The “Swanhilda” cast off from the docks at Port Costa two days after Presley had left Bonneville and the ranches and made her way up to San Francisco, anchoring in the stream off the City front. A few hours after her arrival, Presley, waiting at his club, received a despatch from Cedarquist to the effect that she would clear early the next morning and that he must be aboard of her before midnight.
He sent his trunks aboard and at once hurried to Cedarquist’s office to say good-bye. He found the manufacturer in excellent spirits.
“What do you think of Lyman Derrick now, Presley?” he said, when Presley had sat down. “He’s in the new politics with a vengeance, isn’t he? And our own dear Railroad openly acknowledges him as their candidate. You’ve heard of his canvass.”
“Yes, yes,” answered Presley. “Well, he knows his business best.”
But Cedarquist was full of another idea: his new venture—the organizing of a line of clipper wheat ships for Pacific and Oriental trade—was prospering.
“The ‘Swanhilda’ is the mother of the fleet, Pres. I had to buy HER, but the keel of her sister ship will be laid by the time she discharges at Calcutta. We’ll carry our wheat into Asia yet. The Anglo-Saxon started from there at the beginning of everything and it’s manifest destiny that he must circle the globe and fetch up where he began his march. You are up with procession, Pres, going to India this way in a wheat ship that flies American colours. By the way, do you know where the money is to come from to build the sister ship of the ‘Swanhilda’? From the sale of the plant and scrap iron of the Atlas Works. Yes, I’ve given it up definitely, that business. The people here would not back me up. But I’m working off on this new line now. It may break me, but we’ll try it on. You know the ‘Million Dollar Fair’ was formally opened yesterday. There is,” he added with a wink, “a Midway Pleasance in connection with the thing. Mrs. Cedarquist and our friend Hartrath ‘got up a subscription’ to construct a figure of California—heroic size—out of dried apricots. I assure you,” he remarked With prodigious gravity, “it is a real work of art and quite a ‘feature’ of the Fair. Well, good luck to you, Pres. Write to me from Honolulu, and bon voyage. My respects to the hungry Hindoo. Tell him ‘we’re coming, Father Abraham, a hundred thousand more.’ Tell the men of the East to look out for the men of the West. The irrepressible Yank is knocking at the doors of their temples and he will want to sell ‘em carpet-sweepers for their harems and electric light plants for their temple shrines. Good-bye to you.”
“Get fat yourself while you’re about it, Presley,” he observed, as the two stood up and shook hands.
“There shouldn’t be any lack of food on a wheat ship. Bread enough, surely.”
“Little monotonous, though. ‘Man cannot live by bread alone.’ Well, you’re really off. Good-bye.”
And as Presley issued from the building and stepped out into the street, he was abruptly aware of a great wagon shrouded in white cloth, inside of which a bass drum was being furiously beaten. On the cloth, in great letters, were the words:
“Vote for Lyman Derrick, Regular Republican Nominee for Governor of California.”
The “Swanhilda” lifted and rolled slowly, majestically on the ground swell of the Pacific, the water hissing and boiling under her forefoot, her cordage vibrating and droning in the steady rush of the trade winds. It was drawing towards evening and her lights had just been set. The master passed Presley, who was leaning over the rail smoking a cigarette, and paused long enough to remark:
“The land yonder, if you can make it out, is Point Gordo, and if you were to draw a line from our position now through that point and carry it on about a hundred miles further, it would just about cross Tulare County not very far from where you used to live.”
“I see,” answered Presley, “I see. Thanks. I am glad to know that.”
The master passed on, and Presley, going up to the quarter deck, looked long and earnestly at the faint line of mountains that showed vague and bluish above the waste of tumbling water.
Those were the mountains of the Coast range and beyond them was what once had been his home. Bonneville was there, and Guadalajara and Los Muertos and Quien Sabe, the Mission of San Juan, the Seed ranch, Annixter’s desolated home and Dyke’s ruined hop-fields.
Well, it was all over now, that terrible drama through which he had lived. Already it was far distant from him; but once again it rose in his memory, portentous, sombre, ineffaceable. He passed it all in review from the day of his first meeting with Vanamee to the day of his parting with Hilma. He saw it all—the great sweep of country opening to view from the summit of the hills at the head waters of Broderson’s Creek; the barn dance at Annixter’s, the harness room with its jam of furious men; the quiet garden of the Mission; Dyke’s house, his flight upon the engine, his brave fight in the chaparral; Lyman Derrick at bay in the dining-room of the ranch house; the rabbit drive; the fight at the irrigating ditch, the shouting mob in the Bonneville Opera House. The drama was over. The fight of Ranch and Railroad had been wrought out to its dreadful close. It was true, as Shelgrim had said, that forces rather than men had locked horns in that struggle, but for all that the men of the Ranch and not the men of the Railroad had suffered. Into the prosperous valley, into the quiet community of farmers, that galloping monster, that terror of steel and steam had burst, shooting athwart the horizons, flinging the echo of its thunder over all the ranches of the valley, leaving blood and destruction in its path.
Yes, the Railroad had prevailed. The ranches had been seized in the tentacles of the octopus; the iniquitous burden of extortionate freight rates had been imposed like a yoke of iron. The monster had killed Harran, had killed Osterman, had killed Broderson, had killed Hooven. It had beggared Magnus and had driven him to a state of semi-insanity after he had wrecked his honour in the vain attempt to do evil that good might come. It had enticed Lyman into its toils to pluck from him his manhood and his honesty, corrupting him and poisoning him beyond redemption; it had hounded Dyke from his legitimate employment and had made of him a highwayman and criminal. It had cast forth Mrs. Hooven to starve to death upon the City streets. It had driven Minna to prostitution. It had slain Annixter at the very moment when painfully and manfully he had at last achieved his own salvation and stood forth resolved to do right, to act unselfishly and to live for others. It had widowed Hilma in the very dawn of her happiness. It had killed the very babe within the mother’s womb, strangling life ere yet it had been born, stamping out the spark ordained by God to burn through all eternity.
What then was left? Was there no hope, no outlook for the future, no rift in the black curtain, no glimmer through the night? Was good to be thus overthrown? Was evil thus to be strong and to prevail? Was nothing left?
Then suddenly Vanamee’s words came back to his mind. What was the larger view, what contributed the greatest good to the greatest numbers? What was the full round of the circle whose segment only he beheld? In the end, the ultimate, final end of all, what was left? Yes, good issued from this crisis, untouched, unassailable, undefiled.
Men—motes in the sunshine—perished, were shot down in the very noon of life, hearts were broken, little children started in life lamentably handicapped; young girls were brought to a life of shame; old women died in the heart of life for lack of food. In that little, isolated group of human insects, misery, death, and anguish spun like a wheel of fire.
BUT THE WHEAT REMAINED. Untouched, unassailable, undefiled, that mighty world-force, that nourisher of nations, wrapped in Nirvanic calm, indifferent to the human swarm, gigantic, resistless, moved onward in its appointed grooves. Through the welter of blood at the irrigation ditch, through the sham charity and shallow philanthropy of famine relief committees, the great harvest of Los Muertos rolled like a flood from the Sierras to the Himalayas to feed thousands of starving scarecrows on the barren plains of India.
Falseness dies; injustice and oppression in the end of everything fade and vanish away. Greed, cruelty, selfishness, and inhumanity are short-lived; the individual suffers, but the race goes on. Annixter dies, but in a far distant corner of the world a thousand lives are saved. The larger view always and through all shams, all wickednesses, discovers the Truth that will, in the end, prevail, and all things, surely, inevitably, resistlessly work together for good.