Rimrock jones, p.2
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       Rimrock Jones, p.2

           Dane Coolidge



  The Mint was Gunsight's only gambling house. It had a bar, of course,and a Mexican string band that played from eight o'clock on; besides aroulette wheel, a crap table, two faro layouts, and monte for theMexicans. But the afternoon was dull and the faro dealer was idlyshuffling a double stack of chips when Rimrock brushed in through thedoor. Half an hour afterwards the place was crowded and all the gameswere running big. Such is the force of example--especially when youwin.

  Rimrock threw his bill on the table, bought a stack of white chips,placed it on the queen and told the dealer to turn 'em. The queen wonand Rimrock took his chips and played as the spirit moved. He wonmore, for the house was unlucky from the start, and soon others beganto ride his bets. If he bet on the seven, eager hands reached over hisshoulder and placed more chips on the seven. Petty winners drifted offto try their luck at monte, the sports took a flier at roulette; and asthe gambling spirit, so subtly fed, began to rise to a fever, RimrockJones, the cause of all this heat, bet more and more--and still won.

  It was at the height of the excitement when, with half of the checks inthe rack in front of him, Rimrock was losing and winning by turns, thatthe bull-like rumble of L. W. Lockhart came drifting in to him abovethe clamor of the crowd.

  "Why don't you quit, you fool?" the deep voice demanded. "Cash in andquit--you've got your stake!"

  Rimrock made a gesture of absent-minded impatience and watched the slowturn of the cards. Not even the dealer or the hawk-eyed lookout wasmore intently absorbed in the game. He knew every card that had beenplayed and he bet where the odds were best. Every so often a long,yellow hand reached past him and laid a bet by his stake. It was thehand of a Chinaman, those most passionate of faro players, and at suchtimes, seeing it follow his luck, the face of Rimrock lightened up withthe semblance of a smile. He called the last turn and they paused forthe drinks, while the dealer mopped his brow.

  "Where's Ike?" he demanded. "Well, somebody call him--he's hiding out,asleep, upstairs."

  "Yes, wake him up!" shouted Rimrock boastfully. "Tell him RimrockJones is here."

  "Aw, pull out, you sucker!" blared L. W. in his ear, but Rimrock onlyshoved out his bets.

  "Ten on the ace," droned the anxious dealer, "the jack is coppered.All down?"

  He held up his hand and as the betting ceased he slowly pushed out thetwo cards.

  "Tray loses, ace wins!" he announced and Rimrock won again.

  Then he straightened up purposefully and looked about as he sorted hiswinnings into piles.

  "The whole works on the queen," he said to the dealer and a hush fellupon the crowd.

  "Where's Ike?" shrilled the dealer, but the boss was not to be foundand he dealt, unwillingly, for a queen. But the fear was on him andhis thin hands trembled; for Ike Bray was not the type of yourfrozen-faced gambler--he expected his dealers to win. The dealershoved them out, and an oath slipped past his lips.

  "Queen wins," he quavered, "the bank is broke." And he turned the boxon its side.

  A shout went up--the glad yell of the multitude--and Rimrock rose upgrinning.

  "Who said to pull out?" he demanded arrogantly, looking about for theglowering L. W. "Huh, huh!" he chuckled, "quit your luck when you'rewinning? Quit your luck and your luck will quit you--the drinks forthe house, barkeep!"

  He was standing at the bar, stuffing money into his pockets, when IkeBray, the proprietor, appeared. Rimrock turned, all smiles, as heheard his voice on the stairs and lolled back against the bar. Morethan once in the past Bray had taken his roll but now it was his turnto laugh.

  "Lemme see," he remarked as he felt Bray's eyes upon him, "I wonder howmuch I win."

  He drew out the bills from his faded overalls and began laboriously tocount them out into his hat.

  Ike Bray stopped and looked at him, a little, twisted man with his hairstill rumpled from the bed.

