Two Men of Sandy Bar; a Drama

Author: Bret Harte

Scene 1.—The Bank Parlor of Morton & Son, San Francisco.

Room richly furnished; two square library desks, left and right. At right, safe in wall; at left, same with practicable doors. Folding door in flat C., leading to counting-room. Door in left to private room of ALEXANDER MORTON, sen.; door in right to private room of MORTON, jun. ALEXANDER MORTON, sen., discovered at desk R., opening and reading letters.

Morton, sen. (laying down letter). Well, well, the usual story; letters from all sorts of people, who have done or intend to do all sorts of things for my reclaimed prodigal. (Reads.) "Dear Sir: five years ago I loaned some money to a stranger who answers the description of your recovered son. He will remember Jim Parker,— Limping Jim, of Poker Flat. Being at present short of funds, please send twenty dollars, amount loaned, by return mail. If not convenient, five dollars will do as instalment." Pshaw! (Throws letter aside, and takes up another.) "Dear Sir: I invite your attention to enclosed circular for a proposed Home for Dissipated and Anonymous Gold-Miners. Your well-known reputation for liberality, and your late valuable experience in the reformation of your son, will naturally enlist your broadest sympathies. We enclose a draft for five thousand dollars, for your signature." We shall see! Another: "Dear Sir: the Society for the Formation of Bible Classes in the Upper Stanislaus acknowledge your recent munificent gift of five hundred dollars to the cause. Last Sabbath Brother Hawkins of Poker Flat related with touching effect the story of your prodigal to an assemblage of over two hundred miners. Owing to unusual expenses, we regret to be compelled to draw upon you for five hundred dollars more." So! (Putting down letter.) If we were given to pride and vainglory, we might well be puffed up with the fame of our works and the contagion of our example: yet I fear that, with the worldly-minded, this praise of charity to others is only the prayerful expectation of some personal application to the praiser. (Rings hand-bell.)


(To JACKSON.) File these letters (handing letters) with the others. There is no answer. Has young Mr. Alexander come in yet?

Jackson. He only left here an hour ago. It was steamer day yesterday: he was up all night, sir.

Old Morton (aside). True. And the night before he travelled all night, riding two hours ahead of one of our defaulting agents, and saved the bank a hundred thousand dollars. Certainly his devotion to business is unremitting. (Aloud.) Any news from Col. Starbottle?

Jackson. He left this note, sir, early this morning.

Old Morton (takes it, and reads). "I think I may say, on my own personal responsibility, that the mission is successful. Miss Morris will arrive to-night with a female attendant and child." (To JACKSON.) That is all, sir. Stop! Has any one been smoking here?

Jackson. Not to my knowledge, sir.

Old Morton. There was a flavor of stale tobacco smoke in the room this morning when I entered, and ashes on the carpet. I KNOW that young Mr. Alexander has abandoned the pernicious habit. See that it does not occur again.

Jackson. Yes, sir. (Aside.) I must warn Mr. Alexander that his friends must be more careful; and yet those ashes were good for a deposit of fifty thousand.

Old Morton. Is any one waiting?

Jackson. Yes, sir,—Don Jose Castro and Mr. Capper.

Old Morton. Show in the Don: the policeman can wait.

Jackson. Yes, sir. [Exit.

Old Morton (taking up STARBOTTLE’S note). "Miss Morris will arrive to-night." And yet he saw her only yesterday. This is not like her mother: no. She would never have forgiven and forgotten so quickly. Perhaps she knew not my sin and her mother’s wrongs; perhaps she has—has—CHRISTIAN forgiveness (sarcastically); perhaps, like my prodigal, she will be immaculately perfect. Well, well: at least her presence will make my home less lonely. "An attendant and child." A child! Ah, if HE, my boy, my Alexander, were still a child, I might warm this cold, cold heart in his sunshine! Strange that I cannot reconstruct from this dutiful, submissive, obedient, industrious Alexander,—this redeemed outcast, this son who shares my life, my fortunes, my heart,—the foolish, wilful, thoughtless, idle boy, that once defied me. I remember (musing, with a smile) how the little rascal, ha, ha! once struck me,—STRUCK ME!—when I corrected him: ha, ha! (Rubbing his hands with amusement, and then suddenly becoming grave and lugubrious.) No, no. These are the whisperings of the flesh. Why should I find fault with him for being all that a righteous conversion demands,—all that I asked and prayed for? No, Alexander Morton: it is you, YOU, who are not yet regenerate. It is YOU who are ungrateful to Him who blessed you, to Him whose guiding hand led you to—


Jackson. Don Jose Castro.


Don Jose. A thousand pardons, senor, for interrupting you in the hours of business; but it is—it is of business I would speak. (Looking around.)

Old Morton (to JACKSON). You can retire. (Exit JACKSON.) Be seated, Mr. Castro: I am at your service.

Don Jose. It is of your—your son—

Old Morton. Our firm is Morton & Son: in business we are one, Mr. Castro.

