Cairness reflected upon this as he fired for exactly the seventh time at a pair of beady eyes that flashed at him over a bush-topped rock by the creek, not five and twenty yards away, and then vanished utterly. There was something uncanny about it, and he was losing patience as well as ammunition. Three bullets from a repeating rifle had about finished him. One had gone through his hat. The eyes popped up again. Cairness fired again and missed. Then he did a thoroughly silly thing. He jumped out from behind his shelter and ran and leapt, straight down, and over to the rock by the stream. The beady eyes saw him coming and sparkled, with an evil sort of laughter.He did not try to discuss her plans for the future with her that night; but two days afterward, when she had disposed of all her household goods and had packed the few things that remained, they sat upon two boxes in the bare hallway, resting; and he broached it.
But when he was away from Felipa and her blighting matter of fact, the pathos of it came uppermost again. Troubles seemed to thicken around him. His voluntary Coventry was making him sensitive. He had thought that his wife was at least giving him the best of her cool nature. Cool! There was no [Pg 152]coldness in that strained white face, as she read the letter. The control she had over herself! It was admirable. He thought that most women would have fainted, or have grown hysterical, or have made a scene of some sort. Then he recalled the stoicism of the Apache鈥攁nd was back at her birth again.He came out of the rock nook into the half light and spoke her own name.
Stone glanced at the Lawton woman. She was grinning mirthlessly at his discomfiture. "What have you been stuffing this fellow here with?" he asked her contemptuously.Lawton stopped. To forbid him swearing was to forbid him speech. He shuffled ahead in silence."I know that. But they don't like it, all the same. And I'll bet them cutaways riles them, too."
In the middle of the line there was a one-room mud hut. This, with the tents back of it, was her home. Landor had fitted up the hut with Navajo blankets, Indian baskets, dolls, saddle bags, war bonnets, and quivers; with stuffed birds and framed chromos, camp-chairs and some rough quartermaster's furniture. A gray blanket, with a yellow Q. M. D. in the centre, kept the glare out at the window, and the room was cool enough. One advantage of adobe鈥攁nd it has others鈥攊s that it retains all summer the winter cold, and all winter the summer heat."After that, as I said before, you may go."
"Yes," she said, "did you see me? I dare say you thought I was communing with Nature in the midst of the old tin cans and horseshoes. Well, I wasn't. I was watching the trap of a tarantula nest, and I caught him when he came out. I've watched that hole for three days," she announced triumphantly. "As for the vinagrone, the cook found him in his tent, and I bottled him. Come and see the fight," she invited amiably.Brewster reached the post some eighteen hours ahead of him. He reported, and saw Miss McLane; then he made himself again as other men and went down to the post trader's, with a definite aim in view, that was hardly to be guessed from his loitering walk. There were several already in the officers' room, and they talked, as a matter of course, of the campaign.
Felipa turned from them and waited, clasping her hands and smiling up at Brewster. He, misinterpreting, felt encouraged and begged her to leave the disgusting insects. He had something very different to talk about. She said that she did not want to hear it, and would he bet on the tarantula or the vinagrone?
"Good Lord! no," Cairness's smile was rueful. "I've lost all ambition of that sort years since. I'm too old. I've knocked about too long, and I dare say I may as well knock about to the end."It was plain, even to Felipa, how thoroughly he enjoyed being with one who could talk of the past and of the present, from his own point of view. His Coventry had been almost complete since the day that the entire army, impersonated in Crook, had turned disapproving eyes upon him once, and had then looked away from him for good and all. It had been too bitter[Pg 310] a humiliation for him ever to subject himself to the chance of it again.
"You remember that woman," Cairness went on, making and rolling adroitly a straw-paper cigarette, "the one who was cook on the ranch for so long? She could tell us what it is, and I'll bet on it.""I can throw up the detail," he said indifferently, "I dare say I might as well. There is only half a year more of it. Some one will be glad enough to take that."The man up above showed himself, and putting his hands to his mouth shouted, "Felipa!"详情
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