It was the post-trader, he told Felipa when he came back, and he was asking for help from the officer-of-the-day. Some citizens down at the store were gambling and drinking high, and were becoming uproarious.
The exceedingly small respectable element of Tombstone hailed their departure with unmixed joy. They had but one wish,鈥攖hat the Toughs might meet the Apaches, and that each might rid the face of the desert of the other. But the only Apaches left to meet were the old and feeble, and the squaws and papooses left at San Carlos. The able-bodied bucks were all in the field, as scouts or hostiles.Chapter 3
The stars were bright chips of fire in a sky of polished blue. The wind of the day had died at dusk, and the silence was deep, but up among the bare graves the coyotes were barking weirdly. As she looked off across the low hills, there was a quick, hissing rattle at her feet. She moved hastily, but without a start, and glanced down at a rattler not three feet away.
A mule put its head over the wall of a corral and pricked interrogative ears. Then two children, as unmistakably Angles as those of Gregory the Great, came around the corner, hand in hand, and stood looking at him. And at length a man, unmistakably an Angle too, for all his top boots and flannel shirt and cartridge belt, came striding down to the gate. He opened it and said, "Hullo, Cairness, old chap," and Cairness said, "How are you, Kirby?" which answered to the falling upon each other's neck and weeping, of a more effusive race.
"Certain, dead sure. It's a band of Apaches that went across the river. Why, half a dozen seen them.""How's things up at Grant?" he drawled through his beard, as he took off that sacred and ceremonious garment known to the true frontiersman as his vest, and without which he feels as lost as without his high-heeled boots.
It was the usual tale of woe that Geronimo had to tell, much the same that the old buck had recited to[Pg 298] Cairness in the spring of the last year. His particular grievance was the request for his hanging, which he had been told had been put in the papers, and his fear of three White-men who he believed were to arrest him. "I don't want that any more. When a man tries to do right, such stories ought not to be put in the newspapers. What is the matter with you that you do not speak to me? It would be better if you would look with a pleasant face. I should be more satisfied if you would talk to me once in a while." The interpreter translated stolidly. "Why don't you look at me and smile at me? I am the same man. I have the same feet, legs, and hands, and the Sun looks down on me a complete man." There was no doubt about that, at any rate, and perhaps it was not an unmixed good fortune.It made it none the better that only Landor had the right to give her the strength of his arm, and that only Cairness had the right to the desperate, imploring look she threw him. It was a swift glance of a moment, and then she reached out a steady enough hand for the parasol, and smiled. It had been much too tragic to last鈥攁nd in those surroundings. It was a flash of the naked swords of pain, and then they were sheathed. But each had left a sharp gash. No one had seen it. Perhaps to many there would have been nothing to see.
Landor came sliding and running down. His face was misshapen with the anger that means killing. She saw it, and her powers came back to her all at once. She put both hands against his breast and pushed him back, with all the force of her sinewy arms. His foot slipped on a stone and he fell.Cairness rode at a walk round and round the crowding, snorting, restless herd of cattle that was gathered together in the pocket of the foot-hills under the night sky. There were five other cow-boys who also rode round and round, but they were each several hundred yards apart, and he was, to all intents, alone. Now and then he quickened the gait of his bronco and headed off some long-horned steer or heifer, that forced itself out of the huddled, dark mass, making a break for freedom. But for the most part he rode heavily, lopsided in his saddle, resting both hands on the high pommel. He had had time to unlearn the neat horsemanship of the service, and to fall into the slouchy manner of the cow-boy, skilful but unscientific. It was a pitchy night, in spite of the stars, but in the distance, far off across the velvety roll of the hills, there was a forest fire on the top of a range of mountains. It glowed against the sky and lighted the pocket and the prairie below, making strange shadows among the cattle, or bringing into shining relief here and there a pair of mighty horns. A wind, dry and hot, blew down from the flames, and made the herd uneasy.
"It is from Cairness," said Landor, watching her narrowly. Her hand shook, and he saw it.He seated himself upon a low branch of sycamore, which grew parallel to the ground, and went on to tell what he had seen on the hilltop in the hostile camp. "They are in capital condition. A lot of them are playing koon-kan. There were some children and one little red-headed Irishman about ten years old with[Pg 295] them. He was captured in New Mexico, and seems quite happy. He enjoys the name of Santiago Mackin鈥攑lain James, originally, I suppose."
When, therefore, Mrs. Landor said, with the utmost composure, that it was too bad, his gasp was audible."Neither have I," Cairness consoled him, from the depths of a rehearsal of the unwisdom of Isma?l Pasha.详情
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