Chapter L

At three o'clock in the afternoon of May 14, 1856, the current issue of the Bulletin was placed on sale. A very few minutes later a copy found its way into the hands of James Casey. Casey at that time, in addition to his political cares, was editor of a small sheet he called the Sunday Times. With this he had strenuously supported the extreme wing of the Law party, which, as has been explained, comprised also the gambling and lawless element. It was suspected by some that his paper was more or less subsidized for the purpose, though the probability is that Casey found his reward merely in political support. This Casey it was who, to his own vast surprise, had at a previous election been returned as elected supervisor; although he was not a candidate, his name was not on the ticket, and no man could be found who had voted for him. Indeed, he was not even a resident of the district. However, Yankee Sullivan, who ran the election, said officially the votes had been cast for him; so elected he was proclaimed. Undoubtedly he proved useful; he had always proved useful at elections elsewhere, seldom appearing in person, but adept at selecting suitable agents. His methods were devious, dishonest, and rough. He was head of the Crescent Fire Engine Company, and was personally popular. In appearance he was a short, slight man, with a bright, keen face, a good forehead, a thin but florid countenance, dark curly hair, and light blue eyes, a type of unscrupulous Irish adventurer with a dash of romantic ideals. Like all the gentlemen rovers of his time, he was exceedingly touchy on the subject of "honour."

In the Bulletin of the date mentioned James Casey read these words, apropos of the threat of one Bagby to shoot Casey on sight:

It does not matter how bad a man Casey had been, or how much benefit it might be to the public to have him out of the way, we cannot accord to any one citizen the right to kill him, or even beat him, without justifiable provocation. The fact that Casey has been an inmate of Sing Sing prison in New York is no offence against the laws of this State; nor is the fact of his having stuffed himself through the ballot box, as elected to the Board of Supervisors from a district where it is said he was not even a candidate, any justification for Mr. Bagby to shoot Casey, however richly the latter may deserve to have his neck stretched for such fraud on the public.

Casey read this in the full knowledge that thousands of his fellow-citizens would also read it. His thin face turned white with anger. He crumpled the paper into a ball and hurled it violently into the gutter, settled his hat more firmly on his head, and proceeded at once to the Bulletin office with the full intention of shooting King on sight. Probably he would have done so, save for the accidental circumstance that King happened to be busy at a table, his back squarely to the door. Casey could not shoot a man in the back without a word. He was breathless and stuttering with excitement. King was alone, but an open door into an adjoining office permitted two witnesses to see and hear.

"What do you mean by that article?" cried Casey in a strangled voice.

King turned slowly, and examined his visitor for a moment.

"What article?" he inquired at last.

"That which says I was formerly an inmate of Sing Sing!"

King gazed at him with a depth of detached, patient sadness in his dark eyes.

"Is it not true?" he asked finally.

"That is not the question," retorted Casey, trying again to work himself up to the rage in which he had entered. "I do not wish my past acts rated up: on that point I am sensitive."

A faint smile came and went on King's lips.

"Are you done?" he asked still quietly; then, receiving no reply, he turned in his chair and leaned forward with a sudden intensity. His next words hit with the impact of bullets: "There's the door! Go! Never show your face here again!" he commanded.

Casey found himself moving toward the open door. He did not want to do this, he wanted to shoot King, or at least to provoke a quarrel, but he was for the moment overcome by a stronger personality. At the door he gathered himself together a little.

"I'll say in my paper what I please!" he asserted, with a show of bravado.

King was leaning back, watching him steadily.

"You have a perfect right to do so," he rejoined. "I shall never notice your paper."

Casey struck himself on the breast.

"And if necessary I shall defend myself!" he cried.

King's passivity broke. He bounded from his seat bristling with anger.

"Go!" he commanded sharply, and Casey went.