Cairness said "yes" rather half heartedly. That fresh, sweet type was insipid to him now, when there was still so fresh in his memory the beauty of a [Pg 40]black-haired girl, with eagle eyes that did not flinch before the sun's rays at evening or at dawn.
It is one thing to be sacrificed to a cause, even if it is only by filling up the ditch that others may cross to victory; it is quite another to be sacrificed in a cause, to die unavailingly without profit or glory of any kind, to be even an obstacle thrown across the way. And that was the end which looked Cabot in the face. He stood and considered his horse where it lay in the white dust, with its bloodshot eyes turned up to a sky that burned like a great blue flame. Its tongue, all black and swollen, hung out upon the sand, its flanks were sunken, and its forelegs limp. The little Reverend was not to be blandished. He was willing to go because it was his supper time and he knew it, but the big-eyed look of understanding he turned up to the gentle, fat face said plainly enough that he was too wise a creature to be wheedled. He [Pg 249]submitted to be carried in, but he cast a regretful glance at the "chuchu," which sat still in the doorway, and at his father, who was watching the line of flying ants making their way, a stream of red bodies and sizzing white wings, out of the window and across the street.
"You know that I love you?" he said unevenly.
She warned them off with a careless "ukishee." But they did not go. Some ten pairs of eyes, full of unmistakable menace, followed her every movement. She let down the tent flaps and tied them together, taking her time about it. She was angry, and growing angrier. It was unendurable to her to be disobeyed, to have her authority put at naught on the few occasions when she chose to exercise it. She could keep her temper over[Pg 91] anything but that. And her temper was of the silent sort, rolling on and on, like a great cold swell at sea, to break finally against the first obstacle with an uncontrollable force. She had never been really angry but twice in her life. Once when she was in school, and when a teacher she liked, judging her by her frequent and unblushing lies to a teacher she disliked, doubted her word upon an occasion when she was really speaking the truth. It was after that that she had written to her guardian that she would run away. The second time had been when Brewster had tried to bully her. She knew that it would soon be a third time, if the Indians went on annoying her. And she was far more afraid of what she might do than of what they might do. But she took off the waist of her gown and began to brush her hair, not being in the least squeamish about letting the Apaches see her fine white arms and neck, if they were to open the flaps again.
"She will shrink, I guess, at first," he admitted. "Women who ain't seen much of life kind of think they ought to draw aside their skirts, and all that. They were taught copy-book morals about touching pitch, I reckon,"—he was wise concerning women now—"and it takes a good deal of hard experience to teach them that it ain't so. But she'll take my word for it."
Another thing he could not quite fathom was why the religious dances he had, in pursuance of his wild[Pg 176] pleasure, seen fit to hold on Cibicu Creek, had been interfered with by the troops. To be sure, the dances had been devised by his medicine men to raise the dead chiefs and braves with the end in view of re-peopling the world with Apaches and driving out the Whites. But as the dead had not consented to the raising, it might have been as well to allow the Indians to become convinced of the futility of it in that way. However, the government thought otherwise, and sent its troops.
As an attempt at consolation, it failed. Landor fairly sprang into a sitting posture, with a degree of impulsiveness that was most unusual with him. His eyes glistened from the greenish circles around them. "Blow over! Good Lord! do you suppose I'll let it blow over? It's got to be sifted to the bottom. And you know that as well as I do." He lay weakly back again, and Felipa came to the edge of the bed and, sitting upon it, stroked his head with her cool hand.
Later, when the sun was well up in the jewel-blue sky, and the world was all ashine, they began the real routine of the day. And it would have been much like that of any of the other days that had gone before it for two years, had not Cairness come in a little before the noon hour, bringing with him a guest. It was an Englishman, whom he presented to Felipa as a friend of his youth, and named Forbes.
The general was neither convinced nor won over. He had Geronimo told that it was a very pretty story, but that there was no reason why forty men should have left the reservation for fear of three. "And if you were afraid of three, what had that to do with the[Pg 299] way you sneaked all over the country, killing innocent people? You promised me in the Sierra Madre that that peace should last. But you lied. When a man has lied to me once, I want better proof than his word to believe him again."
"I'll break your jaws if you don't open them." The jaws opened forthwith, but no sound came, and Lawton struggled feebly.