Felipa stood leaning listlessly against the post of the ramada, watching them. After a time she went into the adobe and came out with a pair of field-glasses, following the course of the command as it wound along among the foot-hills. The day dragged dully along. She was uneasy about her husband, her nerves were shaken with the coffee and quinine, and she was filled,[Pg 76] moreover, with a vague restlessness. She would have sent for her horse and gone out even in the clouds of dust and the wind like a hot oven, but Landor had forbidden her to leave the post. Death in the tip of a poisoned arrow, at the point of a yucca lance, or from a more merciful bullet of lead, might lurk behind any mesquite bush or gray rock.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.
He nodded forcibly. "Where all them mesquites is to one side, and the arroyo to the other. They'll be behind the mesquite. But you ain't goin' to head him off," he added, "there ain't even a short cut. The road's the shortest."
It rose to a subdued pitch as there came the gradual rattling of wheels and the slow tramp of many feet. A buckboard, from which the seats had been removed, came up the line, and behind it marched the troops and companies, Landor's own troop in advance. They halted in front of his quarters, and four officers came down the steps with the long box between them. The mocking-bird's trill died away to a questioning twitter.
"'And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.' I wonder how many women who have lived up to every word of the Decalogue have made it all profitless for want of a little charity?"When they went into this last, the ranch hands were already at a long oilcloth-covered table. The Kirbys sat at a smaller one, laid with linen, and the lank wife of one of the men served them all, with the help of a Mexican boy.
And so the hostiles took shelter there from the cavalry that had pursued them hard across the open all night, and gave battle after the manner of their kind. It was a very desultory sort of a skirmish, for the troops did not venture into the traps beyond the very edge, and the Indians were simply on the defensive. It was not only desultory, it promised to be unavailing, a waste of time and of ammunition.
Felipa held out her hand and showed a little brown bird that struggled feebly. She explained that its leg was broken, and he drew back instinctively. There was not a trace of softness or pity in her sweet voice. Then he took the bird in his own big hand and asked her how it had happened. "I did it with an arrow," said Diana, unslinging her quiver, which was a barbaric affair of mountain-lion skin, red flannel, and beads.He was not the sort of a man of whom to ask explanations. Ellton said "Very well," and proceeded to talk about the troop's hogs and gardens, both of which were a source of increase to the troop funds.Brewster stood in his own window, quite alone, and watched them all crowding down to Landor's quarters. The beauty of the Triumph of Virtue did not appeal to[Pg 157] him. He was very uneasy. Countercharges were looming on his view. To be sure, he had not lied, not absolutely and in so many words, but his citizen witnesses had not been so adroit or so careful. It would not have taken much to make out a very fair case of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. Practical working texts, anent looking before leaping, and being sure you are right ere going ahead, occurred to him with new force. His morality at the moment was worthy the law and the prophets. He was Experience in person, and as such would have been an invaluable teacher, if there had been any seeking instruction. But there was none. They were all with Landor, drinking his wine and helping success succeed, than which one may find less pleasant occupations.
Landor shrugged his shoulder, but Felipa would not have it so. "You know he is not, Jack," she said a little petulantly, which was noticeably unwonted on her part.When he was well within, he began to investigate, and he recalled now that he had heard a great deal of this cave. It was very large, supposedly, but almost unexplored. Tradition ran that the Spaniards, in the long-past days of their occupation, had had a big silver mine in there, worked by padres who had taught the timid Indians to believe that it was haunted, that they might not take it for themselves, nor yet guide others to it. And, too, it had been the refuge and hiding-place of Billy the Kid for years. It was said that since then a corporal and three men had gone in once, and that a search party had found their gnawed skeletons by the edge of the river that flowed there underground. Oddly enough, and thanks to the missionary fathers, it had never served as an Indian stronghold, though its advantages for such a use were manifest.[Pg 139]
"Now," said Taylor, distinctly, "oblige me with another lemon pop, mister." A cheer went up, and the minister standing above his fallen enemy raised the[Pg 45] third glass. "Here's to your better judgment next time, my friend. 'Tain't the sombrero makes the shot," he said. His seamed, small face was pale underneath its leathery skin, but by not so much as a quiver of an eyelid did he give any further sign of pain.Thereafter some of the troops sat down at the water-holes along the border to watch, and to write back pathetic requests for all the delicacies supplied by the commissariat, from anchovy paste and caviare to tinned mushrooms and cove oysters. A man may live upon bacon and beans and camp bread, or upon even less, when his duty to his country demands, but it is not in the Articles of War that he should continue to do so any longer than lack of transportation compels.详情
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