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.
In his growing uneasiness he blundered on rashly. "You didn't know it? But it is true. Ask your guardian. Do you think he would have you for a wife?" He gave a short laugh. "He hates an Apache as he does a Gila monster. Very few men would be willing to risk it."
Cairness's eyes turned from a little ground owl on the top of a mound and looked him full in the face. "I really can't see, sir," he said, "how it can matter to any one." She watched the figure of a man coming down the line. Because of the dazzling, low light behind him, the outline was blurred in a shimmer. At first she thought without any interest in it, one way or another, that he was a soldier, then she could see that he was in citizen's clothes and wore a sombrero and top boots. Even with that, until he was almost in front of the house, she did not realize that it was Cairness, though she knew well enough that he was in the post, and had been one of Landor's most valuable witnesses. He had remained to hear the findings, but she had kept close to the house and had not seen him before. He was a government scout, a cow-boy, a prospector, reputed a squaw-man, anything vagrant and unsettled, and so the most he might do was to turn his head as he passed by, and looking up at the windows, bow gravely to the woman standing dark against the firelight within.
"They have expressed the desire that I should convey to you, Colonel—"
The fault of this last, crowning breach of faith was not all with the Red-men by any means. But the difficulty would be to have that believed. The world at large,—or such part of it as was deigning to take heed of this struggle against heavy odds, this contest between the prehistoric and the makers of history,—the world at large would not go into the details, if indeed it were ever to hear them. It would know just this, that a band of Indians, terrible in the very smallness of their numbers, were meeting the oncoming line of civilization from the East with that of the savagery of the West, as a prairie fire is met and checked in its advance by another fire kindled and set on to stop it. It would know that the blood of the masters of the land was being spilled upon the thirsty, unreclaimed ground by those who were, in right and justice, for the welfare of humanity, masters no more. It would know that the voice which should have been that of authority and command was often turned to helpless complaint or shrieks for mercy. And it[Pg 304] would not stop for the causes of these things; it could not be expected to. It would know that a man had come who had promised peace, confidently promised it in the event of certain other promises being fulfilled, and that he had failed of his purpose. The world would say that Crook had held in his grasp the Apaches and the future peace of an empire as large as that of Great Britain and Ireland, France and Germany in one, and that he had let it slip through nerveless fingers. It was signal failure.
Landor tried to interpose a suggestion that though the whole effect was undoubtedly good and calculated to melt a heart of iron, the rhetoric was muddled; but the reporter swept on; so he clasped his hands behind his head and leaning back against a tent pole, yawned openly. Stone came to an end at length, and had to mop his head with a very much bordered handkerchief. The temperature was a little high for so much effort. He met Landor's glance challengingly.
"I am Captain—Captain Landor."
"To Captain Landor's widow, I am told."
Brewster reached the post some eighteen hours ahead of him. He reported, and saw Miss McLane; then he made himself again as other men and went down to the post trader's, with a definite aim in view, that was hardly to be guessed from his loitering walk. There were several already in the officers' room, and they talked, as a matter of course, of the campaign.
Felipa spent the day, for the most part, in riding about the ranch and in anticipating the night. Her husband had promised to be back soon after moonrise. When it had begun to turn dark, she dressed herself all in white and went out to swing in the hammock until it should be time for her lonely dinner.
"I do," she answered, blinking lazily.