The sound shrilled sweetly through the house, through all the empty rooms, and through the thick silence of that one which was not empty, but where a flag was spread over a rough box of boards, and Ellton sat by the window with a little black prayer-book in his hand. He was going over the service for the burial of the dead, because there was no chaplain, and it fell to him to read it. Now and then one of the officers came in alone or with his wife and stood about aimlessly, then went away again. But for the rest, the house was quite forsaken.In the end stall the bronco was still squealing and whimpering in an almost human key. He struck it on the flank with his open palm and spoke, "Get over[Pg 210] there." It had been made so much of a pet, and had been so constantly with him, that it was more intelligent than the average of its kind. It got over and stood quiet and still, trembling. He cut the halter close to the knot, turned it out of the stall, and flinging himself across its back dug his heels into its belly.
"No," he said, "I wouldn't like you to, and she wouldn't want it, I reckon." He dropped back into his usual speech. "She ain't any repentant sinner, by a good deal. But as Cairness wants me to keep an eye on her, and as she's sick, I wish you to let her stay in the house, and not to make a rumpus about it. If you really don't like to go near her, though," he finished, "I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll take her in her food myself, and nurse can clean out her room."Gradually it began to form itself in his softened brain what he meant to do. It is safest to avenge oneself upon dumb beasts, after all. By and by he began to feel along the adobe wall, and when he found a niche for his foot, he started to clamber up. He had climbed so many corral walls, to sit atop of them with his great, booted legs dangling, and meditatively whittle when he should have been at work, that it was easy for him, and in a moment he was on the shingled roof, lying flat. In another he had dropped down upon a bed of straw.
And it seems that the dead are there.
The box was laid in the buckboard, and covered with the flag once more. Then the mules started, with a rattle of traces and of the wheels, and the tramp of feet began again. The drums thrummed regularly and slowly, the heart beats of the service, and the fifes took up the dead march in a weird, shrill Banshee wail. They went down the line, the commandant with the surgeon and the officers first, and after them the buckboard, with its bright-draped burden. Then Landor's horse, covered with black cloths, the empty[Pg 284] saddle upon its back. It nosed at the pockets of the man who led it. It had been taught to find sugar in pockets. And then the troops, the cavalry with the yellow plumes of their helmets drooping, and the infantry with the spikes glinting, marching with eyes cast down and muskets reversed. A gap, then the soldiers' urchins from the laundress row, in for anything that might be doing.
The milk ranch and the stock were unhurt, and there were not even any Indian signs. It was simply another example, on the milkman's part, of the perfection to which the imagination of the frontier settler could be cultivated.He had gone back.He left her ignominiously, at a run. She stood laughing after him until he jumped over a rock and disappeared. "She is his sweetheart, the vieja," she chattered to her companions.
He hesitated, then blurted it out, in spite of the[Pg 151] inward warning that it would be unwise. "I could let you free yourself."
"Trouble is," he went on evenly, "trouble is, that, like most women, you've been brought up to take copy-book sentiments about touchin' pitch, and all that, literal. You don't stop to remember that to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. If she can't do you any harm spiritually, she certainly ain't got the strength to do it physically. I can't say as I'd like to have her about the place all the time unless she was going to reform,鈥攁nd I don't take much stock in change of heart, with her sort,鈥攂ecause she wouldn't be a pleasant companion, and it ain't well to countenance vice. But while she's sick, and it will oblige Cairness, she can have the shelter of my manta. You think so too, now, don't you?" he soothed.
"Yes?" said Landor. He knew the citizens of the district, and attached no particular sacredness to the person of their envoy.Then Brewster began to listen.
"Do you still want me to marry you?" she asked him.[Pg 170]详情
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