  "Where's that dealer?" he shrilled in his high, complaining voice."I'll kill the danged piker--that bank ain't broke yet--I got a bigroll, right here!"

  He waved it in the air and came limping forward until he stood facingRimrock Jones.

  "You think you broke me, do you?" he demanded insolently as Rimrocklooked up from his count.

  "You can see for yourself," answered Rimrock contentedly, and held outhis well-filled hat.

  "You're a piker!" yelled Bray. "You don't dare to come back at me.I'll play you one turn win or lose--for your pile!"

  A hundred voices rang out at once, giving Rimrock all kinds of advice,but L. W.'s rose above them all.

  "Don't you do it!" he roared. "He'll clean you, for a certainty!" ButRimrock's blue eyes were aflame.

  "All right, Mr. Man," he answered on the instant, and went over and satdown in his chair. "But bring me a new pack and shuffle 'em clean, andI'll do the cutting myself."

  "Ahhr!" snarled Bray, who was in villainous humor, as he hurled himselfinto his place. "Y'needn't make no cracks--I'm on the square--and I'lltake no lip from anybody!"

  "Well, shuffle 'em up then," answered Rimrock quietly, "and when I feellike it I'll make my bet."

  It was the middle of the night, as Bray's days were divided, and evenyet he was hardly awake; but he shuffled the cards until Rimrock wassatisfied and then locked them into the box. The case-keeper satopposite, to keep track of the cards, and a look-out on the stand atone end, and while a mob of surging onlookers fought at their backsthey watched the slow turning of the cards.

  "Why don't you bet?" snapped Bray; but Rimrock jerked his head andbeckoned him to go on.

  "Yes, and lose half on splits," he answered grimly, "I'll bet when itcomes the last turn."

  The deal went on till only three cards remained in the bottom of thebox. By the record of the case-keeper they were the deuce and thejack--the top card, already shown, did not count.

  "The jack," said Rimrock and piled up his money on the enameled card onthe board.

  "You lose," rasped out Bray without waiting for the turn and then drewoff the upper card. The jack lay, a loser, in the box below and as heshoved it slowly out the deuce appeared underneath.

  "How'd you know?" flashed back Rimrock as Bray reached for his money,but the gambler laughed in his face.

  "I outlucked you, you yap," he answered harshly. "That dealer--hewasn't worth hell room!"

  "Gimme a fiver to eat on!" demanded Rimrock as Bray banked the money,but he flipped him fifty cents. It was the customary stake, the sopthrown by the gambler to the man who has lost his last cent, and Braysloughed it without losing his count.

  "Go on, now," he said, still keeping to the formula, "go back andpolish a drill!"

  It was the form of dismissal for the hardrock miners whose earnings hewas wont to take, but Rimrock was not particular.

  "All right, Ike," he said and as he drifted out the door his prosperityfriends disappeared. Only L. W. remained, a scornful twist to hislips, and the sight of him left Rimrock sick. "Yes, rub it in!" hesaid defiantly and L. W., too, walked away.

  In his sober moments--when he was out on the desert or slugging awayunderground--Rimrock Jones was neither childish nor a fool. He was aserious man, with great hopes before him; and a past, not ignoble,behind. But after months of solitude, of hard, yegging work and hopesdeferred, the town set his nerves all a-tingle--even Gunsight, a meredot on the map--and he was drunk before he took his first drink. Drunkwith mischief and spontaneous laughter, drunk with good stories untold,new ideas, great thoughts, high ambitions. But now he had had hisfling.

  With fifty cents to eat on, and one more faro game behind him, Rimrockstood thoughtfully on the corner and asked the old question: What next?He had won, and he had lost. He had made the stake that would havetaken him far towards his destiny; and then he had dropped it,foolishly, by playing another man's game. He could see it now; butthen, we all can--the question was, what next?

