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Full text of "The young vigilantes : a story of California life in the fifties"

NYPL RESEARCH LIBRARIES 



3 3433 08253208 




THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 






T: E NEW 

JO LIBRARY 



ASTOR, LENOX 
-1LDE1M FOUNDATIONS 



__. _- - -* 




\ValtiT and 15111 tramping across the Isthmus. - -Page 132, 



THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 



A STORY OF CALIFORNIA 
LIFE IN THE FIFTIES 



BY 



SAMUEL ADAMS J3KAKE 

Author of "Watch Fires of '76," "On Plymouth Rock," "Decisive 
Events in American History Series," etc. 



ILLUSTRATED LY L. J. BRIDGMAN 




BOSTON 

LEE AND SHEPAKD 
1904 



I 

) 



. . - 

, , 



, ' - . I 

. : . 




> 





Published August, 1904 



YORK 

PUBLIC LIBRARY 



ASTOR. LENOX AND 
/.'EN FOUNDATIONS 

R I9IG L 



COPYRIGHT, 1904, BY LEE AND SHEPARD 



All rights reserved 



THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 



"ttorvroob press 

BERWICK & SMITH Co. 

Norwood, Mass. 

U. S. A. 







" 

* *. * ** 



- 

1 I . , 






CONTENTS 



CHAPTER PAGE 

I. A NARROW ESCAPE 9 

II. WALTER TELLS His STORY 18 

III. AND CHARLEY TELLS His ... 30 

IV. WHAT HAPPENED ON BOARD THE "ARGO- 

NAUT" 37 

V. ONE WAY OF GOING TO CALIFORNIA . 45 

VI. A BLACK SHEEP IN THE FOLD ... 66 

VII. THE FLIGHT 82 

VIII. OUTWARD BOUND 100 

IX. ACROSS NICARAGUA 117 

X. THE LUCK OF YANKEE JIM . . .141 

XI. SEEING THE SIGHTS IN 'FRISCO . . 154 

XII. AN UNEXPECTED MEETING . . .165 

XIII. IN WHICH A MAN BREAK INTO His OWN 

STORE, AND STEALS His OWN SAFE . 182 

XIV. CHARLEY AND WALTER GO A-GUNNING . 203 
XV. THE YOUNG VIGILANTES . . . .215 

XVI. RAMON FINDS His MATCH . . .231 

XVII. A SHARP RISE IN LUMBER . . . 241 

XVIII. A CORNER IN LUMBER .... 250 

XIX. HEARTS OF GOLD 262 

XX. BRIGHT, SEABURY & COMPANY . . . 274 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAQK 
Walter and Bill tramping across the Isthmus 

(Frontispiece.} 132 

Walter rescuing Dora Bright 42 

Waiting for the opening of the mail . . . . 160 
The hunters hunted by a grizzly bear . . . 208 
Ramon made to give up his stealings ... 236 
Arrival of the Southern Cross at Sacra- 
mento 254 



THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 



A NARROW ESCAPE 

FROM the Morning Post-Horn : 

1 As passenger train Number Four was 
rounding a curve at full speed, ten miles out 
of this city, on the morning of October 4, 
and at a point where a deep cut shut out the 
view ahead, the engineer saw some one, man 
or boy, he could not well make out which, 
running down the track toward the train, 
frantically swinging both arms and waving 
his cap in the air as if to attract attention. The 
engine-man instantly shut off steam, whistled 
for brakes, and quickly brought the train to 
a standstill. 

" The engine-man put his head out of the 



io THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

cab window. The conductor jumped off, fol- 
lowed by fifty frightened passengers, all talk- 
ing and gesticulating at once; while the per- 
son who had just given the warning signal 
slackened his breakneck pace, somewhat, upon 
seeing that he had succeeded in stopping the 
train. 

"'What's the matter?' shouted the im- 
patient engine-man when this person had 
come within hearing. 

What do you stop us for?' called out 
the little conductor sharply, in his turn, at 
the same time anxiously consulting the face of 
the watch he held in his hand. 

To both questions the young man seemed 
too much out of breath to reply, offhand; 
but turning and pointing in the direction 
whence he came, he shook his head warningly, 
threw himself down on the roadbed, as limp 
as a rag, and began fanning himself with his 
cap. After getting his breath a little, he 
made out to say, ' Bridge afire quarter mile 
back. Tried put it out couldn't. Heard 



A NARROW ESCAPE n 

train coming afraid be too late. Couldn't 
run another step/ 

" * Get aboard/ said the conductor to him. 
4 Jake/ to the grinning engine-man, * we'll run 
down and take a look at it. Get out your 
flag ! ' to a brakeman. * Like as not Thir- 
teen '11 be along before we can make Brenton 
switch. All aboard ! ' The delayed train 
then moved on. 

" As it neared the burning bridge it was 
clear to every one that the young man's warn- 
ing had prevented a disastrous wreck, prob- 
ably much loss of life, because the bridge 
could not be seen until the train was close 
upon it. All hands immediately set to work 
with pails extinguishing the flames, which was 
finally done after a hard fight. To risk a 
heavy train upon the half-burned stringers 
was, however, out of the question. Leaving 
a man to see that the fire did not break out 
again, the train was run back to the next sta- 
tion, there to await further orders. We were 
unable to learn the name of the young man to 



12 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

whose presence of mind the passengers on 
Number Four owed their escape from a seri- 
ous, perhaps fatal disaster. But w r e are in- 
formed that a collection was taken up for him 
on the train, w T hich he, however, refused to 
accept, stoutly insisting that he had only done 
what it was his duty to do under the circum- 
stances." 

Thus far, the Morning Post-Horn. We 
now take up the narrative where the enter- 
prising journal left off. 

While the delayed train was being held for 
orders, the young man whose ready wit had 
averted a calamity stood on the platform 
with his hands in his trousers pockets, appar- 
ently an unconcerned spectator of what was 
going on around him. The little pug-nosed 
conductor stepped up to him. 

11 I say, young feller, what may I call your 
name? ' 

Seabury." 

Zebra, Zebra," repeated the conductor, 



u 
it 



A NARROW ESCAPE 13 

in a puzzled tone, u then I s'pose your an- 
cestors came over in the Ark? ' 

" I didn't say Zebra; I said Seabury plain 
enough/' snapped back the young man, get- 
ting red in the face at seeing the broad grins 
on the faces around him. 

" Don't fire up so. Got any first name? ' 

" Walter." 

" Walter Seabury," the conductor repeated 
slowly, while scratching it down. ' Got to re- 
port this job, you know. Say, where you 
goin'?" 

" I'm walkin' to Boston." 

" Shanks' mare, hey. No, you ain't. Get 
aboard and save your muscle. You own this 
train to-day, and everything in it. Lively 
now." The conductor then waved his hand, 
and the train started on. At the bridge a 
transfer was effected to a second train, and 
this one again was soon reeling off the miles 
toward Boston, as if to make up for lost 
time. 

Being left to himself, young Seabury, 



i 4 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

whom we may as well hereafter call by his 
Christian name of Walter, could think of 
nothing else than his wonderful luck. In- 
stead of having a long, weary tramp before 
him, here he was, riding in a railroad train, 
and without its costing him a cent. This was 
a saving of both time and money. 

Pretty soon the friendly conductor came 
down the aisle to where Walter sat, looking 
out of the car window. After giving him a 
sharp look, the conductor made up his mind 
that here was no vagabond tramp. " It's 
none of my business, but all the same I'd like 
to know what you're walkin' to Boston for, 
young feller? " he asked. 
' Going to look for work." 

"What's your job?" 

I'm a rigger." And his hands, tarry and 
cracked, bore out his story perfectly. 

" Ever in Boston?" 

" Never." 
' Know anybody there? " i 

"Nobody." 



A NARROW ESCAPE 15 

"Got any of this you know?' slapping 
his pocket. 

At this question Walter flushed up. He 
drew himself up stiffly, smiled a pitying smile, 
and said nothing. His manner conveyed the 
idea that he really didn't know exactly how 
much he was worth. 

" That's first-rate," the conductor went on. 
" Now, look here. You'll get lost in Boston. 
I'll tell you what. When we get in, I'll show 
you how to go to get down among the riggers' 
lofts. You're a rigger, you say?' Walter 
nodded. " They're all in a bunch, down at 
the North End, riggers, sailmakers, pump- 
and block-makers, and all the rest. Full of 
work, too, I guess, all on account of this Cali- 
forny business. Everybody's goin' crazy 
over it. You will be, too, in a week." 

By this time, the train was rumbling over 
the long waste of salt-marsh stretching out 
between the mainland and the dome-capped 
city, and in five minutes more it drew up with 
a jerk in the station, with the locomotive puff- 



16 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

ing out steam like a tired racehorse after a 
hard push at the finish. 

The conductor was as good as his word. 
He told Walter to go straight up Tremont 
Street until he came to Hanover, then 
straight down Hanover to the water, and then 
to follow his nose. " Oh, you can't miss it," 
was the cheerful, parting assurance. ' Smell 
it a mile." But going straight up this street, 
and straight down that, was a direction not so 
easy to follow, as Walter soon found. The 
crowds bewildered him, and in trying to get 
out of everybody's way, he got in everybody's 
way, and was jostled, shoved about, and 
stared at, as he slowly made his way through 
the throng, until his roving eyes caught sight 
of the tall masts and fluttering pennants, 
where the long street suddenly came to an 
end. Walter put down his bundle, took off 
his cap, and wiped the perspiration from his 
forehead. Whichever way he looked, the 
wharves were crowded with ships, the ships 
with workmen, and the street with loaded 



A NARROW ESCAPE 17 

trucks and wagons. Casting an eye upward 
he could see riggers at work among the maze 
of ropes and spars, like so many spiders weav- 
ing their webs. Here, at least, he could feel 
at home. 



II 

WALTER TELLS HIS STORY 

WALTER'S first want was to find a board- 
ing house suited to his means. Turning into 
a side street, walled in by a row of two-story 
brick houses, all as like as peas in a pod, he 
found that the difficulty would be to pick and 
choose, as all showed the same little tin sign 
announcing " Board and Lodging, by the Day 
or Week," tacked upon the door. After 
walking irresolutely up and down the street 
two or three times, he finally mustered up 
courage to give a timid pull at the bell of one 
of them. The door opened so suddenly that 
Walter fell back a step. He began stammer- 
ing out something, but before he could finish, 
the untidy-looking girl sang out at the top of 
her voice: "Miss Hashall, Miss Hashall, 
there's somebody wants to see you ! " She 

18 



WALTER TELLS HIS STORY 19 

then bolted off through the back door singing 
" I want to be an angel," in a voice that set 
Walter's teeth on an edge. To make a long 
story short, Walter soon struck a bargain with 
the landlady, a fat, pudgy person in a 
greasy black poplin, wearing a false front-, 
false teeth, and false stones in her breastpin. 
True, Walter silently resented her demanding 
a week's board in advance, it seemed so like a 
reflection upon his honesty, but was easily 
mollified by the motherly interest she seemed 
to take in him or his cash. 

Bright and early the next morning Walter 
sallied out in search of work. His landlady 
had told him to apply at the first loft he came 
to. " Why, you can't make no mistake," the 
woman declared. " They're all drove to 
death, and hands is scurse as hens' teeth, all 
on account of this Kalerforny fever what car- 
ries so many of 'em off. Don't I wish I was 
a man! I'd jest like to dig gold enough to 
buy me a house on Beacon Street and ride in 
my kerridge. You just go and spunk right 



ao THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

up to 'em, like I do. That's the way to get 
along in this world, my son." 

Walter's landlady had told him truly. 
The demand for vessels for the California 
trade was so urgent that even worm-eaten old 
whaleships were being overhauled and refitted 
with all haste, and as Walter walked along 
he noticed that about every craft he saw 
showed the same sign in her rigging, ' For 
San Francisco with dispatch." u Well, I'll 
be hanged if there ain't the old Argonaut 
that father was mate of ! ' Walter exclaimed 
quite aloud, clearly taken by surprise at see- 
ing an old acquaintance quite unexpectedly in 
a strange place, and quickly recognizing her, 
in spite of a new coat of paint alow and 
aloft. 

The riggers were busy setting up the stand- 
ing rigging, reeving new halliards, and giving 
the old barky a general overhauling. Wal- 
ter climbed on board and began a critical 
survey of the ship's rigging, high and low. 
What yer lookin' at, greeny?" one of 



WALTER TELLS HIS STORY 21 

the riggers asked him, at seeing Walter's eyes 
fixed on some object aloft. 

" I'm looking at that Irish pennant * on 
that stay up there," was the quick reply. 
This caused a broad smile to spread over the 
faces of the workmen. 

" You a rigger?" 

' I've helped rig this ship." 

" Want a job?" 

" Yes." 

" Well, here," tossing Walter a marline- 
spike, " let's see you make this splice." It 
was neatly and quickly done. " I'll give you 
ten dollars a week." Walter held out for 
twelve, and after some demurring on the part 
of the boss, a bargain was struck. Walter's 
overalls were rolled up in a paper, under his 



arm, so that he was immediately ready to be- 
gin work. 

Being, as it were, in the midst of the 
stream of visitors to the ship, hearing no end 
of talk about the wonderful fortunes to be 

* A strand of marline carelessly left flying by a rigger. 



23 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

made in the Land of Gold, Walter did not 
wholly escape the prevailing frenzy, for such 
it was. But knowing that he had not the 
means of paying for his passage, Walter 
resolutely kept at work, and let the troubled 
stream pass by. There was still another ob- 
stacle. He would have to leave behind him 
a widowed aunt, whose means of support were 
strictly limited to her actual wants. He had 
at once written to her of his good fortune in 
obtaining work, though the receipt of that 
same letter had proved a great shock to the 
' poor lone creetur," as she described herself, 
because she had freely given out among her 
neighbors that a boy who would run away 
from such a good home as Walter had, would 
surely come to no good end. 

Walter had struck up a rather sudden 
friendship with a young fellow workman of 
about his own age, named Charley Worm- 
wood. On account of his name he was nick- 
named " Bitters." Charley was a happy-go- 
lucky sort of chap, valuing the world chiefly 



WALTER TELLS HIS STORY 23 

for the amusement it afforded, and finding 
that amusement in about everything and 
everybody. Though mercilessly chaffed by 
the older hands, Charley took it all so good- 
naturedly that he made himself a general 
favorite. The two young men soon arranged 
to room together, and had come to be sworn 
friends. 

One pleasant evening, as the two sat in 
their room, with chairs tilted back against the 
wall, the following conversation was begun 
by Charley: "I say, Walt, we've been to- 
gether here two months now, to a dot, and 
never a word have you said about your folks. 
Mind now, I don't want to pry into your 
secrets, but I'd like to know who you are, if 
it's all the same to you. Have you killed a 
man, or broke a bank, or set a fire, or what? 
Folks think it funny, when I have to tell them 
I don't know anything about you, except by 
guess, and you know that's a mighty poor 
course to steer by. Pooh ! you're as close as 
an oyster ! ' 



24 THE YOUNG VIGIL ANTES 

Walter colored to his temples. For a 
short space he sat eyeing Charley without 
speaking. Then he spoke up with an evident 
effort at self-control, as if the question, so 
suddenly put, had awakened painful memo- 
ries. " There's no mystery about it," he said. 
" You want to hear the story? So be it, then. 
I'll tell mine if you'll tell yours. 

" I b'long to an old whaling port down on 
the Cape. I was left an orphan when I was 
a little shaver, knee-high to a toadstool. 
Uncle Dick, he took me home. Aunt 
Marthy didn't like it, I guess. All she said 
was, 'Massy me! another mouth to feed?' 
* Pooh, pooh, Marthy,' uncle laughed, ' where 
there's enough for two, there's enough for 
three.' She shut up, but she never liked me 



one mite.' 



1 An orphan? ' interjected Charley. " No 
father nor mother?' 

; I'll tell you about it. You see, my father 
went out mate on a whaling voyage in the 
Pacific, in this very same old Argonaut we've 



WALTER TELLS HIS STORY 25 

been patchin' and pluggin' up. It may have 
been a year we got a letter telling he was dead. 
Boat he was in swamped, while fast to a 
whale a big one. They picked up his hat. 
Sharks took him, I guess. Mother was 
poorly. She fell into a decline, they called 
it, and didn't live long. We had nothin' but 
father's wages. They was only a drop in 
the bucket. Then there was only me left." 

" That was the time your uncle took you 
home?" 

" Yes; Uncle Dick was a rigger by trade. 
He used to show me how to make all sorts of 
knots and -splices evenings; and bimeby he 
got me a chance, when I was big enough, 
doin' odd jobs like, for a dollar a week, in the 
loft or on the ships. Aunt Marthy said a 
dollar a week didn't begin to pay for what I 
et. Guess she knew. Pretty soon, I got a 
raise to a dollar-half." 

" But what made you quit? Didn't you 
like the work ? ' 

" Liked it first-rate. Like it now. But I 



26 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

couldn't stand Aunt Marthy's sour looks and 
sharp tongue. Nothing suited her. She 
was either as cold as ice, or as hot as fire coals. 
When she wasn't scolding, she was groaning. 
Said she couldn't see what some folks was 
born into this world just to slave for other 
folks for." A frown passed over Walter's 
face at the recollection. 

1 Nice woman that," observed the senten- 
tious Charley. " But how about the uncle ? " 
he added. " Couldn't he make her hold her 
yawp ? ' 

* Oh, no better man ever stood. He was 
like a father to me bless him!" (Wal- 
ter's voice grew a little shaky here.) " But 
he showed the white feather to Aunt Marthy. 
Whenever she went into one of her tantrums, 
he would take his pipe and clear out, leaving 
me to bear the brunt of it. 

' A good while after mother died, father's 
sea-chest was brought home in the Argonaut. 
There was nothing in it but old clothes, this 
watch [showing it], and some torn and greasy 



WALTER TELLS HIS STORY 27 

sea-charts, with the courses father had sailed 
pricked out on 'em. Those charts made me 
sort o' hanker to see the world, which I then 
saw men traveled with the aid of a roll of 
paper, and a little knowledge, as certainly, 
and as safely, as we do the streets of Boston. 
You better believe I studied over those charts 
some ! Anyhow, I know my geography." 
And Walter's blue eyes lighted up with a look 
of triumph. 

' Bully for you ! Then that was what 
started you out on your travels, was it?' 

" No : I had often thought of slipping away 
some dark night, but couldn't make up my 
mind to it. It did seem so kind o' mean after 
all Uncle Dick had done for me. But one 
day (one bad day for me, Charley) a man 
came running up to the loft, all out of breath, 
to tell me that Uncle Dick had fallen down 
the ship's hatchway, and that they were now 
bringing him home on a stretcher. I tell you 
I felt sick and faint when I saw him lying 
there lifeless. He never spoke again. 



28 THE YOUNG VIGIL ANTES 

" Shortly after the funeral, upon going to 
the loft the foreman told me that work being 
slack they would have to lay off a lot of 
hands, me with the rest. Before I went to 
sleep that night I made up my mind to strike 
out for myself; for now that Uncle Dick was 
gone, I couldn't endure my life any longer. I 
set about packing up my duds without saying 
anything to my aunt, for I knew what a rum- 
pus she would make over it, and if there's 
anything I hate it's a scene." 

' Me too," Charley vigorously assented. 
" Rather take a lickin'." 

" Well," Walter resumed, " I counted up 
my money first. There was just forty-nine 
dollars. Lucky number: it was the year '49 
too. I put ten of it in an envelope directed 
to my aunt, and put it on the chimney-piece 
where she couldn't help seeing it when she 
came into my room. Then I took a piece of 
chalk and wrote on the table top : ' I'm going 
away to hunt for work. When I get some, 
I'll let you know. Please take care of my 



WALTER TELLS HIS STORY 29 

chest. Look on the mantelpiece. Good-bye. 
From Walter/ 

" Then, like a thief, I slipped out of the 
house by a back way, in my stocking feet, and 
never stopped running till I was 'way out of 
town. There I struck the railroad. I knew 
if I followed it it would take me to Boston. 
And it did. That's all." 



Ill 

AND CHARLEY TELLS HIS 

THERE was silence for a minute or two, 
each of the lads being busy with his own 
thoughts. Apparently they were not pleasant 
thoughts. What a tantalizing thing memory 
sometimes is ! 

But it was not in the nature of things for 
either to remain long speechless. Walter 
first broke silence by reminding Charley of his 
promise. ' Come now, you've wormed all 
that out of me about my folks, pay your debts. 
I should like to know what made you leave 
home. Did you run away, too?' 

At this question, Charley's mouth puckered 
up queerly, and then quickly broke out into a 
broad grin, while his eyes almost shut tight 
at the recollection Walter's question had sum- 
moned up. * It was all along of ' Rough on 

Rats,' ' he managed to say at last 

30 



AND CHARLEY TELLS HIS 31 

"' Rough on Rats?'" 

" Yes, * Rough on Rats.' Rat poison. You 
just wait, and hear me through. 

" I've got a father somewhere, I b'leeve. 
Boys gen'ally have, I s'pose, though whether 
mine's dead or alive, not knowin', can't say. 
We were poor as Job's turkey, if you know 
how poor that was. I don't. Anyway, he 
put me out to work on a milk and chicken 
farm back here in the country, twenty miles 
or so, to a man by the name of Bennett, and 
then took himself off out West some- 
where." 

" And you've never seen him since? ' 

4 No; I ha'n't never missed him, or the 
lickin's he give me. Well, my boss he raised 
lots of young chickens for market. We was 
awfully pestered with rats, big, fat, sassy ones, 
getting into the coops nights, and killing off 
the little chicks as soon's ever they was 
hatched out. You see, they was tender. Be- 
sides eating the chicks they et up most of the 
grain we throw'd into the hens. The boss he 



32 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

tried everything to drive those rats away. 
He tried cats an' he tried traps. 'Twan't 
no use. The cats wouldn't tech the rats nor 
the rats go near the traps. You can't fool an 
old rat much, anyhow," he added with a know- 
ing shake of his head. 

" Well, the boss was a-countin' the chicks 
one mornin', while ladling out the dough to 
'em. ' Confound those rats/ he sputtered 
out; 'there's eight more chicks gone sence I 
fed last night. I'd gin something to red the 
place on 'em, I would.' 

' Uncle,' says I (he let me call him uncle, 
seein' he'd kind of adopted me like) ' uncle,' 
says I, 'why don't you try Rough on 
Rats? They say that '11 fetch 'em every 
time.' 

" ' What's that? Never heer'd on't. How 
do you know ? Who says so ? ' he axed all in 
one breath." 

* Anyhow, I seen a big poster down at the 
Four Corners that says so,' says I. ' The 
boys was a-talkin' about what it had done up 



AND CHARLEY TELLS HIS 33 

to Skillings' place. Skillings allowed he'd red 
his place of rats with it. Hadn't seen hide 
nor hair of one sence he fust tried it. Every- 
body says it's a big thing.' 

The old man said nothin' more just then. 
He didn't let on that my advice was worth a 
cent; but I noticed that he went off and bought 
some Rough on Rats that same afternoon, 
and when the old hens had gone to roost and 
the mother hens had gathered their broods 
under 'em for the night, uncle he slyly stirred 
up a big dose of the p'isen stuff into a pan 
of meal, which he set down inside the hen- 
house. 

1 Uncle's idea was to get up early in the 
mornin', so's to count up the dead rats, I 
s'pose. 

' But he did not get up early enough. 
When he went out into the henhouse to in- 
vestigate, he found fifteen or twenty of his 
best hens lying dead around the floor after 
eatin' of the p'isen'd meal. 

When I come outdoors he was stoopin' 



34 THE YOUNG V I GIL ANTES 

down, with his back to me pickin' 'em 
up." 

Walter laughed until the tears rolled down 
his cheeks, sobered down, and then broke out 
again. Charley found the laugh infectious 
and joined in it, though more moderately. 

" Go ahead. Let's have the rest, do," 
Walter entreated. " What next? " 

' I asked Uncle Bennett what he was goin' 
to do with all those dead hens. He flung one 
at my head. Oh ! but he was mad. ' Just 
stop where you be, my little joker,' says he, 
startin' off for the stable ; ' I've got some- 
thin' that's Rough on Brats, an' you shall 
have a taste on't right off. Don't you 
stir a step,' shakin' his fist at me, * or I'll give 
you the worst dressin' down you ever had in 
all your life.' 

While he was gone for a horsewhip, I lit 
out for the Corners. You couldn't have seen 
me for dust. 

' I darsen't go back to the house and I had 
only a silver ninepence in my pocket and a 



AND CHARLEY TELLS HIS 35 

few coppers, but I managed to beg my way to 
Boston. Oh ! Walt, it was a long time be- 
tween meals, I can tell you. I slept one night 
in a barn, on the haymow. Nobody saw me 
slip in after dark. I took off my neckerchief 
and laid it down within reach, for it was hot 
weather on that haymow, and I was 'most 
choked with the dust I swallowed. I over- 
slept. In the morning I heard a noise 
down where the hosses were tied up. Some 
one was rakin' down hay for 'em. I reached 
for my neckerchief, thinkin' how I should get 
away without being seen, when a boy's voice 
gave a shout, Towser ! Towser ! ' and 
then I knew it was all up, for that boy had 
raked down my neckerchief with the hay, and 
he knew there was a tramp somewhere about. 

" The long and short of it is, that the dog 
chased me till I was ready to drop or until 
another and a bigger one came out of a yard 
and tackled him. Then it was dog eat dog. 

" When I got to Boston it was night. I 
had no money. I didn't know where to go. 



36 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

Tired's no name for it. I was dead-beat. 
So I threw myself down on a doorstep and 
was asleep in a minnit. There was an alarm 
of fire. An ingine came jolting along. I 
forgot all about being tired and took holt of 
the rope, and ran, and hollered, with the rest. 
The fire was all out when we got there, so I 
went back to the ingine house, and the stew- 
ard let me sleep in the cellar a couple of hours 
and wash up in the mornin'. But I'm ahead 
of my story. They had hot coffee and crack- 
ers and cheese when they got back from the 
fire. No cheese ever tasted like that before. 
Give me a fireman for a friend at need. I 
hung round that ingine house till I picked up 
a job. The company was all calkers, grav- 
ers, riggers, and the like. Tough lot ! How 
they could wallop that old tub over the cobble- 
stones, to be sure ! ' 

And here Charley fell into a fit of musing 
from which Walter did not attempt to rouse 
him. In their past experiences the two boys 
had found a common bond. 



IV 

WHAT HAPPENED ON BOARD THE " ARGO- 
NAUT ' 

SEEING that Walter also had fallen into a 
brown study, Charley quickly changed the 
subject. "See here, Walt!' he exclaimed, 
* the Argonaut's going to sail for Californy 
first fair wind. To-morrow's Sunday, and 
Father Taylor's goin' to preach aboard of 
her. He's immense ! Let's go and hear 
him. What do you say? ' 

Walter jumped at the proposal. " I want 
to hear Father Taylor ever so much, and I 
shouldn't mind taking a look at the passen- 
gers, too." 

Sunday came. Walter put on his best suit, 
and the two friends strolled down to the 
wharf where the Argonaut lay moored with 
topsails loosened, and flags and streamers flut- 

37 



38 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

tering gayly aloft. The ship was thronged 
not only with those about to sail for the Land 
of Gold, but also with the friends who had 
come to bid them good-bye; besides many at- 
tracted by mere curiosity, or, perhaps, by the 
fame of Father Taylor's preaching. There 
was a perfect Babel of voices. As Walter 
was passing one group he overheard the re- 
mark, " She'll never get round the Horn. 
Too deep. Too many passengers by half. 
Look at that bow ! Have to walk round her 
to tell stem from starn." 

* Oh, she'll get there fast enough," his 
companion replied. ' She knows the way. 
Besides, you can't sink her. She's got lumber 
enough in her hold to keep her afloat if she 
should get waterlogged." 

That ain't the whole story by a long 
shot," a third speaker broke in. " Don't you 
remember the crack ship that spoke an old 
whaler at sea, both bound out for California? 
The passengers on the crack ship called out to 
the passengers on the old whaler to know if 



ON BOARD THE 'ARGONAUT 39 

they wanted to be reported. When the 
crack ship got into San Francisco, lo and be- 
hold ! there lay the ' old tub ' quietly at 
anchor. Been in a week." 

Strange sight, indeed, it was to see men 
who, but the day before, were clerks in sober 
tweeds, farmers in homespun, or mechanics 
in greasy overalls, now so dressed up as to 
look far more like brigands than peaceful 
citizens; for it would seem that, to their no- 
tion, they could be no true Californians un- 
less they started off armed to the teeth. So 
the poor stay-at-homes were given to under- 
stand how wanting they were in the bold 
spirit of adventure by a lavish display of pis- 
tols and bowie-knives, rifles and carbines. 
Poor creatures ! they little knew how soon they 
were to meet an enemy not to be overcome 
with powder and lead. 

Between decks, if the truth must be told, 
many of the passengers were engaged in 
sparring or wrestling bouts, playing cards, or 
shuffleboard, or hop-scotch, as regardless of 



40 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

the day as if going to California meant a 
cutting loose from all the restraints of civ- 
ilized life. The two friends made haste to 
get on deck. As they mingled with the crowd 
again, Walter exchanged quick glances with a 
middle-aged gentleman on whose arm a re- 
markably pretty young lady was leaning. 
Walter was saying to himself, ' I wonder 
where I have seen that man before," when the 
full and sonorous voice of Father Taylor, the 
seaman's friend, hushed the confused mur- 
mur of voices around him into a reverential 
silence. With none of the arts and graces of 
the pulpit orator, that short, thick-set, hard- 
featured man spoke like one inspired for a 
full hour, and during that hour nobody stirred 
from the spot where he had taken his stand. 
Father Taylor's every word had struck home. 
The last hymn had been sung, the last 
prayer said. At its ending the crowd slowly 
began filing down the one long, narrow plank 
reaching from the ship's gangway to the 
wharf. Nobody seemed to have noticed that 



ON BOARD THE 'ARGONAUT 41 

the rising tide had lifted this plank to an in- 
cline that would make the descent trying to 
weak nerves, especially as there were five or 
six feet of clear water to be passed over be- 
tween ship and shore. It was just as one 
young lady was in the act of stepping upon 
this plank that two young scapegraces ahead 
of her ran down it with such violence as to 
make it rebound like a springboard, causing 
the young lady first to lose her balance, then 
to make a false step, and then to fall scream- 
ing into the water, twenty feet below. 

