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The Honorable Thomas B Pelton








From: Ridgway Of Montana

It was next morning that Steve came into Ridgway's offices with a copy of
the Rocky Mountain Herald in his hands. As soon as the president of the
Mesa Ore-producing Company was through talking with Dalton, the
superintendent of the Taurus, about the best means of getting to the cage a
quantity of ore he was looting from the Consolidated property adjoining,
the treasurer plumped out with his news.

"Seen to-day's paper, Waring? It smokes out Pelton to a finish. They've
moled out some facts we can't get away from."

Ridgway glanced rapidly over the paper. "We'll have to drop Pelton and find
another candidate for the Senate. Sorry, but it can't be helped. They've
got his record down too fine. That affidavit from Quinton puts an end to
his chances."

"He'll kick like a bay steer."

"His own fault for not covering his tracks better. This exposure doesn't
help us any at best. If we still tried to carry Pelton, we should last
about as long as a snowball in hell."

"Shall I send for him?"

"No. He'll be here as quick as he can cover the ground. Have him shown in
as soon as he comes. And Steve--did Harley arrive on the eight-thirty this
morning?"

"Yes. He is putting up at the Mesa House. He reserved an entire floor by
wire, so that he has bed-rooms, dining-rooms, parlors, reception-halls and
private offices all together. The place is policed thoroughly, and nobody
can get up without an order."

"I haven't been thinking of going up and shooting him, even though it would
be a blessing to the country," laughed his chief.

"No, but it is possible somebody else might. This town is full of ignorant
foreigners who would hardly think twice of it. If he had asked my advice,
it would have been to stay away from Mesa."

"He wouldn't have taken it," returned Ridgway carelessly. "Whatever else is
true about him, Simon Harley isn't a coward. He would have told you that
not a sparrow falls to the ground without the permission of the distorted
God he worships, and he would have come on the next train."

"Well, it isn't my funeral," contributed Steve airily.

"All the same I'm going to pass his police patrols and pay a visit to the
third floor of the Mesa House."

"You are going to compromise with him?" cried Eaton swiftly.

"Compromise nothing, I'm going to pay a formal social call on Mrs. Harley,
and respectfully hope that she has suffered no ill effects from her
exposure to the cold."

Eaton made no comment, unless to whistle gently were one.

"You think it isn't wise "

"Well, is it?" asked Steve.

"I think so. We'll scotch the lying tongue of rumor by a strict observance
of the conventions. Madam Grundy is padlocked when we reduce the situation
to the absurdity of the common place."

"Perhaps you are right, if it doesn't become too common commonplace."

"I think we may trust Simon Harley to see to that," answered his chief with
a grim smile "Obviously our social relations aren't likely to be very
intimate. Now it's 'Just before the battle mother,' but once the big guns
begin to boor we'll neither of us be in the mood for functions social."

"You've established a sort of claim on him. It wouldn't surprise me if he
would meet you halfway in settling the trouble between you," said Eaton
thoughtfully.

"I expect he would," agreed Ridgway indifferently as he lit a cigar.

"Well, then?"

"The trouble is that I won't meet him halfway. I can't afford to be
reasonable, Steve. Just suppose for an instant that I had been reasonable
five years ago when this fight began. They would have bought me out for a
miserable pittance of a hundred and fifty thousand or so. That would have
been a reasonable figure then. You might put it now at five or six
millions, and that would be about right. I don't want their money. I want
power, and I'd rather fight for it than not. Besides, I mean to make what I
have already wrung from them a lever for getting more. I'm going to show
Harley that he has met a man at last he can't either freeze out or bully
out. I'm going to let him and his bunch know I'm on earth and here to stay;
that I can beat them at their own game to a finish."

"Did it ever occur to you, Waring, that it might pay to make this a limited
round contest? You've won on points up to date by a mile, but in a finish
fight endurance counts. Money is the same as endurance here, and that's
where they are long."

Eaton made this suggestion diffidently, for though he was a stockholder and
official of the Mesa Ore-producing Company, he was not used to offering its
head unasked advice. The latter, however, took it without a trace of
resentment.

"Glad of it, my boy. There's no credit in beating a cripple."

To this jaunty retort Eaton had found no answer when Smythe opened the door
to announce the arrival of the Honorable Thomas B. Pelton, very anxious for
an immediate interview with Mr. Ridgway.

"Show him in," nodded the president, adding in an aside: "You better stay,
Steve."

Pelton was a rotund oracular individual in silk hat and a Prince Albert
coat of broadcloth. He regarded himself solemnly as a statesman because he
had served two inconspicuous terms in the House at Washington. He was fond
of proclaiming himself a Southern gentleman, part of which statement was
unnecessary and part untrue. Like many from his section, he had a decided
penchant for politics.

"Have you seen the infamous libel in that scurrilous sheet of the gutters
the Herald?" he demanded immediately of Ridgway.

"Which libel? They don't usually stop at one, colonel."

"The one, seh, which slanders my honorable name; which has the scoundrelly
audacity to charge me with introducing the mining extension bill for venal
reasons, seh."

"Oh! Yes, I've seen that. Rather an unfortunate story to come out just now."

"I shall force a retraction, seh, or I shall demand the satisfaction due a
Southern gentleman.

"Yes, I would, colonel," replied Ridgway, secretly amused at the vain
threats of this bag of wind which had been punctured.

"It's a vile calumny, an audacious and villainous lie."

"What part of it? I've just glanced over it, but the part I read seems to
be true. That's the trouble with it. If it were a lie you could explode
it."

"I shall deny it over my signature."

"Of course. The trouble will be to get people to believe your denial with
Quinton's affidavit staring them in the face. It seems they have got hold
of a letter, too, that you wrote. Deny it, of course, then lie low and give
the public time to forget it."

"Do you mean that I should withdraw from the senatorial race?"

"That's entirely as you please, colonel, but I'm afraid you'll find your
support will slip away from you."

"Do you mean that YOU won't support me, seh?"

Ridgway locked his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair.
"We've got to face facts, colonel. In the light of this exposure you can't
be elected."

"But I tell you, by Gad, seh, that I mean to deny it."

"Certainly. I should in your place," agreed the mine-owner coolly. "The
question is, how many people are going to believe you?"

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
incriminating letters?"

"Whatever I did was done for you," retorted the cornered man desperately.

"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 congressman.

"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 dignity.

"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.

"I do?"

"One that will run well, popular enough to catch the public fancy?"

"Yes."

"Who, then?"

"Waring Ridgway."

The owner of the name stared at his lieutenant in astonishment, but slowly
the fascination o the idea sank in.

"By Jove! Why not?"





Next: An Evening Call

Previous: Back From Arcadia



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