stool, a bedstead of rough lumber, covered by soiled blankets, a box-like commode upon which stood a pitcher and basin of heavy crockery.
The walls were very thin. From beyond them, in what was evidently a public chamber, came snatches of talk interspersed with oaths, a click of poker chips and coin, now and then a song. An odor of rank tobacco seeped through the muslin-covered walls. With a sudden feeling of nausea, of complete despair, the girl threw herself face down upon the bed.
For a time Inez lay there, oblivious to all save the misery of her fate. If only her father had not gone with those northern engineers! If only Benito were here to advise her! Benito, her beloved brother, in whose path the gallows loomed. It was that picture which had caused her to yield to McTurpin. Even darker, now, was the picture of her own future. A gambler's wife! Her hand sought a jewelled dagger which she always carried in her coiffure. Her fingers closed about the hilt with a certain solace. After Benito was safe—
Voices in the next room caught her interest by a mention of the Santa Clara battle.
"Hull is fighting mad," she heard. "He promises to bring the greasers to their knees. It's unconditional surrender or no quarter, Brannan says."
"First catch your pig—then butcher it," said another, meaningly. "The Spaniards have the best of it thus far. Hull's shouting frantically for reinforcements. Well, he won't get me. I think the rancheros have their side as well as we. If this stiff-necked commander would listen to reason."
"He hasn't heard the other side," the first speaker resumed. "If he knew what Alcalde Bartlett had done to these poor devils through his horse and cattle raids—"
A third man laughed. "He'll never learn that, partner, have no fear; who'll tell him?"
"Well, here's to Uncle Sam," said a fourth voice. Followed a clink of glasses. Inez Windham sat up swiftly and dried her eyes. A daring thought had come to her.
Why should not she tell Commander Hull the truth!
She rose and smoothed her ruffled gown. A swift look from the window revealed that the road was clear. Inez began tugging at the door. It resisted her efforts, but she renewed the battle with all the fury of her youthful strength. Finally the flimsy lock gave a bit beneath her efforts; a narrow slit appeared between the door and jamb in which she forced her hands and thus secured a great purchase. Then, one foot against the wall, she tugged and pried and pulled until, with a sudden crack, the bar to liberty sprang open.
She was free.
Just across the Plaza the custom house looked down at her, the late sun glinting redly on its tiles. There, no doubt, she would find Commander Hull. She hastened forward.
"Not so fast, my dear!"
A hand fell on her shoulder rudely. With, a gasp she looked up at McTurpin.
Beside the gambler, whose eyes burned angrily, Inez perceived a tall, lean, bearded stranger.
"Let me go!" she demanded.
"I have brought the parson," said McTurpin. "We can be married at once."
"I—I—let us wait a little," stammered Inez.
"Why?" the gambler asked suspiciously. "Where were you going?"
"Nowhere," she evaded, "for a walk—"
"Well, you can walk back to the hotel, my lady," said McTurpin. "I have little time to waste. And there's Benito to consider," he concluded. Suddenly he put an arm about her waist and kissed her. Inez thought of her brother and tried to submit. But she could not repress a little cry of aversion, of fear. The bearded man stepped forward. "Hold up a bit, partner," he drawled. "This doesn't look quite regular. Don't you wish to marry him, young lady?"
"Of course she does," McTurpin blustered. "She rode all the way in from her mother's ranch to be my wife." He glared at Inez. "Isn't it true?" he flung at her. "Tell him."
She nodded her head miserably. But the stranger was not satisfied. "Let go of her," he said, and when McTurpin tailed to heed the order, sinewy fingers on the gambler's wrist enforced it.
"Now, tell me, Miss, what's wrong?" the bearded one invited. "Has this fellow some hold on you? Is he forcing you into this marriage?"
Again the girl nodded dumbly.
"She lies," said McTurpin, venomously, but the words were scarcely out of his mouth before the stranger's fist drove them back. McTurpin staggered. "Damn you!" he shouted, "I teach you to meddle between a man and his woman."
Inez saw something gleam in his hand as the two men sprang upon each other. She heard another blow, a groan. Screaming, she fled uphill toward the custom house.
Like a startled deer, Inez Windham fled from McTurpin and the stranger, her little, high-heeled slippers sinking unheeded into the horse-trodden mire of Portsmouth Square, her silk skirt spattered and soiled; her hair, freed from the protecting mantilla, blowing in the searching trade wind. Thus, as Commander Hull sat upon the custom house veranda, reading the latest dispatch from Captain Ward, she burst upon him—a flushed, disheveled, lovely vision with fear-stricken eyes.
"Senor," she panted, "Senor Commandante ... I must speak with you at once!"
Hull rose. "My dear young lady"—he regarded her with patent consternation—"my dear young lady ... w-what is wrong?"
She was painfully aware of her bedraggled state, the whirlwind lack of ceremony with which she had propelled herself into his presence. Suddenly words failed her, she was conscious that an arm stretched toward her as she swayed. Next she lay upon a couch in an inner chamber, the commander, in his blue-and-gold-braid stiffness bending over her, gravely anxious.
She rose at once, ignoring his protesting gesture.
"I—I fainted?" she asked perplexedly. Hull nodded. "Something excited you. A fight in the street below. A man was stabbed—"
"Oh!" The white face of the bearded stranger sprang into her memory, "Is he dead?"
"No, but badly hurt, I fancy," said the Commander. "They have taken him to the City Hotel."
Desperately, she forced herself to speak. "I have come, senor, to ask a pardon for my brother. He is very dear to me—and to my mother"—she clasped her hands and held them toward him supplicatingly. "Senor, if Benito should be captured—you will have mercy?"
The commander regarded her with puzzled interest. "Who is Benito, little one?"
