Tiny sweat-beads stood on the forehead of the Arkansan. His manner was
becoming more and more threatening. "You pledged me your support. Are
you going to throw me down, seh?"
"You have thrown yourself down, Pelton. Is it my fault you bungled the
thing and left evidence against you? Am I to blame because you wrote
"Whatever I did was done for you," retorted the cornered man
"I beg your pardon. It was done for what was in it for you. The
arrangement between us was purely a business one."
The coolness of his even voice maddened the harassed Pelton.
"So I'm to get burnt drawing your chestnuts out of the fire, am I?
You're going to stand back and let my career be sacrificed, are you? By
Gad, seh, I'll show you whether I'll be your catspaw," screamed the
"Use your common sense, Pelton, and don't shriek like a fish-wife,"
ordered Ridgway sharply. "No sane man floats a leaky ship. Go to
drydock and patch up your reputation, and in a few years you'll come
out as good as new."
All his unprincipled life Pelton had compromised with honor to gain the
coveted goal he now saw slipping from him. A kind of madness of despair
surged up in him. He took a step threateningly toward the seated man,
his hand slipping back under his coat-tails toward his hip pocket.
Acridly his high voice rang out.
"As a Southern gentleman, seh, I refuse to tolerate the imputations you
cast upon me. I demand an apology here and now, seh."
Ridgway was on his feet and across the room like a flash.
"Don't try to bully ME, you false alarm. Call yourself a Southern
gentleman! You're a shallow scurvy impostor. No more like the real
article than a buzzard is like an eagle. Take your hand from under that
coat or I'll break every bone in your flabby body."
Flabby was the word, morally no less than physically. Pelton quailed
under that gaze which bored into him like a gimlet. The ebbing color in
his face showed he could summon no reserve of courage sufficient to
meet it. Slowly his empty hand came forth.
"Don't get excited, Mr. Ridgway. You have mistaken my purpose, seh. I
had no intention of drawing," he stammered with a pitiable attempt at
"Liar," retorted his merciless foe, crowding him toward the door.
"I don't care to have anything more to do with you. Our relations are
at an end, seh," quavered Pelton as he vanished into the outer once and
beat a hasty retreat to the elevator.
Ridgway returned to his chair, laughing ruefully. "I couldn't help it,
Steve. He would have it. I suppose I've made one more enemy."
"A nasty one, too. He'll stick at nothing to get even."
"We'll draw his fangs while there is still time. Get a good story in
the Sun to the effect that I quarreled with him as soon as I discovered
his connection with this mining extension bill graft. Have it in this
afternoon's edition, Steve. Better get Brayton to write it."
Steve nodded. "That's a good idea. We may make capital out of it after
all. I'll have an editorial in, too. 'We love him for the enemies he
has made.' How would that do for a heading?"
"Good. And now we'll have to look around for a candidate to put against
Mott. I'm hanged if I know where we'll find one."
Eaton had an inspiration.
"One that will run well, popular enough to catch the public fancy?"
The owner of the name stared at his lieutenant in astonishment, but
slowly the fascination of the idea sank in.
"By Jove! Why not?"
CHAPTER 9. AN EVENING CALL
"Says you're to come right up, Mr. Ridgway," the bell-hop reported, and
after he had pocketed his tip, went sliding off across the polished
floor to answer another call.
The president of the Mesa Ore-producing Company turned with a
good-humored smile to the chief clerk.
"You overwork your boys, Johnson. I wasn't through with that one. I'll
have to ask you to send another up to show me the Harley suite."
They passed muster under the eye of the chief detective, and, after the
bell-boy had rung, were admitted to the private parlor where Simon
Harley lay stretched on a lounge with his wife beside him. She had been
reading, evidently aloud and when her visitor was announced rose with
her finger still keeping the place in the closed book.
The gaze she turned on him was of surprise, almost of alarm, so that
the man on the threshold knew he was not expected.
"You received my card?" he asked quickly.
"No. Did you send one?" Then, with a little gesture of half-laughing
irritation: "It must have gone to Mr. Harvey again. He is Mr. Harley's
private secretary, and ever since we arrived it has been a comedy of
errors. The hotel force refuses to differentiate."