  "Well, I'll eat," he said at last and went across the stree
t to WooChong's. "The American Restaurant" was the way the sign read, butAmericans don't run restaurants in Arizona. They don't know how. WooChong had fed forty miners when he ran the cookhouse for Rimrock, forhalf what a white man could; and when Rimrock had lost his mine, at theend of a long lawsuit, Woo Chong had followed him to town. There was along tally on the wall, the longest of all, which told how many mealsRimrock owed him for; but Rimrock knew he was welcome. Adversity hadits uses and he had learned, among other things, that his best friendswere now Chinamen and Mexicans. To them, at least, he was still ElPatron--the Boss!

  "Hello there, Woo!" he shouted at the doorway and a rapid-fire ofChinese ceased. The dining-room was deserted, but from the kitchen inthe rear he could hear the shuffling slippers of Woo.

  "Howdy-do, Misse' Jones!" exclaimed Woo in great excitement as he camehurrying out to meet him. "I see you--few minutes ago--ove' Ike Blay'splace! You blakum falo bank, no?"

  "No, I lose," answered Rimrock honestly. "Ike Bray, he gave me this toeat on."

  He showed the fifty-cent piece and sat down at a table whereat WooChong began to giggle hysterically.

  "Aw! Allee time foolee me," he grinned facetiously. "You no see methe'? Me playum, too. Win ten dolla', you bet!"

  "Well, all right, Woo," said Rimrock. "Just give me something toeat--we won't quarrel about who won."

  He leaned back in his chair and Woo Chong said no more till he appearedagain with a T-bone steak.

  "You ketchum mine, pletty soon?" he questioned anxiously. "All lite,me come back and cook."

  Rimrock sighed and went to eating and Woo remembered the coffee, butsomehow even that failed to cheer.

  A shadow of doubt came across Woo's watchful face and he hurried awayfor more bread.

  "You no bleakum bank?" he enquired at last and Rimrock shook his head.

  "No, Woo," he said, "Ike Bray, he came down and win all my money back."

  "Aw, too bad!" breathed Woo Chong and slipped quietly away; but after awhile he came back.

  "Too bad!" he repeated. "You my fliend, Misse' Jones." And he laidfive dollars by his hand.

  "Ah, no, no!" protested Rimrock, rising up from his place as if he hadsuffered a blow. "No money, Woo. You give me my grub and that'senough--I haven't got down to that!"

  Woo Chong went away--he knew how to make gifts easy--and Rimrock stoodlooking at the gold. Then he picked it up, slowly, and as slowlywalked out, and stood leaning against a post.

  There is one street in Gunsight, running grandly down to the station;but the rest is mostly vacant lots and scattered adobe houses, creepingout into the infinitude of the desert. At noon, when he had come totown, the street was deserted, but now it was coming to life.Wild-eyed Mexican boys, mounted on bare-backed ponies, came gallopingup from the corrals; freight wagons drifted past, hauling supplies todistant mining camps; and at last, as he stood there thinking, thewomen began to come out of the hotel.

  All day they stayed there, idle, useless, on the shaded veranda abovethe street; and then, when the sun was low, they came forth likeindolent butterflies to float up and down the street. They saunteredby in pairs, half-hidden beneath silk parasols, and their skirtsswished softly as they passed. Rimrock eyed them sullenly, for a blackmood was on him--he was thinking of his lost mine. Their faces werepowdered to an unnatural whiteness and their hair was elaboratelycoiffed; their dresses, too, were white and filmy and their high heelsclacked as they walked. But who was keeping these women, these wivesof officials, and superintendents and mining engineers? Did theyglance at the man who had discovered their mine and built up the townwhere they lived? Well, probably they did, but not so as he couldnotice it and take off his battered old hat.

  Rimrock looked up the road and, far out across the desert, he could seehis own pack-train, coming in. There was money to be got, to buypowder and grub, but who would trust Rimrock Jones now? Not theGunsight crowd, not McBain and his hirelings--they needed the money fortheir women! He gazed at them scowling as they went pacing by him,with their eyes fixed demurely on space; and all too well he knew that,beneath their lashes, they watched him and knew him well. Yes, andspoke to each other, when they were off up the street, of what a bum hehad become. That was women--he knew it--the idle kind; they judged aman by his roll.

