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Jim Gets A Blow

From: Still Jim

"The eagle has lived long in my side. He is cruel with
talons built for seizing. Is this why so many nations choose
him as their emblem?"


Jane never had looked meeker or smaller or more desert worn than she did
as she stood eying the two men; that is, meek except as to her eyes.
These burned like sapphires in the sun. In them was concentrated the
deathless energy that Penelope had found was Jane's chief

"I've been sitting in the kitchen waiting for Mrs. Flynn and listening
to you two talk. It was very interesting."

"Jane, you keep quiet," said Oscar.

"Come in and sit down, Mrs. Ames," said Jim, pulling forward a chair.

"Don't be too polite to me, Mr. Manning," said Jane. "I ain't used to it
and it makes me nervous. I made up my mind while I heard you talk I'd
get a few things off my chest. It may help both of you. I've often said,
when Oscar was always telling me to keep quiet, that when I had
something to say I'd say it."

Oscar looked very much mortified. "Jane," he said, "what's got into

"Well, it isn't your politeness, that's sure. Funny now, that Mrs.
Penelope and I both have nice manners while her husband and mine are
both pigs as far as their ways to us go. There isn't a more popular man
in the country than Oscar, but he keeps his popular ways all outside his
own home."

Oscar and Jim looked at each other and waited. They both realized that
the eruption was inevitable.

"Women are awful fools. Until I had running water put in against Oscar's
wishes I lugged as many as thirty buckets of water a day for thirty
years. I've carried water and I've chopped wood and I've had babies and
I've come at your bidding, Oscar, but now, I'm going to complain. And
it's not about my life either.

"I used to feel sorry for myself until I got to know Mrs. Pen. She has
real trouble, but instead of getting peevish as I have over just
Oscar's selfishness, she's let it make her see the world instead of
herself. She has a sort of calm outlook on life. She has told me a dozen
times that she looks at life as a great game and trouble as one of the
hazards. That's golf talk. She says the only real sport to be got out of
the game is to play it according to rule. And she says marriage seems to
be one of the rules. Think of having the courage to talk that way about
marriage! She's better than a book."

Mrs. Ames chuckled reminiscently. Then stared out at the desert and her
lips moved in silence as if she found it hard to frame her next

"We've talked a lot about the Project, she and I. At first I was like
Oscar, all for being afraid our ranch wasn't going to get as much and a
little more than anyone else's. Then after she kept talking about it,
all of a sudden I saw that I wasn't Jane Ames at all, drudging out my
life in the sand. I'm a human being, struggling along with other human
beings to make a living and be happy. And then I got the feeling that
I wanted to help to make this whole Project the finest place on earth
not only for myself but for everyone else.

"And then, just as I get started on something that's giving me my first
chance since I was married to mix with people and do some real big work
in the world, I find out that Oscar is getting all mixed up in deals
that'll ruin Mr. Manning and the whole Project as far as our owning it

"Jane!" shouted Oscar.

"Yes, Jane!" replied Mrs. Ames. "If you think I'm going to stand that
kind of disgrace, if you think I'm going to keep quiet while my babies'
father is a cat's paw for fellows like that Greek and Freet, you are
mistaken. And I'm not going to shilly-shally about it. Oscar, you are
going to begin right now fighting with Mr. Manning for the Project or
I'll leave you."

Oscar jumped to his feet. "For the Lord's sake, Jane, don't talk that
way! How did I know how you felt? You never talk to me.". Ames forgot
Jim. He laid a knotted hand on Jane's shoulder. "Why, Jane, I've often
thought if anything happened to you, I'd kill myself. I didn't have time
to run in and tell you that every fifteen minutes. But I'll do it, now,
by heck, if you want me to! You don't understand about me and Mr.
Sardox, though."

Jane's burning eyes did not leave Oscar's face. "Oscar, you choose right
now between the Freet crowd, and Mr. Manning and me."

There was that in Jane's eyes which caused Oscar to pale under his tan.
"All right, Jane! All right! When you put it that way there is just one
thing for me to do. I'll quit them."

Jane suddenly turned, and bowing her head against Oscar's arm she began
to sob. "It would have torn my heart strings out to have left you,

Jim watched the two with eyes that saw none too clearly.

Oscar smoothed Jane's hair and shook his head. "No use to tell a woman a
secret. Jane, you went and told Mrs. Penelope about Freet, didn't you?"

