Part 3 out of 4
and she was quite sure that the potential capacity lay in her to care a
good deal more for him than for anybody else she had met. Since it was not
on the cards, as Miss Virginia had shuffled the pack, that she should marry
primarily for reasons sentimental, this annoyed her in her sophisticated
But in the hours when she was a mere girl when she was not so confidently
the heir of all the feminine wisdom of the ages, her annoyance took another
form. She had told Lyndon Hobart of her engagement because it was the
honest thing to do; because she supposed she ought to discourage any hopes
he might be entertaining. But it did not follow that he need have let these
hopes be extinguished so summarily. She could have wished his scrupulous
regard for the proper thing had not had the effect of taking him so
completely out of her external life, while leaving him more insistently
than ever the subject of her inner contemplation.
Virginia's conscience was of the twentieth century and American, though she
was a good deal more honest with herself than most of her sex in the same
social circle. Also she was straightforward with her neighbors so far as
she could reasonably be. But she was not a Puritan in the least, though she
held herself to a more rigid account than she did her friends. She judged
her betrothed as little as she could, but this was not to be entirely
avoided, since she expected her life to become merged so largely in his.
There were hours when she felt she must escape the blighting influence of
his lawlessness. There were others when it seemed to her magnificent.
Except for the occasional jangle of a bit or the ring of a horse's shoe on
a stone, there was silence which lasted many minutes. Each was busy with
her thoughts, and the narrowness of the trail, which here made them go in
single file, served as an excuse against talk.
"Perhaps we had better turn back," suggested Virginia, after the path had
descended to a gulch and merged itself in a wagon-road. "We shall have no
more than time to get home and dress for dinner."
Aline turned her pony townward, and they rode at a walk side by side.
"Do you know much about the difficulty between Mr. Harley and Mr. Ridgway?
I mean about the mines--the Sherman Bell, I think they called it?"
"I know something about the trouble in a general way. Both the Consolidated
and Mr. Ridgway's company claim certain veins. That is true of several
mines, I have been told."
"I don't know anything about business. Mr. Harley does not tell me anything
about his. To day I was sitting in the open window, and two men stopped
beneath it. They thought there would be trouble in this mine--that men
would be hurt. I could not make it all out, but that was part of it. I sent
for Mr. Harley and made him tell me what he knew. It would be dreadful if
anything like that happened."
"Don't worry your head about it, my dear. Things are always threatening and
never happening. It seems to be a part of the game of business to bluff, as
they call it."
"I wish it weren't," sighed the girl-wife.
Virginia observed that she looked both sad and weary. She had started on
her ride like a prisoner released from his dungeon, happy in the sunshine,
the swift motion, the sting of the wind in her face. There had been a
sparkle in her eye and a ring of gaiety in her laugh. Into her cheeks a
faint color had glowed, so that the contrast of their clear pallor with the
vivid scarlet of the little lips had been less pronounced than usual. But
now she was listless and distraite, the girlish abandon all stricken out
of her. It needed no clairvoyant to see that her heart was heavy and that
she was longing for the moment when she could be alone with her pain.
Her friend had learned what she wanted to know, and the knowledge of it
troubled her. She would have given a good deal to have been able to lift
this sorrow from the girl riding beside her. For she was aware that Aline
Harley might as well have reached for the moon as that toward which her
untutored heart yearned. She had come to life late and traveled in it but a
little way. Yet the tragedy of it was about to engulf her. No lifeboat was
in sight. She must sink or swim alone. Virginia's unspoiled heart went out
to her with a rush of pity and sympathy. Almost the very words that Waring
Ridgway had used came to her lips.
"You poor lamb! You poor, forsaken lamb!"
But she spoke instead with laughter and lightness, seeing nothing of the
girl's distress, at least, until after they separated at the door of the
CHAPTER 13. FIRST BLOOD
After Ridgway's cavalier refusal to negotiate a peace treaty, Simon Harley
and his body-guard walked back to the offices of the Consolidated, where
they arrived at the same time as the news of the enemy's first blow since
the declaration of renewed war.
Hobart was at his desk with his ear to the telephone receiver when the
great financier came into the inner office of the manager.
"Yes. When? Driven out, you say? Yes--yes. Anybody hurt? Followed our men
through into our tunnel? No, don't do anything till you hear from me. Send
Rhys up at once. Let me know any further developments that occur."
Hobart hung up the receiver and turned on his swivel-chair toward his
chief. "Another outrage, sir, at the hands of Ridgway. It is in regard to
those veins in the Copper King that he claims. Dalton, his superintendent
of the Taurus, drove a tunnel across our lateral lines and began working
them, though their own judge has not yet rendered a decision in their
Of course, I put a large force in them at once. To-day we tapped their
workings at the twelfth level. Our foreman, Miles, has just telephoned me
that Dalton turned the air pressure on our men, blew out their candles, and
flung a mixture of lime and rocks at them. Several of the men are hurt,
though none badly. It seems that Dalton has thrown a force into our tunnels
and is holding the entrances against us at the point where the eleventh,
twelfth, and thirteenth levels touch the cage. It means that he will work
those veins, and probably others that are acknowledged to be ours, unless
we drive them out, which would probably be a difficult matter."
Harley listened patiently, eyes glittering and clean-shaven lips pressed
tightly against his teeth. "What do you propose to do?"
"I haven't decided yet. If we could get any justice from the courts, an
"Can't be got from Purcell. Don't waste time considering it. Fight it out
yourself. Find his weakest spot, then strike hard and suddenly." Harley's
low metallic voice was crisp and commanding.
"His weakest spot?"
"Exactly. Has he no mines upon which we can retaliate?"
"There is the Taurus. It lies against the Copper King end to end. He drove
a tunnel into some of our workings last winter. That would give a
passageway to send our men through, if we decide to do so. Then there is
his New York. Its workings connect with those of the Jim Hill."
"Good! Send as many men through as is necessary to capture and hold both
mines. Get control of the entire workings of them both, and begin taking
ore out at once. Station armed guards at every point where it is necessary,
and as many as are necessary. Use ten thousand men, if you need that many.
But don't fail. We'll give Ridgway a dose of his own medicine, and teach
him that for every pound of our ore he steals we'll take ten."
"He'll get an injunction from the courts."
"Let him get forty. I'll show him that his robber courts will not save him.
Anyhow, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
Hobart, almost swept from his moorings by the fiery energy of his chief,
braced himself to withstand the current.
"I shall have to think about that. We can't fight lawlessness with
lawlessness except for selfpreservation."
"Think! You do nothing but think, Mr. Hobart. You are here to act," came
the scornful retort; "And what is this but self-preservation."
"I am willing to recapture our workings in the Copper King. I'll lead the
attack in person, sir. But as to a retaliatory attack--the facts will not
justify a capture of his property because he has seized ours."
"Wrong, sir. This is no time for half-way measures. I have resolved to
crush this freebooter; since he has purchased your venal courts, then by
the only means left us--force."
Hobart rose from his seat, very pale and erect. His eyes met those of the
great man unflinchingly. "You realize that this may mean murder, Mr.
Harley? That a clash cannot possibly be avoided if you pursue this course?"
"I realize that it is self-preservation," came the cold retort. "There is
no law here, none, at least, that gives us justice. We are back to
savagery, dragged back by the madness of this ruffian. It is his choice,
not mine. Let him abide by it."
"Your intention to follow this course is irrevocable?"
"In that case, I must regretfully offer my resignation as manager of the
"It is accepted, Mr. Hobart. I can't have men working under me that are not
loyal, body and soul, to the hand that feeds them. No man can serve two
masters, Mr. Hobart."
"That is why I resign, Mr. Harley. You give me the devil's work to do. I
have done enough of it. By Heaven, I will be a free man hereafter." The
disgust and dissatisfaction that had been pent within him for many a month
broke forth hot from the lips of this self-repressed man. "It is all wrong
on both sides. Two wrongs do not make a right. The system of espionage we
employ over everybody both on his side and ours, the tyrannical use we make
of our power, the corruption we foster in politics, our secret bargains
with railroads, our evasions of law as to taxes, and in every other way
that suits us: it is all wrong--all wrong. I'll be a party to it no longer.
You see to what it leads--murder and anarchy. I'll be a poor man if I must,
but I'll be a free and honest one at least."
"You are talking wickedly and wildly, Mr. Hobart. You are criticizing God
when you criticize the business conditions he has put into the world. I did
not know that you were a socialist, but what you have just said explains
your course," the old man reproved sadly and sanctimonious.
"I am not a socialist, Mr. Harley, but you and your methods have made
thousands upon thousands of them in this country during the past ten years."
"We shall not discuss that, Mr. Hobart, nor, indeed, is any discussion
necessary. Frankly, I am greatly disappointed in you. I have for some time
been dissatisfied with your management, but I did not, of course, know you
held these anarchistic views. I want, however, to be perfectly just. You
are a very good business man indeed, careful and thorough. That you have
not a bold enough grasp of mind for the place you hold is due, perhaps, to
these dangerous ideas that have unsettled you. Your salary will be
continued for six months. Is that satisfactory?"
"No, sir. I could not be willing to accept it longer than to-day. And when
you say bold enough, why not be plain and say unscrupulous enough?" amended
the younger man.
"As you like. I don't juggle with words. The point is, you don't succeed.
This adventurer, Ridgway, scores continually against you. He has beaten you
clear down the line from start to finish. Is that not true?"
"Because he does not hesitate to stoop to anything, because--"
"Precisely. You have given the very reason why he must be fought in the
same spirit. Business ethics would be as futile against him as chivalry in
dealing with a jungle-tiger."
"You would then have had me stoop to any petty meanness to win, no matter
The New Yorker waved him aside with a patient, benignant gesture. "I don't
care for excuses. I ask of my subordinates success. You do not get it for
me. I must find a man who can."
Hobart bowed with fine dignity. The touch of disdain in his slight smile
marked his sense of the difference between them. He was again his composed
"Can you arrange to allow my resignation to take effect as soon as
possible? I should prefer to have my connection with the company severed
before any action is taken against these mines."
"At once--to-day. Your resignation may be published in the Herald this
afternoon, and you will then be acquitted of whatever may follow."
