Jack-rabbits were a pest that year and Presley occasionally found
amusement in hunting them with Harran's half-dozen greyhounds,
following the chase on horseback. One day, between two and three
months after Lyman s visit to Los Muertos, as he was returning
toward the ranch house from a distant and lonely quarter of Los
Muertos, he came unexpectedly upon a strange sight.
Some twenty men, Annixter's and Osterman's tenants, and small
ranchers from east of Guadalajara--all members of the League--
were going through the manual of arms under Harran Derrick's
supervision. They were all equipped with new Winchester rifles.
Harran carried one of these himself and with it he illustrated
the various commands he gave. As soon as one of the men under
his supervision became more than usually proficient, he was told
off to instruct a file of the more backward. After the manual of
arms, Harran gave the command to take distance as skirmishers,
and when the line had opened out so that some half-dozen feet
intervened between each man, an advance was made across the
field, the men stooping low and snapping the hammers of their
rifles at an imaginary enemy.
The League had its agents in San Francisco, who watched the
movements of the Railroad as closely as was possible, and some
time before this, Annixter had received word that the Marshal and
his deputies were coming down to Bonneville to put the dummy
buyers of his ranch in possession. The report proved to be but
the first of many false alarms, but it had stimulated the League
to unusual activity, and some three or four hundred men were
furnished with arms and from time to time were drilled in secret.
Among themselves, the ranchers said that if the Railroad managers
did not believe they were terribly in earnest in the stand they
had taken, they were making a fatal mistake.
Harran reasserted this statement to Presley on the way home to
the ranch house that same day. Harran had caught up with him by
the time he reached the Lower Road, and the two jogged homeward
through the miles of standing wheat.
"They may jump the ranch, Pres," he said, "if they try hard
enough, but they will never do it while I am alive. By the way,"
he added, "you know we served notices yesterday upon S. Behrman
and Cy. Ruggles to quit the country. Of course, they won't do
it, but they won't be able to say they didn't have warning."
About an hour later, the two reached the ranch house, but as
Harran rode up the driveway, he uttered an exclamation.
"Hello," he said, "something is up. That's Genslinger's
In fact, the editor's team was tied underneath the shade of a
giant eucalyptus tree near by. Harran, uneasy under this
unexpected visit of the enemy's friend, dismounted without
stabling his horse, and went at once to the dining-room, where
visitors were invariably received. But the dining-room was
empty, and his mother told him that Magnus and the editor were in
the "office." Magnus had said they were not to be disturbed.
Earlier in the afternoon, the editor had driven up to the porch
and had asked Mrs. Derrick, whom he found reading a book of poems
on the porch, if he could see Magnus. At the time, the Governor
had gone with Phelps to inspect the condition of the young wheat
on Hooven's holding, but within half an hour he returned, and
Genslinger had asked him for a "few moments' talk in private."
The two went into the "office," Magnus locking the door behind
"Very complete you are here, Governor," observed the editor in
his alert, jerky manner, his black, bead-like eyes twinkling
around the room from behind his glasses. "Telephone, safe,
ticker, account-books--well, that's progress, isn't it? Only way
to manage a big ranch these days. But the day of the big ranch
is over. As the land appreciates in value, the temptation to
sell off small holdings will be too strong. And then the small
holding can be cultivated to better advantage. I shall have an
editorial on that some day."
"The cost of maintaining a number of small holdings," said
Magnus, indifferently, "is, of course, greater than if they were
all under one management."
"That may be, that may be," rejoined the other.
There was a long pause. Genslinger leaned back in his chair and
rubbed a knee. Magnus, standing erect in front of the safe,
waited for him to speak.
"This is an unfortunate business, Governor," began the editor,
"this misunderstanding between the ranchers and the Railroad. I
wish it could be adjusted. Here are two industries that must be
in harmony with one another, or we all go to pot."
"I should prefer not to be interviewed on the subject, Mr.
Genslinger," said Magnus.
"Oh, no, oh, no. Lord love you, Governor, I don't want to
interview you. We all know how you stand."
Again there was a long silence. Magnus wondered what this little
man, usually so garrulous, could want of him. At length,
Genslinger began again. He did not look at Magnus, except at
"About the present Railroad Commission," he remarked. "That was
an interesting campaign you conducted in Sacramento and San
Magnus held his peace, his hands shut tight. Did Genslinger know
of Lyman's disgrace? Was it for this he had come? Would the
story of it be the leading article in to-morrow's Mercury?
"An interesting campaign," repeated Genslinger, slowly; "a very
interesting campaign. I watched it with every degree of
interest. I saw its every phase, Mr. Derrick."
"The campaign was not without its interest," admitted Magnus.
"Yes," said Genslinger, still more deliberately, "and some phases
of it were--more interesting than others, as, for instance, let
us say the way in which you--personally--secured the votes of
certain chairmen of delegations--need I particularise further?
Yes, those men--the way you got their votes. Now, that I should
say, Mr. Derrick, was the most interesting move in the whole
game--to you. Hm, curious," he murmured, musingly. "Let's see.
You deposited two one-thousand dollar bills and four five-hundred
dollar bills in a box--three hundred and eight was the number--in
a box in the Safety Deposit Vaults in San Francisco, and then--
let's see, you gave a key to this box to each of the gentlemen in
question, and after the election the box was empty. Now, I call
that interesting--curious, because it's a new, safe, and highly
ingenious method of bribery. How did you happen to think of it,
"Do you know what you are doing, sir?" Magnus burst forth. "Do
you know what you are insinuating, here, in my own house?"
"Why, Governor," returned the editor, blandly, "I'm not
insinuating anything. I'm talking about what I know."
"It's a lie."
Genslinger rubbed his chin reflectively.
"Well," he answered, "you can have a chance to prove it before
the Grand Jury, if you want to."
"My character is known all over the State," blustered Magnus.
"My politics are pure politics. My----"
"No one needs a better reputation for pure politics than the man
who sets out to be a briber," interrupted Genslinger, "and I
might as well tell you, Governor, that you can't shout me down.
I can put my hand on the two chairmen you bought before it's dark
to-day. I've had their depositions in my safe for the last six
weeks. We could make the arrests to-morrow, if we wanted.
Governor, you sure did a risky thing when you went into that
Sacramento fight, an awful risky thing. Some men can afford to
have bribery charges preferred against them, and it don't hurt
one little bit, but you--Lord, it would bust you, Governor, bust
you dead. I know all about the whole shananigan business from A
to Z, and if you don't believe it--here," he drew a long strip of
paper from his pocket, "here's a galley proof of the story."
Magnus took it in his hands. There, under his eyes, scare-
headed, double-leaded, the more important clauses printed in bold
type, was the detailed account of the "deal" Magnus had made with
the two delegates. It was pitiless, remorseless, bald. Every
statement was substantiated, every statistic verified with
Genslinger's meticulous love for exactness. Besides all that, it
had the ring of truth. It was exposure, ruin, absolute
"That's about correct, isn't it?" commented Genslinger, as
Derrick finished reading. Magnus did not reply. "I think it is
correct enough," the editor continued. "But I thought it would
only be fair to you to let you see it before it was published."
