Which happened upon the following day. And he was there to see it all, so that the question he had not cared to ask was answered forever beyond the possibility[Pg 198] of a misunderstanding. It was stable time, and she walked down to the corrals with him. He left her for a moment by the gate of the quartermaster's corral while he went over to the picket line. The bright clear air of a mountain afternoon hummed with the swish click-clock, swish click-clock of the curry-combs and brushes, and the busy scraping of the stable brooms in the stalls. It was evident that she had no intention of making herself agreeable. Landor had learned the inadvisability and the futility of trying to change her moods. She was as unaffected about them as a child. So he took up the conversation he and Cairness had left off, concerning the Indian situation, always a reliable topic. It was bad that year and had been growing steadily worse, since the trouble at the time of his marriage, when Arizona politicians had, for reasons related to their own pockets, brought about the moving of the White Mountain band to the San Carlos Agency. The White Mountains had been peaceable for years, and, if not friendly to the government, at least too wise to oppose it. They had cultivated land and were living on it inoffensively. But they were trading across the territorial line into New Mexico, and that lost money to Arizona. So they were persuaded by such gentle methods as the burning of their Agency buildings and the destruction of their property, to move down to San Carlos. The climate there was of a sort fatal to the mountain Apaches,—the thing had been tried before with all the result that could be desired, in the way of fevers, ague, and blindness,—and also the White Mountains were hereditary enemies of the San Carlos tribes. But a government with a policy, three thousand miles away, did not know these things, nor yet seek to know them. Government is like the gods, upon occasions: it[Pg 68] first makes mad, then destroys. And if it is given time enough, it can be very thorough in both.
Felipa rose from the table, and going over to her husband laid her hand on his shoulder. She asked when he must go. "To-night, my dear lady, I am afraid," soothed the commandant. But she appeared to be in no need of humoring, as she turned to Landor and offered to do what she might to help him. The men followed, sitting erect, toes in. They might have been on mounted inspection except for the field clothes, stained and dusty. They were to go down a narrow path for close on a mile, between two rows of rifle barrels, and that not at a run or a gallop, but at a trot, at the most, for the lava was slippery as glass in spots. They were willing enough to do it, even anxious—not that there was any principle involved, or glory to be gained, but because their blood was up and it was part of the chances of the game.
He hesitated still. "I don't doubt you," he told her.
"We must get out of this," Cairness started to say, urging his little bronco; but even as he spoke there was a murmur, a rustle, a hissing roar, and the rain fell in one solid sheet, blinding them, beating them down.
The man interrupted, "I ain't going daown the road, nor anywheres else before supper—nor after supper neither, if I don't feel like it." He was bold enough in speech, but his eyes dropped before Kirby's indignant ones.