Chapter LII
 

The same afternoon Johnny Fairfax and Keith were sitting together in the Monumental's reading-room. They happened to be the only members in the building with the exception of Bert Taylor, who was never anywhere else. Of late Keith had acquired the habit of visiting the reading-room at this empty hour. He was beginning to shrink from meeting his fellowmen. Johnny Fairfax was a great comfort to him, for the express rider was never out of spirits, had a sane outlook, and entertained a genuine friendship for the young lawyer. Although yet under thirty years of age, he was already an "old-timer," for he had come out in '49, and knew the city's early history at first hand.

"This old bell of yours is historical," he told Keith. "Its tolling called together the Vigilantes of '51."

They sat gossiping for an hour, half sleepy with reaction from the fatigues of the day, smoking slowly, enjoying themselves. Everything was very peaceful--the long slant of a sunbeam through dust motes, the buzz of an early bluebottle, the half-heard activities of some of the servants in the pantry beyond, preparing for the rush of the cocktail hour. Suddenly Johnny raised his head and pricked up his ears.

"What the deuce is that!" he exclaimed.

They listened, then descended to the big open engine-room doors and listened again. From the direction of Market Street came the dull sounds of turmoil, shouting, the growl and roar of many people excited by something. Across the Plaza a man appeared, running. As he came nearer, both could see that his face had a very grim expression.

"Here!" called Johnny, as the man neared them. "Stop a minute! Tell us what's the matter!"

The man ceased running, but did not stop. He was panting but evidently very angry. His words came from between gritted teeth.

"Fight," he said briefly. "Casey and James King of William. King's shot."

At the words something seemed to be stilled in Keith's mind. Johnny seized the man by the sleeve.

"Hold on," he begged. "I know that kind of a fight. Tell us."

"Casey went up close to King, said 'come on,' and instantly shot him before King knew what he was saying."

"Killed?"

"Fatally wounded."

"Where's Casey?"

"In jail--of course--where he's safe--with his friends."

"Where you headed for?"

"I'm going to get my gun!" said the man grimly, and began again to run.

They watched his receding figure until it swung around the corner and disappeared. Without warning a white-hot wave of anger swept over Keith. All the little baffling, annoying delays, enmities, technicalities, chicaneries, personal antagonisms, evasions that had made up the Cora trial were in it. He seemed to see clearly the inevitable outcome of this trial also. It would be another Cora-Richardson case over again. A brave spirit had been brutally blotted out by an outlaw who relied confidently on the usual exoneration. With an exclamation Keith darted into the engine house to where hung the rope ready for an alarm. An instant later the heavy booming of the Monumental's bell smote the air.