Rimrock jones, p.7
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       Rimrock Jones, p.7

           Dane Coolidge



  From the highest pinnacle of success to the black depths of despair isa long way to drop in one hour and if Rimrock Jones went the way of allflesh it is only another argument for prohibition. All the rest of thetown had got a good start before he appeared on the scene and to drownthat black thought--defeated by a woman--he drank deep with the crowdat the Alamo. At the end of the bout when, his thoughts cominghaphazard, he philosophized on the disasters of the day, his brainslipped a cog and brought two ideas together that piled Pelion on theOssa of his discontent.

  The first vision to rise was that of the lady typist, exacting her fullpound of flesh; and then, groping back to that other catastrophe, hismind fetched up--Andrew McBain! And then he remembered. She workedfor McBain. He straightened up in the bar-room chair and gusty cursesswept from his lips.

  "You're stung, you sucker!" he cried in a fury. "You're sold out toAndrew McBain! Oh, you dad-burned idiot--you ignorant baboon--you weredrunk, that's why you signed up!"

  Rimrock's pitiful rage at that other personality that had marred hisfair hopes in his mine--that perverse, impulsive, overweening innerspirit that took the helm at each crisis of his life--was a rage tomake the gods above weep if they did not laugh at the jest. And thisblind, drunken self that rose up within him to sit leeringly injudgment on his acts, it judged not so ill, if the truth must bespoken. He had gone to Mary Fortune with the bouquet of Bourbon subtlyblended with the aroma of his cigar and the fine edge of his reason hadbeen dulled by so much when he matched his boy's wit against hers. Hismind had not sought out the hidden motive that lay behind what she hadsaid; he had followed where she led and, finding her logic impregnable,had yielded like a child, in a pique. Yes, yielded out of spitewithout ever once thinking that she worked, day by day, for McBain.

  A dull rage came over him and when he roused up next morning that fixedidea was still in his brain. But in the morning it was different.Those two personalities that had been so exalted, and differentiated,by drink, snapped back into one substantial I Am; and his tumultuous,fighting ego took command. Rimrock rose up thinking and the first hourafter breakfast found him working feverishly to build up a defense. Hehad been jumped once before by Andrew McBain--it must not happen again.No technicality must be left to serve as a handle for thislawyer-robber to seize. Before noon that day Rimrock had two gangs ofsurveyors on their way to his Tecolote claims; and for a full week theylabored, running side-lines, erecting monuments and taking angles onevery landmark for miles. The final blue-prints, duly certified andwitnessed, he took to the Recorder himself and then, still obsessed byhis premonition of evil, he came back to serve notice on McBain.

  For every man there is always some person instinctively associated withtrouble; some person that he hates beyond all bounds and reason, andintuitively fears and distrusts. In the jumping of the Gunsight therehad been others just as active, but Rimrock had forgiven them all butMcBain. Even the piratical L. W., for all his treachery, was stillwithin the pale of his friendship. But this tall, lanky Scotchman,always lurking within the law as a spider hides for safety in its hole,invoked nothing but his anger and contempt.

  Rimrock dropped off the train that had brought him from the Countyseat, and went straight up the street to the hotel. McBain was in hisoffice, stalking nervously up and down as he dictated to Mary Fortune,when the door opened suddenly and Rimrock Jones stepped in and stoodgazing at him insolently.

  "Good morning," he said with affected nicety of speech. "I hope that Idon't intrude. Yes, it is lovely weather, but I came here on a matterof business. We've had our difficulties, Mr. Apex McBain, but all thatis in the past. What I came to say is: I've got my eye on you and Idon't want you out at my mine. Those claims are my property and, Igive you fair notice, if you trespass on my ground you'll get shot.That's all for the present; but, because you've cleaned me once, don'tthink you can do it again."

  He bowed with mock politeness, taking off his hat with a flourish, andas he backed out Mary Fortune turned pale. There was something in thatbow and the affected accents that referred indirectly to her. She knewit intuitively and the hot blood rushed back and mantled her cheekswith red. Then she straightened up proudly and when McBain began todictate her machine went on clacking defiantly.

  There followed long days in which Rimrock idled about town or rode backand forth to his mine, and then the gossips began to talk. A change,over night, had taken place in Rimrock the day after his return fromNew York. On the first great day he had been his old self--boasting,drinking, giving away his money and calling the whole town in on hisjoy. The next day he had been sober and from that day forth he had nottaken even a drink. It was noted also that nothing was doing in thedirection of developing his mine; and another quality, the rare gift ofreticence, had taken the place of his brag. He sat off by himself,absent-minded and brooding, which was not like the Rimrock of old.

