Ernest Thompson Seton.

The preacher of Cedar Mountain; a tale of the open country online

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in those days. For this they received protection; that is, the police
and the Courts were so completely in the scheme that it was sufficient,
on the arrest of a "reliable," if the boss sent word to the judge or
State's attorney "to be keerful" as this was "one of our boys." Promptly
a flaw would be discovered in the indictment and the case dropped.

The boss who derives power from such a machine must ever look out for
the appearance of a rival, hence Shay's early watchfulness of the club;
but that gave place to a friendly indifference. He was a man superior to
his class, in some respects; for, though brutal and masterful on
occasion, it was said that he never "removed" a rival. At most, he had
applied pressure that resulted in their discreetly withdrawing. And he
cared little for money. Most bosses are after either money or power or
both. Shay loved power. The revenues he might have made out of tribute
from those protected were not well developed, and most of what he
received he disbursed in generous gifts to those in his ward who needed
help. It was said that no man ever went hungry from Mike Shay's door,
which was perfectly true; and the reward that he loved above all things
was to be pointed out on the street or in the car as "Mike Shay." To
overhear some one say, "That's Michael Shay, the big Boss of the South
Ward," meant more to him a thousand fold than any decoration in the gift
of the greatest of Old-World potentates.

Hartigan learned that he could go to Shay at any time for a reasonable
contribution, after having made it clear that it was for some one in
distress - not for a church. The only return Shay ever asked was that Jim
come sometimes and put on the gloves with him in a friendly round. Most
of Shay's legal finesse was done through Squeaks. That small, but active
person was on the boards of at least twenty-five popular organizations,
and it was understood that he was there to represent the boss.
Extraordinary evidence of _some one's_ pull was shown when one day
Squeaks was elevated to the Bench. It was only as a police magistrate,
but he was now Judge Squeaks, with larger powers than were by law
provided, and he began to "dig himself in," entrench himself, make his
position good with other powers, in anticipation of the inevitable
conflict with Boss Shay. It became largely a line-up of political
parties; Squeaks had made a deal with the party in power at Springfield,
and gave excellent guarantees of substantial support - both electoral and
financial - before the keen-eyed myrmidons of Shay brought to the boss
the news that Squeaks had turned traitor.

Then the war was on; not openly, for Squeaks had scores of documents
that would, before any impartial jury, have convicted Shay of
manipulating election returns, intimidating voters, and receiving
blackmail. It was important to get possession of these documents before
they could be used. While the present party held power in State
politics, there would be no chance for Shay to escape. There were two
possibilities, however; one, that the election close at hand might
reverse the sympathies of those in power; the other, that Squeaks might
find it unwise to use the weapon in his hands.

Now was the Cedar Mountain House in peril, for Shay's support was
essential. At a word from him, the police might call the club a
disorderly house, and order it shut up. The fact that Squeaks was a
governor strengthened the probability of drastic action. On the other
hand, Squeaks as police magistrate, could restrain the police for a time
or discover flaws in as many indictments as were brought up. The
District Court could, of course, issue a warrant over the head of the
police magistrate; but the Court of Appeals was friendly to Squeaks and
would certainly quash the warrant; so that, for the time being the many
unpleasant possibilities simply balanced each other, and the club went
on in a sort of sulphurous calm like that before a storm.

Then came an exciting day at the club. By an unusual chance both Shay
and Squeaks met there and the inevitable clash came. Angry words passed
and Shay shouted: "Ye dirty little sneak, I'll fix ye yet!" Squeaks,
cool and sarcastic, said: "Why don't ye do it now?" Shay rushed at him
with a vigorous threat, and would have done him grievous bodily injury
but for the interference of Hartigan and others. Shay waited at the gate
for Squeaks, but the Judge slipped out the back way and disappeared.

It was Bud Towler who called on the Judge with a letter from Boss Shay,
demanding the return of certain personal papers and authorizing said Bud
to receive them. To which Judge Squeaks replied: "He better come for
them himself. He knows where I live. I'll be home every night this

And thither that night with two friends went Shay. It was a very simple
lodging. These men habitually avoid display. The janitor knew all too
well who Shay was.

