Rimrock jones, p.13
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       Rimrock Jones, p.13
 

           Dane Coolidge
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  CHAPTER XIII

  THE MORNING AFTER

  The morning after found Rimrock without regrets and, for once, withouta head. He had subtly judged, from something she had said, that Marydid not like whiskey breaths, nor strong cigars, nor the odors of thetwo combined. So, having certain words to speak in her ear, he hadrefrained, with the results as aforesaid. For the first time in herlife she had looked him in the eye and acknowledged, frankly, that sheliked him. But she had not kissed him--she drew the line there--andonce more in his shrewd unsophisticated way he judged it was neverdone, in her set.

  He found her in the office when he appeared the next morning, with herharness over her head. It was the sign in a way that she was strictlybusiness and all personal confidences were taboo, but Rimrock did nottake the hint. It annoyed him, some way, that drum over her ear andthe transmitter hung on her breast, for when he had seen her theevening before all these things had been set aside.

  "What? Still wearing that ear-thing?" he demanded bluffly and sheflushed and drew her lips tight. It was a way she had when sherestrained some quick answer and Rimrock hastened on to explain. "Younever wore it last night and--and you could hear every word I said."

  "That was because I knew what you were going to say."

  She smiled, imperceptibly, as she returned the retort courteous and nowit was Rimrock who blushed. Then he laughed and waved the matter aside.

  "Well, let it go at that," he said sitting down. "Gimme the books, I'mgoing to make you a director at our next meeting."

  Mary Fortune looked at him curiously and smiled once more, then rosequickly and went to the safe.

  "Very well," she said as she came back with the records, "but I wonderif you quite understand."

  "You bet I do," he said, laying off his big hat and spreading out thepapers and books. "Don't fool yourself there--we've got to befriends--and that's why I'm going the limit."

  He searched out the certificate where, to qualify him for director, hehad transferred one share of the Company stock to Buckbee, and filledin a date on the back.

  "Now," he went on, "Mr. Buckbee's stock is cancelled, and hisresignation automatically takes place. Friend Buckbee is all right,but dear friend W. H. Stoddard might use him to slip something over.It's We, Us and Company, you and me, little Mary, against Whitney H.Stoddard and the world. Do you get the idea? We stand solidtogether--two directors out of three--and the Tecolote is in the hollowof our hand."

  "Your hand!" she corrected but Rimrock protested and she let him havehis way.

  "No, now listen," he said; "this doesn't bind you to anything--all Iwant is that we shall be friends."

  "And do you understand," she challenged, "that I can vote against youand throw the control to Stoddard? Have you stopped to think that Imay have ideas that are diametrically opposed to your own? Have youeven considered that we might fall out--as we did once before, youremember--and that then I could use this against you?"

  "I understand all that--and more besides," he said as he met her eyes."I want you, Mary. My God, I'm crazy for you. The whole mine isnothing to me now."

  "Oh, yes, it is," she said, but her voice trailed off and she thoughtfor a minute in silence.

  "Very well," she said, "you have a right to your own way--but remember,this still leaves me free."

  "You know it!" he exclaimed, "as the desert wind! Shake hands onit--we're going to be friends!"

  "I hope so," she said, "but sometimes I'm afraid. We must wait a whileand be sure."

  "Ah, 'wait'!" he scolded. "But I don't like that word--but come on,let's get down to business. Where's this Abercrombie Jepson? I wantto talk to him, and then we'll go out to the mine."

  He grabbed up his hat and began to stride about the office, running hishand lovingly over the polished mahogany furniture, and Mary Fortunespoke a few words into the phone.

  "He'll be here in a minute," she said and began to straighten out thepapers on her desk. Even to Rimrock Jones, who was far fromsystematic, it was evident that she knew her work. Every paper was putback in its special envelope, and when Abercrombie Jepson came in fromhis office she had the bundle back in the safe.

  He was a large man, rather fat and with a ready smile, but with aharried look in his eye that came from handling a thousand details; andas Rimrock turned and faced him he blinked, for he felt something wascoming.

  "Mr. Jepson," began Rimrock in his big, blustering voice, "I want tohave an understanding with you. You're a Stoddard man, but I thinkyou're competent--you certainly have put things through. But here'sthe point--I've taken charge now and you get your orders from me. Youcan forget Mr. Stoddard. I'm president and general manager, andwhatever I say goes."

  He paused and looked Jepson over very carefully while Mary Fortunestared.

  "Very well, sir," answered Jepson, "I think I understand you. I hopeyou are satisfied with my services?"