"Thank you." Hobart hesitated an instant before he said: "There is a point
that I have already mentioned to you which, with your permission, I must
again advert to. The temper of the miners has been very bitter since you
refused to agree to Mr. Ridgway's proposal for an eight-hour day. I would
urge upon you to take greater precautions against a personal attack. You
have many lawless men among your employees. They are foreigners for the
most part, unused to self-restraint. It is only right you should know they
execrate your name."
The great man smiled blandly. "Popularity is nothing to me. I have neither
sought it nor desired it. Given a great work to do, with the Divine help I
have done it, irrespective of public clamor. For many years I have lived in
the midst of alarms, Mr. Hobart. I am not foolhardy. What precautions I can
reasonably take I do. For the rest, my confidence is in an all-wise
Providence. It is written that not even a sparrow falls without His decree.
In that promise I put my trust. If I am to be cut off it can only be by His
will. 'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of
the Lord.' Such, I pray, may be the humble and grateful spirit with which I
submit myself to His will."
The retiring manager urged the point no further. "If you have decided upon
my successor and he is on the ground I shall be glad to give the afternoon
to running over with him the affairs of the office. It would be well for
him to retain for a time my private secretary and stenographer."
"Mr. Mott will succeed you. He will no doubt be glad to have your
assistance in helping him fall into the routine of the office, Mr. Hobart."
Harley sent for Mott at once and told him of his promotion. The two men
were closeted together for hours, while trusted messengers went and came
incessantly to and from the mines. Hobart knew, of course, that plans were
in progress to arm such of the Consolidated men as could be trusted, and
that arrangements were being made to rush the Taurus and the New York.
Everything was being done as secretly as possible, but Hobart's experience
of Ridgway made it obvious to him that this excessive activity could not
pass without notice. His spies, like those of the trust, swarmed
It was not till mid-afternoon of the next day that Mott found time to join
him and run over with him the details of such unfinished business as the
office had taken up. The retiring manager was courtesy itself, nor did he
feel any bitterness against his successor. Nevertheless, he came to the end
of office hours with great relief. The day had been a very hard one, and it
left him with a longing for solitude and the wide silent spaces of the open
hills. He struck out in the direction which promised him the quickest
opportunity to leave the town behind him. A good walker, he covered the
miles rapidly, and under the physical satisfaction of the tramp the brain
knots unraveled and smoothed themselves out. It was better so--better to
live his own life than the one into which he was being ground by the
inexorable facts of his environment. He was a young man and ambitious, but
his hopes were not selfish. At bottom he was an idealist, though a
practical one. He had had to shut his eyes to many things which he
deplored, had been driven to compromises which he despised. Essentially
clean-handed, the soul of him had begun to wither at the contact of that
which he saw about him and was so large a part of.
"I am not fit for it. That is the truth. Mott has no imagination, and
property rights are the most sacred thing on earth to him. He will do
better at it than I," he told himself, as he walked forward bareheaded into
the great sunset glow that filled the saddle between two purple hills in
front of him.
As he swung round a bend in the road a voice, clear and sweet. came to him
through the light filtered air.
young woman on horseback was before him. Her pony stood across the road,
and she looked up a trail which ran down into it. The lifted poise of the
head brought out its fine lines and the distinction with which it was set
upon the well-molded throat column. Apparently she was calling to some
companion on the trail who had not yet emerged into view.
At sound of his footsteps the rider's head turned.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Hobart," she said quietly, as coolly as if her heart
had not suddenly begun to beat strangely fast.
"Good afternoon, Miss Balfour."
Each of them was acutely conscious of the barrier between them. Since the
day when she had told him of her engagement they had not met, even
casually, and this their first sight of each other was not without
"We have been to Lone Pine Cone," she said rather hurriedly, to bridge an
He met this obvious statement with another as brilliant.
"I walked out from town. My horse is a little lame."
But there was something she wanted to say to him, and the time for saying
it, before the arrival of her companion, was short. She would not waste it
"I don't usually read the papers very closely, but this morning I read both
the Herald and the Sun. Did you get my note?"
"Your note? No."
"I sent it by mail. I wanted you to know that your friends are proud of
you. We know why you resigned. It is easy to read between the lines."
"Thank you," he said simply. "I knew you would know."
"Even the Sun recognizes that it was because you are too good a man for the
"Praise from the Sun has rarely shone my way," he said, with a touch of
irony, for that paper was controlled by the Ridgway interest. "In its
approval I am happy."
Her impulsive sympathy for this man whom she so greatly liked would not
accept the rebuff imposed by this reticence. She stripped the gauntlet from
her hand and offered it in congratulation.
He took it in his, a slight flush in his face.
"I have done nothing worthy of praise. One cannot ask less of a man than
that he remain independent and honest. I couldn't do that and stay with the
Consolidated, or, so it seemed to me. So I resigned. That is all there is
"It is enough. I don't know another man would have done it, would have had
the courage to do it after his feet were set so securely in the way of
success. The trouble with Americans is that they want too much success.
They want it at too big a price."
"I'm not likely ever to have too much of it," he laughed sardonically.
"Success in life and success in living aren't the same thing. It is because
you have discovered this that you have sacrificed the less for the
greater." She smiled, and added: "I didn't mean that to sound as preachy as
"I'm afraid you make too much of a small thing. My squeamishness has
probably made me the laughing-stock of Mesa."
"If so, that is to the discredit of Mesa," she insisted stanchly. "But I
don't think so. A great many people who couldn't have done it themselves
will think more of you for having done it."
Another pony, which had been slithering down the steep trail in the midst
of a small rock slide, now brought its rider safely to a halt in the road.
Virginia introduced them, and Hobart, remembered that he had heard Miss
Balfour speak of a young woman whom she had met on the way out, a Miss
Laska Lowe, who was coming to Mesa to teach domestic science in the public
schools. There was something about the young teacher's looks that he liked,
though she was of a very different type than Virginia. Not at all pretty in
any accepted sense, she yet had a charm born of the vital honesty in her.
She looked directly at one out of sincere gray eyes, wide-awake and
fearless. As it happened, her friend had been telling her about Hobart, and
she was interested in him from the first. For she was of that minority
which lives not by bread alone, and she felt a glow of pride in the man who
could do what the Sun had given this man credit for editorially.
They talked at haphazard for a few minutes before the young women cantered
away. As Hobart trudged homeward he knew that in the eyes of these two
women, at least, he had not been a fool.
CHAPTER 14. A CONSPIRACY
Tucked away in an obscure corner of the same issue of the papers which
announced the resignation of Lyndon Hobart as manager of the Consolidated
properties, and the appointment of James K. Mott as his temporary
successor, were little one-stick paragraphs regarding explosions, which had
occurred the night before in tunnels of the Taurus and the New York. The
general public paid little attention to these, but those on the inside knew
that Ridgway had scored again. His spies had carried the news to him of the
projected capture of these two properties by the enemy. Instead of
attempting to defend them by force, he had set of charges of giant powder
which had brought down the tunnel roofs and effectually blocked the
entrances from the Consolidated mines adjoining.
With the indefatigable patience which characterized him, Harley set about
having the passages cleared of the rock and timber with which they were
filled. Before he had succeeded in doing this his enemy struck another
telling blow. From Judge Purcell he secured an injunction against the
Consolidated from working its mines, the Diamond King, the Mary K, and the
Marcus Daly, on the absurd contention that the principal ore-vein of the
Marcus Daly apexed on the tin, triangle wedged in between these three great
mines, and called by Ridgway the Trust Buster. Though there was not room
enough upon this fragment to sink a shaft, it was large enough to found
this claim of a vein widening as it descended until it crossed into the
territory of each of these properties. Though Harley could ignore court
injunctions which erected only under-ground territory, he was forced to
respect this one, since it could not be violated except in the eyes of the
whole country. The three mines closed down, and several thousand workmen
were thrown out of employment. These were immediately reemployed by Ridgway
and set to work both in his own and the Consolidated's territory.
Within a week a dozen new suits were instituted against the Consolidated by
its enemy. He harassed it by contempt proceedings, by applications for
receiverships, and by other ingenious devices, which greatly tormented the
New York operator. For the first time in his life the courts, which Harley
had used to much advantage in his battles to maintain and extend the trusts
he controlled, could not be used even to get scant justice.
Meanwhile both leaders were turning their attention to the political
situation. The legislators were beginning to gather for the coming session,
and already the city was full of rumors about corruption. For both the
Consolidated and its enemy were making every effort to secure enough votes
to win the election of a friendly United States senator. The man chosen
would have the distribution of the federal patronage of the State. This
meant the control of the most influential local politicians of the party in
power at Washington as well as their followers, an almost vital factor for
success in a State where political corruption had so interwoven itself into
the business life of the community.
The hotel lobbies were filled with politicians gathered from every county
in the State. Big bronzed cattlemen brushed shoulders with budding lawyers
from country towns and ward bosses from the larger cities. The bars were
working overtime, and the steady movement of figures in the corridors
lasted all day and most of the night. Here and there were collected groups,
laughing and talking about the old frontier days, or commenting in lowered
tones on some phase of the feverish excitement that was already beginning
to be apparent. Elevators shot up and down, subtracting and adding to the
kaleidoscope of human life in the rotundas. Bellboys hurried to and fro
with messages and cocktails. The ring of the telephone-bell cut
occasionally into the deep hum of many voices. All was confusion, keen
For it was known that Simon Harley had sent for $300,000 in cold cash to
secure the election of his candidate, Roger D. Warner, a lawyer who had all
his life been close to corporate interests. It was known, too, that Waring
Ridgway had gathered together every element in the State that opposed the
domination of the Consolidated, to fight their man to a finish. Bets for
large sums were offered and taken as to the result, heavy odds being given
in favor of the big copper trust's candidate. For throughout the State at
large the Consolidated influence was very great indeed. It owned forest
lands and railroads and mines. It controlled local transportation largely.
Nearly one-half the working men in the State were in its employ. Into every
town and village the ramifications of its political organization extended.
The feeling against it was very bitter, but this was usually expressed in
whispers. For it was in a position to ruin almost any business man upon
whom it fastened a grudge, and to make wealthy any upon whom it chose to
cast its favors.
