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Her Prairie Knight by B. M. Bower (B.M. Sinclair)

Part 3 out of 3

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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,

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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