Don Jose. Bueno! Then to you as to him I will speak. Here is a letter I received yesterday. It has significance, importance perhaps. But, whatever it is, it is something for you, not me, to know. If I am wronged much, Don Alexandro, you, you, are wronged still more. Shall I read it? Good. (Reads.) "The man to whom you have affianced your daughter is not the son of Alexander Morton. Have a care. If I do not prove him an impostor at the end of six days, believe me one, and not your true friend and servant, Concho." In six days, Don Alexandro, the year of probation is over, and I have promised my daughter’s hand to your son. (Hands letter to MORTON.)

Old Morton (ringing bell). Is that all, Mr. Castro?

Don Jose. All, Mr. Castro? Carramba! is it not enough?


Old Morton (to JACKSON). You have kept a record of this business during the last eighteen months. Look at this letter. (Handing letter.) Is the handwriting familiar?

Jackson (taking letter). Can’t say, sir. The form is the old one.

Old Morton. How many such letters have you received?

Jackson. Four hundred and forty-one, sir. This is the four hundred and forty-second application for your son’s position, sir.

Don Jose. Pardon. This is not an application: it is only information or caution.

Old Morton (to JACKSON). How many letters of information or caution have we received?

Jackson. This makes seven hundred and eighty-one, sir.

Old Morton. How, sir! (Quickly.) There were but seven hundred and seventy-nine last night.

Jackson. Beg pardon, sir! The gentleman who carried Mr. Alexander’s valise from the boat was the seven hundred and eightieth.

Old Morton. Explain yourself, sir.

Jackson. He imparted to me, while receiving his stipend, the fact that he did not believe young Mr. Alexander was your son. An hour later, sir, he also imparted to me confidentially that he believed you were his father, and requested the loan of five dollars, to be repaid by you, to enable him to purchase a clean shirt, and appear before you in respectable condition. He waited for you an hour, and expressed some indignation that he had not an equal show with others to throw himself into your arms.

Don Jose (rising, aside, and uplifting his hands). Carramba! These Americanos are of the Devil! (Aloud.) Enough, Don Alexandro! Then you think this letter is only worth—

Old Morton. One moment. I can perhaps tell you exactly its market value. (To JACKSON.) Go on, sir.

Jackson. At half-past ten, sir, then being slightly under the influence of liquor, he accepted the price of a deck passage to Stockton.

Old Morton. How much was that, sir?

Jackson. Fifty cents.

Old Morton. Exactly so! There you have, sir (to DON JOSE), the market value of the information you have received. I would advise you, as a business matter, not to pay more. As a business matter, you can at any time draw upon us for the amount. (To JACKSON.) Admit Mr. Capper. [Exit JACKSON.

Don Jose (rising with dignity). This is an insult, Don Alexandro.

Old Morton. You are wrong, Mr. Castro: it is BUSINESS; sought, I believe, by yourself. Now that it is transacted, I beg you to dine with me to-morrow to meet my niece. No offence, sir, no offence. Come, come! Business, you know, business.

Don Jose (relaxing). Be it so! I will come. (Aside.) These Americanos, these Americanos, are of the Devil! (Aloud.) Adios. (Going.) I hear, by report, that you have met with the misfortune of a serious loss by robbery?

Old Morton (aside). So our mishap is known everywhere. (Aloud.) No serious misfortune, Mr. Castro, even if we do not recover the money. Adios.

[Exit Don Jose.

Old Morton. The stiff-necked Papist! That he should dare, for the sake of his black-browed, froward daughter, to—question the faith on which I have pinned my future! Well, with God’s blessing, I gave him some wholesome discipline. If it were not for my covenant with Alexander—and nobly he has fulfilled his part,—I should forbid his alliance with the blood of this spying Jesuit.

Enter Mr. JACKSON, leading in CAPPER.

Jackson. Policeman, sir.[Exit.

Capper (turning sharply). Who’s that man?

Old Morton. Jackson, clerk.

Capper. Umph! Been here long?

Old Morton. A year. He was appointed by my son.

Capper. Know anything of his previous life?

Old Morton (stiffly). I have already told you he is an appointee of my son’s.

Capper. Yes! (Aside.) "Like master, like man." (Aloud.) Well, to business. We have worked up the robbery. We have reached two conclusions,—one, that the work was not done by professionals; the other, consequent upon this, that you can’t recover the money.

Old Morton. Excuse me, sir, but I do not see the last conclusion.

Capper. Then listen. The professional thief has only one or two ways of disposing of his plunder, and these ways are always well known to us. Good! Your stolen coin has not been disposed of in the regular way, through the usual hands which we could at any time seize. Of this we are satisfied.

Old Morton. How do you know it?

Capper. In this way. The only clew we have to the identification of the missing money were two boxes of Mexican doubloons.

Old Morton (aside). Mr. Castro’s special deposit! He may have reason for his interest. (Aloud.) Go on.

Capper. It is a coin rare in circulation in the interior. The night after the robbery, the dealer of a monte-table in Sacramento paid out five thousand dollars in doubloons. He declared it was taken in at the table, and could not identify the players. Of course, OF COURSE! So far, you see, you are helpless. We have only established one fact, that the robber is—is—(significantly) a gambler.

Old Morton (quietly). The regular trade of the thief seems to me to be of little importance if you cannot identify him, or recover my money. But go on, sir, go on: or is this all?

