Landor tried another way then, and leaned from his saddle in his earnestness. He put it in the light of a favor to himself. But Cabot's refusal was unanswerable. It was better one than two, he said, and no horse in the command could carry double. [Pg 86]
Felipa Cabot proved to be a lithe creature, who rode beside the ambulance with the officers, and who, in spite of the dust and tan and traces of a hard march, was beautiful. In the reaction of the moment Landor thought her the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. But she froze the consequent warmth of his greeting with a certain indefinable stolidity, and she eyed him with an unabashed intention of determining whether he were satisfactory or not, which changed his position to that of the one upon approbation. If she had been less handsome, it would have been repellent.
"Poor little girl," he said kindly. He could not help it that they were the words of a compassionate friend, rather than of an injured husband.
"And you—what did you say?" asked Landor. He was a little surprised to find how anxiously he[Pg 26] waited, and the extent of his relief when she answered, "I told him to let me be, or I would set them loose on him." The Agency man thought a question would not commit him. He had not been round at that time, and he asked for information. The lieutenant gave it to him.
"Oh!" said Taylor, and sat looking into the fire.
She might have seen two dots of light fixed on her from the shadow, if she had looked that way. But she did not, and came unconcernedly down. She was sure-footed and agile, and she was daring, too. He himself had felt a qualm at coming here. But she did not appear to hesitate once. She came on, close by where he sat, and going to the dark passage peered in. Then she turned away and caught sight of him.
That is the proper way to bring up dogs. It makes them useful members of society. And it applies equally well to Indians. It has worked beautifully with them for several hundred years. In Canada they have run it on another principle. But they have missed much of the fun we have had out of it. In the territories there was plenty of such fun. And it had pretty well reached its height in the spring of '83.
When Landor had trotted off, and she and the girl were left alone, she went into the house and came back with a pair of field-glasses. Through them she could see her husband riding at the head of the column, along the road, and another figure beside him, mounted on a bony little pinto bronco.
"No," Cabot told him, "I couldn't—not without delaying you. The trail's too hot for that. If you'll put a fourth and last bullet into Cochise, the loss of a little thing like me won't matter much." He stopped short, and his chin dropped, weakly, undecided.
It came to pass in the working out of things that the commandant elected to spend the night before the opening of the bids, in the small town some miles away, where one of the first families was giving a dinner. This left Landor, as next in rank, in temporary command. It had happened often enough before, in one way[Pg 189] or another, but this time the duties of the position seemed to weigh upon him. He was restless and did not care to sleep. He sent Felipa off to bed, and sat watching where her lithe young figure had gone out of the door for some minutes. Then he ran his hand across his mouth contemplatively, stroked his mustache, and finally went out of the house and down to Ellton's quarters.