"His name is Windham. My father was a gring—Americano, Commandante."
Hull frowned. "An American ... fighting against his country?" he said sharply.
"Ah, sir"—the girl came closer in her earnestness—"he does not fight against the United States ... only against robbers who would hide behind its flag." In her tone there was the outraged indignation of a suffering people. "Horse thieves, cattle robbers."
"Hush," said Hull, "you must not speak thus of American officials. Their seizures, I am told, were unavoidable—for military needs alone."
"You have never heard our side," the girl spoke bitterly. "Was it military need that filched two hundred of our blooded horses from the ranches? Was it military need that robbed my ailing mother of her pet, the mare Diablo? Was it military need that gave our finest steeds to your Alcalde for his pleasure, that enabled half a dozen false officials to recruit their stables from our caponeras and sell horses in the open market?" Her eyes blazed. "Senor, it was tyranny and theft, no less. Had I been a man, like Benito, I, too, should have ridden with Sanchez."
"Can you prove these things?" asked the Commander, sternly.
"Si, senor," said Inez quickly. "It is well known hereabouts. Do not take my word," she smiled, "I am a woman—a Spaniard, on my mother's side. Ask your own countrymen—Samuel Brannan, Nathan Spear, William Leidesdorff."
Hull pulled at his chin reflectively. "Something of this sort I have already heard," he said, "but I believed it idle gossip.... If your brother had come to me, instead of riding with the enemy—"
"He is a youth, hot-blooded and impulsive, Senor Commandante." Swiftly, and to Hull's intense embarrassment, she knelt before him. "We love him so: my mother, who is ill, and I," she pleaded. "He is all we have.... Ah, senor, you will spare him—our Benito!"
"Get up," said Hull a trifle brusquely. His tone, too, shook a little. "Confound it, girl, I'm not a murderer." He forced a smile. "If my men haven't shot the young scoundrel you may have him back."
"And that," he added, as the girl rose with a shining rapture in her eyes, "may be tomorrow." He picked up a paper from the desk and regarded it thoughtfully. "There is truce at present. Sanchez will surrender if I give my word that there shall be no further raids."
"And—you will do this, Commandante?" the girl asked, breathlessly.
"I—will consult with Brannan, Leidesdorff and Spear, as you suggested," Hull replied. But his eyes were kind. The Senorita Inez had her answer. Impetuously, her arms went around his neck. An instant later, dazed, a little red, a moist spot on his cheek and a lingering fragrance clinging subtly like the touch of vanished arms, Hull watched her flying heels upon the muddy square.
"Well, I'll be damned!" he said, explosively.
* * * * *
In the room which had been Inez' whilom prison—and which proved to be the only one available in the City Hotel, Adrian Stanley lay tossing and muttering. The woman who sat at his bedside watched anxiously each movement of his lips, listening eagerly to catch the incoherent, whispered words. For a time she could make of them no intelligent meaning. But now, after a long and quiet interval, he began to ask questions, though his eyes were still closed. "Am I going to die?"
"No," said Inez, for it was she, "you've lost a lot of blood, but the doctor says there's small danger."
The bearded face looked up half quizzically. "Are you glad?"
"Oh ... yes," said Inez, with a quick-taken respiration.
"Then it's all right," the patient murmured sleepily. His eyes closed.
Inez' color heightened as she watched him. What had he meant, she wondered, and decided that his brain was not quite clear. But, somehow, this was not the explanation she desired.
Presently Dr. Elbert Jones came in, cheering her with his breezy, jovial drawl.
"Getting tired of your task?" he questioned. But Inez shook her head. "He protected me," she said. "It was while defending me that he was wounded." Her eyes searched the physician's face. "Where," she questioned fearfully, "is—"
"McTurpin?" returned the doctor. "Lord knows. He vamoosed, absquatulated. You'll hear no more of him, I think, Miss Windham."
For a moment the dark lashes of the patient rose as if something in the doctor's words had caught his attention; then they fell again over weary eyes and he appeared to sleep. But when Doctor Jones was gone, Inez found him regarding her with unusual interest.
"Did I hear him call you Windham?" he inquired, "Inez Windham?"
"Yes, that is my name," she answered.
"And your father's?"
"He is Don Roberto Windham of the Engineers," Inez leaned forward. "Oh!" her eyes shone with a hope she dared not trust. "Tell me, quickly, have you news of him?"
"Yes," said Stanley. "He is ill, but will recover. He will soon return." His eyes dwelt on the girl in silence, musingly.
"Tell me more!" she pleaded. "We believed him lost. Ah, how my mother's health will mend when she hears this. We have waited so long...."
"I was with him in the North," said Stanley. "Often, sitting at the camp-fire, while the others slept, he told me of his wife, his daughter, and his son, Benito. In my coat," he pointed to a garment hanging near the door, "you will find a letter—" He followed her swift, searching fingers, saw her press the envelope impulsively against her heart. While she read his eyes were on her dreamily, until at last he closed them with a little sigh.
SAN FRANCISCO IS NAMED
Evening on the Windham rancho. Far below, across a vast green stretch of meadow sloping toward the sea, the sun sank into crimson canopies of cloud. It was one of those perfect days which come after the first rains, mellow and exhilarating. The Trio in the rose arbor of the patio were silent under the spell of its beauty. Don Roberto Windham, home again, after long months of wandering and hardship, stood beside the chair in which Senora Windham rested against a pillow. She had mended much since his return, and her eyes as she looked up at him held the same flashing, fiery tenderness which in the long ago had caused her to renounce Castilian traditions and become the bride of an Americano. At her feet upon a low stool sat her daughter, Inez, and Windham, as he looked down, was a little startled at her likeness to the Spanish beauty he had met and married a generation before.