Everybody ran to that side, and everybody 
began shouting at once: " Man overboard! ' 
* A boat : get a boat ! ' ' " Throw over a rope ! 
a plank! " " She's going down! " " Help! 
help!" but nobody seemed to have their wits 
about them. With the hundreds looking on, 
it really seemed as if the girl might drown 
before help could reach her. 

Both Charley and Walter had witnessed 
the accident: coats and hats were off in a jiffy. 
Snatching up a coil of rope, it was the work 



42 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

of a moment for Walter to make a running 
noose, slip that under his arms, sign to Char- 
ley to take a turn round a bitt, then to swing 
himself over into the chains and be lowered 
down into the water on the run by the quick- 
witted Charley. 

Meantime, the young lady's father was al- 
most beside himself. In one breath he called 
to his daughter, by the name of Dora, to 
catch at a rope that was too short to reach 
her; in the next he was offering fifty, a hun- 
dred dollars to Walter if he saved her. 

Giving himself a vigorous shove with his 
foot, in two or three strokes Walter was at 
the girl's side and with his arms around her. 
It was high time, too, as her clothes, which had 
buoyed her up so far, were now water-soaked 
and dragging her down. Only her head was 
to be seen above water. At Walter's cheery 
'Haul away!' fifty nervous arms dragged 
them dripping up the ship's side. The young 
lady fell, sobbing hysterically, into her father's 
arms, and was forthwith hurried off into the 




Walter rescuing" Dora Bright. Page 42. 






7 ] ' 

PL v :llBF:,RY 



DR, LENOX 

TILDEN FCUi^D 



ON BOARD THE "ARGONAUT" 43 

cabin, while Walter, after picking up his coat 
and hat, slipped off through the crowd, gained 
the wharf unnoticed, and with the faithful, 
but astonished, Charley at his heels, made a 
bee-line for his lodgings. Moreover, Wal- 
ter exacted a solemn promise from Charley 
not to lisp one word of what had happened, 
on pain of a good drubbing. 

" My best suit, too ! " he ruefully exclaimed, 
while divesting himself of his wet clothes. 
" No matter: let him keep his old fifty dol- 
lars. Pretty girl, though. I'm paid ten 
times over. A coil of rope's a handy thing 
sometimes. So's a rigger eh, Charley?' 

Charley merely gave a dissatisfied grunt. 
He was very far from understanding such 
refined sentiments. Besides, half the money, 
he reflected, would have been his, or ought to 
have been, which was much the same thing to 
his way of thinking. And when he thought 
of the many things he could have done with 
his share, the loss of it made him feel very 
miserable, and more than half angry with 



44 THE YOUNG VIGIL ANTES 

Walter. " Fifty dollars don't grow on every 
bush," he muttered. " Then, what lions we'd 
'a' been in the papers! " he lamented. 

" You look here. Can't you do anything 
without being paid for it? I'd taken thanks 
from the old duffer, but not money. Can't 
you understand? Now you keep still about 
this, I tell you." 

Though still grumbling, Charley concluded 
to hold his tongue, knowing that Walter 
would be as good as his word; but he inwardly 
promised himself to keep his eyes open, and 
if ever he should see a chance to let the cat 
out of the bag without Walter's knowing it, 
well, the mischief was in it if he, Charley, 
didn't improve it, that was all. 



ONE WAY OF GOING TO CALIFORNIA 

THE Argonaut affair got into the news- 
papers, where it was correctly reported, in the 
main, except that the rescuer was supposed to 
be one of the Argonaut's passengers, and as she 
was now many miles at sea, Mr. Bright, the 
father of Dora, as a last resort, put an adver- 
tisement in the daily papers asking the un- 
known to furnish his address without delay 
to his grateful debtors. But as this failed to 
elicit a reply, there was nothing more to be 
done. 

Walter, however, had seen the advertise- 
ment, and he had found out from it that Mr. 
Bright was one of the Argonaut's principal 
owners. He therefore felt quite safe from 
discovery when he found himself reported as 
having sailed in that vessel. 

45 



46 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

Time moved along quietly enough with 
Walter until the Fourth of July was near at 
hand, when it began to be noised about that 
the brand-new clipper ship then receiving her 
finishing touches in a neighboring yard would 
be launched at high water on that eventful 
day. What was unusual, the nameless ship 
was to be launched fully rigged, so that the 
riggers' gang was to take a hand in getting 
her oft the ways. Everybody was con- 
sequently on the tiptoe of expectation. 

The eventful morning came at last. It be- 
ing a holiday, thousands had repaired to the 
spot, attracted by the novelty of seeing a ship 
launched fully rigged. At a given signal, a 
hundred sledges, wielded by as many brawny 
arms, began a furious hammering away at the 
blocks, which held the gallant ship bound and 
helpless to the land. The men worked like 
tigers, as if each and every one had a personal 
interest in the success of the launch. At last 
the clatter of busy hammers ceased, the grimy 
workmen crept out, in twos and threes, from 



GOING TO CALIFORNIA 4 7 

underneath the huge black hull, and a hush fell 
upon all that vast throng, so deep and breath- 
less that the streamers at the mast-head could 
be heard snapping like so many whiplashes in 
the light breeze aloft. 

" All clear for'ard? ' sang out the master 
workman. " All clear, sir," came back the 
quick response. " All clear aft? ' the voice 
repeated. " Aye, aye, all clear." Still the 
towering mass did not budge. It really 
seemed as if she was a living creature hesi- 
tating on the brink of her own fate, whether 
to make the plunge or not. There was an 
anxious moment. A hush fell upon all that 
vast throng. Then, as the stately ship was 
seen to move majestically off, first slowly, and 
then with a rush and a leap, one deafening 
shout went up from a thousand throats: 
There she goes ! there she goes ! hurrah ! 
hurrah ! ' Every one declared it the pretti- 
est launch ever seen. 

Just as the nameless vessel glided off the 
ways a young lady, who stood upon a tall scaf- 



48 THE YOUNG VIGIL ANTES 

fold at the bow, quickly dashed a bottle of wine 
against the stem, pronouncing as she did so 
the name that the good ship was to bear hence- 
forth, so proudly, on the seas the Flying 
Arrow. Three rousing cheers greeted the 
act, and the name. The crowd then began 
to disperse. 

As Walter was standing quite near the 
platform erected for this ceremony, his face 
all aglow with the vigorous use he had made 
*>f the sledge he still held in his hand, the 
young lady who had just christened the Fly- 
ing Arrow came down the stairs. In doing 
so, she looked Master Walter squarely in the 
face. Lo and behold ! it was the girl of the 
Argonaut. The recognition was instant and 
mutual. 

Walter turned all colors at once. Giving 
one glance at his greasy duck trousers and 
checked shirt, his first impulse was to sneak 
off without a word; but before he could do so 
he was confronted by Mr. Bright himself. 
Walter was thus caught, as it were, between 



GOING TO CALIFORNIA 49 

two fires. Oh, brave youth of the stalwart 
arm and manly brow, thus to show the 
white feather to that weak and timid little 
maiden ! 

Noticing the young man's embarrassment, 
Mr. Bright drew him aside, out of earshot 
of those who still lingered about. " So, so, 
my young friend," he began with a quizzical 
look at Walter, " we've had some trouble find- 
ing you. Pray what were your reasons for 
avoiding us? Neither of us [turning toward 
his daughter] is a very dangerous person, as 
you may see for yourself." 

" Now, don't, papa," pleaded Dora. 
Then, after giving a sidelong and reproachful 
look at Walter, she added, " Why, he 
wouldn't even let us thank him ! ' 

Walter tried to stammer out something 
about not deserving thanks. The words 
seemed to stick in his throat; but he did man- 
age to say: " Fifty stood ready to do what I 
did. I only got a little wetting, sir." 

" Just so. But they didn't, all the same. 



50 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

Come, we are not ungrateful. Can I de- 
pend on you to call at my office, 76 State 
Street, to-morrow morning about ten? ' 

" You can, sir," bowing respectfully. 

" Very good. I shall expect you. Come, 
Dora, we must be going." Father and 
daughter then left the yard, but not until 
Dora had given Walter another reproachful 
look, out of the corner of her eye. 

' Poor, proud, and sheepish," was the mer- 
chant's only comment upon this interview, as 
they walked homeward. Mentally, he was 
asking himself where he had seen that face 
before. 

Dora said nothing. Her stolen glances 
had told her, however, that Walter was good- 
looking; and that was much in his favor. 
To be sure, he was plainly a common work- 
man, and he had appeared very stiff and awk- 
ward when her father spoke to him. Still 
she felt that there was nothing low or vulgar 
about him. 

Punctual to the minute, Walter entered 



GOING TO CALIFORNIA 51 

the merchant's counting room, though, to say 
truth, he found himself ill at ease in the pres- 
ence of half a dozen spruce-looking clerks, 
who first shot sly glances at him, then at each 
other, as he carefully shut the door behind 
him. Walter, however, bore their scrutiny 
without flinching. He was only afraid of 
girls, from sixteen to eighteen years old. 

Mr. Bright immediately rose from his 
desk, and beckoned Walter to follow him 
out into the warehouse. You are prompt. 
That's well," said he approvingly. " Now 
then, to business. We want an outdoor clerk 
on our wharf. You have no objection, I take 
it, to entering our employment? ' 

Walter shook his head. " Oh, no, sir." 
" Very good, then. I'll tell you more of 
your duties presently. I hear a good account 
of you. The salary will be six hundred the 
first year, and a new suit of clothes, in return 
for the one you spoiled. Here's a tailor's 
address [handing Walter a card with the 
order written upon it]. Go and get meas- 



52 THE YOUNG VIGIL ANTES 

ured when you like, and mind you get a good 
fit." 

Walter took a moment to think, but 
couldn't think at all. All he could say was: 
" If you think, sir, I can fill the place, I'll try 
my best to suit you." 

" That's right. Try never was beat. 
You may begin to-morrow." Walter went 
off feeling more happy than he remembered 
ever to have felt before. In truth, he could 
hardy realize his good fortune. 

This change in Walter's life brought with 
it other changes. For one thing it broke off 
his intimacy with Charley, although Walter 
continued to receive occasional visits from his 
old chum. He also began attending an even- 
ing school, kept by a retired schoolmaster, in 
order to improve his knowledge of writing, 
spelling, and arithmetic, or rather to repair 
the neglect of years; for he now began to feel 
his deficiencies keenly with increasing respon- 
sibilities. He was, however, an apt scholar, 
and was soon making good progress. The 



GOING TO CALIFORNIA 53 

work on the wharf was far more to his lik- 
ing than the confinement of the warehouse 
could have been; and Walter was every day 
storing up information w r hich some time, he 
believed, would be of great use to him. 

Time wore on, one day's round being much 
like another's. But once Walter was given 
such a fright that he did not get over it for 
weeks. He was sometimes sent to the bank 
to make a deposit or cash a check. On this 
particular occasion he had drawn out quite 
a large sum, in small bills, to be used in pay- 
ing off the help. Not knowing what else to 
do with it, Walter thrust the roll of bills into 
his trousers pocket. It was raining gently 
out of doors, and the sidewalks were thickly 
spread with a coating of greasy mud. There 
was another call or two to be made before 
Walter returned to the store. At the head of 
the street Walter stopped to think which call 
he should make first. Mechanically he thrust 
his hand in his pocket, then turned as pale as 
a sheet, and a mist passed before his eyes. 



54 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

The roll of bills was not there. A hole in the 
pocket told the whole story. The roll had 
slipped out somewhere. It was gone, and 
through his own carelessness. 

After a moment's indecision Walter started 
back to the bank, carefully looking for the 
lost roll at every step of the way. The street 
was full of people, for this was the busiest 
hour of the day. In vain he looked, and 
looked, at every one he met. No one had a 
roll of bills for which he was trying to find 
an owner. Almost beside himself, he rushed 
into the bank. Yes, the paying teller remem- 
bered him, but was quite sure the lost roll had 
not been picked up there, or he would have 
known it. So Walter's last and faintest 
hope now vanished. Go back to the office 
with his strange story, he dared not. The 
bank teller advised his reporting his loss to the 
police, and advertising it in the evening edi- 
tions. Slowly and sadly Walter retraced 
his steps towards the spot where he had first 
missed his employer's money, inwardly scold- 



GOING TO CALIFORNIA 55 

ing and accusing himself by turns. Vexed 
beyond measure, calling himself all the fools 
he could think of, Walter angrily stamped his 
foot on the sidewalk. Presto ! out tumbled 
the missing roll of bills from the bottom of 
his trousers-leg when he brought his foot 
down with such force. It had been caught 
and held there by the stiffening material then 
fashionable. 

Walter went home that night thanking his 
lucky stars that he had come out of a bad 
scrape so easily. He was thinking over the 
matter, when Charley burst into the room. 
" I say, Walt, old fel, don't you want to buy 
a piece of me?' he blurted out, tossing his 
cap on the table, and falling into a chair quite 
out of breath. 

Walter simply stared, and for a minute the 
two friends stared at each other without 
speaking. Walter at length demanded: 

Are you crazy, Charles Wormwood? 
What in the name of common sense do you 
mean? " 



5 6 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

" Oh, I'm not fooling. You needn't be 
scared. Haven't you ever heard of folks 
buying pieces of ships? Say? ' 

" S'pose I have; what's that got to do with 
men? ' 

" I'll tell you. Look here. When a fel- 
ler wants to go to Californy awful bad, like 
me, and hasn't got the chink, like me, he gets 
some other fellers who can't go, like you, to 
chip in to pay his passage for him." 

" Pooh! That's all plain sailing. When 
he earns the money he pays it back," Walter 
rejoined. 

' No, you're all out. Just you hold your 
bosses. It's like this. The chap who gets 
the send-off binds himself, good and strong, 
mind you, to divide what he makes out there 
among his owners, 'cordin' to what they put 
into him- -same's owning pieces of a ship, 
ain't it? See? How big a piece '11 you 
take?' finished Charley, cracking his 
knuckles in his impatience. 

Walter leaned back in his chair, and burst 



GOING TO CALIFORNIA 57 

out in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Char- 
ley grew red in the face. " Look here, Walt, 
you needn't have any if you don't want it." 
He took up his cap to go. Walter stopped 
him. 

" There, you needn't get your back up, old 
chap. It's the funniest thing I ever heard of. 
Why, it beats all!" 

u It's done every day," Charley broke in. 
" You won't lose anything by me, Walt," he 
added, anxiously scanning Walter's face. 
" See if you do." 

Walter had saved a little money. He 
therefore agreed to become a shareholder in 
Charles Wormwood, Esquire, to the tune of 
fifty dollars, said Wormwood duly agreeing 
and covenanting, on his part, to pay over 
dividends as fast as earned. So the ingenious 
Charley sailed with as good a kit as could be 
picked up in Boston, not omitting a beautiful 
Colt's revolver (Walter's gift), on which was 
engraved, "Use me; don't abuse me." 
Charles was to work his passage out in the 



5 8 THE YOUNG V 1 GIL ANTES 

new clipper, which arrangement would land 
him in San Francisco with his capital unim- 
paired. " God bless you, Charley, my boy," 
stammered Walter, as the two friends wrung 
each other's hands. He could not have 
spoken another word without breaking down, 
which would have been positive degradation 
in a boy's eyes. 

" I'll make your fortune, see if I don't," 
was Charley's cheerful farewell. " On the 
square I will," he brokenly added. 

The house of Bright, Wantage & Company 
had a confidential clerk for whom Walter felt 
a secret antipathy from the first day they met. 
We cannot explain these things; we only know 
that they exist. It may be a senseless preju- 
dice; no matter, we cannot help it. This 
clerk's name was Ramon Ingersoll. His man- 
ner toward his fellow clerks was so top-lofty 
and so condescending that one and all thor- 
oughly disliked him. Some slight claim Ra- 
mon was supposed to have upon the senior 
partner, Mr. Bright, kept the junior clerks 



GOING TO CALIFORNIA 59 

somewhat in awe of him. But there was al- 
ways friction in the counting-room when the 
clerks were left alone together. 

The truth is that Ramon's father had at 
one time acted as agent for the house at Ma- 
tanzas, in Cuba. When he died, leaving 
nothing but debts and this one orphan child, 
for he had buried his wife some years before, 
Mr. Bright had taken the little Ramon home, 
sent him to school, paid all his expenses out 
of his own pocket and finally given him a 
place of trust in his counting-house. In a 
word, this orphaned, penniless boy owed 
everything to his benefactor. 

As has been already mentioned, without 
being able to give a reason for his belief, Wal- 
ter had an instinctive feeling that Ramon 
would some day get him into trouble. Fortu- 
nately Walter's duties kept him mostly out- 
side the warehouse, so that the two seldom 
met. 

One day Ramon, with more than ordinary 
cordiality, asked Walter to visit him at his 



60 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

room that same evening in order to meet, as 
he said, one or two particular friends of his. 
At the appointed time Walter went, without 
mistrust, to Ingersoll's lodgings. Upon en- 
tering the room he found there two very 
flashy-looking men, one of whom was short, 
fat, and smooth-shaven, with an oily good- 
natured leer lurking about the corners of his 
mouth; the other dark-browed, bearded, and 
scowling, with, as Walter thought, as desper- 
ately villainous a face as he had ever looked 
upon. 

* Ah, here you are, at last ! " cried Ramon, 
as he let Walter in. " This is Mr. Good- 
man," here the fat man bowed, and smiled 
blandly; " and this, Mr. Lambkin." The 
dark man looked up, scowled, and nodded. 

' And now," Ramon went on, " as we have 
been waiting for you, what say you to a little 
game of whist, or high-low-jack, or euchre, 
just to pass away the time? " 

I'm agreeable," said Mr. Goodman, 

' though, upon my word and honor, I hardly 



GOING TO CALIFORNIA 61 

know one card from another. However, just 
to make up your party, I will take a hand." 

The knight of the gloomy brow silently 
drew his chair up to the table, which was, at 
least, significant of his intentions. 

Walter had no scruples about playing an 
innocent game of whist. So he sat down with 
the others. 

The game went on rather languidly until, 
all at once, the fat man broke out, without 
taking his eyes off his cards, ' Bless me ! 
why, the strangest thing ! if I were a betting 
man, I declare I wouldn't mind risking a trifle 
on this hand." 

Ramon laughed good-naturedly, as he re- 
plied in an offhand sort of way: " Oh, we're 
all friends here. There's no objection to a 
little social game, I suppose, among friends." 
Here he stole an inquiring look at Walter. 
" Besides," he continued, while carelessly 
glancing at his own hand, " I've a good mind 
to bet a trifle myself." 

Though still quite unsuspicious, Walter 



62 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

looked upon this interruption of the harmless 
game with misgiving. 

"All right," Goodman resumed, " here 
goes a dollar, just for the fun of the thing." 

The taciturn Lambkin said not a word, but 
taking out a well-stuffed wallet, quietly laid 
down two dollars on the one that Goodman 
had just put up. 

" I know I can beat them," Ramon whis- 
pered in Walter's ear. u By Jove, I'll risk it 
just this once ! ' 

* No, don't," Walter whispered back, 
pleadingly, " it's gambling." 

' Pshaw, man, it's only for sport," Ramon 
impatiently rejoined, immediately adding five 
dollars of his own money to the three before 
him. 

Walter laid down his cards, leaned back 
in his chair, and folded his arms resolutely 
across his chest. " And the fat man said he 
hardly knew one card from another. How 
quick some folks do learn," he said to him- 
self. 



GOING TO CALIFORNIA 63 

" Isn't our young friend going to try his 
luck? " smiled, rather than asked, the unctu- 
ous Goodman. 

"No; I never play for money," was the 
quiet response. 

Once the ice was broken the game went on 
for higher, and still higher, stakes, until Wal- 
ter, getting actually frightened at the reck- 
lessness with which Ramon played and lost, 
rose to go. 

After vainly urging him to remain, an- 
noyed at his failure to make Walter play, en- 
raged by his own losses, Ramon followed 
Walter outside the door, shut it behind them, 
and said in a menacing sort of way, " Not a 
word of this at the store." 

' Promise you won't play any more." 

' I won't do no such thing. Who set you 
up for my guardian ? If you're mean enough 
to play the sneak, tell if you dare ! ' 

Walter felt his anger rising, but controlled 
himself. ' Oh, very well, only remember 
that I warned you," he replied, turning away. 



64 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

" Don't preach, Master Innocence ! ' 
sneered Ramon. 

" Don't threaten, Master Hypocrite ! " was 
the angry retort. 

Quick as a flash, Ramon sprang before 
Walter, and barred his way. All the tiger in 
his nature gleamed in his eyes. " One word 
of this to Mr. Bright, and I'll I'll fix you ! " 
he almost shrieked out. 

With that the two young men clinched, and 
for a few minutes nothing could be heard but 
their heavy breathing. This did not last. 
Walter soon showed himself much the 
stronger of the two, and Master Ramon, in 
spite of his struggles, found himself lying 
flat on his back, with his adversary's knee on 
his chest. Ramon instantly gave in. Chok- 
ing down his wrath, he jerked out, " There, 
I promise. Let me up." 

' Oh, if you promise, so do I," said Wal- 
ter, releasing his hold on Ramon. He then 
left the house without another word. He 
did not see Ramon shaking his fist behind 



GOING TO CALIFORNIA 65 

his back, or hear him muttering threats of 
vengeance to himself, as he went back to his 
vicious companions. Walter did wish, how- 
ever, that he had given Ramon just one more 
punch for keeps. 

So they parted. Satisfied that Walter 
would not break his promise, Ramon made all 
haste back to his companions, laughing in his 
sleeve to think how easily he had fooled that 
milksop Seabury. His companions were two 
as notorious sharpers as Boston contained. 
He continued to lose heavily, they luring him 
on by letting him win now and then, until 
they were satisfied he had nothing more to 
lose. At two in the morning their victim 
rose up from the table, hardly realizing, so 
far gone was he in liquor, that he was five 
hundred dollars in debt to Lambkin, or that 
he had signed a note for that sum with the 
name of his employers, Bright, Wantage & 
Company. He had found the road from 
gambling to forgery a natural and easy one. 



VI 

A BLACK SHEEP IN THE FOLD 

LEAVING Ingersoll to follow his crooked 
ways, we must now introduce a character, 
with whom Walter had formed an acquaint- 
ance, destined to have no small influence upon 
his own future life. 

Bill Portlock was probably as good a speci- 
men of an old, battered man-o'-war's man as 
could be scared up between Montauk and 
Quoddy Head. While a powder-monkey, on 
board the President frigate, he had been taken 
prisoner and confined in Dartmoor Prison, 
from which he had made his escape, with some 
companions in captivity, by digging a hole 
under the foundation wall with an old iron 
spoon. Shipping on board a British mer- 
chantman, he had deserted at the first neutral 
port she touched at. He was now doing 

66 



A BLACK SHEEP IN THE FOLD 67 

odd jobs about the wharves, as 'longshore- 
man; and as Walter had thrown many such 
in the old salt's way a kind of intimacy had 
grown up between them. Bill loved dearly 
to spin a yarn, and some of his adventures, 
told in his own vernacular, would have made 
the late Baron Munchausen turn green with 
envy. " Why," he would say, after spinning 
one of his wonderful yarns, " ef I sh'd tell ye 
my adventers, man and boy, you'd think 
'twas Roberson Crushoe a-talkin' to ye. No 
need o' lyin'. Sober airnest beats all they 
make up." 

Bill's castle was a condemned caboose, left 
on the wharf by some ship that was now plow- 
ing some distant sea. Her name, the Or- 
pheus, could still be read in faded paint on the 
caboose; so that Bill always claimed to be- 
long to the Orpheus, or she to him, he couldn't 
exactly say which. When he was at work on 
the wharf, after securing his castle with a 
stout padlock, he announced the fact to an in- 
quiring public by chalking up the legend, 



68 THE YOUNG F I GIL ANTES 

"Aboard the brig," or "Aboard the 
skoner," as the case might be. If called to 
take a passenger off to some vessel in his 
wherry, the notice would then read, " Back at 
eight bells." A sailor he was, and a sailor he 
said he would live and die. 

No one but a sailor, and an old sailor at 
that, could have squeezed himself into the nar- 
row limits of the caboose, w r here it was not 
possible, even for a short man like Bill, to 
stand upright, though Bill himself considered 
it quite luxurious living. There was a rusty 
old cooking stove at one end, with two legs 
of its own, and two replaced by half-bricks; 
the other end being taken up by a bench, from 
which Bill deftly manipulated saucepan or 
skillet. 

" Why, Lor' bless ye ! " said Bill to Walter 
one evening, " I seed ye fish that ar' young 
'ooman out o' the dock that time. ' Bill,' sez 
I to myself, ' thar's a chap, now, as knows a 
backstay from a bullock's tail.' " 

"Pshaw!" Then after a moment's si- 



A BLACK SHEEP IN THE FOLD 69 

lence, while Bill was busy lighting his pipe, 
Walter absently asked, ' Bill, were you ever 
in California? ' 

" Kalerforny? Was I ever in Kalerforny? 
Didn't I go out to Sandy Ager, in thirty- 
eight, in a hide drogher? And d'ye know 
why they call it Sandy Ager? I does. 
Why, blow me if it ain't sandy 'nuff for old 
Cape Cod herself ; and as for the ager, if you'll 
b'leeve me, our ship's crew shook so with it, 
that all hands had to turn to a-settin' up rig- 
gin' twict a month, it got so slack with the 
shakin' up like." 

" What an unhealthy place that must be," 
laughed Walter. Then suddenly changing 
the subject, he said: "Bill, you know the 
Racehorse is a good two months overdue." 
Bill nodded. " I know our folks are getting 
uneasy about her. No wonder. Valuable 
cargo, and no insurance. What's your 
idea?" 

Bill gave a few whiffs at his pipe before 
replying. " I know that ar' Racehorse. 



70 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

She's a clipper, and has a good sailor aboard 
of her: but heavy sparred, an' not the kind to 
be carryin' sail on in the typhoon season, jest 
to make a quick passage." Bill shook his 
head. " Like as not she's dismasted, or 
sprung a leak, an' the Lord knows what 
all." 

The next day happened to be Saturday. 
As Walter was going into the warehouse he 
met Ramon coming out. Since the night at 
his lodgings, his manner toward Walter, out- 
wardly at least, had undergone a marked 
change. If anything it was too cordial. 
4 Hello! Seabury, that you? " he said, in his 
offhand way. ' Lucky thing you happened 
in. It's steamer day, and I'm awfully hard 
pushed for time. Would you mind getting 
this check on the Suffolk cashed for me? 
No? That's a good fellow. Do as much 
for you some time. And, stay, on your way 
back call at the California steamship agency 
you know? all right. Well, see if there 
are any berths left in the Georgia. You 



A BLACK SHEEP IN THE FOLD 71 

won't forget the name? The Georgia. 
And, oh ! be sure to get gold for that check. 
It's to pay duties with, you know," Ramon 
hurriedly explained in an undertone. 

"All right; I understand," said Walter, 
walking briskly away on his errand. He quite 
forgot all about the gold, though, until after 
he had left the bank; when, suddenly remem- 
bering it, he hurried back to get the coin, quite 
flurried and provoked at his own forgetful- 
ness. The cashier, however, counted out the 
double-eagles, for the notes, without remark. 
Such little instances of forgetfulness were too 
common to excite his particular notice. 

On that same evening, finding time hang- 
ing rather heavily on his hands, Walter 
strolled uptown in the direction of Mr. 
Bright's house, which was in the fashionable 
Mt. Vernon Street. The truth is that the 
silly boy thought he might possibly catch a 
glimpse of a certain young lady, or her 
shadow, at least, in passing the brilliantly 
lighted residence. It was, he admitted to 



72 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

himself, a fool's errand, after walking slowly 
backwards and forwards two or three times, 
with his eyes fastened upon the lighted win- 
dows; and with a feeling of disappointment he 
turned away from the spot, heartily ashamed 
of himself, as well, for having given way to 
a sudden impulse. Glad he was that no one 
had noticed him. 

Walter's queer actions, however, did not 
escape the attention of a certain lynx-eyed 
policeman, who, snugly ensconced in the 
shadow of a doorway, had watched his every 
step. The young man had gone but a short 
distance on his homeward way, when, as he 
was about crossing the street, he came within 
an ace of being knocked down and run over 
by a passing hack, which turned the corner at 
such a break-neck pace that there was barely 
time to get out of the way. There was a gas- 
light on this corner. At Walter's warning 
shout to the driver, the person inside the hack 
quickly put his head out of the window, and 
as quickly drew it in again; but in that instant 



A BLACK SHEEP IN THE FOLD 73 

the light had shone full upon the face of Ra- 
mon Ingersoll. 

The driver lashed his horses into a run. 
Walter stood stupidly staring after the car- 
riage. Then, without knowing why, he ran 
after it, confident that if he had recognized 
Ramon in that brief moment, Ramon must 
also have recognized him. The best he could 
do, however, was to keep the carriage in sight, 
but he soon saw that it was heading for the 
railway station at the South End. 

Out of breath, and nearly out of his head, 
too, Walter dashed through the arched door- 
way of the station, just in time to see a train 
going out at the other end in a cloud of smoke. 
In his eagerness, Walter ran headlong into the 
arms of the night-watchman, who, seeing the 
blank look on Walter's face, said, as he had 
said a hundred times before to belated 
travelers, "Too late, eh?' 

" Yes, yes, too late," repeated Walter, in 
a tone of deep vexation. While walking 
home he began to think he had been making 



74 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

a fool of himself again. After all, what busi- 
ness was it of his if Ramon had gone to New 
York? He might have gone on business of 
the firm. Of course that was it. And what 
right had he, Walter, to be chasing Ramon 
through the streets, anyhow? Still, he was 
sure that Ramon had recognized him, and 
just as sure that Ramon had wished to avoid 
being recognized, else why had he not spoken 
or even waved his hand? Walter gave it up, 
and went home to dream of chasing carriages 
all night long. 

