It was.Landor winced as he folded his napkin and stood up. "I am ready," he said, and going into the long hallway took his cap from the rack and went with the major out into the night.
Landor came trotting over from his quarters, followed by his orderly, and the troops moved off across the flat, toward the river.Cairness said to himself that she was regal, and acknowledged her most formal welcome with an ease he had fancied among the arts he had long since lost.
He knew while he was yet afar off which was the American. She stood, big and gaunt, with her feet planted wide and her fists on her hips, looking over toward the general's tent. And when Cairness came nearer, strolling along with his hands in his pockets, observing the beauties of Nature and the entire vileness of man, she turned her head and gave him a defiant stare. He took his hands from his pockets and went forward, raising his disreputable campaign hat. "Good morning, Mrs. Lawton," he said, not that he quite lived up to the excellent standard of Miss Winstanley, but that he understood the compelling force of civility, not to say the bewilderment. If you turn its bright light full in the face of one whose eyes are accustomed to the obscurity wherein walk the underbred, your chances for dazzling him until he shall fall into any pit you may have dug in his pathway are excellent.Mrs. Taylor was silent. Her pop blue eyes shifted.Then he stopped, with every muscle drawn, for he had seen in her answering, unflinching gaze that he was losing her, surely, irrevocably losing her. He let her go, almost throwing her away, and she caught hold of a ledge of rock to steady herself. He picked up the heavy quirt and held it out to her, with a shaking hand, shame-faced, and defiant, too.
"But I can have it cleaned," she said.
"That same. She was part Mescalero, anyway."Landor's wrath was mighty, but he smiled as he sat balancing a ruler on his fingers and hearing how the citizens of San Tomaso, eager to avenge their wrongs, had met him at early morning, had gone bravely forward, keen on the scent, had implored him to hasten, while he halted on worthless pretexts, and had, towards evening, reluctantly left a hot trail, going from it at right angles, "and camping," said Brewster, regretfully, "as far away as it was possible to get, considering the halts."He did not try to discuss her plans for the future with her that night; but two days afterward, when she had disposed of all her household goods and had packed the few things that remained, they sat upon two boxes in the bare hallway, resting; and he broached it.
And the next day she knew. When she came out in front of her quarters in the morning, rather later than usual, there was a new tent beside the hospital,[Pg 81] and when she asked the reason for it, they told her that a wounded Apache had been found down by the river soon after the shot had been fired the night before. He was badly hurt, with a ball in his shoulder, and he was half drunk with tizwin, as well as being cut in a dozen places."Felipa!" he cried, "Felipa!"
But this the civilians were very plainly not minded to do. They dropped back, now to cinch up, now to take a drink from the flasks, now to argue, once for one of their number to recover from an attack of heart disease."Did you, though?"
Then he mounted the horse the orderly held for him, and trotted off.But she would die before she would be faithless to him. He was sure of that. Only鈥攚hy should he exact so much? Why should he not make the last of[Pg 150] a long score of sacrifices? He had been unselfish with her always, from the day he had found the little child, shy as one of the timid fawns in the woods of the reservation, and pretty in a wild way, until now when she sat there in front of him, a woman, and his wife, loving, and beloved of, another man.
"Let go your stirrup!" cried Cairness, in her ear; and as she kicked her foot loose, he leaned far from the saddle and threw his arm around her, swinging her up in front of him across the McLellan pommel, and driving the spurs into his horse's belly. It had the advantage of her horse in that it was an Indian animal, sure of foot as a burro, and much quicker. With one dash it was up the hillside, while the other rolled over and over, down into the torrent of the cloud burst.The man, still running, dodged from the road and started across country. Cairness wheeled and followed him. It was open ground, with not so much as a scrub oak or a rock in sight. The thick darkness offered the only chance of escape. But Cairness had chased yearlings in nights as black, and had brought them back to the herd. Down by the creek where the trees were thick, there would have been a good chance for escape, almost a certainty indeed, but there was little here. The man dodged again. It was just to that very thing that the pony had been trained. Habit got the better of stampede with it. It, too, dodged sharply.
The Gila River cutting straight across the southern portion of Arizona, from the Alkali flats on the east to the Colorado at Yuma on the west, flowed then its whole course through desolation. Sometimes cottonwoods and sycamore trees rose in the bottom, and there was a patch of green around some irrigated land. But, for the most part, the basin was a waste of glittering sand and white dust, and beyond, the low hills, bare of every plant save a few stunted wild flowers, cacti and sage, greasewood and mesquite, rolled for miles and miles of barrenness. The chicken hawk and crow sailed through the fiercely blue sky, the air waved and quivered with incredible heat. At night malaria rose from the ground, the coyote barked and whined at the light of the brilliant stars, and the polecat prowled deliberately.详情
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