For a moment he stood looking straight into her eyes, yet neither read the other's thoughts. Then he turned away with a baffled half laugh. "Why should it matter to me?" he asked.
Landor asked eagerly what he had answered.
But it was full two hours, in the end, before they did start. Flasks had to be replenished, farewell drinks taken, wives and families parted from, the last behests made, of those going upon an errand of death. Citizens burning with ardor to protect their hearths and stock were routed out of saloons and dance halls, only to slip away again upon one pretext or another.
She looked down at him in a somewhat indignant surprise. "Pues porque?" she asked, maintaining the haughtiness of the dominant race, and refusing to acknowledge any indebtedness. "Why should I go away?"[Pg 50]
The civilian protested. "But there is a big company of us, sir, thirty or thirty-five, who can put you on the trail of a large band."The reporter interposed that it was the act of men maddened by grief and their losses."You're English, I reckon, ain't you?"
Three weeks later she left the post and the West. Landor's health was broken from the effects of the poisonweed and the manifold troubles of the months past. In lieu of sick leave, he was given a desirable detail, and sent on to Washington, and for a year and a half he saw his wife fitted into a woman's seemly sphere. She was heralded as a beauty, and made much[Pg 159] of as such, and the little vanities that had rarely shown before came to the surface now. He was proud of her. Sought after and admired, clothed in purple and scarlet and fine linen, within the limits of a captain's pay, a creature of ultra-civilization, tamed, she was a very charming woman indeed. There seemed to be no hint of the Apache left. He all but forgot it himself. There was but one relapse in all the time, and it chanced that he had no knowledge of that.It rose to a subdued pitch as there came the gradual rattling of wheels and the slow tramp of many feet. A buckboard, from which the seats had been removed, came up the line, and behind it marched the troops and companies, Landor's own troop in advance. They halted in front of his quarters, and four officers came down the steps with the long box between them. The mocking-bird's trill died away to a questioning twitter.
"But he is goin' to be. That's what I come so quick to tell you." He stopped again."It is from Cairness," said Landor, watching her narrowly. Her hand shook, and he saw it.Landor went to the tree and cut another rib from[Pg 96] the mutton and threw it on the coals. Then he walked across the clearing to the tent.
She was sitting in her room, sewing. Of late she had become domesticated, and she was fading under it. He had seen it already, and he saw it more plainly than ever just now. She looked up and smiled. Her smile had always been one of her greatest charms, because it was rare and very sweet. "Jack," she greeted him, "what have you done with the bread knife you took with you, dear? I have been lost without it."Nor was he disconcerted that she met him with a stony front and a glare of wrath. She glanced down at his outstretched hand, and kept her own great bony one on her hip still. Then she looked at him squarely again. She did not say "Well?" but she meant it. So he answered it blandly, and suggested that she had probably forgotten him, but that he had had the pleasure of meeting her once in the States. She continued to stare. He held that a husband is a husband still[Pg 236] until the law or death says otherwise, and that it was no part of a man's business to inquire into the domestic relations of his friends; so he said that he had had the pleasure of meeting her husband recently. "He was at Fort Stanton," he added, "upon some little matter of business, I believe. You will be glad to hear that he was well." He did not see fit to add that he was also in the county jail, awaiting trial on charge of destruction of government property.
She laughed scornfully. "It ain't me that asked them to take me in," she said; "I'm as glad to go as they are to have me." She wore a calico wrapper that Cairness had bought for her, and other garments that had been gathered together in the town. Now she put a battered sombrero on her head, and told him she was ready.By day Felipa was left in camp with the cook, while Landor and the men worked on ahead, returning at sundown. At times she went with them, but as a rule she wandered among the trees and rocks, shooting with pistol and bow, but always keeping close to the tents. She had no intention of disobeying her [Pg 88]husband again. Sometimes, too, she read, and sometimes cooked biscuits and game over the campfire in the Dutch oven. Her strength began to return almost from the first, and she had gone back, for comfort's sake, to the short skirts of her girlhood.详情
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