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´╗┐Title: Her Prairie Knight
Author: Bower, B. M., 1874-1940
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Her Prairie Knight" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



HER PRAIRIE KNIGHT

By B.M. Sinclair, AKA B. M. Bower



CONTENTS

     1. Stranded on the Prairie
     2. Handsome Cowboy to the Rescue
     3. Tilt With Sir Redmond
     4. Beatrice Learns a New Language
     5. The Search for Dorman
     6. Mrs. Lansell's Lecture
     7. Beatrice's Wild Ride
     8. Dorman Plays Cupid
     9. What It Meant to Keith
     10. Pine Ridge Range Ablaze
     11. Sir Redmond Waits His Answer
     12. Held Up by Mr. Kelly
     13. Keith's Masterful Wooing
     14. Sir Redmond Gets His Answer



HER PRAIRIE KNIGHT



CHAPTER 1. Stranded on the Prairie.


"By George, look behind us! I fancy we are going to have a storm." Four
heads turned as if governed by one brain; four pairs of eyes, of varied
color and character, swept the wind-blown wilderness of tender green,
and gazed questioningly at the high-piled thunderheads above. A
small boy, with an abundance of yellow curls and white collar, almost
precipitated himself into the prim lap of a lady on the rear seat.

"Auntie, will God have fireworks? Say, auntie, will He? Can I say
prayers widout kneelin' down'? Uncle Redmon' crowds so. I want to pray
for fireworks, auntie. Can I?"

"Do sit down, Dorman. You'll fall under the wheel, and then auntie would
not have any dear little boy. Dorman, do you hear me? Redmond, do
take that child down! How I wish Parks were here. I shall have nervous
prostration within a fortnight."

Sir Redmond Hayes plucked at the white collar, and the small boy retired
between two masculine forms of no mean proportions. His voice, however,
rose higher.

"You'll get all the fireworks you want, young man, without all that
hullabaloo," remarked the driver, whom Dorman had been told, at the
depot twenty miles back, he must call his Uncle Richard.

"I love storms," came cheerfully from the rear seat--but the voice was
not the prim voice of "auntie." "Do you have thunder and lightning out
here, Dick?"

"We do," assented Dick. "We don't ship it from the East in refrigerator
cars, either. It grows wild."

The cheerful voice was heard to giggle.

"Richard," came in tired, reproachful accents from a third voice behind
him, "you were reared in the East. I trust you have not formed the
pernicious habit of speaking slightingly of your birthplace."

That, Dick knew, was his mother. She had not changed appreciably since
she had nagged him through his teens. Not having seen her since, he was
certainly in a position to judge.

"Trix asked about the lightning," he said placatingly, just as he was
accustomed to do, during the nagging period. "I was telling her."

"Beatrice has a naturally inquiring mind," said the tired voice, laying
reproving stress upon the name.

"Are you afraid of lightning, Sir Redmond?" asked the cheerful
girl-voice.

Sir Redmond twisted his neck to smile back at her. "No, so long as it
doesn't actually chuck me over."

After that there was silence, so far as human voices went, for a time.

"How much farther is it, Dick?" came presently from the girl.

"Not more than ten--well, maybe twelve--miles. You'll think it's twenty,
though, if the rain strikes 'Dobe Flat before we do. That's just what
it's going to do, or I'm badly mistaken. Hawk! Get along, there!"

"We haven't an umbrella with us," complained the tired one. "Beatrice,
where did you put my raglan?"

"In the big wagon, mama, along with the trunks and guns and saddles, and
Martha and Katherine and James."

"Dear me! I certainly told you, Beatrice--"

"But, mama, you gave it to me the last thing, after the maids were in
the wagon, and said you wouldn't wear it. There isn't room here for
another thing. I feel like a slice of pressed chicken."

"Auntie, I want some p'essed chicken. I'm hungry, auntie! I want some
chicken and a cookie--and I want some ice-cream."

"You won't get any," said the young woman, with the tone of finality.
"You can't eat me, Dorman, and I'm the only thing that looks good enough
to eat."

"Beatrice!" This, of course, from her mother, whose life seemed
principally made up of a succession of mental shocks, brought on by her
youngest, dearest, and most irrepressible.

"I have Dick's word for it, mama; he said so, at the depot."

"I want some chicken, auntie."

"There is no chicken, dear," said the prim one. "You must be a patient
little man."

"I won't. I'm hungry. Mens aren't patient when dey're hungry." A small,
red face rose, like a tiny harvest moon, between the broad, masculine
backs on the front seat.

"Dorman, sit down! Redmond!"

A large, gloved hand appeared against the small moon and it set
ignominiously and prematurely, in the place where it had risen. Sir
Redmond further extinguished it with the lap robe, for the storm,
whooping malicious joy, was upon them.

First a blinding glare and a deafening crash. Then rain--sheets of it,
that drenched where it struck. The women huddled together under the
doubtful protection of the light robe and shivered. After that, wind
that threatened to overturn the light spring wagon; then hail that
bounced and hopped like tiny, white rubber balls upon the ground.

The storm passed as suddenly as it came, but the effect remained. The
road was sodden with the water which had fallen, and as they went down
the hill to 'Dobe Flat the horses strained at the collar and plodded
like a plow team. The wheels collected masses of adobe, which stuck like
glue and packed the spaces between the spokes. Twice Dick got out and
poked the heavy mess from the wheels with Sir Redmond's stick--which
was not good for the stick, but which eased the drag upon the horses
wonderfully--until the wheels accumulated another load.

"Sorry to dirty your cane," Dick apologized, after the second halt. "You
can rinse it off, though, in the creek a few miles ahead."

"Don't mention it!" said Sir Redmond, somewhat dubiously. It was his
favorite stick, and he had taken excellent care of it. It was finely
polished, and it had his name and regiment engraved upon the silver
knob--and a date which the Boers will not soon forget, nor the English,
for that matter.

"We'll soon be over the worst," Dick told them, after a time. "When we
climb that hill we'll have a hard, gravelly trail straight to the ranch.
I'm sorry it had to storm; I wanted you to enjoy this trip."

"I am enjoying it," Beatrice assured him. "It's something new, at any
rate, and anything is better than the deadly monotony of Newport."

"Beatrice!" cried her mother "I'm ashamed of you!"

"You needn't be, mama. Why won't you just be sorry for yourself, and
let it end there? I know you hated to come, poor dear; but you wouldn't
think of letting me come alone, though I'm sure I shouldn't have minded.
This is going to be a delicious summer--I feel it in my bones."

"Be-atrice!"

"Why, mama? Aren't young ladies supposed to have bones?"

"Young ladies are not supposed to make use of unrefined expressions.
Your poor sister."

"There, mama. Dear Dolly didn't live upon stilts, I'm sure. Even when
she married."

"Be-atrice!"

"Dear me, mama! I hope you are not growing peevish. Peevish elderly
people--"

"Auntie! I want to go home!" the small boy wailed.

"You cannot go home now, dear," sighed his guardian angel. "Look at the
pretty--" She hesitated, groping vaguely for some object to which she
might conscientiously apply the adjective.

"Mud," suggested Beatrice promptly "Look at the wheels, Dorman; they're
playing patty-cake. See, now they say, 'Roll 'em, and roll 'em,' and
now, 'Toss in the oven to bake!' And now--"

"Auntie, I want to get out an' play patty-cake, like de wheels. I want
to awf'lly!"

"Beatrice, why did you put that into his head?" her mother demanded,
fretfully.

"Never mind, honey," called Beatrice cheeringly. "You and I will make
hundreds of mud pies when we get to Uncle Dick's ranch. Just think, hon,
oodles of beautiful, yellow mud just beside the door!"

"Look here, Trix! Seems to me you're promising a whole lot you can't
make good. I don't live in a 'dobe patch."

"Hush, Dick; don't spoil everything. You don't know Dorman.'

"Beatrice! What must Miss Hayes and Sir Redmond think of you? I'm sure
Dorman is a sweet child, the image of poor, dear Dorothea, at his age."

"We all think Dorman bears a strong resemblance to his father," said his
Aunt Mary.

Beatrice, scenting trouble, hurried to change the subject. "What's this,
Dick--the Missouri River?"

"Hardly. This is the water that didn't fall in the buggy. It isn't deep;
it makes bad going worse, that's all."

Thinking to expedite matters, he struck Hawk sharply across the flank.
It was a foolish thing to do, and Dick knew it when he did it; ten
seconds later he knew it better.

Hawk reared, tired as he was, and lunged viciously.

The double-trees snapped and splintered; there was a brief interval
of plunging, a shower of muddy water in that vicinity, and then two
draggled, disgusted brown horses splashed indignantly to shore and took
to the hills with straps flying.

"By George!" ejaculated Sir Redmond, gazing helplessly after them. "But
this is a beastly bit of luck, don't you know!"

"Oh, you Hawk--" Dick, in consideration of his companions, finished the
remark in the recesses of his troubled soul, where the ladies could not
overhear.

"What comes next, Dick?" The voice of Beatrice was frankly curious.

"Next, I'll have to wade out and take after those--" This sentence,
also, was rounded out mentally.

"In the meantime, what shall we do?"

"You'll stay where you are--and thank the good Lord you were not
upset. I'm sorry,"--turning so that he could look deprecatingly at Miss
Hayes--"your welcome to the West has been so--er--strenuous. I'll try
and make it up to you, once you get to the ranch. I hope you won't let
this give you a dislike of the country."

"Oh, no," said the spinster politely. "I'm sure it is a--a very nice
country, Mr. Lansell."

"Well, there's nothing to be done sitting here." Dick climbed down over
the dashboard into the mud and water.

Sir Redmond was not the man to shirk duty because it happened to be
disagreeable, as the regiment whose name was engraved upon his cane
could testify. He glanced regretfully at his immaculate leggings and
followed.

"I fancy you ladies won't need any bodyguard," he said. Looking back, he
caught the light of approval shining in the eyes of Beatrice, and after
that he did not mind the mud, but waded to shore and joined in the
chase quite contentedly. The light of approval, shining in the eyes of
Beatrice, meant much to Sir Redmond.



CHAPTER 2. A Handsome Cowboy to the Rescue.


Beatrice took immediate possession of the front seat, that she might
comfort her heartbroken young nephew.

"Never mind, honey. They'll bring the horses back in a minute, and we'll
make them run every step. And when you get to Uncle Dick's ranch you'll
see the nicest things--bossy calves, and chickens, and, maybe, some
little pigs with curly tails."

All this, though alluring, failed of its purpose; the small boy
continued to weep, and his weeping was ear-splitting.

"Be still, Dorman, or you'll certainly scare all the coyotes to death."

"Where are dey?"

"Oh, all around. You keep watch, hon, and maybe you'll see one put the
tip of his nose over a hill."

"What hill?" Dorman skipped a sob, and scoured his eyes industriously
with both fists.

"M-m--that hill. That little one over there. Watch close, or you'll miss
him."

The dove of peace hovered over them, and seemed actually about to
alight. Beatrice leaned back with a relieved breath.

"It is good of you, my dear, to take so much trouble," sighed his Aunt
Mary. "How I am to manage without Parks I'm sure I cannot tell."

"You are tired, and you miss your tea." soothed Beatrice, optimistic as
to tone. "When we all have a good rest we will be all right. Dorman will
find plenty to amuse him. We are none of us exactly comfortable now."

"Comfortable!" sniffed her mother. "I am half dead. Richard wrote such
glowing letters home that I was misled. If I had dreamed of the true
conditions, Miss Hayes, I should never have sanctioned this wild idea of
Beatrice's to come out and spend the summer with Richard."

"It's coming, Be'trice! There it is! Will it bite, auntie? Say, will it
bite?"

Beatrice looked. A horseman came over the hill and was galloping down
the long slope toward them. His elbows were lifted contrary to the
mandates of the riding-school, his long legs were encased in something
brown and fringed down the sides. His gray hat was tilted rakishly up
at the back and down in front, and a handkerchief was knotted loosely
around his throat. Even at that distance he struck her as different from
any one she had ever seen.

"It's a highwayman!" whispered Mrs. Lansell "Hide your purse, my dear!"

"I--I--where?" Miss Hayes was all a-flutter with fear.

"Drop it down beside the wheel, into the water. Quick! I shall drop my
watch."

"He--he is coming on this side! He can see!" Her whisper was full of
entreaty and despair.

"Give them here. He can't see on both sides of the buggy at once." Mrs.
Lansell, being an American--a Yankee at that--was a woman of resource.

"Beatrice, hand me your watch quick!"

Beatrice paid no attention, and there was no time to insist upon
obedience. The horseman had slowed at the water's edge, and was
regarding them with some curiosity. Possibly he was not accustomed to
such a sight as the one that met his eyes. He came splashing toward
them, however, as though he intended to investigate the cause of their
presence, alone upon the prairie, in a vehicle which had no horses
attached in the place obviously intended for such attachment. When he
was close upon them he stopped and lifted the rakishly tilted gray hat.

"You seem to be in trouble. Is there anything I can do for you?" His
manner was grave and respectful, but his eyes, Beatrice observed, were
having a quiet laugh of their own.

"You can't get auntie's watch, nor gran'mama's. Gran'mama frowed 'em all
down in the mud. She frowed her money down in the mud, too," announced
Dorman, with much complacency. "Be'trice says you is a coyote. Is you?"

There was a stunned interval, during which nothing was heard but the
wind whispering things to the grass. The man's eyes stopped laughing;
his jaw set squarely; also, his brows drew perceptibly closer together.
It was Mrs. Lansell's opinion that he looked murderous.

Then Beatrice put her head down upon the little, blue velvet cap of
Dorman and laughed. There was a rollicking note in her laughter that was
irresistible, and the eyes of the man relented and joined in her mirth.
His lips forgot they were angry and insulted, and uncovered some very
nice teeth.

"We aren't really crazy," Beatrice told him, sitting up straight and
drying her eyes daintily with her handkerchief. "We were on our way to
Mr. Lansell's ranch, and the horses broke something and ran away, and
Dick--Mr. Lansell--has gone to catch them. We're waiting until he does."

"I see." From the look in his eyes one might guess that what he saw
pleased him. "Which direction did they take?"

Beatrice waved a gloved hand vaguely to the left, and, without another
word, the fellow touched his hat, turned and waded to shore and galloped
over the ridge she indicated; and the clucketycluck of his horse's hoofs
came sharply across to them until he dipped out of sight.

"You see, he wasn't a robber," Beatrice remarked, staring after him
speculatively. "How well he rides! One can see at a glance that he
almost lives in the saddle. I wonder who he is."

"For all you know, Beatrice, he may be going now to murder Richard and
Sir Redmond in cold blood. He looks perfectly hardened."

"Oh, do you think it possible?" cried Miss Hayes, much alarmed.

"No!" cried Beatrice hotly. "One who did not know your horror of
novels, mama, might suspect you of feeding your imagination upon 'penny
dreadfuls.' I'm sure he is only a cowboy, and won't harm anybody."

"Cowboys are as bad as highwaymen," contended her mother, "or worse. I
have read how they shoot men for a pastime, and without even the excuse
of robbery."

"Is it possible?" quavered Miss Hayes faintly.

"No, it isn't!" Beatrice assured her indignantly.

"He has the look of a criminal," declared Mrs. Lansell, in the positive
tone of one who speaks from intimate knowledge of the subject under
discussion. "I only hope he isn't going to murder--"

"They're coming back, mama," interrupted Beatrice, who had been watching
closely the hilltop. "No, it's that man, and he is driving the horses."

"He's chasing them," corrected her mother testily. "A horse thief, no
doubt. He's going to catch them with his snare--"

"Lasso, mama."

"Well, lasso. Where can Richard be? To think the fellow should be
so bold! But out here, with miles upon miles of open, and no police
protection anything is possible. We might all be murdered, and no one
be the wiser for days--perhaps weeks. There, he has caught them." She
leaned back and clasped her hands, ready to meet with fortitude whatever
fate might have in store.

"He's bringing them out to us, mama. Can't you see the man is only
trying to help us?"

Mrs. Lansell, beginning herself to suspect him of honest intentions,
sniffed dissentingly and let it go at that. The fellow was certainly
leading the horses toward them, and Sir Redmond and Dick, appearing over
the hill just then, proved beyond doubt that neither had been murdered
in cold blood, or in any other unpleasant manner.

"We're all right now, mother," Dick called, the minute he was near
enough.

His mother remarked skeptically that she hoped possibly she had been in
too great haste to conceal her valuables--that Miss Hayes might not feel
grateful for her presence of mind, and was probably wondering if mud
baths were not injurious to fine, jeweled time-pieces. Mrs. Lansell
was uncomfortable, mentally and physically, and her manner was frankly
chilly when her son presented the stranger as his good friend and
neighbor, Keith Cameron. She was still privately convinced that he
looked a criminal--though, if pressed, she must surely have admitted
that he was an uncommonly good-looking young outlaw. It would seem
almost as if she regarded his being a decent, law-abiding citizen as
pure effrontery.

Miss Hayes greeted him with a smile of apprehension which plainly amused
him. Beatrice was frankly impersonal in her attitude; he represented a
new species of the genus man, and she, too, evidently regarded him in
the light of a strange animal, viewed unexpectedly at close range.

While he was helping Dick mend the double-tree with a piece of rope, she
studied him curiously. He was tall--taller even than Sir Redmond, and
more slender. Sir Redmond had the straight, sturdy look of the soldier
who had borne the brunt of hard marches and desperate fighting; Mr.
Cameron, the lithe, unconscious grace and alertness of the man whose
work demands quick movement and quicker eye and brain. His face was
tanned to a clear bronze which showed the blood darkly beneath; Sir
Redmond's year of peace had gone far toward lightening his complexion.
Beatrice glanced briefly at him and admired his healthy color, and was
glad he did not have the look of an Indian. At the same time, she caught
herself wishing that Sir Redmond's eyes were hazel, fringed with very
long, dark lashes and topped with very straight, dark brows--eyes which
seemed always to have some secret cause for mirth, and to laugh quite
independent of the rest of the face. Still, Sir Redmond had very nice
eyes--blue, and kind, and steadfast, and altogether dependable--and his
lashes were quite nice enough for any one. In just four seconds Beatrice
decided that, after all, she did not like hazel eyes that twinkle
continually; they make one feel that one is being laughed at, which is
not comfortable. In six seconds she was quite sure that this Mr. Cameron
thought himself handsome, and Beatrice detested a man who was proud of
his face or his figure; such a man always tempted her to "make faces,"
as she used to do over the back fence when she was little.

She mentally accused him of trying to show off his skill with his rope
when he leaned and fastened it to the rig, rode out ahead and helped
drag the vehicle to shore; and it was with some resentment that she
observed the ease with which he did it, and how horse and rope seemed to
know instinctively their master's will, and to obey of their own accord.

In all that he had done--and it really seemed as if he did everything
that needed to be done, while Dick pottered around in the way--he had
not found it necessary to descend into the mud and water, to the ruin of
his picturesque, fringed chaps and high-heeled boots. He had worked at
ease, carelessly leaning from his leathern throne upon the big, roan
horse he addressed occasionally as Redcloud. Beatrice wondered where he
got the outlandish name. But, with all his imperfections, she was glad
she had met him. He really was handsome, whether he knew it or not; and
if he had a good opinion of himself, and overrated his actions--all the
more fun for herself! Beatrice, I regret to say, was not above amusing
herself with handsome young men who overrate their own charms; in fact,
she had the reputation among her women acquaintances of being a most
outrageous flirt.

In the very middle of these trouble-breeding meditations, Mr. Cameron
looked up unexpectedly and met keenly her eyes; and for some reason--let
us hope because of a guilty conscience--Beatrice grew hot and confused;
an unusual experience, surely, for a girl who had been out three
seasons, and has met calmly the eyes of many young men. Until now it had
been the young men who grew hot and confused; it had never been herself.

Beatrice turned her shoulder toward him, and looked at Sir Redmond, who
was surreptitiously fishing for certain articles beside the rear wheel,
at the whispered behest of Mrs. Lansell, and was certainly a sight to
behold. He was mud to his knees and to his elbows, and he had managed to
plaster his hat against the wheel and to dirty his face. Altogether, he
looked an abnormally large child who has been having a beautiful day of
it in somebody's duck-pond; but Beatrice was nearer, at that moment,
to loving him than she had been at any time during her six weeks'
acquaintance with him--and that is saying much, for she had liked him
from the start.

Mr. Cameron followed her glance, and his eyes did not have the laugh all
to themselves; his voice joined them, and Beatrice turned upon him and
frowned. It was not kind of him to laugh at a man who is proving his
heart to be much larger than his vanity; Beatrice was aware of Sir
Redmond's immaculateness of attire on most occasions.

