"I can't see why you should take pleasure in shooting these harmless things," he said impatiently; "the foot-hills are full of quail, and there are ducks along the creek. For that matter you might try your skill on prairie dogs, it seems to me."
The shadow was swallowed up in darkness. The candle had been blown out, and Landor came back to the fire. Mrs. Landor was with them. She had a little battered, brass trumpet hanging from her horn, and he knew that they were going to play at hare and hounds. She and the three with her were evidently the hares. They would take a ten minutes' start; then, at the sound of the trumpet, the hounds would follow. The riding was sometimes reckless. A day or two before he had seen Felipa leap an arroyo, the edges of which were crumbling in, and take a fallen tree on very dangerous ground.
While the men sat at the long table, shovelling in with knife and three-pronged fork the food of the master their pride forbade them to serve, a horse came at a run, up to the quadrangle, and a cow-boy rushed into the open doorway. "Apaches!" he gasped, clutching at the lintel, wild-eyed, "Apaches!" "May I take her in?" he said, nodding toward the open door.
Landor was the first to find speech. In the harsh light of the pause he saw that it was foolish as well as useless to beg the issue. "Has Mrs. Landor told you that I found your letter to her on the body of the prospector, and delivered it to her?" The words were[Pg 201] sufficiently overbearing, but the manner was unendurable. "He has caught a lioness and tricked her out in fashionable rags and taught her some capers, and now he thinks he has improved the animal," he said to himself, and raged inwardly, asking the intangible Fate, which was always opposing him, if there was not[Pg 216] enough little doll women in the world that such an one as Felipa must be whittled down to the size.
It was done before either of them was conscious of doing it. The black throat of the cave was open behind him. Cairness jumped back into it, and she turned away and stood waiting, stiff with fear, not of the man whoever it might prove to be up there, but for the one who had stepped into the unknown dangers of the darkness behind her.
At noon that day a cow-boy had ridden from the hills with a rumor that Victorio's people were about. But Kirby had kept it from his wife. It might not be true. And even if it were, the danger was really small. With the hands and the two Englishmen, the quadrangle of log cabins, well stocked with food and ammunition, could withstand any attack. It had been built and planned to that end.
In his growing uneasiness he blundered on rashly. "You didn't know it? But it is true. Ask your guardian. Do you think he would have you for a wife?" He gave a short laugh. "He hates an Apache as he does a Gila monster. Very few men would be willing to risk it."
She waited, too, made silent by sudden realization of how futile anything that she might say would be. "I am glad to see you again," she faltered; "it is four years since Black River and the cloud-burst." She was angry at her own stupidity and want of resource, and her tone was more casual than she meant it to be.
Cairness reached out for the discarded Cornhill, and settled himself among the cushions. "They're going to dress, I rather think," he said. The minister almost sprang from his chair. "Good Lord! I ain't got any other clothes," he cried, looking ruefully at his dusty black.