"Done up,—is it?" he said thoughtfully. His voice was hard because he realized the full ugliness of it. He had seen the thing happen once before.
There was nothing for it but to admit that from the day of her father's death she had been utterly Landor's dependant,—at a cost to him of how many pleasures, she, who knew the inadequacy of a lieutenant's pay, could easily guess.
While the men sat at the long table, shovelling in with knife and three-pronged fork the food of the master their pride forbade them to serve, a horse came at a run, up to the quadrangle, and a cow-boy rushed into the open doorway. "Apaches!" he gasped, clutching at the lintel, wild-eyed, "Apaches!" In the corral where the fire had started and was best under way, and in the stall farthest from the gate, a little pinto mustang was jerking at its halter and squealing with fear. It was Cairness's horse. He had been allowed to stable it there, and he himself was not down with his scouts in the ill-smelling camp across the creek, but had a room at the sutler's store, a good three-quarters of a mile from the corrals. As soon as the bugle call awoke him, he started at a run; but the fire was beyond fighting when he got there.
There was a mutter of thunder and a far-off roar, a flame of lightning through the trees, and the hills and mountains shook. Just where they rode the ca?on narrowed to hardly more than a deep gulch, and the river ran close beside the road.
She glared at him, but she stopped short nevertheless, and, flinging down the stone she had been holding, stood up also. "All right, then. You've done with me, I reckon. Now suppose you let me go back to the camp."
"That's all right," Landor said; "are you hunting?"
Landor took his arm from the saddle and stood upright, determinedly. "We are going to stop this mob business, that's what we are going to do," he said, and he went forward and joined in a discussion that was[Pg 117] upon the verge of six-shooters. He set forth in measured tones, and words that reverberated with the restrained indignation behind them, that he had come upon the assurance that he was to strike Indians, that his men had but two days' rations in their saddle bags, and that he was acting upon his own responsibility, practically in disobedience of orders. If the Indians were to be hit, it must be done in a hurry, and he must get back to the settlements. He held up his hands to check a flood of protests and explanations. "There has got to be a head to this," his drill-trained voice rang out, "and I propose to be that head. My orders have got to be obeyed."
The Reverend Taylor stood there with his son in his arms. The mocking-bird trilled out a laugh to the evening air. It was irresistible, so droll that even a bird must know it,—the likeness between the little father and the little son. There was the same big head and the big ears and the big eyes and the body[Pg 247] that was too small for them all, a little, thin body, active and quivering with energy. There were the very same wrinkles about the baby's lids, crinkles of good humor and kindly tolerance, and the very same tufts of hair running the wrong way and sticking out at the temples.
The fault of this last, crowning breach of faith was not all with the Red-men by any means. But the difficulty would be to have that believed. The world at large,—or such part of it as was deigning to take heed of this struggle against heavy odds, this contest between the prehistoric and the makers of history,—the world at large would not go into the details, if indeed it were ever to hear them. It would know just this, that a band of Indians, terrible in the very smallness of their numbers, were meeting the oncoming line of civilization from the East with that of the savagery of the West, as a prairie fire is met and checked in its advance by another fire kindled and set on to stop it. It would know that the blood of the masters of the land was being spilled upon the thirsty, unreclaimed ground by those who were, in right and justice, for the welfare of humanity, masters no more. It would know that the voice which should have been that of authority and command was often turned to helpless complaint or shrieks for mercy. And it[Pg 304] would not stop for the causes of these things; it could not be expected to. It would know that a man had come who had promised peace, confidently promised it in the event of certain other promises being fulfilled, and that he had failed of his purpose. The world would say that Crook had held in his grasp the Apaches and the future peace of an empire as large as that of Great Britain and Ireland, France and Germany in one, and that he had let it slip through nerveless fingers. It was signal failure.