Walter went to the wharf as usual the next 
morning. In the course of the forenoon a 
porter brought word that he was wanted at 
the counting-room. When Walter went into 
the office, Mr. Bright was walking the floor, 
back and forth, with hasty steps, while a very 
dark, clean-shaven, alert-looking man sat lean- 
ing back in a chair before the door. This 
person immediately arose, locked the office 
door, put the key in his pocket, and then 
quietly sat down again. 



A BLACK SHEEP IN THE FOLD 75 

Walter's heart was in his mouth. He 
grew red and pale by turns. Before he could 
collect his ideas Mr. Bright stopped in his 
walk, looked him squarely in the eye, and, in 
an altered voice, demanded sharply and 
sternly: " Ingersoll where is he? No pre- 
varication. I want the truth and nothing but 
the truth. You understand? ' 

Walter tried hard to make a composed 
answer, but the words would not seem to 
come; and the merchant's cold gray eyes 
seemed searching him through and through. 
However, he managed to stammer out : ' I 
don't know, sir, where he is gone away, 
hasn't he?" 

" Don't know. Gone away," repeated the 
merchant. " Now answer me directly, without 
any ifs or buts; where, and when, did you see 
him last? " 

"Last night; at least, I thought it was 
Ramon." The dark man gave his head a 
little toss. 

"Well, go on? What then?" 



76 THE YOUNG FIGIL ANTES 

" It was about nine o'clock, in a close car- 
riage, not far from the Common." That, by 
the way, was as near to Mr. Bright's house 
as Walter thought proper to locate the affair. 

Mr. Bright exchanged glances with the 
dark man, who merely nodded, but said never 
a word. 

Thinking his examination was over, Wal- 
ter plucked up the courage to say of his own 
accord, " I ran after the carriage as tight as 
I could; but you see, sir, the driver was lash- 
ing his horses all the way, so I couldn't keep 
up with it; and when I got to the depot the 
train was just starting." 

" Pray, what took you to that neighbor- 
hood at that hour?' the silent man de- 
manded so suddenly that the sound of his 
voice startled Walter. 

If ever conscious guilt showed itself in a 
face, it now did in Walter's. He turned as 
red as a peony. Mr. Bright frowned, while 
the dark-skinned man smiled a knowing little 
smile. 



A BLACK SHEEP IN THE FOLD 77 

Why, nothing in particular, sir. I was 
only taking a little stroll about town, before 
going home," Walter replied, a word at a 
time. 

Yet your boarding place is at the other 
end of the city, is it not?' pursued Mr. 
Bright. 

" Yes, sir, it is." 

" Walter Seabury, up to this time I have 
always had a good opinion of you. This is 
no time for concealments. The house has 
been robbed of a large sum of money so 
large that should it not be recovered within 
twenty-four hours we must fail. Do you hear 
fail? ' he repeated as if the word stuck in 
his throat and choked him. 

"Robbed; fail!" Walter faltered out, 
hardly believing his own ears. 

" Yes, robbed, and as I must believe by a 
scoundrel warmed at my own fireside. And 
you : why did you not report Ingersoll's flight 
before it was too late to stop him ? ' 

Though shocked beyond measure by this 



78 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

revelation, Walter made haste to reply: u Be- 
cause, sir, I was not sure it was Ramon. It 
was just a look, and he was gone like a flash. 
Besides " 

" Besides what?" 

" How could I know Ramon was running 
away? ' 

" Why, then, did you run after him? Are 
you in the habit of chasing every carriage you 
may chance upon in the street?' again in- 
terrupted the silent man. 

Stung by the bantering tone of the stranger, 
Walter made no reply. Mr. Bright was his 
employer and had a perfect right to question 
him ; but who was this man, and by what right 
did he mix himself up in the matter? 

' Quite right of you, young man, to say 
nothing to criminate yourself; but perhaps 
you will condescend to tell us, unless it would 
be betraying confidence [again that cunning 
smile], if you knew that this Ingersoll was a 
gambler? ' 

The tell-tale blood again rushed to Wai- 



A BLACK SHEEP IN THE FOLD 79 

ter's temples, but instantly left them as it 
dimly dawned upon him that he was suspected 
of knowing more than he was willing to tell. 
" Gently, marshal, gently," interposed Mr. 
Bright. " He will tell all, if we give him 



time." 



" One moment," rejoined the chief, with a 
meaning look at the merchant. You hear, 
young man, this firm has been robbed of 
twenty thousand dollars quite a haul. The 
thief has absconded. You tell a pretty 
straight story, I allow, but before you are 
many hours older you will have to explain 
why you, who have nothing to do with that 
department, should draw two thousand dol- 
lars at the bank yesterday; why, after getting 
banknotes you went back after gold," the 
marshal continued, warming up as he piled 
accusation on accusation; "why, again, you 
went from there to secure a berth in the 
Georgia, which sailed early this morning; and 
why you are seen, for seen you were, first 
watching Mr. Bright's house, and then arriv- 



8o THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

ing at the station just too late for the New 
York express. Take my advice. Make a clean 
breast of the whole affair. If you can clear 
yourself, now is the time; if you can't, pos- 
sibly you may be of some use in recovering the 
money." 

Walter felt his legs giving way under him. 
At last it was all out. Now it was as clear 
as day how Ingersoll had so craftily managed 
everything as to make Walter appear in the 
light of a confederate. Now he knew why 
Ingersoll had wished to avoid being recog- 
nized. In a broken voice he told what he 
knew of Ingersoll's wrong-doings, excusing 
his own silence by the pledge he had given 
and received. 

When he had finished, the two men held 
a whispered conference together. " Clear 
case," observed the marshal; "one watched 
your house while the other was making his 
escape." 

1 I'll not believe it. Why, this young man 
saved my daughter's life." 



A BLACK SHEEP IN THE FOLD 81 

" Think as you like. At any rate, I 
mean to keep an eye on him." So saying, the 
marshal went on his way, humming a tune to 
himself with as much unconcern as if he had 
just got up from a game of checkers which 
he had won handily. At the street corner he 
hailed an officer, to whom he gave an order in 
an undertone, and then walked on, smiling 
and nodding right and left as he went. 

Left alone with Mr. Bright, Walter stood 
nervously twisting his cap in both hands, like 
a culprit awaiting his sentence. It came at 
last. " Until this matter is cleared up," Mr. 
Bright said, " we cannot retain you in our 
employ. Get what is due you. You can go 
now." He then turned his back on Walter, 
and began busying himself over the papers on 
his desk. 

Walter went out of the office without an- 
other word. He was simply stunned. 



VII 

THE FLIGHT 

WALTER walked slowly down the wharf, 
feeling as if the world had suddenly come to 
an end. Nothing looked to him exactly as it 
looked one short hour ago. He did not even 
notice that a policeman was keeping a few 
rods behind him. As 1 e walked along with 
eyes fixed on the ground, a familiar voice 
hailed him with, "Why, what ails ye, lad? 
Seen a ghost or what? ' 

" Bill," said Walter, u would you believe 
it, that skunk of a Ramon has run off with a lot 
of the firm's money to California, they say? 
And, oh, Bill ! Bill ! they suspect me, me> of 
having helped him do it. And I'm dis- 
charged. That's all." It was no use trying 
to keep up longer. Walter broke down com- 
pletely at the sound of a friendly voice at last. 

82 



THE FLIGHT 83 

Bill silently led the way into the caboose. 
He first lighted his pipe, for, like the Indians, 
Bill seemed to believe that a good smoke 
tended to clear the intellect. He then, save 
for an occasional angry snort or grunt, heard 
Walter through without interruption. When 
the wretched story was all told Bill struck his 
open palm upon his knee, jerking out between 
whiffs : " My eye, here's a pretty kettle o' fish ! 
Ruin, failure, crash, and smash. Ship ashore, 
and you all taken aback. Ssh ! ' suddenly 
checking himself, as a shadow darkened the 
one little pane of glass that served for a win- 
dow. A policeman w r as looking in at them. 
Giving the two friends a careless nod, he 
walked slowly away. 

It slowly dawned upon Walter that the 
man with the black rosette in his hat, whom 
he had seen at the office, had set a watch upon 
him. ' Bill, you mustn't be seen talking to 
me," said Walter, rising to leave. " They'll 
think you are in the plot, too. Oh ! oh ! they 
dog me about everywhere." 



84 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

The old fellow laughed scornfully. 
" That," he exclaimed, snapping his fingers, 
" for the hull b'ilin' on 'em. I've licked many 
a perleeceman in my time, and can do it again, 
old as I am. But we can be foxy, too, I guess. 
Listen. When I sees you comin', I'll go 
acrost the wharf to where that 'ar brig lays, 
over there. You foller me." Walter nodded. 
1 1 go up aloft. You follers. We has our 
little talk out in the maintop, free and easy 
like, and the perleeceman, he has his watch 
below." 

When Walter reached his boarding house 
his landlady met him in the entry. She 
seemed quite flustered and embarrassed. 
" Oh, Mr. Seabury," she began, " I'm so glad 
you've come ! Such a time ! There has been 
an officer here tossing everything topsy-turvy 
in your room. He would do it, in spite of all 
I could say. I told him you were the best 
boarder of the lot; never out late nights, or 
coming home the worse for liquor, and always 
prompt pay. Do you think, he told me to 



THE FLIGHT 85 

shut up, and mind my own business. Oh, sir, 
what is the matter? That ever a nasty 
policeman should came ransacking in my 
house. Goodness alive ! why, if it gets out, 
I'm a ruined woman. Please, sir, couldn't 
you find another boarding place?' 

This was the last straw for poor Walter. 
Without a word he crept upstairs to his little 
bedroom, threw himself down on the bed, and 
cried as if his heart would break. 

Walter was young. Conscious innocence 
helped him to throw off the fit of despondency; 
but in so far as feeling goes, he was ten years 
older when he came out of it. It was quite 
dark. Lighting a lamp, he hastily threw a 
few things into a bag, scribbled a short note 
to his aunt, inclosing the check received when 
he was discharged, settled with the landlady, 
who was in tears, always on tap ; took his bag 
under his arm, and after satisfying himself 
that the coast was clear, struck out a round- 
about course, through crooked ways and blind 
alleys, to the wharf. For the life of him, he 



86 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

could not keep back a little bitter laugh when 
he called to mind that this was the second 
time in his short life that he had run away. 

The wharf was deserted. There was no 
light in the caboose; but upon Walter's giving 
three cautious raps, the door was slid back, 
and as quickly closed after him. Well," he 
said, wearily throwing himself down on a 
bench, " here I am again. I've been turned 
out of doors now. You are my only friend 
left. What would you do, if you were in my 
place ? I can't bear it, and I won't," he broke 
out impulsively. 

" I see," said Bill, meditatively shutting 
both eyes, to give emphasis to the assertion. 
' Nobody will give me a place now, with a 
cloud like that hanging over me." 

Bill nodded assent. 

' I can't go back to the loft where I worked 
before, to be pointed at and jeered at by every 
duffer who may take it into his head to throw 
this scrape in my face. Would you ? ' 

As Bill made no reply, but smoked on in 



THE FLIGHT 87 

silence, Walter exclaimed, almost fiercely, 
"Confound it, man, say something! can't 
you? You drive me crazy with all the rest." 

This time Bill shook the ashes from his 
pipe. " What would I do? Why, if it was 
me I'd track the rascal to the eends of the 
airth, and jump off arter him, but I'd have 
him. And arter I'd cotched him, I'd twist his 
neck just as quick as I would a pullet's," was 
Bill's quiet but determined reply. 

Walter simply stared, though every nerve 
in his body thrilled at the bare idea. 
" Pshaw, you don't mean it. What put that 
silly notion into your head? Why, what 
could I do single-handed and alone, against 
such a consummate villain as that? Where's 
the money to come from, in the first place ? ' 

Bill watched Walter's sudden change from 
hot to cold. " Jest you take down that 'ar 
coffee-pot over your head." Walter handed 
it to him, as requested. First giving it a 
vigorous shake, which made the contents rattle 
again with a metallic sound, Bill then raised 



THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

the lid, showing to Walter's astonished eyes a 
mixture of copper, silver, and even a few 
gold, coins, half filling the battered utensil. 

" Thar's a bank as never busts, my son," 
chuckled the old man, at the same time turn- 
ing the coffee-pot this way and that, 
just for the pleasure of hearing it rattle. 
" What do you think of them 'ar coffee- 
grounds, heh? Single-handed, is it?' he 
continued, with a sniff of disdain. ' I'll jest 
order my kerridge, and go 'long with ye, my 
boy." 

It took some minutes for Walter to realize 
that Bill was in real, downright, sober earnest. 
But Bill was already shoving some odds and 
ends into a canvas bag to emphasize his de- 
cision. ' Strike while the iron's hot ' was 
his motto. Walter started to his feet with 
something of his old animation. " That 
settles it! " he exclaimed. " Since I've been 
turned out of doors, I feel as if I wanted to put 
millions of miles between me and every one 
I've ever known. Do you know, I think every 



THE FLIGHT 89 

one I meet is saying to himself, ' There's that 
Walter Seabury, suspected of robbing his em- 
ployers ' ? Go away I must, but I've found 
out from the papers that no steamer sails be- 
fore Saturday, and to-day is Wednesday, you 
know. Where shall I hide my face for a 
day or two ? How do I know they won't ar- 
rest me, if they catch me trying to leave the 
city? Oh, Bill, I can never stand that dis- 
grace, never ! ' 

Having finished with his packing, Bill blew 
out the light, pushed back the slide, and gave 
a rapid look up and down the wharf. As he 
drew in his head, he said just as indifferently 
as if he had proposed taking a short walk 
about town, " 'Pears to me as if the correck 
thing for folks in our sitivation like was to 
cut and run." 

" True enough for me. But how about 
you? They'll say that you were as deep in 
the mud as I am in the mire. Give it up, 
Bill. No, dear old friend, I mustn't drag 
you down with me. I can't." 



9 o THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

" Bah ! Talk won't hurt old Bill nohow. 
Bill's about squar' with the world. He owes 
just as much as he don't owe." 

Walter was deeply touched. He saw 
plainly that it was no use trying to shake 
the old fellow's purpose, so forbore urging 
him further. 

The old man waited a moment for Walter 
to speak, and finding that he did not, laid his 
big rough hand on the lad's shoulder and 
asked impressively, " Did you send off your 
chist to your aunt as I told ye to? ' 
' I did, an hour ago." 

" An' did you kind o' explanify things to 
the old gal?" 

" How could I tell her, Bill? Didn't she 
always say I would come to no good end? I 
wrote her that I was going away a long 
way off and for a long time. I couldn't 
say just how long. A year or two perhaps. 
My head was all topsy-turvy, anyhow." 

You didn't forgit she took keer on ye 
when ye war a kid? ' 



THE FLIGHT 91 

" I sent her the check I got from the store, 
right away." 

" Then I don't see nothin' to hender us 
from takin' that 'ar little cruise we was 
a-talkin' about." 

It was pitch-dark when our two adven- 
turers stepped out of the caboose. After se- 
curing the door with a stout padlock, Bill 
silently led the way to the stairs where he 
kept his wherry. Noiselessly the boat was 
rowed out of the dock, toward a light that 
glimmered in the rigging of an outward- 
bound brig that lay out in the stream wait- 
ing for the turning of the tide. Bill did not 
speak again until they were clear of the dock. 
" Yon brig's bound for York. I know the 
old man first-rate, 'cause I helped load her. 
He'll give us a berth if we take holt with the 
crew. Here we are." As he climbed the 
brig's side he set the wherry adrift with a 
vigorous shove of his foot. 

A day or two after the events just described, 
Mr. Bright and the marshal met on the 



92 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

street, the former looking sober and down- 
cast, the latter smiling and elate. " What did 
I tell you? " cried the marshal, evidently well 
pleased with the tenor of the news he had to 
relate; "your protege has gone off with an 
old wharf rat that I've had my eye on for 



some time." 



" To tell you the whole truth, marshal, 
my mind is not quite easy about that boy," 
the merchant replied. 

" Opportunity makes the thief," the officer 
observed carelessly. 

" I'm afraid we've been too hasty." 

" Perhaps so; but it's my opinion that when 
Ramon is found, the other won't be far off. 
I honor your feelings in this matter, sir, but 
my experience tells me that every rascal as- 
serts his innocence until his guilt is proved. 
I've notified the police of San Francisco to be 
on the lookout for that precious clerk of 
yours. Good-day, sir." 

When Mr. Bright returned to the store, on 
entering the office he saw an elderly woman, 



THE FLIGHT 93 

in a faded black bonnet and shawl, sitting bolt- 
upright on the edge of a chair facing the door, 
with two bony hands tightly clenched in her 
lap. There was fire in her eye, 

" That is Mr. Bright, madam," one of the 
clerks hastened to say. 

"What can I do for you, madam?" the 
merchant asked. 

The woman fixed two keen gray eyes upon 
the speaker's face, as she spoke up, quite un- 
abashed by the quiet dignity of the merchant's 
manner of speaking. 

" Well," she began breathlessly, " I'm 
real glad to see you if you have kept me wait- 
ing. Here I've sot, an' sot, a good half-hour. 
'Pears to me you Boston folks don't get up 
none too airly fer yer he'lth. I was down 
here before your shop was open this mornin'. 
Better late than never, though." 

The merchant bent his head politely. His 
visitor caught her breath and went on : 

" I'm Miss Marthy Seabury. What's all 
this coil about my nevvy? He's wrote me 



94 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

that he was goin' away. Where's he gone? 
What's he done? That's what I'd like to 
know, right up an' down." She paused for 
a reply, never taking her eyes off the mer- 
chant's troubled face for an instant. 

" My good woman," Mr. Bright began in 
a mollifying tone, when she broke in upon 
him abruptly: 

No palaverin', mister. No beatin' the 
bush, if ye please. Come to the p'int. I left 
my dirty dishes in the sink to home, an' must 
go back in the afternoon keers." 

Then don't let me detain you," resumed 
Mr. Bright gravely. " There has been a 
defalcation. I'm sorry to say your nephew 
is suspected of knowing more than he was will- 
ing to tell about it. So we had to let him go. 
Where he is now, is more than I can say." 

" What's a defalcation?" 

' A betrayal of trust, madam." 

Do you mean my boy took anything that 
didn't belong to him?' 

" Not quite that. No, indeed. At least, I 



THE FLIGHT 95 

hope not. But, you see, Walter is badly 
mixed up with the precious rascal who did." 

" Well, you'd better not. I'd like to see 
the man who'd say my boy was a thief, that's 
all. Why, I'd trust him long before the Presi- 
dent of the United States ! ' The woman 
actually glared at every one in the office, as if 
in search of some one willing to take up her 
challenge. 

" If you'll try to listen calmly, madam," 
interposed the merchant, " I'll try to tell you 
what we know." He then went on to relate 
the circumstances already known to us. 

Aunt Martha gave an indignant sniff when 
the merchant had finished. " You call your- 
self smart, eh? Why, an old woman sees 
through it with one eye. Walter was just 
humbugged. So was you, warn't ye? An' 
goin' on right under your own nose ever so 
long, an' ye none the wiser for't. Well, I de- 
clare to goodness, if I was you I sh'ld feel real 
downright small potatoes 1 ' 

" I think, madam, perhaps we had better 



96 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

bring this interview to a close. It is a very 
painful subject, I do assure you." 

" Very well, sir. I sh'ld think you'd want 
to. But mark my words. You'll be sorry 
for this some day, as I am now that Walter 
ever laid eyes on you or your darter." 
With this parting shot she bounced out of the 
office, shutting the door with a vicious bang 
behind her. 

But Mr. Bright's worries that day were not 
to be so easily set at rest. Upon reaching his 
home for a late dinner, looking pale and care- 
worn, it was Dora who met him in the hall- 
way, who put her arms round her father's 
neck, and who kissed him lovingly on both 
cheeks. 

" Dear papa, I know all," she said with a 
little sob. 

"Ah!' he ejaculated. "Then you have 

heard " 

Yes, papa ; our next-door neighbor, Mrs. 
Pryor, has told me all about it. Hateful old 
thing!" 



THE FLIGHT 97 

The merchant made a gesture of resigna- 
tion. 

" She said you would have to discharge 
most of your clerks." 

Mr. Bright made a gesture of assent. 

" Then I want to do something. I can 
give music lessons. I'll work my fingers off to 
help. I know I shall be a perfect treasure. 
But why did you send Mr. Seabury away, 
papa? ' 

" Because he was unfaithful." 
' I don't believe a word of it." 
' Appearances are strongly against him." 

* I don't care. I say it's a wicked shame. 
Why, what has he done ? ' 

"What has he done? Why, he knew 
Ramon gambled, and wouldn't tell. He 
knew Ramon had gone, and never lisped a 
syllable." 

" Yes, but that's what he didn't do." 

* He was caught hanging around our house 
the night that Ramon ran away. There, 
child, don't bother me with any more ques- 



98 THE YOUNG VIGIL ANTES 

tions. Guilty or not, both have gone beyond 
reach." 

Dora came near letting slip a little cry of 
surprise. She knew that she was blushing 
furiously, but fortunately the hall was dark. 
A new light had flashed upon her. And she 
thought she could guess why Walter had been 
lurking round their house on that, to him, 
most eventful night. Although she had never 
exchanged a dozen words with him, he had 
won her gratitude and admiration fairly, and 
now she began to feel great pity and sorrow 
for the friendless clerk. 

Hearing Dora crying softly, her father put 
his arm around her waist and said soothingly: 

There, child, don't cry; we must try to bear 
up under misfortune. But 'tis a thousand 
pities " 

" Well," anxiously. 

Well, if I had known all that in season, 
the worst might have been prevented." 

" And now?" 

" And now, child, your father is a ruined 



THE FLIGHT 99 

man." So saying, the merchant hung up his 
hat and walked gloomily away. 

Dora ran upstairs to her own room and 
locked herself in, leaving the despondent mer- 
chant to eat his dinner solitary and alone. 



VIII 

OUTWARD BOUND 

" BEATS Boston, don't it?" said Bill to 
Walter, as the Susan J. was slowly working 
her way up the East River past the miles of 
wharves and warehouses with which the 
shores are lined. 

" Maybe it's bigger, but I don't believe 
it's any better," was Walter's guarded 
reply. 

As soon as the anchor was down, the two 
friends hailed a passing boatman, who quickly 
put them on shore at the Battery, whence they 
lost no time in making their way to the steam- 
ship company's office Bill to see if he could 
get a chance to ship for the run to the Isthmus, 
Walter to get a berth in the steerage just as 
soon as Bill's case should be decided. So 
eager were they to have the matter settled that 

100 



OUTWARD BOUND 101 

they would not stop even to look at the won- 
ders of the town. 

While waiting their turn among the crowd 
in the office, Bill's roving eye happened to fall 
on a big, square-shouldered, thick-set man who 
sat comfortably warming his hands over a 
coal fire in the fireplace, which he wholly mo- 
nopolized, apparently absorbed in his own 
thoughts. It was now the month of Decem- 
ber, and the air was chilly. Bill hailed him 
without ceremony. " Mawnin', mister. Fire 
feels kind o' good this cold mawnin', don't 
it?" 

The person thus addressed did not even 
turn his head. 

Unabashed by this cool reception, Bill 
added in a lower tone, " Lookin' out for a 
chance to ship, heh, matey? ' 

At this question, so squarely put, a sup- 
pressed titter ran round the room. The silent 
man gave Bill a sidelong look, shrugged his 
shoulders, and absently asked, " What makes 
you think so? " 



102 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

" D'ye think I don't know a sailorman 
when I see one ? Mighty stuck up, some folks 
is. Better get that Ingy-ink out o' yer hands 
ef yer 'shamed on it." 

The silent man rose up, buttoned his shaggy 
buffalo-skin coat up to his chin, pulled his fur 
cap down over his bushy eyebrows, and strode 
out of the office without looking either to the 
right or the left. 

" I say, you ! ' a clerk called out to Bill. 
" Do you know who you were talking to? 
That's the old man." 

" I don't keer ef it's the old boy. Ef that 
chap ha'n't hauled on a tarred rope afore now, 
I'm a nigger; that's all." 

" That was Commodore Vanderbilt, the 
owner of this line," the clerk retorted very 
pompously, quite as if he expected Bill to 
drop. 

The general laugh now went against Bill. 
" Whew ! was it, though? Then I s'pose my 
cake's all dough," he grumbled to himself, but 
was greatly relieved when the shipping clerk, 



OUTWARD BOUND 103 

after a few questions, told him to sign the 
articles. Walter was duly engaged, in his 
turn, as a cabin waiter. This being settled, 
the two friends sallied forth in high spirits 
to report on board the Prometheus^ bound 
for San Juan del Norte. 

Nowhere, probably, since the days of Noah 
was there ever seen such utter and seemingly 
helpless confusion as on one of those great 
floating arks engaged in the California trade 



by way of the Isthmus, in the early fifties, just 
before sailing. Bullocks were dismally low- 
ing, sheep plaintively bleating, hogs squealing. 
Men were wildly running to and fro, shout- 
ing, pushing, and elbowing each other about, 
as if they had only a few minutes longer to live 
and must therefore make the most of their 
time. Women were quietly crying, or laugh- 
ing hysterically, by turns, as the fit happened 
to take them. Of human beings, upwards 
of a thousand were thus occupied on board 
the Prometheus; while on the already crowded 
slip the shouting of belated hack drivers, who 



io 4 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

stormed and swore, the loud cries of peddlers 
and newsboys, who darted hither and thither 
among the surging throng, served to keep up 
an indescribable uproar. Add to this, that 
the sky was dark and lowering, the black river 
swimming with floating ice, crushing and 
grinding against the slip, as it moved out to 
sea with the ebb ; and possibly some idea may 
be formed of what was taking place on that 
bleak December afternoon. 

But all things must come to an end. All 
this confusion was hushed when the word was 
passed to cast off, the paddle wheels began 
slowly to turn, and the big ship, careening 
heavily to port under its human freight, who 
swarmed like bees upon her decks, forged 
slowly out into the stream, carrying with her, 
if the truth must be told, many a sorry and 
homesick one already. 

Walter, however, drew a long breath of 
relief as the ship moved away from the 
shores. It was the first moment in which he 
had been able to shake off the fear of being 



OUTWARD BOUND 105 

followed. He therefore went about Us duties 
cheerfully, if not very skillfully. 

Oh, the unspeakable misery of that first 
night at sea ! A stiff southeaster was blowing 
when the steamer thrust her black nose outside 
of Sandy Hook. And as the hours wore on, 
and the gale rose higher and higher, with 
every lurch the straining ship would moan and 
tremble like a human being in distress. Now 
and then a big sea would strike the ship fairly, 
sending crockery and glassware flying about 
the cabin with a crash, then as she settled down 
into the trough, for one breathless moment it 
would seem as if she would never come up 
again. Twenty times that night the af- 
frighted passengers gave themselves up for 
lost. Most of them lay in their berths pros- 
trated by fear or seasickness. A few even 
put on life preservers. Perhaps a score 
or more, too much terrified even to seek their 
berths, crouched with pallid faces on the 
cabin stairs, foolishly imagining that if the 
ship did go down they would thus have the 



106 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

better chance of saving themselves. Some 
half-crazed women had even put on their bon- 
nets, in order, as they sobbed out, to die 
decently. 

It was hardly light, if a blurred gray streak 
in the east could be called light, when Walter 
crept up the slippery companionway. His 
head felt like a balloon, his eyes like two 
lumps of lead, his legs like mismatched legs. 
The ship was working her engines just enough 
to keep her head to the sea. The deck was 
all awash, and littered with the rubbish of a 
row of temporary, or " standee," bunks 
abandoned by their occupants, and broken 
up by the force of the gale. The paddle- 
boxes were stove, and tons of water were 
pouring in upon the decks with every revolu- 
tion of the wheels. By watching his chance, 
when the ship steadied herself for another 
plunge, Walter managed to work his way 
out to the forepart of the vessel. Here 
he found Bill, with half a dozen more, all 
wringing-wet, hastily swallowing, between 



OUTWARD BOUND 107 

lurches of the ship, a cupful of hot coffee, 
which the cook was passing out to them from 
the galley. If ever men looked completely 
worn out, then those men did. 

Bill no sooner caught sight of Walter, than 
he offered him his dipper. Walter put it 
away from him with a grimace of disgust. 

" Dirty night," said Bill, cooling his coffee 
between swallows; " blowed fresh; nary 
watch below sence we left the dock; no life 
in her; steered like a wild bull broke loose in 
Broadway. She's some easier now. Better 
have some [again holding out his cup] ; 't will 
do you good. No? Well, here goes," tilting 
his head back and draining the cup to the last 
drop. 

Just then the first officer came bustling 
along in oilskins and sou'wester. * Here, 
you! " he called out, " lay for'ard there, and 
get the jib on her ; come, bear a hand ! ' Wal- 
ter went forward with the men. Hoisting 
the sail was no easy matter, with the ship 
plunging bows under every minute, but no 



io8 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

sooner did the gale fill it fairly, than away 
it went with a report like a cannon, blown 
clean out of the bolt-rope, as if it had been a 
boy's kite held by a string. While the men 
were watching it disappear in the mist, crash 
came a ton or more of salt water pouring over 
the bow, throwing them violently against the 
deck-house. Shaking himself like a spaniel, 
the mate darted off to give the steersman a 
dressing-down for letting the ship " broach 



to." 



Two sailors had been lost overboard dur- 
ing the night. On a hint dropped by Bill, 
Walter was taken from the cabin, where there 
was little to do, and put to work with the car- 
penter's gang, repairing damages. The 
change being much to his liking, Walter ap- 
plied himself to his new duties with a zeal 
that soon won for him the good will of his 
mates. And when it came to doing a job on 
the rigging, though out of practice, Walter 
was always the one called upon to do it. The 
captain, a quiet, gentlemanly man, who looked 



OUTWARD BOUND 109 

more like a schoolmaster than a shipmaster, 
told the purser to put Walter in the ship's 
books. 

Thoroughly tired out with his day's work, 
Walter was going below when the mate called 
out to him: " I say, youngster, you're not go- 
ing down into that dog-hole again. There's 
a spare bunk in my stateroom. Get your 
traps and sail in. You can h'ist in as much 
sleep as you've storage room for." 

