The parson said that he could not. "Lawton ain't any use for me. I guess it's because he remembers me, that's why. He'll remember you, too."
He seated himself upon a low branch of sycamore, which grew parallel to the ground, and went on to tell what he had seen on the hilltop in the hostile camp. "They are in capital condition. A lot of them are playing koon-kan. There were some children and one little red-headed Irishman about ten years old with[Pg 295] them. He was captured in New Mexico, and seems quite happy. He enjoys the name of Santiago Mackin—plain James, originally, I suppose." He had dreaded a scene, but he was not so sure that this was not worse. "You are the wife for a soldier," he said somewhat feebly; "no tears and fuss and—all that kind of thing."
"For what purpose?" went on the cross questions. The sun was now high and blazing down into the one street of the mud settlement. The enlisted men[Pg 116] were angry that Landor, fearing they, too, would be led astray into dives, would not dismount them. Sitting still in the full sun, when even in the shade the mercury is many degrees above the hundreds, is not calculated to improve the disposition. But at length the volunteers were herded together. The thirty-five promised had dwindled to eight, and Foster was not of the number. He came lurching up at the last moment to explain that he would be unable to go. His wife was in hysterics, he said.
Landor came trotting over from his quarters, followed by his orderly, and the troops moved off across the flat, toward the river.
"No," he said, "I wouldn't like you to, and she wouldn't want it, I reckon." He dropped back into his usual speech. "She ain't any repentant sinner, by a good deal. But as Cairness wants me to keep an eye on her, and as she's sick, I wish you to let her stay in the house, and not to make a rumpus about it. If you really don't like to go near her, though," he finished, "I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll take her in her food myself, and nurse can clean out her room."
The fall had knocked the breath from his body. The under dog did not answer.
The post was tremendously excited. As the cavalry trotted off up the slope toward the foot-hills, the men left behind went to the back of the post and watched, women looked through field-glasses, from the upper windows, children balanced upon the fences of the back yards, and Chinese cooks scrambled to the top of chicken coops and woodsheds, shading their eyes with their hands and peering in the direction of the gap. Dogs barked and hens cackled and women called back and forth. Down at the sutler's store the German was being comforted with beer at a dollar a bottle.