Nevertheless, there were some not so sure that the Consolidated would
succeed in electing its man. Since Ridgway had announced himself as a
candidate there had been signs of defection on the part of some of those
expected to vote for Warner. He had skillfully wielded together in
opposition to the trust all the elements of the State that were hostile to
it; and already the word was being passed that he had not come to the
campaign without a barrel of his own.
The balloting for United States senator was not to begin until the eighth
day of the session, but the opening week was full of a tense and suppressed
excitement. It was known that agents of both sides were moving to and fro
among the representatives and State senators, offering fabulous prices for
their votes and the votes of any others they might be able to control. Men
who had come to the capital confident in their strength and integrity now
looked at their neighbors furtively and guiltily. Day by day the
legislators were being debauched to serve the interest of the factions
which were fighting for control of the State. Night after night secret
meetings were being held in out-of-the-way places to seduce those who clung
desperately to their honesty or held out for a bigger price. Bribery was in
the air, rampant, unashamed. Thousand-dollar bills were as common as
ten-dollar notes in ordinary times.
Sam Yesler, commenting on the situation to his friend Jack Roper, a fellow
member of the legislature who had been a cattleman from the time he had
given up driving a stage thirty years before, shook his head dejectedly
over his blue points.
"I tell you, Jack, a man has to be bed-rocked in honesty or he's gone.
Think of it. A country lawyer comes here who has never seen five thousand
dollars in a lump sum, and they shove fifteen thousand at him for his vote.
He is poor, ambitious, struggling along from hand to mouth. I reckon we
ain't in a position to judge that poor devil of a harassed fellow. Mebbe
he's always been on the square, came here to do what was right, we'll say,
but he sees corruption all round him. How can he help getting a warped
notion of things? He sees his friends and his neighbors falling by the
wayside. By God, it's got to the point in this legislature that an honest
man's an object of obloquy."
"That's right," agreed Roper. "Easy enough for us to be square. We got good
ranches back of us and can spend the winter playing poker at the Mesa Club
if we feel like it. But if we stood where Billy George and Garner and
Roberts and Munz do, I ain't so damn sure my virtue would stand the strain.
Can you reach that salt, Sam?"
"Billy George has got a sick wife, and he's been wanting to send her back
to her folks in the East, but he couldn't afford it. The doctors figured
she ought to stay a year, and Billy would have to hire a woman to take care
of his kids. I said to him: 'Hell, Billy, what's a friend for?' And I
shoves a check at him. He wouldn't look at it; said he didn't know whether
he could ever pay it, and he had not come down to charity yet."
"Billy's a white man. That's what makes me sick. Right on top of all his
bad luck he comes here and sees that everybody is getting a big roll. He
thinks of that white-faced wife of his dragging herself round among the
kids and dying by inches for lack of what money can buy her. I tell you I
don't blame him. It's the fellows putting the temptation up to him that
ought to be strung up."
"I see that hound Pelton's mighty active in it. He's got it in for Ridgway
since Waring threw him down, and he's plugging night and day for Warner.
Stays pretty well tanked up. Hopper
tells me he's been making threats to kill Waring on sight."
"I heard that and told Waring. He laughed and said he hoped he would live
till Pelton killed him. I like Waring. He's got the guts, as his miners
say. But he's away off on this fight. He's using money right and left just
as Harley is."
Yesler nodded. "The whole town's corrupted. It takes bribery for granted.
Men meet on the street and ask what the price of votes is this morning.
Everybody feels prosperous."
"I heard that a chambermaid at the Quartzite Hotel found seven thousand
dollars in big bills pinned to the bottom of a mattress in Garner's room
yesterday. He didn't dare bank it, of course."
"Poor devil! He's another man that would like to be honest, but with the
whole place impregnated with bribery he couldn't stand the pressure. But
after this is all over he'll go home to his wife and his neighbors with the
canker of this thing at his heart until he dies. I tell you, Jack, I'm for
stopping it if we can."
"There's one way. I've been approached indirectly by Pelton, to deliver our
vote to the Consolidated. Suppose we arrange to do it, get evidence, and
make a public exposure."
They were alone in a private dining-room of a restaurant, but Yesler's
voice had fallen almost to a whisper. With his steady gray eyes he looked
across at the man who had ridden the range with him fifteen years ago when
he had not had a sou to bless himself with.
Roper tugged at his long drooping mustache and gazed at his friend. "It's a
large order, Sam, a devilish large order. Do you reckon we could deliver?"
"I think so. There are six of us that will stand pat at any cost. If we
play our cards right and keep mum the surprise of it is bound to shake
votes loose when we spring the bomb. The whole point is whether we can take
advantage of that surprise to elect a decent man. I don't say it can be
done, but there's a chance of it."
The old stage-driver laughed softly. "We'll be damned good and plenty by
"Of course. It won't be a pleasant thing to do, but then it isn't exactly
pleasant to sit quiet and let these factions use the State as a pawn in
their game of grab."
"I'm with you, Sam. Go to it, my boy, and I'll back you to the limit."
"We had better not talk it over here. Come to my room after dinner and
bring Landor and James with you. I'll have Reedy and Keller there. I'll
mention casually that it's a big game of poker, and I'll have cards and
drinks sent up. You want to remember we can't be too careful. If it leaks
out we lose."
"I'm a clam, Sam. Do you want I should speak of it to Landor and James?"
"Better wait till we get together."
"What about Ward? He's always been with us."
"He talks too much. We can take him in at the last minute if we like."
"That would be better. I ain't so sure about Reedy, either. He's straight
as a string, of course; not a crooked hair in his head. But when he gets to
drinking he's likely to let things out."
"You're right. We'll leave him out, too, until the last minute. There's
another thing I've thought of. Ridgway can't win. At least I don't see how
he can control more than twenty five votes. Suppose at the very last moment
we make a deal with him and with the Democrats to pool our votes on some
square man. With Waring it's anything to beat the Consolidated. He'll jump
at the chance if he's sure he is out of the running himself. Those of the
Democrats that Harley can't buy will be glad to beat his man. I don't say
it can be done, Jack. All I say is that it is worth a trial."
They met that night in Yesler's rooms round a card-table. The hands were
dealt for form's sake, since there were spies everywhere, and it was
necessary to ring for cigars and refreshments occasionally to avoid
suspicion. They were all cattlemen, large or small, big outdoors sunburned
men, who rode the range in the spring and fall with their punchers and
asked no odds of any man.
Until long past midnight they talked the details over, and when they
separated in the small hours it was with a well-defined plan to save the
State from its impending disgrace if the thing could be done.
CHAPTER 15. LASKA OPENS A DOOR
The first ballots for a United States senator taken by the legislature in
joint session failed to disclose the alignment of some of the doubtful
members. The Democratic minority of twenty-eight votes were cast for
Springer, the senator whose place would be taken by whoever should win in
the contest now on. Warner received forty-four, Ridgway twenty-six, eight
went to Pascom, a former governor whom the cattlemen were supporting, and
the remaining three were scattered. Each day one ballot was taken, and for
a week there was a slight sifting down of the complimentary votes until at
the end of it the count stood:
Warner still lacked ten votes of an election, but It was pretty thoroughly
understood that several of the Democratic minority were waiting only long
enough for a colorable excuse to switch to him. All kinds of rumors were in
the air as to how many of these there were. The Consolidated leaders boldly
claimed that they had only to give the word to force the election of their
candidate on any ballot. Yesler did not believe this claim could be
justified, since Pelton and Harley were already negotiating with him for
the delivery of the votes belonging to the cattlemen's contingent.
He had held off for some time with hints that it would take a lot of money
to swing the votes of such men as Roper and Landor, but he had finally come
to an agreement that the eight votes should be given to Warner for a
consideration of $300,000. This was to be paid to Yesler in the presence of
the other seven members on the night before the election, and was to be
held in escrow by him and Roper until the pact was fulfilled, the money to
be kept in a safety deposit vault with a key in possession of each of the
On the third day of the session, before the voting had begun, Stephen
Eaton, who was a State senator from Mesa, moved that a committee be
appointed to investigate the rumors of bribery that were so common. The
motion caught the Consolidated leaders napping, for this was the last man
they had expected to propose such a course, and it went through with little
opposition, as a similar motion did in the House at the same time. The
lieutenant-governor and the speaker of the House were both opposed to
Warner, and the joint committee had on it the names of no Consolidated men.
The idea of such a committee had originated with Ridgway, and had been
merely a bluff to show that he at least was willing that the world should
know the whole story of the election. Nor had this committee held even
formal meetings before word reached Eaton through Yesler that if it would
appoint a conference in some very private place, evidence would be
submitted implicating agents of the Warner forces in attempts at bribery.
It was close to eleven o'clock when Sam Yesler stepped quietly from a side
door of his hotel and slipped into the street. He understood perfectly that
in following the course he did, he was taking his life in his hands. The
exposure of the bribery traffic would blast forever the reputations of many
men who had hitherto held a high place in the community, and he knew the
temper of some of them well enough to be aware that an explosion was
probable. Spies had been dogging him ever since the legislature convened.
Within an hour one of them would be flying to Pelton with the news that he
was at a meeting of the committee, and all the thugs of the other side
would be turned loose on his heels. As he walked briskly through the
streets toward the place appointed, his hand lay on the hilt of a revolver
in the outside pocket of his overcoat. He was a man who would neither seek
trouble nor let it overwhelm him. If his life were attempted, he meant to
defend it to the last.
He followed side streets purposely, and his footsteps echoed along the
deserted road. He knew he was being dogged, for once, when he glanced back,
he caught sight of a skulking figure edging along close to a wall. The
sight of the spy stirred his blood. Grimly he laughed to himself. They
might murder him for what he was doing, but not in time to save the
exposure which would be brought to light on the morrow.
The committee met at a road-house near the outskirts of the city, but only
long enough to hear Yesler's facts and to appoint another meeting for three
hours later at the offices of Eaton. For the committee had come here for
secrecy, and they knew that it would be only a short time before Pelton's
heelers would be down upon them in force. It was agreed they should divide
and slip quietly back to town, wait until everything was quiet and convene
again. Meanwhile Eaton would make arrangements to see that his offices
would be sufficiently guarded for protection against any attack.
