"Yes," she said, "I am very much attached to it. I was born to it." "I don't mind," she began; and then her strict truthfulness coming uppermost, she corrected herself: "At least, I don't mind very much, not so much as you thought I would."
He saw her, and without the hesitation of an instant raised his slouch hat and kept on. A government scout does not stop to pass the time of day with an officer's wife. Then she tried to read, but the whisper of savagery was in the loneliness and the night. She sat with the book open in her lap, staring into a shadowy corner where there leaned an Indian lance, surmounted by a war bonnet. Presently she stood up, and stretched her limbs slowly, as a beast of prey does when it shakes off the lethargy of the day and wakens for the darkness. Then she went out to the back of the tents. "Who is there to marry hereabouts? And always supposing there were some one, I'd be sent off on a scout next day, and have to ship her back East for an indefinite time. It would be just my blamed luck."
Twenty, yes ten, of those who, as the sound of the firing reached their ears, were making off at a run down the south road for the settlement in the valley, could have saved the fair-haired children and the young mother, who helped in the fruitless fight without a plaint of fear. Ten men could have done it, could have done it easily; but not one man. And Kirby knew it now, as the light of flames began to show through the chinks of the logs, and the weight of heavy bodies thudded against the door.
"Cairness!" called Crook, and Cairness, turning aside, came over to where the general sat upon a big stone eating a sandwich two inches thick.
"Certain, dead sure. It's a band of Apaches that went across the river. Why, half a dozen seen them."
She turned on him quickly. "Let me be," she commanded, and he obeyed humbly. Then she corked the bottle and shook it so that the animals rolled on top of each other, and laying it on the ground bent over it with the deepest interest. Brewster watched too, fascinated in spite of himself. It was so very ugly. The two wicked little creatures fought desperately. But after a time they withdrew to the sides of the bottle, and were quite still. The tarantula had left a leg lying loose.
Pending her arrival, Landor brought himself to look[Pg 16] upon it as his plain duty and only course to marry her. It would save her, and any man who might otherwise happen to love her, from learning what she was. That she might refuse to look at it in that way, did not much enter into his calculations. It required a strong effort for him to decide it so, but it was his way to pick out the roughest possible path before him, to settle within himself that it was that of duty, and to follow it without fagging or complaint. He dreaded any taint of Apache blood as he dreaded the venom of a rattler. He had seen its manifestations for twenty odd years, had seen the hostile savage and the civilized one, and shrank most from the latter. But he had promised Cabot to do his best by the waif, and the best he could see was to marry her. There was always before him, to urge him on to the sacrifice, the stalwart figure of his boyhood's friend, standing forsaken in the stretch of desert with the buzzards hovering over him in the burning sky. He permitted himself to hope, however, that she was not too obviously a squaw.
Two aimless citizens lounged on their horses, rapt in argument and the heavy labor of chewing—so much so that they barely took notice of the troops.
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."