"I must ask you to accept my regrets for an unintentional intrusion,
Mrs. Harley. When I was told to come up, I could not guess that my card
had gone amiss."
The great financier had got to his feet and now came forward with
"Nevertheless we are glad to see you, Mr. Ridgway, and to get the
opportunity to express our thanks for all that you have done for us."
The cool fingers of the younger man touched his lightly before they met
those of his wife.
"Yes, we are very glad, indeed, to see you, Mr. Ridgway," she added to
her husband's welcome.
"I could not feel quite easy in my mind without hearing from your own
lips that you are none the worse for the adventures you have suffered,"
their visitor explained after they had found seats.
"Thanks to you, my wife is quite herself again, Mr. Ridgway," Harley
announced from the davenport. "Thanks also to God, who so mercifully
shelters us beneath the shadow of His wing."
But her caller preferred to force from Aline's own lips this affidavit
of health. Even his audacity could not ignore his host entirely, but it
gave him the least consideration possible. To the question which still
rested in his eyes the girl-wife answered shyly.
"Indeed, I am perfectly well. I have done nothing but sleep to-day and
yesterday. Miss Yesler was very good to me. I do not know how I can
repay the great kindness of so many friends," she said with a swift
descent of fluttering lashes to the soft cheeks upon which a faint
color began to glow.
"Perhaps they find payment for the service in doing it for you," he
"Yet, I shall take care not to forget it," Harley said pointedly.
"Indeed!" Ridgway put it with polite insolence, the hostility in his
face scarcely veiled.
"It has pleased Providence to multiply my portion so abundantly that I
can reward those well who serve me."
"At how much do you estimate Mrs. Harley's life?" his rival asked with
In the course of the past two days Aline had made the discovery that
her husband and her rescuer were at swords drawn in a business way.
This had greatly distressed her, and in her innocence she had resolved
to bring them together. How could her inexperience know that she might
as well have tried to induce the lion and the lamb to lie down together
peaceably? Now she tried timidly to drift the conversation from the
awkwardness into which Harley's suggestion of a reward and his
opponent's curt retort had blundered it.
"I hope you did not find upon your return that your business was
disarranged so much as you feared it might be by your absence."
"I found my affairs in very good condition," Ridgway smiled. "But I am
glad to be back in time to welcome to Mesa you - and Mr. Harley."
"It seems so strange a place," the girl ventured, with a hesitation
that showed her anxiety not to offend his local pride. "You see I never
before was in a place where there was no grass and nothing green in
sight. And to-night, when I looked out of the window and saw streams of
red-hot fire running down hills, I thought of Paradise Lost and Dante.
I suppose it doesn't seem at all uncanny to you?"
"At night sometimes I still get that feeling, but I have to cultivate
it a bit," he confessed. "My sober second thought insists that those
molten rivers are merely business, refuse disgorged as lava from the
"I looked for the sun to-day through the pall of sulphur smoke that
hangs so heavy over the town, but instead I saw a London gas-lamp
hanging in the heavens. Is it always so bad?"
"Not when the drift of the wind is right. In fact, a day like this is
"I'm glad of that. I feel more cheerful in the sunshine. I know that's
a bit of the child still left in me. Mr. Harley takes all days alike."
The Wall Street operator was in slippers and house-jacket. His wife,
too, was dressed comfortably in some soft clinging stuff. Their visitor
saw that they had disposed themselves for a quiet uninterrupted evening
by the fireside. The domesticity of it all stirred the envy in him. He
did not want her to be contented and at peace with his enemy. Something
deeper than his vanity cried out in protest against it.
She was still making talk against the gloom of the sulphur fog which
seemed to have crept into the spirit of the room.
"We were reading before you came in, Mr. Ridgway. I suppose you read a
good deal. Mr. Harley likes to have me read aloud to him when he is
An impulse came upon Ridgway to hear her, some such impulse as makes a
man bite on sore tooth even though he knows he must pay later for it.
"Will you not go on with your reading? I should like to hear it. I
She was a little taken aback, but she looked inquiringly at her
husband, who bowed silently.
