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part, it has been an unconscious one."

"That's the worst of it. When you star as Waring Ridgway you are most
dangerous. What I want is total abstinence."

"You'd rather I didn't see her at all?"

Virginia dimpled, a gleam of reminiscent laughter in her eyes. "When I
was in Denver last month a Mrs. Smythe - it was Smith before her husband
struck it rich last year - sent out cards for a bridge afternoon. A Mrs.
Mahoney had just come to the metropolis from the wilds of Cripple
Creek. Her husband had struck a gold-mine, too, and Mr. Smythe was
under obligations to him. Anyhow, she was a stranger, and Mrs. Smythe
took her in. It was Mrs. Mahoney's introduction to bridge, and she did
not know she was playing for keeps. When the afternoon was over, Mrs.
Smythe hovered about her with the sweetest sympathy. 'So sorry you had
such a horrid run of cards, dear. Better luck next time.' It took Mrs.
Mahoney some time to understand that her social afternoon had cost one
hundred and twenty dollars, but next day her husband sent a check for
one hundred and twenty-two dollars to Mrs. Smythe. The extra two
dollars were for the refreshments, he naively explained, adding that
since his wife was so poor a gambler as hardly to be able to keep
professionals interested, he would not feel offended if Mrs. Smythe
omitted her in future from her social functions."

Ridgway took it with a smile. "Simon Harley brought his one hundred and
twenty-two dollars in person."

"He didn't! When?"

"This morning. He proposed benevolent assimilation as a solution of our

"Just how?"

"He offered to consolidate all the copper interests of the country and
put me at the head of the resulting combine."

"If you wouldn't play bridge with Mrs. Harley?"


"And you?"

"Declined to pledge myself."

She clapped her hands softly. "Well done, Waring Ridgway! There are
times when you are magnificent, when I could put you on a pedestal, you
great big, unafraid man. But you mustn't play with her, just the same."

"Why mustn't I?"

"For her sake."

He frowned past her into space, his tight-shut jaw standing out
saliently. "You're right, Virginia. I've been thinking so myself. I'll
keep off the grass," he said, at last.

"You're a good fellow," slipped out impulsively.

"Well, I know where there's another," he said. "I ought to think myself
a lucky dog."

Virginia lifted quizzical eyebrows. "Ought to! That tastes of duty.
Don't let it come to that. We'll take it off if you like." She touched
the solitaire he had given her.

"Ah, but I don't like" - he smiled.


Aline pulled her horse to a walk. "You know Mr. Ridgway pretty well,
don't you?"

Miss Balfour gently flicked her divided skirt with a riding-whip,
considering whether she might be said to know him well. "Yes, I think I
do," she ventured.

"Mrs. Mott says you and he are great friends, that you seem very fond
of each other."

"Goodness me! I hope I don't seem fond of him. I don't think 'fond' is
exactly the word, anyway, though we are good friends." Quickly, keenly,
her covert glance swept Aline; then, withdrawing her eyes, she flung
her little bomb. "I suppose we may be said to appreciate each other. At
any rate, we are engaged."

Mrs. Harley's pony came to an abrupt halt. "I thought I had dropped my
whip," she explained, in a low voice not quite true.

Virginia, though she executed an elaborate survey of the scenery, could
not help noticing that the color had washed from her friend's face. "I
love this Western country - its big sweep of plains, of low, rolling
hills, with a background of mountains. One can see how it gets into a
man's blood so that the East seems insipid ever afterward," discoursed
Miss Balfour.

A question trembled on Aline's blanched lips.

"Say it," permitted Virginia.

"Do you mean that you are engaged to him - that you are going to marry
Mr. Ridgway - without caring for him?"

"I don't mean that at all. I like him immensely."

"But - do you love him?" It was almost a cry - these low words wrung from
the tortured heart.

"No fair," warned her friend smilingly.

Aline rode in silence, her stricken face full of trouble. How could
she, from her glass house, throw stones at a loveless marriage? But
this was different from her own case! Nobody was worthy to marry her
hero without giving the best a woman had to give. If she were a girl - a
sudden tide of color swept her face; a wild, delirious tingle of joy
flooded her veins - oh, if she were a girl, what a wealth of love could
she give him! Clarity of vision had come to her in a blinding flash.
Untutored of life, the knowledge of its meaning had struck home of the
suddenest. She knew her heart now that it was too late; knew that she
could never be indifferent to what concerned Waring Ridgway.

Aline caught at the courage behind her childishness, and accomplished
her congratulations "You will be happy, I am sure. He is good."

"Goodness does not impress me as his most outstanding quality," smiled
Miss Balfour.

