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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