"I was just beginning the fifty-ninth psalm. We have been reading the
book through. Mr. Harley finds great comfort in it," she explained.
Her eyes fell to the printed page and her clear, sweet voice took up
the ancient tale of vengeance.
"Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise
up against me. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me
from bloody men.
"For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul: the mighty are gathered against
me; not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O Lord. They run and
prepare themselves without my fault: awake to help me, and behold.
"Thou, therefore, O Lord God of Hosts, the God of Israel, awake to
visit all the heathen: be not merciful to any wicked transgressors.
Ridgway glanced across in surprise at the strong old man lying on the
lounge. His hands were locked in front of him, and his gaze rested
peacefully on the fair face of the child reading. His foe's mind swept
up the insatiable cruel years that lay behind this man, and he marveled
that with such a past he could still hold fast to that simple faith of
David. He wondered whether this ruthless spoiler went back to the Old
Testament for the justification of his life, or whether his credo had
given the impulse to his career. One thing he no longer doubted: Simon
Harley believed his Bible implicitly and literally, and not only the
"For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips even be taken
in their pride: and for cursing and lying which they speak.
"Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be: and let
them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth."
The fresh young girlish voice died away into silence. Harley,
apparently deep in meditation, gazed at the ceiling. His guest felt a
surge of derision at this man who thought he had a compact with God to
rule the world for his benefit.
"I am sure Mr. Harley must enjoy the Psalms a great deal," he said
ironically, but it was in simple faith the young wife answered eagerly:
"He does. He finds so much in them that is applicable to life."
"I can see how he might," agreed the young man.
"Few people take their religion so closely into their every-day lives
as he does," she replied in a low voice, seeing that her husband was
lost in thought.
"I am sure you are right."
"He is very greatly misunderstood, Mr. Ridgway. I am sure if people
knew how good he is - But how can they know when the newspapers are so
full of falsehoods about him? And the magazines are as bad, he says. It
seems to be the fashion to rake up bitter things to say about prominent
business men. You must have noticed it."
"Yes. I believe I have noticed that," he answered with a grim little
"Don't you think it could be explained to these writers? They can't
WANT to distort the truth. It must be they don't know."
"You must not take the muckrakers too seriously. They make a living
roasting us. A good deal of what they say is true in a way. Personally,
I don't object to it much. It's a part of the penalty of being
successful. That's how I look at it."
"Do they say bad things about you, too?" she asked in open-eyed
"Occasionally," he smiled. "When they think I'm important enough."
"I don't see how they can," he heard her murmur to herself.
"Oh, most of what they say is true."
"Then I know it can't be very bad," she made haste to answer.
"You had better read it and see."
"I don't understand business at all," she said
"But - sometimes it almost frightens me. Business isn't really like war,
"A good deal like it. But that need not frighten you. All life is a
battle - sometimes, at least. Success implies fighting."
"And does that in turn imply tragedy - for the loser?"
"Not if one is a good loser. We lose and make another start."
"But if success is a battle, it must be gained at the expense of
"Sometimes. But you must look at it in a big way." The secretary of the
trust magnate had come in and was in low-toned conversation with him.
The visitor led her to the nearest window and drew back the curtains so
that they looked down on the lusty life of the turbid young city, at
the lights in the distant smelters and mills, at the great hill
opposite, with its slagdumps, gallows-frames and shaft-houses black
against the dim light, which had yielded its millions and millions of
tons of ore for the use of mankind. "All this had to be fought for. It
didn't grow of itself. And because men fought for it, the place is what
it is. Sixty thousand people live here, fed by the results of the
battle. The highest wages in the world are paid the miners here. They
live in rough comfort and plenty, whereas in the countries they came
from they were underpaid and underfed. Is that not good?"
"Yes," she admitted.
"Life for you and for me must be different, thank God. You are in the
world to make for the happiness of those you meet. That is good. But
unless I am to run away from my work, what I do must make some unhappy.
I can't help that if I am to do big things. When you hear people
talking of the harm I do, you will remember what I have told you
to-night, and you will think that a man and his work cannot be judged
by isolated fragments."
"Yes," she breathed softly, for she knew that this man was saying
good-by to her and was making his apologia.
