Stargaze.ca - Find detailed information on differents stars and constellations. Visit Stargaze.caInformational Site Network Informational
Privacy
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories


Jealousy








From: Hidden Gold

Meantime, many things of great interest to Gordon Wade happened without
his knowledge.

A national election at which the previously dominant party was defeated,
was a sad blow to Senator Rexhill, who not only suffered in prestige but
in pocket. There was no question, even in the minds of his friends, that
he frequently used his political influence to back up the many business
enterprises in which he held an interest, and in which the greater part
of his quickly-made fortune was invested. With the loss of his political
pull, disaster came to one after another of those enterprises, and his
successive losses were soon heavy enough to drive him almost to
desperation.

His previous successes, however, had all been due to the audacity of his
plans, for his boldness and courage were unquestionable. For a time he
felt confident of winning again, and accordingly, maintained his lavish
expenditures and luxurious style of living, with no word of caution to
his wife and daughter, and he continued to seek for the long chances in
business that offered the largest risks and the greatest gains.

All the redeeming qualities of his nature (and he had more than his
enemies gave him credit for), were shown in his family life, and it was
not surprising that Helen and her mother were both undisturbed by the
gathering storm, but continued to live as he encouraged them to, having
perfect confidence in his ability to overcome any and all the
difficulties he might encounter.

Mrs. Rexhill continued to dream of social distinction. Failing to see
that she had lost much of her own prestige by the Senator's political
reverses, she continued to entertain so extravagantly in her palatial
home, that she was still tolerated and she took infinite satisfaction in
the position she thought she occupied.

She considered Chicago the greatest city in the world, and she dreamed
of Helen as its queen. To her mind, the easiest way to accomplish that
ambition was to persuade Helen to marry Maxwell Frayne. He had
persistently courted the girl ever since he first met her, and he was
heir to the great Frayne fortune.

The idea was not entirely revolting to Helen, though she had a small
opinion of the elegant young trifler who pursued her so persistently,
for she, too, had social aspirations, though being more clear-sighted
than her mother, she dreamed of wider circles than those of Chicago. Her
husband, whoever he was to be, should take her to Paris, or at least to
New York.

Her infatuation for Gordon Wade, however, was as strong as ever. Perhaps
she was right in thinking of it as true love, but she was greatly
annoyed by Wade's choice of a ranchman's life, and by his settling down
out of the world, as she considered he had done. Her letters to him,
tender as they were, told him plainly enough of her dissatisfaction, and
thereby undoubtedly contributed to the slow growth of his indifference.

For a time she failed to perceive this, and enjoying the excitement of
the life she was leading, she was content to wait till Wade should tire
of the wilderness, as she fully expected him to do, and should return to
her. So she drifted, until after a time her suspicions were aroused by
the tone of his letters, and she became anxious.

As time went on, Senator Rexhill's affairs became more and more
involved. He realized that he stood little chance of reelection, when
his term of office should expire, and meantime, his fortune dwindled
rapidly, though he was still careful not to betray that fact at home.

Moran knew the situation perfectly well, but he remained outwardly loyal
to his employer, partly because of the latter's liberality, but more,
perhaps, because of the hope he still had of winning Helen eventually,
despite the dislike she took no pains to hide.

Knowing how bold the Senator was in his speculations, he came to him one
day with an exciting story.

"There's a guy in town," he said, "who may be just a plain nut, but he
has the name of being a scientific sharp who knows his business from A
to Izzard, and he's either got something almighty big, or he's got the
willies.

"What he says is, that he's found gold in a new spot and oodles of it.
According to what he tells, it beats California in '49. It's so big, he
says, that he's scared stiff, thinking he can't grab enough of it, and
he don't know, no more'n a baby, what to do with it. So he's looking for
somebody to take hold of it in a big way and give him a whack."

"Where is this gold?" asked the Senator incredulously.

"That's the funny part of it," says Moran; "it's in Wyoming, and as near
as I can make out, it must be close to where that young squirt is that
Helen thinks she's stuck on. I'm not sure but what it's on his place,
but even if it is, there is no reason why he should have any of it. The
expense will be pretty heavy to do the thing up right, but if you're
game, I reckon we can hog the whole business. We can stall this
scientific nut off with promises, and probably buy off Wade for the
price of pasture land, and then file claim on the whole dog-gone tract."

This vision of enormous wealth was captivating to the Senator, who had
made his first start in mining and knew something of its possibilities.
Bold as he was, however, he was also cautious, but after several
conferences with Moran, he fell in with the scheme, first securing the
services of a skilled metallurgist and an equally capable engineer, who
were liberally paid and solemnly sworn to secrecy. He sent them out to
verify the discoverer's story, and sent Moran to Crawling Water, to
establish himself, and to do such preparatory work as should be
necessary. In due time, Moran reported by letter that the gold was
located, and was beyond question abundant. He was having trouble,
however, in getting the property, as Wade refused to sell.

"Of course," he wrote, "we can file mining claims on the ground we know
of, and get possession that way, but we want to make more surveys
before doing that, so as to be sure of getting all there is, and we
can't do that without giving the whole snap away, and filling the
mountains full of prospectors. If that damn Wade won't sell, I'll find
some means to drive him away."

It was just after the receipt of this letter, which filled the Senator
with hope on the one hand, and anxiety on the other that he came on
Helen one evening, as she was entering her own sitting room, and
followed her in for a chat.

