And later in the day, when the buck had shuffled off again, Cairness brought out his pony,—a new one now, for the little pinto one had died of a rattlesnake bite, from which no golondrina weed had been able to save it,—and saddled it. Then he went again into the cabin. There was but one thing there that he valued,—a life-size head of Felipa he had done in charcoal. It was in a chest beneath his cot. He locked his chest, and going out locked the door also, and putting both keys upon a ring, mounted and rode off along the trail.
Just for a moment it hesitated, then started with the bronco spring, jumping the dead mules, shying from right to left and back again, and going out through the gates at a run. Cairness held on with his knees as he had learned to do when he had played at stock-rider around Katawa and Glen Lomond in the days of his boyhood, as he had done since with the recruits at hurdle drill, or when he had chased a fleet heifer across the prairie and had had no time to saddle. He could keep his seat, no fear concerning that, but it was all he could do. The pony was not to be stopped. He had only what was left of the halter shank by way of a bridle, and it was none at all. A Mexican knife bit would hardly have availed.
The words of a woman in a community where women are few carry almost the weight of inspiration. Be she never so hideous or so vile, she is in some measure a Deborah, and the more yet, if she be moved to the lust and love of revenge of the prophetess who sang[Pg 125] in the frenzy of blood drunkenness, "Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber, the Kenite, be. Blessed shall she be above women in the tent." The hero of the episode rode in the ambulance, sitting on the front seat, holding his carbine across his knees, and peering with sharp, far-sighted blue eyes over the alkali flats. Occasionally he took a shot at a jack rabbit and brought it down unfailingly, but the frontiersman has no relish for rabbit meat, and it was left where it dropped, for the crows. He also brought down a sparrow hawk wounded in the wing, and, [Pg 29]having bound up the wound, offered it to Brewster, who took it as an opening to a conversation and tried to draw him out.
They laid Landor upon the ground, in the same patch of shade he had glanced at in coming by not five [Pg 281]minutes before. His glazed eyes stared back at the sky. There was nothing to be done for him. But Cairness was alive. They washed the blood from his face with water out of the canteens, and bound his head with a wet handkerchief. And presently he came back to consciousness and saw Landor stretched there, with the bluing hole in his brow, and the quiet there is no mistaking on his sternly weary face. And he turned back his head and lay as ashy and almost as still as the dead man, with a look on his own face more terrible than that of any death.