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Ridgway of montana


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RidgwayofMontana



byWilliamMacLeodRaine
August,2000[Etext#2285]

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RIDGWAYOFMONTANA
(STORYOFTO-DAY,INWHICHTHEHEROISALSOTHEVILLAIN)


byWILLIAMMACLEODRAINE



ToJEAN


ANDTHATKINGDOM
“WhereyouandIthroughthisworld’sweatherWork,andgivepraiseandthanks
together.”



WILLIAMMACLEODRAINECONTENTS
1.TwoMenandaWoman2.TheFreebooter3.OnetoOne4.FortSalvation5.
EnterSimonHarley6.OntheSnow-trail7.BackfromArcadia8.The
HonorableThomasB.Pelton9.AnEveningCall10.HarleyMakesa
Proposition11.VirginiaIntervenes12.AlineMakesaDiscovery13.FirstBlood
14.AConspiracy15.LaskaOpensaDoor16.AnExplosionintheTaurus17.
TheElection18.FurtherDevelopments19.OneMillionDollars20.ALittle
LunchatAlphonse’s21.HarleyScores22.“NotGuilty”—“Guilty”23.Aline
TurnsaCorner24.AGoodSamaritan25.FriendlyEnemies26.BreaksOneand
MakesAnotherEngagement



WILLIAMMACLEODRAINE


byWILLIAMMACLEODRAINE

CHAPTER1.TWOMENANDAWOMAN
“Mr.Ridgway,ma’am.”
Theyoungwomanwhowasgivingthelasttouchestotheveryeffectivepicture
framedinherlonglooking-glassnoddedalmostimperceptibly.
Shehadcometothepartingoftheways,andsheknewit,withashrewd
suspicionastowhichshewouldchoose.Shehadaskedforaweektodecide,and
herheart-searchinghadtoldhernothingnew.ItwascharacteristicofVirginia
Balfourthatshedidnotattempttodeceiveherself.IfshemarriedWaring
Ridgwayitwouldbeforwhatsheconsideredgoodandsufficientreasons,but
lovewouldnotbeoneofthem.Hewasgoingtobeagreatman,foronething,
andprobablyaveryrichone,whichcounted,thoughitwouldnotbea
determiningfactor.Thisshecouldfindonlyinthemanhimself,inthemasterful
forcethatmadehimwhathewas.Thesandstingsoflifedidnotdisturbhis
confidenceinhisvictoriousstar,nordidheletfine-spunmoralobligations
hamperhispredatorycareer.Hehadageniusforsuccessinwhateverhe
undertook,pushinghiswaytohisendwithashrewd,directenergythatnever
faltered.Shesometimeswonderedwhethershe,too,likethemenheusedas
tools,wasmerelyapawninhisgame,andherconsentanemptyformality
concededtoconvention.Perhapshewouldmarryherevenifshedidnotwantto,
shetoldherself,withthesuddenilluminatingsmilethatwasoneofherchief
charms.
ButRidgway’swaryeyes,appraisinghermoodasshecameforwardtomeet
him,readnoneofthisdoubtinherfrankgreeting.Anythingmoresureand
exquisitethanthecultivationVirginiaBalfourbreathedhewouldhavebeenhard
puttoittoconceive.Thathergownanditsaccessoriesseemedtohimmerelythe
extensionofadaintypersonalitywasthehighestcomplimenthecouldpayher
charm,andanentirelyunconsciousone.
“HaveIkeptyouwaiting?”shesmiled,givinghimherhand.
Hisansweringsmile,quitecoolandunperturbed,gavethelietohiswords.“For


