Rimrock jones, p.24
Rimrock Jones, p.24Dane Coolidge
THE NEW YEAR
A crafty-eyed lawyer on an East-side street told Rimrock all he neededto know--a summons in equity could not be served outside the bounds ofthe state. And so, a year after his triumphal arrival, Rimrock Jonesleft gay New York. He slipped out of town with a mysterious swiftnessthat baffled certain officers of the court, but, though Jepson watchedthe trains in something approaching a panic, he did not drop off atGunsight. Mary Fortune watched the trains, too, though with differentmotives and hopes, and when the last day dawned and no Rimrock appearedshe went off by herself on the desert.
When that sun rose again, unless something was done, the Tecolote minewould be lost. And all because Rimrock did not come. His share in themine as well as her own was dependent upon what she should do and shemotored out across the desert to think. Jepson's plans werecomplete--L. W. was still drunk and Ike Bray was waiting for the word.At midnight that night, as the old year went out and the new year wasushered in, Ike Bray and his guards would climb up to the dome andre-locate the Old Juan claim. And then they would leave it--for thatwas their plan--and let Rimrock contend with the law. Once located andrecorded they had ninety days in which to sink their discovery shaft,and the last day was as good as the first.
Mary had overheard Jepson in his numerous consultations until she knewevery move he would make; the question was, what would she do? Wouldshe sit idly by and let this mountain of copper be snatched from theirhands by Stoddard; or would she, alone and with no one to help her,brave the darkness and locate it herself? Already, as she nervedherself for the deed, she had typed out her location notice induplicate; filling in the exact description of the boundaries from therecords of the Old Juan claim. But would she dare to post that notice,in the face of three desperate men? Would she dare risk a meeting withdrunken Ike Bray on the summit of that lonely peak? She resolved andrecanted, and resolved again and drove back to the hotel in despair.
From the day she had known him she had helped Rimrock Jones in everyway that she could; but he from the first had neglected every duty andfollowed after every half-god. She had written him to come, and toldhim of his peril, and that her own rights were jeopardized with hisown; and he answered never a word. A hot wave passed over her, ofpassionate resentment and hatred and womanly scorn, and she drew herlips to a line. She would jump the Old Juan, but she would jump it forherself and hold it against both Rimrock and Stoddard!
It had once been observed that, when driven too far, Mary Fortunebecame an Indian; and the man who said it knew. For the rest of thatday she was afire with a resolution which contemplated even the killingof men. She bought her a pistol and, driving out on the desert, shepractised until she could shoot. Then as the sun sank low and Jepsonand his men were occupied with sobering up Ike Bray, she drove off inthe direction of Geronimo. She was far out on the desert when darknessfell, rushing south on the other road to Tecolote. Within sight of thecamp she put out her lamps and, turning her machine out of the road,she crept along until it was hidden from view, then leapt out andstarted for the butte. It stood against the stars, huge and sinisterin its black bulk, and she shuddered as she took the lone trail.
Up that very same path the year before Rimrock Jones had rushed on todefend his claim. He had been a man then, or at least a fightinganimal; but now he was a soft, pampered brute. He left his fighting tobe done by a woman while he spent his money like a fool. The fierceanger from that thought gave courage to her heart and her resentmentspurred her on. She toiled on and rested and gazed despairingly at thehigh crags, but still she kept her face to the heights. As midnightapproached and the trail had no ending she stopped and gazed doubtfullyback, and then she went hurrying on. A clanking of rocks and the bassguffaw of men had come up to her from below; and terror supplied a whipthat even hatred lacked--it was Ike Bray and his drunken guards!
As she staggered to the rim and dragged herself past the wall whereMcBain had come to his death it seemed as if she must drop, but the menwere coming behind. She drew a great sobbing breath and, with her handon her pistol, hastened over to the discovery shaft. It was a black,staring hole and by the dump beside it there stood a sign-postsupported by rocks. A pale half moon had risen in the East and by itslight she made out the notice that was tacked to the center of theboard. That was Rimrock's notice, but now it was void for the hour waslong after twelve. She tore it down and stuffed it into her pocket anddrew out the one she had prepared. Then, gumming it carefully from atube of glue, she posted it on the board. Already the voices werecoming nearer, but there was one thing more to do--she lit a match and,looking at her watch, wrote the exact time on the blanks.
That was Rimrock's notice, but now it was void for thehour was long after twelve]
In the brief half hour that was occupied by Ike Bray in making the lastlap of his trip Mary lived in an agony of fear. He came up slowly,using such violent language as she had never heard before; and,combined with the curses that he called down on the guards, was thedemand for drink, and more drink. As she crouched behind a boulderthat stood on the rim she bit her lips with shame and the hot rush ofanger at his obscene revilings made her reconciled to killing him, ifshe must. He was lower than the lowest of created animals, a vile,degenerate beast; and as he struggled to the top and made for themonument his curses were directed against Rimrock.
"I'll show him!" he vaunted as he swayed before the sign, "I'll showhim if Ike Bray's afraid. He can run a blazer over lawyers and women;but me--hey, tear off this notice!"
There was a minute of fumbling and then, as she gazed out at them, thetaller guard spoke up.