By noon of the second day out, the 
Prometheus had run into the Gulf Stream. 
The gale had sensibly abated, though it still 
blew hard. When the captain came on deck, 
after taking a long look at the clouds, he said 
to the mate, " Mr. Gray, I think you may give 
her the jib and mainsail, to steady her a bit." 

At break of day on the morning of the 
fourth day out, as Walter was leaning over 
the weather rail, his eye caught sight of a 
dark spot rising out of the water nearly abeam. 
The mate was taking a long look at it through 
his glass. In reply to Walter's inquiring 



no THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

look, the mate told him it was a low-lying 
reef called Mariguana, one of the easternmost 
of the Bahamas. It \vas not long before 
most of the passengers were crowding up to 
get sight of that little speck of dry land, the 
first they had laid eyes on since the voyage 
began. ' Now, my lad, you can judge some- 
thing of how Columbus felt when he made 
his first landfall hereabouts so long ago ! ' 
exclaimed the mate. " Good for sore eyes, 
ain't it? We never try to pass it except in 
the daytime," he added; " if we did, ten to 
one we'd fetch up all standing." 

" San Domingo to-morrow ! ' cried the 
mate, rubbing his hands as he came out of 
the chart room on the fifth day. As the word 
passed through the ship it produced a magical 
effect among the passengers, whose chief de- 
sire was once more to set foot on dry land, 
and next to see it. 

Sure enough, when the sun rose out of the 
ocean next morning there was the lovely 
tropic island looming up, darkly blue, before 



OUTWARD BOUND m 

them. There, too, were the hazy mountain 
peaks of Cuba rising in the west. All day 
long the ship was sailing between these 
islands, on a sea as smooth as a millpond. 
Every day she was getting in better trim, and 
going faster; and the spirits of all on board 
rose accordingly at the prospect of an early 
ending of the voyage. 

" This beats all! " was Walter's delighted 
comment to Bill, who was swabbing down the 
decks in his bare feet. 

" 'Tis kind o' pooty," Bill assented, wip- 
ing his sweaty face with his bare arm. 
" That un," nodding toward Cuba, " Uncle 
Sam ought to hev, by good rights; but this 
'ere," turning on San Domingo a look of con- 
tempt, " 'z nothin' but niggers, airthquakes, 
an' harricanes. Let 'em keep it, says Bill; ' 
then continuing, after a short pause, ' Porter 
Prince is up in the bight of yon deep bay. I 
seen the old king-pin himself onct. Coal- 
tar ain't a patchin' to him; no, nor Day & 
Martin nuther. Hot? If you was ashore 



ii2 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

there, you'd think it was hot Why, they 
cook eggs without fire right out in the sun." 

A two-days' run across the Caribbean Sea 
brought the Prometheus on soundings, and a 
few hours more to her destined port. Every 
one was now making hurried preparations to 
leave the ship, bag and baggage; every eye 
beamed with delight at the prospect of escap- 
ing from the confinement of what had seemed 
more like a prison than anything else. While 
the Prometheus was heading toward her 
anchorage there was time allowed for a brief 
survey of the town and harbor of San Juan del 
Norte, or, as it was then commonly called, 
Greytown. 

These were really nothing more than an 
open roadstead, bounded by a low, curving, 
and sandy shore, along which half a hundred 
poor cabins lay half hid among tall cocoanut 
palms. From the one two-story building in 
sight the British flag was flying. The har- 
bor, however, presented a very animated and 
warlike appearance, in consequence of the 



OUTWARD BOUND 113 

warm dispute then in progress between Eng- 
land and the United States as to who should 
control the transit from ocean to ocean. 
Two American and two British warships lay 
within easy gunshot of each other, flying the 
flags of their respective nations, and no sooner 
were the colors of the starry banner caught 
sight of than a tremendous cheer burst from 
the thousand throats on board the Prome- 
theus. Her anchor had hardly touched bot- 
tom when a boat from the Saranac came 
alongside, the officer in charge eagerly hailing 
the deck for the latest news from the States. 
As for the jackies, to judge from their looks 
they seemed literally spoiling for a fight. 

Walter had no very clear idea upon the 
subject of this international dispute, still less of 
the importance it might assume in the future, 
but the evident anxiety shown on the faces 
around him led him to suppose that the mat- 
ter was serious. He stood holding onto the 
lee rigging, watching the American tars in 
the boat alongside, and thinking what fine, 



ii4 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

manly fellows they looked, when two passen- 
gers near him began an animated discussion 
which set 'him to thinking. 

' Sare," said one, with a strong French ac- 
cent, ' it was, ma foi, I shall recollect ah 
out it was my countryman, one Samuel 
Champlain, who first gave ze idea of cutting 
what you call him? one sheep canal 
across ze Eesmus. I shall not be wrong to- 
day." 

* Excuse me, monsieur," the other re- 
turned, ' I think Cortez did that very thing 
long before him." 

' Nevair mind, mon ami. I gage you 'ave 
ze histoire correct. Eet only prove zat great 
minds 'ave always sometime ze same ideas. 
Mais, your Oncle Sam, wiz hees sillee Monroe 
Doctreen, he eez like ze dog wiz his paw on 
ze bone: he not eat himself; he not let any 
oder dog: he just growl, growl, growl." 

' But, monsieur, wouldn't Uncle Sam, as 
you call him, be a big fool to let any foreign 
nation get control of his road to California ? " 



OUTWARD BOUND 115 

The Frenchman only replied by a shrug. 

Even before the Prometheus dropped an- 
chor she was surrounded by a swarm of native 
boatmen, of all shades of color from sour 
cream to jet-black, some holding up bunches of 
bananas, some screaming out praises of their 
boats to such as were disposed to go ashore, 
others begging the passengers to throw a dime 
into the water, for which they instantly 
plunged, head first, regardless of the sharks 
which could be seen lazily swimming about 
the harbor, attracted by the offal thrown over 
from the ships. 

" I don't know how 'tis," said Bill in Wal- 
ter's ear, " but them sharks '11 never tech a 
nigger. But come, time to wake up! An- 
chor's down. All's snug aboard. Now keep 
your weather eye peeled for a long pull across 
the Isthmus." 

" Good luck to ye," said the jolly mate, 
shaking Walter heartily by the hand as he 
was about leaving the ship. " I'm right glad 
to see you've been trying to improve your 



n6 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

mind a bit, instead of moonin' about like a 
catfish in a mudhole, as most of 'em do on 
board here. Use your eyes. Keep your ears 
open and don't be afraid to ask questions. 
That's the way to travel, my hearty ! ' And 
with a parting wave of the hand he strode 
forward. 



IX 

ACROSS NICARAGUA 

IN the course of an hour or so three light- 
draught stern-wheel steamboats ("wheel- 
barrows," Bill derisively called them) came 
puffing up alongside. Into them the passen- 
gers were now unceremoniously bundled, like 
so many sheep, and in such numbers as hardly 
to allow room to move about, yet all in high 
glee at escaping from the confinement of the 
ship, at which many angrily shook their fists 
as the fasts were cast off. In another quarter 
of an hour the boats were steaming slowly up 
the San Juan River, thus commencing the 
second stage of the long journey. 

For the first hour or two the travelers 
were fully occupied in looking about them 
with charmed eyes, as with mile after mile, 

and turn after turn, the wonders of a tropical 

117 



n8 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

forest, all hung about with rare and beautiful 
flowers, and all as still as death, passed before 
them. But Bill, to whom the sight was not 
new or strange, declared that for his part he 
would rather have a sniff of good old Boston's 
east wind than all the cloying perfumes of 
that wilderness of woods and blossoms. It 
was not long, however, before attention was 
drawn to the living inhabitants of this fairy- 
land. 

First a strange object, something between 
a huge lizard and a bloated bullfrog, was 
spied clinging to a bush on the bank. No 
sooner seen than crack ! crack ! went a dozen 
pistol shots, and down dropped the dirty 
green-and-yellow creature with a loud splash 
into the river. 

" There's a tidbit gone," observed Bill, in 
Walter's ear. 

" What! eat that thing? " demanded Wal- 
ter with a disgusted look. 

' Sartin. They eat um; eat anything. 
And what you can't eat, '11 eat you. If you 



ACROSS NICARAGUA 119 

don't b'leeve it, look at that 'ar reptyle on the 
bank yonder," said Bill, pointing out the 
object in question with the stem of his 
pipe. 

Walter followed the direction of Bill's 
pipe. 

Looking quite as much like a stranded log 
as anything else, a full-grown alligator lay 
stretched out along the muddy margin of the 
river at the water's edge. No sooner was he 
seen, than the ungainly monster became the 
target for a perfect storm of bullets, all of 
which glanced as harmlessly off his scaly back 
as hailstones from a slate roof. Disturbed 
by the noise and the shouts, the hideous ani- 
mal slid slowly into the water and dis- 
appeared from sight, churning up the muddy 
bottom as he went. 

Bill put on a quizzical look as he asked 
Walter if he knew why some barbarians 
worshiped the alligator. Walter was 
obliged to admit that he did not. " 'Cause 
the alligator can swaller the man, but the 



120 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

man can't swaller the alligator," chuckled 

Bill. 

Now and then a native bongo would be 
overhauled, bound for San Carlos, Grenada, 
or Leon, with a cargo of European goods. 
They were uncouth-looking boats, rigged 
with mast and sail, and sometimes thirty to 
forty feet long. Many a hearty laugh 
greeted the grotesque motions of the jet-black 
rowers, who half rose from their seats every 
time they dipped their oars, and then sank 
back with a grunt to give their strokes more 
power. The patron, or master, prefaced all 
his orders with a persuasive ' Now, gentle- 
men, a little faster, if you please! ' 

" And so that's the way, is it, that all in- 
land transportation has been carried on here 
for so many hundred years? ' thought Wal- 
ter. "Well, I never!" 

Incidents such as these served, now and 
then, to cause a ripple of excitement, or until 
even alligators became quite too numerous 
to waste powder upon. As darkness was 



ACROSS NICARAGUA 121 

coming on fast, there being no twilight to 
speak of in this part of the world, a ship's 
yawl was seen tied up under the bank for the 
night. Its occupants were nowhere in sight, 
but the dim light of a fire among the bushes 
showed that they were not far off. " Run- 
away sailors," Bill explained; " stole the boat, 
an' 'fraid to show themselves. Poor devils! 
they've a long pull afore 'em ef they get 
away, an' a rope's-end behind 'em if they're 
caught." 

" Why, how far is it across? ' 

" It's more'n a hundred miles to the lake, 
and another hundred or so beyond." 

" Whew ! you don't say. Well, I pity 
them." 

When darkness had shut down, the steam- 
ers also were tied up to trees on the bank, 
scope enough being given to the line to let the 
boats swing clear of the shores, on account 
of the mosquitoes, with which the woods were 
fairly alive. In this solitude the travelers 
passed their first night, without other shelter 



122 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

than the heavens above, and long before it 
was over there was good reason to repent of 
the abuse heaped upon the Prometheus, since 
very few got a wink of sleep; while all were 
more or less soaked by the rain that fell in 
torrents, as it can rain only in the tropics, 
during the night. As cold, wet, and gloomy 
as it dawned, the return of day was hailed 
with delight by the shivering and disconsolate 
travelers. In truth, much of the gilding had 
already been washed off, or worn off, of their 
El Dorado. And, as Bill bluntly put it, they 
all looked " like a passel of drownded 



rats." 



Bill made this remark while he and Walter 
were washing their hands and faces in the 
roily river water, an easy matter, as they had 
only to stoop over the side to do so, the boat's 
deck being hardly a foot out of water. Sud- 
denly Walter caught Bill's arm and gave it a 
warning squeeze. Bill followed the direc- 
tion in which Walter was looking, and gave 
a low whistle. A beautifully mottled black- 



A CROSS NICARAGUA 123 

and-white snake had coiled itself around the 
line by which the boat was tied to the shore, 
and was quietly working its way, in corkscrew 
fashion, toward the now motionless craft. 
Seizing a boat-hook, Bill aimed a savage blow 
at the reptile, but the rope only being 
struck, the snake dropped unharmed into the 
river, 

" Do they raise anything here besides alli- 
gators, snakes, lizards, and monkeys? ' Wal- 
ter asked the captain, who was looking on, 
while sipping his morning cup of black coffee. 

Glancing up, the captain good-humoredly 
replied, "Oh, yes; they raise plantains, ba- 
nanas, oranges, limes, lemons, chocolate-nuts, 
cocoanuts " 

" Pardon me," Walter interrupted; " those 
things are luxuries. I meant things of real 
value, sir." 

' A very proper distinction," the captain 
replied, looking a little surprised. " Well, 
then, before you get across you will probably 
see hundreds of mahogany trees, logwood 



i2 4 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

trees, fustic and Brazil-wood trees, to say 
nothing of other dye-woods, more or less 
valuable, growing all about you." 

" Oh, yes, sir, I've seen all those woods you 
tell of coming out of vessels at home, but 
never growing. Somehow I never thought 
of them before as trees." 

" Then there is cochineal, indigo, sugar, 
Indian corn, coffee, tobacco, cotton, hides, 
vanilla, some India rubber " 

Walter looked sheepish. " I see now how 
silly my question was. Please excuse my ig- 



norance.' 



u 



That's all right," said the captain pleas- 
antly. ' Don't ever be afraid to ask about 
what you want to know. I suppose I've carried 
twenty thousand passengers across, and you 
are positively the first one to ask about any- 
thing except eating, sleeping, or when we are 
going to get there." 

The two succeeding days were like the first, 
except that the river grew more and more 
shallow in proportion as it was ascended, and 



ACROSS NICARAGUA 125 

the country more and more hilly and broken. 
This furnished a new experience, as every now 
and then the boats would ground on some 
sand-bar, when all hands would have to tum- 
ble out into the water to lighten them over 
the rift, or wade ashore to be picked up again 
at some point higher up, after a fatiguing 
scramble through the dense jungle. " Whew ! 
This is what I calls working your passage," 
was Bill's quiet comment, as he and Walter 
stood together on the bank, breathing hard, 
after making one of these forced excursions 
for half a mile. 

" Is here where they talk of building a 
canal?' Walter asked in amazement, casting 
an oblique glance into the pestilential swamps 
around him. " Surely, they can't be in ear- 



nest." 



" They'll need more grave-diggers than 
mud-diggers, if they try it on," was Bill's em- 
phatic reply. " White men can't stand the 
climate nohow. And as for niggers well, 
all you can git out o' 'em's clear gain, like 



i26 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 
lickin' a mule," he added, biting off a chew 
of tobacco as he spoke. 

On the afternoon of the third day the pas- 
sengers were landed at the foot of the Castillio 
Rapids, so named from an old Spanish fort 
commanding the passage of the river at this 
point, though many years gone to ruin and 
decay. Walter and Bill climbed the steep 
path leading up to it. The castle was of great 
age, they were told, going back to the time of 
the mighty Philip II of Spain perhaps, who 
spent such vast sums in fortifying his Ameri- 
can colonies against the dreaded buccaneers. 
Walter could not help feeling awe-struck at 
the thought that what he saw was already old 
when the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. 
Some one asked if this was not the place 
where England's naval hero, Lord Nelson, 
first distinguished himself, when the castle 
was taken in 1780. 

Leaving these crumbling ruins to the 
snakes, lizards, and other reptiles which 
glided away at their approach, the two went 



ACROSS NICARAGUA 127 

back to the clump of rough shanties by the 
river, and it was here that Walter made his 
first acquaintance with that class of adven- 
turers who, if not buccaneers in name, had 
replaced them, to all intents, not only here 
but on all routes leading to the land of gold. 

There was a short portage around the 
rapids. A much larger and more comfort- 
able boat had just landed some hundreds of 
returning Californians at the upper end of 
this portage, and a rough-and-ready looking 
lot they were, betraying by their talk and 
actions that they had long been strangers to 
the restraints of civilized life. Of course 
every word they dropped was greedily de- 
voured by the newcomers, by whom the Cali- 
fornians were looked upon as superior beings. 

The two sets of passengers were soon ex- 
changing newspapers or scraps of news, while 
their baggage was being transferred around 
the portage. Giving Walter a knowing 
wink, Bill accosted one of the Californians 
with the question, " I say, mister, is it a fact, 



128 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

now, that you can pick up gold in the streets 
in San Francisco ? ' 

" Stranger," this individual replied, ' you 
may bet your bottom dollar you can. It's 
done every day in the week. You see a lump 
in the street, pick it up, and put it in your 
pocket until you come across a bigger one, 
then you heave the first one away, same's you 
do pickin' up pebbles on the beach, sabe? } 
Giving a nod to the half-dozen listeners, who 
were eagerly devouring every word, the fel- 
low turned on his heel and walked off to join 
his companions. 

The run across Lake Nicaragua was made 
in the night. When the passengers awoke 
the next morning the steamer was riding at 
anchor at a cable's length from the shore, on 
which a lively surf was breaking. Behind 
this was a motley collection of thatched hovels 
known as Virgin Bay. The passengers were 
put ashore in lighters, into which as many 
were huddled as there was standing-room for, 
were then hauled to the beach by means of a 



ACROSS NICARAGUA 129 

hawser run between boat and shore, and, 
with their hearts in their mouths while pitch- 
ing and tossing among the breakers, at last 
scrambled upon the sands as best they might, 
thanking their lucky stars for their escape 
from drowning.* 

Walter and Bill found themselves stand- 
ing among groups of chattering half-breeds, 
half-nude children, dried-up old crones, and 
hairless, dejected-looking mules, whose shrill 
hee-haws struck into the general uproar with 
horribly discordant note. It was here bar- 
gains were made for the transportation of 
one's self or baggage across the intervening 
range of mountains to the Pacific. Secure in 
their monopoly of all the animals to be had 
for hire, the avaricious owners did not hesi- 
tate to demand as much for carrying a trunk 
sixteen miles as its whole contents were worth 
more indeed than a mule would sell for. 

* The picture is by no means overdrawn, as on a subsequent occa- 
sion, by the capsizing of a lighter in the surf, many passengers were 
drowned. 



130 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

Walter was gazing on the novel scene with 
wide-open eyes. Already their little store of 
cash was running low. 

You talk to them, Bill; you say you 
know their lingo," Walter suggested, impa- 
tient at seeing so many of the party mounting 
their balky steeds and riding away. 

Bill walked up to a sleepy-looking mule 
driver who stood nearby idly smoking his 
cigarette, and laying his hand upon the ani- 
mal's flank, cleared his throat, and demanded 
carelessly, in broken Spanish, " Qui cary, 
hombre, por este mula?" 

The animal slowly turned his head to- 
ward the speaker, and viciously let go both 
hind feet, narrowly missing Bill's shins. 

Wow ! he's an infamous rhinoceros, este 
mula ! " cried Bill, drawing back to a safe dis- 
tance from the animal's heels. 

* Si, senor," replied the unmoved muleteer. 

Viente pesos, no mas," he added in response 
to Bill's first question. 

" Twenty devils ! ' exclaimed Bill in 



ACROSS NICARAGUA 131 

amazement, dropping into forcible English; 
" we don't want to buy him." Then resort- 
ing to gestures, to assist his limited vocabu- 
lary, he pointed to his own and Walter's 
bags, again demanding, u Quantos por este 
carga, vamos the ranch, over yonder? ' 

" Cinco pesos," articulated the impassive 
owner, between puffs. 

" Robber," muttered Bill under his breath. 
Rather than submit to be so outrageously 
fleeced, Bill hit upon the following method of 
traveling quite independently. He had seen 
it done in China, he explained, and why not 
here? Getting a stout bamboo, the two 
friends slung their traps to the middle, lifted 
it to their shoulders, and in this economical 
fashion trudged off for the mountains, quite 
elated at having so cleverly outwitted the 
Greasers, as Bill contemptuously termed 
them. In fact, the old fellow was immensely 
tickled over the ready transformation of two 
live men into a quadruped. Walter should 
be fore legs and he hind legs. When tired, 



1 3 2 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

they could take turn and turn about. If the 
load galled one shoulder, it could be shifted 
over to the other, without halting. ' Hoo- 
ray ! " he shouted, when they were clear of the 
village; " to-morrow we'll see the place where 
old Bill Boar watered his hoss in the Pacific." 

" Balboa, Bill," Walter corrected. " No 
horse will drink salt water, silly. You know 
better. Besides, it wasn't a horse at all. 
'Twas a mule." 

Night overtook the travelers before reach- 
ing the foothills, but after munching a biscuit 
and swallowing a few mouthfuls of water 
they stretched themselves out upon the bare 
ground, and were soon traveling in the land of 
dreams. 

The pair were bright and early on the road 
again, which was only a mule-track, deeply 
worn and gullied by the passing to and fro of 
many a caravan. It soon plunged into the 
thick woods, dropped down into slippery 
gorges, or scrambled up steep hillsides, where 
the pair would have to make a short halt to 



ACROSS NICARAGUA 133 

mop their brows and get their breath. Then 
they would listen to the screaming of count- 
less parroquets, and watch the gambols of 
troops of chattering monkeys, among the 
branches overhead. Bill spoke up: "I don't, 
believe men ever had no tails like them 'ar 
monkeys; some say they did: but I seen many 
a time I'd like to had one myself when layin' 
out on a topsail yard, in a dark night, with 
nothin' much to stan' on. A tail to kinder 
quirl around suthin', so's to let you use your 
hands and feet, is kind o' handy. Just look 
at that chap swingin' to that 'ar branch up 
there by his tail, like a trapeze performer, an' 
no rush o' blood to the brain nuther." Wal- 
ter could hardly drag Bill away from the 
contemplation of this interesting problem. 

For six mortal hours the travelers were 
shut up in the gloomy tropical forest; but 
just at the close of day it seemed as if they 
had suddenly stepped out of darkness into 
light, for far and wide before them lay the 
mighty Pacific Ocean, crimsoned by the set- 



134 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

ting sun. Once seen, it was a sight never to 
be forgotten. 

Walter and Bill soon pushed on down the 
mountain into the village of San Juan del 
Sur, of which the less said the better. Thor- 
oughly tired out by their day's tramp, the way- 
farers succeeded in obtaining a night's lodg- 
ing in an old tent, at the rate of four bits each. 
It consisted in the privilege of throwing them- 
selves down upon the loose sand, already oc- 
cupied by millions of fleas, chigoes, and other 
blood-letting bedfellows. Glad enough were 
they at the return of day. Bill's eyes were 
almost closed, and poor Walter's face looked 
as if he had just broken out with smallpox. 

San Juan del Sur was crowded with people 
anxiously awaiting the arrival of the steam- 
ship that was to take them on up the coast. 
The only craft in the little haven was a rusty- 
looking brigantine, which had put in here for 
a supply of fresh water. Her passengers de- 
clared that she worked like a basket in a gale 
of wind. Learning that the captain was on 



ACROSS NICARAGUA 135 

shore, our two friends lost no time in hunt- 
ing him up, when the following colloquy took 
place: 

" Mawnin', cap," said Bill. " How much 
do you ax fur a cabin passage to 'Frisco?' 

" A hundred dollars, cash in advance. 
But I can't take you; all full in the cabin." 

"Well, s'pos'n I go in the hold; how 
much?" 

" Eighty dollars; but I can't take you. 
Hold's full, too." 

" Jerusalem ! Why can't I go in the fore- 
peak? What's the price thar? ' 

"Eighty dollars; but I can't take you. 
Full fore and aft." 

" 'Z that so? Well, say, cap, can't I go 
aloft somewhere? What '11 you charge 
then?" 

" We charge eighty dollars to go any- 
where; but can't carry you aloft. Got to 
carry our provisions there." 

Bill mused a minute. " Hard case, ain't 
it?" appealing first to Walter, then to the 



136 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

captain. " But as I want to go mighty bad, 
what '11 you tax to tow me? ' 

The captain turned away, with a horse- 
laugh and a shake of the head, to attend to 
his own affairs, leaving our two friends in 
no happy frame of mind at the prospect be- 
fore them. With the utmost economy their 
little stock of money would last but little 
longer. The heat was oppressive and the 
place alive with vermin. Hours were spent 
on the harbor headland watching for the 
friendly smoke of the overdue steamer. 

Several days now went by before the de- 
layed steamer put in an appearance. It was 
none too soon, for with so many mouths to 
feed, the place began to be threatened with 
famine. It was by the merest chance that Wal- 
ter secured a passage for himself in the steer- 
age, and for Bill as a coal-passer, on this ship. 
Luckily for them, the captain's name happened 
to be the same as Walter's. He also hailed 
from New Bedford. He even admitted, 
though cautiously, that there might be some 



ACROSS NICARAGUA 137 

distant relationship. So Walter won the day, 
with the understanding that he was to spread 
his blanket on deck, for other accommoda- 
tions there were none; while before the ship 
was two days at sea, men actually fought for 
what were considered choice spots to lie down 
upon at night. 

The event of the voyage up the coast was 
a stay of several days at Acapulco, for making 
repairs in the engine room and for coaling 
ship. What a glorious harbor it is! land- 
locked and so sheltered by high mountains, 
that once within it is difficult to discover 
where a ship has found her way in, or how 
she is going to get out. Here, in bygone 
times, the great Manila galleons came with 
their rich cargoes, which were then trans- 
ported across Mexico by pack-trains to be 
again reshipped to Old Spain. The arrival 
of a Yankee ship was now the only event that 
stirred the sleepy old place into life. At the 
sound of her cannon it rubbed its eyes, so to 
speak, and woke up. Bill even asserted that 



138 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

the people looked too " tarnation ' lazy to 
draw their own breath. 

Ample time was allowed here for a wel- 
come run on shore ; and the arrival of another 
steamer, homeward bound, made Acapulco 
for the time populous. Bill could not get 
shore leave, so Walter went alone. There 
were a custom-house without custom, a plaza, 
in which the inhabitants had hurriedly set up 
a tempting display of fruits, shells, lemonade, 
and home-made nicknacks to catch the passen- 
gers' loose change, besides a moldy-looking 
cathedral, whose cracked bells now and again 
set a whole colony of watchful buzzards laz- 
ily flapping about the house-tops. And under 
the very shadow of the cathedral walls a 
group of native Mexicanos were busily en- 
gaged in their favorite amusement of gam- 
bling with cards or in cock-fighting. 

After sauntering about the town to his 
heart's content, Walter joined a knot of pas- 
sengers who were making their way toward 
the dilapidated fort that commands the basin. 



ACROSS NICARAGUA 139 

On their way they passed a squad of bare- 
footed soldiers, guarding three or four vil- 
lainous-looking prisoners, who were at work 
on the road, and who shot evil glances at the 
light-hearted Americanos. Walter thought 
if this was a fair sample of the Mexican army, 
there was no use in crowing over the victories 
won by Scott and Taylor not many years be- 
fore. 

At the end of a hot and dusty walk in the 
glare of a noonday sun, the visitors seated 
themselves on the crumbling ramparts of the 
old fort, and fell to swapping news, as the 
saying is. One of the Californians was be- 
ing teased by his companions to tell the story 
of a man lost overboard on the trip down 
the coast; and while the others stretched 
themselves out in various attitudes to listen, 
he, after lighting a cheroot, began the story: 
" You know I can't tell a story worth a 
cent, but I reckon I can give you the facts if 
you want 'em. There was a queer sort of 
chap aboard of us who was workin' his pas- 



i 4 o THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

sage home to the States. We know'd him 
by the name of Yankee Jim, 'cause he an- 
swered to the name of Jim, and said as how he 
come from 'way down East where they pry 
the sun up every morning with a crowbar. 
He did his turn, but never spoke unless spoken 
to. We all reckoned he was just a little mite 
cracked in the upper story. Hows'ever, his 
story came out at last." 



X 

THE LUCK OF YANKEE JIM 

ONE scorching afternoon in July, 185 , 
the Hangtown stage rumbled slowly over the 
plank road forming the principal street of 
Sacramento City, finally coming to a full stop 
in front of the El Dorado Hotel. This par- 
ticular stage usually made connection with the 
day boat for " The Bay "; but on this occa- 
sion it came in an hour too late, consequently 
the boat was at that moment miles away, down 
the river. Upon learning this disagreeable 
piece of news, the belated passengers scat- 
tered, grumbling much at a detention which, 
each took good care to explain, could never 
have been worse-timed or more inconvenient 
than on this particular afternoon. 

One traveler, however, stood a moment or 

two longer, apparently nonplused by the situ- 

141 



i 4 2 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

ation, until his eye caught the word " Bank ' 
in big golden letters staring at him from the 
opposite side of the street. He crossed over, 
read it again from the curbstone, and then 
shambled in at the open door. He knew not 
why, but once within, he felt a strange desire 
to get out again as quickly as possible. But 
this secret admonition passed unheeded. 

Before him was a counter extending across 
the room, at the back of which rose a solid 
wall of brick. Within this was built the 
bank vault, the half-open iron door disclosing 
bags of coin piled upon the floor and shelves 
from which the dull glitter of gold-dust 
caught the visitor's eye directly. The middle 
of the counter was occupied by a pair of tall 
scales, of beautiful workmanship, in which 
dust was weighed, while on a table behind it 
were trays containing gold and silver coins. 
A young man, who was writing and smoking 
at the same time, looked up as the stranger 
walked in. To look at the two men, one 
would have said that it was the bank clerk 



THE LUCK OF YANKEE JIM 143 

who might be expected to feel a presentiment 
of evil. Really, the other was half bandit in 
appearance. 

Although he was alone and unnoticed, yet 
the stranger's manner was undeniably nervous 
and suspicious. Addressing the cashier, he 
said: " I say, mister, this yer boat's left; can't 
get to 'Frisco afore to-morrow' (inquir- 
ingly). 

" That's so," the cashier assented. 

" Well," continued the miner, " here's my 
fix: bound home for the States [dropping his 
voice] ; got two thousand stowed away; don't 
know a live hombre in this yer burg, and 
might get knifed in some fandango. See? ' 

" That's so," repeated the unmoved official. 
Then, seeing that his customer had come to 
an end, he said, " I reckon you want to deposit 
your money with us? ' 

" That's the how of it, stranger. Lock it 
up tight whar I kin come fer it to-morrow." 