  The first man to break loose from the spell he cast by the flash of hisbig roll of bills was L. W. Lockhart, the banker. For some reason bestknown to himself Rimrock still carried his roll in his pocket, whereasany good business man will tell you that he should have deposited it inthe bank. And one thing more--not a man in Gunsight knew the firstthing about his associates in the mine.

  "I'll tell you the truth," said the overbearing L. W. as he stoodarguing with Rimrock in front of the Alamo, "I don't believe you've gotany company. I believe you went East with that two thousand dollarsand won a stake at gentleman's poker; and then you come back, with yourchest all throwed out, and get mysterious as hell over nothing."

  "Well, what do you care?" answered Rimrock scornfully. "You don'tstand to win or lose, either way!"

  "Nope! Nope!" pronounced Hassayamp positively, "he's got a company--Iknow that. I reckon that's what worries him. Anyhow, they's somethingthe matter; he ain't took a drink in a week. Seems like when he wasbroke he was round hyer all the time, jest a-carousin' and invitin' inthe whole town; and now when he's flush and could buy me out with thatlittle wad right there in his jeans, he sits here, by George, like aKeeley graduate, and won't even drink when he's asked."

  "Well, laugh," grumbled Rimrock as Old Hassayamp began to whoop, "Ireckon I know what I'm doing. When you've got nothing to lose exceptyour reputation it don't make much difference what you do; but whenyou're fixed like I am, with important affairs to handle, a man can'tafford to get drunk. He might sign some paper, or make some agreement,and euchre himself out of millions."

  "Aw! Millions! Millions!" mocked L. W., "your mine ain't worth amillion cents. A bunch of low-grade copper on the Papago Desert, fortymiles on a line from the railroad and everything packed in by burros.Who's going to buy it? That's what I ask and I'm waiting to hear theanswer."

  He paused and waited while Rimrock smiled and felt thoughtfully throughhis clothes for a match.

  "Well, don't let it worry you," he said at last. "I'm not tellingeverything I know. If I did, by grab, there'd be a string of men fromhere to the Tecolote Hills."

  "Yes--coming back!" jeered the provocative L. W.; but Rimrock onlysmiled again and gazed away through a thin veil of smoke.

  "You just keep your shirt on, Mr. Know-it-all Lockhart, and rememberthat large bodies move slowly. You'll wake up some morning and readthe answer written in letters ten feet high."

  "Yes--For Rent!" grunted L. W., and shutting down on his cigar, hestumped off up the street; but Old Hassayamp Hicks nodded and winked atRimrock, though at that he was no wiser than L. W.

  Rimrock kept his own counsel, sitting soberly by himself and mullingover what was on his mind; and at last he went to see Mary Fortune. Itwas of her he had been thinking, though in no sentimental way, duringthe long hours that he sat alone. Who was this woman, he askedhimself, and what did she want with that stock? And should he give itto her? That was the one big question and it took him two weeks todecide.

  He came into her office while she was r
unning her typewriter and noddedbriefly as he glanced out the rear door; then without any preliminarieshe drew out an engraved certificate and laid it down on her desk.

  "There's your stock," he said. "I've just endorsed it over to you.And now you can give me back that paper."

  He did not sit down, did not even take off his hat; and he studiouslyavoided her eyes.

  "Oh, thank you," she replied, glancing hurriedly at the certificate,"won't you sit down while I write out a receipt?"

  She picked up the paper, a beautiful piece of engraving, and looked itover carefully.

  "Oh, _two_ thousand shares?" she murmured questioningly. "Yes, I see;there are two hundred thousand in all. 'Par value, one hundreddollars.' I suppose that's just nominal. How much are they reallyworth?"

  "A hundred dollars a share," he answered grimly and as she cried out hepicked up a pen and fumbled idly with its point.

  "Oh, surely they aren't worth so much as that?" she exclaimed, but hecontinued his attentions to the pen.

  "No?" he enquired and then he waited with an almost bovine calm.

  "Why, no," she ran on, "why, I'd----"

  "You'd what?" he asked, but the trap he had set had been sprung withoutcatching its prey.

  "Why, it seems so much," she evaded rather lamely.

  "Oh, I thought you were going to say you'd like to sell."

  "No, I wouldn't sell," she answered quickly as her breath came backwith a gasp.

  "Because if you would," he went on cautiously, "I'm in the market tobuy. It'll be a long time before that stock pays any dividend. How'dyou like to sell a few shares?"

  "No, I'd rather not--not now, at least. I'll have to think it overfirst. But won't you sit down? Really, I'm quite overcome! It's somuch more than I had a right to expect."

