She went, with none too good a grace. It gave cause for reflection; but an officer was obviously at liberty to talk to whomsoever he might choose around his own premises, at any hour of the day or night. So the officer of the day went on, treading quietly. But he had something to think about now that kept off drowsiness for the rest of the rounds. Brewster's fondness for the society of dubious civilians was certainly unfortunate. And the conjunction of the aspiring beef contractor and the commissary officer was also unfortunate, not to say curious. Because of this. The beef contract was about to expire, and the commandant had advertised for bids. A number of ranchers had already turned their papers in. Furnishing the government's soldiers with meat is never an empty honor.
Such Apaches as had not gone back on the war-path returned to the States with the troops; but there were five months more of the outrages of Geronimo and his kind. Then in the summer of the year another man, more fortunate and better fitted to deal with it all, perhaps,—with the tangle of lies and deceptions, cross purposes and trickery,—succeeded where Crook had failed and had been relieved of a task that was beyond him. Geronimo was captured, and was hurried off to a Florida prison with his band, as far as they well could be from the reservation they had refused to accept. And with them were sent other Indians, who had been the friends and helpers of the government for years, and who had run great risks to help or to obtain peace. But the memory and gratitude of governments is become a proverb. The southwest settled down to enjoy its safety. The troops rested upon the laurels they had won, the superseded general went on with his work in another field far away to the north. The new general, the saviour of the land, was heaped[Pg 305] with honor and praise, and the path of civilization was laid clear.
She answered that she had enjoyed it all, every day of it, and Brewster joined in with ecstatic praises of her horsemanship and endurance, finishing with the unlucky comment that she rode like an Indian. The knife was one he had brought from home, seizing it from the kitchen table at the last minute. It was very sharp and had been Felipa's treasured bread cutter. It came in very well just now, chiefly because of its length. Brewster stood in his own window, quite alone, and watched them all crowding down to Landor's quarters. The beauty of the Triumph of Virtue did not appeal to[Pg 157] him. He was very uneasy. Countercharges were looming on his view. To be sure, he had not lied, not absolutely and in so many words, but his citizen witnesses had not been so adroit or so careful. It would not have taken much to make out a very fair case of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. Practical working texts, anent looking before leaping, and being sure you are right ere going ahead, occurred to him with new force. His morality at the moment was worthy the law and the prophets. He was Experience in person, and as such would have been an invaluable teacher, if there had been any seeking instruction. But there was none. They were all with Landor, drinking his wine and helping success succeed, than which one may find less pleasant occupations.
"I have it," he said shortly, standing beside her and holding out the letter. After tea the ranchers settled down to smoke and read. The Reverend Taylor brought out his collection of specimens and dilated upon them to Cairness.
The exceedingly small respectable element of Tombstone hailed their departure with unmixed joy. They had but one wish,—that the Toughs might meet the Apaches, and that each might rid the face of the desert of the other. But the only Apaches left to meet were the old and feeble, and the squaws and papooses left at San Carlos. The able-bodied bucks were all in the field, as scouts or hostiles.
"Where?" the commandant asked.
Landor knew that the scouts had come in the afternoon before, and were in camp across the creek; but he had not seen their chief, and he said so.
"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.
"Is that all?" asked the general.
Landor came in a few weeks later. He had had an indecisive skirmish in New Mexico with certain bucks who had incurred the displeasure of the paternal government by killing and eating their horses, to the glory of their gods and ancestors, and thereafter working off their enthusiasm by a few excursions beyond the confines of the reservation, with intent to murder and destroy.