Rimrock jones, p.29
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       Rimrock Jones, p.29

           Dane Coolidge
 
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  CHAPTER XXIX

  RIMROCK DOES IT HIMSELF

  "Now, let's talk reason," said Rimrock at last as he put away herhands. "Let's be reasonable--I don't know where I'm at. Say, wherehave I been and what have I been up to? Am I the same feller thatblowed into town on the blind baggage, or is this all a part of thedream?"

  "It's a part of the dream," answered Mary with a sigh. "But if youhelp, Rimrock, it may come true."

  "Do you mean it?" he demanded. "Well, I guess you must or you wouldn'tgive me a kiss like that. Say, you think a lot of me, now don't you,Little Spitfire? I believe you'd go through hell for me."

  "No, I wouldn't," she replied. "That's just where I draw theline--because you'd be going through hell, too. You're a good man,Rimrock--you've got a good heart--but you're a drunken, fighting brute."

  "Hmm!" shrilled Rimrock, "say, that don't sound very nice after whatyou said a minute ago."

  "We're talking reason, now," said Mary, smiling wanly, "I was excited aminute ago."

  "Well, get excited again," suggested Rimrock, but she pushed his handsaway.

  "No," she said, "I kissed you once because--well, because I liked youand--and to show that I forgive what you've done. But a woman mustconsider what love might mean and I'll never marry a drunkard. I knowwomen who have and they all regretted it--it took all the sweetness outof life. A woman expects so much--so much of tenderness and sympathyand gentleness and consideration--and a drunken man is a brute. Youknow it, because you've been there; and, oh, you don't know how I'dhate you if you ever came back to me drunk! I'd leave you--I'd neverconsent for a minute to so much as touch your hand--and so it's betterjust to be friends."

  She sighed and hurried on to a subject less unpleasant.

  "Now, there's the matter of that claim. You know I hold title to theOld Juan and it gives me control of the mine. Even Stoddardacknowledges it, although he'll try to get around it; and if we presshim he'll take it to the courts. But now listen, Rimrock, this is amatter of importance and I want you to help me out. I want you toattend to getting my discovery work before the ninety days has expired.Then we'll draw up a complete and careful agreement of just what wewant at the mine and Whitney H. Stoddard, if I know anything about him,will be only too glad to sign it. I told him before I left him thatthis chicanery must cease and that you must be given back your mine. Itold him you must run it, and that Jepson must be fired--but Rimrock,there's one thing more."

  "What's that?" enquired Rimrock rousing up from his abstraction and shesmiled and patted his hand.

  "You mustn't fight him," she suggested coaxingly. "It interferes withthe work."

  "Fight who?" he demanded and then he snorted. "What, me make friendswith Stoddard? Why, it's that crooked hound that's at the bottom ofall this. He's the man that's made all the trouble. Why, we weredoing fine, girl; we were regular pardners and I wasn't drinking adrop. I was trying to make good and show you how I loved you when hebutted in on the game. He saw he couldn't beat us as long as we stoodtogether and so he sent out that damnable Mrs. Hardesty. He hired heron purpose and she worked me for a sucker by feeding me up with bigwords. She told me I was a wonder, and a world-beater for a gambler,and then--well, you know the rest. I went back to New York and theytrimmed me right, and if it wasn't for you I'd be broke. No, I'llnever forget what you did for me, Mary; and I'll never forget what hedid, either!"

  "No, I hope you won't," she said, winking fast, "because that's what'sruined your life. He can always whip you when it comes to business,because you fight in the open and he never shows his hand. And he'sabsolutely unscrupulous--he'd think no more of ruining our happinessthan--than you do, when you're fighting mad. Oh, if you knew how Isuffered during all those long months when you were stock-gambling andgoing around with--her."

  "Aw, now, Mary," he soothed, wiping away the sweat from his brow; andthen he took her into his arms. "Now, don't cry," he said, "because Iwent back there to look for you--I paid out thousands of dollars fordetectives. And when I saw you that time, when you came down thestairway in that opera house back in New York, I never went near heragain. I quit her at the door and had detectives out everywhere; but,you went away, you never gave me a chance!"

