Chapter XXXVIII
 

As Keith surmised, intimidation had no effect. In such a city of fire- eaters it was promptly tried. A dozen publically announced that they thirsted for his blood, and intended to have it; and the records of the dozen were of determination and courage in such matters. In the gambling resorts and on the streets bets were made and pools formed on the probable duration of King's life. He took prompt notice of this fact. Said the Bulletin's editorial column:

Bets are now being offered, we are told, that the editor of the Bulletin will not be in existence twenty days longer, and the case of Doctor Hogan, of the Vicksburg paper, who was murdered by gamblers of that place, is cited as a warning. Pah! War, then, is the cry, is it? War between the prostitutes and gamblers on one side, and the virtuous and respectable on the other! Be it so, then! Gamblers of San Francisco, you have made your election, and we are ready on our side for the issue!

Keith read this over John Sherwood's shoulder at the Monumental. The ex-gambler, his famous benign spectacles atop his nose, chuckled over it.

"He doesn't scare for a cent, does he?" was his comment. "Strikes me I got out of the ranks of the ungodly just in time. If I were still gambling, I believe I'd take some of those bets he speaks of. He won't last--in this town. But I like his pluck--kind of. Only he's damn bad for business!"

Saying which, John Sherwood, late gambler but now sincerely believing himself a sound and conservative business man, passed the sheet over to Keith.

From vague threats the situation developed rapidly to the definite and personal. One Selover sent a challenge to King, which was refused. Selover then announced his intention of killing King on sight. The Bulletin published this:

Mr. Selover, it is said, carries a knife. We carry a pistol. We hope neither will be required, but if this encounter cannot be avoided, why will Mr. Selover insist on imperilling the lives of others? We pass every afternoon, about half-past four to five o'clock, along Market Street from Fourth to Fifth streets. The road is wide, and not so much frequented as those streets farther in town. If we are to be shot or cut to pieces, for heaven's sake let it be done there. Others will not be injured, and in case we fall, our house is but a few hundred yards beyond, and the cemetery not much farther.

These detailed attacks and bold defiances had the effect of greatly angering those who were the specific objects of attention; of making very uneasy the class to which these victims belonged; of focussing on public matters a public sentiment that was just becoming conscious of itself because of the pinch of hard times; and of rendering contemptuously indignant all of "higher" society.

To this latter category Keith would undoubtedly have belonged--as did his wife and practically all his friends--had it not been for his association with Krafft. Through him the young lawyer came into intimate personal touch with a large class of people who would otherwise have been remote from him. He heard of their difficulties and problems at first hand, saw the actual effect of abuses that, looked at from above, were abstract or academic. Police brutality as a phrase carried little significance; police brutality as a clubbing of Malachi Hogan, who was brought in with his skull crushed, and whose blood stained Keith's new coat, meant something. Waste of public funds, translated before his eyes into eviction for nonpayment of taxes, took on a new significance. Keith saw plainly that a reform was needed. He was not, on that account, in the least sympathetic with King's methods. Like Judge Girvin, he felt them revolutionary and subversive. But he could not share the contempt of his class; rather he respected the editor as a sincere but mistaken man. When his name came up for discussion or bitter vituperation, Keith was silent. He read the Bulletin editorials; and while he in no way endorsed their conclusions or recommendations, he could not but acknowledge their general accuracy. Without his knowing it, he was being educated. He came to realize the need for better administration by the city's officers and a better enforcement of the laws. Very quietly, deep down within himself, he made up his mind that in the Assistant District Attorney's office, at least, the old order of things should cease.