Rimrock jones, p.4
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       Rimrock Jones, p.4
 

           Dane Coolidge

  CHAPTER IV

  AS A LOAN

  Rimrock Jones left town with four burro-loads of powder, someprovisions and a cargo of tools. He paid cash for his purchases andanswered no question beyond saying that he knew his own business. Noone knew or could guess where he had got his money--except MissFortune, and she would not tell. From the very first she had toldherself that the loan was nothing to hide, and yet she was too much ofa woman not to have read aright the beacon in Rimrock's eyes. He hadspoken impulsively, and so had she; and they had parted, as it turnedout, for months.

  Rimrock Jones left town with four burro-loads of powder,some provisions and a cargo of tools]

  The dove that had crooned so long in the umbrella tree built a nestthere and cooed on to his mate. The clear, rainless winter gave placeto spring and the giant cactus burst into flower. It rained, short andhard, and the desert floor took on suddenly a fine mat of green; andstill he did not come. He was like the rain, this wild man of thedesert; swift and fierce, then gone and forgotten. Once she saw hisMexican, the old, bearded Juan, with his string of shaggy burros at thestore; but he brought her no word and went off the next day with morepowder and provisions in his packs.

  It was all new to Mary Fortune, this stern and barren country; and itspeople were new to her, too. The women, for some reason, had regardedher with suspicion and her answer was a patrician aloofness andreserve. When the day's work was done she took off her headband andsat reading in the lobby, alone. As for the men of the hotel, thesusceptible young mining men who passed to and fro from Gunsight, theyfound her pleasant, but not quite what they had expected--not quitewhat Dame Rumor had painted her. They watched her from the distance,for she was undeniably goodlooking--and so did the women upstairs.They watched, and they listened, which was not the least of the reasonswhy Mary Fortune laid her ear-'phone aside. No person can enjoy theintimacies of life when they are shouted, ill-advisedly, to the world.

  But if when she first came to town, worn and tired from her journey,she had seemed more deaf than she was, Mary Fortune had learned, as herhearing improved, to artfully conceal the fact. There was a certainadvantage, in that unfriendly atmosphere, in being able to overhearchance remarks. But no permanent happiness can come from small talk,and listening to petty asides; and, for better or worse, Mary took offher harness and retired to the world of good books. She read and shedreamed and, quite unsuspected, she looked out the window for him.

  The man! There is always a man, some man, for every woman who dreams.Rimrock Jones had come once and gone as quickly, but his absence wasrainbowed with romance. He was out on the desert, far away to thesouth, sinking shafts on his claims--their claims. He had discovered afortune, but, strong as he was, he had had to accept help from her. Hewould succeed, this fierce, ungovernable desert-man; he would win theworld's confidence as he had won her faith by his strength and the boldlook in his eyes. He would finish his discovery work and record allhis claims and then--well, then he would come back.

  So she watched for him, furtively, glancing quickly out the windowwhenever a horseman passed by; and one day, behold, as she looked upfrom her typing, he was there, riding by on his horse! And as hepassed he looked in, under the shadow of his hat, and touched a bagthat was tied behind his saddle. He was more ragged than ever, and onehand had a bandage around it; but he was back, and he would come. Sheabandoned her typewriting--one of those interminable legal papers thatMcBain was always leaving on her desk--and stepped out to look down thestreet.

  The air, warm and soft, was spiced with green odors and the resinoustang of the greasewood; the ground dove in his tree seemed swooningwith passion as he crooned his throaty, Kwoo, kwoo-o. It was thebreath of spring, but tropical, sense-stealing; it lulled the brain andbade the heart leap and thrill. This vagabond, this rough horsemanwith his pistol and torn clothing and the round sack of ore lashedbehind; who would ever dream that an adventurer like him could make herforget who she was? But he came from the mine she had helped him tosave and the sack might be heavy with gold. So she watched,half-concealed, until he stopped at the bank and went striding in withthe bag.

