"I am not wasting any sympathy on the Apaches, nor on the Indians as a whole. They have got to perish. It is in the law of advancement that they should. But where is the use in making the process painful? Leave them alone, and they'll die out. It isn't three hundred years since one of the biggest continents of the globe was peopled with them, and now there is the merest handful left, less as a result of war and slaughter than of natural causes. Nature would see to it that they died, if we didn't."
So much for his past. As for his present. His only friends were treacherous savages and some few settlers and cow-boys. They would none of them miss him if he were to be laid under a pile of stones with a board cross at his head anywhere by the roadside, in the plains or among the hills. Some of them were honest men, some were desperadoes; none were his equals, not one understood the things that meant life to him. He had no abode, not so much as the coyote over there on the top of the little swell. He made his living in divers and uncertain ways. Sometimes he sent pictures to the East, studies of the things about him.[Pg 165] They sold well. Sometimes he was a scout or a guide. Sometimes he prospected and located claims with more or less good luck. Sometimes he hired himself out as a cow-boy at round-ups, as he was doing now. On the whole, he was, from the financial standpoint, more of a success than from any other. Cairness's eyes turned from a little ground owl on the top of a mound and looked him full in the face. "I really can't see, sir," he said, "how it can matter to any one."
His horse started. He had dug it with the rowels. Then he reined it in with a jerk that made it champ its curb. "Don't dwell on that all the time," he said angrily; "forget it." And then it flashed across him, the irreparable wrong he would be doing her if he taught her to consider the Apache blood a taint.
He gave another grunt. "Go away to-morrow. Go to the Fort." He pointed with the hand that held the bit of cigarette in the direction of Apache. "Tell your man."
"I don't know," objected Landor; "you get the satisfaction of beginning the row pretty generally—as you did this time—and of saying what you think about us in unmistakable language after we have tried to put things straight for you."
"I'll be hanged," opined Landor, as his own horse bit at the croup of a citizen's horse, eliciting a kick and a squeal, "I'll be hanged if you shall demoralize my column like this. You'll keep ahead if I have to halt here all night to make you. I've given you the post of honor. If I put my men in the van, I'd choose the best ones, and they'd be flattered, too. You wouldn't catch them skulking back on the command."
She threw him an indifferent "I am not afraid, not of anything." It was a boast, but he had reason to know that it was one she could make good.