Chapter 16 Her lips parted, and quivered, and closed again. The winds from the wide heavens above the gap whined through the pines, the river roared steadily down below, and the great, irresistible hand of Nature crushed without heeding it the thin, hollow shell of convention. The child of a savage and a black sheep looked straight and long into the face of the child of rovers and criminals. They were man and woman, and in the freemasonry of outlawry made no pretence.
Brewster took on an elaborate and entirely unnecessary air of indifference, and yawned to heighten the effect. "What did he want of the child?" he asked negligently.
Then it was the first, at any rate. His manner softened. He stood up. "I'll see you off inside of three days then, Stone," he said amicably. "Have I ever lied to you?" Crook asked them.
"Neither," drawled Cairness. "But Mrs. Lawton, here, has been good enough to tell me that you have known the exact truth about the Kirby massacre ever since a week after its occurrence, and yet you have shielded the criminals and lied in the papers. Then, too," he went on, "though there is no real proof against you, and you undoubtedly did handle it very well, I know that it was you that set Lawton on to try and bribe for the beef contract. You see your friends are unsafe, Mr. Stone, and I have been around yours and Lawton's ranches enough to have picked up a few damaging facts."
The Powers said that a party of Indians had killed two American citizens, and had thereby offended against their sacred laws. To be sure the Americans had sold the Indians poisonous whiskey, so they had broken the laws, too. But there is, as any one should be able to see, a difference between a law-breaking Chiricahua and a law-breaking territorial politician. Cairness refused to see it. He said things that would have been seditious, if he had been of any importance in the scheme of things. As it was, the Great Powers did not heed them, preferring to take advice from men who did not know an Apache from a Sioux—or either from the creation of the shilling shocker.
They rode on, along the trail, at a walk and by file, and directly they came upon the other side of the question. Landor's horse stopped, with its forefeet planted, and a snort of fright. Landor had been bent far back, looking up at a shaft of rock that rose straight from the bottom and pierced the heavens hundreds of feet above, and he was very nearly unseated. But he caught himself and held up his hand as a signal to halt.
And what she did was to say, with a deliberation equal to his own, that her mother had been a half-breed Mescalero and her father a private.
"Think it over, in any case," urged Forbes; "I am going in, good night."
The child brushed at her cheek and struggled away. "Come, Billy," she called to the brother who had saved her life; and that small, freckle-faced hero, whose nose was badly skinned from a fall, flung his arms around his benefactress's neck perfunctorily and escaped, rejoicing.
"Matarán á Usted."
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