"What are you thinking of?" he asked, presently, when she failed to
notice some trivial question he had asked, and seemed to be in a
reverie.

She looked at him with laughing eyes.

"Crawling Water."

"Gordon Wade, eh? Well, I wouldn't think of him too much. Better let
that pass. You've outgrown it."

"Oh, no I haven't."

The Senator sighed.

"Mother said to me a little while ago, that he was probably going with
other girls and forgetting me, and it made me angry."

"Well, I reckon your mother is about right. Gordon is a likely looking
chap, you know. I've got nothing against him, except that he isn't good
enough for you; no man is. You don't really care so much for him, do
you?"

"Oh, don't I?" She viewed her father through half closed lids, in a
quizzical way. "I care so very much for him that if I really thought
there was another girl, I would go to Crawling Water to-morrow. You'd
have to drop everything and take me."

Her father gently pinched her cheek.

"I would, eh? Well, maybe I'll have to go out there anyway. But do you
realize what Crawling Water is like,--a rough, frontier town?"

"I wouldn't mind that for a while."

"No, I suppose not. You've got too much of your old dad in you to balk
at a few difficulties. There's somebody else out there who'd be mighty
glad to see your pretty face. Race Moran."

"Mr. Moran!"

The sudden change in the girl's tone from tenderness to scorn caused the
Senator a twinge of uneasiness. His plans were so closely linked with
Moran's for the present, that the man might prove dangerous if his love
for Helen were too openly scorned. That she could scarcely tolerate him,
despite his ability and force of character, her father knew from the
past; but even in the moment of his need he did not seek to influence
her in Moran's favor. His love for her was genuine and very deep.

"He's been out there for some time, as my agent."

"Yes, I know that. He--he has written to me, although I've never
answered his letters. I've been curious to hear from him again, because
he promised to send me some kodaks of Crawling Water."

"Maybe he hasn't done so because you've ignored his letters."

Helen's lip curled in disdain.

"He'd never let a little thing like that stop him. But perhaps I will
answer the next one, if only to find out what is going on out there.
It's all so very mysterious. Do you know, father,"--She playfully shook
her finger at him--"this is the first time in a long while that you
haven't taken me into your confidence, and I think it a very ominous
sign. I'm sure you'll be punished for it."

The Senator winced at the word punished, and Helen laughed at what she
thought was the effect of her raillery.

"Why don't you tell me? You see, I'm so worried about Gordon. Honestly,
father, I'm serious about that. I--I love him, and I don't want him
hurt."

"Hurt? Why, who is thinking of hurting him?"

"Oh, I don't know. Moran hates him, and has referred to him once or
twice in a way that I do not understand. Do tell me all about it."

"Oh, well, my dear, there's really nothing to tell. It's all concerned
with some homestead lands out there that I want to get hold of for an
investment. Wade will not be hurt, no; that is, he won't be if he beats
me out. If I win, he'll lose."

"He will?"

"We both can't win, of course. It's to be a fight, yes,--an amicable
business struggle, I hope. There's no reason for it to be otherwise."
The Senator appeared strangely nervous, despite his effort at
self-control. "Wade as a man and a Westerner doesn't expect to be fed on
pap, you know, any more than I do. May the best man win, that's the way
of it."

Helen thought this over for a moment.

"Perhaps I'd better go out there with you, after all," she remarked,
half in jest.

Then the Senator thought that over for a moment and left the room.

Next day Helen received a package by mail which proved to contain a
dozen clear photographs of Crawling Water and its neighborhood.

First of all, as though Moran thought it most important, was a snapshot
of himself, which had been taken, so he wrote on the back of the print,
by an obliging cowboy. The girl's face was a study in amused scorn as
she looked at the photograph, for which Moran has posed with a cigar in
his mouth, his hands in his pockets.

Then there were a number of views of the town itself; of its main
street, its hotel, its dance-hall, and of "some of the boys" in various
poses of photographic self-consciousness. There were also pictures of
the marvelously beautiful countryside, but as she neared the end of
them, Helen was disappointed to find none of Wade. "Of course, he
wouldn't send me one of him," she said petulantly to herself, and she
was rapidly running through the remaining prints only to pause suddenly
at the very last, while a rosy tide flooded her face and neck.

The little photograph showed a tall, handsome, vigorous looking man, in
the garb of a cattleman, half turned in his saddle, with one hand
resting on his pony's flank. The man was Wade. With his other hand, he
was pointing ahead, apparently for the benefit of a girl--a very good
looking girl whose fine head was thrown back, as the wind blew her hair
into pretty disorder.

Helen Rexhill had not hitherto experienced real jealousy, but this
little photograph excited it. In the highly actinic light of Crawling
Water at noon the camera had done its work well, and the figures of the
two stood out from the distant background with stereoscopic clearness.
Wade was smiling at the girl, who seemed to be laughing back at him,
although her face in the picture was partially turned away, so that
Helen got only an impression of charm. But the impression was enough to
rouse her jealousy.

On the back of the print, Moran had written:

"A surprise picture of Gordon Wade and our new fellow-townswoman, Miss
Dorothy Purnell, whose beauty and general attractiveness have made her
the idol of Crawling Water."





Next: The Gathering Storm

Previous: A Meeting And A Parting



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 471