The Gray Dawn by Stewart Edward White
Up to this day Casey had been very content with his situation. His quarters were the best the place afforded, and they had been made more comfortable. Scores of friends had visited him, hailing him as their champion. He had been made to feel quite a hero. To be sure it was a nuisance to be so confined; but when he shot King, he had anticipated undergoing some inconvenience. It was a price to pay. He understood that there was some public excitement, and that it was well to lie low for a little until that had died down. The momentary annoyance would be more than offset by later prestige. Casey did not in the least fear the courts. He had before his eyes too many reassuring examples. His friends were rallying nobly to his defence. Over the wines and cigars, with which he was liberally supplied, they boasted of their strength and their dispositions--the whole police force of the city, the militia companies sworn, to act in just such emergencies, hundreds of volunteers, if necessary the whole power of the State of California called to put down this affronting of duly constituted law!
But this Sunday morning Casey was uneasy. There seemed to be much whispering in corners, much bustling to and fro. He paced back and forth, fretting, interrogating those about him. But they could or would tell him little--there was trouble;--and they fussed away, leaving Casey alone. As a matter of fact, the withdrawal of the committee's guard of ten, and the formal notice that the truce was thus promptly ended, had caught the Law and Order party unprepared. With five hours' notice--or indeed by next day, even were no notice given--the jail would have been impregnably defended. The sudden move of the committee won; as prompt, decisive moves will.
The bustling of the people in the jail suddenly died. Casey heard no shuffle of feet, no whisper of conversation. The building might have been empty save for himself. But he did hear outside the steady rhythmic tramp of feet.
Sheriff Scannell stood before him, the Vigilantes' written communication in his hand. Casey, looking up from the bed on which he had fallen in sudden shrinking, saw on his face an expression that made him cower. For the first time realization came to him of the straits he was in. His vivid Irish imagination leaped instantaneously from the complacence of absolute safety to the depths of terror. He sprang to his feet.
"You aren't going to betray me! You aren't going to give me up!" he cried, wringing his hands.
"James," replied' Scannell solemnly, "there are three thousand armed men coming for you, and I have not now thirty supporters around the jail."
"Not thirty!" cried. Casey, astonished. For a moment he appeared crushed; then leaped to his feet flourishing a long knife he had drawn from his boot. "I'll, not be taken from this place alive!" he shrieked, beside himself with hysteria. "Where are all you brave fellows who were going to see me through this?"
Scannell looked at him sadly. In the pause came a sharp knocking at the door of the jail. The sheriff turned away. A moment later Casey, listening intently, heard the door open and close, heard the sound of talking. He fairly darted to his table, scrawled a paper, and called to attract attention. Marshal North, answered the summons.
"Give this to them--to the Vigilantes," urged Casey, thrusting the paper into his hands. North glanced through the note.
TO THE VIGILANT COMMITTEE. Gentlemen: I am willing to go before you if you will let me speak but ten minutes. I do not wish the blood of any man upon my head.
But after North had gone to deliver this, Casey again sprang to his feet, again flourished his bowie knife, again ramped up and down, again swore he would never be taken alive. A deputy passed the door. Casey's demeanour collapsed again.
"Tell them," he begged this man earnestly; "tell them if two respectable citizens will promise me gentlemanly treatment, I'll go peaceably! I will not be dragged through the streets like a dog! If they will give me a fair trial and allow me to summon my witnesses, I'll yield!"
And the deputy left him pacing up and down, waving his knife, muttering wildly to, himself.
On entering the jail door Coleman and his companions bowed formally to the sheriff.
"We have come for the prisoner, Casey," said Coleman. "We ask that he be peaceably delivered us handcuffed, at the door, immediately."
"Under existing circumstances," replied Scannell, "I shall make no resistance. The prison and its contents are yours."
But Truett interrupted pointedly:
"We want only the man Casey, at present," he said. "For the rest we hold you strictly accountable."
Scannell bowed without reply. North and the deputy came in succession to deliver Casey's messages, and to report his apparent determination. The committee offered no comment. They penetrated to the ulterior of the jail. Many men, apparently unarmed, idling about as though merely spectators, looked at them curiously as they passed. Casey heard them, coming and sprang back from the door, holding his long knife dramatically poised. Coleman walked directly to the door, where he stopped, looking Casey coldly in the eye. The seconds, passed. Neither man stirred. At the end of a full minute Coleman said sharply:
"Lay down that knife!"
As though his incisive tones had broken the spell, Casey moved. He looked wildly to right and to left; then flung the knife from him and buried his face in his hands.
"Your requests are granted," said Coleman shortly; then to Marshal North: "Open the door and bring him out."