  "If you'd sell me a few shares," went on Rimrock without finesse, "youwouldn't have to work any more. Just name your price and----"

  "Oh, I like to work," she countered gaily as she ran off a formalreceipt; and, signing her name, she handed it back to him with atwinkle of amusement in her eyes. "And then there's anotherreason--sit down, I want to talk to you--I think it will be better foryou. Oh, I know how you feel about it; but did you ever consider thatother people like their own way, too? Well, when you're off byyourself just think that over, it will help you understand life."

  Rimrock Jones sat down with a thud and took off his hat as he gazed atthis astonishing woman. She was giving him advice in a most superiormanner; and yet she was only a typist.

  "You said something one time," she went on seriously, "that hurt myfeelings very much--something about being trimmed, and by a woman! Iresolved right there that you needed to be educated. Do you mind if Itell you why? Well, in the first place, Mr. Jones, I admire you verymuch for the way you've kept your word. You are absolutely honest andI won't forget it when it comes to voting my stock. But that cynicalattitude that you chose to affect when you came to see me before--thatcalm way of saying that you couldn't trust anybody, not even the personaddressed--that won't get you very far, where a woman is concerned.That is, not very far with me."

  She looked him over with a masterful smile and Rimrock began to fumblehis hat.

  "You took it for granted," she went on accusingly, "that I had set outfrom the first to trim you but--and here's the thing that makes mefurious--you said: 'Trimmed, by grab, by a _woman_!' Now I'd like toenquire if in your experience you have found women less honest thanmen; and in the second place I'd like to inform you that I'm just asintelligent as you are. It was no disgrace, as I look at the matter,for you to be bested by me; and as for being trimmed, I'd like to knowwhat grounds you have for that remark? Did I ever ask more than youyourself had promised, or than would be awarded in a court of law? Andcouldn't I have said, when you went off without seeing me or writing asingle word; couldn't I have said, when you went off with my money andwere enjoying yourself in New York, that _I_ had been trimmed--by a_man_?"

  She spat out the word with such obvious resentment that Rimrock jumpedand looked towards the door. It came over him suddenly that this mild,handsome woman was at heart strictly anti-man. That was putting itmildly, she was anti-Jones and might easily be tempted too far; forright there in her hand she held two thousand shares of stock thatcould be used most effectively as a club.

  "Well, just let me explain," he stammered abjectly. "I want you toknow how that came about. When I came back from the claims I'd spentall that money and I had to have two thousand more. I had to have it,to get back to New York, or our mine wouldn't have been worth anything.Well, I went to L. W., the banker up here, and bluffed him out of themoney. But I know him too well--he'd think it over and if he caught mein town he'd renig. Demand back his money, you understand; so I ranout and swung up on the freight. Never stopped for nothing, and thatwas the reason I never came around to call."

  "And your right hand?" she asked sweetly, "the one that you write with?It was injured, I suppose, in the mine. I saw it wrapped up when yourode past the window, so everything is nicely explained."

  She kept on smiling and Rimrock squirmed in his chair, until he gaveway to a sickly grin.

  "Well, I guess you've got me," he acknowledged sheepishly, "never wasmuch of a hand to write."

  "Oh, that's all right," she answered gamely, "don't think I mean tocomplain. I'm just telling you the facts so you'll know how I feltwhen you suggested that you had been trimmed. Now suppose, forexample, that you were a woman who had lost all the money she had. Andsuppose, furthermore, that you had an affliction that an expensiveoperation might cure. And suppose you had worked for a year and a halfto save up four hundred dollars, and then a man came along who neededthat money ten times as badly as you did. Well, you know the rest. Iloaned you the money. Don't you think I'm entitled to this?"

  She picked up the certificate of stock and readjusted the 'phonereceiver to her ear; and Rimrock Jones, after staring a minute, settledback and nodded his head.

  "Yes, you are," he said. "And furthermore----" He reached impulsivelyfor the roll of bills but she checked him by a look.

  "No," she said, "I'm not asking for sympathy nor anything else of thekind. I just want you to know that I've earned this stock and thatnobody here has been trimmed."

  "That's right," he agreed and his eyes opened wider as he took her allin, once more. "Say, was that the reason you were saving your money?"he asked as he glanced at the ear-'phone. "Because if I'd a-known it,"he burst out repentantly, "I'd never touched it--no, honest, I neverwould."

  "Well, that's all right," she answered frankly, "we all take a chanceof some kind. But now, Mr. Jones, since we understand each other,don't you think we can afford to be friends?"

  She rose smiling and back into her eye came that look he had missedonce before. It came only for a moment--the old, friendly twinkle thathad haunted his memory for months--and as Rimrock caught it he leapt tohis feet and thrust out his great, awkward hand.

  "W'y, sure," he said, "and I'm proud to know you. Say, I'm comingaround again."

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