"I have kept near you for a week, to warn you, or to help you if necessary."So that was it! It took all the self-command that thirty-five varied years had taught him not to rise up and knock her head against the sharp rocks. But he lay quite still, and presently he said: "That is near enough for my purposes, thank you. But I would be interested to know, if you don't mind, what you had against a helpless woman and those two poor little babies. I wouldn't have supposed that a woman lived who could have been such a fiend as all that."
"What do you mean?" asked Cairness, rather more than a trifle coldly. He had all but forgotten the matter of that afternoon. Felipa had redeemed herself through the evening, so that he had reason to be proud of her.
And now it was a struggle of sheer force and agility. She managed to whip out the knife from her belt and to strike time and time again through sinewy flesh, to the bone. The only noise was the dragging of their feet on the sand, the cracking of the willows and the swishing of the blade. It was savage against savage, two vicious, fearless beasts.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."
Cairness nodded. He knew that the Interior Department had sent an agent out to investigate that complaint, and that the agent had gone his way rejoicing and reporting that all was well with the Indian and honest with the contractor. It was not true. Every[Pg 270] one who knew anything about it knew that. Cairness supposed that also was the work of the politicians. But there are things one cannot make plain to a savage having no notions of government.He grabbed a man at the gate, who happened to be the quartermaster sergeant himself, and asked if his horse had been taken out.
It was characteristic of Felipa that she forgot him altogether and reread the letter, her breath coming in audible gasps."He will come, I dare say. And so will the others, now that you are able to see them. Brewster inquired."
Cairness came up. "Are we going into camp, Captain?" he wanted to know, "or are those fellows going to follow the trail?"He naturally did not foresee anything serious, and he only said, "Well?" and began to fill his pipe from a[Pg 83] buckskin pouch, cleverly sketched in inks with Indian scenes. "By the way," he interrupted as she started to speak, "what do you think of this?" He held it out to her. "That fellow Cairness, who wouldn't stay to luncheon that day, did it for me. We camped near his place a couple of days. And he sent you a needle-case, or some such concern. It's in my kit." She looked at the pouch carefully before she gave it back; then she clasped her hands under her head again and gazed up at the manta of the ceiling, which sagged and was stained where the last cloud-burst had leaked through the roof.
And what she did was to say, with a deliberation equal to his own, that her mother had been a half-breed Mescalero and her father a private.So that evening when all the garrison was upon its front porches and the sidewalk, the major and the lieutenant went down the line to Landor's quarters. And their example was followed. But some hung back, and constraint was in the air.
"But you," said Felipa, wistfully, "you do not want to go back?""What!" ejaculated the general. He was moved altogether from his imperturbable calm.详情
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