"And you will remember that no matter how bitter the fight may grow
between me and Mr. Harley, it has nothing to do with you. We shall
still be friends, though we may never meet again."
"I shall remember that, too," he heard her murmur.
"You have been hoping that Mr. Harley and I would be friends. That is
impossible. He came out here to crush me. For years his subordinates
have tried to do this and failed. I am the only man alive that has ever
resisted him successfully. I don't underestimate his power, which is
greater than any czar or emperor that ever lived, but I don't think he
will succeed. I shall win because I understand the forces against me.
He will lose because he scorns those against him."
"I am sorry. Oh, I am so sorry," she wailed, gently as a breath of
summer wind. For she saw now that the cleavage between them was too
wide for a girl's efforts to bridge.
"That I am going to win?" he smiled gravely.
"That you must be enemies; that he came here to ruin you, since you say
"You need not be too hard on him for that. By his code I am a
freebooter and a highwayman. Business offers legitimate ways of
robbery, and I transgress them. His ways are not my ways, and mine are
not his, but it is only fair to say that his are the accepted ones."
"I don't understand it at all. You are both good men. I know you are.
Surely you need not be enemies."
But she knew she could hope for no reassurance from the man beside her.
Presently she led him back across the big room to the fireplace near
where her husband lay. His secretary had gone, and he was lying resting
on the lounge. He opened his eyes and smiled at her. "Has Mr. Ridgway
been pointing out to you the places of interest?" he asked quietly.
"Yes, dear." The last word came hesitantly after the slightest of
pauses. "He says he must be going now."
The head of the greatest trust on earth got to his feet and smiled
benignantly as he shook hands with the departing guest. "I shall hope
to see you very soon and have a talk regarding business, Mr. Ridgway,"
"Whenever you like, Mr. Harley." To the girl he said merely, "Good
night," and was gone.
The old man put an arm affectionately across his young wife's shoulder.
"Shall we read another psalm, my dear? Or are you tired?"
She repressed the little shiver that ran through her before she
answered wearily. "I am a little tired. If you don't mind I would like
to retire, please."
He saw her as far as the door of her apartments and left her with her
maid after he had kissed the cold cheek she dutifully turned toward him.
CHAPTER 10. HARLEY MAKES A PROPOSITION
Apparently the head of the great trust intended to lose no time in
having that business talk with Ridgway, which he had graciously
promised the latter. Eaton and his chief were busy over some
applications for leases when Smythe came into the room with a letter.
"Messenger-boy brought it; said it was important," he explained.
Ridgway ripped open the envelope, read through the letter swiftly, and
tossed it to Eaton. His eyes had grown hard and narrow.
"Write to Mr. Hobart that I am sorry I haven't time to call on Mr.
Harley at the Consolidated offices, as he suggests. Add that I expect
to be in my offices all morning, and shall be glad to make an
appointment to talk with Mr. Harley here, if he thinks he has any
business with me that needs a personal interview."
Smythe's leathery face had as much expression as a blank wall, but
Eaton gasped. The unparalleled audacity of flinging the billionaire's
overture back in his face left him for the moment speechless. He knew
that Ridgway had tempted Providence a hundred times without coming to
disaster, but surely this was going too far. Any reasonable compromise
with the great trust builder would be cause for felicitation. He had
confidence in his chief to any point in reason, but he could not blind
himself to the fact that the wonderful successes he had gained were
provisional rather than final. He likened them to Stonewall Jackson's
Shenandoah raid, very successful in irritating, disorganizing and
startling the enemy, but with no serious bearing on the final
inevitable result. In the end Harley would crush his foes if he set in
motion the whole machinery of his limitless resources. That was Eaton's
private opinion, and he was very much of the feeling that this was an
opportune time to get in out of the rain.
"Don't you think we had better consider that answer before we send it,
Waring?" he suggested in a low voice.
His chief nodded a dismissal to the secretary before answering.
"I have considered it."
"But - surely it isn't wise to reject his advances before we know what
"I haven't rejected them. I've simply explained that we are doing
business on equal terms. Even if I meant to compromise, it would pay me
to let him know he doesn't own me."