" Down with the dust then," observed the 
cashier, taking the pen from behind his ear 



i 4 4 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

and preparing to write; but seeing his cus- 
tomer cast a wary glance to right and left, he 
beckoned him to a more retired part of the 
bank, where the miner very coolly proceeded 
to strip to his shirt, in each corner of which 
five fifty-dollar ' slugs ' were knotted. An 
equal sum in dust was then produced from a 
buckskin belt, all of which was received with- 
out a word of comment upon the ingenuity 
with which it had been concealed. A cer- 
tificate of deposit was then made out, speci- 
fying that James Wildes had that day de- 
posited with the Mutual Confidence and Trust 
Company, subject to his order, two thousand 
dollars. Glancing at the scrap of crisp paper 
as if hardly comprehending how that could 
be an equivalent for his precious coin and 
dust, lying on the counter before him, Jim 
heaved a deep sigh of relief, then crumpling 
the certificate tightly within his big brown fist, 
he exclaimed : " Thar, I kin eat and sleep now, 
I reckon. Blamed if I ever knew afore what 
a coward a rich man is! " 



THE LUCK OF YANKEE JIM 145 

Our man, it seems, had been a sailor before 
the mast. When the anchor touched bottom, 
he with his shipmates started for the " dig- 
gings," where he had toiled with varying 
luck, but finding himself at last in possession 
of what would be considered a little fortune 
in his native town. He was now returning, 
filled with the hope of a happy meeting with 
the wife and children he had left behind. 

But while Yankee Jim slept soundly, and 
blissfully dreamed of pouring golden eagles 
into Jane's lap, his destiny was being fulfilled. 
The great financial storm of 185 burst upon 
the State unheralded and unforeseen. Like a 
thief in the night the one fatal word flashed 
over the wires that shut the door of every 
bank, and made the boldest turn pale. Sus- 
pension was followed by universal panic and 
dismay. Yankee Jim was only an atom swal- 
lowed up in the general and overwhelming 
disaster of that dark day. 

In the morning he went early to the bank, 
only to find it shut fast, and an excited and 



i 4 6 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

threatening crowd surging to and fro before 
the doors. Men with haggard faces were 
talking and gesticulating wildly. Women 
were crying and wringing their hands. A 
sudden faintness came over him. What did it 
all mean? Mustering courage to put the 
question to a bystander, he was told to look 
and read for himself. Two ominous words, 
' Bank Closed," told the whole story. 

For a moment or two the poor fellow could 
not seem to take in the full meaning of the 
calamity that had befallen him. But as it 
dawned upon him that his little fortune was 
swept away, and with it the hopes that had 
opened to his delighted fancy, the blood 
rushed to his head, his brain reeled, and he 
fell backward in a fit. 

The first word he spoke when he came to 
himself was ' Home." Some kind souls 
paid his passage to 'Frisco, where the sight 
of blue water seemed to revive him a little. 
Wholly possessed by the one idea of getting 
home, he shipped on board the first steamer, 



THE LUCK OF YANKEE JIM 147 

which happened to be ours, going about his 
duty like a man who sees without understand- 
ing what is passing around him. 

My own knowledge of the chief actor in 
this history began at four o'clock in the morn- 
ing of the third day out. The California's 
engines suddenly stopped. There was a hur- 
ried trampling of feet, a sudden rattling of 
blocks on deck, succeeded by a dead silence 
a silence that could be felt. I jumped out of 
my berth and ran on deck. How well I can 
recall that scene! 

The night was an utterly dismal one cold, 
damp, and foggy. A pale light struggled 
through the heavy mist, but it was too thick 
to see a cable's length from the ship, although 
we distinctly heard the rattle of oars at some 
distance, with now and then a quick shout 
that sent our hearts up into our mouths. 
We listened intently. No one spoke. No 
one needed to be told what those shouts 
meant. 

How long it was I cannot tell, for minutes 



148 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

seemed hours then; but at last we heard the 
dip of oars, and presently the boat shot out of 
the fog within a biscuit's toss of the ship. I 
remember that, as they came alongside, the 
upturned faces of the men were white and 
pinched. One glance showed that the search 
had been in vain. 

The boat was swung up, the huge paddles 
struck the black water like clods, the huge 
hulk swung slowly round to her helm. But 
at the instant when we were turning away, 
awed by the mystery of this death-scene, a 
cry came out of the black darkness a yell of 
agony and despair that nailed us to the deck. 
May I never hear the like again! "Save 
me ! for God's sake, save me ! ' pierced 
through that awful silence till a hundred voices 
seemed repeating it. The cry seemed so near 
that every eye instinctively turned to the spot 
whence it proceeded so near that it held all 
who heard it in breathless, in sickening sus- 
pense. Had the sea really given up its 
dead? 



THE LUCK OF YANKEE JIM 149 

Before one could count ten, the boat was 
again manned and clear of the ship. How 
well I recall the bent figure of the first officer 
as he stood in the stern-sheets, with the tiller- 
ropes in his hand, peering off into the fog! 
I can still see the men springing like tigers to 
their work again, and the cutter tossing on the 
seething brine astern like a chip. Then the 
fog shut them from our view. But never- 
more was that voice heard on land or sea. 
No doubt it was the last agonized shriek of 
returning consciousness as the ocean closed 
over Yankee Jim's head. 

At eight bells we assembled around the 
capstan at our captain's call, when the few 
poor effects of the lost man were laid out to 
view. His kit contained one or two soiled 
letters, a daguerreotype of two blooming 
children hand in hand, a piece of crumpled 
paper, and a few articles of clothing not 
worth a picayune. I took notice that while 
smoothing out the creases in this scrap of 
paper, the captain suddenly became deeply at- 



i5o THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

tentive, then thoughtful, then very red. 
Clearing his throat he began as follows: 

" It's an old sea custom to sell by auction 
the kit of a shipmate who dies on blue water. 
You all know it's a custom of the land to read 
the will of a deceased person as soon as the 
funeral is over. The man we lost this morn- 
ing shipped by his fo'castle or sea name a 
very common thing among sailors; but I've 
just found out his true one since I stood here; 
and what's more I've found out that the man 
had been in trouble. An idea strikes me that 
he found it too heavy for him. God only 
knows. But it's more to the point that he has 
left a wife and two children dependent upon 
him for support. Gentlemen and mates, 
take off your hats while I read you this 
letter." 

The letter, which bore evidence of having 
been read and read again, ran as follows: 

' Oh, James ! and are you really coming 
home, and with such a lot of money too? 



THE LUCK OF YANKEE JIM 151 

Oh, I can't believe it all ! How happy we 
shall be once more ! It makes me feel just 
like a young girl again, when you and I used 
to roam in the berry pastures, and never 
coveted anything in the wide world but to be 
together. You haven't forgot that, have you, 
James? or the old cedar on the cliff where 
you asked me for your own wife, and the sky 
over us and the sea at our feet, all so beauti- 
ful and we so happy? Do come quick. 
Surely God has helped me to wait all this 
long, weary time, but now it seems as if I 
couldn't bear it another day. And the little 
boy, James, just your image; it's all he can 
say, ' Papa, come home.' How can you have 
the heart to stay in that wicked place? ' 

When the reading was finished some of the 
women passengers were crying softly. The 
men stood grimly pulling their long mus- 
taches. After a short pause the captain read 
aloud the fatal certificate of deposit, holding 
it up so that all might see. 



152 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

" Now, ladies and gentlemen," he went on, 
" you've heard the story and can put this and 
that together. When we get to Panama I'm 
going to write a letter to the widow. It's for 
you to say what kind of a letter it shall be. 
Now, purser, you may put up the certificate 
of deposit." 

" How much am I offered how much? ' 
said the purser, waving the worthless bit of 
paper to right and left. 

Ten, twenty, forty, fifty dollars were bid 
before the words were fairly out of the 
purser's mouth. Then a woman's voice said 
seventy, another's one hundred, and the men, 
accepting the challenge, ran the bidding up 
fifty more, at which price the certificate was 
knocked down to a red-shirted miner who laid 
three fifty-dollar pieces on the capstan, say- 
ing as he did so: " 'Tain't a patchin', boys. 
Sell her agin, cap sell her agin." 

So the purser, at a nod from the captain, 
put it up again, and the sale went on, each 
buyer in turn turning the the certificate over to 



THE LUCK OF YANKEE JIM 153 

the purser, until the noble emulation covered 
the capstan with gold. 

" Stop a bit, purser," interrupted Captain 

M , counting the money. " That will 

do," he continued. " The sale is over. Here 
are just two thousand dollars. The certifi- 
cate of deposit is redeemed." 



XI 

SEEING THE SIGHTS IN 'FRISCO 

IT was a fine, sunny afternoon when the 
Pacific turned her prow landward, and stood 
straight on for a break in the rugged coast 
line, like a hound with its nose to the ground. 
In an hour she was moving swiftly through 
the far-famed Golden Gate. A fort loomed 
up at the right, then a semaphore was seen 
working on a hilltop. In ten minutes more 
the last point was rounded, the last gun fired, 
and the city, sprung like magic from the 
bleak hillsides of its noble bay, welcomed the 
weary travelers with open arms. The long 
voyage was ended. 

The wharf was already black with people 
when the steamer came in sight. When 
within hailing distance a perfect storm of 
greetings, questions, and answers was tossed 

154 



SEEING THE SIGHTS IN 'FRISCO 155 

from ship to shore. Our two friends scanned 
the unquiet throng in vain for the sight of one 
familiar face. No sooner did the gangplank 
touch the wharf than the crowd rushed pell- 
mell on board. Women were being clasped 
in loving arms. Men were frantically hug- 
ging each other. While this was passing on 
board, Walter and Bill made their escape to 
the pier, hale and hearty, but as hungry as 
bears. Forty days had passed since their 
long journey began. What next? 

Our two adventurers presently found them- 
selves being hurried along with the crowd, 
without the most remote idea of where they 
were going. As soon as possible, however, 
Bill drew Walter to one side, to get their 
breath and to take their bearings, as he 
phrased it. " Well," said he, clapping Wal- 
ter on the back, " here we be at last ! ' 

Walter was staring every passer-by in the 
face. From the moment he had set foot on 
shore his one controlling thought and motive 
had come back to him with full force. 



156 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

" Come, come, that's no way to set about 
the job," observed the practical-minded Bill. 
" One thing to a time. Let's get sumfin' t' eat 
fust; then we can set about it with full stom- 
achs. How much have you got? ' 

Walter drew from his pocket a solitary 
quarter-eagle, which looked astonishingly 
small as it lay there in the palm of his hand. 
Bill pulled out a handful of small change, 
amounting to half as much more. * But cop- 
pers don't pass here, nor anything else under 
a dime, I'm told," observed Walter. " No 
matter, they'll do for ballast," was Bill's re- 
ply, whose attention was immediately diverted 
to a tempting list of eatables chalked upon the 
door-post of a restaurant. Beginning at the 
top of the list, Bill began reading in an 
undertone, meditatively stroking his chin the 
while : 

" ' Oxtail soup, one dollar.' H'm, that 
don't go down. ' Pigs' feet, one dollar each.' 
Let 'em run. * Fresh Californy eggs, one dol- 
lar each.' Eggs is eggs out here. * Corned 



SEEING THE SIGHTS IN 'FRISCO 157 

beef, one dollar per plate.' No salt horse for 
Bill. ' Roast lamb, one dollar.' Baa ! do 
they think we want a whole one? ' Cabbage, 
squash, or beans, fifty cents.' Will you look 
at that ! Move on, Walt, afore they tax us 
for smellin' the cookin'. My grief!" he 
added \vith a long face, as they walked on, 
" I'm so sharp set that if a fun'ral was passin' 
along, I b'leeve I could eat the co'pse and 
chase the mo'ners." 

Fortunately, however, Bill was not driven 
to practice cannibalism, for just that moment 
a Chinaman came shuffling along, balancing a 
trayful of pies on his head. Bill was not 
slow in hailing the moon-eyed Celestial in pig- 
tail, to which the old fellow could not resist 
giving a sly tweak, just for the fun of the 
thing : ' Mawnin', John. Be you a Whig 
or Know-Nothin' ? " at the same time helping 
himself to a juicy turn-over, and signing to 
Walter to do the same. 

' Me cakes. Melican man allee my fliend. 
Talkee true. You shabee, two bitee?" 



158 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

This last remark referred to the pie which 
Bill had just confiscated. 

Sauntering on, jostling and being jostled 
by people of almost every nation on the face 
of the earth, they soon reached the plaza, or 
great square of the city. Not many steps 
were taken here^ when the strains of delicious 
music floated out to them from the wide-open 
doors of a building at their right hand. At- 
tracted by the sweet sounds of " Home, Sweet 
Home," our two wayfarers peered in, and to 
Walter's amazement at least, brought up as 
he had been at home, for the first time in his 
life he found himself gazing into the interior 
of a gambling-house, in full swing and in 
broad daylight, like any legitimate business, 
courting the custom of every passer-by. 

Walk in, gentlemen," said a suave-looking 

individual who was standing at the door. 

' Call for what you like. Everything's free 

here. Free lunch, free drinks, free cigars; 

walk in and try your luck." 

Walk into my parlor, sez the spider to 



SEEING THE SIGHTS IN 'FRISCO 159 

the fly,' " was Bill's ironical comment upon 
this polite invitation. " Walt," he con- 
tinued, a moment later, " I'm 'feared we 
throw'd our money away on that Chinee. 
Here's grub for nothin'." If they had only 
known it, the person they were looking for 
was inside that gambling den at that very 
moment. After rambling about until they 
were tired, the two companions looked up a 
place in which to get a night's lodging a lux- 
ury which cost them seventy-five cents apiece 
for the temporary use of a straw mattress, a 
consumptive pillow, and a greasy blanket. 
After making the most frugal breakfast pos- 
sible, it was found that their joint cash would 
provide, at the farthest, for only one meal 
more. The case began to look desperate. 

They were sitting on the sill of the wharf, 
silently ruminating on the situation, when the 
booming of a cannon announced the arrival 
of a steamer which had been signaled an hour 
earlier from Telegraph Hill. A swarm of 
people was already setting toward the plaza. 



160 THE YOUNG VIGIL A* - 

The movement of a crowd is always magnetic, 
so Walter and Bill followed on in the same 
direction. 

When within two blocks of the plaza 
they saw a long zigzag line of men and boys 
strung out for that distance ahead of them, 
some standing, some leaning against a 
friendly awning, some squatted on the edge 
of the plank sidewalk, while newcomers were 
every moment lengthening out the already 
long queue. 

"What a long tail our cat's got!' was 
Bill's pithy remark. " Be they takin' the cen- 
sus, or what? ' 

It was learned that all these people were 
impatiently waiting for the opening of the 
post-office, but how soon that event was likely 
to happen nobody could tell. So the men 
smoked, whistled, chaffed every late arrival, 
and waited. 

On the instant Walter was struck with a 
bright idea. Charley had never written him 
one word, it is true; but as it was ten to one 




Waiting- for the opening 1 of the mail. Page 160. 




YORK 

LIBRARY 

ASTOR, LENOX 
LDEM JOUNDA. 

-* * 






SEEING THE SIGHTS IN 'FRISCO 161 

everybody in the city would be at the post- 
office during the day, this seemed as likely a 
place as any to meet with him. Shoving Bill 
into a vacant place in the line, Walter started 
toward the head of it, staring hard at every 
one, and being stared at in return, as he 
walked slowly along. When nearing the 
head, without seeing a familiar face, a man 
well placed in the line sang out, ' I say, 
hombre, want a job?' 

" What job?" 

" Hold my place for me till I kin go git 
a bite to eat." 

" I would in a minute, only I can't stop. 
I'm looking for some one," said Walter, start- 
ing on. 

" You can't make five dollars no easier." 

This startling proposition to a young fel- 
low who did not know where his next meal 
was coming from, hit Walter in his weak 
spot. 

" Talk fast. Is it a whack? ' the hungry 
man demanded. " I've been here two hours 



i6a THE YOUNG VIGIL ANTES 

a'ready; be back before you can say Jack 
Robinson." 

This singular bargain being struck, Walter 
stepped into line, when his file-leader turned 
to him with the remark, ' Fool you hadn't 
stuck out for ten. That man runs a bank." 

"Does he?' Walter innocently inquired. 
" What kind of a bank?" 

" Faro-bank." 

A loud guffaw from the bystanders fol- 
lowed this reply. 

As soon as the hungry man came back to 
claim his place, and had paid over his five dol- 
lars, Walter hurried off to where he had left 
Bill, who stopped him in his story with the 
whispered words, " I seed him." 

"Him? Who? Not Charley?" 

"No; t'other duffer." 

Walter gave a low whistle. "Where? 
Here? Don't you see I'm all on fire?' 

' Right here. Breshed by me as large as 
life, and twice as sassy. Oh, I know'd him 
in spite of his baird. Sez I to myself, ' Walk 



SEEING THE SIGPITS IN 'FRISCO 163 

along, sonny, and smoke your shugarette. 
Our turn's comin' right along.' 

" Too bad, too bad you didn't follow 
him." Walter was starting off again, with 
a sort of blind purpose to find Ramon, collar 
him, and make him disgorge his ill-gotten 
gains on the spot, when Bill held him back. 
" Tut, tut, Walt," he expostulated, " if the 
lubber sees you before we're good and ready 
to nab him, won't he be off in a jiffy? Now 
we know he's here, ain't that something? So 
much for so much. Lay low and keep shady, 
is our best holt." 

To such sound reasoning Walter was fain 
to give in. Besides, Bill now insisted upon 
staying in the line until he could sell out too. 
With a jerk of the thumb, he pointed to where 
one or two patient waiters were very com- 
fortably seated on camp-stools, and in a husky 
undertone proposed finding out where camp- 
stools could be had. Taking the hint, Wal- 
ter started off, instanter, in search of a dealer 
in camp-stools, with whom he quickly struck 



164 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

a bargain for as many as he could carry, by 
depositing his half-eagle as security. The 
stools went off like hot cakes, and at a good 
profit. Bill, too, having got his price, by pa- 
tient waiting, the two lucky speculators 
walked away to the first full meal they had 
eaten since landing, the richer by twenty dol- 
lars from the morning's adventure. Bill 
called it finding money; "just like pickin' it 
up in the street." 



XII 

AN UNEXPECTED MEETING 

IT was getting along toward the middle of 
the afternoon when the two newly fledged 
speculators turned their steps to the water- 
side, Bill to have his after-dinner smoke in 
peace and quiet, while scanning with critical 
eye the various craft afloat in that matchless 
bay. Something he saw there arrested his 
attention wonderfully, by the way he grasped 
Walter's arm and stretched out his long neck. 

"Will you look! Ef that arn't the old 
Argonaut out there in the stream, I'm a nig- 
ger. The old tub ! She's made her last 
v'y'ge by the looks topmasts sent down, hole 
in her side big 'nuff to drive a yoke of oxen 
through. Ain't she a beauty? ' 

After taking a good look at the dismantled 
hulk, Walter agreed that it could be no other 

165 



1 66 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

than the ship on which he and Charley met 
with their adventure just before she sailed. 
It did seem so like seeing an old friend that 
Walter was seized with an eager desire to go 
on board. Hailing a Whitehall boatman, 
they were quickly rowed off alongside, and in 
another minute found themselves once more 
standing on the Argonaut's deck. A well- 
grown, broad-shouldered, round-faced young 
fellow, in a guernsey jacket and skull-cap, 
met them at the gang\vay. There were three 
shouts blended in one : 

"Walter!" 

"Charley!" 

"Well, I'm blessed!" 

Then there followed such a shaking of 
hands all round, such a volley of questions 
without waiting for answers, and of answers 
without waiting for questions, that it was 
some minutes before quiet was restored. 
Charley then took up the word: "Why, 
Walt, old fel'," holding him off at arm's 
length, " I declare I should hardly have 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING 167 

known you with that long hair and that brown 
face. Yes ; this is the Argonaut. She's a store- 
ship now; and I'm ship-keeper." He then 
went on to explain that most of the fleet of 
ships moored ahead and astern were similarly 
used for storing merchandise, some merchants 
even owning their own storeships. You 
see, it's safer and cheaper than keeping the 
stuff on shore to help make a bonfire of some 
dark night." 

" Don't you have no crew? " Bill asked. 

"No; we can hire lightermen, same's you 
hire truckmen in Boston. All those stores 
you see built out over the water get in their 
goods through a trap-door in the floor, with 
fall and tackle." 

It may well be imagined that these three 
reunited friends had a good long talk to- 
gether that evening. Charley pulled a skil- 
let out of a cupboard, on which he put some 
sliced bacon. Bill started a fire in the cabin 
stove, while Walter made the coffee. Pres- 
ently the bacon began to sizzle and the coffee 



1 68 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

to bubble. Then followed a famous clatter- 
ing of knives and forks, as the joyous trio set 
to, with appetites such as only California air 
can create. 

Walter told his story first Charley 
looked as black as a thundercloud, as Ramon's 
villainy was being exposed. Bill gave an 
angry snort or grunt to punctuate the tale. 
Walter finished by saying bitterly, " I sup- 
pose it's like looking for a needle in a 
haystack." 

" Not quite so bad as that," was Charley's 
quick reply. " It's a pity if we three," 
throwing out his chest, " can't cook his goose 
for him. Bill has seen him. Didn't you say 
he gambled? Thought so. Oh, he won't 
be lonesome; there's plenty more here of that 
stripe. Gamblers, thieves, and sharks own 
the town. They do. It ain't safe to be out 
late nights alone, unless you've got a Colt or 
a Derringer handy, for fear of the Hounds." 

" The Hounds! " echoed Walter and Bill. 
Yes, the Hounds; that's what they call 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING 169 

the ruff-scuff here. There's a storm brew- 
ing," he added mysteriously, then suddenly 
changing the subject, he asked, " Where do 
you hombres ranch?' 

" Under the blue kannerpy, I guess," said 
Bill in a heavy tragedian's voice. 

"Not by a jugful! You'll both stop 
aboard here with me. I'm cap'n, chief cook, 
and bottle-washer. Bill's cut out for a 
lighterman, so he's as good as fixed. Some- 
thing '11 turn up for Walt." 

" What did you mean by ranching? ' Wal- 
ter asked. 

This is it. This is my ranch. You hire 
a room or a shanty, do your own cooking and 
washing, roll yourself up in your blanket at 
night and go it alone, as independent as a hog 
on ice. Oh, you'll soon get used to it, never 
fear, and like it too; bet your life. Women's 
as scarce as hens' teeth out here. You can't 
think it. Why, man alive, a nice, well- 
dressed lady is such a curiosity that I've seen 
all hands run out o' doors to get a sight of one 



1 7 o THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

passin' by. Come, Bill, bear a hand, and 
pull an armful of gunny-bags out of that bale 
for both your beds. Look out for that can- 
dle ! That's a keg of blastin' powder you're 
settin' on, Walt! If I'd only known I was 
goin' to entertain company I'd 'a' swep' up a 
bit. Are you all ready? Then one, two, 
three, and out she goes." And with one 
vigorous puff out went the light. 

When Bill turned out in the morning he 
found Charley already up and busying him- 
self with the breakfast things. " What's this 
'ere craft loaded with?' was his first ques- 
tion. 

' Oh, a little of everything, assorted, you 
can think of, from gunny-bags to lumber." 

Walter was sitting on a locker, with one 
boot on and the other in his hand, listening. 
At hearing the word lumber he pricked up 
his ears. That reminds me," he broke in. 
' Bright & Company shipped a cargo out 
here; dead loss; they said it was rotting in the 
ship that brought it." 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING 171 

Charley stopped peeling a potato to ask 
her name. 

" The Southern Cross" 

"Bark?" 

" Yes, a bark." 

" Well, p'r'aps now that ain't queer," 
Charley continued. " That's her moored just 
astern of us. Never broke bulk; ship and 
cargo sold at auction to pay freight and 
charges. Went dirt cheap. My boss, he 
bought 'em in on a spec. And a mighty poor 
spec it's turned out. Why, everybody's got 
lumber to burn." 

Charley seemed so glum over it that Wal- 
ter was about to drop the subject, when Char- 
ley resumed it. " You see, boys," he began, 
" here's where the shoe pinches. I had scraped 
together a tidy little sum of my own, workin' 
on ship work at big wages, sometimes for 
this man, sometimes for that. I was thinkin' 
all the while of buying off those folks at home 
who fitted me out (Walt here knows who I 
mean), when along comes my boss and says 



i 7 2 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

to me, ' I say, young feller, you seem a busy 
sort of chap. I've had my eye on you some 
time. Now, I tell you what I'll do with you. 
No nonsense now. Got any dust?' 'A 
few hundreds,' says I. * Well, then,' says he, 
* I don't mind givin' you a lift. Here's this 
Southern Cross goin' to be sold for the 
freight. I'll buy it in on halves. You pay 
what you can down on the nail, the rest when 
we sell out at a profit. Sabe? ' Like a fool 
I jumped at the chance." 

" Well, what ails you? ' growled the irre- 
pressible Bill; 'that 'ar ship can't git away, 
moored with five fathoms o' chain, can she? 
Pine boards don't eat nor drink nothin', do 
they?" 

Who said they did? ' Charley tartly re- 
torted. It was plain to see that with him 
the Southern Cross was a sore subject. 

" Waal, 'tain't ushil to cry much over bein' 
a lumber king, is it?' persisted Bill, in his 
hectoring way. " Down East, whar I come 
from, they laugh and grow fat." 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING 173 

" You don't hear me through. Listen to 
this : My partner went off to Australia seven or 
eight months ago, to settle up some old busi- 
ness there, he said. I've not heard hide nor 
hair of him since. Every red cent I'd raked 
and scraped is tied up hard and fast in that 
blamed old lumber. Nobody wants it; and 
if they did, I couldn't give a clean bill o' sale. 
Now, you know, Walt, why I never sent you 
nothin'!" 

Walter was struck with an odd idea. In a 
laughing sort of way, half in jest, half 
in earnest, he said, " You needn't worry any 
more about what you owe me, Charley; I 
don't; but if it will ease your mind any, I'll 
take as much out in lumber as will make us 
square, and give you a receipt in full in the 
bargain." 

" You will?" Charley exclaimed, with 
great animation. " By George ! " slapping his 
knee, " it's a bargain. Take my share for 
what I owe you and welcome." 

" Pass the papers on't, boys. Put it in 



E 7 4 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

black an' white; have everything fair and 
square," interjected the methodical Bill. 

Charley brought out pen and ink, tore a 
blank leaf out of an account book, and pre- 
pared himself to write the bill of sale. 

" Hold on ! " cried Walter, who seemed to 
be in a reckless mood this morning. ' Put 
in that I'm to have the refusal of the other 
half of the cargo for ninety days at cost price. 
In for a penny, in for a pound," he laughed, 
by way of reply to Charley's wondering look. 

For a minute or two nothing was heard 
except the scratching of Charley's busy pen. 
Walter's face was a study. Bill seemed lost 
in wonder. 

There. Down it is," said Charley, sign- 
ing the paper with a flourish. " 'Pears to me 
as if we was doin' a big business on a small 
capital this morning. And now it's done, 
what on earth did you do it for, Walt? ' 

( Oh, I've an idea," said Walter, assuming 
an air of impenetrable mystery. 

' Have your own way," rejoined Charley, 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING 175 

whose mind seemed lightened of its heavy 
load. " Here, Bill, you put these dirty dishes 
in that bread pan, douse some hot water over 
them there ! Now look in that middle 
locker and you'll find a bunch of oakum to 
wipe 'em with. Walter, you get a bucket of 
water from the cask with the pump in it, on 
deck, and fill up the b'iler." 

Under Charley's active directions the 
breakfast things were soon cleared away. 
Walter then asked to be put on shore, giving 
as a reason that he must find something to do 
without delay. " Whereabouts do they dig 
gold here? " he innocently asked. 

At this question Charley laughed outright. 
He then told Walter how the diggings were 
reached from there, pointing out the steam- 
boats plying to " up-country ' points, and 
then to distant Monte Diablo as the land- 
mark of the route. " There ain't no actual 
diggin's here in 'Frisco," he went on to say, 
" but there's gold enough for them as is 
willin' to work for it, and has sense enough 



176 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

not to gamble or drink it all away. Mebbe 
you won't get rich quite so fast, and then 
again mebbe you will. Qmen sabe? y 

" Queer sitivation for a lumber king," 

9 

grumbled Bill. 

" I didn't come out here to get rich; you 
know I didn't," said Walter excitedly, rising 
and putting on his cap with an air of deter- 
mination. 

" Easy now," urged Charley, putting an 
arm around Walter; " now don't you go run- 
ning all over town in broad daylight after that 
fellow. Better send out the town crier, and 
done with it. That's not the way to go to 
work. Do you s'pose a chap in his shoes 
won't be keepin' a sharp lookout for himself? 
Bet your life. Yes, sir-ee ! Now, look here. 
My idee is not to disturb the nest until we 
ketch the bird. This is my plan. We three 
'11 put in our nights ranging about town, 
lookin' into the gambling dens, saloons, and 
hotels. If the skunk is hidin' that's the time 
he'll come out of his hole, eh, Bill? ' 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING 177 

" Sartin sure," was the decided reply. 

" Well, then, Walt, hear to reason. Don't 
you see that if there's anything to be done, 
the night's our best holt to do it in? ' 

Walter was not more than half convinced. 
" Couldn't I have him arrested on the 
strength of the handbill Marshal Tukey got 
out, offering a reward, and describing Ramon 
to a hair? See, here it is," drawing it out 
of an inside pocket and holding it up to view. 
" I could swear to him, you know, and so 
could Bill." 

" On a stack of Bibles," Bill assented. 

" Let me see it," Charley demanded, 
rapidly running his eye over the precious 
document. " ' Five hundred dollars re- 
ward !' Five hundred fiddlesticks ! Why, 
he'd go five hundred better and be off in a 
jiffy, with just a nod and a wink from the 
officers to keep out of the way a while." 
Having expressed this opinion, Charley tossed 
the handbill on the table with a disdainful 
sniff. 



1 78 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

Walter was dumb. He had actually 
thought for a whole month that the mere sight 
of this accusing piece of paper would make 
the guilty wretch fall on his knees and beg 
for mercy. And to be told now that it was 
only so much waste paper struck him speech- 
less. 