ayear,thoughthealmanaccalleditaweek.”
“Youmusthavesuffered,”shetoldhimironically,withaglanceattheclear
colorinhisgood-lookingface.
“Repressedemotion,”heexplained.“MayIhopethatmysufferinghasreacheda
period?”
Theyhadbeensaunteringtowardalittleconservatoryattheendofthelarge
room,butshedeflectedandbroughtupatatableonwhichlaysomebooks.One
oftheseshepickedupandlookedatincuriouslyforamomentbeforesweeping
themaside.Sherestedherhandsonthetablebehindherandleanedbackagainst
it,hereyesmeetinghisfairly.
“You’restillofthesamemind,areyou?”shedemanded.
“Oh!verymuch.”
Sheliftedherselftothetable,crossingherfeetanddanglingthemirresponsibly.
“Wemightaswellbecomfywhilewetalk;”andsheindicated,byanod,achair.
“Thanks.Ifyoudon’tmind,IthinkI’lltakeitstanding.”
Shedidnotseeminanyhurrytobegin,andRidgwaygaveevidenceofnodesire
tohastenher.Butpresentlyhesaid,withalittlelaughthatseemedtoofferher
inclusioninthejoke:
“I’montheanxiousseat,youknow—waitingtofindoutwhetherI’mtobethe
happiestmanalive.”
“YouknowasmuchaboutitasIdo.”Sheechoedhislaughruefully.“I’mstillas
muchatseaasIwaslastweek.Icouldn’ttellthen,andIcan’tnow.”
“Nonewsisgoodnews,theysay.”
“Idon’twanttomarryyouabit,butyou’reagreatcatch,asyouareverywell
aware.”
“IsupposeIamratheracatch,”heagreed,theshadowofasmileatthecorners
ofhismouth.


“Itisn’tonlyyourmoney;though,ofcourse,that’satemptation,”sheadmitted
audaciously.
“I’mgladit’snotonlymymoney.”Hecouldlaughwithheraboutitbecausehe
wasshrewdenoughtounderstandthatitwasnotatallhiswealth.Hercool
franknessmighthavefrightenedawayanotherman.Itmerelyservedtointerest
Ridgway.For,withallhisstrength,hewasavainman,alwaysreadytotalkof
himself.Hespentagooddealofhissparetimeinterpretinghimselftoattractive
andattractedyoungwomen.
Hergazefastenedonthetipofhersuedetoe,apparentlystudyingitattentively.
“Itwouldbeagratificationtomyvanitytoparadeyouasthecaptiveofmybow
andspear.You’resuchamagnificentspecimen,suchaberserkinbroadcloth.
Still.Ishan’tmarryyouifIcanhelpit—but,then,I’mnotsurethatIcanhelpit.
Ofcourse,Idisapproveofyouentirely,butyou’reratherfascinating,youknow.”
Hereyetraveledslowlyuptohis,appraisingthemasterfullinesofhissquare
figure,thedominantstrengthofhisclose-shutmouthandresoluteeyes.“Perhaps
‘fascinating’isn’tjusttheword,butIcan’thelpbeinginterestedinyou,whether
Ilikeyouornot.Isupposeyoualwaysgetwhatyouwantverybadly?”sheflung
outbywayofquestion.
“That’swhatI’mtryingtodiscover”—hesmiled.
“Therearethingstobeconsideredbothways,”shesaid,takinghimintoher
confidence.“Youtrampleonothers.HowdoIknowyouwouldn’ttreadonme?”
“Thatwouldbeoneoftherisksyouwouldtake,”heagreedimpersonally.
“Ishouldn’tlikethatatall.IfImarriedyouitwouldbebecauseasyourwifeI
shouldhavesomanyopportunities.IshouldexpecttodoexactlyasIplease.I
shouldn’twantyoutointerferewithme,thoughIshouldwanttobeableto
influenceyou.”
“Nothingcouldbefairerthanthat,”washisamiablyironicalcomment.
“Yousee,Idon’tknowyou—notreally—andtheysayallsortsofthingsabout
you.”
“Theydon’tsayIamaquitter,dothey?”


