Rimrock jones, p.26
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       Rimrock Jones, p.26

           Dane Coolidge
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  It was a source of real regret to Mary Fortune that she could not keepon hating Rimrock Jones. In the long, weary months that she had beenaway from him she had almost dismissed him from her mind. Then she hadmet him in New York and the old resentment had flashed up into thewhite heat of sudden scorn. She despised him for all that she read ofhis life in that encounter face to face--the drinking, the gambling,the cheap, false amusements, and the painted woman at his side. Andwhen he returned, after ignoring her letters and allowing his miningclaim to lapse, and resumed his fault-finding complaints she had puthim back in his place.

  But that was just it, the outburst had relieved her; she had lost hercherished hate. In the quiet of her room she remembered how he looked,so beaten and yet so bold. She remembered the blow that her words hadgiven him when he had learned that his stock was doomed; and thatgreater blow when he saw even his equity placed in jeopardy by thejumping of the Old Juan. Had it not been a little cruel, to fly athim, after that? He was wrong, of course, but the occasion was greatand his mind was on other things. Yet he had told her, and repeatedit, that she had sold him out--and that she could never endure.

  She remained resolutely away until late in the afternoon and then shereturned to the office. It was her office, anyway, as much as his; andbesides, she had left her ear-'phone. Not that she needed it, ofcourse, but she must keep up appearances, although it seemed impossibleto persuade people that she was no longer deaf. Even Rimrock hadshouted in that old, maddening way the instant she did not reply. Itwas natural, of course, but with him at least she would like it theother way. She would like him to speak as he had spoken at first whenhe had come to her office alone. But those days were gone, along witheaves-dropping Andrew McBain, their first happiness and the goldendreams. All was gone--all but the accursed gold.

  She found Rimrock alone in the silent office, running through filingcases in blundering haste.

  "What are you looking for?" she asked demurely and as he noticed heramusement he smiled.

  "Examining the books," he answered grimly. "Say, how much money havewe got?"

  "Oh, don't look there!" she said, pushing the filing drawer back intoits case. "Here, I'll give you our last monthly statement, broughtdown to January first."

  She ran through the files and with a practised hand drew out the paperhe wanted.

  "Much obliged," he mumbled and as he glanced at the total he blinkedand his eyes opened up. "All right!" he said, "that will last me awhile. I might as well spend it, don't you think? I'm GeneralManager, as long as I last, and it will take money to beat this manBray."

  "What, have you taken charge of the legal part of it? I thought thatwas left to McVicker and Ord?"

  "McVicker and Ord! They're a couple of mutton-heads. Why, Bray hasgot Cummins and Ford. I know they're good, because they beat me out ofthe Gunsight; but they're nothing to the men I've retained. I'vetelegraphed money to ten attorneys already--the best in the UnitedStates, so Ben Birchett, my Geronimo lawyer, says--and they'll be herewithin a few days. It'll be a galaxy of the finest legal talent thatever took a case in Arizona. Ben told me frankly when I called him upLong Distance that we've got a very weak case; but you wait, they'llframe something up. We're fighting Stoddard, there isn't a doubt aboutit; but we're spending his money, too."

  He met her gaze with a disarming grin and the reproaches died on herlips. After all, it was his right, after what he had suffered, to havethis one, final fling. He was nothing but a child, a great overgrownboy, and it was fitting he should have his jest. And between him andStoddard, the ice-cold lightning-calculator who kept count of everycent, there was really little to choose. Only Rimrock, of course, washuman. He was a drunken and faithless gambler; a reckless, fightinganimal; a crude, thoughtless barbarian; but his failings were those ofa man. He didn't take advantage of everybody--it was only his enemiesthat he raided.

  "Yes, you're spending his money," she conceded pleasantly, "but part ofit is yours and--mine."

  "Well, all right, then," he said after a moment's thought, "I'll showyou where it's gone."

  "No, I didn't mean that," she said, "my point is, don't throw it away.If we lose this suit, and I think we will, you'll need something tomake a fresh start."