Charley again came to the rescue. 
' Come, come; don't stand there looking as 
if you'd lost every friend you had on earth, 
but brace up. If you'd wanted to have that 
robber arrested, you should have gone a dif- 
ferent way to work 'cordin' to law." 

"What's to be done, then?" 

' My idee is like this. Californy law is 
no good, anyhow. It's on the side that has 
most dust. But here's three of us and only 
one of him. We can lay for him, get him 
into some quiet corner, and then frighten him 
into doing what we say. How's that? ' 

' Capital ! Just the thing. I always said 
you had the best head of the three." 

" All right, then," cried Charley in his old, 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING 179 

sprightly way; " I give you both a holiday, so 
you can see the sights. Walter, you take 
care that Bill don't get lost or stolen." 

" Me take care o' him, you mean," Bill re- 
torted. 

Getting into the boat the two friends then 
pulled for the shore. Walter's first remark, 
as they slowly sauntered along, was : What 
a wooden-looking town ! Wooden houses, 
wooden sidewalks, plank streets. It looks as 
if everything had sprung up in a night." 

And so it had. At this time the city was 
beginning to work its way out from the 
natural beach toward deeper water; for as 
deep water would not come to the city, the 
city had to go out to deep water. And as 
many of the coming streets were as yet only 
narrow footways, thrust out over the shallow 
waters of the bay, the entire ragged water- 
front seemed cautiously feeling its way toward 
its wished-for goal. Cheap one-story frame 
buildings were following these extensions of 
new and old streets, as fast as piles could be 



i8o THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

driven for them, so that a famous clattering 
of hammers was going on on every side from 
morning to night. 

The two friends soon had an exciting ex- 
perience. Just ahead of them, a dray was 
being driven down the wharf at a rapid rate, 
making the loose planks rattle again. In 
turning out to let another dray pass him, the 
driver of the first went too near the edge of 
the wharf, when the weight of horse and dray 
suddenly tilted the loose planks in the air, 
the driver gave a yell, and over into the dock 
went horse, dray, and man with a tremendous 
splash. 

It was all done so quickly that Walter and 
Bill stood for a moment without stirring. 
Fortunately their boat was only a few rods 
off, so both ran back for her in a hurry. A 
few strokes brought them to where the fright- 
ened animal was still helplessly floundering 
in the water, dragged down by the weight of 
the dray. The man was first pulled into the 
boat, dripping wet. Bill then cut the traces 



AN UNEXPECTED MEETING 181 

with his sheath-knife, while the drayman held 
the struggling animal by the bit. He was then 
towed to the beach safe and sound. By this 
time a crowd had collected. Seeing his res- 
cuers pushing off, the drayman elbowed his 
way out of the crowd, and shouted after them, 
" I say, you, hombres, this ain't no place to 
take a bath, is it? This ain't no place to be 
bashful. Come up to my stand, Jackson and 
Sansome, and ask for Jack Furbish." 

" Is your name Furbish? " asked Bill, rest- 
ing on his oars. 

" Yes; why?" 

" Oh, nothin', only we lost a man overboard 
onct off Cape Horn. His name was Fur- 
bish." 

Well, 'twarn't me. I was lost over- 
board from Pacific Wharf. Jackson and 
Sansome ! Git up, Jim ! " bringing his black- 
snake smartly down on his horse's steaming 
flanks. 



XIII 

IN WHICH A MAN BREAKS INTO HIS OWN 
STORE, AND STEALS HIS OWN SAFE 

WALTER'S idea, as far as he had thought 
it out, was to hold on to this lumber cargo 
until Mr. Bright could be notified just how 
the matter stood. Should the merchant then 
choose to take any steps toward recovering 
the cargo of the Southern Cross, Walter 
thought this act on his part might go far to 
remove the unjust suspicions directed against 
himself. For this reason he had secured, as 
we have seen, a refusal of the cargo long 
enough for a letter to go and return. 

Walter now set about writing his letter, 
but he now found that what had seemed so 
simple at first was no easy matter. As he sat 
staring vacantly at the blank paper before 

him, tears came into his eyes; for again the 

182 



STEALS HIS OWN SAFE 183 

trying scene in the merchant's counting-room 
rushed vividly upon his memory. An evil 
voice within him said, " Why should I trouble 
myself about those who have so ill-used me 
and robbed me of my good name?' Yet 
another, and gentler, voice answered, " Do 
unto others as you would that they should 
do unto you." Compressing his lips reso- 
lutely, he succeeded in writing a very formal 
letter, not at all like what he had intended. 
But the main thing was to make himself 
clearly understood. So he carefully studied 
every word before putting it down in black 
and white, as follows: 

" MR. BRIGHT, 

' Sir: This is to inform you of my being 
here. I could not bear to be suspected of 
dishonesty when I knew I was innocent of 
wrongdoing. So I left. This is to inform 
you that the Southern Cross is in charge of 
my friend Mr. Charles Wormwood. You 
may recollect him. He is a fine young man. 



1 84 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

Between us, we've got hold of half the cargo, 
and I have the refusal of the other half for 
ninety days. The man who owns it has gone 
away. If you think it worth while, send 
directions to somebody here what to do about 
it. This is a great country, only I'm afraid 
it will burn up all the time. 

Your true friend, 

" WALTER SEABURY." 

While on his way uptown to post his letter, 
Walter heard a familiar voice call out, " Hi, 
hombre! lookin' for a job?' It was the 
drayman of yesterday's adventure, placidly 
kicking his heels on the tail of his dray. 

Walter candidly admitted that he would 
like something to do. The drayman spoke 
up briskly: u Good enough. Not afraid of 
dirty hands? No? Good again. Got 
some plata? No? Cleaned out, eh? So 
was I. Say, there's a first-rate handcart 
stand, on the next corner above here, I've 
had my eye on for some time. More people 



STEALS HIS OWN SAFE 185 

pass there in a day than any other in 'Frisco. 
Talk biz. That corner has been waiting for 
you, or it would 'a' been snapped up long ago. 
No job less than six bits. You can make any- 
where from five to ten dollars a day. Come, 
what do you say? Do we hitch bosses or 
not?" 

Walter had a short struggle with his pride. 
It did seem rather low, to be sure, to be push- 
ing a handcart through the streets, like the 
rag-men seen at home, but beggars should not 
be choosers, he reflected. So, putting his 
pride in his pocket, the bargain was closed 
without more words. 

Certainly Walter's best friends would 
hardly have known him when he made his 
first appearance on the stand, bright and early 
next morning, rigged out in a gray slouch hat, 
red woolen shirt, and blue overalls tucked into 
a pair of stout cowhide boots. His face, too, 
was beginning to show signs of quite a prom- 
ising beard which Walter was often seen 
caressing as if to make sure it was still there 



1 86 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

overnight and which, indeed, so greatly 
altered his looks that he now felt little fear 
of being recognized by Ramon, should they 
happen to meet some day unexpectedly in the 
street. 

Walter ranched with his employer in a loft. 
With a hammer, a saw, and some nails, he 
had soon knocked together a bunk out of some 
old packing boxes. In this he slept on a 
straw mattress also of his own make, with a 
pair of coarse blankets for bedclothes. An- 
other packing box, a water pail, a tin wash- 
basin, towel, and soap comprised all necessary 
conveniences, with which the morning toilet 
was soon made. The bed required no mak- 
ing. Rather primitive housekeeping, to be 
sure; yet Walter soon learned, from actual 
observation, that a majority of the merchants, 
some of whom were reputed worth their hun- 
dreds of thousands, were no better lodged 
than himself. 

On the whole, Walter rather liked his new 
occupation, as soon as his first awkwardness 



STEALS HIS OWN SAFE 187 

had worn off. Here, at any rate, he was 
his own master, and Walter had always 
chafed at being ordered about by boys no 
older than himself. Then, he liked the 
hearty, democratic way in which everybody 
greeted everybody. It made things move 
along much more cheerfully. Walter was 
attentive. Business was good. At the close 
of each day he handed over his earnings to 
his employer, who kept his own share, punctu- 
ally returning Walter the rest. " You'll be 
buyin' out Sam Brannan one of these days, 
if you keep on as you're goin'," was Furbish's 
encouraging remark, as he figured up Wal- 
ter's earnings at twenty-five dollars, at the 
end of the first week. 

" Who's Sam Brannan?" 

* Not know who Sam Brannan is? " asked 
the drayman, lifting his eyebrows in amaze- 
ment. ' He's reputed the richest man in 
'Frisco. Owns a big block on Montgomery 
Street. Income's two thousand a day, they 
tell me." 



1 88 THE YOUNG VIGIL ANTES 

Walter could only gape, open-mouthed, 
in astonishment. The bare idea of any 
one man possessing such unheard-of wealth 
was something that he had never dreamed 
of. 

" Fact," repeated the drayman, observing 
Walter's look of incredulity. 

The restaurant at which Walter took his 
meals, until circumstances suggested a change, 
was one of the institutions peculiar to the 
San Francisco of that day. An old dis- 
mantled hulk had been hauled up alongside 
the wharf, the spar-deck roofed over, and 
some loose boards, laid upon wooden trestles, 
made to serve the purpose of a table, while 
the ship's caboose performed its customary 
office of scullery and kitchen. 

The restaurant keeper was evidently new 
to the business, for he was in the habit of 
urging his customers to have a second help- 
ing of everything, much to the annoyance of 
his wife, who did the cooking. This woman 
was one of the class locally known as Sydney 



STEALS HIS OWN SAFE 189 

Ducks, from the fact that she had come from 
Australia under the sanction of a ticket-of- 
leave. She was fat, brawny, red-faced, and 
quick-tempered, in fact, fiery, and when 
out of sorts gave her tongue free license. 
The pair were continually quarreling at meal- 
times, regardless of the presence of the board- 
ers, some of whom took a malicious pleasure 
in egging on the one or the other when words 
failed them. But it happened more than 
once that, when words failed, man and wife 
began shying plates, or cups and saucers, at 
each other's head, which quickly cleared the 
table of boarders. 

Walter stood this sort of thing stoically 
until, one noon, when he was just entering 
the dining room, a flat-iron came whizzing by 
him, narrowly missing his head. The lan- 
guage that accompanied it showed madam to 
be mistress of the choicest Billingsgate in pro- 
fusion. By the time a second flat-iron sailed 
through the door Walter was a block away, 
and still running. It was shrewdly surmised 



i 9 o THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

that man and wife had broken up housekeep- 
ing. 

Meanwhile the search for Ramon was 
faithfully kept up, yet so far with no better 
success than if the ground had opened and 
swallowed him up. Nobody knew a person 
of the name of Ingersoll. No doubt he had 
assumed another less incriminating. A de- 
coy letter dropped in the post-office remained 
there unclaimed until sent to the dead-letter 
office. " Fool if he hadn't changed his 
name," muttered Bill, as Walter and he stood 
at a street corner, looking blankly into each 
other's face. 

They were taking their customary stroll 
uptown in the evening, when the big bell on 
the plaza suddenly clanged out an alarm 
of fire. There was no appearance of fire 
anywhere, no shooting flames, no smoke, no 
red glare in the sky, yet every one seemed 
flocking, as if by a common understanding, 
toward the Chinese quarter. Catching the 
prevailing excitement, the three friends 



STEALS HIS OWN SAFE 191 

pressed forward with the crowd, which at 
every step was visibly increasing. Upon 
reaching the point where the fire-engines were 
already hard at work, the crowd grew more 
and more dense, shouts and cries broke out 
here and there, lights were glancing hither 
and thither, and still no sign of fire could be 
detected. What could it all mean? 

It meant that by a secret understanding 
among the firemen, winked at by the city 
authorities, the fire department was " cleaning 
out " the Chinese quarter, which had become 
an intolerable nuisance, dangerous to health 
on account of the filthy habits of the moon- 
eyed Celestials. The fire lads were only too 
willing to undertake the job, which promised 
to be such a fine lark, and at the first tap of 
the bells they had rushed their machines to 
the indicated spot, run their hose into the 
houses, and, regardless of the screams and 
howlings of the frightened inmates, who were 
wildly running to and fro in frantic efforts 
to escape, a veritable deluge of water was 



THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

being poured upon them from a dozen 
streams, fairly washing the poor devils out 
of house and home, some by the doors, some 
by leaping out of the windows, and some by 
the roofs. Whenever one made his appear- 
ance, the shouts of the mob would direct the 
firemen where to point their powerful streams, 
which quickly sent the unresisting victim roll- 
ing in the dirt, from which he scrambled to 
his feet more dead than alive. 

Meantime the Chinese quarter had been 
thoroughly drenched, inside and out, the ter- 
rified inhabitants scattered in every direction, 
their belongings utterly ruined either by water 
or by being thrown into the street pell-mell, 
and they themselves chased and hunted from 
pillar to post like so many rats drowned out 
of their holes by an inundation, until the 
last victim had fled beyond the reach of 
pursuit. 

When the whole district had been thus de- 
populated the vast throng turned homeward 
in great good humor at having shown those 



STEALS HIS OWN SAFE 193 

miserable barbarians how things were done in 
civilized America. 

Time slipped away in this manner, and 
gradually the edge was being taken off from 
the keenness of the search, though never com- 
pletely lost sight of. Not a nook or corner 
of the town had been left unvisited, and still 
no Ramon. It was, even as Walter had first 
described it, quite like looking for a needle in 
a haystack. 

One morning Walter was called to help 
Furbish move some goods from a downtown 
wharf to a certain warehouse uptown. The 
owner was found standing among his belong- 
ings, which were piled and tossed about 
helter-skelter, in a state of angry excitement, 
which every now and then broke forth in mut- 
tered threats and snappy monosyllables, di- 
rected to a small crowd of bystanders who 
had been attracted to the spot. 

" There'll be some hanging done round 
here before long," he muttered, scowling 
darkly at two or three rough-looking men, 



194 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

each armed with a brace of pistols, who stood 
with their backs against the door of the build- 
ing from which the man's goods had been so 
hastily thrown out. 

This building stood on one of the new 
streets spoken of in a former chapter as built 
out over the water, or on what was then 
known as a water-lot. It seems that the title 
to this lot was claimed by two parties. The 
late occupant had taken a lease from one 
claimant for a term of years, and had built 
a store upon the lot, wholly ignorant that an- 
other party claimed it. He had punctually 
paid his rent to his landlord every month, and 
was therefore dum founded when, late one 
afternoon, the second claimant, armed with an 
order of a certain judge and accompanied 
by a sheriff's posse, walked into his store, and 
after demanding payment of all back rents, 
which was stoutly refused, promptly ejected 
the unfortunate tenant, neck and heels, from 
his place of business. His goods were then 
thrown out into the street after him, and the 



STEALS HIS OWN SAFE 195 

door locked against him, with an armed 
guard keeping possession. This was the 
state of things when Furbish and Walter ar- 
rived on the ground. 

" It's a wicked shame," declared Walter in- 
dignantly. 

" Makes business good for us," was Fur- 
bish's careless reply. Then lowering his 
voice, he added, " Talk low and keep shady. 
Mark my words. There'll be hanging done 
before long," thus unconsciously echoing the 
very words of the dispossessed tenant. 

Walter took the hint. He stared, it is 
true, but went to work without further com- 
ment, though he could see that the sympathy 
of the crowd was clearly with the unfortunate 
tenant. When the last load had been carted 
away, the crowd slowly dispersed, leaving 
only the surly-looking guards on the spot. 

"Is all out?' demanded Furbish of the 
merchant, nodding his head toward the empty 
building. 

" All but my safe. I want that bad; but 



196 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

you see these robbers won't let me in. It was 
too heavy for them to move, or they were too 
lazy, and now they won't even let me take my 
papers out of it. Curse them ! ' 

" Got the key?" 

" Oh, yes! That's all safe in my pocket. 
But what's a man going to do with a key? ' 

" You want that safe bad? ' 

" I'd give a hundred dollars for it this 
minute; yes, two hundred." 

Furbish now held a whispered colloquy 
with Walter. u Do you think your friends 
would take a hand? ' 

" Oh, I'll answer for them," was the ready 
reply. 

" Enough said." 

A place of meeting was then fixed upon, 
after which the three conspirators went 
their several ways Furbish to mature his 
plan of action, the merchant to nurse his 
new-found hopes, Walter to enlist his two 
friends in the coming adventure. Char- 
ley was in high spirits at the prospect. 



STEALS HIS OWN SAFE 197 

Bill thought it a risky piece of business, 
but if his boys were going to take a hand in 
it he would have to go too. Charley put an 
end to further argument by declaring that it 
was a burning shame if a man couldn't go into 
his own store after his own property, law or 
no law. For his part, he was bound to see 
the thing through. Walter stipulated that 
there should be no violence used, and that he 
should not be asked to enter the building if 
it was found to be still in the hands of the 
sheriff's men. 

Just at midnight a row-boat, with an 
empty lighter in tow, put off from the 
Argonaut's side, care being taken to keep in 
the deep shadows as much as possible. Not 
a word was exchanged as the tow was quietly 
brought to the place agreed upon, where it 
lay completely hidden from curious eyes, if 
any such had been abroad at that hour. As 
the lighter lightly grazed the wharf a dark 
figure stole cautiously out from the shadow 
cast by a neighboring warehouse, and dropped 



198 THE YOUNG VIGIL ANTES 

into the hands stretched out to receive it : still 
another followed, and the party, now com- 
plete, held a short council in whispers. 

Furbish had reconnoitered the store, find- 
ing only one watchman on guard outside. 
Yet he was positive that there were two or 
more inside, as he had seen a light shining 
through a crevice in the window-shutters, 
which suddenly disappeared while he was 
watching it. 

The evicted merchant then explained that 
this light must have come from the little 
office, at the right hand of the street door, 
where he usually slept. This information 
confirmed the belief that the men inside had 
turned in until their turn should come to re- 
lieve the guard outside. If this should prove 
true, the midnight intruders felt that they 
would have a more easy task than they had sup- 
posed. This, however, remained to be seen. 
After listening to a minute description of the 
store, inside and out, Furbish gave the signal 
to proceed. 



STEALS HIS OWN SAFE 199 

Making the boat fast to the scow's stern, 
the latter was poled along in the shadows of 
the wharves until, under Bill's skillful guid- 
ance, she glided between the two piers which 
supported the building that the party was in 
search of. 

All listened intently for any sound indi- 
cating that their approach had been detected. 
As all seemed safe, the scow was quickly made 
fast directly underneath the trap-door con- 
trived for hoisting up merchandise into the 
store by means of a block and tackle secured 
to a stout rafter overhead an operation at 
which Charley had often assisted. It was, 
therefore, through this same trap-door that 
the intruders now meant to effect an entrance. 
But a first attempt, very cautiously made, to 
raise it, proved it to be bolted on the inside. 
This contingency, however, had been provided 
against, for Charley now produced a large 
auger, on which he rubbed some tallow to 
deaden the sound, while the merchant held 
a dark lantern in such a way as to show 



2 oo THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

Charley where to use his tool to advan- 
tage. 

Very cautiously, and with frequent pauses 
to listen, a large hole was bored next to the 
place where the bolt shot into the socket. 
Two or three minutes were occupied in this 
work. Charley then succeeded in drawing 
back the bolt with his fingers, a little 
at a time, when the trap was carefully lifted 
far enough to let the merchant squeeze his 
body through it, and so up into the store. 
As this was felt to be the critical moment, 
those who were left below listened breath- 
lessly for any sound from above, as the trap 
was immediately lowered after the merchant 
passed through it. 

It was, of course, pitch-dark in the store, 
but knowing the way as well in the dark as 
in the daytime, and being in his stocking- 
feet, the merchant stood only a moment to 
listen. Out of the darkness the sleeping 
watchmen could be heard snoring heavily 
away in the little corner office. Groping 



STEALS HIS OWN SAFE 201 

his way with cat-like tread, the merchant, 
with two or three quick turns of the wrist, 
screwed a gimlet into the woodwork of the 
office door, over the latch, thus securely 
fastening the sleepers in. Observing the 
same precautions, he then felt for the lock on 
the front door, and finding the key in the 
lock he turned it softly, putting the key in his 
pocket. Even should they awake, the watch- 
men inside the office could only get out by 
breaking down the door ; while their comrade 
outside would be kept from coming to their 
assistance. The merchant had certainly 
shown himself not only to be a man of nerve, 
but no mean strategist. 

The merchant having signaled that all was 
safe, all the rest of the party, except Walter, 
immediately joined him. The safe was 
speedily located, some loose gunny-bags were 
spread upon the floor to deaden the sound, 
two stout slings were quickly passed around 
the safe, the tackle hooked on, and in less 
than ten minutes the object of the adventure 



2 o2 THE YOUNG VIGIL ANTES 

was safely lowered into the lighter. No time 
was lost in getting the scow clear of her dan- 
gerous berth, nor was it until they had put a 
long stretch of water behind them that the ad- 
venturers breathed freely. 

The daring midnight burglary was duly 
chronicled in the evening papers as one of the 
boldest and most successful known to the 
criminal annals of San Francisco. Would it 
be believed, it was asked, that with three 
heavily armed guards on the watch inside and 
outside of the building, the burglars had 
actually succeeded in carrying off so bulky an 
article as an iron safe under the very noses of 
these alleged guardians? Connivance on their 
part was strongly hinted at. The police were 
on the track of the gang who did the job, 
and the public might rest assured that when 
caught they would be given short shrift. The 
burglars were supposed to have sunk the safe 
in the harbor after rifling it of its contents. 



XIV 

CHARLEY AND WALTER GO A-GUNNING 

CHARLEY frequently came ashore in the 
evening, leaving Bill in charge of the ship. 
Walter ranched at Clark's Point, near the 
waterside, and only a few steps from the land- 
ing place. The neighborhood, to tell the 
truth, did not bear a very good reputation, it 
being a resort for sailors of all nations, whose 
nightly carousals in the low dramshops gener- 
ally kept the place in an uproar till morning, 
and often ended in bloodshed. 

Walter was busily engaged in sewing up a 
rip in his overalls, meantime humming to him- 
self snatches of " The Old Folks at Home," 
when Charley came stamping into the room. 
Seating himself on an empty nail-keg, he 
proceeded to free his mind in the follow- 
ing manner: 

203 



204 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

" You've been working pretty steady now 
for how long ? ' 

" Three months last Monday," assisted 
Walter, consulting a chalk mark on the wall. 

" Long 'nuff to entitle you to a bit of a 
vacation, I'm a-thinkin'. What say to takin' 
a little gunnin' trip up country? Bill knows 
the ropes now pretty well. A friend of mine 
'11 lend me the shootin' fixin's. Couldn't you 
get off for a few days, think? Come, get 
that Ramon chap out of your head for a bit. 
It's wearin' on you." 

Walter jumped at the offer. Thus far he 
had never set foot out of the city, and Char- 
ley, an enthusiast in anything that he had set 
his mind upon, now portrayed the delights of 
a tramp among the foothills of the Coast 
Range in glowing colors. Walter easily 
found a substitute for the few days he ex- 
pected to be away, while Charley had 
nobody's permission to ask. So the very next 
afternoon saw the two sportsmen crossing the 
ferry to Contra Costa, Charley carrying a 



GOING A -GUNNING 205 

rifle and Walter a shotgun, the necessary 
traps for camping out being divided equally 
between them. 

I only hope we may set eyes on a griz- 
zly," Charley remarked, slapping the breech 
of his rifle affectionately, as they stepped on 
shore. " That's why I chose this feller," he 
added. 

' Better let grizzlys alone. From all I 
hear they're pretty tough customers," was 
Walter's cautious comment. 

' I don't care. Just you wait till I see 
one, that's all. I'm all fixed for him lock, 
stock, and barrel." 

They soon struck into the well-beaten road 
leading to the Coast Range, and after steadily 
tramping until dark entered a small settle- 
ment where travelers, coming and going over 
this route, usually put up for the night. A 
night's lodging was soon arranged for at the 
only public house that the place could afford, 
and after eating a hearty supper, and leaving 
word with the landlord to call them up as soon 



2 o6 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

as it was light in the morning, the two ama- 
teur hunters were glad to tumble into bed. 

The house was a two-story frame building, 
with the second-story windows in front open- 
ing upon a veranda, after the Southern style 
of public houses. The air being hot and 
close in their room, Walter threw up a win- 
dow the first thing upon going into it. He saw 
that one might easily step out from the room 
onto the veranda, or in, for that matter. 
Then, there was no lock on the door, but as 
neither he nor Charley was afraid of being 
robbed, the want of a lock did not prevent 
their going to sleep as soon as they struck 
their beds. It is probable that they did not 
even turn over once during the night. 

Walter was aw r akened by the sound of a 
gentle scratching, or tapping, at the door. 
Upon opening his eyes he perceived that it 
was beginning to be quite light. He listened 
until the sound w r as repeated, sat up in bed, 
and being satisfied that it must be some one 
calling them to get up, slipped out of bed, 



GOING A-GUNNING 207 

yawning and stretching himself, went to the 
door, half opened it, and, still only half 
awake, peered out. 

What he saw made him start back in af- 
fright, and his hair to rise up on his head in 
an instant. 

Standing erect on his hind feet, clumsily 
beating the air with his forepaws and lolling 
out a long red tongue, was an enormous, 
shaggy grizzly bear at least a foot taller than 
Walter himself. 

One look was enough. Giving one yell, 
Walter made a dash for the open window, 
leaped out upon the veranda, vaulted over it, 
and grasping firm hold of the railing, let him- 
self drop down into the street. Imagining 
that the bear was close behind, he inconti- 
nently took to his heels, not even turning to 
look back over his shoulder to see what had 
become of Charley. 

Startled out of a sound sleep by Walter's 
cry of alarm, Charley threw off the bed- 
clothes, rubbed his eyes, and, with their aid, 



2 o8 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

saw the bear waddling with rolling gait into 
the room on all fours. He too made a dash 
for the window, adopting without hesitation 
the only route of escape open to him. 

The bear quickly followed suit, sliding with 
ease down an upright, and, on touching the 
ground, immediately set off after the fugi- 
tives, upon whom the discovery that the bear 
was after them acted like a spur upon a 
mettled charger. They no longer ran, they 
flew. 

Up to this hour the village had not shaken 
off its slumbers, but the frantic shouts of the 
fugitives, who saw that the faster they ran 
the faster ran the bear, quickly aroused other 
sleepers from their morning nap. Dogs be- 
gan to bark and give chase to the bear. 
Windows began to be thrown up, and heads 
to appear at them. Still the race for life 
continued. Bruin was evidently gaining 
upon the fugitives, who could not much 
longer keep up the pace at which they were 
going. Feeling his breath failing him, Char- 




The hunters hunted by a grizzly bear. - -Page 208. 



LIBRARY 



DR, LE>- 



GOING A -GUNNING 209 

ley, who was a few rods behind Walter, had 
even almost made up his mind to stop short 
in his tracks, face about, and let the bear work 
its will upon him, so giving his bosom friend 
a chance to escape. 

Fortunately, however, this heroic self- 
sacrifice was not to be made. At the last 
house a street door was seen very cautiously 
to open, while a head protruded from it. 
Ceremony here was quite out of the question. 
Walter instantly dashed into this welcome 
haven of refuge, with Charley, now quite 
spent, at his heels, overturning the man of the 
house in their mad rush for safety. It took 
but a moment to shut and bolt the door, and, 
as if that was not enough, Walter braced his 
back against it, panting and breathless. 
Only when this was done, did the two friends 
draw a free breath. Both were completely 
done up. 

Excited by the chase, enraged at seeing his 
victims escaping, the bear snuffed the air, 
pawed at the door, swayed his huge bulk to 



210 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

and fro, and gave vent to his rage in loud and 
unearthly roarings that could be heard by 
every inhabitant of the village. 

Meantime the man into whose premises the 
two young men had so unceremoniously en- 
tered, after taking a good look at the bear 
out of the window, almost bent double in the 
effort to control his laughter. " Why, 
boys," said he, between fits of choking, 
* that's Jem Stackpole's tame grizzly." He 
had recognized the animal now holding them 
besieged as one that had been taken when a 
cub, and brought up by the landlord of the 
public house from which the boys had made 
their sudden exit, as an object of curiosity to 
his guests. The iron collar which Bruin 
still wore confirmed this account. It was 
all plain enough now. Having contrived 
to free himself from his chain, the bear had 
easily gained access to the house by climb- 
ing up the before-mentioned veranda bear- 
fashion. He was considered quite harmless, 
the man explained, but on seeing the young 



GOING A -GUNNING 211 

men run away the bear had run after them, 
at first out of mere playfulness. So Walter 
and Charley had been running a race with a 
tame grizzly, through the public street of 
the village, in broad daylight, in their night 
clothes. 

By this time something of a crowd had col- 
lected, all tongues going at once. The laugh 
of course went against the boys, though some 
were in favor of shooting the bear, and so put- 
ting an end to his wild pranks. His master, 
however, who now came forward with a pitch- 
fork in one hand and an earthenware dish con- 
taining a stiff mixture of whisky and honey in 
the other, objected to having the bear killed, 
although the creature was now so ferocious 
that no one dared to go near him. 

Setting the dish down upon the ground, 
and silently waving the crowd back, the man 
began calling the bear by his pet name of 
u Rusty ' in a coaxing tone, and presently 
Bruin, having scented the seductive mixture, 
marched toward it and began lapping it up, 



212 THE YOUNG VIGIL ANTES 

occasionally emitting a fierce growl by way 
of notifying the bystanders to keep their dis- 
tance. 

By the time the dish was licked clean Bruin 
was dead-drunk and rolling helplessly in 
the dirt. His chain was then securely 
fastened on, and the brute ignominiously 
dragged off to the stable to sleep off his 
potations. 

Walter and Charley were compelled to bor- 
row a pair of trousers apiece before they could 
venture back to the public house, the observed 
of all observers. Needless to say, they made 
all haste to leave the inhospitable spot. 
Upon calling for their bill, the land- 
lord declared there was nothing to pay, 
and, with a straight face, politely hoped 
they would recommend his house to their 
friends. 

Walter insisted upon paying, but the land- 
lord was firm. The fame of the tame- 
bear hunt would attract customers to his 
house, he said. Under the circumstances 



GOING A-GUNNING 213 

he could not think of making any charge 
whatever. 

