He turned and went back to the cabin, where his wife stood at the door, with the children clinging to her. From down the north road there came a blood-freezing yell, and a shot, reverberating, rattling from hill to hill, muffling into silence among the crowding pines."Indeed, I am not joking," she assured him earnestly. "It is quite true. Ask any one. Only don't let them know it was I who wounded him. They have never so much as suspected it. Fortunately I thought of you and ran home all the way, and was in my tent before it occurred to any one to come for me." She burst into a low laugh at his countenance of wrath and dismay. "Oh! come, Jack dear, it is not so perfectly, unspeakably horrible after all. I was disobedient. But then I am so sorry and promise never, never to do it again."
Landor's wrath was mighty, but he smiled as he sat balancing a ruler on his fingers and hearing how the citizens of San Tomaso, eager to avenge their wrongs, had met him at early morning, had gone bravely forward, keen on the scent, had implored him to hasten, while he halted on worthless pretexts, and had, towards evening, reluctantly left a hot trail, going from it at right angles, "and camping," said Brewster, regretfully, "as far away as it was possible to get, considering the halts."It was only some one standing at the mouth of the hole, however, a shadow against the shimmering sunlight. And it was a woman鈥攊t was Felipa.Not far from where those flames were licking up into the heavens, Cairness thought as he watched them, had[Pg 162] been the Circle K Ranch. In among the herd, even now, were Circle K cattle that had not yet been cut out. Those six people of his own race had been all that was left to him of his youth. To be sure, he had seen little of them, but he had known that they were there, ready to receive him in the name of the home they had all left behind.
After she had done that she stood hesitating for just a moment before she threw off all restraint with a toss of her head, and strapped about her waist a leather belt from which there hung a bowie knife and her pistol in its holster. Then slipping on her moccasins, she glided into the darkness. She took the way in the rear of the quarters, skirting the post and making with swift, soundless tread for the river. Her eyes gleamed from under her straight, black brows as she peered about her in quick, darting glances.
"Not until there is no hope," he impressed, as he put the barrel of his rifle through a knot hole and fired at random.
And then his thoughts shot back to the present with quick pain. She should not have come here, not so soon. He had taken a long, hard trip that had nearly ended in his death, to avoid this very thing, this [Pg 293]meeting, which, just because it made him so terribly happy, seemed a treachery, a sacrilege. Had she less delicacy of feeling than himself? Or had she more love? It was that, he saw it in her beautiful eyes which were growing wide and frightened at his silence. He took his hand from under the sheets and stretched it out to her. She went to him and dropped on her knees beside the bed, and threw her arms about him. He moved his weak head closer to her shoulder, and pressing her fingers to his face gave a choking sob. He was happy, so very happy. And nothing mattered but just this.
[Pg 278]"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鈥攁nd you half meant to then. What is it?"
The man beside her was an attach茅 of the British legation, who had been one of her greatest admirers to that time, but thereafter he sought her out no more. He had driven the boys off, and taking the kitten, which mewed piteously all the way, had gone with her to her destination and left her.
It struck even through Landor's pain-blurred brain that it was odd. But the few faculties he could command still were all engaged in keeping himself in the saddle until he could reach his own house, where Ellton and Felipa were waiting to get him to his room.It was a sheer waste of good ammunition, and it might serve as a signal to the Indians as well; Kirby knew it, and yet he emptied his six-shooter into the deep shadows of the trees where they had vanished, toward the south.详情
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