In the corral where the fire had started and was best under way, and in the stall farthest from the gate, a little pinto mustang was jerking at its halter and squealing with fear. It was Cairness's horse. He had been allowed to stable it there, and he himself was not down with his scouts in the ill-smelling camp across the creek, but had a room at the sutler's store, a good three-quarters of a mile from the corrals. As soon as the bugle call awoke him, he started at a run; but the fire was beyond fighting when he got there.
So the captain and the first sergeant took up the money and the loose papers, together with a couple of rings from the hands, and wrapping them in a poncho, carried them off to serve as possible means of identification, for it had got beyond all question of features. Then two men moved the bodies from the[Pg 137] trail, with long sticks, and covered them with a pile of stones. Landor found a piece of board by the mouth of the claim and drew on it, with an end of charred stick, a skull and cross bones with a bow and arrow, and stood it up among the stones, in sign to all who might chance to pass thereby that since men had here died at the hands of the Apaches, other men might yet meet a like fate."I am Captain鈥擟aptain Landor."
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.He turned his chair and studied her in a kind of hopeless amusement. "Felipa," he said, "if you will insist upon being told, I cut open the pockets of those dead men's clothes with it."Yet there came a rap at his door directly. It was the McLane's striker, bearing a note from Miss McLane. Brewster knew what was in it before he opened it. But he went back to the window and read it by the fading light. When he looked up it was to see Miss McLane and Ellton going up the walk together, returning from Landor's house.
She threw him an indifferent "I am not afraid, not of anything." It was a boast, but he had reason to know that it was one she could make good.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."
"Yes," Cairness said, "of course it's hard luck, but she's deserved it all, and more too. You may as well know the whole thing now. It's only fair. She and her husband were the cause of the Kirby massacre. Drove off the stock from the corrals and left them no escape."She looked down at the curled toe of her moccasin with a certain air of repentance, and answered his question as to what she meant to do with it by explaining that she meant to keep it for a pet.
There was the crunching of heavy feet up above, on the gravel. It came to them both, even to her, that for them to be seen there together would be final. There would be no explaining it away. Cairness thought of her. She thought of her husband. It would ruin him and his life.When the sergeant reported it to the major afterward, he said that the captain, in stooping over to raise the chief of scouts, had been struck full in the temple by a bullet, and had pitched forward with his arms stretched out. One private had been wounded. They carried the two men back to the little cabin of stones, and that was the casualty list. But the dash had failed.
In the morning, while the cooks were getting breakfast and the steam of ration-Rio mounted as a grateful incense to the pink and yellow daybreak heavens, having bathed in the creek and elaborated his toilet[Pg 235] with a clean neckerchief in celebration of victory, he walked over to the bunch of tepees to see the women captives."Never mind all that. I'm here to question, not to be questioned. Now listen to me." And he went on to point out how she could not possibly get away from him and the troops until they were across the border, and that once there, it lay with him to turn her over to the authorities or to set her free. "You can take your choice, of course. I give you my word鈥攁nd I think you are quite clever enough to believe me鈥攖hat if you do not tell me what I want to know about Stone, I will land you where I've landed your husband; and that if you do, you shall go free after I've done with you. Now I can wait until you decide to answer," and he rolled over on his back, put his arms under his head, and gazed up at the jewel-blue patch of sky.
He looked at her steadily, in silence. It did not seem that there was anything to say. He would have liked to tell her how beautiful she was. But he did not do it. Instead, he did much worse. For he took a beaded and fringed leather case from his pocket and held out to her the drawing he had made of her four years before. She gave it back without a word, and bent to play with the buckskin collar on the neck of the fawn.Landor and his lieutenant jumped up and ran down the walk. "What's all this, Dutchy?" they asked.
"Like as not," Cairness agreed.Brewster resented it, and so the next thing he said was calculated to annoy. "He says you are quite one of them."
The advance guard advanced less and less. Half drunk and ever drinking, in quaking fear of the timber, it kept falling back.[Pg 31]详情
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