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.
"Yes," said Felipa.
Felipa started back so violently that she struck against the log she had been sitting upon, and lost her balance. "Well," answered Cairness, "I have been talking to them, chiefly to Geronimo. They have a good place for their rancheria on that hilltop. It is an old lava bed, an extinct crater, and it is a perfect fortress. There are three gulches between us and them, and a thousand men couldn't take the place." "I have it," he said shortly, standing beside her and holding out the letter.
He called the first sergeant to his aid. Brewster was in the rear of the command, and, as had occurred with increasing frequency in the last two months, showed no desire to be of any more use than necessary. As for Cairness, who had been more of a lieutenant to Landor than the officer himself, he had left the command two days before and gone back to the San Carlos reservation.
The Indians, being wicked, ungrateful, suspicious characters, doubted the promises of the White-eyes. But it is only just to be charitable toward their ignorance. They were children of the wilderness and of the desert places, walking in darkness. Had the lights of the benefits of civilization ever shone in upon them, they would have realized that the government[Pg 226] of these United States, down to its very least official representative, never lies, never even evades. There was a stronger blow at the door, as of a log used by way of a ram. It gave, swayed, and fell crashing in, and the big room swarmed with screaming fiends, their eyes gleaming wildly in the light of the burning hay and the branches piled against the cabin, as they waved their arms over their feathered heads.
"I am going back to my ranch on the reservation," he said measuredly.