[Pg 197]Brewster got hunting leave, pending the acceptance of his resignation, and went to the railway. In less than a week he was all but forgotten in a newer interest.
"No, no; it's a good deal, but it ain't too much. Not that it could be more, very well," he added, and he glanced furtively at the woman within, who had stretched out on the lounge with her face to the wall. Mrs. Taylor was fanning her.Was it possible that twenty minutes before he had risen to the histrionic pitch of self-sacrifice of offering her her freedom to marry another man?
"They won't be ready. No use making haste, Captain," Cairness suggested at daybreak, as Landor hurried the breakfast and saddling. They knew that the chances were ten to one that it would be a wild goose chase, and the captain already repented him. But at seven the men were mounted, with two days' rations in their saddle bags, and trotting across the flat in the fragrance of the yet unheated day, to the settlement of San Tomaso.It went well enough for a time, and the hills seemed coming a little nearer, to be rougher on the surface. Then the double-loaded horse fagged. Cabot felt that it did, and grasped hard on the burning cantle as he made his resolve. When Landor used his spurs for the first time, he loosed his hold and dropped to the ground.
He sat quite still, clinching his teeth and clawing his fingers tensely. In the great crises of life, training and upbringing and education fall away, and a man is governed by two forces, his instincts and his surroundings. And Cairness's instincts were in entire accord with his surroundings; they were of the Stone Age, when men fought with the beasts of the wilderness in their cave homes, and had only the law of sheer strength. He leaned forward, holding his breath, and watched her. Had she seen his horse tied up above, and come here to find him—because he was here?He reflected that it is a trait of the semi-civilized and of children that they like their tales often retold. But he did not say so. He was holding that in reserve. Instead, he changed the subject, with an abrupt inquiry as to whether she meant to ride to-day. "I suppose not?" he added.Presently she returned with two bottles. In one was the tarantula, an especially large and hideous specimen, hairy and black, with dull red tinges. In the other the vinagrone, yet more hideous. She went down to the side of the house and emptied both into the wide-mouthed bottle.
"He does not understand," she continued; "he was always a society man, forever at receptions and dances and teas. He doesn't see how we can make up to each other for all the world.""Don't put it in, then. Leave the reservation to-night. You understand me, do you? Now go!"
And the next day she knew. When she came out in front of her quarters in the morning, rather later than usual, there was a new tent beside the hospital,[Pg 81] and when she asked the reason for it, they told her that a wounded Apache had been found down by the river soon after the shot had been fired the night before. He was badly hurt, with a ball in his shoulder, and he was half drunk with tizwin, as well as being cut in a dozen places.
He laughed crossly. Evidently he was dropping back into the poetical tendencies of his most callow youth. He would be doing her a sonnet next, forsooth. He had done two or three of them in his school days for Sydney damsels. That was when he had aspired to be ranked in his own country with Gordon. Good Lord! how many aspirations of various sorts he had had. And he was a cow-boy.Felipa rose from the table, and going over to her husband laid her hand on his shoulder. She asked when he must go. "To-night, my dear lady, I am afraid," soothed the commandant. But she appeared to be in no need of humoring, as she turned to Landor and offered to do what she might to help him.
Landor had agreed to trust her to Cairness and an escort of three soldiers. He could ill spare time from the telegraph line, under the circumstances; it might be too imperatively needed at any moment. He mounted his wife quickly. "You are not afraid?" he asked. But he knew so well that she was not, that he did not wait for her answer.
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