"I knew," Cairness said, turning to Landor after a very short silence, "that you and Mrs. Landor were somewhere along here. So I left my horse at a rancheria across the hill there," he nodded over his shoulder in the direction of the looming pile just behind, "and walked to where I saw the fire. I saw you for some time before I was near, but I ought to have called out. I really didn't think about startling you."
[Pg 200] The White explained carefully that it was not a contract, that it was nothing at all, in fact.
"Apaches on the north road," they called back; and the woman screamed above it all a devilish farewell, "Better have 'em to dinner in claw-hammer coats." Now it is a hazardous undertaking to question an Englishman who does not care to be questioned. A person of good judgment would about as lief try to[Pg 30] poke up a cross lion to play. But Brewster persisted, and asked if Cairness would be willing to live among the Apaches.
"I am going to ask the quartermaster to store my things for the present, and of course the first sergeant's wife will look out for the children," she said.
Cairness could not take his own from them, and they stood so for what seemed to them both a dumb and horrible eternity, until Landor came up, and she caught at his arm to steady herself. The parasol whirled around on its stick and fell. Cairness picked it up, knocked off the dust, and handed it to Landor. He could see that he knew, and it was a vast relief.
Crook looked away, straight in front of him. "Go on," he said. It was not the conversation of equals now. It was the report of an inferior to a superior. However familiar the general might wish to be upon occasions, he held always in reserve the right to deference and obedience when he should desire them.
When the father returned to Tucson, he had sent her the history, and she had read and reread it. In a way she was something of a linguist, for she had picked up a good deal of Spanish from Mexicans about the post, chiefly from the nurse of the Campbell children.
Then taps sounded, ringing its brazen dirge to the night in a long, last note. It ended once, but the bugler went to the other side of the parade and began again. Lawton repeated the shaking of his fist. He was growing impatient, and also scared. A little more of that shrill music, and his nerves would go into a thousand quivering shreds—he would be useless. Would the cursed, the many times cursed military never get to bed? He waited in the shadow of the corrals, leaning against the low wall, gathering his forces. The sentry evidently did not see him. The post grew more and more still, the clouds more and more thick.
She watched the figure of a man coming down the line. Because of the dazzling, low light behind him, the outline was blurred in a shimmer. At first she thought without any interest in it, one way or another, that he was a soldier, then she could see that he was in citizen's clothes and wore a sombrero and top boots. Even with that, until he was almost in front of the house, she did not realize that it was Cairness, though she knew well enough that he was in the post, and had been one of Landor's most valuable witnesses. He had remained to hear the findings, but she had kept close to the house and had not seen him before. He was a government scout, a cow-boy, a prospector, reputed a squaw-man, anything vagrant and unsettled, and so the most he might do was to turn his head as he passed by, and looking up at the windows, bow gravely to the woman standing dark against the firelight within.
"Well," he said more easily, "you've accomplished the thing you set out to do, anyway."