"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."Brewster mumbled out of a towel that he guessed they were all right, and implied what the dickens did it matter to him how they were.
Then she tried to read, but the whisper of savagery was in the loneliness and the night. She sat with the book open in her lap, staring into a shadowy corner where there leaned an Indian lance, surmounted by a war bonnet. Presently she stood up, and stretched her limbs slowly, as a beast of prey does when it shakes off the lethargy of the day and wakens for the darkness. Then she went out to the back of the tents.
The probable outcome of things at the rate they were going was perfectly apparent. Landor would advance in age, respectability, and rank, and would be retired and settle down on three-fourths pay. He himself would end up in some cow-boy row, degraded and worthless, a tough character very probably, a fine example of nothing save atavism. And Felipa would grow old. That splendid triumphant youth of hers would pass, and she would be a commonplace, subdued, middle-aged woman, in whom a relapse to her nature would be a mere vulgarity.He turned her face up to the moonlight, and the head fell heavily back with the weight of hair. The half-closed eyes looked unseeing up to him, and the quiet lips smiled still.She went into the bedroom, half dragging him by the shoulder, and shut the door. "Now!" she said, "make haste."
"And how, may I ask, would you suggest cutting off their retreat?" the major inquired a little sharply. His temper was not improved by the heat and by twelve hours in the saddle.
The better class of citizens did not roam over the country much, and no officers had stopped at his ranch in almost two years, though they had often passed by. And he knew well enough that they would have let their canteens go unfilled, and their horses without fodder, for a long time, rather than have accepted water from his wells or alfalfa from his land. He could understand their feeling, too,鈥攖hat was the worst of it; but though his love and his loyalty toward Felipa never for one moment wavered, he was learning surely day by day that a woman, be she never so much beloved, cannot make up to a man for long for the companionship of his own kind; and, least of all,鈥攈e was forced to admit it in the depths of his consciousness now,鈥攐ne whose interests were circumscribed.
She reloaded for him, and fired from time to time herself, and he moved from the little round hole in the wall to one in the window blind, in the feeble, the faithless hope that the Indians might perhaps be deceived, might fancy that there was more than the one forsaken man fighting with unavailing courage for the quiet woman who stayed close by his side, and for the two children, huddled whimpering in one corner, their little trembling arms clasped round each other's necks.
"Apaches ride badly, don't they?" she said, with calm matter of fact. "If you mean that I am hard on my horse, though, you are right." Her voice was exquisitely sweet, without modulation.Cairness put the sketch back in the case and stood[Pg 72] up. "Will you tell Captain Landor that I found that I could not wait, after all?" he said, and bowing went out from the ramada.
But, instead, Landor stopped abruptly, rigid with the force of will. "I will wait. Go on," he said. His voice was low and rasping.Two steers, locking their horns, broke from the herd and swaying an instant so, separated and started side by side across the prairie. He settled in his saddle and put his cow-pony to a run, without any preliminary gait, going in a wide circle to head them back. Running across the ground, thick with coyote and dog holes, was decidedly perilous; men had their necks[Pg 164] broken in that way every few days; but it would not have mattered to him especially to have ended so. Wherefore he did not, but drove the steers back to the herd safely. And then he returned to the monotonous sentry work and continued thinking of himself.They opened upon non-committal topics: the weather, which had been scorching and parched since April, and would continue so, in all probability, until September; the consequent condition of the crops, which was a figure of speech, for there were none, and never had been, deserving of the name; and then Cairness, having plenty of time, brought it round to the troops. In the tirade that followed he recognized a good many of the sentiments, verbatim, of the articles in the Tucson papers of the time of Landor's scout. But he half shut his eyes and listened, pulling at the small, brown mustache. Stone set him down, straightway, as an ass, or English, which was much the same thing.
"Always supposing you have," interposed Stone, hooking his thumbs in his sleeve holes and tipping back his chair, "always supposing you have, what could you do with the facts?"In the morning, while the cooks were getting breakfast and the steam of ration-Rio mounted as a grateful incense to the pink and yellow daybreak heavens, having bathed in the creek and elaborated his toilet[Pg 235] with a clean neckerchief in celebration of victory, he walked over to the bunch of tepees to see the women captives.详情
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