A Meeting And A Parting





Had some one of Gordon Wade's multitude of admirers in the East seen him

as he stood looking out over his Wyoming ranch, he might have recognized

the true cowboy composure with which the ranchman faced the coming

storm, but he would not have recognized the stripling who had won

scholastic and athletic honors at Princeton a few short years before,

and who had spent a year after graduating in aimless travel and reckless

adventure.



After flitting rapidly and at random almost all over the habitable

globe, he had returned to his home in New York with some thought of

settling down there, but the old family mansion was empty excepting for

the servants, and his sense of loneliness and sorrow for the loved ones

who were no longer there to greet him, drove him on speedily and he

turned toward the West to explore his own country last of all, as so

many other travelers do.



Attracted by the surpassing beauty of the country, he had lingered in

Wyoming long enough to feel fascination of the ranch life that was then

to be found in all its perfection in the wilder part of that State, and

realizing that he had found the precise location and vocation that

suited him, he had converted his modest fortune into cash, and invested

all in the Double Arrow Ranch.



But on his way thither, he had stopped in Chicago, and there he had come

face to face with Romance.



Before he had gone a dozen steps after getting off the train, some one

dealt him a mighty blow between the shoulders, that well nigh sent him

spinning. Before he could recover himself, he was caught from behind and

hurled headlong into a taxicab.



"I've heard of Western hospitality before," he said, calmly, before he

could see who his assailant was, "but you seem to be hard up for

guests."



"No," said his college chum, George Stout, grinning happily as he

clambered into the taxi, "but I wasn't taking chances; somebody else

might have seen you first."



Followed three feverish days and nights; then as they sat in pajamas in

Stout's apartment, Wade said: "I don't imagine there is anything more to

see or do in this hectic city of yours, and I am free to say I don't

like it; I think I'll move on."



"Not yet," said Stout, with the grin that endeared him to everybody that

ever met him. "You've only seen the outside edges so far. To-night you

are going to break into society."



"Do they have society here?" asked Wade.



"Well, they call it that," still grinning, "anyhow you'll be interested,

not to say amused. The game is new as yet, but they go through the

motions, and Oh, boy, how lavish they are! You'll see everything money

can buy this evening, and probably meet people you wouldn't be likely

to run across anywhere else.



"You're bidden to appear, sir, at the ornate mansion of a Senator of the

United States--the Senator, perhaps, I should say, I've secured the

invitation, and Mrs. Rexhill will never recognize me again if you don't

go."



"Would that be serious?"



"Very serious. I am counsel for one of the Senator's companies."



"And does that imply social obligation?"



"It does with Mrs. Rexhill."



"Oh, very well, I'll go anywhere once, but who is Mrs. Rexhill? I

suppose, of course, she is the Senator's wife, but who is she in

society? I never heard of her."



"You wouldn't; it isn't what she is, it is what she wants to be. You

must not laugh at her; she is doing the best she can. You'll admit one

thing readily enough when you see her. She is probably the handsomest

woman of her age in Chicago, and she isn't more than forty. Where the

Senator found her, I can't say, but she was his wife when he made his

first strike in Denver, and I will say to his credit that he has always

been a devoted husband."



"I'm glad to hear something to his credit," said Wade dryly. "The

general impression I've gathered from reading the newspapers lately,

hasn't been of the most exalted sort."



"Oh, well," replied Stout, and his habitual grin faded away as he spoke.

"A man in public life always makes enemies, and the Senator has plenty

of them. It almost seems sometimes that he has more enemies than

friends, and yet he has certainly been a very successful man, not only

in politics, but in business. He has more irons in the fire than any one

else I know, and somehow or other he seems to put everything through. I

doubt if he could do so well if he was not at the same time a political

power."



"Yes," said Wade, still more dryly. "I have heard the two facts

mentioned together."



"Come, come," said Stout, more earnestly than he was in the habit of

speaking, "you mustn't put too much faith in what the newspapers say. I

know how they talk about him in the other party, but I happen to know

him pretty well personally, and there is a good side to him as I suppose

there is to everybody. Anyhow, he pays me well for my professional

services, and I have seen nothing thus far that leads me to be disloyal

to him."



It seemed to Wade's sensitive ear that his friend was speaking with a

large mental reservation, but wisely reflecting that the matter did not

concern him, he said no more, and when evening came, he went, willingly

enough, to make the acquaintance of the man who was then counted as one

of the greatest political powers in the country. Nor had he any

premonition that in the near future he and his host of the evening would

be engaged in a life and death struggle.



Of all that, however, there was no present indication whatever. On the

contrary, the great man welcomed him with all the suavity of manner for

which he was equally as famous as he was for the over-bearing rudeness

he often displayed when his will was disputed. This latter trait had won

for him the nickname of the Czar of American Politics; but he was an

adroit politician, not lacking in courtesy to guests in his own house.

