Rimrock jones, p.28
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       Rimrock Jones, p.28

           Dane Coolidge
 
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  CHAPTER XXVIII

  A GIFT

  Mary Fortune was pacing up and down her room in something very like arage. Her trunk, half-packed, stood against the wall and her pictureslay face down on the bed, and she hovered between laughter and tears.It seemed as if every evil passion in her nature had been stirred up bythis desperate affray and in the fierce swirl of emotions her joy inher victory was strangely mingled with rage at Rimrock. After schemingfor months to prove her superiority, and arranging every possibledetail, she had been cut down in her pride and seen her triumph turnedto nothing by his sudden decision to sulk. Just at the very momentwhen she was preparing to be gracious and give him his precious mineback he had balked like a mule and without sense or reason stormed offon his way to Old Mexico.

  She returned to her packing and was brushing away a tear that hadfallen somehow on a fresh waist when there was a trampling in the lobbyand she heard a great voice wafted up from the corridor below.

  "Come on!" it thundered like the hoarse rumbling of a bull. "Come on,I tell ye; or you'll tear my arm loose where it's knit. You dad-burnedcub, if I had two good hands---- Say, come on; ain't you got a lick ofsense?"

  It was L. W. Lockhart and, from the noise in the hallway, he seemed tobe coming towards her door. She listened and at a single rebelliousgrunt from Rimrock she flew to the mirror and removed the last trace ofthe tear. He was bringing Rimrock for some strange purpose, and--yes,he was knocking at her door. She opened it on a struggle, Rimrockbegging and threatening and trying gingerly to break away; andiron-jawed L. W. with his sling flying wildly, holding him back withhis puffed-up game hand.

  "Excuse me, Miss Fortune," panted L. W. brokenly, "but I just had tofetch this unmannerly brute back. He can't come, like he did, to myplace of business and speak like he did about you. You're the bestfriend, by Gregory, that Rimrock Jones ever had; and I'll say that formyself, Miss, too. You've been a _good_ friend to me and I'll neverforgit it, but Rim is jest naturally a fool!"

  He stopped for breath and Rimrock set back sullenly without raising hiseyes from the floor.

  "Now!" said L. W. as he winced at the pull, "you can decide what you'regoing to do. Are you going to bust my arm, where I got it shot in twojest by fighting Ike Bray for your mine; or are you going to stan' uphere and apologize like a gentleman for saying Miss Fortune sold youout."

  "I'll apologize, doggone you," answered Rimrock between his teeth, "ifyou'll shut up and let go my coat."

  "Well, all right, then," sighed L. W. as he cradled his injured arm,"I'll wait for you at the head of the stairs."

  "You do and I'll kill you," returned Rimrock savagely. "Go on,now--and don't you come back."

  He waved a threatening hand at the belligerent L. W. and watched himtill he passed down the stairs. Then, turning to Mary, he set hismouth and looked her over grimly.

  "Well, I apologize," he said. "Does that make you feel better? Andnow I hope I may go."

  "No, you can't," she replied. "Now it's my turn to apologize. And Ihope you have good luck."

  She held out her hand and he glanced at it questioningly, then reachedout and took it in his.

  "I mean it," he said with sudden earnestness. "I sure-enoughapologize. I'm sorry for what I done."

  She patted his hand where it still held hers fast and bowed her head tokeep back the tears.

  "It's all right," she said. "We could never be happy. It's better tohave you go."

  "I'll come back!" he said with impulsive gladness. "I'll come back--ifyou say the word."

  "Well--come back, then," she answered. "But not to quarrel; not tohaggle, and backbite and scold! Oh, it makes me so ashamed! I used tobe reasonable; but it doesn't seem possible now. I can't even saveyour mine, that you killed a man over and went to prison to defend; Ican't even do that but in such a hateful way that you won't accept itas a gift."