The one thought uppermost in Derrick's mind, his one impulse of
the moment was, at whatever cost, to preserve his dignity, not to
allow this man to exult in the sight of one quiver of weakness,
one trace of defeat, one suggestion of humiliation. By an effort
that put all his iron rigidity to the test, he forced himself to
look straight into Genslinger's eyes.
"I congratulate you," he observed, handing back the proof, "upon
your journalistic enterprise. Your paper will sell to-morrow."
"Oh, I don't know as I want to publish this story," remarked the
editor, indifferently, putting away the galley. "I'm just like
that. The fun for me is running a good story to earth, but once
I've got it, I lose interest. And, then, I wouldn't like to see
you--holding the position you do, President of the League and a
leading man of the county--I wouldn't like to see a story like
this smash you over. It's worth more to you to keep it out of
print than for me to put it in. I've got nothing much to gain
but a few extra editions, but you--Lord, you would lose
everything. Your committee was in the deal right enough. But
your League, all the San Joaquin Valley, everybody in the State
believes the commissioners were fairly elected."
"Your story," suddenly exclaimed Magnus, struck with an idea,
"will be thoroughly discredited just so soon as the new grain
tariff is published. I have means of knowing that the San
Joaquin rate--the issue upon which the board was elected--is not
to be touched. Is it likely the ranchers would secure the
election of a board that plays them false?"
"Oh, we know all about that," answered Genslinger, smiling. "You
thought you were electing Lyman easily. You thought you had got
the Railroad to walk right into your trap. You didn't understand
how you could pull off your deal so easily. Why, Governor, Lyman
was pledged to the railroad two years ago. He was the one
particular man the corporation wanted for commissioner. And your
people elected him--saved the Railroad all the trouble of
campaigning for him. And you can't make any counter charge of
bribery there. No, sir, the corporation don't use such
amateurish methods as that. Confidentially and between us two,
all that the Railroad has done for Lyman, in order to attach him
to their interests, is to promise to back him politically in the
next campaign for Governor. It's too bad," he continued,
dropping his voice, and changing his position. "It really is too
bad to see good men trying to bunt a stone wall over with their
bare heads. You couldn't have won at any stage of the game. I
wish I could have talked to you and your friends before you went
into that Sacramento fight. I could have told you then how
little chance you had. When will you people realise that you
can't buck against the Railroad? Why, Magnus, it's like me going
out in a paper boat and shooting peas at a battleship."
"Is that all you wished to see me about, Mr. Genslinger?"
remarked Magnus, bestirring himself. "I am rather occupied to-
"Well," returned the other, "you know what the publication of
this article would mean for you." He paused again, took off his
glasses, breathed on them, polished the lenses with his
handkerchief and readjusted them on his nose. "I've been
thinking, Governor," he began again, with renewed alertness, and
quite irrelevantly, "of enlarging the scope of the ' Mercury.'
You see, I'm midway between the two big centres of the State, San
Francisco and Los Angeles, and I want to extend the 'Mercury's'
sphere of influence as far up and down the valley as I can. I
want to illustrate the paper. You see, if I had a photo-
engraving plant of my own, I could do a good deal of outside
jobbing as well, and the investment would pay ten per cent. But
it takes money to make money. I wouldn't want to put in any
dinky, one-horse affair. I want a good plant. I've been
figuring out the business. Besides the plant, there would be the
expense of a high grade paper. Can't print half-tones on
anything but coated paper, and that costs. Well, what with this
and with that and running expenses till the thing began to pay,
it would cost me about ten thousand dollars, and I was wondering
if, perhaps, you couldn't see your way clear to accommodating
"Yes. Say five thousand down, and the balance within sixty
Magnus, for the moment blind to what Genslinger had in mind,
turned on him in astonishment.
"Why, man, what security could you give me for such an amount?"
"Well, to tell the truth," answered the editor, "I hadn't thought
much about securities. In fact, I believed you would see how
greatly it was to your advantage to talk business with me. You
see, I'm not going to print this article about you, Governor, and
I'm not going to let it get out so as any one else can print it,
and it seems to me that one good turn deserves another. You
Magnus understood. An overwhelming desire suddenly took
possession of him to grip this blackmailer by the throat, to
strangle him where he stood; or, if not, at least to turn upon
him with that old-time terrible anger, before which whole
conventions had once cowered. But in the same moment the
Governor realised this was not to be. Only its righteousness had
made his wrath terrible; only the justice of his anger had made
him feared. Now the foundation was gone from under his feet; he
had knocked it away himself. Three times feeble was he whose
quarrel was unjust. Before this country editor, this paid
speaker of the Railroad, he stood, convicted. The man had him at
his mercy. The detected briber could not resent an insult.
Genslinger rose, smoothing his hat.
"Well," he said, "of course, you want time to think it over, and
you can't raise money like that on short notice. I'll wait till
Friday noon of this week. We begin to set Saturday's paper at
about four, Friday afternoon, and the forms are locked about two
in the morning. I hope," he added, turning back at the door of
the room, "that you won't find anything disagreeable in your
Saturday morning 'Mercury,' Mr. Derrick."
He went out, closing the door behind him, and in a moment, Magnus
heard the wheels of his buckboard grating on the driveway.
The following morning brought a letter to Magnus from Gethings,
of the San Pueblo ranch, which was situated very close to
Visalia. The letter was to the effect that all around Visalia,
upon the ranches affected by the regrade of the Railroad, men
were arming and drilling, and that the strength of the League in
that quarter was undoubted. "But to refer," continued the
letter, "to a most painful recollection. You will, no doubt,
remember that, at the close of our last committee meeting,
specific charges were made as to fraud in the nomination and
election of one of our commissioners, emanating, most
unfortunately, from the commissioner himself. These charges, my
dear Mr. Derrick, were directed at yourself. How the secrets of
the committee have been noised about, I cannot understand. You
may be, of course, assured of my own unquestioning confidence and
loyalty. However, I regret exceedingly to state not only that
the rumour of the charges referred to above is spreading in this
district, but that also they are made use of by the enemies of
the League. It is to be deplored that some of the Leaguers
themselves--you know, we number in our ranks many small farmers,
ignorant Portuguese and foreigners--have listened to these
stories and have permitted a feeling of uneasiness to develop
among them. Even though it were admitted that fraudulent means
had been employed in the elections, which, of course, I
personally do not admit, I do not think it would make very much
difference in the confidence which the vast majority of the
Leaguers repose in their chiefs. Yet we have so insisted upon
the probity of our position as opposed to Railroad chicanery,
that I believe it advisable to quell this distant suspicion at
once; to publish a denial of these rumoured charges would only be
to give them too much importance. However, can you not write me
a letter, stating exactly how the campaign was conducted, and the
commission nominated and elected? I could show this to some of
the more disaffected, and it would serve to allay all suspicion
on the instant. I think it would be well to write as though the
initiative came, not from me, but from yourself, ignoring this
present letter. I offer this only as a suggestion, and will
confidently endorse any decision you may arrive at."
The letter closed with renewed protestations of confidence.
Magnus was alone when he read this. He put it carefully away in
the filing cabinet in his office, and wiped the sweat from his
forehead and face. He stood for one moment, his hands rigid at
his sides, his fists clinched.
