Rimrock jones, p.18
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       Rimrock Jones, p.18

           Dane Coolidge
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  Rimrock Jones' return to New York was as dramatic and spectacular ashis first visit had been pretentious and prodigal. With two thousanddollars and a big black hat he had passed for a Western millionaire;now, still wearing the hat but loaded down with real money, he returnedand was hailed as a Croesus. There are always some people in publiclife whose least act is heralded to the world; whereas others, muchmore distinguished but less given to publicity, accomplish miracles andare hardly known. And then there are still others who, fed up withflattery and featured in a hundred ways, are all unwittingly thevictims of a publicity bureau whose aim is their ultimate undoing.

  A real Western cowboy with a pistol under his coat, a prospector turnedmulti-millionaire in a year, such a man--especially if he wears asombrero and gives five-dollar tips to the bell-hops--is sure to breakinto the prints. But it was a strange coincidence, when Rimrock jumpedout of his taxicab and headed for the Waldorf entrance, to find abattery of camera men all lined up to snap him and a squad of reportersinside. No sooner had Rimrock been shot through the storm door intothe gorgeous splendors of Peacock Alley than they assailed him enmasse--much as the bell-boys had just done to gain his grip and thefive-dollar tip.

  That went down first--the five-dollar tip--and his Western remarks onthe climate. Then his naive hospitality in inviting them all to thebar where they could talk the matter over at their ease, and hisequally cordial agreement to make it tea when he was reminded that somereporters were women--it all went down and came out the same evening,at which Rimrock Jones was dazed. If he had telegraphed ahead, or letanyone know that he planned to return to New York, it would not havebeen surprising to find the reporters waiting, for he was, of course, agreat man; but this was a quick trip, made on the spur of the moment,and he hadn't told a soul. Yet in circumstances like these, with aroomful of newspapers and your name played up big on the front page, itis hardly human nature to enquire too closely or wonder what is goingon. Still, there was something up, for even coincidence can explainthings only so far. Leaving out the fact that Mrs. Hardesty might havesent on the telegram herself, and that Whitney H. Stoddard might havemotives of his own in inviting his newspapers to act; it did not standto reason that the first man Rimrock ran into should have had such asweet inside tip. Yet that was what the gay Buckbee told him--andcircumstances proved he was right. The money that Rimrock put up thatnight, after talking it over in the cafe, that money was doubled withinthe next three days, and the stock still continued to advance. It wasinvested on a margin in Navajoa Copper, a minor holding of the greatHackmeister combine that Stoddard had set out to break.

  Stoddard was selling short, so Buckbee explained, throwing great blocksof stock on a market that refused to break; and when the rush came andNavajoa started up Rimrock was there with the rest of his roll. It wasa game that he took to--any form of gambling--and besides, he wasbucking Stoddard! And then, there was Buckbee. He knew more in aminute than some brokers know in a lifetime; and he had promised tokeep him advised. Of course it was a gamble, a man might lose, but itbeat any game Rimrock had played. And copper was going up. Copper,the metal that stood behind it all, and that men could not do without.

  There was a movement on such as Rimrock had never dreamed of, tocontrol the copper product of the world. It had been tried before andhad ended disastrously, but that did not prove it impossible. Therewere in the United States six or eight companies that produced the bulkof the ore. Two or three, like the Tecolote, were closed corporations,where the stock was held by a few; but the rest were on the market, thefootball of The Street, their stock owned by anybody and everybody. Itwas for these loose stocks that the combine and Stoddard were fighting,with thousands of the public buying in, and as the price of some stockwas jigged up and down it was the public that cast the die.

  If the people were convinced that a certain stock was good and refusedto be shaken down, the price of that stock went up. But if the people,through what they had read, decided that the stock was bad; then therewas a panic that nothing could stop and the big interests snapped upthe spoils. So much Rimrock learned from Buckbee, and Mrs. Hardestytold him the rest. It was her judgment, really, that he came to relyupon; though Buckbee was right, in the main. He told the facts, butshe went behind them and showed who was pulling the strings.

