Treasure and Trouble Therewith: A Tale of California

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TREASURE and TROUBLE THEREWITH

A TALE OF CALIFORNIA
BY GERALDINE BONNER

1917

I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO THE MEMORY OF MY FATHER

JOHN BONNER
WHO, HIMSELF A WRITER, TRAINED ME IN THE WORK HE LOVED. WHAT MERIT THE
READER MAY FIND IN THESE PAGES IS THE RESULT OF THAT TRAINING, UNDERTAKEN
WITH A FATHER’S PRIDE, CARRIED ON WITH A FATHER’S BELIEF AND
ENCOURAGEMENT.
GERALDINE BONNER

CONTENTS

I. HANDS UP
II. THE TULES
III. MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE
IV. THE DERELICT
V. THE MARKED PARAGRAPH
VI. PANCHA
VII. THE PICAROON
VIII. THOSE GIRLS OF GEORGE’S
IX. GREEK MEETS GREEK
X. MICHAELS THE MINER
XI. THE SOLID GOLD NUGGET
XII. A KISS
XIII. FOOLS IN THEIR FOLLY
XIV. THE NIGHT RIDER
XV. THE LAST DINNER
XVI. THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY
XVII. THE WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING
XVIII. OUTLAWED
XIX. HALF TRUTHS AND INFERENCES
XX. MARK PAYS A CALL
XXI. A WOMAN SCORNED
XXII. THEREBY HANGS A TALE
XXIII. THE CHINESE CHAIN
XXIV. LOVERS AND LADIES
XXV. WHAT JIM SAW
XXVI. PANCHA WRITES A LETTER
XXVII. BAD NEWS
XXVIII. CHRYSTIE SEES THE DAWN
XXIX. LORRY SEES THE DAWN
XXX. MARK SEES THE DAWN
XXXI. REVELATION
XXXII. THE VOICE IN THE NIGHT
XXXIII. THE MORNING THAT CAME
XXXIV. LOST
XXXV. THE UNKNOWN WOMAN
XXXVI. THE SEARCH
XXXVII. HAIL AND FAREWELL

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

He … heard the feller at the wheel say, “Hands up!” Frontispiece

“Oh, silly, unbelieving child!” came his voice

As it came it sent up a hoarse cry for food

The ghost of a smile touched her lips

TREASURE and TROUBLE THEREWITH

CHAPTER I

HANDS UP

The time was late August some eleven years ago. The place that part of
central California where, on one side, the plain unrolls in golden
levels, and on the other swells upward toward the rounded undulations of
the foothills.

It was very hot; the sky a fathomless blue vault, the land dreaming in
the afternoon glare, its brightness blurred here and there by shimmering
heat veils. Checkered by green and yellow patches, dotted with the black
domes of oaks, it brooded sleepily, showing few signs of life. At long
intervals ranch houses rose above embowering foliage, a green core in the
midst of fields where the brown earth was striped with lines of fruit
trees or hidden under carpets of alfalfa. To the west the foothills rose
in indolent curves, tan-colored, as if clothed with a leathern hide.
Their hollows were filled with the darkness of trees huddled about hidden
streams, ribbons of verdure that wound from the mountains to the plain.
Farther still, vision faint, remote and immaculate, the white peaks of
the Sierra hung, a painting on the drop curtain of the sky.

Across the landscape a parent stem of road wound, branches breaking from
it and meandering thread-small to ranch and village. It was white-dusted
here, but later would turn red and crawl upward under the resinous
dimness of pine woods to where the mining camps clung on the lower wall
of the Sierra. Already it had left behind the region of farms in
neighborly proximity and the little towns that were threaded along it
like beads upon a string. Watching its eastward course, one would have
noticed that after it crested the first rise it ran free of habitation
for miles.

Along its empty length a dust cloud moved, a tarnishing spot on the
afternoon’s hard brightness. This spot was the one point of energy in the
universal torpor. From it came the rhythmic beat of flying hoofs and the
jingle of harness. It was the Rocky Bar stage, up from Shilo through
Plymouth, across the Mother Lode and then in a steep, straining grade on
to Antelope and Rocky Bar, camps nestling in the mountain gorges. It was
making time now against the slow climb later, the four horses racing, the
reins loose on their backs.

There was only one passenger; the others had been dropped at towns along
the route. He sat on the front seat beside Jim Bailey the driver, his
feet on a pine box and a rifle across his knees. He and Jim Bailey knew
each other well, for he had often come that way, always with his box and
his rifle. He was Wells Fargo’s messenger and his name was Danny Leonard.
In the box at his feet were twelve thousand dollars in coin to be
delivered that night to the Greenhide Mine at Antelope.

With nothing of interest in sight, talk between them was desultory. Jim
Bailey thought they’d take on some men at Plymouth when they stopped
there to victual up. The messenger, squinting at the swimming yellow
distance, yawned and said it might be a good thing, nobody knew when
Knapp and Garland would get busy again. They’d failed in the holdup of
the Rockville stage last spring and it was about time to hear from
them—the road after you passed Plymouth was pretty lonesome. Jim Bailey
snorted contemptuously and spat over the wheel—he guessed Knapp and
Garland weren’t liable to bother him.

After this the conversation dropped. The stifling heat, the whirling dust
clouds broken by whiffs of air, dry as from a kiln and impregnated with
the pungent scent of the tarweed, made the men drowsy. Jim Bailey nodded,
the reins drawing slack between his fingers. Leonard slipped the rifle
from his knees to the floor and relaxed against the back of the seat.
Through half-shut lids he watched the whitened crests of the Sierra
brushed on the turquoise sky.

The horses clattered down a gulley and galloped across a wooden bridge
that spanned a dead watercourse. The ascent was steep and they took it
at a rush, backs humped, necks stretched, hoofs clattering among
loosened stones.

