McTeague HTML version
Within a month after his departure from San Francisco, Marcus had "gone in on a
cattle ranch" in the Panamint Valley with an Englishman, an acquaintance of Mr.
Sieppe's. His headquarters were at a place called Modoc, at the lower extremity
of the valley, about fifty miles by trail to the south of Keeler.
His life was the life of a cowboy. He realized his former vision of himself, booted,
sombreroed, and revolvered, passing his days in the saddle and the better part of
his nights around the poker tables in Modoc's one saloon. To his intense
satisfaction he even involved himself in a gun fight that arose over a disputed
brand, with the result that two fingers of his left hand were shot away.
News from the outside world filtered slowly into the Panamint Valley, and the
telegraph had never been built beyond Keeler. At intervals one of the local
papers of Independence, the nearest large town, found its way into the cattle
camps on the ranges, and occasionally one of the Sunday editions of a
Sacramento journal, weeks old, was passed from hand to hand. Marcus ceased
to hear from the Sieppes. As for San Francisco, it was as far from him as was
London or Vienna.
One day, a fortnight after McTeague's flight from San Francisco, Marcus rode
into Modoc, to find a group of men gathered about a notice affixed to the outside
of the Wells-Fargo office. It was an offer of reward for the arrest and
apprehension of a murderer. The crime had been committed in San Francisco,
but the man wanted had been traced as far as the western portion of Inyo
County, and was believed at that time to be in hiding in either the Pinto or
Panamint hills, in the vicinity of Keeler.
Marcus reached Keeler on the afternoon of that same day. Half a mile from the
town his pony fell and died from exhaustion. Marcus did not stop even to remove
the saddle. He arrived in the barroom of the hotel in Keeler just after the posse
had been made up. The sheriff, who had come down from Independence that
morning, at first refused his offer of assistance. He had enough men already—
too many, in fact. The country travelled through would be hard, and it would be
difficult to find water for so many men and horses.
"But none of you fellers have ever seen um," vociferated Marcus, quivering with
excitement and wrath. "I know um well. I could pick um out in a million. I can
identify um, and you fellers can't. And I knew—I knew—good GOD! I knew that
girl—his wife—in Frisco. She's a cousin of mine, she is—she was—I thought
once of—This thing's a personal matter of mine—an' that money he got away
with, that five thousand, belongs to me by rights. Oh, never mind, I'm going
along. Do you hear?" he shouted, his fists raised, "I'm going along, I tell you.