In the weeks that followed, Landor spent days and some nights鈥攖hose when he sat up to visit the guard, as a rule鈥攁ttempting to decide why his ward repelled him. She seemed to be quite like any other contented and natural young girl. She danced, and courted admiration, within the bounds of propriety; she was fond of dress, and rather above the average in intelligence. Usually she was excellent company, whimsical and sweet-humored. She rode well enough, and learned鈥攖o his intense annoyance鈥攖o shoot with a bow and arrow quite remarkably, so much so that they nicknamed her Diana. He had remonstrated at first, but there was no reason to urge, after all. Archery was quite a feminine sport.
She set about cleaning the little revolver, self-cocking, with the thumb-piece of the hammer filed away, that her husband had given her before they were married. To-night she wanted no dinner. She was given to eating irregularly; a good deal at a time, and again nothing for a long stretch. That, too, was in the blood. So she sent the soldier cook away, and he went over to the deserted barracks.Cairness called to four of his scouts as he ran. They joined him, and he told them to help him search. In half an hour they found her, cowering in a cranny of rocks and manzanita. He dismissed the Indians, and then spoke to her. "Now you sit on that stone there and listen to me," he said, and taking her by the shoulder put her down and stood over her.
Not far from where those flames were licking up into the heavens, Cairness thought as he watched them, had[Pg 162] been the Circle K Ranch. In among the herd, even now, were Circle K cattle that had not yet been cut out. Those six people of his own race had been all that was left to him of his youth. To be sure, he had seen little of them, but he had known that they were there, ready to receive him in the name of the home they had all left behind.The civilian protested. "But there is a big company of us, sir, thirty or thirty-five, who can put you on the trail of a large band."
As for the Kirby affair, there had been no hint of treachery in the published or verbal accounts of it. The ranch hands who had escaped had told a plain enough tale of having fled at the approach of the Indians, vainly imploring the Kirbys to do the same. It[Pg 166] seemed that the most they could be accused of was cowardice. It had all been set forth in the papers with much circumstance and detail. But Cairness doubted. He remembered their dogged ugliness, and that of the raw-boned Texan woman.
"Indeed, I am not joking," she assured him earnestly. "It is quite true. Ask any one. Only don't let them know it was I who wounded him. They have never so much as suspected it. Fortunately I thought of you and ran home all the way, and was in my tent before it occurred to any one to come for me." She burst into a low laugh at his countenance of wrath and dismay. "Oh! come, Jack dear, it is not so perfectly, unspeakably horrible after all. I was disobedient. But then I am so sorry and promise never, never to do it again."Landor explained again, with greater detail, vainly trying to impress the nature of a military order on the civilian brain. "It would not do for me to disobey my[Pg 112] instructions. And besides there are several officers who are to follow trails, out with larger commands. I have no pack-train, and I can't."
She was strong, slender as she was, and she freed herself almost without effort. And yet he would not be warned. "Don't you love me?" he insisted, as though she had not already made it plain enough.The ill-smelling room filled, and various games, chiefly faro and monte, began. At one table two men were playing out a poker game that was already of a week's duration. The reek of bad liquor mingled with the smell of worse tobacco and of Mexican-cured leather鈥攍ike which there is no odor known to the senses, so pungent and permeating and all-pervading it[Pg 42] is. Several of the bracket lamps were sending up thin streams of smoke.
But she only answered that that was unlikely and slipped her arm around his neck, as she added that if anything were to happen to him, she would not have one real friend in the world. There was something pathetic in the quiet realization of her loneliness.The general was neither convinced nor won over. He had Geronimo told that it was a very pretty story, but that there was no reason why forty men should have left the reservation for fear of three. "And if you were afraid of three, what had that to do with the[Pg 299] way you sneaked all over the country, killing innocent people? You promised me in the Sierra Madre that that peace should last. But you lied. When a man has lied to me once, I want better proof than his word to believe him again."There was a mutter of thunder and a far-off roar, a flame of lightning through the trees, and the hills and mountains shook. Just where they rode the ca?on narrowed to hardly more than a deep gulch, and the river ran close beside the road.
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.Cairness had been standing afar off, with his hands in his pockets, watching with a gleam of enjoyment under his knitted brows, but he began to see that there threatened to be more to this than mere baiting; that the desperado was growing uglier as the parson grew more firmly urbane. He drew near his small travelling companion and took his hands suddenly from his pockets, as the cow-boy whipped out a brace of six-shooters and pointed them at the hat.详情
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