Mrs. Ames wiped her eyes. "You told her yourself. You talked to the
wrong flower girl at the ball. She came to me about it the first thing
when she saw me today."

"Shucks!" said Oscar.

"How did you get in touch with Freet, Oscar?" asked Jim.

"Aw, I'll help you, Mr. Manning, but I won't tell you other people's

"All right, Oscar. It may interest you to know that I had received a
note this morning from Freet saying he was coming down here to see me on

Oscar flushed. "Come on, Jane, let's be going. I'm much obliged to you
for the cement talk. Why didn't you help me that way before, Mr.

Jim laughed. "I didn't know enough to, Oscar. To tell the truth, a lady
has been after me, too!"

"Mrs. Pen!" exclaimed Jane.

Jim nodded comically and Oscar with a sudden roar of laughter shook
hands with Jim. "And women think they need the vote!" he said, leading
Jane out the door.

That evening just as Jim was finishing his supper Pen walked into the
living room. "Jim," she said, "did you know that Mr. Freet was coming?"

Jim pulled out a chair for Pen but she shook her head. "Yes, I had a
letter from him. He wants to see my sand-cement work and one or two
other new stunts I'm trying out."

Pen moistened her lips. "Jim, he's up at our tent now, talking with
Sara. They say nothing before me, but--Still, I'm going to take Sara
back to New York at once."

"We'll see what I can do first," said Jim. "I'll go up there now." He
picked up his hat, then paused. "Pen, I haven't told you how much your
talk the other night has done for me, or how--how I thank you for
staying on here to help me after--after Wind Ridge. It is--I----"

"Jane told me about your talk with Oscar this afternoon. O Still, I'm so
proud and so glad!"

Jim looked at Pen's glowing cheeks and at her parted scarlet lips.
"Pen," he said suddenly, "I'm going to have Henderson give more mask
balls. You are years younger since having a good dance, and it looks as
if a dance will be the only chance I'll ever have to hug you for all the
dear things you do for me!"

Then he fled out the door before Pen could answer. He walked in at the
open door of the tent.

"Good evening, Mr. Freet," he said.

Arthur Freet rose nonchalantly. "Hello, Manning! Pleasure before duty. I
had to get Saradokis' report on my New York deals before I came to see

"Oh, come across, Mr. Freet!" said Jim quietly. "I know about what you
want and you'll have to approach me sooner or later, so let's get done
with it."

Freet smiled broadly. "I always knew you'd come to your senses, Manning,
if we gave you time. Well, our friend Saradokis is in touch with the New
York office of the Transcontinental Water Power Company. They have a
very tempting proposition to make to the farmers. They stand ready to
outbid any competitor for the power you will develop on the Project."

"We'll let 'em bid, sure," replied Jim calmly. "I shall advertise for
bids as soon as I am ready."

"That won't do," said Freet. "The only way to get away with this is to
do it quietly. Hold the public off till the contract is signed."

Jim grunted. Sara eyed him without comment. Oscar spoke suddenly. "Now
look here, Mr. Manning, I ain't as sore at you as I was. I guess, after
our talk this afternoon, you think you're doing what's best for the
valley. But you want to be fair about this. It may not look quite right,
but it's the best thing for the farmers. We want to get all the money we
can out of the power. You say yourself that's what will pay for the dam.
And if these folks will give us twice what anyone else will, I say close
the deal with them, any way you can."

"What's your price, Ames?" asked Jim clearly.

Oscar jumped to his feet. "In the old days," he roared, "no man would
have lived to ask me that twice!"

Jim looked for a long moment into Oscar's eyes, then he drawled: "All
right, Oscar, I apologize. Only you'd better leave national politics to
your inferiors after this. What's your price, Mr. Freet?"

Arthur Freet laughed. "You can't get a rise out of me, Jim! My price is
to see these Projects a financial success. Methods don't bother me, nor
hard names."

Jim sat silent for a moment, then he turned suddenly on Sara. "Of
course, you get a chunk of money, Sara. But there is something more in
it than that for you. What are you trying to ruin me for, Sara?"

Again Sara seemed to see scarlet. "Didn't you spoil Pen's----"

"Keep that name out of this!" shouted Jim.