Capper (aside). The old fool is blind. That is natural. (Aloud.) It is not all. The crime will doubtless be repeated. The man who has access to your vaults, who has taken only thirty thousand dollars when he could have secured half a million,—this man, who has already gambled that thirty thousand away,—will not stop there. He will in a day or two, perhaps to-day, try to retrieve his losses out of YOUR capital. I am here to prevent it.

Old Morton (becoming interested). How?

Capper. Give me, for forty-eight hours, free access to this building. Let me conceal myself somewhere, anywhere, within these walls. Let it be without the knowledge of your clerks, even of YOUR SON!

Old Morton (proudly). Mr. Alexander Morton is absent to-day. There is no other reason why he should not be here to consent to the acts of his partner and father.

Capper (quickly). Very good. It is only to insure absolute secrecy.

Old Morton (aside). Another robbery might excite a suspicion, worse for our credit than our actual loss. There is a significant earnestness about this man, that awakens my fears. If Alexander were only here. (Aloud.) I accept. (CAPPER has been trying doors R. and L.)

Capper. What room is this? (At R.)

Old Morton. My son’s: I would prefer—

Capper. And this? (At L.)

Old Morton. Mine, sir; if you choose—

Capper (locking door, and putting key in his pocket). This will do. Oblige me by making the necessary arrangements in your counting-room.

Old Morton (hesitating and aside). He is right: perhaps it is only prudence, and I am saving Alexander additional care and annoyance. [Exit.

Enter MR. SHADOW cautiously, C.

Shadow (in a lisping whisper to CAPPER). I’ve got the litht of the clerkth complete.

Capper (triumphantly). Put it in your pocket, Shadow. We don’t care for the lackeys now: we are after the master.

Shadow. Eh! the mathter?

Capper. Yes: the master,—the young master, the reclaimed son, the reformed prodigal! ha, ha!—the young man who compensates himself for all this austere devotion to business and principle by dipping into the old man’s vaults when he wants a pasear: eh, Shadow? That’s the man we’re after. Look here! I never took any stock in that young man’s reformation. Ye don’t teach old sports like him new tricks. They’re a bad lot, father and son,—eh, Shadow?—and he’s a chip of the old block. I spotted him before this robbery, before we were ever called in here professionally. I’ve had my eye on Alexander Morton, alias John Oakhurst; and, when I found the old man’s doubloons raked over a monte-table at Sacramento, I knew where to look for the thief. Eh, Shadow?

Shadow (aside). He ith enormouth, thith Mithter Capper.


Old Morton. I have arranged everything. You will not be disturbed or suspected here in my private office. Eh! (Looking at SHADOW.) Who has slipped in here?

Capper. Only my Shadow, Mr. Morton; but I can rid myself even of that. (Crosses to SHADOW.) Take this card to the office, and wait for further orders. Vanish, Shadow! [Exit SHADOW.


Jackson. Mr. Alexander has come in, sir. (OLD MORTON and CAPPER start.)

Old Morton. Where is he?

Jackson. In his private room, sir.

Old Morton. Enough: you can go.


Capper (crossing to MORTON). Remember, you have given your pledge of secrecy. Beware! Your honor, your property, the credit and reputation of your bank, are at stake.

Old Morton (after a pause of hesitation, with dignity). I gave you my word, sir, while my son was not present. I shall save myself from breaking my word with you, or concealing anything from him, by withdrawing myself. For the next twenty-four hours, this room (pointing to private room R.) is yours.

Each regards the other. Exit OLD MORTON C., as CAPPER exit in private room R. After a pause, door of room L. opens, and HARRY YORK appears, slightly intoxicated, followed by JOHN OAKHURST.

Harry York (looking around). By Jove! Morton, but you’ve got things in style here. And this yer’s the gov’nor’s desk; and here old Praise god Barebones sits opposite ye. Look yer, old boy (throwing himself in chair), I kin allow how it comes easy for ye to run this bank, for it’s about as exciting, these times, as faro was to ye in ’49, when I first knew ye as Jack Oakhurst; but how the Devil you can sit opposite that stiff embodiment of all the Ten Commandments, day by day, damn it! that’s wot GETS me! Why, the first day I came here on business, the old man froze me so that I couldn’t thaw a deposit out of my pocket. It chills me to think of it.

Oakhurst (hastily). I suppose I am accustomed to him. But come, Harry: let me warm you. (Opens door of safe L., and discovers cupboard, decanter, and glasses.)

York (laughing). By Jove! under the old man’s very nose. Jack, this is like you. (Takes a drink.) Well, old boy, this is like old times. But you don’t drink?

Oakhurst. No, nor smoke. The fact is, Harry, I’ve taken a year’s pledge. I’ve six days still to run; after that (gloomily), why (with a reckless laugh), I shall be Jack Oakhurst again.

York. Lord! to think of your turning out to be anybody’s son, Jack!—least of all, HIS! (Pointing to chair.)

Oakhurst (laughing recklessly). Not more strange than that I should find Harry York, the spendthrift of Poker Flat, the rich and respected Mr. York, produce merchant of San Francisco.

