If Cairness had not slipped and gone sprawling down[Pg 232] at that moment, the fourth bullet would have brought him up short. It sung over him, instead, and splashed against a stone, and when he got to his feet again the eyes had come out from their hiding-place. They were in the head of a very young buck. He had sprung to the top of his rock and was dancing about with defiant hilarity, waving his hands and the Winchester, and grimacing tantalizingly. "Yaw! ya!" he screeched. Cairness discharged his revolver, but the boy whooped once more and was down, dodging around the stone. Cairness dodged after him, wrath in his heart and also a vow to switch the little devil when he should get him. But he did not seem to be getting him. He did not see that there was just the faintest shadow of pausing upon Forbes's part, just the quickest passing hesitation and narrowing of the eyes with Felipa. She came forward with unquestioning welcome, accustomed to take it as a matter of course that any traveller, minded to stop for a time, should go into the first ranch house at hand.
Felipa thought it was not quite so bad as that, and she poured herself another cup of the Rio, strong as lye, with which she saturated her system, to keep off the fever. Mrs. Campbell appliqued a black velvet imp on a green felt lambrequin, and thought. "Do you ever happen to realize that you have your hands very full?" They glanced sideways at the big Englishman, who appeared to be one of themselves, and at the little minister. On him, more especially on his hat, their eyes rested threateningly. They had heard of him before, most of them. They answered his genial greeting surlily, but he was quite unruffled. He beamed upon the room as he seated himself at one of the tables and ordered supper, for which, in obedience to a dirty sign upon the wall, he paid in advance.
In those days some strange things happened at agencies. Toilet sets were furnished to the Apache, who has about as much use for toilet sets as the Greenlander has for cotton prints, and who would probably have used them for targets if he had ever gotten them—which he did not. Upon the table of a certain agent (and he was an honest man, let it be noted, for the thing was rare) there lay for some time a large rock, which he had labelled with delicate humor "sample of sugar furnished to this agency under—" but the name doesn't matter now. It was close on a[Pg 12] quarter of a century ago, and no doubt it is all changed since then. By the same working out, a schoolhouse built of sun-baked mud, to serve as a temple of learning for the Red-man, cost the government forty thousand dollars. The Apache children who sat within it could have acquired another of the valuable lessons of Ojo-blanco from the contractors. "No," he said, "I wouldn't like you to, and she wouldn't want it, I reckon." He dropped back into his usual speech. "She ain't any repentant sinner, by a good deal. But as Cairness wants me to keep an eye on her, and as she's sick, I wish you to let her stay in the house, and not to make a rumpus about it. If you really don't like to go near her, though," he finished, "I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll take her in her food myself, and nurse can clean out her room."
"That will do," said Landor. "See there is no delay," and he wheeled about and went back to his tent with Brewster.
But he was unabashed, "What is he to you?" he insisted.
Half a mile beyond, within the same barbed-wire enclosure as the home buildings and corrals, was a spring-house surrounded by cottonwoods, just then the only patch of vivid green on the clay-colored waste. There were benches under the cottonwoods, and the ground was cool, and thither Felipa took her way, in no wise oppressed by the heat. Her step was as firm and as quick as it had been the day she had come so noiselessly along the parade, across the path of the private who was going to the barracks. It was as quiet, too, for she had on a pair of old red satin slippers, badly run down at the heel.
"What do you want me to say to Stone?"
He seated himself upon a low branch of sycamore, which grew parallel to the ground, and went on to tell what he had seen on the hilltop in the hostile camp. "They are in capital condition. A lot of them are playing koon-kan. There were some children and one little red-headed Irishman about ten years old with[Pg 295] them. He was captured in New Mexico, and seems quite happy. He enjoys the name of Santiago Mackin—plain James, originally, I suppose."
Landor's troop was stationed at Stanton, high up among the hills. It had come there from another post down in the southern part of the territory, where anything above the hundreds is average temperature, and had struck a blizzard on its march.
"I didn't. None of your business," she defied him.