When they were well out of the village, 
Charley, who had maintained a dogged si- 
lence, suddenly turned to Walter and ex- 
claimed, " I won't tell if you won't! ' 

" Don't be a ninny," was the curt reply. 

" If I'd only had my rifle ! " muttered Char- 
ley, who, all the same, could not forbear look- 
ing backward every few minutes as they 
trudged on. 

The disconsolate pair made their way up 
among the foothills, but neither seemed to 
be in the right mood for keen sportsmen, or 
else game was not so plenty as they had ex- 
pected to find it. After Charley had blown 
the nipple out of his rifle in firing at a coyote, 
and Walter had shot half a dozen rabbits, 
which, though wounded,succeeded in reaching 
their holes and crawling into them, the twain 
willingly turned their faces homeward. 
Footsore and weary, but with appetites sharp- 
ened by their long tramp, they were only too 



2i 4 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

glad to set foot once again in the streets of the 
city. With a brief " So long, Charley," " So 
long, Walt," " Mum, you know," " Hope to 
die," they separated to go their respective 
ways. 



XV 

THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

WHILE on his way to work on Saturday 
morning, full of his own thoughts, Walter 
could not help noticing the absence of the 
usual bustle and movement in the streets. If 
the shops had not been open, he would have 
thought it was Sunday, instead of the last day 
of the week. All business seemed to be at 
a standstill. Merchants stood outside their 
doors, glancing uneasily up and down the 
street and from time to time holding whis- 
pered talks with their neighbors. Every one 
wore a sober face; every one seemed expect- 
ing something to happen. But what was it? 
What could it be? 

Yesterday Walter would have passed along 
the same streets hardly noticed. To-day he 
wondered why everybody stared at him so. 

215 



216 THE YOUNG VIGIL ANTES 

Furbish was about starting off on his dray 
when Walter reached the stand. He, too, 
hardly replied when Walter gave him the cus- 
tomary " Good-morning." What could it all 
mean? 

Suddenly the big bell on the plaza 
thundered out three heavy strokes one, 
two, three, and no more boom ! boom ! 
boom ! 

To the last day of his life Walter never 
forgot the sight that followed. At the first 
stroke of that deep-toned bell the strange 
quiet burst its bounds. Those already in the 
streets started off on the run for the plaza. 
Those who were indoors rushed out, buckling 
on their weapons as they ran. Workmen 
threw down their tools to join in the race. 
Furbish jumped off his dray, shouting to Wal- 
ter as he ran, ' Come on ! Don't you hear 
it? ' There w r as no noise except the tramp- 
ling of feet. Nobody asked a question of his 
neighbor. But every eye wore a look of grim 
determination, as if some matter of life and 



THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 217 

death dwelt in the imperious summons of that 
loud alarm-bell. 

After gazing a moment in utter bewilder- 
ment, Walter started off on the run with the 
rest. He, too, had caught the infection. 
The distance was nothing. He found the 
plaza already black with people. Beyond him, 
above the heads of the crowd, he saw a glitter- 
ing line of bayonets; nearer at hand men were 
pouring out of a building at the right, with 
muskets in their hands. Walter stood on tip- 
toe. Some one was speaking to the crowd 
from an open window fronting the plaza, but 
Walter was too far off to catch a single word. 
The vast throng was as still as death. Then 
as the speaker put some question to vote, one 
tremendous ' aye ' went up from a thou- 
sand throats. It was the voice of an out- 
raged people pronouncing the doom of 
evil-doers. 

By the gleam of satisfaction on the faces 
around him, Walter knew that something of 
unusual moment had just been decided upon. 



2 i8 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

Burning with curiosity he timidly asked his 
nearest neighbor what it all meant. First 
giving him a blank look the man addressed 
curtly replied, " Get a morning paper," then 
moved off with the crowd, which was already 
dispersing, leaving the plaza in quiet posses- 
sion of a body of citizen soldiers, with senti- 
nels posted, and the strong arm of a new 
power uplifted in its might. That power 
\vas the dreaded Vigilantes, organized, armed, 
and ready for the common protection. 

Though terribly in earnest, it was by far 
the most orderly multitude Walter remem- 
bered ever having seen, and he had seen 
many. In the newspaper he read what every- 
body else already knew, that one of the most 
prominent citizens had been brutally mur- 
dered in cold blood by a well-known gambler, 
in a crowded street and at an early hour of 
the previous evening. The victim's only 
provocation consisted in having spoken out 
like a man against the monstrous evils under 
which the law-abiding citizens had so long 



THE YOUNG VIG IL ANTES 219 

and so silently been groaning. This murder 
was the last straw. The murderer had been 
promptly taken by members of the secret 
Committee of Vigilance; the trial had been 
swift; and the hangman's noose was being 
made ready for its victim. The account closed 
with a burning appeal to all law-abiding 
citizens, at every cost, to rid the city of the 
whole gang of gamblers, thieves, and out- 
laws infesting it like a plague. When the 
sworn officers of the law are so notoriously 
in league with such miscreants, nothing is left 
for the people but to rise in their might. 
Fox populi, vox Dei! Down with the 
Hounds!" 

Charley and Bill were quietly eating their 
noonday meal, when Walter burst into the 
Argonaut's cabin in a state of wild excitement. 
Without stopping to take breath, he rapidly 
related what he had seen and heard that morn- 
ing, while his listeners sat with wide-open 
eyes until the tale was finished. 

For a few moments the three friends stared 



220 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

at each other in silence. Ever prompt, Char- 
ley was the first to break it. Jumping to his 
feet, he struck the haft of his knife on the 
table with such force as to set the dishes 
rattling, then waving it in the air he cried out 
exultingly, " Now we've got him! ' As the 
others made no reply except to look askance, 
he went on to say, Don't you see that, foxy 
as he is, Ramon will be smoked out of his 
hole ? Didn't I tell you there would be hang- 
ing before long? Why, there won't be one 
of his kidney left in 'Frisco inside of a 
week." 

" You're right," said Walter, " for as I 
came along I saw men putting up posters 
ordering all criminals out of the city, on pain 
of being put on board an outbound vessel and 
shipped off out of the country." 

' Good enough for 'em, too. The heft 
of 'em is Sydney Ducks an' ticket-o'-leave 
men, anyhow," quoth Bill, with a shake of 
the head. 

* Hark! " commanded Walter, holding up 



THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 221 

his hand for silence. Even as he spoke, the 
deep tones of a bell came booming across the 
water. At that moment the bodies of two 
condemned murderers were swinging from 
crossbeams from an upper window of the 
plaza. 

" If we're ever going to catch that chap, 
we'd better set about it before it's too late. 
What's to hinder our working this Vigilante 
business a little on our own hook? Nothing. 
Who's going to ask any questions? Nobody. 
Do you catch my idee? " questioned Charley. 

Without more words the three friends has- 
tened on shore, Walter leading the way to 
his stand. They had agreed not to sepa- 
rate again, and were busy talking over 
their plans when a Chinaman came up to Wal- 
ter and slipped a paper in his hand. Walter 
ran his eye over it, then crushed it in his 
hand. Turning to the Chinaman he simply 
said, " All right, John; I'll be there." 

" Allee light," repeated the Chinaman, 
making off into the crowd. 



222 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

Walter drew the heads of his two friends 
close to his own. Then he whispered: 
"What do you think? This is an order to 
take some things from a certain house on 
Dupont Street to a warehouse on Long 
Wharf, at ten o'clock to-night. (Night 
work's double pay.) I can't be mistaken. 
The order is in his handwriting; I could 



swear to it. 



I consait we orter follow the Chinee," 
Bill suggested tentatively. 

" No," objected Charley. " Prob'ly he'd 
lead us a wild-goose chase all over town. If 
Walter's right, we're hot on the scent now. 
Don't muddy the water, I say. The eel's a 
slippery cuss, and might wiggle away. Bill, 
let's you and I go take a look at that ware- 
house. Walt, don't you let on that you sus- 
picion a thing. Why, you're all of a tremble, 
man! Straighten out your face. Anybody 
could read it like a book. Pull yourself to- 
gether. Look at me ! By jings, I feel like a 
fighting-cock just now ! " 



THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 223 

" What a bantam ! " muttered Bill, follow- 
ing in Charley's springing footsteps. 

At ten o'clock Walter was at the door of 
the house on Dupont Street with his cart. 
His knock was answered by the same China- 
man who had brought him the note in the 
morning. Several parcels were brought out 
and placed in the cart, but still no sign of the 
owner. The Chinaman then explained, in 
his pigeon English, that this person would 
meet Walter at the warehouse on the wharf, 
for which place Walter immediately started, 
revolving in his own mind whether this was 
not some trick of Ramon's contriving to 
throw him, Walter, off the scent. 

Nobody appeared to answer Walter's 
knock at the warehouse door. Evidently it 
was deserted, but a low whistle gave notice 
that Charley and Bill were close at hand. 
Indeed, so well had they concealed themselves 
that Walter had passed on without seeing 
them. 

" Have you got the rope all right, Bill? ' 



224 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

Walter nervously whispered, as the three 
crouched in the friendly shadow of a narrow 
passageway, while waiting for their victim 
to show himself. 

" Sartin," that worthy calmly replied, 
" and all I wish is that what's-his-name was 
on one eend, and I on t'other." 

" I don't half like this way of doing things; 
looks too much like kidnapping," Walter 
whispered, half to himself. 

" Come, Walt, you're not going to show the 
white feather now, after all this trouble, I 
hope," Charley impatiently said. 'Ssh! 
here he comes. It's now or never." 

Sure enough, the sound of approaching 
footsteps was now plainly heard. As Ramon 
came nearer, walking fast, Bill, stepping out 
of the shadows, slowly lurched along ahead, 
cleverly imitating the zigzag walk of a tipsy 
sailor no unusual sight at that time of night. 
When Ramon had passed a few rods beyond 
their hiding place, Charley quietly slipped out 
behind him, taking care to tread as softly 



THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 225 

as one of Cooper's Indians on the warpath. 
This plan had been carefully devised, for fear 
that Ramon might give an alarm if they at- 
tempted, all at once, to rush out upon him 
unawares. They now held their intended 
victim, as it were, between two fires. 

At that hour the street was so lonely and 
deserted that there was little fear of inter- 
ruption, so Charley did not hurry. When 
Bill had reached the place agreed upon, 
where the street narrowed to a lane in which 
not more than two persons could walk abreast, 
he began to slacken his pace, so as to let Ra- 
mon come up with him. As nothing could 
be seen, at a few rods off, in that uncertain 
light, the signal agreed upon was to be given 
by Bill's striking a match, when Walter and 
Charley were to come up as rapidly as pos- 
sible. 

As Ramon tried to push on by Bill, that 
worthy placed himself squarely in the way, 
pulled out his pipe, and gruffly demanded a 
light. He acted his part so well as com- 



226 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

pletely to disarm Ramon's suspicions, had he 
had any. 

At being thus suddenly brought to a stand, 
Ramon attempted to shoulder Bill out of his 
path, but on finding himself stoutly opposed, 
he instinctively drew back a step. 

" Refuse a gen'leman a light, does yer? 
Want a whole street to yourself, does yer? ' 
sputtered Bill, obstinately holding his ground. 
Ramon made a threatening movement. 
" Shove! I dare ye, ye lubber," continued 
the irate sailor, purposely raising his voice as 
his companion came in sight. ' I'm a match 
for you any day in the week," he grumbled, 
striking a light as if to enforce the chal- 
lenge. 

By the light of the match Bill instantly 
recognized Ramon. At the same moment 
Ramon saw that the speaker was a total 
stranger. Charley barred the way behind 
him. Ramon's first thought had been that 
he was being waylaid by footpads and, in- 
stinctively his hand went to his pistol; but as 



THE YOUNG V I GIL ANTES 227 

no demand was made for his valuables, he 
quickly concluded it to be a chance encounter 
with a couple of tipsy sailors. A street row 
was the very thing he most dreaded. He 
was in a fever to be off. Then the thought 
struck him that perhaps he might turn 
these fellows to his own advantage. So he 
altered his tone at once. " Oh, it's all right, 
lads," he said apologetically, " but one must 
be careful in these times, you know ; and you 
certainly did give me a start. Never mind. 
If you've got a boat handy, I'll make this 
the best night's work you ever did in the 
whole course of your lives." 

Charley, who had edged up closer, now 
nudged Bill to hold his tongue. Speaking 
thickly, Charley said: " If you wants a boat 
we've got the one we was just goin' off in 
aboard ship. She lays right here, just ahead 
of us. If you come down han'some, we're 
the lads you want. 'Nuff said." 

Ramon was completely deceived. ' All 
right, then. I've got some traps yonder. 



228 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

They're waiting for me, I see. We'll get 
them, and you can set me aboard the Fla- 
mingo. Hurry up ! I've no time to lose." 

Walter was nonplused when he saw the 
trio approaching in so friendly a manner. 
He was about to say something, when Char- 
ley trod sharply on his foot to enforce silence. 
All four then went down to the boat with 
Ramon's luggage. After handing Walter a 
gold piece, Ramon stepped lightly into the 
boat, Bill shipped the oars, and Charley took 
the tiller. Walter first cast off the painter, 
gave the boat a vigorous shove, and then 
leaped on board himself. He could not 
make out what had happened to change their 
plans, but this was no time for explanations. 

Seeing the supposed cartman get into the 
boat, it then first flashed upon Ramon that 
he had been tricked. Half rising from his 
seat, he made a movement as if to leap over- 
board, but a big, bony hand dragged him 
backward. Maddened to desperation, Ra- 
mon then reached for his revolver, but before 



THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 229 

he could draw it, Walter threw his arms 
around him, and held him fast in spite of his 
struggles. Meantime Bill \vas taking two or 
three turns round Ramon's body with a stout 
rope, brought along for that very purpose, 
and in a twinkling that worthy found himself 
bound and helpless. 

No word was spoken until the boat touched 
the Argonaut's side. Thoroughly cowed, 
shivering with cold and fright, Ramon's 
terror was heightened by the thought that he 
was being carried off to sea. As the black 
hull of the Argonaut loomed up before him 
the dreadful truth seemed to break upon him 
clearly. Yes, there was no doubt of it: he 
was being shanghaied, as the forcible kid- 
naping of sailors was called. 

Charley went up the side first. In a min- 
ute he reappeared with a lighted lantern. A 
dull numbness had seized Ramon. He did 
not even attempt to cry out when Charley 
called to the others, in a guarded undertone, 
to " pass him along." Four stout arms then 



2 3 o THE YOUNG VIGIL ANTES 

lifted, or rather boosted, Ramon on board the 
vessel, as limp and helpless as a dead man. 
" I knew it," he groaned, with chatter- 
ing teeth; "shanghaied, by all that's hor- 
rible 1" 



XVI 

RAMON FINDS HIS MATCH 

CHARLEY at once led the way into the 
cabin. When all four had passed in he shut 
the door, turned the key in the lock, and set 
down the lantern on the table, when, by its 
dim light, Ramon saw, for the first time, the 
faces of his abductors. Stealing a quick 
glance around him he met Walter's set face 
and stern eye. The faces of the others gave 
him as little encouragement. Greatly re- 
lieved to find his worst fears unfounded, his 
courage began to rise again. He met Wal- 
ter's look with one of defiance, and inwardly 
resolved to brazen it out. His life, he knew, 
was safe enough. To show that he was not 
afraid, he assumed a careless tone, as if he 

looked upon the whole thing as a joke. 

231 



232 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

" You've got me, boys. But now youVe got 
me, what do you want with me ? ' he de- 
manded, twisting a cigarette in his trembling 
fingers. 

" First," said Walter, a trifle unsteadily, 
for the sight of his enemy was almost too 
much for him, ' first we want you to sign 
this paper," taking it out of his pocket. " It 
is- -you can read it a full confession of your 
robbery of Bright & Company." In spite of 
his effrontery, Ramon could not help wincing 
a little. Walter w r ent on without mercy, 
' And of your clever little scheme to 
throw suspicion on me as your accomplice." 
Ramon merely gave a contemptuous little 
shrug. ' And lastly, of what youVe 
done with all the property you you 
stole." Ramon scowled and gnawed his 
mustache. 

Now that he knew the worst, Ramon be- 
gan to bluster. " Oh, you shall smart for 
this when I get on shore- -yes, all of you," he 
declared hotly. " YouVe got the wrong pig 



RAMON FINDS HIS MATCH 233 

by the ear this time; yes, you have. As for 
you," this to Bill, " you hoary-headed old vil- 
lain, I'll have you skinned alive and hung up 
by the heels for a scarecrow/' 

Bill could hold in no longer. " Who said 
anything about your goin' ashore, I'd like to 
know?' he asked, in his bantering way. 
You never 'd be missed, nohow. Here yer 
be, and here you stop till we've done with 
you. So none of your black looks nor cheap 
talk. They won't pass here." 

" Stop me if you dare ! It's abduction, 
kidnaping, felony ! ' cried Ramon, glancing 
fiercely from one face to the other. " I 
despise you and your threats. Where are 
your proofs? Where is your authority? ' 

" Ugly words those, big words. You 
want proofs, eh ? What do you say to this ? ' 
Walter asked, in his turn, unfolding a hand- 
bill before Ramon's eyes with one hand, while 
with the other he held the lantern up so that 
the accusing words, in staring print, might be 
the more easily read: 



234 THE YOUNG V I GIL ANTES 

STOP THIEF! ! ! 

$500 REWARD! 

The above reward will be paid for the ap- 
prehension of one Ramon Ingersoll, an ab- 
sconding embezzler. 

This was followed by a detailed description 
of his personal appearance. 

Now will you sign ? ' Walter again de- 
manded of the branded thief and fugitive 
from justice. 

Ramon smiled a sickly smile. "Oh! it's 
the reward you're after, is it? Hope you 
may get it, that's all." 

At this fresh insult two red spots flamed 
up on Walter's cheeks. Ramon's dark eyes 
sparkled at having so cleverly seen through 
the motives of his captors. 
Is that your last word? ' 
Before I'll sign that paper I'll rot right 



u 
II 

here!" 



You had better sleep on it," replied Wal- 
ter, turning away. 



RAMON FINDS HIS MATCH 235 

" What! before s'archin' him for the steal- 
in's? ' Bill asked, with well-feigned surprise, 
at the same time critically looking Ramon 
over from head to foot. 

Ramon's hand went to his neckcloth, as if 
already he felt the hangman's noose choking 
him, the observant Bill meanwhile watching 
him as a cat does a mouse. ' Come, my lad, 
turn out your pockets," he commanded, in a 
most business-like way. 

Pale with anger, Ramon first pulled out a 
leather pocket-book, which he threw upon the 
table, with something that sounded very much 
like a muttered curse, after which he folded 
his arms defiantly across his chest. ' Now 
youVe got it, much good may it do you," he 
sneered. 

The pocket-book contained only a few 
papers of little value to anybody. 

What has become of all the money you 
took? ' Walter demanded. 

' Gone," was the curt reply. 

" What ! gone ! You can't have spent it 



236 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

all so soon. Think again. There must be 
a trifle left." 

Ramon shrugged his shoulders by way of 
reply. 

" Feel for his belt, Bill," Charley struck in. 
Charley had been growing impatient for some 
time over so much waste of words. Bill 
hastened to take the hint. 

"Hands off! I tell you, I'll not be 
searched," shouted Ramon, carrying his 
hands to the threatened spot like a flash. In 
spite of his struggles, however, the belt, 
which every one wore in that day, was secured, 
and in it ten new fifty-dollar gold pieces were 
found, and turned out upon the table. Again 
Ramon's hand went to his neckcloth, nerv- 
ously, tremblingly. In a twinkling Bill had 
twitched that article off and tossed it to Wal- 
ter. " Good's a belt, hain't it? " asked Bill 
in answer to Walter's look. " I seed him 
grabbin' at it twicet. S'arch it! s'arch it! ' 

Rolled up in a little wad, in the folds of 
the neckerchief, they found two certificates of 




Ramon made to give up his stealing's. Page 236. 



RAMON FINDS HIS MATCH 237 

deposit of a thousand dollars each, and in 
another similar roll several notes of hand for 
quite large sums, made payable to Bright & 
Company, but with forged indorsements to a 
third party, who, it is needless to say, was no 
other than Ramon himself, who had thus 
added forgery to his catalogue of crime. 
Fortunately, his hurried departure had pre- 
vented the negotiating of these notes, which 
now furnished the most damning evidence of 
his misdeeds. 

" Now, then," said Walter, sweeping the 
money and papers together in a heap, "we've 
drawn his teeth, let him bite if he can." 

At this cutting taunt, Ramon summoned to 
his aid the remains of his fast-waning assur- 
ance. " Oho ! my fine gentlemen, suppose 
I'm all you say I am, if you take my money 
you're as deep in the mud as I am in the mire ; 
eh, my gallant highwaymen? " he hissed out. 

" Enough of this. We shall take good 
care of you to-night; but to-morrow we mean 
to hand you over to the Vigilantes. You can 






238 THE YOUNG VIGIL ANTES 

then plead your own cause, Master Em- 
bezzler." So saying, Walter pointed to a 
stateroom opposite, to signify that the last 
word had been said. 

Ramon's face instantly turned of a sickly 
pallor. As Bill afterwards said, " Walter's 
threat took all the starch out of him." In a 
broken voice he now pleaded for mercy. I 
give it up. I'll confess. I'll sign all you say 
anything if you'll promise not to give me 
up to those bloodhounds," he almost whim- 
pered. Truly, his craven spirit had at last 
got the mastery. 

Walter pretended to hesitate, but in truth 
he \vas only turning over in his own mind how 
best to dispose of Ramon. Hitherto the wish 
for revenge had been strong within him, had 
really gone hand-in-hand with that to see 
wrong made right. But Ramon was now 
only an object of pity, of contempt. The 
confession was again placed before him with 
the addition of a clause stating that the 
money surrendered was the same he had taken 



RAMON FINDS HIS MATCH 239 

from his employers. He himself added the 
words, " This is my free act and deed," after 
which he signed his full name as if in a hurry 
to have it over with. The two friends then 
witnessed it. 

Walter put this precious document in his 
pocket with a feeling of real triumph. At 
last his good name would be vindicated before 
all the world. Once again he could look any 
man in the face without a blush. It seemed 
almost too good to be true, yet there sat Ra- 
mon cowering in a corner, while he, Walter, 
held the damning proofs of the robbery in 
his possession. No, it was not a dream. 
Right was might, after all. 

Instead of asking to be set at liberty, Ra- 
mon now begged to be kept hid from the 
dreaded Vigilantes. " Give me just money 
enough to get away with, set me on shore 
after dark, and I'll take my chances," he 
pleaded. Only too glad to be well rid of 
him, the three friends willingly agreed to this 
proposal. After darkness had set in, Bill 



24 o THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

pulled Ramon to a distant spot above the 
town, among the sand dunes. Handing the 
discomfited wretch his own pocket-book, \vith 
the contents untouched, Bill gave him 
this parting shot: Take it, and go to 
Guinea ! If this is the last on ye, well an' 
good, but it's my 'pinion there's more rascality 
stowed away in that cowardly carkiss o' 
yourn." Without replying, Ramon stole 
away in the darkness, and was soon lost to 
sight. 



XVII 

A SHARP RISE IN LUMBER 

" ISN'T that the Sacramento boat? " asked 
Charley, looking off in the direction of a 
rapidly approaching bank of lights. " How 
plainly we can hear the drumming of her big 
paddles. Listen ! ' 

" If it is, she's all of two hours ahead of 
time," was Walter's reply. 

" Yes, it's the old Senator's day. She's 
a traveler all the time, and to-night she has 
the tide with her. Do you know, they say 
she's made more money for her owners than 
she could carry on one trip ? ' 

" Sho! You don't mean it." 
True as you stand there." 

They stood watching the Senator work her 

way into her dock, when Charley suddenly 

241 



242 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

asked, What are you so glum about to- 
night, Walt?" 

1 1 was thinking what I would do if I had 
a boatload of money." 

1 Hope you may get it, that's all. Hark! 
Ah, here's Bill back again." 

By the way that Bill was rowing, he seemed 
in a great hurry. Greatly to the surprise of the 
two friends, he was closely followed up the 
side by a stranger, to whom Bill lent a 
helping hand as this person stumbled awk- 
wardly to the deck. At first both Walter 
and Charley thought it must be Ramon 
returning. 

' Hello ! what's up now? " both exclaimed 
in one breath. 

What's up? Lumber's up. Got any? ' 
answered a quick, sharp voice not at all like 
Ramon's. 

As nobody spoke Bill made a hurried ex- 
planation. * Sacramento's all burnt up, lock, 
stock, and barrel. Boat's goin' right back 
to-night. I seen her comin' lickety-split, fit 



A SHARP RISE IN LUMBER 243 

to bust her b'iler; so I kinder waited round 
for the news. I heered this man askin' who 
had lumber, so I jest mittened onto him, and 
here he is." 

" Whar's this yer lumber afloat or on 
shore? " the newcomer impatiently demanded. 

Afloat," Charley replied. 

Good enough! How's it stowed: so's 
it can be got at? ' 

" It's a whole cargo. Never been broken 



u 
u 



out; 



"Good again! What sort is it? Can I see 
it?" 

" Come into the cabin and I'll get out the 
manifest. You can't see anything till day- 

light." 

"Burn the manifest!' returned the 
stranger, still more impatiently. ' Daylight's 
wuth dollars now. Show me the man can 
tell what that thar lumber is, or isn't." 

' I can," Walter put in, 'cause I saw it 
loaded." 

" Then you're the very man I want. Talk 



244 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

fast. I'm bound to go back on that thar 
boat." 

Thus urged, Walter began the inventory 

on his fingers. There's six two-story 

dwelling houses, all framed, ready to go up." 

" Whoop-ee ! how big? ' 

1 About 24x36, high-studded, pitched roof, 

luthern windows. The rest is building stuff 

all of it sills, joists, rough and planed 

boards, matched boards " 

* Any shingles? " the impatient man broke 
in. 

Yes, a big lot; and clapboards too." 
Talk enough. Whar's the owner?' 
You're talking to him now," said Charley 
quickly. 

Well, then, I reck'n we'd better have a 
little light on the subject, hadn't we?' the 
stranger suggested. 

Upon this hint Charley led the way to the 
cabin, where the parties took a good look at 
each other. The stranger glanced over the 
manifest, laid a big, brawny hand upon it, 



A SHARP RISE IN LUMBER 245 

then, turning to Walter, but without betray- 
ing surprise at his youthful appearance, said 
pointedly, " Name your price, cash down, 
stranger, for the lot. I'm here for a dicker." 

Walter began a rapid mental calculation. 
" Those houses are worth all of twenty-five 
hundred apiece/' he declared, glancing at 
Charley. 

" More," Charley assented positively. 

" Wuth more for firewood," added Bill. 

"Houses and all; all or none. How much 
for the hull blamed cargo ? ' the stranger 
again demanded, getting up to expectorate 
in a corner. 

" Lumber is lumber," observed Charley, 
wrinkling his forehead in deep thought. 

" Do I ask you to give it away? Name 
your figure," the would-be purchaser insisted. 
u Come up to the scratch. I've no time to 
waste here palavering. What do you take 
me for?' he added angrily. 

Walter again had recourse to his mental 
arithmetic. "Six times two fifty, fifteen; 



24 6 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

lump the rest at ten ; freight money five, stor- 
age five more, insurance five. Forty thou- 
sand dollars! " he exclaimed desperately at a 
venture, feeling the cold sweat oozing out all 
over him. 

" It's mine. I'll take it," said the stranger, 
coolly suiting the action to the word by drag- 
ging out of his coat pockets first one chuggy 
bag of gold dust and then another, which he 
placed before Walter on the table. " Here's 
something to bind the bargain." Then, see- 
ing Bill critically examining a pinch of the 
dull yellow grains in the palm of his hand, he 
added: "Oh! never fear! That's the real 
stuff. You get the rest when that lumber's 
delivered alongside Sacramento levee at my 
expense. Talk fast. Is it a whack?" 

' Hold on, stranger," cried the acute Char- 
lay, pushing back the gold. " We don't agree 
to no such thing, mister. We deliver it right 
here from the ship." 

The stranger smote the table with his 
clenched fist. " Can't waste no time loading 



A SHARP RISE IN LUMBER 247 

and unloading," he declared; " that's half the 
battle. I must have this cargo ahead of every- 
body, up river. You say it's all loaded. 
That's why I pay high for it. I don't care 
shucks how you get it there ; so fix it somehow ; 
for it's make or break with me this time. 
Sabct" 

" Why not tow her up and back, if he pays 
for it?' Bill suggested. 

The buyer caught as eagerly at the idea 
as a drowning man does at a straw. ' Sartin. 
Tow her up ! ' he exclaimed. " I hire the 
boat and pay all expenses. How many hands 
of you? Three. All right. You get ten 
dollars apiece a day till the ship's unloaded." 

The man's eagerness to buy his way 
through all obstacles rather confused Walter, 
who now turned inquiringly toward Bill. 

' She draws nigh onto twenty feet this 
blessed minute," Bill said in a doubtful under- 
tone. 

Why, the river is booming ! ' cried the 
stranger, looking from one to the other, with 



248 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

eager, restless eyes, as this unforeseen diffi- 
culty presented itself to his mind. 

Again Bill came to the rescue. " I'll tell 
ye, mates, what we can do. Lash an empty 
lighter on each side of her; that '11 lift her 
some; then if she takes the ground, we might 
break out cargo into the lighters, till she floats 
agin." 

The lumber speculator listened like one 
who hears some one speaking in a strange 
tongue. He, however, caught at Bill's idea. 
" Yes, that's the how, shoah," he joyfully as- 
sented. " I'll hire a towboat to-night, if 
one's to be had in 'Frisco for money. I don't 
know shucks 'bout these yer ships, but when 
it comes to steamboats I reck'n I kin tell a 
snag from a catfish." 

" I think we may risk it, then," observed 
Charley, who, as ship-keeper, felt all his re- 
sponsibility for her safety. 

Walter then drew up the contract in proper 
form, after which it was duly signed, sealed, 
and witnessed. 



A SHARP RISE IN LUMBER 249 

" Now, then," resumed the stranger, " you 
boys get everything good and ready for a 
quick start. Thar's your dust. You play 
fa'r with me, an' I'll play fa'r with you. 
Shake." 