"Then don't ask me again why I hate you," returned Sara. "I told you
once. But you are too superior, too one-sided, too egotistical, to see
anyone but yourself!" He rose on one elbow.

"You were the closest friend I ever had and you turned me down without a
chance to make myself right. You never sent me word in my living death.
Do you suppose I enjoy this mental hell I live in? Did you ever dream
you were nailed fast in your coffin? That's my life waking and sleeping.
Why shouldn't I curse a God who could serve me such a trick? I would
make every living thing a cripple, if I could, and I'd begin on you,
you! I'll get you yet!"

Jim glanced at Oscar. The big desert farmer was staring at Sara, horror
in every line of his face.

"Oh, come!" said Freet, "I didn't know you had anything personal in
this, Mr. Saradokis. Manning and I are engineers, out for the good of
the Projects."

"Whatever your motives are, Mr. Freet," said Jim, "I don't like your
methods and haven't since the Makon days. The water power will be opened
to public bids and if you try to force me I'll tell what I guess."

Freet laughed. "Don't be too sure of yourself, Jim! You are branded as
my pupil. If I go, you will probably go."

"O hell!" said Jim, starting for the door. "I'd rather go if I've got to
spend my life fighting fellows like you. In this instance, though, I'm
boss. I have the sale of the water power in my control."

"Don't be too sure, Jim," said Freet, still smiling.

Oscar followed Jim from the tent. Neither of them spoke while on the way
to Jim's house where Pen and Jane were sitting with Mrs. Flynn. But in
the kitchen Oscar made Jim wait while he told the three women what had
occurred in the tent house.

"Now all of you witness," he said, "that I'm through with that bunch.
They played me for a sucker to influence the farmers against Mr. Manning
and for the trust. When I think of the many different kinds of a fool I
am I wish some good trained mule would come along and kick me."

"That's all right, Oscar," said Jim, "you've been no bigger fool than I
have. We'll get busy now, won't we?"

Oscar flushed as Jim smiled at him. "Darn it, Mr. Manning," he said,
"why haven't you looked at me that way before?" Then he laughed with the

Then Pen spoke very uncertainly: "This settles it, of course. I shall go
back to New York at once with Sara."

The little group in the kitchen looked at Jim. His face was white and

"Wait a day or so, Pen. I must get some sort of a plan formulated."

"What am I to do with that man Freet hanging round?" asked Pen.

"Come down for a day or so with me, Mrs. Pen," said Mrs. Ames.

"That's a good idea," said Jim. "Freet won't stay after tomorrow,
anyway. I can promise you that."

"And I'll look out for the caged hyena," said Mrs. Flynn. "If God lets
me live to spare my life, he'll get a tongue lashing from me that'll
give him new respect for the Irish."

Once more the group in the kitchen laughed, though tensely, and parted
for the night.

The next day Freet put in on the dam with Jim. Jim treated him with
courtesy, showing him everything that he asked to see. Freet was very
complimentary and told Jim he was a credit to his teacher. After a visit
to the quarry Jim said suggestively:

"You will want to take the six o'clock train, tonight, of course."

Freet hesitated. Jim went on dryly. "Under the circumstances, it is
hardly in good taste for you to remain. It might look as if you and I
were having a gentleman's agreement on the price of dams."

Freet laughed. "I had planned to take the six o'clock train. I quite
finished my business with Saradokis last night. He's a brilliant
business man. Too bad he has that silly whim about you."

Jim did not answer. He called to Henderson and asked him to have the
automobile sent to the quarter house. He himself took Freet to the
train. They talked construction work all the way and parted amiably.
Then Jim returned to his belated office work.

The last letter that he opened was from the Director of the Service. It
explained to Jim that while the Director had complete faith in Jim's
engineering ability and integrity, Jim's unpopularity not only with the
public but with the investigating committee made his resignation seem
expedient for the good of the Service. It was with extreme regret and
with full appreciation of what Jim had done for the Service that the
Director asked for Jim's resignation, three months from date.

Jim folded the letter and put it in his pocket. Then he stared out of
the door at the Elephant. The great beast was silent in the after-glow.
A to-hee cheeped sleepily in a nearby cholla:

"O yahee! O yahai!
Sweet as arrow weed in spring!"

Then Jim went slowly up the trail to his house, and, refusing his
supper, went into his room and closed the door.

Next: Jim Plans A Last Fight

Previous: The Day's Work

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