江苏宿迁:漂浮在骆马湖上的“生态宝箱”

He looked at her steadily, in silence. It did not seem that there was anything to say. He would have liked to tell her how beautiful she was. But he did not do it. Instead, he did much worse. For he took a beaded and fringed leather case from his pocket and held out to her the drawing he had made of her four years before. She gave it back without a word, and bent to play with the buckskin collar on the neck of the fawn.

"Some Sierra Blanca, sir," said the soldier. It was respectful enough, and yet there was somewhere in the man's whole manner an air of equality, even superiority, that exasperated the lieutenant. It was contrary to good order and military discipline that a private should speak without hesitation, or without offence to the English tongue.

[Pg 94] That evening they sat talking together long after the late dinner. But a little before midnight Felipa left them upon the porch, smoking and still going over the past. They had so much to say of matters that she in no way understood. The world they spoke of and its language were quite foreign to her. She knew that her husband was where she could never follow him, and she felt the first utter dreariness of jealousy—the[Pg 316] jealousy of the intellectual, so much more unendurable than that of the material. "Shall you go with them?" asked Cairness.

He had gone back.

He knew while he was yet afar off which was the American. She stood, big and gaunt, with her feet planted wide and her fists on her hips, looking over toward the general's tent. And when Cairness came nearer, strolling along with his hands in his pockets, observing the beauties of Nature and the entire vileness of man, she turned her head and gave him a defiant stare. He took his hands from his pockets and went forward, raising his disreputable campaign hat. "Good morning, Mrs. Lawton," he said, not that he quite lived up to the excellent standard of Miss Winstanley, but that he understood the compelling force of civility, not to say the bewilderment. If you turn its bright light full in the face of one whose eyes are accustomed to the obscurity wherein walk the underbred, your chances for dazzling him until he shall fall into any pit you may have dug in his pathway are excellent. The breakfast humor when the thermometer has been a hundred and fifteen in the shade for long months, is pessimistic. "Don't get married then, please," said Felipa, "not for a few days at any rate. I don't want Captain Landor to go off until he gets over these chills and things." "I give this to a friend," it ran, "to be delivered into your own hands, because I must tell you that, though I should never see you again—for the life I lead is hazardous, and chance may at any time take you away forever—I shall love you always. You will not be angry with me, I know. You were not that night by the campfire, and it is not the unwaveringly good woman who resents being told she is loved, in the spirit I have said it to you. I do not ask for so much as your friendship in return, but only that you remember that my life and devotion are yours, and that, should the time ever come that you need me, you send for me. I will come. I will never say this to you again, even should I see you; but it is true, now and for all time."

"Hombre!" grunted the Indian, puffing at a straw-paper cigarette, "excesivamente peligroso aqui."

Later in the day, when the general and the interpreters were engaged in making clear to the bucks, who came straggling in to surrender, the wishes and intentions of the Great Father in Washington as regarded his refractory children in Arizona, he went back to the captives' tepee. The Texan was nowhere to be seen. He called to her and got no answer, then he looked in. She was not there. One of the Mexican women was standing by, and he went up to her and asked for the Gringa.

Mrs. Taylor was silent. Her pop blue eyes shifted.

She gave a dry little sob of unutterable glad relief and tried to raise her voice and call to him, the call they used for one another when they rode about the ranch. But the sound was only a weak, low wail.

Mrs. Campbell appliqued a black velvet imp on a green felt lambrequin, and thought. "Do you ever happen to realize that you have your hands very full?"