When, in the darkness of a cloudy night, he said good-by to her on the road before his quarters, bending to kiss the warm mouth he could not see, he knew that it would have been possible for him to have loved her, had she been nearly all that she was not. They went at once for supper to the most popular resort of the town, the Great Western Saloon and Restaurant. It was a long adobe room, the whitewash of which was discolored by lamp smoke and fly specks and stains. There were also bullet holes and marks of other missiles. At one end was a bar, with a tin top[Pg 41] for the testing of silver coins. Several pine tables were set out with cracked sugar bowls, inch-thick glasses, bottles of pickles and condiments, still in their paper wrappings, and made filthy by flies, dust, and greasy hands. Already there were half a dozen cow-boys and Mexicans, armed to the teeth, standing about.
"For destruction of government property," Cairness told her, and there was just the faintest twinkle between his lids. "I didn't know all these interesting details about the Kirbys until you told me, Mrs. Lawton." The new general was hailed by the territories as deliverer until he found the truth and told it, after which they called him all manner of hard names, for that is the sure reward of the seeker after fact. He prepared for war, seeing how things were, but he tried for peace the while. He sent to the bucks who lurked in the fastnesses and strongholds, and said that he was going out alone to see them. He left his troops and pack-train, and with two interpreters and two officers repaired to the ca?on of the Black River, where he scrambled and slid, leading his scrambling,[Pg 178] sliding mule down the precipices of basalt and lava among the pines and junipers.
He held the door open for the Texan woman and the parson to go out. Then he followed, closing it behind him.
The adjutant agreed reluctantly. "I think there is. It wouldn't surprise me if some one had been talking. I can't get at it. But you must not bother about it. It will blow over." The fight began with a shot fired prematurely by one of the scouts, and lasted until nightfall—after the desultory manner of Indian mountain fights, where you fire at a tree-trunk or lichened rock, or at some black, red-bound head that shoots up quick as a prairie dog's and is gone again, and where you follow the tactics of the wary Apache in so far as you may. The curious part of it is that you beat him at his own game every time. It is always the troops that lose the least heavily!
Later in the day, when the general and the interpreters were engaged in making clear to the bucks, who came straggling in to surrender, the wishes and intentions of the Great Father in Washington as regarded his refractory children in Arizona, he went back to the captives' tepee. The Texan was nowhere to be seen. He called to her and got no answer, then he looked in. She was not there. One of the Mexican women was standing by, and he went up to her and asked for the Gringa.
"We must get out of this," Cairness started to say, urging his little bronco; but even as he spoke there was a murmur, a rustle, a hissing roar, and the rain fell in one solid sheet, blinding them, beating them down.
"Yes," she said, "I heard it. But I was not frightened. What was it?" He did not know, he said, and she sent him back to the barracks.
"I dare say not," said Landor, his face growing black again; "they'll cover fifty or seventy-five miles a day. We can't do that, by a good deal. We couldn't even if those damned civilians would keep their distance ahead."