  "We'll see about that later," went on Rimrock, still arrogantly. "I'llbegin my tour of inspection to-day. But I'll tell you right now, sothere won't be any mistake, that all I ask of you is results. Youwon't find me kicking about the money you spend as long as it comesback in ore. You're a competent man, so I've been given to understand,and, inside your field, you're the boss. I won't fire any of your menand I won't interfere with your work without having it done throughyou; but on the other hand, don't you forget for a single minute thatI'm the big boss on this dump. And whatever you do, don't make themistake of thinking you're working for Stoddard. I guess that will beall. Miss Fortune is going to be a director soon and I've asked her togo out with us to the mine."

  A strange, startled look came over Jepson's face as he received thislast bit of news, but he smiled and murmured his congratulations. Thenhe expressed the hope that he would be able to please them and withdrewwith the greatest haste.

  "Well!" observed Rimrock as he gazed grimly after him, "I guess thatwill hold Mr. Jepson."

  "Very likely," returned Mary, "but as a prospective director may Ienquire the reason for this outburst?"

  "You may," replied Rimrock. "This man, Abercrombie Jepson, was putover on me by Stoddard. I had to concede something, after holding outon the control, and I agreed he could name the supe. Well now, afterbeing the whole show, don't you think it more than likely that Mr.Jepson might overlook the main squeeze--me?"

  He tapped himself on the breast and nodded his head significantly.

  "That's it," he went on as she smiled enigmatically. "I know thesegreat financiers. I'll bet you right now our fat friend Abercrombie isdown telegraphing the news to Stoddard. He's Stoddard's man but I'vegot my eye on him and if he makes a crooked move, it's bingo!"

  "All the same," defended Mary, "while I don't like him personally, Ithink Jepson is remarkably efficient. And when you consider his yearsof experience and the technical knowledge he has----"

  "That has nothing to do with it, as far as I'm concerned--there areother men just as good for the price--but I want him to understand sohe won't forget it that he's taking his orders from _me_. Now I happento know that our dear friend Stoddard is out to get control of thismine and the very man that is liable to ditch us is this same efficientMr. Jepson. Don't ever make the mistake of giving these financiers thecredit of being on the level. You can't grab that much money in theshort time they've been gathering without gouging every man you meet.So just watch this man Jepson. Keep your eye on his accounts, andremember--we're pardners, now."

  His big, excited eyes, that blazed with primitive emotion whenever heroused from his calm, became suddenly gentle and he patted her hand ashe hurried off to order up the car.

  All the way across the desert, as Mary exclaimed at the signs ofprogress, Rimrock let it pass in silence. They left the end of therailroad and a short automobile ride put them down at the Tecolotecamp. Along the edge of the canyon, where the well-borers haddeveloped water, the framework of a gigantic mill and concentrator wasrapidly being rushed to completion. On the flats
below, where OldJuan's burros had browsed on the scanty mesquite, were long lines ofhouses for the miners and a power plant to run the great stamps. A biggang of miners were running cuts into the hillside where the first ofthe ore was to come out and like a stream of ants the workmen and teamsswarmed about each mighty task, but still Rimrock Jones remainedsilent. His eyes opened wider at sight of each new miracle but toJepson he made no comments.

  They went to the assay house, where the diamond drill cores showed theore from the heart of the hills; and there at last Rimrock found histongue as he ran over the assayer's reports.

  "Pretty good," he observed and this time it was Jepson who tightenedhis lips and said nothing. "Pretty good," repeated Rimrock and then helaughed silently and went out and sat down on the hill. "A mountain ofcopper," he said, looking upward. "The whole butte is nothing but ore.Some rich, some low-grade, but shattered--that's the idea! You canscoop it up with a steam shovel."

  He whistled through his teeth, cocking his eye up at the mountain andthen looking down at the townsite.

  "You bet--a big camp!" And then to Jepson: "That's fine, Mr. Jepson;you're doing noble. By the way, when will that cook-house be done?Pretty soon, eh? Well, let me know; I've got a friend that's crazy tomove in."

  He smiled at Mary, who thought at once of Woo Chong, but Jepson lookedsuddenly serious.

  "I hope, Mr. Jones," he said, "you're not planning to bring in thatChinaman. I've got lots of Bisbee men among my miners and they won'tstand for a Chinaman in camp."

  "Oh, yes, they will," answered Rimrock easily. "You wait, it'll be allright. And there's another thing, now I think about it; Mr. Hicks willbe out soon to look for a good place to locate his saloon. I've givenhim the privilege of selling all the booze that is sold in Tecolote."

  "Booze?" questioned Jepson, and then he fell silent and went to gnawinghis lip.

  "Yes--booze!" repeated Rimrock. "I know these Cousin Jacks. They'vegot to have facilities for spending their money or they'll quit you andgo to town."