Moreover, he was keen in his appraisal of men and quick to see that a

man of Wade's type would be more valuable to him as an ally than as a

foe.



Accordingly, he presented the young aristocrat to Mrs. Rexhill, who

openly showed her delight in meeting one of such distinguished

appearance, and with a great display of cordiality, she introduced him

to her daughter Helen.



"It is her coming-out party, Mr. Wade," she said, gushingly, "and you

must do all you can to make it a happy occasion."



One glance at the beautiful girl who stood before him was enough to

determine Wade that her evening should be as happy as he could make it.

The glaring ostentation of the house and its equipment had offended his

fastidious taste when he entered, and the sight of the really handsome,

but vulgarly overdressed and richly be-jeweled mother, had made him

shudder inwardly, but when he looked into Helen's eyes, he forgot all

his first impressions and imagined himself in Fairyland for the

remainder of the evening.



An older head than his might easily have been turned and a wiser man

bewildered by the tender glances of the charming girl who frankly met

his advances half way, being as much impressed by his appearance as he

with hers, and showing carelessness equal to his in regard to the

comment they excited among the other guests. One thing that Helen

Rexhill had never learned at school, or from the parents who had done

all that could be done to spoil her, was to conceal her feelings. Just

now she felt no inclination to do it, and she gave Wade dance after

dance, with reckless disregard of her engagements and of the

ill-concealed anger of some of the men she threw over with utter

carelessness of social obligation.



Wade saw it clearly enough, but the preference she showed for him was so

flattering as to make him indifferent, even had he considered himself

responsible. He was therefore amused rather than exultant when man after

man came up to claim a dance, only to be told "I just promised this one

to Mr. Wade."



One such there was, who took his rebuff exceeding ill. Instead of

retiring as the others had done, he stepped up closer to the girl and

said rudely, "That's all very well, Helen, but you promised me first,

and I hold you to it."



And he looked contemptuously at Wade who had started in surprise at his

words, and had stiffened himself instinctively, as if to interfere, but

who controlled himself instantly and kept silent despite his

inclination.



A moment later he was glad he had done so. Helen's eyes flashed and she

straightened her form proudly as she spoke.



"Did I really promise you, Race Moran? If I did, I have forgotten it,

and anyhow, I am going to sit this dance out with Mr. Wade in the

conservatory."



Race Moran, as she called him, was a handsome enough man, though rather

flashy in appearance. But the evil look that came quickly on his face,

no less than his huge and burly build, indicated that he would have been

more at home in a barroom or a street fight, than where he was. For just

a moment he seemed about to say more, but apparently thought better of

it, and turning away with what sounded like a muttered oath, he walked

toward the Senator, who stood at the other side of the room.



"I've made an enemy for you, Mr. Wade," said Helen, half laughingly and

half seriously, as she led the way to the conservatory, closely followed

by her eager escort.



"Well," said Wade lightly, "they say a man is poor, indeed, who hasn't a

few enemies. I don't know that one more or less is of great importance,

but it is well to know something about them. Who is the gentleman?"



"I hardly think you would call him a gentleman," said Helen, "though he

thinks he's one; I wouldn't tolerate him a moment, only on my father's

account. Dad calls him a political heeler, and says he is very useful."



"He ought to be that," said Wade, smiling; "I'd hardly call him

ornamental."



"Indeed he isn't," said Helen, pouting prettily, "and he presumes too

much on Dad's favor. He actually persecutes me with his attentions, but

you know a politician's daughter has to put up with a good deal,

sometimes."



"I don't think you need to suffer much," said Wade, gallantly. "You will

always find admirers enough to stand between you and any trouble you may

have. I rather think there is one of them coming this way at the moment.

I shall certainly take pleasure in recognizing Mr. Moran as an enemy,

but is this likely to be another one?"



"Oh, no," said Helen, laughingly, as an effeminate looking young man

came up, evidently in search of her.



"I beg pardon, Miss Helen," he said, with a bow that seemed to include

Wade, politely enough, in the apology, "But your mother asked me to find

you. She wants you to meet some new guests who have just arrived."



"Oh, bother," said Helen carelessly. "She can look after them for a

while. Tell her I'll be with her by-and-by," and she turned back to

Wade, paying no further attention to the luckless messenger, who

departed, hiding his chagrin as best he could, though not very

successfully.



After he had gone, she said, "No, I don't think Maxwell Frayne is likely

to be an enemy; at least, not one that you need fear. He is a gentleman,

though he is too insipid to interest me."



"And you think Moran is a man to fear," asked Wade, trying to speak

gravely, but showing amusement in spite of himself.



