But Crook did not look like a man who wished to receive confidences. He was asking for facts, and[Pg 301] seeking them out with a cold, sharp eye. "I have been married nearly a year," said Cairness, shortly.While the men sat at the long table, shovelling in with knife and three-pronged fork the food of the master their pride forbade them to serve, a horse came at a run, up to the quadrangle, and a cow-boy rushed into the open doorway. "Apaches!" he gasped, clutching at the lintel, wild-eyed, "Apaches!"
Felipa sat up in bed, and leaning over to the window beside it drew up the shade and looked out. The cold, gray world of breaking day was battling furiously with a storm of rain. The huddling flowers in the garden bent to the ground before the rush of wind from the mountains across the prairie. The windmill sent out raucous cries as it flew madly around, the great dense clouds, black with rain, dawn-edged, charged through the sky, and the shining-leaved cottonwoods bent their branches almost to the earth. The figures of Cairness and a couple of cow-boys, wrapped in rubber coats, passed, fighting their way through the blur,鈥攙ague, dark shadows in the vague, dark mist."I dare say not," said Landor, his face growing black again; "they'll cover fifty or seventy-five miles a day. We can't do that, by a good deal. We couldn't even if those damned civilians would keep their distance ahead."When the moon rose, Barnwell and Stone went away and left Landor again with the peeping squaws and the wailing papooses, the mosquitoes and the legacy of their enduring enmity,鈥攁n enmity not to be lightly despised, for it could be as annoying and far more serious than the stings of the river-bottom mosquitoes. As they walked across the gleaming dust, their bodies throwing long black shadows, two naked Indian boys followed them, creeping forward unperceived, dropping on the ground now and then, and wriggling along like snakes. They were practising for the future.
They were not destined to get beyond the first fifty yards, nevertheless. The rifle that had fired at Landor as he came upon the malpais went glistening up again. There was a puff of blue-hearted smoke in the still air, and Cairness's bronco, struck on the flanks, stung to frenzy, stopped short, then gathering itself together with every quivering sinew in a knot, after the way of its[Pg 280] breed, bounded off straight in among the jagged boulders. It was all done in an instant, and almost before Landor could see who had dashed ahead of him the horse had fallen, neck to the ground, throwing its rider with his head against a point of stone.Felipa sat up in bed, and leaning over to the window beside it drew up the shade and looked out. The cold, gray world of breaking day was battling furiously with a storm of rain. The huddling flowers in the garden bent to the ground before the rush of wind from the mountains across the prairie. The windmill sent out raucous cries as it flew madly around, the great dense clouds, black with rain, dawn-edged, charged through the sky, and the shining-leaved cottonwoods bent their branches almost to the earth. The figures of Cairness and a couple of cow-boys, wrapped in rubber coats, passed, fighting their way through the blur,鈥攙ague, dark shadows in the vague, dark mist.
"I came here to parley, not to fight," said the general, rather sharply. "What is their disposition?"
In the late afternoon the lonely dark figure crossed the open and dropped down on the new grave, not in an agony of tears, but as if there was some comfort to be gotten out of contact with the mere soil. The old feeling of loneliness, which had always tinged her character with a covert defiance, was overwhelming her. She belonged to no one now. She had no people. She was an outcast from two races, feared of each because of the other's blood. The most forsaken man or woman may claim at least the kinship of his kind, but she had no kind. She crouched on the mound and looked at the sunset as she had looked that evening years before, but her eyes were not fearless now. As a trapped animal of the plains might watch a prairie fire licking nearer and nearer, making its slow way up to him in spurts of flame and in dull, thick clouds of smoke that must stifle him before long, so she watched the dreary future rolling in about her. But gradually the look changed to one farther away, and alight with hope. She had realized that there was, after all, some one to whom she belonged, some one to whom she could go and, for the first time in her life, be loved and allowed to love.It occurred to Cairness then that with no breath in your lungs and with twelve stone on your chest, speech is difficult. He slid off and knelt beside the rancher, still with the revolver levelled. "Now, why did you do it, eh?" He enforced the "eh" with a shake.
Then she tried to read, but the whisper of savagery was in the loneliness and the night. She sat with the book open in her lap, staring into a shadowy corner where there leaned an Indian lance, surmounted by a war bonnet. Presently she stood up, and stretched her limbs slowly, as a beast of prey does when it shakes off the lethargy of the day and wakens for the darkness. Then she went out to the back of the tents.
Cairness reddened to the roots of his hair, and the scar on his forehead grew purple. He understood that look now. And it hurt him more than any of the slights and rebuffs he had received since he had married Felipa. He had, like most of those who served under the general, a sort of hero-worship for him, and set great store by his opinion. It was only because of that that he had left Felipa alone upon the ranch. It had been their first separation and almost absurdly hard for two who had lived their roving lives.It appeared that Landor was accused of cowardice, and that his name was handled with the delicate sarcasm usual with Western journalism鈥攁s fine and pointed as a Stone-age axe.
"Will you make haste?" cried Felipa, out of patience.
"Always supposing you have," interposed Stone, hooking his thumbs in his sleeve holes and tipping back his chair, "always supposing you have, what could you do with the facts?"详情
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