"Well," said Dick, gathering up the reins, "you've helped us out of a
bad scrape, Keith. Come over and take dinner with us to-morrow night.
I expect we'll be kept riding the rim-rocks, over at the Pool, this
summer. Unless this sister of mine has changed a lot, she won't rest
till she's been over every foot of country for forty miles around. It
will just about keep our strings rode down to a whisper keeping her in
sight."

"Dear me, Richard!" said his mother. "What Jargon is this you speak?"

"That's good old Montana English, mother. You'll learn it yourself
before you leave here. I've clean forgot how they used the English
language at Yale, haven't you, Keith?"

"Just about," Keith agreed. "I'm afraid we'll shock the ladies terribly,
Dick. We ought to get out on a pinnacle with a good grammar and
practice."

"Well, maybe. We'll look for you to-morrow, sure. I want you to help map
out a circle or two for Trix. About next week she'll want to get out and
scour the range."

"Dear me, Richard! Beatrice is not a charwoman!" This, you will
understand, was from his mother; perhaps you will also understand that
she spoke with the rising inflection which conveys a reproof.

When Keith Cameron left them he was laughing quietly to himself, and
Beatrice's chin was set rather more than usual.



CHAPTER 3. A Tilt With Sir Redmond.


Beatrice, standing on the top of a steep, grassy slope, was engaged in
the conventional pastime of enjoying the view. It was a fine view, but
it was not half as good to look upon as was Beatrice herself, in her
fresh white waist and brown skirt, with her brown hair fluffing softly
in the breeze which would grow to a respectable wind later in the day,
and with her cheeks pink from climbing.

She was up where she could see the river, a broad band of blue in the
surrounding green, winding away for miles through the hills. The far
bank stood a straight two hundred feet of gay-colored rock, chiseled, by
time and stress of changeful weather, into fanciful turrets and towers.
Above and beyond, where the green began, hundreds of moving dots told
where the cattle were feeding quietly. Far away to the south, heaps of
hazy blue and purple slept in the sunshine; Dick had told her those
were the Highwoods. And away to the west, a jagged line of blue-white
glimmered and stood upon tip-toes to touch the swimming clouds--touched
them and pushed above proudly; those were the Rockies. The Bear Paws
stood behind her; nearer they were--so near they lost the glamour of
mysterious blue shadows, and became merely a sprawling group of huge,
pine-covered hills, with ranches dotted here and there in sheltered
places, with squares of fresh, dark green that spoke of growing crops.

Ten days, and the metropolitan East had faded and become as hazy and
vague as the Highwoods. Ten days, and the witchery of the West leaped in
her blood and held her fast in its thralldom.

A sound of scrambling behind her was immediately followed by a smothered
epithet. Beatrice turned in time to see Sir Redmond pick himself up.

"These grass slopes are confounded slippery, don't you know," he
explained apologetically. "How did you manage that climb?"

"I didn't." Beatrice smiled. "I came around the end, where the ascent is
gradual; there's a good path."

"Oh!" Sir Redmond sat down upon a rock and puffed. "I saw you up
here--and a fellow doesn't think about taking a roundabout course to
reach his heart's--"

"Isn't it lovely?" Beatrice made haste to inquire.

"Lovely isn't half expressive enough," he told her. "You look--"

"The river is so very blue and dignified. I've been wondering if it has
forgotten how it must have danced through those hills, away off there.
When it gets down to the cities--this blue water--it will be muddy and
nasty looking. The 'muddy Missouri' certainly doesn't apply here. And
that farther shore is simply magnificent. I wish I might stay here
forever."

"The Lord forbid!" cried he, with considerable fervor. "There's a dear
nook in old England where I hope--"

"You did get that mud off your leggings, I see," Beatrice remarked
inconsequentially. "James must have worked half the time we've been
here. They certainly were in a mess the last time I saw them."

"Bother the leggings! But I take it that's a good sign, Miss
Lansell--your taking notice of such things."

Beatrice returned to the landscape. "I wonder who originated that
phrase, 'The cattle grazing on a thousand hills'? He must have stood
just here when he said it."

"Wasn't it one of your American poets? Longfellow, or--er--"

Beatrice simply looked at him a minute and said "Pshaw!"

"Well," he retorted, "you don't know yourself who it was."

"And to think," Beatrice went on, ignoring the subject, "some of those
grazing cows and bossy calves are mine--my very own. I never cared
before, or thought much about it, till I came out and saw where they
live, and Dick pointed to a cow and the sweetest little red and white
calf, and said: 'That's your cow and calf, Trix.' They were dreadfully
afraid of me, though--I'm afraid they didn't recognize me as their
mistress. I wanted to get down and pet the calf--it had the dearest
little snub nose but they bolted, and wouldn't let me near them."

"I fancy they were not accustomed to meeting angels unawares."

"Sir Redmond, I wish you wouldn't. You are so much nicer when you're not
trying to be nice."

"I'll act a perfect brute," he offered eagerly, "if that will make you
love me."

"It's hardly worth trying. I think you would make a very poor sort of
villain, Sir Redmond. You wouldn't even be picturesque."

Sir Redmond looked rather floored. He was a good fighter, was Sir
Redmond, but he was clumsy at repartee--or, perhaps, he was too much in
earnest to fence gracefully. Just now he looked particularly foolish.

"Don't you think my brand is pretty? You know what it is, don't you?"

"I'm afraid not," he owned. "I fancy I need a good bit of coaching in
the matter of brands."

"Yes," agreed Beatrice, "I fancy you do. My brand is a Triangle
Bar--like this." With a sharp pointed bit of rock she drew a more or
less exact diagram in the yellow soil. "There are ever so many different
brands belonging to the Northern Pool; Dick pointed them out to me, but
I can't remember them. But whenever you see a Triangle Bar you'll be
looking at my individual property. I think it was nice of Dick to give
me a brand all my own. Mr. Cameron has a pretty brand, too--a Maltese
Cross. The Maltese Cross was owned at one time by President Roosevelt.
Mr. Cameron bought it when he left college and went into the cattle
business. He 'plays a lone hand,' as he calls it; but his cattle range
with the Northern Pool, and he and Dick work together a great deal. I
think he has lovely eyes, don't you?" The eyes of Beatrice were intent
upon the Bear Paws when she said it--which brought her shoulder toward
Sir Redmond and hid her face from him.

"I can't say I ever observed Mr. Cameron's eyes," said Sir Redmond
stiffly.

Beatrice turned back to him, and smiled demurely. When Beatrice smiled
that very demure smile, of which she was capable, the weather-wise
generally edged toward their cyclone-cellars. Sir Redmond was not
weather-wise--he was too much in love with her--and he did not possess a
cyclone cellar; he therefore suffered much at the hands of Beatrice.

"But surely you must have noticed that deep, deep dimple in his chin?"
she questioned innocently. Keith Cameron, I may say, did not have a
dimple in his chin at all; there was, however, a deep crease in it.

"I did not." Sir Redmond rubbed his own chin, which was so far from
dimpling that is was rounded like half an apricot.

"Dear me! And you sat opposite to him at dinner yesterday, too! I
suppose, then, you did not observe that his teeth are the whitest,
evenest."

"They make them cheaply over here, I'm told," he retorted, setting his
heel emphatically down and annihilating a red and black caterpillar.

"Now, why did you do that? I must say you English are rather brutal?"

"I can't abide worms."

"Well, neither can I. And I think it would be foolish to quarrel about a
man's good looks," Beatrice said, with surprising sweetness.

Sir Redmond hunched his shoulders and retreated to the comfort of
his pipe. "A bally lot of good looks!" he sneered. "A woman is never
convinced, though."

"I am." Beatrice sat down upon a rock and rested her elbows on her knees
and her chin in her hands--and an adorable picture she made, I assure
you. "I'm thoroughly convinced of several things. One is Mr. Cameron's
good looks; another is that you're cross."

"Oh, come, now!" protested Sir Redmond feebly, and sucked furiously at
his pipe.

"Yes," reiterated Beatrice, examining his perturbed face judicially;
"you are downright ugly."

The face of Sir Redmond grew redder and more perturbed; just as Beatrice
meant that it should; she seemed to derive a keen pleasure from goading
this big, good-looking Englishman to the verge of apoplexy.

"I'm sure I never meant to be rude; but a fellow can't fall down and
worship every young farmer, don't you know--not even to please you!"

Beatrice smiled and threw a pebble down the slope, watching it bound and
skip to the bottom, where it rolled away and hid in the grass.

"I love this wide country," she observed, abandoning her torture with
a suddenness that was a characteristic of her nature. When Beatrice had
made a man look and act the fool she was ready to stop; one cannot say
that of every woman. "One can draw long, deep breaths without robbing
one's neighbor of oxygen. Everything is so big, and broad, and generous,
out here. One can ride for miles and miles through the grandest, wildest
places,--and--there aren't any cigar and baking-powder and liver-pill
signs plastered over the rocks, thank goodness! If man has traveled that
way before, you do not have the evidence of his passing staring you
in the face. You can make believe it is all your own--by right of
discovery. I'm afraid your England would seem rather little and crowded
after a month or two of this." She swept her hand toward the river, and
the grass-land beyond, and the mountains rimming the world.

"You should see the moors!" cried Sir Redmond, brightening under this
peaceful mood of hers. "I fancy you would not find trouble in drawing
long breaths there. Moor Cottage, where your sister and Wiltmar lived,
is surrounded by wide stretches of open--not like this, to be sure, but
not half-bad in its way, either."

"Dolly grew to love that place, though she did write homesick letters at
first. I was going over, after my coming out--and then came that awful
accident, when she and Wiltmar were both drowned--and, of course, there
was nothing to go for. I should have hated the place then, I think. But
I should like--" Her voice trailed off dreamily, her eyes on the hazy
Highwoods.

Sir Redmond watched her, his eyes a-shine; Beatrice in this mood was
something to worship. He was almost afraid to speak, for fear she would
snuff out the tiny flame of hope which her half-finished sentence had
kindled. He leaned forward, his face eager.

"Beatrice, only say you will go--with me, dear!"

Beatrice started; for the moment she had forgotten him. Her eyes kept to
the hills. "Go--to England? One trip at a time, Sir Redmond. I have
been here only ten days, and we came for three months. Three months of
freedom in this big, glorious place."

"And then?" His voice was husky.

"And then--freckle lotions by the quart, I expect."

Sir Redmond got upon his feet, and he was rather white around the mouth.

"We Englishmen are a stubborn lot, Miss Beatrice. We won't stop fighting
until we win."

"We Yankees," retorted she airily, "value our freedom above everything
else. We won't surrender it without fighting for it first."

He caught eagerly at the lack of finality in her tones. "I don't want to
take your freedom, Beatrice. I only want the right to love you."

"Oh, as for that, I suppose you may love me as much as you please--only
so you don't torment me to death talking about it."

Beatrice, not looking particularly tormented, waved answer to Dick, who
was shouting something up at her, and went blithely down the hill, with
Sir Redmond following gloomily, several paces behind.



CHAPTER 4. Beatrice Learns a New Language.


"D'you want to see the boys work a bunch of cattle, Trix?" Dick said
to her, when she came down to where he was leaning against a high board
fence, waiting for her.

"'Deed I do, Dicky--only I've no idea what you mean."

"The boys are going to cut out some cattle we've contracted to the
government--for the Indians, you know. They're holding the bunch over in
Dry Coulee; it's only three or four miles. I've got to go over and see
the foreman, and I thought maybe you'd like to go along."

"There's nothing I can think of that I would like better. Won't it be
fine, Sir Redmond?"

Sir Redmond did not say whether he thought it would be fine or not. He
still had the white streak around his mouth, and he went through the
gate and on to the house without a word--which was undoubtedly a
rude thing to do. Sir Redmond was not often rude. Dick watched him
speculatively until he was beyond hearing them. Then, "What have you
done to milord, Trix?" he wanted to know.

"Nothing," said Beatrice.

"Well," Dick said, with decision, "he looks to me like a man that has
been turned down--hard. I can tell by the back of his neck."

This struck Beatrice, and she began to study the retreating neck of
her suitor. "I can't see any difference," she announced, after a brief
scrutiny.

"It's rather sunburned and thick."

"I'll gamble his mind is a jumble of good English oaths--with maybe a
sprinkling of Boer maledictions. What did you do?"

"Nothing--unless, perhaps, he objects to being disciplined a bit. But I
also object to being badgered into matrimony--even with Sir Redmond."

"Even with Sir Redmond!" Dick whistled. "He's 'It,' then, is he?"

Beatrice had nothing to say. She walked beside Dick and looked at the
ground before her.

"He doesn't seem a bad sort, sis, and the title will be nice to have
in the family, if one cares for such things. Mother does. She was
disappointed, I take it, that Wiltmar was a younger son."

"Yes, she was. She used to think that Sir Redmond might get killed down
there fighting the Boers, and then Wiltmar would be next in line. But he
didn't, and it was Wiltmar who went first. And now oh, it's humiliating,
Dick! To be thrown at a man's head--" Tears were not far from her voice
just then.

"I can see she wants you to nab the title. Well, sis, if you don't care
for the man--"

"I never said I didn't care for him. But I just can't treat him
decently, with mama dinning that title in my ears day and night. I wish
there wasn't any title. Oh, it's abominable! Things have come to that
point where an American girl with money is not supposed to care for
an Englishman, no matter how nice he may be, if he has a title, or the
prospect of one. Every one laughs and thinks it's the title she wants;
they'd think it of me, and they'd say it. They would say Beatrice
Lansell took her half-million and bought her a lord. And, after a while,
perhaps Sir Redmond himself would half-believe it--and I couldn't bear
that! And so I am--unbearably flippant and--I should think he'd hate
me!"

"So you reversed the natural order of things, and refused him on account
of the title?" Dick grinned surreptitiously.

"No, I didn't--not quite. I'm afraid he's dreadfully angry with me,
though. I do wish he wasn't such a dear."

"You're the same old Trix. You've got to be held back from the trail
you're supposed to take, or you won't travel it; you'll bolt the other
way. If everybody got together and fought the notion, you would probably
elope with milord inside a week. Mother means well, but she isn't on to
her job a little bit. She ought to turn up her nose at the title."

"No fear of that! I've had it before my eyes till I hate the very
thought of it. I--I wish I could hate him." Beatrice sighed deeply, and
gave her hand to Dorman, who scurried up to her.

"I'll have the horses saddled right away," said Dick, and left them.

"Where you going, Be'trice? You going to ride a horse? I want to,
awf'lly."

"I'm afraid you can't, honey; it's too far." Beatrice pushed a yellow
curl away from his eyes with tender, womanly solicitude.

"Auntie won't care, 'cause I'm a bother. Auntie says she's goin' to send
for Parks. I don't want Parks; 'sides, Parks is sick. I want a pony, and
some ledder towsers wis fringes down 'em, and I want some little wheels
on my feet. Mr. Cam'ron says I do need some little wheels, Be'trice."

"Did he, honey?"

"Yes, he did. I like Mr. Cam'ron, Be'trice; he let me ride his big, high
pony. He's a berry good pony. He shaked hands wis me, Be'trice--he truly
did."

"Did he, hon?" Beatrice, I am sorry to say, was not listening. She
was wondering if Sir Redmond was really angry with her--too angry, for
instance, to go over where the cattle were. He really ought to go, for
he had come West in the interest of the Eastern stockholders in the
Northern Pool, to investigate the actual details of the work. He surely
would not miss this opportunity, Beatrice thought. And she hoped he was
not angry.

"Yes, he truly did. Mr. Cam'ron interduced us, Be'trice. He said,
'Redcloud, dis is Master Dorman Hayes. Shake hands wis my frien'
Dorman.' And he put up his front hand, Be'trice, and nod his head, and
I shaked his hand. I dess love that big, high pony, Be'trice. Can I buy
him, Be'trice?"

"Maybe, kiddie."

"Can I buy him wis my six shiny pennies, Be'trice?"

"Maybe."

"Mr. Cam'ron lives right over that hill, Be'trice. He told me."

"Did he, hon?"

"Yes, he did. He 'vited me over, Be'trice. He's my friend, and I've got
to buy my big, high pony. I'll let you shake hands wis him, Be'trice.
I'll interduce him to you. And I'll let you ride on his back, Be'trice.
Do you want to ride on his back?"

"Yes, honey."

Before Beatrice had time to commit herself they reached the house, and
she let go Dorman's hand and hurried away to get into her riding-habit.

Dorman straightway went to find his six precious, shiny pennies, which
Beatrice had painstakingly scoured with silver polish one day to please
the little tyrant, and which increased their value many times--so many
times, in fact, that he hid them every night in fear of burglars. Since
he concealed them each time in a different place, he was obliged to
ransack his auntie's room every morning, to the great disturbance of
Martha, the maid, who was an order-loving person.

Martha appeared just when he had triumphantly pounced upon his treasure
rolled up in the strings of his aunt's chiffon opera-bonnet.

"Mercy upon us, Master Dorman! Whatever have you been doing?"

"I want my shiny pennies," said the young gentleman, composedly
unwinding the roll, "to buy my big, high pony."

"Naughty, naughty boy, to muss my lady's fine bonnet like that! Look at
things scattered over the floor, and my lady's fine handkerchiefs and
gloves--" Martha stopped and meditated whether she might dare to shake
him.

Dorman was laboriously counting his wealth, with much wrinkling of
stubby nose and lifting of eyebrows. Having satisfied himself that they
were really all there, he deigned to look around, with a fine masculine
disdain of woman's finery.

"Oh, dose old things!" he sniffed. "I always fordet where I put my shiny
pennies. Robbers might find them if I put them easy places. I'm going to
buy my big, high pony, and you can't shake his hand a bit, Martha."

"Well, I'm sure I don't want to!" Martha snapped back at him, and went
down on all fours to gather up the things he had thrown down. "Whatever
Parks was thinking of, to go and get fever, when she was the only one
that could manage you, I don't know! And me picking up after you till
I'm fair sick!"

"I'm glad you is sick," he retorted unfeelingly, and backed to the door.
"I hopes you get sicker so your stummit makes you hurt. You can't ride
on my big, high pony."

"Get along with you and your high pony!" cried the exasperated Martha,
threatening with a hairbrush. Dorman, his six shiny pennies held fast in
his damp little fist, fled down the stairs and out into the sunlight.

Dick and Beatrice were just ready to ride away from the porch. "I want
to go wis you, Uncle Dick." Dorman had followed the lead of Beatrice,
his divinity; he refused to say Richard, though grandmama did object to
nicknames.

"Up you go, son. You'll be a cow-puncher yourself one of these days.
I'll not let him fall, and this horse is gentle." This last to satisfy
Dorman's aunt, who wavered between anxiety and relief.

"You may ride to the gate, Dorman, and then you'll have to hop down
and run back to your auntie and grandma. We're going too far for you
to-day." Dick gave him the reins to hold, and let the horse walk to
prolong the joy of it.

Dorman held to the horn with one hand, to the reins with the other, and
let his small body swing forward and back with the motion of the horse,
in exaggerated imitation of his friend, Mr. Cameron. At the gate he
allowed himself to be set down without protest, smiled importantly
through the bars, and thrust his arm through as far as it would reach,
that he might wave good-by. And his divinity smiled back at him, and
threw him a kiss, which pleased him mightily.

"You must have hurt milord's feelings pretty bad," Dick remarked. "I
couldn't get him to come. He had to write a letter first, he said."

"I wish, Dick," Beatrice answered, a bit petulantly, "you would stop
calling him milord."

"Milord's a good name," Dick contended. "It's bad enough to 'Sir' him to
his face; I can't do it behind his back, Trix. We're not used to fancy
titles out here, and they don't fit the country, anyhow. I'm like
you--I'd think a lot more of him if he was just a plain, everyday
American, so I could get acquainted enough to call him 'Red Hayes.' I'd
like him a whole lot better."

Beatrice was in no mood for an argument--on that subject, at least.
She let Rex out and raced over the prairie at a gait which would have
greatly shocked her mother, who could not understand why Beatrice was
not content to drive sedately about in the carriage with the rest of
them.

When they reached the round-up Keith Cameron left the bunch and rode out
to meet them, and Dick promptly shuffled responsibility for his sister's
entertainment to the square shoulders of his neighbor.

"Trix wants to wise up on the cattle business, Keith. I'll just turn her
over to you for a-while, and let you answer her questions; I can't, half
the time. I want to look through the bunch a little."