"I don't believe you fear the devil," said Helen, with open admiration,

"but Race Moran can be very dangerous, and I feel sure he will try to

injure you, if he ever finds a chance."



"Well in that case he will at least be interesting," said Wade, lightly.

He would have been amazed if he had realized at the time how prophetic

the girl's words were.



For the moment, however, he had little thought of peril and adventures

to come. The time, the girl and the place, were all at hand, and he

plunged headlong into a complication that kept him for weeks in Chicago,

strongly inclined to stay permanently, yet reluctant to settle in a city

so little to his liking, when the great out-doors was calling to him so

urgently.



While the petals of the passion flower were unfolding so rapidly in the

conservatory, Race Moran had taken the Senator to the latter's private

room where they had had many secret conferences before. He had done the

great man favors in New York where he was a valuable cog in the

political machine, while the Senator was still a newcomer in the field,

and with accurate judgment he had foreseen that Rexhill would be a

winner.



Quick to see opportunities, he had cultivated the latter's acquaintance

and courted his favor until he had become the Senator's most trusted

adherent, and was admitted to the closest intimacy, so that he had

become a constant visitor in the Rexhill home, and had definitely

determined in his own mind, to become one of the family. He knew well

enough that Helen disliked him, but his ideas of women had been gained

from association with a class that is easily dominated, and he was

confident of his own powers, which, in fact, were very considerable.



The Senator was not blind to the other's purpose, but though he was far

from approving it, having other ideas concerning the daughter he

idolized, he had not sought to discourage Moran, nor did he intend to.

He would let him go on until a crisis should come, and in the meantime,

Moran had not declared himself.



Helen's insolence at the door of the conservatory, however, had stung

Moran, and as soon as he had the Senator in seclusion, he broke out.



"Who is that puppy Helen has on a string to-night?" he demanded roughly.



But the Senator could overlook rudeness when it suited his purpose to do

so.



"I wouldn't call him a puppy exactly," he said, pleasantly enough; "he

is a good deal younger than you and I, but he comes of pretty good stock

in your town, Moran, and Stout tells me he has distinguished himself

already in two or three ways. I reckon he'd be a pretty good friend to

have, if he ever takes an interest in politics."



"Oh, I know the Wade family all right," said Moran impatiently; "they

belong to the silk stockings, but we have our own way of dealing with

that kind in New York, and I'm able to do the same thing anywhere else,

if I have to. Maybe I will have to if he comes between me and Helen.

Senator, I want to marry that girl myself. I ain't asking your consent,

exactly, for me and her will be likely to do what we want to, anyhow,

but I'd a heap rather have you favor the match."



That was almost too much, but the Senator knew his man and also knew

how valuable he was. There was no sense in breaking with him until it

was unavoidable, so he still spoke pleasantly, though he had flushed

with anger for a moment.



"Yes, I reckon you and Helen will do as you like about it, especially as

Helen likes. It was sort of decent of you to speak to me first, but

there doesn't seem to be anything particular for me to say till you find

out what Helen really thinks."



"Oh, I'll find that out, all right," said Moran, boastfully. "But this

Wade person better look out; I might have him run into the river some

night, if he pokes his nose in too far."



"I'd go easy on that, if I were you," said the Senator laughing

heartily, "a dead Wade might interfere with your plans worse than a live

one."



"Oh, of course," replied Moran, refusing to laugh. "I talk foolish with

my mouth sometimes, when I'm mad, but all the same, he'd better look

out."



"Now I wonder," said the Senator thoughtfully, after the other had left

him, "how long it will be before he does find out, and how serious it

will be. He's hit pretty hard, but I will have to keep him along some

way or other; I can't afford to lose him."



And he sat musing over his cigar till one by one his guests had gone,

but not until the great drawing room was well-nigh empty, did Helen

leave the conservatory.



For a few weeks thereafter Chicago seemed, to Gordon Wade's fancy, to be

the very center of the Universe. Gradually, however, the sturdy nature

of the man asserted itself, and realizing that for him there were many

more desirable places, he determined to look farther before choosing a

permanent home. He told Helen frankly of his purpose, and to his great

satisfaction she approved. There was no definite word of marriage

between them, though they both looked forward to it and both, at the

time of parting, deemed the understanding complete between them.



Helen would have had him turn to the East, for her heart was set on city

life in one of the world's great capitals, but he declared he must see

the West before deciding, and though she was dissatisfied, she was too

wise to seek the domination she intended, at that stage of the game.



He departed, therefore, to find in Wyoming later on, his ideal of a

home. His thought of Chicago thereafter, was that of the place where the

girl he thought he loved was waiting for him, to claim her, so soon as

his home was made suitable. There was much to do by way of preparation,

however, and almost imperceptibly his ardor cooled as he found himself

becoming prominent among the bold and independent citizens who were

rapidly putting Wyoming on the map.





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