Rimrock jones, p.15
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       Rimrock Jones, p.15

           Dane Coolidge
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  The next thirty days--before the stockholders' meeting--were spent byRimrock in trying to explain. In spite of her suggestion that he wasnot good at that art he insisted upon making things worse. What hewanted to say was that the pooling of their stock would be ahappy--though accidental--resultant of their marriage; what he actuallysaid was that they ought to get married because then they would standtogether against Stoddard. But Mary only listened with a wise,sometimes wistful, smile and assured him he was needlessly alarmed. Itwas that which drove him on--that wistful, patient smile. Somehow hefelt, if he could only say the right words, she would lean right overand kiss him!

  But those words were never spoken. Rimrock was worried and harassedand his talk became more and more practical. He was quarreling withJepson, who stood upon his rights; and Stoddard had served notice thathe would attend the meeting in person, which meant it had come to ashowdown. So the month dragged by until at last they sat together inthe mahogany-furnished Directors' room. Rimrock sat at the head of thepolished table with Mary Fortune near by, and Stoddard and Buckbeeopposite. As the friend of all parties--and the retiringDirector--Buckbee had come in the interest of peace; or so he claimed,but how peace would profit him was a question hard to decide. It mightseem, in fact, that war would serve better; for brokers are the sharksin the ocean of finance and feed and fatten where the battle isfiercest.

  Whitney Stoddard sat silent, a tall, nervous man with a face lined deepwith care, and as he waited for the conflict he tore off long strips ofpaper and pinched them carefully into little square bits. ElwoodBuckbee smiled genially, but his roving eye rested fitfully on MaryFortune. He was a dashing young man of the Beau Brummel type and therewas an ease and grace in his sinuous movements that must have flutteredmany a woman's heart. But now he, too, sat silent and his appraisingglances were disguised in a general smile.

  "Well, let's get down to business," began Rimrock, after thepreliminaries. "The first thing is to elect a new Director. Mr.Buckbee here has been retired and I nominate Mary Fortune to fill thevacancy."

  "Second the motion," rapped out Stoddard and for a moment Rimrockhesitated before he took the fatal plunge. He knew very well that,once elected to the directorship, he could never remove her by himself.Either her stock or Stoddard's would have to go into the balance toundo the vote of that day.

  "All in favor say 'Ay!'"

  "Ay!" said Stoddard grimly; and Rimrock paused again.

  "Ay!" he added and as Mary wrote it down she felt the eyes of both ofthem upon her. The die had been cast and from that moment on she wasthe arbiter of all their disputes.

  They adjourned, as stockholders, and reconvened immediately asDirectors; and the first matter that came up was a proposition fromBuckbee to market a hundred million shares of common stock.

  "You have here," he said, "a phenomenal property--one that will standthe closest of scrutiny; and with the name of Whitney H. Stoddardbehind it. More than that, you are on the eve of an enormousproduction at a time when copper is going up. It is selling now forover eighteen cents and within a year it will be up in the twenties.Within a very few months, unless I am mistaken, there will be a battleroyal in the copper market. The Hackmeister interests have had coppertied up, but the Tecolote Company can break that combine and at thesame time gain an enormous prestige. There will be a fight, of course,but this stock will cost you nothing and you can retain a controllingshare. My proposition is simply that you issue the common and divideit pro rata among you, your present stock then becoming preferred.Then you can put your common on the market in such lots as you wish andtake your profits at the crest. In conclusion let me say that I willhandle all you offer at the customary broker's charge."

  He sat down and Rimrock looked out from under his eyebrows at Stoddardand Mary Fortune.

  "Very well," said Stoddard after waiting for a moment. "It's agreeableto me, I'm sure."

  "I'm against it," declared Rimrock promptly. "I'm against any form ofreorganization. I'm in favor of producing copper and taking ourprofits from that."

  "But this is plain velvet," protested Buckbee, smilingly. "It's justlike money picked up in the road. I don't think I know of any companyof importance that hasn't done something of the kind."

  "I'm against it," repeated Rimrock in his stubborn way and all eyeswere turned upon Mary Fortune. She sat very quiet, but her anxious,lip-reading gaze shifted quickly from one to the other.

  "Did you get that, Miss Fortune?" asked Buckbee suavely, "theproposition is to issue a hundred million shares of common and startthem at, say, ten cents a share. Then by a little manipulation we canraise them to twenty and thirty, and from that on up to a dollar. Atthat price, of course, you can unload if you wish: I'll keep you fullyinformed."