York. Yes; but, my boy, you see I didn’t strike it—in a rich father. I gave up gambling, married, and settled down, saved my money, invested a little here and there, and—worked for it, Jack, damn me,—worked for it like a damned horse!

Oakhurst (aside). True, this is not work.

York. But that ain’t my business with ye now, old boy: it’s this. You’ve had some trials and troubles in the bank lately,—a defalcation of agents one day, a robbery next. It’s luck, my boy, luck! but ye know people will talk. You don’t mind my sayin’ that there’s rumors ’round. The old man’s mighty unpopular because he’s a saint; and folks don’t entirely fancy you because you used to be the reverse. Well, Jack, it amounts to ’bout this: I’ve withdrawn my account from Parkinson’s, in Sacramento, and I’ve got a pretty heavy balance on hand—nigh on two hundred thousand—in bonds and certificates here; and if it will help you over the rough places, old boy, as a deposit, yer it is (drawing pocket-book.)

Oakhurst (greatly affected, but endeavoring to conceal it). Thank you, Harry, old fellow—but—

York (quickly). I know: I’ll take the risk, a business risk. You’ll stand by me all you can, old boy; you’ll make it pay all you can; and if you lose it—why—all right!

Oakhurst (embarrassed). As a deposit with Morton & Son, drawing two per cent monthly interest—

York. Damn Morton & Son! I’ll back it with Jack Oakhurst, the man I know.

Oakhurst (advancing slowly). I’ll take it, Harry.

York (extending his hand). It’s a square game, Jack!

Oakhurst (seizing his hand with repressed emotion). It’s a square game, Harry York, if I live.

York. Then I’ll travel. Good-night, old boy. I’ll send my clerk around in the morning to put things right. Good-night (going).

Oakhurst (grasping YORK’S hand). One moment—no—nothing! Goodnight. [Exit YORK.

OAKHURST follows him to door, and then returns to desk, throwing himself in chair, and burying his face in his hands.

Oakhurst (with deep feeling). It needed but this to fill the measure of my degradation. I have borne the suspicions of the old man’s enemies, the half-pitying, half-contemptuous sympathy of his friends, even his own cold, heartless, fanatical fulfilment of his sense of duty; but THIS—this confidence from one who had most reason to scorn me, this trust from one who knew me as I WAS,—this is the hardest burden. And he, too, in time will know me to be an impostor. He too—a reformed man; but he has honorably retraced his steps, and won the position I hold by a trick, an imposture. And what is all my labor beside his honest sincerity? I have fought against the chances that might discover my deception, against the enemies who would overthrow me, against the fate that put me here; and I have been successful—yes, a successful impostor! I have even fought against the human instinct that told this fierce, foolish old man that I was an alien to his house, to his blood; I have even felt him scan my face eagerly for some reflection of his long-lost boy, for some realization of his dream; and I have seen him turn away, cold, heartsick, and despairing. What matters that I have been to him devoted, untiring, submissive, ay, a better son to him than his own weak flesh and blood would have been? He would to-morrow cast me forth to welcome the outcast, Sandy Morton. Well, what matters? (Recklessly.) Nothing. In six days it will be over; in six days the year of my probation will have passed; in six days I will disclose to him the deceit I have practised, and will face the world again as John Oakhurst, the gambler, who staked and lost ALL on a single cast. And Jovita! Well, well!—the game is made: it is too late to draw out now. (Rings bell. Enter JACKSON.) Who has been here?

Jackson. Only Don Jose, and Mr. Capper, the detective.

Oakhurst. The detective? What for?

Jackson. To work up the robbery, sir.

Oakhurst. True! Capper, Capper, yes! A man of wild and ridiculous theories, but well-meaning, brave, and honest. (Aside.) This is the old man’s idea. He does not know that I was on the trail of the thieves an hour before the police were notified. (Aloud.) Well, sir?

Jackson. He told your father he thought the recovery of the money hopeless, but he came to caution us against a second attempt.

Oakhurst (aside, starting). True! I had not thought of that. (Excitedly.) The success of their first attempt will incite them to another; the money they have stolen is gone by this time. (Aloud.) Jackson, I will stay here to-night and to-morrow night, and relieve your regular watchman. You will, of course, say nothing of my intention.

Jackson. Yes, sir. (Lingering.)

Oakhurst (after a pause). That is all, Mr. Jackson.

Jackson. Beg your pardon, Mr. Morton; but Col. Starbottle, with two ladies, was here half an hour ago, and said they would come again when you were alone.

Oakhurst. Very well: admit them.

Jackson. Beg pardon, sir; but they seemed to avoid seeing your father until they had seen you. It looked mysterious, and I thought I would tell you first.

Oakhurst (laughing). Admit them, Mr. Jackson. (Exit JACKSON.) This poor fellow’s devotion is increasing. He, too, believes that his old associate in dissipation, John Oakhurst, IS the son of Alexander Morton. He, too, will have to share in the disgrace of the impostor. Ladies! umph! (Looking down at his clothes.) I’m afraid the reform of Alexander Morton hasn’t improved the usual neatness of John Oakhurst. I haven’t slept, nor changed my clothes, for three days. (Goes to door of MORTON, sen.’s, room.) Locked, and the key on the inside! That’s strange. Nonsense! the old man has locked his door and gone out through the private entrance. Well, I’ll find means of making my toilet here. [Exit into private room L.

