"Always supposing you have," interposed Stone, hooking his thumbs in his sleeve holes and tipping back his chair, "always supposing you have, what could you do with the facts?" "See here," insisted Taylor; "turn round here and answer me." Cairness continued to stand with his head down, looking at the geraniums. The parson was wiser than his wife in that he knew when it was of no use to insist. "What's keeping you around here, anyway? You ought to have gotten out when you left the service—and you half meant to then. What is it?"
"Luncheon!" said Cairness, as he smoothed his hair in front of a speckled and wavy mirror, which reflected all of life that came before it, in sickly green, "cabalistic word, bringing before me memories of my wasted youth. There was a chap from home in my troop, until he deserted, and when we were alone we would say luncheon below our breaths. But I haven't eaten anything except dinner for five years."
"Anywhere you like, my dear chap, so that it's neither in Arizona or New Mexico. I want to stop here myself, and the place isn't big enough for us both. You'll be a valuable acquisition to any community, and you can turn your talent to showing up the life here. You are right on the inside track. Now I won't ask you to promise to go. But I'll be round to see that you do." The Elltons' pretty child was like its mother, [Pg 288]gentler and more caressing. It lay placidly in her arms and patted her lips when she tried to talk, with the tips of its rosy fingers. She caught them between her teeth and mumbled them, and the child chuckled gleefully. But by and by it was taken away to bed, and then Felipa was alone with its father and mother. Through the tiresome evening she felt oppressed and angrily nervous. The Elltons had always affected her so.
The Indian wars of the southwest have been made a very small side issue in our history. The men who have carried them on have gained little glory and little fame. And yet they have accomplished a big task, and accomplished it well. They have subdued an enemy many times their own number. And the enemy has had such enormous advantages, too. He has been armed, since the 70's, even better than the troops. He has been upon his own ground—a ground that was alone enough to dismay the soldier, and one that gave him food, where it gave the white man death by starvation and thirst. He knew every foot of the country, fastnesses, water holes, creeks, and strongholds over thousands of miles. The best cavalry can travel continuously but twenty-five or thirty miles a day, carrying its own rations. The Apache, stealing his stock and food as he runs, covers his fifty or seventy-five. The troops must find and follow trails that are disguised[Pg 231] with impish craft. The Apache goes where he lists, and that, as a general thing, over country where devils would fear to tread.
"To Captain Landor's widow, I am told."
"There is something," he insisted, dropping his head down again wearily.
"And how, may I ask, would you suggest cutting off their retreat?" the major inquired a little sharply. His temper was not improved by the heat and by twelve hours in the saddle.
One had gone mad with loco-weed, and they gored each other's sides until the blood ran, while only a low, moaning bellow came from their dried throats. A cloud of fine dust, that threw back the sun in glitters, hung over them, and a flock of crows, circling above in the steel-blue sky, waited.
Landor's fear of leaving the settlements unguarded grew. "We will get up among these mountains and be delayed, and we are in no condition whatever to travel, anyway," he told Brewster, as the advance[Pg 119] guard halted again, and Landor, with curses in his heart but a civil tongue withal, trotted up to them.
"I see him, I see him all the same," he protested, with tears and evident conviction.