The Gray Dawn by Stewart Edward White
After leaving the office where they had made their report to their employers, Rube Maloney and his two friends visited all the saloons. There they found sympathetic and admiring audiences. They reviled the committee collectively and singly; bragged that they would shoot Coleman, Truett, Durkee, and some others at sight; flourished weapons, and otherwise became so publicly and noisily obstreperous that the committee decided they needed a lesson. Accordingly they instructed Sterling Hopkins, with four others, to rearrest the lot and bring them in. Hopkins was a bulldog, pertinacious, rough, a faithful creature.
News of these orders ran ahead of their performance. Rube and his satellites dropped everything and fled to their masters like threatened dogs. Their masters, who included Terry, Bowie, Major Marmaduke Miles, and a few others, happened to be discussing the situation in the office of Richard Ashe, a Texan, and an active member of "the chivalry." The three redoubtables burst in on this gathering, wild-eyed, scared, with, the statement that a thousand stranglers were at their heels.
"Better hide 'em," suggested Bowie.
But hot-headed Terry, seconded by equally hot-headed Ashe, would have none of this.
"By gad, let them try it!" cried the judge. "I've been aching for this chance!"
Therefore when Hopkins, having left his small posse at the foot of the stairs, knocked and entered, he was faced by the muzzles of half a dozen pistols, and profanely told to get out of there. He was no fool, so he obeyed. If Terry had possessed the sense of a rooster, or a single quality of leadership, he would have seen that this was not the moment to precipitate a crisis. The forces of his own party were neither armed nor ready. But here, as in all other important actions of his career, he was governed by the haughty and headstrong passions of the moment--as when later he justified himself in attempting to shoot down an old and unarmed man. Hopkins left his men at the foot of the stairs, borrowed a horse from Dr. Beverly Cole, who was passing, and galloped to headquarters. There he was instructed to return, to keep watch, that reinforcements would follow. He arrived at the building in which Ashe's office was located, in time to see Maloney, Terry, Ashe, McNabb, Bowie, and Rowe all armed with shotguns, just turning the far corner. He dismounted and called on his men to follow. The little posse dogged the judge's party for some distance. For a time no attention was paid to them, but as they pressed closer Terry, Ashe, and Maloney whirled and presented their shotguns. The movement was probably intended only as a threat; but Hopkins, always bold to the point of rashness, made a sudden rush at Maloney. Judge Terry thrust his gun at the Vigilante officer who seized it by the barrel. At the same instant Ashe pressed the muzzle of his weapon against one Bovee's breast, but hesitated to pull the trigger. It was getting to be unhealthy to shoot men in the open street.
"Are you a friend?" he faltered.
"Yes," replied Bovee, and by a rapid motion struck the barrel aside.
Another of the Vigilantes named Barry covered Rowe with a pistol. Rowe's "chivalry" oozed. He dropped his gun and fled toward the armoury. The others struggled for possession of weapons, but nobody fired. Suddenly Terry whipped out a knife and plunged it into Hopkins's neck. Hopkins relaxed his hold on Terry's shotgun and staggered back.
"I am stabbed! Take them, Vigilantes!" he cried.
He sank to the pavement. Terry and his friends dropped everything and ran toward the armoury. Of the Vigilante posse only Bovee and Barry remained, but these two pursued the fleeing Law and Order men to the very portals of the armoury itself. When the door was slammed in their faces, they took up their stand outside, they two holding within several hundred men! At the end of ten minutes a pompous, portly individual came up under full sail, cast a detached and haughty glance at the two quiet men lounging unwarrantedly in his path, and attempted to pass inside.
"You cannot enter here," said Bovee grimly, as they barred his way.
The pompous man turned purple.
"Do you know who I am?" he demanded.
"I don't give a damn who you are," replied Bovee, still quietly.
"I am Major-General Volney E. Howard!"
"You cannot enter here," repeated Bovee, and this time he said it in a tone of voice that sent the major-general scurrying away.
After a short interval another man dashed up very much in a hurry. Mistaking Bovee and Barry for sentinels, he cried as he ran up:
"I am a lieutenant in Calhoun Bennett's company, and I have been sent here to--"
"I am a member of the Committee of Vigilance," interrupted Barry, "and you cannot enter."
"What!" cried the officer, in astonishment. "Have the Vigilance Committee possession of this building?"
"They have," was the reply of the dauntless two.