"This is piling up," he muttered, looking blankly at the opposite
wall. "My God, this is piling up. What am I to do?"
Ah, the bitterness of unavailing regret, the anguish of
compromise with conscience, the remorse of a bad deed done in a
moment of excitement. Ah, the humiliation of detection, the
degradation of being caught, caught like a schoolboy pilfering
his fellows' desks, and, worse than all, worse than all, the
consciousness of lost self-respect, the knowledge of a prestige
vanishing, a dignity impaired, knowledge that the grip which held
a multitude in check was trembling, that control was wavering,
that command was being weakened. Then the little tricks to
deceive the crowd, the little subterfuges, the little pretences
that kept up appearances, the lies, the bluster, the pose, the
strut, the gasconade, where once was iron authority; the turning
of the head so as not to see that which could not be prevented;
the suspicion of suspicion, the haunting fear of the Man on the
Street, the uneasiness of the direct glance, the questioning as
to motives--why had this been said, what was meant by that word,
that gesture, that glance?
Wednesday passed, and Thursday. Magnus kept to himself, seeing
no visitors, avoiding even his family. How to break through the
mesh of the net, how to regain the old position, how to prevent
discovery? If there were only some way, some vast, superhuman
effort by which he could rise in his old strength once more,
crushing Lyman with one hand, Genslinger with the other, and for
one more moment, the last, to stand supreme again, indomitable,
the leader; then go to his death, triumphant at the end, his
memory untarnished, his fame undimmed. But the plague-spot was
in himself, knitted forever into the fabric of his being. Though
Genslinger should be silenced, though Lyman should be crushed,
though even the League should overcome the Railroad, though he
should be the acknowledged leader of a resplendent victory, yet
the plague-spot would remain. There was no success for him now.
However conspicuous the outward achievement, he, he himself,
Magnus Derrick, had failed, miserably and irredeemably.
Petty, material complications intruded, sordid considerations.
Even if Genslinger was to be paid, where was the money to come
from? His legal battles with the Railroad, extending now over a
period of many years, had cost him dear; his plan of sowing all
of Los Muertos to wheat, discharging the tenants, had proved
expensive, the campaign resulting in Lyman's election had drawn
heavily upon his account. All along he had been relying upon a
"bonanza crop" to reimburse him. It was not believable that the
Railroad would "jump" Los Muertos, but if this should happen, he
would be left without resources. Ten thousand dollars! Could he
raise the amount? Possibly. But to pay it out to a blackmailer!
To be held up thus in road-agent fashion, without a single means
of redress! Would it not cripple him financially? Genslinger
could do his worst. He, Magnus, would brave it out. Was not his
character above suspicion?
Was it? This letter of Gethings's. Already the murmur of
uneasiness made itself heard. Was this not the thin edge of the
wedge? How the publication of Genslinger's story would drive it
home! How the spark of suspicion would flare into the blaze of
open accusation! There would be investigations. Investigation!
There was terror in the word. He could not stand investigation.
Magnus groaned aloud, covering his head with his clasped hands.
Briber, corrupter of government, ballot-box stuffer, descending
to the level of back-room politicians, of bar-room heelers, he,
Magnus Derrick, statesman of the old school, Roman in his iron
integrity, abandoning a career rather than enter the "new
politics," had, in one moment of weakness. hazarding all, even
honour, on a single stake, taking great chances to achieve great
results, swept away the work of a lifetime.
Gambler that he was, he had at last chanced his highest stake,
his personal honour, in the greatest game of his life, and had
It was Presley's morbidly keen observation that first noticed the
evidence of a new trouble in the Governor's face and manner.
Presley was sure that Lyman's defection had not so upset him.
The morning after the committee meeting, Magnus had called Harran
and Annie Derrick into the office, and, after telling his wife of
Lyman's betrayal, had forbidden either of them to mention his
name again. His attitude towards his prodigal son was that of
stern, unrelenting resentment. But now, Presley could not fail
to detect traces of a more deep-seated travail. Something was in
the wind. the times were troublous. What next was about to
happen? What fresh calamity impended?
One morning, toward the very end of the week, Presley woke early
in his small, white-painted iron bed. He hastened to get up and
dress. There was much to be done that day. Until late the night
before, he had been at work on a collection of some of his
verses, gathered from the magazines in which they had first
appeared. Presley had received a liberal offer for the
publication of these verses in book form. "The Toilers" was to
be included in this book, and, indeed, was to give it its name--
"The Toilers and Other Poems." Thus it was that, until the
previous midnight, he had been preparing the collection for
publication, revising, annotating, arranging. The book was to be
sent off that morning.
But also Presley had received a typewritten note from Annixter,
inviting him to Quien Sabe that same day. Annixter explained
that it was Hilma's birthday, and that he had planned a picnic on
the high ground of his ranch, at the headwaters of Broderson
Creek. They were to go in the carry-all, Hilma, Presley, Mrs.
Dyke, Sidney, and himself, and were to make a day of it. They
would leave Quien Sabe at ten in the morning. Presley had at
once resolved to go. He was immensely fond of Annixter--more so
than ever since his marriage with Hilma and the astonishing
transformation of his character. Hilma, as well, was delightful
as Mrs. Annixter; and Mrs. Dyke and the little tad had always
been his friends. He would have a good time.
But nobody was to go into Bonneville that morning with the mail,
and if he wished to send his manuscript, he would have to take it
in himself. He had resolved to do this, getting an early start,
and going on horseback to Quien Sabe, by way of Bonneville.
It was barely six o'clock when Presley sat down to his coffee and
eggs in the dining-room of Los Muertos. The day promised to be
hot, and for the first time, Presley had put on a new khaki
riding suit, very English-looking, though in place of the
regulation top-boots, he wore his laced knee-boots, with a great
spur on the left heel. Harran joined him at breakfast, in his
working clothes of blue canvas. He was bound for the irrigating
ditch to see how the work was getting on there.
"How is the wheat looking?" asked Presley.
"Bully," answered the other, stirring his coffee. "The Governor
has had his usual luck. Practically, every acre of the ranch was
sown to wheat, and everywhere the stand is good. I was over on
Two, day before yesterday, and if nothing happens, I believe it
will go thirty sacks to the acre there. Cutter reports that
there are spots on Four where we will get forty-two or three.
Hooven, too, brought up some wonderful fine ears for me to look
at. The grains were just beginning to show. Some of the ears
carried twenty grains. That means nearly forty bushels of wheat
to every acre. I call it a bonanza year."
"Have you got any mail?" said Presley, rising. "I'm going into
Harran shook his head, and took himself away, and Presley went
down to the stable-corral to get his pony.
As he rode out of the stable-yard and passed by the ranch house,
on the driveway, he was surprised to see Magnus on the lowest
step of the porch.
"Good morning, Governor," called Presley. "Aren't you up pretty
"Good morning, Pres, my boy." The Governor came forward and,
putting his hand on the pony's withers, walked along by his side.
"Going to town, Pres?" he asked.
"Yes, sir. Can I do anything for you, Governor?"
Magnus drew a sealed envelope from his pocket.