  "Yes, I understood it," she answered, "but I'm not in favor of it. Ithink all stock gambling is wrong."

  "You--_what_?" exclaimed Buckbee, and Whitney H. Stoddard was soastounded that he was compelled to unmask. His cold, weary eyes becamepredatory and eager and a subtle, scornful smile twisted his lips.Even Rimrock was surprised, but he leaned back easily and gave her aswift, approving smile. She was with him, that was enough; let thestock gamblers rage. He had won in the very first bout.

  "But my dear Miss Fortune," began Stoddard, still smiling, "do yourealize what you have done? You have rejected a profit, at the veryleast, of one or two million dollars."

  "That may be," she said, "but I prefer not to take it unless we givesomething in return."

  "But we do!" broke in Buckbee, "that stock is legitimate. The peoplethat buy in will get rich."

  "But the people who buy last will lose," she said. "I know, because Idid it myself."

  "Oho!" began Buckbee, but at a glance from Stoddard he drew back andconcealed his smirk. Then for half an hour with his most tellingarguments and the hypnotic spell of his eyes Whitney Stoddard outdidhimself to win her over while Rimrock sat by and smiled. He had triedthat himself in days gone by and he knew Stoddard was wasting hisbreath. She had made up her mind and that was the end of it--therewould be no Tecolote common. Even Stoddard saw at last that his casewas hopeless and he turned to the next point of attack. Rimrock Jones,he knew, opposed him on general principles--but the girl as a matter ofconscience. They would see if that conscience could not be utilized.

  "Very well," he said, "I'll withdraw my motion. Let us take up thismatter of the saloon."

  "What saloon?" demanded Rimrock, suddenly alert and combative, andStoddard regarded him censoriously.

  "I refer," he said, "to the saloon at the camp, which you have putthere in spite of Jepson's protests. Now outside the question ofgeneral policy--the effect on the men, the increase in accidents andthe losses that are sure to result--I wish to protest, and to protestmost vigorously, against having a whiskey camp. I want the Tecolote todraw the best type of men, men of family who will make it their home,and I think it's a sin under circumstances like this to poison theirlives with rum. I could speak on this further, but I simply make amotion that Tecolote be kept a temperance camp."

  He paused and met Rimrock's baleful glance with a thin-lipped fightingsmile; and then the battle was on. There were hot words in plenty andmutual recrimination, but Stoddard held the high moral ground. Hestuck to his point that employers had no right to profit by thedownfall of their men; and when it came to the vote, without a moment'shesitation, Mary Fortune cast her vote with his.

  "What's that?" yelled Rimrock, rising up black with anger and strikinga great blow on the table. "Have I got to tell Hassayamp to go? Thisold friend of mine that helped me and staked me when nobody else wouldtrust me? Then I resign, by grab. If I can't do a little thing likethat, I'm going to quit! Right now! You can get another manager! Iresign! Now vote on it! You've got to accept it or----"

  "I accept it!" said Stoddard and a wild look crossed Rimrock's face ashe saw where his impetuosity had led him. B
ut Mary Fortune, with anunderstanding smile, shook her head and voted no.

  "How do _you_ vote?" challenged Stoddard, trying to spur him to theleap, but Rimrock had sensed the chasm.

  "I vote _no_!" he said with answering scowl. "I'll take care of Mr.Hicks, myself. You must take me for a sucker," he added as anafterthought, but Stoddard was again wearing his mask. It was Buckbeewho indulged in the laugh.

  "We can't all win," he said, rising up to go. "Think of me and thatTecolote common!"

  Rimrock grinned, but Stoddard had come there for a purpose and he didnot choose to unbend.

  "Mr. Jones," he began, as they were left alone, "I see we are not ableto agree. Every point that I bring up you oppose it on generalprinciples. Have you any suggestions for the future?"

  "Why, yes," returned Rimrock, "since I'm in control I suggest that youleave me alone. I know what you'd like--you'd like to have me playdead, and let you and Jepson run the mine. But if you've got enough,if you want to get out, I might take that stock off your hands."

  A questioning flash came into Stoddard's keen eyes.

  "In what way?" he enquired cautiously.