Yesler walked back to town and was within a couple of blocks of his hotel
when he glimpsed two figures crouching against the fence of the alley. He
stopped in his tracks, watched them intently an instant, and was startled
by a whistle from the rear. He knew at once his retreat, too, was cut off,
and without hesitation vaulted the fence in front of a big gray stone house
he was passing. A revolver flashed from the alley, and he laughed with a
strange kind of delight. His thought was to escape round the house, but
trellis work barred the way, and he could not open the gate.
"Trapped, by Jove," he told himself coolly as a bullet struck the trellis
close to his head.
He turned back, ran up the steps of the porch and found momentary safety in
the darkness of its heavy vines. But this he knew could not last. Running
figures were converging toward him at a focal point. He could hear oaths
and cries. Some one was throwing aimless shots from a revolver at the
He heard a window go up in the second story and a woman's frightened voice
ask. "What is it? Who is there?"
"Let me in. I'm ambushed by thugs," he called back.
"There he is--in the doorway," a voice cried out of the night, and it was
followed by a spatter of bullets about him.
He fired at a man leaping the fence. The fellow tumbled back with a kind of
"God! I'm hit."
He could hear steps coming down the stairway and fingers fumbling at the
key of the door. His attackers were gathering for a rush, and he wondered
whether the rescue was to be too late. They came together, the opening door
and the forward pour of huddled figures. He stepped back into the hall.
There was a raucous curse, a shot, and Yesler had slammed the door shut. He
was alone in the darkness with his rescuer.
"We must get out of here. They're firing through the door," he said, and
"Yes" came faintly back to him from across the hall.
"Do you know where the switch is?" he asked, wondering whether she was
going to be such an idiot as to faint at this inopportune moment.
His answer came in a flood of light, and showed him a young woman crouched
on the hall-rack a dozen feet from the switch. She was very white, and
there was a little stain of crimson on the white lace of her sleeve.
A voice from the landing above demanded quickly, "Who are you, sir?" and
after he had looked up', cried in surprise, "Mr. Yesler."
"Miss Balfour," he replied. "I'll explain later. I'm afraid the lady has
been hit by a bullet."
He was already beside his rescuer. She looked at him with a trace of a
tired smile and said:
"In my arm."
After which she fainted. He picked up the young woman, carried her to the
stairs, and mounted them.
"This way," said Virginia, leading him into a bedroom, the door of which
He observed with surprise that she, too, was dressed in evening clothes,
and rightly surmised that they had just come back from some social
"Is it serious?" asked Virginia, when he had laid his burden on the bed.
She was already clipping with a pair of scissors the sleeve from round the
"It ought not to be," he said after he had examined it. "The bullet has
scorched along the fleshy part of the forearm. We must telephone for a
doctor at once."
She did so, then found water and cotton for bandages, and helped him make a
temporary dressing. The patient recovered consciousness under the touch of
the cold water, and asked: what was the matter.
"You have been hurt a little, but not badly I think. Don't you remember?
You came down and opened the door to let me in."
"They were shooting at you. What for?" she wanted to know.
He smiled. "Don't worry about that. It's all over with. I'm sorry you were
hurt in saving me," said Yesler gently.
"Did I save you?" The gray eyes showed a gleam of pleasure.
"You certainly did."
"This is Mr. Yesler, Laska. Mr. Yesler--Miss Lowe. I think you have never
"Never before to-night," he said, pinning the bandage in place round the
plump arm. "There. That's all just now, ma'am. Did I hurt you very much?"
The young woman felt oddly exhilarated. "Not much. I'll forgive you if
you'll tell me all about the affair. Why did they want to hurt you?"
His big heart felt very tender toward this girl who had been wounded for
him, but he showed it only by a smiling deference.
"You're right persistent, ma'am. You hadn't ought to be bothering your head
about any such thing, but if you feel that way I'll be glad to tell you."
He did. While they sat there and waited for the coming of the doctor, he
told her the whole story of his attempt to stop the corruption that was
eating like a canker at the life of the State. He was a plain man, not in
the least eloquent, and he told his story without any sense that he had
played any unusual part. In fact, he was ashamed that he had been forced to
assume a role which necessitated a kind of treachery to those who thought
they had bought him.
Laska Lowe's eyes shone with the delight his tale inspired in her. She
lived largely in the land of ideals, and this fight against wrong moved her
mightily. She could feel for him none of the shame which he felt for
himself at being mixed up in so bad a business. He was playing a man's
part, had chosen it at risk of his life. That was enough. In every fiber of
her, she was glad that good fortune had given her the chance to bear a part
of the battle. In her inmost heart she was even glad that to the day of her
death she must bear the scar that would remind her she had suffered in so
good a cause.
Virginia, for once obliterating herself, perceived how greatly taken they
were with each other. At bottom, nearly every woman is a match-maker. This
one was no exception. She liked both this man and this woman, and her fancy
had already begun to follow her hopes. Never before had Laska appeared to
show much interest in any of the opposite sex with whom her friend had seen
her. Now she was all enthusiasm, had forgotten completely the pain of her
wound in the spirit's glow.
"She loved me for the danger I had pass'd,
And I loved her that she did pity them.
This only is the witchcraft I have us'd.'"
Virginia quoted softly to herself, her eyes on the young woman so finely
unconscious of the emotion that thrilled her.
Not until the clock in the hall below struck two did Yesler remember his
appointment in the Ridgway Building. The doctor had come and was about to
go. He suggested that if Yesler felt it would be safe for him to go, they
might walk across to the hotel together.
"And leave us alone." Laska could have bitten her tongue after the words
Virginia explained. "The Leighs are out of the city to-night, and it
happens that even the servants are gone. I asked Miss Lowe to stay with me
all night, but, of course, she feels feverish and nervous after this
excitement. Couldn't you send a man to watch the rest of the night out in
"Why don't You stay, Mr. Yesler?" the doctor suggested. "You could sleep
here, no doubt."
"You might have your meeting here. It is neutral ground. I can phone to Mr.
Ridgway," proposed Virginia in a low voice to Yesler.
"Doesn't that seem to imply that I'm afraid to leave?" laughed Yesler.
"It implies that we are afraid to have you. Laska would worry both on your
account and our own. I think you owe it to her to stay."
"Oh, if that's the way it strikes you," he agreed. "Fact is, I don't quite
like to leave you anyhow. We'll take Leigh's study. I don't think we shall
disturb you at all."
"I'm sure you won't--and before you go, you'll let us know what you have
decided to do."
"We shall not be through before morning. You'll be asleep by then," he made
"No, I couldn't sleep till I know all about it."
"Nor I," agreed Laska. "I want to know all about everything."
"My dear young lady, you are to take the sleeping-powders and get a good
rest," the doctor demurred. "All about everything is too large an order for
your good just now."
Virginia nodded in a businesslike way. "Yes, you're to go to sleep, Laska,
and when you waken I'll tell you all about it."
"That would be better," smiled Yesler, and Virginia thought it significant
that her friend made no further protest.
Gray streaks began to show in the sky before Yesler tapped on the door of
Virginia's room. She had discarded the rather elaborate evening gown he had
last seen her in, and was wearing some soft fabric which hung from the
shoulders in straight lines, and defined the figure while lending the
effect of a loose and flowing drapery.
"How is your patient?" he asked.
"She has dropped into a good sleep," the girl whispered. "I am sure we
don't need to worry about her at all."
"Nevertheless, it's a luxury I'm going to permit myself for a day or two,"
he smiled. "I don't have my life saved by a young lady very often."
"I'm sure you will enjoy worrying about her," she laughed.
He got back at her promptly. "There's somebody down-stairs worrying about
you. He wants to know if there is anything he can do for you, and suggests
inviting himself for breakfast in order to make sure."
"How did you guess it first crack? Mr. Ridgway it is."
She considered a moment. "Yes, tell him to stay. Molly will be back in time
to make breakfast, and I want to talk to him. Now tell me what you did."
"We did Mr. Warner. At least I hope so," he chuckled.
"I'm so glad. And who is to be senator? Is it Waring?"
"No. It wouldn't have been possible to elect him even if we had wanted to."
"And you didn't want to," she flashed.
"No, we didn't," he admitted frankly. "We couldn't afford to have it
generally understood that this was merely a partisan fight on the
Consolidated, and that we were pulling Waring's chestnuts out of the fire
He did not add, though he might have, that Ridgway was tarred with the same
brush as the enemy in this matter.
"Then who is it to be?"
"That's a secret. I can't tell even you that. But we have agreed on a man.
Waring is to withdraw and throw his influence for him. The Democratic
minority will swing in line for him, and we'll do the rest. That's the
plan. It may not go through, however."
"I don't see who it can be that you all unite on. Of course, it isn't Mr.
"I should hope not."
"Or Mr. Samuel Yesler?"
"You've used up all the guesses allowed you. If you want to know, why don't
you attend the joint session to-day? It ought to be highly interesting."
"I shall," she announced promptly. "And I'll bring Laska with me."
"She won't be able to come."
"I think she will. It's only a scratch."
"I don't like to think how much worse it might have been."
"Then don't think of it. Tell Waring I'll be down presently."
He went down-stairs again, and Miss Balfour returned to the room.
"Was that Mr. Yesler?" quietly asked a voice from the bed.
"Yes, dear. He has gone back to the hotel. He asked about you, of course."
"He is very kind."
"It was thoughtful, since you only saved his life," admitted the ironical
"Wasn't it fortunate that we were up?"
"Very fortunate for him that you were."
Virginia crossed the room to the bed and kissed her friend with some subtle
significance too elusive for words. Laska appeared, however to appreciate
it. At least, she blushed.
CHAPTER 16. AN EXPLOSION IN THE TAURUS
The change of the relationship between Ridgway and his betrothed, brought
about by the advent of a third person into his life, showed itself in the
manner of their greeting. She had always been chary of lovers'
demonstrations, but until his return from Alpine he had been wont to exact
his privilege in spite of her reluctance. Now he was content with the hand
she offered him.
"You've had a strenuous night of it," he said, after a glance at the rather
wan face she offered the new day.
"Yes, we have--and for that matter, I suppose you have, too."
