Ellton was going with her to the railroad. They were to travel with a mounted escort, as she had come, on account of the uncertain state of the country. And they must cross, as she had done in coming also, the road over the malpais, where Landor had fallen. As the hoofs of the mules and the tires of the wheels began to slip and screech on the smooth-worn lava, and the ambulance rattled and creaked up the incline, Ellton leaned forward and pointed silently to a hollow in the gray rock a few yards away. It was where Landor had pitched forward over the body of the mounted chief of scouts. Felipa nodded gravely, but she did not speak, nor yet weep. Ellton, already thrown back upon himself by her persistent silence with regard to her [Pg 292]intentions, recoiled even more. He thought her hard beyond all his previous experience of women.[Pg 251]
At noon Landor got his orders. He was to leave at four o'clock, and when he told Felipa she planned for dinner at three, with her usual manner of making all things as pleasant as possible, and indulging in no vain and profitless regrets. "We may as well have Mr. Brewster and Nellie McLane, too," she decided, and went off in search of them, bareheaded and dancing with excitement. She dearly loved rumors of war. The prospect of a scout was always inspiriting to her.
"I dare say," he answered carelessly. "Come and meet him. You'll like him."Felipa's revolver was in her hand, and cocked and pointed straight between two eyes that shone out of the blackness. And so, for an appreciable time, she stood. Then a long arm came feeling out; but because she was looking along the sight into the face at the very end of the muzzle, she failed to see it. When it closed fast about her waist, she gave a quick gasp and fired. But the bullet, instead of going straight through the forehead beneath the head[Pg 79] band, as she had meant it to do, ploughed down. The grasp on the body relaxed for an instant; the next it had tightened, and a branch had struck the pistol from her hand.Brewster had taken an escort and disappeared down the vista of white sands and scrub growth, though it was Landor himself who should have gone. He swayed now in the saddle, his thick lips hung open, and he moved in a mental cloud as dense as the one of dust that poured round him.
Brewster reached the post some eighteen hours ahead of him. He reported, and saw Miss McLane; then he made himself again as other men and went down to the post trader's, with a definite aim in view, that was hardly to be guessed from his loitering walk. There were several already in the officers' room, and they talked, as a matter of course, of the campaign."That would depend," she answered with her enigmatical, slow smile; "I could be happy almost anywhere with Mr. Cairness."
"Mrs. Cairness would go where I wished gladly," he added, more evenly; "but if it were to a life very different from this, it would end in death鈥攁nd I should be the cause of it. There it is." He too rose, impatiently.The chances of detection would certainly be less if he should go back of the officers' quarters, instead of the barracks. But to do that he would have to cross the road which led from the trader's to the quadrangle, and he would surely meet some one, if it were only some servant girl and her lover. He had observed and learned some things in his week of waiting in the post鈥攖hat week which otherwise had gone for worse than nothing. He took the back of the barracks, keeping well away from them, stumbling in and out among rubbish heaps. He had no very clear idea of what he meant to do, or of why he was going in this particular direction; but he was ready for anything that might offer to his hand. If he came upon Landor or the adjutant or any of them, he would put a knife into him. But he was not going to the trouble of hunting[Pg 206] them out. And so he walked on, and came to the haystacks, looming, denser shadows against the sky.
He opposed drawbacks. "You can't keep her always.""Always supposing you have," interposed Stone, hooking his thumbs in his sleeve holes and tipping back his chair, "always supposing you have, what could you do with the facts?"
"I wish Brewster would not come so often," he said.It was impossible to misunderstand, and Brewster was vexed beyond the bounds of all wisdom. "The squaws have their good traits, too, I guess. I hear one had her nose cut off on your account." He should not have said it. He knew it, and he knew that the private knew it, but the man made no reply whatever.
"Yes; but it happens to be enough for the next few weeks. We are going to camp around San Tomaso to afford the settlers protection. We can't follow any trails, those are our orders, so the pack-train doesn't matter anyway. By that time they will have scared up one."His glance fell before hers of dismay, disapproval, and anger鈥攁n anger so righteous that he felt himself to be altogether in the wrong. "Do you mean divorce?" She said it like an unholy word.
"It's the old saying about a dog walking on its hind legs, when you come to civilizing the Indian. You are surprised that he civilizes at all, but he doesn't do it well, for all that. He can be galvanized into a temporary semblance of national life, but he is dead at the core, and he will decay before long."详情
Copyright © 2020