Ridgway of Montana


While Harley had been in no way responsible for Pelton’s murderous attack upon Yesler, public opinion held him to account. The Pinkertons who had, up till this time, been employed at the mines, were now moved to the hotel to be ready for an emergency. A special train was held in readiness to take the New Yorker out of the State in the event that the stockman should die.

Meanwhile, the harassing attacks of Ridgway continued. Through another judge than Purcell, the absurd injunction against working the Diamond King, the Mary K, and the Marcus Daly had been dissolved, but even this advantage had been neutralized by the necessity of giving back to the enemy the Taurus and the New York, of which he had just possessed himself. All his life he had kept a wheather-eye upon the impulsive and fickle public. There were times when its feeling could be abused with impunity, and other times when this must be respected. Reluctantly, Harley gave the word for the withdrawal of his men from the territory gained. Ridgway pushed his advantage home and secured an injunction, not only against the working, but against the inspection of the Copper King and the Jim Hill. The result of the Consolidated move had been in effect to turn over, temporarily, its two rich mines to be looted by the pirate, and to make him very much stronger than before with his allies, the unions. By his own imprudence, Harley had made a bad situation worse, and delivered himself, with his hands tied, into the power of the enemy.

In the days of turmoil that followed, Waring Ridgway’s telling blows scored once and again. The morning after the explosion, he started a relief fund in his paper, the Sun, for the families of the dead miners, contributing two thousand dollars himself. He also insisted that the Consolidated pay damages to the bereaved families to the extent of twenty thousand dollars for each man killed. The town rang with his praises. Mesa had always been proud of his success; had liked the democratic spirit of him that led him to mix on apparently equal terms with his working men, and had backed him in his opposition to the trust because his plucky and unscrupulous fight had been, in a measure, its fight. But now it idolized him. He was the buffer between it and the trust, fighting the battles of labor against the great octopus of Broadway, and beating it to a standstill. He was the Moses destined to lead the working man out of the Egypt of his discontent. Had he not maintained the standard of wages and forced the Consolidated to do the same?

Had he not declared an eight-hour day, and was not the trust almost ready to do this also, forced by the impetus his example had given the unions?

So Ridgway’s agents whispered, and the union leaders, whom he had bought, took up the burden of their tale and preached it both in private talk and in their speeches.

In an attempt to stem the rising tide of denunciation that was spreading from Mesa to the country at large, Harley announced an eight hour day and an immense banquet to all the Consolidated employees in celebration of the occasion. Ten thousand men sat down to the long tables, but when one of the speakers injudiciously mentioned the name of Ridgway, there was steady cheering for ten minutes. It was quite plain that the miners gave him the credit for having forced the Consolidated to the eight-hour day.

The verdict of the coroner’s jury was that Vance Edwards and the other deceased miners had come to their death at the hands of the foreman, Michael Donleavy, at the instigation of Simon Harley. True bills were at once drawn up by the prosecuting attorney of Mesa County, an official elected by Ridgway, charging Harley and Donleavy with conspiracy, resulting in the murder of Vance Edwards. The billionaire furnished bail for himself and foreman, treating the indictments merely as part of the attacks of the enemy.

The tragedy in the Taurus brought to the surface a bitterness that had hitherto not been apparent in the contest between the rival copper interests. The lines of division became more sharply drawn, and every business man in Mesa was forced to declare himself on one side or the other. Harley scattered detectives broadcast and imported five hundred Pinkertons to meet any emergency that might arise. The spies of the Consolidated were everywhere, gathering evidence against the Mesa Ore-producing Company, its conduct of the senatorial campaign, its judges, and its supporters Criminal indictments flew back and forth thick as snowflakes in a Christmas storm.

It began to be noticed that an occasional foreman, superintendent, or mining engineer was slipping from the employ of Ridgway to that of the trust, carrying secrets and evidence that would be invaluable later in the courts. Everywhere the money of the Consolidated, scattered lavishly where it would do the most good, attempted to sap the loyalty of the followers of the other candidates. Even Eaton was approached with the offer of a bribe.

But Ridgway’s potent personality had built up an esprit de corps not easily to be broken. The adventurers gathered to his side were, for the most part, bound to him by ties personal in their nature. They were financial fillibusters, pledged to stand or fall together, with an interest in their predatory leader’s success that was not entirely measurable in dollars and cents. Nor was that leader the man to allow the organization he had builded with such care to become disintegrated while he slept. His alert eye and cheery smile were everywhere, instilling confidence in such as faltered, and dread in those contemplating defection.

He harassed his rival with an audacity that was almost devilish in its unexpected ingenuity. For the first time in his life Simon Harley, the town back on the defensive by a combination of circumstances engineered by a master brain, knew what it was to be checkmated. He had hot the least doubt of ultimate victory, but the tentative success of the brazen young adventurer, were gall and wormwood to his soul. He had made money his god, had always believed it would buy anything worth while except life, but this Western buccaneer had taught him it could not purchase the love of a woman nor the immediate defeat of a man so well armed as Waring Ridgway. In truth, though Harley stuck at nothing, his success in accomplishing the destruction of this thorn in his side was no more appreciable than had been that of Hobart. The Westerner held his own and more, the while he robbed the great trust of its ore under cover of the courts.

In the flush of success, Ridgway, through his lieutenant, Eaton, came to Judge Purcell asking that a receiver be appointed for the Consolidated Supply Company, a subsidiary branch of the trust, on the ground that its affairs were not being properly administered. The Supply Company had paid dividends ranging from fifteen to twenty-five per cent for many years, but Ridgway exercised his right as a stockholder to ask for a receivership. In point of fact, he owned, in the name of Eaton, only one-tenth of one per cent of the stock, but it was enough to serve. For Purcell was a bigoted old Missourian, as courageous and obstinate as perfect health and ignorance could make him. He was quite innocent of any legal knowledge, his own rule of law being to hit a Consolidated head whenever he saw one. Lawyers might argue themselves black in the face without affecting his serenity or his justice.

Purcell granted the application, as well as a restraining order against the payment of dividends until further notice, and appointed Eaton receiver over the protests of the Consolidated lawyers.

Ridgway and Eaton left the court-room together, jubilant over their success. They dined at a restaurant, and spent the evening at the ore-producing company’s offices, discussing ways and means. When they had finished, his chief followed Eaton to the doors, an arm thrown affectionately round his shoulder.

“Steve, we’re going to make a big killing. I was never so sure of anything in my life as that we shall beat Simon Harley at his own game. We’re bound to win. We’ve got to win.”

“I wish I were as sure as you.”

“It’s hard pounding does it, my boy. We’ll drive him out of the Montana copper-fields yet. We’ll show him there is one little corner of the U. S.

where Simon Harley’s orders don’t go as the last word.”

“He has a hundred dollars to your one.”

“And I have youth and mining experience and the inside track, as well as stancher friends than he ever dreamed of,” laughed Ridgway, clapping the other on the back. “Well, good night, Steve. Pleasant dreams, old man.”

The boyish secretary shook hands warmly. “You’re a MAN, chief. If anybody can pull us through it will be you.”

Triumphant confidence rang in the other’s answering laugh. “You bet I can, Steve,”

© Talebooks.com 2007-2017

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