Nor was he disconcerted that she met him with a stony front and a glare of wrath. She glanced down at his outstretched hand, and kept her own great bony one on her hip still. Then she looked at him squarely again. She did not say "Well?" but she meant it. So he answered it blandly, and suggested that she had probably forgotten him, but that he had had the pleasure of meeting her once in the States. She continued to stare. He held that a husband is a husband still[Pg 236] until the law or death says otherwise, and that it was no part of a man's business to inquire into the domestic relations of his friends; so he said that he had had the pleasure of meeting her husband recently. "He was at Fort Stanton," he added, "upon some little matter of business, I believe. You will be glad to hear that he was well." He did not see fit to add that he was also in the county jail, awaiting trial on charge of destruction of government property.
Landor sat at the centre table and went over requisition blanks by the light of a green-shaded student lamp. The reflection made him look livid and aging. Felipa had noticed it, and then she had turned to the fire and sat watching, with her soft eyes half closed, the little sputtering sparks from the mesquite knot. She had been immovable in that one position for at least an hour, her hands folded with a weary looseness in her lap. If it had not been that her face was very hard to read, even her husband might have guessed that she was sad. But he was not thinking about her. He went on examining the papers until some one came upon the front porch and knocked at the door. Then he got up and went out.In the spring of '61, when the handful of frontier troops was pressed with enemies red and brown and white, the cavalry was not well mounted.He held the door open for the Texan woman and the parson to go out. Then he followed, closing it behind him.
When the father returned to Tucson, he had sent her the history, and she had read and reread it. In a way she was something of a linguist, for she had picked up a good deal of Spanish from Mexicans about the post, chiefly from the nurse of the Campbell children.
Kirby, with a revolver in each hand, placed himself before it. It would avail nothing. But a man must needs fight to the end. And the end was now.Presently she said: "I can't forget. And you can't. As for other people鈥攖hey don't matter anyway." In her scheme of things other people rarely did matter. She hedged herself round with a barrier of indifference that was very nearly contempt, and encouraged no intimacies鈥攏ot even with Landor. And he knew it.Chapter 23
"Where do you want me to go?" he almost moaned, and finished with an oath.Before long she heard a horse coming at a gallop up the road, to the front of the house. She put out her hand and pushed aside the vines, but could see little until the rider, dismounting and dropping his reins to hang on the ground, ran up the steps. It was the mail carrier, the young hero of the Indian massacre. Felipa saw in a moment that he was excited. She thought of her husband at once, and sat up in the hammock.Whereupon the rancher, his feelings being much injured, and his trust in mankind in general shattered, did as many a wiser man has done before him,鈥攎ade himself very drunk, and in his cups told all that he knew to two women and a man. "I'd like to know whose affair it is, if it ain't his, the measly sneak. He sicked me on,"鈥攐aths, as the grammars phrase it, "understood." The tears dribbled off his fierce mustache, and the women and the man laughed at him, but they were quite as drunk as he was, and they forgot all about it at once. Lawton did not forget. He thought of it a great deal, and the more he thought, the more he wanted revenge.
"Mrs. Landor is very beautiful," Cairness hazarded. He wanted to talk of her, or to make some one else do it.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.
Cairness, his hand on the butt of his own pistol, wondered, a little angrily, if Taylor were never going to be roused.
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 men went away, however, without much trouble beyond tipsy protests and mutterings, and the sutler rewarded the guard with beer, and explained to Landor that several of the disturbers were fellows who were hanging round the post for the beef contract; the biggest and most belligerent鈥攈e of the fierce, drooping mustachios鈥攚as the owner of the ranch where the Kirby massacre had taken place, as well as of another one in New Mexico.
The officer-of-the-day agreed. And Cairness, not having a hat to raise, forgot himself and saluted. Then he went back to the sutler's through the already pelting rain. He was glad he had caught Lawton, mainly because of what he hoped to get out of him yet, about the Kirby affair. But he was sorry for the big clumsy fool, too. He had been an easy-going, well-intentioned boss in the days when Cairness had been his hand. And, too, he was sorry, very sorry, about the pony. If it were to fall into the hands of Mexicans or even of some of the Mescalero Indians, his chances of seeing it again would be slight. And he was fond of it, mainly because it had helped him to save Mrs. Landor's life.The new general was hailed by the territories as deliverer until he found the truth and told it, after which they called him all manner of hard names, for that is the sure reward of the seeker after fact. He prepared for war, seeing how things were, but he tried for peace the while. He sent to the bucks who lurked in the fastnesses and strongholds, and said that he was going out alone to see them. He left his troops and pack-train, and with two interpreters and two officers repaired to the ca?on of the Black River, where he scrambled and slid, leading his scrambling,[Pg 178] sliding mule down the precipices of basalt and lava among the pines and junipers.详情
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