"I'll take a lemon soda, thanks," said Taylor.
"Sounds rather like a family magazine novel hero, doesn't it?" Landor said, with a hint of a sneer, then repented, and added that Cairness had been with him as guide, and was really a fine fellow. He turned his eyes slowly, without moving, and looked at Felipa. She was sitting near them in a patch of sun-sifted shade behind the madeira vines, sewing on a pinafore for the little girl who was just then, with her brother, crossing the parade to the post school, as school call sounded. He knew well enough that she must have heard, her ears were so preternaturally sharp. But the only sign she gave was that her lips had set a little. So he waited in considerable uneasiness for what might happen. He understood her no more than he had that first day he had met her riding with the troops from Kansas, when her indifferent manner had chilled him, and it was perhaps because he insisted upon working his reasoning from the basis that her character was complicated, whereas it was absolutely simple. He met constantly with her with much the same sort of mental sensation that one has physically, where one takes a step in the dark, expecting a fall in the ground, and comes down upon a level. The jar always bewildered him. He was never sure what she would do next, though she had never yet, save once, done anything flagrantly unwise. He dreaded, however, the moment when she might chance to meet Cairness face to face.Mrs. Lawton started forward in her chair. "What's he in for now? Ain't it for this?" she demanded.
"I dare say they are willing to surrender, upon terms to suit them. But they are very much afraid of treachery. They are on the lookout for deception at every turn. In fact, they are not in altogether the most amiable frame of mind, for the greater part. However, you can decide that for yourself when they come over, which will be directly."
He went the next day but one, riding out of the post at daylight. And he saw Felipa once more. She was standing by the creek, drawing an arrow from her quiver and fitting it to her bow. Then she poised the[Pg 32] toe of her left foot lightly upon the ground, bent back, and drew the bow almost to a semicircle. The arrow flew straight up into the shimmering air, straight through the body of a little jay, which came whirling, spinning down among the trees. Felipa gave a quick leap of delight at having made such a shot, then she darted down in search of the bird. And Cairness rode on.The general turned his head sharply, and his eyes flashed, but he only asked dryly, "Why?"
This was not what Cairness wanted either. He persisted in the silence. A prolonged silence will sometimes have much the same effect as solitary confinement. It will force speech against the speaker's own will.Cairness had groped his way back. He stood watching them. And he, too, was ready to kill. If Landor had raised his hand against her, he would have shot him down.
The fight began with a shot fired prematurely by one of the scouts, and lasted until nightfall鈥攁fter the desultory manner of Indian mountain fights, where you fire at a tree-trunk or lichened rock, or at some black, red-bound head that shoots up quick as a prairie dog's and is gone again, and where you follow the tactics of the wary Apache in so far as you may. The curious part of it is that you beat him at his own game every time. It is always the troops that lose the least heavily!He snatched it from her then, with a force that threw her to one side, and sent it flying across the room, smashing a water jug to bits. Then he pushed her away and going out, banged the door until the whitewash fell down from the cracks.
At that moment Felipa herself came up the steps and joined them on the porch. She walked with the gait of a young athlete. Her skirts were short enough to leave her movements unhampered, and she wore on her feet a pair of embroidered moccasins. She seemed to be drawing the very breath of life into her quivering nostrils, and she smiled on them both good-humoredly.
Landor knew that they were come to hear what he might have to say about it, and he had decided to say, for once, just what he thought, which is almost invariably unwise, and in this particular case proved exceedingly so, as any one could have foretold. On the principle that a properly conducted fist fight is opened by civilities, however, he mixed three toddies in as many tin coffee cups."I am far from being sure that that is entirely to be desired, very far," said Cairness, with conviction. He had never ceased to feel a certain annoyance at[Pg 319] the memory of that year and a half of Felipa's life in which he had had no part.The major stopped abruptly in his walk to and fro and faced him. "Do you know more about it, then, than Brewster who was with him?"详情
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