"I have kept near you for a week, to warn you, or to help you if necessary.""You don't love her, for that matter, either," Mrs. Campbell reminded him. But she advised the inevitable,鈥攖o wait and let it work itself out.
She had never been cruel intentionally before, and afterward she regretted it. But she raised her eyebrows and turned her back on him without answering.
"I wish you to read it, John," she said quietly.Another officer came up, and Cairness dropped from the twisted bow and walked away.She told him that she did, quite as calmly. Her[Pg 148] manner and her tone said it was very unfortunate, that the whole episode was unfortunate, but that it was not her fault.
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.She did not. He had merely told her that her father was his friend and had died on the plains. "She thinks her mother died at Stanton. It is so near the Mescalero Agency that I let it go at that."
"Certain, dead sure. It's a band of Apaches that went across the river. Why, half a dozen seen them."
"Do you think, sir, that you could tell that to twelve officers and make them believe it?""No, no; it's a good deal, but it ain't too much. Not that it could be more, very well," he added, and he glanced furtively at the woman within, who had stretched out on the lounge with her face to the wall. Mrs. Taylor was fanning her."Yes," he assured her unmoved, "you are. At least you are going to do that, or go to jail."
The minister nodded his head. "Yes, I reckon there is," he agreed.The knife was one he had brought from home, seizing it from the kitchen table at the last minute. It was very sharp and had been Felipa's treasured bread cutter. It came in very well just now, chiefly because of its length.
It occurred to Cairness then that with no breath in your lungs and with twelve stone on your chest, speech is difficult. He slid off and knelt beside the rancher, still with the revolver levelled. "Now, why did you do it, eh?" He enforced the "eh" with a shake.Cairness rode at a walk round and round the crowding, snorting, restless herd of cattle that was gathered together in the pocket of the foot-hills under the night sky. There were five other cow-boys who also rode round and round, but they were each several hundred yards apart, and he was, to all intents, alone. Now and then he quickened the gait of his bronco and headed off some long-horned steer or heifer, that forced itself out of the huddled, dark mass, making a break for freedom. But for the most part he rode heavily, lopsided in his saddle, resting both hands on the high pommel. He had had time to unlearn the neat horsemanship of the service, and to fall into the slouchy manner of the cow-boy, skilful but unscientific. It was a pitchy night, in spite of the stars, but in the distance, far off across the velvety roll of the hills, there was a forest fire on the top of a range of mountains. It glowed against the sky and lighted the pocket and the prairie below, making strange shadows among the cattle, or bringing into shining relief here and there a pair of mighty horns. A wind, dry and hot, blew down from the flames, and made the herd uneasy."Captain Landor," he corrected urbanely, "pleased to meet you, sir. They have expressed the desire that I should convey to you, sir, their wish to accompany you in the search for hostile Apaches."
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Cairness's eyes turned from a little ground owl on the top of a mound and looked him full in the face. "I really can't see, sir," he said, "how it can matter to any one."
[Pg 50]After a while Kirby went back to his work, directing several Mexicans, in hopelessly bad Spanish, and laboring with his own hands at about the proportion of three to one."Is it closed?"详情
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