The lieutenant rolled up his eyes and darted away faster than he had come. A few moments later, doubtless to the vast relief of the "outside garrison" of the armoury within which five or six hundred men were held close by this magnificent bluff, the great Vigilante bell boomed out: one, two, three, rest; then one, two, three, rest; and repeat.
Immediately the streets were alive with men. Merchants left their customers, clerks their books, mechanics their tools. Dray-men stripped their horses of harness, abandoned their wagons where they stood, and rode away to their cavalry. Clancey Dempster's office was only four blocks from headquarters. At the first stroke of the bell he leaped from his desk, ran down the stairs, and jumped into his buggy. Yet he could drive only three of the four blocks, so dense already was the crowd. He abandoned his rig in the middle of the street and forced his way through afoot. Two days later he recovered his rig. In the building he found the companies, silently, without confusion, falling into line.
"All right!" he called encouragingly. "Keep cool! Take your time about it!"
"Ah, Mr. Dempster," they replied, "we've waited long! This is the clean sweep!"
James Olney was lying in bed with a badly sprained ankle when the alarm bell began to toll. He commandeered one boot from a fellow-boarder with extremely large feet, and hobbled to the street. There he seized by force of arms the passing delivery wagon of a kerosene dealer, climbed to the seat, and lashed the astonished horse to a run. San Francisco streets ran to chuck holes and ruts in those days, and the vehicle lurched and banged with a grand rattle and scatteration of tins and measures. The terrified driver at last mustered courage to protest.
"You are spilling my kerosene!" he wailed.
"Damn your kerosene, sir!" bellowed the general; then relenting: "I will pay you for your kerosene!"
Up to headquarters he sailed full tilt, and how he got through the crowd without committing manslaughter no one tells. There he was greeted by wild cheering, and was at once lifted bodily to the back of a white horse, the conspicuous colour of which made it an excellent rallying point.
Within an incredibly brief space of time they were off for the armoury; the military companies marching like veterans; the artillery rumbling over the rude pavements; the cavalry jogging along to cover the rear. A huge roaring mob accompanied them, followed them, raced up the parallel streets to arrive before the armoury at the same moment as the first files.
The armoury square was found to be deserted except for the intrepid Barry and Bovee, who still marched back and forth before the closed door. No one had entered or left the building.
Inside the armoury the first spirit of bravado and fight-to-the-last-ditch had died to a sullen stubbornness. Nobody had much, to say. Terry was very contrite as well he might be. A judge of the Supreme Court, who had no business being in San Francisco at all, sworn to uphold the law, had stepped out from his jurisdiction to commit as lawless and idiotic a deed of passion as could have been imagined! Whatever chances the Law and Order party might have had, could they have mobilized their forces, were dissipated. Their troops were scattered in small units; their rank and file were heaven knew where; their enemies, fully organized, had been mustered by the alarm bell to full alertness and compactness. And Terry's was the hand that had struck that bell! For the only time in his recorded history David Terry's ungoverned spirit was humbled. Until he found that nothing immediate was going to happen to him, and while under the silent but scathing disapprobation of his companions, he actually talked of resigning! Parenthetically, the fit did not last long, and he soon reared, his haughty crest as high as ever. But now, listening to the roar of the mob outside, peeping at the grim thousands of armed men deploying before the armoury, he regretted his deed.
"This is very unfortunate; very unfortunate!" he said, "But you shall not imperil your lives for me. It is I they want. I will surrender to them."
Instead of the prompt expostulation he expected, a dead silence greeted these words.
"There is nothing else to do," agreed Ashe at last.
An officer was sent to negotiate.
"We will deliver up the armoury if you will agree not to give us over to the mob," he told the committee.
"We hold, and intend to hold, the mob under absolute control. We have nothing in common with mobs," was Coleman's reply.
The doors were then thrown open, and a company of the Vigilante troops marched in. Within ten minutes, the streets were cleared. The six hundred prisoners, surrounded by a solid body of infantry with cavalry on the flanks, were marched to headquarters. The city was jubilant. This, at last, was the clean sweep! Men went about with shining faces, slapping each other on the back. And Coleman, the wise general, realizing that compromises were useless, peace impossible, came to a decision. Shortly from headquarters the entire Vigilante forces moved in four divisions toward the cardinal points of the compass. From them small squads were from time to time detached and sent out to right or left. The main divisions surrounded the remaining four big armouries; the smaller squads combed the city house by house for arms. In the early morning the armouries capitulated. By sun-up every weapon in the city had been taken to Fort Gunnybags.