[Pg 18]"That's all right," Landor said; "are you hunting?"
"I will write to you where you are to send my mail," she told him, when the train was about to pull out. He bowed stiffly, and raising his hat was gone. She looked after him as he went across the cinder bed to the ambulance which was to take him back, and wondered what would have been the look upon his nice, open face, if she had told him her plans, after all. But she was the only one who knew them.
Landor was the first to find speech. In the harsh light of the pause he saw that it was foolish as well as useless to beg the issue. "Has Mrs. Landor told you that I found your letter to her on the body of the prospector, and delivered it to her?" The words were[Pg 201] sufficiently overbearing, but the manner was unendurable.Before dawn Cairness was out, hastening the cook with the breakfast, helping with it himself, indeed, and rather enjoying the revival of the days when he had been one of the best cooks in the troop and forever pottering about the mess chests and the Dutch oven, in the field. As the sun rose,鈥攖hough daybreak was fairly late there in the ca?on,鈥攖he cold, crisp air was redolent of coffee and bacon and broiling fresh meat.
[Pg 25]The reporter interposed that it was the act of men maddened by grief and their losses.
Felipa leaned against the tree under which they were, fairly protected from the worst of the storm;[Pg 101] and Cairness stood beside her, holding his winded horse. There was nothing to be said that could be said. She had lost for once her baffling control of the commonplace in speech, and so they stood watching the rain beat through the wilderness, and were silent.
He had looked down at the broken glass and the stream of water, and then up quite as calmly but a little less smilingly. "If you do that again, I'll shoot," he said. "Give me another pop."She sat with her jaw hanging, staring at him, baffled,[Pg 262] and he went on. "I've got Lawton jailed, as I was saying. I'll have you out of the country in three days, and as for Mrs. Lawton, I'll keep an eye on her. I'll know where she is, in case I need her at any time. But I'm not fighting women."He was in front of her, not a hundred feet away; to the left were the mesquites, to the right the ragged arroyo. There could be no turning aside. She threw up her own revolver, and fired, not at the man, but at the head of his horse. It reared and fell, and a moment after her own rose in the air, touched the ground beyond, and went on. It had leapt the fallen one and his rider, and was leaving them behind.
The shadow was swallowed up in darkness. The candle had been blown out, and Landor came back to the fire.She watched the figure of a man coming down the line. Because of the dazzling, low light behind him, the outline was blurred in a shimmer. At first she thought without any interest in it, one way or another, that he was a soldier, then she could see that he was in citizen's clothes and wore a sombrero and top boots. Even with that, until he was almost in front of the house, she did not realize that it was Cairness, though she knew well enough that he was in the post, and had been one of Landor's most valuable witnesses. He had remained to hear the findings, but she had kept close to the house and had not seen him before. He was a government scout, a cow-boy, a prospector, reputed a squaw-man, anything vagrant and unsettled, and so the most he might do was to turn his head as he passed by, and looking up at the windows, bow gravely to the woman standing dark against the firelight within.
Of a truth she understood only too well, that death with a bullet through the brain could be a tender mercy.
Landor did not stop to consider it. It was one of the few impulses of his life, or perhaps only the quickest thinking he had ever done. Cairness was there among the rocks, disabled and in momentary danger of his life. If it had been a soldier, under the same circumstances, Landor might have gone on and have sent another soldier to help him. It was only a chief of scouts, but it was a man of his own kind, for all that鈥攁nd it was his enemy. Instinct dismounted him before reason had time to warn him that the affair of an officer is not to succor his inferiors in the thick of the fighting when there are others who can be better spared to do it. He threw his reins over his horse's head and into the hands of the orderly-trumpeter, and jumped down beside Cairness."I beg pardon," said Brewster, pointedly, accentuating the slight awkwardness.
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.The hero of the episode rode in the ambulance, sitting on the front seat, holding his carbine across his knees, and peering with sharp, far-sighted blue eyes over the alkali flats. Occasionally he took a shot at a jack rabbit and brought it down unfailingly, but the frontiersman has no relish for rabbit meat, and it was left where it dropped, for the crows. He also brought down a sparrow hawk wounded in the wing, and, [Pg 29]having bound up the wound, offered it to Brewster, who took it as an opening to a conversation and tried to draw him out.详情
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