To Mrs. Laura Frazer of Hannibal, Mo., Mark Twain's immortal "Adventures of Tom Sawyer" is a rosary, and the book's plot is the cord of fiction on which beads of truth are strung. In the sunset of her life she tells them over, and if here and t... Read more of MARK TWAIN'S FIRST SWEETHEART, BECKY THATCHER, TELLS OF THEIR CHILDHOOD COURTSHIP at Difficult.caInformational Site Network Informational
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The Search For Dorman








From: Her Prairie Knight

"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.





Next: Mrs Lansell's Lecture

Previous: Beatrice Learns A New Language



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