"It is not only my business," he said, overlooking the last, and bending more eagerly forward, "it is not[Pg 49] only my business, it is the business of the whole post. You are being talked about, my dear young lady."Already he felt more respectable at the mere prospect of contact with his kind again. He was glad that the unkempt beard was gone, and he was allowing himself to hope, no, he was deliberately hoping, that he would see Felipa.
Ellton could not eat. He bewailed his hard fate unceasingly."And after that?"
The cook came running, six-shooter in hand, but Alchesay was driving them away and lowering the canvas flaps. Felipa told the cook that it was all right, and went on with her dressing. Although she had no gifts for guessing the moods and humors of her father's race, she understood her mother's considerably better,[Pg 93] and so she did not even call a "gracias" after Alchesay. She merely nodded amicably when she went out and found him sitting on the ground waiting for her. He returned the nod, a degree less graciously, if possible, and began to talk to her in bad Spanish, evidently putting small faith in her command of the White Mountain idiom, marvellous, to be sure, in a White-eye squaw, for such were of even greater uselessness than the average woman, but of no account whatever in a crisis. And such he plainly considered this to be.
"What!" ejaculated the general. He was moved altogether from his imperturbable calm.
If it went like this, she thought, she might get to the cross-road first, and beyond. The four men would not matter much then, if she could but stop her husband. Why had he started back alone鈥攁nd carrying money too? It was foolhardy. But then there was so little money, she knew, that he had probably not thought of it as booty. She turned her uncovered head and listened. Her hair had fallen loose and was streaming out in the wind. She could not hear the others now. They must be well behind.Forbes explained their early return, and spoke of the ranch. "It might be a garden, this territory, if[Pg 315] only it had water enough," he said; "it has a future, possibly, but its present is just a little dismal, I think. Are you greatly attached to the life here, Mrs. Cairness?" He was studying her, and she knew it, though his glance swept the outlook comprehensively, and she was watching the mail-carrier riding toward them along the road. It was the brother of the little girl who followed along behind them, and who ran off now to meet him, calling and waving her hand.
She listened attentively to the account of the traces of a struggle among the willows, and asked who had fired the shot. It was not known, they said, and the sullen buck would probably never tell.
Presently the front door opened. The commissary officer evidently had all the keys. Landor and Ellton, who were commandant and adjutant as well, went through the close-smelling storeroom, which reeked with codfish and coffee, into the office.Cairness started for the salt lick, then changed his mind and his destination, and merely rode with Forbes around the parts of the ranch which were under more or less cultivation, and to one of the water troughs beneath a knot of live oaks in the direction of the foot-hills. So they returned to the home place earlier than they otherwise would have done, and that, too, by way of the spring-house."Why did you do it?"
They laid Landor upon the ground, in the same patch of shade he had glanced at in coming by not five [Pg 281]minutes before. His glazed eyes stared back at the sky. There was nothing to be done for him. But Cairness was alive. They washed the blood from his face with water out of the canteens, and bound his head with a wet handkerchief. And presently he came back to consciousness and saw Landor stretched there, with the bluing hole in his brow, and the quiet there is no mistaking on his sternly weary face. And he turned back his head and lay as ashy and almost as still as the dead man, with a look on his own face more terrible than that of any death.
The Indians who came round talked with her amicably enough, mainly by signs. She played with the children too, and one day there appeared among them her prot茅g茅 of the post, who thereafter became a camp follower.
Landor went to the tree and cut another rib from[Pg 96] the mutton and threw it on the coals. Then he walked across the clearing to the tent."Who is there to marry hereabouts? And always supposing there were some one, I'd be sent off on a scout next day, and have to ship her back East for an indefinite time. It would be just my blamed luck."详情
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