"I wish you would drop in at the office of the Mercury for me,"
he said, "and see Mr. Genslinger personally, and give him this
envelope. It is a package of papers, but they involve a
considerable sum of money, and you must be careful of them. A
few years ago, when our enmity was not so strong, Mr. Genslinger
and I had some business dealings with each other. I thought it
as well just now, considering that we are so openly opposed, to
terminate the whole affair, and break off relations. We came to
a settlement a few days ago. These are the final papers. They
must be given to him in person, Presley. You understand."
Presley cantered on, turning into the county road and holding
northward by the mammoth watering tank and Broderson's popular
windbreak. As he passed Caraher's, he saw the saloon-keeper in
the doorway of his place, and waved him a salutation which the
By degrees, Presley had come to consider Caraher in a more
favourable light. He found, to his immense astonishment, that
Caraher knew something of Mill and Bakounin, not, however, from
their books, but from extracts and quotations from their
writings, reprinted in the anarchistic journals to which he
subscribed. More than once, the two had held long conversations,
and from Caraher's own lips, Presley heard the terrible story of
the death of his wife, who had been accidentally killed by
Pinkertons during a "demonstration" of strikers. It invested the
saloon-keeper, in Presley's imagination, with all the dignity of
the tragedy. He could not blame Caraher for being a "red." He
even wondered how it was the saloon-keeper had not put his
theories into practice, and adjusted his ancient wrong with his
"six inches of plugged gas-pipe." Presley began to conceive of
the man as a "character."
"You wait, Mr. Presley," the saloon-keeper had once said, when
Presley had protested against his radical ideas. "You don't know
the Railroad yet. Watch it and its doings long enough, and
you'll come over to my way of thinking, too."
It was about half-past seven when Presley reached Bonneville.
The business part of the town was as yet hardly astir; he
despatched his manuscript, and then hurried to the office of the
"Mercury." Genslinger, as he feared, had not yet put in
appearance, but the janitor of the building gave Presley the
address of the editor's residence, and it was there he found him
in the act of sitting down to breakfast. Presley was hardly
courteous to the little man, and abruptly refused his offer of a
drink. He delivered Magnus's envelope to him and departed.
It had occurred to him that it would not do to present himself at
Quien Sabe on Hilma's birthday, empty-handed, and, on leaving
Genslinger's house, he turned his pony's head toward the business
part of the town again pulling up in front of the jeweller's,
just as the clerk was taking down the shutters.
At the jeweller's, he purchased a little brooch for Hilma and at
the cigar stand in the lobby of the Yosemite House, a box of
superfine cigars, which, when it was too late, he realised that
the master of Quien Sabe would never smoke, holding, as he did,
with defiant inconsistency, to miserable weeds, black, bitter,
and flagrantly doctored, which he bought, three for a nickel, at
Presley arrived at Quien Sabe nearly half an hour behind the
appointed time; but, as he had expected, the party were in no way
ready to start. The carry-all, its horses covered with white
fly-nets, stood under a tree near the house, young Vacca dozing
on the seat. Hilma and Sidney, the latter exuberant with a
gayety that all but brought the tears to Presley's eyes, were
making sandwiches on the back porch. Mrs. Dyke was nowhere to be
seen, and Annixter was shaving himself in his bedroom.
This latter put a half-lathered face out of the window as Presley
cantered through the gate, and waved his razor with a beckoning
"Come on in, Pres," he cried. "Nobody's ready yet. You're hours
ahead of time."
Presley came into the bedroom, his huge spur clinking on the
straw matting. Annixter was without coat, vest or collar, his
blue silk suspenders hung in loops over either hip, his hair was
disordered, the crown lock stiffer than ever.
"Glad to see you, old boy," he announced, as Presley came in.
"No, don't shake hands, I'm all lather. Here, find a chair, will
you? I won't be long."
"I thought you said ten o'clock," observed Presley, sitting down
on the edge of the bed.
"Well, I did, but----"
"But, then again, in a way, you didn't, hey?" his friend
Annixter grunted good-humouredly, and turned to strop his razor.
Presley looked with suspicious disfavour at his suspenders.
"Why is it," he observed, "that as soon as a man is about to get
married, he buys himself pale blue suspenders, silk ones? Think
of it. You, Buck Annixter, with sky-blue, silk suspenders. It
ought to be a strap and a nail."
"Old fool," observed Annixter, whose repartee was the heaving of
brick bats. "Say," he continued, holding the razor from his
face, and jerking his head over his shoulder, while he looked at
Presley's reflection in his mirror; "say, look around. Isn't
this a nifty little room? We refitted the whole house, you know.
Notice she's all painted?"
"I have been looking around," answered Presley, sweeping the room
with a series of glances. He forebore criticism. Annixter was
so boyishly proud of the effect that it would have been unkind to
have undeceived him. Presley looked at the marvellous,
department-store bed of brass, with its brave, gay canopy; the
mill-made wash-stand, with its pitcher and bowl of blinding red
and green china, the straw-framed lithographs of symbolic female
figures against the multi-coloured, new wall-paper; the
inadequate spindle chairs of white and gold; the sphere of tissue
paper hanging from the gas fixture, and the plumes of pampas
grass tacked to the wall at artistic angles, and overhanging two
astonishing oil paintings, in dazzling golden frames.
"Say, how about those paintings, Pres?" inquired Annixter a
little uneasily. "I don't know whether they're good or not.
They were painted by a three-fingered Chinaman in Monterey, and I
got the lot for thirty dollars, frames thrown in. Why, I think
the frames alone are worth thirty dollars."
"Well, so do I," declared Presley. He hastened to change the
"Buck," he said, "I hear you've brought Mrs. Dyke and Sidney to
live with you. You know, I think that's rather white of you."
"Oh, rot, Pres," muttered Annixter, turning abruptly to his
"And you can't fool me, either, old man," Presley continued.
"You're giving this picnic as much for Mrs. Dyke and the little
tad as you are for your wife, just to cheer them up a bit."
"Oh, pshaw, you make me sick."
"Well, that's the right thing to do, Buck, and I'm as glad for
your sake as I am for theirs. There was a time when you would
have let them all go to grass, and never so much as thought of
them. I don't want to seem to be officious, but you've changed
for the better, old man, and I guess I know why. She--" Presley
caught his friend's eye, and added gravely, "She's a good woman,
Annixter turned around abruptly, his face flushing under its
"Pres," he exclaimed, "she's made a man of me. I was a machine
before, and if another man, or woman, or child got in my way, I
rode 'em down, and I never dreamed of anybody else but myself.
But as soon as I woke up to the fact that I really loved her,
why, it was glory hallelujah all in a minute, and, in a way, I
kind of loved everybody then, and wanted to be everybody's
friend. And I began to see that a fellow can't live for himself
any more than he can live by himself. He's got to think of
others. If he's got brains, he's got to think for the poor ducks
that haven't 'em, and not give 'em a boot in the backsides
because they happen to be stupid; and if he's got money, he's got
to help those that are busted, and if he's got a house, he's got
to think of those that ain't got anywhere to go. I've got a
whole lot of ideas since I began to love Hilma, and just as soon
as I can, I'm going to get in and help people, and I'm going to
keep to that idea the rest of my natural life. That ain't much
of a religion, but it's the best I've got, and Henry Ward Beecher
couldn't do any more than that. And it's all come about because
of Hilma, and because we cared for each other."
