He went upon the sick report at once, and for three days thereafter raved of crucified women with fair hair, of children lying dead in the ca?on, of the holes in his boot soles, and a missing aparejo, also of certain cursed citizens, and the bad quality of the canned butter.He put out his hand and touched a warm, smooth flank. The horse gave a little low whinny. Quick as a flash he whipped out his knife and hamstrung it, not that one only, but ten other mules and horses before[Pg 207] he stopped. He groped from stall to stall, and in each cut just once, unerringly and deep, so that the poor beast, which had turned its head and nosed at the touch of the hand of one of those humans who had always been its friends, was left writhing, with no possible outcome but death with a bullet in its head.She sprang to her feet so suddenly that her arm struck him a blow in the face, and stood close in front of him, digging her nails into her palms and breathing hard. "If you鈥攊f you dare to say that again, I will kill you. I can do it. You know that I can, and I will. I mean what I say, I will kill you." And she did mean what she said, for the moment, at any rate. There was just as surely murder in her soul as though those long, strong hands had been closed on his throat. Her teeth were bared and her whole face was distorted with fury and the effort of controlling it. She drew up a chair, after a moment, and sat in it. It was she who was leaning forward now, and he had shrunk back, a little cowed. "I know what you are trying to do," she told him, more quietly, her lips quivering into a sneer, "you are trying to frighten me into marrying you. But you can't do it. I never meant to, and now I would die first."
One morning, shortly before dinner call, she sat under the ramada, the deer at her feet, asleep, the little Apache squatted beside her, amusing himself with a collection of gorgeous pictorial labels, soaked from commissary fruit and vegetable cans. The camp was absolutely silent, even the drowsy scraping of the brooms of the police party having stopped some time before. Landor was asleep in his tent, and presently she herself began to doze. She was awakened by the sound of footsteps on the gravel in front of the[Pg 65] ramada, and in another moment a tall figure stood in the opening, dark against the glare. Instantly she knew it was the man with whom she had come face to face long before on the parade ground at Grant, though from then until now she had not thought of him once, nor remembered his existence.The general sat silent for a while. "I didn't know that when I sent for him this time," he said at length, in partial explanation. Then he turned his head and looked up over his shoulders at the hostiles' conical hill. A band of Chiricahuas was coming down the side toward the soldiers' camp.Under the midnight sky, misty pale and dusted with glittering stars, the little shelter tents of Landor's command shone in white rows. The campfires were dying; the herd, under guard, was turned out half a mile or more away on a low mesa, where there was scant grazing; and the men, come that afternoon into camp, were sleeping heavily, after a march of some forty miles,鈥攁ll save the sentry, who marched up and down, glancing from time to time at the moving shadows of the herd, or taking a sight along his carbine at some lank coyote scudding across the open.
The Chiricahuas could see that there was trouble between the officials, both military and civil, and the government. They did not know what it was. They did not understand that the harassed general, whose word鈥攁nd his alone鈥攈ad their entire belief, nagged and thwarted, given authority and then prevented from enforcing it, had rebelled at last, had asked to be relieved, and had been refused. But they drew in with delight the air of strife and unrest. It was the one they loved best, there could and can be no doubt about that.It occurred to Cairness that it was ungenerous of Landor to revenge himself by a shot from the safe intrenchment of his rank. "Mrs. Landor has had time to tell me nothing," he said, and turned on his spurred heel and went off in the direction of the post. But it was not a situation, after all, into which one could infuse much dignity. He was retreating, anyway it might be looked at, and there is bound to be more or less ignominy in the most creditable retreat."This is all very beautiful," said Forbes, after a silence.
Somewhere in that same poem, he remembered, there had been advice relative to a man's contending to the uttermost for his life's set prize, though the end in sight were a vice. He shrugged his shoulders. It might be well enough to hold to that in Florence and the Middle Ages. It was highly impracticable for New Mexico and the nineteenth century. So many things left undone can be conveniently laid to the prosaic and materialistic tendencies of the age. Things were bad enough now鈥攆or Landor, for himself, and most especially for Felipa. But if one were to be guided by the romantic poets, they could conceivably be much worse.It was a strong door, built of great thick boards and barred with iron, but it must surely cede before fire and the blows. It wrenched on its huge hinges.
He struck his pony with the fringed end of the horse-hair lariat that hung around his pommel, and cantered on in the direction of the post. The pony had been found among the foot-hills, without any[Pg 218] trouble. That, at any rate, had been a stroke of luck. He had led it into the fort just at the end of guard-mounting, and had met a party of riders going out.
The words of a woman in a community where women are few carry almost the weight of inspiration. Be she never so hideous or so vile, she is in some measure a Deborah, and the more yet, if she be moved to the lust and love of revenge of the prophetess who sang[Pg 125] in the frenzy of blood drunkenness, "Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber, the Kenite, be. Blessed shall she be above women in the tent."
When Landor came in half an hour later he found her in her riding habit, sitting in front of the fire. She was still alone, and he felt instantly that there was more softness than ever before in the smile she gave him, more womanliness in the clinging of her hand. Altogether in her attitude and manner there was less of the restlessly youthful. He drew a chair beside hers, and settled back comfortably."Yes, we believe you," said the Apache; "but you may go away again." So he refused to be cajoled, and going upon the war-path, after much bloodshed, fled into Mexico.
There were only the bids to be taken out and steamed open. The lowest found, it was simple enough for the favored one to make his own a quarter of a cent less, and to turn it in at the last moment. But one drawback presented itself. Some guileful and wary contractors, making assurance twice sure, kept their bids themselves and only presented them when the officers sat for the final awarding. Certainly Brewster would have been wiser not to have been seen with the big civilian. During the two days that elapsed before the awarding of the contract, Landor thought about it most of the time.Her face lighted with the relief of a forgiven child, and she went to him and put her arms around his neck.
They shout back our peals of laughter,She glared at him, but she stopped short nevertheless, and, flinging down the stone she had been holding, stood up also. "All right, then. You've done with me, I reckon. Now suppose you let me go back to the camp."
"What's your name, young feller?" she demanded. Cairness was hurt. "Surely, Mrs. Lawton, you have not so entirely forgotten me. I am Charles Cairness, very much at your service." But she had forgotten, and she said so."They will kill me? Who will kill me, and what for?"详情
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