  As for Rimrock Jones, he rode by the saloon and went direct to L. W.,the banker. It was life or death, as far as the Tecolote wasconcerned, for his four hundred dollars was gone. That had given himthe powder to shoot out his holes to the ten feet required by law, andenough actual cash to pay his Mexican locators and make a legaltransfer of the claims; but four hundred dollars will not last alifetime and Rimrock Jones was broke. He needed more money and he wentperforce to the only man who could give it. It would be a fight, forL. W. was stubborn; but Rimrock was stubborn himself.

  "L. W.," he said, when he found the banker in his private office in therear, "you used to be white and I want you to listen before you spitout what you've got in your craw. You may have a grievance, and Idon't deny it; but remember, I've got one, too. No, it isn't about mymine--I wouldn't sell you one share in it for your whole littlejim-crow bank. I've done my first work and I've recorded my claims,and I'll offer them--somewhere's else. All you know is gold and beforewe go any further, just run your eyes over that."

  He dumped the contents of his bag on the polished desk and L. W.blinked as he looked. It was picked gold quartz of the richest kind,with jewelry specimens on top, and as L. W. ran his hand through it histight mouth relaxed from its bulldog grip on the cigar.

  "Where'd you get it?" he grunted and Rimrock's eyes flashed as heanswered shortly:

  "My mine."

  "How much more you got?"

  L. W. asked it suspiciously, but the gold-gleam had gone to his heart.

  "About two tons of the best, scattered around on the different dumps,and a whole scad more that will ship. I knew you wouldn't lend onanything but gold-ore and I need money to pay off my Mexicans. I'vegot to save some ore bags to sack that picked rock in, and hirefreighters to haul it in. Then there's the freight and the milling andwith one thing and another I need about two thousand dollars."

  "Oh! Two thousand dollars. Seems to me," observed L. W., "I've heardthat sum mentioned before."

  "You have, dad-burn ye, and this time I want it. What's the matter,ain't that ore good for it all?"

  "It is, if you've got it, but I've come to the point where I don'tplace absolute confidence in your word."

  "Oh, the hell you have!" said Rimrock sarcastically, "that sounds likesome lawyer talk. You might've learned it from Apex McBain when youwas associated with him in a deal. I won't say _what_ deal, but,refreshing your memory now, ain't my word as good as yours?"

  He gazed intently at the hard-visaged L. W. whose face slowly turnedbrick red.

  "Now to get down to business," went on Rimrock quietly, "I tell youthat ore is there. If you'll loan me the money to haul in that rockI'll pay you back from my check. And I'll give you my note at one percent. a month, compounded monthly and all that. I guess a man that canshow title to twenty claims that turn out picked ore like that--well,he's entitled, perhaps, to a little more consideration than you boyshave been showing me of late."

  L. W. sat silent, his burning eyes on the gold, the cigar clutchedfiercely in his teeth--then without a word he wrote a check and threwit across the desk.

  "Much obliged," said Rimrock and without further words he stepped outand cashed the check. And then Rimrock Jones disappeared.

  The last person in Gunsight to hear what had happened was Mary Fortune.She worked at her desk that day in a fever of expectation, now stoppingto wonder at the strange madness that possessed her, now poundingharder to still her tumultuous thoughts. She did not know what it wasthat she expected, only something great and new and wonderful,something to lift her at last from the drudgery of her work and makeher feel young and gay. Something to rouse her up to the wild joy ofliving and make her forget her misfortunes. To be poor, and deaf, andalone--all these were new things to Mary Fortune; but she was none ofthem when he was near. What need had she to hear when she cou
ld readin his eyes that instant admiration that a woman values most? Andpoor? The money she had given had helped him, perhaps, to gainmillions!

  She worked late, that afternoon; and again, in the evening, she made anexcuse to keep her office lit up. Still he did not come and she pacedup the street, even listened as she passed by the saloons--then,overwhelmed with shame that she had seemed to seek him, she fled to herroom and wept. The next day, and the next, she watched and listenedand at last she overheard the truth. It was Andrew McBain, the hard,fighting Scotchman, who told the dreadful news--and she hated him forit, always.