  The pack-train strung by, each burro with its saw-horse saddle, and oldJuan and his boy behind.

  "Al corral!" directed Rimrock as they looked at him expectantly, andthen he remembered something.

  "Oyez, Juan," he beckoned, calling his man servant up to him, "here'sfive dollars--go buy some beans and flour. It is nothing, Juanito,I'll have more pretty soon--and here's four bits, you can buy you adrink."

  He smiled benevolently and Juan touched his hat and went sidling offlike a crab and then once more the black devil came back to plague him,hissing Money, _Money_, MONEY! He looked up the street and a plan,long formless, took sudden shape in his brain. There was yet McBain,the horse-leech of a lawyer who had beaten him out of his claim. Morethan once, in black moments, he had threatened to kill him; but now hewas glad he had not. Men even raised skunks, when the bounty on themwas high enough, and took the pay out of their hides. It was the samewith McBain. If he didn't come through--Rimrock shook up hissix-shooter and stalked resolutely off up the street.

  The office of the Company was on the ground floor of the hotel--thecorner room, with a rented office beyond--and as Rimrock came towardsit he saw a small sign, jutting out from the farther door:


  He glanced at it absently, for strange emotions came over him as hepeered in through that plateglass window. It had been his office, thissame expensive room; and he had been robbed of it, under cover of thelaw. He shaded his eyes from the glare of the street and looked in atthe mahogany desk. It was vacant--the whole place was vacant--andsilently he tried the door. That was locked. McBain had seen him andslipped away till he should get out of town.

  "The sneaking cur!" muttered Rimrock in a fury and a passing woman drewaway and half-screamed. He ignored her, pondering darkly, and then tohis ears there came a familiar voice. He listened, intently, andraised his head; then tiptoed along the wall. That voice, and he knewit, belonged to Andrew McBain, the man that stole mines for a living.He paused at the door where Mary Fortune had her sign, then suddenlyforced his way in.

  Without thinking, impulsively, he had moved towards that voice as a manfollows some irresistible call. He opened the door and stood blinkingin the doorway, his hand on the pistol at his side. Then he blinkedagain, for in the gloom of the back office there was nothing but a deskand a girl. She wore a harness over her head, like a telephoneoperator, and rose up to meet him tremulously.

  "Is there anything you wish?" she asked him quietly and Rimrock fumbledand took off his hat.

  "Yes--I was looking for a man," he said at last. "I thought I heardhim--just now."

  He came down towards her, still looking about him, and there was a stirfrom behind the desk.

  "No, I think you're mistaken," she answered bravely, but he could seethe telltale fear in her eyes.

  "You know who I mean!" he broke out roughly, "and I guess you know whyI've come!"

  "No, I don't," she answered, "but--but this is my office and I hope youwon't make any trouble."

  The words came with a rush, once she found her courage, but the appealwas lost upon Rimrock.

  "He's here, then!" he said. "Well, you tell him to come out. I'd liketo talk with him on business--alone!"

  He took a step forward and then suddenly from behind the desk a shadowrose up and fled. It was Andrew McBain, and as he dashed for the reardoor the girl valiantly covered his retreat. There was a quick slap ofthe latch, a scuffle behind her, and the door came shut with a bang.

  "Oho!" said Rimrock as she faced him panting, "he must be a friend ofyourn."

  "No, he isn't," she answered instantly, and then a smile crept into hereyes. "But he's--wel
l, he's my principal customer."

  "Oh," said Rimrock grimly, "well, I'll let him live then. Good-bye."

  He turned away, still intent on his purpose, but at the door she calledhim back.

  "What's that?" he asked as if awakened from a dream. "Why, yes, if youdon't mind, I will."

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