Man of iron that he was, he looked fresh as morning dew. With his usual
lack of self-consciousness, he had appropriated Leigh's private bath, and
was glowing from contact with ice-cold water and a crash towel.
"We've been making history," he agreed. "How's your friend?"
"She has no fever at all. It was only a scratch. She will be down to
breakfast in a minute."
"Good. She must be a thoroughbred to come running down into the bullets for
a stranger she has never seen."
"She is. You'll like Laska."
"I'm glad she saved Sam from being made a colander. I can't help liking
him, though he doesn't approve of me very much."
"I suppose not."
"He is friendly, too." Ridgway laughed as he recalled their battle over who
should be the nominee. "But his conscience rules him. It's a free and
liberal conscience, generally speaking--nothing Puritan about it, but a
distinctive product of the West. Yet, he would not have me for senator at
"Didn't think I was fit to represent the people; said if I went in, it
would be to use the office for my personal profit."
"Wasn't he right?"
"More or less. If I were elected, I would build up my machine, of course,
but I would see the people got a show, too."
She nodded agreement. "I don't think you would make a bad senator."
"I would be a live wire, anyhow. Sam had other objections to me. He thought
I had been using too much money in this campaign."
"And have you?" she asked, curious to see how he would defend himself.
"Yes. I had to if I were going to stand any chance. It wasn't from choice.
I didn't really want to be senator. I can't afford to give the time to it,
but I couldn't afford to let Harley name the man either. I was between the
devil and the deep sea."
"Then, really, Mr. Yesler came to your rescue."
"That's about it, though he didn't intend it that way."
"And who is to be the senator?"
He gave her a cynical smile. "Warner."
"But I thought--why, surely he--" The surprise of his cool announcement
took her breath away.
"No, he isn't the man our combination decided on, but the trouble is that
our combination is going to fall through. Sam's an optimist, but you'll see
I'm right. There are too many conflicting elements of us in one boat. We
can't lose three votes and win, and it's a safe bet we lose them. The
Consolidated must know by this time what we have been about all night.
They're busy now sapping at our weak links. Our only chance is to win on
the first vote, and I am very sure we won't be able to do it."
"0h, I hope you are not right." A young woman was standing in the doorway,
her arm in a sling. She had come in time to hear his prophesy, and in the
disappointment of it had forgotten that he was a stranger.
Virginia remedied this, and they went in to breakfast. Laska was full of
interest, and poured out eager questions at Ridgway. It was not for several
minutes that Virginia recollected to ask again who was the man they had
Her betrothed found some inner source of pleasure that brought out a
sardonic smile. "He's a slap in the face at both Harley and me."
"I can't think who--is he honest?"
"As the day."
"Oh, yes. He's competent enough."
"Yes. He'll do the State credit, or rather he would if he were going to be
"Then I give it up."
He was leaning forward to tell, when the sharp buzz of the electric
door-bell, continued and sustained, diverted the attention of all of them.
Ridgway put down his napkin. "Probably some one to see me."
He had risen to his feet when the maid opened the door of the dining-room.
"A gentleman to see Mr. Ridgway. He says it is very important."
From the dining-room they could hear the murmur of quick voices, and soon
Ridgway returned. He was a transformed man. His eyes were hard as diamonds,
and there was the bulldog look of the fighter about his mouth and chin.
"What is it, Waring?" cried Virginia.
"Trouble in the mines. An hour ago Harley's men rushed the Taurus and the
New York, and drove my men out. One of my shift-foremen and two of his
drillers were killed by an explosion set off by Mike Donleavy, a foreman in
the Copper King."
"Did they mean to kill them?" asked the girl whitely.
"I suppose not. But they took the chance. It's murder just the same--by
Jove, it's a club with which to beat the legislators into line."
He stopped, his brain busy solving the problem as to how he might best turn
this development to his own advantage. Part of his equipment was his
ability to decide swiftly and surely issues as they came to him. Now he
strode to the telephone and began massing his forces.
"Main 234--Yes--Yes--This the Sun?--
Give me Brayton--Hello, Brayton. Get out a special edition at once charging
Harley with murder. Run the word as a red headline clear across the page.
Show that Vance Edwards and the other boys were killed while on duty by an
attack ordered by Harley. Point out that this is the logical result of his
course. Don't mince words. Give it him right from the shoulder. Rush it,
and be sure a copy of the paper is on the desk of every legislator before
the session opens this morning. Have a reliable man there to see that every
man gets one. Scatter the paper broadcast among the miners, too. This is
He hung up the receiver, took it down again, and called up Eaton.
"Hello! This you, Steve? Send for Trelawney and Straus right away. Get them
to call a mass meeting of the unions for ten o'clock at the courthouse
square. Have dodgers printed and distributed announcing it. Shut down all
our mines so that the men can come. I want Straus and Trelawney and two or
three of the other prominent labor leaders to denounce Harley and lay the
responsibility for this thing right at his door. I'll be up there and
outline what they had better say."
He turned briskly round to the young women, his eyes shining with a hard
bright light. "I'm sorry, but I have got to cut out breakfast this morning.
Business is piling up on me too fast. If you'll excuse me, I'll go now."
"What are you going to do?" asked Virginia.
"I haven't time to tell you now. Just watch my smoke," he laughed without
No sooner did the news of the tragedy reach Simon Harley than he knew the
mistake of his subordinates would be a costly one. The foreman, Donleavy,
who had directed the attack on the Taurus, had to be brought from the
shafthouse under the protection of a score of Pinkerton detectives to
safeguard him from the swift vengeance of the miners, who needed but a word
to fling themselves against the cordon of police. Harley himself kept his
apartments, the hotel being heavily patrolled by guards on the lookout for
suspicious characters. The current of public opinion, never in his favor,
now ran swiftly against him, and threats were made openly by the infuriated
miners to kill him on sight.
The members of the unions came to the massmeeting reading the story of the
tragedy as the Sun colored the affair. They stayed sullenly to listen to
red-hot speeches against the leader of the trust, and gradually the wrath
which was simmering in them began to boil. Ridgway, always with a keen
sense of the psychological moment, descended the court-house steps just as
this fury was at its height. There were instant cries for a speech from him
so persistent that he yielded, though apparently with reluctance. His fine
presence and strong deep voice soon gave him the ears of all that dense
throng. He was far out of the ordinary as a public speaker, and within a
few minutes he had his audience with him. He deprecated any violence; spoke
strongly for letting the law take its course; and dropped a suggestion that
they send a committee to the State-house to urge that Harley's candidate be
defeated for the senatorship.
Like wild-fire this hint spread. Here was something tangible they could do
that was still within the law. Harley had set his mind on electing Warner.
They would go up there in a body and defeat his plans. Marshals and leaders
of companies were appointed. They fell into ranks by fours, nearly ten
thousand of them all told. The big clock in the court-house was striking
twelve when they began their march to the Statehouse.
CHAPTER 17. THE ELECTION
At the very moment that the tramp of twenty thousand feet turned toward the
State-house, the report of the bribery investigating committee was being
read to the legislature met in joint session. The committee reported that
it had examined seven witnesses, Yesler, Roper, Landor, James, Reedy,
Kellor, and Ward, and that each of then had testified that former
Congressman Pelton or others had approached him on behalf of Warner; that
an agreement had been made by which the eight votes being cast for Bascom
would be give to Warner in consideration of $300,000 in cash, to be held in
escrow by Yesler, and that the committee now had the said package, supposed
to contain the bills for that amount, in its possession, and was prepared
to turn it over to the legislature for examination.
Except for the clerk's voice, as he read the report, a dead silence lay
tensely over the crowded hall. Men dared not look at their neighbors,
scarce dared breathe, for the terror that hung heavy on their hearts.
Scores were there who expected their guilt to be blazoned forth for all the
world to read. They waited whitely as the monotonous voice of the clerk
went from paragraph to paragraph, and when at last he sat down, having
named only the bribers and not the receivers of bribes, a long deep sigh of
relief swept the house. Fear still racked them, but for the moment they
were safe. Furtively their glances began to go from one to another of their
neighbors and ask for how long safety would endure.
One could have heard the rustle of a leaf as the chairman of the committee
stepped forward and laid on the desk of the presiding officer the
incriminating parcel. It seemed an age while the chief clerk opened it,
counted the bills, and announced that one hundred thousand dollars was the
sum contained within.
Stephen Eaton then rose in his seat and presented quietly his resolution,
that since the evidence submitted was sufficient to convict of bribery, the
judge of the district court of the County of Mesa be requested to call a
special session of the grand jury to investigate the report. It was not
until Sam Yesler rose to speak upon that report that the pent-up storm
He stood there in the careless garb of the cattleman, a strong clean-cut
figure as one would see in a day's ride, facing with unflinching steel-blue
eyes the tempest of human passion he had evoked. The babel of voices rose
and fell and rose again before he could find a chance to make himself
heard. In the gallery two quietly dressed young, women, one of them with
her arm in a sling, leaned forward breathlessly and waited Laska's eyes
glowed with deep fire. She was living her hour of hours, and the man who
stood with such quiet courage the focus of that roar of rage was the hero
"You call me Judas, and I ask you what Christ I have betrayed. You call me
traitor, but traitor to what? Like you, I am under oath to receive no
compensation for my services here other than that allowed by law. To that
oath I have been true. Have you?
"For many weeks we have been living in a carnival of bribery, in a
debauched hysteria of money-madness. The souls of men have been sifted as
by fire. We have all been part and parcel of a man-hunt, an eager, furious,
persistent hunt that has relaxed neither night nor day. The lure of gold
has been before us every waking hour, and has pursued us into our dreams.
The temptation has been ever-present. To some it has been irresistible, to
some maddening, to others, thank God! it has but proved their strength. Our
hopes, our fears, our loves, our hates: these seducers of honor have
pandered to them all. Our debts and our business, our families and our
friendships, have all been used to hound us. To-day I put the stigma for
this shame where it belongs--upon Simon Harley, head of the Consolidated
and a score of other trusts, and upon Waring Ridgway, head of the Mesa
Ore-producing Company. These are the debauchers of our commonwealth's fair
name, and you, alas! the traffickers who hope to live upon its virtue. I
call upon you to-day to pass this resolution and to elect a man to the
United States senate who shall owe no allegiance to any power except the
people, or to receive forever the brand of public condemnation. Are you
free men? Or do you wear the collar of the Consolidated, the yoke of Waring
Ridgway? The vote which you will cast to-day is an answer that shall go
flying to the farthest corner of your world, an answer you can never hope
to change so long as you live."
