It was tea time at the Circle K Ranch. But no one was enjoying the hour of rest. Kirby sat on the couch and abstractedly ate slice after slice of thin bread and butter, without speaking. Mrs. Kirby made shift to darn the bunch of stockings beside her, but her whole attention was strained to listening. The children did not understand, though they felt the general uneasiness, and whispered together as they looked at the pictures in the illustrated paper, months old.The fighting stopped to watch the Ojo-blanco playing tag with the little Apache, right in the heart of the stronghold. The general stood still, with a chuckle, and looked on. "Naughty little boy," he remarked to the captain of the scouts; "but your man Cairness won't catch him, though."
Yet, in the midst of her little triumph, Felipa fell ill, failing without apparent cause, and then the uneasiness that had only slept in Landor for eighteen months came awake again. He did not believe when the doctors told him that it was the lassitude of the moist, warm springtime which was making the gray circles about her eyes, the listlessness of her movements.
"He gives you what I can't give," she said.
It is only a feeble love in need of stimulants and spicing that craves secrecy. A strong one seeks the open and a chance to fight to the end, whatever that may be, before the judges of earth and heaven. They stood facing each other, challenging across the woman with the look in their eyes that men have worn since long ere ever the warriors of old disputed the captive before the walls of Troy.
"Thank you," he said; and Cairness walked away."Are you certain of it? You have seen so very little of him, and you may be mistaken."The buck fell back before her fury, but she followed him thrusting and slashing. Yet it might not, even then, have ended well for her, had there not come from somewhere overhead the sound most dreaded as an omen of harm by all Apaches鈥攖he hoot of an owl. The Indian gave a low cry of dismay and turned and darted in among the bushes.
"He told me it was because he and Landor had had some trouble in the field, and weren't on the best of terms."
The murmurs in the corral rose louder. It was not that Kirby and his partners underpaid, underfed, or overworked the American citizens. It was that their language was decent and moderate; and the lash of the slave driver would have stung less than the sight of the black coats and the seven o'clock dinner. In the midst of white savages and red, the four clung to the forms of civilization with that dogged persistence in the unessential, that worship of the memory of a forsaken home, for which the Englishman, time and again, lays down his life without hesitation. That was the grievance.So he waited and stood aside somewhat, to watch[Pg 23] the course of Brewster's suit. He derived some little amusement from it, too, but he wondered with rather a deeper tinge of anxiety than was altogether necessary what the final outcome would be.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.
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When the father returned to Tucson, he had sent her the history, and she had read and reread it. In a way she was something of a linguist, for she had picked up a good deal of Spanish from Mexicans about the post, chiefly from the nurse of the Campbell children.
When he was well within, he began to investigate, and he recalled now that he had heard a great deal of this cave. It was very large, supposedly, but almost unexplored. Tradition ran that the Spaniards, in the long-past days of their occupation, had had a big silver mine in there, worked by padres who had taught the timid Indians to believe that it was haunted, that they might not take it for themselves, nor yet guide others to it. And, too, it had been the refuge and hiding-place of Billy the Kid for years. It was said that since then a corporal and three men had gone in once, and that a search party had found their gnawed skeletons by the edge of the river that flowed there underground. Oddly enough, and thanks to the missionary fathers, it had never served as an Indian stronghold, though its advantages for such a use were manifest.详情
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