Landor rode up to them and made inquiries for Foster.
The mesquites were directly ahead. A horseman came out from behind them and placed himself across the road. There was a sheen of moonlight on a revolver barrel and a shouted "Halt there!"The troops settled down to wait, and Cairness, having further sounded some of the Chiricahua squaws, went again in search of Crook. He was seated under an ash tree with his back against the trunk and a portfolio[Pg 300] upon his knee, writing. When Cairness stopped in front of him, he glanced up.
She stood by the mound for a little while thinking of him, of how well he had lived and died, true to his standard of duty, absolutely true, but lacking after all that spirit of love without which our actions profit so little and die with our death. She had a clearer realization of it than ever before. It came to her that Charles Cairness's life, wandering, aimless, disjointed as it was, and her own, though it fell far below even her own not impossibly high ideals, were to more purpose, had in them more of the vital force of creation, were less wasted, than his had been. To have known no enthusiasms鈥攚hich are but love, in one form or another鈥攊s to have failed to give that impulse to the course of events which every man born into the world should hold himself bound to give, as the human debt to the Eternal.[Pg 285]
The captain they had elected for themselves was for following; the seven others agreed upon a detour. They had ideas of their own concerning obedience to superiors. They left the trail in spite of the vehement assurance of their captain that they would without doubt get all manner of profanity knocked out of them, and hasten their inevitable journey to Gehenna if they went into the timber.But she only answered that that was unlikely and slipped her arm around his neck, as she added that if anything were to happen to him, she would not have one real friend in the world. There was something pathetic in the quiet realization of her loneliness.Felipa's revolver was in her hand, and cocked and pointed straight between two eyes that shone out of the blackness. And so, for an appreciable time, she stood. Then a long arm came feeling out; but because she was looking along the sight into the face at the very end of the muzzle, she failed to see it. When it closed fast about her waist, she gave a quick gasp and fired. But the bullet, instead of going straight through the forehead beneath the head[Pg 79] band, as she had meant it to do, ploughed down. The grasp on the body relaxed for an instant; the next it had tightened, and a branch had struck the pistol from her hand.
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.She went into the bedroom, half dragging him by the shoulder, and shut the door. "Now!" she said, "make haste."The Declaration of Independence roused the screeching eagle of freedom in the breasts of all the white men. With the Mexicans it was a slightly different sentiment. At best they could never be relied upon for steady service. A couple of months' pay in their pockets, and they must rest them for at least six. It is always to be taken into consideration when they are hired. They had been paid only the day before. And, moreover, the Greaser follows the Gringo's lead easily鈥攖o his undoing.
The Reverend Taylor shook his head. "I may tell you sometime, but not now. In the meanwhile I'm sure you think we had better keep Mrs. Lawton here, don't you now?"Felipa had discarded, long since, the short skirt and moccasins of her girlhood, and had displayed no inconsiderable aptitude in the matter of fashions; but she was given to looseness of draperies and a carelessness of attire in her own home that the picturesqueness of her beauty alone only saved from slatternliness. There was one manifestation of ill taste which she did not give, however, one common enough with the wives of most of the officers. She was never to be found running about the post, or sitting upon the porches, with her husband's cape around her shoulders and his forage-cap over her eyes. Her instinct for the becoming was unfailing. This was a satisfaction to Landor. But it was a secret grievance that she was most contented when in her riding habit, tearing foolhardily over the country.
Later, when he came in from dress parade, he found her reading in the sitting room. She looked up and smiled, but his face was very angry, and the chin strap of his helmet below his mouth and the barbaric yellow plume added to the effect of awful and outraged majesty. He stopped in front of her. "I have been thinking things over," he said. She waited. "Three years ago I offered you your liberty to marry that man. I repeat the offer now."He reflected that it is a trait of the semi-civilized and of children that they like their tales often retold. But he did not say so. He was holding that in reserve. Instead, he changed the subject, with an abrupt inquiry as to whether she meant to ride to-day. "I suppose not?" he added.
"You touch that," she said resolutely, "and I'll let them both loose on you."The parson nodded again.
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But he went on, instructing her how it was not all of riding to stick on, and rather a question of saving and seat and the bit.
"That fellow Cairness may be a good scout and all that, but he must be an unmitigated blackguard too," said the officer, stretching himself on the ground beside Crook.详情
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