  It was from her that he had learned of the mighty press agencies--whichat the moment were making much of his coup--and how shrewd financierslike the Hackmeisters or Stoddard used them constantly to influence themarket. If it became known, for instance, that Rimrock Jones wasplunging on Navajoa and that within three days he had doubled his moneyand was still holding out for a rise; that was big news for Hackmeisterand his papers made the most of it. But if Navajoa went down and somebroker's clerk lost his holdings and committed embezzlement, or if amining engineer made an adverse report, or the company passed adividend, then Stoddard's press agents would make the most of eachitem--if he wished the stock to go down. Otherwise it would not bementioned. It was by following out such subtleties and closelystudying the tape, that brokers like Buckbee guessed out each move inadvance and were able to earn their commissions.

  But all this information did not come to Rimrock for nothing--there wasa price which had to be paid. For reasons of her own the dashing Mrs.Hardesty appeared frequently in the Waldorf lobby, and when Rimrockcame in with any of his friends he was expected to introduce them. AndRimrock's friends in that swarming hotel were as numerous as they werein Gunsight. He expected no less, wherever he went, than thefriendship of every man; and if any held back, for any reason, hemarked him as quickly for an enemy. He was as open-hearted and free inthose marble corridors and in the velvet-hung club and cafe as the oldRimrock had been on the streets of Gunsight when he spoke to everyMexican.

  It was his day of triumph, this return to the Waldorf where before hehad been but a pretender, and it did his heart good to share hisvictory with the one woman who could understand. She knew all his waysnow, his swift impulsive hatreds and his equally impulsive affections;and she knew, as a woman, just when to oppose him and when to lead himon. She knew him, one might say, almost too well for her success; forRimrock was swayed more by his heart than his head, and at times sheseemed a little cold. There was a hard, worldly look that came overher at times, a sly, calculating look that chilled him when he mighthave told everything he knew. Yet it may easily be that he told herenough, and more than she needed to know.

  In some curious way that Rimrock could never fathom, Mrs. Hardesty wasinterested in stocks. She never explained it, but her visits to theWaldorf had something to do with trades. Whether she bought or sold,gathered tips or purveyed them or simply guarded her own investmentswas a mystery that he never solved; but she knew many people and, insome way not specified, she profited by their acquaintance. She was anelusive woman, like another that he knew; but at times she startledhim, too. Those times were mostly on the rare occasions when sheinvited him to supper at her rooms. These were at the St. Cyngia, notfar from the Waldorf, a full suite with two servants to attend.

  On his first formal call Rimrock had been taken aback by the wealth andluxury displayed. There were rare French tapestries and soft Persianrugs that seemed to merge into the furniture of the rooms and at hisvery first dinner she had poured out the wine until even his stronghead began to swim. It was a new world to him and a new kind ofwoman--with the intellect and, yes, the moral standards of a man. Shewas dainty and feminine, and with a dark type of beauty that went tohis head worse than wine, but with it all she had a stockbroker'sinformation and smoked and drank like a man. But then, as she said,all the women smoked now; and as far as he could judge, it was so. Thewomen they saw in the gay all-night restaurants or after the theater incabarets, all beautifully gowned and apparently with their husbands,drank and smoked the same as the men.

  But the thing that startled Rimrock and made him uneasy was the way shehad when they w
ere alone. After the dinner was over, in her luxuriousapartments, when the servant had left them alone, as they sat togetheracross the table and smoked the scented cigarettes that she loved, hecould feel a spell, a sort of enchantment, in every soft sweep of hereyes. At other times her long, slender arms seemed thin, in a way, andunrounded; but then her whole form took on the slim grace of a dancerand that strange light came into her eyes. It too was a light such ascomes to dancers' eyes, as they take on some languid pose; but it hadthis difference--it was addressed to him, and her words belied hereyes. The eyes spoke of love, but, leaning across the table, the tigerlady talked of stocks.

  It was on the occasion of his first winning on copper, when he had soldout his Navajoa at a big profit; and, after the celebration that he hadprovided, she had invited him to supper. The cigarettes were smokedand, with champagne still singing in his ears, Rimrock followed her tothe dimly lighted reception-room. They sat by the fire, her slim armsgleaming and dark shadows falling beneath her hair; and as Rimrockwatched her, his heart in his throat, she glanced up from her musing tosmile.

  "What a child you are, after all!" she observed and Rimrock raised hishead.

  "Yes, sure," he said, "I'm a regular baby. It's a wonder someonehasn't noticed and took me in off the street."

  "Yes, it is," she said with a twist of the lips, "the Street's no placefor you. Some of those big bears will get you, sure. But here's whatI was thinking. You came back to New York to watch Whitney Stoddardand be where you could do him the most harm. That's childish in itselfbecause there's no reason in the world why both of you shouldn't befriends. But never mind that--men will fight, I suppose--it's only aquestion of weapons."

