Her Prairie Knight

Contents:
Author: B. M. Bower

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.

Contents:

Download Options


Title: Her Prairie Knight

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options


Title: Her Prairie Knight

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: B. M. Bower, "Chapter 7 Beatrice’s Wild Ride.," Her Prairie Knight in Her Prairie Knight (New York: The Century Co., 1899), Original Sources, accessed April 21, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D1HA6SEZXDHFY4M.

MLA: Bower, B. M. "Chapter 7 Beatrice’s Wild Ride." Her Prairie Knight, in Her Prairie Knight, New York, The Century Co., 1899, Original Sources. 21 Apr. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D1HA6SEZXDHFY4M.

Harvard: Bower, BM, 'Chapter 7 Beatrice’s Wild Ride.' in Her Prairie Knight. cited in 1899, Her Prairie Knight, The Century Co., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 21 April 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=D1HA6SEZXDHFY4M.