The major consented unwillingly. "It's your lookout. If you come out alive, I shall be surprised, that's all. Take some scouts, too," he added, as he lit a cigar and went on with his walk up and down among his men. Felipa thought it was not quite so bad as that, and she poured herself another cup of the Rio, strong as lye, with which she saturated her system, to keep off the fever.
"He is mistaken, sir."
Just for a moment it hesitated, then started with the bronco spring, jumping the dead mules, shying from right to left and back again, and going out through the gates at a run. Cairness held on with his knees as he had learned to do when he had played at stock-rider around Katawa and Glen Lomond in the days of his boyhood, as he had done since with the recruits at hurdle drill, or when he had chased a fleet heifer across the prairie and had had no time to saddle. He could keep his seat, no fear concerning that, but it was all he could do. The pony was not to be stopped. He had only what was left of the halter shank by way of a bridle, and it was none at all. A Mexican knife bit would hardly have availed.
As for the Kirby affair, there had been no hint of treachery in the published or verbal accounts of it. The ranch hands who had escaped had told a plain enough tale of having fled at the approach of the Indians, vainly imploring the Kirbys to do the same. It[Pg 166] seemed that the most they could be accused of was cowardice. It had all been set forth in the papers with much circumstance and detail. But Cairness doubted. He remembered their dogged ugliness, and that of the raw-boned Texan woman.
She looked up and tried hard to smile again.
Brewster poured himself a glass of beer and drank it contemplatively and was silent. Then he set it down on the bare table with a sharp little rap, suggesting determination made. It was suggestive of yet more than this, and caused them to say "Well?" with a certain eagerness. He shrugged his shoulders and changed the subject, refusing pointedly to be brought back to it, and succeeding altogether in the aim which had brought him down there.