Keith's face spoke gratitude, and spoke it plainly. The face of Beatrice
was frankly inattentive. She was watching the restless, moving mass of
red backs and glistening horns, with horsemen weaving in and out among
them in what looked to her a perfectly aimless fashion--until one would
wheel and dart out into the open, always with a fleeing animal lumbering
before. Other horsemen would meet him and take up the chase, and he
would turn and ride leisurely back into the haze and confusion. It was
like a kaleidoscope, for the scene shifted constantly and was never
quite the same.

Keith, secure in her absorption, slid sidewise in the saddle and studied
her face, knowing all the while that he was simply storing up trouble
for himself. But it is not given a man to flee human nature, and the
fellow who could sit calmly beside Beatrice and not stare at her if
the opportunity offered must certainly have the blood of a fish in his
veins. I will tell you why.

Beatrice was tall, and she was slim, and round, and tempting, with the
most tantalizing curves ever built to torment a man. Her hair was soft
and brown, and it waved up from the nape of her neck without those
short, straggling locks and thin growth at the edge which mar so many
feminine heads; and the sharp contrast of shimmery brown against ivory
white was simply irresistible. Had her face been less full of charm,
Keith might have been content to gaze and gaze at that lovely hair line.
As it was, his eyes wandered to her brows, also distinctly marked, as
though outlined first with a pencil in the fingers of an artist who
understood. And there were her lashes, dark and long, and curled up at
the ends; and her cheek, with its changing, come-and-go coloring; her
mouth, with its upper lip creased deeply in the middle--so deeply that a
bit more would have been a defect--and with an odd little dimple at one
corner; luckily, it was on the side toward him, so that he might look
at it all he wanted to for once; for it was always there, only growing
deeper and wickeder when she spoke or laughed. He could not see her
eyes, for they were turned away, but he knew quite well the color; he
had settled that point when he looked up from coiling his rope the day
she came. They were big, baffling, blue-brown eyes, the like of which he
had never seen before in his life--and he had thought he had seen
every color and every shade under the sun. Thinking of them and their
wonderful deeps and shadows, he got hungry for a sight of them. And
suddenly she turned to ask a question, and found him staring at her, and
surprised a look in his eyes he did not know was there.

For ten pulse-beats they stared, and the cheeks of Beatrice grew red as
healthy young blood could paint them; Keith's were the same, only that
his blood showed darkly through the tan. What question had been on her
tongue she forgot to ask. Indeed, for the time, I think she forgot
the whole English language, and every other--but the strange, wordless
language of Keith's clear eyes.

And then it was gone, and Keith was looking away, and chewing a
corner of his lip till it hurt. His horse backed restlessly from the
tight-gripped rein, and Keith was guilty of kicking him with his spur,
which did not better matters. Redcloud snorted and shook his outraged
head, and Keith came to himself and eased the rein, and spoke
remorseful, soothing words that somehow clung long in the memory of
Beatrice.

Just after that Dick galloped up, his elbows flapping like the wings of
a frightened hen.

"Well, I suppose you could run a cow outfit all by yourself, with the
knowledge you've got from Keith," he greeted, and two people became even
more embarrassed than before. If Dick noticed anything, he must have
been a wise young man, for he gave no sign.

But Beatrice had not queened it in her set, three seasons, for nothing,
even if she was capable of being confused by a sweet, new language in a
man's eyes. She answered Dick quietly.

"I've been so busy watching it all that I haven't had time to ask many
questions, as Mr. Cameron can testify. It's like a game, and it's very
fascinating--and dusty. I wonder if I might ride in among them, Dick?"

"Better not, sis. It isn't as much fun as it looks, and you can see more
out here. There comes milord; he must have changed his mind about the
letter."

Beatrice did not look around. To see her, you would swear she had set
herself the task of making an accurate count of noses in that seething
mass of raw beef below her. After a minute she ventured to glance
furtively at Keith, and, finding his eyes turned her way, blushed again
and called herself an idiot. After that, she straightened in the saddle,
and became the self-poised Miss Lansell, of New York.

Keith rode away to the far side of the herd, out of temptation; queer
a man never runs from a woman until it is too late to be a particle of
use. Keith simply changed his point of view, and watched his Heart's
Desire from afar.



CHAPTER 5. The Search for Dorman.


"Oh, I say," began Sir Redmond, an hour after, when he happened to stand
close to Beatrice for a few minutes, "where is Dorman? I fancied you
brought him along."

"We didn't," Beatrice told him. "He only rode as far as the gate, where
Dick left him, and started him back to the house."

"Mary told me he came along. She and your mother were congratulating
each other upon a quiet half-day, with you and Dorman off the place
together. I'll wager their felicitations fell rather flat."

Beatrice laughed. "Very likely. I know they were mourning because their
lace-making had been neglected lately. What with that trip to Lost
Canyon to-morrow, and to the mountains Friday, I'm afraid the lace will
continue to suffer. What do you think of a round-up, Sir Redmond?"

"It's deuced nasty," said he. "Such a lot of dust and noise. I fancy the
workmen don't find it pleasant."

"Yes, they do; they like it," she declared. "Dick says a cowboy is never
satisfied off the range. And you mustn't call them workmen, Sir Redmond.
They'd resent it, if they knew. They're cowboys, and proud of it. They
seem rather a pleasant lot of fellows, on the whole. I have been talking
to one or two."

"Well, we're all through here," Dick announced, riding up. "I'm going
to ride around by Keith's place, to see a horse I'm thinking of buying.
Want to go along, Trix? Or are you tired?"

"I'm never tired," averred his sister, readjusting a hat-pin and
gathering up her reins. "I always want to go everywhere that you'll take
me, Dick. Consider that point settled for the summer. Are you coming,
Sir Redmond?"

"I think not, thank you," he said, not quite risen above his rebuff of
the morning. "I told Mary I would be back for lunch."

"I was wiser; I refused even to venture an opinion as to when I should
be back. Well, 'so-long'!"

"You're learning the lingo pretty fast, Trix," Dick chuckled, when they
were well away from Sir Redmond. "Milord almost fell out of the saddle
when you fired that at him. Where did you pick it up?"

"I've heard you say it a dozen times since I came. And I don't care if
he is shocked--I wanted him to be. He needn't be such a perfect bear;
and I know mama and Miss Hayes don't expect him to lunch, without us. He
just did it to be spiteful."

"Jerusalem, Trix! A little while ago you said he was a dear! You
shouldn't snub him, if you want him to be nice to you."

"I don't want him to be nice," flared Beatrice. "I don't care how
he acts. Only, I must say, ill humor doesn't become him. Not that it
matters, however."

"Well, I guess we can get along without him, if he won't honor us with
his company. Here comes Keith. Brace up, sis, and be pleasant."

Beatrice glanced casually at the galloping figure of Dick's neighbor,
and frowned.

"You mustn't flirt with Keith," Dick admonished gravely. "He's a good
fellow, and as square a man as I know; but you ought to know he's got
the reputation of being a hard man to know. Lots of girls have tried
to flirt and make a fool of him, and wound up with their feelings hurt
worse than his were."

"Is that a dare?" Beatrice threw up her chin with a motion Dick knew of
old.

"Not on your life! You better leave him alone; one or the other of you
would get the worst of it, and I'd hate to see either of you feeling
bad. As I said before, he's a bad man to fool with."

"I don't consider him particularly dangerous--or interesting. He's not
half as nice as Sir Redmond." Beatrice spoke as though she meant what
she said, and Dick had no chance to argue the point, for Keith pulled up
beside them at that moment.

Beatrice seemed inclined to silence, and paid more attention to the
landscape than she did to the conversation, which was mostly about range
conditions, and the scanty water supply, and the drought.

She was politely interested in Keith's ranch, and if she clung
persistently to her society manner, why, her society manner was very
pleasing, if somewhat unsatisfying to a fellow fairly drunk with her
winsomeness. Keith showed her where she might look straight up the
coulee to her brother's ranch, two miles away, and when she wished
she might see what they were doing up there, he went in and got his
field-glass. She thanked him prettily, and impersonally, and focused the
glass upon Dick's house--which gave Keith another chance to look at her
without being caught in the act.

"How plain everything is! I can see mama, out on the porch, and Miss
Hayes." She could also see Sir Redmond, who had just ridden up, and was
talking to the ladies, but she did not think it necessary to mention
him, for some reason; she kept her eyes to the glass, however, and
appeared much absorbed. Dick rolled himself a cigarette and watched the
two, and there was a twinkle in his eyes.

"I wonder--Dick, I do think--I'm afraid--" Beatrice hadn't her society
manner now; she was her unaffected, girlish self; and she was growing
excited.

"What's the matter?" Dick got up, and came and stood at her elbow.

"They're acting queerly. The maids are running about, and the cook is
out, waving a large spoon, and mama has her arm around Miss Hayes, and
Sir Redmond."

"Let's see." Dick took the glass and raised it to his eyes for a minute.
"That's right," he said. "They're making medicine over something. See
what you make of it, Keith."

Keith took the glass and looked through it. It was like a moving
picture; one could see, but one wanted the interpretation of sound.

"We'd better ride over," he said quietly. "Don't worry, Miss Lansell;
it probably isn't anything serious. We can take the short cut up the
coulee, and find out." He put the glass into its leathern case and
started to the gate, where the horses were standing. He did not tell
Beatrice that Miss Hayes had just been carried into the house in
a faint, or that her mother was behaving in an undignified fashion
strongly suggesting hysterics. But Dick knew, from the look on his face,
that it was serious. He hurried before them with long strides, leaving
Beatrice, for the second time that morning, to the care of his neighbor.

So it was Keith who held his hand down for the delicious pressure of
her foot, and arranged her habit with painstaking care, considering the
hurry they were in. Dick was in the saddle, and gone, before Keith had
finished, and Keith was not a slow young man, as a rule. They ran the
two miles without a break, except twice, where there were gates to
close. Dick, speeding a furlong before, had obligingly left them open;
and a stockman is hard pressed indeed--or very drunk--when he fails to
close his gates behind him. It is an unwritten law which becomes second
nature.

Almost within sound of the place, Dick raced back and met them, and his
face was white.

"It's Dorman!" he cried. "He's lost. They haven't seen him since we
left. You know, Trix, he was standing at the gate."

Beatrice went white as Dick; whiter, for she was untanned. An
overwhelming sense of blame squeezed her heart tight. Keith, seeing her
shoulders droop limply, reined close, to catch her in his arms if there
was the slightest excuse. However, Beatrice was a healthy young woman,
with splendid command of her nerves, and she had no intention of
fainting. The sickening weakness passed in a moment.

"It's my fault," she said, speaking rapidly, her eyes seeking Dick's for
comfort. "I said 'yes' to everything he asked me, because I was thinking
of something else, and not paying attention. He was going to buy your
horse, Mr. Cameron, and now he's lost!"

This, though effective, was not particularly illuminating. Dick wanted
details, and he got them--for Beatrice, having remorse to stir the dregs
of memory, repeated nearly everything Dorman had said, even telling
how the big, high pony put up his front hand, and he shaked it, and how
Dorman truly needed some little wheels on his feet.

"Poor little devil," Keith muttered, with wet eyes.

"He--he said you lived over there," Beatrice finished, pointing, as
Dorman had pointed--which was not toward the "Cross" ranch at all, but
straight toward the river.

Keith wheeled Redcloud; there was no need to hear more. He took the hill
at a pace which would have killed any horse but one bred to race over
this rough country. Near the top, the forced breathing of another horse
at his heels made him look behind. It was Beatrice following, her eyes
like black stars. I do not know if Keith was astonished, but I do know
that he was pleased.

"Where's Dick?" was all he said then.

"Dick's going to meet the men--the cowboys. Sir Redmond went after them,
when they found Dorman wasn't anywhere about the place."

Keith nodded understandingly, and slowed to let her come alongside.

"It's no use riding in bunches," he remarked, after a little. "On circle
we always go in pairs. We'll find him, all right."

"We must," said Beatrice, simply, and shaded her eyes with her hand. For
they had reached the top, and the prairie land lay all about them and
below, lazily asleep in the sunshine.

Keith halted and reached for his glass. "It's lucky I brought it along,"
he said. "I wasn't thinking, at the time; I just slung it over my
shoulder from habit."

"It's a good habit, I think," she answered, trying to smile; but her
lips would only quiver, for the thought of her blame tortured her. "Can
you see--anything?" she ventured wistfully.

Keith shook his head, and continued his search. "There are so many
little washouts and coulees, down there, you know. That's the trouble
with a glass--it looks only on a level. But we'll find him. Don't you
worry about that. He couldn't go far."

"There isn't any real danger, is there?"

"Oh, no," Keith said. "Except--" He bit his lip angrily.

"Except what?" she demanded. "I'm not silly, Mr. Cameron--tell me."

Keith took the glass from his eyes, looked at her, and paid her the
compliment of deciding to tell her, just as if she were a man.

"Nothing, only--he might run across a snake," he said. "Rattlers."

Beatrice drew her breath hard, but she was plucky. Keith thought he
had never seen a pluckier girl, and the West can rightfully boast brave
women.

She touched Rex with the whip. "Come," she commanded. "We must not stand
here. It has been more than three hours."

Keith put away the glass, and shot ahead to guide her.

"We must have missed him, somewhere." The eyes of Beatrice were heavy
with the weariness born of anxiety and suspense. They stood at the very
edge of the steep bluff which rimmed the river. "You don't think he
could have--" Her eyes, shuddering down at the mocking, blue-gray
ripples, finished the thought.

"He couldn't have got this far," said Keith. "His legs would give out,
climbing up and down. We'll go back by a little different way, and
look."

"There's something moving, off there." Beatrice pointed with her whip.

"That's a coyote," Keith told her; and then, seeing the look on her
face: "They won't hurt any one. They're the rankest cowards on the
range."

"But the snakes--"

"Oh, well, he might wander around for a week, and not run across one. We
won't borrow trouble, anyway."

"No," she agreed languidly. The sun was hot, and she had not had
anything to eat since early breakfast, and the river mocked her parched
throat with its cool glimmer below. She looked down at it wistfully,
and Keith, watchful of every passing change in her face, led her back
to where a cold, little spring crept from beneath a rock; there, lifting
her down, he taught her how to drink from her hand.

For himself, he threw himself down, pushed back his hat, and drank
long and leisurely. A brown lock of hair, clinging softly together with
moisture, fell from his forehead and trailed in the clear water, and
Beatrice felt oddly tempted to push it back where it belonged. Standing
quietly watching his picturesque figure, she forgot, for the moment,
that a little boy was lost among these peaceful, sunbathed hills; she
remembered only the man at her feet, drinking long, satisfying drafts,
while the lock of hair floated in the spring.

"Now we'll go on." He stood up and pushed back the wet lock, which
trickled a tiny stream down his cheek, and settled his gray hat in
place.

Again that day he felt her foot in his palm, and the touch went over him
in thrills. She was tired, he knew; her foot pressed heavier than it had
before. He would have liked to take her in his arms and lift her
bodily into the saddle, but he hardly dared think of such a blissful
proceeding.

He set the pace slower, however, and avoided the steepest places, and he
halted often on the higher ground, to scan sharply the coulees. And so
they searched, these two, together, and grew to know each other better
than in a month of casual meetings. And the grass nodded, and the winds
laughed, and the stern hills looked on, quizzically silent. If they knew
aught of a small boy with a wealth of yellow curls and white collar,
they gave no sign, and the two rode on, always seeking hopefully.

A snake buzzed sharply on a gravelly slope, and Keith, sending Beatrice
back a safe distance, took down his rope and gave battle, beating the
sinister, gray-spotted coil with the loop until it straightened and
was still. He dismounted then, and pinched off the rattles--nine,
there were, and a "button"--and gave them to Beatrice, who handled them
gingerly, and begged Keith to carry them for her. He slipped them into
his pocket, and they went on, saying little.

Back near the ranch they met Dick and Sir Redmond. They exchanged sharp
looks, and Dick shook his head.

"We haven't found him--yet. The boys are riding circle around the ranch;
they're bound to find him, some of them, if we don't."

"You had better go home," Sir Redmond told her, with a note of authority
in his voice which set Keith's teeth on edge. "You look done to death;
this is men's work."

Beatrice bit her lip, and barely glanced at him. "I'll go--when Dorman
is found. What shall we do now, Dick?"

"Go down to the house and get some hot coffee, you two. We all snatched
a bite to eat, and you need it. After that, you can look along the south
side of the coulee, if you like."

Beatrice obediently turned Rex toward home, and Keith followed. The
ranch seemed very still and lonesome. Some chickens were rolling in the
dust by the gate, and scattered, cackling indignantly, when they rode
up. Off to the left a colt whinnied wistfully in a corral. Beatrice,
riding listlessly to the house, stopped her horse with a jerk.

"I heard--where is he?"

Keith stopped Redcloud, and listened. Came a thumping noise, and a wail,
not loud, but unmistakable.

"Aunt-ie!"

Beatrice was on the ground as soon as Keith, and together they ran to
the place--the bunk-house. The thumping continued vigorously; evidently
a small boy was kicking, with all his might, upon a closed door; it was
not a new sound to the ears of Beatrice, since the arrival in America
of her young nephew. Keith flung the door wide open, upsetting the small
boy, who howled.

Beatrice swooped down upon him and gathered him so close she came near
choking him. "You darling. Oh, Dorman!"

Dorman squirmed away from her. "I los' one shiny penny, Be'trice--and I
couldn't open de door. Help me find my shiny penny."

Keith picked him up and set him upon one square shoulder. "We'll take
you up to your auntie, first thing, young man."

"I want my one shiny penny. I want it!" Dorman showed symptoms of
howling again.

"We'll come back and find it. Your auntie wants you now, and grandmama."

Beatrice, following after, was treated to a rather unusual spectacle;
that of a tall, sun-browned fellow, with fringed chaps and brightly
gleaming spurs, racing down the path; upon his shoulder, the wriggling
form of an extremely disreputable small boy, with cobwebs in his curls,
and his once white collar a dirty rag streaming out behind.



CHAPTER 6. Mrs. Lansell's Lecture.


When the excitement had somewhat abated, and Miss Hayes was convinced
that her idol was really there, safe, and with his usual healthy
appetite, and when a messenger had been started out to recall the
searchers, Dorman was placed upon a chair before a select and attentive
audience, and invited to explain, which he did.

He had decided to borrow some little wheels from the bunkhouse, so he
could ride his big, high pony home. Mr. Cameron had little wheels on
his feet, and so did Uncle Dick, and all the mens. (The audience gravely
nodded assent.) Well, and the knob wasn't too high when he went in, but
when he tried to open the door to go out, it was away up there! (Dorman
measured with his arm.) And he fell down, and all his shiny pennies
rolled and rolled. And he looked and looked where they rolled, and when
he counted, one was gone. So he looked and looked for the one shiny
penny till he was tired to death. And so he climbed up high, into a
funny bed on a shelf, and rested. And when he was rested he couldn't
open the door, and he kicked and kicked, and then Be'trice came, and Mr.
Cam'ron.

"And you said you'd help me find my one penny," he reminded Keith,
blinking solemnly at him from the chair. "And I want to shake hands wis
your big, high pony. I'm going to buy him wis my six pennies. Be'trice
said I could."

Beatrice blushed, and Keith forgot where he was, for a minute, looking
at her.

"Come and find my one shiny penny," Dorman commanded, climbing down.
"And I want Be'trice to come. Be'trice can always find things."

"Beatrice cannot go," said his grandmother, who didn't much like the
way Keith hovered near Beatrice, nor the look in his eyes. "Beatrice is
tired."

"I want Be'trice!" Dorman set up his everyday howl, which started the
dogs barking outside. His guardian angel attempted to soothe him, but he
would have none of her; he only howled the louder, and kicked.

"There, there, honey, I'll go. Where's your hat?"

"Beatrice, you had better stay in the house; you have done quite enough
for one day." The tone of the mother suggested things.

"It is imperative," said Beatrice, "for the peace and the well-being of
this household, that Dorman find his penny without delay." When
Beatrice adopted that lofty tone her mother was in the habit of saying
nothing--and biding her time. Beatrice was so apt, if mere loftiness did
not carry the day, to go a step further and flatly refuse to obey. Mrs.
Lansell preferred to yield, rather than be openly defied.

So the three went off to find the shiny penny--and in exactly
thirty-five minutes they found it. I will not say that they could not
have found it sooner, but, at any rate, they didn't, and they reached
the house about two minutes behind Dick and Sir Redmond, which did not
improve Sir Redmond's temper to speak of.

After that, Keith did not need much urging from Dick to spend the rest
of the afternoon at the "Pool" ranch. When he wanted to, Keith could be
very nice indeed to people; he went a long way, that afternoon, toward
making a friend of Miss Hayes; but Mrs. Lansell, who was one of those
women who adhere to the theory of First Impressions, in capitals,
continued to regard him as an incipient outlaw, who would, in time and
under favorable conditions, reveal his true character, and vindicate her
keen insight into human nature. There was one thing which Mrs. Lansell
never forgave Keith Cameron, and that was the ruin of her watch, which
refused to run while she was in Montana.

