And since that gray dawn when he had picked his way through the ashes and charred logs, and had bent over the bodies of his friend and the dead mother and the two children, he had been possessed by a loathing that was almost physical repulsion for all Indians. That was why he had left the stone cabin he had built for himself in the White Mountains, forsaking it and the Apaches who had been, in a way, his friends. But he had done it, too, with the feeling that now he had nowhere to lay his head; that he was driven from pillar to post, buffeted and chased; that he was cursed with the curse of the wanderer. If it had not been that he had an indefinite theory of his own concerning the Kirby massacre, as it was known throughout the country, and that he meant to, some day, in some way, avenge it upon the whites who had abandoned them to their fate, he would have killed himself. He had been very near it once, and had sat on the edge of his bunk in the cabin with a revolver in his hand, thinking it all out for an entire evening, before deciding dispassionately against it. He was not desperate, merely utterly careless of life, which is much worse. Desperation is at the most the keen agony of torture at the stake; but [Pg 163]indifference toward all that is held by this world, or the next, is dying in a gradual vacuum. Brewster took on an elaborate and entirely unnecessary air of indifference, and yawned to heighten the effect. "What did he want of the child?" he asked negligently.
"She must be a woman by this time," reflected the civilian. "Is she married to him?"
He was waking now to his work. But he had enough of horses. He stopped, sheathed his knife, and, feeling in his pockets, drew out a box of matches. A little spluttering flame caught in a pile of straw, and showed a hind foot dragging helplessly. It crept up, and the mule plunged on three legs, dragging the other along. It snorted, and then every animal in that corral, which was the quartermaster's, smelt danger and snorted too, and struck from side to side of its stall. Those in the next corral caught the fear. The post talked it over unceasingly, and commented on Landor's attitude. "He stalks around in defiant dignity and makes everybody uncomfortable," they said.
"From Cairness?" she faltered, looking up at him[Pg 147] with frightened eyes; "when did it come?" Her voice was as unsteady as her hands. She tore it open and began to read it there before him. He stood and watched her lips quiver and grow gray and fall helplessly open. If she had been under physical torture, she could have kept them pressed together, but not now.
Chapter 18 Brewster was silent, but he neither flinched nor cowered, nor yet shifted his eyes. But Forbes persisted, carried away by his idea and the determination to make events fit in with it. "She was ill in Washington because she wasn't happy. She'd be happy anywhere with you; she said so this afternoon, you remember."
"Why?" she asked, with a quick suspicion of the dreariness she caught in his tone.
Official business called Brewster to the Agency next day. He stopped overnight, on the way, at a ranch whose owners depended more upon passing travellers than upon the bad soil and the thin cattle. And here fate threw in his way one whom he would have gone well out of that way to find.
"I disobeyed orders," said Felipa.