The murmurs in the corral rose louder. It was not that Kirby and his partners underpaid, underfed, or overworked the American citizens. It was that their language was decent and moderate; and the lash of the slave driver would have stung less than the sight of the black coats and the seven o'clock dinner. In the midst of white savages and red, the four clung to the forms of civilization with that dogged persistence in the unessential, that worship of the memory of a forsaken home, for which the Englishman, time and again, lays down his life without hesitation. That was the grievance.
"You know that I love you?" he said unevenly.
Brewster hesitated for a moment, then walked out,[Pg 194] a little unsteadily. They blew out the candle and took down the gray blanket. "A stone can have broken that pane, and I cut my hand on a bottle," said Landor.
He felt that he ought to dislike her cordially, but he did not. He admired her, on the contrary, as he would have admired a fine boy. She seemed to have no religion, no ideals, and no petty vanity; therefore, from his point of judgment, she was not feminine. Perhaps the least feminine thing about her was the manner in which she appeared to take it for granted that he was going to marry her, without his having said, as yet, a word to that effect. In a certain way it simplified matters, and in another it made them more difficult. It is not easy to ask a woman to marry you where she looks into your eyes unhesitatingly. But Landor decided that it had to be done. She had been in the post four months, and with the standing exception of Brewster, whom she discouraged resolutely, none of the officers cared for her beyond the flirtation limit."It's not so much that," he evaded, getting up to put a lump of sugar he did not need into his tea, "it's not so much that as it is the everlasting strain of fighting the hands. It would be easier to meet an open rebellion than it is to battle against their sullen ugliness."
"Is he here now?"
The last straw was laid on when an Indian policeman arrested a young buck for some small offence. The buck tried to run away, and would not halt when he was told to. The chief of police fired and killed a squaw by mistake; and though he was properly sorry for it, and expressed his regret, the relatives and friends of the deceased squaw caught him a few days later, and cutting off his head, kicked it round, as they had seen the White-eye soldier do with his rubber foot-ball. Then they, aroused and afraid too of punishment, fled from the reservation and began to kill.
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.Mrs. Campbell asked where she proposed running to.
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.
He suggested that the sooner she felt that she could go the better, as she had been a good deal of a burden to the Taylors.
Brewster poured himself a glass of beer and drank it contemplatively and was silent. Then he set it down on the bare table with a sharp little rap, suggesting determination made. It was suggestive of yet more than this, and caused them to say "Well?" with a certain eagerness. He shrugged his shoulders and changed the subject, refusing pointedly to be brought back to it, and succeeding altogether in the aim which had brought him down there.详情
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