Rimrock jones, p.27
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       Rimrock Jones, p.27

           Dane Coolidge
 
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  CHAPTER XVIII

  THE SHOW-DOWN

  For the few brief weeks before the great trial the office was swarmingwith men. There were high-priced lawyers and geologists of renown andexperts on every phase of the suit, and in the midst of them satRimrock Jones. He wore his big black hat that had cost him a hundreddollars--including the hat-check tips at the Waldorf--and his pistolwas always at his hip. Every step of their case was carefully framedup in the long councils that took place, but at the end Rimrock losthis nerve. For the first time in his life, and with all eyes upon him,he weakened and lowered his proud head. He had a hunch he would lose.

  For all those weeks he had been haunted by a presence that alwaysflitted out of his way; but now she was there, in the crowdedcourt-room, and she greeted him with a slow, mirthless smile. It wasMary Fortune and he remembered all too well that time when she had toldhim he would lose. She had said he would lose because he had no case,and because he used money instead; but he knew from that smile she hadother reasons for pronouncing his doom in advance. He had lawyershired who told him, to the contrary, that he had a very good case--andStoddard had spent money, too. Not openly, of course, but through hisattorneys; but that was customary, it was always done. No, behind allher professions of respect for the judiciary and of worship for thelaw, she must know that the right sometimes failed. But behind thatsmile there was the absolute certainty that in some way he was certainto lose.

  He met her glance as he came into the court-room surrounded by a troopof his friends, surrounded by lawyers and mining experts and geologistswho professed to see through the earth, and before her gaze he haltedand blenched. There was another person there who regarded him coldlywith a glance like a rapier thrust; but it was not of Stoddard he wasafraid. It was of Mary Fortune, who had come out against him and whocould hear through walls with her 'phone. What she knew might havehelped him, but she was against him now--and she had told him inadvance that he would lose.

  As Rimrock sat thinking, his eyes cast down and his mind far back inthe past, a great blow was struck by the bailiff's mallet and the crowdrose up to its feet. A stern-faced judge, robed in the black cloak ofhis office, stepped out through the curtains behind the bench and asRimrock stared the bailiff beckoned him sharply and he scrambled to hisfeet with the rest.

  "Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!" cried the bailiff in the words that echoed of thepast. "The United States District Court is now in session!"

  He struck again as the judge took his seat and Rimrock sank down intohis chair. But he had stood in respect to the majesty of the law andit was then that his hunch came back. For this was no appeal to anelected judge or the easily swayed emotions of a jury; it was an appealto the cold, passionless mind of a man who considered nothing but thelaw.

  Ike Bray was there, looking pinched and scared, and the two guards whohad witnessed his relocation, and they testified to the facts. In vainRimrock's lawyers orated and thundered or artfully framed up their longquestions; it took days to do it, but when the testimony was all in itwas apparent that Ike Bray's claim would hold. But this was only thebeginning of the battle, the skirmish to feel out the ground; and nowthe defense brought up its big guns. One after the other they putexperts on the stand to testify to the geology of the Tecolote; butCummins and Ford produced others as eminent who testified to theopposite effect. So the battle raged until the wearied judge limitedthe profitless discussion to one more day, and then Cummins and Fordlaunched their bombshell.

  "Your Honor," began Cummins as he rose with a great document. "Ishould like to introduce as evidence this report, which unfortunatelyhas only just come to hand. As Your Honor has intimated the testimonyof hired experts is always open to suspicion of bias, and especiallywhere great interests are at stake; but I am able to offer for theinformation of the Court a document both impartial and thorough. It isthe combined reports of three practical geologists employed by theTecolote Company itself, though at a time preceding this suit andintended solely for the purposes of exploration. As Your Honor willobserve, although the reports were made independently and under ordersto seek nothing but the facts, they agree substantially in this: that,within an extension of its end-lines, the Old Juan claim is the trueapex of the entire Tecolote ore body."

  He handed over the report and sat down in triumph, while Rimrock'slawyers all objected at once. The argument upon admitting to evidencethis secret but authoritative report, consumed the greater part of theday; and at the end the plaintiff rested his case. Throughout the dinof words, the verbal clashes, the long and wearisome citing ofauthorities and the brief "Overruled!" of the judge, Rimrock Jones satsullen and downcast; and at the end he got up and went out. No onefollowed to cheer or console him--it was his confession of utterdefeat. And the following day, when the Court convened, a verdict wasrendered for the plaintiff. The lawyers and experts took their checksand departed and Rimrock Jones went home.

