类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-09-25 20:19:35


"I can see, sir," the lieutenant answered."Landor again," she yawned, ignoring his meaning-fraught tone. But she watched his face from under her long lashes."Now," said Taylor, distinctly, "oblige me with another lemon pop, mister." A cheer went up, and the minister standing above his fallen enemy raised the[Pg 45] third glass. "Here's to your better judgment next time, my friend. 'Tain't the sombrero makes the shot," he said. His seamed, small face was pale underneath its leathery skin, but by not so much as a quiver of an eyelid did he give any further sign of pain.

And so the hostiles took shelter there from the cavalry that had pursued them hard across the open all night, and gave battle after the manner of their kind. It was a very desultory sort of a skirmish, for the troops did not venture into the traps beyond the very edge, and the Indians were simply on the defensive. It was not only desultory, it promised to be unavailing, a waste of time and of ammunition.

"That's the straight bill. Ask him. He isn't fit to be spoken to.""He gives you what I can't give," she said.Ellton went on, lapsing into the judicial. "In the meantime, anyway, a man's innocent until he's proven guilty. I say, do go round and see him. The others will follow your lead. He's awfully cut up and worried, and he's sick, you know."

"How many did you say?" he wanted to know, having the laudable intention of committing the man before Brewster."Do you like his kind?" the Englishman asked curiously.Cairness congratulated him with all solemnity, and asked if she were a widow. He was sure she must be, for the gallantry of the West in those days allowed no woman to pass maturity unwed.

Landor drew rein and turned upon him with oaths and a purpled face. "What the devil are you trying to do now?" he said.

So one night when they were sitting upon the Campbells' steps, he took the plunge. She had been talking earnestly, discussing the advisability of filing off the hammer of the pistol he had given her, to prevent its catching on the holster when she wanted to draw it quickly. One of her long, brown hands was laid on his knee, with the most admirable lack of self-consciousness. He put his own hand upon it, and she looked up questioningly. She was unused to caresses from any but the two Campbell children, and her frank surprise held a reproach that softened his voice almost to tenderness.

Cairness clasped his hands about one knee and bent back, looking up at the stars,鈥攁nd far beyond them into the infinity of that Cause of which they and he and all the perplexing problems were but the mere effects. "You mustn't think I haven't thought it over, time and again," he said, after a while. "It's more vital to me than to you; but my way isn't clear. I loved Mrs. Cairness for more than ten years before I could marry her. I should lose her in less than that, I am absolutely certain, if I did as you suggest. She is not so strong a woman as you might suppose. This dry air, this climate, are necessary to her." He hesitated a[Pg 321] little, rather loath to speak of his sentiments, and yet glad of the chance to put his arguments in words, for his own greater satisfaction. "You call it picturesque and poetical and all that," he said, "but you only half mean it after all. It is picturesque. It has been absolutely satisfactory. I'm not given to talking about this kind of thing, you know; but most men who have been married two years couldn't say truthfully that they have nothing to regret; that if they had had to buy that time with eternity of damnation and the lake of fire, it would not have come too dear. And I have had no price to pay鈥" he stopped short, the ring of conviction cut off, as the sound of a bell is when a hand is laid upon it. The hand was that of a fact, of the fact that had confronted him in the Ca?on de los Embudos, and that very day by the cottonwoods of the spring-house.And so he had to accept it. He rose, with a slight sigh, and returned to the examination of his spoils.

He was accustomed to the gloom by now, but she was not. She could only see that there was some one in the shadow. It flashed through his mind that she[Pg 221] would scream, but the next moment he knew that she would not.The probable outcome of things at the rate they were going was perfectly apparent. Landor would advance in age, respectability, and rank, and would be retired and settle down on three-fourths pay. He himself would end up in some cow-boy row, degraded and worthless, a tough character very probably, a fine example of nothing save atavism. And Felipa would grow old. That splendid triumphant youth of hers would pass, and she would be a commonplace, subdued, middle-aged woman, in whom a relapse to her nature would be a mere vulgarity.

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"From Cairness?" she faltered, looking up at him[Pg 147] with frightened eyes; "when did it come?" Her voice was as unsteady as her hands. She tore it open and began to read it there before him. He stood and watched her lips quiver and grow gray and fall helplessly open. If she had been under physical torture, she could have kept them pressed together, but not now.But that same night he picked two for their reputation of repeating all they knew, and took them into his own rooms and told his story to them. And he met once again with such success that when Landor rode into the post the next day at about guard-mounting, three officers, meeting him, raised their caps and passed on.

Any other fire鈥攅xcepting always in an ammunition magazine鈥攊s easier to handle than one in a stable. It takes time to blind plunging horses and lead them out singly. And there is no time to take. Hay and straw[Pg 208] and gunny-sacks and the dry wood of the stable go up like tinder. It has burned itself out before you can begin to extinguish it.[Pg 296]



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