Presley jumped up, and caught Annixter about the shoulders with
one arm, gripping his hand hard. This absurd figure, with
dangling silk suspenders, lathered chin, and tearful eyes, seemed
to be suddenly invested with true nobility. Beside this
blundering struggle to do right, to help his fellows, Presley's
own vague schemes, glittering systems of reconstruction,
collapsed to ruin, and he himself, with all his refinement, with
all his poetry, culture, and education, stood, a bungler at the
"You're all right, old man," he exclaimed, unable to think of
anything adequate. "You're all right. That's the way to talk,
and here, by the way, I brought you a box of cigars."
Annixter stared as Presley laid the box on the edge of the
"Old fool," he remarked, "what in hell did you do that for?"
"Oh, just for fun."
"I suppose they're rotten stinkodoras, or you wouldn't give 'em
"This cringing gratitude--" Presley began.
"Shut up," shouted Annixter, and the incident was closed.
Annixter resumed his shaving, and Presley lit a cigarette.
"Any news from Washington?" he queried.
"Nothing that's any good," grunted Annixter. "Hello," he added,
raising his head, "there's somebody in a hurry for sure."
The noise of a horse galloping so fast that the hoof-beats
sounded in one uninterrupted rattle, abruptly made itself heard.
The noise was coming from the direction of the road that led from
the Mission to Quien Sabe. With incredible swiftness, the hoof-
beats drew nearer. There was that in their sound which brought
Presley to his feet. Annixter threw open the window.
"Runaway," exclaimed Presley.
Annixter, with thoughts of the Railroad, and the "Jumping" of the
ranch, flung his hand to his hip pocket.
"What is it, Vacca?" he cried.
Young Vacca, turning in his seat in the carryall, was looking up
the road. All at once, he jumped from his place, and dashed
towards the window.
"Dyke," he shouted. "Dyke, it's Dyke."
While the words were yet in his mouth, the sound of the hoof-
beats rose to a roar, and a great, bell-toned voice shouted:
"Annixter, Annixter, Annixter!"
It was Dyke's voice, and the next instant he shot into view in
the open square in front of the house.
"Oh, my God!" cried Presley.
The ex-engineer threw the horse on its haunches, springing from
the saddle; and, as he did so, the beast collapsed, shuddering,
to the ground. Annixter sprang from the window, and ran forward,
There was Dyke, hatless, his pistol in his hand, a gaunt terrible
figure the beard immeasurably long, the cheeks fallen in, the
eyes sunken. His clothes ripped and torn by weeks of flight and
hiding in the chaparral, were ragged beyond words, the boots were
shreds of leather, bloody to the ankle with furious spurring.
"Annixter," he shouted, and again, rolling his sunken eyes,
"Here, here," cried Annixter.
The other turned, levelling his pistol.
"Give me a horse, give me a horse, quick, do you hear? Give me a
horse, or I'll shoot."
"Steady, steady. That won't do. You know me, Dyke. We're
The other lowered his weapon.
"I know, I know," he panted. "I'd forgotten. I'm unstrung, Mr.
Annixter, and I'm running for my life. They're not ten minutes
"Come on, come on," shouted Annixter, dashing stablewards, his
"Here's a horse."
"Mine?" exclaimed Presley. "He wouldn't carry you a mile."
Annixter was already far ahead, trumpeting orders.
"The buckskin," he yelled. "Get her out, Billy. Where's the
stable-man? Get out that buckskin. Get out that saddle."
Then followed minutes of furious haste, Presley, Annixter, Billy
the stable-man, and Dyke himself, darting hither and thither
about the yellow mare, buckling, strapping, cinching, their lips
pale, their fingers trembling with excitement.
"Want anything to eat?" Annixter's head was under the saddle flap
as he tore at the cinch. "Want anything to eat? Want any money?
Want a gun?"
"Water," returned Dyke. "They've watched every spring. I'm
killed with thirst."
"There's the hydrant. Quick now."
"I got as far as the Kern River, but they turned me back," he
said between breaths as he drank.
"Don't stop to talk."
"My mother, and the little tad----"
"I'm taking care of them. They're stopping with me."
"You won't see 'em; by the Lord, you won't. You'll get away.
Where's that back cinch strap, Billy? God damn it, are you going
to let him be shot before he can get away? Now, Dyke, up you go.
She'll kill herself running before they can catch you."
"God bless you, Annixter. Where's the little tad? Is she well,
Annixter, and the mother? Tell them----"
"Yes, yes, yes. All clear, Pres? Let her have her own gait,
Dyke. You're on the best horse in the county now. Let go her
head, Billy. Now, Dyke,--shake hands? You bet I will. That's
all right. Yes, God bless you. Let her go. You're off."
Answering the goad of the spur, and already quivering with the
excitement of the men who surrounded her, the buckskin cleared
the stable-corral in two leaps; then, gathering her legs under
her, her head low, her neck stretched out, swung into the road
from out the driveway disappearing in a blur of dust.
With the agility of a monkey, young Vacca swung himself into the
framework of the artesian well, clambering aloft to its very top.
He swept the country with a glance.
"Well?" demanded Annixter from the ground. The others cocked
their heads to listen.
"I see him; I see him!" shouted Vacca. "He's going like the
devil. He's headed for Guadalajara."
"Look back, up the road, toward the Mission. Anything there?"
The answer came down in a shout of apprehension.
"There's a party of men. Three or four--on horse-back. There's
dogs with 'em. They're coming this way. Oh, I can hear the
dogs. And, say, oh, say, there's another party coming down the
Lower Road, going towards Guadalajara, too. They got guns. I
can see the shine of the barrels. And, oh, Lord, say, there's
three more men on horses coming down on the jump from the hills
on the Los Muertos stock range. They're making towards
Guadalajara. And I can hear the courthouse bell in Bonneville
ringing. Say, the whole county is up."
As young Vacca slid down to the ground, two small black-and-tan
hounds, with flapping ears and lolling tongues, loped into view
on the road in front of the house. They were grey with dust,
their noses were to the ground. At the gate where Dyke had
turned into the ranch house grounds, they halted in confusion a
moment. One started to follow the highwayman's trail towards the
stable corral, but the other, quartering over the road with
lightning swiftness, suddenly picked up the new scent leading on
towards Guadalajara. He tossed his head in the air, and Presley
abruptly shut his hands over his ears.
Ah, that terrible cry! deep-toned, reverberating like the
bourdon of a great bell. It was the trackers exulting on the
trail of the pursued, the prolonged, raucous howl, eager,
ominous, vibrating with the alarm of the tocsin, sullen with the
heavy muffling note of death. But close upon the bay of the
hounds, came the gallop of horses. Five men, their eyes upon the
hounds, their rifles across their pommels, their horses reeking
and black with sweat, swept by in a storm of dust, glinting
hoofs, and streaming manes.
"That was Delaney's gang," exclaimed Annixter. "I saw him."
"The other was that chap Christian," said Vacca, "S. Behrman's
cousin. He had two deputies with him; and the chap in the white
slouch hat was the sheriff from Visalia."
"By the Lord, they aren't far behind," declared Annixter.
As the men turned towards the house again they saw Hilma and Mrs.