  He went back to Gunsight where he had seen his greatest triumphs andhis days of blackest defeat and waited for Stoddard to strike. It wasall over now--all over but the details and the final acceptance ofterms--and, while he waited, he packed up to go. No one knew betterthan Rimrock himself that it was right and fitting to move on. Oldhatreds and animosities, old heart-burnings and recriminations, wouldmake Gunsight a hell-spot for him, and thwart him at every move. Itwas best to go on to Mexico. Even Hassayamp and L. W. agreed in this,although L. W. insisted upon staking him and declared it was all hisown fault. But Mary Fortune, whether she gloried in his fall or pitiedhim for his great loss, kept discreetly out of his way.

  She faced him the first time at the special meeting when Stoddard cameto lay down his terms. As a legal fiction, a technical subterfuge, hestill claimed to have bought up Bray's claim; but no one was deceivedas to his intent. If he had bought Bray out it was not for theCompany, but for Whitney H. Stoddard personally; and with no intentionof compromising. He came in briskly, his face stern and forbidding,his eyes burning with ill-suppressed fire; and he sat down impatientlyto wait. Then as Rimrock slouched in and called the meeting to orderStoddard picked up a piece of blank paper and began to tear it intolong, slender shreds.

  "Well, to get down to business," said Rimrock at last after the variousreports had been read, "we have come here, I take it, for a purpose."

  He raised his eyes and met Stoddard's defiantly, but Mary looked away.

  "Yes, we have," answered Stoddard with business-like directness, "Ihave a proposition to make. As I suppose you both know I have boughtup the claim of Mr. Bray, as decided by the court. That claim, ofcourse, practically invalidates your stock since it takes awaypossession of the mine; but I am willing to make you a generous offer.Our undivided profits--minus the amount, of course, that our GeneralManager has squandered on his defense--will be shared among us, prorata. This will be in cash, and in consideration of the payment, Ishall expect you to turn in your stock."

  "What? For nothing?" cried Mary; but Rimrock did not flinch though hisface became set with rage.

  "It can hardly be called nothing," replied Stoddard severely, "whenyour own share comes to over two hundred thousand dollars. And as forMr. Jones, he understands very well that I can claim every dollar hehas."

  "Well, that may be so, since you have a claim against him, but my stockis unencumbered. And since my share of the profits is in no sense apayment I shall decline to turn in my stock."

  "Very well," answered Stoddard, his voice low and colorless, "I shallturn the matter over to my attorney and refuse to vote the dividend."

  "Ah, I see," she murmured and glanced at Rimrock who answered with acurl of the lip.

  "Mr. President," she said, "I move that the money at present in ourtreasury be set aside as a profit and divided among the stockholderspro rata."

  "Just a moment!" warned Stoddard as Rimrock seemed about to fall inwith her, "you can never collect that money. I have notified Mr.Lockhart, the treasurer of our Company, that I will hold him personallyr
esponsible for every dollar he pays out, without my official O.K. Youunderstand what that means. Within less than a month, through my suitnow in court, I can claim every share of Mr. Jones' stock. Its value,in law, has been reduced to nothing, outside of this undivided profit;and that I offer you now. If you refuse I shall get judgment, claimhis entire share of the profits, and take possession of the wholeTecolote properties by right of the Old Juan decision. I advise you toaccept my first offer."

  "All right," spoke up Rimrock, "I knew you'd rob me. Write out thecheck and I'll be on my way."

  "No, indeed!" cried Mary, "don't you let him fleece you! I've gotsomething to say here, myself!"

  "Well, say it to him, then," returned Rimrock, wearily, "I'm sick anddisgusted with the whole business."

  "Yes, naturally," observed Stoddard, reaching into his pocket anddeliberately pulling out his checkbook. "Most people are, by the timeI get through with them; and your case is no exception. You made themistake of trying to oppose me."