Enter JACKSON, leading in COL. STARBOTTLE, MISS MARY, the DUCHESS, and child of three years.

Jackson. Mr. Alexander Morton, jun., is in his private room. He will be here in a moment. [Exit JACKSON.

Starbottle. One moment, a single moment, Miss Mary. Permit me to— er—if I may so express myself, to—er—group the party, to—er— place the—er—present company into position. I have—er—observed as part of my—er—legal experience, that in cases of moral illustration a great, I may say—er—tremendous, effect on the—er— jury, I mean the—er—guilty party, has been produced by the attitude of the—er—victim and martyr. You, madam, as the—er— injured wife (placing her), shall stand here, firm yet expectant, protecting your child, yet looking hopefully for assistance toward its natural protector. You, Miss Mary, shall stand here (placing her), as Moral Retribution, leaning toward and slightly appealing to me, the image of—er—er—Inflexible Justice! (Inflates his chest, puts his hand in his bosom, and strikes an attitude.)

Door of young Morton’s room opens, and discloses MR. OAKHURST gazing at the group. He starts slightly on observing the DUCHESS, but instantly recovers himself, and faces the company coldly. The DUCHESS starts on observing OAKHURST, and struggles in confusion towards the door, dragging with her the child and MISS MARY, who endeavors to re-assure her. COL. STARBOTTLE looks in astonishment from one to the other, and advances to front.

Col. Starbottle (aside). The—er—tableau, although striking in moral force, is apparently—er—deficient in moral stamina.

Miss Mary (angrily to the DUCHESS). I’m ashamed of you! (To OAKHURST, advancing.) I don’t ask pardon for my intrusion. If you are Alexander Morton, you are my kinsman, and you will know that I cannot introduce myself better than as the protector of an injured woman. Come here! (To the DUCHESS, dragging her towards OAKHURST. To OAKHURST.) Look upon this woman: she claims to be—

Starbottle (stepping between MISS MARY and the DUCHESS). A moment, Miss Mary, a single moment! Permit me to—er—explain. The whole thing, the—er—situation reminds me, demn me, of most amusing incident at Sacramento in ’52. Large party at Hank Suedecois: know Hank? Confirmed old bach of sixty. Dinner for forty. Everything in style, first families, Ged,—Judge Beeswinger, Mat Boompointer, and Maje Blodgett of Ahlabam: know old Maje Blodgett? Well, Maje was there. Ged, sir, delay,—everybody waiting. I went to Hank. "Hank," I says, "what’s matter? why delay?"—"Star," he says,— always called me Star,—"Star,—it’s cook!"—"Demn cook," I says: "discharge cook,—only a black mulatto anyway!"—"Can’t, Star," he says: "impossible!"—"Can’t?" says I.—"No," says he. "Listen, Star," he says, "family secret! Honor! Can’t discharge cook, because cook—demn it—’s MY wife!" Fact, sir, fact—showed marriage certificate—married privately seven years! Fact, sir—

The Duchess (to MISS MARY). Some other time, miss, let us go now. There’s a mistake, miss, I can’t explain. Some other time, miss! See, miss, how cold and stern he looks! another time, miss! (Struggling.) For God’s sake, miss, let me go!

Miss Mary. No! This mystery must be cleared up now, before I enter HIS house,—before I accept the charge of this—

Starbottle (interrupting, and crossing before MISS MARY). A moment—a single moment, miss. (To OAKHURST.) Mr. Morton, you will pardon the exuberance, and perhaps, under the circumstances, somewhat natural impulsiveness, of the—er—sex, for which I am perhaps responsible; I may say—er—personally, sir,—personally responsible—

Oakhurst (coldly). Go on, sir.

Starbottle. The lady on my right is—er—the niece of your father,—your cousin. The lady on my left, engaged in soothing the—er—bashful timidity of infancy, is—er—that is—er—claims to be, the mother of the child of Alexander Morton.

Oakhurst (calmly). She is right.

Miss Mary (rushing forward). Then you are—

Oakhurst (gently restraining her). You have another question to ask: you hesitate: let me ask it. (Crossing to the DUCHESS.) You have heard my answer. Madam, are you the legal wife of Alexander Morton?

The Duchess (sinking upon her knees, and dropping her face in her hands). No!

Oakhurst. Enough: I will take the child. Pardon me, Miss Morris, but you have heard enough to know that your mission is accomplished, but what else passes between this woman and myself becomes no stranger to hear. (Motions toward room L.)

Miss Mary (aside). It is HIS son. I am satisfied (going). Come, colonel.

[Exeunt into room L., STARBOTTLE and MISS MARY.

The Duchess (crossing to OAKHURST, and falling at his feet). Forgive me, Jack, forgive me! It was no fault of mine. I did not know that you were here. I did not know that you had taken his name!

Oakhurst. Hush—on your life!

