类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-10-20 22:39:48


[Pg 143]

She put the baby between them, and it sat looking into the fire in the way she herself so often did, until her husband had called her the High Priestess of the Flames. Then she sank down among the cushions again and stirred her coffee indolently, drowsily, steeped in the contentment of perfect well-being. Cairness followed her movements with sharp pleasure.

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.As he had made Mrs. Campbell his confidante from the first, he told her about this too, now, and finished with the half-helpless, half-amused query as to what he should do. "It may be any length of time before she decides that she is old enough, and it never seems to occur to her that this state of things can't go on forever, that she is imposing upon you." "And the most serious part of it," he added after a while, "is that she does not love me."

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.Some thirty miles to the southeast was the Mescalero Indian Agency. Landor had consented with the worst possible grace to take her there sometime when the[Pg 184] road should be passable and safe. She had openly resented his disinclination, though she usually appeared not to notice it. "It is very natural I should want to see the place where I was born," she had said, "and I think we should both be more comfortable if you would not persist in being so ashamed of it."

The silence, cut by the nervous whispering of the children, became unendurable. "Are you very uneasy about them?" Mrs. Kirby asked.

The never ending changes of the service, which permitted no man to remain in one spot for more than two years at the utmost limit, had sent Landor's troop back to Grant, and it was from there that he was ordered out at the beginning of the summer.The buck fell back before her fury, but she followed him thrusting and slashing. Yet it might not, even then, have ended well for her, had there not come from somewhere overhead the sound most dreaded as an omen of harm by all Apaches鈥攖he hoot of an owl. The Indian gave a low cry of dismay and turned and darted in among the bushes.

In the corral where the fire had started and was best under way, and in the stall farthest from the gate, a little pinto mustang was jerking at its halter and squealing with fear. It was Cairness's horse. He had been allowed to stable it there, and he himself was not down with his scouts in the ill-smelling camp across the creek, but had a room at the sutler's store, a good three-quarters of a mile from the corrals. As soon as the bugle call awoke him, he started at a run; but the fire was beyond fighting when he got there.

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"I don't know how true it was, and I certainly ain't going to look her up in her rancheria to find out."[Pg 24]

"Look out for the little customer, will you?" he said to the medical officer. "He's a great chum of mine. Many's the can of condensed milk and bag of peanuts the ungrateful young one has had out of me." "What are you doing here?" he asked in the White Mountain idiom; "you aren't a Chiricahua."The man, still running, dodged from the road and started across country. Cairness wheeled and followed him. It was open ground, with not so much as a scrub oak or a rock in sight. The thick darkness offered the only chance of escape. But Cairness had chased yearlings in nights as black, and had brought them back to the herd. Down by the creek where the trees were thick, there would have been a good chance for escape, almost a certainty indeed, but there was little here. The man dodged again. It was just to that very thing that the pony had been trained. Habit got the better of stampede with it. It, too, dodged sharply."Well, not in the immediate vicinity," he admitted. "No; but they passed along the foot-hills, and stole some stock, an' killed three men no later than this evening."



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