Because they were sent, a fine officer had fallen victim to Apache treachery of the meanest sort and to the gross stupidity of others, and Arizona was on the verge of the worst disorder of all its disorderly history. So Crook was sent for, and he came at once, and looked with his small, piercing eyes, and listened with his ears so sharp to catch the ring of untruth, and learned a pretty tale of what had gone on during his absence on the troubled northern plains.It was certainly not apparent, on the face of it, how the thing was to be done, but the captain explained. "I've been stationed here, you know, and I know the roads. We are about a half a mile or more from where the Stanton road to the railway crosses the lava. It is narrow and rough, and about from three-quarters of a mile to a mile wide, but cavalry can go over it without any trouble. I can take my troop over, and then the Indians will be hemmed in between us. We might capture the whole band."
"I knew," Cairness said, turning to Landor after a very short silence, "that you and Mrs. Landor were somewhere along here. So I left my horse at a rancheria across the hill there," he nodded over his shoulder in the direction of the looming pile just behind, "and walked to where I saw the fire. I saw you for some time before I was near, but I ought to have called out. I really didn't think about startling you."Landor had agreed to trust her to Cairness and an escort of three soldiers. He could ill spare time from the telegraph line, under the circumstances; it might be too imperatively needed at any moment. He mounted his wife quickly. "You are not afraid?" he asked. But he knew so well that she was not, that he did not wait for her answer.It gave cause for reflection; but an officer was obviously at liberty to talk to whomsoever he might choose around his own premises, at any hour of the day or night. So the officer of the day went on, treading quietly. But he had something to think about now that kept off drowsiness for the rest of the rounds. Brewster's fondness for the society of dubious civilians was certainly unfortunate. And the conjunction of the aspiring beef contractor and the commissary officer was also unfortunate, not to say curious. Because of this. The beef contract was about to expire, and the commandant had advertised for bids. A number of ranchers had already turned their papers in. Furnishing the government's soldiers with meat is never an empty honor.
"I give this to a friend," it ran, "to be delivered into your own hands, because I must tell you that, though I should never see you again鈥攆or the life I lead is hazardous, and chance may at any time take you away forever鈥擨 shall love you always. You will not be angry with me, I know. You were not that night by the campfire, and it is not the unwaveringly good woman who resents being told she is loved, in the spirit I have said it to you. I do not ask for so much as your friendship in return, but only that you remember that my life and devotion are yours, and that, should the time ever come that you need me, you send for me. I will come. I will never say this to you again, even should I see you; but it is true, now and for all time."
Out in the corral the cow-boy was holding forth. The men had stopped work on the instant that Kirby had turned his back. If Kirby could loll on soft cushions and drink tea, as free-born Americans and free-souled Irishmen they might do the same. "It's all right," said the cow-boy, with a running accompaniment of profanity, as he cleaned his brutal Mexican bit. "Johnny Bull don't have to believe in it if he don't like. But all the same, I seen a feller over here[Pg 124] to the 3 C Range, and he told me he seen the military camped over to San Tomaso a week ago, and that there was a lot of stock, hundred head or so, run off from the settlements. You see, them Apaches is making for the southern Chiricahuas over in Sonora to join the Mexican Apaches, and they're going to come this here way. You see!" and he rubbed at the rust vigorously with a piece of soft rawhide.
He had seen a large band heading for the ranch, and[Pg 128] had found a dead white man on the north road, he said, and he gesticulated madly, his voice choked with terror."You didn't stay to see the operation?" His voice was ominously quiet.In the opinion of Landor, who knew the impracticable country foot for foot, they were well-intentioned lunatics. But they were agreeable guests, who exchanged the topics of the happy East for the wild turkey and commissary supplies of the Far West, and in departing took with them a picturesque, if inexact, notion of army life on the frontier, and left behind a large number of books for Felipa, who had dazzled their imaginations.
When she lay, one day, with her face, too white and sharp, looking out from the tangle of hair upon the pillow, he asked her almost abruptly if she had rather go back to the West. He could not bring himself to ask if she were longing to be near Cairness. He shrank too much from her frank, unhesitating assent.
She sat considering deeply. She was rocking the baby, with its little fair head lying in the hollow of her shoulder, and Landor found himself wondering whether Felipa could ever develop motherliness. "It is quite intangible," Mrs. Campbell half crooned, for the baby's lids were drooping heavily. "I can't find that she lacks a good characteristic. I study her all the time. Perhaps the fault is in ourselves, as much as anything, because we insist upon studying her as a problem, instead of simply a very young girl. She is absolutely truthful,鈥攗nless she happens to have a grudge against some one, and then she lies without any scruple at all,鈥攁nd she is generous and unselfish, and very amiable with the children, too."He recalled the dark, unbecoming flush that had deepened the color of her skin just enough to show the squaw, beyond mistaking, at least to one who knew. It was all very well now. But later, later she would look like that frequently, if not all the time. With youth she would lose her excuse for being. He knew that very well. But it was the youth, the majestic, powerful youth, that he loved. He had seen too many old hags of squaws, disfigurers of the dead and wounded, drudges of the rancheria, squatting on hides before their tepees, not to know what Felipa's decline would be in spite of the Anglo-Saxon strain that seemed to show only in her white skin.Landor humored her, but did not quite approve. "If you begin that, every papoose at the Agency will be brought down to us," he suggested; and once when he had grown a little tired of having the noiseless, naked little savage forever round, he offered him a piece of canned lobster. Whereupon the boy fled wildly, and would not be coaxed back for many days. Felipa seemed really to miss him, so Landor never teased him after that, making only the reasonable request that the youngster be not allowed to scratch his head near him.详情
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