  "Well," she sobbed, "we all make mistakes, but--but I was so ashamed,to be jealous of _her_. Couldn't you see what she was? Couldn't youtell that type of woman? Oh, Rimrock, it was perfectly awful!Everybody that saw you, every woman that looked at her, must have--oh,I just can't bear to think about it!"

  "My God!" groaned Rimrock; and then he was silent, looking sober-eyedaway into space. It came over him at last what this woman had bornefrom him and yet she had been faithful to the end. She had evenbefriended him after he had accused her of treachery, but she hadreserved the privilege of hating him. Perhaps that was the woman ofit, he did not know; if so, he had never observed it before. Orperhaps--he straightened up and drew her closer--perhaps she was theOne Woman in the world! Perhaps she was the only woman he would everknow who would love him for himself, and take no thought for his money.She had loved him when he was poor----

  "Say," he said in a far-away voice, "do you remember when I saw youthat first time? You looked mighty good to me then. And I was soragged, and wild and woolly, but you sure came through with the roll.The whole roll, at that. Say, I ain't going to forget that--RimrockJones never forgets a friend. Some time when you ain't looking for itI'm going to do something for you like giving that roll to me.Something hard, you understand; something that will take the hide offof me like parting with the savings of a lifetime. But I haven't gotanything to give."

  "Yes, you have," she said, "and it will hurt just the same. It issomething you had on then."

  "Huh, I didn't have hardly anything but my clothes and my gun. Youdon't mean----"

  "Yes, I mean the gun."

  "Oh!" he said, and fell into silence while she watched him from beneathher long lashes. He reached back ruefully and drew out his pistol andtwirled the cylinder with his thumb.

  "That's a fine old gun," he said at last. "I sure have carried it manya mile."

  "Yes," she answered, and sat there, waiting, and at last he met hereyes.

  "What's the idea?" he asked, but his tone was resentful--he knew whatwas in her mind.

  "I just want it," she said. "More than anything else. And you mustnever get another one."

  "How'm I going to protect myself?" he demanded hotly. "How'm I goingto protect my claims? If it wasn't for that gun, where'd the Old Juanbe to-day?"

  "Well, where is it?" she asked and smiled.

  "Why----"

  "Why, you lost it," she supplied. "And I won it," she added. "Itstands in my name to-day."

  "Yes, but Andrew McBain----"

  "Was he any smarter than Stoddard? Well, I didn't need any gun."

  "Yes, but look who you are!" observed Rimrock sarcastically andbalanced the old gun in his hand.

  "Well, there we are," she remarked at last. "Right back where westarted from."

  "Where's that?" he enquired.

  "Back to our first quarrel," she sighed. "A woman never forgets it.It's different, I suppose, with a man."

  "Yes, I reckon it is," he agreed despondently. "We try to forget ourtroubles."

  "Does it help any to get drunk?" she asked impersonally and he sawwhere the conversation had swung. It had veered back again to hismerits as a married man and the answer had come from his own lips. Heknew too well that look in her eye, that polite and polished calm.Mary Fortune was not strong for scenes. She just made up her mind andthen all the devils in hell could not sway her from her purpose. Andshe had rejected him as a gun-fighter and a drunkard.

  "Here! Now!" he exclaimed, rising to his feet in alarm. "Now here,don't get me wrong! Say, I'd give my heart's blood, just for one morekiss--do you think I'll hold out on this gun? Here, take it, girl, andif I ever drink a drop I want you to shoot me dead!"

  He handed over the gun and she took
it solemnly, but with a twinkle farback in her eyes.

  "I couldn't do that," she said, "because I love you too much, Rimrock."

  "And another thing," he went on, smiling grimly as she kissed him.

  "What's that?" she asked.

  "Well, I'll give you 'most anything, if you'll only ask for it; butremember, I do it myself."

  THE END

 
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