  "Nope, it's dead loss to me, whichever way you figure it--if I don'tspend it, it goes to Stoddard. He won't have any mercy on me, even ifwe win this case. My stock is gone when the ninety days are up. Themost I can hope is to beat him on this suit. That will make myTecolote stock more valuable and maybe I can borrow the money to payoff the debt at the bank. But I'm busted, right now; I can see myfinish. It's just a question of the epitaph the boys will put over mygrave, and I want that to be: 'He did his damnedest!' Then I'll getout of town with whatever I have left and begin all over again, down inMexico."

  "Oh, won't that be fine!" she cried enthusiastically, but Rimrocklooked at her dubiously.

  "What, to lose all my money?"

  "No, to begin all over again. To get away from this trickery anddishonesty and the jealousy that spoils all your friends; and start allover again, get back to real work and build up another success!"

  "You sure make it sound attractive," he answered glumly, "but there aresome people who hate to lose. That's me--but cheer up, I haven't lostyet. You wait till I hire a few expert geologists and I'll prove thatthe Old Juan doesn't apex anything. No, absolutely nothing; not eventhe ore that's under it. I've got a couple of them coming, now."

  She looked at him frowning.

  "I don't like you that way," she said impatiently. "It sounds low andcheap, and I don't like it. And I hope when it's over and you've lostyour case that you'll see that this lawlessness doesn't pay. Of courseit's too late now, because I know you're going to do it, but I do wantyou to know how I feel. I liked you best when you were a poor,hard-handed prospector without a dollar to your name; but whathappiness has it brought you--or me, either, for that matter--all thismoney we've got from the mine?"

  "Well," began Rimrock; and then he stopped and pondered. "Say, ithasn't brought us much, after all, now has it? I've helped out a fewfriends, but seems like they've all gone back on me. But what makesyou think I'll lose?"

  He was watching her furtively, but she sensed his purpose and asquickly was on her guard.

  "Because you're wrong," she said. "You haven't a case. You know youlet your title lapse and now you're trying to evade the law. You'rewrong, in the first place; and in the second place you're trying to bedishonest. I hope you do lose it."

  "Uhrr! Thanks!" he jeered. "The same to you! If I lose, I guess youlose, too."

  "I don't care," she persisted, "I want you to lose--and after it's allover, I'll tell you something."

  She smiled in a mysterious and tantalizing way, but Rimrock's facenever changed.

  "You'd better tell me now, while you've got the chance," he suggestedsitting down by her desk. "And by the way, how come you're hearing sowell?"

  "Oh, that reminds me!" she cried laughing gayly and picked up herear-'phone. "What was that you said?" she asked with mock anxiety,slipping the headband over her head, and Rimrock looked at her insurprise.

  "By grab!" he exclaimed, "I believe you can hear! What do you carrythat thing around for?"

  She twitched it off and gazed at him again with a triumphant butbaffling smile.

  "Yes, I _can_ hear," she admitted quietly, "but I'll have to ask younot to tell. Why, Mr. Jepson and some of these people fairly shoutwhen they speak to me now."

  She smiled again in such a cryptic manner that Rimrock became suddenlyaroused.

  "Say, what's going on?" he cried, all excitement, "have you beenlistening in on their schemes?"

  "Why, Mr. Jones!" she exclaimed reproachfully but still with a twinklein her eye; and Rimrock leaned forward eagerly.

  "Yes, that's my name," he answered, "go ahead and tell me what youknow."

  "No, you
wouldn't put it to the best of purposes--but hold this overyour ear." She held up the attachment to his ear and, as she ran upthe dial, she whispered:

  "Do you think you could hear through a wall?"

  "You bet!" replied Rimrock and as she took it away he gave her asearching glance. "I wonder," he said, "if you're as innocent as youlook." And Mary broke down and laughed.

  "I wonder," she observed, but when he questioned her further she onlyshook her head.

  "No, indeed," she said, "I won't tell you anything--but after you lose,come around."

  "No, but look!" he urged. "If I lose, you lose. Come through and tellme now."

