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.





A Grave Discovery A Hero Is Embarrassed facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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