He then put off with Bill for the shore. 

" Dirt cheap," said Charley, eying Walter 
sidewise. 

" Thrown away," groaned Walter peev- 
ishly, by way of reply. 

And to think that only the day before 
the lumber would not have paid for the 
unloading ! 



XVIII 

A CORNER IN LUMBER 

BY dint of hard work the Southern Cross 
was got ready to cast off her moorings by the 
time the tug came puffing up alongside, early 
in the morning. They were soon under 
weigh, but the ship's bottom was so foul that 
she towed like a log. 

Bill steered, while Charley and Walter 
went forward to pass the word from the tug 
or tend the hawser, as might be necessary. 
It being smooth water here, in an hour or so 
the tow passed out into San Pablo Bay, where 
it met not only a stiff head wind, but a nasty 
little choppy sea. That made towing slow 
work, but by noon they were abreast of 
Benicia and entering the Straits of Carquinez, 
with old Monte Diablo peering down upon 

them on the starboard hand. 

250 



A CORNER IN LUMBER 251 

Beyond this point the tow steamed across 
still another bay, for some fifteen miles more, 
without mishap. They had now left the 
coast mountains far behind, and were heading 
straight for what seemed an endless waste of 
tall reeds, through which both the Sacra- 
mento and San Joaquin wind their way out 
to the sea. 

So far plenty of water and plenty of sea 
room had been found. The worst was yet to 
come. The young navigators, however, 
pushed boldly on between the low mud-banks 
without delay, feeling much encouraged by 
their success thus far, and wishing to make 
the most of the short two hours of daylight 
remaining, after which the captain of the tug 
declared it would be unsafe to proceed. 

After seeing the ship tied up to the bank 
for the night, the tug pushed on in search of 
a wood-yard some miles farther on. It was 
quite ten o'clock the next morning before the 
boys saw her come puffing back around the 
next bend of the river above. She had run so 



252 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

far after wood, that the captain said he would 
not risk putting back before daylight again. 

All went smoothly until the middle of the 
afternoon, when, to their great annoyance, 
the ship suddenly brought up on a mud-bank, 
where she stuck hard and fast. A hawser 
was quickly carried out astern, at which the 
tug pulled and hauled for some time to no 
purpose. The Southern Cross would not 
budge an inch. 

It being evident that the ship would not 
come off by that means, hatches were taken 
off, the boys threw off their coats, and, 
spurred on by Bill's report that he believed 
the river was falling, all hands went to work 
breaking out cargo into the lighters, as if 
their very lives depended upon their haste. 
It was now that Bill's foresight came in for 
the warmest commendations, as without the 
lighters the voyage must have ended then and 
there. 

They worked on like beavers all the rest 
of that afternoon, the tug giving an occasional 



A CORNER IN LUMBER 253 

pull at the hawser, without starting the ship 
from her snug berth. They, therefore, made 
themselves some coffee, and were talking the 
situation over in no very happy frame of 
mind, when a large, high-pressure steamboat 
was seen heading down the river, half of 
which she seemed pushing in front of her, and 
dragging the other half behind. " Stand by 
to haul away ! " shouted Bill, with quick pres- 
ence of mind, to the men on the tug, running 
aft to take another turn in the hawser. As 
the steamer passed by, churning the muddy 
water into big waves, the tug put on all steam, 
the hawser straightened out as tense as iron, 
the big ship gave a lazy lurch as a wave 
struck her, and to the unspeakable delight of 
all hands they found themselves once more 
afloat and in deep water. 

Although the ship was aground several 
times after this, they were so lucky in getting 
her off, that by noon of the third day the 
Southern Cross lay snugly moored, stem and 
stern, to a couple of live oaks at the Sacra- 



254 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

mento levee. The first person to jump on 
board was the purchaser himself, followed by 
a gang of laborers, who had been waiting 
only for the ship's arrival to set to work at 
unloading her cargo. Meantime the boys set 
about making all snug aboard, and then after 
seeing the balance of the purchase money 
weighed out, on a common counter-scale in the 
cabin, they took turns in mounting guard 
over what had been so fairly earned. In 
plain truth, all three were fairly dazed by the 
possession of so much wealth. 

This duty of standing watch and watch kept 
the friends from leaving the ship even for a 
single moment, if indeed they had felt the 
least desire to do so. In fact all that there 
was left of the late bustling city was spread 
out stark and grim before their wondering 
eyes from the deck of the ship, and a dis- 
mal sight it was. Acres of ground, so lately 
covered with buildings so full of busy life, 
\vere now nothing but a blackened waste of 
smoldering rubbish. Here and there some 




Arrival of the Southern Cross at Sacramento. Page 254. 




, 



i , t > j * ~ ' v X T 

PUB 



TILDE.N 



ASTOR, L 

.N OUNDATIONS; 



A CORNER IN LUMBER 255 

solitary tree, scorched and leafless, lifted up its 
skeleton branches as if in silent horror at the 
surrounding desolation. Men, singly, or in 
little groups, were moving about in the gray- 
white smoke like so many uneasy specters. 
Others were carefully poking among the rub- 
bish for whatever of value might have 
escaped the flames. But more strange than 
all, even while the ruins were ablaze about 
them, it was to see a gang of workmen busy 
laying down the foundations for a new build- 
ing. There was to be no sitting down in 
sackcloth and ashes here. That was Califor- 
nia spirit. 

All this time the lumber dealer was by great 
odds the busiest man there. He was fairly 
up to his ears in business, selling lumber, in 
small parcels or great, from the head of a 
barrel, to a perfect mob of buyers, who pushed 
and jostled each other in their eagerness to 
be first served. All were clamoring as loudly 
for notice as so many Congressmen on a field- 
day to the Speaker of the House. To this 



256 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

horde of hungry applicants the lumberman 
kept on repeating, " First come, first served. 
Down with your dust." The man was mak- 
ing a fortune hand over fist. 

Scarcely had our boys the time to look 
about them, when they were beset with offers 
to lease or even to buy the ship outright. 
One wanted her for a store, another for a 
hotel, another for a restaurant, a saloon, and 
so on. Men even shook pouches of gold-dust in 
their faces, as an incentive to close the bargain 
on the spot. As such a transaction had never 
entered their heads, the three friends held a 
hurried consultation over it. Charley firmly 
held to the opinion that he had no right to 
dispose of the ship without the owner's con- 
sent, and that was something which could not 
be obtained at this time. Walter was non- 
committal. Bill was nothing if not practical. 
Bill was no fool. 

( Ef she goes back, what does she do?' 
he asked, squinting first at one and then 
at the other. " Why, she lays there to 



A CORNER IN LUMBER 257 

her anchors rottin', doin' nobody no good," 
he added. 

' She won't eat or drink anything if she 
does," Charley said rather ambiguously. 

' Seems as though we ought to put her 
back where we found her," Walter suggested, 
in a doubtful sort of way. 

' Settle it to suit yourselves," was Bill's 
ready rejoinder. * But how does the case 
stand? Here's a lot of crazy hombres e'en 
a'most ready to fight for her. 'Twould cost 
a fortin to get her ready for sea. Her bot- 
tom's foul as a cow-yard; some of her cop- 
per's torn oft; upper works rotten; she needs 
calkin', paintin', new riggin', new " 

" There, hold on ! ' cried Charley, laugh- 
ing heartily at Bill's truly formidable cata- 
logue of wants; u I give in. I vote to lease 
the old barky by the month that is, if Walt 
here thinks as I do." 

" In for a penny, in for a pound," Walter 
assented decisively. 

So the bargain was concluded before the 



2 S 8 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

cargo was half out of the ship, so eager was 
the lessee to get possession. Walter drew up 
the lease, a month's rent was paid in advance, 
and the thing was done. 

" Well, now, boys, that's off our minds," 
said Charley gleefully; " my head's been turn- 
ing round like a buzz-saw ever since this 
thing's been talked about." 

" And a good job, too, seein' as how we 
skipped without a clearance," Bill put in 
quietly. 

The two friends looked at him blankly, 
then at each other. It was plain that no such 
matter had ever entered their minds. Char- 
ley gave a long, low whistle. " By George, 
I never thought of that ! ' he exclaimed, in 
great ill humor with Bill. " What '11 they 
do to us?" 

' No use cryin' over spilt milk," said that 

worthy. ' Keep dark 's our lay. Didn't 

Noah's Ark sail without a clearance, without 

papers or flag, and for no port? ' he added. 

" We ' cleared out,' as the sayin' is, with a 



A CORNER IN LUMBER 259 

vengeance," Charley remarked, trying to turn 
the matter off with a joke. 

" There's only one thing for us to do," said 
Walter, " and that is to go right up to the 
custom-house and explain matters to the col- 
lector, when we get back to the Bay. Per- 
haps he'll let us off with a fine, when he finds 
we didn't mean to run away with the ship 
and turn pirates." 

The idea of turning the old, water-logged 
Southern Cross into a pirate was so comical 
that all three joined in a hearty laugh. 

What to do with all their money was the 
most perplexing question. They could 
neither eat nor sleep for thinking of it. In 
every face they saw a thief, every footstep 
startled them. In their dilemma it was deter- 
mined that the safer way would be to divide it 
up between them. Three miner's belts were 
therefore procured, and after locking them- 
selves up in the cabin the three friends stuffed 
these belts as full as they would hold with the 
precious metal. But there was still a good- 



260 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

sized pile left to be disposed of when this was 
done, so Bill suggested sewing the remainder 
in their shirts. At it they went, without 
more words, sitting meantime in their trousers 
and undershirts; and a truly comical sight 
was this original sew T ing circle, stitching away 
for dear life under lock and key. 

But even when this operation was finished, 
a heap of the shining metal still lay on the 
table before them. All were so weighed 
down with what they had about them that 
they waddled rather than walked. Bill de- 
clared that if anything happened to the boat 
at their returning they would all sink to the 
bottom like so much lead. While thus at their 
wits' end, Charley's eagle eye chanced to fall 
upon an old fowling piece hung up by some 
hooks in the cabin. This was quickly torn from 
its resting place, the charges drawn, and while 
the others looked on in silent wonder Char- 
ley filled both barrels with gold dust, after 
which the muzzles were tightly fitted with 
corks. " She's loaded for big game. We 



A CORNER IN LUMBER 261 

take turns carryin' her, don't you see?' he 
remarked with a broad grin. 

Towards dusk the trio took passage on 
board the first boat bound for the Bay, nor did 
they feel themselves wholly safe with their 
treasure until they once more trod the deck of 
the old Argonaut, fairly worn out with a week 
of such rapidly shifting fortunes as no one but 
an old Californian has ever experienced. 

The three inseparables were snugly rolled 
up in their blankets, Bill loudly snoring in his 
bunk, when the distant booming of a gun 
caused Walter to raise his head and say 
drowsily, '' Hello! a steamer's in." 

" I don't care if there's twenty steamers," 
Charley yaw r ned, at the same time burying 
his nose still deeper under his blanket; 'I 
was almost gone and now you've made me 
begin all over again. All ashore that's goin' 
ashore." 



XIX 

HEARTS OF GOLD 

MR. BRIGHT came in that steamer. As 
Walter's letter seemed to hold out fair hopes 
of recovering some part of the Southern Cross 
and her cargo, the merchant had decided to 
look into the matter himself, though in truth 
both he and his partners had long regarded 
the venture as a dead loss. 

Had he suddenly dropped from the clouds, 
the Argonaut's little company could not have 
been more astonished than when the merchant 
stepped on deck, smiling benignantly at the 
evident consternation he thus created. 

After a hearty greeting all round, though 
poor Walter turned all colors at the remem- 
brance of how and where they had last met, 

Mr. Bright began by explaining that he had 

262 



HEARTS OF GOLD 263 

found them out through the consignee of the 
Southern Cross. ' But where in the world 
is the Southern Cross?' he asked. " Here 
has the boatman been rowing me around for 
the last hour, trying to find her. Nothing 
has happened to her, I hope," he hastily 
added, observing the friends exchanging sly 
glances. 

This question, of course, led to an explana- 
tion from Walter, during which the old mer- 
chant's face was a study. His first look of 
annoyance soon changed to one of blank 
amazement, finally settling down into a broad 
smile of complete satisfaction when the story 
was all told. Then he shook his gray head 
as if the problem was quite too knotty for him 
to solve, how these boys, hardly out of their 
teens, should have dared, first to engage in 
such a brilliant transaction, and then have suc- 
ceeded in carrying it through to the end with- 
out a hitch. 

" Pretty well for beginners, I must say," 
he finally declared. u Taken altogether that's 



264 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

about the boldest operation I ever heard of, 
and IVe known a few in my experience as a 
business man. But," looking at Walter, 
" where's all this money? Quite safe, I 
hope." 

By way of answer, the young men brought 
out their treasure from various ingenious 
hiding-places, the fowling piece included. 
When all the belts and parcels of dust were 
piled in a heap on the table, Mr. Bright sat 
for some time with his hand over his eyes with- 
out speaking. What the merchant's thoughts 
were it were vain to guess. Finally he said, 

You seem to have done everything for the 
best. Bill here was quite right about the 
ship. She is earning something where she is, 
at least. Now about the cargo? ' turning to 
Walter; " I think you said in your letter that 
Charley here bought half of that in?' 

Walter gave a nod of assent. 

"Why, then," resumed Mr. Bright, "as 
the other half belongs to his partner, I don't 
see that we've anything to do with this money. 



HEARTS OF GOLD 265 

Perhaps we may compromise as to the ship," 
he added, looking at Charley. 

Charley then explained his agreement with 
his partner, who had so mysteriously disap- 
peared. " I sold out to Walter. Settle it 
with him," he finished, jamming his hands 
in his pockets and turning away. 

"Well, then, Walter, what do you say?' 

" I say that Charley ought to have half 
the profits. Why, when I wrote you, the 
lumber was worthless. Besides, Charley did 
all the business. Settle it with him." 

' I see. The situation was changed from 
a matter of a few hundreds to thousands 
shortly after your letter was written." Walter 
nodded. " And you don't care to take ad- 
vantage of it?' Walter simply folded his 
arms defiantly. ' But between you you saved 
the cargo," the merchant rejoined. " We've 
no claim. You must come to terms. Was 
there no writing? ' 

Walter scowled fiercely at Charley, who, 
notwithstanding, immediately produced his 



266 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

copy of the agreement. The merchant 
glanced over it with a smile hovering on his 
lips. 

Why, this is perfectly good," he declared. 

Well, then, as neither of you has a proposi- 
tion to make, I'll make you one. Perhaps 
Walter here felt under a moral obligation to 
look after our interests in spite of the unjust 
treatment he had received. That I can now 
understand, and I ask his pardon. But you, 
Charles, had no such inducement." 

1 No inducement ! ' Charley broke out, 
with a quivering lip; "no inducement, heh, 
to see that boy righted? " he repeated, strug- 
gling hard to keep down the lump in his 
throat. 

( Axin' pardons don't mend no broken 
crockery," observed Bill gruffly. 

Mr. Bright showed no resentment at this 
plain speech. He sat wiping his glasses in 
deep thought. Perhaps there was just a little 
moisture in his own eyes, over this evidence of 
two hearts linked together as in bands of steel. 



HEARTS OF GOLD 267 

The silence was growing oppressive, when 
Walter nerved himself to say: ( You see, sir, 
Charley and me, we are of one mind. As for 
me, I'm perfectly satisfied to take what I put 
in to fit Charley out, provided you pay him 
back his investment, and what's right for his 
and Bill's time and trouble." 

Charley coughed a little at this liberal pro- 
posal, but Walter signed to him to keep quiet. 
Bill grunted out something that might pass 
for consent. 

But Mr. Bright was not the man to take 
advantage of so much generosity. In truth, 
he had already formed in his own mind a plan 
by which to come to an agreement. Chang- 
ing the subject for the moment, he suddenly 
asked, ' By the way, have you never heard 
anything of Ramon? ' 

At this unexpected question a broad grin 

stole over the faces of the three kidnapers. 

' I was coming to that," Walter replied, 

bringing out from his chest the money and 

papers which Ramon had been so lately com- 



268 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

pelled to disgorge. The merchant took them 
in his hands, ran his eye rapidly over them, 
and exclaimed in astonishment, What! did 
he make this restitution of his own accord? 
Wonders will never cease, I declare." 

"Well, no, sir, not exactly that; the truth 
is, he was a trifleobstinate about it at first, but 
we found a way to persuade him. That con- 
fession was signed in the very same chair you 
are now sitting in." 

Mr. Bright again said, with a sigh of deep 
satisfaction, ' Marvelous ! We shall now 
pay everything we owe, except our debt to 
you, Walter; that we can never pay." 

' If my good name is cleared, I'm perfectly 
satisfied," Walter rejoined, a little nervously, 
yet with a feeling that this was the happiest 
day of his life. 

i And his good name, too, why don't you 
say?' interrupted the matter-of-fact Bill, 
from his corner. " Seems to me that's about 
the size of it," he finished, casting a meaning 
look at the dignified old merchant, who sat 



HEARTS OF GOLD 269 

there twiddling his glasses, clearly oppressed 
by the feeling that, as between himself 
and Walter, Walter had acted the nobler 
part. He could hardly control a slight 
tremor in his voice when he began to speak 
again. 

" I see how it is," he said. " You return 
good for evil. It was nobly done, I grant 
you nobly done. But you must not wonder 
at my surprise, for I own I expected nothing of 
the sort. Still, all the generosity must not 
be on one side. By no means. Since I've 
sat here I've been thinking that now we are 
embarked in the California trade, we couldn't 
do better than to start a branch of the concern 
in this city. Now, don't interrupt," raising 
an admonitory hand, ' until you hear me 
through. If you, Walter, and you, Charles, 
in whom I have every confidence if you two 
will accept an equal partnership, your actual 
expenses to be paid at any rate, we will put 
all the profits of this lumber trade of yours 
into the new house to start with. Suppose 



2 7 o THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

we call it Bright, Seabury & Company. Fix 
that to suit yourselves, only my name ought 
to stand first, I think, because it will set Wal- 
ter here right before the world." 

Neither Walter nor Charley could have 
said one word for the life of him, so much 
were they taken by surprise. Bill's eyes 
fairly bulged out of his shaggy head. Mr. 
Bright went on to say, " With our credit re- 
stored, we can send you all the goods you 
may want. Suppose we now go and deposit 
this money one-half to the new firm's credit, 
one half in trust for Charles' former partner. 
I myself will put a notice of the copartner- 
ship in to-morrow's papers, and as soon as I 
get home in the Boston papers, and I should 
greatly like to see the new sign up before I 
go." 

It was a long speech, but never was one 
listened to with more rapt attention. Char- 
ley turned as red as a beet, Walter hung his 
head, Bill blew his nose for a full half- 
minute. 



HEARTS OF GOLD 271 

Where does Bill come in ? " he demanded, 
with a comical side glance at the merchant. 

His question, with the long face he put on, 
relieved the strain at once. 

" Oh, never fear, old chap; you shall have 
my place and pay on the old ship," Charley 
hastened to assure him. 

" Then you accept," said Mr. Bright, shak- 
ing hands with each of the new partners in 
turn. " Something tells me that this is the 
best investment of my life. The papers shall 
be made out to-day, while we are looking up 
a store together. Really, now, I feel as if I 
ought to give a little dinner in honor of the 
new firm long life and prosperity to it! 
Where shall it be? " 

" What ails this 'ere old ship where the 
old house came to life agin, an' the new 
babby wuz fust born inter the world?" was 
Bill's ready suggestion. 

' Capital ! couldn't be better," exclaimed 
the merchant. " And now," taking out his 
notebook, " tell me what I can do for each of 



2 7 2 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

you personally when I get back to the 
States?" 

Walter spoke first. " Please look up my 
old aunty, and see her made comfortable." 
Mr. Bright jotted down the address with an 
approving nod, then looked up at Charley. 

" Send out a couple of donkey engines; 
horses are too slow." 

Mr. Bright then turned to Bill. 
" Me? Oh, well, I've got no aunt, I've no 
use for donkeys. You might lick that sneak- 
in' perleeceman on the wharf an' send me his 



resate.' 



When the two young men took leave of 
Mr. Bright, on board the John L. Stephens, 
after a hearty hand-shaking all round, that 
gentleman gave them this parting advice : 
' Make all the friends you can, and keep 
them if you can. Remember, nothing is 
easier than to make enemies." 

At a meaning look from Walter, Charley 
withdrew himself out of earshot. Walter 
fidgeted a little, blushed, and then managed to 



HEARTS OF GOLD 273 

ask, ' Have I your permission to write to 
Miss Dora, sir? " 

Mr. Bright looked surprised, then serious, 
then amused. ' Oho ! now I begin to catch 
on. That's how the land lies, is it? So that 
was the reason why you were prowling around 
our house one night after dark, was it? Well, 
well ! Certainly you may write to Dora. 
And by the way, when next you pass through 
our street you may ring the doorbell." 



XX 

BRIGHT, SEABURY & COMPANY 

THUS the new firm entered upon its future 
career with bright prospects. A suitable 
warehouse on the waterfront was leased for a 
term of years. True to their determination 
to stick together, the two junior partners fitted 
up a room in the second story, and on the day 
that the doors were first opened for business 
they moved in. The next thing was to get 
some business to do. 

Charley had a considerable acquaintance 
among the ranchmen across the Bay, which he 
now improved by making frequent trips to 
solicit consignments of country produce. 
The sight of an empty store and bare walls 
was at first depressing, but their first shipments 

from the East could not be expected for sev- 

274 



BRIGHT, SEABVRY &T COMPANY 275 

eral months. There was a sort of tacit under- 
standing that Walter should attend to the 
financial end of the business, while Charley 
took care of the outdoor concerns. They 
were no longer boys. The sense of assumed 
responsibilities had made them men. 

The two partners were busy receiving a 
sloop-load of potatoes, with their shirt 
sleeves rolled up, when a big, burly, be- 
whiskered individual dropped in upon them. 
Scenting a customer, Charley, always for- 
ward, briskly asked what they could do for 
him. 

" I want to see the senior partner. 1 ' 

Charley nodded toward Walter, who was 
checking off the weights. 

The man gave a quick look at the tall, 
straight young fellow before him, then said, 
u Can I speak to you in private for five 
minutes ? ' 

" Come this way," Walter replied, show- 
ing the stranger into the little office. 

The newcomer sat down, crossed one leg 



2 76 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

over the other, stroked his long beard reflec- 
tively a little, and said, " I've come on a 
very confidential matter. Can I depend upon 
the strictest privacy?' 

" You may," said Walter, quite astonished 
at this rather unexpected opening. ' No- 
body will interrupt us here." 

The man cast an inquisitive look around, 
as if to make sure there were no eaves- 
droppers near, then, lowering his voice almost 
to a whisper, said pointedly, You may have 
heard something about a plan to aid the poor, 
oppressed natives of Nicaragua to throw off 
the tyrannical yoke of their present rulers? ' 
' I've seen something to that effect in the 
papers," said Walter evasively. 

' So much the better. That clears the 
way of cobwebs. I want your solemn prom- 
ise that what passes between us shall not be 
divulged to a human being." 

1 1 have no business secrets from my part- 
ners," Walter objected. 

" Your partners ! Oh ! of course not." 



BRIGHT, SEA BURY &f COMPANY 277 

" I've already promised," Walter assented, 
more and more mystified by the stranger's 
manner. " Nobody asked you for your 
secrets. You can do as you like about telling 
them," he continued rather sharply. 

" I'll trust you. You are a young concern. 
Well connected. Bang-up references. Likely 
to get on top of the heap, and nat'rally want 
to make a strike. Nothing like seizing upon 
a golden opportunity. There is a tide ' 
you know the rest. Now, I'm just the man 
to put you in the way of doing it, as easy as 
rolling off a log." 

As Walter made no reply, the visitor, after 
waiting a moment for his words to take effect, 
went on : " Now, listen. I don't mind telling 
you, in the strictest confidence, then, that I'm 
fiscal agent for this here enterprise. I'm in 
it for glory and the diner o. We want some 
enterprising young firm like yours to furnish 
supplies for the emigrants we're sending down 
there," jerking his head toward the south. 
" There's a big pile in it for you, if you 



2 78 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

will take hold with us and see the thing 
through." 

Walter kept his eyes upon the speaker, but 
said nothing. 

" You see, it's a perfectly legitimate trans- 
action, don't you ? ' resumed the fiscal agent 
a little anxiously. 

" Then why so much secrecy? ' 

" Oh ! there's always a lot of people pry- 
ing round into what don't concern them. 
Busybodies! If it gets out that our people 
aren't peaceable emigrants before we're good 
and ready, the whole thing might get knocked 
into a cocked hat. They'd say well, they 
even might call us filibusters," the man ad- 
mitted with an injured air. 

Walter smiled a knowing smile. " What 
do you want us to do ? ' he asked. 

In the first place, we want cornmeal, hard 
bread, bacon, potatoes, an' sich, for a hundred 
and fifty men for two months. I can give 
you the figures to a dot," the agent rejoined, 
on whom Walter's smile had not been lost. 



BRIGHT, SEABURY &f COMPANY 279 

" See here." He drew out of his pocket a 
package of freshly printed bonds, purporting 
to be issued by authority of the Republic of 
Nicaragua, and passed them over for Wal- 
ter's inspection. " Now, the fact is, we want 
all our ready funds for the people's outfit, 
advance money, vessel's charter, and so on. 
Now, I'm going to be liberal with you. I'll 
put up this bunch of twenty thousand dollars 
in bonds, payable on the day Nicaragua is 
free, for five thousand dollars' worth of pro- 
visions at market price. Think of that! 
Twenty thousand dollars for five thousand 
dollars. You can't lose. We've got things 
all fixed down there. Why, man, there's sil- 
ver and gold and jewels enough in the 
churches alone to pay those bonds ten times 
over ! ' 

" What ! rob the churches ! ' Walter ex- 
claimed, knitting his brows. 

" Why, no; I believe they call that merely 
a forced loan nowadays," objected the fiscal 
agent in some embarrassment. 



2 8o THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

Seeing that he paused for a reply, Walter 
observed that he would consult his partner. 
Charley was called in and the proposal gone 
over again with him. As soon as advised of 
its purport he turned on his heel. 

" Not any in mine," was his prompt de- 
cision. 

" Mine either," assented Walter. 

The stranger seemed much disappointed, 
but not yet at the end of his resources. 
" Well, then," he began again, " you take the 
bonds, sell them for a fair discount for cash, 
and use the proceeds towards those pro- 
visions? ' 

'Hadn't you better do that yourself? 
We're not brokers. We're commission mer- 
chants. If you come to us with cash in hand 
we'll sell you anything money will buy, and 
no questions asked; but Nicaragua bonds, 
payable any time and no time, are not in our 
line." So said Walter. 

' Not much," echoed Charley. 

" Your line seems to be small potatoes," 



BRIGHT, SEABURY & COMPANY 281 

muttered the stranger testily. Then quickly 
checking himself, he carelessly asked, " I sup- 
pose you'd have no objection to keeping these 
bonds in your safe for a day or two for me, 
giving me a receipt for them, or the equiva- 
lent? I don't feel half easy about carrying 
them about with me." 

" Why, no," said Charley, looking at Wal- 
ter, to see how he would take it. 

" Yes," objected Walter, " most de- 
cidedly." 

"'No;' 'yes;' who's boss here, any- 
how?' sneered the agent, dimissing his 
wheedling tone, now that he had played his 
last card. Even Charley seemed a trifle 
nettled at being snubbed by Walter in the 
presence of a stranger. After all, it seemed a 
trifling favor to ask of them. 

" My partner and I can settle that matter 
between ourselves. Once for all, we don't 
choose to be mixed up in your filibustering 
schemes in any way. Your five minutes have 
grown to three-quarters of an hour already. 



282 THE YOUNG VI GIL ANTES 

This is our busy day," he concluded, as a 
broad hint to the stranger to take leave, and 
at once. 

" Very well," said the unmoved fiscal agent, 
buttoning up his coat. " But you'll repent, 
all the same, having thrown away the finest 
opportunity of making a fortune ever 
offered " 

" This way out, sir," Charley interrupted, 
throwing wide the office door. 

When the strange visitor had gone Char- 
ley asked Walter why he refused to let 
the bonds be put in the safe. ' Now we've 
made an enemy," he said resignedly. 

To let him raise money on that receipt for 
twenty thousand dollars, or equivalent on 
Mr. Bright's name? No, sir-ee. Where 
were your wits, Charles Wormwood? That 
fellow's a sharper ! ' 

' Guess I'd better attend to those pota- 
toes," was all the junior partner could find to 
say, suiting the action to the word. 

As was quite natural, much curiosity was 



BRIGHT, SEA BURY fcf COMPANY 283 

felt as to what had become of Ramon, by his 
former business associates. In some way he 
had found out that Mr. Bright was in San 
Francisco, and taking counsel of his fears of 
being sent back to Boston as a confessed felon, 
he cast his Jot among the most lawless adven- 
turers of the day. Learning that a filibuster- 
ing expedition was being fitted out at San 
Francisco against Lower California, under 
command of Walker, the " Gray-eyed Man of 
Destiny," Ramon joined it, keeping in hiding 
meanwhile, until the vessel was ready to sail. 
As is well known, the affair was a complete 
failure, Walker's famished band being com- 
pelled to surrender to the United States 
officers at San Diego. From this time Ra- 
mon disappeared. 



Some five years later a young man, ruddy- 
cheeked, robust, and well though not fop- 
pishly dressed, drove up to the door of a 
pretty cottage in one of the most fashionable 
suburbs of Boston. Alighting from his 



2 8 4 THE YOUNG VIGILANTES 

buggy and hitching his horse, he walked 
quickly up the driveway to the house. The 
front door flew open by the time he had put 
his hand on the knob; and a young woman, 
with the matchless New England pink and 
white in her cheeks, called out, Why, Wal- 
ter, what brings you home so early to-day? 
Has anything happened? ' 

Yes, Dora; Charles Wormwood is com- 
ing out to dine with us to-day. He only ar- 
rived to-day overland. I want to show him 
my wife." 



THE END 






THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY 
REFERENCE DEPARTMENT 



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