So he was near her again. She had not seen him in many months, but she had felt that he must be always,[Pg 109] as he had been through those days in the fastnesses of the Sierra Blanca, following her afar off, yet near enough to warn her, if need arose. She was too superstitious to watch him out of sight, and she turned back into the house, followed by Miss McLane, just as stable call sounded, and the white-clad soldiers tramped off to the corrals.He laughed, a little falsely, and turned back into the room.
There was a chuckle from the group, and a chorus to the effect that they would be eternally condemned, the truth of which was patent in their faces. "Leave the little codger be," some one suggested; "he ain't skeered worth a sour apple."He took a chair facing her, as she put the letter back in its envelope and laid it in her work-basket. It was very unlike anything he had ever imagined concerning situations of the sort. But then he was not imaginative. "Should you be glad to be free to marry him?" he asked, in a spirit of unbiassed discussion.Landor went. Felipa waited for him, already mounted. He mounted his own horse and rode beside her back to the post. They did not speak, and he was conscious above his anger that his fondness for her had been gradually turning to dislike, and was now loathing. He had seen her dragging in the dust before him, pleading abjectly. She had humiliated him and herself in the presence of Cairness, of all men, and he would never forget it. A woman who once grovels at a man's feet has lost thenceforth her power over him.
He told her that he most certainly did, and she went on.
He hesitated with a momentary compunction. She must have suffered pretty well for her sins already; her work-cut, knotty hands and her haggard face and the bend of her erstwhile too straight shoulders鈥攁ll showed that plainly enough. It were not gallant; it might even be said to be cruel to worry her. But he remembered the dead Englishwoman, with her babies, stiff and dead, too, beside her on the floor of the charred cabin up among the mountains, and his heart was hardened.He was waking now to his work. But he had enough of horses. He stopped, sheathed his knife, and, feeling in his pockets, drew out a box of matches. A little spluttering flame caught in a pile of straw, and showed a hind foot dragging helplessly. It crept up, and the mule plunged on three legs, dragging the other along. It snorted, and then every animal in that corral, which was the quartermaster's, smelt danger and snorted too, and struck from side to side of its stall. Those in the next corral caught the fear.
"It smells horribly," she exclaimed, dropping it on the floor, "it smells of hospitals鈥攄isinfectants." But she stooped and picked it up again.And the blood that blues the inside arm?"鈥"On his ranch, living on the fat of a lean land, I believe. He's rich, you know. I don't know much about them. I've small use for them. And I used to like Cairness, too. Thought he was way above his job. Those squaw-men lose all sense of honor."
"I say, old man, shut that door! Look at the flies. Now go on," he added, as the door banged; and he rose to draw a chair to the table.There is a certain class of persons to whom it is always irritating to find any one reading a book. It rubs them the wrong way instantly. They will frequently argue that their own, and the best, manner of studying life is from nature鈥攁n excellent theory in sound, and commonly accepted as unanswerable, but about as practical in fact as the study of music on the instrument alone, without primer or method.
When the sergeant reported it to the major afterward, he said that the captain, in stooping over to raise the chief of scouts, had been struck full in the temple by a bullet, and had pitched forward with his arms stretched out. One private had been wounded. They carried the two men back to the little cabin of stones, and that was the casualty list. But the dash had failed.Geronimo and four other warriors were riding aimlessly about on two mules, drunk as they well could be, too drunk to do much that day. But when night[Pg 303] came, and with it a drizzling rain, the fears the ranchman and his mescal had put in their brains assumed real shapes, and they betook themselves to the mountains again, and to the war-path.
"He will come, I dare say. And so will the others, now that you are able to see them. Brewster inquired.""There is something," he insisted, dropping his head down again wearily.
He sat quite still, clinching his teeth and clawing his fingers tensely. In the great crises of life, training and upbringing and education fall away, and a man is governed by two forces, his instincts and his surroundings. And Cairness's instincts were in entire accord with his surroundings; they were of the Stone Age, when men fought with the beasts of the wilderness in their cave homes, and had only the law of sheer strength. He leaned forward, holding his breath, and watched her. Had she seen his horse tied up above, and come here to find him鈥攂ecause he was here?
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."That's the straight bill. Ask him. He isn't fit to be spoken to.""I am going back to my ranch on the reservation," he said measuredly.详情
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