That night, when Beatrice was just snuggling down into the delicious
coolness of her pillow, she heard someone rap softly, but none the less
imperatively, on her door. She opened one eye stealthily, to see her
mother's pudgy form outlined in the feeble moonlight.

"Beatrice, are you asleep?"

Beatrice did not say yes, but she let her breath out carefully in a
slumbrous sigh. It certainly sounded as if she were asleep.

"Be-atrice!" The tone, though guarded, was insistent.

The head of Beatrice moved slightly, and settled back into its little
nest, for all the world like a dreaming, innocent baby.

If she had not been the mother of Beatrice, Mrs. Lansell would probably
have gone back to her room, and continued to bide her time; but the
mother of Beatrice had learned a few things about the ways of a wilful
girl. She went in, and closed the door carefully behind her. She did not
wish to keep the whole house awake. Then she went straight to the bed,
laid hand upon a white shoulder that gleamed in the moonlight, and gave
a shake.

"Beatrice, I want you to answer me when I speak."

"M-m--did you--m-m--speak, mama?" Beatrice opened her eyes and closed
them, opened them again for a minute longer, yawned daintily, and by
these signs and tokens wandered back from dreamland obediently.

Her mother sat down upon the edge of the bed, and the bed creaked. Also,
Beatrice groaned inwardly; the time of reckoning was verily drawing
near. She promptly closed her eyes again, and gave a sleepy sigh.

"Beatrice, did you refuse Sir Redmond again?"

"M-m--were you speaking--mama?"

Mrs. Lansell, endeavoring to keep her temper, repeated the question.

Beatrice began to feel that she was an abused girl. She lifted herself
to her elbow, and thumped the pillow spitefully.

"Again? Dear me, mama! I've never refused him once!"

"You haven't accepted him once, either," her mother retorted; and
Beatrice lay down again.

"I do wish, Beatrice, you would look at the matter in a sensible light
I'm sure I never would ask you to marry a man you could not care for.
But Sir Redmond is young, and good-looking, and has birth and breeding,
and money--no one can accuse him of being a fortune-hunter, I'm sure.
I was asking Richard to-day, and he says Sir Redmond holds a large
interest in the Northern Pool, and other English investors pay him a
salary, besides, to look after their interests. I wouldn't be surprised
if the holdings of both of you would be sufficient to control the
business."

Beatrice, not caring anything for business anyway, said nothing.

"Any one can see the man's crazy for you. His sister says he never cared
for a woman before in his life."

"Of course," put in Beatrice sarcastically. "His sister followed him
down to South Africa, and all around, and is in a position to know."

"Any one can see he isn't a lady's man."

"No--" Beatrice smiled reminiscently; "he certainly isn't."

"And so he's in deadly earnest. And I'm positive he will make you a
model husband."

"Only think of having to live, all one's life, with a model husband!"
shuddered Beatrice hypocritically.

"Be-atrice! And then, it's something to marry a title."

"That's the worst of it," remarked Beatrice.

"Any other girl in America would jump at the chance. I do believe,
Beatrice, you are hanging back just to be aggravating. And there's
another thing, Beatrice. I don't approve of the way this Keith Cameron
hangs around you."

"He doesn't!" denied Beatrice, in an altogether different tone. "Why,
mama!"

"I don't approve of flirting, Beatrice, and you know it. The way
you gadded around over the hills with him--a perfect stranger--was
disgraceful; perfectly disgraceful. You don't know any thing about the
fellow, whether he's a fit companion or not--a wild, uncouth cowboy--"

"He graduated from Yale, a year after Dick. And he was halfback, too."

"That doesn't signify," said her mother, "a particle. I know Miss Hayes
was dreadfully shocked to see you come riding up with him, and Sir
Redmond forced to go with Richard, or ride alone."

"Dick is good company," said Beatrice. "And it was his own fault.
I asked him to go with us, when Dick and I left the cattle, and he
wouldn't. Dick will tell you the same. And after that I did not see
him until just before we--I came home, Really, mama, I can't have a
leading-string on Sir Redmond. If he refuses to come with me, I can
hardly insist."

"Well, you must have done something. You said something, or did
something, to make him very angry. He has not been himself all day. What
did you say?"

"Dear me, mama, I am not responsible for all Sir Redmond's ill-humor."

"I did not ask you that, Beatrice."

Beatrice thumped her pillow again. "I don't remember anything very
dreadful, mama. I--I think he has indigestion."

"Be-atrice! I do wish you would try to conquer that habit of flippancy.
It is not ladylike. And I warn you, Sir Redmond is not the man to dangle
after you forever. He will lose patience, and go back to England without
you--and serve you right! I am only talking for your own good, Beatrice.
I am not at all sure that you want him to leave you alone."

Beatrice was not at all sure, either. She lay still, and wished her
mother would stop talking for her good. Talking for her good had meant,
as far back as Beatrice could remember, saying disagreeable things in a
disagreeable manner.

"And remember, Beatrice, I want this flirting stopped."

"Flirting, mama?" To hear the girl, you would think she had never heard
the word before.

"That's what I said, Beatrice. I shall speak to Richard in the morning
about this fellow Cameron. He must put a stop to his being here
two-thirds of the time. It is unendurable."

"He and Dick are chums, mama, and have been for years. And to-morrow we
are going to Lost Canyon, you know, and Mr. Cameron is to go along. And
there are several other trips, mama, to which he is already invited.
Dick cannot recall those invitations."

"Well, it must end there. Richard must do something. I cannot see
what he finds about the fellow to like--or you, either, Beatrice. Just
because he rides like a--a wild Indian, and has a certain daredevil
way--"

"I never said I liked him, mama," Beatrice protested, somewhat hastily.
"I--of course, I try to treat him well--"

"I should say you did!" exploded her mother angrily. "You would be
much better employed in trying to treat Sir Redmond half as well. It is
positively disgraceful, the way you behave toward him--as fine a man as
I ever met in my life. I warn you, Beatrice, you must have more regard
for propriety, or I shall take you back to New York at once. I certainly
shall."

With that threat, which she shrewdly guessed would go far toward
bringing this wayward girl to time, Mrs. Lansell got up off the bed,
which creaked its relief, and groped her way to her own room.

The pillow of Beatrice received considerable thumping during the next
hour--a great deal more, in fact, than it needed. Two thoughts troubled
her more than she liked. What if her mother was right, and Sir Redmond
lost patience with her and went home? That possibility was unpleasant,
to say the least. Again, would he give her up altogether if she showed
Dick she was not afraid of Keith Cameron, for all his good looks, and at
the same time taught that young man a much-needed lesson? The way he had
stared at her was nothing less than a challenge and Beatrice was sorely
tempted.



CHAPTER 7. Beatrice's Wild Ride.


"Well, are we all ready?" Dick gathered up his reins, and took critical
inventory of the load. His mother peered under the front seat to be
doubly sure that there were at least four umbrellas and her waterproof
raglan in the rig; Mrs. Lansell did not propose to be caught unawares in
a storm another time. Miss Hayes straightened Dorman's cap, and told
him to sit down, dear, and then called upon Sir Redmond to enforce the
command. Sir Redmond repeated her command, minus the dear, and then rode
on ahead to overtake Beatrice and Keith, who had started. Dick climbed
up over the front wheel, released the brake, chirped at the horses, and
they were off for Lost Canyon.

Beatrice was behaving beautifully, and her mother only hoped to heaven
it would last the day out; perhaps Sir Redmond would be able to extract
some sort of a promise from her in that mood, Mrs. Lansell reflected,
as she watched Beatrice chatting to her two cavaliers, with the most
decorous impartiality. Sir Redmond seemed in high spirits, which argued
well; Mrs. Lansell gave herself up to the pleasure of the drive with
a heart free from anxiety. Not only was Beatrice at her best; Dorman's
mood was nothing short of angelic, and as the weather was simply
perfect, the day surely promised well.

For a mile Keith had showed signs of a mind not at ease, and at last he
made bold to speak.

"I thought Rex was to be your saddle-horse?" he said abruptly to
Beatrice.

"He was; but when Dick brought Goldie home, last night, I fell in love
with him on sight, and just teased Dick till he told me I might have him
to ride."

"I thought Dick had some sense," Keith said gloomily.

"He has. He knew there would be no peace till he surrendered."

"I didn't know you were going to ride him, when I sold him to Dick. He's
not safe for a woman."

"Does he buck, Mr. Cameron? Dick said he was gentle." Beatrice had seen
a horse buck, one day, and had a wholesome fear of that form of equine
amusement.

"Oh, no. I never knew him to."

"Then I don't mind anything else. I'm accustomed to horses," said
Beatrice, and smiled welcome to Sir Redmond, who came up with them at
that moment.

"You want to ride him with a light rein," Keith cautioned, clinging to
the subject. "He's tenderbitted, and nervous. He won't stand for any
jerking, you see."

"I never jerk, Mr. Cameron." Keith discovered that big, baffling,
blue-brown eyes can, if they wish, rival liquid air for coldness. "I
rode horses before I came to Montana."

Of course, when a man gets frozen with a girl's eyes, and scorched
with a girl's sarcasm, the thing for him to do is to retreat until the
atmosphere becomes normal. Keith fell behind just as soon as he could
do so with some show of dignity, and for several miles tried to convince
himself that he would rather talk to Dick and "the old maid" than not.

"Don't you know," Sir Redmond remarked sympathetically, "some of these
Western fellows are inclined to be deuced officious and impertinent."

Sir Redmond got a taste of the freezing process that made him change the
subject abruptly.

The way was rough and lonely; the trail wound over sharp-nosed hills and
through deep, narrow coulees, with occasional, tantalizing glimpses of
the river and the open land beyond, that kept Beatrice in a fever of
enthusiasm. From riding blithely ahead, she took to lagging far behind
with her kodak, getting snap-shots of the choicest bits of scenery.

"Another cartridge, please, Sir Redmond," she said, and wound
industriously on the finished roll.

"It's a jolly good thing I brought my pockets full." Sir Redmond fished
one out for her. "Was that a dozen?"

"No; that had only six films. I want a larger one this time. It is a
perfect nuisance to stop and change. Be still, Goldie!"

"We're getting rather a long way behind--but I fancy the road is plain."

"We'll hurry and overtake them. I won't take any more pictures."

"Until you chance upon something you can't resist. I understand all
that, you know." Sir Redmond, while he teased, was pondering whether
this was an auspicious time and place to ask Beatrice to marry him. He
had tried so many times and places that seemed auspicious, that the man
was growing fearful. It is not pleasant to have a girl smile indulgently
upon you and deftly turn your avowals aside, so that they fall flat.

"I'm ready," she announced, blind to what his eyes were saying.

"Shall we trek?" Sir Redmond sighed a bit. He was not anxious to
overtake the others.

"We will. Only, out here people never 'trek,' Sir Redmond. They 'hit the
trail'."

"So they do. And the way these cowboys do it, one would think they were
couriers, by Jove! with the lives of a whole army at stake. So I fancy
we had better hit the trail, eh?"

"You're learning," Beatrice assured him, as they started on. "A year out
here, and you would be a real American, Sir Redmond."

Sir Redmond came near saying, "The Lord forbid!" but he thought better
of it. Beatrice was intensely loyal to her countrymen, unfortunately,
and would certainly resent such a remark; but, for all that, he thought
it.

For a mile or two she held to her resolve, and then, at the top of a
long hill overlooking the canyon where they were to eat their lunch, out
came her kodak again.

"This must be Lost Canyon, for Dick has stopped by those trees. I want
to get just one view from here. Steady, Goldie! Dear me, this horse does
detest standing still!"

"I fancy he is anxious to get down with the others. Let me hold him for
you. Whoa, there!" He put a hand upon the bridle, a familiarity Goldie
resented. He snorted and dodged backward, to the ruin of the picture
Beatrice was endeavoring to get.

"Now you've frightened him. Whoa, pet! It's of no use to try; he won't
stand."

"Let me have your camera. He's getting rather an ugly temper, I think."
Sir Redmond put out his hand again, and again Goldie dodged backward.

"I can do better alone, Sir Redmond." The cheeks of Beatrice were red.
She managed to hold the horse in until her kodak was put safely in its
case, but her temper, as well as Goldie's, was roughened. She hated
spoiling a film, which she was perfectly sure she had done.

Goldie felt the sting of her whip when she brought him back into the
road, and, from merely fretting, he took to plunging angrily. Then, when
Beatrice pulled him up sharply, he thrust out his nose, grabbed the bit
in his teeth, and bolted down the hill, past all control.

"Good God, hold him!" shouted Sir Redmond, putting his horse to a run.

The advice was good, and Beatrice heard it plainly enough, but she
neither answered nor looked back. How, she thought, resentfully, was one
to hold a yellow streak of rage, with legs like wire springs and a neck
of iron? Besides, she was angrily alive to the fact that Keith Cameron,
watching down below, was having his revenge. She wondered if he was
enjoying it.

He was not. Goldie, when he ran, ran blindly in a straight line, and
Keith knew it. He also knew that the Englishman couldn't keep within
gunshot of Goldie, with the mount he had, and half a mile away--Keith
shut his teeth hard together, and went out to meet her. Redcloud lay
along the ground in great leaps, but Keith, bending low over his neck,
urged him faster and faster, until the horse, his ears laid close
against his neck, did the best there was in him. From the tail of his
eye, Keith saw Sir Redmond's horse go down upon his knees, and get up
limping--and the sight filled him with ungenerous gladness; Sir Redmond
was out of the race. It was Keith and Redcloud--they two; and Keith
could smile over it.

He saw Beatrice's hat loosen and lift in front, flop uncertainly, and
then go sailing away into the sage-brush, and he noted where it fell,
that he might find it, later. Then he was close enough to see her face,
and wondered that there was so little fear written there. Beatrice was
plucky, and she rode well, her weight upon the bit; but her weight was
nothing to the clinched teeth of the horse; and, though she had known
it from the start, she was scarcely frightened. There was a good deal of
the daredevil in Beatrice; she trusted a great deal to blind luck.

Just there the land was level, and she hoped to check him on the slope
of the hill before them. She did not know it was moated like a castle,
with a washout ten feet deep and twice that in width, and that what
looked to her quite easy was utterly impossible.

Keith gained, every leap. In a moment he was close behind.

"Take your foot out of the stirrup," he commanded, harshly, and though
Beatrice wondered why, something in his voice made her obey.

Now Redcloud's nose was even with her elbow; the breath from his
wide-flaring nostrils rose hotly in her face. Another bound, and he had
forged ahead, neck and neck with Goldie, and it was Keith by her side,
keen-eyed and calm.

"Let go all hold," he said. Reaching suddenly, he caught her around the
waist and pulled her from the saddle, just as Redcloud, scenting danger,
plowed his front feet deeply into the loose soil and stopped dead still.

It was neatly done, and quickly; so quickly that before Beatrice had
more than gasped her surprise, Keith lowered her to the ground and slid
out of the saddle. Beatrice looked at him, and wondered at his face, and
at the way he was shaking. He leaned weakly against the horse and hid
his face on his arm, and trembled at what had come so close to the
girl--the girl, who stood there panting a little, with her wonderful,
waving hair cloaking her almost to her knees, and her blue-brown eyes
wide and bright, and full of a deep amazement. She forgot Goldie, and
did not even look to see what had become of him; she forgot nearly
everything, just then, in wonder at this tall, clean-built young fellow,
who never had seemed to care what happened, leaning there with his face
hidden, his hat far hack on his head and little drops standing thickly
upon his forehead. She waited a moment, and when he did not move, her
thoughts drifted to other things.

"I wonder," she said abstractedly, "if I broke my kodak."

Keith lifted his head and looked at her. "Your kodak--good Lord!" He
looked hard into her eyes, and she returned the stare.

"Come here," he commanded, hoarsely, catching her arm. "Your kodak! Look
down there!" He led her to the brink, which was close enough to set him
shuddering anew. "Look! There's Goldie, damn him! It's a wonder he's
on his feet; I thought he'd be dead--and serve him right. And you--you
wonder if you broke your kodak!"

Beatrice drew back from him, and from the sight below, and if she were
frightened, she tried not to let him see. "Should I have fainted?"
She was proud of the steadiness of her voice. "Really, I am very much
obliged to you, Mr. Cameron, for saving me from an ugly fall. You did it
very neatly, I imagine, and I am grateful. Still, I really hope I didn't
break my kodak. Are you very disappointed because I can't faint away?
There doesn't seem to be any brook close by, you see--and I haven't my
er--lover's arms to fall into. Those are the regulation stage settings,
I believe, and--"

"Don't worry, Miss Lansell. I didn't expect you to faint, or to show any
human feelings whatever. I do pity your horse, though."

"You didn't a minute ago," she reminded him. "You indulged in a bit of
profanity, if I remember."

"For which I beg Goldie's pardon," he retorted, his eyes unsmiling.

"And mine, I hope."

"Certainly."

"I think it's rather absurd to stand here sparring, Mr. Cameron. You'll
begin to accuse me of ingratitude, and I'm as grateful as possible for
what you did. Sir Redmond's horse was too slow to keep up, or he would
have been at hand, no doubt."

"And could have supplied part of the stage setting. Too bad he was
behind." Keith turned and readjusted the cinch on his saddle, though it
was not loose enough to matter, and before he had finished Sir Redmond
rode up.

"Are you hurt, Beatrice?" His face was pale, and his eyes anxious.

"Not at all. Mr. Cameron kindly helped me from the saddle in time to
prevent an accident. I wish you'd thank him, Sir Redmond. I haven't the
words."

"You needn't trouble," said Keith hastily, getting into the saddle.
"I'll go down after Goldie. You can easily find the camp, I guess,
without a pilot." Then he galloped away and left them, and would
not look back; if he had done so, he would have seen Beatrice's eyes
following him remorsefully. Also, he would have seen Sir Redmond glare
after him jealously; for Sir Redmond was not in a position to know that
their tete-a-tete had not been a pleasant one, and no man likes to have
another fellow save the life of a woman he loves, while he himself is
limping painfully up from the rear.

However, the woman he loved was very gracious to him that day, and for
many days, and Keith Cameron held himself aloof during the rest of the
trip, which should have contented Sir Redmond.



CHAPTER 8. Dorman Plays Cupid.


Dorman toiled up the steps, his straw hat perilously near to slipping
down his back, his face like a large, red beet, and his hands vainly
trying to reach around a baking-powder can which the Chinaman cook had
given him.

He marched straight to where Beatrice was lying in the hammock. If she
had been older, or younger, or a plain young woman, one might say that
Beatrice was sulking in the hammock, for she had not spoken anything but
"yes" and "no" to her mother for an hour, and she had only spoken
those two words occasionally, when duty demanded it. For one thing,
Sir Redmond was absent, and had been for two weeks, and Beatrice was
beginning to miss him dreadfully. To beguile the time, she had ridden,
every day, long miles into the hills. Three times she had met Keith
Cameron, also riding alone in the hills, and she had endeavored to amuse
herself with him, after her own inimitable fashion, and with more or
less success. The trouble was, that sometimes Keith seemed to be amusing
himself with her, which was not pleasing to a girl like Beatrice. At any
rate, he proved himself quite able to play the game of Give and Take,
so that the conscience of Beatrice was at ease; no one could call her
pastime a slaughter of the innocents, surely, when the fellow stood his
ground like that. It was more a fencing-bout, and Beatrice enjoyed it
very much; she told herself that the reason she enjoyed talking with
Keith was because he was not always getting hurt, like Sir Redmond--or,
if he did, he kept his feelings to himself, and went boldly on with
the game. Item: Beatrice had reversed her decision that Keith was
vain, though she still felt tempted, at times, to resort to "making
faces"--when she was worsted, that was.

To return to this particular day of sulking; Rex had cast a shoe, and
lamed himself just enough to prevent her riding, and so Beatrice was
having a dull day of it in the house. Besides, her mother had just
finished talking to her for her good, which was enough to send an angel
into the sulks--and Beatrice lacked a good deal of being an angel.

Dorman laid his baking-powder can confidingly in his divinity's lap.
"Be'trice, I did get some grasshoppers; you said I couldn't. And
you wouldn't go fishin', 'cause you didn't like to take Uncle Dick's
make-m'lieve flies, so I got some really ones, Be'trice, that'll wiggle
dere own self."

"Oh, dear me! It's too hot, Dorman."