  "You called me a crook," she answered spitefully, "you said I had soldyou out! Do you think I will tell you, after that? No, you're sosmart, go ahead--Spend your money! Hire a lot of lawyers and experts!You think I sold you out to Stoddard? Well, go ahead--_you_ try to buyme! No, I'm going to show you, Mr. Rimrock Jones, that I have neversold out to anybody--that I can't be bought, nor sold. You need thatlesson more than you need the money that you are wasting in vice andfraud."

  She ended, panting with the anger that swept over her, and Rimrockthrust out his chin.

  "Huh! Vice and fraud!" he repeated scornfully, "you certainly don'thunt for words. Is it vice and fraud to hire lawyers and experts andtry to win back my own mine? What do you want me to do--go and kow-towto Stoddard and ask him to please step on my neck?"

  "No, I want you to do what you're going to do--spend the Company'smoney, and lose. That money is part mine, but I'll be glad to partwith it if it will cure you of being such a fool."

  They faced each other, each heated and angry, and then he showed histeeth in a smile.

  "I know what's the matter," he said at last, "you're jealous of Mrs.Hardesty!"

  She checked the denial that leapt to her lips to search for a morefitting retort.

  "You flatter yourself," she said, smiling thinly, "but you do notflatter me."

  "Yeah, 'vice and crime.' That shows where you good people fall down.I suppose you think that she was an _awful_ disreputable woman! Well,she wasn't; she was just another of Stoddard's stool-pigeons that heuses to work suckers like me. She got me back there and helped himbleed me and then she kissed me good-bye--so!"

  He made the motion of slamming a door and his eyes turned dark withfury.

  "She had a good line of talk herself," he sneered, "and her heart wasas black as that book!"

  He pointed to a book that was black indeed but Mary said never a word.This was news to her, and perhaps it was balm that would in time cure awound in her heart, but now it rankled deep.

  "I think," she said at last, "the most pitiable spectacle in the worldis you, Mr. Rimrock Jones. You try to buy friends, as if they werecommodities, and you try to buy them wholesale. You set up the drinksand try to buy the whole town, but what is the result of it all? Why,you simply attract a lot of leeches and bloodsuckers whose sole purposeis to get your money. And then, when you finally become disillusioned,you class them all together. You don't deserve any friends!"

  "Well, maybe not!" he answered truculently, "but who's got the most,right now? You or me? Look at Old Hassayamp Hicks, and Woo Chong--andL. W.!"

  A swift, almost instantaneous, change swept over her sensitive face andthen she closed down her lips; yet Rimrock was quick enough to see it.

  "What's the matter?" he challenged. "What's the matter with L. W.?Ain't he stood by me like a rock? He's in the hospital right now witha busted arm, and I won't hear a word against him. No, my troubleshave been with women."

  A swifter spasm, almost ugly in its rage, came over Mary Fortune'slips; and then she shut them down again.

  "Yes," she said with a sarcastic smile, "I've heard women say the sameabout men."

  "Oh, you've always got some come-back," he went on blusteringly, "but Inotice you don't say nothing against L. W. Now there was a man who haddone me dirt--he sold me out, on the Gunsight--but when I trusted himand treated him white L. W. became my best friend. He stood right upwith me against Andy McBain and that bunch of hired gun-fighters hehad; and he'd lay down his life for me, to-morrow. And yet he justworships money! He thinks more of a dollar than I do of a million, butcould Stoddard buy him out? Not on your life--he voted for thedividend! But where was my lady friend at?"

  He glared at her insultingly and, torn by that great passion that comesfrom devotion misprized and sacrifice rewarded with scorn, she leapt upto hurl back the truth. But a vision rose before her, the picture ofL. W. sobbing and bleeding, his arm flapping beside him, strivingvainly to retrieve his treachery; and the words did not pass her lips.

  "_I'm_ not your friend, if that's what you mean," she answered withwithering scorn. "I'm against you, from this moment, on."

  "Well, let it ride, then," he responded carelessly, and as she sweptfrom the room, he smiled.

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