He sat down in a dead silence. Again men drew counsel from their fears. The
resolution passed unanimously, for none dared vote against it lest he brand
himself as bought and sold.
It was in this moment, while the hearts of the guilty were like water, that
there came from the lawn outside the roar of a multitude of voices. Swiftly
the word passed that ten thousand miner had come to see that Warner was not
elected. That they were in a dangerous frame of mind, all knew. It was a
passionate undisciplined mob and to thwart them would have been to invite a
Under these circumstances the joint assembly proceeded to ballot for a
senator. The first name called was that of Adams. He was an old cattleman
and a Democrat.
"Before voting, I want to resign my plate a few moments to Mr. Landor, of
Kit Carson County," he said.
Landor was recognized, a big broad-shouldered plainsman with a leathery
face as honest as the sun. He was known and liked by everybody, even by
those opposed to him.
"I'm going to make a speech," he announced with the broad smile that showed
a flash of white teeth. "I reckon it'll be the first I ever made here, and
I promise it will be the last, boys. But I won't keep you long, either. You
all know how things have been going; how men have been moving in and out
and buying men here like as if they were cattle on the hoof. You've seen
it, and I've seen it. But we didn't have the nerve to say it should stop.
One man did. He's the biggest man in this big State to-day, and it ain't
been five minutes since I heard you hollar your lungs out cursing him. You
know who I mean--Sam Yesler."
He waited till the renewed storm of cheers and hisses had died away.
"It don't do him any harm for you to hollar at him, boys--not a mite. I
want to say to you that he's a man. He saw our old friends falling by the
wayside and some of you poor weaklings selling yourselves for dollars.
Because he is an honest, game man, he set out to straighten things up. I
want to tell you that my hat's off to Sam Yesler.
"But that ain't what I rose for. I'm going to name for the United States
senate a clean man, one who doesn't wear either the Harley or the Ridgway
brand. He's as straight as a string, not a crooked hair in his head, and
every manjack of you knows it. I'm going to name a man"--he stopped an
instant to smile genially around upon the circle of uplifted faces--"who
isn't any friend of either one faction or another, a man who has just had
independence enough to quit a big job because it wasn't on the square. That
man's name is Lyndon Hobart. If you want to do yourselves proud, gentlemen,
you'll certainly elect him."
If it was a sensation he had wanted to create, he had it. The Warner forces
were taken with dumb surprise. But many of them were already swiftly
thinking it would be the best way out of a bad business. He would be
conservative, as fair to the Consolidated as to the enemy. More, just now
his election would appeal to the angry mob howling outside the building,
for they could ask nothing more than the election of the man who had
resigned rather than order the attack on the Taurus, which had resulted in
the death of some of their number.
Hoyle, of the Democrats, seconded the nomination, as also did Eaton, in a
speech wherein he defended the course of Ridgway and withdrew his name.
Within a few minutes of the time that Eaton sat down, the roll had been
called and Hobart elected by a vote of seventy-three to twenty-four, the
others refusing to cast a ballot.
The two young women, sitting together in the front row of the gallery, were
glowing with triumphant happiness. Virginia was still clapping her hands
when a voice behind her suggested that the circumstances did not warrant
her being so happy over the result. She turned, to see Waring Ridgway
smiling down at her.
"But I can't help being pleased. Wasn't Mr. Yesler magnificent?"
"Sam was all right, though he might have eased up a bit when he pitched
"He had to do that to be fair. Everybody knows you and he are friends. I
think it was fine of him not to let that make any difference in his telling
"Oh, I knew it would please you," her betrothed laughed. "What do you say
to going out to lunch with me? I'll get Sam, too, if I can."
The young women consulted eyes and agreed very readily. Both of them
enjoyed being so near to the heart of things.
"If Mr. Yesler will lunch with the debaucher of the commonwealth, we shall
be very happy to join the party," said Virginia demurely.
Ridgway led them down to the floor of the House. Through the dense throng
they made their way slowly toward him, Ridgway clearing a path with his
Suddenly they heard him call sharply, "Look out, Sam."
The explosion of a revolver followed sharply his words. Ridgway dived
through the press, tossing men to right and left of him as a steamyacht
does the waves. Through the open lane he left in his wake, the young women
caught the meaning of the turmoil: the crumpled figure was Yesler swaying
into the arms of his friend, Roper, the furious drink-flushed face of
Pelton and the menace of the weapon poised for a second shot, the swift
impact of Waring's body, and the blow which sent the next bullet crashing
into the chandelier overhead. All this they glimpsed momentarily before the
press closed in on the tragic scene and cut off their view.
CHAPTER 18. FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS
While Harley had been in no way responsible for Pelton's murderous attack
upon Yesler, public opinion held him to account. The Pinkertons who had, up
till this time, been employed at the mines, were now moved to the hotel to
be ready for an emergency. A special train was held in readiness to take
the New Yorker out of the State in the event that the stockman should die.
Meanwhile, the harassing attacks of Ridgway continued. Through another
judge than Purcell, the absurd injunction against working the Diamond King,
the Mary K, and the Marcus Daly had been dissolved, but even this advantage
had been neutralized by the necessity of giving back to the enemy the
Taurus and the New York, of which he had just possessed himself. All his
life he had kept a wheather-eye upon the impulsive and fickle public. There
were times when its feeling could be abused with impunity, and other times
when this must be respected. Reluctantly, Harley gave the word for the
withdrawal of his men from the territory gained. Ridgway pushed his
advantage home and secured an injunction, not only against the working, but
against the inspection of the Copper King and the Jim Hill. The result of
the Consolidated move had been in effect to turn over, temporarily, its two
rich mines to be looted by the pirate, and to make him very much stronger
than before with his allies, the unions. By his own imprudence, Harley had
made a bad situation worse, and delivered himself, with his hands tied,
into the power of the enemy.
In the days of turmoil that followed, Waring Ridgway's telling blows scored
once and again. The morning after the explosion, he started a relief fund
in his paper, the Sun, for the families of the dead miners, contributing
two thousand dollars himself. He also insisted that the Consolidated pay
damages to the bereaved families to the extent of twenty thousand dollars
for each man killed. The town rang with his praises. Mesa had always been
proud of his success; had liked the democratic spirit of him that led him
to mix on apparently equal terms with his working men, and had backed him
in his opposition to the trust because his plucky and unscrupulous fight
had been, in a measure, its fight. But now it idolized him. He was the
buffer between it and the trust, fighting the battles of labor against the
great octopus of Broadway, and beating it to a standstill. He was the Moses
destined to lead the working man out of the Egypt of his discontent. Had he
not maintained the standard of wages and forced the Consolidated to do the
same? Had he not declared an eight-hour day, and was not the trust almost
ready to do this also, forced by the impetus his example had given the
unions? So Ridgway's agents whispered, and the union leaders, whom he had
bought, took up the burden of their tale and preached it both in private
talk and in their speeches.
In an attempt to stem the rising tide of denunciation that was spreading
from Mesa to the country at large, Harley announced an eight hour day and
an immense banquet to all the Consolidated employees in celebration of the
occasion. Ten thousand men sat down to the long tables, but when one of the
speakers injudiciously mentioned the name of Ridgway, there was steady
cheering for ten minutes. It was quite plain that the miners gave him the
credit for having forced the Consolidated to the eight-hour day.
The verdict of the coroner's jury was that Vance Edwards and the other
deceased miners had come to their death at the hands of the foreman,
Michael Donleavy, at the instigation of Simon Harley. True bills were at
once drawn up by the prosecuting attorney of Mesa County, an official
elected by Ridgway, charging Harley and Donleavy with conspiracy, resulting
in the murder of Vance Edwards. The billionaire furnished bail for himself
and foreman, treating the indictments merely as part of the attacks of the
The tragedy in the Taurus brought to the surface a bitterness that had
hitherto not been apparent in the contest between the rival copper
interests. The lines of division became more sharply drawn, and every
business man in Mesa was forced to declare himself on one side or the
other. Harley scattered detectives broadcast and imported five hundred
Pinkertons to meet any emergency that might arise. The spies of the
Consolidated were everywhere, gathering evidence against the Mesa
Ore-producing Company, its conduct of the senatorial campaign, its judges,
and its supporters Criminal indictments flew back and forth thick as
snowflakes in a Christmas storm.
It began to be noticed that an occasional foreman, superintendent, or
mining engineer was slipping from the employ of Ridgway to that of the
trust, carrying secrets and evidence that would be invaluable later in the
courts. Everywhere the money of the Consolidated, scattered lavishly where
it would do the most good, attempted to sap the loyalty of the followers of
the other candidates. Even Eaton was approached with the offer of a bribe.
But Ridgway's potent personality had built up an esprit de corps not
easily to be broken. The adventurers gathered to his side were, for the
most part, bound to him by ties personal in their nature. They were
financial fillibusters, pledged to stand or fall together, with an interest
in their predatory leader's success that was not entirely measurable in
dollars and cents. Nor was that leader the man to allow the organization he
had builded with such care to become disintegrated while he slept. His
alert eye and cheery smile were everywhere, instilling confidence in such
as faltered, and dread in those contemplating defection.
He harassed his rival with an audacity that was almost devilish in its
unexpected ingenuity. For the first time in his life Simon Harley, the town
back on the defensive by a combination of circumstances engineered by a
master brain, knew what it was to be checkmated. He had hot the least doubt
of ultimate victory, but the tentative success of the brazen young
adventurer, were gall and wormwood to his soul. He had made money his god,
had always believed it would buy anything worth while except life, but this
Western buccaneer had taught him it could not purchase the love of a woman
nor the immediate defeat of a man so well armed as Waring Ridgway. In
truth, though Harley stuck at nothing, his success in accomplishing the
destruction of this thorn in his side was no more appreciable than had been
that of Hobart. The Westerner held his own and more, the while he robbed
the great trust of its ore under cover of the courts.