"He may decide not to offer his proposition."
"It wouldn't worry me if he did."
Eaton knew he must speak now if his protest were to be of any avail.
"It would worry me a good deal. He has shown an inclination to be
friendly. This answer is like a slap in the face."
"Doesn't it look like that to you?"
Ridgway leaned back in his chair and looked thoughtfully at his friend.
"Want to sell out, Steve?"
"Why - what do you mean?" asked the surprised treasurer.
"If you do, I'll pay anything in reason for your stock." He got up and
began to pace the floor with long deliberate strides. "I'm a born
gambler, Steve. It clears my head to take big chances. Give me a good
fight on my hands with the chances against me, and I'm happy. You've
got to take the world by the throat and shake success out of it if
you're going to score heavily. That's how Harley made good years ago.
Read the story of his life. See the chances he took. He throttled
combinations a dozen times as strong as his. Some people say he was an
accident. Don't you believe it. Accidents like him don't happen. He won
because he was the biggest, brainiest, most daring and unscrupulous
operator in the field. That's why I'm going to win - if I do win."
"Yes, if you win."
"Well, that's the chance I take," flung back the other as he swung
buoyantly across the room. "But YOU don't need to take it. If you want,
you can get out now at the top market price. I feel it in my bones I'm
going to win; but if you don't feel it, you'd be a fool to take
Eaton's mercurial temperament responded with a glow.
"No, sir. I'll sit tight. I'm no quitter."
"Good for you, Steve. I knew it. I'll tell you now that I would have
hated like hell to see you leave me. You're the only man I can rely on
down to the ground, twenty-four hours of every day."
The answer was sent, and Eaton's astonishment at his chief's temerity
changed to amazement when the great Harley, pocketing his pride, asked
for an appointment, and appeared at the offices of the Mesa
Ore-producing Company at the time set. That Ridgway, who was busy with
one of his superintendents, should actually keep the most powerful man
in the country waiting in an outer office while he finished his
business with Dalton seemed to him insolence florescent.
"Whom the gods would destroy," he murmured to himself as the only
possible explanation, for the reaction of his enthusiasm was on him.
Nor did his chief's conference with Dalton show any leaning toward
compromise. Ridgway had sent for his engineer to outline a program in
regard to some ore-veins in the Sherman Bell, that had for months been
in litigation between the two big interests at Mesa. Neither party to
the suit had waited for the legal decision, but each of them had put a
large force at work stoping out the ore. Occasional conflicts had
occurred when the men of the opposing factions came in touch, as they
frequently did, since crews were at work below and above each other at
every level. But none of these as yet had been serious.
"Dalton, I was down last night to see that lease of Heyburn's on the
twelfth level of the Taurus. The Consolidated will tap our workings
about noon to-day, just below us. I want you to turn on them the
air-drill pipe as soon as they break through. Have a lot of loose rock
there mixed with a barrel of lime. Let loose the air pressure full on
the pile, and give it to their men straight. Follow them up to the end
of their own tunnel when they retreat, and hold it against them. Get
control of the levels above and below, too. Throw as many men as you
can into their workings, and gut them till there is no ore left."
Dalton had the fighting edge. "You'll stand by me, no matter what
"Nothing will happen. They're not expecting trouble. But if anything
does, I'll see you through. Eaton is your witness that I ordered it."
"Then it's as good as done, Mr. Ridgway," said Dalton, turning away.
"There may be bloodshed," suggested Eaton dubiously, in a low voice.
Ridgway's laugh had a touch of affectionate contempt. "Don't cross
bridges till you get to them, Steve. Haven't you discovered, man, that
the bold course is always the safe one? It's the quitter that loses out
every time. The strong man gets there; the weak one falls down. It's as
invariable as the law of gravity." He got up and stretched his broad
shoulders in a deep breath. "Now for Mr. Harley. Send him in, Eaton."
That morning Simon Harley had done two things for many years foreign to
his experience: He had gone to meet another man instead of making the
man come to him, and he had waited the other man's pleasure in an outer
office. That he had done so implied a strong motive.
Ridgway waved Harley to a chair without rising to meet him. The eyes of