The Duchess. Hear me, Jack! I was anxious only for a home for my child. I came to HER—the schoolmistress of Red Gulch—for aid. I told her the name of my boy’s father. She—she brought me here. Oh, forgive me, Jack! I have offended you!

Oakhurst. How can I believe you? You have deceived HIM. You have deceived me. Listen! When I said, a moment ago, you were not the wife of Alexander Morton, it was because I knew that your first husband—the Australian convict Pritchard—was still living; that you had deceived Sandy Morton as you had deceived me. That was why I left you. Tell me, have you deceived me also about him, as you did about the other? Is HE living, and with you; or dead, as you declared.

The Duchess (aside). He will kill me if I tell him. (Aloud.) No, no. He is gone—is dead these three years.

Oakhurst. You swear!

The Duchess (hesitates, gasps, and looks around for her child; then seizing it, and drawing it toward her). I—swear.

Oakhurst. Enough. Seek not to know why I am here, and under his name. Enough for you that it has saved your child’s future, and secured him his heritage past all revocation. Yet remember! a word from you within the next few days destroys it all. After that, I care not what you say.

The Duchess. Jack! One word, Jack, before I go. I never thought to bring my shame to you!—to HIM!

Oakhurst. It was no trick, then, no contrivance, that brought her here. No: it was fate. And at least I shall save his child.


Col. Starbottle (impressively). Permit me, Mr. Alexander Morton, as the friend of my—er—principal to declare that we have received—honorable—honorable—satisfaction. Allow me, sir, to grasp the hand, the—er—cherished hand of a gentleman who, demn me! has fulfilled all his duties to—er—society and gentlemen. And allow me to add, sir, should any invidious criticism of the present—er—settlement be uttered in my presence, I shall hold that critic responsible, sir—er—personally responsible!

Miss Mary (sweeping truculently and aggressively up to JOHN OAKHURST). And permit ME to add, sir, that, if you can see your way clearly out of this wretched muddle, it’s more than I can. This arrangement may be according to the Californian code of morality, but it doesn’t accord with my Eastern ideas of right and wrong. If this foolish, wretched creature chooses to abandon all claim upon you, chooses to run away from you,—why, I suppose, as a GENTLEMAN, according to your laws of honor, you are absolved. Good-night, Mr. Alexander Morton. (Goes to door C., and exit, pushing out STARBOTTLE, the DUCHESS, and child. MR. OAKHURST sinks into chair at desk, burying his face in his hands. Re-enter slowly and embarrassedly, MISS MARY: looks toward OAKHURST, and comes slowly down stage.)

Miss Mary (aside). I was too hard on him. I was not so hard on Sandy when I thought that he—he—was the father of her child. And he’s my own flesh and blood, too; and—he’s crying. (Aloud.) Mr. Morton.

Oakhurst (slowly lifting his head). Yes; Miss Mary.

Miss Mary. I spoke hastily just then. I—I—thought—you see—I— (angrily and passionately) I mean this. I’m a stranger. I don’t understand your Californian ways, and I don’t want to. But I believe you’ve done what you thought was right, according to a MAN’S idea of right; and—there’s my hand. Take it, take it; for it’s a novelty, Mr. Morton: it’s the hand of an honest girl!

Oakhurst (hesitates, then rises, sinks on one knee, and raises MISS MARY’S fingers to his lips). God bless you, miss! God bless you!

Miss Mary (retreating to centre door). Good-night, good-night (slowly),—cousin—Alexander. [Exit. Dark stage.

Oakhurst (rising swiftly). No, no: it is false! Ah! She’s gone. Another moment, and I would have told her all. Pshaw! courage, man! It is only six days more, and you are free, and this year’s shame and agony forever ended.


Jackson. As you ordered, sir, the night watchman has been relieved, and has just gone.

Oakhurst. Very good, sir; and you?

Jackson. I relieved the porter, sir; and I shall bunk on two chairs in the counting-room. You’ll find me handy if you want me, sir. Good-night, sir. [Exit C.

Oakhurst. I fear these rascals will not dare to make their second attempt to-night. A quiet scrimmage with them, enough to keep me awake or from thinking, would be a good fortune. No, no! no such luck for you to-night, John Oakhurst! You are playing a losing game. . . . Yet the robbery was a bold one. At eleven o’clock, while the bank was yet lighted, and Mr. Jackson and another clerk were at work here, three well-dressed men pick the lock of the counting-house door, enter, and turn the key on the clerks in this parlor, and carry away a box of doubloons not yet placed in the vaults by the porter; and all this done so cautiously that the clerks within knew nothing of it until notified of the open street door by the private watchman, and so boldly that the watchman, seeing them here, believed them clerks of the bank, and let them go unmolested. No: this was the coincidence of good luck, not of bold premeditation. There will be no second attempt. (Yawns.) If they don’t come soon I shall fall asleep. Four nights without rest will tell on a man, unless he has some excitement to back him. (Nods.) Hallo! What was that? Oh! Jackson in the counting-room getting to bed. I’ll look at that front door myself. (Takes revolver from desk and goes to door C., tries lock, comes down stage with revolver, examines it, and lays it down.)

