She watched the figure of a man coming down the line. Because of the dazzling, low light behind him, the outline was blurred in a shimmer. At first she thought without any interest in it, one way or another, that he was a soldier, then she could see that he was in citizen's clothes and wore a sombrero and top boots. Even with that, until he was almost in front of the house, she did not realize that it was Cairness, though she knew well enough that he was in the post, and had been one of Landor's most valuable witnesses. He had remained to hear the findings, but she had kept close to the house and had not seen him before. He was a government scout, a cow-boy, a prospector, reputed a squaw-man, anything vagrant and unsettled, and so the most he might do was to turn his head as he passed by, and looking up at the windows, bow gravely to the woman standing dark against the firelight within.
They were high among the mountains, and here and there in the shadows of the rocks and pines were patches of snow, left even yet from the winter. By all the signs the trail was already more than half a day old.
The woman fairly flung the ill-cooked food upon the table, with a spitefulness she did not try to conceal. And she manifested her bad will most particularly toward the pretty children. Cairness felt his indignation rise against Kirby for having brought a woman to this, in the name of love.Stone considered his dignity as a representative of the press, and decided that he would not be treated with levity. He would resent the attitude of the soldiery; but in his resentment he passed the bounds of courtesy altogether, forgetting whose toddy he had just drunk, and beneath whose tent pole he was seated. He said rude things about the military,鈥攖hat it was pampered and inefficient and gold laced, and that it thought its mission upon earth fulfilled when it sat back and drew princely pay.
"Then," said the Reverend Taylor, laying down the paper, "you must be scared for yourself.""For destruction of government property," Cairness told her, and there was just the faintest twinkle between his lids. "I didn't know all these interesting details about the Kirbys until you told me, Mrs. Lawton."
He was but an unlearned and simple savage, and the workings of a War Department were, of course, a mystery to him. He and his people should have believed Crook. The thoughtful government which that much-harassed general represented had done everything possible to instill sweet trustfulness into their minds. But the Apache, as all reports have set forth, is an uncertain quantity."And then, there was the trouble about the cows. They promised us one thousand, and they gave us not quite six hundred. And those鈥攖he Dawn and the Sky hear that what I tell you is true鈥攁nd those were so old we could not use them."
[Pg 139]The adjutant agreed reluctantly. "I think there is. It wouldn't surprise me if some one had been talking. I can't get at it. But you must not bother about it. It will blow over."Ellton stood by the door, with his hands in his pockets, and a countenance that tried hard to maintain the severity of discipline. But he was plainly enjoying it.
Cairness sat more erect, and settled down to wait. The motion was so swift that he hardly felt it. He turned his head and looked back at the flaming corrals, and, remembering the dead animals, wondered who had hamstrung them. Then he peered forward again the little way he could see along the road, and began to make out that there was some one ahead of him. Whoever it was scurrying ahead there, bent almost double in his speed, was the one who had hamstrung the mules and horses, and who had set fire to the corrals. The pony was rather more under control now. It could be guided by the halter shank.
"Has the trip been hard?" he asked.No answer still.详情
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