But it was full two hours, in the end, before they did start. Flasks had to be replenished, farewell drinks taken, wives and families parted from, the last behests made, of those going upon an errand of death. Citizens burning with ardor to protect their hearths and stock were routed out of saloons and dance halls, only to slip away again upon one pretext or another.
Six years of fighting, of bloodshed, of heavy loss in blood and treasure to the government, the careers of the incarnate devils Juh, Victorio, and Geronimo—all the evils let loose on the southwest from '78 to '85 were traceable primarily to the selling of bad whiskey to a hunting party of Chiricahuas by two storekeepers, greedy of gain.
"I am speaking about Mrs. Cairness," Forbes went on earnestly, "because she is more of an argument for you than the child is, which is un-English too, isn't it? But the child is a fine boy, nevertheless, and there will be other children probably. I don't need to paint their future to you, if you let them grow up here. You owe it to them and to your wife and to yourself—to society for that matter—not to retrograde. Oh! I say, I'm out and out lecturing on sociology. You're good-tempered to put up with it, but I mean well—like most meddlers."
There was nothing for it but to admit that from the day of her father's death she had been utterly Landor's dependant,—at a cost to him of how many pleasures, she, who knew the inadequacy of a lieutenant's pay, could easily guess. "Ain't it funny how narrow-minded some good women can be, though?" he speculated, looking at her very much as he was in the habit of looking at his specimens. And he quoted slowly, as if he were saying over the names and family characteristics of a specimen.
Cabot was not an unmerciful man, but if he had had his sabre just then, he would have dug and turned it in the useless carcass. He was beside himself with fear; fear of the death which had come to the cow and the calf whose chalk-white skeletons were at his feet, of the flat desert and the low bare hills, miles upon miles away, rising a little above the level, tawny and dry, giving no hope of shelter or streams or shade. He had foreseen it all when the horse had stumbled in a snake hole, had limped and struggled a few yards farther, and then, as he slipped to the ground, had stood quite still, swaying from side to side, with its legs wide apart, until it fell. He gritted his teeth so that the veins[Pg 2] stood out on his temples, and, going closer, jerked at the bridle and kicked at its belly with the toe of his heavy boot, until the glassy eye lighted with keener pain.
His glance fell before hers of dismay, disapproval, and anger—an anger so righteous that he felt himself to be altogether in the wrong. "Do you mean divorce?" She said it like an unholy word.
Somewhere in that same poem, he remembered, there had been advice relative to a man's contending to the uttermost for his life's set prize, though the end in sight were a vice. He shrugged his shoulders. It might be well enough to hold to that in Florence and the Middle Ages. It was highly impracticable for New Mexico and the nineteenth century. So many things left undone can be conveniently laid to the prosaic and materialistic tendencies of the age. Things were bad enough now—for Landor, for himself, and most especially for Felipa. But if one were to be guided by the romantic poets, they could conceivably be much worse.
He had dreaded a scene, but he was not so sure that this was not worse. "You are the wife for a soldier," he said somewhat feebly; "no tears and fuss and—all that kind of thing."