  "I made the mistake," returned Rimrock hoarsely, "of trusting a lot ofcrooks. But I never trusted you--don't you think it for aminute--you've got n. g. written all over you."

  "Another remark like that," said Stoddard freezingly, "and I'll put mycheckbook away."

  "You do it," warned Rimrock without changing his position, "and I'llblow the top of your head off."

  Stoddard looked at him keenly, then uncapped his pen and proceeded tofill out the stub. For a moment there was silence, broken by the softscratching of the pen, and then Mary Fortune stood up.

  "I know it is customary," she said in suppressed tones, "for men tosettle everything themselves; but you, Mr. Stoddard, and you, Mr.Jones, are going to listen to me. I have put up long enough with yourhigh-handed methods; but now, will you kindly look at that?"

  She laid a paper on the table before Stoddard and stood back to watchthe effect, but Rimrock only grunted contemptuously.

  "Aw, fill out my check!" he said impatiently, but Stoddard was staringat the paper.

  "Why, what is this? Where did you get this, Miss Fortune? I don'tthink I quite understand."

  "No, naturally! You overlooked the fact that a woman can jump claims,too. That is a recorded copy of my re-location of the Old Juan claim,at twelve-fifty-one, on January first. Your drunken Ike Bray camealong at one-thirty and tacked his notice over mine. And now I mustthank you, gentlemen, both of you, for your kind efforts in my behalf.By spending your money on this expensive lawsuit you have proved mytitle to the Tecolote Mine."

  She sat down, smiling, and as Stoddard looked again at the paper hisdrawn face went suddenly white. He laid it down and with startled eyesglanced fearfully at those two. Would they stand together? Did sherealize her advantage? Could he buy her off--and for how much? Ahundred swift questions flashed through his mind, and then Rimrockreached over for the notice. He gazed at it quietly and then, lookingat Mary, he gave way to a cynical smile.

  "Could you hear through a wall?" he enquired enigmatically, andStoddard snapped his fingers in vexation.

  "Ah, I see," he observed, "not so deaf as you seem. Well, MissFortune, may I see you alone?"

  "You may not!" she answered. "I might show you some pity, though youdon't deserve it; so, knowing Mr. Jones as I do, I will leave thedecision to him."

  She glanced at Rimrock with a quick, radiant smile that revealed morethan she knew of her heart; but his face had suddenly gone grim.

  "Take him out and kill him," he advised vindictively. "That's all theadvice I'll give."

  "No, I don't believe in that," she answered sweetly, "but perhaps ourdecision can wait."

  "Well, you needn't wait for me," replied Rimrock ungraciously, "becauseI'm through, for good and all. The first man that gives me a check formy stock----"

  Whitney Stoddard reached swiftly for his checkbook and pen, but shestopped him with a warning look.

  "No, there'll be nothing like that," she answered firmly. "But I movedonce that we declare a dividend."

  "Second the motion," murmured Stoddard resignedly; and Rimrock, too,voted: "Ay!"

  Then he rose up sullenly and gazed at them both with a savage,insulting glare.

  "You can keep your old mine," he said to Mary. "I'm going to beat itto Mexico!"

  He started for the door and they looked after him, startled, but at thedoorway he stopped and turned back.

  "Where do I get that check?" he asked and after a silence Mary answered:

  "From Mr. Lockhart."

  "Good!" he muttered and closed the door quietly, whereat Stoddard beganinstantly to talk. He might have talked a long time, or only a fewmoments; and then Mary began to hear.

  "What's that?" she asked and Stoddard repeated what he considered avery generous offer.

  "Mr. Stoddard," she cried with almost tearful vehemence, "there's onlyone condition on which I'll even think of giving you back your mine,and that is that Rimrock shall run it. Mr. Jepson must be fired, Mr.Jones must have full charge, and all this chicanery must stop; but ifRimrock goes away without taking his mine I'll--I'll make you wish hehadn't!"

  She snatched up her papers and ran out of the room and Stoddard caughtup the 'phone.

  "Give me Mr. Lockhart!" he said. "Yes, Lockhart, the banker. Mr.Lockhart? This is Mr. Stoddard. If you pay Henry Jones a cent of thatmoney I'll break you, so help me God. And listen! If you value yourrating with Bradstreet, you make him apologize to that girl!"

 
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