She was strong, slender as she was, and she freed herself almost without effort. And yet he would not be warned. "Don't you love me?" he insisted, as though she had not already made it plain enough.
She was sitting in her room, sewing. Of late she had become domesticated, and she was fading under it. He had seen it already, and he saw it more plainly than ever just now. She looked up and smiled. Her smile had always been one of her greatest charms, because it was rare and very sweet. "Jack," she greeted him, "what have you done with the bread knife you took with you, dear? I have been lost without it.""Might not an orphan asylum have been best, after all?"
He helped her out. "I have drifted in a way," he went on to explain. "I left home when I was a mere boy, and the spirit of savagery and unrest laid hold of me. I can't break away. And I'm not even sure that I want to. You, I dare say, can't understand." Yet he felt so sure, for some reason, that she could that he[Pg 71] merely nodded his head when she said briefly, "I can." "Then, too," he went on, "there is something in the Indian character that strikes a responsive chord in me. I come of lawless stock myself. I was born in Sidney." Then he stopped short. What business was it of hers where he had been born? He had never seen fit to speak of it before. Nevertheless he intended that she should understand now. So he made it quite plain. "Sidney was a convict settlement, you know," he said deliberately, "and marriages were promiscuous. My grandfather was an officer who was best away from England. My grandmother poisoned her first husband. That is on my mother's side. On my father's side it was about as mixed." He leaned back, crossing his booted legs and running his fingers into his cartridge belt. His manner asked with a certain defiance, what she was going to do about it, or to think."You can go whenever you like now," Cairness told her. She demanded to know where she was to go to, and he answered that that was not his affair, but that he would suggest a safe distance. "Somebody else getting hold of the truth of the Kirby business mightn't be so easy on you as I am."
Some of them did think so. Some of them thought on the contrary, that it would be surer to make a detour, leaving the trail. They knew the spot, the bed of an ancient mountain lake, where the hostiles were sure to camp.Once in the ?ons which will never unfold their secrets now, when the continent of the Western seas was undreamed of by the sages and the philosophers of the Eastern world, when it was as alone, surrounded by its wide waters, as the planets are alone in their wastes of space, when it was living its own life,鈥攚hich was to leave no trace upon the scroll of the wisdom of the ages,鈥攖he mountains and the bowels of the earth melted before the wrath of that same Lord whose voice shook the wilderness of Jud?a. At His bidding they ran as water, and poured down in waves of seething fire, across the valley of death.
There were only the bids to be taken out and steamed open. The lowest found, it was simple enough for the favored one to make his own a quarter of a cent less, and to turn it in at the last moment. But one drawback presented itself. Some guileful and wary contractors, making assurance twice sure, kept their bids themselves and only presented them when the officers sat for the final awarding. Certainly Brewster would have been wiser not to have been seen with the big civilian. During the two days that elapsed before the awarding of the contract, Landor thought about it most of the time.She was astonished in her turn. "Killed him! Why, of course I might have killed him," she said blankly, frowning, in a kind of hopeless perplexity over his want of understanding. "I came very near it, I tell you. The ball made shivers of his shoulder. But he was brave," she grew enthusiastic now, "he let the doctor probe and pick, and never moved a muscle. Of course he was half drunk with tizwin, even then."
The general's long silence was making the complete man nervous. Beads of sweat stood out on his forehead, and he twisted his hands together. "The Sun, the Darkness, and the Winds are all listening to what we now say. To prove to you that I am telling the truth, remember that I sent you word that I would come from a place far away to speak to you here, and you see me now. If I were thinking bad, I would never have come here. If it had been my fault, would I have come so far to talk with you?" he whined.Presently she returned with two bottles. In one was the tarantula, an especially large and hideous specimen, hairy and black, with dull red tinges. In the other the vinagrone, yet more hideous. She went down to the side of the house and emptied both into the wide-mouthed bottle.And the next day she knew. When she came out in front of her quarters in the morning, rather later than usual, there was a new tent beside the hospital,[Pg 81] and when she asked the reason for it, they told her that a wounded Apache had been found down by the river soon after the shot had been fired the night before. He was badly hurt, with a ball in his shoulder, and he was half drunk with tizwin, as well as being cut in a dozen places.
When he returned at the end of a couple of hours she was all humility, and she had moreover done something that was rare for her: made capital of her beauty, putting on her most becoming white gown, and piling her hair loosely on the top of her head, with a cap of lace and a ribbon atop of it. Landor liked the little morning caps, probably because they were a sort of badge of civilization, but they were incongruous for all that, and took from the character of her head. His anger was well in leash, and he gave her the mail which had just come in by the stage, quite as though nothing had occurred. "And now," he commenced, when he had glanced over the Eastern papers, "I have seen the C. O.; he wants the line between here and Apache fixed. He will give me the detail if you care to go." He plainly meant to make no further reference to her confession, but she would have been more than woman if she had known when to let a matter drop.She answered that she had enjoyed it all, every day of it, and Brewster joined in with ecstatic praises of her horsemanship and endurance, finishing with the unlucky comment that she rode like an Indian."It's only a small trail, anyway," Cairness informed[Pg 118] them as a result of a minute examination he had made, walking round and leading his bronco, bending double over the signs, "just some raiding party of twelve or fifteen bucks. Shot out from the main body and ran into the settlements to steal stock probably."
So that evening when all the garrison was upon its front porches and the sidewalk, the major and the lieutenant went down the line to Landor's quarters. And their example was followed. But some hung back, and constraint was in the air.
She denied the idea emphatically.
He stood up and went nearer to her, shaking his finger in her face. He knew that he had lost, and he was reckless. "You had better marry me, or I will tell your birth from the housetops." But he was making the fatal mistake of dealing with the child that had been, instead of with the woman he had aroused.But she was not to be turned off with levity. It was a serious matter, involving consequences of the sternest sort. Mrs. Taylor was of the class of minds which holds that just such laxities as this strike at the root of society. "It is not a joke, Joshua. She pollutes our home."详情
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