"Is Squeaks at home?"

"Yes, I believe so."

"I'm going up to see him, and if I lay him over my knee and spank him
till he squeals, ye needn't worry; it's nothing." Then up went Shay,
while his friends stayed below, one at the front of the house and the
other in the lane that commanded the back.

The trembling janitor heard the heavy foot go up the wooden stairs; he
heard a voice, then a crash as of a door forced open, then heavy steps
and a pistol shot. A window was opened behind the house, and _something_
was thumped down into the back yard. A little later, the boss came
hurriedly down the stairs. The timid janitor and his trembling wife saw
the big man step out with a bundle under his arm. Then all was still.

After twenty minutes of stupefaction, they began to realize that they
should go up to the Judge's room. They mounted the stairs together,
carrying a lamp. The door had, evidently, been forced. The room was in
some disorder; the drawers of the desk were open, and papers scattered
about. On one or two of the papers was fresh blood. The window was
closed, but not fastened; the end of the curtain under it seemed to give
proof that it had recently been opened. On the sill was more fresh

There was no sign of the Judge.

As they gazed about in horror, they heard a noise in the back yard and
looking out saw, very dimly, two men carrying off a heavy object, they
lifted it over the back fence and then followed, to disappear.

Schmidt, the janitor, was terror-stricken. Evidently, the Judge had been
murdered and his body was now being made away with. What was to be done?
If he interfered, the murderers would wreak their vengeance on him; if
he refrained, he would be blamed for the murder or at least for

"I tink, Johann, dere's only one ting, and dat is go straight an' tell
de police," said his wife. As they stood, they heard a light foot on the
stairs. Their hearts stood still, but they peered out to see a woman in
a gray cloak step into the street, and they breathed more freely. Now
they rushed to the station house and told their tale in tears and

The Police Captain was scornful and indifferent. Had there been but one
witness, he might have ordered him away; but two witnesses, intensely in
earnest, made some impression. He sent an inspector around to see. That
official came back to report the truth of the statement made by the
Schmidts, that the Judge's room was empty, upset, and had some blood
stains; but he attached little importance to the matter. He had,
however, locked up and sealed the door, pending examination.

Next morning, there was an attempt to hush the matter up, but a reporter
appeared in the interests of a big paper, and by a clever combination of
veiled threats and promises of support, got permission to see the room.
The reporterial instinct and the detective instinct are close kin, and
the newspaper published some most promising clues: The Judge was visited
at midnight by a man whom he had robbed and who had threatened to kill
him; a broken door, papers stolen, a scuffle, traces of human blood (the
microscope said so) in several places, blood on the window sill, a heavy
something thrown out of the window and carried off by two men, blood on
the back fence, and no trace of the Judge.

It was a strong case, and any attempt to gloss it over was rendered
impossible by the illustrated broadside with which the newspaper
startled the public.


The Trial

All Chicago remembers the trial of Michael Shay. It filled the papers
for a month; it filled folk's minds and mouths for two. Many a worse
murder had been quietly buried and forgotten, but this was too
conspicuous. The boss, facing a decline of his power, had undoubtedly
murdered the man he had begun to fear, and the parties in control of all
the machinery of justice were against the accused.

The case was thoroughly threshed out. Shay had openly threatened the
life of Squeaks; he had tried before to do him hurt; had gone with two
men to Squeaks's lodgings; had warned Schmidt that there was going to be
"a little fuss"; had broken open the door and got certain papers - his
own property, undoubtedly, but now splashed with blood; a shot had been
heard - a heavy something thrown from the back window and then carried
off by two men; blood on the floor, the sill and the back fence; and the
Judge had disappeared from the face of the earth. The case was clear,
the jury retired, but quickly brought in a verdict of guilty, although
at every point there was nothing but circumstantial evidence.

