THE HERITAGE OF UNREST
"Then they all have 'medicine' on," Cairness continued, "redbird and woodpecker feathers, in buckskin bags, or quail heads, or prairie-dog claws. One fellow was making an ornament out of an adobe dollar. Every buck and boy in the band has a couple of cartridge belts and any quantity of ammunition, likewise new shirts and zarapes. They have fitted themselves out one way or another since Crawford got at them in January. I don't think there are any of them particularly anxious to come in."
"I beg pardon," said Brewster, pointedly, accentuating the slight awkwardness. [Pg 243]
He raised himself from the pillows too abruptly for a very weak man. "What is the matter, Felipa?" he demanded.
"Yes," she said, "I heard it. But I was not frightened. What was it?" He did not know, he said, and she sent him back to the barracks. "Are you trying to drive me off?" she said measuredly. "Do you wish me to go away from you? If you do, I will go. I will go, and I will never come back. But I will not go to him—not on my own account. It doesn't matter what happens to me; but on your account and on his, I will never go to him—not while you are alive." She stopped, and every nerve in her body was tense to quivering, her drawn lips worked. The black eyes snapped with pain as he fell, but when Cairness, with a breathless oath at the spoiler of sport, whoever he might be, pounced down upon him, the snap turned to a twinkle. The little buck raised himself on his elbow. "How! Cairness," he grinned. "How Mees Landor?" Cairness stopped short, speechless, with his mouth open. He did not even dodge after a bullet had hummed past his head. "Who the devil—!" he began. Then it dawned upon him. It was Felipa's protégé of the old Camp Thomas days.
Cabot was not an unmerciful man, but if he had had his sabre just then, he would have dug and turned it in the useless carcass. He was beside himself with fear; fear of the death which had come to the cow and the calf whose chalk-white skeletons were at his feet, of the flat desert and the low bare hills, miles upon miles away, rising a little above the level, tawny and dry, giving no hope of shelter or streams or shade. He had foreseen it all when the horse had stumbled in a snake hole, had limped and struggled a few yards farther, and then, as he slipped to the ground, had stood quite still, swaying from side to side, with its legs wide apart, until it fell. He gritted his teeth so that the veins[Pg 2] stood out on his temples, and, going closer, jerked at the bridle and kicked at its belly with the toe of his heavy boot, until the glassy eye lighted with keener pain.
It had all been very like this, only that this was a little worse, for there were half a dozen dead animals lying across the stalls, and others were being shot. The pistols snapped sharply, and the smell of powder was more pungent than all the other smells.
There is a certain class of persons to whom it is always irritating to find any one reading a book. It rubs them the wrong way instantly. They will frequently argue that their own, and the best, manner of studying life is from nature—an excellent theory in sound, and commonly accepted as unanswerable, but about as practical in fact as the study of music on the instrument alone, without primer or method.
The adjutant agreed reluctantly. "I think there is. It wouldn't surprise me if some one had been talking. I can't get at it. But you must not bother about it. It will blow over."
"Matarán á Usted."
There was a mutter of thunder and a far-off roar, a flame of lightning through the trees, and the hills and mountains shook. Just where they rode the ca?on narrowed to hardly more than a deep gulch, and the river ran close beside the road.
The cow-boy broadened the issue. "You will, and you'll take off that plug, too, or I'll know what for."