William MacLeod Raine.

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could hear oaths and cries. Some one was throwing aimless shots from a
revolver at the porch.

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 scream.

"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

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 was open.

He observed with surprise that she, too, was dressed in evening
clothes, and rightly surmised that they had just come back from some
social function.

"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 wound.

"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 met."

"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

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 were out.

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 the house?"

"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 answer.

"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

"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."

"Mr. Ridgway?"

"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

"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

"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 for him."

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. Pelton?"

"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

"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

"He is very kind."

"It was thoughtful, since you only saved his life," admitted the
ironical Miss Balfour.

"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.


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 any price."


"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."

"Oh, 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 decided upon.

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."

"And capable?"

"Oh, yes. He's competent enough."


"Yes. He'll do the State credit, or rather he would if he were going to
be elected."

"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

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

"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 important."

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 mirth.

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.


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 broke loose.

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 of it.

"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 miners 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 riot.

Under these circumstances the joint assembly proceeded to ballot for a
senator. The first name called was that of Adams. He was an old

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Online LibraryWilliam MacLeod RaineRidgway of Montana (Story of To-Day, in Which the Hero Is Also the Villain) → online text (page 10 of 15)