"'Tisn't, Be'trice It's dest as cool--and by de brook it's awf-lly
cold. Come, Be'trice!" He pulled at the smart little pink ruffles on her
skirt.

"I'm too sleepy, hon."

"You can sleep by de brook, Be'trice. I'll let you," he promised
generously, "'cept when I need anudder grasshopper; nen I'll wake you
up."

"Wait till to-morrow. I don't believe the fish are hungry to-day. Don't
tear my skirt to pieces, Dorman!"

Dorman began to whine. He had never found his divinity in so unlovely
a mood. "I want to go now! Dey are too hungry, Be'trice! Looey Sam is
goin' to fry my fishes for dinner, to s'prise auntie. Come, Be'trice!"

"Why don't you go with the child, Beatrice? You grow more selfish every
day." Mrs. Lansell could not endure selfishness--in others. "You know he
will not give us any peace until you do."

Dorman instantly proceeded to make good his grandmother's prophecy, and
wept so that one could hear him a mile.

"Oh, dear me! Be still, Dorman--your auntie has a headache. Well, get
your rod, if you know where it is--which I doubt." Beatrice flounced
out of the hammock and got her hat, one of those floppy white things,
fluffed with thin, white stuff, till they look like nothing so much as
a wisp of cloud, with ribbons to moor it to her head and keep it from
sailing off to join its brothers in the sky.

Down by the creek, where the willows nodded to their own reflections in
the still places, it was cool and sweet scented, and Beatrice forgot her
grievances, and was not sorry she had come.

(It was at about this time that a tall young fellow, two miles down the
coulee, put away his field glass and went off to saddle his horse.)

"Don't run ahead so, Dorman," Beatrice cautioned. To her had been given
the doubtful honor of carrying the baking-powder can of grasshoppers.
Even divinities must make themselves useful to man.

"Why, Be'trice?" Dorman swished his rod in unpleasant proximity to his
divinity's head.

"Because, honey"--Beatrice dodged--"you might step on a snake, a
rattlesnake, that would bite you."

"How would it bite, Be'trice?"

"With its teeth, of course; long, wicked teeth, with poison on them."

"I saw one when I was ridin' on a horse wis Uncle Dick. It kept windin'
up till it was round, and it growled wis its tail, Be'trice. And Uncle
Dick chased it, and nen it unwinded itself and creeped under a big rock.
It didn't bite once--and I didn't see any teeth to it."

"Carry your rod still, Dorman. Are you trying to knock my hat off my
head? Rattlesnakes have teeth, hon, whether you saw them or not. I saw a
great, long one that day we thought you were lost. Mr. Cameron killed it
with his rope. I'm sure it had teeth."

"Did it growl, Be'trice? Tell me how it went."

"Like this, hon." Beatrice parted her lips ever so little, and a
snake buzzed at Dorman's feet. He gave a yell of terror, and backed
ingloriously.

"You see, honey, if that had been really a snake, it would have bitten
you. Never mind, dear--it was only I."

Dorman was some time believing this astonishing statement. "How did you
growl by my feet, Be'trice? Show me again."

Beatrice, who had learned some things at school which were not included
in the curriculum, repeated the performance, while Dorman watched her
with eyes and mouth at their widest. Like some older members of his sex,
he was discovering new witcheries about his divinity every day.

"Well, Be'trice!" He gave a long gasp of ecstasy. "I don't see how can
you do it? Can't I do it, Be'trice?"

"I'm afraid not, honey--you'd have to learn. There was a queer French
girl at school, who could do the strangest things, Dorman--like fairy
tales, almost. And she taught me to throw my voice different places, and
mimic sounds, when we should have been at our lessons. Listen, hon.
This is how a little lamb cries, when he is lost.... And this is what a
hungry kittie says, when she is away up in a tree, and is afraid to come
down."

Dorman danced all around his divinity, and forgot about the fish--until
Beatrice found it in her heart to regret her rash revelation of hitherto
undreamed-of powers of entertainment.

"Not another sound, Dorman," she declared at length, with the firmness
of despair. "No, I will not be a lost lamb another once. No, nor a
hungry kittie, either--nor a snake, or anything. If you are not going to
fish, I shall go straight back to the house."

Dorman sighed heavily, and permitted his divinity to fasten a small
grasshopper to his hook.

"We'll go a bit farther, dear, down under those great trees. And you
must not speak a word, remember, or the fish will all run away."

When she had settled him in a likely place, and the rapt patience of the
born angler had folded him close, she disposed herself comfortably in
the thick grass, her back against a tree, and took up the shuttle of
fancy to weave a wonderful daydream, as beautiful, intangible as the
lacy, summer clouds over her head.

A man rode quietly over the grass and stopped two rods away, that he
might fill his hungry eyes with the delicious loveliness of his Heart's
Desire.

"Got a bite yet?"

Dorman turned and wrinkled his nose, by way of welcome, and shook his
head vaguely, as though he might tell of several unimportant nibbles, if
it were worth the effort.

Beatrice sat a bit straighter, and dexterously whisked some pink ruffles
down over two distracting ankles, and hoped Keith had not taken notice
of them. He had, though; trust a man for that!

Keith dismounted, dropped the reins to the ground, and came and laid
himself down in the grass beside his Heart's Desire, and Beatrice
noticed how tall he was, and slim and strong.

"How did you know we were here?" she wanted to know, with lifted
eyebrows.

Keith wondered if there was a welcome behind that sweet, indifferent
face. He never could be sure of anything in Beatrice's face, because it
never was alike twice, it seemed to him--and if it spoke welcome for
a second, the next there was only raillery, or something equally
unsatisfying.

"I saw you from the trail," he answered promptly, evidently not thinking
it wise to mention the fieldglass. And then: "Is Dick at home?" Not
that he wanted Dick--but a fellow, even when he is in the last stages of
love, feels need of an excuse sometimes.

"No--we women are alone to-day. There isn't a man on the place, except
Looey Sam, and he doesn't count."

Dorman squirmed around till he could look at the two, and his eyebrows
were tied in a knot. "I wish, Be'trice, you wouldn't talk, 'less you
whisper. De fishes won't bite a bit."

"All right, honey--we won't."

Dorman turned back to his fishing with a long breath of relief. His
divinity never broke a promise, if she could help it.

If Dorman Hayes had been Cupid himself, he could not have hit upon a
more impish arrangement than that. To place a girl like Beatrice beside
a fellow like Keith--a fellow who is tall, and browned, and extremely
good-looking, and who has hazel eyes with a laugh in them always--a
fellow, moreover, who is very much in love and very much in earnest
about it--and condemn him to silence, or to whispers!

Keith took advantage of the edict, and moved closer, so that he could
whisper in comfort--and be nearer his Heart's Desire. He lay with his
head propped upon his hand, and his elbow digging into the sod and
getting grass-stains on his shirt sleeve, for the day was too warm for a
coat. Beatrice, looking down at him, observed that his forearm, between
his glove and wrist-band, was as white and smooth as her own. It is
characteristic of a cowboy to have a face brown as an Indian, and hands
girlishly white and soft.

"I haven't had a glimpse of you for a week--not since I met you down by
the river. Where have you been?" he whispered.

"Here. Rex went lame, and Dick wouldn't let me ride any other horse,
since that day Goldie bolted--and so the hills have called in vain. I've
stayed at home and made quantities of Duchesse lace--I almost finished
a love of a center piece--and mama thinks I have reformed. But Rex is
better, and tomorrow I'm going somewhere."

"Better help me hunt some horses that have been running down Lost Canyon
way. I'm going to look for them to-morrow," Keith suggested, as calmly
as was compatible with his eagerness and his method of speech. I doubt
if any man can whisper things to a girl he loves, and do it calmly. I
know Keith's heart was pounding.

"I shall probably ride in the opposite direction," Beatrice told him
wickedly. She wondered if he thought she would run at his beck.

"I never saw you in this dress before," Keith murmured, his eyes
caressing.

"No? You may never again," she said. "I have so many things to wear out,
you know."

"I like it," he declared, as emphatically as he could, and whisper. "It
is just the color of your cheeks, after the wind has been kissing them a
while."

"Fancy a cowboy saying pretty things like that!"

Beatrice's cheeks did not wait for the wind to kiss them pink.

"Ya-as, only fawncy, ye knaw." His eyes were daringly mocking.

"For shame, Mr. Cameron! Sir Redmond would not mimic your speech."

"Good reason why; he couldn't, not if he tried a thousand years."

Beatrice knew this was the truth, so she fell back upon dignity.

"We will not discuss that subject, I think."

"I don't want to, anyway. I know another subject a million times more
interesting than Sir Redmond."

"Indeed!" Beatrice's eyebrows were at their highest. "And what is it,
then?"

"You!" Keith caught her hand; his eyes compelled her.

"I think," said Beatrice, drawing her hand away, "we will not discuss
that subject, either."

"Why?" Keith's eyes continued to woo.

"Because."

It occurred to Beatrice that an unsophisticated girl might easily think
Keith in earnest, with that look in his eyes.

Dorman, scowling at them over his shoulder, unconsciously did his
divinity a service. Beatrice pursed her lips in a way that drove Keith
nearly wild, and took up the weapon of silence.

"You said you women are alone--where is milord?" Keith began again,
after two minutes of lying there watching her.

"Sir Redmond is in Helena, on business. He's been making arrangements to
lease a lot of land."

"Ah-h!" Keith snapped a twig off a dead willow.

"We look for him home to-day, and Dick drove in to meet the train."

"So the Pool has gone to leasing land?" The laugh had gone out of
Keith's eyes; they were clear and keen.

"Yes--the plan is to lease the Pine Ridge country, and fence it. I
suppose you know where that is."

"I ought to," Keith said quietly. "It's funny Dick never mentioned it."

"It isn't Dick's idea," Beatrice told him. "It was Sir Redmond's. Dick
is rather angry, I think, and came near quarreling with Sir Redmond
about it. But English capital controls the Pool, you know, and Sir
Redmond controls the English capital, so he can adopt whatever policy
he chooses. The way he explained the thing to me, it seems a splendid
plan--don't you think so?"

"Yes." Keith's tone was not quite what he meant it to be; he did not
intend it to be ironical, as it was. "It's a snap for the Pool, all
right. It gives them a cinch on the best of the range, and all the
water. I didn't give milord credit for such business sagacity."

Beatrice leaned over that she might read his eyes, but Keith turned
his face away. In the shock of what he had just learned, he was, at the
moment, not the lover; he was the small cattleman who is being forced
out of the business by the octopus of combined capital. It was not less
bitter that the woman he loved was one of the tentacles reaching out to
crush him. And they could do it; they--the whole affair resolved itself
into a very simple scheme, to Keith. The gauntlet had been thrown
down--because of this girl beside him. It was not so much business
acumen as it was the antagonism of a rival that had prompted the move.
Keith squared his shoulders, and mentally took up the gauntlet. He might
lose in the range fight, but he would win the girl, if it were in the
power of love to do it.

"Why that tone? I hope it isn't--will it inconvenience you?"

"Oh, no. No, not at all. No--" Keith seemed to forget that a
superabundance of negatives breeds suspicion of sincerity.

"I'm afraid that means that it will. And I'm sure Sir Redmond never
meant--"

"I believe that kid has got a bite at last," Keith interrupted, getting
up. "Let me take hold, there, Dorman; you'll be in the creek yourself in
a second." He landed a four-inch fish, carefully rebaited the hook, cast
the line into a promising eddy, gave the rod over to Dorman, and went
back to Beatrice, who had been watching him with troubled eyes.

"Mr. Cameron, if I had known--" Beatrice was good-hearted, if she was
fond of playing with a man's heart.

"I hope you're not letting that business worry you, Miss Lansell. You
remind me of a painting I saw once in Boston. It was called June."

"But this is August, so I don't apply. Isn't there some way you--"

"Did you hear about that train-robbery up the line last week?" Keith
settled himself luxuriously upon his back, with his hands clasped under
his head, and his hat tipped down over his eyes--but not enough
to prevent him from watching his Heart's Desire. And in his eyes
laughter--and something sweeter--lurked. If Sir Redmond had wealth to
fight with, Keith's weapon was far and away more dangerous, for it was
the irresistible love of a masterful man--the love that sweeps obstacles
away like straws.

"I am not interested in train-robberies," Beatrice told him, her eyes
still clouded with trouble. "I want to talk about this lease."

"They got one fellow the next day, and another got rattled and gave
himself up; but the leader of the gang, one of Montana's pet outlaws,
is still ranging somewhere in the hills. You want to be careful about
riding off alone; you ought to let some one--me, for instance--go along
to look after you."

"Pshaw!" said his Heart's Desire, smiling reluctantly. "I'm not afraid.
Do you suppose, if Sir Redmond had known--"

"Those fellows made quite a haul--almost enough to lease the whole
country, if they wanted to. Something over fifty thousand dollars--and a
strong box full of sand, that the messenger was going to fool them with.
He did, all right; but they weren't so slow. They hustled around and got
the money, and he lost his sand into the bargain."

"Was that meant for a pun?" Beatrice blinked her big eyes at him. "If
you're quite through with the train-robbers, perhaps you will tell me
how--"

"I'm glad old Mother Nature didn't give every woman an odd dimple beside
the mouth," Keith observed, reaching for her hat, and running a ribbon
caressingly through his fingers.

"Why?" Beatrice smoothed the dimple complacently with her finger-tips.

"Why? Oh, it would get kind of monotonous, wouldn't it?"

"This from a man known chiefly for his pretty speeches!" Beatrice's
laugh had a faint tinge of chagrin.

"Wouldn't pretty speeches get monotonous, too?" Keith's eyes were
laughing at her.

"Yours wouldn't," she retorted, spitefully, and immediately bit her lip
and hoped he would not consider that a bid for more pretty speeches.

"Be'trice, dis hopper is awf-lly wilted!" came a sepulchral whisper from
Dorman.

Keith sighed, and went and baited the hook again. When he returned to
Beatrice, his mood had changed.

"I want you to promise--"

"I never make promises of any sort, Mr. Cameron." Beatrice had
fallen back upon her airy tone, which was her strongest weapon of
defense--unless one except her liquid-air smile.

"I wasn't thinking of asking much," Keith went on coolly. "I only wanted
to ask you not to worry about that leasing business."

"Are you worrying about it, Mr. Cameron?"

"That isn't the point. No, I can't say I expect to lose sleep over it. I
hope you will dismiss anything I may have said from your mind."

"But I don't understand. I feel that you blame Sir Redmond, when I'm
sure he--"

"I did not say I blamed anybody. I think we'll not discuss it."

"Yes, I think we shall. You'll tell me all about it, if I want to know."
Beatrice adopted her coaxing tone, which never had failed her.

"Oh, no!" Keith laughed a little. "A girl can't always have her own way
just because she wants it, even if she--"

"I've got a fish, Mr. Cam'ron!" Dorman squealed, and Keith was obliged
to devote another five minutes to diplomacy.

"I think you have fished long enough, honey," Beatrice told Dorman
decidedly. "It's nearly dinner time, and Looey Sam won't have time to
fry your fish if you don't hurry home. Shall I tell Dick you wished to
see him, Mr. Cameron?"

"It's nothing important, so I won't trouble you," Keith replied, in
a tone that matched hers for cool courtesy. "I'll see him to-morrow,
probably." He helped Dorman reel in his line, cut a willow-wand and
strung the three fish upon it by the gills, washed his hands leisurely
in the creek, and dried them on his handkerchief, just as if nothing
bothered him in the slightest degree. Then he went over and smoothed
Redcloud's mane and pulled a wisp of forelock from under the brow-band,
and commanded him to shake hands, which the horse did promptly.

"I want to shake hands wis your pony, too," Dorman cried, and dropped
pole and fish heedlessly into the grass.

"All right, kid."

Dorman went up gravely and clasped Redcloud's raised fetlock solemnly,
while the tall cow-puncher smiled down at him.

"Kiss him, Redcloud," he said softly; and then, when the horse's nose
was thrust in his face: "No, not me--kiss the kid." He lifted the child
up in his arms, and when Redcloud touched his soft nose to Dorman's
cheek and lifted his lip for a dainty, toothless nibble, Dorman was
speechless with fright and rapture thrillingly combined.

"Now run home with your fish; it lacks only two hours and forty minutes
to dinner time, and it will take at least twenty minutes for the fish to
fry--so you see you'll have to hike."

Beatrice flushed and looked at him sharply, but Keith was getting into
the saddle and did not appear to remember she was there. The fingers
that were tying her hat-ribbons under her chin fumbled awkwardly and
trembled. Beatrice would have given a good deal at that moment to know
just what Keith Cameron was thinking; and she was in a blind rage with
herself to think that it mattered to her what he thought.

When he lifted his hat she only nodded curtly. She mimicked every beast
and bird she could think of on the way home, to wipe him and his horse
from the memory of Dorman, whose capacity for telling things best left
untold was simply marvelous.

It is saying much for Beatrice's powers of entertainment that Dorman
quite forgot to say anything about Mr. Cameron and his pony, and
chattered to his auntie and grandmama about kitties up in a tree, and
lost lambs and sleepy birds, until he was tucked into bed that night.
It was not until then that Beatrice felt justified in drawing a long
breath. Not that she cared whether any one knew of her meeting Keith
Cameron, only that her mother would instantly take alarm and preach to
her about the wickedness of flirting; and Beatrice was not in the mood
for sermons.



CHAPTER 9. What It Meant to Keith.


"Dick, I wish you'd tell me about this leasing business. There are
points which I don't understand." Beatrice leaned over and smoothed
Rex's sleek shoulder with her hand.

"What do you want to understand it for? The thing is done now. We've got
the fence-posts strung, and a crew hired to set them."

"You needn't snap your words like that, Dick. It doesn't matter--only I
was wondering why Mr. Cameron acted so queer yesterday when I told him
about it."

"You told Keith? What did he say?"

"He didn't say anything. He just looked things."

"Where did you see him?" Dick wanted to know.

"Well, dear me! I don't see that it matters where I saw him. You're
getting as inquisitive as mama. If you think it concerns you, why, I met
him accidentally when I was fishing with Dorman. He was coming to see
you, but you were gone, so he stopped and talked for a few minutes. Was
there anything so strange about that? And I told him you were leasing
the Pine Ridge country, and he looked--well, peculiar. But he wouldn't
say anything."

"Well, he had good reason for looking peculiar. But you needn't have
told him I did it, Trix. Lay that at milord's door, where it belongs. I
don't want Keith to blame me."

"But why should he blame anybody? It isn't his land, is it?"

"No, it isn't. But--you see, Trix, it's this way: A man goes somewhere
and buys a ranch--or locates on a claim--and starts into the cattle
business. He may not own more than a few hundred acres of land, but if
he has much stock he needs miles of prairie country, with water, for
them to range on. It's an absolute necessity, you see. He takes care to
locate where there is plenty of public land that is free to anybody's
cattle.

"Take the Pool outfit, for instance. We don't own land enough to feed
one-third of our cattle. We depend on government land for range for
them. The Cross outfit is the same, only Keith's is on a smaller scale.
He's got to have range outside his own land, which is mostly hay land.
This part of the State is getting pretty well settled up with small
ranchers, and then the sheep men keep crowding in wherever they can get
a show--and sheep will starve cattle to death; they leave a range as
bare as a prairie-dog town. So there's only one good bit of range left
around here, and that's the Pine Ridge country, as it's called. That's
our main dependence for winter range; and now when this drought has
struck us, and everything is drying up, we've had to turn all our cattle
down there on account of water.

"Ever since I took charge of the Pool, Keith and I threw in together and
used the same range, worked our crews together, and fought the sheepmen
together. There was a time when they tried to gobble the Pine Ridge
range, but it didn't go. Keith and I made up our minds that we needed it
worse than they did--and we got it. Our punchers had every sheep herder
bluffed out till there wasn't a mutton-chewer could keep a bunch of
sheep on that range over-night.

"Now, this lease law was made by stockmen, for stockmen. They can lease
land from the government, fence it--and they've got a cinch on it as
long as the lease lasts. A cow outfit can corral a heap of range that
way. There's the trick of leasing every other section or so, and then
running a fence around the whole chunk; and that's what the Pool has
done to the Pine Ridge. But you mustn't repeat that, Trix.

"Milord wasn't long getting on to the leasing graft; in fact, it turns
out the company got wind of it over in England, and sent him over here
to see what could be done in that line. He's done it, all right enough!

"And there's the Cross outfit, frozen out completely. The Lord only
knows what Keith will do with his cattle now, for we'll have every drop
of water under fence inside of a month. He's in a hole, for sure. I
expect he feels pretty sore with me, too, but I couldn't help it. I
explained how it was to milord, but--you can't persuade an Englishman,
any more than you can a--"

"I think," put in Beatrice firmly, "Sir Redmond did quite right. It
isn't his fault that Mr. Cameron owns more cattle than he can feed.
If he was sent over here to lease the land, it was his duty to do so.
Still, I really am sorry for Mr. Cameron."