  "Well, what do we care?" answered Rimrock with a ready smile, "Ithought maybe you might adopt me."

  "No, indeed," she replied, "you'd run away. I've seen boys like youbefore. But to think that you'd come back here to get the lifeblood ofStoddard and then go to buying Navajoa! Why not? Why, you might aswell be a mosquito for all the harm you will do. A grown man likeyou--Rimrock Jones, the copper king--fighting Stoddard through Navajoa!"

  "Well, why not?" defended Rimrock. "Didn't I put a crimp in him?Didn't I double my money on the deal?"

  "Yes, but why Navajoa? Why not Tecolote? If you must fight, why notuse a real club?"

  Rimrock thought a while, for the spell was passing and his mind hadswitched from her charms.

  "How'm I going to use Tecolote?" he blurted out at last. "It's tiedup, until I can find that girl!"

  "Not necessarily," she replied. "We who live by the Street learn touse our enemies as well as our friends. You will never whip Stoddardas long as you stand off and refuse to sit in on the game. Isn't hisvote as good as your friend, the typist's? Then use it to put Tecoloteon the market. You know what I mean--to vote Tecolote commons and getthe stakes on the board. Then while this scramble is on and he'sfighting the Hackmeisters, buy Tecolote and get your control."

  "Fine and dandy!" mocked Rimrock. "You're right, I'm a sucker; andit's a shame to take my money. But I don't want any Tecolote Commons."

  "Why not?" she challenged, laughing gayly at his vehemence. "Are youafraid to play the game?"

  "Not so you'd notice it," answered Rimrock grimly, "but I never playthe other fellow's game. The Tecolote game is going to be played inArizona, where my friends can see fair play. But look at Navajoa, howballed up that company is with its stocks all scattered around. Untilit comes in for transfer nobody knows who's got it. They may be soldclear out and never know it. No, I may look easy, but I've beendog-bit once and I've got the leg to show for it. To issue that stockwe'd have to call in the lawyers and go through some reorganizationscheme; and by the time we got through, with Miss Fortune gone, I'dfind myself badly left. There'll be no lawyers for me, and no commonstock. I know another way to win."

  He paused and as she failed to ask what it was, he grunted and litanother cigarette.

  "I wonder," she began after a thoughtful pause, "if Stoddard doesn'tknow where she is."

  She had guessed it as surely as if he had stated his plan--he stillhoped to find Mary Fortune. And then? Well, his plan was a littlenebulous right there; but Mary held the necessary stock. If he couldget control, in any way whatsoever, of that one per cent. of the stockhe could laugh at Stoddard and take his dividends to carry on his fightin coppers. He had neglected her before, but this time it would bedifferent; she could have anything she asked. And his detectives werehunting for her everywhere.

  "Don't know," he answered after a dogged silence. "Why? what makes youthink he does?"

  She laughed.

  "You don't know Mr. Stoddard as well as I do. He's a very successfulman. Very thorough. If _he_ set out to find Mary Fortune he'd bealmost sure to do it."

  "Hm," said Rimrock. "I'd better watch him, then. I'll call up aboutthat to-morrow. Just have a man there to watch the door--she might begoing in or out."

  "What a sleuth you are!" she answered gravely, and then she broke downand laughed. "Well, well," she said, "'tis a battle of wits, but lovemay find a way. Do you believe in love?" she went on abruptly asRimrock showed signs of pique. "I just wanted to know. You great, bigWestern men seem more fitted, somehow, for the part of copper kings.But tell me honestly, I feel so trifling to-night, do you believe inthe great love for one woman? Or do you hold with these drawing-roomphilosophers that man is by nature polygamous? Never mind myfeelings--just tell me."

  She coiled up lazily in her soft plush great-chair and regarded himwith languid eyes, and Rimrock never suspected that the words he hadspoken would go straight to Stoddard that night. He forgot hisrejection of a get-together plan and his final refusal of commonstocks; all he saw was this woman with her half-veiled glances and thefirelight as it played on her arms. He had confessed his hope of stillfinding Mary and of winning her back to his side; but as he gazed atthe tiger lady, sprawling so negligently before him, his ficklethoughts wandered to her. He denounced the theory of these latter-dayphilosophers that man is essentially a brute and, still watching herfurtively, he expressed the conviction that he could love the One Womanforever.

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