"Yes," he assured her unmoved, "you are. At least you are going to do that, or go to jail.""Yes," she told him, "they are, and it is that makes me think that the fault may be ours. She is so patient with them."
"Hurrah! for the next that dies," thought Landor himself, with a careless cynicism. The barrel of a Winchester gleamed above a point of rock, a little sharp sparkle of sunlight on steel, and a bullet deflected from the big leather hood of his stirrup. He rode on calmly, and his horse's shoes clicked on the lava.
Which happened upon the following day. And he was there to see it all, so that the question he had not cared to ask was answered forever beyond the possibility[Pg 198] of a misunderstanding. It was stable time, and she walked down to the corrals with him. He left her for a moment by the gate of the quartermaster's corral while he went over to the picket line. The bright clear air of a mountain afternoon hummed with the swish click-clock, swish click-clock of the curry-combs and brushes, and the busy scraping of the stable brooms in the stalls.
"He told him the truth, I tell you: that when we heard the Apaches were coming, we lit out and drove out the stock from the corrals. I don't recollect his words."
Landor said that he had put in a requisition for kippered mackerel and anchovy paste, and that the commissary was running down so that one got nothing fit to eat. He was in an unpleasant frame of mind, and his first lieutenant, who messed with him, pulled apart a broiled quail that lay, brown and juicy, on its couch of toast and cress, and asked wherein lay the use of taking thought of what you should eat. "Every prospect is vile, and man is worse, and the sooner heaven sends release the better. What is there in a life like this? Six weeks from the nearest approach to civilization, malaria in the air by night and fire by day. Even Mrs. Landor is showing it."
But she only considered the insects, which were beginning to move again, and answered absently that she knew it, that he had said it before. "Oh! Mr. Brewster, bet quickly," she urged.
"You better do what I say!" He was plainly spoiling for a fight.But she was, it appeared, a maiden lady, straight from Virginia. The Reverend Taylor was the first man she had ever loved. "It was right funny how it come about," he confided, self absorbed still. "Her mother keeps the res'rant acrost the street where I take my meals (I used to have a Greaser woman, but I got sick of frijoles and gorditas and chili and all that stuff), and after dinner every afternoon, she and me would put two saucers of fly-paper on a table and we would set and bet on which would catch the most flies before four o'clock. You ain't no idea how interestin' it got to be. The way we watched them flies was certainly intense. Sometimes, I tell you, she'd get that excited she'd scream when they couldn't make up their minds to[Pg 169] light. Once her mother come runnin' in, thinkin' I was tryin' to kiss her." He beamed upon Cairness, and accepted congratulations charmingly, sipping his soda-pop with quite a rakish little air. "What brought you here?" he remembered to ask, at length.
"I shall be in and out all night, more or less," he told Felipa. She reached her hands from the bedclothes and stroked the deep lines on his forehead, the lines she had had most to do with putting there. But she did not ask for confidences. She never did. It was not her way. He kissed her and went out into the night again, to sit upon his porch at a spot where, through the cottonwood branches, he commanded a view of Brewster's front door and of the windows of the commissary office.It was so with Cairness. He was sinking down, and ever down, to the level of his surroundings; he was even ceasing to realize that it was so. He had begun by studying the life of the savages, but he was so entirely grasping their point of view that he was losing all other. He was not so dirty as they鈥攏ot yet. His stone cabin was clean enough, and their villages were squalid. A morning plunge in the river was still a necessity, while with them it was an event. But where he had once spent his leisure in reading in several tongues鈥攊n keeping in touch with the world鈥攁nd in painting, he would now sit for hours looking before him into space, thinking unprofitable thoughts. He lived from hand to mouth. Eventually he would without doubt marry a squaw. The thing was more than common upon the frontier.
Landor was without impulses; the very reverse from boyhood of the man on the ground beside him, which was why, perhaps, it had come to be as it was now. He considered before he replied. But having considered, he answered that he would, and that he would do his best for the child always. Once he had said it, he might be trusted beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Landor still rode at the head of his column, but his chin was sunk down on his red silk neckerchief, his face was swollen and distorted under its thick beard, and his eyes were glazed. They stared straight ahead into the sand whirl and the sulphurous glare. He had sent Brewster on ahead some hours before. "You[Pg 138] will want to see Miss McLane as soon as possible," he had said, "and there is no need of both of us here."She did not show the enthusiasm he had rather expected. "I dare say it is my bad conscience," she answered with some indifference. "I have a sin to confess.""I have never especially liked you," Cairness decided, for his part, "and I can't say that you improve upon acquaintance, you know. You wrote those articles about Landor, and that's one I owe you."详情
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