"Keith won't sit down and take his medicine if he can help it," Dick
said moodily. "He could sell out, but I don't believe he will. He's more
apt to fight."

"I can't see how fighting will help him," Beatrice returned spiritedly.

"Well, there's one thing," retorted Dick. "If milord wants that fence to
stand he'd better stay and watch it. I'll bet money he won't more than
strike Liverpool till about forty miles, more or less, of Pool fence
will need repairs mighty bad--which it won't get, so far as I'm
concerned."

"Do you mean that Keith Cameron would destroy our fencing?"

Dick grinned. "He'll be a fool if he don't, Trix. You can tell milord
he'd better send for all his traps, and camp right here till that lease
runs out. My punchers will have something to do beside ride fence."

"I shall certainly tell Sir Redmond," Beatrice threatened. "You and
Mr. Cameron hate him just because he's English. You won't see what a
splendid fellow he is. It's your duty to stand by him in this business,
instead of taking sides with Keith Cameron. Why didn't he lease that
land himself, if he wanted to?"

"Because he plays fair."

"Meaning, I suppose, that Sir Redmond doesn't. I didn't think you would
be so unjust. Sir Redmond is a perfect gentleman."

"Well, you've got a chance to marry your 'perfect gentleman," Dick
retorted, savagely. "It's a wonder you don't take him if you think so
highly of him."

"I probably shall. At any rate, he isn't a male flirt."

"You don't seem to fancy a fellow that can give you as good as you
send," Dick rejoined. "I thought you wouldn't find Keith such easy game,
even if he does live on a cattle ranch. You can't rope him into making a
fool of himself for your amusement, and I'm glad of it."

"Don't do your shouting too soon. If you could overhear some of the
things he says you wouldn't be so sure--"

"I suppose you take them all for their face value," grinned Dick
ironically.

"No, I don't! I'm not a simple country girl, let me remind you. Since
you are so sure of him, I'll have the pleasure of saying, 'No, thank
you, sir,' to your Keith Cameron--just to convince you I can."

"Oh, you will! Well, you just tell me when you do, Trix, and I'll give
you your pick of all the saddle horses on the ranch."

"I'll take Rex, and you may as well consider him mine. Oh, you men!
A few smiles, judiciously dispensed, and--" Beatrice smiled most
exasperatingly at her brother, and Dick went moody and was very poor
company the rest of the way home.



CHAPTER 10. Pine Ridge Range Ablaze.


At dusk that night a glow was in the southern sky, and the wind carried
the pungent odor of burning grass. Dick went out on the porch after
dinner, and sniffed the air uneasily.

"I don't much like the look of it," he admitted to Sir Redmond. "It
smells pretty strong, to be across the river. I sent a couple of the
boys out to look a while ago. If it's this side of the river we'll have
to get a move on."

"It will be the range land, I take it, if it's on this side," Sir
Redmond remarked.

Just then a man thundered through the lane and up to the very steps of
the porch, and when he stopped the horse he was riding leaned forward
and his legs shook with exhaustion.

"The Pine Ridge Range is afire, Mr. Lansell," the man announced quietly.

Dick took a long pull at his cigar and threw it away. "Have the boys
throw some barrels and sacks into a wagon--and git!" He went inside and
grabbed his hat, and when he turned Sir Redmond was at his elbow.

"I'm going, too, Dick," cried Beatrice, who always seemed to hear
anything that promised excitement. "I never saw a prairie-fire in my
life."

"It's ten miles off," said Dick shortly, taking the steps at a jump.

"I don't care if it's twenty--I'm going. Sir Redmond, wait for me!"

"Be-atrice!" cried her mother detainingly; but Beatrice was gone to get
ready. A quick job she made of it; she threw a dark skirt over her
thin, white one, slipped into the nearest jacket, snatched her
riding-gauntlets off a chair where she had thrown them, and then
couldn't find her hat. That, however, did not trouble her. Down in the
hall she appropriated one of Dick's, off the hall tree, and announced
herself ready. Sir Redmond laughed, caught her hand, and they raced
together down to the stables before her mother had fully grasped the
situation.

"Isn't Rex saddled, Dick?"

Dick, his foot in the stirrup, stopped long enough to glance over his
shoulder at her. "You ready so soon? Jim, saddle Rex for Miss Lansell."
He swung up into the saddle.

"Aren't you going to wait, Dick?"

"Can't. Milord can bring you." And Dick was away on the run.

Men were hurrying here and there, every move counting something done.
While she stood there a wagon rattled out from the shadow of a haystack,
with empty water-barrels dancing a mad jig behind the high seat, where
the driver perched with feet braced and a whip in his hand. After him
dashed four or five riders, silent and businesslike. In a moment they
were mere fantastic shadows galloping up the hill through the smothery
gloom.

Then came Jim, leading Rex and a horse for himself; Sir Redmond had
saddled his gray and was waiting. Beatrice sprang into the saddle and
took the lead, with nerves a-tingle. The wind that rushed against her
face was hot and reeking with smoke. Her nostrils drank greedily the
tang it carried.

"You gipsy!" cried Sir Redmond, peering at her through the murky gloom.

"This--is living!" she laughed, and urged Rex faster.

So they raced recklessly over the hills, toward where the night was
aglow. Before them the wagon pounded over untrailed prairie sod, with
shadowy figures fleeing always before.

Here, wild cattle rushed off at either side, to stop and eye them
curiously as they whirled past. There, a coyote, squatting unseen upon
a distant pinnacle, howled, long-drawn and quavering, his weird protest
against the solitudes in which he wandered.

The dusk deepened to dark, and they could no longer see the racing
shadows. The rattle of the wagon came mysteriously back to them through
the black.

Once Rex stumbled over a rock and came near falling, but Beatrice only
laughed and urged him on, unheeding Sir Redmond's call to ride slower.

They splashed through a shallow creek, and came upon the wagon, halted
that the cowboys might fill the barrels with water. Then they passed by,
and when they heard them following the wagon no longer rattled glibly
along, but chuckled heavily under its load.

The dull, red glow brightened to orange. Then, breasting at last a long
hill, they came to the top, and Beatrice caught her breath at what lay
below.

A jagged line of leaping flame cut clean through the dark of the coulee.
The smoke piled rosily above and before, and the sullen roar of it
clutched the senses--challenging, sinister. Creeping stealthily,
relentlessly, here a thin gash of yellow hugging close to the earth,
there a bold, bright wall of fire, it swept the coulee from rim to rim.

"The wind is carrying it from us," Sir Redmond was saying in her ear.
"Are you afraid to stop here alone? I ought to go down and lend a hand."

Beatrice drew a long gasp. "Oh, no, I'm not afraid. Go; there is Dick,
down there."

"You're sure you won't mind?" He hesitated, dreading to leave her.

"No, no! Go on--they need you."

Sir Redmond turned and rode down the ridge toward the flames. His
straight figure was silhouetted sharply against the glow.

Beatrice slipped off her horse and sat down upon a rock, dead to
everything but the fiendish beauty of the scene spread out below her.
Millions of sparks danced in and out among the smoke wreaths which
curled upward--now black, now red, now a dainty rose. Off to the left a
coyote yapped shrilly, ending with his mournful howl.

Beatrice shivered from sheer ecstasy. This was a world she had never
before seen--a world of hot, smoke-sodden wind, of dead-black shadows
and flame-bright light; of roar and hoarse bellowing and sharp crackles;
of calm, star-sprinkled sky above--and in the distance the uncanny
howling of a coyote.

Time had no reckoning there. She saw men running to and fro in the
glare, disappearing in a downward swirl of smoke, coming to view again
in the open beyond. Always their arms waved rhythmically downward,
beating the ragged line of yellow with water-soaked sacks. The trail
they left was a wavering, smoke-traced rim of sullen black, where before
had been gay, dancing, orange light. In places the smolder fanned to new
life behind them and licked greedily at the ripe grass like hungry, red
tongues. One of these Beatrice watched curiously. It crept slyly into an
unburned hollow, and the wind, veering suddenly, pushed it out of sight
from the fighters and sent it racing merrily to the south. The main line
of fire beat doggedly up against the wind that a minute before had been
friendly, and fought bravely two foes instead of one. It dodged, ducked,
and leaped high, and the men beat upon it mercilessly.

But the little, new flame broadened and stood on tiptoes defiantly,
proud of the wide, black trail that kept stretching away behind it; and
Beatrice watched it, fascinated by its miraculous growth. It began
to crackle and send up smoke wreaths of its own, with sparks dancing
through; then its voice deepened and coarsened, till it roared quite
like its mother around the hill.

The smoke from the larger fire rolled back with the wind, and Beatrice
felt her eyes sting. Flakes of blackened grass and ashes rained upon
the hilltop, and Rex moved uneasily and pawed at the dry sod. To him a
prairie-fire was not beautiful--it was an enemy to run from. He twitched
his reins from Beatrice's heedless fingers and decamped toward home,
paying no attention whatever to the command of his mistress to stop.

Still Beatrice sat and watched the new fire, and was glad she chanced to
be upon the south end of a sharp-nosed hill, so that she could see
both ways. The blaze dove into a deep hollow, climbed the slope beyond,
leaped exultantly and bellowed its challenge. And, of a sudden, dark
forms sprang upon it and beat it cruelly, and it went black where they
struck, and only thin streamers of smoke told where it had been. Still
they beat, and struck, and struck again, till the fire died ingloriously
and the hillside to the south lay dark and still, as it had been at the
beginning.

Beatrice wondered who had done it. Then she came back to her
surroundings and realized that Rex had left her, and she was alone. She
shivered--this time not in ecstasy, but partly from loneliness--and
went down the hill toward where Dick and Sir Redmond and the others were
fighting steadily the larger fire, unconscious of the younger, new one
that had stolen away from them and was beaten to death around the hill.

Once in the coulee, she was compelled to take to the burnt ground, which
crisped hotly under her feet and sent up a rank, suffocating smell of
burned grass into her nostrils. The whole country was alight, and down
there the world seemed on fire. At times the smoke swooped blindingly,
and half strangled her. Her skirts, in passing, swept the black ashes
from grass roots which showed red in the night.

Picking her way carefully around the spots that glowed warningly,
shielding her face as well as she could from the smoke, she kept on
until she was close upon the fighters. Dick and Sir Redmond were working
side by side, the sacks they held rising and falling with the regularity
of a machine for minutes at a time. A group of strange horsemen galloped
up from the way she had come, followed by a wagon of water-barrels,
careering recklessly over the uneven ground. The horsemen stopped just
inside the burned rim, the horses sidestepping gingerly upon the hot
turf.

"I guess you want some help here. Where shall we start in?" Beatrice
recognized the voice. It was Keith Cameron.

"Sure, we do!" Dick answered, gratefully. "Start in any old place."

"I'm not sure we want your help," spoke the angry voice of Sir Redmond.
"I take it you've already done a devilish sight too much."

"What do you mean by that?" Keith demanded; and then, by the silence, it
seemed that every one knew. Beatrice caught her breath. Was this one of
the ways Dick meant that Keith could fight?

"Climb down, boys, and get busy," Keith called to his men, after a few
breaths. "This is for Dick. Wait a minute! Pete, drive the wagon ahead,
there. I guess we'd better begin on the other end and work this way.
Come on--there's too much hot air here." They clattered on across the
coulee, kicking hot ashes up for the wind to seize upon. Beatrice went
slowly up to Dick, feeling all at once very tired and out of heart with
it all.

"Dick," she called, in an anxious little voice, "Rex has run away from
me. What shall I do?"

Dick straightened stiffly, his hands upon his aching loins, and peered
through the smoke at her.

"I guess the only thing to do, then, is to get into the wagon over
there. You can drive, Trix, if you want to, and that will give us
another man here. I was just going to have some one take you home;
now--the Lord only knows!--you're liable to have to stay till morning.
Rex will go home, all right; you needn't worry about him."

He bent to the work again, and she could hear the wet sack thud, thud
upon the ground. Other sacks and blankets went thud, thud, and down here
at close range the fire was not so beautiful as it had been from the
hilltop. Down here the glamour was gone. She climbed up to the high
wagon seat and took the reins from the man, who immediately seized upon
a sack and went off to the fight. She felt that she was out of touch.
She was out on the prairie at night, miles away from any house, driving
a water-wagon for the men to put out a prairie fire. She had driven a
coaching-party once on a wager; but she had never driven a lumber-wagon
with barrels of water before. She could not think of any girl she knew
who had.

It was a new experience, certainly, but she found no pleasure in it; she
was tired and sleepy, and her eyes and throat smarted cruelly with the
smoke. She looked back to the hill she had just left, and it seemed
a long, long time since she sat upon a rock up there and watched the
little, new fire grow and grow, and the strange shadows spring up from
nowhere and beat it vindictively till it died.

Again she wondered vaguely who had done it; not Keith Cameron, surely,
for Sir Redmond had all but accused him openly of setting the range
afire. Would he stamp out a blaze that was just reaching a size to do
mischief, if left a little longer? No one would have seen it for hours,
probably. He would undoubtedly have let it run, unless--But who else
could have set the fire? Who else would want to see the Pine Ridge
country black and barren? Dick said Keith Cameron would not sit down and
take his medicine--perhaps Dick knew he would do this thing.

As the fighters moved on across the coulee she drove the wagon to keep
pace with them. Often a man would run up to the wagon, climb upon a
wheel and dip a frayed gunny sack into a barrel, lift it out and run
with it, all dripping, to the nearest point of the fire. Her part was
to keep the wagon at the most convenient place. She began to feel the
importance of her position, and to take pride in being always at the
right spot. From the calm appreciation of the picturesque side, she
drifted to the keen interest of the one who battles against heavy odds.
The wind had veered again, and the flames rushed up the long coulee
like an express train. But the path it left was growing narrower every
moment. Keith Cameron was doing grand work with his crew upon the other
side, and the space between them was shortening perceptibly.

Beatrice found herself watching the work of the Cross men. If they were
doing it for effect, they certainly were acting well their part. She
wondered what would happen when the two crews met, and the danger was
over. Would Sir Redmond call Keith Cameron to account for what he had
done? If he did, what would Keith say? And which side would Dick take?
Very likely, she thought, he would defend Keith Cameron, and shield him
if he could.

Beatrice found herself crying quietly, and shivering, though the air was
sultry with the fire. For the life of her, she could not tell why she
cried, but she tried to believe it was the smoke in her eyes. Perhaps it
was.

The sky was growing gray when the two crews met. The orange lights were
gone, and Dick, with a spiteful flop of the black rag which had been a
good, new sack, stamped out the last tiny red tongue of the fire. The
men stood about in awkward silence, panting with heat and weariness. Sir
Redmond was ostentatiously filling his pipe. Beatrice knew him by his
straight, soldierly pose. In the drab half-light they were all mere
black outlines of men, and, for the most part, she could not distinguish
one from another. Keith Cameron she knew; instinctively by his slim
height, and by the way he carried his head. Unconsciously, she leaned
down from the high seat and listened for what would come next.

Keith seemed to be making a cigarette. A match flared and lighted his
face for an instant, then was pinched out, and he was again only a black
shape in the half-darkness.

"Well, I'm waiting for what you've got to say, Sir Redmond." His voice
cut sharply through the silence. If he had known Beatrice was out there
in the wagon he would have spoken lower, perhaps.

"I fancy I said all that is necessary just now," Sir Redmond answered
calmly. "You know what I think. From now on I shall act."

"And what are you going to do, then?" Keith's voice was clear and
unperturbed, as though he asked for the sake of being polite.

"That," retorted Sir Redmond, "is my own affair. However, since the
matter concerns you rather closely, I will say that when I have the
evidence I am confident I shall find, I shall seek the proper channels
for retribution. There are laws in this country, aimed to protect
a man's property, I take it. I warn you that I shall not spare--the
guilty."

"Dick, it's up to you next. I want to know where you stand."

"At your back, Keith, right up to the finish. I know you; you fight
fair."

"All right, then. I didn't think you'd go back on a fellow. And I tell
you straight up, Sir Redmond Hayes, I'm not out touching matches to
range land--not if it belonged to the devil himself. I've got some
feeling for the dumb brutes that would have to suffer. You can get right
to work hunting evidence, and be damned! You're dead welcome to all you
can find; and in this part of the country you won't be able to buy much!
You know very well you deserve to get your rope crossed, or you wouldn't
be on the lookout for trouble. Come, boys; let's hit the trail. So long,
Dick!"

Beatrice watched them troop off to their horses, heard them mount and
go tearing off across the burned coulee bottom toward home. Dick came
slowly over to her.

"I expect you're good and tired, sis. You've made a hand, all right, and
helped us a whole lot, I can tell you. I'll drive now, and we'll hit the
high places."

Beatrice smiled wanly. Not one of her Eastern acquaintances would
have recognized Beatrice Lansell, the society beauty, in this
remarkable-looking young woman, attired in a most haphazard fashion,
with a face grimed like a chimney sweep, red eyelids drooping over
tired, smarting eyes, and disheveled, ash-filled hair topped by a
man's gray felt hat. When she smiled her teeth shone dead white, like a
negro's.

Dick regarded her critically, one foot on the wheel hub. "Where did you
get hold of Keith Cameron's hat?" he inquired.

Beatrice snatched the hat from her head with childish petulance, and
looked as if she were going to throw it viciously upon the ground. If
her face had been clean Dick might have seen how the blood had rushed
into her cheeks; as it was, she was safe behind a mask of soot. She
placed the hat back upon her head, feeling, privately, a bit foolish.

"I supposed it was yours. I took it off the halltree." The dignity of
her tone was superb, but, unfortunately, it did not match her appearance
of rakish vagabondage.

Dick grinned through a deep layer of soot "Well, it happens to be
Keith's. He lost it in the wind the other day, and I found it and took
it home. It's too bad you've worn his hat all night and didn't know it.
You ought to see yourself. Your own mother won't know you, Trix."

"I can't look any worse than you do. A negro would be white by
comparison. Do get in, so we can start! I'm tired to death, and
half-starved." After these unamiable remarks, she refused to open her
lips.

They drove silently in the gray of early morning, and the empty barrels
danced monotonously their fantastic jig in the back of the wagon.
Sootyfaced cowboys galloped wearily over the prairie before them, and
Sir Redmond rode moodily alongside.

Of a truth, the glamour was gone.



CHAPTER 11. Sir Redmond Waits His Answer.


Beatrice felt distinctly out of sorts the next day, and chose an hour
for her ride when she felt reasonably secure from unwelcome company. But
when she went out into the sunshine there was Sir Redmond waiting with
Rex and his big gray. Beatrice was not exactly elated at the sight, but
she saw nothing to do but smile and make the best of it. She wanted
to be alone, so that she could dream along through the hills she had
learned to love, and think out some things which troubled her, and
decide just how she had best go about winning Rex for herself; it had
become quite necessary to her peace of mind that she should teach Dick
and Keith Cameron a much-needed lesson.

"It has been so long since we rode together," he apologized. "I hope you
don't mind my coming along."

"Oh, no! Why should I mind?" Beatrice smiled upon him in friendly
fashion. She liked Sir Redmond very much--only she hoped he was
not going to make love. Somehow, she did not feel in the mood for
love-making just then.

"I don't know why, I'm sure. But you seem rather fond of riding about
these hills by yourself. One should never ask why women do things, I
fancy. It seems always to invite disaster."

"Does it?" Beatrice was not half-listening. They were passing, just
then, the suburbs of a "dog town," and she was never tired of watching
the prairie-dogs stand upon their burrows, chip-chip defiance until fear
overtook their impertinence, and then dive headlong deep into the earth.
"I do think a prairie-dog is the most impudent creature alive and the
most shrewish. I never pass but I am scolded by these little scoundrels
till my ears burn. What do you think they say?"

"They're probably inviting you to stop with them and be their queen, and
are scolding because your heart is hard and you only laugh and ride on."

"Queen of a prairie-dog town! Dear me! Why this plaintive mood?"

"Am I plaintive? I do not mean to be, I'm sure."

"You don't appear exactly hilarious," she told him. "I can't see what is
getting the matter with us all. Mama and your sister are poor company,
even for each other, and Dick is like a bear. One can't get a civil word
out of him. I'm not exactly amiable, myself, either; but I relied upon
you to keep the mental temperature up to normal, Sir Redmond."

