It was the first scene of the closing act of the tragic comedy of the Geronimo campaign. That wily old devil, weary temporarily of the bloodshed he had continued with more or less regularity for many years, had[Pg 297] sent word to the officers that he would meet them without their commands, in the Ca?on de los Embudos, across the border line, to discuss the terms of surrender. The officers had forthwith come, Crook yet hopeful that something might be accomplished by honesty and plain dealing; the others, for the most part, doubting.Cairness nodded. He knew that the Interior Department had sent an agent out to investigate that complaint, and that the agent had gone his way rejoicing and reporting that all was well with the Indian and honest with the contractor. It was not true. Every[Pg 270] one who knew anything about it knew that. Cairness supposed that also was the work of the politicians. But there are things one cannot make plain to a savage having no notions of government.
Cairness was still in his dust-grayed outfit, his hair was below where his collar would have been had he been wearing one, and his nose was on its way to at least the twentieth new skin that summer. In all his years of the frontier, he had never become too well tanned to burn. His appearance was not altogether reassuring, Stone thought. He was not only an ass, he[Pg 172] was also tough鈥攖he sort of a fellow with whom it was as well to remember that your six-shooter is beneath the last copy of your paper, on the desk at your elbow.
"Nothing much," he told her. He and Taylor could take care of the talking. Her part would be just to stand by and pay attention."Is that Captain Landor's camp?"
"Apaches ride badly, don't they?" she said, with calm matter of fact. "If you mean that I am hard on my horse, though, you are right." Her voice was exquisitely sweet, without modulation.The bids, duly sealed, were given into the keeping of the commissary officer to be put in his safe, and kept until the day of judgment, when all being opened in public and in the presence of the aspirants, the lowest would[Pg 188] get the contract. It was a simple plan, and gave no more opportunity for underhand work than could be avoided. But there were opportunities for all that. It was barely possible鈥攖he thing had been done鈥攆or a commissary clerk or sergeant, desirous of adding to his pittance of pay, or of favoring a friend among the bidders, to tamper with the bids. By the same token there was no real reason why the commissary officer could not do it himself. Landor had never heard, or known, of such a case, but undoubtedly the way was there. It was a question of having the will and the possession of the safe keys.
"Seen the way Landor's been catching it?" they asked.But the baby was satisfactory. She amused it by the hour. For the rest, being far from gregarious, and in no way given to spending all the morning on some one else's front porch, and all the afternoon with some one else upon her own, she drew on the post library and read, or else sat and watched the mountains with their sharp, changing shadows by day, and their Indian signal flashes by night,鈥攚hich did not tend to enhance the small degree of popularity she enjoyed among the post women.
It was half because she felt it would prick him, and half in humility, that she answered, "I suppose that is the Indian in me.""And inside of a fortnight he and Mrs. Landor went to some Roman Catholic priest in Tombstone and were married. I call that indecent haste."The woman joined her voice. She had a meat cleaver in her hand, and there was blood on her apron where she had wiped the roast she was now leaving to burn in the stove. "Like as not we'll all be massacred. I told Bill to get off this place two weeks ago, and he's such an infernal loafer he couldn't make up his mind to move hisself." She flourished her cleaver toward the big Texan, her husband, who balanced on the tongue of a wagon, his hands in his pockets, smiling ruefully and apologetically, and chewing with an ardor he never put to any other work. "We been here four years now," she went on raspingly, "and if you all feel like staying here to be treated like slaves by these John Bulls, you can do it. But you bet I know when I've got enough. To-morrow I quits." Her jaws snapped shut, and she stood glaring at them defiantly.
It was the post-trader, he told Felipa when he came back, and he was asking for help from the officer-of-the-day. Some citizens down at the store were gambling and drinking high, and were becoming uproarious.But he was not to be changed. "I'll take lemon soda," he said to the tender, with an amiability that the cow-boy made the mistake of taking for indecision.
He did not answer, and she knew that he was annoyed. She had come to see that he was always annoyed by such references, and she made them more frequent for that very reason, half in perversity, half in a fixed determination not to be ashamed of her origin, for she felt, without quite realizing it, that to come to have shame and contempt for herself would be to lose every hold upon life."Take care!" yelled Cairness, as Felipa, dazed and without breath, headed straight for the stream. He bent and snatched at her bridle, and, swerving, started up the sheer side of the hill. She clung to the mane instinctively, but her horse stumbled, struggled, slipped, and scrambled. She had lost all control of it, and the earth and stones gave way beneath its hoofs just as a great wall of water bore down the bed of the river, sweeping trees and rocks away, and making the ground quiver.
The commandant's wife took Mrs. Landor in, and would have put her to bed with hot drinks and blankets, but that Felipa would have nothing more than some dry clothes and a wrapper in place of her wet habit. The clothes were her own, brought by one of the men, safe in a rubber poncho, but the wrapper belonged to her hostess, who was portly, whereas Felipa was slender. But to Cairness, who had stopped for luncheon, she seemed, in the voluminous dull red draperies, more splendid than ever before.详情
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