"And so," said Kirby, as he drew a sack of short cut from his pocket and filled his brier, "and so you have chucked up the army? What are you going to do next? Going in for art?"
"She may be ill some time. Would it be asking too much of you to look after her?" The bachelor showed in that.
"I reckon you'll know what for, then," beamed Taylor, immovably. The Apache never quivered a muscle nor uttered a sound. It was fine stoicism, and appealed to Felipa until she really felt sorry for him. Bright, black eyes peered down from crevasses and branches. An Apache lurked behind every boulder and trunk. But only the squaws and the children and twenty-six bucks in war toilet, naked from shoulder to waist, painted with blood and mescal, rings in their noses, and heads caked thick with mud, came down to the conference.
[Pg 74] They were not destined to get beyond the first fifty yards, nevertheless. The rifle that had fired at Landor as he came upon the malpais went glistening up again. There was a puff of blue-hearted smoke in the still air, and Cairness's bronco, struck on the flanks, stung to frenzy, stopped short, then gathering itself together with every quivering sinew in a knot, after the way of its[Pg 280] breed, bounded off straight in among the jagged boulders. It was all done in an instant, and almost before Landor could see who had dashed ahead of him the horse had fallen, neck to the ground, throwing its rider with his head against a point of stone.
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. And before the next morning the picnic that kept the southwest interested for five years had begun. Victorio and two hundred hostiles had left the Mescalero Agency for good and all, killing, burning, torturing, and destroying as they went, and troops from all the garrisons were sent out post haste. "Look," she said, going up to Landor with a noiseless tread that made him shiver almost visibly. Mrs. Campbell watched them. She was sorry for him.
Another of her pets was a little fawn a soldier had caught and given to her. It followed her tamely about the post.
She sat staring at the white glare of the opening, and listening to his foot-falls upon the sand.
"Let go your stirrup!" cried Cairness, in her ear; and as she kicked her foot loose, he leaned far from the saddle and threw his arm around her, swinging her up in front of him across the McLellan pommel, and driving the spurs into his horse's belly. It had the advantage of her horse in that it was an Indian animal, sure of foot as a burro, and much quicker. With one dash it was up the hillside, while the other rolled over and over, down into the torrent of the cloud burst.
"Can't stay," said the adjutant, all breathless. "The line's down between here and the Agency; but a runner has just come in, and there's trouble. The bucks are restless. Want to join Victorio in New Mexico. You've both got to get right over there."
Crook had been recalled too late, and he knew it. Every Apache on the reservation was ready for the war-path. It was not to be averted. One man, even a very firm and deft one, could not straighten out in a few weeks the muddle of ten years of thievery, oppression, and goading. It takes more than just a promise, even though it is one likely to be kept, to soothe the hurt feelings of savages who have seen eleven of their friends jailed for fourteen months without the form of accusation or trial. They feel bitter toward the government whose minions do those things.
Her only salvation, he knew that too, was to keep that strain always uppermost, to force it to the surface, exactly as Landor was doing now. Conventional, stately, reserved, in the garb of civilization, she would[Pg 217] have a certain dignity. But youth was too good to sell for that.
"And inside of a fortnight he and Mrs. Landor went to some Roman Catholic priest in Tombstone and were married. I call that indecent haste."
"In time, Felipa? In time for what, dear?" but there was no answer.