Dyke in the doorway of the little house where the latter lived.
They were looking out, bewildered, ignorant of what had happened.
But on the porch of the Ranch house itself, alone, forgotten in
the excitement, Sidney--the little tad--stood, with pale face and
serious, wide-open eyes. She had seen everything, and had
understood. She said nothing. Her head inclined towards the
roadway, she listened to the faint and distant baying of the
Dyke thundered across the railway tracks by the depot at
Guadalajara not five minutes ahead of his pursuers. Luck seemed
to have deserted him. The station, usually so quiet, was now
occupied by the crew of a freight train that lay on the down
track; while on the up line, near at hand and headed in the same
direction, was a detached locomotive, whose engineer and fireman
recognized him, he was sure, as the buckskin leaped across the
He had had no time to formulate a plan since that morning, when,
tortured with thirst, he had ventured near the spring at the
headwaters of Broderson Creek, on Quien Sabe, and had all but
fallen into the hands of the posse that had been watching for
that very move. It was useless now to regret that he had tried
to foil pursuit by turning back on his tracks to regain the
mountains east of Bonneville. Now Delaney was almost on him. To
distance that posse, was the only thing to be thought of now. It
was no longer a question of hiding till pursuit should flag; they
had driven him out from the shelter of the mountains, down into
this populous countryside, where an enemy might be met with at
every turn of the road. Now it was life or death. He would
either escape or be killed. He knew very well that he would
never allow himself to be taken alive. But he had no mind to be
killed--to turn and fight--till escape was blocked. His one
thought was to leave pursuit behind.
Weeks of flight had sharpened Dyke's every sense. As he turned
into the Upper Road beyond Guadalajara, he saw the three men
galloping down from Derrick's stock range, making for the road
ahead of him. They would cut him off there. He swung the
buckskin about. He must take the Lower Road across Los Muertos
from Guadalajara, and he must reach it before Delaney's dogs and
posse. Back he galloped, the buckskin measuring her length with
every leap. Once more the station came in sight. Rising in his
stirrups, he looked across the fields in the direction of the
Lower Road. There was a cloud of dust there. From a wagon? No,
horses on the run, and their riders were armed! He could catch
the flash of gun barrels. They were all closing in on him,
converging on Guadalajara by every available road. The Upper
Road west of Guadalajara led straight to Bonneville. That way
was impossible. Was he in a trap? Had the time for fighting
come at last?
But as Dyke neared the depot at Guadalajara, his eye fell upon
the detached locomotive that lay quietly steaming on the up line,
and with a thrill of exultation, he remembered that he was an
engineer born and bred. Delaney's dogs were already to be heard,
and the roll of hoofs on the Lower Road was dinning in his ears,
as he leaped from the buckskin before the depot. The train crew
scattered like frightened sheep before him, but Dyke ignored
them. His pistol was in his hand as, once more on foot, he
sprang toward the lone engine.
"Out of the cab," he shouted. "Both of you. Quick, or I'll kill
The two men tumbled from the iron apron of the tender as Dyke
swung himself up, dropping his pistol on the floor of the cab and
reaching with the old instinct for the familiar levers.
The great compound hissed and trembled as the steam was released,
and the huge drivers stirred, turning slowly on the tracks. But
there was a shout. Delaney's posse, dogs and men, swung into
view at the turn of the road, their figures leaning over as they
took the curve at full speed. Dyke threw everything wide open
and caught up his revolver. From behind came the challenge of a
Winchester. The party on the Lower Road were even closer than
Delaney. They had seen his manoeuvre, and the first shot of the
fight shivered the cab windows above the engineer's head.
But spinning futilely at first, the drivers of the engine at last
caught the rails. The engine moved, advanced, travelled past the
depot and the freight train, and gathering speed, rolled out on
the track beyond. Smoke, black and boiling, shot skyward from
the stack; not a joint that did not shudder with the mighty
strain of the steam; hut the great iron brute--one of Baldwin's
newest and best--came to call, obedient and docile as soon as
ever the great pulsing heart of it felt a master hand upon its
levers. It gathered its speed, bracing its steel muscles, its
thews of iron, and roared out upon the open track, filling the
air with the rasp of its tempest-breath, blotting the sunshine
with the belch of its hot, thick smoke. Already it was lessening
in the distance, when Delaney, Christian, and the sheriff of
Visalia dashed up to the station.
The posse had seen everything.
"Stuck. Curse the luck!" vociferated the cow-Puncher.
But the sheriff was already out of the saddle and into the
"There's a derailing switch between here and Pixley, isn't
there?" he cried.
"Wire ahead to open it. We'll derail him there. Come on;" he
turned to Delaney and the others. They sprang into the cab of
the locomotive that was attached to the freight train.
"Name of the State of California," shouted the sheriff to the
bewildered engineer. "Cut off from your train."
The sheriff was a man to be obeyed without hesitating. Time was
not allowed the crew of the freight train for debating as to the
right or the wrong of requisitioning the engine, and before
anyone thought of the safety or danger of the affair, the freight
engine was already flying out upon the down line, hot in pursuit
of Dyke, now far ahead upon the up track.
"I remember perfectly well there's a derailing switch between
here and Pixley," shouted the sheriff above the roar of the
locomotive. "They use it in case they have to derail runaway
engines. It runs right off into the country. We'll pile him up
there. Ready with your guns, boys."
"If we should meet another train coming up on this track----"
protested the frightened engineer.
"Then we'd jump or be smashed. Hi! look! There he is." As the
freight engine rounded a curve, Dyke's engine came into view,
shooting on some quarter of a mile ahead of them, wreathed in
"The switch ain't much further on," clamoured the engineer. "You
can see Pixley now."
Dyke, his hand on the grip of the valve that controlled the
steam, his head out of the cab window, thundered on. He was back
in his old place again; once more he was the engineer; once more
he felt the engine quiver under him; the familiar noises were in
his ears; the familiar buffeting of the wind surged, roaring at
his face; the familiar odours of hot steam and smoke reeked in
his nostrils, and on either side of him, parallel panoramas, the
two halves of the landscape sliced, as it were, in two by the
clashing wheels of his engine, streamed by in green and brown
He found himself settling to the old position on the cab seat,
leaning on his elbow from the window, one hand on the controller.
All at once, the instinct of the pursuit that of late had become
so strong within him, prompted him to shoot a glance behind. He
saw the other engine on the down line, plunging after him,
rocking from side to side with the fury of its gallop. Not yet
had he shaken the trackers from his heels; not yet was he out of
the reach of danger. He set his teeth and, throwing open the
fire-door, stoked vigorously for a few moments. The indicator of
the steam gauge rose; his speed increased; a glance at the
telegraph poles told him he was doing his fifty miles an hour.
The freight engine behind him was never built for that pace.
Barring the terrible risk of accident, his chances were good.
But suddenly--the engineer dominating the highway-man--he shut
off his steam and threw back his brake to the extreme notch.
Directly ahead of him rose a semaphore, placed at a point where
evidently a derailing switch branched from the line. The
semaphore's arm was dropped over the track, setting the danger
signal that showed the switch was open.