Sheleanedforward,chininhandandelbowonknee.Itwasapartoftheaccent
ofherdistinctionthatasarebelshewasbothdemureanddaring.“IwonderifI
mightaskyousomequestions—theintimatekindthatpeoplethinkbutdon’tsay
—atleast,theydon’tsaythemtoyou.”
“Itwouldbeapleasuretometobeputonthewitness-stand.Ishouldprobably
pickupsomeinterestingside-lightsaboutmyself.”
“Verywell.”Hereyesdancedwithexcitement.“You’rewhattheycalla
buccaneerofbusiness,aren’tyou?”
Herewerecertainlydivertingpastimes.“IbelieveIhavebeencalledthat;but,
then,I’vehadthehardestnamesinthedictionarythrownatmesooftenthatI
can’tbesure.”
“Isupposeyouareperfectlyunscrupulousinabusinessway—stopatnothingto
gainyourpoint?”
Hetookherimpudencesmilingly.
“‘Unscrupulous’isn’tthewordIusewhenIexplainmyselftomyself,butasan
unflattereddescription,suchasonemyenemiesmightusetodescribeme,Idare
sayitisfairlyaccurate.”
“Iwonderwhy.Doyoudispensewithaconscienceentirely?”
“Well,yousee,MissBalfour,ifInursedaNewEnglandconscienceIcould
standuptotheattacksoftheConsolidatedaboutaslongasadovetoahawk.I
meetfirewithfiretoavoidbeingwipedoffthemapoftheminingworld.Iplay
thegame.Ican’taffordtokeepabuttononmyfoilwhenmyopponentdoesn’t.”
Shenoddedanadmissionofhispoint.“Andyettherearerulesofthegametobe
observed,aren’tthere?TheConsolidatedpeopleclaimyoustealtheirore,I
believe.”Herslantedeyesstudiedtheeffectofherdaring.
Helaughedgrimly.“Dothey?Iclaimtheystealmine.It’sratherdifficulttohave
anexactregardformineandthinebeforethecourtsdecidewhichiswhich.”
“Andmeanwhile,inordertoforestallanadversedecision,youareworkingextra
shiftstogetalltheoreoutofthedisputedveins.”


“Precisely,justastheyare,”headmitteddryly.“Thenthesidethatloseswillnot
besodisappointed,sincethevalueoftheveinswillbeless.Besides,stealingore
openlydoesn’tcount.Itisreallyamoralobligationinafightlikethis,”he
explained.
“Amoralobligation?”
“Exactly.Youcan’thitatrustovertheheadwiththedecalogue.Modern
businessiswar.Somebodyisboundtogethurt.IfIwinoutitwillbebecauseI
putupabetterfightthantheConsolidated,andcrippleitenoughtomakeitlet
mealone.I’mlookingoutformyself,andIdon’tpretendtobeanybetterthan
myneighbors.Whenyougetdowntobed-rockhonesty,I’veneverseenitin
business.We’reallofusashonestaswethinkwecanaffordtobe.Ihaven’t
noticedthatthereisanypremiumonitinMesa.Mightmakesright.I’llwinif
I’mstrongenough;I’llfailifI’mnot.That’sthelawoflife.Ididn’tmakethis
strenuouslittleworld,andI’mnotresponsibleforit.IfIplayIhavetotakethe
rulesthewaytheyare,notthewayIshouldlikethemtobe.I’mnotsqueamish,
andI’mnotahypocrite.SimonHarleyisn’tsqueamish,either,buthehappensto
beahypocrite.Sothereyouhavethedifferencebetweenus.”
ThepresidentoftheMesaOre-producingCompanysetforthhiscreedjauntily,
withouttheleastconsciousnessofneedforapologyforthefactthatithappened
tobedivorcedfrommorality.Itsfrankdisregardofethicalconsiderations
startledMissBalfourwithoutshockingher.Shelikedhiscandor,eventhoughit
condemnedhim.Itwasreallyveryniceofhimtotakeherimpudencesowell.
Hecertainlywasn’taprig,anyway.
“Andmorality,”shesuggestedtentatively.
“—hasn’tathingtodowithsuccess,theparsonstothecontrarynotwithstanding.
Thebattleistothestrong.”
“ThentheConsolidatedwillbeatyoufinally.”
Hesmiled.“TheywouldifI’dletthem;butbrainsandresourceandfinesseall
countforpower.Grantedthattheyhaveahundreddollarstomyone.Still,Ihave
elementsofstrengththeycan’tevenestimate.DavidbeatGoliath,youknow,
eventhoughhedidn’tdoitwithabigstick.”
“Soyouthinkmoralityisforoldwomen?”


