"Suppose you let me call for volunteers," suggested Landor. He was sure of his own men, down to the last recruit. He looked at her steadily, in silence. It did not seem that there was anything to say. He would have liked to tell her how beautiful she was. But he did not do it. Instead, he did much worse. For he took a beaded and fringed leather case from his pocket and held out to her the drawing he had made of her four years before. She gave it back without a word, and bent to play with the buckskin collar on the neck of the fawn.
Landor explained again, with greater detail, vainly trying to impress the nature of a military order on the civilian brain. "It would not do for me to disobey my[Pg 112] instructions. And besides there are several officers who are to follow trails, out with larger commands. I have no pack-train, and I can't." It rose to a subdued pitch as there came the gradual rattling of wheels and the slow tramp of many feet. A buckboard, from which the seats had been removed, came up the line, and behind it marched the troops and companies, Landor's own troop in advance. They halted in front of his quarters, and four officers came down the steps with the long box between them. The mocking-bird's trill died away to a questioning twitter.
"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.
"Yes?" said Landor. He knew the citizens of the district, and attached no particular sacredness to the person of their envoy.
Felipa had discarded, long since, the short skirt and moccasins of her girlhood, and had displayed no inconsiderable aptitude in the matter of fashions; but she was given to looseness of draperies and a carelessness of attire in her own home that the picturesqueness of her beauty alone only saved from slatternliness. There was one manifestation of ill taste which she did not give, however, one common enough with the wives of most of the officers. She was never to be found running about the post, or sitting upon the porches, with her husband's cape around her shoulders and his forage-cap over her eyes. Her instinct for the becoming was unfailing. This was a satisfaction to Landor. But it was a secret grievance that she was most contented when in her riding habit, tearing foolhardily over the country.
"No," Cabot told him, "I couldn't—not without delaying you. The trail's too hot for that. If you'll put a fourth and last bullet into Cochise, the loss of a little thing like me won't matter much." He stopped short, and his chin dropped, weakly, undecided.
"We were planting our own corn and melons," said Alchise, "and making our own living. The agent at San Carlos never gave us any rations, but we didn't mind about that. We were taking care of ourselves. One day the agent—" He stopped and scowled at a squaw a few yards away, whose papoose was crying lustily. The squaw, having her attention thus called to the uproar of her offspring, drew from somewhere in the folds of her dirty wrappings a nursing-bottle, and putting the nipple in its mouth, hushed its cries. The chief went on: "One day the agent sent up and said that we must give up our own country and our corn patches, and go down there to the Agency to live. He sent Indian soldiers to seize our women and children, and drive us down to the hot land."
Was he quite certain that the trail was of hostiles, and not of cow-boys or of other troops?
"I've been talking to a fellow down at the Q. M. corral," Landor said, "Englishman named Cairness,—Charley Cairness. He's going as a scout. He can't resist war's alarms. He used to be in my troop a few years ago, and he was a first-rate soldier—knew his place a good deal better than if he had been born to it, which he very obviously wasn't."