  "Well, now really, Mr. Jones," began Jepson earnestly, "I'd much preferto have a dry camp. Of course you are right about the averageminer--but it's better not to have them drunk around camp."

  "Very likely," said Rimrock, "but Old Hassayamp is coming and I guessyou can worry along. It's a matter of friendship with me, Mr.Jepson--I never go back on a friend. When I was down and out OldHassayamp Hicks was the only man that would trust me for the drinks;and Woo Chong, the Chinaman, was the only man that would trust me for ameal. You see how it is, and I hope you'll do your best to make themboth perfectly at home."

  Abercrombie Jepson mumbled something into his mustache which Rimrocklet pass for assent, although it was plainly to be seen by the fire inhis eye that the superintendent was vexed. As for Mary Fortune, shesat at one side and pretended not to hear. Perhaps Rimrock was rightand these first minor clashes were but skirmishes before a greatbattle. Perhaps, after all, Jepson was there to oppose him and it wasbest to ride over him roughshod. But it seemed on the surfaceextremely dictatorial, and against public policy as well. Mr. Jepsonwas certainly right, in her opinion, in his attitude toward Hicks'saloon; yet she knew it was hopeless to try to move Rimrock, so shesmiled and let them talk on.

  "Now, there's another matter," broke in Jepson aggressively, "that I'vebeen waiting to see you about. As I understand it, I'm Mr. Stoddard'srepresentative--I represent his interests in the mine. Very good;that's no more than right. Now, Mr. Stoddard has invested a largeamount of money to develop these twenty claims, but he feels, and Ifeel, that that Old Juan claim is a continual menace to them all."

  At the mention of the Old Juan Rimrock turned his head, and Mary couldsee his jaw set; but he listened somberly for some little time asJepson went on with his complaint.

  "You must know, Mr. Jones, that the history of the Old Juan makes itextremely liable to be jumped. We've had a strong guard set ever sinceyou--well, continuously--but the title to that claim must be clearedup. It ought to be re-located----"

  "Don't you think it!" sneered Rimrock with a sudden insulting stare."That claim will stay--just the way it is!"

  "But the guards!" protested Jepson, "they're a continual expense----"

  "You can tell 'em to come down," cut in Rimrock peremptorily. "I'lllook after that claim myself."

  "But why not re-locate it?" cried Jepson in a passion, "why expose usto this continual suspense? You can re-locate it yourself----"

  "Mr. Jepson," began Rimrock, speaking through his teeth, "there's noone that questions my claim. But if any man does--I don't care who heis--he's welcome to try and jump it. All he'll have to do is whip me."

  He was winking angrily and Jepson, after a silence, cast an appealingglance at Mary Fortune.

  "You've got a wonderful property here," he observed, speakinggenerally, "the prospects are very bright. There's only one thing thatcan mar its success, and that is litigation!"

  "Yes," cried Rimrock, "and that's just what you'd bring on by yourcrazy re-location scheme! That Old Juan claim is good--I killed a manto prove it--and I'm not going to back down on it now. It won't bere-located and the man that jumps it will have me to deal with,personally. Now if you don't like the way I'm running thisproposition----"

  "Oh, it isn't that!" broke in Jepson hastily, "but I'm hired, in a way,to advise. You must know, Mr. Jones, that you're jeopardizing ourfuture by refusing to re-locate that claim."

  "No, I don't!" shouted Rimrock, jumping fiercely to his feet, whileMary Fortune turned pale. "It's just the other way. That claim isgood--I know it's good--and I'll fight for it every time. Your courtsare nothing, you can hire a lawyer to take any side of any case, butyou can't hire one to go up against this!" He patted a lump thatbulged at his hip and shook a clenched fist in the air. "No, sir! Nolaw for me! Don't you ever think that I'll stand for re-locating thatclaim. That would be just the chance that these law-sharps are lookingfor, to start a contest and tie up the mine. No, leave it to me. I'llbe my own law and, believe me, I'll never be jumped. There are somepeople yet that remember Andrew McBain----"

  He stopped, for Mary had risen from her place and stood facing him withblazing eyes.

  "What's the matter?" he asked, like a man bewildered; and then heunderstood. Mary Fortune had worked for Andrew McBain, she had heardhim threaten his life; and, since his acquittal, this was the firsttime his name had been mentioned. And he remembered with a start thatafter he came back from the killing she had refused to take his hand.

  "What's the matter?" he repeated, but she set her lips and moved awaydown the hill. Rimrock stood and watched her, then he turned to Jepsonand his voice was hoarse with hate.

  "Well, I hope you're satisfied!" he said and strode savagely off downthe trail.

 
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