“Andyoungwomen,”heamended,smiling.
“Andeverymanistobealawuntohimself?”
“Notquite.Somemenaren’tbigenoughtobe.Letthemsticktothe
conventionalcode.Forme,ifImakemyownlawsIdon’tbreakthem.”
“Andyou’resurethatyou’reontheroadtotruesuccess?”sheaskedlightly.
“Now,youhaveheaveninthebackofyourmind.”
“Notexactly,”shelaughed.“ButIdidn’texpectyoutounderstand.”
“ThenIwon’tdisappointyou,”hesaidcheerfully.
Shecamebacktotheconcrete.
“IshouldliketoknowwhetheritistruethatyouownthecourtsofYubaCounty
andhavethedecisionsofthejudgeswrittenatyourlawyer’sofficesincases
betweenyouandtheConsolidated.”
“IfIdo,”heansweredeasily,“IamdoingjustwhattheConsolidatedwoulddo
incasetheyhadbeensofortunateastohavewonthelastelectionandseated
theirjudicialcandidates.Oneexpectsafriendlyleaningfromthemenoneputin
office.”
“Isn’tthejudiciarysupposedtobethefinal,incorruptiblebulwarkofthe
nation?”shepretendedtowanttoknow.
“Ibelieveitissupposedtobe.”
“Isn’titrather—loadingthedice,tointerferewiththecourts?”
“Ifindthedicealreadyloaded.Imerelysubstituteothersofmyown.”
“Youdon’tseemabitashamedofyourself.”
“I’mashamedoftheConsolidated”—hesmiled.
“That’sacomfortablepositiontobeabletotake.”Shefixedhimforamoment
withhercharmingfrownofinterrogation.“Youwon’tmindmyaskingthese


questions?I’mtryingtodecidewhetheryouaretoomuchofapirateforme.
PerhapswhenI’vemadeupmymindyouwon’twantme,”sheadded.
“Oh,I’llwantyou!”Thencoolly:“Shallwewaittillyoumakeupyourmind
beforeannouncingtheengagement?”
“Don’tbetoosure,”sheflashedathim.
“I’mhorriblyunsure.”
“Ofcourse,you’relaughingatme,justasyouwould”—shetiltedasudden
sidewaysglanceathim—“ifIaskedyouWHYyouwantedtomarryme.”
“Oh,ifyoutakemethatway–-”
Sheinterruptedairily.“I’mtryingtomakeupmymindwhethertotakeyouat
all.”
“Youcertainlyhaveadirectwayofgettingatthings.”
Hestudiedappreciativelyherpiquant,tiltedface;thelong,gracefullinesofher
slender,perfectfigure.“Itakeityoudon’twantthesentimentalreasonformy
wishingtomarryyou,thoughIfindthatamplyjustified.Butifyouwant
another,youmuststilllooktoyourselfforit.Mybusinessleadsmetoappreciate
valuescorrectly.WhenIdesireyoutositattheheadofmytable,toordermy
house,myjudgmentjustifiesitself.Ihaveafancyalwaysforthebest.WhenI
can’tgratifyitIdowithout.”
“Thankyou.”Shemadehimagaylittlemockcurtsy“Ihadheardyouwereno
carpet-knight,Mr.Ridgway.Butrumorisalyingjade,forIambeingtold—amI
not?—thatincaseIdon’ttakepityonyou,thelonefutureofacelibatestretches
drearbeforeyou.”
“Oh,certainly.”
Havingcometotheendofthatpassage,shetriedanother.“Ayoungmantoldme
yesterdayyouwereafighter.Hesaidheguessedyouwouldstandtheacid.What
didhemean?”
Ridgwaywasanegoistfromheadtoheel.Hecouldvoicehisownpraisesbythe


hourwhennecessary,butnowheside-steppedherlittletraptomakehimpraise
himselfatsecond-hand.
“Betteraskhim.”
“AREyouafighter,then?”
Hadheknownherandherwhimsieslesswell,hemighthavetakenheraudacity
forinnocence.
“Onecouldn’tliedown,youknow.”
“Ofcourse,youalwaysfightfair,”shemocked.
“Whenafellow’sattackedbyagangofthugshedoesn’tprayforboxing-gloves.
Heletsflywithacoupling-pinifthat’swhatcomeshandy.”
Hereyes,glintingsparksofmischief,marveledathimwithmockreverence,but
sheknewinherheartthathermockerywasafraud.Shedidadmirehim;
admiredhimevenwhileshedisapprovedthemagnificentlawlessnessofhim.
ForWaringRidgwaylookedeveryinchtheindomitablefighterhewas.Hestood
sixfeettotheline,straightandstrong,carryingjustsufficientbulktotemperhis
restlessenergywithoutimpairingitspower.Nordidthefaceofferanyshockof
disappointmenttothepromisegivenbythesplendidfigure.Salient-jawedand
forceful,setwithcool,flinty,bluegrayeyes,noplaceforweaknesscouldbe
foundthere.Onemighthavereadamoralcallousness,acolorblindnessinpoints
ofrectitude,butwhenthelastwordhadbeensaid,itsmasterfulcapability,
remainedtheoutstandingimpression.
“AmIoutofthewitness-box?”hepresentlyasked,stillleaningagainstthe
mantelfromwhichhehadbeenwatchingherimpersonallyasanintellectual
entertainment.
“Ithinkso.”
“Andtheverdict?”
“Youknowwhatitoughttobe,”sheaccused.


