A half dozen cow-boys came riding over from the camp of the outfit to relieve those on duty. Cairness was worn out with close on eighteen hours in the saddle, tearing and darting over the hills and ravines, quick as the shadow from some buzzard high in the sky, scrambling over rocks, cutting, wheeling, chasing after fleet-footed, scrawny cattle. He went back to camp, and without so much as washing the caked dust and sweat from his face, rolled himself in a blanket and slept.
Landor rode over to Bob's place, and giving his horse to the trumpeter, strode in. There were eight men around the bar, all in campaign outfit, and all in various stages of intoxication. Foster was effusive. He was glad to see the general. General Landor, these were the gentlemen who had volunteered to assist Uncle Sam. He presented them singly, and invited Landor to drink. The refusal was both curt and ungracious. "If we are to overtake the hostiles, we have got to start at once," he suggested.
"That fellow Cairness may be a good scout and all that, but he must be an unmitigated blackguard too," said the officer, stretching himself on the ground beside Crook. It was a long way to the salt lick, and the chances were that the two men would be gone the whole afternoon. The day was very hot, and she had put on a long, white wrapper, letting her heavy hair fall down over her shoulders, as she did upon every excuse now, and always when her husband was out of the way. There was a sunbonnet hanging across the porch railing. She put it on her head and went down the steps, carrying the child.
But she sat up suddenly, with one of her quick movements of conscious strength and perfect control over every muscle, clasped her hands about her knees, and went on. "It was very curious," and there came on her face the watchful, alert, wild look, with the narrowing of the eyes. "It was very curious, I could not[Pg 84] have stayed indoors that night if it had cost me my life—and it very nearly did, too. I had to get out. So I took my revolver and my knife, and I went the back way, down to the river. While I was standing on the bank and thinking about going home, an Indian stole out on me. I had an awful struggle. First I shot. I aimed at his forehead, but the bullet struck his shoulder; and then I fought with the knife. As soon as I could slip out of his grasp, I went at him and drove him off. But I didn't know how badly he was hurt until the next day. The shot had roused them up here, and they went down to the river and found him bleeding on the sand.
And the blood that blues the inside arm?"— Felipa leaned against the tree under which they were, fairly protected from the worst of the storm;[Pg 101] and Cairness stood beside her, holding his winded horse. There was nothing to be said that could be said. She had lost for once her baffling control of the commonplace in speech, and so they stood watching the rain beat through the wilderness, and were silent.