It was a splendid spring morning. There had been a shower overnight, and the whole mountain world was aglitter. The dancing, rustling leaves of the cottonwoods gleamed, the sparse grass of the parade ground was shining like tiny bayonets, the flag threw out its bright stripes to the breeze, and when the sun rays struck the visor of some forage cap, they glinted off as though it had been a mirror. All the post chickens were cackling and singing their droning monotonous song of contentment, the tiny ones cheeped and twittered, and in among the vines of the porch Felipa's mocking-bird whistled exultantly. She looked up and tried hard to smile again.
It was not very dark. The sky was thick with clouds, but there was a waning moon behind them. The only light in the garrison was in the grated windows of the guard-house.
"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. Others of the troops were ordered in, and among them was Landor's. It had gone out for a twenty days' scout, and had been in the field two months. It was ragged and all but barefoot, and its pack-train was in a pitiable way. Weeks of storm in the Mogollons and days of quivering heat on the plains had brought its clothing and blankets to the last stages. "Never!" she declared; it was merely because she could not breathe the same air with that creature.
"Where do you want me to go?" he almost moaned, and finished with an oath. Here, toward the eastern part of the territory, the government had portioned off the San Carlos Agency for its Apache wards, and some thirty miles away, not far from the banks of the river, Camp Thomas for its faithful soldiery.
[Pg 214] The Reverend Taylor nodded again. "Reckon she could. But—" he grabbed at a fly with one hand, and caught and crushed it in his palm with much dexterity, "but—she's lit out."
Crook closed up the portfolio and turned to him. "I didn't know you were married, Mr. Cairness, when I sent for you."
Someway it had not occurred to him to be any more angry with Cairness than he had been with her. The most he felt was resentful jealousy. There was nothing more underhand about the man than there was about Felipa. Sending the note by the prospectors had not been underhand. He understood that it had been done only that it might make no trouble for her, and give himself no needless pain. Cairness would have been willing to admit to his face that he loved Felipa. That letter must have been written in his own camp.
There was one who had done so now. The troops looking up at him, rejoiced. He was crucified upon an[Pg 135] improvised cross of unbarked pine branches, high up at the top of a sheer peak of rock. He stood out black and strange against the whitish blue of the sky. His head was dropped upon his fleshless breast, and there was a vulture perched upon it, prying its hooked bill around in the eye sockets. Two more, gorged and heavy, balanced half asleep upon points of stone.
One morning, shortly before dinner call, she sat under the ramada, the deer at her feet, asleep, the little Apache squatted beside her, amusing himself with a collection of gorgeous pictorial labels, soaked from commissary fruit and vegetable cans. The camp was absolutely silent, even the drowsy scraping of the brooms of the police party having stopped some time before. Landor was asleep in his tent, and presently she herself began to doze. She was awakened by the sound of footsteps on the gravel in front of the[Pg 65] ramada, and in another moment a tall figure stood in the opening, dark against the glare. Instantly she knew it was the man with whom she had come face to face long before on the parade ground at Grant, though from then until now she had not thought of him once, nor remembered his existence.
"I don't," Cairness differed; "it's unreasonable. There is too much sympathy expended on races that are undergoing the process of extinction. They have outgrown their usefulness, if they ever had any. It might do to keep a few in a park in the interests of science, and of that class of people which enjoys seeing animals in cages. But as for making citizens of the Indians, raising them to our level—it can't be done. Even when they mix races, the red strain corrupts the white."
It was the usual tale of woe that Geronimo had to tell, much the same that the old buck had recited to[Pg 298] Cairness in the spring of the last year. His particular grievance was the request for his hanging, which he had been told had been put in the papers, and his fear of three White-men who he believed were to arrest him. "I don't want that any more. When a man tries to do right, such stories ought not to be put in the newspapers. What is the matter with you that you do not speak to me? It would be better if you would look with a pleasant face. I should be more satisfied if you would talk to me once in a while." The interpreter translated stolidly. "Why don't you look at me and smile at me? I am the same man. I have the same feet, legs, and hands, and the Sun looks down on me a complete man." There was no doubt about that, at any rate, and perhaps it was not an unmixed good fortune.