Stone laughed and inquired if he were joking, or just crazy.
That night he sat upon the edge of his bunk, in the darkness, after taps, with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hand, and thought the matter to a conclusion. The conclusion was that he would not re?nlist, and the reason for it was the girl he had met on the parade ground. He knew the power that beauty had over him. It was as real, as irresistible, as a physical sensation. And he thought Felipa Cabot the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. "She should be done in a heroic bronze," he told himself; "but as I can't do it, and as I haven't the right to so much as think about her, I shall be considerably happier at a distance, so I'll go." Felipa's revolver was in her hand, and cocked and pointed straight between two eyes that shone out of the blackness. And so, for an appreciable time, she stood. Then a long arm came feeling out; but because she was looking along the sight into the face at the very end of the muzzle, she failed to see it. When it closed fast about her waist, she gave a quick gasp and fired. But the bullet, instead of going straight through the forehead beneath the head[Pg 79] band, as she had meant it to do, ploughed down. The grasp on the body relaxed for an instant; the next it had tightened, and a branch had struck the pistol from her hand.
He bit his lip and did not reply, either to the words or to the caress. "You need a month of the mountains, I think," he said. "We were planting our own corn and melons," said Alchise, "and making our own living. The agent at San Carlos never gave us any rations, but we didn't mind about that. We were taking care of ourselves. One day the agent—" He stopped and scowled at a squaw a few yards away, whose papoose was crying lustily. The squaw, having her attention thus called to the uproar of her offspring, drew from somewhere in the folds of her dirty wrappings a nursing-bottle, and putting the nipple in its mouth, hushed its cries. The chief went on: "One day the agent sent up and said that we must give up our own country and our corn patches, and go down there to the Agency to live. He sent Indian soldiers to seize our women and children, and drive us down to the hot land."
"She will shrink, I guess, at first," he admitted. "Women who ain't seen much of life kind of think they ought to draw aside their skirts, and all that. They were taught copy-book morals about touching pitch, I reckon,"—he was wise concerning women now—"and it takes a good deal of hard experience to teach them that it ain't so. But she'll take my word for it." "Do you object to taking her into your house for a short time?"
She herself was up before dawn, riding over the hills with her husband, watching the sun rise above the blue mountains on the far-away horizon, and strike with lights of gold and rose the sands and the clumps of sage, visiting the herd where it struggled to graze, under well-armed guard, and gathering the pitiful wild flowers from the baked, lifeless soil. She shot quail and owls, and dressed their skins. She could endure[Pg 64] any amount of fatigue, and she could endure quite as well long stretches of idleness.
Cairness leaned far over and made a grab, but the first time he missed. The second he caught the neckerchief and held it, dragging the man, who resisted with all his giant strength, digging his toes into the ground as they tore along. And he was heavy. [Pg 212]Cairness had no stirrup or pommel to trust to. He saw that it was a case of falling or of leaving go, and he decided to fall. The man would go underneath anyway.
He was still more exasperated, with himself and with her, that he had allowed himself to think for one moment that she had come on purpose to find him. Where were the others? How did she happen to be here alone? he asked.
"Do you object to taking her into your house for a short time?"
"Say!" she apostrophized.
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