  "Aw, you take it too hard," protested Rimrock feebly. "Say, come onover here and sit down." He led her reluctantly to the ill-fatedbalcony, but at the divan she balked and drew back.

  "No, not there," she said with a little shudder, and turned back andsank down in a chair.

  "Well, all right," agreed Rimrock, but as he drew up another hesuddenly divined her thought. "Say, I apologize again," he went onabjectly, "for that time--you know--when she came. I was a Mexican'sdog, there's no use talking, but--oh, well, I've been a damned fool."

  "You mustn't swear so much," she corrected him gently; and then theygazed at each other in silence. "It's strange," she murmured, "how wehated each other. Almost from the first day, it seems. But no, notthe first! I liked you then, Rimrock; better than I ever will again.You were so clean and strong then, so full of enthusiasm; butnow--well, I wish you were poor."

  "Ain't I broke?" he demanded and she looked at him sadly as she slowlyshook her head.

  "No, you're rich," she said. "I'm going to give you back the mine, andthen I'm going away."

  "But I don't want it!" he said. "Didn't I tell you to keep it? Well,I meant it--every word."

  "Ah, yes," she sighed. "You told me--I know--but to-morrow is anotherday. You'll change your mind then, the way you always do. You see, Iknow you now."

  "You do not!" he denied. "I don't change my mind. I stick to one ideafor years. But there's something about you--I don't know what itis--that makes me a natural-born fool."

  "Yes. I make you mad," she answered regretfully. "And then you willsay and do anything. But now about the mine. I left Mr. Stoddard inthe office just biting his fingers with anxiety."

  "Well, let him bite 'em," returned Rimrock spitefully, "I hope he eats'em off. If it hadn't been for him, and that Mrs. Hardesty, and allthe other crooks he set on, we'd be friends to-day--and I'd rather havethat than all the mines in the world."

  "Oh, would you, Rimrock?" she questioned softly. "But no, we couldnever agree. It isn't the money that has come between us. We blameit, but it's really our own selves. You will gamble and drink, it'syour nature to do it, and that I could never forgive. I like you,Rimrock, I'm afraid I can't help it, but I doubt if we can even befriends."

  "Aw, now listen!" he pleaded. "It was you drove me to drink. A mancan get over those things. But not when he's put in the wrong ineverything--he's got to win, sometimes."

  "Yes, but, Rimrock, there has never been a time when you couldn't havehad everything you wanted--if you wouldn't always be fighting for it.But when you distrust me and go against me and say that I've sold youout, how can a woman do anything but fight you back? And I will--I'llnever give up! As long as you think I'm not as good as you are--justas smart, just as honest, just as brave--I'll never give in an inch.But there has never been a time during all our trouble, when, if you'donly listened and trusted me, I wouldn't have helped you out. Now takethat letter that I wrote you in New York--I warned you they would jumpyour claim! But when you didn't come and complete your assessmentwork, I went up and jumped it myself. I got this great scar----" shethrust back her hair--"coming down the Old Juan that night. But I didit for you, I didn't do it for myself, and then--you wouldn't take backyour mine!"

  She bowed her head to brush away the tears and Rimrock stared andsmiled at a thought.

  "Well, I'll take it now," he said consolingly. "But I didn'tunderstand. I didn't know that you want to give things--I thought youwere on the make."

  "Well, I was!" she declared, "I wanted all my rights--and I want themall to-day. But if you'd trust me, Rimrock, if you'd always depend onme to do the best that a woman can I'd--I'd give you anything--but youalways fight me. You always try to _take_!"

  "Well, I won't any more," replied Rimrock penitently, yet with amasterful look in his eyes. "But you'll have to make it easy, atfirst."

  "Why, what do you mean?" she asked rather tremulously. And then sheblushed and glanced swiftly about.

  "All right, Rimrock," she whispered as she took both his hands and thenslipped into his arms. "I'll give you anything--if you'll
only let me.But remember, I do it myself."

 
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