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A Meeting And A Parting

From: Hidden Gold

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

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

"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

"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

"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

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

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

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

"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,

"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

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

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

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

"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

"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

"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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