"No, one never feels it emphasized. He is too free of selfishness
to make much of his goodness. But one can't help feeling it
in everything he does and says."

"Does Mr. Harley agree with you? Does he feel it?"

"I don't think Mr. Harley understands him. I can't help thinking that
he is prejudiced." She was becoming mistress of her voice and color

"And you are not?"

"Perhaps I am. In my thought of him he would still be good, even if he
had done all the bad things his enemies accuse him of."

Virginia gave her up. This idealized interpretation of her betrothed
was not the one she had, but for Aline it might be the true one. At
least, she could not disparage him very consistently under the

"Isn't there a philosophy current that we find in people what we look
for in them? Perhaps that is why you and Mr. Harley read in Mr. Ridgway
men so diverse as you do. It is not impossible you are both right and
both wrong. Heaven knows, I suppose. At least, we poor mortals fog
around enough when we sit in judgment." And Virginia shrugged the
matter from her careless shoulders.

But Aline seemed to have a difficulty in getting away from the subject.
"And you - what do you read?" she asked timidly.

"Sometimes one thing and sometimes another. To-day I see him as a
living refutation of all the copy-book rules to success. He shatters
the maxims with a touch-and-go manner that is fascinating in its
immorality. A gambler, a plunger, an adventurer, he wins when a
careful, honest business man would fail to a certainty."

Aline was amazed. "You misjudge him. I am sure you do. But if you think
this of him why - "

"Why do I marry him? I have asked myself that a hundred times, my dear.
I wish I knew. I have told you what I see in him to-day; but
tomorrow - why, to-morrow I shall see him an altogether different man.
He will be perhaps a radiating center of altruism, devoted to his
friends, a level-headed protector of the working classes, a patron of
the arts in his own clearminded, unlettered way. But whatever point of
view one gets at him, he spares one dullness. Will you explain to me,
my dear, why picturesque rascality is so much more likable than humdrum

Mrs. Harley's eyes blazed. "And you can talk this way of the man you
are going to marry, a man - " She broke off, her voice choked.

Miss Balfour was cool as a custard. "I can, my dear, and without the
least disloyalty. In point of fact, he asked me to tell you the kind of
man I think him. I'm trying to oblige him, you see."

"He asked you - to tell me this about him?" Aline pulled in her pony in
order to read with her astonished eyes the amused ones of her companion.

"Yes. He was afraid you were making too much of his saving you. He
thinks he won't do to set on a pedestal."

"Then I think all the more of him for his modesty."

"Don't invest too heavily on his modesty, my dear. He wouldn't be the
man he is if he owned much of that commodity."

"The man he is?"

"Yes, the man born to win, the man certain of himself no matter what
the odds against him. He knows he is a man of destiny; knows quite well
that there is something big about him that dwarfs other men. I know it,
too. Wherefore I seize my opportunity. It would be a sin to let a man
like that get away from one. I could never forgive myself," she
concluded airily.

"Don't you see any human, lovable things in him?" Aline's voice was an

"He is the staunchest friend conceivable. No trouble is too great for
him to take for one he likes, and where once he gives his trust he does
not take it back. Oh, for all his force, he is intensely human! Take
his vanity, my dear. It soars to heaven."

"If I cared for him I couldn't dissect his qualities as you do."

"That's because you are a triumph of the survival of nature and impulse
over civilization, in spite of its attempts to sap your freshness. For
me, I fear I'm a sophisticated daughter of a critical generation. If I
weren't, I should not hold my judgment so safely in my own keeping, but
would surrender it and my heart."

"There is something about the way you look at him that shocks me. One
ought not to let oneself believe all that seems easy to believe."

"That is your faith, but mine is a different one. You see, I'm a
Unitarian," returned Virginia blithely.

"He will make you love him if you marry him," sighed Aline, coming back
to her obsession.

Virginia nodded eagerly. "In my secret heart that is what I am hoping
for, my dear."

"Unless there is another man," added Aline, as if alone with her

Virginia was irritably aware of a flood of color beating into her
cheeks. "There isn't any other man," she said impatiently.

Yet she thought of Lyndon Hobart. Curiously enough, whenever she
conceived herself as marrying Ridgway, the reflex of her brain carried
to her a picture of Hobart, clean-handed, fine of instinct, with the
inherited inflections of voice and unconscious pride of caste that come
from breeding and not from cultivation. If he were not born to
greatness, like his rival, at least he satisfied her critical judgment
of what a gentleman should be; 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 hours.

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

"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 hotel.


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

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 favor. 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

"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 Consolidated."

"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

"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

"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

"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 how contemptible?"

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 rigid self.

"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

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

"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.

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

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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 8 of 15)