He did not answer, and she knew that he was annoyed. She had come to see that he was always annoyed by such references, and she made them more frequent for that very reason, half in perversity, half in a fixed determination not to be ashamed of her origin, for she felt, without quite realizing it, that to come to have shame and contempt for herself would be to lose every hold upon life.[Pg 158]
"Let go your stirrup!" cried Cairness, in her ear; and as she kicked her foot loose, he leaned far from the saddle and threw his arm around her, swinging her up in front of him across the McLellan pommel, and driving the spurs into his horse's belly. It had the advantage of her horse in that it was an Indian animal, sure of foot as a burro, and much quicker. With one dash it was up the hillside, while the other rolled over and over, down into the torrent of the cloud burst.
The next day he left for the Circle K Ranch. Lawton did not appear to need help. But he fired a Greaser, nevertheless, and took Cairness on. He seemed to stand in as abject awe of Stone's note as an Arab might have stood of a bit of the black covering of the Kaabah stone.
Landor stood considering and pulling at his mustache, as his way was. Then he turned on his heel and went back to the tent for Brewster. He explained the matter to him. "I tell Mr. Foster," he said, "just what risk I would take if I acted contrary to orders, but the force of my argument doesn't seem to strike him. If any harm were to come to the citizens around here, I'd be responsible."The murmurs in the corral rose louder. It was not that Kirby and his partners underpaid, underfed, or overworked the American citizens. It was that their language was decent and moderate; and the lash of the slave driver would have stung less than the sight of the black coats and the seven o'clock dinner. In the midst of white savages and red, the four clung to the forms of civilization with that dogged persistence in the unessential, that worship of the memory of a forsaken home, for which the Englishman, time and again, lays down his life without hesitation. That was the grievance.
Now it is a hazardous undertaking to question an Englishman who does not care to be questioned. A person of good judgment would about as lief try to[Pg 30] poke up a cross lion to play. But Brewster persisted, and asked if Cairness would be willing to live among the Apaches.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.
The two children whom Felipa had taken in charge two years before had been left in the care of the sergeant of Landor's troop and his wife, and they manifested no particular pleasure at seeing her again. They were half afraid of her, so severely black and tall and quiet. They had been playing with the soldier's children, and were anxious to be away again. The young of the human race are short of memory, and their gratefulness does not endure for long. There is no caress so sweet, so hard to win, as the touch of a child's soft hand, and none that has behind it less of nearly all that we prize in affection. It is sincere while it lasts, and no longer, and it must be bought either with a price or with a wealth of love. You may lavish the best that is within you to obtain a kiss from baby lips, and if they rest warm and moist upon your cheek for a moment, the next they are more eager for a sweetmeat than for all your adoration."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.
"I am," announced the soldier.There was nothing for it but to admit that from the day of her father's death she had been utterly Landor's dependant,鈥攁t a cost to him of how many pleasures, she, who knew the inadequacy of a lieutenant's pay, could easily guess.
"Thanks. But you started out to tell me what Lawton told Stone."
Lawton stopped. To forbid him swearing was to forbid him speech. He shuffled ahead in silence.
The general kept his own counsel then, but afterward, when it was all over, he confessed,鈥攏ot to the rejoicing reporter who was making columns out of him for the papers of this, and even of many another, land,鈥攂ut to the friends who had in some measure understood and believed in him, that the strain and responsibility had all but worn him out. And he was no frail man, this mighty hunter of the plains.She gave a cry of relief. "Mr. Cairness, Mr. Cairness," she called, "it is only my husband." She went herself a little way into the passage. "Jack, Mr. Cairness has gone in there, call to him." And she called again herself.详情
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