  "Well, just place a value on it, whatever you think it's worth, andwe'll get right down to business." Rimrock hitched up his trousers,and the square set of his shoulders indicated his perfect willingnessto begin. "You're not the only man," he went on importantly, "that'sgot money to put into mines."

  "Perhaps not," admitted Stoddard, "but you take too much for granted ifyou think I can be bought out for a song."

  "Oh, no," protested Rimrock, "I don't think anything like that. Iexpect you to ask a good price. Yes, a big price. But figure it out,now, what you've put into the mine and a reasonable return for yourrisk. Then multiply it by five, or ten, or twenty, whatever you thinkit's worth, and make me an offer on paper."

  "Not at all! Not at all!" rapped out Stoddard hastily, "I'm in themarket to buy."

  "Well, then, make me an offer," said Rimrock bluffly, "or Miss Fortunehere, if she'd like to sell. Here, I'll tell you what you do--you nameme a figure that you'll either buy at, or sell! Now, that's fair,ain't it?"

  A fretful shadow came over Stoddard's face as he found himself still onthe defense and he sought to change his ground.

  "I'll tell you frankly why I make this offer--it's on account of theOld Juan claim. If you had shown any tendency to be in the leastreasonable I'd be the last to propose any change----"

  "Never mind about that," broke in Rimrock peremptorily, "I'll take yourword for all that. The question is--what's your price?"

  "I don't want to sell!" snapped out Stoddard peevishly, "but I'll giveyou twenty million dollars for your hundred thousand shares of stock."

  "You offered that before," countered Rimrock coolly, "when I was shutup in the County Jail. But I'm out again now and I guess you can see Idon't figure on being stung."

  "I'll give you thirty million," said Stoddard, speaking slowly, "andnot a dollar more."

  "Will you sell out for that?" demanded Rimrock instantly. "Will youtake _forty_ for what you hold? You won't? Then what are you offeringit to me for? Haven't I got the advantage of control?"

  "Well, perhaps you have," answered Stoddard doubtfully and turned andlooked straight at Mary. "Miss Fortune," he said, "I don't know youintimately, but you seem to be a reasonable woman. May I ask at thistime whether it is your present intention to hold your stock, or tosell?"

  "I intend to hold my stock," replied Mary very quietly, "and to vote itwhichever way seems best."

  "Then am I to understand that you don't follow Mr. Jones blindly, andthat he has no control over your stock?"

  Mary nodded, but as Stoddard leaned forward with an offer she hurriedon to explain.

  "But at the same time," she said in her gentlest manner and with areassuring glance at her lover, "when we think what hardships Mr. Joneshad endured in order to find this mine, and all he has been throughsince, I think it is no more than right that he should remain incontrol."

  "Aha! I see!" responded Stoddard cynically, "may I enquire if youyoung people have an understanding?"

  "That is none of your business," she answered sharply, but the telltaleblush was there.

  "Ah, yes, excuse me," murmured Stoddard playfully, "a lady might wellhesitate--with him!"

  He cast a teasing glance in the direction of Rimrock and perceived hehad guessed right again. "Well, well," he hurried on, "that does makea difference--it's the most uncertain element in the game. But allthis aside, may I ask you young people if you have a top price for yourstock. I don't suppose I can meet it, but it's no harm to mention it.Don't be modest--whatever it is!"

  "A hundred million dollars!" spoke up Rimrock promptly, "that's what Ivalue my share of the mine."

  "And you?" began Stoddard with a quizzical smile, but Mary seemed notto hear. It was a way she had, when a thing was to be avoided; butStoddard raised his voice. "And you, Miss Fortune?" he calledinsistently. "How much do you want for your stock?"

  She glanced up, startled, then looked at Rimrock and dropped her eyesto the table.

  "I don't wish to sell," she answered quietly and the two men glared ateach other.

  "Mr. Jones," began Stoddard in the slow, measured tones of a priest whoinvokes the only god he knows, "I'm a man of few words--now you cantake this or leave it. I'll give you--fifty--million--dollars!"

  "Nothing doing!" answered Rimrock. "I don't want to sell. Will youtake fifty millions for yours?"

  For a moment Stoddard hesitated, then his face became set and his voicerasped harshly in his throat.

  "No!" he said. "I came here to buy. And you'll live to wish you hadsold!"

  "Like hell!" retorted Rimrock. "This has been my day. I'll know whereI'm at, from now on."

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