Jim Hartigan was one of the first friends to call on Shay after his
arrest, and Belle came soon after. They heard his story, which was
simple and straight: Squeaks was holding the papers which would be, at
least, damaging to Shay's property and reputation; he got them in
confidence and then defied Shay to come and take them. Shay decided it
would be well to take two witnesses and went, as planned, to Squeaks's
apartments. Finding the door locked and believing that Squeaks was
inside, he forced it open; the room was dark and no one was there. He
lighted the gas and rummaged through the desk for the papers that
belonged to him, paying no attention to any others. He saw blood on some
of the papers, but didn't know where it came from. As he was coming
away, he heard a pistol shot, either upstairs or outside, he didn't know
which. He knew nothing about anything thrown from the window. He got his
own property and came away.

Although every particle of evidence adduced by the prosecuting attorney
was circumstantial, it was very complete. Some juries would have felt
reasonable doubt, but no one could get over the facts that Shay had
threatened Squeaks's life and that Squeaks had disappeared after a visit
from Shay which left traces of blood in Squeaks's apartment. The trial
over, the verdict of guilty rendered, Shay was asked if he could offer
any reason why he should not be condemned. He rose and said: "Only that
I didn't do it. I never saw him from that time in the club a week

Then the judge pronounced the awful words: "...Hanged by the neck till
you are dead." Shay sat stunned for a minute, then, when the jailor
tapped his shoulder, rose and walked silently forth to the cell of the

It is the hour of trial that sifts out your friends. There were two at
least who followed every move in that crowded court room - Hartigan and
his wife. They had learned that the crude, brutal exterior of the
prizefighter held a heart that was warm and true. They had learned that
they could go to him with certainty of success when they wanted help for
some struggling man or woman in their ward. They knew that he would not
drive a bargain for his help, nor plaster his gift with religious
conditions. It was enough for him to know that a fellow-being was in
need and that he had the power to help him. Shay was a product of
submergence and evil system; he was wrong in his theories, wrong in his
methods, wrong in his life; but his was a big, strong spirit - ever kind.
And out of the strange beginnings there had grown a silent but real
friendship between the Hartigans and himself.

On the black day of the verdict and the sentence, Belle and Jim were
sadly sitting at home. "Jim," she said, "I know he didn't do it; his
story is so simple and sound. It's easy to get human blood if you have a
friend in the hospital; he is innocent. We know that Squeaks could
easily have access to a room upstairs; that bundle may have been thrown
out from the window merely as a part of a plot. Everything is against
Shay now because he is in wrong with the party; but, surely, there is
something we can do."

"His attorney asked for an appeal, but I am afraid it won't be
entertained; there is no new evidence - no reason for delay that they can
see or wish to see."

"That attorney has behaved very suspiciously, I think. Don't you think
the governor might intervene with at least a commutation?" she

"The governor! His worst enemy," said Jim. "The governor's been after
him for years."

Hope seemed gone. They sat in silence; then she said: "Pray, Jim; maybe
light will come." And together they prayed that the God of justice and
mercy would send his light down among them and guide them in this awful
time. It was a short and simple prayer, followed by a long silence.

Belle spoke: "There is only one thing that can be done; that is find
Squeaks. I know he is living somewhere yet, gloating probably over the
success of his plan to get rid of Shay. I know he is alive, and we must
find him. We have one month to do it, Jim. We must find him."

Jim shook his head. "We've tried hard enough already. We've examined
every corpse taken out of the river or exposed at the morgue."

"Well; doesn't that help to prove that he is alive?"

"We've advertised and notified every police station in the country," Jim

"They don't want to find him, Jim; they're on the other side."

"I don't know what else to do."

"Jim, I've read enough and seen enough of human nature to know that, if
Squeaks is alive, he's not hiding in California or Florida or London;
he's right here in South Ward where he can watch things. It's my belief,
Jim, that he's been in the court room watching the trial."

Jim shook his head; but she went on. "This much I'm sure; he would hang
around his former haunts, and we should leave nothing undone to find

They went first to Shay's attorney, but he dismissed the idea as
chimerical, so they dropped him from their plans. Together they set to
work, with little hope indeed, but it was at least better to be up and
doing. Judge Squeaks's office was small, easily entered and productive
of nothing. The police would give no information and seemed little
interested in the new theory. Squeaks's lodgings yielded nothing new,
but they found that Belle's theory was right; he had also had a room on
the floor above. The woman in the gray cloak had called on him once or
twice in the previous month and had come once since. She was a sort of
janitress, as she had a key and straightened up his room. There was no
hint of help in this. There was only one of his haunts that they had not
thoroughly examined, that was the club. There was no need for that, as
they knew every one that came and went, at least by sight.