“Fortunately,kissesgobyfavor,notby,merit.”
“Youdon’tevenmakeapretenseofdeserving.”
“Givemecreditforbeinganhonestrogue,atleast.”
“Butarogue?”sheinsistedlightly.
“Oh,aquestionofdefinitions.Icouldmakeaverygoodcaseformyselfasan
honestman.”
“Ifyouthoughtitworthwhile?”
“IfIdidn’thappentowanttobesquarewithyou”—hesmiled.
“You’resofondofme,Isuppose,thatyoucouldn’tbeartohavemethinktoo
wellofyou.”
“YouknowhowfondofyouIam.”
“Yes,itisapityaboutyou,”shescoffed.
“Believeme,yes,”herepliedcheerfully.
Shedrummedwithherpinkfinger-tipsonherchin,studyinghimmeditatively.
Todohimjustice,shehadtoadmitthathedidnotevenpretendmuch.He
wantedherbecauseshewasastepupinthesocialladder,and,inhisopinion,the
mostattractivegirlheknew.Thathewasnotinlovewithherrelievedthe
situation,asMissBalfouradmittedtoherselfinimpersonalmoods.Butthere
weretimeswhenshecouldhavewishedhewere.Shefeltittobereallydueher
attractionsthathispulsesshouldquickenforher,andintheinterestsof
experienceshewouldhavelikedtoseehowhewouldmakeloveifhereally
meantitfromtheheartandnotthewill.
“It’sreallyanawfulbother,”shesighed.
“Referringtothelittleproblemofyourfuture?”
“Yes.”
“Can’tmakeupyourmindwhetherIcomein?”


“No.”Shelookedupbrightly,withaneffectofimpulsiveness.“Idon’tsuppose
youwanttogivemeanotherweek?”
“Areprieve!Butwhy?You’regoingtomarryme.”
“Isupposeso.”Shelaughed.“IwishIcouldhavemycake,andeatit,too.”
“Itwouldbeamoraliniquitytoencouragesuchasystemofethics.”
“Soyouwon’tgivemeaweek?”shesighed.“Allsortsofthingsmighthave
happenedinthatweek.Ishallalwaysbelievethatthefairyprincewouldhave
comeforme.”
“BelievethatheHAScome,”heclaimed.
“Oh,Ididn’tmeanaprinceofpirates,thoughthereisatriumphinhavingtamed
apiratechieftoprosaicmatrimony.Inonewayitwillbeapity,too.Youwon’t
behalfsopicturesque.YourememberhowStevensonputsit:‘thatmarriage
takesfromamanthecapacityforgreatthings,whethergoodorbad.’”
“Icanstandagooddealoftaming.”
“Domesticatingapirateoughttobeaninterestingprocess,”sheconceded,her
raresmileflashing.“ItshouldproveacureforENNUI,butthenI’mnevera
victimofthatmalady.”
“AmIbeingtoldthatIamtobethehappiestpiratealive?”
“Iexpectyouare.”
Hisbighandgrippedherstillittingled.Shecaughthiseyeonarovingquestto
thedoor.
“Wedon’thavetodothat,”sheannouncedhurriedly,withanembarrassedflush.
“Idon’tdoitbecauseIhaveto,”heretorted,kissingheronthelips.
Shefellback,protesting.“Underthecircumstances—”
Thebutler,withacardonatray,interruptedsilently.Sheglancedatthecard,
devoutlygratefulhisimpassivemajesty’sentrancehadnotbeenamoment


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