"Perhaps it's a good thing we shall not stop here much longer. I must
confess I don't fancy the country--and Mary is downright homesick. She
wants to get back to her parish affairs; she's afraid some rheumatic old
woman needs coddling with jelly and wine, and that sort of thing. I've
promised to hurry through the business here, and take her home. But I
mean to see that Pine Ridge fence in place before I go; or, at least,
see it well under way."

"I'm sure Dick will attend to it properly," Beatrice remarked, with pink
cheeks. If she remembered what she had threatened to tell Sir Redmond,
she certainly could not have asked for a better opportunity. She was
reminding herself at that moment that she always detested a tale bearer.

"Your brother Dick is a fine fellow, and I have every confidence in
him; but you must see yourself that he is swayed, more or less, by
his friendship for--his neighbors. It is only a kindness to take the
responsibility off his shoulders till the thing is done. I'm sure he
will feel better to have it so."

"Yes," she agreed; "I think you're right. Dick always was very
soft-hearted, and, right or wrong, he clings to his friends."
Then, rather hastily, as though anxious to change the trend of the
conversation: "Of course, your sister will insist on keeping Dorman with
her. I shall miss that little scamp dreadfully, I'm afraid." The next
minute she saw that she had only opened a subject she dreaded even more.

"It is something to know that there is even one of us that you will
miss," Sir Redmond observed. Something in his tone hurt.

"I shall miss you all," she said hastily. "It has been a delightful
summer."

"I wish I might know just what element made it delightful. I wish--"

"I scarcely think it has been any particular element," she broke in,
trying desperately to stave off what she felt in his tone. "I love the
wild, where I can ride, and ride, and never meet a human being--where
I can dream and dally and feast my eyes on a landscape man has not
touched. I have lived most of my life in New York, and I love nature
so well that I'm inclined to be jealous of her. I want her left free to
work out all her whims in her own way. She has a keen sense of humor, I
think. The way she modeled some of these hills proves that she loves
her little jokes. I have seen where she cut deep, fearsome gashes, with
sides precipitous, as though she had some priceless treasure hidden away
in the deep, where man cannot despoil it. And if you plot and plan,
and try very hard, you may reach the bottom at last and find the
treasure--nothing. Or, perhaps, a tiny little stream, as jealously
guarded as though each drop were priceless."

Sir Richmond rode for a few minutes in silence. When he spoke, it was
abruptly.

"And is that all? Is there nothing to this delightful summer, after all,
but your hills?"

"Oh, of course, I--it has all been delightful. I shall hate to go back
home, I think." Beatrice was a bit startled to find just how much she
would hate to go back and wrap herself once more in the conventions of
society life. For the first time since she could remember, she wanted
her world to stand still.

Sir Redmond went doggedly to the point he had in mind and heart.

"I hoped, Beatrice, you would count me, too. I've tried to be patient.
You know, don't you, that I love you?"

"You've certainly told me often enough," she retorted, in a miserable
attempt at her old manner.

"And you've put me off, and laughed at me, and did everything under
heaven but answer me fairly. And I've acted the fool, no doubt. I know
it. I've no courage before a woman. A curl of your lip, and I was ready
to cut and run. But I can't go on this way forever--I've got to know.
I wish I could talk as easy as I can fight; I'd have settled the thing
long ago. Where other men can plead their cause, I can say just the one
thing--I love you, Beatrice. When I saw you first, in the carriage I
loved you then. You had some fur--brown fur--snuggled under your chin,
and the pink of your cheeks, and your dear, brown eyes shining and
smiling above--Good God! I've always loved you! From the beginning of
the world, I think! I'd be good to you, Beatrice, and I believe I could
make you happy--if you give me the chance."

Something in Beatrice's throat ached cruelly. It was the truth, and she
knew it. He did love her, and the love of a brave man is not a thing
to be thrust lightly aside. But it demanded such a lot in return!
More, perhaps, than she could give. A love like that--a love that gives
everything--demands everything in return. Anything less insults it.

She stole a glance at him. Sir Redmond was looking straight before him,
with the fixed gaze that sees nothing. There was the white line around
his mouth which Beatrice had seen once before. Again that griping ache
was in her throat, till she could have cried out with the pain of it.
She wanted to speak, to say something--anything--which would drive that
look from his face.

While her mind groped among the jumble of words that danced upon her
tongue, and that seemed, all of them, so pitifully weak and inadequate,
she heard the galloping hoofs of a horse pounding close behind. A
choking cloud of dust swept down upon them, and Keith, riding in the
midst, reined out to pass. He lifted his hat. His eyes challenged
Beatrice, swept coldly the face of her companion, and turned again to
the trail. He swung his heels backward, and Redcloud broke again into
the tireless lope that carried him far ahead, until there was only a
brown dot speeding over the prairie.

Sir Redmond waited until Keith was far beyond hearing, then he filled
his lungs deeply and looked at Beatrice. "Don't you feel you could trust
me--and love me a little?"

Beatrice was deadly afraid she was going to cry, and she hated weeping
women above all things. "A little wouldn't do," she said, with what
firmness she could muster. "I should want to love you as much--quite as
much as you deserve, Sir Redmond, or not at all. I'm afraid I can't. I
wish I could, though. I--I think I should like to love you; but perhaps
I haven't much heart. I like you very much--better than I ever liked
any one before; but oh, I wish you wouldn't insist on an answer! I don't
know, myself, how I feel. I wish you had not asked me--yet. I tried not
to let you."

"A man can keep his heart still for a certain time, Beatrice, but not
for always. Some time he will say what his heart commands, if the
chance is given him; the woman can't hold him back. I did wait and wait,
because I thought you weren't ready for me to speak. And--you don't care
for anybody else?"

"Of course I don't. But I hate to give up my freedom to any one, Sir
Redmond. I want to be free--free as the wind that blows here always,
and changes and changes, and blows from any point that suits its whim,
without being bound to any rule."

"Do you think I'm an ogre, that will lock you in a dungeon, Beatrice?
Can't you see that I am not threatening your freedom? I only want the
right to love you, and make you happy. I should not ask you to go or
stay where you did not please, and I'd be good to you, Beatrice!"

"I don't think it would matter," cried Beatrice, "if you weren't. I
should love you because I couldn't help myself. I hate doing things by
rule, I tell you. I couldn't care for you because you were good to me,
and I ought to care; it must be because I can't help myself. And I--"
She stopped and shut her teeth hard together; she felt sure she should
cry in another minute if this went on.

"I believe you do love me, Beatrice, and your rebellious young American
nature dreads surrender." He tried to look into her eyes and smile,
but she kept her eyes looking straight ahead. Then Sir Redmond made
the biggest blunder of his life, out of the goodness of his heart, and
because he hated to tease her into promising anything.

"I won't ask you to tell me now, Beatrice," he said gently. "I want you
to be sure; I never could forgive myself if you ever felt you had made a
mistake. A week from to-night I shall ask you once more--and it will be
for the last time. After that--But I won't think--I daren't think what
it would be like if you say no. Will you tell me then, Beatrice?"

The heart of Beatrice jumped into her throat. At that minute she was
very near to saying yes, and having done with it. She was quite sure she
knew, then, what her answer would be in a week. The smile she gave him
started Sir Redmond's blood to racing exultantly. Her lips parted a
little, as if a word were there, ready to be spoken; but she caught
herself back from the decision. Sir Redmond had voluntarily given her a
week; well, then, she would take it, to the last minute.

"Yes, I'll tell you a week from to-night, after dinner. I'll race you
home, Sir Redmond--the first one through the big gate by the stable
wins!" She struck Rex a blow that made him jump, and darted off down
the trail that led home, and her teasing laugh was the last Sir Redmond
heard of her that day; for she whipped into a narrow gulch when the
first turn hid her from him, and waited until he had thundered by. After
that she rode complacently, deep into the hills, wickedly pleased at the
trick she had played him.

Every day during the week that followed she slipped away from him and
rode away by herself, resolved to enjoy her freedom to the full while
she had it; for after that, she felt, things would never be quite the
same.

Every day, when Dick had chance for a quiet word with her, he wanted
to know who owned Rex--till at last she lost her temper and told him
plainly that, in her opinion, Keith Cameron had left the country for
two reasons, instead of one. (For Keith, be it known, had not been seen
since the day he passed her and Sir Redmond on the trail.) Beatrice
averred that she had a poor opinion of a man who would not stay and face
whatever was coming.

There was just one day left in her week of freedom, and Dick still owned
Rex, with the chances all in his favor for continuing to do so. Still,
Beatrice was vindictively determined upon one point. Let Keith Cameron
cross her path, and she would do something she had never done before;
she would deliberately lead him on to propose--if the fellow had nerve
enough to do so, which, she told Dick, she doubted.



CHAPTER 12. Held Up by Mr. Kelly.


"'Traveler, what lies over the hill?'" questioned a mischievous voice.

Keith, dreaming along a winding, rock-strewn trail in the canyon, looked
up quickly and beheld his Heart's Desire sitting calmly upon her horse,
ten feet before Redcloud's nose, watching him amusedly. Redcloud must
have been dreaming also, or he would have whinnied warning and welcome,
with the same breath.

"'Traveler, tell to me,'" she went on, seeing Keith only stared.

Keith, not to be outdone, searched his memory hurriedly for the reply
which should rightly follow; secretly he was amazed at her sudden
friendliness.

"'Child, there's a valley over there'--but it isn't 'pretty and wooded
and shy'--not what you can notice. And there isn't any 'little town,'
either, unless you go a long way. Why?" Keith rested his gloved hands,
one above the other, on the saddle horn, and let his eyes riot with the
love that was in him. He had not seen his Heart's Desire for a week. A
week? It seemed a thousand years! And here she was before him, unusually
gracious.

"Why? I discovered that hill two hours ago, it seems to me, and it
wasn't more than a mile off. I want to see what lies on the other side.
I feel sure no man ever stood upon the top and looked down. It is my
hill--mine by the right of discovery. But I've been going, and going,
and I think it's rather farther away, if anything, than it was before."

"Good thing I met you'" Keith declared, and he looked as if he meant it.
"You're probably lost, right now, and don't know it. Which way is home?"

Beatrice smiled a superior smile, and pointed.

"I thought so," grinned Keith joyously. "You're pointing straight toward
Claggett."

"It doesn't matter," said Beatrice, "since you know, and you're here.
The important thing is to get to the top of that hill."

"What for?" Keith questioned.

"Why, to be there!" Beatrice opened her big eyes at him. "That," she
declared whimsically, "is the top of the world, and it is mine. I found
it. I want to go up there and look down."

"It's an unmerciful climb," Keith demurred hypocritically, to strengthen
her resolution.

"All the better. I don't value what comes easily."

"You won't see anything, except more hills."

"I love hills--and more hills."

"You're a long way from home, and it's after one o'clock."

"I have a lunch with me, and I often stay out until dinner time."

Keith gave a sigh that shook the saddle, making up, in volume, what
it lacked in sincerity. The blood in him was a-jump at the prospect of
leading his Heart's Desire up next the clouds--up where the world was
yet young. A man in love is fond of self-torture.

"I have not said you must go." Beatrice answered with the sigh.

"You don't have to," he retorted. "It is a self evident fact. Who wants
to go prowling around these hills by night, with a lantern that smokes
an' has an evil smell, losing sleep and yowling like a bunch of coyotes,
hunting a misguided young woman who thinks north is south, and can't
point straight up?"

"You draw a flattering picture, Mr. Cameron."

"It's realistic. Do you still insist upon getting up there, for the
doubtful pleasure of looking down?" Secretly, he hoped so.

"Certainly."

"Then I shall go with you."

"You need not. I can go very well by myself, Mr. Cameron."

Beatrice was something of a hypocrite herself.

"I shall go where duty points the way."

"I hope it points toward home, then."

"It doesn't, though. It takes the trail you take."

"I never yet allowed my wishes to masquerade as Disagreeable Duty, with
two big D's," she told him tartly, and started off.

"Say! If you're going up that hill, this is the trail. You'll bump up
against a straight cliff if you follow that path."

Beatrice turned with seeming reluctance and allowed him to guide her,
just as she had intended he should do.

"Dick tells me you have been away," she began suavely.

"Yes. I've just got back from Fort Belknap," he explained quietly,
though he must have known his absence had been construed differently.
"I've rented pasturage on the reservation for every hoof I own. Great
grass over there--the whole prairie like a hay meadow, almost, and
little streams everywhere."

"You are very fortunate," Beatrice remarked politely.

"Luck ought to come my way once in a while. I don't seem to get more
than my share, though."

"Dick will be glad to know you have a good range for your cattle, Mr.
Cameron."

"I expect he will. You may tell him, for me, that Jim Worthington--he's
the agent over there, and was in college with us--says I can have my
cattle there as long as he's running the place."

"Why not tell him yourself?" Beatrice asked.

"I don't expect to be over to the Pool ranch for a while." Keith's tone
was significant, and Beatrice dropped the subject.

"Been fishing lately?" he asked easily, as though he had not left her
that day in a miff. "No. Dorman is fickle, like all male creatures.
Dick brought him two little brown puppies the other day, and now he can
hardly be dragged from the woodshed to his meals. I believe he would eat
and sleep with them if his auntie would allow him to."

The trail narrowed there, and they were obliged to ride single file,
which was not favorable to conversation. Thus far, Beatrice thought, she
was a long way from winning her wager; but she did not worry--she looked
up to where the hill towered above them, and smiled.

"We'll have to get off and lead our horses over this spur," he told her,
at last. "Once on the other side, we can begin to climb. Still in the
humor to tackle it?"

"To be sure I am. After all this trouble I shall not turn back."

"All right," said Keith, inwardly shouting. If his Heart's Desire wished
to take a climb that would last a good two hours, he was not there to
object. He led her up a steep, rock-strewn ridge and into a hollow. From
there the hill sloped smoothly upward.

"I'll just anchor these cayuses to a rock, to make dead-sure of them,"
Keith remarked. "It wouldn't be fun to be set afoot out here; now, would
it? How would you like the job of walking home, eh?"

"I don't think I'd enjoy it much," Beatrice said, showing her one dimple
conspicuously. "I'd rather ride."

"Throw up your hands!" growled a voice from somewhere.

Keith wheeled toward the sound, and a bullet spatted into the yellow
clay, two inches from the toe of his boot. Also, a rifle cracked
sharply. He took the hint, and put his hands immediately on a level with
his hat crown.

"No use," he called out ruefully. "I haven't anything to return the
compliment with."

"Well, I've got t' have the papers fur that, mister," retorted the
voice, and a man appeared from the shelter of a rock and came slowly
down to them--a man, long-legged and lank, with haggard, unshaven face
and eyes that had hunger and dogged endurance looking out. He picked his
way carefully with his feet, his eyes and the rifle fixed unswervingly
at the two. Beatrice was too astonished to make a sound.

"What sort of a hold-up do you call this?" demanded Keith hotly, his
hands itching to be down and busy. "We don't carry rolls of money around
in the hills, you fool!"

"Oh, damn your money!" the man said roughly. "I've got money t' burn.
I want t' trade horses with yuh. That roan, there, looks like a stayer.
I'll take him."

"Well, seeing you seem to be head push here, I guess it's a trade,"
Keith answered. "But I'll thank you for my own saddle."

Beatrice, whose hands were up beside her ears, and not an inch higher,
changed from amazed curiosity to concern. "Oh, you mustn't take Redcloud
away from Mr. Cameron!" she protested. "You don't know--he's so fond
of that horse! You may take mine; he's a good horse--he's a perfectly
splendid horse, but I--I'm not so attached to him."

The fellow stopped and looked at her--not, however, forgetting Keith,
who was growing restive. Beatrice's cheeks were very pink, and her eyes
were bright and big and earnest. He could not look into them without
letting some of the sternness drop out of his own.

"I wish you'd please take Rex--I'd rather trade than not," she coaxed.
When Beatrice coaxed, mere man must yield or run. The fellow was but
human, and he was not in a position to run, so he grinned and wavered.

"It's fair to say you'll get done," he remarked, his eyes upon the
odd little dimple at the corner of her mouth, as if he had never seen
anything quite so fetching.

"Your horse won't cr--buck, will he?" she ventured doubtfully. This was
her first horse trade, and it behooved her to be cautious, even at the
point of a rifle.

"Well, no," said the man laconically; "he won't. He's dead."

"Oh!" Beatrice gasped and blushed. She might have known, she thought,
that the fellow would not take all this trouble if his horse was in a
condition to buck. Then: "My elbows hurt. I--I think I should like to
sit down."

"Sure," said the man politely. "Make yourself comfortable. I ain't used
t' dealin' with ladies. But you got t' set still, yuh know, and not try
any tricks. I can put up a mighty swift gun play when I need to--and
your bein' a lady wouldn't cut no ice in a case uh that kind."

"Thank you." Beatrice sat down upon the nearest rock, folded her hands
meekly and looked from him to Keith, who seethed to claim a good deal of
the man's attention. She observed that, at a long breath from Keith, his
captor was instantly alert.

"Maybe your elbows ache, too," he remarked dryly. "They'll git over it,
though; I've knowed a man t' grab at the clouds upwards of an hour, an'
no harm done."

"That's encouraging, I'm sure." Keith shifted to the other foot.

"How's that sorrel?" demanded the man. "Can he go?"

Keith hesitated a second.

"Indeed he can go!" put in Beatrice eagerly. "He's every bit as good as
Redcloud."

"Is that sorrel yours?" The man's eyes shifted briefly to her face.

"No-o." Beatrice, thinking how she had meant to own him, blushed.

"That accounts for it." He laughed unpleasantly. "I wondered why you was
so dead anxious t' have me take him."

The eyes of Beatrice snapped sparks at him, but her manner was demure,
not to say meek. "He belongs to my brother," she explained, "and my
brother has dozens of good saddle-horses. Mr. Cameron's horse is a pet.
It's different when a horse follows you all over the place and fairly
talks to you. He'll shake hands, and--"

"Uh-huh, I see the point, I guess. What d'yuh say, kid?"

Keith might seem boyish, but he did not enjoy being addressed as "kid."
He was twenty-eight years old, whether he looked it or not.

"I say this: If you take my horse, I'll kill you. I'll have twenty-five
cow-punchers camping on your trail before sundown. If you take this
girl's horse, I'll do the same."

The man shut his lips in a thin line.

"No, he won't!" cried Beatrice, leaning forward. "Don't mind a thing he
says! You can't expect a man to keep his temper with his hands up in the
air like that. You take Rex, and I'll promise for Mr. Cameron."

"Trix--Miss Lansell!"--sternly.

"I promise you he won't do a thing," she went on firmly. "He--he isn't
half as fierce, really, as--as he looks."

Keith's face got red.

The man laughed a little. Evidently the situation amused him, whether
the others could see the humor of it or not. "So I'm to have your
cayuse, eh?"

Keith saw two big tears tipping over her lower lids, and gritted his
teeth.

"Well, it ain't often I git a chance t' please a lady," the fellow
decided. "I guess Rex'll do, all right. Go over and change saddles,
youngster--and don't git gay. I've got the drop, and yuh notice I'm
keeping it."

"Are you going to take his saddle?" Beatrice stood up and clenched her
hands, looking very much as if she would like to pull his hair. Keith in
trouble appealed to her strangely.

"Sure thing. It's a peach, from the look of it. Mine's over the hill a
piece. Step along there, kid! I want t' be movin'."

"You'll need to go some!" flared Keith, over his shoulder.

"I expect t' go some," retorted the man. "A fellow with three sheriff's
posses campin' on his trail ain't apt t' loiter none."

"Oh!" Beatrice sat down and stared. "Then you must be--"

"Yep," the fellow laughed recklessly. "You ca, tell your maw yuh met up
with Kelly, the darin' train-robber. I wouldn't be s'prised if she close
herded yuh fer a spell till her scare wears off. Bu I've hung around
these parts long enough. I fooled them sheriffs a-plenty, stayin' here.
Gee! you'r' swift--I don't think!" This last sentence was directed at
Keith, who was putting a snail to shame, and making it appear he was in
a hurry.

"Git a move on!" commanded Kelly, threatening with his eyes.

Keith wisely made no reply--nor did he show any symptoms of haste,
despite the menacing tone Slowly he pulled his saddle off Redcloud,
and carefully he placed it upon the ground. When a fellow lives in
his saddle, almost, he comes to think a great deal of it, and he is
reluctant under any circumstances, to surrender it to another; to have
a man deliberately confiscate it with the authority which lies in a lump
of lead the size of a child thumb is not pleasant.

Through Keith's brain flashed a dozen impracticable plans, and one that
offered a slender--very slender--chance of success. If he could get
a little closer! He moved over beside Rex an unbuckling the cinch of
Beatrice's saddle, pulled it sullenly off.

"Now, put your saddle on that there Rex horse, and cinch it tight!"

