The exceedingly small respectable element of Tombstone hailed their departure with unmixed joy. They had but one wish,—that the Toughs might meet the Apaches, and that each might rid the face of the desert of the other. But the only Apaches left to meet were the old and feeble, and the squaws and papooses left at San Carlos. The able-bodied bucks were all in the field, as scouts or hostiles.
"That fellow Cairness may be a good scout and all that, but he must be an unmitigated blackguard too," said the officer, stretching himself on the ground beside Crook.
Cairness mounted, and looked up anxiously at the sky, as he gathered his reins between his fingers. The wind had begun to howl through the branches of the trees. It promised to be a wild ride. "I will be back to-night, Landor, to report," he said; "that is, if the storm doesn't delay us." And they started off down the hill.
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. Because they were sent, a fine officer had fallen victim to Apache treachery of the meanest sort and to the gross stupidity of others, and Arizona was on the verge of the worst disorder of all its disorderly history. So Crook was sent for, and he came at once, and looked with his small, piercing eyes, and listened with his ears so sharp to catch the ring of untruth, and learned a pretty tale of what had gone on during his absence on the troubled northern plains.
Then some bull-teams going to Camp Apache had stopped over night at the Agency. The teamsters had sold the bucks whiskey, and the bucks had grown very drunk. The representatives of the two tribes which were hereditary enemies, and which the special agent of an all-wise Interior Department had, nevertheless, shut up within the confines of the same reservation, therewith fell upon and slew each other, and the survivors went upon the warpath—metal tags and all. So the troops had been called out, and Landor's was at San Carlos.
Cairness reflected upon this as he fired for exactly the seventh time at a pair of beady eyes that flashed at him over a bush-topped rock by the creek, not five and twenty yards away, and then vanished utterly. There was something uncanny about it, and he was losing patience as well as ammunition. Three bullets from a repeating rifle had about finished him. One had gone through his hat. The eyes popped up again. Cairness fired again and missed. Then he did a thoroughly silly thing. He jumped out from behind his shelter and ran and leapt, straight down, and over to the rock by the stream. The beady eyes saw him coming and sparkled, with an evil sort of laughter.
"Yes, sir," he answered; "you can see that I get a mounted man and a horse at reveille to-morrow. I want to hunt for my pony. I lost it when I caught that man."
As they walked back to the post, Landor did not speak to Felipa. There was nothing he could say unless he were to storm unavailingly, and that was by no means his way. And there was nothing for which he could, with reason, blame her. All things considered, she had acted very well. She moved beside him serenely, not in the least cowed.