  "Well, I'm glad he's gone," he had replied to L. W., who had beckonedhim out to the door. "He's a dangerous man--I've been afraid ofhim--you're lucky to get off at that."

  "Lucky!" yelled L. W., suddenly forgetting his caution, "he touched mefor two thousand dollars! Do you call that lucky? And here's thelatest--he hasn't got a pound of picked ore! Even took away what hehad; and that old, whiskered Mexican says he up and borrowed that fromhim!"

  "That's a criminal act," explained McBain exultantly, as he signaled L.W. to be calm. "Shh, not so loud, the girl might hear you. Let himgo, and hold it over his head."

  "No, I'll kill the dastard!" howled L. W. rebelliously and slammed thedoor in a rage.

  A swooning sickness came over Mary Fortune as she sat, waiting stonily,at her desk; but when McBain came back and sat down beside her shetyped on, automatically, as he spoke. Then she woke at last, as iffrom a dream, to hear his harsh, discordant voice; and a suddenresentment, a fierce, passionate hatred, swept over her as he shoutedin her ear. A hundred times she had informed him politely that she wasnot deaf when she wore her ear-'phone, and a hundred times he hadlistened impatiently and gone on in his sharp, rasping snarl. She drewaway shuddering as he looked over some papers and cleared his throatfor a fresh start; and then, without reason that he could ever divine,she burst into tears and fled.

  She came back later, but the moment he began dictating she pushed backher chair and rose up.

  "Mr. McBain," she said tremulously, "you don't need to shout at me. Igive you notice--I shall leave on the first."

  It was plainly a tantrum, such as he had observed in women, a case,pure and simple, of nerves; but Andrew McBain let it pass. She couldspell--a rare quality in typists--and was familiar with legal forms.

  "Ah, my dear Miss Fortune," he began propitiatingly, "I hope you willreconsider, I'm sure. It's a habit I have, when dictating a brief, tospeak as though addressing the court. Perhaps, under thecircumstances, you could take off your instrument and my voice wouldbe--ahem--just about right."

  "No! It drives me crazy!" she cried in a passion. "It makes everybodythink I'm so deaf!"

  She broke down at that and McBain discreetly withdrew and was gone forthe rest of the day. It was best, he had learned, when young womenbecame emotional, to absent himself for a time. And the next day, sureenough, she came back, smiling cheerfully, and said no more of leavingher job. She was, in fact, more obliging than before and he judgedthat the tantrum had passed.

  With L. W., however, the case was different. He claimed to be anIndian in his hates; and a mining engineer, dropping in from New York,told a story that staggered belief. Rimrock Jones was there, the talkof the town, reputed to be enormously rich. He smoked fifty-centcigars, wore an enormous black hat and put up at the Waldorf Hotel.Not only that but he was in all the papers as associating with thekings of finance. So great was his prestige that the engineer, infact, had been requested to report on his mine.

  "A report?" shouted L. W., "what, a report on the Tecolotes? Well, Ican save you a long, dusty trip. In the first place Rimrock Jones is athorough-paced scoundrel, not only a liar but a crook; and in thesecond place these claims are forty miles across the desert with justtwo sunk wells on the road. I wouldn't own his mines if you would makeme a present of them and a million dollars to boot. I wouldn't takethem for a gift if that mountain was pure gold--how's he going to haulthe ore to the railroad? Now listen, my friend, I've known that boysince he stood knee-high to a toad and of all the liars in Arizona hestands out, preeminently, as the worst."

  "You question his veracity, then?" enquired the engineer as he fumbledfor some papers in his coat.

  "Question nothing!" raved L. W. "I'm making a statement! He's notonly a liar--he's a thief! He robbed me, the dastard; he got twothousand dollars of my money without giving me the scratch of a pen.Oh, I tell you----"

  "Well, that's curious," broke in the engineer as he stared at a paper,"he's got your name down here as a reference."

 
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