"I put them in this here book," he said, "betwixt the leaves, and then I put the book under my saddle and set on it. I don't weigh so much, but it works all right," he added, looking up with a na?ve smile that reached from one big ear to the other. "To-morrow," he told him later, "I'm going to ride over here to Tucson again. What way might you be takin'?"Landor saw that his own horse was the best; and it bid very fair to play out soon enough. But until it should do so, his course was plain. He gathered his reins in his hands. "You can mount behind me, Cabot," he said. The man shook his head. It was bad enough that he had come down himself without bringing others down too. He tried to say so, but time was too good a thing to be wasted in argument, where an order would serve. There was a water hole to be reached somewhere to the southwest, over beyond the soft, dun hills, and it had to be reached soon. Minutes spelled death under that white hot sun. Landor changed from the friend to the officer, and Cabot threw himself across the narrow haunches that gave weakly under his weight.
But when he was away from Felipa and her blighting matter of fact, the pathos of it came uppermost again. Troubles seemed to thicken around him. His voluntary Coventry was making him sensitive. He had thought that his wife was at least giving him the best of her cool nature. Cool! There was no [Pg 152]coldness in that strained white face, as she read the letter. The control she had over herself! It was admirable. He thought that most women would have fainted, or have grown hysterical, or have made a scene of some sort. Then he recalled the stoicism of the Apache鈥攁nd was back at her birth again.The bids, duly sealed, were given into the keeping of the commissary officer to be put in his safe, and kept until the day of judgment, when all being opened in public and in the presence of the aspirants, the lowest would[Pg 188] get the contract. It was a simple plan, and gave no more opportunity for underhand work than could be avoided. But there were opportunities for all that. It was barely possible鈥攖he thing had been done鈥攆or a commissary clerk or sergeant, desirous of adding to his pittance of pay, or of favoring a friend among the bidders, to tamper with the bids. By the same token there was no real reason why the commissary officer could not do it himself. Landor had never heard, or known, of such a case, but undoubtedly the way was there. It was a question of having the will and the possession of the safe keys.
In the weeks that followed, Landor spent days and some nights鈥攖hose when he sat up to visit the guard, as a rule鈥攁ttempting to decide why his ward repelled him. She seemed to be quite like any other contented and natural young girl. She danced, and courted admiration, within the bounds of propriety; she was fond of dress, and rather above the average in intelligence. Usually she was excellent company, whimsical and sweet-humored. She rode well enough, and learned鈥攖o his intense annoyance鈥攖o shoot with a bow and arrow quite remarkably, so much so that they nicknamed her Diana. He had remonstrated at first, but there was no reason to urge, after all. Archery was quite a feminine sport.
She echoed "To luncheon!" in amazement. "But, Jack, he was a soldier, wasn't he?"
"They are travelling rapidly, of course. We shan't overtake them.""Say!" she apostrophized.They came around him and offered him their horses, dismounting even, and forcing the reins into his hands. "You don't know what you are doing," a corporal urged. "You'll never get out alive. If it ain't Indians, it'll be thirst." Then he looked into Cabot's face and saw that he did know, that he knew very well. And so they left him at last, with more of the tepid alkali water than they well could spare from their canteens, with two days' rations and an extra cartridge belt, and trotted on once more across the plain.
He gathered his courage for what he was going to say next, with a feeling almost of guilt. "Forbes says that I am doing you an injustice, keeping you here; that it is no life for you."
Felipa leaned against the tree under which they were, fairly protected from the worst of the storm;[Pg 101] and Cairness stood beside her, holding his winded horse. There was nothing to be said that could be said. She had lost for once her baffling control of the commonplace in speech, and so they stood watching the rain beat through the wilderness, and were silent."That you take them to civilization鈥攖he missus and the kid. It's the only salvation for all three of you鈥攆or you as well as them."
He walked away, and Geronimo went back to his rancheria on the hilltop, crestfallen. He had failed of his effect, and had not by any means made his own terms.[Pg 200]
Brewster explained that she was visiting Captain Campbell's family.详情
Copyright © 2020