Oakhurst (slowly and quietly.) The door is locked on the outside: that may have been an accident. The caps are taken from my pistol: THAT was not! Well, here is the vault, and here is John Oakhurst: to reach the one, they must pass the other.

(Takes off his coat, seizes poker from grate, and approaches safe.) Ha! some one is moving in the old man’s room. (Approaches door of room R. as—

Enter noiselessly and cautiously from room L., PRITCHARD, SILKY, and SOAPY. PRITCHARD and his confederates approach OAKHURST from behind, carrying lariat, or slip-noose.

Oakhurst (listening at door R.) Good. At least I know from what quarter to expect the attack. Ah!

PRITCHARD throws slip-noose over OAKHURST from behind; OAKHURST puts his hand in his breast as the slip-noose is drawn across his bosom, pinioning one arm over his breast, and the other at his side. SILKY and SOAPY, directed by PRITCHARD, drag OAKHURST to chair facing front, and pinion his legs. PRITCHARD, C., regarding him.

Oakhurst (very coolly). You have left me my voice, I suppose, because it is useless.

Pritchard. That’s so, pard. ’Twon’t be no help to ye.

Oakhurst. Then you have killed Jackson.

Pritchard. Lord love ye, no! That ain’t like us, pard! Jackson’s tendin’ door for us, and kinder lookin’ out gin’rally for the boys. Thar’s nothin’ mean about Jackson.

Soapy. No! Jackson’s a squar man. Eh, Silky?

Silky. Ez white a man ez they is, pard!

Oakhurst (aside). The traitor! (Aloud.) Well!

Pritchard. Well, you want ter know our business. Call upon a business man in business hours. Our little game is this, Mr. Jack Morton Alexander Oakhurst. When we was here the other night, we was wantin’ a key to that theer lock (pointing to vault), and we sorter dropped in passin’ to get it.

Oakhurst. And suppose I refuse to give it up?

Pritchard. We were kalkilatin’ on yer bein’ even that impolite: wasn’t we, boys?

Silky and Soapy. We was that.

Pritchard. And so we got Mr. Jackson to take an impression of it in wax. Oh, he’s a squar man—is Mr. Jackson!

Silky. Jackson is a white man, Soapy!

Soapy. They don’t make no better men nor Jackson, Silky.

Pritchard. And we’ve got a duplicate key here. But we don’t want any differences, pard: we only want a squar game. It seemed to us— some of your old pards as knew ye, Jack—that ye had a rather soft thing here, reformin’; and we thought ye was kinder throwin’ off on the boys, not givin’ ’em any hand in the game. But thar ain’t anythin’ mean about us. Eh, boys?

Soapy. We is allers ready to chip in ekal in the game. Eh, Silky?

Silky. That’s me, Soapy.

Pritchard. Ye see, the boys is free and open-handed, Jack. And so the proposition we wanter make to ye, Jack, is this. It’s reg’lar on the squar. We reckon, takin’ Mr. Jackson’s word,—and thar ain’t no man’s word ez is better nor Jackson’s,—that there’s nigh on to two millions in that vault, not to speak of a little speshil deposit o’ York’s, ez we learn from that accommodatin’ friend, Mr. Jackson. We propose to share it with ye, on ekil terms—us five— countin’ Jackson, a square man. In course, we takes the risk o’ packin’ it away to-night comfortable. Ez your friends, Jack, we allow this yer little arrangement to be a deuced sight easier for you than playin’ Sandy Morton on a riglar salary, with the chance o’ the real Sandy poppin’ in upon ye any night.

Oakkurst. It’s a lie. Sandy is dead.

Pritchard. In course, in course; that is your little game! But we kalkilated, Jack, even on that, on yer bein’ rambunktious and contrary; and so we went ter Red Gulch, and found Sandy. Ye know I take a kind o’ interest in Sandy: he’s the second husband of my wife, the woman you run away with, pard. But thar’s nothin’ mean about me! eh, boys?

Silky. No! he’s the forgivingest kind of a man, is Pritchard.

Soapy. That’s so, Silky.

Pritchard. And, thinkin’ ye might be dubious, we filled Sandy about full o’ rye whiskey, and brought him along; and one of our pards is preambulatin’ the streets with him, ready to bring him on call.

Oakhurst. It’s a lie, Pritchard,—a cowardly lie!

Pritchard. Is it? Hush!

Sandy (without, singing),—

Oh, yer’s yer Sandy Morton,
Drink him down!
Oh, yer’s yer Sandy Morton,
Drink him down!
Oh, yer’s yer Sandy Morton,
All alive and just a-snortin’!
Oh, yer’s yer Sandy Morton,
Drink him down!

Pritchard. We don’t propose to run him in yer, cept we’re took, or yer unaccommodatin’ to the boys.

Oakhurst. And if I refuse?

Pritchard. Why, we’ll take what we can get; and we’ll leave Sandy Morton with you yer, to sorter alleviate the old man’s feelin’s over the loss of his money. There’s nothin’ mean about us; no! eh, boys? (Going toward safe.)

