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The Bell-Ringer of Angel's and Other Stories

The Sheriff Of Siskyou
I.
On the fifteenth of August, 1854, what seemed to be the entire population of Wynyard's
Bar was collected upon a little bluff which overlooked the rude wagon road that was the
only approach to the settlement. In general appearance the men differed but little from
ordinary miners, although the foreign element, shown in certain Spanish peculiarities of
dress and color, predominated, and some of the men were further distinguished by the
delicacy of education and sedentary pursuits. Yet Wynyard's Bar was a city of refuge,
comprised among its inhabitants a number who were "wanted" by the State authorities,
and its actual attitude at that moment was one of open rebellion against the legal power,
and of particular resistance to the apprehension by warrant of one of its prominent
members. This gentleman, Major Overstone, then astride of a gray mustang, and directing
the movements of the crowd, had, a few days before, killed the sheriff of Siskyou county,
who had attempted to arrest him for the double offense of misappropriating certain
corporate funds of the State and the shooting of the editor who had imprudently exposed
him. The lesser crime of homicide might have been overlooked by the authorities, but its
repetition upon the body of their own over-zealous and misguided official could not pass
unchallenged if they expected to arrest Overstone for the more serious offense against
property. So it was known that a new sheriff had been appointed and was coming to
Wynyard's Bar with an armed posse. But it was also understood that this invasion would
be resisted by the Bar to its last man.
All eyes were turned upon a fringe of laurel and butternut that encroached upon the road
half a mile away, where it seemed that such of the inhabitants who were missing from the
bluff were hidden to give warning or retard the approach of the posse. A gray haze,
slowly rising between the fringe and the distant hillside, was recognized as the dust of a
cavalcade passing along the invisible highway. In the hush of expectancy that followed,
the irregular clatter of hoofs, the sharp crack of a rifle, and a sudden halt were faintly
audible. The men, scattered in groups on the bluff, exchanged a smile of grim
satisfaction.
Not so their leader! A quick start and an oath attracted attention to him. To their surprise
he was looking in another direction, but as they looked too they saw and understood the
cause. A file of horsemen, hitherto undetected, were slowly passing along the little ridge
on their right. Their compact accoutrements and the yellow braid on their blue jackets,
distinctly seen at that distance, showed them to be a detachment of United States cavalry.
Before the assemblage could realize this new invasion, a nearer clatter of hoofs was heard
along the high road, and one of the ambuscading party dashed up from the fringe of
woods below. His face was flushed, but triumphant.
"A reg'lar skunk—by the living hokey!" he panted, pointing to the faint haze that was
again slowly rising above the invisible road. "They backed down as soon as they saw our
 
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