Mrs. Hartigan was sitting in the club office at the back of the building
next day when Skystein came in, and sat down to go over some club
letters, officially addressed to him. As he read he made a note on each
and sorted them into three neat piles. Belle watched him with interest
that was a little tinged with shame. It is so human to consider a man
inferior if he does not speak your language fluently, and the early
impression they had gotten of Skystein gave them a sense of lofty pity.
But it did not last. At every board meeting they had found reason to
respect the judgment and worldly knowledge of the little Hebrew; those
keen black eyes stood for more than cunning, they were the lights of
intellect. Belle turned to him now. If any one knew the underworld of
the South Ward it was he, and what he didn't know he had means to find

She openly, frankly, told him all she knew and suspected. He heard her
at first doubtingly, then with growing interest, then with a glare of
intense attention and conviction at last. His eyes twinkled knowingly as
she expressed her opinion of the attorney. Skystein uttered the single
word "fixed." Then he tapped his white teeth with his slender forefinger
and rose to get the membership roll. He looked over it, but got no help;
there was no one entered within the last few months that they could not
fully account for.

They sat gazing in silence through the window into the adjoining reading
room when an elderly woman came in and sat down. She wore a gray cloak
and large goggles.

"Who is she?" said Belle. "I've seen her often enough, but I don't
remember her name."

"Dat's Mrs. Davis: she's been coming only about five months. She was one
of Squeaks's members."

A ray of hope shot into Belle's brain. "This fits the description of
Squeaks's cleaning woman. She knows where he is hidden; she takes him
food and keeps him posted. She is here now for the news." The woman at
the desk raised her face; through the goggles and through that inner
window she saw the two gazing at her. She rose quickly, but without
hurry, and left the building. Skystein turned after her, without
actually running, but she had disappeared.

"That woman knows where Squeaks is hiding," said Belle. But what became
of her was a puzzle. They were confronted now by a stone wall, for there
was no trace of her. The old janitor at Squeaks's lodging had not seen
her for two weeks and she did not again appear at the club.

Michael Shay's religion so far as he had any, was of the Ulster type,
and Jim Hartigan was accepted as his spiritual adviser and allowed to
see him often. Jim and Belle agreed that it was well to tell him
everything in their minds, to keep alive the light of hope, or maybe get
from him some clue. Two weeks passed thus without a hint. Then, one
evening as Skystein came late to the club, he saw a woman go out. He
went to the desk and asked who it was. The register showed a strange
name, but the clerk thought it was the gray woman till she looked at the
name. Skystein rushed out as fast as possible, just in time to see a
gray-cloaked figure board the car. There was no hack in sight so he
leaped on the next car and followed. He was able to watch the car most
of the time, but saw only one woman leave it. She was in black. At
length, he got a chance to run forward and mount the first car. He
stayed on the platform and peered in. There was no gray-cloaked woman.
He asked the conductor, and learned that a woman had got on and taken
off her cloak till she went out again three blocks back. At once his
Hebrew wit seized these two ideas: she had deliberately turned her
cloak; she was eluding pursuit.

Skystein went back at once to the street where the black-cloaked woman
had descended. Of course, he saw nothing of her, but there was a peanut
vender of his own race, at the corner. Skystein stopped, bought a bag of
peanuts and began to eat them. Casually he asked the merchant if that
woman in gray bought peanuts there. The vender didn't seem to
comprehend, so Skystein addressed him in Yiddish; told him the woman was
a detective, and promised to give ten dollars for information as to
where she lived or what she was after. The expression on the peanut
man's face showed an eagerness to find out the facts with all possible
speed. But a week went by and he had nothing to report.

