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He repeated that he was not there to be questioned, and showed her that he meant it by silence."I see dem pass by my ranch. Dey weel run off all my stock, seexty of dem, a hundred mebee. I come queek to tell you."

He felt that he ought to dislike her cordially, but he did not. He admired her, on the contrary, as he would have admired a fine boy. She seemed to have no religion, no ideals, and no petty vanity; therefore, from his point of judgment, she was not feminine. Perhaps the least feminine thing about her was the manner in which she appeared to take it for granted that he was going to marry her, without his having said, as yet, a word to that effect. In a certain way it simplified matters, and in another it made them more difficult. It is not easy to ask a woman to marry you where she looks into your eyes unhesitatingly. But Landor decided that it had to be done. She had been in the post four months, and with the standing exception of Brewster, whom she discouraged resolutely, none of the officers cared for her beyond the flirtation limit."Just what he's dishin' up to you now," she told him."I am," announced the soldier.

He was not the sort of a man of whom to ask explanations. Ellton said "Very well," and proceeded to talk about the troop's hogs and gardens, both of which were a source of increase to the troop funds."Shut up," said Brewster, with malicious glee. "They also serve who only stand and wait, you know," he chuckled. "You can serve your admiring and grateful country quite as well in the adjutant's office as summering on the verdant heights of the Mogollons."

Brewster got hunting leave, pending the acceptance of his resignation, and went to the railway. In less than a week he was all but forgotten in a newer interest.

Chapter 4

Landor tried another way then, and leaned from his saddle in his earnestness. He put it in the light of a favor to himself. But Cabot's refusal was unanswerable. It was better one than two, he said, and no horse in the command could carry double.He turned back abruptly. "You had better get another. You can't have that one," he answered.

Landor went to the tree and cut another rib from[Pg 96] the mutton and threw it on the coals. Then he walked across the clearing to the tent.On the instant she put her horse to a run and tore off through the gate toward the open country. It was dark, but by the stars she could see the road and its low bushes and big stones that danced by as her horse, with its belly to the ground, sped on. She strained her ears and caught the sound of hoofs. The men were following her, the gleam of her white dress guiding them. She knew they could not catch her. The horse she rode was a thoroughbred, the fastest on the ranch; not even Cairness's own could match it. It stretched out its long black neck and went evenly ahead, almost without[Pg 327] motion, rising over a dog hole now and then, coming down again, and going on, unslacking. She felt the bit steadily and pressed her knee against the hunting horn for purchase, her toe barely touching the stirrup, that she might be the freer in a fall.

Then a big cow-boy left the bar and loitering over, with a clink of spurs, touched him on the shoulder. "The drinks are on you," he menaced. The minister chose to ignore the tone. He rose, smiling, and stretching his cramped arms. "All right, my friend, all right," he said, and going with the big fellow to the bar he gave a general invitation.

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With the sublime indifference to the mockery of the world, characteristic of his race, Cairness kept at it. It was ridiculous. He had time to be dimly aware of that. And it certainly was not war. He did not know that they were affording the opposing forces much enjoyment. He had not even observed that the firing had stopped. But he meant to catch that much qualifiedly impudent little beast, or to know the reason why. And he would probably have known the reason why, if one of the Apache scouts, embarrassed by no notions of fair play, had not taken good aim and[Pg 233] brought his youthful kinsman down, with a bullet through his knee.

Ellton could not eat. He bewailed his hard fate unceasingly.There was a mutter of thunder and a far-off roar, a flame of lightning through the trees, and the hills and mountains shook. Just where they rode the ca?on narrowed to hardly more than a deep gulch, and the river ran close beside the road.

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