The man on the ground twisted his body around on his crushed leg, pinned under the pony, aimed deliberately at the white figure, and fired. Felipa's firm hold upon her revolver turned to a clutch, and her mouth fell open in a sharp gasp. But very deliberately she put the revolver into its holster, and then she laid her hand against her side. At once the palm was warm with blood.There were four corrals in the one, and two of them were on fire. They had spread wet blankets on the roof of the third, but it, too, caught directly. The big, yellow-hearted flames poured up into the sky. The glow was cast back again from the blackness of the low clouds, and lit up the ground with a dazing shimmer. It blinded and burned and set the rules of fire drill pretty well at naught, when the only water supply was in small buckets and a few barrels, and the horses had kicked over two of the latter.He struck his pony with the fringed end of the horse-hair lariat that hung around his pommel, and cantered on in the direction of the post. The pony had been found among the foot-hills, without any[Pg 218] trouble. That, at any rate, had been a stroke of luck. He had led it into the fort just at the end of guard-mounting, and had met a party of riders going out.
"Say!" she apostrophized.
He turned and went back to the cabin, where his wife stood at the door, with the children clinging to her. From down the north road there came a blood-freezing yell, and a shot, reverberating, rattling from hill to hill, muffling into silence among the crowding pines.
He put out his hand and touched a warm, smooth flank. The horse gave a little low whinny. Quick as a flash he whipped out his knife and hamstrung it, not that one only, but ten other mules and horses before[Pg 207] he stopped. He groped from stall to stall, and in each cut just once, unerringly and deep, so that the poor beast, which had turned its head and nosed at the touch of the hand of one of those humans who had always been its friends, was left writhing, with no possible outcome but death with a bullet in its head."I dare say," Landor agreed; "it is certainly more[Pg 11] charitable to suppose that men who hacked up the bodies of babies, and abused women, and made away with every sort of loot, from a blanket to a string of beads, were mad. It was creditably thorough for madmen, though. And it was the starting-point of all the trouble that it took Crook two years to straighten out."There was a faint, white light above the distant mountains in the east. The moon was about to rise. In a few moments more it came drifting up, and the plain was all alight. Far away on the edge was a vague, half-luminous haze, and nearer the shadows of the bushes fell sharp and black. A mile ahead, perhaps, along the road, she could make out the dark blot of the mesquite clump. Behind, as she looked again, she could just see four figures following.
It appeared that Landor was accused of cowardice, and that his name was handled with the delicate sarcasm usual with Western journalism鈥攁s fine and pointed as a Stone-age axe.
It was a little pocket, a natural fortress, high up on a commanding peak. Cairness crept forward flat along the rocks, raised his head cautiously and looked down. There in the sunrise light,鈥攖he gorgeous sunrise of the southern mountain peaks where the wind is fresh out of the universe and glitters and quivers with sparks of new life,鈥攖here was the encampment of the hostiles. It was a small Eden of green grass and water and trees high up in the Sierra鈥攖hat strange mountain chain that seems as though it might have been the giant model of the Aztec builders, and that holds the mystery of a[Pg 229] mysterious people locked in its stone and metal breasts, as securely as it does that of the rich, lost mines whose fabled wonders no man can prove to-day.
Landor swore. He would keep them their proper distance ahead, if he had to halt at all their halts from now to sunset.
"Mrs. Cairness would go where I wished gladly," he added, more evenly; "but if it were to a life very different from this, it would end in death鈥攁nd I should be the cause of it. There it is." He too rose, impatiently.
"You are not fit to go," Felipa said resignedly, "but that doesn't matter, of course."详情
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