Keith picked up the saddle--his saddle, and threw it across Rex's back,
raging inwardly at his helplessness. To lose his saddle worse, to let
Beatrice lose her horse. Lord! a pretty figure he must cut in her eyes!

"Dry weather we're havin'," Kelly remarked politely to Beatrice;
without, however, looking in her direction. "Prairie fires are gittin'
t' be the regular thing, I notice."

Beatrice studied his face, and found no ulterior purpose for the words.

"Yes," she agreed, as pleasantly as she could, in view of the
disquieting circumstances. "I helped fight a prairie-fire last week over
this way. We were out all night."

"Prairie-fires is mean things t' handle, oncet they git started. I
always hate t' see 'em git hold of the grass. What fire was that you
mention?"

Beatrice glanced toward Keith, and was thankful his back was turned to
her. But a quick suspicion had come to her, and she went steadily on
with the subject.

"It was the Pine Ridge country. It started very mysteriously."

"It wasn't no mystery t' me." Kelly laughed grimly. "I started that
there blaze myself accidentally. I throwed a cigarette down, thinkin'
it had gone out. After a while I seen a blaze where I'd jest left, but
I didn't have no license t' go back an' put it out--my orders was to git
out uh that. I seen the sky all lit up that night. Kid, are yuh goin' t'
sleep?"

Keith started. He had been listening, and thanking his lucky star that
Beatrice was listening also. If she had suspected him of setting the
range afire, she knew better now. A weight lifted off Keith's shoulders,
and he stood a bit straighter; those chance words meant a great deal
to him, and he felt that he would not grudge his saddle in payment. But
Rex--that was another matter. Beatrice should not lose him if he could
prevent it; still, what could he do?

He might turn and spring upon Kelly, but in the meantime Kelly would
not be idle; he would probably be pumping bullets out of the rifle into
Keith's body--and he would still have the horse. He stole a glance at
Beatrice, and went hot all over at what he thought he read in her eyes.
For once he was not glad to be near his Heart's Desire; he wished her
elsewhere--anywhere but sitting on that rock, over there, with her
little, gloved hands folded quietly in her lap, and that adorable,
demure look on her face--the look which would have put her mother
instantly upon the defensive--and a gleam in her eyes Keith read for
scorn.

Surely he might do something! Barely six feet now separated him from
Kelly. If one of those lumps of rock that strewed the ground was in
his hand--he stooped to reach under Rex's body for the cinch, and could
almost feel Kelly's eyes boring into his back. A false move--well, Keith
had heard of Kelly a good many times; if this fellow was really the
man he claimed to be, Keith did not need to guess what would follow a
suspicious move; he knew. He looked stealthily toward him, and Kelly's
eyes met his with a gleam sinister.

Kelly grinned. "I wouldn't, kid," he said softly.

Keith swore in a whisper, and his fingers closed upon the cinch. It was
no use to fight the devil with cunning, he thought, bitterly.

Just then Beatrice gave an unearthly screech, that made the horses'
knees bend under them. When Keith whirled to see what it was, she was
standing upon the rock, with her skirts held tightly around her, like
the pictures of women when a mouse gets into the room.

"Oh, Mr. Cameron! A sn-a-a-ke!"

Came a metallic br-r-r, the unmistakable war cry of the rattler. Into
Kelly's eyes came a look of fear, and he sidled gingerly. The buzz had
sounded unpleasantly close to his heels. For one brief instant the cold
eye of his rifle regarded harmlessly the hillside. During that instant a
goodly piece of sandstone whinged under his jaw, and he went down, with
Keith upon him like a mountain lion. The latter snatched the rifle
and got up hurriedly, for he had not forgotten the rattler. Kelly lay
looking up at him in a dazed way that might have been funny at any other
time.

"I wondered if you were good at grasping opportunities," said Beatrice.
When he looked, there she was, sitting down on the rock, with her
little, gloved hands folded in her lap, and that adorable demure look on
her face; and a gleam in her eyes he knew was not scorn, though he could
not rightly tell what it really did mean.

Keith wondered at her vaguely, but a man can't have his mind on a dozen
things at once. It was important that he keep a sharp watch on Kelly,
and his eyes were searching for a gleaming, gray spotted coil which he
felt to be near.

"You needn't look, Mr. Cameron. There isn't any snake. It--it was I."

"You!" Keith's jaw dropped.

"Look out, Mr. Cameron. It wouldn't work a second time, I'm afraid."

Keith turned back before Kelly had more than got to his elbow; plainly
Kelly was not feeling well just then. He looked unhappy, and rather
sick.

"If you'll hand me the gun, Mr. Cameron, I think I can hold it steady
while you fix the saddles. And then we'll go home. I--I don't think I
really care to climb the hill."

What Keith wanted to do was to take her in his arms and kiss her till
he was tired. What he did do was back toward her, and let her take the
rifle quickly and deftly from his hands. She rested the gun upon
her knee, and brought it to bear upon Mr. Kelly with a composure not
assuring to that gentleman, and she tried to look as if she really and
truly would shoot a man--and managed to look only the more kissable.

"Don't squirm, Mr. Kelly. I won't bite, if I do buzz sometimes."

Kelly stared at her meditatively a minute, and said: "Well, I'll be
damned!"

Keith looked at her also, but he did not say anything.

The way he slapped his saddle back upon Redcloud and cinched it, and
saddled Rex, was a pretty exhibition of precision and speed, learned in
roundup camps. Kelly watched him grimly.

"I knowed you wasn't as swift as yuh knew how 't be, a while back,"
he commented. "I've got this t' say fur you two: You're a little the
toughest proposition I ever run up ag'inst--and I've been up ag'inst it
good and plenty."

"Thanks," Keith said cheerfully. "You'd better take Rex now and go
ahead, Miss Lansell. I'll take that gun and look after this fellow. Get
up, Kelly."

"What are you going to do with him?"

Kelly got unsteadily upon his feet. Beatrice looked at him, and then at
Keith. She asked a question.

"March him home, and send him in to the nearest sheriff." Keith was
businesslike, and his tone was crisp.

Beatrice's eyes turned again to Kelly. He did not whine, or beg, or
even curse. He stood looking straight before him, at something only his
memory could see, and in his face was weariness, and a deep loneliness,
and a certain, grim despair. There was an ugly bruise where the rock had
struck, but the rest of his face was drawn and white.

"If you do that," cried Beatrice, in a voice hardly more than a fierce
whisper, "I shall hate you always. You are not a man-hunter. Let him
stay here, and take his chance in the hills."

Keith was not a hard man to persuade into being merciful. "It's easy
enough to say yes, Miss Lansell. I always was chicken-hearted when a
fellow seemed down on his luck. You can stay here, Kelly--I don't want
you, anyway." He laughed boyishly and irresponsibly, for he felt that
Kelly had done him a service that day.

Beatrice flashed him a smile that went to his head and made him dizzy,
and took up Rex's bridle rein. She hesitated, looked doubtfully at
Kelly, who stood waiting stoically, and turned to her saddle. She untied
a bundle and went quickly over to him.

"You--I don't want my lunch, after all. I'm going home now. I--I want
you to take it, please. There are some sandwiches--with veal loaf, that
Looey Sam makes deliciously--and some cake. I--I wish it was more. I
know you'll like the veal loaf."

Kelly looked down at her, and God knows what thoughts were in his mind.
He did not answer her with words; he just swallowed hard.

"Poor devil!" was what Keith said to himself, and the gun he was holding
threatened, for a minute, to wing a cloud.

Beatrice laid the package in Kelly's unresisting hand, looked up into
his averted face and said simply: "Good-by, Mr. Kelly."

After that she hurried Rex up the steep ridge much faster than she
had gone down it, endangering his bones and putting herself very empty
lunged.

At the top of the ridge Keith stopped and looked down.

"Hi, Kelly!"

Kelly showed that he heard.

"Here's your gun, on this rock. You can come up and get it, if you want
to. And--say! I've got a few broke horses ranging down here somewhere.
VN brand, on left shoulder. I won't scour the hills, very bad, if I
should happen to miss a cayuse. So long!"

Kelly waved his hand for farewell.



CHAPTER 13. Keith's Masterful Wooing.


Keith faced toward home, with Redcloud following at his heels like a pet
dog. For some reason, which he did not try to analyze, he was feeling
light of heart--as though something very nice had happened to him.
It might have been the unexpected clearing up of the mystery of the
prairie-fire, though he was not dwelling particularly upon that. He
was thinking a great deal more of Beatrice's blue-brown eyes, which had
never been more baffling, so far as he knew. And his blood was still
dancing with the smile she had given him; it hardly seemed possible that
a girl could smile just like that and not mean anything.

When he reached the level, where she was waiting for him, he saw that
she had her arms around the neck of her horse, and that she was crying
dismally, heart-brokenly, with an abandon that took no thought of his
presence. Keith had never seen a girl cry like that before. He had
seen them dab at their eyes with their handkerchief, and smile the next
breath--but this was different. For a minute he didn't quite know what
to do; he could hear the blood hammering against his temples while he
stood dumbly watching her. He went hesitatingly up, and laid a gloved
hand deprecatingly upon her shoulder.

"Don't do that, Miss Lansell! The fellow isn't worth it. He's only
living the life he chose for himself, and he doesn't mind, not half
as much as you imagine. I know how you feel--I felt sorry for him
myself--but he doesn't deserve it, you know." He stopped; not being
able, just at the moment, to think of anything more to say about Kelly.
Beatrice, who had not been thinking of Kelly at all, but remorsefully of
a fellow she had persisted in misjudging, only cried the harder.

"Don't--don't cry like that! I--Miss Lansell--Trix--darling!" Keith's
self-control snapped suddenly, like a rope when the strain becomes too
great. He caught her fiercely in his arms, and crushed her close against
him.

Beatrice stopped crying, and gasped.

"Trixie, if you must cry, I wish you'd cry for me. I'm about as
miserable a man--I want you so! God made you for me, and I'm starving
for the feel of your lips on mine." Then Keith, who was nothing if not
daring, once he was roused, bent and kissed her without waiting to see
if he might--and not only once, but several times.

Beatrice made a half-hearted attempt to get free of his arms, but Keith
was not a fool--he held her closer, and laughed from pure, primitive
joy.

"Mr. Cameron!" It was Beatrice's voice, but it had never been like that
before.

"I think you might call me Keith," he cut in. "You've got to begin some
time, and now is as good a time as any."

"You--you're taking a good deal for granted," she said, wriggling
unavailingly in his arms.

"A man's got to, with a girl like you. You're so used to turning a
fellow down I believe you'd do it just from habit."

"Indeed?" She was trying to be sarcastic and got kissed for her pains.

"Yes, 'indeed.'" He mimicked her tone. "I want you. I want you! I wanted
you long before I ever saw you. And so I'm not taking any chances--I
didn't dare, you see. I just had to take you first, and ask you
afterward."

Beatrice laughed a little, with tears very close to her lashes, and
gave up. What was the use of trying to resist this masterful fellow, who
would not even give her a chance to refuse him? She did not know quite
how to say no to a man who did not ask her to say yes. But the queer
part, to her, was the feeling that she would have hated to say no,
anyway. It never occurred to her, till afterward, that she might
have stood upon a pedestal of offended dignity and cried, "Unhand me,
villain!"--and that, if she had, Keith would undoubtedly have complied
instantly. As it was, she just laughed softly, and blushed a good deal.

"I believe mama is right about you, after all," she said wickedly. "At
heart, you're a bold highwayman."

"Maybe. I know I'd not stand and see some other fellow walk off with my
Heart's Desire, without putting up a fight. It did look pretty blue
for me, though, and I was afraid--but it's all right now, isn't it?
Possession is nine points in law, they say, and I've got you now! I'm
going to keep you, too. When are you going to come over and take charge
of the Cross ranch?"

"Dear me!" said Beatrice, snuggling against his shoulder, and finding
it the best place in the world to be. "I never said I was going to take
charge at all!" Then the impulse of confession seized her. "Will you
hate me, if I tell you something?"

"I expect I will," Keith assented, his eyes positively idolatrous. "What
is it, girlie?"

"Well, I--it was Dick's fault; I never would have thought of such a
thing if he hadn't goaded me into it--but--well, I was going to make
you propose, on a wager--" The brown head of Beatrice went down out of
sight, on his arm. "I was going to refuse you--and get Rex--"

"I know." Keith held her closer than ever. "Dick rode over and told me
that day. And I wasn't going to give you a chance, missy. If you hadn't
started to cry, here-- Oh! what's the use? You didn't refuse me--and
you're not going to, either, are you, girlie?"

Beatrice intimated that there was no immediate danger of such a thing
happening.

"You see, Dick and I felt that you belonged to me, by rights. I fell in
love with a picture of you, that you sent him--that one taken in your
graduation gown--and I told Dick I was going to take the next train
East, and carry you off by force, if I couldn't get you any other way.
But Dick thought I'd stand a better show to wait till he'd coaxed you
out here. We had it all fixed, that you'd come and find a prairie knight
that was ready to fight for you, and he'd make you like him, whether
you wanted to or not; and then he'd keep you here, and we'd all be happy
ever after. And Dick would pull out of the Northern Pool--and of course
you would--and we'd have a company of our own. Oh! we had some great
castles built out here on the prairie, let me tell you! And then, when
you finally came here, you had milord tagging along--and you thinking
you were in love with him! Maybe you think I wasn't shaky, girlie! The
air castles got awfully wobbly, and it looked like they were going to
cave in on us. But I was bound to stay in the game if I could, and Dick
did all he could to get you to looking my way--and it's all right, isn't
it, Trixie?" Keith kept recurring to the ecstatic realization that it
was all right.

Beatrice meditated for a minute.

"I never dreamed--Dick never even mentioned you in any of his letters,"
she said, in a rather dazed tone. "And when I came he made me believe
you were a horrible flirt, and I never can resist the temptation to
measure lances."

"And take a fall out of a male flirt," Keith supplemented. "Dick," he
went on sententiously and slangily, "was dead onto his job." After that
he helped her into the saddle, and they rode blissfully homeward.

Near the ranch they met Dick, who pulled up and eyed them anxiously at
first, and then with a broad smile.

"Say, Trix," he queried slyly, "who does Rex belong to?"

Keith came to the rescue promptly, just as a brave knight should. "You,"
he retorted. "But I tell you right now, he won't very long. You're going
to do the decent thing and give him to Trixie--for a wedding present."

Dick looked as though Trix was welcome to any thing he possessed.



CHAPTER 14. Sir Redmond Gets His answer.


"Before long, dear, we shall get on the great ship, and ride across the
large, large ocean, and be at home. You will be delighted to see Peggy,
and Rupert, and the dogs, won't you, dear?" Miss Hayes, her cheeks
actually getting some color into them at the thought of going home,
buttered a fluffy biscuit for her idol.

Dorman took two bites while he considered. "Rupert'll want my little
wheels, for my feet, what Mr. Cam'ron gave me--but he can't have 'em,
dough. I 'spect he'll be mad. I wonder what'll Peggy say bout my two
puppies. I've got to take my two puppies wis me. Will dey get sick
riding on de water, auntie? Say, will dey?"

"I--I think not, dear," ventured his auntie cautiously. His auntie was a
conscientious woman, and she knew very little about puppies.

"Be'trice will help me take care of dem if dey're sick," he remarked
comfortably.

Then something in his divinity's face startled his assurance. "You's
going wis us, isn't you, Be'trice? I want you to help take care of my
two puppies. Martha can't, 'cause she slaps dere ears. Is you going wis
us, Be'trice?"

This, at the dinner table, was, to say the least,
embarrassing--especially on this especial evening, when Beatrice was
trying to muster courage to give Sir Redmond the only answer it was
possible to give him now. It was an open secret that, in case she had
accepted him, the home-going of Miss Hayes would be delayed a bit, when
they would all go together. Beatrice had overheard her mother and Miss
Hayes discussing this possibility only the day before. She undertook the
impossible, and attempted to head Dorman off.

"Perhaps you'll see a whale, honey. The puppies never saw a whale, I'm
sure. What do you suppose they'd think?"

"Is you going?"

"You'd have to hold them up high, you know, so they could see, and show
them just where to look, and--"

"Is you going, Be'trice?"

Beatrice sent a quick, despairing glance around the table. Four pairs of
eyes were fixed upon her with varying degrees of interest and anxiety.
The fifth pair--Dick's--were trying to hide their unrighteous glee by
glaring down at the chicken wing on his plate. Beatrice felt a strong
impulse to throw something at him. She gulped and faced the inevitable.
It must come some time, she thought, and it might as well be now--though
it did seem a pity to spoil a good dinner for every one but Dick, who
was eating his with relish.

"No, honey"--her voice was clear and had the note of finality--"I'm not
going--ever."

Sir Redmond's teeth went together with a click, and he picked up the
pepper shaker mechanically and peppered his salad until it was perfectly
black, and Beatrice wondered how he ever expected to eat it. Mrs.
Lansell dropped her fork on the floor, and had to have a clean one
brought. Miss Hayes sent a frightened glance at her brother. Dick sat
and ate fried chicken.

"Why, Be'trice? I wants you to--and de puppies'll need you--and auntie,
and--" Dorman gathered himself for the last, crushing argument--"and
Uncle Redmon' wants you awf'lly!"

Beatrice took a sip of ice water, for she needed it.

"Why, Be'trice? Gran-mama'll let you go, guess. Can't she go,
gran'mama?"

It was Mrs. Lansell's turn to test the exquisite torture of that prickly
chill along the spine. Like Beatrice, she dodged.

"Little boys," she announced weakly, "should not speak until they're
spoken to."

Dick came near strangling on a shred of chicken.

"Can't she go, gran'mama? Say, can't she? Tell Be'trice to go home wis
us, gran'mama!"

"Beatrice"--Mrs. Lansell swallowed--"is not a little child any longer,
Dorman. She is a woman and can do as she likes. I"--she was speaking to
the whole group--"I can only advise her."

Dorman gave a squeal of triumph. "See? You can go, Be'trice! Gran'mama
says you can go. You will go, won't you, Be'trice? Say yes!"

"No!" said Beatrice, with desperate emphasis. "I won't."

"I want--Be'trice--to go-o!" Dorman slid down upon his shoulder blades,
gave a squeal which was not triumph, but temper, and kicked the table
till every dish on it danced.

"Dorman sit up!" commanded his auntie. "Dorman, stop, this instant! I'm
ashamed of you; where is my good little man? Redmond."

Sir Redmond seemed glad of the chance to do something besides sit
quietly in his place and look calm. He got up deliberately, and in two
minutes, or less, Dorman was in the woodshed with him, making sounds
that frightened his puppies dreadfully and put the coyotes to shame.

Beatrice left the table hurriedly to escape the angry eyes of her
mother. The sounds in the woodshed had died to a subdued sniffling, and
she retreated to the front porch, hoping to escape observation. There
she nearly ran against Sir Redmond, who was staring off into the dusk to
where the moon was peering redly over a black pinnacle of the Bear Paws.

She would have slipped back into the house, but he did not give her the
chance. He turned and faced her steadily, as he had more than once faced
the Boers, when he knew that before him was nothing but defeat.

"So you're not going to England ever?"

Pride had squeezed every shade of emotion from his voice.

"No." Beatrice gripped her fingers together tightly.

"Are you sure you won't be sorry--afterward?"

"Yes, I'm sure." Beatrice had never done anything she hated more.

Sir Redmond, looking into her eyes, wondered why those much-vaunted
sharpshooters, the Boers, had blundered and passed him by.

"I don't suppose it matters much now--but will you tell me why? I
believed you would decide differently." He was holding his voice down to
a dead level, and it was not easy.

"Because--" Beatrice faced the moon, which threw a soft glow upon her
face, and into her wonderful, deep eyes a golden light. "Oh, I'm sorry,
Sir Redmond! But you see, I didn't know. I--I just learned to-day what
it means to--to love. I--I am going to stay here. A new company--is
about to be formed, Sir Redmond. The Maltese Cross and the--Triangle
Bar--are going to cast their lot together." The golden glow deepened and
darkened, and blended with the red blood which flushed cheek and brow
and throat.

It took Sir Redmond a full minute to comprehend. When he did, he
breathed deep, shut his lips upon words that would have frightened her,
and went down the steps into the gloom.

Beatrice watched him stride away into the dusky silence, and her heart
ached with sympathy for him. Then she looked beyond, to where the lights
of the Cross ranch twinkled joyously, far down the coulee, and the sweet
egotism of happiness enfolded her, shutting him out. After that she
forgot him utterly. She looked up at the moon, sailing off to meet the
stars, smiled good-fellowship and then went in to face her mother.





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