Meanwhile, Jim was at Joliet in daily conference with Shay, reporting to
him the success or ill success of the search; reporting, alas, how
little help they got from those who were supposed to forward the ends of
justice. Money was not lacking, but it would help little; if an open
campaign were conducted to find the man they believed to be in hiding,
it might put an insuperable obstacle in the way. The governor was
approached, but he was little disposed to listen or order a stay, least
of all when they had nothing but a vague theory to offer.

Four days more went by, and Skystein found the peanut man in high
excitement. He had seen the gray woman; she passed down his street and,
before he could follow, turned into a side street; he left his peanuts
and ran to follow, but got no second glimpse. She must have gone into
one of the near-by tenements. "Didn't Mr. Skystein orter pay for de
peanuts stole by de boys, as well as de reward."

Two days of life remained to Shay. Hope had died out of their hearts.
Hartigan was preparing him for the great change that is always a bitter
change when so approached. Belle still clung to hope. She posted herself
where she could view the street, and made judicious inquiries, but got
no help. The gray mantle was not a complete identification; the woman
might have a dozen mantles. She went to the police station to enlist
their cooperation. The Precinct Captain took no stock in the story and
refused to order a house-to-house search. Finally - for even police are
human - he promised to search any particular house when it was indicated,
and to give reasonable support to any move that was obviously in the
cause of justice.

The morning of the execution came and nothing had developed to revive
their hopes. Belle was on watch at the street corner when on the main
avenue an excitement occurred. A Savoyard with a dancing bear was
holding a public show and gathering in a few coins. An idea came to her;
she made her way through the crowd and said: "Here, is a dollar, if you
make him dance before every house on this street." The Savoyard smiled
blandly, bowed, pocketed the dollar and, leading the bear into the side
street that Belle had watched so long, began the droning song that
caused the animal to rear up and sway his huge, heavy body round and
round as he walked. All the world came forth to see, or peered from
upper windows; all the world was watching the strange antics of the
bear - all but one. Belle's keen brown eyes were watching the crowd,
watching the doorways, and watching, at length, the windows with
desperate eagerness for sign of the gray woman. There seemed to be no
gray woman; but, of a sudden, she saw a thing that stopped her heart.
Flat against the window of a second-floor room, and intently watching
the bear, was the pale, wizened, evil face of Squeaks!

Belle's hand trembled as she noted the house, the number and the very
room; then, passing quickly around the corner, she hailed a cab and
drove for life to the telegraph office, where she telegraphed Jim:

"Hold up the execution for two hours; we have found Squeaks."
(Signed) "BELLE"

Then away to the police station. "Captain, Captain, I've found Squeaks!
Come, come at once and get him."

"I have to know about it first," said he, calmly.

"Oh, Captain, there is no time to lose. It is ten o'clock now; the
execution is fixed for noon."

The Captain shook his head.

"Then telegraph the Governor," she begged.

"He wouldn't pay any attention to your say-so."

"Then come at once and see; I have a cab here."

The Captain and two men went with Belle. They entered the cab. "I'll
give you double fare to go your fastest," Belle said through her white,
compressed lips; and the kindly cabman, sensing something out of common,
'Said, "I'll do my best, miss."

In ten minutes, they were in the side street. The bear was gone, the
crowd was gone. The police entered without knocking, went to the second
floor, to the very door and then knocked. There was no answer. The
Captain put his shoulder to the door and forced it in. There, sure
enough, standing in an attitude of fear in a far corner was the thin
woman of the gray cloak.

"Where is Judge Squeaks? He was seen in this room half an hour ago."

"I don't know what you mean," and she covered her face with her skinny
hands and began to cry.

"You must come to the station at once," said the Captain. Then to Belle:
"Will you testify that this is the woman?"

Belle was white and trembling, but she walked up and said: "I will
testify that this is - " She reached forward, peering at the woman's
hidden face. Then seizing the loose hair, Belle gave one jerk, the wig
came off, and they were facing Judge Squeaks!

"My God!" was all the Captain had to say. "The telephone as quick as
possible! You hold him." He dashed down the stairs and made for the
nearest long distance wire. It was half an hour before they could
connect with Springfield, only to learn that the Governor had left for

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Online LibraryErnest Thompson SetonThe preacher of Cedar Mountain; a tale of the open country → online text (page 22 of 24)