I caught her hand, and I held it, too, in spite of her. That far I was master.
“No,” I told her grimly. “If I saw that you were going to do anything so foolish as to scream, I should just kiss you, and—kiss you till you were glad to be sensible about it.”
Well, she tried first to look calmly amused; then she tried to look insulted, and to freeze me into sanity. She ended, however, by looking a good bit confused, and by blushing scarlet. I had won that far. I kept her hand held tight in mine; I could feel it squirm to get away, and it felt—oh, thunder!
“Let’s play something else,” she said, after a long minute. “I—I never did admire highwaymen particularly, and I must go home.”
“No, you mustn’t,” I contradicted. “You must—”
She looked at me with those wonderful, heavy-lashed eyes, and her lips had a little quiver as if—Oh, I don’t know, but I let go her hand, and I felt like a great, hulking brute that had been teasing a child till it cried.
“All right,” I sighed, “I’ll let you go this time. But I warn you, little girl. If—no, when I find you out from King’s Highway by yourself again, that kidnaping is sure going to come off. The Lord intended you to be Mrs. Ellis Carleton. And forty feuds and forty fathers can’t prevent it. I don’t believe in going against the decrees of Providence; a wise Providence.”
She bit her lip at the corner. “You must have a little private Providence of your own,” she retorted, with something like her old assurance. “I’m sure mine never hinted at such a—a fate for me. And one feud is as good as forty, Mr. Carleton. If you are anything like your father, I can easily understand how the feud began. The Kings and the Carletons are fond of their own way.”
“Thy way shall be my way,” I promised rashly, just because it sounded smart.
“Thank you. Then there will be no melodramatic abductions in the shadow of White Divide,” she laughed triumphantly, “and I shall escape a most horrible fate!” She went, still laughing, down to where her horse was waiting.
I followed—rather, I kept pace with her. “All the same, I dare you to ride out alone from King’s Highway again,” I defied. “For, if you do, and I find you—”
“Good-by, Mr. Carleton. You’d be splendid in vaudeville,” she mocked from her saddle, where she had got with all the ease of a cowboy, without any help from me. “Black velvet mask and gadzooks, madam—I must certainly tell Edith. It will amuse her, I’m sure.”
“No, you won’t tell Edith,” I flung after her, but I don’t know if she heard.
She rode away down the steep slope, the roan leaning back stiffly against the incline, and I stood watching her like a fool. I didn’t think it would be good policy to follow her. I tried to roll a cigarette—in case she might look back to see how I was taking her last shot. But she didn’t, and I threw the thing away half-made. It was a case where smoke wouldn’t help me.