In the flush of success, Ridgway, through his lieutenant, Eaton, came to
Judge Purcell asking that a receiver be appointed for the Consolidated
Supply Company, a subsidiary branch of the trust, on the ground that its
affairs were not being properly administered. The Supply Company had paid
dividends ranging from fifteen to twenty-five per cent for many years, but
Ridgway exercised his right as a stockholder to ask for a receivership. In
point of fact, he owned, in the name of Eaton, only one-tenth of one per
cent of the stock, but it was enough to serve. For Purcell was a bigoted
old Missourian, as courageous and obstinate as perfect health and ignorance
could make him. He was quite innocent of any legal knowledge, his own rule
of law being to hit a Consolidated head whenever he saw one. Lawyers might
argue themselves black in the face without affecting his serenity or his
Purcell granted the application, as well as a restraining order against the
payment of dividends until further notice, and appointed Eaton receiver
over the protests of the Consolidated lawyers.
Ridgway and Eaton left the court-room together, jubilant over their
success. They dined at a restaurant, and spent the evening at the
ore-producing company's offices, discussing ways and means. When they had
finished, his chief followed Eaton to the doors, an arm thrown
affectionately round his shoulder.
"Steve, we're going to make a big killing. I was never so sure of anything
in my life as that we shall beat Simon Harley at his own game. We're bound
to win. We've got to win."
"I wish I were as sure as you."
"It's hard pounding does it, my boy. We'll drive him out of the Montana
copper-fields yet. We'll show him there is one little corner of the U. S.
where Simon Harley's orders don't go as the last word."
"He has a hundred dollars to your one."
"And I have youth and mining experience and the inside track, as well as
stancher friends than he ever dreamed of," laughed Ridgway, clapping the
other on the back. "Well, good night, Steve. Pleasant dreams, old man."
The boyish secretary shook hands warmly. "You're a MAN, chief. If anybody
can pull us through it will be you."
Triumphant confidence rang in the other's answering laugh. "You bet I can,
CHAPTER 19. ONE MILLION DOLLARS
Eaton, standing on the street curb at the corner of the Ridgway Building,
lit a cigar while he hesitated between his rooms and the club. He decided
for the latter, and was just turning up the hill, when a hand covered his
mouth and an arm was flung around his neck in a stranglehold. He felt
himself lifted like a child, and presently discovered that he was being
whirled along the street in a closed carriage.
"You needn't be alarmed, Mr. Eaton. We're not going to injure you in the
least," a low voice explained in his ear. "If you'll give me your word not
to cry out, I'll release your throat."
Eaton nodded a promise, and, when he could find his voice, demanded: "Where
are you taking me?"
"You'll see in a minute, sir. It's all right."
The carriage turned into an alley and stopped. Eaton was led to a ladder
that hung suspended from the fire-escape, and was bidden to mount. He did
so, following his guide to the second story, and being in turn followed by
the other man. He was taken along a corridor and into the first of a suite
of rooms opening into it. He knew he was in the Mesa House, and suspected
at once that he was in the apartments of Simon Harley.
His suspicion ripened to conviction when his captors led him through two
more rooms, into one fitted as an office. The billionaire sat at a desk,
busy over some legal papers he was reading, but he rose at once and came
forward with hand extended to meet Eaton. The young man took his hand
"Glad to have the pleasure of talking with, you, Mr. Eaton. You must accept
my apologies for my methods of securing a meeting. They are rather
primitive, but since you declined to call and see me, I can hold only you
to blame." An acid smile touched his lips for a moment, though his eyes
were expressionless as a wall. "Mr. Eaton, I have brought you here in this
way to have a confidential talk with you, in order that it might not in any
way reflect upon you in case we do not come to an arrangement satisfactory
to both of us. Your friends cannot justly blame you for this conference,
since you could not avoid it. Mr. Eaton, take a chair."
The wills of the two men flashed into each other's eyes like rapiers. The
weaker man knew that was before him and braced himself to meet it. He would
not sit down. He would not discuss anything. So he told himself once and
again to hold himself steady against the impulse to give way to those
imperious eyes behind which was the impassive, compelling will.
"Sit down, Mr. Eaton."
"I'll stand, Mr. Harley."
The cold jade eyes were not to be denied. Eaton's gaze fell sullenly, and
he slid into a chair.
"I'll discuss no business except in the presence of Mr. Ridgway," he said
doggedly, falling back to his second line of defenses.
"To the contrary, my business is with you and not with Mr. Ridgway."
"I know of no business you can have with me."
"Wherefore I have brought you here to acquaint you with it."
The young man lifted his head reluctantly and waited. If he had been
willing to confess it to himself, he feared greatly this ruthless spoiler
who had built up the greatest fortune in the world from thousands of
wrecked lives. He felt himself choking, just as if those skeleton fingers
had been at his throat. but he promised himself ever to yield.
The fathomless, dominant gaze caught and held his eyes. "Mr. Eaton, I came
here to crush Ridgway. I am going to stay here till I do. I'm going to wipe
him from the map of Montana-- ruin him so utterly that he can never
recover. It has been my painful duty to do this with a hundred men as
strong and as confident as he is. After undertaking such an enterprise, I
have never faltered and never relented. The men I have ruined were ruined
beyond hope of recovery. None of them have ever struggled to their feet
again. I intend to make Waring Ridgway a pauper."
Stephen Eaton could have conceived nothing more merciless than this man's
callous pronouncement, than the calm certainty of his unemphasized words.
He started to reply, but Harley took the words out of his mouth.
"Don't make a mistake. Don't tie to the paltry successes he has gained. I
have not really begun to fight yet."
The young man had nothing to say. His heart was water. He accepted Harley's
words as true, for he had told himself the same thing a hundred times. Why
had Ridgway rejected the overtures of this colossus of finance? It had been
the sheerest folly born of madness to suppose that anybody could stand
"For Ridgway, the die is cast," the iron voice went on. "He is doomed
beyond hope. But there is still a chance for you. What do you consider your
interest in the Mesa Ore-producing Company worth, Mr. Eaton?"
The sudden question caught Eaton with the force of a surprise. "About three
hundred thousand dollars," he heard himself say; and it seemed to him that
his voice was speaking the words without his volition.
"I'm going to buy you out for twice that sum. Furthermore, I'm going to
take care of your future--going to see that you have a chance to rise."
The waverer's will was in flux, but the loyalty in him still protested. "I
can't desert my chief, Mr. Harley."
"Do you call it desertion to leave a raging madman in a sinking boat after
you have urged him to seek the safety of another ship?"
"He made me what I am."
"And I will make you ten times what you are. With Ridgway you have no
chance to be anything but a subordinate. He is the Mesa Ore-producing
Company, and you are merely a cipher. I offer your individuality a chance.
I believe in you, and know you to be a strong man." No ironic smile touched
Harley's face at this statement. "You need a chance, and I offer it to you.
For your own sake take it."
Every grievance Eaton had ever felt against his chief came trooping to his
mind. He was domineering. He did ride rough-shod over his allies' opinions
and follow the course he had himself mapped out. All the glory of the
victory he absorbed as his due. In the popular opinion, Eaton was as a
farthing-candle to a great electric search-light in comparison with
"He trusts me," the tempted man urged weakly. He was slipping, and he knew
it, even while he assured himself he would never betray his chief.
"He would sell you out to-morrow if it paid him. And what is he but a
robber? Every dollar of his holdings is stolen from me. I ask only
restitution of you--and I propose to buy at twice, nay at three times, the
value of your stolen property. You owe that freebooter no loyalty."
"I can't do it. I can't do it."
"You shall do it." Harley dominated him as bullying schoolmaster does a
cringing boy under the lash.
"I can't do it," the young man repeated, all his weak will flung into the
"Would you choose ruin?"
"Perhaps. I don't know," he faltered miserable.
"It's merely a business proposition, young man. The stock you have to sell
is valuable to-day. Reject my offer, and a month from now it will be quoted
on the market at half its present figure, and go begging at that. It will
be absolutely worthless before I finish. You are not selling out Ridgway.
He is a ruined man, anyway. But you--I am going to save you in spite of
yourself. I am going to shake you from that robber's clutches."
Eaton got to his feet, pallid and limp as a rag. "Don't tempt me," he cried
hoarsely. "I tell you I can't do it, sir."
Harley's cold eye did not release him for an instant. "One million dollars
and an assured future, or--absolute, utter ruin, complete and final."
"He would murder me--and he ought to," groaned the writhing victim.
"No fear of that. I'll put you where he can't reach you. Just sign your
name to this paper, Mr. Eaton."
"I didn't agree. I didn't say I would."
"Sign here. Or, wait one moment, till I get witnesses." Harley touched a
bell, and his secretary appeared in the doorway. "Ask Mr. Mott and young
Jarvis to step this way."
Harley held out the pen toward Eaton, looking steadily at him. In a strong
man the human eye is a sword among weapons. Eaton quailed. The fingers of
the unhappy wretch went out mechanically for the pen. He was sweating
terror and remorse, but the essential weakness of the man could not stand
out unbacked against the masterful force of this man's imperious will. He
wrote his name in the places directed, and flung down the pen like a child
in a rage.
"Now get me out of Montana before Ridgway knows," he cried brokenly.
"You may leave to-morrow night, Mr. Eaton. You'll only have to appear in
court once personally. We'll arrange it quietly for to-morrow afternoon.
Ridgway won't know until it is done and you are gone."
CHAPTER 20. A LITTLE LUNCH AT APHONSE'S
It chanced that Ridgway, through the swinging door of a department store,
caught a glimpse of Miss Balfour as he was striding along the street. He
bethought him that it was the hour of luncheon, and that she was no end
better company than the revamped noon edition of the morning paper.
Wherefore he wheeled into the store and interrupted her inspection of
"I know the bulliest little French restaurant tucked away in a side street
just three blocks from here. The happiness disseminated in this world by
that chef's salads will some day carry him past St. Peter with no questions
"You believe in salvation by works?" she parried, while she considered his
"So will you after a trial of Alphonse's salad."
"Am I to understand that I am being invited to a theological discussion of
a heavenly salad concocted by Father Alphonse?"
"That is about the specifications."
