Just for a moment it hesitated, then started with the bronco spring, jumping the dead mules, shying from right to left and back again, and going out through the gates at a run. Cairness held on with his knees as he had learned to do when he had played at stock-rider around Katawa and Glen Lomond in the days of his boyhood, as he had done since with the recruits at hurdle drill, or when he had chased a fleet heifer across the prairie and had had no time to saddle. He could keep his seat, no fear concerning that, but it was all he could do. The pony was not to be stopped. He had only what was left of the halter shank by way of a bridle, and it was none at all. A Mexican knife bit would hardly have availed.Nor was he disconcerted that she met him with a stony front and a glare of wrath. She glanced down at his outstretched hand, and kept her own great bony one on her hip still. Then she looked at him squarely again. She did not say "Well?" but she meant it. So he answered it blandly, and suggested that she had probably forgotten him, but that he had had the pleasure of meeting her once in the States. She continued to stare. He held that a husband is a husband still[Pg 236] until the law or death says otherwise, and that it was no part of a man's business to inquire into the domestic relations of his friends; so he said that he had had the pleasure of meeting her husband recently. "He was at Fort Stanton," he added, "upon some little matter of business, I believe. You will be glad to hear that he was well." He did not see fit to add that he was also in the county jail, awaiting trial on charge of destruction of government property.
His contentment was not to last for long, however. The quartermaster broke in upon it rudely as he sat on the porch one morning after guard-mounting, "Have you seen the man who came up with the scouts from Grant?"
His horse started. He had dug it with the rowels. Then he reined it in with a jerk that made it champ its curb. "Don't dwell on that all the time," he said angrily; "forget it." And then it flashed across him, the irreparable wrong he would be doing her if he taught her to consider the Apache blood a taint.
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?"He struck his pony with the fringed end of the horse-hair lariat that hung around his pommel, and cantered on in the direction of the post. The pony had been found among the foot-hills, without any[Pg 218] trouble. That, at any rate, had been a stroke of luck. He had led it into the fort just at the end of guard-mounting, and had met a party of riders going out.
The Reverend Taylor sat in silence for a time, reflecting. Then he broke forth again, a little querulously. "What in thunderation do they dine at such an hour for?" Cairness explained that it was an English custom to call supper dinner, and to have it very late.Presently she said: "I can't forget. And you can't. As for other people鈥攖hey don't matter anyway." In her scheme of things other people rarely did matter. She hedged herself round with a barrier of indifference that was very nearly contempt, and encouraged no intimacies鈥攏ot even with Landor. And he knew it.
"And you鈥攚hat did you say?" asked Landor. He was a little surprised to find how anxiously he[Pg 26] waited, and the extent of his relief when she answered, "I told him to let me be, or I would set them loose on him."She dropped beside him and tried to hold him down. "He did not know I was coming here," she pleaded. "It was a mistake, Jack! Will you wait until I tell you? Will you wait?" She was clinging around his neck and would not be shaken off. He dragged her in the dust, trying to get free himself.
Stone laughed and inquired if he were joking, or just crazy."I didn't see the telegram, but it was in effect that he had no knowledge of anything of the sort, and put no faith in it."
"I used to know Mrs. Cairness in Washington," Forbes went on, undisturbed; "she has probably told you so."
But she sat up suddenly, with one of her quick movements of conscious strength and perfect control over every muscle, clasped her hands about her knees, and went on. "It was very curious," and there came on her face the watchful, alert, wild look, with the narrowing of the eyes. "It was very curious, I could not[Pg 84] have stayed indoors that night if it had cost me my life鈥攁nd it very nearly did, too. I had to get out. So I took my revolver and my knife, and I went the back way, down to the river. While I was standing on the bank and thinking about going home, an Indian stole out on me. I had an awful struggle. First I shot. I aimed at his forehead, but the bullet struck his shoulder; and then I fought with the knife. As soon as I could slip out of his grasp, I went at him and drove him off. But I didn't know how badly he was hurt until the next day. The shot had roused them up here, and they went down to the river and found him bleeding on the sand.The man on the ground twisted his body around on his crushed leg, pinned under the pony, aimed deliberately at the white figure, and fired. Felipa's firm hold upon her revolver turned to a clutch, and her mouth fell open in a sharp gasp. But very deliberately she put the revolver into its holster, and then she laid her hand against her side. At once the palm was warm with blood.详情
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