Jealousy





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."





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