Oakhurst. Hear me a moment, Henry Pritchard. (PRITCHARD stops abreast of OAKHURST.) Four years ago you were assaulted in the Arcade Saloon in Sacramento. You would have been killed, but your assailant suddenly fell dead by a pistol-shot fired from some unknown hand. I stood twenty feet from you with folded arms; but that shot was fired by me,—me, Henry Pritchard,—through my clothes, from a derringer hidden in my waistcoat! Understand me, I do not ask your gratitude now. But that pistol is in my right hand, and now covers you. Make a single motion,—of a muscle,—and it is your last.

Pritchard (motionless, but excitedly). You dare not fire! No, dare not! A shot here will bring my pal and Sandy Morton to confront you. You will have killed me to save exposure, have added murder to imposture! You have no witness to this attempt!

Capper (opening door of room L., at the same moment that two policemen appear at door C., and two at room R). You are wrong: he has five (crossing to SILKY and SOAPY, and laying his hands on their shoulders); and, if I mistake not, he has two more in these gentlemen, whom I know, and who will be quite as willing to furnish the necessary State’s evidence of the robbery, as of the fact that they never knew any other Alexander Morton than the gentleman who sits in that chair.

Soapy. That’s so, Silky.

Silky. That’s so, Soapy.

Capper (to policemen). Take them away.

[Exit policemen with PRITCHARD, SOAPY, and SILKY. CAPPER unbinds OAKHURST.

Oakhurst. Then I have to thank you, Mr. C.

Capper. Yes! "A man of ridiculous theories, but well-meaning, brave, and honest." No, sir; don’t apologize: you were right, Mr. Oakhurst. It is I who owe you an apology. I came here, believing YOU were the robber, having no faith in you or your reformation, expecting,—yes, sir,—hoping, to detect you in the act. Hear me! From the hour you first entered the bank, I have shadowed your every movement, I have been the silent witness of all that has passed in this room. You have played a desperate game, Mr. Oakhurst; but I’ll see you through it. If you are true to your resolve, for the next six days, I will hold these wretches silent. I will protect your imposture with the strong arm of the law. I don’t like YOUR theories, sir; but I believe you to be wellmeaning, and I know you to be brave and honest.

Oakhurst (grasping his hand). I shall not forget this. But Sandy—

Capper. I will put my men on his track, and have him brought quietly here. I can give you no aid beyond that. As an honorable man, I need not tell you your duty. Settle it with him as best you can.

Oakhurst. You are right; I WILL see him. (Aside.) Unless he has changed, he will listen to me, he will obey me.

Capper. Hush! (Blows out candle.) Stand here!

CAPPER and OAKHURST retreat to wing L., as enter MORTON, sen., from room R.

Morton. The private door open, the room dark, and Capper gone. I don’t like this. The more I think of the mystery of that man’s manner this morning, the more it seems to hide some terrible secret I must fathom! There are matches here. (Strikes a light, as CAPPER draws OAKHURST, struggling, back into shadow.) What’s this? (Picking up key.) The key of the vault. A chair overturned. (Touches bell.) No answer! Jackson gone! My God! A terrible suspicion haunts me! No. Hush! (Retreats to private room R., as door of L. opens and—

Enter SANDY.

Sandy (drunkenly). Shoo! Shoo! boys, whar are ye, boys, eh? Pritchard, Silky, Soapy! Whar are ye, boys?

Morton (aside). A crime has been committed, and here is one of the gang. God has delivered him in my hands. (Draws revolver, and fires, as OAKHURST breaks from CAPPER, and strikes up MORTON’S pistol. CAPPER at same moment seizes SANDY, and drags him in room L. MORTON and OAKHURST struggle to centre.)

Morton (relaxing hold of OAKHURST). Alexander! Good God! Why are you here? Why have you stepped between me and retribution? You hesitate. God in heaven! Speak, Alexander, my son, speak for God’s sake! Tell me—tell me that this detective’s suspicions are not true. Tell me that you are not—not—no, I cannot say it. Speak, Alexander Morton, I command you! Who is this man you have saved? Is it—is it—your accomplice?

Oakhurst (sinking at his feet). Don’t ask me! You know not what you ask! I implore you—

Capper (appearing quietly from room L., and locking the door behind him). Your son has acted under MY orders. The man he has saved, as he has saved you, was a decoy,—one of my policemen.






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Chicago: Bret Harte, "Scene 1.— The Bank Parlor of Morton & Son, San Francisco.," Two Men of Sandy Bar; a Drama, ed. Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937 and trans. Townsend, R.S. in Two Men of Sandy Bar; a Drama (New York: A. L. Burt Company, 1916), Original Sources, accessed October 2, 2023,

MLA: Harte, Bret. "Scene 1.— The Bank Parlor of Morton & Son, San Francisco." Two Men of Sandy Bar; a Drama, edited by Paine, Albert Bigelow, 1861-1937, and translated by Townsend, R.S., in Two Men of Sandy Bar; a Drama, Vol. 22, New York, A. L. Burt Company, 1916, Original Sources. 2 Oct. 2023.

Harvard: Harte, B, 'Scene 1.— The Bank Parlor of Morton & Son, San Francisco.' in Two Men of Sandy Bar; a Drama, ed. and trans. . cited in 1916, Two Men of Sandy Bar; a Drama, A. L. Burt Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 2 October 2023, from