In an instant, Dyke saw the trick. They had meant to smash him
here; had been clever enough, quick-witted enough to open the
switch, but had forgotten the automatic semaphore that worked
simultaneously with the movement of the rails. To go forward was
certain destruction. Dyke reversed. There was nothing for it
but to go back. With a wrench and a spasm of all its metal
fibres, the great compound braced itself, sliding with rigid
wheels along the rails. Then, as Dyke applied the reverse, it
drew back from the greater danger, returning towards the less.
Inevitably now the two engines, one on the up, the other on the
down line, must meet and pass each other.
Dyke released the levers, reaching for his revolver. The
engineer once more became the highwayman, in peril of his life.
Now, beyond all doubt, the time for fighting was at hand.
The party in the heavy freight engine, that lumbered after in
pursuit, their eyes fixed on the smudge of smoke on ahead that
marked the path of the fugitive, suddenly raised a shout.
"He's stopped. He's broke down. Watch, now, and see if he jumps
"Broke nothing. He's coming back. Ready, now, he's got to pass
The engineer applied the brakes, but the heavy freight
locomotive, far less mobile than Dyke's flyer, was slow to obey.
The smudge on the rails ahead grew swiftly larger.
"He's coming. He's coming--look out, there's a shot. He's
A bright, white sliver of wood leaped into the air from the sooty
window sill of the cab.
"Fire on him! Fire on him!"
While the engines were yet two hundred yards apart, the duel
began, shot answering shot, the sharp staccato reports
punctuating the thunder of wheels and the clamour of steam.
Then the ground trembled and rocked; a roar as of heavy ordnance
developed with the abruptness of an explosion. The two engines
passed each other, the men firing the while, emptying their
revolvers, shattering wood, shivering glass, the bullets clanging
against the metal work as they struck and struck and struck. The
men leaned from the cabs towards each other, frantic with
excitement, shouting curses, the engines rocking, the steam
roaring; confusion whirling in the scene like the whirl of a
witch's dance, the white clouds of steam, the black eddies from
the smokestack, the blue wreaths from the hot mouths of
revolvers, swirling together in a blinding maze of vapour,
spinning around them, dazing them, dizzying them, while the head
rang with hideous clamour and the body twitched and trembled with
the leap and jar of the tumult of machinery.
Roaring, clamouring, reeking with the smell of powder and hot
oil, spitting death, resistless, huge, furious, an abrupt vision
of chaos, faces, rage-distorted, peering through smoke, hands
gripping outward from sudden darkness, prehensile, malevolent;
terrible as thunder, swift as lightning, the two engines met and
"He's hit," cried Delaney. "I know I hit him. He can't go far
now. After him again. He won't dare go through Bonneville."
It was true. Dyke had stood between cab and tender throughout
all the duel, exposed, reckless, thinking only of attack and not
of defence, and a bullet from one of the pistols had grazed his
hip. How serious was the wound he did not know, but he had no
thought of giving up. He tore back through the depot at
Guadalajara in a storm of bullets, and, clinging to the broken
window ledge of his cab, was carried towards Bonneville, on over
the Long Trestle and Broderson Creek and through the open country
between the two ranches of Los Muertos and Quien Sabe.
But to go on to Bonneville meant certain death. Before, as well
as behind him, the roads were now blocked. Once more he thought
of the mountains. He resolved to abandon the engine and make
another final attempt to get into the shelter of the hills in the
northernmost corner of Quien Sabe. He set his teeth. He would
not give in. There was one more fight left in him yet. Now to
try the final hope.
He slowed the engine down, and, reloading his revolver, jumped
from the platform to the road. He looked about him, listening.
All around him widened an ocean of wheat. There was no one in
The released engine, alone, unattended, drew slowly away from
him, jolting ponderously over the rail joints. As he watched it
go, a certain indefinite sense of abandonment, even in that
moment, came over Dyke. His last friend, that also had been his
first, was leaving him. He remembered that day, long ago, when
he had opened the throttle of his first machine. To-day, it was
leaving him alone, his last friend turning against him. Slowly
it was going back towards Bonneville, to the shops of the
Railroad, the camp of the enemy, that enemy that had ruined him
and wrecked him. For the last time in his life, he had been the
engineer. Now, once more, he became the highwayman, the outlaw
against whom all hands were raised, the fugitive skulking in the
mountains, listening for the cry of dogs.
But he would not give in. They had not broken him yet. Never,
while he could fight, would he allow S. Behrman the triumph of
He found his wound was not bad. He plunged into the wheat on
Quien Sabe, making northward for a division house that rose with
its surrounding trees out of the wheat like an island. He
reached it, the blood squelching in his shoes. But the sight of
two men, Portuguese farm-hands, staring at him from an angle of
the barn, abruptly roused him to action. He sprang forward with
peremptory commands, demanding a horse.
At Guadalajara, Delaney and the sheriff descended from the
"Horses now," declared the sheriff. "He won't go into
Bonneville, that's certain. He'll leave the engine between here
and there, and strike off into the country. We'll follow after
him now in the saddle. Soon as he leaves his engine, he's on
foot. We've as good as got him now."
Their horses, including even the buckskin mare that Dyke had
ridden, were still at the station. The party swung themselves
up, Delaney exclaiming, "Here's my mount," as he bestrode the
At Guadalajara, the two bloodhounds were picked up again. Urging
the jaded horses to a gallop, the party set off along the Upper
Road, keeping a sharp lookout to right and left for traces of
Dyke's abandonment of the engine.
Three miles beyond the Long Trestle, they found S. Behrman
holding his saddle horse by the bridle, and looking attentively
at a trail that had been broken through the standing wheat on
Quien Sabe. The party drew rein.
"The engine passed me on the tracks further up, and empty," said
S. Behrman. "Boys, I think he left her here."
But before anyone could answer, the bloodhounds gave tongue
again, as they picked up the scent.
"That's him," cried S. Behrman. "Get on, boys."
They dashed forward, following the hounds. S. Behrman
laboriously climbed to his saddle, panting, perspiring, mopping
the roll of fat over his coat collar, and turned in after them,
trotting along far in the rear, his great stomach and tremulous
jowl shaking with the horse's gait.
"What a day," he murmured. "What a day."
Dyke's trail was fresh, and was followed as easily as if made on
new-fallen snow. In a short time, the posse swept into the open
space around the division house. The two Portuguese were still
there, wide-eyed, terribly excited.
Yes, yes, Dyke had been there not half an hour since, had held
them up, taken a horse and galloped to the northeast, towards the
foothills at the headwaters of Broderson Creek.
On again, at full gallop, through the young wheat, trampling it
under the flying hoofs; the hounds hot on the scent, baying
continually; the men, on fresh mounts, secured at the division
house, bending forward in their saddles, spurring relentlessly.
S. Behrman jolted along far in the rear.
And even then, harried through an open country, where there was
no place to hide, it was a matter of amazement how long a chase
the highwayman led them. Fences were passed; fences whose barbed
wire had been slashed apart by the fugitive's knife. The ground
rose under foot; the hills were at hand; still the pursuit held
on. The sun, long past the meridian, began to turn earthward.
Would night come on before they were up with him?
"Look! Look! There he is! Quick, there he goes!"
