When, therefore, Mrs. Landor said, with the utmost composure, that it was too bad, his gasp was audible.
While Kirby went through the oppressive rite of afternoon tea within the slant-roofed log cabin, and tried to hide from his wife the fear which grew as the shadows lengthened across the clearing out in the corral, the men had reached open mutiny. The smouldering sullenness[Pg 126] had at last burst into flaming defiance, blown by the gale of the woman's wrath."It's Mr. Cairness, ma'am," he whispered."What the devil do you want to know, then?"
"To get out the bids." His courage was waxing a little.
"What you goin' to do?" the boy asked. He was round-eyed with dismay and astonishment.Before dawn Cairness was out, hastening the cook with the breakfast, helping with it himself, indeed, and rather enjoying the revival of the days when he had been one of the best cooks in the troop and forever pottering about the mess chests and the Dutch oven, in the field. As the sun rose,鈥攖hough daybreak was fairly late there in the ca?on,鈥攖he cold, crisp air was redolent of coffee and bacon and broiling fresh meat.
She had never been cruel intentionally before, and afterward she regretted it. But she raised her eyebrows and turned her back on him without answering.Cairness tied his cow-pony to a post in front of a low calcimined adobe, and going across the patch of trodden earth knocked at the door. The little parson's own high voice called to him, and he went in.
"To Captain Landor's widow, I am told."
He had been in hiding three weeks. Part of the time he had stayed in the town near the post, small, but as frontier towns went, eminently respectable and law-abiding. For the rest he had lain low in a house of very bad name at the exact edge of the military reservation. The poison of the vile liquor he had drunk without ceasing had gotten itself into his brain. He had reached the criminal point, not bold,鈥攈e was never that,鈥攂ut considerably more dangerous, upon the whole. He drank more deeply for two days longer, after he received Stone's letter, and then, when he was quite mad, when his eyes were bleared and fiery and his head was dry and hot and his heart terrible within him, he went out into the black night.With the sublime indifference to the mockery of the world, characteristic of his race, Cairness kept at it. It was ridiculous. He had time to be dimly aware of that. And it certainly was not war. He did not know that they were affording the opposing forces much enjoyment. He had not even observed that the firing had stopped. But he meant to catch that much qualifiedly impudent little beast, or to know the reason why. And he would probably have known the reason why, if one of the Apache scouts, embarrassed by no notions of fair play, had not taken good aim and[Pg 233] brought his youthful kinsman down, with a bullet through his knee."I say, Landor," he began, after having outwardly greeted Felipa and inwardly cursed his luck at being obliged to tear a man away from so fair a bride, "I say, there's been the dickens of a row up at the Agency."
Cairness nodded. He thought it very likely.The Lawton woman had heard of an officer's family at Grant, which was in need of a cook, and had gone there.
The fighting stopped to watch the Ojo-blanco playing tag with the little Apache, right in the heart of the stronghold. The general stood still, with a chuckle, and looked on. "Naughty little boy," he remarked to the captain of the scouts; "but your man Cairness won't catch him, though."He put out his hand and touched a warm, smooth flank. The horse gave a little low whinny. Quick as a flash he whipped out his knife and hamstrung it, not that one only, but ten other mules and horses before[Pg 207] he stopped. He groped from stall to stall, and in each cut just once, unerringly and deep, so that the poor beast, which had turned its head and nosed at the touch of the hand of one of those humans who had always been its friends, was left writhing, with no possible outcome but death with a bullet in its head.
Why should he labor to help his neighbor,It was more for her than for himself that the rebuke hurt him. For it was a rebuke, though as yet it was unsaid. And he thought for a moment that he would defend her to the general. He had never done so yet, not even to the little parson in Tombstone whose obvious disapproval he had never tried to combat, though it had ended the friendship of years.详情
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