A sudden breeze carried their dust ahead, and for a moment the prospect
was obscured, the trees that filled the gulley, bunched at the summit
into a thicket, just discernible in foggy outline. The horses had gained
the level, Jim Bailey, who knew the road in his sleep, had cheered them
with a familiar chirrup, when the leaders stopped, recoiling in a clatter
of slackened harness on the wheelers. The stage came to a halt so violent
that Jim Bailey lurched forward against the splashboard, the reins jerked
out of his hands. He did not know what had happened, could see nothing
but the horses’ backs, jammed together, lines and traces slapping about
their flanks.

Afterward, describing it at Mormons Landing, he laid it all to the dust.
In that first moment of surprise he hadn’t made out the men, and anyway
who’d have expected it—on the open road in the full of the afternoon?
You couldn’t put any blame on him, sprawled on his knees, the whole thing
coming so quick. When he picked himself up he looked into the muzzle of a
revolver and saw behind it a head, only the eyes showing between the hat
brim and a gunny sack tied round the lower part of the face.

After that it all went so swift you couldn’t hardly tell. He didn’t even
then know there were two of them—heard the feller at the wheel say,
“Hands up,” and thought that was all there was to it—when the one at the
horses’ heads fired. Leonard had given an oath and reached for his gun,
and right with that the report came, and Leonard heaved up with a sort of
grunt, and then settled and was still. The other feller came along down
through the dust, and Jim Bailey, paralyzed, with his hands up, knew
Knapp and Garland had got him at last.

The one at the wheel kept him covered while the other pulled out the box.
He could see him plain, all but his face, a big powerful chap, shoulders
on him like a prize fighter’s, and freckled hands covered with red hair.
He got the box out with a jerk and dropped it, and then, snatching up a
stick, struck the near wheeler a blow on the flank and jumped back into
the bushes.

The horses started, mad, like they were locoed; it was a wonder the stage
wasn’t upset, racing this way and that, up the bank and down on the other
side. Jim Bailey crawled out on the axle, picked up the dragging reins
and got back just in time to keep Leonard from bouncing out. He heaved
him up and held him round the body, and when he got the horses going
straight, took a look at him. That first time he thought he was dead,
white as chalk and with his eyes turned up. But after a spell of going he
decided there was life in him yet, and holding him with one arm,
stretched the other over the splashboard, shaking the reins on the
wheelers’ backs, and the way those horses buckled to their work was worth
gettin’ held up to see.

Half an hour later the Rocky Bar stage came like a cyclone into Mormons
Landing, Jim Bailey hopping like a grasshopper on the front seat, and on
his arm Danny Leonard, shot through the lung. They drew up in front of
the Damfino Saloon, and Mormons Landing, dead among its deserted ditches,
knew again a crowded hour of glorious life. Everybody came running and
lined up along the sidewalk, later to line up along the Damfino Bar. The
widow woman who ran the eating house put Danny Leonard in her own bed and
sent one of her sons, aged six, to San Marco for a doctor, and the other,
aged eight, to Jackson for the sheriff.

Before night fell the news had flashed through the countryside. On ranch
piazza and in cabin doorway, in the camps along the Mother Lode and the
villages of the plain, men were telling one another how Knapp and
Garland had held up the Rocky Bar stage and got away with twelve
thousand dollars in gold.

CHAPTER II

THE TULES

The place of the holdup was on the first upward roll of the hills.
Farther back, along more distant slopes, the chaparral spread like a dark
cloth but here there was little verdure. The rainless California summer
had scorched the country; mounded summit swelled beyond mounded summit
all dried to a uniform ochre. But if you had stood on the rise where the
stage stopped and faced toward the west, you would have seen, stretching
to the horizon, a green expanse that told of water.

This was the tules, a vast spread of marsh covered with bulrushes, flat
as a floor, and extending from a distant arm of the bay back into the
land. It was like a wedge of green thrust through the yellow, splitting
it apart, at one end meeting the sky in a level line, at the other
narrowing to a point which penetrated the bases of the hills. From these
streams wound down ravine and rift till their currents slipped into the
brackish waters of the marsh. Such a stream, dried now to a few stagnant
pools, had worn a way along the gulley where the holdup had occurred.

Down this gulley, the box between them, the bandits ran. Alders and bay
grew thick, sun spots glancing through their leaves, boughs slapping and
slashing back from the passage of the rushing bodies, stones rolling
under the flying feet. The heat was suffocating, the narrow cleft holding
it, the matted foliage keeping out all air. The men’s faces were
empurpled, the gunny sacks about their necks were soaked with sweat. They
spoke little—a grunt, a muttered oath as a stone turned. Doubled under
the branches, crashing through a covert with closed eyes and warding arm,
they fled, now and then pausing for a quick change of hands on the box or
the sweep of a sleeve across a dripping brow. Nearly a half hour from the
time they had started they emerged into brighter light, the trees growing
sparse, the earth moist, a soft coolness rising—the creek’s conjunction
with the tules.

The sun was sloping westward, the sky infinitely blue and clear, golden
light slanting across the plain’s distant edges. Before them, silent, not
a breath stirring the close-packed growth, stretched the marshes. They
were miles in extent; miles upon miles of these level bulrush spears
threaded with languid streams, streams that curved and looped, turned
back upon themselves, narrowed into gleaming veins, widened to miniature
lakes on whose bosom the clouds, the birds and the stars were mirrored.
They were like a crystal inlay covering the face of the tules with an
intricate, shining pattern. No place was ever more deserted, alien,
uninhabitable, making no compromise with the friendly, fruitful land.

Against the muddy edge a rotten punt holding a pole swung deliberate from

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