Keith's Masterful Wooing
: Her Prairie Knight
Keith faced toward home, with Redcloud following at his heels like a pet
dog. For some reason, which he did not try to analyze, he was feeling
light of heart--as though something very nice had happened to him.
It might have been the unexpected clearing up of the mystery of the
prairie-fire, though he was not dwelling particularly upon that. He
was thinking a great deal more of Beatrice's blue-brown eyes, which had
been more baffling, so far as he knew. And his blood was still
dancing with the smile she had given him; it hardly seemed possible that
a girl could smile just like that and not mean anything.
When he reached the level, where she was waiting for him, he saw that
she had her arms around the neck of her horse, and that she was crying
dismally, heart-brokenly, with an abandon that took no thought of his
presence. Keith had never seen a girl cry like that before. He had
seen them dab at their eyes with their handkerchief, and smile the next
breath--but this was different. For a minute he didn't quite know what
to do; he could hear the blood hammering against his temples while he
stood dumbly watching her. He went hesitatingly up, and laid a gloved
hand deprecatingly upon her shoulder.
"Don't do that, Miss Lansell! The fellow isn't worth it. He's only
living the life he chose for himself, and he doesn't mind, not half
as much as you imagine. I know how you feel--I felt sorry for him
myself--but he doesn't deserve it, you know." He stopped; not being
able, just at the moment, to think of anything more to say about Kelly.
Beatrice, who had not been thinking of Kelly at all, but remorsefully of
a fellow she had persisted in misjudging, only cried the harder.
"Don't--don't cry like that! I--Miss Lansell--Trix--darling!" Keith's
self-control snapped suddenly, like a rope when the strain becomes too
great. He caught her fiercely in his arms, and crushed her close against
Beatrice stopped crying, and gasped.
"Trixie, if you must cry, I wish you'd cry for me. I'm about as
miserable a man--I want you so! God made you for me, and I'm starving
for the feel of your lips on mine." Then Keith, who was nothing if not
daring, once he was roused, bent and kissed her without waiting to see
if he might--and not only once, but several times.
Beatrice made a half-hearted attempt to get free of his arms, but Keith
was not a fool--he held her closer, and laughed from pure, primitive
"Mr. Cameron!" It was Beatrice's voice, but it had never been like that
"I think you might call me Keith," he cut in. "You've got to begin some
time, and now is as good a time as any."
"You--you're taking a good deal for granted," she said, wriggling
unavailingly in his arms.
"A man's got to, with a girl like you. You're so used to turning a
fellow down I believe you'd do it just from habit."
"Indeed?" She was trying to be sarcastic and got kissed for her pains.
"Yes, 'indeed.'" He mimicked her tone. "I want you. I want you! I wanted
you long before I ever saw you. And so I'm not taking any chances--I
didn't dare, you see. I just had to take you first, and ask you
Beatrice laughed a little, with tears very close to her lashes, and
gave up. What was the use of trying to resist this masterful fellow, who
would not even give her a chance to refuse him? She did not know quite
how to say no to a man who did not ask her to say yes. But the queer
part, to her, was the feeling that she would have hated to say no,
anyway. It never occurred to her, till afterward, that she might
have stood upon a pedestal of offended dignity and cried, "Unhand me,
villain!"--and that, if she had, Keith would undoubtedly have complied
instantly. As it was, she just laughed softly, and blushed a good deal.
"I believe mama is right about you, after all," she said wickedly. "At
heart, you're a bold highwayman."
"Maybe. I know I'd not stand and see some other fellow walk off with my
Heart's Desire, without putting up a fight. It did look pretty blue
for me, though, and I was afraid--but it's all right now, isn't it?
Possession is nine points in law, they say, and I've got you now! I'm
going to keep you, too. When are you going to come over and take charge
of the Cross ranch?"
"Dear me!" said Beatrice, snuggling against his shoulder, and finding
it the best place in the world to be. "I never said I was going to take
charge at all!" Then the impulse of confession seized her. "Will you
hate me, if I tell you something?"
"I expect I will," Keith assented, his eyes positively idolatrous. "What
is it, girlie?"
"Well, I--it was Dick's fault; I never would have thought of such a
thing if he hadn't goaded me into it--but--well, I was going to make
you propose, on a wager--" The brown head of Beatrice went down out of
sight, on his arm. "I was going to refuse you--and get Rex--"
"I know." Keith held her closer than ever. "Dick rode over and told me
that day. And I wasn't going to give you a chance, missy. If you hadn't
started to cry, here-- Oh! what's the use? You didn't refuse me--and
you're not going to, either, are you, girlie?"
Beatrice intimated that there was no immediate danger of such a thing
"You see, Dick and I felt that you belonged to me, by rights. I fell in
love with a picture of you, that you sent him--that one taken in your
graduation gown--and I told Dick I was going to take the next train
East, and carry you off by force, if I couldn't get you any other way.
But Dick thought I'd stand a better show to wait till he'd coaxed you
out here. We had it all fixed, that you'd come and find a prairie knight
that was ready to fight for you, and he'd make you like him, whether
you wanted to or not; and then he'd keep you here, and we'd all be happy
ever after. And Dick would pull out of the Northern Pool--and of course
you would--and we'd have a company of our own. Oh! we had some great
castles built out here on the prairie, let me tell you! And then, when
you finally came here, you had milord tagging along--and you thinking
you were in love with him! Maybe you think I wasn't shaky, girlie! The
air castles got awfully wobbly, and it looked like they were going to
cave in on us. But I was bound to stay in the game if I could, and Dick
did all he could to get you to looking my way--and it's all right, isn't
it, Trixie?" Keith kept recurring to the ecstatic realization that it
was all right.
Beatrice meditated for a minute.
"I never dreamed--Dick never even mentioned you in any of his letters,"
she said, in a rather dazed tone. "And when I came he made me believe
you were a horrible flirt, and I never can resist the temptation to
"And take a fall out of a male flirt," Keith supplemented. "Dick," he
went on sententiously and slangily, "was dead onto his job." After that
he helped her into the saddle, and they rode blissfully homeward.
Near the ranch they met Dick, who pulled up and eyed them anxiously at
first, and then with a broad smile.
"Say, Trix," he queried slyly, "who does Rex belong to?"
Keith came to the rescue promptly, just as a brave knight should. "You,"
he retorted. "But I tell you right now, he won't very long. You're going
to do the decent thing and give him to Trixie--for a wedding present."
Dick looked as though Trix was welcome to any thing he possessed.