High on the bare slope of the nearest hill, all the posse,
looking in the direction of Delaney's gesture, saw the figure of
a horseman emerge from an arroyo, filled with chaparral, and
struggle at a labouring gallop straight up the slope. Suddenly,
every member of the party shouted aloud. The horse had fallen,
pitching the rider from the saddle. The man rose to his feet,
caught at the bridle, missed it and the horse dashed on alone.
The man, pausing for a second looked around, saw the chase
drawing nearer, then, turning back, disappeared in the chaparral.
Delaney raised a great whoop.
"We've got you now."
Into the slopes and valleys of the hills dashed the band of
horsemen, the trail now so fresh that it could be easily
discerned by all. On and on it led them, a furious, wild
scramble straight up the slopes. The minutes went by. The dry
bed of a rivulet was passed; then another fence; then a tangle of
manzanita; a meadow of wild oats, full of agitated cattle; then
an arroyo, thick with chaparral and scrub oaks, and then, without
warning, the pistol shots ripped out and ran from rider to rider
with the rapidity of a gatling discharge, and one of the deputies
bent forward in the saddle, both hands to his face, the blood
jetting from between his fingers.
Dyke was there, at bay at last, his back against a bank of rock,
the roots of a fallen tree serving him as a rampart, his revolver
smoking in his hand.
"You're under arrest, Dyke," cried the sheriff. "It's not the
least use to fight. The whole country is up."
Dyke fired again, the shot splintering the foreleg of the horse
the sheriff rode.
The posse, four men all told--the wounded deputy having crawled
out of the fight after Dyke's first shot--fell back after the
preliminary fusillade, dismounted, and took shelter behind rocks
and trees. On that rugged ground, fighting from the saddle was
impracticable. Dyke, in the meanwhile, held his fire, for he
knew that, once his pistol was empty, he would never be allowed
time to reload.
"Dyke," called the sheriff again, "for the last time, I summon
you to surrender."
Dyke did not reply. The sheriff, Delaney, and the man named
Christian conferred together in a low voice. Then Delaney and
Christian left the others, making a wide detour up the sides of
the arroyo, to gain a position to the left and somewhat to the
rear of Dyke.
But it was at this moment that S. Behrman arrived. It could not
be said whether it was courage or carelessness that brought the
Railroad's agent within reach of Dyke's revolver. Possibly he
was really a brave man; possibly occupied with keeping an
uncertain seat upon the back of his labouring, scrambling horse,
he had not noticed that he was so close upon that scene of
battle. He certainly did not observe the posse lying upon the
ground behind sheltering rocks and trees, and before anyone could
call a warning, he had ridden out into the open, within thirty
paces of Dyke's intrenchment.
Dyke saw. There was the arch-enemy; the man of all men whom he
most hated; the man who had ruined him, who had exasperated him
and driven him to crime, and who had instigated tireless pursuit
through all those past terrible weeks. Suddenly, inviting death,
he leaped up and forward; he had forgotten all else, all other
considerations, at the sight of this man. He would die, gladly,
so only that S. Behrman died before him.
"I've got you, anyway," he shouted, as he ran forward.
The muzzle of the weapon was not ten feet from S. Behrman's huge
stomach as Dyke drew the trigger. Had the cartridge exploded,
death, certain and swift, would have followed, but at this, of
all moments, the revolver missed fire.
S. Behrman, with an unexpected agility, leaped from the saddle,
and, keeping his horse between him and Dyke, ran, dodging and
ducking, from tree to tree. His first shot a failure, Dyke fired
again and again at his enemy, emptying his revolver, reckless of
consequences. His every shot went wild, and before he could draw
his knife, the whole posse was upon him.
Without concerted plans, obeying no signal but the promptings of
the impulse that snatched, unerring, at opportunity--the men,
Delaney and Christian from one side, the sheriff and the deputy
from the other, rushed in. They did not fire. It was Dyke alive
they wanted. One of them had a riata snatched from a saddle-
pommel, and with this they tried to bind him.
The fight was four to one--four men with law on their side, to
one wounded freebooter, half-starved, exhausted by days and
nights of pursuit, worn down with loss of sleep, thirst,
privation, and the grinding, nerve-racking consciousness of an
They swarmed upon him from all sides, gripping at his legs, at
his arms, his throat, his head, striking, clutching, kicking,
falling to the ground, rolling over and over, now under, now
above, now staggering forward, now toppling back.
Still Dyke fought. Through that scrambling, struggling group,
through that maze of twisting bodies, twining arms, straining
legs, S. Behrman saw him from moment to moment, his face flaming,
his eyes bloodshot, his hair matted with sweat. Now he was down,
pinned under, two men across his legs, and now half-way up again,
struggling to one knee. Then upright again, with half his
enemies hanging on his back. His colossal strength seemed
doubled; when his arms were held, he fought bull-like with his
head. A score of times, it seemed as if they were about to
secure him finally and irrevocably, and then he would free an
arm, a leg, a shoulder, and the group that, for the fraction of
an instant, had settled, locked and rigid, on its prey, would
break up again as he flung a man from him, reeling and bloody,
and he himself twisting, squirming, dodging, his great fists
working like pistons, backed away, dragging and carrying the
others with him.
More than once, he loosened almost every grip, and for an instant
stood nearly free, panting, rolling his eyes, his clothes torn
from his body, bleeding, dripping with sweat, a terrible figure,
nearly free. The sheriff, under his breath, uttered an
"By God, he'll get away yet."
S. Behrman watched the fight complacently.
"That all may show obstinacy," he commented, "but it don't show
Yet, however Dyke might throw off the clutches and fettering
embraces that encircled him, however he might disintegrate and
scatter the band of foes that heaped themselves upon him, however
he might gain one instant of comparative liberty, some one of his
assailants always hung, doggedly, blindly to an arm, a leg, or a
foot, and the others, drawing a second's breath, closed in again,
implacable, unconquerable, ferocious, like hounds upon a wolf.
At length, two of the men managed to bring Dyke's wrists close
enough together to allow the sheriff to snap the handcuffs on.
Even then, Dyke, clasping his hands, and using the handcuffs
themselves as a weapon, knocked down Delaney by the crushing
impact of the steel bracelets upon the cow-puncher's forehead.
But he could no longer protect himself from attacks from behind,
and the riata was finally passed around his body, pinioning his
arms to his sides. After this it was useless to resist.
The wounded deputy sat with his back to a rock, holding his
broken jaw in both hands. The sheriff's horse, with its
splintered foreleg, would have to be shot. Delaney's head was
cut from temple to cheekbone. The right wrist of the sheriff was
all but dislocated. The other deputy was so exhausted he had to
be helped to his horse. But Dyke was taken.
He himself had suddenly lapsed into semi-unconsciousness, unable
to walk. They sat him on the buckskin, S. Behrman supporting
him, the sheriff, on foot, leading the horse by the bridle. The
little procession formed, and descended from the hills, turning
in the direction of Bonneville. A special train, one car and an
engine, would be made up there, and the highwayman would sleep in
the Visalia jail that night.
Delaney and S. Behrman found themselves in the rear of the
cavalcade as it moved off. The cow-puncher turned to his chief:
"Well, captain," he said, still panting, as he bound up his
forehead; "well--we got him."