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THE FIRST VIGILANCE COMMITTEES.

ON one of my hunting excursions in
California, in the month of November, eighteen
hundred and fifty, I came, by mere chance,
upon eight houses situated on the extreme
point of a little peninsula far projecting into
the Bay of San Francisco. The place was
some twenty miles distant from the town,
and separated from the surrounding country
by a rocky mountainous range and a deep
creek. The houses, exceedingly narrow and
tall, and without any foundations, were
constructed of beams and planks, and leant
two and two against each other that they
might the more effectually resist the heavy
gales. Each pair of them was separated from
the other by a distance of one hundred and
fifty yards, to secure them from a general
conflagration. The buildings were all
uniformly alike, each of them being of two storeys,
and each storey containing one single room.
Of chimneys, and such superfluous luxuries,
of course there were none: even the
windows were without glass, and the upper rooms
without stairs.

In spite of the latest map of the mining
district and Bay of San Francisco, in which
this place was set down as a flourishing town,
only one of the eight houses was inhabited,
and its inhabitants were three Irishmen.
As the position was tolerably convenient for
my future hunting expeditions, I made up my
mind at once, and chose a couple of the houses
for my temporary residence. The Irishmen
pretended to have someI do not know
what--right to all the buildings. But these
pretensions proved to be utterly unfounded,
as they had taken possession of the first
house just in the same way as I was doing
then with respect to the second and third
houses. Nor did I ever find out who the real
proprietors were.

Some days after my installation, the Irish
party was increased by two countrymen of
theirs, who, as they probably had private
reasons for concealing their true names, were
called Blue Jacket and Crow's Head. My
neighbours professed to be fishermen. Very
soon, however, I learned that they were
carrying on the much nobler tradeat least,
according to Californian notionsof
cattle-stealing. They would have prospered, but
that they unfortunately were too patriotic.
Far from home, as they were in California,
they devoted still nearly all their time and
energy to the sacred cause of their native
country, by telling, and sometimes even
believing, the most startling exploits done in
Ireland. In consequence of their excessive
patriotism they could not earn their living,
although they had been clever enough to
choose a very suitable and lucrative trade.
In the month of January the Irish people left
the place. Two of them went to the Sandwich
Islands and Australia; Old Man and
Crow's Head returned to the town, and Blue
Jacket, always wandering, lived here and
there where he could find a dinner or a shelter
for the night.

After the departure of the Irishmen,
however, the cattle were not safer than before.
On the contrary, the robberies increased, both
in extent and boldness. Crow's Head was
generally suspected to have organised gangs
of thieves in the town, and direct them to our
peninsulaa suspicion which was only the
more confirmed by his most constant
companion.

"I say, sir," Blue Jacket said one day to
me, "mistrust Crow's Head; he is as
desperate as cunning, and certainly one of the
most dangerous men in the whole country."

"And you are his aide-de-camp," I replied.

"I must confess, in some degree, I am," was
his answer; "but confidence and good-
companionship never can take place between us."

"And why not?"

"I seduced his sister."

"You shall marry her."

"She is dead."

"Did she die poor and miserable?"

"I believe she did so, poor soul," he said in
an off-hand manner, and then, growing more
serious, he continued: "Crow's Head, I am
quite sure, has made up his mind to murder
me. If I were a man of weak intellect, I
would avoid him; but there can be no doubt,
if I did so, he would find me out, and easily
carry his purpose into execution, without even
being suspected. 'Poor Blue Jacket,' he
would say, 'is killedbut he was too
inconsiderate, and I warned him more than once
not to wander all about the country.' No; I
will stick to him I will watch not only all
his actions but even his thoughts before he

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