When the storm had fairly passed, they found Felipa's gray lodged in the root of a tree some distance down the creek; in no way hurt, oddly enough, but trembling and badly frightened. The saddle, even, was uninjured, though the pigskin was water-soaked and slippery."Felipa!" shouted Cairness. He was angry鈥攁lmost as angry as Forbes had been when he had come upon Mrs. Landor watching the boys and the kitten in the alleyway.
[Pg 253]"What do you want me to say to Stone?"And Cairness stayed with him, serving seven months, and seeking what he might discover. But he discovered nothing more than that the Circle K Ranch, for all that it might be the Texan's in name, was Stone's in point of fact, and that Lawton's dread of that mighty man was very much greater than his hope of heaven.
[Pg 278]Landor went forward again. "Can you, gentlemen, tell me," he demanded a trifle wrathfully, "where I can find Mr. Foster?" They reckoned, after deliberation, that he might be in Bob's saloon. Which might Bob's saloon be? The man pointed, hooking his thumb over his shoulder, and went on with his conversation and his quid. A dozen or more loafers, chiefly Mexicans, had congregated in front of the dry-goods store.
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.
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.
Stone did not understand. He believed that he missed Mr. Cairness's meaning. "I don't think you do," said Cairness; "but I'll make it plainer, anyway. I want you to get out of the country, for the country's good, you know, and for your own. And I give you[Pg 259] three days to do it in, because I don't wish to hurry you to an inconvenient extent."
[Pg 285]The Reverend Taylor grabbed at a fly and caught it in his palm. He had become very expert at this, to his wife's admiration and his son's keen delight. It was because the little Reverend liked to see him do it, and derived so much elfish enjoyment from the trick, that he had perfected himself in it. He gave the[Pg 248] crushed fly to the baby, and held him up to feed the bird. The bird put its head through the bars and pecked with its whiskered bill, and the little Reverend gurgled joyfully, his small face wrinkling up in a way which was really not pretty, but which his father thought the most engaging expression in the world.It was a bitterly cold January morning. There had been a rain in the night, and the clouds yet hung gray over Mt. Graham and the black gap. The wet wind went howling over the valley, so that the little flag at the top of the staff snapped and whipped as though it would be torn from the halyards. Sunday inspection and guard mounting had been chilling ceremonies, performed in overcoats that were hardly more blue than the men's faces. Having finished them, Brewster hurried across the parade to Captain Campbell's quarters.
And he succeeded in seeing Felipa. It was most unexpected. He had believed her to be in Stanton, a good many hundred miles away. But Landor having been sent at once into the field, she had come on to Grant to visit the Campbells, who were again stationed there. He met her face to face only once, and he measured with one quick look all the changes there were between the girl of ten years before and the woman of to-day. The great, sad pity that rose within him, and seemed to grasp at his throat chokingly, was the best love he had felt for her yet. It wiped out the wrong of the short madness in the cave's mouth.Visiting the guard is dull work, and precisely the same round, night after night, with hardly ever a variation. But to-night there occurred a slight one.[Pg 187] Landor was carrying his sabre in his arm, as he went by the back of the quarters, in order that its jingle might not disturb any sleepers. For the same reason he walked lightly, although, indeed, he was usually soft-footed, and came unheard back of Brewster's yard. Brewster himself was standing in the shadow of the fence, talking to some man. Landor could see that it was a big fellow, and the first thing that flashed into his mind, without any especial reason, was that it was the rancher who had been in trouble down at the sutler's store.
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