It was a long way to the salt lick, and the chances were that the two men would be gone the whole afternoon. The day was very hot, and she had put on a long, white wrapper, letting her heavy hair fall down over her shoulders, as she did upon every excuse now, and always when her husband was out of the way. There was a sunbonnet hanging across the porch railing. She put it on her head and went down the steps, carrying the child. "And now," said the Reverend Taylor, fingering the lock of hair over the little Reverend's right ear,[Pg 263] as that wise little owl considered with uncertain approval a whistle rattle Cairness had bought for him, "and now what are you going to do?"
"It might for me," he said, "but not for her, and I[Pg 15] told Cabot I'd do my best for her." It had seemed to him his plain duty, and he had done it, and he asked no approbation.
"Over here to Tucson" was a three days' ride under the most favorable circumstances; but with the enthusiastic botanist dismounting at short intervals to make notes and press and descant upon specimens, it was five days before they reached, towards nightfall, the metropolis of the plains. Felipa did not answer. She broke her revolver and looked into the chambers. Two of them were empty,[Pg 326] and she took some cartridges from a desk drawer and slipped them in. The holster was attached to her saddle, and she rarely rode without it. "Sometimes it's the Gila Valley, and sometimes it's rum," said Landor. "It's rum with a good many."
She sat for a moment without answering. It was less astonishment than that she did not understand. She knitted her brow in a puzzled frown.
The curtain-raiser to the tragedy about to come upon the boards was a little comedy.
"Who is there to marry hereabouts? And always supposing there were some one, I'd be sent off on a scout next day, and have to ship her back East for an indefinite time. It would be just my blamed luck."
About an hour after midnight there came thundering through the quiet of the night the sound of galloping hoofs along the road at the foot of the ravine. Cairness, lying broad awake, was the first to hear it. He sprang up and ran to the opening of the tent. He guessed that it was a courier even before the gallop changed to a trot, and a voice called from the invisible depths below, "Captain Landor?" with a rising intonation of uncertainty.
Another thing he could not quite fathom was why the religious dances he had, in pursuance of his wild[Pg 176] pleasure, seen fit to hold on Cibicu Creek, had been interfered with by the troops. To be sure, the dances had been devised by his medicine men to raise the dead chiefs and braves with the end in view of re-peopling the world with Apaches and driving out the Whites. But as the dead had not consented to the raising, it might have been as well to allow the Indians to become convinced of the futility of it in that way. However, the government thought otherwise, and sent its troops.
Cairness also thought that they should not, chiefly because they had a tendency to frighten the timid Apaches. But he went on quietly eating his breakfast, and said nothing. He knew that only silence can obtain loquacity from silent natures. He was holding his meat in his fingers, too, and biting it, though he did not drag it like a wild beast yet; and, moreover, he had it upon a piece of bread of his own baking.
They clambered up the mountain side, back to the camp, and Cairness escorted her to the tepee in silence. Then he left her. "Don't try to run away again," he advised. "You can't get far." He started off and turned back. "Speaking of running away, where's the Greaser you lit out with?"
"You didn't stay to see the operation?" His voice was ominously quiet.
Cairness made another cigarette and considered. "I think I'll hire to him," he said, after a while.