The Gray Dawn by Stewart Edward White
But this peaceful outcome did not suit the aristocratic wing of the Law and Order party in the least. The haughty, supremely individualistic, bold, forceful, often charming coterie of fire-eaters had, in their opinion, been insulted, and they wanted reprisal, punishment, blood. Terry, Baker, Bennett, Miles, Webb, Nugent, Blatchford, Rowlee, Caldwell, Broderick, Ware, Volney Howard, Black--to mention only a few--chafed intolerably. Such men were accustomed to have their own way, to cherish an ultra-sensitive "honour," to be looked up to; had come to consider themselves as especially privileged, to look upon themselves as direct representatives of the only proper government and administration of law. This revolt of the "lower classes," the "smug, psalm-singing Yankees," the "shopkeepers," was intolerable impudence. Because of a series of accidents, proper resentment of such impudence, due punishment of such denial of the law had been postponed. It was not, therefore, abrogated.
When, therefore, the committee announced July 5th as a definite date for disbanding, the lawful authorities and their upholders, blinded by their passions, were distinctly disappointed. Where the common citizen perceived only the welcome end of a necessary job well done, they saw slipping away the last chance for a clash of arms that should teach these rebels their place. It was all very well to talk of arresting the ringleaders and bringing them to justice. In the present lamentable demoralization of the courts it might not work; and even if it did work, the punishment of ringleaders was small satisfaction as compared to triumphant vindication in pitched battle.
Sherman had resigned command of the military in disgust when he found that General Wool and Captain Farragut had no intention of supplying him Federal arms, thus closing--save for later inaccurate writing in his "Memoirs"--an unfortunate phase of his career. In his stead had been chosen General Volney Howard. Howard was a rather fat, very pompous, wholly conceited bombastes furioso with apparently remarkable lack of judgment or grasp of a situation. In the committee's action looking toward adjournment he actually thought he saw a sign of weakening!
"Now is the moment for us to show our power!" he said.
In this he gained the zealous support of Judge Terry and Major Marmaduke Miles, two others with more zeal than discretion. These three managed to persuade Governor Johnson to order a parade of State troops in the streets of San Francisco. Their argument was that such a parade--of legally organized forces--would overawe the citizens; their secret hope, however, was that such a show would provoke the desired conflict. This hope they shared with Howard, after the governor's order had been obtained. Howard's vanity and inclinations jumped together. He consented. Altogether, it was a very pretty little plot.
By now the Law and Order forces had become numerically formidable. The bobtail and rag-tag, ejected either by force or by fright, flocked to the colours. A certain proportion of the militia remained in the ranks, though a majority had resigned. A large contingent of reckless, wild young men, without a care or a tie in the world, with no interest in the rights of the case, or, indeed, in themselves, avid only for adventure, offered themselves as soon as the prospects for a real fight became good. And there were always the five hundred discomfited Texans.
Nor were arms now lacking. Contrary to all expectation, the committee had scrupulously refrained from meddling with the State armouries. All militia muskets were available. In addition the State had now the right to a certain quota of Federal arms, stored in the arsenal at Benicia. These could be requisitioned.
At this point in the planning weasly little Jimmy Ware had a bright idea.
"Look here!" he cried, "how many of those Benicia muskets are there?"
"About a hundred and fifty stand, sir," Howard told him.
"Now they can't help us a whole lot," propounded Ware. "They are too few. But why can't we use them for bait, to get those people on the wrong side of the fence?"
"What do you mean?" asked Terry, who knew Ware intimately.
"Suppose they are shipped from Benicia to the armouries in the city; they are legally Federal property until they are delivered, aren't they?"
"Well, if the Stranglers should happen to seize them while they're still Federal property, they've committed a definite offence against the United States, haven't they?"
"What do we care about that now?" asked Major Marmaduke Miles, to whom this seemed irrelevant.
But Judge Terry's legal mind was struck with the beauty and simplicity of this ruse.
"Hold on!" he cried. "If we ship them in a boat, the seizure will be piracy. If they intercept those arms, they're pirates, and we can legally call on the Federal forces--and they'll be compelled to respond, egad!"
"They're pretty smart; suppose they smell a rat?" asked Miles doubtfully.
"Then we'll have the muskets where we want them, anyway. It's worth trying," replied Ware.
"I know just the man," put in Terry. "I'll send for him."
Shortly appeared a saturnine, lank, bibulous individual known as Rube Maloney. To him Terry explained. He was to charter a sloop, take the muskets aboard--and get caught.
"No resistance, mind you!" warned Terry.
"Trust me for that," grinned Rube. "I ain't anxious for no punctured skin, nor yit a stretched neck."
"Pick your men carefully."
"I'll take Jack Phillips and Jim McNab," said Rube, after a moment's thought, "and possibly a few refreshments?" he suggested.
Terry reached into his pocket.
"Certainly, certainly," said he. "Treat yourself well."
There remained only to see that the accurate details should get to the Committee of Vigilance, but in such a manner as to avoid suspicion that the information had been "planted."
"Is there anybody we can trust on their rolls?" asked Terry.
But it was reluctantly conceded that the Vigilantes had pretty well cleaned out the doubtful ones. Here again, the resourceful Jimmy Ware came to the rescue.
"I know your man--Morrell. He'll get it to them. As far as anybody knows, he hasn't taken sides at all."
"Will you see him?" asked Terry.
"I'll see him," promised Jimmy Ware.