She asked for the full particulars of her husband's death, and when Ellton had told her, sat looking straight before her at the wall. "It was very like Jack," she said finally, in a low voice, "his whole life was like that." And then she turned squarely to the lieutenant. "Where is Mr. Cairness? Where did they take him?" She was surprised at herself that she had not thought of that before.
The horses were tied to a ground line, to avoid the embarrassment of a loose herd, in the event of an engagement. Pickets were sent out to give warning at the approach of Indians. It was winter here in the mountains, while it was hot summer in the alkali flats below, but the men were forbidden fires. And it was a fierce grievance to the citizens, as was also that they were not allowed to go out to shoot wild turkeys. They remonstrated sulkily.
"Handsome fellow," went on the quartermaster, "and looks like a gentleman. Glories in the Ouida-esque name of Charles Morely Cairness, and signs it in full."
"Are you trying to drive me off?" she said measuredly. "Do you wish me to go away from you? If you do, I will go. I will go, and I will never come back. But I will not go to him—not on my own account. It doesn't matter what happens to me; but on your account and on his, I will never go to him—not while you are alive." She stopped, and every nerve in her body was tense to quivering, her drawn lips worked.
Landor came out, putting on his blouse, and went over to the horsemen. One of them dismounted and raised his hat.
Landor paid very little attention just then, but that same night he had occasion to think of it again.
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.
He was accustomed to the gloom by now, but she was not. She could only see that there was some one in the shadow. It flashed through his mind that she[Pg 221] would scream, but the next moment he knew that she would not.
Cairness congratulated him with all solemnity, and asked if she were a widow. He was sure she must be, for the gallantry of the West in those days allowed no woman to pass maturity unwed.