"I can't see why you should take pleasure in shooting these harmless things," he said impatiently; "the foot-hills are full of quail, and there are ducks along the creek. For that matter you might try your skill on prairie dogs, it seems to me."Landor went on with his dinner coolly enough. "There's quite likely to be that at any time," he said, "so long as a pious and humane Indian Bureau sends out special agents of the devil who burn down the Agency buildings of peaceful Apaches as a means of inducing them to seek illness and death in malarious river bottoms."He did not answer at once, but sat watching the trumpeter come out of the adjutant's office to sound recall. "Yes, she will marry," he agreed; "if no one else marries her, I will. I am as old as her father would have been but it would save telling some fellow about her birth."
"I ain't put it in yet," he stammered feebly."I am speaking about Mrs. Cairness," Forbes went on earnestly, "because she is more of an argument for you than the child is, which is un-English too, isn't it? But the child is a fine boy, nevertheless, and there will be other children probably. I don't need to paint their future to you, if you let them grow up here. You owe it to them and to your wife and to yourself鈥攖o society for that matter鈥攏ot to retrograde. Oh! I say, I'm out and out lecturing on sociology. You're good-tempered to put up with it, but I mean well鈥攍ike most meddlers.""Several things, thanks. You haven't told me yet what version of it your husband gave to Stone." [Pg 242]Cairness was a little anxious. It was succeed or fail right here.
The officer-of-the-day agreed. And Cairness, not having a hat to raise, forgot himself and saluted. Then he went back to the sutler's through the already pelting rain. He was glad he had caught Lawton, mainly because of what he hoped to get out of him yet, about the Kirby affair. But he was sorry for the big clumsy fool, too. He had been an easy-going, well-intentioned boss in the days when Cairness had been his hand. And, too, he was sorry, very sorry, about the pony. If it were to fall into the hands of Mexicans or even of some of the Mescalero Indians, his chances of seeing it again would be slight. And he was fond of it, mainly because it had helped him to save Mrs. Landor's life.
Visiting the guard is dull work, and precisely the same round, night after night, with hardly ever a variation. But to-night there occurred a slight one.[Pg 187] Landor was carrying his sabre in his arm, as he went by the back of the quarters, in order that its jingle might not disturb any sleepers. For the same reason he walked lightly, although, indeed, he was usually soft-footed, and came unheard back of Brewster's yard. Brewster himself was standing in the shadow of the fence, talking to some man. Landor could see that it was a big fellow, and the first thing that flashed into his mind, without any especial reason, was that it was the rancher who had been in trouble down at the sutler's store.
The log cabins were built, five of them, to form a square. The largest contained the sitting room and a bedroom, the three others, bedrooms and a storehouse, and the kitchen and dining room were in the fifth.
The woman called early in the blazing afternoon, appearing clad in silks, waving a gorgeous fan of[Pg 63] plumes, and sinking languidly into a chair. Felipa sat bolt upright on a camp-stool, and before the close of an hour they were at daggers' points. The commandant's wife used cheap French phrases in every other breath, and Felipa retaliated in the end by a long, glib sentence, which was not understood. She seemed absolutely dense and unsmiling about it, but Landor was used to the mask of stolidity. He got up and went to the window to arrange the gray blanket, and hide a smile that came, even though he was perfectly aware of the unwisdom of making an enemy of the C. O.'s wife.Kirby was without fear, but he was also without redress. He turned from them, his face contracted with the pain of his impotence, and walked back to the house. "I could order them off the ranch to-night," he told his wife, as he dropped on a chair, and taking up the hearth brush made a feint of sweeping two or three cinders from the floor; "but it's ten to one they wouldn't go and it would weaken my authority鈥攏ot that I have any, to be sure鈥攁nd besides," he flung down the brush desperately and turned to her, "I didn't want to tell you before, but there is a pretty straight rumor that Victorio's band, or a part of it, is in these hills. We may need the men at any time." Neither spoke of the two who should have been back hours ago. The night closed slowly down.
The Indian wars of the southwest have been made a very small side issue in our history. The men who have carried them on have gained little glory and little fame. And yet they have accomplished a big task, and accomplished it well. They have subdued an enemy many times their own number. And the enemy has had such enormous advantages, too. He has been armed, since the 70's, even better than the troops. He has been upon his own ground鈥攁 ground that was alone enough to dismay the soldier, and one that gave him food, where it gave the white man death by starvation and thirst. He knew every foot of the country, fastnesses, water holes, creeks, and strongholds over thousands of miles. The best cavalry can travel continuously but twenty-five or thirty miles a day, carrying its own rations. The Apache, stealing his stock and food as he runs, covers his fifty or seventy-five. The troops must find and follow trails that are disguised[Pg 231] with impish craft. The Apache goes where he lists, and that, as a general thing, over country where devils would fear to tread.
But the argument was weak. Forbes paid small heed to it. "You've a great deal besides. Every one in the country knows your mines have made you a[Pg 320] rich man. And you are better than that. You are a talented man, though you've frittered away your abilities too long to amount to anything much, now. You ought to get as far off from this kind of thing as you can."
Ellton wondered, but held his peace. And the commandant did go to Landor's quarters within the next few hours. Which was Ellton's doings.详情
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