"Then I accept. For a week my conscience has condemned me for excess of
frivolity. You offer me a chance to expiate without discomfort. That is my
idea of heaven. I have always believed it a place where one pastures in
rich meadows of pleasure, with penalties and consciences all excluded from
"You should start a church," he laughed. "It would have a great
following--especially if you could operate your heaven this side of the
She found his restaurant all he had claimed, and more. The little corner of
old Paris set her eyes shining. The fittings were Parisian to the least
detail. Even the waiter spoke no English.
"But I don't see how they make it pay. How did he happen to come here? Are
there enough people that appreciate this kind of thing in Mesa to support
He smiled at her enthusiasm. "Hardly. The place has a scarce dozen of
regular patrons. Hobart comes here a good deal. So does Eaton. But it
doesn't pay financially. You see, I know because I happen to own it. I used
to eat at Alphonse's restaurant in Paris. So I sent for him. It doesn't
follow that one has to be less a slave to the artificial comforts of a
supercivilized world because one lives at Mesa."
"I see it doesn't. You are certainly a wonderful man."
"Name anything you like. I'll warrant Alphonse can make good if it is not
outside of his national cuisine," he boasted.
She did not try his capacity to the limit, but the oysters, the salad, the
chicken soup were delicious, with the ultimate perfection that comes only
out of Gaul.
They made a delightfully gay and intimate hour of it, and were still
lingering over their demi-tasse when Yesler's name was mentioned.
"Isn't it splendid that he's doing so well?" cried the girl with
enthusiasm. "The doctor says that if the bullet had gone a fraction of an
inch lower, he would have died. Most men would have died anyhow, they say.
It was his clean outdoor life and magnificent constitution that saved him."
"That's what pulled him through," he nodded. "It would have done his heart
good to see how many friends he had. His recovery was a continuous
performance ovation. It would have been a poorer world for a lot of people
if Sam Yesler had crossed the divide."
"Yes. It would have been a very much poorer one for several I know."
He glanced shrewdly at her. "I've learned to look for a particular
application when you wear that particularly sapient air of mystery."
Her laugh admitted his hit. "Well, I was thinking of Laska. I begin to
think HER fair prince has come."
"Yes. She hasn't found it out herself yet. She only knows she is
"He's a prince all right, though he isn't quite a fairy. The woman that
gets him will be lucky.
"The man that gets Laska will be more that lucky," she protested loyally.
"I dare say," he agreed carelessly. "But, then, good women are not so rare
as good men. There. are still enough of them left to save the world. But
when it comes to men like Sam--well, it would take a Diogenes to find
"I don't see how even Mr. Pelton, angry as he was, dared shoot him."
"He had been drinking hard for a week. That will explain anything when you
add it to his, temperament. I never liked the fellow."
"I suppose that is why you saved his life when the miners took him and were
going to lynch him?"
"I would not have lifted a hand for him. That's the bald truth. But I
couldn't let the boys spoil the moral effect of their victory by so gross a
mistake. It would have been playing right into Harley's hands."
"Can a man get over being drunk in five minutes? I never saw anybody more
sober than Mr. Pelton when the mob were crying for vengeance and you were
fighting them back."
"A great shock will sober a man. Pelton is an errant coward, and he had
pretty good reason to think he had come to the end of the passage. The boys
weren't playing. They meant business."
"They would not have listened to another man in the world except you," she
told him proudly.
"It was really Sam they listened to--when he sent out the message asking
them to let the law have its way."
"No, I think it was the way you handled the message. You're a wizard at a
speech, you know."
He glanced up, for Alphonse was waiting at his elbow.
"You're wanted on the telephone, monsieur."
"You can't get away from business even for an hour, can you?" she rallied.
"My heaven ,wouldn't suit you at all, unless I smuggled in a trust for you
"I expect it is Eaton," he explained. "Steve phoned down to the office that
he isn't feeling well to-day. I asked him to have me called up here. If he
isn't better, I'm going to drop round and see him."
But when she caught sight of his face as he returned she knew it was serious.
"What's the matter? Is it Mr. Eaton? Is he very ill?" she cried.
His face was set like broken ice refrozen. "Yes, it's Eaton. They say--but
it can't be true!"
She had never seen him so moved. "What is it, Waring?"
"The boy has sold me out. He is at the courthouse now, undoing my work--the
The angry blood swept imperiously into her cheeks. "Don't waste any more
time with me, Waring. Go--go and save yourself from the traitor. Perhaps it
is not too late yet."
He flung her a grateful look. "You're true blue, Virginia. Come! I'll leave
you at the store as we pass."
The defection of Eaton bit his chief to the quick. The force of the blow
itself was heavy--how heavy he could not tell till he could take stock of
the situation. He could see that he would be thrown out of court in the
matter of the Consolidated Supply Company receivership, since Eaton's stock
would now be in the hands of the enemy. But what was of more importance was
the fact that Eaton's interest in the Mesa Ore-producing Company now
belonged to Harley, who could work any amount of mischief with it as a
lever for litigation.
The effect, too, of the man's desertion upon the morale of the M. O. P.
forces must be considered and counteracted, if possible. He fancied he
could see his subordinates looking shiftyeyed at each other and wondering
who would slip away next.
If it had been anybody but Steve! He would as soon have distrusted his
right hand as Steve Eaton. Why, he had made the man, had picked him out
when he was a mere clerk, and tied him to himself by a hundred favors. Up
on the Snake River he had saved Steve's life once when he was drowning. The
boy had always been as close to him as a brother. That Steve should turn
traitor was not conceivable. He knew all his intimate plans, stood second
to himself in the company. Oh, it was a numbing blow! Ridgway's sense of
personal loss and outrage almost obliterated for the moment his
appreciation of the business loss.
The motion to revoke the receivership of the Supply Company was being
argued when Ridgway entered the court-room. Within a few minutes the news
had spread like wild-fire that Eaton was lined up with the Consolidated,
and already the paltry dozen of loafers in the court-room had swelled into
hundreds, all of them eager for any sensation that might develop.
Ridgway's broad shoulders flung aside the crowd and opened a way to the
vacant chair waiting for him. One of his lawyers had the floor and was
flaying Eaton with a vitriolic tongue, the while men craned forward all
over the room to get a glimpse of the traitor's face.
Eaton sat beside Mott, dry-lipped and pallid, his set eyes staring vacantly
into space. Once or twice he flung a furtive glance about him. His stripped
and naked soul was enduring a foretaste of the Judgment Day. The whip of
scorn with which the lawyer lashed him cut into his shrinking
sensibilities, and left him a welter of raw and livid wales. Good God! why
had he not known it would be like this? He was paying for his treachery and
usury, and it was being burnt into him that as the years passed he must
continue to pay in self-contempt and the distrust of his fellows.
The case had come to a hearing before Judge Hughes, who was not one of
Ridgway's creatures. That on its merits it would be decided in favor of the
Consolidated was a foregone conclusion. It was after the judge had rendered
the expected decision that the dramatic moment of the day came to gratify
the seasoned court frequenters.
Eaton, trying to slip as quietly as possible from the room, came face to
face with his former chief. For an interminable instant the man he had
betrayed, blocking the way squarely, held the trembling wretch in the blaze
of his scorn. Ridgway's contemptuous eyes sifted to the ingrate's soul
until it shriveled. Then he stood disdainfully to one side so that the man
might not touch him as he passed.
Some one in the back of the room broke the tense silence and hissed: "The
damned Judas!" Instantly echoes of "Judas! Judas!" filled the room, and
pursued Eaton to his cab. It would be many years before he could recall
without scalding shame that moment when the finger of public scorn was
pointed at him in execration.
CHAPTER 21. HARLEY SCORES
What Harley had sought in the subornation of Eaton had been as much the
moral effect of his defection as the tangible results themselves. If he
could shake the confidence of the city and State in the freebooter's
victorious star, he would have done a good day's work. He wanted the
impression to spread that Ridgway's success had passed its meridian.
Nor did he fail of his purpose by more than a hair's breadth. The talk of
the street saw the beginning of the end. The common voice ran: "It's 'God
help Ridgway' now. He's down and out."
But Waring Ridgway was never more dangerous than in apparent defeat. If he
were hit hard by Eaton's treachery, no sign of it was apparent in the
jaunty insouciance of his manner. Those having business with him expected
to find him depressed and worried, but instead met a man the embodiment of
vigorous and confident activity. If the subject were broached, he was ready
to laugh with them at Eaton's folly in deserting at the hour when victory
It was fortunate for Ridgway that the county elections came on early in the
spring and gave him a chance to show that his power was still intact. He
arranged to meet at once the political malcontents of the State who were
banded together against the growing influence of the Consolidated. He had a
few days before called together representative men from all parts of the
State to discuss a program of action against the enemy, and Ridgway gave a
dinner for them at the Quartzite, the evening of Eaton's defection.
He was at the critical moment when any obvious irresolution would have been
fatal. His allies were ready to concede his defeat if he would let them.
But he radiated such an assured atmosphere of power, such an unconquerable
current of vigor, that they could not escape his own conviction of
unassailability. He was at his genial, indomitable best, the magnetic charm
of fellowship putting into eclipse the selfishness of the man. He had been
known to boast of his political exploits, of how he had been the Warwick
that had made and unmade governors and United States senators; but the
fraternal "we" to-night replaced his usual first person singular.
The business interests of the Consolidated were supreme all over the State.
That corporation owned forests and mills and railroads and mines. It ran
sheep and cattle-ranches as well as stores and manufactories. Most of the
newspapers in the State were dominated by it. Of a population of two
hundred and fifty thousand, it controlled more than half directly by the
simple means of filling dinner-pails. That so powerful a corporation,
greedy for power and wealth, should create a strong but scattered hostility
in the course of its growth, became inevitable. This enmity Ridgway
proposed to consolidate into a political organization, with opposition to
the trust as its cohesive principle, that should hold the balance of power
in the State.
When he rose to explain his object in calling them together, Ridgway's
clear, strong presentment of the situation, backed by his splendid bulk and
powerful personality, always bold and dramatic, shocked dormant antagonisms
to activity as a live current does sluggish inertia. For he had eminently
the gift of moving speech. The issue was a simple one, he pointed out.
Reduced to ultimates, the question was whether the State should control the