Cairness had gone out to hitch the horses. When he came in he spoke to Mrs. Lawton, as one possessed of authority. He told her to lie down if she wanted to. "With your leave, Mrs. Taylor?" he added. Mrs. Taylor was already beside her, fussing kindly and being met with scant courtesy.
The mesquites were very near. She bent down over the horse's neck and spoke to him. His stride lengthened out yet more. She drew the little revolver, and cocked it, still bending low. If they were to fire at her, the white gown would make a good mark; but she would show as little of it as might be, and she would not waste time answering shots, if it could be helped.Lawton moved ahead a few steps; then he began to cry, loudly, blubbering, his nerves gone all to shreds. He implored and pleaded and wailed. He hadn't known what he was doing. He had been drunk. They had treated him badly about the beef contract. Stone had gone back on him. The oaths that he sobbed forth were not new to Cairness, but they were very ugly.He repeated that he was not there to be questioned, and showed her that he meant it by silence.
Brewster nodded. He had seen the same thing himself. The territorial citizen was a known quantity to both of them.In the '70's the frontier was a fact and not a memory, and a woman in the Far West was a blessing sent direct from heaven, or from the East, which was much the same thing. Lieutenants besought the wives of their brother officers to bring out their sisters and cousins and even aunts, and very weird specimens of the sex sometimes resulted. But even these could reign as queens, dance, ride, flirt to their hearts' content鈥攁lso marry, which is not always the corollary in these days. The outbreak of a reservation full of Indians was a small thing in comparison with the excitement occasioned by the expectation of a girl in the post."Do you object to taking her into your house for a short time?"
She sat for a moment without answering. It was less astonishment than that she did not understand. She knitted her brow in a puzzled frown.Half a mile beyond, within the same barbed-wire enclosure as the home buildings and corrals, was a spring-house surrounded by cottonwoods, just then the only patch of vivid green on the clay-colored waste. There were benches under the cottonwoods, and the ground was cool, and thither Felipa took her way, in no wise oppressed by the heat. Her step was as firm and as quick as it had been the day she had come so noiselessly along the parade, across the path of the private who was going to the barracks. It was as quiet, too, for she had on a pair of old red satin slippers, badly run down at the heel.
[Pg 120]Cairness gave a grunt that was startlingly savage鈥攕o much so that he realized it, and shook himself slightly as a man does who is trying to shake himself free from a lethargy that is stealing over him.
The woman fairly flung the ill-cooked food upon the table, with a spitefulness she did not try to conceal. And she manifested her bad will most particularly toward the pretty children. Cairness felt his indignation rise against Kirby for having brought a woman to this, in the name of love.It was not very dark. The sky was thick with clouds, but there was a waning moon behind them. The only light in the garrison was in the grated windows of the guard-house."I know that. But they don't like it, all the same. And I'll bet them cutaways riles them, too."
"Yes," he persisted, refusing to be thwarted, "once when you were crossing the parade at Grant, at retreat, and two days afterward when you shot a blue jay down by the creek."
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Back of her, a score or more of miles away, were the iron-gray mountains; beyond those, others of blue; and still beyond, others of yet fainter blue, melting into the sky and the massed white clouds upon the horizon edge. But in front of her the flat stretched away and away, a waste of white-patched soil and glaring sand flecked with scrubs. The pungency of greasewood and sage[Pg 313] was thick in the air, which seemed to reverberate with heat. A crow was flying above in the blue; its shadow darted over the ground, now here, now far off.
[Pg 127]After tea the ranchers settled down to smoke and read. The Reverend Taylor brought out his collection of specimens and dilated upon them to Cairness.Cairness took the Reverend Taylor to the door. "You know that is Bill Lawton's wife?" he said.详情
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