It was a strong door, built of great thick boards and barred with iron, but it must surely cede before fire and the blows. It wrenched on its huge hinges.
He called the first sergeant to his aid. Brewster was in the rear of the command, and, as had occurred with increasing frequency in the last two months, showed no desire to be of any more use than necessary. As for Cairness, who had been more of a lieutenant to Landor than the officer himself, he had left the command two days before and gone back to the San Carlos reservation.
There was human plunder, too—women from the villages, all Mexicans but one, and that one was American. Cairness, having gone off with some scouts to reconnoitre, did not see them that night. When he came back it was already dark, and he took his supper; and rolling himself in his blanket slept, as he had always for the past fortnight, with only the faintly radiant night sky above him. With the sublime indifference to the mockery of the world, characteristic of his race, Cairness kept at it. It was ridiculous. He had time to be dimly aware of that. And it certainly was not war. He did not know that they were affording the opposing forces much enjoyment. He had not even observed that the firing had stopped. But he meant to catch that much qualifiedly impudent little beast, or to know the reason why. And he would probably have known the reason why, if one of the Apache scouts, embarrassed by no notions of fair play, had not taken good aim and[Pg 233] brought his youthful kinsman down, with a bullet through his knee. It ended in victory for the vinagrone, but he died from his wounds an hour later. Felipa told Landor so, as they started for a ride, early in the afternoon. "The vinagrone is dead," she said; "Mr. Brewster didn't like my fighting them." Then she assumed the lofty dignity that contrasted so oddly sometimes with her childish simplicity. "He lacks tact awfully. Think of it! He took the occasion to say that he loved me. As though he had not told me so a dozen times before."
Landor cursed the malpais and the men who were leading him over it. "How much more of this rough country is there going to be?" he demanded, as they stopped to shoe two horses that had come unshod on the sharp rocks. "Colonel," they made answer with much dignity, "we are more anxious than you to get back to our defenceless women and children." "You might marry," Landor suggested. "You can always do that when all else fails."
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. It was a strong door, built of great thick boards and barred with iron, but it must surely cede before fire and the blows. It wrenched on its huge hinges.
But Landor was not aware that there was any. "Cairness is a very decent sort of a fellow," he said[Pg 108] good-humoredly. "And, personally, I am indebted to him for having saved Mrs. Landor's life up Black River way."
But she only considered the insects, which were beginning to move again, and answered absently that she knew it, that he had said it before. "Oh! Mr. Brewster, bet quickly," she urged.
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.
It struck even through Landor's pain-blurred brain that it was odd. But the few faculties he could command still were all engaged in keeping himself in the saddle until he could reach his own house, where Ellton and Felipa were waiting to get him to his room.
There was a long pause. A hawk lighted on a point of rock and twinkled its little eyes at them. Two or three squirrels whisked in and out. Once a scout came by and stood looking at them, then went on, noiselessly, up the mountain side.