"It's stuck," he said, "tighter than the back door of hell. Let it goand nail yours on top. Holy Smoke, if I'd knowed what a job thiswas--here, what are you doing now? Aw, give me that notice! Nowwhere's your tacks? Say, Hank, pull him back from that hole!"
The sound of hammering came to her ears, half-drowned by a drunkenbrawl, and then there was a horror-stricken yell.
"He's fell down the hole! Are you hurt bad, Ike?"
The answer was a muffled curse, and both guards hurried to the shaft.With a prayer on her lips Mary crept from her shelter, then crouchedand ran for the trail. She saw them leaning over the shaft and heardthem bandying oaths and then she had gained the path.
"What's that?" cried one as she knocked a stone from the wall, and asit clattered she went dashing down the trail. She fell and laybreathless, listening dully for their footsteps, then rose up and wentlimping on. She paused for strength far down the path, where it swingsalong the wall, and her heart beat loud in her breast. They were stillon the cliff-tops, still cursing and quarrelling and poisoning theclean silence with their words--but she had located first!
The day was breaking when, lost and wandering, she found her machine onthe plain, but as it took the smooth road and went gliding towardsGeronimo she smiled with a great sense of power. It was not alone thatshe controlled that throbbing engine, which made the car pulsate andthrill; she had a handle that would make two men she knew bow down andask her for peace--Rimrock Jones and Whitney Stoddard. She appearedthe next morning at the Recorder's office with a copy of her notice forrecord. Her torn clothes were concealed beneath a full cloak and herhands within automobile gloves; but the clerk, even in the rush of NewYear recording, glanced curiously at a bruise across her forehead.Then he filed her claim with a hundred others and she slipped out anddrove away.
When Mary Fortune returned to Gunsight she found the whole town in anuproar. Men were running to and fro and a great crowd of people wasgathered in front of the hotel. If she had feared for a moment thatthe scar above her eye, which she had covered so artfully with herhair, might be noticed by Jepson and others, that fear was instantlyallayed. There was bigger news afoot--Ike Bray had come to town andgiven notice that he had jumped the Old Juan claim. He was backed upnow against a plate-glass window of the Tecolote Mining Company'soffice and Jepson was making a speech. As she
"That ain't the question, suh!" he shouted fiercely, "we want to know_who paid him_! And as a personal friend of Mr. Jones, the best man inthis hyer town, I wish to say right now that the Old Juan claim can'tbe jumped by _nobody_!"
"Just a moment, Mr. Hicks!" interrupted Jepson patiently, but the mobwas shouting him down.
"It's a lie!" yelled Bray from his place against the window. "I jumpedthat claim for myself! I jumped it myself; and Rimrock Jones, nor noneof his friends, can't come and take it away!"
"Oh, they can't, hey?" thundered a voice and Mary started as she saw atall form through the crowd. It was L. W. Lockhart, the man who hadsold Rimrock out and allowed the Old Juan to lapse. "They can't, yousay? Well, I want to tell you they _can_! And, gun-play or not, they_will_!"
His high hat surged forward into the forbidden space that Bray hadcleared with his gun and then a pistol shot rang out. The next momentthe glass windows were swaying and bending beneath the weight of themob. There was a babel of shouting, a quick surge forward and then thecrowd gave back. L. W. was coming out and as they gave way before himhe addressed the men of Gunsight.
"I've got 'im, boys!" he cried in a frenzy, "come on, we'll string 'imup! We'll show 'im if he can jump Rimrock's claim!"
He came striding from the crowd, one arm hanging limp the otherdragging the cursing Ike Bray.
"You got me!" he snarled, shaking Bray like a rat, "but dang you, I'vegot you, too!"
The mob fell in behind, but as they passed Mary's automobile Brayreached out and clutched it with both hands.
"Let go!" commanded L. W., still dragging at his collar while hisbloody arm flapped with each jerk. "Let go, you dastard, or I'll skinyou alive--you can't run no sandy over me! The man don't live, so helpme God, that can rob a friend of mine!"
He turned back impatiently, but as he raised his boot to stamp on theclinging hands his eyes met Mary Fortune's.
"Don't let him kill me, lady!" gasped Ike Bray imploringly as he feltL. W.'s grip relax. "I only shot in self-defense."
"You'd better let him in here," suggested Mary as she hurriedly threwopen the door. "I think it will be better that way."
"No, he robbed old Rimmy!" sobbed L. W. hysterically, "the best friendI ever had. And I was drunk and let the assessment work lapse. MyGod, he'll kill me for this!"
"No, he won't!" she said and as she touched his hand L. W. let go andbacked away.
"Well, all right, Miss Fortune," he stammered brokenly, "but--but he'sgot to git out of town!"
"I'll take him!" she answered and as the crowd fell back she speeded upand raced away.
"God bless you, ma'am," cried Ike Bray tremulously as she slowed up tolet him down, "I'll do as much for you, some day! Is there anything,now, I can do?"
He had read the sudden wish in her eyes, but she hesitated long beforeshe spoke.
"Yes," she said as she started ahead, "keep away from Rimrock Jones!"
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