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Ridgway of Montana (Story of To-Day, in Which the Hero Is Also the Villain) online

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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

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
into me."

"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 the truth."

"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 broad shoulders.

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.


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 enemy.

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 not 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 justice.

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

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, Steve."


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

"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 mechanically.

"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 what 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 never
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

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 against him.

"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 Ridgway.

"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 denial.

"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

"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."


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 gloves.

"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 asked."

"You believe in salvation by works?" she parried, while she considered
his invitation.

"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 its domains."

"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 it?"

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

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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 11 of 15)