类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-10-27 03:42:21


There were two bodies lying across the trail in front of him. He dismounted, and throwing his reins to the[Pg 136] trumpeter went forward to investigate. It was not a pleasant task. The men had been dead some time and their clothing was beginning to fall away in shreds. Some of their outfit was scattered about, and he could guess from it that they had been prospectors. A few feet away was the claim they had been working. Only their arms had been stolen, otherwise nothing appeared to be missing. There was even in the pockets considerable coin, in gold and silver, which Landor found, when he took a long knife from his saddle bags, and standing as far off as might be, slit the cloth open.Pending her arrival, Landor brought himself to look[Pg 16] upon it as his plain duty and only course to marry her. It would save her, and any man who might otherwise happen to love her, from learning what she was. That she might refuse to look at it in that way, did not much enter into his calculations. It required a strong effort for him to decide it so, but it was his way to pick out the roughest possible path before him, to settle within himself that it was that of duty, and to follow it without fagging or complaint. He dreaded any taint of Apache blood as he dreaded the venom of a rattler. He had seen its manifestations for twenty odd years, had seen the hostile savage and the civilized one, and shrank most from the latter. But he had promised Cabot to do his best by the waif, and the best he could see was to marry her. There was always before him, to urge him on to the sacrifice, the stalwart figure of his boyhood's friend, standing forsaken in the stretch of desert with the buzzards hovering over him in the burning sky. He permitted himself to hope, however, that she was not too obviously a squaw.

Landor suggested his own experience of close on two decades, and further that he was going to command the whole outfit, or going to go back and drop the thing right there. They assented to the first alternative, with exceedingly bad grace, and with worse grace took the place of advance guard he detailed them to, four hundred yards ahead. "You know the country. You are my guides, and you say you are going to lead me to the Indians. Now do it." There was nothing conciliating in his speech, whatever, and he sat on his horse, pointing them to their positions with arm outstretched, and the frown of an offended Jove. When they had taken it, grumbling, the column moved.

"I give this to a friend," it ran, "to be delivered into your own hands, because I must tell you that, though I should never see you again鈥攆or the life I lead is hazardous, and chance may at any time take you away forever鈥擨 shall love you always. You will not be angry with me, I know. You were not that night by the campfire, and it is not the unwaveringly good woman who resents being told she is loved, in the spirit I have said it to you. I do not ask for so much as your friendship in return, but only that you remember that my life and devotion are yours, and that, should the time ever come that you need me, you send for me. I will come. I will never say this to you again, even should I see you; but it is true, now and for all time.""Yes," Cairness called back.

In the corral where the fire had started and was best under way, and in the stall farthest from the gate, a little pinto mustang was jerking at its halter and squealing with fear. It was Cairness's horse. He had been allowed to stable it there, and he himself was not down with his scouts in the ill-smelling camp across the creek, but had a room at the sutler's store, a good three-quarters of a mile from the corrals. As soon as the bugle call awoke him, he started at a run; but the fire was beyond fighting when he got there."Some Sierra Blanca, sir," said the soldier. It was respectful enough, and yet there was somewhere in the man's whole manner an air of equality, even superiority, that exasperated the lieutenant. It was contrary to good order and military discipline that a private should speak without hesitation, or without offence to the English tongue.

"I can shoot, myself, when it comes to that," suggested Stone.There was an expression in his eyes Cairness did not understand. It was not like their usual twinkle of welcome. "Wait a moment," he said, and went on with his writing. Cairness dropped down on the ground, and, for want of anything else to do, began to whittle a whistle out of a willow branch.

"There is something," he insisted, dropping his head down again wearily.A great many delightful facts, illustrative of the rule of the Anglo-Saxon in for gain, came to his knowledge. There were good men and just in Arizona, and some of these composed the Federal Grand Jury, which reported on the condition of affairs at the Agency. When a territorial citizen had anything to say in favor of the Redskin, it might be accepted as true. And these jurymen said that the happenings on the San Carlos Agency had been a disgrace to the age and a foul blot upon the national escutcheon. They waxed very wroth and scathing as they dwelt upon how the[Pg 177] agent's vast power made almost any crime possible. There was no check upon his conduct, nor upon the wealth he could steal from a blind government; and to him, and such as him, they attributed the desolation and bloodshed which had dotted the plains with the graves of murdered victims. It was the rather unavailing wail of the honest citizen caught between the upper and nether millstones of the politician and the hostile.A score of voices answered "Yes." They were all aroused now. Landor went down to meet the man, who had dismounted and was climbing up toward him, leading his horse. It was a courier, sent out from Apache, as Cairness had supposed.

[Pg 309]

"It's the old saying about a dog walking on its hind legs, when you come to civilizing the Indian. You are surprised that he civilizes at all, but he doesn't do it well, for all that. He can be galvanized into a temporary semblance of national life, but he is dead at the core, and he will decay before long."

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The parson nodded again.

She told him that she did not know, and tried to coax him back to quietness.


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