The captain knitted his thick brows and interposed quickly, talking against time. "If the Tucson ring and the Indian Bureau had one head, I should like the detail of cutting it off." His annoyance seemed to be of an impersonal sort, and the commandant began to feel that he must have handled the thing rather well, after all. He gained in self-esteem and equanimity. Landor came trotting over from his quarters, followed by his orderly, and the troops moved off across the flat, toward the river.
She was astonished in her turn. "Killed him! Why, of course I might have killed him," she said blankly, frowning, in a kind of hopeless perplexity over his want of understanding. "I came very near it, I tell you. The ball made shivers of his shoulder. But he was brave," she grew enthusiastic now, "he let the doctor probe and pick, and never moved a muscle. Of course he was half drunk with tizwin, even then."
Some thirty miles to the southeast was the Mescalero Indian Agency. Landor had consented with the worst possible grace to take her there sometime when the[Pg 184] road should be passable and safe. She had openly resented his disinclination, though she usually appeared not to notice it. "It is very natural I should want to see the place where I was born," she had said, "and I think we should both be more comfortable if you would not persist in being so ashamed of it." "True, too," Brewster admitted perforce.
"Hombre!" grunted the Indian, puffing at a straw-paper cigarette, "excesivamente peligroso aqui."
"Now," said Taylor, distinctly, "oblige me with another lemon pop, mister." A cheer went up, and the minister standing above his fallen enemy raised the[Pg 45] third glass. "Here's to your better judgment next time, my friend. 'Tain't the sombrero makes the shot," he said. His seamed, small face was pale underneath its leathery skin, but by not so much as a quiver of an eyelid did he give any further sign of pain.
He raised his eyes now, and they were appealing. "It's an awful lot to ask of you, Jack, even for old sake's sake. I know that. But the little thing is almost white, and I cared for her mother—in a way. I can't let her go back to the tribe." His lips quivered and he bit at them nervously. "I kept meaning to get her away somehow." There was a sort of pity on Landor's face, pity and half contempt. He had heard that from Cabot so often for so many years, "I kept meaning to do this thing or the other, somehow, some day." "But it looks as though you might have to do it now. Will you, lieutenant?" He tugged at the cinchings while he waited.
"Well, he is now, then," insisted the officer; "Mrs. Landor is a squaw at bottom. Poor old Jack!" he sat up and fired a stone at the stalk of a Spanish bayonet, "I guess he's better off in the Happy Hunting Grounds. His wasn't a bed of roses."
The woman fairly flung the ill-cooked food upon the table, with a spitefulness she did not try to conceal. And she manifested her bad will most particularly toward the pretty children. Cairness felt his indignation rise against Kirby for having brought a woman to this, in the name of love.