It was a little pocket, a natural fortress, high up on a commanding peak. Cairness crept forward flat along the rocks, raised his head cautiously and looked down. There in the sunrise light,鈥攖he gorgeous sunrise of the southern mountain peaks where the wind is fresh out of the universe and glitters and quivers with sparks of new life,鈥攖here was the encampment of the hostiles. It was a small Eden of green grass and water and trees high up in the Sierra鈥攖hat strange mountain chain that seems as though it might have been the giant model of the Aztec builders, and that holds the mystery of a[Pg 229] mysterious people locked in its stone and metal breasts, as securely as it does that of the rich, lost mines whose fabled wonders no man can prove to-day.Landor had been good to her. She would have gone through anything rather than have hurt him. And yet it was always a relief now when he went away. She was glad when he was ordered into the field at the beginning of the spring. Of old she had been sufficiently sorry to have him go. But of old she had not felt the bit galling.She gave a cry of relief. "Mr. Cairness, Mr. Cairness," she called, "it is only my husband." She went herself a little way into the passage. "Jack, Mr. Cairness has gone in there, call to him." And she called again herself.
In less than an hour the troop was ready, the men flannel-shirted and gauntleted, their soft felt hats pulled over their eyes, standing reins in hand, foot in stirrup, beside the fine, big horses that Crook had substituted for the broncos of the plains cavalry of former years. Down by the corrals the pack-mules were ready, too, grunting under their aparejos and packs. A thick, hot wind, fraught with sand, was beginning, presaging one of the fearful dust storms of the southwest. The air dried the very blood in the veins. The flies, sticky and insistent, clung and buzzed about the horses' eyes and nostrils. Bunches of tumbleweed and hay went whirling across the parade.
"Do you like his kind?" the Englishman asked curiously."I put them in this here book," he said, "betwixt the leaves, and then I put the book under my saddle and set on it. I don't weigh so much, but it works all right," he added, looking up with a na?ve smile that reached from one big ear to the other. "To-morrow," he told him later, "I'm going to ride over here to Tucson again. What way might you be takin'?"
"I am," announced the soldier.
She would not be induced to go near her own house that night. When Ellton suggested it, she turned white and horrified. It had not occurred to him before that a woman so fearless of everything in the known world might be in abject terror of the unknown.Sometimes when she was quite certain of being undisturbed, she took Cairness's one letter from the desk, and read and reread it, and went over every word and look she had had from him. She had forgotten nothing, but though her olive skin would burn and then grow more colorless than ever when she allowed herself to recall, not even a sigh would come from between the lips that had grown a very little set.
Foster hastened to assure him that two days would easily do it. "We know the country round here, [Pg 113]Colonel, know it better than the hostiles themselves; and a big party of us volunteers to put you on the trail and bring you to them. You can't hardly refuse, seein' as you say you are here to protect us, and this is the protection we ask, to get back the stock we've lost."
Ellton filled in the pause that threatened, with a return to the dominant topic. "This not having any pack-train," he opined, "is the very deuce and all. The only transportation the Q. M. can give you is a six-mule team, isn't it?"
Once in the ?ons which will never unfold their secrets now, when the continent of the Western seas was undreamed of by the sages and the philosophers of the Eastern world, when it was as alone, surrounded by its wide waters, as the planets are alone in their wastes of space, when it was living its own life,鈥攚hich was to leave no trace upon the scroll of the wisdom of the ages,鈥攖he mountains and the bowels of the earth melted before the wrath of that same Lord whose voice shook the wilderness of Jud?a. At His bidding they ran as water, and poured down in waves of seething fire, across the valley of death.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.
"That would depend," she answered with her enigmatical, slow smile; "I could be happy almost anywhere with Mr. Cairness."But there was more stock than was needed.Hurrah! for the next that dies."详情
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