"So long as these stones of your house shall remain one upon the other," began the Apache, "so long shall I be your friend. Have you any tobacco?" Cairness went into the cabin, got a pouch, and tossed it to him. He took a package of straw papers and a match from somewhere about himself and rolled a cigarette deftly. Then she tried to read, but the whisper of savagery was in the loneliness and the night. She sat with the book open in her lap, staring into a shadowy corner where there leaned an Indian lance, surmounted by a war bonnet. Presently she stood up, and stretched her limbs slowly, as a beast of prey does when it shakes off the lethargy of the day and wakens for the darkness. Then she went out to the back of the tents.
They had been doing that for three days. They came down the chimney, made across the floor in a line that never changed direction, nor straggled, nor lessened, up the wall and out a crack in the window. They did no harm, but followed blindly on in the path the first one had taken. And the minister had said they should not be smoked back or thwarted.
"I will try to reach the water hole. Leave a man there for me with a horse. If I don't—" he forced a laugh as he looked up at the buzzard which was dropping closer down above him.
It occurred to Cairness then that with no breath in your lungs and with twelve stone on your chest, speech is difficult. He slid off and knelt beside the rancher, still with the revolver levelled. "Now, why did you do it, eh?" He enforced the "eh" with a shake.
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? "But you have no Jill," she said, smiling at Ellton. His own smile was very strained, but she did not see that, nor the shade of trouble in his nice blue eyes.
He had been in hiding three weeks. Part of the time he had stayed in the town near the post, small, but as frontier towns went, eminently respectable and law-abiding. For the rest he had lain low in a house of very bad name at the exact edge of the military reservation. The poison of the vile liquor he had drunk without ceasing had gotten itself into his brain. He had reached the criminal point, not bold,—he was never that,—but considerably more dangerous, upon the whole. He drank more deeply for two days longer, after he received Stone's letter, and then, when he was quite mad, when his eyes were bleared and fiery and his head was dry and hot and his heart terrible within him, he went out into the black night.
So that evening when all the garrison was upon its front porches and the sidewalk, the major and the lieutenant went down the line to Landor's quarters. And their example was followed. But some hung back, and constraint was in the air.
"The fellers that's after him. They're goin' to hold him up fifteen miles out, down there by where the Huachuca road crosses. He's alone, ain't he?"
Brewster mumbled out of a towel that he guessed they were all right, and implied what the dickens did it matter to him how they were.
After she had done that she stood hesitating for just a moment before she threw off all restraint with a toss of her head, and strapped about her waist a leather belt from which there hung a bowie knife and her pistol in its holster. Then slipping on her moccasins, she glided into the darkness. She took the way in the rear of the quarters, skirting the post and making with swift, soundless tread for the river. Her eyes gleamed from under her straight, black brows as she peered about her in quick, darting glances.